Humbly Accepting My Story

prayer hands

Does anyone else struggle with ‘why’ and ‘if only’ questions like these:

  • “Why am I so…”
  • “Why do I still struggle with…”
  • “Why don’t I have…”
  • “Why can’t I be more like…”
  • “Why did God allow x…”
  • “If only I had chosen x path…”
  • “If only I was more…”
  • “If only I had done x…”

I do. Constantly.

But the more I talk to people, the more I read about others’ struggles (I love reading famous people’s biographies!), the more I recognize that we all have something, we all have ‘thorns’ in our sides that we may wrestle with for a time, or even, for our entire lives. And that’s hard to swallow.

Recently, I have been struggling with something from my past that makes me obsessively run through all of those questions. If only I had done this, if only I hadn’t done that, why can’t I be more x, why did x have to happen? 

But the Lord (and good friends and a wonderful husband) have gently challenged me to accept my lot, to even embrace this part of my story, to view it as something that the Lord allowed, perhaps for my growth, perhaps for others, perhaps for a grander part of His story than I can fathom.

To do this, to accept my story, means trusting that God is good and loving and knows what’s best for me, on a grander, eternal scale. Like a loving Father would act towards his child, He may say no or set boundaries or allow consequences or failure or struggle. And that makes me quite angry at times, thinking: God, you could change this in an instant! Why don’t you?

And like a loving Father, He allows me to rage and scream and cry out to Him.

But we may never know why, at least not on this side of heaven.

But when we choose to embrace what He has for us, we can experience joy and hope and peace in this life.

 

I don’t like everything about my story. There are things I wish I could change from my past. There are things I wish I could change in my present, things I recognize I may struggle with for my entire life.

But I do know that I have a choice. I can choose to be angry and bitter and filled with despair, I can choose to blame something or someone else for my pain. OR I can accept my story, humbly bowing before my Creator with an attitude of surrender, of saying: “Okay, Lord. This is the lot You have given me. I don’t understand why You have allowed this, but I trust You. I receive Your plan for my life, help me to honor You in how I respond.”

I expect I will continue to swing back and forth between accepting and fighting what He has for me in this life. Isn’t that part of the human struggle? But as I step into this phase of surrender and acceptance, as I take on a posture that means bowing my head, holding out my arms with my palms facing up towards the heavens, acknowledging that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts, I can trust Him. I can rest under His wings. I can accept what He has for me. I can let go of the anger and blame and guilt and resentment and release it to Him.

Then, I can finally rest. I can walk in hope. In joy. In lightness and laughter. In trust. In humility. In surrender. Knowing that everyday is a gift. Every moment is precious.

Blessings!

 

Favorite Family Summer Read-Alouds

Family summer reading

Summer may already be half over, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to implement family reading time!

My kiddos connect best with stories that feature a character who tries so desperately hard to ‘be good’, but somehow, constantly get into all kinds of mischief.

I’ve found that these types of books with a moral undertone are a FANTASTIC replacement for a lecture and so much more effective! Who can’t laugh and learn from the mistakes of lovable characters like Anne in Anne of Green Gables, tomboy-ish Jo in Little Women, or selfish Brother and Sister Bear in Berenstein Bears?

Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Happy Summer!

* The list below is best for the 4-7 year old age group (although some of these are ageless!)

Family Summer Read on Character

The Berenstain Bears

This is a sweet little series about a family of bears and their various life adventures. Each book has a familiar parenting challenge (too much TV, forgiving, bullying, junk food, doing chores, etc.). I tend to select titles based on a character issue my kids are struggling with (lying, obeying, using manners, doing schoolwork well, etc.). You can pretty much find one on any topic. You can find most of these at your local library (but use the online hold system, as I rarely can find what I’m looking for when I walk in spontaneously).

A Family Treasury of Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books

These were my FAVORITES growing up. The glittering gold spine and colorful illustrations captured my attention. My kids especially love the older books such as the “We Help Mommy” and “We help Daddy” series (these are difficult to find – shop used on Amazon or eBay). Other favorites include: The Pokey Little Puppy, Saggy Baggy Elephant, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Nurse Nancy.

grimms fairy tales

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

This is my son’s ABSOLUTE favorite read-aloud. If your child enjoys adventurous tales of heroism and can handle not-so-Disney-like-endings, this is a great pick.  I find it a little disturbing at times, but I appreciate the fact in many of the tales, there are natural consequences to greedy, selfish or deceitful choices. The illustrations are lovely, able to keep my wiggly son engaged.


little women


Peter Pan Junior Classic for Young ReadersLittle Princess Junior ClassicsTreasure Island Junior Classics for Young ReadersTom Sawyer Junior Classicsanne of green gables

Junior Classics for Young Readers

I stumbled upon this series while browsing the dollar bins at Target one afternoon. As an English major and avid reader, I’m always a bit skeptical of an abridged version of any classic work. But nevertheless, they were a dollar, so I bought a couple. These are PHENOMENAL. I love that the reading level has not been completely ‘dumbed-down’ but still contains much of the rich, elegant language of the original work. They are a shorter, abbreviated version of the original tales,  but simplified in a way that keeps my young readers engaged as I read to them and even stretches them a bit with regards to rich vocabulary.

The Courage of Sarah Noble

The Courage of Sarah Noble

This book was a required read-aloud for my first grader. I remember the night I read it aloud to both of my children (1st and Kinder at the time). We finished the book in ONE sitting. They were fascinated by the TRUE story of 8-year-old Sarah Noble, who temporarily lives with a neighboring Indian tribe while her family is away. Inspiring and simply written, making it an easy read!

Strega Nona Her Story

Strega Nona

This is a series by the famous author illustrator Tomie dePaola. I found the stories to be a little odd at first, with a mix of Italian culture, Catholicism and magic. But my kids LOVE the characters and illustrations. And, there is always a great moral! The book pictured above introduces how Strega Nona came to be ‘Grandma Witch.’ I find it helpful to start with, but the others can be read in no particular order as they are all individual stories (my kids favorites include Big Anthony, who is rather goofy!).

  • Strega Nona
  • Big Anthony: His Story
  • Big Anthony and the Magic Ring
  • Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons
  • Strega Nona Meets Her Match
  • Strega Nona’s Harvest
  • Merry Christmas, Strega Nona
  • Strega Nona and the Twins
  • Strega Nona Does it Again

 

Please leave a comment if you have other books or series of books that are great for summer read-alouds. Always on the hunt for new ones!

Blessings!

 

Growing in Grit

grit

Grit = perseverance, steadfastness, inner drive, unwavering determination, failure to give up despite hardship

You can find plenty of books, TED talks, articles, podcasts and blog posts on the topic of grit. Everybody is fascinated by it. It’s an admirable quality we all want, an advantageous character trait that will serve you well in society.

So what’s the secret? Why do some people seem to have more of it? What makes them gritty? And the big question: can you grow in grittiness?

I believe you can.

In my case, my lens is a Christian one, meaning, I view the world through His Story. In a nutshell: a perfect and loving God created us in His image so that we could enjoy intimacy with Him. But we chose to fracture that relationship by rejecting His authority and pursuing our own interests while rejecting His. Yet He has provided a way back to Him through His Son’s perfect sacrifice on the cross. Like a tender and compassionate Father, He does not demand that we return, but gently woos and whispers to our hearts of His everlasting love.

Practically speaking, here’s how this plays out in my own life:

Marriage

Grit means being the first to move towards him, even if I feel like I’m the one who’s been wronged.

Grit means pressing in when I feel hurt or misunderstood or unappreciated.

Grit means considering his needs above my own.

Grit means not expecting tit-for-tat.

Grit means choosing to be faithful despite my feelings.

Grit means forgiving, really forgiving, and not using past hurts to punish or hurl back at him at a later time.

Grit means accepting the flawed nature of my partner, yet believing in the beautiful person they are becoming, as God works in their life.

Parenting

Grit means getting down low and gently looking into their eyes when they are hurting or complaining or throwing a fit and saying, “I love you,”but also calling out what is not good, what is sin, by teaching them “this, not that.” Kindness, not mean-spiritedness. Forgiveness, not resentment. Self control, not anger.

Grit means not yelling in anger or berating them or shaming them even when their behavior makes me feel entitled to do so.

Grit means modeling repentance by confessing my sin and my need for forgiveness.

Grit means pressing through the hard days when everyone feels whiny and tired and at odds with each other.

Grit means being present for my kids, not checking out by staring at my phone or whatever my source may be.

Grit means wisely scheduling our family’s time, not overloading our schedules.

Grit means not turning to busyness to cover up the need to escape from my kids, to escape from the daily challenge of parenting.

Grit means saying no to friends or fun social activities when I know it will affect my energy or my time with my family.

Grit means filling their minds with good stories, full of hope and redemption and love, rather than sticking them in front of the TV.

Grit means being wise when it comes to what messages they are being exposed to and how to give them a godly lens on life.

Grit means entering into their world, seeking to understand what makes them tick, what they love, and who they are as unique little people.

Grit means taking notice of them. Being aware when they are hurting, when they need some quiet time with Mommy, when they are tired and just need a good cuddle.

Grit means responding in love and gentleness to them even when everything in my body tells me I have a right to scream at them.

My Personal Life

Grit means getting up and spending time with God even when I’m tired, because I know He is my true source of strength and joy.

Grit means striving to keep a tidy and orderly house because it speaks love to my husband and my kids.

Grit means saying no to frivolous purchases I know I don’t need.

Grit means seeking to fill my mind with good stories and protect myself from worldly messages that darken my heart and lead me away from godly thinking.

Grit means knowing how to balance my emotions on the days that I am struggling with anxiety or depression or moodiness or irritability or fatigue; how to give myself grace, yet not fully rely on my emotions as truth, because I know how fickle my heart and emotions can be.

Grit is accepting that life is hard, that there will be heartache and tiresome days and whiny kids and challenges in marriage.

Grit is not demanding that things come easy, that I deserve to be happy every second or get ‘me time’ every time I need it or have peace and quiet because I just hate the chaos.

Grit means pressing into the hard because I have Jesus, who loves me and empowers me to endure the race.

Grit is hoping in what is to come.

Grit is putting one foot in front of the other even when I think I just can’t anymore.

Grit is looking to Jesus and longing for heaven, a Kingdom where will be made new, free from aches and pains and sadness and because we will get to enjoy a perfect and loving relationship with Him.

Blessings,

Amanda

 

 

 

Soul-Nourishing Parenting Tips from a Non-Expert

bucket

Know this: all of what I am about to share has evolved out of numerous MOMMY FAILS. God must know I need to learn things the hard way. That I have to hit my head against the wall again and again before finally saying: Oh, maybe something needs to change! 

My hope is that these little tidbits may help someone else who feels like they are stuck in a downward parenting spiral that is leading to more and more angry outbursts, feelings of helplessness and being out of control or a tendency to just check out, avoid and numb the surrounding chaos. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m still there. You CAN do this. God does not give us more than we can handle. Nothing is impossible with God!

Okay, now for the practical:

Strive to keep both your bucket and your child’s bucket filled (realistically speaking, maybe aim for 75%).

Ways I fill my own bucket:

  • take a long walk/run/hike
  • spend time reading God’s word and praying
  • enjoying a glass of wine
  • going out with close girlfriends
  • reading a good book
  • taking a hot bath
  • getting enough sleep – when I start getting angry/irritable, this is the first thing that I try to adjust!!!
  • eating well

Note: The worst thing you can do is try to parent out of an empty bucket. I learned this the hard way. Trust me. Before you can pour into your family, you have to be mentally, spiritually and physically healthy yourself.

Here’s some ways I do this:

Limit weeknights out. Bedtime is a sweet time of connection between me and my kids. When I schedule multiple activities on weekday evenings back to back, not only do I pay for it (stay up too late + drink too much wine + eat a bunch of sugary desserts = bad night sleep + grumpy mommy the next day), but my children pay for it.

That’s not to say I don’t have those fun girls’ night outs. I just have to plan them wisely. I’ve learned not to schedule them anytime I am going to be with the kids for long chunks of time. It has taken discipline because I am an ‘in the moment’ type, but in order to maintain my health and a positive relationship with my children, I’ve had to set boundaries for myself.

Ways to fill your child’s bucket:

  • If your child is acting ‘amped up,’ overstimulated, intensely angry, aggressive, etc. that’s the cue for a RESET. Don’t try to logic your way through their behavior and talk about how bad they are acting. They are in fight or flight mode. Trying to talk some sense into them is like trying to talk to a heroine junkie. Don’t engage. Do a reset. Before I explain what a reset looks like for us, here’s when my children usually need them:
    • Morning rush/getting out the door
    • Getting home from school
    • After a birthday party
    • After church or any kind of group childcare
    • After soccer/dance/sporting activities in groups they are involved in
  • Note: your child may show their need for a reset differently (i.e., my high energy child often ramps UP in energy and intensity when he is overstimulated, while my daughter gets quiet and sulky and argumentative)
  • RESET means CHANGE THE ENVIRONMENT. If I am at home, I take them to their room. If they fight, I no longer try to drag them. It just makes me angrier. I will either excuse myself and say “mommy needs some space” and go into my bedroom and lock my door or if I have the energy to do so, I do the “love cage” with them, where I hold them firmly, but gently in my arms and whisper to them or just “shhhhhh” in their ears and quietly say “it’s okay, buddy” until their body physically calms down. This can take up to 20 minutes and it may mean that you get smacked in the face.
  • If they don’t struggle, send them to their room to reset. For an extroverted child who doesn’t like to be alone, this can be difficult. Some tips: put on an audiobook: Boxcar Chidren, Chronicles of Narnia and Story of the World are some of my son’s favorites. Legos, blocks, and trains are good things for boys. Picture books, etc.
  • Note: I often have to SIT WITH HIM AND HELP HIM GET STARTED with INDEPENDENT PLAY. Initially, I got really frustrated that he wouldn’t just play in his room by himself. I didn’t realize that he needed direction and perhaps some assurance that this was temporary separation. So I often sit on the floor with him and say, what if I help you get started with building something with your Legos? Then I set the expectation: Mommy is going to work with you for a little while, then I am going to have some quiet time in my room so I can recharge my energy too. Model the behavior you want.
  • Some kids are better at self-play than others. My daughter can just go to her room and independently create a fantasy world with her dolls, her tea sets and her dress up clothes. If you find that your child does not like staying in his/her room, try giving him something to do. But remember, baby steps. In the beginning, he may only stay for a few minutes. But don’t give up. A lot of parenting is habit-building, not one-time victories.
  • THEY DO NOT NEED A DEVICE TO RELAX. This used to be a major crutch for me. I thought, if he won’t stay in his room,  I’ll just give him the iPad. I knew in my gut that wasn’t truly ‘restful’ but I just needed a break. I get that. I’ve been there. Don’t try this on a day when your bucket is low. Try it on a day when you are ready to stand firm. Kids do NOT need an iPad to spend time alone. Period. It is a HABIT that must be trained. Gosh, I sound preachy. I promise I have had to learn this the hard way. Here’s how: I noticed after shoving them in front of the TV or a device for an hour or so, it would only make them more amped up and bratty afterwards. It was no longer worth it to me. The fight to turn it off was awful. Once you decide to say no to devices during rest time, be prepared for pushback. But know this: it wasn’t as difficult as I expected!!! After a week or so, they stopped asking for them. Now, they just assume they only get them on road trips or special occasions. BUT, this commitment requires a lot of energy on your part. That leads me to the next point:
  • Filling their bucket means you have to spend QUALITY TIME with them. While I am a naturally playful mom who likes get on the trampoline and play Gaga ball with them, because I homeschool two days a week, I have little desire or energy to play with them during our breaks. Teaching them drains a lot of my energy. I’m sure it’s the same for working moms. When you get home from work, the last thing you probably want to do is go play with them. So it may require some intentionality and planning on your part.i schedule a ‘me time’ break and then a ‘play with them’ break. They love to build forts out of bedsheets, play ‘doggie’ on the trampoline (mommy is usually the doggy that runs around and barks and chases them),  build magnet tile towers and have tea parties.
  • Pray for the time and energy! As I write this, I think geesh, this isn’t even practical, is it? This takes so much time and energy. Who actually wants to do this (including me!) But you know what? I believe that when we approach the Almighty upon His glorious and ask for His help, He answers. He will provide a way, He can give you the energy and time your kids need from you. Ask and you will receive!
  • Set the bar high. This is my most recent learning lesson. I tend to set a low bar for my kids. They are capable of SO much more. We’ve been watching the Little House on the Prairie series and oh my gosh, those girls do all the chores EVERYDAY and walk miles to school and read their Bibles, etc. Yes, that is a TV show, not reality. But that was how the old days were to some extent. Children took an active part in housework. I have learned to expect my children to put away their clothes, put away their dishes, sweep the floors, use the outdoor blower, etc. It takes a lot of prompting and training. But if you put a carrot in front of something you want them to do, they are usually motivated to do it. So I say something like, “I’m happy to take you to basketball practice as soon as you put away your clothes.” And then, well, you have to stand your ground. One consequence like that and you probably won’t have another issue with it.
  • Boundaries. This is my weakest area. I am a pleaser by nature. I hate to set boundaries. I get angry very easily because I let my kids run over me and nag and beg and convince me to change my mind, until I finally blow up. What I’m learning to do now: talk about my expectations beforehand. For example, today is a homeschool day. We have x, y and z to get done. If we work hard, we can do x. That’s helpful for ME and them – something to look forward to after doing the hard work.
  • Laughter and Adventure –  You don’t have to rely on expensive excursions to have a bonding experience. Just be together. In the outdoors, especially, I find it life-giving. Even things like doing yardwork on the weekends together can end up being a fun experience!
  • Trash In, Trash Out – this applies to both me and my kids. I remember my mom saying this every time I read a Danielle Steele novel. As much as I rolled my eyes then, she was right. What you put into your mind is going to come out. This may sound odd, but I rarely watch TV anymore. The initial reason was because I went through a time of incredible anxiety and noise sensitivity that made watching most TV shows incredibly unenjoyable and often heightened my anxiety. During that time, I learned how to relax at night with a book instead of a show. Now, it’s become a habit. My hubby gets to watch his guy show with car races and explosions while I read my book. And I make sure it is soul-nourishing, not trash. I read a lot of Charles Spurgeon and Sally Clarkson and C.S. Lewis. They make me long for heaven and I think that must be a pretty good thing.
    • When it comes to kids, the ‘trash in, trash out’ sentiment is also important. At the classical school my kids attend, there is a phrase used to describe books/movies with low-quality content: “twaddle.” Some twaddle is not bad. We don’t have to be legalistic or keep our kids in a bubble. But I recognize that what I’m putting into my kids minds and hearts matters. Watching a lot of Transformers and Pokemon is very different from watching Mary Poppins and Sound of Music and Little House on the Prairie. Reading Disney princess books (which usually cast an unrealistic and selfish view of life, friendship, and marriage) is going to be very different than reading books like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Little House on the Prairie where values like outdoor play, solitude, adventure, patience, self-control and selflessness are encouraged.
  • Start small. My hubby always tells me this when I start feeling overwhelmed with housework duties. A little at a time. Don’t expect to do it all at once. Same with instilling beautiful parenting habits. If I would recommend anything, I would say: introduce beautiful, high quality books into your DAILY routine with your kids. Skip the show before bed and go straight to reading time. Cuddle up together and maybe enjoy a little snack or treat. Make it special. Make it fun. The power of tapping into a child’s imagination with a good story does amazing things. My kids will often talk about a book long after reading it, remembering a scene or a character and wondering how they would have acted in x situation. It’s amazing to watch. And often, it sparks conversation about their own fears, struggles, hopes, dreams which provides a wonderful opportunity for connection.
  • Pray. Of course I must end on this one. I can speak from experience. On the days I am on my knees before the Lord asking for His help in parenting my children and creating a life-giving home, I am filled with a peace that transcends human understanding. If you don’t know where to start, do a yearly Bible reading plan. On the days when the Word just doesn’t seem to ‘speak to me,’ I supplement my reading with a classic spiritual book such as Pilgrim’s Progress or Charles Spurgeon’s sermons (collected works in a book) or Sally Clarkson’s Life-giving Home. Or I journal and pour out my heart to the Lord about how inadequate I feel to be in this role, shaping these little hearts and minds to influence the next generation. But then I remember, “My God shall supply all my needs in Christ Jesus” and I press on.

Press on with me! Blessings.

The Beauty of the Bread and the Wine

bread-and-wine

I have been through seasons when I don’t feel like going to church. But the older I get, the more I realize that it’s not really about how I feel and whether or not I’m in the mood to go.

I don’t go to earn something. I go to gain something.

That sounds a bit selfish, I guess. But it’s true. I go seeking something. Seeking Him.

I am in desperate need of the presence of God. I long for Him to fill me, to make me more like Him, to lead me in paths of righteousness, to walk with me beside still waters, to restore my soul.

I go, despite the shame I feel after yelling at my kids, after fighting over some silly little matter with my husband, after ignoring a stranger in need.

I go, despite the fact that there are people there who I don’t connect with, who I don’t agree with, and maybe who I don’t even like to be around.

I go, despite the fact that my kids have been fighting and whining and would do better just sitting in their room all day then having to dress them and load them up for church.

I go because deep down, I know that the very act of worship changes me, that it fills me with more of Him and less of me, that it transforms my heart, mind and soul and replaces my worldly, selfish thoughts with heavenly, other-centered ones.

I often find that it is not the sermon or the music that lifts my gaze up to the Lord. It is the simple act of taking communion – that tangible reminder that we are invited to come to the table, every one of us, to receive His mercy. 

There’s been many a sermon when I’ve checked out or made to-do lists for the week instead of paying attention and taking the message to heart. But it is during communion, when I see my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, who are struggling, just like me to live for Him and not for self, walk down the center aisle together in our beautiful sanctuary and say: I need You, Jesus. I can’t do this without You. I can’t love. I can’t forgive. I can’t be a ‘good person’ without you. So I take the bread and the wine. I receive His body and His blood that was poured out for me. And I remember, even just briefly, what He has done for me and my soul is filled with worship. I can say: thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to die for me.

During this time of year when it’s easy to feel sluggish on those dreary wintry days, I am going to choose to relish the simple habit of taking the bread and the wine, of pondering and meditating on the depth of that act and what it means on a daily basis for me.

How deep the Father’s love for us

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

Swimming Against Culture: A Parenting Battle Worth Fighting For

I recently listened to a fascinating interview with Simon Sinek on millenials in the workplace. He made several observations about them and why they are the way they are: constantly on their phones, expecting perks at their new jobs, craving recognition, striving to make an impact, but also depressed, highly anxious, unable to form lasting relationships and incredibly insecure.

You know what he listed as the number one factor in their character formation?

lazy-parent

BAD PARENTING.

Yikes.

That made me feel a tiny bit nervous. And heavy. And overwhelmed as I was reminded of the responsibility I have as a parent to shape the next generation.

One of my favorite blogs and podcast series is by Sally Clarkson, who says the following:

In the absence of biblical convictions, our children will go the way of culture.”

Mothers are entrusted with an enormous responsibility, as we are the shapers of nations, the incubator of leaders, the molders of character as we raise the next generation under our roof.

These kind of statements can easily cripple, instilling fear and insecurity and doubt in the minds and hearts of parents. I am constantly in conversation with friends and we all share the same fears (some of us are just more open about it!) . I hear all of the following:

  • This parenting thing is tough!
  • I don’t feel like I’m doing this right.
  • I feel like I am yelling at them a lot.
  • I’m worried that all they will remember is an angry mommy.
  • They are always fighting.
  • They are always complaining.
  • They are always on their devices.
  • I just need a break!

I have felt all of those things on a regular basis. BUT, as I move into a slightly easier, or really, just different, season of parenting (compared to the baby/toddler phase), I have HOPE. I am noticing seeds that I sowed again and again finally coming to fruition. Not huge flowering plants at this point, but tiny little shoots of green. And that gives me HOPE that good things are going on in their little hearts.

But let me back up.

The first five to six years of parenting were ROUGH.

I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t have confidence in my ability as a parent. I didn’t even really feel like I knew how to parent. I was watching everyone else and reading a ton of books and asking everyone’s opinion on how to do it ‘right,’ meanwhile, feeling really confused and mixed up and insecure in my techniques and strategies.

I have two incredibly strong-willed children who express their strength of will in very different ways. I often felt worn and weary, helpless and even hopeless, wondering if I was really meant to be a parent at all.

 

To all you moms out there who may be feeling the same: God has called you to be the mom of your little ones. Children are a precious gift from the Lord and if He has given them to you, He WILL provide you with the skills and wisdom and energy and discernment to parent them.

But you have to ask.

prayer

And I mean, beg. Get on your knees and ask for help. Daily. Regularly. At any moment of confusion or chaos or anger. Ask Him for help.

Before you start reading all the books and attending a bunch of parenting seminars and talking to a bunch of moms, I urge you to pray. To ask for wisdom and power to parent your children.

I have Him answer. I was in a very dark place for several years. I felt like giving up. And for awhile, I did. I was physically unable to parent my children. My husband had to step in. He had to cut back work and do the grocery shopping and take the kids to daycare and put them to bed at night.

I don’t regret that time because God taught me to press into Him. To depend on Him in the midst of the chaos that was whipping around me, lashing at me like a fierce storm.

Press into Him, friends. Seek His wisdom first.

On a practical note, here are some basic things I have learned in my parenting journey so far:

Kids need to be told no. And you don’t always need to give an explanation or rationalize why. They flat out need to hear no. As a people pleaser and conflict-avoider, this has been the hardest single thing for me to do. To say no. But I realize, like the millenial video mentions above, it can be incredibly destructive to their character development.

Your word is gold. This is my second hardest struggle. I might say no or tell them to go to their room or take something away, but when they whine and complain or throw a massive fit, I end up caving in and lessening the consequence or completely dropping it all together. Don’t do it. I know the temptation. I understand the inner turmoil you might be feeling. I hate feeling like I am being mean and strict. I want to be the fun mom. But if your word is not gold, they are going to take advantage of that. And keep throwing fits to get their way for the rest of their life. Don’t back down. Even when you feel like it wasn’t fair. Life is not fair.

love-children

Love, love, love them. This is one of my natural giftings, so it doesn’t feel hard to me. But many moms have told me they have a hard time encouraging their kids and loving them well. If you’re trying to be a firm parent with boundaries, you HAVE to surround them with LOVE. They will respect your boundaries if they know you care.

Empathy with consequences.This is one that has been HUGE for me. I have connected most with the Love and Logic approach to parenting. Their main thing is: Empathy + Consequence = Effective Learning. When your kid does something wrong, the first thing you do is give empathy. “Oh buddy…” or “Oh, what a bummer” or “Man, was that a good choice?” Then calmly, without anger, give a consequence. And typically, there are 3 types of consequences: remove the child, remove the object, remove yourself. I especially like the third one. I often use the “Mommy is too frustrated to be in the room with you right now” or “Mommy is feeling really angry. I am going to put on headphones while I drive” or “Man, all that fighting and yelling has drained my energy. Mommy is going to go into her room for a little quiet time.” Sometimes that is easier for me than having to battle it out to have them go to their room. But sending them to their room is important. In the beginning, when my confidence was low, I would only do it when Daddy was around. Otherwise, it was a full on physical fight that involved dragging them to their room, then holding the doorknob while they screamed and yelled and kicked the door. Oh Lord have mercy, it’s been a long road!

Choose THIS, not THAT. Another huge takeaway for me has been the constant teaching of what is true, good, and beautiful and what is not. Kindness. Honesty. Patience. Teaching that they have a choice in how they respond to situations. We say a lot of the following:

  • Was that being kind?
  • Sometimes we have to wait a long time for things.
  • God is really working on our patient right now, huh?
  • Mommy is unwilling to talk to you when you speak to me that way.
  • Are you telling the truth right now? You know that mommy has a hard time trusting your words after you tell a lie.
  • I am happy to take you to soccer practice as soon as you clean up your room.
  • What a beautiful day it is! Isn’t God amazing in the way He makes the sky different each day?
  • Oh, that little girl looks sad. What could you do to help?
  • When your brother looks angry, what would be the best thing for you to do.

Pray with them. Often. We do a lot of this. At the breakfast table. When we are all melting down. At night. I pray with them and also let them pray. We pray things like “please God, help me not to react in anger to my sister” and “please help me not try to make my brother angry” and “please help me to tell the truth” and “I’m sorry, God, that I was mean to my brother” and “please protect me as I sleep tonight and not have bad dreams.”

I am not trying to make this a ‘how to’ parenting post. I’ve read a million of those and am often overwhelmed and confused by mixed messages. If you’ve read this entire thing (sorry, I’m rarely concise!), then I hope you hear this: Don’t give up. Don’t grow weary in doing good. Engage in the battles for your child’s heart. Help them to see their sin. Call it what it is: unkindness, dishonesty, meanness, impatience, demanding. We use those words a lot. But as you name those things in them, be sure to point out when you are exhibiting those things yourself.

Mine often say, “Oh mommy, the sin is my heart is SO big. I just can’t stop it!”

That is such a beautiful realization for them to make! I usually respond with something like, “Oh sweet girl, I know exactly how you feel! Mommy’s sin is big, too! And I keep messing up. But you know what? That’s why Jesus died on the cross! To pay for all of our sin. To take it away. To forgive us. To make us clean. What a beautiful thing! And we can ask Jesus for help to make better choices. Isn’t that amazing???”

And remember, lavish on the love. Play with them. Dream with them. Do chores with them. Exhibit what you want to teach. Read good books. Work together to keep the house clean and tidy. Share a love of learning with them. Show diligence in doing the hard things (laundry!). Persevere at things you’re not good at (keeping up with the dishes). Be aware of other’s feelings (it seems like your brother might be frustrated at something…).

Ultimately, ask God, daily, for help. We will not create perfect children, for we are not perfect ourselves. But when the gospel is on display, when we show our weakness and our need for God and strive towards what is good, lovely, and holy, we are teaching them who God is – a holy and loving Father who desires to protect us, love us and take care of us. In order to fight against a culture of immediacy, entertainment, ease, sloth, and indulgence, we have to teach and model the opposite values. That means putting in a lot of elbow grease and being willing to stop what we are doing and help them navigate their emotions, their conflict, their whiny-ness or frustrations. Don’t give up. Keep planting seeds of truth and love. I believe they will eventually sprout into an abundant, fruitful crop if you entrust them to the One who is faithful to meet all your needs.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capturing the Childlike Wonder of the Season

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Photo by www.boolanddesigns.com

As I read through the Christmas story this year, I am taken aback by the passages that describe the presence of angels.

Imagine:

Zacharias walks into the temple to offer incense to the Lord (and he was chosen by LOT among the multitude of Jews, so perhaps he didn’t even FEEL like doing it that day!). And there, as he is offering incense, he sees ‘an angel of the Lord’ standing to the right of the altar. Uh hellloooo! How freaked out would YOU be!

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And what does the angel say, as most angels in the Bible do when a human sees them? ‘Don’t be afraid.‘ Obviously there is something about their majesty, their beauty, their glory that makes us humans tremble in fear!

But the angel assures him, gently, ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ What an awesome scene! Of course, I love how human the story is, because then Zacharias, despite seeing this mighty angelic being before him, responds with doubt and says, “Um. Dude. My wife and I are old. We are WAY beyond child-bearing years. How can that possibly happen?”

Then the angel, responds with boldness, and rebukes his doubt, saying, “I am GABRIEL, who stands in the presence of the Lord. And because you don’t believe me, I will shut your mouth until the appointed time.” And so he did.

But then look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was also visited by Gabriel (who is supposedly one of God’s right-hand angels, so he must be pretty darn intimidating/majestic), tells her that she will conceive and have a son! And she hasn’t had SEX! But note her response, similar to Zacharias, yet slightly different:

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“How can this be??? I am a virgin!”

The angel doesn’t respond with rebuke but gives an explanation. Why? My guess, which is merely a guess, is that the attitude of her heart was different. She was, perhaps more like a child asking a question, full of wonder and awe. She wasn’t asking for a logical explanation, with a heart full of skepticism and doubt, but merely responding in awe at the seemingly impossibility of this message!

So the angel did not close up her mouth like Zacharias, but encouraged her and even provided an explanation.

And notice her response, which I find amazing: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Beautiful.

Lord, may my heart be like a child during this season, full of wonder and hope and joy. May I respond to the Christmas story in awe, as I ponder the idea that the Son of God, the Christ Child, was born in a simple manger, in a dirty stable with animals, to come to earth to save us, to rescue us from our sins. He came not in power and might and strength, but in humility, gentleness and love. He came to seek and save the lost, those that saw their need for saving, those who recognized their sickness and their need of the true Physician. Thank you, Father, that you have revealed your truth to the little ones. Grant me a child-like heart of wonder and awe at your beauty, majesty and love. Amen.