Dear Neighbor:

Driving around looking at Christmas lights is one of our favorite family traditions every December.

And we love the houses with Nativities the most!

Last year, we started a new tradition. Every time we saw a house with a Nativity in the yard, we put a note on their door. My kids loved sneaking up and blessing our neighbors with an anonymous thank you. Yours might too!

It’s a great reminder to our kids to keep Jesus the reason for the season and it’s really fun trying not to get caught.

Go, ahead, try it.

dear neighbor printable

Click to print letters of your own and start a new Christmas tradition today.

Don’t Make Me Take Away the Nativity and Other Things Moms Say In December

I met Cindy at Walgreens.

She recognized me from the back cover of my book, Rhinestone Jesus.

That happens all the time.

#firsttime

We stood in front of the store and talked for 20 minutes. Two weeks later she showed up for our monthly Fair Trade Friday packing party.

Someone asked her how she met me. She said Amazon recommended my book to her. “I bought it because years before, I’d read Kristen’s first book, Don’t Make Me Come Up There!
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Dont Make Me Take Away The Nativity

Do you know what my favorite story was from your first book?” she asked me while she stuffed bags.

I was sure I had the answer: “The time our dental hygienist gave me good news and bad news: your daughter doesn’t have any cavities, but she does have head lice?” I asked. “That seems to be everyone’s favorite. We found a new dentist, by the way.”

“No,” she answered. “My favorite is the one about the black light spy toy your kids got for Christmas and you wanted to see if it really worked and you discovered pee all over the bathroom,” she laughed.

Y’all. This is called fame.

It comes at a price.

I still stand at the foot of our stairs and yell, “Don’t make me come up there.” Often.

Dont Make Me

And I’ve reached an all new low with some of things I’ve already said the first week of December.

“Don’t make me call Santa,” which gets an eye roll from all three of my kids and a reply of, “Why call Dad? He’s in the other room.” Backfire.

“I don’t care if your friend’s Elf on the Shelf poops peppermint candy, we still aren’t buying one.”

“Please don’t dip your fingers in the Advent candle wax.”

“What are you talking about? These break and bake sugar cookies are homemade.”

“I don’t care if you’re nearly grown, you’re taking a picture with Santa.” #holdme

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And the other day, I actually said, “Don’t make me take away the Nativity,” when I discovered my 7 year old dragging around the rope attached to the wisemen’s camel pretending it was a black mamba trying to eat baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus survived that attack. Unfortunately, one of the wisemen didn’t.

Motherhood is not a joke.

Especially at Christmas.

 

What are some things you’ve said so far this month?

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World:

I lay awake with an unsettled feeling. I searched my mind going over my day, picturing names and faces until I settled on one of my kid’s tucked in bed upstairs.

Yes, that’s the one. She’s keeping me up tonight.

I thought about the tough day, the words we’d flung at each other and I prayed for her. And I prayed for me.

The night before I started thinking about how expensive college is going to be and stayed up an extra hour pondering it.

Two nights earlier, I didn’t rest well because of a tension headache from overthinking all I needed to get done.

The week before that is was the flu, strain A, that put a feverish second grader on a pallet wheezing through the night and I slept with one eye open.

I keep a notepad next to my bed and it’s always got something on it in the morning. Some worry, some reminder, some whispered prayer, something to do.

This morning’s said, “Call ortho. Tell son to stop eating chips.”

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World

Every season of parenting is different and the same. We never move past the worry, the wonder, the what-the-heck-am-I-doing-wrong thoughts, or the bone-tired weary responsibility of raising these little people.

We work hard.

We love harder.

We look ahead at the weeks To Do List of grocery shopping and cleaning and baking and thawing that turkey followed by weeks of Christmas shopping and tree decorating and merry making and we are tired. And not just the sleepy kind (although yes, what a day in bed wouldn’t fix).

Exhausted.

Bone-weary, worn out.

Can you feel it? The noise, the never-ending piles of laundry, dishes and demands.

And some days I think we just need permission to leave the worry and the doubts, the fear and the unknown. To walk away. To turn it off. To say no. To take time for ourselves. To lay down the burden.

Here it is.

Here’s the permission to rest, to be quiet, to reflect. To be.

We can kill ourselves trying to create a perfect holiday season or rest in the fact that perfection is overrated.

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World

This week as we prepare for company and cooking, family and friends, let’s put ourselves on the list.

God didn’t tell us to be thankful.

He told us to give thanks.

And we know all about giving, don’t we? 

We give our kids the last cookie we were saving for ourselves.

We give them our hoodie off our own back because they are cold at the park. We shiver through.

We give to our children first. Because that’s what we do.

Giving thanks might just sound like another thing on our list. Someone else who needs something from us.

But here’s the beauty of giving him Thanks when we’re empty, tired and worn down, worried and burdened:

In exchange, He gives us rest. 

‘But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
I’m taking my own advice to rest with my family this week. We are tucked away for a quiet few days.  I’m letting go of a lot of things…
This week, take a moment to put your feet up. Trade your worry and doubt for peace and rest. Give God your exhaustion and He will renew you. “He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” Psalm 103:4
Remind yourself you’re a good mom.

Happy Thanksgiving.

What I Want My Teen Daughter To Know About What She Sees on the Internet

We gave our daughter a smart phone three days before she started high school.

She’d been asking for one since the 5th grade.

So, it was sort of a big deal for all of us.

We said no about 243,000 times during those years. We had our reasons.

Sometimes it’s fun to get to say yes.

She eagerly signed the contract we presented and agreed to our restrictions.

For the last three months, we’ve navigated this new season with our teenaged daughter. We’ve reminded her to plug in her phone in the kitchen by 9pm. We’ve asked her not to walk and text, to be present in conversation and not on her phone all the time in the car. We’ve not apologized for the parental restrictions that slow down her phone. As we’ve monitored her texts (yes, all of them), we’ve been pleased that she’s honored God, us and herself. We’ve exchanged payment for her bill for babysitting her little sister so we can take regular date nights. We asked her not to pin hair tutorials during geometry class anymore and we’ve reminded her to call friends instead of text entire conversations. We said no to Facebook, but yes to Instagram. Yes to Pinterest, no to Snapchat.

What I want my daughter to know about what she sees on the Internet

We monitor all of it.

It’s been a whole new world and a lot of work. We’ve had some tension and tears and taken the time to talk it out. Allowing our daughter to have Internet access and some social media has made me really glad we waited until now and it’s really made me question allowing it all.

But this is her world and rather than resist it, we’ve chosen to journey it with her. Every family needs to carefully consider the consequences of saying yes and no. Passive parenting and technology don’t mix well. We know our daughter will see good and be exposed to bad and we want to help her navigate her way through both.

Because there are things on the Internet I don’t want my daughter to see.

What I Want My Daughter to Know About What She Sees on the Internet

I don’t want her to know about the millions of pornographic images that degrade and demean women. I don’t want her to know they exist because people want to see them.

I don’t want her to count her worth based on how many Instagram likes she gets or how friends rank her occasional selfies. I don’t want her to feel defeated because she doesn’t measure up on Pinterest.

I don’t want my daughter to see viral nude pictures of Kim Kardashian and know that some women choose to devalue themselves for money and attention.

I don’t want my daughter to see herself as the Internet sees women.

I want her to see the beauty I have seen on the Internet.

I want her to see the women who help those in need.

I want her to see the people who use it to change the world.

I want her pin pictures of fair trade finds and capture selfies of her high school Bible club. I want her to keep tweeting about the Compassion kids we sponsor and share Scripture on her feeds.

I want to her to know that her worth is not based on followers, fans or friends. I want her to believe her beauty is not defined by pins.

But she won’t learn this on the Internet.

Culture reminds our girls regularly they have to work harder, try faster, do more, to get ahead. Media values beauty over brains.Whether or not you’ve given your daughter access to the Internet and social media, don’t doubt for a minute that it’s influencing her. Ask your 5 year old what a selfie is and see what she says.

My daughter doesn’t really want me in her online world. But that’s not enough reason for me to stay out of it. I allowed it and as far as I’m concerned, it’s my job to be involved.

She needs to know this about what she sees on the Internet:

  • She is worth more than the perfect selfie.
  • She is beautiful with or without a thigh gap.
  • She is enough, with or without the perfect winter Pinterest wardrobe.
  • She isn’t valued by shares or what others say about her.
  • She is valued because she is valuable.
  • She is lovely exactly like God created her.

And she doesn’t need a filter to prove it.

When we allow our daughters online, we are essentially giving them the choice to believe what they see or say what they believe. Some days it’s not an easy or clear choice.

And that’s why they have us.

5 Things That Don’t Matter (In Parenting) As Much As We Think They Do

A friend of mine who is about to have her first baby asked me the other day, “So, what do you think I really need as a new parent?”

“Not as much as the baby aisles at Target will tell you,” I said as we talked about the overwhelming amount of stuff available for new moms and babies.

I have met moms from all over the world and I started thinking about how simple parenting is in other countries. The babies we help in Kenya don’t use pacifiers, swaddle blankets, breast pumps, or baby gear. They have a blanket, some cloth diapers and a few changes of clothes and their moms’ biggest worries for the future include having enough food and paying school fees. The refugee mothers I know don’t stress about birthday parties or the latest and greatest gadgets, they worry about providing diapers.

It’s always good to get a dose of perspective. It’s far too easy to compare ourselves to the people around us and think we’re the only ones not giving our kids everything. It’s good to remember most of the world just wants to give their kids something.

I think we’ve made parenting more complex for the sake of convenience and comfort. And it’s not all bad. Some things do make parenting easier and I’m grateful. But we spend a lot of time and money in the moment on things that don’t really matter longterm. I’m as guilty as anyone. I once bought a machine to vibrate my colicky baby’s bed and returned it. Total scam.

It’s good to step back and evaluate what’s sucking a lot of our time and resources. Here are 5 things that don’t matter in parenting as much we think they do:

5 things that dont matter as much as we think they do

 

  1. Things that plug in | Oh, we are a technology culture, aren’t we? We could spend ourselves into the ground trying to keep up with all the latest technology, hottest gaming systems, apps and electronic must-haves. It scares me to think about how all this screen time will effect the next generation. Technology is a part of our culture and it adds a lot to our lives, but this constant thirst to acquire the latest item will never be quenched.  Because the next big thing is always around the corner. It won’t kill our kids (or us) to use what they have until it breaks or just live without. We have a rule in our house that you have to wait until high school for a smart phone. Some days this is challenging for my kids, but it’s what we’ve set as our standard. And when we set guidelines, they are easier to follow. Teaching our kids to be content starts with being grateful for what you have, not waiting and wanting what’s around the corner.
  2. Things that are found on Pinterest | There were birthday parties and recipes and toy organization ideas before Pinterest, they just weren’t as pretty, and pin-able, right?  I’m all for good ideas (and I’ve found plenty online), but I think Pinterest can make us want to focus on our parenting imperfections…Recently, I talked to a new mom who was exhausted from spending like 20- something hours planning her first child’s first birthday party–which ended up being cancelled due to a nasty case of Roseola. She admitted to succumbing to the online pressure for a photo shoot, a wardrobe monogrammed with “first birthday” and a lavish party. I did some pretty great parties when my kids were little. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve just learned that it’s not as big as deal as I once thought, especially to my kids.
  3. Things that other people have | This is a hard one, isn’t it? It’s difficult enough as adults to see someone showing off the latest and greatest and not feel a pang of the “gotta-have-its.” Kids are no different. But if we give them what their peers have –for this reason alone–we are teaching them that stuff matters most. We are affirming that in order to fit in or be liked it requires us to be like everyone else. In the long run, the fads will fade-they always do. My youngest struggles with this right now and we are trying to teach her that we won’t buy things to fit in or feel accepted, because in the long run, it will hurt more than help.
  4. Things that make us feel like a better parent | Let’s face it, getting our toddler into the “best” preschool or our 8 year old son onto the “right” football team, is more for us than our kids. Children don’t really care about prestige or influence. And it can be time-consuming and exhausting for parents living up to the pressure to do everything right all the time. I used think I had to help my kids find their “thing” early on. Life is teaching me that God has a plan for my kids. I can do my part and He will do the rest. Our kids learn through success and failure and they need both to be well-rounded. It’s good to slow down and ask ourselves  Am I working on something that will matter in a couple of years?
  5. Things | With Christmas around the corner, kids are already being bombarded with the hottest new toys and gadgets of the season. We just have to visit a Thrift store to see how long some of those trendy items last. Kids probably won’t remember their “big” Christmas gift or birthday toys next year. We usually give our kids 3-4 gifts. This year, one or two of them will be an experience and not another “thing.”  Because will remember the most important things, which aren’t things at all.

As a parent, I am constantly reevaluating what they need and what I should give them and I’m learning in order to really give our kids everything, sometimes it’s good to step back and realize giving them less is giving them more.