What’s Your Superpower? (guest post)

Sometimes you meet a person, and you think, “This person is fun. I want to hang out with them.” That’s what I thought when I met Beckie Lindsey at a writer’s conference last year. I quickly discovered that she laughs easily and loves quickly. But don’t let that fun persona lead you to think she’s a lightweight. Beckie can pack a theological punch, as you’ll discover in this super-special guest post!

Come on, admit it. There are superpowers you’d like to have. Maybe when you were a kid, you ran around the house wearing a makeshift cape. No worries. There is no judgment from me. I used to tell my brother and best friend that I was half-cat. It’s fun to envision what life would be like if we developed superpowers of our own. Would you have superhuman strength? Fly? How about reading minds?

Comic books, movies, and cartoons have depicted our fascination with superheroes and their superpowers. As parents, we’d love to have superpowers—or at least we’d like our kids to think we do. Continue reading “What’s Your Superpower? (guest post)”

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Time to Take Out the Trash! (guest post)

This girl! I just love her honest perspective and practical attitude. 
I met Jenifer at a writers conference last May, and I immediately wanted her
to share here on Intentional Parenting. It took almost a year but here she
is! I'm sure you'll be blessed by her words...and maybe you'll think about
your own stinky trash can a little differently in the future. You can read
more about Jenifer at the bottom.

A few months ago I walked into the house and the smell hit me. It was overwhelming. The trash HAD to go!

I had been in the house all day and I didn’t smell it, but when I left and came back it was overwhelming. I didn’t realize how bad it had become.

I also saw this with our daughter’s attitude. Continue reading “Time to Take Out the Trash! (guest post)”

I Am Not Enough (guest post)

Friends, you will be blessed by this honest, Spirit-filled post from my
virtual friend, Heather Bock. Receive these words from her heart, then
connect with her through the links at the end. And as always, we'd love to
hear what you think in the comments!

As a mother, I am broken. I am not enough.

Since the moment I knew life was growing inside me, I wanted so much to be enough. In fact, I wanted very much to be as close to a perfect mother as possible. I ate all the right foods, took the right vitamins, and slept the recommended way. When my baby was born, I read all the books, swaddled him carefully, and started him on solids, thinking carefully about which food to introduce first and watching for allergies each time. Continue reading “I Am Not Enough (guest post)”

Able in Impossible Places (guest post)

Don’t you just love to gather wisdom from other parents who are grounded in the Word of God and actively parenting from that perspective? I do. That’s why I’m so thankful to welcome Emily Wickham to Intentional Parenting this month. She wrote us a sweet note to start, then you can catch all her contact/follow information at the end. Continue reading “Able in Impossible Places (guest post)”

Memorable Mealtimes

I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has 
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime. 
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of 
this post.

“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.

Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.

Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.

As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.

Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:

  • Unplug

We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.

  • Keep it relaxed

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.

  • Facilitate conversation

The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.

  • Make room for fun

Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.

  • Model healthy habits

From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.

  • Find your own rhythm

For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:

  1. Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
  2. Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
  3. What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?

Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.

How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.

Prioritizing family #mealtimes may take a little work, but it’s worth it! Some #IntentionalParenting tips via @DazzledByTheSon and @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

IP - Meredith Mills headshot

Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and/or Twitter.

 

 

 

A Hero for Everyday Evil

From early on, our kids dress up as heroes and champions. Then at some point, they grow out of all their costumes–both literally and figuratively–as their thinking shifts from pretending to real longing. They want to be someone heroic, important, or noble.

Check out this conversation I had last year with our son, who was eleven at the time. The Holy Spirit helped me say what he needed to hear, and it was so precious to me that I wrote it down the next day.

It starts like this…

“I wish there was a war, so I could do something big—like Anne Frank or Alexander Hamilton.” My eleven-year-old paused from his self-imposed evening journaling. “That’s why I’m writing this. One day, when I’m important, people will know about my childhood.” He had that childish look in his eyes—that look of potential, when anything imagined really is possible.

I sent up a silent, millisecond prayer. How could I bring him into reality and encourage him at the same time?

You can read the rest of our conversation over at Just18Summers. Then leave me a note there or come back here to comment. I’d love to hear how you encourage the little heroes in your home!

Our kids may never be famous heroes but they battle evil every day. Let’s encourage them to face it with confidence! #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks and #Just18Summers, @michelleinspire. (click to tweet)

The Bedroom Door Prayer (guest post)

Today I’m welcoming a new-found writer friend, Julie Dibble. You can read more 
about Julie at the end, but trust me when I say her heart for the Lord is clear…
and it informs everything she does, especially her parenting. I hope you’re 
blessed by this story of Intentional Parenting like I was.

Have you ever wondered if your children are listening? I mean truly digesting all the half-lectures, devotionals and parental sermons?

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Julie and Jackson

Our youngest son is a pistol. His feet pushed my belly out on all sides.  He danced in the womb instead of sleeping. If you haven’t already guessed, our little Jackson is also a strong-willed child. I find myself often thinking, His determination will serve him well in his adult endeavors.

Our house runs much differently today than it did a short three years ago. I am into my third year of intentionally learning, praising, and following our Lord. Prior to this, the word forgiveness was not in my vocabulary. My focus was to hold all rule-breakers accountable, so you can imagine how many consequences our feisty Jackson received in his young life.

Fast forward to now. Jesus is Lord of our home. He came to save all of us, who are sinners. For Jackson, this news hasn’t settled in quite yet. Sometimes muttering out of his freckled nosed face is the age-old sibling rivalry cry, “But Braedon never gets in trouble.”

Braedon is twelve, academically gifted, and obedient as the day is long. Jackson is ten, athletically gifted and finds it hard to submit to authority.

Slowly, in evening devotions, we have expanded the meaning of sin. Anytime we choose not to follow or trust God, we sin. Therefore, Braedon often has to ask for forgiveness for worrying and not trusting God. My husband and I ask for forgiveness for things like jealousy and judging others. Jackson struggles to say the words, and we help him understand Jesus will forgive as long as we ask.

Honestly, sometimes during devotions, Jackson is goofing off. Patience wears thin, and there we are as a family of four, frustrated and not honoring our time set for the Lord. As the night’s ornery behavior follows into the next day, you might see huffing and protesting and stomping of feet.

Is it sinking in? I wonder.

One day, after resisting his discipline, he took time by himself. After a few minutes, he came directly to me, wrapped his short arm around my growing waist, and said, “Mom, will you forgive me?” Hugging him tightly, my heart leapt.

Preparing this post led me to repent. Who was not trusting our Lord this time?

Sometimes when I arrive home after the boys are already in bed, I stand in the hallway and say a Bedroom Door Prayer:

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for Jackson. Thank you for trusting me with his care. Please help guide him with Your wisdom. Please help Jackson stay on your path, Lord, to grow a desire to follow you out of love instead of avoiding consequence.

In Your Name,

Amen

For if we sinfully think it is our eyes alone watching our children grow and mature, we must repent. God is all powerful in every moment of time, and He knows our children’s entire hearts and souls.

As parents, prayer itself is an invitation to involve God in our children’s lives. When God sees our honest efforts at teaching things like forgiveness and grace, He will bless our families.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us, helping us, and reminding us as parents we are not alone.

Carole here. It’s like I said, isn’t it? Julie encourages all of us by example. 
If this story touches you, let her know in the comments below. You can also share
this post on Twitter!

Ever wonder if your words are sinking in? One mom got tangible evidence… (click to tweet)

julie-dibble-headshot
Julie Dibble

Julie Dibble, MA is a Christian speaker and author who has a passion for truth and faith. Julie and her husband, Jason, live in Central PA with their sons, Braedon and Jackson. She writes weekly at her blog: www(dot)juliedibblewrites(dot)wordpress(dot)com. Julie commits to offering any of her blog posts as topics for speaking events.
You may connect with Julie on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook.

Thankful, because I don’t have all the answers.

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(c) Carole Sparks

In this month of giving thanks, I’m so grateful to those who have graced my space here with their humble, penetrating words. So today, let’s remember the guest posts we’ve enjoyed over the past year.

Almost exactly a year ago, with violence and school shootings in the news, I republished a parenting post from my friend, Chester Goad. In Talking About Tragic Events with Kids, he offers some advice and resources on helping our children walk through such difficult times.

Another wise friend of mine, Hannah Vanderpool, wrote When Not to Worry for her own blog. It touched me so much that I asked permission to share it with my readers as well. My favorite line: “Refuse to give in to the temptation to fret.”

And with those two posts, I started hosting guests monthly here at Intentional Parenting. Some of them have been tangible friends, some virtual friends, and some simply parenting authors I respect. Check out any of these you missed.

In The Highest Calling of a Parent is the Shaping of Hearts, Kelly Smith uses the story of Pharaoh to remind us that our task as parents is not behavior modification but heart shaping.

Mary Felkins stopped by in March to take us back to the basics in What is Intentional Parenting? She included a reminder not to take our intentionality too far.

There’s a sweet Mother-Child story in Forget Where You Live? by Cherrilynn Bisbano. She enjoyed the fruits of Intentional Parenting when she heard her son encourage her with truth about Heaven.

It’s so important to glean advice from those who’ve already experienced the phase of parenting where you and I are now. I asked Kim Wilbanks to look back on her years ofparenting teens and share some insights in Parenting Advice from the Other Side.

Lisa Brown used a personal story to encourage every mom who ever feels anxious (and that would be all of us!) in Encouraging Words for the Anxious Mom. I think you’ll be blessed by reading her post.

When I became more active on social media, I discovered I wasn’t the only one writing about Intentional Parenting. Phil Conrad hosts a podcast and writes on the same topic, so I invited him to join us here. Read his fantastic perspective on everyday decisions in Four Intentional Decisions in Parenting.

How do you explain intentional destruction, mass murder, and other such evils to your children? Author Leigh Powers faced this dilemma when she visited a museum with her children. Practicing her Intentional Parenting, she used the situation to point her children toward Jesus. Thankfully, she shared all this with us in Raising Whole Kids in a Broken World.

Emily Wickham often writes about moms as mentors for their daughters, so she was a natural fit for a guest blog in September. Read her reflections on Jochebed as a mother in Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned.

Finally, just last month, Jessica Michaels shared her heart regarding foster care and its impact on her biological children in Loving and Letting Go. Jessica is a personal friend from my church, not a writer, so I truly appreciated her willingness to lay it all out here.

In the past year, I hope you found something here at Intentional Parenting to spur you toward more Christ-like parenting, either from my writings or from my guests. None of us have all the answers, and I am supremely blessed to have learned from all these wonderful parents this year! If you feel the same way, drop one of them a message or leave a comment below, and I’ll make sure they get it.

I’m #thankful for a whole year of guest posts about #IntentionalParenting. Find the summaries here. (click to tweet)

Loving and Letting Go (guest post)

Friends, please let me introduce you to my friend, Jessica Michaels. Jessica
doesn't have a blog, and she's not trying to publish anything. Thus, no bio 
or photo at the end. Jessica and her husband are foster parents. In the two
years I've known them, they've embraced at least three foster children while
raising their two biological sons at the same time. Jessica loves Jesus, and
her fostering experience gives her unique insight into Intentional Parenting.
Take a minute to read what's on her heart these days.

I knew that when our family of four began fostering we would be loving and letting go. These precious children would come into our lives for a season and then we would let go, entrusting them to the sovereign plan God had for them.

What I didn’t anticipate was the loving and letting go of my own two children. I had planned to hold them close, shielding them from any discomfort that came with the process: the uneasiness of change within our home, the challenging behaviors displayed by the foster children, and the pain of saying good bye to those they had grown so close to. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t do it. God had called us into a ministry that, along with joy and precious rewards, involved change, uncertainty, and discomfort. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep my kids from it.

But God in his grace is teaching me that sometimes it’s okay to put down the shield; in fact, great things happen in the hearts of my children when I love and let go. So if you’re a warrior momma like me, quick to raise your shield of defense around your kiddos, here are a few things God has been showing me.

Sometimes our shields can turn into shackles.

Let us be bold and say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid!’  -Hebrews 13:6

One morning I asked my son how his Sunday School class went. After a moment he solemnly replied, “Not good momma. I couldn’t reach the markers.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle and think, “If only his troubles would remain so small!” But they won’t. Inevitably as he grows so will life’s problems.

My prayer for my children is that they will know God as their helper because they have been given the opportunity to experience His faithfulness time and again. When I protect them from the smallest of troubles, my shield can turn into shackles that hinder my kids from seeing God as their helper. If they don’t learn to turn to Him for the small problems, He will be the last one they turn to for help when the big problems come.

Change is inevitable.

For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. -Malachi 3:6

One thing we have learned for certain through our adventure in fostering is that change is coming! From the small things like appointment times to the very children that enter our home, change is always coming. The anxiety of change is felt by all children at some point. While we can’t protect them from the butterflies that come with adjustment, we hold them close and reassure them that our love for them is steadfast. We also have the great opportunity to remind them that their Heavenly Father is unchanging and, because of His faithfulness, they will never be consumed.

God is keenly aware of and sensitive to the needs of our children.

And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the Saints according to the will of God.  -Romans 8:27

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Loving and Letting Go (c) Carole Sparks, #IntentionalParenting

As mommas we anticipate the needs of our children, but God knows their needs long before we do. He knit them together and knows every beat of their hearts. He wants good for them. Whatever God is calling your family to do, you can be assured that He is sensitive to the emotions and needs of your children, and when they are hurting, He turns a sharp ear toward their cries. The moments when we let go of our shield, we are trusting God to meet every need of our children. Who better to allow to minister to their hearts!

As mothers our instinct to protect is not only natural but God-given. I have found that it’s the moments filled with tears and frustrations which offer the greatest opportunities for God to reveal himself to my children…and to myself.  It is my prayer that God will grant us wisdom to know when to lower our shields, let go of control, and allow God to work in the hearts of our children. Hang in there, Momma!

Guest post at #IntentionalParenting: Loving and letting go of my own children through #fostering. (click to tweet)

 

Didn’t I tell you? Jessica has a beautiful heart, and I’m thankful she shared it with us. Please leave her some love (in the comments below) by responding to what you read. And hang in there!

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned (guest post)

I'm pleased to host fellow Bible study writer and Mom, Emily Wickham, today. I
think you'll find her insights helpful, and I pray that her encouragement blesses
you like it has blessed me since the first time I met her! Read more about Emily
at the end of the post.

By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Hebrews 11:23 NASB

I don’t know about you, but I’ve made many mistakes as a mom—especially when my children were young.  Tiredness, selfishness, and fear top my list as reasons why failures occurred. As I reflect on those years, I’m thankful for God’s boundless supply of grace as described in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” God’s grace redeems my mistakes into future opportunities for me to rely on Him and become more Christlike.

I wish I’d been more intentional as a young mom about seeking God’s help. Even so, God continues to grow me in this area. His grace flows into my regrets, washing away the past and renewing my mind today.

A couple of lessons from Jochebed’s life inspire me, and I’m hopeful these parenting tools will encourage you as well. As we implement the truths God reveals to us, He’ll show us more ways to please Him. The Lord doesn’t expect us to parent perfectly—He calls us to parent biblically as He teaches us His ways. (Click to Tweet)

Lesson #1: Jochebed and her husband lacked fear.

They hid their son rather than killing him according to Pharaoh’s order. I’m wowed by their fearlessness because I recognize how fear has hindered my mothering. I haven’t always realized its presence, but it has stretched its gnarly fingers into numerous aspects of my mom-identity. Perhaps its chief influence involved a repeated whisper that I’m just not a good mom, a lie from which God has delivered me. While Moses’s parents lacked fear from outward threats, I’ve battled fears from within.

Lesson #2: Jochebed acted wisely.

Rather than allowing her emotions to rule, she calmly prepared a waterproof basket for her baby son. Carefully she placed it in an area where the Pharaoh’s daughter bathed, leaving her daughter, Miriam, to offer the princess a nursemaid—Jochebed herself! Just as Moses’s mother received wisdom from God, we can gain its benefit today.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Instead of facing our motherhood challenges with feelings of incompetence, we should call on the Lord for wisdom. He’s available for every need, every challenge, and every crisis. He freely provides without criticizing our parenting deficiencies.

Friend, wherever we are on our parenting journeys, God walks beside us. We’ve no reason to fear because He holds our hands, and He kindly gives wisdom when we ask. Let’s allow His sufficiency to impact the way we parent here and now. Though we can’t undo our past mistakes, we can rely on God’s grace to succeed in the present.

            Loving Father,

            You are fearless and wise. I confess sometimes I’ve allowed fear and feelings of incompetence to affect my parenting actions, but I thank You for Your grace along the way. Please replace my weaknesses as a mom with Your strength. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen.

Jochebed (Moses’ mother): bold, faithful parenting in the midst of difficult circumstances. (click to tweet)

Carole here. Isn't she great? (I also thought it was nice that she wrote about
Jochedbed because I recently wrote about her myself--for a guest post!) If you
were blessed or have a response for Emily, please leave a note in the comments
or connect with her directly through any of her social media links below. Be
sure to follow and/or "like" her, too.

emily-wickham-head-shotPassionate about stirring hearts toward Jesus, Emily Wickham writes for Journey Magazine, blogs at www.proclaiminghimtowomen.com, and contributes material to ZMI Family Ministries International. A Bible study author and speaker, she welcomes connection via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail. Emily, grateful to God for His Son, lives with her husband and children in North Carolina.