Monday, August 26, 2013


Stick-to-it-ness.  Who doesn't want that?  Kids and, let's admit it, adults have natural tenacity when it is something we enjoy.  But when it is something mundane, difficult, or unpleasant?  (Laundry, anyone??). Not so much.  Now you Type-A folks may disagree, but realize I am writing from a non-Type-A perspective...about as far from Type-A as you can get.

I have kids who are tenacious, who have drive and gusto and determination to finish the task.  I also have kids who would rather watch TV.  They are the tough ones to school and to train because they give up easily.  So how do I teach tenacity?

By being tenacious

I try to model it so that I can expect the same from them.  I read books that are difficult.  (Still working on Les Miserables.  Hopefully I will finish it during this decade!). I work the same math problem with them 832 times until they get it.  If I don't know the answer to something they see me research until I find it.  And when I just can't do it I pray for help.  (Probably should do that to start with, right?)
Tenacity is hard for me to teach because it is not a natural thing for me.  I have a long history, especially in my early walk with Christ, of giving up or stopping short of the goal. 

I want better for my kids.

And here I sit again, marveling at the grace of God. As He urges me on in parenting, prompting me to focus on these character traits, I realize He is building these things in me as well.  I am most definitely a work in progress.  What a relief to experience the patience of God and know that all the things He calls me to do as a mother must and will flow from His work in my own heart and life!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Discretion:  The ability to avoid word, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences.

Discretion isn't a word I hear often.  Well, unless it is when encouraging adventure and then you hear "throw discretion to the wind!"  But I'm not talking about playing it safe or avoiding conflict.  I'm also not talking about being legalistic.  I'm talking about what so many character traits seem to go back to:  Considering the needs of others before yourself.

Today I overheard one sibling verbally stabbing another.  Hurtful words, laughing at another's pain, ugliness. My heart hurt and my anger boiled.  A few minutes later it happened again between a different pair of kids and I decided to forgo our planned Bible study on Luke and teach my kids the value of a good, old-fashioned word study.

I pulled out my Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  My kids looked at me like I was crazy.  We sat down in the family room and I explained what we were going to discuss.

The tongue.

I taught them how to look it up and we dove into a few scriptures, discussing what God wants for us.  Pouts and tears eventually decreased as we focused on God's promise to those who fear Him, who follow Him, who live in the freedom of His love.  The conversation was difficult at times, not because they couldn't understand but because our idea of reward is often so different than what God offers.

We spent the most time on Psalm 34:11-16...

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, 
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous 
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Then my sweet Katie asked a difficult question, about a young girl we knew who passed away suddenly a few years ago.  What about her?  She was a strong, outspoken, godly Christian girl.  Why did she die so young if God promises many good days?

So then we have to she not seeing good days right now?  Is she not where she dreamed of going? Did she leave a legacy?  Isn't she remembered even now as a light for Christ, showing her friends the way and shining as a beautiful example of what following Jesus looks like?

Hard.  So hard.

I told them how none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  How one day Dad and I will be gone and the way they treat one another now will very likely determine their relationships as adults.  How words, once spoken, can never be retrieved.  Saying you're sorry will never undo what has been done.

"Like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube," said Katie.


We have the chance to leave a legacy.  The words we speak, the attitudes of our heart, the way we treat others all contribute to that legacy.  If we wait until we are "grownups" or whatever the milestone may be it may be too late.  We have to live and love with discretion now.  Choosing our words carefully, taming the tongue, being kind, living a lifestyle that shows grace to those around us and woos them into Jesus' arms, all of these fall into the category of godly discretion.

In the same Psalm, if we go back a few verses, is verse 5:
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

What does this mean in light of teaching our kids discretion?  Keep your eye on the prize!  We have a reward that awaits, a crown of righteousness bejeweled with the acts of obedience we offer up to our King! Living for Jesus, obeying Him even in the hard and mundane things, choosing our words carefully and building up walls of protection around the sanctuary of our homes together instead of knocking them down is worth the fight!  Live with abandon, love big, follow God with reckless faith but use discretion so as not to have to stumble over the undesirable consequences of hurtful words or selfish actions.

It is a tough line, but that is why God made us a that we can encourage one another and build each other up.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Forgive:  to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.            to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.). to grant pardon to (a person). to cease to feel resentment against. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of.

Five kids and two faulty parents create many opportunities for forgiveness.  Maybe too many!  Arguments, short tempers and selfish attitudes all surface almost daily in this house. These things can add up, creating bitterness and resentment if not dealt with in a healthy way.  
When my kids were toddlers, teaching forgiveness was simple:  
"I'm sorry."  
"I forgive you."

But now that they are older, they have better memories.  There can be an angry payback for hurt feelings, careless words, or meanness.  So forgiveness has to be taught on a deeper level these days.  Saying "I'm sorry" is often not enough, especially if the offender is perceived to be less than sincere.  Apologies have to be specific, looking the sibling in the eye and apologizing for the offense, naming it and taking responsibility for it while realizing that the other person may need time to process the apology.  And the offended?  He or she in encouraged to show grace.  We have to remind each other that we have been forgiven of much, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  We never have the right to withhold forgiveness.  Trust?  Now that is different.  Often trust has to be earned back.  But forgiveness is release.  Forgiveness is choosing grace and letting it go.  

I think the hardest thing, the most humbling and uncomfortable thing for me is when I have to ask forgiveness of my children.  It is definitely a teachable moment and good for them to see and know that I am just like them, a sinner in need of a Savior.  But it is so painful to realize I've lost it, I've yelled or used harsh words or been unfair, and then have to look my child in the eye and admit my failure.   But always, always, they forgive this floundering mama so easily and completely.  What beautiful lessons the Lord teaches my heart through these moments with my children!  God continually reminds me of just how He sees me, through the eyes of a Father who is crazy about His kids no matter how much they screw up.

And screw up I do.  

Don't you love how it always comes down to Grace?

Friday, August 16, 2013


Humility:  lowliness, meekness, submissiveness.

Humility is possibly best described by studying it's antonym...pride.  

In this day of "swag", "all that", and selfies it is oh, so difficult to teach humility in a way that is relevant to this generation.  Boys are encouraged to strut, girls are encouraged to flaunt, and selfies are simply a way of life to our teenagers now.  I don't want to be legalistic, and I kind of enjoy the dozens of selfies my kids put on my phone every time they hack it, but there comes a point where pride sneaks in and what started as cute and quirky becomes sin.


Where is the line?

How do I instill confidence in  my sons without encouraging self-worship?  How do I teach my daughters to value themselves without encouraging haughtiness?  It is tough.  And with one teenager and another child on the verge I am in the trenches with this one.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have preached, "It's not about you, my dear," when my kids have to wait for someone else to go before them.  Or when we are sitting down to dinner at a restaurant and they start fighting over who gets to sit by Dad (they don't fight over the end of the day I am chopped liver!) and we end up assigning seats to stop the bickering.  How about when a sibling needs extra attention from mama and another sibling suddenly decides they want to sit next to me in the big chair, in that spot that they had no interest in until the brother or sister expressed a need?  It is hard, in those moments, to look a child in the eye and say, "not now, they were here first and it is their turn."

Consider the needs of others before yourselves.

Today I had a teachable moment with my five.  They begged  talked me into  asked if we could go out for lunch and I, being on a diet, said "sure!" as I threw on my shoes and a baseball cap to head to the local burrito joint.  The restaurant has outdoor seating and it was 75 perfect degrees in AUGUST for crying out loud, so we thought it would be nice to eat outside.  There was one table that was not occupied and, as we went inside to get in line to order, my son asked if I wanted him to go back to the patio and hold the table for us.

"No," I said.  "It's fine.  Just stay here."

"But Mom, if I don't then someone else will get it!"

"If someone else sits there then we weren't supposed to have it," I said.

He looked at me quizzically but didn't press the subject.  We got our food and sat down inside near a window because someone did sit at that table.  As we ate, we noticed a family was leaving, making another table available on the patio.  So we picked up our food and walked outside to sit there, enjoying the sun and each other's company a little longer.

It was a small moment.  It was a chance to be humble, to wait, to let someone else go first.  We still got to sit outside, but without staking claim or jumping in front of the line.  On the surface it seems to be no big deal, but little moments like these add up.  I want my kids to think, to look around and see who might be first in line or who might need to be first in line.  I want them to be gracious and defer to others as much as possible instead of demanding their rights.

And I need to remember that when I get cut off in traffic...or am in line at Wal-Mart.  Just being honest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Loyal: faithful to one's sovereign, government, or state, faithful to one's oath, commitments, or 
obligations, faithful to any leader, party, or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as
deserving fidelity, characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, 
allegiance, obligations, etc.  

The world tells us that for our children to pull away from us, from their siblings, and lean into their friendships outside of our families is normal.  I guess that is true.  But I've never like normal.  Sin is normal.  Selfishness is normal.  Loyalty, though, is not normal.  Therefore I want loyalty to be a significant character trait in my children.  How do we encourage it?

For one thing, I have to be sure I am modeling it.  Am I pushing my kids aside to spend more and more time with friends?  Am I online, chatting and posting, telling my children "not now" or "go play outside because Mom is busy?"  It is easy to fall into that.  I must realize I am the primary example they will look to as they are growing up and learning how to relate to others.

I have noticed that when my kids spend significant time away from one another, they fight more.  When they were in school it was very apparent.  Summer would begin and they would start to get along again.  As summer ended I would lament it's passing because I knew the busyness of the hamster wheel would tear them apart again.  It always did.  So I will say that homeschooling has helped us in this area significantly, but my kids are still human and they can easily hurt a sibling's feelings by not standing up for one another or telling them to "scram" because they have a friend over.  

Several years ago, we decided to enforce the notion that family is first.  Friends will come and go, but family is forever.  The book "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends" by Grace, Sarah, and Stephen Mally addresses this beautifully.  In essence, they write that friendships are like a sprint, sibling relationships are marathons.  It is easy to maintain "niceness" with friends because your time together is limited to hours and then someone eventually has to go home.  But sibling relationships are long term, require endurance, and often involve pain that has to be pushed through in order to finish the race well.

Here is how it plays out for us:  If a child is having a difficult time being kind to someone in the family, then when a friend knocks or calls wanting to play the answer is "no."  If a friend comes over and a sibling wants to be around them (within reason, of course) then, as long as that sibling is not disrupting or causing angst they should be allowed to be a part of what they are doing.  For instance, if my oldest is playing the X-box with a friend and his younger brother wants to watch, there is no reason why that can't happen.  If my daughter has a friend over and they are putting on makeup, it is absolutely expected that she can take a moment to brush gloss on her little sister's lips as well.  Just be nice.

Another important angle is that of protecting one another.  If a friend comes over and is unkind to a sibling, I fully expect the older sibling to protect the younger.  If they have a difficult time doing so themselves, then come get me or Dad.  I will have no problem explaining how we are expected to treat one another in our home to the friend.  I'll be nice, but I will not let my kids be mistreated in their own home.   My children, all of them, need to know that our home 

So, how about you?  What are some ways you teach loyalty to your children?  These are just the tip of the iceberg and loyalty, of course, goes way beyond the confines of our homes.  I would love to know how this plays out in your life and the lives of your kids!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Character...the good kind.

There are "characters" and then there is character.  I've been thinking a lot about the latter lately.  I think about it when I am buying a Diet Coke at Sonic.  I think about it at the grocery store when I am paying the checker.  I think about it at restaurants when we interact with waiters and waitresses.

Character is lacking.  The reason I know this is because when I encounter someone of good character they stand out like a bright star against the night sky.  Common courtesies such as please, thank you, eye contact and a genuine smile are becoming more and more rare and it makes me sad.

I am still in the trenches of raising kids, so I do not want to appear like I have it all figured out.  There are, though, some things that have worked well over the years and I know there are many new mamas out there searching for wisdom.  I may not have a lot, but what I do have I will be happy to share.

So the next several posts will be regarding specific character traits that we, as Christian parents, seek to foster in our children.  I will share my experiences with you and I would love it if, in return, you share yours with me!

Because, like I said, I am still in the trenches of this mothering gig.  It is tough and I am realizing that it only gets more complicated as the kids grow and their circles of influence expand.  I have a thirteen year old, for crying out loud.  In less than three years he will be able to get his first job!  What will an employer see in him?  What do we want employers, friends, future spouses, to see in our children?  What character traits are necessary for our kids to live full, productive, god-honoring lives?  

I need advice, people!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When I am Weary

Jer. 31:25
For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.

Bone tired.  That is not a phrase I use often but it is fitting tonight.  Mental overload from the new of my son's first day at the homeschool tutorial coupled with keeping the rest of the kids on task despite the interruption to their morning shouldn't have made me this weary.  

But it did.  

I let them veg this afternoon, let them watch TV upstairs and I organized the school papers that came home today.  I looked at my planner and cut a couple of things out because they were not necessary and we just need a chance to breathe in the midst of curriculum and workbooks.  Tutors and therapists and extracurricular activities are all competing, threatening to encroach upon these daytime hours that we have set aside as protected, ordered, productive.  I have to guard these hours jealously in order to prevent the feeling of being rushed.

Schooling never goes well if we are rushed.

Tomorrow I look forward to snuggling in the big chair (because that didn't happen today) and reading two chapters of our book.  Maybe I'll make tea.  Maybe we'll have donuts for breakfast.  Today was hectic and tomorrow I am determined to slow it down and enjoy looking into the faces of my kids as we all gather together and conquer the day's assignments.  Today I am weary and needy so now I will go downstairs and pick up my Bible and finish reading the book of Daniel.  I will ponder the things of God and let Him satisfy my soul.

Yes, every languishing soul He will replenish.  

Look at the very next verse in Jeremiah chapter 31!

Jer. 31:26
At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.

I am thankful for that today.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sweet Stickiness

My middle child, she is the free spirit.  She is the artist, the bleeding heart, the one who feels every emotion to the extreme.  She is 90% easygoing and 10% raging fury.  She is the perfect, textbook middle child.

Two and a half years have passed since she gained this younger sister.  This sister who cried in the night and tested every boundary, who was an enigma and sometimes hard to get along with.  This sister who shared her bedroom and finally learned to share her toys.

These two are a sweet example of the miracle God works in our hearts through adoption, these girls who began as strangers and have now forged a sweet relationship of trust.  Gracie can be a mother hen but Mari loves it.  Mari can be demanding
but Gracie indulges her sweetly.  This dichotomy of dependence and friendship, this sisterhood, has developed over the months and years and it is a strong bond my girls have formed.

They came downstairs in robes the other day.  Giggling and huddled close in secrecy, their imaginations burning with joy and fun and more than a little mischief.  The younger followed the older and there they stood, arms linked and white smiles glowing against summer-brown faces and Gracie called for my attention, calling my gaze away from the dirty dishes in my hand and onto their grinning faces.

"Mom, you know how sometimes you stick Legos together and then you can't get them apart?  That's me and her."
And with that pregnant declaration they skipped away and my breath caught in my throat as I marveled at what my eight year old had just said.

You can't get them apart.  This bond of sisterhood has forged strong and it is now who they are, who they want to be, who they will always be by the grace of God.  It is a miracle made possible by our Father, who adopted us into His family and allows us to mirror His work in this family, in these children.  By knitting our hearts together in love, we glimpse how we...His chosen people...are called to live with one another:

Stuck together, brick by brick building His Kingdom, unable to be pried apart.

May it be so...on Earth as it is in Heaven!

Friday, August 2, 2013


I have so much respect for Kirk Cameron.  Aside from the fact that his face graced the inside of my locker throughout high school, he is one outspoken and fearless brother in the Lord.

I started seeing the trailers for his new film, "Unstoppable" last week.  I have now seen them 4 or 5 times and I tear up every.single.time.  To think of mamas having to kiss their babies goodbye...until eternity...brings a lump to my throat that I cannot swallow down or deep breathe away.  This film looks amazing.  It will show for ONE NIGHT ONLY on September 24th all over the nation.  I cannot wait to see it.  I'm thinking my faith will be rocked in all the right ways.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Recipe: Roasted Okra

I know, I know.  I was raised in the South and fried okra is second only to sweet tea on my list of comfort foods.  I mean, y'all,  it is just so crunchy, salty, hot, and good.

But so very bad.

As happens about once a year, (because of the abundance of fried okra and Mexican food in my repertoire) the hubs and I have embarked on a "healthy eating revolution" (a.k.a. diet) and, though it is going remarkably well and not nearly as hard as I expected, I miss some stuff.

Fried okra being one of them.  Chips and salsa being the other.

And to make things worse?  My backyard garden just happened to start producing okra in abundance the very week we agreed to this stupid diet.

Ok, it's not stupid.  It really is working, but when I smell fried anything as I drive down the road my tastebuds beg for

So the pile of okra in the fridge was building and I had to make a decision.  Give it away (which would be nice, but I didn't feel nice today), fry it and let the kids eat it (which would have been torture), pickle it (I'm on a canning kick...4 jars of salsa in the pantry, 2 in the fridge, and many more to come!  But not a huge fan of pickled okra), or find a new way to cook it.

I broke out the handy-dandy I-phone, tapped on the app, and searched "okra" and, what do you know, but the first recipe that popped up was for roasted okra!

Roasted okra?  I was skeptical...not wanting to end up with a slimy mess.  But I read the recipe and the reviews looked good so I figured it was worth a shot.  Of course, I tweaked it a little.  She just used salt and pepper but I love my Lawry's Seasoned Salt so there ya' go.

Oh, sweet deliciousness.  If I had a picture I would show it to you but we ate it too fast!  Even DJ, my anti-vegetable-just-give-me-steak boy liked it!  So, since I've had my okra fix and feel nice again I thought I would share it with you.

Roasted Okra:

Lots of okra, stems cut off and sliced in half lengthwise.
Olive oil
Lawry's seasoned salt.

(Is this easy or what??)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange the okra halves, seed side up, on a cookie sheet, then drizzle with olive oil.  (I used my handy-dandy Misto to spray mine.)  Season with salt and then pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Eat immediately!  It is best piping hot!

Now, if I manage to find a diet-approved (no carb) tortilla-chip recipe you can rest assured I will share it.  If you have one, I'm all ears!