Works in Progress


I started painting my kitchen about a month ago. Then, life happened. My daughter got injured. We had a rash of illnesses. The weekends got full of soccer and hockey. I got swamped with work.

So the kitchen sits unfinished with three walls done and many more to go. It’s going to look great when it’s done. I’m just not sure when that will be.

Our kids are a lot like my kitchen — a work in progress. Sometimes, we get a glimpse of what the finished product will look like, but all too often, all we can see are the unfinished walls. We can see the beauty to come, but for right now, we’re stuck in the mess.

Raising kids takes patience, patience and more patience. It takes repeating the same thing over and over and over again. It takes repeatedly tackling the same problems from different angles. It takes countless amounts of unconditional love.

As our kids grow, we have to remember that God isn’t finished with them. The truth is God isn’t finished with any of us. We are all works in progress with half-finished walls and unhung pictures.

As we raise our kids, it’s easy to get frustrated with the messiness of this parenting thing. We can get sidetracked by the amount of time it’s taking to see changes in behavior. We can get frustrated with the messiness of the whole process. We can wish away our kids’ childhoods by looking so far ahead that we miss today.

But being frustrated just impedes progress. It slows us down and keeps us bogged down in the mess. We need to keep our eyes on the end goal: Raising kids who look like Jesus. We have to remember the beauty at the end of the process so we can tolerate the mess now.

If you get frustrated with your kids today, remember that they are a work in progress. And sometimes progress takes time. Sometimes progress takes energy. Sometimes progress happens when we least expect it. But progress does happen, and we can’t let the unfinished mess distract us from the goal. Our kids need us to keep painting the walls — even when it seems like it’s taking forever.

You Can’t Quit


We’ve had three days in a row of frustration and tears when it’s time to do math. I don’t know why my younger daughter gets in a mood when it’s time to do math, but it’s wearing on both of us.

Yesterday, I was trying to get her to finish her math before we went to my mom’s group at church. Granted, we were a bit rushed, but her attitude started out poor and ended up worse. I was ready to throw up my hands and walk away.

But then I was reminded that this wasn’t a job at which you can quit. I can’t make a video of me dancing out the door to turn in my mommy resignation. We had to find a way to work around it.

After a few minutes to take a deep breath, I pulled the sobbing child into my arms and talked to her. We talked about making choices about our attitude when we it comes to math. We talked about what we could do differently to make things work better. We talked about how frustrating things are for both of us when a day goes bad. Then we prayed. We asked God to help us figure it out. We asked Him to improve both our attitudes.

Honestly, I have no idea how today is going to turn out when we open the math book. But I do have confidence that we’re going to figure this out. I have confidence that there’s a solution to this obstacle. I have confidence that God is going to show us a way to make it through this moment.

There are rough moments in parenting. There are days when we want nothing more than to pack it in. There are days when we fondly remember the days before children. There are days when we’re just too tired to take another step, make another decision, or fight another battle.

But we can’t quit. This job isn’t about getting a pat on the back for a job well done. This job isn’t about seeing the fruits of our labor immediately. This job isn’t about a giant salary or a big promotion. As a matter of fact, this job of parenting isn’t a job at all. It’s a calling.

God has called us to be persistent in raising our kids. He has called us to step into the battle to fight for our kids. He has called us to shepherd these souls. He has called us to get down in the trenches and work through the obstacles that arise as we parent. And that’s not something we can walk away from.

So, remember, on the days when nothing seems to be going your way, in the moments when you want to pull your hair out in frustration, in the hours that you’re fighting the same battle you’ve fought a dozen times that day, and in the seconds when it’s tempting to throw up your hands and walk away, this job, this calling, of parenting is worth it. Every battle you fight, every behavior you correct, every heart you touch, every problem you solve, is a step toward leading your kids to God. It’s  a step toward moving them from dependence on you to dependence on Him.

And that’s a job no one would want to quit.

A Fish Story


I have a confession to make. I almost killed George.

I got up yesterday morning, let the dog out and took a peek at George. Instead of swimming happily around his tank, his little golden body was lethargically floating near the bottom of his tank. Even food pellets couldn’t entice his usually swift golden self to swim to the top. Tapping on and shaking the tank (actions expressly forbidden to my kids) produced nothing more than a slight wiggle of his golden tail.

George is our goldfish, and, honestly, he’s not my favorite member of our family. He showed up one day when I was out. The girls and my husband thought it would be great fun to have a goldfish. They brought him home, dropped him in a bowl of water and thought they could feed him once a day and it would be great. After two days, he started to turn black.

I was pretty sure that goldfish are supposed to be gold, not black. A little bit of research (thanks, Google) told me that the ammonia in the water was burning his skin. So, off to the store I went, and the purchase of tank, filter and some kind of drops to make the water safe (and $50) later, our goldfish had the appropriate home.

When I came home the first time and saw George, all I could think about was how it was one more thing for me to do. My husband and girls saw a fun addition to our home. I saw a dirty, smelly fish whose tank I would have to clean. (I know many of you are wondering why my girls don’t clean the tank, but the tank is heavy, and it would be more work to clean up after one of my girls cleaned the tank than it is to do it myself. Some day I’ll turn that task over to them, but not today.) George hasn’t really grown on me over time.

Which leads to yesterday. George was lethargic and sick because I kept putting off cleaning his tank. I would look at it, and think, “I’ll do that tomorrow.” But I never did. George’s needs never rose to the top of my list, which is how I found myself tapping on the glass of the fish tank yesterday morning, willing the fish to swim around. That’s how I found myself cleaning the fish tank before I had breakfast or a shower.

As I watched George perk up and swim happily yesterday afternoon in his clean tank, I realized that sometimes parenting is a lot like my reluctance to clean the fish tank. We see behaviors or attitudes in our kids that we know we should correct, but it’s a lot of work and we know we’re going to meet with resistance. So we let it go. We think we’ll deal with it later.

A month or even a year down the road, we look at that child and wonder how things have gotten so far off track. Raising kids is a job that requires constant attention to detail. It requires us to do things we don’t want to do at times that are often inconvenient. It’s a job that asks us to deal with the same things over and over again until our kids “get it.”

Training our kids isn’t something that can be put off. It has to be done every day. We have to pay attention to those behavior and attitude issues when they happen or we risk having to deal with a bigger problem later. Like my fish tank, if we leave our kids to their own devices, we find that the water just gets murkier and murkier until they don’t know what’s expected of them. The behaviors and attitudes we want to avoid have become ingrained and are that much more difficult to change.

Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.” Too often, we let wrong behaviors and attitudes go in our kids because we don’t want to deal with the conflict it will bring. We think it will steal our peace. The truth is exactly the opposite, though. It’s only when we discipline our kids, when we deal with those behaviors and attitudes as they happen, that we find peace.

When we discipline our kids and show them how to follow God’s commands when it comes to their behaviors and attitudes, we are actually leading them on the path to life and peace. Don’t put off cleaning your kids’ tanks of poor attitudes and behaviors. It may seem like a tough job now, but it will lead them to the Source of life, and it will bring peace to your home.

What If?

what if

As I was out walking the other day, I started thinking about how much my girls have grown and how big they are getting. Suddenly, it struck me that in six years, my older daughter will be 18.

I’ve spent the past few days thinking a lot about those six years and what I want my daughters to know before they leave home, about what I want to teach them before I set them loose on the world. I’ve been pondering what it is they need to know to be world-changers — even if the only corner of the world they change is there own.

Those thoughts have led me to this post. Below you’ll find a list of thoughts to ponder, a list of “what ifs.” As you read them, think about what the world would be like if we raised a generation of kids with these qualities.

What if we raised kids who loved even when it was easier to hate?

What if we raised kids who chose to deal with conflict instead of letting it fester and destroy relationships?

What if we raised kids who valued God’s opinion over the opinion of their friends?

What if we raised kids who saw the problems of the world and came up with solutions?

What if we raised kids who weren’t afraid to be who God made them to be even if that’s different from the mold society has for them?

What if we raised kids who understood that relationships are more important than money or stuff?

What if we raised kids who knew that money isn’t the goal; it’s a tool?

What if we raised kids who understood that every human life has value?

What if we raised kids who asked “What can I do to help?” instead of “What’s in it for me”?

What if we raised kids who put family first?

What if we raised kids who measured success by how many lives were changed by what they accomplished?

What if we raised kids who saw the poor and hurting in the world and did something about it?

What if we raised kids who knew how to stand up for what’s right even in the face of overwhelming criticism?

What if we raised kids who simply sought God first?

What would the world look like if we raised a generation of kids who looked like this?

Why Conflict Isn’t a Bad Thing

nice kids

Welcome to the series No More “Nice” Kids. This week, we’re looking at why raising “nice” kids isn’t the same as raising kids who have Godly character. If you missed the beginning of this series, you can find it here.

Like any tween girls, my daughters find themselves in the middle of their fair share of conflict. Sometimes it’s avoidable. Sometimes it’s not.

As my girls get older, I find myself watching how they deal with conflict. I have one daughter who never backs away from a fight, and I have another one who never wants to get into a fight. No matter our kids’ personalities, though, we need to teach them to deal with conflict in relationships.

Somewhere along the line, our society has decided that nice people don’t engage in conflict. We choose to ignore things that lead to conflict, letting them fester until our anger comes out in inappropriate ways like gossip or frustration. How many times have you been angry with someone and taken that anger out on someone else?

When we stop trying to raise our kids to be “nice” and instead start raising them to be filled with Godly character, we realize that conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Believe it or not, conflict is inevitable. Unfortunately,  many of us have bought into the myth that “nice” people don’t engage in conflict. We’ve decided that Christ-followers should never get angry, never have a disagreement, and never experience conflict in their relationships. And then we teach that to our kids.

The truth is that the Bible never tells us that conflict is bad. It does tell us to do our best to live a life that’s at peace with everyone. It tells us not to sin when we are angry. It tells us to love even our enemies. But it does not tell us to never engage in conflict.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” If we are to be prepared to give others an answer about our faith, then we also need to be prepared for those people to disagree with us. Peter tells us that we need to stand up for our faith, but we need to do it with gentleness and respect for others.

And gentleness and respect are the keys to handling conflict. Our kids are going to get into conflicts with others, and instead of teaching them to simply walk away (although there are times when that’s the best option), we need to be teaching them how to appropriately deal with conflict in a relationship.

I believe there is no greater killer of childhood relationships than the inability to confront conflict head-on. Little slights and hurts become big ones because we don’t teach our kids how to deal with conflict in their relationships.

If we want to raise children who are full of Christ-like character, then we have to begin teaching them to deal with conflict the same way Jesus did.

1. Teach your kids that conflict isn’t something to fear. Jesus never stepped back from someone confronting Him. He treated everyone with gentleness and respect, but He was always prepared to deal with someone who disagreed with Him. Help your kids understand that conflict is inevitable in nearly every relationship. God didn’t make all of us the same, so our personalities will clash at times, and that’s OK. Working through a conflict can be an opportunity to strengthen a relationship rather than destroy it. In working through conflict, we often get the opportunity to learn something new about an issue or about the other person.

2. Conflict can be resolved. Most conflicts, especially in childhood relationships can be resolved by simply addressing them. When two people sit down and talk things out, it’s amazing how inconsequential the conflict sometimes becomes. We begin to understand our own failures in the matter and can more clearly see the other person’s point of view.

3. Teach your kids to keep short accounts. Don’t let conflict fester. Teach your kids to resolve conflict as quickly as they can. The longer a conflict exists, the more time we have to feed it and the harder it becomes to resolve.

4. Resolving conflict takes the right tools. We need to give our kids the tools to resolve conflict. These tools include using “I feel” statements instead of “you did” statements. They include letting everyone have a chance to state their case and learning the art of compromise. Most conflicts can be resolved if we choose to spend the time and have the right attitude to mend the relationship.

5. There are times to agree to disagree. Our kids can hold their position without losing the friendship. When kids really are at a loggerhead, it’s OK for them to simply agree to disagree. As long as they can hold their positions without holding a grudge or being disrespectful, it’s OK for them to have a different viewpoint from someone else.

6. Sometimes it is best to walk away. Though they are rarer than we like to think, there are times when it’s best to walk away. When conflict escalates to an irrational argument or physical violence, it’s time to walk away and get help from adult.

Conflict doesn’t have to be scary, and it doesn’t have to end relationships. Instead, it can be a healthy part of our kids’ relationships with others. When we stop focusing on raising our kids to be “nice” all the time and start focusing on raising them to navigate this crazy world with their eyes on God and what He wants us to do, then they can fulfill the plans that God has for them.

Letting Go of Expectations

This parenting thing is often not what I expect it to be. Every day is a new surprise. Some days it’s my children finding new ways to frustrate me. Some days it’s watching my children grow in ways I never expected. Some days it’s finding myself learning things I never thought I’d learn. It’s not always easy, but it’s always an adventure.

My children are not miniature copies of me. They both have a few of my traits, some of my personality quirks and a few of my more frustrating qualities, but they are not me. And sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that. I want them to react to things like I would react. I want them to see a situation the same way I see it. I want them to be interested in the things I’m interested in. But they don’t, and there are days when that frustrates me to no end.

God didn’t make my kids to be carbon copies of me. He made them to be unique individuals to fulfill His purposes and plans. That means that sometimes we’re going to knock heads. Sometimes we’re going to be frustrated and angry with each other. Sometimes we’re simply going to have to agree to disagree. And sometimes I’m simply going to have to let go of my expectations.

Holding our kids to high standards is a good thing. Holding them to lofty expectations to perform like us, be like us and love the same things as us is not.

We’ve all seen the parent who wants their child to succeed at the parent’s favorite sport or activity so badly that the activity turns into a miserable experience for the child. That’s what happens when we expect our kids to fulfill our dreams for them.

Our kids are individuals with their own talents, passions and plans. They are people who need to follow God’s plans for their lives, not ours. We may be disappointed by their choices. They may not fulfill our lofty ambitions for them, but as long as they are walking the path that God has for them, they are doing the right thing.

Our job as parents is not to have expectations for our kids that they can’t fulfill. Our job is to let go of our own expectations and encourage our kids to walk with God, letting Him direct their steps. We want our kids to live out the words of 1 Kings 8:58, “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors.” And we want them to do that as they follow their own passions and their own path.

Let go of your own expectations for your kids. Let them walk their own path. Be there to offer guidance and wisdom, but help your kids seek to live up to God’s expectations, not yours.

It’s Not About Rules

Courtesy Stuart Miles

This weekend my cousin’s wife and I were talking about our kids. We both have a child who requires explicit instructions on what to do with no room for loopholes. We talked about how hard we had to think when telling those kids to do something or not do something so that we leave no room for doubt about what we mean.

My girls are polar opposites when it comes to following the rules. One of them would never intentionally break the rules. The other one likes to push the envelope to see how much of the rule she can break before she gets in trouble, then she’ll try to talk her way out of whatever discipline she receives by pointing out the loophole in the rule. She often obeys the letter of the rule and not the spirit.

And that’s the problem with rules: Too often they’re open to interpretation. We can set all the rules we want, but if our kids don’t understand the spirit and intent behind the rule, it’s just a restriction.

God started out with some rules: Don’t eat fruit from that tree. It didn’t take long for Adam and Eve to look for the loopholes in that command and blow it big time. The Israelites had 10 basic rules to follow, and they couldn’t manage that either.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that we have to set boundaries for our kids. As parents, we need to expect our kids to live up to certain standards. We need rules.

But following the rules should simply be an extension of what’s going on in our kids hearts. We can make all the rules we want to, but if our children don’t have a reason to follow them, then they’re just a restriction to push against.

We want our kids to follow the rules because they are following Jesus. God gave out rules to keep His people safe and to set them apart for Him. When we follow Jesus, our actions that honor God are an extension of the love we feel for Him.

If our kids are having trouble following rules, then they most likely have a heart problem, not a rule problem. Focus on the attitude and the heart behind their rule-breaking.

  • Let your discipline be focused on creating a heart change, not just a child who follows the rule. For example, if a child breaks your “Respect others” rule, then make the discipline be about serving someone else.
  • Pray for and with your kids about the areas in which they struggle. Ask your kids to point out areas where they think they struggle most, then pray with them.
  • Create rules that focus on the heart. For example, instead of making a rule that says “Don’t hit your sister,” make the rule say, “Respect others.” This gives your kids an understanding of the type of heart God wants them to have, not just on the letter of the law.

Following Jesus isn’t about following rules. It’s about letting our love for Him overflow so that our actions reflect Him. We want to raise kids who live lives of character because they know Jesus, not kids who follow the letter but not the spirit of the law.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.


First Friday: A Tangle of Pink and Blue

The cool air carried a tangle of pink and blue balloons above me.  The scent of flowers filled the air.  And the squeals of my one-year-old broke my momentary oblivion to what was happening around me.

A few hours before, with rain beating against our windows, we had written words of love on those same pink and blue balloons. A simple tribute for a little life lost to miscarriage last September. A tribute fitting for the significance of the day, the day the same little life would have come into the world.

With each stroke of the pen, love was spoken.

I watched as my eldest painstakingly wrote her message to our baby, wanting to make sure the words were clearly visible to its recipient.  I watched as my son plastered his treasured Thomas stickers all over his greeting.  And I even watched as my youngest paid little attention to any of it.

Little attention, that is, until tears began to fall down her daddy’s face.

At that moment, my sweet Sophie pushed her way through my own embrace, held tightly to my husband’s leg and looked up expectantly.  As quickly as he lifted her, she took his face into her soft little hands and said clearly, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”  To which she followed with a loving pat and snuggle at the nape of his neck.

In each and every little way, love was spoken.

A love that was carried with me as we later walked down the winding path to the lake.  A love that forced me to giggle a bit as Sophie ran furiously in front of me.  A love that knew that what was about to happen would be less than Hallmark perfect.

Instead of a serene release of pink and blue, we kind of hiccupped our way through letting go.

We hiccupped as we discovered the baby running into a mud puddle mid-launch.  We hiccupped as we heard the eldest loudly chastising all of us for not following the rules.  And we hiccupped as we saw a little blonde boy refusing to let go of his balloons altogether.

It was hopelessly hiccupped and hilariously imperfect.

But somewhere in its imperfection, somewhere between the letting go and the holding on, amidst the sadness and the joy, I found myself coming to terms with a poignant truth:

Love carries and cradles and protects.  But love does something else too.  Love lets go.

Especially mommy and daddy love.

I secretly wish it didn’t have to.  Like my children, I have done my fair share of finding distractions, micromanaging my circumstances and refusing to let go altogether. Because let’s face it, letting go hurts like the dickens.

But even as it hurts, letting go as a parent also demonstrates profound trust.

A trust that communicates that Jesus holds us perfectly.   A trust that says God’s sufficiency is bigger than our fear.  And a trust that points directly to the hope of eternity.

Time and time again, God’s word speaks to that truth.

You see, love put Moses in a basket upon dangerous waters.  Love gave a longed-for Samuel back to God.  And precious, heartbreaking and surrendering love wept for Jesus at the foot of the cross.

And there were many tears.  And cries of anguish.  And unimaginable pain.

And it didn’t matter whether the baby was an infant or a toddler or a grown man, it hurt all the same.  But beyond the tears, beyond the pain came an unfailing trust that God’s love was greater than earthly love.  In every weave, in every prayer, in every tear, each of them echoed Hannah’s promise, “For his whole life, this child will be given over to the Lord.”

Love trusted Him enough to let go.

Not once.  Not twice.  But for life.

Every day, love let go.

I want to be that kind of mom.  I want my faith to be bigger than my fear.  And I want to trust Him enough to let go every day.

Be it through the toddler days, the teen days or the grown-up days.

Promising that for their whole lives, Grace, Drew and Sophie will be given over to the One who loves them most.

But in that promise, I want to remember that this vow took root in an imperfect moment.

One that honored life, garnered hope and pointed straight to eternity.

All wrapped up in a tangle of pink and blue.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.