Why the Elf Is Not on My Shelf

I know. Some of you love your elf. It’s a favorite memory-builder for the kids, and you probably already created a Pinterest board of clever ideas for where to hide the little guy this year.

That’s great.

For you.

But I just can’t do it. Can. Not.

Why?

Because as much fun as you have with your elf, for me it’s just another thing I’ve gotta add to my Christmas to-do list. And I’m determined to scale back this year, for the love of Jesus.

No, really. For the love of Jesus.

Why the elf is not on my shelf

Here’s the thing. We all have choices, right? You wouldn’t dare think of yanking the elf, but you might skip the white elephant lunch at work. And I might blow off the cookie exchange but there’s no way I’d miss volunteering for the school Christmas party. And so on. Of all the Christmas traditions and activities out there for us moms to grab, nobody does them all. We each decide what’s more important and what we can let slide.

But I don’t think we do it well enough.

My December agenda is jam-packed with anything from church brunches to gift wrapping parties to nursing home singalongs. Some to-do’s are non-negotiable, I mean, I can’t exactly ditch the mandatory school Christmas concert, nor would I want to.

But what about the stuff we add to our holiday calendars that causes more stress than joy joy joy?

Is it time to cut it out?

In my job as a freelance writer, I recently interviewed a family counselor on the topic of holiday stress. She said the secret to a merry Christmas is goal setting. Determine one or two objectives you want to accomplish this Christmas season, then filter all your activities through them.

For example, let’s say your goal is to relax and spend quality time with family. If addressing 100 Christmas cards helps you reach that goal, then by all means do it. If not, uh, fuh-get-about-it.

Or maybe your goal is to give to the needy. Will spending half a day stringing lights on the trees in your front yard help you accomplish that? Hmm. Probably not, unless you’re collecting canned goods from every car that drives by to gawk.

Think about it. Examining our Christmas to-do’s in light of one or two key goals—it’s life changing. Sanity saving. Brilliant and freeing!

And really, really hard.

Because so many of us have been duped into thinking we need to do it all—the shopping, the baking, the parties, the family outings—in order to make the most of this fleeting, magical season.

But I don’t want to make the most of it.

I want to make less of it.

Less on my to-do list, less running, less stress. I want room for laughter, snuggling, and stillness—to relish in the wonder of a God who willingly plummeted from his heavenly comforts to receive us as a helpless child in a manger. He did that for me. He did it for you.

So my goals this Christmas? (1) To celebrate Jesus, and (2) to build memories with my husband and kids. Technically the elf on the shelf could fit into that second goal. But I have sugar cookies to bake. Nativities to assemble. Paper countdown chains to cut, staple, and hang.

So I’ll leave the elf to you, my friend. He’s your thing. And I have mine. And together we are going to enjoy a very merry Christmas that matters.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

What are YOUR one or two key goals this Christmas season? Read more about mine below!

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Make Christmas Matter at BeckyKopitzke.com

Fun news! I’m excited to announce a special Time Out Christmas series—Make Christmas Matter. Every Wednesday until Christmas, I’ll share a bonus post on my favorite fun ways to celebrate our faith during this hectic season. These will be in addition to your usual Monday encouragement. And—as an extra bonus, watch for a Make Christmas Matter series kickoff post tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 25. I had so much good stuff to share, I ran out of Wednesdays. Go with it, people. Literally—go here to read more details. I’m so excited to welcome you on board the Make Christmas Matter campaign! See you back here tomorrow!


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Am I Invisible Here or What?

Parenting can turn an ordinary lady into a super hero. And I’m not talking about Wonder Woman. Lately I’ve taken on a different kind of identity.

Invisible Mom.

Am I Invisible Here or What? When the Kids Won't Listen

“Girls, wash up for dinner, please.” I lifted a steamy pot of pasta from the stove and nodded to my daughters. They sat at the kitchen table rubbing crayons onto coloring books. “Did you hear me? Wash up.”

Three minutes and half a chopped salad later, my girls still hadn’t budged.

“Girls! Put away the crayons and wash your hands for dinner.” I stepped out to toss a can into the garage recycling bin and returned to see my girls still nose-to-paper with their coloring books.

“What did I say?! It’s dinner time!”

Just then my sweet husband rounded the corner into the kitchen. “Can I help with anything, hon’?”

“Yes,” I turned toward him, my eyes crazy-wide. “You can tell these children to wash their hands.”

“Girls—go wash up.”

Immediately, they set down the crayons and slid off their chairs. “Okay, Daddy.” And off to the sink they marched.

What the heck?

Do you ever feel like your children can’t hear you? Like you could bark and plead and wave your arms, but still your mom voice travels at some odd frequency indecipherable to young ears. All my instructions to pick up your toys and put on your shoes squeak out like a pathetic dog whistle. Why don’t they listen? Why won’t they obey? What in the world am I doing here, anyway?

I’m invisible.

Nobody sees me as the boss.

And that means—I must be failing.

Right?

Wrong.

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33).

Let’s not talk about discipline. Or a list of tips to get your kids to listen and behave, which (let’s face it) may or may not work depending on your child’s mood or yours. And I’m not even going to encourage you to be consistent and intentional as a mom.

Not today.

Those things are important, yes. We ought to take them seriously.

But that’s the problem. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. So much that we overestimate our influence.

Children, for all our molding and training and teaching, are still just people.

And people have free will.

Why should we be surprised when our kids use it?

Oh, sure, I get it. You want your kids to use their free will to obey you. Of course. So do I.

So does God.

Do you always listen when he tells you what to do? Darn, me neither. Yet that doesn’t make him a bad Father.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. . . . As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:8, 13).

Girls on sofa from BeckyKopitzke.com

There’s a deeper issue here. When your children ignore your commands, what do you see? What’s the big picture of your parenting? I see a household where I have no control. Where my kids think my instructions are optional. Where Mom is invisible, therefore I must be doing something wrong.

You, too?

Ah. Then you—and I—are the ones with the vision problem. Because we are choosing not to see.

What about the times when your kids do listen? When they hear you say I love you and you’re special and God made you smart. When they clutch your hand or hug your knees or reach for a goodbye kiss before school? What about those moments when the whole family makes a pajama run for ice cream or dances in the living room and you laugh together until your smile muscles ache? Or the tears you wipe from a tired child’s eyes, the prayers you plead over their bedsides, the hard conversations you enter willingly with your husband because you know that growing great kids means keeping the two of you strong first.

Don’t you see all that?

You are not invisible. You are doing the work, day in and day out. Your children see it. They feel it. They know it, whether they can wrap words around it or not. And it’s this kind of loving home you’ve created that makes them feel safe enough to test your patience in the first place.

So don’t allow a streak of behavior issues to taint your entire view of motherhood. It’s one piece of the puzzle. There are so many other pieces also deserving of your attention—and together they form a beautiful picture of your family life.

God sees it.

You are not invisible.

You are wonderful.

Wonderful Woman . . . now that’s a super hero identity I could get used to wearing.

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Update! Congratulations to Gina Boyd, the winner of our reader survey Amazon gift card giveaway! Thank you to EVERYONE who entered and completed the survey. Your responses will help me make this blog an even more inviting place for all of us. Blessings, friends!


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If this post encouraged you, please share it. You might also like No, You Are Not Failing, For Inadequate Mothers Everywhere, and Put a Little Love in Your Voice.

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Moms, You Are Beautiful Inside and Out

Oh. My.

You have shifted my heart.

YOU—the tired, lovely, hard-working, cranky mom there in the living room or the carpool line or the parent bleachers at gymnastics class. You’ve got your laptop or your phone in front of your nose, and you’re stealing a few minutes to hang out with me here. I see you.

You are beautiful. Inside and out.

Moms, you are beautiful inside and out. Encouragement to all blog readers from Time Out with Becky Kopitzke - Christian devotions and advice for moms and wives.

Last week, I sent you a reader survey. I put a lot of thought into the questions because I really wanted to know who you are and what I can do to encourage you. But part of me was still expecting a sterile kind of data-driven response. Like the space between you and me is the actual distance between my screen and yours. This isn’t the real world. It’s the Internet. Right?

Oh, no no. That is so, so wrong.

You are REAL. And you’re just like me. Thank you, thank you for your honest and heartfelt answers. I read each one—multiple times—in tears and solidarity and nodding amen, girlfriend, me too, me too! Your words shattered the space between us so that suddenly you were standing with me at my messy kitchen counter drinking microwave chai and snort-laughing, snot-crying, sister-to-sister praying about this tough and extraordinary gift we call family life.

I heard you. I hugged you. Did you feel it?

We get each other, we really do. Our kids don’t listen. Our marriages hit bumps. We so desperately want to teach our children how to live for God in this frozen world but we fear we’re failing daily.

We’re not.

Do you hear me?

You are not failing.

And I’m going to be here week after week to remind you.

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

Who knew? The Internet is a real place. Where real people can gather from across the miles and share common pain and praises. Thank you for the privilege of carving this little space for us, for allowing me to write these humble encouragements that I hope and pray each week will point you and me to Jesus. You bless me by reading.

I know you.

You’re a great mom.

I’ll see you back here next week for another cup of chai. You bring the Goldfish for the kids, and I’ll sneak us some Ghirardelli squares from my secret stash behind those leftover stuffing cubes in the cupboard. I know, I know, I ought to throw them out, but then where would I hide the chocolate?

Oh—and just a heads up, I probably won’t vacuum before you get here. Because we’re true friends like that.

Praise God.

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For the Family: One Sure Way to Melt a Wife’s Heart

Great news! Starting today, I’ll be a regular contributor on one of my favorite blogs, For the Family. Once a month I’ll share a new post there, designed to encourage and equip families with God’s truth, grace and love. I hope you’ll join me and all the other wonderful contributors, including Ruth Schwenk, Karen Ehman, Tricia Goyer, and many more.

Today’s post is a hot topic for me and many moms—seeing the tender side of our husbands, especially when life gets hectic. Join me on For the Family

Many wives, like me, are wired for tenderness. In the daily grind of deadlines, laundry, meal planning and mortgage bills, sometimes I miss the romance.

My husband isn’t big on romance. He doesn’t write poems or buy me flowers. The last time we had a candlelit dinner was during a power outage—with the kids, eating cereal.

Truly, I’m okay with that. My husband’s pragmatic side is a huge benefit to our family. He’s loyal and responsible and he knows how to fix the sink. Those are no small signs of affection to a woman who counts her blessings.

Yet many wives, like me, are wired for tenderness. In the daily grind of deadlines, laundry, meal planning and mortgage bills, sometimes I miss my boyfriend—that sweet guy who once captured my heart.

Where did he go, anyway?

Read the rest of the story on For the Family. I’ll see you there!

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How to Love Your Family More Than Your House

“I don’t know why I even bother.” I swept my tired eyes across our living room crime scene and felt my lungs deflate.

Cushions were yanked off the sofa and stacked on the carpet for a makeshift fort. Dozens of books, pulled from their shelf three rooms down the hall, lined the window seat. A pink nylon princess tent wobbled in the middle of the floor, where board game pieces were placed meticulously on kitchen plates—the good plates—for a stuffed animal tea party.

That morning I’d spent two good hours cleaning the house. Now half a day later it was trashed again.

How to love your family more than your house

My husband sidled up to me. “Because, honey, if you didn’t bother, we’d have even bigger piles of junk everywhere.”

So what you’re saying is—all my efforts are nothing more than damage control.

Great.

But let’s look at it this way. What if I applied the same exasperated view to my other responsibilities? Like cooking, for instance. I can spend an hour preparing a meal that takes less than ten minutes for my family to devour. There might be no food left to show for my efforts, but it’s nonsense to say “Why do I even bother?” because the point was for the meal to be eaten. It wasn’t supposed to last.

Maybe I ought to look at my home that way, too.

Cleaning is helpful. But it’s not supposed to last. Because just like meals aren’t made to look at but rather to consume, a house is not made to admire but to live in.

Think about it. If that’s the case, then perhaps the bigger mess my family makes, the better I’ve done my job—creating an environment where they feel free to live, to be themselves, to explore and imagine, to laugh and to play. Hey, isn’t that the kind of house you want to live in?

Oh. But, you’re not. Because you’re spending all your time picking up after everybody.

They’re having all the fun.

It’s time we moms start having some, too.

So I propose a new attitude toward housecleaning. Yes, it must be done. But consider it always temporary. Scrub the toilet then let it go. Whatever happens to the lid and the bowl between now and the next scheduled cleaning is not your concern.

Because you refuse to love a clean house more than the people who live in it.

Amen?

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38 – 42).

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P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
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The Problem With Women’s Lib

Call me old-fashioned. I still own a paper dictionary.

Last week, my seven-year-old daughter hauled it off a shelf and leafed through the special full-color section on United States presidents. One by one she read the names of past leaders, from George Washington to George Bush (it’s an old dictionary).

Kneeling beside her sister, my four-year-old piped up. “Why are they all boys?”

Uh. Time for a history lesson.

The problem with women's lib

“Women weren’t allowed to be presidents,” I said. “Not at first. In fact, women couldn’t even vote for which president they wanted.”

“Really?!” My second-grader’s mouth gaped open. “Ladies couldn’t vote?”

“Nope.” I shook my head. “Many years ago, ladies were not usually allowed to do a lot of things that men could do—especially if they were married.”

“Wow.” My children struggled to comprehend a world where girls weren’t equal to boys in work and play. Here in this house, one daughter loves dolls and dancing while the other flips for super heroes, dinosaurs, and monster trucks. The idea of gender obstacles is totally foreign to them.

So it occurred to me, at that moment—I’m grateful. Tremendously grateful that my daughters are living in an age when women can run for office, launch a business, go to med school, or write a blog. Thanks to the passionate efforts of generations before us, my girls can grow up to be executives, professors, scientists, or moms.

Wait, what? Moms?

Isn’t that kind of backwards? I mean, women’s rights exist to free the female from domestic life, right?

Nope. Not exactly. And that is the problem with women’s lib.

What about the woman who chooses domestic life?

Doesn’t she have just as much right to her decision as the woman who prefers going to work—and to not be criticized for it?

Despite all the good it brought us, feminism has somehow diminished the role of motherhood to a side job. If you’re “just a mom” then you’re wasting the brain God gave you. We’re told to build a career. Advocate for change. Make a difference. Impact the world! You can’t do that by changing diapers.

Oh, sweet dears. Yes, you can.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 10:42).

Parents today are charged with the great responsibility to raise the next generation of loving, impassioned, God-fearing people. Every day, every hour, every lullaby, burp rag and after-school snack we spend investing in that purpose is meaningful and influential in God’s eyes.

It’s not the lesser pursuit.

I want my daughters to know they can follow whatever convictions the Lord plants in their hearts, whether that’s paleontology or parenting or both. But it’s up to me to teach them that. It’s up to you. Our current generation of women—of moms—can make a difference, together, by vowing to support rather than slam each other. And to teach our kids to do the same.

Just imagine. That could be the greatest expression of women’s rights our nation has ever seen.

Dream and believe

“Mom, do you think I could be president someday?” My seven-year-old cocked her head and looked up at me.

“It’s possible, if that’s what God has planned for you.” I reached to touch her cheek. “He made you smart. You can do a lot of things.”

My four-year-old jumped to her feet. “Can I be a super hero?”

“Yes,” I nodded. “For Halloween.”

Women’s rights do have some limits, after all.

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers.
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How a 40-Year-Old Woman Can Look 20 Again

Today is my birthday.

The birthday.

I’ve been dreading it for half a decade, and now it’s really here.

{Deep breath.}

Today I am officially . . . 30.

Plus ten.

How a 40 year old woman can look 20 again

Okay, so what’s the big deal, right? Age is just a number. Thanks to my mom’s round face—which she told me I’d appreciate someday—most people guess me younger than I am. But still, there’s something about the digits 4-0 that say, over-the-counter eye cream cannot help you anymore.

You’re an older woman now.

In many ways, hey, I’m content with that. Age brings wisdom and a better understanding of who I am according to God’s timeless point of view. That’s a reason to celebrate, amen? I certainly wouldn’t want to regress ten or twenty years in knowledge or stature. Truly, I don’t even need the wrinkle-free skin or superhuman capacity to stay up past 11.

But you know what I do miss? My youthful courage. My old version of optimism.

Twenty years ago, I believed I could punch my stamp on the world. Every possibility was ahead of me. Sure, I was dirt poor and stressed out, with term papers to write and immature relationships to navigate, but I had something priceless in my pocket—potential.

It was exciting.

Fast forward now through two decades of blessings, trials, joys, disappointments, responsibilities, exhaustion and hard lessons learned, and my outlook is different. Somewhere along the way, my rose-colored glasses got fogged up. I wouldn’t say I’ve become jaded, necessarily, but I am cautious. Pragmatic. Weary. Maybe even a little frumpy.

I refuse to succumb to frumpy.

Is it possible for a 40-year-old woman to look 20 again? I believe so—in the very best sense. Here’s how I plan to do it.

1. Dream. Between college graduation and retirement, my traditional career span is nearly halfway over. But is that halfway empty or full? The way I see it, as long as I’m still breathing on this planet, I have work to do for God. I ought to keep dreaming of ways to serve him, new goals to reach, new visions to cast. God gave each of us certain gifts to use for his purposes—some of which it took me the last twenty years to discover and develop—so I’d darn well better use them now and still when I’m 60, 80, or 100.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

2. Learn. At age 20 I was hungry for knowledge. Playing the student came naturally then, when life consisted of classrooms and textbooks and midnight Pizza Hut on speed-dial. Yet our world is an everlasting classroom if we allow it to be. There’s always more to learn. I want to reach out to mentors in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, and find out what lessons they can impart. They are no less valuable at their age than I am at mine.

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5).

3. Laugh. Wow, have I ever become uptight in middle age. Where is that lighthearted girl who loved to giggle? She has responsibilities now, you know. Parenting, marriage, ministry, health insurance and property taxes—these and a hundred other grown-up worries weigh heavy on my chest, because life is not a game, okay, people? What are you laughing at? Oh. I still have a Hello Kitty sticker stuck to my butt, don’t I? Compliments of my preschooler. The 20-year-old me would’ve cracked up over that. I want to be like her.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

4. Open my eyes. When I was in my early 20s, I dreamed of meeting the man who would capture my heart. I imagined how happy life would be with children and a house and my own washing machine. Family life was something I aspired to then—and now? Now I complain about it. The laundry, the kids’ bickering, my husband’s socks on the floor. Yet if only I could see myself through the eyes of the girl who longed for this hectic, toy-infested household, I’d realize I’m living my dream. This is everything I wanted. And I am blessed.

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3, NLT).

5. Claim my space in the world. Youth comes with a funny mix of insecurity and cockiness. You can be clueless yet entitled—because our society values young beauty and talent. Up until now, I realize I wore my youth like a badge. The 20s and 30s are a safe zone for relevance, it seems. But I’m 40 now. It’s time to relinquish my membership. It’s time to value me for me, and not for the age on my driver’s license.

Honestly? It feels a little rebellious. Like freedom.

Like being 20 again.

So from this day forward, I refuse to allow messed-up American culture to boss me around. Magazines, TV, even some evolving church trends would tell me I’m less relevant at 40 than I was at 20. But do you want to know what the Bible says about that?

Garbage.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life” (Proverbs 16:31, NLT).

Well, then. I need to go blow out some cake candles now, before they set off the fire alarm. But I’ll leave you with this thought. Whether you’re 20 or 40 or 80 years old—do not fear another birthday.

Not everybody gets to grow old.

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
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If this post encouraged you, please share it! You might also like The Older I Get, the More Money I Cost; How to Get the Life You Always Wanted; Life Is Short, So I Bought a Dress; The Measure of a Good Life; and On Dreams, Contentment and Spaghetti.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving Thursdays, and Things I Can’t Say.

Hello, my name is Mom and I am an enabler

I discovered a hard truth last week. I am THAT mom.

The Enabler.

Mom enabler

Here’s how it hit me.

I parked the minivan in the school lot and twisted around to smile at my seven-year-old daughter. “Ready?”

“Yep! I’m ready, Mom.” She slid a bookmark into the paperback she’d been reading on the drive and unbuckled her seatbelt.

I cast a quick glance around the van. “Where’s your backpack?”

She jerked her head toward me, eyes wide, and sucked in a quick gasp of air. “Oh no!”

“You didn’t bring your backpack?!” I stared back at her with my eyebrows arched to the ceiling.

“I thought you had it, Momma!”

“But it’s YOUR backpack. You were supposed to carry it to the car!”

“Oops. Sorry, Mom. I forgot.”

{Sigh . . .} Of course she forgot. Because in that moment it occurred to me—I never taught her to remember in the first place.

I just do it for her.

Every morning, I pack a lunch and a snack and a water bottle for her desk. I check the daily schedule for timely supplies, such as piano books on lesson day, library returns on library day, and various office forms on any given day. Then I tuck it all neatly beneath her Jansport zipper and grab the backpack along with my purse as I head for the door, spouting one last plea to please brush your teeth and find your shoes.

Why do I do that?

Certainly not because I think my kids are irresponsible. They aren’t.

And it’s not because I’m eager to capitalize on every little opportunity to serve them, either. Let’s be honest. Sometimes I’d rather not.

The truth is, I usually choose to lug the backpack myself because I like to be in control. If I do it—the backpack hauling, gym shoes packing, schoolwork double-checking—then it gets done, and it gets done right. Which means I can effectively prevent oversights from inconveniencing my day.

Such as the now infamous MIA backpack.

“Mom, my lunch was in there! And my homework!” My daughter rattled her head, trying to shake off the sinking consequences of a day at school sans peanut butter sandwich and due-today worksheets.

If the backpack had been a clear expectation, I might’ve let her suffer natural consequences. So homework is a day late and she has to eat cafeteria chili for lunch, could be worse. But this wasn’t actually her fault—it was mine. My lack of teaching, my fear of relinquishing control. And I owed it to her to make it right, not just that day, but for the long-run.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

“Sweetie, I realized I never told you it was your job to collect your backpack in the morning. So I will drive back home and bring your backpack to school before recess.” I wrapped my arm around her shoulder while we walked toward the building.

“Thanks, Mommy.”

“But!” I pointed my finger to the sky. “From now on, your backpack is your responsibility. I’ll help you make sure that everything you need for school is inside it, but it’s your job to carry it to the car. Deal?”

“I can do that, Mom.”

“I know you can.” And so can I.

I think.

The issue here is bigger than a backpack. It’s my overall dread of letting go. I need to give my children more responsibility—to empower them, and to encourage them as capable. That will not happen if I continue to do everything myself just because I don’t want to drive seven miles back home when one of them leaves the proverbial backpack behind.

Growing up means making mistakes.

So parenting involves allowing mistakes.

Just like God allows me to learn from mine.

Yep, Lord, I did it again. This little backpack thing? I get it. It’s more a lesson for mother than daughter. I’m just going to ask you one thing, God. On that inevitable day when my girl forgets her backpack on her own accord, please let it be pizza day in the cafeteria. Chili is a little harsh, don’t you think?

* * * * * * * *


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Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving Thursdays, and Things I Can’t Say.

If You Don’t Want to Be a Boring Mom

I have this recurring nightmare in which my children are 16 years old and they escape to a friend’s house every weekend to eat pizza, sing Karaoke and play laser tag while my husband and I sit at home with our bifocals on, sipping Metamucil and quietly reading 18th Century theology books. We, the wise parents, are so boring and grumpy that our children want desperately to hang out with anybody who is not us. So hubby and I spend their teen years in a state of pseudo empty nesting before our time. Kids these days. Hmmph.

Whoa—wait a second! WAKE UP! If I have anything to say about it (and I do), my children will not grow up assuming the fun is always found somewhere else. There’s plenty I can do to establish home as their favorite place—where fun, love and laughter are a normal part of our family life.

Want to know how? Join me today on For the Family, where I’m sharing what it takes to be the FUN family. I’ll race you over there!

Be the FUN Family

Photo credit: my talented friend Heidi Maranell

Redefine Your Child’s “Bad” Qualities

My four-year-old is a decisive child.

Also known as stubborn.

Redefine your child's bad qualities

“Mommy?” She appeared in the bathroom doorway, pushing matted hair out of her face and rubbing squinted eyes.

“Good morning, sweetheart.” I love the first greeting of the day when my children patter out of bed and seek me out. Don’t you? My heart swells with fresh love for these little people, for another chance to be their mom. It’s a magical moment.

“Can I have a sucker?”

And just like that, the magic farts.

“No, beanie, we don’t eat suckers for breakfast.” I flashed my gentlest smile. She didn’t buy it.

“But I want a SUCKER! I waaaaaant one!!” She stomped her feet on the hallway carpet, thrashed her little body to the floor and pounded it with her fists. “Waaaahh!”

I’m sorry, did I call this a good morning?

Never mind.

Sometimes my daughter’s stubbornness drives me batty. Yet my job as her mom is to harness that quality for good. Why? Because God sees beneath her misbehavior to the potential within. I was reminded of this last week while reading in the book of Acts.

At the start of chapter 9, Saul—later known as the apostle Paul, you know, the guy who wrote half the New Testament—was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (verse 1). He got a commission from the Jewish high priest to persecute any Jesus followers he could find in the city of Damascus. But on his way there, Jesus interrupted Saul’s cranky plan and struck him blind for three days. Meanwhile, the Lord sent a disciple named Ananias to “place his hands on [Saul] and restore his sight” (verse 11).

Imagine if you were Ananias at this point. Jesus is asking this poor guy to confront the most notorious enemy of the Christian faith. Scary? Um, yeah. What if the whole plan backfired and Ananias was held prisoner, or worse? Yet he chose to trust and obey Jesus.

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kinds and before the people of Israel’” (Acts 9:15).

Why Saul? This guy was bad news. He hated Christians! Yet when God intervened, Saul the notorious persecutor became known as Paul, the greatest Christian evangelist in the history of the church.

God chose him.

God transformed him.

See, Saul was zealous for a cause. Even though he was using this zeal for evil, Jesus knew it could be channeled for godly purposes. He saw the potential to use Saul’s “bad” traits for good. And the same is true of our children.

Is your child bossy?
Those are leadership qualities.

Hypersensitive?
Call it compassionate and caring.

Rowdy?
Energetic. Brave.

Shy?
Discerning and introspective.

Distracted?
Creative.

Naughty?
Passionate. Independent thinker.

What the enemy intends for evil, God can transform for good. And we parents, like Ananias, are God’s messengers to our children. We’re called to peel the scales from their eyes, point them to Jesus, and guide them in wisdom and truth. Which means we first need to change the way we see their challenging qualities—so we can nurture the potential inside.

Yes, sometimes it’s scary, frustrating, exhausting, or downright maddening.

But it’s what God asks of us. And what a privilege we have to share in his work.

Running-shadow

When my daughter grew tired of kicking and wailing outside the bathroom door, she stood up and plugged her mouth with her thumb. Her eyebrows crunched together and she clutched her elbows in her hands.

“Sweetheart,” I looked her straight in the eyes, “Someday you are going to use your determined nature for good.”

“What does that mean?” She scowled.

“It means God made you the way you are for a purpose. And I’m happy he did.”

“Hmmph.” She stomped a foot. “I don’t care.”

Yes, Lord, we’ve got our work cut out for us with this one. But Mom can be stubborn, too. I am determined to harness my daughter’s “decisiveness” for good purposes. And—to never again allow a bank teller to offer my daughter a sucker. Amen?

* * * * * * * *


P.S. If you liked this post, I invite you to subscribe to Time Out by e-mail.
Each new member of my e-mail list receives a whimsical 8 x 10 printable for your home or gallery wall designed by Megan Hagel exclusively for Time Out subscribers.
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If this post encouraged you, please share it! You might also like No, You Are Not Failing, When Your Kids Hurt Your Feelings, and Cut Me Some Slack, Little People.