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.


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.


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?


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

For the Day After Mother’s Day

I slept in late Mother’s Day morning. Gift #1

I’m pretty sure my first grader watched me sleep the last 45 minutes, willing me awake. Ok, really it was because she tapped me every few minutes and whispered, “Are you awake?”

As soon as I opened my eyes, there she was, waiting to usher me to breakfast.

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She had climbed on the countertop to get our “You are special plate” and it was in the center of the table with a granola bar, two strawberries, one blackberry and a Spongebob gogurt.

It was delicious.

Then she presented me with a card that compared me to all her favorite animals…”Mom, you’re as kind as a bunny. You are as gentle as a chick. You are as smart as a dolphin.”

I cried.  Because WE ALL KNOW how smart dolphins are.

And don’t even get me started on the kindness of bunnies.

My older two smiled as they handed me a card that said, “Grasp the significance of today because tomorrow is back to normal.”

I loved yesterday…everyone trying to be on their best behavior, not asking too much of me. Working very hard not to argue or criticize the lame breakfast choices.

All day long, I could feel my kids trying to honor me. It wasn’t perfect, but the best gift wasn’t really what I unwrapped, it was that the people who lived with me tried. 

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And just like that: the day is over and today is back to normal. There is laundry I didn’t do yesterday because no one wanted me to work and now there is more. There are lunches to make and groceries to get. There is an argument to settle. Funny how that happens.


So, on this day after Mother’s Day remember this:

  1. You are loved, even when they don’t say it.
  2. You are appreciated, even when they don’t show it.
  3. You are not forgotten, even when they seem to forget you the day after.
  4. You are important, even when you don’t feel it.
  5. You are shaping and molding and influencing your children for eternity, even when you mess up. Especially then, because they are watching the way you serve and love them anyway.
  6. You are what your kids want—more than anything you can give them, they just want you.

Friend: “Do you know what your kids want?

Me: “Besides cell phones?”

Friend: “Your kids want you.”


“When they say ‘Mom, watch me,’ they just want you. When they pull you away from whatever you are doing, it’s because they want you.” 

I sat there, both convicted and freed by her words. They jolted my heart awake. My kids don’t need me to fix their problems, they don’t need me to provide more stuff or help them try and keep up with everyone else. I thought back to the times when I was asked to “Take a look at this,” and I was too busy to stop what I was doing. I vowed from that day forward to be present in the moment as much as I possibly could.

“God, I realize they need me, but even more, they need You. I need You because this mothering thing is awesome and hard. When I look back, I won’t remember the days. I will remember the moments. And I’m thankful for that because, believe me, there are days I don’t want to remember!”

I do want to remember the drive on the way to school this morning. The way my daughter laughed. The moment she opened up and shared her heart. The way our hearts connected. Those treasured moments make up for the rest of the day with the exaggerated eye rolls and exasperated sighs. It’s all part of this job.

Instead of asking myself “Is her room clean? Did he ace that test?” I’m asking “Did I connect with them in a way that I will remember twenty years from now? Did I listen when she called my name four times? Did our hearts meet for a brief moment? Did he know that even when I couldn’t fix the problem, I was there for him?”

At my house, rooms are still messy, floors are still sticky, and laundry still piles up. After all these years as a mother, I’ve accepted the fact that there will be good and bad days. I lose my cool, pick my battles, and say a lot of I’m sorrys. But in a few years, when my house is quiet and my children are gone, I will be able to recall the precious minutes when I stopped everything and just loved them because that’s what God wants me to do.                                                        

Excerpt from Chapter 2, Rhinestone Jesus

Moms–when the flowers wilt and the chocolate is gone, when the homemade cards are put away, don’t ever forget that your small, everyday faithfulness is changing your kids’ world.

Especially the day after Mother’s Day.

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.


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!!

What To Say to Your Kids When Their Friends Get Everything They Want

I tucked her in bed and pulled up the cozy pink comforter to her chin. “Mommy?” she whispered after prayers were said.

“Yes, honey?” I waited.

“I am sad.”

“Really, why?” trying to remember what would cause this statement.

“I’m sad I don’t have my own iTouch like my friends.”


“A lot of my friends have them and iPhones, too,” she said as she rattled off half her first grade class.

“Why do you want one?” I asked, even though I could have guessed her answer.

Because my friends have one.

what to say to your kids when their friends get everything they want

And then I went on to tell her this wasn’t right for her at seven years old. But this wasn’t about technology (although- really?)–she could have asked for a purple pony named Lucy or a giant stuffed marshmallow that all the kids must have now. The point is, we cannot give our kids stuff just because their friends have it.

And we cannot give in to giving our kids stuff because our friends are giving it to their kids.

It’s a dangerous cycle that is hard to break.

These over-the-top two year old birthday parties are more about the moms competing with their friends than the cake-covered baby having a meltdown due to exhaustion. I watched a mom at my daughter’s tumbling class tap on the glass and give her little girl a stern look and whispered through gritted teeth to “stop having fun” and then I overheard her comparing her daughter’s skills with another mother.

That little girl flipping on the mat just wanted to have fun. Her mother was the real competitor.

We cannot make our parenting choices based on what others are doing. We have to purpose our lives with intention or we will just end up being like everyone else, caught in a trap in our culture that demands we fit in.

What do we say to our kids when their friends get everything they want?

1. We don’t do what everyone else does. We will not try and keep up. Sometimes we just need to say no.

We must choose what is best for our own family today, so that when the latest fad or must-have is hot on the market, we have a plan that isn’t tossed around by the gimmes or the pressure to give in because everyone else is.

2. We remind them about perspective: Not everyone has this or (fill in the blank). It may seem like you’re the only one in your class or in your grade or on this planet who isn’t fitting in or keeping up. But if we are going to compare ourselves to others, let’s also compare ourselves to kids who live in poverty. That way we will live in the middle of those who have everything and those who have nothing.

3. We have to plan for what we say yes to. We are intentional. Saying it too often only fans the flame of entitlement.

4. We are more concerned about who you are than what you have. I love seeing my kids happy. But keeping them happy all the time isn’t my number one priority. Parenting is a marathon and we have to remember our longterm goal of raising beautiful people who love God and others.

Sure, your kid might end up with the latest technology that you require them to save their money for and you may throw that one over-the-top 13th birthday party you’ve been planning all year. There isn’t anything wrong with these things when they are a part of your plan.

Because here’s the thing: When we parent with intention and moderation and our kids end up getting something they really want or have worked for–That gift will be intentional and not just another thing to add their pile of stuff. It will be appreciated.

Because we have to balance the natural desire to give our kids the world without giving them over to it.

Motherhood is messy.

But we can say yes in the mess and live a life that is making a difference in our world and most importantly, in our home. Because families who choose to live different do.


Read more about the twelve things we are doing to try and raise our kids different from our culture in my new book:


How to Have the Best 10 Minutes of Your Day With Your Family

I get it.

I know just how hard it is to get dinner on the table and five people around it who are all going five different directions at five o’clock.

Mondays my oldest has church youth group and Tuesdays my son has after school honor band practice and Wednesdays we meet with other families for Bible Study and Thursdays, we have dental and eye appointments or –well, you get my point. Some days the window for all of us to be together is so small, it would be easier to just eat on the go or at least separately.

And other days when we have long moments to linger –that’s when the big kids irritate each other until an argument erupts and the youngest is picky and cries in her dinner and we have a big fat mess spilled all over our good intentions.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying.

Because this isn’t really about food.

It’s not about dinner at all. It’s about pursuing intentional, meaningful conversation that your children will never forget. It’s about building relationships and communicating purpose and goals. It’s about going deeper. It’s about breaking Real Bread together.

It’s about the best 10 minutes of your day.

how to have the best 10 minutes with your family

Practical Ideas to Make it Happen:

  • Plan a weekly crockpot meal so you aren’t overwhelmed once you get everyone at the table.
  • Keep a large family calendar in the kitchen and make sure at least 3 nights a week are free (even if it’s different every week.)
  • Keep a basket of Bibles near the table. Read them together.
  • Make the window of time interactive: My new ebook Saying Yes to God As a Family: 30 Lessons for the Table from Rhinestone Jesus was created just for this precious 10 minute window. Each short  lesson has a suggested Bible passage and 3 questions to promote interaction and deeper-thinking. (It’s totally free right now when you buy my book -offer expires April 30).
  • Have fun. Painting our kitchen table with chalkboard paint was one of our best decisions to keep our kids around the table longer. Printing out paper placemats for drawing will also keep little hands busy (there are ones included in my ebook). Celebrate great nights together with ice cream!
  • Keep it short. Because kids.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Some nights I want to go straight to bed after dinner because it’s THAT BAD. But we do it all over again the next day. It’s worth it. Don’t give up! Make #sayyesinmymess your mantra.

When we persevere through the mess and stick a yes in it, we discover beautiful moments together, sometimes sandwiched between really bad ones. (That’s life, huh?) If we choose to be intentional, we have the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. We uncover glorious tidbits that carry us through the hard days. We giggle and laugh. We hear about one another’s day and learn more about each other.

We often find the best 10 minutes of our day when we look for them.