Category: parenting

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.

Raising Kids Isn’t For Sissies

You can warn unsuspecting childless people that raising kids is hard, heartbreaking, and sometimes backbreaking work. It doesn’t matter; most of them will have kids anyway. Its how we keep this humanity thing going. But it’s not for sissies.

As parents, we have to make choices for our kids. What to feed them, when to feed them, how much to feed them. Feeding kids and thinking about feeding kids can take up a lot of time. And that’s just the food. There’s all kinds of decisions parents have to make. If I started to list them all, I might just get overwhelmed and have to stop writing, and go lay down.

In the last almost twenty years, I couldn’t even begin to think of how many decisions I have made for my kids. Together, Matthew and I have made thousands, I am sure. Some of them have been brilliant, some not so much. It’s hard to get things right all the time. Like our moms always said, “Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.”

It’s hard to know, early on, if your kids are going to turn out okay. Sometimes you can get most of this parenting thing right, and kids still turn out a mess. Sometimes kids can walk out of horrendous home situations and live beautiful, productive, and well-adjusted lives. It hardly seems fair, and it’s certainly unpredictable.

I always love talking to parents who are agonizing over some issue with their kids. No matter what the situation is, I think, “There’s a lucky kid.” That kid may not feel too lucky, but if a parent cares enough to agonize over them, they are blessed. Why do we agonize? Because we are responsible for those decisions we make. No one else. It’s all us, baby.

I think this parenting thing comes down to one major thing. Oh there are tons of minor things, but it comes down to this one major thing. God planned who your kid’s parents were going to be from the foundation of the earth. He decided to give Matthew and me four beautiful children, four specific children. He didn’t give them to anyone else, and he was purposeful in that. So good or bad, they are ours, and in his way, he will work his will and his way with those four people through their lives with Matthew and me. All the decisions we make on their behalf will shape them and mold them. Bad decisions will make them grow stronger, and good ones will bless them, too.

As I write this, two of my teenaged kids are in Honduras on a life changing mission trip. They are trying to help change a generation in Honduras with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can check out what they are doing by going to www.1nation1day.com. They are chaperoned by armed guards wherever they go, for Honduras is one of the most violent countries on earth. How about that for a decision to make? Lets send our kids into danger. Lots of parents would not have made that same decision for their kids. In fact, only sixty other sets of parents from our church of 20,000 did. As I hugged my eighteen-year-old son goodbye, I told him to be safe, and then I told him to have an adventure! From all the reports I am getting back, he is! And my daughter, too.

I think the best thing you can do for your child is to lead them into a life of adventure. Playing it safe is not really what we are called to as Christians. We are called to make a difference. So in all of the decisions we make as parents, let us lead our kids into lives of adventure for the Kingdom of God. Let them step out of their comfort zone to follow the One who made them. They are ours, but only for a while. They learn to follow us so one day they can follow Him!