Pumpkin-Spice Legacy

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. Things I love: Pumpkins, s’mores, boots, scarves, colorful leaves, the smell of bonfires, and oversized sweatshirts (although in this North Carolina weather, who knows when we’ll actually see any of those things). Things I hate: The 3,643 holiday season events and activities that turn me into an overwhelmed and overly zealous basket case. 

Is it just me, or does it seem as if there’s a tad bit of pressure to do all the things? After all, if you don’t enjoy a pumpkin-spice-something while wearing cute wedge boots and carving a pumpkin while roasting a marshmallow…did fall even happen? And if you don’t create DIY Halloween costumes for your children while wrapped in a blanket scarf and bake pumpkin-somethings from scratch…do you even have a soul?

These are the questions that haunt me. 

In all seriousness, I’m guilty of trying to do every last activity or event with my kids—like if I don’t do enough, they’ll be in therapy someday, lamenting the woes of their lost childhood to their therapist. 

If only I’d gone apple picking and had my picture taken with a scarecrow, I might have gotten a real job and made something of myself, they’d say.

Ok, so I can be a bit dramatic. 

But what if instead of focusing on doing lots of stuff, I focused on making each task, event, or activity an opportunity to point my children to Jesus? 

Instead of obsessing over doing everything to make my children’s holiday season “good enough,” what if I were obsessed with making a few things into teachable, gospel-centered moments?

Sure, go to the pumpkin patch. But use it as an opportunity to talk about how creative our God is. Yes, bake pumpkin cookies. But then use them as a way to bless others, reminding your children that we love others because God loves us. 

Pick a few things your family will love to do, and then focus on injecting every one of those moments with the gospel.

I’m learning that my children are so receptive to truth that even an everyday mundane moment, when connected to Jesus, can make a lasting impression. I want to leave my children with more than just 28,953 filtered pictures of themselves posing next to pumpkins and scarecrows. Instead, my hope and prayer is that when they are grown, they’ll be changed by the gospel message and obsessed with sharing it with others. 

Parents, our legacy is not our calendars jam-packed with stuff to entertain and fill time. 

Our legacy is the way we point our children to Jesus. 

One pumpkin-spice-something at a time. 

 

This article first appeared on Just18Summers.com.

Awkward Mom Moments (And Why They Matter)

The music was so loud I could hardly hear myself think. I climbed out of my minivan and cast a sideways, amused glance at the car next to me. I remembered the days when I used to crank my music to ungodly levels. Something tells me I just wouldn’t look as cool today rocking out to “The Wheels on the Bus” in my minivan.

I reached for the sliding door handle to unload my kids, and that’s when I heard it.

The lyrics of the music thumping from the car were a bit…colorful. Vulgar, actually. I thought about my children who sat waiting inside the van, no doubt hearing the thump, thump of the music but unable to make out any words.

I stood there for a moment, thinking, debating.

The Holy Spirit nudged me in that oh-so-familiar, you-can’t-ignore-me way.

Ugh. Okay, fine.

I steeled myself for the awkward encounter about to take place and turned to the car next to me. I rapped my knuckles on the half rolled down window.

“Hey,” I said, in what I’m sure was an overly chipper mom-voice, “would you mind turning that down until I get my kids in the building? I don’t want them hearing those words.”

The look on the man’s face went from confused to incredulous to embarrassed, and with a slight jerk of his chin, he turned down the volume and, without a word, went back to scrolling on his phone. “Thank you!” I said way too enthusiastically, and pulled the van door open.

My son’s questions started immediately.

“Why were you talking to that guy? What were you saying to him?”

“I asked him to turn down his music.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Well, some of the words in that song weren’t very kind, and I want to protect our ears from hearing bad words.”

The look on my son’s face was one of complete and utter shock. “Why would there be bad words in a song?”

His sweet innocence nearly took my breath away. I briefly shared with him that sin has affected everything—even some kinds of music—and that we have to protect our ears and hearts from listening to things that aren’t good, beautiful, true, or pleasing to God.

As we walked into the doctor’s office, my son plastered his hands over his ears and looked at me, his eyes shining with determination. “I’m not going to let my ears hear any of those bad words.”

I smiled at his sincerity, and silently prayed for the man he’ll grow to be someday. Once again, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging my heart, reminding me that these little moments—the awkward, asking-complete-strangers-to turn-down-their-music moments—matter.

Because someday, my children won’t have me around to protect them. Someday, they’ll have the opportunity to listen to, look at, or take part in something that could damage their hearts. And on that day, they’ll have to decide for themselves whether or not they will protect their hearts and minds from the things that claim to be better than Christ, but just aren’t.

Can I be honest? Sometimes I don’t feel like rapping my knuckles on the window. I don’t feel like being selective about TV shows, music, language, or behavior. But the patterns, standards, and expectations we set for our children in the early days will carry on into the pre-teen, teen, and out-of-the-house years.

My prayer is that, by handling my children’s hearts carefully in these early years, God will turn their hearts to him and empower them to do what is right—not because “mom said so,” but because they’ve known and experienced that Christ is better.

My son believed me when I told him that that music wasn’t worth listening to—because I’m his mom. He trusts me. What a privilege and heavy responsibility to be charged with guiding our children’s hearts to see the world correctly: through the lens of God’s Word.

Parents, every awkward, cringeworthy encounter with the world is worth it if it means we can help our children know that Christ is better.

He is always better.

 

This article appeared first on Just18Summers.com.

I Try to Do the Right Thing, But…

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I never knew so much ‘tude could exist in one little body. My four-year-old sat perched on the edge of his bed: arms crossed, eyes narrowed, and sweet lips pressed into a firm line of defiance. His chest heaved from the Oscar-worthy performance he’d just displayed as he protested the great injustice of having to obey his mom.

I knelt in front of him to address his disobedience. After a short discussion, Benjamin admitted—with great reluctance—that he had done wrong. And in that moment, his tough, I’m-right-and-you’re-crazy-if-you-think-I’m-ever-wrong face began to crumple.

“I try to do the right thing, but” He stared at the floor as his lip trembled, “I just can’t.”

The impatient response of a frustrated parent was on the tip of my tongue. Yes you can do the right thing, and you’d better straighten up and do what you’re supposed to, or so help me…

But as I watched my son wilt in discouragement, it was as if I were looking in a mirror. How many times had my heart responded in the same way when faced with my sin? Romans 7 came to mind, where the Apostle Paul confesses his inner struggle between his sin nature and new-in-Christ nature. I try to do the right thing…but I can’t. And the things I don’t want to do…I do.

I was reminded that my son does not yet have a relationship with Christ. Because of common grace, he does have many moments where he is kind, obedient, considerate, and loving. But Scripture tells me that apart from Christ, a person can’t bear any real fruit (John 15:5). Apart from Christ, we are enemies of God and dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).

“You know what, B,” I said as I took his hands in mine, “you’re right. By yourself, you can’t do the right thing. I can’t either. Even on my best days, I still do wrong things, and so do you. That’s the bad news—we aren’t perfect, and that keeps us far from God. But the wonderful news is that Jesus did what we could never do on our own…”

As we took the next minute or two to talk about the gospel message, I was struck by how easily I could have missed this opportunity. How often do I act surprised, irritated, or outraged when my son does exactly what a sinner in need of Jesus is expected to do?

Ephesians 6:4 commands fathers (and parenthetically mothers) to not provoke or stir their children to anger, but to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Our children must be guided and corrected, no question. But we are at risk of discouraging them if we forget to acknowledge that, until they have a personal relationship with Christ, they remain enslaved to sin.

As parents, we are stewarded with the incredible task of mirroring the character of God to our children. Our God is righteous, and he hates sin; but He is also slow to anger, full of grace and mercy, and sympathizes with us in our weaknesses.

Will my children make me want to pull my hair out sometimes? Absolutely. But I’m so grateful that God is patient with me when I struggle with the same kinds of disobedience again and again.

My prayer is that I would be a mother who extends that same patience and grace to my children when they inevitably struggle. And my hope is that, by that same grace, my children will be drawn to the Father because they’ve experienced His unbreakable love and patience.

This article first appeared on Just18Summers.com. 

The Most Dangerous Place: Creating a Culture of Life for Our Children

creating a culture of life for our children

This article originally appeared at gsocarecenter.org.

We walked with the crowd of people toward an old, dilapidated building. Angry weeds forced their way through every visible crack and crevice. The building rested at the end of a long driveway, and volunteers in brightly colored vests lined either side. We walked in silence as an overwhelming sense of sadness settled around us like a thick blanket.

When we came to a stop, we stared at the building and watched as women filtered in and out of the door that creaked in protest each time it was forced open. We watched and we prayed.

My husband, two children, and I were standing outside of our city’s abortion facility.

Not your typical Saturday family outing.

The Most Dangerous Place

I’ve gotten more than a few strange looks and comments from people when they learn that we’ve taken our children to the abortion facility. And I can’t say I blame them—I’m sure it seems weird on several levels. For one, convincing a 4-year-old and almost 2-year-old to be quiet and cooperative while praying for women walking toward their abortion appointments is no easy task.

But what probably seems strangest is the fact that we’re exposing our children to such darkness. And if I’m honest, I used to wonder the same thing. I wondered if I was wasting my time and energy doing something my kids would never remember. And I wondered if I’d be giving them more than they could handle.

But I’ll never forget one of the first times we went there as a family. One of the leaders of our prayer walk stood before us and said, “Your children are welcome to come pray with us—in fact, we encourage you to bring them here. The most dangerous place for your children is not standing here outside this abortion facility. The most dangerous place is sitting at home, staring at the TV, completely unaware that there are hurting people out here walking toward death and destruction every day.”

This man wasn’t ranting against watching TV or enjoying lazy Saturday mornings. Rather, he was challenging us as parents to be honest with our children about the pain and evil in this world. Because if pain and evil do not exist, then the need for the gospel—for a Savior—doesn’t exist either.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

You’re Still Happy with Me, Right?

You're still happy with me, right?

I exited the room, arms full of folded towels. The goal was to put them in the linen closet and come back for the rest of the clothes. I couldn’t have been gone more than ten seconds.

Sometimes ten seconds is all it takes.

When I entered the living room, every piece of freshly folded laundry was strewn across the room. Shirts were on the hearth, pants were dangling off the sewing machine, and underwear littered the floor and couch.

I spun toward my two primary suspects and asked in an eerily calm voice, “Who. Did. This?”

Continue reading “You’re Still Happy with Me, Right?”

What Do Scary Things Do?

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“I’m afraid of spiders.”

My almost four-year-old eyed me and then quickly redirected his gaze to his toys. His tone was apologetic.

Benjamin’s fear of spiders wasn’t new to me. For a while, he had recurring nightmares involving spiders—the kind of nightmares that would terrify the most fearless adult.

“I don’t blame you, B,” I said. “I think spiders are creepy, too. And you know, everyone is afraid of something. Except for a special Someone. Did you know there is Someone who’s not afraid of anything?”

Benjamin smiled at the familiar question. “God!”

And then his eyes narrowed in concentration. “So what do scary things do when they see God?”

I blinked. When is this kid going to start asking me easier questions?

Continue reading “What Do Scary Things Do?”

Throw Off Laziness

Throw off laziness

“NO, I will NEVER do what you want me to do. Never. NEVEEEEEERRR!!!” His footsteps pounded down the hall, followed by the sharp slam of his bedroom door.

Ah, you’re probably thinking, the teenage years. Those are tough.

Nope. He’s three. THREE.

I stared down the hall after my Drama King. Wow. So many little rebellion issues to address. Probably a great opportunity for a teachable moment. Grace. The gospel. All that.

But in that moment, I had zero desire to deal with any of it.

Continue reading “Throw Off Laziness”

When My Children Shake Me

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“Are you sorry for snapping at me?”

I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath. Shame washed over me as I replayed the outburst in my head. How was it possible that one three-year-old could make my blood boil so easily? I looked at my son, staring at me with his impossibly blue eyes. Waiting for an answer.

Inner-Mary readied her list of reasons why her harsh reaction was justified: You’ve been pushing me all day. You’ve screamed and cried and made unreasonable demands. You’ve disobeyed me, ignored me, and taken me for granted. Can you really blame me for lashing out??

My son is quite the expert at shaking me up. How easy it is for me to point my finger at him when anger, selfishness, impatience, and laziness come spilling out of me. But he’s never made me react in the wrong way. The reality is this: Every reaction that spills out of me reveals what was already there.

Click here to read the rest of this article at Just18Summers.com.

3 Weeks of God-Focused Fall Activities for Young Children

god-focused fall activities

If you’re like me, you might get a little overwhelmed with the 3,643 events that happen in the fall. It kind of seems like there’s a tad bit of pressure to do ALL the things. After all, if you don’t enjoy a pumpkin-spiced-something while wearing cute wedge boots and carving a pumpkin…did fall even happen?

I’m guilty of trying to do all the events and activities with my kids. Like if I don’t do enough, they’ll be in therapy someday, lamenting the woes of their lost fall childhood to their therapist. “If only I’d gone apple picking, I might have gotten a real job and made something of myself,” they’d say.

I can be a bit dramatic.

So this fall, my goal is to just calm down and be intentional with my children by making each task, event, or activity an opportunity to point them to Jesus. This may seem like an overwhelming task, but I’m learning that children are so receptive to the truth that even the simplest task, when connected to Jesus, can make a lasting impression.

So as I’m putting this into practice for our family, I wanted to share this resource with you, too: 3 Weeks of God-Focused Fall Activities for Young Children.

Continue reading “3 Weeks of God-Focused Fall Activities for Young Children”

Every Heart Wants the Story

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He had to use both arms and tilt his body sideways to support its weight, but you could spot the puffed out chest and unfettered pride from a mile away.

A certain three-year-old had a brand new Bible.

“This is God’s true Word, Ryleigh,” he told his baby sister. “Be gentle with it.” Ryleigh stuffed a handful of Cheerios into her mouth in agreement.

My son’s previous storybook Bible was—ahem—well-loved. So much so that the binding was barely holding the pages together and several stories had been ripped out by an overly enthusiastic baby sister.

Benjamin began asking if he could take his Bible to church, but I wasn’t sure it would make it there in one piece. Yeah, this kid needed a new Bible.

I took the kids to the bookstore and began looking over the selections. The options were a bit sparse—only about 493 choices of kids’ Bibles. Being the ever-practical person that I am, I was drawn first to the most economical Bibles. (Read: The easiest-on-my-wallet Bibles.)

Makes sense, right? I mean, three-year-olds aren’t known for their gentleness. Why spend a ton of money on a fancy Bible that would just get dropped, crinkled, or ripped?

(Read the rest of this article at Just18Summers.com by clicking here!)