Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Book Review of Talk: A Practical Guide to Cyberparenting and Open Communication

Reading Mandy Majors book Talk: A Practical Guide to Cyberparenting and Open Communication is like sitting with your girlfriend who’s done a ton of research on parenting well. The book is infused with "me too" and "I get it" reassurance. Majors graciously shares her wealth of experience and knowledge about parenting tweens who have the web and all its entanglements in their pockets.

Her conversational style puts readers at ease, which is saying something since she’s tackling thorny subjects. She boldly wades into deep and dicey topics with Jesus as her compass. She does not offer canned answers, but instead thoughtful and research-based guidance which she has successfully put into action in her family. But it’s more than a trek through murky waters, the book is interspersed with humor and practical advice from a mom we can relate to.

Most of us are scared about the provocative culture in which our kids are growing up. Mandy beckons us to stay engaged in our parenting even when complacency or avoidance are tempting. She encourages us to arm ourselves and our kids with good information, rather than give in to fear.

I’ve already followed Mandy’s lead and chopped vegetables and acted normal while I uttered words like puberty and sex to my fifth grader. I didn’t make it awkward. Sure, I lost three pounds in flop sweat, but my kid doesn’t know that. I had the talk and we are both still alive—I’m calling it a win! I’m grateful for the encouragement to be the safe place for my kids to ask embarrassing or challenging questions with the assurance I won’t betray them.

While I expected the book to share examples of the best filters for technology and a list of apps to avoid, but what I found instead was a call to empower our kids to filter what comes into their view and their hearts. Majors rejects the patronizing “that’s just how they are,” reference to tweens but rather encourages an elevated standard where we can see our kids rise. It’s still a hands on approach to parenting, but it is based on mutual respect and higher purpose rather than expecting kids to be difficult and unreachable.

While Mandy shares from her own experience and faith, she's quick to affirm others with the message, "Your family, your choice," woven throughout the book. But the truth is, you'll likely want to take notes on the tried and true practices she's put into place including a cell phone contract you and your tween or teen can sign together. I'll be copying this and several other wonderful suggestions she has for keeping dialogue open for challenging conversations with our kids in everyday life.

I’ve had the great pleasure of sitting across the table from Mandy, and I can vouch for how authentically delightful she is. She’s as funny, engaging, and wise in person as she is in the pages of her tremendous book. I invite you to sit with her, learn, and laugh through Talk: A Practical Guide to Cyberparenting and Open Communication. It truly is like a perfectly chosen present from your dearest friend—the tween parenting guidebook you wanted but didn’t know how much you needed.

                                                                                  Mandy Majors

The book is currently available on this Amazon link

The Hollywood Jesus author interview is excellent and you might like to take a peek to learn a bit more about the heart behind the book. Click here to read it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

All in for 2017

Another year is on the books, and a new year is upon us. I was honored to get to share my hopes for 2017 on (in)courage. I hope you'll take a minute to peek and share the love if you're so inspired.

There's something I love about the sacred space of a fresh start. I love the way it feels to turn my face to the wind of a new year and feel the wind on my back from the one behind. Sometimes it feels like the gust is going to knock me clean off my feet and sometimes it feels like it's going to lift me higher. It always moves me forward, and yet I long to be all in for the here and now. 

In our travels after Christmas, I saw a sweet young guy, probably seventeen-years-old, in the arms of his mother. She held him tight, and he let her in a way most teenage boys do not. I could see him sink into her and soak up her embrace. It was as if he wanted it to last him a while. This was a goodbye hug.

I gathered from my superior eavesdropping skills he was enlisting in the military. He was off to a new beginning all by himself. My heart pinged for his dear mom who didn't seem to want to let him go but was courageously putting her boy on a plane that would take him far, far away from her. I was honored to watch these two brave souls completely in the moment, soaking it up its every essence.

I want to be like them. Not just in the goodbyes I know will be tough, but in the see you after school and the have a great day at work farewells and all the moments in between.

The best of times, the most precious times, are all strung together by a bunch of seemingly routine moments. Oh, but to savor them, to be there for them.

I intentionally emulated that dear boy and his mom during our travels and felt it...the feeling of full life right under my nose.

It was in the way Ainsley's eight-year-old supple hand felt in mine under the covers as we shared a hotel bed.

It was in the sound of Emerson's "You're the best" whisper in my ear.

It was in the way I heard my dad tell me how proud he was of my mothering.

It was in the way my brother texted I love you so much in all CAPS.

It was in the way Dirk looked at me after we both caught the girls in a fit of giggles.

2017! I see you. I'm in. I'm all in for all of you.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Frontyard Miracles

A miracle happens every day in front of my home. I mean it's routine, on time, scheduled down to the minute, but it is extraordinary all the same. It doesn't come in with whistles or streamers or any other indication of its wonder, so it would be easy to miss. It's big and yellow, so it's hard not to see it, but a person could miss the miracle if they weren't tuned it. It just pulls up in front of my house and delivers my dreams come true every day. I'm doing my best to pay better attention to throw the confetti in my mind and remember how I dreamt about this for years and wondered if it would ever happen. I prayed and asked God for it and invited him to take the dream if it wouldn't reflect his glory. But in his infinite mercy, he let me have it. My dream came true, which absolutely reflects his glory even when I don't notice it. But I am reminded of it every day with the sight of the big yellow school bus.

It's not so much the bus that's miraculous, although door-to-door service is surely worth celebrating. It's who gets off the bus each day and runs up our brick path and into my arms. Two enchanting girls of our own. They're their own people now. Children yes, but individual, capable, opinionated people walk into our house every afternoon.
I'm privileged to be the first to hear their stories about the playground and lunch: the canvas on which their childhood is painted. So much of everything tender about school happens in one of these places and I'm entrusted with their stories.

It's as though my appreciation of them has come into crisper focus lately. As though the lens has been turned such that everything about them is sharper and clearer. I see it –  the miracle of their lives. Sometimes my breath gets caught in my throat when one of them excitedly tells me a story about how hilarious it was when her friend's milk cascaded off the cafeteria table and how she laughed so hard she had to cross her legs. Words are coming out of her mouth, sound is filling the room but all I see are crimson lips against milky skin crystal blue eyes framed in long lashes, auburn hair and deep set dimples. Miracles. Dreams come true.

Doctors sat in front of me and Dirk and told us we had a zero chance of conceiving a child. Zero. But they're here. They're right in front of us. Sometimes it's just too much to take and I have to scoop them up in my arms and before I can say a word, they say in exasperation, "I know, I know, you love us soooo much." And they can groan until forever and I'll never stop saying it, never stop appreciating the miracle of the breath in their lungs.

But the truth is, I do forget sometimes. The witching hour after school rolls in and tired groans over improper fractions or branches of government make me want to turn and run away...alone. Sometimes we argue about whether or not they have to brush their hair. It doesn't feel miraculous and extraordinary. It feels like a tremendous amount of work and I feel bad about how much I want to escape it. But I get it now. In order to appreciate the glitter of silver linings, you have to have clouds. I don't think I fully got that before, but now I do. We appreciate the summit because we remember the climb in the rain and the times we fell and slammed our knees on the rock face. But at the top of the mountain, everything is  clearer, we can see for miles, and our perspective is changed.

So yellow school buses, improper fractions, and scuffles about hygiene, I see you and I'm so glad you're here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stray Dog: On Running Away When You Know the Way Home

There’s a dog on the loose in our neighborhood. We startled one another when I stepped onto my porch and found him asleep. He groggily got up and trotted away, but not far. He stood at the end of our driveway and looked at me. He seemed tired and a bit tousled, but a clean teal leash hung from his chain collar. He belongs to someone.

Assuming he was lost, I set out a bowl of water but he ran off when he saw me with it. I went back inside and watched through the window as he came back and took a long drink. 

I took a quick picture of him and posted it on our neighborhood Facebook page, assuming he had just gotten away from his owner on a walk. I went back outside to try to get his leash so we could keep him safe until his owners could come for him. But he ran from me just as he had before, still stopping to look back every few yards to see if I was still on the chase.

Neighbors commented that he has been in our neighborhood for three days. His owners have printed color flyers and have been out looking for him. They have been near to him, but when he sees them, he runs off, just as he did from me. He knows his way home and sometimes comes to their porch to get food and then runs off again. He’s skittish because he has been abused in the past and no longer trusts anyone. His new owners love him and are desperate to have him back, but because he’s been hurt before he’s afraid to trust them.

This morning someone spotted him running down the middle of a busy street nearby and the owners were pulled over the side calling his name. He looked in their direction, but kept running.

Oh friends, haven’t we all done this with God? He wants to love us well and beckons us, but we run from Him because of what someone else did. We’re weary and thirsty, yet we keep running because we think it’s safer to be on the move then to trust Him and be hurt. But there is none like Him—no love like His love.

We won’t ever find a home like the one we find in Him.

We won’t ever find rest until we stop running from Him.

We won’t ever be fully satisfied in anything outside of Him.

We won’t ever find our way home until we submit to following Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6