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.

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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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If this post encouraged you, please share it! You might also like Cut Me Some Slack, Little People, She Still Kisses Me Goodbye, and Follow the Rules of the Road.

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?

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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.

We Quarantined the Toys . . . Now What?

Parenting cost me a window.

Last weekend, I got it back.

Psalm 113:3

When our second daughter was due in 2010, I gave up my home office. Hubby and I converted my work space to a yellow flowered nursery with a La-Z-Boy rocker and pink blossom curtains. My desk, consequently, got demoted to the corner of our dim and chilly basement.

Of course my daughter needed the room more than I did.

But not anymore.

Today both girls are big enough to play downstairs without Mom hovering over their heads. They can traverse the steps without tripping. They’re not likely to shove forks into electrical sockets or eat paper scraps off the floor. We’ve reached a new era, halleluiah! My kids are ready for their own space—which means I can reclaim mine.

So we spent a Saturday converting a child’s room back into an office, and sequestering toys from every cranny of the house into one large and luxurious playroom downstairs. Now the girls have freedom to spread their LEGOs and Hot Wheels and coloring books galore, while I sit like a fat queen in my leather office chair basking in the direct sunlight of a window—dressed in chic new linen curtains, courtesy of World Market—on sale, people, yay!

Yesterday I spun in that chair and took a good look around—at this room, where I once stumbled, prickly eyed, to lift a hungry newborn from her crib. Where I changed diaper after loaded diaper and wrestled skinny octopus arms into fleece sleepers. Here I sprayed for invisible bears at bedtime and picked doll shoes off the rug. In this room, I learned how big a heart can swell with love for another child, this little sister who stretched our world even as she shrunk the house to half its size.

This room is mine again.

Yet I realized it will always be hers.

Ours.

Because a home is not made of furniture and walls. It’s built moment by moment, memory by memory, life stage after life stage, until those walls tell a story that no fresh coat of paint can shush.

Our baby days are gone. The toys are tucked out of sight. Enter our front doors and you’d think grown-ups actually live here—such progress! But the lady who sits in her office today is not the same one who left it four years ago, praise God, praise GOD. One thing I know for certain is that no matter how intentionally and wholeheartedly I may raise my children, they will always grow me more. And I think that is God’s design.

Parenting changes us.

It demands from us.

It pays back more than it takes.

Today my payment comes in the form of a window—a hard-earned bit of sun. Yet part of me misses the nursery, the toy room that once filled this space.

So . . . call me nostalgic or practical or nuts.

I kept a corner of it.

Home office

Yep. I now share my home office with a seven-year-old.

Because I’m a mom.

And it’s the best job in the world.

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If this post encouraged you, please share it! You might also like The Day I Get New Carpet, If You Were in My House Today, What That Mess Really Means, and Sandy Grass.

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

Vying for the Driver’s Seat

This one falls under the category of be careful what you wish for.

“I like this. I really like it. We should do this more often, honey.” My husband kicked his feet onto the dashboard and reclined his seat until it touched our daughter’s toes behind him. He flipped open a magazine and wiggled his eyebrows at me.

From the passenger side.

Because I was driving.

Vying for the Drivers Seat

I don’t like driving. I much prefer to hand my husband the keys and let my thoughts drift out the window. That’s been our unspoken arrangement since I met the guy. But last week, on our way out the door for a 45-minute trip to visit friends, he was tired so I offered to drive. And now our happy system is in jeopardy.

“What are you saying? I thought you liked driving.” I crinkled my forehead and glanced sideways at my husband.

“But this is great! I can lay back and relax, catch up on my reading. You should drive from now on, wifey. You’re a great driver.”

“Yeah? That’s like telling me I’m really good at doing the dishes. I’m not falling for it.”

Darn it, I like the passenger seat.

Sometimes.

Ok sure fine, let’s be honest, when it comes to relinquishing control to my manly man, driving is more an exception than the rule. In many other aspects of our married life, I buck his leadership—hard.

Like when he took over the daily budget and told me I had to cut back on Kohls shopping.

Or when I vote for the expensive ballet class and he votes no way.

Or when he asks me to respect family time and put my phone away. And my iPad. And my laptop. Seriously? You’re killing me, man.

But it occurred to me when I was driving and wishing for my passenger spot that there are several areas in which I really do value my husband’s initiative.

I don’t want to mow the lawn, for example.

Or grill the chicken.

Fix the faucet.

Track the IRAs, 401Ks, options trades and W-whatevers, don’t even talk to me about it. Makes my head numb.

So maybe I could loosen my grip on the marital steering wheel, so to speak, or else I just might find myself driving straight down the road to regret.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).

As wives, we can build up our husbands by honoring their views. Or we can shred them to pieces with our need to be right, to get our own way, to control the details and to have the last word.

When you look at it that way, it’s not really a tough choice, is it?

“Girls, next time I should sit in the back with you!” My husband turned to our daughters in the seats behind us. “We can watch movies and eat snacks.”

“Yeah, Dad!” They cheered.

“Please don’t.” I slowed to brake at a stoplight and faced my husband. “I like it when you drive.”

And so I must learn to like it when he drives more than just the car. Because that’s marriage. Two people, with equal input, relinquishing their own desires at times for the good of a family. And honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. To love and follow a flawed person means to place great confidence in the God who leads us both.

I can’t think of a better position to be in.

Can you?

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If this post encouraged you, please share it! You might also like When Hubby Leaves His Socks on the Floor, He Called Me Beautiful So I Cleaned the BasementHow to Marry Your Husband All Over Again, and Why I Stopped Whining About My Husband’s Hunting Trips.

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

Because Kids Believe Whatever They Hear

Psalm 141:3

“Mom, we need those band aids!” My four-year-old daughter rushed to the kitchen where I stood chopping lettuce for dinner.

“We need what?” I crinkled my eyebrows.

“Those band aids! On the TV! They’re waterproof, Mom. Waterproof!”

“Oh,” I nodded, “I see. You heard about these band aids on TV, huh?”

“Yes! We need them. Protection from germs, water and dirt. Always on the go!”

Yikes. In our house, we limit television to channels with kid-safe commercials, but lately I’m skeptical there is such a thing. My children can hear a message once and believe it’s true. Worse, they can recite it word-for-word and remember it. I’ve been told we must buy spill-proof snack cups, a Shark steam cleaner, something called Teddy Tanks and—my personal favorite—a home waxing kit “because then you don’t have to shave your legs, Mom! Less time in the shower, and smoother, silkier legs! You need that!”

This makes me wonder. What else are my children picking up with their eyes and ears, which sticks to their little heads like New! Super minty Bubble Ice gum—now in your local candy aisle!

Do they catch when I snap at their dad for leaving his socks on the floor?

Or the unmerciful words I mutter at pokey drivers in traffic.

How about venting to my husband about what an exhausting day I’ve had with these kids.

And those self-critical comments I let slip about my unruly hair or tummy flab—what does that teach my kids about true beauty?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

If a child’s mind is absorbent as a sponge, then I want to fill it with words that teach, edify and encourage. Words that define my children according to God’s point of view—which is the only real truth in a world dominated by ad copy.

You are smart.

You are brave.

God made you beautiful.

He is always with you.

Thank you—for using your manners, for sharing with your sister, for forgiving my outburst, for just being you.

Jesus loves you so, so much. No matter what, he will not take his love away. And neither will I.

Never.

So while that home waxing kit is awfully tempting, I think I’ll stick with what I know. Bic razors, the word of God, and commercial-free PBS Kids. Better yet, it might be time to switch to Netflix.

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If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like The Foolproof Cure for Hollering, My Life as a Smelly Truck, and Can Somebody Strap a Muzzle on Me, Please?  

CONGRATULATIONS to our Goodnight, Ark giveaway winner, Kelly Lins! Thanks to everyone who entered!

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

Guest Post: Introducing GOODNIGHT, ARK (and a Giveaway!)

Today I am delighted to introduce you to a gifted children’s author and fellow mom, Laura Sassi. Laura’s new book, Goodnight, Ark, is a beautifully illustrated and lilting tale of bedtime on Noah’s Ark. Using clever rhymes that practically dance off the page, Laura invites children (and their parents) to imagine the scene in Noah’s sleeping quarters as the animals join him two by two in his bed—because they’re afraid of the storm!

My kids were captivated by this story and its whimsical illustrations by Jane Chapman. They quickly asked me to read the book again (and again, and again). Goodnight, Ark is a fun look at a classic Bible tale, which just might spur your kids to explore more about Noah’s life and times. So now, please welcome Laura with a special message about quality family time, and a chance to WIN a copy of Goodnight, Ark!

Goodnight, Ark

Five Things That Float My Family’s Boat (and a GIVEAWAY!)

By Laura Sassi

RUMBLE! BOOM! If your family is anything like mine, life can be stormy, what with the winds of busyness blowing us this way and that. And even if we’re not in the midst of truly stormy times, I find, as a mom, that it’s necessary to be intentional about finding creative, loving ways to stay afloat above the sea of activities and responsibilities of family living. Indeed one of the themes I hope readers (and their parents) will take away from Goodnight, Ark (Zonderkidz, 2014) is that sometimes a little extra TLC is just what’s needed to make things okay, even in the midst of a storm!

Here then, in celebration of the release of Goodnight, Ark are five things that help keep my family afloat (and happy).

1. Morning Hugs—From the moment they came home as babies, we’ve started our mornings with what we now call the “morning hug”. Indeed the first sentence out of my daughter’s mouth each morning is, “Time for my morning hug.” And mine: “Me, too.” My son, age 13, now gives more of a morning shrug, but we still all know that the morning wouldn’t be quite the same without it.

2. Special Breakfasts—These are pretty self-explanatory. I mean isn’t any day extra special if it begins with pancakes and bacon, or warm-out-of-the oven blueberry muffins? The extra, extra special twist is that these breakfasts are often a group effort. Who wants to stir?

3. Family Dinners—Eat together. Talk together. Be together. Need I say more?

4. After Dinner Sillies—This is our family’s favorite time to let loose and be silly. We’ve done foot puppet shows, dance numbers, stand-up comedy, you name it. Anything goes, really, in this delightful post-dinner moment of relaxation before dishes are cleared and the evening routine of finishing up homework, cleaning up after dinner, taking showers etc. resumes.

5. Pillow Ponderings (and Prayers)—There’s something about the cozy comfort of bedtime that brings out a reflective spirit in each of my children. And I love nothing better than talking with my kids about what’s on their mind and then wrapping it all up in prayer, before giving each that last goodnight kiss and turning out the light. Even when I’m tired to the core, like the Noah in my story must have been when he finally settled those animals down, I wouldn’t miss these special bedtime moments.

HAPPY FLOATING, ALL!

Reading Goodnight, Ark

Now it’s your turn! What floats your family’s boat? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to win your very own copy of Goodnight, Ark! You can also snag additional entries using the handy checklist below. The winner will be announced next week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more chances to win, visit another of the blogs on Laura’s Goodnight, Ark tour. Click here for the full schedule.

Laura SassiLaura’s poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun. She has a passion for playing with words and rhyming and is delighted to announce that her first picture book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, published by Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Company, and illustrated by Jane Chapman is out this month. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Laura writes from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and a black cockapoo named Sophie. You can also find her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

She Still Kisses Me Goodbye

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

I held her hand through the parking lot and pushed open the heavy double doors. We maneuvered through swarms of eager kids and frazzled parents, some wielding cameras, others blinking tears. She hung her backpack on her hook, collected her morning snack from the zippered pocket, then spun around and marched toward the doorway of room 315.

Second grade.

Where did our summer go?

She still kisses me goodbye

I love the school-free months. Popsicles, lazy mornings, back yard sprinkler runs. As soon as Labor Day passes, I start counting days ‘til June. Give me playground picnics and tennis courts and sparklers by the dozen. Yet here we are again, another first day of school, another lurch forward in the growing up parade.

I poked my head in the classroom. Tidy and inviting. Bustling yet surprisingly empty. What’s missing?

Oh, yes.

Toys.

Unlike years prior, the second grade room is void of free-time toys. No buckets of blocks or LEGOs or puppets.

My girl is too serious for those now.

She must read and write and discover science. She will learn full sentences in Spanish and increase her English spelling list beyond two-syllable words. Her class is oldest on the playground and veterans at lunch. She will teach the younger kids how to open their milk cartons and search the Lost and Found. She is the queen of the monkey bars. A pro.

But she’s still a piece of my heart.

Sprinkler

“Bye, sweetheart.” I called after her. “Have a wonderful day.”

She turned around, red hair swishing across her shoulders. “Mom, wait!” She hurried toward me then stretched her neck to reach my face with pink lips puckered. I leaned down for a kiss.

“Bye, Mom!” And off she fled toward a desk piled with pencils and glue sticks and stiff new math workbooks.

My firstborn is growing up, that’s inevitable. But she still kisses me goodbye.

Friends are gaining influence and teachers get smarter than Mom. But she still kisses me goodbye.

She wears glasses and lisps over a mouth full of orthodontic gadgets, true beauty in its shifting, awkward form. But she still kisses me goodbye.

She climbs her top bunk to weave bracelets and read Pippi Longstocking—with a “PLEASE KNOCK” sign tacked on the door because she needs her time alone. But she still kisses me goodbye.

I will blink and she’ll be driving to high school, pledging a sorority, shopping for a wedding gown, and rocking my grandbabies in her arms.

And then she’ll know this feeling. This ache that settles in my stomach like a stone whenever a new school year comes and a child is ushered closer to the expectation of maturity and independence. She thinks she’s just learning cursive and multiplication. But a mother knows the fleeting measure of childhood is found in these rites of passage, one grade to the next, like a ladder with fourteen finite rungs from preschool to senior year.

We cannot peel our children off the ladder. We cannot shake them loose. They must climb. And our job is to spot them from below, to coach and cheer so that one day they can reach the top and leap—into God’s plan for their adult lives.

The choice rests in a mother’s hands. We can sniffle over days gone by and resist what lies ahead. Or we can embrace today as a gift and entrust the future to an all-knowing, perfect-loving God.

I’m choosing today. And I’m grateful.

Because my big girl still kisses me goodbye. I’m still her momma, her first love. And no grade, no graduation, no college nor job nor lifetime to come can take that away from us.

Sprinkler

So on second thought, instead of counting days ‘til next summer, I’ll count my blessings instead. I really ought to soak up every moment of this second grade business, knowing this could be the year when my daughter develops a healthy sense of embarrassment over her old lady. And when that happens, I will survive. Because as much as I love my little ones, I love God’s will for them more, and I want to see my children grow into the people he designed them to be.

There is no greater privilege in parenting. Amen?

Happy school year, fellow moms. Whether you’re on the first rung or the last, may God bless your child’s steps—and hold you tight in his arms as you learn to let go.

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If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like Kindergarten Is Not a Big, Green, Ugly Monster, When You Wish They’d Stay Little Forever, and Why I Don’t Plant Petunias in January.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving ThursdaysThings I Can’t Say, and Coffee for Your Heart.

About Gratitude, Toaster Waffles, and Those Starving Kids in Africa

There are certain things I swore I’d never say to my children. Like this one.

“Don’t waste those waffles, girls. Did you know there are kids starving in Africa??”

“What?” My four-year-old crinkled her nose.

“In Africa. And all sorts of other places around the world. Even here in our own country! Not all kids get to eat as much as you do.”

“But I don’t want waffles! I wanted cereal!” My seven-year-old whined.

“Too bad. Eat the waffles. Some children are lucky if they get a bowl of rice—and that’s all they eat for the whole day. Be grateful.”

“So? Rice is healthy for you.”

Heaven help me.

Sippy-Tray

I’ve been working on instilling a sense of gratitude in my kids. Lately they seem to demand entitlement, as if food and toys and iPad games are their birthright rather than a blessing. Sure, they say please and thank you, but they have no earthly clue how fortunate they are. How some children on this planet can beg pretty please with a cherry on top from dawn to dusk, but that won’t make a taco casserole appear magically on their plates.

My children won’t touch my taco casserole.

And I’ve decided there’s something wrong with that on a deeper level.

Gratitude.

True appreciation for our bounty and comfort.

It’s lost on my kids.

Why?

Probably because I haven’t sought it for them.

Gratitude

When I sit down to a full meal of fresh grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and buttery corn on the cob, do I see the richness on my table or am I just thinking ahead to the dishes?

If my closet looks drab and I can’t afford a Stitch Fix, do I praise God for a dozen pairs of shoes when some people have none?

When my Wi-Fi barfs for 20 minutes, do I take it as an opportunity to appreciate the other 23 hours and 40 minutes per day that it functioned just fine, or will I growl at my laptop as if it’s my God-given right to be connected?

And when my sweet husband scoops up a double dish of salted caramel truffle ice cream and sets it in front of my face as a loving gesture, do I fret over the extra calories or for once in my well-fed life can I just enjoy the indulgence as a gift many people will never, ever taste?

So my kids are ungrateful, eh? Maybe they learned it from their mother.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

God wants us to be thankful. He wants us to pray. He wants us to rejoice. It’s no coincidence those three things are tied together. Maybe the first step to growing grateful children is joy. Take pleasure in what you have. Then pray. Stay in tune with the God who gives all good things. And this will lead to gratitude—not a forced, obligatory, what do you say, children? kind of thanks, but a genuine, natural outpouring of the faith within us.

When we really know what awesome grace God has lavished on us, we won’t be able to contain ourselves. We’ll be busting from the hairline with thanksgiving.

Wow. I don’t just want that for my kids. I want it for me, too.

Summer-lake-tree

“Mom, I ate my waffle. Can I have some cereal now?” My seven-year-old handed me her empty plate. “Please?”

“Yes, you may.”

“Momma?” She spread her arms for a hug.

“What, sweetheart?”

“Thank you for making my breakfast.”

“You’re welcome, my love.” I squeezed her hard. “But do you know who really deserves a thank you? God.”

“Oh, yeah!” My four-year-old piped up. “He gives us money so we can buy waffles, right, Mom?”

“He does.” I smiled.

“Well next time,” she wagged her finger, “let’s ask him for the blueberry ones. I like those better.”

{Sigh . . .} Yep.

Gratitude.

We’re still working on it.

Are you?

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If this post encouraged you, it would bless me if you’d share it. You might also like Three Things I Won’t Tell My Children, Cut Me Some Slack, Little People, and Why We Didn’t Quit Ballet.

Linking up with: Playdates With GodTitus 2sdaysWedded WednesdayGrace at HomeThriving ThursdaysThrive at Home Thursday, Things I Can’t Say, and Coffee for Your Heart.