Mom & Dad, Please Get to Know Me

My youngest son and I just spent a week together conducting our final VBS of the summer.  We had a blast, and while we were away, I asked him a list of questions to get to know him better, as well as to see how well I really know him.  While I thought I’d ace this, some of his answers actually surprised me.

Shane & I about to board a plane to Lubbock, TX for our final VBS of the summer.

If you have children, you probably know them pretty well too… or at least you think you do.

Sometimes we’re convinced that we know our own kids better than anyone else, but if we really stop to evaluate ourselves, we might just find out that we don’t know them quite as well as we think, or as we should.

One of our primary goals as parents is not just to raise our children, but to know them.

It’s easy to get so busy taking care of our children, that we can lose track of many of the important details of their lives.

God gave them to us to guide through life, and this requires that we study them, learn them, and know them to the best of our ability.  Their wants, desires, needs, and special quirks should be things that we both know and understand better than anyone else.

Learning to know our children can be a life-long process, but a very worthy one.  So here is a list of basic questions/statements for you to try and answer to see how well you know your child.  Pick up a pen, and start filling in answers: (printable pdf available by clicking on the image)

After filling out your answers to all of the above questions, ask your child their responses to the same questions, then compare and discuss your answers together.

My son got quite a kick out of seeing how many answers I got right (and how many I got wrong). He thought is was super fun to see how well dad knows him.  And we had some great discussion as well.  I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Don’t be surprised if you get stumped along the way.  Just have fun.  And remember, the goal is simply to get to know your child better.  And believe me, you will.

I Became a Better Parent the Day I Realized THIS…

Before becoming a parent, I can remember watching parents of young children and saying things to myself like, “My kids will never act that way” or “I won’t ever let my child get away with that.”  Can you relate?

In those early years prior to actually becoming a parent, it was very easy to be an “expert” in parenting and know all that there was to know about how to raise kids right.  I could have easily counseled parents if they’d have just trusted me (and my single, childless self. Lol). In fact, I think I may have even tried a time or two to coach my own parents in how to raise my younger sisters.

But my oh my, how the tables turn when you actually have children of your own and find out that your own kids are as bent towards foolishness (Prov. 22:15) as everyone else’s, whose parents just “didn’t have it all together”.

The longer I’ve been a parent, the less that I feel I know about being a great parent, and the less qualified I feel to be a parent at all.  Because there is so much to learn around every new corner and with every new age and stage. Parenting is a never-ending series of new challenges and choices. 

“Remind me, why am I the one writing this blog?”…  

I have the privilege of writing this parenting blog about how to parent your children God’s way, and I love doing it.  Yet I often feel so very inadequate just to be the godly parent that my own children need me to be on a daily basis.  

So many times I don’t know what to do in my own family. So many times I mess up and don’t get things right. So many times I fall short of being the parent they need me to be.

Yes, I know the rights and wrongs of parenting, as do you, but struggle just the same to actually be consistent to do them. I get frustrated, irritable, impatient, selfish, tired, and lazy. Just ask my wife and kids. 🙂 

Sometimes I hurt my family’s feelings. I’m sometimes too harsh. I’m sometimes too lenient. I don’t always give as much time to my kids as I should. I struggle to be consistent in discipline. Sometimes I get so frustrated at my inability to be all that I want to be and all that God and my family deserves that I be as a husband and a father. 

All in all, I find that I can’t be successful at this parenting thing on my own… and yet, that’s when I actually succeed.  You see, it’s in those times when I realize that I can’t be the parent that my kids need me to be… that I actually become a better parent than what I just was.

I am my best self as a parent when I simply admit that I don’t have it all together, I don’t always know what to do, and I need the constant help and grace of God in my daily life to be the godly parent He has called me to be. 

A+B doesn’t always = C

Yes, there are parenting principles that work and that need to be followed and obeyed, yet there is no foolproof A+B=C formula that guarantees our desired results in our kids every single time, in every single circumstance, or every single family. 

I need to daily depend upon the grace of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit in my life. Because there are things that happen in my family and decisions I have to make that no amount of biblical or parenting knowledge could every prepare me for.  

Of all things in life, I believe that parenting is one of God’s ways of revealing to us our own insufficiency and our utmost dependency upon Him.  

And parenting should be one of the greatest things in life that drives us to our knees.  It ought to cause us to plead with God for wisdom and direction as we we take seriously the responsibility of raising and forming little human lives.  

I became a better parent the day I realized… 

While I’m not the parent that I want to be or fully need to be, I became a better parent the day I realized that:

  • I don’t know how to be a good and godly parent on my own.
  • I need more of God and less of me in my parenting.
  • I cannot ultimately control who and what my children become.
  • I am helpless and hopeless as a parent apart from the grace of God.

Apart from Him, no matter what I do and no matter what I know, I can quickly become a parenting failure and mess up this parenting thing big-time. But with Him, I can do all things through Christ.  

The day I became a better parent was the day I began to trust more than I try, pray more than I push, and quit trying to act like l’ve got it all together. Because I don’t. I never will. And neither will you. And the sooner we realize it, the better parents we will become.   

II Corinthians 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities… for when I am weak, then am I strong.

5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Say YES to Your Kids

Have you ever found yourself bombarded with questions from your kids asking you to do things with them?  Rhetorical question, right? Kids naturally ask a ton of questions, and especially requests for your time and attention. 

“Dad, will you come and play this game with me?”

“Mom, will you watch me and see what I can do?”

“Can we go on a bike ride?”

“Will you help me build this?”

“Can we watch a movie together?”

“Do you want to play outside?”

And when they ask, let’s admit that the internal struggle is often very real, because while you want to say yes, they just never seem to ask at “convenient” times.

Do you find yourself at times struggling to say “Yes” to your kids like I do? We want so badly to say “yes”, and yet there’s something else inside of us pulling us in the opposite direction to say “no”.  The struggle is real.  But so are their needs.

Here are 5 reasons you might be struggling to say “Yes” to your kids:

  1. You’re too busy “adult-ing”.  We get so preoccupied with our busy little life of adulthood that we feel “put out” by our own children’s requests for our time and attention. It ought not be this way.
  2. You’ve forgotten what it was like to be a kid.  Can you go back in your mind to that carefree feeling of childhood?  Can you remember how fun life was and how big a deal it was to you when someone older, especially your parents, said “yes” to you.  It was a big deal to you.  And it’s a big deal to your children right now.
  3. Your priorities are wrong.  If you don’t feel like you can ever say “yes” to your kids when they want to spend time with you, it doesn’t matter what your excuses are, your priorities are totally out of whack.
  4. You’ve lost sight of what is most important. It’s so natural and so easy to focus on the urgent things at the expense of the most important things in life, and especially when our children are young.  Work time quickly replaces family time, and the mandates of our adulthood quickly replace potential memories of our kids’ childhood.
  5. You’ve believed the lie that “you still have plenty of time”.  And if you believe it enough days and months and years in a row, before you know it, you’ve missed an entire childhood.  With every moment that passes, they only get older. They never get younger.

So here’s a “YES” challenge for you.  Are you ready for it? – See if you can go the next 7 days, one week, without saying “no” to your children when they make any request of your time or attention. Do you think you can say “yes” for 7 days straight, dropping whatever it is that would keep you from saying yes?  It sounds easy, but it might just be harder than you think.

  • Every time they want to play ball in the backyard.
  • Every time they ask you to look at their project.
  • Every time they as for your help.
  • Every time they want to talk, or for you to simply listen.
  • Every time they reach for a hug.
  • Every time they ask you to tuck them in.
  • Every time they want more of you.
  • Every. Single. Time.

Will it inconvenience you? Almost certainly.  Will it be difficult? Probably.  Is it worth it? Absolutely.

May we never forget that our kids want us, they need us, and they deserve us.

Even if you don’t get it perfect for 7 days straight, try it, and see if it makes a positive impact on your kids.  They’re counting on you to be a YES Parent in the ways that matter most.

5 Reasons You’re Struggling to Say NO to Your Kids

I’m a firm believer in saying “yes” to my kids whenever possible, especially when they make requests for my time and attention. However, one of the biggest struggles for many parents nowadays is that they have a hard time, or are simply unwilling, to tell their children “No”.  

We have a generation of kids who are not used to being told no, or being denied much of anything that their hearts desire. Sadly, this not only has the potential to lead to a dangerous attitude of entitlement, but also to a dangerous and destructive way of life. 

Proverbs 29:15&17  The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame… Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

The Bible is clear that children need loving reproof, supervision, guidance and correction. Yet, sometimes parents seemingly get tongue-tied when it comes to restraining or reproving their own kids, and afraid to tell them “No”.

Here are 5 reasons why you might be struggling to tell your kids “No”:

  1. You’re afraid of hurting their feelings. We know that our little angels don’t like to be told “no”, so we fear hurting their feelings, and as a result, we don’t tell them no, often when they need to hear it most.
  2. You’re afraid of the repercussions. You know what to expect that will follow if they don’t get their way, and so it’s so much easier to give in than to say “no” and have to stand your ground, especially when you’re in public.
  3. You’ve become more of a pacifier than an enforcer. You’ve found out that it’s easier to just give in to your child’s demands, rather than stirring up the pot, so that you can manage to “keep the peace”. So rather than enforcing your expectations, you’ve settled for pacifying them and their misbehavior.
  4. You’re not the one in the driver’s seat. You may not realize it yet, but they do.  They already know that you’re not the one who’s calling the shots. They are. That’s why they’re often the ones telling you “No”, instead of the other way around.
  5. You’ve convinced yourself that they’re “just being kids”. They’ll grow out of it, right? They won’t always be this selfish or defiant or demanding? Well…  The sooner you step in and step up to be their parent by correcting them when necessary, the sooner they will “give thee rest; yea, and give delight unto thy soul.”

I’ve said it before, but oh, how it still rings true for any parent who will heed it… Be your child’s parent now, so you can be your child’s friend forever… Too many parents choose to be more of a friend than a parent, when their kids need a parent, not a friend.  Parent your kids for 18 years, and you can enjoy the fruit of their friendship for a lifetime.

A big part of being their parent now is learning how to successfully and unapologetically say “No”.

And of course, the only way to be successful with your “No” is to be prepared to stand your ground and enforce it unapologetically with appropriate consequences. The worse thing a parent could possibly do is tell their children no and then fail to follow through by allowing their child to still get their way.  Parents must win those small battles now, otherwise face an even bigger fallout in the future. 

Never underestimate the power of this truth… “Training up your children right in the younger years will set you up for parenting success in the older years.”

5 Reasons Why Your Family Needs to Go Camping Soon

Enjoying the positive benefits of family camping

This is a guest post from my friend, Pasquale R. Mingarelli. Pasquale spent 11 years on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru) and currently works as a Christian speaker, adjunct college instructor, and nature photographer. He posts a photo and Bible verse each day on his blog site, where he also writes about encountering God in the outdoors. You can connect with Pasquale on Twitter. 

People stay so connected these days that we actually stay more disconnected. The smart phone always seems to be far too near and the conversation with the person next to us seems to be so far away. Unfortunately, this battle with disconnected connectivity occurs in most families.

Electronic technology rips at our families. Many families set boundaries on its use, but it still finds ways to interrupt life. Technology does carry a lot of value, however finding time to completely escape from it carries many benefits. One way to experience these benefits is by taking family camping trips.

New scientific studies backup the compounding rewards camping adds to our modern, enclosed, sedentary lifestyle (source), (source), (source). For families, the benefits go beyond just the science. Here is a list of a few of them.

Downtime from electronic connectivity

Camping trips make for the perfect opportunity to lay aside electronic devices. In many campgrounds the devices won’t connect, so why not just turn them off completely. Adults experience less stress when we turn them off and kids make nature their toy with imaginations that come alive.

Real connectivity

Camping builds family bonds by having to work together. So much about camping takes everyone lending a hand. Essential tasks like setting up camp and making meals take team work. And a day of camping never comes to an end until someone builds a fire. Renewed bonding occurs while munching on s’mores and hanging out around a campfire.

Connectivity with nature

Our kids loved to hike. They were on hiking trails with us before they could even walk. On one of our adventures to Minnesota, we went on a mushroom hike with a park guide. Our six-year old daughter loved finding the multitude of mushrooms that popped out of the forest. And would a little boy’s life be complete without skipping rocks across a creek or lake?

Connectivity with natural wonders and people of the past

Camping road trips make for a great way to experience historic places and natural wonders. My family and I had a memorial encounter with a herd of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. While parked on high mountain road to watch the sunset, a large herd of female elk and their calves wandered through just a few yards in front of us. It made a memory and experience one just can’t get in Disney World.

Connectivity with God

God reveals Himself to us through His creation. Romans 1:20 tells His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature can be understood through what has been made. When we spend time in the outdoors with our our families, we can use nature as a tool to point to God’s attributes. Nature also provides the perfect quiet place to teach our children how to spend alone time with God.

Whether in a tent, camper or cabin, both summer and fall make for good time to camp. Where would you and your family like to go?

Is Your Family Sex Positive or Sex Negative?

Sex… it’s been around for a while, and I’m guessing it’s not going away any time soon. 🙂  (Yes, take a deep breath, and lighten up because we’re talking about sex, and it’s going to be okay. Really. I promise.) 

Our sexuality is engrained within the very fabric of who God made us to be as human beings. God created us with sexual drives and desires, and they are a good thing. So why is the word and topic of ‘sex’ is such a taboo thing in our Christian families and homes?    

If you’re a millennial, does this scenario sounds familiar to you?…  Growing up as a kid, the topic of sex was rarely if ever discussed as a family.  In fact, the word sex was never used, but was kind of just the “forbidden” word.  You inadvertently grew up with the idea and impression that sex was bad and dirty, and so would you be if you ever did it.  The primary words heard surrounding the topic the few times it was mentioned seemed to always be in the negative – “don’t”… “impure”… “sinful”… “inappropriate”…”bad”.  

While our parents knew that sex was not a bad thing, (because, well, we’re all here, right?) they found it very difficult, almost unnecessary, to paint it in a positive light, maybe for fear of us knowing too much or engaging in it too soon. Fortunately, parents of previous generations were often able to get away with hiding the issue of sex from their children. However, that’s just not the case anymore.  

Times have certainly changed due to the sinful nature of man and the saturation of sex in the culture all around us.  And as parents we no longer have the convenience of ignoring the topic of sex.  Because if we fail to talk to our kids about sex, and their own sexuality, someone else certainly will.  

I firmly believe that Christian families should be sex positive, however, many of us who grew up in good Christian homes, very likely grew up in a sex negative environment. And maybe not even because that’s what it was purposefully meant to be, but that what it inadvertently became.

And so the question we need to think about is this… In today’s world, is this pattern healthy, and even more importantly, is it biblical?  Has the hush, hush nature and negative connotations surrounding the issue of sexuality in the home been beneficial for us personally in the past, or will it be for our children and our families both now and in the future?

Yes, there is a level of innocence we need to protect in our children until the time is right.  But there’s also a necessary balance between our level of honesty and naiveness about what our kids know and are exposed to at younger and younger ages than ever before.  Because the truth is that even if we don’t talk to them about it, they’re already thinking about it, and they already know more than we think they know.

Here’s a good way to get a feel for what kind of sex environment you may have in your home. Simply ask your kids these questions, and consider their honest responses…

  • “Is sex a good thing or a bad thing?”
  • “Is sex something okay to talk about in our home?”
  • “What does God think about sex?”

Their answers might surprise you, but will help you understand the type of culture you are creating around the issue.

Certainly there is a proper way and an improper way to address this in our homes, but the most important thing is that we are addressing it.  And the best place to start is with the Bible.

When God created Adam and Eve, He created them naked, and unashamed (Gen. 1:25). However, we know that after the fall, nakedness and shame began going hand in hand, and because of that we naturally shy away from open ended conversation about the topic.  Yet as parents, each of us know that every person (including our own children) has been made by the Creator with these God-given desires and passions that are meant to be good, yet they’re often played off as terribly bad by the way we talk (or, fail to talk) about them. 

So with these thoughts in mind, let me share with you a few practical ways to help your home become a sex positive environment.

1) Open conversation is good.  

Psalm 32:8  I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go…  

God gave parents to children to give them information, direction, and proper understanding about life. And let’s face it, sex will probably be a big part of their life, for the rest of their life.

Part of the difficulty of talking to our kids about sex is that we put it off so long until they are at an age that it’s quite awkward to even bring it up. However, when parents are intentional about teaching their children about their sexuality from a younger age, they open a conversation that will last for many years to come, and prepare their children for a lifelong understanding of, and greater success in, this area of their life.  

We should be able to discuss with our children God’s plan for sex, how He created it as a good thing that man has often made bad, and how we can use it biblically to honor God. By doing so, this also opens the door in the future for our children to come to us when they have questions rather than sneaking behind our backs to find them elsewhere.  

And let’s not be naive.  They do and will continue to have questions about sex.  So why should we be deceiving ourselves into thinking that they don’t, and allowing someone or something else to be providing those answers?

“How difficult do we make it for our children when God has wired them to think about their own sexuality, and we refuse to allow them a safe place to talk about it?” 

I recently heard a statistic that 95% of homes are silent or shaming of sex.  Whether that’s accurate or not, that ought to make us stop and think about some things in our own home, starting with this… Am I helping our hurting my family by not talking about this topic?… 

As for my wife and I, we personally chose to open up the conversation about sex with our children from young ages, and it has proved to be hugely beneficial for both them and for us, allowing us to have multiple conversations over the years about tough topics.  But the cool thing is this, because we talked about it early, and let our kids know that there are no off-limit questions, those conversation have rarely ever been awkward, because our children know that we actually want them to talk to us about these things.

Open conversation around the topic of sex is a good thing in the home.

2) Body awareness is good. 

Psalm 139:14  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  

Your child’s body is a beautiful and precious gift that God has given them to take care of, and a valuable gift to one day be given to their future spouse.  

They need to understand that their body is not a bad thing, it is a God-given thing with great purpose and value.  Don’t be afraid to talk with your children about their bodies, and don’t be afraid to refer to the parts of the body for what they are. Our children need to have a good self-esteem of their body and realize that God created them good.

But if all they ever hear about their body and sexuality is spoken and implied in the negative, we have done them a great disservice, and can create a real difficulty when they get married someday and have to mentally flip a switch that everything that used to be bad (their body) is now all of a sudden good.  

This terribly complicates things, and there’s definitely a better way.  Yes, God has given us rules for how to use and cover our bodies, and our children need to be warned about the dangers and destruction that can come from disregarding God’s plan.  However, they equally need to know that this is not because their bodies are bad, but rather, because they are very good, and worth protecting.  Our kids need to understand this.

3) Sex is good.   

Hebrews 13:4  Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.  

It’s time we help our children understand that because sex is a God-thing, sex is a good thing.  It’s something He created, and something beautiful that He loves, and has given to a husband and wife as a gift.  

There’s a right way and a wrong way, and a right time and a wrong time, to engage in awakening that part of who God created us to be. But it is our job as parents to help our children safely navigate through those waters

While we certainly have to use some common sense, let’s not be ashamed to talk about what God was not ashamed to create.  Because sex is a gift.  And sex is good.  Yes, the world has corrupted it in many ways, but that gives us that much more reason as parents to intentionally help our children see God’s perspective of their sexuality.  May we never let the world’s perversion of sex scare us from talking with our children about God’s pure and perfect plan for it.

As much as we may try to shelter our kids from the sexualized culture that is all around us, they are going to be exposed to more than we can ever fully control.  And whether we like it or not, sex is not going away.  

We can either choose to passively allow Hollywood, the culture, and our children’s friends to shape their view of sex by our silence, or we can choose to actively and intentionally teach and train them by refusing to remain silent.

Our goal is to one day be able to see them enter into their marriages not only pure, but prepared, because both are important.  And ready to help the next generation to have a Godly perspective of sexuality as well.

The choice is up to us… we can stick with a terribly flawed system of a sex negative mentality simply because “that’s just the way it’s always been done”, or we can turn the tide for future generations by creating a sex positive culture in our homes for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.  

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Do you agree or disagree?

Thanks for reading.  Here’s a list of helpful articles and other resources our family has used and would recommend to help you explore and discuss this sensitive topic with your kids.

If I can be a help to you, or answer any questions, please reach out to me and let me know. 

6 Small Daily Moments Parents Need to Prioritize

How to make out BIG on the little daily moments

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  Eph. 5:16

Have you noticed?… that the days we’re living in are evil?  Time is short… before our kids grow up into adults… before the impressionable years are gone… before Christ comes back again.

I was reminded of this just this past week as I was looking at two pictures of our oldest son that are less than three years apart.  

Wow… Time flies, and so do the impressionable moments and years we have to make an impact. 

Because every day, we have opportunities to influence our kids, regardless of how busy we may think we are.  And God has clearly commanded us to influence their lives “when we sit in our homes, when we walk by the way, when we rise up, and when we lie down.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) In order for that to play out in our busy day to day lives, we’ve got to make sure that we make out BIG on the little daily moments.  

So here are 5 small daily moments that you can’t afford to waste, but that you can easily turn into D6 (Deuteronomy 6) moments with your children:

1.  Morning Time

We are commanded to invest into our children when we “rise up.”  Every day, you have the opportunity to set the course for the attitude and direction of your family for the rest of the day. From the way you conduct your morning routine, you are either setting yourself and your family up for success or failure.  

Do you wake up with sufficient time for your family to get ready for the day?  Are your mornings calm or chaotic? Peaceful or stressful?  Are you waking up early enough to have a morning routine that is structured, smooth-flowing, and beneficial?  

Sadly many Christian families might find it hard to even squeeze a 1-minute prayer into their morning routine, but what an impact it could make on our family every day if we were to turn our mornings into D6 moments.

2.  Driving Time

Given the average lifespan, a person statistically spends 7% of their lifetime driving in a vehicle (source).  Even if that’s close to true, that means that a good chunk of the times we have together as a family are also spent driving.  

Which should cause us to consider… How can we spend that much of our family life together in a vehicle and not intentionally take advantage of it?  Are we using that time wisely or frivolously?  Is everyone doing their own isolated thing, or are we purposefully using any of that time together?  

Do we ever discuss the amazing world God has given us that’s passing us by on the other side of the glass… Are we having any meaningful conversations… Are we singing songs together… Do we ever just get crazy and have some fun… or anything else of value?  The command of Deuteronomy 6 implies that we are to invest into our children even when we travel (“when thou walkest by the way”).

3.  Meal Time

Sitting together at the dinner table is more important than ever to guard and prioritize, as eating together as a family continues to become more and more obsolete in many homes.  Yet amazing conversations can be had and memories can be made around a family dinner table.  If you’d like some ideas for family dinner conversation starters, here’s a list you can use.

4.  Down Time

Even when we’re “lying down”, the Bible commands us to invest into our children.  In other words, every moment of every day, even down time in our lives, is a D6 opportunity.  It might be when you see the beauty of creation in a sunset, or the amazing way that God made the world to work and sustain itself with such intricate detail.  However you choose to do it, find ways to regularly point your kids to the awesomeness of God in daily life, even in the down times.  

5.  Busy Time

Let’s admit it, there are times when “down time” is the farthest thing from reality, when we are just flat out busy. Errands to run, meals to cook, the yard to mow, events to attend.

But don’t ever mistakenly think that somehow this means that those times are off limits for investing into your kids. No. Just the opposite. Those are perfect opportunities to spend time together and invest into them by including them (or teaching them as necessary) those things on your to-do list.

“Very little of our parenting takes place in grand significant moments that have stopped us in our tracks and commanded our full attention; parenting takes place on the fly when we’re not really paying attention and are greeted with things that we did not know we were going to be dealing with that day.  It’s the repeated cycle of little unplanned moments that is the soul-shaping workroom of parenting.”  – Paul David Tripp in his book, PARENTING

6.  Bed Time

Start the day right, and end the day right.  And make sure that what happens before bedtime reflects what is most important in your family (God’s Word, prayer, family affection and unconditional love).

Studies have shown that kids who go to sleep regularly on a positive note, not only sleep better, but develop better with age as well.  Again, we are instructed to pass on our faith to our children even as we are “lying down”.  This is a great indicator of the importance of your family’s bedtime routine

Remember, parenting is like putting drops into a bucket over 18 years time.  Each one seems so small, yet every drop ripples the surface and raises the water level slightly.  And yet it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to make up for lost drops that we’ve chosen to ignore or squander.  

While all parents keep different schedules and it may be nearly impossible for you to maximize daily on all 6 of these daily moments, make sure you are taking advantage of as many of them as possible?  They’ll be gone before you know it.

Our lives are made up of many moments, and those moments quickly turn into months and years. And once gone, they’re gone forever.  So let’s redeem the time today by making out BIG on the small daily moments that we have been given.

Marriage & The Invisible Suitcase

And how its contents are affecting you and your family

Have you ever found yourself in a stressful situation where the response that spewed out of you was far from desirable. In fact, it even made you wonder, “Where in the world did that just come from?”

And it didn’t take long for you to answer your own question, as you were able to mentally look at yourself in the mirror and see your parents and their responses and actions oozing out through your own.

You know, those things they did that you said you’d never repeat, yet you actually find yourself inadvertently responding in the exact same way.  Maybe in the area of criticism, anger, impatience or resentment.  Or maybe it’s simply a certain phrase, gesture, or quirk.

What you didn’t realize…

Think for a moment about the marriage you’ve been given and the marriage that you’ve ultimately created between you and your spouse.  When you stood together at that wedding altar with nothing but love and bliss and made those lifelong vows to each other, what neither of you realized at that moment was that both of you were carrying an invisible suitcase with you into your marriage that day.

This was a suitcase that neither of you could see, yet it’s contents were very real.  So real, that you would spend the rest of your married life unpacking them.  

You were vowing to love each other through all of the contents that you would later unpack in the months and years to come… for better or for worse.  Things that would affect your communication, the way you respond to hurt, your tone of voice in an argument, and even the way you relate to each other in the bedroom.

Someone’s been filling your suitcase…

All of us learn how to live life by having seen how our parents lived it.  They may have done a lot of things right, and they certainly did at least a couple of things wrong.  And every day of your childhood, they were planting seeds and packing things into this invisible suitcase that you would carry with you into the rest of your life, affecting every area of your life, yet all the while, unbeknownst to you (yes, I really did just use that archaic word).

You are a product of your parents, like it or not. But that doesn’t mean that you are destined to repeat their mistakes.  In fact, one of the greatest ways to learn anything in life is from the mistakes of others.  And if we don’t, well the saying holds true, that “history repeats itself”, even in family life.

The good news…

The good news is that the contents of your suitcase don’t determine the destiny of your life. The seeds that were planted into you during childhood are just that – seeds. Yes, they influence the shaping of your future, but they don’t determine it.  You get to do that.  Seeds only grow if they are watered and nurtured, but don’t have to grow unless you let them.

You see, while your parents shape the person that you become, it’s not ultimately your parents that determine the person that you are:

  • Because even a child who has “perfect” parents can allow sinful seeds and choices to ruin their future.
  • And just as much, a child who is raised in terrible dysfunction can actually turn out to be a very functional adult if they simply make different choices.

Marriage starts at birth…

I recently heard this statement that has stuck with me… “Marriage starts at birth.”  And it’s so very true.  None of us can escape the influences that have surrounded us and shaped us from the time we started this thing called life.  But each of us have the choice as to which ones we will allow to define us.

Just because your parents didn’t do certain things that they should have doesn’t mean that you can’t do them. (show physical affection, say “I love you”, give praise for doing things right, etc.)

And just because your parents did certain things that they shouldn’t have doesn’t mean that you’re destined to repeat them. (losing their temper, being physically or verbally abusive, failing to show up, etc.)

If we’ve been watering seeds of our past by making excuses like, “It’s just who I am,” or “That’s just how I was raised”, it’s time to stop making excuses and start taking responsibility by unpacking our suitcase of the bad, and start packing it with the good.  

It’s time to start packing the right things that we want to pass on to our children.  Because one day we’re going to hand them these suitcases that we have packed by our own choices.

Yes, we are the products of our past to a certain degree, but only to the degree that we choose to be, for either the good or the bad.  In your invisible suitcase… Keep the good. Get rid of the bad. Add some positive contributions of your own.  Then pass it on with pride to the next generation.

Bedtime Routines & Why They Matter to Your Kids

Over the years as a family, we’ve found that our children are often influenced by forces from outside of our home sometimes even more than they are by forces from within.  This has required us to become more intentional to not only invest into our kids, but also into strengthening our influence and investment into them on a daily basis.

And one of the best ways we’ve found to do that is through prioritizing one of the most precious and protected times of our day – bedtime.

Those moments in our home just before the kids are sent to bed are often some of the most precious moments we have together as a family. Its a time where we talk, we pray, we laugh, we share, we hug… and it’s a wonderful time that our family enjoys and anticipates.

Why?  Because counter to the noisy and busy world our families live in every day, the bedtime routine can become a warm and close environment that is both safe and relaxed, much the opposite of the rest of the day.  It’s a time where we can get personal, and it’s a time where we can sometimes get biblical.  

Oftentimes its serious, and other times it’s far from serious, but all in all, it’s a time where we can just be ourselves and tackle some of life’s issues together.

And don’t be fooled into believing that it comes easily… it doesn’t.  In fact, unless you prioritize this time as a family, things that are most urgent will crowd out things that are most important, and it may never happen.

If you haven’t established any bedtime routines in your home, I’d encourage you to consider trying some of these memorable ideas and the beneficial byproducts of a healthy bedtime routine:

  1. Storytelling.  Kids love stories.  Especially when you personally tell them the story or read it aloud to them.  They can be stories from books, stories from your past, or simply stories from your imagination.
  2. Scripture Memorization.  What better way to memorize a verse or passage than together as a family, and help your children hide God’s Word in their hearts? (Psalm 119:11)
  3. Quality Conversation.  Most families struggle to have real, quality, family conversation.  But what easier way to do it than to have a time scheduled and set aside for it to happen.  Don’t worry, just start with a verse, a thought, or a question, and let the conversation flow from there.  Try it, it really is easier than you think.
  4. Spiritual Investment.  There’s really nothing more important that investing into our kids spiritually.  So use this time for family devotions, teaching different character traits, discussing Bible stories, or talking about the Gospel.
  5. Personal Environment.  Make this time just before closing out your family’s day a close and relaxed time that they look forward to.  Have a plan, but don’t turn it into a church service either. 😃
  6. Singing Songs.  Families need to sing together, both in corporate worship, and in private worship.  When’s the last time your family sang together in your own home?  Believe me, your kids will love it, especially if you let them pick some of the songs.
  7. Showing Affection.  Nothing says I love you like a bear hug, a kiss on the forehead, and the spoken words, “I love you”, to close out your child’s day.
  8. Tucking In.  Tucking your kids in at night (especially if they’re still young) can be a huge deal to them, and put their mind at ease just before the lights go out, and a perfect opportunity for one last hug, kiss, or even the piggy toes.
  9. Using a Personal Routine or Phrase.  Consider coming up with a personal phrase between you and each child, or maybe a nickname, a special handshake, etc.  Whatever you do, the fact that it’s unique and personal to them makes all the difference and communicates love to them.

Bedtime… you may just find out for yourself that if you prioritize it, it has the potential to become one of the most memorable and beneficial times in your home as well.

12 Things You Should WANT Your Kids to Catch You Doing Together

I came home for lunch recently and was met with these words from my 13 year old daughter, “I saw that mushy text you sent to mom earlier today”…  And it really didn’t bother me that she had seen it.  It was actually encouraging.

As parents, I’m sure you’d agree that there are definitely some things we probably don’t want our kids to ever catch us doing together 😉 .

But there are some things that they definitely should catch us and our spouse doing together, even if we don’t know it.  Things that could be pretty impactful on them if they were to catch us in the very act.

So, here’s a list of 12 things you for you to consider that you should want your kids to catch you doing together:

  1. Praying together
  2. Holding hands just because
  3. Complimenting one another
  4. Putting the other person’s desires first
  5. Intercepting love notes or texts between each other
  6. Discussing family decisions together
  7. Flirting with one another
  8. Praising one another
  9. Refusing to argue with one another by agreeing to disagree
  10. Hugging in the hallway
  11. Kissing in the kitchen
  12. Being randomly generous and kind to each other or someone else in need

These are probably just a few of many.  But they’re a great start to get your mind thinking.  Do you agree?  Are these things you’d want your kids to catch you doing together as well?  If so, please share.

How many of these 12 are you doing? Which one is your favorite? What are some others that you would add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Getting Honest as Parents – a Free Childhood Observation Analysis

Psalm 51:6  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

One of the hardest things to do in our parenting is to be honest… with ourselves.  Because it’s so easy to become convinced that the way we are parenting is right, and to justify the ways we are parenting that are wrong.

I explain this in greater detail in the article called Every Parent is Deceived (most of them just don’t know it yet).  I’d strongly encourage you to read it if you haven’t.

In an effort to get honest with ourselves, we’ve got to be willing to evaluate our parenting, as well as ask and answer some tough questions about where our kids are mentally, spiritually, relationally, and behaviorally.

This list of questions below will help you to do just that.

Take this Childhood Observation Analysis of who and where your kids are in these 4 key areas: (take into consideration the ages and maturity level of your children and how that should impact your answers)

Answer based on three age categories (using the included free pdf) – K down, elementary, and teen, checking off the boxes only next to the questions you can answer with a positive response in order to find out their “good” grade.  (Don’t be too hard on yourself or them, just be honest. Kindergarten and down is the hardest category to judge, but you’ll get the idea.)

MENTALLY / Biblical Knowledge

  • Can my child name many of the character traits (attributes) of God, other than love?
  • If they are saved, can they clearly explain to someone the good news of salvation?
  • Can they identify key qualities that should make a Christian different from someone who is not one?
  • Can they explain why Jesus is the only person who could die for sin, and raise back from the dead?
  • Can they identify or locate key books or verses of the Bible?
  • Do they understand the principle of tithing and know how to practice it?
  • Can they explain God’s purpose for the church in the world, and the two ordinances He gave to it?
  • Are they able to clearly articulate what they learned in church after a given Sunday?


  • Are they currently reading their Bible on their own with any consistency?
  • Are they striving to demonstrate any of the fruit of the Sprit?
  • Do they show any concern for reaching others who are without Christ?
  • Do they receive correction with a teachable spirit?
  • Do they show compassion towards others who are poor, disabled, or underprivileged?
  • Are they polite, courteous, and respectful in their dealings with adults?
  • Are they dependable and reliable to keep their commitments?
  • Do they seem to show any interest or passion in spiritual things now at their current age? (If not, what causes us to believe that will change as they get older, unless some type of course corrections are made?)


  • Are you pleased with their attitude and respect towards authority in general?
  • Do they seem to get along well with others, willing at times to give in to others for the greater good?
  • Do they gravitate towards the right crowd of their peers?
  • Are their attitudes towards people of the opposite sex healthy and respectful?
  • Are they able to carry on healthy conversation with others when they don’t have something else to occupy their mind?
  • Is their social life and ability to interact with others unaffected by their media use?
  • Is the way they interact with their siblings a sign of potentially healthy future relationships?
  • Do they have a good reputation in their class at school, their neighborhood at home, or their small group at church?


  • Are they obeying the first time they are told without hesitation?
  • Do they obey willingly with an attitude of honor towards you and/or others?
  • When they are confronted with wrongdoing, are they repentant?
  • Do they avoid manipulating situations and people for their personal benefit?
  • Do they avoid complaining that your family’s rules are too hard or harder than others’?
  • Do they look for ways to serve others rather than primarily for what only serves themselves?
  • Do they carry out routine chores or responsibilities without being hounded?
  • Does the way they talk and respond to you now give you hope for the future?

The easiest way to get your child’s score is to use this free pdf file to track your answer totals.  

Now… total the scores based upon your child’s age:

  • K down – if their score is 8-12+… you’re on the right track!
  • Elementary – 12-20+… Keep up the great work!
  • Teen – 20-32… You rock!  You’re doing awesome.

Upon asking yourself these honest questions, take a moment to write down some specific ideas for the areas that need improvement, as well as the game plan for how you will make those improvements become reality.

Whether your child’s score reflects what you want it to or not, take heart!  God has give your children to you “for such a time as this” to prepare them for life and eternity.  We believe in you, and so does He.  Now go get after it!  And please share this so other parents can benefit as well.

Every Parent is Deceived (most just don’t know it yet)

Do you believe that we have a real enemy? I hope that you do.  

And one of the things that he is most masterful at is the art of deception. He is the great deceiver. He’s done it since that first day in the Garden of Eden, and he continues to do it masterfully even in our own homes today.  

And as much as we’d like to deny it and not have to swallow the reality of this brutal truth, we can’t afford to naively ignore it… 

Every parent is deceived… most of us just don’t know it yet.

Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we ALL have blind spots, and we usually don’t even realize them (although they’re often glaringly obvious to others… can you relate?).

But by the very idea and definition of “deception”, it implies that the person being deceived doesn’t realize that they have believed something that is a lie (otherwise, if they did, they wouldn’t actually be deceived).

But because we know that our enemy is real and that his tactics are powerful, we would do well to recognize that everyone (including ourself) is being deceived in some way. Because once we recognize it, even in our parenting, that is the start to us ultimately finding out exactly where we are personally being targeted by the enemy’s lies.

Sometimes the best way to determine the areas where deception is taking place is to simply be objective as a parent by asking ourselves some honest questions about ourselves and our children…  Here are a few to consider:

  • If I saw other people’s kids acting the way that mine do, would I be proud, ashamed, pleased, frustrated, or annoyed?
  • If I saw other parents acting the way that I do toward my kids, would I be proud, ashamed, pleased, frustrated, or annoyed?
  • Am I excusing and putting up with behavior from my children that I would consider to be unacceptable from others’, or that my own parents would have considered to be unacceptable from me?
  • Am I making excuses for my child to justify why I’m not dealing with them in certain areas?
  • Am I making excuses for myself and the reasons why I don’t deal with certain things in my own parenting?
  • Are my children currently on the path to spiritual maturity or worldly carnality?

While different parents may be deceived differently, here are 5 of the main types of deceived parents:

1) The Hearer, but not Doer…

James 1:22  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 

One of the greatest forms of deception that Satan uses in every area of life, including parenting, is deceiving those who know what is right to do (they have been taught and trained), but do little to nothing with what they know.  They have somehow bought into the lie of thinking that their knowledge of the truth is enough.  That because they know how to be a good parent, that they are one.  But that is not always the case, because as we all know, actions always speak louder than words. 

  • They may read books about parenting. They may attend conferences and classes. They may listen to messages and podcasts. They may even take great notes. But those practices and principles never seem to leave the page and transfer into their daily life. They know so much, but apply so little. And as a result, this category of parents is quite possibly among the greatest of the deceived because they have deceived themselves by being hearers, but not doers.
  • They try new things and they don’t work, so instead of finding something else that does work, they simply stop trying new things. They have very little, if any, consistency or follow through on what they try, and so they often give up before they’ve given anything a fair chance.  They want a “quick fix”, and so they’re often not willing to put in the time, discipline and dedication it takes to see the results they want.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “I’ve just tried everything and nothing seems to work.”
  • That kind of discipline used to work for our parents, but it’s so old fashioned and out of date now.”
  • “I know that’s what the Bible says, but there are so many other options and alternatives nowadays.”
  • “I know these principles have worked for other parents, but my kids are just different.”

The solution for this parent is this: Apply what you know that you’ve been taught and seen work successfully for others.  And remember, “you don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”

2) The Justifier…

This type of parent is one who always has good reason for why their child did what they did or said, no matter how wrong it may have seemed to have been to everyone else.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “It’s not that big of a deal. We have plenty of time to deal with this when they’re older.”
  • “Yes, my kids are out of control, but they’re not quite old enough to discipline yet.”
  • “My kids are already in elementary school, so they’re way too old to discipline now.”
  • “Well, the real reason they act that way is because…”

The solution for this parent is this: Guard yourself against making excuses for your kids or for yourself.  Excuses can hinder future growth for both yourself and your child by only encouraging more of the same of what you’re experiencing now. (Psalm 51:6)

3) The “Not My Kid” parent…

This parent is similar to the justifier, but also different. They’re always convinced that their kids would never be capable of such things as they are alleged. In their mind, their child is always the exception to the rule.  They go to bat for their kids’ failure to show responsibility or having to follow through on their commitments.  They often mollycoddle their children rather than allowing them to learn how to face the realities of life.  They also allow their kid’s feelings to dictate their decisions. (Whether it’s requiring their kids to do chores that they don’t like to do, attend classes they don’t want to attend, or making them apologize to someone that they’ve wronged).

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “I know that’s what most kids do, but my kids would never do that.” (Fake sick, lie to me, shift blame on someone who’s innocent, etc.)
  • “My kid is a “good kid” who would never _______________ “ (Having good kids does in no way mean they are in any less a sinner than the rest.)
  • “My kids would never take advantage of me and my kindness.” (any parent who would say or think this is clearly being taken advantage of by their children).
  • “My kids would never manipulate me.” (Oh, yes, I’m sure they’ve never even tried.  Mine never have 😃)

The solution for this parent is this: You need to be your child’s parent more than their friend.  Do what is best for them, not what is most in line with their feelings, or most convenient at the time. Your child needs a parent who cares more about their future than they do about their feelings. (Proverbs 19:18)

4) The Threatener…

This is the parent who is often threatening to discipline their child, yet their child probably can’t remember the last time they were actually disciplined.  They use threats and sometimes lots of volume to demand conformity, somehow mistakenly thinking that louder parents raise more obedient kids.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “If you do that one more time…”
  • “I’m going to count to three, and you’d better…”
  • “If I have to tell you to stop doing that again, you’re going to regret it…”
  • “Why aren’t you listening to me?  Can’t you just behave for once…”
  • “If you don’t listen to me in this store, you’re never going to eat ice cream (or fill in the blank) again in your entire life…”

The solution for this parent is: Quit being a hovering cloud without rain.  Follow through on your word with consequences, rather than more threats.  Let your word in it’s normal tone speak for itself.  With time, your children will begin to take notice that you say what you mean, and you mean what you say.  (James 1:20)

5) The Pharisee…

This is the parent who thinks their kids are better than others because they are just “such good kids.”  They put their kids on a pedestal, and their children often know it. They’re often compliant, willing, and follow the rules. But sadly, this parent easily falls into the trap of thinking that they have been successful at parenting simply because they have raised good rule-followers, when in truth, they may have failed to raise genuine Jesus-followers. And if they fail to make sure their children are first and foremost Jesus-followers, they will wonder what could have possibly happened or went wrong all too late when their kids walk away from the faith.

You might hear some of these things said by this parent:

  • “I thank thee, Oh God, that my kids are not as other kids.”  (reference Luke 18:11) (I’m thankful that my kids are so much better behaved than other’s.)
  • “My kids know that if they ever tried to do that they’d never see tomorrow.”
  • “I don’t think my kids will ever give me any problems. They’re just so well-behaved.”
  • “I know it’s happened to others, but my kids will never mess up like that…”

The solution for this parent is this: Be careful not to focus on outward conformity more than you do inward transformation in your children.  Guard yourself against giving your kids the wrong impression that they are spiritual for all the wrong reasons (following the rules, being more compliant than their siblings, etc.).  Train your children to have a personal relationship and walk with God that goes far beyond rules and reaches deep into the heart. (Matthew 23:23)

As parents, we all have ways that we naturally want to rationalize away things that we know we should or shouldn’t be doing in our parenting.  Because it’s always easier to make an excuse than it is to take action and responsibility by admitting we’ve been deceived.

But let’s face it, every parent is deceived, including you, and including me.  Our job is simply to break the lies of deception by recognizing them for what they are, and taking tangible steps of action to change.  

We just need to stop, look, and think long enough to realize where our blind spots are, and where we need to be more rational and intentional in our parenting. Or, be bold enough to ask someone we trust to point them out to us.

So, in what area are you currently being deceived as a parent? Also, what other types of deceived parents might you add to this list?

2 Corinthians 2:11  Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

  • Next week I’ll be helping you get honest as a parent by sending you a free Childhood Observation Analysis to determine where your kids currently are, and how to get them to where you’d like them to be.  So check back soon, or simply subscribe to to get all future updates directly in your inbox.