How to Talk to Your Kids About the Election

My kids just watched our front running Presidential candidates behave in a way that is worse than behavior they themselves have lost phones and been grounded for. Awesome.”

This was posted by a friend of mine following the first Presidential debate of 2020. Whichever direction you lean, I believe we can all agree that debate was a train wreck! 

Regardless of the reasons, neither candidate represented themselves in a manner worthy of the highest office of this nation. I can’t count the number of times I have told my kids that our choices are not dependent on other people’s actions. If our Presidential candidates were our children, we would have taken away their microphones and sent them to bed without supper! 

Alas, that is not the case.

From my last blog post, you know I firmly believe in viewing challenges as teachable moments. Unfortunately—or fortunately— this election year is turning out to be a perfect opportunity to do just that.

I admit… it is a bit of a struggle. I find myself tempted to focus on:

  • The lack of integrity in our candidates
  • The division in America
  • The role of media bias & “fake news” from every side
  • Our tendency to choose “sides” and be “against” something
  • How mean and rude people can be to one another on social media regarding political issues and current events
  • The desire to throw something at the TV and stay home on election day! 

However, I’m not sure those topics would be the most beneficial to my kids. As easy as it is, it’s not enough to complain to our children about politics. No, how we talk about the election with our kids matters. 

This is one of those times I am reminding myself I have the opportunity to look at things from a different perspective and use the current situation to create constructive conversation. 

TALKING POINTS

Here are some revised talking points I came up with based on the frustrations I listed above:

  • Why we should vote for policy/platform and not a person. While it would be nice for our president to be an outstanding role model for future generations, unfortunately that is not often the case. Let’s be real— most of our leaders have had closets full of immorality and shameful behaviors… they just didn’t put them on display quite like our current candidates. In any case, one of the beautiful things about our government system is that it is designed so that the President’s personal power is limited. His or her main impact comes through the people he/she appoints. The President’s cabinet is made up of the heads of various departments. These are the people who oversee the areas that directly affect us as Americans—transportation, education, national security, etc. The President also nominates Supreme Court Justices, should an opening occur. The Supreme Court verdicts often have widespread implications and, subsequently, guide the morals of our nation. Thus, the people a President appoints generally play a much greater role in directing our nation than the President himself/herself. This is so important for our children (and us) to understand!
  • While America seems very divided, there are large areas of common ground in the middle.  In many cases, most Americans actually want the same thing, but see different ways of achieving it. Do you listen and communicate better with someone if you realize you mostly want the same things?
  • “I saw it on the internet (or TV or TikTok), so it must be true!” The reality is our kids DO tend to internalize what they watch and listen to, and so do we. And the more we trust our source, the more blindly we accept it. Unfortunately, NONE of our current news sources report anything objectively without bias. We are fooling ourselves if we think there is any source without an agenda. This is a GREAT opportunity to talk to our kids (and ourselves!) about the importance of implementing critical thinking skills. What does that look like? How do we pursue truth (even at the expense of our own opinions)? How do we recognize bias in a story? How can we tell when we are being manipulated? How do we check the validity of a source or a story? How do we research counter-arguments to make sure we have a more accurate perspective instead of just choosing articles that support our opinions? These are all great questions to walk through with our kids.
  • In this election more than any other, people are talking about their desire to vote “against” someone or something. As Christ-followers, there are obviously things we should stand up against. But mostly, I want my kids to be known for what (and who) they stand FOR. Do our children know what we believe in and why it matters to us, not just what we stand against? 
  • This election season is the first time I have ever used Facebook’s “Snooze for 30 days” feature. I realize we all have personal experiences, which create strong emotions, and Satan is having a field day with that! But somewhere along the way, some of us have forgotten about human decency. Seriously, y’all—if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all! However, this also creates a great opportunity to discuss the importance of listening with an open mind, sharing your words where they will have the best return, stepping away from the noise when you need to, and recognizing that POSTING about something is not the same thing as DOING something.
  • And yes, when I want to throw something at the TV, I remind myself of the privilege it is to have a voice in our elected officials and the responsibility that comes with it. Do our kids understand how this process works, how it is purposely different from other countries, and why that matters? Even at our worst, the ideals we stand for and our methods of maintaining them have tremendous value, and our kids need to know that. Otherwise, they will eventually forfeit those freedoms, and by the time they realize what they have lost, it will be too late. “History repeats itself” is a real thing.

Beyond that, the question I have been asking myself is what do our kids need to know specifically about how Jeff and I determine who to vote for? Basically, it comes down to two things: What matters to us and why.

WHAT MATTERS TO US AND WHY

1. KNOW YOUR WHAT

This is where our worldview comes into play. As Christ followers, we focus on what the Bible says. God gets to determine what is most important to us, not us. Our job is to critically think, pray, and determine which platform (not person) we believe lines up most with Biblical objectives and will do the most good for the most people.

2. KNOW YOUR WHY

“Because I don’t like the other candidate” is not a good enough reason to vote for someone. The privilege of voting comes with great responsibility, and we must take that seriously. Even with all our faults, the freedoms we enjoy in this country cannot be taken for granted. We cannot be led by the crowd in matters this important! Just because some person with a microphone says this candidate is going to help someone doesn’t mean they actually will. We must look deeper to understand WHY a person or platform is more worthy than the other of our vote.

IMPORTANT VALUES FOR OUR FAMILY

Some of you have asked me to share some of the Biblical values that are important to our family, so here are a few. Yours may be different, and that’s okay! Or yours may be similar, but you may have a different perspective on how to best achieve those values. That’s okay, too! Diversity of thought can actually make us better—but only if we learn how to listen, compromise, and work together for the greater good.  (Can you tell I’m an Enneagram 9? Lol!)

  • The freedom to worship God and to share our faith with others
  • The value of all human life, as every person, of every color, from the point of conception, is created in God’s image 
  • The pursuit of Biblical integrity and character traits such as personal responsibility, wise stewardship, hard work, generosity, and caring for those who cannot care for themselves 
  • The limited role of government—what it is intended to do in our lives and in our country, and what it is not intended to do. 
  • National security—not just for our own safety, but also for what it means for the protection and provision of liberty around the world.

There are many other things that matter to us, obviously, but these are a good place to start. Whatever your values are, I encourage you to make sure you discuss them with your children. Teens and young adults are particularly impressionable, and the world will share its values with them whether we like it or not. I continue to see more and more thoughtful, compassionate students embracing what they believe to be enlightened, revolutionary thinking, when in actuality, they are being manipulated with biased information and merely following a trend. 

PASSING ON OUR VALUES

Parents, please don’t forfeit the responsibility you have been given to pass on Biblical values to your children. Don’t assume they know your “what” or understand your “why” without explanation. Embrace the craziness of this next week as a teachable moment to discuss why voting matters, why you vote the way you do, and how the Bible influences (or in our case, determines) your choices.

And remind them that, above all, our hope lies in Jesus, not a political candidate. Whoever wins this election will do so under God’s sovereignty. We will pray and remain faithful, regardless of the outcome, and be grateful for the opportunity to vote again in four years.

“But Christians know that we are not at the mercy of chance. A loving hand, a great wisdom, and an omnipotent power rule our destiny. The government of all is on the mighty shoulders of Christ Himself, who sees all long before it happens. All is intended for our blessing. How different things look to us!”

-Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms

In the words of Horatio Spafford’s famous hymn, we can teach our children to rest in this truth: “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Teachable Moments: Taking the Fear and Stress Out of Parenting Challenges

“The stress of facing a crisis with my children is definitely my favorite part of parenting!” …said no parent ever!

Yet, have you ever noticed how we seem to learn the most during the hard times? One of the greatest lessons I have learned about parenting is not to fear the challenges our children face, but to be grateful for them because they become teachable moments we might not have otherwise.

When our children were much younger, Jeff and I found ourselves in what felt like a crisis situation with our neighbors. Every time we went outside to play in our backyard, their very friendly (but also very large) labradoodle would run over barking, jump up on our one year old, and push him to the ground. Their daughters would knock on the door to see if our girls could play, then hide in the bushes and throw things at them when they came outside. They called our girls words they had never heard before. They even stole our snowman out of our front yard… with Jeff watching!

I can tell you honestly, I was not thanking God for that “opportunity.” I was figuring out how we could move! 

But those encounters led to some really important conversations about how our faith determines our actions instead of our feelings and how what we see on the outside is often a reflection of something deeper going on beneath the surface. We talked about being kind and setting healthy boundaries— not something I planned to address with a four year old, but there we were!

Our neighbors obviously had some personal struggles going on; however, we didn’t know the extent until a few years later. Once those issues were addressed, their family dynamics became much healthier. We ran into them at the pool one day and my girls were surprised because they were actually kind! 

Learning the truth and seeing how their girls had changed became another teachable moment. It enabled us to talk about forgiveness, grace, and second chances. These are gospel conversations they might not have understood without experiencing it themselves.

And that is something to be grateful for!

“These are gospel conversations they might not have understood without experiencing it themselves. That is something to be grateful for!”

When your daughter is dealing with friend drama, you can call the other moms or seize the opportunity to talk with your girl about what real friendship looks like (and doesn’t look like), as well as what kind of person she wants to be, both now and when she grows up.

When your son and his friends make a dumb choice and get into some trouble, you can yell at him or cover for him, or you can take the opportunity to talk about peer pressure, consequences, listening to the Holy Spirit, and the power of influence. 

When your child has a personality struggle with a boss or teacher, you can rescue them or teach them how to adjust their actions to align with different leadership styles. This will serve them well in life as they find themselves under different authority figures, some of whom they likely will not completely agree with.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When we catch our kids searching for something inappropriate on-line or caught up in some sort of crazy friend drama, you will not find Jeff and I skipping in circles, singing Oh Happy Day! No, we are as disappointed and frustrated as everyone else. But the advantage of having four kids is we’ve learned that most of these struggles are a normal part of growing up. They are not an exception; they should be expected. 

The important thing is how we handle them.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Paul David Tripp mentions this idea throughout his book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. He puts beautiful words to what my heart has learned over the years:

Be thankful for these little moments. Don’t look at them as the bad moments of parenting, as hassles and interruptions; these are the good moments of parenting. These are moments of grace… Parents, if your eyes ever see or your ears ever hear the sin and weakness of your children, it’s never an accident, it’s never a hassle, it’s never an interruption; it’s always grace. God loves your children and because He does, he has placed them in a family of faith so that you can be his tool of convicting, forgiving, and transforming grace. You are faced with the resistance of your children because God is a God of amazing grace. His grace has the power to turn very bad moments into very good moments. Isn’t this what the cross of Jesus Christ is about?

—Paul David Tripp

God is a Master at taking bad situations and transforming them into something good. King David’s indiscretions led to a conversation with the prophet, Nathan, which transformed David into a man after God’s own heart. Peter’s betrayal of Jesus led to a conversation of repentance and restoration which transformed not only Peter, but countless others as well. And God transformed Jesus’s death on the cross, arguably the worst thing that has ever happened, into the best thing that ever happened to us! 

We do not need to fear or stress over the difficult situations we face as parents. God can transform each one of them into something good! When Jeff and I find ourselves faced with yet another parenting challenge, we remind ourselves (or more often, he reminds me!) to take a breath and view it as a “moment of grace.” I am grateful our children are learning these lessons at home and that we’ve been given the opportunity to walk through it with them. That will not always be the case, I know. 

So, for now, we will be grateful and embrace these challenging moments as teachable opportunities.

This is grace.

The Freedom of Self-Denial

“Mom, are you serious?? What is wrong with you? No one else in the world has stupid rules like this. I hate it! You’re ruining my life! You and dad are the worst!”

I sat there suppressing a smile and polishing my Mother of the Year trophy while the child-who-shall-not-be-named stomped out of the room.

Sorry, kid, this isn’t our first rodeo.

In case you’re wondering about the preposterous rule, Jeff and I recently implemented a “No technology during the school week” policy. You can imagine how well that went over.

Y’all, sometimes parenting is really hard. Okay, most of the time, parenting is really hard! Making our kids mad at us is no fun. Setting limits and boundaries we know they won’t like is terribly difficult. Listening to them tell us that we are ruining their life (and wondering if it’s true) is heart-wrenching. 

But sometimes a mom (or dad) has to do what a mom (or dad) has to do.

In this case, the reality is that our kids are different people when they are not using technology. When they know it’s an option, nothing else seems to matter. They rush carelessly through their schoolwork so they can get online with their friends. They overlook assignments or “forget” to study so they can be done faster. They lose sight of how much they love things like sports and other activities because their focus is on a screen. And though they hate to admit it, their aggression and anxiety skyrocket. 

However, when digital entertainment is no longer an option, everything changes! They take their time on their schoolwork and their grades go up. They spend time together— laughing, playing outside, making up games, and being creative. As much as they hate the sacrifice, they quickly begin to enjoy the freedom that comes with not being tethered to an idol. Our hope is that, through this process, they will learn the value of denying themselves and be able to choose it for themselves in the future.

In fact, on a few occasions, our older children have even handed us their phones, recognizing they needed a break from the digital world, but not trusting their own ability to resist the temptation. How cool is that?

As much as they hate the sacrifice, they quickly begin to enjoy the freedom that comes with not being tethered to an idol.

Unfortunately, it never gets any easier to deny ourselves what we really want.

Jeff and I started a new eating plan this week. I’m not going to lie; it has been tough. Our meals (I use that term loosely, lol!) are planned out for us, and our eating is extremely restricted compared to what we are used to. Honestly, it feels quite a bit like torture!

But it has also given me new perspective. I had no idea how much my life revolved around food. It is horrifying and humbling to recognize how quickly an indulgence here and there can become an all-consuming, insatiable hunger. Like my kids, I have overlooked the most important things in order to satisfy what my heart craves.  I have been ruled by the desire to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and I didn’t even know it!

However, this week, all that changed. 

This week has been an experience in self-denial. I have had to prioritize what is best for me over what I desire. I have chosen integrity over indulgence and long-term results over short-term satisfaction. My hunger pains have reminded me that while I may feel deprived, there are those who would consider my small portion a gift, an answered prayer.  As the week went along, my perspective shifted and I have grown more grateful for what I have been given instead of focusing on what has been withheld. 

I’m not quite there yet, but I am inching my way towards finding the freedom that comes from releasing an idol.

Friends, it makes me wonder. If my kids didn’t recognize how technology affects them and I didn’t realize how food affects me, what else in our lives are we blind to? In what other areas are we indulging our senses, feeding our feelings, and drowning in our desires? And what would happen if we chose to step back and open our hands, willingly denying ourselves of whatever it is that consumes us?

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

We live in a fast food world of self-indulgence. Super-sizing is expected. Entitlement is rampant. Just look at our political climate—we are so quick to claim a side, yet we have forgotten how to have a conversation.  We continually choose being right over being in relationship. We focus on our miniscule areas of disagreement instead of our larger areas of commonality. 

We are being deceived, friends! We are worshiping self-made idols and calling it freedom, when really we are enslaved to our own desires. 

I wonder what would happen if we all chose gratitude over greed. Would our world look any different if we decided to walk the path of self-denial? If, instead of feeding our selfish desires, we denied ourselves and sought to fulfill someone else’s needs? What freedom would we gain by shifting our perspective, and rather than seeing ourselves as victims of someone else’s restrictive cruelty, we decided to find freedom through restricting ourselves?

This is the perspective we are hoping our kids will grasp— that while self-denial is unpleasant at first, it can lead to great joy and freedom.

Just a few things to think about as I count the minutes until my next “fueling”…

My August Book Stack

Hi Friends!

There are two things you will probably notice very quickly about my August book stack. First, I finally made it back to the library, as you can tell by all the stickers. And making it back to the library means my August book stack is full of fiction! Whoo hoo! 

Incidentally, that’s also why there are seven books. 

Want to know a secret? I am able to read fiction books much more quickly than, say, biographies, so they really help me reach my end-of-year reading challenge goal.  Shhhh! We all have our secrets, after all…

Anyway, let’s get started! Here are the details on the books I read in August.

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The Entitlement Cure by John Townsend

This book was not at all what I expected. Having four children and working with teenagers like I do, I honestly expected it to be targeted more towards the younger generation. While these principles can definitely be applied to teenagers, they are actually written more for adults, making it more difficult to apply them to children. That said, I really enjoyed this book!

I think understanding the principles of how to counteract entitlement can definitely re-shape the way we parent, which will be beneficial to our children. I also found it helpful in revealing my own entitled attitudes in ways I would not necessarily have noticed on my own. And because Townsend uses so many workplace illustrations, I think this book is particularly helpful to those in leadership positions in the workplace. So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for someone struggling with an entitled 8 year old, I did find it worth reading for the general public and especially for those in the workplace.

False Memory Series by Dan Krokos

As most of you know, YA dystopian fiction is my guilty pleasure. I came across this series at the library and quickly checked out all three books. Oh, how I missed the library during quarantine! I was so happy to have a little mindless reading again. Well, this series did not disappoint on the “mindless reading” front… It turned out to be a YA science fiction series instead of dystopian, which is not really my jam. Still, the overall plot was interesting and the characters were likeable enough to keep me reading.

It has a kick-butt female protagonist with two heroic guy friends, forming the expected love triangle. As it happens, the teenagers were created (cloned) to “save the world,” but end up embarking on their own mission to save the world from their creators. For my teen friends, be aware there is some language and pretty intimate physical contact between the characters on multiple occasions. While it doesn’t come close to making my favorites list, it was still fun to have some mindless YA fiction to read again for a change!

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

This book has been on my list for awhile, so I was glad to finally be able to get it from the library. For some reason, the description led me to believe it was historical fiction, another favorite genre- a vintage wedding dress is found in an old trunk at an estate sale, which leads the protagonist on a search to find out the mystery of it’s origin and reappearance. She traces the dress to three different women, seemingly unconnected, from different generations. Intriguing, right?

Well, it turns out the book is really a Christian romance novel, so I was a little disappointed. However, it was well written and the mystery of the dress was still a fun story line, so I’m glad I read it! Again, it won’t make my list of favorites, but if you like Christian romance, you should definitely check this one out.

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

I also found this book at the library, and honestly, I was drawn in by the cover. A girl floating half-dead on a raft in the middle of an ocean screamed high adventure.  After months of being confined in the same place, that was just what I was looking for! This is a YA fiction book, definitely intended for a middle to high school audience. It was a quick read, and enjoyable, though very predictable. There were some political agendas woven pretty obviously throughout, but I have come to expect that in YA fiction. Overall, it wasn’t a very-well developed book, but it was a quick read and an enjoyable story! (FYI- there is a mild “attack” encounter in the beginning which may be a trigger for girls who have been assaulted)

Intimate Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire

I have read this devotional book multiple times over the years. I bought it shortly after I graduated from college and find myself drawn back to it every now and then. Ken Gire has a beautiful writing style, which brings the Scriptures alive. He has a unique way of drawing a bridge between people who encountered Jesus and how we encounter Him in our own lives. In this book, we come face to face with Peter, Mary and Martha, Nicodemus, and others, and are able to learn from their experiences how to become more intimate with Jesus. I pulled this out after reading an excerpt in an old prayer journal about His encounter with Peter, and after all these years, that particular chapter is still my favorite. This is not deep, theological reading; it is the kind of writing that draws your heart to the Lord in an intimate way. It’s a classic, and you can be sure it will end up in another book stack of mine down the road.

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Well, as you can probably tell, August didn’t turn out to be my favorite collection of books. It has actually dampened my desire to read this month, so you can expect a smaller selection for September. But as far as I’m concerned, an okay book is better than no book! Just like you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince, maybe you have to read a lot of books to find those few that really resonate with you. It’s worth it!

So friends, what’s on your nightstand? I’d love to know what you’ve been reading lately! Share in the comments!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students: Week 5

Well, friends, here are the last few prayers in our 31 Days of Praying Scripture series. (If you are just finding this, you can find the first post in the series here.) I hope this has been helpful for you as you pray for the teens and college students in your life. More than that, I am excited to think about all the unseen ways God is working in response to our prayers! Thank you for joining me on this journey.

If you have enjoyed this series or have found these prayers helpful, will you please let me know in the comments (here or on FB)? I’m also curious if you would be interested in having Scripture prayers focused on any other topics. I’d love if you would share your ideas!

Lastly, I am finishing up the printable version of these prayers, so stay tuned later this week for how you can access it!

Okay, enough chit-chat… Let’s get to praying!

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Day 29: Ephesians 4:14-15

Father, I pray _______________ will no longer be like an infant, unable to discern truth. May they not be tossed back and forth by the waves of false teaching or cunning people who create You in an image of their own choosing. Instead, may they be grounded in Truth and speak Your truth in love to others. May they grow to become the mature body of Jesus in every respect, fully devoted to living out Your instructions in a world desperate for truth and grace.

Day 30: Romans 8:35-39

Father, I pray that nothing will separate ________________ from the love of Christ! Though they may face trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or death, may they be more than conquerors through Jesus, who loves us and is already victorious. May they claim this truth in their darkest times: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Day 31: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Father, I pray You will provide _________________ with godly, encouraging friendships. May they surround themselves with people who help them have a good return for their work and who help each other up when they fall. May they strengthen and encourage one another, speaking the truth in love and encouraging faithfulness. May they fight off temptation together so they are not overpowered by sin. Since a cord of three strands is not quickly broken, may You be woven into the fabric of their closest relationships.

Lord, hear our prayer!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Our Teens & College Students: Week Four

Wow, friends, it has been a week! If you have been following along, you already know why I initially wrote this series. (And if you are just joining us, you may want to check out 31 Days of Praying Scripture Over our Teens and College Students: Week 1)

Our oldest daughter starts college this month (along with all our other kids navigating COVID-schooling in all its forms), and I needed a way to direct my prayers. I cover the basics daily- “Lord, please keep her safe, protect her from harm, keep her healthy,” etc.

However, while all those things are important, they really aren’t the most important thing.

I wanted to make sure I was not just covering her physically, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well. Above all, my greatest prayer is for her relationship with Jesus. There are so many things that will influence her faith one way or another, and I needed to be sure I was praying about them instead of just talking about them.

When we pray the Word of God (in context), we can ask confidently because we know we are praying according to His will. Thus, this series was created for that purpose.

This past weekend, Jeff and I helped Sarah move into her dorm, then made the seven hour drive home without her. It was wonderful and hard, and our emotions are still pretty much all over the place. But we are confident she is where God wants her, and she is prepared to shine! And the best way I can help her do that is through prayer.

The same is true for all my kids. And for yours!

So, if you are still on this journey with me, thank you! Thank you for loving the teens and college students in your life enough to pray. Thank you for believing that a few words whispered with a little faith and an open heart will be heard by the Creator of the universe. Because they will!

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” -James 5:16b (NLT)

Now, there is nothing magic about these words themselves; no, the power lies not in the prayers, but in the One who hears them.

So let’s keep praying! Our teens and college students are counting on us!

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Day 22: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Father, it is so easy to think we are firm in our faith, but temptation lurks all around us. I pray _______________ will be careful and not fall! Remind them that no temptation is unique to them alone; Satan uses the same bag of tricks on all mankind. May they see through the enemy’s lies and claim this truth:  You are faithful; You will not let them be tempted beyond what they can bear. And when they are tempted, You will help them endure it and provide a way out. Thank You for Your faithfulness!

Day 23: Matthew 6:33-34

Father, may ________________ not worry about tomorrow- about what they will do, who they will marry, or how they will provide for their needs. May they not be distracted by pursuing those things, but instead bring those concerns to You. May they seek first Your kingdom and desire to love and serve You well, trusting You to take care all of their needs.

Day 24: Colossians 3:23-24

Father, may ________________ not be lazy or tempted to impress others. Instead, may they live out this command: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… for it is the Lord Christ you are serving.” May they develop a habit of offering You their very best, even in things that seem unimportant.

Day 25: Proverbs 4:23-27

Father, may ______________ guard their heart above all else, for everything we do flows out of our hearts. May they hide your Word in their heart so that they might not sin against You. Please keep their mouth free from perversity and keep corrupt talk from their lips. When they speak to and about others, may they speak life and truth and encouragement. Help them avoid gossip and lies; help them confront boldly but gently, filtering their words through a kind and compassionate heart. Help them fix their eyes on You, giving careful thought to the paths of their feet, so they will remain steadfast in their relationship with You all their days, in all their ways. Do not let them turn to the right or left; keep them walking in Your truth.

Day 26: Philippians 4:8-9

Father, when _____________ is feeling anxious, may they focus on thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. In other words, may they think about You and find comfort in Your Word. May they put into practice the things they learned from those who love and follow You, and may You comfort them with Your peace.

Day 27: Colossians 3:12-16

Father, You have chosen _______________ as your own, and they are holy and dearly loved by You. Therefore, may they be intentional to clothe themselves daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. As they interact with those around them, may they bear with each other and forgive one another, just as You so graciously forgive them. May they be bound together in love, so that even when they disagree, they may seek peace and unity of spirit. May Your peace rule in their hearts and lead them to be thankful. May they actively grow together with You through the study and application of Your Word, in lifting their voices in praise and worship, and in the bonding together of grateful hearts.

Day 28: James 1:2-4

Father, may ________________ consider it joy when they face trials of many kinds, because the testing of their faith will strengthen them and produce perseverance. I pray their perseverance will finish it’s work, so they may grow up into maturity, not lacking anything they need, but loving you wholeheartedly.

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Well, that wraps up Week 4… but we still have a few days left! I will post Days 29-31 next week, along with a way for you to print this entire series out in case you would like to use it as a resource again next month. Several of you have asked for that; unfortunately, I am not very tech savvy and it’s taking me awhile to figure out how to make that happen. Thank you for your patience!

In the meantime, feel free to screenshot this week’s prayers for easier reference each day. And if this series might be helpful to someone you know, please share it with them.

As in previous weeks, if you want to put the names of the students you are praying for in the comments, I will add them to my list! Otherwise, check back next week for the final post in our journey of praying Scripture over our teens and college students!

Letting Go and Trusting God

The wind was blowing against my face as I stood there, trying not to look down. The harness was fastened securely to my body. The guide tied the rope around an enormous tree and then his 5,000 pound pickup truck, assuring me I was safe. 

The rope was not going to break. 

The tree was not going to uproot. 

Everything was ready… the rest was up to me.

“Now, all you have to do is let go and lean back,” he said, shrugging his shoulders as though he wasn’t really asking much. Didn’t he know we were standing on the edge of a cliff, several hundred feet in the air? 

The last thing I wanted to do was let go and lean back!

He must have noticed my white knuckles gripping the rope, because he went on to remind me of what would happen if I didn’t listen. 

“I know your instinct is to hold onto the rope and hug the side, but trust me, you don’t want to do that. If you lean forward, you’ll slam into the rocks and it won’t be pretty. This is what you came here for! Just trust me; count to three, let go, and lean back, parallel to the ground. I won’t let you fall. Trust me!”

Trust me.

I could feel the sweat on my forehead. I was about to either throw up or chicken out (or both), when a verse popped in my head: 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

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Friends, have you ever found yourself having a hard time letting go?

Honestly, this has always been a struggle for me. I hold onto:

  • Friendships and relationships 
  • Momentos- objects that remind me of the past, of things I don’t want to forget 
  • Traditions- they are the heart of our celebrations!
  • Expectations- both of myself and others
  • Regrets/past mistakes- I am pretty quick to forgive others, but not so easy on myself. 

Are there things on this list that sound familiar to you? Maybe you have a hard time letting go of control or fear or anxiety. Whatever it is, we all know what it’s like to struggle to let go of something we really want to hold onto. It’s not easy, for sure.

Which brings me to this weekend.

Tomorrow morning we are going to pack up our Yukon (with half a Target store full of matching dorm decor) and make the seven-hour drive to take our oldest daughter to college. We are so excited for her and so grateful she actually has the opportunity to go, given the ongoing pandemic!

But y’all. 

She’s my baby.

She’s the one who first made me a momma, the one we prayed about for years before the test finally came back positive. She’s the one that “mothers” her siblings and runs to the store for us and raps Hamilton songs in the Chick-fil-a drive-thru with me. 

How am I supposed to let go of my baby?

How do you take your heart out of your chest and just drive away? 

(And I thought teenage break-ups were hard! Sheesh!)

So, I find myself returning to these verses in Proverbs. I have prayed them over her strong-willed heart since she was little, and I will probably pray them over her every day of her life. But especially now, on this new adventure, these are the verses I’m praying. 

For her, yes.

But also for me.

Because it is not my natural instinct to let her go. No, my instinct is to hold her close, to protect her, to keep all my little birds gathered together in my nest, tucked safely beneath my wing. Why should she fly away when she can stay here with us?

Oh, wait. She was born to fly, wasn’t she?

It’s the reason we’re here. It’s the reason we’ve spent the past 18 years training her, discipling her, parenting her, and guiding her. We didn’t do all that work so she could stay home and watch Youtube! 

We did it so she could shine, so she could bring light to a world so full of darkness. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”

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Standing on that cliff, I knew it was time. The guide smiled at me and nodded encouragingly. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, let go of the rope and leaned back. I took one step, and then another, slowly gaining confidence that I wasn’t going to fall. Before long, I was pushing back from the mountain, leaping and laughing, embracing the freedom and living my best life on the way down. 

I trusted the guide. I believed the rope was going to hold me. 

He was right; this was what I came here for. I was made for this!

And so is she.

It’s time to trust the Guide and let go.

What is it you need to let go of? Expectations? Fear? Control?

I’m praying God will give you the strength to do it, and that you will find joy and freedom as you do.

And if you think about it, will you ask the Lord to fill my momma-heart with an extra dose of peace on Monday? And pray for Jeff… I’m not sure a daddy ever really lets go of his little girl.

Thanks, friends.

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Our Teens & College Students: Week Three

Well friends, we have been on this journey of praying Scripture over teens and college students for two weeks now. That’s nearly half of our 31 day goal.

How are you doing? Is it still exciting, or are you ready for it to be over? Has it impassioned you to be in God’s Word and to pray intentionally for the teenagers in your life? For those of you in the process of dropping kids off at college, are the promises of God bringing you peace? I hope so!

Selfishly, this series has reignited my prayer life in a way that has been dormant for awhile. While I wrote this series as a way to be intentional about praying for my own children, I have especially enjoyed praying for yours! So thank you to those of you who added names in the Facebook comments. I trust God to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine in each of their lives!

Okay, enough rambling… here is week three!

Day 15: Philippians 4:6-7

Father, I pray  __________________ will not be anxious about anything, but in every situation will turn to You in prayer with a heart of gratitude. As they present their requests to You, may Your peace, which transcends all understanding, guard their heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Day 16: Romans 12:1-2

Father, in light of Your mercy, please help ________________ present their body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You. Help them learn that true and proper worship means living wholeheartedly for You, not just checking a church box. May they not conform to the patterns and ways of the world around them, but be transformed as You daily renew their mind with Your Word. Through walking with You and surrendering their own desires, may they be able to discern Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Day 17: Proverbs 3:5-6

Father, I pray  ___________________ will learn what it means to trust in You with all their heart. When they face choices and decisions, may they not lean on their own understanding, but seek Your will and wisdom. May they bring their own plans and desires before You and willingly submit to Your plan, trusting that Your ways are best. As they walk with You daily, may You continue to make their paths straight, keeping them in the center of Your will. 

Day 18: Joshua 1:9

Father, may __________________ follow Your command to be strong and courageous, regardless of their feelings or circumstances. May they not be afraid or discouraged, remembering that You, the Lord our God, have promised to be with them wherever they go.

Day 19: Ephesians 2:10

Father, I pray ____________________ will claim this truth: That they are Your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which You prepared in advance for them to do. Help them see themself through Your eyes and live into the fullness of all You’ve created them to do.

Day 20: 1 Peter 5:7

Father, I pray ____________________ will cast all their anxieties on You, trusting and believing that You care for them, as Your word proclaims.

Day 21: Ephesians 3:17-19

Father, I pray that _________________, being rooted and established in love, may have the power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Your love for them. May they experience Your love even though it is beyond comprehension, so that they may be filled with the fullness of who You are and share Your love with others.

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So, that’s Week Three! If you’re growing weary, DON’T GIVE UP! Our students need prayer coverage now more than ever!

If you missed the first part of my series, 31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students, you can find Week One here and Week Two here. It’s never too late to start!

As always, thanks for reading and for joining me in this battle for the hearts of our young people. I’d love to pray for the teenagers in your life! If you want, add their names here or in the comments on Facebook and I will lift them up this week.

And don’t forget to come back next week for Week Four!

4 Thought-Provoking Questions to Help You Keep Your Faith in College

Two weeks ago on a Friday night, I sat in a room full of teenagers. We sang and prayed together, then watched a virtual message by what should have been our speaker at Student Camp.

(COVID, however, had other plans.)

So instead, we were squished together in someone’s basement, making the most of our “Not Camp” experience. I listened as these about-to-be College Freshmen answered some thought-provoking questions on how to keep their faith in college. 

They discussed what it means to find our identity in Christ. They mentioned how easy it is to get distracted by what we do or to define ourselves by what others think of us. Yet, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that God is the author of life, not us. The best we can do is intentionally seek Him and live with open hands. 

I looked at these teens whom I’ve grown to love and found myself wondering: As they look towards the future, how are they going to be intentional about allowing Jesus to write their story?

A few days later, I sat on my back porch with one of those Senior girls. Lord willing, she will be heading off to college in a week or so, and I wanted to make sure she was prepared for some of the challenges that lie ahead. I know she loves Jesus, and I have watched her slowly move Him up her priority list over the past three years. I have no doubt her heart’s desire is to live boldly for Him in college!

But sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can get so distracted by what’s right in front of us that we lose sight of what we want most.

So here are some of the questions I asked my young friend that day. Maybe they will be helpful to you (or someone you know) as well.

Questions to help you keep your faith in college

1. What do you want to change about yourself from who you were in high school to who you want to be in college? What will you need to do differently to make that happen?

2.  What are you looking for in your friendships? What is your plan for finding those kind of friends?

3. What are your biggest fears about college? What do you think will be your biggest temptations?

4. What do you want your spiritual life to look like this year and how will you accomplish that?

What to expect

We talked about how fear, excitement, and nervousness are all normal emotions going into a new adventure like this. It’s perfectly okay to experience conflicting emotions! Trust me, your parents are feeling the same way!

We talked about how the environment you put yourself in will likely determine your friendships. It will also greatly impact your level of temptation. If you want Christian friends, hang out where you’re likely to find other Christians- church, Bible Study, campus ministries, etc. And be the kind of friend you hope to find!

(**It is particularly important to think through this under the current COVID restrictions. With many churches and Bible Studies still online, you may need to do a little research before you go on ways you can get connected with other Believers.)

We also talked about how everyone feels lonely sometimes, even people who are really, really happy and living their best life! And how, while you don’t want to wallow in those feelings, you also don’t want to ignore them, hiding or camouflaging them with busyness and other empty things. 

It’s good to let yourself sit in it for a moment, acknowledge it… 

And then turn to Jesus. 

Let Him remind you that even though you feel lonely, you are not actually alone. Let Him fill those parts of you that are aching, and then listen to how He directs you…

Should you spend time alone with Him? 

Reach out to a new friend? 

Call a trusted adult? 

He’ll let you know. 

But if you ignore those feelings and rush through them, you might just miss an opportunity to grow.

And that’s what college is all about: growth. 

If you want to grow spiritually, you are going to need to be intentional.

Hopefully, these questions will help you start on the right track!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students: Week Two

Hey Friends!

Thank you so much to those of you who are joining me in 31 days of praying Scripture over our teens and college students! If you’re just finding this series, basically I wanted to be intentional about praying for our oldest daughter and her friends as they head off to college this Fall. While my intentions were good, I knew I wouldn’t actually do it unless I took the time to get organized. So, I chose 31 passages of Scripture and wrote prayers for each one, and then decided to share them so you can pray, too!

If you’re just starting out, you can check out Week One here. And feel free to screenshot or copy and paste the daily prayers and print them out for easier reference. I was hoping to make a printable version of all 31 days, but I’m technologically challenged, so that hasn’t happened yet. Sorry!

Also, I encourage you to take the time to look up each Bible reference before you pray. These are not perfect verses, but they are a good place to start! And there is nothing magical about these prayers- they are just an example of what it looks like to pray God’s Word. Feel free to pray as you are led.

Now, on to Week two!

(Note: I settled on plural pronouns for ease and flow while praying. Please don’t judge my grammar…)

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Day 8: Jeremiah 29:11-13

Father, sometimes life doesn’t look like we expect it to, and we face periods of suffering, trials, and uncertainty. During those times, I pray ________________ will trust that You have a plan for them, plans to prosper them and not to harm them, regardless of how their circumstances may appear. Help them believe that on the other side of this difficult time, there is hope for a future that looks very different. May they call on You and pray to You, and may You listen and hear their prayers. Thank you for your promise that we will find You when we seek You with all our heart.

Day 9: John 10:27

Father, I pray  __________________ will listen to Your voice as a sheep listens to its shepherd, trusting You for guidance, provision, and protection. You know them intimately, Lord- may they know You intimately as well, and follow You all their days.

Day 10: 1 Timothy 4:12

Father, I pray __________________ will not let anyone look down on them because they are young or use their age as an excuse to delay serving you. Instead, out of love and faithfulness to You, may they set an example for all believers in how they speak to others, how they conduct themselves in public and private, how they show compassion and love to all, how they trust Your Word, and how they keep their hearts and minds pure. May they make the most of the daily opportunities You bring for them to be a light for you right where they are.

Day 11: 1 Peter 5:8-9a

Father, Your Word tells us that our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Please help  __________________ stay alert and keep their guard up. May they be able to quickly discern attacks from the enemy, in all their forms, and resist him, standing firm in their faith and the truth of Your Word.

Day 12: Philippians 2:3-4

Father, as ____________________ interacts with different people this week, may they do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Instead, in humility, may they think of others before themselves, not looking to their own interests and what they can get out of the situation or relationship, but to how they can serve others in love. And may you surround them with friends who honor them in the same way.

Day 13: Hebrews 12: 1-3

Father, please help ___________________ untangle themselves from any sin, thought, or behavior that may hinder their relationship with You. May they not just remove it, but tear it out by the roots and cast it away, running towards You. Give them perseverance to run the race marked out for them as they fix their eyes firmly on Jesus, the author and perfecter of their faith. When they begin to grow weary, may His suffering and victory be an example to them, so that they will not lose heart, but persevere for the joy set before them.

Day 14: Psalm 86:11

Father, please teach __________________ Your way, that they might rely on Your faithfulness. Give them an undivided heart, that they may fear Your name.

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If you are joining me in prayer, or if you have found this resource helpful, will you please do two things?

  • Will you leave me a comment (here or on Facebook) and let me know that you are joining us in prayer?
  • And will you consider sharing this series with your friends who have teens or college students in their lives?

There is so much going on in our world right now, and I can’t imagine a better way for us to invest in our young people than to cover them in prayer! Don’t forget to check in next week for Week 3!

Thanks, friends!