Opendoor Youth Camp: Overflow

CAMP OVERFLOW ||You may have heard about it, you may have sent your kids to it, you may have been a counselor for it, or you may have been a camper yourself. And if none of those apply to you, then I am truly sorry…because it is pretty awesome.

For the past 6 years, Shane & I have been bystanders watching the Opendoor Youth Camp: Camp Overflow from home like everyone else. Cheering the tribes on, stalking the numerous pictures and videos being posted from leaders at camp…and pretty much having major FOMO. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had it. And if there were a Camp Overflow for adults, every last one of us would be there with tribal gear & sleeping bags in tow.

So when we were asked to step in this year as Camp Mom & Pop, it really wasn’t a hard decision at all. Aside from the fact that it was a little intimidating because our predecessors were amazing and left big shoes to fill, we were honored & excited for the chance to be a part of such a monumental week in the lives of our youth.

Little did we know that it would be just as life-changing for us as well.

One thing we didn’t realize before signing up was the amount of preparation that goes into this camp. As an onlooker, one thinks it’s all nuts and bolts kind of preparation, but that isn’t even the half of it. From a counselor’s weekend retreat to times of worship and prayer, we spent just as much time spiritually preparing our hearts and minds as we did our lists and schedules. It was incredible. But man, did Satan ever fight against us. He saw what we were about to do, and he did everything he could to stop it. Playing on fears, planting seeds of doubt, whispering lies…no one was off limits or left unscathed by his attacks.

The battle was great…but our God is greater.

Finally, the first day of camp was upon us. That time for which we had all been waiting and preparing had arrived along with 190 campers. And they.were.PUMPED. We just hoped and prayed the coffee & red bull would give us enough energy to keep up with them all or that the heat would slow them down. In the end, I think they just put us on an even playing field.

But we were ready and expecting big things to happen this week…and we were not disappointed.

Tribal Wars started off strong with Mike, Romeo, Charlie, & Juliet competing for the much-coveted Golden J. To most, it may look like a Jordan sneaker spray painted gold; but to them, it ranks right up there with the Stanley Cup. And they fought hard to win it. The weather was hot, and the campers grew tired as the week progressed. But like the refining fire in Job 23:10, the wars tested strength and endurance to reveal true character; and in the end, Romeo came forth as gold.

Golden J, that is.

The thing about the Opendoor Youth Camp is this. From the second the students step foot onto the campground and turn in their phones until the one in which they board the departing buses, God is at work. Throughout the Tribal Wars, free time, small groups, and services…as fun as they are, God is at work. Some students and leaders don’t even understand why or how they got there; but clearly, it is because God is at work.

And man, did He ever work last week.

He worked as:

  • Pastor Aaron Kennedy preached a message on recognizing our calling.
  • Pastor Michael Chandler spoke on water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  • 90 students & leaders were baptized.
  • 34 accepted Jesus as their Savior.
  • Pastor Tyler Braden reminded us that there is always room for us at God’s Table.
  • Students soaked in His presence and wrote down the things He was saying to them.
  • Elder Elliotte Pearson challenged us to never lose the awe of God.
  • Coaches gave their testimonies.
  • Pastor Tyler spoke on dying to self and finding our purpose beyond the Table.
  • Students & leaders gave testimonies on all God had done in their lives during the week.

From the first day to the last, we could see the reservations slowly stripped away. With each service, another heart was forever changed. Many, if not all, stepped off of those buses feeling like they aren’t worthy of all God has to offer. Like they don’t belong…and if people knew what they were really like, they wouldn’t want anything to do with them.

But as each speaker reminded them throughout the week, Christ is calling us all to something. No matter what hard things we’ve endured, God never wastes that pain. He uses it and allows it to produce true joy. And as ashamed as we may feel, God isn’t scared of our mess. Just because we may have messed up in our past doesn’t mean we don’t belong. We will always have a place at His Table. But to get to where God is calling us, we can’t stay where we are. We have to move.

And move is exactly what these students and leaders did this week.

I wish I could capture the feeling in that room each service. But no picture, video or words can ever do it justice. The tangible feeling of the Holy Spirit’s presence was as if He were sitting right beside us…and all around us. I’ve never felt it quite like that before, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

As I made my rounds each night to check on the girl’s cabins and pray over them, I was met with the same question over and over. Is it real? Is what we felt real? Was the Holy Spirit really there? Did we imagine that?

And I knew without a doubt that it was real. Because there is just something about this camp that is different than anything we’ve ever seen. All of the spiritual preparation, the prayer, the intercession, the worship…we invite the Holy Spirit and God Himself into our midst, and He shows up.

You may not ever have the chance to experience a Camp Overflow in person. But as one of our young people said in his testimony at our Sunday Overflow Service…please, send your kids. If you have the chance, send them. It not only changes their lives, but it changes the lives of those around them.

Because what happens at the Opendoor Youth Camp, doesn’t stay there. It’s a ripple effect that starts that week and continues on even after everyone has returned home…and it is life-changing. For the students, for the leaders, for their friends and families, for everyone.

Some will go on to lead in ministry, some will go on to volunteer in churches, some will lead others to Christ simply by example, but ALL will be used by God.

Because no matter where we go or what we do in life, we will always have a place at His Table.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galations 2:20

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• Cover photo: by Megan Holland/Opendoor Church

Don’t eat the yellow snow…

If you’ve ever lived anywhere that has accumulated even the smallest dusting of snow, you’ve had a parent or friend jokingly (or quite seriously) say “Don’t eat the yellow snow!” Having three boys and a dog myself, I know I’ve uttered these words more than my fair share even though we live in the balmy southeastern state of North Carolina.

Take recently, for instance. Not only did we experience snow while visiting our Michigan family for Christmas, but then we returned home to the biggest snow our hometown had experienced in quite some time. The boys were ecstatic, playing in it until they had their fill. And every time I looked out the window, I saw my 9-year-old son scooping up a hand full of snow and feasting on it like it was manna from heaven. In fact, I seem to remember that’s exactly what he called it. “Manna from heaven.” (He has a flare for dramatics.)

And every time, I would pop my head out the door and say, “Make sure you don’t eat the yellow snow!” Because let’s face it…between three boys and a dog, the chances of hitting a yellow patch are high.

It reminded me of a time when I was about his age, growing up on the Ohio/Michigan border where snow did not come in short supply. And much like him, I liked to eat snow. I think most kids do. In fact, I would take snow, put it in ziploc bags, and stick it in the freezer to snack on later. I don’t know where I thought that snow on the ground was going, but I guess I wanted to make sure I had plenty stocked up in case we had a warm spell.

When one day randomly, my dad called me to the freezer and pointed to my stash. Inside a couple of the bags nestled in the back of the freezer, we could clearly see a faint tinge of yellow staining the frozen snow.

“Have you been eating these? he asked, mildly amused.

I stood there in shock, trying to figure out how I could have possibly missed the yellow snow I had scooped into these bags. I thought I had been so careful, but maybe my mind wandered as it was prone to do. Then I began to wonder if I had somehow eaten some of that snow!

Wouldn’t I have tasted the difference?

What if I didn’t?

What if I had been eating yellow snow all along and didn’t realize it?

Whyyyy hadn’t I paid attention better?!?

And on and on it went until finally I noticed that my dad was more than amused and outright laughing. Come to find out, he had squirted lemon juice in the bags to play a trick on me. And well…obviously, it worked.

But that memory made me think.

There are many things in our everyday life that we love. People, places, activities, things. And like snow and eating snow, they are mostly good. But instead of blindly eating all of the snow, it is important that we pick up the snow, check it over, and then eat carefully making sure it doesn’t look or taste like something we shouldn’t be eating.

I could give many examples of each, but the one that currently stands out in my mind the most, and has given me pause, is people. To be honest, the past year has been extremely disheartening for me. There have been several leaders I have held in high regard, both Christian and political, who have said things and taken stands with which I strongly disagree. Initially, they rocked my world and made me question how I could have missed the “yellow snow” when I began to support their ministry or leadership.

Our knee-jerk reaction is typically to stop. Stop eating the snow. Stop making the snow cream. [Stop listening to what that person has to say.] Just simply stop.

However, just because we run into some yellow snow, does that mean all of the snow up until this point has been yellow? [Has everything that person said been garbage? Has everything I believed in been wrong? Is everything they say going forward heresy?] Human nature makes us think it has and is. Human nature makes us question whether we’ve been eating yellow snow all along but didn’t know it. Human nature makes us want to boycott snow completely!!

But the truth is that no beautiful field of freshly fallen snow will remain spotless, just like no human being will ever be perfect. No matter who we hold in high regard, we must always carefully sift through their words and actions and make sure they line up with the Word of God. Nobody is exempt from this. Nobody is so infallible that we can blindly follow without caution. The only authority in which we can confidently trust is the inerrant Word of God.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” Proverbs‬ ‭30:5-6‬ ‭

So yes, this past year has been disappointing in many ways. And yes, I’ve questioned my own judgement as a result. But what I’ve come to realize is that maybe I haven’t been eating “yellow snow” all along. And maybe the things I learned from those people weren’t all garbage but actually good and helpful. The fact that I recognized the detour from the truth is important.

It is their responsibility as leaders to speak truth that lines up with God’s Word…and it is my responsibility as a Christian to feast with my eyes wide open so that I don’t swallow something that isn’t truth.

And at the end of the day, God is still on the throne.

Once I made that distinction, I realized I have more control over how these revelations affect me. It is still disappointing when respected people make mistakes. Nobody likes to see a leader stumble. But at least now I can see the “yellow snow” for what it is, toss it to the side, and keep on moving.

The devil would love nothing more than to ruin an effective person’s influence; and we can’t keep them from making mistakes. However, we can somewhat thwart his efforts by protecting ourselves from stumbling with them.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:8-9‬

So please…guard your heart, proceed with caution…and don’t eat the yellow snow.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭

If You Question Whether Or Not You Should, You Probably Shouldn’t.

If in doubt, don’t.

I remember my parents often saying this to me when I was growing up. And although I have ignored it more times than I would like to admit, it has stuck with me throughout the years.

Now, please don’t take this deeper than its intent. I’m not talking about the battles that rage within us between God’s Will for our lives and Satan’s attacks. Sometimes we doubt when we really should be doing, but that’s a whole other blog post itself.

At the moment, I am talking about something that affects just about every person who has a social media account.

You know that impulsive rant, questionable picture, or funny post that may be offensive or taken the wrong way?

I’ve learned it’s just best to “don’t”.

Is it worth the likes we do receive even if it means we’ve alienated that person or group of people we have been working so hard to reach? Show love? Extend grace?

Do we really want to blow it all in one fell swoop?

Yes, it’s our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Yes, we have the right to say what we want anytime we want. Yes, last time I checked, it is still a free country. All of those things are absolutely true.

But here’s the question I have…is it worth it?

I can’t even tell you how many times I have posted something thinking it was funny or cute only to delete it minutes, or even seconds, later.

In a house full of boys, you can only imagine the things that go on here. Crazy things, politically incorrect things, gross things. Sometimes our humor is an acquired taste, borderline (and often wildly) inappropriate. Sometimes we take the frustrating things that are going on in our world today and make jokes to lighten the mood.

And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wanted to rant about Greenville drivers, Hellmart, or politics. The rude lady that ran me over in aisle 5, the latest controversy, or the horrible refs at my son’s football game. There are a million and one thoughts that traipse through my head every day, and they.need.to.be.heard, for crying out loud. 

But do they really?

I want to be transparent, so I share a lot of real life. And I think we should all do a little more of that. But there have been many times that I have frantically typed out my thoughts (with perfectly placed caps, exclamation points and emojis, mind you) only to have that gut feeling the second before I hit “post” (or often the second after) triggering the internal debate as to whether I should share.

And 9 out of the 10 times I ignore that feeling…I regret it.

We live in a time that everyone is offended by everything. I get that. Sailing through life without offending someone is about as likely as a unicorn pooping rainbows. (or my youngest wearing underwear)

But we have a responsibility as Christians, as humans, to show love. We have a responsibility to show respect. If we can at all help it, we are to live and speak in a way that helps others instead of hurting them.

Are we to speak the truth in love even if it is the opposite of what the world is saying? Yes. Absolutely. No question about it. But nobody has ever changed his mind about anything because of a Facebook rant.

Save the rants and questionable pictures or funnies for close friends and family. Those with which we have relationship. They know our hearts.

Or don’t say it at all.

We won’t get it right 100% of the time, but as Wayne Gretzky (or Michael Scott, depending on your generation) said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If we don’t try to be kind and respectful, we won’t be. Ever.

So let’s try, because it is always worth the effort.

“An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs‬ ‭18:19-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Talk Is Cheap…And Meaningful Conversation Is Priceless.

Recently, I was talking with a group of women when a question was asked that stumped us all….

“How often do you have meaningful conversations?”

Crickets

As I glanced around the room, I could see everyone clicking through the days, the memories, the conversations, until one brave soul spoke up and said, “Not often.” Everyone nodded in agreement, and a few offered further explanation…but all confessed that it was definitely not often enough.

But why is that?

It’s not that we don’t communicate at all, far from it. With an abundance of technology and communication devices at our fingertips, we can “reach out and touch someone” clear across the country any time we want. (Some of you millenials may need to google that phrase, but I promise it will make sense when you do.)

But the problem isn’t quantity, it’s quality.

We live in a fast-paced world that teaches us just the opposite of that. More bang for your buck. The bigger the better. Value this, and super-size that!

But just because we can get an entire meal from McDonald’s for less than five bucks doesn’t mean it’s going to nourish our bodies….and just because we comment on a post or like a picture doesn’t mean we’ve actually built relationship with that person.

As much as I love social media for keeping up with friends and family who live far away, I feel like it has all but taken the place of face-to-face conversations, and in many cases it has. Hiding behind our phones, we pat ourselves on the backs for “reaching out” when really we haven’t accomplished much at all.

God didn’t intend for relationships to be built on 140 characters. In fact, he didn’t intend for wifi or a data plan to be necessary at all. 

Do you remember before you had a smart phone? Sure, it was a little harder to keep in touch, but you had to make an effort. You had to write that card and send it in the mail, pick up the phone and hear a voice on the other end, or meet for coffee to catch up on what’s happening in a friend’s life. As a result, conversations happened. 

Now, we are so inundated with technology that we mistake casual contact for building relationship, and it has rendered us useless in common situations. 

How many times have you walked down a hallway at church or an aisle at the store and suddenly pulled out your phone to avoid eye contact, saying hello, or starting a conversation? If we avoid even the smallest of pleasantries, then how can we expect to ever go deeper and engage in meaningful dialogue?

We can’t.

And if we can’t engage in meaningful dialogue, then how can we expect to have healthy relationships with each other or reach others for Jesus?

We can’t.

But technology is not the only thing that hinders us from nurturing the “ships” in our lives (relationship, friendship, worship). We often hinder ourselves by making excuses. We’re too busy. We don’t have time, money, energy. Someday….

I hate to break it to you…but life is not going to slow down. Not.one.bit. And conversation is free. 

We can make all the excuses we want, but the fact of the matter is that we make time for what’s important to us. And what’s more important than making time for the people you love. What’s more important than cultivating the relationships with which God has blessed you. What’s more important than spending time with God period.

Nothing.

So let’s put down the phone a little more and be intentional about building quality relationships. 

Let’s sit as a family around the dinner table.

Let’s make eye contact and give hugs. 

Let’s laugh loudly in rustic coffee shops, and go on double-dates with good friends. 

Let’s join small groups and start supper clubs. 

Let’s FaceTime loved ones across the miles, or better yet, visit.

Let’s talk to God.

Let’s do less typing and more talking. 

Let’s have meaningful conversations

Let’s make time.
 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

What If I Don’t Always Love Being A Mom?

When we are afraid to admit it isn’t always that great……

March marks two important anniversaries for me…

The day I became a mom and the day I gave birth for the very last time.

As you may know, we have three children (four, if you count their father…and sometimes I do); and two of the three have birthdays this month, the oldest and the youngest. Like bookends, they mark the beginning and end of a bittersweet season in my life as a mother.

And just as birthdays often do, they’ve made me a sappy mess. Lingering a little longer at bedtime, looking at pictures of days gone by, and crying over silly things that shouldn’t make me cry, I once again reflect on those early years of motherhood when everything was new and exciting, yet terrifying just the same.

I’m not going to pretend I enjoyed pregnancy or giving birth, because I didn’t. And for a long time, I thought that made me inadequate for the job. I didn’t glow and gush like other moms I knew; so obviously, I had taken the initiation test and failed.

But then I realized it wasn’t a prerequisite to motherhood. One didn’t have to love the gestational period to actually love her children or be a good mom (and my husband seemed to love it enough for the both of us). So I embraced “not loving” the process because I knew that I would adore the result.

And I did.

But not every second…or even every other second. In fact, there have been many seconds I haven’t loved. And just as I felt like a failure for not loving the swelling, bloating, peeing, sickness, moodiness, and  exhaustion, I once again felt shame and defeat for not loving every dirty diaper, spit-up stain, and sleepless night.

Because what good mother doesn’t savor every precious moment?

I felt like I had to be the only one who struggled with forming sentences after another exhausting night and frantically searched for a shirt that didn’t bear the mark of an upset stomach or snotty nose. And certainly, I was the only one who blindly tossed crackers in the back seat to stop the blood curdling wail or drove around the block a few more times to prolong a much-needed nap (the kid’s…not mine). I had no doubt I was the only one who struggled with breastfeeding. And for sure, I was the only one who cried…a lot.

So I felt guilty.

I felt guilty for not loving it all in spite of the mess.

I felt guilty because I had experienced the heartbreak of losing a sweet, precious life before meeting him…or her. (So shouldn’t I just be thankful to have a healthy child to wreak havoc on my life and heart?)

I felt guilty because there are other women who cannot have children yet so desperately want them.

I felt guilty because there are moms who have experienced the joy and pain of childbirth only to lose that same child shortly after or far too soon.

I felt guilty.

And that little sentence pretty much sums up motherhood.

We feel guilty….

For all of the seconds we don’t love.

For all of the moments we miss because we have to work.

For all of the lost tempers, forgotten promises, and “not right nows”…

For all of the unhealthy meals served simply out of convenience.

For all of the things we said we’d never do as parents.

For pretty much everything.

And while I wish we had a magic pill that could take away that guilt, we don’t. But there are no perfect parents who love all the moments either. We are not alone; and the more we share our struggles, our frustrations and fears, the more we will realize just how “not alone” we are.

Thank the good Lord, some precious women came into my life that helped me see this. Had it not been for their “realness” and transparency, I don’t know what I would have done during those early years of motherhood. And He continues to send just the right people to encourage me throughout each new and challenging season.

But it starts with having the courage to share what we feel is unsharable. Instead of pretending we have it all together and are loving every second, let’s admit we don’t and ask for help. When we strip away the stigma that struggle means failure, we open up the pathway to healing and strength.

Satan would love nothing more than to convince us that we are a mess. He wants us to quit before we even start. He tells us that what we see on social media is everyone else #winning….except us.

But he’s wrong.

All we see is what everyone else wants us to see. The highlight reel of their lives. The beautiful, “perfect” moments…..that took 537 pictures to get it right. Nobody posts the wet bed, the gum in the dog’s hair, the sassy mouth, or the knock-down-drag-out they had on the way to church. The hundreds of moments we absolutely do not love.

Nobody.

And that’s ok. But we have to remind ourselves that what we are seeing is not the full picture and to stop comparing.

God doesn’t want us to live a life full of shame and self-loathing. He made no mistake when He made us the moms of the children we have. But oh, how precious it is when He blesses us with those little special moments….the ones that remind us why we do it all.

Our job isn’t to be perfect parents and create perfect children. Our job isn’t to make others think we are amazing.

Our job is to lean on Jesus and do our best, plain and simple. And if we can help others along the way by sharing our struggle and unloveable moments? That would be pretty awesome too.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

 

An Open Letter To My Teenage Self…

“Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Dear Preteen/Teenage Me,

First things first…

I know that this may come as a complete surprise to you, but you do not become rich and famous, marry Bret Michaels, or live in Beverly Hills. You finally meet him one day, but that’s as close as it gets.

It is for the best.

And contrary to what you may think at this moment, 42 is not one foot in the grave. I know it’s hard to believe; but you are actually going to love your late 30’s & early 40’s, and I mean that with all my heart. The confidence you gain through experience and maturity will help you grow more comfortable in your own skin, and it is liberating. There is a freedom with age that cannot be duplicated in youth.

That being said, you are living some of the best days of your life, and you don’t even know it. Hindsight is 20/20, so here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on your teenage years…

1. Enjoy school. While it may seem hard at the time, it’s the easiest thing you will ever endure. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, you have tons of homework. No, you will never need to know the hypotenuse of a triangle to change a diaper or land that dream job, but it’s a rite of passage so suck it up and endure. A roof over your head, good food in your belly, and no bills to pay. Stop wishing those days away. You will have the “opportunity” to work the rest of your life. Good grief, don’t rush it!!

2. Appreciate the skin that you are in. Be thankful your parents won’t let you wear makeup at 12. You don’t need it!! Your skin is glowing and without wrinkle. Why cover it up? There will be plenty of time and money spent on beauty products in the years to come, not to mention, tutorials galore on which makeup is best and how to contour until you are unrecognizable.

Stop trying to look like the girls on TV. Your body is going through numerous changes right now. Give it time. You will grow into those curves you hate so much, and freckles are not a curse. You are beautiful just the way you are.

But please, for the love, use sunscreen!!!

3. Wear what is flattering not just what is fashionable. All fashion trends do not look good on all people, and this is true no matter the decade. If it doesn’t look or feel fantastic, just don’t…or you will look back on pictures one day and wonder why you did.

That.is.all.

4. Quit worrying about boys. There will be plenty of time for boyfriends and relationships someday. Your worth is not measured by what a boy thinks of you. Jesus thinks you are precious and beautiful, and that’s all that matters. Spend these days making memories with family and friends, and stop wasting emotions and tears on boys who are hormonal and lack maturity and common sense.

It’s a proven fact that the brain of preteen/teen (sometimes older) boys goes through an enormous amount of change during these years causing them to say and do stupid things. (I know, I have two of them right now) So bypass this stage and catch them on the upswing! It will save you a lot of heartache.

5. Cherish your friendshipsRecognize good, healthy friendships and hold them close. Nurture those relationships and make the effort to keep in touch even when life takes you separate ways. If not, you will reconnect years from now and mourn the time you’ve lost and the memories you could have made.

And while we are talking about relationships, learn to extend grace to struggling friends but cut ties with toxic people. Neither of those become any easier as you grow older, but both are extremely important. Knowing the difference is key.

Find your tribe and love them hard. 

6. Be kind. Popularity is fleeting and matters very little in the grand scheme of things, so don’t waste your time, money, or energy trying to keep up with that crowd.

Instead of dwelling on your own problems, look for those who are sitting by themselves and join them. Let them know that someone sees them and that you care. You have no idea how far a kind word can go to lift the aching spirit of a lonely soul, so open your eyes to those around you and listen with your heart. It could significantly impact a life. Not only theirs but yours.

7. Listen to your parents. They actually do know what they are talking about and don’t say “no” just to make you miserable. Believe it or not, they love you more than life itself and desperately want to protect you. Let them.

Someday you will thank them. Someday you will want to talk to them every day even though you live 13 hours apart. Someday you will want your mom by your side when you are sick or having your first…second…and third baby. Someday they will be the first people you call when you need a listening ear, a comforting word, sound advice, or prayer. Someday you will realize they were right.

And you know that list in the back of your journal? The list of things you will “never say or do to your own children”?

You say and do them all. 

8. Chase your dreams. Don’t settle for what is practical or makes sense. Most successful people don’t follow the safe route. They find what sets their souls on fire and pursue it with every ounce of their being. So do that. Don’t wait. Start now.

If you are passionate about what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

9. Seek Jesus. Every day. Don’t just go to church and check boxes. It’s not about following a list of rules. Dive into His Word, and seek Him daily. Build a relationship with Him stronger than any other relationship in your life, and you will never regret it.

Will it always be easy? No. Will life be perfect? No, God’s not a genie in a bottle. But no matter what happens, you will always have Jesus and the peace and comfort that only He can give. He will see you through whatever you may face…and that’s a promise.

And lastly, but certainly not least….

10. Be thankful you don’t have social media!!! You have the wonderful opportunity of screwing up without the whole world watching. Don’t take that for granted! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The bottom line is this. Life is hard no matter how old you are. Pros and cons accompany any age, but the key lies in what you do with them. Embrace every stage and live it to the fullest or you will look back and wish you had.

We get one chance at this thing called life, and we need to make it count.

So buckle up, buttercup, and enjoy the ride.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” ~ Emerson

What Do My Reactions Say To My Children?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction…and a parent’s overreaction.

He met me at the door, eyes wide and brow furrowed. I immediately knew something was up, because the only one who meets me at the door these days is our 7 pound, 4-year-old toy poodle. Not our 8-year-old who typically has his eyes glued to a computer screen watching cats jump three feet in the air at the sight of a cucumber, painful football injuries…or people opening Christmas presents. (I didn’t even know that was a thing.)

No, it couldn’t be good.

As I opened the door, he launched into the horrific tale of walking into our master bathroom to use the restroom only to find a wet spot on the wall by the toilet. (gasp)

Right.

His delivery needs work, but it was good for an amateur.

So I began my usual line of questioning. What kind of wet spot? What color is it? Did you smell it? Are you sure it was already there and not just bad aim?!?

He quickly assured me that it was already there and that he had no idea how it happened…but that I should see for myself. So I went to investigate the crime scene with him trailing close behind.

Sure enough, there it was. A wet spot, still dripping, directly next to the toilet. So I did what any seasoned mom would do and bent down on hands and knees to smell it.

Perplexed that my keen supermom-senses did not detect any bodily fluids, I sat back on my heels and began to survey the room around me while Hayes stood there anxiously wringing his hands and repeating, “I have no idea what happened…it’s just weird.”

Right.

That’s when I caught sight of faint specks of red on the floor underneath the wet spot and a wad of wet toilet paper by the sink.

“Did you try to wash something off of the wall?”

You’d have thought I had accused him of grand theft, and he was getting 10-20 in the slammer.

Denial, tears, blame (it had to be the brothers…or the dog…or BOTH) ensued while I tried not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

I wasn’t even mad, at least not about whatever had happened there. I just wanted him to tell me the truth, and I told him so. But the more I prodded him to come clean, the more the frenzy escalated until I finally just sent him to his room before I lost what little patience I had left and said something I would regret. (been there done that…too many times to count)

After a few minutes in the think tank (he does not like to be alone), he came out, sat at the kitchen island, and stared at me.

“Yes?”

Then came the tears, “But I don’t want you to be mad at me.” 

“I’m not.”

“But you are! You have the mad face!”

Sigh….“Ok, a little…but not because of the wet spot or whatever happened with the wet spot. I’m upset about the lying. The wet spot can be fixed easily; the lying is the real problem. That’s harder to fix.”

And that’s when the dam broke…and through the tears and the sniffing (lots of tears and lots of sniffing), I pieced together the sad tale of an 8-year-old who had a bloody nose, ran to the closest bathroom, made a mess on the wall, then tried to clean it up before anyone knew what had happened. How nobody else in the house knew all of this was going on, I will never know.

But in that moment, my heart broke a little.

Don’t get me wrong. He was still in trouble for lying and had to listen to my “Why it’s always better to tell the truth” speech. After 15 years of parenting, it has been fine-tuned and well-rehearsed, so I wasn’t about to waste it.

But what broke my heart was the fact that he was afraid to tell me the truth. Not because it was horrendous. Believe me, all three boys have done worse. Not because of the punishment. He knew he deserved whatever happened. I didn’t even play the “I’m disappointed in you” card, so it couldn’t have been that.

No, he was afraid of my reaction.

How many times have I completely flipped out over a spilled cup, a scratch on the car, a rip in a new pair of pants? How many times have I lost my mind over something little just because I was having a bad day? How many times have I made my children feel like something material, something replaceable, was more important than they are?

Like an arrow to the heart, I realized that I had failed in creating a safe space for them to come and share their mistakes and failures.

Oh sure, they talk to me about all kinds of things. They tell me all about their friends at school, what’s going on in their lives, who is doing what; and I pride myself on being the kind of mom who has an open line of communication with my children.

But when it comes to things like this, things they’ve done wrong and mistakes they’ve made….let’s just say my reaction has been less than inviting.

If they can’t come to me with the little things, how can I expect them to come to me with the big things?! It doesn’t mean there won’t ever be consequences or punishment. Those are part of life, and we have a responsibility as parents to see those through. They know that and expect it, but sometimes they just need a soft place to land when they mess up regardless of the consequences.

I want to be that soft place. I want to be approachable in the little things so they will feel safe enough to come to me with the big things too.

It’s not easy when life is hard, and busy, and stressful. Our nerves are frayed and our tempers are short. The last thing we need is one.more.thing. 

But in the grand scheme of things, what is really more important? Fixing a broken door or fixing a broken spirit?  We all know the answer, but simply asking the question puts it into perspective.

And it doesn’t become easier as they grow older, only harder. So it’s time to create that safe space for my family, that soft place to land. It’s time to show them that their feelings are important, and I love them more than things.

It’s time.

And…

It starts with me. It starts with my reaction. It starts now.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19, 20