Building A Strong Family That Lasts

What started out as a conversation about putting up a swing set in the backyard turned into a conversation about building something.

There was talk of power tools and large pieces of wood. I’m pretty sure I even heard a grunt or too.

It seemed like the perfect project for father and son to start when grandpa came to town.

Three generations. Wood. Power tools.

My mother-in-law and I watched from the window as our men worked on the “treehouse” also known as the 8th wonder of the world. We tried not to laugh as they measured and drew diagrams and leveled the ground and measured again… all day long.

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They were building something to last.

Grandpa left and every other night or so, my two boys went and worked a bit on the treehouse. As I watched father and son, I could see they were building much more than something in the trees. They were making memories, sharing stories and building a relationship that would last through the storms of life. Something sturdy.

Just like Grandpa did with his son, I’m watching my husband do it with ours. Teaching and guiding.

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Since the family is God’s means to tell His story, our goal is to build a strong family who lives with intention and isn’t sucked into doing what everyone else is doing just because it’s a cultural norm. We spend quality time together. We keep important things important and we try not to chase what doesn’t matter.

Here are 12 other things we are trying to do to strengthen our family :

1. We have a family mission statement.

2. We resist spending money we don’t have. Kids watch you even if you don’t realize it. We try to be an example of someone who has good spending habits. And if we should overspend, it’s important to attack the debt immediately because debt becomes an encumbrance.

3. We tell our kids no if what they are asking for or wanting to do isn’t right for our family. We strive to be intentional with our choices.

4. We expect our kids to work. Hard work creates a sense of pride and ownership. It encourages kids to work for what they want. Don’t just buy them everything. Keep a job jar in the kitchen and reward their effort.

 5. We decipher between needs and wants. There’s a lot of pressure as parents to give our kids the best of everything but it’s important to determine what your kids really need. Never skimp on what God says they need unconditional love and grace. Laugh every day and be grateful.

 6. We make family meals a priority.

 7. We don’t overschedule our kids. It’s not uncommon to hear moms in my community talk about shuttling their kids around for hours every day after school. I think kids need unscheduled time at home. We limit activities outside the home.

  8. We encourage alternative choices to what others are doing.- Challenge your kids to creatively express themselves and think outside of the box. One example that I loved was a group of kids giving the $100 to charity that they would have spent on a homecoming football mum. They let everyone know by wearing t-shirts that said so. There’s nothing wrong with a mum or splurging for a special occasion but the average family spends a thousand dollars on prom. I think money can be spent more wisely.

 9. We limit screen time (video games, computer, and TV). There are different ways to do this: You can set a certain time limit for each day, make it weekends only, or have a “no technology day” once or twice a week—whatever works for you. At our house, we limit the kids to thirty minutes of individual screen time a day. We try hard to enforce this during school and are more lenient in the summer. Last year, we started screen-free Sundays. When we told our kids, they flipped out. Their reaction reinforced exactly why we needed to do it. The key is consistency. Before long, we noticed our kids expected it. But we aren’t legalistic about it. Some of our best memories are when we break our own rules and pile on our bed and watch a movie together on a Sunday afternoon.

10. We expect more from our kids than culture demands. Society says kids need stuff and all teens are lazy. We read the book Do Hard Things as a family. The authors, Alex and Brett Harris, challenge kids to live above what the world expects of them.

11. We let our kids make their own mistakes and see ours. We don’t fix everything. It’s important to teach children responsibility by letting them fail sometimes. If we always rush to bail them out of problems and mistakes, they will continue to make them.

12. We splurge. It’s fun to surprise the kids every once in a while by breaking one of the rules.

 Excerpt from Chapter 8, Rhinestone Jesus

Last weekend, my guys went on a father son retreat in the woods. They returned dirty and tired, mosquito-bitten and sunburned.

I didn’t hear much about the trip, but this framed prayer to God that they wrote together, turned up a couple of days ago on the counter.

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I cried as I read it because building a life and legacy together is a beautiful thing.

Oh, and about that treehouse?

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My mother-in-law was right. It is the 8th wonder of the world.


The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Yourself This Mother’s Day

I’m no parenting expert, but one time my child did say that I was the best mother she ever had.

So, there’s that.

I love being a mom. At the end of the day–no matter how many mismatched socks are in the laundry pile or how dirty the van is or how many kernels of corn are under the kitchen table, I am glad I said yes to motherhood.

But it’s no surprise that motherhood is hard.

Hard like crying yourself to sleep. Hard like second-guessing every decision. Hard like someone else’s bodily fluids on your person. Difficult mothering days are like a suckerpunch in the gut. And like a mood swing gone wild, the next day is beautiful and tender it takes your breath away and makes you want to do it all over again. And again.

Moms do it all.

We fish the icky things out of the dark scary disposal.

We sniff diapers.

We clean and trim other people’s finger and toenails.

We give up the other half of our bagel so our child can have a second breakfast.

We smell socks to determine if they are clean or not.

We wait for hours and hours and hours in car lines, doctors offices, at dental appointments, practices, rehearsals and recitals.

We clean up messes we don’t make.

We give up our bodies, our beds, our figures, our very lives for other people.

We sacrifice something we really want for something our kids really need.

We say yes.

And then we say yes some more.

We say yes without getting anything in return.

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Because that’s what moms do.

And the most important thing you can for a mom in your life this Mother’s Day?

The most important thing you can do for yourself this Mother’s Day: remind mom (even if she’s you) that what you do is important. The unseen, unknown hard work of motherhood is changing your kids’ world.

Even if no one recognizes it. It matters.

Small service may feel small, but size doesn’t matter. What you do matters. It has long-lasting, eternal significance.

And there isn’t anyone else in the world who needs to hear this more: Mom, your small daily acts of service, your mundane–it matters so much more than you think it does.

Because when we embrace our yes–as messy and undervalued as it may seem some days it gives us the passion to keep saying yes every day.

It reminds us why we love being a mom:

We love that our teen daughter wants to borrow our clothes (Keep telling yourself it’s the highest compliment).

We love it when their feet are no longer the same size as ours though. Whew.

We love that our son who will be 12 next week, still grabs our hand when we are walking together.

We love that he mumbles sorry when he drops it quickly-just in case anyone’s looking.

We love that our baby still acts like our baby. But not to be confused with acting babyish. Some things are not meant to be loved.

We love the handmade cards and the small collection of homemade pottery.

We love the noisy car filled with arguing, fighting kids (everywhere we go). Ok. we don’t really love this.

We love the hope that one day our kids will sleep in on Saturdays (This is also when you know that you have ARRIVED).

We love that our children don’t hold grudges and are easy forgivers.

We love that no matter how hard of a day it’s been–no matter how much we yell or mess up, our kids still want us.

On this messy parenting road, we can always find something good to be thankful for. No matter what. Always.

Because deep down, we know one day there won’t be anyone asking to borrow our clothes, reaching for our hand, making us handmade cards, filling our car, our home, our lives with noise, leaving a trail of mess and mayhem in their wake.

We love that even though we don’t love every minute, every phase, every hard mothering day that leaves us weary and wondering if we are doing it right–we love that God chose us to mother our kids.

And that makes even the hard moments, so good.

 

 

[Click to download the above 5x7 Mother's Day Printable]

And you might want to click over to the SUPER FUN contest I have going on at my FB page!!


4 Things Every Home Needs

“But Mom, I need that. I really nnneeeedd it.”

Do these words sound familiar?

I’ve been trying to help my kids distinguish between needs and wants for a long time. Some days in parenting we take two steps forward and one step back. Just last week, one of my kids stomped off in the store because I wouldn’t buy a new product they’d seen advertised.

I feel so defeated when entitlement rears its ugly head in my family.

I am more disappointed when I see it in myself.

But we live in a society that gets what we want when we want it. And if we can’t afford it, we can put it on a credit card. And if parents don’t let kids have it, research proves that after the 9th time of asking, we end up giving in to our kids. Because whining.

This mentality has not only imprisoned countless families in debt, it’s also trickled down to our kids, creating a spoiled culture.

We have a hard time distinguishing wants from needs. And we often place something that’s wanted in front of something that’s needed due to guilt. In our home, we talk budget and spending and saving. We try to figure out the difference between needs and wants. We don’t always get it right. But the more we expose this way of thinking, we see just how entitled we are.

We need food, we don’t need fruit smoothies from Smoothie King. We may want one and get one occasionally, but this isn’t a need. Deciphering the difference is important. And our kids are watching how we juggle the two.

I love giving my kids what they want. It’s one of the joys of parenting. But it’s not healthy for them to receive everything they want.

Because it only causes them to want more.

When we see a shift and our kids began to feel like we owe them more, we are on unstable ground.

4 things every home needs

Do you know what our homes really need besides obvious love and nurturing? It’s not necessarily more square footage or a newer car or certain brands and it really has nothing at all to do with stuff or money.

Here are 4 things we can add to our home for intentional living:

1. Homes Need Purpose: Of course,we all have the main purpose of loving one another and growing together to be better people. But when we dig deeper, I believe God has a specific purpose for every single family. He created a family in the beginning of time to bring Himself glory and He used a family to usher His Son into the world. Your family of freckled redheaded daughters or blonde-headed sons or lovely ebony-skin tones has a unique purpose that is as special as you are. He has placed you on your street, in your town, for a specific purpose. Who will your family touch that my family will never meet? We were made for more than just getting by. We were made for more than just the American Dream. We were made to leave an impact and we can only do this if we live intentionally with purpose. (Read more about parenting with purpose and writing a family mission statement in Rhinestone Jesus).

2. Families Need Time Together: I think this is why I’m such a fan of consistent dinners together. Everything is pulling your family away from each other and the older kids get, the harder it is to find time together. Dinner pulls us back to the table, to laughter and conversation and yes, spilled milk and a fair share of tears over it. Think back to your best most favorite childhood memories…they probably don’t center around toys or stuff. They are probably long road trips or camping in a tent or crazy family moments. Families were made to live and do life together. Because it’s in those moments where we laugh and talk and really love, that we grow. We argue and learn how to really get along with others. We hurt each other’s feelings and we learn how to empathize with others. We clean up each other’s messes and learn how to help others. We drive each other crazy because that’s what families do and we learn that life is messy. Don’t let busyness get in the way of time together.

3. Kids Need a Work Ethic: One of the best things we can offer our kids is the chance to work hard. Sounds fun, eh? A couple of weeks ago we planted a garden and then had a truck load of mulch dumped in our driveway. I’m not going to lie, I was more than tempted to ask the yard guys at my neighbor’s house how much it would cost for them to spread the 400 wheelbarrows so we didn’t have to. (I’m typing with a huge blister right now). But my husband and I wanted our kids to sweat a little, we wanted them to see the before and after of hard work. We wanted to spend the day unplugged, together, working hard, laughing some, chasing each other with manure and then having a loud meltdown in the yard because of it (that really wasn’t a part of my original vision, just a bonus). It’s part of God’s plan for us to work hard and in our culture of “I will pay to have it all done for me” what are we teaching our kids?

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4. We All Need Perspective: In order to get true perspective, we have to look up from our own busy lives and look out into the world–down the street or across the ocean. It’s so easy to stay in our safe, comfortable bubble, even when it’s not easy. But something really powerful and transforming happens when we focus as a family on other people: we get a new perspective. Sometimes we discover we aren’t alone in our struggles. Sometimes we realize we can help other people in their struggles.  But when we open our eyes to others, we always feel gratitude. Thankfulness is the gift that perspective gives us. And every family needs that.

So, while a whole host of wants may fill our Pinterest screens and our To Do Lists and our hearts, let’s shift our focus to some things we need that money can’t buy.


The Two Questions Every Christian Must Ask Themselves

A friend of mine told me about a group of women, mothers with children, who were living in absolute poverty.

Their babies didn’t have diapers. Their kids didn’t have shoes. Their homes didn’t have furniture. Their pantries didn’t have food.

I’ve met women just like them, stood on their dirt floors and been offered the last plate of food in their house.

But these mothers in this story didn’t live across the ocean, on the other side of the globe.

They live 49 miles from my front door.

They are refugees—removed from Bhutan, their country of birth, because of genocide against their race and placed in a refugee camp in Nepal, where they survived for 15 years, until more recently, when the United Nations relocated thousands of people again, to their new home in America.

They are my neighbors.

But many of these refugees have never been more than a mile away from the apartment complex that is now home. Once aid from the U.S. ended after 90 days, they found themselves in a foreign country, unable to communicate, trying to navigate a much different culture, living a minimum-wage existence where diapers and toilet paper, shampoo and soap, are a luxury they cannot afford. They didn’t know there was a food bank within walking distance. But how would they manage toddlers and babies without a stroller or cart for food and who would help them fill out the paperwork to take what was needed?

As I listened to the story, I felt moved with compassion. Because this is my heart, my calling: To empower mothers with opportunity—for some it’s an opportunity to give, for others it’s opportunity to receive. I don’t have all the answers, but I know we can help each other.

I couldn’t help but wonder, How could I help? I immediately told myself, I’m doing enough. What could I possibly do? How much more could I add to my already full plate? We give a lot, how much more can we give?

But then I realized I was asking the wrong questions.

 2 Questions Every Christian in America Needs to Ask Themselves

 

Go ahead. Ask yourself. It’s not an accident. It’s not luck of draw. There is a purpose. You have a purpose for living here and not there. What do you think it is?

I don’t think it’s a mathematical mistake that one-third of the world is rich enough to ease the burden of the other two-thirds who are desperately poor, living on less than $1 a day. It’s not a curious coincidence that we are already sitting on the answer.

It’s something we teach our children from the cradle. It’s called sharing. We have more than enough, enough to share. It sounds like a match made in Heaven, huh? Like maybe it was God’s plan all along to love others, and instead of accumulating the American Dream, there’s the chance to give some of it away.

And I believe when God asks us what we did with our talents, our resources, our land-of-the-free, home-of-the-brave opportunity, we will be accountable for our answer.

Yes, we give already. But we have been given so much. We can give more, share more, do more. Not to prove we are good people or need a bigger list of good works. We do it because it’s our purpose to glorify God. We do it because He first loved us and we love others. We do it because we have it to give. We do it because if we were reusing disposable diapers, we would want someone to share with us.

We do it because our houses and cars and pins on Pinterest are temporary.

Our stuff will not last, but people will.

When I asked myself these hard questions, I knew immediately what my answer had to be.

I started sharing this story with my friends and church community, many had the same answer. And with a pile of yeses, answers starting coming in. Moms started pulling out clothes and shoes, their excess to share. Dads moved furniture into garages to give away. Women began stockpiling diapers. Volunteers are offering ESL classes, a website is being built and a group of moms have started teaching knitting.

Once a week, for as long as I’m able, I’ll be spending the day 49 miles from home,with my neighbors. 

Is there a right answer to those hard questions? I don’t know.

But my family is starting by looking at what we have, thanking God for it and then sharing it with someone else.

I hope you will too.

Neighbors are a great place to start.


A Simple Way to Teach Family a Lesson About Complaining Less

I handed everyone at the table a rubber band and told them to put it around their wrists like a bracelet.

We slipped it on as we finished dinner and I read these instructions from our dinner time devotional:  Every time you grumble or complain, snap your rubber band. 

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The day before we memorized John 6:43, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.”

Guess who got the first “pop?”

My kids laughed as the first complaint rolled off my tongue just minutes after reading our assignment. I wasn’t even trying to show them an example of what not to do. I didn’t even know I was going to grumble about cleaning up our dinner mess. Because sometimes complaining is just our second nature.

Ouch.

I rubbed my wrist and watched my words.

We all did. Our 24 hour experiment proved to leave our wrists a little tender and our tongues a little more controlled.

We were listening for the bemoaning and bellyaching. We pointed out when we heard each other complain.

The most important thing this experiment did? It made us think before we spoke. It made us more aware.

Grumbling comes too easy. And when we try not to do it, we see how often we whine or complain–about each other, about our situations, about what we have and what we don’t.

When we really get a good look at what’s underneath all those negative words, we find ingratitude.

Because let’s face it:  we probably all can find something to gripe about. But when we think before we speak, we can always find something to be thankful for.

the happiest people

Try this simple lesson today (and if rubber bands won’t work for you, keep tally marks on the kitchen calendar or cheerios around a yarn bracelet and break one off with every complaint).

 Here’s what a lesson in complaining less does for all of us:

1. It forces us to admit how often we grumble or whine or speak negatively about ourselves or others

2. It causes us to think before we speak

3. It gives us the opportunity to choose gratitude over grumbling.

And while this lesson won’t necessarily rid our homes of complaining (ask me how I know), it will certainly give us something to (think) and talk about.