First Ask Why: A Book Review

Parenting books are plentiful, it’s true, and trying to fit your family into the mold of what others have done is impossible. So it’s refreshing to read a parenting book that gives you the freedom to be your own family while still suggesting principles that will help point your children to Jesus.

First Ask Why coverIn this her first book, Shelly Wildman encourages parents to engage in intentional discipleship, positioning your kids to follow Jesus as they grow in independence. By asking why we do the things we do, we’re taking a closer look at our efforts as a family.

The message that spoke the most to me was near the end. In a chapter titled “Strengthening our Ties,” Shelly confronts something that families these days don’t want to hear: We’re too busy.  She says, “Driven by today’s American culture, parents often believe that if their kids don’t play sports or aren’t involved in some other activity outside the home, then their lives won’t be successful. But that argument plays on parents’ fears and emotions. We can’t fear being a little countercultural when it comes to protecting time together as a family, because that time together makes us stronger.”

I confess to feeling that fear. College applications and having a resumé filled with accomplishments drive us to over scheduling our families so that we teeter on the very brink of burnout and exhaustion. What are our kids learning from this?

That performance matters. That who they are will forever be tied to the things that they do.

My 9th grade daughter is concerned by the fact that she doesn’t have any activities to add to her resumé. She’s in virtual school (meaning she does all her classes remotely on a computer), so obviously extra curricular activities are not as easy to engage in.

But more important to me than the status of her resumé is the status of her heart. Have we made an intentional effort over the 15 years of her life to point her to Jesus?

Prayer, service, cross-cultural experiences, family memories. All of these and more are areas in which Wildman encourages parents to disciple their kids. When asked what makes her book different from other parenting books, Wildman answers:

“So many parenting books are ‘how-to’ books. They seem to say, ‘Just follow these 10 steps first ask why memeand here’s what you’ll get in the end.’ But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

“Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

“Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

“Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.”

First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship is available now for preorder on Amazon, CBD.com and Barnes and Noble.

Web_Shelly-2Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

 

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A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging—a book review and a giveaway!

Place to Land coverI’m a California girl, but I have lived in Florida for nearly 27 years. My parents are both gone now, and much of my extended family doesn’t live in the state anymore, but I will always consider California “home.”

There’s something about the place of our birth that binds us. It might be just a piece of land, but it holds a piece of our heart. But if that “place” no longer contains the people who meant so much, where do we find “home?”

I worked with an international missions organization for more than 30 years. People came from all over the United States to work at the headquarters. Along the way, many moved overseas to tell people about Jesus. Early on, my husband and I opened our home on holidays to friends who had no family nearby. To this day, we crowd our home with those who fit that category.

In Kate Motaung’s memoir, A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging (now available for order from Amazon), she wrestles with the question of home as she lives cross-culturally in South Africa and loses her mom to cancer while she’s overseas. (This is not technically a spoiler as it’s revealed in the very beginning of the book.)

Kate writes with candor about her home life, her parents’ divorce and her father’s remarriage. About forgiveness, about sin, about grief. And about home. Must we be all or nothing to the place we live? Does it matter where we live? If God has called us to service in one place, but all that we love is in another, do we lose? Or do we gain more than we can ever even see?Place to Land

In describing her feelings following her parents’ divorce, Kate writes, “One day, . . . Mom whisked Sarah and me off for a weekend away. When we got back, Dad was gone. The next afternoon, when I came home from school, he was still gone. And the day after that. And the day after that. Every morning that followed, for months, when Mom dropped me off in my second grade classroom, I went straight to the coat closet, tucked myself inside, and cried. Terrified that one day I would get home from school, and, like my dad, Mom would be gone too.”

Your heart will be captured when Kate expresses what losing her mom felt like. You will walk in her shoes as she eloquently describes landing on the foreign soil of South Africa. You will smile as she reveals how she felt when first meeting her husband, Kagiso. And you will weep with her as she lets go of her mom.

Turns out, “home” means much more than a location, and “A Place to Land” captures that truth in a story that you will not want to put down until you’re done.

A-Place-to-Land_3I will be giving away a copy of A Place to Land on April 6th. To enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment about what “home” looks like to you and why you would like to read this special book. I will pick a random winner on April 6th. Don’t miss a chance to be challenged and changed by this beautiful book.

Meanwhile, visit Kate Motaung’s author page here. You can also read the first chapter for free here.

 

 

Sweet Surprise

secret_surprise_2For my 30th birthday, my husband threw me a surprise party. We went out to dinner and were just planning on going home and hanging out. This was before we had kids, just 9 months after we had gotten married and 4 months after we had moved to Florida from my home state of California. Needless to say, my stress level was very high, even though some of those events were good ones. Like the getting married part.

When we got to our apartment, I was met with a sweet group of friends all gathered to celebrate my day. It was truly a surprise, which is often hard to pull off, and a lovely reminder of how much I am loved.

Those kinds of surprises are great. Others, not so much. Like when your favored team loses to a major underdog in the surprise performance of the century (looking at you Virginia). I don’t like those kinds of surprises.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book back in 1955 titled Surprised by Joy, which tells the story of his conversion to Christianity. Although he says it’s much less a chronology of events than it is a look at his life as only C.S. Lewis can tell it.

Surprise. Something unexpected.

I remember when my kids were little and I wanted them to keep a secret about secretsomething, like a gift for someone, I would tell them it was going to be a surprise rather than a secret, because I wanted to ensure that they didn’t keep secrets. I knew the stories of abuse that have happened with a relative who would tell a vulnerable child that this behavior would be their secret. They weren’t ever to keep secrets from us.

But surprises are meant to be fun. I like to think of them as good. I think that’s what Lewis found as he came up with the name for his book. He was an atheist. He didn’t know what he would find when he turned back to God. Joy was unexpected.

In some cases, we may wonder why we are surprised at the things God does. We ask Him joyto provide, and He does it. Sometimes it’s not in the way we expect, so we can call that a surprise, but not the fact that He does it.

It’s not the same as being startled.

It’s different than being shocked.

Some people don’t like surprises, and if I had to guess, I would say that it’s because it takes a modicum of control away from them. Just tell me what’s going to happen already. I want to know what to expect.

But that’s where trust comes in.

I’m not in charge, and if I allow myself to be surprised, I might just be blessed by a God who wants to give me all good things.

Like C.S. Lewis and joy.

 

images from tonnerdoll.com; nameberry.com; crosswalk.com

Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind—a book review and a giveaway!

IMG_9112You often hear the saying, “Parenting isn’t for cowards.” Oh, how true that statement is. Even if your kids aren’t running off the rails, there are challenges and fears and missteps all along the way.

As kids approach adulthood and get ready to leave our little nests, the anxiety can ramp up even more. Did we teach them all they need to know to survive? What if they never want to come visit? How will I know that they are still making good decisions?

The truth is, we can’t know all the answers to those kinds of questions, but we can trust that God has our kids in the palm of His hand, no matter what direction they may presently be going.

After reading Brenda Yoder’s Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, I am reminded that all along this journey of parenthood, I am not alone.

Writing mostly to women, Yoder, who is a licensed mental health counselor, addresses the big issues we face as we prepare our kids for independent life: Mom grief (which is most definitely a real thing), building family ties, setting boundaries, self-care, marriage during the fledging years, among many others. I found myself with a crick in my neck from all the nodding I was doing in response to what I read.

One such nod-inducer was this statement: “Being a mom is something you do; it’s not IMG_9113who you are. When you accept this, you’ll be more peaceful, confident, and free as each child walks out the door.”

Yes!

So many of us moms have centered our lives around our children, that we have no idea who we are apart from them. But the natural order of things is for our kids to move out and move on. And when we are so wrapped up in trying to make sure our kids turn out just the way we want them to, their mistakes can shake us to our core.

Yoder says, “Your children’s struggles can paralyze you if you let them define your faith, your family, or your parenting. It’s not accurate to define yourself by the choices your kids make.”

How freeing is that? Our job is to follow hard after Jesus. What our kids decide about their own faith is theirs alone. We influence, we guide, we counsel, but someone once said that parents take too much credit when their kids succeed, and have too much guilt when they fail. Yoder says, “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not your responsibility to raise godly kids. It’s your responsibility to be a godly parent.”

IMG_9114In many ways, our clinging to our kids can be a detriment to them. Yoder says, “Our children need permission to say no to our expectations so they can say yes to God’s gifts and callings.”

Filled with much more godly wisdom and counsel, Fledge is an excellent book for anyone facing or in the midst of the empty-nest years. There is such joy we can find in these years if we lean into the Lord and trust Him with our kids.

You can preorder Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind” on Amazon before the March 16th release date by clicking here.

Consider joining the Fledge Parent Forum on Facebook as well by clicking here. A community of people in the same season is a great encouragement!

Enter a chance to win!

Leave a comment about why you need this book for a chance to win a free copy of Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. One winner will be chosen on March 15.

 

*disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Most people—and I’m guessing given how things are in the world—think respect has to be earned. You don’t like your boss because he’s a bad leader, so you don’t respect him. Which then leads you to bad mouth him to others.

Maybe you had horrible parents who had no idea what they were doing and didn’t care to learn. You didn’t respect them. They did nothing to earn your respect. So you lashed out at every opportunity.

Perhaps you have a husband who really doesn’t seem to care about your needs. He doesn’t show you love. You don’t respect him at all, and he pretty much knows it.

IMG_5810The truth is, though, that we are called to give people respect whether they deserve it or not. Not matter who they are, no matter what they have or haven’t done, no matter if they agree with us or not.

People are image bearers of God, and we are to be respectful of them.

What does respectful behavior look like?

It looks like listening and finding out people’s stories before drawing a conclusion about them.

It looks like looking people in the eye when you pass them on the street or encounter them anywhere you happen to be.

It looks like remembering someone’s name because it shows you see them.

There has been a lot of hullaballoo about respect in light of the NFL players protest during the National Anthem. Many have said that’s disrespectful. In fact, some have been absolutely vitriolic in their condemnation of such actions.

But those who have taken the time to listen to some of the stories can understand the some-nfl-players-continue-to-kneel-during-anthem-2-22805-1506885762-7_dblbigfrustration that is felt by some of these men.

And really, if you’re not in the military, you can’t speak for those who are. I have a friend whose husband is in the military, and he didn’t feel disrespected by those actions. Others have.

I remember an incident that happened several years ago at the school where I worked. I was encouraging the daughter of a friend to tease her dad about making her late for school because of his struggle getting out the door on time. In my household, that would have been OK. But her mom called me later and told me that in their household, her daughter speaking to her father in that manner would be considered disrespectful. I got that. And I apologized. I can’t expect every family to interact the way my family does.

IMG_6772In the same way, not everyone would find certain actions disrespectful. Some would feel any variance from the strict code regarding the flag would be disrespectful. You don’t wear the flag as clothing. You don’t let it touch the ground, and so on. But they would understand that some people have been disrespected by the authorities in their country, and though they love their country, they want things to change.

You don’t slam another person’s religion.

You don’t criticize how another person raises their kids.

You don’t presume that every homeless person is an addict.

Being respectful means being mindful that every person deserves dignity just because they’re a person.

And people come before institutions.

Anonymous No More

I’m a fan of the new TV show “This is Us.” Week after week I watch this family make choices, both good and bad, and love each other through it all.

kevinIf you’re a fan but are behind on watching, I’ll warn you right now that there is a mini spoiler in here. I’ll give you time to look away.

OK, so Kevin is in rehab and it’s family day. Everyone gathers and they sit together in a room with the therapist and Kevin starts talking.

One thing that struck me that he said was “We’re a family of addicts.” Which of course didn’t go over well with his family. Much more was said in that room that wasn’t very pretty, but Kevin was right. Only no one wanted to face it.

An addiction is defined by dictionary.com as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming.” To end an addiction is traumatizing. Some would say “once an addict, always an addict.” You can never be completely free. But you can overcome it.

Baseball player Josh Hamilton battled drug and alcohol addiction and it almost ruined his career, not to mention his life. He got clean and sober and went back to baseball and was successful. Several years later, he confessed to having relapsed into cocaine and alcohol use. He was disappointed in himself, but he was aware that this would always be a struggle for him.

That’s the thing about addictions, especially when they involve chemical substances thatalcohol affect your brain. You can’t overcome them on your own.

My father was an alcoholic. It’s not something we ever talked about in our home. But when he fell down the stairs and suffered a cracked skull, he started going through withdrawal that at first the doctors didn’t diagnose. They thought he might be having a seizure or something else. When it became clear that it was alcohol withdrawal, we couldn’t really deny it anymore.

But still we don’t talk about it. Even when he almost turned into oncoming traffic on a busy thoroughfare just days before my wedding. I made him pull over and let me drive so I wouldn’t die before I got married.

My dad went to a couple of AA meetings, but then he decided he could beat his problem on his own. It didn’t work. He died of a heart attack 11 years ago, undoubtedly related to the strain he had put on his body for all those years.

The actions of addicts affect everyone around them. Be it alcohol, drugs, sex, or technology, addictions break relationships. An addict needs the help of others to overcome their addictions.

I watched a bizarre documentary recently about animal addictions in Great Britain. (Watch “41 Dogs in My Home” on Netflix.) To a person, none of them would admit they dog hoardingmight have a problem. One woman had 41 dogs. 41! Another man had 60 exotic animals. A woman had cats that couldn’t even be counted. Each one of them said they just loved the animals and couldn’t ever contemplate giving any of them away.

Relationships were lost (the man with the 60 exotic animals had been married at least twice) or severely strained. Finances were always a concern. Houses were a mess.

Yet they couldn’t see it.

We know a man who recently confessed to years and years of a well-hidden addiction. We were shocked. We had no idea. The effort it took to put on that façade must have been exhausting. He and his wife are now separated and he is absent from important family events. I’m praying restoration can happen. It’s heartbreaking. But he’s certainly not alone.

In “This is Us,” Kevin is going to need his family to listen to him, to support him and to help him beat this thing. I hope they’re willing to listen and to talk about it.

It’s not just a cliché; it really does first take admitting that you have a problem, not just being found out. If your heart doesn’t change, neither will your actions.

 

 

images from: usmagazine.com; bradfordhealth.com; viralnova.com

Wait For It

I tried an exercise recently that involved writing every day on a random subject for 12 minutes. I called it my Daily Dozen. I asked my Facebook friends to give me a one-word prompt that I would use, in the order I received them. I was overwhelmed with 88 responses.

IMG_5878So I spent nearly 3 months writing every day. I loved the process as it really stretched me to talk about words as diverse as “abide” and “zombies,” from “chihuahuas” to “cats.” It was amazing to me how often the word for the day aligned with the calendar. As my 3 months of daily posts came to an end at the beginning of January, it was very appropriate that the word would be “waiting.”

We had been waiting for our first grandchild to be born. And wouldn’t you know it, he was a week late.

We don’t like waiting for things.

Waiting to hear news of whether our kid got into the college of their choice.

Waiting for tests results from a biopsy.

Waiting for a job.

Waiting for God to provide a spouse.

Waiting can cause unease and anxiety. Especially when we’re not sure what the outcome will be. Our minds usually go to the worst-case scenario. It’s easy for us to jump to conclusions and then let worry take over.

But worry gets us nowhere.

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint” (Is. 40:31).

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14).

It seems that if the Bible encourages us to wait, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing. We’re not used to delayed gratification. We have microwaves and Instapots and Amazon Now. We want things when we want them.

But God doesn’t work that way.

Micah 7:7 says, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my FullSizeRender 2salvation; my God will hear me.”

I haven’t come across any Scripture that encourages us to be impatient. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit includes patience.

Whaaat?

Amazing, isn’t it?

There must be something to that. God would not promote it if He didn’t consider it a good thing.

Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

If we are focused on the Lord, then we have hope rather than fear when we are waiting for something, because we see that the Lord is good. We see that all His ways are good. We see that He does not let us down.

IMG_8908When I was anxious after a late-term ultrasound showed a dilation in our grandson’s bowels, I was not focusing on who the Lord is. I wanted the baby to come quickly so that we could find out what this dilation was. But that wasn’t trusting, that was fearing.

If God is good, and He is, then our waiting will never be in vain.