Archive for the 'parenting' Category


“Mommy, sometimes Satan tells me you’re stupid”

Ella, my 6 year old, looked at me with sheep dog eyes as she stumbled over those words, “Mommy, sometimes Satan tells me you’re stupid.  And I can’t get him to stop telling me.”

It’s confession time before bed, and it’s just me and Ella in her room.  And when she tells me this, by the grace of God, I don’t take offense-at all.  Because we all think evil thoughts, and honestly that is where I sin the most-in my thoughts.  I looked at her and said, “Satan says ugly things to me too, and wants me to believe them as truth.  And yep, mommy sins against you, and so sometimes it might feel as if I’m being stupid to you.  But sometimes, you won’t understand the things that I am telling you to do because you are the child and not the parent.”  (Things like:  I tell her it’s shower night, and Ella complains because she took a shower 2 days ago.)  🙂

In this moment, I was praising Jesus because Ella was being so honest with me, and she was recognizing sin that I am just now learning to recognize in my own life, and she wanted to confess it.  Not only to Jesus, but to the person she had wronged.  Wow.

One of the most tempting lies for every human being in this fallen world—is to believe that our greatest problems exist outside us rather than inside us.  Despite this, the Bible calls us to humbly confess that the greatest, deepest, most abiding problem each of us faces is inside of us, not outside. The Bible names that problem “sin.”  You know that you have been gifted with grace when you are able to say, “My greatest relationship problems are because of what’s inside of me not outside of me.”-The Grace of Confession.

Confession time- something we started a few months back with our children before bed.  A nightly ritual that we do one on one with our kids.  We each confess to each other a sin or sins that we did that day. The practice of a parent confessing to a child is humbling to say the least.  We confess sins that are age appropriate of course, but I’ve been stuck a night or two trying to think frantically of what I can say…and then reminded by my child of my anger earlier that day.  I’m a big sinner to be sure, but it’s in my mind where I struggle the most, and when you don’t have a “receipt” for your sin, (I was angry, so I hit my brother), it’s hard to think about.  So I realized along the way of life that I hardly ever have confessed sin to my Lord because I don’t necessarily think about it.  And then you get caught in the trap of thinking, “I’m not really sinning, it’s just who I am.”  But God calls us to confess our sins.

1 John 1:8-9  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Example:  I am not a loving person.  It doesn’t come natural to me to love on someone and think of their emotional and physical needs before mine.  So I might see/hear of someone who needs a  hug or a shoulder to cry on (super hard for me) and that would mean me giving up a night on my couch watching The Bachelorette so I can pray with them.  But I shove that thought out of my mind.  I deserve a night on the couch because I’ve had such a busy week.  Am I sinning because it’s not in my nature to love others well, so I choose to “forget” to ask my friend if they would like to go out for a walk?  Yes.  That is my sin.

I am just now learning to become more aware of these sins though because I am thinking throughout the day, “What will I confess to my daughter and to the Lord tonight?”  What a blessing.

And there’s more:  Repentence.  Restoration.  Redemption.  Hope.  Forgiveness.  Honesty.

After we confess our sins to each other we pray and ask God for forgiveness.  And the parent always brings it back to the Gospel message in their prayer.  We are forgiven and clean because of Jesus dying on the cross for your sin and mine.  There are consequences for sin, but shame and guilt?  No.  Jesus died for that.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

From the Grace of Confession by Paul Tripp:

Confession shouldn’t be this scary thing we do our best to avoid. Sin, weakness, and failure shouldn’t be the constant elephant in the room that we all know is there but can’t (or won’t) talk about. Instead, confession is a wonderful gift that every relationship needs. It should be liberating, not understood as a moment of personal and relational loss. Our confession should be propelled by deep appreciation and gratitude toward God, who has made it possible for us to no longer fear being exposed.

Because of what Jesus has done for us, we do not have to hide or excuse our wrongs. We’re freed from posing as if we’re perfect. In our heart of hearts we know we’re not. We can stare our problems in the face with hope and courage because Christ has made possible real, lasting, personal, change in our relationships. 


how to tell my 7 year old why we didn’t vote for Obama

Let me start off by saying that because my children go to public school, we have chosen to be very intentional about our response to issues they come to us about.  We do not take lightly anything they bring up to us, and we always want to respond with the Gospel.

Last month I had to address the issue of same sex marriage with Rilyn.  She brought it up because she knows some friends at school that have two mommies.  I took her out for a drink at Sonic, brought her Bible, and we had a great discussion together.  One of our old pastors in Houston wrote an excellent blog post about addressing same sex marriage with a gospel centered approach here.

This week I had to talk with Rilyn about why we didn’t vote for Obama and will not in November.  Isn’t parenting fun?!?  🙂

A couple weeks ago Rilyn was learning Texas history in class and they learned about Rick Perry being the governor.  Her teacher stated that we all have our personal opinions about who to vote for and why and we should respect everyone’s decisions, but that he doesn’t like Rick Perry.  That caught Rilyn’s attention because she learned Rick Perry was an Aggie- Ha!  That lead to more discussion, and she learned her teacher likes Obama.  So Rilyn came up to me after school that day and asked if we voted for Obama.  I told her no we did not and will not in November and I would love to share the reason why, but I want to wait for daddy to talk with her too.  You could tell she wasn’t too happy with waiting.  Weeks passed unfortunately, and this Thursday as I was eating lunch with Rilyn in the cafeteria, she looked at me square in the eyes and said, “Now can we talk about why you didn’t vote for Obama?”  Wow, she had been stewing on this issue for weeks!  I was immediately convicted to address issues with her more quickly.

“Well Rilyn, your dad and I are one issue voters, meaning there is only one issue that we think is so important that this one issue will tell us who to vote for.”  Rilyn said, “I know what it is, if they are Christian or not!”  “I can see why you would say that, but nope.  Many people say they are Christians, but aren’t reflecting Christ in the way they live, and what if both candidates aren’t Christians?  Then who would I vote for?  The one issue that we give our vote to is called the sanctity of life.   You will hear terms like pro-choice and pro-life…”

I then explained to her abortion…at 7 years old.  I’m sure I didn’t even know what that was until college.  But I trust that God had Rilyn ask me this question, (and then ask me again,) because it’s for His Glory for her to know NOW.

I told her that God created life, so why do humans have the right to tamper with human life?  Doesn’t this right belong to our Creator?  God created everything and therefore owns, or has authority over, everything.  Deuteronomy 10:14 “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.”

*If you have any doubt at all that abortion (even in the first trimester) is not killing a living human being, please see this website, and watch this video especially.)

Last summer, I did a study called Abortion is About God and have volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center for the past few years.  God has placed me with a community of believers that all have the same heart for this issue, and together we have prayed in front of abortion clinics in Austin.  All this to say, the sanctity of life is something I think about on a daily basis and I pray my children will fight for this cause one day too.

As pastor John Piper puts it from his sermon, One Issue Politics, One Issue Marriage, and the Humane Society:

“So it is with politics. You have to decide what those issues are for you. What do you think disqualifies a person from holding public office? I believe that the endorsement of the right to kill unborn children disqualifies a person from any position of public office. It’s simply the same as saying that the endorsement of racism, fraud, or bribery would disqualify him—except that child-killing is more serious than those.

When we bought our dog at the Humane Society, I picked up a brochure on the laws of Minnesota concerning animals. Statute 343.2, subdivision 1 says, “No person shall . . . unjustifiably injure, maim, mutilate or kill any animal.” Subdivision 7 says, “No person shall willfully instigate or in any way further any act of cruelty to any animal.” The penalty: “A person who fails to comply with any provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Now this set me to pondering the rights of the unborn. An eight-week-old human fetus has a beating heart, an EKG, brain waves, thumb-sucking, pain sensitivity, finger-grasping, and genetic humanity, but under our present laws is not a human person with rights under the 14th Amendment, which says that “no state shall deprive any person of life . . . without due process of law.” Well, I wondered, if the unborn do not qualify as persons, it seems that they could at least qualify as animals, say a dog, or at least a cat. Could we not at least charge abortion clinics with cruelty to animals under Statute 343.2, subdivision 7? Why is it legal to “maim, mutilate and kill” a pain-sensitive unborn human being but not an animal?

These reflections have confirmed my conviction never to vote for a person who endorses such an evil—even if he could balance the budget tomorrow and end all taxation.”

And finally, in light of Mother’s Day tomorrow: I leave you with this excerpt from Piper’s sermon Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Children Rank) that has something to do with the sanctity of life:

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.”


a legos lesson

Asher got Legos for his birthday, and although he likes building with them, Rilyn, my almost 8 year old, LOVES playing with them! One of the weeks James was gone in April I had a real “parenting night”-(those times when a teachable lesson presents itself)- and I had Legos to thank for it.
Rilyn had used Asher’s new Legos and spent several days building a city. She carefully followed the direction booklet and it was all set up…on the living room floor. You can see where this is going I’m sure…
We are skyping with James, and Asher wanders away. After we get off the call, I see Asher, who has successfully destroyed every last piece of Rilyn’s Lego city. He’s not doing it maliciously, he’s a boy, and destroying is fun, and they are HIS Legos after all.

Rilyn sees the damage.

And what happens next was crazy out of character for Rilyn, but she threw the biggest temper tantrum I have ever seen!  She was thrashing about on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs, crying hysterically…Ella starts crying quietly because she was scared at what her big sister was doing!  Asher looked dumbfounded and kept staring at her. I took Ella and Asher to their rooms and told them “let’s pray for Rilyn.”

We leave her alone in the living room for a good 5 minutes. Ella looks at me in her room and says, “I think Rilyn loves Legos more than Jesus.”  (Thank you to my 6 year old for declaring to me what I needed to go address with Rilyn.)
When I hear Rilyn calming down, I leave Ella to watch Asher, and I walk to Rilyn. We talk about what happened and her behavior. “I worked SO HARD!!!” “He ruined everything!” “I’ll never be able to build it again, it will take too long!!”

I calmly respond with “Did you know God always knew that Asher would destroy your city today? Did you know He has a perfect plan for why this happened? Do you think He is trying to get your attention to something, maybe something that is going on inside your heart? When you act so outrageously because of Legos, that tells me your heart’s affections are not for Jesus. Based on your actions earlier, your heart’s affections seem to be for self worth in what you can do (build a cool Lego city), in how hard you work, and in what you deserve or don’t deserve (her city being destroyed). Jesus wants you to find your self worth in Him alone, not how good you are at building Legos. Jesus wants you to know that He gives you the strength to work hard, it’s not in your own strength. He gave you the talent to build like that.  And as for what you deserve… Jesus didn’t deserve to die on the cross-He was without sin!  So anything given to us is His grace, because we are full of sin, and deserve death, but Jesus died for us!  You don’t deserve to have your Lego city standing for all to see for all time.  It was grace that you even got to build something so cool, and show it to us for a little while.

We prayed together, and Rilyn repented, and asked Jesus for forgiveness.  It really was a beautiful moment of redemption.

Rilyn age 21/2, building cities even then…

edible Nativity!

Tonight we made an edible Nativity scene!  I saw this idea on another blog and couldn’t resist trying it with our kids!  The ingredients can vary, but this is what we used:

We used food coloring to dye the coconut flakes yellow for hay.

We built our nativity scene on top of an empty box. This helped in that James could cut slits in the box so the graham crackers could stay up better and the toothpick/gumdrop people could stand upright.

Rilyn was pretty excited to use the decorating bag with frosting!
Mary, baby Jesus, Joseph, a shepherd, lots of sheep and 2 donkeys

Fun family time!


shepherds pouches

I like starting new traditions.

Last year we started the Jesse Tree and we love it!  Our church has even made a list of readings for Advent from The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
and ornament suggestions for the Jesse Tree.

The year before that, we started eating birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas morning for Jesus!

Yesterday I introduced my kids to shepherds pouches. (This idea was found on several blogs through Noel Piper’s book Treasuring God in Our Traditions

In place of where their stockings normally hang, there are 3 “shepherds pouches” hanging from December 1st-December 24th.  The actual pouches
aren’t particularly significant except that they represent simpleness and not drawing attention to themselves.  (As in not serving other people to get praise.)

I started off talking about whose birthday was coming up.


What do you do on birthdays?

We give presents!

How do we give presents to Jesus who is invisible?  How do we give to the King?

Blank stares.

I bring out the Bible and read Matthew 25:40:  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

This is how we give to the King.  We love and care for others.  Sacrifice. Service.  Chores without grumbling.  Servant’s hearts.  Loving attitudes.

“During the month of December, anytime daddy or I see you guys serving each other or others, doing chores with a happy heart, serving others at school (yes, James is writing an e-mail to Rilyn and Ella’s teachers asking them to e-mail us if they see our daughters serving), we will put money in your shepherds pouch.”  (I went to the bank earlier this week and got out 30 one dollar bills and $20 in quarters.)

On December 24th, we will count up all the money in their shepherds pouches.  We will then go to Compassion’s gift catalog and pick something to give to someone in need with all the money they made.  They browsed the catalog last night and were so excited that they could give a goat to a village!  🙂

Cultivating a spirit of self-sacrifice is hard for us – harder still for children during this season and in this consumeristic culture, who are marketed to constantly.  We hope the visual reminder of the shepherd’s pouch being in view, front and center, during these weeks helps us to maintain focus.

And so…imperfectly, we remind ourselves that the magnificent event we celebrate on December 25 began with Someone’s fierce and determined desire to love a faraway people.  

*I painted the canvas in the picture as another visual reminder of why there are pouches instead of stockings hanging over the fireplace. I used burlap for the word “King” from the extra pouches that came with the ones I ordered.  I decoupaged the letters to the canvas and sprinkled some glitter over the burlap to give it an extra emphasis.

**When the kids wake up on December 25th, the pouches will be replaced by their stockings full of fun little goodies!  Time to celebrate!

***This was the outcome from shepherds pouches 2011:   They made $18 in December in their shepherd’s pouches.  My favorite part was their public school teachers e-mailing us throughout the month with actions they saw at school that showed a servant’s heart from my girls. Both teachers really got into it, and I loved that we could share this experience with them! Sadly, the girls didn’t have enough money to buy a goat this year, but they had enough to buy a chicken!  Maybe next year!


a heart for missions

James, me, and our girls are going next summer to the Dominican Republic to serve together on a church mission trip, (along with two other families in our neighborhood.)  We are so excited to introduce them to “the nations” and begin to expose their selfish hearts by visiting a country that looks much different than our little surburbia bubble (I say this to myself too, I have no doubt God will expose my selfish heart also.)  Meanwhile, our missional community group  has been brainstorming ideas how to teach our kids a love for the nations so they have a heart for missions.  We talked with the pastor who puts together these mission trips to the DR and he suggested that we buy a world map shower curtain and put pictures up of our missionary friends in the country where they live, etc.   This is where I bought ours!

We put the shower curtain up on our wall in the playroom.  We added a picture of our girl that we sponser from Compassion who lives in the DR. We hope to meet her next summer!  We also added our friends who live and serve in Ethopia.  We will add more families as the weeks go on.

Rilyn pointing to Texas

Every morning, during our 5 minute Bible reading time before carpool for school, we read a verse(s) from Proverbs that corresponds to the date (we read verses in Proverbs 16 on September 16th).  After that, we have added praying for the “top 25 countries that have the lowest Christian population” So on the 16th, we pray for Thailand because it has the 16th lowest population of Christians at 1.10%.  We will then show them Thailand on the map.

We want to start now and parent and pray for them to have a heart for the nations and missions!


Great family night links

We did all of these in the last month, and I would recommend them all for family nights!  (we did the “school age” activity)

*I might of said this before but there is a great website called PluggedIn where you can print off free “movie devotionals” for the kids for family movie nights!  Talk about scenes in many different movies where you can point to a Gospel truth!


am I selling wisdom?

The last part of Paul Tripp’s seminar was about teenagers.

He said that our job as parents is to sell to your teen that which they are not seeking (or struggling with).

The typical struggles of a teenager are:

-no hunger for wisdom and correction

(Am I selling wisdom?  Or is my self-righteousness in the way?)

-tendency toward legalism

(Teen says, “I didn’t technically disobey you because you just said not to go to Jon’s house.  I wasn’t at his house, I was in his yard.”)

-unwise in choice of companions

(Ask, “Why do you like hanging out with her?”  Make your house the best house in the neighborhood to hang out at.)

-particularly susceptible to sexual temptation

-they do not think about the end result of things (lack eschatological perspective)

(They live in ‘the now’.  Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  Give them a “harvest mentality.”  Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”  Give them an “investment mentality”.

-tend to lack heart awareness

(Ask, “What is it right here, right now that God wants my teen to see that she is not now seeing?  And how can I help her see it?)

Remember that your heart is more like the heart of your teenager.  You struggle with the same things.

The struggles that your teenager has forms your job description as a parent.


what is ruling your heart right now?

Paul Tripp next talked about specific stages of children.

His main point in children age 0-5 was the rod as the principal tool of dicipline.  He said, “Sin reduces all of us to fools.  When I do foolish things, bad things happen.”  He gave the verses Proverbs 13:14, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15-17

He gave a model of the right way to spank.

-Only in a clear act of rebellion against authority.

-Must get a hold of my heart first before I spank.

-Go in a private place, not in front of siblings.

-Discuss the offense and tell them how many spankings they will receive.

-Seek an acknowledgement from the child of their sin.

-Administer the spanking(s)

-After the spanking(s), love and hug on the child.  Say, “I wish I never have to do this again.”

-Pray with and for the child.  Give the child an opportunity to pray.

Then he talked with us about children age 6-12.

His main point here was that not all disobedience, especially at this age, is about rebelling against authority.  A lot of disobedience comes from your child’s lack of character.  Scripture attaches character to worship.  Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.”  The heart of your child is always living under the rule of something.  What does your child worship?  Ask them after they disobey, “What is ruling your heart right now?”

He gave an example of the classroom diva, Susie, that told your daughter she must wear a party dress to school the next day or else she is not in the cool club.  Your daughter comes home and tells you that she must wear a party dress to school.  You ask your daughter, “Is Susie ruling your heart right now?  Has Susie become more important to you than God?”  After you talk with her, you can tell quickly if she is idolizing Susie or not.  If she is, then it is not appropriate for your daughter to wear a party dress the next day.

He also talked to us about tools to encourage change in their behavior.  He encouraged parents to bear their struggles to their kids.  Talk about your idols to them.  Never tell them, “I can’t believe you would do that” because you would, and you are shaming them.  He talked about procrastination.  When your son comes up to you at 10 p.m. on Sunday night and tells you he has a science project due on Monday, what do you do?  Before you respond with anger, think about if you have ever procrastinated before.  Maybe not paying your bills till the day they’re due, or not cleaning your house until the night before your mother in law comes over or watching TV when you should be reading the Bible.  Your response to your son should be, “I get it.  I am like you and procrastinate too.  I’m not going to do your project, but there is hope for people like me and you.  We need to humbly confess and ask God for help.”  So you still let him receive the consequences of not getting his science project done, but you do not get angry at him.  Remember, is he breaking God’s law or your law, (you shall do your homework assignments in a timely manner)?

Your children don’t need your opinion about whether or not they are fools for doing what they did, they need the mirror of the Word of God put in front of them to confront them.  The world puts carnival mirrors in front of them.


disobedience is not a hassle!

This past weekend I went to a parenting seminar by Paul Tripp.  Gosh, it was GOOD!!!  These next few posts are me digesting my notes that I wrote down.

I am God’s agent on site.  I am meant to make the invisible authority of God visible to my children.  Are they drawn to the authority of God because of the beautiful way I have represented it?

Our job as parents is to put a sense of awe for God in them.  If you’re not intent with putting God in the center of their world, guess who they will put there?  They WILL give their heart to something.  (boys, cheerleading, vanity, etc.)

Parents are masters at giving our children ways to AVOID love.  He gave an example of siblings who share a room and they constantly fight with each other.  What is our natural response?  Split them up in separate rooms (so that they don’t have to learn how to love each other.)  We need to teach them how to live in self-sacrificing love for each other.

Never say to your child, “I can’t believe you would do such a thing!”  Because you would do the same thing.  We are all broken people.  We need to show our children who our hope is when we fall.  In our brokenness, we can run to God.  No one gives grace better than someone who deeply believes they need it.  You say to your children, “I understand you did this because I am like you.  I want to rule my world too.”

Disobedience is not a hassle, but an opportunity of grace to rescue the heart of the child.  When you are going back to their bedroom for the 100th time at 10 o’clock at night to tell them to GO TO SLEEP again, remember this:  God is working on everyone in the bedroom.  He is rescuing me from MY selfish ways.  I’m not angry because they broke God’s law.  That would be righteous anger, and I would feel different.  I am angry because they broke MY law.  He will expose their needs to you and He won’t pay attention to your schedule (but I’m in the middle of my favorite TV show!).  If I discipline with the wrong heart motive, then I will turn moments of ministry into moments of anger because you will personalize what is not personal.  Their rebellion is not against you, but God.

He gave an example about a rotten apple tree.  What if he told his wife he knew how to “fix” the apple tree and he went to the store and bought beautiful apples and nail gunned them all to the branches of his rotten tree?  Did he “fix” that tree?  No, of course not.  The tree is rotten because of it’s roots.  When our children are “rotten”, we essentially do the same “nail gunning” strategy to change their behavior -threat, manipulation, and guilt them.  But we have no capacity to do what only grace can accomplish.

Our goal is heart level obedience, not simple physical obedience.  Our house rules are protective, not restorative.  House rules have no power to change behavior, only Jesus does.  Confession is owning the personal responsibility for my words and behavior without shifting the blame or excuse.  But your children can not grieve what he hasn’t seen.  (Parents are tools to spiritual sightedness.)  He can’t confess what he hasn’t grieved.  And he can’t repent what he hasn’t confessed.   How do we help them “to see”?  After the offense, ask them these 5 questions.  (An example of a 4 year old answer after each question is of a boy who just threw his truck at his brother.)  Help them “see” their sin so they will grieve.

1.  What was going on?  (Johnny has my toy!)

2.  What were you thinking and feeling while it happened?  (Mad!)

3.  What did you do in response?  (Threw my truck at him!)

4.  Why did you do it?  (I wanted my toy back!)

5.  What was the result?  (Johnny cried.)

All we have is little moments to parent these children.  We have to live with prepared spontaneity.  I must hold my schedule loosely.

My photography business!

May 2021