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Archive for November, 2012

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

This Sunday is the beginning of the Advent season, when we take time to reflect on the long-awaited coming of the Savior.  There are a number of influences that have shaped our religious celebration into the steam train that carries us full speed ahead through the month of December.  And yet, sitting here in the quiet of the morning by the light of the Christmas tree, I can’t help but wonder if all the busyness that accompanies our celebration leaves us so weary and full that we end up turning away the very One we’re celebrating; saying in effect, “Sorry, there’s no more room in the inn.”

While it’s clear from the Old Testament that God ordained times of feasting and celebration, these were usually accompanied by days of refraining from work and gathering together to worship.  In America, we’ve sampled traditions from other countries like a holiday buffet, filling our plates with the ones we like and blending them into our Christmas traditions until we have so much going on in our lives that we have to skip church to “get it all done,” and can’t fathom a day of rest in December.  We add more and more to our already full lives, causing me to wonder, is God really honored by a celebration that makes no room for him?

I hope you’ll join me in saying no to excess during this Advent season, so we can say yes to God.  We’ve already cut back on the number of decorations we put up (and are selling a few), we’re limiting our gift-giving, and we’re saying no to some regular activities this month so we can make room for the special holiday activities that are meaningful to us.  Instead of having a massive baking day, I plan to make one or two of our holiday favorites each week, freezing most of it to put on holiday gift plates and set out at parties at the end of the month when my baking is completed.  This also allows us to enjoy one treat at a time, instead of gorging on plates of goodies all month long.  In order to have time to bake, I’ll stick to quick and easy dinner menus this month (like the ones in my low-sugar menu plan for weight loss).

My key to a simple, low-stress holiday can be summed up in one rule: If I’m going to add something to my schedule, I have to (temporarily, at least) take something out.  It’s not easy to swim against the tide of commercialism and “tradition,” but it takes a conscious effort to MAKE room for the still, small voice of the Savior.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare him room. 

This is what Advent is all about, making room in the “inn” of our hearts for Christ – not crowding him out with a bunch of activities.  To encourage you in your own efforts to “prepare him room” this December, I plan to focus upcoming blog posts on ways to simplify our Christmas celebration – including quick and easy gluten free recipes!  Planned posts include:

  • Spiritual disciplines for Advent (“discipline” is not always a bad thing – these are fun!)
  • How we gave Santa the boot and introduced our kids to the joy of giving instead of receiving
  • Easy, no bake, gluten free holiday goodies
  • Gluten free make-ahead meals to free you from the kitchen while family’s in town
  • How we homeschool during the holidays
  • 12 gifts from God (to accompany our 12 Days of Christmas celebration)
  • Gluten free party food (for the hostess who doesn’t ordinarily cook gluten free)
  • Gluten free green bean casserole (no, this is NOT a time-saver recipe, but it has been requested by readers)
  • Gluten free holiday breakfast recipes

Let me know if there is a particular topic you’d like to see first.  Have a blessed, Christ-centered Christmas!

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Last summer I made about $100/week selling mostly toys on Craigslist, with the average price being around $5.  I discovered that there’s a huge market for used toys in our area, so I’m planning on selling some holiday-themed items this month that we no longer need (like the Veggie Tales nativity scene that makes me want to stab my ears with a fork every time I accidentally push the stupid star that makes Laura Carrot sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”).  A friend of mine mentioned that she became interested in the idea of selling on Craigslist after reading my post about my 8-week home-decluttering project, and asked for some pointers.  So here are my tips, along with some questions to consider before you start.

Why Are You Selling?
This question is a biggie.  We decided to sell stuff on Craigslist because our house was bloated with excess stuff we no longer needed, and we wanted to find a good home for our gently-used items.  Making money was a bonus.  This attitude enabled me to delight in giving someone else a good deal, rather than stress about getting as much money as possible.  This time of year, it’s especially good to train kids to make room for new items by getting rid of things they no longer use.  If the goal is to simplify your life and bless others in your community, then Craigslist can be a lot of fun.  If your goal is to get as much money as possible from your stuff, get ready for some stress and disappointment.

What Should You Sell?
This is a great time of year to get rid of excess holiday items you no longer want or need, but be sure to put “Christmas” or “Holiday” in your title so people can find your item in the search engine.  Based on my experience, you’ll have the most luck selling toys and gift items because there is a great demand but not as big a supply of those items.  Lots of people are selling housewares, for instance, so I didn’t have much luck getting rid of those types of things.  However, I was surprised by how many people bought birthday presents for their kids from Craigslist, so I expect there will be a demand for toys as Christmas presents.  This is also a good time of year to sell any unused gifts you may have received that are still in their original packaging, since people can give those as gifts.  (I don’t bother selling clothes because it’s easier to donate them to the thrift store or sell them to the children’s consignment store.)

When Should You Post?
Most people do their shopping on the weekend, so I recommend that you post items on a Thursday or Friday, if possible, so they’re at the top of the list in the category (since Craigslist puts the most recent posts at the top).  However, if you’re going to be gone all day Saturday, it will just frustrate people who are trying to contact you.  So only post if you’re going to be home part of the day or if you have email on your phone and can at least reply to people while you’re out running errands.  In my experience, people who shop Craigslist want their items right away, and if you wait a day or two to return their email, you’ll never hear from them again.

How Much Should You Charge?
Since you’re asking someone to come to your house to pick something up, I tried to make it worth their while by grouping items to equal about $5.  We got rid of tons of junk that wouldn’t have sold for more than a quarter at a garage sale by grouping together lots of items with a similar theme.  For instance, we divided up my son’s HUGE Hot Wheels cars collection and put about 10 cars with each car-related object we sold, like race car play mats, car garages, stunt loops, tracks, etc.  Likewise, I found a Strawberry Shortcake purse, puzzle, book, and doll to group together as a set.  I did the same thing with Disney princess items, Dora the Explorer, Thomas the Train, etc.  I tried to have at least one highly desirable item in each set, and based my price on that item, with the others as freebies.  (My thought was, if you want my nice item, you’re going to have to take some junk with it.)  Stores do this all the time by throwing in free junk with your purchase.  It works!

The other thing to keep in mind when pricing is to charge what you’d pay for it at a garage sale, NOT what you think it’s worth.  It doesn’t matter how much it cost or how much you think it’s worth; what matters is what someone is willing to pay for it.  You’ll need to charge less than eBay, but you can ask a little more than a garage sale, provided your items are in good condition.  If you have no idea where to start, you can search Craigslist for similar items, then price yours a dollar or two less.  Keep in mind that if the post has been there a long time, they’re probably asking too much.  If you are in a dispute with your spouse over how much to price something, you can always ask for the higher amount, then lower it a week later if you haven’t had any bites.  Sometimes it takes awhile for the right person to come across your ad, though, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have an offer right away.   It usually took about 3 weeks to get rid of all the toys posted in a particular week, but we eventually sold every toy we posted, and did drop the price on some.  We even threw in some stuff that wasn’t selling if a person showed up to buy several items.

What Should You Include In Your Ad?
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate category for your item (“Toys and Games by Owner” gets more traffic than the generic “Baby and Kid Stuff” category), you’re ready to type your ad.  Be as specific and detailed as possible in the name of your items (i.e. “Disney Princess Dress Up Clothes & Accessories” instead of just “Play Clothes”).  If something is new or unused, put that in the title.  You’ll need to post your asking price (because it’s really annoying when people don’t clearly post the price) and city.  For the text, my ads followed a formula:

  1. Detailed description of the item.  Tell as much about it as you can, but if you’re giving lots of details or listing several small items use bullet points, which will make it easier for the customer to look through your list.  Be sure to list the item’s dimensions and highlights, like if batteries are included or if it’s never been used.  Likewise, be sure to mention any defects.  (I sold an inflatable Batmobile bed with a hole in it for $2.  I was upfront about the defect, and simply stated in the ad that it would work if someone patched the hole.  Your junk can be someone’s treasure, but be honest if it’s junk.)
  2. Policy for cash and holding items.  I created a template in Word so I could just copy and paste the following statement into every ad.  “Cash only, please.  We will not hold an item, but we will remove this post once it is sold.”  This lets people know up front that you won’t be taking a check (and dealing with the hassle of checks that bounce), and that you are selling on a first come, first served basis.  If I had two requests for the same item, I gave the first person who replied an opportunity to pick it up first, and notified the other potential customer that if the first person didn’t show up that day, they could come and get it the following day.  Folks, there are a LOT of flaky people out there, and people will beg you to hold an item until later in the week, but then never show up.  Do yourself a favor and sell to whoever shows up first with cash.  Likewise, be fair and take down the ad when the item has sold, so people will know it’s gone.
  3. Link to other items you’re selling.  At the end of every ad, we posted a second line from the template: “We have LOTS of other items for sale from our smoke-free home, so please search ‘joyfulchoices’ to see them all.”  This little line makes all the difference if you have a lot of stuff to sell, and some people care about the smoke issue.  If you use an email handle or some other unique key word to link all your posts, then a potential buyer can view everything you’re selling.  Even though most of our items/sets were only around $5, we often sold 2 or 3 sets per customer because people will reason that they might as well get as much as they can if they’re going to be making the trip.  I also mentioned any related items to specific buyers in my email reply, by saying something like, “We’re also selling other (Disney, Cars, etc.)  items, and you can search all our listings on Craigslist by typing ‘________’ in the search engine.  Let me know if there’s anything else I can set out for you.”  More often than not, this resulted in multiple sales to the same customer.
  4. Picture.  Most people won’t buy unless they can see the item.  I have a horrible camera and terrible lighting in my house, but I did my best to show each item in a couple different views, if possible.  If you’re selling something in a box, take close up pictures of any pictures on the box of what the item looks like assembled.  Whichever picture you load into your ad first is the one that will appear next to your title on the list, so pick the one that shows everything.  You can include pictures of details and close ups for customers to view within the ad.

There’s no need to post your phone number, unless you prefer to be contacted by phone. I dealt with inquiries by email primarily, and only gave out my address to people who wanted to come and pick up an item. Craigslist is set up so that interested buyers can email you through the site, so you don’t need to give out any contact information in your ad.  Setting up an account is very easy, and the posting process is also fairly easy.

Finally, don’t get discouraged when – yes, I said “when,” not “if” – someone fails to show up to pick up an item.  People get busy or forget and don’t think to give you a courtesy email to let you know their plans have changed.  So don’t plan your life around being available to Craigslist customers.  If you’ve waited a half-hour for a no-show, send them a polite email explaining that you’d be happy to set up another time that will be more convenient, then go about your life.  If it’s an honest mistake, they’ll likely be apologetic and grateful for a second chance.  If they’re flaky and don’t really care, then you haven’t sacrificed your plans.  About half-way through my selling process, I started asking people to give me a half-hour window of when they would like to stop by, which let them know I wasn’t going to be sitting around all day waiting for them to show up.

Craigslist can be fun, especially when someone is gushing to you about how excited their son or daughter will be to receive your unneeded items.  If you remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive, you will likely have a positive experience.  Good luck!

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It’s that time of year when our mailbox and newspaper are filled with toy catalogs and ads for Christmas gifts.  I used to enjoy looking through these to get gift ideas for my kids until we went through our massive toy purge last summer when we sold 8-10 large storage bins full of toys on Craigslist – and have not missed them a bit.  My kids are older now – ages 8 and 11 – and have settled into their favorite playthings, so we no longer need a huge variety.  Now, when I look through the toy catalogs, I see expensive items that my kids would enjoy playing with for all of 2 days, and then I’d be stuck trying to find a place for them until our next Craigslist sale.  Sound familiar?

My solution this year is to avoid the unused toy glut and pressure to overspend by:

  1. Limiting the number of gifts from us on Christmas day to one.  Since they receive gifts from extended family members, there’s no need for me to overwhelm them with more gifts from us.  Just like the enjoyment of eating a rich dessert diminishes with each bite, the enjoyment of opening each gift lessens over time.  Why not let them fully enjoy the gifts lovingly picked out by others instead of cramming more down their throats?
  2. Keeping the budget small.  An expensive gift doesn’t guarantee more enjoyment.  Besides, I’m still responsible for making Santa look good, so in addition to their stocking, one thoughtful gift from us for each kid will suffice.
  3. Choosing only gifts that will get continual use (like Legos), are educational (which includes activities), or consumable (like craft supplies that continually need to be replenished).  If something doesn’t fall into one of these categories, chances are it will end up in a closet, which is a waste of money and space.

Before you start thinking I’m the Grinch Mama who stole Christmas, you need to hear the second part – the real genius – of my plan.  If your kids are like mine, they probably enjoy playing with their new toys for about 2 days after Christmas, then drive you crazy until New Years.  In the past, we’ve celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas by giving our kids various school supplies to add a little fun to Christmas break (i.e. 4 glue sticks, 3 erasers, 2 pencils, 1 pencil sharpener, etc.).  This year, we’ll celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas by spreading out their gifts from us from Christmas Sunday (when we’ll exchange gifts with my extended family) through New Years.

How to Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas
On each of the days following Christmas, the kids will get to open one more gift.  Sometimes the gift will be for both kids to share, like a game or new puzzle I found at the thrift store.  Sometimes the gift will be craft related, like new watercolor paint sets from the dollar store or the craft kit we’ve never gotten around to opening that’s been in my closet for over a year.  Some gifts will be educational, like the interactive human body books I found at the thrift store.  And some may be activities, like going to a children’s museum or play center to get us out of the house.  The beauty of this way of celebrating is that it gives the kids something new to look forward to on cold winter days that are typically unstructured and would otherwise end up in whines of “I’m boooooooored.”  Plus, kids are more likely to get excited about an educational gift if it’s the only thing they’re getting that day.

Remind Kids Who We’re Celebrating
For a spiritual tie-in, we’ll share the real meaning behind the 12 Days of Christmas and what each day represents.  (This video shows pictures of the Christian meaning of each symbol while the song is sung, so kids can try to guess what each day represents from the pictures and check their answers when the meanings are revealed at the end.)  The last time we celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas, we had the kids recite the symbolism of the previous days before moving on to that day’s gift.  We also hid the gift(s) each day because our kids love treasure hunts – and why should Easter get all the fun!  I especially like the idea of holding off on some of our celebrations to increase the anticipation aspect of advent.  After all, the advent season is all about creating within us a sense of longing for Christ to come.  There’s not a whole lot of longing if we start partying on Dec. 1.

Keep Costs Low at…The Dollar Store
You’ve probably picked up on the fact that this doesn’t have to be expensive at all.  Dollar stores are great places to find craft supplies and kits.  If you start now, you can use the 40-50% off coupons for Michael’s craft store that come in the Sunday newspaper (in ours, at least) to pick up things like Build-A-Bear kits or woodworking projects, which are perfect for the lazy days following Christmas when you might actually have time to do crafts with your kids.  (I’m notorious for buying craft kits and sending them with my kids to Grandma’s house because I don’t have the time or desire to do it with them.  Just keepin’ it real.)

The Thrift Store
I also mentioned the thrift store because we have a great one in town that carries fun children’s books, games, sometimes unopened puzzles, and even educational CD-roms.  When I cleaned out our closets last summer, I divided our clothes into kitchen-sized garbage bags, and I throw one in the trunk every time I stop by the thrift store because I can get an additional 20% off for donating.  Kids don’t care if something is used – at least I’ve trained my kids not to care.  I occasionally take them with me to the thrift store and let them pick out a book or game, so they view it like any other store (except that they are actually allowed to get something at this store).  If you’re not sure how your kids will respond, sit down with them and watch the informative, yet entertaining, online video, “The Story of Stuff.”  Afterward, they may thank you for reusing items instead of buying more junk to go in a landfill.

Check Online for Activity Discounts
For good deals on children’s activities, check your local kids resources magazines for free activities in your area.  Visit the websites of favorite play places to find out if there’s a discount day of the week.  Check out Groupon for deals in your area.  We bought a Groupon deal for an indoor miniature golf course last summer and saved it to use on my son’s birthday in November.  Start looking now for deals you can save until Christmas week – but be sure to check expiration dates!

The Best Family Activities Are Often Free
Of course, activities don’t have to cost money.  Maybe some of those favorite holiday activities that you’re hard pressed to find time for before Christmas could be saved for the week after, like driving around to look at Christmas lights or having a holiday movie marathon that ends with everyone sleeping in the living room by the Christmas Tree.  (We traditionally watch a favorite trilogy during this week and spend the day in jammies, munching on snacks and leftover goodies.)  Activity gifts can be printed as certificates or presented with a token.  We usually get together with friends for New Years Eve, so I may give the kids a bunch of glow sticks from the dollar store to share with their friends for playing tag in the dark!

Chances are, you’re already looking at your December calendar and wondering how you’re going to find time for everything.  Why not join me in taking a break from the pressure to party all month long and save the giving and family fun for after Christmas?  If you’re a procrastinator, you could even take advantage of after-Christmas sales this way!  The possibilities are endless.  If you have ideas you’d like to share for more cheap 12 Days of Christmas gifts/activities, please share them with everyone in the comments section below.

I wish you a blessed, joyful holiday season!

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‘Tis the season to gaze longingly at cans of French’s Fried Onions and cream of mushroom soup, remembering the “good ole’ days” when holiday meals were still work, but at least you had lots of help from convenience foods.  Sound familiar?  Welcome to the holiday season for gluten free cooks.

We’ve been a mostly gluten free family – I’m the only one in our family of 4 who still can eat wheat – for almost 4 years.  I can honestly say that for most of the year it doesn’t bother me.  But in the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas, every grocery ad I look through with pictures of easy-to-make holiday foods that used to be part of our family’s traditions, tortures me with memories of a life we will never have again.

But wait, wasn’t the title of this post about a “happy” gluten free Thanksgiving?  We’ll get to that in a moment.  But for now, I want to speak to the heart of the one who is reading this in tears because she is so overwhelmed at the thought of trying to recreate a traditional Thanksgiving (or Christmas) meal using gluten free substitutes.  From scratch.  To you, dear one, I just want to say that I know.  It’s hard.  I grieve all over again every holiday season and it is what it is.  If you feel guilty about dreading the holidays when everyone around you is looking forward to them, I understand.  You’re not alone.

There are many different ways you can approach a gluten free holiday season.  I know – I’ve tried them all.  Our first gluten free Thanksgiving, I hosted our extended family and was not about to experiment with gluten free substitutes with a large group.  So that year, my family got to eat those things that are naturally gluten free: turkey and gravy made with cornstarch, mashed potatoes, yams and apples, and jello.  As you can imagine, that did not go over very well.  My only experiment was with our favorite Pumpkin Pie Crunch dessert, which turned out a little different but oh so good!  (If you’re looking for a delicious recipe that will feed a large group – or a small one with lots of leftovers – check out my Pumpkin Pie Crunch recipe I posted last year.)

For our second Thanksgiving, I was determined to do it “right.”  My sister hosted that year, so she provided the turkey and mashed potatoes, but I made gluten free versions of everything for my family and brought them all with us: stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce, our traditional yams and apples recipe (which I always brought anyway), and dessert for my family.  I spent hours in the kitchen that year, with less than stellar results on the stuffing and green bean casserole.  Everything was made from scratch, and it felt like a ton of work for one meal that merely tasted okay.

I won’t go into the details of what caused me to have a total meltdown last year, but when I realized that I had trained my extended family to expect me to do all the gluten free cooking for family gatherings for the rest of our lives, I lost it.  I finally did what I should have done from the beginning, asked for help!  I confessed to my parents that I didn’t want to be responsible for every bite my family ate, and I needed their help.  I had realized that my attempts to spare my family from the burden of gluten free cooking had given them the impression that I didn’t need or want their help.  But I needed their support.  Of course, they immediately responded with, “What can we do to help?”  My mom offered to make gluten free stuffing.  All she needed was to know what kind of bread to use.  (I like Ener-G brand Light Tapioca Bread for stuffing, but I’ve also used the heels from homemade bread that I save in the freezer.)  I supplied flour to the hostess for the bag in which the turkey was cooked.  Someone brought a gluten free hot vegetable, and I brought rolls and yams.  Thanksgiving was not a big deal last year because I finally asked for help!

This year, I’m hoping to tackle green bean casserole and stuffing again because my family has asked for them.  However, I’ve recognized that if I’m going to spend hours in the kitchen for Thanksgiving – and not have a bitter meltdown – I need to give myself a break from cooking in the days/weeks leading up to it.  To that end, I’ve been stocking up on whatever gluten free convenience foods I can find on sale, and have given myself permission to actually use them.  (I’m part squirrel, so I have a tendency to stockpile and never use things because I’m always saving them for an “emergency.”  But breaking down in tears over a Stove Top Stuffing ad should qualify as an emergency.)  I’ve also explained to my family that I’m not going to be baking goodies or spending time making special meals in the kitchen until Thanksgiving.  I’m betting that after a week of not baking, I’ll be dying to get in the kitchen again.  The kids still have Halloween candy to munch on, and they like GF spaghetti with a jar of pasta sauce as much as my homemade sauce.  This week cans will be our friends, as will tater tots, frozen turkey burgers, and rice from a pouch.  They’re okay with it because they want me to make special treats for Thanksgiving and are willing to forgo gourmet meals for awhile so they can get them.

So what’s my “recipe” for a happy gluten free Thanksgiving?  Based on my experience, it’s a happy holiday when the cook (i.e. mom) is happy.  So moms, give yourselves a break!  Unless you’re making holiday food in advance (like freezing extra mashed potatoes or rolls to reheat on Thanksgiving), take a break from cooking from scratch and baking this week so you’ll have energy for the big day.  (Want to know what’s on our menu?  Ask me in the comments section and I’d be happy to share with you!)

If you’re getting together with extended family, ask them to bring all the naturally gluten free food so you can focus on one or two GF substitutions that are meaningful to your gluten free family members.  Be honest with non-GF family members and ask for their support.  They may surprise you by offering to make a gluten free side dish.  Let them.  Yes, it may turn out badly, but they need the opportunity to experiment and be shown grace the same way you do.  And remember, if it will be funny later, let it be funny now.  Laugh at the disastrous experiments because they are the stuff of family legends.

If you’re not sharing the meal prep with extended family, talk to your gluten free family members and find out what foods matter most to them – and be prepared for it to change from year to year.  Some years my family wants rolls, and other times they want stuffing.  I let them choose one or the other.  Another way to take some pressure off without giving up any favorites is to spread out the side dishes and enjoy some on Thanksgiving and some with leftover turkey on another day.  For instance, we have mashed potatoes all the time, so my family is content to just have yams on Thanksgiving.  But I’ll make potatoes later in the week to go with leftover turkey, so we still get to have a “traditional” meal.  The same can be done with my easy rolls recipe and stuffing.  Who needs a ton of carbs in one meal anyway!

Of course, after talking with your family, you may decide to drop some traditions and start new ones.  If I can’t replicate those canned fried onions to my satisfaction, who says I have to?  My kids love roasted veggies like broccoli and brussels sprouts (don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried them roasted – heavenly!), so they would certainly be content with a different vegetable than the casserole of my youth.

This year, I’m determined to not let the Pillsbury Dough Boy get me down.  I hope you will be, too.  Have a HAPPY Gluten Free Thanksgiving! 🙂

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In a Battle With Your Kids?

Have you ever felt like you were constantly battling with your kids – or a particular child – over one thing or another?  If you answered yes, then welcome to the club because all parents go through tough parenting seasons.  Sometimes we are in a battle for our kids, when our love for them demands that we address attitudes that will lead to their downfall.   Like a Special Forces unit, we go on missions that are precise and with a specific target (i.e. dealing with dishonesty or disrespect).  But sometimes we can find ourselves in an all out war with our child(ren), firing everything in our arsenal at them, not knowing how the war even started.  If you’re currently in the midst of one of those battles, I’d invite you to ask yourself the very difficult question with which I recently wrestled: What if the enemy isn’t my child?  What if I’m fighting the wrong battle?

Ephesians 6:12 says that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  I don’t like to dwell very long on the subject of spiritual warfare because I think it can cause us to see the enemy as too great for us, when 1 John 4:4 tells us that, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  God is mightier than our enemy, but make no mistake, we DO have an enemy whose plan for us is destruction.  His weapons are fear and lies, and he knows that we are most vulnerable to the power of fear when applied to our children.

Think of all the foolish things parents do out of fear: keep them from developmentally appropriate activities for fear of safety, rescue them from consequences because of a fear of failure, push them to do things that bring misery for fear of not being successful in life (because they didn’t play peewee soccer – really??).  Fear blinds us and makes us feel like we’re stumbling around in the dark, causing us to strike at anything that seems threatening.  Our blind blows then land on our kids because we believe the lie of our REAL enemy that the way to conquer fear is to control our kids.  Fear and lies keep us at war, and we don’t even know that we’re fighting the wrong enemy.  It sounds extreme to call the child you love and would die for “the enemy,” but if your home feels like a war zone, that may be how your child perceives your relationship.

This is what I realized last week when I was in the midst of a battle with one of my kids.  So what do we do when we realize we’re fighting the wrong enemy?

  • Apologize to your kids.  We may be in the right, but sometimes we need to acknowledge to our kids that we’ve pushed too hard in a particular area that God alone is able to help them overcome.  They need to hear from us that we don’t expect perfection from them, nor do we think we’re perfect.
  • If you are exhausted, take care of yourself and get some rest.  Pay attention to your eating habits and how they can be affecting you, too.  (I’ve been counting guacamole as our vegetable for the past 3 days – it’s time for some roasted broccoli!)  We are  more vulnerable to temptation when we are physically weak.  How many squabbles could be avoided if we all just had a good night’s rest and decent breakfast!
  • Put on the armor of God and stand up against the real enemy!  Ephesians 6:14-17 tells us how.

“With the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (v. 14)
A belt keeps your pants from falling down around your ankles, and there’s nothing we fear more than the humiliation of being caught with our pants down!  Remember, the devil is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  He will try to convince us that if we don’t control our kids (which we can’t), we’ll end up looking like bad parents (which we might – but are we living to please God or men?), and if we’re bad parents then we must be bad people (for whom Christ died, by the way – Rom. 5:8).  Truth protects us from falling for the enemy’s lies by reminding us that God is in control, He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and our children are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [them] to do” (Eph. 2:10).  It’s not up to us to mold our kids into our image, but rather to cooperate with what God is doing in their lives.  If obedience to Christ makes me look foolish, then truth (found in 1 Cor. 4:10) tells me I’m in good company!

“With the breastplate of righteousness in place” (v. 14)
The breastplate protects your heart, and God’s righteousness is our protection from false guilt.  Righteousness does not come from my efforts to be holy, but from Christ’s redemptive work on the cross that made it possible for me to be in right relationship to God.  The enemy hurtles accusations at us – “Look at how you screwed up with your kids.  You’re such a failure!” – but God’s righteousness protects our hearts from false guilt by reminding us that 1) we’ve all sinned and are only saved through faith in Christ (Rom. 3:22-24), and 2) ” there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  If we have accepted Christ as our savior, the Holy Spirit will let us know when we’ve gone down a wrong path and need to make things right, and the goal will always be to restore relationship, not to make us wallow in defeat.  Being in right relationship with God protects our hearts from condemnation, which will affect our parenting because when we feel judged, we are quick to find fault in others.

“With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (v. 15)
If we’re going to stand up in battle, we need the right kind of shoes.  I can’t do battle in cozy slippers, clinging to the desire for a comfortable life.  I can’t go to battle in high heels, caring more about how I look than whether I’m prepared to fight.  If I’m going to be ready, I need my feet to be firmly planted on the solid ground of the gospel of Christ, who is the Prince of Peace.  Jesus promised his followers in John 14:27 that he would give them his peace – not peaceful circumstances or an easy life – but peace in the midst of life’s struggles, which includes difficult parenting seasons.  We can access this peace through prayer.  There is no mightier warrior than a mother on her knees in prayer.  To put on the shoes of readiness, we follow the instructions from Phil. 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we have the mind of Christ that comes through prayer, we will be ready to approach tough parenting issues with love and grace – the way God deals with his children.

“Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16)
The shield is the first line of defense.  When the enemy sends flaming arrows of fear at us, our faith in God deflects them right up to God.  We are not alone in this battle.  Stand your ground and hold up your shield of faith in God.  Let God deal with the arrows.  I’m currently working on memorizing Psalm 27, which is a wonderful Psalm written by David when he was being pursued by Saul.  The first verse reminds us that the Lord is our stronghold.  He is able to deal with any parenting challenge we face.  In fact, he is able to do “ immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).

“Take the helmet of salvation” (v. 17)
The helmet protects your head, and when we lift up the name of Jesus, our Savior, we remind the enemy that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10).  When we praise our Savior, the enemy must take a knee!  It’s hard to feel like praising in the midst of a battle, but I can testify that when I lift high the name of Jesus, the enemy often will flee.  The accusations stop.  The oppressive feelings of fear leave.  There is power in the name of Jesus, so put on your helmet (and some favorite praise music, if necessary) and praise God for your salvation in Christ!

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17)
The armor of God is how we defend ourselves, but the word of God – scripture – is how we fight.  Commit God’s word to memory, especially any promises you come across that pertain to your children.  Several of the scriptures I’ve mentioned in this post are ones that the Holy Spirit brings to my mind when I’m under attack.  The truth of God’s word reminds us and the enemy that God holds the keys to victory.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:41).  So pick up your sword and fight!  Let’s fight the good fight – for our kids, not against them.

Are you in the midst of a battle with/for your kids?  I would be honored to pray for you!

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” – Jude 1:24-25

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