The Beauty of Giving Away What We’ve Been Given

A couple of weeks ago the GPS led us to end of the road.

To a sea of white sand and rolling turquoise ocean.

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We were a few sandy steps away from a beautiful home, ours for the week.

As we explored every corner of the ocean oasis, I was overwhelmed at what we’d been given.

The way the sun hit the pale yellow walls and beckoned us to relax.

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I can’t remember ever needing rest more, craving stillness.

Quiet.

I thought of the generous family who gave two weeks away -one to raise money for Mercy House and one to our family. “It is all for Him.  We are just stewards of His great grace, mercy, and provision-  so thankful,” and with these gracious words, she handed us the keys.

The guest book written with notes of thanks indicated they give away what they’ve been given. Often.

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I think it’s where heaven and earth meet-the crossroads of giving away what we’ve been given. Blessing others with our blessings. When we do this, we glorify God. When we give away what He’s given to us, we bless the Giver.

As I sat in solitude and listened to the waves hit the rocks, I wondered at what I’d been given.

So much. 

And I asked the hard question: Am I giving it away?

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Yeah, money and stuff but more than that- gifts that God gives us. Gifts He wants us to share.

Hospitality because we love having people in our home. Dinner for neighbors because we love cooking. A home for a child because we have more love to give. Encouraging others because we can. Serving someone in need. Giving our time, our money, ourself away…

Look at your hands. What has God placed in them? 

What are you holding today?

We might not all have beach houses to give away.

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But we have something.

And it’s beautiful when we share it with others.

The One Thing You Can Do for Your Kid Who Sabotages Family Time

We sat around the dinner table finishing up our tacos, shredded lettuce and cheese scattered about.

“Okay, everyone, finish up and I’ll pass out the Bibles,” my husband said.

For years now, we’ve made an attempt to Break Bread after we’ve consumed it. Its been the optimal time for our family to connect, read a devotion or Scripture or two for a few minutes. Dinner is one of the only times during the day we are all together, mostly still and quiet.

I’ve said this several times, but it’s my favorite time of the day with my family.

Unless one of our children tries to sabotage it.

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Distracting. Irritating. Complaining. Whining. You name it.

While I don’t think there’s a calculated conspiracy or evil plan to sabotage, once I realized it was happening regularly, I acknowledged one of our kids had gotten really good at disrupting or all-together ending this intentional family time.

One night, I watched it unfold and I was frustrated. Not only because my kids all knew better, but because it was defeating. This cycle of trying and failing.

Maybe you have a kid like this too? Passionate. Strong. Determined. A Leader in the Rough.

It might happen at dinner or in the car, on vacation, while at school….

Big emotions all the time.

As my husband attempted to read, I watched my strong-willed kid make faces at siblings, maybe hoping to be sent upstairs… I thought about how well this child leads, when given a chance. I thought of one of our trips overseas, where complaining and griping threatened to ruin the day.. So, we handed over the maps and guides and said, “Okay, you be in charge. Lead us.” It turned out to be a brilliant parental move.

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We still have those occasionally.

A plan begin to formulate.

The next night at dinner I made my move, “Honey, would you mind if we did something different tonight?” I asked Terrell to hand the Bible to our determined child. “I like the way you read aloud (entirely true). Would you read to us tonight?”

Sure.

With character voices and inflection and without distraction, we had a wonderful devotion and family time.

We repeated it the following night. And the next.

I was amazed at how pleasant and peaceful it was and there may have been a high five or two between my husband and I.

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Honestly, my first reaction is to threaten and dole out consequences when the rules are bent or broken and it works well with a couple of my kids. But we can’t parent all our children exactly the same when they are obviously different. Over time, I’ve learned that the child acting out the most probably needs more love than consequences. More time than separation. More of me. And that strong-willed child needs a strong parent to let go of control.

So, instead of banishing your disrupting or disobedient child or punishing them for annoying behavior, let them lead.

You may just be surprised where it takes you.

Getaway To Austin, Texas: Part One

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

We picked up our kids straight from school at 3pm and hit the road for our local Groupon getaway.

It’s a little less than a 3 hour drive to Austin and our son was shooting the Texas Indoor Archery Championship at University of Texas at 6pm.

That’s how we roll.

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We  sat in the collegiate range for a couple of hours and he shot his personal best! A couple of people down from Olympian Vick Wunderlee. It was awesome.

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While the boys shot day 2 of the tournament, the girls and I explored this beauty in Austin. The Omni Barton Resort we found on the Groupon Getaway site is a sight to behold:

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We explored the vast and spacious property, ate delicious breakfast burritos and drank cappuccinos in the quaint on-property coffee shop. It was the perfect leisure morning.

When the guys returned by noon, we were ready to explore more of Austin. We found a food truck park and everyone split up and tried something new. I had spicy thai noodles, Terrell and Madi ate different versions of tacos, our youngest had a hamburger and the archer ate his fill of wieners. It was a breezy day and perfect outside eating weather.

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We spent the rest of the day exploring local thrift stores. There are dozens in the city and they definitely add to the funky feel of the city. We were hunting for some small fixtures for our new Mercy House warehouse and found a couple of good deals. But the antique chicken coop wouldn’t fit in our car. But we tried.

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We also visited the cool Tom’s store on the main drag and got a lot of great display ideas, including this huge chalkboard wall map. We spent a lot of time on South Congress, one of the main roads in Austin. One of our favorite stores was Ten Thousand Villages, which offers fair trade product from all over the world…right up my alley. We also enjoyed Uncommon Objects. Talk about weird.

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We ended the night eating at a local hotspot and ate fancy. It was a restaurant featured on the Food Network. We always check the app in whatever city we’re in and try to discover delicious unique food.

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We might have even cropped our kids out of the picture and pretended we were on a date. Don’t all moms and dads do that on Groupon Getaways?

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10 Fun Ways to Keep Easter About Jesus

The Easter Season is the perfect time to practice intentional parenting. It’s more than bunnies and baskets and golden eggs-it’s an opportunity to teach our children about the most important event in history.

If we didn’t have the Cross, we wouldn’t have forgiveness.

If we didn’t have the Resurrection, we wouldn’t have hope.

If we didn’t have Jesus, we wouldn’t have anything.

 

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Here are 10 fun (and easy!) ways to keep Easter about Jesus:

  1. Read The Parable of the Lily and plant (or force) a lily bulb
  2. Create this easy, beautiful watercolor Cross Art
  3. Plant an Easter Garden 218495019391568479_3wI73Ndz_f
  4. Dye/hunt eggs. Share the reasons behind the traditions
  5. A Sense of the Resurrection - a great ebook to help little hands (ages 3-6) grasp the meaning of Easter.
  6. Make Resurrection Eggs. Read Benjamin’s Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs
    along with it.
  7. Bake Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  8. Fill Easter baskets with something meaningful (a new Bible, a cross necklace, eggs with Scripture)
  9. Make Resurrection Rolls for Easter morning breakfast
  10. Have a family devotion together and talk about the meaning of Easter (this is a good one)

updated post from the archives

The Hard Prayers of a Mother

We stand toe-to-toe.

Just like we did when she was a strong-willed three year old only I’m looking up at my teenager instead of the other way around. The argument has changed, but the passion and determination are the same.

I remember rubbing my hand over my swollen belly so long ago -praying that my daughter would be strong. I prayed that she wouldn’t give in to others, that she would fight for what she believed in.

All I can say is God answers prayers. Just usually not how I thought He would.

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When my kids were babies I prayed I could sleep. (Very holy prayers like, “Dear God, (yawn) Zzzzz.”)

When they were toddlers, I prayed they would sleep. (“Dear God, Is it actually wrong to turn the doorknob around?”)

When they are in school, I pray for summer. Halfway through July, well, you know…

When they were little, I prayed God would get me through the exhausting moments.

Now they are bigger and I pray He gets me through the emotional ones.

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When my kids make a great choice and put someone in front of themselves, my prayers become praise.

When my kids slam their doors, roll their eyes and push back, I mostly pray for me. (“Dear God, protect my children from my wrath.”)

Nothing could have prepared me for the hard prayers of motherhood.

One minute I’m beseeching God for wisdom, the next I’m telling Him I’ve got this.

One minute, I see a scary glimpse of rebellion, the next, revival.

For one child, I pray for kindness. For the other I pray for courage when kindness is absent.

For one I pray for goodness, for the other meekness when goodness is present.

And I pray for patience and self-control all the time for all of us.

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I have cried over harsh words and willful behavior and we both know I’m not talking about the kids’.

I have offered prayers of thanksgiving when they offered unprompted gratitude. (“Dear God, I am doing a fabulous job here.”)

I have sat next to their bed in the middle of the night and whispered broken prayers over them.

I have wept at their loss, their pain, and begged God to fix all that I couldn’t.

I have rejoiced at their wins, their gain, and praised God in the moment.

I wrapped each of my new babies up in blankets and offered them to God on a Sunday. He gave them to me and I gave them back. And I’ve spent nearly every moment since trying to figure them out.

Lately, I have whispered the hardest prayer of all: “Dear God, Break my children. Break their heart for what breaks Yours.  Do what You need to do in their heart and lives to draw them closer to You. They are yours.”

Maybe these are they hardest words a mother prays for her children? Or maybe just letting go of our illusion of control never gets easier.

But it’s this place that is my undoing: uttering these hard, gut-wrenching prayers when I don’t know what else to do.

Because I know He will answer.

All these things I pray and whisper over my children? He says them over me.

(“Come to me, Kristen. Give me that hurt, that burden, that sin. I discipline you because I love you. I break you so you will heal stronger.”)

I found Jesus when my life was wrecked.

And when the last thing a mother wants to pray over her child is chaos, so they can know peace, humility instead of pride, forgiveness instead of bitterness, joy instead of loss, it’s probably time she did.