Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

IMG_3421I am no scientist, but it sure seems like the world is spinning faster than it did when I was a child. In the good ‘ole days, a week was, well, a week. It wasn’t a blink of an eye like it is now. The lazy days of summer were actually lazy days…we had time to relax, take naps, ride our bikes, swing at the park and trap lightning bugs after dark. Organized sports weren’t yet developed for children in our little town and most of us didn’t even know what a soccer ball was. I probably would have been a klutz on the ball field, but I could outrace anybody wearing roller skates clipped on the outside of my PF Fliers!

What a difference a generation makes! When Grant and I raised our children, sports, extracurricular activities ruled our lives and filled every waking moment. Talk about the tail wagging the dog…with four kids playing multiple sports, we didn’t even have time to meet each other coming and going! Many of my memories are at best a blur…and the busyness is getting worse instead of better. When I served as a children’s pastor at my church, I saw the demands of “gotta do” and “have to be” stretching kids and families to the breaking point. It’s no wonder divorce is at an all-time high and children have to be medicated just to “cope”.

The time for guarding your family’s time is BEFORE it is over-committed with “stuff”. Good as all the many activities are, without boundaries, the good will be offset by stress, lack of rest and a loss of time together…time you can never get back! Take a hard look at your calendar and the number of hours in the day. Schedule family time like you would a soccer practice so it actually happens…be intentional as you plan how many hours you’re willing to sacrifice for carpooling, practices, rehearsals, games, etc. Once you have the answer, give your children choices but don’t let them bite off more than your family can chew!

A final note…don’t forget to put God on the schedule. Teach your children (by example) to spend time daily with God, studying His Word and praying. I can’t tell you how many of my church kids used to say they didn’t have time to read their Bible because of sports, dance practice and homework. God must be a personal priority…without Him, what a mess we make for ourselves!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I need Your wisdom as I plan each hour of my day. Help me put You first and seek Your will before adding extras to my life. Give me the boldness to say “no” and the courage to let go of time stealers that rule my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pass the Olives Please!

IMG_5985Sunday dinner at Grandma Cline’s house used to be quite a feast…pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, bread and butter pickles and pitted black olives. When I could get away with it, I’d grab a handful of olives and put them on my fingertips and then savor them one at a time. That’s how I know Micah (my #5 grandchild) has some of my blood cursing through his veins.

Micah loves black olives. When we put them on a relish tray, they seldom last long enough to make it to the table. One Christmas, he ate almost a whole can before the turkey was even carved. Just for fun, I pulled a can of olives from the pantry and quickly put it in a Christmas gift bag. When he opened it, everyone burst out in laughter. Mikey’s smile said it all…he loved the gift!

Later that night when it was time to clean up the empty boxes and piles of torn gift wrap and ribbons
from the floor, unbeknownst to me, someone picked up Micah’s can of olives and put it back in the pantry. When he got home, Micah began searching his “stash” for the olives. They weren’t there.

Gwen explained somebody probably thought it was just a joke and didn’t expect him to take the olives home. He asked her, “why would someone do that to a little kid?” He was understandably disappointed. When I heard what happened, I immediately IMG_1304gave him another can of olives – which brought a smile to his face. From now on
no matter what we’re serving, I hope to always have a can of olives nearby so Micah will know just how special he is to ME!

It doesn’t take much to show a child they are special. Look for simple ways to say “I love you” with your actions…they speak much louder than words! Making kids feel special builds up their “emotional bank”…so if someone picks on them at school or makes fun of them…their little spirit doesn’t become bankrupt. Most importantly, help them know how special they are to God, and to His Son Jesus!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me find ways to make each of my children and grandchildren feel special – just at the time they need it. Most of all…help each one of us remember how special we are to You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


You’ve Gotta Dig In

IMG_2625“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8 NIV

When Drew turned one, we set him on the floor in front of his birthday cake. Wearing only a diaper, he put first one hand and then the other into the big fat middle of the icing, squishing it in his fingers until both hands sunk to the bottom of the cake. Grabbing fists full of gooey delight, he proudly displayed his find. The more we laughed, the bigger the mess. By the time he’d finished, he was wearing more cake than he had eaten and it took a hose to clean him off. Years later, Drew still enjoys digging into his birthday cake…if you look closely, you’ll see sometimes he doesn’t even bother to blow out the candles first.

It isn’t hard to get kids to eat cake, but what about spinach or Brussels Sprouts or cottage cheese? I discovered my kids almost always ate what Grant and I ate…we put it on their plates and it never occurred to them to turn their noses up and say, “I don’t ike that” – because we didn’t. Eating a variety of vegetables and meats was “normal” for all of us.

Parents define normalcy for their children. If mom and dad pray, read their Bible and have a personal relationship with Christ, their children grow up understanding a faith that is real. Conversely, if mom and dad only serve up a “sliver” of God in their life and home, that’s typically all their children feed off of and the entire family may end up spiritually malnourished.

God wants us to be comfortable digging into Him with the same zeal we eagerly jump into other things with. He has so much to offer and waits patiently for us to come to His table…the table of Life. Remember…your kids will develop a taste for what YOU are eating. Is it time to upgrade your menu?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I pray for a renewed craving of presence in my life, so that spending time with You is as important to me as eating a meal or watching my favorite television show. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Change Is Hard (For Me)

dome“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

I love new phones, new computers, new cars — almost anything new electronic. I enjoy the challenge of learning how technology works and how it can make my life easier. Those changes I embrace with enthusiasm.

But when it comes to doctors, jobs, churches, grocery stores, driving routes, and so many other things, change is hard for me. When we moved to Plano, I drove back to Abilene (3 hours one way) once a month, for FIVE YEARS to my old hairdresser so I didn’t have to look for someone new to cut my hair.

In the mid ’90’s, my daughters shamed me into finally changing my beloved 80’s frizzy-permed hairstyle for one “a bit more modern”. Then there’s my grocery store – the one I have gone to for years because I know where everything is – even though the produce is terrible and the prices are more than Kroger down the street. I guess since we’re moving 10 miles away, change is inevitable. Ugh. And it’s no secret the kids think my decorating style is old-fashioned, desperately needing to – you guessed it – change.

Earlier this year, as Grant and I prepared to break ground on our dream home, I seriously considered making major changes to my “style” as I met with my builder’s designer. Even though I felt at home with my colors and selections, I kept hearing they were “out of style”. Facing tough choices, I thumbed through dozens of decorating magazines and explored popular house websites, wrestling with the idea of change. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the new looks…they just weren’t ME. One day I came across a page in a magazine with the following words printed in an eye-catching 2″ font: “Be True To Yourself”. I had my answer. Choose what made me feel comfortable and happy, not some magazine editor! Through the rest of our house building process, decisions were much easier to make. (Ironically, if I didn’t like a choice I’d made, all I had to do was turn in a “change” order.) Styles come in and go out all the time. If I wait long enough, the choices I made WILL be in style (again).

Some people make changes because they think only of themselves, at the expense of relationships, promises, and even their marriage covenant. Instead of working to nurture and care for those they should value, they discard them like an old sofa – just to get someone or something new. Most of the time they are looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and they never truly find it.

My kids may tease me about being in a rut, but I know they’re glad some things in my life have never changed – my love for them, for their father, and for my Heavenly Father. I pray I will always be an example of being steadfast — especially in the important things — and with the important people!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me with a wonderful husband and precious children. Thank You for choosing me before I even knew to choose You. Help my children learn through my example and Your Word how to be steadfast in their lives and families. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.







You’re Never Alone

IMG_0495“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

In 2007, my oldest daughter Gwen called in hysterics, needing directions to Children’s Hospital in downtown Dallas. Her son Saber was by himself en route to the medical center via ambulance. Gwen was 30 miles away, frantic, and didn’t know how to get there.

Saber had fallen 15 feet from a tree in his Memaw’s backyard. On the way to the ground, God miraculously saved him from a tragic outcome. His thin “I Love New York” t-shirt caught on one of the lowest tree branches, halting his fall mid-air, just inches from the bricks on the ground below. But blood was everywhere. A sharp limb had severely sliced his leg open from upper thigh to knee. EMS responders determined they needed to bypass a closer regional hospital and go straight to Children’s. Memaw was home alone with the other grandchildren, so she couldn’t go with him.

Gwen was imagining how afraid Saber must be feeling…hurt and alone, being taken by strangers to a place he’d never been before. As a mother, she desperately wanted to give him comfort and be by his side.

But Saber didn’t feel alone. The trained medical staff riding with him in the ambulance was wonderful. They brought comfort to this little 7-year-old boy as if he was their own. Their calm assurance helped transform a scary time into an exciting adventure, complete with one very big scar! A quick phone call alerted one of our precious church friends (a pediatric physician at Children’s) who met the ambulance at the door of the ER. Saber was well cared for. Mom arrived moments later and yes, she too survived.

The Bible reminds us time and time again our God is never absent. When the young boys Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, God was with them every step of the way. Instead of being fearful, they stood on their faith and trusted God. When they were thrown into a blazing furnace, He saved them from a fiery death. In the end, they were elevated to positions of great importance.

You can’t be everywhere all the time when your children need you. Only God can. But you can take great comfort in knowing the God who created the universe is the same God who watches over your children when they are beyond your grasp and out of your sight. Teach them to trust in Him and call upon Him when they are afraid or feel alone. He will never leave them!

PRAYER: God, I am so grateful You watch over all of us even when we don’t realize it. Thank You for all the times Your angels have saved my children from harm. Continue to watch over them, protect them, and draw them unto You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Passing the Hat


“Be careful…that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

There is something about a daddy’s hat and a little boy…need I say more? It it’s Drew’s, Liam wants it. At the ripe old age of one, Liam was already copying his dad. He would even swing his arm when he walked…just like daddy did (who by the way picked that trait up from his dad). Kids are in many ways, their recycled parents. Scary thought, isn’t it!

Over thirty-five years ago, God allowed me to see how influential my actions were. I remember it like it was yesterday. My personal wake-up call came when I walked in on Gwen and Shannon toasting one another with water-filled wine glasses. Grant and I weren’t big drinkers, but even an occasional glass of wine was already being emulated by our two toddlers. That “reality snap shot” changed my life forever. How could I expect them not to drink alcohol if they saw me do it? What if they couldn’t stop after one or two drinks? What if my actions influenced them to do something that would later destroy their lives or marriages? I never took another drink of alcohol.

Today’s blog is not about drinking…it’s about influence. As parents, we will ALL be copied. When we “pass the hat” to our kids, it comes with our habits (good and bad), our traits and our character. We must take a long, hard look at ourselves and make the necessary changes, so the person we are is the kind of person we want our kids to become.

PRAYER: God, it’s not just about me anymore. My influence is shaping my children and grandchildren. There are areas of my life that need to be cleaned up and gotten rid of. I submit myself to You. You be the potter and I’ll be the clay. Mold me into the person and parent I need to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Heroes In Disguise

Superman“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19 NIV

My Mac laptop had to go to the Apple doctor awhile back for some warranty service. I loved the statement on the shirts of the IT experts working at the Genius Bar (that’s the fixit counter at the Apple store). It read, “not all heroes wear capes”. How true. Those technicians were saving the day for me and countless others, by getting our sick and broken electronic tools back into service. They were our heroes.

Flip through the television channels on Saturday morning and you’ll discover a plethora of animated superheroes, equipped with special powers they use to help mankind. My kids grew up watching and reenacting these kinds of shows. Drew used to pin a blanket on his shoulders and fly through the house, jumping from bed to bed or chair to chair. One day I found him literally swinging from the chandelier above our dining room table. How grateful I was that the builders had solidly anchored the light fixture to the ceiling!

Kids love pretend heroes, but they need real heroes in their life…not the ones who wear leotards and capes, but the ones who they look up to for the things they do. In all my years of parenting and ministering to children, I’ve come to believe heroes in disguise are the people who make time to listen when children talk. Shame on the author of that 15th century proverb, “children should be seen and not heard”!

Kids want to talk. Some of them talk quite a bit. (I think I wash one of those kids). It’s not that what they’re saying is earth shattering, but when someone takes the time to listen to them, they are made to feel valued as a person. In fact, their need is so great to be listened to, if we as parents don’t give them our ear, they will find someone who will. And that can be dangerous.

A great time to listen to your kids is at the dinner table. The key word is “listen”. Bite your tongue if you must. Don’t offer advice. Don’t lecture. Don’t preach. Let this be the safe time where they can share their hearts without fear of being put down or criticized. You’ll be amazed how sitting still and opening your ears can turn you into their hero in disguise!

Prayer: God, many times I’ve been so overloaded with my own thoughts and distracted but he phone or the TV that I’ve failed to listen when my children needed me to hear them. Help me to realign my focus and give them the attention they need and deserve. Thank You for always being there to listen to me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Capture Those Kodak Moments

Muddy drew 2“Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21 NIV

Tree-climbing was one of my kids’ favorite pastimes in the summer. The children spent hours outside playing chase, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians…all sorts of imaginative games kids play. Towering twenty-year-old trees afforded them a bird’s eye of the neighborhood which added to their enjoyment.

The family dog, Muffy, our long-haired English Cocker followed the children everywhere. She spent so much time outdoors that Grant put two buckets in the back yard so she wouldn’t run out of water and overheat. There was a water spigot by the back fence which made it easy to keep them filled.

One afternoon 3-year-old Drew decided to go for a swim…in one of Muffy’s water buckets. I might never have known, except that the buckets were at the base of our biggest tree where no grass would grow, so there was only dirt on the ground. And dirt plus water equals mud. At least Drew was considerate enough to take his clothes off first…

It must have been quite a show (and lots of fun), because when big sister Becky came banging on the back door to tattle, Drew’s little naked body was covered from head to toe in mud! Becky was expecting me to be angry with Drew for the mess he’d made, but all I could do was laugh. I told him not to move until I could go get a camera. I suppose Becky thought, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, because by the time I returned with a camera, SHE was naked and painting herself with mud too. It was one of those “Kodak moments” you never want to forget, and to their chagrin, I DO have pictures.

Later, a thorough hosing off was (mostly) all that was needed to clean up the mess…no harm done. Thankfully, I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy my kids instead of blowing up at them.

A child’s curiosity often causes them to try things WE know will make messes. It’s a part of their learning and exploring. When nurtured, curiosity develops creativity. When stifled, it makes children afraid to try new things…ever. Of course monitoring their curiosity can help prevent huge messes, but when the inevitable happens, remember to laugh AND take pictures! Cleaning up a little mud is far easier than mending a broken spirit.

Prayer: God, You have placed tremendous potential for creativity in my children. Guard my words and actions so I don’t inhibit their growth. Give me the patience and self-control I need to guide but never quench their tender spirits. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Eat Your Cake“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 NIV

Child development specialists say children start out selfish and must be taught to share with others. Stand in a room with a group of playing toddlers and you will almost always hear the word “mine” emphasized with a push or a shove. Each child wants what the other one has, not necessarily to play with it, but just to have it. Too often, parents fall into the trap of buying duplicate “stuff” for their kids so nobody has to share…it’s just easier and more peaceful that way. Unfortunately, those children grow up thinking, “it’s all about ME”. They want their cake and eat it too. Somehow, the world doesn’t always work that way and sooner or later, that attitude leads to disappointments and failures.

It’s easy for me to say my kids learned to share. The truth of the matter is they had to because there were four of them and we didn’t have a lot of money. At some point in their lives, they all shared a bedroom with one or more siblings before getting rooms of their own. I was grateful for the invention of bunk beds and trundles! One day Drew asked me if he’d have to sleep on a bunk bed in heaven!

Despite forced sharing, we definitely had moments when selfishness precipitated knock-down-drag-out fights. The most memorable one was when Gwen and Shannon got into it during their adolescent years and Gwen had to go to junior high with a split lip after her younger sister Shannon punched her.

Beyond their tiffs and complaints, I’m convinced being in close proximity all those years, sharing spaces, toys and clothes, taught each of our children the values of compromise and selflessness.

God’s Word teaches us to put others first. For the selfish, that seems like naive folly. But in the eyes of our heavenly Father, He isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done first. He put us first when He allowed His Son to suffer and die on a cross, all for the forgiveness of our sins.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, remove from me any selfishness that might keep me from seeing and doing Your will. May You be glorified as I serve You by serving others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Dads Are Important

IMG_0001“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” John 15:9

Many Christmases ago, mom and dad ordered a log cabin playhouse from Sears and had it delivered to Abilene for our little girls. The children spent countless hours in the back yard imagining themselves to be everything from pioneers to cowboys…it was the gift that kept on giving!

One cold morning, I looked out our glass sliding door into the backyard and caught several tiny mice scampering back and forth on our patio…from the cabin to Muffy’s dogfood bowl. When I say “caught”, that doesn’t mean literally…I actually just saw them. For the record, I DON’T DO MICE!

Eew! I made another grim discovery. Mice don’t swim. One of the little gray critters had crawled up the side of Muffy’s water bucket and sadly (?) fell in. Disgusting.

So what’s a mom to do? The girls want to go outside and play. The dog needs to eat. There is a dead mouse floating in the water bucket. Hmm. It’s time for an emergency call to dad! Then…until Grant could come home and rescue us, NOBODY was allowed to open the back door…not even for the dog!

Dads are important for lots more than killing rodents. Dads help shape the feeling of self-worth in their daughters like nobody else can. The relationship between daddy and daughter sets the foundation of her future relationships with men. Be the giver of hugs, encouragement, compliments and regular “dates” with your daughter. Your love will cause her to set high standards…and look for a man to treat her right…just like you do!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me a wonderful dad who loved me and always made me feel special! Help me live a life that would make him proud. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


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