The Power of No

This space has been pretty quiet for a while. It may seem like I fell off the map.

In a way, I did. You see, the past 18 months or so have been pretty challenging. Over the course of those months we have dealt with meningitis, two other bacterial infections, a tonsillectomy (which is brutal when you’re a teenager), a thyroid disorder, a parent having a stroke (and subsequently becoming much more involved in that parent’s care), a broken hand, vocal chord dysfunction, a concussion, pneumonia, and a cerebrospinal fluid leak (feel free to look that one up). Did I mention my husband got a promotion in June that has him working until 8 p.m. most nights?

And that doesn’t even include the normal drama that goes along with raising two teenage girls.

So, in the past year and a half, I’ve had to make decisions about the things that I can devote my time and energy to. Unfortunately, writing was something that had to take a back seat. This poor little blog suffered from a lot of neglect.

While the past 18 months have been a little rough, I have learned one very important thing. Sometimes, we have to say no. Whether we’re saying it to other people or to ourselves, it’s an important word to know how to use. And I have gotten so much better at it.

You want my daughter to practice two nights a week until 11 p.m.? No. You want me to add four more things to my schedule? No. I want to blog three days a week and redesign my website? No.

When it’s all you can do to just get through the day, no becomes a very powerful word. Saying no has allowed me to say yes to other things.

I’ve gotten to spend some time with my girls that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve been able to watch them as they have met some challenges in the past 18 months with grace and patience (and, yes, some frustration and anger).

I was able to say yes to a weeklong vacation with just my husband. And I’ve been able to say yes to time with God, time that I’ve been able to spend just soaking up His word and His love without any pressure to have anything meaningful to say about it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you, dear reader, to understand the power of no. This little blog is a worthy endeavor. It deserves more attention than it’s getting because I know it reaches people. Maybe in the next month or two, it will get the attention it deserves. My fingers are itching to write and my brain is whirling with unsaid thoughts.

But that will come in God’s timing, not mine. I’m not going to force it. When there’s something to be said, I’ll say it. But there will be days when no is the answer to am I going to write today. There are so many things I want to say and share with all of you about this crazy thing called parenting, but I can’t do it at the expense of my own parenting.

So, look for me a little more frequently in this space in the coming weeks, but don’t be surprised if it’s sporadic.

And do me a favor, take a look at your own life, at the things you are filling your time with. Maybe there’s something there that you need to say no to. Maybe forever. Maybe for just a little while.

You won’t be sorry that you did.

The Quiet Kids


I’m the mom of a quiet kid. She’s the girl in class who knows the answers but rarely raises her hand. She’ll talk with you if you talk to her, but she’s not likely to speak up much otherwise. It takes work to get to know her, but she’s a treasure to know when you do.

Some events in our lives in the past few days has me thinking about the quiet kids. These are the kids who when you go to their parent-teacher conferences in middle school and high school, you can clearly see some of the teachers trying to figure out which kid you’re talking about. These are the kids who are well-behaved and never seem to have a bad day.

It’s not that they don’t have bad days. It’s just that they don’t want to be the center of attention. They shy away from the spotlight and don’t volunteer to share their joys and troubles with everyone.

And the reality is that these are the kids that can be overlooked. They aren’t outgoing and attention-grabbing. They aren’t trouble makers. They are adept at hiding their feelings and blending into the background.

The quiet kids actually bring a lot to the table. They listen more than they speak, which means when they do speak, they usually have something important to say. They observe more than they interact, which means they often have a keen understanding of human nature. When you do get to know them, when you make the effort to get past that exterior reserve, you can find that they have plenty to say, that they have a great sense of humor and that they are willing to share the deepest parts of their soul with you. But it takes effort.

Too often, adults and other kids aren’t willing to put in that effort. The quiet kids can get shunted aside and overlooked as adults give their attention to the gregarious ones and the trouble-making ones.

The reality is, though, that these quiet kids need your attention. They need you to spend time getting past the surface and really getting to know them. They need your interest, your love and your attention.

God created these quiet kids because the world needs people who listen and observe. He knew we needed the quiet thinkers to help solve problems created by those of us who jump without looking.

But our society values the outgoing, life-of-the-party personality. That makes it easy to miss the quiet kids. It makes it easy to not notice when they’re having a tough time. It makes it easy to assume that they don’t have problems.

Today, look around, see if there are any quiet kids in your life. If there are, put in the time and effort to get to know them, to invest in them. Because those kids need your attention, your love, your understanding just as much as the attention-grabbing, outgoing kids. The truth is, they may need it more.

The America That I Know


It’s election season, and I have been listening to the candidates talk. What I hear, makes me sad. Every candidate seems to point out the flaws and the terrible things about our country. It sounds like America is a terrible place to live.

I know much of it is rhetoric, and I know that we, as a country, have our flaws. But I also know that there’s a reason people are willing to risk crossing an ocean on a raft to come here. I know that even now with all our flaws and problems, we’re still a land of opportunity.

Between the TV commercials, the debates and the soundbites on the morning news, I wonder what country it is that these candidates are talking about. Because I don’t think they live in the America I know.

In the America that I know, in times of trouble, friends and neighbors lend a helping hand.

In the America that I know, the neighborhood kids make sure the elderly neighbor has a driveway and walkway clean from snow.

In the America that I know, strangers stop to help a young mom when she drops her coupons in the grocery store aisle.

In the America that I know, my daughter sits at a lunch table filled with her friends – a girl from Ethiopia, a girl from Malaysia, and a girl from India.

In the America that I know, there are people who make racist remarks. And there are more people who point out the injustice and wrongness of those remarks.

In the America that I know, there is human trafficking. And there are ordinary men and women fighting to stop it.

In the America that I know, people open their wallets to help others in need – whether it’s ringing a bell at Christmastime or funding relief efforts in Haiti.

In the America that I know, people volunteer their time to help kids learn to read, to help adults learn English, to help the homeless learn an employable skill.

In the America that I know, people can exercise their freedom of speech (although we could all learn to do so a bit more gently).

In the America that I know, little girls can grow up to be anything they want, including president of the United States.

In the America that I know, the biggest kid on my daughter’s hockey team stands up for the smaller guys (and girl).

In the America that I know, people are generally decent and hard-working.

In the America that I know, the older couple on the street keeps dog biscuits on hand for the neighborhood dogs (and the dogs come knock on the door to ask for them).

In the America that I know, most peoplee are all just trying to get along, live in community and build a better life for themselves and their families.

Nothing about our country is perfect, but the America I know is much different from the one our candidates for president seem to live in. In this election season of turmoil and discord, let’s remember that for every one thing our country could improve on, there’s another that we do well. Let’s remember that it’s not our politicians that make America; it’s the people. We are America. Let’s find the good things in the America that we know.

What does the America that you know look like?

What Do We Tell Our Kids About the Election?


Usually, I love election year. I love to watch democracy at work, and I enjoy sharing a civics lesson or two with my kids.

This year, my girls are 13 and 15. It’s a perfect time to have great conversations about how democracy works. We should be discussing candidates based on their stand on the issues. We should be having conversations about character and leadership.

Instead, we’re discussing what qualifies as sexual assault. We’re talking about email security. We’re having dinnertime talks about “locker room talk” and infidelity.

And, like so many parents, we are struggling to help our kids understand that these are the two people we have to choose from for president. I find myself wondering how I explain to my girls that the person who will be the next president will be missing all of the moral ingredients that I’ve been trying to culture and grow in them.

I sit and ponder how exactly I tell these two girls whom I have raised to be strong women of character that one of the candidates for president just demeaned all women and pretty much said he could do whatever he wants with women because he has “power.”

I have talked to plenty of parents who are struggling with the same issues. Instead of civics lessons, we’re having basic moral lessons during this election. We have R-rated debates. We have name-calling and egoism. It’s frustrating as an American, but it’s more frustrating as a parent.

So, here’s what I’m telling my girls about the election. Here’s hoping it might help you, too.

  1. Everyone sins. Both of these candidates aren’t perfect. They have both done some despicable things. God loves them anyway. We should be praying for them to recognize their need for God in their lives.
  2. Power corrupts. Machiavelli said it best when he said “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The pursuit of power can make you do things and say things that are abhorrent. When people become blinded by power, they can’t see the mess they are making in their wakes.
  3. Character still matters. Even though these presidential candidates are lacking in character, it does still matter. Character is the only thing that will help you hold a steady course. When you are lacking in character, when you have no rock to base your life on, you will end up saying and doing terrible things.
  4. God is still in control. No matter who wins the presidency, God is still on His throne and is still in control. Our collective free will may leave us with a poor choice for president, but God can use anything for His purpose.
  5. We have survived bad presidents before. This country has survived corrupt, character-less presidents before. The beauty of our system is that the president does not have absolute power.
  6. Our country needs prayer. Our presidential candidates only reflect the heart of our country. These two were voted to be the nominees, which means that our country had no interest in  nominating people of character. We need to be praying for our country daily.
  7. Objectifying women is wrong no matter who you are. This is not a conversation I thought I would need to have when it comes to the presidential election, but our sons and daughters need to hear this over and over again in light of the events of the past week.
  8. I don’t know who I’m voting for. I’ve been honest with my kids about the fact that I can’t vote for either candidate. My conscience won’t let me. So, I may not vote for president. I may vote third party. I may write in my dad. I may draw a big smiley face on my ballot. I don’t know.

These are not the conversations I thought I would be having surrounding the democratic process of electing a president. But they are the conversations that we need to have with our kids.


Reflections on the First Day of School

first day of school

It’s just me, my computer, my water bottle and the Olympics this morning. It’s quiet for the first time in three months. The dogs are taking some well-deserved naps. I’m catching up on some neglected tasks.

It’s the first day of school here, and for the first time since the end of May, I’m looking at a calendar filled with days without my kids. I have lots of projects to work on, a house that really needs a good cleaning and work that needs to be done. But right now, for this moment, I find myself doing a bit of reflection.

This morning, I sent an eighth grader and a high school sophomore off for their first day of school. The morning was a whirlwind. Hair to be done, lunches to be made, advice to be given. But now, in these first quiet moments in months, I realize that I only have five more first days of school.

I am incredibly proud of the young women my girls are becoming, but we have left childhood behind in this house. For the first time, I sent two teenagers to school. My child who would only wear graphic T-shirts and comfy shorts has graduated to a skirt and vest. My daughter who has never liked change faced her first day of school with confidence and a smile.

So much has changed since that first day of kindergarten 10 years ago. And as we face the few years we have left with our girls, I find I treasure the time I have with them more. Don’t get me wrong, there were days this summer that I pulled out the calendar and counted the days until school started. But, mostly, this year, I found myself enjoying the days of summer without the distraction of school or sports. And, so, I find myself a bit sad to see school start this year.

As I reflect on our summer and this first day of school, though, I wanted to share this: Whether it’s your first first day of school or your last, take a long look at your kids and savor who they are in this moment. Because who they are in this moment may be part of who they are in the future, but they will never be this particular person again.

Whether you’re in an easy season with your kids or a difficult one, take a moment today to thank God for who they are today. Identify the traits that your kids have that are positive and thank God for each one.

And, dear mommas, savor this moment here at the beginning of the school year. Because these moments fly by, and as excited as we are to see our kids becoming who God wants them to be, we can’t recapture the moments once they’re gone.

Making Sense of the Senseless


For the past two days, I’ve sat at my computer wanting to write, but not knowing what to say. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. That’s how I process things. That’s how I make sense of the world.

But how do you make sense of the senseless? How do you explain it to your kids when you don’t understand it yourself?

A guy walks into a bar… Sounds like the beginning of a good joke. Except what happened in Orlando when a guy walked into a bar was no joke. It was a slaughter. It was senseless. It was horrifying. It was evil.

My kids are teenagers. They have grown up in a post-9/11 world. Unfortunately, the idea of someone walking into a bar and shooting 100 people is not as unusual to them as it should be. Their perception of the world has never been free of the threat of terrorism. They don’t remember a time when you could visit the pilots of an airplane in the cockpit. They don’t know what it’s like to be at an event with a large crowd of people and not at least have the passing thought that it might make a good target for terrorists.

Because that’s the world we live in today. And that makes me sad. It makes me sad for my kids and sad for all of us. Because our world is one where hate thrives. It is a place where one person’s hatred of another person’s beliefs or choices or religion can result in the slaughter of innocent people.

So how do we help our kids process the senselessness and the hopelessness inherent in these acts of terror? How do we help our kids find the hope in the situation?

We start by remembering the words of Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the God of hope. This is a long game, and we know who wins in the end. Hope endures, light shines because God brings hope. Hope is found in a tiny baby in a manger. It’s found in a young man nailed to a cross. Hope shines out of an empty tomb.

Make no mistake. Every single life that was taken in that bar in Orlando was precious to God. It doesn’t matter what they believed, what they did or who they were. God loved them as part of his precious creation, just like He loves you and me. Their senseless massacre broke God’s heart.

And it should break ours, too. While we help our kids focus on the hope that is found in knowing that God triumphs in the end, we also must be careful to help them grieve the tragedy of the moment. Because the biggest danger in this post-9/11 world is that we and our kids become immune to the immensity of these events. We can start to view them as just another attack. Just another death.

We want ourselves and our kids to never lose sight of the fact that whenever hate causes someone to take a life, it’s an immense tragedy. It is Satan grabbing hold of this world and announcing that he has no intention of letting it go.

And it’s our job to shine light into that darkness. It’s our calling to help where we can. It’s our responsibility to pray without ceasing for the victims, for the families, and, yes, even for the perpetrators. Because the only way we raise kids who can see the good through the evil, who can find hope in the hopeless, is to make sure that the things that break God’s heart are still breaking ours.

So, today, talk with your kids. Remind them that God is still in control. Talk with them about the reality of evil in the world. Grieve the senseless tragedy of the moment with them. Then find a way to help. Pray for all those affected. Hold onto the hope. Because in this dark moment where it seems evil has triumphed, hope is the most important thing left.

A Birthday Prayer for My 13-Year-Old

Birthday prayer

My baby girl turned 13 yesterday. She’s officially a teenager.

There’s something about having your youngest child enter her teens. Childhood in your house is officially over. You’ve got five years left until they’re 18.

When my girls were babies, people told me the time would fly. I didn’t understand then what they meant. Sure there have been long days, hours, even minutes, but the years have flown, and I’m now the mom to two teenage girls. My job is less hand holding and more pushing out of the nest.

It’s become a tradition for me to use this space to offer up a birthday prayer for each of my girls on their birthdays. So, this one is for my sweet baby girl as she turns 13.

birthday 13

Embracing Your Season


The sun is shining, and it’s warm here today. We’re probably still in for some more cold weather, but it’s clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren’t so little any more. They’re growing up fast, and I’m trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn’t been a lot of time to write. There hasn’t been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They’re only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that’s hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I’m in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We’re juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband’s parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that’s what I’ll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, spring also has it’s great moments — the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He’s calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When You Don’t Know What to Do

God knows 1

I have this daughter. She’s 12. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s compassionate. She’s stubborn. She’s challenging. She sees the world through a lens I don’t have and marches to a beat I don’t hear.

And she is, oh, so hard to parent. She makes me think hard every day. She makes me question whether I’m doing the right thing every week. She makes me pull my hair out at least once a month.

And she makes me want to hold her tight and hug her hard every single minute. Because this world is tough when you just don’t quite fit. When your heart wants to do the right thing, but it’s a struggle to find your spot. When no one else seems to see the world quite the way you do.

As her mom, I want her to be everything that God designed her to be. I want her to be the beautiful, compassionate, joyful person that I see not nearly often enough. I want her to examine the world through that lens that is so uniquely her own, so I can find out just what she’s going to do with that perspective.

I have often said I would like to live inside her head for just one day, so I can see the world as she sees it. Because the world she sees, I think, is very different from the one I see.

I love all of that about her, but it makes it so very difficult to parent her. It makes it hard to know what to do when she has problems at school. How do you encourage her to fit in when the things that make her not fit in are the very things that you know are going to serve her well in the future? How do you decide if the struggles she’s having are important for her character or simply unnecessary and a change would be good? How do you know you’re doing the right thing for this child who is so very different from you?

You don’t. You don’t know. You may never know.

All I can do for this child of mine is pray hard over her. All I can do is wipe the tears when they come, deal with the frustration when it erupts, and hug her close and let her know she is loved by both me and God — even when she is at her most unloveable.

The only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that God knows.

God. Knows.

He knows her better than I ever will. He knew her before she was formed. And He surely loves her more than I can.

And He is the source of wisdom. So, when I don’t know, when we don’t know, what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

When You’re Too Tired for Christmas

Christmas struggle

Christmas is in four days. My house is decorated. My kids are excited. And I am tired.

This year has worn me out. 2015 has been a long, hard slog from January to December. Every time I thought we had conquered the mountain in front of us, we reached the peak to find a taller mountain behind it.

Illness after illness has hit our family hard. Stroke, meningitis, thyroid, liver. You name it. We had a taste of it this year. This year has been so tough that both my daughter and I completely forgot she broke her hand in October. You know it’s been a rough year when broken bones don’t even make the Top 10 Events of the Year list.

And, yet, there have been moments in this year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The precious perspective that my 14-year-old has gained embodied in the words she said the other day, “Just think, six months ago my biggest worry was staying on my soccer team. That doesn’t even register now.”

The shared moments with my husband where we tried to tackle the mountain together, knowing that when one failed, the other would pick them up.

The intentional moments with my 12-year-old created because she simply needed some time with her mom.

Because in the midst of the trial, in the midst of what seems like never-ending struggle, there is beauty. God is creating a better perspective, a stronger family and a sheer reliance on Him.

So, as I sit here four days before Christmas, I am reminded that the very first Christmas was probably the end of a very long year for Mary and Joseph. Unmarried and pregnant in a culture that had no allowance for that. Miraculously pregnant, but with a story no one would believe. I imagine Mary and Joseph felt very alone and very afraid. They knew God was creating something wonderful, but they were the only ones that knew it.

Two young people, teenagers, really, on the road to Bethlehem. No place for them to stay. A baby on the way.

And, yet, God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I’m sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I’m sure they were scared. I’m sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.

God creates beauty out of chaos. His plan to save the world started with two young people having a baby in a cave in Bethlehem.

And, I’m reminded this Christmas, that if God can do that, He can make something amazing out of the crazy that has been our year.

So, this Christmas, if you’re struggling to just put one foot in front of the other, if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember this: God specializes in making great things out of difficult times. Jesus’ birth is proof of that.