For Those That Gave All

“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.” Ronald Reagan, November 11, 1985

The words “Happy Memorial Day” just don’t seem fitting . . . to attach happy to a day we’ve set aside to honor the lives lost in defense of our great nation. While I don’t believe any of these soldiers would begrudge Americans their day of rest . . . their day of barbecues and family gatherings . . . of picnics and swimming . . . I believe so many who are no longer with us would tell us to embrace all that we have . . . to cherish each moment and hold those we love a bit closer. And I also believe we would be remiss in going about this day as if it’s a day only of celebration and not honor. A day of giddiness and not gravity. A day of games and fun without any solemnity.

There is something so bittersweet in the celebration of a life well lived. The point of intersection where grief and joy meet . . . where precious and beautiful memories clash with the reality that the person, so well loved, will never be with you, on this earth, again. And I believe this is even more true with a life that is given in sacrifice to one’s country. Words alone cannot express the immensity of gratitude for these men and women who gave all they had. . . who sacrificed their lives, not just for their own freedom, not just for the freedom of those they loved, but for the freedom of total strangers . . . for you and for me. Who willingly walked into battle knowing they may never return . . . to their homes, their friends, their families . . . to the country they loved enough for which to die. The enormity of their sacrifice cannot be overstated.

Today, as we go about our business . . . as we gather with family . . . as we drive to work . . . as we do our normal day to day activities . . . may we take the time to stop and honor those who have sacrificed everything so we may live in the freedom we currently have. May we remember that these were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends so dearly loved. May we never be flippant about the freedom that results from that sacrifice. May we never take it for granted. The price paid was too high, the sacrifice too great, for us to hold it in anything but the highest regard.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends – John 15:13

Here’s to the Class of 2023 . . . And All Those Trailing Behind

As hard as it is to believe, we’re on the downhill side of May. School is wrapping up, high school and college graduations are upon us, and time seems to be passing at warp speed. My oldest is finishing his first year in high school, and what a fantastic year it has been. My youngest will be entering upper elementary next year, and it’s amazing how much growth we see with each passing year.

As we enter what is a huge transition time for so many, I find myself thinking once again about all I didn’t know as navigated those brief high school years and jumped right into college . . . all the things I wish I understood then. But as they say hindsight and all that . . . so here’s what I want to say to all the teenagers right now.

  • You’re amazing. You’re a gift from God. You’re talented and smart and blessed. AND the world does not revolve around you. Sorry. The sooner you realize that the better.
  • High school can be fun and miserable all at once. It is a time of rapid growth and change, and I think it’s so important to remember, it’s not the pinnacle of your life. You have not peaked in high school or at your high school graduation . . . you’re just getting started. You have so much life left to live.
  • Having said that, be present. Live today fully. As cliché as it sounds, you’ll never get this day back, and maybe you don’t want to. But you should neither spend your life longing for the next big thing nor should you waste your time wishing for what has already passed. Embrace today.
  • But also . . . be wise and make plans. Just don’t hold those plans with a clenched fist. Flexibility. Flexibility. Flexibility.
  • Your path is your path. We’re not all the same, but we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made. Maybe your path will lead you to college or the workforce or trade school or the military . . . maybe it will be some combination of the above. Whatever it is do it with all your heart. Work hard, be kind, treat others with respect . . . you’re not owed anything.
  • Sometimes debt is inevitable but try not to bury yourself in it at a young age. Choose wisely. Spend wisely. Save for a rainy day. God gave you a brain for a reason.
  • Dating is all well and good, but you don’t need another person to complete you. You don’t have to have a boyfriend/girlfriend to be happy, and it’s worth it to wait for the person that truly loves you for who you are.
  • Eat right and exercise. I promise you won’t regret it.
  • Sleep . . . it’s so important.
  • Put God first . . . always. Pray. Read your bible. Most importantly, no matter what . . . no matter how many mistakes you make . . . no matter what comes at you . . . remember Jesus loves you more than you can even imagine.

For All the Sleepless Nights and Joy Filled Days . . .

To all the mothers . . . whether you be new to the this whole motherhood thing or have years of experience behind you . . . whether you’re being celebrated today or not . . . if you have a houseful of littles or an empty nest that is quiet and calm . . . know, no matter how hard it is some days, how challenging, how lonely, how exhausting . . . how beautiful, exciting, and joy filled . . . on the most mundane of days when you just want a moment of peace, a clean house, and some rest . . . you are so valued. The role you play . . . the calling you have is far from inconsequential . . . it is one of the highest callings and most important roles God has given. May your Mother’s Day be filled with peace and joy, love and honor.

Happy Mother’s Day

Rejoicing With Those Who Rejoice

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

I think, as Christians, we’ve gotten pretty good at weeping with those who weep. We sit well with others hurting. We’ve learned, some of us better than others, to be okay with the uncomfortable emotions that accompany grief and pain. We can dive deep into misery alongside those around us.

But . . .

We’ve concurrently lost the ability to rejoice with those who rejoice. We exist in a highly competitive, get ahead at all costs, be the best society, and the church is no exception. Make no mistake, I believe in healthy competition. I believe that in the right context it propels you to push harder and do better. It is what helps us to push our limits beyond what we think is possible. But there is a point of diminishing returns with competition . . . when we can no longer be happy for others . . . when we can only celebrate successes if they’re less than our own . . . when we cannot say “good job”, “congratulations”, or “way to go” because we feel like the accomplishments of others somehow diminish ours . . . when we, I daresay, would rather see others fail than do well . . . we’ve reached the point where we’ve crossed the line from healthy competition into an unhealthy trap of comparison and jealousy that will only lead to misery.

Sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to rejoice with those who rejoice. Especially, in direct competition, but this is not exclusive to direct competition. It seems to cross all lines, and it can be hard to watch others succeed when you don’t think, for whatever reason, they should. But feeding the monster of jealousy and envy and pride is never the answer. The answer can feel both impossibly hard and ridiculously simple . . . open your mouth and offer sincere encouragement and congratulations. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. It’s amazing how that silences the monster almost instantly.

We’ve learned to weep with those who are weeping, and now I think it’s time to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. To celebrate the successes and achievements of others just because it’s the right thing to do. And as with so many things, the unintended benefit is going to be a level of peace and joy in our lives that comes when we refuse to constantly play the comparison game.

Just Don’t Be Last

We are rapidly approaching the end of track season. I’ll just go ahead and take a moment right off the top and brag on my son, he has had a great season and took 4th in the 800 m run last week at Regionals to advance to the State Meet this weekend. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of him. He’s put in a lot of hard work, and it’s been amazing to watch him grow and improve this season.

All bragging aside . . . we’ve clocked quite a few hours at track meets this spring, and because my son runs the 800 m and the 400 m (and the 200 m earlier in the season), there’s a lot of waiting between races. So, we spend most of that time watching races where we know not a single runner because what else are you going to do while you wait?

A couple meets back, we were waiting for Andrew’s heat in the 800 m, and therefore watching all the other boys run. Here’s the thing about the 800. It’s kind of torturous. It takes a mixture of both speed and endurance with a whole heck of a lot of heart and guts, and maybe, a pinch of insanity to want to run that race. And sometimes, kids underestimate how hard it’s going to be . . . especially in the moment. They take off too fast, they don’t pace properly, and they find themselves running out of steam somewhere during the second lap. But if there’s anything to love about track (there are actually a whole lot of things to love about track), it’s the way the kids encourage one another. Teammates, running mates, new acquaintances . . . they’re competing against one another while at the same time cheering each other on.

So we’re watching the first few heats of the race, and it’s the second lap of the 800 . . . last 200(ish) meters . . . this poor kid is fading fast. Running on fumes would be an exaggeration . . . but along comes his friend and teammate . . . running alongside him on the infield . . . yelling at him to keep going, not to slow down. Then his friend says what may have been the best thing I’ve heard all season, “Just don’t be last!!!” Y’all, I laugh every time I think about it . . . “Just don’t be last!!!”.

There’s no great inspirational message here. In true teenage boy fashion, it was a perfect recipe of brutal honesty and complete insensitivity. But you know what? I love it. That kid didn’t need to hear a “You can do it!” or a “You’re doing great!” What he needed was his friend yelling at him not to be last. To push him to push harder. He needed that brutal honesty in that moment, and he finished that race with everything he had in him. Not to mention, he wasn’t last.

So, ladies and gentlemen there you have it. My new life motto brought to you by a teenage track runner . . . because sometimes we need all the flowery inspirational quotes and messages, and sometimes we just need the brutal honesty that keeps us in forward motion. Just don’t be last!

The Little Foxes

There’s a scripture in the book of Song of Solomon that says,

“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

Just a brief sidenote regarding the book of Song of Solomon: There are a couple ways one can interpret Song of Solomon. First, literally, it is a book about the deep and intimate relationship between a husband and a wife, about the many facets of the romantic love shared between a man and his wife. In the interest of full disclosure, it is not for children’s bible story reading. It is beautiful and tasteful but also very sensuous in parts. It is a blessing to our marriages that God gave us this book, but y’all don’t pull this one out with your young children unless you want to answer some hard questions. Second, allegorically, it is seen as representative of the love of God for His children. I actually believe both interpretations are correct to some extent. I believe very much it was written to be taken a face value, a literal and beautiful testament to what God intended marriage between a man and a woman to be, but I think it also has, at least in part, a deeper meaning as an illustration of how much God loves and pursues His children.

Which brings me back around to Song of Solomon 2:15. I was cooking supper last night and thinking about compromise. I’m going to be real honest here, and I’m sure it’s going to ruffle some feathers. Won’t be the first time or the last. So before I go any further I’d like to point you back to what I wrote, almost three years ago, entitled Uncompromising Beliefs . . . nothing has changed. These beliefs still hold true, but because I push back against certain people, I’ve been accused of not holding these beliefs or of supporting the “other side”, if you will. That is categorically not true, and not supporting a certain person does not automatically mean one supports the other side. Choosing to not endorse or accept a certain person does not mean I suddenly don’t hold to the truths of the bible. Back to last night . . . I was thinking about compromise, in particular because I want to be totally transparent here, compromise within the political arena (although, this is applicable in pretty much every area of our lives and our culture). How, so often, when faced with two major candidates for an office, we’ll look at them and say something to the effect of, “Well I’m certainly not voting for ______ so instead I have to vote for _______ because he/she is the lesser of two evils.” And I wondered how did we get to this point? How did we get to the point of not only picking but endorsing, sometimes wholeheartedly, the lesser of two evils?

And in my mind I heard these words, “Beware of the little foxes . . .” . In Song of Solomon the author is referring to the little things that sneak into our marriages. The “little” irritations, flirtations, compromises that will poison the vine, and eventually, those “little” things will lead to bigger things that will destroy a marriage. But the broader implications of this verse are not lost on me. Because the truth of this is applicable to almost every area of life.

How did we get here?

One small compromise at a time.

One excuse followed by another followed by another . . .

Measuring the sins of one against the sins of another instead of looking at all of our sins against the Word of God and saying, emphatically, none of it is okay.

Refusal to stand up against wrong within our own ranks (speaking as a conservative Christian) because it makes others really angry.

“I have no choice . . .”

“If I don’t accept ______ then I’m choosing ______.”

Seeing only two choices in front of us and feeling as if we must pick between those two choices and only those two choices.

I am just as guilty as anyone. I’ve justified, glorified, made excuses with the best of them. But I’m slowly beginning to realize that refusal to stand up in the short term, continually conceding and never speaking out, because I really don’t like being hated, has only led to allowing in those little foxes, those tiny compromises, that poison the vine and lead to larger overall destruction.

It didn’t start with me or honestly, anyone reading this. It’s been a slow fade in the moral fiber of our nation for decades, not only in politics, but in all areas of life. We see it in allowing progressive theology into our churches. We’ve become so accustomed to it that we often don’t even realize when we’re pedaling progressive or new age ideologies in our lessons and teachings. We’ve held men up above the actual Word of God. We’ve failed to go back to the Bible and stand fast on what it says.

As I was pondering all of this, I couldn’t help but think we suffer in the short term or we suffer in the long term. We suffer for standing up and refusing to compromise now, or our children will suffer for our comprises in the future.

Here’s what I’ll say, I’ve already said it, my beliefs haven’t changed. If you’re going to label me, it’s still going to be the label “highly conservative, Christian”. That hasn’t changed because I still believe the bible is the final authority. However, I also refuse to look within my own self and community and not recognize where we get it wrong. Where we aren’t standing on God’s Word. Where we are choosing to compromise because I think it goes back to the plank in the eye in Matthew 7. Sin is sin, and I can’t look at the sin of another and say, “Well mine’s not so bad so . . .”. No, as a follower of Christ, I need to deal with my sin first. Not excuse it. Deal with it. There’s a meme floating around that says something like, “If Paul was alive right now the church in America would be getting some letters.” It makes me laugh because it’s true. But the reality is, we already have a treasure trove of letters. Paul’s letters are just as applicable to us in America, today, as they were to the early church 2000(ish) years ago.

I highly value my rights as a citizen of this great nation, but I hold fast to the belief that God is the God of, not only our nation, but our world, our universe, and beyond. I love our nation, but I love God more. The bible does not say “For God so loved the United States of America” it says “For God so love the world” (John 3:16). I have a responsibility to spread the truth of God’s word both within our nation’s borders and throughout the world. The truth is the answers aren’t always clear here on this earth, but I’ll tell you this, it’s not just as simple as picking the lesser of two evils or the person or policies that will make my own personal life easier or more comfortable. It’s about standing up for the truth of God’s Word in every arena, even when it’s going to make others, including those in our own circles, angry . . . even if and when it means we’re going to suffer for what’s right. There is darkness, but there is also light. So rather than telling you what I don’t support and believe, I’ll tell you what and Who I do, and you can take it from there.

I’ll wrap it up with this verse which has become a prayer for me. I pray this for my own heart and mind, that I will not walk around naive and blindly trusting because it’s easier, but that God will show me truth in every situation. That I will have the courage and boldness to stand for that truth when it is revealed. But I also pray this on a much larger scale, for my friends and family, for our local communities, our nation, and our world. That just because someone has a platform or sounds “smart” does not mean that we automatically take what they are saying at face value, but that we take the time to really lean in to what is true, right, and holy. That followers of Christ will see where we are deceived and misled and be willing to stand on the truth even if it means suffering.

“For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17

Welcome to My World . . .

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, because I feel like I’m forever saying this, we have been insanely busy. I mean stupid busy. It’s a mix track season, spring break, Easter, school activities and fundraisers, remodeling a house, doctor’s appointments, normal day to day life (church, home, school, etc.) . . . it’s just all the things, but by Sunday night I was done. I went to bed before 9:00 which I never do, and I feel asleep within minutes which I really never do.

So you would think, come Monday morning, I would be well rested, and I thought I was. Unfortunately, I don’t think my brain has caught up with my body in the rest department. Yesterday, I cleaned house, did some laundry, and with a few extra minutes I had on hand, put in for a grocery pick up . . . for this morning, Tuesday, April 18th the year of our Lord 2023, at 7:30 a.m. . . . imagine my confusion when I went to add something to my order yesterday evening only to see that my order had been closed, and I couldn’t add anything. Did it occur to me to check why I couldn’t add anything? No. I just assumed that the website was messing up and continued on doing all my Monday things . . . until about 6:30 p.m. when I got a text telling me my order would be ready for pick up at 7:30 . . . last night . . . at bedtime for my youngest . . . way to go, Courtney . . . maybe next time actually read before clicking the button to finalize the order.

Not to be deterred by having to load my child up at what is normally her bedtime and haul her with me to get groceries, I just went with it. We got the groceries, unloaded the groceries, and managed to still get everyone in bed at a reasonable hour. No harm. No foul.

Today, Tuesday, started off easy enough. I mean I already had all the groceries in my house so that left me time to get some (more) laundry done, squeeze in an early morning workout, and shower and get dressed to head out to run some errands before the afternoon pick ups. I went to UPS to drop off an Amazon return . . . I’m sure they wonder exactly how many packages one can order and return to Amazon in such a short amount of time. I’m working on showing them it is, in fact, a very large number. Then I had to run in our local Walmart real quick like. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t love Walmart, but alas, we have no Target in our town so Walmart it is. Did my Walmart run. Maybe got a couple strange looks, but it’s Walmart so who knows . . . from there I went to get in the pick-up line at my daughter’s school. If you don’t get there insanely early, you will be ridiculously far back when school dismisses. It’s a wait now or wait later kind of deal. So while I was waiting, I looked down and realized my shirt was on backwards, and I am not wearing a shirt that is the same in the front and the back. It was obviously on backwards. Which would explain the stares in the Walmart . . . but it is Walmart, after all, and most people don’t even get dressed to go in there, so whatever.

For a split second, I thought about trying to turn my shirt around right then and there, but thankfully, the few brain cells that were awake kicked in because had I tried to turn that shirt around, there is a 100% chance that the school resource officer standing just five feet away from my car would’ve had to arrest me for indecent exposure. Wouldn’t that have been cute? Needless to say, I’m tired, but my brain is obviously tired-er (not a real word). Here’s to caffeine, and maybe, hopefully, life slowing down just a bit here soon . . . but probably not because kids.


You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Romans 12:17-20

I was thinking about these passages last night. The first, from Matthew, was straight of the mouth of Jesus. The second, was written by Paul to the Romans. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they’re not my favorite passages of scripture. They go against everything in my nature, which is obviously the point. To say I always follow them would be a blatant lie. I don’t. I struggle to pray for those who hurt me. I struggle not to set them straight. I struggle to not have the last word and win every argument. I struggle hugely. But that doesn’t mean I’m right in seeking to avenge myself. According to these passages, I’m totally and completely going against what God’s word instructs me to do.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think God typically wants us to wade headfirst into horrific, abusive situations. I believe He gives us wisdom and discernment. I do believe, in a lot of instances, boundaries are biblical, and I think we need to do what we can to give ourselves the space to be safe. But the reality of this world is, at some point, we will find ourselves in a situation where we are being persecuted, sometimes without provocation, other times because we set ourselves up for it with our choices and behaviors. Regardless of why, how we respond, as followers of Christ, matters. Just a few verses earlier, in Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We live in a culture, even within the church, that wants to throw down. We want to set everyone else straight. We want revenge. And no one is going to stop us. Confession: I have been guilty of wanting to see people taken down a notch (or two). I have been guilty of wanting to exact revenge of those who’ve hurt me or my loved ones. I’ve wanted to be both judge and jury and to be the one to dole out consequences and punishment. There are people in this world I do not want to like much less love. Not my proudest and finest moments, but I’m not about to sit here and tell anyone that I’m getting it all right all the time. Or even a little bit of the time. Human nature, sin nature, is a beast, and even as followers of Christ, we sometimes have to wrestle with the desire to sin. We hide it behind righteous indignation, but the reality is we’re not walking in the Spirit.

But Jesus.

Jesus never commanded us to get revenge. He commanded us to love those who “spitefully” use us. Ouch! Oh, I want to argue with God on this one. I mean I really want to justify my bad behavior. But here’s the other thing. Often times, I can only see the fault of the other person. I cannot see my own fault in the situation, and it’s only through seeking Him, that the full truth is revealed in my heart. One of the most oft quoted scriptures in the Bible is “Judge not lest you be judged”. The problem with that is there’s a whole lot more to that passage. Also, from Matthew. Also, straight from the mouth of our Savior.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

We judge sin, not by our own standards, but by the standards set by the Word of God. However, so often, when we are ready to jump in and judge those around us, we really need to stop and look at ourselves. We all have major blind spots. We all fail to see our own sin in light of the sin of others. And as Jesus said (obviously I’m paraphrasing here), we often have a 2×4 in our own eye, while we’re trying to call out the tiny splinter in the eye of another.

We’re coming to the end of Easter week. We’re a full week out from Good Friday and almost a week out from Resurrection Sunday; it’s funny, how leading up to Easter we spend a lot of time in reflection, but once Easter Sunday has passed, we go back to business as usual. As of late, I’ve been really convicted about my attitude toward others. It’s easy to slip into being critical, angry, and judgmental, and pride is a sin we often cover up with how “spiritual” we are. I’ve been thinking about Jesus on the cross. In Luke 23:34 it tells us Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He wasn’t just talking about the Jews that had yelled “crucify Him” or the soldiers that drove the nails through His hands, He was talking about me. I am not without sin. I am so thankful that instead of making sure I suffered for my sins, He chose forgiveness. He chose mercy. He chose grace. I am so thankful He loves me in spite of how unrighteous I am in my own right.

I think it’s time to talk less and pray more. To stop trying to win and let God handle things. To walk in mercy and grace. To remember that everything I do and say matters. That my witness matters. To use my words and my mouth to bring healing rather than hurt. To ask Jesus to help me to love and see others as He sees them. We live in such a broken and hurting world, where broken and hurting people don’t know how to do anything other than hurt those around them, but we have a Savior who brings healing. Let’s let Him heal us.

Good Friday . . . The Best and the Worst of All Days

Today is “Good” Friday. Unmatched by any other day in its deep pain and tragedy. Yet, also, so very good because of the immense sacrifice made by our Savior, for us, on this day.

I was reading Luke 23 this morning and thinking about where I would have been had I been there. Would I have been following Jesus and weeping? Would I have been shouting, “Crucify Him!”?

I think we’d all like to believe we’d be following Jesus, weeping at what was happening to Him, heartbroken at the tragedy playing out before our eyes. I think we’d like to believe we’d never betray him like Judas, deny him like Peter, or trade his life for Barabbas’s. The truth is, I’m just not sure. When I look at the church today, I think most of us think we’re pretty good Christians in our own right. I think we often take pride in how good we are doing, how much faith we muster up, how righteously we’re living. But as Isaiah 64:6 reminds us, our righteousness, on its own, without the saving power of Christ, is nothing more than “filthy rags”. Had I been alive in Jesus’s day, I’d probably have thought I was doing pretty well. I’m not sure what I would’ve thought of this Jesus man when he came on the scene. He was revolutionary. He chased after the misfits and the broken . . . those no one else wanted . . . He welcomed them . . . He healed them, not just physically but from the inside out. He loved the unlovable, and He chastised those who thought they had it all together. He got down in the dirt with the condemned, but he didn’t leave them there. He called sin out for what it was. He forgave big. He loved big. He wasn’t just a good man who changed the world. He was God in the flesh, and His sacrifice for our sin, for my sin, changed all of eternity. And I am so thankful for that. So thankful that, He doesn’t care what I would’ve done on that day. He doesn’t see me as imperfect or prideful, messed up or broken. He sees me as whole, forgiven, and healed because of what He did on that cross over 2000 years ago.

Today the sun was darkened. Today the veil was torn. Today the earth quaked and the rocks split. Today was the day that made it possible for me, for you, for anyone who so desires, to be forever reconciled with our Heavenly Father. To walk, not in condemnation for our sins, but in forgiveness and wholeness for all eternity.

And today, if you do not know Him as your Savior, I encourage you to cry out to Jesus. It’s so simple, yet we often complicate it so much. You don’t have to have perfect eloquent words, you just have to ask Him . . . ask Him to save you, forgive you, transform you . . . He already loves you deeply. He already made the sacrifice. All you have to do is accept.

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:9-13

Why I’m Not Their Best Friend and Other Things

I have awesome kids. I love them. I’m proud of them. I think they’re fun and cool and obviously, two of my favorite people on this planet. They are amazing people, in their own right, and because of that, I firmly believe they will do amazing things here on this earth. BUT what I do not believe, for even second, is that they are perfect. I do not think, even a little bit, that they are incapable of doing wrong, of treating others badly, of making poor, and sometimes stupid, decisions . . .

Before anyone comes at me, it’s not because I’m a “mean mom”. It’s not because I’m trying to throw my kids under the bus or make them look bad. It’s because, very simply, there’s not a single one of us, that is incapable of doing wrong. There’s not a single one of us that gets it right all the time. There’s not a single one of us that is without sin (Romans 3:23) – which is why we so desperately need our Savior.

I have a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old and raising them is a constant and very humbling learning experience. I’m far from an expert, and just when I think I’ve figured it out, everything changes. As they grow and grow up, I’m having to constantly stop and re-evaluate why and how we are doing what we are doing. Our oldest is right at six months from turning 16. He’s no longer a child. He’s definitely not an adult either, but he’s moving into young adulthood. I’ve said it in this space before, and I’ll say it again, that means a lot more freedom, a lot less of mom and dad stepping in and making decisions, and a whole lot more responsibility. It also means that when the right choices are or are not made, the consequences tend to be much bigger, for better or for worse, and we will not play the rescue game no matter how badly we want to . . . no matter how sad it makes us or how much we hurt. Because in the end, I’d rather both of my kids learn the hard lessons now, while they’re still under our roof, than when they’re out in a world that is far less forgiving.

Here’s the thing, my kids know this. They’ll be the first to tell you, we love them fiercely, and we don’t cut them much slack. But we also, try to operate from a place of grace and mercy. Yes, we hold them to appropriately high standards . . . they are two very different people with very different strengths and challenges, so the standards and expectations don’t look identical for each of them . . . but we do not expect perfection. We do expect them to put forth their best, to do all they do with excellence, and when they mess up, to apologize, seek forgiveness, and move forward.

For those that don’t know, my son attends a private, Christian school. There are those that don’t understand why we chose this route for him and trying to explain is often met with a certain amount of disgruntled-ness from others. Most people assume, erroneously, that we totally hate public schools and public education. My daughter attends our local public school. Due to her special needs, it is currently the best place for her. The school she attends has some of the most outstanding faculty, teachers, therapists, admin, custodians, cafeteria staff . . . the list goes on . . . I have ever seen, and she has experienced tremendous growth while in her school. Further, as someone who taught public school for ten years, I believe in the mission and importance of the public school system. Having said all that, we chose a Christian school for our oldest because we value the lessons, both academic and otherwise, that are taught from a biblical worldview. That’s what we wanted (and want) for both of our children . . . to be taught and learn from a biblical perspective.

A couple weeks ago, I had the time to pop in for the weekly chapel service at my son’s school. It’s not often I’m able to do that, but I never regret it when I take a couple hours out of my Wednesday morning to stop in. As I sat there amongst, the 200 hundred or so kids, from Pre-K through 12th grade, and watched them worship Jesus, I couldn’t help but think, “This is why we do what we do. This is why I love this school. This is why he is here.”

Do academics matter? Absolutely. In three years, my oldest will be preparing to graduate high school and head to college. It will not be the pinnacle of his life (at least I hope not), but just the start of what should be a grand adventure. And I believe, we believe, that a strong academic foundation is hugely important as he heads into higher education. What about athletics/sports? What about all the extras? Do I care if he has all the opportunities that could possibly be afforded to him? Yes and no. I, of course, want to give my child all the opportunities to grow and develop, and I truly believe our little school does a fabulous job of making sure the students are given every opportunity to become well rounded individuals of great character. BUT . . . there’s that word again . . . nothing is as important as his spiritual development. That academic foundation, the sports and all the other activities, matter very little if my child doesn’t learn to love and live for Jesus.

This is where it gets all wrapped up in my parenting . . . actually, in our parenting . . . I’m so thankful I have a spouse who is my partner in this. We, my husband and I, don’t think it’s the school’s or the church’s or anyone else’s job to spiritually raise our children. It’s our job. Period. What the school and church and placing them around individuals who love and walk with Jesus, who hold them responsible, does, is to help reinforce what we are trying to teach at home. It’s backup, if you will, for what we’re trying to instill in them each and every day, and as I’ve learned, our kids will often listen to others when they won’t listen to us. That’s just a reality of raising teenagers, in particular. Ultimately, it’s up to them to make the choice to walk with Jesus. Because that is not something we can do for them, and no amount of coercing or control is going to save them.

All that to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about what matters as a parent and especially, as a mom and the, admittedly, less “chill” parent in the equation. What doesn’t matter? What I should do and not do? When I should step in and when I should pull back? This is where I have landed (if these seem random, it’s because they are):

  1. My kids aren’t perfect . . . as I’ve already said . . . and when they do something wrong, we must hold them accountable. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.
  2. The older they get the tamer the mama bear becomes. I spend a lot more time praying and a lot less time stepping in. They have to learn to, respectfully, speak up for themselves and others (and yes, I fully believe that there is a time to step in . . . I said “tamer” not “totally tame”).
  3. I generally don’t do for my kids what they can do for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I never help them or do anything for them. I cook, clean, and do laundry on repeat, but they also need to learn to do basic life things, on their own, without me swooping in.
  4. Integrity matters . . . serving Jesus matters . . . yes, I want them to grow up and be successful people, but if they do it without Jesus, then they’re doing it all for the wrong reasons. We’re not just raising good people. We’re raising God people.
  5. As I stated earlier, they have to choose to walk the walk. They have to choose to serve Jesus. That’s not a choice I can make for them, but you’d best believe, I’ll do everything I can to point them in that direction.
  6. They are not my besties . . . hugely unpopular opinion, I know . . . but they don’t need that from me. As they grow older, and the relationship between parent and child evolves, the balance does change. I do far less telling and a whole lot more guiding with my oldest at this point, but at the end of the day, I’m still mom, my husband is still dad, and my kids don’t need to fulfill the role of best friend for me. Besides, that’s my husband’s job, and if you don’t have a spouse (or yours isn’t fulfilling that role) then find another healthy, Godly, adult to build that relationship with. I believe, that when we shift into the role of best friend with our children before they’re mature enough to really be in that role (read: independent of us), we risk having major blind spots, especially to their mistakes and poor choices, when they need us to see clearly.
  7. I cannot do this without the Holy Spirit. I’m imperfect. They’re imperfect. It’s a recipe for disaster without the One who is perfect. So I try my best to daily submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and believe me, on the days when I fail to do that, we crash and burn real fast.

Dr. Ken Wilgus, Feeding the Mouth That Bites You (check out the book and the podcast), has rapidly become my favorite Christian Psychologist. He pushes back hard against so many things we think are normal and healthy in parenting, not only within the culture but within the church, and he has challenged me time and again to step back and let my kids grow up. One thing he says (I’m paraphrasing a bit) is basically, “We need to parent ourselves right out of a job”. That’s not wildly popular in a culture that says, “You never stop being a parent or a mom . . . ” but popular or not, I believe it’s biblical. It’s not that we stop being a parent, but there is a massive difference between being a parent and parenting an adult. I believe God intended for us (if we are physically, emotionally, and mentally capable), to grow up and become independent of our parents. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a relationship. It actually is the opposite. That relationship changes and shifts from obedience to honor. Independent, key word being “independent”, adults are not called to obedience of their parents (that’s an entirely different topic). There should be a shift from guidance to, yes, friendship, and that is a huge blessing. But, there’s a time and a place for that, and it can only happen when and if we do the work up front to build that healthy foundation that leads to Godly independence in our children.

*As always, here’s my caveat: Special needs parenting is a whole different world. My goal with a child with special needs is to raise them to be as independent as possible for them. As far as loving Jesus, well I think for some special needs children, it comes far more naturally than it does for many of us, and we’d do well to look to them as an example.