Well, hello there! Remember us?
This week we give a few life updates, plus one-ply toilet paper, a new season of parenting, and some thoughts about discouragement. Thanks for listening!
This morning I opened the door to my shower and turned the hot water all the way up. I stood there in my fuzzy robe, bleary-eyed and weary before the day had even really started and sighed deeply, wishing that I could go back to bed for a couple of hours. Then something undeniably cheery caught my eye from the corner of the steamy shower. It was three tiny bright yellow rubber ducks. Sawyer came across these ducks at some point in the past month or so, and since then every night when he takes a shower, he places them in some funny spot for me to find the next morning. Today they were perched atop three different bottles of soap and shampoo, facing each other as if they were conducting a board meeting. When I saw them I had to giggle a little bit. And wasn’t that Sawyer’s goal? To amuse me in some way? To brighten my morning with a cheerful little surprise?
Kids get the bad reputation of being completely self-focused. We tend to think of them as little creatures who think only of themselves and how they are affected by things. And there is no doubt that children do have the luxury of being a little bit self-centered at times. But as parents we should never make the mistake of believing that our kids don’t think about us. Actually, our children are constantly thinking about us, about how we react to things. About how we feel and what will make us happy or sad. Our kids are probably more in tune with our moods and wants and needs more than most people in our lives. And, as Sawyer’s ducks testify in their board meeting, our kids are often seeking ways to get our attention, meet our approval, or get a reaction from us.
As Christian parents, we should be especially aware of this way that our kids are tuned in to our actions and feelings. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that our kids aren’t affected when we let our anger rule us. Or when we say something hurtful that can’t be unsaid. We can’t lull ourselves into believing that our kids don’t notice what we watch and listen to, what we say to our spouse or our friend, what we are posting on social media or how we react to those who are different from us. In many ways, my children are experts in who I am as a person. They know my favorite candy, which songs I’m most likely to belt out in the car, which colors I try to avoid because of my red hair. What would ever make me think that anything that I do escapes their notice? The truth is that every move I make informs them about who I am and what a Christian should be like, and they are watching me, always, to see what I will show them about following Christ.
It’s a terribly convicting thought because I know I am such a flawed example to them. Yet, I am an example nonetheless, and at this stage in their lives I am probably their most important example, apart from their dad. Sawyer’s ducks were a reminder to me: he is thinking about me. He cares how I interact with him and how I respond to him, both in fun and serious situations. He is watching me, considering me, wondering about me, and learning from me. Instead of assuming that our children are in their own world, wrapped up in kid things, we should stop and think about the many ways that they are showing us how perceptive they are of our attitudes and actions, and how often they are reaching out in their own ways for connection with us.
In all of this my prayer is that my own selfishness will be replaced by godliness. That when my kids watch me live this life, when they think about me and try to gauge my reactions, when they wonder how I feel or what I am thinking, that they will settle into a peaceful confidence. Their mother will not be perfect. But I pray they will see me seeking Christ and leaning on Him in the best times and the worst times.
With delight, Sawyer asked me if I liked the ducks. He smiled at me, and I wondered how much longer I will have the honor of being regularly on his mind. I reached out for a hug, and we grinned together about the three little ducks, discussing where they might turn up next. Just one flawed mother and her sweet son, learning each other and relying on the love of Christ when our own love proves imperfect. Tomorrow morning when I shuffle into my bathroom with a yawn, I expect I will again be surprised by three little yellow ducks. Maybe they will be standing on their heads. Maybe they will be marching up stairs made of shampoo bottles. I will smile in spite of the early hour because those little ducks will remind me once again that I sometimes occupy the thoughts of three children who have been entrusted to my care and discipleship. God’s mercies are new every morning, and so is the opportunity to show my kids what an authentic Christian life really looks like. They don’t need perfection. But they do need a Savior. And I am the mother who can point them to Him. What an honor. What a Savior.
I could tell from across the parking lot that she was upset. Her posture was slumped. Her head was down. She barely glanced up when I pulled the car up next to the curb–she just slowly walked to the passenger’s side and slid into the seat. No greeting departed from her trembling lips as the tears threatened to spill onto her cheeks. What’s wrong? I asked, expecting to hear about the latest girl drama.
But this was different. She began telling me the story of a mistake she had made. One little bad choice that was not such a huge deal, yet surprised me all the same. The tale poured out of her while her tears flowed faster, and I couldn’t even be upset with her because I know this feeling all too well–the feeling of deep conviction over sin. The heaviness of regret sitting on your chest like an anvil.
In my younger years, I might have put on a big show of disappointment. I might have spent the next thirty minutes lecturing her. I might have piled on her already troubled conscience. It is embarrassing, isn’t it, when your kids make mistakes? In some way it hurts your own pride when you realize once again that your child isn’t perfect, and many times in the past, I have shown my pride by thinking of myself and how her behavior reflects on me more than I thought about her and her spiritual state.
When you are parent, your faith must be wide and deep enough for the whole family to dive in. If you aren’t growing, if you aren’t gaining more perspective about how far you are from the holiness of God, if you aren’t spending time in His word where you learn again and again how much mercy and grace that it took to save you from yourself, then how will your faith ever be big enough for you to look on a child with grace instead of gall? With understanding instead of despair? How will you ever get past the position of just wanting your child to make you look good as a parent?
When parents grow in faith, children benefit. It doesn’t mean an end to punishments or consequences. It doesn’t mean letting kids run wild. It means seeing each imperfection in our children as fertile ground for growing spiritual truth. It means that even when we are shocked by some behavior that we never saw coming, we rely on the Lord for counsel instead of defaulting to our pride. And then we, as imperfect parents, can respond as disciple-makers instead of prideful dictators.
I sat there in the car, looking at my daughter’s tear-stained face, knowing that she will have many experiences like this in her lifetime. I patted her arm as we drove away and I wondered if she feels like there is room in my faith for her precious, imperfect self. She smiled wearily at me, and I loved her more deeply than ever.
It’s become an annual tradition to compile a list of the most popular posts from my blog in the past year. It’s always interesting to see which posts get passed around the internet. I hope these posts were helpful to readers, made some people think, and most importantly, glorified Jesus. Thanks so much for reading and for sharing my stuff!
I’ll also be doing a post of my personal favorite posts of the year. Watch for that in the next few days!
There is a Better Way to Experience Sexuality, and Christian Parents Need to Be Talking About It
This post was a reaction to a vile Teen Vogue article that encourages teens to try anal sex. The line in the article that really got me? “There is no wrong way to experience sexuality, and no way is better than any other.” Read on to see what I believe Christian parents MUST do in these times.
Setting the Tone in Your Home
The story of the day I realized that I was setting the wrong tone in our family.
Let Your Pastor’s Wife Be Herself
This one struck a chord with many of you, which tells me that there are some unrealistic expectations being put on some pastor’s wives out there. One thing our church has taught me is the importance of allowing your pastor’s wife to do ministry in the ways that best suit her gifts and personality.
For the Ordinary Women
When a little cashier at the dollar store reminded me that ordinary women are beautiful, too.
Why We Should All Work in the Church Nursery
I am so thankful for the men and women who have rocked my babies through the years. Here’s why we all need to be a part of what’s happening in the nursery.
The God of the Hurricane
2017 was a rough year for many in Texas. This post tells one of the most heart-breaking stories that emerged from Hurricane Harvey. It also drops some truth about the mighty God that we serve.
When Women March in the Wrong Direction
This post was inspired by the women’s march back in January. There are so many things that baffle me about modern feminism. Here are just a couple of things that I don’t get about it.
What Your Kids Really Need is Your Authentic Christian Life
All at once a relief and a challenge: what your kids really need from you.
A Letter to a Church Member (or, A Letter to Myself)
The church doesn’t exist to give you a good self-image; it exists to give you a true self-image.
Sex Should Be Spiritual
On kicking the world out of your bedroom.
Dads, Be Tender with Your Children
My dad has taught me a lot about being a Christian and being a parent. Here’s one example.
One Hour in a Restaurant Doesn’t Make a Good Marriage
A post about the ever-popular and always elusive “date night,” and why it shouldn’t be shoved at the top of our priority lists in marriage.
I watched her today as she power walked beside her daddy, pumping her legs as fast as they would go just to keep up with his wide, manly stride. Emerald is growing long and lanky in her fifth year of life. Suddenly she seems more girlish than baby-ish, but still she takes three steps for every one of Chad’s.
We went to Six Flags, and I stood aside this time and watched as she rode the swings with her big sister. Around and around they went, one girl growing into a woman, and one baby growing into a girl, both of them swinging their legs as if they didn’t have a single care in this big, broken, beautiful world. Every time their swing came back around to where I was standing, Emerald reached out her little hand and waved. She didn’t just wave at me once or twice. Every single time I was in sight again, she searched for me and waved enthusiastically.
Motherhood is a long road with so many starts and stops, so many thrills and triumphs and heartaches and frustrations. It will wear you down and wear you out and it will wear you like last year’s too small swimsuit. Motherhood bears all and knows all and tells all.
But, please little mamas, don’t ever take for granted that small window in your long life when you are the sun of your child’s universe. Don’t let the weariness cause you to miss how she lights up when she sees your face. Don’t let the weight of it keep you from recognizing the relief that he feels when you turn the corner and there you are–the center of everything.
I am in no hurry to see this phase go. It is glorious and pain-staking and life-giving to be loved and cherished and adored by a child. Don’t miss it.
If you have kids of most any age, chances are that today they felt all the feels. And, if you are a mama of said children of any age, then I’m betting that today you, too, felt all the feels.
I’m not really sure where that term came from, but it pretty much sums up society these days. We feel everything deeply, and feelings are considered the ultimate barometer for life. There’s no doubt that this feelings frenzy has affected our parenting.
We have been taught to pay special attention to our kids’ feelings and to validate them as much as we can. I’m not saying this is a terrible practice. I mean, it’s never bad to consider someone’s feelings. But can I say with all honesty that about 85% of a kid’s feelings about things are irrelevant? Kids feel 147 different ways before lunchtime. They get upset if their graham cracker is broken. They cry like their heart is broken because a dog licked their elbow. Worse than that, they will kick and scream like you’re murdering them because you’re trying to buckle them into a carseat or keep them from grabbing a hot burner or stop them from running into the street. If we pay attention to every feeling that a kid has, we will be paralyzed and completely ineffective as parents.
The truth is that God gave kids parents because they don’t have enough sense to raise themselves. So, why in the world do we give their feelings so much power in our homes? Stop the insanity, y’all. You are the parent. You know what is best. And, the best isn’t staying up until midnight (even if your preschooler is crushed that you are enforcing a bedtime). The best isn’t letting your kids yell at you (even if you are glad they know how to “express themselves”). The best isn’t letting children decide if they “feel” like going to church or not (even if they are heart-broken that they can’t stay home in their pjs).
I’m being tough on you. I know. But there’s something else that you must remember, dear reader. It isn’t just the kids who try to make too much of their feelings. We do the same thing.
We think so much about how we feel about things that we lose all sense of reality. The self-help masters and the self-esteem gurus have told us again and again that our feelings matter. That we should follow our heart, trust our gut, that we can’t help how we feel, that every feeling is valid. That’s nonsense. Most of our feelings are 100% invalid. Most are just ways that our hearts lie to us. Most are just ways that we are filled with selfishness and pride and rebellion and sin. Yes, feelings can be sinful. And very many feelings are.
Our feelings say we deserve glory. That we know better than God. That what we want is more important that what God wants. Our feelings lead us astray again and again, and they will do the same to our children, yet we continue to bow down at the altar of the feels as if it’s the only way to be a human being.
But, what if we lived in a different way? What if we parented in a different way? What if we decided that feelings were going to have very little bearing on how we make decisions? What if we prayed that God would change our feelings and desires to make them godly? To make us want what he wants? To help us recognize when our feelings are opposed to his ways and his will? What if we decided in our families that all the feels were going to take a backseat to the reasoning, the prayer, the God following, the God honoring?
Imagine how it would change our families. How it would change us.
Feelings aren’t the most important thing. They were never meant to be. Don’t teach your children otherwise by trying to validate unreasonable feelings, and don’t let the way you feel rule the way you live your life. Feelings come and feelings go. But, the truth is always true. Make sure that you’re living in the reality of God’s truth, and not in a haze of your family’s feelings. Clarity comes when you reject lying feelings and cling to what you know is real.
Your kids need to breathe the clean air of reason and sense, and so do you. Don’t live in a foggy world of finicky feelings. God’s way is narrow, but it is clear: your heart will lie to you over and over again. Don’t follow it. Don’t trust your gut. Trust in the name of the Lord your God alone, and take your cues from His word, not how you feel about things. Teach your kids to do the same. Then the next time someone gives you the sage advice that you should follow your heart, you’ll be able to look at them with all sincerity when you say, I don’t feel like it.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12
I’m at the end of another blogging year. It never fails to surprise me which posts are the most widely read each year, but it’s fun to go back and see what y’all were into! This year it looks like marriage and raising kids were on your mind. An interesting thing about blogging is that MY favorite writings don’t always line up with the ones that get passed around a lot, so I’ll do another post soon that features some of my favorite things that I managed to get written this year, in between all of the craziness of raising a family.
Thanks so much for your encouragement this year. I love reading your comments and seeing you share posts with your friends.
2017 is going to be an interesting year. I’m turning (gulp) 40! And, my youngest is starting kindergarten! I’m excited about a new phase of life, and I can’t wait to see how God will work. He always surprises me, and He never, ever disappoints.
I hope you enjoy this look back at the posts you shared the most in 2016.
I hope you have benefited by reading some of these in 2016. I’ll be back soon with a list of my personal favorite posts of this year!
My ten year old daughter was surveying the crowd at a recent hometown football game. She watches football games the way I do: she doesn’t watch them. She looks for people she knows. She watches the cheerleaders. She draws. She chats with friends. After awhile she spotted a group of slightly older girls and asked if she could go say hello. I turned around to look at the little crowd of sweet girls and I noticed that they are also fans of not watching the game. They were sitting in a little circle in the bleachers, some even chatting with their backs turned to the football field. And, some of their beautiful little faces were lit by the glow of their phone screens as they texted or checked Instagram or whatever they were doing.
When I saw the phones, I hesitated. I instructed Adelade to go and say a quick hello, but I told her in no uncertain terms not to look at any phones. I watched her scale the bleachers and greet the girls, and in a few minutes she was back by my side. She immediately sat down and said, I didn’t look at any phones.
I don’t know if those precious little girls have internet filters on their phones or not. Their parents may have all kinds of protections on their kids’ phones so that they can’t see all of the objectifying and mind-altering pornography that is trying to reach them through their devices. They probably do have protections in place. But, I don’t know that. So, I try to keep Adelade aware that there is a world of dangerous and harmful stuff on the internet, which is why she isn’t allowed to be on it without our knowledge and presence.
But, I know that Adelade won’t stay ten forever. The older she gets, the more she will be around kids with phones and tablets and all of the world wide web in their back pockets. Well-meaning parents give their kids access to all of the knowledge, encouragement, and fun of the internet. But, they forget that when they do so, they also give them an invitation to enter into the dark world of the pornography industry, where boys learn that women are nothing but objects who exist to please sexually, where girls learn that they are worth little more than their breast size and their willingness to put out, where children and adults alike are used and abused and treated like they have no value whatsoever.
I will never forget when a friend was helping out in a youth service at his church one night, and he walked up behind a young teenager who was sitting in the crowd. The boy had his phone out, and my friend could clearly see pornography on the screen. This young man was so desensitized to the pornographic images that he had no doubt incessantly been viewing on the phone his parents had bought for him, that he even glanced at them during a worship service. I doubt this was what his parents had in mind when they had blessed him with that shiny new phone earlier that year. Yet, because they didn’t take steps to make sure he couldn’t access pornography on his phone, he had obviously been caught in the grips of that abhorrent industry.
The pornographers are actively working to try to get to our children. They are constantly trying to figure out new and more despicable ways to get another generation hooked on the smut that they produce. Our kids don’t have phones and won’t for a long time for this very reason. It’s just too easy. But, if the porn industry can’t reach my kids through their phones, it will certainly try to reach them through your kids’ phones. So, yes, I do worry about Adelade, and all of my children. Because when you fail to protect your children from internet pornography, you also fail to protect mine.
Parents, we’re in this together. Please put filters on your kids’ devices. Don’t assume that they won’t encounter pornography when you give them a phone; in fact, assume that they will unless you take intentional steps to keep them from accessing it. Your kids may see pornography someplace, but don’t let it be in your home or on the devices that you provide for them. And, when you send the message to your children that you care about what they put into their hearts and minds, you are also helping to protect my children. If we would all take steps to restrict access to internet pornography in our homes and on all of our families’ devices, we really could make a dent in the profits of this multi-million dollar industry. And, that would be a good thing for human beings everywhere.
One accountability and filtering company that we trust is Covenant Eyes. We use their accountability software on all of our devices at work and at home. But, there are plenty of good filtering services out there. Find one. Use it. Protect your family and mine.
Originally posted December 1, 2013.
This weekend we visited grandparents for Thanksgiving. Traveling with a baby is always a challenge. But, all of my kids have always slept pretty well in the play pen that we got when Adelade was born. It’s great because, like a regular baby bed, it holds them captive until they fall asleep. On Thursday I put Emerald in it for her nap, and a few minutes later she came strolling into the living room, just as proud as could be of her genius baby ways. She had climbed out, completely undeterred by the drop to the floor.
Later that evening I put her to bed, which didn’t thrill her at all. I stood and watched as she immediately threw her leg over the side of the play pen and jumped out. I sternly told her no and put her back in, and her response was–you guessed it–throwing her leg over the side to hop out again. And the battle of the wills was on.
In case you’re wondering, after much weeping and some actual gnashing of teeth, I finally won the battle. She slept, probably resentfully, in her little baby jail, and I half-slept, listening for the sound of her little feet on the floor, picturing her running around unsupervised in a dark house at two in the morning. I felt sure she would be splashing in the toilet and drinking cleaners and doing who knows what else.
And, this was the first night of our Thanksgiving visits. The next night, it was on to another grandma’s house. The battle ensued again. And tonight we came home to her real bed in her real room, and I felt such relief to be here, in our own house, where I knew she would sleep and where I was reasonably sure she couldn’t escape.
She went to bed cheerfully. I listened from the living room as she chatted with her dolls. She got quiet, and I breathed a sigh, relaxed, knowing she was safe in her bed.
And then I heard the footsteps. She ran into the living room with a huge grin. I gave her my stern NO NO NO NO NO NO NOs. And put her back in the confines of her baby bed. She protested with crying, but she didn’t climb out again. Now she is sleeping, and I’m sitting here considering all of the many, many reasons I wish she had never discovered that she could get out of that bed by herself.
My mother laughed when she watched Emerald proudly march into the living room at her house. She giggled and told me that I used to do the exact same thing. And, so of course I decided that this climbing out of the bed thing must be a sign of great genius. Totally kidding.
But, it really does make me think about how we’re all a little bit resentful of the constraints that God places on us. Like a mama who carefully puts her baby in a safe place for sleeping, He gives us commands in order to protect us. He knows that when we follow His laws we are safe in their confines. Any child can understand that what God says is good and right is actually what is best for us, but for some reason we love to try and jump right out of the safety of what He deems right. And, sometimes we’re downright proud of ourselves when we do.
God gave us commands for lots of reasons. So that we can live lives that bring Him glory. So that we can be good friends, daughters, mothers, wives. For most of the commands that God issued throughout the Bible, we can find multiple ways that following them makes our lives (and this world) better.
God says adultery is wrong because looking at pornography destroys marriages. Because connecting with an old boyfriend on Facebook jeopardizes families. Because fantasizing about a man in a book fills your mind with lies about your reality.
God says we shouldn’t wish we have what our friends have because it keeps us from loving our friends the way we should. Because it makes us resentful of those we love. Because it robs us of the joy of being satisfied with what God has blessed us with.
God says we shouldn’t lie because it causes people not to trust us. Because it deeply hurts those we love. Because it ruins relationships.
The list could go on. What God has declared that we should do and be is the best kind of safety net. It gives us freedom to move about in the world, reflecting His image through our attitudes and actions, and it protects us from the dangers and heartaches that come when we jump out of His loving restraints.
I suspect that Emerald will commence with more bed-escaping in the future. I’m working on fourteen different plans of action right now to convince her that in her bed is best. I want her where she’s safe, and I, her only mama, certainly know better than she does what is good for her. I give her the gift of safe places to explore her world.
God gives us the same gift. We are our best selves when we stop trying to escape His good and noble commands. Following His word is like sleeping in a nice sturdy bed. No toilets to splash in. No cleaners to drink.
Just joy and peace and a good night’s sleep.