I have never really been one to make new year resolutions.  There is no real reason why other than I am not good at keeping them long term.  I think most people would agree that we always start the new year with good intentions, but then life gets in the way and those resolutions fizzle out.  Instead of new year resolutions, I create small goals for myself all throughout the year that help me to achieve the long-term goals I have for my life.  I have found that to be a much better way for me to stay focused on what I want to accomplish all year long.  At the start of each month, I sit down and think about the things that I want to accomplish that month and I write them down in my calendar and my phone as a constant reminder.  Narrowing down my focus each month, seems to make my goals more manageable and more likely to be accomplished.  This has been a very effective practice for me and is something that I will continue to do. 

Two years ago, I started coming up with a single word that I wanted to focus on throughout the year in addition to my monthly goals.  I saw this idea somewhere, and I really loved it.  I wanted to choose a word that would represent my year as a whole. It was to be a word that I posted around my house and would impact every decision and thought that I had throughout the year.  I wanted to choose a word that would be impactful on my life.  It sort of became my mantra for the year.  My word of the year in 2019 was JOY.  It was something that was really lacking in my life at that time and desperately needed.   I wanted JOY to be my focus for that year as a way to change my mindset and the way that I looked at day to day things going on in my life.  I wanted it to be a constant reminder for me to choose JOY in all circumstances.  It allowed me to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, and by the end of that year, it had become a habit. It was completely freeing.  I feel like it truly made a difference in my life that year and really helped to change the way I looked at everything.  My word for 2020 was RELENTLESS.  My goal was to be RELENTLESS in the pursuit of my goals. That word was placed on my heart after hearing a song that I love.  It was like God turned on that song at the exact moment I was praying about my new word. It turned out to be the perfect word for this past year.   I wanted to focus on being RELENTLESS in multiple areas…relentless in love (for my family and friends), relentless in faith (growing in my relationship with God), relentless in work (making a global impact with my Trades of Hope business), relentless in pursuing my dreams (not giving up on reaching them), relentless in personal growth (becoming a better version of myself), and relentless in joy (continuing to choose joy every day).  While 2020 did not turn out like any of us had planned, I stayed true to my word of the year.  I never gave up and keep pushing forward in all of those areas.  I really was RELENTLESS.  I am proud of myself for continuing to choose joy in the midst of everything that went wrong in 2020.  I chose to see the good that came from it as much as I could, and it brought me so much joy this year.  I also spent more time with my family (thank you COVID) and was really focused in on cultivating my relationships.  My biggest accomplishment of the year, though, was remaining relentless in my work.  I was able to grow my Trades of Hope business in ways I never imagined I could, especially in the middle of a pandemic.  I am very proud of myself for that.  It just proved to me that hard work and persistence are important and can really make a difference.  We should all be relentless in pursuing our goals.

We are already 5 days into a new year, and I have been struggling to find my word of the year for 2021.  The last two came to me so easily and were the perfect fit, but this year’s word has taken a lot of reflection and prayer to find it.  I’ve been toiling around with several words for weeks now.  I’ve had a running list of possible words in my phone since the beginning of December when I started reflecting on the past year and began looking forward to this year.  None of them seemed to be calling to me, though.  If I am being perfectly honest, I still didn’t have the word when I sat down and began writing this post this morning.  It’s true.  I was just kind of hoping that it would come to me as I wrote, and that didn’t happen.  I actually had to stop writing after that last paragraph thinking that I was going to have to postpone this post to another day. I decided to close my computer, close my eyes, and begin praying for the word to come.  I finished my prayer and just sat here with my eyes closed for a few minutes.  I wanted to be still and present.  I wanted to take the time to push out everything around me and just listen to what God had to tell me.  It was in that moment that my word for 2021 appeared in my head.  As I sat here letting the word sink in, it became clear to me that this word was placed on my heart at this very moment because it is exactly the word I need.  It even kind of goes along with my word from last year.  

My word for 2021 is INTENTIONAL.  The Oxford dictionary says that intentional means “done on purpose; deliberate.” I think for me that it ultimately means choosing to make all of my decisions and actions about things that are important to me.  It means taking an active role in my life and with my time versus living my life just reacting to what is happening around me or waiting for the storm to end.  That reminds me of that saying, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning how to dance in the rain.” I want to dance in the rain.  I want to truly live.  Prior to COVID, my life was crazy.  Most days were spent just going through the motions, trying to make it through.  The pandemic brought with it a much needed break from all that insanity.  It allowed me time to do things that I wanted to do instead of simply doing all the things I thought I had to do.  That is how I was able to grow my Trades of Hope business.  I became more intentional with my time.  I really want to keep that going this year.  I don’t want life to go back to the way it was before this extended break.   I no longer want to live my life reacting and simply surviving as I weather the next storm.  I want to continue to be intentional in my decisions, actions, emotions, and time.  I want to be INTENTIONAL with my quiet time with God—not just asking and repenting but choosing to listen and be still, INTENTIONAL with my work—continuing to be relentless in my pursuit of my goals and using my time wisely, INTENTIONAL with my time—choosing time with family and friends over things that are much less important and keeping my focus on the things that matter, INTENTIONAL with my pursuit of becoming a better version of myself—actively working to become the person I want to be instead of just waiting for it to happen. It is time to take control of my life and start living it the way I want to. It is time to stop merely surviving and start truly living. The more this word is swimming around in my brain, the more excited I am becoming about the future.  This is definitely the right word for me for this time in my life. It came to me when I got INTENTIONAL with my time of prayer. How ironic is that? All I can say is that it is all God! I can’t wait to see how living out my word this year is going to change my life. I just know it is going to be great!


The Right Choice

I was not happy with myself yesterday.  The day was a struggle, and I let things get the best of me.  It all started the night before when I was up off and on all night with a migraine.  Thankfully, my meds kicked in and it was gone by the time I got up in the morning, but I still had the after a migraine fog.  Despite the rough night, tiredness, and the fog swirling around in my head, I guess I started the day out in an ok mood.  As a migraine sufferer, those are normal feelings for me, unfortunately.  Anyway, I got up and got ready and then worked on finishing up my style post for a couple of hours. It was like I was on autopilot, though.  I was just going through the motions.  Once I hit publish on my post, my mood started to go downhill.  There was nothing that caused my mood to shift so drastically, but it just did.  I was being quiet and withdrawn at first, but every little thing seemed to suddenly irritate me. I felt out of sorts and didn’t know why.  I didn’t even realize that I was a ticking time bomb ready to explode.  By the time I had finished cooking dinner last night, I was in the worst mood.  I was trying to log my daughter into her virtual cheer class, and it wasn’t working.  The code kept saying it was invalid every time I tried to enter it. That little frustration was enough to set off the bomb.  I eventually lost it and was shouting at everyone in my house for no reason at all.   It was like I was trying to make everyone miserable along with me.  The fact that they were all breathing near me was enough to set me off.  

I honestly don’t know what put me in that mood yesterday or why I snapped.  Maybe, the lack of sleep had taken its toll.  Maybe being quarantined for so long got to me.  Maybe it was hormones.  Maybe it was all of that mixed together. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I am disappointed with myself in how I responded.  I took my feelings out on my family, and I let it get the best of me.  I needed a reminder of my word from last year…JOY.  I needed to choose joy instead of negativity, but I didn’t. I let the negativity fester inside me until it had nowhere to go but to explode outward.  I think it is only natural that we have bad days sometimes.  The reason behind it isn’t as important as how we react to the feelings and emotions inside us.   Yesterday, I reacted poorly.  I chose to let it rule may day and affect my family.  

I had another sleepless night last night, but I am going to make sure today is different than yesterday.  This morning I woke up and told myself that it was going to be a good day.  I told myself that I was choosing joy today above all else.  That simple affirmation was enough to put me in a good mood.  It was enough to change my mindset from negative to positive.  We all have the ability to change our mindset.  It’s pretty simple in fact.  We only have to make the right choice.  We can choose to wallow in our sorrows like I did yesterday, or we can choose to have a grateful, joyful heart.  I can tell you from experience that the latter is a much better choice. Whenever you are feeling down, stop and think of something that you are grateful for in that very moment and focus on it. Choose to see the joy in your life. I promise you that simple act will turn your mood around.  You can’t possibly feel bad when you are choosing gratitude and joy. 

Today I choose JOY, and I choose to be RELENTLESS in that choice.  How about you? What choice are you making for yourself today?



Can you believe that we are already a week into a new year and a new decade?  As I am sure most of us do at the start of a new year, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the past year and what I want out of my life for this new year.  I shared with you last year that I am not really one to make new year resolutions.  I just don’t think that they are ever very effective for me. I tend to have all of these grand ideas and plans of things I want to accomplish and am so gung hoe for them.  Then by February or March, it has all fizzled out because life just took over.  Resolutions just aren’t meaningful enough for me.  I decided last year to try something new.  I decided to choose a word that I wanted to be a representation for my year.  It was to be something that I focused on all year and it was something that I wanted to improve about my life. Just thinking about that word and reminding myself of it on a daily basis was supposed to have an impact on every decision I made throughout the year and really impact how I lived my life.  I wasn’t sure how it was really going to play out throughout the year or if it would fizzle out within a month or two like past resolutions had, but I was determined to give it a solid go.  As I have shared many times since starting this blog, I have been on the road of self-discovery over the past 2 years and have really been putting in a lot of work into what I want out of life and the kind of person I want to be and the example I want to be for my kids.  All of that went into my choice of word for 2019.  I thought long and hard about it and one word kept coming up over and over.  That word was JOY, and an idea began to take shape.  I realized that joy was something that had been sorely lacking in my life for a long time.  I didn’t feel joy.  I think I had really forgotten what real joy actually felt like.   I decided that choosing joy in every circumstance in my life was something that I desperately needed. I had gotten to the point where everything in my life was a chore.  I was always negative and didn’t do anything with any sense of joy.  It was time for a change.  I began to believe that if I chose joy in all circumstances, my life would begin to make sense and I would begin to experience true happiness again. I set out for 2019 to be the year that I chose joy above all else. Now, I will tell you that I didn’t always choose joy 100% of the time.  There were times that I got knocked down and needed to remind myself of my goal.  However, I truly believe that my life is better and much more joyful than it has been in a very long time. Having that reminder to choose joy staring me in the face every day, really did have a positive impact on my life.  There were some really hard things that happened in 2019 that could have could have turned my life upside down and really broken me had I not chosen to rise above them and chose joy.  I chose joy in the difficult times and in the sad times, and that alone made the biggest impact.  Did I shout joy from the rooftops? No, I did not.  This was something internal for me.  It was a mindset that I had to work on.  People weren’t aware of the battle going on inside of me to fight the negative and put joy at the forefront of my mind, but it wasn’t about anyone else but me.  It wasn’t easy and sometimes I failed, but choosing joy in all circumstances is something that I will continue to do for the rest of my life. 

Now 2020 is here and it is time for me to choose a new word to focus on this year.  I have really put a lot of thought into this year’s word.  It actually came to me on the 10-hour drive from South Carolina back home after Christmas.  I do a lot of thinking and praying when I am on long drives.  It was just my oldest and me in the car, and she pretty much puts in ear buds and doesn’t speak the whole time. Needless to say, it gave me a lot of quiet time.  I had put on the music that I have downloaded on my phone partly because I was tired of changing stations every hour or so when we lost the one we were listening too and partly because I think better with music for some reason.  I have a lot of contemporary Christian music on my phone that I like to listen to when I want to get the in the right frame of mind.  Anyway, I was throwing a lot of words around in my head, but nothing was really sticking.  I was trying to find something to represent what I wanted this year to look like for me.  Then this song came on that I have heard a million times.  It is by a guy that used to be the worship leader at one of our old churches.  The song is entitled, “Relentless.” It talks about how God’s love for us is relentless, endless, never changing, and unstoppable.  It got me doing a lot of thinking about that.

It was like a brick hit me upside the head, and I instantly knew that my word for 2020 was going to be RELENTLESS.  It was like God placed the word right there at my feet.  That word truly encompasses what I want for my life this year.  I want to be relentless just like God is in his love for us. I want to be relentless in all I do.  I want to be so focused that nothing can stop me.    I want to be RELENTLESS IN LOVE—love for my family, my friends, and every person I come across. I want to be RELENTLESS IN FAITH—ever growing in my relationship with Christ.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN WORK—fighting for injustice and making a global impact with the work I do with Trades of Hope. I want to be RELENTLESS IN DREAMS—doing everything in my power to make all of my dreams come true. I want to be RELENTLESS IN GROWTH—continuing to work on growing and becoming the best version of myself.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN JOY—seeking joy and choosing joy in everything I do.

The Oxford dictionary says that relentless means “oppressively constant; incessant; harsh; inflexible.”  While some may think that relentless can be a negative word, I do not see it that way in this instance.  For me being relentless means that I am not going to give up, and I am not going to stop. Failure is only a bump in the road and not the end.  It means not letting anything stand in the way of achieving my goals and dreams.  It means continuing to push forward until I am victorious. It is an endless pursuit of what I want for my life and the person I want to become. It means putting God first before all other things and letting him guide me through this journey of life in the way he has set it out for me. It is getting up every day with a purpose and doing whatever it takes to fulfill that purpose.  Just like waves crashing on the shore, I am plan to be relentless in my life this year. 

Anchored and Relentless,

Kindness Matters

All of us go through hard things.  We all have trials and tribulations.  We all weather storms.  Sometimes those storms are colossal hurricanes or a powerful earthquake that shatters your world, and sometime they are just small rain showers.  No matter the severity, we all face them at different times in our lives. That cashier at the grocery store may have just found out her mom has cancer.  The boy crossing the street alone may have recently lost his dog. The mom with the crying baby in the restaurant may have a deployed husband who she hasn’t spoken to in months.  The man sitting alone in the park may have lost his job.  The teen in line in front of you may have failed an important test.  The woman in the car next to you at the light with tears slowly rolling down her face may have just gotten terrible news.  The girl who seems to have it all together all the time could be crumbling inside.  The point is that you may never know what someone is going through. Every single person you encounter in a day has his or her own baggage just like you have your own. 

Many people are good at hiding what is going on inside.  They put on a brave face and carry on with life while their heart is being ripped open from the inside out. I know women who suffer in silence because they can’t get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy and no one else knows what they have gone through.  I’ve heard stories of so many young children who commit suicide and no one, including their parents, knew they were struggling.  I know of men who have served our country that are struggling to figure out who they are now that they have seen such horrible things.  We come across these people all the time without knowing.  They could even smile at us, and we don’t see the pain in their eyes. Some could be our own friends or family. Some are strangers. Of course we don’t go looking for these people, and they don’t seek us out.  Maybe we should.

I urge you to choose kindness.  Choose to smile at strangers you pass. Say a kind word to someone you encounter.  A simple please and thank you goes a long way. Give a compliment to someone new.  Do small acts of kindness. Lend your shoulder to someone to cry on. Ask how someone is doing and really mean it.   Let that person know that you want an answer other than “fine” because you truly care about their wellbeing. Take the high road.  Your kindness could be the thing that puts a real smile on someone’s face or fills a void in his or her heart.  Your kind words could mean the difference in someone choosing to take their own life.  Your smile could turn someone else’s day around completely. Your shoulder could bring healing.

What do you have to loose by being kind? Yes, it may take time away from your day, but there is so much you could get from it. Maybe it saves someone’s life. Maybe it will save your own.  Maybe it is the one thing that will heal your own broken heart.   Maybe it is what you were called to do.  Maybe it is God’s purpose for your life.  You have nothing to loose and everything to gain just by choosing kindness.  Choosing to live a life of joy by spreading kindness IS what we are called to do.    It IS the right choice. Kindness matters.  


A Hearse with a Trailer Hitch

Are you controlled by money? Do you live your life according to how much money is in your bank account? Do your things and possessions control you? My husband and I had a very insightful conversation about just those things on Sunday night.  We had gone to church that morning and the pastor was talking about being controlled by money and possessions.  He talked about how we use money and things to try to find happiness, and that our desire for more money and more things actually causes us to feel like there is never enough.  He made a statement that I have heard many times before, “There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.” That is so true. We can’t take any of this stuff with us when we go. Happiness does not come from financial gain.  It doesn’t.  Many may think that it will, but it will never make you truly happy deep within your heart.  As we were driving home from dinner Sunday night, my husband asked me if I believed that we lived the way the pastor was talking about.  Do we let money and things rule our life.  Honestly, I didn’t even hesitate in my answer.  I said that I absolutely feel that we let money rule our life.  We are both guilty of it.  Our children are guilty of it. I would say that probably the majority of you would say the same if you really thought deeply about the topic.  We all think that if we just had more money, we could do more things and buy more things and that those things would make us happy.  I have told you all a million times now that shopping and everything in my closet make me happy.  How vain is that? I know this about myself. I know it is a flaw.  Does it really bring me true joy, though? I don’t think so. The more I get, the more I want. It’s just an endless cycle.

Three years ago when we first moved to Georgia, we made the decision for me to take a year off from teaching due to all the of things going on at the time. The plan had always been for me to go back to work full-time the following year.  However, circumstances beyond our control prevented me from going back as planned that year.  I did have a part time teaching position for half of that first year, but then I didn’t work at all the second year that we were there.  Let me tell you, that unplanned drop of income made things very tight for us.  We had a lot of expenses that counted on that second income.  We had become accustomed to a life that allowed us to buy things that we didn’t need. We put ourselves in that situation. It was a very trying time for us.  I had constant guilt about not working and helping my family. I felt pressure to get a job even though I knew in my heart that I didn’t really want to go back to work. I realized then that our priorities were not in the right place. We were placing way too much emphasis on all of the things that we had that we thought we needed to make us happy. We really needed to stop and take a look at what we were doing and what our focus should be, but we didn’t and things just got worse. I could visibly see the stress and worry on my husband’s face.  I could feel the knot that was constantly in my stomach over that period of time.  It was not fun.  We still had all of these things and possessions, but neither of us was happy.  So…..why do we have the mindset that money, things, and possessions make us happy when in reality they don’t? Why do we let that define who we are?

Thankfully, circumstances changed for us without me having to go back to work and we no longer worry and stress over not having enough money. My stress level has decreased tremendously and the knot in my stomach is gone.  The worry and stress on my husband’s face is gone too.  You would think that my answer to my husband’s question to me on Sunday would be different now, but it isn’t.  We still hold on to our possessions. We still spend money on frivolous things. Our stress has shifted from not having enough money to how can we get even more so that we are never in that situation again and so that we can continue to live a life where we are able to go, do, and buy all the things we want. Yes, we are much happier than we were a year ago, but is that happiness a result of money and possessions? I don’t think so.  I know now that my personal happiness now comes from within me and is a result of the work that I have done on myself in the last year.  It comes from really trying to be a better version of myself.  It comes from spending time together as a family like we have never been able to do before because of all of my husband’s deployments. It comes from love. It comes from my walk with Christ.

The pastor’s sermon really made me realize yet again that we need to change our priorities.  We need to stop and take a look at all of the things that we have and ask ourselves if we really need them.  That U-Haul still isn’t going to be there to carry it all with us when we go.  My husband has been toiling with the idea of minimalism since our recent struggles. He too has realized that we don’t need all of these things.  What we need to do is to downsize, to purge, to get rid of all the things.  Do I think that we will all become minimalists? No, I don’t. Do I think that some of the principles of it can apply to us? Yes, I do. Instead of just getting more and more, we need to use our resources/finances/things to do good. We need to teach our children that more isn’t better.  We need to teach them to give to others who don’t have the opportunities we have.  I have been praying about this a lot recently, and I feel like God is calling us to do more, to be more. He’s not telling us to get more or have more. Does it mean that I am going to stop shopping and squash my love of fashion? Honestly, it probably won’t, but it is going to make me think twice about what I buy and it is going to make me slow down significantly. 

We will be moving into a new house in the spring.  I have decided that between now and then, I am going to go through every single room of this house that we are currently in and purge (that includes my closet).  We have to get rid of so many things that we don’t need.  We have to start fresh in this new house. We have to work hard to change our mindset. Instead of trying to sell most of it to gain more money, we are going to donate it. My children are going to be involved in the process as well.  It is going to happen.  We have to do better by them. We have to teach them to give to others. We have to teach them that the things you own and the amount of money that you have do not define who you are.  Those things don’t give you happiness.  Seeking God, giving to others, spending time with your family, and love are the things that will bring you true joy in life. Yesterday, I was reminded of an experience from my childhood that made a deep impression on me, and it is one that I will never forget.  I went to a very small private school with an extremely small class size.  One year (I can’t remember what age I was but I would guess somewhere between 4th and 6th grade) my class decided instead of doing a class gift exchange, we wanted to collect items to give to a family in need.  We collected toys, clothes, household goods, and I believe money.  One day just before Christmas break, our teachers helped us load all of the stuff we had collected into the back of several trucks.  All of the students got into those trucks and we drove to the house of the family that we had adopted.  I’m not even sure that I could accurately describe the feeling that we all had when we pulled up and saw the state of that house.  It was literally caving in.  The house seemed to be held up by cinder blocks and the whole house was sagging in the middle. You could see the gap between the foundation of the house and the floor. I don’t think I can ever get that image out of my head. It was like nothing I have ever seen before or since then.  One thing I vividly remember noticing was that they didn’t even have a regular doorknob. Their doorknob was an empty spool of thread. The house was completely falling apart.  The other thing that I vividly remember was the look on those people’s faces when we started unloading everything that we had brought.  The tears spilled from their eyes because they couldn’t control their emotions. My heart was overflowing with joy at that moment because we were doing something good with the resources that we were privileged to have. I want more experiences like that in my life. I want my kids to have experiences like that. That is where true happiness comes from.  It does not come from financial gain. It does not come from possessions. Instead of seeking wealth, we should seek godliness, generosity, righteousness, faith, and love. That is where you will find happiness. That is where you will find true wealth.

If you can, go read 1 Timothy 6: 3-19. Instead of pursuing money and possessions, pursue God.


Parenting: The Greatest Challenge


Does anyone else struggle with the idea of whether or not you are doing the right things with raising your kids? Some dictionary definitions of a parent are as simple as “having offspring,” but what does parenting really mean? According to Wikipedia, parenting is “the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of a child from infant to adulthood.” That’s a huge responsibility, but doesn’t parenting seem like so much more than that, though?  How do you promote and support them? How do you know what to do? How much do you push them to make good grades? How much do you push them to succeed in their sport or activity of choice? How much influence do you have in the people they are choosing as their friends? How about how much screen time you allow them to have or if you allow them to have a phone of their own and what age? At what age do you allow them to use social media and how much do you monitor it?  Are you a helicopter parent? Authoritative? Passive? Uninvolved? Permissive? I could go on and on.  Parenting is not an easy job.  It’s serious. Parents are ultimately responsible for the kind of adults their children will be come.  The responsibility is tremendous.  The decisions you will make could alter the course of your children’s lives forever. Will we ever know if we are making the right choices? I don’t know the answer to that. Is there a right and a wrong way to raise your kids? Again, I don’t really know the answer.  I do believe that we have to try to make the best decisions that we can for our kids, but then I wonder what “best” means.  Is what I think is best, really the best?  I’m positive that what I think is best is not the same as what you think is best, so which one of us is right? Are we both right? I also know that a lot of us try to parent the same way that our parents parented us; but times change, new and different challenges arise, and what worked back then doesn’t apply to the world we live in now.  Parenting is hard.  It is the greatest challenge we face.

The way that I parent each of my kids is even different.  Both of my girls are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to personalities and needs.  The way that I parent my older daughter is totally different than the way I parent my younger daughter.  My oldest daughter requires a more hands-off approach.  She has always been able to play by herself and has always been totally ok with being alone and often prefers it that way.  She doesn’t like to talk about her feelings and hates when you ask her a ton of questions.  She is super shy and really dislikes confrontation. If I were to even slightly raise my voice at her, she would crumble and burst into tears.  That’s not just because she is a hormonal teenager either. She has always been that way.  On the other hand, my youngest demands attention at all times and requires a much more hands-on approach.   She’s never been one that likes to play by her self and she can’t stand being alone. She likes to talk and tell you about her day and her feelings all the time.  She is super outgoing and actually seems to love confrontation. I can yell at her until I am blue in the face and it makes no difference to her.  In fact, she will just yell right back at me. My oldest has never been the lovey-dovey type.  Even as a baby and toddler, she was never the cuddly type.  My youngest is the exact opposite.  She craves that physical contact and love.  They both came from the same two people. The same two parents in the same home and environment raise them both. However, they both require such different parenting styles.  How do we know that what we are doing with each of them won’t scar them for the rest of their lives?  How do we know that what we are doing is right?

There are millions of “experts” out there that will be glad to tell you how to raise your children. There are doctors, strangers, friends, grandparents, authors, celebrities, tv personalities, etc. that are all too happy to tell you what you are doing wrong and what you should do different.  Honestly it is very rare that you will find someone that believes that everything you are doing to raise your kids is perfect.  Everyone, even those close to you, has opinions about what you are doing as a parent, whether they verbalize it to you or not. Are all of these people right?   Do they really have the answers we all long for? Do you really suck as a parent like they sometimes make you feel? I know I am always second guessing myself.  I know that I look to these “experts” to tell me what to do, but what they say isn’t always what is best for your children. No child in the entire world is exactly alike.  Even twins who share the same exact DNA are not alike in the way that you need to parent them.  What works for one child is not going to necessarily work for another.  In fact, it often won’t. What one child needs may not be exactly what another child needs. These “experts” may not really know what they are talking about or be just following the latest fad, and it may not work for your child.  I once heard someone say that “everyone knows how to raise children except the ones that have them.” Everyone can give you an opinion but only you know if it will work for you. You have to take other’s advice with a grain of salt and not let it make you feel like a failure. Sometimes, we want advice from others.  Sometimes their advice will help, but so often it doesn’t.   If only it were easy to know what the answers were. There is not one single handbook on how to parent that will work for everyone. It’s not possible to produce such a handbook because everyone is different.  Everyone has a different personality and everyone has different needs and wants and situations.

 Psychology Today says that “parenting seems subject to fads and changing styles, and parenting in some ways has become a competitive sport.” This is so true.  We see it all the time.  We jump on whatever the newest fad in parenting is and think we have it all figured out when we really don’t.  Then we start to compare what we are doing to others. I know I am also guilty of it. You want to believe that you are doing a better job than Suzy Homemaker down the street. You want to believe that you are making the right choices, but maybe you aren’t.  Maybe Suzy Homemaker down the street is a better parent than you.  Maybe you aren’t doing such a good job as a parent. I see others who seem to have the perfect kids and the perfect life. Then I see those people that seem to be falling apart. It is so easy to judge others.  It is so easy to tell others what we think they should or shouldn’t do. It’s so easy to compare ourselves with others. It’s not easy to hear how someone else is doing this parenting thing so much better than you. It makes you feel like a failure. We have to stop the cycle of comparing ourselves to other parents.   We have to stop competing with each other over who can be the better parent. We have to just focus on our own kids and doing the best we can by them. There are some things that I think I am doing well and other things that I feel like I am drowning with.  I think that’s normal.  It’s not right to compare myself to others because their situations and their kids’ personalities are different than mine. My focus should only be on my kids.

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So…how do you know what is “best”? I honestly think that you won’t ever truly know.  You will always wonder if what you are doing will affect your child later in life.  I even think that when your children grow up and become adults, you will still wonder. I imagine wondering in my old age if some flaw or issue (because none of us are perfect) that my adult child may have is all my fault, something I caused.  I think I will always wonder if I would have done so and so differently, would my child have turned out to be a better person?  I don’t think we will ever truly know.  The only thing that we can do is to make decisions based on each individual child and his or her needs.  You can only do what you think is best.  Back to the question of what is the “best,” I think that is going to be something that you have to figure out based on your own personal feelings and beliefs and what you believe your children need.  My best is not going to be the same as your best.  My best for one child isn’t going to be the same as my best for the other child. Use the information that you have, use the knowledge you gained from your own parents, use what you learn from others, but ultimately follow your own heart.  Only you know your child and how they work and think and react.  Only you know what your child truly needs. Yes, you will constantly second guess yourself.  That is just human nature.  Yes, you will make mistakes, but learn from them.  Yes, it is going to be a lot of trial and error, but don’t stop trying. Yes, it is going to be hard, but you can do it.  I can do it.  God gave us these precious, golden gifts to mold and shape.  Maybe we aren’t doing the right things. Maybe we are screwing our kids up. I have to believe that you can only try. Try to make the best decisions for them.  Try to teach them to be strong, independent adults.  Try to listen to them and their needs and give them what they truly need. Try to be a better parent today than you were yesterday.  Try to grow and change with your child. All you can do is try. Trust God to show you and lead you the right way.  He wouldn’t have given us these precious gifts if he didn’t think we could handle it. You just have to believe that. I’ve said this before.  I’m not perfect.  You aren’t perfect.  Our children aren’t perfect.  There is no perfect way to parent.  There is only your way and your way is perfectly imperfect and that’s okay. What your children need most is love.  Love them with all of your heart and you will find the answers. Be present in their lives. You don’t have to be perfect.  You just have to be you. You are a good parent if you truly love your children and strive to teach them the best way you know how.  Be the parent your children need you to be.  Whatever that looks like is your decision and yours alone. Choose happiness and gratitude over thoughts of failure and defeat. That alone will bring you the joy and peace you need to be a great parent.  Parenting may be the greatest challenge but it is also the greatest joy.

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