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

 

The Grace Standard

When we fail at being awesome, we need more grace and less judgment all around.

Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Take today, for instance.

I was going about my business, living my life, doing the typical Sunday stuff. You know…the stuff we put off all weekend then frantically try to complete by midnight on Sunday. It’s like we’re going to turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12, so we’ve got to cram it all in after church.

And thank goodness, we made time for church, because someone needed to bless the muttering, complaining, and “less than appropriate words” stomping through our heads all afternoon. Heaven help us, if we didn’t start the day with a good dose of Jesus.

When out of nowhere, my husband snaps out of his football trance and says, “Hey…what time was that party today?”

Party?

Suddenly, everything in the room came to a screeching halt. My heart fell straight to my gut…and one of those “words” may or may not have popped out of my mouth.

The neighborhood “Happy Birthday to Jesus Party.”

Crap.

How did I forget the party? It’s a birthday party for Jesus, for crying out loud. What kind of person forgets that?!?!?

Me: A tired person.

Also Me: I bet nobody else forgot the party!

Me: We just moved to this neighborhood….they are going to think I’m a total flake.

Also Me: As they should!!!

So with 15 minutes left in the party, I sucked it up and texted the host, owning the fact that I totally screwed up. I mean…I was supposed to bring the mini cupcakes. Pretty sure I ruined Jesus’ birthday!!! (And I wonder where my kids get their flair for drama…)

Then I spent the next few hours fretting. Out loud.

I must have said, “I can’t believe I did that” 100 times until finally my 8-year-old said, “MOM…give yourself a break!!”

I just knew I was going to be labeled the “flaky mom” in the neighborhood. You know, the one you invite but don’t expect to come so you don’t give her anything “important” to bring. Drinks and chips. That was my fate. I would forever be the drinks and chips mom.

Fantastic.

But do you know what her response was?

Grace.

Complete grace. Not the kind that was sent in “good Christian love” but was as fake as the 17-year-old Christmas tree sitting in our living room…no, this was legit.

She even admitted to doing the same thing just a few months ago, and I don’t even care if she was lying through her teeth to make me feel better. BLESS HER.

Why is it that we have a hard time extending this kind of grace to ourselves and to others?

 Life is hard! Whether you have zero children and a thriving career or have 6 and are a stay-at-home mom…we have so many demands on us! Just being a woman and experiencing the emotional ups and downs we ride on a daily basis is hard enough! (Thanks, Eve!)

The sad truth is that I freaked out because I know the thoughts I’ve had about others who have “flaked” on me. Our first inclination is to think the worst. They didn’t want to come. They just don’t like me. They aren’t responsible. They should really manage their time better. (eye roll)

But where’s the grace? Where’s the empathy?

We’ve all been there and know we can’t be on our A-Game 100% of the time. It’s impossible. So why do we hold ourselves and others to an impossible standard?

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2

I’ve come to the realization that it starts with us. I have to hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection, so that I can then extend that same grace to others. How can I show others grace if I can’t even show it to myself?

I can’t. And you can’t either. So instead of freaking out when we fail or casting judgment when others do the same, let’s purpose in our hearts to give ourselves a break this Christmas season and determine that we will show more grace in the year to come.

“I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection.”

Merry Christmas, and God Bless!!

How Does Birth Order Affect Me As A Parent?

It never ceases to amaze me that we have three children, all the same gender, with vastly different personalities. I mean, completely different. Not even on the same planet different. We wonder if they were switched at birth different.

It’s baffling.

And while I don’t buy into the whole birth order thing 100%, I do think there is some validity to this theory (originally formed by the Austrian psychiatrist, Alfred Adler ). It makes sense….and somewhat explains why our youngest child thinks the world revolves around him. Because in his mind, it does.

But these very differences are what makes them special and unique…what makes life interesting and fun. Each child plays a part in our family and respecting their differences helps them grown into healthy young men.

For instance, take the first born…

  • reliable
  • conscientious
  • organized
  • cautious
  • controlling
  • achieving
  • high self esteem

In other words, our 15-year-old son.

He was practically born into this world a miniature adult, and that was reinforced by the fact that the early years of his life were spent around grownups. (Most of our friends were still single…and hungry. So they came where they knew there would be food.) Because of this, he has never known a stranger and can talk to adults even more comfortably than he can his own age. Firstborns may seem to mature faster because this.

True to his birth order, he’s smart, a natural born leader, hard worker,  an over-achiever…and I totally expect him to make the big bucks and take care of his parents someday. (it’s the least he could do)

Now…sometimes his leadership skills could use some work. Barking orders at his younger brothers and clothes-lining them when they pass will not take him far in life. However, he wants to be an entrepreneur…so maybe it will work for him.

His cautious nature weighs the consequneces of his actions; and if he says he’s going to do something, you can count on the fact that he will. He’s an all around good kid who is going to go far in life.

“Hey! Did you know you can start a snapchat streak with yourself? It’s awesome. I’m smart…I’m funny…I’m super handsome…and I respond pretty fast!” – Xander

And then we have the second born (middle child)….

  • people pleasing
  • somewhat rebellious
  • good friend
  • peacemaker
  • social
  • lower self esteem

This one gets a little tricky. Our 12-year-old son is not necessarily rebellious…or social. However, he is also an introvert, so personality traits definitely play into this theory. But the rest is spot on. I even worried about him being a middle child when he was born, so we gave him my husband’s first name to make him feel special. (My textbook middle child brother-in-law had me paranoid.) 

Because he is also an introvert, he doesn’t have a large number of friends like his brothers, but the ones he has are treasured. Loyal to a fault, he will stand by his buddies even if he doesn’t see them very often

A peacemaker and people pleaser, he hates conflict and will even allow his brothers to have the object of dispute if it means avoiding a fight. (most of the time) And rest assured he will remind us all of such slights and use it to further confirm that we are all against him.

The middle child often gets a bum rap; but, in my opinion, the most wonderful thing about the middle child is the fact that they are, in every way, the middle child. His sweet disposition and quiet charm are the perfect balance to my ambitious firstborn and the last wild one. And let me tell you, we need the break.

Cade: Everyone drinks my drinks. Nothing is sacred.
Hayes: I didn’t see your name on it.
Cade: (writes name on new bottle)
Hayes: I’m still drinking it.
Cade: You suck. I’m sleeping with this tonight.

Finally…last, but certainly not least, we have the third born or baby…

  • fun-loving
  • manipulative
  • outgoing
  • attention seeking
  • self-centered
  • risk taker

This could not more accurately describe our 8-year-old if I had formulated the list myself. He’s the life of the party, the class clown, the star athlete.

With lofty goals of becoming an NFL wide receiver, he hasn’t even considered the fact that it may not happen. He wants to see his name in lights, all eyes on him as he runs his victory lap in this thing called life.

Quick-witted and funny, he often manipulates his way out of trouble, an art his brothers both detest and admire. It’s everything I can do sometimes to suppress a grin…and it completely derails my stern intentions. And.he.knows.it. 

As frustrating as all this may be at times, I love his passion, his fire. He’s a dreamer and puts feet to those dreams. He makes me believe, and I love that.

When the Pastor is telling a story about Abraham and the “good son” (the chosen one with promise), and Hayes gets a big grin on his face…points to himself…and says in a loud whisper, “The other two were mistakes.” 

So what does this all mean to me as a parent?

For a long time, I tried to steer them all in the same direction…treat them all the same. They were all boys, right? That in itself was a mystery to me. Throw in a variety of personalities, temperaments, and interests…and it’s like interpreting hieroglyphics.

But once I started responding to them in a language they understood, motivated them in a way that spoke to their personalities…they started thriving like never before. And, believe me, I’m still learning.

What works for one child (regardless of gender) may not work for another. We know that. But knowing it and applying it are two different things. It takes constant effort, consistency, and prayer.

May I be more mindful as they grow older not only to respond to them in a language they understand but to stay engaged in their lives so that my language shifts with their ever-changing seasons.

The Pleasing Pit

We don’t become people-pleasers overnight; and at the same time, it isn’t a life sentence. We can overcome the need to please, but it takes work…and Jesus.

Guess what, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you.

Gasp.

What?!?

I know…it’s shocking.

We live in a world where everyone has an opinion about everything and that includes what they think about you. But why do we care?

Hi, I’m Theresa, and I’m a people-pleaser. 

That’s why. At least, for me it is. I’ve spent a majority of my life caring far too much what people think, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

But you know what, the desire for others to like us in itself is not a bad thing. For the most part, that’s human nature and can sometimes drive us to do amazing things. It’s when it seeps into our souls like a cancer, eats away at the good inside, and consumes our every thought that it becomes a problem.

It starts out small…

When I was 4 years old, my biological father decided he didn’t want to be a husband or a dad anymore. It wasn’t a highly emotional thing for me; in fact, I don’t remember him much at all. I think the fact that my mother surrounded us with loving people went a long way to smooth the jagged edges on both of our hearts.

But not all of them. Although I was too young to truly understand what was going on, the people-pleaser in me still felt like maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I wasn’t good enough.

And so it began…

After many years on our own and a move from the beautiful mountains of Tennessee to the blustery state of Ohio, my mom remarried a wonderful man who took me on (at the age of 9) as his own. Poor guy had no idea what he was in for, but I will love him forever for taking the plunge!

In the years that followed, our lives practically revolved around church and the affiliated Christian school that I attended, but it was an environment that constantly left me feeling inadequate. It’s a feeling that is not foreign to many who grow up in church; however, I think it is often magnified in people like me. The people-pleaser in me wanted to cross all of my t’s and dot all of my i’s…but not for the right reasons. I wanted others to like me. I wanted them to think I was a good Christian girl who did all of the right things (on the outside) so they would include me.

But the truth is, I couldn’t live up to the expectations. I didn’t even understand why I was doing some of them. So I just became really good at faking it; and to be honest, I wasn’t even good at that.

“Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Then came the hurt…

I won’t go into great detail, because kids do dumb things. They shouldn’t have to relive them forever, and we are all still friends to this day.

However, during my sophomore year of high school, a friend of mine became upset  with me and started a rumor that I had done something scandalous, especially for a Christian school. It wasn’t true…but people believed it. For weeks, nobody would speak to me, even my closest friends.

Just writing this reminds me of the way I felt and has convicted me of my own guilt. How many times do we believe something that’s not true simply because it’s scandalous?  (food for thought))

Thank goodness we didn’t have social media back then. I can only imagine how this would have spiraled out of control had there been an instagram, facebook, or twitter added to an already toxic situation. It’s no wonder kids are depressed and angry now with the ability to inflict emotional pain for all the world to see at someone else’s finger tips.

The people-pleaser in me was devastated. I could no more control what people believed about me than I could control my biological father not wanting to be part of my life.

“If you live for the approval of others, you will die by their rejection.” – Rick Warren

So I focused on something I could control…

At this point, it was the early 90’s. While the fashion was really quite awful, we still had the same pressure to look a certain way that kids have in 2016. Everyone wanted to be 90210, and it didn’t help I went through a chubby stage while all of my friends were petite and could buy the cute clothes that passed dress inspection. (tall girls with boobs, I get you!!)

To this day, I’m not exactly sure what led me to stop eating, but I honestly don’t think it was any one thing. In fact, I haven’t even told this part of my story to many who didn’t walk through it with me. Partially, because I’m afraid of what people will think….and partially, because I don’t want to put ideas in impressionable minds. The hell I went through called “anorexia” is not a place I would wish on anyone. It’s not a solution, and it has long-lasting effects. Some permanent.

But it happened….and it consumed 5 years of my life.

What started out as a need to fit in and impress people turned into an avalanche of all the pent up emotions throughout the years…and it almost killed me. I thank God every day He brought me out of it, but not once have I wished it didn’t happen. It took me to a place of complete dependence on Him, and it made me identify and face what led me there in the first place. I am who I am because of where I have been.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives..” Genesis 50:20

Maybe you’ve been through traumatic events in your life as well…events that created the people-pleaser that lies inside of you. Maybe you are going through one now. I see you. I understand. It’s hard, but it’s worth the fight against it.

We are all uniquely gifted. Different talents, different shapes, different sizes.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:4

We need to start embracing those things that make us special and stop worrying about what others think about them. As long as we are good with Jesus, then we are good. Claim it. Own it. And don’t forget it. He’s got us.

“The more I fill myself with God’s Truth, the less I need validation from others.” – Lysa TerKeurst