Category Archives: Books

Limitations & Creativity

One of the best books I read this year (well, 2014) was Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways—Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live.

Yes, my book photo had to have a birdhouse in the background...the book is about being creative, I had to raise the bar....

Yes, my book photo had to have a birdhouse in the background…the book is about being creative, I had to raise the bar….

I’ll try to write more about the book as a whole but wanted to share a small portion that really struck me. She shared how she was working with a videographer to create a video and he shared with her about how the fun part is when he’s reviewed all he’s captured and discovers something that’s missing which means he has to get creative at making it work.  That seemed to surprise Emily until she thought about it more.

Here’s what she continued to write:

“My sister stands in front of her fireplace, whispers under her breath the things she dislikes about the angle, the mantel, the odd shape of the room, & placement of the windows. But she isn’t discouraged by it. In fact, she seems motivated by it.

Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium. –Henri Matisse” (Freeman, 132)

I loved this because I had never thought of it before.  One thing I enjoyed about being a counselor was figuring out how to make treatment material fun and interesting for the kids I worked with, on a budget.  And these were tough customers as most did not want to be in counseling and had already done a lot of treatment and had heard a lot of the concepts before.  I had never thought about how the limitations, the lack of, the difficulty was part of the creative process.  And it was the very element that spurred me on to truly be creative….

And then I reflected on the art I have been creating lately.  One item I have toyed around with making lately are book page wreaths.  As I pondered, I realized two of them were created out of limitation.

This first one, I decided to do something new in the center because I was running out of paper!  I knew I would not have enough pages to complete the wreath but I had some small pieces I had cut off the book pages I could use.  It took a little trial and error but eventually I settled into making a striped type texture around the center.  And I think that addition to the wreath made it look even better than if the texture had remained the same throughout.  This wreath, something I could have tossed out when I got stuck, sold with the window frame and now adorns someone else’s home.  Someone else saw the beauty in my oopsy wreath!  I’m glad I didn’t stop when I encountered the obstacle.  It changed everything!

My oopsy wreath now hangs in a stranger's home...   : )

My oopsy wreath now hangs in a stranger’s home… : )

This second one is made from black and white phone book pages.  I thought I had a whole phone book full of white pages and as I neared the end of creating the wreath, I realized that that rest of the pages I had were yellow.  URGH!  I felt silly that I hadn’t more thoroughly checked out the phone book before I set out to make the wreath.

It took me a bit to figure out what to do.  We always have phone books dropped on our front steps but I had tossed all the others in our recycling container.  And now that I needed another, no more phone books appeared!  I knew it’d be really hard to match the color of these pages to something other than another phone book.  I felt stuck.  Eventually, I searched the creative odds and ends I had to see what else I could use to finish this project and found a grey egg carton.  And then I got inspired.  Soon the wreath had funky flowers on them, made from cut up egg cartons and a little paint.  I think if I had finished with more phone book pages, the wreath would not have been near as beautiful, at least to me.

20141208_161040

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love how Emily took something like limitations and pointed out that instead of seeing it as an obstacle, we can embrace it as an opportunity to use our creativity!  In fact, sometimes the most beauty comes out of what we do when we get stuck.

Seriously, run out and pick up this book.  It’s amazing!

P.S. And for those in the creative realm, Emily’s sister is Myguillyn Smith–the blogger and author of The Nesting Place….talk about a creative family!

Swimming in it until I’m pruny!

splash waterHow are you with waiting?  Lately the topic of patience has come up a lot with my kids.  When talking to them about what I expect from them when they’re asked to be patient, I realized I needed to define what patience was.  What I came up with was “waiting with a good attitude” and every time I describe it that way, part of me feels like I’m reminding myself that I too need to “wait with a good attitude.”

I’ve never been good at waiting and right now I feel like that’s what I’m being asked to do.  Again.  Ever feel done with a season of your life but cannot clearly see what is around the corner and when the next season will begin?  That’s where I find myself.  Part of me feels like my season of being a SAHM will be coming to an end soon.  But without clear direction, I’m waiting, because maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’ve got more months or more years as a SAHM.  I feel like the past three years have been so beautiful, so purposeful, but now it’s time to move on.  I look at my daughter and can’t believe she’s three and that I’ve been home with her every day of those three years.  I look at my son and am in awe of how well he is thriving. That he’s now in the 27th percentile for height and 10th or 11th overall.  After four years of fighting to get weight on him and struggling to help him eat, he’s getting there!  Today he ate more solid food than purees and considering how little solid food he was eating efficiently when feeding therapy ended last fall, it is absolutely amazing!  His meals are looking more and more “normal,” meaning they are either all solids or if there’s a combination of textures (soup, sandwich, and some fruit). It could be any five year olds plate!!!  Incredible!

All that to say, it has been amazing.  They’ve grown.  I’ve grown.  But right now, I’m restless.  I don’t feel like this is a role I’ll play forever and I feel passionate and called back to working with high-risk teenagers and the system they’re in.  And since I have a personality that is all about trying to plan and create my future how I want it and because I don’t have a lot on my plate right now, I’m restless.  The question is, what does God want for me right now? How can I wait well?

Because I daydream about the next season of my life, I get caught up in details, planning, and what-ifs.  None of this is inherently wrong, but for me, it pulls me away from the here and now and can create a lack of contentedness if I’m not careful.  A friend, who is also in a waiting and wondering season of her life, reflected that she feels torn between praying for what she hopes for specifically (citing John 14:14 and John 15:16) and surrendering and praying for God’s will in her life because that is what will truly be the best thing for her–even if it looks nothing like her current hopes.  I feel the same way.  Am I to pray for what I hope and dream to happen (in technicolor and 3D) or am I to take an emotional and cognitive step back and say “Your Will, Lord, whatever details will be, will be…”  How do I wait well in this and seek Him?  Boy, did it make me feel normal that another friend was wrestling with the same internal dynamics as me!  Can you relate?

splash water 2I am excited about what the next season in my life is going to look like, even though there are a lot of unknowns.  That being said, I believe that God is teaching me to delight and live in the now.  The present.  Another friend and I were talking earlier in the week about God giving us a word or a phrase for the year.  The phrase that God gave me for this year was “Love well those I have given you.”  I’ve kept these words in front of me this year.  It has caused me to make better choices, to pray more intently, and to really ask myself, how do my kids and my husband best feel loved by me.  I can’t think of a better way to love my kids and husband and others God has put in my life than being fully present and content now.  Each moment, each day.  That’s hard for my personality but I’m learning.  And maybe because it’s summer, I picture myself being fully present like relaxing, floating, meandering in a pool or the ocean, savoring each aspect of the experience–the sun, the smells, the sounds, the water…being truly present and loving it.

float

So I want to swim, soak, and truly be in the present until my fingers and toes get all pruny!  What does that look like for me right now?  How can I be purposeful and get every drop of goodness and joy in the present?  How can I fully delight in this season, right now?

BE TRULY PRESENT with my kids

  • I need to unplug from the technology—off the computer, off my phone, turn the TV off and just BE with THEM.  Getting rid of cable this summer has been a great start towards doing this!
  • We need to do bigger things (like going to the Springs, camping, going on vacation) but also savor hanging out at home or going to the park together. Creating a summer bucket list has helped me focus on what I’d like to accomplish together this summer
  • Studying, observing, and truly knowing my children inside and out.  Becoming a student of them so I can highlight their strengths, understand and empathize with their weaknesses, and help them become who God has made them to be.  I desire to draw them out and encourage their individuality, not create two little clones of Ryan and myself.

And, oh, how I love the little moments I get to have with my children.  This past weekend I got to watch them discover and catch fireflies for the first time.  Is there anything better than lightning-bug-jar1watching children delight in new things or delighting in what they’re discovering they are capable of doing?  And how many of those moments would I miss if I weren’t here right now or if my eyes were glued to a screen, zoning out…

READ, READ, READ… I love to learn.  I love to read.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to read often as a mom of two but this season of life has allowed me to do a lot more reading than the first few years of motherhood.  Listening to books on CD has really helped too!  As I reflect on my reading habit, I’ve found when I’m busy and/or stressed out, I gravitate toward legal/suspense novels or other fiction.  During those times, I tend to read to escape or be entertained rather than to be inspired, to learn, or to grow.  This past six months, while I haven’t had to juggle a ton of things, I’ve been taking advantage of the time I’ve had and am reading, reading, reading!!!!  And because I’ve felt relaxed and rejuvenated, I’ve been plunging into books that have challenged me to grow and to go deeper.  Not just reading for entertainment’s sake.

summer reading

I love hearing from friends, family, and fellow bloggers what they’re reading currently.  I love it when people share their list of what they’ve been reading or want to read.  It’s like opening a treasure chest!  So I thought I’d throw together a list of books I’ve loved reading lately too.  Here’s the books I’ve read this past year that I highly recommend:

Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, & Lead & Men, Women, & Worthiness: The Experience of Shame & The Power of Being Enough

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James & David Thomas

Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted:—An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith & Seven—An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Two books by Mary DeMuth (I discovered this author through Jen Hatmaker referencing her works in Interrupted book): Beautiful Battle: A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare (one of the best books I’ve read this year) and Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture–Practical Help for Shaping Your Children’s Hearts, Minds, & Souls

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best….And Learn from the Worst by Robert Sutton

Lean In:Women, Work, & the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Carry On, Warrior–The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton

Forgotten God–Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

The Nesting Place–It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith

I also picked up and re-read some oldies but goodies: Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy and Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning

Here’s some books I’m looking forward to cracking open next:

The Connected Child: Bringing Hope & Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn Purvis (supposed to be great about early childhood development, attachment, bonding, and trauma issues)

Restoring the Shattered Self–A Christian Counselor’s Guide to Complex Trauma by Heather Daveduik Gingrich

Bread & Wine–A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and Bittersweet- Thoughts on Change, Grace, & Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham

I’d love to hear from you the books you’d recommend I add to my To-Read list.  I can never have too many options when it comes to books!

GROW…In addition to the stacks of books I’ve been devouring, I’ve enjoyed reading blogs, articles, and getting involved in small groups and large groups focused on faith, parenting, and relationships.  This past spring Ryan and I took part in a Love and Logic parenting course that was phenomenal and currently I’m part of my first Beth Moore Bible Study20140530_161559 (James—Mercy Triumphs).  And I’ll be seeing Beth Moore speak here in Denver in a few weeks.  It’ll be the first mostly woman conference I’ve gone to—I’m soooo not into the women’s ministry thing but am looking forward to this gathering.  All this to say that I feel like I’m doing a better job being intentional about challenging myself, learning, and reaching out to others to go deeper in friendships.  I’ve been learning a lot, laughing a lot, and feel like I’ve grown so much.

CREATE…besides being more creative with what I cook, I’ve enjoyed painting again (thanks to Ryan’s encouragement) and after being inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s verison of a “feature wall,” I’m in the process of creating our own “feature wall.”  Anyone else absolutely LOVE Myquillin Smith’s “The Nesting  Place”?  Her ideas about cost effective ways to make your home beautiful have changed my life.  And her philosophy on doing so, including shaking off the fear of messing it up or not getting 20140530_161611your creativity “perfect” has so freed me!  Diving into creating feels like I’ve been reunited with an old friend.  I had found other ways to be creative than art, but my soul sings when I’m doing something artistic.  I’m proud of this painting and I can’t wait to see more original creations hanging up in our house.  Before I used to feel like I had to do a whole room to completion, but I’m learning to do one thing at a time and watch it evolve.  I just started a project with old window frames and I can’t wait to refurbish some wooden chairs I got for super cheap.  I have several uber-talented friends who can school me in the basics.  And I’m super excited because a friend and I are hosting a girl’s creativity night this coming week.  We’ve asked women we know who live and breathe creativity to come hang out for an evening, each of us bringing something we’re working on. I hope to be productive and inspired. I’m super excited!!!!

So, here I go.

Living it up in the Present.

Swimming in it until I’m all pruny and relaxed.  Loving those He’s given me, well.

How about you?  How do you handle waiting?  Do you tend to live most in the past, the present, or like me, the future?  Has God given you a word for this year or this season?  How do you manage the tension between praying about your hopes and dreams and asking that His will be done?

float 2

If you liked this post, check out: Bloom Where You’re Planted

Biblical Womanhood, Huh?

I’ve had the luxury of reading a lot of reading a lot of good books this summer.  I can’t wait to share what I’ve been reading and what I’ve been learning here.

I just finished reading Rachel Held Evans’ book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood–How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, & Calling Her Husband “Master”.  I have to admit, I don’t remember putting it on my to-read list and when I saw it had arrived at the library for me, I didn’t know if I wanted to pick it up and crack it open.  And I only started reading it because no other book I was really interested in was around to dive into.  But, boy, am I glad I opened this book!

yellow bible

If you like to learn and be entertained by the same book and have been wrestling with what the Bible says about women, this book is for you.  But, warning, this book is likely controversial because she challenges some commonly held beliefs in the Christian sub-culture.  This book may make some people uncomfortable because it pokes at strongly held beliefs about women of faith and challenges you to look at how you interpret and apply Scripture.  Rachel doesn’t expect everyone who reads this book to ascribe to her values, but she does explorrebecca st jamese how the church interprets verses that address women and challenges you to consider why you believe what you believe.

I have long wrestled with what I believe about women’s roles in the church, society, and the family.  I have a strong personality and believe that God gifts both men and women in teaching, discernment, and leadership so how the church and believers apply certain Scriptures has long been an interest of mine.  When the church I attended in Minnesota took steps towards including a woman in their preaching rotation, I felt uncomfortable, but quickly figured out that it was more because of my experiences growing up than what I believed theologically.  As I delved into the issue of women in the church and what women are called to do, I was not comfortable with those who interpreted Scriptures more conservatively but built exceptions into how they applied these verses…exceptions or caveats that were not stated in the very Scripture they claimed to be following.  That bugged me because their stated beliefs and how they applied them did not align.  There was incongruence there.  Either you apply the verses the way you claim to interpret them or be intellectually honest that those verses can be interpreted differently or may be bound by the context in which they were written.  And for me, I came to believe that the context of those difficult verses about women was important for how we apply them today.  Whether you are more complementarian or egalitarian, feminist or conservative, this book raises a lot of great issues.

Years ago, I stumbled upon the quote, “In things essential, unity, in things non-essential, liberty” and loved its simplicity and truth.  It also aligns with Paul’s thoughts in Romans 14 and while he was speaking about food back then, he could still be speaking today about current hot button issues.  Believers run into problems when they insist that everyone interpret Scripture the same way they do.  I have a really hard time when people say that something is the “biblical” way or “God’s” way.  God is a God of variety and diversity and He calls us to love and be understanding towards other believers who believe differently on non-essentials.  People get extremely heated when discussing homosexuality, gender issues in the church (and in society), the definition of modesty, and how to live out faith in our society today.  I think we need to do a better job of deciding which hills we will die upon.  Are these hills essential to our faith in God or are they non-essential?  Can we agree to disagree with other believers without questioning their faith and love for Jesus?  Can we vote differently, live out our callings differently, and still worship next to each other on Sundays?  So often believers are known for what they’re against instead of what we’re for.  We get caught up in divisive issues, majoring on the minors, and the gospel gets lost in the shuffle.  Where is our trust and faith that God may use the differences in our beliefs for His glory?  That as we peer into His Word and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will honor Him in our own way, and that is beautiful, even if it doesn’t look the same as someone else’s journey.

today's christian womanSo back to the book.  Rachel decided to take a year of her life and live out different aspects of “Biblical Womanhood.”  Some of her tasks are a little extreme or far-fetched while others really challenged her to explore different issues and make some changes in her own life.  She also highlighted common beliefs or messages many Christian women hear and challenged them, debunking some in the process.  From cultivating a friendship with an Jewish woman who lives out her orthodox faith wholeheartedly to caring for a home-economic computer baby, Rachel dives in and thoroughly explores and lives out aspects of Biblical Womanhood.  She also educates the reader on how women were treated in the Old Testament and throughout church history.  Martin Luther had some pretty inflammatory statements about women, you Lutherans might want to prepare yourselves!  One of my favorite parts of the book was when she explored the esteemed Proverbs 31 woman.  That instead of it being a list of expectations or ideals women should try to live up to, it was written as a blessing that Jewish men sang to the important women in their lives.  It was meant to honor “women of valor,” and in Rachel’s words, to be a “You Go Girl!”  The spirit of that chapter of Scripture is now seen in a beautiful and new light to me.

20140708_120142But for the rest of this post, I’m going to let Rachel speak for Rachel by sharing some excerpts from her book.  Ones that challenged me or ones I resonated with:

While cooking strikes me as an essentially creative act, cleaning seems little more than an exercise in decay management, enough to trigger an existential crisis each time the ring around the toilet bowl reappears.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I like things to be clean.  It’s not as though Dan & I ‘live in squalor,’ as my mom likes to say. But each time the laundry basket starts to overflow or the fridge gets crowded w/ old leftovers, I put up a fight. And when I’m not in the mood for a fight, I just sit around and feel guilty about it.  In a matter of days, The Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook had turned this little complex of mine into full-blown neurosis….As it turns out, until I started this experiment, pretty much everything on Martha’s “clean every day” list I did about once a week, pretty much everything on Martha’s “clean every month” list I did about once a year, and pretty much everything on Martha’s “clean every season” list I’d never done in my life. That’s right, folks; I’d never vacuumed our refrigerator grille and coil. We lived in squalor after all (27).  I actually vacuumed my refrigerator grill this week after learning about it from this book—and being near said grill while cleaning our hardwood floors.  It’ll likely be the only time I do this in my lifetime.

I get the sense that many in the contemporary biblical womanhood movement feel that the tasks associated with homemaking have been so marginalized in our culture that it’s up to them to restore the sacredness of keeping the home. This is a noble goal indeed, and one around which all people of faith can rally. But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.  If God is the God of all pots & pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously put it: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it & pluck blackberries.”  Faith’s not about finding the right bush. It’s about taking off your shoes (30).

I looked into this, and sure enough, in Jewish culture it is not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. Husbands commit each line of the poem to memory, so they can recite it to their wives at the Sabbath meal, usually in a song.  “Eshet chayil” is at its core a blessing—one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally…It’s like their version of “you go girl!”…According to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things w/ valor (88-90).

“I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah.”

–F.F. Bruce

Sometimes our actions shape our beliefs, rather than the other way around, and I think this is especially true when it comes to raising families. We tend to take whatever’s worked in our particular set of circumstances (big family, small family, attachment parenting, Ezzo, homeschool, public school), and project that upon everyone else in the world as the ideal. We do this, I think, to protect ourselves, to quiet those pesky insecurities that follow us through life, nipping at our heels. To declare that your way is the only way effectively eliminates any fear that you might be wrong, or at least pushes it below the surface for a time.  Things get hairer when parenting philosophies and religion mix, and the folks dishing out the parenting advice are convinced that God is on their side. From contraception, to spanking, to family size, to decision of a mother to work or stay at home, there is perhaps no arena in which women of faith are more subjected to the expectations of “biblical womanhood” than in their capacity to bear and raise children (177-178).

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word (like manhood, womanhood, politics, economics, marriage, and even equality), we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t fit our tastes. In an attempt to simplify, we try to force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone, to turn a complicated and at times troubling holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says (294).

The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth. Among the women praised in Scripture are warriors, widows, slaves, sister wives, apostles, teachers, concubines, queens, foreigners, prostitutes, prophets, mothers, and martyrs. What makes these women’s stories leap from the page is not the fact that they all conform to some kind of universal ideal, but that, regardless of the culture or context in which they found themselves, they lived their lives with valor. They lived their lives with faith. As much as we may long for the simplicity of a single definition of “biblical womanhood,” there is no one right way to be a woman, no mold into which we must each cram ourselves—not if Deborah, Ruth, Rachel, Tamar, Vashti, Esther, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, and Tabitha have anything to say about it (295).

So what was I looking for when I started this project? I think, at the surface, I was looking for a good story. And I certainly found one. But further down, in the deeper recesses of my heart and mind, I think I was looking for permission—permission to lead, permission to speak, permission to find my identity in something other than my roles, permission to be myself, permission to be a woman.  What a surprise to reach the end of the year w/ a quiet & liberating certainty that I never had to ask for it. It had already been given (296).

reading

This book left me wanting to learn more by diving into the Bible deeper and by continuing to wrestle with how I live out my faith.  It also left me thinking and pondering long after I had read the last page….that’s what a good book will do! As I’ve continued to mull over what I read in this book, I’ve found myself thinking that I’d love to have my daughter read it when she’s old enough.  Not because I want her to believe the exact same things Rachel Held Evans does (which I tend to agree with), but because the author does a good job showing how to critically think and wrestle with issues in the Scriptures.  I want my daughter to know why she believes what she does and to wrestle with some of the difficult verses found in Scripture.  Rachel provides a great example of how to do just that!

Buy this book on Amazon using this link: Biblical Womanhood on Amazon.  When I checked recently you could get copies of it, used, as cheap as $2.50 plus shipping!

Lessons from “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” #2 (Vegetables)

veggiesI really do like a lot of vegetables but when it comes to cooking them for dinner, I’ve struggled.  90% of the time, I’ll just microwave some frozen ones or steam some fresh ones, then add some butter, salt, and pepper.  BORING.  One of my favorite parts of Kathleen Flinn’s book was the section on vegetables (pages 87- 90).  She taught her students four basic ways to cook vegetables:  Roasting, Steaming, Sauteeing (or Stir Fry), and Grilling.  For instance, she shares where the word “sautee” comes from and how do do it correctly.  I was definitely doing it wrong at too low of a temperature.

On top of that, she also shared some very easy “flavor splashes” that left my butter/salt/pepper combination in the dust!  The flavor splashes are: Asian Ginger Lime, Cajun Oil, Garlic Citrus Butter, Herb-Lemon Oil, and Thai Style.   I’ve even typed up a cheat sheet of the four ways to cook vegetables AND the flavor splashes and have taped it on the inside of one of my cupboards.  I VOW to never having boring vegetables again!  102_3858

Intrigued?  Check out her book yourself for all the details (including recipes for each flavor splash).  I promise, you won’t regret it!

I also loved with her explanation on how to cut an onion the “classic” way.  There’s probably a YouTube video showing this exact way, but I had a hard time finding it.  It’s supposed to decrease the tears, be quick, and impress those who may be watching you cook. 

Here is Flinn’s description of how to cut an onion the “classic” way with my photos to give a visual for those who learn like me:

“Cut the onion in half across the root so that a portion of the root stays intact on both pieces. Then pull the papery skin away from the portion you’re cutting.”
102_3848
 
“Now cut a vertical slit down the middle, but don’t cut through the root.”
102_3849 
“Make two more slits on either side.  It should look a little like a fan if you pick it up and spread the slits open.  Now just slice it across at the end (I cut it several more times horizontally), the way you might normally slice an onion,”
102_3851
“and the cubes of onions tumble onto the cutting board” (71).  
102_3854
I love cutting onions this way.  If you try it, let me know what you think.  Well, despite feeling
better about my onion cutting abilities, I’ve also stumbled upon vegetables and fruits I’ve had no
clue how to cut.  For example, one evening Ryan started laughing when he watched me trying to
cut up a mango.  I was trying to twist the fruit from the pit.  He knew exactly what I was trying to
do and said, “Elyse, it’s not the same as an avocado!”  Hmph!

 

Luckily the internet has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the how-tos with vegetables
and fruit.  Here are a few helpful websites I’ve used:

 

And last but not least…

 

How about you?  What’s a vegetable cooking tip you can share?

Lessons from “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” #1

One of the books I’ve just finished reading is called: “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School —How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks” by Kathleen Flinn.  I don’t even remember where I first heard of this book, but I’m really glad I did.  I started by listening to it on CD, but midway through, I just had to return to the library to snag the hardcopy too because it made it easier to write down the tips and recipes I had started to use. 

This book has so much to offer, from educating the reader on basic cooking techniques to the overall general philosophy of cooking/eating in America, I learned so much in a fun and non-threatening way.  By just reading this book, I have made a new pasta sauce that was delicious, cooked an omelet for the first time, and have become a better vegetable cutter!  Because I’ve learned so much from this book, I’m going to share about it in several posts, not just in this one…

Let’s get started… 

To understand the context of the book, the author, Kathleen Flinn first found nine volunteers (all women) who wanted to become better cooks.  She then invited them to join her informal “cooking school” to learn not only basic cooking skills but also ground them in a solid cooking philosophy.  Before the classes started, Kathleen visited each woman’s kitchen and saw for herself what they cooked and how they cooked.  She also explored what past experiences had impacted their cooking.  While this was a small segment of the book, it really impacted me.  I had never really thought about that before.  Have you?  

Many of us cook in a similar way as our family-of-origin. 
Others intentionally cook differently than our family-of-origin. 
Some cook in a certain way to accommodate the preferences of our spouse or children.
Others have been “forced” to adapt the food they prepare for health reasons—their own health issues or those they love. 
Why take a step back and think about all of this?  Well, once you know where you are, then you can figure out how to get where you want to go. 
How would you describe your cooking style?  I consider my style comfort food while still trying to make it healthy…or healthier.  I’m not a gourmet or fancy cook, but I enjoy cooking.
What has impacted it?  What was eating or cooking like in your family-of-origin?  I was raised in a big Midwestern family where casseroles and home-cooking (rather than eating out) was the norm.  Cooking was connected to love and fun.  And I had the freedom to be silly, creative, and messy when helping cook.  Green mashed potatoes anyone? 

My dairy issues and Evan’s eating issues have both forced me to learn to adapt recipes to suit our needs and spending a lot of time in the kitchen prepping food using a variety of kitchen tools.

How would you like to describe your cooking style and skills in a year?  I want to be more comfortable with cooking meat.  Make fancier desserts.  Making more things from scratch.  Do more creative things with vegetable side dishes.  Consistently throwing out less food, especially produce.  And get my kids involved in the cooking process as much as possible, even if it means a mess!
How about you?  

The B-I-B-L-E, Yes That’s The Book For Me…(Prayer #16)

“Praying for your children to know, love, and use God’s Word is one of the most effective ways to pray for their spiritual protection.” 

Jodie Berndt 

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a voracious reader.  Yep, I used the word “voracious”.  I would probably mispronounce it, but I know what it means and can spell it so I’m gonna use it! J  Anyway, I hope my love of reading is contagious to my children.  I hope they love reading as much as I do. 

Not only do I hope they love reading in general, but I also hope they love reading the Bible.  Over the years, there have been many times where I have loved being in the Word and have experienced it as the “living” Word.  It has been like water to my parched soul.  Then there have been moments where it’s been dry and hard for me to understand.  And other times when I’m just apathetic and don’t even open the book.  I wish it wasn’t true, but, hey, I’m human.  So often, when I finally return and am self-disciplined, I’m saddened that it took me so long to get back to this habit because it changes me.  It changes my perspective.  It helps me hear from God.  Who doesn’t want that?  All that to say, I know people can experience the Bible in so many different ways.  And it’s important.

It’s important because I believe that the Bible is God’s Word to us.  Besides Jesus, it is His biggest message to us….revealing Who He Is and What He’s About.  And I believe that the Word transforms.  I want my children to love the Bible.  To know it inside and out.  To enjoy it.  To be transformed by it.  And I believe all of this is a supernatural request. 

It’s funny because while the Bible is important to our family, we never bought Evan one. 

Why? 

Because we were given 4 – 6 of them!  

We got some as gifts.  

Others were ones someone had gotten for free and wanted them to go to good use.  

Then there was the small, leather bound one.  Light blue.  Tiny print.  Seemed like an heirloom. A beautiful one.   

These are just three of Evan’s Bibles…what I found
after looking for 30 seconds in his room….
Several geared towards toddlers with rhyming words and fun pictures.  One even had a handle
so Evan could carry it around if he wanted to. 
Another one is geared toward preschoolers on up. 
Initially I thought I’d “spread the love” and pass some of them on, but when I’d set aside one or two to give away, Evan would get upset.  He loves his Bibles.  All of them!  He regularly asks for us to read from them…each of them at various times.  Honestly, he probably asks for it more than I initiate it.  And that Bible with a handle?  Yep, he LOVED it.  When he was two, he went through a phase where he carried it all the time. 
I was excited when we received the girl’s version of the handle Bible for Makenna.  How awesome it was going to read about the different women in the Bible, ones who loved passionately, risked much, and changed history.  Then I opened it and found that it was the same Bible as the little boy version, it just had more pink!  I was so bummed.  Not that little girls can’t learn from the guys of the Bible, but I want Makenna to hear about strong, vibrant women of faith.  It became my mission.  And I found one. 
It’s called “My Princess Bible” by Andy Holmes.  I know, funny that it’s likely written by a guy, but I love it because it talks about Sarah, Rahab, Deborah, Esther, Hannah, Abigail, and many others.  And I’m not a huge “princess” person, but this book takes the princess theme and then goes deeper.  It highlights a truth from each woman’s story such as “A princess thanks God for His surprises” (Sarah), “A princess keeps her promises” (Hannah), and “A princess shows other people how happy she is to know Jesus” (woman at the well).  I’m excited to see if Makenna likes it…I guess if she doesn’t, I could always keep it for myself. J  (We found ours through the Focus on the Family Bookstore.  Here’s the link for this specific book: Toddler Princess Bible.  It was cheaper through this site than through Amazon.  Check it out!)
All this to say, it is a prayer of mine that my children love Scripture and that that love and interest start at an early age.  How about you?  What are some ways that you have introduced your children to the Bible?  Have you found any particular versions that your children especially resonate with? 

____________________________________________

Lord,

Thank you for my son’s desire to read the stories from Your Word.  May this be just the beginning of his love and hunger for spending time in Your Word.  Please also put a heart for Your Word in our daughter’s heart too.  May she love her Princess Bible and through it learn so much about what it means to be a little girl of faith.
Lord, please hide Your word in both their hearts.  May Your Word bring wisdom, guidance, protection, and blessing.  May they see through Your Word that You cherish and use flawed, broken people to achieve Your purposes.  Guide them with Your Word.  May they experience it as a light to their path. 
And thank you for reminding us in Isaiah 55:11 that “just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom…so will the words that come out of My mouth not come back empty-handed.  They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”
And Lord, if it’s Your Will, please help both kids be skilled readers.  Readers who love getting lost in a book and ones that retain what they read.  Reading is such a great gift. 
Amen

Jesus Calling: Laugh!

Learn to laugh at yourself more freely.  Don’t take yourself or your circumstances too seriously.  Relax and know that I am God with you.  When you desire My will above all else, life becomes much less threatening.  Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities–things that are beyond your control.  Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain.

Laughter lightens your load and lifts your heart into heavenly places.  Your laughter rises to heaven and blends with angelic melodies of praise.  Just as parents delight in the laughter of their children, so I delight in hearing My children laugh.  I rejoice when you trust Me enough to enjoy your life lightheartedly.

Do not miss the Joy of My Presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Rather, take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.  My yoke is comfortable and pleasant; My burden is light and easily borne. 

Proverbs 17:22, Proverbs 31:25, Matthew 1:23, Matthew 11:28-30

“Leggo My Eggo” (Prayer #13)

…well, what I really mean is “Let Go My Ego” but the other way sounded more catchy.   I apologize to anyone who thought this posting may be about waffles.  Moving on…

Like many, there are times when I take constructive feedback well and other times when I get defensive.  Both my ego and my insecurities play into the moments when I don’t take feedback well.  Its caused me to think about how my ego and my insecurities can negatively impact my parenting.
This past week I finished Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.  It’s a book that I’d highly recommend, not only for people who are currently parents, but also for those who hope to be parents someday or for those who want to take a deeper look at what grace really looks like in relationship. 
I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning and middle of the book, but for some reason, the topics discussed towards the end of the book really impacted me—especially the portions about candor.  While those chapters aren’t focused on ego and insecurities in parents, they do indirectly address them by what is discussed. 
Where can my ego and insecurities get dinged as a parent?  All over the place.  Feeling pretty good about yourself?  Think you do a pretty good job of being selfless?  Get married and have kids.  Both will put you to the test.  Marriage and parenthood have revealed so much in me that I need to address to be a better person and follower of Christ. When it comes to ego, insecurity, and parenting, here’s just a few questions that have come up….
·         Am I willing to admit when I’m wrong—both to my husband and my children?
·         Am I able to acknowledge when I react vs. when I respond?  Many times when I react, my ego is involved—I feel disrespected, slighted, or not appreciated in the way I feel I should be. Ugly!
·         Can I accept feedback from my children when I’ve hurt them by my actions or words?
·         Am I able to look at my blindspots or weaknesses as a mother and a wife and work on them? 
·         Will I be open-minded and apply wisdom about parenting that I receive from friends, family, and resources?
·         Am I able to step back and let others love my kids and take care of my kids in their way instead of trying to prescribe how I want everything done?  Different doesn’t mean wrong.
·         Will I give my children the freedom to be themselves, even if some of their choices may embarrass me?
·         Can I keep my mouth shut and let my husband and my children learn from their experiences or learn from someone else instead of feeling like I have to be the one to point things out?  In counseling, I called this “stealing the light bulb moment” from someone.  So often we want to speak truth into others’ lives because we want the credit or want to change them for our own benefit.  Many times we need to 1.) let them figure it out themselves or 2.) let the Holy Spirit work in their lives.  We need to trust that God can bring change or growth in others, even when it’s not through us.  Don’t try to force change in others yourself.  It won’t last and it strains relationships.
·         Will I trust God for my reputation and care more about what He thinks than what others think about our family and our parenting decisions?
·         Can I distinguish between a power struggle that needs to be fought for the good of our children or family vs. wanting my way?
·         As the parent in the parent-child relationship, I have more power in the relationship with my kids.  We are not equals.  Do I use that power in loving ways or do I misuse my size, the volume of my voice, speed, use of words, etc. to overpower them and get what I want? Do I consider us equals when it comes to respect, dignity, and the value of their opinion (even if I don’t agree with their opinion)? 
·         Do I put my childrens’ and husband’s preferences before my own or do I want things to be all about me? 
·         As they get older, will I encourage interdependence and then independence instead of making all of their decisions or making them do it my way?
·         Am I willing to sacrifice for them and not resent it or hold it against them?
Here are a few excerpts from Kimmel’s book that really challenged me (this section is kinda long, but oh so good.  If you don’t feel like reading it all, just jump down to the prayer at the end):
Kimmel defines love as “Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost (52).”  Ego has no place in loving this way.  LOVE IT!  He expands:
1.)    Love is the commitment of my will…in other words, doing the loving thing may not always come naturally to you. You may have to muster courage, say no to your fears, and place your feelings in check.  Love is about making decisions based on the covenant we have with that person.
2.)    To your needs & best interests…not to “MY needs & best interests.”  Love sees our needs as a “B” priority compared to the best interests of the person we are called to love.  It is not in our children’s best interest to give them everything they want, to make life easy for them, to side with them when they are clearly wrong, or to circumvent consequences for their sins.  It is not in their best interests to facilitate false fears holding them hostage, to fight all their battles, or to rescue them from all their wrong choices.  Love is about meeting their ACTUAL needs, not their selfish needs.
3.)    Regardless of the cost…Secure love understands that loving someone is often inconvenient and sometimes painful.  Loving your kids costs money, time, and sleep.  It might cost a mom decades of time originally planned to be spent on her career.  It might cost her her figure.  It might cost a dad a promotion.  It might mean that there are some amenities or lavish vacations you must do without.  It definitely means eating crow, swallowing your pride, & asking for forgiveness a lot (52-53).


Grace can’t be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home.  It has to be a real-time action that ultimately imprints itself on your children’s hearts…The primary way to give our children grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences.  They receive grace when we choose not to commit sins against their hearts when our human nature would suggest that it would be okay to do so.  In fact, the greater grace that children receive is when we can even see the sins we are inclined to commit against their hearts followed by our willingness to go against our selfish urges.  Kids want things, need things, say things, or do things that either bother us, embarrass us, or hurt us.  But sometimes we are hurt because we might be exercising immaturity, insecurity, or indifference.  We take things that are huge to children and trivialize them, or we take small issues and magnify them out of proportion (141).  

The third characteristic of grace-based homes is this: they are homes that give children the freedom to be candid.  These are homes where what is on the child’s mind can end up as dinner dialogue without fear of payback.  That’s because homes of candor create give-and-take between parent and children that promotes honesty dipped in honor.  Grace makes the difference because it keeps honesty from getting ugly.  It ratchets up the free exchange of heartfelt things to a much higher level of forthrightness—a careful forthrightness that guards the other person’s dignity (185).  

We need to create homes where we talk about the deep and sometimes troubling issues concerning our children in a way that builds them up and makes them better people.We also need to create environments where our children have the freedom to do the same with us, and this applies to their disappointments in us as well.  Kids have questions about their sexuality as they get older.  They need to feel free to discuss anything with us that might be troubling without embarrassing them or sensing that it will cost more than it’s worth.  In our weak moments, we might do something that angers or humiliates them or crushes their spirit. Grace-based homes provide an outlet where the children can respectfully voice their disappointment without fear of reprisals (186).

The most significant benefit of candor for our children can be the most painful to us.  This happens when we allow our children to be forthright regarding how they feel about us. Most parents don’t even give their children this option.  Children in these types of homes are quick to figure out that their mother and father aren’t interested in hearing their feelings about them.  They aren’t looking for an authentic relationship at the heart level with their children.  It’s common for these children to tell their parents what they want to hear rather than what is on their minds.  This isn’t the pursuit of truth but rather the careful airbrushing of an illusion…The unwillingness to give a voice to the hurts we have placed in our children’s hearts is the epitome of high control…In contrast, it is our openness to “openness” that draws us closer to our children’s hearts and to God (198).

Kimmel later points out how much God values candor in His relationship with us (200).  He wants honesty from us as we talk to Him in prayer.  He wants us to share our struggles, hurts, and questions with Him and doesn’t hold it against us if it doesn’t come out perfectly.  He doesn’t punish us if we express anger or disappointment towards Him (the Psalms anyone?).  He accepts us as we are.  If God wants us to be this honest in our relationship with Him, can we do the same for our children? 

What about you, can you “leggo your eggo?”  Do you know your insecurities and weaknesses? If so, how can you keep them from having a negative impact in how you parent your children?  What buttons do your kids push that you need to respond to instead of react at?  How quick are you to apologize to your kids?

Dear Lord,

Forgive my ego.  Forgive my pride.  Forgive how sensitive I am about my insecurities and failures.  Give me a teachable heart.  Help me to let go of my defenses.  Replace my defensiveness with openness.  Help me to approach my relationships with humility and Your wisdom. May there be less of me and more of You.
As we raise these children, may we be quick to admit when we’re wrong, be open to constructive feedback, and be willing on a daily basis to put others first.  May our children see that it is normal to have weaknesses and how to deal with them in a way that brings You glory.  May we lean on you in our areas of weakness.  May your power and strength shine through us, especially in those areas. 
Help us know how to speak to each child’s heart in a sensitive way.  When we accidentally or intentionally hurt our children, may we be quick to admit it and work to undo the damage done.  May our hearts be broken over how we have wounded those most close to us.  Give us the strength and the courage to face our selfishness, our sins, the ugly in us that you need to change.
Lord, you do not have a “seen but not heard” relationship with your children.  Help us to follow your lead and create an environment in our home where our children feel free to express their thoughts and feelings.  May they know that we want to hear from them, even if it means having to face some ugly truths about ourselves.  Help us to not take our childrens’ words or actions personally.  And may we care more about what You think of us as parents than what others do. 
As Proverbs 2 says, may you turn our childrens’ ears toward wisdom and their hearts toward understanding.  Give them teachable hearts, ones that call out for insight and search for it as for hidden treasure (Berndt).  May they come to value feedback as a way to grow and become more like You.  May they be secure in who You’ve made them to be…strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and foibles. 
We love you,

 In Jesus’ Name, Amen
 

Does Hope Really Float? (Prayer #12)

Anything minus hope equals nothing.  Hope is the human equivalent of oxygen when it comes to a person’s ability to live effectively.  ~Tim Kimmel

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope this week.  The dictionary says hope is: 1.) to cherish a desire with anticipation and 2.) to expect with confidence.  I think I’m a pretty hopeful person overall and I think that comes from my faith.  In the past, I’ve called myself a “realistic optimist”, meaning, I tend to believe that with God, no situation is unredeemable, no obstacle insurmountable, but at the same time, I have seen what reality is without God.  A.W. Tozer says it best: “The cross-carrying Christian, furthermore, is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist the like of which is to be found nowhere else on earth.”  I think my sense of hope is one of the biggest gifts my parents gave me.  They have always put their hope in God and their actions and decisions demonstrated this belief.  Their hope was (and is) contagious and God has never failed them. 

When our little family went through our hard times the past few years, my hope was really put to the test.  And I’ll admit, there were moments where I felt things were pretty hopeless.  But those moments didn’t turn into months or years.  As friends and family reminded me to focus on God, His character, and His sacrificial love for us instead of getting overwhelmed by the circumstances we were in, hope returned.

I want my children to have hopeful hearts.  I want their outlook to be colored by hope, not by circumstances.  I think that’s a supernatural request.  To me it seems very human and really normal to get caught up in our current storm or difficulty and to allow it to color everything…our relationships, our attitudes, our faith, our perspective…

And I don’t just want my kids to weather and overcome difficulties in general, but I also want them to have a sense of hope when faced with their own weaknesses (II Corin 12:9), really difficult people (Genesis 50:20), and seasons of time where doing the right thing not only is not paying off, but seems to be making life worse (Galatians 6:9).  Here’s what Kimmel writes about how parents can instill hope in their children:

Kids groomed in a grace-based environment find it easier to be visionaries, to trust in a better future, and to long for a greater good (96).  

Ultimately, we want our children to place their hope in the only true God.  We have a far greater chance of seeing that happen if two things occur first.  One, they need to watch parents who place their full confidence in the only true God, Jesus Christ.  When we say that we’re deriving our hope from Christ, but they see a lack of joy, a lot of fear, and a lack of patience and kindness towards those who don’t know Christ, we send out a mixed message that contradicts the gospel we hope they’ll embrace.  The second thing our children need is to be raised by parents who treat them the way Christ treats us as parents….Grace-based parents have an uncanny way of producing children with a strong hope (97).  

Children must understand that they will run into challenges bigger than their ability to handle them.  That’s where they need to be encouraged by our example to put their hope in God.  They need to see us turning to God with confidence when we are afraid, out of energy, out of ideas, or out of money.  They need to see how we have trusted Him to overcome our helplessness in every situation (107).  

Now, there’s one more area where God wants to use us to build their hope, and that’s when God chooses to solve their problems in ways that wouldn’t be of their own choosing.  The God we trust in doesn’t always deal with (these) problems in ways we expect or hope for.  Sometimes He answers our pleas with answers like “No” or “Wait” or “Later.”  When He does, it’s because He is working to make us better and stronger and to draw us closer to Him.  He has a bigger plan that this setback fits into.  Children need to have a hope in His love that enables them to trust in His character while walking down these painful corridors of their lives (108).

He built great gifts into them as well as weaknesses that require them to lean heavily on Him for power and help.  Children need to see parents who approach their shortcomings without venom or condescension.  As they find parents who take delight in building into them life skills that compensate for their shortcomings, they develop a strong sense of hope for the future (112-113).  

Dear Lord,

Thank you for being the God of hope.  Thank you that you can be trusted to take anything that happens in our lives and bring good from it.  Thank you for giving me parents who demonstrated faith and hope in You in a way that made it contagious.  May our faith and hope be contagious to our children, too! 

As I think about my children, I am so thankful for their joyful spirits, their cheerful personalities, their laughs and their smiles.  Please instill in them a deep, unswerving hope grounded in the reality of You.  Help them to look at the world from Your perspective and to not get focused solely on what is seen and temporary.  May they know not just with their heads but also in their hearts that You are intimately involved in their lives.  That You ordain their journeys…the good, the difficult, all of it.  

Jesus, I don’t necessarily expect an easy journey for them as life isn’t always easy, but I do pray that they have hearts that trust You easier than I have.  I think of believers who have gone through so much worse than I ever have who have trusted You with abandon.  I want that for my children.  I want them to know with every fiber in them that You are good, that You care, and that You can be trusted, with the big and the small.

When they struggle with their unique weaknesses, may they turn to You for strength and may they experience it.  When others pick on them, exclude them, or mistreat them, may they respond with grace and may You use what was intended to harm them for exponential good.  When having integrity and working hard does not seem to be paying off, may You remind them that it matters to You and that they will reap a harvest if they don’t give up.  When they are overwhelmed, may they cry out to You.  When tested, may their hope prove lasting and genuine.  And may it be contagious too! 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

“Crazy Love” Parenting? (Prayer #11)

What are you doing right now that requires faith? God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.  He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through (Chan, 124). 


I don’t want to just raise “nice” kids.  Ones who don’t swear and attend church on Sundays.  I want to raise spiritual risk-takers.  Bold, joyful, vibrant children of God.  Ones that aren’t intimidated by what life or the world throws at them.  Ones who love others deeply and make an impact in the world at large.  How do we get there? 

I’ve continued reading Tim Kimmel’s book “Grace-Based Parenting” and came to a section that addressed this very issue.  Much of what he shares reminds me of Francis Chan’s writing in Crazy Love, another awesome book about living a life of faith. To me, Kimmel’s thoughts here provide for a philosophy of parenting Crazy-Love (or Francis Chan) style.  Here is what I’ve been challenged by this week:

Safe Christianity is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp.”  Living your life sold out for Jesus Christ has never been a way to enjoy a safe life.  It may be a way to enjoy a good life, but not a safe one.  That’s because Jesus isn’t safe, but He is always good.  On the inside of His goodness (read “grace”), He offers a safe haven for a dangerous life to be lived out (113).

(Children) need to spend the early years of their lives watching their parents live on the front lines of culture.  But as your children get older, you need to allow them to experience spiritual dilemmas that enable them to trust in Christ and to strengthen their hope in His goodness.  There are risks.  We must put our confidence in a God who would not bring anything unpleasant into our children’s lives except for those things that He deliberately desires to use to mold them into His image.  This overriding certainty should guide us as we make decisions on how to grow our children’s hope into a strong hope (113 – 114).

Seeing the word “risk” and assuming it is “reckless” is a convenient cop-out for people living in safe, fear-based Christian circles.  That’s because they know full well that to effectively raise kids on the front lines of the world system would require a much more spiritually savvy parent.  You can’t dump your children on the front porch of the religious professionals or educators and think you’ve done your duty.  You can’t prop them up with evangelical clubs or youth programs that have them doing a lot of biblical calisthenics and think they are somehow prepared.  You might actually have to lead them across the battlefield yourself.  It is not an easier form of parenting—just better.  In the long run, this way produces spiritually strong and sound children (Kimmel, 117).

If anything, “safe Christianity” isn’t about a relationship with Jesus Christ; it’s about a relationship with a Western, middle-class caricature of Jesus Christ.  Raising safe Christian kids is as much a product of middle to upper-class wealth as it is anything else.  These protected environments don’t allow a system of spiritual antibodies to develop within the character of the child.  This produces a generation of people who must stay within a spiritually sterilized environment in order to thrive.  These are nice systems that produce nice kids who marry nice kids who go to nice churches and hang out with like-minded nice friends (117-118). 

To many Christian parents, the idea of developing their children’s faith is like teaching them to swim on the living room rug.  They don’t want them to learn how to swim in the water because they could drown.  So these children don’t really learn how to live out a strong, adventurous faith; they just know how to go through the motions (120). 

Grace-based parents don’t make it their aim to raise safe kids.  Instead, they want to raise strong kids. Spiritually safe kids seldom get to see just how wonderful and powerful their God really is.  Spiritual safety is a prescription for spiritual impotency.  The good news about raising strong Christian kids is that you get safe kids in the process.  They know God’s love, they’ve seen Him work, and they understand how to appropriate His power (121).

So if I want bold, strong kids who love Jesus with their whole hearts, there are no easy how-tos or a checklist to follow . It will involve taking risks, being uncomfortable at times, and possibly even danger, along with a fierce dependence on God.  It means our family has to get out of its comfort zone.  We can’t be focused on safety or keeping our kids insulated from the world, those who believe differently than we do, or pain and difficulty.  It may not be the easiest path, but it has the best chance of our children knowing and experiencing a loving, trustworthy God who is active in their lives and the world around them and for them to also develop a tender heart towards others.
___________________________________________________________
Dear Lord,

Help us as we parent to not prioritize safety over cultivating faith and strength in our children.  Give us spiritual eyes to see what You’re doing in our children’s lives and to work alongside You.  And when we can’t see what You’re doing, give us the faith to trust that You are working for good in their lives.  Thank you that we can trust that you will only allow painful or difficult things into their lives to grow them and to mold them into who You’ve created them to be.  Show us how to encourage, strengthen, and walk with them through uncertain and hard times. 
Help us to be uncomfortable with being comfortable.  Give us hearts that yearn to live large, to risk, and to bring glory to You.  Remind us to be stepping out in faith daily.  Give us courage to step outside of our comfort zones and to prompt our children to do the same.  Help them to see that their faith is a lived-out, all-encompassing adventure, not just something they do for an hour or two on Sunday mornings.  Show us how to teach our children to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves. 
Please make us spiritually savvy parents.  Develop within us discernment and wisdom in how to educate our children, how to process their experiences with them, and what to expose them to, and what to shelter them from.  May our children experience your love, your grace, and your faithfulness as we serve others in our local community and around the world.  Give us the strength and motivation to get out of our comfortable house in the comfortable suburbs and roll up our sleeves up and get busy for You.  May our children’s hearts break for those who are hurting around us.  Give them compassion, insight, and a willingness to get involved in others’ lives no matter the cost or how messy it may be. May their tender hearts spur them on towards serving others and seeking You, the only one who can redeem horrible situations and heal brokenness. 
Jesus, remind us when our hearts are feeling disheartened or overwhelmed by “how vulnerable our children are, how evil the world can be, and how destructive Satan is, that you are MIGHTY, that you are POWERFUL.  And that You have the first word and you’ll have the last word!”  (Kimmel, 116). 
In Jesus’ name, Amen