motherhood

The Long Awaited Guilt-Free Book About Connecting with the Sacred as a Mom

 

Hello Moms! Perhaps you're like me, parenting teens and holding on to a faint memory of having the luxury of time and mental capacity to linger over the Word and in prayer. Many of us go back to work or increase hours as our kids get older, only adding to the depletion of those two valuable assets: time and mental capacity! Can you relate? This is why I love my friend, Catherine McNiel's book, Long Days of Small Things, which launches today! Removing all guilt and readjusting our expectations, she writes of how to turn the everyday, mundane and monotonous moments into something sacred. And it is beautiful!

If you're a young mom friend, beware: This is the book I'll be giving out at showers and sending as congrats this year!

Enjoy getting to know Catherine and her heart for the book in this interview. And pay attention to the last question if you're wondering if you should have pulled "it" together by now with older kids!

Catherine, introduce yourself to us.

Thank you! I’m a mom with three kids (and a few part time jobs). I love to read and garden. I love to study theology and ancient cultures. I’m always trying to learn something new.  I enjoy getting to know my neighbors and learning how different people see the world. I love to explore how theology impacts our real, physical lives…and how our real lives impact theology.  I’m enamored by the creation of new life but find that working in the garden is less exhausting than pregnancy.

Now, introduce us to your book Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline.

Long Days of Small Things is a book that looks at the real life work we do in our everyday lives, and finds God right here in the midst of it. It’s a book for moms (or dads…or grandparents…or caregivers…) who know they don’t have any extra time or energy, but still want a way to connect with God and discover how to find Him.

How do you do that in Long Days of Small Things?

In each chapter I tell stories from our real lives—the seasons and stages of motherhood, pregnancy and delivery, infant days, sleepless nights, caring for children of all ages—and the tasks that fill them. I look at spiritual tools that already hide there—like sacrifice, surrender, service, perseverance, and celebration—and consider how we can open our eyes to the spiritual boot camp we walk through every day. Without adding anything extra to our live or to-do lists, we practice so many disciplines every moment of the day.

Why did you decide to write Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline?

A few years ago I was a work-from-home mom with a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler. These precious, demanding children took me all the way to the end of my rope…and left me there indefinitely! My life changed in every way, yet I heard only the same spiritual prescriptions I’d always heard: spend quite time each day with God. Find 30-60 minutes each day to be in silence and solitude before the Lord. As I considered the classic spiritual practices (which I love!)—prayer, worship, fasting, meditation, service, solitude, etc.—it became abundantly clear that the realities of motherhood meant I was likely to fail. Or opt out entirely.

But my spirit didn’t allow me to do that. I heard a lament rising in the hearts of the women around me—I have nothing left, nothing left to care for myself or give to God. But as I looked at the actual seasons and tasks of motherhood, I was convinced that there was no better “boot camp” for my soul. Each day we mothers create, we nurture. Each day we are pushed to the end of ourselves and must surrender, sacrifice, and persevere. Each day we serve, pouring ourselves out. We empty ourselves for those in our care—and isn’t this emptiness the very reliance on God that the spiritual disciplines are designed to produce?

[bctt tweet="We empty ourselves for those in our care—and isn’t this emptiness the very reliance on God that the spiritual disciplines are designed to produce?" username="bethhbruno"]

I’m convinced that motherhood is doing an eternal work on my soul, even if I’m too exhausted and overwhelmed to notice just now.

What are the “Practices” that you describe in Long Days of Small Things?

At the end of each chapter, I list three things we are doing already—things like walking, eating, driving, changing diapers, going to work. And I explore how we can use these things, already in our daily routines and schedules, to awaken to God’s presence with us. Moms often don’t have time to add additional tasks and tools into our days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use the tasks already there! In fact, in many cases, I think these natural things are the most effective.

How has motherhood impacted your understanding of spirituality?

We think of spirituality as something that happens in our minds, in silence. We are taught that our bodies, our mess and complications and noise hold us back from being with God. That doesn’t leave a lot of hope for moms, whose pregnant or post-partum bodies, newborns, toddlers, and van-full of carpool kids have no end of loud, messy, physical, chaotic needs.

But God made us, didn’t He? Genesis describes Him getting in the dirt and forming us from the dust by hand, then breathing His own breath into our mouths. That’s pretty physical and messy! Then He actually took on a body Himself. The King of Kings wiggled around in a woman’s womb, surrounded by amniotic fluid. He entered the world through her birth canal. God was born, you guys. That’s our Good News.

All this physical stuff that we feel keeps us from Him is the same stuff He used to meet with us, to speak to us, to save us.

So Long Days of Small Things is a book for moms “who have neither quiet nor time” as the cover says—or dads, grandparents, and other caregivers.

Describe an experience that first caused you to understand motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline.

I was shopping with my three kids. Can you imagine the scene? Lugging my infant in one of those terribly unwieldy baby-carriers. Holding my toddler by the hand, while my preschooler zoomed around the store. The diaper bag was falling off my shoulders, and I clenched the grocery bags with the same hand that grasped my toddler.

And then…the door. I couldn’t figure out how to get us all through. The baby was wailing for milk and a nap, the toddler and preschooler needed lunch (and a nap). I wanted lunch and a nap too, truth be told. But mostly I just wanted to get us out the door. No one held it open for me, but plenty of people watched me make a fool of myself trying to wiggle us all through without banging any heads or pinching any fingers. It felt like a hero-feat, an epic win.

When I finally got everyone home, fed, and sleeping, I sat down to read an article I’d been saving; a short biography of a favorite Christian teacher. The biographer described this hero of the faith as so spiritual, he radiated peace just by walking through the door.

This stopped me in my tracks. The memory of how I looked going through a door was so fresh in my mind. I realized that if spiritual growth entailed developing an aura of peace and radiance, I was never going to arrive—at least not without getting rid of these precious babies!

The contrast between this teacher and myself was so stark, and I realized he and I were simply on two separate paths. I was seeking God through the chaotic but life-giving seasons and tasks of motherhood, and this was going to look entirely different from the classic spiritual practices. “Results may vary” as they say.

How is this book different from all the other books and conversations out there regarding motherhood today?

There are so many books out there for moms on the topic of devotion and spirituality.  Almost all of them have this in common: after admitting that moms are exhausted, stretched too thin, without any margin or time or energy, they look for a few extra minutes here or there which might be harvested for God; or offer a Bible study or prayer list that might fit in the tiny slots. Get up at 4:30am before the baby wakes at 5am! Read two minutes of the Bible each day!

I’m all for doing these things when it works, but I’m convinced that we don’t need to exit motherhood to have a spiritual life. Our children are what we create, and this is where our Creator God meets us. I’m certain of it. Without adding more “should’s” or “to-do’s” to our days, we can open our eyes to a unique spiritual journey, made just for us—and find him here. We’re already doing it. All that waits is for us to breathe deeply and being to drink.

How have you noticed the "practices" change as your kids get older? Can you give one example of how a mother of a tween might experience similar daily spirituality?

That's a great question. My kids are still on the younger side, my oldest is ten. It does seem like the practices change as they get older. Maybe I'm getting more sleep and more time to myself, but I still have ample reasons to lose my patience, or worry, or realize that the parenting task before me is going to require everything I have and probably a whole lot more. And this is where I think parenting becomes a spiritual discipline -- when we have to dig deep and rely on God through stages of suffering, surrender, service, perseverance, etc.

I think the key to everything I describe in Long Days of Small Things is awakening to see that God is already present in each moment we're in. And he invites us to remember him, to reach out to him right there, in the midst of all we're doing. So in my book, I describe what this might look like in the baby stages of breastfeeding and diapers, but I also describe what it might entail when driving carpool, cooking dinner, or punching in at work. Our daily tasks might change as the kids get older, but the key concepts stay the same.

Bio: Catherine McNiel survived her children's preschool years by learning to find beauty in the mayhem. Now, she writes to open the eyes to God's creative, redemptive work in each day. The author of Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline (NavPress, 2017), Catherine cares for three kids, works two jobs, and grows one enormous garden.

*I received this book to review and help launch. 

 
 

When and How to Have Tough Conversations with Your Kids

 
 
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I had a proud mama moment this week. My youngest, a budding activist who happens to be a 5th grader, declared she was one of a few kids who raised their hands when the teacher asked who knew of Malala. She then apparently took over the discussion about girls’ education and Malala’s efforts, having not only read the book, but watched the documentary, He Named Me Malala.

Malala is her hero.

She knows about the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient because I bought her the Junior edition in 3rd grade. In 4th grade, I pulled her out of school when limited viewing of the film came to town. And, we’ve continued to discuss global inequity, girls there vs. here, how education decreases terrorism, and the overall privilege she enjoys. She stayed up late the night CNN aired Michelle Obama’s We Will Rise, celebrated Advent with the family at the After Spring Syrian Refugee documentary, and cried with me over Hidden Figures last week.

She’s an activist because of me. She’s a little women’s rights campaigner because of me.

And I’m proud.

A friend asked how to have tough conversations with kids and I knew, he was referencing porn, sex and sexuality, online safety, suicide… all the things we parents muster up the courage to address. We look for books and ask our elders, hoping for an easy, miraculously “safe” way to handle these sensitive topics. And then, if we’re intentional, we schedule a night, a breakfast, a weekend to convey the information, breathing a sigh of relief. We expect behavioral adaptations will follow.

What if they don’t?

Are my kids the only ones who have a short attention span? Is my son the only teen who says “got it” ten billion times a week as the most obvious attempt at covering up a blow off? Surely, I’m not the only parent who repeats herself.

I think osmosis is more effective than a fire hose. Hanging truth upon experience is what makes meaning. Slow parenting looks like repetition over time plus example. And this? This is not accomplished in a singular event.

We cannot teach our kids media literacy over dinner. We won’t raise sexually pure kids as a result of one special weekend. We will not inoculate them from peer pressure after one bullying presentation.

How do parents have tough conversations with their kids? Start young. Don’t stop.

My 10-year old can handle watching a film about Syrian refugees because we’ve talked extensively about global issues. She could read about Malala’s volatile and dangerous life at age 8 because I didn’t shield her from the world’s pain. She wears a “People Don’t Buy People” sweatshirt to school because she gets modern day slavery. Even if she doesn’t fully understand it or picture what it entails, she gets people being forced to do something they never wanted to do.

Raising children to engage the brokenness and darkness and glories of the world as adults requires exposing them to the brokenness and darkness and glories of the world as kids (in age appropriate chunks). As Kate Conner, author of Enough, writes, “Crack the door and let all of the broken, beautiful humanity flood in like a sunbeam. Let it in; let it move her. Let it inspire her, wreck her, challenge her. Let it change her. If you want her to catch the fire, you’re going to have to put her near a flame.”

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If you want to have tough conversations with your kids, you’re going to have to get them near the flame. And of course, you’re going to have get near the flame too.

 

Biking as a Metaphor for Life and Other Things I Tell Myself while Trying to Survive the Netherlands on Two Wheels

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There are many places to begin this story. And many parts of the story that should be told. All in good time. I want to tell you about my daughter's rites of passage year and how we ended it in an epic quest to answer the question, "where are you going?" I want to tell you all about hanging meaning on experiences and how metaphors are for parenting. I want to tell you about her test and how she passed into the company of women. These stories will come. For now, I need to tell you about the bikes. We like to bike. And this daughter, this one needed a physical challenge to really test her grit. I figured, the Netherlands is the flattest country in the world and has more bikes than people. How hard could it be? I had a book that outlined the routes in painstaking detail, I was going to a spin class once or twice a week, my mom was training 15 miles/ day, we had butt butter. We got this.

*****

We are late picking up our bikes. I have already made a huge mistake in not renting a hotspot and have snuck into another bike rental shop to use their wi-fi to find the shop where I have made a reservation. With 10 minutes to closing, we rush through Amsterdam's Dam Square with our backpacks, already looking ridiculous: we are not 22-year old backpackers, but 68, 42, and 13.

Mike, the owner, is still there with an incredibly helpful co-worker. Too chatty. Our hostess is expecting us right now and I want him to stop being so friendly, so slow. There are chain locks to describe, wheel locks, handlebars, and repair kits. The friendly co-worker claims they've never had a flat tire, but just in case... There are seats to lower- none of which are low enough for me to comfortably touch the ground at stops. This will prove to be an issue. But what are we to do? We have spent the afternoon in the city, and have noticed the number of people on bikes, mopeds, in cars, and on foot. For a fleeting moment, I consider scrapping the whole idea. What are we doing?

The map shows we are only 2 miles away from our hostess' house and once we get through Dam Square and reach the last canal, we should be in a nice park the remaining stretch. We are not so arrogant as to think this will be easy. The afternoon has shown us we are out of our league. I contemplate walking the bikes the whole way to the park. My mom and I look skeptically at each other.

I decide there is no choice. I lead. We walk the bikes down the alley to the street and wait for long minutes for a break in the traffic long enough to aim the right way, mount, and get into the stream. I feel more vulnerable than I ever have: my body is exposed to this hoard of movement.

I am trembling. I want you to picture the last place you went with throngs of people: a concert? a ball game letting out? rush hour at the metro station? taste of Chicago? Imagine that of these thousands of people, 5% are in cars, 5% are on mopeds, 10% are walking and 80 freaking % are on bikes. 3000 people. 300 are on foot. 150 are driving cars and 150 are driving mopeds. And 2400 people are on bikes. Do you get the idea? Madness is all around.

We follow the masses and make it through the first light. We high-five each other. It truly feels like an enormous accomplishment. But at the first turn, Ella is cut off and pushed into another stream. We share a lane with mopeds and cars the size of golf carts. There are bike lights and pedestrian lights and car lights. There are lanes that are vertical, horizontal, and diagonal. The hidden rules are known by all, except us. Everywhere, there is water. Bridges and boats and streets with names that all look the same. We are going to die. By the second light, my mom's backpack has fallen off the back of her bike. At the third light, I struggle to get back on and teeter so much, the light turns red again. These first signs of our novice, amateur naivety will prove to be patterns that repeat, repeat, repeat.

An hour and a half later, we pull up to the flat where we are staying and I promptly trip and fall off the bike, getting my first of multiple bruises. My pulse is racing.

*****

The plan is to take the bikes on the train to Utrecht and bike into the "country" to Gouda, land of cheese. We are looking forward to a castle, a famous witch weighing station, and lots and lots of sheep. 30 or so miles today. On flat land. We got this.

Miraculously, we manage to navigate the bikes into Amsterdam Central Train Station, find the bike lift, get them on the right train car for bikes, lock them in place, and get off at Utrecht before the train pulls out of the platform again. Granted, by now we're hours past when I thought we'd be here.

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My mom's pre-trip job was to find stories of women in the towns we'd pass through and she has found a statue of a Dutch heroine in Utrecht's town center. We follow the signs to the Centrum, where our bike route starts anyway. In the Visitor Center, I buy a regional map and learn that the guide we're following is outdated. Holland is changing its bike path system. None of our numbers are trustworthy. My mom tears up the pages. We fail to find the statue and look for the first number on our new map.

Thus it begins.

 

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We find our number and head out, exhilarated. We have begun! We follow the bikers, the path, the twists and turns, and then we lose the number. At the first fork, there is no sign. NO sign! I have not yet learned that there is an app for this. That would come in the afternoon of the last day. I have not yet started taking pictures of maps when we find them to refer to later, nor writing numbers on my hands. All of this would come later. Today, on day one, I am completely taken off guard. This was supposed to be easy!

 

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What we learn today is that everyone speaks English and everyone is willing to help. We begin to shamelessly stop people mid-ride and ask for their help. 6 people and an hour and a half later, we meet a woman who is going in our direction! She offers to lead us and along the way, we learn she is going to a badminton club, that she has extra mattresses and is willing for us to sleep on her floor (she must think we'll need it!), that Utrecht is growing and redoing everything and that the numbers for the bike path will be the last thing they finish.

When at last we reach the castle, it is raining. My butt is so sore I have lost feeling. I wonder if my butt is misshapen? Surely no one else feels this level of pain because someone would have invented a new bike seat by now! We are 1/4 of the way to Gouda and have been on a bike for 4 hours already. We sit near the moat and piece together the ripped scraps of our outdated map to figure out clues as to how to proceed on our own. We leave and turn the wrong way, only to realize it a mile down the road and turn back. This becomes the rhythm of the next few hours, all the way to the next city with a train station, which we decide is about as far as we will make it on this gloomy day.

castle *****

It took all of Holland to get us through this trip. Over the course of our 4 days on bikes, we were escorted no less than 5 times- by a couple as confused as we were, but determined to get us to our next path, by a man who put Ella on his wife's bike while he peddled and held on to our flat-tired bike (the first of two bikes that got flats), by a man who took us back to his house to pump our tire. We stayed with hosts as part of "Friends on the Bike" which saved money and gave us an inside look into Dutch culture. And we even had a blessed angel selling ice cream from her farm in the middle of nowhere.

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We survived.

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But most importantly, we had an adventure.

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How is this like life?, I asked Ella. As we consider finding the answer to "where are you going?" it turns out this journey through the Netherlands was a perfect metaphor: you always need a map, sometimes you need an actual guide, but the more experienced you get, sometimes you just go with your gut. Oh, and there will frequently be challenges. In all our preparation, there was no way to account for the wind and rain, the sore butts, the flat tires, the number of times I would teeter on the bike at stop lights, the near misses Ella had with cars, mopeds, and trams, and the complete lack of signage. Truly, in life there are so many things we are never prepared for.

Looking at life as metaphor helps you name that which is too often invisible. It brings story into everyday living. It shifts your perspective as you see through a different lens. It distills the abstract into concrete tangible lessons. And it is such a valuable tool for parenting!

At least, that's what I told myself whilst trying to keep my daughter and mother alive.

Suicide and Teens: Coaching Your Child to Coach their Friend

I'm not going to lie. It can be a pain being married to a counselor. For one thing, it's the eyes- laser penetrating compassionate eyes that say, "I know babe. There's so much more in there. Just let it out." When you don't.want.to.let.it.out! Then you find yourself using words normal people don't use such as space, trigger, and deescalate or diagnosing friends even though you've never read the DSM. Not to mention the fact that 80% of his day you know nothing about and never will.

But then there are the times when having a live-in therapist is really useful, maybe even a life saver. For instance, when the girls would rather be "cliented" by Dad instead of running through the saga with me again. Or when he can break through to my friends and bring out the tears and then love them like a big brother.

Or the time he coached our tween daughter how to handle a live suicide threat via text.

I've already written about how to talk to your kids about suicide. It is alarming how close and personal this is, how young they are attempting, and how pervasive the threat. A few months ago, two 11-year olds committed suicide in our community. And yet, when our tween ran downstairs in a panic with her phone shaking in her hands, I had no idea what to do.

Cue live-in therapist.

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I'll give you the bullet point strategy in a second, but here is what I learned that night: what he was essentially teaching our daughter.

1. Responsible To Not Responsible For You are responsible to your friend, but not for her. Friends should respond to pain and be good listeners and problem solvers. You are responsible to get her help, but you are not responsible for her mental health, her choice to follow through with that help, or the overall outcome.

2. Care But Don't Carry You need to care for, but not carry your friend. Teens muddle this. They huddle during recess, go on long walks during class, and spend hours on the phone thinking they are caring for their friend when in reality they are carrying them. Teens love to hear, "You are the only one I can talk to," but that is a sure sign you are carrying a burden that is not yours to bear.

3. Boundaries Don't Mean Banishment Creating good healthy boundaries is something everyone needs to do, but especially teens! Letting the friend know you will be going to bed soon and turning off the phone or will be gone all weekend communicates this boundary and forces the friend to develop other resources. This is not banishing the friend to her crisis, but once you feel she is in an okay place, a healthy boundary would be stepping out of the emotional funnel and getting other people involved.

[bctt tweet="Creating good healthy boundaries is something everyone needs to do, but especially teens!"]

In the midst of these amazing life lessons, my husband coached her through some simple steps to deescalate/ talk the friend off the cliff:

  1. After the initial threat comes in, ask who is there with her. Who does she feel closest to? Would she go wake that person right now please?
  2. Tell her how much you care for her and how sad you would be if you didn't see her at school tomorrow.
  3. Insist that she talk to the safest family member at home at that moment.
  4. Ask for proof that she is with someone. Ask for a selfie of her and that person.
  5. Tell her you can sleep better now and that in the morning you'll see her before class.
  6. Ask if she feels better.

After our daughter went to bed, we decided on a course of action. My point here is that every situation will be different and these thoughts are in NO way meant to be legal or therapeutic advice. I am merely sharing an example of how we engaged our middle schooler when suicide came close. It continues of course. These conversations are daily. But our primary concern is that our daughter doesn't carry a burden and then feel absolutely responsible if anything tragic happens. Our secondary concern is for her friend who is hurting and what we can do to help.

If you are hurting or know someone who is, please seek help. Here is the 24/7 English and Spanish National Suicide Prevention Hotline number: 1 (800) 273-8255. Don't wait.

Over-Sexualized Children: One Way to Stop the Sponge Effect

 
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My friend’s daughter is in the 1st grade. Though they do not own a TV, she is already sporting a sexy sass and eying boys. The only real explanation is that she is mirroring what she sees at school. Kids are already talking about “dating.” Her class has a collective conscious that their sexuality is something to wield as a means of control, like Samantha’s nose twitch on Bewitched. (And I promise, it was already in reruns when I was a kid!)

In a meeting with a school counselor, I hear of another 1st grader. After he recently smacked a classmate’s butt, he wound up in her office. As she pursued the little boy and his reasoning, his attitude said “duh” everyone knows, while he verbalized, “It’s what girls deserve.”

Bottom line? Kids are sponges. They will absorb whatever is most frequently put before them, whether it’s domestic violence and machismo at home or over-sexualized peers in class. And the reality is that our seven-year olds are exposed to far more than we can prevent or control.

The same school counselor expressed her concern that her kids have to code-switch: shed what they know as normal from home when they come through school doors and vice versa. NPR hijacked this term from linguistics to broadly describe the “hop-scotching between different cultural and linguistic spaces and different parts of our own identities — sometimes within a single interaction.

My friend’s daughter has to code-switch everyday when she enters her classroom: Mom may say it’s not appropriate to “date” at age 7, but every single one of my girlfriends likes a boy and to be cool, I have to too. The butt-slapping 7-year old code-switches every time he returns home: Ms. Smith says girls don’t deserve to be treated like that, but my uncle and granddad and older brother treat all their girls that way, so what’s the deal? Can we truly expect children to switch so quickly, so effortlessly? Is it any wonder that these incidents are happening?

As adults, unless we raise children in an isolated bubble, they will absorb the rhetoric and narrative of those with whom they spend most of their time. And yet, if we don't expose them to the world, how can we teach them to respond in beautiful and honoring ways? How do we raise boys and girls to value themselves and others within their own selves, not to the manipulation, control, or degradation of the other?

I offered my friend one nugget of a suggestion, timidly, for my own kids are still in adolescence and I have no proof my hypothesis works.

But I’ve seen the Sponge Effect.

And to combat it, I’ve sought to raise my kids’ perspective above the daily drama of school politics, relational positioning, and cultural messaging. I’ve read them stories of girls living on the other side of the globe, forced to walk miles for water, marry at their age, or stay home from school because of hygiene issues. We’ve watched films about Jewish children smuggled out of ghettos or Vietnamese girls who bike for hours a day to attend school. I’ve opened their eyes to sacrifice, for sure. But more than that, I’ve opened their eyes to the bigger narrative of kids: past and present in every corner of the world. If we were all created in God's image, do we not all deserve to be valued in a way that is honoring to Him? Now, when one of them complains about the most recent school drama, I remind them that we all have something in common.

My goal is to locate my kids in a meta-narrative: Yes, I believe there are universal truths. Let us at least start with human dignity for all (and abolish butt-slapping because of the belief it’s what she deserves!) Perhaps then, we can agree to valuing ones self for one's self, not based on the arm one is attached to? Of course, there will be differences in opinion on sexuality, gender norms, and roles in relationships, but can we not agree to these basic truths? Children ought to learn to value themselves and others with dignity.

And that is worth absorbing.

What about you? What have you done to help curb the sponge effect?

 

For The Mom Who Aches For More

 
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Dear Mom,

Is this you?

You have battled thru the Mommy Wars and wrestled with sleep training and discipline methods and school choices and career/stay at home dilemmas. You have fought to find your own voice and now you know, in your bones- you are valued, purposed, wanted.

And more than anything, you want your daughter to know this too, beyond question.

You read Sarah Bessey and Addie Zierman and connect- your faith has taken a beating too. The same Evangelical space no longer fully holds you. You attend IF: Gathering and your heart swells- there are strong women speaking your language. Jennie Allen and Jen Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp remind you- you are strong, valued, purposed, wanted.

You are a mama to a tween. And you are wondering. How in the world am I going to raise her in this new spiritual space I find myself occupying?

You look out at what's available to your kind and you find princess archetypes, balls and promise rings, purity and covenants and spiritual weekends and you think, fine, good, but insufficient. The weight of your daughter's glory hangs in the balance and requires so.much.more.

You look out at her kind and you see young women living small stories, preoccupied with a world of their making of which they are in the center, being swallowed whole by the drama and gossip and narrative of teen culture. You wonder, is it stoppable? Preventable? Especially when you glance back at your kind and realize some of them never grew up. You have people in your spaces still living small stories.

[bctt tweet="You have people in your spaces still living small stories."]

In fact, you realize this is an epidemic. Too many peers have yet to discover their voice. Too many are preoccupied with a world of their making. They can't see past the immediate, the constraints, the hurdles, but worst- they don't believe they're needed, valued, purposed.

And so you look at your daughter. This young girl becoming.

She must know in the core of her being that God has purposed her. She must know He is the center of the story of which she is called to be a part. She joins the tale He is telling, through the passion he has placed in her heart. And the drama? The drama is the unfolding of redemption; the story of mercy poured out on a people. Who will be her people? What will be her place? Which problem will she embrace?

Because you realize, a girl living out her passion does not have time for drama of the teen sort. She is too busy growing in curiosity and wonder and being wrecked by a God who calls us to a story of epic proportions.

Is this you, Mom?

Is this you looking for hope for your girl-child-becoming?

Can you recall a memory of when you were first wrecked? When you were young and naive, did you ever get preachy and make everyone around you feel guilty? When were you so gripped with passion that you sacrificed time and money to advance your cause?

Mine? I became a right-wing, secular humanist-fearing activist in high school because of a camp I attended. I came home and raised my voice and got all heated about certain magazines in our public school library and went before our school board and landed front and center in our local newspaper. It makes me chuckle and roll my eyes now. I would love to take my principled 17-year-old self out for coffee!

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But you know what? I was passionate. I had been wrecked by God. My faith was young and naive and maybe I was hearing him wrong, but I loved him and wanted to align my life with the things he cared about. I did it in messy, broken ways... the way we do when we are following a story one chapter at a time.

Do you want more for your daughter? Pray that God would wreck her. Pray that she would develop a passion that sets her sights on a meta-narrative and gets her out of the small story of American teen drama. Welcome her into your own passion.

And mom? If you lack your own, well, you know where you must begin.

Together on the journey,

Beth

 

When Suicide Comes Close @Today's Christian Woman

Suicide For my lovely readers, I wanted to direct you to my article on Today's Christian Woman, How To Talk To Your Kids About Suicide.

When our family hosted a young girl who struggled with suicidal thoughts, our kids came face to face with the 3rd leading cause of adolescent death. Later, when a classmate took his life, we knew we had to do better to prepare our kids to handle this new reality. Hopefully, our game plan encourages you to make a similar one in your homes. Read about it here.

Mothering Boys: Surviving The Transition Years Of Adolescence

** I wrote this 1.5 years ago and find it to still be true. Parenting is ever-changing and it can feel risky to speak authoritatively about any of it! This is posted over at The Redbud Post. MotheringBoys

Sugary calorie rich junk food covers my kitchen counter this morning and pop-its litter the garage. Somewhere in the neighborhood 3, maybe 5 or 7 teenage boys are loose, celebrating the end of middle school while every other grade remains in class for two more days. That makes the freedom all the more vast: they are alone and independent (in the subdivision!)

The friends are good kids. Goofy and messy and irresponsible, but fun. I like them. And though my own son towers over me at a day shy of 14 and his shoe size has surpassed his father’s and high school football has already begun and the future is happening, I’m okay. I like where this is going. I like where he is going. I like who he is becoming.

We’re going to be okay. But I didn’t always feel this way.

Parenting adolescents is really a crappy job. It rivals the toddler years when it seems that the messes and tantrums have no end. In the in between, we’re blessed with inquisitive children who love school and call their teachers mom and make best friends in a day and have no weekend expectations and go to bed before 8. It is the season of recuperation. We’ve made it through sleepless baby months and exhausting toddler years and the diapers are gone and grunting and pointing has turned to reasoning (and arguing too, but it’s cute.) We don’t realize that something dark and murky takes over kids in their 10th -11th year passing and lurks for 3 more – the transition.

finish the story at The Redbud Post...