Love Well Today & Tomorrow (A Love List)

In today’s world, it would seem in many instances that love is confused with personal desires or goals, or minimized to a single expression of it through romantic emotion. The temptation is to see “love” through a selfish lens or as a means to an end. This list of what I believe are the manifestations of love poured out of my mind and heart for today. Love is certain things, but love also does certain things as well. Check out the list, and as always, I hope you find it to be a blessing.

Love well today.

Listen to understand.

Be enthusiastic.

Be fair.

Show initiative.

Endure.

Be careful.

Share hope.

Choose to try to understand someone’s circumstances.

Use appropriate boundaries.

Be vulnerable.

Be compassionate.

Be other-centered.

Assume there may be things going on that we don’t know about.

Be quiet.

Don’t gossip.

Serve.

Stop the sarcasm.

Lead and follow.

Nurture.

Persevere.

Restore.

Be sensitive.

Be thoughtful.

Accept.

Have vision.

Stop judging.

Be kind.

Be available.

Have integrity.

Seek joy in your relationships.

Be strong.

Talk about Jesus’ love.

Be optimistic.

Ask better questions.

Talk less about yourself.

Don’t let anger last.

Be faithful.

Follow up.

Pray.

Be alert.

Listen longer.

Grow.

Be cheerful.

Discern.

Be full of grace.

Speak truth in love.

Express gratitude.

Be courageous.

Look for progress, not perfection.

Be teachable.

Don’t bully.

Be gentle.

Choose beauty.

Share hope.

Be at peace.

Be humble.

Be bold.

Forgive.

Sing together.

Slow down.

Make eye contact.

Believe.

Listen carefully.

Create together.

Don’t assume.

Pay attention.

Uphold what is true, right, and just.

Be transparent.

Look.

Be purposeful.

Connect.

Do not be jealous.

Be good.

Care with action.

Rest together.

Dare to be different.

Stop comparing.

Be confident.

Trust.

Put your phone down.

Don’t be afraid.

Learn.

Be self-controlled.

Touch.

Regret what you should.

Go deeper.

Give wise counsel when you’ve earned the right.

Encourage.

Be honest.

Choose better.

Stop whining.

Be helpful.

Prioritize people.

Don’t hate.

Speak up.

Be positive.

Have fair expectations.

Don’t treat people as projects.

Share.

Be generous.

Be passionate.

Choose to forget what you should.

Choose to remember what you should.

Don’t fear.

Be authentic.

Be flexible.

Be grateful.

Honor.

Mourn with those who mourn.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Grieve together.

Celebrate together.

Do not envy.

Love unconditionally.

Sacrifice.

Be spontaneous.

Be patient.

Treat people as unique individuals.

Seek good.

Empower others.

Look up.

Lift people up.

Be resilient.

Understand.

Be fully present.

Love well tomorrow.

Inspire Academic Improvement By Resisting The “Perfection Infection”

It happens often. I bet you do it. I totally understand and yet I hope my insights encourage you to stop. Curious? Keep reading.

When you empty your children’s backpacks or go through their school folders looking at their daily work and returned tests, do you ask, “How did the other kids do?”

As soon as we ask, we’ve decreased our children’s security. Suddenly they feel as if ita’s not really about doing their best, even if that’s what we said as they headed to school. No, in reality, it appears we care about how they stand in comparison to their peers. But is that wise? Necessary?

For example, your son may have earned a 92% and been thrilled because the test was challenging. When you ask, “How did the other kids do?” you imply the 92% is only good if it’s a better score than most of his peers earned.

Your daughter may have earned a low score and she’s already feeling badly about it. She’s not looking forward to you finding out and now you’ve put additional pressure on her. Now she may feel the score is even worse because it’s among the lowest in her class. Having to admit this to us may not motivate her to do better next time.

Constantly comparing our kids to others causes our encouragement to “do your best” and “concentrate on yourself; don’t worry about others.” to fall on deaf ears. They’ll stop believing us. They may get angry. These comparisons violate the key identity that they’re unique miracles. Comparing them can negatively affect peer relationships.

Comparing our kids is also one of the things that causes them to think we’re never satisfied and we expect them to be perfect. Jill Savage and I wrote, in No More Perfect Kids: “The more we compare, the higher our expectations climb. There it is: the Perfection Infection.” (p. 37) and “If they compare, or if they hear us comparing, they may feel inadequate and without realizing it, the Perfection Infection can raise its ugly head.” (p. 184) Among other negatives, perfectionism can paralyze our kids and make it less likely they’ll take risks and aim high.

Asking our children how they did is often appropriate. We may not always have to ask. Sometimes wait to see if they bring it up when they want to. We must ask about more than their scores and grades. If we don’t, they’ll think that’s all we care about. This can cause them to put their security in their grades and performances. This is never a good idea. For suggested questions to ask that are often much more important than “How did you do?” check out this relevant video.

When we do ask about their grades, rather than asking how other kids did, we can often follow up with one or both of these questions:

  • How satisfied are you with that grade?
  • Is there anything you’ll do differently when studying and preparing for a similar assignment/test?

Now we can follow up appropriately. If they’re satisfied with a grade lower than we would have preferred, let’s look for teachable moments to discuss why we think they’re capable of more. (But, be careful that they don’t assume perfection is what we want.) The same thing is true if they’re hard on themselves when their grades were excellent and they’re disappointed because they weren’t perfect. We might be able to talk about it immediately. Or, look for an opportunity to bring it up later. If they’re satisfied and so are we, let them know! This will increase their security in themselves and in us.

If our children claim they want to study differently and prepare differently, we can remind them and help them as best we can.

Conversations after school about school are something to take seriously. I trust these ideas will help you successfully get your children to share with you. I know you want to know how things are going. Good for you!

Content, Grateful, Loved, And Single

When I was a young adult, my brother and his wife called me into their bedroom during a family gathering. They had never done this before, so I knew something was up.

Both Dave and Debbie spoke, but my brother took the lead. They just wanted me to know that if I remained single, they would always be my family. They’d remember my birthday and invite me for all holidays. If I needed something, they’d do everything possible to help.

Until they loved me with these statements, I didn’t know how badly I needed to hear them.

Our parents were still alive and in good health. I still had my old bedroom to stay in when visiting for holidays. But, Dave and Deb were correct – there would be a time when our parents wouldn’t be alive.

Debbie and Dave opened their home to several single women who needed a place to stay for various reasons. Getting to know them and their concerns prompted their declaration to me. They came to appreciate the very real issue for many singles – where will I go when my parents die and will anyone remember me on my birthday?

I’m grateful to God for how comfortable I am being single. I don’t take it lightly. I know many single adults who would prefer to be married and some who are angry at God that they aren’t. I’ve met parents whose greatest concern seems to be whether their children will get married. In those cases, I’m happy to model contentment and fulfillment as a single.

In addition to Dave and Deb’s welcoming statement, what has contributed to my contentment?

  • Jesus was single. If there was anything wrong with this choice, God’s only Son would have been married. Jesus understands my temptations, fears, anxieties, confusion, lack of support, etc. If the single life was good enough for God’s only child, it must be good enough for me!
  • Marriage is not a cure for loneliness or any other thing. Jesus completes us (Colossians 2:10) and people complement us. Expecting one person on earth to do what Jesus came to do is dangerous and will lead to deep disappointments. Marriage is hard work and I know it doesn’t come with guarantees.
  • I’ve cultivated a dynamic relationship with God and expect Him to meet my needs.
  • I’ve become comfortable with who I am so I can be content alone. I accept what aren’t my favorite qualities that can’t be changed and I work on the others. I humbly celebrate successes.
  • I know the difference between being alone and being lonely and use the words carefully and accurately.
  • I don’t allow myself to isolate, but spend time with friends. I have several activities I enjoy and things I do to relax.
  • I’ve learned to ask for help because there are many things I can’t do by myself and other things I don’t know how to do. Asking doesn’t make me weak.
  • I enjoy the freedom I have to spend my money the way I want, eat what I want and where, decorate the way I want, make decisions in the way I think is best, …
  • I pamper myself. I cook good food and sometimes buy myself flowers. I own beautiful china and many other nice things. (I tell young people not to get married for the party and the gifts! Buy what you want.)

Does anything in my list help you think through your situation and contentment? Do you know singles you could share it with? Youth not dating who think they must?

There’s one more thing that’s significant to anyone’s contentment and life satisfaction. Obedience.

Whether single or married, the bottom line is obedience. Singles may not be single forever, but the key is contentment and acceptance for what the Lord has for each of us at any given time in our lives. We must make the most of every opportunity. (Ephesians 5:15‑17)

If I don’t believe my current situation is God’s best for me, what makes me think I’ll trust Him in my next phase? Living with a “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” thinking pattern dishonors God and isn’t appealing to me at all. Is it to you?

“Come to Momma!”

Upon entering the room, you’re surprised your child is standing. You realize a big milestone is about to occur. You don’t shout, “Sit down. You might hurt yourself!” Instead, you have someone run to get the video camera while you get in position.

You expect progress, and you show that to your child through your behavior and language. Positioning yourself four feet away with your arms outstretched, you smile broadly and use only an encouraging tone of voice. Focused on the goal, you communicate, “Come to Momma!”

One step. Then another. A fall. A second try will appear as a false start. Over the next few days there are missteps. Attempts. Half-steps. Fall downs.

These aren’t “mistakes” though. We would never tell people our child made a mistake trying to walk, even if he fell down on his tenth attempt. Rather, it is more likely we would announce his every attempt. We call our parents, siblings, and friends and perhaps even post it on Facebook: “Jared tried to walk today!” This is our attitude because we’re looking for progress, not perfection—for growth, not completion.

We know error-free walking is the goal. It’s possible, but only if it’s the destination. Perfection can’t be the journey. The journey must be built on faith in the possibilities and an expectation for good, better, and then best.

As you’ve noticed, children don’t crawl for long. They pull themselves up, walk around things, walk alone, skip, gallop, and eventually run. When they fall down doing any of those things, they almost always pick themselves up and keep going unless we react as if they should be upset. Gasping, looking at them with alarm, running toward them, and asking if they’re okay will likely cause the tears to flow even if they are not hurt by the stumble. Our reactions are often mirrored by our children’s.

Their goal to walk is accomplished and celebrated. At a young age, they long for progress.

What if, throughout their growing up years, we had a “Come to Momma!” perspective? What difference would it make if we could see progress even in the smallest of ways from our preschooler, gradeschooler, teenager, young adult? What if we expected them to stumble along the way and we didn’t consider that stumble a mistake? What if we stayed at four feet away, not eight? What if our arms are reached toward our children, not folded in front of us? What if we smiled instead of frowned? What if we had an encouraging, optimistic tone in our voices, issuing a request our children want to fulfill, not demands they can’t live up to?

What if our children had a “Come to Momma!” belief system? I can accomplish what my parents are asking me to do. Attempts aren’t failure; they are part of life. I can pick myself up to try again. Perfection may never be reached or even necessary because I know my parents will celebrate my progress.

This “Come to Momma” mindset is incredibly important to remember in growing our children’s confidence and managing and motivating positive change. When things can get tense because of everything that’s going on and children wish they could be perfect, let’s remember this. (I write more about this belief system in the book Jill Savage and I wrote for you, No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are. There’s tons in it to encourage you.)

Friendship And The Adolescent Brain by Jerusha & Jeramy Clark

Today Jerusha Clark and her husband, Jeramy are guest blogging for me for a second time. I met Jerusha when we spoke together at a convention and I instantly loved her and definitely have come to respect her as I got to know her work. I wrote a bit about the adolescent brain in my book, Screens and Teens. Their book, Your Teenager is Not Crazy, is brilliant.  They clearly write about very important applications of significant brain research in ways you can understand. Today’s post is about friendship, which is always a relevant topic. Maybe it’s on your mind more, though, as Valentine’s Day will be soon upon us. Read this and then share it with your friends. You’ll want to!

Do you remember who your best friends in middle school or high school were? Of course you do! Faces either swam into your memory or your stomach tightened as you recalled being alone day after day. Adolescent friendship—or the lack of it—powerfully impacts all of us.

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen, chances are it’s impacting you all over again, this time from the other side. You’re navigating hurt feelings and adolescent drama with your child, and it’s not that much easier (it may, in fact, feel harder) than lo so many years ago when your most pressing concern was the North Star zit that exploded on your forehead right before Homecoming.

Your tween or teen is experiencing radical changes in his or her brain. Neuroscientists liken this to the brain being remodeled. Have you ever remodeled a room in your house? If you have, you know that it always takes more time, costs more money, and requires more of you than you planned to give. Raising a teen is kind of like that! Why? Because adolescent brains are being progressively renovated as a tween or teen moves away from childhood and toward young adulthood.

We described some of the general changes happening in the teen brain in this post for Dr. Kathy and the Celebrate Kids community. For today, we’re going to look at how the amazing adolescent brain deals with friendship. If you’ve wondered why it seems so hard for your teen to make or keep friends, if you’re concerned about the people your tween is hanging out with, if you’re hoping that maybe things will change this school year, we’d like to equip you with some knowledge and some hope.

Knowledge first.

As your adolescent’s brain is remodeled, the neural structures that make up what scientists refer to as “the social brain” are pruned and transformed. During this season, there is a natural and healthy push away from the home and toward peers.

It used to really hurt my feelings when my teenage daughters would ask, “Can I bring a friend?” or “Do we have to have a family night?” Now I understand there’s way more at play in their brains than I initially assumed. Whereas I once assumed these changes meant I had been weighed and found wanting by my adolescent children, I now understand that when adolescents push away from parents and toward friends, it can actually be a really good sign.

God designed for your tween or teen to move toward peers while they are still in your home so that they can learn important social skills like conversation, interdependence, and empathy. Imagine if your son or daughter only stayed in your home and never interacted with peers. That’s a frightening prospect for their adult life!

Adolescents need to practice these new skills and then come home to a safe and stable environment where their brains can “rest” from the (often dramatic) ebbs and flows of teenage friendship. And similar to flabby muscles that need to be worked out for optimum performance, your tween or teen’s social “muscles” need to exercise in the world of their peers.

In other words, don’t take this personally, parents! This is both a physical reality (the social brain is “propelling” adolescents toward one another) and a heart desire (the need for acceptance is common to us all). You can be an ally for your tween or teen by facilitating healthy friendships.

Of course, I’m not saying we should release tweens and teens to limitless peer interaction. Yikes! Scary thought.

Instead, we can remember and put into practice the following truths about friendship during the teen years:

  1. Teen brains learn best by example. If you want your son or daughter to develop healthy relationships, show them how to do it. Love your own friends well. Treat strangers with compassion. Listen patiently and attentively when someone wants to share a story or opinion (even if you don’t agree). You may not think your adolescent is watching, but studies show otherwise. Your tween or teen’s brain is busy—constantly busy—interpreting what’s going on in and around him or her. If you’re “too busy” to be with friends but are perennially on your phone or computer, don’t be surprised if your son or daughter enacts the same pattern. Your example certainly isn’t the whole story, but it does play a significant role. Don’t let your input be an empty set or worse, a negative one.
  1. Surround your teens and their friends with “surrogate prefrontal cortexes.” The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is sometimes called the brain’s CEO. It’s the portion of the brain that coordinates executive-level functions like forethought, judgment, planning, and impulse control. Kinda reads like a laundry list of what teens struggle with, doesn’t it? That’s because the PFC is the “final frontier” of brain remodeling. Because your adolescent’s PFC won’t fully develop until approximately twenty-five years of age and his or her friends’ brains won’t develop until the same time, they benefit from having more mature brains around them. This can’t always be you, so it’s essential to engage “surrogate prefrontal cortexes” in your tween or teen’s life. Coaches, church group leaders, mentors, and teachers are great options. Invest in knowing these people. Facilitate times for them to be with your teen(s). We recently paid for one of our teenage daughters to get coffee with a family friend who offered to talk with her about some concerns she was having. Via text, a youth group volunteer also helped one of our adolescent girls process some friendship drama. Knowing that your adolescent and his/her friends have more mature brains around can give you greater confidence and peace.
  1. Influence whenever possible. Making blanket statements about your tween or teen’s friends usually gets you nowhere and them angry. Don’t make rash judgments about your adolescent’s friends. Instead, ask questions to determine what your son or daughter likes about the people he or she is with. If you can’t get an answer, observe carefully. Yes, this takes time. Yes, it requires some work. Yes, it’s worth every bit of effort. You lose the opportunity to influence when you dismiss your tween or teen’s friends out of hand. You also miss the chance to influence when you just want teens “out of your hair.” If you see your adolescent’s friendship needs as one prolonged hassle, you’re headed in the wrong direction. You have a tremendous potential to influence your teen’s life of friendship. Don’t miss the opportunities!
  1. People first, devices second. This fantastic phrase came from my friend, Arlene. It’s a great way to remind your teen that people always come before electronics. If your son or daughter is having a friend over, consider setting limits on their tech time. It’s amazing what happens when teens don’t have the option to default to screens. They actually talk; they may even Imagine that?! This is also helpful when you’re visiting family, especially older relatives who may not be as initially “exciting” to talk to; if you already have the “people first, devices second” principle in place, you won’t be in a constant battle with your teen. He or she will know that when people are around, relationship is the #1 priority.

Finally,

  1. Don’t be afraid of getting some professional help! Today’s world can feel like a scary place to teenagers. Faced with near-constant media bombardment about issues many adolescents don’t understand (world terror, elections, economic pressures, immigration, sexual and gender tensions, just to name a few), modern teens are finding it more difficult to interact in safe ways with one another. Some adolescents would rather just stay home with their video games and phones; this feels safer. Others are battling mental health issues and isolating themselves is an outgrowth of this struggle. The habits your tween or teen learns by withdrawing from relationships can ultimately be detrimental. If you find that your teen is struggling with friendship, don’t assume “this will pass” or “it’s just a phase.” Go see your pastor and/or consider talking to a counselor to get equipped. Perhaps taking your son or daughter to a counselor is in order. All too often, parents don’t reach out for help because they just want the issues to go away. If you find yourself in this situation, we understand how hard it is! We’ve been there. When you get help, however, you help for more than just right now; you’re setting your adolescent up for relationship success long-term.

There are several chapters in our book, Your Teenager is Not Crazy, that deal with peer dynamics and influence (including peer pressure), why and how teen friendships form and last, and how you can be part of the grand adventure. We just can’t fit it all into a little blog!

For lots more on the teenage brain, how understanding it can make you a better parents, and ways faith impacts it all, check out the resources available at www.jandjclark.com.

Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent is available online and at local retailers from Baker Books.

7-20-16 JeramyClark

Dr. Jeramy Clark received his Masters of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from Talbot Theological Seminary.  He served as a youth pastor for 17 years before becoming the Pastor of Discipleship at Emmanuel Faith Community Church.  His role includes overseeing Men’s and Women’s Ministries, Care and Counseling, and Small Groups.  Jeramy roasts, brews, and savors coffee of all varieties, plays pickup basketball, is a drummer, and enjoys surfing.

7-20-16 JerushaClarkJerusha Clark co-authored four books with Jeramy, including three bestsellers, prior to launching her own writing and speaking ministry, focused on helping others glorify and enjoy God, one thought at a time.  On quiet days, you can find Jerusha body-boarding, reading, or singing around a bonfire at the beach, her absolute favorite place.  Jeramy and Jerusha have two amazing teenage daughters and love ministering together at churches, retreats, schools, and conferences.

Unshakable Loyalty, Do Your Kids Experience This From You?

The Green Bay Packers lost yesterday in their championship game with the Atlanta Falcons. As a result, the Falcons will compete against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Packers and their fans will stay home.

If you know me, follow me on Facebook, or have heard me speak especially during football season, you probably know I’m a fan. I grew up in Wisconsin and lived in Green Bay for seven years before moving to Fort Worth in 1991 to begin my ministry, Celebrate Kids, Inc.

I’m still a fan. My loyalty is settled and not dependent upon their win/loss record. Using this as an opportunity to reflect on family dynamics, I hope you’re a fan of your kids and that your loyalty doesn’t depend upon how often they win or lose.

The Packers aren’t losers just because they lost a game. They’re still winners in my book. After all, they made it to their conference playoff game! Now, looking from sports and toward your children, how do you view your kids? Are they losers because they lost (failed a test, lost at sports, behaved badly, etc.)? Or do you think of them as always beloved, and usually victorious with an occasional bad day?

I didn’t take the Packers’ loss personally. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t yell at the TV. I didn’t post anything on social media sites that would make friends who are Falcons’ fans mad. In fact, within minutes of the Falcons victory, I texted my niece’s husband and some friends who are huge Falcons fans. Congratulating them was right.

And I posted on Facebook that I’m still a Packers’ fan. I am. Do your kids know if you’re still their fan? It is never the wrong time to cheer them on!

Dream. Dream BIG. Dream Large. Dream Gigantic!

Change. It’s a word and a concept that results in many strong reactions.

There’s not a person alive who doesn’t have something they could change in order to have a better life.

More productivity. More peace. More joy. More friendships. More hope.

Less fear. Less trouble. Less trauma. Less loneliness. Less despair.

Change will more likely work out well when all five core needs are met in healthy ways. This gives us a lot to count on during the sometimes shaky transitional times surrounding change.

How do we get started? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and legacy we celebrate in America today, believed a dream was essential. He was right.

You’re Not Alone: The Overwhelm of Mom Guilt (Guest Post by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory)

How often do you wonder if you could have handled a situation with a child better than you did? Notice, I didn’t ask if you do, I asked how often you do. That’s because if you’re a parent who cares, you have wondered. If we’re not careful, mom guilt or dad guilt can occur and paralyze us as we’re overcome with regrets. It’s just one of the many things that causes parents to be overwhelmed.

Because being overwhelmed is never good and can lead to other negative issues, I was glad to pre-read the new book, Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity, written by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory. You’ll benefit from the book as they share about many things that can cause us to be overwhelmed and, more importantly, what to do about them.

Please read their guest blog. At the end, you’ll want to get the free gift they offer you and follow through to possibly win a free book. (The chapter related to the free gift is worth the price of the book.) – Dr. Kathy

You’re Not Alone: The Overwhelm of Mom Guilt

“What would you do differently as a mom, Cheri?”

I hesitate, look around the table at the five women gathered for a mom’s night out, and realize I’m among friends.

“Pretty much everything!” I say, only half in jest.

“There are three general types of feedback people can give each other: (1) Affirmation (2) Coaching, and (3) Evaluation.”

Everyone nods; they’ve each read Thanks for the Feedback, too.

I continue. “What I wish I’d done was spent their first ten years giving them very intentional coaching in all key areas of life. Then, by the time they were teens, the foundation would have been well-laid, and I could have focused more on affirmation. Unfortunately, I fell for the self-esteem movement of the 90’s.”

All five women roll their eyes in sympathetic understanding.

“I did it the wrong way around: I affirmed my kids’ every waking moment but failed to coach and, as necessary, correct. As a result, they’re 24 and 26 and still trying to figure out how to launch independent lives.”

As our conversation continues, each mom shares her own regrets.

By dessert time, our list is long indeed.

The Overwhelm of Mom Guilt

I’ve seen plenty of social media memes urging us to “Live with no regrets.”

But I have yet to meet a regret-free mom.

Most conversations I have with mothers, of any age or stage, quickly turn to how overwhelmed they are by Mom Guilt.

A few years ago, I posted this question to my Facebook page:

“I’m working on a project and need some examples of negative self-talk that parents use against themselves. (i.e. “They deserve a better mom than me…”) Give me your best imitation(s) of those inner critic, mom/dad guilt voices!”

In less than an hour, almost one hundred women (no men) had left comments like these:

  • “If I was a better Mom, I wouldn’t have such a hard time breastfeeding – or I’d produce more milk.” Or “This baby deserves a better mom – one that isn’t feeling weepy or crabby every day.”
  • “What will people think if my child keeps _______________?” (Fill in blank with crying, sucking his thumb, whining, talking in church, carrying her blankie, refusing green vegetables, etc., etc.)?
  • “At this rate we’ll be Jerry Springer Show regulars by 2015.”
  • “If I were a good mom, my child would… take school work more seriously, be better organized, have more friends, play outside more, not be failing his class, not be working on his project at 10:00 the night before it’s due.”
  • “Whatever I do it will never be enough.”
  • “They would choose (another mom’s name) over me for a mom if they had a choice.”

My Most Overwhelming Regret

I resonate with every single concern voiced above.

But my most overwhelming regret is that I didn’t take care of my own emotional and spiritual health when my children were little.

I met my husband when I was 18, just six months after being discharged from the eating disorder unit of a neuropsychiatric hospital. We married young (21) and had children right away.

I knew that the eating disorder I’d struggled with for five years wasn’t fully resolved. But I did what so many women do: I believed I could put my own needs high on a shelf for the next twenty years, raise my children, and then pick back up where I’d left myself off.

Of course, it didn’t work that way.

My kids grew up with a mom who was barely surviving. Oh, how I wish they’d had a mom who was intentionally thriving!

Giving Our Guilt to God

Over the holidays, my 26-year-old daughter, Annemarie, and I sat at the kitchen table, drinking tea and chatting about how God is working in our lives.

As I shared some of the self-care and boundary-setting decisions I’d recently made, Annemarie responded, “I’m so proud of the choices you’re making, Mom! This is such incredible growth for you.”

“I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to deal with my issues,” I said, deflecting her praise with guilt. “I wish I’d made these kinds of choices twenty years ago.”

Annemarie reached across the kitchen table, put a hand on mine, and her next words took my breath away:

“Mom, you need to know that the 6-year-old in me is watching you, too.”

For so many years, I thought it was too late. The damage was done. It was too late for me to change, to become a better mom, to be the kind of mom my kids needed and deserved.

But my daughter’s words told a different story. They reminded me that God really can
“restore … the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25, KJV).

Today, if you’re a parent who feels overwhelmed by regret, here are four truths you need to know:

1)  You’re not alone.

2)  It’s never too late.

3)  You can change.

4)  Even the smallest change you make makes a difference that matters.

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Instead of making New Year’s resolutions (that will only last for a week), how about creating a Personal manifesto that will carry you through the rest of your life?  Sign up for great ideas and resources about how to get out from Overwhelmed and you will receive “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you. Get off the overwhelming cycle of making and breaking resolutions and create a gentle plan for lasting life change.

Giveaway

Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of our readers!

To qualify for the drawing, you need to do TWO things:

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About Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?

Kathi and Cheri want to show you five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can finally create a plan that works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…

  • trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
  • decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
  • replace fear of the future with peace in the present

You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.

Bios

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the bestselling author of several books, including Clutter Free, The Husband Project, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.

Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for more than 28 years. The Gregorys and their young adult kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California.

Names Can Be A Positive Source Of Identity

Our names are important to us. They can be a strong positive source of identity. This is certainly true for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. When we know His names, we know a lot about Him.

The identity link to our names is among the reasons I wish more parents would be as thoughtful and purposeful when naming their children as some of my friends have been.

Especially when children know their name’s heritage, dreams parents had for them are reinforced when they hear their name. If your children’s names are significant, make sure they know the reasons. Tell them the relevant stories.

For my first example, let me share a short paragraph from pages 131-132 in the book Jill Savage and I wrote, No More Perfect Kids. I love the reason Jay and his wife named their son Jamison.

Kids’ names are important because they’re the first labels they’re given. If your kids don’t know why you chose the names you did for them, share your reasons, especially if you named them for a reason or because the name held significance. Kathy’s friend Jay and his wife named their son Jamison. Jamison was present as Jay told Kathy about his name’s origin and how much he had prayed for a son. Although it’s pronounced with a short i sound, his name means “Jay my son.” Although Jamison already knew the story, you should have seen his face while his dad explained it to Kathy. The connection between the father and son was beautiful and obvious.

And, how about the decision my friends, Michael and Meredith made? They’re expecting their second daughter and have named her Moriah Renee. They explain their choice this way: Abraham offered his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, where God provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute and it is near where He would ultimately provide His own Son as the perfect sacrifice to be the Savior of the world. The name means “God is my teacher.” Renee means “reborn.”

And now let me share about Zion Daniel, the son of David and Lindsay Eaton. They’re pictured above. In David’s words:

Let’s start with Daniel. Daniel means “God is my judge” and in ancient times he was quite a man of God. He was full of wisdom, courage, conviction, vision, and faithfulness. He was a shrewd leader and a servant of the people.

The name Daniel also means a lot to Lindsey and I because some of the most important men in our lives have that name! We knew that we HAD to name our first son Daniel just to honor them.

– Daniel Gee … Lindsey’s loving father.

– Conan Daniel Gee … Lindsey’s steadfast brother.

– Daniel Eaton … my annoying brother 😉 … that I deeply respect and admire.

– Jeremiah Daniel Callihan … the other cofounder at Axis who is a dear friend.

– Daniel VanValkenburg … an incredible friend from college and lifelong friend.

… and of course there are a host of other amazing Daniels in our life as well …

And the name Zion. It is a name with many meanings. Some think it means “bald dry place” as in the top of a mountain, but we prefer the meaning “monumental” or “fortress” that other scholars ascribe to the name. It is actually not a Hebrew word … but rather predates Israel. However in the Bible it is a very important geographical place and a concept. It represents Jerusalem, the City of David, and is the place of worship and redemption for Israel. It also embodies the future hope of followers of Jesus, of a restored world and the eventual city of God where God dwells with humanity.

One final thing that we particularly like. Any ancient temple like the temple on Zion or the temple location at Shiloh, our daughter’s name, was considered a dwelling place for God. It was a place where the veil between heaven met earth was thin. We like the idea of our children representing an overlap or intersection between heaven and earth.

I believe Zion Daniel, Moriah Renee, and Jamison are blessed to have thoughtful parents and rich stories and meanings assigned to their names. I’d love to know about your name or names you’ve given your children. Please comment below. Let’s encourage each other.

Some Random Thoughts to Enlighten and Brighten 2017

Enjoy some random thoughts about a new year.

Have you thought of some things you want to change? Maybe some things to leave behind in 2016 and not take with you into this year? Great. Remember, you can make these decisions daily. We don’t need to wait for the year to change for us to change.

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I teach that “wishing it so won’t make it so.” If you want to change, it will take effort, diligence, perseverance, humility, … good old-fashioned work. Listen to your language. Are you telling people that you “wish you’d lose 20 pounds” or you “wish you’d be more compassionate when your kids struggle to learn”? It will take more than a wish. Let’s make work fashionable.

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Remember, it’s really hard (if not impossible) to start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the current one. Have you learned from the past what you needed to? Stop reading yesterday’s news and start writing the next chapter.

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We’re each one decision away from something. What decision do you want to make? Anne Frank said, How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

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We need to make sure any changes we desire for ourselves and children are appropriate and realistic. If they’re not, discouragement comes easily. I sometimes use the example of my height. I’m 6’1”. I’m not ever going to be short even if I pray a lot about it. Make sure your goals for 2017 fit. Do the same for your children. In the words of a young child, recorded in the book Really Important Stuff My Kids Have Taught Me, “If the tree had apples last year, don’t expect pears this year.”

Change is possible, but expectations must be real or disappointment and despair can set in. We can pray about and hope for juicier apples. Redder apples. Bigger apples. More apples. Tastier apples. Fewer worm-filled apples. But, not pears from an apple tree. If you want pears, plant a pear tree.

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Daily, weekly, and monthly, let’s make 2017 great. That reminds me – instead of telling the next person you talk with to “have a great day” encourage him or her to “make it a great day.”

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Do you have any enlightening and/or brightening random thoughts to add? Please leave a comment! Would love to hear what you have to share.