Browsing Tag


Everyday Grace

War, Parenting, and Why How We Parent Reveals Why We Parent

June 16, 2015

My grandfather fought in World War I. My father fought in World War II and served stateside during the Korean War as well. One of my sisters was a nurse on a Navy hospital ship anchored in a harbor off the shores of Vietnam. My brother was stationed in West Germany during the Cold War.

The Army and Navy trained all of my family members how to prepare for and operate in a wartime environment. They learned from the government how to follow orders, shoot, treat wounds, even how to properly peel potatoes and shine shoes. The interesting thing is that the Army and Navy didn’t teach them why you should go to war and how that decision should be made. That’s because other people make those decisions. Continue Reading…

Everyday Grace

Four Ways Adopting a Pet Teaches Grace to Your Kids (and You)

June 10, 2015

I’ve encountered very few children that didn’t want a pet of some sort. And outside of children that are too rough, cruel, or allergic, kids will learn fabulous lessons of grace from adopting a pet. Parents that allow their kids to adopt pets tend to have a higher likelihood of showing grace to their children in other areas of their lives. Whether golden retriever or goldfish, here are the top four ways your family adopting a pet teaches grace to your kids (and you:) Continue Reading…

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Everyday Grace

Unspoken – Commentary on the Worst Parenting Advice in a TV Commercial Ever

June 8, 2015

Use your words.

It’s a parenting phrase I use with my daughter when she’s been hurt physically and she’s crying breathlessly and I didn’t see what happened. I don’t know if she’s lost a finger, sliced open her foot, or merely gotten a splinter. I so desperately want to help, to fix, that I want her to use the tools a newborn doesn’t possess and, like a nine year-old should, use her words. Continue Reading…

Everyday Grace

Five Grace-Killing Lies Our Parents Told Us (and We Probably Tell Our Kids)

June 1, 2015

Here are five grace-killing lies our parents told us growing up that, more than likely, we are telling our kids as well.

1. “This is NOT a negotiation”


business_kidEverything in life is a negotiation, you’ve just decided to end the negotiation. Which is fine. But saying “This is not a negotiation” is all about power and impatience. Saying, “That was good; you almost changed my mind. Here’s why you didn’t” empowers a child and teaches discernment and, yes, negotiation. The key is to teach respectful dialog and that is done by example and practice. It acknowledges and encourages good reasoning in children that aren’t being insolent but care very much about the “whys” in life. Outside of safety issues (“GET OUT OF THE ROAD!”…”Why?”) negotiation shows grace to a child that your power as a parent isn’t something to be lorded over them and contributes to healthy development in the life of a discerning and thoughtful child. Continue Reading…

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Looking for a silver lining drives a wedge between parent and child

May 22, 2015

Empathy is one of the most essential traits in a grace-filled parent, but especially in becoming an authority on suffering. But unfortunately it is an often misunderstood and missing trait in a parent’s life.

The farther we get from our own childhood the more difficult it comes to put ourselves in the shoes of our children and to remember how we felt as we experienced many of the same things as they are. But empathy doesn’t need a strong emotional memory in order to exist. To help you with the concept of empathy let me first talk about the difference between empathy and sympathy. Continue Reading…

A Different Life

Children Are Like Countries

March 17, 2015

Children are like countries. Their disputes often rage over property rights and who has crossed whose borders. When they come together for a summit, aka playtime, they like to divide up into factions and plan war-games and other operations that can lead to both enjoyment and military action. When someone breaks the code of conduct and takes a toy (weapon) of the other team (coalition,) tempers flare and injustice needs to be remedied. In these instances, a small group of ambassadors is generally sent to the parents who, with a representative from each group present, act as a United Nations and hear the dispute. The UN, after listening to both sides, offers up the usual response of “if you can’t share then we are going home,” and the ambassadors head back to their countries to report the sanctions that have been laid on them all.

As a UN mom, I find it a political nightmare when these instances occur because, nine times out of ten, it seems to be my little country that thinks she’s a superpower able to do whatever she wants with the toys she has brought to the party. And the superpower expects everyone else better fall into place. So I am left with two options, I can consider her young age and inability to share well with others as a stage that I know cannot be broken with sanctions, and thus look like a permissive parent to my friends. Or I can crack down on her insurgency and make demands that will end in her humiliation and resentment of me for not, “being on her side” which then gains me points with the UN representatives of the other nations, aka Moms, but not with my own little country.

It’s a conundrum I face almost every time our summits happen. Do I side with my child or teach my child a lesson? Do I make a statement to the press about her illegal actions or do I save those talks for private chambers? Most of the time I opt for the swiftest end to the dispute so that I can get back to conversations with my fellow UN officials and so I say, “If you can’t share we are going to go home.” And then I save the lessons for the drive home.maggie0341 ditch kids

So when a few days after these particular peace talks had passed and my little country was sharing her feelings about the whole operation, I had to check myself. She was saddened about a particular situation that came out of that war/game, and it was that after the summit with the UN moms one of the kids said to the others under his breath, “Addy sure is bossy.”

Upon hearing this, many moms might jump to their child’s defense and say, “oh no you are not. What does he know!” but I’m a little different. When I see familial sin coming to the surface I want to nip it in the bud, I want to use this painful example as a reason why selfishness never pays off. I want to instruct my child and show her how to behave better the next time. And so in that effort, the first thing I want to do is to say, “well you are a little bossy with them. And if you keep acting like that they won’t want to play with you anymore.” Sounds like helpful and opportune constructive criticism to me. How else will she change if I don’t get on this stuff? After all, I know all about bossiness, it’s a trait that I have as well, one that has taken years and tears just trying to change. I don’t want my daughter to make the same mistakes as me, to burn the same bridges, so I want her to learn now how to die to herself and think of others first. With all that in mind I instead said this, “that’s too bad. I’m sorry he said that. That must have hurt. It’s not nice to hear things like that is it? That’s why it’s good not to talk about people behind their backs, or to say things like that at all. I’m sorry that happened to you.”


Wait. What? That’s not what I meant to say. I meant to tell her all about her selfishness and to use this as a lesson. Darn it! What just happened? I tilted my head, squinted my eyes and thought, ‘is that the right response to sin? Aren’t I supposed to correct that out of her? Did I just miss an opportunity to instruct or did I just take an opportunity to share grace?’ The conclusion I came to in this instance was that if I corrected her at this moment, when she was sharing her pain with me, then I wouldn’t be a safe place for her to go with her pain. I’d be the enforcer, the corrector, the bossy one, not the safe one. But if I empathized with her pain and bit my tongue about the sin, I could rely on her Father to work out the sinfulness. I could go to him and ask him to do a work in her and to capture her heart. After all, I cannot do that: I cannot change her sinful nature by my sheer will. I can instruct her in his ways, and teach her his precepts but I cannot make her believe or act in faith and love.

I don’t know when my daughter will learn to share more consistently. I pray that it will happen soon, but if I am honest I pray that so that I won’t be embarrassed anymore by the absence of this particular fruit in my child’s life. But I don’t want to think of her sinful nature as a reflection on me because then my goal is a selfish one, to make myself look better. I have to start thinking of her sinful nature as a reflection on the veracity of God’s Word, that there is no one righteous, not even one. And that it is by grace that we are saved from that nature, not by parental might or perfect childhood compliance. It’s my sin nature that she has running through her veins, and I know the prescription for that nature in her and me is him and him alone. So I’m learning as I go, how to offer that grace to my child, and to trust him to change her heart and her spirit into one that turns everything she has, even her Nerf gun, over to him that he might be glorified.

How I respond to the sins of others is a continual challenge for me. Do I choose empathy or correction? When is the right time to teach and the time to shut up? I’m learning as I go, making mistakes, reassessing and getting some things right. My prayer is that even though I don’t know it all, that I would somehow always trust him and always side with love, kindness, and grace.

A Different Life

Let Them Eat Junk Food

February 17, 2015

Tired of spending more time in the kitchen than in any other room in the house? Sick of the never ending pile of dirty dishes? Why not stop the insanity, get rid of the plates, and give them a sumptuous TV dinner? Now you can have homemade, nutritional, gourmet meals in minutes. No work before. No dishes after. But what a meal!

0601f9c2-ed23-4490-96a5-40ae4193cf06_centered-50s-adThis ad from the 1950’s made TV dinners look like a healthy alternative to homemade and people all over the country began to pull out the TV trays and get to the important business of watching TV. My mom was a single mom, so TV dinners made sense with her busy schedule. She didn’t always have time to cook from scratch and sometimes the quick stuff is actually cheaper than scratch. In fact, try throwing together a TV dinner style meal on your own and you’ll spend much more than the manufacturer asks for his “nutritious” meal. I can still remember the taste of the fries and chicken. They had their own distinct flavor, nothing like homemade, but the quickness and ease somehow made up for that.

There is something in me that can’t see giving my family a steady meal of food that’s fast. Sure, it’s great not to have to do dishes. In the time it takes me to make one meal from scratch, I could have the entire house clean and have my feet up watching my favorite show. Still, knowing what I know about nutrition and the importance of a healthy diet, I can’t give up the time it takes to cook homemade meals for my family.

And while I don’t do a lot of frozen dinners, I can say that I have been known to frequent the drive thru a time or five hundred. In fact, my daughter Addy grew up going to McDonald’s almost daily, while some of my friends kids have never even been. In order not to be seen as the bad Mommy, we called McDonald’s by a code name, that way when A would ask me to take her to “M” after playdates, no one had any idea what she was talking about. I was saved the humiliation of having to tell other mothers that “yes indeed I was serving my child food with so much preservatives that if left out on the counter for three yearshappy-meal-day-day-126[2] it would still look the same as the day I bought it.” Eeek! What can I say, sometimes speed takes precedence over health.

Yes, I’ve been known to take the easy way out. In fact, I’d say I do that more often than I take the more laborious but beneficial way. Mac N Cheese? Great! But give me ‘Easy Mac’ and shave of 4 minutes of cook time and I’m feeling giddy. How many times at the end of the day do I look back and say, “Wow, all she had today was carbs, did I miss the mark! But hey, tomorrow I’ll try to take the time to cut up some fruit or something?” I’m serious. I have conversations like that with myself. My daughter would eat pasta for every meal if I wasn’t more diligent about taking the time to give her something from the five food groups at least once a day. Why can’t there just be a pill for that? Something that takes care of all that nutritional stuff and let’s us get on to the more fun parts of life than cooking and cleaning up after it all?

Yes, speed is often my Achilles heel. Doing the right thing just takes so much time! Even in conversation, responding to my family in love and kindness, in self-control and gentleness, takes so much more time than just shouting out what needs to be done. The whole listening thing, waiting for them to do what they were in the middle of doing before I tell them what I need done, it all gets in the way of my rapid pace and my to-do list.

Recently I’ve started to notice that my daughter and are fighting a lot, usually after I tell her quickly what needs to be done quickly so that we can quickly move on to the next thing. And my quickness meets her meanderingness like a head on collision between two locomotives.trains In my effort to take care of things I just want to say what needs to be done and then for it to well, be done. But now I’m starting to see that this Easy Mac approach to communication, meant to save me 4 minutes, actually ends up taking ten minutes and sets the mood for a lot more bickering as the to-do list falls apart because she won’t cooperate with my junk food approach to communication. The junk food of selfishness, complaint, conflict, impatience, meanness, disobedience, unfaithfulness, harshness and self-indulgence is more a part of the diet I feed my daughter than the healthy fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ever is. As the branch that is meant to grow the fruit of the Spirit to feed those around me, I feel like I’ve taken to producing imitation fruit [junk fruit] that serves up quick but rots the teeth and the gut when consumed. If it’s true that no good tree bears bad fruit, and no bad tree bears good fruit, but each tree is known by its own fruit (see Luke 6:43-44,) then I’m more often a junk food tree than a good tree.

I confess that I have served the people I love too much spiritual junk food, the exact opposite of the healthy fruit of the Spirit I am meant to feed them.

And I’m sick of it.

The unhealthy relationships that junk fosters is repulsive to my spirit. I want to be done with speeding through life. I want to allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow and to blossom, producing all the fruit that my family can consume so that they can taste of the Spirit and reproduce the fruit themselves. I’ve known this for how long? And yet I fail to do the very thing I know to do. Thank God for his grace, for his relentless return to forgiveness and to mercy, without it I would be lost. And because of his kindness I am moving forward today with the prayer that his Spirit would nourish my family as I speak to them in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

A Different Life

My Little Sinner

January 27, 2015

My daughter is a little sinner. Don’t get me wrong, she’s very sweet, she loves deeply, she is discerning, and looks for ways to be kind to people, but there’s no way around her sinful nature. Like the rest of us humans, she isn’t perfect. So why do I take it so personally when she messes up? Why do I assume that her sin looks bad on me? It’s bad enough that my own sin is an embarrassment, why does her sin have to be an indictment on me as well?

In my old age, I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding my sinfulness, pretty good at making light of it, or applying the soothing balm of grace to myself, thanking God that he forgives me hundreds of times a day for my failures. But when my daughter acts in a way that is more selfish than loving, the first thing I want to do is to fix her. And that makes sense, we have to teach our kids right and wrong, but when my motivation is saving face, or proving to my friends that I won’t allow for any of that sin business in my household, I sense that I’m not so much concerned about the state of her soul as I am the state of my reputation. Embarrassment trumps grace when her selfishness sticks out for everyone to see. Forget about my selfishness in not wanting to have a transparent moment where people see that I can’t and won’t perfect my child, I’ve got to discipline the selfish out of her in an attempt to make up for her failure. Ugh. That’s the gospel according to Hayley.

While I do want a child who loves others well, I don’t ever want my reputation to be the energy behind my discipleship of her. In other words, I want to see my child the way God sees her, as a sinner saved by grace. Just as important, I want to see myself as a parent saved by grace, not condemned by the sinful nature of my offspring. My child is a lot like me. She’s prone to teach, correct, lead, to be liberal with advice, be selfish, and speak before she thinks. Her flesh is continually at war with the Spirit and she’s only been on this earth for nine years. So, why again do I take her sins personally when her sins have already been taken by another?

A Different Life

I hurt just like you

November 21, 2014

Why do I often feel more empathy for animals than people? When I drive down the road and see a turtle stuck in traffic I empathize. I feel for the turtle. I want only what’s best for him. I know how it feels to move too slow to get everything done that you need to get done. I know how it can seem like life is passing you by at break neck speeds.A-turtle-crosses-the-road-011 So when I see a turtle in the road I stop the car. I get out and I lift up the turtle as it hisses at me and I take it to where it is heading; the other side of the road. Yes, I feel great empathy for turtles.

So why don’t I feel the same way for people? Why can’t I see the burdens they carry and stop the car to get out and help them? Why instead do I accuse them of not working hard enough, of not being good enough, of not being fast enough? Why do I care for animals more than people? The other day my friend told me she was afraid that her her dog was going to die of cancer. He had hurt his leg and she was afraid it was a tumor, like she had seen in her previous dog. Ironically, I have thought the same thing about myself on many occasions, “maybe this pain in my side is a tumor. Maybe the headaches mean I have cancer.” I can totally relate. Yet, when she confessed that she had been afraid that her dog had cancer, my first reaction was to encourage her not to freak out so much over pulled muscles and sore feet, that is, to say the exact opposite of what I say to myself. But then for a split second, something like the Spirit came over me, and for a refreshing change, I didn’t encourage through correction, but through empathy. This was such a different and unnatural reaction to me that it was notable. Instead of encouraging my friend to try not to stress, I empathized with her fear. After all, I knew exactly how she felt, and so I said something like, “that must have really scared you.” While these words were not natural to me, they came super naturally on this occasion. Maybe because empathy has been on my mind lately.

As I attempt to raise my nine-year-old, I find that many times empathy is all I am able to offer her as she pulls and strains at the challenges of life. But so many times her complaint leads me to exacerbation. I want to yell at her to straighten up and fly right, as if we were living in the 1940s. I want her to get over it and get on with more important stuff, but then I try to remember that a child’s complaint is the way that they communicate their suffering, their fears, their worries, their trials and their need for grace. And so I am empathizing; I am sharing my own childhood with her, giving us common ground, as I understand the “difficulties” growing up brings. And so empathy, a word I’m not sure I totally understand, is helping me to share the grace of God with my little sinner and even other big sinners. To see myself as no better and no worse, but just as crippled by the trials and pains of this world, and just as in need of grace as the rest of them is more life giving than teaching them to get over it.

A Different Life

Building Transparent Relationships

November 15, 2014

Today my nine-year-old, who is a great conversationalist and especially likes asking difficult questions to get people talking, asked my 72-year-old mother what was one sin she committed today that she’d like to confess to us all. Gulp! That’s what I get for spending half of our homeschool time on the gospel, a child who asks the really uncomfortable questions, oops. But the question was a good one, if not for casual conversation with your grandparent, it was a healthy and self-aware question, I tell myself so as not to feel to embarrassed. My mom, however, is of a generation where things like sin aren’t talked about casually. So I jumped in and told Addy that, that was a question best directed to herself. After all, not everyone wants to be so transparent. And then I proceeded to offer up a couple of my own beauties (by which I mean sins).

While some parents might think this to be a dangerous way to fall on the grenade for a parent, I see it as an opportunity to give the gospel wings. After all, my sin isn’t a surprise to my daughter, who spends her entire waking life alongside of me as we do life together. If I’ve taught her anything, I’ve taught her that I’m a sinner. There’s just no hiding it: we live too close together.

There was a time when I feared my sin: when I looked in the mirror and regretted my imperfections: when I tried to cover up my mistakes and hide from my foolishness. But then I started to teach my daughter the gospel and suddenly I saw it, my failure is God’s glory. It was quite an awakening. So long had I told myself that my goodness alone would bring glory to God, that my sinfulness and mess became something I wanted to shove in the closet when company came over. But make it the object of show-and-tell? How could I do that? Isn’t that just giving sin the glory?

But then I saw that the gospel has no power without my sin. If you think that statement looks heretical, I agree, but looks can be deceiving. If I were perfect, rather than imperfect, then what Christ did on that cross would be useless: I’d have no need for it, for him. In fact, the whole coming to earth as a man and dying for our sins thing would be a waste of his time (see Galatians 2:21), because I would be proof that we could do it for ourselves: that the gospel was just one of many paths to God. But my confession of sin is a verbal embrace of my need for a Savior, and so that’s why I freely tell my daughter my confessions. Not all of them, not the ones she has no clue about, not the ones that would scare her or make her aware of sins she’s too young to understand, but the sin that she is party to, the sin that she sees on my face when I am resentful, or in my tone when I am harsh, these sins I name as sin.

Our confessions don’t take away our power but reinforce it, as our truth telling gives all the glory to God as we simply confirm what inquisitive minds already notice: that we all are imperfect and in need of rescue. Our confessions keep us from hypocrisy, from pretend living, from faking it and teaching our kids to fake it too. My confession is just my verbal agreement with what God has said, that anything that I do that is inconsistent with the life of Christ is sin. Sometimes I worry over my imperfections and weaknesses because I think there is a way to be perfect and to be done once and for all with the mess of my life. I guess you could say that subconsciously I think that there is a way to get to God without Christ, but that would mean that Christ was a lune, doing what he did to save us when we could just do it ourselves. I want to try to see my imperfections as an opportunity to recognize my need for a Savior and to remind anyone who will listen that without admitting my sin I have no access to God (see 1 John 1:10). I want my sins to matter. I don’t want them to be for nothing, for destruction, for ruin, I want them to be for God’s glory, and so I have to talk about them and to freely confess the righteousness I have that comes from faith in Christ alone (see Galatians 3:21-22), and not from my attempt at perfection.

In an effort to build more transparent and meaningful relationships I’m am trying to do what’s different for me and that is to let people into my life so that I can let Christ out. So welcome to the messiness of what different does.

if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:21-22