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.

One Easy Day

One Easy Day

I sat on my front porch the other day, looked at the sky and prayed this prayer: “Lord, can I have one easy day? Please?”

I’d been trying to navigate through the waters of a kid recovering from surgery while dealing with some other drama in her life and dealing with the other child who can’t seem to get organized enough to do the things she needs to do at school. Let’s not forget the everyday drama that just exists when you have 14-year-old and 12-year-old daughters.

I sat on that porch after meting out discipline to one of them and wondered when parenting had gotten so hard. I love being my kids’ mom. It’s a calling. I love them more than life itself. But right now, I really don’t like parenting.

It. Is. Hard.

Every single day is a constant struggle with one child or the other. There have been more tears shed in this house in the past month than at any time since they were crying babies. My husband is ready to move to Tahiti and come back when they’re 21. I’ll be honest. I am not enjoying it. I really want just one easy day.

I want one day where everyone does their homework without a fight. I want one day where friends act like friends. I want one day where everyone fills out their planner at school and knows exactly what they need to do when they get home. I want one day where no one forgets anything, no one has to stay after school and no one needs my help with math homework (I really didn’t like geometry when I was the student). I want one day without drama and without tears (theirs or mine).

I prayed that prayer for one easy day a week ago. And I still haven’t gotten it. But God has reminded me that he didn’t promise that this parenting thing would be sunshine and roses. He didn’t say this life would be easy. He did say He would be here. He did say that He would never leave us.

Because, you see, God isn’t interested in my comfort. He isn’t interested in me having an easy life. He’s interested in making me more like Him. He’s interested in growing me and my kids. He’s interested in forcing me to rely on Him instead of myself.

I could list off for you the lessons we’ve learned in this household this summer. I could tell you how much my older daughter has grown in her faith and her approach to life. I could tell you how much more of a priority it is for me to have a consistent time of Bible reading and prayer in my life. The evidence of growth in this particular season is everywhere in our family. But there have been very few easy days.

Because growing is hard. When our bodies grow, we tend to sleep more and require more food because growing is work. That holds true for spiritual growth as well. When we die to our selfish nature and become more like Christ, there are growing pains. And there are few easy days.

When we get on the other side of this intense growing season in our family, we’ll be able to look back at everything that happened and know that those hard days were worth it. Right now, though, we’re simply clinging to the knowledge that God is with us. We’re holding fast to His promises that He’ll see us through these tough parenting moments.

I know God is creating something beautiful in our family. I know that the end result will be more amazing than anything I can imagine. And I’m grateful.

But, I’ll be honest, I’m really looking forward to when God says yes to my prayer for one easy day.

Glimpses of the Future


My younger daughter was walking to the mailbox. She had on shorts, her hockey warm-up jacket and a St. Louis Blues hat with her hair in a pony tail. I looked at her and was overwhelmed by how much I love this young lady who is truly her own person.

My older daughter was sitting in the movie theater with two of her friends. Bright smile on her face, talking up a storm. I looked at her and almost didn’t recognize this almost-14-year-old girl who has come so very far from the awkward, shy 11-year-old she once was. And I was overwhelmed again by how much I truly adore the young lady she is becoming.

I had those two moments almost back to back last week as we simply enjoyed a week off for our spring break. I’ll be honest. There are moments in parenting these two girls that make me want to tear out my hair. There are moments when I think I am never going to get through to them. There are moments when I just want to walk away.

But then God gives me these 5-second glimpses of who my kids are. He gives me a split second to realize that they are truly amazing. He gives me just a glimpse of what they may look like in the future. And it gives me hope.

Because when you’re stuck in the middle of the mess that is motherhood, it can be easy to look at other people’s kids and wonder why your kids can’t be like those kids. Whether it’s the infant years, the toddler years, the elementary years or the teen years, it can be easy to wonder if you’re ever going to survive (or if your kids will survive).

But here’s the thing: God sees the whole picture. He sees who your child has the potential to become. He doesn’t just see the mess. He sees the beauty beyond the mess. He sees where this whole parenting thing is leading. And every now and then, He lets us glimpse it, too. It may just be a glance that lets you see that the strong-willed toddler kicking and screaming as you put him in the car seat will become a teenager who can stand up to peer pressure. It may be a short conversation that lets you see that the shy, unsure sixth-grader will become a kind and compassionate high schooler who draws people to her because of her gentle spirit.

When we’re in the mommy trenches, we don’t get to see the big picture. A lot of days, we can only see what’s right in front of us. We can only look straight ahead. But even in the midst of those battles, even in the middle of the very long days, keep an eye out for the glimpses of the future. Be looking for just those small glimmers of hope that what you’re doing is going to matter in the end. Because they are there. God gives them to us to encourage us and to remind us that He sees the future — even when we can’t.

When They’re Not Little Anymore


My older daughter goes to the 8th grade dance tonight, that all-American rite of passage where the girls stand on one side of the gym and the boys stand on the other.

It doesn’t really bother me that she’s going to the dance. I’m not really concerned about the whole boy-girl thing at this point. She’s growing into an amazing, mature young lady who, so far, has shown an incredible ability to make wise decisions.

But I am in a bit of shock that my girls aren’t little any more. Somehow they grew to be 11 and 13 while I blinked. As I ponder the fact that there are no little girls in my house any more, that there are no more days of tea party and dress-up, I find myself wondering how to parent these not so little girls.

As they get older, kids need a different kind of parenting. Oh, they still need rules and boundaries and love and laughter. They just need it in a different form.

Gone are the days of simply telling my kids how everything is going to be — from what they wear to what they eat to what we’re going to do today. Gone are the days of entertaining them with a paper towel roll and a box.

Despite the fact that my girls aren’t little any more, they still need parents. They just need us to parent a little differently. So, here’s what I’m learning about parenting my kids who aren’t little any more:

They need us to listen. More than anything else, our not-so-little kids need us to have open ears. They need us to really hear their hearts and their thoughts. They are forming their own opinions and processing through all the changes that go with growing up, and they need someone to talk to. If we aren’t listening they’ll find someone else.

They need us to offer advice. The older our kids get, the less they need us to tell them what to do, and the more they need us to offer them some advice. Then they can make their own decisions. Here’s the thing about offering advice, though. Sometimes our kid will choose not to take it. They’ll choose a different road than we will, which leads us to the next thing they need from us.

They need us to let them make mistakes. One of the best teachers in life is experience, and sometimes those experiences aren’t necessarily good ones. Our kids need to make mistakes. They need to suffer the consequences for poor decisions. They need to learn how to fix a mistake. If we are constantly fixing their mistakes for them, then they never learn this important skill.

They need us to set boundaries. While our older kids are asking for more independence, they still need that independence within boundaries. They need to know where the lines are that they can operate within. Believe it or not, when you set boundaries for your kids, they know it means you love them.

They need us to pray for them. Our kids are dealing with all sorts of changes as they get older. They’re learning to navigate friendships and other relationships. They’re learning who they are and who they want to be. And they need us to pray for them. Prayer is a powerful tool in our parenting arsenal. We should use it often.

If your kids aren’t little any more, it takes a different kind of parenting to raise them. But one thing is true, they still need you.

When You’re Not Ready


My older daughter is 13 1/2. She goes to high school next year. So far, this teenager thing hasn’t been too bad, but changes are coming that are going to make parenting her a bit more challenging.

In six months, she can get her driving permit (because in our state, we think it’s a good idea to let kids drive at 14). Her list of people she texts has expanded in just the past month to include some boys she’s friends with. She’s going to Ecuador on her own with our youth group on a mission trip this summer.

These are all big changes that are stretching my momma’s heart. They all require that she have more independence and more responsibility. They require me letting go of a lot of control and trusting her to make the right choices.

I have to tell you, I don’t think I’m ready.

I’m pretty sure it was just yesterday that she was taking her first wobbly steps. Wasn’t it just hours ago that I sent her off to kindergarten?

But the truth is that our kids grow up. They move to different stages in life. They require a different kind of parenting. And, as parents, I don’t think we’re ever ready to leave one stage behind and move on to the next. The truth is, though, that we don’t have to be ready. We just have to be willing to follow where God leads. Because whether we’re ready or not, He is.

I know that God holds both my daughters close to His heart. I know that He is busy molding and shaping them into the people He needs them to be. I’m simply a tool that He uses to do so.

God is never surprised by the new stages that our kids enter. He is not startled by the addition of boys to the texting list. He is not concerned by a driver’s permit. He is not worried about an out-of-the-country trip. He is in control.

While I’m adjusting to the new norm of this new stage of parenting, God is already in the midst of it. He is busy working in my daughter’s heart and my own heart. He is there to offer up wisdom and guidance to this mom who sometimes already feels in over her head. He is simply waiting in the wings for me to acknowledge my need for Him.

So, as we enter this new stage — one that includes boys, driving and independence — I’m not ready, but God is. And that’s enough.

5 Parenting Lessons I Learned in 2014

5 lessons

It’s the end of another year. Time to take stock and evaluate the things we did and learned. As I looked back over 2014, I realized that this is one of those years where I learned a lot about parenting. I learned a lot that I didn’t know I didn’t know. I made mistakes, and I had some triumphs. And I learned more than I thought possible.

We’re in a season of transition around here. With 11- and 13-year-old girls in the house, we’re moving out of the “little kid” stage and into the teenage years. That means I’m learning new things about parenting. And it means I’m learning a whole bunch of stuff about myself and my kids.

So, here’s the top five parenting lessons I’ve learned this year. I thought I’d share them with you as an encouragement that this is a process — for both us and our kids. And even when we screw up, even when we make a mess of the things we should get right, God is right there with us, waiting for us to ask for His help.

1. I can’t fix everything. As my girls get older, they face more and more situations that I can’t control. They have to make choices that I can’t make for them. They encounter mean girls and situations with no good answers. And I have to let go and let them deal with it. When they were 2, I could jump in and make it all better with a kiss and pat on the back. Now, I can offer advice, pray hard and be available for a lengthy hug. I can wipe away the tears and point out their options. But I can’t fix it. My best option is to point them to the One who can fix things, it’s to remind them that God is in control even when their world seems out of control. But my days of being the one who can fix everything are over.

2. Failure is an excellent teacher. As my younger daughter has struggled to adjust to the organizational demands of middle school, I’ve learned that failure may well be the best teacher. Forgetting homework at school and having to figure out how to still get the work done before class is a much better deterrent to making the same mistake again than me rescuing her. God lets us make our own choices and to fail when we make the wrong ones. But He’s always there to pick us up and tell us to try again with His help. So, that’s my role, now, to be the one who picks up my kids when they fail and encourage them to try again with God’s help.

3. Technology is a blessing and a curse. This is the first year that both of my children have had cell phones. There are times when I think we should just implant them in their hands. They seem to be attached there anyway. I love being able to reach my kids no matter where they are. I like having instant answers to questions in my hands. But I hate the deterioration of face-to-face relationships that only communicating via text leads to. I hate seeing my kids in the same room with their friends ignoring each other for the sake of a text or game. So, I’ve learned that cell phones and tablets only have to take over as much of our lives as we let them. We’ve set rules on when phones can be used (not at the dinner table or in the car, and they have to be in the basket on the kitchen counter at bedtime). I’ve become the mean mom who asks for my kids’ phones and their friends’ phones when they walk in the door. Because I’d rather be the mean mom and have my kids be able to carry on face-to-face conversations with others than have them only be able to communicate via text.

4. I need a village. This parenting thing is tough. And a lot of times, our kids don’t listen all that well to us. We need support. We need people who are older and wiser and sometimes younger and more hip to help us raise our kids. We need our kids to be surrounded by people who love them and genuinely care about them. We need to be surrounded by people who understand our parenting struggles and who can boost us up when we need it. There have been so many times in the past year when I’ve been at a complete loss on how to deal with my kids. In those moments when I’m crying out to God for help, He so often puts someone in my path that can point me in the right direction or who can simply offer up some words of encouragement. If you don’t have a village surrounding you and your kids, you need to create one.

5. I am not enough. There are too many days when I don’t know how to be a good parent. There are too many moments when the weight of being these girls’ mom is far too heavy for my shoulders. There is no way that I am enough. But I don’t have to be. I simply have to let God be enough. God didn’t make a mistake when He chose me to be the mom to my girls. He chose them, and He chose me. And He will never let me walk this parenting road alone. When I’m not enough to handle the heartaches, the frustrations and even the joys of being a parent, He is. And when I let Him fill me up, then my girls get the best of all possible worlds — they get God’s love, grace, patience and joy through me.

What lessons have you learned about parenting this year?

Be Persistent in Teaching

Doing good

My older daughter had a soccer game last night. It had been a busy couple of days for everyone, and my younger daughter was less than enamored with the idea of finishing the weekend at her sister’s soccer game. We had all been up late several nights in a row after a couple of days completely on the run, and I knew she was tired, which often doesn’t offer up the best decision-making results.

However, last night I watched my younger daughter do something she didn’t have to do. She was playing with several other younger siblings when I turned away from the game to look for her. As I started to turn back, I realized that it wasn’t a happy scene. One girl was being left out.

I watched to see what was really going on and to see how it would turn out. At one point, I heard my younger daughter say, “It’s OK. She can play.” Her words were ignored by the other two girls. As I continued to watch, my younger daughter fell silent for several minutes. I wondered if she would try again to include this girl or if she felt like she had tried and failed.

After a few minutes, I heard my daughter say, “I know how we can work her in.” She explained her idea, and the other two girls agreed. In no time, all four girls were happily playing.

When I tucked my daughter in last night, I complimented her on making sure the other girl was included. “You were watching that?” she asked.

The whole time the exchange between the four girls was going on, I assumed that my daughter knew I was watching. I assumed that my watching was one of the reasons she chose to do the right thing, but she didn’t even know I had my eye on her. She did the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do.

The whole situation reminded me that it’s our goal to teach our kids to do the right thing even when no one is watching. It’s our goal to teach them to live up to God’s standards even when we aren’t around. It’s our goal to help them make good choices when we are with them so that they can make the same good choices when we aren’t there.

From the time my girls were little, we’ve always talked about not leaving other people out of something for no reason. We’ve talked about how that would make us feel if we were the ones being left out. We’ve talked about how God loves all of us and expects us to show His love to others. Some days, I’ve wondered if either of my girls were listening.

But last night, I got to see the fruits of all that talking, all that encouraging, and all that sometimes forced inclusion. I got to see my little girl make a mature decision. I got to see her persevere for what was right even when her first attempt failed. I got to see her live out the words of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

So, today, I want to encourage you to keep on talking to your kids. Keep teaching them what is right. Keep repeating yourselves as many times as it takes to get the message through. Because someday when you least expect it, someday when your kids don’t even know you’re watching, they will persevere in doing good. They will make the right choice simply because it’s the right thing to do. They will live out the lessons you’ve been teaching even though no one is watching.

And they will do it because you were persistent in teaching those lessons.

Focus on the Shots You Stop


My younger daughter played in a hockey tournament this weekend. Her team made it to the championship game. They were leading, but then the other team got three goals in a very short span of time. The goalie on my daughter’s team was visibly upset and having a hard time getting his head back in the game.

When my daughter hit the ice for her next shift after the goals, she immediately headed for the goalie. She stood and talked to him, pointed at the scoreboard and talked some more. He went back to the goal and she went to her place on the ice. Her goalie stopped every shot that came his way after that and her team came back to win the game and the tournament.

After the game, I asked my daughter what she said to the goalie. “I just told him to look at the shot count on the scoreboard. He stopped a lot of shots and only let three in. I told him to focus on the ones he stopped. And I told him there was plenty of time left for us to win.”

Wow. The wisdom of a 10-year-old. We could all apply some of that to our lives. As parents, it’s easy to focus on our failures, on the missed teachable moments, on the days we lose our temper, on the situations we wish we’d handled better. But the truth is, there are a lot of days that we hit it on the head. There are a lot of days that we give our kids exactly what they need. A lot of days we stop every shot that comes our way.

It’s human nature to focus on our mistakes, but if we let ourselves become defined by our mistakes, then we miss out on the true person God designed us to be. God didn’t make you a parent to your child because He knew you were going to be perfect. He made you your child’s parent because He knew that you were going to be the best parent for that child.

When we get stuck focusing on our mistakes, on the shots we didn’t stop, we can get angry and frustrated with ourselves. We can get into a cycle where we continue to make the same mistakes. Sometimes we need someone else to calm us down and point us in the right direction. That someone is God. He tells us to cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He tells us that He forgives us when we fail (1 John 1:9). We simply have to believe Him.

Believe me when I tell you that God doesn’t care that you’re not perfect. He knew that all along. He does care that when you miss a shot, you simply get back up, ask for forgiveness, and get ready for the next one. Because there’s plenty of time left in the parenting game — and you’re going to stop more shots than you miss.

You’re Not a Perfect Parent — And That’s OK


Since I became a parent 12 1/2 years ago, I’ve had to make a lot of decisions. Some I knew were coming. Some I never dreamed I would have to make. Some I got right. Some I got wrong. And some the jury is still out on.

We all have to make some tough decisions as parents. It starts when our kids are born. Do I breastfeed or bottle-feed? Cloth diapers or disposable? Crib or bassinet?

And the decisions just get bigger as our kids get older. Public school, homeschool or private school? Sports, dance or Girl Scouts? Accelerated math or regular math? Soccer or baseball?

When they get ready to leave home, we find ourselves faced with helping our kids make even bigger decisions. What do I major in? Where do I go to college? What do I want to do with the rest of my life?

So many decisions and so many doubts. I don’t know about you, but whenever I make a big decision for or with my kids, I often second-guess myself. I wonder if this decision is the right one. I wonder if we will regret it down the road. I wonder if my kids will point to that decision as the worst one of their childhood.

When we parents make a bad decision, when our decisions land our kids in a tough place, we tend to dwell on it. We tend to beat ourselves up for it. Sometimes we get stuck in that place, unable to move forward.

I want to share one important piece of information with you today: No parent is perfect. We all screw it up sometimes. We all make a bad decision every now and then that lands our kids in a place we’d rather they not be. No matter how idyllic a childhood seems, that child has a parent who has screwed up.

We spend so much time trying to do the right thing for our kids, trying to make the right decisions, trying to be the “perfect” parent that we lose sight of the fact that we’re chasing an impossible goal.

I’m not perfect (that does not come as a newsflash to my family), and neither are you. No one is. And that’s OK.

You see, our kids don’t need perfect parents. Our kids need parents who make the best decisions they can with the information they have. They need parents who are truly seeking God’s will. They need parents who aren’t afraid to make the tough decisions. They need parents who can recognize their mistakes and work to fix them.

Lucky for us, kids are extremely forgiving and extremely resilient. A few bad decisions over the course of a childhood aren’t going to break them. As a matter of fact, a little adversity in their lives will make them better able to deal with trouble when it comes their way as adults. Watching us deal with fixing a mistake teaches them how to move on from a mistake themselves.

You’re not going to get this parenting thing right 100% of the time. But don’t worry. Your kids don’t need you to always be right. They don’t need you to be perfect. They simply need you to be a parent who loves them and can show them God’s grace and love. You can do that even in the midst of your imperfection.

Letting God Work in Our Kids


My older daughter had an abysmal school year last year. The transition to middle school was much harder than we thought it would be. The switch from one soccer team to another turned out to be a terrible decision. She lost her confidence and her spirit.

This summer, though, we made some changes. We switched to a different soccer club. We dropped her out of the accelerated math class that was just a bit out of her reach. We worked with her to take a different attitude toward school. And we sent her to a week of camp with our church’s student ministry.

That week away was the best thing we could have done. God worked on her in ways that we couldn’t. She came home with a renewed confidence and a renewed set of purpose. Instead of letting the school year attack her, she attacked it. She became confident that God was by her side every step of the way.

I went to parent-teacher conferences on Thursday morning, and every one of her teachers told me that while she was quiet, she did participate in class. They knew who she was, and more importantly, they knew something about her. It was a drastic difference from last fall’s parent-teacher conferences where her teachers struggled to find something to say about her because she never spoke in class.

While I want my girls to try their hardest and receive good grades in school, I was more proud of this set of parent-teacher conferences than any I’ve attended before. Because those comments from her teachers meant that my daughter had recognized a problem and changed it. She had worked to overcome her innate shyness in a group setting. She had not let one bad year turn into another one. She had let God work on her to change her actions and her attitudes.

The older my girls get, the less able I am to “fix” things for them, the more they have to change things themselves. I can’t change attitudes. I can’t change behaviors. I can’t change how they approach a situation.

But I can offer advice. I can pray for them. I can help them seek wise counsel from someone other than me. And the amount of time I spent on my knees last year praying over this child is proof positive that God hears our prayers, He knows the desires of our hearts, and He loves our kids more than we ever could. And sometimes we simply have to get out of the way and let Him work on our kids.

Because sometimes no amount of talking on our part, no amount of trying to solve the problem from our perspective, no amount of pushing our kids to do something differently can get results. Sometimes it takes them deciding to change. Sometimes it takes God working on our kids to change their perspectives, their hearts and their actions.

And I’m good with that because I know that God is much more effective at changing hearts than I am. I know that God’s plan for my child is much greater than my own. And I know that God loves my kids much more than I ever could.

Is there a place in your child’s life where you need to step back and let God work?