The Most Profound Parenting Advice I Ever Received

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To listen to the audio recording of today’s post, click here.

Several years ago a group of us young moms sat around talking about our desire to raise children who deeply loved the Lord. Our children were babies, full of innocence and complete reliance on us. How could we raise them to place their faith in Jesus and grow in Him in a world like this?

A mentor mom listened carefully before she said something I’ll never forget, and it is the very thing to spark something inside of me changing me in ways I never imagined. This mentor mom said, “We can only lead our children as far as we ourselves have gone.”

Let that soak in for a moment. We can only lead our children as far as we ourselves have gone with the Lord.

If I stay at a pace of 5 minutes a day with God, how can I expect my children to give God more than 5 minutes of their day? If I’ve never grown to see God in ALL of my life, how can I expect my children to see God in ALL of their life? If my prayer life consists of basic “God bless us and keep us safe” type of prayers, how can I expect my children to view God as a personal God who desires intimate conversation? If I don’t let the truth of scripture guide every single decision I make, why would I think my kids would do differently?

If I make excuses for why I don’t have time to read His Word, why will my children believe His Word is more important than anything they read or do? If I prioritize my life so that I run around frantic and busy pushing God to the end of my to-do list, why will my kids want to make Him their first love? If I chase other things harder than I run after God, why will my kids want to run after Him?

When I first began to ponder these thoughts, the task seemed daunting. Until I began praying a prayer that changed everything. “God make me love you more than anything in this entire world. Make me love you more and more every single day.”

If the greatest command (Matt 22:38) is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, I imagine that asking God to love Him more than anything else brings delight to the Father.

I want my kids to know that I love God more than I love them. More important than wanting my kids to know this, is for them to see this played out – authentically. Kids are hypocrite detectors. They know in an instant when we say one thing but live another. If I proclaim to love God more than anything, yet “loving God” occurs only on Sunday mornings, my kids will know that the love I proclaim is love with my lips only.

I talk to moms all the time who tell me they want to spend more time with God, they want to pray more, read the Bible more. They want to live a life that He flows through so that their kids will walk with Jesus and never turn away.

The only way for this to happen in the culture we live in is total immersion. No sprinkling will do.

Satan roams the earth seeking to destroy and devour our children and us. That is his goal. One of his methods is to make us love this world, to see it as mostly good with a little evil. If we view the world this way, we live in this world and we sprinkle in a little God for good measure. We take our kids to church on Sunday. Maybe Awana or VBS. We say our bedtime prayers and we hope that is enough. It’s exactly what satan hopes we do.

This world wants to consume our kids. To battle back, we must totally immerse our kids, soak, saturate them to the very core with Truth. That means reading Bible stories isn’t enough. Going to church once a week, not enough.

If we want our kids to grow up to be a light then total transformation must take place in us first. That will guide everything we do in the lives of our children.

This doesn’t mean that the spiritual lives of our kids rest solely on us. I was raised in a loving home, but one that didn’t have Christ as its first love. God is Sovereign and uses many methods for pursuing His children. Our kids are given to us for a time, and we are good stewards when we raise them to love the Lord with everything in them. Ultimately, the decision to love and follow the Lord rests on our children. But we have a great calling in their lives to model to them the way.

Parents, it starts with us. If we want strong christian kids, it starts right here in our own hearts. We surrender it all to Christ. We come to Him empty and desperate with a simple prayer. “Lord, I’m desperate for you. This world is evil and terrifying, but your Word tells us to take heart because you overcame the world. I desire to love you more than I love anything in this world. I desire to raise a family that loves you wholeheartedly. Lord, make me love you more today than I did yesterday. I’m not capable of loving you even a fraction of a degree the way I want to love you. So I ask you to make my heart love you more. Take me and transform me. Then let your Spirit overflow from me influencing the ones you’ve placed in my life. My heart’s desire is to be a family that follows you wherever you lead us no matter what.”

Often our desire to raise children who love the Lord is so fear-driven that we do the exact opposite of what we should do. We begin to push away our children from the very thing we desire for them. When we let fear rule our hearts, we cling tight, we dig our nails in, we fight. We begin to attempt to control life around us because it’s the only way we know how to fight the fear. When we do this, Christ isn’t flowing through us. We have pushed Him into the shadows. Christ isn’t fear. He is freedom, grace, beauty, and truth.

When we are ruled by Christ, we walk in total freedom. When we have soaked in His truth and know His promises, fear is pushed back into the darkness where it came from.

I tell my kids all the time they can’t control the people or the circumstances around them. All they can control is their own actions and reactions. If my greatest desire is for my kids to walk with the Lord, if I’m not careful that will take precedence over my love for God, which should be more important than my child’s walk with God. If my child’s walk is most important, fear will move in. Little by little.

Satan loves to distract us. His desire is for us to be so focused on raising kids to love the Lord, that we become desperate for it. He will shoot his arrow setting little fires for us to put out that will increase our fear. We will place all our efforts on putting out fires in the lives of our kids in order that they can love the Lord. When really, it’s much simpler than that. We make Him our first love.

When He is our first love, His light shines through and radiates to those around us. Our words won’t be as needed because all that flows from us pours out love. Love changes the world. Love changes our families. Love changes everything. It all starts with love. It all ends with love. All that happens in the middle is because love poured out for us and we’ve allowed it to flow through us to others.

The most profound advice I’ve ever received is to make God my first love. When He is my first love, I will never be the same. When love courses through me, it impacts all around me. This is why it’s the greatest commandment.

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Think Before You Post- 2 Dangerous Social Media Posts

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Quite possibly I’m about to step on your toes or offend you. I pray not, and it’s not my intention, but I can’t stay silent on this any longer.

I’ve written quite a bit about social media. In fact, I’d planned to write a book about it until God changed the course. So instead I decided to publish parts of the material here on my blog. You can read my series Unseen here.

Social media can be all things wonderful and dangerous at the same time. It can look innocent, and motives can be mostly pure, but the post could be doing far more damage than we realize. And this is how the enemy works. He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). He works in secretive, deceptive ways. Deceiving our own hearts and motives so that we are doing his will without even realizing it.

I see it all over instagram and this alarm sounds as I scroll through posts. Sadly, it’s more prominent in the christian blogging world than anywhere else. That’s partly because thousands of followers will like these posts within seconds, validating that heart desire for affirmation, acceptance, and approval. The person posting sees that people like those kinds of posts and are encouraged to do it again. To seek that filling of being “liked” or “favorited”.

I debated for a long time writing about this. It’s been burning and churning, but I’ve avoided it for fear of offending someone (which is likely to happen no matter what I write) or seeming cynical. I want to say the reason I’m writing this is that I’m convinced there are many young women who are posting on social media and have no idea the danger they are creating with their posts. I hope to open eyes to seeing in a way that the enemy of our souls is using these posts.

 

Post danger #1: Posting a picture of your handsome, well built husband, fiancé, or boyfriend.

 

Sometimes laying on the beach. Sometimes shirtless doing yard work.  Sometimes appearing to be unaware his picture is being taken while he is deep in thought staring out into the wilderness.

The post will have emoticons of flaming red heart eyes, rows of purple hearts and flowers, cascading words of adoring love. There will be a clever phrase about how blessed one is to have such an amazing husband. Possibly a heart of humility that one doesn’t deserve such a man.

 

Here’s why it’s dangerous.

  • There is a woman who will see that picture and be thrown into lust. She struggles with it daily. Men aren’t the only ones who lust and struggle with this temptation. It’s an undiscussed struggle of many women as well.

Porn is an addiction for women as well as men. Spend a few minutes researching the shift in    pornography addiction. It will startle you. Know where it sometimes starts? Right here with these lustful    producing images and posts. It helps create the appetite.

  • It’s setting up your man and your relationship as a target. Placing that picture up in that way makes him a bullseye. There are some women who thrive on the challenge of getting the man who seems untouchable. Don’t put a target on your relationship!

 

  • It breeds jealously and discontentment in another woman. Undoubtedly, a large number of women liking that post don’t feel they are blessed in their relationship. Their marriage is rocky and tumultuous. They feel unloved or unnoticed. They have experienced hurt and failure and are clinging to shreds of hope in their relationship. Then these perfect husbands appear in their feed. Their eyes stop for a moment and their imaginations begin. They begin to create unspoken expectations for their own relationships. The relationship that has been striving for a breakthrough goes back a few more steps.

You see it used to be television and magazines that offered us the picture perfect mate and life to pine over. Now it’s right up in our face, with people we know and love, or people we don’t know but think we do because we are able to follow anyone no matter how famous they are. Suddenly, they become a real person to us. And life and relationships look like the magazines and movies. So it must be real and attainable, right? Wrong!

I’m convinced that many of the women who are posting these types of pictures and posts don’t have any clue what they are doing. Many are young and newly married. They are excited and in 2016 when you are excited you shout through Instagram.

My plea is to stop posting these posts for the sake of your sisters. The ones you don’t know are struggling. Protect their hearts. Love them enough to not proclaim your amazing relationship. Please.

Their hearts are aching in ways you can’t understand. Be sensitive to the fact that a husband who is both incredibly handsome AND the world’s greatest man is just rare. Don’t set that up as the standard to achieve. Help a sister out.

Marriage is HARD and still beautiful. Marriage doesn’t fit the Instagram mold, but it is beautiful in ways Instagram can never achieve.

 

Dangerous post #2: Posting a picture of you enjoying a glass of wine or any alcohol.

I’m not at all saying drinking is wrong. It’s a gray area. Some people have no problem enjoying alcohol, others cannot. I’m NOT saying having a glass of wine is a sin – I don’t believe it is, though drunkenness is a different story. I’m not saying as christian women we can’t drink. I’m saying, do we have to post it? I hope I’m clear here so you will hear what I want you to hear.

Here’s why I believe we should not post those types of pictures- There are younger women in the faith who take their cues of what they should and shouldn’t do from other christian women rather than straight from God. Given a few more years in their walk with the Lord, they are easily able to discern the voice of God and determine what is acceptable for them and what is not.

I struggled early on in my christian walk in knowing how to discern God’s voice. I often looked to my christian sisters to determine what God would have me do or not do.

Again, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. This is not at all a drink or don’t drink statement. I very much believe that this is a personal choice that is perfectly acceptable for some who are not tempted to enter into drunkenness. But for others, one drink leads to many drinks and they simply can’t handle it. When a young woman struggles in this area and she sees a prominent figure enjoying drinks with friends, she may believe that is her green light.

We aren’t responsible for the choices other people make, but we are responsible for the example we set and for the stumbling blocks we erect. Today, this is primarily through social media.

The danger with social media is that it provides us this invisible screen. We can hide behind it not taking full responsibility. It gives us courage to be who we want to be. If we aren’t careful, it can become dangerous in more ways than one.

If you are a christian woman with a platform, you are in a place of leadership. You are a silent mentor, disciple maker in the lives of young women. Many you will never meet. You have a call and a charge to lead them in their walk closer to the Lord.

Before we post, we must ask ourselves what the intent of the post is and what dangers it might pose to another woman. Will it be a stumbling block? Will it tempt her to sin? Will it arouse jealousy? Is it boastful? Is it proud? Is it arrogant? Because that’s not love.

Before we post, we should ask ourselves does this post promote love?

 

Here’s love:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor 13:4-7

Love protects.

We must protect our sisters in Christ by guarding what we share and how we share it on social media. We should be open, vulnerable, authentic, and transparent for sure. We shouldn’t be fake or hypocrites. I’m simply saying, if it is a picture that could tempt someone to fall, maybe it should be held for your private photo album.

Do we stop adoring our husband? No, but save those for his ears only. No need to broadcast to the world how awesome he is. Do we stop having a glass of wine with a friend? No. Just no need to flaunt it on social media for the world to form a false judgement on you or set up their standard based on your personal choices.

Do we have to become paranoid about what we post? No, we shouldn’t. Social media is fun and full of wonderful elements. It’s great to share our excitement with others online and to share our journeys of life. But with all good things, there is a fine line. And the enemy that works to destroy us, works very well through social media. He takes what is good and twists it for his evil purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe Our Best Gifts Shouldn’t Be On Social Media

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Listen to the audio recording of today’s post here

A couple of weekends ago, I had 3 full days to myself in my own home. I can’t remember ever having that much time to myself. It’s a real gift to the introvert. The days approaching I dared not allow myself to get excited for fear plans would fall through.

The moment my family drove away, I pulled out my spray bottles of vinegar and peroxide, my dusting cloths, brooms, and mops. And I got to work. I cleaned the house from top to bottom with no distraction knowing it would stay spotless for days. All my household duties were complete by lunch and I now had the gift of time ahead of me.

I’m a productivity lover. I fill every pocket of time with a task. Sometimes I hate that about me. I resist rest because there is always work to be done. I never sit in the evenings. After the kids go to bed, there is always work to be done. I tell myself I will sit down and rest when everything is done. The problem is that it’s never all done. So I fall into bed exhausted every night.

I had a choice to make with my free weekend. I could do what I always do. Get stuff down. Work through my long list of never ending tasks. Or I could be wild and crazy with my time. I could do nothing but rest.

I battled only briefly when I decided that God was giving me a gift and I wanted to receive the gift in full. No one likes to give a gift and feel the person they gave it to didn’t really appreciate the gift fully. They half used it because they didn’t see the real value it held.

My soul was in desperate need of a gift. The gift had been given to me. I had a choice. Resist the gift or receive it in full. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for our own soul is to receive fully the gift of rest when it’s offered to us. 

For me to accept a gift of rest isn’t easy. To rest, I had to battle guilt. Guilt over not working through the tasks. Guilt over sleeping later than normal. Guilt over reading a book for hours when that simply felt too luxurious.

It’s not just my task list that taunts me. It’s the good things even. I could use that time to write, to work on women’s ministry. The list of ways I could serve grew long. And the guilt clung tightly.

I am well familiar with the person I become when I’m serving or working on empty. When I don’t pause for a soul refill, I become a person I don’t want to be around. Bitterness creeps in. I’m quick to judge others who aren’t serving to the same capacity I am. I become a flaw pointer, noticing everything that’s not right in the people around me. It’s ugly. And it loves to rear its head when I’m in desperate need of rest and soul filling.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person. So when I made the decision to fully accept the gift of rest, free of guilt, I went all in. God did the rest. I didn’t plan one second of that weekend and I couldn’t have had a more beautiful weekend.

The first evening I spent with my dear friend, mentor, and prayer warrior. She was steps inside the door and I was captivated by her stories. I could sit and listen for hours. In fact, that is just what I did. When I finally stood up from listening, I felt lightheaded and dizzy. How long had I been engrossed in her life’s story? When I looked at the clock, it was hours past my normal dinner. A gift. How often does food in my home revolve around clocks and hungry boys? How delightful to find myself lost in her stories, losing sense of time completely. We continued sharing stories for hours over shared salads, chocolate cake, and hot tea. Bedtime was not dictated by a menacing schedule waiting for me.

The following morning I woke leisurely, which never happens. I ordered the guilty thoughts to go back to where they came from so I could wrap my arms around the gift of this very moment. Enjoying the quiet morning watching the dawning day break through the curtains.

The rest of the day I spent on my screen porch reading. Hours upon hours of reading. Finishing one book, moving on to another. A gift I had never received before. Dinner out with a friend, back home to curl up and read for another round of hours.

By the time my family arrived back home, I felt like a new person. I had nothing to show for my weekend except a smile and a settled heart. My soul felt full again, ready to serve and give and love. I was ready to be all in again.

In 13 years, I’ve never had a break quite like that. I didn’t post on social media how much I was relishing in my rest. There were several moments I found myself so grateful for the rest and felt that urge to shout it from the rooftops, which typically equates to posting on Instagram or Facebook.

I refrained. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it was that I wanted to keep my gift a secret for a time. I wasn’t ready to give up the intimacy of the moment or to invite others into the privacy of that time. Maybe if the world came in, the rest would escape.

Maybe it was that I realized that in 13 years I’d never had a moment like that, and to share those moments would only breed discontentment and jealousy to a mom who is hanging by a thread. How often have I been hanging by that very thread only to scroll through social media and see pictures that made me want to question my own life?

Maybe a part of me thought posting those moments was such a far stretch from my real life that I couldn’t bring myself to put them out there.

I’m not exactly sure. But there is something that felt so right about holding those moments close to my heart that weekend. Sharing them with only the real live people I interacted with. Cherishing the full gift for those brief moments, afraid if I shared them, they’d slip away. They wouldn’t be a sweet gift just for me anymore.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, may we hold our moments close to our hearts. May we cherish the intimacy of the gifts we receive rather than share them with the world. May we remember that in our excitement over our moments, sometimes we create deep pain and discontentment in another women who isn’t currently showered with love. Or a woman who has never had an opened womb or a completed adoption. Or a mother who is working through healing relationships with her children.

Maybe the kindest gift to our soul this Mother’s Day is to fully receive the gifts we receive….and to keep it a little secret. Not inviting the world into those secret places. There’s something to treasure about the little sacred moments and gifts in a see-all, share-all world. And there is something to behold knowing that we didn’t unintentionally hurt a women who is in need of a gift but didn’t receive one.

 

Dear Young Mom, When It Seems Too Hard and You Want To Press The Easy Button

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You can listen to an audio recording of today’s post by clicking here.

Jacob is twelve, yet if feels as if yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital. My boys are 19 days away from the last day of school. Even they realize the accelerated stride of life. How did fall to spring arrive and depart with such haste?

I want to run up to every young mom I see, grab her by the shoulders, and tell her not to brush off the well-meaning comments to enjoy and relish every second with her littles. To take that tiny hand and hold it until the tiny hand pulls away first. To stop even when time feels rushed, simply to count the dots on the lady bug. To stretch out the night time prayers and snuggles an extra minute or two. To say yes to the request to spin them around in circles just one more time.

I want to say to these moms that all the energy and love they are pouring in that seems to go unnoticed isn’t unnoticed at all. It only feels that way. It’s building something holy. Holy work is hard work.

I want to tell these moms to let themselves look silly. Run in the park when it feels ridiculous because others moms seem well-dressed and put together. To lay on a blanket finding pictures in clouds. To tell stories that have no ending.

I have encouragement for you young moms. The ones who have little ones who exhaust you until you have nothing left to give. The ones who are touched and talked to until you reach the point of wanting to hide in a dark closet. The ones who struggle with days that feel nothing was accomplished and you feel you don’t measure up. I have words for you I hope give your heart what it needs today to keep doing the hard and holy work of fulfilling your calling.

Dear Young Mom,

You are in the most precious season of life. Doesn’t always feels so precious, I know. The fatigue, sleepless nights, unshowered days, makeupless face. A messy house and no energy left for friends and fun.

My husband used to say, “These are the best days of your life.” Funny, he’s said this for many years, at various stages. He is always right. At each phase, it’s been the best days of my life. Even the hard ones are the best ones. The hard days are the ones I’m most aware of my need for Christ and most aware of His Presence in the daily muck.

Lord willing, one day you will stand at a graduation ceremony, and all you will see when you look on that stage will be a little boy blowing bubbles in the driveway or a little girl twirling in her princess dress in the kitchen. And you will wonder where the time is hiding from you. Surely there is more. More of those little days of innocence.

Time is something we can’t rewind. We don’t receive a do-over. It’s a gift we receive and have a choice how we will use it. The season you are in will not last forever. Each day passes at the same pace. Each season moves along steadily. We can’t slow it. We can’t backtrack to do it differently. We have one chance at the hard and holy work of raising these littles into spiritual giants in a culture that wants to devour them.

Young mama, put your game face on. Dig those heels in with fierce determination to choose the road less traveled, the narrow path. Don’t follow the masses of culture in parenting. Pull your children in close, hold them tightly for this season because the season of release is upon you with a speed you won’t believe.

This isn’t new. Most moms from past generations would agree, time moves fast. You, however, are parenting in a culture unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Your calling is placed on an incline. To do what’s right is hard. To raise these kids in a see all, share all world. Hard isn’t an appropriate word. 

When my boys were little, I didn’t see how the world around me parented. I looked to God’s Word and to christian parenting books. Social media didn’t taunt me with pictures of perfection in every home but mine. And social media didn’t provide me an escape from digging into that hard and holy work that I felt desperate to run from.

It’s more than taking every moment captive. It’s beyond that. It’s taking intentional days, intentional moments, and intentional parenting to new heights. You, young mama, must become a warrior yourself. In the gentlest of ways, you must fight back against the invisible push of culture rushing towards your family.

Sweet mamas, you are precious in His sight. You have been entrusted with His children to raise. They aren’t yours to keep forever. They are a gift to you for a brief season of life. Rise up to your calling.

The crushing pressure of life will make you crave the easy button. When you are desperate to simply get through the grocery store with no meltdowns, the easy button is to place an iPhone in your child’s hand. Choose not the way of the world. Instead, enter the hard and holy work that moms from every generation until now have walked. Teaching self control, discipline, restraint, and behavior in ways that will embarrass you or make you feel like a failure. Just remember, you aren’t parenting for the approval of anyone in that store. You have a hard and holy calling. Work for the well done from your Heavenly Father.

Success in the eyes of the world looks very different from success in the eyes of God. What looks like failure to the world can be a victory for raising your miniature spiritual giants.

When you are exhausted from fighting nap times and bed times and all you want is a few minutes of peace, the easy button will call your name. Tempting you to put an iPad in their lap so you can escape. Fight it. When they learn to obey and find contentment when they aren’t being entertained, you are priming them for some of the most beautiful lessons in life. When they’re not instantly gratified with entertainment, you are opening up the doorway for a life of patiently waiting on God.

Devices satisfy us in an instant. They immediately feed our cravings. They entertain us. They sweep us away. Placing devices in their little hands will distract them from the lessons God has for them right now. Lessons that will set them on a path for learning to listen for His still small voice. Lessons for learning that God works on His timing not our timing, not at the speed of our device. Lessons that we don’t get what we want when we want. Lessons that life is not all about us.

Life is sacred and holy. Time is a gift.

Culture will tell you that you are ridiculous if your little one doesn’t have screen time. Culture will even give you reasons to justify why it’s good for them. Culture will tell you how smart it will make them. How ahead of the pack they will move.

If there is one area I would say is most important in their little years and this fleeting season of life, it is screens. Screens will steal your time in a way you will not see as stolen. You won’t see what you are missing when you don’t know what you are missing.

In other words, if your child is behind a screen for a couple of hours, you will not see what was missed in that 2 hours. You will see the positives that happened. Maybe they learned some new letters or shapes. They are happy and smiling, so all seems well.

But what if the distraction of the screen was gone. What precious conversations could have taken place? What heart lessons could have formed? What could have been planted underneath the soil when eye to eye you are connecting?

There have been times that I know I would have chosen the easy button of technology had it been available to me when my boys were little. Now looking back, I can’t imagine what might have been lost in that time. I will never know, and I don’t want to know.

Who knows….maybe if they’ve never learned to depend on screens for entertainment, when they are 12, rather than running to a device to fill their time, they might just say, “Hey, mom, want to throw the football with me?” Maybe when they’ve spent their formative years building relationships through well-spent time, they will choose time together rather than wasting it on pursuits of pleasure.

To fight this culture in order to protect your little ones and cherish these days takes intention.

It’s being ok with looking ridiculous, for being different, not fitting into culture. It’s being ok taking the hard road.

The hard and holy work of parenting will be filled with tears, laughter, frustration, overcoming, heartache, joy, anguish, worry and fear, failure, triumph, laughter, confidence and peace. The hard and holy work of parenting is writing a story in your life and theirs.

Here’s the thing, it’s not just about the kids. What I want to encourage you with is this. This thing called time is a sneaky thing. While beautiful in the gifts time gives to us in the parenting years, if the time is not held closely and watched with intent, it will slip away.

Your job is hard. Motherhood is hard. Always has been, always will be. What you are creating is a beautiful story. Time fills the pages of this story.

When you stand at a new chapter- graduation, weddings, grandkids- what do you want to fill these pages? What story do you want time to tell?

One day you will have your time back. No one will place their sticky hands on the refrigerator you just polished. No will will spill a bowl of cereal on the freshly mopped floor. No one will be dumping out drawers of freshly folded laundry.

One day the incessant chatter will be no more. The pulling on your skirt will cease. Your aching back and tired arms will be stronger.

I pray for all us mamas, that one day we look back with contentment over how we chose to enter into the hard and holy work and how we managed this short window of time we’ve received as a gift.

Hard and holy work is a gift. Cherish the gift of time, remember it’s here today and gone tomorrow. This very moment will never be again. Make the most of each one.

Love to you!

 

 

Dear Boys, Teach Your Brain To Think Positively. It Matters For Your Health

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Dear Boys,

I want to share a story with you about a time when I was working to build a business to allow me to stay at home with you.This business took me far out of my comfort zone and stretched me in ways I didn’t really want to stretch. But you were worth it.

Large and looming fears took great liberty to whisper into my mind. An inner dialogue formed an inner critic, which sounded like this. What if I fail? What if people think I’m stupid? What if I’m wrong? I’ll never be able to do this well. I’m not cut out for this kind of work. I don’t have these skills. I can’t. What if.

These thoughts formed patterns and habits I failed to recognize initially. What was I focused on? Me. Who was I not focused on? God.

When fear speaks with confidence to us, it has an ability to shift our focus to ourselves when our focus needs to be on God. The chattering of fear silenced the words of God that would shift my focus from me to Him.

A habit doesn’t take long to form, but habits can be broken. Negative thinking patterns are habits that must be broken. We must learn to train our brain to think positively.

2 Cor 10:5  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

We take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

Our thoughts don’t have to control us, and if we let them have their way, they will create patterns that will lead to poor health mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

We hear our inner voice more often than we hear anything else all day long. It accompanies us on everything we set out to do. Depending on its intent, it can be our biggest encourager or our biggest foe.

Brian S. Borgman, in Feelings and Faith, says “Martin Lloyd-Jones’s words on preaching to yourself are truly a classic. “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?…..You must take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself…then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done and what God has pledged Himself to do. (Lloyd Jones, Spiritual Depression 20-21)(Borgman, Feelings and Faith p 142)

This is the key. You teach your mind to focus on Who God is. When your mind wants to ponder your circumstances, you take that thought before it can lead you down the dusty familiar path. You turn it back to God. You tell that thought who is boss. It will not bully you any longer.

Here’s how you do this. You fill your mind with God’s scripture and you fill your mind with thanksgiving, praise, and positive thoughts. Truly, your life will change. Your health will improve in ways you’ve not imagined.

During the time I struggled with my fears creating negative thinking patterns, someone gave me self-talk tapes. I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of. And utterly boring.

I popped the tape in as I set about cleaning the dishes and doing laundry. Internally, I laughed and scoffed at the absurdity of what I listened to. I imagined that awkward, embarrassing moment someone would drop in for a surprise visit and discover me listening to these tapes. Nevertheless, the tapes played on.

A monotone, sleepy voice repeated, “You are strong and capable. You can do great things. You are strong and capable. You can do great things. You are strong and capable. You can do great things.”

You see, I didn’t stop what I was doing and listen to this tape. It simply played in the background. Our thoughts do the same thing. Often, our thoughts simply play in the background, and we are oblivious to what they are creating in our minds and souls.

The tape ended and I continued about my day. I couldn’t seem to purge the lines from that tape or that voice. Each time a fear based or negative thought entered my mind, I heard that monotone, sleepy voice telling me I was strong and capable and could do great things.

What if I didn’t imprint a sleepy voice telling me how great I was and instead sewed in God’s Word that tells me I’m not strong and capable, but He is, and that through Him, I can do all things because of His strength.

What if God’s Word playing on repeat was the very thing that would teach my brain to stop creating negative paths that led to fear and poor health and began to create brand new pathways to life and healing?

We can learn how to speak to ourselves in a way that tells fear to go to sleep. We need to train that inner voice to speak truth and life, not fear. We need to bathe ourselves with the words the Lord speaks!

Like those self-talk tapes that told me I was strong and capable, I needed to speak God’s Word over and over again into my daily rhythms. We don’t need to listen to self-talk tapes to tell us how great we are. We have God’s Word which tells us how great He is, therefore through His power, He can do great things through us.

Breaking through these fears is not a matter of believing in ourselves and believing we can do anything we set our minds to. That is what culture says. Instead, it’s believing in a mighty God who can move mountains. It’s believing in a God Who chooses the weak and humble, the poor and broken to work through so that all who see this work will give Him the glory. The glory is His. He uses our willingness to face our fears in order to take what we have to offer and use it for His purposes.

Negative thinking is typically rooted in our fears. When we think negative thoughts about other people, it is usually our own insecurities (fears) at play. When we can’t see how our current situation can ever be better, it’s often because fear is causing us to not trust God or focus on anything that we can’t see.

Research shows that we create neural pathways in our brains by the thoughts we think. These pathways become like deep grooves, train tracks. Each time we think these thoughts, the grooves get deeper. Sometimes we don’t realize how deeply ingrained our thoughts have become. How they have shaped the person we are and how we respond to life.

Most negative thinkers don’t even realize they are negative thinkers. It’s become normal.

I want you to be aware of your thought life because it directs everything. God is an amazing Creator and has designed a brain that can be remapped and retrained. Even if you tend towards negative thinking, you can retrain your brain to think positive thoughts and create new neural pathways.

The easiest way I know to do this is through God’s Word. Reciting and preaching it to yourself. Because that is truth. Preach truth, and you won’t believe the lies your mind will try to tell you.

Focus on Who God is, and you are less likely to focus on the difficult circumstances you walk through because you know the One holding your hand.

Question the thoughts in your mind. Call them to the challenge. When you find they are negative, replace them with a positive immediately. Focus on God, not you. Life is not about us. It’s about Him. Keep your mind off you and on Him, and you will be amazed how your thinking changes, and ultimately how your health strengthens.

Lamentations 3:22-27 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,  For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,“Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.

Love,

Mom

Devices are Destroying the Family and Stealing Childhood

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I’ve written quite a few posts on electronics. The first one I wrote I thought would be my last. My passion for encouraging families to guard their children and protect their time has only intensified.

If you are a parent who feels like electronic devices have taken over and kidnapped your family, you are not alone. I met a women recently who made mention to how much my boys play outside. She assumed they were younger than they actually are. I get it. You almost never see pre-teens outside anymore. How sad! Her comment to me was, “I wish my boys would play outside, but all they do is sit on those stupid video games.”

Here’s what I wanted to say but feared opening my mouth since we literally were meeting for the first time, “You are the parent, and they are the children. The parent sets the boundaries, rules, and limits. Not the kids. If you don’t want them playing video games after school, set a limit for weekends only.”

There is a part two to this statement. Josh McDowell is notorious for saying, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Herein lies the real issue. If your child spends hours on a device of any kind, his relationship with you suffers. It steals time that is yours. Quality time is critical to building relationship, so if that suffers, and you place your rules around something that’s become an addiction, that is when the fight back begins.

The majority of the parents that I talk to about the video game addiction are frustrated with it, yet they feel powerless to the drug. And drug is what it is. I don’t want to waste writing space on the science, but do spend some time researching the effects on the brain, the pleasure center in particular, when your child is playing video games or feasting on social media.

Would we ever offer our kids cocaine? A cigarette? How about heroine? Never. But at the youngest of age, we place a drug in their hand to appease them. To make them happy. To entertain them. To make our lives easier. Babies in shopping carts playing games on an iPhone. Lost to the real world before they’ve ever had a chance to discover and experience. Taught to get their demands for constant entertainment at the first peep they make. Taught they don’t need to learn self-control because we will just occupy you so you don’t need any self-control.

Kids at a ballgame watching their brother or sister play, sitting with a circle of kids playing video games. Heartbreaking. They can’t handle boredom. They don’t care to cheer on their sibling. They want to be entertained. The parents don’t want to listen to the whining, so they give in. The kids are happy and quiet. After all, they are learning games.

A generation of kids at stake to be the most selfish, self-centered generation we’ve ever seen. And we will be to blame. Because we fed this diet to them. We are creating the monster.

Kids are losing their wonder for the world. Their attentions can’t be held for long anymore. It takes more and more to excite and entice them. Like the effects of pornography. A child in the real world has a hard time looking around and finding wonder. Instead, they complain it’s dumb, it’s boring. Then they begin to tell you about their Minecraft world they created.

Video games and electronic devices are the most innocent looking destroyer set on our families. It’s not just about our kids. It’s about us too.

What grabs my attention first thing in the morning? Do I turn to my husband and give him my eyes or do I reach for the phone to see what I missed while I was sleeping? Do I go to my kids to spend the first few minutes with them or do I try to sneak in a few quick articles or see what everyone is doing?

When we go to bed at night are we connecting as a family? Or are we all in our own private worlds connecting to imaginary worlds or people we rarely see face to face?

And at the end of it all. At the very end of my life, will I be satisfied with how I trained my kids or how I spent my days?

I’ve said almost everything in the posts listed below. Each looks at a different aspect. Some speak to the parents, some to the kids. Here’s the deal- whether we like it or not, this electronic addiction is destroying families. When our kids are little, we don’t see the trap we are setting. It’s destroying creativity, free thinking, critical thinking, time, relationships, empathy. And the list goes on.

I will never look back and wish my kids had played more video games. I know that for certain. But if I allow the addiction to set in, I will regret the time the devices stole from us that we will never get back and the parts of their person that changed because of what held their hearts.

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

A Letter To Me (and all moms) What We Need To Remember When We Open The Screens

A Letter To Husbands From Your Wife (Why You Need To Put The Screen Down)

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Dear Kids, A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

Mom, You Are Always On Your Phone!

Dear Kids, The Real Rules You Need For Owning Devices

When Moms Unite Over Electronic Devices

 

When Moms Unite Over Electronic Devices

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“Hey, can I talk to you about something?”

“Sure,” I answered my friend. Our boys have been friends for years. We walked to the parking lot together to leave the earshot of others.

“Here, let’s sit inside the car where it’s warm.” We jumped in the front seat of my minivan as I became keenly aware of the crumbs on the seat she now occupied, the greens powder stained smoothy cup, and the strips of paper and debris left behind from the boys. I really should clean this van more often. 

My friend began to tell me about a recent sleepover experience our boys had. I let go of the pesty thoughts of my dirty car. Her son went to the sleepover with an iPhone. None of the other boys had devices. When she talked to one of our other friends, she realized that her son having that phone had become a distraction to the boys that night.

“I realized that it wasn’t fair to the mom hosting the sleepover that she had the added responsibility to then monitor what was happening on my son’s device that could impact the other boys. And our son knows his limits, but what if my son’s device ended up being used in a way that exposed other boys to something harmful or dangerous?”

She went on to tell me how she and her husband discussed the issue at length and came up with an idea. Our boys are at this interesting age where they don’t need phones at all. However, many middle schoolers have them anyway. So then there is this issue of who has one and who doesn’t. Who feels cool and who doesn’t.

We’ve discussed with our boys that we will never make decisions to do something so that they fit in. That would be us modeling peer pressure decision making. Giving our kids something to be like everyone else rather than giving the why’s behind our decision and praying for hearts in agreement.

My friend said, “What if we parents determined our boundaries together so that there is always a common agreement on the electronic issue and no fears about what will go on at each house.”

I felt speechless momentarily. The fact that no one approached my friend to oppose her in any way. No one came to her and expressed upset over her son bringing a device. She, on her own, felt genuinely sorry about how the device impacted or could impact that time the boys have to simply be boys and wanted to be proactive about it.

I kept thinking to myself, “What a picture of humility.” Many parents wouldn’t be so willing to step forth when not approached to admit they felt they’d done anything wrong. Then to take it a step further and say, “Let’s fix this going forward, too.”

She said, “I don’t want any of our boys to feel like they don’t want to go to one house because they have limits that other houses don’t have.”

Again, speechless. This has been something I’ve prayed about for a long time. Steve and I are 100% ok with the boundaries we have in our home with devices. And we’ve never had a boy come here that complained about our rules either. In fact, they get so busy playing ping pong or foosball or riding bikes, shooting baskets, or whatever that they don’t seem to miss it at all. But there is still this little fear that my boys’ friends would prefer to go to someone else’s house where devices have no limits.

She continued, “I think we should let all the boys know that if they bring phones or devices, they are given to the hosting parent when they arrive. That way they are free to be boys. If they need to call or text their mom, they can come get their device. But other than that, the hosting parent will keep them safe.”

This eliminates the need to interrogate the parent each time we send our kids to each other’s houses. We have all come to the same agreements with regards to uses and protections.

My friend talked to several of our other friends. Not one person pushed back. Every single mom expressed gratitude and felt a sense of relief.

It took away that awkward conversation we have to have each time we send our kids away. I’ve discovered that simply telling my boys to remember our rules apply away just like at home isn’t enough. Without establishing our boundaries with other parents, we are putting our kids at risk. Many families allow their children full internet access. We do not. The times I’ve failed to have this discussion with the parents, I’ve regretted it.

My friend approaching me about this issue, establishing these boundaries and rules to protect all of our boys, left a deep impression on me. I was struck by her ability to look beyond her own kids to the other children. She took ownership without being challenged. How rare today to see this modeled. And what a relief now at least for this group of boys to know that we are all on the same page and have the same house rules. They are free to just be boys for this brief window of time. Far too soon, they will be in high school and beyond where the boundaries will shift again.

And for the boys….it seemed to relieve them of pressure we didn’t even realize they carried. Free of the device, free of the stress it brings in disguise.