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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a reason why college administrators often call today’s students “teacups” – too fragile to cope with normal life challenges. There’s a reason why psychologists are seeing a record number of 20-somethings who are depressed and don’t know why, because they claim they had magical childhoods, their parents are their best friends, and they never experienced tragedy or anything more than normal disappointments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

 

 


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

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The Woman Who Loves Her People Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day!


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

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Loving & Letting Go

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

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

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

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

How do you know how much rope to give?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


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

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

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

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Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body - FINAL

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

It said,

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

I disagree.

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

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

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

But saying nothing is not the answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She needs you to say that she is gorgeous.

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

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

Because someone believes she is worth fighting for.

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

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

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

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

 


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

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We’re Only Human, and Humans Make Mistakes

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

Days we want to disappear.                                                   

Days we want to stay in bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiving those who hurt us.

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

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

Showing grace and compassion to the mistakes of others.

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

Seeking help when we keep repeating the same mistakes.

Letting go of grudges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


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

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8 Lessons I Learned from My Daughter’s Cheer Tryouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Countdown Chain

The Countdown Chain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lastly, I’ve released a book through Thomas Nelson designed to empower girls through faith. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be ordered online at AmazonBarnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com and found everywhere books are sold. It’s had an amazing response so far, as girls are reading it cover to cover, and parents and youth leaders are giving it a great endorsement. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.

 

 


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

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Helping Kids Build a Thick Skin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the March 2015 issue of Village Living and 280 Living10TruthsCOVER

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


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

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The Books Our Daughters Read: Why They Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article today. If you found this message compelling, please share it through the social media below. Also, if you have a favorite Christian book (fiction or non-fiction) you’d recommend for teen girls, please share in a comment below. 10truths_rnd2

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. To have future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

My book for teens & tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, can be found online at AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million, and Christianbook.com and everywhere books are sold. So far the response has been fantastic, as girls are reading it cover to cover, and moms and youth leaders are giving it a great endorsement. To learn more, check out this review from Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon.

Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!

 


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

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What’s So Great About Marriage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


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

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A Word to Girls about Sexting & Setting Standards

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

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

And that is, sexting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Thinking Points for Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is designed to empower girls through faith and point them to good choices. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be ordered online at AmazonBarnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com and found everywhere books are sold. It’s had an amazing response so far, as girls are reading it cover to cover, and parents and youth leaders are giving it a great endorsement. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word.


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

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The Child Who Makes Me Brave

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

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

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

While I’m sensitive, she is tough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With great love,

Mommy

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


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

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5 Words for the Weary Mother’s Soul

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

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

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

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

 Jeannie Cunnion

Jeannie Cunnion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is still crazy about you.

He hasn’t forgotten you.

He does not regret giving His life for you.

And He has not given up on you.

He will never give up on you.

He is pleased with you.

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

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

Do we still believe that Jesus is pleased with us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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The Secret to a Meaningful Life

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

We want to leave a mark.

We want to make a difference.

We want to be remembered long after we die.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for taking the time to read this article, written to inspire your 2015.10truths_rnd2  If you enjoyed this message, please share it through the social media below.

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is now available! Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be ordered online at AmazonBarnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com and found everywhere books are sold. The response has been amazing so far, thanks to friends and readers like you. I’d be grateful for your support and help in spreading the word!


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

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CHARACTER is More Important than WINNING

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

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

Both teams were determined to win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is, CHARACTER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article today. If you enjoyed it, please share it through the social media below.10TruthsCOVER

I love to connect with readers, so if you’d like to keep up with my writing, please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor connect with me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAMor PINTEREST.  To have future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is now available everywhere books are sold. Written for teens & tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know  can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com.The book is getting terrific feedback, as girls are reading it cover to cover, and parents and youth leaders are giving it a great endorsement. You can learn more by reading what Kirkus Reviews had to say or checking out reviews on Amazon.

Have a great day!


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

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It’s a Wonderful Life

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

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

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

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

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

Now I was pregnant again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Look – Ella’s crying!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The little wonder we brought home on Christmas day…

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Who immediately stole our hearts…

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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CAMILLE54

 

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Who would encourage her sisters…

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Entertain us with dress-up…

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Wrap everyone around her finger (especially Daddy)…

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Bring out everyone’s motherly instincts….

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Hold Bible studies for Lola…

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Add the star to the Christmas tree…

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Go Hollywood from time to time…

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Teach us about love…

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

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

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

Hope that God will bless any choice that honors Him.

Hope that what seems unbearable can take a beautiful turn.

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

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

 

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Thank you for being here today, and for taking time to read this article.10truths_rnd2  If you enjoyed the message, please share it through the social media below.

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is now available. Written for teen and tween girls ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on online at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. It should also be available everywhere books are sold. I’d love your support of this new resource for girls and your help in spreading the word!


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

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Making Peace with the Holidays

One January several years ago, I was having coffee with some moms when the conversation turned to Christmas — and how differently women and men handle the holiday.

A story one mom shared essentially summed up the gender gap that tends to appear this time of year.

It was a busy Saturday, and as she ran circles around the house, her head exploding with things to do (buy a tree! decorate it! decorate the house! bake! buy gifts! wrap gifts! prepare Christmas cards!), her husband was kicked back watching football. Every time she passed him in the den, her irritation rose. With a drink in hand and a crackling fire, he looked completely and annoyingly at PEACE.Making Peace With the Holidays - FINAL

Her husband was too relaxed to notice how busy she was, much less offer to help. With her hard work going unappreciated, a fire of another kind started inside her.

Around her fourth or fifth trip, this mom stopped moving. She looked at her husband and, with three simple words, shared her frustration:

“Quit enjoying yourself!” she told him.

Every mom having coffee that day burst into laughter at the story’s punch line and nodded emphatically. It was one of those, “Right on, sister. I know exactly what you’re talking about!” moments we all related to.

Because honestly, that scenario could have played out in any of our homes. What this mom did was enable us to laugh at ourselves for getting too busy, too stressed out, and too worked up over Christmas.

Even when we know better.

Even when we vow to do things differently than we have in the past.

Even when we understand Christmas as a time to worship and welcome Jesus — not get sidetracked by shopping, parties, decorating, entertaining, and creating magical memories.

Women always carry a lot of responsibility, but in December, the demands multiply. And while I agree with the often shared advice to scale back, simplify, and lower expectations of what Christmas should look like, there are some things we have no control over simplifying (like a costume needed for a holiday program, or a gift needed for an ornament swap). Add several kids to the mix, and the to-do list quickly grows.

On top of this, somebody has to pull Christmas together for the family. Somebody has to be the magic fairy who prepares the home and hearts inside it for a meaningful celebration.

Nine times out of 10, that somebody is Mom. If Mom doesn’t do it, it probably won’t happen.

And that’s why women have a hard time relaxing this time of year. That’s why we sometimes get irritated when our husbands can enjoy themselves and we can’t. It’s comical in hindsight, but in moments of stress, the humor gets lost. It’s hard to laugh at ourselves when we’re overwhelmed. It’s hard to admit we’re overreacting when we’re frustrated yet also envious of how our husbands can take a break and rest.

So how do women make peace with the holidays? How do we delight in welcoming Jesus when December gets busy? I think one explanation can be found in the Biblical story of Mary and Martha, two sisters whose differences became more readily apparent when Jesus came to visit.

While Martha, the practical and efficient sister, was busy preparing for the Lord, Martha wanted to sit at Jesus’s feet. Martha resented her sister for not working. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. That’s when Jesus said: 

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 (Luke 10:38-42)

Being productive is a good trait. Our world needs productive people to build God’s kingdom. But when productiveness interferes with what’s more important — like resting at the feet of Jesus — it stops being good. It hinders our ability to love Him.

The message to take away, for me as much as anyone, is to make time at Jesus’s feet. To let Him calm down our anxious souls. To know when to work — and when to stop. To understand that even when we’re strung-out, God loves us. He doesn’t want us carrying the weight of Christmas on our shoulders, because the joy of Jesus’s birth is as much for us as it is the children counting down the days.

This holiday season, let’s ease up a little. Let’s give ourselves permission to take breaks and relax on the couch with our family. Most of all, let’s remember where Christmas began: humbly in a stable, in a manger padded with hay, among animals. It was all about the baby then, and it’s all about the baby now. And in this Prince of Peace we find the peace we need,  the calm within the chaos that keeps us centered, sane, and deeply satisfied.

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the December 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 Living10truths_rnd2

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

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is now available! Written for teens and tweens ages 12-16, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on online at AmazonBarnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com, and is available everywhere books are carried. I’d love your support as well as your help in spreading the word! 


Posted by Kari on November 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm

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The Kindness Challenge

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about kind girls that went viral. While I was very grateful for the response, I secretly wondered if maybe, just maybe, it shouldn’t have been such a sensation.

I wrote “Raising a Kind Daughter” because I get so tired sometimes of hearing mean girl stories. Don’t get me wrong; I know mean girls exist, and the problem seriously needs to be addressed. All the venom in the girl world today truly frightens me for my four daughters.

But there are also a lot of really sweet girls out there, girls who love their friends and understand what friendship means. Because their stories hold very little drama or shock value, they don’t make headline news.

So in my article, I talked about the kindness my daughter’s friend showed her when they competed for a class election, and my daughter won. I then noted the correlation that I’ve seen, time and time again, as the mom of four girls: That the kind friends my girls bring home always have kind mothers. Because kindness among girls doesn’t start on the playground or in the locker room – it starts at homeIt starts with kind mothers raising kind daughters, showing them how to love other females like sisters, not threats and competitors. 

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I believed in the kind daughters story, and I felt good about publishing it. But I never expected it to get shared 167,000 times on Facebook and pinned 94,000 times on Pinterest. I had no idea it would make The Huffington Post, become a top trending story, and lead to a live interview. The whole thing was exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and while I couldn’t thank God enough for the opportunity, I also felt a little sad when I thought about why people found this story so special.

Because a story about kind girls should be the norm, not the exception. It should make us smile and feel good as we move onto the next story. One thing this story’s success revealed to me is how rare kindness must be among young friends. There is so much meanness among kids today (adults, too) that we’re hungry for hope that things can be different and eager to share reminders that kindness does still exist.

Recently I released my first book for teen and tween girls. 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know covers all the issues relevant to girls, and in the first chapter, I kick off with one of the most important truths:  

KINDNESS is more important than POPULARITY.  

Because the quest for popularity is what often leads girls to meanness. It’s the desire to impress others – particularly the cool crowd – that can make a girl compromise her values and what she knows is right to achieve social status. And if we, as parents, really want kind daughters, we need think long and hard about 1) how important popularity is to them, and 2) how important their popularity is to us, because our attitude shapes their attitude.

The 1st chapter of 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know ends with The Kindness Challenge:

10 Truths - KindnessChallengeBEST

Despite the mean girl stories flooding the news, I know many girls on the right track. They may be young, but already they understand how the quality of one’s heart matters more than their quantity of one’s friends. 

Our world needs a lot more of this mindset. We need kindness to be more popular, not some antiquated concept from the good ‘ole days that some people believe is gone forever.

Kindness doesn’t catch on overnight. And it won’t be because of me or anyone else that real change occurs, because only God can open hearts to the idea and orchestrate movements. But what all of us can do is choose to see the kind actions around us – and then talk about it.  We can model kindness and encourage it at home, applauding our kids LOUDER for their beautiful heart than we do for a perfect report card or extra-curricular success. While these things are certainly worthy of celebration, they will not determine the fate of their soul.

One of my most popular blog posts should not have been so popular. In an ideal world, it would have been yet another example of how kids today “get it” and know how to follow the Golden Rule. I know I’m dreaming big, and that we have a long way to go, but I hope that day, stories about kindness and true friendship will be more commonplace and normal, something that makes us smile and lifts our spirits as we move onto the next story about what’s right in our world and what miracles can take place when we choose to love others well.

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Friends, I’m thrilled to finally share my book with you! Written for teens & tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know is now available at AmazonBarnes and Noble, Books-A-MillionChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold (if it’s not on shelves, ask them to order it).

Kirkus Reviews gave it a fantastic review, and based on early feedback it’s striking a chord with girls. It’s been fun to see the enthusiasm among mothers and their daughters and meet the beautiful young readers I’ve been praying for throughout this past year.

I appreciate you reading this message. If you enjoyed it, please share it through the social media below. To keep up with me and my writing, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor connect with me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST.  If you’d like future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


Posted by Kari on November 9, 2014 at 7:32 pm

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It’s Release Day!

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Dear friends,

Let me begin with THANK YOU!

Thank you for reading my blog and newspaper column. Thank you for sharing my stories. Thank you for making this blog post for teen girls go viral and setting in motion a dream come true when Thomas Nelson, one of the world’s largest Christian publishers, asked if I’d be interested in turning that post into a book.

Clearly I said, “Yes!”, and because of you and that yes, we’re celebrating today.

Because today is the official launch for 10 ULTIMATE TRUTHS GIRLS SHOULD KNOW, a book for teen and tween girls! Today I get to share, with anyone who’s interested, 200 pages of what I want my daughters and their generation of girls to know.

Do I have all the answers? Of course not. But I do have a passion for girls and a genuine desire to point them in the right direction. And through writing this book, it’s become my mission to help girls discover their best life possible through Christ and understand how unbelievably and unconditionally loved they are. 

The enthusiasm for this book has been amazing already. Thanks to the moms and daughters who have read it, plus reviews like this from Kirkus Reveiws, it’s getting great word of mouth. And I’d be SO grateful if you carried the torch today by spreading the word and supporting me in any of these ways:

  • Share this post through social media;
  • Write a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you or your daughter enjoy it, because positive reviews influence potential buyers;
  • Buy the book through your local bookseller, and if the book isn’t in stock, ask if they’ll order it;
  • Use the hashtag #10truths;

Also, I have a number of book signings and speaking engagements scheduled.  Check out my Speaking page, and if there’s an event near you, please bring your daughter, granddaughter, or that special girl in your life. I’ve been praying for my young readers for a year now, and meeting them in person is fast becoming a highlight of my journey.

I’m excited about what’s ahead and find peace in knowing God will use this book in His way and His time. Whatever our daughters are dreaming for themselves, His plan for them is bigger. Just thinking about the possibilities fills me with joy and reminds me that of all the gifts this next generation of girls has to offer us, the best one is HOPE. 

Here’s to a great launch with the best readers ever. Thank you again for your support, love, and encouragement!

Gratefully,

Kari

10Truths-BEST

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P.S. – I’d love to connect on FACEBOOKTWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST.

To keep up with future posts, subscribe to my blog below. 



Posted by Kari on November 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

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Why I Don’t Want Perfect Daughters

A while back, I had a conversation with a beautiful 13-year-old girl in which the name of a popular teenager came up. With starry eyes and her face suddenly aglow, this 13-year-old exclaimed:

“She’s so pretty! She’s so perfect! I want to be her!!!”

I understood her remark, because I once thought this same way. I once considered perfection the holy grail, the ultimate goal a girl should strive for.perfect

But due to my history in chasing perfectionism, how I still struggle with the mindset at times and now understand the damage it does, her comment put a pit in my stomach.

I wanted to reply, “No! Nobody’s perfect! If you believe that about her you’ll only be disappointed, and if you make perfection your goal, you’re in for a lot of grief,” but I didn’t. To be honest, all I could think about were the number of times I’d seen teen and tween girls on Instagram use the word “perfect” in their comments:

Your life is perfect! I’m so jealous!!

You have the perfect wardrobe! Can I have your closet?

Your hair looks perfect!

Whoa, perfect body! Can I be you?

OMG! You’re perfect!

Perfect, perfect, perfect. For many girls, perfection is the end-all, be-all. And as a recovering perfectionist, I’m here to tell you that chasing earthly perfection is a waste of time. It’s a form of self-worship where you put yourself before God (often unconsciously) and get distracted from your true purpose – which is to live a life that serves Him and ultimately gets you to heaven.

When you’re a perfectionist, you turn minor disappointments – a ” B” on a test, a few extra pounds on the scale, a fight with a friend that makes you think about flaws you don’t want to admit – into tragedies. You live for those days when all your stars align, and you can fool yourself into believing that you are, indeed, perfect.

Perfect grades? Check.

Bikini-ready body? Check.

Extra-curricular success? Check. 

Great boyfriend? Check.

Great girlfriends? Check.

Great family? Check.

You see, the mind of a perfectionist is filled with check lists. And when all the boxes are marked, you’re on top of the world. You’re happy from head to toe.

But what happens when a box isn’t marked? Well, that’s the problem. When a perfectionist falls short in an area…makes a mistake…or faces an issue, insecurities get triggered. In many cases, you turn on yourself. You beat yourself up over anything that may have contributed to your less-than-perfect circumstances.

If this sounds exhausting, that’s because it is. The pay-off, however, is worth it because our world loves perfectionists. Our world praises people with seemingly flawless lives because they give us something to aspire to. And what this attention and praise does is fuel the fire inside a perfectionist. It motivates you to carry on with your impossible quest, because the way people cheer you on, you assume that you must be doing something right.

But there’s a very important ingredient missing from the life of a perfectionist: GRACE. When you fail, there’s no grace. When you miss the mark, there’s no grace. When you feel you have let people down – yourself most of all – there’s no grace. Even if you understand how God wants to lavish you with grace through Jesus, you won’t take it. Your heart isn’t open to receiving it because you’re so self-focused.

And by shutting grace out of your life, you set you up for some deep lows. You take away the safety net meant to catch you when dare to live bravely on the tightrope of life – but accidentally slip. You fail to see how hardships or suffering can help you become spiritually perfect. You have a hard time laughing at yourself over small mistakes that, viewed correctly, really can be amusing.

Sooner or later, a perfectionist will crack. No one keeps up the jig forever. For many women (like me), the crack occurs in motherhood, when you realize you can either 1) continue chasing perfection and live in quiet misery because your kids aren’t living up to your unrealistic standards, or 2) come to terms with your imperfection and discover a new world of joy, freedom, and self-love.

Clearly choice #2 is healthier, but we all come to it our own way. We all decide when and if we’re ready to be honest about our inadequacies and how desperate we are for Jesus to save us from an addiction that flies under the radar because from the outside, everything appears fine.

All this to say, I don’t want perfect daughters. I want godly daughters. I want daughters who view their flaws as opportunities for God to do his best work, because His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I want daughters who strive for excellence, not perfection, and allow room for trial and error as they maximize their talents and leave the results to God. 

I want daughters who aim HIGHER than perfectionists because they aren’t scared to fail with their safety net of grace in place. I want them to find beauty in imperfection and worthiness based on their identity in Christ, not mental check lists.

No parent wants their children to repeat their mistakes. And while I can’t save my daughters from perfectionism, I can counter what the world wants them to worship. I can reflect God’s grace and unconditional love and remind them that what often gets praised on Instagram – perfect abs, perfect shoes, the perfect Caribbean vacation – holds no eternal value, so don’t get caught in the frenzy.

Most of all, I can share the good news: When you quit trying to be perfect, you can discover your identity in Christ. You can accept how your imperfect life still fits into God’s perfect plan. You can laugh at your mistakes, own your defects, and feel on-top-of-the-world happy even when your stars aren’t aligned. You can reflect on how you used to be – and pray you never go back.

This isn’t just a better way to live; it’s the only way to live. Because with grace comes the freedom to be real, honest, and authentic so that your inner truth becomes your outer truth, and your life gains a harmony that makes today a great place to be even in less-than-perfect circumstances.

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Thank you for reading this article today. It means a lot to have you here. If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. 10truths_rnd2

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. To have future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

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

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on October 20, 2014 at 1:54 am

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A Conversation Every Mother and Daughter Should Have

“The thing about girls is, they know how to get what they want without asking for it,” a guy once told me, sharing observations he’d picked up from dating. “You don’t know what’s happening until after it’s over. They can be very sneaky like that.”

Yes, indeed. Girls can be very sneaky. And if one chooses to be that kind of girl – the kind who pulls fast ones on boyfriends, friends, and others – it can make her the girl no one trusts and ruin her chances of ever building genuine, lasting relationships.MotherDaughter conversation

Let me say upfront that I love girls. I grew up with three sisters, I’m raising four daughters, and I’ve met more amazing girls in my life than I can count. But I also can’t deny that many girls play by their own rules. They use their relationship smarts in self-destructive ways, getting what they want in an underhanded manner that an outsider might never notice.

It can start young, too, and here’s an example: Imagine that it’s audition day for the spring musical at the middle school. There are 10 girls are competing for 5 vocal roles.

One girl, Ann, is the best singer in the school. Everyone expects her to win the lead vocal role.

But just before the auditions start, 3 of the hopeful singers approach Ann. They look so happy and cheerful that the encounter appears perfectly normal.

“Ann, you have to try out as the piano player for this show!” these girls insist, because Ann is also a gifted pianist. Nobody plays like you! We really need you there. You’d be soooooo amazing!

For weeks Ann has trained with her voice coach. She’s practiced her vocal audition over and over. But since she is naive and these girls are convincing, she listens to them and tries out for piano role and gets it.

Thirty minutes later, when her mom picks her up, Ann bursts into tears in the privacy of the car, because she really wanted to sing in the spring musical, and looking back now, she doesn’t know why she let those girls confuse her.

Meanwhile, the 3 girls who approached Ann all get their coveted singing roles. One girl gets the lead.

Technically, these girls didn’t do anything to warrant clear punishment. It was Ann’s choice to try out for piano, and nobody forced her to change course. But what these girls did was take advantage of Ann through clever manipulation. They slyly bumped her out of the running to create better odds for themselves. And while they could easily deny this was intentional, it’s clear to see how personal motives drove the encounter.

The biggest problem with girls behaving this way is that it goes against God’s will. God calls us all to LOVE each other, not USE each other. According to Pope John Paul II, it’s the using of other people – not hate – that’s the opposite of love. So when we toy with someone’s mind or use them to advance our agenda, we hurt God, ourselves, and that person. And while I know boys can manipulate people too, I live in the world of girls, so that is who this message is for.

The fact is, we’re all sinful and selfish by nature. We’re impulsive and quick to put our needs above others. And while mothers and daughters should have many talks, one conversation that could do a lot of good (and prevent many hurt feelings) is discussing how we’re all guilty, at every age, of having ideas like those 3 girls who hurt Ann. We’re all guilty, at every age, of wanting to act on selfish urges for personal ambition.

If you asked me, getting this truth out in the open could do WONDERS for the female gender.

Because then we could say, “We’re all tempted to use other people sometimes. We may learn to control our selfish urges, but we don’t outgrow them. So now the question becomes, how do we handle them? How can we make the right choice when we’re tempted to stack the deck in our favor?”

I think the answer is prayer. If we can pause for 10 seconds and ask God for help at the crossroads, He’ll guide us through the Holy Spirit. He’ll heighten our awareness of the bigger urge inside us, an urge to do the right thing and love others like God designed us to love – in a Christlike way.

My goal as a mom is to raise daughters who pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s gentle promptings. I hope to raise daughters who can can overhear those 3 girls trying to convince Ann not to sing at the audition, recognize the motive, and counteract the attempt.

Because we need more girls willing to say, “You know what, Ann? You are an amazing piano player, but your voice is more amazing. I think you should listen to your heart and ask yourself if you’ll regret not trying out for the singing role.” We need girls who realize that even if they want a singing role, too, it’s wrong to win it unfairly.

God blesses those who honor Him. He has a plan for every individual, and no event in our lives – even disappointments – go to waste. Because God works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He gives everyone a chance to shine. And when we teach our daughters to use their relationship smarts in positive ways, we set them up to win. We help them reap what they sow as they grow into God’s image and earn trust and respect from others.

What results are rich, genuine relationships that will stand the test of time and eventually bring our girls a harvest of love bigger than the love they’ve given.

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Thank you for reading this article today. It means a lot to have you here. If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. 10truths_rnd2

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. To have future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

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

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on October 13, 2014 at 1:13 pm

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Dear Girls: Your Body is BEAUTIFUL

There’s a certain reality to being female that no one can deny.girlss copy 2

And that reality is, the better you look, the more compliments and attention you receive.

It took me a long to realize how powerfully motivating this is for teen girls in particular, approaching their physical peak. When adults talk about teen girls today, the conversation often revolves around how vain and beauty-obsessed this generation of selfie-takers has become. And while that’s generally true, the one thing nobody seems to ask is why these girls worship their appearance and why it’s so hard for them to quit chasing physical perfection.

If we really want change to occur, we need to dig below the symptoms and consider the root of the problem. We need to think long and hard about why.

I’ve reflected on this subject a lot in raising my four daughters and working with teen and tween girls. And through all my thinking, remembering myself as a self-absorbed teenager, talking to youth ministry leaders, and reading up on the subject, I’ve concluded that why boils down to this:

The prettier and thinner a girl becomes, the louder people applaud. 

And once you hear that applause, you naturally crave more.

We all know that inner beauty matters most, but when a girl’s heart grows more beautiful, there’s no fanfare or enthusiasm. Boys don’t whistle as she passes by. Girls don’t run up to her at parties and gleefully proclaim, “You look fabulous!” Strangers don’t approach her in stores and ask for her secrets. People don’t fawn over her pictures on social media and shower her with comments about how utterly amazing and GOR-GEOUS she is.

The fact is, we live in an image-obsessed world that elevates shiny things onto a pedestal. And while we blame the media for Photoshopping images of models and setting unrealistic beauty standards for women of all ages, there’s just as much pressure (if not more) to be found in a teenage girl’s immediate environment.

Because in her immediate environment is where she meets other girls practicing strict diets that ban all carbs, sugars, fast foods, fried foods, and anything unhealthy. It’s where friends talk about food as an evil and cultivate a common mindset where you eat only enough to survive so you don’t pass out. It’s where girls starve themselves before big events like prom or sorority rush, starting a trend because nobody wants to look big in comparison. It’s where every pound shed and every hour spent at the gym gets praised and celebrated.

It sounds crazy, but I get it. I can look back on my life and notice a difference in how many more emphatic compliments I heard in my skinniest seasons. It was never guys who noticed or made a fuss, but rather girls. Even so, their praise and approval was addictive. And without a proper filter in place, I spent years growing preoccupied with my appearance and treating my body as my best asset, investing an inordinate amount of time and energy into it.

Let me be clear that I believe in healthy habits. I believe in exercise, nutrition, and taking care of the one body we’re given. But what I’ve had to learn in my search for balance and avoiding unhealthy extremes is what every girl must learn for herself: Worshipping your body holds no eternal value. It won’t help you get to heaven. It won’t change anyone else’s life for the better. It won’t leave a legacy that may be remembered and talked about 50 years after you die.

When we die, our bodies die, too. They wither six feet under. Even if we spend a decade sculpting a masterpiece of flesh, that masterpiece is rendered worthless the moment we pass. At our funeral, people won’t be talking how tight our abs once were, or how big our thigh gap was (at least I hope not). No, what people will talk about is the kind of person we were, and the impact we had on them.

For me to see the truth about my body, I had to adapt my mindset. I had to switch from short-term gratification to long-term rewards. I had to understand my body as a tool God uses to accomplish His work in me. If my friend needs a hug, God can’t hug her, but I can. If a man has an inspiring story to tell, God can’t interview him, but I can. Through the Holy Spirit that lives inside all of us, God equips us to build His kingdom on earth.

Focusing on what my body does keeps me from fixating on how it looks. And while I still have days where I struggle with physical flaws and get frustrated, I now know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that my body is most beautiful when it’s used to glorify God.

So if I have any message for teen girls stuck in that exhausting pursuit of physical perfection that I know well, it’s this: You have a choice. You don’t have to buy into what the world is selling, because the world has its wrong. The world trusts the eye’s opinion over the heart’s wisdom, adoring what is superficial and shallow. Listening to the world won’t bring peace or salvation. It won’t draw you closer to God and your eternal home. Chasing the world’s opinion may be fun for a while, but ultimately, it’s a race to nowhere.

Because your soul is your ticket to heaven. Your soul is the most important part of you. Your body is important as the temple for your soul here on earth, but beyond that, it has no staying power. Like everything temporal, it will expire.

You want to look beautiful? Then let your soul radiate. Let God’s presence inside you shine. This won’t happen through selfies and posed pictures on the beach of you and your friends in bikinis.  As pretty as these shots may be, they all look alike when every girl posts the same thing.

Hand on hip. 

Stomach sucked in. 

Body angled sideways. 

Big grin to hide any feelings of insecurity in a bathing suit. 

Honestly, your body looks best in motion. It doesn’t have to be big motion – just something besides striking a pose. The most showstopping pictures I see of girls are on my Facebook feed, posted by moms. You see, moms notice beauty through a broader lens. Moms understand how candid moments capture a deeper essence that’s breathtaking.

When you aren’t even aware of the camera on you…when you’re not trying to be beautiful…when you’re relaxed, happy, and engaged with something you love…that’s when you radiate. While the world says it takes 20 pictures to get 1 perfect image, the photos that really knock the ball out of the park are the once-in-a-lifetime moments you can’t recreate.

Like when you dance with your father, and the love you share is clear to see, your body looks beautiful…

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When you nail that flip on your wakeboard after much dedication and practice, your body looks beautiful….

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When you jump in the air and slam the volleyball over the net, your body looks beautiful…

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When you hug and love on your teammates, working together toward common goals, your body looks beautiful…

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When you get your backhand-spring on the beach, and come out of it with a joyful grin, your body looks beautiful…

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When you fall in love with special friends on a mission trip, and suddenly gain a burning desire

to spend as much time as possible in their third-world country, your body looks beautiful…

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When you have laugh with your siblings and friends, creating unforgettable memories, your body looks beautiful…

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When you hold hands and jump alongside your softball peeps before the championship game, your body looks beautiful….

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And when your face glows because your eyes and smile  are full of hope and wonder, your body looks beautiful.

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Now, aren’t these pictures more inspiring than stagnant bikini shots? Isn’t it nice to enjoy beauty that makes you smile and not feel inferior in comparison? Pictures like these reflect God’s idea of beauty. And since God is truth, they tell the truth about what’s beautiful.

It’s tempting to seek the world’s applause. It’s validating to actually hear it. But whether you have a stadium full of people cheering for you or nobody, God loves you the same. Even on your worst hair day, you’re His masterpiece. No change in you can change that.

All this to say, you don’t have to be a slave to your body, your makeup, your mirror. There’s freedom from those chains. Because the beauty of knowing God is that He will reveal the beauty of being of you. Uniquely, wonderfully you.

Applause is nice, but peace is better. And the peace that comes from feeling good in your skin because you’ve set your soul in motion is a gift from the spiritual realm that reminds you of what your body was made to do and fills a deeper craving to create a meaningful life made of love, security, and hope for the future. 

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

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

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

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on September 21, 2014 at 4:55 pm

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Working Moms and Stay-at-Home Moms: Let’s Celebrate BOTH

Years ago, in my first job out of college, I worked with a woman who was sharp, productive, and always smiling.momBLOG

I knew she had two small children in daycare, but since she was always enthusiastic, I assumed she worked by choice.

And then one day, I caught her crying in her cubicle as she clutched a framed picture of her 6-month-old baby girl. Her daughter had hit another milestone at daycare, and this one got to her. With tears spilling over the picture, she opened up to me. 

Only then did I realize she wasn’t working by choice; she was working by necessity. Her husband’s income wasn’t enough for a family of four, so she was doing what she had to do. In her heart, however, she wanted to be home.

I often think of this story when I hear about the “working mom versus stay-at-home mom” debate. It’s so easy to judge moms who choose a different route than us, but the truth is, none of us know what circumstances other families face.

Some moms work because they need the income. Some work because they’d go nuts taking care of kids 24/7. Some moms stay home because they love it and can’t imagine life any other way. Others stay home because their family needs them there, or because it doesn’t make sense financially to work since their salary would all go to daycare.

I understand both sides because I’m caught in the middle. I’m not fully in either camp, which makes me feel lost sometimes in terms of where I belong. While working from home as a writer allows me to be readily available for my family, I also know how hard it is to balance family and work, especially when I’m on a deadline.

Yes, I get to experience the joy of doing what I love to do and meeting a lot of neat people as a result. I can find fulfillment in something independent of my kids - which, on a bad day of mothering, comes in real handy. At the same time, I experience the guilty pangs of not being able to say “Yes” every time my kids ask something of me. I know what it’s like when a child asks, as I’m dropping off carpool, if I can eat lunch with them today, and having to say, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t today because I have a meeting,” then wondering for the next 120 minutes if I’m scarring them.

The point is, everyone’s life is different. And regardless of our personal convictions, there are many ways to be a great mom. Yes, staying home benefits the family and helps maintain a smooth operation (unless we’re over-committed, which is another story). On those days where I’m singularly focused on the lives of my family and home responsibilities, everything runs better. There seem to be fewer glitches and less rushing around.

On the other hand, I love that my daughters see me taking risks and chasing dreams, handling rejection and celebrating victories, because these are things I want them to do. Through my journey as a writer, I’ve had opportunities to teach them lessons about life and perseverance that I hope will encourage them when they’re scared to fail, discouraged, or hesitant to put themselves out there due to fear of what may happen.

All this to say, I’m thankful for working moms and stay-at-moms, because both are worthy of celebration. More often than not, it is working moms who take care of my kids at school, help them at the doctor’s office, and cultivate their talents through extra-curricular activities. And it is stay-at-home moms who will drop everything if I need help (or a friend to talk to) during the day because their schedules allow it. They do equally important things like organizing dinners for a mom who’s ill, planning a Halloween Carnival the kids will never forget, chairing a fund-raiser, and leading efforts at school, church, and within the community.

However a mom shares her gifts, it’s all good. And for most moms, the bottom is this: We’re all passionate about our kids. We all understand how even the the world’s most rewarding job can’t compare to the joys of motherhood that make the hard moments worthwhile. We all want assurances that our kids will turn out okay. We’re all deeply insecure because even with our best efforts, there are no guarantees.

So let’s cut each other more slack, ladies, and find unity in the fact that whether a mom works or stays home, our heart is with our family. Let’s all set positive examples for today’s girls so they see what it looks like to be happy at home and at work, doing what we’re called to do or need to do. Personally, I want my four daughters to always be capable of supporting themselves and their future family. I don’t want them adopting the mindset that they’ll simply get married and never need to find employment, because nobody knows what the future holds.

Most of all, I want my girls to see how rewarding motherhood can be. I want them to witness the joy a mom can discover in raising a family, serving others, and making the world better. Whatever choices they make, I hope they’re proud of them. And I hope that with the choices I make today, I give them something to look forward to, a future worth aiming for because they see that even with the happiness I derive from work, the happiness I enjoy from being their mom is exponentially greater.

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Thank you for reading this article today. If you enjoyed it, please share it through the social media below.10TruthsCOVER

I love to connect with readers, so if you’d like to keep up with my writing, please join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor connect with me on TWITTER, INSTAGRAMor PINTEREST.  To have future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is now available everywhere books are sold. Written for teens & tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know  can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Christianbook.com.The book is getting great feedback, as girls are reading it cover to cover, and parents and youth leaders are giving it a great endorsement. You can learn more by reading what Kirkus Reviews had to say or checking out reviews on Amazon.

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on August 31, 2014 at 7:51 pm

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What I Appreciate MOST from Parents Raising Boys

A while back, I was at dinner with my friend Jacki when she shared a story about one of her three sons.

Their family was at the high school for a game, and without consulting his parents, their sixth grade son walked from the school to the neighborhood grocery store with three girls. Because it was dark outside, his parents weren’t happy about it.

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One thing Jacki’s learned about raising boys, however, is that when they do something against her wishes, there’s usually a lesson to be learned. And what this incident led to was an important discussion she and her husband, Danny, had with their son later that night.

They asked him, “Do you know what your role was walking with those girls?”

No,” their son replied.

“Your role was to be a protector and a leader,” they told him. “If someone had tried to hurt one of the girls, your job would have been to stand up for them.”

I love how Jacki and Danny intentionally imparted this wisdom. I love how they thought beyond their son’s safety and planted seeds in his young mind that will become increasingly important as he gets older and spends more time with girls. Most of all, I love how they didn’t take their son’s protective instincts for granted, assuming that if trouble had arisen, he would have automatically jumped in front of those girls.

These are kids, after all, and kids aren’t always mindful of watching out for others. While it’s easy to tell a boy, “Be a protector,” the more effective route – and the lesson more likely to sink in – is a real-life application of what it means to be a protector so that his awareness of his role is raised.

As the mom of four girls, I’m particularly grateful for parents like Jacki and Danny who have regular conversations with their sons about being protectors. I’m a little reassured knowing that one day, when my daughters begin socializing with the opposite sex, there will be boys in the mix whose parents drove home the correct definition of what it means to “be a man.” That being a man is not about how athletic you are, how many girlfriends you have, or how much money you make, but how well you protect, love, and take care of others.

Recently my friend Christy Truitt Kyser wrote a blog post about protectors titled Which “P” Are We Raising? In her article, she mentions a wise man who once counseled his teenage daughter about the characteristic of boys.

“They can be protectors or predators,” he told her. “You have to decide which you allow in your life.”

Christy’s post struck a chord with me because 1) it’s true and 2) it’s exactly what I want my daughters to know about boys. While there are some great boys out there, and parents doing a great job raising them, not all boys are equal. Not all boys can be trusted to watch out for girls (or anyone else) and think of them in the proper light. 

Some boys only want to use girls. And some girls only want to use boys. Only when the two sexes see themselves as protectors of each other – protectors of the mind, heart, body, and soul – can they love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and have healthy, solid relationships.

How our sons and daughters treat each other tomorrow depends largely on the values we instill at home today. That’s why boy moms care about the upbringing of today’s girls like I care about the upbringing of today’s boys, because eventually, all our kids are affected. Eventually our sons and daughters will spend more time together than they spend with us, and because they’re bound to encounter good and bad among the opposite sex, we’re hungry for a little hope that someone will be there to look out for them.

What I appreciate MOST from parents raising boys is raising them to be protectors. Protectors of justice. Protectors of society. Protectors of anyone in danger or potential harm. Yes, girls are strong (sometimes stronger than boys), and in many cases, they can protect themselves with no problem. But sometimes it’s not a fair fight. Sometimes there’s an imbalance that creates an immediate disadvantage. Sometimes there needs to be a male willing to take care of business.

So if you’re intentionally raising your son to be a protector, let me just say THANK YOU. Thank you for seeing the big picture. Thank you for cultivating a brave young man. Thank for training your son to think like a hero and act like one, too.

The work you’re doing now, at home, is an investment in the future. And it’s my hope that my daughters and others in their generation will recognize the protectors and let those be the boys they allow in their lives, the boys who have their best interest in mind and will rise to the occasion whenever the need arises. 

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Thank you for reading this article today. It means a lot to have you here. If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. 10truths_rnd2

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

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

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on July 21, 2014 at 7:27 pm

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12 Ways to Help the Grieving

Last February, a dear friend of mine lost her husband in a tragic accident. As multitudes of people flocked to lift her family up and help in their time of need, I reached out to a mom who had lost her spouse years ago to see if she had advice on how to help a grieving friend.

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It turned out she did. She had excellent advice, in fact, and because grief is relevant to all of our lives, I’d like to share the wisdom that she’s agreed to let me pass on.

Here is some food for thought, things to keep in mind when you want to help a friend who has lost her loved one:

1. Remember, you can’t fix things. When tragedy strikes, we all want to help. We rally around our friend and want to do something. Although there are things we can do, we can’t fix what has permanently changed in her life.

When God says He is the “God of all comfort,” this is a deep, rich truth. All true and healing comfort comes from Him. While God may use you to administer some of His comfort, it originates in Him.

The best thing you can do for a grieving friend is study your Bible and get to know God better. As you minister love and grieve with your friend, point her to our Heavenly Father.

2. Don’t judge. There is no wrong way to grieve a sudden loss. Whatever keeps your friend breathing is fine. A grieving friend can’t hurt your feelings either, because it’s your gift to her to overlook anything she might say or do, or not say or do. The period after a death is not about your friendship; it’s about letting your friend circle the wagons around her family and try to survive. It’s overwhelming, so let her focus her energy on keeping herself and her children upright.

3. Have compassion and be very sensitive, but don’t pity a friend who is mourning. There is a difference between pity and compassion; while pity is discouraging, compassion instills courage.

Pity says,Oh, you poor thing. This is so terrible for you and your sweet children. What can I do for you?”

Compassion says,I’m so sorry this has happened. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m right here with you, every step of the way.”

Compassion operates from the truth that your friend can do all things through Christ who strengthens her. She isn’t a victim of the randomness of life, but rather a beloved child of the living God, who has tremendous tenderness toward the grieving and will never leave or forsake them.

4. When you cry for your friend, do it at home. Don’t burden her with your tears and anguish. Don’t make her comfort you. It’s okay to shed some tears when she’s crying, but leave the sobbing come a-parts to her.

5. As time goes on, let your friend tell you how badly it hurtsDon’t argue or tell her that she has so much to be grateful for when all she can feel is her loss. Certainly she’ll need to count her blessings and practice gratitude, but Scripture is full of moments where people (David, Job, Jeremiah, Jesus) cry out and tell God how hard life is. God does not correct them; He only reminds them that He is present, He is sovereign, and He is love.

Offer a safe place where your friend can share her rawest emotions and thoughts. It’s hard for a loving person to listen to someone else’s grief without trying to fix it or make it feel better, but the road to healing is through the pain, not around it.

6. When you offer help, make it specific. Don’t say “call me if you need anything.” Say, “We’d love to have you and the kids to grill out Saturday night.”

7. Be respectful of your friend’s need to handle the loss her way. Your friend is walking in uncharted territory, and you don’t know how she feels. Offering uninformed or unsolicited advice can be hurtful. It’s more helpful for her to hear statements like, “I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I can see that God is with you.”

8. Extend invitations, especially on weekends and holidays, because they can be brutal. It’s fine if your friend says no, but keep inviting her. Do this for years to come because it is an ongoing need.

9. Show your friend how you remember her loved one. Text a picture when you see something that reminds you of them (i.e. their favorite strawberry cake) or share a thought that comes to mind. It helps your friend to know how their loved one lives on in your memories, too.

10. As time goes on, let your friend be a friend to you, too. There will be a day when she feels the need to give back. Don’t treat her as if she’s made of glass and can’t handle being a friend. It’s healing for her to help you.

11. Remember that grieving is a long, slow process. Life will never be “normal” again. There is a new “normal,” and over time it will be good. But just because your friend is getting dressed in the morning, going to exercise, and shopping for softball cleats doesn’t mean she is “over it” or “moving on.”

Be patient as your friend re-learns how to live life. Remember that the loss will hit her over and over, often in unexpected moments. Grief can be blindsiding, and when it is, she needs to feel the loss of that moment.

12. A grieving person needs her friends desperately. She needs the comfort of her Savior even more.

There’s so much more that can be written on the subject of helping a grieving friend, but this list is a starting point. Above all, approach her from a place of love and pray for guidance. Listen for God’s voice, and once you receive direction, ask God to use you as a vessel of his love, grace, mercy, and compassion.

Also, if you’d like a book for your grieving friend, look into A Grace Disguised. Written by Jerry Sittser, who lost his mother, wife, and young daughter in a car accident, this book has brought great comfort and healing to thousands over the years and comes highly recommended by multiple friends of mine who have lost loved ones. Jerry’s words are deep, insightful, and full of hope for the future. 

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Thank you for reading this article today. It means a lot to have you here. If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. 10truths_rnd2

I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect. You can join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST. To have future articles delivered to your inbox, subscribe to my blog below.

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

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on July 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm

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Why Women Need Their Girlfriends

Years ago, I was at the beach with my family when I noticed a group of ladies nearby who appeared to be in their fifties.

With a quick glance, I knew they were on a girls’ weekend. All the signs were there – coolers & cocktails, beach bags with romance novels, straw hats, umbrellas in the sand – but most telling of all was their laughter. Lots of lots of laughter, the kind that draws attention and curiosity from anyone in earshot.

I loved watching these women enjoy each other. Although they were older than me, and well past my season of life in having babies, I could imagine being in their shoes one day, basking in the glow of old friends who still made me feel young again. 

That afternoon, I saw two of them in the elevator. When I commented on how much fun they seemed to have, they smiled and nodded. One replied, “Oh, we do have fun. We’ve kept this beach trip going for twenty years and have been through everything – divorce, death, cancer, unemployment. Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart.The older you get, the more you’ll need them.”girlfriends

The conversation left an impression on me. While I’d always treasured my girlfriends, I’d never thought about needing them more with age. And if I’m being honest, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve taken their words to heart.

Because now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m seeing how real divorce, death, cancer, unemployment, and other major life problems are. I understand what they meant when they emphasized the importance of girlfriends as my age group faces hardships we couldn’t imagine when we were young and carefree.

Last February, I found the advice these women gave me really validated when my dear friend Emily, who I met when our daughters became friends, lost her husband Joe in a plane crash. Emily and Joe weren’t just any couple – they were the couple who had been best friends since age 15, whose incredible love story was still going strong. What they had was special. To have it end early and suddenly was unfathomable, unfair, and hard to comprehend.

Joe’s death impacted a lot of people hard, and throughout their home there was so much sadness and grieving, so many heavy hearts in one place. In the midst of this tragedy, however, there was also so much LOVE. You could feel the Holy Spirit everywhere, working in Emily and the people surrounding her.

As I left Emily’s house the day after Joe’s death, I sat in my car and reflected on everything I’d witnessed. One thing I kept thinking about were the women in Emily’s life, and how amazing they’d been. It wasn’t just the food being carted in, the affection showered on the family, or the fact that so many people had dropped everything to drive or fly to Birmingham. It was the way Emily’s village came together, how friends from every stage of life were represented (adolescence, college, law school, work, and motherhood), and how well everyone knew her.

And because they knew her well, they could do a lot to lighten Emily’s load.

When I arrived at Emily’s house the morning after Joe’s death, for instance, someone asked if I’d write his obituary. I agreed, of course, and was given the names of surviving family members to start with. Since Emily was meeting with her pastor about the funeral, I began the obituary with the help of four friends who’d known Emily and Joe for decades. My intention was to write a rough draft and let Emily fill in the blanks.

But guess what? Emily didn’t have to fill in blanks, because her old friends filled in the blanks for her. Together they recalled pertinent details of Joe’s life: the special dates he planned with his daughters, how he graduated first in his law school class, which law firms he’d worked with, his role as basketball commissioner, his love for their church mission trip to Maine – the list goes on.

As they talked and I typed, I found myself wondering: How many people have friends who could write their husband’s obituary? What does that say about Emily and her relationships?

All over Emily’s house, huddles of women were taking care of business. As I passed a group from her church, I heard them planning the visitation and family luncheon before the funeral. “Emily wouldn’t like that, but she would like this,” they said. “Why don’t we give her option A and option B?” When Emily emerged from her meeting with the pastor an hour later, the legwork was done. She was given an obituary to proofread, options for Saturday, and updates from friends handling small matters so Emily could reserve energy for big ones.

Our girlfriends can’t save us, because only Christ can fill that role, but they can help make a tragedy bearable. They can read our mind and our emotions, intuitively recognizing what needs to be done – then doing it. They can listen, empathize, and show compassion. They can be the hands and feet of Jesus, used by God to help provide comfort and a timely shoulder to cry on. 

It’s hard to nurture friendships when you’re busy raising kids. Some days I don’t have the time or energy. But one thing I’ve learned from watching Emily cope with her loss is how having strong relationships in place before a tragedy occurs enables the healing process. While faith keeps you standing, friends and family hold your hand as you slowly move forward. They help you find a new normal. They meet you for yoga, bring Starbucks to your home, take your kids for ice cream, plan a girls’ beach trip for your Mother’s Day, get your dog groomed, text you Scripture and encouragement, continue coming to town to check on you, and show love in a million heartfelt ways.

“Don’t ever lose touch with your girlfriends, sweetheart. The older you get, the more you’ll need them.” The women on the elevator that day were spot-on. Now when I see a group like them having fun, I realize the laughter is only part of the story, what comes after the complicated grown-up stuff.  And while we certainly need the wonderful men in our lives, for they play a crucial role, too, men simply aren’t designed to understand us like one of our own.

Sometimes it takes another woman to recognize intuitively what needs to be done – then do it. Or to sense what needs to be said – then say it. Or to take the thoughts and emotions we don’t voice – and know what to make of them. 

Having great friends is largely a matter of being a great friend. The reason Emily’s circle is so strong is because she invests in her people. And in her greatest time of need, she reaped the benefit. I hope this story comes as a friendly reminder of why girlfriends matter in good times and bad, laughter and tears, and through the highs and lows that reveal who’s with us for the long haul, and who’s willing to share in our suffering so that one day, when we’re laughing again on the beach, there will be a history that makes the laughter sound richer and stirs the curiosity of anyone in earshot.

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

Thank you for reading this article today. It means a lot to have you here. If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. 10truths_rnd2

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

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

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!


Posted by Kari on June 24, 2014 at 10:19 pm

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