When Your Job As a Momma is Done (Almost!)

When your "momma" role is over

Next Monday we load up the last of Katie’s things, help the piano movers steady the piano in the truck, and head out on the highway to drop her off at university.

My job as a mom is done.

My youngest child is leaving home.

I know I am always a mom; my older daughter has needed lots of advice over the last few years as she’s been gone, especially around her wedding.

But I’m not a mom anymore. I’m an advisor. It is different. It’s lovely, but different.

I’m proud of my girls. They have both pursued Jesus wholeheartedly, and have a real relationship with Him that many times puts me to shame. They grew up in a healthier family than I did, and I can see the effects of it on them. They are more mature. More grounded. More willing to try new things.

This, again, is all lovely.

And I have a wonderful husband, and we’ve been working on our marriage for the last year, and figuring out new hobbies, and changing around work schedules, so that as empty nesters we won’t just be twiddling our thumbs and staring at each other, wondering, “who are you and why did I marry you?”

And that, again, is lovely.

It is lovely to have two children that you are so proud of pursue their dreams. It is lovely to see them make good decisions. It is lovely to know that my husband and I will stay close in this next phase of our life–and that this next phase will be an adventure.

But here’s the thing: I am going to miss Katie terribly.

Yes, I would miss her more if my husband and I were not solid. Yes, it would be much harder if she weren’t tracking with God.

But even so, I will miss her.

KatieSheila New York

And I will miss being a mom.

My role as mom was all-encompassing. We took Rebecca, our oldest, out of school after kindergarten and decided to homeschool them (Katie’s never set foot in a school; she’s going to get a picture of herself on the first day of university classes holding her backpack and her lunchbox and a sign that says, “First Day of School”.)

Girls Homeschooling Trailer

We didn’t do it because we were afraid the public school would corrupt them. We homeschooled because we felt that academically it would be better for them. And we pushed those girls. School was intense at our house–even if it was punctuated by marathon sessions of reading Anne of Green Gables out loud, or finishing Those Happy Golden Years (the last of the Little House books) in a day and a half “because we just have to get through it”.

We taught them Latin and Greek. They read the classics. We made them write essays and we pushed them in math. They are very well-educated.

We made them earn their lifeguarding credentials and at 16 they started working intensely at the Y. They made great friends, especially with the seniors who would come to swim during the day. One couple in their 80s even took Katie to a strawberry social last June and prayed over and blessed her as she goes on with her life. Their boss made the trip to Ottawa this summer and came to Rebecca’s wedding.

And we homeschooled because we wanted more family time. With Keith’s weird call schedule and my weird speaking schedule we needed time during the week together.

But the biggest thing was this: everyday, we’d go for a walk.

Sometimes even two! Whenever we started feeling restless we’d head outside and do our “loop”. So everyday, for the last ten years, I have taken a walk with one of my daughters. That’s when we talk, and when they open up, and when I learn about what’s happening in their hearts.

With Katie the walks have been intense lately, often lasting more than an hour. We’ve discovered new “loops”, and almost gotten lost several times.

When I visit Rebecca in Ottawa, the first thing we do is put on our shoes and go out for a walk by the river. It’s outside that we open up.

But now Katie is leaving.

Two weeks ago I decided to start taking walks by myself, to get used to the solitude. And I’ve turned them into quite intense prayer walks, replacing the time I used to spend talking with her to talking about her and for her with God. It’s a little nervewracking; I have a hard time praying without talking out loud, so my neighbours may think I’m nuts. But it’s real.

Because Katie is leaving.

Have I mentioned that yet?

It is not that I don’t want her to grow up. It is not that I don’t have a life outside of her. It is not that I don’t have a good marriage.

It is just that so much of my emotional energy has been caught up in my daughters for the last two decades, and now that phase is coming to an end.

I know I will still talk to her; Rebecca calls me twice a day. But it will be different.

And so I take my prayer walks.

I want the girls to still feel my support while they are at school, away from me. Part of that will be through prayer. Part of it will be through phone calls and texts.

But I want to share a fun thing that I was asked to review and tell you about. Kites & Ivy creates care packages for girls going away to college. It’s just little things to pamper college students: some beauty products, a healthy but fun snack, things to relax you.

Kites & Ivy Care Packages for College Students

They come four times a year: to welcome them in September; before they go home for Christmas; before Spring Break; and before Finals. And when you sign up, you tell them what school the recipient is going to, and they make sure the package gets there at just the right time for that particular school’s academic calendar!

Kites & Ivy initially hired Katie to talk about them in her videos. I told her about it, she shrugged, and said, “okay”.

And then the package came.

And she was so excited!

It had: some dry shampoo (because who has time to wash your hair during finals!?!), a yummy sea salt caramel chocolate bar, some essential oils to help you focus, some water flavouring powder, some natural facial wipes, a headband, and a neat water sipper cup. Katie loved it! Here she is talking about it: (the video is set to start playing where she starts talking about it, but if you want to see the WHOLE video of what she learned when she was 17, just rewind it to the beginning!)

And when she says that she’s just going to ask her mom to get it for her, she’s quite serious. She says, “as a university student I’m going to have no money to spend on myself! And opening the box was so fun!”

Here’s the box they sent out last year before spring break:

KitesIvy

You can buy just one box and send it immediately as a gift, or you can subscribe so that a college student that you know (a daughter, a niece, a sister) can get a treat when they really need it. I think it would be great for churches to do this for their students leaving, too–to let those students know, “we’re still thinking of you and praying for you!”

(Shipping is free within the continental United States–other than that you have to pay for it. I know that’s tough on Canadians like me, but I do understand as someone who has to ship a lot across the border, too. It is much cheaper to ship within the U.S.!)

Katie enjoyed hers so much–she’s sipping from the cup from the 5 minute point in her new video on Christian romance novels! So I guess I’m getting her a subscription!

It is a cute way of bringing a smile to a college young woman’s face, and I was excited to partner with them. The preorders are going out now for the school year, and you can use the coupon code Sheila10 to get 10% off your order! If you’re a mom, this saves you the work and trouble of putting your own care package together–and the items really are unique and awfully fun.

Kites and Ivy Button

So that is what I’ll be up to this year–I’ll be missing my daughters. I’ll be taking daily prayer walks and remembering them before God. I’ll be talking to them whenever they call when they’re lonely (or when they’re on the bus and they’re bored, which is more typical). And I will be sending Katie Kites & Ivy care packages, too!

It’s hard when your job as a momma is over. I’m feeling it acutely. I know I did a good job–not a perfect job, but a good job, which is perhaps better. But now I need to take a step back, and perhaps that is what will drive me to prayer even more.

Let me know in the comments: how did you stay close to your kids (or your parents) when college time came (or moving out time came)? What did you appreciate from your mom?

I was compensated for this post, but the thoughts are entirely mine (and my daughter’s!)

On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Dads Roll Differently (And That’s Okay)

I am so happy to share these great words of parenting wisdom from Arlene Pellicane about how dads parent differently than we do–and that is okay! This is taken from Arlene’s newest book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom.

Dads Parent Differently

My oldest child Ethan is in 6th grade this year.  I remember when he was just a baby and I had my first mom’s night out.  I pulled into my driveway at 10 pm, certain my little bundle would be fast asleep in his cozy crib.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the garage door to find my husband James’ car missing!

A few minutes later, James came strolling in with baby Ethan who needed to be fed because he was hungry.  AT TEN O-CLOCK AT NIGHT!  I was ticked.  James had taken Ethan to the mall, with no regards to Ethan’s normal bedtime.

My mind whirled and my face grew hot.  I was mad.  The dishes were piled high in the sink; Ethan was in his high chair eating baby oatmeal.

Can’t you just get him to bed at a decent hour and do the dishes? I thought as I glared at the supposedly responsible party.

James was calm as a cucumber.  He said, “Lighten up.  One night won’t kill him.”

31 Days to Becoming a Happy MomWell, I guess James was right because Ethan’s still around.  It took me a few years to realize that instead of being indignant about the way James’ chose to parent that night, I could have been grateful.  I could have chosen to say, “Thank you for watching Ethan for the last 5 hours so I could go to a women’s event and get re-charged.”

I could have said, “Not many men would gladly watch their one-year-old and even dare to take them to the mall, but I guess you guys had a great time!”

Our husbands may not enforce curfew and rules like we do, but our children are still living and breathing aren’t they?

Perhaps we would be happier moms if we stopped putting the emphasis on being right all the time – on being the “superior know-it-all parent.”

We can make our husbands feel incompetent as dads with our cutting remarks.  We may have expectations that they must parent exactly how we parent.  But if you can embrace the differences (two heads are better than one), and stop expecting perfection from your spouse, you will be a much happier mom.  Give your husband the same grace you’d like for yourself.

Just because he does things differently, doesn’t mean he does it wrong.

Just this weekend, I was out of town at a speaking engagement.  On Friday night, James took our three kids (ages 5, 8 and 10) to the park at 8:30 pm to play laser tag with their new toy guns.  They were out until 10:00 pm!  A five-year-old!

Now, that’s not a schedule I’d ever sanction as a mom, but you know what?  It’s a good thing I wasn’t home because they had a blast.  Moms and dads roll differently, and I’m so grateful for that.

When your husband parents differently than you, how do you respond?  Is there a way you could improve that response?

We are giving away a copy of Arlene’s new book, 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom. Watch the trailer below and share in the comments your parenting stories to enter and win!

31 Days to Becoming a Happy MomArlene Pellicane 600x600jpgArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband.  She is also the co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (with Gary Chapman).  She has been a featured guest on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, The 700 Club, and Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. 

Arlene lives in the San Diego area with her husband James and their three children.

To learn more and for free family resources such as a monthly Happy Home podcast, visit www.ArlenePellicane.com

I’m an Empty Nester

As of today, I am no longer the mother of children. My youngest turns 18.

What a strange thing! The main identity that I have had for twenty years now is over. I’m still a mom, but in a different way.

I’ve been leading up to this all summer, especially with my older daughter’s wedding, but it’s still bittersweet. My husband and I will be reinventing ourselves as a couple this year–I talked about it in this post (and don’t forget to comment there for your chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!)–and I’m excited about that. But it seems almost for the last two weeks like I’ve been walking through a shadow of ghosts. I turn my head and I can hear a little three-year-old voice laughing with her five-year-old sister. Somehow I hope those voices never entirely disappear.

Katie and I are spending today together in New York City. I took her here for her birthday.

Enjoying exploring Manhattan with my daughter!

A photo posted by Sheila Gregoire (@sheilagregoire) on

Needless to say, I’ve had the Taylor Swift song running through my head all day. 🎶 #WelcomeToNewYork A photo posted by Katie Gregoire🎶 (@katielizg) on

But the big reason we’re here is that she’s a musical theatre buff, so we decided to go see Les Miserables!

Les Mis

It was incredible. The 7-year-old who played Gavroche stole the show, as usual, but it truly was spectacular.

If you’ve never seen or read Les Miserables, it was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, about the poverty and desperation in France. But rather than being a primarily historical novel, it really is an exploration of the difference between grace and the law, represented by two of the main characters: Jean Valjean (grace) and Javert (the law). Jean Valjean is a poor man who was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour for an insignificant crime he committed to save a starving child.

Javert is his jailer. When Valjean is released, he skips out on parole and makes a new life for himself after being shown grace from a priest. Javert spends the next twenty years chasing him and trying to find him, while Valjean helps others and tries to make life around him better.

There is tragedy galore in this play; an abandoned woman must work in a sweat factory to support her daughter, but is thrown out on the street and dies. Peasants struggle for bread, and in the end die in a vain attempt at revolution. It is sad.

And the story of unrequited love–of a girl who gives all for a boy who loves another–is tragic in its own right.

And yet the message is that God weaves His own tale into the destruction and that in the midst of suffering people can find grace and salvation. You see it in the final song; the movie version below seems a little more political at the end than the feel of the Broadway presentation, but that great line–“to love another person is to see the face of God”–rings true (it’s at about 1:28 in this clip).

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14It’s a profoundly Christian play, but it made me think again about a post that I shared on Facebook yesterday about waiting on God. I think as mothers we feel that our job will be done when our children’s lives are all set on autopilot: when they are married; when they have good jobs; when they have children of their own. Above all, when they are happy.

And we work towards that. We pray for it. And that’s all well and good.

But God could have a different plan, and maybe it is in the struggling of this life that that plan will emerge.

I think this is the hardest part of a child growing up–of realizing that you cannot control their life, you cannot fix things, anymore. They are on their own to make their own choices, and this is how it’s supposed to be.

And as I was watching the play yesterday, I realized I was excited to see what God will do with Katie in the next four years at university. I’m excited to see what choices she will make, and what friends she will make, and where God will take her.

I will find it hard to step back; the two of us are very close, and we talk about everything. But growing up is good, and no matter what happens, God is at work and grace is real.

It’s been a lovely trip in New York. We’re out to explore Central Park today and then we’re heading down to the World Trade Center memorial.

Here’s a post her older sister wrote to Katie for her 18th: 18 things I wish I knew when I was 18.

And if you want to give her a birthday present, I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you shared one of her videos on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest! Here are three of my favourites: Courting vs. Dating; Why I’m Not Dating in High School; and Christian Modesty, the Double Standard. Thank you!

Now tell me: what is hardest for you about your kids growing up (or thinking about them growing up)?

Finding Joy in Your Boundary Lines This Summer

Please welcome Katharine Grubb, of www.10minutenovelist.com, who shares how our limitations can be good things, how boundary lines this summer may bring joy in unexpected ways.  Read on…

Finding Joy in Your Boundary Lines This SummerWhen you’ve spent your adult life in Massachusetts, you get a definitive picture of what the perfect summer is. This picture is full of clambakes, Cape Cod antics and Kennedy-esque leisure. If not the Kennedys, then you may envision 104 days of Phineas & Ferb type adventure in which no one has to do chores, pay those outrageous technology bills, or go to bed.

These images are far removed from my reality. We’ll never have the money for a idyllic Martha’s Vineyard beach house. The only boat we have is one we made of paper that is seaworthy for thirty seconds in the bath water. In most cities, you can’t legally own a platypus as a pet.

Every summer, I have to battle various restrictions on our family. Every summer this is a huge challenge.

Psalm 16:5-6 says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

This verse challenges me to look at my summer boundary lines, or my limitations, as good things. School is out for my kids! I don’t have to homeschool for weeks! We are free! But even in that freedom, there are good things that keep us restricted or limited. Some of these boundaries I love, like the fence around Grammy’s pool. Some I’m not too fond of, like the fact I don’t always have a car available to me. Instead of complaining about my lack of freedom this summer, I need to look with fresh eyes the boundary lines God has given me.

Boundaries put us in a place where we must learn to submit to God’s call on our life. They may be there to correct a behavior in us, much like the toddler put in a time-out chair. We need that boundary too at times. I’ve had more trying summers than this one. In hindsight, I was grateful for the lessons learned and the gentle way God led me into obedience. If your summer is beginning in discomfort, pray that God shows you how you can change your behavior or your attitude.

Boundaries put us in a place of safety. In much the same way that we instruct our children to not swim in the deep end or to stay in the yard, God gently put his boundaries around us to prevent us from harming ourselves or being susceptible to temptation. Why do we have pool rules? To keep our children, whom we love more than anything, from being injured. How much more our Father protects us with his boundaries. Thank God for literal and figurative lifeguards, playground fences and warning signs on the deluxe package of fireworks.

Boundaries encourage contentment. When my plans change, or when I’m a season of transition, the last place I go to is contentment. Yet, I know my children will never learn contentment if they don’t see it modeled by me. Our summer will be much more pleasant if we don’t pout when faced with a rain delay, a summer cold or we can’t make the picnic. And really, who wants to be a Kennedy anyway?

Boundaries promote creativity. Pope John Paul II said, in Love & Responsibility “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.” Out of love, God often restricts us so that we can find creative solutions to our problems. His solutions will be richer than we could ever imagine. I don’t have access to a car everyday, but I am within walking distance of the library and a playground. I’ve organized the mothers at church to meet me twice a week at places that are easy for me to get to. Our church moms now have two free events every week — one at the playground and one at a local swimming hole — that meets my need and theirs too. My limitation of not having a car regularly allowed me to create this. What are the creative solutions God wants to help you with in your boundaries?

(Looking for simple ideas? Here are 100 free summer activities to try!)

True Supernatural JoyBoundaries can calm anxiety. Thirty-one flavors of ice cream sounds like a great options but life is easier when you only have chocolate and vanilla. I’ve found, for me and for my children that the fastest path of peace is one with the fewest choices. Rest in that and be grateful for those boundaries that restrict your options.

Boundaries remind us that joy is not found in experiences nor in abundance.

We want to teach our children that while summer is fun, it’s not what makes us happy. True joy is found in rest, in thankfulness, in loving people and the simple beauty of a firefly at night.

True supernatural joy is found when we finally rest inside our boundaries, not when we struggle against them.

God is the God of the summer. He created summer so that the earth could grow. Perhaps for us, summer is a chance to stretch our faith and become more vibrant and healthy. Phineas, Ferb, and the entire Kennedy clan should be so blessed.

KatharineGrubbWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day.

She blogs at www.10minutenovelist.com. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new weekly newsletter, The Rallying Cry, is an honest, kleenex-worthy, you-can-do-this, faith-filled message of hope for those who need it. Sign up here.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Philpott from All American Mom. She’s telling us what NOT to say when someone has a miscarriage–based on some of the insensitive things she was told. Unfortunately, I think far too many of you will identify.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Support provided by loved ones is one of the ways that people are helped through any grief process.

When a family member dies, society rallies around the griever. Refrigerators are full of casseroles, mailboxes are full of cards, and shoulders are loaned to cry upon.

But the grieving process of a woman losing her unborn child is often lonely. This loneliness might be by choice- she might choose not to tell people. But sometimes the loneliness is because society as a whole tends to minimize miscarriage. “Maybe next time” or “It just wasn’t meant to be” are very common phrases uttered. Unfortunately these comments are often quite hurtful to the woman who has just lost her baby.

Stop and read the end of that sentence again, “lost her baby.”

You see, this is not an abstract concept or a dream- we are mourning the loss of a baby: a loved baby.

We found out we were pregnant with our baby (we might have been nervous, scared or excited), we used our bodies to nurture our baby (we read books, blogs, envisioned rocking our baby, stopped drinking coffee, stopped eating deli meat, started planning our nursery), and then we lost our baby. The physicality of this is quite intense; the emotional toil is real. It might not have been “real” to onlookers, but we know that our bodies were nurturing a human life and even though we shouldn’t- many of us feel misguided guilt that we couldn’t bring the baby to term.

It hurts. Our thoughts are invaded by untruths. And even though we find comfort that our babies are in heaven with God, it still hurts. At the crux- all we ask is that you don’t minimize our loss and that you don’t offer comments that make us feel any further guilt. Pregnancy loss shouldn’t be minimized or brushed aside as not being worthy of grief. The loss of a baby is a grievous situation.

No one intends to be insensitive. I know you wish to bring comfort. I’m truly touched that you are reading this; it means you want to be helpful. Your heart is in the right place. I just want to help you with your words.

Grief and death are tricky topics for anyone to address. My hands get sweaty when I walk into a funeral home. I don’t know quite what to say. We’ve all been there- in that uncomfortable space where “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem quite enough. Although I had a legion of support after my two miscarriages, my feelings were hurt numerous times by well-intentioned people. All of this is compounded by the hormones a female experiences after a miscarriage. There is a marked increase in risk for depression and anxiety after a pregnancy loss (Lok, I.H & Neugebauer, R. 2007). It’s not something we can control- it’s a common psychological consequence of miscarriage.

After having my feelings bruised numerous times, I finally accepted that we can never understand someone’s unique life experience; therefore, we can’t expect someone to understand the physical pain and emotional toil of a miscarriage if they have not had that experience. I also kept repeating the verse from Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous; not even one.” To me, this means that there are no perfect people in the world. People make mistakes and I can’t hold a grudge for a person’s offhand remarks. God is the ONLY one I can count on for comfort.

I did decide that I could help educate people on miscarriage- this includes raising awareness of phrases that evoke more harm than healing.

Here are some commonly said comments you will want to avoid if you desire offering support to a grieving mama.

As you read these, please know that these are compiled by a large group of women. These are comments we all heard numerous times. I’ve also included the voices of some of the women.  Above all, please know- we appreciate that you want to offer us support. Thank you.

Please don’t tell me:

  • It happened for a reason.
  • Something was probably wrong with the baby.
  • Go and have a drink to take the edge off.
  • It was God’s will.

I feel too often in the Christian community that people want to brush over miscarriage like it’s no big deal saying things like “You’ll have another baby” or “This was the Lord’s plan for your life” without really considering what the mama is going through.

“Just Adopt”
We know we can adopt. We might one day, but I’m grieving the loss of a specific baby. One that I just lost.

“At Least You Have Another Child”
I’m so grateful for my other child, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sad over the loss of this baby.

“You Can Always Have Another Baby”
I had to have a hysterectomy. I can’t have another baby.

It hurt when people reacted like I’d lost a puppy. And followed it up by saying I could have another. I wanted the one I lost. I feel like people that haven’t experienced the loss unknowingly trivialize it to a degree because we never physically meet our babies. It made me mad, and still does, but I try to remind myself that I can’t blame people for their reactions if they have never experienced the loss.

People would say, “oh, you’ll have more kids one day.” Realistically I knew that I might not be medically able to have more children. I wanted to accept that fact and learn to be okay with it. I didn’t like false hope or people treating it like I had lost a puppy dog, ‘oh, you can get a new puppy again,’ is what it felt like. The doctor told me it would be extremely difficult for me to carry a baby to term.

“At Least It Happened Early”
Because losing a baby is somehow easier or less painful that way?

“Have you found out what’s wrong with you?”

“Did you exercise too much?”

“It was probably that insecticide you sprayed around your house.” (INSERT ANY AND ALL “BLAME COMMENTS”)

This person responded by basically indicating that I should probably ‘get checked out’ because something might be ‘wrong with me.’ It just really bothered me. I know there were good intentions somewhere behind what she said, but all it did was to bring back that flood of guilt that I had been trying so desperately to let go of.

“Well, you shouldn’t have announced your pregnancy so early.   You knew this could have happened.”

“So, when are you going to try again?”

All of those comments were just so incredibly insensitive.

Here is a picture of me cradling our second baby.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

It was the day I found out I was pregnant. This was the first baby I lost. I’m not showing you this for you to feel sorry for me. I’m really not. I promise- I am okay now. I hesitated even posting this picture because I know it will make you uncomfortable. I am showing it to you for you to see the excitement in my eyes so that you realize that I was carrying a baby in my womb. I had hopes, dreams and fears.

Please be kind and thoughtful with your words- don’t minimize our losses and please be careful not to utter any phrases that could lead us to believe that you are blaming us for our loss.

Pray, offer a hug, tell us you are sorry. Give us time, permission, and space to grieve. Really- those simple tokens of love are the most helpful.

Sarah PhilpottSarah Lewis Philpott recently earned her Ph.D, but instead of climbing the ivory tower she happily spends her days being a farmer’s wife to her high school sweetheart and being a mom to young two mischievous children. She blogs at All American Mom.

Represented by the Blythe Daniel Agency, Sarah is working on a book that looks at the sensitive topic of pregnancy loss and also about cherishing the life that was conceived. She runs a Loved Baby Pregnancy Loss Support Group on Facebook that is open for anyone to join.

Just Your Type: Personality Differences and Marriage

Do opposites really attract?

MBTI and Marriage: A look at how personality differences affect #marriage

Sometimes the things that we initially loved most about our spouse end up being the things that drive us the most crazy!

This year I’ve challenged all of you to read one book a month on marriage–that’s twelve books a year. In 30 days you can get through a book–if you leave that book in your bathroom, carry it around in your purse, leave it by your bedside table.

And I believe that this month’s book has the most capacity to completely change the way you see your spouse–and it’s a ton of fun, too!

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for June

This month we’re looking at supporting him as a guy, since Father’s Day has just passed. And I suggested a number of books that you can read on gender differences. But the book I want to review today goes much further than gender differences. It looks at the 16 personality types that are part of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI), and sees how those differences impact marriage.

Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You've Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality TypeJust Your Type helps you understand yourself, your spouse, and the conflicts you’re likely to have–and how to overcome them.

But first, let’s do a run-down on what those potential differences are.

The MBTI classifies people based on four scales:

Extrovert/Introvert: Do you get your energy from being with people, or from being alone? When you need to think something through, do you call a friend, or go for a walk yourself? Contrary to popular belief, extrovert doesn’t mean “life of the party”. Many introverts are great at parties. But it’s where you get your energy from.

Sensing/Intuiting: Do you like detail, or are you a big picture person? Do you like taking things apart and figuring them out, or dreaming up new ways of doing things? Do you like following a pattern or creating your own?

Thinking/Feeling: Do you make decisions based on logic, or based on emotion? Are you most likely to concentrate on what’s “right”, or to focus on relationships?

Judging/Perceiving: Do you like being organized, with lists and plans, or would you rather be spontaneous and go with the flow?

None of these is “right” and none is “wrong”.

They’re just different preferences. But interesting things happen when differences get together–and often quite detrimental things to a marriage.

When couples have differences, here’s what happens:

Most couples engage in this undermining campaign in very subtle and indirect ways; they rarely address the problem honestly and openly. They just stop talking — really talking. So the overwhelming reason relationships fail is poor communication

In fact, these differences tend to be the root of communication problems that drive us apart. And sometimes those couples divorce. But as the authors ask, “What if they had not only understood their differences but also viewed them positively and as a source of richness?” And in Just Your Type, that’s what the authors try to do.

The book is done in three parts: First, Just Your Type looks at the four scales and sees how people who are different on each of those scales will fare. Then it divides the 16 types up into four basic approaches to the world–which is really quite interesting. It’s based on a combination of things, so even though my husband and I are actually quite close on the MBTI scale (I’m an ENTJ, or extrovert, intuitive, thinking, judging, and he’s an ESTJ, or extrovert, sensing, thinking, judging), we actually have very different approaches to the world. I’m an Innovator and he’s a Traditionalist.

Then, in the third part, the book shows how each possible combination will fare in marriage, and where your strengths and weaknesses will be. It is isn’t mean to say “these two types should never marry” or “these two types are doomed”, but rather “here’s how these two types can maximize their strengths and work together the best”.

I’m only going to talk about the first part of the book today, looking at the four scales, and using quotes from the book. I found it just fascinating, and I know that you will, too!

So let’s jump in.

MBTI and Marriage: When extraverts marry introverts

An equal number of men and women are extraverted/introverted. So this isn’t a gender issue, though we often think women are extraverts and men are introverts. But this difference can definitely cause problems!

Here’s one example: how we solve problems.

Renee and James found themselves at a familiar impasse — once again. A simple misunderstanding during dinner had somehow mushroomed into a full-blown fight. Renee, the Extravert, wanted to deal with it now, hoping they could resolve the conflict before it escalated any further. But James, the Introvert, was nowhere near ready to discuss it. Although he really didn’t understand what had happened to cause the rift, he knew he needed time by himself to think about it.

Extraverts will want to talk it out right then; introverts need time to process. So extravert spouses: give your spouse time to think!

When you ask an Extravert a question, he or she will usually start talking. This is because Extraverts think out loud. But with Introverts, the opposite is more often true. When you ask an Introvert a question, he or she will usually pause before answering…Not only do Extraverts speak first and think second, but they also tend to act before they think. As a result, they are usually quick to become engaged in new and interesting situations, they like being out in front, and they are comfortable in the spotlight.

Not surprisingly, then, this leads to differences in how we choose to spend free time. Extraverts want to be involved in things with lots of people; introverts will want to be alone more or with small groups of people. Parties will exhaust them, and may require days to recover from. Extraverts will thrive at parties.

Understandably, Introverts choose to have fewer people in their lives, and they are more often close friends or confidants. Most Extraverts, however , “collect” people and often have a stable of friends and acquaintances with whom they enjoy spending time.

If you’re an extravert married to an introvert, become involved in some same sex groups where you can get together with friends without requiring your spouse to come along!

MBTI and Marriage: When Sensors Marry Intuitives

Sensors like to deal with the here and now. Intuitives like to see the possibilities. Sensors are highly practical. Intuitives are highly creative. Can you see the potential for problems? A sensor may want to do all the finances on Quicken and have a 10 year plan. An intuitive may always be dreaming up the next entrpeneurial idea!

Sensors take in information through their five senses, paying close attention to what something looks, sounds, feels, tastes, or smells like. That’s why they’re usually such realistic and practical people . In contrast, Intuitives look at the world quite differently. Rather than focus on what is, they see what could be, questioning the reasons why it is as it is and how it’s related to other things. Rather than trust and rely on their five senses, it’s as if they use their sixth sense to understand and make sense of things.

Intuitives are often attracted to sensors because they ground them. To sensors, an intuitive seems exciting! But as you try to live out life, this can grate on people.

This is the one difference that Keith and I have–we’re alike on all the others. And it is a BIG difference. I don’t mind ambiguities; Keith likes everything set in stone before we make a decision. I’m always trying to change things; Keith says, “if it’s working, why break it?” That may make me seem irresponsible and him seem boring (if you’re taking it to an extreme).

What we’ve found that works is just talking it out, and making lists about what are our values and where we want to move towards. That helps clarify things. And if I want to go off on a tangent, that’s fine–as long as I don’t expect him to come with me! If I want to cause a battle over something in church, for instance, I can’t expect him to charge in with me.

MBTI and Marriage: When Thinkers Marry Feelers

Here’s a dimension which is usually thought of in terms of gender differences–but is actually a personality difference. The authors explain:

Although the American population is about evenly divided between Thinkers and Feelers, it appears that about 65 percent of Thinkers are men and about 65 percent of Feelers are women, so natural differences between Thinkers and Feelers are exacerbated by the fact that they are often different genders.

Many gender differences books are written with men seen as Thinkers and Women are Feelers. If that’s your marriage, you likely love most of those books! But if it’s not, you may find those books don’t seem to apply to you, and wonder what’s wrong with you. The authors say, “Male Feelers and female Thinkers often feel that they are out of sync with the world — that they are somehow different from the way they should be.” It’s likely because it’s not a gender difference thing–it’s a personality thing.

As a woman who is a thinker, I found this insight interesting:

But interestingly, Thinking women may receive an unintended benefit. Many Thinking girls grow up to have much more access to their Feeling sides, which means greater balance and greater competence.

On the other hand, Feeling men often feel like they really don’t fit, because they go against the stereotype. And if you’re a thinking woman married to a feeling man, you may start to see your husband as weak. Don’t. See him as someone who can live out the love of Jesus and who cares about people’s hearts. That can be a great strength, especially in a man!

Here’s where problems come in resolving conflict:

Because Feelers are so sensitive to others, they will often go out of their way to avoid hurting people’s feelings. This means they are usually very tactful and diplomatic, but it also means they can be less than 100 percent honest. They know what other people want to hear, so they may tell little white lies or be insincere in their compliments. Thinkers, however, place a high value on honesty and directness. As a result, they are more likely to offend someone unintentionally. What they see as being frank and forthright, others may perceive as being blunt and insensitive.

The main thing to remember about this difference is this:

When Feelers are confused or upset, they want their partners to listen supportively and compassionately. Thinkers tend to want constructive advice about how to fix the problem.

So in a conflict, step outside your comfort zone and give your spouse what they most need!

MBTI and Marriage: When Judgers Marry Perceivers

We talk a lot about extraverts vs. introverts and thinkers vs. feelers, but what most people don’t realize is that the difference that is the most prone to derail marriage is actually this one–judgers vs. perceivers.

I’m going to let the authors explain this:

As you are about to see, Judging and Perceiving have much to do with the way we like to run our everyday lives. As a result, many couples experience their greatest frustrations when they’re different in this type dimension.

One of the key aspects of Judging and Perceiving has to do with the issue of closure. Judgers like things to be settled and often feel a certain tension before a decision has been made. Since making decisions relieves the tension, they typically take in only as much information as is necessary to make a decision and then move on. By contrast, Perceivers feel tension when they are forced to make a decision. To alleviate that tension, they avoid making decisions and try to leave their options open as long as possible . As a result, they are often (but not always) prone to procrastinating. As you are about to see, Judging and Perceiving have much to do with the way we like to run our everyday lives. As a result, many couples experience their greatest frustrations when they’re different in this type dimension.

I think one of the great challenge, too, is that we often assign morality to one or the other. Judgers tend to think perceivers are irresponsible or lazy. Perceivers think judgers are “anal”, to put it bluntly. And so we start to think of ourselves as superior, when it’s really just a different approach to life.

Judgers are planners, and they like to be prepared. Because they expect a set plan to be followed, they often have a hard time shifting gears when the plan unexpectedly changes. By contrast, Perceivers often are hesitant to commit themselves for fear that if they do, they may miss some great opportunity that will come along later. Besides, Perceivers like to act spontaneously and usually adjust well to surprises.

How does this work in everyday life?

It’s very hard for most Judgers to enjoy themselves when there are still chores to be done or projects to be finished. By contrast, most Perceivers feel that there’s always more time, so why not relax or take advantage of some unexpected opportunity.

Can any of you see yourselves in that? One of you wants to get the chores done before you relax on a Saturday. The other wants to have fun!

How Should You Handle These Differences?

Understanding your differences helps so much in marriage! You know why you often have conflict in certain areas. You can better understand how your spouse approaches life. You know what your individual potential pitfalls are.

Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You've Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality TypeI found this book really fun to read because I saw so much of myself and my husband in it! And if you’ve been having the same conflicts over and over, and you feel like your husband doesn’t “get” you or doesn’t show you love, maybe it’s just that you approach life differently. Just Your Type is an easy book to read together, because you only have to read the parts that apply to your particular types. And most people find themselves laughing a lot at it!

So pick it up–and start to understand yourselves, and your conflicts, better!

Let me know in the comments–what difference most affects your marriage? Do you see yourself in any of this?

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How My Dad Taught Me to Love My Mom: One Man’s Story

Sullen Teenager

Can a dad straighten out a sullen, adopted teenager with a chip on his shoulder?

You betcha! I love this story that author Joel Peterson sent my way for Father’s Day, and I hope you enjoy it, too! It’s from his fictional biography Dreams of My Mothers. Here’s Joel:

“Let us pray.” My dad’s bass voice rumbled as he bowed his head.

I was a sixteen year-old who had been adopted at age six – a fact about me that would play a crucial role this day. Our house was Mom’s pride and joy. Anyone who walked into Ellen Linquist’s home knew exactly what holiday season it was—all the major and minor holidays and everyone’s birthday.  I think Dad loved our home all the more for the “Ellen Lindquist-ness” of it.

Dad was an accountant and it appealed to him—order, seasons, rules.  But this day Mom’s rules – and Dad’s words – would change me forever.

After grace, I reached over to the box of Raisin Bran when his mother fixed her bright blue eyes on me.

“Noah, isn’t that the same shirt that you wore yesterday?” I drew my hand back from the cereal box.

“You need to go back upstairs and change your shirt, young man.”

“But it’s not dirty!”

“You know the rules in our house, no son of mine is going to leave this house wearing the same shirt two days in a row.”  Something about her words seemed to pull a grenade pin inside me.

“So changing a stupid shirt is what makes me your son? It’s good to know what makes me fit to be your son. Since I’m NOT your son, I am not changing my shirt!”

I didn’t know what had come over me. I shouted these last words at my mother. There was something about the words “no son of mine” that set off that emotional grenade inside me and shattered the shrapnel of my teenage insecurities along with other inner demons – demons that hide inside most adoptees – who now were screaming things through my mouth at my mother. I was shocked and enraged at the same time.

There was always a trickle of blood inside my soul from a wound that could never fully heal. And there simply existed too many questions surrounding my identity that no one else could comprehend.

And in the mirror, my Asian face screamed at least one of the answers every day, an answer I did not want to hear.

“No son of mine.”

I ran up the stairs and into my room, slamming the door behind me.  A few minutes later, there was a knock on my bedroom door.

“Mind if I come in, Son?” My dad’s voice sounded muffled through the door.

Dad stepped through the door into my small bedroom. I kept staring out my window as I sat on my bed. Dad sat down next to me. The bed sunk down noticeably under his weight. He too stared out the room’s window.

Elmore Lindquist was not a man for elegant words or eloquent phrasing. And though my dad would later completely forget this episode and this conversation, I would not. I would remember every word.

And Dad found an eloquence—at least that day, at that time. “Son,”

He almost never called me by my name, Noah, but nearly always addressed as me “Son.” It never occurred to my father how much that simple word always meant to me, coming from a man like him. I had never had a man in my life until I was adopted at age seven.  Most of the men that I had met before adoption were through my birth mother, and there was always something off-putting, something not right. I could feel that the men were there for a purpose not linked to me. They were creatures focused on my mother as she prostituted herself to feed and care for me.  And my birth mother was a world apart from Ellen Lindquist.  But they shared the same intense love for me.

I had grown with up seeing nothing very positive regarding men or being a man. Until Elmore Lindquist.

Elmore was married to a trim, attractive woman who had the classic blond haired, dancing blue-eyed combination of her Swedish blood and an air of energy and efficiency that hinted at her nursing school training. She smiled easily and often and had a musical laugh. She was Doris Day, but slighter and far more intelligent.

And she was everyone’s “go to” girl.  Her sense of what her faith required was amazing to behold and led her to embrace the hardest jobs, the least desired tasks.  Every neighbor and community member said so in our small Minnesota town.

Dad was a new sort of creature to me. At six-foot two, he was a physical presence, but was never physical. He never seemed to get sick or tired or impatient or demanding. He would drive endless hours along endless miles of highways during summer vacations, enduring endless hours of children squabbling about touching each other and whining for bathrooms. He could execute unending honey-do lists and chores he would never have thought to invent.

He just was. He was a constant, dependable, working, providing presence of strength and good humor, perfectly paired with a smarter, stronger, and more faith-driven Doris Day of a wife.

Dad cleared his throat. “Son, I just want to share with you a little something I’ve learned. There are two people in this world that a man shouldn’t argue with. One is his wife. The other is his mother. Just because.  It’s that simple. A man just doesn’t argue with either.  And your mom is truly your mother in every way that is meaningful.”

Dad paused and from the corner of my eye I could see him glance down at me. I didn’t look at him, but instead, kept staring out the window.

“Son . . . because . . . being a man is about . . . it’s about . . . it’s . . . It’s NOT about how loud you can yell or the hurtful things you can say or how hard you can hit something or someone. You’re going to learn that the hardest fights that a man will have in his life will be inside himself . . . with himself. Being a man is about winning against the pettiness of your own ego. It means saying you were wrong, even when you know you were right; it’s saying you are sorry, even though you’re not . . .Because . . . it just doesn’t matter. Of course, sometimes it does.  And if it does matter, if you truly believe in your heart and soul that the world will be a better place, that the course of history and your corner of mankind will truly be better off, then of course, stand up and be a man. But if you know in your heart—deep down inside you—that it doesn’t really matter, except to you and your ego, then be a real man. Say you are sorry, even when you’re not. Say you were wrong, even though you are right. Because a man should only stand up for things that truly matter.”

I still gave no reaction though his words were like a parting of storm clouds that suddenly reveal a shaft of light. But I remained silent and staring.

“So . . . Son, if you truly believe the world will be a better place because you wear that shirt, then by God, wear the shirt. But if you know that it doesn’t matter to the world at all—only to you—then be a man, Son. Be a man and wear something else. Tell your mother that you’re sorry – for what you said and how you acted – even though you really aren’t.  And that you were wrong, even though you may feel you are not.”

Dad stopped talking. His big, bass voice stopped filling up my small bedroom.  The silence went on for minutes. He finally stood up. “Well, I have to get going to work now, Son. I’m late. Be the man I know that you are. I know you’ll do the right thing, Son.”  With those words, Dad turned and went out my bedroom door.

I knew that my dad was right with a profoundness I’d never felt before.  I now saw it so clearly and his words made perfect sense.  And I knew that what my mother had really meant was that she wanted me to live up to her high standards because I was her son.  I felt so stupid and so ashamed.   And so not like a man.  I knew what I had to do – be the man that my father was.

As I came down to the kitchen with my book bag over my shoulder, my mother looked up from her cup of coffee. I was wearing a different shirt.

“Uh . . . hey Mom? I’m really sorry for the things I said . . . And…you were right.”

I could visibly see the relief and the release of more tension than she had likely been aware of.  And in her eyes, I thought I saw a forgiveness and understanding – and joy – because she could see that I only saw her as being my mom.  And she could see me trying to be a man, just like my dad revealed to me.

“Thank you, Noah. You’d better hurry. You’re already late for school.”

I could sense she wanted to say more, maybe to say how sorry she was about my bleeding soul, to let me know that she loved me and worried for me.  But she didn’t need to say anything.

I knew.

Joel PetersonHSDreams Of My Mothers: A Story Of Love TranscendentIn his new book, Dreams of My Mothers, author Joel L.A. Peterson brings his unique personal background as a biracial international adoptee and combines it with his penetrating insights into multiple cultures to create an exceptionally enthralling and inspirational story. Learn more at www.dreamsofmymothers.com.

Top 10 Things Great Parents DON’T Do

When we think of great parents, we probably picture all the things that great parents have to do.

In fact, last week on Top 10 Tuesday Lindsay Bell shared ten things that great parents all do in common. But there are also lots of things that great parents DON’T do. And today Rebekah Curtis, mom of 7 and author of Ladylike, is going to share with us ten things great parents don’t have to do–and let us all off the hook just a little bit.

Top 10 Things Great Parents Don't Do--let yourself off the hook! #parenting

When my husband and I announced our first pregnancy, one of our grad school professors congratulated us and then said, “Get ready for Spongebob!”

We smiled, kept walking, and then looked at each other and whispered, “Do we have to?”

Answer: no. And that’s not the only thing you’re allowed not to do.

1. Expensive photography sessions.

Children are so beautiful they do not need professional photo shoots every six months to prove it. We all take about 3000 pictures of our kids every week. Their growth is so overdocumented they’re probably going to hate us for it. If you get a semi-decent family portrait taken every year (or every few years) and then go to the trouble of keeping your phone on you, there will be a longer photographic record of your kids’ personal appearance over time than there is of Giselle Bundchen’s.

2. Disney trips, even one.

It’s a Magic Kingdom, alright, but it’s just not required. If your family has the wherewithal for a dream trip, make it the trip that’s your family’s dream; maybe Yosemite, New York City, the World Series, or Narnia.

3. Devices.

There’s a lot of good to be had from gizmos, but the overhead and service costs are pretty high for entertainment when there are still moldy old books in the world. Devices also tend to decrease a young user’s chances to practice the life skill of spending time alone with her thoughts. Whatever we decide on this one, parents need to be honest with ourselves about what we’re giving our baby along with an iPad. It mostly means less time that I’m actively engaged with her, not a free ride to MIT and a secure future in the tech industry.

4. Lessons.

At least, not all of them. Sometime after 1980, we started feeling like scumbags if we didn’t enroll our critters in ballet, soccer, harpsichord, and haberdashery classes the minute they turned three. While any of these activities can be a great time for both kids and families, they can also be an expensive pain in the haunches. Most kids won’t end up earning big financial returns on this kind of thing, and the social and character benefits don’t start kicking in until children are a few years older. And there’s a good possibility that if your child’s parents don’t have a musical bone in either of their bodies, he’s not the next Adele either. Aptitudes have a way of coming out, or put another way, there’s a reason this story appears in The Onion and not the Times.

5. New clothes.

There are a lot of kids with more clothes than anyone could wear out in a year, and many of their parents are considerate enough to give those clothes a glamorous retirement at Goodwill. If you have more time than money, you can find really nice clothes that fit your resource set better than a huge Land’s End bill every fall.

6. Field trips.

Some parents aren’t able to go on a field trip, either because of work constraints or because they’re caring for other children. Some parents aren’t comfortable asking another adult to be responsible for the extra level of vigilance required when children are in a crowded public setting, an open rural area, on a boat, or just in a new place the child might find confusing or troubling. Plug this into a Venn diagram, and you’ve got families for whom field trips aren’t always a good fit. It’s OK. It’s your kid.

7. Birthday blowouts.

It doesn’t do any good to tell a kid to appreciate how blessed she is when she’s wearing her new silk kimono and Tahitian pearl earrings while riding a glitter-hoofed pony and porking down cream puffs shaped like swans, all because she turned eight. She has no comparative basis on which to appreciate it. Parents who fear it’s criminal not to throw a big shindig every year aren’t the ones whose child needs more stuff or public adoration. There was a time when it was thought that a birthday party with friends from school, planned activities, and a bakery cake was an extravagance every child should enjoy once. Maybe our kids would benefit from at least one birthday where the guests are the immediate family, the cake is from the house kitchen, and the fun is being with the people who love you so much more than anyone else does.

8. The school bus.

Some kids have a great time talking with friends or get through a lot of homework on a school bus. Others become bully-meat in an environment that can be only minimally supervised, and some find their unfortunate propensity for bullying enabled. A bus can be a friend of family efficiency, or an enemy of family happiness. Lots of good things can happen when moms and dads get to connect with their kids on a school commute, and that might be worth the tax on time.

9. Sleepovers.

If you are not comfortable with your kids sleeping at a house whose inhabitants you can’t claim to know that well, it doesn’t mean you’re a paranoid nut. None of us really know what another family’s home life is like. Factor in siblings, friends of siblings, extended family, and family friends who may also end up being present; practices regarding bathrooms and age-appropriate media; the variety of beliefs about swimming pools, copperhead infested areas, or walking to the park without a grownup; and so on ad infinitum, and it is perfectly reasonable for a family to say, “At our house, we sleep at our house.”

10. Another drink, story, or word of comfort for a troubled stuffed beast.

Four things are necessary at bedtime: toothbrushing, pajamas, snuggles, and prayers. Other routines are fun and useful only until they aren’t fun and useful any more. It does not violate a child’s human rights to say, “There isn’t going to be a drink right now, because it’s bedtime. I love you. Good night.”

Almost no one does all of these things.

You don’t have to look far to find a fully operational family that opts out of activities that have somehow taken place in our cultural mind as “the childhood experience.” Everyone remembers feeling frustrated, misunderstood, or deprived as a child. Our kids will be no exception, because dissatisfaction is a chronic human disease.

Our job isn’t to give kids perfect memories. It’s to help them think about their choices and not just do things because that’s what’s done. Children also need to learn that differences among families are OK, to deal with it when things don’t go their way, and to recognize that indulgence is not the solution to envy or discontentment. When they see us finding creative alternatives, they learn to do the same. That’s a lesson, an experience, and a gift they’ll use their whole lives.

Rebekah Curtis headshotLadyLike: Perspectives for Christian Woman_medium_image_attachmentRebekah Curtis is coauthor of LadyLike, a collection of essays on faith and society from Concordia Publishing House. She has written for Babble, The Federalist, Touchstone, and Modern Reformation (forthcoming). You can find her at the LadyLike blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and home with her husband and their seven children.

Top 10 Things Great Parents Do

Most moms are consumed with the question, “Am I a good enough parent?”

Today, for Top 10 Tuesday, Lindsey Bell joins us to talk about how to be a great parent–and how great parents aren’t perfect parents!

Top Ten Things Great Parents DO

Ever felt like a terrible parent?

Yeah, me too.

Earlier this week, it wasn’t even 10 AM and I had already lost my temper with my son over something that—in the grand scheme of things—really didn’t matter.

As I sat in my bedroom and beat myself up over my mistakes, the Lord gently reminded me that great parents aren’t those who never make mistakes.

A bad day doesn’t make us a bad parent.

That afternoon, while my sweet son took his nap, I started thinking about what does make a great parent.

Here are 10 things great parents have in common.

1. Great parents grant forgiveness easily and ask for forgiveness often.

As much as we’d like to believe we’re not going to mess up and yell at our kids or make any mistakes as parents, we all know that’s not reality.

We are human, so we’re going to mess up. Our kids are human too, so they’re going to make mistakes.

Great parents build homes where forgiveness is asked for and given often.

2. Great parents let their kids make mistakes.

Instead of rushing in to make sure their children never fail, great parents allow their kids to make mistakes while they’re in the safety of home.

It’s much better to make little mistakes now (when a loving parent will be there to help them pick up the pieces and work through the disappointment) than to make big mistakes later on.

So the question is, is it safe to make a mistake in your home?

3. Great parents give their kids things money can’t buy.

We all know money doesn’t buy happiness, and yet we often live like it does.

Instead of giving your child “things,” give him something money can’t buy. Give him your time. Give him unconditional love. Help him fall in love with a Savior.

There’s nothing wrong with providing your child with physical blessings, but there are some things money can’t buy. Great parents focus on these types of things!

4. Great parents practice what they preach.

Kids will do what you DO, not what you SAY you do. Great parents model the behavior they want to see in their children. They live with integrity.

5. Great parents teach their children about money.

Many teenagers don’t know how to write a check or balance a checkbook. They don’t know how to live on a budget. They can use a credit card without any problem, but don’t yet realize how debt could affect their future.

Great parents teach their children how to save, how to give, and how to spend wisely within their means.

6. Great parents discipline in love.

They recognize their role in their child’s life. It’s not to be a best friend or to be a drill sergeant. A parent’s role is to guide his or her children and train them toward maturity. This can only happen with loving discipline.

7. Great parents tell their kids they love them, no matter what.

Our kids won’t always behave in a way that makes us happy, but they should always know they are loved. Great parents make sure their kids know they are loved even when their behavior is poor.

8. Great parents love their child’s father/mother.

One of the greatest things you can do for your child is to love that child’s father or mother.

It’s so easy after we have kids to stop investing in our marriages. We’re exhausted. At the end of a long day at work or at home, we’re spent and don’t want to have another person to care for.

The investment is worth it, though, both for your sake and for your child’s sake.

*In some instances, as Sheila has written about in the past, like when abuse is present, loving that person doesn’t mean you stay with them. If this is your situation, you need to know that loving that person doesn’t mean you allow him to abuse you. Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do is create some boundaries to keep yourself and your family safe.

9. Great parents teach their children about loving service.

The happiest people are not those who have it all, but those who have learned to invest in others.

Great parents teach their children the value of serving others. They teach them that true happiness isn’t found in things but in living with purpose.

10. Great parents are fully present.

They don’t allow their work, their hobbies, their phones, their computers or their televisions to become more important to them than their child. There’s a time for these things, but there’s also a time to put them away.

Great parents work hard to find that balance.

I’d love to hear from you. What other tips would you add to this list?

17648166-18785009-thumbnailSearching for Sanity: 52 Insights from Parents of the Bible (Christian Living Bible Study)Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at her blog, twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered, what in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me—of all people—to raise them?

Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book uses the parents of the Bible—both the good and the bad—to inspire today’s mothers.