Don’t Let Fear Rule Your Parenting

Ecuador

A little over 12 years ago, I sat in a doctor’s office and was presented with the fact that the baby I was holding in my arms shouldn’t be here. I was told that 99% of babies with her particular health issues miscarried before they were born. In the weeks that followed, as a young mom of two kids under the age of two, I made a few decisions about the type of parent I wanted to be.

You see, I had been handed a miracle, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all kids are miracles. There are so many things that have to come together just exactly right to create a healthy baby. The fact that that happens more often than it doesn’t is a miracle.

I found myself having to answer the question “What do I do with these two miracles?” So I made a few hard and fast decisions in those first weeks of my second daughter’s life. One was that I wanted to be an intentional parent. This blog is an outgrowth of that decision. The other big decision I made was that I never wanted to parent from a place of fear. I didn’t want my decisions about what my kids could and could not do to be based on fear because irrational, paralyzing fear is not from God. It is a tool that Satan uses to keep us from doing the hard things that God asks us to do.

In the past 12 years, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve had to remind myself of that decision not to parent from a place of fear — sending my girls off to their first sleepover or their first overnight camp, sending my 7-year-old out on the ice for the first time to play hockey with a bunch of boys, sending them off to their first day of middle school. But never has that decision been tested more than it was last Thursday when I put my 14-year-old daughter on a plane to Ecuador.

Two doctors had expressed reservations about her going on this trip. She’d been really sick not a week before. She was still on antibiotics. Every single fiber of my being was screaming that I should keep her home where I could keep an eye on her. But God was clearly saying “Send her.” In those moments of tear-filled fear and paralyzing doubt, the rubber met the road on that long-ago decision not to parent out of fear. This moment was where I had to decide if I really believed that fear was not a good enough reason to stop my daughter from going on this long-awaited trip.

So, last Thursday, I chose not to let fear rule my parenting, not to let fear get in the way of God’s plan. I put my daughter on a plane to Ecuador. And I am so glad I did. That picture at the top of this post is her playing soccer with some kids in Ecuador (she’s in the red shirt). She has made new friends. She has worked hard and connected with some kids in Ecuador. She’s had the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to people she would never have met if I had let fear make me say no to this trip. And even from the short text messages I’ve been getting, I can tell that she’s going to come home a changed person.

Parenting out of fear never ends well for us or our kids. When we parent out of fear, we often rob our kids of the opportunity to try new things, meet new people and grow spiritually. Fear should never be the only reason we tell our children they can’t have a new experience. Don’t get me wrong, there are valid reasons for telling our kids no. Our 12-year-old didn’t go on this trip because we don’t feel she’s old enough or mature enough to travel across the world on her own. The reasons for her not going, though, aren’t rooted in fear; they’re rooted in what’s appropriate for her age.

However, if you’re making decisions about what your kids can and can’t do and you find fear is the only reason you’re parenting the way you’re parenting, it might be time to reevaluate. It might be time to take a close look at whether you’re making decisions based on  prayerful consideration of what’s best for your child or based on your own worries and fears.

Because when we let fear rule our parenting, we let Satan rob us and our kids of some of the great adventures God wants us both to have.

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Parenting Takes Faith

Faith

My older daughter leaves tomorrow morning to spend a week in Ecuador on a mission trip. I’m excited for her to go, but this trip that we’ve been planning for nine months has suddenly become a huge leap of faith.

You see, our summer has not gone the way we planned. My super healthy 14-year-old has battled two serious bacterial infections. A week ago, I would have told you she wasn’t going on this trip. Her doctors weren’t convinced that leaving the country — without a parent — was a good idea. I was definitely convinced it was a bad idea.

What was once a trip that caused me just minor concern has become a huge leap of faith for me. I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a rock in the pit of my stomach as I think about putting her on the plane tomorrow morning. My biggest worry is that she’ll get sick again, and she’ll be in a foreign country where there’s not much I can do about it. I trust the people she’s going with. I know that there’s medical evacuation insurance in place. I know that they have access to decent medical care. But it’s still going to take a whole lot of faith to hand my daughter her boarding pass, give her a hug and tell her to have a great time.

As I pondered that moment this morning, though, I realized that this whole parenting thing is just one big leap of faith. From the moment we leave our kids with their first babysitter or send them off to school for the first time, we’re placing our faith in God that He’s got a plan for them and He’s going to take care of them.

As my kids get older and they’re out of my sphere of influence more and more often, I find that my faith in God’s faithfulness has to grow. For them to become the people that God wants them to be, I have to trust that He loves them more than I do. I have to trust that His plan for them is the best one there is. And I have to trust that my kids will find Him and follow His path.

These aren’t easy lessons for me to learn. These aren’t easy days to be their mom. But I know that just as God will be using this trip to stretch and grow my 14-year-old, He’ll be using it to stretch and grow me as well. Because this parenting thing? It takes faith.

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These Moments are Precious

Needles

For the second time in six weeks, I sat in a doctor’s office with my older daughter and had a doctor look at me and say something like “If we don’t treat this correctly, it could kill her.” When you hear that statement once, it’s an eye-opener. When you hear it six weeks later for the second time, it’s like a sledgehammer smacking you in the side of the head.

My older daughter started the summer with a four-day hospital stay and a bout with meningitis. This week, what I thought was a simple virus causing her throat to hurt turned out to be a nasty bacterial infection that caused an abscess in the back of her throat, which is apparently a very scary, dangerous thing that can cause all sorts of horrible complications if it’s not treated correctly.

We’re calling this the Summer of the Needles in our house. My poor daughter has had a spinal tap done for the meningitis and had to have the abscess in her throat drained the other day. It has not been fun. But it has been a world changer.

Proverbs 27:1 says “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” That’s a lesson I’ve learned all too well this summer.

You may have noticed that this space has been quiet for several weeks. Part of that is because we were on vacation, but much of it is because I’ve been trying very hard to be present in my home this summer. Knocking up against serious illnesses twice this summer has reminded me just how precious each day with our kids is. It’s made me realize that all those things I think I’ll do with my kids tomorrow or next week or next year may not be in the cards. And I need to take advantage of the moments I do have.

So instead of writing blog posts, I’ve been doing a Bible study with my daughters and their friends. We’ve watched movies. We’ve checked out the new escape game in town. I’ve been taking my kids with me on errands that are easier to do by myself. I’ve sat on my bed and watched countless hours of “Mystery Diners” with my daughters.

Because these moments won’t come around again. They’re here and then they’re gone. And each one of them is precious. Each one of them is important. And if capturing some of those moments means I write a few less blog posts or my house is a little less clean, then so be it. Because regardless of illness or health, the moments I have with my kids are fleeting, and I want to capture as many as I can.

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Lessons from Teenagers on Friendship

Friendship

Most of you know that earlier this month, my older daughter spent four days in the hospital with meningitis. I blogged about the change in perspective it brought here.

While we were in the hospital, though, I learned something else. I knew my daughter had some great friends. I knew that they enjoyed all the fun, silly things that teenagers do. What I didn’t know was that these kids had mastered the art of friendship in the tough times.

Being a teenager is hard. Navigating through relationships of all kinds is difficult at any age but especially in the teen years where kids are just learning how to be a friend.

But while my daughter was in the hospital, we discovered that these teenagers — these 13-, 14-, and 15-year-old kids — had mastered friendship in ways that a lot of adults I know have not.

We weren’t out of the ER before some of my daughter’s closest friends had shown up with snacks and flowers. Those same friends were in her hospital room every single day we were there — watching movies, making up silly games and just hanging out. They even threw my daughter a birthday party on the day hers was supposed to be, complete with cake, balloons and party hats. It’s summer. There are an awful lot of things that teenagers can be doing, but those kids spent hours in a hospital room entertaining my daughter.

On top of the visitors, my daughter received cards, posters, texts, Snapchats, prayers and phone calls. Her friends that couldn’t come to the hospital because my daughter’s visitors were restricted wrapped her up in love every way they knew how without physically seeing her.

Because these teens have learned something important. They have learned that love shows up. Friendship means more than just hanging out and having a good time. It means jumping in with both feet when something goes wrong. It means wrapping your friend up in love when they need it. It means showing up and offering a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Those teenage kids were Jesus with skin on to my daughter. They loved her through those days in ways that I could not. And I am so very grateful that God placed those kids in my daughter’s life. I’m in awe of the depth of friendship that these teenagers have created. A bunch of 13-, 14- and 15-year-old kids showed they truly understand the words of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

For nearly a week, I watched these kids lay down their lives for my daughter, and I learned a lot about what God’s picture of friendship looks like. And I am inspired to make my friendships look the same.

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The Measure of Success

Success1

I turn 41 today. And to be honest, I’m having a really hard time with this birthday. I didn’t have any trouble at all with turning 40 last year. I’ve always had the opinion that age is just a number. But this year, I think I’ve let the world’s definition of success creep in and derail my ability to be content.

To be honest, I feel old. I have a daughter who started driving last week and who is going to high school in the fall. I’ve been thinking about what my 20-year-old self thought life would look like at this age, and the reality is very different than the ideal. I have a great life. I have two fabulous kids. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends who are there in the good times and the bad ones. I have the important stuff.

But today, I’ve gotten caught in the trap of looking around and comparing myself to what the world considers a success. I don’t have tons of money. This little blog doesn’t get millions of hits a day. I haven’t written a New York Times best seller. I’m a mom. I write a little blog. I teach writing to homeschoolers. I clean house, make meals, run the Fairchild taxi service and offer homework help. And sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough.

When I look around and see other blogs that are bigger, when I see other moms who have high-powered jobs, when I find myself wondering what it would be like to have the time and energy to pursue those big writing dreams, I wonder if my reality is enough. I wonder if this really is what God planned for me or if I missed the turn I was supposed to take back when I was 30 or 35.

As I ponder all of this with not a few tears in my eyes, God reminds me of something important. It’s not the big stuff that matters. Maybe I’ll still write that New York Time best seller. Just not right now. Maybe someday this little blog will get millions of hits a day. Just not right now.

Because right now, success is measured in putting one foot in front of the other on this path — the one I’m walking right now. The one that has a child on either side. Because yesterday, I took four teenagers to Starbucks and we studied what it means to thrive and not just survive. We talked about God’s plans and dreams for their lives. And that hour in Starbucks mattered. It solidified friendships. It dropped some Truth into their lives. It let them know they are loved by adults other than their parents. And that mattered.

Today, I’m writing this blog post that won’t get a million hits, but it just might be read by another mom struggling with the same emotions. And that will matter.

This fall, I will teach writing to a bunch of kids with a dose of love and Jesus on the side. And that will matter.

Tonight, I will pray with my kids and kiss them goodnight, and that will matter.

Because God doesn’t call all of us to do the big things. We’re not all going to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or New York Times best-selling authors. But our actions, the things we do every day, matter. They matter to the lives we touch. They matter to God who asks us to do them. They matter in ways that getting a million hits on the Internet does not.

So, if like me, you’re struggling to see the significance in what you do because the world is busy telling you that success is measured in dollars and fame, remember that God sees you. He sees the smallest things you do. And those things matter. Because success is not measured in dollars and fame. It is measured in lives touched as you walk the path God has laid out for you.

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A Change in Perspective

fragile

We’ve had a rough start to summer around here. My older daughter spent the first week of June in the hospital with meningitis. It was a long, scary week that fortunately for us ended with a healthy kid.

But I discovered during the past two weeks that there’s nothing like a sudden crisis to put everything in perspective. Before my daughter went into the hospital, her biggest concern was the fact that her coach was moving her down a team in soccer. That news rocked her world. She was sad, frustrated, and angry. Many, many tears were shed.

I’m not denying that it was a big deal to my 14-year-old. Soccer is her world. But two days later, after a trip to the doctor for antibiotics to treat a persistent sinus infection turned into an ER visit where we sat and waited for the results of a lumbar puncture to see if she had meningitis, she and I both got our perspectives shifted. We went from worried about a game to worried about her long-term health.

In the past two weeks, my daughter has learned that while God definitely gifted her with some soccer skills, He doesn’t want that to be the most important thing in her life. Four days in the hospital moved her focus a bit to be able to see the things that really matter — God, friends, family, health.

We were all reminded that life is fragile. Things can change in a moment. And while our passions and talents are important, they can’t be all-consuming to the point that we lose our perspective on what’s important.

Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is still driven to play soccer. She still wants to improve and regain her spot on the higher team. But she also knows that not making the team is not the worst thing that can happen. She knows that God has plans for her even when she goes through the tough stuff. She’s aware that there are more important things in life than the game she plays.

I wish it hadn’t taken four days in the hospital to shift our perspective, but I am thankful for the opportunity to refocus our household’s attention on the things that matter most.

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A Birthday Prayer for My 14-Year-Old

Birthday prayer

The child who made me a mom turns 14 today. I’m not really sure where the years have gone. It’s hard to believe the amazing young lady standing in front of me today is the same pixie-haired, wide-eyed toddler of just a few years ago. She has become a young lady that I am proud to know — one filled with a love for Jesus and a huge heart for others. Even as we sometimes struggle through the ups and downs of the teenage years, my love for this child just continues to grow. So, here’s my prayer for her this year:

A Birthday Prayer

I pray that you will always know you are loved.

I pray that you will never lose your joy for life or your reason to smile.

I pray that you will always chase after God as hard as you are chasing him right now.

I pray that you will have wisdom as you make difficult decisions.

I pray that you will be a light to other people.

I pray that when you get knocked down that you never lose the determination to get back up.

I pray that you will approach each new challenge and experience with confidence and a spirit that never gives up.

I pray that when you are feeling down that you will be surrounded by friends who will pick you up.

I pray that you will always look up when things are tough.

I pray that you will know more laughter than tears this year.

I pray that as you embark on these last four years before college that God will direct your steps to lead you on His path for your future.

I pray that you will never have to walk the path of life alone.

I pray that you will have fun and make memories that will last your whole life.

I pray that you will continue to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

My precious, precious child, you are so very loved. You are the child I prayed for and have loved from the moment I knew about you. Happy, happy birthday, sweet girl!

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When Parenting Just Stinks

stinks

Sometimes, being the parent just stinks. Watching your kids walk through difficult circumstances, watching their hearts break, watching their dreams shatter — none of that is fun.

My mom once told me that something I was going through hurt her more than it hurt me. I didn’t believe her then. But after doing this parenting thing for almost 14 years, I do believe that when our kids hurt, our momma hearts break as well. When we watch our kids work hard and chase their goals only to fall short, I think we may shed as many tears as they do. We may do it behind closed doors where they can’t see, but our hearts are breaking, too.

But then we wipe those tears away, open that closed door and pick up the pieces of our shattered kids. We remind them it’s not the end of the world. We let them mourn what they lost. Then we point them in the direction of the future.

But it is so hard, and it is so not fun. These are the parenting moments I hate the most — the ones where I have to find the silver lining when for the most part all I see is the clouds, too. But we do it — because we’re the moms, and that’s what our kids need.

I know that many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned in the hard stuff, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to convince both my kids and myself that the hard times are what make us stronger, teach us the most and force us to rely most heavily on God. I wish these teachable moments weren’t so very hard.

I want so much to protect my kids from hurt and disappointment, but that isn’t how the world works. Tough stuff happens. Things out of our kids’ control cause problems that they can’t fix. They make mistakes that have consequences.

And they learn. Oh, how they learn. They learn the world isn’t fair. They learn that despite working hard you don’t always achieve your goals. They learn that sometimes you fall down and the climb out of the pit you fell into is higher and steeper and harder than you ever thought it would be. They learn that there are people in this world who may never be able to appreciate them for who they are and that they may never get along with.

While I know my kids need to learn these lessons, the learning process is, oh, so hard. So excuse me while I shut my door, shed a few tears and have a long talk with God. Because on this long road of parenting when my momma heart breaks, there’s only one place to go to have that broken heart healed. The only way to get through these tough moments is to trust that God has it all under control. He loves my kids more than I ever could, and He knows exactly what they need. He even has enough strength and wisdom to get me through the tough mom moments.

It doesn’t change the fact that sometimes this parenting thing just stinks, but it does help to know that we’re not alone on the journey.

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Living Summer Day by Day

Summer2

My kids got out of school last Thursday, and we left town for the Indy 500 that afternoon. We got home yesterday, which makes this the first real day of summer my kids have had. My younger daughter is currently lazing around in her pajamas, and my older one is still asleep (and probably will be for quite some time).

This whole family has been looking forward to summer for a while. The stress of the school year winding down and all the end-of-season activities have kept us on our toes. We’re all looking forward to some time to just be lazy.

But summer is about more than just being lazy. It’s a time for me to reconnect with my kids. It’s a time to work on some things that we’ve glossed over during the school year. It’s a time to make memories and have fun. It’s a time to strengthen friendships and have new experiences.

Usually I have a pretty specific plan for the things I want us to do during the summer, but this summer, I find I’m winging it. My girls are most interested in hanging out with their friends and having some time to recoup and refresh. And that’s OK. We’ll find some time to have a few adventures and work on some life skills. We’ll make the time to dive deeper into what God wants for their lives.

But mostly this summer, we’re going to relax. We’re going to take it one day at a time and do the things that fit. That probably means I’m going to have a house full of kids all summer. It probably means I’m going to be feeding kids and taking them places. It probably means some lazy days at the pool and some teenage movie nights. It does mean lots of giggles and a bunch of late nights.

But as I ponder our summer, I’m reminded that these days are fleeting. My older daughter goes to high school in August, and the moments will fly by. So this summer, I want to make as many memories as possible. I want my kids to look back on this summer with joy. I want them to have fun, dive deep with God and cement friendships that will see them through these next few years.

So, while there may not be much concrete on the calendar at the moment, I have high hopes for a summer that’s lived day by day.

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The Teen Years Don’t Look Like I Thought They Would

Teenager

The other day, a boy told my older daughter that she’s beautiful. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, and I like the boy. But when I heard that, I looked at my daughter, and I wondered where the days went.

I wonder when this young lady standing in front of me grew up. I wonder when she went from a toddler with a pixie cut to this tall girl with waist-length hair standing in front of me. I wonder when those blue eyes went from being mischievous to being windows to her soul.

To be truthful, this stage doesn’t look anything like I thought it would when she was that toddler. I assumed that when she was a teenager, we there would be solid rules around her about things like dating and curfews. I figured there would be more drama and less conversation.

I’m discovering, though, that while there are boundaries, parenting this teen is a lot more fluid than I ever dreamed it would be.

I’m learning that a lot of the ideas I had about how to parent a teen simply don’t hold water. Because she’s not that little toddler any more. She’s a young woman with hopes, dreams and ideas of her own. She often makes valid arguments and forces me to see a situation differently.

And I’m deciding that that’s OK. Because I’m also learning that to parent effectively in this stage, I have to lean even more heavily on God’s wisdom than on my own. Because she is her own person, and she needs to be able to make decisions on her own.

I’m learning that every situation she encounters doesn’t fall into the nice little box of rules that I’d like to make and that we have to make decisions based on where she is in that moment. I’m discovering there’s less “Do this because I said so” and more open conversation about making good choices and learning life lessons.

All this means I’m learning how to rest on the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. I’m learning to let go of my hard and fast ideas of what the teenage years should look like and deal with what they really do look like. That means I spend a lot of time praying over my teen and her friends. It means I spend a lot of time seeking out wisdom from people who have already walked this route.

God is teaching me that we need to set larger boundaries but that we need to seek Him in the individual stuff. We need to drop it in His lap and let Him lead the way instead of me leading the way.

We’re learning that if we deal with the situations she faces individually within some clearly defined boundaries, it gives us a lot more flexibility to parent her well. It gives us a chance to teach her to make good decisions on her own instead of forcing her to make those decisions within a rigid set of rules that we set for her.

Because teaching our teens to make good decisions is what it’s all about. We’re not always going to be there to set the rules for them. They need to be able to choose the right path on their own.

So, while this teenage thing looks different than what I thought, it is teaching both her and me how to seek God’s wisdom first. It’s teaching us how to communicate with each other effectively. Some days, it’s hard. Other days, it’s a whole lot of fun.

But I still wonder where the time has gone.

 

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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