Mama Bear

 My children love to ask questions like If you were an animal, what would you be? Recently one of my children asked the others “What animal would Mom be?” Without hesitation my oldest child answered that Mom would be a bear. “What? A Bear?” I asked her. “Yes,” she said, “you know, like Mama Bear who doesn’t let anyone mess with her cubs.” I had never thought of myself as a bear, but a Mama Bear? Ok, yes, I’m ok with that. That describes how I feel about my children and my life, and I’m glad they know I will take care of them. But you know what?

Mama Bears get tired.

Changing Seasons

Some seasons are more tiring than others. Defending my cubs this year has been exhausting.

I hear Satan knocking at our door all the time. When we don’t open the door, He tries to sneak in through various means – media, friends, school. Sometimes we unintentionally bring him in ourselves.

I knew this year would be tough. My children are in three different schools and the oldest started middle school, but I didn’t realize just how challenging that would be. I am emotionally drained from trying to keep my children performing to their potential academically while still keeping them healthy physically and spiritually.

My oldest child went from receiving the top honor at her school in 6th grade to absolutely hating school in 7th grade. The words “I hate school” were uttered for the first time at my house – often by Mama Bear along with her weakened cub.

I have questioned whether this lifestyle is what God intended for us. It has been a struggle.

A Daily Fight

We lost our morning Bible time together due to the pull of getting three children to three different schools on time. This Mama Bear has fought all year for spiritual time with her cubs. Between working nights and various activities, it has been hard. I have tried several ideas which have failed. It is still a daily struggle.

I have began most days by praying that God would help me to see if this is the life He intends for us.

I’m still not sure.

My children have some amazing gifts. I struggle with how to help them best use those gifts.

My daughter took the ACT and scored only one point less than I did when I went to college. She’s twelve years old.

I don’t even know what to do with that.

I look at all the material and options that come her way, and I want to make sure she has chances to grow. The pride of life is a struggle (1 John 2:16). I fight Satan in my own self when I seek the safety of my daughter’s future in her academic abilities. That’s what Satan wants me to do. He wants me to focus on what this world can give her instead of making sure that she knows the One who created her and gave her those abilities. That’s how he sneaks in.

The school year is almost over, and I’m so thankful for a break. I want to reel my cubs in and spend some time nurturing and loving them in the safety of our home. We’ve had a lot of good in our year as well, but right now I’m just so tired of fighting off Satan.

I know it’s not over. Satan never takes a break – not even in summer. Another school year will loom ahead of us before we know it. What I will do with it, I don’t know yet. I have lots of praying to do.

Don’t Give Up

But Mama Bears don’t give up. We don’t lie down and let the predator have our cubs. We do what we have to do to protect our children. We make changes and adjustments as the needs of each season dictate. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

I am tired, but I’m not giving up. And I’m not alone. My husband is with me, of course, but we both rely on the larger power of God to get us through.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:7-10

I trust in God and His promises. He loves my children and wants them to know and love Him, too. He has done so much for us, and I know that He cares.

I have turned to God so many times during this year. I have humbled myself and shed many, many tears. Mostly I just pray “Please help me.” He promises to lift me up. He will help this Mama Bear defend her cubs. I know that He wants them safe as much as I do. Keeping my children out of Satan’s influence is an exhausting job, but it’s mine and my husband’s to do. I wouldn’t trust it to anyone else. And I would never, ever attempt it without God behind us.

Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Psalm 127:1


When I feel defeated in my parenting…

I recently went on a band field trip with my 7th grade daughter. I was looking forward to supporting her and spending the day with her. Middle school girls, however, are complex creatures. There’s a whole lot going on in that 12-year old body, with thoughts and feelings that she doesn’t understand. I knew my daughter wasn’t thrilled that I was going with her, but it wasn’t until I was stuck on the bus with her that I realized how much she really didn’t want me there. Her actions clearly said that she was not comfortable with my presence. She just wasn’t herself. She was distant and impolite, not just to me, but to another mother and daughter as well. My child was a stranger, and as a parent I just felt defeated.

I felt like everything she had been taught was gone. The child that I generally have a great relationship with was gone. She had been replaced by this person who didn’t act the way she’d been taught to act. She had been replaced by someone who didn’t want anything to do with me.

After the trip I cried and prayed, and by the time my daughter came home from school I was almost ready to talk to her. She walked in the door and started chatting just like her usual self. And just like that she was back – the child that I know. She didn’t understand why I was crying. “What’s wrong, Mom?” she asked.

What’s wrong is that I feel like a failure. I don’t understand how my daughter could push me away all day and then think everything is fine. I just want our usual relationship back. I’m tired and overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do, and I feel defeated.

Choosing to Love

And then I remember how much I love this child.

I look at her and remember how God has loved me through my own growing and changing. He loved me even when I didn’t understand what I was doing. He showed me grace even when my actions said  “I don’t want You here.”

I choose to love my daughter the way that God has loved me. I put aside my hurt and disappointment…and I forgive.

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15

I remind my daughter of who God created her to be. I remind her of what her actions should be. Settling for less is not an option, and I will not give up on her. I love her too much.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I let her know that while her actions disappointed me, I still love her and always will. For that is exactly what God has done for me. He has shown His love to me again and again, even when I ignored Him and pushed Him away.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 The Perfect Example

My children will never be perfect, and I will never be a perfect parent. It’s not my job to be perfect. It’s my job to love and guide my children even when they don’t want my presence and guidance. My job is to constantly remind them of who God created them to be – with the same grace and patience that’s been shown to me.

When I feel defeated as a parent, I will not give up. I will follow the perfect example set by my heavenly Father.

I will love my children anyway.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10


Be a Leader

ae_3 I had managed to avoid politics all year, but that changed last week when my oldest daughter had to watch the first Presidential debate for a school assignment. I couldn’t let her suffer alone, so we settled down to watch the debate together. Meanwhile my younger daughter, Autumn, was making cards in the kitchen. From there she could still hear the debate. After about 30 minutes Autumn said “Mom, they’re not being a leader.”

When I asked her what she meant, she said “They’re talking bad about the other one.” This did not meet Autumn’s expectations of a leader. She has been learning about being a leader the past two years at school through a program called The Leader in Me. The program encourages each child to learn to be a leader by choosing to listen to others, work together, and be respectful – the complete opposite of what she was seeing from the two people trying to be our nation’s next leader. debate

Children have a way of seeing things just as they are, don’t they? We can teach concepts all day long, but they notice if what they see lived out doesn’t match up to what’s being taught. Thankfully, Autumn is in a great school, and she does see those leadership qualities lived out each day. She also notices when she doesn’t see those leadership principles practiced other places, such as in that Presidential debate.

It is so important that children see a consistency between the words and actions of adults in their lives. When they don’t, it leads to confusion at best, and cynicism and complete rebellion at worst.

I can’t control how those candidates behave, but I can control my own influence. I need to make sure that my actions are consistent with what I teach. I need to lead by example.

If I teach my children that their lives should be full of the fruits of the Spirit, then I myself need to be patient, joyful, gentle, and kind.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

If I teach them to find their joy in the Lord, then I need to exhibit that joyfulness myself. If my joy comes from another source, they will surely notice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4 

If I teach my children to control their anger and their words, then I must also control my temper. I can not talk in a hurtful way about other people or to other people. If I do, then I can not expect that my children will behave any differently.

 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

If I teach my children not to complain, but instead to make the best of a situation, then I need to do the same. (This is the hardest one for me. I have to confess I was the one heard saying “Having to watch this debate is ruining my night!”)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; Philippians 2:14

If I teach my children that they are blessed and they should be thankful for all they have, then I shouldn’t spend my time wishing for what I don’t have. I need to constantly express my thankfulness to God for all that I do have.

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

If I teach them that the things on this earth don’t last, and then focus all of my energy on earthly pursuits, it won’t make sense to them. Instead, I need to focus on eternal pursuits. My actions will reveal what I truly believe.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

If I tell my children that God should come first in their lives, then I can not let other things come before Him in my own life. Allowing other interests, ideas, and thoughts to pull my heart away from God will speak louder than any words.

And He said to him,  ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ Matthew 22:37

ae_1Do I want my children to follow Jesus? Then I need to lead them there – not just with my words, but with my life. When it comes to being a Christian, I don’t want the reality of what they see to not meet the expectations of what I’ve taught them. There’s no fooling them. Even when we think they’re not paying attention, those children are listening and watching.

Do we want our children to follow Jesus?

Then let’s not just tell them what a follower of Jesus looks like.

Let’s show them.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23