Oct 262015

It’s almost nine in the morning. I climbed back into bed around eight (with my laptop and my coffee), and all I really want to do right now is slip quietly back into dreamland. I could do it, too. We had a big day yesterday, and a late night, and all of my children are either still sleeping or are quietly working on their morning schoolwork. The little one (now six years old) is curled up beside me, snoring. He looks warm and blissful. I’m a little jealous.

When I make my way back into the kitchen, I’m going to be forced to clean it. Two Sabbaths in a row, followed by impromptu mushroom hunting yesterday, means that my kitchen looks like there are frat boys living in the guest room and attempting to cook after hours.

I do have something on my mind; I’m not solely avoiding the dishes. Due to a recently unearthed (and frankly none of my business) scandal, and the vitriolic reactions that are flooding social media, I guess this thing that is on my mind is the same thing that is on a lot of Christian mother’s minds. I’m thinking of my family, my children, my desire to raise godly people who are free from curses and pain. I’m pondering the importance of truly knowing one’s children to the very depths of their human hearts.

A few days ago, I posted the following to Facebook.



I believe that early confession of the little things (that may feel like big things) is the best preemptive strike against bigger sins and addictions down the line. (That is, confession that is received by loving hearts who are committed to wholeness and healing.) However, while I can only speak for myself, for my childhood, my closest friends’ childhoods, and my parenting of my children, I can say with a good amount of confidence that open and honest confession is sadly lacking in the vast majority of Christian homes. The good news is that there is not one specific and insurmountable obstacle preventing authenticity between parent and child, but there are a few smaller roadblocks that every holiness-seeking parent should keep in mind.

1. There is no such thing as a devil-proof bubble. We see the evils of this world, and we want to protect our children from them. Despite what the world says about our over-protective parenting, this is not a controlling or an outlandish desire. This is a good desire, and a very good goal. However, like the owner of a hill-top mansion equipped with state-of-the-art security, the harder we work to protect our homes the more likely we are to feel safe and to ignore the open basement window. I am not saying this to be a downer or a fear-monger, but there will always, always be an open window. Just count on it. You can unplug your t.v. and avoid the malls…you can cancel your internet…but there will still be billboards on the side of the highway and magazines at the checkout stand. Children will still talk to other children. The enemy will break through your bubble in one way or another. Try, do try, to protect your children’s minds and eyes; just don’t for one second assume that you’ve been 100% successful. And don’t fear or avoid the things that manage to sneak through your net. Use them as topics of conversation.

2. Our kids are not better than we were. We held them as tiny babies, and we swam in their innocent eyes; it’s almost impossible for us to imagine that our children are as human as we were (and are). We might remember vile things we thought, said, and maybe even did when were young and innocent children, but we’ve raised our children to be better than we were. Right? Not necessarily. Not only are we raising flawed human beings (and not robots we can control), we are raising them in a world that is much more insidious than even the world we were raised in. Odds are our children’s secret thoughts and inclinations are not much purer than ours were at their age. Actually, odds are they may be worse, because they have likely been exposed to worse (even with our bubble in place). We can pray a better spiritual life for our children, we can train them in the Word, and we can absolutely do our best to give them the chance to be better than we were (and are). But when we demand them to be super-human, when we crawl into our own little bubbles and pretend they are super-human, when we are unwilling to dig deep into their hearts to find out exactly what lies there and do the hard work of fixing what is broken, we fail our children. More than that, we fail a lost and dying world; for instead of raising whole warriors equipped for battle, we run the terrifying risk of training young Christians in the fine art of hypocrisy.

3. The race for your child’s trust is on; earn it early. My children are talkers; yours probably are too. But they don’t always say it all just because they are always talking. If we want our children to share dreams and to confess sins, worries, and failures, we have to pry. I mean, we have to really dig in one-on-one conversations. When they come in from spending time with friends, ask them, “Hey, did you have fun? Was the conversation honoring to God?” Ask them about their thought-life. Ask them about their sin struggles (they have them). Ask and ask and ask, because even though you don’t expect them to have any catastrophic issues at five, six, seven, and eight years old (although sometimes I’m left breathless over what mine have to say), you are developing a pattern of openness and trust. Big sins don’t come out of nowhere; they just don’t. Issues grow in a place of secrecy and darkness until they rage out of control. So ask them while they are little, while they’re too little to know what shame is. And then react with grace and truth, no matter what they have to say. Then you’ll have earned the right to ask them, and they’ll trust you enough to tell you, when they are sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen.

We all want to think of our children as perfect, but that’s not fair, and it isn’t true. Allowing our children to be human–hearing, training, and loving their humanity while pointing them toward the goal is harder than just teaching them right and wrong. Do it anyway.

 October 26, 2015  Christianity, Mommyhood 1 Response »
Jul 302014

Picture it. We’re sitting in church–in worship. Everyone else is wading into the presence of God. They’re wading deep now, and I’ve just noticed that my five-year-old has left his chair. Now he’s motioning to me for something. I shake my head slowly and calmly, and I’m careful not to upset him. No, I didn’t pack any granola bars.

Now give me back my purse. 

I’ve decided to stop with the whole granola bar sham. I just fed him before we left. I do feed my children! He doesn’t eat them because he’s hungry, anyway; he eats them because I don’t feed him junk at home. He won’t eat just one, he’ll eat them all. He’ll eat the ones I packed for his brother and sisters, and I’ll let him. I’ll let him because their guilt-inducing “I knew you loved him more!” stares are significantly less annoying that his in-public tantrums. So, no, no more granola bars. You can lie down under the chair and color, and that’s it.

(I wouldn’t make him go under the chair, but he likes it ’cause it’s a fort.)

About ten minutes later, he’s no longer under my chair. He’s under a chair…but it’s five rows back. I shoot an apologetic look to the man who’s been waiting for me to notice. Sorry, I was trying to worship.

I put my head between my legs, and I shoot my son the look. He army crawls back to our row. No, I don’t have any granola bars. I have crayons!

At this point one of two things happens: either I win, or he keeps trying to win.

Now, let me explain: I have five strong-willed children. The first four are strong-willed as depicted in most of those “how to handle a strong-willed child” books. They’re fun. And it’s funny that I used to think they were difficult. Not ha ha funny…but still. My fifth child is a gift from God meant to crush me beyond recognition. He’s my twin (he says so). He’s amazing.

That being said, he usually tries to win. He’s rarely satisfied with the crayons, and I’m sent searching for plan B. I might threaten him with consequence: “Sit still or you’re losing five tickets…six…seven.” I might give him a choice between or b. I might try to stall him. But there’s a point when humiliation becomes inevitable. He’s getting loud. We can’t stay here. Head down. Deep breath in. Scoop the kid and start mall-walking…now. 

We head for the restroom. If it’s a bad fit we go outside for a walk. But this is Missouri, and apparently it’s icy in the winter and blazing in the summer, so we usually head for the restroom.

“Put me down! Put me down! Let me go!” 

I’m dying.

Once in private I can talk him down. I usually convince him to return and sit nicely until it’s time for his class to start. During the process of our discussion, though, others come and go. I smile. I greet the ones I know. I try to act unphased, but I’m not fooling anyone. Then it happens…not every time, mind you, but enough times that it warrants a blog post (at least once a month for the last five months). I reach my wrist to my forehead to wipe the exhaustion-induced layer of sweat; some sweet face smiles at me from the mirror as I’m leaning hard against the cold restroom wall. She says, “Oh, I know you! Aren’t you Sarah? I’ve read your book!”

I quickly rehearse the last thirty seconds in my mind. I wonder just how bad I look(ed). I smile and reach out my hand to shake hers. And I die a little bit more.

Here’s the ironic part: Very few people have read my books. Let me clarify that number: VERY. FEW. But my tiny audience is primarily made up of Christian-roots/Hebrew roots Torah keepers, and my small church is a popular hub. This is the only place on the planet where I’m likely to be recognized by a stranger. I’m a writer because I like  not being seen. It’s a big jump from those days in my twenties when I wanted to be an actress. But I’m here now…all comfy in my sweats with my hair in a messy bun.

Somewhere in my life I got the idea that people wanted me to be perfect–that they expected me to be. I don’t expect others to be perfect (I just assume they are). My assumptions about others expectations have led me to a form of hiding. I don’t hide when I write (I don’t tell it all, but I feel much more comfortable being “real” when I’m behind my computer). In person, though, I still want to present an above par, semi well-adjusted mother who is not handicapped by the fact that she is single. This is especially true when I’m meeting a stranger who already knows who I am.

As I was pondering this today, I had to smile. The Father knows me; He knows me so well. He brought me here because He knows me so well. He continually provides me with opportunities to embrace His holiness. He’s relentless, actually. He does want me to be perfect, but His idea of perfection has nothing to do with my hair, my clothes, the disposition of my children, or the dryness of my forehead. The kind of perfection He’s seeking is void of me and completely chock-full of Him. He’s just breaking me down and building me back in His image. Don’t mind us. He does this in public because I need to let go…to stop the stupid striving that was never from Him to begin with. So the next time you’re privileged to witness the Father refining someone else, especially through their children, say a little prayer for them…and feel free to introduce yourself (even if that someone is me).


 July 30, 2014  Mommyhood 4 Responses »
Jun 112014

I walked into the laundry room carrying an armful of sheets just as he entered the adjoining bathroom. He was laughing to himself over something he’d just said, and he giggled out a, “Mommy, aren’t I funny?”

“Nah,” I kidded with a grin on my face…only he couldn’t see my face.

The bathroom door shut about the time I stuffed the first sheet into the washer. Faintly, over the running water, I heard him burst into tears. He wouldn’t have asked me if he was funny if he already knew for sure that he was. The sobs were quiet; they’re always quiet when he’s broken. I dropped the sheets onto the floor and I ran into the bathroom to find him sitting atop the toilet lid with his feet up on seat. Knees to chest he sat whimpering softly; I swept him into the air and quickly into my arms. I cradled him like he was much younger, because broken hearts need to be held.

“You’re hilarious, Baby! Do you hear me? Mommy thinks you are so funny. I was only playing with you. It was my joke that wasn’t funny!”

The incident was over quickly for him, but it lasted all day in my mind. How could I have made a joke that had the potential to break his heart?! I’ve tried to teach my children that a joke only counts as funny if it’s funny to everyone in the room. And this rule does not apply if you’ve controlled the room’s population: i.e. racists jokes at a White Power meeting are still not in the least bit funny.

I’m not attempting to rid the world of sarcasm (I don’t even plan to rid my own life entirely of sarcasm), but it’s important to remember that most jokes make their way into the heart of the recipient–at least to a small degree. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have fallen asleep wondering, “Were they really kidding?” And many of us have cried quiet tears because someone’s joke touched a raw place in our hearts.


What’s “not funny” to you? If you were brave enough, what things would you ask your friends and family to please not joke about?

 June 11, 2014  Mommyhood Comments Off on That’s Not Funny
May 232014

Today I ate a long, leisurely lunch. Yes, I feel this is blog-worthy. I have no photo evidence of this lunch, or of my lovely, adult-luncheoning friend, because I ditched my cell-phone again about two years ago. I rarely take “the real camera” out unless I’m expecting some big-photo moments. When big-photo moments actually happen, I rarely think to snap a picture. It’s a conundrum I’m hoping to solve rather quickly, as I fear my head is running out of hard drive space–or however that works with brains. But my camera is rarely present for the big smiles, anyway. The big smiles come like an unexpected rain. And unexpected rains cause the big smiles, too.

Sometimes we get lucky and catch them.

Sometimes we get lucky and catch them.

When the sixteen chicks that I’ve raised for eight weeks indoors have to spend their first rainy night outside, I don’t think to grab an umbrella…I just gasp and run. When the downpour turns torrential as I’m coaxing chicks from under the stairs and into their shed-turned-chicken-coop, I smile. When I lean out of the coop, head directly in the runoff, to scoop frightened chicks and toss them into the hay, that’s when the big smile comes. And when I return to my front door, dripping from cold rain, my children’s wide eyes turn to big smiles, too.

When my nine-year-old princess-turned-farm-girl runs toward me with a frog in her outstretched hands, my big smile mimics hers. When she says, “Mom, now I’m awesome like my twin!” and I grab her face and smoosh her nose with mine and scold, “You’ve never been anything but awesome!” we’re both smiling ear-to-ear.

When I cuddle and rock my nine-year-old sunshine right out of a sullen mood, and she looks up at me and squeezes my neck with a “Mom, I really want to stay little!” Well, tears hide behind the big smile with that one.

When my seven-year-old daughter peddles her first two-wheel bike with the excitement of an Olympic event, my heart might burst from all the smiling.

When my seven-year-old son conquers math and ninja kicks his way through Bible drills, there are big smiles and high-fives for all.

When my daughters set up chairs outside and invite us to their moonlit performance…

When my sons sit side-by-side being brothers when no one is watching…

When I wake up in the morning and see new little sprouts in the garden…

When I pull up in the driveway after my long, leisurely lunch, and my five year old gets his first glimpse of me as he looks up from playing with caterpillars on the porch, his big smile answers all of the questions of my life in one sweeping, joy-filled blow. And there aren’t any cameras around to catch it…but somehow I don’t think I’ll forget.



 May 23, 2014  Family Life, Mommyhood Comments Off on The Big Smiles
May 152014

{Originally posted on July 10, 2009. Still true today.}

While Cuddle Bug and I were discussing her smart mouth, she blurted, “I’m Cuddle Bug. I hate things.”

Now, as her mother, I know how untrue that is. She is one of the sweetest, most grateful, most loving children I have ever had the privilege of meeting. But it’s interesting, because we (my Bible study group) have just been discussing the fact that Satan doesn’t come at us saying:

You’re stupid.

You’re fat.

You’re lazy.

You’re a failure.

No, he says:

I’m stupid.

I’m fat.

I’m lazy.

I’m a failure.

He’s trying to convince my Cuddle Bug, at four years old, that she hates.

And that makes me mad.

“Noooo!” I said. “You are Cuddle Bug. You are a child of God! You love the things that God loves and you hate the things that God hates! Is Satan telling you that you hate everything?”

“No,” she quietly shook her head.

“Is Satan telling you, ‘I am Cuddle Bug. I hate everything.'”?

Her eyes widened and she nodded “yes”.

“Oh, Sweetheart,” I said as I pulled her close, “You’ve been listening to the Devil!”

“I’m a friend of the Devil?!”

“No, but the Devil wants to keep you from being a friend of God,” I said.

“But I love God and my family so much,” she replied.

“I know you do, Sweetie. But if we really love God, we have to obey Him.”

“But I hate the Devil, right Mama?”

“Yeah, that’s right Baby.”

 May 15, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off on Children’s Church
May 132014

{Originally posted on December 9th, 2008}

I’ve been reading post after post lately about the pangs of LBS (Last Baby Syndrome). And I’ve been doing my share of pining too. With one still in the womb, I feel silly even thinking about being sad. And this might not even be our last baby. But then again, it might be. What if this is the last time I am 25 weeks pregnant?

One way or another, whether she has one or eleven, every mother will have a “last baby”. Someone will be last. Sometimes she’ll know it at the time of conception, sometimes she won’t grasp the reality until years later. But the sadness will most likely come. It’s really just a matter of time.

For the past week or so I’ve been consciously trying to identify the source of the last baby sadness. Is it wrong? Should we fight it? Shouldn’t we just be so grateful that they are alive, healthy, and growing that we cherish each new stage?

Well, yeah, I think we should feel that way. But we also have the right to be a little sad.

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

God, in His complete perfection, really just wants us to stay little too! Now that’s a vast oversimplification of the passage, but I do think it’s relevant. Of course He wants us to grow and change. He desires us to move past milk to solid food. But there is something in us, as babes, that He wants to protect. And I think that thing is very much at the root of our last baby sorrow.

He wants us to be totally dependant on, and completely loyal to, Him. He wants us to need Him with every fiber of our being.

Today I was sitting with the Lil’ Prince, cuddling in a chair. He started to get down to play, and I laughed, “Oh, where are you going?” He laughed, too, and he and settled back down beside me.

“Come play!” His sisters coaxed.

“No, I’m cud-ling mama,” he replied contentedly.

My heart leapt. “He wants to spend time with me!”

And really, isn’t that the whole point?

 May 13, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off on Why We Want to Keep Them Little
Apr 062014

It’s Saturday, and Saturday is my night. It’s a short night because we don’t get home from church until pretty late. But it’s my night, and I love it.

Each of my children get a night, every week, where they stay up later than the others so we can talk about their lives. As a homeschool mom who has just survived a long winter inside with my children, you’d think I’d know all about their lives without any extra effort…but you’d be wrong. I mean, I know the visible stuff. What I don’t know is the invisible stuff. And the invisible stuff is infinitely more important. On each of these talking nights I learn things I would never know if I didn’t take the time to pry…if I didn’t ask the questions they were dying to answer. I shudder to think of the doors left cracked for the enemy if some small secrets remained hidden to quietly grow and grow. Every night I am shocked, amazed, stunned, and proud to get to know the warriors I am raising. I ask them…


“How was your week? What was the best/worst thing about this week?”

“How is your thought life?”

“Have you had any good/bad dreams this week?”

“What are your sin struggles? How can I pray for you?”

“How are you working to improve _____ (something that was mentioned the week before)?”


Saturday is my night. It’s the night I take special care to approach the Father as His daughter…and to tell Him about my week. He already knows the invisible things, but He likes to hear from my heart. I know, because He’s a parent, too.



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