3 Of the greatest gifts young parents can give their kids

I was recently asked if I would write an article in a newsletter for a young moms group. As I started thinking back to the time when my girls were little, I was flooded with warm memories and deep regrets.

I have been very blessed, not only to have enjoyed that magical time when my kids were little, but also to have survived it.

If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, what would I say?

Being a young mom is a thrill ride. There are new challenges and milestones every day. You learn as you go. And nothing can prepare you.

I remember when we were leaving the hospital with my oldest daughter, Emily. I was thinking, ‘How could they let ME walk out of here with a baby?! Were they crazy?

Day by day we learned, and the kids grew. My husband and I fumbled around going this way and that, doing the best that we could as young parents. We were tossed to and fro by well intentioned advice and made many mistakes.

Now our girls are in high school. Where did the time go?

Just when you think the teenage years are so far away, there they are, staring you right in the face!

Looking back, there are 3 pieces of advice that I would give to young moms (and dads!).

1. Show your kids that God comes first

My greatest regret in parenting is not being a Christ-centered family when my kids were little.

We were typical American parents. God wasn’t our number one for most of our marriage. If you would have asked us, we would have said that He was. But He wasn’t. We were very much living for the American Dream.

We were raising our girls to be good people because we were good people. Wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing?! Wasn’t that enough?

We taught them to say please and thank you. We taught them to be nice and polite and do what they’re told. We took them to church on Sundays to learn about God. And we taught them the importance of a good education.

Purposefully or not, by mirroring things we observed from our parents, the media, the culture, the church and our community, we put our family first.

It saddens me to think about it. We were wrong.

*God Must Always Come First*

Not only should God come first, there shouldn’t be a close second. Nothing should come close to God in our lives.

It’s no wonder that most kids grow up to be young adults that care very little about God or their faith. Why would they put God first when their parents didn’t?

Our kids will do as we do.

We must put God over our families, the way He intended. Only then can our families and our kids be healthy and strong. If we put God first, then the family will be as it should be, UNDER His Lordship.

Read my blog post, 5 ways to put God above the American Dream

2. Give yourself grace

Someone once said to me, ‘If you were a perfect parent, your kids wouldn’t need a Savior!’ Amen to that!

As a young mom, sixteen years ago, I put a lot of pressure on myself; pressure to be the perfect mom and to have the perfect kids.

I felt pressure to . . . . .

  • raise geniuses
  • potty train by the time they are 2
  • have my kids reading before they can walk
  • have the perfect amount of activities; playdates, music classes, soccer, etc.

I remember people having opinions about everything; breastfeeding or formula, thumb sucking or the pacifier, potty training, putting the kids to bed, daycare, homeschool, etc. The list goes on and on.

Everybody seems to have opinions when you have kids. And, for some reason, they feel they have to right to share them with you.

Don’t let your kids use a pacifier or suck their thumb, they will need braces if you do.
Don’t give them a bottle too soon.
Don’t pick up your baby every time they cry.
Don’t let your kid have a tantrum or make noise at the grocery store.
You should start piano lessons early, it helps their brain develop.
You must give your kids the flu shot.
They shouldn’t ever watch television when they are little.

Pressure, pressure, pressure! There is so much pressure!

The advice that I give young moms is . . . . lower the bar.

The house doesn’t need to be clean all the time. Let it go. So what if the house is messy? Do you want your kids to remember that their mom spent time with them, or that the house was clean?

Kids don’t always need to be dressed, or wear matching clothes, or even wear clean clothes. Sometimes, they don’t need clothes at all! They don’t need to have perfect manners, a clean face and groomed hair.

Lower the bar.

If little bobby has a temper tantrum in the grocery store one day, and you give in. So what?! It’s one time. It’s not the end of the world! If you need to buy those groceries and book it out of there, than buy that Hershey bar this time!

Give yourself grace.

Other people will judge you. Count on it! But, so what?! Don’t worry about what other people will say or think. At the end of the day, one of the best things you can do for your kids is to take care of their mom!

3. Don’t put too much weight on ‘milestones’

Don’t worry about milestones. Your kid will eventually walk, she will eventually stop sucking her thumb and wearing pullups at night, she will learn to ride a bicycle, learn their A,B,C’s, and so on.

Some kids walk when they are 9 months old and some when they are 16 months. Some kids crawl first, some scoot, and some skip all that and go straight to walking! Some kids talk in full sentences from the womb, and some don’t say a word until much later. And some don’t stop wearing pullups at night until they are 10!

So what?! Let your kid be who he is. Let him have his own milestones, not be forced to have someone else’s.

The shoulds of life can imprison us. Let them go. Take the word should out of your vocabulary, especially when it comes to raising your kids.


The greatest success in parenting is raising kids who know and love God.

Our job is to raise kids to become adults who chase after holiness, not happiness, and seek God’s will more than the American Dream. Our job is to create adults who put God first.

If our kids grow up knowing and seeking God in their lives, not much else matters. In other words . . . . don’t sweat the small stuff! Cut yourself some slack, and enjoy the ride! It will be over before you know it!


What are your struggles as a young parent?

If you are a seasoned parent, what would you have done differently when your kids were young?

No one is worthy, no, not one

“Have you renounced all confidence in your own moral or religious efforts and turned in faith completely to Jesus to be clothed with His righteousness? If so, you do have eternal life. But do you have it to the full? Are you experiencing both the peace of God that comes with salvation and the joy of God that comes with living by grace each day? If not, you may be saved, but you are living by works.”  -Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace

It breaks my heart when people think that they are outside the grace of God; that they aren‘t worthy of grace. Because, no one is. No one is worthy, no, not one!

 “None is righteous, no, not one;
    no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”   Romans 3:10-12

My brother is very hard on himself.

He is very much like my dad who doesn’t accept failure from himself. ‘Failure is not an option,’ I can hear my dad say. And, as a result, my brother has always set the bar really high for himself.

The problem with that mentality is that we will fail. It is a mathematical certainty. Our fallenness necessitates it.

What if we set the bar so high that we never reach it? We feel like a failure. We end up focusing on what we aren’t doing instead of God’s plan in what we are doing.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes we need to lower the bar. Possibly lower it a lot! Not because we’re losers, but because we are human beings not gods.  

I have a really low bar, I always have. Having a low bar allows me to exceed it daily because I am reaching for the really high bar set by my precious savior, Jesus Christ. I am not saying that we should all have a really low bar. I am saying that we need to do our best and let God do the rest.

In the wise words of my brother, Greg, “God’s bar is all that matters, and when we don’t reach it, Christ bridges the gap.”

It (Grace) contains the essence of the gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun.”  Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Where would I be without God’s grace? I shudder at the thought!

I know what a wretch I am . . . . believe me!

  • Do I pray perfectly or regularly enough? No.
  • Am I in His Word enough? No.
  • Do I love others enough? NO!
  • Am I focused on making disciples enough? NO!!!!
  • Do I love God enough?! Not even close!!!

But I take His grace and let it cover me. His grace is sufficient for me (1 Corinthians 12:9).

The more that I really understand this ‘grace’ thing, the more precious my relationship with God is to me. And, the more that His Word is becoming my very life and breath.

As I take in more grace, I become more aware of the huge chasm between God and myself! I realize how small and insignificant I am compared to an all-powerful God! The smaller I get in my mind, the bigger He becomes.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
-C.S. Lewis

Therefore, I exalt God and am increasingly grateful for the price Jesus paid for me. I don’t deserve His amazing grace. Not even a little!

There is a difference between receiving grace and making excuses. We know that God doesn’t want us to be lazy. However, we can’t use our shortcomings and imperfections as a reason for not accepting His grace. In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! He is offering you grace, take it.

You don’t have to be the perfect husband/wife.
You don’t have to be able to fix everything.
You don’t have to be the perfect worker.
You don’t have to be the perfect mom/dad.
You don’t have to be the perfect missionary.
You don’t have to be the perfect student.

Just run the race marked out for you.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us  Hebrews 12:1

The weight of the world may be on your shoulders. You may be a ‘people pleaser’ and take care of everybody. So, who takes care of you? You are not the top of the food chain, so let Him care for you and give you rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

God says that He is gentle and humble in heart. So, quit beating yourself up and be the treasure that you are!

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
-C.S. Lewis

Holy Spirit you are welcome here; Enjoying the presence of God

God and I have a good thing going. Our times together are amazing. There is nothing like someone as small and insignificant as I am being in the presence of the almighty God. It’s crazy!

In His presence, I have nothing to worry about. I can be totally vulnerable and naked with Him and still be completely loved and accepted. With God there is nothing to fear, nothing I have to hide, nothing to make me feel like I don’t belong, and nothing but His perfect peace.

There is nothing greater in this life than having a personal relationship with the almighty God. I talk with Him throughout the day. I spend time on my knees in worship and reverence to Him, and I have fallen in love with His Word.

He walks with me and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!   1 John 3:1

He teaches me daily through prayer and scripture and the words He gives me to write.

My soul hungers and thirsts for more of Him. I can’t get enough. He is so beautiful and Jesus Walks On Waterthere is nothing like Him. I can’t explain how strong the longing is when I am not able to slow down and enjoy a quiet space with my Heavenly Father.

I have recently realized that my desire for Him has surpassed my desire for just about anything else in this life.

I long to be with Him more than romance, more than sexual ecstasy or a breathtaking vista. Time with Him is more precious than a good book on a crisp fall day, laughing with friends, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, or a hot bath on a cold day. It is more precious than a great victory or achievement. It is more valuable than silver or gold.

I want to be alone with Him more than any earthly possession. Nothing compares to Him. When I think about what He did for me, nothing else matters.

“the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  Matthew 13:45-46  

I have even found myself sitting in church wishing that I could be at home alone with Him in His Word. Nowhere else in my life do I experience the joy, peace and divine power within me like when I am communing with The Almighty. Sometimes I wish that I could stay there, just He and I, forever.

Splendor and majesty are [found] in His presence;
Strength and joy are [found] in His place (sanctuary).   1 Chronicles 16:27 (AMP)

A friend of mine recently attended a conference in which the theme was ‘spacious places’. They were talking about ‘spacious places’ not in terms of a ‘where’, but in terms of a ‘who.’ In other words, God is our spacious place. What a beautiful picture of God’s perfect peace. He is like a breath of fresh air filling our lungs.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  Psalm 18:19

I don’t know if you experience euphoria and peace in your relationship with God or not. I don’t know if you long for Him more than anything else in this world. It’s okay if you don’t. We all have our own spiritual journeys. I haven’t always been where I am now with God.

The great thing is, everyone can have this awesome personal and intimate relationship with God. You can experience God in a more profound way if you so desire. I guarantee it! You can rest in his arms and enjoy His spacious places. You can be completely you. You are His beloved.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13

Imagine a relationship with God so amazing that you get butterflies in your stomach when you are in His presence. Picture a worship experience so intense that you can physically feel Him move in you. Imagine being on your knees as God rains down healing, and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ over you.

Do we believe that our relationship with God can be so exciting and fulfilling and intimate that we desire Him more than we desire our husbands or wives, girlfriends or boyfriends, or even our children? 

“in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing . . . . . if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

God is so good. Everything that He has planned for you is good. And He delights in you greatly! He longs to be sought after, experienced and encountered in a powerful way, and to have an intimate relationship with each one of us.

The amazing love, grace and acceptance that He offers is worth more than anything we can find on this earth. And, He gives it freely.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him  Psalm 34:8

God is easy, because of His amazing grace.

People, on the other hand, are not. I often think that I would be the perfect Christian if it weren’t for other people.

Things are so good in God’s presence. It is a perfect space, and I never want to leave. But when you add other human beings to the mix, things get messy.

I know that I am to love and serve others. I am not resisting that. Those are not the people that I am talking about necessarily.

I am talking about the people that are more involved in our lives. Those that disappoint us, judge us, make demands on us, don’t understand us, or have wronged us. I am talking about people who bring out the hurts, jealousy, and discouragement in us.

Some people bring out the worst in us.

I am much more blameless and upright before God in isolation. Isn’t it enough to deal with my own sin and brokenness? But to pile on the sin and brokenness of everyone else sometimes seems overwhelming.

 . . . . . yet, not my will but Yours be done   Luke 22:42

The whole point of this life is ‘people’. I can’t get around it. I can’t go over or under it. I can’t look past it. I can’t please God without loving and caring for the people He has put in my life. He has made that very clear in scripture. But, I admit, that sometimes I really wish that I could.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”   Mark 12:31

I ask for forgiveness in this area of my life all the time. I know this attitude toward other people is not pleasing to God. He wants me to love and serve others generously and joyfully. But, He is so gracious. He is the God of second chances . . . and third . . . . and fourth!

It all comes down to this, sometimes we have to do the hard stuff. The stuff that we don’t want to do. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. We have to accept all of God’s words, or none of them.

But, that is ok with me. I am eternally in His debt. The joy and worth that I get from Him is beyond words; beyond explanation. My cup overflows, and I don’t deserve any of it. Praise be to God, for He is good!

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11

 

Am I enough?

brave-in-560x347

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:19

This past year the theme of the youth ministry at my church was ‘He is enough”. What a simple concept. Yet, it is so profound. Understanding those 3 simple words can give life and freedom and hope to a lost world.

The Christian faith often comes down to such simple principles. God doesn’t expect us to  bring much to the table. He is enough . . . . period. All we need is faith and a willing heart.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”   Hebrews 11:6

He is enough. How many of us truly believe that? How would our lives be different if we lived as if that were true? Would worry and fret plague our lives as they do now? Oh, the freedom that could be ours if we believed that He is enough.

“My grace is sufficient for you”   2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Am I enough?

The other night my family and I went to a graduation open house. Tis the season! The house was bustling with high schoolers, family & friends. My cousin (the graduates mom) joked that it was like “a happy funeral” because all of their sets of friends and family that don’t know each other were there. We had a good laugh.

When we got home, my husband and I were talking about the other open house we had coming up. Most of our friends’ kids are not graduating yet, so we only had a couple to go to. It was for the son of a good friend of ours. I had been looking forward to it for months. My friend had been stressed about it for a while so I had been praying for her.

“When is the other open house? my husband inquired.

I thought that it was this coming weekend, but I couldn’t find it on my calendar, so I looked at the invitation on the fridge. June 1st. I had missed it. My heart fell out of my chest.

bigstock-Stressed-Woman-With-Worry-1133599-e1371150029807How could I have missed it?! What kind of friend am I? How could I have let this happen?! Everybody was probably there except us . . .  the losers that can’t keep their schedule straight. After I had sufficiently berated myself, I started to wonder as I often do if ‘I am enough’. I certainly didn’t feel like it at that moment.

I can’t tell you how often I have felt ‘less than’, or ‘unacceptable’. More often than I would care to admit.

Many of us suffer from feelings of inadequacy. As a woman and a mom, I tend to feel like I am  never enough. I am not enough of a good wife, not consistent enough as a parent, not in The Word enough, not serving enough, not going to church enough, not accomplishing enough, not praying enough, and the list goes on. I am never enough.

I also know that my husband along with many other men and fathers feel inadequate as well. I don’t make enough money, I am not enough of a spiritual leader, I am not enough for my wife.  Most of us from time to time suffer from feeling ‘less than’. . . . feeling like we’re not enough.

Why do we feel this way? “I don’t have anything to offer” you might be thinking. Not true. God can use whatever you have. No matter what it is. God needs very little from us to fulfill His work in us.

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”  Philippians 1:6

And the truth is, we aren’t enough without God. We were made with God shaped holes in us. Without Him, we are incomplete. But once those holes are filled with the power of Christ, we become strong and mighty warriors!  Whom shall we fear (Psalm 27:1)?!

“you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  Colossians 2:10

With Him, we are more than enough. God has shown us in His Word that it doesn’t matter how much or how little we have . . . . because HE IS ENOUGH!

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8

Take the story of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings. A woman’s husband had died and she was goingjar-of-olive-oil to lose her children if she didn’t pay off her debts. All she had was a single bottle of olive oil. The  prophet Elisha told her to go to her neighbors and ask for empty jars . . . . lots of empty jars. So she did what he told her to do and they took the jars home and started to pour the bottle of olive oil in them . . . . .

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.  She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” 2 Kings 4:1-7

God proves to us over and over again in His Word that He is sufficient. Whether its turning water into wine or feeding 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44,Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), He is enough. He is always enough. There is no ‘need’ that he cannot fill.

 

More than enough

Not only are we enough with Him, we were made for greatness with Him. Not just for goodness or righteousness or humbleness. And, yes, we were made for those things as well, but, we were made for GREATNESS.

We often look at the pastor of a mega church or a popular Christian singer or author, and think, wow, God is really using them! Billy Graham, Chris Tomlin, and Beth Moore are some of my favorites. I have caught myself thinking, now THEY were made for greatness. However, we need to realize that you don’t have to appear great here on earth to be used greatly by God. God has greatness for every one of us.

However, we can not achieve greatness on our own. Because of our humanness, we need Him. To be great without God is impossible. Take Naaman for example, who was the commander of a mighty army and a great and honorable man. So, what’s the catch? It says . . .

“he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper”   2 Kings 5:1

The catch is that he was a leper!  That’s a big catch if you asked me!

According to Beth Moore’s study of this scripture, each one of us can be a mighty man or woman of valor. However, we also have a ‘but’ in our statement of greatness. Your’s might look like this . . .

She was a mighty woman of valor, but she lacked confidence and was plagued with doubt, or,

He was a mighty man of valor, but suffered from loneliness

How many people in Jesus’s day would have considered His disciples great? Many of them were fishermen. Could they have doubted if they were enough? Absolutely! And they probably did at some point. Yet, look at how greatly God used them!

Each of us has an affliction that makes us need a savior. I am so inadequate without my savior. I seriously fall short. I can’t quite seal the deal on my own. But when you add a savior to the mix, I am great and powerful! No hesitation . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Philippians 4:13)

 

Strength made perfect in weakness

The idea of greatness sounds pretty good to most of us. If there was a sign up sheet to obtain greatness, it would fill up pretty quickly! I would be first in line! However, greatness can only be achieved by walking in humility first.  Greatness and humility go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. One could say that humility leads to greatness.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  Matthew 5:5

Even Jesus started His ministry on earth with quiet humility. If the Son of  God, who is without weakness, started humbly, than how much more should we expect to do the same?

To be great in the kingdom of God, we must bear the fruit of humility, and realize that we aren’t enough in and of ourselves. Humility is the act of acknowledging our weakness or need. Weakness is part of the human condition. There isn’t a man or woman alive that doesn’t have a weakness. Only those that acknowledge their weakness can be great.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”     2 Corinthians 12:7

So, Paul had a thorn in his flesh. He asked God to remove it, but he didn’t realize that without it, God couldn’t fully use him.

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:8

I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am at these things! God says that someone as lowly as me, can do great things! I may never be great in this world, and I am ok with that.  Being great in the kingdom of God is far better.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

So, am I enough? Do I have what it takes in me? With the power of Jesus Christ in me, I am more than enough!  And so are you!!