It was a long and tiring day. Bedtime had finally arrived, and I was going through our nightly ritual with my youngest son. Every evening we have the same routine: he climbs in bed, arranges his stuffed animals, and snuggles with his special blankie. Then I cover him up, sing three songs, and pray before turning out the light and shutting the door. It’s a sweet and meaningful ritual. It provides safety and security for my son, and it’s a rhythm that he’s come to depend on.
Still, many nights, it feels more like a checkmark on my to-do list, than a sweet moment with my son. If you have multiple children, I know you can relate to the bedtime countdown. There are so many things to do each day, and once your children are in bed, sometimes it’s nice to have some time to yourself.
This night, however, as I sang his songs, I became aware of the tension in my body. I could feel myself rushing through the songs to get to the end. Then, I looked at my son and remembered he’d had a long day at school. It had been a busy afternoon and evening. I had hugged him during the day, but I had never taken time to really hold him.
Feeling compelled to give him some touch time, I leaned over the bed and laid my head on his chest, wrapping my arm around him. I kept singing.
Quietly, gently, I felt his fingers in my hair. While I sang, he gently played with the strands of my hair.
The song ended. I laid my hand on his chest and prayed for him. Then, I wished him a good night sleep, told him I loved him, and shut the door.
Every time I think about that interaction, I feel emotional. I instinctively knew that my son needed to be touched. I made an intentional choice to reach out and give him what he needed. What surprised me was his reaction. He touched me back. Not only that, he played with my hair.
Friends, I didn’t know that I needed to be touched too. That gentleness was a gift.
Raising boys is a challenge. Every boy mom knows that there’s a lot more yelling, rough and tumble, and grunge than there is gentleness. Yet sometimes, like a rainbow showing up after the most violent thunderstorm, a moment of sweetness bursts through and surprises me in the most beautiful way.
Isn’t that typical of real life? The sweetest moments are often unexpected. They are the sprinkles on the ice cream of reality. It’s easy to miss them in the busyness of life, but when we find them, we can choose to cherish them.
Parenting is one of the hardest challenges and callings that I have been given in life, but I’m encouraged to know that I’m not alone. Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, cares for our children more than we do. Jesus has plenty of time for children, and He loves them very much.
Here’s the bigger encouragement though. The Good Shepherd cares for Moms too. He has compassion for our struggles, our weariness, our pain, and our worries. He wants to lead us with his gentleness.
He gently leads those that have young.
Just like my son showed gentleness to me as I sang with him that evening, God shows even greater gentleness in the way that He shows me mercy as I stumble along in this mothering journey. He gently leads me: both in green pastures and in the valleys, walking me into paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. (Psalm 23)
In the chaos of everyday life, I want to intentionally look for and cherish the gentle moments He provides.
Pause, Renew, Next: Take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Sit with the knowledge that Your Good Shepherd is leading you. He knows your struggles. He knows the journey ahead and the path you’ve already taken, and He shows you gentleness. If you have time for Scripture study today, pull out Psalm 23 and Isaiah 40, and notice the way that in these passages the Lord leads, guides, and renews His people.
May you be aware of all of the “sprinkles” the Lord sends your way this week.
I’m not proud to admit it, but apparently I underestimated my child’s ability.
Swimming lessons started this week. Due to fear of water on their part, laziness on my part, and a pandemic that put us behind a year, this Mom was late in putting my two youngest in swimming lessons. I pulled up the information on the classes offered at the YMCA, but I had no clue which class was most appropriate for their swimming abilities. So, I took a shot in the dark and placed them both in the same class. (Saves on driving, right?)
I was wrong about both of their skill levels.
Surprising both me and his swimming teacher, one of my children could do laps back and forth in the pool. His teacher pulled him aside after the first lesson and told him he qualified for a more advanced class. He didn’t want to move up, so she generously volunteered to spend extra time with him after class helping him hone his skills.
In contrast, my other child was not yet ready for the class I placed him in. His specialty has been clinging to the wall and trying not to swim. He does enjoy the occasional splash and face dunk though, so he’s working his courage up slowly.
I would love to say that this is the first time I’ve under or over-estimated my children, but it’s definitely not. In fact, sometimes I think parenting is like one big experiment. Our job is to train these little beings into responsible adults, but most of the time we’re still learning how to be responsible adults ourselves! No, I definitely don’t always see my children clearly for both their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a work in progress, and they continually teach me so much!
Here, I want to lovingly juxtapose my parenting abilities with that of our Heavenly Father. Listen, if ever there was someone who could rightly assess our strengths, weaknesses, faults, and abilities, it’s our Creator. He knows the inner workings of our minds, our emotions, and our motivations. Even more astoundingly, he knows all that we’re capable of, and the good works that still lie in our future. He knows it all, and he never underestimates us.
If that weren’t already the best news, there’s more! He totally never overestimates our abilities either. He knows that on our own, we can’t always make it as far as we think we can or as far as we dream we will. We just may not have the resources or skills at our disposal. He, however, has an endless supply of resources. Like the loving Father that he is, he promises to provide for our needs (Philippians 4:19). He also promises that through His grace, we will not only have our needs met but be able to excel at every good work He lays before us (II Corinthians 9:8).
And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.
II Corinthians 9:8 CSB
I don’t know about you, but that is REALLY good news to me today. There is some “good work” that currently lies in my path that feels way above my skill level. Truthfully, many days, even parenting feels above my skill level. Still, we’re promised that God’s grace will not just flow, but OVERFLOW, so that in every way, with everything that we need, we will not just accomplish but excelat the good work before us.
What is the good work that the Lord has laid before you, friend?
I pray that this encouragement helps you realign your own estimations of not just yourself, but of the God who goes before you in it.
Pause: Take a deep breath and allow your mind and body to be still. When you’re ready, read through II Corinthians 9. What stands out to you from this chapter? Underline or highlight any phrases or verses that resonate with you.
Renew: This chapter is not only about provision but also about gratitude and generosity. How do gratitude and generosity play a roll in the good works you are accomplishing in your life right now? Take some time to consider in what ways you can reframe your thinking through the lens of gratitude.
Next: Take time to think, journal, or reflect this week on ways that you’ve seen the Lord’s grace overflow to you. If you know that you need help outside of yourself to accomplish the good works that lay before you, pray specifically for those needs. He is faithful to listen and respond to His children.
In today’s podcast episode, my husband Derek and I continue our conversation about technology and parenting. In the last episode, we talked about what we learned after reading The Tech-Wise Family, and in this episode we discuss the reality of managing technology in our home. Raising children is not for the weak of heart, and it’s especially challenging in the era of the Internet!
I hope this conversation is helpful. If nothing else, I hope you come away from it knowing that you’re not alone in your struggle to parent well or in managing your own use of technology!
Parenting has come with unique challenges for which I often feel unprepared. I don’t know what I expected raising children would be like, but I certainly did not anticipate many of the scenarios I’ve found myself in over the years. I grew up with one sister. One very compliant, easy to get along with sister. Then, the Lord saw fit to give me a house full of boys, all with strong personalities. Our house is anything but quiet, calm, and compliant!
With that as a backdrop, I’d love to share something the Lord taught me a few years ago. It was an encouraging and perspective-shifting message that I have needed to refer back to many times over the years. I’ve found myself reflecting back on it again after some recent parenting challenges.
On a drive home from work one day years ago, I was spending time in prayer. I find that talking with Jesus and driving go hand in hand! On this particular day I had the van to myself, and I spoke out loud, listing specific requests about my oldest child. I remember asking God to use my son’s strong will and turn him into a fine leader one day. I was on a roll, when right in the middle of my talking the Lord gently and firmly interrupted me.
Does that ever happen to you? Just like the verbal processor that I am, sometimes the Lord has to interrupt me to get a word in edgewise. This is one of the ways I know He’s speaking to me. I wouldn’t be able to interrupt myself!
In a way that only He can, the Lord gave me a picture in my mind of a plant growing in the soil. All in a flash, I knew deep in my spirit what He was telling me. He impressed on my heart that I was the soil that my children were growing in. That was my job, to be the soil. To be safe, fertile ground where they could begin to be rooted and grow into who He created them to be. I also felt His kind reprimand that it was not up to me to decide who they would grow to be. He would be the sun and the rain for them, causing them to grow in His timing and to His purposes. My job was just to be the soil.
Believe me, I did not come up with that on my own. Experiences like this with the Lord just floor me sometimes. As if to confirm it, a few months later the staff at the counseling center where I work read the book The Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson. We each took a chapter to lead a discussion about in staff meeting. I was assigned the chapter on attachment, and don’t you know, the exact analogy Curt Thompson used to talk about attachment was becoming safe soil in which our children can grow.
Being the soil is not an action. Rather, it’s a posture of letting go of control. It’s creating a safe place in which my children can grow. It’s providing for their needs, and then watching the Lord do His good work in their lives.
It sounds so freeing and easy. However, over the years as parenting has put me in hard positions when I wished for an instruction manual, I have cried out to God, “What does being the soil really mean? Like, right here and now?” I wish in those moments that He would swoop in and do the disciplining for me!
Still, I am finding that just like He is forming my children, He is forming me through the process of parenting. Becoming good soil is a process too. We are always in process this side of heaven. Parents and children alike need grace.
This week, I found myself sharing this story with a couple of my friends as we met together for Bible study. I confessed a parenting dilemma I found myself in, and as a friend prayed over me, she said, “Lord, till the soil of Ginny’s heart.”
Oh, as she spoke the words, I felt my chest open up inside. I could picture Jesus turning over the compact soil of anger and shame, giving my heart room to breathe, and preparing it to be better growing space.
So, friends, if you too find yourself in a difficult season of parenting, take heart. There is enough grace to cover you and your children. Through Jesus, growth always yields a beautiful harvest.
May we allow ourselves to be freshly tilled soil.
Pause, Renew, Next: Take a deep belly breath, and allow yourself to relax. How is it freeing to think about God being the one who causes your children to thrive, rather than feeling that the full responsibility rests on your shoulders? This week, I encourage you to pray, reflect, and journal about how to be good soil for the children the Lord has placed in your home, offering gratitude for the way the Lord cares for both you and your children.
Today’s podcast is a listener request episode. After my husband, Derek, and I recorded a podcast episode last fall about technology and soul-care, it was requested that we do another episode on the same topic, but specifically related to technology use for kids and teens. So, we decided to base this conversation around a book on the topic by Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place.
After reading the book together, we pulled out the themes that seemed most important and relevant to us and discussed them on today’s podcast episode. If you like this conversation, make sure to check back in two weeks as we talk about the reality of our family’s use of technology.
If something from this podcast episode resonated with you, please comment below today’s show notes or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook community.
Since May is National Foster Care Month, this seemed like the perfect time to have a conversation about foster care. My friend, Julie Long, has been a licensed foster parent for many years, and she graciously agreed to be on the podcast to share about her own experience of fostering. She explains how she and her husband decided to enter into the world of foster care and the challenges and rewards they have faced along the journey.
During the conversation, Julie shares some of her favorite memories of foster care and discusses what it has looked like for her to co-parent with birth parents as they work toward reunification. She also talks about the impact fostering has had on her own children and how parenting foster children differs from how she would regularly parent. Additionally, she highlights the importance of her support system and how using respite care and setting boundaries has been a key component to her own self-care.
I love Julie’s heart for “the least of these” and her passion for advocating and spreading the word about foster care. If something you heard on today’s podcast episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page. If you know someone who is considering become a licensed foster parent, please share this episode with them.
My two year old son stared at me, stricken. I don’t remember the events that led up to the moment, although I’m sure it had something to do with being an exhausted mom of two small boys. There was probably a meltdown or two involved. What I do remember is that I yelled, loudly, in response to the misbehavior of my incredibly sweet and wild toddler. The toddler who now stood looking at me as if I was a monster.
His shocked face crumpled, and he began to sob. “You scared me, Mommy!,” he wailed. The truth was, I had scared myself too! I had not been prepared for the stress and strains of emotion that parenting would require. Growing up with a sister, I felt ill-equipped for the physicality and noise level that little boys brought into our home. I had not set out to be a yelling Mom. How could I love someone so much that I would give my life for them and be boiling angry with them at the same time?
This is the perplexity of motherhood.
As my son sobbed, he ran towards me, seeking comfort. I knelt down, scooped him up, and hugged him for all I was worth. “I’m sorry buddy,” I crooned. “Mommy should not have yelled that way. I didn’t mean to scare you.” I patted his back and rocked him back and forth. Soon, he hiccuped a few last sobs and, feeling secure and safe again, ran off to play.
Just like that, our ruptured relationship was repaired.
Relationships are hard, and we often make mistakes along the way. In fact, ruptures in our relationships are inevitable. Sometimes these ruptures occur because we intentionally make poor choices. Sometimes they occur due to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Sometimes they occur because of plain old sin.
I’ve heard it said that parents get it right about 50% of the time. This dismal success rate, however, does not mean that you can’t be a successful parent. You don’t have to be a perfect parent or spouse to provide a secure attachment. You just have to be a “good enough” parent or spouse. Relationships can survive and thrive even after ruptures. Sometimes they even come out stronger.
It’s the repair work that makes all the difference.
When you know that a rupture has occurred in a relationship: a hurt, a slight, a sin, or a miscommunication, it is important to go back and make it right. Sometimes this looks like an apology, and sometimes it looks like correcting a misunderstanding. Sometimes it looks like showing support verbally, and sometimes it looks like a hug. Whatever it looks like, the message is clear: “You matter to me, and our relationship matters to me.” This repair work creates safety, trust, and intimacy.
Repair work is the message of the gospel. Christ came to bridge the gap of our sin and do the repair work for us, so that we would be united with our Father. In Him, we can experience the felt safety we so desire.
Pause: Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Read the above verse and consider how confessing our sins and praying for one another helps to repair relationships.
Renew: Think about your own relationships. What repair work have you recently experienced? Is there currently a relationship in which some repair work is needed? What might this look like?
Next: If you’d like to learn more about rupture and repair, watch this video of Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child, discussing repair work in parenting.
May we revel in the forgiveness and second chances that repair work provides for us.
Last spring, I was privileged to interview my friend and colleague, Jackie Perry, LPCS, about her journey of writing her first book, Heart Cries of Every Teen: Eight Core Desires That Demand Attention. Well, now we have something to celebrate, because her book has now been published. In honor of the occasion, I am reposting this podcast interview.
Originally a two-part interview, for this throwback episode, I have combined the two parts into one full episode. In this interview, Jackie shares about her faith journey of becoming an author, as well as her heart for counseling teens. Jackie’s book, Heart Cries of Every Teen, is now available on Amazon, and is receiving excellent reviews. If you have an adolescent in your life, this book will be tremendously helpful and encouraging to you.
If something about this episode resonated with you, please comment below or on PRN’s Facebook page. Additionally, if you know someone who would be encouraged by listening to this podcast, please feel free to share it.
Unlike my usual blog posts, that focus on 3 principles: Pause, Renew, and Next, this blog post centers on the Next part: practically putting faith into action. Specifically, this post is about how to put faith into action in our homes, and nurture a love of God’s Word in our children.
One of the most important elements of passing faith to the next generation is inspiring a genuine love of God’s Word. No, this is not a how-to article, written by an expert giving you a step-by-step guide of how to do just that. Rather, it’s an honest look at what is working in our home, starting with a few fun resources that my four boys love!
The Action Bible
This fun, beautifully illustrated, comic-book style Bible is a hit in our home. When our children opened it for Christmas one year, they could not put it down. You know it’s a winner when you find them reading on the couch for fun, at a time they could have been playing. There have even been occasions when one of my children has told me about Bible stories that I couldn’t remember teaching them. When I asked where they learned that story, often it was the Action Bible that taught them.
This comic book has inspired a passion in my boys for the stories, characters, and plot line of the Word of God. They come back to it over and over, so in my book it’s a winner.
Seeds Family Worship
Every year at Christmas, my husband and I give our children each three gifts that represent the gifts the Wisemen brought Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Gold is the fun gift, Frankincense is something they will wear, and Myrrh is a spiritual gift. One year, for their spiritual gift, I gave each of my boys a Seeds Family Worship CD. We were so pleased to discover that each song was written directly from Bible verses. The best part: the songs were actually fun to listen to!
Unlike a lot of Children’s music, the songs aren’t cheesy. They are catchy, however. Once, one of my kids complained that a Seeds Family Worship song was stuck in his head. I responded, “Great, I’m glad to know that Bible verse is in your mind.” Without trying, he had memorized Scripture!
The Daily Audio Bible
One of our family’s newest traditions is quickly becoming a household favorite. We listen to the Daily Audio Bible for Kids each night before our boys go to bed. My husband and I have both listened to the Daily Audio Bible app for years. Recently, we discovered there’s a kid version of the app, in which a child reads one chapter of the Bible per day. My kids love listening to another kid read to them. While the adult app reads more Scripture and loses their attention, the kid’s version is only one chapter per day, so they listen much more attentively. Sometimes my oldest son reads along while he listens. I give a big thumbs up for this app, as it presents the Bible to our entire family and ends our day with time in God’s Word.
The Beginners Bible
We have the Beginner’s Bible on CD, and my third-born child loves to listen to the stories as we drive. As a younger sibling, he sometimes spends hours in the van, accompanying his brothers to school and various appointments. Listening to these Bible stories as we drive is a great way to not only fill up time, but also instill a love of God and His Word.
Of course, the most important way to instill a love of God’s Word in our children is to love it ourselves. Let your children catch you reading the Bible. Share what you’re learning with them in conversation. Ask them what they’ve been learning in Sunday School or Children’s church. Talk about Scripture around the dinner table, in the car, or while taking a walk. Your kids seeing that your faith is real and active is a key element in desiring it for themselves. No one wants a regimen. We all desire authenticity and relationship – with God and with each other.
The list above is not exhaustive, but these are a few resources our family is loving. Feel free to try them out for yourself and pass them on. If you have other ideas, music, books, or apps that your family enjoys, please comment below or share on PRN’s Facebook page! We are in this thing together friends, and raising a new generation of believers is a gift and a calling. Let’s spur each other on!