To Parents Raising Dawdlers

It’s official. I gave birth to two sloths.

Oh sure, they pass for human beings, with their swishy ponytails and their full English sentences. But don’t let them fool you. These children morph into slow-motion mammals as soon as you tell them to move.

To parents raising dawdlers

“Get your shoes on, girls. We leave for karate in five minutes.” I rushed through the house, packing snacks and water bottles, smacking on a quick layer of lip gloss and searching for my phone.

Five minutes later, my children had not yet unglued their bottoms from the sofa.

“Girls! What did I say? It’s time to go to karate. Turn off the TV and put your shoes on.”

“I don’t want to go to karate today,” groaned the second-born creature. “I want to stay home.”

“Too bad. You love karate. We’re going. Put your shoes on.”

“Do we haaaaaave to go?” Big sister sprawled her legs across the sofa. I clenched my fists, closed my eyes, blew steam out my nostrils and counted to five—for me, not for them.

“Girls, what is our family rule?”

“Obeyyyyy the firrrrrrst tiiiiiiiime.” If sloths could speak, I’m sure they could not drawl those words any slower. My children know this rule. Yet the space between knowing and doing is where I live and train and discipline—and sometimes drive myself straight up the wall, which wouldn’t be so bad if I had the sloth gene, too, and could hang upside down on the ceiling fan for a nice long nap.

How do I get THROUGH to these mammals children?!

Mom is on a schedule! GET ON THE BUS OR GET RUN OVER, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

Hmmm. Stress much?

Let’s rewind and replay the morning at sloth speed.

While I was watching the clock, trying to squeeze in one last chore or e-mail or status update before the last possible minute to get into the shower or else run late (again), my girls were seated at the kitchen table drawing flowers and dinosaurs. “Mommy, look at my picture!” In a minute, I said. Mom is busy.

When they ate their pancakes and asked for more, I answered five texts, switched two loads of laundry, and completely spaced the update that my kids were still hungry. “Mom, my pancake? You said I could have another one.” Dang it.

And while I barked at them to brush their teeth and comb their hair, I stood half naked in the mirror still fixing my own hair and makeup, clearly not demonstrating punctuality by example. Perhaps I could’ve gotten ready ten minutes earlier so I’d have time to relish their pretty reflections and tell them how beautiful God made them.

Do you see the problem here? I expect my children to enter my world—my fast-paced, clock-ticking, hamster wheel existence. But I seldom bother to slow into theirs, to delight in their artwork or their silly songs, to answer their curiosity with more than half a brain of distracted attention in those moments when I have things to do and places to go.

And I suspect I’m not alone.

Do you do it, too?

Holding flower

Maybe their dawdling is an issue of disobedience. Probably. Yes. I will continue to work on that. I don’t have any brilliant solutions or magic words of wisdom. I’m struggling just like you.

But maybe. Maybe their dawdling is partly a digging in—a show of resistance against their mother’s crazy pace. And if that’s the case? I could learn a few things from my kids. Perhaps in the space between knowing and doing, I am just as disobedient as they are.

“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).

What will you choose today, momma? Tasks and distractions? Or living in the moment, soaking up what matters?

Yes, I know those tasks need to get done, oh man don’t I know it. But we have to keep them in perspective—because Jesus says those tasks are not the most important thing. Let’s show our kids how to keep up by walking alongside them rather than harping from behind. Amen?

“Moooom, where are you?” My girls called from the garage, where they were now buckled into the minivan and waiting for me—oh the irony.

“Thank you for getting ready on time,” I said as I slid into the driver’s seat, running two minutes late as usual.

“What took you so long?” My five-year-old scolded.

“I couldn’t find my shoes.”

“Hahaha,” she cracked up, “Mommy, you’re just like me! I lose my shoes all the time!”

Heaven help me. She’s right. My dawdlers and I—we’re growing up together.

Blessings,
Becky


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Sometimes You Just Have to Face the Trolls

“Mommy, can I watch Tinkerbell?” My daughter clutched a stuffed puppy in her hand and climbed beside me on the sofa.

“Sure, we can watch a little TV before bedtime.” I grabbed the remote and flipped to my girls’ latest favorite—Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure.

“But, Mom, can you skip the part about the trolls? I don’t like the trolls.”

Sometimes you just have to face the trolls

The trolls? Ah, yes. There’s a scene where Tinkerbell tries to cross a bridge guarded by two nasty oafs who threaten to chew her for dinner.

Heck, I’d like to skip the trolls, too. I’ve known a few trolls in my life.

Marriage conflict.

Infertility.

Colic.

Call them all trolls—ugly obstacles to what I think should be a smooth life journey.

In Tinkerbell terms, though, those trolls are the turning point of the movie. It happens when an argument breaks out between the two troll buddies and escalates until one troll calls the other a “garden gnome”—the cardinal insult of trolldom. Here’s the dialog that follows.

“Say the magic words, go on.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Do you mean it?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

“Do you feel it?”

“Deeply.”

“Well then, I forgive you.”

“Friends?”

“Friends.”

And that’s when we learn the moral of the story: forgiveness. Tink realizes she’s been mistreating her best fairy friend, and when she finally apologizes, the two tiny pals work together to save Pixie Hollow from sure disaster.

All thanks to the trolls.

So—what are your trolls? What are they teaching you?

I hate arguing with my husband. But resolving our conflicts allows me to understand him at a deeper level.

Infertility was no picnic. But experiencing a season of waiting on God for a baby made me learn to trust him in ways I hadn’t before.

Colic nearly sent me to the psych ward. But it also taught me selflessness and the comfort of desperate prayer.

Yes, trolls are ugly. They threaten our peace. But when we face them head-on, we just might discover there’s a treasure on the other side.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

“Mom, is the part about the trolls coming up?” My daughter snuggled in my lap with her eyes fixed on the TV.

“Soon, yes. Do you want me to fast forward?”

“No, it’s okay.” She scrunched her nose. “I’m not afraid of them anymore.”

“You’re not?”

“No, they’re a little scary, but they’re a little nice, too.”

So true, my love. So true.

Blessings,
Becky


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This story first appeared as a guest post on Raising Humans. If it encouraged you, please share it. You might also like When Bad Things Happen to Good People, My Doctor Said the F Word, and When Your Net Is Empty, Keep on Fishing.

Summer scripture memory challenge

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If You’ve Never Heard of a Buterflagen, Read This

You know what’s missing in a lot of families?

Belly laughter.

It’s the kind of thing you don’t notice is gone until it shows up again, out of nowhere.

Buterflagen-More-Laughter

“Mom, can you stay in for a bit?” My five-year-old looked up at me from her pillow. Hubby and I had just tucked the girls into bed, and like clockwork our little one popped this question. Every night, my girls want me to stay, to sit on the bunk stairs. They want to know I’m there and watching over them while they fall asleep.

And what’s my usual response? Not tonight—Mom has work to do, laundry to fold, books to read. There’s an endless to-do list waiting for me beyond this pink and purple room, tasks reserved for the sleeping-child hours, or should I say hour, singular. Some nights that’s all I get before my brain taps out.

I need my peace and quiet.

But I need to relish my kids, too.

So one night last week, I looked at my daughter’s lower bunk and decided—heck with the to-do list. Mom is wiped.

“Sure, I’ll stay.”

“You will?” She gasped with joy.

“Yep, but you have to move over so I can snuggle in your bed.”

“Yay!” Both girls squealed.

I climbed under a pony blanket, and my baby girl flung an arm across me. Her eight-year-old sister lounged on the top bunk with a chapter book and a flashlight. “Mom,” she whispered, “do you know the German word for butterfly? It’s in my book.”

“Butterfly?” I thought back to my years of German language class in high school and took a wild stab. “It’s buterflagen.”

“What?” The girls giggled.

“Buterflagen.” Pronounced, boo-ter-flah-gen. Naturally.

“Bwaaahaaa!” They cracked up, completely defeating the purpose of bedtime. I couldn’t help but bust out laughing, too.

“No, Mom, it’s schmetterling!” My eight-year-old cackled.

“Buterflagen, schmetterling—same thing.” I rolled on the mattress, savoring the sound of their laughter.

“Buterflagen, buterflagen!” My five-year-old laughed harder each time she said it, presumably because “buter” sounds like “bootay” which is, of course, her second favorite word next to “butt.” After a few minutes, all three of us were roaring so hard, our smile muscles hurt.

“Hey, what’s going on in there?” My husband shouted from the living room down the hall.

“Nothing,” I called back. . . . “Buterflagen!!” Aaaaackhaaaaa! And we started all over again.

I know—it’s dumb, right? A silly word for silly kids. You probably had to be there to appreciate the humor. But the point is, I realized as a mom I take myself way too seriously most of the time. Do you? Maybe we all could benefit from a little more silliness.

“When the LORD brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them.’ Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (Psalm 126: 1–3, NLT).

Most days I’m focused on being the responsible adult, the one God put in charge of two little people who need guidance and training and discipline. I have lessons to teach and wild behavior to curb. Work to do, deadlines to meet, meals to sauté and toilets to scrub. I’ve got grown-up worries, okay, people? Parenting is serious business! No time for goofing off!

Except God has done amazing things for us, has he not? He created these miracles we call children and landed them in our arms to love and cherish. They are a joy. What joy!

Why then is it so hard to act joyful?

Yes, I know, sometimes the kids bicker, whine and disobey—and we don’t much feel like laughing. I get that, I really do. Yet it’s all the more reason to take advantage of the times when nothing is holding us back except our own preoccupations.

Laugh. Smile. Enjoy God’s amazing gifts. It’s okay, more than okay. It’s biblical. Did you catch what happens when God’s faithful ones laugh?

“And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them.’” (verse 2)

When we are joyful, people see God in us.

Wow.

And can you guess who needs to see God in us first and foremost?

Our kids.

So laugh, sweet mommas. Laugh a lot. Laugh ‘til your stomach hurts. Make up crazy words like “buterflagen,” which in our house is now the family code for “Mom is super fun.”

My family is a joy. Your family is a joy. Christians should be the laughingest people in all the world. And yes, I just made up another word—laughingest—but hey, at least that one passes for English. My apologies to Frau Brunet from junior year German class. Although, let’s be honest, schmetterling? That’s weird, too.

Blessings,
Becky


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If this post encouraged you, please share it. You might also like When the Kids Wear Pajamas ’til Noon, How to Love Your Family More Than Your House, and Love Your Kids, That Is All.

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For the Family: Are These Three Items on Your Summer Bucket List?

Here we are, the first week of summer vacation, and already my family has checked several items off our summer bucket list. Clean out the sandbox — check. Make s’mores over a fire pit — check. Have a play date with Ella — check. (Although I’m guessing that one will be repeated as many times as possible. Ella is co-captain of the spy team. We can’t play spies without Ella.)

Sandcastle at the beach with bucket and spade

But before we jam pack the calendar with secret codes and sandbox castles, our family is also building in some intentional time with God. (Seriously, if we don’t write it down, we won’t keep tabs on it. The bucket list is a summer spirit-saver.) This week we started our Summer Scripture Challenge, and I hope you’ll join us. But that’s not all. Join me today on For the Family, where we’re talking about three items every family should add to the summer bucket list. Click here to read the whole post. I’ll see you there!

Blessings,
Becky

 

Why Church People Need to Start Being Nice to Each Other

I’ve discovered only one disadvantage to following Christ. It makes you an easy target.

Not for atheists or suicide bombers. Those folks are predictable.

No, the most hurtful criticism comes from other Christians.

And I want to know why.

Why church people need to start being nice to each other

Recently I read a stack of survey replies about a church event I’d helped plan. Most of them were encouraging or constructive, but a few were shockingly mean. You know—the kind of nasty remarks that probably say more about the author than the subject. I tried to shrug them off, but it’s hard to keep a handful of pepper from ruining the whole jar of honey.

Yet the more I thought about it, I had to admit—haven’t I been a speck of pepper before, too?

Haven’t you?

Anytime we gripe about our church, our leaders, or our sisters in Christ.

When the worship service is too loud, too slow, has too many hymns, not enough hymns, and why do they let that guy with the neck tattoos onto the stage? Don’t we have standards here?

When the Bible study leader won’t cut off the chatterbox sitting across from you, when the snack table has too many baked goods, not enough baked goods, when the book they chose is too fluffy or too serious, too short or too long. Who are “they,” anyway? Can’t “they” choose something better next time, for the love?

What if the preacher has too many bullet points, not enough bullet points, or no clear point at all? Don’t we have a right to complain? To make sure the people in charge know they should work harder to meet our needs because, after all, they exist to serve.

Yes, yes they do. They exist to serve—God. And so do you. So do I. It’s a job we all share. That’s why the Bible calls God’s people the “body of Christ.”

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ . . . . The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’ . . . . If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 21, 26, NLT).

Has it ever occurred to you that your pastor, your worship team, your Bible study leader, your Sunday school teacher, the mom sitting next to you with a screaming child, that college student with purple hair, and every single believer in your congregation not to mention all other Christian congregations in the world are a part of the same body? Your body? Which means when we wield our complaints like axes, ready to whack a foot because we don’t like the way it’s walking, we’re actually chopping off our own foot.

Ouch.

In order to survive, a body needs all its parts working in harmony. And yes, sometimes that means we should get a check-up, a dose of medicine or even surgery. That’s what constructive criticism and accountability rooted in love can do for the body. That’s healthy.

But there’s a big difference between constructive criticism and self-serving complaints.

So next time you’re tempted to hack a body part, ask yourself—what’s my motive? Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, of course. But nobody is entitled to chop the body to bits. If your intention is to build up the body, then by all means, offer your thoughts with a spirit of encouragement.

But if your words are just going to cut and sting, please, please, please remember. You’re only hurting yourself—and God.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

Okay, then. Next time your church offers a survey, you just go right ahead and speak the truth in love. I will, too. Deal? But seriously. If you choose instead to be rude, then woman up and sign your name. The foot deserves to know which butt it ought to kick, amen?

Blessings,
Becky


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You Are Special But Not Because I Think So

“Raise your hand if you love me!” My five-year-old shouted from the back seat of our minivan. I popped two hands off the wheel and shot them toward the roof.

“I do! I love you!” Then I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw my daughter had raised both her own arms, too.

You-Are-Special-Think

“I love myself, Momma!” She giggled.

“That’s great!” I smiled wide. “You should love yourself. God made you, and he thinks you’re pretty special.”

When will the world rip that away from her, I wonder? This innocent self-love and unquestionable confidence. When will she, like every female since Eve, learn to doubt her inherent beauty and worth?

The first time a kid makes fun of her shoes at school.

Or she notices the other girls have thicker hair or thinner ankles.

When she struggles in math or soccer or singing.

When a particular boy overlooks her—or pays her the wrong kind of attention.

Will she wish to look or act or be different from the person God created?

Probably.

And yet . . .

Not if I have anything to say about it.

And I like to think I do. WE do. You and I—we’re parents. We’re the first impression our children have of the world. We may not be able to control social drama or bad hair days, but we sure can devote day after day to infusing God’s truth in our kids’ hearts. And I’m not talking about a shallow, egocentric self-esteem. I want my kids to possess God-esteem—to know they are lovely and loveable simply because God says so. It’s an irrefutable truth. Nobody else’s opinions can change it.

Not even their own.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13–14).

Crocs and training wheels

Let’s not just tell our kids they’re beautiful. Tell them God made you beautiful.

Don’t tell them they’re smart. Say God made you smart.

Our children are not special because we think so. They are special because God created them. He crafted every single one of us with sovereign intention and flawless affection. We are each an original, divine masterpiece.

So I have to ask.

When did you begin to doubt?

God’s unconditional love isn’t just for our kids, you know. You are special, too.

Loved, beautiful, valued, victorious and chosen. You are all those things in Christ and more.

Maybe it’s time we moms reclaim the faith of a five-year-old. Amen?

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Blessings,
Becky


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A Letter to My Teen Daughters (ten years in advance)

My Precious Girls,

As I type this you are ages 8 and 5. Your dad and I just tucked you into your bunk beds stacked with fuzzy throw blankets, stuffed animals and American Girl dolls. You told me you loved me at least a dozen times. I suspect that’s a stall tactic, but I relish it nonetheless. We blew kisses and you begged me to stay. So I sat on the steps to the top bunk for a few minutes and prayed for you.

I never stop praying for you.

A letter to my teen daughters

If the last eight years are any indication of how quickly your growing-up years will fly, then I will blink and tomorrow you will be packing the van for college. And nights like tonight—our ordinary, beautiful bedtime routine—may not even register in your memory bank. You will forget the scent of your strawberry shampoo, your innocent prayers for a good night’s sleep, and the words to the Praise Baby CD you still beg me to play when I turn off the lamp. But I will remember these details for all of us. Your childhood is safe in my heart.

YOU are still safe in my heart.

I am your mom.

Your friend.

Not your enemy.

I imagine you hold grievances against me now. I set rules for you that other kids aren’t expected to follow. I hold you accountable for your actions and remind you of God’s best when you might settle for good enough. These years are brutal, I get that. High school is a peer-pressure war zone. You think I can’t relate, but I was your age once, too. And I know you better than you think I do. I’ve been equipping you for this battle since you were in diapers. You’re strong and you are wise. Don’t doubt it.

Remember Jesus.

He loves you. You know this, although you might sometimes forget. Do not fear the day your faith is tested. It must pass the test before it becomes your own. I will be on my knees for you as long as it takes. You are not alone.

You will make mistakes, count on it. Maybe big ones. I still do, too. But remember God’s grace is bigger, therefore so is mine. You don’t have to be afraid to tell me when you’ve messed up or when your heart is breaking. Talk to me. Whatever it is, I will never turn you away.

Front porch steps

Some friends will draw you closer to Jesus. Some will pull you far. Learn to discern the difference. Today you think all the boys are buddies but someday they will want to play more than soccer. Protect your heart. Save it for the one God has picked out for you behind door number 17. You’re only behind door number 12 right now. “Wait for the LORD. Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).

Technology will distract you and media will lie to you. Failures will attempt to define you, and accomplishments will never fully satisfy you. But God is right beside you, my lovely ones. He is faithful, loving, and good. He will pull you through rough and high seasons. I know, because I’m asking him to do it, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Tonight, ten years ago, I peeked in on you all snuggled beneath pink comforters, your angel faces glowing peaceful while you slept. I love you so much my heart aches.

As you mature into someone different, you remain inherently familiar to me. My girls. My gifts. You are God’s masterpiece. And I get the privilege of polishing you until you shine.

Of cheerleading you toward God and his blessings.

Of being your mom.

It’s been a pretty awesome job so far. But we’re not done yet. In some ways, we’re just beginning.

And I can’t wait to see who you become tomorrow.

Love forever,
Mom

* * * * * * * *

569125Today’s post was inspired by the new book, Rescue: Raising Teens in a Drowning Culture, by Candy Gibbs. It encouraged me to realize we don’t need to fear the teen years; we can triumph through them. Using practical biblical wisdom and modern perspectives from today’s young adults, Rescue throws a lifeline to any parent struggling to keep teens afloat in a world of crashing social and emotional waves.

This week I’m giving away a copy of Rescue to one randomly selected winner. To enter, share this post with another mom and leave a comment letting me know you did. (Subscribers, click here to access comments on the blog.)

I hope you win!

**This post contains affiliate links.


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Whose Kids Are They, Anyway?

We pet sat a guinea pig a few weeks ago. Coco belongs to my daughter’s friend, and we sometimes adopt him when her family goes on vacation. My girls love feeding him carrot sticks and setting up his fence on our living room floor so the tubby fuzzball can stretch his legs—you know, the fun parts of having a pet. Cleaning the cage, though, was mostly left to me. Which is tricky because do you have any earthly idea how much poop a guinea pig can generate in an hour? It’s seriously unnatural.

Whose kids are they, anyway?

Coco’s owners told us we’d have to replace his bedding every three or four days, but after 24 hours I couldn’t stand to let him romp around in his own pee any longer, so I went a little crazy on the guinea pig hygiene. In the ten days Coco was with us, I think I scrubbed his cage 26 times.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration.

25 times.

Point is, I took extra special care of the guinea pig because he was not mine. He was on loan to us. I wanted to assure his owners we were worthy of pet sitting and would love him like they do. Heaven forbid anything should happen to Coco under our roof!

I feel this way about a guinea pig.

And a million times more about my kids.

My children don’t belong to me, either. They belong to God. And so do yours. They’re on loan to us from their heavenly Father who created them and loves them more than we do, impossible as that seems.

Most days I operate as though I believe that. Until something goes wrong, and then I throw an epic toddler tantrum, screaming mine, mine, mine!

Last Thursday I attended the funeral of a father and child from our school. Throughout the two-hour service, I couldn’t stop my tears from spilling, not even after the funeral ended and I drove home to where my own children were sleeping safe in their beds. Why? Not because I knew the family well but because the weight of such a loss crushes any momma’s heart in empathy.

No mother should have to bury her child, says me.

I never promised you that, says God.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

Tennis and sidewalk chalk

I admit these past many days I have fought back fears—of losing my husband and children or of experiencing something terrible happening to them. Now when I step into Walmart or the library or a quiet neighborhood playground, my mind strays to bad places and I imagine what crazy person is lurking nearby ready to shoot.

I find myself praying, Lord, please don’t let anything happen to my kids.

And then one afternoon last week, in the carpool line at school, he spoke back.

They’re not YOUR kids. They’re mine.

What do we do with that?

As parents, we clean the analogous cage and we love on those little people like Jesus does. Yet we cannot forget he has first rights to take them home anytime. All the plans he ordains for their lives are for some good and mighty purpose that we cannot understand.

So my prayer now? I try to lift up my kids to their Father with these words each morning:

Lord, help me to honor you with the way I raise YOUR children today.

And if it’s your will, God, please keep them here with me for a long, long time. No rush returning from your Florida vacation, so to speak.

Whatever the Lord has planned for our children, whether it’s within our grasp or not, let’s never forget to whom they first belong.

God is their almighty Father.

And we are forever blessed to be called their mom.

Blessings,
Becky


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. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
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If this post encouraged you, please share it. You might also like Stop Pray Obey, When Your Kid Is the Naughty One, and Am I Invisible Here or What?  

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving Thursdays, Mom 2 Mom Monday Link Up, Tuesday Talk, and Things I Can’t Say.

Why I Threw My Kids’ Candy in the Trash

Candy is bad for you. All moms know that.

So when my kids begged for Dum Dums after breakfast last week? I grabbed our entire stash of various stored and leftover candy—a gallon Ziploc bag full—and hurled it straight into the kitchen trash bin.

Not because we’re cutting out sugar. Obviously, any mother who hoards a sack of candy in the first place is a pushover for moderation. Plus I like to snitch a mini Snickers every once in a while.

In our house, though, candy has become bad for the soul.

Why I threw my kids' candy in the trash

“Mom, can I have these?” My five-year-old pinched a pack of Smarties between her thumb and forefinger and flashed a pleading smile.

“No, it’s too early for candy.”

“But I ate both of my pancakes!”

“I’m so glad. We don’t eat candy at breakfast time. Put it away.”

“Mom?” My eight-year-old skipped into the kitchen holding a sucker in her hand. “Can I have this? I ate a really good breakfast.”

“No! Where did you girls get the idea that you can eat candy before school?”

“You always let us have candy after we eat our healthy food!”

“At dinnertime, sweetheart. This is breakfast. I’m not sending you off to school with candy in your system. It’s too early for sweets.”

I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but in a nutshell what followed was a snit of classic proportions—complete with stomping feet, slamming doors, and a few grumpy words tossed in my direction.

Over what? A couple suckers and a candy roll. Ridiculous.

In that moment, though, I realized those sweets had become something greater. Something far more damaging than sugar and red dye #40.

Idols.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

What seizes your child’s attention and adoration? Is there any THING—an object, activity, mindset or goal—that causes your sons and daughters to risk relationships with people, obedience to God, and their very own well-being?

Let’s call it what it is. The Bible says anything that competes with God and causes us to throw his commands out the window is nothing more than a worthless idol, a weak replacement for the rightful focal point of our worship.

My daughter wanted that candy so much, she was willing to break God’s commandment—honor your mother and father (Exodus 20:12)—in order to fight for it. Not to mention a long list of other biblical principles, like “be kind” and “demonstrate self-control” and “Thou shalt not beg, whine, or bicker before Mommy chugs her morning swig of orange juice and anxiety meds.” Okay, that one’s not really in the Bible—but I think we all agree it should be.

The point is, I did what I had to do.

I tossed the candy—in order to prove to my kids that nothing (especially Dum Dums, hello) is worth compromising their souls.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

After my daughter reclaimed her senses, I knelt to eye level and launched a heart-to-heart lesson.

“Do you realize what happened here, sweetheart? God tells you to honor your parents and to show love. Yet your candy was more important than being kind to me. It was more important than obeying God. So what does that mean? What did you let your candy become?”

She cast her eyes to floor and spoke softly. “An idol.”

My girl knows her Bible.

And yes, sometimes she chooses to blow it off anyway.

Just like her mother. Sound familiar? Praise God for his grace.

“Hey,” I squeezed my daughter’s hand. “I have a secret handshake for us.” She looked up and smiled. I stretched my index finger onto her wrist and tapped each syllable of our now favorite code message.

“I love you more than candy.”

She tapped it back and giggled. Now each day, on the road to school or after I’ve tucked her into bed at night, she reaches for my hand and taps. The message applies to whatever idol we’re tackling that day, for example, “I love you more than Pinterest” works just as well. So does “I love you more than TV” and “I love you more than Cheetos.” Regardless of your vice, the meaning is the same.

I love you more than idols.

Our daily reminder to put God first.

It’s sweeter than all the Smarties a gallon bag can hold.

Blessings,
Becky


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. You’ll also get exclusive content in my monthly newsletter — fun stuff you can’t find on the blog.
Don’t miss a post. Sign up here!

If this post encouraged you, please share it. You might also like Stop Pray Obey, When Your Kid Is the Naughty One, and Am I Invisible Here or What?  

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving Thursdays, Mom 2 Mom Monday Link Up, Tuesday Talk, and Things I Can’t Say.

Messy Prayer (guest post by Kelly O’Dell Stanley)

A note from Becky: As promised, today I’m honored to welcome my friend Kelly O’Dell Stanley to Time Out. Kelly and I met through our amazing agent, Blythe Daniel, and we were delighted to discover a common affinity for the Fox Valley, Wisconsin area—me, because I live here, and Kelly, because a piece of her heart lives in a dorm room just blocks from my favorite coffee shop. So I’ve  been blessed to get to know not only a fellow author but also her daughter, and both of them are beautiful, genuine people. Funny how God can connect his children regardless of miles. I hope Kelly’s post will encourage you to rediscover prayer. And be sure to leave a comment at the end for a chance to win a copy of her new book, Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time With God.

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Messy Prayer

Surely I’m not the only mom who’s cringed at the unavoidable (but unsavory) task of accepting the artwork being held out by her small child. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? A soggy piece of construction paper, drenched with runny paint, dripping in rivulets across the page. And down your child’s arms. And into your purse, if you’re not careful. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there might even be glue. And glitter. You just know that if you touch this glorious bastion of creativity, it’s going to rub off on you, too.

Being creative can be messy.

So can prayer.

Then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If prayer is, in its simplest form, communication with God—a way of reaching hold of a greater power, the greater power—then wouldn’t you want some of that to rub off?

When you pray for someone, when you don’t just toss up a quick little “help her” prayer, but when you get serious, things change. And not just for the person you’re praying for, but for you. I think this is why Jesus said to pray for your enemies—because when you tear down the walls, when you truly try to remove your own emotions, feelings, and judgments, and you try to see a person as God does—you may find that all of a sudden you have a newfound empathy for that person. You’ll likely discover a new, better understanding of that person’s struggles, choices, and behavior. Judgment may cease. And you’ll have a new story to tell, about the time you got involved and saw things change.

One day at church a woman came up to the altar to be prayed for, and I was one of several people who gathered around her. I prayed, “God, please, surround her with people who can help her.” And my next thought was, as though God spoke right back, “You’re a person.”

I was so surprised I opened my eyes. Sometimes the way we can help is by praying. And sometimes prayer will reveal that we can also help by doing.

I will confess, sometimes I’d rather let someone else do the hard stuff, the hands-on, sometimes messy involvement. Just like I’d rather not grab hold of that piece of artwork, lest the runny paint drip down my arm and glitter permanently embed itself in my life. But I do it anyway, knowing that the long-term benefits of accepting my child’s love offering to me far outweigh the temporary discomfort. In prayer, the marks that are made—the transfer of compassion, the creation of shared experiences and deeply-forged relationships, the changes partly effected by the use of my own hands—now those are marks I can live with.

I hope they never wash out.

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This week I’m celebrating the release of my new book, Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God. Leave a comment below to enter a drawing for a chance to win a free copy—and I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog, prayingupsidedown.com. We’ll talk about prayer—ways to approach it, ways to get unstuck, ways to learn to see God in everything (even in glitter and glue). Monthly prayer prompt calendars and an ebook called Praying in Full Color are some of the free downloads available exclusively to subscribers.

Praying Upside Down

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Kelly-Stanley2Kelly O’Dell Stanley is a graphic designer, writer, and author of Praying Upside Down. With more than two decades of experience in advertising, three kids ranging from 21 to 14, and a husband of 24 years, she’s learned to look at life in unconventional ways—sometimes even upside down. Kelly’s essay, “Amazing Grace,” won the Writer’s Digest Inspirational Writing Competition in 2013. She lives in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where she operates her own graphic design business. Full of doubt and full of faith, she constantly seeks new ways to see what’s happening all around her.

Praying Upside Down is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.