The Hardest Part of Parenting is Me

In an instant, I was furious.

I’d gone into my teenager’s room to look for something and I couldn’t believe the mess. She told me she had “cleaned” her room all weekend and yet it resembled the aftermath of a tornado on a Monday morning.

I fumed all day.

She got in the car after school and I could tell by the look on her face it had been a hard day in junior high.

“You okay?” I asked tentatively, the way a mother has learned.

She took a deep breath, “I saw something happen today that was wrong. I told my teachers. I had to do the right thing,” her voice, wobbly. The story unraveled, the infraction and the injustice.

My anger fizzled as I forgot about her room and pondered heavier things.

The next day she brought home straight A’s on her report card. For the eighth year in a row.

The following, a Star Student Award for Caring for Others.

And on Friday when I picked her up, she wore a medal around her neck from her basketball coach for showing leadership and being the athlete with the most heart.

Her room was still a disaster. But it didn’t seem to matter quite as much.

She’s just 13. And I’m ashamed I had to be reminded all week by others what life is really about. Each day I saw my amazing daughter thru the eyes of her teachers and friends and it showed me how ridiculous our constant, often heated battles over her messy room and laundry piles really are.

Parenting is hard, no doubt. But I’ve found that I often make the whole thing a lot harder. After all, my children are children. I’m the adult in this relationship and with that authority comes maturity and wisdom.

The hardest part of parenting is me. And in the thick of it, I see that I’m the one being parented by God.

I look deeper–past the dirty room and scattered laundry and I see it there; it wears a different face, but under the layers of order, I see my nasty desire for control. Because really? The battles aren’t about a clean room or tidy drawers, folded laundry or emptied trash. It’s about my unhealthy desire to be in control of things that don’t really matter because I’m not in control of things that really do.

I’ve been a mom for more than a dozen years now and I’m still learning and taking my discipline as it comes. I’m still learning to choose my battles and let go of the trivial.

My goal as a mother is to raise children who love God and love others. I still long for organized rooms, tidy toys and clean laundry, but I’m trying hard to keep the little stuff little.

I’m raising incredible kids. And if I step back and out of the way, I’m able to see it with my own eyes.

And close them (and her bedroom door- ha!) to unimportant things.

What Jesus Looks Like on a Cold February Day

It was a busy day.  I picked up my two younger kids thirty minutes before my third. I’m a self-proclaimed multi-tasker and thought I had plenty of time to run a couple of errands. I stopped to get gas in my van and as I pumped, I shook my head at the huge tent the local grocery store had erected in the middle of the parking lot for Valentine’s Day. I could see a sea of red and pink from the pump.

I pulled to the corner and that’s when I saw the sign. I have seen homeless people near downtown panhandling, but this was a young couple holding a cardboard sign and bundled baby, both being blown by the February wind. My son, in the passenger’s seat, looked at them and then at me. His eyebrows knit in confusion as he read the sign. “Mom?” his one word held a thousand questions.


Immediately I fumbled for my wallet and rolled the window down. I had $2. I handed it to them and the look of gratitude was immeasurable. I apologized as I slowly pulled away, “I wish I had more.”

But I did have more and as I pulled into the road, I saw my bank next to the gas station. I checked my watch and the closing window of time before I had to pick up my oldest from track practice and I turned around.

“Mom, what are you doing?” my kids asked when I pulled up to the bank.

They were both grinning as if to say I knew we could do better than that.

As I rolled down my window at the ATM, I said, “Okay, how much, y’all?”

And my kids simultaneously said an amount much higher than I had planned.

I hesitated.

“Mom, it’s almost Valentine’s.”

My heart leapt at the generosity that comes easily to my kids and I thought of my word for the year. And how this unexpected moment was another opportunity to choose love, the real kind.

I glanced back at the ridiculous tent and remembered reading Americans spend more than 18 million dollars on a made up holiday. The tent was bursting with people who wanted to give love and the family standing just feet away certainly needed it. Oh, irony.

I withdrew money and whipped my car back around.

“This is awesome,” I heard from the backseat.

The couple looked confused at seeing my van again and I tried to communicate with their broken English. I gathered from our limited conversation they had trouble with their Green Card. “We hunger. No money for rent.”

“Where are you from?”


I handed them the wad of money, wondering if I was falling into a trap or breaking some kind of unwritten code. But in the moment, it didn’t matter if they were being honest. Anyone who was in their position (either by luck or choice), needed a little extra love.

I started to pull away and stopped. I called out, “What’s your name? Can I contact you somehow?”

Then I saw tears in her eyes as she shielded her baby from the weather. “You want to help us?” She said slowly.

Oh, yes, I do. And I want my children to know this is what we do. We love others.

The story is still being written, but in the parking lot waiting for my little track star to come off the field, I emailed our dear Russian friends (if you’ve been a long time reader here, you might remember them?) and told them about the family and asked if they knew anyone who spoke Romanian.

Within ten minutes, this precious family was connected to one of the only Romanian Church and Pastor in the Houston area.

At dinner, my kids shared the story with their dad. I smiled and my heart was full, not because we did something good, but because something good happened to us.

“I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew: 25-35-40

Today, Jesus had the face of a young Romanian family.

What will He look like for you?

Photo credit


This week at (in)courage I wrote about how it feels to be held by God.

What Your Husband Really Wants Today

I never had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day as a teenager. Or most other days for that matter.

When I saw my friends and frenemies with flowers and balloons, I acted like I didn’t care. But every girl cares a little. And then in the 11th grade, a boy I liked gave me a handmade card. It was a doomed relationship of 6 days, but I might still have that carefully crafted red and pink construction paper card in my attic.

My 13 year old who is just noticing these things asked me the other day, “Momma, did you have a lot of boyfriends before Daddy?”

I smile and I tell her of a crush or two, and of the unrequited love that makes up my romantic history. Until her Daddy. He was the first one who loved me for me.

Back then, I wanted what I didn’t have…attention, affection, admiration from a boy. Now as a momma of daughters, I’m so happy to tell them I waited for real love.

She smiles a goofy grin, the dreamy-kind, “I like that story. I like that you waited for Daddy and he was your first real love.”

I like it too, honey.

Because he was worth every lonely Valentine’s Day.

There’s a lot of unspoken pressure to give and receive today, even as an adult.

I’m not going to turn away flowers or flush chocolate down the sink, but it’s not really about all that.

We all know what our husbands want today, right? I bet many of us would say it starts with S and ends with X.

Close. (It’s actually an easy gift to give and it’s free (hola!) )

But really our men want more than sex. Our husbands are deeper than that. It’s really opportunity they are seeking, it’s the chance to please their wives.

“Women, this might surprise you, but even more than your husband wants to have sex with you for his own sexual relief, the truth is, he wants to please you even more than he wants to be pleasured. It might seem like it’s all about him, but what he really wants, emotionally, is to see how much you enjoy the pleasure he can give you. If he fails to do that, for any reason, he’ll end up feeling inadequate, lonely, and unloved.” -Dr. Kevin Lehman, Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage

Knowing that under the layers of desire, there’s the simple fact that he wants the chance to please me is just about the best gift we can give each other.

“And believe it or not, getting enough sex isn’t the point. Nearly all the men surveyed – 97 per cent – said that even if their wives agreed to have sex every time husbands wanted, sex would still be empty if their wives didn’t seem to desire them.

When we say no to sex, we’re usually saying we don’t want sex at that moment. But he hears the much more painful message that we don’t want him. One man said, “When she says no, I feel rejected. ‘No’ is not no to sex; it’s no to me as I am.” By contrast, making the first move once in a while sends a powerful and affirming message to your man.” -Shaunti Feldhahn, For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men

Alrighty, girls. I’ve said enough.

Y’all have a sweet day.

WFMW: 5 Gifts Your Spouse Won’t Forget

When I was 19 year old freshman in college, I TWIRP’ED (The. Woman. Is. Required. To. Pay) a guy. We were friends, but I liked him a whole lot. There was a group of us who played Spades and so I took a deck of cards and creatively reconstructed them to be an invitation on our first date.

I took him two-stepping. I didn’t know how to dance, but he did. I believe that’s called manipulation.

That date was the beginning of a deep and abiding friendship for years to come. We ended up dating each other’s best friends and didn’t realize we were in love until 3 years later.

I married that guy.

I love that memory. “The heart of marriage is memories.” -Bill Cosby

You know what our spouses want tomorrow? They want us. Make a memory!

1. Some Time Together: Carving out date night time is always a challenge. Some times we just lock our door and don’t answer it. Last week one of our kids figured out the old butter knife door unlocking trick. My hubby high-tailed it to Home Depot and now we have a key. Time together  is always a valued gift. 30 FREE Romantic Printable Paper Craft Ideas

2. Something Handmade: He still has that deck of cards (swoon). Since my hubby is diabetic, making him a sugar-free dessert is always appreciated. Wanna give your spouse something sweet?  Fun Free Valentine Treat Printable

3. Something Sentimental: We like to give mushy cards and write each other letters. I might just pull out our old love notes and read them to him deep into the night. Free Valentine Stationary for the Love Note you need to write

4. Something They Love (but aren’t expecting from you): This is the hardest gift to give, but I love when I’m able to surprise my husband. What does your mate want to pursue but hasn’t due to time or money? What small gift can you give to encourage that dream in them?  Free Printable Coupons for Your Valentine

5. Something to Remember: Make a new memory, try something new, do something unexpected. Some of our best moments in our nearly 20 year marriage are the small decisions to try something we haven’t. Beautiful Free Printable Card to write a memory for your Valentine.

 What works for you?

100 Ways to Make Your Marriage Mediocre

This time last year, I wrote this post. I had no idea it would be so popular (pinned more than 180,000 times) or so controversial (comments, whoa). Bottom line: there are a lot of people who want to make their marriage rock. I started thinking about all the things we do (out of habit, ignorance or selfishness) that make our marriages mediocre. Sometimes we just need to see them in black and white.

  1. Stop pursuing each other
  2. Discourage your spouse’s dreams
  3. Don’t worry about romance
  4. Doubt your husband’s word
  5. Remind your wife of the past on a regular basis
  6. Fight unfair
  7. Don’t pray together
  8. Skip church
  9. Play the blame game
  10. Pout often
  11. Let a film of dust cover your Bible
  12. Don’t show affection in front of your kids
  13. Keep secrets
  14. Believe that your spouse would never be tempted to look at pornography
  15. Compare your husband to your friend’s perfect husband
  16. Have sex out of duty
  17. Stay up and watch TV while your wife goes to bed
  18. Never make time for a date night
  19. Overspend
  20. Use the silent treatment often
  21. Disrespect your husband
  22. Criticize your mate on a regular basis
  23. Flirt with old friends on Facebook
  24. Talk badly about your spouse behind their back
  25. Make a mess and never clean it up
  26. Focus only on your hobbies
  27. Be a name caller
  28. Complain about how often he wants to have sex
  29. Complain about how often she never wants to have it
  30. Fall out of love
  31. Don’t ever bring her flowers
  32. Never attend counseling
  33. Or read a marriage book
  34. Look at your smart phone while she is talking to you
  35. Only touch when absolutely necessary
  36. Pick him apart and make every little thing a big deal
  37. Hide your feelings
  38. And then resent your spouse for not knowing them
  39. Use sarcasm constantly
  40. Start an emotional affair
  41. Say “It’s not my fault” often
  42. Over commit your kids and fall into bed exhausted every night
  43. Take a long second (and third) look at your attractive co-worker
  44. Make your life all about you
  45. Nag
  46. Lie about how much you really spent on your shopping trip to the mall
  47. Hold onto unforgiveness
  48. Don’t apologize
  49. Try to change your mate, but never yourself
  50. Be defensive
  51. Make her feel like she’s not a good mother
  52. Withdraw
  53. Be immature
  54. Ignore what God is asking you to do
  55. Doubt your husband’s role as a father
  56. Yell
  57. Live with unrealistic expectations
  58. Get into debt
  59. Be a tease
  60. Don’t do what you say you will do
  61. Read 50 Shades of Gray
  62. Let your spouse carry most of the workload
  63. Use the words “always” and “never” when you’re disagreeing
  64. Don’t call when you’re going to be late
  65. Overreact
  66. Choose anger
  67. Don’t do fun things together
  68. Don’t give your spouse attention
  69. Put your kids before your marriage
  70. Give your children permission when your spouse doesn’t
  71. Resent her
  72. Ignore him
  73. Tell the inlaws all the details of your arguments
  74. Don’t communicate as lovers
  75. Fantasize about other people
  76. Put your job before your family
  77. Don’t work on your friendship with your spouse
  78. Act like you really don’t like your mate
  79. When he compliments you, don’t receive it
  80. Do what you’ve always done
  81. When your spouse asks you to help out or serve them, say no.
  82. Don’t try to make her happy
  83. Don’t try anything new together
  84. Undermine your spouse
  85. Try to fix all her problems
  86. Talk all the time and never let him say a word
  87. Make listening optional
  88. Don’t kiss
  89. Threaten divorce
  90. Collect unresolved issues
  91. Don’t make family dinners a priority
  92. Let the TV stay on constantly
  93. Keep God out of your day-to-day living
  94. Don’t be vulnerable
  95. Or share intimacy
  96. Forget why you fell in love
  97. Be ungrateful
  98. Stop loving and believing in yourself
  99. Believe that your marriage will never be better than it is right now
  100. Give up

What would you add in the comments?

We Go Together {Giveaway}

UPDATE: Melissa E., comment #28, is the winner of this giveaway.

I’ve been working on a project for months in the cracks of my time.

My husband has listened patiently and pushed me gently.

And then last week, some pieces fell together and while I was helping my Kindergartner with sight words after school, I moved one step closer to my goal and that made me squeal. Literally.

She just looked at me like I was crazy.

She’s a perceptive child.

But I knew I wouldn’t be able to truly rejoice until I talked with my best friend. I called my husband at work. His response made my joy complete because he has been with me on the journey.

My husband lost his sister and one of his closest friends a month ago this week. His sorrow is great and there is a cloud of sadness that hangs heavy. It’s unchartered waters, this grief that invades every space at the most unexpected moments. It comes in waves and just when you think you can laugh again, you cry. But he isn’t grieving alone.

We don’t always agree.

We don’t always get along.

But we are one.

We go together. His grief is mine. My joy is his. It’s the sacred gift of marriage, this unexplainable, undeniable act of becoming One. It’s the most precious gift we share.

It’s what helps us thru the valleys and the mountaintops, the sheer pleasure of facing them together.

And that’s why I love Union 28‘s new Valentine’s marriage shirts.

Today, I’m giving away a set of these new ONENESS his and hers shirts. Plus, get 10% off with this code U28LoveMH10  (reader gets 10% off AND Mercy House gets 10% of sale) Code is valid thru 2/16/13

Simply enter code at checkout to get 10% off & give 10% to Mercy House!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite shirt.

Giveaway ends on Tuesday.

Secrets to a Successful Marriage {FREE PRINTABLE}

I lay in the curve of his arm and breathe deep. He smoothes my hair away from my face and replaces it with a soft kiss.

And after so many years together, we rarely hold back what’s in our heart. “I feel like I’m falling in love with you,” I whisper.

Again?” he smiles with raised eyebrows and pulls me closer.

Five Things that Have Made Our Marriage Successful:

We are good forgivers: Let’s be honest, if you’ve been married for a week or 230 of them, you’ve been given the opportunity to forgive your spouse. Forgiveness releases the other person from their offense, but more importantly, it frees you to choose love. And there’s been a lot to forgive in our 942 weeks together, but we are getting good at it.

We fight fair (except when we don’t): Marriage is the perfect breeding ground for arguments. Couples who aren’t occasionally disagreeing, probably aren’t communicating well. It’s not if we fight, it’s when. Further damage occurs in the how. We can literally destroy each other with words. But when we let kindness be our guide, our disagreements actually move us further along in our marriage.

We write each other letters: He gave me this box years ago. He puts letters in it. I write him notes and blog posts and our words find their mark. There’s just something powerful that happens when you write your heart on a page and give it to your mate. “To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

We work on our friendship: We play hard, we laugh hard, we spend time together (on purpose), we have so many inside jokes it’s not even funny…only really it is. He’s my best friend…the one person in this life I want to be with. We are deeply bound by friendships that comes with communication, communion and care.

We choose to fall in love again (and again): You’ve heard it before–love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. It’s true. We have had irreconcilable differences and breaches of trust and oh, some really hard days, but we’ve decided on love even when we didn’t feel it or couldn’t find it.

It’s really not a secret at all. It’s deciding to fall in love again and again, with the same person.

Enjoy this free 8×10 printable:

Download here for free.

WFMW: Ten Books that Will Make Your Marriage Better


  1. For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men
  2. Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs
  3. The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex: (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun)(her)
  4. NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible
  5. Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences
  6. Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage
  7. For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women
  8. Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (him)
  9. Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (The Every Man Series) (him)
  10. Have a New Husband by Friday: How to Change His Attitude, Behavior & Communication in 5 Days (her)

*Amazon links
What works for you?