When I’m Parenting a Rutabaga Instead of a Pumpkin

A few years ago, I was at a conference and heard a speaker say something I still think about regularly. He was talking about parenting, and said,

“We don’t get to choose the seeds we grow. God gives us the seed, and it’s up to us to water it, make sure it gets the sunlight it needs, and care for it in every way we can, but we don’t get to control what kind of plant it grows up to be. If God has given you a rutabaga seed, but you want to grow a pumpkin, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you will never get a pumpkin to grow from that rutabaga seed.”

I love my rutabagas very much, but there are still times when I have to fight back the pumpkin urges. Sometimes I think about what an awesome parent I would be if everything were perfectly organized and under control, with my three perfect little pumpkins all in a row. But I’m raising children, not pumpkins, and life gets crazy and wild, and how I react in the heat of the moment is more important than it’s ever been.

kidsI feel like parenting is a magnifying glass for all of my strengths and weaknesses – it provides a glaringly obvious look at my spiritual, emotional, and social health. Things which might be a bit of an issue for me with other people is going to come up with my kids, multiplied times ten. I can be socially acceptable in public for short periods of time, but you stick me at home with three kids, in the midst of homeschooling, housework, busy schedules, tantrums, lack of sleep, whatever else, and suddenly those pesky little personality flaws become crystal clear.

I have my own ideas of how a situation should be handled, and they have theirs, and suddenly I’m feeling the tension of a rutabaga. They are each their own little person, and I don’t get to control how they react or think. The only thing I have control over is how I react. It would be so much more convenient if I could change them instead of myself!

But I keep remembering this quote I shared a few weeks ago:

quoteI was thinking about it in relation to people in general, but Ben and I have been talking lately about how it applies to raising kids. Ben says we still have the responsibility to try our best as parents – the Bible tells us to train our children in the way they should go. But who gets to determine that way? We can guide our children, but how much can we really change them?

Ben has told me stories about his horrible temper when he was younger, and I find it almost impossible to believe, because Ben never loses his temper now. And although I am sure his parents did many awesome things in raising him, there was only so much they could do. It took maturity and deep conviction on Ben’s part to finally make a life change when he was in college.

This reminds me of a few truths to hang on to:

  1. God has a beautiful plan for my rutabagas.
  2. I need to be faithful as a parent, but also trust the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Between trying to change myself, and learning to entrust my kids to the Holy Spirit, I have plenty to keep me busy without trying to control my children.
  4. I’ve never tried rutabagas, but they could be fabulous, and I might like them better than pumpkins.

As I just reread that list, I mentally changed it from parenting to relationships in general, and they all apply! I am never “just” a stay-at-home mom – I’m learning, growing, and being challenged every single day, as are my sweet kids.

We can all be rutabagas together. Pumpkins are so overrated!


The Story in My Head


I just finished reading Rising Strong this last week. It’s the first book I’ve read by Brene Brown, and I loved it, which is evidenced by how many page corners I folded down to remind me where my favorite passages were…

The whole book is amazing, full of many different ideas which I will be mentally chewing on for some time, but the one which impacted me the most was the idea of “the stories we tell ourselves”. She writes about the tendency we have to fill in missing details in our effort to understand ourselves, as well as other people.

“Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we’re in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn’t have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn’t like me. Our stories are also about self-protection. I told myself Steve was blaming me so I could be mad instead of admitting that I was vulnerable or afraid of feeling inadequate. I could disengage from the tougher stuff. That’s what human beings tend to do: When we’re under threat, we run. If we feel exposed or hurt, we find someone to blame, or blame ourselves before anyone else can, or pretend we don’t care.”  (source)

I love to analyze, and I spend a lot of time in my own head, trying to figure things out. This can lead to some nasty storytelling, which I’ve been aware of for a long time, but it wasn’t until I read this book that it became clear to me while I was in the process of doing it.

It was one of those long, bumpier than normal kind of days, and I had already helped our sweet children through a long list of complaints, negative attitudes, and many other parenting challenges by the time Ben got home from work. While he was still by the door, yet another behaviour issue exploded, and I reached my limit. Ben could tell I was done for the day, and any parenting after that point could get a bit scary, so he, in an effort to be helpful, said, “Why don’t you go into the other room and let me handle this?”

Because of the frustration of the moment, I misunderstood his intent – Ben was trying to be helpful, but I thought he was telling me to go to the other room because I couldn’t keep calm while dealing with the situation. Instead of getting mad at our kid, I got mad at Ben. I held it in until I got to our bedroom, but I was furious with him, and feeling extremely justified. How dare he suggest that I was not capable of parenting our children in an appropriate manner? How could he make such a comment in front of our kids, criticizing my self-control and ability to handle the situation? “Somehow,” I thought to myself, “I manage to care for all three children every single day, all day long, while he is off relaxing in his office at work without any tantrums, screaming, or bad attitudes exploding in his face repeatedly!” (Like all he does all day is relax, but in the moment, I was not entirely reasonable!)

As these very heated thoughts blazed their way through my mind, Brene Brown’s question popped up: “What story am I making up in my head?” Immediately, I started to get curious. Why was I responding this way? What was making me so mad? What was going on behind all this anger?

The realization struck me – I was taking Ben’s words and interpreting them in a way which fueled insecurities about my parenting, rather than hearing what he was actually saying. He was offering me a break after a long day, but I was taking it as criticism of my parenting, and responding with anger on the surface, when deep down, I was actually feeling hurt and insecure in my parenting. I was ashamed that I couldn’t keep things under control, and disappointed with myself for how the day had gone.

It’s a lot harder to be honest about insecurity than about anger, but it makes for a much calmer, less explosive conversation. Because my issue was not even about anger, we would have gotten nowhere trying to work out what was making me “mad”, until I could recognize what was truly going on underneath. Once our kids were in bed, we had time to talk it over, and I couldn’t believe how much harder it was to tell him I was feeling shame and inadequacy as a parent, as well as hurt because I misunderstood his offer to help as a subtle sign of judgement.

I wanted to be mad, because it was easier, but admitting to the messier stuff underneath brought things to the surface which I needed to work through on my own, and had nothing to do with Ben.

Brene Brown Quotesource

It is really tempting to deny responsibility, or deny the messy, ugly truth deep down inside us. But that incident with Ben, which really had nothing to do with Ben, made me feel so much better when I could identify what was truly going on, and face the messy stuff. I still have a lot more internal housecleaning to do, but it makes a big difference already to be aware of these feelings of insecurity or inadequacy I have as a parent, and the lies they’re telling me.

All of this makes me curious about what else is lurking down there. I think I have a lot more stories to explore, and some brave new endings to write!

Adults Choose Their Work, and So Should Kids!

This is a follow-up post to The Box That Cleans My House – collecting kids’ items left lying around into a box, and having them do a chore to “buy” back their stuff. As I’ve read the comments on Facebook, I realized there was more to say on the topic….

A few months ago, I read this post about “paying” your children to do extra chores around the house, pointing out that adults choose to work for money, so why shouldn’t kids? Ben and I talked about the idea, but felt it didn’t fit with what we choose to do in our family – our kids get an allowance because they’re part of our family, and we work together because we’re a team.

However, I loved the idea of allowing kids to choose what work they want to do. There are days when I am suddenly motivated to do something in particular, which on any other day might have felt like too much work. I like to go with what motivates me. Also, Ben got to choose his job. He has to work, but nobody is forcing him to do the job he does.

So I sat down and made a list of every job I could possibly think of that the girls could do, and put the list on the fridge. We’re trying to have them do any two each day, but if they’re buying back items from the box, they do extra. These are in addition to the regular chores they have to do every day – make beds, clean up their bedroom, polish the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen/dining room floor, and set and clear the table.


I wanted to find easy, manageable jobs for them to accomplish quickly, because this isn’t supposed to feel like a punishment – I try to talk a lot about learning to enjoy work, or at least enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done.;)

Here’s the list:

  • Wash bathroom, entrance, or kitchen floor
  • Sweep bedrooms
  • Fold towels
  • Wipe bathroom cabinets
  • Dust baseboards
  • Dust piano
  • Dust bookshelves
  • Wash a window (inside)
  • Organize the Tupperware drawer
  • Organize shoes in the closet
  • Empty garbage
  • Collect garbage/random objects from inside the SUV
  • Water the garden


Sometimes I let them help in the kitchen or take care of Everett as a “chore” – depends on what needs doing each day.

What has been most interesting to me is seeing which jobs the girls choose. Kaylia chooses anything in the kitchen, or organizing things, and a shiny piano is her new pride and joy. Anika loves washing floors or sweeping.

Judging by that list, one would think my house is spotless all the time, but it’s not – things get busy, and I don’t always have the time or energy to make sure the girls are doing two extra chores every single day. But it’s a process – I loved this post: Why Teaching Your Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage. We’re thinking long term here – long term benefits for me and for them. I like to think about what kind of adults they will grow up to be if I can train them well!

So that’s the list of chore choices at the moment, but I’d love to hear your suggestions! Can you think of any quick chores I can add to the list?

Learning to Love Well

Ever done the whole “Love Language” thing? My main language is quality time, followed by acts of service. This means that if you want to show me love, you spend time with me. Or do something practical and nice for me.

It also means that when I’m trying to love somebody, I’m going to give them my time, and make them food or do their laundry. Most of the time, this means I feel like I’m being super loving to my family – I stay at home all day, and do stuff for them around the house. How much more could they be loved??!!

The only problem is that they have different love languages than I do. So I try to work on that, because saying “I love you” in French to someone who only understands English does not get you very far.

But something important clicked for me recently – Ben and I were talking about parenting, and I said something dramatic, like “I’m giving EVERYTHING for our girls!!”

As soon as I said it, something inside my head stopped me, and I thought, “Wait, no, I don’t. I don’t give EVERYTHING. I give most of my time, every day, but there are lots of other ways in which I could be less selfish, and love more.”

I’ve never thought about it before, but I think this may be one of the reasons why I homeschool. I’m giving our girls my best love by spending all this time with them. Why would I want them in school all day, and spend my time on something less important to me than them?

I think it’s a significant thing for me to realize, because it gives me permission to not be with them all the time. I can still be a loving mom, even if I do other things.

Kendra and Anika

Even more importantly, maybe I can hold time a little looser, and not see my love as being measured by how tightly I hang on to this time with them.

You know how people always tell you to enjoy every moment with your kids, because they grow up so quickly? This has always put a ton of stress on me, because of this whole “loving with time” thing. It’s as though I see the best part of my life as being with my children, and this precious time is slipping away, and I MUST HANG ON TO IT AND SOAK IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT!!! Because even random strangers tell me to do so.

But I read an amazing blog post this week:

There is a difference between having an awareness that time is fleeting and having anxiety that time is fleeting, and the latter is born out of the same fear of scarcity that makes women panicky for their opportunities in life. There are only so many chances–get it because another woman will. There are only so many baby days–soak them in because you’ll never feel this happiness again. Lies, lies, fear and lies.

The truth is, time is moving just as quickly as it moved 100 years ago–as quickly as it moved for our mothers and their mothers and their mother’s mothers–60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day.

Last year, after accepting that we were done having kids, cleaning the baby clothes out of the attic and tucking Lainey’s kindergarten projects in a safe place to save forever, I challenged myself on the language I use and the terminology that folds over and over in my mind and heart when reflecting on my kids’ childhood. They’ll never be this little again. Time is fleeting. We’re done with 6-9 months clothes. Toddler days are over, soak up the preschool ones! Never, fleeting, done, over. Scarcity much? I’ve worked hard to replace these words with powerful, progressive ones in my motherhood vocabulary–growing, moving, learning, blooming–and take great pride and pleasure in the opportunity of forward movement, the gift of time and more time.

Guess what? I get to love my kids and give them my time, even when they are adults! And there are tons of ways to love my kids well, that don’t involve all this pressure on time. I need to know that.

I need permission to let the days flow through my fingers with pleasure, instead of tightly grabbing hold of every single moment. I need to know that when I look back, this time will have been good, and I gave a lot to them, in the ways that mattered most to me and to them.

Anika started randomly listing all the things she loves about me one day. I think she knew I was discouraged, and wanted to cheer me up, so this is what she said:

  • “You let us play Civilization on the computer.” (True love right there, hey?!)
  • “You homeschool us when you could send us away to school.” (Melt my heart – she’s speaking my language!)
  • “You believe in Jesus.”
  • “You’re a good cook.”
  • “You love us.” (Maybe they’re getting the important stuff??!)

Then Anika asked Kaylia, “Why do you love Mommy?”

Kaylia said, “Because.”

She was quiet for a bit, and I wasn’t expecting anything more from her, but suddenly she said, “She prayed for us before we were in her tummy.”

My sweet girls, I don’t love them as well as I should, but how wonderful to be reminded that sometimes I get it right, and they feel it! And we keep trying.

Kendra and Kayliaphoto credit: Morgan Braun

The Best Advise I’ve Ever Been Given About Fighting

It drives me crazy when my kids fight. I’ve struggled with this one for a long time, and I’ve written about it before, but I’ve never really felt as though there was significant improvement in this area.

I’m tired of being told, “Kids just fight.”

I’m also tired of hearing that “Kids should work out their own problems.”

I can’t live with all the fighting, and I can’t just leave them alone to work things out. Maybe that works for some people, but with an age difference of five and a half years between our girls, “working things out” generally goes the same way each time: Anika talks circles around Kaylia, using manipulation and vocabulary far beyond what Kaylia knows how to deal with, Kaylia gets so mad and frustrated she ends up biting Anika or pulling her hair, and then there’s lots of screaming and tattling, and me losing my sanity well before it’s even lunch time.

I refuse to believe this is what I have to accept as “normal”.

A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a very wonderful, wise lady whose children are all grown up and awesome. She gave me some advise that has completely changed the way I think about fighting between siblings, the role of a parent, and what we need to accept as normal.

She said that when her kids were small, she never listened to music – she just listened to her children. All day long, she always kept an ear open to what was going on.

She claimed that a mom can always tell when things are starting to go in a bad direction, and she said the very best way to deal with fighting is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.

Brilliant, right?! Prevention is always best! It reminds me of how we can get so focused on healing a sickness, when really, it’s much easier to stay healthy than trying to get back your health once you’ve lost it! But it requires staying on top of things, and being very vigilant and intentional.

So, how do you prevent fighting? This wise mom said her mom had always used distraction.

Announce that it’s time for everybody to go outside for 15 minutes.

Set the timer for three minutes, and see how much everybody can clean up before the time is up.

Play a game.

Do anything to change the atmosphere, and get the situation going in a completely different direction.

I asked her if her kids ever resisted her suggestions, because they wanted to keep doing whatever they were in the middle of. She said no, because by the time things were heading towards a fight, no one was having fun anymore, and they were ready for a change. She also said her children had absolutely no idea how often she had used distraction to prevent a fight.

At first I thought, “Isn’t that cheating?! Don’t I need to let them pick fights so they will learn how to resolve them??”

But then I realized there are lots of things we do to prevent bad moods and behaviour. How much we sleep, what we eat, how much down-time we get, etc, all contribute to our moods and our ability to interact with others in a positive way. As my massage therapist would say, these are all “tools in our tool belt”!

I’m sure there will still be plenty of opportunities to help my girls learn how to positively work through conflict (I wrote about some of our techniques in this post), but I’m completely fascinated with the challenge of redirecting and distracting as we pursue peace and harmony.

I haven’t been trying this technique for very long, but it’s been working beautifully, so far. The wise mom is right – I can always tell when it’s time to shake things up. I’m spending more time being aware of what’s going on in our home, and thinking more intentionally about how to guide and direct my girls.

washing dishes

Keeping kids busy keeps them out of trouble. And when we see trouble coming, it makes sense to steer clear of it!

Any ideas you use for distraction?!

5 Tips to Stop the Yelling

I don’t even want to have this post on my blog. I never thought I would be a parent who could ever yell at my darling children. But one of the most important things I’ve learned about yelling at your kids is that it really has very little to do with your children, and everything to do with the parent.

Five Ways

When we only had one child, I was a fairly fantastic parent. I never yelled. Ever. There was no need to. Anika was very well behaved and obedient, and there was no other kid in the house for her to fight with, or have to share with. We spent hours reading together, all cozily curled up together, and life was quiet and awesome…but a little lonely! We definitely knew we wanted a sibling for her.

I finally got pregnant, after years of hoping, and suddenly, I wasn’t quite so patient. I was sick, grumpy, and hormonal. It was during that time when I first started to lose control of the volume of my voice. I hated it, because it wasn’t the kind of parent I wanted to be, and I loved Anika so much, but it was a problem that I’ve struggled with ever since.

I didn’t yell a lot, and when I did, it was usually connected to PMS or pregnancy hormones, but whatever the reason, it needed to stop. Things reached at climax when school ended this spring, because the girls were having a hard time adjusting to a summer schedule – or lack of schedule, and seemed to be filling their free time with bickering and fighting. It drove me crazy, which didn’t take much, because once again, those pregnancy hormones were raging.

I had read something in a book that stuck with me – Dr. Caroline Leaf writes in Switch on Your Brain that in order to lose weight, or change any kind of habit, it has to begin in the mind. Your thoughts need to change before your behaviour can change. I started thinking about how I could use her three week Brain Detox program to stop yelling. I had no idea if it would work, but it was worth a shot.

I learned the most interesting things about myself, and my sweet children. I can’t say I’m now perfect, and will never yell again. What I can say is that things are different around here, to the point where one night, Anika turned to me and said, “Mommy, you don’t really yell much anymore.” Bittersweet moment – I was so glad she noticed the difference, but she should never have needed to experience the yelling in the first place.

So for all those parents out there who dearly love their kids, and want to stop the yelling, I’m offering this little list of what I’ve learned as I’ve worked to change my mind, in order to change my mouth:

1) Start a Journal.

Part of the three week Brain Detox is being very intentional with what you think and say, and writing is the best way to keep track of what’s going on, as well as to plan for what you’re going to do differently.

Every night, I would write down everything I had yelled about. I would write down the behaviour that bugged me, how it made me feel, and how I could handle it differently the next time it happened.

I wrote down inspiring quotes on parenting and loving your kids, and verses about parenting and love, and anything else I thought would fill my mind with desirable thoughts.

Journaling was an incredibly helpful exercise in getting me thinking about what the root problems were in the negative situations we were facing.

2) Figure out what behaviour makes you yell, and find a different way to fix it.

Once I started seeing patterns in my journaling, I could come up with a consistent consequence or solution for those specific problems. When the situation would come up, I would be prepared with what to do.

For example, the big things that tick me off and get me raising my voice are:

  • Being spoken to in a disrespectful voice (Obviously, yelling is NOT going to help that situation!)
  • Repeated complaining
  • Repeated disobedience, when I’ve just dealt with that exact problem five minutes ago
  • Misbehaving when we’re late, and I’m trying to get everybody out the door as fast as possible

It was those same things, again and again. So Ben and I discussed it, and we tried to come up with consequences for those problems. And something as simple as getting the girls to wait in the car for me, instead of fighting with each other in the entrance, helped me to feel less frazzled about getting out the door, and I couldn’t yell at anyone because they weren’t there!

3) Recognize what puts you in a yelling mood, and keep it from happening.

My journal helped me to realize that I start yelling every Saturday morning around 10:00am. Up until then, our Saturday mornings are perfect. Ben makes waffles, we have a slow morning in our pajamas, we usually don’t have anywhere to go, and it’s very relaxing. But the fun always stops at 10:00. Why??!

Well, I came across this awesome article which opened my eyes. I may never be the same again. I would never have considered myself a “highly sensitive parent” before, but as I read that list, I could relate to so much of it. She writes about how we can be extremely affected by our physical environment – smells, touch, noise, etc.

You know what bugs me? Sitting around in my pajamas without brushing my teeth, combing my hair, or washing my face, for too long. I’m good till about nine o’clock. After that, I feel disgusting.

Yet every Saturday morning, I was doing this for hours, until I was totally grumpy. I started pulling on a pair of sweats first thing in the morning, and I felt SO MUCH better, just because I was dressed! I stopped waiting so long to get ready in the morning, and it made a huge difference.

A messy house also makes me grumpy. I don’t need the house to be spotless, but I like things picked up and put away. I’m trying to get the girls to do that before it starts aggravating me too much, or else I remind myself that it’s temporary mess, and at the end of the day, they’ll clean up their toys, and my house will be clean. It IS clean, under those toys.

Even what I eat makes a difference in my mood! How much I sleep, or if I’ve exercised that day – all these things affect my mood.

If I pay attention to my environment and things that make me grouchy and uncomfortable, I can take steps to prevent myself from going there, and will be less irritable, and less likely to yell.

4) Recognize what is behind the misbehaviour.

Just as I have reasons for yelling, my children have reasons for acting out.

A friend reminded me of this after we had spent a very hot afternoon at the beach with our kids. Both of my girls were unusually grumpy, and I was tired and impatient with them. I couldn’t understand what in the world was wrong with them. But then my friend said, “All kids get grumpy when they’re hot and tired.”

I suddenly realized I had forgotten to think of them as little people with problems as real as my own. I started to imagine how they must be feeling, instead of just being frustrated with the behaviour it caused.

There are tons of things that make my girls cranky – too much sugar, a bad night’s sleep, not drinking enough water on a hot day…the list could go on and on. Most of the time, they aren’t trying to be naughty or annoying. They don’t recognize what is making them uncomfortable and irritable. I need to recognize their needs, teach them to recognize their needs, and not put so much weight on the crankiness – often, that’s the symptom, but not the problem.

5) Choose what eyes you will use to see your children.

Since the day our girls were born, I would sneak into their rooms each night, just to watch them while they sleep. So innocent and peaceful and adorable. Those soft, warm, relaxed cheeks, and hot little hands poking out from under the blanket. What parent in their right mind could yell at such angels??!!

And then the next morning, they’d start making choices that annoyed me, and there we’d go again. No more soft-cheeked angels!!

Except… they were still the same kids – I was just seeing them differently. I started trying to take a breath, gain a bit of control, and remind myself that these were my sweet girls – my precious children whom I loved so much.

I tried to delight in them more throughout the day.

And they are really quite delightful! The more I delight in them, the less I feel like yelling at them when a problem arises.


But like I said, as awesome as these tips have been, I am not a perfect parent. I’ve needed to remind myself many times that we get a fresh start tomorrow. I apologize when I mess up, and then we try again.

Do you have any tips to add? How do you keep your cool when your kids are going crazy?!


What We Do With Our Mistakes

Recently, a friend shared a story with me about how she had publicly messed up, and exposed an area of weakness in her life. I had to laugh at the humorous way in which she related the story, but my heart ached with her as she went on to share how the guilt of that mistake has continued to hang over her life, and bring her shame.

I was reminded of one of my own more painful memories of public mistakes I’ve made…

It happened when we were living at camp, during the spring, when our “spring staff” came to work during the months of May and June – about a dozen college-age kids. It was always my favorite time of the year, because we were able to work closely with the spring staff, mentoring them and meeting for weekly Bible studies and worship times.


During one of those weekly meetings, we had an issue to discuss as a group, and needed to reach a decision together. I had previously spent a lot of time thinking about what the best outcome might be for this decision, but we needed to agree as a group. Everyone took turns sharing their thoughts, and there was quite a bit of disagreement about what should happen, which caused me to feel more and more frustrated.

My annoyance reached a climax when one of the spring staff members shared his opinion in what I felt (in the heat of the moment) was an inappropriate way, and I plowed into him. In front of the whole group, I shared exactly what I thought of his opinion and his way of expressing it, and I was most definitely not kind or tactful.

It took about two second for me to start feeling incredibly ashamed about what I’d just done, and by the time Ben and I went home from the meeting, I had beaten myself up for it, numerous times.

As Ben and I were talking together that evening, and getting ready to pray before going to bed, I began to cry and completely give in to all that guilt and shame that was hanging over me so heavily. I felt bad for potentially hurting the guy’s feelings, but my pride was really hurt, as well. I couldn’t believe how badly I’d messed up in front of all those people – I was the camp director’s wife, and wanted to play an important role in encouraging and mentoring the staff in their spiritual growth, but I had behaved in a very unspiritual manner.

Ben quietly listened to me go on for awhile, and then he said something I will never forget:

Your spiritual example will not be strong because you’re perfect and never make mistakes – it will show the strongest when you make mistakes, by how you respond and clean up after them.

I had to chew on that for a long time. I wanted to appear perfect, such an awesome example of a strong Christian that I would never mess up, but I began to see how unrealistic and prideful such a goal was.

How much better to have a soft heart, open to learning from Jesus, as well as from my mistakes, and to apologize for messing up and giving in to the sinful habits in my life.

I knew what I had to do – I needed to apologize as publicly as I had messed up, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a Christian. To confess in a group like that is harder than covering up, and acting as though I never did anything wrong.

I continue to think of Ben’s words these days, especially as I parent. I mess up so often, and I have to apologize so often. I don’t know how that will affect my girls in the long run, but I’m hoping they will learn humility, vulnerability, and the ability to confess mistakes, rather than hide them, or pass the blame onto another person.

And so when my friend shared her story, I knew how she felt – and I knew how badly she needed the healing only God can bring. So I prayed for her, and asked God, “What do you want to say to her?” And I felt as though this great excitement, of all things, was growing up inside me, for her, because it felt as though God was saying, “Her light will shine brighter because of that mistake. People will see what it looks like to confess, and ask forgiveness, and maybe they haven’t seen that much before.”

I got the sense that He will be able to do more through her soft, humble heart, than He ever could through a performance of perfection.

When we put up a perfect front, it gives others the impression that there is a wide chasm that separates us from them. Why would anyone want something so seemingly unattainable and untouchable? It makes sense to me that Jesus filling in my gaps, bridging over my flaws, would be far more encouraging for others to see – more appealing and real.

Be real.

Say sorry.

Try again.

Many times a day!:) And I keep hanging on to the promise that what Jesus has started, He will carry on to completion! I may have a long way to go, but we will get there yet!

What I Want to Do, I Do Not Do…

A few weeks ago, I was praying about parenting. I was especially frustrated that day, because it felt as though I repeat myself to my children over and over again, every single day, and I don’t really see much progress.

I was so fed up, I said to God, with much passion and annoyance, “WHEN will Anika listen to me???! Why can’t she learn to obey me??”

And God said, deep in my heart, “When will YOU learn to obey me? What keeps YOU from listening to ME?”

I thought about that for a bit, and finally realized: It’s my heart that keeps me from obeying God. I know what I need to do, but I do not have the strength to follow through. My heart needs to change in order for me to obey Him.

I was sharing this experience with Anika last night, and as I tried to explain it, the verses from Romans came to mind:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it….What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:15-20, 25)


Jesus rescues me. Jesus teaches me how to obey, and transforms me inside so that I start to do the good I truly want to do.

Trying to explain that to Anika in a way she could easily understand made me want to weep with relief, as I was reminded all over again that I am saved from this mess, and I do not need to do it on my own. “Thanks be to God…!”

Trying to force my children to obey me has not been working very well. I can get as annoyed and frustrated and angry as I want, but disobedience is only a symptom of the true problem – I need to keep praying for their hearts. I need to keep remembering that it is Christ who gives us and our children the strength to do what He wants us to do!

How can I be impatient with my girls, when I turn around, and there is God, waiting to teach me the very thing my children need to learn, as well?

So, Anika and I decided to try all over again the next day. We prayed about it, and we thanked God for second chances and fresh starts, and we will keep going for the heart.

Wading Out into the Middle

For a long time, it’s been my strategy to write blog posts about whatever is on my heart at the moment – what I’m reading, how I’m being challenged, what I’m learning about.

It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve written a post about what I’m learning. Part of it has to do with summer – relaxing, taking tons of pictures this time of year, and not taking the time to write deeper, more serious blog posts.

But part of the reason I’ve been holding back is because I feel as though I can’t openly share about what I’m learning right now. I don’t feel the freedom to do so, because the journey I’ve been on recently is actually someone else’s journey. I happen to be entering into it because I love and care for this person, and it’s touching my world right now. I’m going out of my comfort zone, trying to find my way through the mess of what I’ve grown up believing, and what is becoming real to me right now.

This summer, I’ve been learning all kinds of things, none of which I would have chosen to learn, because I’ve been uncomfortable. My views are being challenged, my relationships are being stretched, and I’m trying to learn how to live life with people who are different than me.

In the beginning, going out of our comfort zone made both Ben and me feel the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to protect our girls, sheltering them from what was unknown and uncomfortable for us, and keeping them far away from anything that felt threatening to us. It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t going to work, because it wasn’t real, practical or truly loving.

So, this summer has been about our family wading in, testing how deep we feel we can go, and taking it slowly because we’re leading young children into unexplored waters.We can’t keep our girls untouched, but we also feel as though we can’t rush right over to the other side and embrace all that is foreign to us.

What has become incredibly clear to me is that I believe Jesus would enter the mess.


He would be right in the midst of what is uncomfortable, and I’m pretty positive He would find the perfect place to be, somewhere in the middle.

Have you ever noticed that either extreme end of a problem is not a great place to be? All or nothing?

The best place to be is right in the middle, where it’s messy.

But the problem with being in the middle is that you’re constantly balancing. It’s like sitting in the middle of a teeter totter, continually needing to shift your weight to keep things balanced. It would be so much easier to sit on one side or the other, not having to keep adjusting and balancing, but it seems to me that all or nothing makes it easier to block truth, to miss out on what other people are thinking or experiencing or believing. It’s easier to shut down other people’s opinions.

Just recently, I read a fantastic interview with Alan Chambers in which he shares about his experience of wading out into the middle of an issue, after spending many years on one side of the extremes.

We have led with “this is what we’re against.” We have led with “this is a sin.” And we have not led with “Jesus loves you. Period. Everyone can have a relationship with Him. We all fall short. You’re absolutely welcome here.” I think we have this conversation with tears. I think we have this conversation with great caution and care. It’s not about capitulating to the world or denying the truth of God’s Word. But are there faithful people out there who love Jesus, serve him as much as we do and live very differently from us who we need to talk through these things with? I would say yes.

I find the space I have walked into far more contentious than the one I left behind. But I also don’t believe people live on polarized ends of the spectrum. I think the silent majority live in the middle. I’m standing here in this very weird place and not alone. I think I’m standing with a whole lot of other people, most of whom don’t have a microphone or a camera following them, who are saying, “I want to have that conversation.” ….Thousands and thousands of people are saying, “I may not agree with you completely, but it’s about time we had this conversation, and we’re with you.”

I have to admit, I’m not very good at saying, “I may not agree with you, but I’m with you.” Living in Southern Manitoba, it’s fairly easy to surround yourself with like-minded people, and after awhile, we sink into thinking that our way is the way – that sitting comfy on one end of an extreme is okay and right and good.

It’s neat and tidy, but it’s not really how people actually work. We’re all a mess of emotions, beliefs, junk from the past, and hope for the future. I want to embrace the chance to wade into the mess, because that’s where real people are.

We don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’re trying. I’m willing to learn, and to have the conversations that need to happen with people. I’m willing to say to our girls, “I’m uncomfortable with this, but we want to learn to love like Jesus, so let’s figure it out.”

I want to be with people who are different from me, and I want to learn how to accept and…celebrate (?!) those differences! I think there’s a whole lot more that God needs to teach me…

What about you – been doing any wading out into the middle lately? Any tips on how to take your kids into the middle with you?

What We’re Reading

We are a reading family.


This became clear to me, once again, when I looked over our Christmas gifts, and saw that between the four of us, we received 18 books, and were extremely excited about each and every one of them.

In addition to this, the highlight of the week is going to the church library, and finding even more books to read.

In case there’s another family out there in need of some good reading suggestions, I thought I’d do another book post to share our recent favorites, seeing as it’s been awhile since my last one.

Here are my most enjoyed reads:

1. Undaunted, by Christine Caine. I love listening to her speak, and since her new book is about getting past our fears and embracing the opportunities God sends our way, Ben thought I’d enjoy it, so he got it for me for Christmas. I’m not quite done it, but I’ve enjoyed it. Very challenging.

2. Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne. Friends of ours told us about this book a year ago, and it’s been on my “Wish List” ever since. I’ve read it once, but I think I need to read it a few more times! SOOOO challenging, with many, many fantastic, practical suggestions for how to clear the clutter from our children’s lives, including toys, schedules, choices, and media, just to name a few. LOVED it. I think every parent should read it.

3. A Family of Value, by John Rosemond. I was given this book as a gift when Anika was a baby, and when I started reading it at the time, it seemed like our family wasn’t at the right stage for it. I started reading it when I was down with the flu this Christmas, and am so sorry I waited so long! He has such a down-to-earth approach to family, and I love his ideas on how to teach children what he considers the three most important things: respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness. We will be making some changes in our family…:)

4. Love Does, by Bob Goff. Loved it. I can’t even sum this one up. I wrote about it last week, and I think I’ll be doing another post or two on this one.

And on my packing list for our upcoming vacation, I’ve got: Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Makes You Free, It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil, In His Steps, One Thing at a Time: 100 Simple Ways to Live Clutter-Free Everyday, and The Power of Now.

Ben says he’s read so many books in the last year as he finished up his Masters that he can’t remember what he’s read. He did say he enjoyed  Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, as well as Love Does, which was the book I bought him for Christmas

Anika tends to get a little hooked on certain books for a stretch of time. Since Ben first read The Hobbit to her, she’s reread it on her own about five or six times. They have started The Lord of the Rings, which she loves, but her dreams at night have gotten a little intense, and we’re wondering if it might be a little scary for her, so Ben’s skipping the really intense parts, and giving her a summary.:)

Her other favorites are Mandie books, as well as Canadian Girl and Teddy Jo books.

I just came across this reading list on Pinterest, which looks fantastic, so I think we’ll start working our way through it.


Kaylia completely loves Brambly Hedge, which is so much fun to read, and is beautifully illustrated. She is also going strong with Little House in the Big Woods, either the chapter book, or the illustrated version for younger kids.

And that’s what we’re reading! Any great suggestions out there? I’d love to hear them!