The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents (Review and giveaway)

Praise challenge

I received a review copy of The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents from Family Christian. The opinions contained in this review are entirely my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

This parenting thing is hard. There are so many days when I’d like to throw up my hands and walk away. Other days I think I’ve got it figured out — until I want to scream in frustration.

Parenting is a really big job. It’s a 24/7, never get a break kind of job. And it’s hard to get it right. I often feel like there are more moments where I fail than there are that I get it right. And I have to tell you there are a lot of moments where my attitude is as poor as the attitudes of the children I’m trying to parent.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working through The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents by Becky Harling. I received a copy from Family Christian to review, and I have to admit that I was skeptical that working through this book could do all the things that the back cover claimed. That little blurb on the back cover said that I would be amazed at how praising God each day would quiet my anxiety about my kids, provide protection for my family, break the chains of generational sin, deepen my children’s faith and strengthen my own spiritual life.

I’m not done with all 30 days, but I can tell you that this book has changed my attitude and my outlook on parenting. Spending just 10 to 20 minutes a day in directed praise toward God focused on parenting has helped me to see that obstacles can be overcome, children can change and some of those things that frustrate me so badly about my children can be part of God’s plan for their future.

You see, praise is a funny thing. You can’t praise God and remain angry at your kids. You can’t praise God and not find hope in a frustrating situation. You can’t praise God and not feel your own soul lifted up.

When we spend time praising God even in the midst of a parenting nightmare, we find ourselves focused on Him and what He can do instead of focusing on how inadequate we feel in the situation. When we acknowledge all the amazing attributes of God — His wisdom, His creation, His grace — and how they relate to our ability to parent our kids, we find ourselves feeling empowered and not alone.

The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents is broken down into 30 chapters, each with four sections: The Invitation, Listen, Pray and Journal. The Invitation is God’s invitation to you about that day’s topic. Based on scripture, it reminds you of the reason that God is worthy of praise. The Listen section contains suggestions for songs to listen to to enhance your praise time. The author even provides the entire playlist on YouTube and Spotify. The Pray section is a prayer for you to pray based on what you have learned in your praise time that day. Last, the Journal section gives you a prompt to journal about.

Using this book to focus your praise time on your parenting will change how you react to different parenting situations. Spending 30 days in praise will simply remind you that you are not alone, that you don’t have to solve every parenting challenge on your own. God is walking this road with you.

So, if you’re struggling to keep a good attitude in your parenting, check out The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents. You’ll be amazed at what 30 days of praising God will do.

And just to help you get started, Family Christian has graciously given me a $10 certificate to their stores to give away so you can buy your own copy. Just enter below. And be sure to check out Family Christian’s Facebook page so you don’t miss out on any of the great deals they offer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a review copy of The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents from Family Christian. The opinions contained in this review are entirely my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Sometimes We Need to Bench Our Kids

bench

My older daughter played in a soccer tournament last weekend and had an experience she hasn’t had in a while. In her game on Friday night she spent a good bit of time on the bench.

It’s been a long time since my daughter has to ride the pine. She had gotten to the point where she just assumed that she would start and play most of every game. She was taking her playing time for granted.

Five minutes into Friday night’s game, she wasn’t playing well. She was out of position and looked a little lost. Her coach pulled her out of the game, told her what she was doing wrong and sat her on the bench for most of the rest of the half.

My daughter told me after the game that she understood why she was sitting there, but it made her mad. It made her determined to go out there and get it right in the second half. It made her think about what she was doing wrong and how to fix it. And it made her appreciate the playing time that she usually gets.

My daughter came out in the second half and played much better. She carried over Friday night’s lesson to her games on Saturday and Sunday and came to each game determined not to sit on the bench again.

After talking with my daughter about Friday night, I realized that there are times when sitting on the bench in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a learning tool. It can be some much needed time to reflect on the situation. It can be a moment to begin to focus on the things that are important.

Our kids’ lives are full. In this world of constant information overflow and activity, sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to bench them. When their choices are poor and their reactions are out of hand, it’s time to give our kids some time on the bench. It’s time to tell them what they’re doing wrong and give them some time to figure out how to fix it.

When my kids were younger, I used “time outs” as a way of benching my kids, but as they get older, that particular method of discipline goes by the wayside. However, even older kids can benefit from time away from an escalating situation. They can use time to reflect and problem solve. Whether it’s some time in their rooms without electronics or simply in another room by themselves, asking our kids to recognize the problems they’re having and work out a solution is still a viable parenting tactic.

Because the end goal of parenting is to teach our kids to solve problems on their own. We want them to be independent and able to tackle the world. To do that we have to teach them how to recognize when their own behavior is creating an issue. We have to teach them where to find the wisdom to solve their problems. We have to teach them how to make a change.

When we “bench” our kids and make sure that they know why they’re being “benched” we are helping them to learn to do those things. When we take the time to talk with our kids and let them know which behaviors need to change, when we show them how to ask God for the help they need to change, and when we give them the opportunity to try again, we move them one step closer to being independent. We help them take one more step on the path from dependence on us to dependence on God.

Benching our kids isn’t a bad thing. It’s a tool we can use to motivate them to make a change.

Behavior Always Matters

Slide1

My younger daughter was sick all last week. She missed the entire week of school. While she’s not running a fever this week, she’s still fighting through the remnants of her illness. She has a horrible cough and is exhausted by the time she gets home from school.

Unfortunately, when you miss an entire week of middle school, there’s a lot to make up. She’s finally waded through all the homework, but she still has a few quizzes to make up. The whole process of making up work has been frustrating for her. Figuring out what’s missing and remembering to get it turned in has been stressful. Trying to take tests and quizzes over material from two weeks ago as you move on to new material in class is difficult. Honestly, she and I both are ready for it to be Friday.

We’ve had tears every night this week over schoolwork. My daughter is exhausted and so am I. She’s still not feeling 100 percent. Often her attitude has been less than stellar about all the work she’s had to do.

It would be really easy this week to let that attitude slide. And, truly, I’ve offered a lot of grace. But the thing is, even when we don’t feel good, even when we’re tired, it doesn’t excuse poor behavior, and we shouldn’t let our kids think it does.

God doesn’t ask us to follow Him, to become like His Son just when everything is going well. He doesn’t say “Be a witness for me when everything in your world is perfect, but it’s OK to act mean and cranky when things aren’t going well.” He says “Follow me. Become like me. No matter what.”

Paul spent a lot of time in some pretty awful jail cells. Yet he wrote letter after letter from those jail cells proclaiming the goodness of Christ. He shared the good news of Jesus despite his circumstances.

When we let our kids get away with poor behavior because of their circumstances, we’re telling our kids that it’s OK to let our circumstances get in the way. It’s OK to let external things change who we are on the inside, and that’s really not the message we want to send.

When things get tough for our kids and their behavior begins to reflect it, it’s time to take a step back. It’s time to remind them that God is present even the midst of difficult circumstances. It’s time to show them that God can be the source of strength and calm in the middle of their storms.

Because it’s often how we act in the middle of a tough time that says the most about who we are to others. It shows people our character and who we truly are.

When we teach our kids to rely on God when the going gets tough, we teach them that He is present in their lives in the good times and the bad ones. We teach them that when our strength is gone, His just keeps on going. We teach them that their behavior matters no matter how difficult the day. And that’s a lesson worth learning.

What Our Kids Learn from Our Mistakes

mistake

I was at my moms’ group yesterday for the first time in a month. Between illness and spring break, I hadn’t made it in a while, and I was really looking forward to seeing some friends and enjoying some time to focus on God. About halfway through our meeting though, I got a message from a client that I do some editing for wanting to know where their pages were.

Alarm bells went off in my head. I had completely forgotten about those pages, which had to be finished by noon yesterday. So, for yet another week, I ended up not getting to spend much time with my moms’ group. I was frustrated, disappointed and just flat out mad at myself for screwing up. I knew I had those pages to edit, but when I slammed my fingers in the door on Monday, I completely forgot about them.

I gathered up my stuff and my daughter and let my group know where I was going. As we were walking out, my daughter wanted to know why we needed to leave earlier. I simply told her, “I screwed up something for some people I do work for, and now I have to fix it.”

It’s hard to admit when we’ve made a mistake, whether it’s work related or family related. No one likes to mess up. It’s embarrassing. It often creates problems trying to get it fixed. It’s not fun at all.

But we need to remember that our kids learn from watching us how to deal with their own mistakes. If we get angry and blame others, we teach them to get angry and blame others. If we get mad at ourselves and start talking negatively about ourselves, we teach them to get mad and talk negatively about themselves. If we admit our mistakes, ask for forgiveness and work to make things right, then we teach them to do the same.

None of us are perfect. We’re going to screw up sometimes. Sometimes we’ll be able to fix those mistakes, and sometimes we’ll just have to learn from them and move on. Whether we can fix them or not, we need to let our kids see how we deal with them. We need to let them know that most mistakes require that we ask forgiveness from the people who are affected. We need them to watch us try to make things right.

Because it’s not just about being able to admit you made a mistake. It’s about being able to admit to God when you’ve screwed up. It’s about being able to ask Him for forgiveness. If we go through our lives teaching our kids to blame others for their mistakes or to never admit they are wrong, then it’s difficult for them to learn to follow the instruction in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

You see, without confession, there can be no forgiveness. Unless we’re willing to tell God about what we’ve done wrong, He can’t forgive us. And if we are unwilling to admit that we make mistakes or if we’re busy blaming others for those mistakes, then we’re letting pride get in the way of God’s forgiveness.

We want to teach our kids to take their mistakes to God, to let Him offer forgiveness and direction, to let Him provide comfort and love. They will have a hard time learning that if they don’t see us dealing with mistakes in the same way.

When You’re Out of Patience by 9 a.m.

9 am

It’s been a long week. It started on Monday with a never-ending migraine for me. Tuesday followed with a tearful phone call from my older daughter at track practice saying she had hurt her foot. A trip to urgent care, some X-rays and a walking boot later, we got a diagnosis of a possible stress fracture. Wednesday found me consoling a distraught 10-year-old who is worried about heading off to middle school in the fall.

It’s not quite 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, and I’m already out of patience with the day. I have a lot to accomplish today between homeschool and work and this is the morning that we’re out of edible bananas for my daughter to have for breakfast. That meant taking precious moments to turn the inedible bananas into a smoothie for her to start her day with. And that annoyed me way more than it should have.

I find myself more and more this week grumping at my family and being frustrated with less-than-ideal situations. I really don’t like who I am this week, and I’m pretty sure my family doesn’t care much for me either. I’ve been critical and quick to jump down others’ throats. I really just want a few minutes of peace and quiet.

We’re all going to have less-than-ideal days and weeks. When we let it overwhelm us, and we start taking it out on those around us, though, it’s time to take a deep breath. It’s time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and take a moment to talk it out with God. It’s time to let Him refresh our souls and provide the strength — and the patience — we need to get through the day.

I can’t make it through the weeks where it all goes wrong on my own. I can’t be the patient teacher, diligent employee, and fun mom I need to be on my own strength. Because by 9 a.m. on Thursday morning on a week when it’s all gone to pot, I’m out of everything — strength, patience, humor and compassion. But God’s not. He’s got all those things in abundant supply, and He’s willing to share them with me.

So, excuse me, now, while I go make that cup of tea and grab a chair for a chat with God. Because right now, I’m sorely in need of all that God can provide. Won’t you join me?

First Friday: Remember When You Were Awesome

Awesome

The longer I live, the more I realize why Jesus thinks little kids are the bee’s knees.

In a world that is cynical, cold and obsessed with junk, it’s our kids that rock the norm.

Not only do these tiny peeps live on the brighter side of life. But warmth also spews out of them. Fighting the cold and telling whoever will hear, “Hey, I’ll share everything and anything—even my boogers!!!”

God bless them.

(And the mamas and papas who must be better than Kleenex.)

Kids sing in the middle of grocery stores. They dance down hospital hallways.  They travel to Africa and back IN THEIR HEADS.

THEY. ARE. FANTASTIC.

And they know it.

Not in an arrogant or pious kind of way.

But in a “If God says I rock, then clearly I do.”

I feel it every day as my son jumps out of the car and shouts back at me, “I’m gonna go be awesome today, mom.  Now you go be awesome, too!”

I see it every time we go to the grocery store and my 3-year-old rocks an Ariel dress, two different sparkly shoes (one that is her sister’s and flops when she walks) and a big giant red bow that only barely covers her syrup-matted hair.

I hear it in the enthusiastic projection of my 8-year-old as she belts out “Let It Go” for the (bless me) 902nd time.  It all screams, “Broadway, I’m fabulous.  And if you haven’t heard me sing yet, watch the hoot out.”

It is an unabashed confidence that  says, “Listen up, y’all. I am fearfully and wonderfully made!!! And if you doubt it for a moment, let me show you what makes me special.  ”

They are the best of us, uncomplicated and without baggage.

And even though they still have moments where even we as parents realize they need Jesus, our kids model daily how to take the truth of our “made in God’s image” selves and rock it.

That is if we learn.

Now the world will work very hard at wearing down that confidence.

It will call them what I often call myself.

Too flabby. Too scattered.  Too slow.

Too against the grain.

But as much as I have accepted those labels for myself, when I see how my kids view themselves and the world God created, I want to fight against those negative monikers.

I want to cast off every piece of nasty baggage and see myself the way my Creator sees me.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

And it’s why I am keeping three pictures for my babies.  Tucking them close to my heart.  And waiting for the day I hear, “I’m too flabby.  I’m too scattered.  I’m too slow.”

Because when those days come, I will break them out and say, “See this…”

Graces note

“Grace?”

Drew Bowtie

“Drew?”

sophie pink

“Sophie?”

“These are words or this is the look of someone who thinks that if God thinks she’s awesome, then it must be so. Chase that. Want that. Wear that. And no matter what happens, don’t let it go.”

Then I’ll hug her and kiss him and pray crazily over all three, eventually tucking the pictures close to my heart once again.

But before I do, I’ll take one long last look at each and remind myself again of a little boy’s drop-off farewell…

““I’m gonna go be awesome today, mom.  Now you go be awesome, too!”

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.

 

Our Kids are Watching and Listening

Actions

My younger daughter’s house league hockey team lost for the first time this season on Sunday. The conditions were less than ideal. It was 63 degrees, and they were playing on the outdoor rink, which quickly went from a sheet of ice to a puddle of water while they were playing their game. The referees weren’t on their side either. But the truth is that they didn’t play particularly well.

When my daughter’s other hockey team lost the weekend before, my daughter was not happy. She had a pretty poor attitude about the whole thing, which led me to write this post last week.

I fully expected for her to come out of the locker room steamed. I expected her to want to blame everything from the ice to the referees. I fully expected to have to have another conversation about losing gracefully. Except that’s not what happened.

While she didn’t walk out of the locker room with a smile on her face, she did come out with a “we’ll get them next time” attitude. She did make a few comments about how awful the ice was and how unfairly the referees had called the game. But she wasn’t in tears. She wasn’t angry with the situation.

Then she dropped the real bombshell. “I made a speech in the locker room,” she said.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I just told everyone we were still in first place, and we just needed to put it behind us and play as a team in the next game.”

Whoa. Is this the same kid that I had to pull out of the locker room and lecture the bad attitude out of after the last loss? Is this the same girl who takes every loss as a personal affront?

You see, the week before, we had had a long “talk” about how to be a leader in the locker room, about how to lose gracefully, about how to encourage our teammates even when we lose. I honestly thought everything I said was going in one ear and out the other.

But the truth is that she was listening. She was absorbing. She was watching me. And God was working on her heart.

Our kids are paying attention to us whether we think they are or not. They are weighing what we say to see if it makes sense and if we truly believe what we’re saying. They’re watching and listening to see if we are backing up our words with actions.

This isn’t the first conversation we’ve had about losing well. But it’s the first one that has resulted in an attitude change for the next loss. It’s the first one that has borne any results in my daughter’s actions.

However, all those other conversations we had about losing with grace add up. When we consistently say the same thing to our kids, when we teach the same lesson over and over and over again, it does sink in. All that time spent talking to our kids and showing them how to approach a situation differently matters. All that time spent praying for our kids to “get it” is effective.

Because eventually they will get it. Eventually their hearts and attitudes will begin to change. And eventually they will grow into the young men and women God created them to be.

It won’t always be easy. It won’t always be quick. But our kids are listening, so we need to keep talking.

Be Kinder than You Need to Be

kinder

You just never know. You never know when a small act of kindness is going to end up being a big deal.

The other day I read a story about a man who sat down next to an autistic child on an airplane. He could have chosen to ignore her. He could have chosen to be grumpy about it. Instead, he chose to answer the child’s questions. He chose to entertain her for a bit. He chose not to be upset with the mom when the child’s boredom and frustration turned to tears. And he may never know how much he touched that mom’s heart.

You see, she went home and blogged about it. (You can read the full story here.) The story has been shared over and over again. This man’s name is never mentioned, but his act of kindness has gone viral. Because that one act of kindness made that mom feel like she didn’t have to apologize for her child. He made her child feel like she was someone special. He took the time to focus on the needs of someone else, and he made her day.

I imagine that what that guy did on that airplane is a lot like what Jesus would have done in the same situation. We’re called to be a picture of God’s love to others, and so much of that can simply be done by being kind.

Somewhere in the past six months, I’ve picked up the phrase, “Be kinder than you need to be.” I don’t remember where I first heard it or read it, but it stuck with me, and it’s what I’ve been trying to teach my kids (with mixed results).

You see, our kids need to know that kindness matters. They need to know that God’s admonition to be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32) isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a command. They need to know that simply being kind to another person can make or break that person’s day.

Kindness often doesn’t take much effort from us. It simply takes an awareness of the opportunities we are presented to be kind. When those opportunities arise, we need to point them out to our kids and encourage them to take advantage of them. We need to help them understand that going the extra mile and walking a few steps in another person’s shoes can make a huge difference in this world.

Here are three practical ways you can help your kids learn to be “kinder than they need to be.”

1. Be aware of the people around you. Notice when someone is sad or lonely. Then do something about it.

2. Go the extra mile. If someone asks you for help, go beyond what they ask for. Allow someone to go in front of you in line. Hold the door for a mom with a stroller and groceries. Ask how you can help a friend who is struggling.

3. Be creative. Do some random acts of kindness. Surprise the neighbors with cookies. Shovel the elderly neighbors’ driveway when it snows. Buy the meal of the person behind you in the drive-thru line.

When we help our kids to understand the importance of kindness, we make the world just a little bit nicer place to be. We find ourselves looking for opportunities to practice kindness. And we quickly learn that if everyone in this world was just a little bit kinder than they needed to be, this world would look a whole lot more like God intended it to in the beginning.

Living in the Moment

Enjoy the Moment

Over the weekend, I accompanied my older daughter to a memorial service for her friend’s dad. He was 45. We hadn’t been home from that service for more than a couple of hours when my Facebook feed blew up with the news that an acquaintance of mine had died following complications from gallbladder surgery. She leaves behind two elementary-school-aged children.

I shared last week that my focus for this year is to be present in the moment, and those two events on Saturday simply confirmed that focus for me. Neither one of those people thought they would leave this life early. The circumstances in both cases were tragic and unexpected. The children they leave behind keenly feel their loss.

I pray that my husband and I get to grow old and see our kids grow up. I pray that my kids will grow up and grow old. But the truth is that we never know what tomorrow may bring, so we have to make the most of today. And, honestly, there are too many days when I’m distracted by work, by technology, by worries about tomorrow to enjoy what today is bringing me.

So, today, I’m pondering the what ifs of living in today. Today, I’m wondering what would happen if we all changed our thinking and instead of spending so much time worrying about the future we enjoyed the simple moments of today.

What if when our kids speak, we put down whatever we’re doing and look them in the eyes and really listen?

What if we set aside our smart phones and iPads and chose to interact with our families?

What if when our kids ask to sit on our laps and snuggle, we didn’t put them off because we’re in the middle of something?

What if when our children need help building a Lego set or setting up a dollhouse, we took the time to help them even if it means dinner is going to be late?

What if when our kids have questions about God and the world around them, we took the time to help them investigate the answers instead of giving them a pat answer?

What if we simply took the time to sit and enjoy God’s presence instead of rushing headlong into our day?

We’re not promised tomorrow. God tells us to make the most of today: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34). If we choose the things that are best — time with our families and time with God — we will never look back and regret the choices we made. If each day is focused on enjoying the moments we have, we will never wonder where the time went.

And if we make the effort to be present for our kids and spouses and to spend time with God, we will never have to wonder if our lives were spent in the pursuit of what was important. We will live rich, full lives filled with the things that matter.

More than anything, that’s what I want in 2014. How about you?

Choosing to Be Present in 2014

Be present

It’s hard to believe that 2013 has just two days left. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I’m not much for resolutions because I think they are so easily broken, but I do like to start the new year off with an idea of what I’d like to accomplish in the next 365 days.

There’s a trend going around Facebook to choose one word that represents what you want to focus on in the new year. In year’s past, I’ve resisted boiling my goals for the year down to one word. I had no intention of choosing a word this year, but a few things happened over Christmas that made me change my mind.

We host a brunch every Christmas Eve for family and friends. As I was standing in the kitchen with my kids and parents preparing for the arrival of our friends, the heavy cover for my main kitchen light fell. No one was standing underneath it at the time, but my daughter had been standing there not 10 seconds before. If it had hit someone on the head, it would have at least caused a concussion, if not worse.

Thirty-six hours later, my parents were getting ready to go home after a fabulous Christmas Day spent together. My dad had his hands full and was walking out to the car when he slipped on some black ice, fell backwards and hit his head on our front step. He’s got a 3-inch gash on the back of his head but no other damage to his body or his brain.

As I thought about how lucky we were that neither of those incidents resulted in lasting damage to anyone, I was reminded that each day is a gift. And I was reminded of how much time I squander. How often I don’t pay attention when my kids or my husband are talking to me. I was convicted that each moment is precious because you never know when a slip on the ice, a broken light fixture or some other freak occurrence can grab those moments away from you — permanently.

The Bible tells us that God has numbered our days Job 14:5 says, “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” We don’t know the number of days we’re going to have with the people that we love. We don’t know the day or the hour when Jesus will return, but we do know that we have today. We do know that we have these moments.

That’s why for 2014, my one word is going to be “present.” I want to be present in the moment. I want to savor and enjoy the precious moments I’ve been given with my kids, with my husband, with my extended family, with my friends, and even with the stranger in the grocery line. I want to be reminded that every moment is, indeed, a present. I want to focus on being in the moment, on grabbing every precious minute of 2014, and using it to the best of my ability.

So, this year, I’m declaring war on those things that take me out of the moment. I’m going to deliberately choose to be present. I’m going to fight against the things that distract me from being present in my relationships — from my phone to worrisome thoughts to stress from work. My word for the year is “present” and I’m going to start choosing to be present in the moment today. Won’t you join me?