Bedtime Chaos and Some Thanksliving…

I’m sitting in the dark with my Court Jester scooted as far away from me as possible. I’ve told him no to a request, and his world has crumbled into dust.

He blames me for his own catastrophic Armageddon.

I want Daddy to put me to bed. I want Daddy to put me to bed. Over and over again from his grumbling mouth tucked beneath blankets.

He’s even put a pillow between us. Muffled and angry. Huffs of frustration and hot tears. He hasn’t gotten his way.

I’m standing my ground.

Sort of…

Does ignoring him count? I feel like I could write my own Thanksgiving version of Twas the Night Before Turkey Day…

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Oh wait. Can’t do that because my very own Caleb-turkey is thrashing and rolling, which definitely moves us past stirring.

Peaking over my shoulder, Caleb just asked if I put indentions in my paragraphs. (um, no?)..He’s reading my words, smiling, and snuggling close.

Just like that, the show’s over.

But even in the chaos of bed-time or the freaking out because the real turkey is still stone-cold frozen or the midnight run you make to Walmart for that one. last. thing–even in those moments, Thanksgiving is possible.

The Court Jester is now silent. His body still, and his breathing slow. The deep breath I’ve waited for all day comes.

This is the thanksliving.

Living and breathing thanks despite our frustrations, our tears, our tantrums. Because beauty surrounds when we look close.

Daily graces peek through covers and shine light into our dark nights. Gratitude for those moments shifts our eyes heavenward. Focusing our vision on the God Who Sees us in the midst of our hard, in the midst of our painful.

Learning to live out our thanks in those moments?

Joy. Pure, unadulterated joy. Joy in the midst.

And Thanksgiving comes alive. It’s no longer about a day–but about our living, breathing existence.

So this Thanksgiving I pray morning wakes fresh with gratitude in your hearts for even the smallest graces and moments of brilliant light.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. Shall we journey to walk with thanksliving together?


Posted in Beautiful Life, Gratitude, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When I Wish for a Different Life

Lately? I’ve been feeling harried and haggard. Frayed at the edges and rushed in the middle. Because life is ballet mom, flag football mom, wife, teacher, migraine sufferer, committee member, writer, all the other things and somewhere in there—me.

Have I mentioned lately I have ADHD? Because that’s a thing too.

Last week Prince Charming came in the door the same moment the ballerina and I were leaving. Hello. Good-bye.

You’re picking up dinner, I called through my car window.

I wasn’t cooking. I had decided.

I know you understand…you’ve been there too.

After I dropping my girl off at Nutcracker rehearsals, I headed to my favorite coffee shop. (I’m a cliché…) With computer and books in hand I knew I had several hours of lesson prep ahead.

A sweet friend I hadn’t seen in ages stood in front of me at the cash register where I soothed my ache with carbs and sugar. We said hello, and she had the pleasure, rather misfortune, of asking how I was and getting an honest response.

Basically? I spewed words of stress, anxiety, and angst her way. Bless her heart for standing there with a smile on her face as I huffed and puffed about wanting to be just a mom. About how I was desperate to have my children in school while I didn’t work. That way I could have a clean house and a home cooked meal instead of gross toilets and 1,000 frozen pizzas.

I know I live in Lala Land, and it doesn’t work out that way—but still.

Yesterday? I walked in the door at 4:30, began grading at 4:45, and didn’t stop until 10:00 last night except to eat a dinner that, yet again, I had no role in creating.

And then? As I got up from dinner to go grade some more? My Court Jester wrapped his arms around me and broke my heart into pieces.

Why do you have to be a teacher? I wish you were just a home-mom. Then you wouldn’t have to grade papers and could spend more time with me.

Yep. His words exactly. I know because they burned a hole into my innermost being.

I’ll take five heaping helpings of mom-guilt please…

And if you’ve managed to read this far before thinking, “What does she have to complain about? She has a great family, a steady job, and no real worries in the world,” then kudos.

Because you’re right. I love teaching. My family is precious. I know I shouldn’t whine.

The self-reproach weighs heavy as I complain about a life that’s pretty dad-gum great. But maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe your crazy-busy life is beautiful, but maybe there are days and weeks you feel like if someone pulled one more thread from your delicate balance, you’d unravel into a tangled mess. A mess no one can fix.

Contentment is hard to get right.

Most days I get it wrong.

Because most days? I want to be a home-mom. I don’t want to grade until my eyes are bloodshot and so dry my contacts have glued themselves to my corneas.

Most days I’m desperate for a home that is clean more than once every six weeks or so.

Most days I want to cook a meal for my family that doesn’t involve a microwave or a box-mix of anything.

Most days I want to be the mom that doesn’t have to miss field trips and special events.

Stay-at-home moms have crazy, insane lives, too. I know because I was home when Ella-girl was young.

But I’m not home now.

Don’t hear me wrong. My life’s not harder because I work full time. Nope. That’s not it at all.

My real problem?

I want what I can’t have.

There stands the struggle. The envy and the dissatisfaction. Discontentment has a staring contest with my emotions, and I blink first.

When I focus on what my life isn’t, I lose sight of what my life is.

When I get contentment wrong, it’s because I haven’t gotten gratitude right.

And there is the miracle in this mess. The miracle of this life is communing with the Father,and turning a heart of dissatisfaction to one of Thanksgiving. Living with contented heart means living a life of constant gratitude.

Gratitude for surprise cups of coffee given by the student as I walk into the school. Gratitude for the Godiva truffle a student shares because it was her favorite, and she wanted me to love it, too. Gratitude for my babes who jump in the car with me at 9:00 pm and head to the park so I can take pictures of the harvest moon. Gratitude for my Love who picks up my slack without complaint. Gratitude for the music that softly plays in the background as I write from a plush chair with the gentle glow of the lamp nearby.

Can I still struggle with the hard days? Days I want to crawl into bed and sink into the shadows? Without doubt. Because there are some days when we are overwhelmed by the tragedy taking place in our own corners of the world.


The more gratitude swells, the higher the tide comes in to wash away the discontented sand that scratches and sticks to my skin.

Maybe. Just maybe…contentment isn’t so hard after all.

Posted in Gratitude, Motherhood, Struggles, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

When My Words Are Insignificant

What do you write when you’ve held your babies as the wind howled and windows creaked and branches flew and trees fell? What do you write as you watch the videos of boats saving souls in places water rose to rooftops?

What do you write?

What words do you use when a monstrosity like Maria bites down on islands, ripping and tearing and gnashing homes as mamas hold their babies with fear I can’t comprehend? What words do you use when humanity digs through rubble because the Richter scale registered 7.1?

Are there words?

I’m not sure.

My thoughts are scattered. My burden is heavy. My prayers are constant.

How does one make sense of a world suffering?

I don’t want to tell you I’ve been anxious. I don’t want to tell you I’ve stomped my feet and fussed about the inconvenience of living away from home for eight days while waiting for power. I don’t want to tell you I’ve asked God why.

Instead? I want to hide in my hole and ignore the emotions racing skid marks on my mind.

Because I have been anxious.

Because I have stomped my whiny, first-world foot in an air-conditioned home complaining that my routine had been interrupted.

Because I have asked God why. Why the One in control of the winds and the rains allows Harveys and Irmas and Marias and earthquakes and catastrophes.

I wish I had answers that relieved every. single. doubt.

I could give you my seminary-trained, theological answers. Answers I know to be true. I could say all the right things—things I believe. Things like “there is a purpose and a reason for everything under heaven.” Or words like “rainbows always follow the storm.” Or answers like “God works all things together for our good” and “God’s ways are not our ways.”

And I believe those truths. I trust God. I know He is good. I know He loves us unconditionally.

But I don’t understand Him. And I struggle to keep from shaking my frustrated fist of whys in His direction.

So tonight? When my words are insignificant and full of whys?

I step into the truths I know.

I know God is big enough for my questions. Better that I run to His arms with my anger and whys than stew in my own anxiety-ridden confusion.

I know I can hold faith and questions in the same hand. Because He is God. I am not. I will always have questions. But I will also trust the One who stretched blood-stained arms across splintered wood for me. For you.

I know pain and tragedy and brokenness can bring beauty. Our fractures always allow His light to shine in the dark places.

I know it takes immense strength to trust what cannot be fully understood. But better to trust than live without the hope Jesus brings.

I know that even in the doubt and fear, I can be the hands and feet of help and support. Courage is action in spite of fear.

I know that bending low in prayer brings peace—even if I have to bow my head again and again and again. And again.

I know this world is not my home.

I know Hope because Jesus loves me this I know.

And so tonight? As the bitter cries of humanity ring in our ears and the aching groans of earth are felt deep, that Hope will be enough.

Even with my questions.

Posted in Hope, Relationship with God, World Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fighting for Prince Charming

IMG_6560I can change a tire. I know how to check my oil, washer fluid, and radiator. I can jump off my car and change the battery.

I spent one week of my summer as a college student reroofing a house. With a hammer—not a nail gun because that would have been too easy. I can refinish furniture, and I know how to use a table saw. Laying tile? No problem.

If I could work in my yard every day and never have to dust another lamp or clean another toilet, I’d be a happy girl. I secretly envy those who work with their hands creating, building, landscaping, fixing.

You know. All the “man-things.” Or so the stereotypes say…

I’ve lived alone before. Did my own shopping, paid my own bills, hung my own pictures, installed my own shelves, fixed my own holes in walls.

I’ve been known to hack the heck out of a snake and power washing is just fun.

My point?

I’m not a damsel in distress. I can take care of myself.

I know a little something about being a woman in a man’s world. The first seminary class I walked into was with shaking knees and a churning stomach causing me to gulp down the nerves and raise my chin up.

Only one other female student floated in the sea of testosterone. And that ratio continued through most of my studies.

I never forgot the night class, when coming in after break, I overheard a classmate say he could never learn anything from me. That I could never teach him anything.

Well. Okay then.

I guess he couldn’t teach me anything either. Except maybe patience…And I certainly didn’t need him in my life.

But I still need my Prince Charming—my Knight in Shining Armor.

My daughter and I live in a world full of mixed signals. We don’t “need a man,” except when we do. And a woman can do anything a man can do, except when she can’t.

Independence is vital for a young woman today and teaching her to stand on her own two feet is essential. But just because she can stand alone all her live-long days, doesn’t mean she must.

Because if I’m being honest, I’m usually in need of rescuing. And knowing there’s a hero willing to fight for me is calming. Even if I’m doing my part in kicking some villain butt instead of cowering in a corner.

Yeah. There are men out there who aren’t a gallant anything.

Men interested in collecting not saving. Men looking for trophies and conquests. These are the men who hoard women under their wings of protection. Men who aren’t interested in kindness or saving or generosity or grace—but only interested in power, only rescuing to control.

These men? They know nothing of Prince Charming or the Princess. And women never need their kind of rescue.

But what if you want and need the rescue of a true protector—one who honors and cherishes and loves, one who’s ready to storm the castle wielding his sword and shield? Is that okay in today’s society?

Here is what I know. After 19 years of being married to a prince among men, I’ve decided it’s okay to want the rescue. To desire the man who protects, shelters, shields.

It’s okay to want the gentleman. The one who opens the doors for me, gives me the umbrella going without, fills my car with gas, and lifts the heavy furniture.

I want the man who wants to protect me from myself.

I want my valiant knight.

I want to teach my son, Caleb, to be a prince too.

And I don’t believe I’m weak-minded for saying so.

Because really? We’re all in need of rescuing. There’s not one human who doesn’t need someone to climb the highest peak or swim the deepest ocean to save us from ourselves. Humans aren’t made to go at life alone.

I’m not saying a woman must have a man to live a fulfilled, amazing life. That is not my heart. But we do need community.

Sisters, it’s okay to want the rescue.

It’s okay to yearn for your own fairy tale that colors different from Disney in hues of truth and a spectrum of stained glass beauty.

Because being the Princess worth climbing the tower for? Worth risking everything for?

It’s a healing balm for the sore muscles and bruises we bear from fighting alone.

And while my own Prince Charming is a most gallant knight, he’s only a reflection of the One who rescues my soul. The One who heals my most broken places and deepest wounds. The One with a battle cry more fierce than a legion of evil beings.

Knowing I can’t fight my earthly battles alone, opens my heart for the Savior of my soul.

So I will fight for Prince Charming.

Because being rescued is a gift.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Love, Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

To Teachers on the Last Night of Summer

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It’s almost midnight. Preplanning begins tomorrow.

And I don’t wanna.

Summer has been glorious. Filled with unexpected wandering and brilliant laughter. I don’t want it to end but it fades as quickly as the sun slipping beyond the horizon.

Every year it seems to be the same story. The night before I go back to work, I live in denial that the alarm will begin again after it’s summer hiatus.


Tomorrow will come.

Summer always begins with plans of formulating new organizational strategies and influential books to read and stronger lessons to consider. I think to myself every first week of June: This will be the summer I go into school ready!

Prepared for better discipline. Prepared for all my students. Prepared for my yearly focused theme. Prepared for clearer strategies.

Really? I just want to be prepared.

And every August? I feel inadequate. I stare into the new school year feeling like a girl scout without all her badges. What happens if I get lost?

And this year? I feel like a girl scout without her badges, her hunting knife, and her fire starter kit.

How will I survive?

What if I told you I still have to finish reading a book I assigned for summer reading? What if I said I haven’t figured out which novels I will be teaching this year? What if I whispered I haven’t scoured Pinterest for all the best new teacher ideas?

If you’re not a teacher, maybe those question don’t illicit a single stress bubble. But if you are a teacher? You know the kind of stomach-clenching tension this might cause.

The anxiety has begun.

A million different things will run through my head over the next week of preplanning.

These are just tonight’s scattered ashes:

  • How do I want to change the English III syllabus?
  • I need to buy the supplies for the icebreakers. What is my icebreaker?
  • I have to remember to ask the bookkeeper to renew the NHS membership.
  • Don’t forget to review my roster and make copies.
  • The emergency substitute plans need to be in the office before Friday.
  • The new bell schedules have to be retyped and printed.
  • I have to write the joint lesson plans for the high school summer reading novel.
  • The lessons for the first couple of weeks will have to be penciled out.
  • The new homework policy must be tweaked and finalized.
  • Make sure to run by Office Depot on my way home to buy more black border to match the bulletin boards already in place.
  • Candy still needs to be purchased.
  • Expo markers! I can’t forget to buy those! Wait. I wonder if I asked the office for them in last year’s order?
  • Are there any new school rules I will have to be aware of?
  • Gah! Cell phones! A teacher’s discipline nightmare to be sure.
  • Ella still needs a few pair of shorts and Caleb will have to have a first day of school outfit.
  • When did I last get to the grocery store?
  • I can’t forget to bring the classroom plants back in the morning.

And oh. my. goodness! Can I just go to sleep!?!?

This will be my 15th year in the classroom. A mile-marker to be sure. And yet?

There is not a single first day of school that my stomach isn’t tied into knots. Jitters and nerves clenching my insides tight.

Will my students like me? Will I like them?

Am I going to be able to teach them all they need to know? Or will I be lazy and slack off some days? Will I be what they need me to be?

The root of all my worries? Of my feet-dragging-not-ready-to-go-back?


Fear of the time my job will take away from my family. Fear of the hard, hard work. Fear not being enough. Fear of wanting more for my students than they want for themselves. Fear of the days I will fail. Fear of the days when students will fail me. Fear of the heartbreak teaching brings.

But fear never breeds success.

So tonight? Tonight, I resolve to cast away the spirit of fear. Because fear lives in the dark, and I want to be in the Light of the One who called me to teach.

Because this calling we have? This collective role we play to edify and pour into the lives of others? This privilege we’ve been given to educate and bring knowledge to children?

It shines a light into the darkness.

And the dark? It wants to keep good teachers away from the classroom.

If our role, our calling, our job wasn’t so important? I don’t know that it would be so hard. The same is true for all jobs-all hard work in our country.

The important is difficult. It is an upward climb.

And it’s worth it.

It’s worth letting go of the fear and saying yes to another year of difficult days. It’s worth the hours awake, dreaming of new ways to reach our students.

And it’s always worth the joy. Because friends? There is joy.

This afternoon, while taking my children bowling in a place I had never been, I heard a whispered “Mrs. Iseminger” in the background.

I turned to see two men, because that’s what they are now, headed in my direction. Two former students that had been just tiny 8th graders the first time I met them. Two bear hugs with lit-up faces giving me a faint glimpse of the 13-year-olds they used to be.

What delight to see them doing well.

I know parents and teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites. And I’m not sure I do. But there are those students with personalities that click with mine. Students who deeply impact me. Students that seem to dig themselves deep into the crevices of my teacher heart.

There, in the most random of places today, stood two students who have done just that. My heart filled with joy as I stood smiling back at them.

And I wonder tonight.

What if I had given in to fear and darkness the year I taught them?

Answer? I would have missed the joy today—joy that came almost a decade later.

That’s the thing about teaching. We fight the daily fear to witness the future.

The future is nourished in our classrooms.

And so tomorrow I will bring courage to fight the fear. Because I don’t want to miss the joy the future brings.

Tomorrow is a new year, so tonight I will kiss summer good-bye with a grin on my face.

Because I refuse to let fear win.

Posted in Joy, Summertime, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Because We’re All A Little Bit Castaway

The salty, warm air of the ocean wrapped me in its embrace this week. Our family tasted the ebb and flow of a vacation with no plans. A week of togetherness. A week to breathe.

Sanibel Island.

Not only stunning, but it’s known to be a shelling mecca. A place to hunt for conchs and cockles and tulips and whelks like buried treasure.

My best friend of 35 years, Kelly, is the shell-whisperer and great shell-hunt teacher. Our vacations crossed paths this year, and I was able to bask in the glow of her “Get the Isemingers Some Shells” campaign.

We spent a few days and evenings together with shovels, nets, masks, and snorkels stooping and bending and searching for the treasures of the sea—our families along for the ride.

It was heaven. Each perfect shell brought the satisfaction of a find, and we giggled like school girls.

My Court Jester joined in the hunt as his little toes dug into the sand and every shell became a prize. And I mean, every shell.

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Broken shards. Holes bored through. Beaten down and grungy. My Caleb picked up them all.

Though I would praise his finds and cheer him on, I inwardly cringed as the imperfect found its way into my bag of treasures.

One evening, much to my parenting shame, I even suggested he look for the shells that were whole. And while he attempted to accommodate, he would bring me whole shells with holes…Because. Court Jester.

A few nights ago, as Kelly and I plunged our hands deep into the sand of the shore line and brought perfect banded tulips and rose murexes to the dusky light, Caleb walked, head down along the shallows—hunting.

Among the treasures we were finding, we would pull up the fragments. We would shake our heads at the what-would-have-beens and lament their brokenness. Then, over our shoulders castaway shells would fly, as we tossed the pieces behind—forgetting them, pressing on towards our search for perfection.

“Mommy! Aunt Kelly! Look what I found!” The tiny voice of my sweet, seven-year-old would call from behind. What did he have in his hands?

Our broken castaways.

Kelly looked at me and smile with knowing and a grin.

“Gorgeous!” I exclaimed, and the fragments I had tossed away would go into my bag with a sigh.

But as I spent my week with sand jammed under my nails, God whispered deep.

Because here is what I know to be true—God never tosses aside the broken.

My son showed me the face of our Creator as he saw beauty in every fragment and shard I passed over and threw away.

Nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem.

No one is beyond God’s ability to recover.

Like Hagar, tossed into the wilderness by Abraham, broken and scared, there is a God who sees us. And really? We’re all a bit of a broken mess.

He sees us in the shallows, having been fiercely pounded against the shore, tattered with missing pieces. I imagine He picks us up, turns us slowly in His careful hands—examining. And to all who will hear? He gives a shout of joy.

Look at this beautiful one! What color! The Light shines through in all the magnificent places. This hole here?  I know just how I can make it into something stunning. And this piece here? I’ve been looking for one just like it to fit into my newest mosaic of ministry.

While perfect shells can be found, and I continue to love hunting them, no unbroken person exists. And today, my friend? I want you to know our Jesus sees the beauty of your broken.

He spends His time in the shallows, looking for our fragments. He wants only to take us home, to expose our beauty because we are broken.

There are treasure seekers in this world who attempt to define perfection and only find importance in those who match the man-made ideal.

But not God.

He’s walking the shallows behind those treasure seekers, picking up their castaways and declaring their definitions wrong.

Because He’s found the beautiful you.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Joy, Relationship with God, Struggles, Summertime | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Momma? Don’t Wish Your Summer Away

So. I’m a week into summer. And I can’t get enough of my kiddos.

I have something I’d like to talk about. Something that’s kinda bugged me for years. Basically since I had to step back into the classroom and leave my babies to the care of others.

Would you mind, if just for a moment, step up onto the proverbial soapbox?

Please? Like pretty please with sugar and a cherry on top?

IMG_0885 IMG_0927 IMG_0951 IMG_3523Please don’t joke about how you can’t wait for the summer to end so you can send your children back to school.

I promise. I get it.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Around the clock. Day in and day out. God forbid it rains for days. Legos from the front door to the back door. Arts and crafts glued to the table. The Mt. Everest of summer laundry. And good grief the sibling arguments reach their pinnacle in the July for sure!

I really do understand.

Our kids can drive us literally in sane. Or at least to Target for chocolate and retail therapy. I know. I’ve experienced both.

Summer can be hard. Because kids don’t come with an easy button.

The monotony of the days, tied together with the heat and loosened structure can be difficult for anyone.


There are mommas out there that would give all they had to spend a summer with their children. There are also momma’s, like me, who teach ten months out of the year when all I really want to do is stay at home.

And let’s be clear—for an incredible number of mommas—work is not a choice.

And even though it’s not a choice, I do love my job.


I can’t wait for summer.

Yes, there’s the break from work. But really? It’s the time with my children I can’t wait for.

And my heart hurts a little when I hear you trying to get rid of yours after only a few days into the summer.

We all need a break from our kids sometimes. We really do. And in no way am I suggesting that to want some time off from mothering wrong.

But semantics matter.

You can talk about the hard. You can talk about the crazy. You can talk about the very worst parts of summertime. But please don’t wish for your children to walk too quickly back into the classroom.

We only have them for so long.

My Ella girl? She’s 13. I have six summers left. Six before high school ends. And each one slips faster through my fingers like water rushing toward rapids.

I can’t hold on. It’s impossible.

So I’m trying to enjoy, to delight.

I’m not here to tell you to savor every moment or some crazy-talk like that. I’m not about to savor tantrums and sass and exhaustion.

I am here to remind you to list the grateful.

The recognition of moments we get to have with our children.

To realize the blessing of days spent in pajamas and mornings spent at the park. To know there is a workforce of moms that dropped their little ones off at summer camp this morning, desperately yearning for summer days at home.

I’m learning when I am purposeful in my thanks, I discover the deep joy hidden beneath the chaos and the sticky floors. When I take time for gratitude, I remember the beauty my children bring to this life.

So when you step on your last Lego and curse the day those tiny plastics from hell were made and your day rivals Alexandar’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, take a few moments to thank.

Sneak into your little tornado’s bedroom, pull the blanket close around his chubby chin, and breathe him in deep. Watch his peace with wonder and thank God you were chosen for this moment.

You will find yourself no longer wishing the day away, but rather desperate to keep the moment forever.

Summer days can be hard days.

But soldier on, warrior mom.

Because these days are also the fading days.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Gratitude, Motherhood, Summertime | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Because Parenting Lists Make Me Twitch

pencil-1891732_1920By the time I reached the seventh grade, my parents took one look at my hormonal rages and fights with homework and said something the changed my life.

You know you want to go to college. You know what that will take. It’s your responsibility to get there.

Wait. You mean no more fights? No more battle of wills? Yes. Please and thank you.

It worked. I took ownership, and I ran.

And Daddy packed my lunch every day until I graduated high school.

I fought my way into honors classes after starting at the bottom my freshman year of high school.

Momma made sure laundry was done. (But we all chipped in when we could.)

I filled out all my own college applications and scholarships, research included.

I didn’t pay for my own gas, and I wasn’t required to get a job.

I was editor of my high school yearbook, in student government, and involved in numerous other activities that required responsibility and hard work.

And Daddy packed my lunch every day. And Momma woke me up every morning.

Every now and then I get sucked into the Internet vortex. And if I’m especially vulnerable I can even find myself clicking on articles that only ever feed on my inadequacies as a parent.

When I was in the throws of early motherhood I read articles that listed all the feats my baby should be able to scale by 12 months old. And then each year after.

And when my kiddos missed the target? Angst and worries.


There was the breastfeeding nightmare that was my son and all the lists of ten thousand reasons he wouldn’t be as smart as the next kid if he never nursed. He never did. But at two, I knew he was smarter than I was. Don’t tell him I said that. Like ever.


My Ella-girl’s entrance into kindergarten had me tied in knots. Because this was the year she would learn to read. All the lists said so. But first grade held her magical reading card-trick.

And recently? There are these lists of things my teenager should be doing on her own. By now. Already. And she’s not. Lists that tell me she’s not responsible enough because she doesn’t measure up to the items requiring a check.


Come close, dear friends.

Those lists? With all of their expectations? Their comparisons?

They’re ridiculous.

Yeah. Because I know this—every kid is different, every family is different, every parent is different. No list can magically ensure your child grows into a responsible member of society.

My Ella? Prince Charming packs her lunch (and mine), and we still tuck her in with whispered prayers and kisses goodnight. She doesn’t fill-out her own forms. But she does have her own bank account and wakes herself up with an alarm every morning. She has chores and responsibilities.

I could make a list. But it would be her list. Our list.

Not yours.

Oh, friends. It’s one thing to share with each other the ways we instill values into our children. It’s important to have milestone markers as checks and balances for growth. It’s vital for doctors to have guidelines to determine the health of our children.

It’s a tragedy when we place a checklist in front of another parent and silently yell, measure up.

Sometimes I feel so caught up and tangled in lines drawn and score cards to be filled out. Parenting was never meant to be a checklist, a measuring stick, a way to bludgeon one another.

None of us want to raise entitled hellions.

None of us want to raise bullies.

None of us want to raise lazy, society-sucking adults.

Nope. We don’t.

Instead of listing should’s, maybe a guide of help’s. It’s semantics, I know. But semantics matter.

Words lift up or they break down. And parenting checklists?

They break down.

We must learn to look at one another and the children we lead with grace. We can’t expect another family to teach values and responsibilities and morals in the exact same way we teach those same ideals.

My parenting list? It might look something like this:

  • Pray for wisdom. All the time.
  • Seek the counsel of those with grounded kids.
  • Stop reading the checklists that make you feel less than.
  • Look other parents in the eye and tell them they’re amazing.
  • Pray for wisdom. All the time.

And finally? Know you’re not alone. Know there is no perfect child. Know you’re a good mom. Know your kids are blessed to have you.

Know the lists that make you twitch? They don’t know your family the way you do.

So roll your eyes, stop twitching, and tell another mom she’s awesome.

Because we were never meant to swallow the bitter pill of comparison.

Posted in Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Climbing Mountains and Trudging Valleys and Maundy Thursday

Ella was four. All knobs and knees and chubby cheeks. Cute as a button and bouncy as her pigtails. We were visiting her aunt in Atlanta—doing the tourist thing.

There’s a mountain in Atlanta. Mount Kennesaw.

Granted, it can’t compare to the snowcaps of the Rocky’s or even the Blue Ridge cliffs and peaks. But it was bigger than a hill. And the National Park Service deemed it a mountain so a mountain it must be. All rocks and clay and trees pressed tight together out of the valleys to create steep inclines and wooded trails.

Prince Charming and I decided our little Ella-girl was capable of moving mountains, so she must have been able to hike this one. Right?

Climbing mountains aren’t easy.

Ella held her own for a while until she didn’t. She got tired as we neared the peak. But we were almost there. To close to stop; too big to carry.

My Prince and I walked with her, encouraged her, cheered for her.

She was determined. Still is determined…

We reached the summit tired but proud. The trees cleared and the boulders gave our bodies rest. What had been a blanket of humid air through the trails became the cool breeze of spring at the top.

The climb was difficult, but Ella did it. She climbed the mountain.

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Later that afternoon we slid into the car, weary and dirty. Mud had grabbed the crevices of our soled sneakers and stained our jeans. You can’t stay clean when you’re climbing to the peaks.

The dirt stays with you.

This trudging out of valleys and up to mountain tops? It’s our life.

While the aches and pains and despair cling to our souls in the low sunken places, climbing out of the mire and up the incline isn’t easy either.

Our climbs in life can steal our energy and take our breath away.

We hike the valleys and cliffs to seek the hope of clearing trees and calming winds.

Today is Maundy Thursday.

Only in recent years have I begun to frame its meaning. To understand Christ’s last meal, last words, last moments without the torture his death would be.

To realize it’s okay to not be okay.

Because less than a day would pass and the disciples would watch their Jesus, bloodied and beaten, climb a hill towards crucifixion. The place His arms would stretch across splintered wood and thorns would press deep into his brow.

The followers of Christ wept and mourned and broke over the pain and suffering of their leader. They must have watched stunned, without understanding.

This was the Christ.

Why was He dying the humiliating death of a criminal?

Maundy Thursday.

Jesus knew what tomorrow would bring. He knew the mountain He would have to stagger up, ripped and torn from the battle with evil. He knew his followers would tremble with confused despair.

He knew nothing would seem okay.

Maundy Thursday marked the beginning of the climb to Calvary. And on His way? Jesus encouraged, served, loved, and taught his disciples. He prepared them. Even though they felt so very unprepared.

He whispered in their ears.

You can walk this. These valleys for you to trudge? These mountains for you to climb? I’m with you. I will never leave you. I love you. Let me show you how I love…

This was Maundy Thursday.

As Jesus and his disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane, He left them with words of hope, words of love, words of joy.

Before going alone to pray, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.John 16:33

He knew the tormented mountain He would climb only hours later. He knew the despair his followers would feel. He knows the torments and despairs of your journeys, of your valleys and mountains.

It’s as if the Creator of the heavens and of earth knew. He knew in our darkest hours and our bleakest moments we would need to know it’s okay to not be okay—you will have trouble echoes in our darkness.

But there’s hope. The climb will one day be over.  But take heart! I have overcome the world reminds us light is stronger than dark.

We will reach our mountain tops and look over our climbs and see our valleys.

We will see the journey we’ve come through.

Because we are the resurrection people. And our glimpse beyond the mountaintop is heavenward.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead on the rough-hewn beams of a cross.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead in the darkness of a rock-hewn tomb.

Because Christ didn’t stay dead.

And while the mountains we climb and the valleys we face may leave scars on our souls, the dirt and grime aren’t with us forever.

It’s okay to not be okay.

Because we have hope.

Because the story of Jesus doesn’t end on Maundy Thursday.


His story—our story—has only just begun.

Because Resurrection Sunday has overcome the world.

Posted in Easter, Hope, Joy, Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Parents of Strong Willed Children Want You to Know


Metal. Unyielding. Strong. Life-giving.

Our bodies need iron to live. To create healthy red blood cells pumping through our vessels carrying oxygen straight into the heart.

Pump. Pump. Pump.


Without the iron? Life is less.

My son has an iron will pumping life straight into my soul.

He turns seven in a week. Seven years and nine months I’ve held him. Even now, on occasional evenings when glory fills my arms, he will fall asleep against my chest.

His name is Caleb. And it means loyal.

He is named for the Caleb of the Bible. The one who stood his ground, refused to give into fear or peer pressure, and firmly trusted that his God was big enough to keep promises.

My Caleb? He’s amazing.

I want you to know how amazing because sometimes I wonder if you see it. I mean, how can you when you only see snapshots of outbursts—blips on the screen when he’s forgotten his manners or when his passion overwhelms him.


Caleb has a will of steel.

Sometimes it leaves even me, his momma, flailing and certain every parenting book under the sun has never parented my son.

A while back ago in front of a group of friends, my Caleb was bouncing off walls, forgetting his manners, excited about life. One adult made an off-hand comment about “that’s why we teach our son how to act.”

I know the heart of this friend. I know this friend truly loves my son. And I know the intent was not to diminish my parenting.

But still the comment stung. It bit into my heart because I know my husband and I have taught good behavior until we’re breathless and exhausted. We’ve taught it over and over and over again.

That’s a thing about strong willed kids. A thing you need to know.

You can teach and discipline and love and correct all the live-long day.

And you will often still be ignored.

My Caleb?

He knows how to stand his ground. Over the years he’s fired me. He’s hollered and screamed and yelled and stomped his feet.

I have a trashcan full with moments like that.

But I’m not here to recount my son’s bad moments. I’m here to tell you that he is amazing. How so many children just like him are incredible.

Caleb, my Court Jester, is full of passion. He is sensitive and easily frustrated. He is intelligent and one of the funniest kids I know. He will still curl into our laps and dances with the kind of zero rhythm you can’t help but cherish.

Every night he requests the same three things: Pray. Kiss. And Love. Every night.

He is fantastic.

He isn’t perfect, but he was created by a perfect God.

God didn’t make a mistake when He gifted my son with strong determination. My role as momma is to take that gift and steer it, guide it, mold it in a direction that will allow him to lead.

Children with an iron will? They steel themselves against the grain. They are created with less bend, and if we try too hard to curve that solid will, they could just break.

And I’m not here to break my child.

My role is not to extinguish his strong will. Because there will be times in his future when I want him to stand his ground, stay true to his convictions, never back down.

The strong will? It’s a powerful gift if used correctly.

Those of us who are blessed to parent the steel-strong babies? We want you to know we’re grateful for who they will become—despite the hard days of now.

We want you to know we’re good parents doing all the right things, but we’re raising independent children who sometimes choose the wrong things.

We want you to know the moments you witness don’t tell the true story of our child.

We want you to know we’re doing the best we can.

We want you to know support means the world, but while you mean well with your suggestions, we’ve most likely already tried those sticker charts and time-outs and a thousand other ideas just like yours.

We want you to see the beauty in our babes.

We want you to know our children. Really know them.

We want you to remember iron brings life—even the iron will.

We know they’re not perfect. No one is. Not one.

We are desperate for your grace.

We covet your prayers.

Because all parents of all children are raising the future. And that is a holy task.File Mar 22

Posted in Hope, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments