Friday, March 28, 2014

Ten Things I Learned in March

1. Being sick as a mom may mean enduring more than laying on the couch.

I woke up with a stomach bug when we were in Nashville, Tenn., the second weekend of the month. Puking in hotel and mall bathrooms is no fun. I know, the mall. I was only at the mall because that's where Rainforest Cafe is and my son had been talking about going there for AN ENTIRE YEAR. Seriously, since last time we went. So I couldn't back out on him ... or our table of 18. Really. One table of seven kids 10 to 2 years old and another table of 10 adults and a baby.

No worries, the tables were right next to each other and other adults paid attention to my two kids while I laid my head on the table between gulps of Sprite Zero and water. My brother-in-law told me wanting to drink anything was progress. Maybe he was right because I didn't throw up any more that day, of course, I didn't eat anything either.

We then avoided the Lego, Disney, Build-a-Bear and Bass Pro Shop stores so I could return home to my couch, where a sick momma truly belongs. Thank God for my husband and my friend Holly who was visiting from Texas who picked up my parenting slack.

2. An entire week of snow days is welcomed, but then that next Monday morning that comes right after the time change is hard. 

On March 10, I had to wake my 4-year-old Ben up for preschool for the first time ever, I think. Of course, that was also the first day in March school had been in session, thanks to two weekends and a snow week.

Oh, and, hey, did I mention that Monday reached 65 degrees and the kids got to play outside after school? Yes. And all the mommas rejoiced.

3. A friend who gives my daughter the gift of words blesses me. 

Speaking of Holly visiting from Texas, she brought my girl some books from her childhood. Those were in addition to the ones she mailed the week before she came. And then she taught her how to play Words with Friends. What sweet gifts of encouraging a love of words, which Holly and I share and are happy to pass along to Cate.

4. I really like to read non-fiction, but fiction is a good way to let my mind relax.

I recently finished "Love Idol" by Jennifer Dukes Lee. It's a book that allowed me to see some truths God has been trying to teach me in recent years in a new way. It's truly been a life-changing journey and that book has been a valuable resource. I finished the book several days ago and I'm still thinking about it. Meanwhile, I started reading Harlan Coben's new book, "Missing You." Nothing like a little suspense to balance all the internal processing.

I also recommend another book I read this month: "Surprised by Motherhood" by Lisa-Jo Baker. It officially releases on April 1. You can read my review here.

5. Dads have good parenting stories too.

In a momma-dominated blogging world, it was refreshing to have dads guest post on my blog earlier this month. In an continuing effort to embrace imperfection, I've loved digesting "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch. In conjunction with their book release week, I had some dads come share their own stories of realizing their kids aren't perfect and never will be. {Oh, yes, consider that another book recommendation for you!}

6. Those postseason college basketball tournaments that aren't the NCAA Tournament can be fun if my favorite team is playing. 

Murray State is in the semi-final round of the Postseason Tournament. Yeah, the CIT. I've made fun of all these acronymed tournaments that aren't the NCAA too. But, hey, my Racers are still playing. And the games have been the kind that make the arena loud. That's March Madness ... at least on some level.

7. "House of Cards" is a good show. 

Who knew Netflix original productions would hook me like that? Kevin Spacey is so good as Frank Underwood. I like the behind-the-scenes drama of journalism and politics colliding and I enjoy the suspense of the story unfolding. Speaking of drama, "The Good Wife" has been rocking this season and "Scandal" is nuts in a way that keeps me watching.

8. Winning a local trivia night fund-raiser is fun.

Along with our two best other couple friends, we came in first out of 14 teams. The TV Theme Songs category really helped us. We brought home enormous Hershey's bars, trophies and gift certificates. {See picture at the top of the post!}

9. My kids have never been into a movie like they are Frozen.

The music. The characters. The story. They love it all. Yes, they, my 4-year-old boy is into almost as much as his 6-year-old sister. We had March 18 on the countdown app on my phone and they literally waited by the door for the UPS man to deliver the package from Amazon. He showed up about 4:30 p.m. that afternoon and they started watching it at 4:31 with much rejoicing. They watched it three other times that week and haven't stopped talking or singing about it.

I don't usually care about animated movies, but I like "Frozen" as much as any animated movie I've ever seen. That's not hyperbole; that's the truth. It's right up there with "The Lion King" for me.

10. When I find songs I like, I listen to them over and over. 

My most played songs this month are Ellie Holcomb's new album "As Sure As the Sun," NeedtoBreathe's "The Heart," and MercyMe's "You Are I Am."

Tell me about your March. What have you seen and heard and read and experienced?

I'm loving documenting life with these monthly along with Emily FreemanHere are previous month's recaps from 2013: JuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember. And 2014: January. February.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Madness of March

Usually basketball for us Murray State fans is over by now. Even if the Racers make the NCAA Tournament, they've never made it out of the first weekend. That's part of cheering for a mid-major team that only can make The Tournament by winning the conference tournament.

This year's Racers were a fun surprise. We went into the season thinking we'd be watching a rebuilding year. And we were, but then mid-way through the season something changed. The Racers were winning and having fun doing it. They played as a team. They smiled often. They don't seem cocky and self-absorbed.

I'm not sure another basketball season will ever top our Racers of 2011-12, but this team will go down as a favorite of mine. And all but one of them will be back next year. So we were bummed when the Racers lost in the semi-finals of the conference tournament earlier this month in Nashville. {I subsequently woke up the next morning with a stomach bug, so I'm not sure I could have survived watching a second game in my sickly state, but that didn't matter.}

Then Murray State accepted an invitation to play in the Postseason Tournament. I know, I know. Until this season I've made fun of every postseason tournament that isn't the NCAA Tournament. To me, the CIT has been one of many tournaments for the teams that couldn't make The Tournament.

And then this favorite team of mine won its first game in the CIT on the road and hosted its second game. Yes, we were there, decked out in navy and gold, cheering for our Racers, who won. Game Three is tonight in Murray, and we'll be there again.

Yes, it's still a tournament for teams that didn't make The Tournament. But one of those teams is my team. And they're fun to watch. It's technically a rebuilding year, so it's a good chance for these younger guys to get in some real-game experience. Plus us fans to get keep watching basketball.

Go Racers!

NCAA Tournament side note :: I was born and raised a Kentucky fan, so I still cheer for the Wildcats. They're still playing in The Tournament too. In fact, the Wildcats are going to play their biggest rival in what's sure to be a dramatic game on Friday night. Admittedly, the Racers have become my first basketball love, but Kentucky isn't far behind.

Who do you cheer for in all this March Madness?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Relax your heart

She tapped on my elbow again. After several prior physical therapy appointments, I knew this meant to relax. She didn't want me controlling my own reach. She wanted to see how far my shoulder could rotate up and sideways and back without the pestering pain.

That pain was what brought me into the physical therapy room that morning and several other mornings in February and March. This particular morning she was evaluating my progress.

She wanted to see if the massaging and stretching and pulling and prodding had loosened my shoulder and surrounding muscles and if my reach and rotation had improved. She measured and asked questions, like a post test. The pain was mostly gone but the reach and rotation was still less than normal.

And she reminded me to relax my arm. Again. "You have trouble relaxing your arm. You must like to be in control over your own movements," she said. Oh do I ever like to be in control. Of my arm movements, yes, but so many other choices and timelines too.

Like she taps on my elbow, I have to mentally tap myself. Yes, I have to remind myself to relax, but I'm doing better.

I sat with a fiction book the other day. The kids were playing outside and the clean clothes just waited for me to fold them. I started to read "Missing You" by Harlan Coben.

This morning started with a date with my husband. I didn't even look at my to-do list. We talked, laughed, ate breakfast at a restaurant, and enjoyed our spontaneous time together after the kids were off to school with my sister-in-law.

I talked the other day with my daughter instead of rushing into the afternoon homework routine. I understood her in a new way because I didn't hurry.

I left some dirty dishes in the sink after friends were over to watch basketball. I sat next to my husband on the couch and watched more basketball. And then last night we got in bed before 9 and watched an episode of "House of Cards." Yes, I had many different thoughts going through my mind, but I needed to be mentally done with the day instead of pushing myself to do one more thing.

I schedule monthly massages because I need a physical reminder not to carry so much of life on my shoulders. At first I felt guilty, but I let go of that.

Relaxing is part of my cure in laying down the idol named Productivity in my life. Curing perfectionism that seeks approval and and hoards replacement loves instead of Christ's love takes time because it's a process.

Like my shoulder is finding relief through the therapy, my heart is finding relief when I relax. It takes more than one appointment and some stretching, but I'm kinder and slower to anger this way. I'm seeing my daughter who is so much like me with more compassion when she talks about why recess was frustrating. I like life more when I free to enjoy it.

It's the middle of the week. Frustrations may be mounting. Maybe you're weary. Perhaps you have too many things on your mind like I did yesterday. Whatever it is, loosen your grip. Do what you can, but know you can't do it all.


Relax your shoulders, yes. Don't carry all the world's problems there.

And relax your heart because from there everything else flows.

I'm linking this post with two of my favorite encouragers: Holley Gerth, who hosts Coffee for your Heart, and Beth Stiff, who leads Three Word Wednesday. I'm also joining Lyli Dunbar for Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

{Love Idol} Preapproved by the Creator

Ben and Cate were late to school on Friday. I don't like to be late, but I was given a chance to lay down, step on, and crush my idol of Productivity. I failed at first. I rushed people around. I was snippy with everyone while I was frustrate with myself for laying in bed 15 extra minutes.

But once we got in the mini van, I felt my heart relax, even knowing they were going to be late to school. And I let go of the hurried demeanor that too-often steals my joy.

Cate, my first-grader with perfectionist tendencies just like mine, had been wrestling with an insecurity that morning that began with her ponytail and went all the way to her heart. Once I stopped rushing, we talked about what was bothering her on our way to school. Sitting at that one red light and waiting to be able to turn at another intersection slowed us down from getting to school, but it also gave me time to talk to Cate about what was important:

God made her. Her hair isn't going to look like her friend's hair. She was created unique, both in her physical appearance and in every other way. As I told Cate about how God preapproves us because he made us and loves us and isn't waiting on is to perform perfectly, God was speaking to my heart. She wasn't the only one who needed the truth that morning.

And that applies to each of us.

"Until you are convinced of God's incredible love for you, you will continue looking for replacement love everywhere but in the heart of Christ."
{Jennifer Dukes Lee in "Love Idol"}

This truth has been wrecking my heart lately. And I mean wrecking in a way that is ultimately good, even if it's painful and hard at some moments. I've been letting go of replacement loves, some of which are good things. But even good things distract from the best thing.

Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote "Love Idol" not as an expert but as an encourager. Even the subtitle speaks volumes: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval  and Seeing Yourself Through God's Eyes. Jennifer's words, which really are God's message, have seeped into my everyday life. Isn't that where truth changes us anyway? In her book, Jennifer reminded me "any average moment in this life is never really average if we're living each ordinary moment for an extraordinary God."

"To be preapproved means this: We love from our approval, not for our approval. We love without expecting anything in return."

{Jennifer Dukes Lee in "Love Idol"}

I named my idol Productivity. That's what distracts me from focusing on loving God and loving others. I've laid it down these past few weeks, although I've failed plenty of times since. But that's not my only idol. I'm a people-pleasing, perfectionist-craving momma who often wonders if she did enough or said the right thing. The replacement loves abound in my heart and I have to give them back to the Maker moment by moment, again and again. 

But I know my perspective has changed. My to-do list isn't as dominating as it once was. I've yelled less. I've seen my chores and relationships and roles differently. Yes, there's still room for improvement, but at least I know the One is working in changing me. This is a process.

The kids and I walked into school a few minutes late Friday morning. Cate and I hugged each other a little tighter than usual. I reminded her that God loves her and chose her.

I signed in Ben and Cate at the school office at 8:05 and they walked down the hallway to the classrooms. I prayed they carried the truth of being created and chosen by God with them. I prayed they remember they don't have to perform or fit into some mold to know that life-changing love.

And I left the school knowing being a few minutes late that morning wasn't going to ruin our day. Those few minutes actually improved our day and most likely our lives.

I received a free copy of "Love Idol" for being part of the book's launch team, but I believe in Jennifer Duke Lee's words and am thankful to have this book as a resource. And it's officially releasing early - today! You can buy it from Amazon or many other booksellers. Read the other posts "Love Idol" has inspired here

For more encouragement, visit Jennifer Dukes Lee's website and The Love Idol Movement page on Facebook. I'm also linking up with Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, where idols are also being smashed. 

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

{Giveaway} Must-Have Marvin

One of the hardest areas of parenting for me has been figuring out how to teach kids to be generous while living in an entitled society. And, no, I haven't figured it out, but it's something Greg and I are intentional about. We've made adjustments, implemented new ideas, had lots of conversations with the kids, and considered how to incorporate giving into our everyday lives in ways the kids can participate. There's certainly not one right way to teach about generosity, but I recently read "9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids" by Kristen Welch and liked her ideas.

I also was glad when we got a chance to read "Must-Have Marvin" by Christy Ziglar. This is the second in a meaningful series of children's books from Shine Bright Kids. Cate, my 6-year-old girl, was thrilled Willow from "Can't-Wait Willow" made an appearance in Marvin's story.

Whether it's in the classroom, on the playground or on the soccer field, Marvin is always finding something new that he simply must have! After discovering what he deems the latest, greatest, new toy, Marvin finds himself focusing a bit too much on getting instead of on giving and excludes his friends. He lets them down when they need his help and nearly loses their friendship. Through a chat with a wise neighbor and a second chance, Marvin learns the important life lesson that people matter more than things.

This book is practical and meaningful for kids, but my two also enjoyed the story, characters and pictures. They commented on how Marvin was making some bad decisions on his greediness and Cate even alerted us when she realized the moral of the story was coming. As a parent, I'm thankful for how the book's messaged echoed what Greg and I want our kids to learn.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Christy Ziglar, financial planner, mother of twins, and niece of legendary motivator and the world’s original optimist, Zig Ziglar, is bringing the same timeless wisdom and ageless advice to an entirely new, younger audience through her new Shine Bright Kids picture book series.

ABOUT SHINE BRIGHT KIDS :: This series provides children and their families with a relevant framework to help instill solid values and teach the importance of making good choices. The series teaches principles including using good judgment, taking responsibility, self-control, having a positive attitude, and demonstrating perseverance. Check out the Shine Bright Kids website for free reward charts, activities and other parenting resources.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: "Must-Have Marvin" is a 32-page hardcover book with a jacket aimed at kids 4 to 8 years old. It's illustrated by Luanne Marten.

Who wants a copy? Just tell me a lesson you've been learning or teaching your kids in the comments for a chance to win a copy of "Must-Have Marvin." This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. I'll randomly choose a winner on Friday, March 28.

Congratulations to Charity! She's the winner of the book! Thanks to those who entered and shared about this giveaway.

I received a free copy of "Must-Have Marvin" in exchange for this mention on my blog. I only recommended products my family has used and I believe you'll like too. FlyBy Promotions provided me with the book and will mail the winner of the giveaway a copy. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

{No More Perfect Kids}
Uniqueness Balances Expectations

This week we're hearing real-life stories from dads. Letting go of perfection is a message from which everyone in your family can benefit. "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch has been a fabulous resource for me. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

Today's post is courtesy James Allen, who grew up in the same Oldham County schools as me. I'm thankful Facebook lets me keep up with friends like James. His life truly revolves around kids as a father to two and educator to many. 

First, thank you, Kristin, for letting me add my thoughts to this conversation. It really helps to get ideas from you and other parents on how to survive this adventure. We all want the best for our kids and it really helps to know we have friends near and far to turn to when we need some advice and encouragement.

I have two boys. Davis is 6 and Jamesson is 3. My confession: I do worry every day if I’m doing everything I should be as a parent. Is this normal? I think it is to an extent, especially under the microscope of our current society and media, which dictate, analyze, and critique every aspect of our parenting.

Do we read enough? Do I let them play enough? Should I expect them to pick up their toys? Is their diet healthy? Should I be spending more time with them? Am I being selfish with my own time? Am I too easy on them? Am I too hard on them?

I swear I ask myself some or all of these questions multiple times a day, but …

I try not to let these questions rule or ruin my time with my family, even though that's difficult. Sometimes the balance is there, but other times I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing and wonder who ever thought it would be a good idea to make me a dad? My near-constant inner voice continues, but I do my best to enjoy little moments without judgment or criticism.

Although I was fortunate enough as a child to have two parents who loved and took care of me, I do think about the things that I wish had been a little different as I grew up. I think all the time about what I would want to be the same for my boys growing up and what I think should be different. This constant tug-of-war and balancing act can be more than a little stressful.

Being a teacher and being married to a teacher is a real blessing. Sarah and I have worked with thousands of kids and we have a real appreciation of the FACT all kids are not all the same. Knowing how unique kids can be, even in our own tiny community, helps me put in perspective the expectations I have for Davis and Jamesson. They will grow up to be the people they are going to be, both with my help, and in spite of it. My experience in education really helps make that idea easier to handle.

James Allen is a librarian and school technology coordinator at Oldham County High School in his 13th year of teaching. He enjoys time with his family, practicing photography, and making music.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

{No More Perfect Kids} The Reality of Real Life

This week we're hearing real-life stories from dads. Letting go of perfection is a message from which everyone in your family can benefit. "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch has been a fabulous resource for me. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

Now, let's welcome Dr. Rob Currie. I was glad Jill Savage recommended him for this real-life dads series of mine and I was thankful he was willing to participate. 

What are parents to do when they learn their child has a serious problem? My wife and I were faced with that when our son was in third grade. That's when we learned that he struggled with reading comprehension. That was 13 years ago, but I remember well the parent-teacher conversation when we received the news. I was crushed. My wife and I were troubled because reading comprehension affects nearly every subject in school.

What intensified the difficulty for our son was that he attended a school that had a challenging academic program. This meant he was falling far behind both his peers' performance and his teachers’ expectations when it came to reading comprehension.

In addition to being unpleasant news, it caught us by surprise. We’d always made reading an emphasis with our son. We read to him, took him to the library, kept a variety of stimulating books around the house, and every night we read to him at bedtime. Given the effort we’d put into his literacy, we never thought he'd struggle with reading.

But with prayer, psychological testing, and trying out different strategies at home, we discovered he understood material very well if it was read to him. He followed the flow of ideas and had meaningful comments about what he's just heard.

We eventually settled on homeschooling because we could work with him one on one, reading his books to him. Years have passed since then. He graduated from high school four years ago. After trying out several jobs, he's chosen truck driving as a career. It's a good fit for him and we're happy for him.

God rarely gives parents the children they dreamed they'd have. Instead, he surprises them with real kids, with complex needs and personalities. The good news is that our real God helps our real kids with their real problems in the middle of their real lives.

Dr. Rob Currie is a professor of psychology at Judson University in Elgin, Ill., and has spoken at Hearts at Home. He and his wife Kay have two sons. Currie also wrote “Hungry for More of God” and “Preschool Wisdom: What Preschoolers Desperately Want to Tell Parents and Grandparents."

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

{Review} 31 Days to Coming Alive

That's Jenn making me smile at the God-sized Dream
Team Party in Branson earlier this month. She's a joy.
Jenn Hand is one of the most joy-filled people I've ever met. She smiles constantly, laughs often, and radiates Christ's love. When she asks questions, she actually wants to know the answers.

Those same traits come through the pages of her devotional, "31 Days to Coming Alive," which releases today on Amazon. It's well worth the $3.99.

After living in Nepal, Jenn came home to Chattanooga and learned a life-changing lesson, which serves as the foundation of her book and, more importantly, her life. She speaks and encourages others through her ministry, Coming Alive. {Learn more about her and her ministry here.}

"In the Nepalese culture, I was surrounded by people worshipping idols all around me -- dead, false gods who would never be able to interact with those worshipping them" Jenn writes in the introduction. "When we accept the invitation of Christ to receive His forgiveness, we are also receiving an invitation to live alive in Christ."

Jenn knows sometimes we get lost in life, sometimes our souls become like those dead idols. Each of the 31 days in the devotion focus on ways we can come alive as we live our lives.

I liked how Day 3 talked about ordinary life.

"God longs to commune with us in the common. ... Talks to Jesus as you do that sink full of dirty dishes. Sing your heart out to Jesus in the shower. ... Take a walk with Jesus. Have a coffee date with him in the morning. Invite him to sit with you and your 4 year old as you build yet another Lego tower, just to see it quickly get knocked down. The seven dwarfs whistled while they worked. When you invite Christ into your common, you worship while you work."

I can't actually whistle, but I love the invitation Christ extends through Jenn's words. It's appropriate that her book releases today, on the first day of spring. Like the flowers bud to show new life, Jenn's words, experiences and joy usher in that same spring in our lives.

Jenn sent me a copy of "31 Days to Coming Alive" so I could write a review, but the message she shares is one that is seeping into my heart. 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

{No More Perfect Kids} Super-Parents Need Not Apply

This week we're hearing real-life stories from dads. Letting go of perfection is a message from which everyone in your family can benefit. "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch has been a fabulous resource for me. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

Now, let's welcome Dr. Todd Cartmell. I was glad Jill Savage recommended him for this real-life dads series of mine and I was thankful he was willing to participate. 

Do you remember the movie "Toy Story"?

There was a dramatic scene where Buzz Lightyear was taped to a rocket on Sid’s (the mean kid) desk and Woody was trapped underneath an old plastic milk crate. This was their last chance to escape and Woody was trying to get Buzz to help. However, a dejected Buzz, who had recently discovered that he was merely a toy, could not find a reason to go on.

Photo courtesy
Buzz: "You were right all long. I’m not a space ranger, I’m just a toy — a stupid, little, insignificant toy."

Woody: "Whoa, hey, wait a minute. Being a toy is a lot better than being a space ranger."

Buzz: "Yeah, right."

Woody: "No, it is. Look, over in that house is a kid who thinks you are the greatest. And it’s not because you are a space ranger, pal, it’s because you’re a toy. You are his toy."

This is the message that Buzz needed to hear. It is a message that you need to hear as well. You want to be a great mom or dad. But you know that you are not a perfect mom or dad. Your imperfections can be lined up side by side as far as the eye can see.

So can mine.

Just as Buzz Lightyear desperately wanted to be a space ranger, we want to be super-parents for our kids. But Woody’s words to Buzz are the words that we need to hear deep in our hearts as well. Allow me to paraphrase:

Woody: "Look, over in that house (your house) is a kid who thinks you are the greatest. And it’s not because you are a super-parent, it’s because you’re a mom/dad. You are his/her mom/dad."

Your kids don’t need a perfect parent.

They need you.

With all of your flaws and imperfections. With your good days and bad. With your "I wish Oprah could have seen that" moments and the moments you wish you could take back. What do you call less than perfect parents who are doing their best to be great parents to their kids? I call them authentic parents.

Authentic parents do their best to set a godly example for their kids to follow. Authentic parents show their kids how to talk respectfully, even when it is hard. Authentic parents work on solving problems rather than making them worse. Authentic parents honor God by demonstrating patience, kindness, and self-control.

But (get ready for a deep sigh of relief), authentic parents are not perfect. When they handle things the wrong way (which they will do from time to time), they handle that the right way. Yes, you read that correctly. They do wrong right.

Tim and Megan recently came to see me because they wanted to do a better job as parents. They told me about their kids’ negative behavior and also how they responded in ways that were not helpful. We talked about how to set the right example by apologizing to their kids for times they had handled things poorly. I gave them ideas for connecting with their kids and for handling negative behavior in a way that would strengthen their relationships instead of damage them.

Tim and Megan got right to work. They were not perfect parents, but they were authentic parents. They took responsibility for their own words and actions. They were not too proud to apologize when it was called for or seek help when it was needed.

Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to follow him as he followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). In the same way, your example can show your kids what following Christ is all about. I imagine that your walk with Christ will not be perfect.

But it can be authentic.

And that is exactly the example your kids need to see.

Just ask Woody.

Dr. Todd Cartmell is a clinical child psychologist who practices at Summit Clinical Services in Wheaton, Ill. He is the author of several parenting books and conducts fun, practical parenting workshops. You can follow Dr. Todd on Facebook and read his blog at

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

{No More Perfect Kids} Building Faith & Raising Boys

This week we're hearing real-life stories from dads. Letting go of perfection is a message from which everyone in your family can benefit. "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch has been a fabulous resource for me. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

Now, let's welcome Eddie Sheridan. I met Eddie in the local newsroom because I was hired to take his place when he decided being a reporter wasn't for him. Our families have crossed paths in our small-town various times since. 

I think my son may be some sort of genius … and it's freaking me out.

My son, Nathanael, is 7 years old now, and he was my first boy. My wife, Laura, and I had two daughters before he was born, and I was getting pretty comfortable with the thought of only having to raise girls. No having to take anyone with me to the restroom in public, no having to figure out how to have The Talk later on, and especially, especially, especially no having to teach a boy any kind of manly skill.

My anxiety over having to be a father to a son began pretty much the moment we saw that, um, indicator of maleness on the ultrasound (Yeah, folks, I'm one of those guys who must know the sex of the baby. I need some prep time ...) and has remained with me for a good seven years now (eight in October). It was doubled in February 2010 with the birth of my second son, Caleb, which might explain the number of white hairs I'm finding in my beard these days.

If I had to give myself a grade on stuff a guy should be able to do, I would give myself a solid D-. If I weren't able to grill various types of meat for consumption, it would probably be an F. I know diddly about car engines. I don't hunt, and I rarely shoot guns. I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone camping in my life. And I'm pretty sure my wife could beat me at arm wrestling.

Most of all, though, I don't know how to build anything. I also don't know how to repair anything that's already been built. No two words in the English language throw me into a panic more than "home" and "maintenance." Demolition, I can do; putting it back together … eh, well, that's another story. Men's work days terrify me, as I'm just sure I'm going to embarrass myself in some humiliating way before all these guys who I believe could fashion a livable structure out of Duck Tape and Popsicle sticks.

Nathanael, though, loves to build things. Not only does he love to build things, he loves to draw up plans about how he's going to build things. Just recently, he made his own band of musical instruments out of cardboard boxes and plastic cups, and he actually drew out how he was going to do it ahead of time. He's a Lego maniac, and he eagerly hoards away any piece of scrap lumber he finds. Granted, he's 7, so a lot of what he builds doesn't make any sense, but his creativity astounds me.

I know he needs more … and I can't give it to him.

I'm sure opportunities exist for boys with less-than-mechanically-inclined dads to work with their hands, but the thought of having to farm out this part of my son's development makes me feel like a failure as a father. I should be the one teaching him how to measure boards and figure angles and hang sheetrock and finish drywall. I should be the one sweating out projects with him. I should be the one leading him in “the way he should go.”

Before anyone thinks I've forgotten that this is supposed to be about parents not expecing perfection from their children (and not themselves), let me try to bring this around. I fear my son won't turn out to be all he can be because of me. What, then, is the definition of “all he can be”? Does that mean he'll be able to build his own house one day? Does it mean he'll become a famous architect? Or does it just mean he'll be able to show his own children how two Legos snap together when they ask him?

I'll tell you exactly what it means: He will grow up to be a man who loves and follows God with all his heart, soul, mind, body, and strength.

I forget that sometimes. If he's playing soccer, I want him to be the best soccer player on the field. If he's learning to read, I want him to grasp every word. If he's drawing a picture, I want everyone who sees it to be amazed by it. And while wanting him to be the best at whatever he does is not a terrible goal in itself, it becomes skewed when I start defining what “the best” is. There is a fine line to be walked between guiding and pushing.

So if my son never learns how to do anything beyond making macaroni art at the kitchen table, will I be okay with that? The answer is a matter of faith. Do I believe God has His hand on Nathanael's life and is making him exactly what He wants him to be? If I can believe and rest in that, maybe I can learn to relax a little and enjoy life with boys a little more. That would be … perfect.

Eddie Sheridan is a father of five who lives in Murray, Ky. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for 15 years. He is currently the general manager for Heartland Ministries Radio in Hardin, Ky., and he and his family attend Household of Faith church in Lone Oak, Ky. He blogs at Half-Empty: Confessions of a Pessimist (Who's Trying To Do Better)


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Monday, March 17, 2014

God's got me when seasons collide

People talk about life in seasons. Summer. College years. Single years. Fall. Newlyweds. Winter. Parenting littles. Parenting school-aged kids. Spring. Empty nesters. And so many other seasons in between.

But sometimes weeks are like seasons.

There was the first week of March that was a snow week around here. Five snow days. In a row. {I already told you about that week.}

And then the next week of March was nuts.

It started with me having a vicious but thankfully short stomach bug while we were out of town and then my husband getting it a few days later. My friend Holly was visiting. There was my physical therapy appointment, the related follow-up appointment with the orthopedic, and Ben's ENT check up. Normal school carpool resumed. My mom, my sister and 3-month-old nephew visited one afternoon, which happened to the warmest day we've had since October. In one day I had two parent-teacher conferences -- one at 7:15 a.m., which meant leaving for school quite a bit earlier than usual, and another at 11:15 a.m., which meant getting home with my preschool boy later than usual. I had to organize a craft for Ben's preschool class's St. Patrick's Day party, which they celebrated a few days early because Friday was his teacher's last day before she enters her new motherhood season and she is fond of the the holiday. Plus I had signed up to bring dessert and drinks for the monthly teacher appreciation lunch. Y'all, I appreciate these teachers. They're worth more than some peanut butter and chocolate squares {Yes, like homemade Reese's Cups. Yes, they're easy and you'll want to make them.} and Diet Coke. And the school/work week ended with three families coming over to celebrate my best friend's 36th birthday around our table.

I'm not sure you could find two completely opposite weeks. But, you know, they were both good. And in some moment of clarity as that busy one was winding down, I realized that contrast I experienced is real life. Like quick seasons, weeks are different. That's part of the process that is life.

Sometimes the weekly seasons even collide, like when Ben found a stick in the 70-degree weather that he used to swat out the mound of snow in the Dairy Queen parking lot. He was wearing short sleeves and we had walked to our outdoor DQ, yet there was still a massive mound of snow sprinkled with asphalt that hadn't managed to melt itself away yet.

I obviously didn't have as much time to write or read in the latter week, but I had opportunities to share life with friends, support my kids' school, and take care of myself. That to-do list of ideas I want to write and projects I want to tackle will still be there next week. Or even the week after that, depending on which one is less filled.

That's life.

God reminded me truly living in a way that embraces the now, even the busier version of now, is better than idolizing Productivity. Ah, yes, remember that idol of mine. I've been reading Jennifer Dukes Lee's "Love Idol," often before bed at night. The house is quiet and the truths slip into my life as I'm processing my day.

"Maybe you have not always been into process. Maybe you have preferred the quick fix, the promise of three steps to a better you. Or better yet, a full-blown miracle. Poof. We're fixed! God could do that if He wanted to, but I'm getting the idea that He has something more to teach us, right in the middle of our battle."
{Jennifer Dukes Lee in "Love Idol"}

Ah, yes, me too. Too often I've rushed the process because I'm too focused on getting wherever I'm going. But so much of my life lately has been about the process. I know God is changing me through the conversations, decisions, reactions, surprises, unmet expectations, relationships, and days. I see glimpses sometimes and other days I just believe.

While it sounds like I may have worshiped Productivity in the latter week, I didn't feel like I did in my heart. And my heart is what God is after anyway. I welcomed the relief in my heart I've been feeling lately. It's so much freer than the demands Productivity makes with its hurry and distraction and crowded ways. When I worship Productivity, I care too much about producing good works and fruit and finished projects. Then I end up failing anyway. When I worship God, I realize my faith sustains me while my stubborn will is shaped to the moment. I don't have to produce or complete or perform to be approved in God's eyes.

So this past week, I laid down projects and ideas and chores so I could be available ... with friends and family, at the school, for my kids, to drive carpool. There was more coming and going, but I didn't feel as distracted as I have in the past when I make myself believe laundry has to be done on Monday. It's OK to fold it on Thursday when I finally have a chance to sit down in front of the TV. {Plus, hello, there is some good Thursday night TV these days.} I took care of some lake house management emails when I could, but not necessarily the second I saw them. I grocery shopped when my appetite returned days after the stomach bug passed, knowing bringing home take out or making scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast wouldn't hurt anyone.

Maybe you had a busy week. Maybe this coming one doesn't seem as crowded. Or maybe you feel like this is a hard one. Like seasons, the weeks change. In some ways, this winter feels like it's dragging on, but I believe spring is coming. I've seen hints of it, like the fresh grass sprouting in my front yard and the single daffodil my girl picked on Saturday. I've had to remember this week and next week will probably look even different than these past two.

But God is still good. No matter the season or the week or the day.

He's still calling me to lay down Productivity and trust him more than my to-do list. God's got me and my days. And here at the beginning of a new week, I hope you know he's got yours too.

I got an early copy of "Love Idol" for being part of the launch team, but Jennifer Dukes Lee's message about how we're preapproved in Christ is one my heart needs. I'm about half way through the book, but I've read enough and been encouraged enough already that I'm recommending you pre-order "Love Idol," which officially releases April 1. 

Joining Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory with this post. 

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{No More Perfect Kids} Move the turtle

This week we're hearing real-life stories from dads. Letting go of perfection is a message from which everyone in your family can benefit. "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch has been a fabulous resource for me. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

Now, let's welcome Sam Smith here. We have a shared love of Slugs & Bugs, which is how I crossed paths with him on this big 'ole Internet. His words are wise and I'm glad to have some of them here today. 

My daughter knows I’m thinking about her because, every night, I move the turtle. 

Let me explain. One night our family watched a documentary about the life of a sea turtle. Afterwards, their little plastic toy turtle (named “Sparky”) became a focus of attention for us. We joked about his life and his journey and this led, first to some laughs, then a game. For some reason, we joked about the turtle hiding around the house.

On a night soon after we watched the movie, I put the turtle beside my 8-year-old daughter’s pillow while she slept. She woke up laughing and the game was on.

Now, every night before she went to bed, she began hiding the turtle in my bed, or by my toothbrush, somewhere I would find it when I came to bed. Then, in my normal routine of checking on all the kids before I went to bed, I would hide it somewhere around her pillow.

The game has evolved now. Now the turtle has props and is no longer hidden. He is to be found on a table in her room, which she now refers to as the turtle table. (What did we use it for before?) One morning he’s sitting there, a huge pipe to his lips. One morning he has fingernail clippers to his little nails, another he’s reading Seth Godin’s "Tribes."

Sometimes, I find a note from Sparky: "Dear Sir, I don’t wish to be any trouble, but I should like a book for Christmas." More recently, I found Sparky on my nightstand, sitting on the little toilet from my daughter’s dollhouse. When we saw each other the next morning, we both burst out laughing. There is this funny ritual between us.

As I write, I get the feeling this isn’t all that funny to other people. But that’s actually part of the point. It’s between my daughter and me. It’s been a way for me to connect with her. She loves it, I enjoy it, and it’s something we share. It’s a creation of shared imagination, a common joke. When this one’s over, I’m sure there will be others.

But every night she knows I’m thinking of her when the turtle is moved.

It’s a small thing, yes. Every day is made up of these small things. Every day we as parents make hundreds of little choices that join together to make up who we are to our children. I could share some of my failures. There are plenty of them. But here’s this little thing I feel like is right in life. Moving the turtle.

I tend to over-think things, believing I have to have an elaborate plan to engage my kids. The truth is that elaborate plans can be great, but only when we follow through. Sometimes you just need to do something. Kids love being engaged. Do something!

As our kids get older, I think about potential disconnection more and more. When my wife and I see any signs of it (and we do, sometimes), we worry. So every thread connecting us to our kids is vital. Woven all together – Rich Mullins’ music and Andy Griffith; living room tents and whispered blessings; happy hymns and pillow fights; Advent prayers and soccer games; baptisms and turtles – these are the threads that make up our lives.

Are turtle games important? No, but she is. And she knows it.

Sam Smith lives with his wife and four kids in West Virginia, because it would be weird to live with someone else’s wife and four kids in West Virginia, or anywhere else, right? He’s passionate about fostering holy imagination in children, about anticipating the coming Kingdom in family, community, and church life. His collaborative website, Story Warren, is an artful ally to parents who are eager to foster holy imagination at home. Sam is a soccer dad, defying the critics who insist it’s “Communist Kickball.” While not being a Communist, he enjoys connecting with his kids over the Bible, literature, music, free-market soccer, and that noise where you put your hand under your armpit and flap it like a chicken. His beautiful wife, Gina, is the heroic heart of their home and is spectacularly tolerant of soccer and strange, guffaw-inducing noises.

This post originally appeared at Story Warren.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

{No More Perfect Kids} Parenting is risky business

This week we're hearing real-life stories from dads. Letting go of perfection is a message from which everyone in your family can benefit. "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch has been a fabulous resource for me. You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

Let's welcome my favorite dad. Yep, he's my husband! Greg balances my perfection tendencies with this risk-taking, entrepreneur ways. 

Parenting is a risky business. There are no guarantees, no perfect way to do everything that will ensure your child has a meaningful relationship with God or has success in life or any of a million things that you want for your child.

My suggestion is to embrace risk in parenting, in life, and in your relationship with God. Our Creator isn’t interested in us living risk-free lives. He is about transforming us from the inside out and calling us to something greater than what this world has to offer. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

In thinking about my life, the decisions that have brought me the most joy and satisfaction have been leaps of faith. Whether it has been the decision to adopt, start my own business, put our children in Christian school, or many other things, trusting in Him has proven to be the path to a fulfilling life.

Were things a little scary when I stepped out on my own or we decided to adopt (twice)? Of course they were. Have things been perfect for our little family since we stepped out in faith? Or course not. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Growing up, I saw my parents make some decisions that went against the grain of the conventional American culture. They were convicted that television was a bad influence and we did not have broadcast or cable television in our home. They were convicted that we needed to have home worship services, so we had home worship services instead of attending a normal church for several years. When I was in fifth grade, they made the decision to start sending me to a small Christian school about 45 minutes away.

All these decisions weren't popular to me as a child, but I have seen the value of making bold decisions for God. I’m convinced that character and faith are mostly caught, not taught. As parents, if we want our children to have a meaningful relationship with God, they have to see us making sacrifices and hard decisions as we step out in faith in Him.

So next time you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to take a risk, to be a little radical, to do something out of your comfort zone, take the opportunity to be obedient. While you may be uncomfortable and anxious about how everything will turn out, and things will surely get messy, submission to God is the only way to live the abundant life that we were all meant to live.
Greg Taylor is a self-employed attorney who is the oldest of three boys. He's an elder at Christian Community Church, a member of the Murray City Council, and a lifelong Murray State Racer fan. Greg and Kristin have been married for 11 years and have two adopted kids -- Cate is 6 and Ben is 4. 

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

{No More Perfect Kids}
How to increase encouragement at home

This excerpt is from "No More Perfect Kids," the new Hearts at Home book by Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch! This is the book's launch week, so read on to find out what buying it now will mean!

Parenting is hard work and sometimes it seems our kids do more wrong than right. Add in household responsibilities like laundry and meals, spilled milk at the breakfast table, a child who comes in from playing outside and is covered in dirt, and sibling rivalry where the kids pick at each other all night and sometimes life just isn’t easy. Fatigue is normal and frustration is, too. Learning not to act unkindly in our frustration is a journey requiring grace for ourselves and our kids.

Even in the midst of real life, it’s important to say far more encouraging words to our kids than correcting words. When we encourage kids, we give them courage. It’s empowering, freeing, and strengthening. When encouragement is the norm, children will learn they can take risks, try new things, ask for help, and make mistakes without the fear of losing the acceptance, love, and support of their parents.

It’s not easy to give encouragement, especially on the hard days. There are, however, steps we can take to increase encouragement in our home.

Here are 10 encouragement enhancers you can use in your family:

1. Don’t expect perfection. When we expect perfection we notice every little thing that’s wrong and that creates an environment of discouragement.

2. Encourage childlike behavior. There’s a difference between childish behavior and age-appropriate childlike behavior. Discourage the first and encourage the second.

3. Value what your kids learn. We need to pay at least as much attention to what’s being learned as we do to grades being earned and performances at games and concerts. This is one way we communicate that our kids are more than what they do and how they do.

4. Resist the urge to judge all performances. One way to emphasize learning rather than performance is not always to ask about their scores or grades.

5. Ask them how they feel. When talking about one of their athletic competitions, concerts, or tests, sometimes ask first how satisfied they were with the outcome. Two-way conversations about grades, concerts, and competitions will be more profitable than one-way judgments.

6. Notice their strengths. Point out their character, attitude, and action strengths to help them when they work to make progress in weak areas.

7. Don’t worry about their challenges. Understand some areas will remain challenges for our kids no matter how hard they try. Trying to get kids to change what they can’t improve is a sure way to discourage them.

8. Celebrate what’s real. When one child deserves to be celebrated for something significant (e.g., no C’s on a report card for the first time in a year, a soccer championship, art being displayed in the county library), don’t create fake celebrations for your other kids in order to be “fair.” Use these opportunities to teach children to genuinely celebrate their siblings.

9. Introduce them to overcomers. Discuss relatives and local people your kids know who have overcome great odds. Read biographies and autobiographies of people who have been highly successful even though they also struggled. We can often learn our greatest lessons from our greatest challenges.

10. Have fun together. Play with your kids. Relationships are deepened while building forts and having tea parties with your little ones and going shopping and watching ball games with your older ones. The fun, relaxed moments you share make tough times easier to walk through and go a long way to creating an encouraging family culture.

Be patient with yourself as you work to increase the encouraging environment in your family. If you choose too many things to change, you and your kids will be overwhelmed and little progress will be made. Don’t look back with shame or guilt either. Today is a perfect day to look forward with hope, choose one encouragement enhancer to start with, and walk in a positive direction!

The time to buy "No More Perfect Kids" is here! You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributors.

If you purchase the book this week between today and March 23, you'll get additional FREE resources worth more than $100 from Hearts at Home and Moody Publishers. Just scan or take a picture of the receipt and email the copy to Within 24 hours you will receive a reply with a link and password to unlock the free resources!

Specifically, the resources include the following four audio workshops, three ebooks and various printables!

  • Sue Heimer :: "When You Feel Like Screaming"
  • Shaunti Feldhan :: "Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid"
  • Marianne Miller :: "Raising Grateful Kids" 
  • Kathy Lipp :: "Real Ways to Connect with Your Kids"
  • "A Perfect Pet for Peyton" by Gary Chapman
  • "How Am I Smart" by Kathy Koch
  • "The 10 Commandments of Parenting" by Dr. Ed Young

Website :: In addition to reading the book, Jill Savage and Kathy Koch have made other resources available to you on There you'll find family activities that elaborate on what's in the book, a weekly blog post that encourages that Perfection Infection to stay away, and other resources.

Email challenge :: Parents, you're also invited to sign up for a 13-day email challenge. The challenge can begin whenever you sign up. Nothing like encouragement and motivation showing up right there in your inbox.

Real-life stories :: In celebration of this book that speaks right to my heart, I'm going to be hosting some guests here on the blog. I realize the majority of my readers are moms, but y'all are going to hear from some dads this next week. We'll be starting with my favorite dad tomorrow and continue throughout next week. And, trust me, these men have some stories to tell.

I received a free copy of "No More Perfect Moms" in exchange for being on the launch team and reviewing this book, which fits right in with what's God been teaching me. I've blogged about this book specifically here and hereThis post contains Amazon affiliate links, but if you order through them the prices doesn't change for you. Thanks for supporting this blog.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

{Review} Surprised by Motherhood

I figured I'd like Lisa-Jo Baker's book. Her blog posts make me feel like a superhero, even on the hardest mothering days. Even so, "Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom" exceed my expectations.

Lisa-Jo's story is set partly in her South African homeland and her adopted U.S. home. An honest memoir of becoming a mother after losing her own, Lisa-Jo's words are poetic and real. Being a mom has changed me in ways I didn't know I needed to be changed, so I get this journey of sanctification in Christ alone and realization that being a mom isn't perfect but it's brave. And the reminders of that all over her story were good for my soul.

"Parenting is not for the faint of heart. And it's especially not for those type A personalities accustomed to having all their ducks in a row, all their check boxes checked, and their sofa cushions, cereal boxes, and entire lives neatly arranged."

Oh, most of you know, my type A personality has been rocked by motherhood. That's part of why I soaked in Lisa-Jo's story. She birthed three kids {experiences which she describes beautifully, by the way!} and has lived in three countries while I have lived in Kentucky my whole live and adopted my two kids, but I was surprised by motherhood too.

And, really, weren't we are?

Lisa-Jo tells of her surprises and how they came after loss and adventure and coming home and leaving home and settling in and letting go and embracing the right now. And in the chaos she found more of Jesus, more of God's glory.

"There is no part of our everyday, wash-and-repeat routine of kids and laundry and life and fights and worries and play dates and aching budgets and preschool orientations and work and marriage and love and new life and bedtime marathons that Jesus doesn't look deep into and say, 'That is mine.' In Him all things hold together."

"Surprised by Motherhood" was one of those books I didn't want to stop reading but I didn't want it to end. I read it in four sittings well, initially, I started it laying down on the couch recovering from a stomach bug because, you know, when momma gets sick that's some kind of surprise. And then I read it at the pediatrician's office while Ben and I were waiting for the 30 minutes after his allergy shot to pass and continued once we arrived at school to pick up Cate. Admittedly, I was glad to be early so I could read. I finished the book sitting on the couch in my kitchen after the kids were tucked in and Greg was at a meeting at church.

So, mommas, this book is worth carrying with you and soaking in when you get a few quite moments between diaper changes and carpool and loads of laundry and homework guidance and making dinner and packing lunches. My guess is it'll make you notice a little more of God's glory right in your own house.

"Surprised by Motherhood" officially releases April 1, but you can preorder it here. I received an electronic copy for free from in exchange for a review. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Snow Week

Cate and I have learned to Rainbow Loom. Ben has built various things about of Legos. We've wrestled and played games of Uno. We've sledded and eaten snow cream. They've watched TV shows and I've worked on my book. Appointments have been rescheduled. Greg even worked from home one day.

We've ordered pizza, eaten the best cinnamon toast ever, and cooked tortellini corn chowder, corn bread and chocolate chip cookies. Jaclyn and I {and four of our five kids in five years} met for lunch on Tuesday and we both knew soon after pulling out of our driveways we shouldn't really even be out on the roads. Greg and I played Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries {appropriate choice, huh?} with Jaclyn that night, knowing we could walk home if our van got stuck in the few blocks between our houses. Jaclyn and I met again today with Sarah joining us at the local restaurant with a ball pit so the kids {that's eight kids 7 and younger among us} could burn some energy. We weren't the only ones in town who ventured out today. The main roads were much better.

Today is Snow Day #4 this week. And another one is coming tomorrow.

Really, I'd normally be thinking Bring on spring! Let's have these days off school in May, not the first week of March. But it's come at a good time.

Cate's been weary from school and homework. Admittedly, the seven-hour school day is still long for her. I was gone over the weekend, which is rare for me, so I've been glad to have the time at home with the kids.

Yes, it's completely possible I will regret these snow days come May 19, when we we're starting a new week of school we weren't supposed to have, packing lunches, doing homework and setting alarms. And, yes, "we" is how we roll with school around here. It's totally a family affair.

But these snow days are exactly what I didn't know we needed. Snow days are kind of like spontaneous vacation. Had this been a scheduled break, I'd probably have planned a bunch of fun activities and errands. My calendar looks conquered only because I got to mark off a bunch of stuff that got canceled or rescheduled. Seems kind of appropriate since I'm laying down my idol named Productivity for Lent.

Have you had snow days this week? If so, how did you spend them?

Here are a couple recent posts that may help you through snow days, although surely spring is coming soon ... right? Make memories now. Joy comes at Family Game Nights.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Turning my worship from Productivity

A couple friends and I text almost every day. When one of them asks how my day is, I answer immediately with a list of what I've accomplished and what I plan to accomplish. I cite my to-do list. I reference my productivity.

I let accomplishments and productivity define my day. A good day is one when I've conquered errands and chores with time to spare for writing or playing. A frustrating day means my plans have been shuffled or my chores disrupted.

It's no secret I have perfectionist tendencies.

God's been teaching me to let go of those ways, but it's a process. During this journey I've come across books and people who have spoken so much truth into my life. Most recently, this Love Idol movement inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee's book that releases April 1 has wrecked my heart.

And I mean wrecked in a good, life-changing way. I've only read the introduction and first chapter of "Love Idol," but Jennifer's works have me thinking and praying and surrendering and trusting in a new way.

"Instead of resting in the love and approval of an unseen God, we chase after the temporary pleasures of human validation.

Whatever rules our hearts becomes our lord. The person who seeks approval and acceptance can become controlled by it. The person who is motivated primarily by a need for human affirmation is, in the end, ruled by it.

If we don’t get the love and acceptance we crave, we’re deflated. But if we do get the approval we want, we might not be any better off, for we are tricked into thinking our idols offer fulfillment. And we keep going back for more.

This book is for any of us who want to live content in God’s perfect love, freed up from the wearying demands of the Love Idol."
{Jennifer Dukes Lee in "Love Idol"}

I named my idol Productivity.

In effort to truly let go of my worship of getting things done when there are people right here to love, I spent some time -- lots of time, if I'm honest -- trying to think of what I could give up for Lent, which begins today.

I texted with a friend who is on this journey with me because my extroverted ways often process truth in conversations. I struggled to figure out just what God was calling me to lay down before him.

I thought about my to-do list and calendar. I wondered about silencing my words about productivity. I considered what was pushing my attention on Productivity, that pesky idol that seems to be a good thing.

Sometimes I try to prove to myself I'm more than "just a mom." So I take on projects and volunteer for things that use my skills of organization and promotion. I add commitments to the calendar and then become distracted at home. Last fall, I laid down several commitments that were all good things so I could focus on the best things.

The best thing is that I am a wife, mom and friend. Those roles doesn't necessarily come with appointments that fill specific spaces on the calendar, but they do come with responsibilities and commitments. And that's where I want my attention. God's been working on me this way as I work through "Storyline" with some friends online. I shouldn't be surprised this week's lesson was on our roles. Donald Miller reminded me too much of even the best roles isn't sustainable in the big picture: "When we play too many roles, our story suffers for clarity. ... None of us can connect with everybody. We have to choose."

"Love Idol" is a movement that's reinforcing what's already happening in my heart. So, starting today, I'm going work on my attitude. Instead of rushing the kids out the door because I had to send one more email or start one more load of laundry, I'm going to let those chores wait. Because when I start rushing, my voice gets louder and harsher.

What that means in a practical Lenten sacrifice is I'm not going to yell or rush. I'm not going to let Productivity define my days. When "How is your day?" comes to me in a text, I'm going to answer the question with truth, not with a list of accomplishments and expectations.

This is all a process of sanctification, of being more like my Creator. As I read Angie Smith's "Chasing God," I realize I do chase God when I should be following him.

"We will take one more and more characteristics of our God, and our attitudes and behavior will be different. But don't think it's something you're in control of or that' it's a project God dumped in your lap and told you to complete.

Paul explains, 'And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 3:18).

... the phrase 'being transformed' is in a passive tense, indicating that we aren't in charge of transforming ourselves; it's the work of the Holy Spirit within us. ... So the sermon notes, the stacks of Christian books, and all the fellowship potlucks you have on your calendar are a waste of time if you aren't relying on Him. Our strength is just not enough to make us grow in holiness."
{Angie Smith in "Chasing God"}

For me, worshiping Productivity is me trying to transform myself. That's not my role in sanctification and true transformation.

Holley Gerth reminded me in a conversation last weekend that working harder isn't always the answer. Becoming a worker takes away the worship God wants from our lives. Using our gifts and loving on the people near us is worship, but idolizing Productivity takes away from the glory God wants to display.

Of course, there are going to be days where chores and work are required, but I want to live in a way that my completion of those tasks doesn't make or break my day. Yes, there are going to be appointments I have to keep, but I want to go in a way that doesn't cause stress and harsh, loud words.

I'm going to lay down Productivity so I can be the wife, mom and friend God wants me to be. He's created me for this and he sees my heart, not all the check marks and accomplishments on my calendar. In Christ alone, I'm enough and chosen and a child of God and made new and treasured and free and redeemed and held and whole and loved and cherished and known and beloved and valuable. And I'm preapproved. There's nothing I can do to change any of that.

As part of the launch team for "Love Idol" by Jennifer Dukes Lee, I got a sneak peek into the pages of this book. The subtitle is worth taking in too: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself through God's Eyes. Who can't relate to that? The book will be available April 1, but you can pre-order it now. You can also join the Love Idol Movement page on Facebook

With this post, I'm joining Jennifer's #TellHisStory community, where she beautifully tells why she's covering all her mirrors for Lent. 

This is fourth "Storyline" post as I make my way through the workbook with friends. You can read my previous posts here. They're really part of this process, which you can tell by their names, especially Only Love Today and People Over Projects

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