Parenting Doesn’t Get Easier. It Gets Different.

“Please tell me it gets easier,” she asked in the foyer at church while wrestling the baby in her arms and the toddler wrapped around her knees.

I smiled. And I remembered the long days and early bedtimes, the wrangling and chasing, the time outs and tantrums.

I’ve exchanged the physical exhaustion of motherhood with the emotional. I cry and pray and worry more over my kids now than I did when they would fit in my arms. A crib and gates and latches kept them close and safe. Now, the world is their playground and I can’t keep them from getting hurt. Bandaids and momma kisses don’t mend teenage angst or insecurities as easily.

When I looked into her weary face, longing to hear some encouragement, I knew some things were meant to be learned on our own.

“It gets different,” I replied.

I thought of how their independence has allowed me some freedom to pursue my dreams, not to mention the sheer joy that comes with watching them experience the seasons of growing up and fall in love with what they are good at. I thought about their humor and sarcasm and how I thank God for the laughter every day. Oh, and glorious sleeping-in Saturday mornings cannot be underestimated.

“Every phase is hard and good,” I continued.

parenting doesn't get easier. it gets different

She adjusted her baby on her hip and sighed deep, “I just want to do something. . .” She didn’t finish her thought, but I recognized the longing for something bigger, something important.

“You are,” I responded gently.

Because the daily work matters. The foundation we lay when our children are young gives them a place to come back to.

I thought about my current season of parenting. I’ve watched my teens experience anxiety and some small bumps in the road in their self confidence this year. It’s been little things in the scale of life, but nothing is small when you’re a teenager. And it’s been painful to watch at times and I’ve felt helpless.

And I’ve wept over their heartache. But mostly, I’ve pointed them to Jesus. Because He can mend what I cannot.

Last week I curled up next to my teen in bed and we talked and argued a bit and worked through something hard she was facing. I listened and I ached. I couldn’t change the situation and I couldn’t stop either of our tears. As I tried to encourage her, my words sounded like spiritual platitudes in my ears. I finally said, “Honey, I know it may sound simple and too spiritual, but all I can do is point you to Jesus. He is all I have. He is the only One who can carry your burden. He is the only One who can heal this place in your heart.”

I left her room feeling like I had failed. Because as our kids grow, there are some things we cannot fix.

Parenting Doesn't Get Easier. It Gets Different

When I returned later to drop something off in her room, she was curled up next to her Bible listening to worship music. And even though she’s taller than I am and mostly a woman, all I could see was that chubby-cheeked, dimpled-hand toddler running into her Father’s arms so He could make it feel better.

So, yeah, moms, the exhausting physical wrangling and emotional wrestling and mundane work you do every day matters so much more than it seems. Every season has it’s ups and downs and challenging days. But our faithful love and discipline is building a solid foundation and a soft place to land.

Mostly, it’s pointing them to strong arms to run to.

And that makes different good.

This Just Makes Me Happy

While my teens were at youth camp this weekend, we turned our beige walls gray. And I decided to rehang all my favorite pieces of art and inspiration together to create a gallery wall.

Every time I walk in the living room, I smile.

It tells the story of our lives:

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1. The REDEEMED letters are my motto. This is my family’s word. We are a broken mess. But God.

2. The old white window frames are from a building that was being torn down in a town we lived in more than 13 years ago. It was a desperate season in our marriage and we’ve carried these old windows everywhere we’ve gone as a testimony of what God can do with something that seems useless.

3. A picture of the first 12 rescued girls at Mercy House. This picture is a constant reminder to pray.

4.  The word thanks underneath it. Because yes. We have so much to be grateful for.

5. This chalkboard art (that matches the tattoo on my foot) is one of my favorite verses.

6. It sits next to my favorite piece of art “Heart and Globe.” I love this because it shows God’s heart for the world.

7. This framed quote.

8. An eclectic license plate USA map because we love to travel.

9. The first 12 miracle babies of Mercy House. When I doubt and my faith is shaky, this picture reminds me that He can make the impossible possible.

10. This is my favorite picture of my kids.

What inspires you? What’s on your wall?

10 Things We Need To Teach Our Kids About Social Media

If I could give parents one bit of advice concerning their kids and social media, it would be this:

Hold off as long as you can.

Because once that switch is flipped, it’s harder to turn off.

In our culture, kids are interacting online earlier and earlier. And passive parenting in this area can lead to problems in others.

We’ve asked our kids to wait until high school to become active in social media and here’s what we’ve learned so far:

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1. Nothing is ever really private | Statuses and pictures can be shared and altered

2. Or permanently deleted | Everything is traceable. I read something really disturbing on Facebook the other day from an old friend and when I went back to show my husband because I was alarmed, it had been deleted. But it definitely wasn’t forgotten.

3. Some things are better said face to face (like apologies or confrontations) | Social media makes it easier for us to be cowardly. We need to teach our kids the value of looking someone in the eye and making things right. Sure, it’s harder, but they won’t forget it.

4. Remember there are real people with feelings behind every avatar | Lately, I’ve been on the receiving end of some harsh words. And sometimes I just want to remind the offenders that I’m a real person. I think it’s good to teach our kids that our (online) words can hurt.

5. It’s okay to disagree with someone’s opinion, but kindness always win | “If you’re not kind on the Internet, than you are not kind.” -Glennon Melton. It’s as simple as that.

6. Don’t let negative comments to your pictures, statuses or no likes at all change how you feel about yourself | This one is especially important to teach our girls. There’s this whole secret online code between mean girls and we have to remind our daughters who they are doesn’t change because of how people see them.

7. It’s easier to attain a bad online reputation than a good one-so watch what you say | We’ve all probably done something online that we regretted. Our words follow us.

8. Avoid drama | We all read and see things we don’t agree with and I want my kids to use self control and click away.

9. Don’t ever mention your location | Predators don’t lure kids at the school bus nearly as much as they do online. Our children need to know the dangers of over sharing.

10. Take a day of rest from social media | Recently, I asked my teen to take a break from social media. She wasn’t doing anything wrong or in trouble. I just noticed she was isolating herself and it would be healthy for her to take a couple of days off. Later, she thanked me.

My life has been changed by a social media love story and I’m so thankful for the online world. Let’s commit to protecting our kids by teaching them how to handle this powerful tool.

Fathers Are Not Idiots

My daughter pushed the grocery cart as I checked items off my list.

Light bulbs.

Super glue.

Father’s Day cards were next.

We stopped at the card aisle and I told my kids to pick out one for their dad, while I looked for one for my father.

I’m not a greeting card snob and I don’t spend hours hunting for the perfect one. But after 15 minutes and reading dozens, I had a really hard time choosing one card for my dad and my kids for their father, that didn’t send this message loud and clear: Dads are idiots.

Half the cards were about farts and beer and the other half were lewd or too generic and not worth the $3.99.

Is this what our culture really thinks of fatherhood? Is this really how we celebrate the men we call father on the one day of year we choose to honor them? Thanks, Dad for being the bumbling guy who is trying not to screw up his kids. Today, we mock you.

We’ve all seen the “idiot dad” characters and sitcoms where dad burns down the house cooking something hazardous in the microwave or loses the baby because he isn’t capable of you know, watching his own children.

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I don’t know who these men are.

One certainly didn’t raise me. I was raised by a selfless, generous man who taught me to love the world more than I love myself.

And just last week, when we had to keep our youngest home from church day camp because she had a low grade temperature, I went to her room to console her little broken heart (she really loved the camp) only to find her father beat me to it.

As I stood at the door and listened to my husband do it a hundred times better than I could, I was moved with his compassion for her. His too-big-body was curled up next to her on the pink twin bed and as she cried and whined about the unfairness of her fever, he was patient and tender and understanding. And then he prayed for her to get better quickly so she could return to camp.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of the gift he was giving his little girl: his time, attention and care. And more than that, he was showing her the picture of a Heavenly Father who listens and comforts and is there for us when we need Him.

I finally found an appropriate card for my dad that wasn’t offensive and my kids made their own for their Dad.

Because even if our culture doesn’t see it, we know the dads in our lives are anything but idiots.

Let’s do our best in honoring fathers this weekend.

Camp Mom

Summer 5

1. My 5 Rules of Summer for My Kids:

  •  Read to earn screen time
  •  If you can’t get along with your siblings, you can’t have friends over
  •  You get the Wifi/Netflix password when you do what I’ve asked you to do
  •  Get outside everyday
  •  Serve someone other than yourself at least one day a week

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2. The 5 Things We Always Have on Hand to Stir Up the Imagination:

  • Balloons
  • Copy paper
  • Blankets and sheets to build the perfect reading hideout
  • Water
  • Puzzles (our dining room table has a 2000 piece challenge right now)

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3. 5 Easy Snacks to Keep on Hand:

  • Trail Mix
  • Popcorn
  • Fresh fruit
  • Nuts
  • Boiled eggs

4. 5 Summer Recipes (That don’t include turning on the oven):

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5. My 5 Rules of Summer for Mom:

  • Stay home at least one day a week with no agenda
  • Accept help (from kids, husband, friends)
  • Do something I enjoy once a week
  • Teach my kids something new (like driving, Lord, help me)
  • Remember occasional boredom is good for my kids

What Kids Are Really Doing Online (& Why We Can’t Ignore It)

When this email hit my inbox, it made me sick to my stomach:

My second grader spent the night at a friend’s house last week. The girls were innocently playing games on the computer and one things led to another and they typed in the word “boobs” on the Internet to see what would come up. My daughter and her friend were exposed to very graphic porn. She can’t stop crying and she can’t sleep. We are devastated.”

The blog reader who sent me this email asked me to tell parents to do whatever necessary to protect their children from the loss of innocence her daughter is now experiencing.

I hate pornography. I hate how it degrades women and men. I hate how it destroys innocence. I hate how it distorts our culture’s view of sex. I hate how the pornography industry tries to convince our culture that porn is okay.

And I really hate how easy it is to access.

I sent a compassionate response to the mom without judgement because it could happen to any of us. Without safe guards in place, it could happen in any of our houses, to any of our kids.

It takes active, involved, persistent work on our part to protect our kids from this kind of exposure. I asked a group of moms out of curiosity at the playground the last week of school how they handled monitoring and restricting their tweens and teens Internet usage. I’m always trying to reevaluate how we handle it. They looked at me like I was an alien.

What Kids Are Really Doing Online (& Why We Can't Ignore It)

“Aren’t you worried about them seeing things you don’t want them to see?” I asked.

One mom replied, “Oh, I trust my kids. They would never look at anything inappropriate.”

I thought of some of the hard conversations I’ve had with my teens and I knew this mom might be as shocked as I was at this viral article last week that describes in (warning) graphic detail exactly what  kids are seeing and learning on the Internet. “Kids are learning from the 21st century’s version of sex education class, the internet; a more enlightening and forthcoming source than nervous parents and teachers. But these lessons are a dangerous mix of misinformation and distorted images of sexuality…” source

The best way to guarantee our kids are exposed to inappropriate content is to do absolutely nothing to stop it.

1. Don’t restrict or monitor computer, tablet or smartphone time.

2. Don’t filter your internet or ask family and friends home your kids frequent if they do.

3. Don’t talk to them about the dangers online.

4. Don’t talk to them about lust, temptations and the lure of pornography.

Sadly, I believe at some point in time, many kids–not matter what we do– will be exposed to porn and content we’d rather them not see or read. In our Internet-ready culture, I think it’s probably impossible to completely remove it from their world. Research shows that 92% of boys will be exposed to online pornography by age 16. Unless they live in a bubble, they could see it on a friend’s phone at school, church or homeschool group (believe me, it’s happened). They could stumble upon it innocently researching a project or turn to Google out of curiosity.

But if we have already had important conversations about it, they will be prepared and know what to do.

When it comes to Internet safety, don’t be passive. Besides filtering the Internet, talk to your kids and establish some guidelines.

Younger kids:

  • Tell them there are dangerous things on the Internet that aren’t appropriate for them to see.
  • Advise your children not to click off games or movies to other links.
  • Keep the computer or screen in an open place (not in their rooms).
  • Teach them Google isn’t a Dictionary.
  • Disable search engines or install safety browsers like Safe Eyes. Restrict Google images.
  • Teach your kids about healthy/unhealthy relationships between men and women (modeling it is a great way to teach it)
  • Tell them if they ever see anything that seems wrong or that they don’t understand, to get you immediately.

Tweens and Teens:

  • Talk openly about the dangers of pornography online. It’s as important as having a sex talk with our kids.
  • Keep an on-going open conversation about lust and sex and the lure of porn.
  • Teach them God’s standard of sex and His design for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to put restrictions on their devices, including smartphones.
  • Extend grace. Our kids are sinful just like we are. They are going to mess up and give into temptation. If we freak out, they will be hesitant to confide in us. Remind them we are on their side and while we want them to live purely, we also know they are human.
  • Privacy is a privilege in our house. We reserve the right to check your phone, computer, etc if we feel like there’s a reason to
  • Remind them that everything they put on the Internet or send in a text is never really private.
  • Don’t expect your tween/teen to bring this subject up or share a lot of their feelings on it.

It’s hard for everyone to talk about these things, but that’s exactly why we need to.

 

Helpful Resources:

Preparing Your Son For Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity by Steve Arterburn

Preparing Your Daughter For Every Woman’s Battle: Creative Conversations about Sexual and Emotional Integrity by Shannon Ethridge

Passport to Purity-a life-changing getaway with your preteen.

(Click for a more extensive list of recommended resources dealing with pornography)

The Serving Bowl: 3 Simple Ways to Serve This Summer

[This post contains affiliate links]

So far, summer looks different for our family.

It’s the first time since our teens were toddlers that my husband works from home and I work at the Mercy House warehouse three days a week.

It’s the first summer our part time, on-the-side yes, is full time.

On the first Monday morning of summer, my kids opted out of sleeping in to go with me to volunteer.

They counted beads from around the world for hours for a big Fair Trade Friday project we’re working on.

(They also set a timer and raced to see who could do the most. I love productivity, so I didn’t mind).

On Tuesday morning, I was going to go by myself to get volunteers started when I overheard my teens tell their dad, “No, we set our alarm to get up and go with mom. Have you seen how much work there is at the warehouse? She needs us.”

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I smiled back a Texas-size lump in my throat.

Because sometimes different is good. And sometimes our kids just need to know they are needed.

Of course, our summer work and summer serving will be sprinkled with plenty of summer.

But there will also be plenty of service.

Because we’ve all realized it’s easier to stay home, easier to spend our days doing what we want, but easy doesn’t always make us feel good. Maybe that’s what makes serving so special?

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One morning this week, one of my kids was a little grumpy. I encouraged them to stay home. “Yeah, I can do nothing and feel sorry for myself,” they replied.

Yes, you can.

“Or you can do something for someone else and I promise you’ll feel better about yourself and your life,” I replied as I headed to the car.

My kids had a great time that morning and when a family stopped by so their little 9 year old could drop off the $80 her family raised with a Mercy House bake sale, my kids noticed me trying not to cry.

And the grumpy one left that warehouse without a care in the world because that’s what happens when you care about the world.

I didn’t even have to say I told you so.

(It also might have helped that their youth pastor called to ask if he could bring students to serve every week of the summer. Serving is contagious fun).

Turn a few days this summer into a sacrifice. You will be so glad you did!

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I like to think of summer with my kids like a serving bowl. I keep the serving bowl on my counter filled with colorful, healthy fruit for them to eat. When it gets empty, I refill it. When we spoon out what we have an abundance of–time, talent, energy, finances- we fill someone else’s bowl.

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There are a lot of empty bowls out there waiting to be filled!

Here are 3 easy ways to serve this summer:

1. Take someone a meal-get your kids in the kitchen. We took some friends a meal to celebrate their new foster baby a couple of weeks ago and they invited us to share the meal. It wasn’t fancy, but this simple gesture not only filled a bunch of bellies, it filled our hearts to serve someone else.

2. Invite someone to eat with your family. Something as simple as dinner can be such a blessing to someone who usually eats alone or doesn’t always have enough to eat. My kids love when we invite someone into our mess and share our live with them.

3. Turn your regular dinner time into a plan of action. Ask your kids how they want to serve others this summer. They may just surprise you.

 

I’m partnering with Dayspring during their Customer Appreciation sale this week to turn your summer into a serving one. Through this weekend, get one of these beautiful Daily Grace serving pieces pictured above at their lowest price yet!

Daily Grace: Wide Serving Bowl 

REG PRICE: $30
Sale Price: $9 with code: THANKYOU it’s only $6.75

Daily Grace: Tall Serving Bowl

REG PRICE: $28

Sale Price: $9 with code: THANKYOU, it’s only $6.75

Daily Grace: Pitcher
REG PRICE: $37
Sale Price: $14 with code: THANKYOU it’s only $10.50

 

How fun would it be to fill one of these up to encourage a neighbor or friend in need this summer?

 

31 Ideas to Encourage Your Kids On A Bad Day

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with a new friend and talk about life, purpose, parenting and Africa (she currently lives in Uganda with her family). Janel is one of those people who inspires. She worked at Family Life Today for years, served on the team at NavPress that wrote the Message Bible and  has important stuff to say. My kids have had their fair share of bad days around here and I’m taking notes on her guest post that she is sharing here today.  

by Janel of A Generous Grace

We’ve all had them, and have certainly been the object of them: one of those days. Ugh. Could be a grade on a test (ouch), flushing the family goldfish, a snub by that boy (you know the one), no nap, or good old-fashioned waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Some are legit, some…not-so-legit.

Of course, I have my own days like this (although admittedly, the goldfish thing might feel like one less responsibility. Is that terrible?). On my more legit days—and a handful of the not-so-legit ones— my subtly fantastic husband may occasionally have brought home a skinny decaf Caramel Frappuccino with whip (in my pre-Africa days). Some days, he’s my rearview mirror, alerting me to the wake I’m leaving. On most days, he pecks me on the forehead and wraps me in a hug—despite that the reason for my general malaise might just be that string of bad days at a particular time of the month.

Because what we, or our kids, experience is still a call to grace, even when the reasons are poor.

So how do we deal?

Interacting with our kids on their bad days is a tutorial to them on how God deals with our bad days. So maybe that’s a good place to start: How do you think God responds?

Well. We know He’s faithful. Gracious. Compassionate. And still holy—i.e., He still loves enough not to say, Shoot. Go ahead and give into temptation. By all means, trample your family. (Translation: Your kid’s anger or weepiness doesn’t run the house. Self-control on bad days is a pretty core lesson.)

In using these ideas, consider

  • The depth and nature of what’s going on. Do we shake it off, or process this? Don’t add unnecessary drama, prevent your child from learning perseverance, or slap an emotional Band-Aid on a gouge that should be disinfected. But sometimes we just need a reboot, folks.
  • The heart issues at hand (make sure to check out #7).
  • What’s grace look like here? Does grace mean creating some allowances for a day that just went terrible—or the “kindness that leads to repentance” by dealing head-on with some sin? Pray through it, remembering that “mercy triumphs over judgment”.
  • The long-term. I remember my mom, in dealing with one of my sisters’ teenage slumps, being careful to address her character, but not crush her spirit. I think the Bible backs this up: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4). On the whole, are you the “no” voice in your child’s life, or the one in their corner?

The goal’s not to coddle our kids. It’s to create a remarkable environment of grace, and an atmosphere that helps kids process their emotion honestly, prayerfully, and thoughtfully—or move on, whichever is appropriate. Either way, it’s an opportunity for everyone in the house to love each other a little more.

31 Ideas  to Encourage Your Kids On a Bad Day

  1. Stop by on the way home from school for her favorite beverage.
  2. No matter how he’s treated you—look him in the eyes and gently say, “I’m sorry you had a rough day.”
  3. Bake some cookies together (or just for her!).
  4. Make an impromptu outing: mini-golfing, bowling, to the park to feed the ducks.
  5. Cuddle on the sofa for awhile. Talking optional.
  6. Read some books together.
  7. Use the opportunity to understand your child better. What’s at the core of their frustration or hurt? What’s the loss that they feel? Are they simply fatigued, in pain, hungry, or dealing with other physical causes? Did they lose face, approval, acceptance? Have they fallen short of their own standards? Consider the heart of your child’s bad day so you can love them even better and pray more intentionally. (See here for more insight on understanding your child’s “holes”).
  8. Go for a walk together.
  9. Give him space.
  10. Commit to yourself to only completely gracious responses. Read: You’re not a doormat, but you’re not going to take the bait of her anger. Remember: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
  11. Keep a copy of a hilarious/feel-good movie in your mental back pocket. Pop some popcorn, grab some chocolate, and veg out.
  12. Ask wise, compassionate questions—and listen.
  13. Before attempting to “fix”, ask permission.
  14. Rub her back, or paint her toes.
  15. Take him on a casual date: to get milkshakes, see a movie, grab an appetizer.
  16. Create a fun family night, maybe with a little distracting competition like a game night tournament.
  17. Allow an evening without chores, dish duty, etc.
  18. Brief your spouse before he or she comes home, to prepare your spouse to be understanding—and to unite on your approach.
  19. Ask gently to pray with them (i.e. this is not an opportunity to sermonize).
  20. Pray for them on your own—and for a godly response.
  21. When appropriate—and not in front of the frustrated child—explain to siblings that she’s having a rough day, and ask for extra kindness, space, and patience for their brother or sister.
  22. Hold your ground. This may or may not be the time to lay down the law—but it’s also not the time to lay down in front of your kid’s wrecking ball of a temper. Calmly say, “I know you’re having a day. But you can’t talk to me [or my son, or my daughter, or my spouse] like that. I respect your frustration, but you need to see this as a warning to have self-control.”
  23. Time to channel your inner [insert name of kid]: What does he need when he’s fried? Think about what energizes your kid. Pray for wisdom to love him well.
  24. Make sure you address heart issues, and not just gloss over junk. Is today the day they need to be dealt with? Ask God for discernment and generous wisdom (see James 1:5-6).
  25. Add one of her favorite dishes or desserts to dinner.
  26. Suggest a warm bubble bath.
  27. Use Scripture well (using it as a club doesn’t count…). Encourage your kid with God’s truth on a day when the world’s lies can feel overwhelming.
  28. If this is a consistently recurring event, consider preemptive measures. Is your child getting enough sleep, or having enough down time? Do they have sufficient coping mechanisms for stress? Is this a character issue, or even a health issue (low iron, poor nutrition, hormones, depression, etc.)? Is it time to speak with a professional?
  29. Play some jazzy tunes on the way home.
  30. If it won’t seem inappropriate (i.e. if you’re just trying to shift moods), relay a hilarious anecdote.
  31. Push a note under the door, or send a text: Sorry you’re having a tough one. Praying for you—and love you no matter what.