Making Sense of the Senseless

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 15:13

For the past two days, I've sat at my computer wanting to write, but not knowing what to say. I'm a writer. That's what I do. That's how I process things. That's how I make sense of the world.

But how do you make sense of the senseless? How do you explain it to your kids when you don't understand it yourself?

A guy walks into a bar... Sounds like the beginning of a good joke. Except what happened in Orlando when a guy walked into a bar was no joke. It was a slaughter. It was senseless. It was horrifying. It was evil.

My kids are teenagers. They have grown up in a post-9/11 world. Unfortunately, the idea of someone walking into a bar and shooting 100 people is not as unusual to them as it should be. Their perception of the world has never been free of the threat of terrorism. They don't remember a time when you could visit the pilots of an airplane in the cockpit. They don't know what it's like to be at an event with a large crowd of people and not at least have the passing thought that it might make a good target for terrorists.

Because that's the world we live in today. And that makes me sad. It makes me sad for my kids and sad for all of us. Because our world is one where hate thrives. It is a place where one person's hatred of another person's beliefs or choices or religion can result in the slaughter of innocent people.

So how do we help our kids process the senselessness and the hopelessness inherent in these acts of terror? How do we help our kids find the hope in the situation?

We start by remembering the words of Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the God of hope. This is a long game, and we know who wins in the end. Hope endures, light shines because God brings hope. Hope is found in a tiny baby in a manger. It's found in a young man nailed to a cross. Hope shines out of an empty tomb.

Make no mistake. Every single life that was taken in that bar in Orlando was precious to God. It doesn't matter what they believed, what they did or who they were. God loved them as part of his precious creation, just like He loves you and me. Their senseless massacre broke God's heart.

And it should break ours, too. While we help our kids focus on the hope that is found in knowing that God triumphs in the end, we also must be careful to help them grieve the tragedy of the moment. Because the biggest danger in this post-9/11 world is that we and our kids become immune to the immensity of these events. We can start to view them as just another attack. Just another death.

We want ourselves and our kids to never lose sight of the fact that whenever hate causes someone to take a life, it's an immense tragedy. It is Satan grabbing hold of this world and announcing that he has no intention of letting it go.

And it's our job to shine light into that darkness. It's our calling to help where we can. It's our responsibility to pray without ceasing for the victims, for the families, and, yes, even for the perpetrators. Because the only way we raise kids who can see the good through the evil, who can find hope in the hopeless, is to make sure that the things that break God's heart are still breaking ours.

So, today, talk with your kids. Remind them that God is still in control. Talk with them about the reality of evil in the world. Grieve the senseless tragedy of the moment with them. Then find a way to help. Pray for all those affected. Hold onto the hope. Because in this dark moment where it seems evil has triumphed, hope is the most important thing left.

A Birthday Prayer for My 13-Year-Old

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My baby girl turned 13 yesterday. She's officially a teenager.

There's something about having your youngest child enter her teens. Childhood in your house is officially over. You've got five years left until they're 18.

When my girls were babies, people told me the time would fly. I didn't understand then what they meant. Sure there have been long days, hours, even minutes, but the years have flown, and I'm now the mom to two teenage girls. My job is less hand holding and more pushing out of the nest.

It's become a tradition for me to use this space to offer up a birthday prayer for each of my girls on their birthdays. So, this one is for my sweet baby girl as she turns 13.

birthday 13
birthday 13

Embracing Your Season

Just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. Embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.
— Lori Fairchild
design_blossoms-103.jpg

The sun is shining, and it's warm here today. We're probably still in for some more cold weather, but it's clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren't so little any more. They're growing up fast, and I'm trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn't been a lot of time to write. There hasn't been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They're only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that's hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I'm in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We're juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband's parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that's what I'll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine's Day, spring also has it's great moments -- the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He's calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you're in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When You Don't Know What to Do

When we don’t know what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.
— Lori Fairchild

I have this daughter. She's 12. She's smart. She's funny. She's compassionate. She's stubborn. She's challenging. She sees the world through a lens I don't have and marches to a beat I don't hear.

And she is, oh, so hard to parent. She makes me think hard every day. She makes me question whether I'm doing the right thing every week. She makes me pull my hair out at least once a month.

And she makes me want to hold her tight and hug her hard every single minute. Because this world is tough when you just don't quite fit. When your heart wants to do the right thing, but it's a struggle to find your spot. When no one else seems to see the world quite the way you do.

As her mom, I want her to be everything that God designed her to be. I want her to be the beautiful, compassionate, joyful person that I see not nearly often enough. I want her to examine the world through that lens that is so uniquely her own, so I can find out just what she's going to do with that perspective.

I have often said I would like to live inside her head for just one day, so I can see the world as she sees it. Because the world she sees, I think, is very different from the one I see.

I love all of that about her, but it makes it so very difficult to parent her. It makes it hard to know what to do when she has problems at school. How do you encourage her to fit in when the things that make her not fit in are the very things that you know are going to serve her well in the future? How do you decide if the struggles she's having are important for her character or simply unnecessary and a change would be good? How do you know you're doing the right thing for this child who is so very different from you?

You don't. You don't know. You may never know.

All I can do for this child of mine is pray hard over her. All I can do is wipe the tears when they come, deal with the frustration when it erupts, and hug her close and let her know she is loved by both me and God -- even when she is at her most unloveable.

The only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that God knows.

God. Knows.

He knows her better than I ever will. He knew her before she was formed. And He surely loves her more than I can.

And He is the source of wisdom. So, when I don't know, when we don't know, what's best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

When You're Too Tired for Christmas

God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I’m sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I’m sure they were scared. I’m sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.
— Lori Fairchild
 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

Christmas is in four days. My house is decorated. My kids are excited. And I am tired.

This year has worn me out. 2015 has been a long, hard slog from January to December. Every time I thought we had conquered the mountain in front of us, we reached the peak to find a taller mountain behind it.

Illness after illness has hit our family hard. Stroke, meningitis, thyroid, liver. You name it. We had a taste of it this year. This year has been so tough that both my daughter and I completely forgot she broke her hand in October. You know it's been a rough year when broken bones don't even make the Top 10 Events of the Year list.

And, yet, there have been moments in this year that I wouldn't trade for the world. The precious perspective that my 14-year-old has gained embodied in the words she said the other day, "Just think, six months ago my biggest worry was staying on my soccer team. That doesn't even register now."

The shared moments with my husband where we tried to tackle the mountain together, knowing that when one failed, the other would pick them up.

The intentional moments with my 12-year-old created because she simply needed some time with her mom.

Because in the midst of the trial, in the midst of what seems like never-ending struggle, there is beauty. God is creating a better perspective, a stronger family and a sheer reliance on Him.

So, as I sit here four days before Christmas, I am reminded that the very first Christmas was probably the end of a very long year for Mary and Joseph. Unmarried and pregnant in a culture that had no allowance for that. Miraculously pregnant, but with a story no one would believe. I imagine Mary and Joseph felt very alone and very afraid. They knew God was creating something wonderful, but they were the only ones that knew it.

Two young people, teenagers, really, on the road to Bethlehem. No place for them to stay. A baby on the way.

And, yet, God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I'm sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I'm sure they were scared. I'm sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.

God creates beauty out of chaos. His plan to save the world started with two young people having a baby in a cave in Bethlehem.

And, I'm reminded this Christmas, that if God can do that, He can make something amazing out of the crazy that has been our year.

So, this Christmas, if you're struggling to just put one foot in front of the other, if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember this: God specializes in making great things out of difficult times. Jesus' birth is proof of that.

The End of Me

The past six months have been tough. I'm beginning to feel a lot like Job. They have looked something like this: meningitis, throat abscess, tonsillectomy, broken hand, hyperthyroid diagnosis, liver issues, ER visit, father-in-law has a stroke, and the dog sprains his ankle (yes, that can happen). The last four happened last week.

And that's just the major stuff. We've also had school issues, relationships beginning and ending and the normal, everyday drama that comes from having a 12-year-old and 14-year-old daughter.

Several weeks ago, I started reading The End of Me by Kyle Idleman, which was sent to me by Family Christian, and it spoke to me. It spoke God right into the midst of this mess we call our lives right now. It stopped me in my tracks and made me realize that I truly have to get to the end of me before Jesus can truly use me in the way that He wants.

There are no easy answers in this book. My life didn't immediately become hunky-dory as evidenced by the nightmare that was last week. I am truly at the end of every bit of strength and sanity I possess to make it through tomorrow.

But what this book made me realize is that I'm of no use to God when I'm trying to do everything myself. I can't be effective as a wife, a mom or in ministry if I'm doing it on my own.

  The FTC requires that I tell you that I received the book  The End of Me  for free in exchange for a review, and I was compensated with a gift certificate. The opinions in this blog are my own, and I would never recommend something to you that I don't love myself. With the formalities out of the way, let's get to the good stuff.

The FTC requires that I tell you that I received the book The End of Me for free in exchange for a review, and I was compensated with a gift certificate. The opinions in this blog are my own, and I would never recommend something to you that I don't love myself. With the formalities out of the way, let's get to the good stuff.

The End of Me made me realize that I have to truly mourn my sin and follow Jesus' example in humility if I want to have any effect in the kingdom of God. I also have to let God work even through my weaknesses. God requires authenticity, He wants us to lay our ragged, worn out, I-don't-know-what-to-do selves at the foot of the cross so He can showcase His strength through our weakness.

Kyle Idleman uses the Beattitudes to discuss the beauty of truly mourning our sin, the importance of humility, and why we need to be authentic. He shows that the upside-down logic of the Beattitudes has the power to change the way we see the world.

In the second half of the book, he uses Jesus' encounters with others as examples of how God can use us in our weakness and our imperfection. From the parable of the great banquet to Saul's encounter with Jesus, he vividly shows how when we get to the end our ourselves, God can then use us in a mighty way.

Reading this book didn't make my life perfect, but it offered perfect perspective on the idea that God can only truly use me when I come to the end of me.

When You're Not "Fine"

This space has been empty for a while. Life has been crazy -- some of the good kind of crazy, and it seems like more of the bad kind. I'm kind of to the point where I'm almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning to find out what new crisis is going to erupt.

I'll be honest, it seems like every time I open a door or turn a corner in life lately, there's been something unpleasant behind it. Very little about this life seems easy in this season.

I would love to write a blog post telling you that when we're in the hard season, all we have to do is rely on God and everything will be fine. That sounds great, but it's a lie.

You see, anyone who tells you that things will be "fine" when you're going through a rough season is wrong. Those tough seasons in our lives sometimes leave us in a place that is far from the place we started, the place where everything was "fine." Those tough seasons often mean we lose something -- a loved one, our health, a marriage. When we come out on the other side of a tough season, we are changed. We are different. And we may not be "fine."

Am I saying that God doesn't have everything under control? No. I am saying that God's plan is never for you to be "fine." It is for you to be in a place where you can see Him and share Him. It is for you to be in a place where you have to rely on Him. It is for you to be in a place where others can see Him in you.

But that place may not be easy. It may not be fun. And it most certainly might not be "fine." But one thing you can know for sure is that no matter what that place looks like, no matter where it is, God is there, too.

The truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons is this: God is there. He’s not asking us to go anywhere He’s not willing to go, too.
— Lori Fairchild

That's the truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons -- that God is there. He's not asking us to go anywhere He's not willing to go, too. And though we may shed many tears and even spend time shouting at God, He's there, He loves us, and He's walking with us -- even when we don't think He is.

There is something to learn in this season. There is growing to be done. And when this season passes (and, honestly, I hope it passes soon), I'll be on the other side a different person than I was before this season began. But I don't want to be "fine." I want the lessons I've learned and the person I've become to shine brightly for Jesus. I don't want to be "fine." I want to be His.

Something to Sing About

We can go from blissfully happy to my day is ruined faster than it takes us to go from the parking lot into the store. But this is the day the Lord has made. And we have the choice to wallow in our ruin or persevere through and count it all joy.

I could hear her saying something as I buckled the baby into the shopping cart. Okay, so it was actually more like yelling but bless it if I could even tell. I had totally crossed over into the Mom-Zone.

You know, the place where the world could be ending but all you hear is the inner-monologue-of-the-now, “Must get the baby in the seat before a car runs over us.”

The consequence to this stealth focus?

You agree to anything.

And apparently I had agreed in thirty seconds of non-listening to sing a rousing rendition of  “This is the Day” while we moseyed through Target.

Sweet heavens.

Now my girl has got vocal direction down, y’all. I mean I thought I knew the song but I DID NOT. When she started with a “This is the day…” I was all like “This is the day…” And I was met with a sigh and an “Um, Mom, no. You sing ‘That the Lord has made.’”

But sadly, I had entered the Zone again…

So we went through this exact dialogue about five times until she finally she broke through it with a, “Mom, I really need you to focus!”  I mean, c’mon now. Shouldn’t I be delighted that we are singing about Jesus in Target?!?!?

And BAM.

I got my act together, we found our rhythm and we did our thang. But alas, when we hit the “together” part of the ditty, things fell apart. I’m all “This is the Day” and she’s all “Jesus Loves Me.”

Shortly after this confusion and preciously right as we walked up to an unsuspecting cashier, my girl bellows with ear piercing volume, “IT IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE!!!!”

And Jesus loves us, this I know.

I suppose you are wondering, “Sara, what in the what does this have to do with an everyday truth?”

Well, I’ll tell you…

We all have these kind of days as a parent where things get ridiculous and veer off course and all we know gets drowned out by the our inner-monologue of “IT IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE!”

But it is.

We can go from blissfully happy to my day is ruined faster than it takes us to go from the parking lot into the store. But this is the day He has made. And we have the choice to wallow in our ruin or persevere through and count it all joy.

I’m not talking about some kind of false “Oh, today is magical!” when you are knee deep in poo. I’m talking about being grateful for the gift of a new day. I’m talking about how it’s really pretty great to have the chance to sing loudly in the aisles of Target with someone you love.

Because it’s in those kind of moments that you remember…

He loves me and He’s given me a new day.

And really?

No matter how you look at it, THAT is something to sing about.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail.

When Mom Isn't Enough

When disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.
 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

“I didn’t get invited to the birthday party.”

“My friends were mean to me at lunch today.”

“Everyone else has a date to the dance.”

Any one of those statements is designed to break a mom’s heart. And over the 14 years I’ve been raising two girls, I’ve heard each of those and many more.

Every time it happens, I look at whichever child is uttering those words and wonder. I wonder why others can’t see what I see. I wonder why they can’t see that my quiet, loving, sensitive child is a force to have on your side with her strong sense of loyalty and wicked sense of humor. I wonder why they can’t see that while my quirky, exuberant, brilliant child may not fit any mold that’s ever been cast, her different way of thinking brings so much to the table.

When your child gets left out or hurt by others, it’s hard to help them. It’s hard to convince them that they are beautiful, smart, funny and worthy of friendship and love. Because you’re their mom. You have to say those things, and they know it.

There are no magic words that can heal the hurt. There’s no amount of ice cream or brownies that will make the sting go entirely away.

All we can do is be there when they cry, pick them up when they fall, and love them through it all. Because growing up is tough. They’re going to get left out. They’re going to get hurt. And we’re not enough to heal the hurt.

But God is.

God is the ultimate healer. He heals the broken-hearted. We know that we can’t fix all of our kids’ problems or heal all their hurts. And our kids know it, too. That’s why we have to point them in the direction of the One who can heal them. While we’re loving our kids through the disappointments and the hurts that life brings, we have to point them toward their loving Father who is ever so much more powerful than us at bringing healing.

Because as much as I love my girls, God loves them more. He delights in binding up their wounds. He hears their heartbreak. He collects their tears in a bottle. Because He loves them. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them.

So, when disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.

10 Things I Wish My Kids Knew

In our house, we're in the midst of the tough pre-teen and teen years. The easy days are few and far between. If it's not one child having a crisis, it's the other. Hormone-induced tears are a part of nearly every day. Some days I'm my girls' best friend, and others, I'm the worst mom in the world. Being a mom in this season is tough. You never really know which kid is going to walk through your door after school -- the happy, care-free one or the moody, the world is ending one. There are days when I really would like to throw up my hands and just walk away.

But these two girls? They are the living extension of my heart. They are precious and amazing. They are mine. And there is so much they don't know about what goes through my heart and mind as I parent them through these turbulent years. Here's what I wish I they knew:

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

  1. I really don't like disciplining you. I only do it because I want you to learn to make wise decisions. I want you to know how to exercise self-control and think about the feelings of other people.
  2. When you're curled up in my arms sobbing your eyes out because of something someone else did or said, look up. There are tears in my eyes, too. Because I remember what it was like to be your age. Even though you think I don't understand, I really do. I was your age once, and mean kids have existed since the beginning of time.
  3. When someone treats you badly, I'm going to tell you that you need to forgive them and move on. But even as I'm saying those words, I'm fighting my own battle to do the same.
  4. I don't just make up rules to make your life miserable. I make rules to keep you safe and to teach you boundaries.
  5. I've never done this parenting thing before. I'm going to make mistakes. Please know that I'm doing my best.
  6. I am always praying for you because even though I mess up sometimes, God never does.
  7. I am trying to give you the space you need to become the person God wants you to be, but it's hard. In my mind's eye, you're still my little girl.
  8. I am always on your side -- even when it seems like I'm not. I always want what's best for you. I always want you to succeed. I always want you to be happy. Sometimes, though, those things only come through tough lessons.
  9. Letting you fail at something is one of the hardest things for me to do. But I know that if I always step in, you will never learn the lessons that failure can teach you. Just know that when you fail, my heart hurts as much as yours does.
  10. I will always love you. No matter how much you screw up or how much you push me away, I will always love you. I will always be there to pick you up. When the days are long and the crisis hits, I will always be a safe haven for you.

Not So Picture Perfect

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

by Sara Cormany

Once upon a time I loathed being the girl in the photograph.

I hid behind so and so. I offered to take the picture. Or I’d excuse myself to the restroom to the point I’m sure everyone in my family thought I had a bladder problem.

This at a time when I was the size of a toothpick, had not one wrinkle or gray hair and nothing sagged. (Mamas, you know what I am talking ABOUT...MMMMHMMM.)

Fast forward to today…

Where I am the proud owner of wrinkles and gray hair and flab (especially the kind that jiggles when you wave your arms.)  And the sagging? Oh friends…

Forget. About. It.

On top of the obvious differences between 28 and 38 and four children later, I also have a body that’s been through the physical ringer in the last few months.

Bruises in random places. Feet that turn blue and look like they have been borrowed from a 90-year-old man with frostbite. A face that is preciously puffy from steroids. Hair that’s thin on the top and looks like a small animal took up residence on the bottom. And lest we not forget the not-so-fashionable roots that only exist because I am NOT spending money on highlights that are going to fall out.

(Bless your little heart, Dave Ramsey.)

In other words, 2015 will never be called, “The year Sara looked like a supermodel.”

But you know what?

This mama has been in a RIDICULOUS amount of pictures.

Because the one thing I’ve learned in surviving a stroke, losing a dad and fighting through life-threatening health complications is this, my sweet, sweet, mama friends:

Pictures of us aren’t for us.  They are for the littles, the tweens, the college kids and even the grown-ups that are someday left behind.  And I promise you, they don’t care if you are a size 2 or 22, if you’ve had a bad hair day or even if your face is the size of a small planet.

All that they want is you in the picture.

You may find it hard to let go of your insecurity.  You may give yourself a pep talk every now and again (I know I do.)  You may even have to remind yourself that it’s not about you.

But as you enter the season of pumpkin patches and field trips and Christmas bedhead mornings, remember this:  You are just as beautiful as you were ten years ago.  And really?

You are probably even more so.

Because nothing is more beautiful than a broken vessel used to do great things. For the more we break, the more beautiful we become. And the more beautiful we become, the less we notice our broken bodies and the more we pay attention to the hearts they house.

So go on, mamas, take that picture or two or twenty.

Take it for your loves. Take it for the one who has to fight to stay in it. Take it for the one who knows it might be her last.

Just. Take. It.

And even as the camera flashes, know that real beauty comes from a heart filled with Jesus-sized love and the rest is all just dust.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail.

One Easy Day

God didn’t promise that this parenting thing would be sunshine and roses. He didn’t say this life would be easy. He did say He would be here. He did say that He would never leave us.

I sat on my front porch the other day, looked at the sky and prayed this prayer: "Lord, can I have one easy day? Please?"

I'd been trying to navigate through the waters of a kid recovering from surgery while dealing with some other drama in her life and dealing with the other child who can't seem to get organized enough to do the things she needs to do at school. Let's not forget the everyday drama that just exists when you have 14-year-old and 12-year-old daughters.

I sat on that porch after meting out discipline to one of them and wondered when parenting had gotten so hard. I love being my kids' mom. It's a calling. I love them more than life itself. But right now, I really don't like parenting.

It. Is. Hard.

Every single day is a constant struggle with one child or the other. There have been more tears shed in this house in the past month than at any time since they were crying babies. My husband is ready to move to Tahiti and come back when they're 21. I'll be honest. I am not enjoying it. I really want just one easy day.

I want one day where everyone does their homework without a fight. I want one day where friends act like friends. I want one day where everyone fills out their planner at school and knows exactly what they need to do when they get home. I want one day where no one forgets anything, no one has to stay after school and no one needs my help with math homework (I really didn't like geometry when I was the student). I want one day without drama and without tears (theirs or mine).

I prayed that prayer for one easy day a week ago. And I still haven't gotten it. But God has reminded me that he didn't promise that this parenting thing would be sunshine and roses. He didn't say this life would be easy. He did say He would be here. He did say that He would never leave us.

Because, you see, God isn't interested in my comfort. He isn't interested in me having an easy life. He's interested in making me more like Him. He's interested in growing me and my kids. He's interested in forcing me to rely on Him instead of myself.

I could list off for you the lessons we've learned in this household this summer. I could tell you how much my older daughter has grown in her faith and her approach to life. I could tell you how much more of a priority it is for me to have a consistent time of Bible reading and prayer in my life. The evidence of growth in this particular season is everywhere in our family. But there have been very few easy days.

Because growing is hard. When our bodies grow, we tend to sleep more and require more food because growing is work. That holds true for spiritual growth as well. When we die to our selfish nature and become more like Christ, there are growing pains. And there are few easy days.

When we get on the other side of this intense growing season in our family, we'll be able to look back at everything that happened and know that those hard days were worth it. Right now, though, we're simply clinging to the knowledge that God is with us. We're holding fast to His promises that He'll see us through these tough parenting moments.

I know God is creating something beautiful in our family. I know that the end result will be more amazing than anything I can imagine. And I'm grateful.

But, I'll be honest, I'm really looking forward to when God says yes to my prayer for one easy day.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids about Texting and Social Media

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My kids are 12 and 14, and they have their own cell phones. The deal around here is that when you go to middle school, you get a cell phone. When you turn 13, you get limited and monitored access to social media. Your phone is always subject to being monitored by mom or dad. Any text message or social media post is fair game. If we find something we don't like, then there are consequences ranging from losing access to social media to losing your phone entirely.

In the past few months, we've encountered a few situations where social media and texting have caused some hurt, anger and frustration in our house. And I've boiled it down to a common factor: lack of respect.

We talk a lot about respect in our house. Most of the rules we have are based on the idea that other people deserve respect. But those little devices in our kids' hands make it easy to forget that concept. It's easy to say things we don't mean when we don't have to look the other person in the eye. It's easy to ignore someone when they aren't standing right there. Minor disagreements turn into major ones when teens try to resolve them via text because it's impossible to determine intent or tone in a text message.

I've been working with my girls to help them understand that texting and social media are a tool of communication but not the only tool. And here are some of the do's and don'ts I'm trying to impart.

1. Don't say anything in a text or social media post that you wouldn't say to a person's face. Just because it's digital, doesn't make your words any less hurtful.

2. If you're having a disagreement, request that you get together to talk it out. It is almost impossible to successfully resolve a disagreement via text or social media because you're missing key clues to what the other person really means. You can't see facial expressions. You can't hear tone of voice. When emotions are already high, those nonverbal cues are important.

3. Never end a relationship via text. This seems to be the choice du jour of teens today. Ending a relationship via text is easy. You don't have to deal with any of the other person's emotions, and you don't have to have a conversation. But it is incredibly hurtful. Ending a relationship via text hurts in ways that doing it face to face does not because to text a breakup tells the other person that you don't value them or the relationship you had enough to extend the common courtesy of a face-to-face conversation. Ending a relationship is hard -- and it should be -- but it should be done in a way that doesn't devalue the other person. A text breakup does just that. Short of an abusive relationship (in which case there are a whole host of other issues involved), a relationship should never be ended via text.

4. Think about whether what you're posting is going to hurt someone else's feelings. My older daughter's friends went through a stage where they posted those memes where you tag different friends for different things -- best friend, tallest friend, goofiest friend, etc. Someone always got left out or was upset about what they had been tagged as. Nothing good comes from memes and comments that ask you to choose among your friends. It's best to just avoid those things altogether.

5. Use text and social media to praise your friends and share fun conversations. Use it to figure out your homework or make plans for the weekend. Text and social media are a great tool for communicating with others for simple things. They are a great way to stay in touch when life gets really busy.

6. Don't post things that embarrass other people. Sometimes it's funny to post a silly picture or a funny quote from a friend. As long as everyone is in on the joke, it's fine. But if your friend specifically asks you not to post something, then don't. Don't use social media as a way to embarrass or get back at someone else.

7. Remember that whatever you post on social media is public. Your future college and future employers can see it. Don't post things that will come back to haunt you later on.

8. Use text and social media to be an encourager. Offer praise and encouragement through text and social media. It is a great forum for that.

9. Don't use social media and text to offer criticism. Criticism and correction should always be offered face to face. It's hard to correct someone in love via text.

10. Don't let social media and text become a replacement for face-to-face relationships. There's only so much interaction that can take place via text and social media. You still need to get out of the house and hang out with your friends together. And when you're together, put the phones away.

In this digital world, it can be hard to keep up with what our kids are doing on their phones. The key to teaching them how to be responsible with text and social media is to remind them to treat each other with love and respect. If our kids remember that they are called to "love one another" at all times -- even when texting and using social media -- they will be on the road to successfully navigating this digital world.

When Your Child is Drowning in the Tough Stuff

If your child seems to be drowning under wave after wave of tough things, remember that God is there to pick up your child — and He’s there to keep you standing as well. We’re not in this alone.

My 14-year-old daughter has taken a beating in the past few weeks. She's been sick for so long that she doesn't remember what it feels like to feel well (she had her tonsils taken out yesterday, so hopefully, she'll be on the mend soon). She's learned about the ups and downs of a relationship with a guy. She's been frustrated by her soccer situation. It's been a rough couple months, especially the past few weeks.

And I've learned something in watching her battle through these things. First, she has more grace, patience and compassion than I ever will, and second, being a teenager is hard and being the parent of a teenager is hard, too. Being a teen is hard in ways it wasn't when I was a teenager. And as a mom, I ache for my daughter and wish that I could spare her some of the hard lessons that this life is teaching her.

I know that God has it all under control. I know that he's using these things to teach her something. But I'll be honest, it feels like I'm watching my child stand in the ocean and get hit by wave after wave after wave. She comes up sputtering every time, only to get hit by another one.

That's hard. It's hard to watch your child hurt. It's hard to watch them be emotionally and physically battered by life's circumstance. It's hard to watch them come up sputtering time after time after time.

And it's hard to be the emotional rock that they need their parents to be. Because your heart is breaking for them. Every wave that hits them and knocks them down, knocks you down, too. It's hard to have enough energy and emotional reserves to keep picking them back up again when all you want to do is lock yourself in the bathroom and cry for them.

In the midst of these tough moments, though, I am always reminded that God is creating something beautiful out of what seems like a mess. He's standing in that ocean with my daughter. Not one single wave surprises Him. Not one single wave knocks Him down. When she is knocked to her knees, He's there to lift her back up. She may not be able to stand in that ocean of life on her own as wave after wave of tough stuff knocks her down, but she can lean into God's arms, absorb His strength and put her feet back under her.

And so can I. When this mom thing gets hard. When it hurts to watch my kid to get knocked down, I know that I can turn to my Father's loving arms. I know that He can give me the emotional strength to see my daughter through illness, a tough soccer season, or a broken relationship.

Standing in this ocean we call life is hard for our kids, and it's hard for us. No one ever promised us that life would be easy. But God did promise that He would always be at our side, ready to offer whatever it is that we're lacking.

So, if your child seems to be drowning under wave after wave of tough things, remember that God is there to pick up your child -- and He's there to keep you standing as well. We're not in this alone.

Why Target Taking Down a Few Signs Doesn't Bother Me

In all this hullabaloo over Target taking down a few signs, we seem to have forgotten one thing: God made each one of us. He made us with different interests and talents. And He did that so we could fulfill a purpose in His plan.

I wasn't going to write this post. I usually like to stay away from controversial subjects in this space. But I found that after thinking about it for a while and praying about it that I feel the need to write about it. What is it, you ask? It's Target's announcement that they are moving away from gender-based labeling in toys and bedding in their stores.

It appears that this business decision by Target has set off a firestorm of criticism and praise from all different corners. And my take on this might surprise some of you.

My first thought was actually, why is this such a big deal? Most kids I know don't care where they buy the toys they like. They don't care if it's bought off a shelf with green paper or pink paper. They simply want the toy they want. It's us parents who care. It's us parents who are using the gender labeling as a validation that we are raising our kids "right."

You see, I have a daughter, and I have hardly ever shopped for a toy for her in the girls' toy section. We've about outgrown toys now, but my daughter loved Legos (not the pink and purple Friends sets, the hard-to-build Star Wars and City themed ones), light sabers, Nerf guns and Matchbox cars (oh, how she loved Matchbox cars). One year for Christmas all she wanted was a scale replica of Mark Martin's NASCAR truck that she could play with. She has never owned a Barbie doll. She never liked to play dress-up. She would rather get muddy, shoot Nerf guns and play street hockey on the driveway than pick out new outfits for her American Girl doll.

So I bought her toys in the "boys'" section of the toy department. And I never once thought that I was doing my daughter a disservice. I never once thought she would be confused about what gender she is. I was simply trying to cater to my daughter's interests. She didn't like dolls, so I didn't buy them. She didn't care about princesses and fairies, so we didn't buy those either.

The idea that the toys we buy our children are going to shape their gender identity is quite simply silly. It is a bunch of hoopla about nothing. My daughter is 12 now. She likes to look cute when she goes to school. She identifies as a girl. But she still plays hockey. She still likes video games and sports. It doesn't make her less of a girl. It just makes her a girl with some less than typical interests. And that's OK. Because in all this hullabaloo over Target taking down a few signs, we seem to have forgotten one thing: God made each one of us. He made us with different interests and talents. And He did that so we could fulfill a purpose in His plan.

I don't mind that Target is taking down those signs. If it makes some girl (or boy) feel more comfortable shopping for a toy that isn't a "typical" girl or boy toy, then that's good. Because instead of making a child feel awkward about focusing on their God-given interests, we should be celebrating them. We should be encouraging them to be who God made them to be. My little girl who played with Matchbox cars might grow up to be a race-car driver. Your little boy who played with dishes and play kitchens might grow up to be a chef. Why would we want to try to mold those interests into something else?

They're just toys. It's just a sign. There are real problems in this world -- children are starving, wars are raging, children are sold every day into slavery. Maybe we should focus some of our outrage on those things and just let our kids play with their toys.

Jesus, Please...

Eternity needs our hard stuff more than it needs our happiness.

Life around here has been a bit of doozy. You know that tummy-twirling ride where you spin and spin and spin and the floor drops out? Yeah, that’s pretty much our summer.

And the grand total of my contribution to my children’s spiritual and educational enrichment?

My mad skills and ability to push play on the Blu Ray. I kid you not. But on the upside, I am really awesome at pushing play.

So there.

My auto-immune disease is kicking my bum and my lungs and my heart and I’m sure something else by next week.

BUT…

I cannot say this season of our life was and is without good.

I. Just. Cannot.

In a world that often says our God is good only when the outcome is good, my summer is a living testament to what happens when the outcome is a big, blessed mess.

Love without boundaries. Grace that meets us daily. Peace even when the floor drops out.

It is a road that ekes out not an eloquent, perfect prayer for health and safety and all things lovely but rather a sacred “Jesus, please…”

Standing outside my babies’ rooms after another day of holding frustrated little hearts who miss their mom so very much.

“Jesus, please…”

Watching my littlest sleep, feeling like I’ve lost her first year and in some ways, lost a piece of  her.

“Jesus, please…”

Holding his hand knowing he is carrying the weight of our world squarely on his exhausted shoulders.

“Jesus, please…”

It is in this whispered call that His good can seep into our fear, our frustration, our blessed unrest. Because at the end of the day, we are not called to work out our own good. We are called to be champions for eternity.

And sometimes?

Eternity needs our hard stuff more than it needs our happiness.

Now I know this is not the feel-good sound byte of back-to-school we mamas want to hear. I know it would be easier to pray for things that are safe and comfortable. I know the thought of anything other than happy already weighs on our hearts.

I. Know.

But what if, instead of a list of a million wants, this school year we prayed a “Jesus, please…”

One that said, “Make it good. Make it beautiful. Make it matter for eternity.”

Oh friends, what if?

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out. - See more at: http://www.everydaytruth.net/2015/05/08/beautiful-together/#sthash.MQ5W7JBA.dpuf

Don't Let Fear Rule Your Parenting -- The Rest of the Story

As our kids head back to school, let’s be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them — even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

A little over a week ago, I wrote this post about not letting fear rule your parenting. The next day, I got a phone call from my 14-year-old daughter in Ecuador saying her throat felt like it did when she had an abscess in it.

If you want to know fear, send your child to a foreign country and have her call you and tell you she's sick and needs medical treatment. She got to spend part of her day in an Ecuadorian hospital and ended up on the first flight home, cutting her trip short.

After writing that blog post about not letting fear rule your parenting, I was confronted with a situation that made me wonder whether that was the right tactic to take. If I'd just kept my daughter home, she would have been here when she got sick again. I wouldn't have spent 24 hours wondering if she was going to be OK. I would have had her right here where I could check on her. All of those thoughts went through this mom's very worried mind last Tuesday morning.

But do you know what one of my daughter's first questions was? She asked me if she could go back to Ecuador next summer. Despite not feeling good and being scared and sick in an Ecuadorian hospital, she couldn't wait to go back. The experiences she had, the friends she made and the joy she found while in Ecuador for a week ministering to others far outweighed the crumminess of getting sick and having to come home early.

I know that God wanted my daughter on that mission trip. He's given her a huge heart full of love and compassion along with a fearless spirit that revels in new experiences. He wanted her to have a taste of what that looks like on the mission field.

But Satan did not. There's nothing Satan wants more than for us to hide behind our fear to keep us from doing what God asks of us. Satan would have loved for fear to have kept me from putting my daughter on that plane. He would love for fear to keep me from letting her go again.

But even though this experience was gut-wrenching for me as a mom, even though her trip didn't end like anyone had planned, God still triumphed because we didn't let fear hold us back. My daughter should be good as new soon (she's having her tonsils taken out on Aug. 31), and she's already started working to earn money to go back to Ecuador next year. She had an amazing experience in Ecuador that will change her life forever. She has the best opening line of a "What I did this summer" essay that I've ever heard (I started my summer in an American hospital and ended it in an Ecuadorian one). And I was stretched as a mom to let go of my fear and trust God with this child of my heart more than I ever have before.

I was reminded once again of something I learned when my kids were very young. They are not mine. They are God's. I just get to be in charge of them for a little while. My biggest job as a mom is not to get in the way of what God wants to do in their lives. And when I do take steps to allow God to work, I have to be ready for Satan to attack because he doesn't want me or my kids growing in our faith and confidence in God. He wants fear and worry to hold us back.

Won't you join with me in not allowing Satan to have that kind of power over us and our kids? As our kids head back to school, let's be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them -- even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

Don't Let Fear Rule Your Parenting

Ecuador
Ecuador

A little over 12 years ago, I sat in a doctor's office and was presented with the fact that the baby I was holding in my arms shouldn't be here. I was told that 99% of babies with her particular health issues miscarried before they were born. In the weeks that followed, as a young mom of two kids under the age of two, I made a few decisions about the type of parent I wanted to be.

You see, I had been handed a miracle, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all kids are miracles. There are so many things that have to come together just exactly right to create a healthy baby. The fact that that happens more often than it doesn't is a miracle.

I found myself having to answer the question "What do I do with these two miracles?" So I made a few hard and fast decisions in those first weeks of my second daughter's life. One was that I wanted to be an intentional parent. This blog is an outgrowth of that decision. The other big decision I made was that I never wanted to parent from a place of fear. I didn't want my decisions about what my kids could and could not do to be based on fear because irrational, paralyzing fear is not from God. It is a tool that Satan uses to keep us from doing the hard things that God asks us to do.

In the past 12 years, I've had a few moments where I've had to remind myself of that decision not to parent from a place of fear -- sending my girls off to their first sleepover or their first overnight camp, sending my 7-year-old out on the ice for the first time to play hockey with a bunch of boys, sending them off to their first day of middle school. But never has that decision been tested more than it was last Thursday when I put my 14-year-old daughter on a plane to Ecuador.

Two doctors had expressed reservations about her going on this trip. She'd been really sick not a week before. She was still on antibiotics. Every single fiber of my being was screaming that I should keep her home where I could keep an eye on her. But God was clearly saying "Send her." In those moments of tear-filled fear and paralyzing doubt, the rubber met the road on that long-ago decision not to parent out of fear. This moment was where I had to decide if I really believed that fear was not a good enough reason to stop my daughter from going on this long-awaited trip.

So, last Thursday, I chose not to let fear rule my parenting, not to let fear get in the way of God's plan. I put my daughter on a plane to Ecuador. And I am so glad I did. That picture at the top of this post is her playing soccer with some kids in Ecuador (she's in the red shirt). She has made new friends. She has worked hard and connected with some kids in Ecuador. She's had the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to people she would never have met if I had let fear make me say no to this trip. And even from the short text messages I've been getting, I can tell that she's going to come home a changed person.

Parenting out of fear never ends well for us or our kids. When we parent out of fear, we often rob our kids of the opportunity to try new things, meet new people and grow spiritually. Fear should never be the only reason we tell our children they can't have a new experience. Don't get me wrong, there are valid reasons for telling our kids no. Our 12-year-old didn't go on this trip because we don't feel she's old enough or mature enough to travel across the world on her own. The reasons for her not going, though, aren't rooted in fear; they're rooted in what's appropriate for her age.

However, if you're making decisions about what your kids can and can't do and you find fear is the only reason you're parenting the way you're parenting, it might be time to reevaluate. It might be time to take a close look at whether you're making decisions based on  prayerful consideration of what's best for your child or based on your own worries and fears.

Because when we let fear rule our parenting, we let Satan rob us and our kids of some of the great adventures God wants us both to have.

Parenting Takes Faith

This whole parenting thing is just one big leap of faith. From the moment we leave our kids with their first babysitter or send them off to school for the first time, we’re placing our faith in God that He’s got a plan for them and He’s going to take care of them.
 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My older daughter leaves tomorrow morning to spend a week in Ecuador on a mission trip. I'm excited for her to go, but this trip that we've been planning for nine months has suddenly become a huge leap of faith.

You see, our summer has not gone the way we planned. My super healthy 14-year-old has battled two serious bacterial infections. A week ago, I would have told you she wasn't going on this trip. Her doctors weren't convinced that leaving the country -- without a parent -- was a good idea. I was definitely convinced it was a bad idea.

What was once a trip that caused me just minor concern has become a huge leap of faith for me. I'd be lying if I told you there wasn't a rock in the pit of my stomach as I think about putting her on the plane tomorrow morning. My biggest worry is that she'll get sick again, and she'll be in a foreign country where there's not much I can do about it. I trust the people she's going with. I know that there's medical evacuation insurance in place. I know that they have access to decent medical care. But it's still going to take a whole lot of faith to hand my daughter her boarding pass, give her a hug and tell her to have a great time.

As I pondered that moment this morning, though, I realized that this whole parenting thing is just one big leap of faith. From the moment we leave our kids with their first babysitter or send them off to school for the first time, we're placing our faith in God that He's got a plan for them and He's going to take care of them.

As my kids get older and they're out of my sphere of influence more and more often, I find that my faith in God's faithfulness has to grow. For them to become the people that God wants them to be, I have to trust that He loves them more than I do. I have to trust that His plan for them is the best one there is. And I have to trust that my kids will find Him and follow His path.

These aren't easy lessons for me to learn. These aren't easy days to be their mom. But I know that just as God will be using this trip to stretch and grow my 14-year-old, He'll be using it to stretch and grow me as well. Because this parenting thing? It takes faith.

These Moments are Precious

These moments with our kids won’t come around again. They’re here and then they’re gone. And each one of them is precious. Each one of them is important.

For the second time in six weeks, I sat in a doctor's office with my older daughter and had a doctor look at me and say something like "If we don't treat this correctly, it could kill her." When you hear that statement once, it's an eye-opener. When you hear it six weeks later for the second time, it's like a sledgehammer smacking you in the side of the head.

My older daughter started the summer with a four-day hospital stay and a bout with meningitis. This week, what I thought was a simple virus causing her throat to hurt turned out to be a nasty bacterial infection that caused an abscess in the back of her throat, which is apparently a very scary, dangerous thing that can cause all sorts of horrible complications if it's not treated correctly.

We're calling this the Summer of the Needles in our house. My poor daughter has had a spinal tap done for the meningitis and had to have the abscess in her throat drained the other day. It has not been fun. But it has been a world changer.

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

Proverbs 27:1 says "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." That's a lesson I've learned all too well this summer.

You may have noticed that this space has been quiet for several weeks. Part of that is because we were on vacation, but much of it is because I've been trying very hard to be present in my home this summer. Knocking up against serious illnesses twice this summer has reminded me just how precious each day with our kids is. It's made me realize that all those things I think I'll do with my kids tomorrow or next week or next year may not be in the cards. And I need to take advantage of the moments I do have.

So instead of writing blog posts, I've been doing a Bible study with my daughters and their friends. We've watched movies. We've checked out the new escape game in town. I've been taking my kids with me on errands that are easier to do by myself. I've sat on my bed and watched countless hours of "Mystery Diners" with my daughters.

Because these moments won't come around again. They're here and then they're gone. And each one of them is precious. Each one of them is important. And if capturing some of those moments means I write a few less blog posts or my house is a little less clean, then so be it. Because regardless of illness or health, the moments I have with my kids are fleeting, and I want to capture as many as I can.