Chasing the Good Life

Several years ago, our family had a huge oak tree fall on our home during a storm.

It wasn’t just any home – it was our forever home. We’d moved in 10 days earlier. At last we had the space to spread out and breathe. We’d waited for this a long time.good life

The destruction was major, forcing us to move out. I know God doesn’t work this way, but at first it felt like punishment, a gavel of judgment coming down in the form of tree limbs crashing through my master bedroom ceiling.

What have I done wrong? I wondered. What am I supposed to learn from this?

The following nine months were the most chaotic months of my life. We moved four times, lived in a rental with most of our possessions in boxes, and faced several curve balls that added more stress.

Nothing in my life was normal. I had too many balls in the air…yet none I could eliminate.

From the outside my life wasn’t enviable. It wasn’t pretty, comfortable or convenient. It wasn’t “the good life” we all crave. Yet on the inside, I felt something positive happening, a spiritual growth rooted in my constant need to pray. I didn’t pray because I should; I prayed because I had to. I couldn’t cope alone.

One morning in particular, I encountered God differently than I had before. I’d gone to bed very stressed, and before my eyes opened the next day my mind fell into prayer. This had become my morning routine, my automatic reflex. As I lay in bed trying to mentally gear up for the day, an unspeakable peace came over me. All I could think was, Jesus.

I sensed Him in the room with me. I felt the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). I found calm within the craziness. Suddenly I wasn’t overwhelmed anymore. I was happy – extraordinarily happy. I wanted the joy of that moment to last forever.

That is when I got it. That is when I realized how hard times present opportunities to encounter God and His son in ways that aren’t possible when life is pretty, comfortable, and convenient.

When we moved back into our renovated home, our lives returned to normal. Practically overnight my stress vanished. But can I tell you how I felt the first morning I woke up in my new master bedroom? Do you know what went through my mind as I opened my eyes to a calm, serene sanctuary?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Gone were my automatic prayers. Gone was my desperation. Gone was my reflex to connect with God. At last I was waking up to an easier life, yet inside I felt empty. And sad. And a little disappointed.

I know Jesus is with me always. I know I can encounter Him in good times, too. But what I learned by stepping away from the comfortable bubble we all live in – then returning to that bubble – is how quickly I can forget Jesus when I’m not desperate. Without a concerted effort, I might easily stop seeking Him.

The “good life” we chase in this world – it’s actually a good distraction from what truly matters. It doesn’t feed our soul, and that’s why it leads to emptiness. The people we tend to envy are those rich with goods, but the people we should envy are those rich with faith. They’re the ones who have it figured out. They’re the ones getting their spirits renewed daily and drawing closer to Christ.

Instead of chasing the good life, how about we chase the God life? How about we think outside the bubble and past the material pursuits we think will bring us happiness? Chasing the God life eliminates our fear of bad things happening because we can trust that any hardships we face give God an opportunity to do His best work through us. It helps us detach from stuff so we can cling to Christ.

I realize now that the tree falling on our house was not punishment; it was a gift. It allowed me to see how I didn’t miss my possessions boxed up, my forever home, or the security of the bubble. My life was pared down, yet nothing was lacking. I had my family and my God, and they were enough.

This Easter season, let’s reflect on whether the comfort we enjoy hinders our ability to know Jesus. Let’s consider where our mind goes immediately in the morning. Most of all, let’s remember how desperately we need our risen Savior on good days, too. Only Christ can save us from ourselves, making sure the pursuits we choose lead to eternity, not emptiness.

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the April 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above) or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below.

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Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Go to Amazon or Christianbook.com to check out 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, a practical guide for teen and tween girls inspired by God’s timeless truths. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.


Posted by Kari on April 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Secret’s Out: I Have a Book Coming!!!

There’s a saying in football that I’ve always liked: “When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

Marie Claire, age 7

Marie Claire, age 7

This is excellent advice, and when something good happens, I try to keep it in mind.

But sometimes my enthusiasm gets the best of me. Sometimes it swells and takes on a life of its own. While I’d like to act like I’ve been there before, that’s a challenge for a girl who’s a bad actress and tends to wear her emotions on her sleeve.

So I won’t lie. I won’t pretend I’m more refined than the burly football players who dance in the end zone after a touchdown, doing a happy jig, because I get those guys. Victory is sweet, and when you’ve worked hard toward the goal, it’s even better.

With that said, I have a SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT. It’s been months in the making, and now I can let the cat out of the bag.

Here’s the scoop:

You can pre-order now at Amazon.

For seven years I’ve dreamed about being a published author. My third daughter, Marie Claire, age 7, is my measuring stick because it was during her pregnancy I quit talking about writing and actually beganBefore Marie Claire, I came up with excuses about why I was too busy. I put things like watering my ferns and mopping floors ahead of a dream I harbored deep down but was scared to pursue.

As I realized my life would only get harder with a third child, I knew it was time to make a choice: make room in my busy life for something I loved or wait until I had an empty nest and could find all the time in the world to write my heart away.

It’s obvious what I chose. And what I also hope is obvious is that if a dream can come true for me, it can come true for you, too. 

If you’re willing, I’d be grateful for your support. Most importantly, I’d appreciate your prayers that 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know touches the heart of teenage girls. My goal is to offer a practical road map based on God’s timeless truths that can help them find love, security, and acceptance without compromising their integrity or future.

This book is everything I want my daughters to know. It’s my love letter to them.10truths_rnd2

I’d also love your help spreading the word. Please consider sharing this post through the social media below to let your friends know it’s coming and available for pre-order! Tell your pastor, priest, youth leader, cheerleader sponsor, dance instructor – anyone who works with young women and cares about who they’re becoming.

One of my hopes is to speak at large mother-daughter or father-daughter events with a book signing afterward. I have a few events set up at this point, so if your church or girls’ organization is interested (especially if you live near Birmingham, Alabama), feel free to email me at kari@karikampakis.com.

Also, if you have a retail store or boutique interested in carrying the book or hosting a signing, send me your information and I’ll pass it on to Thomas Nelson’s marketing team. This book would be a terrific fit in any venue where mothers and daughters shop.

I owe a huge thank you to those who read my blog and newspaper column in Village Living and 280 Living. YOU made this happen by sharing my work, which allowed it to ultimately catch a publisher’s attention. I’m so grateful for your support. If you’re new here, please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY or subscribe to my blog (above). I’m also on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

I’ll share updates as the book launch approaches, so bear with me as I grow into new territory. If I look like a novice at this it’s because I am, though I’m trying my best to not make it so obvious. :-)


Posted by Kari on April 7, 2014 at 5:53 pm

10 Ways to Build Better Friendships

Last fall, I attended an insightful Bible study. The message resonated with me long after I left that afternoon.

The Bible Study was for my 5th grade daughter and her classmates. The leader was Donna Greene, who has ministered to girls for 40 years here in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Besides the fact that she’s amazing, Donna knows girls like the back of her hand. Her message that day - how to build bridges, not walls – was perfect for 5th grade girls. Using true stories to illustrate, Donna explained how beautiful friendships form when girls lift each other up and act as encouragers instead of tearing each other down.

Soon after the Bible study, a garden club asked me to speak. And as I considered what messages women my age might find helpful, I kept going back to Donna’s words: Build bridges, not walls.bidge copy 2

To me this theme is as relevant to moms as it is to 11-year-old girls. It applies to every stage of life, because of all the barriers that prevent women from having deeply loving, rich friendships, two things that top the list are 1) our tendency to take our insecurities out on each other (knowingly or not), and 2) our reluctance to show our authentic, genuine selves.

I love girls, but the reality of what goes through our minds and comes out of our mouths sometimes to hurt others deserves mention. Unless we’re aware of our thoughts and habits, we can’t control them. Hurting others also hurts us because real friendships can’t develop when someone feels the need to keep a guard up. Building bridges mandates TRUST, and only when both parties feel safe to let their guard down can a true connection form. 

Following are points from my speech, 10 ways women can build bridges, not walls. This list is far from exhaustive, so feel free to share (in a comment below or on my Facebook page) other ways we can lift each other up.

10. Choose COMPASSION over COMPETITION. When I was pregnant with my first child, a friend pointed out a phenomenon she’d noticed in her playgroup of first-time mothers.

At the beginning of each playgroup, the conversations had a competitive undertone. As everyone compared their baby’s developmental milestones, tension in the room built. But once someone admitted a problem they were having with their child, that competition turned into compassion. As moms opened up to share their hard experiences and advice, the tension melted away.

I see this phenomenon a lot, and I wonder why it sometimes takes a person struggling or going through a hard time to make women drop their guards. Consider what happens when you hear about a mom diagnosed with cancer. Doesn’t your heart soften? Don’t you automatically replace negative thoughts with kind, loving thoughts? Don’t you start cutting her more slack and letting things go?

Women have so much compassion, but we’re also competitive. And while compassion brings out our best, our unhealthy competitive side brings our worst. That’s why I propose that we treat other moms as kindly as we would if we just learned about a hardship they’re facing. It shouldn’t take an actual event to change our heart because the truth is, everyone IS facing something hard. Even if they’re not struggling personally, someone they love is, and that can weigh just as heavy on their heart.

We all have the same life purpose. We’re all trying to get to heaven and get our families there, too. By focusing on this shared goal, we can remember how we’re allies, not competitors.

 

9. Forgive easily and often. My priest, Father Bob Sullivan, once said in a sermon, “We’re told to practice forgiveness on a small level every day so that when something big happens, we know what to do.”

Forgiveness is a habit. It’s a muscle we strengthen daily. When we don’t forgive and hold grudges instead, we get resentful. Resentment leads to anger and hate, making it impossible to love the person who hurt us.

There’s a saying that resentment is like “drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It hurts us more than the other party. In AA, a program I’m a big fan of because the 12 steps represent healthy living, members list their resentments daily so they don’t build up. Since the root of many addictions and problems is resentment, it’s important for everyone to recognize theirs.

A good place to practice forgiveness is on people we don’t know. Because there’s no history, it’s easier to let go of a slight. Rather than show rudeness back to the grouchy cashier at the fast food drive-through, we can smile and say, “Have a good day.” Or we can silently pray for them. Hurt people hurt people, and when someone lashes out for no reason, there’s usually an underlying reason.

Many people are quick to anger, but how many are quick to forgive? How many friendships could be saved if we refused to let bitterness control us?

 

8. Accept the imperfect love of others. I’ve always had great friends, but when I was growing up, I sometimes put unfair expectations on other girls. I’d get a little miffed because nobody was meeting all my needs.bridgebests

What I finally realized was that the perfect friend doesn’t exist. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses (like me), and by keeping a wide circle, I could get everything I wanted. This took the pressure off any one girl to be my everything and helped me appreciate the gifts different friends bring to the table.

Only God offers perfect love. The rest of us do the best we can. And if someone has real love to offer, I suggest we take it, because real love can be hard to come by.

 

7. Put grace before judgment.  It’s easy look at other people’s sins before our own. It’s tempting to compare ourselves to those we think are doing worse than us so we can feel superior.

But as Mother Teresa said, “If you judge others, you have no time to love them.” While we can’t always control judgmental thoughts, we can cut them short by remembering:

1. It’s not our place to judge. That is God’s job.

 2. Sin is sin. No one sin is better than another.

3. The antidote to judgment is grace. Grace is the one-way love God lavishes on us even though we don’t deserve it. What we receive from Him, we’re called to pass on. 

We are not here to condemn each other; we are here to encourage and hold up a magnifying glass to the good we see. And when we treat others according to their good, we draw out more good – which in effect makes them easier to love.

 

6. Quit Taking It Personally (Q-TIP).  I once heard a mom share an epiphany she’d had on her 30th birthday.

“I’ve just come to realize it’s not about me,” she said. I’m not the center of the universe. I used to get so upset if I was friendly to someone in the grocery store and they weren’t friendly back. I’d worry the rest of the day about what I did to make them mad. Now I know everyone has their own problems, and if someone’s short it might have nothing to do with me.”

It’s a sign of maturity when we accept that others aren’t thinking about us nearly as much as we assume. Our relationships grow because 1) we don’t get upset over trivial matters, 2) resentments don’t build, and 3) we stop assuming the worst about people and instead give them the benefit of the doubt.

In a world where we’re all quick to judge and take offense, it’s important to Q-TIP. By taking ourselves out of the equation, we’re able to keep a compassionate heart for others.

 

5. Reveal our weaknesses.  We all have uncomfortable truths we like to hide. Whether it’s a bad habit, a character flaw, or a circumstance, we’re scared to open the curtain. We fear that if people knew the real scoop on us, they’d run the other way.vulnerable copy

But it’s impossible to have genuine relationships without full disclosure. Only when when we’re honest, vulnerable, and transparent can true friendships emerge. Brené Brown has written great books on this subject, and one thing she advocates is sharing our secrets with those who have earned the right to know. This means opening up to our innermost circle about our imperfections, fears, and insecurities.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive,” Brown says in her book Daring Greatly.

To find love, joy, and a sense of belonging, we have to be brave in revealing our true selves and allowing others the same opportunity, because it’s through our deepest and most personal truths that powerful connections are made.

 

4. Seek to understand.  My oldest two daughters are polar opposites, and for years this prompted a lot of fights.

I always told them, “If you two can learn to appreciate each other’s differences, you’ll be set in the friend department, because if you can along with someone who’s not like you, you can get along with anyone.”

It has taken time, but they’ve finally approached a peace point. They now understand each other’s triggers and know what to expect. They’re the ones who pointed out to me recently how little they fight compared to the old days. Things that once irritated them can now be shrugged off with a statement like, “That’s just Ella” or “That’s just Sophie.”

Seeking to understand a person means learning what makes them tick. It means listening to the stories they share to better understand them. The more we listen, the more we learn, and the stronger our friendships grow.

 

3. Love each other’s talents.  Often when I’m jealous of another woman, it’s because she has a talent I don’t. A great cook, for example, can trigger my insecurity over culinary deficiencies. Somehow, I manage to burn toast, overcook noodles, and forget vanilla extract in the cookie batter.

What I’ve learned, however, is to put my inferiority complexes aside and be THANKFUL I know so many amazing and talented women. No one’s out to make me look bad or show me up; they just want to share their gifts like I want to share mine. It’s good that none of us excel at everything because then we wouldn’t need each other. God designed us to be interdependent and create community by pooling our resources together.

Everyone wants to make important contributions, so when we see someone pouring their heart and soul into something, let’s support them. Let’s refrain from being snarky or critical because their gifts make us feel inadequate. Taking pride in the creations and accomplishments of others is freeing. It also adds trust to our relationships. 

 

2. See each other as God sees us.  Generally speaking, women are visual creatures. We recognize beauty, appreciate beauty, and celebrate beauty.soul3

Sometimes, however, we get so caught up in noticing the beauty (or lack of it) in a woman’s appearance that we miss the beauty inside. We pay more attention to her size-two figure or the fantastic shoes on her feet than the size and capacity of her heart.

But God doesn’t see that way. God doesn’t look at a woman and burn with the desire to ask where she got that fabulous handbag. He burns with the desire to hear what she’s thinking, how she feels, and what her hopes and dreams are. He’s not a harsh critic, and He certainly won’t call anyone out for a fashion faux pas.

Yes, appearances matter, but only the soul has permanent significance. As C.S. Lewis put it, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Since God looks at us and sees our soul first, we should do the same. We should care more about the substance below the surface than what’s visible to the eye.

 

1.  Feed our spiritual life. To love others, we must love ourselves first. We have to keep our love tank full so we have something to give.

When my tank gets low, it’s usually because I’ve let my relationship with God slide. Maybe I’ve missed a few Sundays of church. Maybe I’ve neglected my prayer life due to unnecessary busyness. Either way, I lose clarity and start to feel sad for no reason. I don’t have much to give because there isn’t much to spare. Even my writing seems to be affected, because I’m not writing from a place of love and grace. 

The good news is, it’s as easy to jump back into my spiritual life as it is to fall out of it. God will take me back anytime because the bridge to Him is always open. And maybe that’s what we women should model, an open invitation that keeps the bridge down, allowing us a way back to each other no matter how long we’ve been apart, how much water there is under the bridge, or what it is that’s finally brought us home. 


 

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Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above) or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below.

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Go to Amazon or Christianbook.com to check out 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Knowa practical guide for teen and tween girls inspired by God’s timeless truths. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

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Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

If this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below. 

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Find10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I’m excited and would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 


Posted by Kari on March 31, 2014 at 1:16 pm

What Next? Helping Kids Cope with Rejection

Life is hard. Disappointments happen. Sometimes we lose when we deserve to win. Sometimes we win when we deserve to lose.

As adults, we’ve had practice coping with letdowns. But for children, the pain is fresh and the wounds particularly deep. They’re not prepared for unexpected blows, nor do they understand how a loss might benefit them long-term. One rejection can feel like the new norm, and with every subsequent defeat they may fear they’ll never break the cycle. Once a loser, always a loser.

That isn’t true, of course – at least not for those who keep plugging away – but try explaining that to the boy cut from his baseball team or the girl who didn’t make cheerleader. Try convincing anyone who just failed miserably that there’s hope.failure2

So what’s a parent to do? How can we pull our children from the pit when they fall in? I don’t have many answers, but I do know this: We don’t jump in the pit with them. We don’t act like it’s the end of the world or throw confetti on their pity party because that fuels their fears. Our attitude affects their attitude, and if we, in our infinite wisdom, send a message of doom and gloom, what does that say about their future?

Let me clarify that I believe parents should share in a child’s disappointment. We should cry with them if that’s where our heart is and allow a mourning period. Since many tryouts fall on Friday, we often have a weekend to work with. For two days, we can grant our child permission to mope, scream, sob, and vent. We can let their ugliest emotions be acknowledged to get it out of their system.

But come Monday morning, the world starts spinning again.  Come Monday morning, our child will have to rise back up and ask a crucial question: “What next?” Will they try out again next year or branch into something new? Could now be the time for soul-searching?

People have different ways of moving on, and even if they’re spinning their wheels a while, going through the motions to get a game plan, it’s a step in the right direction.

As a parent, I worry about the heartache my kids will face. But my biggest fear is that they’ll quit trying. It happens all the time, and it happened to me in grade school when I stopped trying out for plays because I failed a few times.

For years my sister Krissie and I auditioned for productions, and together we made our first three. But then “The Wizard of Oz” came along, and Krissie made it without me. I was okay with one rejection, but when this same thing happened two more times I dropped out of acting. Having my little sister show me up was embarrassing, and by cutting my losses early I thought I could avoid future grief.

To this day I regret giving up something I loved. If only I’d admitted to my parents that my real reason for quitting was fear, not a loss of interest, they could have encouraged me to stick with it. They could have explained that failure is a part of life, and with every effort I made I increased the likelihood of the tide turning in my favor.

Babe Ruth once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” (For the record, he struck out 1,330 times.) In baseball a batting average of .300 is considered excellent. That’s basically hitting three balls out of ten – a statistic we’d balk at in real life. But could that be our problem? If we adopted baseball’s philosophy in all parts of life, would it take the pressure off us having a perfect record? Could it put our disappointments in perspective, reminding us that one home run – or better yet, a grand slam – can compensate for nine missed hits?

I think so.

If I have any advice for someone down on their luck, it’s this: Don’t give up. Hang in there. Work hard and believe in your ability to improve. If you really love something, stick with it because your passions help lead you to your calling. Giving up may seem safe now, but as you get older you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.

When open door closes, another opens. Embrace new opportunities and be ready to act. As Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” There’s no shame in trying, only the remorse of passively watching the world go by.

So jump back in the game by asking yourself, “What next?” These two words may be the jump-start you need to a fabulous new chapter of life.

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Thanks for reading this article, printed in the March 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf you enjoyed this message, please share it through the social media below.

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Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I’m excited and would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.


Posted by Kari on March 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

Ashes to Ashes

There’s one day a year that I wear my faith on my forehead. Yes, on Ash Wednesday anyone who crosses my path can see that I’m a Christian.ashes BEST

And while I’ve been wearing the ashen cross since I was a child, it wasn’t until college that I truly grasped the meaning behind it. It took a major disappointment for me to learn a lesson that impacts me still today.

I was eighteen at the time, a freshman at the University of Alabama. I’d just tried out for Capstone Men and Women, a prestigious organization of university ambassadors. As most Alabama alums know, making Capstone Men and Women is a big deal. It’s a competitive, two-interview process made more daunting by the overall caliber of applicants.

With just a few slots open, the odds were against me, but I figured I had a shot. My grades and leadership experience had always opened doors for me, so why would this be any different?

Unfortunately, my first interview was a flop. I was so nervous going in, and in the formal atmosphere—where multiple people took turns asking questions—I grew self-conscious and tongue-tied. It was an embarrassing experience I couldn’t escape fast enough.

Nevertheless, I held out hope. Ever the optimist, I convinced myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe they hadn’t noticed the tremor in my voice or the fragmented answers. Maybe they could see a diamond in the rough—and would grant me a second interview to redeem myself.

Suffice it to say my name was not on the list posted two days later at the Ferguson Center. Everyone I knew made the cut, everyone but me. For the first time in my life I wasn’t even a finalist, and the reality that I’d bombed something very important to me was crushing.

It was Ash Wednesday, and trying to keep my priorities straight I attended Mass that evening. Throughout the service, I dwelled on the day’s events until I felt much worse. Needing some affirmation, I drove to my parents’ house—fifteen minutes from campus—immediately after church.

And as I poured my heart out to Dad, waxing on about being a loser and an embarrassment of a daughter, he started shaking his head. His pointed to the ashes on my forehead.

“Kari, what does it matter?” His voice was firm and compelling. “Look at your face—what does that cross mean? We all started as dust, and we’ll all end as dust. Anything that burns in this world—your body, your clothes, this house—none of it matters. That interview doesn’t matter. What matters is your soul, and how you live your life.”

It was as if a window of clarity had opened, expanding the world before my eyes. I saw then the spiritual short-sightedness of getting worked up over something that, in the long run, was pretty inconsequential. Yes, I would’ve loved to have been a Capstone Woman, but had it worked out, my dad would never have shared this wise nugget. What I thought was the life-changing event—not making the cut—actually led to a bigger moment, a soulful awakening to things that don’t burn.

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Me & my daddy

This Lenten season, I’ll join millions of Christians on a 40-day journey of spiritual cleansing and renewal. It will remind me of the truths I tend to forget the rest of the year: that there’s life beyond the here and now; that this seemingly permanent world is a temporary home. My flesh is a casing, made to expire. I should use it wisely, focusing less on earthly pursuits and more on the Savior who died on the cross.

I’ve always been proud to be Catholic, proud of the ashen cross I receive on Ash Wednesday. It’s the ultimate symbol of love, sacrifice, and eternal life. As a mortal, I started as ashes, and I will end the same. Staying mindful of this puts in perspective everything that occurs in between.

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please subscribe to my blog (above), join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below.

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I’m excited and would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.


Posted by Kari on March 3, 2014 at 1:22 pm

The Scary Truth of Raising Daughters

Having four daughters is a gift, a blessing I wouldn’t trade for anything. I love the bond of sisterhood and understanding how my children are wired in ways my husband will never fully comprehend.

On the other hand, it’s a lot of pressure. That’s how I feel at least. Being the same sex parent makes me the primary role model, the standard of what a grown woman should be. If I were perfect, I’d be okay with this, but seeing that I have countless flaws, bad habits, and tendencies I’m not proud of…well, suffice it to say I don’t want my girls to grow up just like me. I want them to be BETTER than me.

I want my good qualities to stick and my bad qualities to roll off. When they leave my nest at age 18, I want them unscarred by our mother-daughter arguments, so strong in their identity that any negative remarks I make in weak moments won’t dig under their skin so deeply they’ll need therapy to recover.

Problem is, I can’t choose what rubs off. For better or worse my influence is a package deal. Even if my daughters make a conscious effort not to be like me, I’m their default setting. I’m the voice they’ll carry around in their head for a long time. And while their father has a major influence, too (I wrote about fathers and daughters here, with more to come on that), I’m the one who spends the majority of time with them as their daily lives play out.

Right now my daughters are young – age 11 and under – and somewhat under my spell. I could feed them nonsense and they’d buy it because I’m all they know. I’m their normal. Eventually they’ll compare notes with friends and understand how differently everyone is raised, but until then they’re somewhat captive to what I pass on.

To be honest, this frightens me a little. I don’t want to abuse my power or channel it the wrong way, because the scary truth of raising daughters is that we mothers hold an important key: the key to their emotions. Until they’re old enough to take their key back, we can drive them any direction we choose.scary truth

We can drive them forward, backward, or toward head-on collisions. We can take joy rides or white-knuckle the wheel with such control they can’t wait to boot us from the car.

So what’s a mother to do? How do we nurture strong, loving bonds yet parent with parameters? How do we raise our daughters to be healthy, self-sufficient  adults who still want us in their lives as a best friend and mentor?

I think the first step is to do a fearless self-inventory. As the saying goes, “Like mother, like daughter.” A mother’s habits and attitudes are highly contagious, and whatever issues we don’t take care of are going to affect our girls. We influence every relationship our daughters have. From food…to friends…to boys…to money…to fashion…to God and more…they take cues from us. We’re their role model. We’re their standard of what a grown woman should be.

So when we obsess over appearance, treating outer beauty as the ultimate goal, we teach our daughters to focus on their exterior. While this may satisfy them in their youth, it hinders their ability to cultivate the rich interior life they’ll desperately need to find joy as adults.

When we social-engineer our friendships, choosing friends based on who advances our agenda, we teach our daughters to build shallow relationships that won’t last. Only real friendships can they bring them the happiness, security, and sense of belonging they crave.

When we’re critical of their body and their flaws, as well as our own, we teach them to look in the mirror and notice the imperfections first. This is often the starting point for eating disorders and an unhealthy self-image, because how a mother sees her daughter becomes the lens through which she views herself.

When we manipulate or trick our spouse to get what we want, we teach our daughters boys are meant to be toyed with. This may work in the dating world, but in marriage, where honesty and respect are paramount, it will backfire.

When we set a bar of perfection, we teach them to be ashamed of their mistakes and scared to fail. We also feed their inner critic, already too harsh.

When we shop without impulse control, racking up debt our husband has to figure out, we teach them it’s okay to indulge every whim. Since money is a primary issue couples argue over, why not do our future son-in-laws a favor by teaching fiscal responsibility to our daughters early?

When we conform to the ways of the world, seeking approval from friends before God, we teach them to make their friends a god, too. 

Mothering daughters isn’t easy, but what a privilege. The girls we raise today are to tomorrow’s leaders, mothers, and impassioned spirits who will move mountains with their smarts and tenderness. Our daughters are strong and resilient, but they’re also emotionally vulnerable. They take our words to heart. They reflect on them long and hard.

Let’s protect their hearts and respect the key we hold. Let’s evaluate our influence. Most important, let’s chose love as our overriding emotion. The roads we lead our daughters down today set the stage for roads they’ll choose when they take the wheel, and if our driving force is love – genuine, selfless love – we can rest with some assurance that we’re headed in the right direction.

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Thank you for reading this article today, printed in the February 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above) or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below.

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Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Go to Amazon or Christianbook.com to check out 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Knowa practical guide for teen and tween girls inspired by God’s timeless truths. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.


Posted by Kari on February 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Love & Marriage

When my friend Greta got engaged many years ago, a man she knew from work shared a story I’ll always remember.

In essence, he told her the key to marriage is to love your spouse even when you don’t feel like it. Using his own life to explain, he described a period in which he and his wife hit a wall. They were fighting constantly and very disconnected. Their marriage hung by a thread.weddingday copy

Her birthday was coming up, and though he wasn’t in the mood to act kindly, he planned a surprise party. He forced himself to show love he did not feel, and it took every bone in his body to follow through.

As you can imagine, a surprise party was the last gift his wife expected. When she walked in the room and saw what he’d done, she looked at him dumbfounded. She’d been thrown for a major loop.

This man went on to tell Greta how the party turned his marriage around. By treating his wife differently, she treated him differently in return, and with every inch one of them gave, the other gave an inch back. Before long they set in motion a new dynamic that helped rebuild their marriage, which became stronger than ever before.

No matter how happily married you are, or whether you’ve experienced your own rough patch, I’m sure you can relate to this story. Every relationship has ups and downs, and when you consider all the things married couples share—money, bills, kids, duties, decisions, a bed and a bedroom—it becomes clear how much room there is for conflict.

Even the best marriages have healthy debates, and while that’s normal, trouble can arise when unresolved issues dig under our skin and fester. Over time, they can do real damage.

Marriage takes effort, but just as important as effort is a long-term commitment to each other. When we meet our soul mate, it’s all passion and fireworks. Our emotions take over, creating an intoxicating high. We start riding on cloud nine, a fanciful place we never want to leave.

But sooner or later reality kicks in, and as we gravitate down to earth we realize that passion and fireworks can ignite love, but they can’t sustain it. What starts as an emotion becomes a decision because we can’t always rely on our feelings. Some days we don’t feel like loving our spouse. We feel like wringing their neck, or shaking sense into them, and they feel like doing the same thing back.

And this is where love becomes a choice. This is where we put our head over our heart and choose to love our spouse, hoping our emotions might follow. As C.S. Lewis said, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

In regards to marriage, this means putting our spouse’s needs before our own. When both parties do this, a beautiful love manifests.

Marriage is a sacrament that often gets taken lightly in today’s culture. And while some marriages aren’t meant to endure—or be saved by a surprise party—we all can learn a lesson from the olive branch Greta’s friend extended. Doing the right thing can lead to miraculous surprises sometimes, even with the people closest and most familiar to us. But in order to find out, we must take the first step.

In closing, I’d like to wish my husband—Harry Kampakis—a happy Valentine’s Day. Harry is my best friend and soul mate, and when I think of his love the word “agape” comes to mind. Agape is a Greek word that describes the selfless, unconditional love described in the Bible, the highest level of love known to humanity. To experience this kind of love is a blessing I wish for everyone, and I thank God for bringing Harry into my life.

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the February 2012 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please subscribe to my blog (above), join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below.


Posted by Kari on February 10, 2014 at 4:07 am

The Parenting Choice You’ll Never Regret

“Just give her extra love, Kari. Just give her extra love.”

The words were so simple, yet exactly what I needed to hear. Once again my father came through with flying colors, offering advice to ease my anxiety.

It came during a time when I was worried about my daughter. It wasn’t anything major, just a situation that had popped up.

And though I knew better, I made the mistake of getting on Google. It led me on a wild goose chase that served no purpose except to freak me out.

That’s why my father’s words were timely, because they centered me on a core truth. They gave me control in a situation beyond my control. They reminded me that no matter what anyone in my family goes through at any point in time, love is always the answer.

So I took Dad’s advice and showed extra love. It wasn’t anything big and obvious, just a little extra attention directed my daughter’s way.

And guess what happened as I made this effort? I forgot to worry. I got so wrapped up in snuggling more, listening more, laughing more, smiling more, and simply enjoying her company that my concerns soon paled in comparison.

This is when I realized a great truth in parenting: Good things can emerge from obstacles if you let love guide you. Besides growing closer to my daughter during this time, I drew closer to God. Yes, I prayed for guidance, but I also thanked Him. I thanked him for our many blessings and His plans for my child, plans I couldn’t yet see or comprehend.parenting copy

I started to lie down with my daughter every night to say prayers. This routine was special because having four kids, my husband and I alternate who we put down, so no one has a set “ritual.” I looked forward to our uninterrupted time together. I could tell my daughter enjoyed it, too.

Yet it wasn’t until a few months later, when the situation had passed and everything was better, that I discovered what, exactly, our ritual meant to her. I was putting up clothes in her room one day when I noticed her open journal on her bedside table. Peering down at her sweet handwriting, I saw an entry that stopped me short:

“I love how my mom always says the prayers to me every night. When she does I feel really close to God. I feel like I can really connect with my Father Almighty.”

As you might imagine, this choked me up and brought tears to my eyes. I read the entry again – then again – to make sure she’d really written those beautiful words. You see, my goal isn’t to raise happy kids; my goal is to raise holy kids, because if they’re holy their happiness will take care of itself. So when I see evidence of a relationship with the Lord, my heart rejoices. I breathe a little easier.

And what I’d like to tell other parents is this: If you’re worried about a child right now, or find yourself worrying in the near future, remember my father’s words. Just give her extra love. You may regret getting on Google. You may regret imagining wild scenarios. You may regret the time you waste worrying and tossing and turning in bed at night.

But giving your child extra love? Showing more patience, more smiles, more hugs and kisses? You’ll NEVER regret that. If anything, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner. You’ll wonder why it took you being concerned about your child to make you a better parent, and why you hadn’t made a special effort all along.

Our children’s lives will never be perfect. They’ll all face obstacles that leave us hanging at times. But if we let love guide us, obstacles won’t matter because they’ll only make us love our child more.

As our concern for a child grows, so can our heart.

God has plans for my kids, your kids, all kids. And the obstacles that scare us today are often what prepare them for great things to come. When we parent with that perspective, trusting God to use everything together for good, we turn fear into faith and doubt into hope. We remember how God uses our children to touch the lives of others, just as He uses us.

I may have regrets in parenting, but one regret I’ll never have is showing extra love to whichever child needs it most at the time. More patience, more smiles, more hugs and kisses. And the real beauty here? More loves becomes a habit. What starts as a conscious effort soon turns into our instinctual response not only to the child we’re worried about, but to all our kids.  

To me that’s a beautiful thing. It adds meaning to obstacles. As our concern for a child grows, so can our heart. May we all parent with this in mind and remember how any hard thing we face is also an opportunity to give and receive more love. 

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Thanks for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 

 

 


Posted by Kari on February 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

Who Am I to Judge?

“I try not to judge other people’s kids because I never know what mine might do.”

My late grandmother used to say this, and I think it’s as relevant today as it was in her time. None of us have room to judge, none of us are supposed to judge, yet we do it anyway. Within parenting circles, the tendency is to judge both other parents and their kids.

In many cases, it starts innocently enough. Wired to protect our kids, we seek out positive influences and carefully watch their peers to discern which friendships we do or don’t endorse. Using our wisdom and powers of observation, we scope out the fast crowd. We learn to find families that reinforce values similar to ours. We recognize warnings signs of troublemakers…and tell our kids to steer clear.judge2 copy 2

Our instinct to shield our children is a good thing. Since they can’t always see the risks, they may need guidance in choosing trustworthy friends. They may need help understanding why bad company ruins good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).

But as we seek to keep them from being corrupted – because our kids would never be the corrupters, right? – it’s easy to get self-righteous. It’s easy to watch other kids misbehave and think, My child would never do that!

Through my parenting experience, I’ve come to realize there’s a fine line between observation and judgment. Even if we don’t vocalize our judgment, we may engage it as inner commentary. Our thoughts can sound something like this:

That kid’s a nightmare. I hate to see him at sixteen.

No wonder she’s mean – she’s just like her mom.

Maybe if her parents weren’t always working or taking fancy vacations she wouldn’t be so starved for attention.

Do they ever watch their kids? Every time I see them they’re running around unsupervised.

And so on.

I’m as guilty as anyone in making snap judgments and jumping to conclusions based on a few facts. I forget everyone’s life is hard. That we all have some cross to bear. That you never know what someone’s going through or what the full story may be.

Who am I to judge another parent or child? What do I know about their circumstances?

Parenting’s been called the great equalizer, and I believe it’s true. Whenever we feel superior to other parents, we’re bound to get humbled and knocked off our high horse. Like my grandmother said, we never know what our kids may do. They aren’t puppets and robots, but rather flawed individuals who will make mistakes. The moment we start thinking they’re perfect is the moment we’re in trouble.

Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” The operative word here is LOVE. The more we love someone, the more we want to understand them. The more we understand them, the less we judge.

Have you ever had a change of heart about someone once you knew them? Ever felt the shame of having pegged them wrong? It’s happened to me and I’m sure it’s happened to you. Quite honestly, I love to be mistaken this way.

Sometimes, we peg a person negatively and learn our assumptions are correct. How do we keep from judging them? How do we quiet our inner commentary? One way is through prayer. We can pray for that person to be softened and pray that we may see them through God’s eyes. When we switch to His point of view, we notice their potential. We see past who they are and into who they can become. This makes us root for them. This makes us genuinely hope for the best.

Another way to halt judgment is to judge ourselves instead. Rather than dwell on their wrongdoings, we can face our own. Admitting our sinfulness is a wake-up call; it reminds us of how desperately dependent we all are on God’s grace. No one sinner is better than another. None of us deserve His abundant love and forgiveness, yet He gives them freely anyway.

As we start the new year, let’s make healthy changes in how we think. Let’s seek compassion, not competition. Let’s build bridges, not walls. Most of all, let’s support other families and their children. By loving them as we love our own, seeking to understand first and foremost, we can improve the quality of our connections and the peace inside our heart.

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Thanks for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. 

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 

 


Posted by Kari on January 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Raising a Kind Daughter

When my daughter Ella was in fourth grade, she got in the car one day after school and announced her plan to run for student council.

At her school each class has a representative, and I was thrilled she planned to put her name in the hat. Even if she didn’t win, it would be a good experience.mother-daugh copy 2

She told me almost every girl in her class was running, as well as one or two boys. As kindly as possible, I mentioned the boys might have an advantage since the girl votes could be split, as that can happen in elections. I told Ella I was proud of her for putting herself out there, and that she’d make a great representative if elected.

The next day after school, Ella mentioned a dilemma she and her friend Annie had “figured out.” On Friday all candidates had to give a speech. Since our family was going to the beach Friday, Ella wouldn’t be there to give hers.

“But Annie had a great idea,” Ella said, referencing one of her best friends, who was in Ella’s class that year. “She suggested that I do a video speech, and she’ll play it for everyone.”

I was very touched by this suggestion from Annie. Why? Because Annie was running against Ella for student council. Yet instead of treating Ella like a competitor, she treated her like a friend.

Ella’s teacher agreed to the video speech, so we made it and sent it on. I didn’t think much more about the election until Friday afternoon around 3 p.m., when I was soaking up an ocean view of the Gulf coast and received an email from Ella’s teacher. She had great news: Ella had won the election! Her classmates had voted her onto student council.

Our family hugged and congratulated Ella. I could tell by the shy smile on her face what her peers’ vote of confidence meant to her. About ten minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was Annie’s mom (one of my close friends) calling us from her cell.

“We are so thrilled about Ella!” she said, her voice joyful and triumphant. “It was the first thing Annie told me when she got in the car! She’s sooooo excited! We couldn’t be happier if it happened to her!”

The phone call didn’t surprise me, because that was typical for this family. What caught me off-guard was the timing of the call. These were 10-year-olds, after all, and 10-year-old emotions can be fragile. Their automatic instinct isn’t always happiness for a friend who got something they wanted, too. Had the tables been turned, I’m not sure the call would have happened so fast. We may have had to work through a little disappointment – if even for a minute – before focusing on our friend.

But to Annie and her mom, a victory for Annie’s best friend was a victory for Annie. A win for one was a win for both. If you ask me, that’s the perfect illustration of true friendship. It’s how it should work at every level.

All four of my girls have found friends similar to Annie. While no friendship is perfect, I’ve been surprised by some of the kindness I’ve seen at young ages. They know how to look out for a friend. They get it. And can I tell you what their kind friends all have in common? Kind mothers. Time and time again, I’ve become friends with the moms I meet through my children’s beloved friends because they’re good souls. I don’t think it’s a coincidence their children are, too.

Annie, Ella & Lola

Annie, Ella & Lola

We all want to raise kind daughters. We want them to be good friends and have good friends. While I give Annie full credit for supporting Ella – she suggested the video, after all, and was quick to celebrate her win - I know she didn’t pull that mindset out of thin air. She picked it up from her family because that’s how her mother and father both think.

A win for a friend is a win for both.  

Kindness among young girls doesn’t start on the playground or in the locker room - it starts at home. Most notably, it starts with kind mothers raising kind daughters. Our girls see how we treat our friends. They also notice how we treat their friends. 

If we treat their friends as competitors, our daughters will, too. If we love their friends like we love our own children, they’re more likely to see them as sisters and part of the family.

Keep in mind it wasn’t just Annie cheering when Ella won student council. It’s was Annie’s mom, too. She was just as enthusiastic. Can I tell you what that meant to me? Can you imagine the trust that added to our relationship?

Quite honestly, I think it’s rare for both a mother and daughter to instinctively rejoice as these two did. Then again, maybe it just proves the point. 

We moms rub off on our girls. Over time our way of thinking becomes their way of thinking. If we want to raise kind daughters, we need to start by being kind mothers.

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Thanks for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.comI would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 


Posted by Kari on January 13, 2014 at 11:54 am

Guest Post: Rachel Stafford of Hands Free Mama

My friend Rachel Macy Stafford of The Hands Free Revolution launches her debut book this week: HANDS FREE MAMA: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection To Grasp What Really Matters! Rachel is an amazing woman who inspires me to be a better mom, person, and writer. She started her Hands Free Mama blog three years ago after having a “breakdown-breakthrough” due to her technology addiction. Since then she’s inspired moms across the world to join her in her journey of intentional parenting. You can buy Rachel’s book on Amazon and all major bookstores.hands free

Congrats to Rachel, breathing life, hope, and relevance with her beautiful words. Below is a glimpse of Rachel’s “Hands Free” message, which is all about making smart use of your smart devices.

Q. What does it mean to live “Hands Free?”

Rachel: Living Hands Free means making a conscious decision to temporarily push aside daily distractions and give your undivided attention to someone or something meaningful in your life. But, it doesn’t mean giving up technology all together, and it does not mean ignoring your job responsibilities, volunteer obligations, or home duties. Instead, living Hands Free allows you to experience the joy that comes from being fully engaged with others.

Q: What caused you to embark on this Hands Free journey? What started it all?

Rachel: Three years ago, I experienced what I call my “breakdown-breakthrough.” For the first time in my life, I honestly answered the complimentary question I received on a daily basis: “How do you do it all?” I painfully admitted that I was able to “do it all” because I missed out on life – the playing, connecting, memory-making parts of life.  Tragically, I knew every precious moment I’d missed could never be retrieved.  With clarity, I saw the damage that my daily distractions were having on my relationships, my health, and my life.

Once I acknowledged that living distracted was not really living at all, I vowed to change. From that day on, I began taking small steps to let go of distraction and created designated times of the day to be fully present with the people I love. 

Q. When you first decided to live Hands Free, you didn’t tell anyone– not your friends, your husband, parents or children– for three months. Why?

Rachel: I didn’t tell a soul. It felt scary to put myself out there. After all, I thought I might fail, or someone would start monitoring my use of technology. I had been holding so tightly to my distractions that it had become a way of life. I was scared to face difficult truths, like “What if I can’t stop living my highly distracted life?”

Q: You began chronicling your journey on your Hands Free Mama blog. Why?

Rachel: When I was ready to tell someone about my endeavor, I started with my husband, Scott. The Hands Free concept I described impacted his behavior immediately. While at the children’s museum that morning, he’d noticed several parents paying more attention to their phones than to their kids. This observation motivated him to turn off his phone, push away thoughts of work, and focus solely on our children’s clever comments and funny expressions. In doing so, he felt a strong sense of connection, peace, and renewal. That was the moment I knew I needed to go public with my Hands Free journey. The impact of the small changes I was making in my daily life were so immediate and so profound that I knew I must share them with as many people as I could. As an educator, writer, and encourager, I felt certain this was my purpose in life. I believed that the people who could most likely benefit from the Hands Free message were people who read online blogs and used social media. That is why I chose those mediums to share my message.

Q. What surprised you when you began sharing your stories?

Rachel: Within weeks of my first blog post, readers began reaching out to me. People all over the world wrote to me saying, “I need this message. I am joining you on your journey.” Even my friends and my neighbors, who I thought had it all together, were saying, “I’m tired of living on a hamster wheel. I am tired of the pressure. I want to enjoy time with my family. I want my kids to be kids.”

As stories from my journey fell into the hands (and onto the screens) of others who also felt trapped by their distractions, I suddenly had companions on my Hands Free journey, and a movement to live with less daily distraction and more human connection began. I soon discovered it wasn’t just stressed out moms who were struggling … I heard from a Fortune 500 company executive, a stay-at-home dad, a single mom living in a battered women’s shelter, a homeschooler, a grandmother, a blogger, and even a teen—people from all different backgrounds and circumstances were implementing strategies described in my stories and experiencing the life-altering results.

Q. Did it take a monumental or heroic action to overcome your distracted ways?

Rachel: No, it was much simpler. It was the small, everyday decisions regarding how I used my time and energy that kept me on a path to a more connected life. Those small amounts of time, energy and attention became the building blocks of the meaningful life I wanted to live.

Q. You refer to yourself as the “drill sergeant”. What does this mean?

Rachel: Everything I did involved a master plan– every spare moment was accounted for and planned out. Before I began living Hands Free, my highly distracted life was all about productivity and efficiency, followed by my need to control everything. Ultra-organized, hyper-productive, control-freak drill sergeant Rachel typically ran the show, and this approach was damaging to my relationships and my health.

Q. How did something as simple as a hat help you to live less distracted?

Cute and cozy vintage T-shirts available at handsfreemama.com

Cute and cozy vintage T-shirts available at handsfreemama.com

Rachel: My hats represent my surrender from the pursuit of perfection and offer me more time to focus on what really matters. My hats gave me a chance to let go, be silly and have fun. Each time I put one on, I’m in the mind frame to be Hands Free.

Q: Did you find it difficult to live “Hands Free” during the process of writing this book?

Rachel:  When I got started writing the book, my husband, my two daughters, and I sat down and discussed what we would need to do as a family in order for me to meet my publishing deadlines. Much to my surprise, every member of the family was willing to take on more household duties and daily responsibilities in order to help me. I am proud to say that my family came through like rock stars! Although I worked more hours than usual that month, I refused to miss out on the daily rituals of connection I’d established with my family throughout my journey. Those little moments of togetherness are the most meaningful and renewing parts of my day.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of living “Hands Free”?

Rachel: Before I became Hands Free, I avoided painful truths about the way I was living by being overly busy, tied to my devices, and never alone with my thoughts. Once I quieted down my external distractions, I was forced to face some painful realizations. Once I was honest with myself, about changes I needed to make, I had to take action. I learned to apologize, be kind to myself, show up “as is,” and admit my imperfections and shortcomings, among other things. These actions were not easy to do, but as I often say, “The truth hurts, but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the person I want to be.”

Q: Are you cured?

Rachel: I thought that after one year of grasping what really mattered, I would be “cured” and my journey would be over—but it is far from over. Although I have made significant progress towards a more present and gratitude-filled life, I am faced with choices every moment of every day on how I spend my time and energy. Daily distractions and societal pressures will always be ready and willing to sabotage my time and my relationships.Living Hands Free requires constant daily effort and continual honesty, but the payoff is a closer relationship with the people you love.

Thank you for reading this article. I’m so grateful you’re here. To keep up with future posts, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY or find  me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated, please share it through the social media below. 

 


Posted by Kari on January 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Identity 911

When I got married, I went from being Kari Kubiszyn to Kari Kampakis. Transitioning from one odd name to another was easy. Figuring out who this new person was, however, launched an identity crisis I didn’t expect.

I was thrilled to finally live in the same city as Harry, but moving to Huntsville from Birmingham meant leaving my friends, my family, and a job I adored. In Birmingham everything clicked for me, but in Huntsville I couldn’t catch a groove, much less find work. Everyone I knew was working, and being home alone, with no one to talk to except the postal carrier, allowed me too much time to think.

Who was I with my slate wiped clean? Why did I feel so small and insignificant with nothing special to say about myself except that I’d just gotten married?weddingt004 copy

For 26 years I’d been known for something – good grades, credentials, a promising career – but with those things in my past, they weren’t relevant anymore. My new identity, Kari Kampakis, had no tagline, nothing to make me stand out from the zillions of other folks in this world.

It was then I realized a painful truth: My self-esteem was tied to my achievements. And when I wasn’t achieving, my self-esteem suffered.

Whereas I’d like to say I turned to God, immediately found my identity in Christ, it would be years before I fully embraced that truth.

Instead, I did what came naturally and looked for another mountain to climb. My husband had just decided to go back to school for an MBA. When the program director suggested I join him, I applied.

It was a weekend program, but I studied full-time, all the while working in freelance writing jobs to pay my tuition. With every “A” I made, my self-esteem slowly crept back up, and by the time we graduated I felt like my old self again. Only this time there was a difference.

This time I was aware that accomplishments don’t define me. This time I knew not to get too attached to bullet points on my resume because in the long run they don’t matter. The only way to never lose my self-esteem again, I realized, was to start finding value in who I am, not what I’ve done.

I’ve grown up a lot since then, and while I’m still a girl-in-progress, I now understand what my problem was. I had built my identity on quicksand, defined myself by things that could change overnight. When they did change, I was lost.

But when I define myself as a child of God, I find the foundation I crave. Because He’s permanent, so is my status in Him. It’s a relief to have a title I can count on, a rock-solid identity no one can take away. This world can strip me of everything I have, but my identity in God and His son Christ Jesus – it’s mine to keep.

At some point in time, we all face an identity crisis. We wonder who we are, what our life means, and what we have to show for it. But before we hit the panic button, let us first breathe and remember it’s not our credentials that give us worth. It’s not our family, our bank account, or material possessions. You and I are worthy because we exist. Believe it or not, that’s enough.

And while the birth of Jesus represents big news for our salvation, it also represents big news for our time on earth. Through Jesus we can cope with worldly pressures to chase money, fame, and success. We can stop buying into lies that we’re only as good as our latest achievement.

When we find our identity in Jesus, we’re free. We’re free to win and fail, to rise and fall, to do what we’re called to do with loving abandon because whether we thrive or stumble it doesn’t change who we are. Our identity stays firm.

This Christmas season, let’s think about what we put our faith in. Let’s reflect on how we define ourselves, and whether our identity is built on quicksand.

Most of all, let’s remember why a Savior came: to save sinners, of whom I am the first. By making Jesus our 911, we can survive any crisis. We can stand confidently in any circumstance, secure in the knowledge that the Son of God is our foundation – unshakable, steady, and ever dependable.

Thank you for reading this article, printed in the December 2013 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below.


Posted by Kari on December 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

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.camille-BLOG

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 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?

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 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 God, 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 optimistic. I can see the bright side of situations and make the best of what I have. But in this pregnancy, a different woman emerged. I like to blame 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, 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 could make me cry. When 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 get in 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 her and looked in her doe-like eyes, it hit me: I did love her. Passionately, as much as I loved her sisters. I wanted to be her mother. I would protect her, fight for her, and be there 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 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 – revealed this wasn’t about me…it was about Camille. It was about a baby God 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 wouldn’t be the only person she’d change and redefine.  In her lifetime she’d impact hundreds – perhaps thousands – of souls who will need precisely what she’s here to offer. How did I miss that before? Could I have accepted the pregnancy if I’d seen 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 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 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 means:

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

When I think about the joy I could have missed with 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 4 this month, and as we prepare to celebrate I’m mindful of the special moments and memories that led to this point:

The little wonder we brought home Christmas day…

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Who immediately stole our hearts…

Camille8And melted our hearts too…

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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 said 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. When I think about my struggle, I wonder how much harder it’d 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. If there’s anything I want to pass on, it is HOPE. Hope that God will bless any choice that honors Him. Hope that what seems terrible can take a beautiful turn. Hope that whatever path God is pointing you to 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 Camille, and I look forward to seeing those plans unfold. She’s still my little wonder, shining her light bright as only a product of heaven can do here on earth.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’m so grateful you’re here. Please feel free to share your story in a comment so I may learn from you. To keep up with future posts, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above), or find  me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated, please share it through the social media below. 


Posted by Kari on December 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Be Happy. Be the Blessing.

People often think of happiness as a reaction. Something happens and our spirits enjoy a boost. But really happiness is proactive. It’s cherishing what we already have and living life with our eyes open, purposefully seeking moments that fill us with joy.

Most of us don’t lead exciting lives. Exciting events happen, but not on a daily basis. Moments, however, are daily. They’re also abundant. And with each new moment comes a new opportunity to be happy. Even if we’re not happy with our life, we can be happy in the moment. We can savor it as we might a breeze, knowing it’ll pass quickly but enjoying it while it lasts.happy9

As I write this, my baby girl, Camille, is cuddled on my lap. When she woke up today she called for me as she always does, saying, “Momma?…Momma?” in the sweetest voice ever. These moments flood me with joy. They make me pause and thank God she’s my child. In short, they make me happy.

On a smaller scale, I also find happiness in the coffee I’m drinking. It’s from a Keurig, which to me is like having Starbucks in my home. Being served by a machine is a treat. It makes my morning better.

And then there’s the happiness I feel by taking the cluttered thoughts in my head and arranging them into this essay. Through writing, I sort through life, slowly gaining clarity so I can understand what I need to know.

My point is, happiness exists everywhere. It’s simply waiting to be noticed. Being happy means being present in our lives. It means finding extra pleasure in things that make us smile. It means taking control of our happiness, and not expecting others – our spouse, parents, or best friend – to carry the burden. No one wants that burden, nor do they deserve it.

Happiness doesn’t land on our doorstep in a pretty wrapped package. Yet so often, we sit around like couch potatoes, waiting for the delivery. It’s a waste of time because no one can manufacture happiness for us. Happiness can only be made in our heart. Only we can kick the gears in motion.

And here’s a thought for you: Instead of expecting others to bless us, why can’t we be the blessing? It sounds counter-intuitive, but one great irony of happiness is that we get more by forgetting our own happiness for a while and creating it for others. Why? Because focusing on our happiness puts us in a bubble. It narrows our world view and magnifies our problems. Soon we believe no one has it worse. We get down and hopeless. We wonder, “What’s the use?” and decide to quit trying.

But if we look outside our bubble, we see the world’s needs. We realize how good we actually have it. We want to help, so we get off the couch and begin using our God-given talents. It feels good because this is how we were designed to live: by giving and doing what a healthy mind and body are able to do. As we connect with others we find purpose. We find the greatest happiness we’ve ever known from human interaction.

Happiness can be ours today, so let’s not put it on hold. Let’s quit telling ourselves we’ll be happy when the right stars align – when we get a new house, a new car, or a new job and boss – because that’s an excuse. Happiness is a habit, a way of looking at life. It’s changing our filter so we find happy moments each day. Without this filter, we stay locked in an unhappy place. As my friend Kim’s mom says, “If you have to move an inch to be happy, you’ll never be happy.”

Happiness is within reach and often under our nose. Let’s do ourselves a favor by delighting in simple pleasures and sharing our joy with others.

Thank you for reading this article, printed in the November 2012 issues of 280 LivingVillage Living, and The Hoover Sun. I’m very grateful for my readers. To keep up with future posts, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above) or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below. 


Posted by Kari on November 25, 2013 at 12:11 pm

10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make (Me Included)

When I became a mom, I got lots of advice on how to love my child. But not until a few years ago did someone actually point out that loving a child means wanting what’s best for them long-term.

When my girls were young, long-term didn’t resonate with me. Back then it was about survival, meeting daily needs and keeping my head above water. There are several years that remain a blur, and only when I see old pictures and videos do memories get triggered.mom7 copy 4

But now that my kids are maturing, the fog is lifting. I’m no longer a pledge of parenting, but rather an indoctrinated member. The perks of this stage is that my kids want to spend time with me. We have real conversations that reveal their beautiful personalities. With everyone sleeping through the night, I’m sleeping better, too. I can think coherently and be more intentional in how I raise them.

These days, I put more thought into long-term. I think about the kind of adults I hope my children will be and work backward to ask, “What can I do today to foster that?” Being mindful of their future has changed my parenting paradigm, because what makes my children happy at age 10 or 15 is somewhat different than what will make them happy at age 25, 30, 40, and beyond.

A while back I came across some interesting articles and books that dig into what psychologists today are seeing: a record number of 20-somethings who are depressed and don’t know why. These young adults claim they had magical childhoods. Their parents are their best friends. They never experienced tragedy or anything more than normal disappointments. Yet for some reason, they’re unhappy.

One reason given is that parents today are too quick to swoop in. We don’t want our children to fall, so instead of letting them experience adversity, we clear the path. We remove obstacles to make their life easy. But adversity is a part of life, and only by facing it can our children build life-coping skills they’ll need down the road. So while it seems like we’re doing them a favor, we’re really stunting their growth. We’re putting short-term payoffs over long-term well-being.

In one article, college deans reported large numbers of incoming freshmen they call “teacups” because they’re so fragile they break down when things don’t go their way. The question posed was this:  Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults? Here’s how psychiatrist Paul Bohn answered:

“Many parents will go to do anything to protect their kids from even mild discomfort, anxiety, or disappointment—’anything less than pleasant’—with the result that when, as adults, they experience the normal frustrations of life, they think something must be terribly wrong.”

Why am I sharing this information? Because I think it’s relevant in this age of helicopter parenting. While I find it great that today’s parents are more invested in their children’s lives than previous generations, our involvement can go overboard. What we may justify as “good parenting” can hurt our children later. Unless we’re mindful of that, it’s easy to handicap them by making their lives too easy.

As my favorite parenting philosophy goes: “Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child.”

With this said, I’ve outlined 10 common pitfalls that parents today – me included – often make. My intention isn’t to point fingers but to raise awareness. What may be ingrained in our culture is not always in the best interest of our kids.

Mistake #10: Worshipping our children. Many of us live in child-centric communities. We’re raising our kids in child-centric homes. Our children love this, of course, because our lives revolve around them. And for the most part, we don’t mind either, because their happiness is our happiness. It thrills us to do for them, buy for them, and shower them with love and attention.

But I think it’s important to keep in mind that our children were made to be loved, not worshiped. So when we treat them like the center of the universe, we create a false idol, turning a good into an ultimate. Rather than kid-centric homes, we should strive for Christ-centric homes. Our children will still be loved, only in a better way, one that promotes selflessness over selfishness.

Mistake #9: Believing our children are perfect. One thing I often hear from professionals who work with children (counselors, teachers, etc.) is that parents today don’t want to hear anything negative about their child. When concerns are raised, even concerns voiced out of love, the knee-jerk reaction is often to attack the messenger. The truth can hurt, but when we listen with an open heart and mind we stand to benefit. We can intervene early before a situation gets out of hand. It’s easier to deal with a troubled child than repair a broken adult.

As a Children’s of Alabama psychiatrist recently told me when I interviewed her on teenage depression, early intervention is key because it can change the trajectory for the child’s life. She said that’s why she enjoys child and adolescent psychiatry – because kids are resilient, and it’s a lot easier to intervene effectively when they’re young instead of years later, when the problem has gone on so long it’s become incorporated into part of their identity.

Mistake #8: Living vicariously through our children. We parents take great pride in our children. When they succeed, it makes us happier than if we’d done it ourselves.

But if we’re overly involved and invested in their lives, it gets hard to see where they end and we begin. When our children become extensions of us, we may see them as our second chance. Suddenly it’s not about them, it’s about us. This is where their happiness starts getting confused with our happiness.

Mistake #7: Wanting to be our child’s BFF. When I asked a priest to name the biggest mistake he sees in parenting, he thought for a moment and then said, “Parents not being parents. Not stepping up to the plate to do hard things.”children2

Like everyone, I want my children to love me. I want them to sing my praises and appreciate me. But if I’m doing my job right, they’ll get mad and not like me sometimes. They’ll roll their eyes, moan and groan, and wish they’d been born into another family.

Seeking to be our child’s BFF can only lead to permissiveness and choices made out of desperation because we fear losing their approval. That’s not love on our end, that’s need.

Mistake #6: Engaging in competitive parenting. Every parent has a competitive streak. All it takes to stir this monster in us is another parent giving their child a leg up at our child’s expense.

I hear these stories a lot at the junior high and high school levels, stories of broken friendships and betrayals due to one family blindsiding another family. In my opinion, the root is fear. We fear our child will get left behind. We fear that if we don’t jump into the craziness, and pull out every stop to help them excel early, they’ll be stuck in mediocrity the rest of their life.

I believe children need to work hard and understand that dreams don’t come on a silver platter; they have to sweat and fight for them. But when we instill a “win at all costs” attitude, permitting them to throw anyone under the bus to get ahead, we lose sight of character. Character may not seem important in adolescence, but in adulthood it’s everything.

Mistake #5: Missing the wonder of childhood. The other day I found a Strawberry Shortcake sticker on my kitchen sink. It reminded how blessed I am to share my home with little people.

One day there won’t be stickers on my sink. There won’t be Barbies in my bathtub, baby dolls on my bed, or “Mary Poppins” in the DVD. My windows will be clear of sticky handprints, and my home will be quiet because my daughters will be hanging out with friends instead of nesting at home with me.

Raising small children can be hard, monotonous work. At times it’s so physically and emotionally exhausting we wish they were older to make our life easier. We’re also kind of curious who they’ll grow up to be. What will be their passion? Will their God-given gifts be clear? As parents we hope so, for knowing which strengths to nurture enables us to point them in the right direction.

But as we project into the future, wondering if our child’s knack for art will make them a Picasso, or if their melodic voice will create a Taylor Swift, we may forget to soak up the splendor in front of us: toddlers in footed pajamas, bedtime stories, tummy tickles, and elated squeals. We may forget to let our children be little and enjoy the one childhood they’re given.

For them it’s not about being productive, it’s about being present. It’s about dreaming big and squeezing the juice out of life. The pressures on kids start way too early. If we really want our kids to have a leg up, we need to protect them from these pressures. We need to let them have fun and grow at their own pace so 1) they can explore their interests without fear of failure and 2) they don’t get burned out.

Childhood is a time for free play and discovery. When we rush children through it, we rob them of an innocent age they’ll never pass through again.

Mistake #4: Raising the child we want, not the child we have. As parents we harbor dreams for our children. They start when we get pregnant, before the gender’s even known. Secretly we hope they’ll be like us, only smarter and more talented. We want to be their mentor, putting our life experiences to good use.

But the irony of parenting is that children turn our molds upside down. They come out wired in ways we never anticipated. Our job is to figure out their inherent, God-ordained bent and train them in that direction. Forcing our dreams on them won’t work. Only when we see them for who they are can we impact their life powerfully.

Mistake #3: Forgetting our actions speak louder than words. Sometimes when my kids ask a question, they’ll say, “Please answer in one sentence.” They know me well, for I’m always trying to squeeze life lessons into teachable moments.  

I want to fill them with wisdom, but what I forget is how my example overshadows my words. How I handle rejection and adversity…how I treat friends and strangers…whether I nag or build up their father….they notice these things. And the way I respond gives them permission to act the same

If I want my children to be wonderful, I need to aim for wonderful, too. I need to be the person I hope they’ll be. storms2

Mistake #2: Judging other parents – and their kids. No matter how much we disagree with someone’s parenting style, it’s not our place to judge. Nobody in this world is “all good” or “all bad”; we’re all a mix of both, a community of sinners struggling with different demons.

Personally, I tend to cut other parents more slack when I’m going through a hard spell. When my child is testing me, I’m compassionate to parents in the same boat. When my life is overwhelming, I’m forgiving of others who slip-up and let things fall through the cracks.

We never know what someone’s going through or when we’ll need mercy ourselves. And while we can’t control judgmental thoughts, we can cut them short by seeking to understand the person instead of jumping to conclusions.

Mistake #1: Underestimating CHARACTER. If there’s one thing I hope to get right in my children, it’s their CORE. Character, moral fiber, an inner compass….these things lay the foundation for a happy, healthy future. They matter more than any report card or trophy ever will.

None of us can force character on our kids, and at age 10 or 15, character won’t mean much. Children care about short-term gratification, but we, as parents, know better. We know that what will matter at 25, 30, and 40 is not how far they once threw the football, or whether they made cheerleader, but how they treat others and what they think of themselves. If we want them to build character, confidence, strength, and resilience, we need to let them face adversity and experience the pride that follows when they come out stronger on the other side.

It’s hard to see our children fall, but sometimes we have to. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether intervening is in their best interest. There are a million ways to love a child, but in our quest to make them happy, let us stay mindful that sometimes it takes short-term pain to earn long-term gain.

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Thanks for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.comI would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 


Posted by Kari on November 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm

A Silver Linings Mindset

Every morning when we wake up, we have a choice. We can choose to be grateful for what’s right in our life or grumpy for what’s wrong.

Nobody is born grateful. We learn gratitude by practicing it. This is good news because it means gratitude is within everyone’s reach. In any and all circumstances it works. Even if we’re skeptical or pessimistic by nature, there’s hope. Even if we’ve been beaten down by life, there’s hope.

Learning to be grateful is a matter of noticing what’s already there. It’s getting over ourselves and what we think life owes us. It’s comparing ourselves to those who have less – not more – and would kill to be in our shoes. It’s training our mind to see the good in every situation. By applying a new filter, we develop a silver linings mindset that can turn any negative into a positive.silver

Sound impractical? Let’s put the idea to use by thinking of everyday irritations that dampen our mood. Let’s take what would normally get under our skin and let it roll off our shoulders using gratitude. Whatever is bothering us, whatever we’re taking for granted, someone else is praying to have our problem. Keeping this reality in mind can change our outlook completely.

Consider for a moment the following:

The noise and chaos that awakes us each morning because our kids are wild bucks…an infertile couple prays to wake up to that music.

The leak in our roof that comes back with every hard rain…a family prays for a home of their own, leaky roof and all.

The check-out line at the grocery that tortures us because we’re impatient…someone prays for money to buy food and a reason to wait in line.

The date night with our spouse we’re tempted to call off because we’re tired…someone prays for a spouse who loves them and wants to spend time together.

The toddler who drives us mad because they never quit running…a mother prays her child will walk one day and enjoy life like other kids.

The job we dread going to day in and day out…someone prays to find a job today, because the stress of employment is far better than the stress of unemployment.

The child who constantly calls for us and asks for help…someone is praying their child in college will call them, because it’s been five days since they’ve heard their beloved voice.

The car ride home from the beach that should take five hours but instead takes seven…a father prays for the means to take his family on vacation, even if it means sitting in traffic.

The bad hair day that makes us want to stay home…a woman who’s lost her hair to chemo prays her hair will grow back, even if it’s wild.

Life is stressful. Life is hard. Life annoys the heck out of us sometimes. But when we focus on silver linings, little blessings inside EVERY situation, we realize how blessed we are. Abundantly, richly blessed.

Every day we have a choice: The choice to dwell on what’s wrong or give thanks for what’s right. By making thanks our habit, our instinctive response to both joy and frustration, a silver linings mindset kicks in. Once we have that life appears better at every turn.

Whatever we’re taking for granted, someone else is praying for. The only shortcut to happiness is being happy where we are. Gratitude is free and available to all. Once we catch on to the wonder of that, we can give a heartfelt thanks that something so easy can make such a difference.

Thank you for reading this article, printed in the November 2013 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below.


Posted by Kari on November 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

Why Getting Caught is Good

I once stole cash from my brother Jack, and not until I got busted did anyone have a clue.

I was young at the time – probably seven or eight – and intrigued by money. I didn’t want to spend it; I wanted to hoard it. To me, money meant security, and since adults were always telling me to “save for a rainy day,” I figured I needed a cushion. So instead of buying toys, I let my savings accumulate. I was proud because this took great discipline.caught57

My scheme started one morning when Jack, eight years older than me, told me his lock box code and showed me the contents. The mountain of green bills took my breath away, and though they were wadded up they were still beautiful to me. After ogling over his stash, I looked at my brother in awe. Wow, I thought, Jack is rich! He is so lucky!

Back in my bedroom, I couldn’t stop thinking about Jack’s rainy day reserve. It was so much bigger than mine it saddened me. As I spread my money across my bedspread, I began to rationalize. I came up with reasons to steal, only I get I didn’t consider it stealing. I considered it “borrowing,” because bad people steal, good people borrow.

My self-talk sounded like this: Jack has so much money, he won’t miss a few bills. I just want to see how his cash looks mixed in with mine, how big my collection can get. I’ll give it back in a few days. Jack won’t care. He never gets mad.

I accomplished my crime without a hitch, and I was so happy afterward the guilt dissipated.  No one had seen me, so I was safe. I could pretend it never happened.

But as fate would have it, my sister Mary Kathryn walked in my room later that day and saw my money on the bed. She offered to count it, which wasn’t unusual, because she and Jack often provided this service for their money-hoarding sister. Mary Kathryn was impressed by my wealth – so impressed she had to tell the entire family.

My parents and three other siblings were watching TV in the den. As Mary Kathryn and I walked in, she announced,  “Y’all won’t believe how much money Kari has. Sixty dollars!” There was a pause before my brother replied, “Wait a minute. I counted Kari’s money this morning. She only had forty dollars then.”

I knew I’d been caught, so I didn’t respond. As my family put two-and-two together, they asked me if I’d stolen from Jack. I nodded and braced myself for someone to start yelling or lecturing me. But no one did. All I can remember are six stares of disbelief. It was terrible, the worst punishment possible.

Although that experience was painful, I’m thankful for it now. I’m glad I got caught because it kept me honest. While I can’t say I never lied again, I can say I never pulled another stunt like that. The humiliation stuck with me, and never again did I wante anyone to look at me the way my family did that day.

As a parent I’m now told to pray that my children to get caught. It’s hard because part of me doesn’t want to know. Part of me wants to believe they’re incapable of being sneaky or dishonest. But if I truly care about their future and want what’s best long-term, I need to embrace this prayer.

While my children are young, I have a precious window of opportunity to teach them right from wrong. Right now their hearts are pliable, and they want to please. They aren’t too set in their ways. Now’s the time to establish honest habits. Now’s the time for them to mess up, while they’re under my roof and my watch and I can hold them accountable. Accountability leads to life lessons they won’t forget. It will make them think twice before pulling the same stunt again.

The underlying truth relevant to all parents is that dishonest children become dishonest adults. They maintain the same behavior but kick it up to a bigger scale with graver consequences. Instead of cheating a brother, they may cheat a company. Or stockholders. Or perhaps even a spouse or child.

And that is why I’ll pray for my children to get caught even when it pains me. I’ll remember how tempting the immediate payoff of lying is and why it’s hard to reverse the pattern once someone masters the art. For a child who lies and gets caught, lying again is risky. For a child who lies and gets away with it, the reward is worth it.

We parents worry a lot about developing our children’s talent and intelligence, but what we really need to get right early on is character. Without an honest foundation, talent and intelligence won’t matter because no one will trust them. May other parents call to mind their own lessons from the past and join me in praying for awareness. Our children won’t think it at the time, but our prayers that they get caught could be the best thing that ever happened to them.

Thank you for reading this article, printed in the October 2013 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below.


Posted by Kari on October 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Daddies Be Good to Your Daughters

I saw an old friend recently and asked about his little girl.

He immediately turned to mush.dad22

The transformation advanced like this: His head tilted. He smiled. His body softened as if he’d been microwaved five seconds. In a final gesture, he rapped on his heart…one, two, three times. He never did speak, however.

That’s because he didn’t have to.

I know it sounds sappy, but the relationship between daddies and daughters turns me into putty, too. In fact, if you ever see me driving down the road crying, I’m probably listening to some country tearjerker like “Butterfly Kisses,” “I Loved Her First,” or Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl.”

Any lyrics that remind me of my girls as babies—then fast-forward my imagination to their wedding days, where they’re waiting to be given away—pull my heartstrings every time.

Given this, is it any surprise that I have a soft spot for doting dads? I can spot them in crowds and, fortunately, see plenty in my community. Many are guys I knew in college, cool daddies who rocked the house at band parties—always with a beer in hand. I run into them at birthday celebrations, the ball field, even the Tot Lot, and smile at the evolution.

Eighteen years ago, I never would have believed they’d wind up pushing strollers, wearing Baby Björns, talking proficiently about Disney princesses and potty training. But here they are, taking parenting by the horns.

I absolutely love it.

Today’s dads are hands-on, and as my mom jokingly notes, this wasn’t the case in her day. Back then it was the wife who took care of the home and children, and the man who made a living and provided leadership for the family.

And while my dad never changed my diaper or cleaned up after me, he did provide everything a young girl needs: love, faith, and security. I grew up with one brother and three sisters, but I was still Daddy’s girl. My dad has a wonderful gift to make each child feel like his favorite by embracing our differences.

Looking back, I recognize the comfort zone Dad created. He set the standard for how the opposite sex should treat me, and though it didn’t save me from dating some less-than-fabulous guys, it did attune me to red flags. Whenever someone strayed outside certain parameters, an inner alarm went off.

Of course, like many girls I learned to tune out the alarm, to press snooze whenever I wanted, but eventually the feeling that something just wasn’t right prevailed. After a certain number of strikes, I’d start losing interest in the person.

Fortunately, I married the sweetest guy possible. And in silent calculation, I sized him up to my dad and my brother—another father figure—while we dated. Would he move heaven and earth to protect me? Does he love God and make me a better person? Does he love the “real” me, quirks and all?

When no buzzers sounded on my laundry list of questions, I knew I could trust my instincts. I now rely on Harry to instill similar yardsticks in our daughters.Camille 007

Obviously, there’s no guarantee that girls who know better will do better—or that girls whose fathers fall short will settle later on. People disprove this theory every day.

It is fair to suggest, however, that daughters of devoted dads have a leg up in future relationships. If nothing else, they won’t waste years of their life wondering why they can’t trust those of the XY chromosome.

If you have a little girl, remember that she craves more than the obvious “I love you.” Like her larger counterparts, she picks up on every subliminal cue. So before she loses her baby fat, or fixes her buck teeth with braces, assure her she’s beautiful. State it as a fact, not opinion. When she sits by you at church, hold her hand protectively, squeezing it from time to time.

Tell her you’re proud of her just because—before she brings home straight A’s or declares a new achievement. And as you watch her dance routine for the fifteenth time, plant a smile on your face. When she’s up on stage, peering into a dark audience, that smile is what she’ll see.

The older she gets, the more she’ll roll her eyes, tell you you’re overprotective, and complain that you embarrass her. Deep down, however, she’ll be grateful someone cares so much. Your attention makes her feel worthy.

And isn’t that what we all want, daughters who feel worthy? Who have a core of confidence in place for when the world starts chipping away? It saddens me to think not all girls find early validation at home. On the other hand, there are plenty of daddies knocking the ball out of the park. And to these dads I’d like to say, keep up the good work.

 

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Thanks for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 

 


Posted by Kari on October 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Power of a Praying Mom

“I pray because I can’t help myself.

I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping.

It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” C.S. Lewis

In my early years of motherhood, I had some moments where I felt too good for the mundane nature of this job, too intelligent to not be using my brain.

And while I never would have admitted this publicly for fear of sounding like a brat or total snob, I did have some thoughts that, looking back, make me realize how much I had to learn.

I’m a results-oriented person. It’s my nature is to keep my eyes on the finish line and not stop until I’m there. And though this mentality served me well in school and at work, it backfired when I became a mom, because at the end of the day there’s not a lot to show while raising kids. No one cares to hear how many diapers I’ve changed, how many dishes I’ve cleaned, how many boo-boos I’ve covered with Neosporin and Band-Aids.praying mom5

Back in the early years, I envied the stay-at-home moms with nannies or extensive help. I’d think about how together I could be and how I could really enjoy my kids if only I could delegate the grunt work. I saw absolutely no value in the grunt work. To me it was a waste of time, a distraction that kept me from showering my kids with extra love and attention.

Then one day I had a friend over, and as we commiserated about our lives being Ground Hog day, the same routine over and over again, she shared a perspective she’d heard at church. By looking at mundane tasks as acts of service to God, and giving thanks for the stories behind them, you could turn burdens into blessings.

While unloading the dishwasher, for example, you could pray, Thank you, God, for the family I shared a meal with, and the dishes I must clean as a result.

While doing laundry you could pray, Thank you, God, for the children who wear these clothes.

While packing lunches you could pray, Bless the child who eats this meal, and thank you for food to nourish her.

While waiting at the doctor’s office you could pray, Thank you, God, that we have health insurance and access to skilled physicians.

As my friend’s words sank in, I began to see how instrumental prayer can be in making hard things bearable. I realized how silent gratitude can change my heart and give new meaning to sacrifices. Even mind-numbing work gains value if I offer it up to God, and when I venture into territory that requires me to set all pride aside, I gain a humility and unity with God that deepens my spiritual life.

I used to see prayer as something I only did at night. I thought the room had to be quiet, and I had be singularly focused. But now I know I can shoot God a prayer anytime. I don’t have to drop to my knees, recite a Hail Mary, or let anyone know. What goes on in my head and my heart is between me and my Maker, and even if my prayer is five seconds long God listens. I can ask Him for anything - Please bless that nice man who was kind to my daughter; Please give me the right words to help my friend; Please help me figure out what’s wrong with my child; Please forgive me for losing my temper - because what God wants most from me is dialogue.

Like every mom, I need to vent sometimes. I have gripes about my job that get under my skin and make me want to explode. While I’m thankful to have friends who sympathize, I’m also aware that complaining is a habit. When whining becomes my mindset – as it has during several spells of my mothering journey – it blinds me to the goodness inherent in my children. All I see is the drudgery, the piles, the constant stream of neediness.

Being in this mindset makes me feel drained, depressed, and a burden to others.

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But when I channel my frustrations into prayer, I give meaning to the mundane. I use my trials to draw closer to God, which is always good. Slowly, my heart softens and learns what it means to serve. Motherhood isn’t about me raising perfect kids; it’s about me honoring God as I give my best and grow spiritually. It’s about getting my heart in the right place, worrying less about results and more about the character I build through my journey. 

My children are God’s gift to me. How I raise them is my gift back. I pray because I can’t handle motherhood alone. I’m not strong enough, wise enough, or tough enough to cope. But through God, I can be confident. I can find peace in chaos and take pride in simple tasks. While desperation is what often drives me into prayer, the emotion I feel coming out is joy. Yes, prayer can change the future, but what we tend to forget is prayer’s miraculous ability to transform what already exists.

Through prayer we can see ordinary events in a new light. We can notice what’s sacred in each sacrifice. We can view sacrifices not as ball-and-chains weighing us down, but as spiritual gifts that elevate us in mind and spirit, allowing us a taste of heaven that leaves us craving more.

Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and appreciate you dropping by. To keep up with future posts, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY or find  me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below. 


Posted by Kari on October 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

The AA Way: 10 Lessons We Can All Learn From

I’m not a member of AA, but through random events I’ve met some amazing women who are.

They are funny. They’re insightful. They’re a joy to be around and possibly the most non-judgmental people I’ve ever met. The more time I spend with them, the more I realize what an incredible program AA is. Truth be told, I’m jealous of their connection and what they learn in group therapy because what AA boils down to is a healthy, wholesome way of life. It’s a philosophy anyone can benefit from, addict or not.aa way copy

Now, you may think you don’t know any addicts. You may assume addiction recovery is irrelevant to you since no one in your circle is struggling. If so, it’s time to broaden your mindset.

The truth about addiction, one of the most pressing problems of our generation, is that it’s a dark, prevalent secret in every community. It’s more common than people think, and with all the things people can be addicted to – alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, shopping, eating, gambling, work, technology, exercise – chances are everyone will be affected at some point in some way.

That cute mom you sit with at the ball field? It may be her CEO husband that’s a high-functioning alcoholic. Your neighbor down the street whose kids look like J Crew models? It may be her son addicted to porn. That PTA chair everyone calls the Energizer Bunny? It may be her abusing prescription drugs, taking her child’s ADD medicine because it boosts her energy while also inducing weight loss.

The point is, you never know what’s happening behind closed doors. You never know who’s suffering, who’s lost, who desperately needs help. There’s a lot of shame in addiction, and since shame feeds on secrecy, it makes the problem worse. It keeps the addict in a vicious cycle, leading them to self-medicate when shame gets the best of them.

I can’t write about AA as an insider, but I can demystify the program. I can help eliminate negative connotations that outsiders like myself hold before being educated. Most important, I can shed light on the AA mindset to 1) encourage anyone who may think they need help to look into it, and 2) share insights that can enrich anyone’s life. As I’ve said, what AA boils down to is a healthy, wholesome lifestyle.

It’s a blueprint for happiness anyone can apply.

With that said, here are 10 lessons of the AA way that I believe you should know:

*LESSON #1: ”We admitted we were powerless.” The first step to addiction recovery is surrendering your life to a higher power. People think addiction is a matter of willpower, and that the sufferer is weak. But alcoholism is an illness. It impairs mental capacities as much as the body. The cornerstone of AA is a belief that only a spiritual experience can conquer the illness. Only through a profound dependence on grace and submission to God can you overcome your weaknesses.

Note that AA was founded on the Christian God, but the organization has since adopted a more inclusive tone that allows members to submit to a “God of your understanding.” This has enabled AA principles to help millions of people who don’t believe in God.

*LESSON #2: ”We must only sweep our side of the street.” AA believes in taking responsibility for your side of the street – things in your control. Anything on the other side is someone else’s to sweep. If you owe money, you pay the debt. If you’ve wronged someone, you apologize. Whether the person accepts your apology is irrelevant because that’s their side of the street. You can’t control someone’s behavior, but you can control your reaction. You can let go of frustrations beyond your power and focus straight ahead, continually asking yourself, “What’s the next right thing I can do? What mess can I pick up?”

*LESSON #3: “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Resentments are unhealthy, and harboring resentments makes you sick. AA believes it’s important to cleanse yourself of resentment, which takes many shapes and may be toward people or even institutions like work or church. Part of cleansing is admitting your fault in each situation and working through your resentments daily to stay healthy. When it won’t cause more harm, you’re encouraged to approach the person you resent and admit your feelings.

*LESSON #4: “Seek progress, not perfection.” The road to recovery is more about the journey than the destination. Sometimes it takes a few steps back to ultimately move forward. If you relapse, you’re urged not to throw it all away, but to get back on the wagon. Everyone makes mistakes, and forgiving yourself is as crucial as forgiving others.

LESSON #5: “Gratitude is the best attitude.” Gratitude is big in AA, and so are gratitude lists. By writing a gratitude list, you add up small blessings that are important but easily forgotten. You realize that despite what’s lacking in your life, you have much to be thankful for. Since alcoholics and other addicts often feel they’ve wasted time, many are grateful to have a new lease on life and a clearer view of what matters.

*LESSON #6: “By making a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves, we can improve.” AA believes that admitting mistakes and practicing forgiveness are essential to a good life. By assessing past behavior, you can identity why you do what you do and make changes. By addressing resentments and fears, you can let go of the past and grow into the future.

*LESSON #7: “We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.” A healthy self-image is based on humility and strength through God. Typically, men and women need the 12 steps for different reasons: Men need AA to break them down because pride is the root of their issue. Women need it to build them up because low self-esteem is the root of theirs. 

Pastor Rick Warren says, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” His message is admit your weaknesses, be grateful for them, and openly share them. Why? Because sharing your strengths fosters competition; sharing your weaknesses fosters community. The limitations God allows in your life are blessings in disguise, because they guarantee that God will show up to help. A weakness isn’t about a character flaw that can and should be changed; it’s any limitation that you inherited or can’t change. 

AA recognizes how humility translates into honesty, transparency, and connection. Through your weaknesses, you have the greatest opportunity to relate to others and meaningfully impact their lives. Since grace meets you in your place of weakness, it allows God to use your humanity for His glory. It enables you to draw closer to God and handle uncomfortable truths about yourself. Suddenly you can self-reflect or take deep moral inventories without stirring self-hate and shame because you know your worth as a child of God is solid. You’re loved regardless.

*LESSON #8: “Life is best lived one day at a time.” There is holiness in the present that can’t be found looking back or ahead. Taking it “one day at a time” teaches you to live in the moment and not get overwhelmed by tomorrow. For an alcoholic or addict – who may struggle to abstain for a day, an hour, even a minute - this makes life manageable.

“One day at a time” translates to more than just sobriety; it’s also doing a job one task at a time…cleaning a mess one mess at a time…solving problems one problem at a time. It’s putting first things first and simplifying.

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*LESSON #9: “Be of service to others.” AA believes the best way to help yourself is to help others. An AA meeting is not an advice session – it’s a share session. Members share experiences without fear of judgment and among people who understand. It’s interesting to think that an AA member whom society considers a “lost cause” because they keep disappointing family and friends could actually be doing a lot of good behind the scenes.

When your friends are other addicts, you might be the 911 call someone makes in the middle of the night when they’re thinking of ending it all. You might be the voice of reason for someone sinking fast. No matter how bad off you are, there’s always someone in deeper trouble. When you help a friend in the trenches, you distance yourself from your problems. You get out of your head and see the bigger picture.

Your life doesn’t have to be perfect to make an impact. Whatever your circumstances are, whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever mistakes you’re making – God can use you. As Christine Caine says, “God uses rescued people to rescue people.”

*LESSON #10: ”Pray.” AA relies heavily on prayer and meditation. In the morning you pray for God’s will. At night you thank Him and reflect on your day – things you did right, things you did wrong, amends you need to make. Throughout the day you pray as needed, asking for the serenity to accept what you can’t change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

For most AA members, these 10 lessons become ingrained into a way of life. They’re essential to recovery, along with attending meetings, working the 12 steps, having a sponsor, and reaching out to others.

I’ve only scratched the surface of AA, but what I hope anyone reading this takes away is 1) a better understanding of addiction recovery and 2) the assurance that  HELP and HOPE exist.

If you think you have a problem, try visiting different AA meetings to find one that clicks with you. Each group has its own dynamics and demographics; it may take time to find the best fit. Also, seek to befriend the seasoned members: those with long sobriety histories, meaningful lives, a love for AA that keeps them coming, humility, and an appreciation for where they are despite their mistakes. Newcomers are advised to “stick with the winners” because, like any organization, there may be members who like to lead impressionable newcomers astray.

If you’re concerned about a loved one, contact Al-Anon, a support network for friends and family members of problem drinkers. Also, know that there are 12-step programs based on AA for every addiction under the sun (Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and Workaholics Anonymous, to name a few).

Addiction recovery is not easy. The addict must be motivated, for “willingness” is key to recovery. It’s easy for outsiders to judge, but what we need to remember is that joining a 12-step program is an act of courage, not a show of weakness. It’s adopting a way of thinking and living that everyone should take to heart. Most of all, it’s a chance to experience the power of grace, forgiveness, and redemption, to climb one of life’s hardest mountains and discover a view that is richer, more beautiful, and more meaningful than any view you’ve seen before.

Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and appreciate you dropping by. To keep up with future posts, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below.


Posted by Kari on September 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

If I Die Young

Nobody likes to think about their mortality, but the untimely deaths last year of two Birmingham moms – both younger than me – really made me consider mine.

I never met Laura Black or Elliot Williams in person, but they inspired me. They were the moms/friends/wives/amazing women everyone knew and loved. For months I followed their stories on Facebook, praying as our mutual friends posted updates and bawling my eyes out at my computer. Whenever I started to complain about my life, I thought about Laura and Elliot. Compared to two moms losing their earthly battles to cancer, my problems suddenly seemed small.

What Laura and Elliot made me mindful of was that good health is a privilege. All the ordinary events I take for granted – driving carpool, grocery shopping, taking care of my kids – would seem like amazing blessings if one day I woke up and couldn’t do them. Because of Laura and Elliot, I became more grateful. I realized what an honor it is to be able to serve the people I love.

After these amazing women passed, I sat down and did what I’d thought about doing for years: I wrote down long-term advice for my daughters. I thought about what I want them to know when they go to college…start working…get married…begin a family. Just in case I’m not around.

Below is a list I’ve made as a starting point, something to add to over time. I’m sharing it to encourage other parents to do the same. Yes, this was hard to compose, but it was also a relief because with a written legacy comes a small peace of mind. Please know that you don’t have to be a writer. Should something happen to you or me, our families wouldn’t be looking for perfection. What they’d be looking for is anything that sounds like us and reflects our unique filter. What they’d want is a keepsake that keeps our memory alive as accurately and poignantly as possible.

With that said, here’s my list. Here are my pointers for my daughters:

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*Genuine interest in other people will attract you friends quickly. If you learn to be a good listener, you can find friends anywhere.

*Nothing done out of love is a waste. Love is the best gift you have to offer.

*You’ll spend half your life waiting – waiting for a test result, waiting for a relationship, waiting for a chance – but remember: What happens to you while you’re waiting is often more important than what you’re waiting for.

*The world is full of talent. It’s not a lack of ability holding most people back – it’s attitude.

*People will push you as far as you let them. Set personal parameters, and learn to say NO.

*Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s all right to be the only person in the room not doing something.

*Be grateful. This alone puts you ahead of the game.

*Character is who you are in the dark. It’s doing right when no one sees. Character enables you to smile at yourself in mirror. Seek it.

*You will make mistakes. You will feel ashamed. You will know the sting of regret. Own your choices and accept your flawed nature, using the past to your advantage. When you learn from mistakes, you wind up in a better place.

*When misfortune strikes, see it as a chapter, not the story of your life. A storm in one chapter can lead to a rainbow in the next.

*Practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is about letting go and releasing anger. Not everyone who wrongs you will ask for forgiveness. Forgive them anyway, and move on without them.

*Don’t judge. We all need mercy, and you never know what someone’s going through.

*Be real, be authentic, be you. Wear your skin proudly.

*Stay away from toxic people, and don’t enable or justify bad behavior. People must hit rock-bottom alone. You can love someone without them being in your life.

*Find a job that pays the bills. If it’s not your heart’s desire, pursue that on the side. Not all passions immediately churn profits.

*Beware of white liars. Small liars become big liars.

*Trust your gut, and value your loved ones’ opinions. When they all tell you the same thing, it’s time to listen.

*Speak the truth, and deal with the consequences. Sweeping the truth under the rug aggravates it, creating explosions down the road.

*There’s no disgrace in falling down. The only disgrace is not getting up.

*Believe in goodness. Don’t let the bad seeds in your life ruin your hope in mankind.

*Stay close to your siblings. Your sibling relationships will be the longest relationships in your life, so nurture the ties. Should the world desert you, I hope your sisters are your last friends standing.sisters4 (1)

*Don’t keep score in love. Keeping score is exhausting and breeds competition. Nothing about love should be competitive.

*In both friendship and love, it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons. If someone treats you poorly, or puts you on an emotional roller coaster, drop them. A relationship is not about you keeping another person happy. It’s about two people making each other happy, being better together than apart. (Think of it as synergy, where 1 + 1 = 3.)

*Say what you mean. It’s unfair to expect others to be mind-readers.

*When you’re upset, ask yourself if the issue will matter in one year…five years…twenty years. Chances are it won’t.

*Clean up your own mess. You earned the job.

*Keep God first. He loves you madly and has plans for your future. Problems often begin when people drift from God. A strong prayer life can keep you anchored.

So how about you? Are you ready to begin? All it takes is some pen and paper or a date with your computer to get the ball rolling. Reflect on your past and empty your heart and mind until there’s nothing left to tap. Don’t edit yourself either – not until the end. The point is to get it down. What your family wants most is YOU. As long as you capture that, you can’t go wrong.

And while your motivation to make a list may be external, for the benefit of your loved ones, chances are you’ll discover intrinsic rewards, too. Writing is cathartic, and with that comes a magic that flows two ways, blessing the reader and the writer. Words are powerful, and the words that come from you – well, they’re the most meaningful words on earth to those who know you best. They’re the torch to be carried into the next generation, a slice of your existence that can’t be bound by time.

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Thanks for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and love to connect. Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teen and tween girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon and Christianbook.com. I would love your support in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014.

 

 

 


Posted by Kari on September 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

What is a Sister?

“I hate my sister! I wish I was an only child!”sister5

These aren’t words a mother dreams of hearing, yet I venture to say they’re heard in many homes. Whenever they’re voiced in mine, my heart breaks in two.

My girls love each other, and I catch them all the time having Hallmark moments, moments where they cackle and grin simultaneously, making their faces mirror images…moments where they dance around the house acting like nuts and singing their favorite songs…moments where they whisper in quiet corners while glancing up to make sure I can’t hear.

In these moments, I have hope. I see a foreshadowing of the underlying bonds that will cement later in life. I remember why I have four kids, because what they give each other – the magical world of a shared childhood – is more powerful than anything I can offer.

I want my kids to be close to me, but equally important to me is for them to be close with each other. That’s why it hurts me when they fight and insult each other like they’d never insult a friend. That’s why I lose it when they pinch, kick, scream, and pull hair. My kids are great at practicing kindness outside the home, but inside the home their kindness needs work. Inside the home is where guards come down, gloves come off, and dark sides show.

I know this is all perfectly normal. I grew up with three sisters and trust me, we got brutal. We yelled and shook the Richter scale in ways my friends still talk about. But today, it’s water under the bridge. We love each other and laugh about it. In some weird, twisted way I’m glad for those crazy fights, because without them our past would be boring. Conflict is the genesis of any great story, and maybe that’s what makes the sister story so interesting, because the conflict that occurs in spades keeps the plot juicy.MBE - 2012-9-2

In any case, I want my girls to appreciate each other. I want them to realize how lucky they are to have three sisters, three security blankets to carry through life. Friends are wonderful, but what siblings bring to the table is a loyalty and insight other relationships can’t touch. Only their sisters can understand what it’s like having me as a mother and Harry as a father. Only their sisters know the behind-the-scenes dynamics shaping these formative years. Only their sisters have the full scoop on them, beginning at birth. Only their sisters can bridge them to the past and the memories they’ve created together – memories they’ll want to revisit the rest again and again in life.

But right now, the perks of sisterhood fly over my daughters’ heads. They can’t think about their sisters being their future best friends because their sisters are too annoying. They’re stealing clothes from their closet, tattling, and cutting into the attention they want. Then there’s the family budget to contend with. With each child added the belt has tightened, and what that means for everyone is fewer splurges and smaller pieces of the pie.

Harry and I have a rule that what we do for one, we must be prepared to do for four. This mentality leads us to say “No” to a number of requests the kids have, such as attending the fanciest summer camp and taking horseback riding lessons. Even if we had the means we wouldn’t give our kids everything they want, but it’s still hard to disappoint them. No one wants to be the bad guy telling them they can’t do what their best friend can.

Having a big family requires some sacrifices, and these sacrifices don’t always sit well with my girls. They get tired of sharing, and I get it because I felt the same as a child. But rather than dwell on what I may be depriving them of, I focus on what I’m building for the future. I remember that the real pay-off of sisterhood will come later in life, when they’re not living under the same roof.

What, exactly, is a sister? There are a million ways to answer, but personally I’d say a sister is someone who:

*Considers trading you for the neighbor’s dog after you’re born, then changes her mind a second before the deal is sealed in the middle of the street;

*Lets you hang with her friends at recess because you’re wandering the school playground alone, then goes back to ignoring you at home;

*Gets so bored at home she winds up playing with you, engaging in dance routines and the make-believe school you set up;camp-86

*Prepares you for cheerleading try-outs, getting your toe-touch just right;

*Notices how grumpy you are three weeks after you lose the class election and tells you to get over it;

*Teaches you to use dangerous tools of the trade, like eyelash curlers and hot rollers;

*Tells you your jeans are crawling up your butt and that brown isn’t your color;

*Comes back to the dressing room of your favorite department store holding the same dress you’re about to try on;

*Gets nicer once she goes off to college, which makes you nicer in return;

*Rallies the troops when you go through Rush so you have no doubt her sorority wants you;

*Continues getting nicer, a little more so each year;

*Starts calling just to chat and sharing secrets you have to promise not to tell Mom and Dad;

*Goes shopping with your boyfriend to pick out your birthday present;

*Counsels your boyfriend when he’s confused and can’t understand you, offering advice on what approach will work best;

*Calls you when you’re going through a wild phase to say your parents are worried and don’t like your latest boyfriend, and that Mom’s been praying a Novena for two days;

*Gives her stamp of approval when you finally find THE ONE;IMG_3377

*Helps you pick out your wedding dress and takes her duties as maid of honor very seriously, going above and beyond;

*Sleeps with you the night of your rehearsal dinner because someone at the party hurt your feelings, and you need to pull it together before the big day;

*Squeals with glee when you tell her you’re pregnant, promising not to breathe a word until the sonogram confirms it;

*Hosts your baby shower, and cries when your child is born;

*Calls you when her baby’s six months old and she and her husband are about to take a trip, asking that should something happen to them, would you and your husband would be legal guardians of their child? In that moment you know your sister loves you, and with choked sobs you say, “Yes,” and forgive every injustice of the past;

*Helps you survive the monotonous years of motherhood, bringing her kids over when you’re down so your babies and toddlers can play while you two talk and share moral support;

*Agrees to be your emergency contact, and drops everything when you have an emergency;

*Calls you the night of a terrible storm because a funny feeling in her gut told her to, and on the other end of the phone you stand stunned over her psychic powers because just a minute ago, a tree fell on your house, and you haven’t told a single person yet;

*Gives you peace of mind that should you die young, there’s another woman on this planet who knows how you’d want your children raised, and she’d move mountains to finish what you started. She’d make it her mission to love, guide, and protect your beloved. She’d keep your memory alive, not letting anyone forget how wonderful you once were.

Sister relationships aren’t all Hallmark moments. At every age there are tensions, tiffs, complications, and challenges. But what makes sisters great is the commitment that comes from being family and the intuition of two women who can read each other’s minds. A sister knows what her sister needs. Sometimes it’s encouragement. Sometimes it’s wisdom. Sometimes it’s a helping hand, a loving touch, or a hard truth no one else will say.

But at the end of the day, our sister is still our sister. She’s an anchor in the storm, the calm in the chaos, the last friend standing. Through thick and thin a sister remains, because what happens to you happens to her too.

Me, my sisters, and my brother

My awesome siblings: 3 sisters and 1 brother

In time my four daughters will realize this gift they’ve been given. They’ll see these early years as initiation into a club with deep, mystical bonds. Being a club member myself, I know what’s ahead, and that’s fun. I’m in on the secret that awaits, a secret that reminds me not to stress when they act like savages because their relationships aren’t doomed. Even at their worst there’s hope. Even at their worst there’s love.

This story my daughters are writing is juicy already. There is compassion and competition, laughter and tears, joy and pain. Yes, it’s a lot of emotion. Yes, it gets intense. But since sisters are my comfort zone, I love it. Sisters are what I grew up with, and sisters are what I’ll grow old with. Only this time around I’m a survivor. I’ve made it to the other side.

I’m a better person because of my siblings, and I pray one day my daughters will say the same. I pray they’ll see how the first females in their life taught them everything they need to know about friendship, loyalty, conflict resolution, and forgiveness.

Most of all, I hope they find in each other kindred spirits who give them courage to be who they are and a shortcut home when life is too much and they need a reminder of how treasured, safe, and loved they truly are. 

Thank you for reading this article today! I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYsubscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below. 


Posted by Kari on September 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

A Stronger You on the Other Side of Pain: Guest Post by Christy Kyser Truitt

My then three-year-old son lay on the ER table, his left femur cracked due to a trampoline accident. I stood behind his head, his chubby cheeks sandwiched in my palms, as they pulled, stretched, and re-set his leg. I buckled with each scream and washed his face with my tears.

Author Christy Kyser Truitt

Author Christy Kyser Truitt

His eyes never left mine as if to say, “This hurts so bad, but if I keep looking at you, I know I’ll be okay.”

And he was.

The same is true in our walk with God. Sometimes God allows us to journey through painful seasons. Hearts broken in two by deceit. Homes divided by lies. Bullies at school who terrorize our children; battles they must fight alone. Job losses. Financial difficulty. Dreams unrealized. Death of loved ones. On and on and on.

Yet rather than fix our eyes on Him, we tend to layer up. Cloak ourselves in unforgiveness to establish a sense of control. Pull on righteous indignation to avoid the hurt. Allow anger to fuel our motives, justified as a reaction to the pain delivered to us. Swaddled in the wooly blanket of self-preservation.

As a result, God’s voice grows dim. With limbs snapped in two by life and others…by ourselves…all the layers push God away until we force Him out of the room, down the hall, and through the automatic doors.

Here’s the kicker. He never moved. We did. We’re the ones left in the parking lot while God waits for us in the place of healing.

Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Make no mistake, though. We can separate ourselves from Him through the will of the flesh. Hard not to with the kind of pain this world inflicts. Like a wounded yard dog, we run under the porch and watch the world pass by. We take our eyes off His and focus on ourselves.

Six weeks after the horrific visit to the emergency room, I viewed an x-ray of my son’s leg. A white calcification zig-zagged across the bone, fortifying what once was broken. Two weeks after the x-ray, he ran on a stronger limb than what he had before the accident.christy1

When life pulls on your bones, keep your eyes on our Heavenly Father. Don’t let a broken world separate you from Him. Stay face-to-face, nose-to-nose. The pain might remain, but a stronger you waits on the other side.

 

Christy Kyser Truitt is an award-winning author who blogs daily on Facebook at The Write Purpose. Her new book, Justice for All, is available in both eBook and paperback at all online bookstores. In it, the heroine, K.D. Jennings, must first forgive her past in order to find her future. Through a court case with surprising twists and turns, the sting and joy of love in all forms, K.D. learns freedom from anger’s bondage provides the true Justice for All.

Order Justice for All Here

Visit Christy’s website


Posted by Kari on September 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Beauty’s in the Mind, Not the Mirror

There’s a difference between looking pretty and being pretty. I learned this the year I started college at a major university.

From day one on campus, I was blown away by all the beautiful girls. Everywhere I looked there were knock-outs, girls to suit any taste or preference: tall, short, curvy, lean, blonde, brunette, glamorous, natural…the list goes on.beauty7copy

It was an intimidating situation, especially when I considered that the ratio of boys to girls on campus was 1-to-4. As I thought about the dates I hoped to have, and how the odds were against me, I couldn’t help but wonder how I was supposed to compete.

Over the next four years, I learned lessons in beauty that changed my outlook. Above all, I learned that while a girl’s appearance can attract attention, it can’t sustain it, because beauty without virtue is a wash. I saw girls fall from a 10 to a 6 on the beauty scale by being mean, vindictive, or vain. Likewise, I saw girls shoot up in rank because of character and inner light. Eventually, I realized that pretty girls are a dime a dozen, easy to replace. Unless a girl has something besides looks going for her, she won’t be able to compete, because there’s nothing unique to set her apart.

There are two kinds of beauty in this world: beauty in the eye, and beauty in the mind. While the eye’s opinion matters upfront, when a first impression is made, it’s the mind’s opinion that stands the test of time. In the mind is where true beauty registers, for it takes into account factors like behavior, attitude, heart, and soul.

Pretty is as pretty does, after all.

For someone young, this may be hard to understand, but as age we get it. We realize that the better we know someone, the less their appearance matters. We stop noticing even their most arresting features. Inner beauty brings a person alive, illuminating them like lights on a Christmas tree. Where inner beauty doesn’t exist, there are no lights, just a tree with ornaments.

We waste a lot of time in this world being insecure over appearance. I’m as guilty as anyone, and I admit that when I like my reflection in the mirror, I want to take the world by the horns. I want to live big. But the danger of chasing the eye’s approval is that it holds no long-term value. It’s superficial and shallow, and when it becomes our singular focus, we become superficial and shallow, too. There’s no way around this, because what consumes us is who we are.

If we really want to be beautiful – to ourselves and others – we should evaluate ourselves as a package. We should see beauty as a running tally, a tally that gains or loses points with every choice we make. Above all, we should consider how people feel after being in our presence. Do they feel uplifted? Inspired? Warm and refreshed? Or do they feel indifferent? Down? Inadequate and ashamed because they don’t fit our mold?

To me, the epitome of a beautiful person is someone whose company I crave because she touches my soul. It’s someone who is high in authenticity, but not high on herself. A beautiful person represents the truth, and as I see it in her, I search for it in my life.self worth

As a man named Frédéric Fekkai says, “Beauty’s in the mind, not the mirror.” Let’s take care of ourselves, make the most of what we have, but keep the pursuit in moderation. Looking good can be a full-time job, but even if we achieve perfection we’d still be lacking, because this outer obsession would dim our inner light. Inner light can’t be bought in a bottle, or created in surgery. Inner light comes from the joy we add to the world. It radiates from within.

Pretty is as pretty does. Appearance is a starting point, an invitation to look closer. Pretty girls are a dime a dozen, but true beauty is priceless. May women of all ages remember this and embrace the freedom that comes when we realize that beauty is not about conforming to a mold, but rather breaking it.

Thank you for reading this article, printed in the September 2013 issues of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. Please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYsubscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, feel free to share it through the social media below. For another post on truth and inner beauty in girls, check out “10 Truths Young Girls Should Know.”

 


Posted by Kari on September 3, 2013 at 11:13 am

Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World

Recently I had a blog post – “10 Truths Young Girls Should Know” – go viral. It was a fun experience that provoked great dialogue. Since then friends and readers alike have shared with me stories that opened my eyes wider to the culture today’s teenagers face.

What I’m seeing is this: It’s not enough to simply tell our kids to “do the right thing.” To be effective, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. We need to understand why it may be hard to go against the grain and help them build the courage to do so.surf3 copy 4

We all know adults live in a critical world, and teen culture mirrors that. In some ways they have it worse because 1) teenagers are so insecure and self-focused and 2) there’s more tolerance for meanness and insensitivity. As we get older we value kindness more – which is why kind people become popular long-term – but in the halls of a junior high it’s not virtues that determine pecking order, but typically dominance, belonging to the right crowd, and survival-of-the-fittest tests.

At a private school my friend’s children attend, the bullying is mostly athletes picking on weaker boys and calling them “gay.” Whenever my friend’s son has stood up for victims, he’s been ostracized. So one day, her son decided to join in and call a boy “gay” himself. He got caught and sent to the principal.

When my friend tried to explain how this was a blessing, because she’d rather him get caught now versus later with a bigger offense, her son didn’t get it. One thing he said while stating his side helped me understand what we parents are working against:

“But Mom – you wouldn’t believe the people who started being nice to me after I said that.”

Process this a moment, because it’s relevant to every age. Who of us hasn’t compromised our values before to fit in or win approval from a certain crowd? Who hasn’t experienced that crazy sensation of being cheered on for something we know is wrong? The behavior that gets celebrated in our world makes no sense sometimes, but that’s because we live in a warped world. Our way isn’t God’s way, and unless we distinguish the two – learning how to be IN the world but not OF the world – we don’t stand a chance against a culture that wants to suck us under.

A lot of teenage bullying today occurs on social media. Even if your child isn’t on social media their name can get dragged through the mud when a comment like “Jane Green is a DORK!” is posted and texted to Jane Green by someone who took a screen shot with their cell phone camera. Several parents who emailed me had a daughter attacked through Ask.fm, a virtual hangout where kids amuse and torture each other with anonymous questions. Ask.fm is accessed through Instagram (which I’m on and I love) if the person opens an account. Anonymity makes people brave, and you’d be shocked at some dialogue among normal 11- and 12-year-old kids. All words are fair game, even expletives and sexual remarks.

Questions typically start off innocuous like “What’s your idea of a perfect day?” and “What’s your favorite song?” But then they start crossing lines with statements like “Why don’t you kill yourself?” and “Who are the five biggest losers in your class?” Since kids answer every question, names get thrown around haphazardly, and it could be your child or mine getting called out publicly as the biggest loser in school.

One mom I know who checked her sixth grader’s account saw someone had written, “Why do you try to hang out with ___, ___ and ___? You are not cool, you are fat, you are a loser and no one likes you!” When she asked her daughter about it, her daughter broke down. She’d been too embarrassed to say anything, but what a gift that her mom saw it and could talk her through it.

I’m not trying to create fear or make us hate teenagers, because there are plenty of great ones, but it’s important we don’t enter teen culture blindly. Even if our child’s not getting attacked, someone’s child is, and that’s reason enough to care. We can’t anticipate everything, but we can teach our kids to step back and assess a situation before jumping in. We can remind them right is right even if no one’s doing it, wrong is wrong even if everyone’s doing it. We can explain how the wholesome choices that make them stars in elementary school may get them labeled as goody-goodies come junior high, but that’s okay because staying true to their values will bring the RIGHT friends into their lives, genuine friends who have their back and will stand the test of time. With these friends they can rise above anything that seeks to diminish them.

We can also counter our critical culture by making home a soft place to land. We can offer our children a guarantee of unconditional love. When our love is unflinching in victory or defeat, acceptance or rejection, it takes the pressure off them. It gives our kids courage to test their wings because there’s a sure thing waiting at home.good3 copy

The rock of our children’s courage can only be found in God. As parents we can remind them of their identity in Christ and how NO ONE can strip that away. We can take them to church on Sundays and point out that the road to happiness is paved with holiness. That doesn’t mean they have to live as nuns and monks. They can still enjoy worldly pleasures – parties, movies, football games, even social media – as long as they seek their fun in the right places and never at anyone’s expense.

All of us are here to shine light into a dark world. But to shine light, we must live in light. We must pursue what’s true and just. So how does a teenager shine light without getting laughed out of school? How do they find their place without selling out? I’ve started compiling thoughts for my daughters, some of which include:

*If someone’s sitting alone at lunch, invite them to sit with you and your friends. A circle should never be so tight that no one else can be included. If you’re alone at lunch, sit with the person who needs a friend most. I guarantee they’ll appreciate your company more than anyone in the cafeteria.

*Use social media for positive purposes. Never post a picture or put in writing – even a text – what you’d be humiliated to see splashed across a newspaper or the Internet. Cell phones can make the most private interaction public in a split-second, so think twice before sharing ANYTHING.

Use Instagram and Facebook to build people up, not tear them down. Brag on a friend who won an art contest. Post inspirational quotes. Share a picture of your dog or your baby sister. If someone posts the comment “Jane Green is a DORK!”, stop the madness. Be the one who says, “She is not! She’s a great girl. Let’s play nice.” Yes, you may risk ridicule, but you’ll sleep with a clear conscience. You’ll bring forward like-minded people who are equally fed up with senseless attacks.

*If someone’s nice only when you follow their rules, steer clear. Be cordial to everyone, but pour your energy into friendships that make you a better person. People who try to control and manipulate you are dead weight.

*If you are popular, use it for good. The popular crowd has an incredible opportunity to impact lives. Every class has its own dynamic and identity, and when those at the top of the food chain stick up for the underdogs it changes the entire landscape.

*Remember we live in a warped world. People can become celebrities and build cult followings by putting out trash. But when you put out trash, you get trash back. You wind up empty because trash can’t fill your cup. If you want abundance, put out light. Only light can fill your cup and draw good people into your orbit.

The culture that wants to pull us under is like an ocean undertow. When we ignore red flags and venture into rough waters, we put ourselves at risk. Yes, we’ll catch waves and enjoy thrill rides, but when we fall we’ll fall hard. We’ll encounter a force beneath the surface that’s stronger than we think. We’ll struggle to come up for air and wonder if we’ll ever see light again.

Only the force above water can defeat the undertow. Only the force above water can deliver us from rough places.

My hope for my children is that they learn to ride waves that glorify God and avoid waves that interfere with His plans. I hope they chalk up to experience the waves they regretfully miss because they got off-track. I hope they remember our God is a generous and merciful God, creating new waves each day just for them. I hope that if an undertow takes them, they’re humble enough to reach up for help.

When the negativity gets overwhelming, I hope they raise their face toward the sun and remember the source of all truth, all goodness, all truth. Training their attention there, they’ll think less about the force tugging at their heels and more about the force tugging them toward heaven, toward home, toward the person they were made to be.

Thank you for reading this article. I’m so grateful to have you here! To keep up with future posts, please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYsubscribe to my blog (above), or find me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. If this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below.


Posted by Kari on August 27, 2013 at 11:35 am