5 Ways to Nail Motherhood. Kinda Sorta. As If.

This is sometimes what motherhood feels like.

It seems kind of like cheating to write a blog about “Five Ways I’m Nailing Motherhood” (the prompt over at Mrs. Disciple today) when my kids are grown. Hindsight can make all kinds of things look better.

Also, though, hindsight can give insight into the ways I changed as a mom, and maybe, it can help those who are in the trenches daily. So, rather than five ways I completely nailed being a parent (as if), here are five things I learned and grew into as a parent. By kid three, hey, I had it down. Sort of. (Yeah, right.)

And by the way, I’m going to save the best one for last. Just in case you want to stop reading. Call it just one more thing I learned as a mom. (And as a high school teacher.)

1. I moved from thinking I had to police my children’s outsides to knowing I had to guide their insides.

My Personal Warning Label: Recovering Perfectionist. Handle with Care. Liable to attempt to fix your life or rearrange you dishwasher unless restrained.

I carried that label without the caveat of “recovering” for a long time. As a young mom, I valued what other people thought. A lot. Waaaay too much. (My kids took total advantage of this. Kids can manipulate better than Donald Trump when they see an opening.)

Because I cared so much, I wanted perfect little girls who could recite Bible verses on cue (more than your kid could), got stellar grades, and never even considered pitching a fit when they could not have Choco Tacos at the grocery store. Never.

God did not give me those children.

It came as quite a shocker when I made the discovery that I could not, in fact, control my children into perfection. I could not control them into anything. God didn’t give me controllable kids; he gave me the same kind of kids he chose to have—ones with free wills and individual hearts that could be shaped and molded by love but not by coercion.

I had to make it my job to teach them to love Jesus more than to obey rules.

I had to let go of caring what others thought. You can’t care about what others think and still prioritize guiding their hearts. It’s crazy- making. Guiding hearts is messy, slow work, while creating perfect behavior for others is fairly easy. Also very dangerous. It is much messier down the road. Trust me on this.

I would rather have kids that love Jesus and people than kids who look good in the Christian comparison parade.

I had to learn that. I hope you embrace it now.

This is sometimes what motherhood feel like.

2. I moved from talking to them about being good Christians to living like Christ.

I am a preacher. I preach a lot. I like it. I can, if I’m not careful, give my kids plenty of sermons.

My kids do not need sermons. They need a living object lesson. Me.

I talked plenty about obeying God and being kind and loving you neighbor. (Unless he was weird and scary.) It wasn’t until they saw me have to decide if I meant those things that it stuck. (Fyi, not loving weird and scary people is definitely a sign of NOT meaning it.) I got caught up in teaching the truth more than living it.

Living it was hard with three little kids. Where was the time to volunteer to help someone? Where was the assurance that we would not have to sacrifice if we really DID some of those things? There wasn’t any. That was the point. All the talk in the world didn’t amount to much. Small areas of sacrifice, kindness, and moving out regardless of fear amount to a mountain of truth without words being necessary.

3. I moved from giving my children things to giving them life experiences.

We never had a ton of money, but I loved showering our kids with Christmas presents. Giving means a lot to me, and being able to give felt good. What didn’t feel good was the frenzied need we developed to go from one thing to another, from toy to game to craft kit, just doing and not caring. It didn’t feel good to be inundated with more stuff than one play room could comfortably handle, despite the giant toy box my husband made himself. Our house is not big. Our ability to handle overstimulation is even smaller.

Then we went on a mission trip. And another one. We started toning down on the things. Taking classes together. Going on expeditions and volunteering together. Also,the travel bug bit us all. Hard. Every one of our kid would prefer to travel somewhere they’ve never been over almost any “thing” they could get. (Although I suspect they would take new cars. And computers. They are now old enough to know things do come in handy when you have to pay for them yourself.)

593ba-july24th2010mom012It doesn’t get any better than raising kids who want to be with you when they are grown up.

Do life together—don’t do things side by side.

4. I moved from being a perfect mom to being a normal human.

I did not have to keep up a front for my kids. I did not have to pretend I always had it together. I did not have to prove I was always right. To this day, I struggle to apologize and admit I’m wrong. Why? Kids know. They are pretty smart little creatures. They know when we’re not being straight. But when mom puts up a fake image like that? It makes kids believe that negative feelings are bad and not to be discussed. I was raised like that. I never intended to repeat it. But I did.

It’s OK to let them see that I don’t know the answer. I make mistakes. I (gasp) sin! I didn’t realize that I was putting my girls in a prison of perfection just as surely as I had been put into one by refusing to admit that hurt, anger, and forgiveness were holy subjects to talk about and respect. We’re a work in progress on this one.

Hurt, anger, and forgiveness are holy subjects to talk about and respect.

5. I moved from thinking my job was to protect my children to believing it is my job to release them.

This is so hard. From the moment that little slimy kiddo lands on your chest, you would die for your child. You would almost certainly kill for her, too. God gave us momma love for a reason. But it gets a little out of hand, right?

I kept my kids from everything I could think of that might harm them. Bad language? Check. Violence? Check. Bullies and school shootings and too much high fructose corn syrup? Triple check. There is family lore that I would not allow them to watch Arthur because the siblings in it fought too much. (Our girls grew up rarely fighting so, hey, who are they to say my highly arbitrary gatekeeping wasn’t responsible? But seriously, Arthur?)

Overprotecting kid teaches them a few things. Things like: You are not strong enough to handle this yourself. The world is scary and the best you can do is wall it off. You don’t have the judgment to choose between what is good and what is bad when things try to enter your heart and mind. You see where this is going, right?

The fact is, it’s God’s job to protect our kids. It’s my job to make them disciples that will batter the gates of hell in this world. This is not safe. It is not for the faint of heart. It is scary as hell itself. But it is my job.

They have their own journeys to make.

That’s the most important thing I’ve learned about nailing parenting. I have to leave it to the Ultimate Parent who knows the plans he has for my kids and can be trusted to accomplish them. Accomplishing them will almost always mean risk. For them or for me. I have to be OK with that.

Nailing motherhood? It’s a moving target. It’s a good thing we have years to hone our skills.

This Is the Church

Today, a beautiful post by my friend Andrea. It fit perfectly with the topic of the month–the church.

This is the Church

This is the Church.

Forgive me for taking pictures during church but it was a sacred moment that I had to permanently capture. It needed to be more than a mental memory because those memories are all too fleeting these days (at my age).

This is not about their skin color. Honestly, I didn’t even notice that until after I’d taken the picture.

This is about a woman sitting in church alone . . .  with tear stained cheeks.

This is about a woman being brave enough to come to church alone with a hurting heart. I wonder if she thought she shouldn’t even come. I wonder if she just knew she needed to come. Because that’s where hurting hearts should go.

This is about a woman who was sitting comfortably with her husband. She noticed the woman sitting in church alone, crying alone. She went to sit by her.

I watched her move. There was no hesitation.

Maybe she knew why the woman was crying. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t even know who that woman was. But she noticed. She noticed the aloneness. She noticed the tears. And she moved. It was as if she had no other choice.

No one should have to sit alone in church. No one should have to cry alone in church. Or anywhere.

More than her mere act of companionship, she shared her own tears with her and never took her arm from around her shoulder.

Maybe the tearful woman thought about not even coming that morning, but I bet she’s glad she did.

This is love.

This is community.

This is the Church.

The Church may not be perfect but She’s good. Maybe not all of the time, but some of the time. And maybe even most of the time.


“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in ENCOURAGING LOVE AND HELPING OUT, NOT AVOIDING WORSHIPING TOGETHER AS SOME DO BUT SPURRING EACH OTHER ON, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” ~Hebrews 10:25


Andrea Stunz is a wife, mom, mother-in-law and grandmother, a well-traveled sunrise chaser, and a stumbling pilgrim in need of good coffee and the grace of Jesus. She writes at www.emptyplatefullheart.com.  

The People Who See

a61a1-img_1112After my mom’s funeral, I heard one thing from all the relatives and friends filling our house. “You’re all your dad’s got now. You’ll have to be strong for you dad.” Because, you know, 17-year-old kids are always the best choice for pillar of the family.

Except for one person. I remember standing at our kitchen counter, pouring ice and lemonade, fighting the tears and sadness and anger blurred all together. I remember one of those relatives coming up to me, putting her arm across my very-small shoulders, and whispering, “It’s OK to cry. And it’s OK to want someone to be strong for you.”

That person, of all the well-meaning people there, noticed what I needed and quietly gave it.

That’s family.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 4.23.23 PM

We’re three weeks into a series on church. This week, let’s ask the question—if church is supposed to be a family, what does a good family look like? The first answer, based on my long-ago experience, is that a family notices its members. A family knows when one of its own is sad or joyful or scared or uncertain. A family sees, and a family takes note.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. (Roman 12.15)

This isn’t a command for God’s people to go around feeling all the feels all the time. Some of us simply aren’t “all the feels” material. It’s a command for us to notice. It’s Paul reminding us that nothing pulls a tribe together like being present with someone in her pain or her joy. Either one.

Hagar first labeled God as The God Who Sees. She recognized in Him one who would notice her, take her delicate feelings in His hands, and let her know nothing of hers was beyond his sight.

We are made in His image. We are to be The People Who See. There is nothing more powerful than the feeling of being seen.

  • We see the child-woman who needs someone to acknowledge that not having a mother is cataclysmic.
  • We see the mom who feels overwhelmed in an endless circuit of life with little ones who demand much and sap everything.
  • We see the young man uncertain about his future since jobs are scarce, grades are mediocre, and money is tight.
  • We see the older woman who worries about losing siblings and friends and independence.
  • We see the upper-middle class dad who’s followed all the rules but still feels lonely and out of control despite his outward success.

We are to be The People Who See.

Notice what I didn’t say. I did not say we are to be The People with All the Answers.

I did not say we are to be The People Who Can Fix Everything.

I did not say we are to be The People Who Always Say the Right Thing.

Those people don’t exist. (And they can be pretty annoying when they think they do.)

We are to be The People Who See.

d03f1-img_2462In God’s family. love=time + attention. Those of you familiar with the five love languages can see this in all of them. Whether we feel love through acts of service, gifts, time, words of affirmation, or physical touch, personal attention is required for each one.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6.10)

What would our churches look like if we all took the time to see? What if we reversed the commonly held belief that we go to church for what we can get and instead went thinking, “What can I see today? Who needs me to notice her this morning? What good can I do for one person before I leave?” What would happen if someone had done that for you when you last needed it?

I know what, because I remember how I felt standing there at my kitchen counter all those years ago.

I felt seen.

And that was enough to make it through.

The Church as Sophomore Biology

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 3.48.35 PM

As a senior in high school, I could (and did) go from singing “I’m So Glad I’m a Part of the Family of God” in church on Sunday morning to dancing to “We Are Family” at the disco that afternoon.  Most people in my uber-conservative new-to-me church would have called an intervention had they known. I, however, had no Christian baggage myself as a new believer, so I blissfully sang and danced with no internal conflict.

My dreadful musical heritage notwithstanding (some things you simply cannot unhear), I got the message. Family matters. Whether you’re singing about the family of God or anyone you’ve chosen to claim as family, the people you declare to be your people matter.

In fact, people are doing a lot of choosing their own families these days, for various reasons. Whether it’s because of distance or dysfunction, more people are jettisoning their family of birth and creating a family of convenience and/or choice.

The time is perfect for the church to be what God called it—a family.

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. (Ephesians 2.19)

Yet for so many reasons, we fail so often. The roads out of our church buildings are strewn with the corpses of people who came there for The Brady Bunch and got Game of Thrones. Maybe you’re one of those people.

Maybe you still attend a church, but you honestly don’t believe you will ever find meaningful family there.

IMG_5848God created this thing called the church. It seems a foolish thing to us, sometimes. We wonder why he chose such an imperfect vehicle as his Kingdom parade marshall. But He did.

Jesus told Peter He would build His church. (Not ours. Important distinction.) He did it by creating communities around disciples wherever they scattered after his death. As each disciple told the story, people gathered, and a church was born. It’s important to remember this—church was not a nebulous concept. It was a flesh-and-blood group of people. They did not have the luxury we indulge in of saying, “Well the church isn’t a place, it’s an idea.” That would have been nuts to the first Christians. Of course it was a real thing. It had to be, to keep the lions at bay.

Paul called these churches households—families. And he made it clear that this was God’s plan for taking His kingdom into the world. The church was to lead the parade.

The gates of hell would not stand against the church, according to Jesus. But sometimes it seems they don’t have to, because like the fall of Rome, the destruction of the church these days is an inside job.

That means it’s resurrection can also be.

36113_440316785125_2969781_nWhen Jesus says people will know his disciples by their love for one another, He was telling us that we cannot truly represent God outside of community. Try as we might to be good followers of Jesus, if we’re doing it solo, we’re failing. We may be displaying a great person to the world, but they don’t need a great person. The world is full of great people. They need a place where not great people can learn to be what they were meant to be. They need a safe place where we work out together why we’re all here in the first place.

Because we know, instinctively, that we can’t figure that out in a vacuum.

We know we need family.

There is no Plan B for letting people who don’t know God see what a family was meant to be.

Why does being a part of the church—not just the Church—matter? Because when God call us family, he means for the world to see wha a family is supposed to look like.

Church—the local church—is the hothouse for nurturing robust seedlings that become plants that feed and beautify the world.

Church—the local church—is the incubator where the baby gets the strength to go out and be who he was created to be.

Church—the local church—is the petri dish where we grow good bacteria that will go out and infect the wold around it with Jesus germs.

OK that last one wasn’t the best analogy, but you get the point. Without penicillin, after all, there would be a lot more dead people around. Good things do grow in petri dishes, even if they always looked gross in sophomore biology class.

I know. You’ve been hurt. You’re bleeding. You found what you thought was a safe place, and it turned out to be a shooting range. So stepping away for a while may be what you need for healing. There is no guilt in that.

But don’t step away for good. Don’t discount that healing among other broken people may be just what you need. Don’t forget that God didn’t promise to build individual towers. He promised to build a community–the church.

And even still, the kingdom remains a mystery just beyond our grasp. It is here, and not yet, present and still to come. Consummation, whatever that means, awaits us. Until then, all we have are metaphors. All we have are almosts and not quites and wayside shrines. All we have are imperfect people in an imperfect world doing their best to produce outward signs of inward grace and stumbling all along the way.

All we have is this church—this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church—which, by God’s grace, is enough. (Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday)

Sounds of Our Lives


#FridayFive today at Mrs. Disciple is “Five Audibles.” Any five sounds—Go.

So here are the first five I came up with. 

What’s playing on my iTunes:

Lots of Switchfoot, Jars of Clay, and Tenth Avenue North. Since I got the car with bluetooth last spring, I never listen to the radio anymore. Sorry radio, this is my jam. And you seriously bore me (or give me a sugar overload) with your pop Christian music. Come open car windows time, you may hear Afterlife shooting out my speakers. Because that’s a song to turn all the way up. (You could also hear a lot of Jason Gray and Sarah Groves. Or Broadway musicals. Or the LOTR soundtrack. Because I like to mix it up.)

What I work out to:

Not music. That’s my time to catch up on podcasts. My favorite is the Phil Vischer podcast. Hilarious (of course) but also incredibly intelligent commentary on what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century. I often want the transcripts so I can quote them.

Favorite sound ever (besides my family’s voices):

The ocean. There is nothing so wonderful to me as falling asleep to the sound of waves out my window. Unless it’s waking up to the sound of waves out my window.


Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence. I am in my peaceful place standing on a pile of boulders feeling the salt spray in my face, peering into an endless swirl of water, and hearing it crash around my feet. Happy, peaceful, happy, peaceful, happy, happy place.

Favorite words to hear:

“I’m home.”


Whether it’s husband or daughter #2 coming through the door after work, daughter #3 away at college, daughter #1 who lives a half-hour away, or a kid we’ve “adopted” for a season, those words mean that someone is safe and here. If only for the moment. Home is sacred and safe and lovely. I treasure it when we’re all snuggled together on the couch or stretched out eating a holiday dinner. It doesn’t last. But while it does, they’re home. We’re home.

(A close second–“Let’s go on a road trip!” Because being away from home is awesome, too. When we’re together.)

And finally . . . 



There is no sound introverts like better sometimes than no sound at all. Particularly after spending a lot of time with other people. I also cannot write or read with noise. No background soundtracks for me, thank you. Who else out there stays up late into the night simply to curl up on the couch, grab a book, and hear absolutely nothing? I see those hands.

What about you? What are your sounds?

Plain Old Church

It’s April. Easter is over, Pentecost is on the horizon, and soon Jesus will begin to create his church.

IMG_5849Church. It can be a hard word. It can even stick in your throat a bit, if you’ve eve sucked back the bile of hurtful words and judgmental glances when you weren’t doing the church thing right, or you asked too many questions in Bible class, or your children did not behave like the pastor’s kids. (My unruly children were the pastor’s kids. Oh well.)

Or maybe you’ve seen too many TV preachers to trust anyone who stands in authority and tells you what the Bible says and doesn’t say and what that all means for your day-to-day. Does it mean anything, really, for my carpool duty or cubicle sitting or soccer sidelining?

Maybe you’ve seen too many Christians.

I’ve met enough of you to know that “church” evokes different reactions from different people. Some love it. Some hate it. Most falter somewhere in between, unsure, if they would admit it, they know why they get up very week (or two), dress the kids, and sing songs with a bunch of other pilgrims.

Some of us have been hurt. Some have done the hurting Some have no idea what the fuss is all about. But “church” is a loaded word, fraught with emotion. Let’s spend some time exploring the why of church. The meaning of church. The possibilities of church. I would love to hear your experiences. Here’s mine.

According to the Bible, the church is supposed to be a family. Sometimes, families are hard. Addiction to self-righteousness runs as strongly in some churches as addiction to alcohol runs in my genetic inheritance. Inability to remove masks and be honest with one another is as common in church as my mother’s inability to go without her salon appointment to be rolled, starched, and blonded once a week.

IMG_5687For most of my childhood, I had no idea my mother was not blonde. Until I saw a photo of her at fifteen, I was unaware she had beautiful brown, wavy locks. But that was not the look prized in the 60’s; hence, weekly beauty salon appointments.

Our real selves are often not the prized look in church. Hence, hiding behind perfect, plastic expressions that guard everything and mean nothing. And who can blame anyone for deciding that a weekly dose of that impeccable unreality is not necessary, or helpful?

Maybe you’re afraid church, and maybe that’s why.

IMG_5796You may be a weekly-attending dotted-line-signed member of an actual church, one with a venerable name like First Something-or-other of the Apostles, or a cool, hipster name like Journey Place. You may come every so often, whenever the mood strikes or the kids ask or it’s raining so there’s nothing to do outside. You may have walked away, hurt or confused or both.

I don’t know. Once, I left the megachurch my husband and I had ben attending for a few months to find a smaller church, one where we could feel known and needed. Once, I left my small church to attend a megachurch for a season, a place where I could be anonymous and unseen and unhurt by the things that had wounded me in our old congregation. You just never know.

I don’t make a habit of leaving. I’ve never not gone to church since giving my life to Jesus at sixteen. (Unless you count freshman year of college when I didn’t have a car, didn’t want to commit and hey, did want to sleep in. OK, I guess you have to count that.)

If anything, I am fiercely loyal to a fault. I won’t quit on anything until everyone else has gone home and all the lights are out. When I did walk away from the one bad church experience, it took someone else close to me to state the obvious—“Why are you still there? They are treating you terribly and you are miserable!” Even then, I didn’t leave. I just mentally checked out. The church had to actually close for me to leave.

I can be stubborn. Was it Churchill who said “never, never, never give up”? I am Churchill when it comes to quitting.

Leaving is a last resort. But sometimes, last resorts become the only things that keep us sane.

When Rachel Held Evans writes about driving away from her church, knowing she would not be back, she says that she wept, wondering who would bring her casseroles if one day she had a baby? She didn’t cry for casseroles. She cried for community.

IMG_4707We need community. We need family. We need a tribe. We need it locally, not on the internet, although those people are lovely and quite needed when our “in real life” gets rough and no one completely understands.

We need a church. But church gives us a nervous tic.

I could spend a long time on the whys of going to church. It’s been a constant for me, when much of my life was in upheaval. Church was always there, in its imperfection, calling me to one thing certain, one sure peace.

For now, I’ll just say I get it. I get why you are wherever you are. I want to talk about what it should look like. I want to explore how we get past the ticks and the scars. I want to learn how to find our tribe. For now, I’ll leave you with Sarah Bessey’s words, words that echo my feelings about why I, too, show up in a school gym once a week. (Besides the fact that I am the pastor, and not showing up would be a little unacceptable.)

“In a fractured and mobile and hypercustomized world, intentional community—plain old church—feels like a radical act of faith and sometimes like a spiritual discipline. We show up at a rented school and drink a cup of tea with the people of God. And we remember together who we are and why we live this life, and we figure out all over again how to be disciples of the Way.” (Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts)

Laugh Out Loud Fun

One of my “hobbies” is taking pictures of signs I find amusing. So when today’s #FridayFive prompt came up at Mrs. Disciple (Laugh Out Loud), I thought these could be perfect for giving everyone a laugh. Just for April Fool’s Day.

At a beach on Lake Michigan. Not sure if anyone has tested this.

File this under “things you thought did not have to be said.”

Looks legit.

Favorite names for actual destinations. FYI, the Olympic Peninsula has the best names for places. (Although the sign on the right was taken on San Juan Island, Washington.)

And one that combines fun signs and my grammar obsession. Because apparently, it’s merely a suggestion that people do not smoke or do other dangerous things while pumping gas. After all, it’s only a “warning.”