Use Your Voice: It Starts at Home

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“Will you tickle my back, mama?”

I heard her whisper from halfway down the stairs as I sat scrolling Facebook on my phone. She had been in bed for 30 minutes already, but on this night she was needing that extra touch only mom can give.

“Okay hon, I’ll be up as soon as I finish this,” I said softly, hoping none of the other kids would hear. I had just come across a news article shared by a friend: One dead and 19 injured as car strikes crowds along route of white nationalist rally in Charlottesville; two police die in helicopter crash. In just the few hours it took to eat dinner and put the kids to bed, I had missed important news.

The more I read, the more my heart broke. Just yesterday, before the torch-bearing hate march began at the University of Virginia, I shared a blog about the need for racial reconciliation in the Church, evangelicalism in particular. The responses were varied, but it met a good bit of criticism and defensiveness from my white friends (as expected). I had spent several hours on my phone throughout the day responding to people I love and respect who, for whatever reasons, do not see the problems I am seeing – and so many of our brothers and sisters of color are screaming! – in the Church.

How to we bridge this divide?

When I saw news of the march Friday night, I cringed, prayed, and honestly hoped for the best. Then my privilege and I went to bed and enjoyed a good night’s rest that was not afforded to the people of color that fear for their lives in the face of emboldened domestic terrorists who gather on public university campuses. I won’t get that kind of rest tonight, because friends, I am staying up with you, praying with you, asking God how I can use my position and privilege to defend and protect you. And I am doing everything in my power to influence a generation that will do the same. How do we bridge this divide? Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” For me, it starts at home.


“Sweet girl,” I whispered, fingers gliding gently along her skin in fluid strokes as her breathing became slower and her shoulders melted into the pillow. “I am so proud of you.”

“Why, mama?”

“I am so proud of the way you love other people, and when you see someone hurting another person, you don’t just sit back and watch. You do something about it. You aren’t afraid to stand up to bullies and tell them not to talk to your friends that way. You tell the teacher when someone is hurt. You don’t back down. I want you to promise me you will ALWAYS do that. Because in your life, you’re going to see a lot of people doing the wrong thing. And even worse, you’re going to see a lot more people not doing a thing about it. They’ll ignore it, justify it, or say it’s none of their business. They will tell you to stay out of it. But don’t you listen. When you see someone doing something wrong, you stand up and do what is right. You have that deep inside you, I know you do.”

“How do you know that, mama?”

“I know because that is the Holy Spirit in you. God made you so very sensitive. You hear when he talks to you, and you are upset when you see people hurting others. God gave you a voice and position, and you must always use it to help other people. You remember when we talked about our words, how they can be hurtful words or healing words? I want your voice to be healing, because there is so much hurt, baby. God wants to use you to help people. Don’t you ever be afraid to help. Okay??”

“Okay, mama,” she whispered. “You know, I really want a guitar, so I can write songs. Maybe that’s how I can use my voice.”

Baby girl, you got it. This child, her brothers, the children and teens I love and lead – they will know how to use their voice. They will bring healing. I promise.

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Get On The Floor: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Parenting

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on January 24, 2017. To read this post in its entirety, please follow the link to the KMB website.

My son loves photography. My mom has a fancy DSLR camera she occasionally lets him cart around his neck on a strap (supervised, of course!), and he always comes away with a bunch of blurry shots of random things around the room: the back of a chair, the corner joist of the porch railing, a lamp shade. Whenever he gets a hold of my iPhone, I usually find 50-100 rapid fire shots of whatever TV show he was watching, horribly unflattering shots of me dozing off on the couch, his dirty shoes piled up in the corner by the door. I guess it’s arguable whether he actually enjoys “photography,” per se, or just that he derives sensory pleasure from the little clicking sound the device makes whenever he snaps a photo of whatever the camera happened to be pointing at.

But I like to think there’s more. These seemingly random pictures my son regularly captures don’t just show the mere directionality of the camera he happened to be holding. Whether or not the subject matter is intentional, these pictures tell me something about my son:

His perspective.

To me, the pictures my son takes are weird, random, and poorly executed. The subject matter is uninteresting, the lighting is terrible, and the shot is out of focus. It would be easy for me to call them “bad” pictures, but is that really true? As an adult, it’s easy to look at the world around us as the grand, all-knowing beneficiaries of the wisdom that comes from age. Certainly it is our responsibility to help our children navigate life from our lens of experience, but what have we lost as we have “grown up,” both figuratively and literally?

Sometimes, to help kids understand and grow from their own experience, we need a little change of perspective.

I used to get so frustrated that my baby would cry whenever I vacuumed. He was fine if I was holding him, but set him down for a second and he would be screaming. What difference should it make if he is in my arms or in the chair? The vacuum is still the vacuum. Then one day it hit me that the vacuum is nearly a foot taller than him, and when I’m pushing it away from myself, it appears to be going toward him. It was then I realized that what makes the vacuum less scary isn’t me, it’s the perspective of being taller and pushing it away that help him feel secure. However, I didn’t figure this out until I was laying on the ground when the vacuum was nearby. Sometimes it requires actual physical repositioning in order to gain empathy for our children.

In other words, get on the floor.


…To continue reading this post, please visit Knoxville Moms Blog! Enjoy!

My Secret to Being Dr. Mom

“Do I have to go to school, mom?” she whispered as I handed her clothes. She slowly crept down the steps of the bunk bed as she coughed and swooned, trying hard to look extra puny. “My throat just hurts soooo bad!”

“Let me see.” I pulled out my phone and shone the flashlight down my 8-year-old’s throat. Yep, tonsils were swollen all right, but they weren’t red or goopy. “It’s just a cold, hon. Come on, get your boots.”

As she trudged through the house getting ready, she played the pitiful card on both her father and grandmother, who also got an up-close and personal encounter with her tonsils. My mom said, “Are you sure you didn’t see pus?” My husband, “This has been going on for a few days. Maybe she should go to the doctor.”

Maybe they were right, I thought. I’d hate for her to suffer while her mean ol’ mama ignores her. What if it’s strep? What if she gets rheumatic fever? What if the world ends? What if Toby dies on This Is Us?! Oh no wait, that’s another problem. Anyway…

Reluctantly I called the pediatrician and got her the earliest appointment. Somehow Princess started moving a little more quickly when she knew she was going to the doctor instead of school… My husband took her in, because as much as I wanted to be right, I didn’t want to face Dr. James if I was. He knows I know this. I learned it from him.

Half an hour later my phone rang. “Well,” my husband started, “I’m taking her on to school now… You were right. It’s just a cold.”

I wanted to gloat, but it’s hard to get excited when I just blew $40 for a doctor to tell me I wasted $40. Well, it’s hard, but not impossible. “I knew it!” I quipped. “You know how I knew it? HELPMOMMY.COM.”


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We have been taking our children to Dr. Cliff James since we first became parents in 2008, and it’s easy for me to brag he’s the greatest pediatrician on the planet. For almost 9 years, he has not only been treating my children, he has been teaching me how to up my momming game by taking care of things at home and saving our family money by avoiding unnecessary trips to his office. When my friends’ kids are sick, they call me for advice. This is not because I’m some sort of professional, but they know I have an awesome doctor who has taught me a ton of great skills. It’s immeasurably easier to stay calm in a stressful situation when you know what to look for, how to treat it, and when you need to get backup from a pro. That’s the #1 perk of having the best pediatrician in the world.

But not everyone can send their kids to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to visit his practice. Thankfully, in 2015 Dr. James rounded up some of the best and most common advice he’s been giving parents like me for nearly 2 decades and gave us A First Time Parent’s Survival Guide: A How-to Manual for the First Two YearsI have been giving this book as gifts to my first-time parent friends, but the obvious question is, what about after 2 years? Yes, even after 9 years of learning from Dr. James, some parents (obviously I’m talking about my husband and not me *eye roll*) still need some tips on recognizing the difference between a horrible, deadly (Toby?!?!), bacterial infection needing antibiotics and simple viral inflammation that can only be treated with a little TLC.

Enter helpmommy.com. This collection of videos goes through all manner of issues, illnesses, conditions, and questions you want to ask your pediatrician. From “The Common Cold and When to See a Doctor” to asthma to infant toothbrushing to evaluating your child’s poop, and so much more. With nearly 150 videos already posted and new episodes released almost weekly, this website will soon become your one-stop shop for child healthcare answers.

My Favorite Features:

Organization – Videos are searchable, so if you’re looking for info on strep, or your baby has a rash and you want to explore possible causes, just pop that into the search bar, and you can pull up all the relevant videos to help you find what you need. Videos can also be sorted by seasonal appropriateness (swim safety and bug spray in the summer, croup and RSV in the winter, seasonal allergies in the spring; you get the idea), child’s age, or major categories like illnesses, injuries, or vaccines. It’s easy to find the information you need with the user-friendly organization.

Quick Tips – Most of the videos on helpmommy.com are about 3-5 minutes long, but sometimes you don’t really need that much info, you just need… a quick tip. There are only a few of these on the page for now, but as the site grows, so will this section, which makes it faster and more convenient for you to get answers to your common healthcare questions.

Prenatal section – This small collection of videos is specifically designed for parents who have not yet had their babies. There is so much that happens in the hours before and after baby is born, it’s hard to keep up and think through everything that’s going on if you’re not already prepared. This section is great for explaining what to expect at the hospital, how to read an APGAR score, knowing what decisions you need to make before baby arrives, and one great video reviewing all that stuff the pediatrician tells you in the hospital but you immediately forget upon coming home with the baby. There is nothing more overwhelming that the feeling you get leaving the hospital with your first baby and realizing, Oh crap, I have to actually do this now!! Helpmommy.com is there to make you feel a little more confident and less stressed as you make that transition.

Hacks – You know every time you’re riding in the van with a movie playing and you think to yourself, how did my parents survive without this?! As a matter of fact, there are tons of tips and tricks out there – better known as “hacks” – to make your life a little easier. Whether it’s how to remove toddler “art” from your wall or keeping the thermometer clean in between uses, we can all use these little tips just to make life a little simpler and more sane. HelpMommy.com has a whole section devoted to sharing their own tried-and-true parenting hacks.

Grandmama – We’ve all heard old wives’ tales and antiquated advice about medicine and childrearing, and some things are more “out there” than others. Dr. James’ hilarious Physician’s Assistant, Mel, takes on the role of Grandmama to explain some wacky advice that’s floating around out there, and Dr. James comes in to give you some real, medical facts. Some pregnancy- and newborn-related videos also feature helpful explanations from OB-GYN Dr. Rosalind Cadigan – whose husband and practice partner just happened to deliver all of my children! If nothing else, the Grandmama are just funny and fun to watch, and honestly super strange when you think that Mel’s own grandmama has said many of these things to him…

Subscriptions to helpmommy.com are either monthly or yearly, but you save 25% by going ahead and paying for the whole year at once. Either way, I guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth! If you’re like me, paying almost $40 in coinsurance for every doctor visit, to save myself even one visit using the knowledge I learned on the site has already paid for almost the entire year of the service. Plus, each subscription comes with a referral code, so anyone who signs up using your code will earn you cash back just for helping out! My referral code is 2C4670291 if you want to give me a shout out, but really, I just want you to have access to a great service that will keep on giving to your family. Dr. James has a very successful private medical practice; I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t need the money for this. He just genuinely loves kids, and as a father to 3 boys himself, he wants to make parenting a little easier for all of us out there. And as a mama of 4, I want the same thing.

Check out helpmommy.com and see for yourself. There’s a 7 day free trial, so you can test it out and make sure it’s something you’ll use; I can promise you will!

 

**Full disclosure: helpmommy.com provided a complimentary membership in order for me to accurately write this review.

My Favorite Christmas Tradition

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The following post originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of the Church of God Evangel in a segment called “Viewpoints.” The prompt was to talk about a Christmas experience that has made a lasting impact on my life. For the sake of clarity and consistency, below is the edited version as it appears in the original publication.


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1, 4-5, NIV

I love the way John tells the Christmas story. Sure, it’s missing the angels and shepherds and star, but John’s version gives us so much more, in a way.

The miraculous birth of Christ is an amazing story, but what is even more amazing is that it began long before that night in Bethlehem. It began long before the angel visited Mary, before Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist, even before Adam and Eve.

“In the beginning,” John tells us, before anything else existed, there was Light. Not the physical kind that was created on the first day, but a metaphysical kind, “the light of all mankind,” which allows us to see not just what is in front of us, but to see God himself.

In the beginning, God had a plan to reveal himself to humanity through the Light. On that first Christmas, the Light entered our darkness in the form of a baby boy. As The Message puts it, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (v.14). Christ came to us, waded deep into our mess, and brought us hope we never could have found on our own. That’s what Christmas is to me – light and hope where there was none before.

That’s also my favorite way to celebrate Christmas: bringing light and hope where there was none before. This year I will share my fifth Christmas reaching out to women in the adult entertainment industry. It’s not the only time I visit them; my friends and I take gifts and treats on every major holiday and several times in between, sharing love and friendship with those often hurt or ignored by the church.

I believe if Jesus were walking around our “neighborhood” in 2016, he would be leading the way through those doors to reach the people who don’t feel wanted, worthy, or good enough to approach him.

When I think about the darkness in our world, there aren’t many things that come to mind so quickly as the sex industry. Every day across the globe, millions of women, men, and children are sold for sex or adult entertainment, either by a pimp, trafficker, or – like many of my friends – by their own choice. The spiritual darkness is even darker than the literal dimness of the clubs I walk into, and it can feel overwhelming. In those moments I turn to John 1, where I am assured the light of Christ “shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (v. 5, NLT).

Christmas is my favorite time to visit my friends, because as we carry that light into the darkness of the sex industry, I picture Jesus entering our dark world, illuminating truth and hope for all.

Dear Worried Mother… from the Babysitter’s Mom

This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on October 19, 2016.

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Dear Worried Mother,

Tonight is the big night, huh? The first time you are leaving your little angel with a babysitter. This is a huge deal! You have spent these early months doing everything for your baby. You feed him, bathe him, soothe him, swaddle him… You are his everything! What a precious gift that is, to have this time to bond with him. As hard as this has been, you will never regret it, as I’m sure you know: the days are long, but the years are so very short.

As wonderful as this time with baby has been, it’s time, isn’t it? Time for a mental break. Time for bodily fluid-free clothing and hair styled in something other than the trusted mommy-tail. Time for uninterrupted conversation with your husband, or a carefree night out with the girls, or an afternoon of shopping all alone… Whatever the occasion, I know this break is much needed and well deserved. Even though we both know you will be thinking about your baby while you’re gone, you need to feel safe knowing you are leaving your little one in trustworthy hands. This is scary, and you need to know everything will be fine.

so get that. Really. Tonight is a big deal for me too, because your babysitter, the one with whom you have entrusted your entire world all wrapped up in a tiny body, is my entire world wrapped up in a slightly larger body. Your babysitter is my daughter.


To continue reading, please visit the Knoxville Moms Blog to view the full post. Thanks, and remember to be kind to the babysitter!

Peace on Earth (and in Your Home) – Navigating the Tension through the Holidays

This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on November 23, 2016.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

There is nothing that brings my heart more joy than being with family. My husband and I are extremely blessed to have four wonderful children together, and the majority of our immediate family live locally or just a short drive away. While we get to enjoy family time fairly regularly, I always look forward to Thanksgiving, when we travel to visit my extended family. The holidays are that special time for many people to meet up with loved ones they rarely see and reminisce, bond, and make memories together.

Then 2016.

Guys, let’s be real. This year has been tough on everyone. The last few years have brought to light many social and political issues facing our nation, and all that building tension climaxed this year with possibly the most divisive election cycle in American history. While some people like to keep their circles small and unified in beliefs, I count myself lucky to belong to a large, diverse family holding many different opinions and convictions. The one thing that unites us — and probably how you can tell we’re related — is our passion and stubbornness when it comes to what we believe. 

While I’m pretty sure my family’s Thanksgiving celebration will not include any punches being thrown (fingers crossed, y’all!), you might not have the same confidence for your own holiday gathering. If you are one of the many people worried about facing family with whom you disagree politically this holiday season, remember these pointers to make sure your get-togethers go smoothly, and maybe one day you can even look back on this year and laugh. Or you can just survive until January; I mean whatever you gotta do, bruh.

  1. Go with a plan. And the plan is, let’s just not.

To continue reading, view the full post on the Knoxville Moms Blog. Happy holidays, and remember that family is worth not fighting for. 😉

15 Affirmations Your Child Needs to Hear Today

This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on September 22, 2016. 

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Watching my kids get off the school bus every day is a special treat for me. They bound down the steps like prisoners set free, looking back and giggling as their friends call to them from the windows. Once their big, yellow ride is out of sight, they turn and head toward home, just a few houses down. I have a clear view of their path from my front porch, and I can often discern how their day went by observing their gait. Most days they race each other to the mailbox, or skip along the curb toting a prize they received in class. Other days they leap off that bus, not a care in the world, but as they start toward the house I can see it hit them: I have to tell mom what happened today. The skip slows to a walk and then to a trudge with head hanging low as they confess the bad grade, the poor behavior, the hurtful interaction with a classmate.

With a limited realm of life experience, these simple slip-ups can truly feel like the end of the world to a child, especially if they are repeated. Of course we want our children to be their best selves, but they need to be reassured they are capable of better. I do not suggest children be coddled or go undisciplined. As parents, though, we must recognize that words matter, and if we want our children to realize their potential, we must speak that truth to them.

Here are 15 affirmations your child needs to hear from you:

1. You are a good boy/girl.

2. You belong in this family, and nothing will ever change that.

3. You have an important contribution to make in the world.


To read the full list, check out the original post on Knoxville Moms Blog and encourage a child in your life today!