Monday, March 23, 2015


I found this in my computer files today— forgotten and never posted.  It’s 6 months old and still on the front row of my heart- one of the things anyway…Some things are already different and I’ll do a “P.S.” at the end.

I walked through Julia’s room the other day looking for something and I stepped over this.

I then turned around and stared, imagining the scenario as it took place.  These beloved American Girl dolls which filled her Christmas lists for several years running— the clothes, the accessories, the books {I bet she read them all a dozen times}— these 18” dolls, make rare appearances these days.  And I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in her maturing mind and heart when they do.  And then there’s “Miss Hepburn” who she has consistently identified since she was two.  I would have had nothing to do with that.  {“Mr. Grant” nor “Mr. Stewart” were as impressionable.}  She evidently tucked her doll in and decided to get a bit of fashion inspiration.  “Stuck” was all that would come to mind.  She’s stuck in between.  In between elementary and high school.  In between little girl and teenager.  In between not having a phone and having a phone.  In between flats and heels.  In between no make-up and the whole shebang.  In between family devotions and her own personal one.

In between American Girl dolls and Audrey Hepburn.

Stuck.  What a tricky place to be.  I remember it well with hardly a fond memory.  Maybe my best moments were the day I got my braces on— and the day I got them off.

I’ve noticed as our kids grow older, some lines grow fuzzier.  Parenting do’s and don’ts aren’t  as hard and fast as they were when they were 5.  Some boundaries seem much more subjective now.  Things are happening, privileges are given at very different ages in her peer groups— and even in this, she is stuck in between her friends.  Just yesterday, she asked her daddy for an iPhone and went on to strengthen her case by enumerating all the kids in her class who had one.  This morning I asked her if all those kids’ parents made them go to bed at 6 and wake up at 4 to do chores, would she want us to make that decision?  And if they had NO screens whatsoever in their homes, would she want us to do that too?  I asked her why did she think that what other parents were allowing their kids to do- or not do- would influence Jeff and me? Oh, of course it does, but I wanted her to think about that.  I do feel this is the age where new freedoms are given and some things long considered “grown-up” to her are being talked through by her daddy and me as to WHEN she can enjoy things like make-up, heels, phones— those being the relatively easy things.  Those are certainly not deal-breakers.   And some of you think I am crazy— that she’s twelve and these are privileges still being withheld.   But I’m okay with that- with your thinking I’m crazy.  Just don't tell me.

So right now she is in a holding pattern— of Burt’s Bees lip balm, the “heels” on her cowboy boots and a hardly working iPhone 3 with no service.   She’s “holding” patiently, I think.  I am proud of her because I remember how hard it is.

 And that’s what I want her to know.  

Post Script:  So time flies, right?  It’s why I write things down.  I remember this day— this struggle of “Am I being too hard?”  “Am I really the ONLY parent who doesn’t allow _________________?”   “Will she ever understand why?”  Just a few months after I wrote this, she turned 13.  We purchased mascara and a darker shade of Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer.  She also was given an Instagram account on our “family iPhone”.  She was not, however, given heels that day.  I knew it wasn’t a hill on which I was going to die but I just didn’t want to go looking with her fearing the conflict that might jump out of nowhere and stink up whatever store we were in.  {Also, I am not a heel person so I haven’t been able to relate to her passionate desire for them!} But just last week, I saw a pair of wedges at TJ Maxx— snapped a photo and sent it to her, on the "family iPhone"— and to a trusty friend.  Thumbs up from both parties— with the great advice from that friend, “Now, Krista,  if you buy them, you’ve got to let her wear them when she wants to.”  You know, when I got home with them and she tried them on, it looked right.  She’s old enough for 2 + inch wedges.  She didn’t look like she was playing dress up.  It looked like a natural part of her outfit.

All that to say, timing is an important thing.  Different kids are ready for things at different times.  And the waiting isn’t going to kill them.  {Or me.}  If anything, it could make them appreciate the privilege more.  So now, I still feel like she is in a holding pattern, stuck, I guess— just looks a little different today—between independence and dependence, wondering how much autonomy is good and how much is unhealthy, what sort of help she needs from us and what things she needs to figure out on her own.  I also see this 21 months between my two favorite kids can feel like 5 years— her feeling MUCH older and him sensing it-- loud and clear— when it’s really just 21 months.  Stuck— in adolescence, between a kid and a young adult, between fighting with your sibling and being the fiercest friends, between thinking parents are too hard and thinking they are too wonderful for words....

Ha.  Is that a little over the top?  Maybe.  Just a little.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Today, I'm the Mom........

Today, I’m the mom who didn’t take her child’s forgotten lunch back to the school so he would have something to eat for lunch.  I’m banking on the fact that maybe, just maybe, it will keep him from flunking out of college because if you don’t remember to take your stuff to class, you can’t squeeze by, can you?

Today, I’m the mom who stayed at school and prayed with a friend— and I didn’t want to at all.  I wanted to come home to my quiet house, fix a cup of coffee and sit.  By myself.  But I was blessed beyond measure by my friend’s faithfulness to pray for me, for my children and for our school.

Today, I’m the mom who didn’t take her child’s - also forgotten- piano books to school so he’d have them at his lesson that he is taken to right after school.  I am telling myself that one day it will save this child’s hiney from getting fired from the job.  I mean, you can’t keep a job if you can’t remember to take whatever it is you take to a job nowadays— or in a few years, can you?

Today, I’m the mom who is very concerned about what the sitter will think of her when the forgetful child asks her if she will drive him all the way home to pick up his piano books while his sister has her lesson— and I am right here perfectly capable of bringing them to him.   And if she doesn’t agree to this, I am concerned what the piano teacher will think of me when she finds out that he forgot his books…. again…. and that I didn’t bring them to him.

Today, I’m the mom who ate date night leftovers for lunch while taking over 700 pictures off her phone wondering if she will ever get them deleted, grouped, edited and titled.  All I need is about 24 uninterrupted hours in my office.  Piece of cake.  Cake would be really good right now.

Today, I’m the mom who is struggling to figure out if I am at all doing this parenting thing right.  And if having him go without lunch or showing up again to piano with no books is really going to make a difference in the long run.  How many times does it take?  How much stomach growling has to occur?  How many disappointed looks/talks from Dr. Fritz does it take to remember his piano books?  Do I take his 11 year old hand and walk him over to the “Sunday Night List” and make him stand in front of it and read it aloud to me? Sometimes parenting feels like a guessing game- or a game of concentration and all of the cards are different.

Today, I’m the mom who is in the 4th week of Lent and only on the 2nd week of devotionals.  I’m not focused nor anticipating, well, the most significant event in all of history.  That makes me sad, but now is a new moment.  And I can't believe He did what He did for me.

Today, I’m the mom whose stomach is already churning thinking about teaching Bible study at church Wednesday and Thursday and wonders why she ever agrees to doing it.  And then I think how much His Word has meant to me all these years and how it’s been a lifeline in Lonely and Hard to Understand times and then I think, ‘Oh yeah, I remember.  I want them to know that.’ And I think how much richer my thoughts are from being in His Word a few extra hours preparing.  The stomach whirling is worth it.  Most definitely.

Today, I’m the mom who has to figure out dinner soon, who loved going to see Cinderella over the weekend, who has laundry behind her to fold, a 3rd cup of coffee beside her- not finished, mind you, a mattress full of Golden Retriever hair on her floors {at least a very large pillow}, thank you notes to write, a lovely 13 year old to take to ballet, a fun-loving 11 year old boy to kill some time with, a forgotten check to put in the mail to a dear friend {I’m SO sorry!!}, kids’ consignment clothes to sort, summer camps to register for and a stack full of books she wants to read— yesterday.

Today, I'm the mom who felt something crawling on her arm inside her jacket and screamed like a crazy person as she jumped out of the car to get IT OUT of her jacket.  It was the ugliest, nastiest monstrosity of a flying bug I've ever seen in Texas.  I jumped and danced and flicked my coat until there is NO bug or dust or dog hair on it whatsoever.  The piano teacher's neighbors got a good freak show.

Today, I am the mom with a God who is constant and good and mighty and loving.  I have a  marked up Bible with crinkled pages, two kids who are morphing into little adults as I watch them tell me about their day, who keep me in that marked up Bible and a husband I really love who takes great care of me and the kids.

Today, I am the mom who is thankful.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dream a Little Dream: A Timeline for Middle Schoolers

Well, we had our snow.  And ice.  For Texans- or transplanted Georgians, it’s the perfect amount of time.  Just a few days of inconvenience, a white knuckle grip drive home, kids home on strange days, kayaks, laundry baskets and trash lids are repurposed {for those of us who never got that sled ordered}, a major dent in the firewood pile, free flowing hot cocoa and coffee, messy boots and winter accessories piled by the door.....  But today, life is back to normal.  Streets are wet and there are patches of snow around, but lunches were made, backpacks were loaded and kids were dropped off at school— and today is picture day.

Taking pictures while driving-- precisely why Southerners should not get snow and ice
Brighton didn’t know it until he hopped out of the car at school.  Julia did.  Of course.  Since uniforms are required— I know, boring, but I get it— she chose the largest earrings she owns.  And I wasn’t sure what to do.  So like any good mother, I said this, “Those are the earrings you want to wear in your picture?”  I know. SO original.  So well thought out.  {No wonder teenagers think we are stupid.} I didn’t stop there.  I went on to say, “I think when you see your picture, all you will see is your earrings.”  After about 10 minutes when my words hadn’t fazed her, I couldn’t stop myself.  “Hey, why don’t you stick another pair of earrings in your backpack just in case you change your mind.”  Brilliant, I know.  My mouth kept moving and I couldn’t stop it.  Her earrings weren’t changed and a last-minute-change-of-heart pair weren’t packed either.  My mothering this morning was very effective. {I promise we are getting to the timeline....}

So you might be thinking, if I didn’t like the earrings, WHY does she have them?  Why did I let her buy them?  Well, I didn’t.  They were a gift to her from someone else.  From someone who doesn’t make an issue over the size of earrings a 13 year old can wear.  And that’s okay because I needed to let that go anyway.  So thanks to whatever mom paid for the earrings the size of tea cup saucers for my brand spanking new teenager.  I needed your little push.  Shove, actually.  All of this is happening so fast.  And I’ve got to have my game on and keep the deal breakers and deal breakers.  Today, the size of her earrings had nothing to do with the condition of her heart.

I have a new friend, Becky, that I have already gained so much encouragement from in this parenting process.  She shared something with me a few weeks ago that I latched onto with much enthusiasm and planned to do it with Julia as soon as I had the chance.  She got the idea from Mary Flo Ridley who is known for her instruction to parents on how to make “the talk” a normal part of the parenting journey— starting young and building on information conversation after conversation and not just dumping it all on them at age 11 or something.  Here— this is better:

“Mary Flo can help you approach the difficult topics of birth, conception, and reproduction with your young children in a way that develops a healthy sexual attitude later in life. Her approach sets you, the parent, up as the loving, knowledgeable authority in your child’s life by giving you the tools to talk to your children about sex medically and relationally.”  {from her webpage}

So the idea Becky shared with me.  A timeline.  If any of you have middle schoolers, you’ll know that thinking ahead is not their strong suit.  Naturally, they don’t think, “If I study each subject for a short time every day, I won’t have to cram the night before a test.”  nor, “I should not eat that big bowl of cereal right now {5:30} because then I won’t be hungry for dinner.”  {For those of you who DO have these children, I don’t want to know who you are.}  Life gets way more complicated than tests and appetite and that’s where we need to assist them in this thinking ahead— ahead to life choices and goals and what it takes to get there.  A simple timeline can do the trick- numbered/notched by 5’s or 10’s from 1 to 90 or whatever you choose. First, you plot some significant firsts they have experienced thus far— maybe when they first walked, first bike, baby dedication or baptism, first day of school etc.  Julia’s first response after we marked down a few things was perfect— “Mom!  My life has been really short when I look at it like this.”  This is exactly what you want them to see.  Then you ask them to think about the future— what they hope for, what they are expecting- basic things like driver’s license, graduating high school, college degree, travel, marriage, children etc.  Then invite them to dream a little bit.  Depending on if this is your child’s bent or not, you may have to help them out here.  I’m so ridiculously practical, I didn’t dream much as a kid.  So be ready to help them think of possibilities that COULD be.  Ask them how long they think it would take them to accomplish these goals.  Have them pencil in the when and the what for which they are hoping.  We also made a short list on the corner of her timeline of other dreams that she wasn’t sure about the timing- like overseas missions or other ministry/discipleship opportunities.

It’s important to point out how their teenage years only take up a tiny span of life on their timeline.  That was surprising to Julia too.  Nothing like a picture.  Emphasize here that so many decisions made in this tiny span can affect the rest of their lives.  As parents, we know there are many things that could get in the way of these aspirations our kids have and now is the time to have them think through what could keep them from realizing their dreams.  I called them “dream killers”.   Julia’s first response was “choices I make” and I had to prompt her a few times to get specific, more specific and more specific.  And we listed them on the paper.  Mary Flo’s top four were alcohol, drugs, premarital sex and pornography.  {We actually didn’t cover pornography this time but I will another year and focus on emotional pornography women find in novels or relationships.}  To the dream killer list, Julia added “people I choose to hang out with” and “not working hard”.  It should be interesting to you to hear what your teenager comes up with— what she sees as being obstacles to her goals.

I will keep this timeline someplace safe and I plan to bring it out each year.  I am making notes now on what I want to cover next year— if I don’t see the need before then.  I think it will be effective to revisit it and have her see where she is and remind her of how she dreamed.

Do you see the value in this?!  They NEED to see the brevity of these years.  They NEED to think through "what I do now affects maybe all of the dreams I have for my life".  As I have written before, it must be about their hearts.  It’s not rule keeping and if I can just stay away from these destructive behaviors, I will experience the “abundant life” God has for me.  Becky has a great handle on communicating that it’s all about the spirit of the law and not the letter of it.  It must come from a place of submission to God’s authority in our lives and learning to REST in that security He provides.  Following Christ is not about rule keeping.  Steering clear of these behaviors is not to spoil our “fun” but to save us from a boatload of heartache and pain.  It’s about our kids learning to run in the path of His commands because He has set their hearts free. {Psalm 119:32 “old” NIV}   Free to experience the joy of walking in relationship with Him.  Free to experience what it’s like to be loved, fully and unconditionally.  Free to experience all He has dreamed up for them.

Snow 2015

Two cold waves blew through last week-- Monday and then again on Friday.  Friday’s appearance was much prettier--once everyone was home to enjoy it.  It came faster and was more dangerous to drive on that was anticipated so what seemed like a normal Friday morning turned into “get home as soon as you can”!

Clean snow for snow cream

This was a different day it came through and didn’t stick--as badly as they wanted it to.

Fun times with Emily and Uno

Friday!!  It came fast and furious and it stuck!!!

 Missed the kiss

Got the kiss. ; )

Getting a little cabin fever energy out

Our Wisconsin cheese head LOVES the snow.

This was taken at 10:30 Saturday night with no flash.  I call it “snow glow”.  The whole neighborhood was lit up like this.  It was beautiful.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What’s Your New Name? {Discipleship, Part 1}

I’m stuck this morning in my thoughts between my response to the beginning of Lent, all the awkward conversations going on in my house these days and how badly my floor needs sweeping right now.  Here I sit, needing to warm my coffee again, thinking I can’t go into the blushing dialogues bouncing off my walls and cleaning floors is beyond boring.  And, really, who wants to read about Lent?  I mean, I am one of the strange ones—and I’ll most likely have some things to say as I go through the season, but it’s day one {day two now that I am just posting} and all I’ll do is encourage you to ask Him if He’s calling you to participate.  Just a quiet invitation.

Traditionally, Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him.  {I think this is from Noel Piper.}

So there you go.  Consider yourself invited.

My kids love pictures.  They remember things— or think they remember things— because they’ve seen the pictures so many times.  Times with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends, recitals, vacations, “firsts”, camps, holidays and silliness around the house.  I know some of these snapshots will define their childhood one day- that only a few of these screens and screens of photos will stick with them and this is how they will remember growing up. Just certain snapshots.  It might be a good picture and it might not.

This is the “straighten up or I’ll point my finger at you again” finger.  Works every time. {I got that tactic from Sarah.}
Of course, we want any snapshot someone sees of our life to be a “good one”, yes?  And I think about raising my kids, watching them make choices, knowing that some snapshots are going to be…….less than I have prayed for.  I have a few of those from my own adolescent years.  Times I wish could be erased from friend’s memories or parent’s memories.  For my own kids’ sakes, I have to remember, I was “on my way” to becoming an adult.  I was “on my way” to learning to make good choices.  I was “on my way” to figuring out what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.  In SO many ways, I still am.  However, my kids are just beginning and I continue to pray for others to come along side me and disciple them in ways that will change the course of their lives.  Discipleship can make such a difference.  Allowing yourself to be challenged in and held accountable to the teachings of Jesus is life altering.

So thankful for Alyssa, Emily and Remey {below} who regularly invest love, time and sweet words into BOTH of our kids.

“Miss” Barbara from the Montessori preschool my kids attended-- an amazing lady who taught my kids volumes
I’ve always enjoyed reading about the disciple, Peter.  He was a man’s man, not afraid to speak his mind, fiercely defensive and as impulsive as they come.  The beautiful thing is that we get snapshots from Scripture of Peter “on the way” to becoming a devoted disciple of Christ. And from a few snapshots from the gospel of Mark, I see three main areas that are paramount in the discipling process— for anyone-especially me, but for now, my kids.  I’ll share just one this time.

Being discipled in the ways of Jesus can define define our kids’ purpose.

The first snapshot of Peter we see in Mark 8 is when we hear his confession of who he believes Jesus to be.  Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter simply states, “You are the Christ,” and in Matthew 16 he adds, “Son of the Living God”.  This is a big deal and a great moment for Peter.  You could say these words became a turning point in the history of salvation because Peter has declared that Jesus was NOT a forerunner of something else— but THE FULFILLMENT of all of God’s promises given throughout Israel’s roller coaster history.  He wasn’t a prophet— HE WAS THE PROPHESIED ONE.  Christ, Messiah.  He was finally here!

I think it’s worth getting a little more information here—and we get a little more detail from Matthew’s account and how Jesus affirms His unpredictable disciple, so right after his confession, Jesus says,“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

First thing I love here is that He acknowledges who Peter USED to be— BEFORE he became a disciple of Christ.  Don’t miss that Jesus called him to be one of His own before Peter was even “on the way”.  And then in verse 18, - second thing I love- Jesus confirms who He sees Peter becoming— a rock {petros}— and, at this point, Peter was anything but a rock.  Peter was impulsive and unstable.  Simon, son of Jonah to Peter- a rock.  Jesus had a purpose for calling Peter to be one of the 12 and He uses this opportunity to remind him.  He saw Peter becoming a strong, persevering leader.  Just by calling Peter by his new name, reminding him in this moment, He is defining Peter’s purpose of playing a significant role in the founding of the early church— the vehicle through which the gospel was spread all over the world.

I think, as parents, we can all see the value of kids knowing their purpose— even if it’s just for temporal tasks.  They are more focused.  They show more devotion to the task.  They are more satisfied when it’s completed.  As discipling parents, we get to be catalysts in helping them discover the eternal purposes God has for them- in every season, preparing them for their eventual life calling.  Following Jesus defines our purpose.  He defines our kids’ purpose.  We don’t.  He chooses what new name to call them.  We don’t.

This woman, Christy, who prays regularly for my two.
This one- Denise-- discipled and is still discipling me and now loves my daughter in eternal ways.

How did following Jesus change Peter?  How did Jesus define Peter’s purpose?  In Acts 2, after Jesus ascends to heaven, Peter is the first one recorded to speak to the followers of Christ who were all gathered together. Then in Acts 10, he proclaims the gospel of Jesus so clearly and so passionately, it makes you want to jump up and down because HE GOT IT!!  For us to read in the gospels where he was and then read how Jesus changed him, we get to see Peter leading the early church,  fulfilling his purpose — as defined by Jesus.

From Simon, son of Jonah to Peter— a rock.  The confession on which Christ would build his church.

Many of you know, for several years, my name was Barren and now it’s Momma.  One of his purposes for me was to raise two kids from two other girls’ wombs.  But we had to choose His way and not ours.  He defined my purpose.  Not me.

I also have an old name of Rule Keeper that I have to keep erasing off the top of my paper.  My new name is Grace Receiver.  Early on in marriage, He defined my purpose to live out grace giving and receiving in the context of family relationships and community.

So what about you? Or your kids? What did He used to call you and what do you hear Him calling you now?  Your kids?  Has he revealed that to you?  If you are a disciple of Christ, what new name is God calling you that helps define your purpose?  What does He call you now that He sees you becoming?  Do you sense what new name He may be speaking over your kids?

As we understand MORE of who Christ is, the MORE we understand what He requires of us.  As we follow Him, He defines our purpose.  Whether He gives us big picture or just marching orders for the day, He defines our purpose for living.

Let Him define your purpose-- and your kids’ purpose.  Listen for your new name.  And theirs.

And grandparents can never know the security that comes to children through being loved no matter what.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Middle School: Coaching and Bananas

Maybe I’ve said this before— as your kids get older, it’s harder to write about parenting.  Not because there is nothing to say, but because, now, a larger filter is in place being that the kids are older.  Parenting is SO much of what fills my time, mind and heart, but there are stories that just can’t be told. Conversations that can’t be shared.  Enlightening moments for a momma that won’t be divulged….. for years maybe.  Not here anyway.  And this is why my writing has slowed.  The words I would have normally written a few years ago are the words spoken to Jeff in the quiet house once the kids are tucked away in their rooms.  In the den over coffee.  Between our pillows as we fall asleep.  On the phone when I get a moment in the car by myself.  As a parent, you know, there is much to discuss.  And much to be bewildered by.

And with an 11 and 13 year old, our roles have been shifting for the last two to three years.  Less control, more freedom, more choices, more scratching our heads wondering, “why that choice exactly?” or “what were you thinking?” or “do they think we aren’t on to that??”  I still have much of the same role I’ve had for years but spending more time “coaching” seems to be where I find myself.  I cannot anticipate every little scenario they will experience or think through all the things they will need to know regarding— well, fill in the blank!  Texting curfews, participating in “selfie competitions”, clearly defining “short”, hacking texted conversations on the shared family phone, wearing t-shirts longer than shorts, watching a YouTube video at a friend’s house ABOUT a game they aren’t supposed to play on the X-Box etc.  I told someone the other day, you can hold back only so much for only so long but at some point, it feels like a tidal wave and you’ve got no choice but to face it and swim.  Whatever it is you’ve been holding back, it’s coming and you’ve really got to prepare yourself.  I’ve written much on this— even not too long ago— so let me get back to this new role thing.  Coaching.

That first day of school when she wanted her hair straightened, when he desperately needed a hair cut and his shorts needed ironing....  I got the hair straightened.  

When they don’t run the plays like I have called them over the years, I want to revert back to control- due to fear, wondering if they will ever “get it”.  What will this same mistake look like in five years?  I think, all the time, “Haven’t we had extensive conversations regarding this very thing?  Didn’t we just talk about this yesterday— or this morning?”  As frustrating as that IS, I want them to have many chances to run those same plays while under our roof.  And I want to see them get it right.  Not for me, but for themselves.  For them to see the difference in a poor choice and a wise one.  For them to experience what it feels like each time they get it wrong or get it right.  For themselves.  So they will know it personally— what bears good fruit and what is just rotten.

It’s funny— we have been studying King Solomon for a few weeks during breakfast.  We know there are some really great things about him and how later in his life, he kind of lost his head.  That’s putting it mildly.  We are just at the good part now but Scripture just nails you —-nails your kids.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable I was the other morning, reading through the material and asking the questions minutes after a confrontation regarding one of my kid’s integrity.  I almost felt sorry for this child because the questions were so pointed.  “What is King Solomon’s advice on being kind and truthful? What is King Solomon’s wisdom about accepting discipline when you need it?  What is King Solomon’s wisdom about listening to parents?”  Ouch and ouch.  Each question asked after the applicable Scripture was read.  I couldn’t have tailored made it any more fitting for the crime at hand that morning.  I was sure to turn the book so the kids could see I wasn't making it up.  But even in their squirming, they talked.  For this I am grateful.

Can I tell you how much I love these NAKED faces from two years ago?!?

That time you took a really cute picture with your best friend and had your eyes closed-- 

Even though all the words and all the reminders can wear me out, I really just want to keep the conversations going.  Because of that, I feel a big part of my job is not to shut them down.  Therefore, I must choose my words carefully as things spill out of their growing-ever-more-clever mouths.  Do you know how fast I am capable of flipping their switch to OFF?  When I see the look of irritation or disrespect on their face before “Umm, Mom” is uttered— and my coolness is emitted.  Or at the latest, in mid-sentence.  Because I head in to correct the first wrong thinking I hear.  Talk about needing a muzzle.  I have a friend whose kids are long gone from the home now but she told me about all the bananas she’d eat while in the kitchen listening to her teenage girls go on about their days.  She’d stick a banana in her mouth {quickest thing to grab} to keep her mouth shut and just listen to them.  She’d go about her business, thinking through all she’d heard and when the time was right, she’d bring up the things that concerned her.  Giving them the safe place to talk—openly, freely— and keeping her words at bay until a better moment— was the wise thing to do.

That time you painted your face for the homecoming game and maybe didn’t even watch the game.....
Middle school is prime-time parenting.  There is no coasting here.  Deciding on the deal breakers ahead of time is critical and that’s not as easy as you’d think.  Of course, things laid out in Scripture are non-negotiables but the things that aren’t specifically mentioned in Scripture that might LEAD to something questionable, something contrary to what the Bible teaches-- bam-- you’ve got me.  I’m all a muddle and I need wisdom from the Lord.  Unshackle the legalistic tendencies and pray for His clear direction.

These kids are STUCK in the middle of “young” and “grown up” and it’s not fun.  None of us thought it was fun.  And yes, so much of the foundation has been laid by now but now we get to watch them build on it—- with solid, tried and true material or with who knows what?  It might be a joy or it could be very painful or heart breaking.  In those observations, I am trying to figure out this coaching role— not stepping in where it’s not a deal breaker or when I feel there is a valuable lesson to be learned and finding those moments when hearts are soft and open for a little advice.  Even though I am not a huge banana fan, I can learn to love them if it means my kids having a safe place to express their thoughts and try out some ideas.

So if you ever wonder why I haven’t posted in a while, picture me standing in my kitchen listening to at least one middle schooler who is perched on my kitchen counter— with a banana in my mouth.  ; )

{Please feel free to share any insights into this transitional role for parents-- especially those of you who have already made the leap to teenagers.  We are listening!!}

{Also, here are more succinct and eloquent thoughts from Sandra Stanley-- Andy’s wife from Northpoint Church.  My friend, TJ, sent this to me as an encouragement as she knew I had been processing some of this.  Her blog is GREAT- easy, quick reads packed with practical wisdom.  One more resource on this subject-- Focus on the Family just aired these 2 broadcasts-- check them out.}

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Letter to a Thirteen Year Old Girl: Julia’s Birthday Letter 2015

Dearest Julia,   Happy 13th Birthday! We’ve celebrated for a solid week and now I can sit down and write you a letter.  {Mark this down— your letter will NEVER be ready BEFORE your birthday.}  You said it best yourself, “I don’t FEEL thirteen.”  I don’t FEEL like I now have a teenager in the house.  Yes, you are growing up, but I hate to tell you, I will always picture you with brunette curls framing that perfect heart- shaped face and warm brown eyes peering at EVERYTHING going on around you trying to figure it all out.  We hit the ground running with you because you were WIDE awake when you got here, girl, and that hasn’t changed.  You don’t miss much and because of that, I can’t either.

This was the year you received sweet, life-giving words from some of our favorite moms.  {Not all, but some.}  You had a lot to take in that Tuesday morning but you did it with such quietness and grace.  I didn’t get everything right that morning, but you did.  {I was the blundering Martha and you were the calm Mary.}  You listened.  You smiled and made eye contact.  And you said, “Thank you”.  And one thing I love about you— I walked in on you in your room reading the letters a day or two later.  You are like me in that way.  You like words— no, you LOVE words.  Those letters will be a treasure to you, won’t they?  You will wind up knowing some of them by heart.

So, it’s my turn and I will try to keep it short this year since you’ve been given such gifts of wisdom from our friends.  Two words, sweet girl of mine.  Just two.  Kindness and Truth.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.  Proverbs 3:3

Kindness.  We’ve not had near enough of that in our family.  I don’t know how it happens but mornings turn into a bundle of rush, the days into an announcement of tasks— and then you have a week, a month and then, a year.  Were we kind to one another?  How many snapshots of kindness do any of us remember?  I don’t want us to have difficulty remembering these moments in our family.  I want kindness to be THE character of our interactions.  I’ve told you many times, if you can be kind here at home, to those you are with the most, to those who have a tighter hold of your heart strings, to those who know your buttons better than anyone, you can be kind anywhere.  I see you learning that— and sometimes it’s painful.  My prayer is that the relationships in our home are characterized by kindness.

One more thing, Julia. Treat those you love and also, those you don’t with kindness.  It’s the most beautiful you can be— to be kind.  You know what this looks like and you know how attractive it is.  I pray you will be reminded to sparkle and shine with the light of kindness in all your circles, especially with your girlfriends, especially at this age.  All of you are looking for words of affirmation, words of kindness, mostly regarding your appearance.  I challenge you to give those words freely but think of their hearts.  Figure out how to genuinely lavish them with words of kindness that will enrich their hearts.  Their outfit or hairstyle will be different tomorrow but the longings of their hearts will be the same.  Serve them up some kindness.

And then- second word- live your life founded on, rooted in, anchored on, clinging to, walking in — the Truth that never changes when everything around you might.  What the culture says changes with Facebook likes.  You will find inconsistencies coming from people you respect and admire {Be careful where you allow your esteem to land!}.  Your friends’ opinions will change overnight.  You may, at times, think your Dad and I have changed our minds, when, in fact, we really have!  But please TAKE GREAT COMFORT that His Word, His Truth never changes.  When you need the feeling of solid ground under your feet, let Scripture be home base.  It’s unchangeable.

May His Spirit remind you that you have Truth as a Guide for your life and you never have to wonder if it’s the best for you.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Hunger for more of it.  Love it.  The Truth can be such a comfort in this unpredictable life.  I cannot shout this loud enough from a mountain high enough or even repeat it too many times.  Catch the bug for His Word and you are going to be just fine.

On a more trendy note— Instagram.  Yes, you got an account.  After many conversations and many months of waiting, we did it.  Enjoy it.  Like your friends’ pictures, take pictures, celebrate fun moments, brag on your friends but don’t take it too seriously.   When you find yourself dwelling on the numbers, it’s time to sign off for a while.  When you find relationships are getting tattered or even unraveling, it’s time to put it down.  When you find it taking cheap shots at your insecurities or blurring the identity Christ has covered you with, it’s time to put it down.  When you find yourself wanting to promote yourself, we need to talk.  That’s a tricky line— one I have most likely crossed at times.  You want to share something but your motive is fuzzy.  Just don’t.  Let’s just talk through it and decide together.

I am so very proud of you.  I am honored to be your mother.

I love you more than I could ever express.

P.S.  I didn’t keep it short.  I can never keep it short.

Goodbye, Twelve.  Hello, Thirteen!