Category Archives: Parenting

The Busy Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books 2016

It’s here! The most wonderful time of the year … to read!  Reading together is a favorite activity in our family, and over the years, reading aloud has become a cherished part of our family’s Christmas tradition.  I’ve spent years scoping out books at yard sales and thrift stores looking for hidden treasures to read to the kids. I won’t lie to you—I’ve also purchased some books that were total losers, and they ended right back where I found them.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I had a great response to the list of favorite Thanksgiving books last month, so I’ve compiled a few of our favorite Christmas books too, in case you needed some inspiration as you start or continue to build your own family library.
Remember, these books can be found at the library, thrift stores, eBay and a host of other places. If you’re like me, and you want to build a family library, make some room in your budget to purchase at least one or two every year. Those books will create their own special memories for you and your kids in the years to come.

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Coupla’ things before you see the list: I think moms need to be sneaky if they’re gonna teach their children to love to read. Sneaky moms put books everywhere.

Would you like your children to read more? You can put your Christmas books into a basket and simply put them in a cozy spot, complete with couch pillows and throw blankets. Don’t be surprised when you find the kids going back to those baskets over and over again.

Some ideas:
You could wrap each one, then pull out one each day to unwrap as you count down the days.  You could pick a few favorites that lend themselves to great crafts and make a special day out of each one—or— you could grab a few that specifically teach about some of the traditions in your home.  Keep it simple, busy mom!  (Remember: Your kids won’t miss what you don’t create an expectation for.)

And for the record:
I don’t do most of that stuff I just suggested. (sorry.)  I just put books in cozy places all over the house and when the opportunity arises, we read. Voila! Take the pressure off and enjoy this literature-rich season with your children— toddlers, tweens and even teens.  Here are just a few of our family faves. Merry Christmas!Read More

Favorite Thanksgiving Books for Families

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Yes!  Leaves are falling, candles are lit. Cider abounds. The ELECTION IS OVER! Bring it, holiday season! I’m ready for some good old fashioned holiday love. :)

I’m a little bit of a fanatic about Thanksgiving—because it allows us to be thankful for what we have without the pressure of gift exchanges. Thanksgiving offers us the chance to focus on what really matters in this life. To slow down. To reflect.

To be thankful.

Read More

Are You Desperate for Discernment in Your Mothering?

So what is discernment and how do we help our children be discerning? Spurgeon once said that

“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”

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Part of being discerning is asking God for wisdom when it comes to choosing the battles we engage in. So how can we know the difference between a battle and a war? What’s worth fighting over? How do you choose your battles carefully?

I wish I had a formula that I could write here for you. Honestly? It would sell more books! We would rather be told how to do something exactly right than take the time to listen for that “still small voice” most of the time. The truth is a lot harder than that. The truth is that the only way to know is walk in humble relationship with God.

When it comes to our children, mothers need to be tight with the Lord. Every day, we need nothing short of divine wisdom to help us navigate the rough waters of the culture. We need wisdom to discern a foolish action of a child from a rebellious one. One is childish, the other is sinful. One is a skirmish, the other leads to war.

Wise moms recognize their need for discernment, and they know where to find it. Discernment is not something we have apart from God; it is something we acquire as we walk closely with Him. If you’re in a struggle with one of your children, it’s time to get on your knees and ask God for wisdom and perspective for that child. God knows exactly what’s going on. He can give you the wisdom you need.

Instead of facing all the challenges and changes of motherhood on our own, we have the Creator Himself walking alongside us. Want to know what battles are worth fighting? Ask Him.

The Day I Had to Redefine My Weakness

Twenty-five years ago today, I was getting ready to have my first baby.

For two weeks, I’d been walking around Portland, 80% effaced and 4cm. No one seemed bothered by my 5’7 frame, waddling around the mall, trying to kickstart labor. No one seemed worried that I was a ticking pregnant time bomb, about to embark on a journey I felt utterly unprepared to take.

After all, everyone in my family knew I could not keep houseplants alive—and here I was, about to be responsible for another living human being.

My anxiety reached a boiling point when I was in my 38th week of pregnancy. Jay and I had just finished our last childbirth education class. You know—the one where they tell you that if you breathe right it won’t hurt. That one.

Our last class was over. We were as ready as we were going to be.

Bring it.

One by one, the women got up to leave, passing Nola on the way to the door. Nola was our childbirth educator. She hugged the sweet mamas and kissed their tummies as they left. She high-fived the dads and walked them to the door of her home. We liked Nola. We knew her from church, and the past few weeks had given me confidence that she was someone I could be real with. I waited until there was no one left in the room before I made eye contact with her.

When she sat down next to me, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I began to cry as I stared at my ridiculously oversized belly. “I’m afraid! I can’t do this!” I sobbed. Nola’s eyes were soft and comforting. “You are going to be fine,” she said quietly. “Your body was made for this.” Of course, she had no idea that the process of childbirth was not what I was afraid of.

My fears were much farther reaching. They threatened our future as a family and robbed me of peace. My father’s profound disappointment in who I was had shaped how I saw myself: destined to fail.

I felt weak. I feared I could not be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I feared I was destined to give my child the same upbringing I had. I feared I would lose my temper, even to the point of injuring this precious one I carried in me. I feared my baby would grow to fear me as I feared my father. I was almost desperate for someone else to be this baby’s mom.

The words just kept coming. I could not stop sobbing. There it was. My weakness was exposed, out there for everyone to see. Out in front of the curtain. And then—it happened.

God met me. There, in my weakness, He met me.

Nola laid her hands on my belly and looked softly at me. Her heart seemed to ache with mine.

“Oh Heidi!” she said. “Don’t you know who you are? You are NEW! God has made you new! You are a new creation and your baby is the beginning of the healing that is coming if you will let God in to the deep places in your heart. Do you trust Him? Do you believe it?”

I wanted to believe it. I was desperate for God. I cried out to Him, aware that something inside of me was beginning to break free. In that moment, when I let just one other person see the woman behind the curtain, God began a healing in my life that still continues today. Many years have passed since that moment, but I know my life took a turn that evening. I didn’t understand what Nola meant then but I knew I needed to cling to Jesus. If I was going to be strong, I needed to accept my weakness as opportunity to find God’s strength. I needed that strength to invade my heart, to comfort and heal me.

Are you there?  Desperate to name your weakness so God can meet you in it? He’s waiting. weakness-heidistjohn

Culture Creep and the Sidelining of Parents

Something sad and fascinating is happening to parents in this postmodern era. They’re being lied to. They’re being told that they aren’t necessary and what’s worse they’re buying the lie! After all, they say the “village” can do it better. Well, I’ve seen the village. I don’t want it raising my kids.
I call it “culture creep.” I live in a rural (well, it used to be rural) part of Washington State. Slowly but surely, urban sprawl has reached my town. I like the convenience that comes with it; for example, we just got Red Robin and Walmart last year… but I don’t like the traffic. I loathe the congested streets and long lines at the grocery store. I miss the “small town” feel that it used to have at Christmas and the 4th of July.
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Culture is the same way. Except that from what I can tell, we’re not benefitting one bit. There are no perks. The culture has it’s own agenda. Look carefully. It’s creeping up into places where parents should not want it to go.
 
Slowly but surely, culture is shutting parents out of what should be the parent’s primary place: decision makers in the lives of their children. Parents have the right and responsibility to know what is happening with their children.
 
Yesterday, I learned that Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland, in a effort to make their schools “safe spaces” for kids who identify as transgender, produced a training video, starring the district’s chief communications officer, Bob Mosier. The video surfaced a few days ago on The American Conservative, but was uploaded on YouTube in mid-July.

 In it, Mr. Mosier makes a few key suggestions to teachers and chaperones who take students on overnight trips—chief among them is the advice that if a transgender student wants to sleep with students of the opposite sex, just let them.
 
Oh, and pssst! By the way: since the school values the transgender student’s privacy, make sure no one tells the parents.
 
This is what I’m talking about.
Since when did we stop valuing a parent’s right to know what in the world is happening with their children? How can parents make wise decisions for their children if information is being purposely withheld from them? How can we protect our kids if we don’t know what they’re being taught or exposed to?
 
Parents today are being told that kids can make their own decisions (starting in elementary school) on everything from birth control to which gender they want to be. What used to be regarded as a parents responsibility is often seen as an infringement on the child.
 
Here in my state, simple tasks like looking at my 13 yr olds’ medical records require effort, persistence and even permission from my 13 year old. If we want to stay in the race and finish it well, we must refuse to be sidelined. Moms who go the distance possess a willingness to endure rather than become a passive onlooker in the lives of their children.
 
I understand that there are abuse situations that require different measures, but shutting healthy parents out of the lives of their kids is not the solution. Keeping parents from knowing what is happening with their children at school should not be commonplace! It should be a crime.
 
When the world says “give up” or “it’s not your business,” I challenge you to stand up for the sake of your child. Go ahead and risk being annoying. Be the mom who knows the names of your child’s friends. Be the mom who asks the hard questions and loves unconditionally.  Be the mom who refuses to be sidelined and instead guides her child in the way of Truth through every stage of growing up, including adolescence.
Our kids need their parents. They don’t need the government or the school system to teach them about the big things in life, they need their parents.
And parents? Today’s parents need the wisdom of Solomon. They need the wisdom that comes straight from God Himself.

The Lie of Ordinary Motherhood

Last week, in a moment of desperation and frustration, I looked at my husband and lamented, “I live in a state of constantly disappointing someone!” That’s how I felt after forgetting to get back to one of my grown children about a coffee date while simultaneously being behind in everything from laundry to dinner prep.

And yes. I have helpers. The kitchen helper complained that her chores were too much, and one of my teens blurted something out about being “ruined” due to homeschooling.

I’d love to tell you that I reacted positively to these minor challenges, but I didn’t. I retreated to my room and hosted my own pity party.

It felt good, actually.  Forget those kids! They can make their own dinner tonight! For that matter, they can do it for the REST OF THEIR LIVES! Our ten year old poked her head into my room and observed that I was “in a bad mood.” She was right. I was.

“I’m just a mom!” I complained. I can’t keep up. Why am I even doing this? Who cares?

For those few hours last week, I forgot I was part of a battle.

I have discovered that where mothers are concerned, the devil doesn’t need to change tactics very often. One of his favorite tactics is to tell mothers this simple lie, “You’re just a mom.”

Have you ever heard the enemy whisper the lie in your ear?

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Here’s the truth: There’s no such thing as just a mom.

Many moms believe this lie because they don’t realize the implications it carries with it.

See if you can see the danger of the lie. If I am “just a mom,” then

  • I’m not part of a battle.
  • I’m not capable of training warriors.
  • my role is insignificant.
  • it doesn’t matter if I’m strong or not.
  • my role is replaceable.
  • my role is just for one generation.
  • my walk with God is not important.
  • the spiritual battle doesn’t include me.

Can you see the risk in believing the lie?

There is no such thing as “just a mom.” Mothers are literally shaping the hearts and minds of an entire generation of children. Moms matter, and the devil knows it. This is why he works overtime to discourage Christian moms from taking an active part in the spiritual nurturing of their children.

Honestly? We can’t afford to let Satan lie to us any longer. Too much is at stake. We’re dealing with more lies in this generation than in the past sixty years—and it’s time to put this one to bed for good.

You’re more than “just a mom.” You’re more than “ordinary.” You’re ordained for the kingdom purpose of raising your children to follow God.

That means you’re a warrior. Stay in the fight!

What I Want Them to Remember When I’m Gone

A few weeks ago, I was making dinner for a family in our church that has been dealing with some undiagnosed health struggles.  My daughter came in to ask what I was doing, and as I explained the situation to her, I thought to myself, “I want them to know this was important to me.  I want them to remember that their mama loved people.”  There are so many things in our days that I hope they don’t remember as the big issues of life.  I hope they don’t remember that I sometimes love my sleep more than I love them.  And sometimes, I seem like I love my clean house more than I love them.  As I finished cooking, I continued to mull over this thought.  What do I really want them to remember about me?  I do want them to remember that I love people.  But what if their gifting doesn’t lend them to hospitality and service?  What if people are tiring and loving others is a challenge to them?  I still want them to remember that I loved people, but there’s more.

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I want them to know that I loved them.  Hard.  I hope they know that I loved them more than I ever knew was possible in my body.  But, even that is not enough.  Because while I hope they know that they are loved by me for every breath they take, what about the day that I am gone?  What does that leave them with beyond a memory?  A legacy, I hope.  A love that teaches them how to love others, and builds confidence in them; I pray it gives them that.  But will that change their life?  Give them strength and vision for their hard days and the calling God puts on their life?  Maybe in some ways.

But still, my love is not enough for them.  But there is a love that is.  And that is what I hope they remember, and know without a shadow of a doubt.  I hope that one day, when they think about their mama, they can say, “My mama?  She loved Jesus.  With everything she had.  Loving Jesus made her love us, and other people, and our daddy with strength only He can give.  She loved us, and sometimes she yelled, and sometimes she chose the wrong things, and she wasn’t perfect.  But she loved Jesus.”

I hope that one day my kids want to be like me.  I hope I give them an example they want to follow.  But if He calls my sweet girl to a life of singleness and missionary life in another country, I don’t want her to be floundering for how to live life because she just wanted to love her kids like her mama did.  And if my boy is introverted and struggles to love people, I don’t want him to feel like he’s failing.  I hope and pray that they go after Jesus with all their heart, soul and strength.  That they can say to themselves “In living this life, I’m gonna love Jesus. No matter what.  Just like my mama did.”