Raise the Child You Have, Not the Child You Want

I have a friend who learned that her daughter had cancer after going to a routine 2-year-old pediatrician visit several years ago. Her blood work was off, and this led to testing and a diagnosis the next day. As you can imagine, they were shocked and very frightened.

Her daughter is doing fantastic now, and last year we celebrated her five-year remission. One thing that’s always stuck with me, however, was a realization my friend had shortly after learning about the cancer.

She told me that when her daughter was a toddler, her spirit, spunk, and strong personality could drive her up the wall sometimes. She wanted her to be calm and easy.

But after the diagnosis, she realized how God made her tough for a reason. He gave her daughter a special armor on purpose, because He knew she’d need that armor to handle the grueling and aggressive treatments she’d face to fight cancer at a remarkably young age.

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I think of this story often as I raise my kids and watch other kids grow up. Like most parents, I came into parenting with preconceived notions. I projected into the future and fantasized about who my kids might become and how blindingly perfect they’d inevitably be.

In some ways, I envisioned them as my second chance. I secretly hoped that they’d be like me, only smarter and more talented, so I could be their mentor and put my life experiences to good use.

But guess what? Not one daughter of mine is just like me, and that’s a beautiful thing. My girls are all authentic and wired their own way, and while I certainly relate to parts of their personalities and see myself in them all the time, I also recognize enough differences to understand how their life is not my do-over.

Forcing my dreams and ideas on them would never work, because their destiny is different than mine. And when I think about the qualities I admire most in them, it’s typically those qualities that I don’t possess or wish I had more of, because it’s through those qualities that they help me become a better and wiser person. 

I once heard advice on the radio to “Raise the child you have, not the child you want.” The words hit me hard at the time because in that season of parenting little ones, I was trying to mold my children to match the idealized visions in my head. I made the mistake many parents make by failing to consider their natural and God-ordained bent, the part of them that I couldn’t change even if I wanted to.

Clearly, we parents are responsible for helping our children become the best version of themselves. We’re called to correct poor behavior, maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, model moral excellence, and mold them into responsible citizens.

But if we really want our children discover their best life possible – a life filled with purpose, hope, and passion – we also have to respect their inherent design. This means training them in a direction that allows them to be true to themselves and who God made them to be.

God made no mistakes in creating my kids and your kids. He created every one of them with great attention and intention.

None of us know yet exactly how God is planning to use our kids, or what He may be equipping them for in the future. A trait that seems like a terrible flaw right now can actually be a lifesaver in certain situations. A trial that seems like a burden can seem like as a blessing when all is said and done.

A strong-willed girl who isn’t afraid of challenges and standing up for what she believes, for instance, may be exactly what her college peers need when an injustice arises, and they need a brave leader to take charge.

A sensitive boy who barely speaks a word may become a prolific artist who eloquently expresses those deep human emotions that help people connect and feel less alone.

A girl who doesn’t make the basketball team five years in a row may become a rock star entrepreneur who later credits her failures in helping her develop the fortitude and perseverance she’d need to go the distance.

And a boy who stutters and struggles with speech may develop an unbelievable work ethic that makes him try harder than everyone, never give up on himself, and ultimately reach a position of influence where he can help a wide range of kids who face his former struggles.

The point is, there is no “one right way” a child should be. God created each child to carry out a special mission. Only time will tell what their mission is.

And if you think about it, good parenting is largely about preparing our kids for their mission. It’s about forgetting our fantasies, becoming a student of our children, and seeing God as the authority of their life, choosing to work with His plan rather than against it.

It takes every personality under the sun to make the world go ‘round. We need kids who are gentle, passionate, quiet, spunky, fearless, driven, outspoken, observant, funny, practical, reserved, and bold.

We need social butterflies, bookworms, worker bees, wallflowers, steel magnolias, and firecrackers.

We need survivors, old souls, free spirits, athletes, tough cookies, geniuses, and late bloomers.

And despite any differences we notice among kids, there’s one term that applies across the board: world changer. Every child is meant to be a world changer. And every child deserves the right to change the world by being who they are, not who others want them to be.

It’s a pivotal moment when we parents learn to respect and celebrate our kids’ personalities without wishing for them to change. Whether this moment comes immediately or after an epiphany like my friend had, it’s good to remember how we all have the tendency to try and convert and control certain qualities in our kids that aren’t meant to be converted or controlled.

Giving our children the permission to be themselves makes them happier and us happier, too. It leaves room for God to work in our children’s lives and pleasantly surprise us as we see His plan unfold and understand how His design for them is the perfect match for the plan He has for their life.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for ages 12-16, and used across the country for small group/church studies, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on April 11, 2016 at 4:22 pm

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Setting the First Tracks: How to Have Hard Conversations with Your Kids

Imagine your child at the top of a ski slope. They’re about to ski down for their first time, but for now, they’re relishing the view.

A blanket of snow just fell, so the view is fresh and pure. The fluffy white snow is completely blemish-free. It’s a wondrous sight, but it’s temporary. Because pretty soon, skiers will start sailing down this hill. Each one will set tracks in the snow that impact your child’s perspective.SettingTheFirstTracks

Whoever skis down first, setting the first tracks in the snow, will leave a particularly deep impression because chances are, your child will remember it.

This ski slope is a lot like your child’s mind. And as parents, we instinctively protect their mind. We keep our kids in safe environments and guard their innocence to the best of our ability.

And though this is a great instinct, we must remember that our kids will be exposed to things sooner than we tend to believe. In mere seconds, their pristine view of the world can be interrupted by a peer, a Google search, or some random event that leaves a negative mark.

“Setting the first tracks” is a term that Gil Kracke, a counselor at Covenant Counseling and the Church of the Advent in Birmingham, uses to encourage parents to have those uncomfortable yet necessary conversations. As parents, we want to set the first tracks. We want to ski down first and impress the truth in our kids’ minds so that when other skiers come behind us, our kids know which tracks to trust.

Establishing ourselves upfront as the authority helps us become our child’s go-to person. It lets them know they can come to us with questions to help them discern which tracks in the snow are healthy and right – and which ones aren’t.

But how do we begin these awkward conversations? How do we talk about things we’d rather not talk about, like our child’s body, pornography, and other hard realities?

According to David Thomas, a counselor with DayStar Counseling in Nashville, and author of the book Wild Things, parents should get in front of the issues. David suggests that we talk about things before an event ever happens.

Gone are the days of a single “Birds and the Bees” talk. Instead of a one-time conversation, there should be ongoing dialogue. Parents should create a safe space where kids feel comfortable opening up and asking the questions they’ll inevitably take somewhere – if not to us, then to a friend or Google.

Here are 8 guidelines David offers to help parents create a safe environment that encourages openness and honesty.

1. Start early. Between ages 3-5, we can begin conversations with our kids about their bodies. David recommends a 4-book series called God’s Design for Sex to familiarize kids with the language and get them comfortable talking about it.

2. Be the first and best source of information. To be our child’s go-to person, we should communicate a sense of safety so they instinctively come to us when they want information. Our kids read us, and if we look or act awkward, they’ll quit talking. For this reason, we need to be familiar with the realities of their world (current and what’s to come) and comfortable talking about them. Otherwise they won’t feel safe to keep asking questions.

3. Use anatomically correct words when talking about the body.

4. Invite questions. One way to encourage conversation is to tell our kids, “I’m so glad you asked me that. Anything else you want to ask?” Or, we can ask them questions like, “What were you thinking when you heard that?” Oftentimes, helping our kids think through a situation can help them form their own conclusions.

5. Revisit the conversation often. Upfront our kids should hear, “We’re going to come in and out of this conversation your whole life. It’s not a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing healthy discussion.” To keep the talks informal and non-threatening, David suggests an occasional “Dude’s Weekend” or “Girl’s Night.” You can spend the night at a hotel, for instance, and weave the dialogue into fun experiences like letting your child swim, eat pizza, and watch a movie.

6. Stay a step ahead of his/her development. We shouldn’t wait until our child hits puberty to discuss puberty. Kids need to hear “You are normal,” and when we prepare them for what’s to come, they don’t panic over the changes they experience because they know what to expect.

7. Put it in a physical and spiritual context. Sex within the context of marriage is a gift from God, and the last thing we want to do is make our kids ashamed of their sexuality. It’s important for them to know their bodies are holy and good, and their journey to manhood/womanhood is part of God’s plan. It’s when we use our bodies and sex in ways God never intended that problems occur. While our world glamorizes the idea of sex outside of marriage, the truth is, it leads to a lot of pain and regret.

8. Find books to read together. Books can be helpful in opening the door to hard conversations. Remember, however, that books should be used to facilitate conversation, not replace it.

And what if you aren’t your child’s first memory? What if that kid from school who likes to educate all the other kids on nitty-gritty topics beats you in setting the first tracks?

If that’s the case, don’t worry, because it’s never too late to start talking. Even if you aren’t your child’s first memory, you can be most of their memories.

The hard conversations take courage, and trust me, I know how uncomfortable they can be. What helps me stay brave is remembering what a middle school counselor once told me about parents who have open dialogue versus parents who think they’re “protecting” their kids by not addressing hard realities.

“Parents who have the hard conversations are much more likely to have their kids open up and tell them what’s really going on,” she said. “Parents who don’t have those conversations are less likely to have their kids open up because the kids know their parents will freak.”

In short, our kids need us speaking truth into their lives. They need guidance to help them discern which tracks in the snow are worth paying attention to – and which ones aren’t.

And by making hard conversations a normal part of our family life, we can gradually get past the awkwardness. We can develop stronger relationships that allow us access into our children’s world and open up our eyes, minds, and hearts to the realities they face now and will continue to face in the winding road ahead.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for ages 12-16, and used across the country for small group and church youth group studies, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It’s also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on February 7, 2016 at 11:09 pm

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In the THICK of Parenting

It occurred to me recently that my husband and I have reached an interesting midpoint in parenting.

We’ve been parents for 13 years. We have 13 years until our youngest child leaves for college. We’re halfway to an empty nest. We’re in the thick of parenting.

Our busyness today is different from our busyness when the kids were little. While we’ve certainly hit a sweet spot (with our daughters ages 13, 11, 9 and 6, we can enjoy them without being physically exhausted and sleep-deprived), we’ve also entered a new stage with moving parts than I expected.

These days, parenting is a game of mental gymnastics. We have 4 kids with 4 distinct personalities and 4 sets of needs. They go in 4 different directions and make 4,000 requests a day for our time, energy, and money.

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We love them to pieces, but we’ve gotten good at saying, “No.” We have to, because they function better with parameters. They’re more respectful and pleasant when we aren’t too lax or lenient, although it is constantly a challenge to find the right balance between enjoying our kids/giving them more rope while also setting the boundaries they need.

I wonder sometimes what stage of parenting I’ll miss most when our nest is empty. I’ve seen grandparents get teary-eyed and choked up as they say, “I’d give anything to have one day, just one day, where my kids are all back home.”

When I look back twenty years from now, what stage will I miss most? At what moment in time would I freeze my kids and life as we know it?

Part of me thinks this stage could the frontrunner. Despite the demands, the endless carpools, the emotional sagas, and the short-circuiting in my brain, I really like where we are.

I like how personalities are kicking in and passions are taking root. I like how the 7 year gap between my oldest and youngest reveals the fleetingness of each season, and I’m reminded to enjoy my kids exactly where they are, because their lives and their tastes evolve so quickly.

While my baby just started kindergarten, my oldest just started middle school.

While my baby likes to curl her hair, my oldest likes to straighten her hair.

While my baby is learning to read, my oldest is learning algebra.

While my baby just lost her first tooth, my oldest just lost her last tooth.

While my baby loves Disney and bouncy houses, my oldest loves The Hunger Games and trampolines.

Our kids are past dirty diapers and tantrums on the grocery floor, yet years away from driving and college. They’re self-sufficient, yet they still need and want us.

And while I don’t like the idea of anyone leaving home, I do like watching my girls grow up. I love seeing who they’re becoming and noticing God’s work in them as they test their wings, overcome challenges, use their gifts, learn from their mistakes, and try to make the world better.

Still, some days are hard. Some days I feel overwhelmed, unequipped, and unable to appreciate the joys and miracles in front of me. Back when I was parenting small kids, I found plenty of great books and advice to help guide me, but I struggle to find resources that speak to me in raising teens and tweens.

I believe this is partially because the answers get less clear-cut as kids grow up. While it’s easy to find tips on potty training toddlers and helping them learn to walk, there is no simple approach to navigating hormones and mood swings or helping your child handle the pressures of a world that wants them to decide in 7th grade whether they plan to graduate in 12th grade with a regular diploma or advanced academic diploma.

Seriously, today’s teens and tweens carry a lot on their shoulders. They’re forced to grow up fast and make decisions that would stump an adult.

My favorite parenting advice typically comes from those parents ahead of me whom I respect and admire. I piece together their stories and wisdom to prepare my heart and mind for what’s to come. Thanks to them, I’m learning to be a better listener and to empathize with what my children face. I’m practicing the Poker face I’m told I need to have when the kids share unsettling stories, and I want them to keep talking. I’m understanding the importance of asking good questions, knowing and genuinely loving their friends, and taking advantage of car rides as uninterrupted time to talk.

I’m also learning to embrace humility. Because what gets clear in the thick of parenting is how even “good kids” will make mistakes sometimes. Every child is just one poor choice away from making their parents look like total failures. And if my instinctive reaction to my children’s mistakes is, “What will people think?”, then I’ve got a problem. I’m parenting with pride instead of humility, worrying more about appearances than the long-term needs and well-being of my kids.

All this to say, parenting gets more complicated as kids grow up. There are more balls to juggle and more action-packed days that make the years seem to fly by. With this action, however, comes an excitement and a sense that big and life-changing things are happening. This is where the rubber hits the road. This where you hang on for dear life as you help your child navigate new roads and pray that you’re preparing them for what’s to come.

Parents ahead of me often say, “These are the years you’re going to miss. This is what it’s all about,” and I believe them. While I won’t miss the laundry piles that never end, or the constant flow of dishes into the sink, I can imagine looking back with laughter and wistful smiles as Harry and I remember, above all the grief and low points, how much fun we had giving our daughters a childhood that shaped us as much as them.

In the thick of parenting is a special place to be. There is so much to reflect upon, yet so little time to reflect. And if we treat these days are a GIFT, a temporary season full of opportunities to engage with our children and point them in a meaningful direction, we can soak them up instead of wish them away.

We can remind ourselves again and again that even on the hard days, we still have it exceptionally good, because our family is united and together, making memories that will last a lifetime in the place we all call home.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for ages 12-16, and used across the country for small group/church studies, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on January 24, 2016 at 10:25 pm

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It’s Okay (and Good) to Feel Your Pain

My father-in-law passed away one week ago today. As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of tears and sadness.

And what I’ve learned about grief is, there is no need to hide it or deny it. Crying over a person isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather proof that you really loved them. Tears are tangible evidence that their life mattered to you, and their absence from your life will be deeply felt for many years to come.

It’s hard being the age that my husband and I are now – 43 – because it seems like everyone is losing parents. It’s become a common conversation among friends and an up-and-rising theme in my Facebook feed, posts about unexpected deaths, heart attacks, physical ailments, and health scares among the generation that raised us.

And the truth is, it stinks. There’s no trick to avoiding it or getting around it. We want our parents to hang in there as long as possible – to watch their grandkids grow up, graduate, get married and have babies – but having them hang in there also means watching them grow older and seeing their bodies weaken, their spirits get broken, and their mental capacities decline.

Our Papou was an incredible man. He loved hard, worked hard, and fiercely protected the people he loved. He was a patriarch, a protector, and a provider. And though he wasn’t himself in recent years due to the onset of Alzheimer’s (a cruel and terrible disease), I can vividly remember him at his best, lighting up at the sight of his grandkids and watching them light up too as they ran into his arms.

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Of the many gifts Papou gave me, I’m most thankful for how he shaped my husband. You see, he taught Harry how to be a man. He set the bar for how to cherish your wife and adore your children. Papou showed Harry firsthand what it means to be loving and gentle yet protective and strong, how to run a business by day and then switch gears at night as he walked in the front door and came home to love his family with all his heart, mind, and soul.

I’ve been thinking recently about that movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and how perfectly true it is. Breaking into the circle of a tight-knit Greek family is no small feat, but once you’re in, you’re in. You’re embraced and fiercely protected, too. What stood out most to me in the way Papou parented is how he embraced what mattered to his family. If a person was important to his loved ones, they were important to him. This is why he knew his children’s friends so well and constantly engaged in their lives, always welcoming them into their home. This is why he adored his wife’s parents and siblings and made concerted efforts to visit them because he understood how close they were.

What mattered to his family mattered to him.

I must say, however, that the family was thrown for a loop when the oldest children fell in love with 2 non-Greeks. About the time that Harry and I got engaged, so did his sister Renee, which meant that Harry was about to marry a Catholic and Renee was about to marry a Southern Baptist. It’s really comical as I think back on it. 

During our engagements, my future brother-in-law Shane and I occasionally conversed about how hard it was to crack the family circle. Why did we sense some resistance? What made them skeptical of us? What on earth would it take to gain their wholehearted acceptance?

As it turned out, it needed to be established that we weren’t threats. Our intentions were good, we genuinely loved Harry and Renee, and they genuinely loved us. While the family dynamic would change, the change would be positive.

Papou was protective of this family he’d carefully nurtured, but once he understood where everyone’s heart was, we were embraced. And from that point on, there was no looking back. Shane and I became family and part of a circle that would eventually expand into grandkids and another son-in-law named Brian (who, by the way, encountered no resistance in marrying Elene because Shane and I paved the way. Right, Brian?).

Our Papou was a one-of-a-kind, big-hearted man with a jolly smile. And what’s harder than processing my feelings is watching my husband and kids process theirs. To see the cousins all crying and consoling each other as they paid their last respects to Papou’s open casket, and then hear the symphony of both children and adults sobbing as that casket closed for the final time, was the low point of this journey. It has also been heartbeaking to see my husband deal with the punch in the gut that came on New Year’s Eve when his father died unexpectedly and suddenly.

Harry and his dad were exceptionally close, not only as father and son, but also from working together in the family beer business for 20 years. Papou impacted every inch of Harry’s life, and both personally and professionally, Harry loved and respected him. In the days after Papou’s death, my heart split open every time Harry said, “I lost my dad. I lost my dad.” Immediately he and I would hug and cry, both of us reduced to tears by four simple words.

Yet even in the tears, the sadness, and the mourning there is a bigger and more beautiful picture being painted. There is powerful evidence of God’s presence and peace. The outpour of support from family and friends has been amazing, and two verses I keep thinking of are “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) and “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

As I have told my daughters, God never wastes our pain. The comfort He gives us in hard times will allow us to help others later on. It makes us kinder and more compassionate. You can tell who has lost a loved one by the way they respond to death. For one, they’re quick to show up. They’ll appear on your doorstep without worrying about whether or not any company is wanted. Two, they hug tighter and longer than most people. And three, they have a knowing look in their eyes, a deep sadness that is oddly comforting.

This look says, “I get it, I’ve been there, and I’m here to offer help and hope.”

The other day I spoke to a sweet friend of Elene’s named Beth Little whose mom passed away a few years ago. Because she and her mom were tight, it was a painful blow. One thing that’s particularly difficult for Beth is decorating her Christmas tree, because her mom always gave her ornaments with pictures of special events like their wedding, their first dog, kids at the beach, etc.  

So Beth has established a ritual. On the day her family decorates their Christmas tree, after the kids go to bed, she pours a glass of wine, sits alone in front of the tree, and cries. She uses this time to hang the ornaments her mom gave her and let it all out. This is Beth’s way of saying, “I’m going to remember her and let myself get upset so the sadness doesn’t linger, and I can enjoy the holidays and my kids.”

I love this ritual because I think it’s important to let yourself have those moments and be honest about your feelings. And if it’s been 10 years since your loved one passed, and thoughts or memories of them still make you cry at times, that’s okay, too. Because love has no time limit, and sometimes tears are the best evidence you have of having truly loved someone and missing their presence in your life. 

At Papou’s funeral, Father Paul Costopoulos said people often believe that being a “man” means being strong and not crying, but that’s not true. He reminded everyone that it’s good to cry, mourn, and let yourself grieve. And in his message that day, he weaved in an important thought based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “When you grieve for someone you love, do not grieve like those who have no hope.”

Because the fact is, there is always hope when someone falls asleep with the Lord. There’s the hope of heaven, eternal life, and an eventual reunion. Jesus conquered death through His death and resurrection, and because of Him, we’ll get to see Papou again. We’ll join him in experiencing a heaven with no pain, no sorrow, and no suffering.

Our family is at peace knowing Papou is with Jesus now (hopefully playing with his calculator and talking business as he loved to do). He can communicate again with a sharp mind and his trademark wit. I find it telling that even on Papou’s worst days, when he couldn’t remember family members or verbalize a complete sentence, he never forgot the Lord’s prayer. Before every meal, he and YiaYia recited the “Our Father” from beginning to end. To me this was a miracle and a tender reminder from God that He was present then and still is now.

I’d like to end with a message that’s broader is scope: Pain is pain, and whatever pain your heart feels right now, it hurts. Whether your pain is due to death, divorce, parenthood, or life circumstances, it’s okay (and good) to feel it. It’s okay (and good) to cry and acknowledge how raw and vulnerable you feel. Even in your deepest pain, there is always hope. God is with you and God hears your prayers, and when you trust Him to guide you and open your eyes to the blessings you receive even in the midst of sadness, your pain becomes bearable. God is the Master of bringing comfort, hope, and supernatural peace.

So let yourself cry and let yourself grieve, but cry and grieve like people who have hope. Because our God is a God of hope, one who draws remarkably close in our time of need and works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Nestor "Bubba" Kampakis August 28, 1933 - December 31, 2015 May his memory be eternal

Nestor “Bubba” Kampakis
August 28, 1933 – December 31, 2015

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Thank you for reading this article today. I pray it’s been a blessing to you.   10truths_rnd2

If you found this message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. To keep up with future writings, you can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve written a book for teen and tween girls ages 12-16. Designed to empower girls through faith, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is available everywhere books are sold. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Thanks again for stopping by. God bless. 


Posted by Kari on January 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm

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When Life Gets Dark – And We Need Light

When I worked for an electric utility, we had a running joke inside the company that nobody thinks about their electricity until the lights go out.

Only then, when you’re stuck in the darkness, do you realize how desperately dependent you are on your power source.

Electricity is easy to take for granted. Most people don’t think about all the systems and employees working hard behind the scenes to keep homes and communities running. You don’t realize how many conveniences electricity provides until you suddenly lose them.

One minute you’re happily going about your day, engaged in your normal routine, and then out of the blue…bam!

You hear a snap and your entire house shuts down. Now you can’t do anything.

When The Lights Go Out

You can’t make coffee.

Or work on the computer.

Or charge your cell phone.

Or cook dinner.

Or blow-dry your hair.

Or perform a thousand other activities you normally do without a second thought.

Just five seconds earlier, you felt so capable. And now you feel pretty helpless. All the things you wanted to do, all the plans you hoped to accomplish, have flown out the window.

And what is your first move? In most cases, you look for light. You try to find something – a candle, a flashlight, a lantern – to help you make sense of the darness.

And as you fumble in the darkness, you realize how powerless you are. It comes to your attention that ultimately, you’re at the mercy of a force greater than yourself.

It’s a humbling realization, to say the least.

This relationship many of us have with electricity tends to remind me of the relationship we often have with God. Because when everything is good, and our normal life conveniences turn on at the flip of a switch, we take God for granted. We forget how He’s the power source making our lives smooth and easy.

Every good thing is a gift from God. Eyes that see, legs that walk, lungs that breathe, minds that think, hearts that love and feel – they’re all products of His grace. Only by His grace do we wake up alive each morning. Only by His work behind the scenes can we enjoy the freedoms and abilities we have.

Nobody likes to be stuck in darkness, but the truth is, that’s where we learn to appreciate God. When our hearts are humbled and we’re crying out for help, we notice His little gifts. We see His magnificent power. We call on Him to restore us, because He’s the only One who can.

Of course, darkness can bring out the worst in us, too. It leaves us irritated, impatient, and on edge. Just as irate customers call electric utilities to blame them for the storms that knock down power lines, we often blame God for the hardships and inconveniences we face due to evil forces or sin.

Why would a loving God allow us to suffer? Why would we face a major life power outage when our neighbors across the street are basking in light?

In our dark moments, the whys add up. We want answers to His mysteries. And if we believe our situation is hopeless, or that God has deserted us, we’ll be miserable. We’ll sit passively in the darkness, dwelling in self-pity.

But there’s a better option – and that is to look for LIGHT. To get up and find a flashlight of faith. Flashlights can’t illuminate an entire room, but they do project a beam. And that beam is just enough to reveal our next step.

John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This verse tells us in advance that hard times and troubles are inevitable. We’ll all face times of darkness.

But if we plant our hope in God, and accept the light He sends into the darkness through his son Jesus, we can survive. Even if our life gets ripped out of the socket, even if we’re lost in a once familiar place, Jesus walks with us. He points our flashlight toward the path of God, directing us to move closer and closer to Him.

It’s natural to be scared of the dark. It’s understandable why we get disheartened and discouraged by the darkness we witness in real life and on TV.

But the bigger news is, there’s hope. There’s a breaking story called CHRISTMAS. Because the baby born in a manger came here to save us as the light of the world. He came to conquer darkness and offer eternal life.

It’s always a joyful moment when the lights come back on after an unexpected spell of darkness. With praise and gratitude, our hearts instinctively sing.

And this Christmas season, I wish you a similar celebration. I pray you rejoice in the gift of God becoming man and feel empowered by the light of Jesus, who will conquer every drop of darkness in the end and reminds us in the meantime that when we walk with Him, we have nothing to fear.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on December 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm

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Raising a Brave Child

“A word of encouragement during a failure

 is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” - Unknown

I believe it’s fair to say that most parents want to raise brave children.

We want them brave in doing what’s right. Brave in chasing their dreams. Brave in saying “no” when necessary. Brave in facing their fears.

But the thing about bravery is, there’s a lot of psychology involved. There are fears that mess with our emotions and our psyche – and subsequently hold us back, shut us down, or make us want to retreat.

So if we really want brave children, we need to think about these fears. We need to remember ourselves at their age and consider what did or didn’t help build our courage.

There are many fears that can prey on a child’s mind, such as fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being different, and fear of embarrassment. But if you ask me, the most overwhelming fear of all for a child is the fear of losing your parents’ approval.

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Because deep down, we all crave their acceptance. Deep down, we desperately want their affirmation.

No matter how old we get, or how much success we achieve, we never outgrow the need to hear our parents say the five words that are music to our ears:

“I am proud of you.”

Now, I’ve been blessed parents who say this often and with great conviction. Even as a young girl, I could tell they meant it.

And of the many things they did to help draw this shy child out of her shell, what made the biggest difference was celebrating my efforts above results. As long as I gave my absolute best, and put myself out there by taking healthy risks, they were happy.

The expectations ended there.

To this day, I can picture my parents’ faces the second I saw them after trying out for something. Even if I didn’t win, they beamed at the sight of me. They grinned and held out their arms to embrace me as if I had won.

Because in their eyes, I was a winner. I’d won not because of the final score, but because I’d pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, challenged myself, and gained experience that would benefit me the rest of my life.

In these critical moments, I learned to be brave again. I began to understand how losing wasn’t the end of my story, but rather part of my story.

Encouragement at the right time, and from the right people, can be a great confidence boost. It can be just the thing that soothes a child’s heart, soul, and psyche.

My parents’ reactions to my self-perceived “failures” made me willing to try again. Win or lose, they loved me exactly the same. That brought me tremendous comfort and security.

Had they reacted differently, or shown a trace of disappointment, I would have hesitated to challenge myself again. I believe my internal fears would have been amplified and ultimately gotten the best of me.

And this is why I feel so sorry for kids whose parents take a different approach than mine. Some parents live so vicariously through their children that their emotions swing with the outcome.

When the child does well, they’re up. When the child does poorly, they’re down. The message this sends to kids is that they’re lovable when they win, and less lovable when they don’t.

Quite frankly, I find it crazy to live in a world where parents scream at Little League games, storm off after bad plays in athletics, and pull sneaky moves to gain competitive advantages. Kids today are more stressed, anxious, and depressed than ever before, and can we blame them?

Imagine living up to the insane expectations set by many adults. Imagine giving your absolute best – and being told it isn’t good enough.

I’m all for excellence, and I absolutely love to win. But with the world already telling our kids they’re only as good as their last performance, the last thing they need is added pressure at home. What they need most is love they can count on and parents who remain proud of them regardless of any outcome.

Is it great if our child gets the lead in the school play? Of course. But the real victory comes when they get on stage to audition, and overcome jitters to read a script in front of judges.

Is it awesome when our child’s team wins a championship? Absolutely. But the real victory exists in the teamwork they build and the experiences they gain along the road to winning.

Are we proud when our child wins the school essay contest? Definitely. But the real victory comes when they find their voice, realize it matters, and use it to impact others.

Raising a brave child begins with being an encouraging parent. It means celebrating efforts above results.

After years of coaching 3rd grade basketball, my brother has noticed that whenever his players make a good play or a bad play – i.e. scoring a goal or missing a shot – they immediately look at the stands. They’re searching for their parents’ reaction. They care about what they think. How we parents react to our children’s successes and failures carries so much weight and influence. For better or for worse, our kids internalize it all.

For as long as I can remember, my father has always said, “Do your very best, Kari, and leave the results to God.” Knowing I didn’t have to control any outcome has always brought me peace. And now that I’m a mom, I try to pass on that peace to my kids. I encourage them to take healthy risks, put themselves out there, and face their fears. I remind them that as long as they give best, they’ve done all they can do.

The best reward for me is seeing how my daughters change after a brave experience. I’ve noticed them sit up taller in my car, exhale with relief, and smile because they’re really proud of themselves.

And if that’s all they get from a experience, that’s enough for me. Because what these moments tell me is that being brave wasn’t nearly as bad as they feared. And when it comes time to be brave again, they’re a lot more likely to be game, and much more willing to stretch themselves beyond their current comfort zone.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on October 20, 2015 at 3:18 am

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3 Words Our Kids Need to Hear

It is Monday morning, and my daughter drags into the kitchen.  She sits on a bar stool, slumps her shoulders, and casts her eyes down at the bowl of Cheerios I slide in front of her.

She moans and groans and tells me how tired she is. Part of me is irritated. I need her to step it up because I have four kids to get to school in thirty minutes. I don’t have time for this.

But then I remember – I get tired, too. And like me, this child really needs her sleep. So instead of rushing her, I take a minute to let her wake up.3 Words Our Kids Need To Hear

“I get it,” I tell her, remembering the many times I’ve struggled to get out of bed. “Mornings can be hard for me, too.”

It is Wednesday afternoon, and I can tell by the look on my daughter’s face as she walks toward my car that she’s upset. As she buckles her seatbelt, she blurts out what’s troubling her.

Once again she didn’t place in the school art contest. Once again her friend won first place.

With a bitter tinge in her voice, she complains that it’s not fair. Part of me wants to correct my child. I want to tell her to be happy for her friend.

But then I remember – I get jealous, too. And being jealous of a friend is the hardest kind to overcome.

“I get it,” I tell her, remembering the times I’ve felt overshadowed. “You worked hard on that piece, and I know you wanted to place. I get jealous of my friends sometimes, too.”

It is Sunday, and on the way to church I argue with my daughter because she didn’t brush her teeth like I asked. We’ve had this argument so often I feel compelled to describe how her mouth will look when her teeth begin to rot.

During the church service I think about our argument, and I feel bad about being so harsh. I wish I’d controlled my tongue. I lean over to my daughter and whisper an apology.

She shakes her head and pushes me away. She’s mad and not ready to forgive me. Part of me is hurt. I want closure to ease my guilt.

But then I remember – I need time when I’m mad, too. Forgiveness isn’t always instantaneous.

“Okay,” I say, kissing her head and giving her space. “I get it.” I ask God to forgive me and to work in her heart so that arguments like this don’t build walls between us.

The mistakes I make as a parent are relatively common. When it comes to our children’s moods, we often expect them to have mastery over their emotions. We expect them to get over their most unpleasant feelings, soldier on, and not need time to process them.

But our kids are human, and like all humans, they have messy emotions that need to be acknowledged and worked through. They have good days and bad days, highs and lows, shining moments and moments where we wonder what on earth has come over them.

I am learning, as my kids get older, the importance of being empathetic. Taking even a minute to listen and understand how they feel can make a big difference in whether they open up and talk through their feelings or keep them bottled up.

My tendency is to react too soon. I throw out quick solutions or express my thoughts on how my children should feel without taking into account how they do feel. And of all the tools I’m using to help break this habit, the most effective one is compassion.

Because sometimes what my kids need most is permission to feel what they feel with complete honesty. They want a sounding board, not a problem solver. They find it comforting when I nod and say, “Yep, I’ve been there. That happens to me all the time.”

Everyone knows the cornerstone phrase of parenting: I love you. But if you ask me, there are three other words that belong in our vocabulary, too, words that build bridges between hearts and strengthen the parent-child relationship.

I get it.

I get it you don’t feel like going to school.

I get it you’re jealous of your friend.

I get it you need time to cool off before we talk again.

Saying, “I get it,” isn’t a green light for our kids to act on unpleasant emotions or dwell on them. It doesn’t lower our standards or compromise the expectations we have of them. More than anything, it connects us with our children and reassures them they aren’t alone. It reminds us that they are human, and sometimes it helps to cut them a little slack in honor of that fact.

A little empathy can go a long way in growing a relationship. So can the right words. One goal I have in parenting is to have less of a lecturing mouth, and more of a listening ear. Because the conversations that result when my kids express their real emotions reveal priceless insights into their minds. They teach me about my kids and teach my kids to feel comfortable in expressing their inner reality.

I want my kids to know that if I get it, others may get it, too. Whatever messy emotion they’re wrestling with, there is someone who wrestles with the same thing and is brave enough to admit it. Knowing this makes the world a more approachable and comfortable place. It gives kids the courage to be real, and the power to build relationships based on truth, empathy, and perfectly normal human emotions.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on September 28, 2015 at 11:19 pm

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10 Things I Love about Having a Tween Daughter

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When my daughters were all little, I dreaded adolescence. It seemed like all the comments I heard about tween and teen girls were negative, and the way some people put it, I was in for a dismal ride.

On top of this, there was the sentimental sap in me who wanted to mourn the childhood my daughters were slowly outgrowing. With every baby tooth that fell out of their mouths, every hair bow they refused to wear, every Barbie they stopped playing with, I wondered if we were drifting away from something vitally important.

An age of innocence we’d never re-capture again.

I’m not sure when it happened, but it hit me one day that maybe I was looking at my daughters’ growth the wrong way. That instead of mourning their changes, maybe I should celebrate them.

Because the truth is, there’s something special about every stage of growing up. And if I spend too much time looking back, thinking about the little girls in French hand-sewn dresses whose pictures I used to hand-tint, and whose food I used to cut, I miss the beautiful scenes playing out in front of me, scenes just as important their overall life stories as the childhoods fading away.

I want my daughters to grow up as slowly as possible, but I don’t want to stunt their growth. I don’t want to cling so tightly to who they were that I leave no room for who they’re meant to become.

My oldest daughters are now 12 and 10, so we’ve been in the tween scene a while. And while this stage of parenting certainly presents new and difficult challenges (hello, technology, push-back, and mood swings!), I’m also able to connect with my girls on a deeper level.

It’s fun and rewarding to catch glimpses of who they’re becoming. Because when you see your daughter baking a pound cake for her best friend….protecting her siblings…taking on a cause close to her heart…getting passionate about her hobbies….asking your adult friends how their children are doing with genuine interest….and showing other signs of maturity, it does something to your mother’s heart.

It makes you realize how the children sprouting up in front of you, gaining independence yet still emotionally attached to Mom and Dad, are people whose company you really enjoy, and who will continue to inspire you as they change, grow, and test their wings in the real world.

All this to say, there are perks to having a tween that no one mentioned to me. And when I open my eyes to these perks, I don’t long for the past, or dream about the future. I simply want to enjoy my daughters right here, right now, right where they are.

My top 10 favorite things about raising a girl in the tween years include:

#10: Having a front-seat passenger in my car — and someone to sing with me when the stereo gets cranked up.

#9: Hearing the joyful giggles of girls raise the ROOF in my home when friends come over because everything is hysterical to them.

#8: Watching my daughter take interest my wardrobe and get excited when a top she loves fits her.aug. 2015 053

#7: Soaking up my daughter’s natural beauty, and how she looks at this pivotal point while standing on the cusp of lip glass, mascara, and blush.

#6: Seeing my daughter’s eyes still full of wonder and her heart still full of hope. She knows a lot about the challenges ahead, but not enough to be scared or discouraged.

#5: Watching my girl light up when she sees a baby or smile as she squats to talk to a child at eye level, because she has a heart for babies and children.

#4: Having someone to watch chick flicks with me or go on late-night walks in the summer (because movies and Fitbits are awesome tools for mother/daughter bonding).

#3: Getting to snuggle in the dark as my daughter falls asleep because she’s still okay with that and doesn’t push me away completely.

#2: Having flashbacks to my teenage years and remembering how fun it is to be wacky with friends as you create your own brand of entertainment.

#1: Seeing my daughter blossom and feeling my heart burst with pride and gratitude because I’m on this journey with her, witnessing every detail of her transformation as she becomes a young adult.

Yes, there is a wonder and magic about childhood that’s hard for a mother to let go of. Sometimes when I watch old videos of my oldest daughter singing “Tomorrow” in her melodic toddler voice, or see clips of my second daughter running around in a diaper like a force of nature we couldn’t stop, it makes me want to cry.

But where we are now, beginning adolescence, is also a wonderland of memories being made. And when I embrace my daughters’ growth instead of fighting it, I can enjoy the present moments that are shaping them just as much – if not MORE SO – than the moments we’re leaving behind.

One day, my children and yours will change the world with the dreams God places on their hearts. Until then, we’re in on the secret of who He’s training them to be, and the work He’s preparing them to do. And while it isn’t always pretty, easy, or comfortable to journey alongside a tween or tween, it is a privilege.

Because with every step forward, we learn more about our children and ourselves. We learn how these kids who will change the world are already changing ours, and if we keep our hearts and eyes open, we’ll see the perks of every stage, and find new things to embrace that make motherhood richer and more meaningful the deeper into it that we get.  

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2 I appreciate you being here!  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on September 13, 2015 at 6:38 pm

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How a Critical Mom Learned To Connect With Her Child

Friends, today’s post is written by my friend Rachel Macy Stafford – also known as Hands Free Mama – whose highly anticipated new book Hands Free Life releases September 8th. Rachel is a gifted writer with a heart of gold, and her beautiful insights on intentional parenting have touched millions across the globe. I highly recommend her new book as a guide on creating a life of significance and strengthening relationships with your family and friends. 

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**SPECIAL NOTE TO BLOG SUBSCRIBERS: I’ve had to re-publish this article due to a web attack. All is fine now, but re-publishing means you receiving this post twice. I apologize for the duplication and would love your help sharing this message. It was going viral and gaining great traction when the attack happened, which tells me this is a message we parents need. Thank you for your support!

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A bright teenager wrote to tell me she found my blog using the following search words: “how to remind my mother I am a human being with feelings”. The young lady explained, “I could do a million things right, but my mom could still find the flaws, and that ruins the whole day.”

At that sight of those words, my eyes became wet. I cried for this young woman. I cried for her mother. I cried for my own little girl who used to pick her lip in the back of the car after our stressful departures. I cried for the woman who sat behind the wheel aching with regret for expecting so much of a six-year-old child.

For years I justified my overly critical behavior by telling myself I was doing it to help her—help her become more responsible, capable, efficient, and prepare for the real world.

I told myself I was building her up.

But in reality, I was tearing her down.

I vividly remember the day my mother was visiting from out-of-town. My two daughters were playing alone in the basement. My younger daughter began crying hysterically. I ran downstairs fearing she was seriously hurt.

The first question out of my mouth was directed at my older daughter. “What did you do?” I asked angrily.

My child didn’t bother to explain that her little sister had slipped on the library book that was sitting on the bottom step. There really was no point. My beautiful child with humongous brown eyes that once held so much optimism looked defeated. Silent tears of a broken spirit slid down her face. My daughter knew it didn’t matter what she said, she’d still be wrong; it would still be her fault.

And there was my mother standing beside her, a silent witness to the whole ugly scene.

As my older daughter ran off to the sanctity of her bedroom, an unexpected question came out of my mouth. “You think I am too hard on her, don’t you?” I snapped.

My mom, who’d experienced her own difficult parenting moments and struggles, held no judgment in her eyes, only sadness. Her simple response of “yes” only confirmed what I knew in my heart.

I mustered up the courage to find the words that needed to be said. Apologizing didn’t come easily for someone who strived to make everything look perfect all the time, but I knew what needed to be said.

I found my child crumpled up like a dejected rag doll on top of her bed—her face puffy and red from crying.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.

My daughter didn’t move.

I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself. “I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed, trying not to cry.

My daughter looked unsure as to what to do with this confession, this unusual offering from her mother who rarely admitted any wrongdoing. I didn’t blame her for the skeptical look she gave me. I understood why she didn’t say anything back, but somewhere in those eyes I saw hope—hope that things could be different.

I knew I had to silence my inner bully—the voice that was prone to criticize my children and myself … the one who set unrealistically high standards … the one who could never be pleased … the one who blocked grace from entering our home.

I realized that my inner bully was a destructive force that prevented me from living and loving fully. Not only would it destroy my chance at true fulfillment and joy, it would also rob my child of hers.

Through God’s grace, I was able to silence the negative dialogue with three powerful words: ONLY LOVE TODAY.

Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or mouth, I would cut it off with ONLY LOVE TODAY. Sometimes I said it 1,000 times a day, but it worked.

I began noticing my child’s inner beauty rather than looking for perfection on the outside.

I began paying more attention to the person she was rather than the successes she achieved.

I began letting her be who she was meant to be instead of some idealistic version of her in my head.

For the first time in a long time, grace was present. It was mine for the taking. It was mine for the offering. And over time, grace became a peaceful and permanent inhabitant of our home. And as a result, a loving bond was established between my child and me.

My daughter recently entered middle school. We talk in the sanctity of her room at night. She asks me which outfits look best. She paints my nails whenever I have something special to attend. She tells me her hopes for the future. She tells me her worries. She tells me things she doesn’t tell anyone else.

Each morning she asks me to walk with her to the bus stop. And each time she does, I send up a prayer of gratitude for this sacred invitation. I came painfully close to missing such invitations.

As my child leans in for a side hug before boarding the bus, I think of the bright young lady who found my blog through a Google search. I think of her mother. I pray she knows it is not too late. Today stands in front of us open to change, open to improvement, open to second chances, open to grace.

Today could be about agendas, standards, and timelines or it could be about efforts, thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams.

Today could be about expectations, pressure, and perfection—but then again, there’s enough of that outside these walls.

Today could be about being human—being that pretty amazing human who lives inside these walls.

And today could be a good day to tell her so.

Only love today.

Let grace in.

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Rachel Macy Stafford is the founder of www.handsfreemama.com where she provides simple ways to let go of daily distraction and grasp what matters most in life. She is the New York Times bestselling author of HANDS FREE MAMA.

Her highly anticipated new book, HANDS FREE LIFE, releases on September 8! It is a book about living life, not managing, stressing, screaming, or barely getting through life. Through truthful story-telling and life-giving Habit Builders, Rachel shows us how to respond to our loved ones and ourselves with more love, more presence, and more grace.

Those who pre-order HANDS FREE LIFE from now until September 7 receive the FREE e-book of HANDS FREE MAMA. Click here to learn more about the book and pre-order bonus: http://bit.ly/1IXXChl


Posted by Kari on August 29, 2015 at 4:25 pm

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10 Truths Middle Schoolers Should Know

It’s rare to hear anyone say they loved middle school. Even people with positive memories never tout it as the best years of their life.

Simply put, it’s an awkward season. It’s a time of constant changes, social shake-ups, swinging emotions, and intense pressures. If I’ve learned anything from working with adolescent girls, it’s how hungry this age group is for comfort and reassurance. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes whenever I speak to a group, a look of searching and a longing to hear something – anything – to help them make sense of things.

Please tell me it gets better, their faces silently plead. Tell me this isn’t it.

Well, middle school kids, I assure you that life picks up. There’s a bigger, more promising world beyond this rite of passage. In the meantime, I have 10 truths to center you. I hope they bring you peace and a little friendly guidance.

Truth #10: Today’s most awkward moments will be tomorrow’s funniest memories. Keep a sense of humor whenever possible.Middle Schoolers Should Know2

Those braces on your teeth that collect food? That acne on your face that miracle creams can’t cure? That giddy rush you get when your crush walks by, and you can’t think, talk, or see straight? One day these things will be really funny! They’ll be the memories you rehash again and again with your siblings and oldest friends.

It takes time, but as you gain confidence, your awkward moments become fun to share. You’ll readily admit yours and laugh at the comedy and conversation that result.

Eventually you’ll have a dazzling smile, clear skin, and someone to love. Your current problems will have closure. So stay mindful of the big picture, and remember that even your worst experiences will pass.

Truth #9: You don’t want to peak in middle school (or high school or college, for that matter). The worst goal you can have is popularity. Because what often makes adolescents popular – running with the fast crowd, dominating your peers, living a superficial lifestyle – eventually leads to problems.

A truly successful person gets better with time. You go from being version 1.0 of yourself to version 2.0, 4.0, 6.0 and so on. But when you chase popularity, you peak early. You stop growing and improving because you’re stuck in instant gratification mode, looking for quick fixes to satisfy your needs.

Make it your goal to peak later in life. Make good choices that set you up for a bright future. If you’re not a superstar now, that’s okay. This simply means there are better things ahead as you continue to evolve and learn.

Truth #8: Technology makes it easier than ever to ruin relationships and reputations. We live in an age where people post everything online – feelings, emotions, and pictures. I love technology when it’s used wisely, but too often, it’s used impulsively. We let our fingers jump ahead of our brains, and within seconds, we can trigger hurt, misunderstandings, and serious issues.

So please, think twice before texting, emailing, or posting on social media. Cool off before giving someone a piece of your mind, venting, jumping to conclusions, reacting out of jealousy or anger, embarrassing someone, or sending an inappropriate photo. Use the Internet for good, not as a dumping ground.

And when you have an issue with a friend, call instead of sending texts. It’s easy to put in writing what you’d never say in person, or to interpret a message the wrong way, and the tension this adds to a relationship is hard to recover from.  

Truth #7: Surrounding yourself with good company is imperative. There’s an old saying that’s particularly relevant to your age group: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

Yes, you’re called to love everyone, but not everyone deserves a place in your innermost circle. Some people you love up close and personal, and others you love at arm’s length because inviting them into your life invites disaster.

Sooner or later, a bad influence will rub off. You’ll either make choices against your better judgment or wind up in a predicament. As a mom I know told her daughter, she once went out with a guy who was very sweet to her but also wild. She didn’t see the issue until they had their first date – and he took her to a drug dealer’s house.

She told her daughter, “Even though I was innocent, I would have gone to jail if the police had come. I was guilty by association just by being there.”

Good friends lift you up. They don’t put you in risky or compromising situations. To become the best version of yourself, you need friends who hold themselves to high standards and want you to reach your full potential, too.

Truth #6: What makes you different is what makes you great. Middle school is largely about conformity. I see this firsthand because I live near a middle school, and over time I’ve noticed how all the kids dress alike, walk alike, and act alike.

Meanwhile, at my children’s elementary school I see authenticity and diverse personalities because the kids don’t know yet how to be anything but themselves. It saddens me to know that they, too, will eventually feel pressured to hide what makes them unique.

You’ll never influence the world by trying to be like it. You’ll never find your calling by following the crowd. God made you different for a reason, and what sets you apart plays into His plan for you. So listen to that quiet voice inside you and remember yourself as a child. Cling to the passions you had in your early years, because they hold more answers than you know.

Truth #5: It’s okay to not to have your life planned out. It’s okay if you haven’t discovered your “thing.” Chances are, you know kids with immense talent and drive. They’ve trained for years in their area of expertise, and they know exactly what they want in life.

Deep down you may be envious and uncomfortable, because you fear you’re getting left behind. You wonder why they have their act together – and you don’t.

But even the best laid plans will face curveballs. Even the most driven kids will wind up on different paths than they originally envisioned. So if your future isn’t mapped out by 9th grade, take heart! You’re still young and have plenty of time to discover what you were born to do. Just set goals for yourself, use your gifts, and head in a good direction. Set a positive trajectory so that when you do discover your thing, you’re ready to soar.

Truth #4: Your uniform is not your identity. Labels are big in middle school, and there’s a confidence that comes from wearing a football jersey, cheerleader uniform, or other team attire.

But remember that having a uniform – or even designer clothes – doesn’t increase your worth. You’re special because of who you are, not what you put on your body or what you achieve.

Overnight you can lose your place on a team. You can lose your talents, your wardrobe, your relationships, even your Instagram account. But if you base your identity on the one thing you’ll never lose – God’s love– your foundation is unshakable. You’ll still be standing even if you lose every earthly trapping this world says is important.

Truth #3: Applause can be misleading. You can make a huge mistake and still get cheered on wildly. Through social media, popularity is now quantifiable. You can gauge your performance by how many “likes”, comments, and shares you get.

But remember, numbers alone can be misleading. To get the full picture, you need to measure numbers against the truth. After all, Jesus Christ had 12 followers. Adolf Hitler had millions. These numbers speak for themselves.

The best applause to live for is the quiet peace inside you. What makes you feel good about yourself? What helps you rest easy at night? Criticizing someone to bring them down or make people laugh won’t bring you peace. Neither will watching someone else beat up on a kid as the crowd cheers him on.

You know the truth by how you feel deep down. And when you seek your applause from within, you don’t need the applause of public approval.

Truth #2: There’s a difference between helpful advice and criticism that holds you back. Be careful who you listen to. Some people want you to succeed. Others don’t. Develop a strong filter for whose words you take to heart – and whose words you ignore.

Some questions to ask yourself are: Do I trust this person? Are they respectable? Do they practice what they preach? Are they the kind of person I hope to become? Do they recognize my talent and potential and encourage me, or do they drag me down by harping on where I fall short?

How others talk to you influences how you talk to yourself. And since that voice in your head impacts your confidence, determination, and willingness to take risks, you want people in your life who speak the truth in love and always with your best interest in mind.

Truth #1: You’re AWESOME. Truly, you are. All these crazy changes are leading to something amazing. In the grand scheme of life middle school is only a blip, so keep it in check. Have fun, dream big, and make good choices. One day you’ll look back and laugh at the absurdities of this stage, and if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a lot of humor now.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on August 5, 2015 at 12:02 am

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Prepare the Child for the Road, Not the Road for the Child

Years ago, my friend’s daughter really wanted to be chosen as “Swimmer of the Week” at their country club. It’s an honor bestowed weekly to one child per age group in the summer.

Parents will sometimes call the club to request that their child be picked. But my friend didn’t want to do that. She wanted her daughter to win the award through hard work and perseverance. So she told her child, “When you get this award, you’ll know you earned it. You’ll know I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

It took her daughter 2 SUMMERS to be named “Swimmer of the Week.” As you’d imagine, she was so proud of herself when her efforts finally paid off. But the biggest surprise came at the summer’s end, when her daughter received the Coach’s Award at the banquet. This award is based on hard work, attitude, and performance.Prepare the Child for the Road

To this day, this child still gets recognized for her work ethic by teachers and coaches. She receives honors like “hardest worker award” and team captain. And while I’m sure her work ethic is partly due to nature, I’m also certain that her nurturing at home has played a big role, too.

My favorite parenting motto has always been, “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”  The most popular article I’ve written - “10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make” - was based on this philosophy, and given the response it received, I believe many parents embrace a similar perspective.

Yet even so, it’s hard not to be a Snowplow Parent in an age of Snowplow Parenting. It’s hard not to clear every obstacle in our children’s path so they can be happy now – getting what they want, when they want it – and buck the current trends.

But when we clear the road for a child, we make their life too easy. We don’t allow them to build life-coping skills they’ll need down the road to handle life’s hard realities. Because right now our kids face Little League stress. They face rejection, disappointment, and adversity on a small and age-appropriate level (generally speaking).

But one day, our kids will experience Big League stress. Their rejection, disappointment, and adversity will be adult-sized. And unless they learn healthy ways to cope with Little League stress – and experience the pride and confidence that come when they push through an obstacle and emerge stronger on the other side – they won’t be ready for the Big League.

It’s hard to admit this, but part of a parent’s job is to help our kids not need us. We have 18 years to pack their suitcase, 18 years to slowly equip them to handle life as self-sufficient adults. And while love is irrefutably the most important gift we give our kids, true love wants what’s best for a person long-term. True love thinks beyond instant gratification and short-lived happiness. It values character over trophies and commitment over quick fixes.

There’s a reason for the mental health crisis counselors are seeing on college campuses, where outwardly successful students are miserable inside because they can’t cope with normal life challenges. There’s a reason why psychologists are seeing a record number of 20-somethings who are depressed and don’t know why, because they claim they had magical childhoods, their parents are their best friends, and they never experienced tragedy or anything more than normal disappointments.

It’s because we live in an age where we overindulge our kids. We concentrate so hard on creating magical memories and removing obstacles to keep our kids happy that we often fail to cultivate qualities like character, perseverance,  patience, determination and resolve that they’ll need to be happy, successful adults.

The kids I most like to watch grow up aren’t always in the spotlight. Personally, I favor the underdogs, those kids who work harder than their peers because they have to and stay motivated when nobody’s watching or cheering them on. Because these kids are building resiliency. They’re learning early that the best way to deal with a brick wall is to find ways to scale it, rather than expecting someone to take it away.

I admire my friend for letting her daughter wait two summers to earn “Swimmer of the Week” when the shortcut of a phone call was available. And I guarantee the pride her daughter feels when she sees that trophy – a symbol of her sweat and tears – is vastly different than the ambivalence she’d have toward a trophy her mom once helped her secure.

Because it’s not trophies that build a child’s self-esteem, but rather the stories behind those trophies. When a child leaves home at age 18, their trophies stay in their bedroom. The stories of how those trophies were earned, however, travel in their suitcase.

Preparing the child for the road means packing their suitcase with care. So as I pack my kids’ suitcases with love, faith, and affection, I try to save room for resiliency and character – both acquired by facing obstacles and disappointments. I try to remember that every suitcase needs a healthy mix of warm memories and real-life lessons.

Whatever ends up in my kids’ suitcases, I hope they carry them with pride. I hope their suitcases represent both the security of home and the security of knowing they can handle hard things.

Most of all, I hope I can love my kids enough to not make their life too easy. It’s a tall order for any parent whose heart breaks whenever their child is unhappy, but one we must all work toward if we want our kids to reach their full potential as healthy and well-adjusted adults.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 

 


Posted by Kari on July 7, 2015 at 4:24 pm

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The Woman Who Loves Her People Well

I have a friend who hopes to start a ministry. She’s equipped to do it, and her life story is pointing that way, but currently she’s in a season where she is waiting for God to reveal His plan and provide more direction.

She’s a great mom – to her kids and other people’s kids, too. My children adore her and look up to her. She’s also a terrific friend, the kind who you will drop everything to help you.

Here’s an example: A while back when I had an unexpected doctor’s visit, I called to see if she’d pick up my child from Mother’s Day Out. I spoke quickly because my cell phone was dying. She said she’d pick up Camille and bring me a phone charger to the doctor’s office because I didn’t need to be there with a dead phone.

I never thought to ask for that favor, and the fact that she did speaks volumes about her nature.

Recently, she and I talked about the ministry she hopes to start. I could tell she’s a little restless in this period of waiting, and I can relate to that. As I was leaving, I told her, “What you’re doing right now, being really available for your family and friends, is just as important as what you hope to be doing two years from now. I want you to remember that.”Woman Who Loves Her People Well

She smiled shyly and shook her head, as if her current contributions aren’t that big a deal. But they are, and the truth is, what she’s doing now is far more important than what she hopes to be doing in two years. 

Because what she’s doing now is loving her people WELL. She’s avoiding the mistake that too many of us make, the mistake of spreading ourselves too thin and not leaving enough white space in our calendars for the people we love most.

It’s interesting now that I’m in ministry, because I have a fresh perspective of what this world needs. I can look back with new eyes on the days when I was in my friends’ shoes, waiting for more clarity from God and fighting the restlessness to do more than raise a family and be a good wife and friend.

I never planned to go into ministry, but somehow it happened when my passion for writing collided with my passion for God, and I wrote a book that led to speaking engagements and other events. It’s been an awesome journey, and I’m grateful for every opportunity to connect with moms and teen/tween girls.

At the same time, I’ve grown more keenly aware of how valuable my work was before my ministry ever started. Back when I was “just” a stay-at-home mom, and all I could do was love my people well because caring for little ones left hardly any time for outside interests, I gave myself too little credit.

While I loved staying home with my girls and was so grateful to have the option, I often felt like I should do more. I couldn’t fully recognize how I was already fulfilling my greatest call. I was doing work far more important than what I hoped to do in the next season of motherhood.

Mother Teresa once said, What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” This message deserves more attention, because in our world, we’re often pushed to do more and think bigger. We’re encouraged to reach the masses and spread goodness far and wide.

And while I’m certainly on board with this mission, I also want to point out how we can get so caught up in having a wide influence we fail to have a deep influence. We can spend so much time growing an audience around the world that we miss the best opportunity of all with the small audience inside and around our home.

Because as much as the world needs us, our families and loved ones need us more. They always have and always will. What my work is teaching me is the importance of striking a balance. My work life should complement my personal life, not take away from it. My soul should be fed, not depleted. Finding balance is tricky, and what it sometimes requires is saying No when I’d like to say Yes or letting a great opportunity pass when the timing isn’t right for our family.

What this world needs has become clear as day to me through the emails I receive, feedback I hear, and people I meet. All around us, people are really struggling with something. They want advice and insight on how to find it. When I’m asked to speak, it’s the most commonly requested topic. It’s particularly important to females, because deep in our heart, we hunger for this. We want it on a level that is true, genuine, and real.

What is it? FRIENDSHIP. Good, solid, and loyal relationships. In an age where we’re highly connected online, people are lonely in real life. They’re surrounded by faces, yet they still feel invisible. In many ways, friendship is becoming a lost art. Women and girls who make others feel seen, loved, and valued are a rarity in many situations.

So before we act globally, let’s love better locally. Let’s remember the value found in quiet acts of service – like picking up our friend’s child from school, or taking a cell phone charger to her doctor’s visit – that don’t get posted on social media or draw impressive fanfare, but that express love to someone in a deep, meaningful way.

And if you’re in a season where all you can do is love your people well, or if that’s your primary life goal as a working mom or stay-at-home mom, please know that YOU ARE A GEM. Don’t think you’re letting God down as you wait for more important work, because your current work is more important than any purpose you may discover later. What our world needs MOST are more people who understand real love, real connection, and real community.

A woman who loves her people well is loved well in return. Her relationships stand the test of time. Those who know her adore her, and those who don’t are totally missing out, because what a joy it is to be loved by an unsung hero who treasures her relationships and makes everyone around her feel seen, loved, and valued.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on June 14, 2015 at 11:21 pm

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Loving & Letting Go

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Elizabeth Stone

Years ago, I was at the dentist’s office getting my teeth cleaned when I heard some parenting advice that’s stayed with me.

My daughters were young at the time, and as the dental hygienist talked about her 16-year-old daughter, I quizzed her about that stage of life.

How do you handle the growing independence?loving & letting go2

How do you know how much rope to give?

How do you deal with the fear of bad things happening when she’s away?

After all, it’s one thing to send your child off to kindergarten or even summer camp…quite enough to send them off to college or a Friday night outing with teenage friends.

The dental hygienist thought a moment. “It’s hard,” she replied. “Sometimes you just have to say a prayer and let them go.”

Her answer satisfied the many questions in my head. Why of course, prayer. What else can relieve a parent’s deepest anxieties? What else can keep one centered in moments of stress, doubt, and fear of the unknown?

In the dentist’s chair that day, I realized something important. While prayer was already part of my life, it would play a bigger role over time. Because the only way to handle my kids growing up would be to let my prayer life grow up with them.

They say parenting is about giving children roots and wings. I believe another way to frame this is to say that parenting is about loving and letting go. The irony, of course, is how these aspirations conflict. As parents, we wrestle with that. We must figure out, somehow, the best way to strike a balance.

We want to hold our children close…but we don’t want to hold them back.

We want to love them wholeheartedly…but loving them wholeheartedly makes it harder to set them free.

We dream about their future and what awaits them…but when they leave, it creates an ache in our heart and a terrible void at home.

When my girls were small, I couldn’t peel them off me with a spatula. There was always someone sitting on my hip, hanging on my leg, or pulling my arm. Letting go of them wasn’t the issue, because I needed someone to let go of me. Some days I loved the clinging, but other days I needed space.  I wanted room to breathe and freedom to walk without tripping over tiny tots.Motherhood4

Now that my girls are older – ages 12, 10, 8, and 5 – the dynamic has changed. While they still love to cuddle and be affectionate, they no longer tear me apart like a Rotisserie chicken, competing for the biggest piece of Momma. They can play with their friends for hours, come to me for a snack or quick conversation, then go play for three more hours. When they’re not with me, they’re with someone I know and trust.

Slowly our lives are separating, yet we still spend lots of time together. They still share details about their day, ask for my opinion, and enjoy reading and praying together before bed. They know my world and I know theirs, because our two worlds overlap.

I know what’s coming, however, in the next five years: More letting go than I’m ready for. With my oldest starting junior high, and my Facebook feed filled with parents posting pictures of kids getting their driver’s licenses, going to prom, receiving college acceptance letters, graduating in caps and gowns, decorating dorm rooms, being left at college, pledging sororities and fraternities, and starting independent adult lives, a certain reality has hit me hard.

My daughters aren’t too far away from these rites of passage. What once seemed distant is now around the corner. Time is marching on, turning my baby girls into young ladies.

I’d like to freeze us here, in this magical sweet spot of childhood. But God has plans for my daughters that require them to grow up. And if I truly love them, I’ll think a lot about God’s plans. I’ll ask how I can help. Because that’s my role as their mother, to help God accomplish His mission and help my daughters hear His voice.

I’ve enjoyed seeing my daughters grow up. I’ve loved watching their personalities and talents blossom and engaging with them as real people. Deep down, however, I’m uncomfortably aware of what all this growth and activity are leading to. I won’t always be in the middle of the action. My home won’t always be the busy, noisy hub that it is today.

I could easily get sad about this, but I try to be grateful. Grateful I’m alive to see my daughters grow up. Grateful for today’s abundance. Grateful for God’s work in my girls’ lives that becomes increasingly evident with every birthday that we celebrate.

Loving a child comes naturally. Letting a child goes does not. Knowing when to protect and when to release requires divine wisdom. We give our children roots not to keep them home forever, but to draw them back home. Because roots help them live bravely. Roots assure them that they have nothing to lose in testing their wings. Whatever happens, they’re guaranteed unconditional love. There’s an open invitation to always come back home.

To love a child is to let them steal your heart. It’s to feel your heart tugged intensely as your child walks away. You wonder whether you’ve prepared them enough. You worry that maybe you haven’t. You pray over your lack of control, and ultimately turn it over to God.

We mothers learn to live with our hearts outside our chests. We watch our children carry off different pieces of our heart as they explore their independence. But our greatest peace occurs when our kids are back together under our roof, bringing our heart back together, too. These are the moments that make letting go even remotely bearable. These are the moments that remind us of how the pain of an absence creates the joy of reunion, and how home is wherever our family unites together.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on May 3, 2015 at 12:33 pm

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Please Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body: Guest Post by Emily Wierenga

As the mom of four daughters, I believe in teaching girls what a healthy body image is. This means having conversations to counter the lies and pressures of the world and help girls see the truth when they look in the mirror. I’m honored to have Emily Wierenga, author of Atlas Girl and the upcoming book Making it Home as a guest blogger discussing why our daughters need healthy dialogue about their bodies with the people who love them most. Emily is an amazing writer with an important message that can empower today’s girls and help them discover the beauty of self-love.

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Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body - FINAL

I recently read an article regarding how to talk to your daughter about her body, and it said not to.

It said,

“Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.
Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.
If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that…
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.”

I disagree.

If you pretend that your daughter’s body doesn’t exist, she’ll feel like she doesn’t exist.

It’s not about ignoring our children’s looks. It’s about helping them to redefine beauty.

I understand why we would want to ignore. I understand that we’re scared to mess up our children. We have objectified ourselves. We have become objects of our own hatred or scorn. We are relentless when it comes to our own weight, our own scars and we don’t want to hurt our offspring with the same objectification and so we say nothing. 

But saying nothing is not the answer.

If we don’t acknowledge and affirm our children’s physical appearance, they will turn to the world for answers about how they look. And the world is heartless.

I say this with the plaintive voice of a little girl who longed for her parents to compliment her. A girl who thought she was ugly because her mother and father refused to say anything about her appearance. A girl who was taught that the only thing that mattered was inner beauty, and that anything else was vanity. A girl who became anorexic at the age of nine because she was so starved for attention.

My mum didn’t talk to me about my looks because she was a pastor’s wife who had been taught that self-love was vanity and that vanity was a sin. She had never been complimented growing up, either, and battled low self-esteem, so she not only felt invisible–she felt ashamed of her skin.

But the Bible doesn’t tell us not to love ourselves. The Bible says we need to love ourselves in order to love our neighbor.

We need to talk to our children about their bodies. But before we do, we need to learn to treat our own bodies with the kindness that they deserve. We need to learn to see our skin as cherished, designed by a divine Creator who doesn’t make mistakes. We need to look in the mirror and practice telling ourselves “I love you.” To look at our arms and thank them for carrying our babies. To look at our stretchmarks and saggy stomachs and thank them for their sacrifice. To spread lotion lovingly on our legs.

And then, once we’ve done that, we need to talk to our daughter about her body. Especially if she’s lost or gained weight–not to berate her–but rather, to let her know that you see her and you’re concerned, wondering if she’s okay? Is she starving herself or over-eating because she’s trying to numb the pain inside? And if so, don’t try to fix the outside–the outer appearance is a door to the heart, and it’s the heart that’s hurting.

Your daughter knows she has a body. She knows it’s changing and growing and she knows what the magazines tell her. She sees herself in the mirror and she wants to know what you think about her. She wants to know that you believe she is beautiful, inside AND out, and that you love the way her eyes shine and her cheeks dimple when she smiles.

Beauty is not what culture tells us it is, honey. It is not a number. It is YOUR smile. It is not shiny hair. It is your hair, the hair that God gave you. It is not mascara. It’s your beautiful eyelashes, which frame your lovely blue eyes. It is not thin, or any size at all, except the size that you are, and I see you, honey. I see your body and your heart, and all of you is beautiful.

Your little girl wants to know that it’s okay to have a flat chest when all of the other girls are filling out their bras and she wants you to sit on her bed and cry with her when she feels ugly and for you to tell her all of the ways that she is not.

She needs you to say that she is gorgeous.

I agree that it is important to stress our children’s inner strength, their character and integrity, their morality and their spiritual fortitude. All of these things are crucial, but we are not just our soul. We are our face and our hands and our eyes and our feet. We are our bodies. Let’s not ignore, in an attempt to cover up or counter-act. Our children are being forced to face, head-on, the effects of a superficial society and we need to gird their self-esteem not by ignoring, but encouraging.

And when she hears you praising her, when she knows that both her appearance and her character are intentional and designed by a Creator who loved her enough to send his Son to die for her, she will know that she can stand up to the monsters outside her door.

Because someone believes she is worth fighting for.

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Thank you for reading this article today, written by Emily T. Wierenga. Emily is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons.

You can visit Emily at www.emilywierenga.com or find her on Twitter and Facebook. Emily is giving away a emilyw2 FREE e-book to anyone who orders Atlas Girl. Simply order HERE, send a receipt to: atlasgirlbookreceipt@gmail.com, and you’ll receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir – co-authored by Emily and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva.

To pre-order Emily’s next book,  Making It Home (a sequel to ATLAS GIRL), visit Baker Publishing Group, Christianbook.com, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

If you enjoyed this message today, please share it through the social media below so that others may be encouraged as well!

 


Posted by Kari on April 13, 2015 at 12:21 am

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We’re Only Human, and Humans Make Mistakes

We’ve all had them, haven’t we?Mistakes

Days we want to disappear.                                                   

Days we want to stay in bed.

Days we beat ourselves up – again and again – because we did or said something that was totally stupid.

Nobody enjoys days like this, but if we’re out there living…taking chances….leaving our house each morning to make a difference in the world, we’re bound to get it wrong sometimes. All of us mess up. All of us sin. All of us come face-to-face with the painful reality that we’re only human, and humans make mistakes.

Admitting a mistake is painful, and it seems to me that we commonly respond in one of two ways. We either dwell on our wrongdoings or ignore them. Neither end of the spectrum is healthy because they prevent us from living our best life possible.

When we dwell on our mistakes, we stop moving forward. We fixate on what we should have done and could have done as if wishing for a different past could change it. And while it’s crucial to examine our mistakes and learn from them so we don’t repeat them, it’s easy to become frozen by fear. It’s easy to fall into “paralysis by analysis,” deciding to never take another chance again because we’re scared to make another mistake.

The other extreme is to deny our mistakes, to sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened. This is harmful for obvious reasons, but the greatest danger is what happens over time when we numb our conscience and awareness of right versus wrong. To lose our ability to recognize mistakes is a tragedy. It’s a slow death of the soul.

So what’s a human to do? How do we deal bravely with our mistakes – and the consequences – without self-condemnation, self-hate, or self-delusion? The answer to this is Jesus. Through His death on the cross, even our biggest mistakes can be redeemed and forgiven. We can look ourselves square in the eye to admit our human failings and desperate need for Him.

God knows we’re not perfect, and through Jesus he offers us freedom from the past, freedom from lies, and freedom from poor choices. And if there’s an upside to making mistakes, it exists in their potential to draw us closer to God’s unconditional love. Because right now we’re living in an age of mercy. We’re serving a Lord who can bring good from our mistakes once we confess them in earnest. Even when a situation seems hopeless, God can turn it around. He can rescue us from our predicaments so we may then rescue others.

There are big mistakes and small mistakes, mistakes we get over quickly and mistakes that keep us awake at night. But regardless of our track record, today is a new day. Today is our second chance to make amends and begin living the way God created us to live, which means:

Saying “I’m sorry” to those we hurt.  

Forgiving those who hurt us.

Being honest with ourselves, others, and God so that even hard truths come to light.

Admitting we’re not perfect, and how that’s a good thing because if we were, we wouldn’t need God.

Showing grace and compassion to the mistakes of others.

Doing a fearless moral inventory of our habits and weaknesses so we know where we’re likely to slip.

Seeking help when we keep repeating the same mistakes.

Letting go of grudges.

Facing consequences and paying the price of our mistakes to get us back on track.

Our mistakes don’t surprise God. They don’t mess up His plan for the universe. No matter how severe our mistakes may be, He can restore us. He can turn any pain from the past into hope for the future.

We’re only human, and humans make mistakes. And while there’s no joy in messing up, joy can be found in the divine encounters our mistakes lead to, when the radiance of Christ beams light on our darkest moments, reminding us of this gift called GRACE that makes our humanity bearable and inspires us to serve God with a grateful, humble, and willing heart.

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the April 2015 issue of Village Living and 280 Living10truths_rnd2

If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below.

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is now available. Written for teens & tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know  can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com and is available everywhere books are sold. The response has been fantastic, as girls are reading it cover to cover, and moms and youth leaders are giving it a great endorsement. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


Posted by Kari on April 6, 2015 at 1:08 am

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8 Lessons I Learned from My Daughter’s Cheer Tryouts

Well, we made it. We survived our first big tryout week. Honestly, it was better than I expected. Even if my daughter hadn’t made the 7th grade cheer squad, I’d still say that.

I was nervous going in, mostly because of the crazy cheer momma stories I’d heard about people freaking out over their child’s competition and pulling sneaky moves. I didn’t want to be like that, of course, nor did I want to fall in the category of being so obsessed with the outcome that I spent the week being strung-out, stressed, and overly invested in conversations about which girls have an inverted toe-touch, and who can do a back tuck.

After all, every girl who tries out for cheerleader is somebody’s daughter. Their parents love them like I love my child. And while I certainly hoped and prayed my daughter would make it, I didn’t want to wish misfortune on anyone or secretly delight in fantasies of girls messing up so she would look better.

So I prayed to keep my head and heart in the right place. I prayed for my daughter and the other girls. Most of all, I looked hard for the life lessons I needed to learn.

Because win or lose, I knew there were insights God wanted me to gain from this experience to help me grow as a parent and a person. cheer3

Following are 8 lessons that stood out. While this list will evolve with time (esp. as we have tryouts with different results), I hope it’s helpful to anyone who wants to find meaning in tryout week and see it as much more than a means to an end.

Lesson #8:  A mother’s attitude helps shape her daughter’s attitude. To be their emotional support, we have to set a calm, positive tone. When Ella began working with a cheer coach last May, she was lukewarm about the sport. She enjoyed the practices, but she wasn’t sure this was her “thing.”

After a few months, however, her heart changed. She began getting a special glow after practice and jumping in the car to say, “I really want to be a cheerleader!” It thrilled me to see her so passionate about something…yet this also raised the stakes. If cheer didn’t work out, she’d be heartbroken.

As tryouts approached, the stress hit her. A lot of strong athletes had signed up, and naturally that made her nervous. While I felt nervous for her, I took the advice moms had given me about not letting it show. Instead of feeding her fears, I told her how excited I was that her day to shine was almost here. I reminded her of how hard she’d been working, and that she was ready to show her stuff!

Soon after this, Ella made a paper chain to “count down” to tryouts. It was like the chains my girls make for the Christmas countdown, only these slips had daily exercises on them. The smaller the chain got, the more excited she became. It surprised me to see her anticipation grow from a tiny seed I’d planted. While she still got nervous tryout week, she remained excited. She understood it as a goal to look forward to, not dread.

It’s hard for moms to not get emotional, and to walk that fine line of building your child up without underestimating the skills required to make a team. But with your daughter’s emotions running high, and her body tired from practicing, she needs a rock. The steadier you are, the more she benefits.

Lesson #7: Tryout week is a great opportunity to love on your child and their friends. One highlight of Ella’s week was getting the rock star treatment. With friends and aunts dropping off candy, family members posting encouraging notes in her room, and her choice of breakfast and dinner each day, it became a week she’ll always remember. Even siblings were given strict orders to be extra-nice and affirming. 

Normally Harry and I try to not spoil our kids, so breaking the routine to give Ella and any friends she had over special perks and extra attention was fun. Tryout week can be so overwhelming that it’s important to surround them with love and positive energy.

Lesson #6: Watching your child transform over a week’s time is one of the coolest parenting experiences ever. After the first clinic, the girls are all scared. With nervous laughter they show you a dance that looks so fast and complicated you’re silently thinking, “Oh dear heavens, will they ever get that?!!!!” while plastering a smile on your face that you hope conveys total confidence.

But over the course of the week, the girls evolve. A mini-miracle takes place as they struggle, grow, break through, and fly. When things finally click, it’s awesome. Those once unsure girls are now confident and spirited. They’re adding smiles and having fun. They know the moves by heart, and as they swing their bodies and ponytails around, you realize how they’re growing up in the best way. They’re learning to believe in themselves and seeing how hard work pays off. 

By Friday, you have a new child. You’re in awe of what’s happened. And while you really want them to make the cut, you’re already so proud. In your eyes, they’ve won. They’ve faced their fears, entered a scary unknown, and emerged stronger on the other side. The lifelong benefit isn’t whether they make it, but the confidence they’ve gained by pushing their body to new limits and the courage they’ll develop by performing in front of judges.

Tryouts is a chance to practice being brave. It’s where our kids learn to take risks even when they’re nervous and scared. Our world celebrates results, but what really deserves celebration is the transformation of each child. These girls walk into clinic the first day one version of themselves – and walk out the last day a new version. Witnessing that as a parent brings great joy. 

Lesson #5: No outcome will bring 100% happiness. Even if your child makes it, they’ll have friends who don’t. As you scan the newly posted list, your heart will be torn. You’ll rejoice for the names on there, yet mourn those missing.

And next year, it could be your child’s name missing. There are no guarantees. Since everyone’s in this boat, you have a big heart for any girl who may be crying in her mother’s arms at home.

Moms whose daughters have not made cheerleader tell me that it’s better to reach out than do nothing. I suggest saying a prayer for wisdom before texting or calling to make sure your words ring with love, not pity. Another idea is to drop off a special treat that night, or maybe a cup of Starbuck’s hot chocolate the next morning. Write an encouraging note that highlights her talents and strengths. Most of all, remind your daughter to keep including these friends, because their biggest fear is missing out on fun times and being left behind.

Lesson #4: It’s comical how many adults project their tryout experiences on kids. Good or bad, we all remember our first tryouts, right? It’s locked into our memory for life.

But please, when you’re talking to a starry-eyed kid going out for a team, don’t share your sad story. Don’t focus on “that time you didn’t make the cut” and tell the child upfront how she’ll be okay if she doesn’t make it either, because it all works out for the best. 

I laugh as I write this because I project my experiences all the time. But what my daughter’s tryouts taught me is how discouraging this can be because so many adults do it. And when your daughter looks at you with sudden confusion and self-doubt, wondering if all these gloomy predictions will come true, you find yourself saying, “Don’t listen to them! Their story isn’t your story! Tryouts are a sore subject for people. You’re amazing and doing awesome, so keep believing in yourself!”

My advice is to encourage these kids, pray for them, and fuel their excitement. If they don’t make the team, share your sad story, but until then assume the best. Otherwise they feel defeated before they’ve even begun.

Lesson #3: A coach has a big impact on your child’s confidence. Particularly during tryout week, their words carry more weight  than yours.  The older my kids get, the more I realize how I’m not enough. They need additional women in their life to build them up – mentors they respect and want to learn from. 

In the months before tryouts, Ella worked with two awesome ladies on cheer and gymnastics. They know their game and can give honest feedback with encouragement. During tryout week, she quoted them. She remembered tips she’d heard along the way. I could applaud Ella all day, but the applause that spoke loudest in the crunch time came from the experts.

A girl with a dream needs someone who “gets” that dream to help her accomplish her goals. And since my gig as a Central High cheerleader hardly qualified me for cheer standards today, and because my encouragement is often met with the words “You’re my mom, you have to say nice things!”, I was grateful to have coaches and other women Ella looks up to speaking the truth with love, confidence, and conviction. 

The Countdown Chain

The Countdown Chain

Lesson #2: When your child beats herself up – and she will – remind her of how far she’s come. Remember that having a breakdown is perfectly normal.

Ella’s breakdowns happened before clinic started over her back-handspring. I felt helpless trying to help. I tried to emphasize how far she’d come since starting this journey, but the words didn’t sink in until I was downloading iPad videos one night and came across one of her.

It was from her first cheer session nine months earlier, and realizing the progress since then was remarkable. The video – which captured low jumps, loose motions, and a timid voice – was her point of origin. It served as proof of her growth. 

Since we girls beat ourselves up when making comparisons to others, offer your daughter another measuring stick. Tell her to compare where she is now to where she startedEmphasize the progress made, and if you have a video to prove it, by all means show it. 

Lesson #1: Root your confidence in God’s plan. The reason parents freak out over things like tryouts is because we want our kids to have a place. Making a team gives them an instant tribe, and sometimes notoriety among peers. While I get this and know how deeply adolescents crave a sense of belonging, we often keep too narrow a view of the options. 

We believe that if Plan A doesn’t work out, there is no Plan B.

But there’s always a Plan B. And a Plan C, a Plan D, and so on. Having faith means knowing that the God who created the universe has known since the beginning of time whether our child will make the team. And believe it or not, He cares. He understands the impact on her heart. As much as we love our daughter, God loves her more. His plan for her is full of wonderful surprises.

So as you drop your daughter off at tryouts, your stomach churning, your eyes watering, and your heart hammering, remember it’s in His hands. Say a prayer of thanksgiving as your daughter disappears behind the school doors and be GRATEFUL that she’s healthy and able and can try out for cheer. Because honestly, that is a huge privilege.

If you’re worried, remember how you once worried that this daughter might never get her cartwheel. Now here she is, flipping all over the place. How silly of you to doubt her cartwheeling future! If only you’d known! Your worries then and like your worries now, and one day you’ll look back at this woman losing her cool in the middle school parking lot and laugh at the memory of her.

Whatever happens, it’s all good. In every scenario there are lessons to be learned and opportunities to grow. This is true for the girls trying out, of course, but just as importantly,  it’s true for the mothers who love them dearly and with all their heart and soul. 

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 

 


Posted by Kari on March 18, 2015 at 1:04 am

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Helping Kids Build a Thick Skin

Some of the best advice I ever received came after my first big job promotion.

I was 23 years old, and the newly tapped executive speechwriter for a large company. My primary responsibility was to prepare notes for the CEO’s speaking engagements. Since he was a terrific speaker, he often spoke off-the-cuff. What this meant for me was that I might spend three weeks working diligently on a speech – only to have him use a sentence or two.

As my boss prepared me for what would come, he emphasized one thing in particular: “You need a thick skin if you don’t have one already, because he might use all of your speech or none of it, and you can’t take it personally.”Build a Thick Skin NEW - FINAL

He was talking about the job, of course, but what I’ve realized in the years since then is how relevant this advice is to life in general.

You see, I’m sensitive by nature, and while I’ve come to appreciate this about myself, I’ve also come to see how important it is to have a thick skin when living in an imperfect, unpredictable world.

When you’re sensitive, life affects you deeply. While your highs can be really high, your lows can be really low. Since you empathize well, you tend to be a good friend. You can recognize when someone is hurting and know when to offer encouragement.

In terms of handling life’s hard or unexpected knocks, however, being sensitive can be a liability. It can amplify your disappointments or make rejection more painful. You may want to retreat (or worse yet, quit) over minor setbacks. Even constructive criticism can be hard to take. Instead of seeing a growth opportunity, you might take it as a personal attack. You may turn small slights into big deals because you’re so emotionally invested.

Truth be told, our world isn’t made for sensitive people, it’s made for survivors. It’s made for people who can adapt, roll with the punches, and handle challenges without falling to pieces. The tricky part is learning to build a thick skin while keeping a tender heart. That is my hope for me and my family, that we can be resilient on the outside yet soft inside, able to handle any hard realities without letting them seep under our skin to harden us.

Among my daughters, I have one who is especially sensitive. And one thing we work on is letting things “roll off her shoulders.” There was a time when she’d get upset over someone calling her Barbie too pink. She’d cry and run to her room if her sister critiqued her cartwheel.

As I consoled her in her meltdowns, I’d share stories about how easily I got my feelings hurt while growing up. I’d reassure her that it’s good to be sensitive, because it means she has extra love and compassion to share, but building a thick skin would keep things from going straight to her heart. Without some protection, the world might crush her.

“When you get your feelings hurt, see if you can let it roll off your shoulders,” I’d say, illustrating by placing my hands on her shoulders and sliding them down her arms. “Don’t let the words stick. Let them roll off your shoulders.” We’d repeat this several times with my hands over hers. By the fourth or fifth try, her demeanor would change. She’d quit crying, sit up straight, and speak with confidence as she repeated the hand motions alone, “I’m letting it roll off my shoulders, I’m letting it roll off my shoulders!

Her voice would grow loud and bold as the words came out. She’d smile and look relieved instead of sad. These little sessions toughened her up a bit, and while I know there will be bigger breakdowns ahead, at least we have some groundwork in place. She’s beginning to understand how to cope with frustration and incidents that hurt her feelings.

We can’t always control how people treat us. We can’t predict what cards we’ll be dealt or make our boss use the speech we labored over for weeks. But we can control our response. We can keep our moods independent of others so that no matter what they say, do, or decide, we are okay. We don’t fall apart when things don’t go the way we expected.

Without question, we all should be more kind, compassionate, and gentle. At the same time, we need a thick skin to cope with potentially hurtful situations. Being tender yet tough isn’t easy, but it’s crucial to find the balance. By keeping our heart in the right place and in the right condition, we can ensure that regardless of what the world gives us, we continue to give our best: our best love, our best performance, and our best foot forward.

 *****************************************************************************

Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on March 8, 2015 at 7:04 pm

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The Books Our Daughters Read: Why They Matter

When I began writing 8 years ago, I didn’t intend to write for teen girls. As a mother, I figured moms were my best audience since motherhood is the world I’m deeply entrenched in, the comfort zone of my existence.

And while it crossed my mind, after having my 4th daughter in 2009, that maybe God was preparing me to work with girls one day, I still couldn’t discern where He was leading me down the all-girl path.

But then one day, an important piece of the puzzle came together. I was at a writing seminar, listening to a panel of successful Young Adult (YA) novelists speak, when one writer shared insight that would forever change my view of the books that teen girls read.The Books Our Daughters Read and Why They Matter - FINAL

Essentially she said, “The reason I love writing for teenagers is because they’re so impressionable. You’re their first, which makes the reading experience really powerful. For example, they don’t know a dog can die in a book until a dog dies in your book. The next time they read about a dog they know it can happen, but that first time is something they never forget.”

Her insight made perfect sense, yet it was also enlightening. While books influence people of every age, the impact on a young mind can be particularly deep and lasting. As a writer and a parent, I was intrigued.

But then I went to another YA seminar, one with a completely different tone and feel. Instead of being inspired, I felt sickened. The big talk in this seminar wasn’t about creating strong heroines or action-driven plots. No, the singular focus of these YA writers was sex.

Specifically, they wanted to know how hot-and-heavy their teen romances could be, and how far they could push sexual content.

One writer asked, “How much sex can we get away with in YA?”

The speaker answered, “Well, the problem with YA is you have gatekeepers. You have to get past parents and librarians. If there’s too much sex, they may not buy your book.”

The conversation went downhill from there, at least in my eyes, because it was backward. I understand reality, and I believe the best books reflect reality with all its vices and temptations. But when a writer’s goal is to sneak in as much sex and sizzle as possible, the message will be wrong. The book will only encourage girls to settle for the world’s values instead of aiming higher and seeking a lifestyle that honors God.

As a mother, I kept thinking about the trash waiting to be pushed on my daughters. I was reminded that some people are so driven by sales and sex scenes they don’t even stop to consider the impact on young, impressionable minds.

That was the day I first felt an urge to write alternatives for my daughters and other girls to read. That was the day God planted in me a desire to offer teenage girls books that address reality with honesty but show them how to rise above popular culture and the beaten path to make choices that honor Him.

Not long after these events, I heard from a large Christian publisher that expressed interest in turning my blog post “10 Truths Young Girls Should Know” into a book. The email was an answer to my prayer of becoming a published author. More importantly, it was an opportunity to act on the new desire God had placed on my heart.

My goal as I wrote this book, released last fall, was to speak the truth in love. I wanted today’s girls to have something they can grab from their nightstand when they need the comfort of God and a reminder of how they were made for more than the lifestyle this world promotes.

All this to say, the books our daughters read matter. They shape their thoughts, attitudes, and actions. And when you consider that one of the hottest genres in fiction today – New Adults – targets girls out of high school and is largely known for its highly sexual plots (mixing “erotic fiction” with a “young adult” fan base), it’s disturbing.

As this video explains, New Adults is enjoying immense popularity. And if we really want our girls to see the difference between the world’s values and God’s values, we have to present the other end of the spectrum. We have to expose them to truths and books that reflect God’s perspective so that any gray areas between wrong and right become clear as day.

The goal, of course, is for our daughters to eventually not need gatekeepers. The goal is to help them build a moral compass that allows them to filter truth from fiction and discern for themselves which books will positively impact in their life, their choices, and their long-term well-being.

The good news is, our daughters are impressionable. They’re searching and longing for insights that can help satisfy their heart’s deepest desires. Just as they can be swept away by a fantasy novel, they can be swept away by stories that reveal God’s unconditional love through realistic scenarios. Our challenge as adults is to find those books (and movies and other resources) that draw them into the ultimate love story by presenting the truth in compelling ways.

If we do that, we set them free from what the world encourages. We help them find the peace and clarity that comes with light and the guidance to live their best life possible.

***********************************************************************

Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on March 1, 2015 at 5:32 pm

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What’s So Great About Marriage?

When my sister got engaged years ago, she made an observation that I’ve since realized is very true.

“So many people are negative about marriage,” she said. “When I say I’m engaged, they want to tell me how terrible it is.”

Now, I know marriage is hard. I understand there’s a vast difference in the mindset of a new bride and a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I’m aware that some people have a reason to be down on marriage because their spouse put them through a nightmare, and when their marriage ended, it was a blessing.

But oftentimes, the negative mindset prominent in our culture is caused by looking at marriage the wrong way. Magnifying the bad instead of the good. Listening to people complain about their spouse and deciding we should complain, too. Blaming our spouse for everything that goes wrong and unloading frustration on them because the promise of “til death do us part” makes us feel safe enough to do so.

What gets lost in this negativity is the spiritual aspect, the understanding of how marriage – as the deepest, most intimate relationship possible with another human being – is meant to draw us closer to God. How marriage is a vehicle to discover not only earthly joy, but also heavenly joy, a taste of what’s to come. How the real goal is to help each other become better people and grow into God’s image.

The most helpful marriage advice I’ve ever heard, in fact, came during a church service two years ago. During a liturgy, a priest said:

“The purpose of marriage is to help each other get to heaven. The reason marriage doesn’t exist in heaven is because you don’t need it once you’re there.”

Wow. If only someone had told me that when I was young bride who thought it was my husband’s job and responsibility to keep me happy (because frankly, he’s great at that). If only I’d thought more about our salvation and less about my wants, I could have asked myself all along whether my words, actions, and choices are helping or hindering my husband’s spiritual journey.

At the heart of every marriage are two sinners. Both husband and wife are full of weaknesses and flaws. But each person also has strengths and talents. And when you pool those strengths and talents together, you can compensate for many weaknesses. You can find a solidarity that isn’t possible alone.

Yet even so, it’s easy to be skeptical of marriage. It’s easy to listen to the naysayers and the divorce rate that warn against it and make a person wonder what’s so great about marriage anyway.

I’ve been married 16 years, and while I still have a lot to learn, I understand why marriage exists. And if a bride-to-be asked for my advice, I’d tell her this:

  • Marriage is awesome and so fun. But keep realistic expectations and know upfront that you will have ups and down. If you expect some hard times, they won’t completely shock you. You’ll work through them and emerge stronger on the other side.Marriage - FINALL
  • It’s really cool when you react to someone’s story, and they tell you, “That’s exactly what your husband said!” After this happens four or five times, you realize you’re thinking with a common mind. You two have become one.
  • Pray with your spouse. Read the Bible. Go to church and bow your heads before the Lord, humbly worshipping side-by-side. There are 1,000 ways to build intimacy, but a spiritual connection makes every other connection deeper and richer. It’s the glue that keeps you together.
  • Get ready to laugh A LOT. Because in your private world, minor incidents become inside jokes that remain funny 20 years later. Other people won’t get your inside jokes, and that’s the point. They’re only funny to you.
  • It’s okay to argue, but don’t be hateful or mean. When you disagree, look for a compromise. Try to understand your spouse’s view and meet in the middle when possible. Pray for the right resolution to reveal itself and don’t let the sun go down on your anger.
  • Let your husband’s love teach you about Christ’s love. When he says you’re beautiful without makeup…when he hears your biggest secrets and loves you the same…when he forgives you or shows grace…when he faithfully goes to work every morning and works hard to provide for the family…when he lights up at the sight of you…when he holds you tight in bed at night because you’re crying over a bad day…these are some ways that God reveals Himself through your marriage. Take your husband’s love, and share it back with him – and then pass it on to others. This is how God’s kingdom grows.
  • Kids add stress to a marriage. But they also hold tremendous potential to bring you closer, because you’re constantly bonding and marveling over the beautiful little creatures you created. Like your spouse, God will use your kids to reveal Himself to you. Through these relationships, both the highs and the lows, He seeks to make you a better person and draw you closer to Him.

In short, there’s a huge upside to marriage that doesn’t get enough attention. But only with God at the center of two united lives can marriage reach its fullest potential. Only when marriage is used as God intends, as a means to heal, restore, and redeem the two lives joined as one, can the benefits fully be realized.

“The purpose of marriage is to help each other get to heaven. The reason marriage doesn’t exist in heaven is because you don’t need it once you’re there.” When I reflect on these words, I want to be a better person and a better wife. I want heaven as much for my husband as I do myself.

And in that divine framework, I hear the negativity of our culture drowned out by the call of God, a God who created the gift of marriage so we can bring our partner home with us, and spend eternity with the one who taught us how to love and be loved, and who ultimately led our soul to a better place.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on February 2, 2015 at 12:35 pm

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A Word to Girls about Sexting & Setting Standards

When you write a book for teen and tween girls, you learn a lot about teen culture. Much of what you learn will absolutely break your heart.

And while I don’t love controversy – or being one to initiate awkward conversations – I do love girls. Because of that love, I’m venturing out of my normal blogging zone to address an issue that parents and adolescents need to discuss.

And that is, sexting.

Now, some parents assume that only “wild” girls sext. They’ve told their daughters to never-ever-ever-EVER send a provocative picture to anyone, and having had this conversation, they don’t worry about their child joining the party.

But what many adults don’t realize is how today’s teens are hearing it said that sexting is normal and no big deal. Everyone does it. Sexting may be gaining prevalence, but it’s not healthy. It isn’t right or good either, and it certainly won’t lead girls to the one thing they want most…LOVE.Sexting Post

I’m no expert on sexting, but I have concluded that somehow, it’s finagling its way into teen culture. It’s becoming common enough that even smart, together, and generally deemed “good” girls are falling into the trap. 

Raising your daughter in a Christian home, sending her to a school with high moral standards, filling her up with love and affirmation – while these things are great and certainly beneficial, they offer no guarantee that a girl won’t make that 5-second mistake.

As anyone in the loop can tell you, it can be shocking to learn who has sexted. Even girls who normally show good judgment have been known to send a compromising picture that’s totally out of character.

My point in writing this isn’t to stir up panic, suspicion, or hostility toward today’s girls. I’m simply try to raise awareness of a reality that’s gaining ground in this age of technology.

As writer Allison Slater Tate brilliantly pointed out in this article, we’re the first generation of parents raising kids in “the age of iEverything.” A lot of the challenges and problems we face are unprecedented, and we’re struggling to figure out our parenting strategy.

Unlike other parenting issues, where we can gleam wisdom from the parents ahead of us, there’s no road map to help us navigate the current maze of technology. Rules keep changing, and keeping up is hard. Fiive years ago, the rule of thumb for monitoring a child’s online activity was to keep the family’s one computer in a central location like the kitchen.

But now? Now technology is portable and more affordable. It’s possible for every family member to have their own iPhone, iPad, and laptop.

This makes today’s teens and tweens the first generation of adolescents to learn lessons the hard way about what can happen when one impulsive text or post gets shared. What starts as a private message can quickly go public and spread like fire in a parched forest. 

I don’t have answers, but I do have some thoughts. And if you’re ready to start or continue dialogue with your daughter regarding the sexting trend, feel free to share these with her.

10 Thinking Points for Girls

1. You were made for MORE than the lifestyle this world pushes on girls. Your life purpose is to become a woman of God – not some hot & sexy thing for boys to lust over. Love says, “I can wait.” Lust says, “I have to have it now.” A boy who genuinely loves you won’t need a compromising picture of you. He’ll know you were made for more than that and recognize a beauty that runs deeper than appearance.

2. When you set a high bar for yourself, the best guys rise to the challenge. One thing this generation needs is more girls willing to set high standards and not give boys what too many are asking for – i.e. hook-ups, casual sex, and nude/semi-nude pictures. Girls, don’t stoop to the level of boys with these expectations; make them rise. Or better yet, look for boys who already hold themselves to high standards. These are the guys who will treat you well and go places in life. These are the protectors who will have your back.

Setting a high bar weeds out the users because they won’t waste their time on you. They’ll go prowling for other girls who might compromise their values in a misguided quest for love.

3. Trust that inner voice that tells you, “This is a bad idea.” Deep down, you know right from wrong. God has planted in you a desire to honor Him, and when you’re tempted to stray, your conscience will raise red flags. Even if “This is a bad idea” crosses your mind for only a split-second, it’s worth tuning into. The world and your peers can get loud and persuasive as they scream in your ear, but it’s that quiet voice inside you that deserves the closest attention.

4. Boys talk. And it is safe to assume that nothing you do with a boy or send to a boy will be kept confidential. What makes a teen boy “the man” among his buddies is sexual conquest (a false idea of manhood covered well in this book). Particularly in the locker room, guys share very intimate details about girls to make themselves look like a stud.

If more girls understood this, I truly believe many would choose differently. They wouldn’t be so quick to play into male fantasies.

Even if a girl’s sexted picture isn’t shared online, it will be seen by other boys. Go ahead and bank on that. As one 10th grade mom told me, her son was very disturbed by a locker room scene where athletes were passing around their cell phones to show off topless pictures of their girlfriends. When her son told them to cut it out, they turned on him, asking, “What’s wrong with you? You don’t like girls? Are you gay?”

It makes me angry and sad that boys who do the right thing risk ridicule like that. It also goes to show that boys face as many complicated pressures as girls.

5. Thanks to group texts – which most teens keep handy on their phone – a picture can travel at the speed of light. In three seconds, a sexted picture can be sent to 90 members of a football team. If just a few of those 90 boys also forward it to group texts, the photo could be on 500 phones in a flash. That’s just the beginning.

6. The world can be cruel and heartless to girls who get caught in sexting scandals. The aftermath creates a nightmare. While some mistakes are met with mercy and compassion, this mistake typically results in ridicule, rejection, and shaming. Even if the girl’s a victim, betrayed by someone who promised privacy before she sent the picture, she may be ostracized at school, written off by friends, and judged harshly by peers and parents. This isn’t the kind of fame or attention you’d wish on your worst enemy.

7. Once you send a picture, you can’t take it back. It’s out there in cyberspace, a digital tattoo you can’t erase. A good rule of thumb when using technology is to never send anything (picture or message) that you’d be mortified to see splashed across the front page of your local newspaper. This includes texts, Snapchat, etc. If you’re in question about something, consider how your grandmother or youth leader might react. If the thought of them seeing or reading it makes you cringe, you have your answer.

8. Anyone who pressures you to send inappropriate pictures is someone you don’t need in your life. I don’t care if it’s the hottest, most popular boy in school. Or the steady boyfriend who gives you a guilt trip because all his friends’ girlfriends send racy photos. Or the fun group text where guys suddenly threaten to kick out any girl who doesn’t contribute a sexy shot. Or the friend who pesters you to loosen up and just do it because life is short and YOLO.

These kind of influences drag a person down. They are the relationships that, with time and maturity, you’ll recognize as toxic and necessary to avoid.

9. Sexting may capture a boy’s attention, but it will never capture his heart. It won’t make a boy love you, respect you, or crave a relationship. If a relationship does result, it won’t last because it’s only a matter of time before the novelty of you and your body wears off and he moves on to the next hot babe.

10. It’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong ones. Many girls mistakenly believe that to have a shot at romance – or to keep a man these days – they have to play the game. They assume they have to join this culture of hooking up, sexting, and shallow relationships, or else they’ll get left behind.

But the truth, this bus is headed for NOWHERE. No good can come from it…so getting left behind a gift. Instead of chasing boys, chase your dreams. Invest in yourself and your relationship with God, and He’ll bring the right boy into your life at the right time. There’s nothing more appealing than a girl who has already created an amazing life for herself and a world that a boy wants to be part of.

Parents, let’s circle the wagons around today’s girls. Let’s seek to understand the lies they hear and the norms of their daily environment. Most of all, let’s not shy away from the awkward conversations these girls need (and we need too) to wisely navigate uncharted waters. By being proactive and having frank conversations, we might get ahead of potential problems instead of waiting for problems to happen. We can strengthen the parent-teen relationship and equip our daughters to make solid choices as they prepare for a life without adult surveillance.

Girls, stand firm together. Encourage each other to set high standards and stick to them. When a sister messes up, love her through her mistake. Remember how tough it is growing up in a virtual fishbowl, where there’s no room for error because every move you make can be documented and publicized. Discover your strength in numbers and remind each other – again, and again, and again – that you are worthy, beautiful, and made for so much more than this world will have you believe about yourself and other girls.

You are a woman of God, and despite any growing pains of adolescence, there are great things in store for you. God’s plan for you is better than anything you can imagine, and when you place your trust in that, you find all the love you need.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on January 26, 2015 at 4:29 am

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The Child Who Makes Me Brave

Do you have a child who’s the opposite of you, and when they’re little you don’t know what to do with that, but then they grow up and you realize what an extraordinary GIFT you’ve been given?

That’s how I feel about my Sophie Bear, who turns 10 this month.

While I’m a scaredy cat, Sophie is fearless.Child Who Makes Me Brave - FINAL

While I’m sensitive, she is tough.

While I’m an introvert who loves to stay home and nest, she’s an extrovert, always up for an adventure and any excuse to get out.

Sophie’s courage and passion for people and life inspire me every day. When I grow up, I want to be more like her.

I must admit, however, that what makes Sophie great now made her a hard baby and toddler. Back then I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t stop her for ten seconds because from morning to night, she had sparks coming off her. Sophie was desperate to keep up with her big sister, and when she got left behind…oh, it was tragic.

At Mother’s Day Out, Sophie’s teachers often caught her crawling out of the baby room. The second she heard big kids passing in the hall, she’d try to escape. In her mind she was three years old. Whatever those kids did, she could do, too.

Sophie was born with a lot of extras – extra energy, extra spunk, extra smiles, and extra love. Early on, many of our adult friends would see a kindred spirit in Sophie. With a twinkle in their eye and a knowing smile, they’d tell me and my husband, “I really like that Sophie. She reminds me of myself as a child.”

Their remarks gave me hope when Sophie’s spirit wore me out. The adults who related to Sophie were always fun-loving, big-hearted, and well-adjusted, and through them I learned to see what her enthusiasm could eventually translate into. I learned to recognize Sophie’s zest as something to embrace and channel, rather than stifle and suppress, because people like her are designed to move mountains.

Today, Sophie has a great personality and high emotional intelligence. Fiercely loyal to friends and loved ones, she isn’t scared of hard things. If a tough situation comes up, she’s there. If a conversation needs to happen, she’ll address it. Sophie would walk through fire to help someone. She is a protector.

She is also perceptive. She notices everything and asks 100 questions to find out what she doesn’t know. If ever you need a detective, this is your girl. Her curiosity leaves no stone unturned.

There’s much to love about my Sophie Bear, but her best asset is her heart. Her deep love for people begins with her deep love for God. Sometimes when she’s upset, she’ll go to her room to pray or write to Him in her journal. Her faith at age 10 amazes me. It’s as genuine as it gets.

So if you’re raising your own Sophie, a tenacious toddler who keeps you on your toes and your knees as you pray for help, remember there is hope. Remember that what leaves you exhausted today may be exactly what leaves you in awe tomorrow.

Sophie, age 2, at Cinderella's Castle in Disneyworld. Mary Poppins was not amused!

Sophie, age 2, at Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyworld. Mary Poppins was not amused!

As for my Sophie, let me end with this: You entered this world on your terms. Unlike your three sisters, all induced, you arrived two days early. Your middle-of-the-night delivery was fast and unexpected, a perfect beginning for you.

From the start I was smitten. I was proud to call you mine. A happy baby, you attracted friends everywhere we went. People thought it was just them making you light up and bounce, and of course I never had the heart to say, “Oh, she smiles like that at everyone. She’s very social.”

The challenge began at 10 months when you began walking. You went looking for action and wanted off my hip for good. That independence was hard to accept because I longed to keep you close. Only in time would I understand that God equipped you with independence as part of His wonderful plan for you.

I love you, Sophie Bear, and I thank you for making me a better person and mom. You stretch me beyond my comfort zone and make me brave. When I’m with you, I feel strong and fearless, too. I feel you rubbing off on me.

Keep shining your light, spreading your joy, and sharing your laughter. This world needs you, and so do I.  You may only be 10, but I look up to you. I thank God for the life we’ve built together and the memories still ahead.

With great love,

Mommy

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on January 20, 2015 at 1:49 am

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5 Words for the Weary Mother’s Soul

If you ever have days when you feel tapped out, exhausted, or tired of feeling like you don’t measure up, then prepare to fall in love with my friend Jeannie Cunnion. A mom of three boys and author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child, Jeannie has a gift for helping women find peace and freedom through God’s lavish grace. I’m thrilled to host Jeannie as a guest blogger today so her words of wisdom may inspire you and remind you of how deeply loved you are.

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It was 8:30 a.m. and I had just landed at the Atlanta airport, picked up a rental car and began the two-hour drive to South Carolina for a three-day conference.

I turned on the radio and found the local Christian radio station so worship music could fill the car. And I began to cry.  Sob, actually.

I was in a painful season in life, and I was feeling particularly vulnerable.  I was aware of how hard this life can be and how much I need Jesus to navigate it.  I was empty.

 Jeannie Cunnion

Jeannie Cunnion

So I did the only thing I know to do when I am overwhelmed: I began to pray. Honest, raw prayers about the pain in my heart and the fear in my bones.

“I can’t handle this Lord. I feel broken. I am weak. And I think I’m letting everyone down.  The pain is deep and wide and I have nothing to give.”

And in that sacred space and time, I heard the Lord speak to my spirit.

The words came slowly and tenderly.  “Jeannie, I am pleased with you.”

In the most unexpected place, I heard a word of grace. A word of acceptance. A word of love.  All of that goodness wrapped up in one small sentence that I repeated over and over again until the words settled in my soul….

“God, You are pleased with me.  You…..are…..pleased….with…. me.”

Because of what Jesus has done for us, God whispers those words to each and every one of us, each and every day.

On the days when you can’t feel it. On the days when you’re sure it can’t be true.

Jesus is still crazy about you.

He hasn’t forgotten you.

He does not regret giving His life for you.

And He has not given up on you.

He will never give up on you.

He is pleased with you.

I think it can be easy to believe this on our good days. When we are sending the kids out the door with kisses and hugs, when we are patient and kind with their disobedience, when we are joyful in the simple and daily trials in motherhood, we can believe that Jesus is pleased with us.

But what about the not-so-good days? How does He feel about us on those days when we are painfully aware of our fallen nature and imperfection?

Do we still believe that Jesus is pleased with us?

Friends, I want us to hold tight to this good news: There is grace for us!

When you feel unworthy of love and acceptance, you need to know that God sees His son Jesus covering you with His righteousness, and He is pleased with you. (2 Cor 5:21)

That thing that you did that you feel really guilty about?

Those words that you used that you wish you could take back?

There is grace for your failure.  There is forgiveness for your sin.

Grace takes a red sharpie marker and writes “Done!” over our “do more, try harder, and be better” list for pleasing God and earning his favor and acceptance. Grace says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10 NASB).

Friend, because of Jesus, you can rest in these 5 words: God is pleased with you.

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Thank you for reading this post today, written by Jeannie Cunnion, author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child.jeannie

Jeannie has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption for organizations such as Bethany Christian Services and the National Council for Adoption. Jeannie serves on the board of Raising Boys Ministries. She also serves as the Council Co-Chairman at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT, where she enjoys leading parenting groups and Bible studies when she isn’t cheering on her boys at one of their sporting events.

You can visit Jeannie’s blog at www.jeanniecunnion.com or find her on Twitter and Facebook. Also on her website, Jeannie is now offering a FREE study guide to Parenting the Wholehearted Child. It’s a great way to learn more about grace and how to apply to your life.  

If you enjoyed this message, please share it through the social media below so that others may be encouraged as well!


Posted by Kari on January 14, 2015 at 3:58 pm

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The Secret to a Meaningful Life

All of us want our life to mean something.Secret to a Meaningful Life - FINAL

We want to leave a mark.

We want to make a difference.

We want to be remembered long after we die.

Yet far too often, our efforts are shortsighted. We focus on this world instead of the next. We measure success by wealth, notoriety, and living the American dream. The bigger the bank account, the greater the legacy, we naively assume. The more perfect our family appears, the better we’ve done as parents.

But what looks impressive and important on earth often doesn’t carry over into heaven. Because up in heaven, there are no autograph lines. There are no awards for perfect families, no trust funds for the next generation, no monuments, empires, or family dynasties.

As the country song says, you’ve a never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch. When we die, we can’t take our stuff with us. Regardless of what we accumulate on earth, or how powerful we become, we all leave this world the same way we enter it – naked and alone.

There’s only one thing that can follow us into heaven, and that’s people. So if we really crave a life of meaning, the place to start is with relationships.

Several years ago, my idea of a meaningful life was transformed by the book 90 Minutes in Heaven. The book is about a Baptist pastor named Don Piper who died in a terrible car crash, was declared dead by paramedics, and came back to life after spending an hour in a half in heaven.

I was skeptical of this book until I started reading it. Then I got hooked. Reading about Piper’s experience got me so excited about the afterlife. It lessened my fear of death and made me rethink how I live.

My favorite chapter is where Piper describes the “celestial welcoming committee” gathered outside heaven’s gate to welcome him. He says he’d never felt so loved, so happy, and so at peace. Immediately upon his arrival, Piper was surrounded by people who’d died in his lifetime, people he had loved and who loved him back.

They were all ages and from different stages of life – everyone from his great-grandfather to a friend who died young – and as he gazed at their radiant faces, an important realization struck him.

Each person in his welcoming committee had contributed to his Christian walk or encouraged his growth as a believer. Each one had affected him positively. He knew, without being told, that because of their influence in his life, he was able to join them in heaven.

When I finished 90 Minutes in Heaven, I started thinking about who will be on my welcoming committee when I die. More importantly, I wondered who I will be waiting for on the other side. Whose arrival into heaven will I get to celebrate as they prepare to meet their Creator?

Obviously, I hope to be present for my family and friends. I hope I’m the first face my children and husband see. But I also hope to be there for people beyond my innermost circle. Just as my welcoming committee will include people who appeared in my life only for a brief time – yet made a deep impact – I hope to do that for others.

And this leads to my point, the secret to a meaningful life. I believe the secret is to live each day loving and treating others in a way that earns us a place in their celestial welcoming committee. Because if we live correctly, we’ll be there for a lot people. We’ll play either a small role or a big role in helping loved ones, acquaintances, and possibly strangers draw closer to the Lord by the character of our life.

The best way to leave a mark on this world is to think about the next world. And as we map out New Year’s resolutions, planning for the next 12 months, let’s remember how our best work on earth can’t always be measured tangibly. Because building God’s kingdom comes with mysteries and unknowns. There are revelations still to come. Only in heaven will we hear the full story of how our life impacted others. Only in heaven will we discover exactly how we made a difference.

Regardless of our job, our status, or our circumstances, we’re all capable of lighting up our corner of the universe. We’ve all been given gifts to glorify and serve God. And whether we influence someone through direct encouragement or them witnessing us from afar – admiring our words, actions, and choices – we all have opportunities to leave a legacy that COUNTS. Even if we help just one soul get to heaven, that’s a big deal. It is infinitely more important than any earthly success we could imagine.

The secret to a meaningful life begins with relationships. And the secret to relationships begins with seeing God’s face in every human. If we do that – and treat each other accordingly – we’ll be remembered and talked about long after we’re gone. We’ll make connections that carry into the afterlife and experience that unspeakable joy outside heaven’s gate as we reunite with those whom we touched in our lifetime and celebrate their triumphant arrival home.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on January 5, 2015 at 3:07 pm

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CHARACTER is More Important than WINNING

Last week I spoke at my daughters’ school, Mountain Brook Elementary, at a surprise assembly on character. Teachers chose a few students per grade to receive a Character Award. I was thrilled to be part of this event because I consider character crucial to raising healthy, happy, successful kids. My talk was titled “Character is More Important than Winning,” and I’m posting it here for anyone who wants to share the message with their children.

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Recently a friend of mine shared a story that’s relevant to what we’re here to celebrate today. Her son is in 6th grade at Brookwood Forest Elementary and plays baseball. During the summer before 5th grade, his team was in a big all-stars game that was intense and high stakes.

Both teams were determined to win.

Her son, named Michael Putman, made an amazing stop at short stop. Everybody in the stands thought he’d caught the ball for an out….but it was questionable and hard to tell whether the ball hit the ground before landing in his mitt.Character-BEST

The umpire asked Michael if he’d caught the ball. All the parents and kids were watching and listening closely. Michael knew that he said yes, he’d be the game hero. His team and their fans would be thrilled.

But Michael chose to be honest instead. He admitted that the ball hit the ground before landing in his mitt, and according to his mother, you could hear the crazy parents in the stands grumbling about the call.

Michael’s mother told me how proud she was of her son for making the choice to be honest. She was even more proud when a father from the opposing team, whose son goes to Crestline, emailed her after the game to congratulate Michael on his honesty.

Now, raise your hand if you like to win. Keep your hand up in the air if you like to be a hero. If you take a quick look around, it’s clear to see how all of us like to win. All of us like to be a hero. And these are good desires, because they can motivate us work hard, be brave, and push past our comfort zone to achieve our goals and dreams.

Living in a place like Mountain Brook, we’re surrounded by winners every day. After all, we’re a community of champions where parents and kids tend to be highly successful. At our high school alone, we’ve won 150 state championships in athletics. We’re known far and wide for our academic excellence. Every day, we have amazing people achieving amazing things by using the gifts they’ve been given. And with each generation, the standard of excellence gets passed on.

But what I want all of you to know is that there’s something more important than winning. It’s more important than money, popularity, or living in the biggest, fanciest house in town. You could rack up a 1,000 trophies, and be the biggest superstar Mountain Brook has ever seen, and it still wouldn’t matter as much as the one thing we’re here to celebrate.

And that is, CHARACTER.

What is character? Character is the way you conduct your life, and who you are when nobody is looking.

Character is how you treat people who can do nothing to help you.

Character is making a habit of good choices and practicing virtues like honesty, kindness, resilience, patience, compassion, and respect. It’s doing the right thing on a small level every day because these small choices prepare us to make those big choices that ultimately put our true character to the test.

Because at some point in life, we all face moments like my friend’s son Michael faced. In a matter of seconds, we’re forced to choose between doing what’s safe, easy, yet wrong and doing what’s hard, risky, yet right. And when we put ourselves in Michael’s shoes, it’s easy to imagine how tempting it must have been for him to lie. Imagine how much courage it took for Michael to tell the truth even though he knew he might disappoint some people and maybe make them angry.

What Michael did was risky, but it was a risk worth taking because he kept his integrity. He proved he’s the kind of person others can trust and respect. Most of all, his choice allowed him to feel proud of himself. It gave him that inner peace we all desperately crave.

Now, having three daughters at this school, I know a lot of you in the audience. And I can testify that there is so much character walking down the halls of Mountain Brook Elementary day in and day out. Regardless of whether you get recognized at this assembly, I hope you’ll continue to make positive choices that build your character and set you up to win at life. Because in the long run, it’s the kids with character who become happy, confident, and truly successful adults. It’s the kids with character who earn the admiration of peers and become known as “a class act” by those who know them.

Who you are matters more than anything you’ll ever do. And if you really want to like yourself, and attract good people into your life, then I urge you to be intentional about making choices that build your character and make you the kind of person others want to be around and imitate.

I’d like to close by sharing examples of how you can show character at this stage of life. Because once you understand character, you start to recognize it. You can spot it a mile away and learn practice it more yourself.

So when you see a classmate who’s upset on the playground, and you go over to comfort them, you show character.

When you stand up for a child being bullied, especially someone who isn’t your friend, you show character.

When you and another child get in a fight, and you admit to your teacher that yes, you did pinch them, and you’ll accept the consequences for your behavior, you show character.

When you agree to be PE partners with someone who’s slower and less athletic than you, and you encourage them and cheer them on, you show character.

When you look out for the younger kids around you, and take a genuine interest in their life, you show character.

When someone walking in front of you drops money from their backpack, and your friend tells you to take it, but you hand that money back to them instead, you show character.

When you use good manners and show respect to adults and peers, holding the door open for others and listening when they talk, you show character.

When you congratulate a friend for making a team that you did not make, you show character.

When you stand up against injustices…and apologize for your mistakes…and show compassion toward anyone who’s being shunned, ignored, or ridiculed, you show character.

When you work hard and don’t complain, and keep a positive attitude while everyone around you gripes, you show character.

When you wake up each morning asking yourself, “What can I do for this world?” and not “What can this world do for me?” you show character.

Winning is great, and my hope and prayer is that all of you in this room experience the joy of winning many times as you grow up. But most of all, I pray you’ll all be winners at life, and that you’ll take these lessons in character being instilled in you now and cling to them even when the world begins to tell you that it’s okay to cheat, lie, or use people to get ahead. Because these things are not okay, and while they may bring temporary success, they won’t bring joy or inner peace.

Who you are matters more than anything you achieve or accomplish. And if you want a life of excellence, the place to start is with character. Because in the long run, it’s the kids with character who rise high and become true champions. It’s the kids with character who become the leaders others want to follow.

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on December 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm

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It’s a Wonderful Life

She wasn’t part of my plan. And for that reason alone, I couldn’t wrap my head around her.

I took the pregnancy test for peace of mind. I knew I wasn’t pregnant…yet I had to make sure. A missed period had stirred doubt in my head. That doubt bothered me. I wanted it to go away so I could get on with life.

When the test turned positive, my heart sank. A tsunami of emotions swelled inside me, and while I couldn’t pinpoint every feeling, I could tell that the predominant one was disbelief. No. This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. I don’t want a baby. We’re fine as we are. Go away…

In my head I counseled myself with a few basic facts: You have three children already. You adore them and your husband. You’ve been down this road before. You have a happy home. Why are you so freaked out?It's a Wonderful Life - FINAL

Logistically, I knew this could work because we were already knee-deep into parenting. What I couldn’t accept was what this meant for ME. With my children ages 6,4, and 2, I was just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was just reclaiming my body after six years of pregnancy and breastfeeding. I was just starting to enjoy my children as little people.

Now I was pregnant again?

It felt like a major setback. We were complete and content as a family of five; never had I sensed a void that only a child could fill. In fact, whenever I heard of moms I knew getting pregnant with an “oops” fourth baby, my initial thought was, “Good for them, but I’m glad it’s not me.”

Why would God give me a baby but not the desire? What kind of mom could I be to a child I didn’t want?

I’d prayed hard for my first three children. Two required fertility treatments, and the third was a pleasant surprise. I knew I had no reason to complain after being so blessed, but I honestly couldn’t see the good in this pregnancy.

I loved God and trusted Him, but I was convinced He’d made a mistake. He’d chosen the wrong mom for this child.

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It was an emotionally trying nine months. Looking back, I think I was depressed.

I’m normally an optimistic person. I can see the bright side of situations and make the best of what I have. But in this pregnancy, a different woman emerged. Some of the contributing factors were pregnancy hormones, a crashing economy that affected our income, and the fact that our family was crammed into a one-level home with three bedrooms. We were on top of each other already, the kids were sleeping doubled up, and I couldn’t walk through the house without tripping on toys. I was cranky and impatient. The smallest thing would make me cry. And every time I imagined the future, I saw stress and financial burdens.

How would we swing four weddings, four college tuitions, four ongoing soap operas? Who would be scarred by a lack of attention? Would I ever be free again?

I mothered during the day, but come 7 p.m. every night, I’d change into my pajamas, crawl in bed, and let my husband take over. I’d read a book to escape and go to sleep praying this baby would be the best thing that ever happened to me. I still hadn’t wholeheartedly embraced her. I still felt detached. When we found out we were having a girl, my daughters were THRILLED. Everyone was thrilled. Yet even with that love and support, I felt alone. I had a lot of negative notions and emotions to work through with God.

I couldn’t write – which says a lot. For three years writing had been my passion, my sanity saver, my therapy. But during this pregnancy the fire was gone. I didn’t even care if it came back.

As Camille’s due date approached, I kept expecting my heart to change. I wanted to be in full-throttle mommy mode by her delivery date. But if I’m being honest, I went into my December 23 induction still doubtful about the good she’d bring. I was more ambivalent than I care to admit.

They say God’s grace comes when you need it, not a moment sooner. I think this best explains how my heart began to thaw only when I saw Camille, heard her cry, and felt the doctor lay her six-pound-nine-ounce body on my chest. As I held my baby girl and looked into her soulful eyes, it suddenly hit me: I did love her. I loved her passionately, in fact, just as much as I loved her sisters. And I wanted to be her mother. I would protect her, fight for her, and be there for her as long as I’m alive. 

I was ready to mother this child. I was ready for a new life together. 

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It relieved me to know that I’d never doubt my feelings for Camille again. In some ways, I loved her more because I’d doubted. God had proved me wrong, and that strengthened my faith. I had a feeling that the next time I doubted Him, I’d find it easier to trust His plan.

When our family came in to meet Camille, there were aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. As 25 voices celebrated and doted on my new daughter, I heard someone speak three life-changing words:

“Look – Ella’s crying!”

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In that moment, the big epiphany hit me. In that moment, I understood how microscopically and selfishly I’d been looking at Camille’s life. All along I’d asked, “How will this affect me? How will this baby change my life?” But seeing Ella’s emotional response to her baby sister – and the joy and pride all over face – clearly revealed that this wasn’t about me…it was about Camille. It was about a baby whom God had deliberately placed in this world to influence my story, Ella’s story, and the story of everyone she’d ever meet.

Yes, I’d play an important role as Camille’s mother, but I wasn’t the only person she’d change and redefine.  In her lifetime she’d impact hundreds – perhaps thousands – of souls who need precisely what she’s here to offer.

How did I miss that before? Could I have accepted her pregnancy sooner if I’d understood it?

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. While I think everyone has some George Bailey in them, I really related to him while I was pregnant with Camille, because all I saw were problems. While I wasn’t ready to jump off a bridge like George, I was disillusioned about my life—and the blessings right under my nose.

As I later reflected on Camille’s birth and how it transformed me, I kept going back to one line in that movie, the pivotal moment where Clarence the Angel tells George what his absence from the world would mean:

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many others. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole.”

Today when I think about all the joy I could have missed without Camille, I want to cry. I want to drop down on my knees and THANK GOD for giving us this miracle I didn’t have the foresight to pray for. What if we’d never heard her giggles, her squeals, her Taylor Swift performances? What if we’d never felt her arms lock around our necks and give us the warmest bear hugs ever? What if our family had never discovered a mascot to rally around, someone with with the energy and sass to make us laugh yet the sweetness to keep us soft? What if we’d never been touched by this angel?

How different would we be as a unit? How different would we be as individuals?

Camille turns 5 this month, and as we prepare to celebrate her life, I’m mindful of the special moments and memories that have led to this point:

The little wonder we brought home on Christmas day…

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Who immediately stole our hearts…

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 Whose happy personality would radiate…

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And who would fit in seamlessly with our family…

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Who would encourage her sisters…

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Entertain us with dress-up…

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Wrap everyone around her finger (especially Daddy)…

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Bring out everyone’s motherly instincts….

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Hold Bible studies for Lola…

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Add the star to the Christmas tree…

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Go Hollywood from time to time…

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Teach us about love…

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And become the best thing that ever happened to our FAMILY.

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Rick Warren once said, “There are accidental parents, but there are no accidental babies.” When I look at Camille, I see living proof of a God whose plans exceed our comprehension. I understand how faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse, as stated by Philip Yancey.

I had a lot of factors in my favor when I got pregnant with Camille – a loving husband, a stable home, a strong faith and a religious upbringing that celebrated human life, supportive friends and family. And when I think about my struggle, I wonder how much harder that struggle would be for someone without these factors. My heart goes out to any woman who’s pregnant and not happy about it, especially under tough circumstances. And if there’s anything I want to pass on here, it is HOPE.

Hope that God will bless any choice that honors Him.

Hope that what seems unbearable can take a beautiful turn.

Hope that whatever path God has planned for us will lead a better place.

To this day, I look at Camille and marvel. I blink back tears of gratitude and happiness that I was chosen to be her mom. God has great plans for my girl, and I look forward to seeing those plans unfold. She’s still my little wonder, lighting up her corner of the universe as only a product of heaven can do here on earth.

 

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Thank you for reading this article today.10truths_rnd2  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below. 

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can subscribe to my blog below, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

Also, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson that empowers girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.comBooks-A-Million, and FaithGateway. It is also available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on December 8, 2014 at 7:49 pm

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