Hurt People Hurt People: Why I Feel Sorry for Bullies, Haters, and Critics

Sometimes I don’t understand all the meanness in this world.

There is meanness at school. Meanness on the Internet. Meanness among enemies. Meanness among “friends.” Add it all together, and it can threaten your hope in humanity.

There was a time when I thought I had nothing in common with mean people. They were bad, I was good, and that was the end of the story. But with age and maturity, I’ve grown to understand that nobody is 100 percent good or 100 percent evil. We are all good and evil, a community of sinners in a fallen, broken world.

A turning point in my mindset came years ago when I started writing fiction. After submitting a partial manuscript to an agent, she pointed out a mistake I’d made that was common among novice writers. In short, I’d made my villain too villainous. She had absolutely no good or redeeming qualities, and since this didn’t reflect the reality that no one is “all good” or “all bad,” my villain seemed cartoonish and unbelievable.

The best villains, this agent explained, are three-dimensional. They have feelings, emotions, and back stories that help explain why they’re hateful. The best villains have moments where the audience actually empathizes with them, because as terrible as the villain appears on the surface, there’s a different storyline playing in their head. There is pain from the past that has led the villain to this point, where they believe they’re justified in whatever they’re doing or saying.hurtBLOG

So these days when I see vicious remarks on the Internet, or hear about an act of cruelty, I wonder about the back story of the real-life “villain.” I wonder what may have happened to make that person a bully, hater, or critic. Because nobody falls into that role haphazardly. Nobody wakes up one day and decides to adopt a negative lifestyle for fun. Hurt people hurt people, and when someone is dumping their hurt onto others, it’s a sign that they’re desperately trying to get rid of the negative feelings inside them.

Sadly, what begins as one person’s inner turmoil can ultimately affect many. As the old expression goes, “The boss yells at the man, and the man goes home and yells at his wife, the wife yells at the kid, and the kid kicks the dog.” Until someone breaks the cycle, the hurt keeps getting passed on.

I used to feel nothing but anger for bullies, haters, and critics. But now, there’s a part of me that gets sad for them. What comes out of a person reflects what’s inside, so when someone spends their life looking for things to bash, refusing the see the good in anyone or anything, it reveals the state of their interior. Imagine living in a mental prison of self-hate and vicious self-talk. Imagine having no escape from meanness because you can’t run away from yourself.

Victims of hate have an escape. They have loving and welcoming arms they can run into, safe places where they can heal, people who want to help them bounce back and restore their self-esteem. But what love exists in the life of a bully, hater, or critic? Who wants to be in their inner circle, encouraging them when they’re down? Who wants to extend the very thing they need most – kindness – when they’re so hard to love?

Frankly, I can’t think of a more miserable way to live than to be stuck in your own poison (as another saying goes, “My mind is a terrible place to be.”) And that’s why I feel sorry for bullies, haters, and critics. That’s why I understand the call we’ve all been given to love our enemies, because only love can break the spell of hatred.

The answer to meanness is never more meanness. The answer is to look at a hostile person like you might a well-drawn character from a story and ask yourself, “Why are they doing this? What must be going on inside them to make them dump their hurt on me?

And then – this is the hard part – your answer is to respond in love. If you can’t love that person yet, love someone else. Let the vicious email in your Inbox inspire you to write a nice email to a friend. Let the put-down you just heard inspire you to build someone else up. The point is to break the cycle, to turn the tide so you don’t spread more harm.

Truth be told, we’re all capable of being bullies, haters, and critics. We all have mean urges, mean moments, and mean feelings we want to unload sometimes. And if we really want to understand cruel people, all we have to do is look inward. By admitting our worst urges, and things we’re tempted to do when we’re hurt, we can better understand them.

The message to take away here, for you and me, is this: Be aware of where you dump your hurt. Deal with it in healthy ways instead of randomly releasing it on others. Before writing that email that gives someone a piece of your mind, posting something snarky on social media, or flying into a rage that hurts a child, a spouse, even the family dog, think about why you’re so upset. Pray for self-control and a peaceful solution that brings inner harmony instead of turmoil.

The world doesn’t need more meanness. What the world needs is more people willing to look past negativity to recognize the root of meanness: Pain. We were all created to give and receive love. The more love we give, the more we receive, and when we live this way, we create a new cycle, a cycle of love that can trump all evil and pass on joy and hope instead of anger and pain, bringing much-needed light into a dark world.

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the August 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 LivingIf you liked this message, please share it through the social media below.

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teens and tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.comI’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.


Posted by Kari on August 3, 2014 at 10:15 pm

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What I Appreciate MOST from Parents Raising Boys

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

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

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

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

No,” their son replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect! You can subscribe to my blog, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST10truths_rnd2

If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. I’m also very grateful for that.

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teens and tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.

 


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

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12 Ways to Help the Grieving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the July 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 LivingIf you liked this message, please share it through the social media below.

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

Also, I’ve written a book for teen and tween girls that is available for pre-order. 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, published by Thomas Nelson, can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. I’d love your help in spreading the word. Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.


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

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Why Women Need Their Girlfriends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To drop a line to Emily, email her at  elassiter2010@charter.net. Also, Emily is putting together a Bible study for young widows in Birmingham. If you or anyone you know are interested, feel free to contact her.

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

Finally, I have a book for teen and tween girls coming November 4. Titled 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s available for pre-order on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. I’d be grateful for your help in spreading the word. Find the official announcement here.


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

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When Your Kids are Mean to Each Other

My family and I have had a great summer so far. We’ve been to the beach, stayed up late laughing and being silly, caught up with friends, and enjoyed extra time together that I try to cherish because I know one day, we’ll be going in different directions as my daughters live out independent lives.siblings

With the extra time together, however, comes the reminder of how extra-comfortable we get around the people we’re with the most. We let down our guard. We filter less of what we say. We let our true colors show – the good and the ugly – because frankly, we’re kind of exhausted from being on our best behavior around everyone else. 

Yes, the people who know us best also tend to see our worst because:

1. We feel completely comfortable and safe around  them; and

2. We don’t worry about them deserting us or writing us off on a whim because in many cases – i.e. family – they’re stuck with us. And when someone is stuck with us, there’s a security in the relationship that makes it easy to push the limits.

Security in a relationship is a wonderful thing. Without it, we couldn’t build true, deep, and meaningful connections. But sometimes, the relationships we’re most confident about are where we’re more likely to blurt out hurtful things and less likely to bite our tongue. We get a lazy filter that leads to hurt feelings, tension, and arguments.

And while a lazy filter can damage any relationship, it’s the lazy filters inside a home that can really tear us down. Because home…well, it’s supposed to be our sanctuary. It’s our soft place to land after a hard day. So like many parents, I try hard to foster a positive home environment. I praise my kids when they love and affirm each other. And I tell them – again and again – that while friends may come and go, family is forever. Their sibling relationships will be the longest relationships in their lives, and it’s important they nurture the ties because one day, when their father and I are gone, they’ll only have each other.

In the heat of summer, however, this logic gets lost. Because mingled in with the fun, sun, and freedom is the reality that familiarity breeds sibling contempt. That’s why they scratch faces, pull hair, and sneak in punches. That’s why they make lovely remarks like the ones I’ve heard since school let out:  

“You’re an idiot.”

“You’re a brat.”

“I hate you.”

“Stupid.”

“Just stop talking! I’m sick of you!”

Not exactly music to a mother’s ears, I tell you. While I should be used to their sporadic put-downs (followed by laughter and unspoken forgiveness 20 minutes later, I might add), each one is a dagger to my heart. Because one of my greatest hopes as a mom is that my daughters become best friends. When they grow up, I want them to be the sisters who name their daughters after each other, call each other constantly, and laugh about the battle scars from their wars today. 

I’m not alone in this, and that’s why a number of reader have emailed me on the subject of sibling meanness, asking for advice. As one mom essentially put it: My kids are kind to their friends…it’s kindness at home that’s our issue. Boy, did that resonate with me. Sometimes when my daughters speak harshly to each other, I point out how they’d never treat a friend that way (and if they did, she wouldn’t be their friend for long). Like anyone, their siblings deserve respect, maybe even more respect than friends because sisters are sisters for life.

I wish I had fail-proof solutions, but the fact is, siblings are going to fight. It’s inevitable, and anyone who swears their kids don’t argue is lying. Our kids are HUMAN, after all. They have tempers and emotions and very little experience in handling either. Our job as parents is to help instill self-control and good filters. And if we look at sibling conflicts as an opportunity to teach social skills our kids will need in the real world, the fights can serve a purpose. If they can learn early how to get along with others, resolve conflict, and peacefully co-exist with those who are different than them, they’ll be set in future relationships.

Proof they love each other - just not all the time

They adore each other – but not all the time

With that said, I have a few ideas on creating a kinder home. While I can’t promise miracles, given how my kids still act mean sometimes, I can say these things have helped us make progress in reducing sibling tension:

1. Consider three questions – Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? – before speaking. The key word  here is “necessary.” Because as we all know, kids can be brutally honest. And sometimes when they cause hurt feelings, they’re not trying to mean; they’re just pointing out the obvious. While it may be true their sibling lost the game for her softball team, is it really necessary to mention it? While some truths should be voiced, others are best left unsaid. Helping our kids discern the difference can prevent tears and strife.

2. Speak hard truths with love and grace. I rely on my family to be honest with me. If there’s something no one else has the heart to say, I count on them to say it. But like anyone, I’m more open to hearing messages delivered properly, words spoken from a place of love and grace, not anger or haste. By teaching our children the importance of tone, timing, and tact, we help ensure they’ll get heard and be respected as truth tellers. We also train them to pay as much attention to their method as the message itself.

3. Model kindness. How my husband and I treat each other and our kids sets the bar of kindness. Can I really expect my kids not to yell at each other when I yell at them? Can I call them out for saying, “You’re getting on my nerves!” when I’ve slipped and said that? I hate to admit it, but I get emotionally charged, too. Old habits of fighting with my sisters, habits I thought I’d outgrown until motherhood resurrected them, come out sometimes when the kids test me. I’m not proud of this, and all I can do afterward is ask them for forgiveness and pray for self-control. As humbling as these moments are, however, they’re good for me, because they remind me I’m as flawed as my children. As God has patience with me, I should have patience with them.

4. Foster a team mentality. On any team, what’s good for one is good for all. What happens to one happens to all. When a family unites to cheer on the child in the spotlight – a spotlight that keeps revolving so everyone gets a turn – a family fan club results. Kids love being in a family fan club when they know it will cheer them on, too. Whether it’s a dance recital, a birthday, or a school presentation, there’s always someone to celebrate in the family, a way to spotlight each team member so everyone is built up.

5. Try toothpaste to make your point. A friend of mine recently shared a trick her sister used. I liked it so much I included it in my upcoming book for teens. One day when her daughters were bashing each other, she took them into the bathroom and gave them each toothpaste. She instructed them to squirt their toothpaste into the sink. Once the glob was out, she told them to put the toothpaste back in the tube. They couldn’t, of course, and that led to her point: The words we speak are like toothpaste. Once they’re out, they’re out. Think twice before making a mess you can’t put back in.

So if your kids argue, remember you’re not alone. Keep in mind that in my house, we got Greek and Italian genes going, and together they can get some blood boiling. And when you see pictures on Facebook of happy, smiling siblings, remember those are moments in time. Moms eagerly post them because they’re so thrilled to see their kids getting along. These moments are like a rainbow at a storm’s end, a rainbow that must be captured because who knows when it will come again?

We’re all in this together, raising kids we hope will love each other and survive each other, too. So cherish your kids’ best moments this summer, and don’t let the fights ruin them for you. All siblings have a long way to go in appreciating each other. But with time and maturity, they can take to heart what we’re telling them today and understand why the comfort zone of family is a place to hold sacred, because while friends may come and go, family is forever.

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

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teens and tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.


Posted by Kari on June 16, 2014 at 12:19 am

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How Can I Make Them Want Me?

Recently I spoke with a young girl who shared with me a time that she’d been left out by friends.

It happened at school and started with a club her friends created. The club had its own rules, and when she overheard some girls in her class talking about it, she asked if she could join.WantMe

“Sure,” they replied, and with that she was a member.

Later that day, however, she overhead the mastermind behind the club – one of her close friends – telling the girls who invited her in to pretend the club didn’t exist anymore. For whatever reason, the club creator didn’t want her friend to be part of this group, so she hatched a plan to continue it in secret.

As you can imagine, this girl was hurt. While she didn’t reveal to anyone what she’d overheard, she spent the rest of the day dwelling on the events and feeling confused. Why would her friend intentionally lock her out? What was the point?

The more she thought about it, the more she questioned herself. She initially wondered, “Have I done something to make my friend mad at me? Am I not being a good friend? How can I be a better friend?” After giving it serious thought, she was still short on solutions. She couldn’t come up with a reason why her friend might react that way or what she could have done differently.

At this point, her thoughts changed. She now wondered how she could gain acceptance from the club. Her overriding question was, “How can I make them want me?” As she admitted to me the ideas that crossed her mind, she laughed at herself. Her wish to be more popular and desirable prompted her to consider scenarios like:

Should I buy cooler clothes?

Should I change my look?

Should I be more social?

Should I try to talk more and not be shy?

She exhausted herself in search of answers. At last, she reached a pivotal conclusion, ultimately deciding this: “If I haven’t done anything wrong or mean to make them act that way, then I don’t need to change. What happened wasn’t my fault, so I don’t need to do anything differently.”

I share this story because it’s relevant to everyone. Young and old, we all know what it’s like to be excluded. We’ve all questioned ourselves as a result. We’ve all experienced the heart-sinking disappointment of having a friend go behind our back. Sometimes it’s due to jealousy. Sometimes it’s ignorance. Sometimes it’s immaturity and the fact that people get hurt as everyone learns what, exactly, a true friendship entails.

In any case, it’s important to keep a clear head. It’s important to understand, as this girl did, whether change is necessary on our end. Rejection makes it very tempting to transform ourselves to gain approval. And while that may secure our spot in a club, it can distance us from who God designed us to be. It can conform us to the ways of the world and make us lose touch with our identity in Christ.

The term for this is people-pleasing. And according to Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book The Purpose-Driven Life, people-pleasing is one of the greatest barriers keeping us from our life purpose. It’s such an issue today that he added a chapter on people-pleasing in the newest edition of The Purpose-Driven Life. 

“There is nothing wrong with our desire to be accepted, appreciated, and approved by other people,” Warren writes. “In fact, without the affirmation of others we never fully blossom into our full potential. But as with all of the healthy and good desires God puts in our hearts, the desire for approval can be misused, abused, and confused. It can become an obsession that dominates our life and a fear that destroys our soul.”

I admire how this girl figured out that blaming herself for her friend’s rejection was the wrong assumption. I like how she overcame the question we’ve all asked - “How can I make them want me?” - with truth and logic. She has since moved on and forgiven her friend, so all is good. What she learned was invaluable, because the experience taught her to trust her instincts and know that she is enough the way she is. Trying to be more desirable or popular is a misuse of time. 

We all face rejection. And while some rejection opens our eyes to what we should improve upon, there is also rejection that has nothing to do with us. It reflects the other person’s flaws, not ours. To evaluate a situation, we need wisdom and courage: wisdom to help us discern our role (if any) and courage to preserve who we are and not change for the wrong reasons.

It’s a personal choice how far we walk down the “How can I make them want me?” road. And as long as we’re travelling this path, we’ll live in self-doubt. We’ll rack our brain for answers and ask questions that fuel our anxiety. But as this story shows, there is a solution, and that is to turn our thoughts around and find peace with who we are.

And if a young mind can draw this conclusion, surely an adult mind can, too. Surely we can all keep our need for approval in perspective and make sure any changes we make add value to our lives, enrich our relationships, and draw us closer to the person we’re meant to be. 

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Thank you for reading this article, printed in the June 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below.

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

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teens and tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.


Posted by Kari on June 2, 2014 at 5:22 am

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Life with Lola: A Case for the Family Dog

Once upon a time, there were four little girls who begged for a dog.

Their names were Ella, Sophie, Marie Claire, and Camille.

American Girl dolls are great, but we want a live and furry friend.

American Girl dolls are great, but we want a live and furry friend!

“No,” said their parents, their voices firm and adamant. “Absolutely not.”

The little girls pushed. They whined. They cried and gave their parents a major guilt trip about being the ONLY FAMILY ON EARTH that didn’t have a dog. But the parents didn’t budge. They were united, and they told the girls that maybe, just maybe, they’d get a dog in a few years when everyone was older and more responsible. Until then, the issue was moot.

Time passed, and every so often, one of the girls would come home from a friend’s house begging for a dog. Immediately her sisters would chime in, making it a four-against-two debate as the kids pressured and pushed the parents again. But the parents stood their ground…even as tears were shed and angry little feet stomped across the kitchen floor.

“Maybe one day,” their parents said, “but not now. We aren’t ready. Our plate is too full.”

The girls couldn’t understand why a dog was out of the question. So what if a tree had just fallen on their home, and the family was living in a rental due to renovations? Was that any excuse to deprive them of this joy? There was also an underlying issue, one that couldn’t easily be settled: Neither parent was a dog person. Both the mother and father had dogs growing up that they loved dearly – Peppy and Bandit – but that’s as far as their animal affection ever went.

In all honesty, the parents had zero desire for a pet. Life was good already; why complicate matters with a dog?

The mother with her only canine love, Peppy (aka "Peppermint Patty")

The mother with her only canine love, Peppy (aka “Peppermint Patty”)

Then one day, Ella and Sophie had an idea. Maybe if they started praying for their parents to change their mind, their dream would come true. It was worth a shot, because by this point they were desperate.

They prayed and prayed….yet nothing happened. No change of heart. No change of mind. Nothing.

But all hope was not lost, because the holidays were coming up, and that gave the girls another brilliant idea: SANTA CLAUS!!! Of course he would come through! Wasn’t he the king of making dreams come true? Surely Santa would make 2012 the year they got a dog.

Good connections make anything possible, right?

Good connections make anything possible, right?

The girls were so excited they could hardly wait. And while playing outside one day, they confided to a neighbor that while their parents weren’t ready for a dog, they knew Santa would make it happen. When the neighbor shared this tidbit with Santa, Santa grew concerned. With Christmas only a week away, he didn’t want those four little girls waking up to a major disappointment.

With a heavy heart, Santa wrote a note to the Kampakis girls. He assured them that while their parents were closer to getting a dog, they weren’t there yet. And without the parents’ blessing, Santa couldn’t bring live animals as a Christmas gift.

A few tears were cried when the girls found this note, but less than expected. It was a still a great Christmas, and for that the parents were grateful.

It was early in the new year, January 2013, when something changed. Maybe it was the girls’ prayers taking effect, maybe it was the parents being worn down by four persistent kids, but the subject of a family dog stopped being met with resistance. With the door cracked opened, the girls pounced. They began researching different breeds and presenting their findings.

Research

Research

As the Kampakises talked to other families about good breeds for children, one that kept being mentioned were mini-goldendoodles. Since a lot of families in the area had had a great experience with a breeder in Springville, Alabama, they decided she’d be their source.

When the father called the owner, Diane Cox, she invited them to come up one Saturday to see her latest litter. “We’re just looking,” the parents told their four daughters, but the girls were still giddy. At last they’d broken their parents! What an accomplishment!

That day at the breeder, the Kampakis family fell in love with mini-goldendoodle puppies. They found them to be the cuddliest, most irresistible creatures ever.

Warning: Do not test the merchandise unless you're ready to buy.

Warning: Do not test the merchandise unless you’re ready to buy.

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The biggest surprise was the mother of the Kampakis girls, who couldn’t get enough of these animals. As she left the barn empty-handed, leaving behind the puppies that had filled her hands and heart for the past hour, a strange sadness came over her. She felt like she was leaving the hospital without her baby. Then and there, she decided a dog wasn’t such a bad idea after all. 

The next day, she went shopping.

She bought a crate.

And dog food.

And toys, leashes, and bones.

After she came home, she and her daughters talked about dog names. They agreed they wanted a girl. After tossing around options, they decided to go with “Lola Claire.”

In April 2013, the Kampakises returned to Springville to choose Lola from a new litter. Since the puppies were almost 6 weeks, they’d soon be ready for new owners. After passing the puppies around to see who cuddled the best, and debating between the girl with beautiful white fur and her brother with golden fur, Ella, Sophie, Marie Claire, and Camille chose The One. It was a happy, happy day.

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Lola came home on Mother’s Day weekend. Daddy surprised the girls by bringing her in the front door on Saturday morning (along with Krispy Kreme donuts). It was a joyful, squealing, unforgettable day. Lots of friends and family came by to meet Lola and tell the parents, “Congratulations! It’s about time you got these poor girls a dog!”

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In celebrating the one-year anniversary of “Life with Lola”, the Kampakis family has lots of funny, frustrating, and heart-warming stories to tell. Truth be told, Lola is a diva. She hates going outside when it rains because it gets her princess paws wet. Often when the family comes home, they find her napping on the master bedroom bed. She has ruined Camille’s Barbie doll collection by chewing off hands, arms, and legs. She still has occasional accidents in the house and sometimes barks obnoxiously at visitors.

But on the flip side, Lola is sweet, affectionate, and loving. She adores her family and brings out the maternal instincts in her big sisters. The best part of Lola is her influence on the family dynamic. She draws everyone closer together because in their own way, each family member is smitten.

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Only your family can decide if and when you’re ready for a pet. But if there’s any lesson to take away here, it’s that hearts and minds can change. Owning a dog is kind of like having a child – you don’t know what you’re missing until you experience it for yourself. Yes, a pet can complicate life, but the joy, laughter, and unity they bring makes those complications worth it.

Remember the parents who were not dog people to begin with? Well, they now let Lola sleep in their bed at night. Sometimes she wakes them up to lick all over their face. It’s an inopportune time to show love, no doubt, but there’s no questioning her motive. Lola isn’t angling for a favor; she simply likes to show affection to those she knows and trusts.

Adding a family dog is a big decision. You’re taking on another mouth to feed, and that’s a commitment. But what you get back is a faithful friend who creates priceless memories your family will laugh about for years and years to come.

You’ll think it’s just the kids getting attached…and then one day, you’ll realize you’ve grown attached, too. The dog you once resisted has finagled her way into your heart, and though you still don’t consider yourself an animal lover, you’ll make an exception for her, because what she brings out of you is real and genuine love.

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 Happy Homecoming Anniversary, Lola.

We Love you!

Love, Your Family

 

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

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


Posted by Kari on May 12, 2014 at 12:57 am

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10 Truths Moms Should Know

It’s May, and you know what that means.

Time to recognize and celebrate every unsung hero called Mom.

Most mothers don’t give themselves enough credit. They may admit they’re a good mom, but a great mom? I believe many would choke on the word. Women are too hard on themselves, and nowhere is this more apparent than in motherhood.

Following are 10 truths moms should know. I hope they serve as encouragement, hope, and a well-deserved pat on the back.

Truth #10: While the world wants you at your best, your family just wants you. In the workplace, there’s little room for error. One mistake and you could be fired.  momm

But in motherhood, there’s more job security. There’s more love, forgiveness, and grace. While the world can praise you one day, curse you the next, your family’s not so fickle. They aren’t looking to replace you because the truth is, nobody can.

Your family just wants you. Even on days you can only give 30 percent. Even when you’re sick. Even when the best you can do is show up for a soccer game. While the world’s standard is perfection, your family’s standard is love. It’s not Supermom your kids want tucking them in at night, it’s Mommy. So let go of unrealistic expectations that feed your guilt and remember how cherished you truly are.

Truth #9: You’re the perfect imperfect person to raise your children. God matched you with your children for a reason. The gifts you possess are precisely what they need to thrive.

So rather than berate yourself or wish you were like other parents, pray for guidance on how to channel your talents and experiences to impact your children’s journeys. Ask God to help you, because He wants you to succeed. Whatever your shortcomings are, God’s grace can help cover them.

Truth #8: Your beauty is bigger than the number on your scale and deeper than your reflection in your mirror. You were made in the image of God. This alone makes you sacred. Learn to see yourself through the loving eyes of your Maker, not the harsh filter of your inner critic, and your true beauty will shine.

Truth #7: Sometimes your kids will thrive because of you. Sometimes they’ll thrive in spite of you. We parents like control. And all too often, we believe we have it.

But none of us are God, and even our best efforts and worst mistakes can’t match His sovereign power. So before you take too much credit for your child’s success, or panic that your misstep will ruin their life, remember who holds the cards. It is God who gives your children their gifts and opportunities. It is also God who can turn your wrong into a right.

Truth #6: Raising holy kids is more important than raising happy kids. The deepest joy possible comes through a relationship with God. So if you really want happy children, the place to start is holiness, because holiness leads to true happiness.

But keep in mind that holiness doesn’t always feel good. It is life’s obstacles, after all, that cultivate faith and character. So when your child faces a hardship, ask yourself, “How can this draw them closer to God? What might He be preparing them for down the road?” God rewards faithfulness in His perfect timing, and when you trust that, you can find peace in knowing there are great blessings still ahead for your child no matter what circumstances they currently face.

Truth #5: A healthy family begins with a healthy mom. As a caregiver, you put others first. You may let your needs fall on the back burner in the name of good mothering.

But no one benefits when you run on fumes. And while maintaining physical health strengthens your stamina, a healthy mind and spirit equips you to serve.

Do you have passions that feed your soul? Are you making time for friendships? Is there an interest beyond your family that brings you alive? When you nurture yourself as an individual, you have more to offer your family. It makes you happy to come home and them happy to see you.

Truth #4: No child has to fail so your child can succeed. Parenting today is too competitive. It’s tempting to join the madness so your child isn’t left behind.

But God has a plan for everyone to excel. And when you treat your children’s peers as allies, not competitors, you build community. The more you help others, the more they’ll help you. Because it takes a village to raise kids, couldn’t we all use more help?

Truth #3: Every season of parenting is special. When you open your eyes to that, you enjoy the present. I bet you took lots of pictures of your kids when they were young. You probably captured their chubby cheeks, first steps, and spaghetti-stained faces.

But do you capture your tween and teen? Do you embrace the awkwardness of braces, acne, and gangly bodies as a special season, too? Because it is. I know babies are adorable, but there’s also something miraculous about watching your child become a young man or woman. And when you remember that everything passes, even the awkward stages, you’re more likely to enjoy what’s in front of you instead of reminiscing back or looking ahead at the next chapter.

Truth #2: Children grow up and leave, but your husband stays. Nurturing your marriage sets you up to enjoy your empty nest. It’s sad to think about not having kids at home. After all the years you spent being surrounded by young life, it’s easy to understand why the silence is deafening.

Then again, an empty nest could be fun with a spouse you enjoy and love. Remember when you dated, how much time you had to connect? It could be like that again, only with more memories and a tighter bond. Should you start wishing the kids were small again, you can anticipate the next stage: grandchildren. From what I hear, it’s even better the second time around.

Truth #1: The measure of a great mom is not productiveness. It’s obedience to God._-25-2

Do you ever have days, even weeks, when you’re completely unproductive? Your to-do list is long, but because your child is young, sick, or struggling, you’ve dropped everything to give them extra time and attention?

I used to feel guilty about days like this, but I’ve come to peace with them. If the reason I’m unproductive is because I’m caring for my family, I’m following God’s will. 

God doesn’t measure my work or yours by worldly standards. He doesn’t need hard evidence because He sees it all: the silent sacrifices, the broken hearts, the late-night care, the kisses, the snuggles, the loving words that vanish into thin air. When others think you have little to show, God knows the truth. He sees what you plant in your children and watches it bloom in their heart. 

Andy Stanley once said, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.” Moms, any day you build your family up is a success. Any call you take from God deserves a celebration. You’re not just a good mom, you’re a great mom.

You are building God’s kingdom, after all, and what on earth could be greater than that?

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

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

 


Posted by Kari on May 5, 2014 at 11:45 pm

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Chasing the Good Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Secret’s Out: I Have a Book Coming!!!

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

Marie Claire, age 7

Marie Claire, age 7

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

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

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

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

Here’s the scoop:

You can pre-order now at Amazon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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10 Ways to Build Better Friendships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

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What Next? Helping Kids Cope with Rejection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think so.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Ashes to Ashes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Me & my daddy

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

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

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

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


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

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The Scary Truth of Raising Daughters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article today, printed in the February 2014 issue of Village Living and 280 Living. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect.

Join me on FACEBOOK, subscribe to my blog (above) or find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTERESTIf this message resonated with you, please share it through the social media below.

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


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

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Love & Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect! You can subscribe to my blog, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST10truths_rnd2

If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. I’m also very grateful for that.

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teens and tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.comI’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.

 


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

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The Parenting Choice You’ll Never Regret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 


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

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Who Am I to Judge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


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

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Raising a Kind Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annie, Ella & Lola

Annie, Ella & Lola

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

A win for a friend is a win for both.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

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Guest Post: Rachel Stafford of Hands Free Mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Are you cured?

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

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

 


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

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Identity 911

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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It’s A Wonderful Life

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

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

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

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

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

Now I was pregnant again?

It felt like a major setback. We were complete and content as a family of five; never had I sensed a void only a child could fill. In fact, whenever I heard of moms I knew getting pregnant with an “oops” fourth baby, my initial thought was, ”Good for them, but I’m glad it’s not me.” Why would God give me a baby but not the desire? What kind of mom could I be to a child I didn’t want?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Look – Ella’s crying!”

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

Yes, I’d play an important role as Camille’s mother, but I wouldn’t be the only person she’d change and redefine.  In her lifetime she’d impact hundreds – perhaps thousands – of souls who will need precisely what she’s here to offer. How did I miss that before? Could I have accepted the pregnancy if I’d seen it?

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

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

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

When I think about the joy I could have missed with Camille, I want to cry. I want to drop down on my knees and THANK GOD for giving us this miracle I didn’t have the foresight to pray for. What if we’d never heard her giggles, her squeals, her Taylor Swift performances? What if we’d never felt her arms lock around our necks and give us the warmest bear hugs ever? What if our family had never discovered a mascot to rally around, someone with with the energy and sass to make us laugh yet the sweetness to keep us soft? What if we’d never been touched by this angel?

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

Camille turns 4 this month, and as we prepare to celebrate I’m mindful of the special moments and memories that led to this point:

The little wonder we brought home Christmas day…

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Who immediately stole our hearts…

Camille8And melted our hearts too…

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 Whose happy personality would radiate…

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And who would fit in seamlessly with our family…

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Who would encourage her sisters…

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Entertain us with dress-up…

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Wrap everyone around her finger (especially Daddy)…

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Bring out everyone’s motherly instincts….

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Hold Bible studies for Lola…

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Add the star to the Christmas tree…

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Go Hollywood from time to time…

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Teach us about love…

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

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

I had a lot of factors in my favor when I got pregnant with Camille – a loving husband, a stable home, a strong faith and a religious upbringing that celebrated human life, supportive friends and family. When I think about my struggle, I wonder how much harder it’d be for someone without these factors. My heart goes out to any woman who’s pregnant and not happy about it, especially under tough circumstances. If there’s anything I want to pass on, it is HOPE. Hope that God will bless any choice that honors Him. Hope that what seems terrible can take a beautiful turn. Hope that whatever path God is pointing you to will lead a better place.

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

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


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

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Be Happy. Be the Blessing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you for reading this article today. I’m grateful for my readers and would love to connect! You can subscribe to my blog, join my FACEBOOK COMMUNITYor find me on TWITTERINSTAGRAM, or PINTEREST

If you liked this message, please share it through the social media below. I’m also very grateful for that.

Also, my debut book from Thomas Nelson is available for pre-order! Written for teens and tweens, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know can be found on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. I’d love your help in spreading the word! Official release is Nov. 4, 2014. Find the official announcement here.

 


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

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10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make (Me Included)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

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A Silver Linings Mindset

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

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

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

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

Consider for a moment the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Why Getting Caught is Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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