Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NBC's "This Is Us" Premieres Tonight!

This morning I was honored to gather with other TODAY Show Parenting Team moms to watch an advance screening of NBC's This Is Us, a new drama. The show will air tonight at 10 pm EST after The Voice. As I watched, I laughed. I definitely cried. And I recommend this show!

The premiere introduces us to seemingly disparate characters who are particularly appealing through their imperfections. As the plot unfolds, we see how these characters are connected as we connect to them ourselves.

This Is Us does not shy away from big yet real life issues - conflicted mid-life identity, estranged parenting, frustrated weight gain, and infant loss, to name a few. But amidst its heavy drama, there is well-timed comedic levity, making this a show that you will not only want to watch, but see again.

I was particularly struck by how the premiere artfully handles infant loss. While miscarriage statistically happens one in every four pregnancies, it is hardly a topic of everyday conversation, let alone major network material. But it's handled in a redeeming, even inspiring, way on screen.

I hope you'll watch tonight and let me know what you think. One lead actor in the series, Milo Ventimiglia, stated, "The show will break your heart and reach in and give it a hug too." So get prepared to be drawn in...and don't forget your tissues!

Click here to see the trailer. Please note this is an adult show, so there is adult content.

Thank you, TODAY Show Parenting Team, for this experience! Interested in joining the team? Submit a post here.

Me and Milo

Me and some Parenting Team members

Friday, September 9, 2016

Two Mom-Ready Back to School Prayers


Everyone is back to school this week in our area. Sending our children back to school can feel saddening, because not only do we miss them, but we are not there to come alongside them during their day. The good news is that God can span the distance between our arms and theirs when they are apart from us. We leave them in God's capable hands when we pray. This is a prayer I wrote when my oldest son started full day school - you can easily adopt it for your daughters too. I hope it encourages you today.

Dear God,

You are such a merciful Parent. Thank you for the way you gently guide us through our day. You are a font of infallible instruction and unending love.

Bless my baby as he is apart from me. Form a hedge of protection around him. If he is ever unsure or afraid, draw ever closer to him. Whisper your promises to his heart.

Help him to walk confidently in this new chapter of self-definition with you by his side. Guide him, gentle Shepherd, into your fold and place your call upon his heart. Assist him in its exciting discovery.

You are amazing and will always provide more than I can ever give, for you are a constant and perfect presence. As our family transitions in this new school year, continue to shape me and us so that we can best support him and together shine your light exactly where you've placed us.

We praise you for your faithfulness. We look forward to celebrating life's ensuing milestones with you. Continue to strengthen our family as we seek to be faithful and bask in your love.

In Your Son's name I pray,

AMEN.

The new school year signifies a new beginning. At the same time I'm entrusting my boys to God's care, I'm also asking for God's wisdom as I look to shape their life. I want to benefit from God's strength and direction by opening a prayer lifeline.

Dear God,

Thank you for the gift of a new school year with my child. Before schedules get too busy, help me to pause and appreciate the special opportunity this year of learning and friendship brings.

Thank you for my child. As I know you have chosen me to be his or her parent, I pray that you will equip my family with these blessings in particular this year:

Courage.  I pray for courage for my child - not only to meet the demands of his or her chosen path, but also for strength of character.

Passion.  Lord, fan my child's passions. Use me as an instrument to come alongside to dream, support, and encourage them.

Protection.  I pray for protection for my child - not only from injury or harm, but from culture's pace and expectations.

Sanctuary.  Lord, make our home a sanctuary. Help it not to be a place for franticness and meltdowns, but a place where we regroup, nurture, and redefine what it means to be a healthy, successful family.

Freedom.  I confess there's a strong pressure to compare my family to others. I confess there's a strong pressure to people-please at the cost of added stress upon my family. Lord, direct my eyes only to You; help us to experience the freedom that brings.

Wisdom.  It's humbling that you want to bless us with your wisdom, as the One who made it all. Thank you for never leaving us alone; draw me closer to you. May your wisdom be an open and available lifeline this year.

Love.  Please help love to be at the core of all we are and all we do. May your love inspire my family to grow, heal, give thanks, and enjoy our blessings each day.

I place all that is precious to me in Your capable hands. Thank you in advance for being faithful.

In Your Son's name I pray,

AMEN.

If you appreciated this post, you might also enjoy The Power of a Praying Mom.

*****

I've been working on the details of a new faith and parenting TV series that will air beginning next month! I have been finalizing the line up and set to make it the best, most helpful, and FUN show it can be. The official press release will be out later this month or early next - stay tuned here for the big announcement!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How We Can Live a Vacation Every Day

My family just got back from vacation. As I've been cherishing new memories, I've been remembering old ones too - like the ones I describe in this post from last summer...I hope you are savoring every sweet last moment of summer!


Everyday my children wanted to go to the beach on vacation. Everyday.  

That meant everyday of rubbing sunscreen thoroughly all over their squirmy bodies. Everyday of lugging beach and sand equipment for what felt like over a mile to our choice spot. Everyday of coming home to a shower to get sand out of every crevice, while I’ll never completely get it out of the car.

But the memories are sweet, I’d remind myself. And the giddy look on their faces would make me want to pause time. And the confidence they’d show in the water through simple swim strokes would make me believe they can do anything.

Keeping that motivation in mind, I sighed a deep breath and got ready for the days’ events one morning. After I got my boys lathered up with sunscreen, they played ball on the deck while I started to apply my own.

“My back is always so tricky - it’s very hard for mommy to get,” I said under my breath, as if to excuse the funny way I was moving to try to get every angle of my fair skin.

Yet at that comment, my older son put his ball down and came over. “Mommy, can I help you put the sunscreen on your back?” he said unprompted.

Surprised, I bent down. I was expecting a hasty, messy application, but I wanted to encourage his thoughtfulness. But my son surprised me. He proceeded to apply sunscreen to my back in thorough, gentle strokes for over five minutes. “I’m doing three coats, Mom, to make sure you don’t get burned.” As I felt his little, sticky hands do their very best, a tear came to my eye.

This is the son who made me a mother. This is the son who inspired the care I give my children every day, the care that felt like a scary privilege with a newborn in my arms to what now often feels like second nature. As I felt his hands dance across my back, I remembered giving them their first kisses as chubby fists.  

This child who I am so used to caring for was now caring for me. He was helping me. He was expressing his love with maturity.  

I was so glad I took the time to receive his offering.  

While the days’ work loomed in my head, I had stumbled upon a moment that made it all worthwhile. And this is usually how it happens. Parenting is a constant juggle between the tasks that must be done and a willingness to let them go and savor the moment. Sometimes we ignite ordinary moments into something special. Or sometimes we just have to allow the space for them to happen.

Why is it so much easier for us to honor those moments on vacation? Is that one reason we look so forward to vacation? 

I loved not living by the clock last week. I loved the freedom that came from the mantra: “We’ll get there when we get there.” Yes, I know daily living can’t always be that way. But one thing I’m sure of is that the work will always be there - even on vacation. Yet the special moments and the heart-felt offerings will not. 

It makes me believe that we all need a little vacation weaved into our everyday. IHandsfree Life, Rachel Macy Stafford says, “This day could either be checked off or it could be lived.” While we made memories to last a lifetime last week, I left eager to invite more unexpected ones that are waiting as gifts - both for the people I love and for me.

Our fond memories include my older son discovering: “Life is better on a boogie board.”


And after burying my shoes last year at the beach (we only recovered one), my younger son stuck to just burying my feet this year. He still had a blast.


You can also find this post at Huff Post Parents.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

4 Characteristics of Winning Teachers


It’s hard to believe that some – like my niece in the Midwest – are preparing to go back to school. As we begin to shift our focus toward a new school year, I am reminded of what often makes this transition so rewarding – the teachers.

Winning teaching is not the scene “Bueller…Bueller…,” as funny as it was in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s not the “Wah wah wah” heard from the Peanut’s classroom, though sometimes admittedly bad teaching can sound that way. Instead, my experience is that winning teaching comes from teachers who often share these four characteristics: 

1. They teach because they care. When I think about the teachers who most impacted me, a common thread is that they cared. They cared enough to invest in me, share who they were and relate to me, and their passion in turn inspired me. It didn’t matter how accomplished the teacher was or the popularity of their subject matter – a teacher who cared could even get me interested in the dry recitation of history.

2. They share what makes them unique – or even quirky. I still remember a middle school head who was somehow enamored with wombats. She had the sign “Wombat Crossing” outside of her door. Even on a student’s worst day, coming to her office would bring a smile. Teachers who elicit a smile when students think of them, who intrigue them in some way, are making school a more interesting and inviting place.

3. They are good observers. When I was little, I never imagined doing what I do now. I can pinpoint a time when a youth minister noticed a gift for ministry in me and affirmed it. It was a skill I didn’t realize I had, and one that I continue to use to this day. Teachers not only have a breath of knowledge to pass along to their students, but they have life wisdom too. When they take the time to observe their students, they can become effective “archeologists” in affirming and encouraging their future trajectories.

4. They empower their students. Teachers often do a lot of talking; after all, their primary duty is to teach. But winning teachers go a step further and empower students to use their own voice or talents. I remember an upper school English teacher naming me as the editor for our school’s literary and arts magazine. I had not asked for the role nor pegged myself as the literary type. Fast forward years later, and writing is like the air I breathe. I marvel at her ability to perceive my readiness and give me a forum.

The ability to partner with winning teachers is nothing short of a gift for students – or their parents. As a parent, one of my greatest goals is to help my children discover and nurture their God-given abilities. Parental effort combined with teaching can solidify an arc of meaning and accomplishment for children that would otherwise be impossible…Ferris excluded, of course.

Please take a moment to find my post here on the TODAY Parenting Team page and click "VOTE UP" to show your support! The more votes, the longer longevity on the site. Thank you!

I hope you have been enjoying your summer! I took a blogging break this past month as I've been enjoying some family time and settling into my new ministry position. I have exciting things in store for you this fall, including TV programming on faith and parenting! I can't wait to share more...

TODAY Video Clip