My (Current) Favorite Book – [an experiment with Paul Tripp]

My (Current) Favorite Book – [an experiment with Paul Tripp]

I’m not a book pusher — most of the time — but this one…

When my sister texted me and said she has a must-read for me, I listened.  Her kids are younger than mine buy several years, but she has often given some of the best objective advice for some of my toughest mom moments. (I’m tucking it all away to give back to her when her kids are in full unpredictable-teen swing.)

She recommended Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.  I was skeptical because I’ve read a lot of parenting books.  Many have altered my view of motherhood, but radically?  I was doubtful. But she’s my sister, and sisters are generally trustworthy, so I purchased a hardback book. (Y’all, I don’t do hardback. I’m more of a discount/used/paperback kind of girl. Again, the #sisterfactor made me do it.)

I was engaged from page 1, and tearfully underlining and turning pages with the same intensity I have when eating a Little Debbie snack cake. It was that serious.

I’d like to interrupt this commentary for a sidebar to the author while it’s on my mind.


Dear Mr. Paul Tripp,

Your recent book left me a bit undone. I really thought I was nailing this motherhood thing. Four sons and almost 21 years of parenting  — through a lot of hard things reserved for a different post — and prior to your book, I thought I was doing the best I could for my kids.  <Enter flash of enlightenment.> Your words challenged me to examine my purpose as a mom. Every chapter held a mirror to my heart and I didn’t always like what I saw. Funny how a person can get slightly off track and  over time the margin of error is so much bigger. Thanks for wrecking perfect mascara and making my nose run uncontrollably. Your gentle truthfulness kept me turning the pages instead of dropping your book into the “donate” pile in my garage. My original goal didn’t change, but I saw how humanly flawed my plan to achieve the goal has been at times.  You probably saved me a few hours of family counseling down the road. You wrote that book for me.

Hats off to you, Mr. Tripp. That was a worthwhile read.

I want you to read this book. Read it only if you have any influence over anyone, anywhere, and only if you really want to see authentic life change in the hearts of people around you. Otherwise, waste your time watching reality TV or something.

There are too many takeaways to list, and I don’t want to spoil a perfectly good book by telling you everything in it.  I was reminded of principles I already knew — I’m parenting sinners, just like every other mom and dad. I can’t control them with my rules, even though boundaries and consequences are absolute necessities. Perhaps most importantly, while I read Mr. Tripp’s book in search of strengthening my parenting, I found my own heart needed some re-alignment.  I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit dropping condemnation on me as my shortcomings were revealed. There was a gentle nudge to move closer to Him, set my eyes again on Him, and let my will be conformed to His.  “There now,” I could feel the Spirit say, “this is how I need you to parent your little world-changers.”

I don’t know if my family will be radically changed as the title claims, but I know the Word of God changes everything and this message did not fall on deaf ears. As I am building future adults, the Father is building me. You’re welcome.

Road Trips – [an experiment in family plans]

Road Trips – [an experiment in family plans]

Notes for making a travel brochure for your familyWith six people in the family, vacations usually mean a road trip. I don’t mind.  Road trips remind me of traveling the USA with my grandparents when I was a kid.  We drove 10 miles per hour under the speed limit and stopped at every scenic lookout between Oklahoma and the coast.  My grandpa was fun.  He would sing along to Tom T. Hall and the Statler Brothers, sometimes making up silly lyrics to make me laugh.  My grandma organized and played games with me. Some of my best memories were made in the cab of his truck.

That’s not the first place I learned to be creative on a family trip.  My parents kept up the tradition as well.  I remember one family trip in particular in which each day started with an envelope of cash.  If I remember right, one person was in charge each day that person had to plan all the activities and meals using only the cash in the envelope.  As a teenager, I most likely thought it was dumb.  As an adult, I now remember it as brilliant.

I have four sons.  That means conversation, interaction and all the feels of a road trip don’t always get verbalized well.  What’s a mom to do?  I rely on coercion and bribery.  For many (not all) of our family trips, I create a travel-brochure for them.  It has the daily agenda so I’m not asked “What are we doing today?” six hundred times, and it also includes where we will eat.  If you have boys, you know how important it is to provide assurance we are going to eat.  (Click to see the example)Road trip brochure to promote family interaction and keep you on trackIn order to get them interacting and talking with each other, I write one or two questions for each day of the week. Some are serious and some are funny.  In the beginning, all my questions were serious and deep but when I realized they weren’t going to sit around and pour out their hearts over hot tea and crumpets, I began to add a few knee-slapping funny questions.  My children are funny and I love to hear them laugh.

Finally, there is one section dedicated to an activity that spans the length of the break.  One year it was a photo scavenger hunt which was hysterical.  I offer a prize at the end for the winner.  You’d be surprised what an 18-yo is willing to do for a $20 Chick-Fil-A card. (Actually, you might not be surprised…especially if you have sons.)  This year, the competition involves earning points for activities.  Clean the kitchen after a meal – 100 pts, read a book in the car – 100 pts per hour, no crying on the mountain – 50 pts. (I have never qualified for this on a ski trip!)  And I give points for each day you participate in the family discussion questions.  See how I get what I want? #momskills

I’m highly administrative (which doesn’t always mean organized).  This is one of those things they somewhat roll their eyes at, yet always embrace with great attitudes.  I know they enjoy knowing what comes next and having something to fill in the gaps of a 10-hr road trip.

If you’d like to see my trip plans, here are some samples. (Email me for a Word doc you can edit.)

San Francisco with the big kids
Anniversary trip with my guy
Christmas ski trip with my family

Happy travels. 



The Intentional Family – [an experiment in traditions]

The Intentional Family – [an experiment in traditions]

Simple and fun holiday traditions with Bible verse references and family discussion questionsI love traditions. The older I get, the more I see the inevitable. I’m turning into my mother…and my grandmother…and probably some other old lady with a wild chin hair before them. I find myself doing the same things, the same way, year after year. My grandmother always made the same simple stuffing at Thanksgiving. My mother sewed matching clothes for my dolls. Me? I prefer a tradition where everyone helps fold the mountain of laundry but the holiday spirit is pretty weak for that one… so I have a list of other fun and simple holiday traditions to enjoy.

In a life of constant, exhausting (and sometimes unwelcome) change, I need a few steadies in my world. Enter traditions. Old and new, dumb or classy, meaningful and pointless – and combined, the things we do together, intentionally and repeatedly, tell the story of family.

Traditions provide a sense of identity. Traditions teach family values. And traditions create great memories.

One of my favorite traditions is to let my little kids play with a nativity set or even build one. This year my younger kids made a Lego nativity set.  It was pretty amazing. It had a moving star and everything.  Proudly I asked them to tell me about their creation.  “Baby Jesus…angel…manger…Moses and Sarah…”

<Insert sound of record needle being pulled across a vintage vinyl at 165 decibels.>

What? Did you really just say Moses and Sarah? As in THOSE are supposed to be Jesus’ parents?  Oh-no-you-did-not.  I grounded them to their room to pray and lament over their horrible mistake.  And then I flogged myself with a wet kitchen towel for not making sure my kids know the Christmas story.  It’s like I don’t even know the most important birthday in the history of the world…

Which brings me to the most important tradition.  It’s one we simply cannot afford to miss.  No, it’s not decorating the Christmas tree or even sharing a family dinner at Grandma’s house.

The most important thing this season is to point our children to the heart of God and to a deeper understanding of His love for us. Nothing else really matters.

I’ve put together a few holiday traditions and included some family discussion questions and scripture references. If you’re looking for a new twist on familiar activities, check this out.  Strengthen your traditions by rooting them in the truth of God’s Word.  Let me give you an example:

Puzzle Time!
Set out a puzzle between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Encourage family members to stop and work a few pieces throughout the week.  You’ll find interesting conversations occur over 1000 tiny jigsaw pieces.  I like to make a comparison. Ask your family, “Do you ever feel like pieces of your life just don’t fit? Or you can’t figure out what should happen next? Are you ever convinced something is missing?”  Our life is just like this puzzle. It’s full of tiny events that sometimes don’t make sense or seem like a big mistake. Romans 8:28 assures us in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. Just like this puzzle, we can be assured God has a plan for each “piece” of our life.

Tying scripture to traditions this year can be quite easy.  All it takes is a little creative effort. You don’t have to have grand events and spend oodles of time preparing. Start small. Start with one thing. Just start.

Download the list of holiday traditions with scripture reference and discussion questions here





Peer Pressured Moms – [an experiment in same story, different decade]

Peer Pressured Moms – [an experiment in same story, different decade]

If you think peer pressure is just for teenagers, think again.

What was once a phrase reserved for children and their friends, is now noodling around in the corners of my self conscience, and taunting me that I’m a periodic victim. In the name of “save the kids,” adults have employed full campaigns to teach our minors how to stand up against peer pressure.  But please. Someone needs to tell me where to sign up for the Peer Pressured Moms course.  I’ll even pay full price.

The closer I get to [inaudible]-ty years old, the more I see it all around me, and in the mirror. Countless times my kids have been audience to my perfectly crafted monologue about standing alone in the crowd…integrity…discipline…yada, yada, yada. But hey mom, you and me? We’re not immune to the clutches of peer pressure either.

Do these sound familiar?

“You’re the ONLY mom who….”
“All the other moms are letting their kids…”
“People think you are so strict…”
“Your advice is life to my soul.”

How do those make you feel?  (I’m over myself so I’ll admit it first), Hearing those statements makes me feel terrible. It makes me want to change my mind, do something that is a bit against what I believe in my heart, and then have the gall to violently defend it when questioned.  Ohmyword. I’m a child. Not much has changed.

But there is hope for people like me (and maybe you.) Many of us need to take our own advice and learn to stand up under the pressure we feel from other parents. I know I think differently than a few parents. If I could live with Charles and Caroline Ingalls, I would.  For those of us who get derailed by the pressure we feel from (perhaps more lenient) parents, here are 4 things we tell our kids that we would do well to hear for ourselves.

  1. Know where you stand on the major topics.

From underage drinking to dating, to hanging out with kids we don’t know, to seeing movies with a questionable message – we must identify in advance,  the boundaries for such things.  It’s hard to say no when you’re put on the spot and eight teenage kids are looking in your eyes, begging you to say yes. However, when we’ve carefully considered the options before we’re faced with a choice, it’s not a matter of making the decision on the spot – it’s a matter of discipline to carry out the decision. Peer pressure happens when we don’t have a clear position.

  1. Separate fact from emotion.

The darling kid looks at you with those if-only-you-had-gotten-me-a-puppy eyes because everyone else gets to __________.  Your love for this kid drowns out all reason because you want to deliver happiness. Our emotions don’t get a vote. We have to look at the facts and make a decision as to what is God’s best for our kids, independent of their happiness.  That is the only reasonable answer to a tough question.  Peer pressure happens when you let your emotions behind the wheel.

  1. Don’t be too quick to give an answer.

This has saved my bacon many times.  When I feel pressured to give a quick answer, I ask for a few minutes to think about it. Warning: This is not popular. But it gives me a chance to be alone and really think through the decision. Once I’ve made up my mind, I don’t waver. Peer pressure happens when we don’t stop to think about the consequences of our choices.

  1. Blame someone else if you have to say NO.

Of course you can’t always blame someone else.  But when I can, I dodge ownership in the decision and let another authority take the heat. Rather than being swayed by someone else’s mom who may have said it was okay, I let the law be the ‘bad guy.’ Underage drinking? Sorry, against the law. Fake ID? Nope, city of Edmond frowns on that. “Experiment with smoking under adult supervision” Forget it. There are many negotiations we don’t even need to have.  Peer pressure happens when we ignore authority.

The social pressure on our children is unbelievable. Our kids experience a lot of peer pressure and as moms, so do we.  If you want to be your child’s best mom, learn to follow the same principles we teach our kids.  It’s okay to say no.

My Experiments