How to Discuss Modesty with Pre-Teen Daughters. (If you’re brave enough…)

modesty-with-pre-teen-daughtersIs the battle over modesty raging in your family? Moms, take heart. We can help our daughters feel beautiful AND help them learn about modesty.

You may have noticed a firestorm of controversy recently over pants, and tights, and whether or not tights are pants. And even if you haven’t noticed the controversy, surely you’ve noticed women wandering around town without proper pants applied to their persons. Wal-Mart, the bank, church–all these places are now frequented by women who have forgotten to put something over their very tight leg coverings. Things like a very long and blousy shirt, or a skirt, or something. Something!

Other far wiser and wittier women have written blog posts about modesty (I’ve included a link at the bottom), so I won’t recreate the whole argument for pants. I would, however, like to address it from the perspective of a mother of a ten year old girl. A ten year-old who loves fashion. Naturally attracted to anything fashionable, Audrey can go to her closet and pull out individual pieces to assemble an entirely adorable outfit.

But recently we’ve had several rounds of “No way, Jose. Go back and find something else to put over those leggings.” And she huffs at me and then claims she has nothing to wear and I hold up a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and her eyes roll back in her head like I asked her to wear a Pilgrim outfit.

Pray for me.

Monday she came home from school with big, serious eyes and informed me that the middle school has a new rule: Tights are not pants. Yoga pants aren’t even pants. Anyone caught wearing them (without an appropriate bottom-covering) will go to the office, call a parent, and have proper clothing delivered to school.

I’d like to give a small clap of recognition to the staff members that laid down this little law about modesty. (Clap clap clap clap.) ((That is not sarcasm. I am truly overjoyed.))

I love it when other adults enforce sensible rules. Because, let’s face it, ten year old girls aren’t exactly ready to understand all the reasons we have rules for modesty. Am I ready to traverse through the male mind to explain what a tightly wrapped set of legs will do to a boy’s thoughts?

Just typing that sentence gave me the woozies. I have no idea of how to explain this to a girl. What little I know of men’s minds is vague and fuzzy for a very good reason. It’s scary in there, my sisters.

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Not only do I not want to wander around in the wild world of what men find attractive, I don’t really have any basis for understanding this personally. For example, when I was a teenager my friend’s mother took us both to a professional ballet that came to Kalamazoo. I was nearly scarred for life at seeing that famous Russian ballet dancer in his tights. Baryshnicov? Gorbachev? I can’t remember which is which.

(I’m fairly certain one of those men was a dancer and one of them was the leader of the Soviet Union. I’m quite certain all history teachers are banging their foreheads on their desks right now and deploring the American educational system.)

Back to our point–as women, we don’t generally find it attractive when men wrap themselves in lycra. We tend to gravitate towards things like steady incomes, deep voices, and the ability to grow a decent beard. Because of this, I’m having an even harder time explaining why we have to be very careful when we dress.

At this point, I’m leaving it at that. We just have to be very careful when we dress. As she gets older we’ll start adding in the why’s and wherefore’s. Hopefully by then the foundation will be set and firm and we’ll be able to have some honest, age-appropriate discussions about sexual attraction and why it has no place in math class. Or the bank. Or WalMart. And the very specific ideas about where God does think it’s appropriate.

Until then, tights are not pants. Not here, not at school, not at church. Modesty is a thing that this family will teach, and I will die trying.

And here’s the link I promised you from Bridgetteraes.com: Tights Are Not Pants, Ya Hear? It’s worth it for the flow chart alone, I promise.

Have a great day, and thanks for wearing pants, dear readers.

The woman approached him, seductively dressed and sly of heart. She was the brash, rebellious type, never content to stay at home. She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner…He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter…

So listen to me, my sons…don’t let your hearts stray toward her…Her house is on the road to the grave, Her bedroom is the den of death. (Proverbs 7:10-12, 22, 24, 27.)

 

Hearing from God: Simple, but Not Easy

I don’t know if it’s the weather or the fact that we’ve run out of all the good Halloween candy, but this rainy, cold November afternoon is sucking the life out of me. Last week I would have run to the kitchen and three Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups later I would have been blogging like a fiend. But now all we have out there is the kind of candy that isn’t worth the calories.

Since all that chocolate isn’t surging through my system and giving me the energy I need to write, I guess we’ll have to make do with whatever is going on inside my head at the moment, and that is a precious small amount. Mostly I’m thinking about one thing: listening to God. Listening and then responding to God, specifically.

Of course I’m getting ready to work on my next manuscript, and the book is all about listening to God. I’ve been interviewing friends and looking up verses and researching different authors’ thoughts on the matter. It makes sense that this is on my mind.

But also, there’s a decided upswing in the amount of conversation between God and myself. The more I listen, the more He talks. I’ve gotten an earful. This is the verse that is stuck with me this morning:

Isaiah 31:21

It’s a beautiful verse, isn’t it? The thought that God will give us exactly the directions we need comforts me. I hope it comforts you, too! But if there’s one thing I learned from Howard Hendricks’ book (Living by the Book), it’s this: you cannot take one verse out of its context. We must consider the whole passage. So here it is, Isaiah 30:19-22:

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” 

Other than being totally embarrassed about that last part there, and setting aside the fact that I don’t actually live in Jerusalem, I see a couple of important things. First of all, God is very involved in our lives if we let Him. He cares for us, He responds when we call for Him, and He wants to give us the directions we need.

But I also see that we have a responsibility here. If we want God involved in our lives, we need to respond. We need to get rid anything we’ve made more important than God. We cannot keep our idols and expect God to overlook them when He gives us directions.

Easy to type; hard to live. Now, on this rainy, freezing, dark November day, we are all excused to go and think about what idols may be in our lives and what we need to do with them.

Please feel free to nap, as well. All this spiritual work can be exhausting!

How to Pray For Your Middle Schooler (Without Them Seeing Your Panic)

Oh, how I love the first day of school. I love how excited the kids are to get out of bed. I love how they eat breakfast without any complaining. I love how they grab backpacks and get in the car before I have my teeth brushed.

This happens once every year, and I relish each moment. Then everything falls apart and we have Apocalypse Mornings from here on out: weeping, yelling, crying, and begging for mercy from 6:45 from 7:52, Monday-Friday.

We’re nothing if not consistent in this house, I tell you.

At any rate, I took advantage of the calm and tried something new this morning. We prayed at breakfast. I can’t really explain why this is, but Eric tends to be the parent who prays with the kids at night and I tend to be the one who reads the Bible with them at breakfast. I know we should both do both with both of them, but there are only so many hours in the day. We’ve got to divide and conquer where we can (parents of more than two children may roll their eyes at me here), and apparently this theory works its way into our biblical instruction.

But. This morning was Audrey’s first morning of middle school, so I felt that we needed an extra layer of prayer for the day. Now here’s the thing: I wanted Audrey to leave the house feeling loved, confident, and excited. I did not want her leaving the house in a state of panic and fright like I was feeling. So I prayed some things out loud, and a lot of other things in my head. Quietly. Shhhhh.

Here’s the prayer. (And the stuff in parenthesis are the things I didn’t actually say out loud.)

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this first day of school. Please help Caleb as he starts third grade today. Please help him to listen. Please help him to be a good friend.

Please help Audrey as she starts middle school today, Lord. (MIDDLE SCHOOL!! Dear Jesus, what just happened to our lives?!?!)

May both kids be safe. (And please don’t let any of those bigger middle schoolers come anywhere near my precious baby girl.) ((And if an older BOY comes anywhere near my daughter, may he be rendered mute, mentally dull, and also blind.)) (((And if these safety features fail and he does come somewhat near her, may you give her the strength to kick his manly bits so hard that he is rendered unconscious until Thursday afternoon.)))

Please be with the teachers, Lord. (Please help them to watch carefully for any druggies, pimps, or rednecks who may inflict damage on my sweet girl.) May they teach well.

Please help Audrey to get her locker open. (Because you know we all tried getting it open at Orientation last week and that thing isn’t going to open without a crowbar and the only people who have those at school are the kids who make bombs in their basement. Oh Lord, maybe I’ve gone too far now.)

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

And then we all hopped in the car and were at school on time in good moods, for the first and last time of the year. Yay for us! And then I prayed at the school. And then I prayed on the way home from school…

Seriously, readers. This is important stuff. The educational system needs us to intercede for them. The teachers, the kids, and the administration need our prayers. The world is a dark place; our prayers help to get God’s presence and light into that darkness. Even if you don’t have kids in the school, please remember to pray for them. Stop over this evening and walk around for a few minutes. Pray while you’re there. Repeat throughout the year.

Our children’s futures depend on it.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes fur us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

 

prayer-for-middle-schoolers

Mama Is Hiding Under the Bed Because She’s an Introvert, and It’s August.

introverted-parentingI can tell it’s the end of August because I’ve been eyeing the space under my bed, wondering if I could fit under there to hide from the kids. Just for a few minutes–that’s all I need. A few minutes of quiet.

Have you seen all the information going around about introverts lately? Just this week I’ve found all kinds of good posts about my people. (I’ve included links for them all at the bottom.) It has me thinking about the challenges of being an introvert and a parent, which is a challenging combination.

First of all, as a point of reference–introverts are those people who need a lot of time to themselves to refuel emotionally and mentally. (Extroverts, of course, gain more energy and life the more they are with other people.) The challenge for an introverted parent is that children don’t naturally give us a lot of space. We never get that chance to refuel.

Just last night at dinner I had one kid squashed up against me in the middle of the prayer and then 57 requests for something or other during the meal. It makes me jumpy and cranky. Multiply that times 70 days of summer so far, then add in all the wonderful-but-draining social events we’ve had, and you can probably hear my brain buzzing. Seriously, there’s a circuit somewhere in my skull that is kicking up an alarming sizzle. I fear for my mental health in the 12 days before school starts.

It gets even trickier when an introverted parent is raising an extroverted child. Our daughter is the extrovert. She loves to be with people, and she loves to be in constant contact with those people. So, it’s not enough to be in the same room together. She has to be talking with them and playing with them and sleeping right next to them. (As she gets older this is easing up some, mercifully. But the tendency is still there.)

A few weeks ago I blogged about how Audrey was at camp and Caleb and I were hanging out at home. I was enjoying the lack of chaos that comes with only one kid. It occurs to me now that Caleb is also an introvert, so we hang out in the same room and that’s good enough for us. I have a book, he has a fleet of tiny metal cars, and we each do our thing. I might look up after an hour and say, “You doin’ okay over there, kid?” And he looks up and grins and gives me a thumbs-up. We then go back to business as usual.

Honestly, I do fear that my introverted nature is short-changing my kids. But I also know that I’m working hard against my instincts to hide. I’m doing my best. (Most days. Sometimes I just hide so I can survive the day.) But more importantly, God placed these two kids in this family for a reason. He knows what they need, He knows what I need, and this must be working out some kind of good for each of us. It takes all kinds of mothers in the world, introverted and extroverted.

No parent can parent perfectly all the time. We all have quirks and shortcomings, just like our kids. But those characteristics are how God made us, because we’re made to work together. We’re part of a family, part of a body. No one part of a body can claim to be able to do it all.

As a mother, I know I can’t do it all. There’s no way I can meet every need my children have. But I serve a God who can, and while I’m hiding under my bed I will be praying that He’ll be making up for my shortcomings. Amen and amen.

“But our bodies have many parts and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part!” (1 Corinthians 12:18-19, NLT)

The links I promised you:

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Jessie vs. 960 Pounds of Concrete

20130708-073410.jpgOver the years I have jumped into many a DIY project with little or no experience. I figure that unless it involves plumbing or electricity, there isn’t much that I can permanently damage. Right?

Right. I have a saw, so I cut stuff up. I have a drill, so I put holes in things. Ta-da! Most of the stuff turns out crooked (no measuring skills), wobbly (no construction knowledge), or messy (no patience). This does not stop me.

But over the years, concrete has stopped me. Any project that involved a “dig hole and add cement mix…” step meant that the game was over and I was no longer involved. But a few weekends ago I was hanging out with my sister, who casually mentioned that she had been using concrete to fix a few things in her basement. Then my dad mentioned that he was ripping out concrete with Grandpa’s old maul.

I figured that if my baby sister could handle the stuff and my dad had the tool to remove it in case of disaster, I was ready. Enter the Quikrete Walk Maker, a lovely little tool that makes walk ways and patios and what-not out of many bags of cement.

Many, many bags of cement. And by many, I mean 12. “Bah!” you are thinking. “12 isn’t that many.” Let me assure you that a dozen bags are plenty. It felt like a billion, as heavy as the stinkers are. Plus it’s dirty and ponderous (which is just another way to say heavy, but it bears repeating).

A word of caution, ladies. There is a good reason you don’t see many female masons. The women’s liberation movement is all well and good, but unless that movement gave you some manly muscles, you’re going to want a man involved somewhere to heft that stuff for you. Or, at the very least, find your burliest female friend and have her help you.

(You might want to leave out the use of the word burly when you ask her for help, though. That might not go so well.)

This post should not be taken as a tutorial on how to make your own patio. Merciful heavens, no. There are actual directions and websites out there with better directions, like the one above. Take this post as encouragement if you’re not sure you can do it. You can totally do it.

You’ll need to have a clear spot, and all your bags of cement mix ready. As for tools, I used a Rubbermaid container (as a bowl), a shovel (as a wooden spoon), and a little garden spade (as the butter knife that smooths out the frosting). It all worked just fine, except the spade’s handle kept falling off and it drove me crazy. But other than that, it was cheap and fun.

The Quikrete Walk Maker and I are now good friends. I plan on concreting the entire property by 2093.
The Quikrete Walk Maker and I are now good friends. I plan on concreting the entire property by 2093.

Once you get the cement mix into your mixing container, add some water until it’s a little less runny than pancake batter but not as thick as cookie dough. I found it easier to work with a 1/2 bag at a time, because mixing 80 pounds at once is HARD. Then you scoop it out with the shovel and into the concrete form. Use a trowel or spade to smooth out the top, then lift off the form and presto! You have a smushy patio stone. You’ll want to smooth out the tops again, then move right along to the next stone.

When it dries (the next day or so), add a few bags of paver sand between the cracks. Add patio furniture and enough wood chips to cover all mistakes, and then sit back and admire your hard work.20130708-075927.jpg

Those of you who know me are reading this and shaking your heads. You’re wondering if it will last the summer. You’re wondering if it’s even. You’re wondering if it’s square to the house.

Your concerns are justified, because I really don’t know if it will last, either. And no, it’s not even. The table wobbles like a drunken sailor. And no, it’s not square to the house because I eyeballed it.

But we shall not speak of these things. We shall not speak of them. Just tell me it’s beautiful and get me something to prop up the west leg of the table, please.

How to Pray for a Crazy Person

Before we begin, I need to clarify one important detail. When I refer in the following paragraphs to “crazy people” I do not speak of actual mental illness. Mental illness is a serious and complicated issue, and I would never address it flippantly.

BUT I do I feel confident addressing the other side of crazy. Those people whom we love, but cannot understand what is going through their mind. We don’t understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, or why they won’t knock it off. We may putter around our house, full of conversations in our head about how we would address them given the right circumstances. We’d set them straight, and show them the light.

So they are acting crazy, and in turn are making us crazy. The full cycle of craziness, if you will.

We have a few options. We can indeed point out all their problems, but I think we all know how this is going to turn out. Crazy people are often completely blinded by their own perspective, so talking to them is like talking to a cat on methamphetamines. Everyone leaves feeling even more disturbed.

We can ignore the craziness and go on with our lives, but we all know that we wouldn’t be bothered by the bizarro behavior if we could ignore it. Many of us have tried, but the problems start to blow up in our own faces and not just their own crazy face. They start “bumping into our happy,” as Lysa Terkeurst says.

So, if we can’t talk about it without making it worse, and we can’t ignore it, what can we do? We can pray about it. Some of you are now gripping your computer and shouting, “I HAVE been praying about it! For years! And they’re still nuts!”

Well, I can’t argue with you there. Sometimes we pray for years and we don’t see any change. But often this could be because (I hesitate to make you more irritable about the situation, but…) we’ve been praying from our own blinded perspective. God answers prayers that glorify Himself, not prayers that desperate people shout to get their own way. I know this because I’ve shouted many a desperate and selfish prayer, and they always fall flat.

So I present to you a prayer directly from Philippians 1:9-11, because praying directly from Scripture is some of the most powerful praying you can do. This prayer lifts up our screwy friends or relatives and then asks for God to do amazing things in their lives, things beyond just fixing our irritations. We ask God to bring glory to Himself in the situation, and we get ourselves out of the way. (In all fairness I should point out that Paul offered up this prayer for people who weren’t making him crazy. But we can still apply this to the topic at hand.)

how to pray for a crazy person

Every human is blind, but God is all-seeing. I’m going to try to remember that the next time I want to grab someone by the ears and shake them a little bit.

Just a little bit of shaking is okay, right? Not enough for brain damage or anything.

 

A Video from the Book Signing!

My friend Seth came to the book signing, armed with his camera. And then he interviewed me. Here are the results, after some heavy editing…didn’t he do a great job? Thanks, Seth!

Here’s the video! The link will take you to YouTube.

Thanks again to everyone who made it out to Baker Book House on Saturday. I appreciate you all so much.

Hot Off the Presses–Book Giveaway Contest!

Hello, dear readers! Would you like a chance to win a free copy of There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse?

Of course you would! Who wouldn’t want a free book? Here’s what you do. Click on this link. It will take you to Discovery House Publisher’s Facebook page, which then has a link to the giveaway. It will also fill you with glee, I promise. Clicking links always fills us with glee.

Good luck. May the luck of the giveaway be with you, my friends.

(Please note that this is why I don’t usually post twice in one day. I use up all my normal writing words in the first post, and the second one sounds like I’ve lost my mind.)

((But I haven’t, I swear. My mind is working just fine, thank you.))DHP Giveaway

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