why my house will never be my kids’ home

kids' homeThis summer, for the first time ever, my family couldn’t go home.

Year after year, we’d travel from Florida to Iowa to visit my husband’s parents. We stayed in their home, of course — the one my husband grew up in. The one that held so many memories of his childhood, holidays with our kids and incredible home-cooked meals. It always held a comforting, loving familiarity.

Our recent visit was a whole new reality. Their home now belongs to a new owner. My mother-in-law, once a vibrant, active woman, is now severely mentally impaired as a result of a rare virus that suddenly and ruthlessly attacked her brain. My father-in-law requires supplemental oxygen and has difficulty walking.

Their home is now the local nursing care center. It’s a beautiful place. The staff is well-trained and caring. Yet, as I walked the halls, my heart was incredibly heavy. Everywhere I looked, there was sickness, confusion, pain and brokenness.

This was not what God had in mind when He created the world. As I walked the halls, I just kept thinking, This is not how it was supposed to be. This world is not my home. 

As moms, we put a tremendous amount of emphasis on home. Rightly so. It’s our job to make our homes a place of warmth, love and security for our children. They need that.

But we have to remember that our home is temporary. Our children will leave it one day. Like my in-laws house, it will one day be sold to another owner. No matter how much love fills it, it will never satisfy the ache and longing in their hearts for their true home — where all the brokenness of this world will be made right.

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14

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It’s so tempting to want to make our children’s worlds a comfortable place for them. We want to protect them from harm and woundedness. We want to save them from failure. We want them to be happy. It’s our human inclination to want to avoid pain for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Here’s the brutal truth: God never promised that we would be able to protect ourselves or our children from any of that in this broken world — no matter how hard we try.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Should we work very hard to make our homes safe and loving? Absolutely. But let’s use the fleeting time we have with our children in our earthly homes to keep them focused on their heavenly one. How can we give our kids an eternal perspective? Here are a few messages they need to hear:

Truth never changes. 

Every day, it seems like there is a new assault on Truth. Sin is increasingly celebrated, normalized and legalized. The whole idea of an absolute right and wrong is considered outdated and bigoted. More and more Christians have decided that because the culture has changed, biblical principles should evolve, too — or else we’ll be seen as hateful and unloving.

In reality, the most loving thing we can do for each other is speak the Truth of God’s Word. Truth is always for our guidance and protection. It’s not to restrict us, but to give us life, joy and peace! Sin — rebelling against God’s design and principles — always ends with pain and destruction. Maybe not immediately. But always.

Even when Truth is spoken in love, it usually offends. Jesus was crucified for speaking Truth! It challenges our sinful human inclinations. It calls us to humility and self-sacrifice. It reminds us that we answer to a Power that is greater than ourselves. It isn’t based on our human desires or our ever-changing, often misguided feelings.

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The world is indoctrinating our children with lies. In a culture that is literally crumbling, let’s be models of living out Truth boldly! Let’s make teaching and helping our kids apply unchanging Truth a deliberate and passionate part of our daily interactions with them:

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 6:5-8

Trials won’t last forever.

This world is full of unbearable tragedy. It’s all around us. It makes my heart heavy. But I’m not without hope. I know without a shadow of a doubt that one day God will make all things right. Does that always bring tremendous comfort when my son’s disease rears its ugly head? When I’m crying in pain from my own chronic health issues?

Honestly, no. Sometimes it just stinks. Period. I’ve fought anger and despair more times than I can count. But gradually, I remind myself that it will not always be this way. That God is good all the time. Even when He doesn’t heal me or my son. Even when I don’t understand His ways. Our trials — our children’s struggles — remind all of us of our need for a Savior. He promised that our battles are never fought alone:

The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7

Time on earth is a blip on the screen.

Just like our trials won’t last forever, worldly success and pleasure won’t either. Spending our lives chasing after others’ approval, the world’s definition of achievement and short-term gratification is foolish and short-sighted. A chasing after the wind. Even Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, agreed:

I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

A few months ago, my Pastor gave a great illustration. He brought out a long piece of rope with a tiny piece of red tape wrapped around one end. And he said something like this: This piece of red tape is your life here on earth. The rope represents eternity. What are you living for? Where are your spending your time and energy — for the red tape or the rope?

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In a world gone crazy, one of the most important things I can do for my kids is to give them eternal perspective and keep pointing them toward home. 

Not my in-laws home, not even the home that holds my family — the home our heavenly Father is preparing for all of us who know Him.

Where all things will finally be made right.

Melinda Means

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traveling with kids made easy

traveling with kids

Can traveling with kids be easy? Read here about the tips that can transform stress into fun.

Did that title get your attention? I hoped it would. I want you to know it can be done. We can travel with children and relax at the same time.

Most of the responsibility rests on us, I know. But hear me out. We have to make some EXPECTATION adjustments. All of these can be made WAY, WAY in advance. Planning takes on a whole new meaning when traveling with children. In fact, I would say it quadruples. But the payoffs are also quadruple!

Here’s my top 5 Expectation Adjustments for making travel easy:

1. Time:

Time either runs slower or faster than you anticipate when traveling. The plane ride you thought would be a quick, easy flight turns out to be, well — not. Plan for the worse case scenario. Sickness, boredom, spills, screaming baby (hello, earplugs! If the other people on the plane didn’t plan for this, it isn’t your fault. Any reasonable traveling adult knows that there might be a crying baby aboard. It would be like going to a rock concert and expecting a nap).

2. Behavior:

Having the same basic ground rules that you have at home helps. However, some kids don’t adjust well to new surroundings and act out accordingly. Ask yourself, “Is this deliberate? Or is this a by product of being somewhere different?” The three year old who decides to prostrate in the middle of the airport in protest could be both. Can you give them a time-out? Sure, if you want to be late for your flight. Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means that you scoop that wailing tot up and get moving. They’ll get the picture pretty quickly.

3. Activity Level:

A basic rule of thumb when traveling with children is that there is an inverse relationship between what the expected activity level is for the activity to what they actually display. Want them to sit still and watch a cultured live play? Expect ants in their pants. Want them to join in on the loud Conga line around a party? They will surely want to sit still and stare into space. Most of this has to do with their own method of adjusting the stimulation level around them to suit their needs at the time. This is when knowing your child’s personality and being flexible is KEY.

4. Possessions:

A good rule of thumb when packing for ANY trip is this: lay out everything you think you need and divide it at least by 2. Keeping track of too many things is the most likely activity to drive you crazy. If you are especially gifted in organization, assign a color to each kid — and to the parent. All of the purple stuff in my house is my husband’s; all of mine is red. So when you ask them, “Can you hand me Mommy’s ________ ? Even a two year old can quickly come to the rescue!

5. Accoutrements:

When packing for a trip with kids, it’s important to know that you cannot recreate home somewhere else. The key items of familiarity are important for making them feel secure (blankets, stuffed animals and such) but trying to bring every home convenience with you is exhausting. It’s a chance for them and you to try new things, new ideas, new ways of doing things. Parents discover quickly that they don’t need 6 pieces of baby equipment while traveling. Nor do you need the same types of entertainment. Kids are natural fun-finders. Let them discover on their own that it’s better to wash their hair outside with the pool shower and jammie up in the room.

Will traveling be easy with children? Honestly, not completely. But these are tips that have helped me over the years with my four that have helped ease the traveling experience into more fun and less stress.

What are your best tricks and tips for traveling with kids?

How have you adjusted your expectations when you are traveling with kids?

Kathy Helgemo

 

 

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helping kids choose wisely

helping kids choose wiselyHelping kids choose wisely is no easy feat. They might be our kids, but rest assured, they have their own minds.

Kids have a very short-term view of the world. They tend to only look to the fun or payoff of the moment. They don’t think past that moment to where that choice might lead. Rules and boundaries can sometimes seem restrictive, stifling and overprotective.

Take my daughter Molly. She’s a thrill seekerI love her adventurous spirit. But I’ve learned I have to help her reign it in now and then. I remember a few years back, we were at the beach as a family. Molly, then-13, had brought a few of her friends along.

After a little while, she came up to us and asked, “Can we go jump off that bridge?” She motioned to the end of the dock that extended into the ocean. Molly said it nonchalantly like she was asking something innocuous like “Can I walk to the neighbor’s?” Her friends crowded around and anxiously waited for our reply.

“Uh. Nooooo,” my husband said in his “What? Are you crazy?” voice.

Molly turns to her friends: See?! I knew it. We should have just done it!

Then she turned her attention to her thrill-kill parents: Why?! Why can’t we?! It’s perfectly safe! People do it all the time! We talked to some guys over there who’ve done it and they said they’ll jump with us!

So, with the hearty and highly valuable endorsement of “some guys over there,” we gave them our blessing. Not.

Dad: Okay, so if someone told you to jump off a bridge, you’d do it? That’s comforting.

Molly: Dad!! Come on … watch! You’ll see other people doing it. It’s really safe!

Me: Well, no one is getting paralyzed on our watch. You don’t have to jump off a bridge to have fun at the beach.

Molly: Yes, you do!

My daughter’s fun-loving, risk-taking nature collided with her teenage thirst for freedom and feelings of invincibility.

Whatever their ages, kids generally push against boundaries. Our challenge is to help them understand that God gives us boundaries for our protection and to give us freedom. Freedom from being enslaved to addictions, freedom from physical and emotional harm. Freedom from the separation from Him that we feel when we insist on doing it our way.

So how do we teach our kids that boundaries bring freedom? It’s not always easy, but here are a few things that I’ve found useful in helping kids choose wisely:

Instructive Examples. 

Sadly, there are plenty of cautionary tales out there – in Hollywood, among our kids’ classmates and in their communities – about young people who have made unwise choices and are reaping tragic consequences.

It’s important to open dialogue with our preteens and teens by asking questions like, “What do you think about their choices?” and “What do you think led them to make those choices?” Helping them make the connection between seemingly “fun” choices and the bondage and danger those decisions lead to — on their own — is so important. Especially with teens. Hysterical or judgmental lectures don’t work (not that I’ve ever done that, of course).

Loving boundaries.

I’ve learned that always communicating love as the primary reason for giving them a consequence makes a huge difference in their attitude about their offense. They may be angry or upset at the consequence, but when they’re confident that the motive is love, I’ve noticed their hearts soften much more quickly. (Sometimes I have to wait until I feel a little more loving to communicate this effectively.)

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Share your journey.

Kids aren’t the only ones who make mistakes and reap consequences. Especially as my kids have gotten older, I’ve been more open with them (without giving unnecessary detail) about what God is doing in my life and some of the painful lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Emphasize God’s faithfulness.

In addition to talking with them about what God is doing in my life, I also encourage them to pray (and pray with them) about all the little obstacles throughout the day. Bringing Him into their daily experiences and concerns emphasizes His love for them and concern about the details of their lives.

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Our kids have free will. They make their own choices and will make their own mistakes. We aren’t always going to be able to talk them back from the edge.

But with God’s help, we can help our kids to look before they leap.

That’s where the true freedom lies. 

Melinda Means

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staring into the rearview mirror of mothering

are you staring into the rearview mirror of motheringWhat would happen if we constantly looked into our rearview mirror while driving?

That’s right.

We’d crash. Fast. 

Mothering is no different a journey — one that is long and full of past instances, past successes, and yes, past failures. In order to move forward in parenting it’s important to recognize the past and keep it in mind, but focus on the road ahead. Otherwise, our forward journey will be unsafe and miscalculated.

The rear view mirror of mothering reminds us of where we’ve been. For me, I’ve been in some strange lands, sometimes lost and confused. Some of them were deep, dark wildernesses that were very hard to navigate. At times, I could barely look forward. I instead focused on what I should’ve done the day before — the day that was always present in the rear view mirror of mothering.

That mirror lies. It tells me that the only thing worth looking at is what I’ve missed, what I’ve messed up, what I should’ve done better.woman whispering

The rear view mirror of mothering prevents us from looking forward. Ahead of us is always another hour, another day. Another decade, if the need be. Slow and steady movement in a positive direction is all we can do.

Aren’t we are all journeyers? Isn’t mothering a constant trip?

We are all here to learn about this road we were taking on as parents and as Christians. No small trip, really.

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Here are a few tips regarding our universal journey as moms, and as Christians:

–Pack light. Keep life simple. It complicates itself enough. Purge unnecessary loads often through prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation.

–Only carry someone else’s burdens a short distance or you won’t be able to carry your own. This is wise advice to all moms. Our kids need us, yes. But building their lives toward independence is our jobs. We can’t do this is we aren’t stable on our own. It’s a continuous, disciplined  process.

–And DON’T continuously stare into the rear view mirror of your life. Wherever we’ve been, let it go. Let it get smaller and smaller. Let it disappear.

Looking forward and moving toward God’s plan in our lives can feel scary as a mom. However, it’s a road worth seeking and one that we won’t ever be alone traveling.

How are you moving forward on your mothering journey?

 Kathy Helgemo

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