Tuesday, April 12, 2016

(Not) Another Love Note

When I first saw the note on the 4th stair, I instantly knew it had been conspicuously placed for me to see on my last round of making sure all lights were out before going to bed.
My initial thought?  This couldn't be for me!

My next thought: Yep, I recognize this 8 year old handwriting, and yes, this is most definitely for me.

I laughed out loud and put it in my pocket to keep forever (or at least to bring out at a precarious time in his life when we can all laugh about it together someday).

Please note that he did not know if I would see it at night or in the morning, so he made sure to put "yesterday or today" to really make sure I felt the gut punch whether evening or dawn.  After laughing about it a bit more, I decided to share it with you all this morning for a few reasons.

1.  I laughed because I know my kid.  I know that he was not being disrespectful, nor was he lying.  This kid does not beat around the bush. He means what he says.  He is honest and forthright.  I raised him to be that way, so I can't get offended when he says his mind (respectfully, of course).

2.  Sometimes my kids' days DO suck because of me.  This can mean one of two things.  Either I am making them do chores, finish a school project, eat peas, you know, parenting them.  Or, I am actually having one of those days and I am making everyone's life hard around me because my life is hard too, and well, there's that.

3.  The author did not get lectured, grounded, or threatened because of this note.  I chose, instead, to meet him at his wit and challenge him with kind words this morning.  I saw the look in his eyes as I thanked him for my note, telling him that I will treasure it forever.  I am greatly anticipating a talk after school that will consist of how the words we say can be hurtful, but I am suspecting this child could actually lecture me on this topic, which is why he wrote it in the first place.

4.  My kids teach me, sometimes I think even more-so than I teach them.  I laid in bed last night and thought about how true that statement had to be for him to actually write it down for me.  I thought about other people in life who may have wanted to pass me the exact same note, but instead they just walked away hurt by something I said or did.  I kind of wish that adults could have some of that same tenacity and actually tell other people when they suck.  Or, well, maybe I don't.  Are you still with me?  The bottom line?  Kids are honest and I can appreciate that.

5.  I am fine with being the "sucky" mom if it is for the good of my children. But, I also want them to know how much I LOVE them.  I want them to sit on their bunks in their college dorms someday and tell their roommates that even though sometimes their parents sucked, they know now that it was because I wanted God's best for them in life.

And just so you don't think I have completely fallen off the parenting wagon:

6.  We don't say the word "suck" in our house.  Truth: it is not on the list of "absolutely, not tolerated words," but when someone does get too cool and decide they can use that word, my next statement will always be you are much smarter than that word makes you sound, pick another word.  Or, that word makes you sound like you don't have a mother...  You get my drift.

The author of this note knew exactly what that word would do to me and that he would already be fast asleep when I read it, so he would not have to endure any sarcasm from his mama.  His game is strong.

Last thoughts....  My goal is to make my our home life suck as least as possible.  I don't always get it right.  There are days, too many to say, that I throw around words and pout my way around, resulting in wasted hours and frustrated kids.  I try hard to to do this less.   I give my kids permission to always let me know how they are feeling.  I promise them that their feelings are not what get them into trouble, it is their actions that can get out of hand if they don't deal with their feelings.

SO, the result?  Notes like this.  Long conversations.  Tears of joy and frustration.  And pure, solid, realness.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Moving Past the Fairness Myth

{The Daydream}
It was a long week.  My husband was out of town on business and I was doing "double duty" keeping our multiple schedules spinning.  The 'mom' role is tiring, but the 'mom and dad' gig for days at a time can be downright debilitating.

As Friday drew closer and the clock ticked toward the hour my husband was to arrive, I daydreamed about tossing him the oven mitts as he walked in the door.  I would push past him, calling out down the driveway, dinner will ding in a few minutes.

"It's your turn!" (I would yell in a tone that let him know this was no joke).

And he would just be standing there, bewildered, with his briefcase in one hand and his carry-on in other.  And I would be FREE!!!!

As I sat there on Friday afternoon matching socks and dreaming of what I would do as I drove around town in my husband's tiny hybrid (not my mom van that has the turning radius of a toaster) a sweet, yet sort of sinister smile held to my lips.

The dryer buzzed, alerting me to the next load ready for folding and I snapped out of my thoughts.

{The Reality}
As much as I would (sometimes) love to act like that, and have thoroughly considered the thought, it would never fly in our relationship.

And, I would not want it to.

"It's Your Turn" parenting creates a scoreboard for which each partner is constantly checking off their duties as if the children and the home were tasks to complete and not lives to be lived.

It assumes that the other parent has not held up their end of the bargain, that somehow you are "ahead", while your spouse is "behind."

It creates resentment in each partner as they are constantly weighing in on how much each of them has done versus how little the other has not.

"It's your turn......I took the dog out last night"

"It's your turn.... I have been driving all over this town"

"It's your turn.... I made dinner 6 nights this week"

"It's your turn......I always get up early on the weekends"

Before you go all "get out of my business" on me, let's both understand how common this kind of relating is, and how we have all been guilty of saying this, doing it, and not thinking twice.

Here I am, about to be the friend that actually makes you go there.

{The Missive}
"It's Your Turn" parenting is spilling over from an "It's Your Turn" relationship.  It is even possible that assuming we all take turns is a product of an environment you were in as a child... like, possibly the playground?

How did a rule we learned in kindergarten get carried into our marriages and become the standard for how we parent, and possibly even many of our relationships?

Pain Avoidance.

We live in a world where we are taught to avoid pain at all costs.  Our sensory system is built to naturally avoid pain, so some people would argue that we can't help pain avoidance.  But, we are also created as sinful humans, and that doesn't mean we can give in and stop fighting against our own flesh.

Consider an athlete who trains for hours, constantly pushing their body to the limit.  Or, how about a mother in labor?  Think about emotional pain, like a necessary break-up, or the pain of moving away.  All of these forms of pain are meant to push us through the pain to make us better than we currently are.

So why then, does the concept that pain = growth (which is a good thing) not carry into our most meaningful relationships?  Or if it does, we I still struggle with it so often?

I believe that we have bought into the lie that life is supposed to be fair.  Even though, if you are "adulting" properly, you know good and well that things are not always fair.  But there is something in us that still wants it to be, or even feel like we need it to be fair.

James 3:17 tells us, "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."  (ESV)

The word impartial is what I was looking for.  You see, that kind of wisdom is from above.  I believe that James is telling us that God's love for us is fair.  Meaning, he loves everybody equally.  He is also a just God, which basically means that without his forgiveness, we will all get what we deserve.

Unfortunately for us, this does not trickle down into relationships with each other here on earth.  In fact, God says things like "walk humbly (Micah 6:8) and that "the last shall be first" (Matthew 19:30).  We can't forget the countless times that He taught us to take the posture of a servant, and pointed out those who did as blessed, and those who didn't as sinners.

So, what does this have to do with mom exhaustion and a desire to hand my husband the oven mitts so I can drive off into the sunset?

Everything.

If I am more focused on what I have done, than on what God has done for me, then I am missing the very reason God calls me into community and puts people in my life to form relationships with.  To have real, unhindered relationships in which I can love others the way Christ would want me to- I have to put aside the checklist.  I cannot count how many times I "step-in" versus how many times my people "step-out."  And to be honest with you, it's really not fair.

But,

When I love others without a thought of what is fair, I begin to experience the agape love that God desires for me to fully know.  I can more easily digest this concept of servanthood as a calling, rather than as a lopsided scoreboard.  The path to holiness is so much more than our simple minds can comprehend, but He loves us for trying.

Drop the myth and step into the mess.

Who is willing to try with me?  We will start by looking for opportunities to set our stuff down, so that we can pick someone else's stuff up.  Instead of telling our spouse that it is their turn, we will keep our head in the game and work it out together.  We will raise our kids to be humble instead of worrying about what is fair.

Others before self.  It's a concept.  It could be a movement.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Holding On versus Letting Go

Hope, 5 Years Old
Julie Griffin Photography

For the past two years my daughter, Hope, attended a preschool specifically for children with disabilities. Though I was not physically with her, I was content knowing that her needs were properly addressed throughout the day.  Because all of the children had special needs, her behavior and struggles were “normal.”

This year, we felt it was in Hope’s best interest to enroll her in a charter school close to home in a mainstreamed kindergarten class.  This also gave her the benefit of attending school with her older brothers and allows them to be my “eyes” while out on the playground or in the cafeteria.  I frequently get updates on the way home from school as the boys tell me when they saw Hope during the day and what she was up to.  Just knowing they are all on campus together usually grants me a sense of peace.

Holding On
At times, the “anxious mom” and the “brave mom” inside me feel at war during the day.  I know that my daughter needs exposure to life outside of classrooms built to cater to her disabilities.  Yet, there are times I panic that she is not yet ready, or that her new friends might not like her, or that she will be too much work for the teacher.  I fight the urge to tell the teacher too much information versus not enough information.  I want Hope to start every day with a “clean slate”, yet I also want the school staff to be well-informed of my daughter’s needs in order to provide her the best education.

Letting Go
When anxiety starts gaining, I remind myself that God created Hope with unique needs and a tenacious personality.  He loves her even more than I do, therefore with His help we will make the best decisions for our daughter.  I can’t be with her every minute of every day, but the Holy Spirit has promised that He will.  Through my faith I am assured that my daughter’s well-being is well taken care of.

Raising a child with special needs creates constant tension of holding on versus letting go.  I resist the urge to go before her paving the way so that she will always be welcomed into every new experience.  I have to remind myself that allowing my daughter to be her true self, in a safe environment, really is the best way for her to learn how to adapt.  

Hope’s self-confidence has improved as she has learned that even when she has a rough day, there is always tomorrow.  

(Usually I need that reminder more than she does)

It doesn't matter if you have a child with special needs or not.  As parents, we all experience the tension between holding on and letting go.

What are some ways that you handle this tension in your own parenting decisions?  




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

One Word for 2016: Pray

It has become a thing for bloggers (or really anyone who wants to:) to pick a word for the upcoming year.  Just one word.  It can be a goal, a desire, a hope, or just a word that will encourage creativity and your best self.

Even though I am an avid goal setter, I am not a "New Year’s Resolution" gal.  It's just not my thing.  But I do like the idea of a word.  In fact in past years my “one-word” words have actually turned into self-fulfilling prophecies.

My word for 2016 is 


{PRAY}

As a Christ Follower, I actually hesitated a bit to pick that word.

I mean, I totally pray.  So, why would that be my One Word?

As a writer, I have lots of words.  My husband would also tell you that I have lots of words.  My sons would all concur.  And that’s the thing…sometimes lots of words get in the way of the most important words.

In 2016 I want to speak less human words, and pray more holy words.

I want my words to be eternal instead of temporal.

When I pray, I do not want to say the same thing I said the day before, or the day before that.  I want my words to be a reflection of my heart.  Unique.  Literal.  Unworthy.

As simple as it all sounds, I honestly think I am in for a humbling experience.  I have sat with people from all over the world who really know how to pray, and I am admitting that I want what they have.  
If prayer is an exercise, then this year, I want to run the marathon.  Elizabeth Elliot reminded us that "things happen which would not happen without prayer."  This year, I want to see some things happen.





How about you?  Do you pick a word?  If so, then I want to hear it!  AND- Have you come up with a creative way to help you remember your word throughout the year?  (because, honestly, sometimes I actually forget my word!)

Happy New Year, Friends!


xoxo, 

Christina


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is What We Do Who We Are?

Who are you?

That one question is bound to increase anxiety, no matter who you are.  Right?

"We are just going to go around the room and introduce ourselves, tell a little bit about who you are..."

It seems so simple, but, not really.  I mean, we know who we are.  At least, we know what we do. But is what we do, who we are?

Not always.

And especially these days.

For previous generations, I'm thinking it was a lot easier to respond to this question.... your mama and your grandmama were washer women, and therefore you grew up a washerwoman.  Women reproduced seamstresses, midwives, teachers and nurses by having babies and raising their daughters in their professions.

We are both blessed and confused to live in a country, in an era, where we are not defined by who our mamas were or what they did.  We absolutely cannot disassociate from the impact that they have had on our lives, nor should many of us want to.   Even if the influences were mostly negative, you are still shaped by the life of the mother who raised you.

I come from generations of fierce mothers, yet also strong women who were active in their public and spiritual callings.  My grandmother was ahead of her time as she was respected as a dynamic preacher and Bible teacher for men and women.  She raised six children, yet never wavered from the day-to-day encounters of living out her calling.

My mother was called to ministry at an early age and fulfilled her calling as a pastor's wife raising four children.   Later on she became an ordained minister and spent the latter half of her career working on staff at a thriving church.

SO many conversations I have with other women about who we are somehow always lead to who our own Mama's were and the influences they have, both positive and negative, on our lives.

God brings us through seasons.
For many years of my life I was the student.  I observed from the sidelines as my strong female influencers danced their roles on platforms in front of me.  I took years of mental notes deciphering what I was drawn to and also what I wanted to steer clear from as I grew into my own convictions and methods.

For the next several years I was attached to my home.   Those were very good, enriching years.   I would not trade them for the world.  I was able to stay home and to nurse my babes.  I was there for all of their baby firsts and toddler lasts.  I know what a great privilege that was and I will always look back on the attachment years with a deep sigh knowing that those chubby babies will never be worn in a sling over my hips again.

This fall I am stepping into a new season.  My babies are no longer crawling around my knees.  Instead, I drop them off at school with combed hair and packed lunches covered in prayers for safe and productive days.

I am no longer commanding a "little bitty" every hour.

Although my influence on my kiddos will never relent, the amount of time I have with them has drastically shifted leading me into a new process of wondering just what season God is beckoning me into.

Knowing this time was coming and my tendency to overfill my plate, I have spent hours praying that God would keep me from jumping into every opportunity that came my way.  I have thought long and hard about the women who have gone before me in my family, and why God arranged it so that I, too, would be cut from the same material.

How Do I Begin to Answer?
So, how do you answer the question: who are you?  Do you just rattle off how you spend your days?  Or do you really know who you are even if all of the busy and chaos ceased to exist?

Allow the following questions to remind you of the feminine cloth from which you have been weaved...

Who was your grandmother?
How did she live by her convictions in good ways and bad?
What about your mom?
Did she raise you with a positive view of work and spirituality?
How were you taught to mix those two very important things?

Maybe you don't know much about either of those two ladies, but you had other women come alongside and help mold you into the woman that you are today.  Maybe an aunt, or a close family friend. The real question we are trying to answer is:

What do you do differently because someone modeled something for you, and good or bad, it was the foundation for who you now are?

Who you used to be or where you came from does not have to define who you are becoming.

A few more thoughts:
What are you passionate about?
What inspires you to work even if you never got paid a penny for whatever it is?

What do I do with all these thoughts?
We are all so uniquely created that we cannot compare ourselves to any other.  Yet, it is so very appropriate and wise to look to women who have done what you aspire to do.  Watch how they live their life.

Allow the lives of spiritual mentors to speak into yours to help you establish the woman that God is creating you to be.

Know Who You Are Regardless of All the Things
And don't worry if you cannot define yourself just so.  God says that there is only one title that really matters for eternity.

And I will be a Father to you, 
and you shall be sons and daughters to me, 
says the Lord Almighty.
2 Corinthians 6:18

Daughter of the Almighty.

If you believe that Christ is your Creator, and that He is ultimately the One who leads you into your calling, then having a title such as Mom, Wife, Teacher, Author, etc. is all "here today gone tomorrow."

Eternal identities do not rely on seasons.

Just because my mother and my grandmother were both teachers and mentors doesn't mean that I must be a teacher and mentor.  But guess what?  I cannot escape my heritage.  And alas, I find myself teaching and mentoring.  And that's ok!  Because when all else fails, I still know that God has a purpose for my life.  And as much as I would like to define it all in its entirety right now, He gently reminds me that I can only handle so much at a time.

So be the best you that you can be today.  Please don't get hung up on titles or stories, or anything else that may cause you to feel unworthy.  And dance about it!  Or maybe sit back and watch another dance for a bit.  Either way...you are who you are, and that's perfect.

Monday, August 10, 2015

When Your Husband is Such a Good Daddy that Sometimes You Get Jacked



Feeling giddy about Friday afternoon (it doesn't take much), I sent my husband a couple of flirty texts letting him know that I was missing him and how excited I was that the weekend was almost upon us.

When 5 o'clock rolled around I made sure that I had showered, applied some mascara, and met him with a kiss at the back door as soon as he arrived home from work.

We ordered pizza (because...Pizza Friday) and enjoyed each other and the kids.  Throughout dinner I was talked over, since my stories aren't as fun as the kids', so I sat contentedly watching and enjoying our boisterous bunch.  I happily took care of the minimal cleanup so the boys could get some roughhousing out of their system. AND so that their daddy (who still wins every wrestling match) could re-establish his domain as the king of his castle.  I gave the kids "their" time, because I knew that my time was coming.

Up until this point: a very normal evening.

My expectations were for the kids to go to bed at a decent hour so that Brandon and I could have some time to "adult."  In my mind, we would "adult" with some of my favorite pastimes: eating ice-cream on the couch while catching up with the DVR, glasses of wine out on the front porch, or just riding our beach cruisers around the neighborhood.  Super chill, yet in my opinion, perfect ways to end an evening while enjoying each other's company.

But last night none of these things happened.

Instead: Kids.

The night had taken over and I found myself throwing a mini pity party as we finally plopped into bed and my husband was sleeping before even saying goodnight.

I laid there wondering if he even remembered the cute texts I had sent.  Before I fell asleep I was even wondering if he loved me as much as he loved the kids because clearly, they were much more fun to hang out with.  (this is totally what happens when I am already a little down, and then I have some time to "hang out" with my thoughts...)

Thankfully, for the sake of everybody, the next morning I woke up with a renewed attitude ready to tackle the day.  The night before was (sort of) a disappointment, but all-in-all I have so much to be grateful for.  I woke up thinking, "am I really going to focus on one evening that didn't go my way?"

I thought about my struggles from the night and came up with some mental notes to pass on.  I am sure that I am not the only mom who goes to bed sometimes feeling a little "jacked."

1- Realize this is a season.  Enjoy having everyone home and around the table (even when they all talk over you), because someday it will be a rarity.
Know this.  Expect this.  It doesn't mean that you get talked over every night, but also know that these moments won't be here forever.
As for the shenanigans that you might get left out of....for goodness sake, take advantage of the surprise "me" time and read a magazine.  Even better (if you can muster the energy) join in on the fun!

2- You are probably over-the-moon that your kids have a good dad, so try really hard to not make him feel guilty about it.  I understand needs and emotions. I really do. But don't be the needy wife.  We all know that wife, and we don't want to be her.  Being totally honest with you...that kind of wife is not super attractive.  Sometimes I need someone to remind me of that one too.

3-  Plan dates that don't involve kids.  As often as possible.  I talked on this subject quite a bit in this popular post.  It might be good to go back and read some of the ideas I have for dating our husbands like it's our job.

4- It's ok to share your feelings.  Funnel your thoughts through a trustworthy friend before you bombard your man with an emotional conversation- the last thing he needs is more emotional baggage to carry around.  BUT- if your friend thinks you have a point, and that at the right time you should bring the subject up to him, then with her "go-ahead" you can know that you are not just sabotaging precious time for a little attention.  Your husband loves you and he cares about your feelings.

5- Make sure that you are not needing his attention to fill a void in your life.  Girls- I still do this.  I am almost 37 years old and I can see it a mile away in someone else, but it can be so easy to do, and so hard to tell when you are the one doing it.  Your man is only human.  He is one man.  He is not your god or your God.  So try and make sure that your expectations are reasonable and not unfounded.

So there you have it!  A simple list of reminders to read over when your husband is such a good daddy that sometimes you get jacked.

Next one up: When You are such a good Mommy that your Husband gets Jacked (a work in progress...).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Big Day for Hayden

Summer is winding down and the countdown to the first day of school has begun.  We were privileged to make lots of memories this summer together as a family and with friends both near and far.  

Poolside junk food, amusement parks, lazy beach days, and campfires defined many of our days.

Yet there was one day that stood above the rest, and will continue to be the highlight of the Summer of 2015 for the Lang Gang.




Hayden, our second born (10 1/2 years old), had been asking to be baptized for about a year.  He was young, about 5 or so, when he decided he wanted to be a Christ Follower.  So we wanted to make absolutely sure that he was ready to make the decision to be baptized.  

For any of you who might be new to this language: after dedicating your life to Jesus Christ, baptism is the next step in your spiritual journey symbolizing a new life free from the guilt and shame of sin.

In our church, we believe that baptism should be done soon after the new Christ Follower has decided to make their belief public.  In other words, as soon as they understand that the New Testament urges Christ Followers to be baptized as a declaration of their faith to others, they should do it!

As Hayden asked about baptism throughout the year, we talked it out with him and looked over scripture that helped him understand exactly what baptism meant.  Together with Hayden, we decided that the beach where Hunter and Brandon were baptized would be a meaningful place to continue the tradition.

Hayden wrote down a statement of his faith, and also publicly answered a few questions.

Many Christ Followers get baptized by their pastor, or other elders in their church. This is absolutely fine!  For us, it was much more personal for Hayden's older brother and Daddy to be the ones baptizing him.  We did it right there on the beach in front of everybody and had grandparents and a few cousins, uncles, and aunts there as well.  

We are so proud of you Hayden and your decision to publicly tell the world that you love Jesus and you plan on following Him forever.  You have the most tender heart.  You are easy-going, yet strong in character.  Daddy and I love you so much.

What a privilege, what a day!





Thursday, June 18, 2015

(Reluctant) Preacher Girl



I used to be mesmerized by the women who stood in front of me on the stage teaching either from a DVD, or live at a christian conference. These strong godly women all seemed to have perfectly colored hair and the cutest shoes and accessories; as well as the most important attribute, a dynamic faith in our Creator. 

For years I listened and learned, and wondered how on earth they were able to do “it” all so perfectly.


I wasn’t judging. But, I admit, I was a bit envious. I wanted to know why they seemed to have it all figured out but I still struggled with so many shortcomings. Knowing that God had called me with a passion for leading others into the journey of Spiritual Growth, I felt like I had the gifts, but not the tools.


One morning, on my way to drop my 3 year old off at pre-school, God showed up in an unbelievable way.  He let me know it was time for a hard conversation.


After years of attempting and failing miserably on the perfection train, I was halted by the God I had worshipped my entire life. 


The God I had always adored, yet never realized that He really wanted to be a part of every aspect of my life. 


He wanted to get into my world and transform me from the inside out. 


He not only wanted me to know my gifts, but was now equipping me to use them.


I realized that I was exhausted from trying to make sense of how in the world I would ever be a "voice in the wilderness" while my own weaknesses were innumerable.


God, I am unequipped.
I’m a wife and a mom.
I have cartoons playing in the background as I type.


Because I was drained (and out of excuses), I was finally willing to listen to God’s side of the story. Without much convincing, I waved the white flag of incompetency and let Him take the reigns.


Now, as I stand before hundreds of women as that same “preacher girl” I used to be in awe of, I realize that the women who have gone before me are not that much more gifted or equipped. They were just much further along in their faith and were allowing God to use them way beyond their own capabilities.


Often I will tell anyone who will listen how inadequate I am, and how I could name 20 women that seem to have it more together than I do. And 20 more women who seemingly “deserve” to have the kind of influence that God is trusting me with.


Yet, He chose me. Stumbling, not so cute, fumbles around her words...me.


Somehow those honest and authentic words endure me to the group I stand in front of and they realize they can trust what I say.  They know that I know that we are the same.


Humbly I approach the throne of grace, and undeservingly I accept His call. 


Click here to see a list of topics that I am currently speaking on: http://www.christinalang.me/speaking/


And, if you want to talk to me about coming to your church or event, email langgangmama (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why I talked to my kids about Josh Duggar

Intentional Parenting (parenting from a perspective that is thoughtful and deliberate) requires the parent to be proactive rather than reactive.  As much as I would love to sweep the awful "child molesting" conversation under the rug, because of recent headlines regarding Josh Duggar, I just can't.

One of the worst (yet worth it) parenting moments, from my perspective, is telling your child something for the very first time, knowing that you are taking an "innocence" from them that they will never again behold.

The look on their faces can be devastating as a mama, but as an intentional parent who desires to raise my children in an authentic home where no conversation is off the table, I know it is better that those hard conversations come from us first.

We know that kids talk on the playground.  Despite some very well-meaning parents, by the time they feel that certain "hard" conversations are appropriate, their child has most likely already been discussing many of those topics with their friends.  This means that the parent is conversing with a child who is now embarrassed that an adult is even talking to them about it because they believe that with their friends is the place to get the real scoop.

Are you still with me?

Call us crazy, but we want to be the first into our child's ears. We deliberately help them lay the foundation of truth for which all other facts and fallacies will rest upon.

We do the "sex" talk at 8 years old.  We did the porn talk at 10 years old (statistically this is the age it is first introduced...can you believe it??)

That's why I sat down with my 12 and 10 year old boys and talked to them about Josh Duggar.

(My 7, 6,  and 5 year old sons and 4 year old daughter had separate conversations with me, age appropriate, and as reinforcement of boundaries we have been helping them set since they were babies.)

I have always talked very openly with my kids about their bodies.   We talk in excess about what is appropriate and what is not.  I use formal words, not nicknames.  I am very graphic about healthy touches and unhealthy touches.  They know that if they ever feel uncomfortable in a situation, or if they have any questions their daddy and I are available at all times.  We won't be mad, we won't laugh.  We will do anything we can to help.

What we had not yet addressed was the perpetrator angle.  As parents, we want to assume that our children would never be capable of harming someone else.  Well, I am sure that the Duggars were devastated to learn the shortcomings of their oldest son, and that he had indeed hurt many others around him.  I am sure they never dreamed such an awful thing would ever come up.

So this past weekend, we took an hour to have a hard conversation.  I winced at the look on my boys' faces when they learned what can happen when kids don't understand appropriate boundaries.  They learned the word molest.  We were graphic in our conversation and allowed them to be graphic in their questions.  I didn't want to leave anything out that would cause them to walk away confused.  It was awful and hard.  I wish that I didn't have to tell my kids that we are all sinful people and that Satan wants nothing more than to destroy Christian families who are raising world-changers for Christ.

So, what good came out of it?

*We reinforced some really good boundaries.

*We were able to remind the boys why they don't shower their sister, or climb into bed with their cousins, or cuddle under blankets with anyone.  Why we are really, really strict about where they spend the night.

*We reminded them that our home should always be the SAFEST place for anyone who walks through its doors.

*I told them that I TRUSTED them and they had NEVER given me reason to believe otherwise.  But I also explained that this kind of conversation cannot happen after it is too late. I never want to regret not openly discussing healthy boundaries, as uncomfortable as it can be.

*We reminded them that as they grow and their bodies change and their thoughts change they will most likely have questions about certain things.  Brandon reinforced his role as their father/mentor who will do his very best to walk them through any issue that comes up.  We also reminded them that we have deliberately surrounded them with trustworthy people.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, even naming close friends who we trust if they need an adult but don't want a parent.

*Again, we wanted them to know that their character has proven to be trustworthy.  Yet, because we live in a fallen world, we have to set ourselves up to be able to stand up against wicked schemes.

*We also told them that all people who make mistakes, and repent are not wicked.  But, some mistakes, even those made in childhood have the power to follow you until you die.  In our "me-centered" society one of the deepest pitfalls is thinking that this "little thing" won't affect anyone else.

Teaching our kids to live intentionally also means that they learn to live proactively rather than reactively.  I know that we cannot possibly prepare them for everything that is going to get in their way.

But I want to be able to say that I did the best I could.

Having the hard conversations now, will hopefully curtail harder conversations later.

Geez, parenting is so not for wimps.




Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hello Kindness

In my high school and college days I wrestled with the need to have an answer to every question and situation.  Ok, let's be honest, I still struggle with this, but I am hoping that some maturity has occurred; and for the past several years I have been working on keeping my mouth shut and my overly emotional opinions to a minimum (I did say working).



More than that, I am daily working on keeping my heart and mind open.

When we learn to accept and love others that we don't agree with, we are actively engaging in the act of laying ourselves down.

I regain my life and my purpose every time I lay myself down.

In contrary to this, when my mind is made up about another person, after a quick observation judgement, I can decide their entire life within 5 seconds. I measure their worth using an imaginary stick, quickly deciding if I agree or disagree with their actions and outward presence.

In those 5 seconds, I am completely missing the point.

The entire process of loving another gets tossed.

So how do we consistently immerse ourselves into humankindness?  How do we learn to not observe, measure, and then decide?  What is true kindness?

It comes down to something so basic.

Love.

Matthew 22 sums it up: Love God.  Love Others.

If my day is spent loving God well, then loving others is a natural next option.  Something deeply spiritual happens when I meditate on my deep love of my Creator.  Not only do I regain a humble posture, but I also can't help but begin to curate a deep compassionate love for anyone in my path.

The outward appearance and measurable actions of another shrink.

I no longer worry that loving them will confuse them.

Because...

Love Brings Clarity.

Love doesn't toughen judgement, it softens it.

So when a conversation between a news anchor and a former athlete who is transgender air on primetime:  My reaction is not that of disdain or disgust.

I am truly interested in his story and why he feels the way he does.  I am not attracted to his fame, and especially not the reality show that has kept his name in the public eye.  I care because he is a human being and a child of God.  He is someone who my God looks on compassionately and lovingly, therefore I will do the same.

When ISIS killings, Baltimore riots, and business-owners losing their livelihoods over workable disagreements take over my feed... I am not surprised.  

Deeply saddened?  Yes.  

Surprised? No.

It turns out that the Bible has a simple answer to our anguish:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:32

God has forgiven me over and over.  It's a total miracle that He is still forgiving me today.  This verse in Ephesians does not say to be kind if the person deserves your kindness.  It does not say to be kind only if they are "sorry" for their actions.  

It simply says to Be Kind.

Be Tender-hearted. 

Forgive.  

Oh the simplicity those words could contain, yet the weight we heave upon them.  

I'm glad God allows it to be simple for me.
Hello Kindness, thank you for being the answer we are all looking for.