We are THAT Family’s 10 Most Popular Posts of 2013

2013 is one of those years that was heartbreakingly beautiful.

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Thank you for reading and for being a part of my life. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Top 10 (Reader’s Choice) Posts:

  1. Raising Daughters in a World that Devalues Them: 7 Things We Need to Tell Them
  2. Raising a Pure Son in a Sex-Crazed World
  3. What Every Son Needs to Hear
  4. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
  5. An Open Letter to Mothers of Preschoolers
  6. Counter Culture: When Your Kids Feel Different
  7. The Real Family Rules
  8. How to Stay Married in America
  9. The Kind of Fight Every Marriage Needs to Have
  10. 5 Signs Kids are Struggling with Entitlement

2013 in 15 seconds in (Instagram) pictures:

Nothing Says Happy New Year Like Manure & A Sale

Yesterday I stepped in a cow patty. I also had biscuits and gravy, pecan pie, and fell asleep in a recliner. I finished an entire book. And I learned how to knit.

I’m clearly 100. You may call me Grandmother now.

We are at my in-laws farm and my husband is in his element. He loves farming. If it wasn’t so serene or amazing for my redneck children who haven’t missed a lick of technology, I’d be scared.

We’ve been eating off the land without even dial up. Cousins spied constellations like the Big Dipper and Lesser Bear under the clear Oklahoma sky. It’s slow and meaningful living and it’s exactly what we needed.

There isn’t a department store or mall for dozens of miles. But that wouldn’t bother me… I did every bit of my shopping online this year.

Speaking of things I love, some of my very favorite Kindle books are dirt cheap right now:

$1.99 for hands-down the best family Bible ever written:

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

$2.99 This book changed my life. I read it on my way to Kenya in 2010 and it was a catalyst to starting Mercy House.

The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World

$2.99 The best book I read in 2013 and possibly ever. I cannot recommend it enough.

Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games

And while I’m at it, I’ll mention the best store ever is having a huge sale with many items 75% off and an extra 25% with code AFTER25. It’s a great time to stock up!

Only $10.49 with code: (click on picture to buy)

Love Came Down - Morning Star - Decorative Lantern

Only $8.99 with code: (click on picture to buy)

Love Came Down - Light of the World - Decorative Lantern

Only $5.99 with code (click on picture to buy)

Redeemed Christmas - Countdown to Christmas - Wooden Advent Chalkboard

I hope you are enjoying time with your family. As we sat around the farm table last night, we had a beautiful conversation about toots (beans were on the menu and there were junior high boys, so it was inevitable). My nephew said “ladies don’t toot.”

My youngest popped up and said, “Oh yes they do! My mom does it all the time. Sometimes in the car.”

Lies, all lies.

It might be time to go home.

How to Make Christmas Last Long After Tomorrow

The whole month has been building, much of the world anticipating, counting down to one glorious day. We have decorated, shopped, wrapped, baked in preparation.

We have been waiting. We are expectant.
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And it’s here, Christmas Day, is ready to be unwrapped.

We like to make Christmas morning last at our house. We don’t rip into gift wrapping before the sun is up. We are slow, methodical. We read about the first Christmas so long ago and we feast on a special breakfast and then we watch our children open their handful of gifts one at a time.

We savor it.

Because it ends.

All the hubbub, the busy calendar, the stuff we do to prepare for Christmas, it’s all over in a sunset.

And then we have what remains: leftover turkey, a fraction of a pie, a half-dead tree, decorations that seemed to have multiplied and more stuff to put away.

More often then not, instead of filling full of Christmas the day after, we feel empty. All the doing and building and expectancy of the season can leave us tired and hopeless.

Did you know it’s possible to miss your maker? 

We are always looking, always searching, trying to fill the emptiness. And our culture refills the empty shelves of Christmas with the next holiday on the calendar before we can blink.

Because it’s entirely possible to see Jesus, even celebrate him, his birthday, but miss him all together. We wouldn’t be the first.

“He was in the world,
the world was there with him,
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn’t want him.” -John 1:10-11

Christmas isn’t a day. It’s not a religious celebration.

It doesn’t end the day after tomorrow. It begins.

We can’t buy Christmas or spend it.

Because Christmas is a person. And a believer never stops living Christmas.

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“When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there really is hope for everyone. When you get Christmas, people get hope from you-they don’t lose it.” -Ann Voskamp

Advent brings hope. Hope is Emmanuel, God with us.

When you wake on Thursday and the high of Christmas leaves you feeling low, there’s only one way to make it last: it’s to live Christmas every day, to unwrap the wonder of our Savior, to love and give to others.

Emmanuel. God with us. And the great thing is, He never leaves us.

The Light has come. It will never burn out again.

merry christmas

This is Christmas, not one day a year, but a year of days unwrapping the greatest gift.

When God Made Room in the Inn {Giveaway}

Congrats to random commenters Katie and Lyra (you’ve been emailed).

There have been few times in my life when I’ve been speechless.

This is one of them.

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[Get Lucy’s Live Mercy T-Shirt here]

Many of you have lived mercy, so others might know mercy.

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When I walked thru a very crowded Mercy House in Kenya a few weeks ago, I kept thinking there isn’t enough room. The house was bustling with cradled, crawling, cruising babies and busy mommas chasing busy toddlers.

There was plenty of this:

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God created something from nothing. He did the impossible, the improbable and He used a bunch of you to do it.

Click here to continue reading and find out HOW MUCH was raised thru the (in)mercy campaign the past 3 months for Mercy House in Kenya…

!!!!!!

Thank you for saying yes with me.

 

Because of your generous giving, Mercy House will be helping more pregnant girls and delivering more precious babies in 2014.
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God delivered The Greatest Gift.

And He keeps delivering girls in Kenya from tragic circumstances and babies from certain death.

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This beautiful (in)mercy charm necklace  at The Vintage Pearl celebrates a great cause– 50% of each necklace sold through January 31, 2014 will be donated to The Mercy House Kenya.  It’s hand molded and then cast in sterling silver with a sterling silver ball chain and a freshwater pearl.

Today, as a thank you for being a part of this God-sized dream, The Vintage Pearl is giving away two $50 gift certificates (that you can have or regift this holiday season). Check out the gorgeous (in)mercy necklace and leave a comment with your Christmas wish.

5 Signs Kids are Struggling with Entitlement

5 signs kids are struggling with entitlementI finally wrapped a couple of gifts and put them under the tree. I don’t know about your house, but the minute I do this every year, my kids get really interested in what’s happening under the tree. Curiosity kills my kids. And the cat.

“Mom, when are you taking us shopping to buy gifts for you and Dad?” one of my kids asked.

“Do you have money to buy gifts?” I asked.

Eery silence.

“Well, I was thinking you could give us money. Um, to buy your gifts with,” came the answer.

Every month we give our kids money and it’s up to them to buy things they want (we provide things they need and also many wants). When I reminded my daughter of this, she said, “Oh, I wanted to buy a cute Christmas shirt with my money.”

Ah, choices.

When I polled my other kids, they too, were short on money and big on expectations. Now, I’m not a Scrooge and I don’t want to rob my kids of the opportunity to give gifts to others. But I also refuse to rob them of the privilege of hard work. Because that’s when the joy of giving is revealed.

So, I created a Jobs to Earn Money For Christmas Gift List and stuck it on our family memo board. I mentioned it once and waited to see who really wanted to give gifts this season.

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In our culture, it’s hard not to let entitlement creep into our homes and lives. It’s especially challenging not to fuel the expectations of our kids by our own parenting choices to make life easy for them and give them everything they want. We struggle with the “you owe me” mantra in our home. I’m writing about this because it’s an issue we really battle. But the first step is admitting it.

According to this must-watch Glen Beck segment, there are four cultural trends that contribute to the entitlement movement:

Self Esteem Movement- Raising kids with the “you are special” mantra isn’t healthy for kids. They don’t need to hear they are the best at everything and everything they do is the best (instead of look at me, it should be I’m a person of value that God created. Self esteem isn’t bad, but narcissism is).

Celebrity Culture-Reality TV shows highly dysfunctional people, and celebrates bad behavior. Rich  celebrities are portrayed as ignorant and they are worshipped in our culture.

Emerging Media- The growth of social media has altered reality, enhanced self-promotion, offers a “fake” sense of who we really are, as opposed to who we present online. Technology is not bad. It’s like fire-it serves a good purpose, but it can get completely out of control and dangerous.

Credit Bubble-This culture feeds on comparison. Not only in comparing ourselves to what others have, but also in getting it for ourselves even when we can’t afford it.

In our own homes, these trends can manifest in our children. This is what it might look like:

Five Signs of Entitlement in our kids: 

1. I want it now. Kids are impatient and who can blame them? We live in a drive-thru culture and instant gratification is well, instant. And often we find ourselves living in fear of saying no because our children are used to getting what they want.

2. I don’t want to work for it. Why work when it can be given to you? It’s fosters a cycle of laziness and poor work ethic when we constantly give to our children without requiring any work. We need to create entry points starting at a young age for our children to contribute to household chores and jobs.

3. I don’t have to clean up my mess. We battle this one often. I’m learning to choose my wars. But I believe this is also responsible living. If you make a mess, you clean it up.

4. I want it because everyone else has it. My 7 year old has asked for an Elf on the Shelf every day this week. Why? Because she feels left out that many of her friends have one. And that’s awesome for them, but I don’t want that to be the focus of our season and I honestly don’t have time or energy to create things for the stuffed animal to do. The bottom line for us: it’s okay for you not to have what everyone else has.  I asked my daughter, if everyone had a swimming pool, would you want one too? She said yes. Clearly, we are working on this one.

5. I expect you to fix all my problems. I love to help my kids out. But there’s a fine line between helping and aiding bad behavior. If my child forgets their lunch everyday and I bring it everyday, there’s really not a reason for them to ever be responsible. My kids expected us to give them money for a gift for us. Instead, I found it the perfect chance to teach them about hard work and let them solve their own dilemma.

This week, my son spent about 4 hours raking leaves in our big backyard. He had blisters on his hands and he worked very hard.

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My oldest babysat for five hours and my youngest earned money by cleaning and organizing under all the sinks in the house. When I took them to Target to Christmas shop, they were so proud to use their money. My teen spent more than she planned, “Mom, I love the way it feels to buy for others” she said as she counted out her hard-earned money.

My job here is done.

Not really, but it did make me smile to hear those words. The reality is, entitlement will rear its ugly head more than once this week and probably next. It’s a constant battle to remind our children and ourselves that we aren’t owed anything, that life is a gift and it needs to be appreciated.

So, what do we do about it? We can counteract these negative expectations by expecting more from our kids and teaching them these principals from Empowering Parents:

  • Money doesn’t come easily.
  • People work hard to earn money; it’s part of life.
  • If you want something, you need to work to earn it.
  • You are not entitled to things you haven’t earned.
  • Compassion for others (show them third world problems, so they have perspective on their first world ones)
  • Responsibility for Actions: there are consequences and rewards for our behavior and choices

Parenting is hard. Doing it in our culture is even harder. But it is possible to raise grateful, hard-working kids who put others first.  That’s my goal anyway.

30 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

Our world makes it challenging to keep Christ in Christmas.

Anyone else notice that?

Don’t get me wrong: I love this season. The lights and festivities. I’m a Christmas baby and I find this time of year magical. I love experiencing it with my kids…the excuse to wear Christmas pajamas days on end, reading holiday books, sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies for lunch

But more than anything, I want to make it meaningful. I want Jesus to be the focus. I want my kids to know what the day and all the celebrating is really about. They won’t hear it at school or see it in the sales advertisements. They will know because we will show them.

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Here are some ways we make Christmas meaningful (and a few ideas we plan to implement):

  • Set up a Nativity and make it a focus in your home. [We put ours front and center on the entry table in our home].
  • Hide baby Jesus and “seek” Him Christmas morning before opening gifts. [I did this first thing last year. Here’s how I found it half an hour later. Turns out Mary had a little Snowman. I love little kids].

  • (or) Gift wrap baby Jesus in your nativity and let this be your first unwrapped gift Christmas morning.
  • Take a cue from the Magi and limit the gifts and reminding kids it’s not their birthday, it’s His.
  • Have a daily family devotion that unwraps Christmas. We are loving The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.
  • Participate in Advent. Anticipate, count down to Jesus’ birthday.
  • Light an Advent wreath each day leading up to Christmas.
  • Have a birthday cake for Jesus or go all out and make it a birthday party!
  • Watch DVDS like Why Do We Call It Christmas? that help you tell the real story of Christmas.
  • Give your kids the gift of giving: Have them shop with purpose. This year we are giving our kids money to shop from the Compassion gift catalog.
  • Or buy something that blesses twice and changes lives (Mercy Shop).
  • Don’t stress about things that really don’t matter this Season. I have been a Christmas hoarder in the past. Last year, I had two newlywed couples come and dig thru my decorations. I saved two boxes of things I value most and gave the rest away. It’s simple this year and I like it.
  • Make the Nativity interactive with tools like What God Wants for Christmas. It’s from the creators of Resurrection Eggs.
  • Do something for someone else on Christmas Day. For the past few years, we’ve played Secret Santa for a family in need. It’s one of my favorite traditions.
  • Talk with your kids about giving God a gift. What does He want from us?
  • Hang a stocking for Christ. Fill it with notes just for Him.
  • Invite someone to share Christmas dinner with your family.
  • Shop for single mom. This year playing secret santa and dropping off gifts for a single mom!
  • Don’t participate in the excessive commercialism. Enough said.
  • Watch The Nativity Story together as a family. We started this tradition two years ago. I think this PG movie tells the greatest story ever told very well.
  • Help your kids shop for their siblings.
  • Talk about the symbols of Christmas.
  • Be generous as a family at Christmas-baking, giving, doing.
  • Hold a Yule log party: it’s an old European custom to bring in an enormous log on Christmas Eve and it in the fireplace (or fire pit) and say prayers. Today, Yule log cakes and eggnog are served. You can sing carols, read Scripture, tell stories, pray for the new year, and have good fellowship.
  • Bake, make or buy a special gift for your Pastor. We did Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls a few years ago. What a gift!
  • Cherish traditions with your family. Start a new one! Like the next one:
  • When preparing your Christmas meal, set a literal place for Jesus, your honored guest.
  • Attend church on Christmas Eve.
  • Read Luke 2 together on Christmas Eve or morning. We’ve been doing this since before we had kids.
  • Leave a Nativity out all year long. I did this last year and it was really special.
How do you keep Christ in Christmas?
[edited repost]

Origami Owl {Giveaway}

Congrats to comment #107, Jennie (check your email)

I love a good story.

And I’m not just talking about books. I love the story that life tells–the ups and downs, highs and lows.

Have you heard of Origami Owl? It’s jewelry that tells your story.

It’s such a fun idea!

THE MISSION OF THIS COMPANY: IS TO BE A FORCE FOR GOOD; TO LOVE, INSPIRE

+ MOTIVATE PEOPLE OF ALL AGES TO REACH THEIR DREAMS +

EMPOWER THEM TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

merry and bright

Here’s how it works: Visit Origami Owl

Step 1|Choose your charms:

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Step 2| Choose your locket:

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Step 3| Choose your chain:

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My oldest daughter is about to turn the big

14

 

And she loves stories. And jewelry.

I can’t wait to give her this for her birthday!

1. gold numbers 1 &4  2. silver locket  | 3. garnet birthstone | 4. flute | 5. Eiffel tower

Ribbet collage

Origami Owl has so many choices to represent all the chapters in your life. And I think it makes a pretty special gift.

Today, my sponsor is giving away this gorgeous set to one lucky winner:

Gold Living Locket with Heart Window Plate

 

Take a look and tell me what you love in the comment section and that will be your entry to win!

The Kind of Fight Every Marriage Needs to Have

This is the one where I’ve been married 19 years and turn 41 years old all in the same week.

This is the one where I tell you we didn’t get to this place in our marriage because we are lucky. We aren’t celebrating 988 weeks because we are blessed or holy or because we beat the odds.

We have been married for nearly two decades because we haven’t quit.

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few times we haven’t wanted to.

But we are fighting our way to a lifetime together.

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The other day I got an email, the kind l I dread reading.

The ones that say, “My husband is leaving me. He won’t go to counseling. He won’t try. We are Christians, we love God, just not each other any more.”

I don’t know how to answer heartbreaking words. I’m not a healer. Or even that good of a listener. But people reach out because they recognize a miracle marriage.

When I wrote this post about divorce in America a few weeks ago, many were shocked by the hard facts. How can 50% of all marriages–among Christians and non-Christians, even atheists-all end? How can the statistics be the same for believers and non-believers?

I don’t know. But I think the answer might be simple: Christians are human.

Christians fight. Christians are tempted and often give in to sin. Christians have emotional affairs. They look at pornography. They hold grudges. Christians stop trying.

I’m not excusing these choices. They are sinful and can destroy a marriage. But a marriage filled with forgiveness, fight and God can overcome even the worst humanity.

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Our marriage has been filled with some pretty hard days. One of them was last week. We haven’t arrived into some heavenly level of married bliss. Some days, weeks, lo, months, we claw our way back to each other. We fight hell itself to see eye to eye and to keep loving.

When I look at the mosaic of our 19 years, there are a lot of broken, mismatched pieces. There are jagged rough edges. Up close and personal, it’s not that pretty. But when I step back, I see that we’re still creating and the picture only gets lovelier with time. We are still forgiving, we are still committed and I can see a glorious picture of redemption. It’s bits and pieces of both of us glued together with a lot of God.

I urge you today to fight. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and the sin of divorce is committed against us or it’s the only option for peace in a bad situation.

But that’s not the norm, many many marriages end simply because people stop trying.

Don’t be a statistic.

Happy anniversary, Terrell. Thank you for being a fighter. I love you.