How to solve impossible problems and situations

“I can’t do it. I’m so frustrated. I’m not good at this.”

“You can do it. Just take a deep breath.”

“Every time I try to solve it, I get it wrong.”

I can relate.

I sat on the edge of my son’s bed, peering over his shoulder at the math lesson on the screen.

He had worked and re-worked the problem only to come up with wrong answer after wrong answer.

I know the feeling. I bet you do too. How often have you faced a situation you have attempted to solve to no avail.  You begin to hear the taunting whispers that you’ll never get it, clothing your soul with fear and frustration.

I looked at the problem facing my son from a different viewpoint. I stood at the top of the hill looking down into the valley. I spotted the cleared trails and paths leading to the place he needed to go.

He stood down in that valley, right in the cluster of tall, tangled weeds. He couldn’t see the path because he was on the same level ground of the path he sought.

“Ok, listen. I see exactly what you need to do. I need you to start by taking a deep breath. Then take a step back. You need a new viewpoint.”

He shot a quick, questioning glance my way.

I watched his shoulders release the clutches of fear and frustration. I heard the held air leave his lungs.

“Ok, now step back. You need a wider view. Ask yourself this question – what is this problem asking me to do? You see, you are jumping to trying to solve, but you are missing the big picture. What is it even asking you to do from a big picture view? What is the logical path to get there?”

When I realized I had his attention, I continued.

“It’s actually easier than you realize. You approached it with a negative attitude, assuming the problem was out to get you and you would never get it right. But if you approach with a different attitude and a broader mindset, you might be surprised to find the answer was right in front of you the entire time.”

I tossed out a question. He answered. I tossed another. He answered. Each question served as the stakes tossed to mark his trail.

He arrived at the answer with no fighting or clawing. It was there in all its simple glory.

The next day a similar problem awaited him. It was the same type of problem, only it was asked with a slight variation. I watched as he began to march into the tangled weeds. It’s the way most familiar to him. He called out to me. I stood by his side.

“Remember, take that wide angle view. Switch lenses. Step back.”

He followed my guidance. I watched him climb out of the choking weeds and make his way to to the top of the hill.

I never said another word. I simply reminded him to choose the right view first.

He solved the problem.

For the next several days, I watched him reminded of the days he took his first tottering steps, unsure of his newfound skill. I remember those steps clearly. With each step, his smile grew. He’d glance back for reassurance. I’d smile back. You can do it, my smile prompted him. I’m right here to catch you when you fall.

Don’t fear the fall. I’ll help you up. Each fall brings you one step closer to your next steady step. I love you. I love you. I love you.

After a few days of my son calling out to me to guide him through these types of math problems, he realized he actually could do it. It took practice. Each one became easier. The answer was always right in front of him. He only needed to look through a wide angle lens rather than a zoom lens.

“Mom, can you come here. I think I need help.”

“I think you’ve got it, buddy.”

He got to work. I watched him take it step by step.

“It’s weird. Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything, but just your presence helps me. I wish I could do all my math problems with you by my side. I feel like I’d get them all right.”

His words hit my soul in the most healing of ways. God’s Presence is my good. His Presence is sometimes the only thing I need.

But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all You do.

Psalm 73:28

When we stand in our impossible problems, we forget God stands high above us, yet right beside us at the same time. He has the wider view.

To solve my impossible situations and problems, I simply need to call out to Him. I need to seek Him. Sometimes He will guide me step by step and show me paths I couldn’t see on my own. But sometimes His Presence is the only thing I truly need. I just need the reminder that He sees me, He loves me, He is for me not against me. He is my everything.

He calmly caresses my back as He whispers, “Daughter, I’m here. I’m your refuge. All you need is me. I’ll guide you. I’ll care for you. When you fall on the path, don’t be afraid of the fall. I’ll be here to lift you up. I’ll wipe the dirt from your knees. I’ll bandage your wounds. Let me care for you, for I’m tender and gentle. Let your tears fall. I collect them in a bottle. I have numbered the very hairs on your head. You are my great treasure. Just seek my Presence, and together we will walk.”





What Role Do We Play After We Pray?


To listen to the audio version of today’s post, click this link.

 So they broke camp to cross the Jordan River. The priests who carried the ark of the promise went ahead of the people. (The Jordan overflows all its banks during the harvest season.) When the priests who were carrying the ark came to the edge of the Jordan River and set foot in the water, the water stopped flowing from upstream. The water rose up like a dam as far away as the city of Adam near Zarethan. The water flowing down toward the Sea of the Plains (the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. Then the people crossed from the east side of the Jordan River directly opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the Lord’s promise stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.

Joshua 3:14-17

Trusting in God means we lay our requests at his feet before moving. Then we get up and take the next step, then the next, then the next. We take those steps no matter the obstacle we see in front of us. No matter the terrifying terrain ahead. We move expecting that as we move with God, God will move before us.

Each time our family has relocated to a new state, we’ve learned to trust God in a deeper way. We’ve learned that He is completely faithful. Each move God has showered us with rich relationships. Of course He would. God is relational. He created us to be first in relationship with Him, second with others. His desire is to be glorified in and through our relationships with His people.

Because of this, one of our top prayer requests since moving a year ago revolved around friendships.

I think sometimes we pray for situations then we simply sit back not realizing we might need to take an active role. Over time we see nothing happening and we become frustrated or disillusioned. We believe the lie that God doesn’t hear us.

We desire the miracle, yet we don’t always fully trust the Miracle Maker.

One of our greatest privileges as parents is to cultivate a wonder for the God of miracles in the hearts of our children. If my children develop an attitude of God as a far off God in the sky who may or may not listen when we speak, that will be a tragedy.

I delight with each opportunity to point the hearts of my children to their Creator. To teach them to watch and wait with excited expectation just how He will respond. And He will respond.

Sometimes to see God’s answers requires active participation. God created humans, not robots and puppets.

God invites us into His great big story. We have a choice in how we will play our role.

At some point a few months into new life in Nebraska, a friend invited me to a meeting about a homeschool group for teens wanting to serve the community. I showed up late to the meeting and quietly slipped into a seat in the back of the room.

I listened with interest but quickly discovered the dates wouldn’t work with our other homeschool group commitments.

I knew God had me at that meeting for a reason.

A woman sat in that meeting with her three boys. They looked about the same ages as my boys, who were not with me at the time. They seemed to be respectful and kind boys. I noticed they actually listened during the meeting rather than distract themselves in the world of phones. I wanted to meet this family.

As the meeting drew to a close, I wrote my phone number on a slip of paper and stalked the woman to her car.

She might have thought I was crazy, but the way I looked at the situation is like this – I’ve been praying for friends for my boys and here might be some. Now is my opportunity to actively participate with God.

I caught up with this woman in the parking lot, told her we had just moved to Nebraska, were fairly new to homeschooling, and we’d love to have their family over.

Then she and I actually followed up with each other. We invited them over. They came. Then another outing and another. Fast forward many months and this family, and these boys, have become friendships we absolutely treasure.

This is what I want my boys to see. God is a God of abundance. He does nothing on a small scale. Everything He does is miraculous and other-worldly. We can expect with 100% confidence that when we ask according to His will, He will respond with a resounding YES.

Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.”

1 John 5:14-15

When we asked for rich friendships, we already knew God said yes. The exciting part is waiting and watching as His yes after yes unfolds.

The day I met my new friend, I came home elated. Not because I knew I had a new friend (though this was exciting to be sure) but because I had just tasted the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13

Nothing lights my fire like seeing God at work. Nothing.

When my faith fire dwindles, all I need to do is blow on that flickering flame with my whispered request. He answers by setting that fire ablaze all over again. Those sparks spread to my family.

I view my primary role as mom to be teaching my children to know God truly. Not the version the world has created, but the actual One True God. The only God. Yahweh.

The way to know Him is through His Word. First and foremost. The Word is first a story of who God is. Once we meet Him there, it’s easy to see Him everywhere in our world.

And so on a Friday night, a year into moving across the country, Steve and I sat on the sofas of our family room. I curled with a book listening with contented peace to the loud ruckus in the basement as 6 boys played ping pong, basketball, wrestled, ate pizza and brownies, and ended their night with a movie.

I marveled at the graciousness of God.

When God, with supernatural speed, brought us a buyer on our North Carolina home, He blessed us with a home in Nebraska with a basement of our dreams that we knew exactly what to do with. That basement and this home would be a place to invite people in as often as they would say yes. To fill it with love and laughter, gifts from our Father. To have a home to graciously and generously show the love of the Father.

The key in parenting is connecting the dots of God for our kids until they learn to do this on their own. Actively participating with God is drawing it out for them until they learn to connect their own dots.

“Boys, remember how we prayed and have continued to pray for friends? Well, think back to how we met this family to begin with. We prayed, but then we had to take a step. We had to place ourselves in places where we’d want to meet friends. And then when we noticed people the Lord was divinely bringing our way, we had to step again.”

I explained to the boys that the day I followed my friend to her car, I could have simply left the meeting that day, never crossing paths with her again. I wouldn’t know what I had missed. It makes me never want to miss an opportunity the Lord puts in front of me.

He answered my prayers for friends by nudging me to the meeting, bringing our families together, but it took a step only I could take to bring it to fruition. How cool is God?

This is what I desire my kids know. God is real. He is alive and active. He inclines His ear toward us. He desires to pour out His blessings.

If only the whole world knew the God He really is. I can’t change the world, but I can influence the very ones He has placed in my life. For as long as I have breath, I will proclaim His goodness.

“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits–“

Psalm 103:2

I have created a tool to help our souls forget not all His benefits. Illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word releases soon. You can find more information here including a video trailer. Illuminate is for us all. Women, men, and parents who desire to remember who the Lord is. It’s to encourage us to create the discipline of keeping our eyes fixed on who God is. Practicing the art of remembrance.

In our home, we’ve used this as a time of family devotion. Gathering in the family room and listening together. Continuing the conversation throughout the week.

It’s 14 days that I believe will change your life. It’s changed mine because it’s gotten me into His Word to seek out His character as revealed by Him.

“Renee Robinson has used her gifts to bring us one – a 14 day primer for anyone desiring to go deeper as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unwrap it and be blessed.”

–Tara McClary Reeves, speaker and author of Is Your Dad a Pirate and Point Me to Jesus.




9 Screen Free Non Toy Gift Ideas for Teens and Kids Of All Ages

I think we all want to give gifts that matter and last beyond Christmas morning.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic. I wrote a post a few years ago, 15 Non-Toy Gift Ideas To Give Kids At Christmas.  It’s worth revisiting. Especially in light of all we now know about the screen addictions and dangers our children our facing.

Maybe it’s time we become intentional in the protection of our kids in the area of screens by giving them gifts of a different nature.


Our lives and homes are filled with stuff, clutter, and noise. Toy closets and playrooms have to be purged prior to the holidays to make room for all the new toys arriving in the younger years. In the older years we begin to see clutter of a new kind. The digital clutter that infects the soul.

The easy gift is anything with a screen. This is the gift sure to delight our child who thinks in the short term. However, is a screen gift the best gift?

Do our kids really need more games, more toys, another doll?

How much is enough?

For many parents the temptation is to buy according to peer pressure. All of our kids’ friends will receive the latest iPhone, tablet, etc. The keeping up with the Jones’ passes down the generational lines.

I hear this cry from parents. Why can’t Christmas be simpler? Why can’t we focus on what really matters?

Well, one reason is because we spend the majority of our season shopping and pondering what to buy. Maybe it starts with us and has little to do with our kids.

Some parents believe in giving enormous amounts of gifts. Other parents believe in giving only a handful of small gifts. To each their own, neither is right or wrong, simply family values and convictions. Whichever camp you reside in with your gift giving, this list will provide you a few thoughtful ideas.


 Screen Free Non Toy Gift Ideas:

  1. Investment Account– Before you breeze by this one, consider your teen or tween who is interested in learning about the stock market. Open a custodial account with someone like E Trade.  Purchase a few small stocks. They will love watching their money rise and fall and learning about the investment world.
  2. Business Start Up – Help your budding entrepreneur. Does your teen have an interest in business, an entrepreneurial spirit? Buy gifts to help their venture. Our boys have a snow shoveling business in the winter and lawn business in the summer. Equipment is expensive, and they are required to buy their own. This would be a great opportunity to purchase equipment they need or supplies to help them in their efforts to become more efficient in their craft.
  3. Collection of gift cards – Pick 5-10 of their favorite restaurants or shops and purchase small denomination gift cards. Kids love to have their own money to spend when the time arises.
  4. Concert tickets – Look at the year ahead. Is there a favorite band coming to town? Buy tickets now and gift at Christmas.
  5. Trip – Is your family planning to take a trip next year? Make it part of the Christmas surprise. Give gifts to go along with the trip. Last year we knew we planned to take our family on a cruise. We decided that this would be our Christmas gift to the kids. The gifts they unwrapped held the clues about the big gift. Swim trunks, sunblock, new shorts and tops, etc. The grandparents gifted along as well and provided excursions for the trip. This allowed us to take the trip of a lifetime without double spending.
  6. Audio Books or Dramatizations – So many options here! Christian Heroes Then and Now and Adventures in Odyssey are some of our favorites that make the gift list every single holiday. We use them on road trips to alleviate screen time in the car and to enrich our lives at the same time. Chronicles of Narnia Radio Theater by Focus on the Family is amazing.
  7. Memberships and Season Passes – Zoo, science museums, children’s theater, amusement parks. There are so many places in your town.
  8. Tickets  – Sky Zone, Defy Gravity, Skating, Bowling, Ice Skating. These are all places our family likes to go but are too expensive to do frequently. Groupon often has incredible deals to your favorite places.
  9. Hobby/Skill  – Grow an interest in a hobby or a skill set your see in your kids. Sewing, woodworking, painting, music lessons, art lessons, camps, photography equipment. Hobbies are expensive. My kids have lots of interests but we are unable to fund everything they would like to do. If your kids have been begging to take drum lessons, maybe this is the time to invest. A year of lessons or the equipment.

For additional ideas (especially for younger kids), read my post on 15 Non Toy Gifts to Give Kids At Christmas. Also you might find it helpful to read this post if you have a child who struggles at Christmas when surrounded by kids who receive the latest and greatest of everything. Dear Boys, When You Compare What You Get To What Everyone Else Gets  .

For a Christmas that matters, one which focuses on the true meaning of Christmas, while providing your family thoughtful, intentional ideas for creating memories, experiences, and traditions centered on Christ, check out Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning of Christmas. 


Parents-Don’t Let Peer Pressure Be The Reason You Say Yes To Your Child

Parents lead by example. If we model caving to peer pressure, our kids might follow.

For those who prefer audio, you can listen to the podcast of this post by clicking this link.

He burst through the back door out of breath. “Mom! Dad! Can I walk up to Walgreens? Please they are all waiting for me at the front door.”

We looked out the door and confirmed several kids, none of whom we knew at all, waited to walk along a major road full of traffic with no sidewalks the 1/2 mile to Walgreens.

Our response went something like this. “Um. No way.”

“You can’t say no. They are all waiting on me. All their parents let them. Y’all are overprotective. It’s not fair.”

He continued to tell us how embarrassed he would be to have to say his parents wouldn’t allow him to go. We told him we were sorry but for several reasons, he could not accompany these kids. We offered to drive them there but that was shut down immediately.

After he let down these friends we didn’t know yet, we explained that as his parents, we would never make a decision based on peer pressure or his pressure placed on us. We would never agree to let him do something simply because all the other parents let their kids. And we would never give way to his tactics of pressure by having his friends here waiting in hopes that we would fear letting any of them down or embarrassing our own child.

“We don’t make our decisions based on peer pressure, or fear of missing out, or fear of what others think.”

We continued explaining that we didn’t know these kids. What if they shoplifted and he was with them? He would be in the same trouble they were in. We explained it wasn’t out of fear, but out of protection, that we couldn’t let him go.

Until our children are more mature and able to make wiser decisions, we are responsible for showing them how to make these decisions.

Later that night he came back to us and said he completely understood. Initially, he was mad but after really thinking through it, he realized he didn’t really want to go to Walgreens. He simply wanted to be accepted.

Isn’t that what all tweens/teens want? To be accepted? If we are totally honest, isn’t that what we as parents want as well?

Peer pressure doesn’t end after graduation. It’s something we continue to walk through. As our children walk these roads, we walk with them. We find ourselves facing the pressure of allowing our children to do things so they won’t be left out or looked at as weird.

As parents we have an enormous calling to point them to the cross over and over and over again.

Our children are already accepted by the One who gave His life for them. And that is the only acceptance that truly matters.

If you are a parent, there is no doubt in my mind you have heard from the lips of your kids, “But that’s not fair, all my friends get to….”

And you might answer something like this, “Well, I’m not everyone else’s parent.” Or maybe you say something a little deeper and wiser. No matter we’ve all listened as our kids tried to persuade us to allow them to go along with what everyone else is doing.

I remember many times growing up asking to do something my mom refused to budge on. I was mad at her during those times, but now I’m grateful for her protection.

I find myself tempted to fall into the same trap my children fall into. I find myself worried about my kids not fitting in or feeling different or left out.

The area I see this most prevalent in is the world of the smartphone in the hands of kids, tweens, and young teens. By allowing our kids to enter into the world of texting, chatting, surfing, and social media, we are allowing them to walk into potentially dangerous situations that appear harmless and fun.

Just because all our kids’ friends have smartphones and social media accounts doesn’t mean we have to allow it in our kids’ lives. Yet this is the number one response I hear from parents who don’t want to allow their kid to have a smartphone.

I don’t believe that we recognize it is peer pressure causing us to say yes to our kids when our instincts are screaming, “No! Not yet. Just wait a little longer.”


What is happening to the souls of these children living in a highly connected, yet truly disconnected, picture-perfect driven world?

If I want my kids not to worry what others think, I need to set that example in my parenting.

If I want my kids to protect what they consume with their eyes, I have to place protective boundaries around their eyes in the training years.

If I want to protect their heart from destruction through bullying, I can’t place them in the arena where kids feel emboldened to speak freely because they speak from behind a screen.

Our kids, in their impressionable years, don’t know who they are yet. They are figuring out life, and life is hard even when it’s easy. Our kids need 100 times the reassurance in the tween years.

We are bombarded with new studies and statistics showing alarming rates of tween and teen suicide, pornography addictions in our children, runaways and abductions from online relationships, and bullying like we’ve never experienced before.

I have to ask, what good comes from our children relating in the online world? How does this enhance their lives, make them more well-rounded, make them wiser?

When we look at the statistics and studies are our teens better off since the introduction of the smartphone?

Once we open the smartphone door, it’s hard to close it. Once our kids get a taste of approval and acceptance and adoration online, their appetites grow. We know this is true because we see it in our own lives and kids need much more than we do.

Kids begin feeding on the likes, forming opinions of themselves based on what others say about them, valuing themselves based on how many shares they received.

Our boys attended a youth retreat last summer where the theme was A1. Audience of One. I would love for their lives to truly be lived for an audience of one. But when we place a smartphone in their hand, we are effectively handing them an audience of the world.

It’s better to say no, to protect our kids a little longer than they want to be protected. They don’t know what dangers lurk online. Our job is to protect, not just their physical lives, but their emotional, mental, and spiritual lives as well.

Times have changed. It’s ok to be overprotective when we are protecting their hearts, minds, souls, and lives.

We are still the parent. We can still say no. Our no is not a no forever, it’s a no for right now until they really know who they are. For each child this age will look different.

In our home we don’t have a set age because each child differs in maturity and wisdom. We are able to know which kids can handle a smartphone at what age.

At some point in the teen years, a smartphone will happen. As parents we still shoulder the responsibility of deciding when the right time arrives. I don’t think we will regret waiting longer than what seems to be the norm.