I Swear I Didn’t Teach My Kids THAT | by Julie

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My son clobbered his brother because something or other went awry during a game of Minecraft. My other boy flipped the game board in a move to rival the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s infamous table flip because he was losing. Then there was that LOUD argument at the grocery store over what flavor Pringles to buy, an Academy Award winning meltdown at a friend’s house because one kid was bored, kids streaking across the house naked after showers, and the always shocking faux pas of a four-letter word slip. And that was just this week!

Screaming, mayhem and the chaos of a 3-ring circus are hallmarks of my household in spite of the effort I put forth to be a good parent. I take my kids to church every Sunday; teach them Christian values. I’m present and involved in their lives; aware of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They have rules and boundaries and lots of love. And yet they still behave badly, make poor choices and deliberately challenge me.

Unfortunately, when this behavior occurs in front of onlookers the door of judgment swings wide open. Truthfully, when my children are at school or other people’s homes, I’m often told how well-behaved they are, but they’ve definitely had their share of cringe-worthy moments. So when I hear people weighing in on the unflattering behavior of other’s children and parenting, I tend to shrink back a bit and internalize the condemnation.

And while as mothers I think we’ve learned to tune out the gossip, ignore the stares and stay the course, there is one remark that will always cut to the core. As a mom struggling, doing her best to raise two beautiful, but rambunctious boys, the wind is always knocked out of my sails when I hear somebody automatically assume that a child is behaving poorly because a parent isn’t doing their job or something terrible is going on at home.

If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? Every mother has uttered this cliché statement in hopes of driving a point home, and invariably the answer is a resounding “NO” complete with eye roll and sassy tone. Likewise, if your mother told you not to do something, does that mean you’re definitely not going to do it? And again, the answer is a big resounding “NO.”

Truth is, young and old, while we take in what we’re taught, what behavior is modeled to us and resulting consequences, we are not controlled by it. Our decisions are still our own, and if we’re set on doing something or ruled by emotion, nothing is going to derail that train . . . not even being grounded from your iPhone for two weeks.

As much as I may wish I could control my children with a remote control, it’s simply not reality.

God has created us all, especially teenagers, to be individuals and make our own choices . . . good, bad and ugly. And while there are adults who are blatantly, even criminally, falling short of their parental responsibilities, many of us are truly trying to do the best we can with the resources we have and the results are mixed to say the least.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Did you catch that, “when he is old,” not necessarily tomorrow or next week. Like many things in life, you might not see the fruits of good parenting until your child is old. Now if that ain’t sobering. . .

And to complicate matters of parenting even more, we live in a world where we are not the only “teachers” our children have, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Children don’t always learn inappropriate behavior at home. They are exposed to a host of negative behavior and language via television, the internet and schoolyard friends.

As Christians, we need to stop judging and start supporting other parents. We need to stop commentating from afar on how we’d do things differently and take a step closer to lend a caring hand. We need to be a friend, a helper, a support system. We need to reserve judgment and invest in the lives of those God has placed in our path; go deeper to reveal the true story, not just the sensationalized headlines.

We need to remind ourselves that we too often disobey our Father in Heaven, and I’m confident it’s not because he’s doing something wrong as a parent.

All children are not created equal. While some are naturally agreeable and “easy” to parent, others naturally test boundaries. Some have learning or physical disabilities, some are subject to bullies, some have mental health disorders and others still struggle with self-esteem issues and the list goes on and on.

Not all parents are created equal either. While some are blessed with picture-perfect marriages and abundant finances, others struggle to make ends meet. Some battle health problems and depression, some are lonely, some are overwhelmed and others are single parents.

Think of parenting like a video game. While some of us are on level one, parenting with ideal circumstances, some of us are navigating the obstacles of the advanced level, pitfalls and challenges at every turn.

Seriously, in my household asking my children to brush their teeth is met with the resistance of a request to scrub a public restroom with a toothbrush. And my boys’ reaction to losing their video game for a day is akin to missing their senior prom. Some days their displeasure with household boundaries and consequences result in stubborn, hour long standoffs. I assure you I’ve read all the parenting books and attempt to impose the proper discipline, and believe it or not, they still don’t always comply.

So if you see me or any other parent losing their marbles in Target or taking a tear-filled, self-imposed timeout in the bathroom while their children run amuck for a few minutes, please try not to judge and make us feel like even bigger failures than we already do. Instead, offer us a kind word, a gallon of ice cream and the assurance that we’re not the only ones raising miniature hellions. And don’t forget to remind us that God promises everything will turn out ok in the end.

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Parenting Through Pain | by Britta

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We all have pain don’t we. Pain comes in different ways. It comes in the heart break of infertility, it comes with divorce (either our own or our parents), it comes in the loss of a baby, it comes with raising hurt & broken children, it comes in the failed adoption, it comes in the form of health issues (our own or someone we love), it comes when we sin or others sin against us, it comes when we get offended, it comes when…you fill in the blank. In John 10:10 the bible says that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. There is a “thief” who wants to cause you pain and destroy you. The enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to keep you stuck in your emotional and physical pain because in doing so you won’t be as effective for the Kingdom of God. So stay with me and take in what I have to share with you today.

Recently I was facing a lot of physical and emotional pain. This pain was robbing me and my family of many things. I was crying most days and I was trying to parent through the pain but it wasn’t going that well. When things usually happen in my life I tend to jump to Google, the doctor, essential oils, friends, food/diet, books, Pinterest and so on for my answer. But these past 6 months I’ve been really practicing going to God in prayer FIRST and I’ve been practicing listening to the Holy Spirit for direction. (See Philippians 4:6-7) So I prayed, my family prayed, my friends prayed, my church prayed. We prayed for healing. We prayed for wisdom for me to know what direction to take. I felt good about going to a new doctor in Seattle and I met with a team there. I had lots of tests and everything came back fine. There was no diagnosis. But I was still in pain. I knew deep in my spirit that this pain was more than just physical. This pain had a deep spiritual root.

John 10:10a “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…”    

The Lord took me on a journey. A very long journey. A hard pressed, shaken down, tear stained journey. When I felt like giving in I pressed in. When I felt like giving up I reached up. I cried out more often and louder to the Holy Spirit. I got up off the ground and I ran to Him. When I was at my weakest I just cried Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He could have healed me instantly but instead He showed me something so I could share it with you. I want you to understand that the steps the Lord showed me you can apply to your life too. So here you go.

1) I asked the Holy Spirit to show me why I was in so much pain. He showed me that unforgiveness and being offended had created wounds in my soul which then gave the “thief” legal right to enter in and start to steal, kill, and destroy me and my family and cause me emotional and physical pain. I began to repent for my sins and forgive those who had sinned against me. I applied the blood of Jesus over myself because what washes away sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!! See 1 John 1:7

2) If we only focus on asking for forgiveness we will miss the amazing power of Jesus to heal our soul wounds. There is supernatural power in the glory of Jesus. When we grab a hold of this truth we are taking part in ALL that Christ has for us. His blood AND His glory. After I completed step one I focused on the glory of Jesus. I meditated on the Word of God day and night. I asked Him to shine His glory light into my soul and heal the wounds that were created by unforgiveness and sin. Jesus wants our souls to prosper (be in good health)!! See 3 John verse 2

3) Finally, after all that time repenting and applying the blood of Jesus and soaking in His powerful glory, I told the “thief” that it was time for him to go. I told him that he no longer has any legal right over me because Jesus paid for all my sins on the cross and the glory of Jesus had healed my deepest wounds completely. I commanded the “thief” to leave in Jesus name…and guess what? he left…and my pain left too. Peace flooded my mind and body. There is power in the name of Jesus. We as Christians have the same power that conquered the grave living in us. See Romans 8:11

No pain is too much for Jesus. There are too many of us carrying heavy burdens. We walk around wounded, angry, hurting, sick, and broken. Our spouses and children need us whole. We need to share these tools with our children to see them set free. Our friends need healing too. I shared with you what the beginning of John 10:10 says but you need to read what the end of that verse says to us…Jesus came to give us life, abundant life. That means that God is a loving Father who wants good for us and not evil. A lot of Christians and non Christians alike blame God for their situation, blame Him for their pain. If nothing else I want you to know today that the God of the universe, your Creator, is FOR you and LOVES you!!!

John 10:10b “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Shout it out!!! When you have been set free like I have and healed like I have you want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops. I want every person on this earth to experience this kind of freedom in Christ. I can testify to you that the Lord is returning to me all the years that the locusts ate.(See Joel 2:25) Jesus has given me back the ability to parent my children without pain. Jesus has restored my marriage. Jesus has given me back my joy times seven. Hallelujah!! He wants to do those things and more for you too!!!

We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. 

****I learned about the healing of soul wounds by listening to teaching by Katie Souza on YouTube. I really like the one called Stay Un Offendable. You can also go to her website at www.expectedendministries.com  for more info.****

****In no way is Three Strands Ministries affiliated with Katie Souza or her ministry. This is just my personal journey and the teaching God used to heal me.****

Moving and Growing | by Lesley

received_10205393124854555We just moved. It’s a good thing – bigger house, bigger backyard with a POOL, nice neighborhood, only a short distance to our old home and old neighbors that we love. We are so grateful and in disbelief that this home is where we get to live. But no matter how you slice it, moving is hard. And stressful. We hadn’t moved in 13 years, and in those 13 years we added four children and all that goes along with that (um, lots of stuff). We also thought it would be fun to GUT our new kitchen and remodel it, because being without a kitchen was a needed challenge in my life. Or the opposite.

There have been some really good lessons and reminders for me in this move.  I am a recovering perfectionist, so these are lessons that might seem “duh” to some people but are really a challenge for me. I’m thinking some people can relate:

#1. Relationships are ALWAYS more important than the to-do list. I struggle with this so much. I am extremely task oriented and thrive on efficiency. Last week I had a day with lots to do (just another day really), and I made a difficult (for me) decision to put that aside and spend some time counseling someone. I secretly wished she would cancel, but she didn’t.  And I am so glad – cause it turns out *I* needed it as much as she did, maybe more. We are designed to be in relationship with others and when we prioritize people it fills us, and we are then better prepared for the task list.

#2. Patience – um, yeah.  Not my strong suit by a long shot.  And you know what? When you do any remodeling, it always takes longer than you think (or they say). Every.single.time. So I am resigned right now to have a camping kitchen for a while. And whenever I start to feel a little bit sorry for myself, I remind myself that the majority of people in this world … this country … this city … do not have the luxury of having a working kitchen, let alone remodeling one. Pity party = done.

#3. Priorities have to constantly be evaluated. I am always asking myself, what needs to get done this week … today … this moment? I try to focus on those tasks and put blinders on so I don’t see the rest. This allows me to get done what absolutely needs to get done and still be nice. Because if I look around at all that needs to be done, I will go into a corner and roll in a ball and cry. I am easily distracted and have a difficult time focusing on one thing.  This is still a process for me, but I am getting better.

#4. Rest is important. Like really important. It’s tough to do, because it seems there is always something more to accomplish. Somehow our culture has lured us into thinking we must always be busy and doing something. But, God COMMANDED rest, a day of it in fact every week. I’ve found when I do rest, I am better prepared for what is to come. If I go non-stop, nothing gets done well and I usually end up getting sick, and grumpy.  My husband and I had an opportunity to go away overnight (without kids!) just a couple of days before moving. It was hard to leave – we had lots of packing left and construction to manage.  But we did it.  We relaxed, talked without interruption, and just hung out together.  I think we slept till 7:30 am!  And wow, it truly made the week ahead much easier to handle.

There are likely many more lessons for me as we continue remodeling and unpacking, and I’m sure I will continue working on the above every day. At the moment, I am feeling really grateful for the opportunity to grow. I don’t feel that way every moment, but the big picture reminds me to keep striving to grow closer in line with God’s characteristics, not mine.

Oh, and a side note: we have TOO MUCH STUFF. It seems to have multiplied in our garage and I can’t wait to get rid of most of it. Garage sale pending. And also, we are never, ever moving again. Ever.

I Can’t Do Everything | by Breanna

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Motherhood isn’t glamorous. Being a new mom has quite the learning curve & surprisingly, I would say the most important & most challenging lesson has been that I simply can’t do everything. Life changes once you become a mom and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I couldn’t do all the things I could easily manage when it was just me and the hubs.

A few weeks after our first baby girl was born I was so excited to get together with some of my girlfriends! The endless stream of family was awesome, but sometimes you just need some girl time! We all have pretty busy schedules so it took some time but we finally picked a day and had a girls night all scheduled and I was soooo looking forward to seeing my pals and of course showing off the most beautiful baby in the whole world. Then I realized I had signed up for a Meal Train on the same day to deliver dinner to another pal who had just had a baby. I thought to myself, “No problem! I could do both.” So, I made a plan of making two dinners: Baked pasta & bread to go and pizza for my girls here.

So Ruthie and I set off for the grocery store to get everything we needed for our evening. This was one of our first solo trips to the grocery store and after struggling with our Moby wrap, sweating (so much sweating), and a screaming baby we finally got back home only to realize I’d forgotten to stop at Papa Murphy’s for the pizza! Ruthie hates the car & screams for every blessed mile of car travel so I just couldn’t bear another trip out in the world. So, slightly embarrassed – I texted one of my pals and asked if she could please stop and grab a couple pizzas on her way & of course she would! I think they actually offered this from the beginning but I was pretty determined to prove I could take care of it.

My friends pulled up in the drive and I was SO excited for some girl time! As they were unloading, the timer for the baked pasta went off. They came in and were making themselves comfortable as I took the bubbling dish out of the oven. It was in a foil disposal pan to make life easier for my pal. However, the pasta was too heavy and the foil began to bend under the weight & in mere seconds, before I could even flinch – pasta & sauce was everywhere! Mostly it landed on my thighs and spilled down the cabinets and onto the kitchen floor. HOLY SMOKES! It was SO hot!! So hot on my legs, that without really thinking, I ripped off my jeans for some relief.

There I was standing there in my marinara stained kitchen, legs burning, new mamma stretch marks out for all to see & I was thinking, “I am so thankful I managed to get some underwear on this morning!” And then tears began to stream down my face, mostly because of the pain and partly red hot embarrassment for my new squishy exposed body (stretch marks and all) & the sinking reality that I couldn’t do all the things I did before becoming a mom.

My friends were so kind and so worried about my poor legs – which were burned pretty badly. My sweet husband came home and brought me burn cream & picked up some roasted chickens for our friends for dinner & delivered them. I bandaged & iced my wounds as my friends went right to work cleaning up the disaster that was now in my kitchen. That’s when you know you have good friends! They scrubbed the counter, cabinets, and the floor and cleaned up all the pasta and sauce that seemed to magically cover every square inch of my kitchen.

When I finally got brave enough to come back out, they asked if I wanted to reschedule our dinner and were so understanding. Of course not! They had come from a long way and it took too long to get this dinner on the calendar. Thankfully, we got to have some awesome time of chatting and laughing and of course they got their baby snuggles with Ruthie. Things were winding down and Ruthie was getting fussy, so I got out my cover and began nursing her. Nursing was another thing that was really hard for me as a new mom, but I was feeling pretty confident that things were finally getting better. Well, that attitude quickly changed when I heard/felt some rumbling from my sweet princess. Before I even knew what happened I felt warmth oozing out onto my freshly changed clothes! There was poop everywhere. So much poop. So we had yet another wardrobe change, this time not just for me but Ruthie too. And when I came out – much to my surprise my friends were still there! They hadn’t ran for the hills J We got to have a good laugh about it all.

Life as a new mom takes a lot of adjusting. Your hormones, your body, your everything — has changed & it takes some getting used to. I had to learn that I couldn’t do it all, I couldn’t take care of everyone, but I am so incredibly blessed to be a mamma and to care for and love and raise up our baby girl.

Most of all, I’ve learned that as a new mama you need friends & community. To laugh with when you’re covered in pasta or poop, to cry with when you feel like a failure and just can’t figure out this breastfeeding thing, and to love you (stretch marks and all). I couldn’t have gotten through those first few months without some amazing friends & family. We need each other as moms to love & to walk along side one another without judgment or shame.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help him up.” –Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

When our Dreams and Circumstances Don’t Match | by Seana

stockvault-forest-fog142490 Since I became a mom, I have wrestled with what seemed to be contradicting desires: to love my family well and to change the world. I am a missionary adventurer at heart and my dream is to be an active part of every person in the world having a viable opportunity to know Christ. How do I do that from my kitchen sink?

For several years I believed a cultural lie: that what women do in the home is “nice”, but real work and value are found in what she does outside of the home.

That simply is not the message we receive from the Bible. The message I receive is this: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength… and to love your neighbor as yourself. THIS, Jesus said, is the sum of the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37). THIS is the way to honor God and live for Him, whether in the home or outside of it.  Our value is in Him, not in the work of our hands.

When I am honestly seeking the Lord and following Him step by step, I can trust that His assignment for me in each season is what He deems most valuable and effective for His kingdom. That might mean working a job, focusing on the home, volunteering, and/or writing a blog post (lol). God is creative! His assignment for each of us can look different. Our responsibility is to seek His face with a willing heart to do what He says.

When we long to be somewhere else doing something else besides the assignment God has led us to, we are basically telling Him, “I don’t trust You to know what is best for me or the world.”

Is that how I really feel? No!

So, my new approach is this: live fully where God has placed me and pray for what He places on my heart. He may move me to specific ways to sow into my passion for lost people groups (like praying through unreached people groups and encouraging missionaries), but in the meantime, I will be worshipping Him by joyfully embracing His current assignment. After all, if I am willing to do anything for Him, I can trust what He gives me, as the work of my hands and heart, is what is most effective for His kingdom right now.

What is a passion or burden on year heart? God has a plan! Commit to laying out all your thoughts to Him in prayer and He will bring you peace in the current season and opportunity to engage in your passion in creative ways.

Hold On To Hope | by Patty

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Isaiah 41:10 NRSV  “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

If you are a woman, and you have a pulse, chances are you have received advice from welcomed and unwelcomed sources your whole life.  When you were a girl, it was advice on how to be a lady, how to behave, what to say, what not to say, how to dress, how not to dress; as you got older, there was advice about your hair, jewelry, makeup, who to date, not to date, when to date, when to marry…You name it, and there is a woman out there giving you her advice.  And if you are like me, you are trying to filter through all the “advice” and decide what is worth listening to, and what is not.

When you get married, the advice continues, from how to keep your home, how to keep you man, when to have children, how many children to have, where they should go to school, whether you should stay home, or work outside the home, which school to put you child in…the “advice” or rather, opinions, continue.

I was sleep deprived, postpartum, and alone

When I was a new mom, I was a little overwhelmed by the changes that had taken place in my life.  I was 20 years old, still a newlywed, had moved 1500 miles away from my family, given birth to my first baby, and was now a stay at home mom.  I was sleep deprived, postpartum, and home alone with this tiny human being whose life depended on me.  The sobering reality that I was now responsible for such a fragile human being was overwhelming.

What if I messed him up?  What if I didn’t raise him right?  Could I really do this?  Have I mentioned that I was overwhelmed?  Let me say it again, I was o-ver-whelmed.

I remember walking through Costco with my screaming child in my arms, bouncing and singing and patting his back, doing everything that I could to calm this child down.  A mom leaned over and said, “Let the dishes go.  Sleep when he sleeps.”  Let’s just say, this advice was not well received.  I held my tongue, but on the inside, I was fuming.

Instead of feeling supported, I felt judged

Now, in retrospect, this was not bad advice…and her intentions were good. But all I could think of was the mess that was my house, and my failure as a “good stay-at-home” mom.  Instead of feeling supported, I felt judged.  I was exhausted, and I felt like a failure.  I thought of my mom, who raised 4 kids, worked outside the home, how hard she worked to keep our house clean, and how it seemed like the house was spotless.  I thought of my mother-in-law who raised 5 kids, made excellent meals, and kept her house clean…they seemed to have it all together.  And when I looked at myself, I didn’t see a mom with the kid whose clothes were immaculate, whose house was well kept, and whose hair and make-up were done.  I just saw failure.

I mentioned I was postpartum and probably had postpartum depression, but I didn’t know it at the time.  All I knew was that I loved my husband, I loved my son, and I wanted to be the best wife and mom…and I was not.

Looking back on that time, if I could give myself advice, I would share what I know now about being a mom.

It’s OK to let others help.

1)  Motherhood is a life-long journey.  You will love, learn, succeed, fail, try again, laugh, cry, rejoice, ache, pray, defend and advocate for your child(ren) your entire life.  You will never be perfect.  You will always be you – so give your best, and let the Lord lead you in all things, big and small.

2)  There is no manual, and there is no perfect mother.  What works for someone else, may not work for you.  Your child, your family is unique.  Learn from your successes and failures, listen to the Lord’s promptings, and don’t doubt yourself.  Believe in yourself, and lead your children with confidence.

3) The woman that seems to have it together, does not.  Don’t be fooled, she is as insecure as you are.  The woman that appears to have it all together, is usually only about appearances.  If you could see into her heart, you would see someone a lot like you – a mom who loves her family, who is doing her best to be what her family needs her to be, and aching for a friend who is safe enough to let her guard down with, and who will love her as she is.  Don’t judge her, be her friend.

4) You are enough.  Whether by birth or adoption, your child was given to you, and you are the best mother for that child.  There is no one better.  As mothers, we are often our worst critic.  Silence your inner critic, and listen to the voice of your Heavenly Father telling you who you were created to be.

You are enough

5) It’s ok to let others help.  I remember feeling guilty the first time my husband and I left our son with my mom-in-law for the first time.  I felt like I was abandoning him.  Momma, your needs are still important.  If you are blessed to have family and friends that are willing to love and care for your little one, while you take a much needed break, it’s okay to let them help.  You are not a failure. You are not a bad mom.  You are showing your child, even at a young age, that they are surrounded by people that love them, that will protect them, and that will support them throughout their life.  That is what family does.  They help each other, they love each other, and they take care of each other.

6)  Hold on to hope.  There will be times when you are scared, tired, angry, tired, weepy, tired, you may even feel alone, and one more thing…tired.   I hope that you will be encouraged by Isaiah 41:10 NRS:

“Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Hold on to hope Momma.  Whatever your trial, whatever your hardship, whatever your struggle, you will get through it.  God is with you.  You will rejoice again.

I Will Survive . . . I Think! Confessions of an Imperfect Mom | by Julie

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When I was first asked to contribute to this blog, I consulted with the woman who had started this entire project. It’s her desire to create a place where moms from all walks of life and in all stages of motherhood can come together for support, advice and friendship.

She asked me what my passion was; what area of motherhood spoke to me when it came to writing. Some of the writers focus on parenting adopted children and foster care. Others missions and homeschooling. I thought about it for a moment. And I really couldn’t come up with an answer. Days passed and I finally came to the conclusion that my focus isn’t as profound or noble as some mothers. My primary goal as a mother is SURVIVAL!

As the busy, 42-year-old mother of two boys – one entering the fourth grade and one on the brink of starting junior high – it’s a good day when we all make it out alive.

When my children were first born, I did all the things good, Christian mothers are supposed to do. I scheduled regular naps and bedtimes. I prayed with my little ones before meals. We read Bible stories, had playdates and helped out at church. Sure, there were bumps in the road, and I imposed the typical time outs and hand swats to correct my boys and set them on the path to becoming honorable Christian men.

But somewhere along the way, a change began to happen. They began to walk, talk and have minds of their own. My boys started to expand their vocabulary. It became a bit more “colorful.” They embraced their strength and realized words weren’t always the best way to express themselves, but a nice knee to the “nether regions” conveyed some messages quite nicely. They’re favorite past-time evolved from coloring and Legos to vying for a championship title in the art of annoying people. The volume level in the house went from loud to LOUDER, and super glue and air freshener are household staples.

After my kids were born, I came to the realization that being a parent of a newborn is tremendously harder than I ever thought it would be. Looking back, I now realize that the infant years were, in fact, still the easiest stage of parenthood. Sure there were sleepless nights and diaper explosions, but all I had to do was make sure my babies were breathing. Now I worry about their futures in this cutthroat and increasingly cruel and wicked world we live in, and I pray they won’t turn away from Jesus and their Christian faith. But their well-being is no longer completely under my control. They have choices. And my skills as a parent are greatly stunted by my sinful human nature.

More often than not, I am overwhelmed as a mother and even feel like a failure as a parent. I see all the Facebook posts and tweets from super moms with perfect children and wonder how their experience can be so different.

Are they really raising the selfless, genius, award-winning, humanitarian, on-fire Christian tweens and teens their social media posts boast of? Are they really always patient, soft spoken and overflowing with wisdom when their kids challenge them? Because I’m not! What am I doing wrong? I would gander that maybe not all is as it seems. But then again, maybe I’m wrong.

I yell, cry and want to pull my hair out at least once a week! I covet the moments when I can escape to the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. When I tell my kids to do their chores, I might as well be talking to myself. When I order them to go to their rooms for disobedient behavior, I often wonder if I’m invisible. My kids have even uttered those three little words: “I hate you,” and I have threatened to run away on more than one occasion.

I wish I could say I was going to wrap up this post in a neat and tidy package filled with Godly advice and answers. But I’m not. I can’t. I don’t know how. But if you’re like me, I can tell you you’re not alone.

You’re not the only one. I know what it’s like to be an imperfect parent with imperfect kids.

Still amidst the chaos and circus-like atmosphere we call home, I’m certain I’m doing one thing right. I truly love my kids and I have known no greater joy than that of being a mother. My love for them is sincerely unconditional, I’m filled with compassion for their hurts and my forgiveness knows no bounds . . . even when their acting like little big stinkers!

What a beautiful picture this dysfunctional family mess creates, though. If I can genuinely love my children like that when they act like that just bask in the knowledge of how much more God loves us . . . even when we’re being little big stinkers. Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

If we just do our best to love God and love others, we will survive! And our ending will be more than happy. It will be glorious!