Posts tagged kids

Before I had kids I made a vow to myself: I will never, under any circumstances yell at my kids. Ever.

I broke that vow.

A lot.

Way more than I hope they remember.

Looking back, most of my mad had to do with messes.

Our big home on the hill overflowed with messes every day. Every. Single. Day.

Four kids + two cats + two dogs+ two horses + a spontaneously fun husband = MESSY!

I am a woman who craves order. I make my bed every day. Hang my towels perfectly even. Organize my spice drawer alphabetically. The only thing I don’t like about traveling is that it feels messy.

I get a rush from walking into a perfectly clean kitchen, from opening the garage door and seeing matching boxes perfectly labeled, lined up evenly on orderly shelves.

For me, neatness is like a drug, a high. It makes me happy, frees my mind to think.

It has taken me years— decades— to learn these few must-do’s that make my often-messy life a little more realistic. These are things I wish I’d known during all those messy summers when my kids were home. Summers I cannot relive.

1.  Nothing of value gets done without making some messes. People who get a lot done— people who invent and learn and try new things, inevitably have to wade through some messiness. Okay, a lot of messiness.

 2.  Neatness is nice. Everyone functions better when their space is tidy. Teaching my children how to put their things in order could have been fun if I had allowed it to be my gift to them instead of being so uptight about it.

3.  There is a vast difference between neat enough and perfect. To indulge in my propensity for perfectionism will make me weird. And crabby. And mad at a world that cannot ever be perfect.

4.   Consumerism is the enemy of neat. I have spent hundreds of hard earned dollars on plastic containers. What a waste! When I finally learned to keep only a few things in my cupboards, my few things stayed naturally neat. It’s better to have less stuff than to organize more stuff. 

5.   Slow down to order your life. More than anything else, I have found that my pace of life perfectly parallels my sense of order. By adding in one more meeting, one more adventure, one more trip to the store, one more project, one more item on my to-do list… I create a world in which messes reign.

I cannot do it all.

Living now in this cottage in the woods, I relish a degree of neatness that simply wasn’t possible with kids at home. When the Grands come to visit, their messes don’t worry me at all. My whole world stops and I delight in their creativity. I see a bigger picture now and that picture is filled with beauty. How I wish I’d know, all those messy years ago, that…

God creates beauty out of messiness.

From my heart,


P.S. Can you give us your best, most workable tips for keeping your place neat? Any mamas want to tell us how you teach your kids to be tidy?



One week ago everyone went home. Camp Comer was long over, but we’d extended with visits from Elizabeth with Duke and little Scarlet, and then the unexpected delight of our other daughter, Rebekah, coming for a long weekend.

While they were here I relished the moments, ignoring e-mails and messages and responsibilities and deadlines (and cleaning!) to fully pour myself into relationships that will be mine for a lifetime.

I cuddled with Duke when too much play with too many friends and cousins left him exhausted. We lay on my cushy feather bed, his head resting on my heart, imagining castles and knights and maybe could we make a fort in the attic space above the bedroom?

I issued yes’s for all the times I’d no’d my own kids.

Yes you can help yourself to the gum in the top drawer. Yes, you can have a bit of unhealthy whipped-cream-from-the-can on your vegan hot chocolate. Yes, we’ll build forts and find nooks where imaginations can fly us to other worlds.

They’re all gone now and my little cottage in the fir woods is neat and clean once again. Handprints on the windows lingered long enough to remind me why I’m spending my summer writing words for parents— words I’d longed for when I was the mama with little ones.

And then this morning I read a passage in God’s word I’ve read a million times and somehow this time it lit up the page like the marquees in Times Square:

Here is a trustworthy saying:  Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be:

…above reproach

…faithful to his wife


… self-controlled



…able to teach

…not given to drunkenness

…not violent but gentle

…not quarrelsome

…not a lover of money

And even while I cringe at the realization of how I fall short, it dawns on me that this is God’s matrix for the kind of spiritual leaders He is looking for. A list of character qualities that He values.

A list for parents in the thick of raising the next generation of men and women who will shape the Church and will bring the Kingdom of God into their world.

I’m excited now and fully awake to the riches hidden in plain sight!

This is why Phil and I have changed course after years and decades of pastoring in the local church. Why we are risking security and ease and saying no to retirement and a gazillion things that take up time. Why I am packing my suitcase to trek to un-touristy places like Haiti and Uganda and Albania instead of staying ensconced in my cozy little cottage in the woods.

God has tapped us on the shoulder and beckoned us to come alongside parents who are raising the next leaders and elders and deacons and teachers and entrepreneurs and engineers. His invitation to us is to teach and encourage and train and point out the wisdom pieces in God’s Word that lay waiting to be discovered.

Treasures like Proverbs 24:3,4:

By wisdom a house is built,

And through understanding it is established;

Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

There’s a metaphor to inspire parents! To build and then establish a spiritual house where rare and beautiful treasures are the norm. A calling to wisdom and understanding.

I read that list in 1Timothy knowing it was the Apostle Paul’s inspired-by-God list for choosing leaders in Timothy’s church. And at the same time I read it sensing that Paul’s list is also a parent’s list.

Because, what every counselor or teacher knows is:

… that faithfulness and self-control and gentleness instead of violence are best taught early before a child is hardened into hard-to-change ways of dealing with conflict.

… that being quarrelsome can be nipped in the bud when parents encourage humility and teach their children ways to listen and understand instead of allowing them to succeed by demanding control over their siblings.

…that being hospitable is best taught by throwing open the doors of our homes and lives to people who need the refuge we offer.

… and being not a lover of money is ingrained in a child who is taught and shown how to be grateful and generous.

And so I sit at my desk this summer, reaching for words to explain truths in the Scriptures that work in real life. Writing and rewriting and studying and pondering— asking God to make His wisdoms easier to find, to gift me— and all the parents who want to raise followers of Jesus— with a depth of understanding that will enable us to raise children who will become the next generation of leaders.

I’ll be spilling over onto the pages of this place, of course. Some things just can’t wait the months needed to create a whole book. And I’d love to hear from you— young moms, hope-to-be-someday moms, empty-nest moms and those who were raised in the ways of wisdom—

What is it you know about the spiritual training of children that you’re sensing is a rare and beautiful treasure?

What is it that you know now, that you wish you’d known then?

What are the areas you need help in this task of raising children whose hearts burn to know God? Members of the tribe who A.W.Tozer called “children of the burning hearts”?

And books! Don’t forget to send me the names of books that have fueled your quest for wisdom and understanding.  I would love to gather your questions and treasures as I write.

From my heart,




How To Survive Thrive This Summer …for moms

Part I

Then Jesus said to the centurion:

“Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”

And his servant was healed in that moment.

Matthew 8v13

Dear Mothers-Who-Dread-Summer,

The ranting of disappointed, disillusioned moms who dread the long weeks ahead have already begun broadcasting all over cyberspace. And every time I read those words my heart hurts. Because I heard those words too.

Listening in to those conversations between mothers, I knew that it was me who would mess up my mom’s world in the weeks ahead, and me who would instigate and perpetuate those arguments.

It was me who would be in the way.

Somehow I failed to see the smiles beneath the words. I didn’t know she didn’t mean it. Had no clue that this is just the talk of moms in the trenches, a sort of bravado between friends.

And every chance I got I skipped down the path, scampering as fast as my awkwardness would carry me to Caroline’s house. And there, in that house by the edge of the woods, I reveled in my best friend’s mom’s welcome.

Anita Joslyn saw summers so differently than any others that I still warm with the memories of being loved by her “a cuppa tea solves everything, luv” kindness.

Anita Joslyn full on cried through the last week of summer! She lamented our going back to school. That last week before school resumed was a mournful celebration of every good memory she’d made for us over the summer months.

She took us to have cake at her favorite bakery. She painted our toe-nails stylish yellow, made us toast spread with Nutella. She took us for rides in her forest green Jaguar, held a sleep over to get every last drop of fun out of our last days.

Gosh, I loved her.

Somehow, I think Anita Joslyn knew something most mothers seem to miss. She believed that her children were a gift to be cherished.  And she chose to embrace one longing-to-be-cherished best friend as well.

And so, for these first weeks of summer break, I want to imagine with you how summers might be a time for thriving. Of cherishing your children.

I am asking the Father to show us how create a summer in which you and your children can thrive. A summer so sweet that maybe you’ll create a life long memory for your kids… and a friend in need.

For today, here are two essentials:

1.     Take time to readjust your thinking about motherhood. 

Most of us once longed to be mothers. We cried over Hallmark commercials and couldn’t wait to be the center of the celebration on Mother’s Day.

What we didn’t do was count the cost. In our idealistic dreams we imagined our pink-cheeked cherubs sweetly crowning us with daisy chains, drifting off to sleep while we bustled about creating the perfect home.

The truth is, motherhood and family and nurturing children is relentlessly hard work. Managing two or three people while actually getting something done takes effort and focus and planning and goal setting. And yet we know that everything worth doing well is worth doing right, and that includes raising our children.

What if we reimagined summer as an important project to manage? Using our skills and energy and imagination to purposefully pour into our children, to create those kinds of I-am-cherished memories that I relish from my friend’s mom? What if we set goals? What if we planned each day on purpose— even the ones where nothing gets done?

What if we started this summer by going to God and asking Him to “heal” us and our children from the selfishness that pervades our homes?

I dare think He might say, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” 

2.   Practice the discipline of thanksgiving.

Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts has opened a generation of women to the heart transforming power of giving thanks.

She writes: “Anxiety can wear anger’s mask. Fear of failing, of falling, of falling behind, it can make us fierce. The answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ.”

Then in a piece of raw honesty this week  she wrote of her own angry meltdown and I ached at the memories of doing much the same and all the shame that is so hard to remember is forgiven.

She urges us to change our hearts and our minds by choosing to write thanks in lists. And she tells her story of how those lists changed her heart by setting her free.

Here’s what I hope every mama will do: Run out and get a notebook for each of your children—a simple moleskin will do. Write their name on the front. Then proceed to fill the pages with what you love about your child. Do it every day. On going-good-I’ve-got-this-days… and on those awful days you’ll someday wish you could forget.

1. The feel of his soft warmth as he snuggles you first thing in the morning.

2. Her lingering lisp that turns every sentence into sweetness. 

Include triumphs of that day:

1.    A moment of peace, a shared joke between siblings.

2.   That time when she cleaned the toothpaste off the sink and hung the towel on it’s hook— without being asked.

DO NOT turn that notebook into a performance review. This is not a tool for manipulation, but a means of seeing and hearing Truth— the Truth that God sees and we too often miss in the midst of crazy, real, ordinary summer days.

This post is already too long and I’ve just gotten started on all my Thriving Summer thoughts. I’ll save the rest for next week and maybe many weeks ahead. But while I wait to jot down more, can you fill in the comments with your own ideas of How To Thrive This Summer? Let’s fill the summer with His goodness and pour it on each other and on our children.

From my heart,