Category: parenting

Working Ourselves Out of a Job

I’ve read a lot of parenting books over the last two decades. Why? I had four kids to raise. That’s a lot of opportunity to screw up, and I didn’t want that to happen. In all honesty, I can’t recall a lot of the specific things I’ve read over the years, but there is one thing in particular I read once that has stuck with me. I think it was James Dobson who wrote,

“If you are doing anything for your kids that they can do for themselves (or should be doing for themselves) you are doing them a disservice.”

That hit me hard because I can be that kind of mother. I can be that kind of mother because I have that kind of mother. My mom did absolutely everything for me… And I loved it. When it comes to the people she loves the most, my mom has a servant’s heart. Her acts of service were how she loved on me, and it’s how I love on my people.

So when I read that quote, it struck me right between the eyes. My kids were still small then, but I was doing things for them that they could do for themselves. I tried to stop. It’s hard. I’m that mom. If I am completely honest, I still do things for my kids that they could do for themselves, and I continue to hear James’ words in my ear. I think it was easy for James to say those words because he’s a man. Men are wired differently.

I know we are trying hard to blur the gender lines in society today, but the truth is, men and women are created to be different, and that’s okay.

For instance:

My husband often tells me I coddle our kids too much, and my position is that he’s too hard on them. Wanna know something? We’re both right. But somewhere in the middle of all that is the right balance for our kids. He’s getting them ready for real life, and I’m the soft place they can fall when real life hits them too hard.

That little nugget I learned from Tim Keller’s parenting book called, Grace Based Parenting. Okay. Maybe I remember more than I thought.

I recently sat at a table and listened to some parents of young adults bemoan the fact that their kids were no where near ready to handle adult life on their own. Their kids had no goals, no idea how to handle their finances, and no plan for how to change any of that. It was a source of great concern for those parents.

In that moment, once again,  my husband was a champion to me.

Because of Matthew, our young adult kids are learning to pay bills, live on a budget, save money, give a tithe, use a credit card wisely, and finish college on time while holding down a job. Periodically, he has them write down their future goals… One year, three year, or five year goals.

He teaches them how to care for things they have, and how to handle repairs if something breaks. I can’t say they are always thrilled to learn these practical life lessons, but they are better off because of them.

If it was left up to me, they wouldn’t know any of those things. I’m more of the encouragement, relationships, faith, and character teacher… (In addition to teaching them how to wash clothes, cook a meal, and run a vacuum)

Our kids need all of it to succeed in this life. If any part is missing, they’ll have a rougher time of it. As parents, we can’t throw in the towel before we get them to the finish line. We have to hang in there, even when we are tired and even when they would just rather us not.

I’ll still finish up my kids’ laundry for them rather than making them do it sometimes, and to my husband’s point, I could certainly make them do more around the house.

But just this week, I was going to be delayed getting home one evening which meant I would miss being able to fix dinner. Worried, I said as much to my oldest son who said, “What? Am I six? I can handle dinner, Mom.”

That’s the trouble with raising capable children. You work yourself right out of a job.

The Way We Parent Has a Lot to Say About How We View God

As a young girl, my first ideas of what God was like were connected to my ideas of what my earthly father is like. Because of that, to me, God was interested in me and in the things I was interested in, but he was not too intimately involved in the details. He was always there in a pinch, could fix almost any problem, and always came to my rescue. It was a comfortable, dependable, and fairly predictable relationship. It was very safe. I am thankful for it.

I think girls tend to marry men rather like their fathers. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes, not so much. For me, I found the very best of my father in my husband, Matthew. In many ways they are similar, but in others they are very different. Still, it was the qualities I loved most about my dad that first drew me to my husband. I think that is very cool.

I remember one of the first times Matthew rode in my car, he thought he needed to check the oil. (I didn’t know why, something about a pretty yellow light on my dashboard…) He checked it, and apparently I was a quart low. He happened to have a quart on hand, and put it in my car. Just like my dad. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

I have grown in my faith over the years. It has changed the way I see God, and the way I think God sees me. The biggest thing that has changed about the way I view God is that I believe he is more intimately involved in my life than I realized. He’s not watching from a safe distance, ready to jump in and intervene at a moment’s notice, he is right there, close as a breath, all the time. It’s like the old hymn I used to sing,

“He walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own…”

I have recently noticed something about the way I parent. I love my parents, and I think they did a stellar job raising me, if I do say so myself, but there are differences in the job they did and the job I think I am doing. My parents often tell me I need to back off a bit in my parenting. They think I might be too intimately involved in my children’s lives. They tell me that my kids will figure most things out on their own, and that I should just be available if they need me. I think they think I meddle. Okay, sometimes I meddle.

But recently, a light bulb went on in my head. My parents parented me according to the way they see God parenting them. I parent my kids the way I see God parenting me. I don’t see God standing at a distance, interested, but just diligently watching. I see him all up in my life, leading, directing, protecting and loving. He talks to me, and I talk to him. I share with him my hopes, dreams, fears, and failures. I am his.

I can’t fathom not being up close and involved with my children. It’s how God parents me and it’s my best example. I want my kids to look at me and Matthew and the way we parent, and realize that’s how God wants to be with them. He wants to be as up close and personal as he can be.

The Bible talks about the spiritual relationship God wants to have with us as being like the physical relationship is between a man and woman in marriage. That’s pretty close. And for a child of God, there can be nothing better than knowing that He wants to be that close.

Take a look back at the way your parents parented you. Do you think it has affected the way you see God and his relationship with you? Does the way you see God influence the way you parent your kids? Is that a good thing for your kids? If not, could it be you need to change the way you see God?

Remember, the way your kids see you may well influence the way they see God.

Are These Kids Listening to Me?

As parents of kids who are getting older, Matthew and I begin to count the days we have left with them in our care. Partly because those days become precious, and partly because you begin to plan the celebration! Just kidding, sort of. The reality is that we are given these kids for only so long and if we do our jobs correctly, they will fly away from the nest and never look back. Except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And Mother’s Day. They better not forget Mother’s Day.

I’m kidding again. As a parent you hope to always be a small part of your children’s lives, but a lot of that depends on how you raise them. I tell my husband we want to raise our kids in a family they want to be a part of for the rest of their lives. I want them bound to us as their parents and bound to each other. We’ve always told them, “Friends come and go, but your siblings are forever… So treat them better than you treat other people.” This has been an ongoing lesson for our daughter who tends to treat our youngest child more like a pet than a brother.

We’re working on it.

Here are some other things we are working on with our kids.

“It’s only awkward if you let it be.” If you have teens, you know they avoid awkward situations at all costs. Even situations that are not really all that awkward, like me singing in the grocery store, or talking to a complete stranger in the check out line about what they are buying and what they are going to make with all that. Sometimes uncomfortable situations may truly arise, but they are only awkward if you let them be. We face those tight spots with people with as much grace as possible, and move on.

“Say thank you and show gratitude.” Our kids are like most these days and have so much. They get to do so many things. We want our kids to always be thankful and to show their appreciation to those who are generous. Ultimately, we want them to remember that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights…” (James 1:17), and we want them to be thankful to their heavenly Father for all they have.

On that note, remember “If you never ask, the answer is always no.” Sometimes our kids have gone without something simply because they were too afraid to ask for it, or they assumed the answer would be no. As the saying goes, “A closed mouth never gets fed.”

“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” This was a principle we adopted a while ago, and we have been pleased to see it reinforced by other influences in our kid’s lives. This is a good principle for when they are applying for a job, and trying to keep a job, too. But it reaches much farther than that. It shows that you will do what you say you will do, and that you are honoring the other people to whom you have committed your time. Now, we all run late sometimes, but if we are honest, we run late because we didn’t prepare to not run late. If you do all you can to honor your commitment, and still cannot, then of course, we hope grace will be offered. But running late should be the exception, not their habit.

“Be thrifty, not cheap.” I guess this one should be pretty self-explanatory. Living a life in full time ministry means we were not going to live a life of luxury. But there is a difference between thrifty and cheap, and we have tried to teach our kids that difference.

“Find your passion, and serve God with it.” Whatever gifting and talent we have is only given to us to serve our God and to make him famous. We have tried to help our kids find their passion, each one, and have hopefully shown them how to glorify the Lord through it.

“Don’t be afraid to commit.” We have been heavy on the relationship issues in our house. So many young men these days are afraid of commitment. So many marriage relationships fall apart because there is no real commitment there. Our two older boys have had only a few dating relationships. Our daughter, sixteen, has not yet even had her first date (Her choice). And Evan is still patiently waiting in the wings. Why? It would sound as though they are afraid to commit, when the reality is just the opposite. When our kids start a relationship, it involves our whole family. We all commit to it together. When our kids enter into a dating relationship, we have repeated conversations about where the relationship is going, and how it is going. This level of commitment has surprised a few girls, even scared a few off. But that’s okay, too

Matthew and I hope to send these kids of ours off one day ready to face all kinds of life situations. We are doing all we can to ensure there is no failure to launch among them. Life lessons are important, and we know our time is running short. We are working like a one armed paperhanger to get these lessons, and others, across.

Parents… don’t retire too early. There is still much to do even though our kids think they have it all together. It’s an act. It’s our job to hang in there till the game is over. A lot of us are in that seventh inning stretch, but we’re not quite done yet. You wonder if anything you are teaching them is sticking. You wonder, “Are these kids listening to me?”

Yes. They are.

Preparing for Our Own Empty Nest Day

There are lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom. Like you don’t really have to be able to outrun a grizzly bear. You just need to be able to outrun your friends. It really is survival of the fittest out there.

Elephants are my favorite members of the animal kingdom. It’s not because they are cute. They aren’t. It’s because of the way they treat each other. We could learn a lot from an elephant.

Little animals have much to teach us as well. Take birds for example. When young birds are finally ready to leave the nest, momma just pushes them out. There’s no discussion around the issue. There are no special considerations given to the late hatchers, on Empty Nest Day, everyone goes.

When young mothers first look into the eyes of their new born babies, I would guess very few of them think of pushing that baby out of the nest one day. No, looking into perfect little face, most mothers want to hold onto that tiny one forever. The last thing moms want to consider is pushing that precious darling out into the cold, cruel world.

But smart moms know this one thing. One day that little baby is going to be ready to fly from the nest, and smart moms begin preparing for that day long before it ever comes.

Babies are supposed to be dependent on their parents, completely. Without constant attention, those little bundles of joy would not be long for this world. As parents, we meet each and every need to the best of our abilities. And when we do that, something happens. That little baby grows up.

Raising children who are confident and ready to leave the nest on Empty Nest Day is one of a parent’s primary goals. The alternative is having a forty-year-old adult living in your basement because we never taught them how to fly.

Those flying lessons need to start early. That’s often harder for moms to comprehend than it is for dads. By nature, moms are nurturers. We cling. We hover. We smother

I read somewhere once that if we are doing anything for our children that they can do for themselves, we are doing them a disservice. Ouch. As moms, we often have a servant’s heart when it comes to our families, even if we don’t have it anywhere else. That can really get in the way of teaching our kids to fly.

If you have never watched a momma bird on Empty Nest Day, she can seem a bit cruel. Those baby birds are leaving that day. No negotiations. No moving back into the nest later with baby birds of their own. It’s done. Out, out, out.

But the momma bird is doing what she has to do to ensure that her babies survive. If she let them continue to stay in the nest, and she kept bringing them food, they would soon outgrow her abilities to supply their needs, and they would all die. The babies would die from lack of nutrition and exercise, and the momma bird would die of exhaustion.

So how do we moms learn from that momma bird how to prepare for our own Empty Nest Day? Well, we start the day those little bundles of joy come into our lives. The Lord gives us those children for a limited time. It’s kind of like they are on loan to us. Like everything else we have, those children belong to Him. Oh, they will always be our children, but they will not always be our babies.

There are so many bad things in the world that keep parents from readying their kids to live in it. We are afraid for them. But, what if instead of that viewpoint, we raise kids who say, “Look out cruel world, here I come! I hope you are ready for me!”

What if we raise kids who eagerly look forward to Empty Nest Day? I’m not talking about the rebellious, “I can’t wait to get out from under your thumb” kid, but kids that we have properly groomed to find their intended place and purpose in the world, and are anticipating that day.

The day is drawing closer for our first bird to fly away. He’s not quite ready yet, but he is stretching his wings and checking out the scenery. We are pushing him closer to the edge of the nest, and letting him get a new perspective on the world around him. From this vantage point he is beginning to find his place in society. He is beginning to picture his own life outside of our nest.

If you’ve ever watched baby birds leaving their nest, their first few attempts at freedom from the nest are a bit awkward, but they all get it eventually. And when they do, not a one of them ever looks back because they are ready to be on their own.

It works because the momma bird knows from the beginning that she has only a certain amount of time to get those kids ready to fly, and she doesn’t waste a minute. We can learn a lot from that momma bird.

I Am Learning What All Full-time Working Moms Already Know

In the last couple of years, I have learned what all full-time working wives and mothers already know. I have learned to try to make the most of every moment. I used to have spare time to take my cat to the vet. Or pluck my eyebrows. Or read a book. No problem. Or grab lunch with a friend or go shopping for groceries or shoes. Now all of those things fit into my schedule only if I am really creative. Some things just don’t get done at all. (Stop staring at my eyebrows) And that just has to be okay. No one is offering me a “Good Housekeeping” award these days. Most days my house is passable, but it would rarely pass anyone’s white glove test. Who has white gloves these days, anyway?

But there are some things that must find their way into my busy schedule. Like those groceries. My husband and my kids still like to eat. And so do I. Trying to find time to get that dreaded job done has been a challenge. I’m not a fan of the task anyway. I usually give up sleeping in late on Saturday mornings to head to the local Wal-Mart to do the deed and beat the crowds. I am not a fan of Wal-Mart in general. I was going to say that I hate Wal-mart, but I decided that was really harsh language. I like to poke fun at the odd clientele that’s seen in Wal-Mart, but then I realize that at least once a week, that clientele includes me, so….

While some things must go undone, there must be a priority list of things that no matter my work schedule, cannot slide. I heard a sermon preached by Andy Stanley once where he essentially said,

Somebody is going to get cheated. Rarely can we meet everyone’s expectations every day. We commit to too many things. Someone is going to get cheated. Andy went on to say that if we must cheat someone, cheat our jobs. Cheat the PTA. Cheat the church (gasp). But do not cheat our families.

Andy is giving us permission to say no to some things in order to say yes to other things. In learning how to be a full-time working mom and wife, I have made the mistake of putting my job ahead of my family’s needs sometimes. It’s maybe okay to do that every once in a while, but when it becomes a regular thing, something’s got to give. My children, my husband, need to know if the chips are down, and even if they aren’t, I will choose them.

I can’t expect to come home from a long day of work, put my pajamas on and head for the couch every night. No, I come home, put my pajamas on, and head for the kitchen. I managed to fit grocery shopping in, now I must fit in some meal prep. I could sacrifice mealtime, but I don’t want to. It’s my favorite time with my family. What I do sacrifice is gourmet meals. Those who know me best know that this is not a real sacrifice for me. No one ever called me a gourmet cook. Honestly, no one ever called me any kind of a cook. But a quick and easy meal saves my feet, and gives me that treasured mealtime with my family.

I have precious little time with my kids. They are growing up and out from under me. Soon, my husband and I will be empty nesting. Just because I am working full time does not excuse me from pouring into their lives practically and spiritually. I stole this next idea from another person. (It’s okay to steal from someone if it means getting your kids to read the Bible.) Every morning, when I pull into a parking space at work, I stop, pull out my phone, pull up the One Year Bible and text a passage of Scripture to all four of my kids. I hope they are reading the Bible on their own, but in case they aren’t, they get a little nugget from me. It takes me about one minute to do that.

Recently, my thirteen year old was asked to share a verse and a word of encouragement to the other students during their prayer and worship service. I asked him what he was going to say, and he said he was going to share one of the verses I had sent him that had meant a lot to him. Whoohoo! Small investment, huge return

After I send my kids their passage for the day, I climb onto a shuttle that I ride for the next fifteen minutes or so to my building. I used to just pittle on my phone, catch up on Facebook or Twitter. That is until the Holy Spirit, through a friend, convicted me. Now, I use that time to do my own Bible reading. That fifteen minutes changes my whole day. I used to dread that shuttle ride, now I look forward to it.

I’d be lying if I said that I preferred working full time. I enjoy what I do, but it’s harder. It’s more of a challenge to find the time to do the things that should matter the most. But it’s teaching me some things, too. I am learning that my steps are ordered for me. That where I spend my days now is exactly where the Lord wants me to be, and that I was made for such a time as this. And I am learning, that with diligence, I can still keep the important things at the top of my list.

Guard Her Heart, Fathers

As each of my three sons has passed through middle school, I have noticed something. Well I’ve noticed a lot of things, but the thing I feel compelled to write about today is middle school girls. I know I’ve been on a middle school soapbox lately, but honestly, these are truly the wonder years, and a lot happens during these years that set the stage for the next five to ten.

I went shopping with my now sixteen-year-old daughter yesterday and the subject of middle school girls came up. She made the statement, “They will look back on how they are acting now in a couple of years, and wish they hadn’t acted that way.”

What way was she talking about, exactly? Well, it’s actually the subject of this blog piece. It’s a plea, really, to all parents of middle school girls.

Middle school girls are out of control. It’s not anything too terribly new, but it is true. Both middle school girls and boys have to learn what to do with their new raging hormones. Mostly boys have to learn to channel their aggression. Testosterone is a hugely distracting hormone. Until it comes under control, middle school boys will likely see a dip in grades, and less control of their emotions and mouths.

Estrogen and progesterone are a different matter altogether. Mood swings can be dizzying. A once easy, sweet girl will become catty and unpredictable. Girls have a difficult time believing they can make it through middle school without validation from a male. Left unchecked, these little girls will literally chase after boys like hyenas taking down an antelope.

They move in packs. No less than three in a pack, but there’s usually more. It’s typically only one girl who wants to go in for the kill, but she has her pack there to help her take down her victim. I suppose that’s taking the hyena analogy a bit far. I know it’s not flattering to compare young girls to hyenas, but from my vantage point, the situations are similar.

I think most parents would be shocked to see this phenomenon take place. I would venture to say that most parents wouldn’t condone their little girl texting a boy fifty times or more in one day. It happens.

They become pretty adept at stalking boys, too. I’ve watched it happen. The boy being stalked is standing there, minding his own business, maybe talking to a friend or two about Saturday’s game, or who’s going to be the first round draft pick, or how long it’s been since they’ve changed socks or washed their gym clothes.

Then here comes the pack of girls. They stop short of coming right up to the boy. They stand off a few feet in a group and act like they are doing something else; that there was some urgent business in that particular spot just then. And then they turn up the volume. Something funny just got REAL funny. And then they all steal a look at their intended victim. Does he see them there? Well, he does now.

So he says something smart like, “Hey, could you be any louder?”

And they go in for the kill. One in the pack will defend them with a smart comeback, but the leader, the one who has her eyes on the prize just stands there looking cute and hoping he will notice. He notices. He’s thirteen. He notices.

I’ve watched this very thing happen again and again. With each son, I’ve watched it happen. And each time, I say to myself, “If my daughter ever behaves like this, I will strangle her.”

It comes down to a need for validation. Young, maturing girls need for someone to tell them they matter, that they are worthy of admiration. I’m not so old that I don’t remember having those feelings myself at that age. I can remember drawing pictures of weddings, and thinking that no one would ever ask me to marry them. I probably even stalked a few boys myself.

So what’s missing in these young girl’s lives that they feel they need to be so aggressive towards young boys just to grab a little attention? That is the question. The answer is this. Here is some truth. If young girls do not get appropriate validation from their father, or a father figure, they will find it somewhere else.

Admittedly, some dads have a hard time during this developmental stage. While it may not really be appropriate for a thirteen-year-old daughter to snuggle up in their father’s lap like they did when they were three, six, or nine, there still needs to be acceptable physical contact and validation from that father. It is the dad’s role to justify their daughters at this stage of life. Being the apple of daddy’s eye is never more important than it is now

If daddy doesn’t hold his daughter’s heart, then she will give it away to someone else, (Or several someones in succession) and do you really want to trust it to a teen boy? In case you are wondering, the answer is no. As a mother of three boys, I can tell you. No. A young teen boy has no idea what to do with a girl’s heart. He shouldn’t know yet. It’s not time for him to know.

If a girl’s heart is safely tucked away in the care of her father, then she is free to grow up at a pace that will protect her heart and her emotions. If her daddy holds her heart, it will not be broken by the careless acts of a young boy. If daddy holds her heart, then she is free to chase someone else; she is free to chase after Jesus.

We need to teach our young girls that the race they are running isn’t to the next cute boy. Those boys aren’t going anywhere. We need to show our girls that if they run the race marked out for them, the one God has chosen, their goal will be Jesus. And at the appointed time, there will be a young man there who is also running his race. And since his goal was also Jesus, then oh what a happy day that will be!

Then, and only then, will it be okay for daddy to relinquish his daughter’s heart to the one who will handle it with care. To the one who will guard it at all costs, just like he did.

My daughter turns sixteen today. She has never had a boyfriend. She has not had her first kiss yet. She is too busy running her race. If you ask her, she might tell you there’s been a distraction or two along the way, but she knows the one that will get her heart from her dad one day is too busy running his race, too. At the appointed time, he’ll be waiting there for her…and won’t that be grand?

Middle School Madness, The Sequel

So many times I run across parents who ask, “Help! What do I do?” And then they ask the pertinent question about their tween or teen. Usually it has to do with the three areas I wrote about in Middle School Madness, Part One. Usually the questions have to do with worries about their middle schooler’s physical, social, or educational vulnerabilities.

More often than not, answers to all of their questions lie in the fourth area of vulnerability. Spiritual vulnerability.

For kids who have grown up in a Christian home, most enter middle school still riding on the coattails of their parent’s faith. It’s time for them to stand on their own spiritual feet. It’s time to have the talk. I’m not talking about the sex talk, although it’s time for that, too. I’m talking about the faith talk.

But that’s not the end. Making sure your child’s faith is their own is a big step, and one worth celebrating, but it’s just the beginning. Now that your child has owned their faith, it needs to grow, and that takes work. It takes work on the child’s part, but it takes parental work, too.

Take advantage of every opportunity your child has to cross paths with people who will pour into them, spiritually. Whatever it is that your church offers to middle school kids, do it. Trust me. You need the backup. For instance at my church, in addition to Sunday morning worship, there’s Wednesday night youth services, small groups (bible study), retreats, mission trips, serve opportunities, and a humongous student conference. The more points of contact your kids can have with those who will feed their faith, the better.

Too many times we allow influences other than spiritual ones to take precedence in our children’s lives. (Fair warning: I’m about to step on some toes.) We knowingly sign them up for some activity that is scheduled during a regular church event.

Now, I know it’s hard. I know. There’s pressure. And not only pressure for our kids; there’s parental pressure to buy into all this activity. Our kids love baseball, or football, or dance, or whatever. And they really have talent. They could be a contender. Let me tell you some truth. They’re not a contender. For the vast majority of kids, they’re just not going to play Pro ball. They aren’t going to be a prima ballerina.

Take a breath… and admit I’m right.

I’m not saying your kid isn’t special, or that they shouldn’t enjoy what they enjoy, but in this life we have to make choices about what matters most, and we have to teach our kids to make those good choices, too. What are we telling our kids when we intentionally sign them up to participate in an activity that precludes them from being involved in a regular church activity?

We are saying that what they will get from the activity will impact them in a more positive way than what they will get from the church activity. I’m telling you honestly, if that is really true, you need to find another church.

Today.

For the rest of us, the truth is we might be buying into the lie that says we have to conform to what society tells us our kids should be doing. Communities and schools all over this country have decided to plan activities that keep our kids from being able to be involved in both church and extracurricular activities. If enough parents said no to this ridiculousness, it would go away. It would. But parents are afraid if they say no, then Johnny will sit on the bench for the next game, and wouldn’t that just be terrible?

Would it?

So Johnny sits on the bench for a game. Johnny tells his teammates about his life changing experience on Wednesday night at church, and how cooling his heels on the bench is a small price to pay for the life change he experienced there. Come next Wednesday night, maybe one or two other players decide they want to check out what’s going on at Johnny’s church, so they miss practice, too. A few more weeks like that, and there’ll be more kids on the bench than on the field.

Oh my.

Can I share a story of a young middle school girl I know? What a difference a year makes. Last fall, she was struggling, spiritually. This girl’s parents did it all. They helped their daughter make her faith her own. They pushed, pulled, and dragged her to every youth activity until the tables turned and she started pulling them to church activities. This young lady is well on her way to being a huge influence for the Kingdom of God. And guess what? At the end of July, when we hosted our student conference at the Birmingham Civic Center, this twelve-year-old girl stood on stage and told five thousand students how she was going to go back to school and bring Jesus to her classmates.

I hear she’s a pretty fair volleyball player, too. Just not during church time.

These are choices we parents have to make. We are still in control. We are, and if we aren’t, it’s time we were again. We don’t want our kids to follow the crowd, and yet many times we do as parents. It’s time we started deciding once again what is best for our kids. It’s time we start looking past this sport or dance season and look to our child’s future, their eternity. Only what matters for eternity really matters anyway. Are we teaching our kids to follow societal norms, or are we teaching them to chase after God? When your kid’s spiritual vulnerabilities begin to solidify in healthy ways, you’ll find that the rest of their vulnerabilities will also solidify in healthy ways. Test me and see if I’m right. If I’m wrong, I’ll give you your money back.