What if we never stopped playing?

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. Ecc 8:15

swim

When I was a little girl, I constantly heard someone telling me to go play. But I didn’t like to play. Play felt strange and unnatural to me. I don’t like silliness, so I never found myself drawn to silly play with other children. Pretend play was fine, but only for a short period of time. I preferred to sit and read or do something productive.

When I had babies, I played with them, but I had to work hard to play. Playing seemed luxurious to me because a never-ending list awaited conquering. Nevertheless, I played. I got in the pool and swam, I ran around soccer fields and kicked, I built tall towers and demolished, I sat on swings and pumped hard.

Then the kids inched older and began playing with each other. I began tackling those to-do lists. They inched a little older still, and playing with them felt silly. Have I mentioned I don’t do silly well?

A couple of summers ago, I sat in a lounge chair watching my boys swim. I looked in the pool bag and caught sight of the book I’d been attempting to read for weeks. For years I’ve packed a book in the beach bag because that is what you do at the beach, you read. Or you did. Before kids. Steve chuckles, “I don’t know why you are packing that. You know you won’t be able to read.”

We’ve always worked out systems so I could catch some beach naps or a little beach reading. On this trip they were old enough that I could actually read while they swam. At the end of the trip, I realized I’d only entered the water maybe two or three times. We’d reached a stage where I could quite possibly watch from the sidelines my children at play all day.

Several times they called out asking me to swim. I’d answer, “No thanks, I’m going to read. You guys are having fun with each other. Keep it up!”

A trend formed. Kids swim, I sit on a chair. I’m perfectly content on that chair. They nag me to jump in. I answer there is no need. On we go. It’s not because I’m insecure in a swimsuit or care what others think. It’s because I simply would rather sit and read than play.

I’ve discounted the importance of play for myself, yet I find myself saying the same things to my children I heard throughout my childhood. GO PLAY. I’ve bought into the idea that my kids need to play, but I’ve outgrown play.

I can be far too serious and think much too much. I am inclined to view life as ‘what needs to get done’ rather than ‘wow, let’s enjoy this life right now.’

I think, plan, and prepare so everyone around me can play while I sit on the sidelines and look on. Not always, but a lot of times.

I’ve failed to see the benefits of play in adulthood. I’ve focused most of my attention on making sure my kids play and enjoy their days.

I’ve come to a new conclusion on play. Play is important no matter our age. In fact, maybe play is even more important for grown ups than it is for kids.

Maybe if we played more, we’d snap less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d grumble less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d let the little things go with ease.

Maybe if we played more, we’d sleep sounder.

Maybe if we played more, we’d laugh harder and linger longer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d listen closer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d love more intensely.

Maybe if we played more, we’d rekindle what’s dwindled.

We are reaching 100 degree temps here in North Carolina. Sitting in a pool chair has become more uncomfortable than doing handstands in the shallow and playing water bomb with the boys.

I set our pool bag and cooler at the table while the boys wasted no time canon balling straight into the pool.

“Mom, you HAVE to get in. PLEASE. It’s sooooo warm.”

I’d already planned to get in the water. I think it’s time I stop sitting on the sidelines. It’s time to enter into the moments again with my kids. Maybe they never outgrow playing with their parents like I’ve been told.

I’m certain they expected another no thank you, and I took great delight in their shocked expressions when I stepped right in.

Andrew came up for air, calling my name as usual. He seems to say my name an average of 3,356 times a day. Spitting water from his mouth, goggles clouded over, he’s calling my name, looking towards the table.

“Hey, Andrew, I’m right here.”

He whipped around to face me. “Mom! I did not know you were in here. You are swimming!”

Jacob watched from a distance. Always my thoughtful and sensitive child, he acted as if this moment were as normal as seeing me preparing dinner. “So mom, wanna play water bomb?”

“Sure, tell me how to play.”

And we played.  And I snuck wet kisses from Andrew, who always turns away. And we flipped under water until our lungs felt they would burst. And we splashed. And we laughed. And we raced.

And God brought it all together. My soul needed to play. My kids needed me to play. Play isn’t silly. Play may be the thing that reminds us life is full of joy even on the days and weeks that grief weighs heavy, that life feels its played a dirty hand.

That evening I felt lighter. Conversation with my boys came easy. Time seemed less rushed. My soul stopped racing and instead strolled at a comfortable pace.

Steve came home after the boys were sound asleep. I filled him in on our day. He listened and nodded along, making no big deal of the fact that I swam.

“Can you believe I actually swam with the boys today?”

Wiping toothpaste from his mouth, he set the towel aside. “Yeah, I can.”

As if it were as normal as seeing me prepare dinner.

The big deal to me maybe wasn’t such a big deal to anyone else. Or maybe they were just being kind. Or maybe it was just the soul within me that felt in need of revival through play. Awakened inside.

Maybe play is not so silly after all. Maybe this summer, I’ll play a little harder. Summer is for learning new talents. I’ll learn the talent of play.

It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Dear Son, Why I Want You To Fail

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Dear Son,

When you left for school today, I saw the anger in your eyes aimed at me. I saw your frustration. I understand you felt treated unfairly. Your anger was directed at me because you were casting the blame for your mistakes onto me, and I wouldn’t accept the blame. I wouldn’t allow you to throw your mistakes and failures into my lap. I tossed them back into your lap. And that made you angry.

Beneath your anger I saw sadness. I know how sad it made you feel to feel so angry towards someone you love. So I want to talk a little about the situation.

It’s hard to explain to you what I feel when you are so upset, which is why I’m writing you this letter. Keep it and refer back to it over the next few years. Sometimes we can’t hear the other person’s heart when our own heart is full of frustration and anger. Sometimes it’s better to assess a situation when our tempers have cooled down so we can think more clearly.

Part of getting older is becoming more responsible. As a parent, one of my roles is to guide you towards independence. I need to encourage you to take responsibility for yourself and your choices. At your age, one of the ways we do this is by letting you be in charge of when and how you do your homework. You know what is due and when it is due. You know the time available, and you know our schedules. We give you guidelines and timeframes to work within, but we give you the freedom to choose how you use that time. The same for your chores and your free time activities. We are trying to teach you how to organize and prioritize your life.

Here’s a secret you might not know yet. We don’t expect you to do this perfectly. In fact, we expect you to fail more than you succeed. Pause for a moment and read that again then hear this: We expect you to fail, not because you aren’t capable of success, but because you haven’t had much practice. Practice makes us better. Failure teaches us lessons.

Failure is as important as success. Failure at times might be more valuable than success. When we fail at something, we learn what didn’t work and can make adjustments for next time. When we fail, we develop a drive to work harder. We give a task more of us than if success came easily. We value the accomplishment more when we succeed if we have first failed at it.

Failure is ok. Perfection is not ok. We would rather see failure over perfection any day. But. But. But.

Failure is only ok when we are able to take ownership for the part we played in the failure. Can you look at a situation and say, “I messed up there. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.” Those all are hard words to say. Our culture today is struggling at this. I see it in myself, which is why I want to help you now.

Ownership of our failures is the secret key that unlocks us from the chains that keep us from being all we were created to be. 

Part of your frustration comes from the pressure you place on yourself to please us or do things the way you think we expect them to be done. But you are a pre-teen, on the brink of adolescence and adulthood. We don’t expect you to succeed at everything. And guess what, this doesn’t change as an adult. I fail everyday. Multiple times a day.

The most important thing I want you to walk away with now is failure is ok, and owning up to your mistakes is golden. In the culture we live in, we struggle to accept personal responsibility. Don’t follow the way of our culture. Be different. Be able to say, “I made a mistake. My fault. My bad. I’m sorry. I will try harder next time.” It’s ok to mess up. We just have to learn to see that we messed up and clean up our mess.

Be able to say, “I should have….Next time I will…..”

Here’s another secret I want to share with you: I didn’t have this figured out at your age. In fact, at 38 years old, I’m only just now beginning to see the magnitude of this in my own life.

As a parent, my job is not to be your friend, though I cherish our relationship and adore being with you. My primary role is not to make life fun or a trip to the amusement park for you. My role is to love you unconditionally. To love you unconditionally means I have to do hard things like allowing you to fail. I could’ve gathered your homework for you. I could’ve reminded you countless times of your responsibilities. But when you are an adult, no one will be coming behind you cleaning up your messes and clearing a path so you don’t fall. You will fall. I want you to fall as much now as possible so I can be here to lift you back up, dust you off, encourage you, and guide you. We will fall together. A lot. And that is ok.

Many of the roads we travel as we age will feel hard and bumpy, but if we stay the course, we will enter the even bumpier roads ahead prepared. We will have had practice navigating tough terrain- it won’t shock us as much. We will be tougher and stronger for it. The roads don’t become easier as you get older. However, the more practice we give you navigating tough roads while you are living with us, the better you will navigate tougher roads when you are on your own.

Sometimes we won’t feel like friends. And that is ok. It’s part of the growing up we are doing together. It makes for a richer and fuller relationship down the road. Tough days are ok when we are each able to look at the part we played, own up to our mistakes, say I’m sorry, and move forward.

I need as much work in this area as you do, so let’s work on this together.

With all my love,

Mom

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15 Non-Toy Gift Ideas To Give Kids At Christmas

Christmas

Ready or not Christmas is around the corner. For many, this brings excitement. For others, it brings stress.

I’m speaking to several groups this holiday season on moving from stress to simplicity to splendor during the Christmas season. I thought it would be fun to take a little poll to see what stresses everyone out and solutions they have discovered. I will be sharing tips to simplifying the season over the coming weeks.

TOO MANY PRESENTS!

Today, I share a common stressor. Too many presents! One of the most common complaints I hear is this, “We have to clean out and purge toys before Christmas because the grandparents buy so much stuff.” 

Or

“We have asked relatives to simplify gift giving, but it is X’s love language, and she just can’t help herself. She brings bags and bags of toys each Christmas.”

Or

“We can never think of anything to get our kids because they have so much stuff.”

This may seem like something silly to be stressed about, but it’s actually not so silly.

When you are trying to model the true spirit of Christmas being about Christ and not material gifts, it’s really hard when kids are bombarded with the gifts. And what kid doesn’t like loads and loads of presents?

A closely related stressor for many people is the materialism and consumerism of Christmas. The pressure of gift buying, the draining bank account, and the ungrateful attitudes that begin to develop.

SOLUTION TO TOO MANY PRESENTS

If you have been a reader here for awhile, you know I love to talk about creating memories and traditions. When our kids were little, we asked the grandparents to try to limit the amount of toys they gave our kids. Toys were bursting through every crevice of our home, and the more our kids had, the less they actually played. At the same time, we wanted them to have something that went beyond Christmas morning- something of value, something that could create a memory.

We began incorporating more experience types of gifts.

About 2 weeks after Christmas, our kids were unable to list the toys they received. And they certainly couldn’t identify who gave them what because there was so much stuff, nothing had much value. However, the gifts they clearly remember and still talk about are the ones that created memories.

I love memory-creating, experience-happening gifts. One year our kids received a day of snow-skiing lessons from the grandparents as a Christmas gift. One year Andrew received 8 weeks of swimming lessons. One year our kids received season passes to the local amusement park. They enjoyed that gift for months and even created sweet memories with the grandparents.

Not only do we as parents love these gifts more, our kids do as well. Even if they don’t realize it now, they will later in life.

When they outgrow the latest video game, the newest all-the-rage toy people wake at 3:00am to fight for, they will not outgrow the memories they created with a gift that is a moment with you or an experience they can hold onto.

Here’s a list of alternative types of Christmas gifts:

  • Lessons– sports, music, art, etc. Do you have a child who wants to play the guitar? Do you have a baseball player who wants a few batting lessons? Do you have a budding artist? Giving a gift such as lessons also begins to instill gratitude and appreciation in a child. They begin to see the gift and sacrifice in something such as piano lessons rather than simply expecting they are entitled to it.
  • Sports registration– season of team soccer and a pair of new cleats, session of swim lessons and a swim bag. Sports registrations are expensive, again this is another way to teach children to appreciate the gift of playing team sports rather than simply believing they are entitled to play.
  • Movie passes with a box of candy and a popcorn bucket. We love taking our kids to the movie theater, but it’s a rare treat for our family of 5. Giving the gift of movie passes allows us to enjoy movie trips through the year we wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy.
  • Hotel night away– use points earned from travel or credit cards to save more money. This is meant to be very inexpensive and not extravagant at all. Really focusing on the simplicity of time together. Grab pizza, play games in the room, swim in the pool, just being together away from home.
  • Tickets to favorite sporting event -MLB, NHL, NFL.
  • Gift cards to favorite restaurants
  • A favorite camp. Camps are expensive, and many kids love summer camps. This is a great way to give a gift they will get to enjoy months after Christmas has passed.
  • Books, books, more books. Now, I don’t feel about books the way I do about toys. I think one can’t possibly have too many books. And books are a wonderful way for children to spend time together with their parents as well.
  • A special date night. This takes a little creativity but would be so special to a child and something they would always remember. If you are a grandpa who likes to fish and one of your grandkids likes to fish, plan a special fishing date for the just the 2 of you. Wrap up a little tackle box of a few fishing supplies with a note inside for a private fishing date.
  • Future project together. Are you a grandma who loves to sew? Plan a day of sewing a special project piece with your granddaughter. Wrap up all the supplies and a picture of what you will create together along with a little note about the date you will do this. Are you a dad who loves woodworking? Gift a project date for you and your son to build a project together. Just the 2 of you.
  • Coupon book of 12 one-on-one dates for the year. One coupon a month. The activities should not be expensive or extravagant but should focus on doing something in particular with that child. A trip to a favorite ice cream shop. An evening walk or bike ride. An early morning breakfast out when everyone else sleeps.
  • A collection– coins, baseball cards, stamps. Collections are fun for kids, but even more fun when someone they love gets excited with them and takes part.
  • Groupons for bowling or skating. Each year we purchase a groupon to the local bowling alley.
  • Family gifts– One year we received a popcorn machine from my dad, and one year he gave us a soda machine. These have been so much fun for our family to use on movie nights or when friends come over.
  • Trip supplies – Are you planning a trip next year? Find a way to include aspects of that trip into their Christmas gift. Are you planning a ski trip? Give ski lift tickets and new gloves as part of their gift.

Kids love time. Kids love moments. Kids love experiences. Kids also love stuff. But stuff doesn’t give much beyond the moment. Time, memories, and experiences go far beyond Christmas.

As a bonus, when you give gifts that you don’t necessarily buy at a store, you effectively combat the consumerism of Christmas. Spend less and give more.

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Dear Boys, Why I Won’t Tell You I’m Proud of Your Home Run

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Photo credit: Justin Anovick

Dear Boys,

I love watching you play baseball. Not because I want to see you hit a home run, not because I want to see you make the play, not because I want to see you win tournaments. But because I get to see your character tested and developed. When you lace up those cleats, remember it’s not just a game, it’s more than a game. You’ve heard us say, “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game.” When we say ‘it’s about how you play the game’, we are talking about the heart you play the game with, the attitude you have. We are not talking about your skills, performance, and results. It’s heart and attitude.

Tournaments and games are tough when you play teams that take little league to a different level. It’s tough to hear opposing coaches screaming and parents on the other side mouthing off comments about missed balls and errors in the field. But don’t let that drag you down. Don’t let that dampen your love for the game. Baseball offers more than just a game. Life lessons are played out on that field, and you have an opportunity to be a champion for Christ. In life you have to learn to tune out the negative and tune in to your purpose.

We live in a see all world. Performance and results seem to be king. We don’t have to post pictures on social media of our tournament trophies to be champions. The sweetest successes are the ones not easily recognized. While the social media likes may not accumulate, your Father in Heaven is cheering you on to the quieter triumphs.  This world will tempt you to gain recognition. Fight the temptation to look to the world to validate you.

Don’t strive for the glory of a trophy. Strive for the glory God receives when you play the game for Him. With attitude and heart. Sometimes a trophy will follow, but when you play for Him, often the joy won’t come from something that sits on a shelf. It will come from something that takes root in your heart.

Hitting a home run is fun, but striking out is golden. If you never strike out, how can you understand the sweetness of hitting that ball to the fence? And how can you offer words of encouragement to your teammate that walks into the dugout after his 3rd strike out of the game? Striking out with grace positions you to appreciate the gift of the home run. And when you experience that, you have something to offer your teammate.

You will rarely hear me tell you I’m proud of the hits you got, the plays you made, or the runs you scored. Here is what makes me proud.

When the kid joins the team that’s new to the game and you pat his back and welcome him. That makes me proud. When you embrace him and cheer him on. When you take the time to notice the catch he made and you high-five him with a genuine sincerity. That makes me proud. Looking to build others up, not only strengthen your own game. That makes me proud.

When your team is losing, and you hear parents hollering from the sides with tones lacking encouragement, and you cheer on your team anyway. When you don’t hang your head in defeat, but raise your head to the challenge and the lessons. When you shout out to your team to remind them that you are all together and you can do this. Encouragement. That makes me proud.

When you lose a game and you come home reflecting, can you look back and see where you can improve and own up to your own mistakes without pointing out the errors all your teammates made? Ownership of our own faults and mistakes. That makes me proud.

When the opposing team makes an amazing catch, can you place yourself in that child’s shoes? Can you feel the disappointment of what that catch meant for your team while at the same time telling him, “Great catch!”? That makes me proud.

When you’ve not been satisfied with your game, and you practice hard. When you realize anything worth achieving takes a lot of hard work. And then you work. That makes me proud. When you hit a home run, when you make the big play, when you score a run because you’ve been working hard. It’s the effort you gave to improving that makes me proud.

As you get older, you will find that our world leans towards a view of a one-man game. Baseball is not a one-man game. Neither is life. As you get older, remember the game of baseball. Remember that life is a team game too. Life takes a pitcher, a catcher, infielders, and outfielders. Life takes the gifts and talents of many. And life takes more encouragement than we have to offer. So offer it as often as you can.

You will hear a lot of talk about stats. You will hear a lot of talk about records. You will hear and see a lot of getting ready for the next level. But I want you to hear this. Baseball and life are more than stats, more than trophies, more than steals and wins. It’s about how you play the game that matters most. Play with integrity. Play with honesty. Play with passion. Play with love. Play with excitement. Play with courage.

You can be a champion without a trophy or medal to prove it. Your main audience is not in the stands by the dugout. He is up in Heaven, gifting you, preparing you, and cheering for you. When you play the game, play with all the heart He created in you. Play as if you are playing for the Lord. When you do that, you will be a champion.

With all my love,

Mom

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What Our Kids Really Want Is A Mom Who Can Be More and Do Less

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If I stayed inside the house one more minute, I might seriously explode. Every time I turned around, a new mess called out to me. Every room I entered reminded me of something left undone. The soles of my feet were coated in crumbs from a floor in desperate need of attention.

Room to room I bit my tongue from lashing out. It was safer to keep my mouth closed because the anxiety in my heart threatened to spew on the ones I loved. No one tried to approach me. In fact, it seemed everyone in my home wanted to avoid me. The look on my face told them I was not happy with the state of the house, the noise level, the chaos. And when mama’s not happy, well….. it just gets ugly.

Running through my head were all the things I needed to do, all the people needing something from me, all the things I was supposed to have done last week, all the thoughts of what people must think, all the ways I’m failing, all the ways I can try to keep up. A serious boxing match was going on inside my head. I had to step out of the ring. I needed fresh air.

Grabbing a book and a blanket, I headed to the backyard. I collapsed on my back and stared at the sky for a few minutes. The clouds moved in a hypnotizing motion as I breathed deep of the breeze. Everything that seemed so pressing only moments before seemed to fade away. Moving away with the clouds.

My heart rate slowed, my breathing slowed. All the anxiety that held my shoulders so tightly began to dissipate. I prayed. I thanked. I asked.

I tried not to stress about what the kids were doing inside the house. I tried not to think of what I would walk into when I reentered the walls of our home.

The screen door slammed, the grass crunched under his feet as he made his way to my blanket. His 10-year-old body cast a shadow over my face as he stood over me, allowing me to open my eyes to see him.

“Hi, mom, can I read with you?”

“I’d love that.”

We sat and read. We only had about 15 minutes, but it was glorious. It was all I needed to regain my composure and be the mom I wanted to be.

My stillness drew my boy back to me. My stillness draws me closer to my Father.

My anxiety, the pressure I put on myself, pushed my kids away from me. When I stopped, when I walked away, when I slowed down, they drew back to me.

My kids don’t want a spotless house. They want an available mom. My kids don’t want a completed task list. They want to complete a board game. My kids don’t want a perfectly scheduled week. They want a spontaneous tickling match.

When my kids are grown, I don’t want them to remember me being grumpy because I was trying to achieve the unachievable. Or impress the unimpressible.

The reality is the life of a mom is hard. What is harder is the pressure we moms put on ourselves. The expectations we place on us are unachievable. The guilt of what we aren’t, the guilt of what we can’t do, the guilt of what we should’ve done only increases the fight to do more, try harder. It’s an endless, vicious cycle.

The only way to break the cycle is to pull out completely. Escape to fresh air to clear the head. To see the beauty right here.

You remember I said I have a little rebel that lives inside of me? The rebel is rearing its head again.

I need more stillness. I need more slow. My family needs me to be still more than they need me to be supermom. My family needs me to slow down more than they need me to set records for accomplishing more in a day than humanly possible.

Yesterday was mine and Steve’s 14 year anniversary. As he thought what I would like most for our anniversary, he decided it was time with him and time with God. At 5 am he woke with me, and we headed to the coffee maker. Coffee and Bibles we sat together and prayed for our marriage. Steve had done his homework and came prepared with a list of verses on marriage. We read them to each other.

That started my day slow. And still. The rest of the day I focused on doing what was necessary but allowing room for spontaneous. And when I tucked the boys into bed, I sat on the couch. This is unheard of in my house because I don’t watch tv. Ever. But the rebel in me decided I needed a break.

I did something radical. I watched a movie. (Mom’s Night Out…..highly recommend). This after a chain reaction of simple decisions through the day that turned out to be exactly what I needed. And it turned out to be one of the best days I can remember in the longest time. A lot of letting go. A lot of lowering the bar of my own expectations.

For the most part, I live in a constant state of doing. If I have free time, I will do something productive. Every minute of every day is filled with something. In the course of a day, I rarely, rarely, rarely do something just for fun. I rarely do something that has no purpose. Everything I do has a purpose and accomplishes something. And I’m tired. So I’m ushering in more stillness.

Life as a mom can look crazy ugly and crazy beautiful at the exact same moment. Being a mom is a high calling. High callings come at a high price.

When I stop doing, I start seeing. The doing will always be available. The seeing changes. I don’t want to miss seeing what is here to see right this very moment.

I want to be the wife of my husband’s dreams. I want to be the mom of my boys’ dreams. And what they want more than a beautiful home, gourmet meals, perfectly planned outings, and accomplished looking days is simply me. Doing less and being more.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

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How to really change your child’s behaviors and heart

 

Change their heart

When all my boys were little, their hearts seemed to be naturally tender and soft. They easily obeyed (for the most part) simply because we told them to. My boys are getting older. Obedience is now about more than following rules simply because they are told.

I’m beginning to rely more on scripture to direct them towards obedience than I have in the past. And the cool thing is that it works WAY better than anything else I’ve tried.

Really, at the end of the day, they need to desire to obey because of a deep love for God. They don’t need to obey because I tell them they should. They should love God enough to honor Him.

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

When we have God’s Word memorized, we are more likely to obey. First, when we read His Word, we know Him better. When we know Him, we can’t help but love Him. Second, it makes us aware. Sometimes we are sinning and unaware of our sin. This is especially true for our kids. When they memorize God’s Word, His instruction is on their hearts.

I’m powerless to change their hearts. It is one of the areas of parenting where I’m seeing more and more each day how desperate I am for Christ. Only God has the power to truly change a heart, not just a behavior pattern.

I can change their behavior, but I can’t change their heart. God can change their heart, which changes their behavior.

One of my sons is in a pattern of negative thinking and critical speech. I cringe when some of his words leave his mouth, and I want to stuff them back in immediately and have him try again. But they come out, they cause damage, and the cycle continues.

It finally hit me. I can’t change him. I can’t change his thoughts or his heart. But while he is under my care, I can point him to Christ. So after about 5 ugly slips, I pulled out an index card and wrote at the top Psalm 19:14 and said, “Go look up this verse. Write it front and back on this card then copy it on blank paper. Then come see me.”

Psalm 19:14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I can’t conclude by saying he came back an angel, truly repentant, and a whole hearted shift. But he came back with God’s word tucked away. Now the Holy Spirit can use the Word of God to convict and guide him.

I’ve written before how I struggle to not be the Holy Spirit to my children. I often try to take God’s job from him. I fail miserably every time.

My primary mission field is the one I live in day in and day out. My greatest desire is that my children love God and serve him their whole lives. I can do everything “right” and still have children that follow their own path. The only thing I can do is point them daily to their Creator and their Savior.

Kids need to understand the why. My kids have reached an age where they want to know why I insist on a certain behavior or give a certain instruction. “Because I said so” infuriates my boys. They want to know why.

God’s Word is full of the why’s.

“Why do we have to memorize scripture?”

“Because God’s Word tells us when we hide His Word in our hearts we are less likely to sin against Him.”

“Why can’t I use that language?”

“Because God desires the words of our mouth and the thoughts in our hearts be pleasing to Him.”

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

I’m not writing this post from a position of having parented through this with a supply of verses ready to give you. But I would love you to join me on this road.

As I find verses that help me instruct my kids, I will share with you. Will you share yours with us too? They say it takes a village right? We have an online village of readers here. So let’s get busy building a toolbox of verses as we parent daily.

Feel free to download these graphics and use with your children!

Hebrews412

Psalm 1914

Psalm11911

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A Letter To My Boys (The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics) – Repost

I originally posted this letter to my boys in January 2014. Within the first 7 days, this post was viewed 70,000 times. I received comments and emails that left me in tears. So many of us share these feelings and this letter gave voice to what you held in your heart. I am reposting today because as we head into summer, it’s easy to slip into patterns of excessive screen time. I want to remind us that our time is short with our children. Let’s make memories. Let’s claim this time. Original post and comments can be found here.

Important note before you read – If you plan to skim this, please don’t bother to read it. You will miss the point completely. I do not fear technology. My children have access to devices and technology. I’m not setting them up for failure in society. They know how to use computers, phones, and video games. We give limits and train them to exhibit self-control. I welcome all comments, but if you plan to comment in a negative or nasty way, it will be discarded. Thank you and blessings!

Boys back

Listen to the audio version of this post by clicking here.

Dear Boys,

Do you remember the day we went to the drugstore and the lady said, “Wow, you are the first kids I’ve seen all day with nothing in your hands.” Remember how she marveled at how you didn’t need an electronic device to carry through the store? I know how her words made you feel. I know how it reminded you that you are different because your mom limits your electronic usage. I know it was yet another reminder.

The same reminder you receive when we are out to eat and you notice all the kids playing their phones and iPads instead of talking to their parents. I know it was a reminder of all the sporting events where you feel you are the only kids whose parents are making them cheer on their siblings rather than burying themselves in a phone. I know it was another reminder to you that you feel different in this electronic age we live in.

Well, boys, it’s not you. It’s me. Me being selfish maybe. You see I can’t bear to miss a moment with you. Let me explain.

I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.

I could give you all the statistics about how damaging it is to your development, your attention span, your ability to learn. While all of those are valid reasons to keep electronics away, that is not my primary reason why I say no to you so much. It’s more than that. Much more. I need you to understand this.

When we are together, I want all of you. The fullness of you. I want to experience you. Truly experience you. And I can’t do that with you when there is an electronic device between us. You see it acts as a barrier. I want to see what brings life to those eyes. I want to watch the wonder and magic dance across your face as you discover the wonders of this world. I want to watch you as you figure things out. I want to watch you process life, develop your thoughts. I want to know you. I want to know your passions. I want to watch you as you discover your God-given talents and gifts. And when you hide behind a screen, I miss out on all of that. And my time with you….well it will be over in the blink of an eye.

I want to guide you into an understanding of life and who you are. Boys, kids today are starved for attention, true connection and relationship. I don’t want you to feel starved. That is why I say no. I know that feeding the desire to play in your device is like giving you candy. It satisfies for a moment but provides no long term nutrition. It does more harm than good.

I don’t want to look back when I’m out of the trenches of child training and regret a second I had with you. I don’t want to merely survive. I want to thrive in this life with you. We are in it together. We are a family.

Yes, when we are waiting at a doctor’s office for an hour, it would be easier to quiet you with my phone. But if I did that, I fear I would send you a message that says I’d rather hush you than hear those precious words falling from your lips.

I can’t bear the thought of allowing you to miss out on the wonders and mysteries of this world. When you are transfixed on a screen, the beauty of this world will be lost to you. In every moment beauty is waiting to be discovered. I don’t want you to miss it.

I want you to be comfortable with yourself. I want you not to feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted. If you stay behind a screen, you never have to experience just being you, alone with your thoughts. I want you to learn to think, to ponder life, to make discoveries, to create. You have been gifted by God in unique ways. I want those to bloom. They can’t bloom in the glow of a screen. They need life, real life, to bring them to light.

I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to be able to look people in the eyes and speak life into them. If I allow you to live behind a screen, you get little practice relating eye to eye. To truly know someone you have to look into their eyes. It’s a window into their heart. You see what can’t be seen in cyberspace.

When I tell you no to devices, I’m giving you a gift. And I’m giving me a gift. It’s a gift of relationship. True human connection. It’s precious and a treasure. And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

I love how God created your mind. I love to hear the way you think and process life. I love to see what makes you laugh. I love to watch those eyes widen when a new discovery is made. And when your head is behind a screen, I miss all of that. And so do you.

In this life we have few cheerleaders. In this family we will cheer each other on. I know it is boring to sit at swim lessons and watch your brother learn to swim. I know it is boring to sit through a 2 hour baseball practice. And in all honesty, it would be easy for me to give you the iPad and keep you quiet and occupied. But we all lose out when we do that. You will miss out on watching your brother’s new accomplishments. You will deprive him of the joy of his moment to shine for you. You will miss out on what it means to encourage each other.

I want you to grow up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around you. (One day your wife will thank me) I want you to learn to give selflessly of yourself….to give away your time, your talents, your treasures. If I distract you with electronics when you should be cheering for your brother, well, I’m simply telling you that your happiness is more important than giving your time to someone other than yourself.

This world needs more selflessness. This world needs more connection. This world needs more love. We can’t learn these behind a screen.

I want to raise sons that know how to look deeply into the eyes of the ones they love. I want my future daughters in law to know what it’s like to have a husband that looks deeply into her eyes because he knows the value of human relationships and the treasure of love. And that is best communicated eye to eye.

I want to watch your face illuminated by the majesty of life – not the glow of a screen. I want all of you. Because I only have you for a short while. When you pack up and leave for college, I want to look back with no regrets over the time I spent with you. I want to look back and remember how your eyes sparkled when we talked. I want to look back and remember how I actually knew those little quirky details of your life because we had time enough to be bored together.

It’s ok to be bored. We can be bored together. And we can discover new things together.

I love you. I love you too much to quiet you with an iPhone or an iPad or a DS. And I can’t even apologize, because I’m really not sorry. I’m doing this so that I won’t be sorry one day.

With all my love,

Mom

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