When You Don’t Know What to Do

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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 Mom Isn’t Enough

Healing

“I didn’t get invited to the birthday party.”

“My friends were mean to me at lunch today.”

“Everyone else has a date to the dance.”

Any one of those statements is designed to break a mom’s heart. And over the 14 years I’ve been raising two girls, I’ve heard each of those and many more.

Every time it happens, I look at whichever child is uttering those words and wonder. I wonder why others can’t see what I see. I wonder why they can’t see that my quiet, loving, sensitive child is a force to have on your side with her strong sense of loyalty and wicked sense of humor. I wonder why they can’t see that while my quirky, exuberant, brilliant child may not fit any mold that’s ever been cast, her different way of thinking brings so much to the table.

When your child gets left out or hurt by others, it’s hard to help them. It’s hard to convince them that they are beautiful, smart, funny and worthy of friendship and love. Because you’re their mom. You have to say those things, and they know it.

There are no magic words that can heal the hurt. There’s no amount of ice cream or brownies that will make the sting go entirely away.

All we can do is be there when they cry, pick them up when they fall, and love them through it all. Because growing up is tough. They’re going to get left out. They’re going to get hurt. And we’re not enough to heal the hurt.

But God is.

God is the ultimate healer. He heals the broken-hearted. We know that we can’t fix all of our kids’ problems or heal all their hurts. And our kids know it, too. That’s why we have to point them in the direction of the One who can heal them. While we’re loving our kids through the disappointments and the hurts that life brings, we have to point them toward their loving Father who is ever so much more powerful than us at bringing healing.

Because as much as I love my girls, God loves them more. He delights in binding up their wounds. He hears their heartbreak. He collects their tears in a bottle. Because He loves them. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them.

So, when disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids about Texting and Social Media

 

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My kids are 12 and 14, and they have their own cell phones. The deal around here is that when you go to middle school, you get a cell phone. When you turn 13, you get limited and monitored access to social media. Your phone is always subject to being monitored by mom or dad. Any text message or social media post is fair game. If we find something we don’t like, then there are consequences ranging from losing access to social media to losing your phone entirely.

In the past few months, we’ve encountered a few situations where social media and texting have caused some hurt, anger and frustration in our house. And I’ve boiled it down to a common factor: lack of respect.

We talk a lot about respect in our house. Most of the rules we have are based on the idea that other people deserve respect. But those little devices in our kids’ hands make it easy to forget that concept. It’s easy to say things we don’t mean when we don’t have to look the other person in the eye. It’s easy to ignore someone when they aren’t standing right there. Minor disagreements turn into major ones when teens try to resolve them via text because it’s impossible to determine intent or tone in a text message.

I’ve been working with my girls to help them understand that texting and social media are a tool of communication but not the only tool. And here are some of the do’s and don’ts I’m trying to impart.

1. Don’t say anything in a text or social media post that you wouldn’t say to a person’s face. Just because it’s digital, doesn’t make your words any less hurtful.

2. If you’re having a disagreement, request that you get together to talk it out. It is almost impossible to successfully resolve a disagreement via text or social media because you’re missing key clues to what the other person really means. You can’t see facial expressions. You can’t hear tone of voice. When emotions are already high, those nonverbal cues are important.

3. Never end a relationship via text. This seems to be the choice du jour of teens today. Ending a relationship via text is easy. You don’t have to deal with any of the other person’s emotions, and you don’t have to have a conversation. But it is incredibly hurtful. Ending a relationship via text hurts in ways that doing it face to face does not because to text a breakup tells the other person that you don’t value them or the relationship you had enough to extend the common courtesy of a face-to-face conversation. Ending a relationship is hard — and it should be — but it should be done in a way that doesn’t devalue the other person. A text breakup does just that. Short of an abusive relationship (in which case there are a whole host of other issues involved), a relationship should never be ended via text.

4. Think about whether what you’re posting is going to hurt someone else’s feelings. My older daughter’s friends went through a stage where they posted those memes where you tag different friends for different things — best friend, tallest friend, goofiest friend, etc. Someone always got left out or was upset about what they had been tagged as. Nothing good comes from memes and comments that ask you to choose among your friends. It’s best to just avoid those things altogether.

5. Use text and social media to praise your friends and share fun conversations. Use it to figure out your homework or make plans for the weekend. Text and social media are a great tool for communicating with others for simple things. They are a great way to stay in touch when life gets really busy.

6. Don’t post things that embarrass other people. Sometimes it’s funny to post a silly picture or a funny quote from a friend. As long as everyone is in on the joke, it’s fine. But if your friend specifically asks you not to post something, then don’t. Don’t use social media as a way to embarrass or get back at someone else.

7. Remember that whatever you post on social media is public. Your future college and future employers can see it. Don’t post things that will come back to haunt you later on.

8. Use text and social media to be an encourager. Offer praise and encouragement through text and social media. It is a great forum for that.

9. Don’t use social media and text to offer criticism. Criticism and correction should always be offered face to face. It’s hard to correct someone in love via text.

10. Don’t let social media and text become a replacement for face-to-face relationships. There’s only so much interaction that can take place via text and social media. You still need to get out of the house and hang out with your friends together. And when you’re together, put the phones away.

In this digital world, it can be hard to keep up with what our kids are doing on their phones. The key to teaching them how to be responsible with text and social media is to remind them to treat each other with love and respect. If our kids remember that they are called to “love one another” at all times — even when texting and using social media — they will be on the road to successfully navigating this digital world.

 

When Your Child is Drowning in the Tough Stuff

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My 14-year-old daughter has taken a beating in the past few weeks. She’s been sick for so long that she doesn’t remember what it feels like to feel well (she had her tonsils taken out yesterday, so hopefully, she’ll be on the mend soon). She’s learned about the ups and downs of a relationship with a guy. She’s been frustrated by her soccer situation. It’s been a rough couple months, especially the past few weeks.

And I’ve learned something in watching her battle through these things. First, she has more grace, patience and compassion than I ever will, and second, being a teenager is hard and being the parent of a teenager is hard, too. Being a teen is hard in ways it wasn’t when I was a teenager. And as a mom, I ache for my daughter and wish that I could spare her some of the hard lessons that this life is teaching her.

I know that God has it all under control. I know that he’s using these things to teach her something. But I’ll be honest, it feels like I’m watching my child stand in the ocean and get hit by wave after wave after wave. She comes up sputtering every time, only to get hit by another one.

That’s hard. It’s hard to watch your child hurt. It’s hard to watch them be emotionally and physically battered by life’s circumstance. It’s hard to watch them come up sputtering time after time after time.

And it’s hard to be the emotional rock that they need their parents to be. Because your heart is breaking for them. Every wave that hits them and knocks them down, knocks you down, too. It’s hard to have enough energy and emotional reserves to keep picking them back up again when all you want to do is lock yourself in the bathroom and cry for them.

In the midst of these tough moments, though, I am always reminded that God is creating something beautiful out of what seems like a mess. He’s standing in that ocean with my daughter. Not one single wave surprises Him. Not one single wave knocks Him down. When she is knocked to her knees, He’s there to lift her back up. She may not be able to stand in that ocean of life on her own as wave after wave of tough stuff knocks her down, but she can lean into God’s arms, absorb His strength and put her feet back under her.

And so can I. When this mom thing gets hard. When it hurts to watch my kid to get knocked down, I know that I can turn to my Father’s loving arms. I know that He can give me the emotional strength to see my daughter through illness, a tough soccer season, or a broken relationship.

Standing in this ocean we call life is hard for our kids, and it’s hard for us. No one ever promised us that life would be easy. But God did promise that He would always be at our side, ready to offer whatever it is that we’re lacking.

So, if your child seems to be drowning under wave after wave of tough things, remember that God is there to pick up your child — and He’s there to keep you standing as well. We’re not in this alone.

Don’t Let Fear Rule Your Parenting — The Rest of the Story

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A little over a week ago, I wrote this post about not letting fear rule your parenting. The next day, I got a phone call from my 14-year-old daughter in Ecuador saying her throat felt like it did when she had an abscess in it.

If you want to know fear, send your child to a foreign country and have her call you and tell you she’s sick and needs medical treatment. She got to spend part of her day in an Ecuadorian hospital and ended up on the first flight home, cutting her trip short.

After writing that blog post about not letting fear rule your parenting, I was confronted with a situation that made me wonder whether that was the right tactic to take. If I’d just kept my daughter home, she would have been here when she got sick again. I wouldn’t have spent 24 hours wondering if she was going to be OK. I would have had her right here where I could check on her. All of those thoughts went through this mom’s very worried mind last Tuesday morning.

But do you know what one of my daughter’s first questions was? She asked me if she could go back to Ecuador next summer. Despite not feeling good and being scared and sick in an Ecuadorian hospital, she couldn’t wait to go back. The experiences she had, the friends she made and the joy she found while in Ecuador for a week ministering to others far outweighed the crumminess of getting sick and having to come home early.

I know that God wanted my daughter on that mission trip. He’s given her a huge heart full of love and compassion along with a fearless spirit that revels in new experiences. He wanted her to have a taste of what that looks like on the mission field.

But Satan did not. There’s nothing Satan wants more than for us to hide behind our fear to keep us from doing what God asks of us. Satan would have loved for fear to have kept me from putting my daughter on that plane. He would love for fear to keep me from letting her go again.

But even though this experience was gut-wrenching for me as a mom, even though her trip didn’t end like anyone had planned, God still triumphed because we didn’t let fear hold us back. My daughter should be good as new soon (she’s having her tonsils taken out on Aug. 31), and she’s already started working to earn money to go back to Ecuador next year. She had an amazing experience in Ecuador that will change her life forever. She has the best opening line of a “What I did this summer” essay that I’ve ever heard (I started my summer in an American hospital and ended it in an Ecuadorian one). And I was stretched as a mom to let go of my fear and trust God with this child of my heart more than I ever have before.

I was reminded once again of something I learned when my kids were very young. They are not mine. They are God’s. I just get to be in charge of them for a little while. My biggest job as a mom is not to get in the way of what God wants to do in their lives. And when I do take steps to allow God to work, I have to be ready for Satan to attack because he doesn’t want me or my kids growing in our faith and confidence in God. He wants fear and worry to hold us back.

Won’t you join with me in not allowing Satan to have that kind of power over us and our kids? As our kids head back to school, let’s be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them — even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

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.

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.

These Moments are Precious

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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.

A Change in Perspective

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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.

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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