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!

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Hearing God in the Noise

Hearing God in the Noise

Noise

NOISE. That is the one word that describes my life right now. It’s summer, and all 3 of my kids are home from school. Last summer wasn’t so bad because they took naps every day, but this year my 5-year-old is really fighting it. So that means from sun up to sun down, I am constantly bombarded with NOISE – voices chattering, feet running and stomping, somebody whining about something-or-other, giggling and laughing, screaming and crying, balls bouncing, cars zooming, even the restless pre-kindergartener tossing back and forth on my bed while I pray he sleeps next to me. It’s nice to think things will settle down once school starts back and we all get into a routine again. However, we will be welcoming another baby the week before school starts, and since my 3-year-old will not be returning to pre-school, he’ll be around to make sure I don’t get to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that classic new-mom advice that is next to impossible to follow.

A few years ago, when I was mom to a 3-year-old, 1-year-old, and a newborn, I heard someone describe this stage with small kids as “in the trenches” of parenting. Usually I avoid appropriating military verbiage so as not to devalue the original context; however, this one really stuck with me. Being “in the trenches” with little ones can feel like a mental battle zone – especially when you run out of diapers and have to make a Walmart run with all 3 in tow… That’ll get you plenty of stares!

The endless diapers were probably my biggest struggle at that point, but now that we’re all potty trained (for now!), I have to say it’s the constant noiseThere are several times every.single.day and sometimes entire days when I don’t even know what I’m thinking, or if the thoughts I think I’m thinking are really mine or if I’m just repeating some jumbled mess of whatever my kids have been thinking out loud all day long. I do try to find quiet time every day, but usually those moments are quickly interrupted by someone needing something, and I’m back on mom duty. One of my biggest concerns in this is that if I can’t hear myself think, how will I be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?

He’s Still Here

In the secret, in the quiet place

In the stillness, You are there…”

Sonicflood, “I Want to Know You (In the Secret)”

I have always heard it said that we hear God in the quiet moments, when we get alone and in peaceful solitude, there we can truly hear his voice. Believe me, I know this to be true, and I cherish the quiet moments I get with the Lord. Lately, though, I feel discouraged, because there are literally almost no quiet moments. If I wake up early, the kids hear me and get up too. When I try to escape to the bathroom or send the kids outside to play, they are constantly coming back demanding my attention. My chaotic life is filled with noise, and I have been complaining to God that I can’t be with him without the quiet.

But you know something? God is not confined by our chaos or our expectations of when and how he should speak. In fact, just as clearly as he calls to us in the quiet, he can certainly speak out in the noise.

I’m not saying quiet time is unimportant – we all need to schedule regular time to be still and listen. But when you’re in the trenches of parenting littles, it often feels completely impossible to achieve that. Don’t let your circumstances lead you to feel like a failure or that you can’t be intimate with God. He is here with us in the LOUD just as he is in the quiet… And he still has a word for you.

Hearing God in the Noise

The other day was one of “those days” for me. I had stayed up until 3 am the night before trying to meet a writing deadline. Then morning came, and with it were 3 little people needing breakfast made, shoes tied, and had stories to tell. I drug through the morning, mentally counting down every minute until nap time.

Finally that glorious afternoon routine rolled around, and I couldn’t wait to finally enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. But Sweet Prince had other plans. Bless his heart, he really did try to sleep, but he just couldn’t settle his little brain down. He was back and forth from his bed to the bathroom to his bed to my room to the bathroom again and back to his bed and…. Finally I gave up. I sent him to his sister’s room (she had requested to nap on the trundle bed in the boys’ room) with a book and instructions to please just leave me alone for a few minutes. No sooner had I gotten him settled, the other two were up, and Little Man needed help because the blinds were stuck and he couldn’t see to change clothes for the 50th time that day.

I surrendered and gave them my iPad so they could watch a movie in their room while I had quiet time in mine. “But we don’t want a movie!” Squealed the boys. “We want to plaaaayyy!!!” No matter of begging or bribing or threatening could convince them to sit quietly for a few minutes. I turned on the movie, shut the door, and within a few steps down the hall I could hear them giggling and jumping on the trundle mattress.

All evening this went on, and I was so tired, so mentally exhausted from the NOISE, of course I vented to my husband about it. As I was complaining about the incessant and intense volume of my day – all while my boys were making flatulance sounds and “Frozen” was playing in the back of the van for Princess – the Lord suddenly spoke to me so loud and clear I repeated it out loud to my husband. He was surprised at the sudden change in my tone, but it was so distinct, the words came out as though I had thought them myself.

Isn’t that what I always pray, that my thoughts would be his thoughts, and my heart would echo his?

Suddenly I was so thankful for all the noise in my life. The constant noise usually means constant playing, constant laughter, constant memories being made. My children are best friends, and I have the privilege to stay at home with them and watch their relationships develop. My children love me, they love this family, and they love their lives. Their constant motion shows that they are constantly seeking out new experiences and trying to live life to the fullest. Sure, they break things and make messes and annoy myself and each other along the way, but they are looking for life, and life abundantly.

It is my responsibility but also my honor to guide them in this journey and point them to the one who truly gives abundant life. One day they won’t bug me all the time because they will have friends and cell phones and social media or whatever other technology is all the rage then. One day their lives will be filled with influences that are not me, and I will look back on these days of parenting in the trenches and realize that I really was waging war. Only it was not a battle for my sanity, it was a battle for their souls, making the most of every opportunity to pour truth into their lives while I have their undivided attention. What am I doing with my time?

So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them 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. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.”

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

In the Trenches

In the middle of the frustrating, exhausting, mentally-draining noise of my life, God undeniably spoke to me. He could have said anything, but on that day when I was feeling the most stressed and inadequate, my Father gave me just what I needed – encouragement as a mom.

Right now, you may be in your own trenches. It could be the stress of parenting, or a job, or an illness, relationship, whatever. You may feel like there is no quiet to listen to God, but let me tell you, friend, that doesn’t mean you can’t hear from Him. God loves you in the noise, and he will call out to you with just what you need… and just how you need to hear it.

Why I Quit Wearing Make-Up (and you can too)

Selfie with my youngest at Dollywood. What's the point of make-up at Dollywood??

Selfie with my youngest at Dollywood. What’s the point of make-up at Dollywood??

Today I’m posting at Knoxville Moms Blog about why quitting my daily make-up routine was part of my journey to self-love. Click the link below to read the full post!

Okay, before anyone who actually knows me calls me a liar, let me confess that I do, in fact, wear make-up sometimes. I get gussied up to go out with my husband; I try to look nicer-than-usual for church on Sundays; I prepare myself for picture-taking events like birthday parties and holidays. However, most days my face is free and clear of cosmetic enhancement, and while you might think I look tired if you run into me at Walmart, the truth is I probably am tired, and I honestly don’t care. It’s Walmart, after all. If I wanted to impress you I would go to Target. Just kidding. Kinda.

Now, you should know that I am a stay-at-home mom and do not need to look put together or professional or even showered most days, so rocking my “I woke up like this face” all day every day is no biggie for me. I also do not generally enjoy make-up like the creative-type enthusiasts do, so if personal cosmetology is your artistic self-expression, more power to you!

I’m here to share with you 4 reasons why I gave up regularly wearing make-up, and if you’re ready to ditch the habit, you can do it too…

Check out the rest of the post at Knoxville Moms Blog! (It gets good, I promise. :D)

It Takes a Village | Healing in Community

It Takes a Village

photo courtesy of Renee Van Druff, used with permission

You have probably heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” There is profound truth in that statement, and I am extremely thankful both for the village that raised me and the one helping to raise my children. In addition, I’m a firm believer in the statement I often hear from my friends at The Restoration House: “It takes a village to raise a mom.”

To Raise a Mom

When I became a mother, I had very few friends in the same boat. I was 22, had been married just 2 years, and had just started grad school. The few mom-friends that I had meant everything to me. The mall-walking, park dates (even though our kids were too small to play), or just talking about diapers and formula made me feel like a real mom when most days I felt like a kid just babysitting for a reeeeaaalllyyy long time.

I volunteered in the church nursery with experienced moms who shared their wisdom and were candid about their struggles, giving me confidence to parent as best I could. Other moms in my life sought me out and befriended me when I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. They chose to be my friend based on who I am and not just the offspring I happened to produce.

My sister-in-law became a mother just 7 months before I did, only she knew a heck of a lot more than I did. She shared (and shares) the journey with me, and her partnership in this adventure means more to me being a fellow Unthank.

My parents and in-laws watch my kids to give my husband and me the chance to be husband and wife and not just mommy and daddy. The teens and young adults at my church often babysat for us in exchange for lunch or cookies instead of cash.

As my children have grown, their preschool teachers, nursery volunteers, children’s pastors, and various other adults have genuinely loved them and spoiled them beyond reason. And as every parent knows, the way to love me is to love my child well.

I have a diverse, wise, experienced, beautiful, wonderful village raising me as a mom. And I know I wouldn’t be here without them.

Healing in Community

Being a mom isn’t always pretty. There are days when I lose it, and I fail my kids. There are days when I feel like I can’t go on. I’ve learned those are normal, and they will soon pass.

Then there are some hurts that don’t soon pass.

Sometimes you will have seasons of hurt, and you might, like me, feel lost and drowning. You might wonder if this will ever end. You might feel like you will never escape this pit.

You will need your village to come to your rescue.

When I had my first miscarriage last March, I went to my moms group the next day and put a little note in the prayer request box. All it said was, “I had a miscarriage yesterday.” An hour after I left that meeting, I got a text from my small group leader: “What do you like from Chipotle? I’m bringing you dinner.” She didn’t press me to talk or tell me everything would be okay. While she shared my experience of a miscarriage, she didn’t make it about her. She allowed me to grieve and loved me in that moment.

I was at ALDI with all 3 of my kids last June when I got the call that my bloodwork indicated a 2nd miscarriage. I walked out of the store, drove to my husband’s workplace, and the office administrator took my kids to another room and played with them. She didn’t know the situation, but she saw the hurt in my eyes and knew what needed to be done. She dropped everything and gave me almost an hour of time to cry with my husband.

My parents allowed us to bury and create a small memorial for our children in their yard. On occasion I will randomly show up at my mom’s house to visit that site, and she will take the kids so I can be alone.

My mom friends have listened to me cry about everything and nothing; they have forgiven me when I am moody and depressed and not a good friend to them; they have prayed for me when I didn’t ask for it.

My childhood youth pastor – who has always been “my pastor” – takes my calls and lets me visit at the drop of a hat when I am emotional and need a pastor. (Side note: even pastors need pastoral care. Pray for your pastors, and encourage them to have relationships and mentors outside the church. They just need it.) He and his wife have loved me at my absolute most annoying middle school phase, and they lead and encourage me now as a mom, a minister, and human being who just needs love.

My husband… there are no words.

When you face those seasons that don’t seem to end, the hurt that swallows you whole, you will need your village to help you find your way out. There IS a way out, my friend. But we all have to find it for ourselves.

The Messy Job of Clean Up

A few weeks ago I shared how my current pregnancy after a year of losses feels more like wading through storm debris to rebuild that beautiful picture. I may have a “rainbow baby,” but it doesn’t instantly heal the hurt I still feel.

My friend Renee shared the photos of her own home that was destroyed by a tornado 5 years ago and allowed me to use them for my featured image. Her family has a beautiful story of being protected during that storm and of rebuilding a beautiful life afterwards. But as I looked through her pictures, it is clear that an important part of that recovery story is her village.

It took weeks to go through all the debris from Renee’s house, collecting what could be salvaged and clearing out the rest. There were trees blown down that needed to be cut up and removed; the storm scattered their belongings around the neighborhood; there was waist-high construction debris covering all their earthly possessions. Renee’s photots capture all of that – and in most of them, you will see her friends, neighbors, and community members working to get it all done. In order to sort through their mess, Renee’s family needed their village.

In order to sort through your mess, you need your village.

I’m still going through the debris of my 2014 tornado. I have not yet cleared the ground to start reconstruction. There are places where I am still waist-deep in the mess. But I am making progress thanks to my village. Thank you for allowing me to be transparent here, and thank you for loving me through the mess.

I love you. I need you.

5 Ways to Be an Encourager

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So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

We’ve all been there: your friend is going through a breakup, your spouse lost his or her job, your child is feeling defeated… the list could go on forever. We have all been in a situation where someone we care about feels discouraged and turns to us for support. It’s easy to respond with thoughtless quips (“It will all work out in the end!”) or annoying – even hurtful – platitudes (“God has something better!”), but you know those don’t really help. Oftentimes such meaningless chatter can do more harm than good by reinforcing the listener’s feeling that nothing good can come of the situation because our only response is something cheesy.

So, how do we really encourage someone who needs to hear it? This doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but with a little practice and a lot more mindfulness, you can truly be there for your loved ones and encourage them to be their best.

**I will mostly refer to a “friend” in this post, simply for the sake of clarity. The same principles can be used for our spouses, loved ones, co-workers, children, even complete strangers, if you happen to be in that position. I feel it is important for parents, teachers, and those who work with kids to be especially mindful of these tips, as encouraging a child is one of the most important and significant tasks we will ever receive. Don’t think because a child is young that these things don’t matter; if anything they matter more.**

5 Ways to Be an Encourager

1. Listen. No, really listen. Listen to your friend’s words, but also listen to the emotion in her voice, her body language, and look her in the eyes. Don’t formulate your response while she is still talking. When you give another person your full attention, you can encourage her just by reinforcing her value. Her words, feelings, experience… all of that matters and is worthy of your attention. That speaks volumes, and you don’t even have to say anything!

2. Think before you speak. This is one of those obvious truths that will make a huge difference in every area of your life, but it’s honestly really difficult to practice. The good thing about being in a situation to encourage someone is that you will often be given the chance to listen to the other person’s problem before you are expected to say anything. When your friend is finished talking, take a moment to just be present with him. In that quiet moment, assess your gut reaction and ask yourself, will this really benefit my friend, or am I just trying to say something for the sake of saying something? If the latter is true, just stay in that quiet moment. If you need to say something, try to acknowledge the person’s emotions and validate his experience. A simple, “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” or “That was really brave of you to open up” doesn’t require you to say anything profound, but it makes the listener feel safe and valued.

3. Point to what you know is true. When a friend is going through a difficult time, it is easy to get caught up in the “what ifs.” In reality, though, speculation is not productive in terms of emotional healing. Take time to remind your friend of definite truths to fall back on. Reinforce unchanging values, such as the listener’s skills or gifts, or tell her things you admire about her. The unfavorable circumstances of the moment will not change that person’s identity or character.

Even when the problem is an existential struggle for identity, or if you don’t know the person very well, point to the unchanging truth of the Gospel. God is good, he loves us, and all things are under his authority. God created us in his image and sent his Son to redeem us. Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to live. His mercy is unending, and his grace is sufficient to cover all our shortcomings. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even our own sin and rebellion. The truth of Scripture never fails, and while it is important to connect personally with a friend you want to encourage, the Bible should inform everything we say and can stand in the gaps when we don’t know what to say.

4. Be positive. Help your friend see the good things in his life. It is great to look at the “silver lining” of a bad situation, but sometimes this can diminish your friend’s experience or make him feel guilty by suggesting he doesn’t have a right to feel upset. Acknowledge his feelings, but try to ask directed questions that will help him find the silver lining on his own. For example, when my daughter comes home from school upset about being teased, I ask, “Who wasn’t teasing you?” so she is comforted by her true friends. Also, I often ask, “Have you ever heard the kids tease someone else in your class? How do you think you could help, now that you have been through this too?” This recognizes that her pain is real and significant, but it allows her to think outside the doom-and-gloom of right now to see where the situation can help her grow.

A note on being positive: there is a big difference between being optimistic and giving someone false hope. Optimism helps an individual change perspective and see the potential good in an otherwise negative situation. False hope, on the other hand, presents scenarios that may or may not be realistic and gives the listener a “promise” to stand on. It might seem to help in the immediate, but eventually these false hopes could come crashing down, leaving your friend even more depressed than before. Sharing hope with a friend should be hope in the overall good of their life story and the goodness of the Savior despite our circumstances. That’s the difference between building your house on the sand or on the Rock. (See Matthew 7:24-27.)

5. Be authentic. Don’t pretend you have all the answers, because you and your listener both know you don’t. Be honest in saying you don’t know everything, but be genuine in caring for the person in the meantime. You don’t have to fix the situation (in fact, you really shouldn’t!), but you can love your friend right where she’s at. You may be tempted to tell stories of when you or someone you know went through similar circumstances, and things worked out great in the end. This can be helpful occasionally, but be aware that often stories are just a distraction. Remember that the situation at hand is about your friend, not you. Anecdotes can be useful tools, but only when used sparingly and when they ultimately point back to the person in front of you.

Bonus! PRAY. I don’t mean just saying, “I’ll pray for you,” or “you’ll be in my prayers.” I mean stop what you are doing right then and there and pray for your friend/child/loved one. You don’t have to say anything fancy or special or impressive. Go on and pray it up if that’s your strength, but if that’s not you, keep it simple: “God, you see my friend is hurting, and I know that hurts you too. Help her to find you in the midst of this struggle. Please bring peace and comfort. Amen.” See? That was easy. And you just proved yourself good on your word to pray. Now your friend knows she can count on you to really pray for her when you say you will. Again, it doesn’t have to be elaborate if you’re still growing in your faith, but be real and don’t be afraid. Your friend is being vulnerable in sharing with you, so you can be vulnerable by letting her hear you pray.

I hope these tips have helped you as you seek to encourage the people around you. The more you put these into practice, the more your loved ones will trust you and want to open up. That might make you nervous, but consider what an incredible opportunity that is to speak truth and love into their lives! We are all a work in progress; I ended up preaching to myself on some of these! What would you add to the list? Give your feedback in the comments!

Love! MB

Check out these other great posts on how to encourage our loved ones!
10 Things a Hurting Husband Needs from His Wife
Top Ten Things I Tell Myself
Scriptures for the Brokenhearted
Encouraging Words – Positive Parenting
5 Ways to Help Your Child Deal With Rejection