The Most Important Thing We Can Teach Our Kids in an Over-Sexualized World

It was the middle of the night. Or day. Or whatever that fog of time is called when your jet-lagged family is in-between flights at an airport in Paris, on the other side of the world.

We had an extra hour and we were on a mission to find Chapstick for our windburned lips. We stumbled into one of those airport stores that has everything from duty free cigarettes to luggage and split up to start our search. My husband walked one way, but I thought I spotted the familiar red and white tubes and headed the other with my little one following behind me. The label was in French and I wasn’t sure if I’d found what I was looking for and turned to look for an English speaking attendant.

That’s when I saw my two older kids. My teen daughter had a shocked look on her face and was just turning to look for me. I heard her say her brother’s name sharply after she noticed what he was staring at and his head snapped up just as I walked towards them. He looked at me. “Mom?” he said confused. I looked at the row of magazines in front of him and realized my son was standing in front of a half dozen magazine covers in the center of the store. Pornography.

It was Europe after all.

The most important thing we can teach our kids in an oversexualed world

“I didn’t mean to look,” he said. “I just…’

“It’s okay, son. Looking once is unavoidable. It’s what we do after that first look that matters.”

Everything is filtered in our home: we have protected Internet, our Netflix account has a parental password, we opted in addition security on Google images, and Net Nanny on our phones.

We aren’t paranoid, we are proactive. Plus we are highly sensitive to this topic since it nearly destroyed our marriage nearly ten years ago.

We are also prepared.  We talk about the dangers online. We have a stack of books we’re working our way through from living in purity to fighting lust. We are open about what our kids are exposed to from peers.

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Protecting our children from our sexually-charged culture is something we work hard at. And in one unavoidable moment, it happened. My sixth grade son saw pornography right in front of me.

And that’s when I realized something gravely important: It’s impossible to filter the entire world. I can’t do it forever. It’s not realistic or even my job. Instead I have to equip my kids.

You can’t turn on the TV during a half-time football game and escape breasts and tiny shorts or checkout at a grocery store and miss Miley Cyrus hanging nude from a wrecking ball. My kids don’t have smart phones to receive sext messages or view explicit images online, but friends at church and school do. And really, we’re all just one click away from something we can’t un-see.

The most important thing we can teach our kids is self control. Because let’s face it: no matter how well we parent, our kids are going to be tempted. It goes with being human. Self-control is the ability to control our emotions, abilities and desires. It’s the power to stop spending money we don’t have, to tell our kids no when entitlement rears it’s ugly head. It’s exactly what we need to teach our kids to stop eyes from looking the second time.

Without self-control, we are absolutely defenseless against sin. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28. When the word self-control is used in the Bible it describes a person who is willing to get a grip on their lives and take control.

Self-control is the key to living in our sex-crazed world without giving into it’s lustful appeal. And as hard as it is to accept, our kiddos are sexual creatures and at some point in their lives, it will appeal to them. That’s why we can’t wait. Here are three things we can do to help our kids (and ourselves) exercise self-control in their lives:

  1. Model it. Our kids are watching us and we are their example. And when you blow it, apologize and try again.
  2. Ask God for it. Self-control is a gift from God. The more we get work on our relationship with Him, the more empowered He makes us.
  3. Teach it. It’s easy to feel unprepared. Don’t be afraid to rely on solid resources like Passport2PurityPreparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle; Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s BattleSex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World

My husband pulled my son close as we paid for the Chapstick and walked towards our gate. “Whenever you see something like that, look away immediately. Bounce your eyes and try really hard not to look again. You might be tempted to look again, but ask God to help you have self control not to.”

I’ll never forget that day in the airport on that cold day in December. But instead of remembering it as a day of failure, I see it as a day of opportunity to teach my kids the importance of self-control and second chances.

 

*Updated to add* If you’re not a regular reader here you might read this post out of context with the way we live our lives for God (and what I’ve written for years). While I’m encouraging parents to teach self control and fleeing sin to their kids, that’s only part of it. It’s mostly about pursuing Jesus and showing our kids how satisfying it is to have a relationship with him. The closer we are to God, the less we want the things of this world. That’s the foundation we base our lives on.

WFMW: How I Became a Knitter {Loom Knitting}

My 14 year old spent most of the Christmas break knitting and reading.

She said when she’s 70 years old she’s going to stay up all night and party.

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She got a knitting loom for Christmas from extended family. It probably would have stayed in the box (because I’m absolutely no help), but we had three cold days at my inlaw’s farm and a cousin who knew how to loom knit and was willing to teach the steps over and over (thanks, Erika!)

I tried knitting once. It turns out I have a lot of tension because I had a very tight, very stressed yarn square. As I watched my daughter knit a gorgeous scarf, I knew I had to try again. I love how the loom helps regulate the tension of the yarn and I actually find it relaxing and fun.

My first scarf:

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We started with a simple scarf loom like this Boye Rectangle Loom Set. It’s less than $15 to get started with the yarn and tools and even my 7 year old has learned how to loom knit. There are several other types of looms that can make dozens of items-from hats to socks, blankets, etc.

And now we are out of control (little sister thanking big sister for her new scarf she knit on the way home):

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I’m not a visual learner, so I’m not about to attempt to explain HOW you do this. But these resources helped me when I got stuck once I got back home: Fantastic tutorial here and I also bought I Taught Myself To Loom Knit Book.

Happy knitting. It actually works for me!

 

Our Stories Need to Be Told

I’m a storyteller.

But I don’t always tell all my stories.

I haven’t told you about all the broken pieces that make up my life.

And you probably don’t know that some days I struggle with my yes. As in the last 14. The first two weeks of a new year and I’m weary and my family is stretched and there are a dozen decisions we need to make and I just want to pull the covers over my head and order Chinese food and watch movies with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Okay, I’ve done that already.

I’m supposed to be excited about All the Things, but I’m mostly scared. I’m supposed to be a leader, but mostly I’m inadequate. I’m supposed to love this dream and mostly I’m overwhelmed by it. I’m supposed to be living in community and mostly I feel alone.

Some days I’m not fine. 

There. I said it.

And then just a few days ago, I learned about a community of refugee women and children living in poverty just down the road from me. Women who have faced unspeakable hardships and suffering and they need help. And all of a sudden, they are all I can think about. And I’m reminded of what makes me feel alive.  Part of my story is saying yes. It gives me purpose and makes me want to throw back the covers and courageously live the next chapter of my story.

This is the year I’m telling my whole story. All of it. Even the broken parts.

And you have a story too. Maybe one you haven’t told? That hurt. That testimony. That regret. That hard parenting road. That miracle.

Here’s your chance:

Let’s make 2014 a storytelling year. Because your story matters.

But first you have to tell it.

Check out all the (in)RL details here. Registration opens tomorrow and it’s FREE!

I’m also sharing over at the (in)courage community today about the painful places. 

DIY Pallet Farmhouse Light Fixture

Also known as the Christmas present my husband made me.

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{Swoon}

Who knew my love language was a bunch of repurposed old stuff?

We saw something similar at an antique store several months ago. Only it cost around $700. Yikes.

{source} This light fixture would look awesome over a salvaged farmhouse table.

So, instead, my husband found an old pallet behind a store (we just asked if we could have it) and pulled the weathered wood off. I looked for some old egg gathering baskets (this took awhile) and ended up getting two on eBay for $25. He bought rope, replica antique bulbs and two small light socket kits from the wiring department at home depot.

Supplies:

Pallet wood

Baskets (I saw replica ones at TJ Maxx for $9.99 over the holidays)

Two light sockets kits

10 ft electrical wire

Rope

Light fixture thread tube (to hang light to pallet)

Bulbs

We love the results for around $75.

I love the warm ambiance it offers our kitchen.

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[clothes line: scripture memory cards for 2014. Get them here for free and join us]

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Check out our other pallet projects:

Headboard

Missions Statement Art

What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want

I want it.”

Why?

Because everyone else has it.”

(Or does it.  Or wears it.)

It’s a conversation we’ve had countless times in our house. It doesn’t matter what it’s about–the newest technology, the latest fad, the most popular shoes- it’s treacherous ground to add it to our want list so we can be like everyone else.

These five dangerous words are turning homes upside down. When we give our children everything they want (because everyone else has it), it speeds up their childhood: We have six year olds addicted to technology, carrying around their own ipods and iphones without limitations; eleven year old sons playing bloody battles of Assassin’s Creed over the Internet with strangers instead of playing ball outside; And 13 year old daughters shopping at Victoria’s Secret, wearing angel wings across their bums, looking far older than they are.

But worse than losing a generation of children, this choice breeds a nasty virus. Because maybe if we keep giving them everything they want, they might just drive a new car intoxicated and kill four people and be diagnosed with affluenza.

What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want

The psychologist testifying for the 16 year old boy who did just that, defined affluenza as this: children who have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, and make excuses for poor behavior because parents have not set proper boundaries.

And when you write a little post about the warning signs of entitlement and it’s shared nearly 800,000 times, perhaps we’re all a little scared of our kids catching the same bug.

“I am an RN working on a psych unit, and I see everyday the effects of entitlement. I see adults in their 20′s and 30′s who always had everything they ever wanted given to them while growing up, and now they just don’t get it. They are unemployed, either living with parents or with one friend or relative after another, or on the street. Having been given everything they ever wanted without working for it while growing up, they don’t feel that they should work for anything now. They were raised to think they could do no wrong, but instead of growing up to have high self-esteem, they have grown up unable to function. They cannot take disappointment of any kind. So we have a generation of kids that don’t want to work and can’t function as adults. Because they have no coping skills of any kind to deal with life, they become depressed and often turn to drugs and/or alcohol to feel better. Then, they end up on our unit, depressed, suicidal, and addicted,” a comment on this post.

Why are we saying yes to our children too early, too soon and pulling in the boundaries? I’m not sure, but I think it starts here:

  1. We don’t understand the future implications of giving them everything they want right now
  2. We want them to have the life we didn’t
  3. We are afraid to tell our children no because we know there will be backlash or because we think they will feel loved if we say yes.
  4. We want them to fit in with their peers because it’s hard to be different.
  5. We feel it’s often easier just to give in
  6. We struggle with a bit of affluenza ourselves

This excellent article shares the symptoms of this nasty virus:

To conquer the affluenza virus, though, one must first recognize it within himself and ask why and from where it comes. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do you frequently buy things you do not really need?

When shopping, are you unable to control how much you spend?

Do you envy the lifestyles of the rich and famous?

Do you feel bad when your neighbors have things you do not?

Do you measure yourself by what others have?

Do you ever use shopping as a means of escape?

Do you use your possessions to impress others?

Do you compare your possessions with what your peers have? If so, do you experience a feeling of superiority that yours are better?

Do you speak often about the things you want?

Do you find yourself complaining about the things you want but cannot afford?

Do you think of spending your money more often than saving it?

Do you often think your life would be more complete if you had more money and possessions?

“Jesus, speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Luke 12:15

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So what’s the cure? 

Maybe it starts with the little word no. We aren’t going to buy, get, do that just because others are. It’s okay to want things, but there’s a big difference in getting something because you love it and getting it because you want to be loved.

Maybe it starts with deciding why you do what you do. Don’t let the culture lead your family. Because it certainly will. I heard this week the most popular word among teens in 2013 was twerking. Do we really want society guiding our children?

Maybe it starts with reality–no, not everyone has, does, gets ____ (fill in the blank). We’ve discovered other people who don’t have ____(fill in the blank), but we’ve had to look for them and pray them into our lives. The world will tell you (and your kids) you’re completely alone. But that’s a lie. There are other families swimming upstream against our society and affluenza.

Maybe it starts with a dab of old fashioned failure (I love what this teacher said below).

“Some parents don’t wish their kids to fail. I admit I want my children to. I want them to fail, so they can learn how to get back up. I want them to not get every gift they want on their Christmas list, so they can appreciate what they have and work for what they don’t. Lastly I hope all of them get at least one or two teachers they hate. That way they will learn that in the real world, they will have to work with people (and bosses) they may not like,” a teacher who left a comment on this post.

Maybe it starts with exposing them to how the majority of the world lives. Affluenza is a first world problem. Hunger is a real world problem. Give them an opportunity to serve others.

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I really don’t think our kids want the latest technology or the hottest name brand as much as they want something else. Oh, they think they do. And they will beg and plead (and drive us crazy) for it. But deep down, they are hungry for something deeper that satisfies and lasts a lot longer than just stuff. Giving them firm boundaries, love and perspective is exactly what we can offer them.

WFMW: 5 Things You Don’t Have to Do in the New Year

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I don’t know about you, but I always feel pressure in the New Year to BE BETTER and to DO MORE. I need to get more organized, get healthier and do it all by spending less. I walked into a store today to look for a coat for my teenage daughter (hoodies aren’t cutting it in our 30-40 degree weather lately) and the entire front half of the store was workout clothes. Talk about pressure.

Everyone’s talking resolutions and I’m definitely not against setting goals. But I think we can do more by actually doing less.

Here are five things we don’t have to do in the new year:

            1. Make resolutions: Since only 8% of people actually complete their resolutions, instead of making unrealistic resolutions, look for small tangible goals you can accomplish. Don’t look to one giant success at the end of the year, look for daily victories.
            2. Announce extreme goals: There’s a tendency to Go Big or Go Home. But the best place to start is small. If you need to lose 25 pounds, start with one and then another. When we vow to complete extreme goals, statistics show that we usually give up because we get discouraged.
            3. Compare ourselves/lives to others: When I start looking over at the neighbor’s greener grass, I begin to feel pressure to have a more perfect life or at least a greener yard. The best way around this is to worry about our own yard.
            4. Forget what the past has taught us: The past has taught me that my goal to have a flat stomach is probably not going to happen. While we can’t change the past, we can learn from our mistakes and successes and let them guide us in the future.
            5. Lose site of why we do what we do: We can’t forget our purpose. Our choices should be moving us closer to our goals. Don’t do things just because everyone else is. Lead your life instead of letting life lead you.

Doing less works for me!

Serve with Your Family: Introducing Team Mercy

Serving with my family has changed my life. It’s impacted my children, our home, in ways I could have never dreamed.

Finding opportunities that are kid-friendly and actually doable can be a challenge.

I’m excited to introduce something very close to my heart: Team Mercy.

What is Team Mercy? Sign your family up and become a team member and advocate for moms and babies at Mercy House Kenya and single moms in surrounding communities by bringing awareness through fundraising events and sharing this amazing God story in your local community.

What is an Advocate? Definition: a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.

Why join Team Mercy:
Not only will you be supporting a worthy, grassroots cause, you will have the opportunity to serve alongside your family. Being a Team Mercy member gives you opportunities to change the world! There are practical ways for you to link arms and serve with your family. If there are local church events or conferences in your area, you could even represent Mercy House.

Read the Team Member Requirements Here.

How do I become an advocate? Get started by filling out our online application. It’s free!

Wear your support– Get your Team Mercy Shirt here! (all Team Mercy Members can get the shirts HALF-PRICE with a completed application!)

Click to discover all the opportunities we’ve created for Team Mercy members…

Together, we can change the world.

What Our Kids Really Hear When We Yell

On the day after Christmas, we shoved three days worth of clothes into overnight bags for a trip to my in-law’s farm. We had enjoyed every bit of Christmas Day and put off packing until the next day.

And then the morning of our trip, we overslept.

While my husband loaded five duffle bags and a box full of gifts for his side of the family into the back of the van, I barked the last few orders at my kids.

“Someone needs to feed the cat.”

“Brush your teeth.”

“Get your boots for the farm.”

“Take this out to your Dad.”

I locked the doors and opened the van door. I was met with some pretty nasty morning breath by one of my kids. “Did you not brush your teeth?” I asked in disbelief.

All three of my kids answered no and I about lost my mind. Because. This is not the first or tenth time. You know what I mean moms? I pointed them all back towards the house and ranted, “Why didn’t you brush your teeth? This is not optional. You do this every day, do you hear me?” I yelled as I dug thru a bag for toothpaste.

My girls climbed back into the car after they brushed and I found my 11 year old son still looking for his toothbrush.

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Oh, frustration, we meet again.

“Son, where is it? You should have already taken care of this…I am not going to like it if you have a cavity….” I huffed and puffed.

After he’d finally finished and was heading back out to the car with me following, he stopped and looked at me. “Mom, I know I should have brushed my teeth. I’m sorry. I forgot. We were hurrying… But why are you so angry?”

Do you ever have those parenting moments that feel like a kick in the gut? I stopped long enough to realize my heart was pounding and I was gripping the toothpaste with white knuckles.

While I thought I was lecturing about dentists and hygiene, responsibility and obedience, all my kids heard was an angry mother.

I hate that I yell. I try not to. But some days, I do.

I remember the first time I got angry with my oldest daughter. She was just a toddler when she totally defied me and ran towards the street. My anger sort of shocked me. I was scared to death. I don’t know a mother who hasn’t been angry at her kids for something. It sort of comes with the job.

But this was hardly a life-threatening situation, even for plaque fighters. I started thinking about why I was so angry and when I peeled back the layers, I realized I was fighting for control. I want things done my way. Or at least done. Most of the time, I lose my cool because I’ve lost control: I can’t control my child’s actions and I don’t control my temper.

But I know there is a better to communicate with my kids and encourage them to make good choices. I struggle in this area. I’m not an expert, but  I truly believe it comes down to self-control.

Here are 5 things I’m trying to do when I feel like I’m about to lose my temper: 

  1. Walk away for a couple of minutes. Take deep breaths. Think about this post :)
  2. Ask God for self control often. It’s a gift of the spirit and He loves to give gifts.
  3. Pick my battles. A lot of the time, I’m irritated over messes and things that really don’t matter.
  4. Remember I’m the role model. My kids take cues from me.
  5. Wait to discipline until my anger passes.

When I think about what my son was really hearing–anger instead of instruction, I’m reminded that lecturing and losing my cool isn’t accomplishing anything. It only makes it worse. With God’s help, I’m going to do better.

Do you struggle with this?