A Letter To My Son – When Life is Tough

“Hey, Mom, can we talk?”

“Hey, Mom, I have to talk to you about some stuff.”

“Hey, Mom, wanna chat tonight?”

I hear this daily from one of my children.  I have another child who just talks when he needs to talk.  But one feels the need to let me know he needs my attention.  He invites me in.  And I want to be sure to make the experience one in which he feels safe enough to invite me back again.

What I’ve discovered with boys is they don’t like questions.  They want to talk when they want to talk.  And they don’t want to be interrogated.  Nothing stops the conversation faster than when I begin asking questions.  The quieter I am, the more they talk.  When I am simply there with them, quiet and available, they open up.  When I begin interjecting and quizzing, they clam up.

The best way I know how to share my heart back with them is to write.  The only way I know to fill their hearts is to pray.

My Sweet Boy,

You are only 8 (soon to be 9), yet your understanding of people and life at times ages you far beyond your young years.  

Your life is a collection of seasons.  Without the harshness of winter, would you appreciate the spring?  Without the heat of summer, would you appreciate the cool of fall?    

You will experience seasons of life full of joy and ease.  And you will face seasons just the opposite.  If all the seasons looked the same, how you would grow into the person God is molding you to be?  If all the seasons looked the same, how would you discover new things about God and about yourself?

You are in a season of great change right now.  I know you are frustrated right now, and at every turn, you are facing a challenge that seems too tough.  But that is what develops great character.  The people I most respect are the ones who had to fight through tough circumstances, overcome challenges, and dig deep.  

If everything was easy all the time, we might forget our need for God.  And He loves us too much to allow that to happen.  

Today’s challenge may be math and grammar or making a sporting switch and learning a new game.  Tomorrow’s challenge may look completely different.  No matter what the challenge is, if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.  And it’s ALL important to God.

Your grades don’t make you who you are.  Your athletic ability doesn’t make you who you are.  It’s your heart that makes you who you are.  The depth of your heart where you allow God to do amazing things.  That is what makes you who you are.  Your acceptance is not based on your performance.  Know who you are in Christ.

Enjoy the ride.  Don’t fight it.  Enjoy learning new skills.  Be excited to look back and see how far you’ve come.  Look forward to the feeling of satisfaction that comes from hard work and perseverance.  

Everything worth having takes time, effort, and patience. 

God has a great plan in store for you.  Give thanks in all circumstances.  Focus on what you are grateful for, not what you are frustrated by.  

Work hard, don’t quit, don’t give up.  Pray.  Ask God for your every need.  And give Him all the glory.  Remember this life is not all about us.  It’s all about Him.

You are loved.

Love always,


The Struggle With Struggle

Photo courtesy of Dave Dunford

“I can’t do it.  It’s too hard!”

“Yes you can do it.  You are a big boy.  You can get your pajamas on all by yourself.”

I could hear the cries reverberating down the hallway as my husband worked with our 3-year-old in an effort to help our son gain greater independence.

“I wish he didn’t have to cry.  I wish Daddy would just help him.  He needs him.”

I looked into the eyes of my 6 and 8 year olds as they looked back at me with pleading eyes.  Eyes that begged the question ‘Will you go rescue him’.

Struggles seem to last an eternity.  

The 2 older boys and I waited until we heard silence.  It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.  To us, it felt like an hour.  We wanted to race down the hall, hug that sweet boy, put his clothes on for him and make it all better.  But what would that accomplish in the end?  Physically he could do it, he just needed someone to believe in him enough to demand he do it himself.  The only way for him to learn was to struggle through it himself.

When the crying stopped, he met us in the hallway.  With red eyes and tear-streaked cheeks, one corner of his mouth turned up forming a smile that said,  “I did it all by myself!”  The sparkle shone through those teary blue eyes telling me everything I already knew.

The struggle had a purpose.

As we all rejoiced and celebrated with him, my husband took the other boys aside to explain what had to be done.  “Zachary, I did the same thing when you were his age.  He can do this.  He just needs to know he can do it, and he needs to practice it.  We can’t always do it for him.”

As a mother I naturally wanted to swoop to the rescue.  God gently restrained me as I watched my husband lead our son to victory.  He didn’t abandon him.  He was right by his side the entire time.  Encouraging, cheering, and coaching.

God never abandons us in our struggles.

He is there with us every step of the way.  The road may feel long and lonely at times, but we don’t walk the road alone.

Through His creation, God gives us a vivid picture of just how critical the struggle is.

A young tree newly planted needs the wind to blow to develop strong roots.  The more exposure to winds, the greater the chance for a strong tree.  Trees that are staked and protected from the storms develop weaker root systems and have a shortened life span.

When a caterpillar sheds its final layer and wraps itself in a chrysalis, it waits while it is being formed into a butterfly.  When ready to emerge, it is crucial for the butterfly to struggle its way out of the chrysalis.  Without the struggle, the butterfly’s wings will not gain strength, and it may never be able to fly.

Struggle is hard.  Struggle is painful.  Struggle is lonely.

When we cling to God in our struggles, we are strengthened in the process.

The struggle develops strength.  The struggle develops character.  The struggle develops beauty.  The struggle develops perseverance.

When I was a bystander to my son’s struggle for independence, I struggled with the struggle.  I wanted to rescue him.  I wanted to make everything right in his little world.  Because I love him.  On the other side of that struggle, I watched in the following weeks as he became a different little guy.  For once, he didn’t feel like a baby anymore.  He was capable like his brothers.  He could handle his clothes just fine.  He was confident, and tantrums became a thing of the past.  The struggle provided the path for a breakthrough to occur in his development.  And it was a beautiful thing to watch.

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How to Organize All Your Kids Stuff

The beginning of a new school year allows a little more time for us to get our homes in order. Here is a system we use for organizing some of the kids’ items that works well for us. When we deal with the clutter in our homes, our minds can focus a little bit better. When our minds are more focused, we have more to give to our loved ones.


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7 Ways to Celebrate the End of Summer

Summer is coming to a close and a new chapter is waiting to begin.  For some, summer is not over until the calendar says so, which is around September 21st.  For others, the end of summer is made official Labor Day weekend.  And for others the end of summer is when the kids go back to school.  Even if you’ve already moved into a new fall schedule, it’s not too late to celebrate the end of summer with your family.  Here are a few ideas that are simple to put together, yet are very effective in creating lifelong memories and traditions with your loved ones.

  1. Backyard campout–  Camping is a great family activity.  It forces to you unplug, be in nature, and be together.  For kids, camping is all about the tent and the marshmallows.  So why not celebrate the end of summer with a backyard campout.  Pitch a tent in the backyard, or if that isn’t an option, set up an indoor campout!  We’ve even set up a tent on our screened in porch when we didn’t have a backyard.  Sit around the fire sharing favorite memories from the summer, retelling funny stories, and simply enjoying the time together before the hustle of the fall begins.
  2. Bucket List Ceremony–  If your family created a Summer Bucket List, pull it out and spend an evening celebrating and reflecting on the memories created.   Facilitate the conversation by going around the circle giving each person a turn to share their favorite memory from each bucket list item that was checked off.
  3. Ice Cream Party or Treat Buffet–  Summertime equals massive consumption of ice cream.  It’s even acceptable to have popsicles for a morning snack in the summertime.   Have an ice cream party with the family to say good-bye to summer, hello to school year.  If ice cream doesn’t do it for you, set up a “treat buffet”.  My son planned one of these for my husband and some friends of ours last year, and it was a huge hit.  Set up a table full of sugar in different varieties: candy, cookies, and plenty of ice cream topping choices!
  4. Date –  Have a date with each of your children before school starts.  Before my oldest started kindergarten, I took each boy on a 1/2 day date alone as a celebration to a fun summer and a toast to the new adventures ahead.  I had each of them give me a list of what they wanted to do.  We played tennis, went to lunch, and out to ice cream.  Even though we have had many special dates since then, they still talk about that one.  If school has already started, it’s not too late.  Celebrate the end of summer and a great beginning to the new season!
  5. Special night-before-school dinner–  This is a great tradition to start.  Celebrate the night before school starts with a family favorite meal.  For our boys, we did comfort food, which is agreeable to all around our table.  Meatballs, gravy, biscuits, spinach salad, and apple pie.  While we ate dinner, my husband used our bucket list to spark conversation so we all had turns at sharing our favorite moments from the summer. 
  6. Fireworks– Why not close out the season with a bang?  Have any leftover fireworks or sparklers?  If so, use them up for a summer send off explosion.
    7.  Create a summer time capsule.  Fill a bottle with pictures, mementoes, and written experiences from the summer.

What are some ways your family celebrates the end of summer?  We’d love you to share your ideas with us!

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Breathe Deep

As his body squirms down into the soft fold of white sheets, his arm comes up to form a hook that fits perfectly around my neck, pulling me down into his bed next to him.  The way his arm hooks around my neck gently pulls my face directly into the side of his.  I breathe deep of him, while my lips graze his perfectly smooth skin.  I can’t breathe deep enough, so I take repeated breaths, wanting to store it away, bottle it up for the day that smell is no more.  The day he won’t need me to tuck him in.

And then I listen.  To the sounds that will disappear one day.  The crook of his arm still securing our faces together, he uses his other hand to hold onto his Boppy, his beloved security blanket, while he sucks his thumb.  And he breathes deep.  Mimicking my sounds.

It has become a moment we share each and every time I tuck his sweet little boy body into bed.  Some may say I’m spoiling him because he is the baby, our last.  I’m ok with that.  I am in fact spoiling him.  I’m spoiling him with my love.  Cherishing the gift that God has given me.

During these moments, I pray.  Sometimes silently, sometimes so he can hear me.

His reach is for more than my physical touch.  It’s for security, comfort, and love.  He wants to feel me as close to him as he possibly can.  We long for the same thing from our Heavenly Father.  I am eager to provide him exactly what he needs.  Just as our Father is.  I will make him feel safe in his bed.  I will comfort him when he is frightened.  I will shower him with kisses and hugs to show him my love.  Just like our Father will for us.

I can only imagine how our Father desires to lavish His love on us.  How He is breathing deeply of us, desiring that we breathe deeply of Him.  Because when we breathe deeply of Him, we will be filled with more comfort than we’ve ever experienced, more peace than we’ve ever dreamed, more joy than we thought possible, more love than we are capable of showing, and more power than we possess on our own.

Breathe deep of His love.  Let Him fill you with more than you ever dreamed.

 Zephaniah 3:17

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Killer Moments or Moment Killers?

With little warning, it happens in an instant.  Like a hawk who swoops down upon his prey before the prey ever realized he was in danger.  The moment comes, the moment is killed, the moment is gone.  What is left behind when the dust settles?

One child woke for the day happy and ready to start the day.  Another child woke and was determined to make my morning miserable, or at least that was my perspective.  And still another child woke simply grumpy.

Each whine, moan, grumble, and complaint sent my blood pressure rising.  At last, rest/nap time arrived.  I had looked forward to this all day as  I was in desperate need of some quiet.  The day had sapped me of all physical and emotional energy.  I was longing for a block of time of total silence and a 10 minute power nap.  No interruptions.

God interrupts.

Sometimes we don’t see God as the source of the interruption when it comes dressed in the disguise of our children.  I pray God will clear my vision to see my child’s interruption as His interruption.  For a good purpose.

Just as I settled the last child into his room for some quiet, a loud clap of thunder shook the house.  My perfect napping weather.  I needed this nap.  Steve was traveling, I was exhausted.  I would be a better mom given a few minutes of shut-eye.  I. I. I.

I quickly closed the curtains, turned the fan on high, snuggled deep into the covers and had just begun to drift into a sweet, peaceful sleep when I began to dream a soft, “Mom…Mom….Mom…Mom”  It couldn’t be.  Certainly, none of my boys would interrupt the 10 minute nap I had previously warned them I would be taking.  They knew better.  I slowly peeked one eye open and was shocked to see my son staring back at me.

I shot straight up.  Before I had time to think straight, words began spewing from my mouth.  Words that caused an instant change in his expression and sent him sulking up the stairs.

I closed my eyes, but sleep would be impossible.  The Holy Spirit was whispering too loud.  Urging me to make this right.  So I began to plead my case to God.  “I deserve a few minutes to myself.  It’s not fair.  I give all day long, can’t they give me 10 minutes.  Why can’t I get some quiet.  EVER.”  The more I argued, the heavier my heart became.  I lay in my napping spot in complete misery.  I knew there was only one remedy.

I marched upstairs.  But before I could make it right, I just had to state my case. (Pride is heinously ugly)

After stating my case, I felt the tension rush from my body as my shoulders relaxed.  “So why did you wake me up?”

“To tell you that my loose tooth just popped.  I was excited and I wanted you to see it.”

He wanted to share a moment with me.  And I killed it.  Sadness flooded my heart.

Zachary had ruined my nap.  But for a good reason.  To share a moment with me.  I had ruined a moment.  I killed it.

To further state his own case, he ended with, “We just like being with you.  That’s all.”

My head dropped as I took in what he said.  How could he possibly enjoy being with such a selfish person who so quickly lost it when she realized she wasn’t getting her own way?  I met his eyes, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so very, very sorry.  I mess up every single day.  I’m thankful for Christ’s forgiveness.  Will you forgive me?”

“Yes.”  There was no hesitation.

Moments are not just the planned experiences.  The pool days, the ice cream shop trips, the movie days.  The moments in the heat of battle are moments too.  Those moments often are the ones that leave the biggest marks.

I want to create killer moments not moment killers.  I’m grateful God opened my eyes to see the difference.


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A Hug From God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The morning routine was in full swing when he made his appearance at the breakfast table later than the rest of us.  I greeted him the way I do every morning.  “Well, good morning, sunshine!”

Moving ever so slowly, his head hung low, his eyes remained focused on the floor.  “Hi.”

The mood around the table instantly changed.  Breakfast was quieter than what is normal for a house of 3 boys.

Breakfast wrapped up, dishes were cleared, and chores were under way.  He continued moving among us, quietly, slowly.  So uncharacteristic for this spunky, lively child.  As I switched over the laundry and wiped the bathroom sink of the evidence of teeth brushing, I hollered to him, “Hey, Zachary, everything ok?”

Without raising his eyes to look at me, he continued walking down the hall, those shoulders lower than I’ve seen in a while.  His voice so low, I had to strain to hear him over the other boys lost in their own worlds of getting dressed and making beds.  “Yes, I’m fine.”

I put down the washcloth, knelt down in front of him, grabbed hold of his shoulders, and raised his chin so my eyes could see his beautiful blues.  “Hey, do you just need a hug?”


As I wrapped my arms tightly around his 6-year-old body, I felt his rigid arms soften as he leaned into me allowing me to hug him and fill him with what he needed.  He just needed a hug.  He couldn’t even identify why he felt sad or what was plaguing him.  He just knew he needed to feel loving arms around him.

We need to feel the arms of our Heavenly Father.  God desires to wrap His arms around us.  He is always waiting.  He will never fail us.  He is forever faithful.  His arms give the best hugs because He is the creator of hugging arms.  He is our Comforter.

Receive God’s hug today.  Then give your child, grandchild, or other loved one a hug.  The bigger they are, the more they need a hug.  Share the love of God with them today.

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