Let Grace Be Their Strength

Grace3

So, I wrote about offering our kids grace yesterday. Funny thing. Apparently, God was talking to me.

My younger daughter made the transition to middle school this year. After five years in elementary school and a year of homeschool, she walked into the doors of our local middle school.

She’s made the transition remarkably well. She’s had the usual middle school issues of finding her classes and dealing with a finicky locker, but she’s been mostly organized and managed her assignments well. Until yesterday.

Last night, she discovered she did not know where her social studies homework was. Hopefully, it’s in her locker. If it’s not, she’ll have to take the late work penalty.

I have to admit that I was frustrated with her. Late work in the first couple weeks of school is not a good way to make an impression on your teacher. I really wanted to lecture and let her know how frustrated I was.

But then I remembered yesterday’s blog post. I remembered that this is a huge transition for my daughter. I remembered that she had traveled all weekend to play in a hockey tournament. I remembered that we all make mistakes. And I remembered that sometimes making a mistake is the best way to learn.

You see, this is my daughter who when she was little had to touch the hot pan to believe that it was hot. This is my daughter who has always taken the hard way. This is my daughter who needs the pain of the consequences to appreciate the magnitude of the mistake.

So instead of lecturing last night, I helped her problem solve. We tried to find the worksheet in the online system the school has for assignments. Not there. We tried calling some friends she has in the class to get the questions. No one home. We tried emailing her teacher. No response.

I sent a very frustrated young lady to bed knowing that she would have to take the point deduction for late work. But, you know what? I bet tonight she comes home with all her homework. I bet that she’s super careful about writing down her homework and making sure it’s in her binder in the future.

Because this one experience has taught her more than all the lecturing in the world could teach her. Offering grace from the parent point of view, offering a hug and encouragement, instead of heaping lectures on top of her already hurting heart didn’t take away the consequences of her mistake. That grace, though, gave her the courage to get out of the car this morning and head into the school to face her mistakes.

Because grace doesn’t wipe out our mistakes. It doesn’t do away with the earthly consequences. But grace and love on the magnitude that God provides, gives us the strength to get up in the morning and face the day. When we pour just a small portion of that grace out onto our kids, it does the same for them. They get bolstered not just by God’s grace but by God’s grace given through their parents. And sometimes that’s all they need to have the courage to put one foot in front of the other.

So, the next time our kids make a mistake, we need to let experience be their teacher and let grace be their strength.

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Grace for the Changes

Grace1

There’s not been a lot happening in this space the past two weeks. School started. Schedules shifted, and we’ve all been trying to adjust to the new normal that is the school year. Despite having more time alone, it’s been difficult to slot blogging into the new schedule.

When the school year rolls around, it can be tough to get back into the swing of things. It can be difficult to get everyone where they need to be when they need to be there. In the past two weeks, I’ve taken a child to practice at the wrong time, forgotten a breakfast date with a friend and struggled to get my kids out the door on time most mornings. Each time I forgot something or got the time wrong, I felt bad.

Switching from a relaxed summer schedule to the school year one is hard. It takes a while for everyone to get used to the new routine — including us moms. It takes a few weeks to settle into the new normal, and we need to give ourselves and everyone around us some grace until the new normal simply becomes normal.

However, our tendency is often to beat ourselves up when we make a mistake in the schedule. We get impatient when our children or spouses don’t immediately jump on the bandwagon of new practice times, new school times and new dinner times. We get frustrated when our kids don’t remember everything they should from the last school year. We get annoyed when our new schedule doesn’t work like we think it should.

Especially when making the switch from summer to school year, we need grace — for our families and for ourselves. Grace is a wonderful and amazing thing. It overlooks the shortcomings of others. It lets us love each other despite our failings. It makes us feel whole even when we screw up. But to offer grace to ourselves and our families, we have to be filled up with God’s grace — every day.

God offers His grace to us all the time. He never runs out. It’s always available. All we have to do is accept it. All we have to do is let it fill us up until we’re overflowing with it. Because I don’t have enough grace to give for all the mistakes and frustrations found in the switch to the school-year schedule. But God does. All I have to do is tap into it.

So, as you make the switch from summertime to school days, remember to include grace in that switch. Remember it takes time to get it all figured out. Remember that God gives you grace every day so that you can offer it to others.

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Gaining Perspective on Losing

Dwell

My older daughter played her first soccer game of the season on Saturday. She was so excited, dressed in her uniform at 9 a.m. for a 12:45 game. She couldn’t wait to get on the field.

It didn’t take long for things to go sour. She forgot her conflict jersey (and we needed them). Her first few minutes on the field, she made several mistakes. Her team lost 6-1, and she came off the field discouraged and almost in tears.

Having a bad game and losing is never fun. Knowing that you didn’t play to the best of your ability and let those around you down hurts. Making mistakes is tough.

My daughter had a rough rest of the afternoon and evening. She still had to referee two games in hot, humid weather. She didn’t feel all that great. And she kept reliving her mistakes in the game — over and over again.

But here’s the thing: my daughter is a solid soccer player. She doesn’t often have games like this. When she makes a mistake, she puts her head down and tries harder next time. By the second half of her game, she was playing better and made some good plays. She was part of setting up her team’s only goal.

She couldn’t see any of that, though. All she could hear in her head was her coach saying the defense had let the team down. All she could think about were the plays she messed up. All she could focus on was whether she’d get another chance to do better.

When we make mistakes, it’s sometimes hard to regain perspective. And it’s especially hard if you’re 13 and still learning what perspective even is. Which is why our kids have us.

Part of our job as parents is to help give our kids perspective. It’s to help them understand that one bad day, one bad game isn’t the end of the world. It’s to remind them that there will be another chance, another day, another game to get it right. It’s to pull their focus off of themselves and to get them to focus on the bigger picture.

Because that’s how God treats us. He sees our mistakes. He knows our tendency to beat ourselves up over the past. But He doesn’t dwell on those things. He doesn’t keep reminding us of them. He forgives us and moves on. He separates our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12)

So, no matter what it is that our kids are struggling to get over — a big game loss, a mistake at school or a fight with a friend — it’s important that we help them find perspective, that we help them see that there will be another chance. Because dwelling on mistakes doesn’t help. Learning from them does.

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A First Day of School Prayer

School 2014

I dropped both my girls off at middle school this morning for their first full day of school. I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I have a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader. I love the fact that they are growing up into beautiful, compassionate young ladies, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss the little girls they once were.

As they head off to school this year, here’s what I’m praying for them.

A First Day of School Prayer

My precious children,

You’re growing up so quickly. I look at you standing there proud and tall in your carefully chosen first-day-of-school outfit, and I see the little girls that just yesterday I dropped off at kindergarten for the first time. Now, we’re starting and finishing middle school. I love you both so much and can’t wait to see what God has in store for you. Here’s what I’m praying for you this year.

I pray:

That your locker would open on the first try.

That you would find and foster true friendships.

That you would be yourself.

That you would always know that you are never alone and God is walking the hallways with you.

That you would learn new things and have new adventures.

That you would make wise choices based on the things God thinks are important, not the things your friends think are important.

That you would laugh often.

That you would have teachers who inspire you to work harder and dream bigger.

That you would love others and show kindness and compassion to everyone you meet.

That you would encourage those around you.

That you would find a subject that sparks the imagination and challenges you.

That you would be a light in the darkness of this imperfect world.

That you would never be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

That you would be a champion of those who are weaker than you.

That you would live fully and enjoy the abundant life that God promises you.

That no matter how tough the day, how harsh the words, that you would know you are loved.

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Discussing Robin Williams

Robin Williams died yesterday. The man who brought so much laughter to this world couldn’t find any in his own life and killed himself.

I had no plans to blog about this. As tragic and sad as it is, it wasn’t something I felt I needed to address. Until this morning. My younger daughter crawled into my bed as I was listening to the news on the radio.

“So, that actor guy died?” she said.

“Yes,” I answered.

“How did he die?”

“He killed himself.”

“Why would someone do that?”

And that’s the question. Why would someone who appeared to have so much to live for fall into a pit of despair so deep that there was no way for him to see through the darkness?

At some point in their lives, our kids are going to know someone who is depressed. They’re probably going to be touched by suicide in some form. My first experience came in high school when a guy I was in band with committed suicide. I was a sophomore in high school and completely shocked. I had no idea he was depressed. I had no idea there was deep pain hiding behind a quiet, shy demeanor. I had no idea.

And that’s why we need to talk with our kids about suicide, perhaps using the death of this famous actor as a springboard for that conversation. It would be so much easier just to gloss it over, just to ignore it because this is a tough subject.

The truth is, though, that depression and suicide are topics our kids need to know about. They need to know that what they see on the outside of a person isn’t always a good indicator of how they feel on the inside. They need to know that their words and actions matter and that they can wound or heal with those words and actions. They need to know that depression is an illness; it’s not something that people choose. They need to know that when a friend struggles to live with depression, it truly is a fight for survival.

And, most importantly, our kids need to know that it’s not something to hide. They need to know that it’s not shameful to ask for help. They need to know that it’s OK to bring in an adult if they or a friend are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. They need to know that God isn’t missing from the situation. Because knowing these things can save a life.

So, don’t hesitate to talk to your kids about depression or suicide. Don’t skirt around the subject. Bring it up. Shed light into the dark places. Pray for your friends who struggle. Look for ways you can help. Because you just might save a life by doing so.

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When Sports Overwhelm

Overwhelm

My girls both play sports competitively. It means we spend a lot of time and money for them to play. And that’s fine. It’s a choice we’ve made to let our girls follow their passions. But there comes a moment when we have to say enough is enough. We reached that point this summer.

My older daughter wanted to play on two soccer teams this fall, upping her league games from eight to 16. She also wanted to try out for the Olympic Development Program for our state. My younger daughter spent the summer traveling to Minnesota to play hockey on a girls’ team. It was not the best experience for her or us. The local hockey program recently told us they’re changing the program for the fall and doing away with the minimal travel option they’ve had in the past. Her options now are to play recreational hockey or to play on a team that double the travel and the cost of last year.

My husband and I have finally decided to say enough is enough. We miss our family. We miss going on vacation to a place that doesn’t involve the girls playing games. We miss having weekends at home. We’re still willing to support our kids in their sports, but we’re no longer willing to simply go along with the crowd. We’re no longer willing to have our lives and our marriage consumed by constantly going in different directions.

Don’t get me wrong, our girls will still be playing their sports. We’ll just be a bit more judicious about the choices we make. Our older daughter is not double rostering this fall or trying out for the Olympic Development Program. Our younger daughter won’t be playing on the travel team.

Because, here’s the thing: I can’t raise my kids and create a family unit if my family is constantly split up going in separate directions. I can’t “train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6)” if my kids are never around me. I can’t teach my kids about God “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:7)” if I’m never doing those things with my kids.

It’s hard to tell our kids no, especially when everyone they know is doing the things they want to be doing. However, sometimes we have to make the tough decisions that protect our families — even if it comes at the expense of upsetting our kids.

In our community, it’s really easy to get trapped in the idea that our kids will be “behind” if they don’t get the right training or spend the right number of hours playing their sport, learning an instrument or doing another activity. It’s easy to get caught up trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”

But isn’t it more important that we teach our kids the things they’re going to need to know to live their lives following God? Isn’t it more important that we be the ones pouring wisdom and love into them while they’re in our care?

The days we have to raise our kids are fleeting, and we need to choose how to use those days well. Sometimes that means pulling back and creating space and time to do that.

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Time to Just Be

Be

I had a little meltdown on Sunday. It was one of those days where everything was just a little bit off. My husband and I couldn’t seem to get on the same page. My girls were standing on my last nerve. Everything was simply overwhelming.

So I cried. I cried because I felt completely inadequate. I cried because I was overwhelmed. I cried because I simply didn’t know where to start to fix things.

At this time last year, I knew my life was going to change. It was going to be nutty and chaotic and frustrating and beautiful. I knew that having a child at home all year was going to be the best thing I ever did but also the hardest. I didn’t know just how long constantly trying to be everything to everyone was going to take to catch up with me.

Apparently, it took nearly a year. Because as much as we accomplished in that year, as awesome as it is that my daughter is in a better place, as much as God worked, I had no idea how tired and overwhelmed I had become. I had no idea how much trying to do it all and simply putting one foot in front of the other every day would eventually wear away at my ability to continue doing that.

Don’t get me wrong. God’s grace is sufficient for every day, but when you’re in the midst of a soul-wearying year — whether it’s because you’ve gone to work outside the home, had a new baby, are caring for an elderly parent, or are simply in the midst of troubled times with your kids or in your marriage — there’s going to come a point where you body and soul simply say “Enough!”

And that’s where I was on Sunday. I’ve been feeling lethargic all summer. I haven’t done a lot of the things I’ve normally done. I haven’t been the “fun” mom. I haven’t been the productive freelancer. I haven’t been a great wife. I’ve simply needed some downtime. I’ve needed to just be.

But somewhere in the midst of just “being” I forgot to be with the One who fills me up. Instead of turning to the One who has all the energy and grace I’ll ever need, it’s been easy to simply say that I’m owed some time for myself. But what I really need is time with the only One who can fill me up and give me everything that I need.

So, today, I’m going to start off my day with some much needed time — time with the God who loves me, time with the One who can fill up the empty places, time with the God of the universe who can make me the fun mom, the productive freelancer, the insightful blogger and the great wife.

Because I don’t have to do all those things myself. I simply have to make time to be with the One who can make me those things.

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First Friday: The Breathtaking Grief of a Child

Grief1

The faith of a child can be breathtaking.

I’ve known it.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve craved it.

But over the last few weeks, I have realized something else entirely can steal your breath when it flows from the hands, the mouth and the heart of a child…

And that something is grief.

As keenly as I’ve felt the unexpected and recent loss of my Daddy, it is no more real than when I have seen it through the eyes of my children.

The moment we told our Grace my dad was gone…

Her heaving sobs.  Her broken heart.  Her understanding.

Ah, her understanding.

The both blessed and blasted grasping of reality and loss that continues to punch me in the stomach.

It is not only what takes my breath from me, but it is also what led me to heave my nearly eight-months pregnant body onto her top bunk to comfort her, despite my husband’s admonition and subsequent near-suffocation when I jumped on him in my attempt to “safely” get down.

I simply could not leave her alone in her grief.

I had to hold her and kiss her and quietly whisper, “I love yous.”

It is there in that bunk bed I learned why a Father bends so closely and keenly and unreservedly in comfort.  Why you can kick and scream and flail and He still holds you with whispered “I love yous.”  Why in the greatest despair you can also feel so strongly and securely held.

But Grace has not been my only teacher…

Our son.

Oh, our son.

The one who fought back little boy tears to say just how deep his love ran for the man he knew. Feelings infused with an unencumbered joy over the years that had been given to us. Made clear in his spoken response to the question, “How do you feel about this, buddy?”

“I am happy…happy because of all the fun things I was able to do with him.”

A declaration made somehow more beautiful a day later when he was watching fireworks and exclaimed, “That one’s for Pop Pop!!!”

For this little guy, grief has been about celebration.

Not only because of the promise of a heaven but also because the time with Pop Pop given to him has been so beautiful.

I see it in his eyes every time he talks about his memories.

It is not grief without hope. It is an expectant joy at the reunion waiting. Where they will eat peanuts and stay up late together and talk about “man stuff” for an eternity.

This.

From a six-year-old boy.

Completely. Breathtaking.

And then…

Well, then, there was the moment we buried my Daddy…

And my Sophie handed tissues out to everyone.

I watched as she wiped my mama’s eyes and patted her hands and unreservedly loved on her. She had no regard for protocol or reverence or the rules. She just simply saw hurt that needed to be salved…

So out came the Kleenex.

A sweet, punch-you-in-the-gut, steal-your-breath-away act of love.

She knows he’s gone.

She says often, “I miss Pops!”

But she also knows I do too…I hear it every time I burst into a flurry of unexpected tears and she asks, “You are sad about Pops?  Me too.  Me too.”  And then I feel it when just like clockwork, she reaches her tiny hand up to my face and wipes my tears as they fall.

She comforts even in her own grief.

I cannot even begin to tell you how like Jesus she is to me in those moments.  Reaching past her little girl hurt to love mightily on another. Seeing the need that is beyond her own sadness.

It is a care more breath “stealing” than taking.

Yes, grief is hard.

But through the eyes of my children, I see so often how it comes from a well of love and the very depth of hope and even faith.

It is not masked with a foreboding sense of fear or hopelessness.

It is just purely love.

A love that cries and hopes and comforts with a faith in what waits for those who love Him.

Oh, Jesus…

May I love and grieve like that.

One breathtaking, punch-you-in-the-gut, beautiful moment at a time.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

 

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Encouraging Our Kids to Be Themselves

be yourself

I took my younger daughter shopping for school clothes yesterday. It’s always a process to take her shopping. She’s so petite that it’s difficult to find clothes that she likes that fit.

Up to this point, she’s been a T-shirt kind of girl, but she’s headed off to middle school this year. At one point yesterday, she asked me “Is this what everyone is wearing?” And my heart broke just a little bit.

You see, this is my child who has always marched to the beat of her own drum. This is my child who has never really cared what those around her think. This is my child who has always dared to be different.

But she suffers from the same thoughts that plague us all. Am I going to fit in? Will people like me? What if I’m different?

A little bit of fitting in is fine. We all need to fit in to some degree, but if we let those questions become the guiding light of our lives and our kids’ lives, then we lose a little something of ourselves. We lose little something of who God made us and our kids to be.

Because the truth is that God didn’t make our kids so they would “fit in.” He made each one of them to be fantastically and uniquely them. He made each one of them in His image, but He did it in such a way that they are made in the image of no other person on earth.

Too often, I do a terrible job of encouraging my kids to be themselves. I worry about whether they fit in instead of encouraging them to follow their own path. Instead of rejoicing in who they are, I see other kids and wonder why they can’t be more like that other child.

God tells us that each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “God’s workmanship.” He tells us He has plans for us. He tells us that we are loved. Yet so often we ignore those words and focus on how we’re different from those around us. We focus on the moments where we don’t fit in.

Here’s the thing, though, when we try to fit in, when we try to fit into a mold that wasn’t used to make us, we only find ourselves miserable. We hide who we truly are for the opinion or approval of people who don’t matter. And I think that must make God sad.

Instead of trying to force ourselves or our kids into a copycat mold of what society says is acceptable, we need to be aware of what God says is acceptable. We need to be examples for our kids of people who care more about what God thinks than we do about what others think. And we need to encourage them to do the same.

We need to encourage our kids to make decisions based on who God made them to be and the path that God has asked them to walk. And we need to remember that those decisions might be different even from what we would choose. Because our kids aren’t made in our image either. God’s calling for them might be different than what we would choose for them. But it’s not our job to choose for them; it’s our job to guide them to make the choices that God has for them.

So as we embark on the new school year, put some focus on helping your kids become the people that God created them to be — fearfully and wonderfully made creations who are the image of Him.

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A Reminder to Be Intentional

intentional

My older daughter is at camp this week with our church’s middle school group. She’s gone for five days with no phone. Our only contact with her is pictures that her leaders are posting on Instagram. She looks like she’s having a blast.

Both girls were gone a couple of weeks ago for a week with my parents. Honestly, I didn’t find myself missing the girls too much then. I really needed the break.

But this week, I find myself really missing my older daughter. With just the three of us at home, it’s like a piece of us is missing. As my girls get older, we see less of them. Between school, practice and church, we have to make an effort to have family time. But even when we don’t see a lot of each other, our family dynamics are designed around four people. When one of the girls is gone, it changes the dynamics.

I love the one-on-one time I’m getting with my younger daughter. We’re getting all her school shopping done and heading out to see a movie today. But this week without my older daughter reminds me that we have limited time left with her. She’s headed into eighth grade this year, which means we really only have five years left with her at home.

As I ponder those five years, I realize there’s so much I still want to teach her. There’s so much love I still want to shower her with. There are so many conversations I still want to have. As happy as I am that she’s growing into a healthy, happy young lady, I find myself wishing for just a little more time for her to be little.

When you bring your kids home from the hospital, 18 years looks like a really long time. And then you blink and she’s 13. Blink again and she’s heading off to college. One more blink and she’s married with kids of her own.

Although sometimes the days are long, time in general seems to fly. I wouldn’t stop it for the world. Every age and stage brings new adventures.

But as we face these last five years with my daughter at home, I’m reminded that I need to be as intentional with my time with my girls now as I was when they were little. When they were younger, we were intentional about creating a solid foundation of faith and love for them. Now, as they’re getting older, I find we need to be intentional in teaching them how to work through problems on their own. We have to be intentional about teaching them to recognize potentially dangerous situations. We need to offer fewer rules and more guidance. And we have to be intentional about letting them make their own mistakes.

Our need to be intentional in the way we parent our kids doesn’t end when they hit the teenage years, but the things we need to be intentional about do. As our kids get older, they still need our wisdom and love. They just need it in different ways.

So, when my daughter gets back from camp and our family dynamics shift back to the way they are designed, I’m going to use this reminder of the time we have left with her to prompt me to ask God to help me remember to be intentional in the way I parent both my girls.

Where do you need to refocus your efforts to be intentional in being intentional in the way you parent your kids?

 

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