This is your year to stop being afraid. Join me.
These are some of the most wonderful, powerful words that can ever be spoken....or heard.
Has anyone ever told you that? A parent, or a husband, or a friend? Maybe a grandparent?
Maybe you've never once heard them, but wish you had.
These words are special because they are part of a larger story. They hold meaning and history and love and fierceness and ownership. They mean identity and a sense of place. They mean comfort and protection and nurture.
They mean connectedness.
They mean home.
Sometimes we get busy with life and we shout, "Love you!" as a car door closes, or whisper our "Love you's" as we turn out the light, with a kiss and a hug. These are important and wonderful to our kids and spouses. But I wonder how often we take the time to look in their eyes and say:
You are mine.
You belong to me.
There is no greater gift I've been given in this world - than you.
Psychology tells us that "belongingness" is one of the most powerful human needs in the world. In fact, it is listed as one of the top 5 needs of a human, which compels much of the activity in the world. Connecting with others, giving and receiving love, identifying with something larger than yourself...these are all part of the belonging that each of us craves.
Giving your children a sense of belonging is one of the most important things you can do for them. They will go out into the world and learn that they don't belong to the popular crowd, or to the iphone5 crowd, or that they don't go to the right school or drive the right car to belong in a group they think is cool. They'll feel excluded from friendships and denied acceptance at the lunch table. They won't be invited to a birthday party, which is the most horrible of horrors. They will doubt their place in this world. It will happen.
But they will always belong to you. You will always see the best in them. You'll see their talents and their abilities and the way their eyes light up when they talk about dinosaurs or legos or pancakes. You'll see how they shine, how they fail, how they try and how they hurt.
You'll see everything about them and notice all the details...because they are yours.
And they will always have that deep sense of belonging in their heart because you gave it to them.
There is strength in it. There is power. And even when the time comes that your teenager doesn't really want to be seen with you in public, they will always know deep down...that they belong to you, and there is safety in that knowledge.
Today, take the time to say, "You belong to me."
Maybe the words feel awkward and a little corny. You don't know how to pop that into a conversation. But perhaps tonight, when the light is out and little heads are tucked on pillows, you should lean in close and whisper.
"You are mine.
I love you, and you belong to me.
I will never let you go.
You are my gift, my light, my joy."
And maybe they'll say, "Aw, mom! Yuck!" But they will smile in the dark, because they belong somewhere. To someone.
And that, my dear friend, is more precious than anything.
Tell me your story of belonging: do you feel a sense of belonging? Do your children know - through your words and actions - that they belong? How did they respond to your words today?
One of the biggest challenges I face when writing a motivational blog that helps you do specific, measurable, productive tasks at home, is that so much of motherhood - and life - is filled with things that cannot ever really be measured.
I know, we're all trying to get organized and find important papers and open the refrigerator door without fear, but in the big scheme of life those things are barely even significant. Not when you compare them to the ways we should love one another, how we should speak to each other, and make room for each other's faults and celebrate small moments of beauty. Or how we should trust God in the midst of trials, or model good character to our kids day in and day out.
Do you know what I'm saying?
How can you ever measure the importance of letting cleaning wait so you can gaze into your baby's eyes and stroke her tiny fingers as you feed her?
You could you never put a number on the patience it takes to listen to a nine-year old tell you a story that appears to have no end...and no point. And yet you smile and nod and notice how his freckles are so darn cute and his smile is just a little lopsided.
You certainly can't put a price tag on staying up late with your teenager to eat popcorn in the kitchen and talk about boys and hairstyles, and you couldn't ever know the value of just one more bedtime story, or a kiss on a forehead, or that look you give your child that says, "that just about enough out of you, sir."
No one gives you points for the things moms do to smooth squabbles, feed growing bodies or clean up vomit in the middle of the night. Checking behind ears for dirt, playing This Little Piggy, doling out discipline and forever wondering if you're doing a good enough job...not one task can be measured because each child, each circumstance, each day is different and requires every last ounce of a mom's best energy and attention.
And don't even mention watching clouds and chasing fireflies and finding rainbows....they'll never get checked off anyone's list, but they're some of the moments that truly matter - and only come when you're willing to drop your To Do's to catch them.
The truth is, although our lists fill our days with busy tasks, it's the things that rarely make our lists that make life sweet and good.
It's when we look up from our phone apps and emails and measurable tasks and see the little people (and big people) who need us to BE with them in the moment, fully present and engaged, that everything comes into clear focus.
The things that can't be measured are worth our very best efforts, our highest goals and our strongest pursuits.
Love and faith and grace should be the whole point of all our other tasks - that perhaps in reprioritizing them we will leave room for the immeasurable joy that comes when we're simply...available.
Looking for the moments that connect us to each other and with God.
Today, let's do something that can't be measured or checked off a list.
Hold a hand in the car on the way to where you're late to, sprawl across your child's bed and whisper in the dark, or look - really look - at your son or daughter as they speak. It doesn't matter what. You choose. You grab hold of the moment. You give it the attention it deserves.
Intangible, immeasurable, uncountable, unfathomable.
Today, let love and grace fill in the spaces your To Do list cannot possibly reach...and simply enjoy what comes.
What will you intentionally do, that cannot be measured? Please share! And hey, why not challenge your Facebook friends to do the same? Maybe we'll start a trend.
Our dog, Beau, was the best dog in the entire world. He was smart, loyal, and faithful...always ready to keep you company on a walk, or sit by your chair, or fetch sticks in the pond. We got him as a seven month-old puppy, and in his fifteen years with us, his presence was woven into the fabric of our family story. Our kids grew up with him; they loved him, and he loved them as much as any dog ever could.
I think that dogs are one of God's gifts to people. I really do! And if you ask anyone who has ever loved a dog, they will agree. With their soulful eyes, wagging tails, and wet noses, they just make life better in the way that they love unconditionally, no matter what.
And you can't say that about too many people. Especially not the part about unconditional love.
There is a new book that is out today, called Stay: Lessons my Dogs Taught Me About Life, Loss, and Grace, by Dave Burchett.
I've only read the first chapter online and I'm hooked. I ordered it immediately.
I started to summarize the book for you and then thought, "you know what, the publisher has done a way better job, so why don't I just let them do it?"
You’ll be enthralled by this story of a man and his lovable Labrador retriever, Hannah, and what their canine friendship can show us about life, grace, and long walks in the park.
Hannah was Dave’s best friend. He couldn’t imagine starting a day without her tail wagging an energetic greeting, her body wiggling with sheer gratitude when her food dish was filled, and her unbridled enthusiasm for tennis balls. (How she fit three tennis balls in her mouth at once he’ll never know.)
So when Dave first learned of Hannah’s cancer diagnosis, he decided to take whatever time he had left with Hannah to cherish the moments and capture his thoughts in a journal. As he wrote about his canine friend, he soon realized that Hannah was an able (and furry) mentor of faith, grace, kindness, and forgiveness. The lessons were invaluable: from being present to trusting the master. When Hannah lived well past the expected time frame, Dave started to see that the insights he was gaining were more than just journal entries about a family pet. Through Hannah’s antics, God was preparing Dave for life itself.
You won’t want to miss this heartwarming tale of a dog who knew how to live . . . and showed her owner how.
I wiped away a little tear just now.
I thought you might like to know about this book - perfect for the upcoming Spring Break reading - and get yourself a copy. I'm not an affiliate or anything, just an animal lover who is happy to see another book that shows how creative God is in the ways He speaks to us.
Yes, He uses our furry friends to illustrate timeless truths. You could say I believe that...you know, with my donkey and all. :)
Could there be anything better than soulful eyes, a wagging tail and a wet nose to teach us? Nah.
Let me ask you: What have you learned from your dog? Do you have a favorite dog story to share? C'mon! We'd love to hear it!
"Am I doing a good enough job?"
"Are my kids going to be okay?"
"Will I ever feel close to my kid again?"
Every mom of teenagers asks questions like these at one time or another. I know I did. Often, it's after a *discussion* of household rules, or social media use, or whether or not a movie is suitable for their age. Yes, I know you're mature for your age, but you're not seeing an R-rated movie. Ever. Come back here when I'm talking to you.
Even though you can remember how it felt to be a teenager, and you knew it would be a challenge to have teens of your own, nothing could really prepare you for the emotional drainage and self-doubt that sometimes hits you like a freight train.
"Am I too strict?"
"Am I too permissive?"
"Should we move our family to a remote island, one without internet access?"
All the books you read when your kids were wee mites don't seem to help much now. The issues are harder, deeper, and more complicated than you expected. You have so little control, and you feel your babies slipping away from you as they become more independent, and less connected to you. That old saying about apron strings coming loose darts through your mind.
Oh, those teens. They roll their eyes. Sigh a lot. Exasperate you with their logic. Push you to your limits.
And then, in a split second, they make you laugh with their antics. Your son delights you with a kind gesture. Your daughter invites you to help her pick out an outfit. You grab a burger together. You share an inside joke. They show you just how terrific they're turning out. And you are in awe.
It's that up-and-down emotional roller coaster that makes you question yourself.
"Did I say the right thing?"
"Will we ever get through this?"
Yes. You will.
You will get through this.
Because the roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers is supposed to be this way. You grip the safety rail for dear life, and feel your heart jump into in your throat, and you wonder how anyone ever convinced you to take this motherhood journey.
But hang on. Because, even though you might not believe it, you're doing a great job.
You really are!
Look. All of this is normal. You're supposed to give rules. And teens are supposed to chafe at them. You're supposed to wrap your arms around them, and they're supposed to shrug you away. You're supposed to check their phones for inappropriate texts. They are supposed to tell you that you should trust them. You're supposed to try and find things to talk about. They are supposed to think you don't know what you're talking about.
Just because there are conflicts and rocky moments, doesn't mean you're failing.
In fact, it means exactly the opposite.
It simply means your teens are trying to find their way. They are trying to separate themselves from you enough so that they can figure out what they think and believe. They already know what you think and believe.
It means that it might be time for you to give them space to become who they are going to be...and to not be so hard on yourself. This is part of their preparation for life.
I know you're doing a great job, because I can see it in the way you question yourself.
I can see it in the way you are willing to talk things out. The way you listen to your kid's heart, not just the words he is saying. I see it in how you lay awake in your bed and wonder if you blew it. I see it in the way you ask others for advice. I see it in the way you get up the next day and do it all over again.
Because there is something greater than self-doubt, and greater than all the mess-ups you make, as you navigate the teen years.
And that is: LOVE.
Love overcomes all the times you said the wrong thing. It overcomes the moments you didn't keep your cool. It overcomes the hurt when your kid shrugs off your affection, and it hangs in there when you feel like running away. It overcomes the fear and the anxiety and the weariness in the job you're doing.
Your love makes you keep going. It makes you apologize. It helps you make rules. It helps you bend rules when you see they need bending. It makes you forgive when your kids messes up. After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and your kid will mess up. Love makes you compassionate.
And love makes you strong.
You're doing a great job because your kid knows he is loved. Your son knows he can always count on you to be there. Your daughter knows you have her back. They know that no matter what happens, their mom–you–are always on their side.
You are giving them a gift that so many kids can only dream of: knowing, truly knowing, that they are loved.
This, more than doing everything perfectly, is the best thing you can do for them.
That's how I know: Mom, you're doing a great job.
I'd love to connect with you.
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I LOVED reading about all the "extra" things you girls did on Monday! Hooray for small challenges with big results!
I had to laugh with a couple of you who dealt with some Christmas stuff. Ahem. I finally put away the Christmas things that I'd decorated my son's room with over the holiday break. (Confession: my husband decorated his room.) It was just a few ornaments hung from lampshades and from a fake pine tree that's there year-round....but somehow all the rest of the Christmas decor got put away, and I'd forgotten to grab what was in there.
My Extra Thing was to take it down and put it away.
Whew! It feels good! Especially now that Valentine's Day has already been here. (sheesh)
ANYWAY! We have a winner of the Small Things with Great Love print:
Anne Tucker - She started putting away the clutter on her kitchen counter, beginning with her mandoline. I'd sure like to know the story behind that, Anne! Send me an email with your address and fill me in on your mandoline story. :) Congrats, Anne!
Question of the Day: What is your current favorite song? Pop song? Worship song? What do you like to listen to? You go first, then I'll tell you mine. :)
Back in January of 2009, I limited myself to one New Year's resolution. And I kept it small enough so I could be successful, with minimal effort.
Because that's how I roll. You know how I feel about the word, "minimum."
To my surprise, my small, minimal-effort resolution had powerful and lasting results. Want to know what it was?
Okay, drumroll please:
Putting away a dish, rather than leaving it to dry in the rack.Hanging my purse on a hook instead of chucking it on the floor when I walk through the door.It could be putting my clothes in the closet instead of leaving them in a pile on the bed.It could be eating something healthy.I might decide to put away the basket of clean clothes, rather leaving them for "tomorrow."It might be reading a verse or two before I turn out the light.
Going into the 2000 Olympics in Sydney Australia, Russian Alexander Karelin was a shoo-in for the gold medal in super heavy-weight wrestling. His record was amazing: he had never lost an international match in his fifteen years of competition, he had won gold in the previous three Olympics, and in fact had never even lost a point in the previous decade. He had seven consecutive world titles. Everyone knew this Olympic event had his name on it.
In the final match, Karelin was met by a young American named Rulon Gardner, a farmer's son from a small town in Wyoming. Gardner had two accomplishments to his name: he had won a junior college national title and placed 4th in the NCAA finals, but these were nothing on the scale of Karelin's record. Gardner was clearly not in the same league as his formidable opponent, who was hailed as the greatest greco-roman wrestler of all time.
And then the improbable – no, the impossible – happened.
In a stunning turn of events, Gardner beat Alexander the Great in overtime, resulting in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
On that day, the match didn't go to the man everyone knew would win. Instead, it went to the one who dared to step onto the mat and take him on, despite the odds against him. It went to the young man who thought that chance might go his way. This might just be his day.
I'm reminded of one of my favorite verses, found in Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Some people read this as a "hard luck" verse, but I see it as just the opposite.
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all. (NIV)
Now, I don't believe in luck. But Time and Chance? That's another story.
You see, I believe in the God of Time and Chance.
I believe that there is a Supreme Being who defies all limits of time, who is INIFINITE and all-powerful, and who knows all about my battles here on this earth.
He creates opportunities, chances, if you will, for things to happen.
I absolutely LOVE Ecclesiates 9:11 because I know I am not the swiftest runner in the race. I know I am not the strongest, or the smartest, or the most capable. The odds are against me being a successful competitor.
The gold will most assuredly be given to someone else.
But I have a heart that wants to win, and a soul that is giving God every opportunity to make me a "winner." My job is to stay in the race when my inclination is to drop out after comparing myself to the others.
They seem so much more together.
So much smarter.
So much more connected and well-educated.
Look at me! I'm a nobody!
I'll never win.
Does this sound familiar?
Ah! But you never know when the God of Time and Chance will say, "This is YOUR day! This is YOUR time! This is YOUR match! GO, girl, GO!"
God will put you in a position to succeed if you just keep preparing yourself. Be willing to do the hard work of conditioning, even though the odds are against you. Show up for the match, even when no one gives you a chance of winning. Get on the mats and then work with all your might.
Because "Time and Chance" happen to everyone! Give all your best to God and let Him take care of the outcome.
He will put you in the right place at the right time.
He will give you the opportunities you've been waiting for.
You see, this "hard luck" verse is really about a door being left open for all of us, at any given point in our lives. When we are a David facing a Goliath, or a Gideon facing a huge army of Midianites. When the deck is stacked against us and there is no hope of winning.
Except that we believe in the God of Time and Chance, who holds victory in His hands.
Well, when I said I'd announce the winner for the For Girls Like You Devotional on Monday, I did not think I'd be announcing it at 9:30 PM! This day did not go as I planned, and I blame NyQuil for making me sleep past my alarm and making me start off on the wrong foot.
But that is neither here nor there at this point.
The randomly drawn winner of the new devotional for Tween girls is: Amanda Y!
Amanda has an 11 1/2 year old daughter who "loves to read, and is outgoing and makes friends easily." I know she will love this book.
I LOVED reading all the beautiful words written about your Tweens! I can feel the love being poured over each young lady...and I know each girl is lucky to be cherished by you. I am praying for each name tonight...and all the ones not mentioned here, but who are loved and treasured by their moms, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and friends.
PS Don't forget, now you can buy your copy of For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens at Amazon.
This is an exciting week for book launches. I'm thrilled that my dear friend, Wynter Pitts' devotional for tween girls has just been released! It's called, For Girls Like You.
What would I have given, to have a book like this when my daughters were in that in-between stage of life: not quite teens, definitely not little girls! It's hard to find fun, wholesome messages for this age group, and Wynter – as a mom to FOUR daughters – has a heart for them! A few years ago, she started a magazine geared just for them...and out of that vision has come this book.
The devotional helps young girls see themselves as God sees them, and strengthens their confidence in Him as they learn how He cares about every aspect of their lives. Their beauty, value and worth are celebrated and cultivated in an engaging format they will love. When I think back to my own formative years, I wish I'd known all of this more deeply before plunging into the teens.
I have several nieces that this devotional will be perfect for. I thought I'd share it with you as well – for your daughters, granddaughters, nieces and friends. I'm excited for the girls to discover who they are as God's daughters.
Now, for the Giveaway!
I've got one free book to give to a lucky person today! To be entered, I'd like you to do two things that will help get the word out about the book:
1. Leave a comment telling us something special about a tween girl in your life! Is she creative, thoughtful, funny? Maybe she's introspective, or a book-worm? An outgoing people person? What do you love about her?
2. Share this post on Facebook (or other social media). If you like, you can add your special words for your favorite tween girl there, too! She will love it.
Celebrate your special tween, and I'll randomly draw a winner to receive For Girls Like You Devotional!
I'll announce the winner on Monday.
You can purchase the book here, or at Sam's Club, Lifeway, Family Christian Stores, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon has temporarily sold out! Isn't that cool?
Thank you, everyone, for your beautiful stories of grace on Tuesday's post! I loved reading each and every one of them. Isn't God good? So here's a little "extra" grace for two commenters.....
The randomly chosen winners of The Beauty of Grace books are:
Woohoo!! Ladies, I've sent you an email to let you know.
Have a wonderful, grace-filled day!