What I Want to Teach My Daughter About Her Right to Choose

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I teared up when the sonogram tech said the words.

“It’s a girl.”

What I’d dared to name in my prayers was now real. She had a name: Elise.

I looked over at my husband and saw tears in his eyes too. Our two boys sat on the floor, staring at the screen a couple of minutes longer until their attention turned to their video games.

For the rest of the day, I was on an emotional high. We went to Babies R’ Us and I immersed myself in all things girl- the bows, the pink, the dresses and frillies. I didn’t think I’d be so enamored with it all, but I was.

Our first girl was coming, and I couldn’t wait. But I also knew.

I knew there would be challenges we wouldn’t face with our boys. Hormones and drama and cycles and the need to be loved.

I also knew there would be the temptation to look for love in all the wrong places. And while the conversation about sex was one we would have with our boys too, it would be different. Because we are made differently.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about women’s rights lately. Social media is filled with articles about a woman’s right to her body, to not be pregnant, and to safe contraception.

Some of the conversation is needed and good. And some of it is disturbing on many levels.

Until this point I’ve stayed out of it. My goal with this blog will always be to love and encourage, and I honestly couldn’t think of anything encouraging to say on the topic.

But then I asked myself, what is at the heart of all this? A woman can claim she has the right to an abortion. She can say denial of access is a violation of that right. But where does the issue start?

Why do so many women need an abortion?

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I looked back on my life and the decisions I made. I spent years of my life looking for love.

I’d heard Bible stories and songs about how God loved me, but it wasn’t tangible to me. I’d never felt it or experienced it, so I assumed it wasn’t real.

I remember the first time a boy told me I was beautiful. I liked it. It meant something to me. I wanted to be seen and heard so desperately I was willing to do anything.

So now, when I type this and I think about the decisions I made, I want my daughter to know: You are worth so much more than your sexuality.

Yes, God can redeem even the most broken story. He can turn ashes into beauty and a mess into a miracle.

But it affects me even now. It affects the relationship I have with my husband. It affects the way I look at other men.

I hear all this talk about a woman’s right to choose but here’s what baffles me. Here’s what’s missing from the conversation.

A woman’s right to choose will always begin with her decision of whether or not to exploit her body. We can say it’s consensual and it’s good and natural, and all that may be true.

But when a woman uses her body to gain something she thinks she lacks- love, it is an exploitation.

Yes, sex is good. Of course it is. God created it.

When sex is misconstrued for love, we have a serious problem. And friends, women can’t separate sex from love. They can’t separate sex from their emotions. And if they can, I would argue that they’ve been hardened by the muck of life to get them to that point.

So yes, we have a right to choose. But I would argue that right begins long before the baby is in the womb. It begins with the decision to love ourselves. It begins with the knowledge of a Creator who values us more than we could ever imagine.

When I look at my daughter, I want her to know this:

  • You have the right to choose a man who will love you more than he will lust after your body.
  • You have the right to love yourself and to believe you are a priceless creation, loved by a Creator who gave himself for you.
  • You have the right to choose to say “no” to anything less than what God has for you. A God who created sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage. Not as a punishment, but because he knew this is where it would be enjoyed as it was made to be.

It may sound old fashioned. It may sound unreasonable. But as a woman who has experienced sex both inside and outside the confines of marriage, I can say I believe the God who created it got it right.

My daughter has the right to choose. And I pray she chooses to love herself.

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

Giving Your Kids the World When You’re Running on Empty

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Sometimes the things we do to bless our kids end up blessing us even more. We serve a God who shows up in unexpected ways.

A few months ago, my firstborn started taking piano lessons. He has an amazing musical instinct and was playing songs in no time, filling our house with Christmas carols in December.

Since we welcomed our third child around Thanksgiving it’s been increasingly difficult for me to get him to his lessons on time. Most days I sit in the car and nurse our newborn while little brother sits in the back watching DVDs, popping his head between the front seats every now and then to tell me about the scene in a movie.

One afternoon I was feeling defeated and overly tired. I almost forgot about firstborn boy’s lesson altogether.

When it was over I debated whether I should walk in and chat with his teacher. Baby girl was sitting in her car seat, happily fed, so went to the front door and found my son there, putting on his shoes.

His teacher told me they’d been learning movie theme songs. Superman was a big hit.

My son had explained to her how there were some movies his dad and I wouldn’t let him watch yet.

“You’re really smart for doing that,” his teacher said. “They’re so vulnerable at this age.”

It was a small affirmation, but in that moment it was huge. Even in the struggle and transition, she gave me confidence we were doing something right.

And each week she continued giving me little nuggets of encouragement.

It reminded me how whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re always planting seeds. And the good seeds we plant in our kids will always yield a harvest, whether it’s immediate or years down the road.

That same week, I began reading a beautiful children’s introductory bible called Bible Basics to our baby girl. She fussed a few minutes after I started and I admit I wondered why I even bothered.

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But even through my discouragement, I know I’m planting seeds.

She may not understand the words yet, but her little mind is expanding like a wet sponge. If some of the first truths she hears are about a Creator who adores her, I know I’m doing something good.

Bible Basics: A Baby Believer Counting Primer is filled with colorful, vibrant illustrations and staple verses for children to learn as they grow. It is perfect for a baby or toddler-aged child. It teaches kids the core tenets of Christianity in a way that is easy for them to understand. I am confident that the more I continue reading it to my daughter, the more she will enjoy it.

I know there will still be days when I wonder if I’m doing anything right. I will forget to sign homework and lose my patience with the kids. But when I doubt, I’ll continue planting seeds.

I’ll keep telling them about the amazing God who created the universe, but is still compassionate enough to care about each hair on their heads. I’ll keep looking for ways to make faith part of their everyday lives.

If you’re looking for a way to introduce faith to your kids in a simple, easy-to-understand way, I highly recommend Bible Basics. It is a great resource for parents of young children, and the illustrations are captivating.

Let’s keep sowing those good seeds. You never know when God will show you the fruit of your harvest.

Sometimes it’s in ways you least expect it.


GIVEWAY:
bible-basics-coverHey friends, I’m giving away a copy of Bible Basics to one of you lovely readers! To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment below. You can be entered multiple times by sharing this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Make sure to let me know you shared the post in your comment.

I will announce the winner next Thursday, January 26th.

 

*Two copies of Bible Basics were provided to me by The Blythe Daniel Agency in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review.

 

 

Stop the Cycle of Mom Guilt: What Our Kids Crave the Most

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My kids never cease to amaze me. I love how even at a young age, they can pinpoint what’s important.

The other day I was taking my oldest son to piano and as we stopped at a red light, he piped up from the back seat.

“You know, Mama. When little Elise gets here, I’m going to hold her, and hug her, and kiss her…. And… well, that’s about it.”

I laughed out loud, knowing what he meant but utterly enjoying his cuteness. He told me about the various stages his sister would go through and how one day she will be able to chase him and his brother through the house.

He knows during the first few months of her life, cuddles and plenty of love will be the main things baby sister needs. Play will come later. Fights over toys, hopefully much later.

Aside from feeding, diaper changes, and plenty of rest, he had Elise’s needs pinned down to a tee.

It made me wonder. At what stage as parents do we forget the basics and start shaming ourselves?

The other day, I had a near panic attack because baby girl’s room wasn’t ready. I was still seven weeks from my due date, but my nesting instinct was in high gear. I scoured quilts and wall decals on Etsy, trying to find the perfect combination to create a warm, welcoming environment.

When I couldn’t match up shades of turquoise I was irritable. Then, God reminded me of scene from a few nights ago. I was getting ready for bed, and as I walked by the nursery I saw my son helping his dad convert the toddler bed back into a crib.

She will have a place to sleep. She will have food to eat and arms to hold her and comfort her when she cries. Will she care if her room isn’t perfect?

I think our guilt often stems from a misconception that our kids should have trouble-free, pain-free lives with little to no boredom and a schedule filled with activities. If we’re not carting them from one place to another and living vicariously through every victory, win and trophy, we feel empty.

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But as Jen Hatmaker so aptly states in her book, For the Love, our kids’ lives are not a Nickelodeon set. Nor should they be.

There comes a point where we have to stop the cycle of shame and settle for good enough. Because when it comes to parenting, perfect doesn’t exist.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a Christian radio station and during a Focus on the Family segment, they talked about the things kids remember about growing up. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t the mistakes their parents make, the times we lose our cool or the boo-boos they got when they were two.

They remembered the bedtime stories. The time spent cuddling on the couch. The prayers and the moments just being together.

My eyes were wet with tears at the sheer simplicity of it. When did I forget?

Friends, our kids know what’s important. So when today is over and you’re sitting on the couch, shaming yourself because you were late to the practice, ask yourself this: Did I love my kid today?

It’s time we stop worrying about perfection and give them what they crave the most: ourselves.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup

A Prayer for All You Moms When Your Nerves Are Shot this Summer

A Prayer for All You Moms this Summer

I know what you’re thinking. Summer has just begun, right? There’s no need for one of those types of posts. The kind that laments about the stresses of motherhood and all the weariness that goes along with it.

And I agree. I’m looking forward to many more trips to the pool with the kids, long days where bedtime is stretched out even longer and the schedule is ignored.

But here’s the thing. I know sometime during those weeks when the sun is blazing hot and the kids are running free we’re going to need a moment. I needed one today. The kids were bickering, it took us an hour to get out the door to run a five-minute errand, and my nerves were shot.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I heard myself screaming, “Just give me five minutes!” Five minutes to breathe. Five minutes to think my thoughts which I know are buried down there somewhere.

I sent my seven-year-old outside to play even though it was pouring down rain. The rain won’t melt off his skin, right?

As I was running that five-minute errand to the supermarket which ended up taking forty-five minutes, I thought of you. I thought of all you other moms out there who might need a moment too. And when you do, I pray these words find you and encourage you. I pray God grants you that peace which truly does surpass understanding. That peace which we so desperately need to cling to when the days get longer than we can manage.

Here is my prayer for you.

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I pray you find your five minutes. Twenty is even better. Sometimes this means getting up earlier, which I loathe doing, but I promise you it is worth it. There is something about being alone before the chaos starts which brings a peace that cuts through the yelling which will start later. Be alone with God. Soak in his presence. Listen to the birds chirping outside your window.

I pray you will give yourself grace. Yes, you may yell. Yes, you may lose your temper. Apologize if you need to. Lord knows I have more times than I can count. But after you do, move on. Your kids will not remember your mini-tantrum tomorrow; trust me. Unless they are teenagers. Then they might. But dwelling in a pit of guilt will only make your temper shorter.

I pray you savor this time. Soak it up. Do something you and your kids both enjoy. My kids and I love the water so much of our summer will be spent by the lake or the pool. It is our happy place and gives them space to burn all of that pent up energy.

I pray you are able to rest. And trust me, rest doesn’t mean zoning out to the tv or social media. I’m talking about a rest which replenishes your soul. I pray you are able to do something creative or something you love that makes you remember who you are when your labels of mother, wife and friend are stripped away. I pray you’re able to find time to do that thing which, when you do it, makes you say, “Ah, this is what I was made to do.”

I pray God quiets your soul. I know, fat chance when the kids are running around like lunatics, right? And yet, I still pray this for you. Whether that means a weekend away to yourself or with just your spouse, or it means a day at a spa, my hope is that you will find quiet. Quiet that blocks out all the noise and the voices of negativity in your head.

Moms, I’m thinking of you today. Even though Father’s Day is the next date on the calendar, you’ve been on my heart all week. You are strong. You are amazing. And you’re doing the work of the Lord each day you get out of bed and love those little vandals in a way only you can.

Keep pressing ahead. Before you know it, summer will be a memory. Savor each moment and remember to take one for yourself.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday

Need a Survival Guide for Raising Big Kids? {A Book Review}

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“As soon as you get them a car, everything goes downhill.”

My sister-in-law recounted my mother’s words, chuckling. I was eighteen at the time, and between my attraction to troublesome boys, my aversion to a curfew, and my disrespect for the rules at the Christian school I attended, I was giving them more than their fair share of grief.

I don’t remember ever making an active decision to cause them stress, but I do remember trying to find my way and discover who I was. Testing boundaries felt natural to me. Looking back, I can see missteps I took along the way, but I also see the lessons I learned from them.

Will my kids feel the same way?

Both my boys are still several years away from being teenagers, but whenever I think about that stage of parenthood my mind races with questions.

“Will my parenting style push them to retreat or come to me when they’re in over their head?”

“Will they choose friends who will build their character or care nothing about them?”

“Will they treat women with the respect their father has modeled for them?”

If there’s one thing parenting has taught me, it’s that I can’t control every aspect of my kids’ behavior. But I also know my time with them is short, and I need to seize each moment I have to teach them. I realize the behavior and love I model to them speaks volumes more than trite phrases like, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

I also know they are sinners just like me, and their nature dominates at times when I least expect it.

When we enter into unfamiliar waters, it helps to have the wisdom and experience of moms who have gone before us. The mere fact that they survived those difficult stages and have kids who did as well encourages me and keeps me going when things are rough.

When I discovered Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love by Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson, I was thrilled. This book is a tremendous resource to parents who are raising teens and tweens, and to those who will be in that stage in a few years.

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The book is based on 1 Corinthians 13, and takes each aspect of love mentioned in this passage of scripture to show how model the type of behavior we desire from our kids. By being patient, kind, and truthful with our kids, we encourage them to do the same. Lori and Becky also talk about how using passive aggressive methods like guilt trips cause more harm than good and send mixed signals to our children. Straightforward honesty is always the best method, and telling our kids the truth goes much further than trying to manipulate.

By identifying our go-to parenting style and the strengths and weaknesses which go along with it, we can more easily spot unhealthy behaviors and see how they could negatively affect our kids. The authors also help the readers come up with strategies to avoid these negative habits and replace them with methods which have proven effective.

This book is one I will keep on my shelf for years to come, and I know I will refer back to it often when I reach those difficult teenage years. I highly recommend it to anyone who is in the trenches of the tween and teen years, and am confident it will help them with information which is both practical and relatable.

If you are looking for a resource to help you through the tough seasons of raising big kids, look no further.


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Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson, M.Ed. are experienced moms and former teachers who now minister to families as licensed parent and family educators.

Raising Kids with Supernatural Love is an outpouring of this ministry and is available now on Amazon. You can purchase your copy here.

You can also find both of the authors along with many other helpful tools on their website, 1Corinthians13Parenting.com.

Why It’s Okay to Let Your Child Lose

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“Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” -Unknown

I spent the first five years of my oldest son’s life cleaning up all his toys. He’d dump out the Legos, the trains and tracks, and I’d clean up the mess as son as he moved on to the next thing of interest.

I could blame my OCD nature. He didn’t clean up the “right” way. I could say it was too much of a hassle or that it took too long for him to do it.

But the truth was, I knew better.

One day my husband said matter-of-factly, “You have to let him start doing this,” and my mind flashed forward fifteen years. I could see myself hunched over, still picking those God-forsaken Legos off the floor.

I knew something had to change.

Is Winning Worth the Cost?

 “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” Proverbs 20:11 NIV

 A few days ago, my now seven-year-old entered his second pinewood derby race. With the exception of cutting the car, which he was too young to do, he made the entire vehicle himself.

Now, the rules for this race explicitly state for the kids to do “the majority of the work.” But as my husband and I have discovered, this rule is mostly overlooked. One glance down the row of cars with perfect paint jobs and precisely placed weights is a dead giveaway.

Needless to say, my son hasn’t won a trophy. And I am perfectly okay with that.

Sometimes, my competitive nature tries to get the better of me.

“Other parents are doing it,” I tell myself. “What’s the harm?”

As these questions play inside my head, I remind myself of the values I try to instill into my boys each day. This raising of kids isn’t for the faint of heart, and as much as I like winning, it just isn’t worth it.

When it comes to winning, losing, and all of the ground in-between, here are a few things my husband and I have learned along the way:

  1. Doing the work for your kid doesn’t teach them anything. Often, I want to swoop in and kick the ball, make the goal, read the book, or tell the other kid he has to befriend my son because of how great he is. But this type of behavior isn’t doing him any favors. Instead, it screams, “You aren’t capable of doing it yourself.”
  1. When they complete the task themselves, it instills confidence. Our son may not have won the race, but it was his car, his design, and his He designed his vehicle to look like Pap Pap’s truck. And he enjoyed every minute of it.
  1. When your kid does the work, winning is so much sweeter. I’ve seen my son win awards and accolades for work he’s done on his own. And the pride and confidence beaming from his entire body far exceeds anything I’ve seen when we do the work for him.
  1. If we break the rules, why should they follow them? Saying, “It’s just one rule,” or “Everyone else is doing it,” sets a precedent. Our kids are watching how we act closely. If we don’t want them to fall into the pattern of thinking the rules don’t apply to them, we have to model this behavior ourselves.

Raising kids is hard, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve failed more times than I can count. But I pick myself up, vow to learn from my mistakes and try again.

By God’s grace, I’m teaching my kids to do the same. But I can’t teach them to do something when I don’t allow them to try.

After the race, Daddy gave our little engineer some pointers on how to advance his car-building skills next year. And I have a feeling he won’t stay at the bottom for long.

 

Linking up with these communities: #IntentionalTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #CoffeeForYourHeart