how kindness softens our kids’ hearts

how to show kids kindnessKindness doesn’t always come naturally to me. How about you? But it can make all the difference when we use it well with our children!

I’m so excited to be talking about this subject over at my friend Britta Lafont’s blog, Everyday Holiness. The post starts here, but be sure to click over to read the rest at Britta’s place! 

by Melinda Means

I knew it was going to happen.

I was at the grocery store with my son Micah. He immediately asked to push the cart.

I’ve learned that this is a tactic to get me through the store quicker. Like most men, my son is not fond of shopping. For that reason, I rarely take him with me, but occasionally it can’t be avoided.

“Micah, slow down. You’re going too fast. You’re going to run someone over.”

“I won’t! You worry too much, Mom.”

But moments later, right in the middle of the taco aisle, it happened. I stopped to pick up a jar of salsa.

And Micah (aka Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), who was coming up behind me at warp speed, didn’t allow for this sudden course diversion.

Read more over at Britta’s place …

5 ways moms can give themselves grace

grace for momsI can still see her crushed face as I pulled into the parking lot. 

Molly was four years old. It was the last day of summer art camp. And the parents were invited to attend an “Art Show” to see the big projects they had been working on all week.

I had forgotten about it. Would a “good mom” forget about something like this?

I was late and the moment was gone. The only memory that I’m left with is a sad little girl standing outside alone holding her prized project.

I could cry right now just thinking about it. It’s been 14 years. Molly probably doesn’t even remember it. At least I hope she doesn’t. I haven’t asked her because I’m afraid to know the answer. 

What if the memory still stings her heart as much as it stings mine?

I’ve hardly missed a soccer game, track meet or field trip since then, yet it’s the “forgotten art show” moments that haunt me.

I’m better at accepting God’s grace than I used to be. But if there’s any area of my life where I still struggle to grasp it, it’s the area of motherhood.

I think it’s because my mistakes and shortcomings affect the little people who are most precious to me. And the stakes are so unbelievably high.

Although, like you, I’m still on this grace acceptance journey, but here are five things that I’ve found help me:

Accept your imperfection and rely on a perfect God.

I’m a recovering perfectionist. Some days I’m not recovering. Sometimes, I’m an unrecovered perfectionist — hellbent on getting it all right, all the time. My health has suffered. My family has suffered.

Perfectionists can be rigid, difficult, demanding people. Perfectionism isn’t noble. It’s pride disguised as “high standards.” Nothing wrong with striving for excellence. Paul did: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

But acting like perfection is attainable is crazy! That would make us God. Nothing humble about that. When I truly acknowledge how much and often I fall short, it causes me to run headlong into the arms of the only One who can give this very human mom the power and wisdom to raise my kids well (not perfectly).

Let it go.

Dwelling on how we’ve fallen short with our children brings two things: misery and paralysis. I can’t enjoy the opportunities to love and bless my children when I’m busy wallowing in the missed moments of yesterday. Again, our friend Paul assures us “letting it go” is possible: “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

Acknowledge God’s power to use your mistakes for your kids’ good. 

We can’t be everything to our kids. My imperfection shows them that mistakes are allowed. A part of the journey. God’s grace is accessible. I just have to remember to keep pointing them to the only Parent who will never let them down.

We never want to cause our kids pain. But we will. I take comfort in knowing that God never wastes pain. The pain our kids experience from our mistakes can be transformed into something God uses to deepen their character and compassion.

Mistakes aren’t forever.

One of Satan’s biggest lies that I’ve believe is that mistakes can’t be redeemed. That I’ve done irreversible harm to my children. That the die has been cast and all I can do is watch the fallout. Yes, sometimes my mistakes have hurt my children badly. And my shortcomings as a mom have also made it much harder to instill certain values and behaviors in my children. But with God, mistakes don’t have to be forever. He can work in ways that we can’t to fill in the gaps of our mothering.

Quit comparing. 

Comparison is the thief of joy. But it also robs us of grace. We can be so hard on ourselves as we look at others and decide everyone else is doing it better. Everyone else has more well-behaved kids than we do. No one else struggles or makes mistakes like we do. Our little pity party doesn’t get us anywhere, does it?

The most productive thing any of us can do is focus on being the best mom we can through His power. And since we’re all unique that means we’re going to be a mom like no one else. And that’s just the mom God decided our kids need. Yes, us. Imperfect us.

If I had a time machine, I’d be the first mama at that art show, beaming with pride. But I can’t. Sigh. The moment is gone.

Thankfully, though, God’s grace is not. It’s limitless. It’s never late. He never forgets to give it.

All us moms have to do is grab onto it. 

Melinda Means


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how waking up early can steer your day

waking up earlyI know this may sound irrational, but I want you to start waking up early. 

Early. 30 minutes, at least, before the rest of your house moves. Why?

You need it. You need to take care of yourself before you start the day taking care of everyone else. I know because I spent years getting ready in the morning like a fireman going to a fire. It wasn’t until after my third child that I realized…

I had CONTROL. I had the POWER. I could STEER my whole day by getting up earlier than my family. 

Waking up early does mean EARLY. It’s 5:44 a.m. I’ve been up since 5:15.

Quite frankly, it’s because my HUGE cup of coffee has kicked in and I now it may be my only chance at pure quiet for the rest of the day until I get into this bed tonight.

Why have I been up since 5:15? My dear husband gets up early for work and I decided to get up with him. This decision was solidified by the coffee that he delivered to me to wake me up. I swear if someone brought me coffee in the middle of the night by my bedside, I’d get up and drink it. Pavlov’s dog has nothing on me.

I consider this time of day to be the most precious. No one is moving, except me. No one is asking for anything, except me. It’s a very selfish time of day. I can literally do whatever I want and no one cares. I don’t have to answer for my behavior in any way.

This is the steering wheel of my entire day. These are amazing minutes before the kids wake up and Ben is already at the hospital (he’s a pediatrician — that’s normal. Babies love to be born over night!)

How does getting up early steer our day?

1. It’s completely predictable. There is no other time of the day that is such. Once the world starts moving, anything can happen. This is the time when you can count on NOTHING happening to interrupt you in your activities. People exercise during this time for this very reason. It’s crossed off the list for the rest of the day without any excuse. I have used this time for that as well, but I like doing other things that get in the way of me exercising now, and exercise later.

2. It gives you permission. As I stated before, no one cares what you are doing before they wake up. The kids aren’t going to see that you are somehow NOT doing something that they would rather you be doing. Your husband is either sleeping or gone like mine is. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. It’s quite a relief.

3. Did I mention it’s quiet? It is the most quiet a house gets. That is so pleasant, so peaceful. Will you fall back asleep? Maybe, but once you get in the habit of getting up before your kids, you won’t go back. You will feel like you’ve discovered a treasure.

4. It makes the entire morning routine run smoother when I am ready for my day BEFORE the kids get up. They are just jumping on a moving train. All of us aren’t trying to get going together. If I’m trying to get ready at the same time, my patience level is AWFUL. Why? Because remember, I crave quiet predictable time in the morning.

What’s the worse thing that could happen if you get up earlier than your family? Honestly, I can’t think of one. Some people think that you will be tired for the rest of your day. You will quickly adjust your evening schedule to get to bed earlier, just to have this time to yourself.

Ok. I need a quick little cup of extra coffee. It’s 6:00. I have 20 minutes to relish. I’m going to throw a load of laundry in the washer and jump in the shower. In 25 minutes, my little world starts moving quickly and I need to grab the wheel.

What have you done to ensure that your mornings run smoother?

Have you ever tried getting up earlier than your family to see what the effects are?

How can you plan today so that you can wake up tomorrow earlier than your house?

Kathy Helgemo




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when loving our kids doesn’t feel good

how to set boundaries with kidsMy son is a very smart boy, but he doesn’t fully understand. 

He can’t comprehend the very serious consequences he could face.

All he knows is that he’s sick of doing chest therapy, breathing treatments, taking handfuls of vitamins and eating healthy. Who could blame him?

He just wants to be a “normal” teenager. And to him, being “normal” doesn’t include any of the above.

Micah doesn’t completely realize it, but his life without his cystic fibrosis medicine is not one he’d enjoy. For 13 years, God has used caring doctors and amazing medications to keep my beautiful boy breathing deeply. He plays baseball. Rarely misses school. Makes straight A’s.

I want to keep him well. And so, I’ve had to be willing to feel rotten:

Micah: Why, why do you make me do this? How would you feel if you had to do this?! Why do you even care if I do my medicine? I’ll be the one to pay the price!

But the price could be so much higher than he realizes.

Me: I make you do your medicine because I love you. I give you consequences for not doing it because I love you.

Micah: Well, it sure doesn’t feel like love! If you loved me, you wouldn’t nag me all the time! You wouldn’t make me do this! You hate me!

Me: Micah, I know you’re really mad at me. That’s okay. You can even not like me very much.  I’m willing to take that. But just take your medicine!

Each time this scenario plays out, my heart is pumping and I’m on the verge of tears.

I don’t like being the “bad” guy.

It goes against every (recovering) “people-pleasing” fiber of my being.

The idea of loving our kids evokes warm, happy feelings.

The reality of love with our children is that sometimes we feel awful and misunderstood. 

The idea of love suggests deep closeness.

The reality of love means that we have to be willing to accept feeling isolated from them at times. Pushed away. Disliked. Labeled “the enemy.” 

After 16 years of parenting, I’ve learned to accept the reality of love. Because that’s the kind of love that provides true healing.

I think about how I have a Parent who does things that sometimes don’t make sense to me either: 

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord.
And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

And, though, I don’t always understand His ways, I know His love is real. And for my ultimate good. 

Even though it sometimes hurts.

Recently, a friend’s husband encouraged me with these words: “Remember, Melinda, one day, the ‘bad guy’ will become the ‘good guy.'”

That day may be a long way off, but when it comes, it will feel great.

Melinda Means