Grades Are Overrated


“Hi, Renee. Can you come in next week to discuss your son’s test results?”  My heart felt that familiar momma squeeze. You know the one.  The phone call wasn’t surprising.  I’ve asked every doctor, teacher, and friend I know to help me solve the mystery of his little brain for years.

Preschool teachers reassured me that everything was fine.  All kids develop at different rates.  I knew this to be true.  He’s my third, not my first.  A momma just knows when something isn’t quite right.  Even when everyone else tells you it’s nothing, you know in your heart it’s something.

At a preschool meeting  when he was 3, I shared my concerns.  After listening they offered, “Now that you mention it, there are times we can give an instruction and he seems to understand perfectly.  Minutes later we can give a similar instruction, and he can’t seem to follow it.  There is no rhyme or reason.”

At 18 months I took him to the pediatrician.  “He screams.  A lot.  Way more than the average toddler.”  The response was typical.  “He’s just a toddler.  They get frustrated.”  I felt there was more to his frustration than toddler frustration.  We kept on.

I asked the doctors if he could see well.  Was his hearing ok?  Everything seemed to check out.

God creates exactly what He wants to create.  God doesn’t create mistakes.  God doesn’t form a human being, send him into the world, and say, “Oops, guess I messed up on that one.”  He says, “It was very good.”

He knits us together in the womb.  Precision and attention to detail are undeniable.

I sat in Andrew’s classroom surrounded by loving teachers and administrators to discuss what I’ve seen for years and am now grateful others see as well.  His teacher and I have been communicating even prior to enrolling him in her class.  God used her and others in his school to comfort a momma’s heart that wants to know everything will be ok.  They didn’t make any promises about his learning path.  They couldn’t possibly.  But they love him.  His teacher loves him and sees what I see.  A unique soul filled with a love for God that is mature beyond his young years.

I knelt at his bed the night before the last day of school and watched him sleep.  Those arms are longer, feet are bigger.  Facial features are maturing.  Little hands becoming big boy hands.

And I thanked God that He made Andrew exactly the way He made Him.  I poured out my heart to God at that bedside.

“God if you had made learning easy for him, I would take for granted the magnificent ways you have created our brains to function.  I would have taken for granted the ease with which learning seems to take place.  I would have been prone to pride in my heart over the academic successes of my boys.  I would have taken the credit for what is not mine to claim.”

“God, if you hadn’t created him the way you had, I may have never been able to see the interesting treasures of his heart that cover where he is weak.  The parts that really matter.”

“God, you love this child more than I do, which is beyond my ability to comprehend.  If my heart aches at his struggles, what must yours feel?”

“God, he may have trouble learning letters, numbers, and sounds, but you have graced me with a gift that I treasure more than any gift I can remember in a long time.  You have allowed me to see a glimpse of a child’s heart that is sold out to you.  A heart that loves you with the most genuine love I’ve ever seen.  A heart that knows the giver of all things and knows who he belongs to.  Lord, thank you for the gift of this child, created exactly the way he is created. Let me love every unique twist and turn we encounter knowing that along the way, I will see you more clearly.”

We closed out another successful year last week.  We are realizing that success looks different for each of our children.  To celebrate and broadcast boldly an all A’s accomplishment of one sends a message to another that that is the picture of success.  All A’s are fine.  But it’s not everything.

We’ve never talked about grades much in our home.  Kids put enough pressure on themselves without us adding to it.  It’s attitude and effort.  Have a great attitude and work with your best effort.  If God has given you a brain that learns easily, all A’s will come.  If He has given you a brain that needs to work a bit harder, you may not get all A’s, but with a positive attitude and effort, you will succeed, and God will be glorified.

As we begin to navigate new territory of learning disabilities, I’m seeing scholastic achievement in a whole new light.  This year we aren’t rewarding or praising our boys for receiving good grades.  We are praising for working at school as if they are working for the Lord.

We give all we have to the Lord, the results are up to Him.  If the result is A’s, great.  If the result is B’s, great.  If the result is incredibly low test scores, great.  As long as we give all we have to the Lord, trusting in His ultimate plan for our life, God is glorified.

Grades are overrated.

A heart doesn’t receive a grade.  Loving others doesn’t receive a grade.  A good work ethic doesn’t receive a grade.  Integrity doesn’t receive a grade.  Putting others first doesn’t receive a grade.  But God sees it all.  He sees into our hearts, and when we work out of a deep love for Him, He will work everything out for us.  It might not look the way we want, but God doesn’t make mistakes.

My prayer over the summer, leading up to a new school year, is, “Lord, let us not focus on results, grades, and test scores.  Let us focus on effort and attitude.  Cultivate in our children hearts that love you so much they want to give everything they have to you.  May you receive glory and honor through their little lives.  Thank you for the gift of another school year with these kids.  Thank you for one more summer.”



I am not the Holy Spirit


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

Steve and I have this little thing.  This little thing where I get in a little rut and begin grumbling about all the ways I can’t keep the house clean, and how no one appreciates what I do, and no one understands.  Yada, yada, ya.  You ever find yourself in these patterns?

I appreciate how Steve engages with me when I’m stuck here.  He usually smiles and says, “Just love me.”  He knows I can’t fight back to that.  He’s not telling me how he has it harder or how yes he does understand or yes he does help.  He simply asks that I love him. Because when I love him, I can more easily look over the yuck around me.

God says the same thing in different words.  Essentially, God is saying to me, “Just love me.” Do you hear how He asks you this same thing? When I just love God, I am free to enjoy Him.  When I enjoy Him, I am free to love and enjoy these lives He’s entwined with mine.

I am not the family holy spirit.  I cannot change the heart of my child.  I cannot control my husband.  I suddenly understand the freedom in this revelation.  This freedom allows me to do what God asks me to do.  Simply love Him.

I think I had this running dialogue with God going on in my head.  Something like, “God, they won’t do what I say to do.  They are stubborn.  They have a mind of their own.  No matter how I try, I can’t change their responses.”  Because He is gracious and compassionate, He allows me to try to take His job away.  He knows I learn best when I experience the struggle firsthand.  Only when I come to the point of realizing I simply cannot am I able to turn to Him with my arms held high.  Then I hear Him say to me, “Just love me.”

Some things with my family are so stinking easy.  Then there are the things that seem impossible.  These are typically the things that matter the most.  The heart issues.  Usually at this point, I begin to see I have the same heart issues expressed differently.

I’ve come to realize my job description as “Mom” and “Wife”  doesn’t include “God” in it.  I give it my best shot anyway.  On any given day, I’m attempting with everything in me to direct their heart’s every moves.  These are the days I feel worn down and defeated.  These are the days I feel like I’m failing as a mom and wife.  The only thing I’m truly failing at is being god.  Our house is only big enough for one God.

Psalm 46:10 has been my life verse for many years.  Recently, it has taken on new life to me.  I particularly like this translation:

New American Standard Bible 

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

It’s like I can hear His patient whisper saying to me, “Renee, just stop trying so hard to do my job.  Cease striving.  I’m God, not you.  I ask you to love me and let me be God to your children and your husband for they are mine just as you are.”

Sometimes I forget that my children are His children first.  I forget He is creating a story in them like He is creating in me.  I forget that the struggles that have drawn me to Him my children may experience and be drawn to Him too.  If I take away His job, I may effectively take away their ability to love Him in ways they are desperate to love Him.

Sometimes I believe that to be a good mom, I have to have good children.  Or to be a good wife, my marriage has to be rosy all the time.  This lie causes me to try harder.  I become performance-driven, not grace-livin’.

When I’m driven by performance, I’m striving too hard.  I’m unable to be still.  When I’m driven by grace, I experience the liberation of the lie that tells me to get the results I want, I must be in control of everyone around me.

Such freedom lies in two simple words “Be still”.

Such beauty is lived with 3 simple words “Just love Me.”

Do you have any areas He’s asked you to be still?  To release your hold and just love Him?


When God Shows Us A Glimpse


Rarely can I look back at my life, review the story God is writing, and see chapters where life has been a day at the beach followed by a hunger for more of Christ.  The chapters of my life that have drawn me closer to him are the ones written with tear stains covering words, sweat beads mingled with sentences, and a little bit of blood on the edges of the paper. These chapters make me appreciate the day at the beach chapters.  They make those beach chapters that much sweeter.

It’s a fight.  Life is a fight. As we are in the midst of the daily struggles, he continues writing. The story continues to unfold chapter after chapter.  He’s writing a story for me.  And he’s writing a story for you.  But there’s another story he’s writing.  It’s the one that connects each of these stories together.

When he allows me the tiniest glimpse of that story – the one he is connecting- well, I find myself overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by grace.  I find these glimpses most often when I’m allowing myself to get uncomfortable with God.

I’m writing at (in)courage today.  Join me there for today’s post where I share one of these glimpses.

[box] Back in October I participated in a 31 day challenge of writing on one topic for a month.  This was in the midst of Seeking Christmas being released.  It was a crazy time, and God met me there.  I wrote on Getting Uncomfortable with God.  God had me in some mighty uncomfortable spots.  You can read the entire series here.[/box]

One Remedy For The Stressed Out Busy Life

photo 1-4a
Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.  ~Victor Hugo

Reaching high into the cabinet, I placed the cup on the shelf.  While my 8-year-old read aloud to me from the chair at the kitchen window, the mental to-do list played its typical tune in the background of my mind.  Homework could get done while I put away dishes and got dinner started.  Needed to hurry because time was approaching to leave for tennis lessons.  Papers lay strewn everywhere.  Oh yeah, that’s the other pile to add to my to-do list.  Those phone calls never got made.  Steve asked me to do something.  What was it? How many people did I disappoint this week because I didn’t have time? The mental list worked hard to drown the sweetness of the 8-year-old in the corner.

That serious commander in my mind prevented me from hearing little footsteps approaching.  Little arms getting bigger each day encircled me from behind, a sneak attack. Before I could move, his face pressed hard in my back.  Then the unexpected moment.  He blew a raspberry with force that is typical from this ultra-phyiscal 5-year-old.  And the tickle nerve reacted equally hard.

Doubling over, I spun around and grabbed him.  Wide eyes and a even wider smile kidnapped his face.  He went in hard for the stomach this time, and I reacted harder. Laughter burst forth with a force to match his.  In a moment we were each held hostage, he to his surprise over my laughter.  Me to the laughter I couldn’t control.

Relentless, he kept coming until I finally threw my hands up in surrender.  When the giggles stopped, silence took the stage.  The mental to-do list had quieted, but so had my 8-year-old.  His eyes held onto the scene long after it had ended.  “Mommy, I haven’t heard you ever laugh that hard.”

“Well, he went looking for the tickle spot and found it.”

His words began playing over and over again in my mind.  And that look.  That look of wonder and surprise.  Why was that?  How I loved seeing it.  I wanted more.

The days will always hold more to do than to enjoy.  The days will too often hold more trouble than fun, more hurts than smiles.  The days will try to quiet the laughter with busyness.  The days will try to steal these moments.

I smile a lot, but laughter is what I need.  Laughing released something.  The tension maybe? The idea that I was the one holding everything together.  Keeping it all spinning?  So what if a couple of plates fall if I can laugh at the mess.

Laughter found me and showed me what I was missing out on.  Sometimes what is missing doesn’t just happen upon us.  Sometimes we have to seek it out.  Sometimes we have to go looking.  I’m looking for more laughter this week.  It can be found in the piles of stress, the mountain of to-dos, the boss breathing down our neck, and the kids fighting over who got the biggest.

This week – I will laugh at the moments that make me want to cry.  I will laugh at the piles and lists that bully me around.  And I will laugh at the situations that seem to have swallowed helium.  I might just surprise the littles by bursting into fits of laughter in the midst of a 3 brother brawl.  It may be just the thing I need to change how I see it all.

What makes you laugh?  Not just smile, but really, really laugh?  Please share with us.  What makes you laugh may just be what the doctor ordered for your fellow-sister-reader.

Ready Position


“Ready position.  Right hand on bottom, buddy.”

Andrew switched his hands on the tennis racquet.  Two seconds later, the left hand slipped back to the bottom position.  Again.

Patiently, the instructor repeated himself. “Ok, buddy, ready position. Right hand on bottom.” “Nope, right hand on bottom.  You’ll get it.”

I watched this over and over and over again.  I wondered at what point I would see the tennis instructor throw the racquet in the air and call it a day.  At what point he would say ‘Enough is enough.  He won’t get it.’  He never did.  In fact, the tone of his voice never even hinted at frustration or lack of faith.

I watched as the instructor explained to Andrew what he expected him to do only to notice that Andrew wasn’t listening.  He was dialed in to the big kids playing a court away.  These weren’t just any big kids. They were the highly ranked players. He was mesmerized.  The look in his eyes told me all I needed to know.  That is what he wanted.  To play that way.  That is exactly what he had come for.

Now, I knew this before our first lesson, which is why I very carefully explained to him that he would not be playing actual matches or even against other players.  I explained how he would play fun games to learn how to play the sport.  If he could choose, he’d skip all of that. He’d get right to the match.

I thought back.  It’s summer time.  Golf lessons.  Andrew was the proudest monkey of the bunch.  Over and over again I could hear the instructor from 100 yards away.  “Andrew, ready position.  Nope.  Ready position.” Every. single. day. that. week.  The instructor never lost faith, never showed frustration.

Andrew focuses on what’s ahead and would prefer to skip what he calls ‘the boring parts’, what the rest of the world calls the important parts.  When he thinks of playing golf, he envisions a golf tournament.  When he thinks of playing tennis, he imagines himself smashing the ball across the court to his opponent.  He would prefer to skip right over the most important part – the foundation, the basics, the skills needed for future success.  And he struggles to keep his eyes locked on the instructor.  Instead he gazes at where he wants to go.

I feel a bit like Andrew these days.  I get him in this way.  When I decide to do something, my eyes tend to focus on the highly ranked players rather than the Instructor who is working with me one-on-one to prepare me for the match.

It’s a New Year, and my sights are set on the matches and tournaments down the road.  I’m struggling to keep my focus on the Instructor.

I have all these ideas swirling in my head.  Ideas for book #2, ideas for growing a ministry, ideas for Seeking Christmas next season, ideas for nurturing my family.  Ideas, ideas, and ideas.  I’d like to skip the in between and jump right to the implementation of it all.  But I can’t. I need to spend this time with my Instructor.

Here’s the thing.  These aren’t just ideas I’m holding onto.  They are passions that were awakened.  Something happened last fall to my desires.  When I began confronting fear, the desires emerged and ignited passions I didn’t know were hanging around.  They grew and began burning out the fear.  I confronted fear time and time again (because I had no choice, my book had been released- there was no turning back though I wanted to many times). Now that something inside has come awake, it wants to do more.

But now it’s January.  And it feels a bit like starting over.  I focus on all these ideas, these hopes, these dreams, these desires. I begin spending too much time watching the other court when I should be listening to my Instructor.  Suddenly, anxiety begins to replace passion. Suddenly, the fear I thought had lessened only changed shape.  The whispers within begin. The ones that are telling me I can’t do the things I want to do.

The Instructor never gives up.  Never loses faith.

If I listen closely, I hear something else.  If I listen closely, it quiets the whispers. While my eyes are on the other court, I hear it in the background.  “Ready position.  Right hand on bottom.  That’s it.  Ready position.  Right hand on bottom.  That’s it.”

One step at a time.  Whatever desires He places in our hearts, whatever dreams He creates for us to chase, whatever passions He inflames, He will continue to coach us in the process. Patiently.  No giving up.

No matter if it’s a small dream or what seems impossible, no matter if it is a small passion or one that would save the world, no matter- He is the creator of the dreams, hopes, and desires, and He will instruct us each step of the way.  If we are listening to His coaching – not watching the other court.

We must be in the ready position before we can handle the ball.  He protects our dreams and passions by reminding us to get ready.

“Ready position. Right hand on bottom.  That’s it.”


A Letter to My Sons – (the real reason I say no to electronics)

Boys back

Dear Boys,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With all my love,


Subtle Interruptions


When I first saw him walking along the road, it didn’t seem completely unusual.  We were at a major interstate exit.  He had a large backpack, dirty ripped up clothes, and a dog on a leash.  I thought to myself, “I wish it were easier to stop and give him one of our blessing bags.”  I drove on.

The next day I was driving home from picking up Andrew from school.  It was lunchtime.  He was tired and cranky.  I saw the man with dirty, ripped up clothes, oversized backpack and dog on a leash.  This time he was further into suburbia.  I thought to myself, “That’s the same man I saw yesterday.  I wish I could stop and give him a blessing bag.  But that wouldn’t be wise with Andrew in the car.  Plus he’s tired and cranky.”  The man wasn’t walking this time.  He was resting under a shade tree in front of my veternarian’s office.  I drove on.

The next day I dropped off 5 kids at school and raced home to meet a newspaper interviewer at my home.  I needed to brush my teeth, apply some lipstick, and make myself somewhat presentable.  I should probaby have some coffee and muffins ready, clean the toilet seat.  And while I have 30 minutes in the car I will go ahead and rehearse my talk I’m giving in 2 weeks on seeing the messages God has for us in the everyday, ordinary moments of life.

Then I saw him.  The man with dirty, ripped up clothes, oversized backpack, and dog on a leash.  This time we weren’t at a major interstate exit.  We weren’t just a little further into suburbia.  We had entered the bubble.  The bubble where I live, where sidewalks are lined with trees and children roam carefree.  Where homeless men aren’t walking.

My brain stopped working.  I can’t explain what happened but I pulled my car right over on the side of the road in the middle of traffic making its way through a construction area.  The man was walking far off the side of the road, in the middle of someone’s yard.

I grabbed a blessing bag out of the side of the door, grabbed my wallet and took all the cash I had, threw it in the bag and tossed my wallet far into the backseat out of sight.  I rolled down my window and beckoned the man to my car.  (Mom and Linda- I’m sorry- I know you who love me are screaming at your computers at my ignorance….like any good mom and mom in law would be doing).

He approached with a smile on his face, showing 1 top tooth among a row of missing others. His face was dark and dirty.  But he had a smile on his face and said, “I’m sorry.”  Why did he apologize to me?  Because he interuppted my morning or could have been the cause of my mini-van getting rear-ended?

Leaning towards the window, I passed the bag to him, looked him in the eyes, and said, “God bless you.”  He smiled back, with what appeared to be joy in his eyes.  “God bless you too, ma’am.”

The car behind me was baffled I’m sure.  He never tried to maneuver around me as if he knew I needed that grace in that moment.  As I guided my car off the grass onto the road, I broke down.  Trembling I realized God wanted to meet with me.  And God wanted to meet with that man.  And in ways that only He can, He is in constant pursuit of our affection while He connects us one to another.

I was in my car practicing a talk on seeing God in the everyday.  Preaching a message of seeing God’s messages for us when we slow down and have eyes to see Him.  God needed to teach me my own lesson right back at my heart in that exact very moment.  I had missed Him the last 2 times He tried to intersect my day because it wasn’t convenient for me.  Thank God He doesn’t give up on me.

God is in our everyday moments.  When it looks like we are just skipping along our normal routine, God is there.  Waiting on us.