The Gift of Christmas Grace

It was a simple task, really, and one that many families had successfully carried out before us.

Our church had asked our family to take care of baby Jesus in the week leading up to Christmas. On the last Sunday of Advent, we set up the Nativity. We then brought Jesus to our home for safekeeping, swaddled in a purple blanket.

It was thirty minutes before the start of Christmas Eve Mass, as I was rushing to get ready and sweep everyone out the door, when the accident occurred. One of my daughters was carrying Jesus around in the swaddle when suddenly He slipped out of the purple cloth.

The wooden figure broke in two places, around the ankle and the wrist.christmas-2014-007-2

I couldn’t believe what had happened – but then again, I could. I’d worried all along that this might happen, but even my worst scenario didn’t play out like this, right before the service.

As my family drove to church, I was upset and tense. I wondered why we couldn’t be normal and handle this sacred assignment.

Naturally the church was packed, and as we walked into the vestibule, the two priests leading the service waved me over.

They quickly shared instructions of how our family would walk in the procession behind the Gospel carrier, head to the Nativity, and give baby Jesus to the priest so he could lay Jesus in the manger.

I nodded…and with a knot in my stomach and a deep breath, I admitted what had happened thirty minutes earlier.

There was a brief silence as the priests absorbed the event and I apologized profusely, promising to replace baby Jesus or fix Him. I told them how this wooden figure was currently super-glued back together and would require careful handling.

Much to my relief, both priests responded kindly to my embarrassing confession. They told me it was okay, that these things happen.

And then, to my surprise, one of them asked which daughter accidentally dropped Jesus. He wanted to have a quick word with her.

I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face as she saw Father Bob walking toward her in his formal Christmas robes. She looked so frightened that my heart went out to her, and as she dropped her head in shame, refusing to make eye contact, I knew this encounter would have a lifelong impact.

Thankfully, Father Bob was not there to lecture my daughter. Instead he offered her comfort, using his position of authority to reassure her tender heart.

“Sweetheart,” he said, crouching to her level, “it’s okay. Remember how I told you last week that we’ve lost donkey ears and other pieces over the years? We have a man who can fix these things. It’s happened before. Please don’t worry about it.”

I could literally see the heavy blanket of shame lift off my daughter’s shoulders as Father Bob showed her love when she least expected it. It was amazing to witness the relief on her face as she cautiously and slowly lifted her head, looked him in his eyes, and smiled.

Then and there, she experienced the gift of grace. She gained a real-world understanding of how her heavenly Father loves her. I couldn’t help but note the timing of this grace too, and how fitting that it came on the eve of Jesus’ birthday.

Brokenness and grace go hand in hand. And while it’s easy to assume that God expects absolute perfection from us (and nothing less), the truth is that God loves us even when we mess up. He sent His son down from heaven to save us, not condemn us.

In Mark 2:17 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” What this means is that there’s hope for everyone. The mistakes we believe will shut doors with God can actually open doors if we honestly go before Him, admit what we did, and ask for forgiveness.

My daughter’s mishap with baby Jesus ultimately led to grace. It allowed her to witness the merciful side of God that I hope will enrich and deepen her faith.

This Christmas season, I hope you’ll remember how that grace is available to you as well. Even when your head is hanging, even when you’re burdened by a sense of shame, God is ready to show you love. Through the birth of Jesus, He delivered grace into our world, a grace that can transform your life and your future when your heart is open to receive it.

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

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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age.

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on November 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

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20 Tips to Help Your Teen Use Social Media Wisely

Whenever I speak at mother/daughter events, the Q&A at the end often leads moms to ask questions about one particular topic.

Social media.

As the first generation of parents dealing with social media, we don’t have much advice to go on. We don’t have parents ahead of us who have pioneered a path and can tell us exactly how to best prepare our kids for digital interactions.

We are the pioneers – which means there’s a lot of trial and error. There are also a lot of conversations as we converse with other parents, share what works/doesn’t work, and try to learn together how to keep our kids safe online while helping them use social media wisely.

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This is why I’ve written a book for girls and moms of the digital age. Titled Liked: Whose Approval are You Living For? it is packed with insights and inspiration related to social media, friendship, identity, and faith. Liked just released on November 15 and is available everywhere books are sold, both online and in bookstores.

Being smart online is really a matter of being conscientious. It requires thinking through your posts/comments and being intentional. If your daughter (or son) is a social media user, you may appreciate these 20 tips excerpted from LIKED. My hope is that they’ll ignite a conversation in your home and help your teen cultivate healthy online habits that allow them stand out in a good way.  

1. Pick a goal that pleases God. Social media should be used to spread love, not poison. Look for what is good, right, and inspiring in this world, and then post about those things.

2. Know your followers. All the warnings you hear about “stranger danger” are increasingly true online because people can stalk you without your knowledge and pretend to be someone they’re not. Be vigilant about who you let follow you because the Internet is packed with predators, trolls, and people who take advantage of beautiful young girls like you.

Keep your accounts private, and if you don’t know someone or have a solid connection to the person, decline the request to follow you. If someone looks questionable, has no identifying pictures, uses an anonymous name, or posts anything inappropriate, block them. If someone bullies you or writes mean-spirited comments, block that account as well. Embrace an online policy of “One strike and you’re out.”

Above all, pray for wisdom. Ask God to help you discern who you should and shouldn’t interact with on social media so you can enjoy it while keeping yourself safe.

3. Before you post, consider three questions: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? The key word here is necessary. While it may be true that your friend looks super-skinny in her photo, is it necessary to post #eataburger? Are putdowns that masquerade as praise ever truly helpful?

4. Before you share a photo or message, imagine answering the question, “Are you sure?” Whenever you delete a social media post or a picture from your phone, you’re typically asked a question like “Are you sure you want to delete this?”

The purpose is to make you pause and think. And while you usually see this question after you’ve posted, it’s really needed before you post.

This reminder doesn’t exist, of course, but you can still use this question as a litmus test before sharing. And if you’re unsure about something, don’t post it. Chances are, your gut instinct is warning you about a potentially bad idea.

5. If you aren’t feeling the love, stay off social media. We all get in bad moods, fly off the handle, and overreact at times. But giving a keypad to your emotional monster asks for trouble because you’re likely to share something you’ll later regret.

The Internet isn’t a dumping ground. It’s not the place to vent, air dirty laundry, or call your best friend out for a lie she told. So before going online, be sure your head and heart are in the right place. Cool off from any anger, jealousy, or frustration so you can act intentionally, not impulsively.

6. Keep a thick skin and a tender heart. Put on your armor because people can be mean and social media trolling is rampant. Even if you’re not blatantly attacked, you may get dumped on by a snarky comment.

Prepare for meanness now. Keep a thick skin by knowing who you are in Christ so that negativity doesn’t get under your skin and harden you.

7. Learn from your mistakesand the mistakes of others. It only takes three seconds of poor judgment online to set a wrecking ball in motion. Every day, teens make life-altering mistakes that hurt them, their peers, and their families.

Most mistakes are caused by not thinking through the consequences. So remember, every choice you make has a consequence. Everything you share — even a private text or inappropriate Snapchat photo to one person you trust — can potentially go viral and be seen by thousands or millions of people. One quick screen shot of your message or photo can jump-start a disaster.

Please don’t repeat the mistakes you see making headlines today. Don’t share anything, even with your best friend, that you’d be mortified to see splashed across the front page of a newspaper.

8. Make sure you’re emotionally ready for social media. It’s normal to feel left out, jealous, or insecure when you see your friends on Instagram getting frozen yogurt without you, having fun at the lake, or looking so gorgeous that you feel like a monkey in comparison.social media 2

But if you dwell on these negative feelings — or fall to pieces every time you’re not included —you are not emotionally ready to be on social media.

Social media is meant to be fun. And if scrolling through a news feed causes you more heartache than pleasure, please sign off or delete the app. Take your feelings as a sign that the best moments of other people’s lives are blinding you to your personal blessings, and it’s time to pull back.

9. Pay attention to the conversations you start. Words trigger feelings and emotions in people. For better or for worse, they start a dialogue.

Do your posts trigger kind comments, or do they trigger gossip? Do they bring out the best in people, or do they bring out their dark, snarky, and sarcastic side?

The responses to the things you share are telling. While those results can’t present the full picture, they can offer clues about whether you’re on the right track.

10. Build up your friends, family, and classmates. If someone has ever written a special post about you — perhaps on your birthday — you know how awesome it makes you feel. So look for opportunities to celebrate others and shine a spotlight on them.

11. Recognize what is and what isn’t your story to tell. When something wonderful or terrible happens to someone close to you, you may want to share it. Whether it’s a celebration or special prayers that are in order, you may want all your social media followers to know.

Before you post, however, check with the person. Make sure he or she is okay with you sharing any news or updates that relate to their life.

12. Avoid apps that allow anonymity and promote secrecy. Anonymous postings bring out the haters, and nothing good comes from spending time in these venues. You ask for trouble when you use apps that allow you to hide things (i.e. photos and texts) from your parents or conceal your identity.

Everything you do on your digital device should be “in the light”. You should have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. If you feel compelled to hide your posts — or be sneaky and secretive — then that’s a sign you’re misusing technology.

13. Limit selfies. In 2013, selfie was named the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries because use of the word grew 117% in that period.

Selfies can be fun, but their rising prevalence shows how narcissistic our society has become. Your pictures tell your story, and if you’re always posting selfies — well, that tells people your life is all about you. Is that really the story you hope to tell?

Girls often use selfies to fish for compliments or be affirmed of their beauty, but it benefits you to aim higher. Keep selfies in moderation and tell stories that reveal more about your spirit and less about how your hair looks today.

14. Detach from your numbers. Social media has made popularity quantifiable. Among your peers, the barometer often used to measure your importance and worth is how many “likes,” followers, and shares you get.

But numbers alone can be misleading. What gets liked and applauded online isn’t always important to God. For the full picture, you must measure the numbers against His truths.

God doesn’t care if you have 3 followers or 3,000, 2 likes or 200. He simply wants you to do the best you can with what you’ve been given. The size of your audience is irrelevant because drawing even one heart closer to God is far more valuable than racking up 50,000 “likes” on a picture.

So keep your eyes on God, and learn to tell the difference between human praise and quiet applause from Him.

15. Don’t base your confidence on social media. If you rely on social media to build you up, you also give it power to break you down. Social media can mess with your mind, your emotions, and your confidence.

While social media is a fun way to connect with friends, reading too much into it and letting it dictate your mood gives it a power it doesn’t deserve. Enjoy social media as an “extra” in your life, but don’t base your confidence on it. Put your faith in things that are real and reliable so your emotions stay off the roller coaster.

16. Set standards for yourself. In today’s virtual world, there is a reckless disregard for content as many people post pictures and comments that are inappropriate, racy, and rude. Low standards lead to online bullying, smear campaigns, tarnished reputations, and social media nightmares.

Please don’t get caught in that vortex. Set a high bar for everything you post, even if the people around you don’t. Be a responsible digital citizen, remembering that what you put online creates a digital record attached to your name.

Whatever online reputation you create for yourself today will affect the way people perceive you and receive you today, tomorrow, and for many years into the future.

17. Carefully inspect pictures before you share them. Technology makes it easy to intentionally and accidentally capture people in compromising positions. So before you post an image, study it. Make sure everyone in the shot — not just you — looks okay.technology34

18. Don’t spend so much time in the online world that you neglect the real world. The best moments in life will always happen face-to-face. So put your phone down when you’re with your family and friends and enjoy the deep and meaningful conversations you simply can’t have online.

19. Settle conflict one-on-one. When you and a friend have an issue, try to talk in person or call her instead of sending texts. Arguments can escalate quickly through technology, and messages often get interpreted the wrong way.

Rather than take that risk, make an effort to reach out. Besides showing respect for your friend, this also shows maturity.

20. Be a class act. God gave you a voice to empower people. And through social media, you’re given a microphone that lets you to speak to an audience and empower multiple people at once.

So be an encourager, not a critic. Surround yourself with friends who do the same. The more people you inspire to use their microphone for good, the less the critics get heard. And once you shut out the critics, real progress can begin.

Using social media wisely is something we all learn as we go. Using these 20 tips as a starting point, your teen daughter (or son) can begin to discover their unique voice and build an online reputation they can be proud of today, tomorrow, and twenty years down the road.

*What tips would you add to this list? Comment below and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of LIKED! Two winners will be drawn at random, so please include an email and submit your entry by noon CST on Friday, November 25. 

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

For more tips and insights like these, check out Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For?online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Christianbook.com or your local bookstore. It’s getting a fantastic response so far and has been the #1 bestseller in both “Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issues” and “Teen Values and Virtues.”

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s available everywhere books are sold. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

To keep up with future posts, please subscribe to my blog (below), join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, or find me on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, or PINTEREST. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to stay connected with you!

Have a great day!!

 


Posted by Kari on November 21, 2016 at 2:38 am

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A New Book for Teen Girls!!!

When people talk about teenage girls today, the conversation often turns to how addicted they are to their phones..

But what nobody seems to ask is “Why?”

Why are girls addicted to their phones?

Why do they obsess over Instagram “likes” and social media numbers?

Why can’t they put their phones down, even in the company of friends?

liked-best-collage

If you ask me, there isn’t one explanation, but rather a combination of forces. And to truly understand the dynamic, we should first consider the heart and the mind of a teenage girl, and think about what’s important at that age.

For instance:

*Friendships are important – so important they can make or break a girl’s high school experience. Technology gives girls an easy way to connect and stay in touch outside of school hours.

*Love and acceptance are important. Achieving a lot of “likes” on Instagram makes a girl feel love and accepted. It offers tangible proof, in her mind at least, that her life matters.  

*Belonging is important. Social media creates an automatic community. It gives girls something to be part of that’s bigger than themselves.

*Impressing people is important. The quest to impress has always existed, and now girls can take it online. They can curate a perfect image and test-drive identities until they find one that draws attention and applause.

*Entertainment is important. Boredom is solved quickly by pulling out a digital device and seeing what everyone is up to. 

*Being “liked” is important. And let’s be honest: We all desire this on some level. We all want to be “liked” and affirmed. If we’re on social media, we too are probably guilty of posting things to elicit praise or make people think we’re something special.

The thing about teenage girls is, they’re very relational. They care deeply about what other people think. And while praise can go straight to their head, criticism can go straight to their heart. What results is an emotional roller coaster that often puts them at the mercy of other people’s words and opinions.

My goal as a writer for teen girls is to help stop the roller coaster. I hope to equip girls with truth and empower them through faith so that regardless of what the world says, they stay true to their identity in Christ.

And I’m thrilled to announce that TODAY, November 15, is the official release day for my new book designed to help girls with this mission!

Published by Thomas Nelson, it’s called Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For?

This book is close to my heart because it addresses the biggest issues girls struggle with and the unprecedented challenges of growing up in the digital age. It’s packed with Biblical truths and practical advice related to identity, friendship, social media, and a relationship with God.

By reading Liked, girls will learn to launch their life in a positive direction. They’ll understand the difference between human approval and God’s approval, online friends and real friends, and living to make a temporary splash versus living to make an eternal difference.

The enthusiasm for this book has been strong, and I’d be SO grateful if you carried the torch today by spreading the word and supporting it 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 it isn’t in stock, ask them to order copies.
  • Post a photo of your daughter with Liked on social media. Tag me with the hashtag #likedbook.
  • Remember Liked for Christmas presents, youth groups, Bible clubs, and mother/daughter small groups.
  • Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the latest news and announcements.
  • Consider leading a small group study of Liked for your daughter and her friends in 2017. My first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the country for small group studies with great success, and my prayer is that Liked will have a similar impact.
  • Come see me at a book signing:

*THURSDAY, NOV. 17: Tuscaloosa signing at Part Two in the Tuscaloosa Galleria from 6-8 p.m. Bring your daughter or small group! (Contact: Betsy McAusland. Call 205-349-2077 to order signed copies by phone.)

*SUNDAY, NOV. 20: Birmingham signing at Books-A-Million in Brookwood Village at 2 p.m. Bring your daughter or small group!

*TUESDAY, NOV. 29: Book Signing/Event in Huntsville at First United Methodist Church Wesley Center at 6:45 p.m.

*FRIDAY, DEC. 2:Birmingham signing at Lilla in Crestline Village from 12-1:30 p.m. (Contacts: Heidi Hallman and Faith Gardner)

*TUESDAY, DEC. 13: Speaking/book signing with Vestavia Central Gems group at 7 a.m. (Contact: Caroline McLaughlin)

Also, I have a number of book signings/speaking engagements scheduled for winter and spring.  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 Liked readers for over a year, and meeting them in person is the highlight of my journey.

Today’s girls are smart, talented, and full of potential. While they may be glued to their phones, it’s important to look beyond the surface and reflect on the desires deep in their heart that drive their search for approval and explain the trends we see.

I’m so excited about sharing Liked with you and that special girl in your life. I’d love for you to join me in rallying around this message that can change lives and empower girls of all ages to live boldly and bravely for Jesus.

Our girls deserve more than the superficial lifestyle this world pushes on them. Let’s help them dream beyond getting a lot of “likes” on Instagram, and let’s encourage them to value their worth not on how widely LIKED they can be, but on how deeply LOVED they already are.

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

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


Posted by Kari on November 15, 2016 at 11:53 am

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What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship

A woman in teen ministry once shared with me a term that describes the state of female friendships in the middle school years.

Fluid.girls-friendship

In other words, friendships can change a lot in this stage of life. They may ebb and flow as everyone makes new friends, explores new friendships, and sometimes grows apart.

The growing apart may not be intentional; it’s often a matter of not having classes together or the same extra-curricular activities. 

We typically become close with the people we see the most, and as teenagers evolve in their passions, personalities, and circumstances, their relationships evolve too.

This is a tricky thing to navigate for girls and their moms. While I’ve been really proud of the friend choices my daughters have made – and I feel certain that many friends, including old friends from elementary school, will be friends for life – it’s hard to see an old friendship slip away and wonder what ever happened to that cute girl you used to see all the time.

Why don’t you have Isabella over anymore? I don’t hear much about her – is everything okay? The response is often something like, “Yeah, I love Isabella, I just never see her.” Nothing specific happened; it’s just that life is busy, and there isn’t enough time in the day to spend time with everyone you like.

Sometimes girls drift apart for a reason. Sometimes a falling out triggers sudden mistrust. A girl who your daughter thought was a friend (in my book I call them 50/50 friends) does something hurtful or mean. Or a group of girls may gang up on one girl because she made the leader mad. The scenarios are endless, and the lesson to be learned is that girls sometimes must learn the hard way what true friendship looks like.

The overriding point is, friendships change. Friendships get put to the test, and only time will tell what the final shake-out will be.

So what’s the solution? I don’t have that, but I do have some thoughts to share with your daughter if she feels insecure or worried about friendship fluctuations:

1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It simply means you’re growing up.

2. Everything will be okay. In time your friendships will solidify, and you’ll know more clearly who is good for you and meant to be in your life. Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend. Remember that true friends are worth the wait.

3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. There’s a saying that “Water seeks its own level,” and this means that people are drawn to others who are like them. So when you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.

4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. Last Friday night we took my daughter and some friends to a restaurant to celebrate her birthday. A classmate was eating nearby with her family, and we invited her to join us. This girl was a delight, and I fell in love with her. I was thankful to meet her since my daughter had never been in her class or had the same activities.

Made with love by a new friend.

Made with love by a new friend.

Monday at school, she gave me daughter a friendship bracelet that she’d made as a thank you. I was speechless, because what this girl didn’t realize what was a gift she was to us.

This event reminded me of what can happen when you invite someone new to join you, and how many great opportunities we all let pass by when we’re hyper-focused on our friends. One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings. Be smarter than me and learn this lesson early.

5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself. The great thing about middle school is that there are so many people to meet. As multiple elementary schools merge, it’s a prime opportunity to make new friends and get to know different people who bring out different sides of you. Stay loyal to your old friends and know who you count on, but keep yourself open to making fun new connections.

6. Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later. My husband and I met when we were 18. One night at a party, we talked outside for hours. While I liked our conversation, I kept waiting for it to go deeper. It never did, so the story ended there.

Five years later when we started dating, I teased him and told him that I assumed he was shallow that night because all he talked about was his fraternity brothers, going out, and having fun. He laughed and replied, “Kari, I was an 18-year-old boy…I probably was shallow!” At age 18 we weren’t ready for each other, but five years later we were. He had grown up, and so had I. The same thing can happen with friendships, so keep a good rapport with everyone, even if you think you have nothing in common.

7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not.

By being aware of your negative emotions (I’m jealous that my friend is so pretty….I’m freaking out that I wasn’t invited to that party) yet learning the self-control to not act on them (I’ll ask God to help me overcome my jealousy…It’s okay that I wasn’t included because I can make other plans) you’ll join the rare breed of girls who are confident enough in themselves to not make friendship too hard or dramatic.

8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. Just because your friend dislikes someone doesn’t mean you should too. Just because a rumor is flying around doesn’t mean it’s true. Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons. You have fun together and your personalities click, but there isn’t a great deal of loyalty.

Committed friends make up a small portion of your social network. Casual friends make up a large part.

10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.  Can kind girls be popular? Of course! But making popularity your ultimate goal is a bad idea, because you’ll do anything to impress the “right” people, even compromise your values.

The better option is make kindness your goal and treat everyone with equal respect, from the custodian of your school to the principal. This kindness flyer has some helpful hints, so hang it up in your bedroom or bathroom to keep your head and heart in a good place.

kindnessflyer

Change is hard – but change is also good. Change makes us stretch beyond our comfort zones and grow in new directions. And while the fluid nature of middle school – and trying to keep old friendships while exploring new ones – is an adjustment, it can strengthen your faith if you seek peace in God’s stability when your life seems so uncertain.

By embracing change rather than fearing it, and trusting it will all work out, you can keep the right attitude and look forward to what’s ahead as your relationships expand and deepen.

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

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

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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on October 18, 2016 at 3:10 pm

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5 Things Your Daughter Should Know About Chasing Boys

There are certain things in life worth waiting for.

A really awesome guy is one of them.

Unfortunately, our world has devalued the art of waiting. We want our heart’s desire now. And for teenage girls eager to fall in love, that eagerness can get the best of them. They may chase the boys they like instead of waiting for the right boys to chase them – and then wonder why their relationships are empty, short, and shallow.

chasing boys

If you have a daughter (I have four!) it may frustrate you to see the new breed of aggressive females being cultivated by our society. They are bold and forward in interacting with the opposite sex. They text boys constantly and seek attention in all the wrong ways.

The world tells girls it’s empowering to take charge and make advances, but I believe it hurts them. It can lead girls to lower their standards and behave in ways that make them look bad and, ultimately, feel bad about themselves.

In addition, chasing boys often makes boys run the other way. One thing I often hear from moms of boys is how quickly their sons lose interest when a girl is pushy or constantly checking in. They don’t like it and usually aren’t sure what to do with the excessive attention.

If you’re like me and my husband, and you want your daughter to buck the rising trend of girls chasing boys, here are five talking points to start the conversation.

1. You were made to chase your dreams, not boys. You are so talented, sweet girl! You are smart, energetic, and equipped to change the world with your God-given gifts.

So rather than make a boy the center of your universe, keep God at the center. Listen to His call and pursue the passions He plants in your heart. The right boy will show up at the right time. God will make sure of that!

You don’t need a boyfriend to make your life great. You build a great life for yourself by cultivating strong relationships with family and friends, developing your potential, and living out your God-given purpose.

When you find fulfillment before a boy ever enters the picture, you become the kind of girl who lives with such joy and peace that the right guys inevitably take notice and think, “Wow. She’s cool. I want to know her better. I want more of what she has.”

2. The way a relationship begins sets the tone. So if you start in role reversal, catching your heart’s desire by chasing him, expect to continue taking the lead. A boyfriend who had to be hunted down is very unlikely to court you, plan special dates, and initiate contact. Rather than being smitten, he’ll probably be passive and lukewarm in his feelings toward you.

Girls often complain about boys being lazy daters, but in this day and age, they can be lazy. Why ask girls out when girls will ask them? Why make dinner reservations when your girlfriend agrees to meet up with friends and count it as a “date”?

If you want a boy to court you, let him work a little. Set reasonable standards that require some effort. If he wants a date, have him pick you up and meet your parents. If he waits until Friday afternoon to ask you out for Friday night, keep your plans with friends and suggest he plan ahead next time.

Am I saying it’s wrong to speak or interact with boys? Of course not. I think it is fine to initiate conversation, smile, make eye contact, and express enough interest to let a boy know you’re interested once you’re of dating age. If he calls first, call him back. If he texts you, text him back. But don’t be desperate or make the common mistake of building your life around a boy. Besides hurting your relationship, it holds you back from achieving your own goals and pursuing your interests.

A guy worth having will rise to the challenge. He’ll figure out quickly how to improve his chances with you and find ways to spend time together.

3. Chasing boys might capture their attention, but it won’t capture their heart. God created you to guard your heart, not freely give it away to every boy who comes and goes. Chasing boys might make them notice you, but it won’t make them love you. It might lead to dates, but probably not healthy long-term relationships.

God wired boys to be the pursuer, not the pursued. He wants them to take the lead because it cultivates them into young men and prepares them for their future role as husbands, providers, and leaders of the home. You aren’t doing boys a favor by taking the risk of rejection off them; if anything; you’re depriving them of an experience that helps them grow up and mature.

There is something attractive and desirable to a boy about a girl who is humble and confident yet not aggressive. That is the kind of girl the good guys – the protectors, not the predators – are most likely to be interested in.

4. The best way to approach boys is as potential friends, not potential boyfriends. My goal with my daughters is to teach them how to be good friends with boys. If they master the art of friendship with the opposite sex, I believe the right romances will follow.

In dating and marriage, friendship is essential. It’s the glue that holds a couple together when times get hard or when the fireworks fade. When chasing boys, girls skip over friendship and plunge straight into passion. But passion without friendship won’t last. Passion without friendship makes a girl (and a guy) easy to replace once the excitement dies down.

Seeing boys as prizes to be won – rather than friends to be made – makes you feel the need to impress them. And the harder you try to impress someone, the less you are yourself. This makes you come across as fake, and as my husband tells our daughters, who wants to date an imposter? What boy will be interested in dating a girl who isn’t comfortable being herself?

The better approach is to focus on friendship first, even when you have a crush. Let boys see the real you. Friendship offers a safe way to get to know each other, and if a chemistry does exists, the romance can evolve naturally from there.

5. The right guy won’t need to be chased. Give it time and he’ll come after you. Right now, God is working on you and your peers. He’s orchestrating big changes from one birthday to the next, giving you big bodies, big emotions, and big thoughts to grow into. The teen years bring major transformation, and if you compare a 13-year-old with an 18-year-old, you’ll notice how much can happen in a relatively short time.

The boy you’ll eventually date or marry may not be ready for you yet. You may not be ready for him. Only time and maturity can bring you both to a place where you’re ready to give your heart fully and jump into a serious relationship.

In the meantime, have fun. Develop strong friendships with boys who make you laugh and feel good about yourself. Surround yourself with people who bring out your best, and bring out the best in others. Most importantly, grow your relationship with God. Get to know Him so well that when the right guy comes along, you’ll recognize God’s voice telling you this is the guy worth waiting for.

As for us parents, let’s recognize the trends of today’s dating scene and understand how hard it may be for girls to wait for boys when it seems like all the girls getting dates do not.

Our daughters are better than the lifestyle this world ubiquitously pushes on them. They shouldn’t have to compromise their values to win a boy over. And what every girl must believe is that she is worth the wait. She is a great catch. She has a lot to offer to anyone smart enough to notice.

In matters of the heart, patience pays off. My prayer for my daughters and yours is that they learn to love their lives regardless of what their love lives bring. The guys worth knowing will show up at the right time, and until that day comes, there’s still plenty of fun to be had, dreams to be chased, and friendships to be made.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on October 11, 2016 at 2:45 am

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10 Thoughts for My 10-Year-Old Daughter

There are certain people in this world who soften me when I look at them.

My daughter Marie Claire is one of them.MC2

Maybe it’s rosy cheeks. Or her starry eyes. Or her lyrical voice as sweet as honey that reminds me of a fairy.

Then again, it could be what I know about Marie Claire that isn’t readily apparent. Like how kind, tender-hearted, and compassionate she is. How she knows what to say to a friend who’s been hurt by another child. How she listens before she speaks and often makes remarks that grab me and make me think, “Wow, that’s really wise.”

Clearly, there are many qualities that I admire and love about my girl. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose her joyful spirit.

It doesn’t take much to make Marie Claire happy. It really is the simple things – like having a dance party in the kitchen, or jumping on the trampoline with friends – that make her radiate.

I want her to keep that light. I want her confidence and self-esteem to last for years to come. Where Marie Claire is now, fast approaching her 10th birthday, is the sweet spot before adolescence.  As I think about what typically happens to girls in adolescence – how studies show that confidence and self-esteem often begin to erode starting around 5th grade – I want to hug my baby tight, reaffirm who she is, and point her to the truth.

Because only the truth can help her as she wrestles with life’s big questions and finds her place in this world.

The first decade of Marie Claire’s life was major, and this next decade will be too. From age 10 to age 20, she’ll evolve from childhood to womanhood. It’s crazy and hard to fathom that these changes are even normal, because in my eyes she’ll always be the little girl who loves dress-up, playing pranks, and spraying her bedroom with Bath & Body Works.

Following are 10 things I want Marie Claire to know as she enters this next decade.

1. It’s okay to grow up at your own pace. It’s good to take your time and do what’s right for you. Our world pushes girls to the fast track. It wants you to paint your face with makeup, dress in revealing clothes, and aim to look 20 when you’re really 13.

Why? Because believing you need embellishments to look beautiful and desirable will make you buy whatever people sell. It’s a selfish ploy, and I hope you see through it. I hope you trust your instincts and remember that the best part of your appearance – the one that ultimately sets you apart – is the light that shines from within. It costs nothing, yet it’s worth everything. As Anne Lamott says, “Joy is the best makeup.”

2. Being a leader sometimes means standing alone. It means making a brave choice nobody else is making, like sticking up for the kid being teased, or avoiding a party where there’s sure to be trouble.

3. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than jealousy and competition. So when you’re jealous of a friend or secretly trying to one-up her, pray to get your heart in the right place. Remember that what’s good for your friend is good for you as well because you’re both on the same team.

4. Feeling different is completely normal. We all feel different because we are different. God created you uniquely so you can serve your generation like no one in the universe has ever served before. Rather than wish to be like everyone else, look for ways in which your authenticity can be used for His purpose.

5. Every choice has a consequence, and the choices you make today impact the opportunities you’ll have tomorrow. While making positive choices (like working hard in school) will open doors down the road, making negative choices (like failing to apply yourself) will close doors. Whatever choices you make, be prepared to live with them.

6. Be kind to everyone, but distance yourself from negativity. Trust your gut instincts when you feel like a friend or group you spend time with would drop you in a heartbeat or purposely leave you out because these instincts are usually correct.

7. Knowing who is good for you – and who isn’t good for you – is the key to healthy relationships. While good relationships give you the courage to be yourself, toxic relationships crush your spirit. They cause more stress, tears, and drama than genuine joy, laughter, and happiness. Learning to recognize when a relationship isn’t working – and having the courage to walk away when the warning signs appear – is an important life skill to develop.

8. There’s no such thing as a perfect friend or perfect person. While you should have standards for the people you allow in your innermost circle – expecting a certain level of trust and respect – you should also leave room for grace and forgiveness. All of us make mistakes and occasionally hurt the people we love. Don’t give up on a friend just because they messed up or did one thing you don’t agree with.

9. The best way to build confidence is to challenge yourself and accomplish a goal outside your comfort zone that forces you to stretch, grow, and master new skills.

10. Not everyone deserves a voice in your life. Not everyone has opinions that are worth your time and attention. When deciding whether to listen to a person, ask yourself this: Do I respect this individual? Do they have a history of making good choices in their own life? Do they genuinely love me? Do they care about my future? If I had a big decision to make, would I seek their counsel? Do they draw me closer to God and enhance my relationship with Him?

If you answer No to any question, then think twice before taking their words or advice to heart.

Most of all, Marie Claire, I hope you always remember how unconditionally loved you are. As much as your daddy and I love you, your heavenly Father loves you even more. He’s the only true expert of you, for only God has known since the beginning of time who you are, why you exist, and what you were born to do.

So trust Him with your big questions and little questions, and know that I’m always here to help. Whatever is waiting on the other side of 10, we’ll discover it together. We’ll celebrate, cry, and share in all the emotions that evolve as a little girl grows up.

Happy 10th birthday, my little ray of sunshine, and thank you for your light. You’re a joy to know and a joy to raise, a sweet blessing in my life for which I’m so very, very grateful.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on October 2, 2016 at 6:21 pm

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When Other Parents Love Your Child

women-love-your-childbest2

Years ago, I heard of a high school principal who shared with a room of educators an experience from her personal life.

While speaking with her neighbor one day, she mentioned how her daughter was interested in art. The next day, her neighbor appeared on her doorstep with an unexpected gift: paint, paint brushes, and art supplies so her daughter could get started.

Obviously, this principal was moved. She couldn’t believe what her neighbor had done for her daughter. Her message to the room of educators was this: That is what it means to be an educator – to make a personal investment in someone else’s child.”

I love this story because it applies to parenting, too. It’s what “the village” is all about. After parenting for 14 years, I’ve learned how the best gift you can give any parent is to genuinely love their child. This means caring about their well-being, recognizing what makes them special, and sharing your time, talent, or treasure.

While speaking to young moms at my church recently, I sensed a village camaraderie. I could tell it was in force as they laughed and bounced babies on their laps. I encouraged them to keep it up, because as kids grow older, the village tends to shift. The “we’re in this together” mentality that helps moms survive the toddler years can unexpectedly weaken as parents get competitive and start seeing other people’s kids as threats or competition.

After all, loving a baby or snaggle-toothed child is easy – but loving a teenager who may be more talented, successful, or celebrated than your child isn’t always the natural response.

In regards to my village, it differs a little from child to child. While some faces are constant, like family members and close friends, each daughter also has certain adults who have a soft spot for them.

In many cases, it’s the moms of their close friends, women who know them and have a relationship with them. They know my kids’ strengths and weaknesses, yet they wouldn’t hold a weakness against them. They won’t think poorly of my child if I share a problem or struggle we’re having.

If anything, they point out the good when I complain. They say things like, “But she’s such a great kid, you know? I really love that girl.” In these moments, I’m reminded that I can trust them. I know they’re in our corner truly rooting for my children.

One thing I’ve come to accept as my girls grow older is how my husband and I can’t meet all their needs. They need additional adults in their lives who believe in them and build them up. Once kids start to realize how mom and dad have to say nice things, they long for external validation. They want someone with credibility – and impartial opinions – to notice them and see their potential.

This is where the extended village comes in. This is where teachers, coaches, mentors, youth leaders, and others can make a life-changing impact. While it’s great for me to compliment my daughter’s cheer skills, the praise from her cheer coach carries far more weight than mine. While I can certainly commend her writing, it won’t put a big smile on her face like an email from her English teacher applauding her latest essay.

The mindset behind any village can be summed up by four words from my friend Joelle. Joelle and I had a texting spree one night as my daughter with food allergies developed a few mystery hives at her house. They were minor and cleared up with Benadryl, yet Joelle was thorough and patient in helping me dig for answers.joellebest

When I thanked her for helping me (and acting as if she had all the time in the world to do so) she wrote this:

“Your treasure is my treasure.” 

What a beautiful concept. What a wonderful approach in caring for someone else’s child.

Your treasure is my treasure. 

Your child is precious to you, so she’s precious to me too.

I see your child’s value – and I’ll treat her accordingly. 

My challenge to any parent reading this is to consider these questions: Whose child have I encouraged lately? What young life have I invested in above and beyond the norm? 

It doesn’t take money or grand gestures to invest in someone’s child, because true relationships don’t need a big show. Instead, we can look for small opportunities to show the kids in our environment that we notice them and care.

We can congratulate them on their accomplishments. Show up in times of grief. Encourage them with handwritten notes. Point out their gifts and abilities. Treat them to yogurt or ice cream. Ask about their hopes and dreams. Help make their dreams come true.

We parents all have gifts to offer that other kids and families need. We all have a role to play in promoting community over competition. Although we live in an age of child-centered parenting – where an obsessive focus on our kids can blind us to the needs and desires of other kids – we can buck the trends that lead to self-absorption and teach our kids instead to think beyond themselves.

Making a difference in the life of a child is a parent’s ultimate legacy. And while investing in our own kids is a given, investing in someone else’s child is a gift – a gift that can profoundly impact the future and keep the village alive.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on September 19, 2016 at 4:32 pm

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Be Awesome and Make History

Recently I asked my nine-year-old daughter what she wants to be when she grows up.

She eagerly replied, “I want to be awesome and make history!”

Exactly how she plans to make history is up in the air, because at her age, that part is irrelevant. All she knows is that she wants her life to count. She wants to matter. She wants a life of significance that people will remember.

And if we’re being honest, don’t we all feel the same way? Don’t we all long to leave a legacy that outlives our time on earth and keeps our memory alive?

Our desire for a meaningful life is good because God planted the desire in us. He created each of us for a special purpose that will leave the world better than we found it.

be awesome2

Sometimes, however, we mistakenly assume that a meaningful life must be grand and spectacular. We look for big signs, big assignments, and clearly significant work. And when they don’t come, we get discouraged. We question our value and wonder if God is ignoring us to tend to the more important people.

But God never ignores us. He thinks about us constantly and speaks all the time. The problem isn’t His lack of attention to us, but our lack of attention to Him. As Job 33:14 says, “For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.” Usually when we miss God’s presence, it’s because we’re overlooking the small moments and small assignments where He quietly reveals Himself

Sometimes when I forget the value of the small, I think of Mother Teresa, recently canonized as a saint. Mother Teresa had a simple philosophy known as “the little way,” which involved doing small things with great love.

Her entire legacy was based on loving the person in front of her. Her inspiration was St. Therese of Lisieux, who came up with “the little way” and has been acclaimed as the greatest saint of modern times because her spirituality has influenced millions.

St. Therese saw herself as the “little flower of Jesus,” created to give glory to God by simply being herself among the flowers in God’s garden. Just as a child becomes enamored with whatever is before her (and can be fascinated by a simple flower), St. Therese believed we should also have a childlike focus and be completely attentive to the person before us.

In her autobiography “Story of a Soul,” St. Therese said that not every flower can be a rose. Some flowers were created to be wildflowers, daisies, or violets.

She wrote:

“I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.

I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers.

So it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”

What St. Therese recognized is how most humans, deep down, long to be roses. We believe that making an impact requires us to be the showstopper that gets noticed and praised often. We fear that being anything other than the rose makes us less special — and less important to God.

But every flower is special to God because God made every flower. He loves variety and the beauty that variety brings. Far more important than how the world sees us is how God sees us. And when we bloom where we are planted, and stay true to our design, we bring God tremendous joy. He delights in us with equal pleasure, whether we’re a rose, a violet, or a wildflower.

Our world’s idea of a significance is to have a wide impact. But I believe the most influential people are those who have a deep impact. More than altering the course of history, they alter the course of someone’s soul. They understand how bringing just one person closer to God makes them an undeniable success in His book.

Whatever flower God wants you to be, be a good one. Use your life to make an eternal difference, not a temporary splash, by embracing simple acts of love.

If your name ends up in history books because of your life’s work, then that’s fantastic. If not that’s okay too, because you’re still awesome in God’s eyes. You can still make history by heaven’s standards by valuing the size of your love for God over the size of your assignments, and finding peace in the joy you bring Him even when nobody else is looking.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on September 6, 2016 at 3:56 pm

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Parenting Your Teen in an Age of Social Media

As a writer, I like social media. I can appreciate the benefits it offers because it has opened up doors for writers by offering a quick, easy, and free way to connect with readers.Parenting Your Teen in an Age of Social Media

As a parent, however, I have mixed feelings toward social media. I hear stories about kids who have misused it, been hurt by it, or made a terrible mistake that went viral, and I panic because I’m raising daughters in a generation that’s still figuring out how to be smart with a smart phone.

It’s a complex challenge, to say the least.

Parents often say they wish they could do away with social media for kids, because the problems outweigh the benefits. While I understand this, we all know it’s not going anywhere.

With new apps constantly being introduced, and teens growing increasingly reliant on online communities, we parents are forced to deal with this reality and develop a game plan.

Following are 5 guiding principles we can share with our kids to foster positive habits online. The purpose is to help them develop a filter for what is/isn’t appropriate and discern for themselves how to engage virtually in a way that’s productive and healthy.

#5: Remember your reputation is at stake. Every choice you make reveals your character. In this day and age, people get rejected from jobs, colleges, sororities, and even athletic teams because of poor judgment online. All it takes is a 5-second mistake to ruin your chances down the road.

Imagine having your heart set on med school – but getting turned down because a Google search of your name pulls up posts that show a lack of character. Imagine being passed over for your dream job because when you were 13, you shared questionable pictures on Instagram.

What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. Even Snapchat posts don’t “disappear” into oblivion. To build a good track record online – one that opens doors instead slamming them in your face – show integrity. Never write anything you wouldn’t say into a microphone at a school assembly. Never share a picture that you’d be mortified to see on the front page of your local paper.

#4: Consider three questions before you post: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? The key word here is “necessary.” While it may be true that your friend’s back-handspring is off-center, is it necessary to point that out when she posts a video? Do you want to be an encourager or a critic, the leader who lifts people up or the gossip who stirs the pot?

#3: Seek to be kind, not popular. We live in a cruel world, and sadly, you can build a cult following online by creating a snarky persona. As long as you’re funny and make people laugh, you can get away with insults, digs, and cutting people down.

Being snarky may draw attention, but it won’t make you feel good about yourself. And when you’re mean and snarky online, guess what kind of followers you attract? Mean and snarky people! When that’s the basis of your cult following, it’s only a matter of time before they turn on you.

Believe it or not, being kind online can attract a following, too. Our world is hungry for inspiring messages, so use your voice for good.  Remember that many people use social media as an escape from a hard day, a hard life, or a lonely heart, and a even a few uplifting words may offer much-needed hope.

#2: If you aren’t feeling the love, stay off social media. We all get in bad moods, fly off the handle, and overact at times. But giving your emotional monster access to a keypad is never a good idea, because inevitably you’ll post things you later regret.

The Internet isn’t a dumping ground. It isn’t a place to vent, air dirty laundry, or call your best friend out for a lie she told.  So before you get online, get your head and heart in the right place. Cool off from any anger, jealousy, or frustration you feel and try to act intentionally, not impulsively.

#1: Social media should supplement your relationships, not replace them. Recently I heard of a 15-year-old girl who received tons of text messages and Instagram posts on her birthday, but only one phone call. The call came from an out-of-town friend and meant a lot because of the personal touch and extra effort it required.

Technology makes it convenient to connect with friends, but it can also make you lazy. You may think you’re maintaining your friendships through digital contact, but without real-life engagement, your relationships will feel shallow and empty. Your friends need to hear your voice singing happy birthday to them, see your face lighting up at the sight of them, and feel your arms embracing them. Through personal contact, relationships gain depth.

So consider social media a “bonus” in your friendships. Use it to keep up or touch base, but not as your primary means of communication.

As for us parents, let’s keep the conversation about social media ongoing. Besides monitoring our children’s accounts, let’s also be their ally, letting them know we’re on their team and committed to helping them make wise choices online. 

We’re all learning as we go. We’re all figuring it out together as technology evolves and new challenges arise. By getting involved early, and staying involved while we have the chance to influence our children, we can plant important seeds and hopefully set them up to reap the benefits of social media in a world that desperately needs more people using it for good.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on August 29, 2016 at 2:34 pm

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One Thing You Can Do Today to Boost Your Happiness {Guest Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee)

Friends, have you ever wondered what an author is like in person? Especially when you’re crazy about their words, do you wonder if they’re as kind/funny/awesome in real life as they seem in a book? Well, I do this all the time, and as a writer I often have the opportunity to meet other authors and get my questions answered.

Here’s the truth about my friend Jennifer Dukes Lee: She’s the real deal. Besides being an amazing writer, she’s as kind and encouraging as they come. I met Jennifer before my first book released (when I was a bundle of nerves!), and I’ll never forget her enthusiasm and warmth as she admired the advance copy I gave her and later shared it on social media. Jennifer’s first book, Love Idol, was a big hit, and recently she released a new book called The Happiness Dare that is also getting rave reviews. I highly recommend it as a guide to help you find happiness in a God-centered way.

Please welcome Jennifer!

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Two years ago, I embarked on a God-made dare to enter into a holy pursuit of happiness. I quickly discovered that one of the most powerful ways to experience true happiness is simply by giving.

Giving often feels like it will require a big financial sacrifice, but in truth, giving doesn’t have to cost us much at all. Sometimes, it’s as simple as how we walk into a room. Sort of like this:

Meet Sally, a true giver. She is one of those sparkly, spirited people, as if glitter runs through her veins. I met Sally at an annual retreat for the writers and staff of (in)courage, an online ministry of DaySpring cards. I’m on the (in)courage writing team, and at the time, Sally was one of those behind-the-scenes givers who made sure things got done.jenn lee2

For two days, I observed her. (I know, I realize how stalkerish this sounds, but it was all for Jesus.) Sally would track happiness across the carpet of every room she walked into.

I told Sally what I had observed in her, and a wide smile stretched across her face. “I got it from my dad,” she said. “It was about the way Dad walked into a room.”

Sally told me more. Her dad taught her that when you walk into a room, you never say, “Here I am!” Instead, you say, “There you are!”

You don’t actually have to say those words out loud, but you might. You can speak those words with your whole self.

There’s a lesson about true happiness and giving in Sally’s words. If you want to be happier, begin with “There you are.” If you want to feel a sparkle in your spirit, share a bit of your own.

That’s what the givers teach us. They show us that happiness often begins with how you walk into a room.

Givers are the “There you are” people in a world that screams, “Here I am.”

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Jesus: The Ultimate Giver

“There you are” is the pulsing motivation of Jesus. The ultimate Giver, Jesus believed so much in the truth of “There you are” that he came straight into our world, forfeiting the comfort of heaven for the brokenness of earth.

He fully knew the cost. The greatest Giver of all time became the greatest Gift of all time. Jesus walked into the room. Into the mess. Into the middle. Into the heart of things.jenn lee3

God says he loves a cheerful Giver. No one in the history of mankind has given of himself with more joy, more happiness, more selflessness than God’s own Son.

Picture the upper room. Imagine the disciples, reclining at the table, conversing over goblets and bread as the moon rose overhead. Most of the disciples were clueless, but Jesus’ accusers were plotting against him even then.

This was Jesus’ final supper, and it was a Passover meal. According to tradition, those gathered around the table would have eaten prescribed foods. They would have sung songs and recited a special Jewish liturgy that included hymns taken from the Psalms. The hymns were known as the Hallel, the psalms of praise. They include these lines from Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Let that sink in for a moment. On the night Jesus was betrayed, he sang songs of praise. Jesus knew he was going to die, yet he uttered the words, “Let us rejoice and be glad.”

There will never be another Giver like Jesus, who laid himself down as the Gift. Jesus didn’t do it with a protest. He didn’t ask for anyone’s applause. He didn’t do it for his own glory.

He did it for the joy set before him. The ultimate Giver? He did it for you.

Here’s the one thing you can do to boost your own happiness today: Be a “there you are” person – just like Jesus.

Did you know that Givers are one of the five major happiness styles? To find your happiness style, in less than five minutes, take the Happiness Style Assessment.

(Excerpt taken from The Happiness Dare copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)

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Jennifer Dukes Lee is an award-winning former news journalist, an (in)courage writer and a blogger at jenniferdukeslee.com.jenn lee

Jennifer once took a dare to find out whether happiness matters to God and, if so, how to pursue it in a way that pleases Him. Out of that quest was born: The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire. Jennifer’s Happiness Style Assessment, which takes five minutes or less, can help you find out what truly makes you happy.

GIVEAWAY
As a fun bonus, Jennifer is giving away 3 copies of The Happiness Dare! To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment below about what makes you happy. The deadline for entry is August 25 at noon CST. Please include your name and email in your comment so we can contact the winners. Thank you for reading today!

 


Posted by Kari on August 22, 2016 at 12:28 am

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Connecting With Your Teen Daughter

When I began writing my first book for teen girls, I was writing for mothers. So when I sent two sample chapters to my editor for review, she offered pivotal advice that helped shape me as a writer and a mom.

She said, “This is a good start, but if you sound like a mom, the girls will stop reading. Write it instead from the voice of a wise big sister. Channel your teenage self.”girls - erica kiani2

What her advice forced me to do was to put myself in the shoes of today’s girls. It forced me to go back in time and dig up memories of myself at their age – even the unpleasant ones I really don’t like to remember.

And when I combined my experiences with the realities of today’s teen culture (way harder than the environment I grew up in), I softened up toward these girls. I grew a heart for what they’re going through and the pressures they’re bound to face.

Instead of seeing myself as a parent with so much wisdom to impart, I began seeing myself as their sister in Christ, someone to walk beside them with compassion for what they face and hope for what God has in store.

I share this because I now understand how the approach we take in talking to teen girls determines whether or not they listen. Without compassion or empathy, they’ll inevitably tune us out. 

As parents, it’s tricky to find the right balance. On one hand, we need to set boundaries, enforce rules, and instill a moral compass. On the other hand, we need to listen, remember ourselves at their age, and sometimes remove our parenting hat to have heart-to-heart conversations that meet our daughters where they are.

There’s a lot of negativity toward teenage girls these days, and people who only see the worst. They’re quick to judge, condemn, and try to “fix” them. Understandably, girls don’t like these people. They’re turned off by their approach, and they certainly don’t want advice from anyone who tends to act holier-than-thou.

Thankfully, there are also a lot of people who love genuinely teen girls and know how to relate to them. They’re patient, kind, and humble. I meet them often through my work, mothers and even grandmothers who pour tremendous time and talent into shaping the next generation. They work voluntarily, and though they usually have families, they commit to loving other people’s kids every single week through the small groups, youth groups, Bible clubs, and organizations they lead. 

I’ve learned so much from these women, and I love them because they love their girls so well. They offer a safe place for girls to be authentic and to process deep thoughts, feelings, and emotions. To no surprise, their girls adore them. They open up and spill their hearts. What these mentors do best is act as wise big sisters, someone who can listen without judgment and give helpful advice that points girls in the right direction.

So how does this relate to connecting with your teen daughter? Well, I believe we moms can take notes from these mentors. They understand how connecting with a teen girl is really about connecting with her heart, and the #1 tool for doing that is ENCOURAGEMENT. 

Let’s be clear: teen girls need encouragement. With all the criticism they hear, all the opinions they get, and all the pressures they face to be perfect, they need people in their corner who recognize their potential, believe in them, and can lovingly guide them toward their best life possible.

We moms stay busy running households, driving carpools, juggling schedules, and trying to raise good kids. Our plates are constantly full. It’s easy to forget, in the midst of dentist appointments and errands, that our kids need encouragement. Especially when our teen daughter’s room is a mess, when she’s in a bad mood, or when she acts as if she’s the center of the universe, it’s challenging to look past the surface and think about her heart’s desires.

But we need to. A lot is stirring inside the heart of a teenage girl. She has dreams and doubts, hopes and insecurities, convictions and vulnerabilities. Most of all, she is searching. She is looking for friends, love, answers, community, purpose, acceptance, happiness, and anything that can help her feel good about herself.

Our daughters have to work these things out for themselves. But what we can do, as parents and mentors, is offer tools for their journey. Most importantly, we can teach them the art of discernment, helping them filter through the voices they hear so they know which voices to listen to and which voices to tune out.

The books I write are designed to help girls trust God’s quiet whispers over the megaphone of public opinion. Since God is the author of peace, not confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) I want them to think about what brings them peace and tap into those truths they know deep down by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

My newest book Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? releases November 15, and I can’t wait to share the message. Written for the social media generation, it’s meant to encourage and empower girls through faith, while also building bridges between mothers and daughters as we unite in conversations about the longings in a female heart.

Since encouragement is essential for girls, my publisher has created pre-order incentives at www.liked-book.com that can help you encourage and connect with your daughter now. Simply order the book online and then claim your pre-order gifts here. 

The printables are incredible, and all you have to do is tape them a bathroom mirror, pin them to your daughter’s bulletin board, or place them where you know she’ll see them. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

 

 24 encouraging printables like this…

Liked-2HR

 

12 empowering printables like this (1 for each month)….

Monthly printable - Jan

And also cell phone screen savers, videos, the first chapter of Liked, and more!

These pre-order incentives are a great deal, and an easy way to let your daughter know that you’re on her side. You’re ready to help her in any way as she transitions into young adulthood.  

And while raising girls does present challenges, those challenges are worth it. Despite the negative buzz we often hear about teen girls today, I believe in this generation. I see a lot of good rising from it, and I’m excited to see what’s ahead for my daughters and their peers.

You have what it takes, my friend, to connect with your teenage daughter. So don’t let the bad days discourage you or lose faith as your relationship changes. Just keep your eyes on God, pray for wisdom, and look for the good in your daughter. God is working in her life and yours, and as you both draw closer to Him, you’ll consequently draw closer to each other.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on August 14, 2016 at 11:23 pm

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12 Back-to-School Prayers for Your Child

It’s that time of year again, time to pull out the backpacks, get haircuts, set up alarm clocks, and make 20 trips to Target because school is about to start, and Mom is on a mission.

Wherever your heart is this season – whether you’re jumping for joy because you’re ready for some space, or crying on the sofa because you aren’t ready to let your kids go – you probably have mixed emotions about the school year ahead.BACKTOSCHOOL22

You hope it will be a great one, but what if it’s not? You want your kids to excel and be happy, but what if they fall and struggle in ways you never saw coming?

We moms like control, and not having control of the next nine months can make us feel a little, well, anxious. And since my favorite cure for anxiety is prayer, I’d like to share some prayers that might calm an anxious heart. Here goes:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the gift of a new school year. Thank you for our school community and the great education our kids enjoy. With gratitude I pray for the following:

1. Confidence. Help my children see themselves through Your eyes and draw strength from their confidence in You (“God is within her, she will not fall.” Psalm 46:5)

2. Kindness. Enable my children to be a blessing and a light to those they encounter (“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

3. Wisdom. Open my children’s hearts and minds to your ways, and enlighten them with insight into your will (“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5)

4. Self-control. Give my children the discipline to work hard, control negative impulses, and grow in the virtues that draw them to you (“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11)

5. Strong relationships. Surround my children with positive influences and godly friends who help them grow in your image and become the best version of themselves. (“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33)

6. Courage. Instill in my children the courage to be true to themselves and faithful to You, even if it means standing alone (“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8).

7. Faith. Fix my children’s eyes on the big picture and keep their minds in awe of Your ability to create, control, and sustain the universe (“The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him.’”Matthew 8:27).march 2016 119 - Copy

8. Peace. Calm my children’s hearts when they feel stressed, worried, or lost. Remind them you are the God of peace, not confusion. Make Your presence known as You carry them through trials and challenges (“I am leaving you with a gift; peace of mind and of heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27).

9. Clarity. Help my children hear Your voice and see You at work in their lives. Make it clear what You want them to do (“For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.” Job 33:14).

10. Fortitude. Give my children strength and grit when they get tested, and help them recognize any escapes that You provide (“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13).

11. Protection. Armor my children physically, mentally, and spiritually. Surround them with angels to guard them and guide them. Cultivate sharp instincts in each of them that allow them to be gentle yet smart. (“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16)

12. Hope. Equip my children to bounce back quickly from daily disappointments. Keep them anchored in the hope of heaven, the joy of Jesus, and the security of Your promises (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11).

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Moms, I’m thinking of you as this new school year begins. Whether you’re sending your baby off to kindergarten, your oldest child to college, or something in between,  I pray that God watches over your children and blesses them with positive growth as they start new adventures and spread their wings wide.

It’s all good, and it’s all going to be okay. Our kids have lessons to learn and so do we, and if we can settle our fears and anxieties, we can get excited about what’s in store and maybe even anticipate the thrill of the unknown and the pleasant surprises that await us in the next nine months.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!

 


Posted by Kari on August 8, 2016 at 11:46 am

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The Key to Great Parenting? Consistency

My sweet father-in-law, Nestor Kampakis, passed away unexpectedly this past New Year’s Eve. Although he had Alzheimer’s, his death was a shock, altering the landscape of 2016 for our family.

Papou was a good soul and everything you’d hope for in a father: kind, loving, protective, wise, honest, committed, and faithful. He adored his family and loved anyone whom his children loved, because if someone was important to his child, they were important to him too.

After Papou died, I sat down with Harry and his two sisters to help Harry with his eulogy. We cried and laughed as we recalled our favorite memories of Papou, from famous words of wisdom like “If you go to bed with dogs, you’re going to wake up with fleas” to stories of him patiently teaching his kids to water ski and pulling them all day on the boat.

As Harry wrote his eulogy, he noticed a theme to his father’s life. What made Papou a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and friend could really be summed up in one word.

Consistency.

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You see, Papou wasn’t the type to make New Year’s resolutions that only lasted a month. He didn’t jump on the bandwagon of hot new trends and hop from one opportunity to another, always looking for some get-rich-quick scheme.

Instead, Papou lived a life of quiet commitment. He was faithful and firm, the kind of father who kept his word, showed up, and followed through on his decisions.

When his oldest daughter, Renee, was in first grade, for instance, she came home from school one day admitting that she’d lied to her teacher. The teacher had asked the kids where they went to church, and since their family had moved to Gadsden, they’d stopped going to church because the closest Greek Orthodox church was in Birmingham.

Immediately Papou made a decision. On Sunday mornings, he and his family would begin driving to Birmingham to attend church. An hour there and an hour back.

His kids would sometimes complain, of course, but Papou stuck with it. Rarely did their family miss a Sunday service. Today, Harry and his sisters agree that those Sunday drives to church are some of their best childhood memories. They talked about everything during those car rides — school, relationships, life lessons — and bonded over the conversations that resulted.

When Papou’s kids went to college, he wanted a way to keep in touch with them. He decided to start calling each child every morning on his way to work. His calls rolled in like clockwork, and even if Harry and his sisters had been out late the night before, they knew to expect their phones to ring sometime around 8 a.m.

Once Harry and I got engaged a few years later, Papou added me to his call list. “Since you’re going to be my fourth child,” he told me “you’ll get a call too.” Papou kept his promise, calling me at work each morning until I married his son nine months later.

Papou’s death really got me thinking about what makes a great parent — and the kind of legacy I hope to leave. One thing I noticed in the aftermath of his death was the deep sadness in the eyes of those childhood friends who grew up with his kids and considered him an important influence in their lives.

Many old friends called Papou their “second dad.” Others admitted to feeling closer to Papou than they did their own father. Papou always he welcomed his children’s friends into his home. He took a genuine interest in their lives and showed up for every football game, school event, and special gathering that parents were invited to because he loved to be a part of his children’s world.

Celebrating Father’s Day this year will be tough without Papou. I expect there to be a lot of storytelling, tears, and laughter.

And if there’s anything I think we can all learn from this man whose family adored him and whose absence is felt deeply, it’s the importance of being consistent.

Because sometimes parenting can get boring and hard. Sometimes we get so burned-out that we’re extremely tempted to check out. For moms and dads alike, the work can get monotonous. It’s time to go to work again. It’s time to do laundry again. It’s time to drive carpool again and help with homework again and repeat the same old routine again and again and again.

This daily grind can make us feel either antsy or stuck. We may wonder what the point is and if the end result is worth it.

Through Papou’s life and death, I’ve seen firsthand what that daily grind can lead to. I’ve witnessed how his commitment as a family man led to a really rich harvest at the end of his life.

The reason Papou become a beloved grandfather whose grown children and grandchildren flocked to him and loved spending time with him is because he had engaged with them since birth. He loved his people fiercely and with great pride. He was a steady, dependable, and predictable presence in our lives, someone who earned the trust and respect of many people by the way he lived his life.

Great parenting is no accident. And of the many habits that made Papou a great example to follow, I believe his habit of honoring his commitments tops the list.

Papou’s daily discipline added up to a really amazing life. And as we settle into life without him, we make it our goal to carry his legacy on, and to try to raise our children with the same values that shaped his parenting and the same beautiful commitment to being present, dependable, and faithfully consistent.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on June 12, 2016 at 11:31 pm

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Character is More Important Than Winning

Several years ago, I heard about a 5th grade boy who showed character during a summer all-stars baseball game that was intense and high-stakes.

Both teams were determined to win.

The boy, named Michael, made an amazing stop at short stop. Everybody in the stands thought he’d caught the ball for an out, but it was questionable whether the ball touched the ground before landing in his mitt.

The umpire asked Michael if he’d caught the ball. The crowd grew silent as everyone leaned in and listened closely. Michael knew that if 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. Immediately you could hear the crazy parents in the stands grumbling about the call and the missed catch.

Character-BEST

Michael’s mother, on the other hand, was so proud of her son for choosing to tell the truth. Her pride grew when a father from the opposing team emailed her after the game to congratulate Michael on his honesty.

Now, all of us like to win, and it’s probably fair to say that most of us would love to be heroes. And while the desire to win can be good and motivating in pushing us to work hard, be brave, and achieve our goals and dreams, it stops being good when it overshadows something far more important.

Like character.

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

Character is making a habit of good choices, and practicing virtues like honesty, kindness, patience, and respect. 

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

And character is doing the right thing on a small level every day, because these small choices prepare you for those big choices that put your true character to the test.

At some point, we all face moments like Michael. 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 if you put yourself in Michael’s shoes, it’s easy to imagine the temptation to lie. It took courage for him to be honest even though he knew he might disappoint some people and even make them angry.

Michael took a risk, but it was a risk worth taking because he kept his integrity. He proved that he’s the kind of person who others can trust and respect. More importantly, his choice allowed him to feel proud of himself. It enabled him to feel that deep inner peace we all want and crave.

Living in an area of very accomplished people, I’m surrounded by winners every day. I see highly successful adults raising exceptionally talented kids in this community of champions where the bar is set high.

In many ways it inspires me. I love watching people use their gifts to help others, serve God, and reach their full potential. With each generation the standard of excellence gets passed on, which makes the kids of my community well-equipped to become world changers by the time they leave for college.

What I’ve realized over time, however, is how easily the drive to succeed can create blind spots in communities like mine. Being overly focused on outward success – and overly impressed by tangible signs – can make character an undervalued commodity when the pressure to excel is intense. 

I often have to remind myself that I want more for my kids. I want my children to care more about their substance than their show. How my kids feel about themselves is far more important than whether they look like a big deal to others. And while I certainly want them to strive for excellence and do their absolute best, I also know deep down that real excellence begins with character.

Because it’s not trophies, bragging rights, or bank accounts that will make children winners at life.

It’s not a running streak of victories that will teach them how to win and lose with grace.

It’s not big salaries that will lead to meaningful relationships.

And it’s not a perfect résumé that will fill the emptiness inside them as they wrestle with who they are and what purpose they were made to serve.

Winning is awesome, and I hope every child on this planet experiences the thrill of winning many, many times as they grow up.

At the same time, I hope my kids and other kids always value character over winning. I hope they see that character is really about moral fiber and understand that when they seek moral excellence first, excellence in the rest of their life will naturally follow.

I applaud parents like Michael’s mom and the dad who emailed her because they get it. They understand how Michael’s character win was a far greater victory than being a 5th grade hero.

And what the rest of us can learn from their story is to make sure we celebrate the right things at home. Our kids should have no doubt that what thrills us more than them being named Most Likely to Succeed is for them to earn a reputation of being Most Likely to…

*Comfort a classmate who is upset;

*Stand up for someone being bullied;

*Admit their mistakes and face the consequences;

*Agree to be PE partners with the least athletic person;

*Congratulate a friend for making a team that they didn’t make; and

*Work hard and keep a positive attitude, even when everyone else complains.

Kids with great character attract friends with great character. The perks of this are obvious. So if we really want to launch our children into positive relationships, and help them become the kind of people who earn the trust, respect, and admiration of others, we must value and cultivate the quiet strength called character that helps turn them into class acts.

Any child can catch a baseball, but only a handful of kids would have the guts to choose a moment of honesty over a moment of glory. If you ask me, that’s a strong clue of a superstar in the making. That’s the kind of child I hope to raise, and the kind of person I hope to be in my own character journey.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on May 15, 2016 at 11:53 pm

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Big News: I Have A New Book Coming!

For about a year now, I’ve been pouring myself into a project that is near and dear to my heart.

And I’m thrilled to finally announce that this project is a second book with Thomas Nelson that releases this fall and will be available everywhere books are sold!

The book is called Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For?and the official release date is November 15, 2016. Like my first book, it targets teen and tween girls, yet the message is relevant for all ages.

The purpose of Liked is to empower girls through faith. It’s designed to help them focus on their audience of One – the God who created them – and discover a life of confidence, courage, and purpose.

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We all know how important it is to many girls to be liked and accepted. And thanks to social media, the quest to impress can be taken online.

Today’s girls are savvy in knowing the tricks to getting liked and noticed on social media, yet in real life, they often struggle to feel loved and known. They rack up followers, praise, and “likes,” yet they may still feel lonely, inadequate, or jealous as they compare their life to everyone else’s and face an underlying pressure to prove themselves so they don’t become irrelevant.

Liked can break this cycle! Packed with Biblical wisdom and practical advice, it is designed to help girls cultivate a healthy love for self and others through a strong relationship with God. The end result is a life that can launch today’s girls in a meaningful direction – one that enables them to make an eternal difference, not a temporary splash.

Topics covered in Liked include:

* Living for God’s approval, not human approval;COVER

* Cultivating a true identity;

* Using social media wisely;

* Building a positive reputation online;

* Spreading kindness, love, and compassion;

* Distinguishing online friends from real friends;

* Building deep connections that last;

* Handling rejection, criticism, and volatile emotions;

* Activating your Christian faith; and

* Making an eternal difference, not a temporary splash.

Girls of all ages get bombarded with voices that tell them what they should do and who they should be. They often become slaves to the feedback they hear and the opinions people have in a culture that can be shallow and unnecessarily critical.

For them to thrive, we need to equip them. It’s important that we get their internal wiring correct and help them tune into God’s quiet voice so that when external challenges arise, they’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually strong.

I wrote the book that I need to read – again and again – and I wholeheartedly believe that females of all ages can benefit from it. If you like the message behind Liked, I’d be SO grateful for your support. Here are a few ways you can help now:

*Pre-order Liked online, and save your receipt/proof of purchase because we have pre-order gifts coming. Beginning June 1, you’ll be able to download a PDF of the first chapter and 24 encouraging printables to share with your daughter.

*Pre-order 5 copies of Liked online,  and save your receipt/proof of purchase. Beginning June 1, you’ll be able to download a PDF of the first chapter, 24 encouraging printables for girls, plus 12 printables with 10 Empowering Things to Say to Your Daughter Each Month.

*Pre-order 10 copies of Liked online, and save your receipt/proof of purchase. Beginning June 1, you’ll be able to download a PDF of the first chapter, 24 encouraging printables for girls, plus 12 printables with 10 Empowering Things to Say to Your Daughter Each Month. You’ll also gain access to exclusive videos from me on subjects like kindness, comparison, and friendship to share with your daughter/small group.

*Share this post on social media and encourage your friends to pre-order Liked. Begin using the hashtag #likedbook.

*Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to keep up with the latest news, and subscribe to my blog (below) to receive important updates.

*Talk about Liked with your pastor, priest, youth leader, school counselor, cheer sponsor, dance instructor, or anyone who works with young women. Suggest having the girls study the book together through a small group or a church youth group in 2017.

*Consider leading a small group study of Liked for your daughter and her friends in 2017. All you need is a passion for girls and a few moms to help with logistics!

*Consider using Liked for a small group study for you and some friends (because let’s face it – adult women need this message as much as teen girls!).

I realized the power of small groups after releasing 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know in November 2014. 10 Truths has been used widely across the country for small group and church youth group studies, and I’ve heard incredible feedback from adult leaders who say the book kept the girls eagerly engaged, drew them closer to Christ and each other, and opened the door to great dialogue.

My prayer is that Liked will do the same. I hope girls will study it together and mothers and daughters will use it as a conversation-starter for those issues that run deep in the female heart and can unite us in powerful ways.

As a mom of four girls, I’m passionate about helping my daughters and their peers realize they don’t have to settle for the world’s values. They were made for so much more than the superficial lifestyle that gets pushed on them, and they deserve a life that brings out their best.

I’m so excited about sharing Liked, and I’d love your prayers for the girls who will read it and the adults who will lead studies. Please join me in rallying around this message that I believe can change lives and empower a generation of girls to live boldly and bravely for Jesus, helping them value their worth not on how widely liked they hope to be, but on how deeply loved they already are.

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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. 

My first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, is available everywhere books are sold. To pre-order Liked, coming November 2016, visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Christianbook.com.  

Have a great day!


Posted by Kari on May 4, 2016 at 12:50 am

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Raise the Child You Have, Not the Child You Want

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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In the THICK of Parenting

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

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

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

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

thick parenting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What mattered to his family mattered to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again for stopping by. God bless. 


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

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Raising a Brave Child

“A word of encouragement during a failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am proud of you.”

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

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

The expectations ended there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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3 Words Our Kids Need to Hear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get it.

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

I get it you’re jealous of your friend.

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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10 Things I Love about Having a Tween Daughter

tween

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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How a Critical Mom Learned To Connect With Her Child

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

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

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

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

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

I told myself I was building her up.

But in reality, I was tearing her down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.

My daughter didn’t move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only love today.

Let grace in.

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

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

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


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

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10 Truths Middle Schoolers Should Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But when we clear the road for a child, we make their life too easy. We don’t allow them to build life-coping skills they’ll need down the road to handle life’s hard realities.

Because right now our kids face Little League stress. They face rejection, disappointment, and adversity on a small and age-appropriate level (generally speaking).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kari-Covers

Thank you for reading this article today.  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, my newest book, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? and is now available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleChristianbook.com, and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a unique and timely resource for girls of the digital age!

My bestselling first book, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, has been used widely across the U.S. for small group/church youth group studies. It’s also available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon. To learn more, check out Kirkus Reviews or see what readers are saying on Amazon

Have a great day!

 


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

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