Category Archives: Parenting

One By One, It Will Get Done

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. ” Prov. 6:6

Tessa has always been organizationally challenged. That’s a tactful way to say that her room is in a constant state of chaos. (Do I dare say she gets it from her mom?)

Periodically I send her to her room and yell, “Don’t come out until it’s clean!” Two hours later she’s out, but what does she have to show for all that time? Nothing. Still a disaster.

Tessa has been busy all that time, but she keeps getting distracted. She unearths and works on a craft project, writes a few paragraphs when she runs into her journal, dresses her American Girl doll with the outfit she finds under her bed. But her room is still not clean.

I doubt the momma ant has any problem with a kid’s messy room. Have you ever watched ants? It took just a few bites to the backs of my legs to look closely before I sit on the ground when gardening. Ant hills are remarkable. Those tiny little creatures are able to create huge colonies. And they do it by moving one grain of sand at a time.

The “ant” method worked to help Tessa clean her room. When I help her focus on one thing at a time, miraculously she is able to get the room clean. It goes like this: “Pick up all your dirty clothes. Now pick up all the books. Done? Now put all the American Girl stuff into its storage container. Done? Now put all hair bands in the drawer.” And so on. What was once an overwhelming, unachievable task is conquered by focusing on and finishing one thing at a time.

I have several projects in the works, including a book, several articles, this blog, and a “conversation starter” game/activity. Each project has value. At the heart of each one is relief for parents who feel unequipped to initiate spiritual leadership in their homes. Each gives moms the tools and confidence to saturate their children in the truth of the Bible.

Like Tessa, I’m struggling with getting any of it done. I get distracted. I flit from project to project. Do a little on this project, then a little on that project. And none of the projects are getting done.

One thing at a time. One project at a time. Like the ant, one grain of sand, then another. A page here, a sentence there. Before I know it, I’ll be done. Just like the ant.

What are you working on? Do you have a bunch of unfinished projects in the works?

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Teen Tests Parents’ Faith

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”  Galatians 6:9

I hesitantly logged in to the school’s online gradebook. One click later, tears welled up in my eyes. It was worse than I had feared. Just six weeks before the end of the school year, and my 14-year old son’s grades had plummeted again. This time they had hit bottom.

I know I’m not alone–parents have survived their teens for centuries. But it’s so easy to guilt ourselves into the “If only…” trap. If only I had checked his grades earlier, if only I had intervened more aggressively back in 5th grade, if only he hadn’t fallen out of the shopping cart and landed on his head as a toddler… just kidding. But sometimes I question every word I have spoken, every battle I have ignored, every action, every reaction, every aspect of my parenting.

Since the fifth grade, the downward spiral of my son’s grades have become dangerous, and the discussions about his homework louder and more frequent. A modest effort yields As and Bs—he has proven that many times.

There’s the stigma of having a child with poor grades. I know the focus should not be on me, but rather on how to get my son through this season and successfully into adulthood with our relationship intact. I hope my sanity will also be intact.

And then I struggle with imposing my own values on my children. I put a high value on academics, so his lack of caring about anything intellectual is especially disturbing. My motto is, “What can I do to become better?” His seems to be “How can I get away with doing absolutely nothing?”

Let’s not forget about falling into the trap of comparing my son to other boys his age. I wince when other proud parents report that their children take some personal responsibility for getting their homework done, studying for tests and playing sports. But, unlike his friends, he’s satisfied just standing on the sidelines. It requires no work. While his friends are training, reading, studying, succeeding, he’s… not. By choice. Apparently he doesn’t want to do anything that requires any kind of effort.

The worst aspect, though, is the shattered dream. I had expectations, dreams, of what our family would look like when we got to this day. My dream didn’t include a white picket fence, but it did include a close, caring family. Parents and children who have faults, but who love each other, and laugh together. In my dreams, I saw our family interacting with respect, understanding and caring toward each other. My son used to be like that. Now? He doesn’t want to be within 50 feet of us. When did he start disliking us, and why?

When I entered parenthood, I anticipated that my son would begin pulling away from his parents when he reached the teen years. It’s normal and natural. But I thought that meant he would venture out on his own more frequently. Demonstrate independent thinking. Rely on his parents less and less. I thought we would start treating him more like an adult, and he would start behaving more like an adult. More decisions, more freedom. I didn’t anticipate that he would completely reject anything related to our family.

I’m just as upset at myself for my behavior (labeling, comparing, imposing my values and dreams), as I am at my son for his behavior.

But here’s the truth. When we don’t get what we asked for, when our dreams don’t come true, don’t we get upset? Don’t we feel that we’ve done something wrong? Something that’s keeping us from God’s blessing. Not getting what we want tends to rattle our faith.

And the opposite is true, too. We believe that when we are faithful, when we’re obedient, when we do the right thing, don’t we expect that life is going to turn around for us? That God is going to deliver his blessings? Our kids will turn around. Our marriage will get easier. We’ll land the “right” job.

We must look at the process, not the end result. Our faith must rest on God’s identity, not his activity.

God promised a harvest of blessings. I’ll keep doing what is good, and what is right, and I won’t give up. I will reap that promised harvest. I have surrendered the dream of what, exactly, that harvest will look like. I won’t ask when that harvest will be delivered. God promises that there will be a harvest that is pleasing to him, and that’s good enough for me.

It’s the process that’s important. So I’ll never give up.

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God, Is That You?

Key Verse: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21

My then four-year old daughter’s eyes sparkled; her laughter rang throughout the long hallway at the high school. “Look, Mommy! I’m walking backwards,” she laughed. As she veered recklessly out of control, I said, “I’ll tell you which way to go. Follow my voice.”

Instantly she looked over her shoulder and turned the wrong way, bumping into the lockers jutting out from the wall. She just laughed and kept on. With each near-miss, she veered off in another direction, bouncing around the hallway, out of control like a ball in a pinball machine.

I said, “Listen to my voice. I can see what’s ahead, and I’ll tell you which way to go.” Then she stopped looking over her shoulder, looked intently into my eyes and listened to my instructions. “Go right. Now go straight. Sharply to your left.” She did as she was told, and giggling all the way, safely walked backwards the rest of the way out of the building.

Like my daughter, many of us have a difficult time trusting anything other than our own instinct. It’s against our nature to take instructions without knowing what’s ahead of us, or why we’re being told to do something. We would rather stumble over a few obstacles on our own than to trust someone else’s instructions.

Most of the time God doesn’t speak to us audibly. But we know what God has to say. The Bible tells us what is true and right, and guides us in how we should live. If we don’t spend time reading God’s Word, how can we recognize his voice when he speaks?

What should you do when God speaks? Like Samuel, say, “Speak, Lord, I’m listening!” (1 Sam. 3:10) Then listen and trust God to direct you to the right or to the left. God knows the way, and will guide you through all the twists and turns of life.

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