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Dear Momma | Parenting With Courage and Saying No

Somehow, in our world, we’ve gotten the idea that saying “no,” that disagreeing, is a bad thing.  We forget that when our babies are little, saying “no” to playing with the electrical outlet, to running into the street without us, to going in over over our heads when we can’t swim, is necessary for survival.  We begin to think, early on, that being “friends” means nodding blithely to everything our children ask.  We don’t want to upset them, we don’t want them to think we’re not their allies, and we definitely don’t want them to think we are “strict” compared to other parents.  Somehow, we start to believe that parenting with courage  is a bad thing.

 

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We get scared that telling kids no is bad parenting.

 

I’ve written before about fear in parenting.  I think it’s our own insecurity raising its ugly head, when we hesitate to do the hard thing because we’re afraid of our children being upset at us.  But what is it that makes us think, in our world, and even within the realm of those who claim to be Christians (meaning, proclaim to follow Christ, using the Bible as their authority for life), that “saying no,” or drawing a line in the sand, is a bad thing?

 

My dad and I have a wonderful relationship.  As adults, both my husband and I can call on him for wise advice, and we can also be sure that he will challenge us when he disagrees with us, or believes we are making a decision that will bring us, or someone else, harm.  My dad and I also thrive on the occasional good-natured debate.  (Not everyone in our family does, so sometimes it’s a source of irritation!)  Not long ago, we discussed for a second time our decision to go through a “Whole 30” challenge as a family, including talking with our then-7-year-old son about choosing not to have a traditional, refined-sugar-sweetened, artificially-colored birthday cake.  We made a modification and made him a naturally sweetened dessert with a very small list of ingredients.  It was an emotional decision for us as parents and for our little boy, but it led to some beautiful discussion with him, and as a family, about self-control, about choosing restraint for long-term good, and about how sometimes “saying no” is an act of love.

 

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It’s ok to say no to the child you love.  In fact, telling kids no can sometimes be the best way to love them.

 

My dad disagreed with our “Whole 30” decision, respectfully.  A year after that birthday, we were again discussing our choice to say no to our son, and my dad’s grandpa-heart firmly opposed what he thought might have been a wrong decision.  He and I talked at length about our reasoning, and we came to one mutual thought:

 

It is odd that making healthy decisions, or decisions for their protection, in our childrens’ lives is sometimes viewed as deprivation.

 

Think about it!  Why in the world would my fellow mom think it was bad for me to tell my child no to a treat that could damage his immune system, cause tummy distress, cause behavior issues, and interrupt healthy eating patterns?  Please, don’t get me wrong.  We choose “junk” plenty of times.  We hit up a local fast food joint last night on the way home from a weekend at the shore, and my kids were as happy as clams.  I chose to wait and make my own meal at home, but the occasional splurge is a choice we can make.  And in other situations, why would another parent think I was “weird” for saying no to an activity for our teen that we knew held risk for their heart and moral character?

 

I think the root of criticism for other parents is often that when another person makes a decision different from ours, it somehow makes us doubt our own choices.

Instead of then questioning our choices in a healthy way, we feel threatened and want to attack the one who parents differently.  Or, instead of standing firm in our choice to parent our child in a given situation, in what we know to be the wisest and most loving way, we doubt ourselves, for fear of what they, or another parent, may think.

Criticizing other parents is a huge problem on its own, but I’m talking about daring to do the hard things for the love of our children, and not letting ourselves be bound by our own fear.  While of course we all know that we have to FIRMLY teach our children to keep their fingers (and other objects) out of the electrical sockets, we have to hold fast to our confidence as parents (and as Christian parents, to the confidence we have in the God who has given us instruction through His word), even as our children grow.

 

 

Our own parenting is adapting by the day in our current season.  We have children ages 8-19, and in seasons from grade school to work-and-higher-education.  We are constantly having to shift and adjust to parenting them with varying levels of authority.  But no matter what ages our children are, we cannot parent them from fear.

 

No matter what season of parenting we are in, we have to be courageous to parent our children with love and truth.

 

Sometimes, parenting with love and truth means saying just plain “NO.”

 

Do you ever struggle with fear as a parent?  Do you worry what other parents might think, or do you tend to criticize another parent when they make a choice different from your own?  Be encouraged, friend.  You haven been called to parent your children, and in Christ, you have all you need for the wisdom to do that in grace, with courage, and in love.

 

I’d love to hear how you walk this season as a parent, or how you’re being challenged as you do!  Would you share in the comments?

 

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Love In the Weeds – Finding Hope in the Seasons of Marriage

We were there to photograph my daughter and her friend, wanting to bless the friend with lovely images of herself. We wanted to capture a budding friendship, and create images for each girl to shine a light on her inner (and outer) beauty, and we brought our family so we could enjoy a sunflower field at the same time. It was unseasonably warm, and ever-the-over-planner-optimist, I’d hoped to capture some family images and a new headshot all on the same day.  But sweating while I carried gear (with plenty of help), and lacking artistic focus except for in the favor of the girls, I was giving up hope of the second goal I had.  Busy appreciating their youthful beauty, I self-criticized.  I didn’t feel pretty, and being in front of the camera did NOT sound fun.  I’m not gonna lie: I was having one of those self-centered, pouty moments, when hope in marriage seems fragile and elusive.

 

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“Go stand over there, mama,” my girl said. She instructed her dad to join me.  May I add that sweating profusely while standing among fields of sunflowers (mixed, surely, with the inevitable weeds) does NOT make me feel romantic, either?

 

She wouldn’t budge, though.  She took a moment and knotted my hair into some bohemian on-the-fly up-do, and she touched up my lipstick.  She used her shirt sleeve to dab the “glisten” on my nose.  And then she told me to snuggle with her dad.

 

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For just a few minutes, I forgot that I was hot and bothered, feeling chubby and disheveled, and let myself relax into my husband’s arms.  I let myself feel the way I’ve always wanted my photography clients to feel: free from the “weeds” of the everyday, and in love with the guy who won my heart all those years ago.  I felt like “his girl,” and I felt pretty in his eyes.

 

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For just a few minutes, while our youngest kiddos and my daughter’s teenage friend tried to ignore our “mush,” I melted into the moment, and I let our daughter remind me of one of the things in this life that really matters: the commitment of two people to “make it work” over decades, despite our individual and mutual brokenness, for a bigger purpose than ourselves.

 

By pushing me to get outside myself, my daughter reminded me that the fragile gift of hope in marriage is worth nurturing.  It sets an example for the generation to come.

 

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We’re in a season of transition as a family. My oldest two are exploring their next steps in growing and pursuing their calling. They’re primarily living in other states, thankfully close together and pursuing relationship with each other. I’ve never been the mom who couldn’t wait for them all to leave, and I’d be lying if I said their leaving didn’t leave a hole in my heart and in our home and rhythm as a family.  (Ask me sometime about the big, wretched ugly-cry that shocked me when my second headed off to hike the Appalachian Trail).  But something really cool has happened along the way.

 

I’ve been “surprised by joy,” as C.S. Lewis would say, in the changing rhythms of our family.

 

There’s a new type of interaction happening, between us as parents and our children, and between our kids, themselves. It wouldn’t be hard, though, for me to fall into a type of mourning, a grey-state, that shadowed the sunlight of what’s happening in our home. The ones still living and studying daily with us, their parents with a new type of attention to give, are both grieving with us at the parting of their siblings, and reveling in the sweetness of our ever-changing daily life.  Stopping to melt into that is a gift, for me and for them.

 

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Heaven knows, life is full of fields of weeds.  From our inner mess to the mess in our world, it would be so easy to lose ourselves in a cloud of resigned survival.  But I’m so thankful that my Papa uses my family to make me stop and melt into the moment.  I’m praying that with or without a sunflower field, I will remember to seek the heart of my husband with tenderness and grace, to find the romance in the everyday.

 

How do you stop and melt into the moments, finding hope in marriage and love in the weeds?

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No Fear (Christian Young Adult Book Review)

“The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” – Oswald Chambers

 

Recently, my kids and I traveled to our state capitol to join thousands of others who gathered to pray for our country.  I am very focused, as a parent, on equipping my children to impact their world positively, in ways that call them to courage and integrity.  As Franklin Graham spoke, he encouraged Americans to pray, as Nehemiah prayed, with humility and passion.  I stood a few feet back from my children, and I watched them join hands with people of different races, age, and walks of life.  I was moved by the gift they were given in connecting for a cause that is bigger than they are.  I was also struck with just how dark much of our culture has become, and how increasingly difficult it will be for my children to live faithfully according to their God-given convictions, if our nation continues on the road it’s on.  Recently, I read a book called No Fear, what I would call largely a Christian young adult book, which encouraged me as a mom, and challenged me to pray more purposefully for my kids and their generation, but also gave me great hope at the courage of their peers already, taking a stand for the good of our country.

 

No Fear is a collection of “real stories of a courageous new generation standing for truth.”

 

A collection of real-life stories about American kids who stood up to opposition of their faith and of a cause they knew to be morally mandated, this book also ties stories to biblical biographies and principles.  Even more, it includes discussion/journaling questions which would be great for reading this book as a small group.  It is thought-provoking, it is encouraging, and it dares the reader to be bold and humble at the same time.

 

In a time where kids are at risk of not just peer pressure, but full-on attack from adults they should be able to trust to protect their integrity and freedom, it’s a powerful reminder that they can, like others before them in distant and recent history, take a firm stand.  I highly recommend this book for young adult readers, for families with older children, and for small groups.  It opens the door for powerful discussion with kids about what matters, and how they have a role in God’s plan for the world.  As cultural norms become more muddy, those discussions become more vital.  The next generation needs to know, with solid understanding, what they believe.  They need to be equipped intentionally with tools to lead.  They need to be taught to have respectful, intelligent conversation, but also emboldened to have unequaled courage… to speak the truth in love, even at personal cost.

 

No Fear presents for kids and young adults a series of portraits of modern-day heroes, and helps them to see the bigger picture of the story of God’s people being salt and light in this world throughout history… daring them to become central characters in the beautiful story He is writing with their lives.

 

Do you have youth and young adults who need encouragement in their faith walk?  Do you have a story of someone who has been brave, speaking the truth in love?  I’d love to hear.

 

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I was given a copy of No Fear in exchange for sharing my honest opinion.  I highly recommend this book, and would only share my honest thoughts for readers.