Thursday, January 19, 2017

The ME Gospel

As I write this, we are one day away from the inauguration of America's representative to the world, a man we as a people elected, and whom, I would argue, truly represents not just Americans, but the whole world community. It is ironic then that my reading this week takes me back to Egypt, where Pharaoh, living in his gilded palace high above the world, has successfully enslaved the Hebrew people through power, wealth, bullying, selfish desires, bad advisors, and a sense of entitlement.  Sound familiar? 

We live in a world dominated by our own desires, fueled by our own sense of entitlement, quickly fulfilled by our social media "friends" who are nothing more than "yes" men and women, whoring themselves out to us (and us to them) in order to feel loved and to help us overcome the gripping fear that we are not good enough unless some anonymous person gives us his approval. 

We spend hours and days and years of our lives taking photos of our "perfect" selves, our " amazing" children, our "incredible" spouses, our "stunning" homes, posting them on blogs and Facebook and Instagram (and all of the other social sites I know nothing about), disconnecting from the actual relationships, completely shocked when they fail or when we have to file bankruptcy for our massive expenditures to no longer just compete with the Joneses but BE the Trumps. 

We find ourselves disappointed when we just can't open up because it is so hard to tell you what I am going through when "I" have no idea who "you" are (and vice versa) and I am only reading what you wrote because, like any train wreck, it's hard to pull my eyes away; and, at the same time, it gives me the satisfaction that at least I am not you.  Alternatively, there is a boom in posting about things that were once (and, really, still should be) shameful, allowing comments only from those who support and encourage the bad behavior.

Perhaps worst of all, we select relationships in "real life" based on their their surface impressiveness only to end them instead of working to improve them because, while our Pinterest boards contain thousands of ideas about how to select good appliances and renovate our homes, there is nothing about how to select or repair our relationships or, most critically, ourselves.

So, we go on.  We post photo after photo, carefully worded update after carefully worded update, losing in the world that counts but succeeding in the world that doesn't exist, yielding power that we think we are wielding, trying to be God, unwilling to acknowledge the great giftedness of our humble truthful existence.  We are members of the world's oldest profession and best, begun that sixth day of creation in the garden with the serpent - "Do this. It will make you great. I will like you." 

Yes, friends, marketing is the world's oldest profession and the product is ME.

Friday, December 16, 2016


When he saw that he did not defeat Ya'akov, he struck Ya'akov's hip socket, so that his hip was dislocated while wrestling with him.  The man said, "Let me go, because it is daybreak." But Ya'akov replied, "I won't let you go until you bless me."  (Genesis 32:26-27)
Ya'akov called the place P'ni-El [face of God], "Because I have seen God face to face, yet my life is spared." As the sun rose upon him he went past P'ni-El, limping at the hip.  (Genesis 32:31-32)

Have you been wounded?  Or, should I ask, how many times have you been wounded?  

Our world is wounded. 

Consider that the *average* time a refugee spends in a camp is seventeen years.  Imagine how wounded those parents feel - parent who were professionals, educated, experienced, happy, successful - whose children will grow up knowing nothing other than the thin walls of a tiny, temporary room; the filth of human illness and waste permeating the air; food and water and clothing and shelter a distant memory; death and disease expected; comfort a distant, painful memory.  Imagine countries fighting not for you but to keep you and your children out?  Imagine world leaders claiming that YOU are the problem with the world, as you nurse your newborn son, hearing your once-brave husband weep softly, defeated, as he accepts that he has failed to keep his family safe and fed and happy.  Wounded.

Look at Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, whatever else is out there.  See how happy and perfect your "friends" look gathered around in the photos, smiling, wearing beautiful clothes, in perfectly decorated rooms, about to devour food that looks like it should be on the cover of a magazine.  Look at your own photos of yourself and your family.  Is that the real story?  Do you walk around the house everyday with your head thrown back in laughter, your children dressed in matching outfits smiling at you, your husband dashing in the house at 6:00, just in time for dinner with his adoring family in the perfectly clean home that you just redecorated for him?  Or is there dirt on the floor from the soccer cleats left on the rug right next to the pet vomit that no one sees but you after you trip on said cleats and step into said vomit on your way to answer the phone at 6:15 as dinner cools because the children are playing video games in their rooms for "five more minutes" thirty minutes ago? Oh, and that was your husband on the phone, late again tonight, "working" but with a boozy sound to his voice and muffled laughter in the background.  Wounded.

Maybe you are that woman who would give anything to have a husband and a baby - just one baby - because you would laugh with your head thrown back at any and all of the difficulties of marriage and raising a child if you could just have ONE in your arms, if you could just have one person in the world who you could love who would love you back.  Wounded.


We are all wounded.

But here is the truth:  we are all MENDED.   We may walk around like Jacob, limping through the battlefield of our lives - yes, through, never off the battlefield - but, because we have a God who "fashioned my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Ps. 139:13), we also have a God who mends our wounds.  We may feel the shrapnel from our fiercest fights as we walk through the darkest days of our lives, but our God who IS light will walk with us, in us, knitting us back together in a way that can make us stronger, better, a blessing prepared for the battles ahead.  We can choose to cower in fear, or we can, like Jacob, demand a blessing and get back on the path that God has prepared for us.

We can choose to accept that we are mended.  

We are ALL mended.

"For I know what plans I have in mind for you," says Adonai, "plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

*Images courtesy of Save the Children and Huffington Post.

Friday, February 6, 2015

44 - Love: A Tennis Story

Yesterday, I had an emotional breakdown.  It was a deep, unexplainable feeling, akin to (maybe) being knocked in the head and being slightly off-kilter.  People spoke to me, but for hours afterward I could only view them from inside a bubble - I knew what they were saying, I was able to respond (I think), but I couldn't really connect.

Did I mention that this happened on the tennis court?

Oh, and I cried.  Yep, second time in six weeks, both times on the court.  First time I've cried in two years.

Let me start at the pseudo-beginning.  I started playing tennis in high school.  A cousin of a friend, a top junior player in my state, offered to give me free lessons.  I'd grown up playing tennis at the club, but never really knew how to hold a racket or what to do if anyone with any real skill hit the ball not directly to me.  (My current coach might still say this! Ha.)  Every day after school, we would meet at the court and play for hours.  HOURS.  Months and months went by and one afternoon I beat him.  I won!  Now, granted, he was most assuredly high at the time (he both was and was not smoking on the court, if you get my drift).  But I won!  I was shocked and excited and I will never forget that moment. 

I had finally found "it."

Don't get me wrong - I can't remember ever winning again, against anyone.  But it was that feeling of hope, the assurance of possibilities, that tennis gave me.  My whole life had been about portraying to the world this wall of perfection, like a wall of portraits and photos in the hallway showing only the happy times, hiding the holes in the wall from the fists beating in frustration, softening the voices raised in anger and disgust, becoming my only "friends" when those who were supposed to love me openly voiced their hate.  My tennis game was so imperfect, but that was the point!  It was always a process, always a journey, never finite.

Everyone finds their "thing," that outlet that allows them to just be, to exist openly but still somehow preserve what needs to be private.  I don't know why it was tennis for me - I don't know why it wasn't something else that I was actually good at - I don't know why I could walk onto a tennis court and work out all the pain and anger and fear and walk away better, healed somehow.  And, truly if I had achieved any real skill in the game, where would be my vulnerability?  My imperfection?  Behind the wall.  Instead, the wall just kept coming down the more I played.

And then I quit.

I had forgotten why I quit.  In the years following I just assumed I'd stopped playing because I'd injured my wrist maybe one too many times, transferred colleges, worked lots of jobs to stay afloat, graduated, moved a thousand miles from home, started my career, married, had children - all legitimate reasons.

But yesterday, in a split second on the court, my wrist snapped and so did my memory (and what began the flood of tears).  Twenty-five years ago I stepped off the court to begin rebuilding my Wall of Perfection.  And six weeks ago, six months after my mother died (my dad died a year earlier), I felt an unexplainable urge to play tennis again.

(Where is Freud when you need him?!)

The first tears, weeks ago, I had walked on the court afraid to fail and my fears were validated.  I cried yesterday because I was afraid I had injured that same stupid wrist by doing the same stupid things I had done to it before.  But there's the rub - real pain is never about what we think, is it?  There was something so familiar in those moments that brought me to tears, like the little hole in the dam in the children's nursery story (the boy who put his thumb in the wall to stop the water and save the town).  And, like that story, the solutions were temporary; my tears were the evidence of the holes popping through the wall with an uncontrollable force and frequency.  I was no longer able to keep up. 

I stopped playing tennis not because I used to cry on the court (never!), but because I stopped working on those seemingly endless holes in the wall and decided to build a new, better, stronger, bigger wall that would never, ever have holes.  Ha.  And the townspeople all walked by saying, "We never knew she had so many thumbs!"

As the oldest child, I'm the textbook overachieving, persistent, non-quitter.  But I did consider quitting yesterday.  Again, it has nothing to do with tennis and everything with what it represents.  To me.  To me tennis is a way of letting down my guard, showing my imperfection and being completely vulnerable.  It is scary.  Today I'm in a "shock hangover," alternately sobbing and brave.  I feel like that teenager I once was, walking away from the one thing that let me be me and didn't judge me, starting to shove all of the tough emotions behind the ever-growing wall.  And today, I'm soaking wet, standing in the raging stream of the broken wall and the dam that has been set free after all those years.

So what now?

My adult mind knows that I can get past this and one day tennis will just be a game that I can enjoy with my fellow nursing home residents in sunny Florida (a girl can dream!)  And right now?  I have no idea what else I'll find on that court and it scares me.  I'm really so scared of feeling again.  Half of what is behind that tumbling wall I doubt I remember even putting there.  That is what I found yesterday and I know I'll find it tomorrow or next week or next year.  But as my grandmother said, "Growing old is not for the weary!"  So I press on.  I'll see it through to whatever end.

And who knows?  I might even win.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Do This in Remembrance of Me

A dear friend told me of the time she and her husband went to an introductory cocktail party for a country club they were considering joining.  Her husband claimed that the wealthy, over-the-top club "appeals to all of my sinful desires!"  The delicious food and drink, dazzling decor, special outfits bought just for the occasion, amazing floral arrangements, glittery jewels, an endless array activities for parents and kids and fine-looking folks with a smile and a laugh for every appropriate moment.

It's beginning to sound alot like appeals to all of our sinful desires.

So many of us are able to see sin in the things that we are not used to and, thus, more able to resist.  But when we find sin within our own comfort zone, it's nearly impossible to recognize or admit.  When we have grown up with our happiest times spent decorating the tree and opening presents from mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and the aunts and uncles we only see on Christmas, that's hard to give up.  When we have children and want to give them the sweet fantasy of stockings on the hearth, candy canes on car rides to look at lights on houses and Santa coming down the chimney after bedtime, that's painful to reconsider.  When our year has brought tragedy and heartache and our happiest memories of years past are spent in church, singing to the nativity, that doesn't seem possible to ignore.

Jesus said, "Follow me," numerous times in the gospels.  And, yet, not once did He mention the date or celebration of His birth.  Not even during that much repeated Last Supper discourse when He informed the disciples that He would lose His life imminently and rise again to life did He tell them to celebrate His birth (or Resurrection). 

Jesus said, "...not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law."  (Matt. 5:18)  His last supper was not an arbitrary day, but a day critical to the Jews who were waiting for their Messiah and for the Christians who follow Him today!  His last meal was the first night of the unleavened bread during Passover, in which we eat, for seven days, bread with no yeast.  Why no yeast?  The yeast is the sin!  When Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me,"  (Luke 22:19b), He broke a piece of the bread without yeast and gave it to His disciples to show that it represented His body - the body without sin shed for us!

So much of this world appeals to our sinful nature because Satan is here, in the world, tempting us at every turn, in ways that truly cause even the most faithful to stumble, else how could he succeed?  The evil one knew that we could not resist celebrating the One we love, so why would he tempt us with anything we would be sure to reject?  The temptation is Christmas and Easter and all they stand for.  As joyful and celebrated and beautiful and emotional and revered these days seem to be, and as faithful as we feel when we most reverently follow them, these celebrations were never a part of His plan.

Matthew 7:21:  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

We are living in a New Testament world, but we must continue/begin to follow our Old Testament God.  We must worship Him as He requires; we must follow His commandments (yes, even the Sabbath!!  What a blessing!) while embracing the new commandment that Jesus gave us that encompasses the commandments of His Father, "love one another."

After a year of following the biblical holidays, I am certain this is God's will, but my sinful nature is still tempted by the twinkling lights, the candlelight church service, the little PlayMobil nativity in our basement and reading the story of that glorious night my Saviour was born with my little children curled up around me.  We still read the story (just not exclusively in December), we'll still play with the nativity (because isn't every day a celebration of the birth of the Messiah?) and we still light lots of candles (we've gone through boxes and boxes this year).

There is still time to join us!  Time to turn off the lights, take down the tree, give the gifts to the needy, and enjoy the Bible and our Saviour in full and in truth.  May you be richly, gloriously blessed!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Idol for Every Occasion

"When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, 'Come, make us gods who will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.'"  (Exodus 32:1 NIV)

This has been on my heart greatly for the last week or so.  Do you remember why Moses was missing?  He was on Mt. Sinai, in the cloud with God, collecting the laws and commandments for the people.  Whom he consecrated before he went up to the mountain.  Who understood that he, Moses, was going up onto the mountain to be with God.  With GOD.

Remind you of anything?

Jesus, the Word of God come to life for us, left this earthly existence for His heavenly throne 2,000 years ago (give or take a few years).  Since that time, we fellow rescued believers have followed in the footsteps of those disobedient idolaters.  That's right - instead of grasping the Spirit that He left us to live within us, to counsel us, to guide us, to not leave us as orphans (as the people felt that Moses did) - instead of worshipping the only One worthy of our time, tithes and offerings, we have produced yet another golden calf. 

Yes, yes, sometimes our idol wears pink bunny ears and brings those tasty peanut butter and chocolate eggs; sometimes he wears a big red suit and let's us put our runny-nosed, coughing children on his lap so they can ask a completely false, total stranger for a gift they know they will get anyway; sometimes he wears a set of numbers in a little pocket-sized book that holds another set of numbers that gives us total security and confidence that whatever - whatever! - the problem, the numbers are almost big enough to cover it; sometimes he wears a surgically-altered, society-determined face and figure that assure us that with these implements nothing can ever make us sad or insecure for our future; sometimes he wears the body of a tiny baby, a precious, helpless, loving, sweet infant who could bring an end to our pain, that sharp, lonely pain of infertility or a bad marriage; sometimes he wears the vow of a spouse that must meet all of our needs for love, security, affection; sometimes he wears perfection - no, not the look, just the being of perfection, the perfect grades from the perfect school for the perfect degree that leads to the perfect job that meets the perfect spouse that produces the perfect children who live in the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood...; sometimes he even wears sadness, depression*, despair so deep that this, too, becomes an idol.  Need I go on?

I believe that we are all looking for an idol.  We are all looking for that one "thing" (for lack of a more leading term) to worship that will fulfill and complete us, that will give us the desire of our hearts, that will make us feel loved.

That will make. us. feel. loved.

God knew this.  He created us for this.  He created us with a desire, deeper than any other desire, to worship a great being.  To search until we found the deep, longing, reaching had met its match.  He created us to worship the greatest, most loving, most completely perfect "idol."

"You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them..." (Exodus 20:3-4a NIV)

So many times we pat ourselves on the back for not breaking the commandments.  "I've never stolen!"  "I've never murdered!"  And, yet, we walk around with our hearts invested in everything and everyone but the One true desire of the heart.

This brings us back to Christmas.  Have you thought about the way you celebrate?  Have you considered that the tree and lights and ornaments and gifts and trips to the mall and catalogs in the mail and even the daily Advent candle lighting and observance are all idolatrous?  Notice I didn't even mention Santa!  Have you considered that, perhaps, the reason you feel you must focus more on the "meaning" of Christmas in order to stop feeling so overwhelmed is in fact because Christmas is an idol and not a true celebration of Christ?  Have you considered that the reason you don't feel fulfilled even after the presents have been opened and the church services have been attended is because you are spending too much time worshipping the golden calf and too little time waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain?  (Theoretically, of course.)

When Moses went to be with God, he left Aaron with the people.  Aaron was a man, possibly fearful of a riot, and he probably didn't know what had happened to Moses either.

But when Jesus went to sit at the right hand of God, he left Himself with the people.  The Holy Spirit is not a little piece of God; the Holy Spirit is God.  We worship a Triune God, a God who created us, came to be with us and lives within us.  He must be all to be one.

Every time we look for satisfaction and peace for our hearts by looking outside of the perfect being of God, we are always looking in the wrong place and we will never find what we are looking for.

If you are finding it difficult to "get into the spirit of the season" this year, forget the season and get into the Spirit. Wrap your heart around the excitement and blessing of the birth of Christ that happens every time we worship Him.  You will find greater satisfaction and joy than on any Christmas morning you've ever experienced.

* I am not in any way referring to clinical depression.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!! (Or is it?)

It's that time of year again.  Lights, presents, trees, pageants, nativities, Santa, elves on shelves, carols, family and food.  The most wonderful time of the year?  Then why does it also mean fights at Wal-Mart, traffic at the mall, sales that aren't, the time that retail businesses make their money and normal folks part with theirs and are overwhelmed with depression and stress due to greed and self-glorification?

Been there.  Done that.

This year my family and I have endeavored to live biblically, celebrating only the holy days of Leviticus 23, plus Hanukkah and Purim; in other words, we celebrated as Jesus did.  These holy days are: Sabbath, Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).  Hanukkah and Purim are very similar to American Thanksgiving - they give thanks to God for His miracles.

All of the apostles and early followers of Christ celebrated this way, because that is the way Christ and those who worshipped God celebrated.  There was no Christmas or Easter, the two largest and most glorified holidays in the Christian church today, nor was worship for believers held on Sundays.  Indeed, the early followers of Christ celebrated Christ as He was - the Jewish Messiah, promised to the Jews, who opened wide His arms to accept all people of all nations into His family so that salvation could be had by all.

So where did Christmas and Easter and other "Christian" traditions come from?  Several were born at the First Council of Nicaea, held in 325 A.D., at the request of the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine I.  Yes, he claimed to be a Christian for his largely divided pagan and Christian empire, but he continued to practice both "religions" and encouraged adoption of Sunday worship (to differentiate from the Jewish Sabbath and satisfy the large number of pagans already worshiping on that day, including himself) and Easter instead of Passover (again, a pagan celebration named after the goddess Easter who represented fertility - thus, her symbols of rabbits and eggs).  The first Christmas celebration was recorded on December 25, 336, by a Roman bishop.  Many pagan festivals were enjoyed around this time, as it was the winter solstice, the Jews celebrated Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and we know it was the practice of the catholic (universal) church to bring pagans into the church by creating festivals within the church to coincide with the pagan festivals (Hallow e'en and All Saint's Day, anyone?)

The burning question we all have after learning this - is it sinful to celebrate the way our Christian ministers and religion demand?

Yes.  But let me offer proof you can relate to.

In the eight holy days of God (Lev. 23), plus the two post-Mosaic celebrations (Hanukkah and Purim), we glorify God.  These days consist of delicious feasts, wonderful prayers and blessings, beautiful traditions (including lighting the candles, eating apples and honey and "vacationing" in the sukkah), family and friends, communal worship, music and, most precious, God's blessing on each and every one of us who keep His feasts.

In the holidays of the Christian church (Easter, Christmas), we glorify ourselves.  Let us make no mistake - by celebrating these holidays we are not worshipping God in the glorious way He directed us.  These days consist of buying extravagant gifts for others, lying to our children about fictional characters that represent the holiday in our homes and churches (Easter Bunny and Santa), depression for those who have no one to celebrate with or who have lost a child or other loved one during the year, stress for those who haven't the financial means to provide their children and extended family with the gifts they demand, envy over the celebrations of others, an "empty" feeling after children rip through their gifts and either don't get what they want or play with each gift for three minutes, never to touch it again.  And so on.  You are familiar with this, right?

Is it really worshipping Jesus if He is in a nativity on our mantle, dwarfed by the Christmas tree, absent from our list, erased from the truth of our Scripture, twisted into a celebration that bears His name but has no spiritual basis, as we turn our children from His loving lap and onto the lap of Santa?  Is it a gift if we are receiving the glory instead of giving it to the only one who is worthy of glory?

God in is perfect wisdom knew that we would be led astray.  There is so much advice from the prophets of the Old Testament to Jesus and Paul in the New Testament that warns us against false prophets and those who will come in the name of Christ but lead us astray.  But we followed them anyway.  We continue to follow them today.

We are completely missing the joy of our Lord.  We are completely missing the blessing of following God as He has instructed us.  I urge you to consider this and what it means for you and your family.  I plead with you to accept His blessing and share it with those you love.

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."  (Joshua 24:15)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tweeting, Twerking or Toll House? AKA, Intentional Parenting

Recently, I was invited to join in an e-mail discussion on pop culture and its appropriateness (or various levels thereof) for children.  Of course, this has always been a topic of concern to mothers, whether contemplated over social media, with help of a Valium and a martini (ah, the good old days), or within the confines of the red tent.  I vividly remember my grandmother expressing how "evil" were the pelvic thrusts of Elvis; there were candlelight vigils to pray for these poor, innocent, soon-to-be-corrupted teen girls who fell under the spell of the original twerker.  (Although, surely there were others - I think Achilles would surely have twerked.  And Henri VIII.  And Robin Hood. Definitely Robin Hood.)

I have not escaped the fear-mongering of the M Gen.  What is most interesting about us is that, while the X Generation, Millennials or the New Silent Generation all are denoted by their birth, we in the Motherhood Generation (M Gen, for short) arrive here through our rebirth of giving birth.  And as the M Gen graduates into retirement, we are left to repeat their self-defeating, morally superior, retrograde amnesiac behaviors.

So, my education, experience, upbringing, faith, ideals and hard, hard work comes to this - I am exactly the same as every mother before me.  (I think I just threw up in my mouth.)

No, motherhood and those mothers before me do not sicken me.  The fact that we, as a community, have learned nothing (NOTHING!) is completely disheartening and shows just how self-absorbed and short-sighted we all are.

Yes, you!

Yes, me!

What happened to those mothers who were once under the spell of Elvis the pelvis?  Mothers!  And good ones.  What about those of us who watched Marilyn Monroe and Erin Moran implode?  Mothers!  And good ones!  What about all of the women who read Bronte or Lady Chatterley's Lover or Women in Love, all of which I have read at least once and adore, but were banned and considered as trashy as 50 Shades of Stupid?  (Sorry, maybe that's not the real title?  I haven't read that disgusting piece of you-know-what.)  

The world is evil and will cause us to fear that God did not make us capable of raising our children/educating our children/doing what is right for our children.

But that is a lie.

God, in fact, is the only one who can equip us with the necessary tools to raise our children.  Don't look at how I raise my children, how your aunt raised her children, how your neighbor raises her children, how your political candidate raised her children, how your pastor raises her children, how your favorite author raised her children, nor, especially, how your mother or mother-in-law raised their children.  If you do, you'll make the same mistakes and do your children a huge disservice by not raising them in the way that God equipped you.

This is big.  I know.  It's overwhelming. It's lonely. I feel so much like Moses and Esther - "Seriously, God, I can't do this!  Get someone else!"  But wasn't that what God was saying?  He DID get someone else.  Himself.

God made mothers for such a time as motherhood.

Having a child does not make you a mother. Organizing carpool, throwing unique birthday parties, buying the finest clothes, eating organically, reading the most up-to-date instructive manuals, supervising play dates with selective playmates, allowing only approved television shows, shielding innocent eyes from flexible nether regions exposed on tabloids and TV, gaining entry to the "best" schools, attending the "right" activities, joining the holiest church...none of this makes you a mother.  It's fluff.  It's fear.  And I'm not saying you should stop doing any of it.

Just stop trusting that these irrelevant "things" are what makes you a great parent.  God made you a great parent and you are saying to Him, "Thanks, but I've got this.  I'm going to raise my kid in the world, to the world's standards, with the help of the world."

We need to start asking different questions.  Instead of, "How can I raise my child to be sheltered from a set of circumstances that are inappropriate for my family," we should be asking, "How can I raise my child to follow God and live by the standards set by our family?"

And here is your answer: You are.

Your children will come into contact with the bad teen role models and immoral behavior (they already do!) and they will do as you do.  You twerk?  They'll twerk.  You tweet or Facebook or sit on your iDevice all day?  They'll do it, too.  You read your Bible?  They'll read the Bible.  You go to the gym? Devour donuts? Practice Buddhism? Knit obsessively? Are a compulsive shopper? Curse like a sailor? Are humble and meek? Ditto, ditto, ditto your children.

The only successful example you will ever set for your children is yourself.

Treat your children the way you want them to treat your grandchildren.  Because, whether it's intentional or not, this is the way it turns out every. time.

Seek God.  Trust Him.  Love Him.  And enjoy this very short, delicious time with the children that God gave exclusively to you.