Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 22 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car,  a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first time I HEARD it… ”...

when kids are pushing your buttons (like, all of them)

I was about to flip out, and that’s the ugly truth of it. I was in front of a little dude who was pushing all my buttons, simultaneously, and we were dancing on the edge of a power-struggle, the kind that renders everyone a loser. For those of you who work with children and students “from hard places” (as Dr. Karyn Purvis describes), you get this scenario. Or, maybe I should just stop at “who work with children and students.” Period. Anyway, as flashes of angry words exploded in my mind, (ones I’d have momentarily enjoyed expressing, to be honest) I felt a strong sense of clarity. I’d like to think it was divine intervention. Two calming and gentle words doused my frustration: “Not today.” This child, broken up by early rejection and thus defensive beyond belief, was not going to trigger me – not today. Yes, I wanted respect and eye-contact and verbal responses and a host of other things that would satisfy me – the Self that commands rather than connects and that is authoritative rather than his advocate. But, I was making loving him about his behaviors, and it’s just not about that. It’s about relying daily on a Source for love that is beyond our feelings. It’s about getting ourselves, our tendencies, and our triggers under control so that healing, hope-filled, life-changing Love can get from the Father to His child, through us. It’s about not giving up or giving in – not today – and then claiming the same two words tomorrow and every day after. Yeah, maybe that sounds simplistic – but living...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

Moms, Do You Ever Feel Locked in Instant Replay Mode

“How many times must I tell you …” Parenting would be so much easier if only we all had recording devices we could play back at will. When a behavior arises, simply fast forward to the appropriate statement, point the device at the infracting child, and hit play. Then walk away, problem solved. Imagine how peaceful our summers could be! Although I doubt that’d be effective. Shoes would still clutter the hallway and bedrooms would still look like someone swept through with a leaf blower. Because words by themselves are just that–words, and no child goes from toddler to adult overnight. In parenting, the key is to focus on progress not perfection, blanketed with equal amounts of patience, training, consistency, and accountability. Develop patience Children don’t learn overnight, and often, every step forward is accompanied with half a step, and sometimes an entire leap, backwards. But then again, isn’t that how it is with each of us? Habits, wisdom, and integrity take time to develop.  Our child may need to hear, “Put your plate away” twenty times before they begin to think of it on their own, then learn to follow through. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being defiant. It simply means they need to be reminded. A lot. Until that behavior becomes habit (then you can begin to tackle a new one). Train Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). In other words, don’t pester, nag, scream at, and belittle. Instead, train. 😉 When our daughter was young, I walked into her room...

{remembering mothers everywhere}

I struggle with Mother’s Day. I just do. I’ve been accused of being a “bleeding heart,” but every year at this time, I find myself reflecting on Mother’s Day and what it means to those who, in a very imperfect and fallen world, try to navigate the day, when this day, any day, can be so difficult. In a perfect world Mother’s Day would look like one of those sentimental greeting cards and life would be uninterrupted and simple. But life as we know it, is not always that way. If your Mother’s Day is uncomplicated and beautiful, I urge you to pause today, and amidst giving thanks, PRAY for those mothers, near and far, whose perspective looks very different today. Imagine if we women, mothers, grandmothers, friends, neighbors, spiritual moms, thought of ALL THE mothers and children today who have hurting hearts and actually PRAYED for them. FOR MOTHERS EVERYWHERE… There are mothers who have children who are missing…We MUST pray for them. There are mothers who fear for their children as they struggle to raise them in urban America…We MUST pray for them. There are mothers whose children have committed their lives to public service in tense social times…We MUST pray for them. There are mothers whose children are incarcerated…We MUST pray for them. There are mothers who are incarcerated…We MUST pray for them. There are mothers who patiently wait for the return of their children from foreign lands as they protect our freedoms…We MUST pray for them. There are mothers who see their children return from war very different people, who often can not find a...

For the one who needs strength for the everyday

The other morning as I was running, I listened to a broadcast by apologist Ravi Zacharias, in which he quotes G.K. Chesterton: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again;’ and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Isn’t it a wonder to imagine a God who whispers to the sun morning after morning, “Do it again?” And to my pots and pans at the start of yet another meal, “Do it again.” And to my stack of papers to be graded, “Do it again.” And to my child’s homework needing assistance, “Do it again.” It’s a wonder that God’s character and purpose are not reduced or simplified by the eroding nature of everyday living. In fact, He exults in it and, I believe, even more wondrous is that He invites us to do so as well. But Chesterton’s words unsettle me, as they ring true in my heart: “…grown-up...

Prayer for the weary parent

Lord, I am so tired. Yes, of course I love my children. I adore them. I’m grateful for them, for their own unique quirks and personalities, for the ways they make me laugh, for the joys they’ve brought into my life. I sometimes look at them in wonder—usually as they sleep—amazed by Your creation. Awed by their perfection. Humbled by the powerful emotions they bring out in me. Honored to be given the chance to be part of their life, to be in a position to influence and teach and guide. But at the same time, I’m weary. It’s hard to be a parent, to make decisions that aren’t easy and won’t make me popular. It’s difficult to enforce the rules, day after day, to monitor behavior and ask them to pick things up and remind them to do homework and to not take it personally every time they resist. To not be hurt by disrespect and disagreement and rebellion, whether large or small. It’s exhausting, constantly fighting to get my kids to see reason. It’s challenging to know that I can’t make all their choices for them. I can’t protect them from bad decisions, I can’t ensure they never face harsh consequences, and I can’t do everything for them. And really, I don’t want to. I offered them to You when they were born, and I trust You to lead them and take care of them. I want them to learn from their experiences and I believe they are strong enough, smart enough, and capable enough to succeed (in all the different kinds of ways we measure success). I don’t want to overstep my...

a letter to Miracle Mom

Dear mom of the boy with the loaves and fishes, This probably seems the oddest of letters, but I must write to you. I read about you today. Well, I read about your basket and your son. And, while everyone was marveling over the numbers and the leftovers, my heart reached across the centuries to find you. You, the unsung hero. You, the essence of hope in the midst of routine and dishes and to-do lists. After all, that boy with the loaves and fishes needed someone to pack his lunch, and that fact was not lost on this mama. I guess you probably don’t understand what I mean. After all, it was just a simple lunch, an ordinary day, and such average surroundings, right? Your schedule was probably so filled with countless other chores and responsibilities that you hardly imagined yourself part of a sacred, eternal plan. Not to mention, the baby was likely teething, balanced on your hip, and your nerves were probably jumping from sleepless nights and caffeine jolts. You likely kissed your son goodbye that morning, secretly relieved there would be one less person to serve for a few hours. I get it. I guess that’s why I needed to write you – to thank you for the sense of purpose you brought me today. Because, well, honestly I picture my own kitchen, my own children, and somehow the miraculous remains so far off – in another world completely. It hardly seems a fitting ending to regular food-prep chore. But here, there’s proof of something more lingering in the routine – for the natural collided...

Teaching Our Kids to Listen for God’s Voice

If there’s any area we moms are heavily invested in, it’s our kids. And as each year passes, our hold on these precious lives begins to loosen, no matter how hard we try to cling to them. So we  drop to our knees and pray that God will become their everything and ever-present guide. When our daughter was young, each night before she went to sleep, I’d climb into her bed, her nestled in the crook of my arm, and I’d read from the Bible spread before us. The words of Scripture often piqued her curiosity, and she’d pepper me with questions: “Why did God choose David to be king?’ “Why did Saul want to hurt him?” “Did Esther like living in the fancy palace? Did she miss her friends?” Every time, my heart would soar as answers surged to my tongue. Because I wanted her to know everything possible about our faith. But then one night, when I opened my mouth to answer,  I sensed God saying, “Teach her to come to Me for answers.” So I responded with questions of my own, inviting her to explore God’s Word, not only with me, but on her own. I encouraged her to ask Him to show her what His Words meant and to grab hold of them as if they were her own. Years followed — almost a decade — and the other night, she came home to tell me of something she’d experienced while at college. She was walking through Lincoln’s Haymarket on a particularly cold day. As she walked, her gaze fell to the homeless men and women sitting on...