Parents Need to Stretch Too

Back in December I posted two blogs talking about Stretching Without Breaking – how to help your children grow and stretch while journeying into adulthood.  Since then, I have realized that there is a third element to that growing and stretching process.

Just as it is important to show your children compassion and encouragement during their journey, all while striving to preserve their emotional well-being, the third aspect is to show, by example, some stretching and growing yourself.  As adults, we still are being stretched and challenged, sometimes on a daily basis.  It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones as adults – using excuses like lack of time or denying ourselves opportunities so that our children can experience richer and more meaningful childhood experiences, etc.  However, I think it’s vital to our children to see that we as adults are still willing to take chances, step out of comfort zones and try new things, and be challenged as opportunities arise.

I have been challenging myself in different areas lately and it’s fun to watch the reactions my children have.  One thinks it’s exciting, one is surprised I would try it, and the other is too young to realize I haven’t done it my whole life.  It’s a great learning opportunity for our kids to see us push ourselves in ways they didn’t think we could, doing things we thought we wouldn’t like, and maybe figuring out we still don’t like some of those things or finding something new we absolutely love.

Sometimes the stretching can involve the whole family:  Trying something new on vacation like going to a new place and experiencing new sites and sound or mixing the familiar and comfortable with one new and exciting element.  All of these things can help show our kids that there is excitement, adventure, and fun if we just look for it.

Time constraints and lack of getting into shape this year caused me to miss out on one opportunity I really want to challenge myself with.  However, I’m planning and taking steps to make that a reality next year instead.  But even this missed opportunity shows my kids that sometimes stretching requires a little more planning, a lot of hard work, and some training in order to achieve or reach whatever area you are stretching toward.

So my challenge to you today is this:  What is one area of your life where you can stretch a little bit, either involving the entire family or an individual goal that you have put off, a “bucket list” of sorts?  Whatever activity, goal, or interest you pursue, it will be a great example for your kids knowing that stretching can continue well into adulthood and beyond and that half the fun of living is to continually challenge yourself to be the best you can be all while having fun in the process.

In Him

I Kings 3:9: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

When I realize the truth that every day is a blessing from God and being allowed to enjoy the simple pleasures in life such as family, friends, health, and a job are also blessings directly from my Heavenly Father, it allows me a different perspective.  I find my days go a lot better when I first give them to God, asking Him to show me what He wants me to do and how He wants me to do it.  I seem to get a lot more accomplished and I’m more peaceful during the process.

Little annoyances don’t bother me as much as they would normally.  If my plans are changed, instead of having the attitude of, “Seriously?,” I think, “Okay, what disaster did you help me avoid?” or “How do you want to use me in this situation?”

I find that I’m more tuned in to others feelings and needs instead of trying to fulfill my own.  I have more energy, more joy, and overall am just more relaxed.  I definitely use more of the “nice voice” with my kids instead of the “mean voice,” and I’m quicker to laugh at myself and my mistakes and slower to get angry at “perceived wrongs.”

I’m not saying that just by starting my day with God in meaningful quiet time that my days go perfectly, I never have disappointments, and stress no longer exists.  No, that will only occur when I finally make it to Heaven someday.  But, when the little annoyances of life try to sabotage my peace, by looking at life through God’s perspective and trusting that He will equip me with whatever I need brings about a peace that is so deep that it could only come from my Heavenly Father, the One who loves me more than anyone else.

What Will I Choose?

“…everyday we make little decisions that will either lead us closer to or further away from the big successes we all want.”  (Kent Julian at

Life is full of choices.  I have to admit, I have gotten into the pattern of not always making the best choices.  I’ve gotten lazy.  I’ve been stressed and busy and instead of always striving to do my best, I’ve cut corners.  I woke up one day and realized that creates bad habits that are hard to break.  When I do that long enough, it becomes less about cutting corners and more about a pattern in my life I don’t like very much.

Recently I was reminded of a truth I had heard last fall at a conference.  Kent Julian was one of the speakers and he made a comment that got me thinking.  He started by asking the question, “Where do I want to be in five years?”  The choices are endless.  I could add to my family, be in better shape through consistent diet and exercise, or earn a degree in a field that I love…the list is endless.  He then made the statement that in five years I will be older.  I can be five years closer to what I want to achieve, or I can be five years further away from my ultimate dream.  Either way, in five years I will have moved in some direction.  What is my choice?

That brings me back to the present.  I woke up one morning this summer and broke that statement down a little more.  I had goals for this summer, lofty ones.  Some that would require hard work to achieve.  And, I did a little assessment on how I’m doing toward those goals.  Some of them I’m achieving with flying colors.  Others are taking a little longer than I originally planned, but forward progress is still being made. And then others, the really tough ones, it seems as though I’m either going backwards or barely gaining any ground.

Isn’t that how it is in life?  Time doesn’t stand still.  I can always say, “I’ll start tomorrow,” but unless I start making little decisions on a daily basis toward my goal, tomorrow will never come.  It’s the little decisions done consistently over time that add up to big changes that will eventually help me reach my goal.

What about you?  How are you doing?  Is there one area of your life that you would like to see success, not fleeting success, but true change that sticks?  Maybe if we work together on making little changes consistently we will both be able to rejoice five years from now as our life will look more the way we envision it and less the way it did before we implemented the positive changes.

As Is

Exodus 34:6: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,


In the past when I have really screwed up, and I knew that I couldn’t change through my own strength, the most logical step would be to go to God and ask for His help.  However, I can’t tell you how many times I would run in the opposite direction instead.  I was usually so frustrated, fed up, or ashamed with myself that instead of turning to the One person who could give me comfort and honestly help me change my behavior, I turned away.  Why is that?

Why did I feel the need to make myself perfect, fix my mistakes, or correct my bad behavior on my own?  Instead of standing in front of the One that can make all things new and admitting my mistake, I felt the need to “fix myself,” believing that I wasn’t good enough to stand before the One who is perfect.

However, my thinking couldn’t have been further from the truth.  You see, God wants me to come before Him with all my mistakes.  In fact, He goes one step further.  In Psalm 34:18, it says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  You see, God wants us (you, me, the cashier at Meijer) to come to Him as we are.  He doesn’t need or want us to “fix ourselves up” in order to stand before Him and ask for help.

Another way to look at this is through the eyes of a child.  Some children will quickly confess a wrongdoing.  His parent will get the whole version of what happened, why it happened, how it shouldn’t have happened, and who else it happened too.  Usually, this child has been in trouble quite often and realizes that the punishment will be less (or even sometimes nonexistent) if the truth is told upfront and responsibility is taken.

Other children are more like me.  She would rather hide her sin, stay under the radar.  This child  hopes her parents won’t notice that the chocolate cake has a rather big hole missing, the lampshade is tilted at a very odd angle, or the kitchen floor really should have red spots dotted all around (interestingly the same shade as the family’s Kool-Aid).

God wants us all to be more like the first child.  He wants us to come to Him with confidence, ready to admit that we’re wrong, ready to ask forgiveness, and ready for His advice to get out of this tangled web that we somehow got ourselves into.

What is your preferred style when you find yourself in situations that are messier than you originally thought?  Do you reach out for God’s offered hand, or you do try to climb out yourself?  From my experience, it’s a lot more peaceful and a lot more effective to take His hand, sooner rather than later.

Want Versus Need

Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

We have recently moved our littlest out of his crib and into his big boy bed.  I forgot how much I hated starting over in the sleep department, but who am I kidding?  He never has slept as well as his siblings so we were still a work in progress.  But, as we now start the new fight of keeping him in his bed, I found myself saying the other day, “It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you need,” in response to his wanting to get up for the fortieth time.

That got me thinking.  How many of us live our lives striving for what we want instead of what we need?  I know that I’m just as guilty of that as our son.  I think it’s a natural instinct.  I want chips, cookies, and candy, even though I need to stop eating before I get a stomachache.  I want to stay up and watch TV with my husband, but I really need to go to bed since 3:30 a.m. comes too early.  I want that extra pair of shoes, but I need to have money this month to pay for summer camp.  I want to be lazy, but I need to exercise so I have energy to get my work done.

I think its human nature to take the easy road, for our automatic response to be the “easy button.”  However, God wants more for us than that.  He wants us to look at the big picture.  He wants us to live a life of obedience.  He wants us, in faith, to turn to Him to supply our needs.  He wants us to trust Him and to make decisions that are Biblically based.

So, the next time I am at war with myself about whether or not to have a smorgasbord of food when my stomach only needs a salad, I’m going to remember what I told my son, “It’s not about what I want, it’s about what I need.”  Hopefully then I will be at peace that I’m living the life God designed for me, willingly taking care of the wants, trusting God to supply any needs that He desires – maybe even sometimes in the form of a concrete mixer at Culver’s.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

I Samuel 16:7:  “…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV)

My kids are always joking that when I eventually die (hopefully not for a long, long time), they will remember me as someone who loved coffee.  One of our daughter’s first words was “Iced Mocha.”  However, as much as I don’t mind being remembered for how much I love coffee (and I do), I want them to remember more one important message:  I care more about the condition of their heart than I do their actions.

One message that my husband and I repeatedly talk about in our house is the reason behind what is done.  We know our kids will make mistakes, and they know that.  We tell them repeatedly that we don’t want perfect children – who would?  I need a little more adventure in life than that.  What we do want is integrity and our kids working toward having the right heart attitude.

We realize that being caught in disobedience is not a fun place to be.  Our kids are starting to realize they will get off the hook much easier when they own their mistake, do what they can to make it right, and then we all move on.  They will have a much tougher and longer consequence if we are addressing not just the mistake but a bad heart attitude as well.  Then there will be consequences for both the original offense and the offense of trying to cover it up or put the blame on someone else.  Sometimes, to their surprise, if they own up to their fault in the beginning, they will have no consequence at all.

That’s the way my husband and I try to live our lives.  We’re not perfect either and we try not to pretend that we are.  When we make a mistake, we admit our fault.  We take responsibility for our part and do what we can to make it right, again, not always perfectly.  That is what we feel God calls us to do, and therefore, it is important to us that our children learn that lesson now instead of later.

Admitting your wrong is uncomfortable.  It’s definitely not what society teaches.  It’s easier to pass the blame to someone else, usually an innocent victim, or come up with lots of reasons to validate why a particular action was necessary.  Some people have a true gift of putting some sort of spin on their deed to make it seem almost a crime not to have made that decision.

I would rather tell the truth.  I would rather teach my kids to tell the truth, not just when it’s easy but especially when it’s hard.  Even if it means someone will be mad at them.  Even if means there is a consequence to pay.  I answer to only One and He can see my heart all the time – whether I hide it from others or expose it out in the open.  Because of that, I can only have real peace when I’m living the truth all the time.  It’s not always easy, but it’s the best way.  That is what I hope my children remember about me – that the condition of the heart is more important than my actions, even if they picture me saying it with a cup of coffee in my hand.

Mirror Image

I Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Mike works at lot of overtime.  One explanation could be that he is a dedicated employee and has a strong work ethic.  However, a different reason could be that Mike is lazy and would rather sit in his office shuffling papers but not really being productive so that his wife is left doing the household chores and raising their children.

The same scenario can have two very different motives, but to the casual observer, each reason has the same outward appearance.

Isn’t that how life works?  Staying late at work can make you the hero in the office, but you are really trying to get out of mowing the grass at home.  When you joke with your circle of friends that your husband doesn’t know which end of the screwdriver to use it can seem funny, when in reality you are trying to get back at him for not taking out the trash last night.  How about assigning your children extra chores around the house with the excuse that you are teaching them responsibility when honestly you just hate vacuuming.

It’s easy to manipulate people regarding your motive since the same action can look very different when the tone of your voice or a facial expression is tweaked.  However, even though people are easily swayed, God can never be deceived.  God knows our heart and the real reason behind our actions.

It’s important to line up the reasons we do things with what we are doing.  God would rather we say no to serving on the PTA for the seventh year in a row than to lie and say our great grandmother is sick, and “going to die soon. ”  He would also rather we honestly tell our kids, “I hate vacuuming – let’s negotiate,” instead of pretending we are teaching responsibility.

The more authentic and honest we are with ourselves, the easier it is to be honest with others.  By taking that approach, we won’t always get what we want, but we can at least close our eyes at night with the assurance that we didn’t lie, we didn’t try to make ourselves look better than we really are, and when we are complimented, it’s for something we really did, not what someone thought we did.  Knowing that God is pleased that my actions and my intent line up is the best feeling of all!

Spaghetti Squash

Mark 10:7-8: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

We started growing spaghetti squash for the first time this year.  As it grows, it spreads out so that it’s hard to tell where the roots are versus the vines, making it a little difficult to know I’m watering the right part.

I started to think about my marriage.  My husband is the root (the head of our household) and I am the vine (the helpmate, his partner).  I want to have the kind of marriage where my husband and I both receive the right amount of sun (Son) and water (God’s word) in our lives to help us grow, interconnect, and thrive.  I want us to work together as a united front to help our fruit (children) grow and blossom down their own individual paths.  I want one of our purposes in life to be to spread in various directions serving others and ministering as a couple and individually.  Lastly, I feel it’s important for us to make time to enrich ourselves individually, all while staying closely connected to each other, and most importantly, to God himself.  That is the picture of a true partnership for me.

What about you?  Would you consider your marriage to be spaghetti squash?  Are you raising your children as a united front, allowing them to grow and blossom, taking time to better yourself as an individual, and then reaching out to serve others together as a couple?  If not, what can you do to move a little closer in that direction?

When we started our garden this spring, I never thought that the spaghetti squash was all that terrific, but I’m starting to think it might just be my favorite vegetable.

Corn versus Cucumbers

Matthew 23:12: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

I realized something this past weekend.  Corn stalks look strong, like a tree trunk, but in actuality, they are really quite weak.  The littlest amount of pressure can either bend them, or completely break them off.

That got me thinking about that bully at your child’s school, the annoying co-worker who constantly needles your faith or your clothes or your preference for music, not to mention the road rage driver, crabby waitress, or nosy neighbor.  Are all these people really that strong, or are they more like corn stalks and when a little pressure is applied, their value and character crumbles?

Cucumber vines, on the other hand, are quite sturdy.  There vines look delicate and fragile, including the beautiful flowers, but they are tough.  They grow up, around, under, and through just about anything.  And, to try and break a vine off or unravel it from a fence requires a little bit of muscle.

I want to be less like a corn stalk and more like a cucumber vine.  I want to be someone who is delicate and sweet on the outside but has a sturdy base formed by strong character.  I want to be someone who doesn’t sway easily regarding my convictions but is still willing to listen to other people’s opinions.  I want to be someone who will stand up for what I believe in but does it without bulldozing over people or their feelings.  I want to be someone who is the same at home as I am with my friends as I am when I’m worshipping – that people will know who I am no matter what environment they happen to find me in.

So…The next time someone frustrates me in life or comes across as a little overbearing, I am going to ask myself the question if they are a corn stalk or a cucumber vine.  Only really looking at the “produce” of their life will give me the answer.  It might mean I have to take some time to get to know them, or at least give them the benefit of the doubt until their character is revealed.  Eventually, their true self won’t be able to hide.  Hmmmm….now that’s food for thought!


Invoice or Love Letter

“Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word tells me that I am a letter being read by everyone. I pray that I won’t be junk mail today. I pray that I won’t be like a bill making people feel like they owe me. I pray that I will be a love letter, a thank you note, and an invitation to celebrate life.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.”  (


Wow – After the day I had earlier this week, the prayer above really convicts me.  I could blame it on the Heatwave, excessive stress, change in routine, any number of things.  Honestly, though, it all boils down to me making the choice to let my emotions have the best of me.  I wasn’t only miserable myself, but I managed to spread my bad mood to those I love the most too.

I think God showed me that prayer on purpose today.  You see, I realized yesterday, even as I was saying the words in a not-so-nice tone, how I sounded and how unfair I was being.  So, last night, I first asked forgiveness from my Heavenly Father for being such a poor example to those He entrusted to me as well as those unfortunate souls who happened to cross my path.  Then I apologized to my kids themselves for being “the wicked witch of the mid-West.”

This morning, I was determined to have a different sort of day.  I asked questions instead of accused, found things to compliment my kids about instead of criticizing, and even though it’s my job to keep my children focused on “completing tasks to their best ability,” I chose the better way to go about that goal.

When I opened the cupboard to grab a container and everything fell out on top of me, my response was much different this morning than it would have been yesterday.  Did I let my kids off the hook for their laziness?  No, but I was very clear in my expectations, delivered with love this time.  Does that mean that they were thrilled to hear the message today because it was told in a different tone of voice?  No, but that isn’t the point.

I am realizing, and the prayer above just reemphasizes, that it is my responsibility to show this world an accurate example of Christ’s love.  I am God’s letter.  If I am going to proclaim that I am a Christ follower, then I need to show Christ in my life always, not just when my hair looks good, the scale shows numbers I like, and the temperature is in the low 80s with a breeze.  I will even take my convictions one step further.  I think it’s more important to show Christ when in the middle of a Heatwave, my stress level is through the roof, or Murphy’s Law has decided to set up camp in my front yard.  People who are looking to see if Christ is the answer to their life are going to look, probably doubly hard, at how a Christ follower handles life on a day-by-day basis, during good and bad days.  And, even though I won’t get it right all the time, I pray that I’m learning from my mistakes (like yesterday) and will do better the next time.  After all, I don’t want to be accused of false advertising.