mother dreams

When things disappear

My heart sank. The perfume I had used for so many years wasn’t on the shelf –in any form.  I studied the display for anything, even body wash would be better than nothing. But, no, it wasn’t there. I hesitantly approached the clerk, hoping she’d say they were simply out of stock.

Of course, that wasn’t what she said.

“I’m sorry, but they have discontinued that scent.”

Of course, they have.

I am not a real “perfume” type of gal so it had taken me a long time to find just the right scent that both my husband and I liked. I spent the next half hour trying to find another one. With no luck, whatsoever.

I went back a different day a few weeks later and tried again. I settled for one (that I ended up taking back), tried another one (which I used for awhile, but just couldn’t get used to), and finally am using one that’s just okay. But it’s not the same.

Meanwhile, on my shelf are my half-finished bottles of my favorite scent. I am afraid to use them, because I don’t want to use the last drop.

But if I don’t use them, I will never use the last drop.  Instead, they will start to get that funny, strong smell and become unusable.

OKAY, so who cares?

Well, when we were hunting for the Christmas tree, my mind became a bit nostalgic. It’s just not the same as when the kids were small. Now, they are so big and none of them really care all that much. We still all go together (for which I am very grateful), but the excitement of having Christmas with little ones has disappeared.

Now we have Christmas with young adults. And I have been quietly mourning, carefully keeping the last vestiges of childhood around the house. The only plan I ever had for my life was to be a mom. I enjoy it tremendously. But my “Mom”  job description has been changing quite dramatically these last few years.

The other day, I decided it is finally time to get rid of some of the toys! So, I dragged my girls down to the basement and we started sorting. Oh, the memories that came flooding back. Going through bins of dolls and barbies and trucks and games and books. The picture books especially made me sad. I loved reading to my kids. No one in my house needs me to read to them anymore.

My mind went back to the perfume.  I could keep it in a bottle forever or I could use it. Those were my only two choices.

My mind came back to the toys. I could keep them all here, lonely and unused in the basement or I could give them away so they would have a new home (memories of Toy Story 3 are coming back here– no wonder I cried at that movie!) Those are my two choices.

But no matter what I choose to do, the scent I loved is never coming back on the shelves. No matter what choice I make, my little kids are gone forever.  And while I may never be able to find another scent that I love as much as that first one, the young adults that have replaced my little kids are amazing!  I feel so honored to be the mother of these young people who love the Lord and desire to please Him with their lives.

We haven’t finished the toys yet, but I am going to be getting rid of quite a bit. Oh, I will keep a few for the grandchildren that hopefully will be along someday. But it is time to face the fact that my “small children” days are over and clear things out of here.

Meanwhile, I am going to choose to be grateful for right NOW.  I have so much for which to be thankful –not only for the special and wonderful family memories I already have but also for the memories we are making right now.  I am blessed.

7 Steps to Raising the Perfect Teenager

My {imperfect} teens (and twenty-something!)

I can almost hear the snickers now. Especially from those of you who actually know my teenagers! There are no perfect teenagers, and my teens aren’t any exception. So, if you clicked on this blog post for a formula for raising teenagers, this is not the blog post for you. But if you are interested in hearing some of the things that my husband and I have learned while raising {imperfect} teenagers, then keep reading.

1. Realize your teenager is a sinner, just as everyone on this earth is a sinner. This means that when they come home and tell us their side of story, there is probably another side. I recently had someone e-mail me to tell me something that their child had heard in our home a couple of years ago. What she said was completely inaccurate and even heretical. I don’t know how their teenager had come away with that, but somehow they had. And so when our kids come home and tell us the teacher or coach was really mean to them, or their best friend double crossed them, or their boyfriend broke their heart, always remember there is another side to that story. Try to find out what it is before reacting too quickly.

2. Be the person you want your child to become. Don’t expect your child not to cheat if you cheat on your taxes. Don’t expect your child not to lie if you call in sick to work when you aren’t sick. Don’t expect your child to speak respectfully if you don’t speak respectfully to them or to your spouse.  This is one of the greatest challenges as a parent and one we failed miserably sometimes.  I would hear one of the kids speak angrily or unkindly and I would cringe, hearing the echo of my own angry and unkind words.

3. Teach basic doctrines of Christianity.  Kids have BIG questions. Be prepared with the answers. Why am I here? Who is God? Why can’t I have sex before I am married? Why can’t I see that movie? Why is that music group off-limits? When they are little you can get away with a simple “Because I said so” to many of these questions. But if you try this tactic with teens it will most certainly breed rebellion. They need answers. And they deserve them. So it is our responsibility to not only know the answers but to talk about them with our kids. We have held conversations about everything in this house. And we always take it back to God’s Word. What does God’s Word say?  Ultimately, we are teaching our kids that they are accountable to God. It doesn’t really matter what we think. It only matters what God thinks. Many of the questions are hard and sometimes we don’t have the answers. So we search God’s Word together or we ask a pastor we trust.  But don’t avoid the questions!

And one more thing about this — oftentimes these conversations take place at the most inconvenient times, like 11pm. When the kids want to talk, don’t let a little thing like sleep get in the way.

4. Love them unconditionally. They are not always easy to love. They may shout “I hate you!” but inside they are crying “please love me, anyway!” Don’t give up on them. They can be mean, spiteful, unkind to their friends, disrespectful, and liars. Deal with the behavior firmly but keep loving them!  Make sure there is never a doubt in their mind that they have the love and support of their parents.

5. If Dad is around, make sure he is involved. If you are a single parent, I know that God is faithful and He will most definitely meet your needs. But if Mom and Dad are in the home together, then it is critical that you work together. Mom needs to treat Dad with respect and refer the kids to him sometimes for permission or discipline. Dads need to encourage conversations with their teens. Many dads grow uncomfortable with their kids as they grow older, especially their girls. Oh, they love them, but they are not quite sure what to do with them. But this is when girls need the love and listening ear of their father most. Just keep listening and loving. Keep helping Mom with discipline. Don’t make Mom field all of the tough questions. This is a partnership. It is so important that Dad doesn’t disappear during this critical time.

6. Have fun together. For our family, we love camping together. It is a time we can all get away from the routine of life and just relax and laugh and have fun. Our kids are between the ages of 13 and 22 and they still all go along when they can, because we have a great time. When I was growing up, it was sports in the backyard. We had countless football, soccer ball, and bopper ball games in the backyard. The neighbor kids would come and even my {non-athletic} mom joined in the fun. For your family, it may be something else. Maybe you all love shopping at Saturday morning yard sales or you have a family game night. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but it is important that you all do something fun together on occasion. And, by the way, movie night doesn’t really count, since there is no bonding taking place when all eyes are staring at a screen.

7. Pray, pray, pray. I can’t stress this one enough. Because when I look at all of the other points I have listed, I can see where Eric and I failed miserably many times. But God meets us in our failures and His grace covers them. It is really one of those small (or is it great?) miracles in life. Don’t pray for good grades or for them to be the football star, pray for the stuff that matters. Ask God to give them a hunger for His Word. Ask Him to bring them godly spouses. I have been praying Mark 12:30 for my kids since they were born, “Please help them to love You with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength,” pours from my lips almost every day for my kids.

I have so much more I could say, like: don’t expect too much but make sure you expect enough. And if your kids have godly grandparents, let them be a support to you. But, alas, I guess this isn’t a book, so I will stop now.

When our oldest was a pre-teen we were SO clueless. That stage felt a lot like I had felt as a brand new mom, holding that tiny newborn in my arms. I looked at the awkward and opinionated 12 year old and wondered what in the world I was supposed to do with her? But as we fell into the role of parenting teens, we learned that pre-teens need a lot of boundaries. They are emotional, oftentimes angry, and downright disrespectful at times. They will shout that they are the only ones not allowed to do something and they will sometimes be right about that. But through it all, we stuck to our guns. We didn’t give in. And I will tell you the ages between 13 and 16 were ROUGH–especially with a couple of them (I will refrain from mentioning names!). But right around the time they turned 16 things started getting so much better. All of a sudden there weren’t so many battles. And they started talking to us about their problems. We could trust them and loosen up the boundaries. It was a very gradual process. But we have never, ever regretted the firm boundaries we clung to during those tough early teen years. And now, with my older kids, we trust them. We see that they want to please God and we aren’t worried about what movie they are going to or what is on their phone. We know that they have reached a place where they understand their accountability is to God. Sure, they will make mistakes, just like we did, but they are headed in the right direction. Interestingly enough, they will often ask our advice about many of the choices they face each day. It is such a blessing!

No, there are no perfect teenagers, just as there are no perfect parents. But if our kids profess to know and love God and the fruit of their life gives evidence of this profession, what more could a parent ask for?

A Wedding Story

The following is a true story. I heard it firsthand from a friend who was involved in this wedding.  I do not know the bride, the groom, or any of their family or friends. I want to tell you this story because I think we Christians are totally unaware of the damage being done to the cause of Christ by our worldly weddings. Please note that, while I am sticking to the main points of the actual story, I have added a few extra details to make it read more like a story.

Once upon a time two Christian young people got engaged. They had a wonderful time planning their wedding and reception. They wanted to have a Christian wedding but they were also determined to include an open bar and dancing at their wedding. It was a celebration and they deserved to celebrate! Some frowned at their decision, but most kept their mouths shut. They didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. And, after all, what could a little drinking and dancing hurt?  Few people want to be labeled fuddy-duddy and closed-minded.

And so the beautiful day arrived.  The wedding took place in a little church and the ceremony was centered on the Bible’s words regarding love and marriage. Afterwards, the group moved to the reception hall, where the typical drinking, dancing, and partying took place. This led to the inevitable tipsiness and garish jokes while they all danced unreservedly to the ungodly music playing in the background.

As this all went on, one family member – an unbeliever – sat there, stunned.  How was this any different than how he would act?  What difference did Christ even make? His family had been trying to reach him with the message of the gospel for years. But all of their hard work was ruined in the course of a few, short, worldly hours, where they showed themselves to be just like him.

Before he left that day, he shared his disillusionment and disappointment with a family member.  He was disgusted and no longer gave any seriousness to the gospel message.  If this is what Christianity was, it wasn’t any different than what he had.  He loved people.  He gave money to good causes. He was kind to others. And he liked to party.  The only difference he saw Christianity making in the life of his family was to waste a few hours each week in church.  No, thank you.  And, with that, he left.

Did he ever change his mind about Christianity?  I have no idea.  But there is no question that great damage was done that day to the witness of that family for the cause of Christ.

How many other times has this happened?  Where unsaved family members sit there and wonder what in the world is the difference?  I think we would be very wise to consider the serious spiritual ramifications of including the world’s partying traditions before making them a part of our very special celebrations.


I Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Niceness Doesn’t Always Equal Goodness

A few years ago, we had a young man stay in our home as part of a ministry team that was visiting our church. He was a kind, courteous, and handsome young man with a sense of humor to boot – just the kind of boy a mother dreams of for her daughter.  In fact, I joked around with my daughter about what a great catch he would be.

It wasn’t until a few months later that we started becoming aware of who this young man really was inside, where it counts.  We learned of his values, his entertainment choices, and his activities. And, several years later, we realized the depth of this grown-up boy’s sinful lifestyle (thank you, Facebook!)

You see, we can’t always tell a person’s true character by their niceness.  Although we do tend to do that, don’t we?  I find myself thinking that so-and-so is SO NICE, therefore they must be spiritually solid and strong.  And sometimes that would be true. But it isn’t always true.

Facebook is a wonderful tool to use to help us discern if someone loves the Lord more than anything else.  I can’t tell you the amount of times I have met someone who is incredibly nice in how they treat others, but when I see their facebook page I see ungodly pictures and language and choices on their info page and on their wall and I realize that their heart is far from God and is instead solidly entrenched in the activities of the world.

We can be as nice as nice can be, but that doesn’t make up for worldliness, or selfishness, or immodesty. Of course, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes – even on Facebook.  But we need to be discerning, especially when we are praying for spouses for our children.

As parents, let’s be careful not to make niceness a priority over spiritual health. Yes, our child’s choice should be nice – but the niceness should be an outflow of the potential mate’s choice to love and follow God with all of his/her heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Choosing a spouse will be the second biggest decision our children will ever make (the first is to choose to follow or reject Jesus).  We need to be there to give wise counsel and guidance, helping them to discern if the niceness is indicative of a transformed life or simply a personality trait.

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