Category Archives: Parenting

Our Not-So-Perfect Family Story…

I’m so honored to get to share a little of my heart over at my friend Dena’s blog today.  I’m talking about perfectionism and motherhood and embracing our family story.  Hop on over there and check it out! (There’s even a free printable at the end!!) 🙂

EmbraceYourStory_Printable by Little House On The Circle

Twelve years…

Today I am feeling all the feelings.

It’s Emma’s birthday today.  She is 12 years old.

I’m not really sure how that happened.  😉

Sometimes the day this photo was taken – the first day I wore the name “mom” and held this new little soul in my arms – seems like a lifetime ago. But sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Time is funny like that. All these moments, one after the other…and before you know it, you’re looking back at a lifetime that feels like just a breath.

Because somehow, it’s been 12 years.

TWELVE.

Twelve years of days lie between those two photos. Twelve years of good days and hard days and days I didn’t think I would make it….days full of joy and laughter, tears and exhaustion, challenges and uncertainty, smiles and adventures…twelve years of days full of moments and memories I honestly wouldn’t trade for anything.

It’s been twelve years full of gifts. Twelve years full of grace.

I haven’t been perfect at this mom thing. Not by a long shot. Motherhood is so much harder, and more wonderful, than I had ever expected it to be. I had no idea what I was getting into when they put her in my arms for the first time. No. Idea. I have fumbled and stumbled my way through this thing…and this “tween” stage is stretching me and challenging me more than ever. There are so many days I feel so inadequate to do this great thing of growing another human, of leading this other soul through this crazy broken world.

Because I’m so broken myself. I’m so banged up and bruised up and messed up.

But I just keep leaning hard into Jesus…I just keep trusting His grace to fill in the gaps.

And somehow we’ve survived twelve years.

And with Jesus, we’ll make it twelve more. (Only by then, she could very well have a little one of her own…but oh my word, I can’t even begin to go there! At this point, we just gotta survive middle school 😉 )

But I know that day will be here before I know it…the days seem to be moving faster, the weeks are flying by.  Which is why I am more passionate than ever about making the most of every moment I can…seizing every opportunity to intentionally invest in our family and in our girls.  Because even though one single moment may not seem like much…it all adds up. One little conversation, one little family night, one little prayer before bedtime, one little heart-to-heart talk, one little snuggle or cuddle, one little game, one little devotion, one little act of kindness, one little hug, one little word of encouragement…one little moment by itself may not seem to make much of an impact…but together? Day after day, year after year? Each moment is like a little drop of water. One drop may not make much of a difference…but drop after drop after drop, over time…all together, those drops add up and become a raging river.  All those moments we have with our children have the potential to become a river of influence in their lives.

Even the moments when we mess up. Even the drops that are tainted and colored by our mistakes and our sin…those drops add to the influence too. I don’t know about you, but I am so not perfect. I don’t have it all together. Not every drop of influence I give my children is good. Sometimes they see me mess up, they see me fall apart, they see me fail. But I wonder if these moments – the not-so-pinterest-perfect-moments – may possibly have an even greater impact on them than all the “good” I do…because humbling myself and asking forgiveness, being forgiven and still being secure in God’s love for me, leaning into Him and trusting Him even in my brokenness, and finding joy and comfort in His grace…that’s a powerful thing for my children to see.

Our moments matter. What we do with our moments, what we do with our days…how we forgive and how we love and how we talk and how we act…it all matters…it is all making an impact, it is all adding up. The good, the bad, and the ugly…all weaving together into a beautiful tapestry that tells our children the story of God’s love and grace and redemption.

So today, on my “mom-iversary”, as we celebrate this sweet, precious, beautiful soul that is my Emma girl, I am recommitting myself to parent intentionally. Even though the days may be exhausting and the challenges are changing and I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time, now as much as ever my daughters need a mom who is leaning hard into Jesus and who is consistently and intentionally adding drops of influence into their lives, who is modeling for them what it is like to live for Jesus, and who is present with them in this moment (not afraid of the future or regretting the past, but fully here right now), finding joy in the middle of the crazy and grace in the middle of it all.  Because this life? It really is just a breath. A precious, fleeting breath. And I want my breath to breathe life and love and joy and grace into the lives of the people God has given me, for as long as He lets me have them.

morning fog

A Last Supper Meal – so we will remember

In Luke 22, Jesus and His disciples were having the Passover Meal together. The Passover Meal was an important tradition.  Each piece of the meal was full of symbolism, full of significance…it helped them remember.  They remembered where they came from, remembered how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt, remembered how God made a way where there was no way through the Red Sea, remembered how the blood of the lambs on the doorposts saved their children from the curse.

Passover.  A meal that helped them remember.

At this particular Passover meal, this Last Supper in Luke 22, Jesus tells them to remember something new…not just the freedom from Egypt or the passing over of the curse of death by the blood on the doorposts. Jesus breaks bread and pours the fruit of the vine and He tells His disciples to eat and to drink and to “do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)  He wanted them – He wants us – to remember Him.

Because everything that the Passover was, everything that it pointed to, everything that it symbolized…Jesus fulfilled.  When His body was broken and His blood was poured, when He laid His life down and then rose back to life again…when Jesus became our spotless lamb, broken and sacrificed for us…every prophecy, every promise, everything was fulfilled.  So when we break the bread that represents His body, and when we pour the drink that represents His blood, we remember – we remember where we came from, we remember how God rescued us from the chains of sin and death, we remember how Jesus made a way where there was no way, we remember that HIS blood covers our sin and saves us from the curse of death.

We remember.

So on the Thursday before Easter – on Maundy Thursday – we gather as a family and have a special meal together.  We call it our “Last Supper” Meal, and it has become a very special tradition for us.

The girls help me make unleavened bread.  We pull out some sparkling grape juice.  We decorate the table and light some candles.  We prepare a special meal.  (This year I tried a new recipe for Maple Glazed Cornish Hens – you can get the recipe here).

I usually try to keep it simple but special.  One of these days I would love to try to make a Christian Passover/Messianic Seder meal, but for now we’ve chosen to just focus on the unleavened bread and juice…and I do love the simplicity of it.

We sit down to eat and we talk about Jesus.  We remember His life, and all the wonderful things He did.  Then we pull out the Bible and Mark begins reading, first from Exodus 11-12.  We talk about the first Passover.  We remember how God rescued the Jews…how He protected their firstborns by the blood of the lambs on the doorposts…how He made a way through the Red Sea.

Then we fast forward to Luke 22, where Jesus is sitting down with His disciples to eat the Passover meal, where they are looking back and remembering that first Passover.  We read about the New Covenant. We talk about Jesus’ body and His blood. We pray and thank God for Jesus, for His sacrifice.

We break the unleavened bread and remember Jesus’ broken body.

We drink the grape juice and remember Jesus’ blood that was poured out.

We do these things and we remember how God rescued us…how He protects us by the blood of Jesus, the Perfect Lamb of God…how He made a way for us to know Him and to be with Him.

Our Last Supper Meal is not perfect.  It’s not super fancy or ritualistic.  But it is very intentional.  We intentionally set aside this time to slow down in the crazy pace of this ever-busy life to focus on Jesus…to remember Him.

 

If you’d like more details about our Last Supper Meal, check out my Easter Family Devotions kit.  All the details for our Last Supper meal is in there, including all the passages we read and links to other great resources.  (I kinda goofed up on the kit, though…I had the Last Supper meal listed for Day 12 (Friday), when it should be for Day 11 (Thursday)…oops!  I’ll fix that for next year.  But really, it doesn’t matter which day you do it…the point is to do something to remember Jesus, and to intentionally point our kids’ hearts toward Him too.)

So whatever it is you do to remember Him, I wish you slow, quiet moments over these next couple of days to draw close to Jesus…to remember His life, to be awed by His love, and to be lavished by His grace.

Happy Easter!

A Crown of Thorns

We have this little tradition that we started last year at Easter…a simple little activity that has become quite significant for us:  a “crown of thorns.”

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

(I first read this idea in a post by Ann Voskamp here: Three Bowls & A Crown of Thorns on Holy Week)

I put a little grapevine wreath on the dining room table, right beside our Jesus Tree.  Next to the wreath is a cup of toothpicks.  The wreath is the crown and the toothpicks are the thorns.  Every time we do something that needs forgiveness in these days leading up to Easter – for every sin each day – we pick up a toothpick and add it to the wreath…we add a thorn to the crown.

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

We’ve encouraged the girls to pray and talk to God each time they add a thorn…acknowledge that sin, and thank Him for His forgiveness.  We don’t necessarily share each one out loud – it is a personal, between-me-and-God thing – but our wreath is filling up, and I often see the girls quietly adding a “thorn” and bowing their heads – it’s sinking in.  Mark and I are adding our thorns too….every day.  There is just something significant about physically adding each toothpick, acknowledging each sin, realizing the depth of God’s love and forgiveness as I recognize how very far from perfect I really am.

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

It’s a simple activity.  A small tradition.  But we do it to remember.  We do it so that Jesus’ sacrifice, His suffering, doesn’t become mundane or trivial in our hearts.

Because there is nothing mundane about His death.  And there is nothing trivial about His forgiveness.

I think it’s easy to put ourselves in little boxes and say that “all those other sins” are what caused Jesus to really suffer…my sins aren’t that bad…sure, I need forgiveness, but not as much as “that” person.   We play this comparison game, whether to make us feel better about ourselves or maybe so we won’t feel so bad about our own sin.  And we read the story of Jesus’ death and think to ourselves that we would never have yelled “crucify!”  We would never have nailed Him to that tree.  We would never….

And yet.

And yet…we did.

With each angry outburst, with every jealous thought, with each word of gossip, with every little white lie, with each choice made from greed, and with every unkind deed – every single sin, however “small” or “big” we make it in our mind – every. single. one – was torture to Jesus.  He took on ALL of our sins…ALL. Of. Them.  Each one pierced His head, cut through His hands, stabbed through His feet, straight into His breaking broken heart…He took on every single sin, and poured out His very life…because of me.  He died for each of those little thorns I put in this wreath on our table.  He suffered and bled and was tortured…for ME…for MY sins.  So that I could be forgiven.

That’s a big deal.  That’s important.  That’s something I never ever want to lose sight of…I never want to forget.  His death was not just some picture in a storybook – it was bloody and messy and painful and horrible.  But it was also the most beautiful sacrifice, the most selfless love, the most amazing grace.  Jesus willingly took on all my sins and died…for me – then He defeated death and broke the curse of sin…for me.  He did it all…for me…for you…because He loves us so much.

A Crown of Thorns - a family Easter tradition

So today, I’m sure our crown will receive a few more thorns…because daily we fail.  But daily He loves us.  And each time we add a thorn, we remember the immensity of His love and the depth of His forgiveness.

Our sins pierced His brow so His love could pierce our hearts.  He was broken so that we could be made whole.

May we never take for granted this indescribable gift.  May we always remember.  May we always give thanks.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

More ideas on creating meaningful family Easter traditions are in my Easter Family Devotions Kit.  Read the original post here: Creating Traditions That Help Us Remember.  Or go directly to the entire kit here: Easter Family Devotions Kit.

Because sometimes parenting is just plain HARD…

Ever have those days as a parent when you wonder what in the world you are doing?  Ever get to the end of a day and collapse into bed with a huge sigh, weighed down with all the frustrations and imperfections of the day, and just pray that the next day will be a little easier?  Ever have a day when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, and you just cry because you really don’t know what else to do?

I’ve had several of those days lately.

It’s easy in those crazy days, in those hard days when you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, to maintain perspective and focus in this whole parenting thing.  Because parenting is just plain hard sometimes.  There are days that stretch you so far you feel like you’re going to pop…days that break you…days that wear you down to the very end of yourself.

Parenting is hard work.

Which is why I think it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day…it’s easy to only focus on just containing the chaos until bedtime (and even then it’s not guaranteed peace because sleep is never a guarantee, at least not in my house 😉 ).  Each day is full of the urgent: there is food to be prepared and laundry to wash and homework to finish and teeth to brush and arguments to mediate and meltdowns to manage…and the list goes on and on.

Parenting is hard work.

But it is also the most important work.

Because it is not just about getting through each day.  It’s not even just about making sure these crazy kids survive to see age 18…or that they are “smart” and “successful” when they grow up.  There is a bigger picture…a bigger story…a more important mission at stake.

I often wonder what in the world God was thinking when He made me a mom.  Imperfect, insecure, unsure, mess-of-a-person ME?…a mom?  He put into these imperfect arms an eternal soul, to raise and teach and love and train.  He gave me this unique and precious little person and entrusted me with her physical, emotional, mental, AND spiritual well-being.  What an incredibly huge responsibility.  It can be so overwhelming sometimes.  I am so not qualified or equipped to do all of that…what if I mess up and mess her up in the process?

I had Emma when I was 23.  We had only been married one year when I got pregnant.  We were so excited.  But we had no idea what we were doing….seriously, no idea, lol.  I look back now on those early years and I see that I really was just in a survival mode, for a very long time.  Emma didn’t eat well…she didn’t sleep well…she cried a lot.  Parenting back then was just plain exhausting.  And it didn’t really get easier when we added Lilly to the mix when Emma was 2.  Ever since then it really has felt like long periods of chaos and craziness, with moments of sanity sprinkled along the way.  I feel like I have fumbled my way through this whole parenting thing…and just when I think I figured something out, I stumble over a new challenge and once again have no idea what I’m doing.

The girls are 10 and 8 now, and you would think I’d have it down by now. Yeah, no…not so much.  Actually, I think these next few years are going to be even harder work in many ways.  Teenage girls.  The very thought sends Mark, my husband, into mild panic attacks ;).

We still really don’t know what we’re doing.  But there are a few things we have learned.  And relearned.  And then learned again.  God has to keep reminding me of these things, because I tend to forget and lose focus.  And because if I don’t keep these things at the front, the “urgent” things in each day will crowd out the “important” things.  The difficult homework assignment, the dinner that burned, the argument, the piles of laundry, the temper tantrum…these “urgent” things that demand immediate attention will overshadow the “important” things, and before I know it we have kicked back into pure survival mode as a family and we are just counting down the minutes to bedtime.  We just “get through” the day instead of embracing the day, whatever it brings, and counting it all joy.

Now, none of these things are my own original concepts or ideas…I’ve heard them at conferences and in podcasts, I’ve read about them in books and magazine articles, I’ve even shared these concepts with other parents, particularly during the time that I was Preschool Director at our church.  These concepts are nothing new, but really putting them into consistent daily practice can be challenging, especially when the demands and responsibilities in the day-to-day are pressing down hard.

So what are these things that I need to remember?  What do I remind myself when we’ve been in that survival mode? What am I telling myself today as I am coming out of a few days of just surviving?…

1)  There is no such thing as a perfect family.  That picture you have in your head of how you think your family should look, how you should act, how you should be? Throw it away!  Let it go!  And quit picking it back up and putting it on the mantle of your heart as if that “picture-perfect” family is your goal.  There’s no perfect family.  Only a perfect God.  In fact God says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)  So don’t stress about the imperfections…God’s power, His strength is its best, perfect, in our weakness.

2)  God is writing a bigger story.  He’s writing a story that goes beyond that really bad day…it’s a story that is bigger than that temper tantrum, that mistake, that poor choice, that ruined dinner, that dirty toilet, that crazy homework assignment, that argument, that pile of bills, that unfinished list…His story is bigger than all of that, and what’s more, He’s using ALL of that for a purpose in His bigger story.  He’s writing a story through you, and your imperfect family.  It’s a story of love and forgiveness and redemption and grace and mercy….He’s been writing it since the beginning of time…a story of a God who takes us, in all of our mess and imperfection, and redeems us through Jesus…and your children are getting a front row seat to that story being lived out every day in YOU.  And guess what?  He’s writing that story through them, too!  So point them to this bigger story….show them how God is using everything in your life to shape your heart and mold your character, because He has a plan and a purpose…then help them see how He’s doing the same in their hearts and lives too.

3)  Keep the end in mind.  You don’t have forever.  You only have these children for a short time.  It may seem like a long time from now, but the years will fly by and before you know it you are sending them off to live out God’s story on their own.  If you intentionally recognize that your time is limited then you will intentionally make more of the time you have.

{I have this nifty little app on my phone called “Legacy Countdown.”  It counts down the weeks, days, hours, minutes, even seconds that we have left before each child graduates high school.  Kinda puts things in perspective, and helps me remember that my time is limited…there is an end. (Not that all parenting ends at high school graduation…but it is a key event that marks a change in our role as parents).  Anyway…it’s a great little (free) app that I highly recommend.}

4)  Consistent investments over time WILL make a difference. Keep investing.  Every day.  Keep praying with them, keep reading God’s Word with them, keep talking about God, keep spending quality time together, keep doing things together, keep laughing together, keep exploring the world together…don’t grow weary…don’t get discouraged…keep investing.  It WILL make a difference.  You don’t have to do it all.  You don’t have to do it perfectly.  Just keep going.  Trust that God is working, even if you can’t see it.  Keep leaning into Jesus…keep trusting Him and following Him.

5)  Pray.  Pray, pray, pray.  Lay it all at His feet.  On the days you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and even on the days you think you do…ask God for wisdom and listen to His voice.

Usually it’s the days that I am too “busy” to slow down and really take time to spend time with God, to really listen to Him…those are the days that I feel most in survival mode…those are the days that the urgent things scream so loud that I ignore the important things that are whispering to me, gently tugging at my heart.  But if I take the time to slow down, if I intentionally slow the hurry and set aside the urgency of the busy, and just spend time with Jesus….if I make space in the pace for Christ…then I am able to focus…my heart can have peace.  And then I can parent my girls with a little less crazy and a little more intentionality.

Being a parent is hard work.  No doubt about it.

And I am so far from having it all together…I am so very imperfect at this thing.  But it amazes me how God takes someone like me…how He can take a couple like me and Mark, so far from perfect and such a mess on our own…and He allows us to be a part of His story in these amazing little girls’ lives.  He fills in the gaps…His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses…and He comes right alongside us and writes His story of grace and forgiveness all over our family.  We mess up, and He uses it to teach His forgiveness.  We fall down, and He uses it to show us His grace.  We love, and really He’s showing us HIS love through each other.  He uses our lives to shape our children’s lives.  Who we are, what we say, what we do…it matters. Because it’s shaping them.  It’s an incredible, (sometimes scary), amazing, wonderful thing.

Today I embrace whatever comes, and I pray that God will give me wisdom to live a life in front of my girls that just draws them to Him.  Because really it’s not about me being a “good” mom, or a “perfect” mom…and it’s not about creating a “perfect” family…it’s about pointing my girls to the only perfect One, the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes, Jesus…so that one day they will leave us and go out and do the same thing, point others to Christ, as they live out His plan and purpose for their lives.

Parenting is hard.

But what an amazing privilege and awesome adventure it can be!

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