Tag Archives: children

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading

When “Father” is a Bad Word

eggs nestAs I shared in my last post, your intimacy with the cherishing Father enables you to more deeply and intimately cherish your familyBut what if intimacy with God the Father is hard — maybe even seemingly impossible — for you because of the deep wounds you carry from your childhood and your painful relationship with your own human father? Or what if your father was absent and your feelings of abandonment are coloring your ability to trust in God? Or what if your  mother abused or emotionally damaged you, rendering it extremely difficult for you to understand the nurturing parental love of God?

My friend from decades back — like when I was an adolescent! — Dan Kuiper has just written a powerful book called When Father is a Bad Word. Keep reading our conversation about how healing is possible. (And please consider sharing this interview with friends or loved ones who may be dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain of a deep father- or mother-wound.)

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dan kuiper 04Welcome, Dan! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

I am the husband of one wife (one of God’s many good ideas) and am a father of three and grandfather of two. I am a speaker, writer, story teller, and conference facilitator. My first book, When Father is a Bad Word, was released earlier this year.

This month on my blog we’ve been discussing family life. One way we learn about family love is through the love of our heavenly Father. How has God’s character and fatherly love influenced the way you love your own family?

Since I began my journey toward discovering just who my Heavenly Father really is, the attribute of God that has stood out the most is His unconditional love. I still have trouble wrapping my little brain around that — that my Father in Heaven loves me completely, absolutely, and irrevocably.

Perhaps I still struggle with this from to time because the love we humans offer so often has strings attached. The non-verbal message we give, sometimes even to our own children, is, “I’ll love you if . . .” The Heavenly Father gave me a bit of an epiphany after my first grandchild was born. As I held that beautiful little boy in my arms, it struck me just how much love I had for him. And this despite the fact that he hadn’t done one thing to earn it. At that point, all he did was eat, sleep, and poop. Yet, my love for him was and is so deep that I would die for him. That’s how the Heavenly Father feels when He holds His kids in His arms. As I’ve been coming to grips with that love I have found it imperative to not just verbalize but demonstrate Father-like unconditional, unalterable, and unending love to my family.

For some, the topic of “family” is very painful because of the hurt they’ve experienced in their family growing up. You understand this struggle, don’t you? 

Oh, my, yes. My father was an alcoholic. And if you know anything about alcoholism, you know that it is a family disease. A parent’s behavior will affect — either positively or negatively — every person in the home. Alcoholic family systems, in particular, produce children who judge themselves unmercifully, who live for the affirmation and approval of others, who have no idea what genuine love is, who are terrified of intimacy, who feel that they can never measure up, who live with a pervading sense of shame and a belief that they don’t matter. Continue reading

Savor Everyday Mercies

How do we cherish our families? Part of it comes in learning to see the beauties hidden in the small moments of life. So I’m very excited to introduce you to my dear friend Darcy Wiley — a great cherisher of moments. Darcy blogs over at Message in a Mason Jar and is “Mom” to three kids.

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Darcy, tell my readers a bit about yourself!

cherishfamilyThanks for hosting me, Kelli. It’s a joy to be at your place today. I always say I’m a world traveler turned stay-at-home mom. I try to go about my domestic life with the same eye for discovery that I had during my decade adventuring abroad. The kids definitely keep things fresh. The world is an amazing place when filtered through the lens of a 6-year-old boy, an almost-4-year-old girl and their baby sister. We love to ride bikes, do gardening, read books, go creek stomping, and lots of other things. Full-time motherhood is a pretty amazing gig when you think about it. I take a lot of pictures, but my real favorite way to gather mementos and to process a meaningful experience is in the written word. Right now, I’m in a catch-22, where the kids give me all kinds of material but often my work of caring for them leaves me with very little time for writing a complete piece.

As you reflect on the last few months, what has God been teaching you about cherishing your family?

I’ve been learning how love needs space to flourish. To me, that means clearing the schedule as much as possible to allow for unexpected challenges and to allow time for interacting without the grumpiness that hurry brings. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable that I say no to a task they think I should volunteer for. But anytime I’ve given into false guilt at the expense of my family’s sanity, I’ve regretted it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the pull between my two callings of parenting and writing. A few weeks before my daughter was born this spring, I had put a lot of creativity and time into the Take Heart series on my blog. As much as I loved that, I found myself surprisingly excited about being forced to slow down on posting in order to focus on the intense neediness of a newborn. It has been a re-centering time when I felt the privilege of tending to my flesh and blood as my first priority. In fact, as much as I want to share my thoughts and feelings and writing pieces with a greater population someday, I feel the Lord often reminding me that these children are the masterpiece I’m sending out into the world.

It’s so easy to take loved ones for granted. Cherishing them is a choice! What are some ideas you have for concrete ways women can cherish their families? Continue reading

PERFECTMOM . . . not!

I did a really dangerous thing a few years ago. . . and then I did it again.

book-001.jpg

I wrote a book about being a mom.

Faith-Filled.Moments.coverAnd then I wrote a book about parenting.

Am I NUTS????!?!?!?

Here’s the danger: We live in a culture — and particularly a church-culture — enamored with the false god of the “perfect family.” Magazines, books, blogs, and  Pinterest feed this obsession of family perfection — ideal meals, fantastic activities, lifelong memories, problem-free relationships, etc. And tied into this is the pressure to be PERFECTMOM. To cook, clean, craft, parent, work, love idyllically. (It’s not a new pressure! Check out the family picnic instructions from an earlier era!)family picnic

So let me say, right off the bat, that my books on parenting (The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival and Faith-Filled Moments) are not — I repeat NOT, NOT, NOT — written from some perspective of me having it all figured out, doling out advice to PERFECTMOM wannabes. NO WAY. My writing is always about the journey — and I’m a fellow pilgrim on the road who trips up just as much as you. (Check out my bruised shins for evidence!)

So . . . this gigantic “disclaimer” sets me up to share part of the vision for my newest devotional guide Cherish Your FamilyIf your family is ideal and you’re PERFECTMOM, then you don’t need this book. But if you’re a human being — a woman who loves your family and has a dream to love them better even as you stumble along the way — then I hope this excerpt ministers to you.

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But . . . Family Life is Hard!

A happy Christian family.

What came to mind when you read these words? A family of perfectly-behaved children who pray reverently during nightly family devos? A couple with endlessly romantic love for each other—who frequently pray together, never fight, and have a problem-free, passionate sex life? Some idealized myth of a Christian family that’s forever out of reach? With some fairy-tale “perfect Christian wife and mom” who you’ll never measure up to? Continue reading

Cherish Your Family

What words would you use to describe family life? For most of us, it depends on the moment we’re asked! We might say joy, laughter, bonding, closeness, cuddles, smiles, wonder,  joy, love, delight, acceptance. Or we might say exhaustion, frustration, end-of-the-rope irritation. Or we might say pain, hurt, betrayal, loneliness.

cherishHidden behind these words are other realities of family life that we may not realize as we hum through the busy nature of daily life: the testing, the opportunities to grow, the conviction and means to change we find in family life.

“Family” looks different for each of us. It may be a decades-long, empty-nest marriage. It may be marital singleness but, of course, an ongoing connection to siblings, parents, nieces, nephews. It may be a marriage and a house full of kiddos. It may be a house full of kiddos, but without a spouse at one’s side. It may be marriage without children. It may be beloved grandchildren. It may be some other arrangement of relatives, of friends, of loved ones that make for us a home, a family.

However you define your “family” one thing is certain: Mixed in with the joy and delight, there are hurts, misunderstandings, frustrations. And through it all is a challenge — an opportunity — to more deeply love the loved ones in your life. To stretch far beyond instinctive self-interest. To choose forgiveness over bitterness. To choose hope over discouragement. To choose appreciation over that ever-looming temptation to take others for granted. To treasure. To embrace. To cherish. Continue reading

Anchors and Alphabets

“In our confrontations with obstacles or opponents today, we would do well not to focus on the troubles lined up against us,” writes Jim Cymbala in You Were Made For More. “Instead, we need to celebrate the God who has already demonstrated his power and provision in our past. We don’t need to be fretful or anxious. We need to anchor our hearts and minds in God’s overwhelming track record.”

Expressing gratitude — the intentional expression of thanks — is that anchor. Ruth Graham expresses a similar sentiment in Fear Not Tomorrow, God Is Already There: “[O]ne thing that makes it easier for me to trust God is cultivating a habit of remembering what He has already done. I tap into that track record. Remembering is a God-given prescription.”

Have you filled that prescription? Do you actively and regularly choose to remember in gratitude what God has done and is doing in your life?

Years back, on the spur of the moment one bedtime, I came up with a thanksgiving prayer experience to share with my young children. Ironically, though it’s meant for kids, this alphabet prayer habit has woven it’s way into my own spiritual life in order to anchor my soul — as a means of taking that God-given prescription of grateful remembrance.

I describe this practice in my book for parents Faith-Filled Moments. Here’s an excerpt for you to check out . . . and try with your kids (or without!). Continue reading

Road Trip Lessons

Family time.

These two words summarize my summer. Because my husband is a teacher and I’m a freelancer, we’re blessed to have flexibility in the summertime to do things out of the norm. And this summer, for a full 6 weeks, we went on a family-time adventure as we drove out west to visit my in-laws in California. (Yes, I said drove. . . from Indianapolis. . . to California!)

The time on the road was magical in its own way: driving before dawn and watching the sunrise; spotting Cars-like Old Route-66 towns; watching armies of giant saguaro cacti “marching” along the highway; listening to a dramatization of Barry’s Peter Pan together in the van. And the best part was getting to Cali and spending blessed time with  the Trujillo familia—good hugs, good eats, good laughs, good memories for a lifetime.

All that time together as a family (and of course, all that time in the car!) provided me a chance to think a bit more deeply about the power and importance of family time.

The serious business of laughter and fun: I could cite studies or psychologists’ quotes here, but instead I’ll just speak from my own experience. Having fun together forms bonds and deepens intimacy – among parents and children, among husband and wife. It’s so easy to lose sight of this in normal, hectic, busy life. We need to make fun a priority! Giggles, tickles, game-playing, joke-telling, face-making, silly-willy fun. It’s like glue. It helps us stick together.

Quantity matters: A plethora of articles will argue whether quantity time or quality time are more important in family life. Unfortunately, both of these arguments can end up making parents feel guilty! So I’m not wading in to that debate. But my point here is that even low-quality time – like really boring time, stretching out for hours and hours in a car in a hot, arid desert – can actually be really significant. In some magical way, time with family forms a sense of identity. Continue reading

Family Fun!

OK, I’m taking a short break from the spiritual formation topics we’re covering in 2012. It’s summer time. School’s out. The sun is shining. The world is a-blooming! And so for July we’ll focus on the topic of FAMILY.

This is a great season for moms of young kids — but family is also an important topic for women of all ages and all situations. For singles, for empty-nesters, for moms of young kids, for grandmothers, for parents of teenagers — we all value and are profoundly shaped by family! So I hope, readers, that no matter what stage of life you’re in, you’ll enjoy the discussion this month. There is a soul-shaping power in time spent with family, so along with some posts reflecting on “deeper issues,” I’ll also be sharing ideas for family FUN.

So let’s start things off with 2 fun ideas for those of you with kids at home this summer.

Here’s a great activity for outdoors: a prayer-focused bike ride.

And here’s a fun one for inside days: a simple card game that reveals a critical spiritual truth.