When You Don’t Know What to Do

God knows 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God. Knows.

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

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

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

When You’re Not “Fine”

Fine

This space has been empty for a while. Life has been crazy — some of the good kind of crazy, and it seems like more of the bad kind. I’m kind of to the point where I’m almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning to find out what new crisis is going to erupt.

I’ll be honest, it seems like every time I open a door or turn a corner in life lately, there’s been something unpleasant behind it. Very little about this life seems easy in this season.

I would love to write a blog post telling you that when we’re in the hard season, all we have to do is rely on God and everything will be fine. That sounds great, but it’s a lie.

You see, anyone who tells you that things will be “fine” when you’re going through a rough season is wrong. Those tough seasons in our lives sometimes leave us in a place that is far from the place we started, the place where everything was “fine.” Those tough seasons often mean we lose something — a loved one, our health, a marriage. When we come out on the other side of a tough season, we are changed. We are different. And we may not be “fine.”

Am I saying that God doesn’t have everything under control? No. I am saying that God’s plan is never for you to be “fine.” It is for you to be in a place where you can see Him and share Him. It is for you to be in a place where you have to rely on Him. It is for you to be in a place where others can see Him in you.

But that place may not be easy. It may not be fun. And it most certainly might not be “fine.” But one thing you can know for sure is that no matter what that place looks like, no matter where it is, God is there, too.

That’s the truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons — that God is there. He’s not asking us to go anywhere He’s not willing to go, too. And though we may shed many tears and even spend time shouting at God, He’s there, He loves us, and He’s walking with us — even when we don’t think He is.

There is something to learn in this season. There is growing to be done. And when this season passes (and, honestly, I hope it passes soon), I’ll be on the other side a different person than I was before this season began. But I don’t want to be “fine.” I want the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve become to shine brightly for Jesus. I don’t want to be “fine.” I want to be His.

Something to Sing About

sing

I could hear her saying something as I buckled the baby into the shopping cart. Okay, so it was actually more like yelling but bless it if I could even tell. I had totally crossed over into the Mom-Zone.

You know, the place where the world could be ending but all you hear is the inner-monologue-of-the-now, “Must get the baby in the seat before a car runs over us.”

The consequence to this stealth focus?

You agree to anything.

And apparently I had agreed in thirty seconds of non-listening to sing a rousing rendition of  “This is the Day” while we moseyed through Target.

Sweet heavens.

Now my girl has got vocal direction down, y’all. I mean I thought I knew the song but I DID NOT. When she started with a “This is the day…” I was all like “This is the day…” And I was met with a sigh and an “Um, Mom, no. You sing ‘That the Lord has made.’”

But sadly, I had entered the Zone again…

So we went through this exact dialogue about five times until she finally she broke through it with a, “Mom, I really need you to focus!”  I mean, c’mon now. Shouldn’t I be delighted that we are singing about Jesus in Target?!?!?

And BAM.

I got my act together, we found our rhythm and we did our thang. But alas, when we hit the “together” part of the ditty, things fell apart. I’m all “This is the Day” and she’s all “Jesus Loves Me.”

Shortly after this confusion and preciously right as we walked up to an unsuspecting cashier, my girl bellows with ear piercing volume, “IT IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE!!!!”

And Jesus loves us, this I know.

I suppose you are wondering, “Sara, what in the what does this have to do with an everyday truth?”

Well, I’ll tell you…

We all have these kind of days as a parent where things get ridiculous and veer off course and all we know gets drowned out by the our inner-monologue of “IT IS NOT THE DAY THAT THE LORD HAS MADE!”

But it is.

We can go from blissfully happy to my day is ruined faster than it takes us to go from the parking lot into the store. But this is the day He has made. And we have the choice to wallow in our ruin or persevere through and count it all joy.

I’m not talking about some kind of false “Oh, today is magical!” when you are knee deep in poo. I’m talking about being grateful for the gift of a new day. I’m talking about how it’s really pretty great to have the chance to sing loudly in the aisles of Target with someone you love.

Because it’s in those kind of moments that you remember…

He loves me and He’s given me a new day.

And really?

No matter how you look at it, THAT is something to sing about.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  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.

10 Things I Wish My Kids Knew

wish2In our house, we’re in the midst of the tough pre-teen and teen years. The easy days are few and far between. If it’s not one child having a crisis, it’s the other. Hormone-induced tears are a part of nearly every day. Some days I’m my girls’ best friend, and others, I’m the worst mom in the world.

Being a mom in this season is tough. You never really know which kid is going to walk through your door after school — the happy, care-free one or the moody, the world is ending one. There are days when I really would like to throw up my hands and just walk away.

But these two girls? They are the living extension of my heart. They are precious and amazing. They are mine. And there is so much they don’t know about what goes through my heart and mind as I parent them through these turbulent years. Here’s what I wish I they knew:

  1. I really don’t like disciplining you. I only do it because I want you to learn to make wise decisions. I want you to know how to exercise self-control and think about the feelings of other people.
  2. When you’re curled up in my arms sobbing your eyes out because of something someone else did or said, look up. There are tears in my eyes, too. Because I remember what it was like to be your age. Even though you think I don’t understand, I really do. I was your age once, and mean kids have existed since the beginning of time.
  3. When someone treats you badly, I’m going to tell you that you need to forgive them and move on. But even as I’m saying those words, I’m fighting my own battle to do the same.
  4. I don’t just make up rules to make your life miserable. I make rules to keep you safe and to teach you boundaries.
  5. I’ve never done this parenting thing before. I’m going to make mistakes. Please know that I’m doing my best.
  6. I am always praying for you because even though I mess up sometimes, God never does.
  7. I am trying to give you the space you need to become the person God wants you to be, but it’s hard. In my mind’s eye, you’re still my little girl.
  8. I am always on your side — even when it seems like I’m not. I always want what’s best for you. I always want you to succeed. I always want you to be happy. Sometimes, though, those things only come through tough lessons.
  9. Letting you fail at something is one of the hardest things for me to do. But I know that if I always step in, you will never learn the lessons that failure can teach you. Just know that when you fail, my heart hurts as much as yours does.
  10. I will always love you. No matter how much you screw up or how much you push me away, I will always love you. I will always be there to pick you up. When the days are long and the crisis hits, I will always be a safe haven for you.

 

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

Fear1

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.

Glimpses of the Future

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 You’re Not Ready

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?