A Guide to Living Scared

I finished filling out five visa applications online for our trip to Kenya this November and checked it off my list.  We don’t normally travel overseas during the school year with our kids, but we have our first graduation of two residents at Mercy House, an important board meeting, a certificate ceremony for these new entrepreneurs and a wedding we wouldn’t miss for anything–all in the same week.

The papers were on the kitchen counter, awaiting a money order and updated passport photos when I heard about the terror attack in Nairobi. I quickly emailed Maureen to check on her and her family. I knew the attack wasn’t too close to the organization’s residential home, but I had visited Nairobi’s best mall in April to troubleshoot the phone I’d brought for Maureen.

I watched the news on my phone, read tweets, followed the events very closely, those visa applications burning a hot hole in my heart as fear began to set in. I’m afraid of a lot of things. My husband, who knows me so well, told me to stop after I’d read what this could mean longterm for Kenya.

He said, “Have you ever wanted to go to NYC?” He knew my answer before he asked. It’s on my list.

“3000 people died in terrorist attacks, Kristen. Terror is everywhere. It’s here, too,” he said.

As the hostage situation worsened, we couldn’t keep the news from our kids any longer and they asked a lot of questions. It was one of those surreal conversations you don’t want to have as a parent. There are a lot of things that scare me: my teenager’s room, traveling overseas by myself and raising my kids in an age where terrorists target innocent people.

We live in a world filled with death, violence, disease and terror and it is steadily getting worse.

It scares me.

But I will not let fear dictate what I do and I will not raise my children to be afraid of evil.

“You might think we are being reckless. I think we are in far greater danger of being safe in our modern Christianity. We do not bow at the alter of safety. This is what it means to follow Jesus, to cling to Him in the face of danger,” David Platt.

Because I’m much more afraid of letting fear determine how I live.

We will continue to do what Deut. 13:4 tells us “Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” 

While our world talks about war, our government plans to shut down and terrorists hijack shopping malls, we live scared.

We believe God is greater than the evil in this world.

We believe God orders our steps and has a plan.

We believe God had predetermined when we will live and die.

We believe Jesus is coming back.

The visa applications are still on my counter because the risk of our government shutdown threatens to put our passports in limbo. But we won’t let that stop us from our yes.  We are living scared and that’s better than living safe.

Six in Internet Years Makes This Blog Older Than My Dog {Special Deal}

When I started this blog six years (!) ago, I was looking for community. I desperately wanted to discover that my everyday loud, crazy life was normal.

I wanted the comfort of knowing we weren’t the only accident-prone family who had a frequent shopper card at the ER.

I wanted to connect, to spill out my heart and most of all, I wanted to find you.

I didn’t know when I hit publish on that first post half a dozen years ago, that it would change my life. I didn’t know it would bring out the dormant writer in me and I would have never dreamed it would give me the opportunity to connect moms here with moms there.

I’m glad I didn’t know how beautiful or how scary life would be for this introverted momma.

And around this time of year, I like to pause and celebrate this space with you.

My little girl is six. She feels really big, but I’m old enough to see she’s still a baby. But my dog is also six and she’s starting to sleep a lot more and leak urine when she’s excited.  We all know six in dog years is really more like 42.

I’m *this close* to 42. Do you see where this is going?

Blog years are like dog years and so let’s just hope the rest of us don’t leak, okay?

So, dear ________ (insert your name here), thank you for reading. If you didn’t, this would be a diary and not a community.

To help us celebrate, Dayspring is offering this very special, very good deal on one of my very favorite pieces of art, Rejoice in Him – Sculpted Art Panel to my readers:

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FOR ONLY $6 each. It’s enough to make you get excited (resisting the urge to make another urine comment):

I love this (heavy) carved, beautifully painted wooden piece of art! The Rejoice wooden panel regularly $48 and you can get them for nearly 87% off (affiliate link included). These would make a fantastic gift for teachers, friends and family this upcoming holiday season.

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Plus, if you spend over $50 at Dayspring, you get FREE SHIPPING. If you purchased 8 of these, you could clear out your shopping list early! The coupon will be valid for two weeks- Monday, September 30-Monday, October 14 at midnight CST.  There is no limit on how many your readers can purchase. Here’s the coupon: WATFbirthday6

So,  happy 6 blog years to me and to you!

And thanks for being such a big part of my life.

Counter Culture: For When Your Kids Feel Different

I like to watch my 6th and 8th graders get off the bus and walk up the driveway from the dining room window. It’s their first year to ride the bus home from school and it has brought them closer in a way I didn’t expect, but constantly prayed for. I mean your little brother is annoying until he’s the only one you know in an unknown situation, ya know?

I hand them snacks and listen for the highs and lows of their days during the precious 30 minutes before I head out to pick up their little sister a few blocks away. It’s the small window of time where they want to talk about ALL THE THINGS. And if you have kids this age, you know how important it is to listen. Because junior high is a whole new world and so many of the things we’ve taught them and prepared them for are here.

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My oldest said one day last week, “We watched a Social Media Awareness video today,” and I could tell by the look on her face, she was waiting for me to respond. “Really? Tell me about it.”

And she did, little brother listening, munching on a granola bar, an apple in hand and eyeing a bag of chips. (This is normal, right? I’m looking at you moms of tween boys).

She told me that the teacher asked some questions before the video and had the students raise their hands, questions like:

Who has a Facebook account? Who is on Instagram? Who has a Twitter account?

And so on and so on…she named several social media platforms I had never even heard of.

By the time her teacher was done, my daughter said she looked around and nearly every hand was raised.

Hers were folded in her lap.

I cringed at her story. Because for this time in her young life, we’ve said no for her to social media. We have explained that it will have a time and place in her life, but now isn’t the time. We all have to decide when our kids are ready and deal with the filtering and follow-up of allowing these social media influences when we’re ready.

Our decision (and her decision to comply and not sneak around us) has separated her from some of her peers. This isn’t to say she’s the only one or that all social media in the hands of junior high kids is wrong. That’s not what this is about, it’s about choosing to raise your kids based on what you feel like is right for your family, even if it goes against cultural norms and as a result, makes them feel different.  We’ve made counter to cultural choices regarding modesty and not allowing the too short shorts and whatnot. We refuse to think it’s cute for our kids have boyfriends or girlfriends and well, they just don’t. We don’t allow our son to play Teen rated video games and we insist on not letting things interrupt family dinner time.  You get my point.

“Did you feel alone? Are you okay?” I asked dreading the answer. Because my kids are lovely and amazing but they both wanted smart phones yesterday.

Her answer surprised me. “Mom, I was so glad I didn’t have any of those social media accounts. The video talked about all the horrible, terrible things that can happen, like being lured into bad relationships, older adults seeking out kids, all the bad language and sexting and did you know people can take your images and do bad things with them? I just don’t think I’m ready for all that responsibility,” she confessed.

I’m not going to lie, I WANTED TO HUG HER PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR THEIR COURAGE.

[Sidenote: I know many of you homeschool or send your kids to Christian schools. I love that choice for your family. We send our kids to public school. We have had some of the most amazing, Godly teachers I’ve ever met. We evaluate each year in our constantly changing world and haven’t ruled out any form of education, but for today, public school is the right answer for us.]

If I have learned anything in our quest to raise our children counter to our cultural that is all about instant gratification, growing up too quickly, objectifying our children sexually, THE LIST GOES ON, it’s this:

Raising our children to be different than the world, makes them different.

And when really all they want to do is blend in, they stand out. Teachers notice, as do other parents, but kids notice most. And if different is anything like it was when you were a kid, you know just how hard that can be. And it may not be opting out of social media that triggers it for your child, it might be not dropping your tween off at the mall to meet friends or not allowing your kids to see PG-13 movies…it might look different for every family. But when you decide to stand up against a cultural norm, there’s usually a few people in your life, community, even church, who will question your choice. Mainly because it makes them question their decision to go with the flow.

All the right-from-wrong teaching, character building, faith-instilling, inspirational parenting you’ve spent years living in your home is producing children who do not fit into the mold our society has deemed normal. And it leaves us with kids who sometimes feel left out, different and even alone. But this doesn’t mean we’ve failed them, it’s through this, their faith is being forged, their relationship with you, rocky days and all, is deepened and their dependency for a friend like Jesus is becoming clear.

Here’s the thing:  We live in a culture that has drifted further from truth and Biblical principals than ever before. Where the line was sort of fuzzy 20 years ago, it’s more defined now. There’s a line drawn right down the middle for our children and they are either trying to live for the world or trying to live for God. I believe this is the time where they begin to question which side of the line they want to be on.  And however you choose to raise your children, they will eventually have to choose a side.

It becomes vital that we stand with our children and help them build Christian community around them, inside of school and outside. This is often hard, prayerful work. We have literally prayed Christian friends into our kids lives, attended campus Bible clubs, driven to age-appropriate Bible studies, chased down mentors, stood around the flag pole with them, emailed teachers, fought this battle with them every step of the way.

Because my kids feel different. And that’s exactly how I’ve raised them to feel.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t live in beautiful, amazing, fulfilling community. They can by finding other kids who are standing up for what they believe is right. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. One by one..

Raising our children to be different is Biblical. It’s also refining for them and us when they stand apart or struggle to do so. But it’s crucial we stand with them when they succeed or fail, providing alternatives and support in their journey.

“It’s happening, honey,” I said to my daughter the other day who has longed for deeper friendships at her new school. “God is answering your prayer. He’s sending good friends into your life.”

Her face lit up. And it was almost like I could see her faith deepen right in front of me.

WFMW: Breakfast Burritos in Bulk

[You know how you lose track of days and forget to put up your weekly blog carnival because you think it’s Thursday and Not Wednesday? Yeah, me neither. Here’s my WFMW, better late than never]

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Our household alarm for 4 out of 5 of us goes off at 6 a.m (our youngest goes to school later, so we wisely let her sleep until 7:15).

After snoozing it a time or two, we are up and bustling at 6:15ish.

It’s early. I want my kids to have a healthy breakfast and I try. I really do, but sometimes we are rushing around like crazy people. Imagine that.

My sister told me they make breakfast burritos in bulk and freeze them. I visited Pinterest and found a dozen or more variations of this fabulous idea.

What you need:

a paper towel for each burrito (we cut a big stack in two)

a piece of foil for each burrito

20 or so tortillas

18 eggs

Grated cheese

Meat of choice: sausage or bacon

burrito

Here’s how it works for us:

Scramble 18 eggs (I don’t add milk because I don’t want soggy burritos)

Prepare some kind of meat…we will try sausage, but for the first time, we used bacon.

Lay out 20 or so flour tortilla that you’ve microwaved for 15 seconds to make them pliable and scoop a large tablespoon or two of eggs, plus toppings or your choice.

Wrap burrito (fold in both sides) in paper towel and then foil.

Freeze.

To defrost:

Unwrap foil, leave on paper towel

We have a quick defrost feature on our microwave (takes about 2 minutes) or you can set them out in the fridge the night before. Once our burritos are defrosted, we heat them for about 20 seconds.

When you’re on the go, you can have a delicious breakfast ready in less than 3 minutes!

 

It works for us!

Your Grace Finds Me {Giveaway}

UPDATE:  Juli V., Amy B., and Teresa G. have been selected as the winners of this giveaway.

It was there in the 10th grade when I stood up for what was right.

It was there on the day when I had my first heartbreak in college.

It was there the day my best friend became my husband.

It was there when I spent years longing to become a mother.

It was there when I didn’t know what to do with a crying baby.

It was there when I was a lonely mom and a broken wife.

It was there when I dreamed a God-sized dream.

It was there through life and death, victory and pain: grace

Your grace finds me every step of the way.

I absolutely love Matt Redman’s new album: Your Grace Finds Me. It’s an anthem for me. God has been with me when others weren’t. His grace has been a faithful presence even when I haven’t been.

Matt Redman

His song Mercy is also a personal favorite on the new album. Listening to this beautiful worship CD is like a vehicle–It will drive you into the presence of God.

Today, I’m happy to give away 3 copies of the new album Your Grace Finds Me, which releases today.

 

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Click to read an update on the (in)Mercy Project and meet the faces behind Mercy House.

Like A Boss

We sat at the stop sign, waiting for the policeman directing traffic to give us the “go ahead” signal.

My son was sitting next to me, watching.

“I think I want to be a cop someday,” he said thoughtfully.

“Really?” I asked sort of surprised since he’d never mentioned it before.

“Well, yeah, just look at him. Just look at how bossy he gets to be with his hands.”

I laughed.

He continued, “Well, now that I think about it. You’re kind of bossy with your hands.”

He had a point.

“I don’t have a gun though,” I said.

“That’s true.”

The next time day my 6 year old told me she wanted to be President of the United States.

CLEARLY MY KIDS HAVE AMBITIONS.

“That’s great! You want to be a leader, change the world, huh?” I asked.

“Well, no. I just want to be the boss of you,” she said and walked off.

I’m sensing a theme here.

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A few days ago on our way to church, my husband stopped at Starbucks to grab us a coffee (okay, really it was coffee for him and a pumpkin spice latte (PSL) for me. Because it dipped to 90 here in Texas, so we were celebrating, naturally). It was my first PSL of the season and my kids were grumbling because we wouldn’t get them one. But at $5 each, I’M SURE YOU UNDERSTAND our cruelty at offering them water.

From the backseat, my 6 year old bitterly said, “When I’m a mom I’m going to drink all the sweet tea and coffee I want. AND, I’m going to boss everyone around.”

To which I replied, “I hope you have three children just like you.”

My son got in on the conversation and said, “I’m adopting so my kids are nothing like me.”

Hysterical.

6 year old upped the ante (and bitterness), “Well, I’m going to give all my kids any pet they want and a cell phone.”

Yes, PLEASE DO THAT, said the future grandmother in me.

My hubby returned to the car and asked why I was laughing. I told him that mothers get to drink sweet tea all day and be bossy.

“I want to be a mom,” he said.

Turns out I own motherhood.

Like a boss.

7 Habits of a Hot Marriage in the Middle of Monotony

He pulled me into the closet. And closed the door. I could hear kids calling. We ignored them.

He whispered, “I miss Hawaii. I miss you.”

We promised each other back in August, sand between our toes, loving a carefree togetherness we hardly recognized that we wouldn’t slip back into the hurried routine and forget each other. It was free company trip and we took advantage of every second. And now all we have left are the amazing sunglasses his company gifted us.

It’s easy to make promises when it doesn’t seem to cost anything and when this is your view:

7 Habits of a Hot Marriage in the Middle of Monotony

And it’s easy to forget them when this is your view:

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Promises are much harder to keep in the making-breakfast-doing-laundry-carline-and-work filled days. I believe it’s called monotony. And it can kill your marriage.

20 years and we are still each other’s favorite person most days. We miss one another when we’re apart and can’t get enough when we’re together. Usually. But we also let a messy house, a cold dinner, a parenting dispute, that unexpected bill, you know life, come between us.

And our whispered white sand promises are lost in the busy monotony of our lives.

Yet we still vie for a hot marriage. I actually think about it. I see him through the kitchen window mowing the lawn, shirt off, hot and sticky, flecks of mud and grass stuck to his chest. And I think “hmmm….” He walks in from a long day of work, tie at his throat and sits with our little girl and reads with her. It’s just plain sexy.

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But then dinner boils over and milk is spilled at the table, I scrub pots and pans, mop up messes, call out Science lab terms to my 6th grader, turn over a load of laundry, and remind someone to feed the dog again. I walk outside to dump half empty water bottles into my pots of wilted flowers and I’m greeted with the foul odor of the septic system. My husband heads out to Home Depot for chemicals because some things that stink just can’t wait. I’m left to do baths and devotions and by the time he returns, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Tomorrow is filled with much of the same, a lesson here, a church group there, it has a way of going from Monday to Thursday in a snap and I can hardly remember that hot guy mowing the lawn.

I can confirm the temperature because I have known the extremes: a cold marriage, filled with contempt and misery. And a lukewarm marriage, perhaps the worst, filled with idle days, stagnant affection and distant intimacy.

We have lived every season. Our favorite by far: white hot. It’s also the most difficult to maintain.

Marriage is hard hard hard work. We never arrive and kick up our feet and ride the waves of hot monogamy. It takes faithful, committed, selfless habit-forming work in the middle of a boring routine. They say it takes 21 days or more to create a habit. I dare you to try the following 7 habits for the next month and see what happens:

7 things we try to do every day:

  1. Touch everyday: Make a conscious effort to grab his hand, run your hands thru her hair, kiss for a couple of seconds. Set a goal to physically touch his arm when you’re talking, tackle him in a hug in your closet, pat her butt on the way out the door. 
  2. Be good forgivers: Perhaps the most crucial key is forgiveness. Listen, marriage is the union of two people prone to mistakes and sin, you can’t control your spouse, but you can forgive. Refuse to pick them apart, turn molehills into mountains and wave the banner of unforgiveness.
  3. Make the little things big: The other day, my husband gave me a card and a new wallet, just because. It was a small thing, but it made a big impression. I knew he was thinking about me when we were apart. Connecting with your spouse in small ways that makes them feel loved is a big deal.
  4. Fill our head with thoughts of each other. Let’s be honest, we live in a world where it’s easy to fill up our tank with outside influences. From the pretty girl in the office or in the magazine to the romantic, handsome guy in the novel we’re reading or movie we’re watching, there are many ways to get satisfaction outside of our spouse. Lust is ignited with a second look. But when we only let our mate fill up our tank, we are on the path to a marriage that is not only white hot, but Godly.
  5. Go to bed at the same time: While this might not be possible every night, this habit is important because it is a quiet time to connect. Nearly missing each other constantly brings a chaos to your home that isn’t healthy for your marriage or family.
  6. Pray for one other. My husband is under a great strain most days. He recognizes my own burden often. Knowing that we are lifting each other up to God is not only selfless, it’s powerful. Hearing my name on his lips in prayer is not only meaningful, it strengthens our union.
  7. Compliment each other. This might sound like a no-brainer, but five-hundred people can like my new hair cut (my kids not included) and none of the compliments mean as much as his. Seeing him look at me–really look and watch attraction ignite in his eyes, is amazing. We were grocery shopping at Sam’s the other day and I casually pointed out the green t-shirt on sale and said, that would look good on you. My daughter tried to convince him to get the red one and I overheard him tell her, “No, mom likes the green.” Your influence over your spouse is powerful, use it to bless them.

We get it right some days and miss the mark other days. But we never give up.

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough

WFMW: Net Nanny

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You’re reading this post today because of the Internet. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most amazing inventions of our time. It’s made our life more convenient, it keeps us connected, educated. We have met amazing people, started businesses, helped people, the sky is the limit with the Internet.

It’s also become an undeniable force in the lives of kids, from email to school resources and games, and like it or not, it’s a huge part of their world too. As amazing as the Internet can be, it is equally be a dangerous, scary place that can lead to addictions and unhealthy relationships away from screen. Here are some guidelines I shared earlier this week for setting up Digital Etiquette at home.

Driving a car takes us to new, wonderful places. But driving can be unsafe if we don’t wear our seat belts or pay attention. We buckle our screaming toddlers into carseats because we take precautions to protect them. I like to think of the Internet that way with my children. If monitored carefully, it can add a lot to their lives, but I cannot ignore the lurking dangers behind every click. I have to be vigilant as a parent as they utilize this great resource.

“According to a June 2013 McAfee study, “Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect Between Parents and Kids,” there is evidence that parents are often clueless about what their kids are doing online — and says that their ignorance is seriously harming their kids. Among the study’s findings: 80 percent of parents don’t know how to check up on what their kids are doing online. Not only that, 74 percent “simply admit defeat and claim that they do not have the time or energy to keep up with their children and hope for the best,” according to the study’s authors.” –source

We have tried a variety of filters and safety software. You can see some of my recommendations here. I wanted to share a tool we are using called Net Nanny. It’s gotten amazing reviews and my husband and I specifically love and use the app version ($4.99) on all our mobile devices, from phones to iPads, to Kindles (even the ones we carry. How many times have my kids asked to play a game on my phone?)

Internet Filter
Be in control of your internet. Set filtering for 18 categories of online content to either block, warn, or allow for view. [learn more]
Block Pornography
Warn or block access to pornography and other adult content. [learn more]
Time Management
Set the total number of Internet hours in a day or set specific times of the day when your child can be online.[learn more]
Mask Profanity
View a web page without being bombarded by vulgar language. [learn more]
Social Media Monitoring
Net Nanny Social helps protect kids from online threats and monitors activities related to your child’s “friends,” cyberbullying, sexual predators, privacy concerns, and reputation-damaging pictures or videos.  [learn more]
Alerts and Reporting
Receive reports and mail alerts about your child’s online activity. [learn more]
Remote Admin
Check usage reports, change your child’s profile settings, and much more, from any computer with an Internet connection. [learn more]
User Profiles
Use preset user profiles or customize settings for each family member; unlimited user profiles for each

Here are some of the features I love about Net Nanny:

When I was installing this software on my teen’s mini ipad that she uses mostly for school, she said, “Don’t you trust me?” (We talk about Internet safety A LOT in our house and probably over-moniter usage). I answered, “Of course, it’s all the people I don’t know on the Internet I don’t really trust. This isn’t to punish you. It’s for your protection.” I think that made us both feel better.

This isn’t a paid review. We really use and love Net Nanny. It works for us!


Buy Net Nanny Parental Controls and Save 25%.