What Gift Will You Give Your Kids This Year?

As we contemplate the new year and what will be different, maybe we should think about our parenting and what legacy we are creating.  What gift do we want our kids to hold on to that can’t be wrapped in a box?  

Sitting in a doctor’s office, I was surprised to find out that we were actually being seen by the son of a doctor I had made acquaintance with several years prior.  Not wanting to be overtly obvious and wanting to give this man my full attention so that he could properly make a diagnosis, I chose not to bring up the connection too early in our conversation.

Having been to numerous doctors’ offices with my son over the past several years, it didn’t surprise me at all that this young doctor started interacting with us in a casual manner telling us that he had recently graduated from medical school and was finally following in his father’s footsteps.  Becoming a physician was his second career. What did surprise me though was that as the dialogue continued, it became obvious that he was the son who thought he had never quite measured up in his father’s eyes.

How sad.

Here was a man most likely in his early 40’s who had not only graduated from medical school and was now a physician, yet his identity was wrapped up in what Dad thought of him.  

I began wondering what lies had been spoken over him in his quest for manhood and approval.

As he made his diagnosis, it was almost as if he was asking if we agreed with him.  

As parents of tweens and teens, it is easy to get frustrated when our kids make mistakes or choose not to do something that we think is in their best interest. But during those times of interaction do we treat them with respect or do we tear them down to the point that their identity becomes mired into thinking of themselves as “failures”.

Like it or not, we are a mirror for our kid’s identity.  Our actions, reactions, words, body language, and facial expressions all send a message that says either “I respect you as a person” or “You don’t measure up”.

We are weaving the foundation for our kids in how they measure up when they face the outside world as well.

  1. Do we offer empathy when their world comes crashing down on them?
  2. Do we console their disappointments and give them hope for their tomorrow?
  3. Do we guide them in how to handle difficulties so they can be more confident?
  4. Do we point them to Jesus Christ as their source of identity?
  5. Do we release them to be who God created them to be rather than who we want them to be?

Colossians 3:21

Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Romans 15:5

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.

Dare you to take inventory of how you are responding to your teens and the impact you might be making on how they think of themselves.  Better yet, why not ask them how they think you view them.  If the response is not what you had hoped for, try apologizing for your parenting mistakes.  Polish the mirror so they see themselves as God sees them.

“Let go…and let God”,


What Do You Want Your Kids’ Christmas Memories to be?

I wrote this blog the first Christmas after my daughter’s death and hope that it is an encouraging reminder of what our role as mom is during this Season.  As you head into the final week of preparation, my prayer is that you will pause long enough to cherish the memories that you are creating and will remember to give lots of hugs.

God bless.


This has been a year to reflect on our family Christmas memories. With the death of my daughter this year, the details of Christmas are more pronounced than ever.  The glaring reminders that it is time to celebrate even though I’m not quite in the mood. 

I’ve found that I am over-consciously aware of my surroundings.  The trees are greener, the decorations more detailed, and I have a sense of every Christmas smell.  Yesterday we had an extended family get-together and someone wrote nutmeg as a reminder of the season.  I could almost smell it in a pumpkin pie even though there wasn’t one in the house.  It is as if my senses are on steroids aware of every particular aspect surrounding me– especially the vacuum deep in my soul.  The hollowness of something missing.  Someone is missing.

As the children’s choir stood on stage this year, I saw our daughter as an 8 years old be-bopping to the music.  As I shopped I saw her as a 13 year old spraying all the scents at the perfume counter deciding which was the best.  I remembered when she came home from college one year and we went Christmas shopping on Black Friday.  We could barely carry all the bags to the car because of all the outfits we bought her for under $50 at the Macy’s sale. 

Memories are everywhere I go with all the details.  And I will admit that not all of them are good.  The things I got upset about.  The frustration I showed in my voice.  The things I could have said differently or the hug that I could have extended in a difficult moment.  You see, at the time, the details weren’t so vivid.  They were lost in the commotion of everything else that had to be done.

And if I can convey anything to you as a mom, “Please don’t let everything else around you be more important than the details with your kids.  The table might not be perfect or the pie might be a little burnt.  You might forget to buy the nuts for Uncle Ted’s favorite cranberry sauce.  But-none-of-it-matters.”

The only thing that matters is what they will remember–what you will remember.

  • If we’re tired and worn out, they’ll remember us yelling at them for the umpteenth time. 
  • If we have one more thing to do, they’ll remember that we didn’t have time for them.
  • If everything isn’t perfect and we let them know, they’ll think they never measure up.
  • If impressing our extended family is more important than our kids’ requests, they’ll feel they aren’t as important as others in the room.

We have the power to change all thatBut it takes looking at the details.  It means we have to look in the mirror at us.  What do we want our children to see?  What do we want their detailed memories to be?

Even though our loss is heavy, I choose to see the flip-side.  Now instead of singing on stage as an 8 year old, my daughter is singing with a choir of real angels glorifying our heavenly Father in person.  She has a front row seat to what the season is all about.  She smells the sweet aroma of sacrifice as she’s dressed in white.

The details of all the Christmas hymns seem to have more meaning to me now.  Even though there is a void, I long to hear the words of the carols.  “We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!”

Now that the crazy busyness is over in preparation for the Christmas season, I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on what this season really means to you and what you want for your kids.  Even if your teens and tweens are in a stage where they are tough to love, try to extend grace in the midst of their struggle.  These are times when we need the strength of our heavenly Father.

Someone sent me an email earlier this week and the words have resonated with me all week.  It’s what I want this Christmas season.

I hope your Christmas is filled with silent moments with the King, and love overflowing to family and friends. 

Silent moments with the King!  That’s what I want.  

Now that Christmas is here, I hope you will rest in Him.  May He be your guide and strength during the season.  And may your silent moments with the King reveal the details of His everlasting love.

Luke 2:14

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

May His favor rest on you as you create memories this holiday season.  May you find peace in Him today and be sure to find time to carve out silent moments with the King.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Setting Christmas Expectations?

The other day I found myself in a fast food restaurant  with two teens sitting a booth away.  As I eavesdropped on their conversation, I realized that they were in the same mode I was in–setting expectations.

I was sitting with my sandwich and my list of all the things I needed to accomplish to make the holidays perfect.  Making a list of presents to buy and activities our family could enjoy together, I listened as these two boys planned their perfect Christmas break.

“I’m going to move my gaming system down into the basement during Christmas and play games all week.  Hopefully, I’ll get the new controller that I want along with a game.  You can come over and hang out with me and maybe spend a couple of nights.  I’m also going to invite Josh and Simon.”


“I wish I could be Ryan this year.  Then I would definitely get all the gaming gear I want for Christmas.  His parents are both PhD’s with great jobs.  He’s set for life and can get whatever he wants…”

And the conversation continued.

But I stopped listening.

The light bulb in my head was shining brightly.  Oh, my.   I wonder what his parents are doing to combat his expectations?

How many times do we as parents plan the perfect holiday season while our kids are off doing the same thing?  I’m sure this kid’s parents didn’t envision their son spending his Christmas break holed up in his basement with his gaming system and all his friends.  I’m guessing all the boys that he is planning to invite have parents that are making family plans as well.

So what will most likely happen?

Conflict and lots of unrealized expectations.

It’s natural to have expectations; and planning does need to take place before the holidays arrive.  But what are we as parents doing to set expectations–realistic expectations–for both us and our teens?

A couple of years ago, my oldest son and his wife were coming home from Europe for the holidays.  Since I hadn’t seen them in a while, I absolutely couldn’t wait to have all my kids home for Christmas–it was a treat that only came around every two years.  I had set my expectations on all the fun things we would do as a family.  

And then my expectation bubble burst.  

Yes, they were coming home, but they were bringing his wife’s sister and my son’s best friend.

What?  For the holidays?  But that should be family time — was ringing in my head.  How are there going to be intimate one-on-one conversations when we are entertaining guests?  Christmas morning will be weird with others watching our family open presents. 

And the list of all my objections continued…

Not only did my expectations clash with my son and his wife’s expectations, but I realized that my other children also had expectations of what Christmas would be like.  They couldn’t wait for their brother to come home in anticipation of all they cool things they would do together.  They didn’t want to share this little time they had with their brother. 

I could see my youngest’s heart was heavy with disappointment as he realized that his brother’s time would be spent with his friend and not with him–a cruel reality in his mind.

It became a time of expectation readjustment–for everyone.

So how do you get everyone on the same page with expectations before school is out and the holidays begin?

  1. Plan a family time to have conversation–if not together at least separately.  Be sure to include kids that are away at college and those that are married.  Find out what each person is hoping for when you all are together.
  2. Set expectations early and stress the importance of flexibility.  Let everyone know that not every dream for their holiday can be met fully.  
  3. Let everyone know the non-negotiables.  For example, if dinner is on Christmas Eve with grandma then that might mean family only.  Period.  There will be other times during the holiday to include friends.
  4. Make sure everyone is in on the plan early rather than the day of the event.  Let each person know when they will have free time to do their thing.
  5. Make sure everyone has plenty of time to “grieve” their expectations before the holidays begin.  Time gives the person time to readjust the dream versus the reality.

As my youngest got used to the idea that his brother was bringing guests for Christmas, he had to “grieve” his expectations.  I’ll admit, I grieved with him.  For him and for me.  But what I discovered was I needed to allow him to express his disappointment.  We talked frequently about what he was going to miss about the one-on-one time.  And then we put words to his desires with his brother.

“What is one thing that you could do with your brother that would be special?” I asked.  As he contemplated that, it helped him to reset his expectations of the holiday season.  

For me, I knew that I wanted at least one moment where my oldest where I could just have deep conversation without interruption–just our special time together.   Once I shared those desires, it became an expectation that my son was more than willing to fill.  We went to his favorite restaurant while my husband entertained our guests.  That time together filled my soul.

That Christmas had a profound affect on our family.  It helped us be more flexible in our expectations of the holiday season.  It also forced communication in dealing with disappointment by verbalizing “one thing” that was import so that our  expectations would be lowered which meant less conflict.

For us, we also discovered that having friends join the festivities during the holiday season took the focus off the gifts and made it about connection.  What we got was the “best” of the Christmas season and memories that will last a lifetime.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dare you to start having your holiday expectation discussions today with your kids so that peace will reign throughout your Christmas season.

“Let go…and let God”,


Quieting The Christmas Gift Expectations

We live in a give, give, and give some more culture–especially when it comes to our kids.   I’ll be the first to admit that I lavished gifts onto my kids.  After all, I wanted them to have all the things that I just knew would make them delighted.

And then there were all the activities.  As a mom I did what most of us do, I gave, gave, and gave some more — every opportunity that I thought would expand my kid’s horizons and let them explore their dreams to reach their potential.

But are our kids grateful?  Do they have an attitude of thankfulness?

Sometimes as parents I think our view of parenting is skewed.  We think that if we give more to our kids they will feel loved and will auto-magically (by the way that’s our family’s coined word) be thankful.  In reality, when we don’t teach our kids to understand gratitude, when they become older teens and young adults they sometimes have difficulty learning the harsh realities of life that everything will not magically come to them.

As I think about the holidays and have seen firsthand how expectations over gifts under the tree can throw our kids into depression, I wonder what we are doing to combat the issue in our families.

Have we placed so much emphasis on us giving and our kids receiving that we’ve forgotten how to teach our children to have an attitude of gratitude?  They can’t see the positives because they become so focused on what others have that they don’t.

Does giving too much create a negative pattern of thinking that makes kids feel they deserve everything they want?

I’m not sure we’ll ever fully understand how our kids think; however, researchers have found that the brain can actually be rewired as a result of actively choosing gratitude.  In fact, anxiety and depression are reduced as a result of being thankful.

Imagine that if instead of focusing on what we are giving this holiday season we helped our kids focus on the things for which they can be grateful.  What if we did the same?  Maybe we would all have a rewired brain that focuses on the good.

Here are some ways you might consider helping your kids move to a new way of thinking to change their attitude:

  1. Have each person in the family make a list of five things they are grateful for before they go to bed at night. By doing it at night we are helping our kids focus on the positives as they sleep.  (Hopefully they’ll wake up in a better mood).  Then share those things at the dinner table the next day.
  2. At least once a month have each person go around the table telling why they are thankful for each person at the dinner table.  Most likely it will bring lots of hugs.
  3. Identify a “cause” that your family can focus on during the next several months — cook for a homeless shelter, visit a rehab center bringing small homemade gifts, raise money to buy goats or chickens for an oversees orphanage, adopt a less fortunate family for Christmas, or babysit for a single mom are just a few ways to get the focus off our teens and help them see the difference in what is and what could be.
  4. Actively choose to spend less on presents during the Christmas season and create more opportunities to just be together.  Plan a holiday calendar of one-on-one time between each family member — mom and son date, mom and daughter date, dad and son date, dad and daughter date, as well as brother and sister dates.

Helping our kids discover that they have lots to be thankful for can help our kids become healthier adults with fewer expectations of what the world owes them.  The result will be a better attitude.

1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is
received with thanksgiving, 
 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Dare you to be intentional during the holiday season teaching your teens the true meaning of generosity and gratitude.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Looking for a way to get Dad more engaged?  Hoping that he will be intentional in connecting with his tweens and teens?  365+ Ways to Love Your Family:  Practical Tips for Dads of Tweens and Teens is a short, easy to read book with practical suggestions that will help dads have impact with their kids.  Even if your husband isn’t one to pick up a book to read, this will spark his interest.  There are over 365 things he can do, in 5 minutes or less, that will let his kids know that they are loved.

Why not put it under the Christmas tree or use it as a stocking stuffer?  It’s a great little reminder to Dad at how important he is in your family.

What Makes a Good Mom?

When I’m in the depths of despair with one of my kids, frustrated with their choices, and wishing things could be different, sometimes I have no idea what being a good mom really looks like.  I vacillate with what the right decision should be in the moment and it’s easy to get down on myself–after all, I should have been able to change the situation.  Right?

As I have been contemplating this in the NOW I’m in, searching for truth, and wanting so badly to be the best mom possible in the middle of the circumstances, I’ve started asking myself, “What would a good mom do in this situation?”

Sometimes being a good mom means being a tough mom.  Regardless of what my child wants, I need to be strong enough to do what he needs in the moment.  Figuring that out isn’t always easy.

At other times being a good mom means showing compassion and allowing my teen to see my heart that resonates Jesus with skin on.  A hug, a gentle touch, or a word of hope can move my young adult to a place of believing in themselves again.

Being a good mom is sometimes guessing who we need to do in the moment. And when we don’t get it right, rather than getting down on ourselves, being willing to apologize and push the reset button trying a different tactic to get forward movement.

As I’ve been contemplating all the aspects of being a good mom, I’ve started compiling a list of the different things I need to be.  Some of these come easier for me than others.  But at times, I need to play the position that doesn’t come natural because it is what my kid needs in the moment.  My automatic reaction might not be the best approach.

So here’s my current list.  I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface and I’d love for you to add to it at the end of this blog.

As you go through the list, my hope is that you’ll take an internal inventory.  What comes naturally to you?  What do you need to add to your list of skills so that your reactions to every situation are not always the same?  If you find that you fall short in an area, this is an opportunity to think about what will be different in your next difficult parenting interaction.

But above all else, give yourself grace.

A Good Mom…

  1. Listens intently
  2. Uses concise communication so there is no question as to the point
  3. Encourages and supports rather than criticize
  4. Knows that their child’s happiness is not at the top of the priority list
  5. Is God-dependent and confident that He has the answers for every situation
  6. Is willing to apologize and make amends without making excuses or blaming someone else
  7. Models healthy relationship
  8. Discusses kid concerns with Dad so that a unified decision can be reached
  9. Let’s her kids make mistakes rather than try to control situations
  10. Willingly pushes the reset button when things aren’t going well
  11. Acknowledges and respects that her children are separate human beings and not extensions of her
  12. Is calm in the middle of life’s storms
  13. Takes care of herself so that she can better take care of her children
  14. Knows her values and models them for her children
  15. Is aware of conversations/conflicts that are getting out of control and chooses to pause the discussion until everyone is able to communicate with a sense of calm
  16. Assesses situations to find the facts before jumping to conclusions
  17. Let’s her ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and her ‘no’, ‘no’ without manipulation from her teen
  18. Stands firm in her values when making decisions
  19. Shows empathy and compassion
  20. Offers encouragement
  21. Coaches her teen through difficult situations
  22. Avoids jumping to conclusions
  23. Is consistent
  24. Asks open-ended questions that encourage her teens to tell their story
  25. Teaches her kids that God is walking with them through every struggle 
  26. Chooses to accept her child as God created them rather than comparing them to others
  27. Keeps fear in check so that worry isn’t the focus of daily living
  28. Creates a close circle of friends with whom she can share her parenting struggles without concern for gossip
  29. Loves unconditionally
  30. Allows her kids to think for themselves

And above all else has a relationship with Jesus Christ and trusts Him for the outcome. 

Psalm 62:8

“Trust in him at all times, oh people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

Psalm 20:7

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 112:7

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.”

“Let Go…and Let God”,