Why I Really Need You on My Team

Nearly every Thursday night for the past couple of months, I’ve sat on the sidelines watching my 8th grader play on her junior high basketball team. I’m the rowdy mom on the front row of the bleachers screaming her lungs out.

(I did not know this about me).

That is, until my daughter started playing on a team and then I was ALL ABOUT THE TEAM. I learned the other girls names and figured out their strengths and weaknesses. I came to cheer for my daughter, but I ended up rooting for everyone on the team.

Because I understand that one person really can’t win a basketball game. It takes the entire team, working together. When one person gets hurt, the game stops. When one girl scores an outside shot, everyone rejoices. A team consists of everyone doing their part, sacrificing and giving their best.

And y’all, I really need you on my team.

(Thankfully, you aren’t required to sweat or return to junior high).

When we said yes nearly four years ago to starting Mercy House (remember that?), I had no idea where that would lead. I mean, really, NO IDEA. And many of you who joined me, probably didn’t either.

And where we are headed in the next four years is even bigger. I don’t have all the answers  (thankfully, I do have an amazing Board of Directors), but I do know this dream will expand to empower more mothers with opportunity.

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This isn’t just my family’s story. When God assembled the characters and wrote the plot, He included you. Yes, you. If you’re here on this page right now, you are a part of the Mercy House story. And your yes–no matter how big or small it feels-is critical. There is no small yes in this family.

Because when  you bring Mercy House to your church, you are altering the future of a hopeless pregnant girl in Kenya. And when you and your kiddos host a garage sale for mercy, you are impacting young single moms living in the slum. When you wear your (super cute) Team Mercy shirt and tell the story to those who ask, you are causing ripples you cannot see. When you share one of our videos on your FB wall, you are scoring points on this team.

When you say yes, you write yourself into this giant God-sized dream.

And we cannot do it without you.

The best thing? Every yes counts.

There is no small yes in this family

Team Mercy is a new initiative to involve your family and it’s a great place to start. If you aren’t already a part of Team Mercy, please consider joining ( minimum of $3 a month monthly commitment). It’s really not about money, although that helps. It’s about sharing something beautiful in our broken world. This is an amazing love story of how a Holy God will use a bunch of mothers to change the world and I want you to be a part of it. Not just so that the team will grow, but because it will change you.

V-ohoHfY2ndoUfR_3IfXGPyUc48TV3jfhPCcC2Vu_ZQ,3SG57Yc92zZcEQ0SSdRRXyTO94B9w02CkHbIKRC3tDEMy daughter’s team has won and lost some games this season. Most of them won’t go on to play high school ball. But do you know what’s better than scoring points, defending, rebounding and dribbling? It’s doing it together. These girls learned to depend on one another, step in when they were needed and think of others before themselves.

This journey has taught me the same thing.

Be a part of Team Mercy today.

One of the Best Things We Can Do For Our Kids in this Culture War

I send my children off to school every morning.

Right into a war zone.

And you do, too.

Wait. What? I’m not talking about how you choose to educate your kids. If they attend anything outside your home –Boy Scouts, reading time at the library or soccer at the YMCA, or if you let anything inside your home through media–they are being influenced by others and exposed to a culture war.

A culture war is a struggle between two sets of conflicting cultural values.

And if you haven’t noticed, our society  has one set of values and Christians have another. I’m not going to talk about the differences and list all the things we should or shouldn’t do. Because that’s not Christianity.

Simply put, Christianity is following Jesus.

Which isn’t really simple at all. Because it cost Jesus his life. It will cost us ours, too.

Father and Son

I’ve followed Jesus into some places that scare me. They aren’t safe or pretty and loving others who are different than we are, can’t be wrapped up with a neat little bow. Sometimes following Jesus is dirty, hard work.

By living in this world, my kids are exposed to sin.  And no one on either side of the battle line likes to think about sending kid soldiers into war. But as we teach right and wrong, instill values, develop a moral compass, we are doing just that.

Because following Jesus doesn’t make sense to our culture. (Jesus said it wouldn’t, so don’t panic).

The first ten years of my marriage, I was married to a youth pastor. We spent all of our time, work hours and after hours, loving kids. Even back then, it was a crazy time to be a teenager in our culture. Kids were experimenting with all kinds of things and most of the parents were clueless. They were exercising a little bit of freedom, trying on different experiences and learning from their mistakes.

And some parents forced their kids to come and made church a battleground while others grounded their kids from coming to youth events as a form of punishment. Some kids stayed in church, others left, but the kids that ended up choosing to live their lives for Jesus were the ones who got to know Him.

I believe one of the absolute best things we can do for our children is help them build community with believers their age. My kids are now the age of some of the youth we led. And I watch my kids fight the battle at school, struggle when they don’t fit it and test the waters we’ve warned them about. And I recognize their deep need for a safe place to commune with kids and figure out how to live this Christian life.

These days, it’s sort of a fad for kids not to attend church with the family. We value sports practices, part time jobs, just about any and everything more than we do church. It’s a dangerous trend.

Recently, I signed my daughter up for an Encounter Weekend with her youth group and when I told her she freaked out. Nothing sounded fun about staying at a stranger’s home (from our church) with a group of junior high girls she didn’t know.

I told her I wanted her to go, but wouldn’t force her. It was her choice. And then I prayed my heart out that she would choose to go. And she did. And not only did she encounter other girls her age, she encountered God.

Sure, I wanted her to connect with girls her age, but even more I wanted her to experience God without me.

There’s all this crazy research on why so many kids are leaving the church once they can (6 in 10). Why? Some are leaving because it’s the first time they have the freedom to do so. Here are 6 other reasons.

But I think most leave because they don’t know Jesus.

They have heard about him their whole lives. They have the t-shirt. But it’s not that personal.

I don’t know if there’s a right way to go about it. But I do know it’s not about rules, it’s about relationship. 

One of the best things we can do for our kids is introduce them to our Savior. If we are living in relationship with him, they probably know that. Kids are smart. They can see the One who has turned our lives around.

We lose them to our culture if we fill our home with a lot of rules and legalism in an effort to produce morality. Because you can have all these things and not have Jesus.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:2  (MSG)

So, what can we do? 

1. Pray for our children-like on our knees. It’s a tough world for them to navigate.

2. Talk openly. Let them ask hard questions. Over lunch the other day, my kids asked why we left the denomination we were raised in. We were honest. It turned out to be a very meaningful conversation about religion and what it really means to follow Jesus.

3. Admit your mistakes and doubts. I think it’s good to let our kids know we struggle, too.

3. Refuse to let culture dictate your calendar. Most kids simply can’t fit a midweek Bible Study or youth group into their already busy lives. I wonder if that is being too busy.

4. Give them opportunities to connect. If your church doesn’t have a good youth group, help them find one.

5. Don’t give up-no matter what, no matter how far they run, no matter how wild the battle rages. Do not stop fighting for your kids.

I don’t know if my kids will continue to follow Jesus once they leave our home. I can’t make the decision for them. But I’m going to do my best to love Him and hope they’ll follow.

WFMW: A {Sweet} Deal

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Check out The Vintage Pearl’s newest pieces that will make your {heart} beat wildly!

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Perfect to give or keep.

What works for you?

If Your Marriage is Broken

It was 8:30 in the morning on a Saturday in January and we were still in bed.

Is there a better way to begin a weekend?

My husband flipped to his side and said, “I’m sorry.”

I stretched and yawned myself awake and that’s when I remembered we’d gone to bed the night before irritated at each other.

It was a stupid little fight. Aren’t they always? It wasn’t really about the price of ski pants (don’t ask). It was simply the result of two thick-headed people who both wanted their way and refused to budge.

We’ve been married 19 years. You’d think we would have moved past this stage–the one where we argue over insignificant things, get mad and pout. And we have in many ways. It happens less often and we get less angry and over it more quickly, but every once in awhile, I want my way more than I want to get along.

“I’m sorry, too,” I whispered.

And then we talked about why we got mad in the first place. It’s always a deeper issue. Most arguments about money are really about fear. Most arguments about parenting boil down to control or the lack of it. But on this particular lazy Saturday morning, the conversation led to a long talk about things we were struggling with personally.

When I reluctantly left the cozy down comforter for a quick shower, I felt like I knew my husband a bit more. I could see the stress and burden he carried more clearly. And I wanted to bless him. He understand why I was on edge and we vowed to love each other better.

That pillow talk wouldn’t have happened without first the struggle. When we can push past our little grievances and irritations and lift the veil of life and circumstances, we can grow together towards God, instead of apart.

Our world used to fix broken things, remember that? Our grandmothers darned socks with holes in them. Our grandfathers rebuilt and repaired damaged things. Our moms superglued little $1 store figurines.

Now we throw things away.

We live in a disposable culture that tosses damaged things because it’s easier. It’s quicker, it doesn’t require hard work or humility.

if your marriage is broken, don't throw it away. Fix it

If your marriage is broken, don’t throw it away.

Fix it.

Take your marriage back and fight for it. Talk. Forgive. Change. Confess. Laugh. Counsel. I understand that not every marriage is repairable. But for those who let little issues become bigger than they should, I urge you to fix what’s broken, instead of starting over.

We don’t do a lot for Valentine’s Day at our house. But we proudly show off our love all year long–there are less repairs that way when the storms of life hit.

While these shirts won’t fix a broken marriage, they are an easy way to get started–new Union28 “My Husband/Wife Rocks” T-shirts!

2014-Valentine-HomePage

[Updated with winner, Rachel, random commenter #34]

One couple will receive a his and her shirt and a pair of *ahem* these or these (winner’s choice).  Leave a comment if you’d like to win.

Discount Code:  Use Code U28LOVE5 at checkout for $5 OFF any Union28.net order of $25 or more.  (Does not include Clearance items or Gift Certificate purchases) OFFER VALID THUR February 14, 2014.

Make every day special, even the broken ones.

How To Pray for Your Strong-Willed Children

My little girl barged into the bathroom while I was  soaking in the tub.

My head snapped up from my book.

She walked over to the edge of the tub and stuck both hands in my warm water.

And wildly splashed.

There went my relaxation. And my privacy (thanks, broken bathroom door lock). And my temper.

“Please don’t touch the water again,” I whispered through gritted teeth.

She stared at me and let her fingers hover over the water, so close to touching, but not quite. So, obeying. But just barely.

This is a strong-willed battleground and I know it well.

how to pray for your strong-willed child

In the last 14 years, between my two strong-willed girls, there have been meltdowns and tantrums and wild words and power struggles. There have been moments of anger and tempers and tears and regret from all of us. We have hurled angry words at each other over little things that don’t matter, the color of clothes, the length of shorts, the scary stuff under beds.

We have found our way, only to falter and find it again as we navigate this life together.

Much of parenting is two steps forward, one step back.

My daughters are loyal. They are determined leaders. They stand for justice. They work hard and are fiercely protective of those they love. They can’t be bullied or manipulated. They are rule followers, but also risk-takers.  They are respected by their peers. They know what they want and nothing can deter them. They are passionate lovers and fighters. And they never stop talking.

They walk into a room and light it up.

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Their iron clad wills have rocked my world. And even in the hardest moments when I fail them or they fail me, I wouldn’t change who they are for a minute.

Because their fierceness will change the world.

And so I pray this over them, under them, before them and after them:

God,

You gave me strong girls.  They are a gift. You and I both know, this is a hard calling.

Please help me not to crush their determined spirits with all my rules and regulations.

You created them to color outside the lines, give me the courage to let them.

Channel their determination into purpose. Turn their stubbornness into pliable willingness to say yes to you.  Teach them to yield their steadfast spirit and help me to let go of what doesn’t matter.

I need help mothering:  Show me how to look past the attitude and see a pure heart. Lead me to look for the good and appreciate the crazy. Instead of controlling them, teach me to empower them. And instead of drawing a line in the sand and demanding my way, remind me that these girls are a whole lot like me.

Oh, and see what you did there.

Most of all, teach all of us how to follow you.

Amen.

WFMW: How to Play Chore Roulette With Your Family

Oh, it’s a fun game, for sure.

At least for Mom.

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We started something right about the turn of the new year and it has been very successful. I like to call it Chore Roulette because I’m wild and crazy like that.

We have a daily chore chart and my kids are in charge of their own laundry every weekend. But every other Saturday or so we do a deep(isn) cleaning where we actually break out the mop and vacuum cleaner, scrub a toilet and change the sheets. And I’m always looking for ways to teach my kids about hard work and less entitlement. And this is doing the trick.

How to play:

Divide up chores that need to be done in your house. I pick the ten most needed each week–from mopping and vacuuming, to organizing to the dreaded toilets. There are 5 people in our family, so each player draws 2 chores. If the chores need a lot of supervision (like changing all the bedsheets and it’s not something our 7 year old can do, we rig the game. Because we can).

Rules: You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. My daughter got mopping and literally did a cartwheel she was so happy. I have no idea why and my son got to clean toilets two weeks in a row. Bummer. May the odds be ever in your favor.

If you complain, you get a bonus round which is an additional chore. We set the timer for 1.5 hours and we all divide and conquer.

We turn up Toby Mac or the Frozen soundtrack (I’m sorry, honey) and we clean.

It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

{Good Stuff}

{Flash Sale} expires Jan. 23

Dayspring is offering their Mr & Mrs Mugs $5 each (50% off). Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

(Click on the picture)

Mr. & Mrs. - Mr. Mug

{Free or dirt cheap E-books}

Anne of Green Gables, the nearly the entire series on Kindle, is .99 cents. Run! It won’t last much longer!
Anne of Green Gables Stories: 12 Books, 142 Short Stories, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne’s House of Dreams, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside, Chronicles and More

David Platt’s  What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? is free right now on Amazon Kindle.

24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life is free right now. This book is about the importance of rest and I’ve heard great things about it.

{Fair Trade}

I love Noonday, a worldwide fair trade market place that benefits women in poverty. And they are having a big sale. They aren’t cheap, so these items are a very good deal at 60% off.

Bell Flower Cuff

(This post may contain affiliate links)

It Turns Out We are Crazy Cat People and Other Half Truths

1. So, if you follow me an Instagram, you know we got a kitten a couple of days after Christmas.

2. For the kids, or course.

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3. To which, someone responded, you really are THAT family.

4. Let me explain: We had to put our 7 year old dog to sleep a couple of months ago, which left our one year old cat, Tinkerbell, and our youngest child completely distraught because they were the 3 amigos. My daughter cried like the baby of the family that she is and looked at me with such sad puppy dog eyes that I was completely manipulated into a replacement pet.

5. Replacement pets are never a good idea, neither are pet-altering decisions the day you are helping your dog  die. Oh, hindsight. My child reminded me everyday, practically every hour afterwards, tapping my arm over and over “Mom, remember what you said. Mom. Mom? MOM!?!” Until I screamed DON’T TOUCH ME AGAIN. OKAY? Ok. Let’s get a cat.” What can I say? She’s totally the boss of me.

6. We rescued a cat from a home we found on Craigslist that also needed rescuing if you know what I mean. It was overwhelmed with more than a dozen people and enough stuff for three dozen. But that’s a story for the anonymous blog I don’t have.

7. The kitten was free. So there’s that.

8. But it had flees, so after kitten flee treatment, please disregard #7.

9. We (and by we, I really mean the 7 year old child of the family) named the precious 8 week old kitten Periwinkle  (sister of Tinkerbell for all Disney Fairy Fans) and presented her to our one year old cat and she sniffed her head and then slapped her across the face twice with an angry paw.

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10. So, that went well. And then they fought like cats and cats for two weeks.

11. During this time, we discovered the kitten was a thief. Two mornings in a row while I was making lunches, my kids entire sandwiches disappeared. I found empty bags with claw marks and the crusts of the bread (just like my daughter) in a corner of the house. LOVELY, huh?

12. What we have here is a Cat Burglar.

13. Bam.

14. And then one day, the cats were friends. And lived happily ever after. But not really. Tinkerbell is in charge and lets us all know that.

15. Sidenote: Did you know research proves that cats who live with  you think you’re just one big cat? My husband shared that tidbit he read online the other day. Warning: cute sleepy kitten photo ahead

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16. The day after my husband shared that fact, he reached down to pet Tinkerbell and she slapped him across the face and actually drew blood. It was ugly. I tried not to giggle when I said, “You know, she does see you as a big cat. And you just had your first cat fight.”

17. He was not amused and she is currently in a bag.

18. Just kidding. I really just wanted to say he finally let the cat out of the bag.

19. I’m here all week, friends.

20. Is it just me, or does she kind of remind you of Darla from Nemo?? (Don’t shake the bag)

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