Monday, December 21, 2015

How Our Elf Taught Me the True Magic of Christmas

This year, we adopted our first Elf on the Shelf. While I'll admit I gravitate toward traditions that illuminate the true meaning of Christmas, my six-year-old was adorably relentless in his request.

It has been captivating to see him bolt out of bed every morning to find the elf. And our elf, "Joe" (after Joseph), has been busy at our house...

He has stolen chocolate from the pantry. We caught him red-handed.

He has mounted himself on a stuffed reindeer, posed as an ornament on the tree, and even...wrapped the toilet!

I love the playfulness the elf inspires as we all get swept up in the magic of Christmas. I don't want to deny my children the wonder I experienced as a child.

One day, however, my younger son was playing near the Elf on the Shelf and his hand accidentally touched his hat. He quickly reported it to his brother, who was almost in tears. The accompanying elf book clearly states that touching the elf will result in him losing his magic. The incident matriculated this unprompted, handwritten note:

Needless to say, the elf didn't lose his "magic." But it got me thinking about the special gift we have in Jesus.

The life of Jesus is one story that will never lose its magic. It has captivated hearts for centuries. The blood of Jesus can wash us clean and drive us unfettered into the arms of our Creator, who loves us desperately - and that's nothing short of miraculous. The truth of the Christmas story is more powerful that any tradition we can create, as it is the bedrock of the season - and our lives.

That's why while we engage in traditions that bring wonder and silliness into our house, we also gather to read the Christmas story from the Bible right after the tree has been decorated. We hear about what God has done to the glow of soft lights, grounding the tree in our Greatest Gift.

That's why as the children are busy with holiday crafts and concerts, I go into the classroom and share the Christian meaning of the season. I explain the legend of the candy cane. I read stories like Goodnight, Manger. I want to engage them in fresh ways around the age-old story.

My younger son performed in his last preschool Christmas pageant this year. He was a wiseman, and as he gathered around baby Jesus, his line was, "Isn't he wonderful?" When he first started practicing his line, his intonation was flat. We repeated it over and over in order to bring meaning and excitement to the word "wonderful." When the day of the pageant came, he said it perfectly. Even better, the audience believed it.

I wish each of you the joy, wonder, and true MAGIC of the season. Merry Christmas!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my article Reclaiming Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Surprising Lesson the Night I Broke Routine

I am delighted to share a story on Power of Moms this week that I wrote a couple of years ago. It's one I continue to go back to for a timeless reminder, as it's so easy to rush through the everyday magic of our lives raising children...
broke routine

Late in the day with two little boys can be, well, hard. As much as I enjoy the giggles at dinnertime and the plunges underwater at bath time, when they’re ready to put on their PJs, I’m tired. Yet that’s exactly when they’re winding up.
If you’re like me, you’re a parent who is used to managing schedules. I know how many minutes it takes for my boys to do any part of their daily routine. I know exactly when I need to get up in the morning to get every task done before we need to get out the door. (Translation: I can only manipulate the snooze button so far.) So when we get to the PJ stage at night, I know exactly how long it takes before I turn off their lights and can head downstairs.  But recently, when we get to the PJ stage, my two-year-old has discovered the fact that he has a CD player in his room. His little fingers find and press just the right buttons and knobs to not only start the music, but to turn it up full blast. He particularly loves his new Justin Robert’s CD entitled “Recess.” The first song on the album shares the same title and includes voices from rowdy kids in school ready to go outside.  On top of that, there’s a bold electric guitar riff and snappy lyrics—everything that makes a two-year-old boy excited.
When he first played the music, I was tempted to turn it off quickly and re-initiate a more soothing bedtime tenor. But there was something about his strut that kept me from doing it. He was proud. He was initiating his own dance party. He galloped around his rug with his just-learning-how-to-do-it legs, stopped to jump up and down, and then attempted a spin (which he did—almost). It was too cute.
“Mommy, come dance with me!” he said. I picked him up, and we started spinning together. We spun and spun until we got dizzy; I put him down and we laughed and laughed.  
And that’s when the Justin Robert’s song got quieter and I heard him sing, “There’s more beauty in this world than we could guess, oh yes, it’s recess, oh yes, it’s recess…”
It hit me that I, too, was experiencing a beautiful moment in this world. My son knows I love him. But right then and there, I was showing him that I enjoy him. I was in a moment that captured what is so endearing about his age. And I was allowing myself to experience it, savor it, and treasure just how he expressed it in his own way...
To read the rest of this post, please join me on Power of Moms. It's a fantastic site about making deliberate choices as we mother. Every Sunday they have a spiritual focus too!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TODAY Show Gratefulness Segment


This week my "post" is a TODAY Show Parenting Team segment that just aired this morning. While they've featured a blog idea of mine on air, this is my first time appearing! Please join me in watching and sharing this important message about nurturing a thankful heart in our children. What a special gift to give them this season - and for life! Scroll down to view or watch via this link:

Grateful for your support!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Today I Choose Thankfulness

I’m convinced that living with a thankful heart is the secret to contentment.

Yet how much of a secret really is it when we open our Bibles? In the often memorized verses of Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT, emphasis mine). It’s easy to focus on the prayer and petition part and miss his encouragement to be thankful. 

Because let’s face it: Life can give us ample reason to petition to God.

In this world, we will know hardship. The Bible talks about it, and we have experienced it. We all know the reality of “thorns” in our side, thorns that no matter how much we pray, sometimes remain and inflict pain.

I know those thorns, those challenge-me-to-my-core and all-I-can-do-is-fall-on-my-knees issues, and Paul did too. 

Paul writes Philippians as a man who has known great hardship, like persecution, imprisonment and beatings. Yet he professes to be someone who has learned to be content in all circumstances. His contentment flows from a deep-seated conviction that God will never leave him and his purpose will be fulfilled through him. 

This kind of man would not advocate a Pollyanna-world kind of thanksgiving. Paul is advocating thanksgiving from the trenches. 

Are you in the trenches today, fellow mom? I’ve learned thanksgiving not only pleases God, but it’s beneficial to us.

Thanksgiving helps us:
  •        Shift our perspective away from our problems and toward our blessings.
  •        Strengthen our faith by acknowledging God’s continued work in our lives.
  •        Draw closer to our Father in heaven, for he is the Giver of every good gift.

These fruits of thanksgiving fall right in line with the peace Paul promises in Philippians. For really, they promote a spirit of fortitude that is not circumstantial, but grounded solely in relationship with God. What a valuable gift. And we live in a world that’s hungry for it.  

Despite the burdens that will rightfully drive us to petition God, there will always be gracious blessings to see us through.  I want to lift up the former and focus on the latter. I Thessalonians 5:18 states, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 

No matter what is going on around us as we approach the Thanksgiving table this year, I pray that we will come together to give thanks - not cheap thanks, but thanks from a grateful heart. May we see with new eyes our present blessings, and may we experience the contentment that comes from a quiet trust in God. I can think of no greater Thanksgiving blessing for our homes and spirit.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Congratulations to Tracy K. of New Jersey, the winner of last week's giveaway! Tracy won a free copy of Laura Sassi's new book, Goodnight, Manger. I was in contact with Tracy yesterday, and the book ships today. She is actually a two-time winner on the blog, proving there are benefits to being a loyal reader! Thank you everyone for your support.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a special Thanksgiving message everyone!

Monday, November 16, 2015

GUEST POST: 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones about Christmas

Author and Friend, Laura Sassi

It is my great delight to feature words from a friend this week! Laura Sassi has a background in education, and we'll all benefit from her teaching and fun-loving spirit in this post! Thank you, Laura, for encouraging us to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with our children - just in time for early planning this year! #5 and #8 are my favorite!

This post is in honor of Laura's new book, Goodnight, Manger. In the story, baby Jesus is having a hard time going to sleep with all of the manger commotion! It is a companion to her first book, Goodnight, Ark, which I reviewed on my blog. Both are already beloved favorites of my children, and after reading Laura's post, be sure to register to win a free copy of her new, soon-to-be hit!

Laura writes:

One of my favorite Christmas memories is of watching my daughter play with the Baby Jesus that was part of our Christmas nativity. All through December she’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.” Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying, but that sweet playtime sparked a great little conversation with my daughter about the divinity and humanity of Jesus. It also inspired me to write Goodnight, Manger, a Christmas bedtime picture book that not only serves as a fun reminder that Jesus was once a baby who cried and felt everything we feel, but which also keeps Christ, rather than Santa, as the focus during the holiday season. 

Now in celebration of the release of Goodnight, Manger, here are 8 ways parents can use nativity sets to spark meaningful conversations about Christmas with preschoolers.

1. Play “I Spy…an angel!” Identify the figures in the Christmas story using the nativity as your playground. After you “spy” each figure, ask simple questions like “Who was Mary?” or “What were the shepherds doing that night?”

2. Play “I Count… three sheep!” Preschoolers love counting. After each count, think about how everyone in the nativity was looking forward to meeting Baby Jesus. Ask them what they think about that.

3. Play “Where is Baby Jesus?” In this variation of hide and seek, take turns hiding Baby Jesus in the nativity (or beyond). Each time you find Him, marvel about how exciting it must have been to see God’s promise for a Savior fulfilled in the birth of a special baby - Jesus!

4. Re-enact the Nativity. Using Luke 2:1-20 as your guide, re-enact the Christmas story using the figurines. Add animal sounds and alleluias to bring the story to life. For extra fun, you can also retell your nativity-themed picture books (such as Goodnight, Manger, for example) using figurines. Be sure to always link back to the all important message that Jesus is the gift of Christmas.  

5. Sing Carols. While holding the appropriate figurines, sing carols that relate to the nativity story.  For example, pretend the angels are flying as you sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Have the wise men march as you sing “We Three Kings." Place Baby Jesus in the manger as you sing “Away in a Manger,” etc.

6. Care for Baby Jesus. Just as my daughter did, let your child take care of Baby Jesus. Pretend to gently rock and feed him. Maybe even sing him a tender lullaby. Then be amazed together - that God loves us just like we love little babies. He cares for us and comforts us. His biggest gift ever? Sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world.

7. Make your own nativity figurines. Little ones love anything hands on, so roll up your sleeves and make sheep, shepherds, angels and more using whatever materials you fancy. Play dough, felt, glue, paper, crayons and even blocks are all perfect materials for a fun afternoon of nativity building. 

8. Go on a Nativity Hunt. Here’s a fun activity that will get you and your children outside on a crisp day. Walk around your neighborhood looking for nativity lawn scenes. Name the figures you see and celebrate! This also makes a good activity to keep children busy and engaged while running errands in the car.

Register below or click here to win your free copy of Laura's book. The contest ends on Sunday at noon EST. Please note that if you don't win, you can still buy Laura's book (and other amazing resources) at a discount on between November 17th and December 1st. Just enter the bloggers' code CHRISTMAS2015 at checkout. It's a special code for 30% off that I am delighted to pass on along to my friends!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Workable Hope in the Wake of Paris

Gregorio Borgia/AP

Last night as I was watching the news feed of the atrocity unfolding in Paris, a flood of memories came back. 

I remembered moving to New York City in July 2001, just two months before the 9/11 attacks. I had moved from the Midwest, where I was raised, and was already intimidated moving to the city. Shortly thereafter, I experienced firsthand a tragedy that will forever rock the nation. My country, safety, and very humanity had been violated. There was fear, panic, and loss. Then there was the smell of burning for weeks and the subsequent bomb threats and anthrax scares. 

Though newly transplanted, I was part of a city that looked to piece itself back together. Some decided to leave the city for good. But the many who decided to stay needed to make sense of what they could never have imagined before. I found myself searching for new life among the ashes of fresh memories. Where could I find hope?
One way I found it is through connectedness. A city that had once felt intimidating and cold grew warmer. It banded together as neighbor helped neighbor. I volunteered at Ground Zero at St. Paul's Chapel one evening. I served the firefighters and rescue workers who were physically weary but iron-resolved. Working consecutive shift after shift, their eyes told the story. They were drawing strength from banding together, working side by side. They were drawing hope from doing what they knew best in our desperate hour. Their friendly smiles in that dark, candlelit chapel were light to me.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon, I heard something that struck me as a result. A media station was encouraging its audience to "look for the helpers" as once again the country was reeling. Mr. Rogers, the popular children's television icon, had coined that phrase as a sign of active hope in tragedy.  He said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." 
Paris, look for the helpers.
I can only imagine the pain and hopelessness, coupled with the intense brainwashing, that would provoke individuals to have committed these crimes. They themselves have been stripped of their own humanity and turned into bombs. They have then acted in ways that reflect that towards others too. When this is done in God's name, it's not only a humanitarian crisis, but a sacrilege of what is holy and assault on divine love.
As a mother of two young sons, it hasn't escaped me that the individuals who committed these crimes were likely all young men. Therefore, in addition to expressing my solidarity with the victims, in addition to empathizing from my own experience, I have to think constructively about my response as a parent...
To read about that response, please join me on HuffPost Parents. Please also help me spread the word as we join in solidarity with Paris and the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

5 Spiritual Tools to Help You Overcome the Storms of Life

A Noah's ark play at my children's preschool

Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Into each life some rain must fall." Well, what if what you're experiencing is more of a deluge? I've observed that trial often comes in numbers. People of faith know sprinkles, but we also know full-blown storms.

I've recently heard stories like this. Maybe you have too:

  • I have cancer.
  • My husband lost his job.
  • I'm desperately overwhelmed. My life is full of good things, but I can't enjoy them.
  • My son needs more therapy and is struggling to adjust at home and school.

When rain is falling in my life, I like to turn to the story of Noah (Genesis 6-9:17). He know a storm. In fact, he knew one that was so long and so strong that it virtually wiped out everything around him. Because Noah had no choice but to trust in God for his very survival, his story serves as powerful inspiration for us.

The thing that most impresses me about Noah is his faith. So often it's easy to think about our faith solely as an internal anchor when we hit hard times. But that wasn't the case for Noah. His was accompanied by the building of a huge, physical ark. This external ark was illustrative of his internal life. It was a tribute to his obedience to God, the very thing that saved him.

I see God highlighting the importance of physical steps that we can take through our storms in Noah's story. James is so honest when he claims, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17). We can't do the work of God, but we can seek Noah's same kind of bold obedience to honor the One with our own life raft.

Just as Noah used everyday tools to build the ark, there are everyday spiritual tools that we can employ to successfully navigate adversity. Those tools, formulated as simple steps, will help us honor God in the midst of life's storms:

To read these five steps, please join me over at I am grateful for their support in publishing what I hope will serve as special encouragement for you or a loved one today.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

4 Surefire Ways to Raise Kind Children

As a mother of two boys, I hope to raise gentlemen in the world. So often it’s easy to overlook the cauldron of our children’s character in an effort to thrust ahead. But success can be fleeting, and solid character can serve them well for a lifetime. While we cannot control our children’s future actions, there are steps we can take to help build their internal compass as they grow. Along those lines, here are four ways to nurture kindness that I’ve found helpful:

1. Start young. While our children will be influenced by what we model and encourage at any age, we have a unique window of opportunity when they’re little to shape them. We have a captive audience as we help frame their world.

2. Reward positive behavior. Our children will remember what we taught, encouraged, and applauded so that our voice will be a guiding one when we are not right there beside them. Our job is to catch the little things: the sharing we witness at a play date, the self-sacrifice we observe for a friend, or the unprompted concern we see demonstrated for a stranger.

3. Label praise wisely. How we praise our children is just as important as doing it. I’ve learned to applaud the behavior, not the person. For instance, if my son does something kind, I don’t say, “You are such a kind person.” Instead, I say, “Good job. That’s kindness.” Ultimately, we don’t want our children to equate their personal value with what they do or don’t do; we want them to be able to identify good behavior and replicate it.

To read tip #4 and the conclusion of the piece, please click here. You'll be redirected to the TODAY Show Parenting Team page. I'd really appreciate your vote while you're there! Please just click on the "vote up" bubble.

This post was featured at Thank you to my friends there for sharing it and passing on other insightful tips too. Check it out by clicking here

Monday, November 2, 2015

Does Vocation Demand a Choice?

For those of you who have followed my blog since its inception, you'll recall its original name, Vocational Mothering. I chose the name because I've always been fascinated by the word vocation. I love how it can elevate any task that we do, no matter how trivial, when we understand it as a response to God's call.

I changed the name partially because I sensed a growing confusion. Some understood Vocational Mothering to mean that mothering was one's sole, all-consuming task. By extension, therefore, this blog was only for stay at home mothers. That's far from the case. 

Mothering is an all-consuming task, but it isn't everything that we are. In addition to being a mother, we are also a woman, a friend, often a wife, and sometimes a worker. God's call in our lives can be complicated in the hats we wear, but simple in that it perfectly meets us where we are and with what we have to offer. 

One mother beautifully describes this balancing act, this juggle, in a fashion that I found relatable and inspiring. Her name is Kate Harris, and she has three children. Interestingly, I first read her blog when I was starting mine. I again stumbled across her work last week and want to share it with you. She writes specifically for women:

"Vocation is often understood in terms of a job or career, but historically it meant much more than that. When we understand its deeper significance, we find a meaningful and consistent framework to help us think about our multiple life commitments.

Vocation is best understood as 'one's entire life lived in response to God's voice.' This definition, from my friend and colleague Dr. Steven Garber, is the closest I have come to finding a framework big enough to make sense of my life and work. It gives space for the dimensionality of my identity as a daughter, sister, wife, writer, friend, manager and more. It gives account for the physical work of pregnancy and nursing, while never insisting those wearying months be wholly separate from other efforts such as writing an article during naptime, teaching my other children to read or attending a seminar. This understanding of vocation never makes me choose once and for all between the thrill of crafting a new grant program and the simple joy of visiting with a good friend late into the evening. I can live into my vocation in both places—allowing it to inform the work I do and the kind of friend I am.

Such a definition of vocation will ask me to make practical trade-offs. But vocation never asks me to compartmentalize my life into artificial categories of 'work' and 'life,' or 'home' and 'market.' Vocation offers the possibility that my life and my faith can be richly and imaginatively stewarded as a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

God cares that I steward the life that is in front of me right now. To wrestle and wrangle or muddle my way through it—whatever it takes—but always to insist that it makes sense, that it holds together. To believe the details of our days really do connect to some bigger purpose God has for our lives."

I wonder if her description resonates with you? To read more about Kate's thoughtful work, visit this link through the Barna Group. 


This week, I will be going to Q Women's Leadership Conference in Nashville. One of the topics that will be covered is vocation. Check Twitter this weekend, as I will be sure to pass on any tidbits I am learning. I'm also looking forward to reviewing the co-founder of Q's recent book, Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning, soon.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Congratulations to Mary M. from South Carolina - she is the winner of last week's giveaway that concluded yesterday! I have been in touch with her and the publisher, who will be shipping her materials shortly. Thank you to everyone who participated! I am so grateful to see that people from all over the country are following this blog, as there have now been winners from Texas, Indiana, New Jersey, Kansas, Illinois and South Carolina!

Keep reading, everyone!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Win Four Books Your Kids Will Love This Fall!

As I mentioned last week, while fall is a time to be stocking up on school supplies, we can't forget Christian ones too. I love expertly done and kid-tested materials that make teaching our children about faith fun. I also appreciate the fact that faith resources are a win-win as far as learning. If my children are going to benefit from reading with me, I'd love for the material to be as enriching as possible. Why not grow their minds and faith at the same time while we have a captive audience?

So here are my picks that I am giving away this week:

1. The Beginner's Bible Kid-Sized Devotions. This is my children's favorite devotional so far. It's short and sweet with colorful pictures. The text is simple enough that early readers can engage it, which we've enjoyed at our house. The devotions walk children through the Bible chronologically and offer a take-away each day.

2. The Adventure Bible's I Can Read Ruth and Naomi. This is a popular biblical story for children and adults alike. It's perfect for an early reader to tackle with some help; it's level two. Just as we were reading it at home, my son's Sunday school class coincidentally made Naomi and Ruth characters holding hands. It's an endearing story.

3. The Adventure Bible's I Can Read The Good Samaritan. This is another biblical classic that's again a level two read.

4. Thankful by Eileen Spinelli. While this book caught my eye with Thanksgiving approaching, it's message about being thankful for every day blessings is timeless. Thankfulness is something that I am intentionally trying to nurture because I never want my children to lose sight of the good things in their life. It's a grounding habit.

Want to win these four resources, perfect for ages 2-8? Register below and take advantage of the bonus entry options! The contest will end on Sunday night at 4 pm EST. Either scroll down on my blog homepage to find the entry form, or click here.

Note: I chose these resources and received them for free in exchange for my honest review.


Thank you for participating in the giveaway. Don't miss my new "Pictures" tab on my blog homepage. I'd love for you to share in the journey of this blog with me!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Facebook Winner Chosen and New Giveaway Coming Soon!

Thank you so much to all of you who followed my Facebook giveaway last week. I was delighted to see it bring many new followers to the blog. I pray that the daily scripture encouraged you. The 6 Adventure Bible resources are en route to Texas to our winner, a mother of four children! She wrote me that with a baby girl up to a ten year old boy, she is excited to utilize them! I pray God's blessings upon her family and upon each of you as you seek to enliven your children's faith through fun resources like this.

Stay tuned next week for another giveaway! Fall brings new school supplies for our children, and we can't forget to be stocking up on faith resources too. I will be giving away four children's resources - a picture book on thankfulness just in time for Thanksgiving, two I Can Read books featuring popular biblical stories, and my favorite children's devotional I've found so far! This giveaway will be for grandmothers or mothers to share with young ones (ages birth-8 years old). See you back next week for the rules and a preview of what could be yours!

Monday, October 5, 2015

New Printable and FACEBOOK Giveaway!

I am excited to announce that I have once again teamed up with the talented and faith-filled mama Emily Burger of Emily Burger Designs to present you with a new printable for email subscribers! Don't miss your opportunity to print out and treasure it; I pray that it's vital encouragement for your own motherhood ministry. Remember, all you need to do is (1) subscribe by providing your email address in the blank on right column of my blog page, AND (2) click on the link that is sent to you to verify your sign up!

ALSO, my new blog giveaway starts today! In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Adventure Bible brand, Zonderkidz is giving away everything you'll need to build a faith foundation for your child! The amazing resources that are named and pictured below will be the prize for one lucky follower:
  1. Adventure Bible Book of Devotions, 365 daily devotions for kids ages 9-12
  2. Adventure Bible Handbook, a fully illustrated graphic-novel style Bible resource for ages 9-12
  3. Adventure Bible for Little Ones, an Adventure Bible just for young kids ages 2-4
  4. Adventure Bible for Early Readers (NIrV), a first full text, full featured Bible for kids ages 5-10
  5. The original Adventure Bible (NIV), an interactive full text, full featured Bible for kids ages 9-12
  6. And an Adventure Bible Backsack for kiddos to take their Bibles on the go!

To win, first become a Facebook follower of my blog if you aren't already. Every day for one week I will be posting a scripture verse on Facebook at 4 pm EST starting today. I will not say where the verse is from; try to find it and record that information yourself. At the end of the week, be the first to comment on Sunday's Facebook post with the location of EVERY scripture from the week (Bible book, chapter, and verse). If you're the first to have all 7 answers right, you win! This Bible Quest Game is perfect for the Bible scholar or simply curious mama alike!

Rules: For shipping purposes, you must be a US resident with a street address (no PO Box) to enter.

See you on Facebook this afternoon for today's scripture! But remember to keep your answers hidden until day 7, when you comment and list them all! Good luck!

Friday, October 2, 2015

BONUS POST! 3 Reasons to Stop Mom Judging

For the past two weeks, I've been blogging about ending mom judging. I've shared experiences and stories, plus a viral video that I hope you didn't miss. Today I am sharing a link that will direct you to my new TODAY Show Parenting Team post, which brings it all together. Please show your support on this important topic by clicking below - I'd LOVE your vote!

When you stop by, leave a comment! What reason did you find the most compelling? Which one resonated most with your experience?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Sharing Stories Makes All the Difference

Last week I blogged about ending #mommywars. This week I have a story to share that hopefully will convince you to do it.

I was talking with a young mom of two children - one girl and one boy. It was her boy who had had a recent injury. If you have boys too, that perhaps won't come as a surprise. She told how he had been playing and something happened to his arm. He mentioned that it bothered him and she noticed that he was favoring it, but he wasn't crying and didn't appear to be major pain. She decided to monitor it.

After two days of the same, she went to the pediatrician.  She was shocked when the doctor ordered an X-ray and said that her son's arm was broken. He had never screamed nor shed a tear. When the mother questioned the doctor in disbelief, feeling guilty, the pediatrician reassured her: "You waited two days - usually it's two weeks." At that remark, even my jaw hit the floor as she relayed her story.

She buried her face in her hands. "My two-year-old now has a bright blue cast, which he picked. It is a glaring reminder that I made a mistake."

It was at that point that I stepped in. I shared my own mishaps while raising my boys. I marveled at her intuition in taking her son to the doctor - I too would have thought a broken arm would have been more dramatic. But more than anything else, I realized I was the recipient of valuable knowledge. Her experience would allow me to better protect my own children.

This mother felt shame as she relayed her story. But I learned something from it. I wonder how many stories could be shared, how much collective knowledge could be garnered, and how much grace could be given if we would all be vulnerable and share our hearts without fear of judgment. 

  • Do you have a safe place where you can share too?
  • Do you have a story that could help a fellow mom?
  • Would the simple act of sharing your story help you too?

Again and again, I remind myself that Christian parenting isn't about being perfect. It's about doing our best, continuing to learn, and pointing our children to the only perfect parent - God. Sometimes the best modeling we can do is acknowledging that fact. When we're humble before God and others, we demonstrate the power of community, the importance of forgiveness, and the healing power of being authentic in daily life.

Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." This is what God offers us. My prayer is that we also seek to offer it to each other.


To read more about ending #mommywars, check out my post from last week and what some celebrity moms had to say about it.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of a new professionally designed printable on my blog - it's one that I hope will inspire you for years to come!

Monday, September 21, 2015

How to End #Mommywars

Similac's viral You Tube video depicting #mommywars

Have you ever experienced mom guilt at the hands of other moms?

This past week, I went to a event designed to stop it.  The event was courtesy of the TODAY Show Parenting Team and Similac.  

As a panelist, actress, singer, and mother Hilary Duff remarked that mom on mom judging often starts as soon as we get pregnant.  Whether it's comments at the doctor's office, conversations while pushing strollers, or chance encounters with total strangers, sometimes we can walk away questioning our adequacy as moms.  

Can you relate?  I wonder if you have ever felt judged for decisions regarding:
  • breast versus bottle
  • natural versus cesarean birth
  • diet, illness remedy, and vaccine-related choices
  • tummy time length
  • walking age of your child
  • crib, toy, and educational choices...

You get the picture. These issues are illustrative of culture's #mommywars.

And here are some of the solutions the panel came up with to solve them:

  • Hilary Duff encouraged moms not to have a heavy hand with each other. She said, "We're tough as nails, but we're soft inside and it hurts." Instead of focusing on judgment, she wants to concentrate on her passion for motherhood and living a self-fulfilled life.
  • Clinical Psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary hit the nail on the head. She said judging others is an indicator of our own self lack. She advised everyone against operating from a place of "inner scarcity" and to cultivate our own self-worth. She said, "Don't use your children to fill your inner lack. This is not their war. Don't use them to finish your unfinished inner business. I think this mommy judgment comes from a place of inner scarcity, inner lack."
  • TODAY Parenting Team Editor Rebecca Dube reminded us that sometimes the worst judge of ourselves is not others - it's ourselves.  She said, "My harshest mommy judge is me... If I can be kinder to myself, that gives me the strength to be kinder to others." 

The intricacies of our decisions are not the most important thing. What children really need is simple. Secure parents and quality time, for instance, are real gifts to our children. And I would add a faith foundation is too, for it can ground us all in God's love.

Some panel members in the Rainbow Room at NBC.

Hilary Duff and me! 

For more coverage of the event, click here.

What have you felt judged for?  What helped?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by! This fall, I have a couple exciting faith resource giveaways coming up PLUS a new printable for moms! Be sure you're added to my email subscription list so you don't miss any of it...And remember, just signing up isn't enough - you have to click on the follow up link to activate it! You can sign up on the upper righthand corner of this page.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Mother's Back to School Prayer

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.



This prayer marks the beginning of a new school year of posts! I took the last two weeks off in preparation for my youngest going back to school this week. I hope this prayer encourages you as it does me. Please feel free to return to it again and again, and don't forget to visit my prayer from last year too!

What are you praying this year? I'd love to know - leave a comment!

Monday, August 24, 2015

How We Can Live Vacation Everyday

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.  In Handsfree 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.

This post is in appreciation for Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book, Handsfree Life.  The revelation above was a direct result of my reflection upon her work.  If you are looking for a book that will help you live a more fulfilled, mindful life, don’t miss it!  The book is available for preorder now.  Rachel gave me an early copy to review - I am blessed to call the Handsfree Mama a new friend and fellow HuffPost blogger.  

You can also find this post in the Huff Post Parents section.

Friday, August 14, 2015

I'm a New Blogger for the Huffington Post!

I am delighted to announce that HuffPost Parents has picked up my recent post! Just this morning, Arianna Huffington tweeted it! They responded to the important message about elevating female self-worth. I know when I saw the Always commercial that helped spur me to write the piece, I was teary for the sake of our girls. 

Since I don't believe there are many ministers writing for their Parents' section (if any?), I would treasure your support.  Please click on the link below, like the post on Facebook, comment, and share it with your friends! I'd appreciate your willingness to do so - it would show them there's a mainstream contingent that wants to integrate faith with their parenting.  That's what this ministry is all about!

You can view the post and the Always ad by clicking here.

With love and gratitude,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Women Can Unleash Self-Worth

I was there when the Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign won its #Femvertising award this July.  What was heartbreaking and yet also so moving about the ad was the subject of female power.  It wasn’t so much about a girl’s ability to clamor to the top.  It was more about her ability to simply take pride in being female and become all whom God created her to be.

Always locked onto this topic because female self-confidence often plummets in puberty.  But it’s easy to see evidence of this decline continuing on from there.  There’s a rampant self-image struggle in our society that’s aimed at our very self-worth as women. 

As a girl, I remember my mom buying Reviving Ophelia for me - Ophelia being the character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet who drowns herself when Hamlet doesn’t love her.  The book is specifically aimed at empowering adolescent girls.  Our self-worth should not be based upon someone else’s opinion of us.  Yet the temptation to look there is all too real.

Concerns about self-image abound whether they’re focused on size, shape, or stretch marks.  Take, for instance, the recent blog post “To the Mom at the Water Park” that went viral.  A mom’s bodily insecurity was threatening her ability to make memories and model confidence for her daughter.  She was ultimately able to surmount that pressure, however, by drawing strength from another woman at the water park - that woman’s modeling made the difference.

Modeling indeed is powerful.  It also happens to be the most effective way we learn.  We can hear someone teach, we can read something in a book, but when we see it, it often makes a more lasting impression.  Each of us can model - we can link arms with one another or hold our daughters’ hands.  But I also want to see the modeling of women who are going before me.  I want to hear their wisdom, yet I see society marginalizing their voices.

I see older women in our society feeling pressure to never age and fit into a twenty-something mold.  Women are cutting, dyeing, and starving themselves to make this possible.  Younger girls are doing the same.  But when I really take a step back and think about this “ideal” beauty, it is generally voiceless.  It looks how other people want it to.  It is complacent to be used as a sexual object.  It is to some extent void of expressions of its deepest humanity and soul.

Why should a woman who has aged and gathered years of wisdom through struggle be reduced to looking like those years never happened?  Why should a woman whose voice could really change things feel pressure to look like someone who is still trying to find her own?  Are we not as women, to the extent that we buy into this, voluntarily giving up our own power?

As a religion major at Northwestern, I studied Native American culture and religion.  I learned about certain tribes who were led by older women.  The voices of these women were respected and powerful.  The society benefitted from their wisdom, which subsequently blessed their community.  Somehow this link and appreciation is often faulty, if not broken in ours.

While I never was as passionate a history student, I do know that history repeats itself.  Wars are fought for similar reasons, for instance.  And on a microcosmic level, marriages end for similar reasons.  Friendships are tried for similar reasons.  Bigotry is encountered and surmountable for similar reasons.  There is much we can learn from the wisdom that comes from the experience of many years - are we listening?

As a woman who is now in her thirties, I see the challenge to female self-worth from two perspectives.  I see it as a mother raising young boys in the world.  I think about the kind of respect I want them to have for women, a kind of respect that is often all too lacking.  But I also see it as a woman who is thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next phase of my life as the wrinkles are just beginning to form.

I want to live in a world in which I am proud of my wrinkles, for they are battle scars for the wisdom I have garnered on this earth.  They are evidence of the trials and everyday victories I’ve faced, the late nights I’ve sacrificially put another first, and the times I’ve laid in bed awake to hear the whispers of God on my pillow.

I’m also looking to women before me and their modeling.  I want them to claim their influence and power for the sake of young girls and fellow women.  This power shouldn’t simply be cheaply defined as the right to reach for hair dye to tackle gray hairs.  While there’s nothing wrong with that choice, I see beauty through those hairs, not in spite of them. 

As a minister and parenting blogger, I am especially mindful of the link between generations.  I see how blessings can accrue and be passed down to subsequent ones.  I want the blessings of fellow women to trickle up and over to the rising generation.  Women aren’t competition, we’re community.  And I’m ready to see that community soar.

If this post resonated with you, please SHARE it!  You might like The Redemptive Nature of Girl Power too.  I also write about parenting insights like Why Our Children's Character Counts and expert parenting advice I've found helpful like 2 Parenting Tips for Gaming and Social Media on my blog.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

4 Essential Tips for Navigating Full Day School

Last year hit our family like a force field.  Our oldest son went off to full day school for the first time.  I knew our day together would now shrink to about four hours after he came home. But I DIDN'T know there would be so many new activities that would compete for that time.

Little time + flurry of school related activities = force field!

For first time full day school parents, or for parents who are looking for some extra advice, here are four tips that helped us navigate the force field with wisdom and success!

The first TIP is:
  1. Give your child the fall to acclimate. My son’s head teacher, who has been teaching for almost two decades, encouraged my husband and I to resist multiple sign ups. Going to school full day is a huge change in schedule for most children. It’s okay for them to come home and be tired - they need the space and permission to do that. Statistics say that children today get a full hour less sleep a night than children 30 years ago. We need to be aware of that trend in an effort to safeguard them - they’re still little.
You can find the full post with the other three tips on the TODAY Show Parenting Team page.  Don't forget to vote for it - please!  ;-)

God's blessings to you in this exciting back to school season!

Monday, July 27, 2015

6 Essential Ways to Support a Friend after Pregnancy Loss

6 Essential Ways to Support a Friend after Pregnancy Loss
Have you, a friend, or loved one suffered from pregnancy loss?  After serving for two years on a hospital high risk pregnancy floor, this article is a reflection upon my experience and the wisdom I garnered walking with women through it.  You'll find an excerpt below and a link to find the full article.  If you feel a pull in your heart to share it, please send it on. We're stronger together, especially walking hand in hand.  My love to you moms...

When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I was called into a variety of rooms and circumstances. Some of the most heartbreaking were the phone calls that I received from the Labor and Delivery ward in the event of pregnancy loss. I saw the broken heart and dreams in the parent's eyes, I sometimes saw the baby laying motionless, and I wept tears I believe Jesus would weep in those bitter moments.
I still remember one afternoon that I got a call from the Labor and Delivery nursing staff. They requested a chaplain because a mother was clutching her stillborn child and refusing to let it go. It had been some time, and the staff was getting concerned. I walked into the room to find the mother nestling her child in a swaddling blanket. The father was bent over the bed.
As I approached the bed, the infant under the blanket came into view. It was neither fully grown nor fully formed. There were hallowed sockets where eyes should have been. While the child did not have skin nor a defined skeleton, the mother clung to its weight. She pulsed with an unconditional, fierce, yet tender love for her child. It was a moment of insurmountable love and utter brokenness.
While God is a God of life and wholeness, our world knows death and brokenness too. We have a call as people of faith to come alongside those who are hurting, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to plant seeds of hope and light in the blackness of night. When the pain is all too real, there's a salve that's all too needed. Brokenness can be mended by intentional community, and community done in Jesus' name is that much stronger...

While stillbirths occur about one in every one hundred and sixty pregnancies in the United States, the rate of miscarriage is roughly one in every four known pregnancies. That means miscarriage will statistically touch our lives either personally or through someone we know.
Its prevalence demands that we know how to sensitively and effectively handle it. Yet what tends to happen is that it is not mentioned or addressed at all. People who are grieving are wary to share in their vulnerable state. Others are uncomfortable dealing with loss in general.
What’s needed are some simple guidelines for creating a safe place to share and usher in healing. For those of you who are looking to be that safe place, here are six ways that you can support a friend who is grieving pregnancy loss:
Click here for those ways on

TODAY Video Clip