Reclaiming Our Brains


The other day I was standing at the check-out line in our local grocery store and– out of habit– pulled my phone from my pocket to see what I was missing in the virtual world as I waited in line. At one point, I glanced at my daughter, and she, too, was staring down at the smartphone in her hand, checking on the things going on in her virtual world.

And that’s when it hit me–what are we doing?

Why do we feel so compelled to pull out our phones when even the smallest bit of unfilled time presents itself? Are we afraid of thinking? Are we afraid of standing around looking awkward?

I just can’t believe we are here–that this is the world we live in. A world where–

A child plays with an iPad in the car as they travel the short distance to school.

Grandparents pull out their phones to check their email at dinner.

Parents scroll through Facebook as they wait in the check-out line.

Where people view the news through 2 minute sound bites and you-tube videos at any time and any place they desire.

If we are older than thirty-five, we remember a world where all that we are experiencing now was a big, “pie-in-the-sky” dream. We watched shows like the the Jetsons, but never in our wildest imagination did we believe it would happen in our lifetimes.

But then, ever so subtly, life changed. Drastically. And, one day, we could see the person we loved on the other side of the world as we talked in real-time. And we could pull up any song, any sports clip, any movie on miniature screens before our eyes in our homes and on the bus and in the mall. Any information we needed about a medical condition, any bit of trivia, any sports fact, any scientific theory could be found within seconds on the internet. The only thing that stopped us was if we were out of cell phone range.

And that is when life changed forever.

And some of the changes are good ones. How nice to find out that the strange pain in our elbow isn’t anything to be worried about. Or to locate that actor that we just know we’ve seen on another movie somewhere before.

But with these conveniences come some pretty serious consequences, as well. Being able to communicate instantly with those you love and having access to any information at our fingertips at any time does come with a price.

Here are a few of the costs that come to mind–

Our Relationships

You’d think smartphones and iPads would help our relationships–and I guess they probably do help long-distance relationships. I have a daughter living in another state and it is such a wonderful blessing to see her while we talk via Facetime. But I am not sure the smartphone is quite as beneficial for the relationships we have with our spouses and our kids and our friends who we live and work with everyday.

I have two daughters that have worked as waitresses. They tell me it was not at all unusual for a family of four to be sitting in the restaurant, all of them staring at their phones as they wait for their dinner. Another common thing was to see a preschooler occupied by an iPad during dinner so mommy and daddy could talk. The saddest thing is that these families probably don’t even understand just how very tragic this is because this is the only world they know.

The TV really started the whole thing by dominating our dinnertime. If you drive by houses during the dinner hour in the winter time and glance in the windows, you will see that almost every home has that familiar blue light on within. So many people have stopped talking to each other during this precious time together and have replaced it with screens talking to them.

Have you ever been talking to someone and have them pull out their phone while you are talking to them? Have you done this? I have done this. I am ashamed to admit but I have. What is wrong with me? Why would I make my phone a priority over my family? If even just for a moment? I never want my family or friends to think my phone is more important to me than they are, but sometimes we can give that message if we aren’t careful.

Yes, our relationships are strained and stressed if we keep screens on 24/7. Communication and good discussion is limited. There is no denying it.

Our Concentration Capacity

We struggle so much to stay focused now that we are constantly being pulled in different directions by all this technology. We are becoming so used to a soundbite world since so much of our information now comes to us via two minute videos or 500-word blog posts. Twitter has trained us to think in even shorter sentences. I don’t really get Twitter, so I am not really familiar with it–except to know that there is a word limit on your tweets!

All of this is why pastors have shortened their sermons. It’s why we have such a difficult time reading a whole book or working at a hobby of great detail for any length of time. We have trained our brains to think in soundbites.

Dominate Our Attention

We have, quite freely and willingly, given hours and hours of  our own lives and also the lives of our children to these devices. Probably more than we can count.

Instead of playing outside, children sit in front of a screen. Instead of talking with mommy or daddy on the way to school or the store, children stare at a screen.

Instead of talking to the waitress or cashier, our eyes are on our phones. Instead of doing a puzzle, crocheting, wood-working, or playing a family game, we sit around watching TV or playing games on a screen. At the very least, we are wasting so much precious time.

Of course, it isn’t wrong to do these things in moderation. But many of us left moderation behind a long time ago.


There are more costs. These are just three. But perhaps we should spend a little time considering how we can reclaim our brains back from our smartphones. How can we learn to concentrate again? How can we focus on our family members instead of picking up our phone when a text dings or a notification comes in? I have a few ideas. Some have really helped me. Others I haven’t tried yet, but plan to. If you have some to add, please comment below. Please share with us how you reclaimed your brain.

Here are a few ideas–

  1. Do not have your phone in your pocket or laying on the table in front of you when you have your devotions, eat dinner with your family, or are talking with someone about something serious. And while you are at it, turn the TV off, too. Family dinnertime is so precious and we let the world invade that precious time when we allow the TV and our smartphones as part of it.
  2. Turn off notifications. This one really helped me. Instead of being notified about a new e-mail or facebook comment and let it interrupt me at any time, I determine when I will check my apps.
  3. Refuse to pull your phone from your purse or pocket while waiting in line or sitting on a bench at the mall or while waiting for an appointment. Instead, observe the world around you and take it all in. We have such a vibrant, interesting world with no two people the same. Look at those people. Some of them surely need the Lord. Start a conversation and plant some seeds for the sake of the Gospel.
  4. Read a book. A real book. Or a book on your Kindle. Whichever you choose, make sure you have no access to the internet or the opportunity for communication anywhere close by.
  5. Remember that no one needs you that badly. We panic when we don’t have our phones with us now. I can understand why those under 30 feel that way, as they’ve never known any other life, but I don’t really understand it for us older people. Why would we panic? I used to travel 12 hours to college in the snow with no phone (!!) My parents didn’t know if I was dead or alive until I would get around to calling them sometime after I arrived. And this is how we lived. We had no other options. Some of you can remember those days. Now we feel like if we don’t have instant access to our world in our pocket, we will miss a terrible emergency or something. I guess that’s possible. But it’s pretty unlikely.
  6. Put all smartphones in a basket before bed and leave them there for the night. If you have no home phone, then turn the volume up on just one of them and put it on a dresser far away from the side of the bed. This is a rule we would put in place if we had to go back and raise our kids. This whole new world of advanced technology hit us quite unawares and there are many things we would handle differently. This is most definitely one of them.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, ask the Lord for help. If your smartphone use or iPad use is out of control, then ask the Lord to show you how to get it under control. Search the scriptures for some helpful verses. Colossians 3:17 can get you started. We know that God cares for us–about every struggle and every burden. (I Peter 5:7) That’s the kind of God we serve.

I hope this helps. You may be rolling your eyes, wondering why I would even bother to write such a post. You may not have a smart phone or you may have one that you don’t feel tied to. However, I assure you that I have seen enough families not talking to each other in restaurants and I’ve seen enough people of all ages staring at their phones any time and any place (even in church–where some are using it to read their Bible app and some say they are and aren’t) to know that this is a real problem for a lot of people. If you are one of them, then I want you to know there is hope and freedom to be found from this modern addiction. We know God wants us to live lives that glorify Him and we can best do that when our eyes are looking upwards and outwards and not down at our smartphone.


How Do You Say Good-Bye?


This year brought so many changes into my life. It was an exciting, exhausting, and emotional year. With two weddings and the announcement that we are going to be grandparents, life took a turn that I knew was coming but, for some reason, was not really prepared for. I guess it’s a little like when you get married or become a parent–you can try to prepare for what you know is coming, but there is no way to really understand until you are in the midst of the new situation, taking one day at a time.

Another big change we had this year was that one of our daughter’s and her husband moved across country after their wedding. The two of them made plans to come home for the holidays and so only three weeks ago we were waiting for them with great anticipation. We have had a wonderful time with them the past couple of weeks.

But, eventually, our final moments together approached.

We are all familiar with them. Those last few hours of time together. Wanting to make the most of it. But not really quite sure how. Talking about weather and places and people. Trying to ignore the fact that, all too soon, we will have to say good-bye for another few months or longer.

Every hello means an eventual good-bye. For some of us we are the visitors, packing up our families to stay with parents or siblings over the holidays. For others of us, we are the parents and siblings the rest come to see. Whatever we do over the holidays, most of us experience sweet hellos and sad good-byes during this time.

We get together, spending an unusual amount of time together. We try to get along, knowing that we won’t see each other again for who knows how long. It can be a challenge for so many people to live together in one house, but, for so many of us, this time spent with family is just such a wonderful blessing.

It is a strange emotion–this dread to say good-bye to our loved ones but this yearning to go back to the routine of life that we are so familiar with. And we wonder why we can’t have our routine and the people we love in our lives at the same time. But that’s just not how it is. And, for many of us, will never be how it is. It’s just life in this day and age of careers, callings, and desires drawing people to live in places all over the country. And all over the world.

And so we have joyful holiday reunions and tearful good-byes. And we thank the Lord for bringing us together again and ask Him if He would bless us with another visit again next year.

And then things settle back down to our normal routine again and we have to be satisfied with e-mails, texting, and Skype. It’s just how it is.

No spiritual lesson here today. Just a mother’s heart that was sad to say good-bye. Again. Do we ever get used to this?


One of our attempts at a family photo over the holidays…

p.s. Did you make it through the 2015 Bible Challenge? If so, visit my growing4life Facebook page and let me know!

How to Know If You are Too Busy


For many years now the Mommy Wars have raged. Should mothers work? Or shouldn’t they? Are kids better if their mom is at home or worse off? What if Mom has to work? Is it sinful? And what exactly are the acceptable conditions for a mother to work?

Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about all this in a long time. But a few days ago someone asked me to review an article on this very subject. And it got me thinking.

A brief walk through history shows us that mothers working outside the home is a relatively new phenomenon. It may have started during the World Wars–particularly World War II–when men went off to war and women were left to man the factories and businesses they left behind. As we moved into the sixties, women cried for independence and the feminist movement really got going and continued to rage through the 70s. The 80s taught us to want more and more stuff. And through all of these changes a new world was born. A world where most mothers work to support a lifestyle that is now deemed as necessary.

But this post is not really about whether women should work or not but, instead, about a common thing I see happening whether a mom works or not. This “thing” causes our kids to wonder if we care. It relegates our husbands and families to the background. And it turns our homes into unorganized chaos.

Any guesses?

It is busyness.

Maybe it’s a little unfair to talk about busyness during December. This seems to be one of the toughest months to reign in our activities. But coming off of two incredibly hectic weeks, I came face to face with the fact that I dropped a few balls. It is almost inevitable if we are too busy. And this is okay for a few weeks here and there. But when we live a lifestyle of being over-committed and involved in too many things, our families will suffer.

Scripture tells us that, as women, our homes and families are to be our main concern. We see this in Proverbs 31, Titus 2:4-5, and I Timothy 5:14.

So many of us, if asked to write our top priorities, would most definitely put God and family at the top of the list. But, practically speaking, this can sometimes be hard to live out, can’t it? People ask us to do things and we just can’t say no. We get our child involved in sports and music lessons and karate. We have birthday and holiday parties. We feel pressured to get involved in PTA and ministries at church. And, soon, if we aren’t careful, every night of the week has us going somewhere. There is little time left for playing games, doing puzzles, and cuddling on the sofa with our kids to read a story.

And this is tragic.

As I look back over my years as a mother, a few realities have become clear to me that I couldn’t see in the midst of the chaos. While I enjoyed sitting by the sidelines watching my kids play soccer, I miss the times reading stories and playing games with them far more. I miss the discussions with their big life questions that had me digging in the Bible for answers. And I miss the loud dinner conversations that made up our life here.

Last night, my husband and I had the wonderful privilege of having our whole family home for a spontaneous pizza night. It was a wonderful, chaotic time full of fun, laughter, and loudly-spoken opinions. But those times are now few and far between. And it made me think about something I heard my husband say to the Sunday School class he was teaching yesterday.

We are studying Shepherding a Child’s Heart (if you haven’t read this book by Tedd Tripp, I hope that you will. You don’t want to miss this book if you are a parent!) and the class has been learning some wonderful lessons about parenting. But my husband reminded them that changes with how we parent cannot be relegated to someday, like most other goals can. The future of our children and their children and their children rely on us changing now.

Life can become so hectic. We are all given just so many hours in a day. And it’s just so easy to say yes to too much. So how do we know if we are too busy? Here are five questions to determine if you are over-committed–

  1. Am I easily irritated by small things?
  2. Is my home chaotic and unorganized?
  3. Are my children defiant and disobedient?
  4. Do I miss my devotions and prayer time more often than not?
  5. Do I always feel overwhelmed?

I am not the judge, but if you have said yes to more than one or two of these questions, then you are probably over-committed.

So what to do if this is the case?

All I can do is tell you what I did when I found myself in that very same place many years ago. Let me back up and give context. At the time, I was homeschooling my four kids, doing all of the books for our company by myself, and was super-involved in church. My beloved family and home got lost in the shuffle of my over-commitment and I had to make some decisions. So I sat down with my husband and we decided what could go and what was non-negotiable. And then I started eliminating some things.

As a little side note here, let me just add that while I did discontinue a few church ministries, I did continue to be involved. It is incredibly important for our kids to see that church is a priority in our lives. Church should never be the thing that is eliminated from our schedules.

Sure, it was hard to pick and choose, but in the long run, it was the best thing for my family. Life will not stop if you step down from PTA. Your church will continue its Sunday School program, even if you cannot teach Sunday School for this season. And your children will not be permanently disadvantaged if they don’t take music lessons or play baseball. Know your limits and don’t let guilt or pressure from others push you into something you know is too much for you. Keep your family and home your priority–whether you are home full-time or find yourself at work everyday.

And someday, far too soon, you will have plenty of time to get involved in ministries and community groups. Take it from someone who knows!

What We Don’t Regret


Yesterday we celebrated our oldest daughter’s 25th birthday. That means that my husband and I have been parents for a quarter of a century now– which is almost half of our lives. Now that our kids are grown (or almost grown), we can look back on our parenting with much clearer vision. Hindsight is always 20/20, after all.

And we find that there are a few choices and decisions we made that we would make all over again. Here is a list of eleven things we don’t regret doing with our kids–

      1.    We don’t regret the hours that we chose to spend playing games or reading stories, turning our backs on those incessant daily tasks sometimes.
      2.    We don’t regret standing firm about what the kids were allowed to watch, wear, listen to, read, and play. This was especially hard and was done amidst many cries of “but my friends are allowed to…”
      3.    We don’t regret the many conversations around the dinner table talking about God, His Word, and what being a Christian really means.
      4.    We don’t regret the time our kids spent with their grandparents. They have provided incredible support to our family and the relationships that were built with our kids are priceless.
      5.    We don’t regret being flexible with bedtimes and mealtimes. This not only taught our kids to be flexible, but provided evening hours to snuggle and play games with Daddy during those long years when he was building a business.
      6.    We don’t regret having Daddy lead bedtime devotions. This gave me a much needed break after a long day and Daddy precious time with his children.
      7.    We don’t regret pulling our kids from travel soccer and other sports when they threatened to take over our priority of going to church on Sundays.
      8.    We don’t regret homeschooling. In fact, that is probably the one thing I miss the most– homeschooling my elementary children. Even now, I can get a little misty-eyed about it. What an incredible joy and privilege that was.
      9.    We don’t regret taking our kids to the Bible for any and all issues they faced. This taught them to live by God’s Word and not by what we said. It taught them that they are accountable to God for their choices.
      10.    We don’t regret hugging our kids–even our teenagers– when they were really angry with us. While we are the kind of family that hugs a lot, we found out that teenagers can be awkward to hug. But we kept right on hugging through all of the turmoil and hard times. Some days it was quite difficult but we are sure glad we did it anyway.
      11.    We don’t regret the evenings and weekends away that were spent building our marriage. Sometimes it was just thirty minutes of conversation snatched after the kids were in bed as we tried to stay in touch in some of those very busy years. Our children needed unified parents and we needed to keep our marriage relationship strong during the hectic years of growing a family.

While we don’t regret these eleven things, there are so very many things we do regret. We failed in so many ways and often we can see the fruits of those failures in the struggles of our kids. We will often notice one or two of the kids following my bad example in one way and others following my husband’s bad example. We were (and still are) so far from perfect and find ourselves acutely aware of it.

And yet, most days I stand back in absolute amazement at the faithfulness of God to our family. How incredibly gracious and kind of Him to fill in the gaps of our weaknesses and watch over the hearts of our kids so that each one has chosen to follow Him. We feel incredibly blessed.

And then to be doubly-blessed, He brought new sons and a daughter into our family through marriage that also love Him.

And, now, life brings a triple blessing. For we are going to be grandparents! Our oldest daughter and her husband are expecting in the spring. Eric and I are so very excited about having little ones around again. We have both loved parenting — all of it. We have loved the baby and toddler years, the elementary years, and the teen-aged years. Okay– we didn’t love the middle school years, but it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be. And we are loving this time, as well, as we learn to know our kids as adults and are finally able to develop friendships with them. And now to welcome a grandchild into our family and to start that phase of life where our kids experience the wonder of being parents– oh, what joy it will be!

I know I have said it before, but I just have to say it again– if you are a young parent, please treasure every moment that you can. Focus on the eternal and on the stuff that matters. Life is just so short and before you know it, you will be exactly where I am — expecting a first grandchild!


Pressing Through the Storm


Raising kids is hard. Really hard if you want to do it right. It means saying no when everyone else says yes. It means setting boundaries, being consistent, and setting a godly example in all areas of life–at least giving it our best effort and then resting in the knowledge that God will make up for our weaknesses. It requires much prayer and lots of time in The Word.

Being an influence for good in the workplace is hard. It’s really hard if you want to not only be a good influence, but a godly one. It means forsaking popularity. It means that you may be teased, harassed, and targeted. It requires lovingly telling the truth when no one wants to hear it. And standing apart from the crowd, being lonely, and loving difficult people.

How about being a godly spouse? Or a blessing to your church family?

These are things we know are God’s will. We are supposed to be godly parents and spouses. We are supposed to be working for God’s glory in our church family and in our workplaces. But sometimes it’s just downright hard. We try so hard to do the right thing but it doesn’t always work out like we hope. People don’t like us. Or they get in the way of the good things we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes very intentionally. We are hurt. We are attacked. We are afraid.

It is at this point that many–if not most–of us cave. The storm rages around us and we grow frightened. We lose any bit of courage we may have had and we tuck our tail and run.

We go into hiding in our workplaces, staying quiet as a mouse when the subject of God comes up. We laugh at the dirty jokes and gossip by the water cooler. Anything to keep from standing out.

We stay at the fringes of the church family. Never really knowing anyone. Or offering to help in any ministry. It’s just easier and much less painful.

We become ineffective (or even negative influences) in our homes. We let our screaming toddlers and rebellious teenagers do whatever they want. We give up on our spouses and we stop praying for them. We become tired and hopeless.

But yesterday, as I read Ezra 4 for our G4L Bible Challenge, I realized anew the importance of pressing on through the storms of life. When the Jews were sent back to rebuild the temple, there was a group of people who plagued them constantly. They tried to discourage them, to frustrate them, to keep them from building (Ezra 4:4-5). And, yet, they kept on plugging away. At one point, they were required to stop working because of a letter filled with lies that this group sent to the King. But they didn’t give up hope. And, sure enough, they were back working at the temple years later.

God wanted that temple re-built, and so it was going to be re-built.

No man can stand in God’s way.

But that was then. And this is now. Those were God’s chosen people living that story and we are Americans living a world away and thousands of years later. If we don’t need to build a temple for God then what does God want for our lives? What is His will for us?

Perhaps we are supposed to be temple-building, as well–

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.(I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Our body is a temple– the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Our calling as believers is to keep our temples pure and holy, obeying and glorifying God. We are to be confessing and eradicating sin. We are to live apart from the world and shine as bright lights of hope.

Building our temple is giving our whole-hearted efforts to our roles as spouses and parents. It’s building up the church and being a godly example at work. As we build our temple, it will change every area of our lives.

When we grow scared or angry, we have to keep working on our temple. We weather through powerful storms with scripture study and prayer. We do this for the sake of our marriages, our kids, our churches, and for the lost who live and work beside us. We can’t become ensnared in human drama and give up. Like the Jews in Ezra, we need to keep building, placing one brick at a time until, one day as our eyes close in death, we can see the temple we have built before us– A lifetime of service to the one, true God!

Sure, we may be given a mandatory pause due to illness or some other unforeseen circumstance but then we get back at it again. And if it’s in our control, then let’s not pause for too long. Because when we stop using our muscles we atrophy. Our bodies grow weak and useless. And because kids don’t wait. Before you know it, they have grown and there is no more time for Bible memory verses or family devotions. And because people die and move away. And tomorrow, that co-worker may no longer be there.

We need to keep our eyes on the goal and let the rest go. Just let it go. The storm may howl around us. The winds may blow. But, through it all, we keep building, remembering what’s important–

To know God and to make Him known.



Joining the Dance


On Saturday, I finally worked up the courage to clean my son’s room.

I knew it would be the very last time I would clean it for him. When he moved away, he had left a sundry of assorted items on the floor and on the shelves, along with a basketful of items that he said weren’t his. That, along with a few other things, have sat in that empty room since he moved out in June.

I told myself that I was just too busy to get to it and had reminded myself that it wasn’t really any hurry, but I knew full well why I was putting it off.

Cleaning that room was going to make me sad. And it was going to remind me that my life was never going to be the same again.

But Saturday was the day.

And so I gathered some garbage bags, the vacuum, and my courage, and opened the door.

As I glanced around the room, I could almost hear echoes of the past. A little boy’s laughter. A sibling argument. A middle-schooler pesting a sister. A parent-teen discussion. It was all in the past. A loud, trying, crazy, happy, chaotic past.

I tried to find perspective as I cleaned the room. I thought of the possibilities and what I could do with the extra space. I eyed up the closet and contemplated filling up its shelves.

And, yet, somehow it just didn’t seem right–this filling up of a space that had been–and would, in some ways, always be–our son’s.

In the midst of my melancholy, I recognized the importance of pushing on and of finding the good in the now. Of seeing the possibilities and potential of this time in my life. Yes, life is changing but it’s not all bad.

God is teaching me and drawing me to Himself in a deeper way right now, as I am able to spend more time in His Word. I cherish the relaxed time I have with my youngest child and husband. And I love spending time with all of my kids (this includes the wonderful kids that have joined our family).

And, so, as I cleaned the room, I was also trying to clear away the last vestiges of sad nostalgia that had taken up residence in my mind this past year as, one by one, I have watched my three oldest kids start their own lives. And I somehow grasp the importance of enjoying this moment. There is so much to take in and savor and to love about life right now. When we get hung up in yesterday–whether it be a good or a bad past–we miss so much.

Life keeps changing. Some changes are good and some are not. Some change we can control, but there is much we can’t control.

But there is always one thing we can control: Our attitude. We can choose to dance and move in step with the change or we can choose not to. Growing sad or depressed won’t keep change from happening, it will just make us miserable.

And so on Saturday when I finished that room, I was ready to join the dance of change. Oh, I know I will still have my moments of tears and sadness, but I am ready to intentionally grab hold of my new life with joy and expectation. I had prepared that room for new opportunities–just as I am becoming prepared for new opportunities.


Ironing for Jesus


The other day, as we prepared for yet another wedding, I watched my brother and sister-in-law. They efficiently and diligently did every task asked of them without complaint or attitude. I have seen them do this before. Since they never complain and no job is too small or “beneath” them, they are wonderful to have around! While we have had so many helpful relatives and friends give us a hand these past few weeks, on this particular day there were just a few of us and I watched my brother and his wife closely. As they quietly worked, much got done and there was no drama. They willingly and gladly did anything necessary to help. By the end of the day, I was convicted.

On the way home that day, I asked the Lord to help me be more like them. I told him that I wanted to stop complaining when a task is boring or hard. Or when I’d rather be doing something else.

Little did I know that God would present me with a situation that would test my earnest prayer the very next day.

We had tablecloths to iron. Lots of tablecloths to iron. Somehow I ended up at an iron (probably because no one else wanted to do it!) But these weren’t just any tablecloths. These things were so difficult to iron. There was no feeling of accomplishment even when I’d spend 15 minutes on one tablecloth. I am convinced that many of the wrinkles in these rented cloths were permanently in place.

This made for a pretty discouraging task. For a variety of reasons–

It was hot.

It was boring.

And there was no possible way to do it well.

As I watched everyone having all the fun of decorating the venue, I stood at the ironing board, dutifully doing my “mom” thing but not with a very good attitude. I was bummed and started complaining inside my head. And then the complaints started spilling out of my mouth.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit challenged me.

Did you really mean what you prayed yesterday? Because this is a test.

No, I didn’t hear the words. But I was convicted.

I made a choice to stop complaining in that instant. What did it matter? Why not spare someone else from having to do this awful job and let others have the fun? The only reason I even cared was because I was thinking only of me. If this was my job, then I would do it cheerfully. I went to work and, instead of being resentful about missing out on all of the fun, I put on some uplifting music and chose to enjoy watching all of the activity.

Thankfully, God was so kind to me and provided my mom to help me with the ironing a little later on. But not before I learned a good lesson. Sometimes we don’t get to do the fun job or the job we think we should. Instead we are asked to do the job that we don’t want to do. The one that perhaps we think we are too good for. And that’s when our true character shows, isn’t it? That’s when we see who we really are inside. Because anyone can be pleasant and diligent when they are doing what they want to do.

Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t given up on me yet and so, while this could have ended up as one of my many spiritual failures, in this particular instance I made a choice, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to respond correctly and started ironing for Jesus.

One of my favorite verse came to mind while I did so–

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Are you doing your mundane or hated tasks with a joyful heart and pleasant attitude? If not, I encourage you to, this day, think through your attitude. For it is here that Satan can so easily ensnare us. We Christians don’t always view our bad attitudes as sinful, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are sinful.

Let’s improve our characters by making the conscientious choice to smile in the boring tasks. To praise God through the difficult demands. And to be humble when asked to do something we think is beneath us. For in doing so, the light of our Lord and Savior will shine ever so brightly through us!


For My Middle Child


We have four kids. But since the second born is the only son in our family, there has only ever been one middle child in our family–0ur sweet daughter, Adrienne. Saturday is her wedding day. This Saturday! How can that be?

All of us moms have regrets about how we did things, but I think we have extra regrets when it comes to our middle children. Somehow they seem to get a little lost in the shuffle of things and end up not getting as much attention. I grow sad when I think of the cracks she fell through in my overwhelmed moments of being a mom.

Those of you who have more than two children may understand. With our first child every moment, every new milestone is full of wonder and excitement. With our last child, we pay special attention because we know that every time they do something new it is the last time we will have the blessing to watch from our “Mom” point of view. But those middle children, well, they can get a little neglected in the excitement of their older siblings’ “firsts” and their younger siblings’ “lasts”.

And, while I do think my middle baby always knew she was loved, I also think that she had the typical middle child experience. With that in mind, I write this post. I want her to know just how special she is and has always been to me.

As I was scanning old photos of the bride-to-be into my computer this past week, many special moments and precious memories came rushing back.

I remember when the ultrasound technician asked me if I wanted to know what I was having. I had guessed correctly with my first two and, assuming I was correct again, I told her I would love to know for sure, but that I was 99.9% sure I was having a boy. She told me that she was 99.9% sure I was wrong. I was so happy and excited to be having a girl! I had really wanted my oldest daughter to have a sister, since I had never had one.

When she arrived that hot August day, she was welcomed with great joy. She was such a calm and happy baby– until she was about 18 months, when, suddenly, she started thinking of things my other babies had never dreamed of! She explored the toilets and cabinets and climbed on dressers and got stuck behind sofas and under tables.

There was even the time we were vacationing at a cabin and we found her with some blue around her mouth. We figured out that she had eaten some mice poison she had found under one of the beds. I look back on those few minutes as some of the most worrisome of my life. What happens when a two year old eats mice poison? Thankfully, she didn’t eat enough of it for it to make her sick. But it was one of several frightening moments we would have because of her escapades.

But as she grew up, she became the child in our family who would give up the biggest piece of cake so one of her siblings could have it. She was our peacemaker and always wanted everyone to be okay. She thought of others and went out of her way to be kind.

In her teen years, those qualities grew quite dim and we struggled through all of the normal life changes. But how gratifying to see those qualities of her girlhood begin to shine again so brightly as she readies herself to begin her new life with her husband.

I am so thankful for all of my children. So very thankful. But I wanted to write this special post for my middle daughter. Today I have no deep spiritual lesson or challenge to grow to offer my readers. Just a few memories and a special message for one of my children–

Adrienne, you may have gotten lost in the shuffle on occasion, but you are loved deeply and our family would never be the same without you. I can’t wait to see how God uses you and your future husband for His glory.

I put a little video together from some of the old photos. I have to admit that I cried a bit while I worked on it. I am so happy for you but so sad for me. But this is the way of life. It is what we moms do. We raise our babies so they can go and live their own lives. Thank you, Adrienne, for being a woman who wants to honor the Lord with your life. Thank you for marrying a man who wants the same. We, as parents, couldn’t ask for more. We wish you the best as you move far away. While we will miss you so much, we know that the Lord will travel with you, keeping you and guiding you. I love you.

Why Are We Losing Our Kids?


One of the most frightening things about being a Christian parent is the big question mark that lies at the “official” end of our training time. The bags are packed, we say our good-byes, and we watch the car drive away while the question is ever-present in our minds, demanding attention. Will our kids follow Jesus?

And so often today the answer to that question is no. So many good Christian families are losing their kids these days. Over the past ten years, I have watched many parents grieve the choices of their teens and twenty-somethings. A few of these kids come back to the faith, but most don’t.

So why are we Christians losing our kids? While there probably isn’t just one answer to this question, I whole-heartedly believe that it does have a great deal to do with one thing, in particular.

Christians are having a love affair with the world.

We love the world. Oh, yes, we do. Ask any Christian these days what they are listening to, watching, and doing on the weekends, and you will see that many of them do the exact same things as the rest of the world.

In the old days, we would be taught that to love the world is sinful and that in order to be holy, we must love the things God loves and hates the things God hates. We were taught to separate ourselves from the world and to be different. We were to stand out among unbelievers in a noticeable way. These sermons, books, and lessons were based on the plentiful scriptures about the dangers of loving the world and the stark contrast of worldly and holy living: Romans 12:1-2; James 4:4; I John 2:15-16; John 15:19; John 17:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Titus 2:11-12; I Peter 1:14-16; I Peter 4:3-4; I John 2:16. And while people still struggled with loving the world, they knew it was wrong to do so.

Fast forward thirty or so years. Worldliness is not only not taught against, it is actually encouraged! We are told in many of our churches that we need to be like the world to reach the world (if you spend any time in God’s Word at all, you will recognize this for the blatant lie that it is). We are told that to have standards is equal to being legalistic. And that to not allow our kids to attend school dances or R-rated movies means that they will be too sheltered and won’t understand the world. As if somehow we will become better witnesses for Jesus by participating in the debauchery of the culture. We are told that things like bikinis and gambling and drinking alcohol and entertainment aren’t any big deal and that to have standards about these things is completely unnecessary.

And while we listen to this garbage that is surely found nowhere in scripture, Satan is stealing the hearts of our kids.

Think with me for just a moment.

If our kids are listening almost 24/7 to music that glorifies sex, drugs, and violence, should we expect them to follow hard after Jesus?

If our kids are watching horrid violence, sexual perversions of all types, and hearing abundant bad language on the screens that are before their eyes, should we expect them to have a vibrant faith?

If our children want to be like the world and we don’t discourage this (and many times even encourage them)– by how they dress, what they attend, and who they hang out with– should we really be surprised when they find holiness and reading God’s Word boring and unnecessary?


And I would add here that, as parents, we are often so tempted to want to be cool and hip to our kids. We don’t want to be that downer parent who doesn’t let our kids do what everyone else is doing, so many of us– even if we don’t really feel a peace about what is going on– will capitulate to the begging and the demands.

In fact, many of us take it a step further and in trying so hard to be the cool parents, we ourselves ignore God’s commands for purity and holiness. We wear immodest clothing, watch sinful movies and TV programs on a regular basis, and tune our radios to music that is anything but godly– all in the name of being “cool”.

And I get it. It is tempting. I have been the mother of teenagers. In fact, I still am. It is so very hard to stand your ground when all the world– and even most of the “church”– is telling you to relax and just go with the flow.

And if we Christian parents aren’t trying to be cool, we are often at the other end of the spectrum, burying our heads in denial. Look, I don’t care if your kids go to public school, Christian school, or are home-schooled, they are going to run into bad kids. They are going to be given pornography website addresses and they are going to be offered horrible, ungodly advice. They will have classmates who cut themselves, are addicts, or struggle with eating disorders. They are going to deal with threats, bullies, and unkind adults. They are going to deal with temptations and circumstances that we can’t even imagine. We need to help them! The need is urgent. Burying our heads in the sand at this moment could mean spiritual death for our kids!

Let’s teach them that we find our standards in God’s Word and this is what we base our life upon. Let’s live what we are teaching them. And then let’s be a safe place that they can go to share their worries and concerns. Don’t raise your eyebrows and and control your expressions of disgust or surprise. Many times our kids are facing really BIG problems and we need to be there for them.

I wish I could tell you that we did everything right. But, of course, we didn’t. It is truly only by God’s great and marvelous grace that our kids are living for Him. We had some rough, heart-breaking moments. We feared for their salvation and futures. We praise Him for His great kindness and mercy to us and give Him the glory!

Raising kids is a scary, daunting task. Especially for Christian parents. We so much want our kids to live for the Lord, but we can’t make the decision for them.

However, there are some things we can do to encourage them to choose Christ. The most important thing is to encourage them to love righteousness and hate evil. We need to show them that peace and joy are found in following Jesus– not in a love affair with the world. Teach them to obey Christ in all areas of their lives– not just the politically correct ones. (i.e. of course, we are told to help the poor, but this is just a small portion of what it means to be a Christian– it is certainly not the defining trait of a Christian, as we are being told these days by the mainstream church). We need to teach them by our words and by how we live that our worth and purpose is found in our relationship with God, not in the things of this world.

We won’t be perfect, but we need to show them what it means to be going the right direction and growing as a believer.

It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.

And, finally, pray. Pray often and pray hard for the souls of your kids. Pray that they would hunger for God’s Word. And that they would love righteousness and hate evil.

Satan will try to trick you into believing that your kids are a lost cause–that it is impossible to raise godly kids in this culture and in this era, but don’t you believe him! It is not impossible– not when God is on your side. And God has provided His precious Word as a guide.

Yes, it will be extremely hard and require much courage.

And, yes, it will take sacrifice.

You will probably lose a few friends through the process.

And, yes, there will definitely be frequent moments when your kids and their friends will think you are uncool.

But keep your eyes on the goal. Don’t let them stray. You have a job to do. You can’t afford to get distracted. God will guide and direct you. You will make mistakes, but His grace and mercy will cover them. Stay humble and stay teachable.

And, finally, give up your love affair with the world. Because if you don’t, it will cost you. A lot.


To Everything There is a Season

Ecclesiastes 3-1

Lately, I have been really pondering this thing called life.

How fleeting it is. And how sad. And how lovely.

I think it’s pretty natural for most people to start reviewing their lives a bit when things start changing for them. As you already know, life is changing for me. With an extremely busy husband and two very busy young women living at home, I find myself alone more often than not these days. This is quite an adjustment for a mom who used to home school four kids. No children’s laughter ringing out loudly in the evening air. No passionate arguing. No calling of “Mom!” from across the yard. The house seems to almost join my sadness in its eery silence. It gives me way too much time to think.

And so how appropriate that in the past week of our Bible Challenge I read Ecclesiastes. How poignant to read these words–

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;

A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;

These are just a couple of phrases from Solomon’s poem about life. But these especially struck me, being where I am at in life just now. I feel like I should add a verse:

A time to raise children
      And a time for them to start out on their own.

Of course, Ecclesiastes 3 is best left without my addition. But it is certainly something I have been contemplating much lately.

But it’s the first part of that poem that we really start to understand and think on as we grow older and become more familiar with death–

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;

Here in America, we seem especially inoculated to this thing called death. With modern medicine, we see less of it than any other group of people in all of history. And so it scares most of us. And we hate it. We hate to see anything die (even baby birds, if you remember my post from Monday). But, much more so, we hate to see people die. And so when something like the church shooting in Charleston happens, we struggle with it. Why were these people ruthlessly murdered? It just seems so cruel and tragic.

I heard John MacArthur’s thoughtful response to this event the other day and it really makes sense in light of Ecclesiastes. He first shared that he had been in Charleston for a conference and had met many of the African-American pastors there. He had been welcomed there with open arms. He asked us all to pray for the Christians–our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–that are hurting there. He was heart-broken. And then he added one more thing–

He said may this remind us that death is a reality. We are all going to die. May this remind us why we need to keep sharing the gospel. Because the only thing that can take away the sting of death is salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because our lives are so much more than these fleeting moments on earth.

Those aren’t his exact words but my paraphrase of them. As I thought about his words, I realized just how distracted I can become by the things that aren’t important in the light of eternity.

We can become a bit depressed as we read these words of Ecclesiastes 12:a–

For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?

And the words of James 4:14–

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

But then we realize the hope that is within us as believers! We have many promises in God’s Word on which to build our faith (Romans 8:28-39; I Peter 5:7; Isaiah 41:10; John 11:25-26; I John 3:2-3; Philippians 3:20-21 to name a few).

This hope we have in Christ us should make us different in this world where death is such a non-negotiable part of life–

1. We should have a “peace that passeth understanding”. (Philippians 4:7)

2. We should remain hopeful– even in the midst of the worst circumstances. (I Peter 1:3-5)

3. We should have the true joy that comes from standing guiltless before God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

4. We should have a driving need to tell others about salvation and the promise of eternal life we have because of it. (Romans 10:14-15)

But instead, so many of us Christians are apathetic and distracted. We don’t really care if our neighbors and co-workers know the Lord because we have enough of our own problems.

We don’t have hope or joy or peace, because we have invested heavily into the things of this world and this is where our treasures are–worldly, precarious treasures that come and go like the wind.

No matter where we find ourselves–whether young or old, poor or wealthy, single or parent–we need to ask ourselves these questions:

What am I doing to make sure that anyone who comes in contact with me knows that I have a hope within that doesn’t compare to anything that the world offers?

What am I doing to make sure that my treasures are in heaven and not on earth?

Life is fleeting. And we are all going to die. These are two facts we cannot escape.

Am I leaving a legacy that is befitting one of God’s servants? And have I liberally planted seeds to further God’s kingdom?