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Jun

25

Posted by on Jun 25, 2018 | 1 comment

 

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His skin was the color of summer and youth, beautiful and smooth and the stuff of a 1970-something Coppertone ad, minus a black Boykin Spaniel. This wasn’t his first day at the pool.

He couldn’t have been much older than three. His head barely reached the top of the diving board. To reach the platform he had to crawl up the stairs. This one whose smile was permanent fixture already understood joie de vivre.

Fearless and free and fueled by adrenaline, he went off the board a dozen times. Increasing courage quickened his pace.

He shifted the aim of a spotlight he wasn’t even aware existed. “Hey, watch my Dad!” he called out to the others when his father mounted the stairs. His face beamed awaiting the show, his eyes twinkling love, admiration, and joy.

His dad did a one and a half gainer with marginal success.

He awarded his approval in laughter and applause, and gleefully asked everyone in earshot, “Did you see my Dad?!”

Olympic gold doesn’t come close.

 

 

 

 

 

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First Ask Why || Interview With Author Shelly Wildman & Book Giveaway!

Apr

24

Posted by on Apr 24, 2018 |

 

The internet has introduced me to a lot of writing friends, and when they go on to publish a book, I can’t help but stand on the sidelines and cheer. Today, I’m celebrating Shelly Wildman, an internet-turned-real-life friend who has just released a wonderful parenting book: Just Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship.

Shelly and I have a lot in common, starting with our age and including each of us having three children. We’ve learned over the years we share a similar parenting philosophy, and when she told me she was writing a book about parenting, I knew it would be one I’d recommend to others. I was right. It’s good, y’all.

This isn’t a how-to book, but it lays out a framework for (as I phrase it) parenting “hard and on purpose;” in her case, in particular, with the goal of discipling your children in their faith.

Parents of children still living at home will want this book, and it will make a fantastic Mother’s Day gift for anyone in the childrearing trenches. I’m also giving away a copy (comment on Instagram or Facebook). I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the following interview with Shelly; you’ll understand quickly why I regard her counsel and why I’m bossing you to pick up your own copy.

 

Writing about parenting can be a powder keg—people have pretty strong opinions about raising kids. Why did you choose to write a parenting book?

 

I kind of feel like I didn’t choose to write a parenting book, but that the book chose me. (Sounds like a scene from Harry Potter, doesn’t it?) I fought writing it for a long time because I knew I wasn’t a perfect parent—I had messed up so many times that I didn’t feel qualified to write this book. I still don’t. But the idea kept nagging at me for so long that I finally felt like God might have been pushing me to do it.

 

I believe with all my heart that stronger families will make for a stronger society, which is so important today. And I believe that the strongest families are those that have Christ at their center. But so many parents today have lost their focus or their sense of purpose. They spend their time on meaningless, temporal things, when, really, the most important mission field is right in front of them. I’m hoping to encourage parents to look at the bigger picture, to ask why they are doing what they’re doing, and to think critically about God’s purpose for their kids and for their families.

 

I have three adult daughters now, and my hope is, now that my husband and I have raised them, that they will go out into the world and make a difference. And should they have children someday, that they would also make disciples of their kids. Instilling a Christ-following legacy is important work—I believe it’s THE most important work parents can do—and we’ve got to be intentional about it.

 

What makes your book different from other parenting books?

 

So many parenting books are “how-to” books. They seem to say, “Just follow these ten steps and here’s what you’ll get in the end.” But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

 

Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

 

Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

 

Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

 

Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.

 

Why do you think some kids, even though they had Christian parents, don’t grow up to follow God? Is there anything Christian parents can do to ensure that their kids will choose to follow Jesus?

 

This is such a difficult question for me to answer because I honestly don’t know why. I know that parents can do all the right things—have time in God’s word together every day, take their kids to church regularly, pray diligently for their kids—and still have kids who struggle. I don’t believe there are any guarantees in Scripture that our kids will choose to follow Jesus into adulthood.

 

But I do believe that Scripture commands us to parent with the end goal in mind: having children who know and love the Lord. We are to be diligent in our calling to present our children to God, and we have to trust Him with the outcome. We have to persevere every day to show our kids that following Jesus is the path to true life, even though some days can be downright hard.

 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 has been such a guide and encouragement to me as a parent, especially where it says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your offspring may live.” We have a choice every day, and it’s our job to show our kids that choosing Christ is the only way to a fulfilling life.

 

What books influenced your husband and you as you raised your three daughters?

 

Honestly? Not very many. So many parenting books seemed to offer a formula—do this; don’t do that—and we weren’t looking for a formula. We knew that every kid is different and that every family has different needs, and most parenting books didn’t take that into account.

 

That said, there were a few that made an impact. Our pastor, Kent Hughes and his wife Barbara, wrote a book called Common Sense Parenting back in the ‘90s that, well, made sense to us. Some of the information is a little outdated today, but overall, it really helped us make good decisions about our parenting. And then there was James Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child, for the obvious reasons. I think the book that made the most impact, though, was probably Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. That book made me realize that my goal as a parent isn’t good behavior, but a changed heart. That, to me, was really impactful. If I were still parenting younger kids today, I’d also recommend Paul David Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Will Radically Change Your Family.

 

What was your lowest parenting moment?

You mean besides that time I locked my one month old in the car? (True story!)

 

I think my lowest moments were the times I let my daughters down. When I betrayed their trust by sharing too much with others. Or when I didn’t fulfill a promise I had made. Parents can feel their kids’ disappointment, which hurts so much. But more than that, too many disappointments lead to mistrust or a lack of respect, and I never wanted that to happen.

 

That said, parents are human. We do mess up. We do let our kids down. And those are the times we have to humble ourselves with our kids and apologize, sincerely. We need to let our kids know that we don’t always do things perfectly or say the right things or even parent correctly. But that we need grace and the help of God as much as they do.

 

Who do you hope will read this book and what do you hope they will gain?

I hope parents with kids of all ages will read this book, but especially parents of younger children. I hope grandparents will read this book. And I hope it sparks lots of discussion between husbands and wives, moms groups, or even small groups in churches.

 

My hope is that parents will come away from reading this book with a stronger sense of their purpose as parents and that they might gain a couple of new ideas that they can implement in their own family. I also hope people will read the last chapter very carefully and prayerfully. The last chapter of the book is on letting go, and it’s a concept that I think is becoming lost a little bit today. It’s so hard, but it’s so important, even when your children are young, to start thinking about letting go. We’ve got to be parents who demonstrate faith in God’s sovereign work in the lives of our children.

 

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Helpful New Resource For Moms Who’ve Ever Lost Your Temper #TemperToolkit

Feb

02

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 | 1 comment


TemperToolkit_SM3-color

 

 

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

 

I also believe it’s the best job on the planet, and I can say now, from where I sit as an Empty Nester, it’s beautifully, thought sometimes brutally, worthwhile and satisfying.

My three children are becoming the humans I prayed and hoped they’d become, but it was not without a thousand misfires during the years they were daily under my roof.

Some days I didn’t know if I would make it to the next.

Some moments I didn’t know if I would make it to the next.

Some seconds I didn’t know if I would let them make it to the next.

Parenting isn’t easy.

But we parented hard and on purpose, making the best decisions we could with what we knew. We read books and even took parenting classes at our church. Thankfully, we had a strong community of young parents walking the same road shoulder to shoulder.

The internet wasn’t yet a thing when they were young, or at least not what it is today. There weren’t bloggers and websites and social networking that connected you to “experts.” For us there was Dr. Leman and Dr. Dobson, and the good parts of the Ezzos.

But there were wise parents a few years ahead of me, families I could observe. When I saw older kids who seemed to behave the way I hoped mine would eventually, I took note. I watched those mamas and daddies to see if there was anything I could learn from them. They had no idea.

Fast forward to now, and there’s a wealth of parenting resources out there. It’s a “chicken and bones” kind of thing – pick and choose what works for you, keep the chicken, toss those bones. 

I’m excited to tell you about a new “chicken” you’re going to want to eat:

The Temper Toolkit, a special parenting resource from my friend Lisa-Jo Baker. Many of you will already know Lisa-Jo as one of my (in)courage writing sisters, and as a blogger and author, she’s been encouraging moms for years (if you haven’t yet read her book, it’s a GREAT addition to a mom’s library–and on sale!). The beauty of her Temper Toolkit is she has lived this in the trenches. She’s consolidated helpful practices she’s learned over time into a video series that is sure to encourage mamas of younger children (and even those tweens and teens). There’s a reasonable price tag attached to her content; and it’s only fair to compensate her for her time in pulling this all together to make a beautiful, truly helpful resource for you.

 

TemperToolkit_HavingABadDay

 

From Lisa-Jo herself:

I’ve packaged up everything I’ve learned about my mom temper (the hard way) over the last decade of parenting and everything I teach at my workshops so that you can put it into practice in your own homes. And I’m calling it The Temper Toolkit.

The Temper Toolkit is a labor of love from me to you — a collection of practical strategies, honest stories, and Biblical resources from one mom to another to help you take control of your temper BEFORE you lose it. 

It includes: 7 teaching videos, downloadable audio (so you can listen on the go) and key takeaways from each lesson beautifully designed as phone lock screens, computer wallpapers or a print so you can choose which format is best to help you take the lessons with you on the go. 

And there are a 5 bonus videos including how to talk to your husband and how to talk to your kids about your journey with temper. And what 6 daily steps you can take to defuse. 
 
The Temper Toolkit includes real life tools for real life change. Because what you don’t need is more guilt. What you need are the tools to get you through.

By the end of our time together I hope that by sharing my own (embarrassingly) honest temper stories and coping strategies I will have convinced you of three things:

  1. That you’re not a bad mom.
  2. That a good God is using your kids to transform you into His image.
  3. That temper is not an incurable disease, but a treatable condition.  

All for the cost of one exhausted drive-through dinner with the kids after a day of meltdowns.

 

AND…if you’re one of the first 50 people to purchase the Temper Toolkit, you’ll get a FREE copy of Surprised by Motherhood!!

I’m convinced if you’re struggling as a mom, if your temper sometimes flares, if you just wish you had some help or wisdom from someone a few years ahead of you, you’re going to gain some insights and tips to help calm your spirit and reduce the chaos.

You’ll have to act quickly! Lisa-Jo is only going to keep the Temper Toolkit
available for purchase for five days (today through Monday, February 6th.

I hope you’ll share this post with every mama you know could use some practiced advice.
(easy share buttons are at the bottom of this post)
If you have questions or need help with the course, please email support@tempertoolkit.com.

 

Temper-Toolkit-with-Lisa-Jo-Baker

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#GivingTuesday – When it’s personal (a must-read no matter when you see this)

Nov

29

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 | 2 comments

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She had no idea what her words were doing to me that night. My heart was growing like the Grinch’s when he finally understood the mystery and beauty of Christmas.

 

Which I realize, as I tell this tale,  is essentially about the same thing: Giving.

Because isn’t Christmas rooted in giving? It’s about how a great, great God extended lavish grace to an undeserving world and gave love in human form, a way back to him. 

The Way back to him.

Love incarnate.

Jesus.

And in our car that night illuminated by freeway lights, she was the most luminous thing of all, her countenance aglow. I didn’t even have to look at her. You could feel her light. His light in her.

We had three hours on our drive home and she filled time and space with stories of her work. They poured out, water from a hydrant, quenching our desire to know more, to better understand.

She was the one on fire.

What my heart doing- growing – was greater joy, John tells me so. I believe him.

She wasn’t talking about what you should do to change the world around you, she was telling us about all she’s done. We know what she likely doesn’t:  She’s changing the world. All of them are, these co-laborers for a cause. There are many on either side of her, arms linked, stepping into hard places and leaving footprints. Sometimes literally.

She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship working with poverty elimination.

She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship where she has to raise her own salary, which happens to be as it were, below the poverty level. I did the math and it broke my heart.

But not hers. She hasn’t even noticed. She doesn’t understand how little she makes because as she looks around, she’s just like everyone else in her world. The one she’s changing.

And of course she has parents who can stand in the gap for anything she needs, and she knows better than me, the people she serves don’t have that luxury.

So, if you’re thinking about year-end giving or inspired by this day known as Giving Tuesday, and you haven’t already promised your hard-earned dollars to your own personal cause, I’m asking you to give to Cross Purpose, and I’m bold enough to add, as much as you can.

 

(If you’d like to give specifically to Rachel, be sure to add “To the ministry of Rachel Dance” in the notes section, but however you choose to give WILL make a difference in the lives of those earnestly taking the steps to walk out of poverty.)

Cross Purpose is a non-profit and seeks:

“to abolish relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through the power of redemptive relationships. CrossPurpose is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to the idea of neighborhoods without poverty.”

The world my daughter is helping to change specifically focuses on nine poor neighborhoods in Denver, CO. The way Cross Purpose is going about poverty elimination is revolutionary, and other organizations around the country are studying their model to learn more. Cross Purpose esteems and empowers the people they’re hoping to help; they do not consider them human projects to pity.

Rachel has just begun the second year of her fellowship and she still needs partners interested in investing in this special ministry. If you’d like to be added to her mailing list, drop me an email (click envelope at top right of page) or add a comment to this post (she will happy dance with every new friend!!). An excerpt from a recent update–

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“One of the things I love about going to a multi-ethnic church is having the opportunity to meet people from different cultures. I’ve had the opportunity to build a relationship with one family from the Congo by driving them to church and spending time with them in their home. Last week after church, we were invited to their house for lunch and and to watch African music videos; soon, I will help their daughter practice driving. They have blessed me with their kindness, and honored me by making me a beautiful African dress (pictured at left).” 

 

Thank you for taking time to learn more about Cross Purpose. Thank you to infinity and beyond if you give financially. Whatever the amount, it will be stewarded well, and you can trust every gift matters.

One last ask: do you mind sharing this post? You can use the handy dandy share buttons below the post or copy this link:

http://bit.ly/ASpecialCauseforGivingTuesday

to share on Facebook, email to all your contacts, Tweet, Pin…or however you socially share :).

Mother and child will do the happy dance together, miles apart. 

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The ministry of tears

Jun

05

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 | 1 comment


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I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have since my mother’s death, and that was a long, long time ago. Emotions? Threadbare. Sleep? Fitful at best. And eating a real meal? Wishful thinking. Who needs a meat and three when you can have a Snickers and coffee?

I wish I were kidding on that last one.

It’s embarrassing to admit the “Why” of it, because, if I play the Comparison Game, it’s not a good enough reason to justify my fragility. I’m not facing illness or financial trouble, my children and marriage are doing well; in fact, the “Why” of it is ultimately good: We sold our house, the one we haven’t lived in full-time in almost three years.

I mistakenly thought selling was the hard part.

Packing up and purging the house my children will remember as Home — the place destined to inhabit their dreams when their minds drift back to childhood — undid me.

As my oldest son and I emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.

As we emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.


The first instance happened as I passed down a box of their handmade Christmas gifts to my son, and the weight of all I hadn’t accomplished punched me in the throat.
So many unfinished plans, slick roads paved with good intention. Life events, milestones, a childhood of Firsts times three. Tears were impossible to control. I could barely speak as I asked . . .

Did I get it right? Did I miss it…?” and poor Thomas, my 21-year-old, tried to answer the question he thought I was asking, “Mom…stop! You’re a great mother, we couldn’t have had it any better….” but he couldn’t possibly know what I meant. He hadn’t yet earned the right to understand; that price would be paid with a lot of life between now and then. Years. Decades.

We’ve been married almost 29 years; our babies are 23, 21 and 19. The oldest just received an amazing marriage proposal; the middle one will graduate college next May; and the youngest just finished his freshman year. The house we lived in most of their lives was big enough to hold a lot of memories, and many of those memories were now represented by things made or bought. Downsizing to a much smaller house forced decisions I didn’t want to have to make. To toss any “thing” felt personal, as if I were saying that memory didn’t matter. Suddenly everything mattered and I was paralyzed by emotion and indecision, and just about anything could trigger an emotional breakdown. 

I was grieving a certain kind of loss, and though that loss wasn’t marked by tragedy, and it wasn’t attached to relational devastation, financial ruin, or health scares, it was final. I was saying good-bye to more than just a house.

I cried a lot, and instantly felt guilty or hated myself for it, because selling our house was a good thing. But then it hit me–

Crying wasn’t weakness or pity party, it was catharsis.

Tears are an incredible pressure valve and every single one of them tells a story. Tears are a way of my body expressing itself when words are insufficient.

Please continue reading The Ministry of Tears over at incourage.me.
You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the benefits of an ugly cry :).

 


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If these walls could speak

Jun

02

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 | 6 comments


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A week ago we sold the house my children will always remember as home, the one they will dream about when they are the age I am now, when sleep makes them think they are young again.

We’ve packed and we’ve purged and we’ve cried – a lot – but we’ve also seen precious people who mean a lot to us, friends who’ve sat around our table through the years, and kids who’ve grown up right before our eyes. They’ve helped us put things into boxes, and loosen my grip on anything that didn’t make sense to keep. I’ve found that being a sentimentalist about e v e r y t h i n g has the potential of making me a hoarder.

Even now, just the thought of that is offensive to me – I am not a hoarder! Except the two-and-a-half filled and emptied curbside dumpsters would suggest otherwise. And the Goodwill truck locked and loaded with stuff that used to live in my house. And the things we sold on Craigslist. Not to mention all the stuff we’ve stored for our kids or later use, or given to friends who had the eyes to see the treasure in our trash.

It made my day when Abbie texted me a picture of my old copper cookie canister that had been gathering dust in my pantry (the holder of rarely used cookie cutters) sitting on her shelf alongside her wedding-new copper cookware.

We haven’t lived in that house full-time for three years – a long story that makes sense for us – so I didn’t expect…I wasn’t prepared for, the depth and breadth of emotion attached to selling it. We moved there the summer before our children began 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade; 13 years later we said our final good-byes. It is the summer before my babies’ sophomore and senior year of college, and the oldest is engaged and a year past her graduation.

If it sounds like I’m in mourning, I suppose I have been. I mean seriously – if I have trouble tossing a pair of ratty short-alls, so shredded you can barely figure out which hole to put your leg through, just because Tad gave them to me as a gift when Thomas, now 21, was born – it makes sense that selling the house we lived in during our children’s most formative years would be difficult. Shout out to Stephanie and Paige who looked at me like I had grown another head for wanting to keep those short-alls.

Still, Glory! Hallelujah! It’s sold and we’re thankful.

In addition to all the packing and purging and crying and good-byeing, we’ve been remembering.

We’ve watched our children’s lives pass before our eyes.

 

WoodyCowboy BootsBaby Blanket

Three kids makes for many a keepsake. The things they’ve made for us. Treasured school and artwork. Love notes to us. Their special lovies. Every single thing stacked in their closets and crammed in our attic meant something. Stood for something. Held precious memory.

Every time I held a thing, whether to keep or toss or give away, it was an exercise in remembering. Memories are powerful.

 

Maybe something fun or important or special, or I don’t know, something less concrete. The boys sword fighting with light sabers. Thomas reciting all the lines from his pull-toy Woody from Toy Story – “There’s a ‘nake in my boot!” The way Rachel negotiated holding the most fragile of collectibles – “I just gonna ’tiss it.” Blond, curly mop. Wide, determined eyes, pudgy hands carefully holding. She never broke anything. The way Stephen would build with his Legos. His patience and persistence played me.

It’s an interesting phenomena to me, this conjuring of emotion. And despite all the tears – barrels of them – I’m not sad. Well, not exactly; there’s a tender melancholy to this closed door. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad or I wish it didn’t have to happen. It’s a saying good bye (for good) to what was, which enables us to fully grasp what is, and what is to come. 

We’ve had three years to get used to the idea.

Still, a Band-aid pulled off slowly still stings at the end.

 

Our house sat perched at the end of a long, steep driveway, on nearly three acres of, shall we say, a challenging yard. The master bedroom was upstairs. Thirty years old, wood-sided, and roomy, its primary competition was new construction. We loved that house and took good care of her, but three years with no one in it full-time took a toll. It was still a great house, but it would take someone who looked skin deep to find all her beauty, a buyer who didn’t want a perfect and new home, but a perfect for us home. 

After a fair number of showings but no offers, I decided people needed a little help seeing a home and not just a house.

 

I’ve fully explained this imaginative tip for helping to sell a house at The Art of Simple so I won’t go into it here, but I wanted to share a few pictures of my idea since they aren’t included with my post. (Do click over and read it, it’s a good ‘un.)

Why I love this home

House Lovenotes

House scripture

House notes

 

There’s this great old song by Amy Grant that perfectly captures the power and beauty of reminiscing, of life with all its complexities, and how a house is an incredible vessel of stories and secrets and dreams. (She does a fair amount of reminiscing to begin; the song starts at the 2:12 mark.)

 

  If These Walls Could Speak
~ Amy Grant

If these old walls, if these old walls could speak
Of things that they remember well
Stories and faces dearly held

A couple in love livin’ week to week
Rooms full of laughter
If these walls could speak

If these old halls, hallowed halls could talk
These would have a tale to tell
Of sun goin’ down and dinner bell
And children playing at hide and seek from floor to rafter

If these halls could speak
They would tell you that I’m sorry
For bein’ cold and blind and weak
They would tell you that it’s only
That I have a stubborn streak
If these walls could speak

If these old fashioned window panes were eyes
I guess they would have seen it all
Each little tear and sigh and footfall
And every dream that we came to seek or followed after

If these walls could speak
They would tell you that I owe you
More than I could ever pay
Here’s someone who really loves you
Don’t ever go away
That’s what these walls would say

They would tell you that I owe you
More than I could ever pay
Here’s someone who really loves you
Don’t ever go away
That’s what these walls would say

That’s what these walls would say
That’s what these walls would say

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