My "Unedited" Journal

The response to my blog series, Ages and Stages, as well as the urging of several employees at my husband's job, has convinced me to go ahead and begin the journey of writing Ages and Stages: The Book. 

As I write, I'll share with you excerpts, thoughts, and difficulties in writing about my personal journey of parenting that is in its 24th year. Feel free to scroll through my journal below.

If you are unfamiliar with this blog series, I invite you to read the five-part series here: Ages and Stages: Full Post Series

Thanks for visiting and sharing this blog with friends. I hope that on each visit, you'll find some thought that will refresh your soul. 


My Unedited Journal: Writing The Book

February 2016

My how time flies when you are raising kids.
It's been awhile since I've used my online journal. Here is a snippet of what my big family life has been like:
-Basketball Season. My husband coaches our 16 year old son's home school team and my oldest daughter coaches the girl's team. Our 16 year old son also plays for a private school. We've been informed that he is so talented that he could play college ball if he desired.

-Each of my daughters totaled a vehicle within 9 days of each other. Yeppers.

-We shoveled 38 inches of snow in two days--a big deal when you live in the South.

-We bought a helium Mario balloon for our youngest son's 4th birthday. The string got caught and he's been floating right below our ~19 foot great room ceiling for more than two months. 

Tonight's event is pivotal. Our oldest son brings home a young lady for us to meet. My daughters already know her. 

For many of you this is no big deal. Your kids did this at 13 or 17. But since our kids actually took our advice to wait to date until they are emotionally and mentally ready for the challenges of a serious relationship that could lead to marriage, this night is a big deal. 

The other kids will be watching my husband and I. They'll think about when it's their turn. Are we going to say something stupid? Off-putting? Tell an embarrassing question? Ask too many questions?

This is new ground or rather a new season for us as parents.
They'll be here in ten minutes. Drum roll please.

October 2015

I find that writing sections of this book often comes from what I am experiencing within my own life or my family's life at the moment. Lately, I'm reflecting on the journey of adolescence.  Here are three sections of what may become two different chapters in my book.

Raise your hand if you loved adolescence. I bet if I could see through my laptop, I would not see any hands raised. The teenage years are difficult and the way our world is wired doesn't help. Contemporary culture for the teenager is a landfill of pop entertainment, verbal, fashion and hair trends, the latest social media interaction, entitlement and often escapism. The adolescent is caught between their childish nature and a rapidly maturing brain and body, as well as the volley between autonomy and group think. The professionals have taught us to expect teens to be mindless followers and slaves to their hormones; by and large we've lowered the bar for acceptable teen behavior because of these experts. 
We often tell our kids not to live life based on the excuse "but everyone else is doing it". But how often do we fall into the same trap? Excusing behavior or decisions in favor of cultural group think can undermine the biblical principles that we once said we'd live by. Whose foundation do we really stand on? God's or man's? Learning to love well is learning how to say, no and teach our children to do the same. Setting limits and boundaries is healthy for all of us.
Raising our teens can seem like an “us versus them” battle. It shouldn’t be. It should be a “we” journey. One of the most memorable things my mom said to me was, “Tina, you have to remember that you are my first, I’ve never done this before.”For the first time I saw my mom as a human being, not just as “mom”. It changed my attitude and reactions towards her forever.Teens just need perspective. The Bible will give it to them.

I'm grateful for my friends who have agreed to read over these chapters as I write them. Parenting teenagers well is so critical in today's society.
There are so many voices.
Often what they hear is who they become. 

September 2015

For awhile, I've been praying about whether to publish this book as an Indie author or whether to go through the painstaking task of finding a publisher. Last week I made my decision.

As my little boys were playing on the computers at the library, I found an dusty and crumpled library newsletter. An article on modern parenting caught my attention.

The article featured summaries of popular parenting theories, articles and experts. I found it quite eye-opening. Was I the classic helicopter parent or was I too lenient and permissive? I found this question unfortunate. As a woman that diffuses labeling and stereotyping whether it's decrying that all conservative African-Americans are "Uncle Tom's" or whether it's denouncing the perception that all home educated kids are socially inept, I concluded that these parent labels must have been coined by experts who don't realize that there are times when parents need to be helicopters and times when we need to be lenient. Sure, perhaps our individual personalities carry a certain bent, but if we learn how to parent according to scripture and according to our developing revelation of God as a father, then we will realize that parenting is less about how we orchestrate our children's lives and more about how well we allow a wise and adoring God to shape and mold us as His children.

My book takes a different spin on a the popular topic of parenting. I think it would be best to find a publisher who would like to target a larger niche than just parents who are searching for a list of how-to's that works for their particular situation. My book will be helpful for parents, guardians and caregivers who realize that parenting is more about how they themselves yield to the process of personal maturity versus how well their children yield to their authority. The latter is key but will come more easily to the parent who earnestly seeks to model God the Father, revealed by his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to be adoring, faithful, wise and gracious and so much more.

Here is a version of the Introduction to Ages and Stages: The Book:

Child-rearing bears fruit although most parents find that the ripening takes years to happen. I've found that it takes more than steady and attentive training. Parents themselves must remain open to the necessary pruning and grafting that the Christian life brings. A humble parent who is yielded to the molding hand of God will do more to assist their children's development than any lecture, form of discipline or parenting book. 
My hope is to cause a segment of today’s American population to pause and reflect on their families of origin, consider the parenting of God described in this book through numerous stories and scriptures, and decide to be the cycle-changers and blessing-givers of their families. I hope that many parents will realize that parenting is more about how they grow and mature versus how their children grow and mature.  
We somehow learn as we go, or as this book will reveal, we learn as we grow. We find our way as we learn to follow the Way, Jesus Christ. Therefore this book will have a minimum of practical advice and how-to’s and major on what I've learned about God as a parent and what my six children have helped me discover about life. Part self-help, part Christian living and part parenting, I hope that each chapter will give readers a take away that will be encouraging and thought-provoking.
I will highlight how being a parent has changed me and given me life without becoming my identity. Inspired by my multi-part blog series – Ages and Stages. I will share how finally, at age forty-five, I’ve learned how to see God the Creator of all, in the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Son: the role of Father. This is where the how-to's of parenting begins.

August 2015

Son is eating a cheese stick and wipes hands on couch. Dad reminds him that he should be using a napkin. Mom, sitting in an adjacent room, asks him where he should be eating.
“Wherever I want.” the boys mutters as he walks around the room.
Dad: “What?”
Mom looks up from the computer. “Did he say what I think he just said?”
Dad nods.
Mom gets up and calls for the boy to come to her: “Son, the words you used are called defiant. It means that you think your way is better than Mom and Daddy. You are a good boy so you don’t want to give answers that are not good.”

Son shuffles around in front of her and keeps eating.
“What should I say?” he asks.
“Tell me the right answer. You know what the right answer is.”
“What if I want to say the same thing?”
Mom: “That is not the right answer. I don’t want you to play around right now.”
Dad: “Yes, this isn’t funny. Stop playing and give your mom the right answer.”
Son: “On the roof!”
Every parent and caregiver has dealt with this startling production of the human will. It’s the classic “I’m standing up on the inside” story. What is a parent to do?
Well, this was a real instance in our house one day and I was trying hard to keep from laughing. Honestly, the “on the roof” answer really was hilarious. Maybe I could have laughed, but with my very intelligent five year old, I want to nip this little attitude flower in the bud.
After 23 years of parenting I’ve learned not to take any one situation too seriously. Training is the culmination of many of these types of episodes. I used to get frustrated when my children deliberately misbehaved. Now I expect it.
June 23, 2015

It's been awhile. My house renovation is over. My second child graduated from college Summa Cum Laude. My five year old thinks he's fifteen and my youngest daughter gets her driver's license on Friday. Yeah! But.....

I have a friend who is fighting for her life. We are fighting for her life. She has six kids also....
My heart aches for their daily suffering but my faith rests in my Heavenly Daddy's power.

I didn't sleep well last night. My soul is yearning and my mind is stretching upwards to see and hear what the Father is doing and saying in so many situations on this topsy-turvy planet of His. The shootings in Charleston happened a week ago tomorrow.

Perspective. My lenses have been adjusted quite a few times in the last 90 days. Life is precious, worth fighting for and I realize that while we have breath, we must fasten ourselves to God's priorities for our lives. Biblical faith and family are His agenda. One guarantees a foundation that cannot be shaken, no matter what storm, what disease, or what murdering spree attacks our communities. The other is the building block of healthy communities, and in turn, a life-giving society. Death's defeat was secured by Jesus upon His resurrection, but yet, we see death's dance in the daily news over and over again.

Perspective. Whether we are in the last days according to Christian history or not, we need to have our faces set against ideologies and systems that seek to undermine individual faith and the jurisdiction of the family. 

My five year old son hasn't grasped his immaturity because his brilliant mind somehow comprehends the adult conversations that happen in his presence. Just yesterday he explained to my husband the definition of "figure of speech". So much for using idioms and coded language around him. In our perspective, he is a little boy. However, his perspective takes him beyond the evident, the natural, the societal tradition of exclusion for children. He is a little boy who operates in the security of relationship and acceptance to the extent that he has no expectation of being left out of mature dialogue. Perspective.

We need divine perspective these days. We need to see all life as valuable no matter the quality, the race, or the age. We need to yield our rational minds and live in the abandonment of child-like faith. We need to look up, beyond the disarray of this human experience and set our eyes on a kingdom that has no end, a kingdom whose ways transcend natural comprehension.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

March 1, 2015

What really matters?

Recently, while driving to an appointment, one of my older kids and I were discussing the roots of anger. The crux of our discussion centered on household pet peeves. The “little things” that people did or didn’t do in regards to our house “rules” had formed a mountain of angst that had begun to affect my child’s demeanor and tone of voice.

After asking some open-ended questions and listening to the answers, I remembered a phrase that had helped me overcome my own frequent bouts of frustration and aggravation.

Why does it matter?

Years ago I’d realized that I too was majoring on the little things when it came to house “rules” and this focus was affecting my peace and more importantly my relationships with various members of my family. 

Why did it really matter if someone left their towel on the floor again?
Why did it really matter if someone forgot to do a chore, spilled milk again, or put the carton of juice back in the refrigerator when it only had an ounce left?

In the grand scheme of things, these pet peeves were….petty.

I explained to this child that my angst had to do with inconvenience. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by another person’s lack of attentiveness to our house “rules”.

But life happens and inconveniences will never go away.

Life isn’t fair and frankly, as a teenager I learned that the idea of fairness is an allusion.

I explained to my child that what began to matter more than the inconvenient habits of family members was my relationship with those same family members.

I was responsible for my attitude towards them just as Jesus is responsible for his attitude towards the law-breaker. The Bible says that Jesus did not come to condemn them, but to invite them into empowering and life-giving relationship with Him.

I shared that the more I focused on God’s love for me, the more I cared about the little things that I did that hindered my relationship with Him. No matter what I did, big or little, God never withdrew from me. It’s like in the Garden of Eden. Although Adam hid in his sin, God the Father came to find him.  God always pursues us even when we break His house “rules”.

So now, no matter what infringement to the orderliness of the household, no matter how many times someone forgets the “simple” requests that I make, no matter how many times they leave their bedroom light on all day, I make sure that any quick frustration that comes up is dissipated by my desire to keep peace and harmony flowing between me and the offender. This doesn’t mean that the offender doesn’t get a consequence. For example, I have a mason jar in which my kids have to put a dollar if I find their bedroom light on for more than 30 minutes when they are sitting somewhere else in the house. With a big family, our electric bill can get sky high! This has proven to be a successful deterrent. I am no longer angry or aggravated when I address the particular child. I simply remind them of the consequence.

When the cup of water spills on the table for the second day in a row due to a younger child’s carelessness, I take a breath, remember their age, and remind myself that I am still training them to be aware and careful. The inconvenient timing of the spill should not determine my demeanor and interaction with them. With every infraction, I want to model God, who continues to pursue our hearts with kindness, even when consequences (like giving them a paper towel and showing them how to wipe up their mess) must be meted out.

Peter denied Jesus three times. Yet Jesus pursued Peter in his shame not to accuse him or berate him, but to affirm and reestablish him as his disciple. Maintaining relationship is what matters to Jesus.

February 5, 2015

Possible Chapter Title: "Don't Stir Love Before The Time"

I've been working on this chapter all day! The title is based on the scripture from Song of Solomon 8:4. Here is an excerpt of my work today:

Matters of sexuality, romance, and sensuality have been a bit tough to cover with my kids and I don’t know about my husband, but I’ve unfortunately stifled my role in their understanding of these areas simply due to discomfort. I told them about the excellent and thorough ministry, Moral Revelation to make sure they had access to subtopics that I didn’t cover. We have engaged in discussions about why God doesn’t like our culture to be as sexually stimulated as it is, the Bible’s basis for heterosexuality, and how the covenant of marriage is the only permissible time to express one’s sexual nature. But there is so much more!

Some of you reading have been more comfortable talking about these various topics and subtopics with your children face to face. I wish I could be like you. I don’t write this book as an expert or perfect person but as a woman who has realized her imperfected areas through being a mom. As some of my children have reached adulthood, I do feel more comfortable in certain discussions if they come up. Additionally, the politicizing of certain social issues in our nation certainly brings instant discussion topics at the dinner table.

Of course, as our children get older, it’s normal for these topics to come up with their friends. What teens don’t talk about sex at some point? In our home schooling community, it’s easy to assume that everyone has the same Bible-based views, and while there is a degree of truth and security in this assumption, I still want my kids to know that their maturing peers aren’t experts yet. 

Mind you, the best model and teaching for our kids is the marriage relationship. Not that I recommend advertising your bedroom business to your kids! But Doug and I have grown to be more comfortable being physically expressive in front of them. It is always funny to watch them squirm or roll their eyes when we hold on to a kiss for a few seconds.

Also, our oldest four children were 9-17 years old when we were actively trying to conceive two more children. So….

Human sexual health is as normal and important as physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and our kids need to grow up understanding that. But marriage is the boundary line. God said it is best this way.

And it is!

Song of Solomon 8:4 (Amplified) I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you never [again attempt to] stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

John 17:14 (NKJV)  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 

January 28, 2015

Each of my siblings is successful in their chosen fields, but their success doesn't stop there. They are great parents too.

Most parents want to provide their children the best environment in which to grow and to learn. Each family must determine for themselves what that looks like. It doesn't matter whether the education is private, public or home-based. It doesn't even matter whether the setting is urban, suburban or rural. What matters is having two parents that are devoted to instilling God's love and principles into their children at a young age. We cannot just be concerned whether our kids are "good" people. Goodness can be relative in our culture. Good compared to whom? We cannot just be concerned whether our children are law-abiding citizens, respectful of their neighbors and compassionate towards the downtrodden soul. Those items are necessary, but not the end.

As we grew up, my siblings and I learned that there is one standard by which to compare our "goodness". Knowing that we would always fall short helped us understand our humanity. Embracing God's gift of salvation procured to us the "straight and narrow" way on which we'd build our lives and understand our destinies. 

Another generation of men and women follow us--our children. They are the future stewards of God's world. How they think and reason, what they believe about themselves and their potential, and most importantly, who they worship will depend on not the voices that they hear, but the voices that they listen to. There are many voices speaking to our kids besides our own.

Will they understand that loving people doesn't mean agreeing with their actions? Will they know that God has a standard that cultural relativism doesn't understand? Will they model Jesus who was the lover of the unlovable, master reformer, qualifier of the subjugated, and voice who spoke honestly about any cultural, political or religious system that opposed His Father's standard?

God, as your child on earth, I am your representative. I want your will to be in the life of my family and through our generations. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

John 3:16-21 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Jan 19, 2015

I haven't worked on Ages and Stages: The Book for  a week. Life sometimes interrupts our goals and that's okay. It has to be.

My lesson for this week has been how to walk with my children through shock and grief concerning a situation that effects someone we know. 
How often to I check up on my 23 year old versus my 15 year old?
How much do I share with them?

How long should legitimate anger last?
Should I be alarmed if my kids seem to be "okay"? Is it a facade?

The 5 and 3 year old are clueless. In time, it will be time to talk to them on their level.

Doug and I have learned a lot over the years through tremendous Christian books, many of which can be found under the tab: Recommended Reading. We are using some of this knowledge, allowing ourselves to be emotionally present with them--as we ourselves are processing also, and praying a lot. 

Often when life's "unexplainables" strike, one individual in the family can try to shoulder the burden and suffering of everyone who becomes effected by the undesirable situation. This isn't healthy. While it's been helpful for my husband and I to hold each other's hands as we watch this situation unfold, we know that at sometime we may need to talk to someone in our church or in the professional counseling community. Just to vent. And just to listen to someone on the outside.

Until then, this is the scripture that has ministered to me this week: 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.

January 12, 2015

I held back my tears pretty well despite the emotion that was heavy in the car as I drove my 20 year old son, Christopher, back to college for his last semester. 

The eight of us had such a great time these last four weeks. As a family, we've learned to be more real with each other, letting our truest selves be known without apology. During one of his last nights, we shared our prayer requests, our dreams, and our challenges and then we prayed together which was the icing on the cake. This time lasted almost four hours! It was grand.

It doesn't matter that he's an adult who has found autonomy in a healthy way. It doesn't even matter that I'll see him in less than sixty days. Love is love. It feels. It gushes. It doesn't run dry.

My memories of his life tap on my heart and make me sigh. God's banqueting table of goodness is before him and although we pray for him, it's up to him to hear God's voice and discern his next stage.

Sometimes growing older is hard as a parent. 

Right now, the last chapter of the book will be called; "Road Into the Unknown: Parenting Adults". This unknown road is raw to me right now. My oldest three kids are ages eighteen to twenty-three. The topics of job searches, launching creative pursuits, and of course, finding that special someone are regular. Christina is learning about life after college. She's an extremely talented singer/musician and I look forward to seeing her take off and fly. Just working a job to pay the bills doesn't quite cut it when her heart longs to be fulfilled. Chris is grateful to be praying about some potential jobs. After all, graduation is four months away. Maria, whose photographs permeate this blog, is making plans to take photography to the next level. Not only that, but her musical dreams will not be denied. In another ten years and after my name becomes Grandma, I have a feeling I'll be writing Ages and Stages: Book Two

Chris wrote a wonderful blog post which I featured last November. I'm going to share it again. Here's a nugget:

"To the outside, I was the poster child of success but my academic achievement had done nothing to address my deep-seated insecurities. I felt like a hypocrite because I was a Christian that struggled with addiction and couldn’t beat it with willpower (all you perfectionists know how much that sucks). I knew facts about God but I couldn’t have told you who He was to me....God was distant, my athletic goals had gone up in flames, and when it came to the area of relationships it seemed the universe was conspiring against me. But God had a plan."

That's my boy. And I love being his momma.

January 8, 2015

As I was flipping pancakes a few minutes ago on this frigid January morning, I was thinking about a section that I wrote in Ages and Stages: The Book a few days ago. This chapter focuses on the “hearth” of the home, as penned in much of the British Literature that I’ve read, and the symbolism behind “the hearth”.

So far I’ve written about three areas that the hearth represents: provision, togetherness and safety. I’m sure other areas will come to mind as winter strolls by.

This morning, I decided to cook a warm pancake breakfast for my travelers, to warm their bellies and hearts – a few chocolate chips in the mix never hurt – before going into the cold, seven degree world.

Isn’t this the beauty of the home?

A place where a person feels safe, nourished both physically and emotionally, and equipped to deal with the rigors of a sometimes cold world.

It should be.

January 5, 2015

-1st draft from an untitled chapter, excerpt

"We all need to feel safe enough to be ourselves, not fearing being disregarded, shut down, or denied our originality. Comparing ourselves to others impairs our emotional well-being and depreciates our unique destiny. Therefore, as parents, we should never compare our kids to one another in a way that makes them perceive that their distinctiveness is unimportant or less than ideal. One consequence is an unhealthy level of competition between siblings that can be carried into their adult lives."

January 2, 2015

Well, I'm finally here. Deciding to risk time, energy, emotion and who knows how many other things in order to write a book that I'm a bit timid about writing right now. 

Child-rearing is fruitful although most parents find that the ripening takes years to happen. Personal growth on the other hand, produces fruit as long as a person remains open to the necessary pruning and grafting that life in God brings.

Writing this book will highlight my pruning and grafting as a parent. Oh dear.

So at this point, I've decided to let this adventure be personal, albeit somewhat difficult and quite thought-provoking. I'm not going to write a book about child-rearing per se. I'll leave this somewhat controversial subject for the so-called experts.

This book won't unveil family secrets or embarrass any member of my family.No, this book will be a type of soliloquy for me, highlighting how being a parent has changed me, grown me and given me life without becoming my identity.

I will share with my readers how with six children from ages 3 to 23, I've learned how to study and then relate to God, in the way the He has chosen to reveal Himself through His son: the role of father.