Be Ready So You Don’t Have To Get Ready

I heard a story last year on a podcast that made a lasting impact on me. Not only have I shared it with my boys, but I find I continue to apply the overall lesson to my own life.

Who Are You Becoming?

A mom shared how her daughter left for college, and as many do, began turning to wilder ways. She enjoyed the partying life college offered, the freedom, and the boys. Even though she was raised in a christian home and knew right from wrong, she continued choosing wrong. It was a season of her life marked by heavy alcohol use and multiple sexual partners.

Then one day she called her mom from college, “Mom! I met a boy who is everything I would want in a man. He is the kind of man I want to marry.” She went on to describe this dream guy. He was attractive, heavily involved in the campus ministry, served in the local church, and he was an incredibly nice and genuine guy.

After she shared all about him with her mom, her mom responded, “Honey, that kind of guy is not looking for a girl like you.”

Truth in Love

Ouch. The stinging truth struck her daughter’s heart. She’d been living for the present, satisfying the cravings of her sin nature. The words of her mom felt like the icy bucket of water to the face awakening her to the reality of her life, choices, and who she was becoming. Who she was in that season isn’t who she wanted to be forever, and it certainly wasn’t who the man of her dreams would be searching for.

She decided that day to turn her life back to Christ and follow Him.

Practice Being Today Who You Want to be Tomorrow

I shared this story with my boys recently in the context of looking towards what they wanted for their future and practicing toward those ends.

If they envision themselves in their dream job, what disciplines are they putting into place today to prepare for that?

One day they will have an apartment or home of their own, practice today for how they will care and manage their own home. Start in the small areas the Lord has entrusted. Manage your own bedroom and bathroom well. Complete chores fully. Become faithful with the small.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23

What kind of husband do you want to be? Do you want to be thoughtful, gentle, considerate, selfless? Practice today for the kind of man you want to be. Pray, ask the Lord for help.

Be Ready So You Don’t Have to Get Ready.

Do you dream of that big break, that dream opportunity? Do everything today to build the skills necessary. That way when the opportunity comes, you will already be ready.

One of my son’s has aspirations of building his own business. He has particular areas of focus. I advised him to prepare today by learning the skills, reading the books, listening to the podcasts. In a sense we are preparing our fields for the rain. We are planting the seeds and doing all the work we can in the time of waiting.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

I heard another story of a college football player who didn’t have much chance of seeing any playing time. He made a decision to practice and prepare as if he were in the starting lineup. When several injuries took out the 1st and 2nd strings, he didn’t have to get ready. He was already ready to step out onto the field. He prepared ahead of time for his opportunity.

God’s Timing

God’s timing is perfect in every way. We have no control over when our opportunities arrive, but we do have control over who we become and what we build as we wait.

Let’s decide today what dreams we have for our future in order that we can wisely decide today what action steps to take to prepare.

 

 

 

 

 

A Safe Smart Watch For Kids

We’ve been a happy Gabb Wireless family for a couple of years now. Two of our three sons had/has a Gabb phone. When our middle son was nearly 16, we allowed him to transition to an iPhone. Honestly, I miss the Gabb for him as much as I knew I would.

Andrew lost his phone a few months ago. He has to use his own money for a phone and decided he could live without one. What we found is that we missed knowing where he was, that he arrived somewhere safely, or simply being able to send him quick messages.

So we bought him a Gabb watch. And I am in love with this watch. I’ve never liked smart watches because they were too connected. The Gabb watch is only what they need and nothing more.

The ease of use is perfect for a kid on the move. He can voice record his text to us. The sound and clarity of the voice calls is exceptional. And the best part, it stays on his wrist.

Through the month of October, you can buy any Gabb devices for 30% off. Use promo code RENEEROBINSON.

It would be a great Christmas gift and you can go ahead and beat the rush and check that baby off the list!

A check in on the year’s goals

At the end of 2019 I made two decisions. First, I would be purposeful in key areas in 2020. Second, I would read 100 books in 2020. This week I decided to check in on these goals to see how I’ve fared as we round the corner towards the final 2 months of 2020. Many of us singing praises to put this year to bed.

I printed off from Ann Voskamp’s website this document titled 2020: This is the Year I Purpose To:

Living intentionally doesn’t happen by accident.

We must decide what we want and where we plan to go. I also believe it’s good to go back and assess. Did we move in the direction we hoped? Did we reach our goals?

Noting progress is important.

I checked in on my Purpose to declarations. A few worth noting:

EMBRACE:

First on my list was to choose something to embrace this year. I chose my curly hair. My hair likes to rebel, and I fight it with blow drying and straightening. This is the year I packed up my styling tools and went all in. This one act added hours to my life each week. I also realized how freeing it was to spend less time in front of the mirror. My hair is healthier. I have only dried my hair about 5 times this year. Miracle.

ENGAGE:

in nighttime conversations with my boys even when I’m tired. Success. I’ve always seen how my boys open up at night, especially one on one. I’ll miss this one day. At the same time, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep one day.

LEARN:

to meal plan better and love the kitchen duties. Ok, this one is a biggie for me. My family loves to eat. I DON’T love to cook. I dislike meal planning and the act of cooking. I don’t love grocery shopping. It’s the one area, if money weren’t a factor, I would hire a personal grocery shopper, meal planner, and chef. My sister sent me a free Hello Fresh box. With that one gift, my kitchen life changed drastically.

Here’s what I love. It’s whole, real ingredients. The meals come with everything you need. Those random ingredients I never have on hand are not a problem anymore. The portion sizes are right on (they even have meal kits for 2!). Seems I don’t have picky eaters anymore. I’m not even kidding. Every meal is devoured. One of my sons recently told me that he loves when I cook a Hello Fresh Meal because he knows it’s going to be amazing. We try recipes I’d never try off Pinterest. One too many experiences of Pinterest fails has me a bit hesitant to spend so much time and money on a recipe that likely won’t live up to it’s Pin.

Ok, now for my favorite. The recipe cards come with step by step instructions. Not like your typical recipe. I mean it tells you literally the order to do each step in, which I have found is priceless for me. These meals are gourmet meals I can have on the table in 30 minutes flat. Even my most simple meals, I’m slow in the kitchen. I’ve discovered I’m not very efficient when it comes to cooking. Often a simple meal might take me an hour. At the end of this post, I’ll link a code to receive $70 off your first Hello Fresh Box. Also I have 4 free boxes to give away.

A discovered theme

I guess a theme for me has been reclaiming time this year. Reclaiming time from my hair, from cooking, and giving it to areas that matter most to me.

Now your turn. Have you noticed a theme in your 2020 progress? Did you set goals, resolutions, or purposes? Is there an area you want to reclaim in your life?

It’s never too early to start thinking about what area we want to focus on. I’m a bit addicted to growth. I love seeing God’s work as we allow Him to stretch and mold us along the paths He’s planned for us.


For affiliate disclaimer visit the About page.

I have 4 free Hello Fresh boxes to give away. First come first served! The first 4 people to respond with your email address will receive a free box.

I also have promo codes for $70 off! Click here to redeem. (You will need to copy the link and paste in a new browser window. The link is not working properly at the time of this post.)  Hello Fresh $70 off

 

 

 

An easier parenting solution to the try hard life

As is normal in most families, or at least this is what I tell myself, we face seasons where peace seems a lofty wish. Siblings bicker more than normal, and we see hints of deeper heart issues needing to be addressed.

I have a stack of index cards filled with verses for such occasions. I’ve been known to pull out a card, read the verse, discuss with the kids, even have them write it several times. But they are getting older, and these methods don’t have the same effect as they did when they were younger. And this leads to me seeking control in an area I have no control.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember I posted a picture of a verse I’d written on the chalkboard in our mudroom.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

We gathered for a family meeting recently to discuss any issues we each feel weighing on us. A theme I’ve seen is what feels like a lack of love, which creates fights and hurtful words to be tossed about. After we each shared our thoughts, we prayed and went about our day.

I felt discouraged honestly. God brought to mind my favorite parenting book by Paul David Tripp titled Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. In his book he reminds us that God never tasked parents with the job of heart change. That is God’s job and absolutely 100% impossible for us.

The harder we try to change a person’s heart, the more discouraged we find ourselves. Only God can change a heart. In his book, Tripp tells us our role is to reflect the Savior and point our kids to their need for a Savior over and over and over again. Not in a preachy, Bible-beating way, but in a way that shows our deep love for them.

As I remembered my role in the lives of my kids, I opened up my lesson for the day with Community Bible Study. This year I’m a core group leader for our local CBS. We are currently in the book of Philippians. In the commentary that day the theme was “Christ – The Supreme Model” from Philippians 2:1-11. This sentence jumped off the page, “The letter reflects Paul’s deep concern about their lack of love and unity, but instead of exhorting them to try harder to be more loving, he directs their attention to Christ as the perfect example of living.”

Well, about an hour prior Steve and I sat our kids down telling them how they needed to try harder to love each other better. Yet, here I sat at my kitchen table hearing the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of a better way. Not only was God showing me that telling my kids to try harder was useless, He was reminding me for myself as well.

Out of my love for Jesus and my kids, I was caught in a try hard cycle. Again. It’s a weakness of mine. I see a problem and want to fix it right away. So I get to work. But when it’s matters of the heart, I simply wear myself out until My Savior whispers me away and gently pulls me back into Him.

He’s so kind like that. He hears my cry, and He responds. He reminds me of how He loves my kids more than I do. They are His not mine. I’ve been tasked to steward this job well in Him, but I’m not responsible for the results.

There’s freedom in understanding this. When I walk in this understanding, fear can’t have its way in my parenting. Parenting from fear and frustration never ends well.

I’ll need this reminder again. But for today I’m grateful I can rest in my Savior. His grace is available in our hardest parenting moments. We simply need to reach out and accept what He’s offering us. He won’t force us. He’s too gentle for that.

 

 

 

 

 

One blip of a moment that showed why simple traditions matter

In our first year of marriage, Steve played on a church softball team. One crisp Friday night, I sat on the bleachers cheering him on. A group of teenagers surrounded me. They were discussing Friday night plans. We had no children yet, so naturally I leaned in to spy on their conversations.

Lighthearted laughter, bantering back and forth. I smiled. I hope my teens have sweet spirits like this one day, I thought. A girl called out to one of the guys. “Hey, we are all going out to grab something to eat tonight. Want to go with us?”

“Not tonight! It’s Friday. Chicken and rice Friday. I never miss mom’s chicken and rice.”

My heart melted right into those hard as a rock metal bleachers. A teenage boy declining a Friday night out to go home to his mom’s meal. Because that is what Friday nights held in their home.

That was a turning point moment for me as a not-yet-mama.

I saw what I wanted to create in our family. I wanted a connected family. One filled with simple, yet meaningful traditions.

Start with the end in mind.

When an architect draws up a house plan, they ask their client what it is they want. The client will tell them their dream home and what they envision. They may say things like “I want to host large parties. Entertaining is important to me.” And the architect will draw up a plan that includes a design fit for their dreams and ideas.

When building begins, the builder works from the plan. The plan lays out the steps needed to reach the end goal and final result. Each step is intentionally taken to create the vision cast by the client.

In the same way, creating a family culture and establishing connected relationships involves looking down the road and deciding what is most important. Then you make a plan. Not a perfect plan. But. A plan.

With our families, we start with the end in mind too.

 

Here are a few ideas:

  • read aloud together. Start early and keep going when you think they’ve outgrown it. We are never too old to listen to stories. Some of my favorite memories are around books we’ve read together as a family. We’ve laughed and cried and celebrated.  We have a collection of memories around stories. It’s a favorite summer tradition in particular.
  • a simple weekly meal – like chicken and rice Friday. Taco Tuesdays are pretty popular. It’s simply nice to have something to all look forward to together. It’s steady and sure. Taco Tuesday arrives each week without much hurrah. Just a regular meal everyone counts on in a world that often is filled with setbacks and disappointments.
  • family dinners – sitting together to eat is important to me. Creating schedules to make that a priority is hard but worth it. For some families this is exceptionally hard. Try for at least one night a week. Or 2 or 3. Just set what works and stick to it.
  • weekly family night- Pick a night of the week for some family activity. Game night. Movie night. Go get ice cream. Again it’s that repeated activity that everyone counts on and looks forward to.
  • holiday traditions – The simpler the better. You don’t have to consult Pinterest and go over the top. Kids are typically quite pleased with less than we adults realize. It really is about the little things.
  • birthday traditions – My motto is always simple. I have a birthday banner from Zachary’s 5th birthday I saved. I hang it for everyone’s birthday. They all expect to see it when they wake up.

We have so many traditions, but they are super simple. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they are so simple, my kids wouldn’t call them a “tradition”. But to me a tradition is something we repeat together and come to expect we will continue to repeat.

My almost 16 year old son was invited to something recently. When he told me, I quickly said, “Go! You should go.” He responded, “No mom, that night is the same one as our annual tradition. It’s a tradition. I don’t want to miss it.”

And my heart did that melting thing it did some 18-19 years ago as I eavesdropped on teens I didn’t know realizing that I wanted to be a mom who created simple moments and meaningful traditions to foster connected relationships.

Traditions are a reminder of belonging. They connect us one to another.

You may remember I wrote a Christmas devotion titled Seeking Christmas. The heart of the book was to provide families with simple family traditions tied to the true meaning of Christmas. While the book is no longer in circulation, the spirit of Seeking Christmas, along with the ornaments and hide and seek activity, are alive and well.

I created Seeking Christmas to counter the materialism and consumerism of Christmas, while simultaneously creating traditions centered completely around why we even celebrate. My kids rarely remembered a material gift from year to year, but they never forgot the simple moments we built into our holiday season.

It was the experiences and activities they asked for. Not the presents.

So here it is. A 7 day Christmas ornament hide and seek activity. 1 ornament a day you hide, let your kids find it. Then you open the Bible together and read the scripture. Over 7 days you unfold a small part of the Christmas story.

It’s simple. It’s effective. It’s a tradition. It’s for the busiest of busy families. It’s made to stand alone or build upon however you choose. It’s flexible. You don’t have to start on a certain Sunday or December 1st.

You can buy the download to create your own ornaments for $1. I will also be loading some printed, ready to ship ornament sheets on the shop so stay tuned for those. I only have a few sets leftover from my recent Pop-Up shop. So grab them while they are here.

 

 

My job is not to make my kid’s struggle easier.

My job is not to make my kid’s struggle easier.

My job is to lean in and point them to the cross.

The struggle is real.

Life is a struggle. If we as parents continue to step in and right their world and make everything fair and perfect, what a disservice we offer them in the long run. Because ultimately we are creating a false sense of reality for them.

In my fierce attempts to protect my child from failure, mistakes, unfairness, and hardship, I elbow Christ right out of the way. I step in and say to the One who wants to be my child’s Comforter, Defender, and Rescuer, “I’ve got this. I’ll smooth this path for him and make it all better.”

Sadly, Christ is left out. Our kids aren’t pointed to the cross. Rather, they begin to see the world as a place that is supposed to be fair and good to them. In reality, this world is fallen and broken. In God’s mercy and love, He sent His son to make it all right. And on this earth, we won’t experience perfection and goodness in all situations. This is when we turn toward Him in faith and say, “I trust in You. You love me. You care for me. One day I will stand with you in eternity and see the world as it should be.”

I had a friend tell me stories of parents calling him when their adult children didn’t get the job. They wanted to know why their child wasn’t chosen. Parents calling the coach and demanding their kid be placed on a team they simply weren’t cut out for. Parents racing to school after the child left homework at home. AGAIN.

It is ok for our kids to struggle. It’s ok for them to fail so they can learn. If we consistently rescue them, how will they ever grow strong?

It’s hard to watch our kids struggle. But if we don’t let them now, while we can talk them through it, they will not be prepared when it really matters.

7 years ago I wrote a post about the importance of struggle. I shared a story in which I struggled to allow my child to struggle. 7 years later, I believe in this more than I realized I would. Click through to read that post with me. The Struggle with Struggle.

 

When Your Child Tells You He Wants To Be In Control Of His Life

“Mom, I have a very important question for you.”

I climbed in the bed, sitting as close as possible. Bedtime. The time they open up and want to talk about all the things.

“You know how I like freedom and independence right?”

I nodded. He continued, “Well, I wondered. Can I make all my own choices for my life from now on? Can I make my own decisions without you guys choosing for me?”

Because he was completely serious, I knew not to laugh or even chuckle. Anyway, I never want to belittle his ponderings.

“Well, Andrew, making choices and decisions for your life comes with great responsibility. It takes much practice and failure to learn.”

His question actually sparked an important conversation I hope he tucks away.

Andrew began to question why his 15 year old brother stays up so much later than him. Why he can’t choose his own bedtime. I explained that Jacob has established trust with us over the course of 15 years. He’s not perfect. He’s made mistakes. But he’s begun the habit of making wise choices. With wise choices comes greater freedom. With greater freedom comes greater responsibility.

“Andrew, you aren’t prepared to carry the load of responsibility that will come with so much freedom. Not yet. I believe one day you will. But we need some practice in smaller areas first.”

He nodded with a heavy sigh.

The following day, I shared the conversation with the older boys. I explained that Jacob has proven we don’t need to dictate a bedtime. He doesn’t misuse the freedom. I explained that when trust is built, it’s a beautiful thing. Freedom in the hands of someone who guards and protects how they walk that freedom out is lovely.

I believe it’s Dr. Kevin Lehman who never gave his kids curfews. He let them choose what they thought was acceptable and found they always came home earlier than he would have even required.

We all long for some breathing room.

Andrew was quiet for a moment. A moment is about as long as he can remain silent.

“Well, are there some choices I can make on my own at least?”

“Yes, I think we can come up with a few. Let’s spend some time thinking about it and discuss in a few days.”

Now I need to shift gears on you a bit. I can’t leave this post here and allow you to walk away thinking it’s merely parenting advice and a sweet story. God has been doing a very deep work in my heart lately. I can’t say I’ve handled it so well either.

But God in His kindness has allowed enough circumstances to press in on me to force me into a place of dealing with what’s easier to stuff in the the dark closets of my soul.

Shame lives in the dark. And it’s time I allowed His light to bring out areas I’ve never surrendered to Him.

Do you remember at the beginning of the year I shared how I didn’t want a word for the year but God gave me one anyway? It was surrender.

You see, Andrew asked a question that if I’m honest, I hold in my heart as well. And maybe you do too? I can resist God when I fight to maintain control. When I have to have my way. When I want to essentially be in control of my own life.

It’s pride. And the thing about pride is that is has so many faces.

I did something that was harder than I realized it would be. I made an appointment with a christian counselor. It is something I’ve felt God nudging me to do for a very long time. But I’ve become a master at telling myself everything’s good and I’m fine. To make that call, I had to admit that I’m actually not fine. I’m not ok.

But maybe it’s ok to not be ok? I’ve spent my life being dictated by an inner perfectionist, even as a child of God. I’ve felt a need to have everything right. And when it’s not right the controller inside me kicks in to make it all right. And then I leave no room for the Holy Spirit because I’m elbowing Him out of the way.

Man. What a gracious God we serve! So good beyond what we fathom. So patient. So kind.

The very day Andrew posed this question, I found out Steve and I would be teaching a lesson on pride vs humility to the kindergarten thru 5th graders at church. I laughed. This is so like God. The very thing He has been trying to refine from my heart is the very thing I’m going to have to teach on?

God didn’t place me in the role of teaching because I’ve figured out how to walk in humility. Nope. It’s so I can lower myself to student and learn. Surrender. Let Him teach me.

Lastly, He told me to get down. Literally, physically lower my physical body. On my knees, on my belly. Get low.

Humble myself before Him. Surrender fully to Him.

Lord, thank you that you love us too much to leave us in our selfish pride and arrogance. Thank you that you will go to extreme measures to shape and mold us into the vessel You desire. We open our hands to You in surrender. We love you, Lord.