Not-To-Miss Messages: Three Good Books

I’m currently preparing to speak on “Top Ten Messages You Want Your Kids To Get”  (at the Hearts at Home conference in Rochester, MN).   And I’ve been reminded that it’s been a long time since I shared any book recommendations.  I’ve been reading some good things, especially on the topic of communicating with your kids.  Here are three new favorites:

Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Son, by Vicki Courtney:  As the mother of two sons, I really wish I’d had this book long ago.  I love the clarity and intentionality with which Vicki and her husband approached key messages they wanted to give their sons.   The book is straightforward, realistic, and immensely practical.  But most of all, I love the author’s emphasis on the heart.  Relationships always triumph over rules, even while boundaries must be clearly communicated and enforced.  The focus throughout is capsulized in the last chapter: “Godliness over Goodness.”  With sons, as with God, it’s always the heart that matters.

Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter, by Vicki Courtney: If Vicki’s book about sons goes to the heart, this goes even a few levels deeper.  Wonderfully transparent, it is written from the heart of one who’s been there in the harder places where girls today find themselves, and is willing to help others learn from her experience.  The five chapter titles (the recommended conversations) reveal how “on target” the content is:

  1. “You Are More Than the Sum of Your Parts”
  2. “Don’t Be in Such a Hurry To Grow Up”
  3. “Sex Is Great and Worth the Wait”
  4. “It’s OK To Dream about Marriage and Motherhood”
  5. “Girls Gone Wild Are a Dime a Dozen—Dare To Be Virtuous.”

Of course, these conversations, as well as those with sons, are not individual one-time talks, but ongoing communication.  Some conversations are much harder than others.  But Vicki will help you find the words, the courage, and the grace to have even the hardest ones.

Six Ways To Keep the “Little” in Your Girl, by Dannah Gresh:  Doesn’t the title grab you?  What a needed word for our culture!  This little book is a great complement to Courtney’s (above) by offering specific strategies for connecting with your daughter in ways that count, and will help you guide your daughter, age-appropriately, from her tweens to her teens.  I love the author’s emphasis on listening well instead of doing all the talking.  She even gives very specific guidelines about how to do that (“Listening So She’ll Talk,” p. 60).  Gresh also provides practical helps for dealing with multi-media in our plugged-in world.  But perhaps my favorite is the illustrated guide to “Truth or Bare Fashion Tests”  (pp. 110-112), which will help you teach you daughter modesty, pro-actively and preemptively.

All three of these books are great one-chapter-at-a-time  “snatch books” which work for busy moms because they can sit on your bedside table or accompany you to waiting rooms or on carpool runs to read just a little here or there when you have time.  And believe me, they are worth your time!

Moms, Moms Everywhere

Moms, Moms Everywhere—that’s actually the title of a LifeWay webcast in which I participated recently  (to be aired today at noon (CDT),  Tuesday, September 18 and available at Lifeway Women Live).  But it’s also how I feel this time of year.

OK, so I see moms everywhere all year round.  But recently I’ve been particularly impressed by how much we moms need each other.  As the school year opens, I always hear (and sometimes see) the excitement of moms reconnecting at their Mom to Mom groups—or starting a new one.  This coming weekend I’ll be with hundreds of moms at the wonderful .Mom conference in Birmingham (I think you can still register!)  Then next month I’ll be in Colorado with loads of moms at the Hearts at Home conference in Colorado Springs.  And then in November with many more at Hearts at Home in Rochester, Minnesota.  Moms, Moms everywhere—and I love it!

But it’s not just at big conferences or even in Mom to Mom groups.  I see moms in our neighborhood, at the supermarket, at church, at the mall—really, everywhere I go.  They are old and young, biological moms and adoptive moms and foster moms and blended-family moms, grandmoms raising grandchildren—all kinds of moms.

But there’s a common theme.  I see it in their faces and body language and I hear it in their tone of voice.  Moms need encouragement.  Lots of encouragement.   Last week I spoke at a local Mom to Mom, and a conversation with one mom captured it.  It was this woman’s first time at Mom to Mom.  At the end, she stopped and talked with me.  She wanted to thank me for “doing this.”  She told me about her own mom, her husband and family, and how she was doing as a mom.  “I think I need spiritual mothering,” she said.  She went on to tell me why.  But she ended her conversation with this:  “Thank you. This has been so helpful.  I just feel so encouraged.”

Praise God!  Just want we want to do at Mom to Mom: encourage moms.  Just what the people who plan big mom-conferences want to do: encourage moms.  And just what every one of us can look to do in our own lives: encourage moms.  Whether you’re a new mom or an experienced mom with grown kids or grandkids, whether you are part of a moms’ group or not—wherever you live, whatever you do, there are moms everywhere around you that you can encourage.  With a smile.  With  a word of affirmation.  With a helping hand at the door of Walmart or the public  library.  With a meal to a sick mom.  Or, best of all, some spiritual encouragement: let a mom know you’ll pray for her (and DO it!), invite her into your moms’ group or Bible Study, or watch her kids when they’re sick so she can go to her Bible Study or moms’ group.

A challenge:  Look around you and look for a mom you can encourage—today.  It’s much-needed.  It’s fun.  And it’s Biblical: “So encourage one another daily…”  (Hebrews 3:13)   Do it!

And if any of you have some creative suggestions for encouraging moms, or can share an experience where you were encouraged by another mom—I’d love to hear from you!   Or,  if by chance you’re going to be in Birmingham September 21-22; in Colorado Springs October 12-13; or Rochester, Minnesota, November 9-10, come see me.  We can encourage each other!

I’m Praying for You, Mom

I’ve just returned from a fabulous weekend with over 6200 moms.  What could be better?   I was a speaker at the Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois.  It was a wonderful two days, full of laughter and tears, great ideas and Godly encouragement, and heart-to-heart conversations with moms at all ages and stages of parenting.  It was especially fun to connect with the Mom to Mom women who attended.  The above photo is of a wonderful group of women who have been doing Mom to Mom in Northern Vermont for years—love these girls!

Now that I’m home and have some time to reflect, I’m realizing what God’s major message to me out of this weekend is.  It’s the power of prayer.  The absolutely astounding, takes-your-breath-away power of prayer.

I saw it in so many ways.  First, in myself.  I am easily traumatized by technology, and the prospect of doing five workshops in two days in various large lecture halls at a state university with varying technological hookups for my PowerPoint slides was enough to send me over the top on the worry scale.  But I had many people praying.  God brought along wonderful folks to help.  And in the end, it all worked out just fine.   Not only did the presentations work fine (despite many last-minute, down-to-the-wire glitches), but amazingly, my techno-trauma did not get in the way of the message.  When I stood up there and looked in the eyes of the precious moms in each audience, it was just me and them—and above all, God.  Truly an answer to prayer.

One of my talks,  “Top Ten Messages You Want Your Kids To Get,” highlighted the crucial role of moms in praying for their kids.  I shared with the women Woody’s way of signing each note and card and email to the kids with these three things: “We love you.  We’re proud of you.  We’re praying for you.”   I told them that one day their prayers for their kids would come back to them as their kids would pray for them.  And words from my daughter’s last phone call from Ireland ran through my mind: "Mom, I just called back because I forgot something in our last conversation.  I wanted you to know how much I love you, how proud I am of you, and how I will be praying for you at the conference this weekend.  I’m praying for you, Mom.”

And now that I’ve been home a few days, I find conversations I had with moms replaying through my mind.  I remember a mom who needed to be released from guilt over something her kids and God have already forgiven.  I think of the intense mama-love I heard in the voice of a mom wondering if her autistic son is getting the message of her unconditional love for him. And I see the tears in the eyes of so many moms in the audience as I reminded them that “There’s no place your kids can go that’s so far God’s love can’t find them.”  And then I assured them by way of a story that God will carry us when we feel we can’t go one step farther in this mom-marathon.

I find myself praying for these moms—and for all the moms who attended the conference. I pray that God will call to mind just the encouragement they need at the moment they need it. I pray that they will remember they are prayed for.  Not only by me.  But—far more—by Jesus at the right hand of God (Hebrews 7:25) and by the Holy Spirit in “groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26 KJV).

I find myself praying for every one of you reading this post, whether you were at the conference or not.  Prayer is the power which makes this mom-marathon possible.  Not only possible, but joyful. “I’m praying for you, mom.”

A Timely Book for Moms

I just read a book I intend to send along to my daughter.  And I’d like you to know about it, too: Living with Less So Your Family Has More, by Jill and Mark Savage.

It seems perfectly tuned to our times.  Global economic upheaval, recession, job loss, and threat of job loss.  Downsizing has become almost trendy!   Yet this book is far more than trendy.  It’s good for families to read at any time.  All families.

The title got me first.  Less can actually be more when raising a family in our culture.  As I travel and speak to Mom to Mom groups, I am frequently impressed with how hard it can be in our materialistic culture to raise kids with solid, sane, Godly values.  In some ways it’s almost easier to do (in a strange sort of way) when we have externally imposed economic boundaries.  If the sky’s the limit, it’s a lot harder (though still necessary) to set healthy spending limits with our kids.

We also tend to get confused, in our culture, about what matters most.  Before we know it, the quest for the almighty dollar can squeeze the life right out of our homes.  All-important relationships—with our spouses, our kids, our God, and others—all too easily get lost in the shuffle.

In this book, Jill Savage, CEO of Hearts at Home, and her husband, Mark, share some very practical steps you can take to stretch your few dollars farther.  The last section of the book is full of down-to-earth strategies to help real-life families navigate tough financial times.

But the first two thirds of the book are even more important, in my opinion.  In Part One, the Savages help you identify what your long-term vision is for your family.  Then in Part Two, they discuss the attitudes that can help make that vision a reality.  I especially like their emphasis on contentment and simplicity and the counter-cultural mindset needed to foster these attitudes.

The book has the ring of authenticity.  The Savages live what they write.  Good to know!

But what I like best of all about the book is that it’s far more positive than negative in looking at family finances.  This is not a book about how to “grin and bear it” when your family feels the financial pinch.  Rather it is a ringing affirmation that “less” can truly be “more” when you have your values straight and get your attitudes aligned accordingly.

BTW, in her blog, Jill frequently shares new and fresh tips on living large with less.  You might want to check it out!

Moms Encouraging Moms

Did I ever have fun this last weekend!  Mom to Mom had an exhibit at the Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington, IL, so two Mom to Mom friends and I got to spend two full days just listening and talking to moms.  What a privilege.  What a ride!

You know how I love moms.  And to hang out with over 4500 of them over a period of two days—that’s what I call a little bit of Heaven.  Of course we had fun talking about Mom to Mom.  We met moms who had never heard of Mom to Mom, moms who are currently in a Mom to Mom, and moms who are thinking of starting Mom to Mom in their church or community.

We even had a little mini-reunion with four moms from Vermont who are now in their fifth year of Mom to Mom.  They’re going through the curriculum a second time, with lots of new moms and some who’ve been there from the start.  It has grown into a wonderful outreach in their community, as the vast majority of their moms are not from their church.   I just love hearing Mom to Mom stories like theirs!

But in addition to talking Mom to Mom, we had wonderful opportunities just to listen to moms.  To look into their eyes and listen—really listen.  There were physician moms and farmer moms, single moms and blended family moms, biological moms and adoptive moms, moms of all sizes and shapes and ages and circumstances.  Each has their own story.  But they had one thing in common:  They all needed encouragement.  They all needed to know that “You mean I’m not the only one who...?”

Of course they got tons of encouragement from the conference speakers and singers and emcees and humorists.  But I also watched them encouraging one another.  And I watched my colleagues, Karen and Tonya, pour encouragement into moms with their big smile, bright eyes, and listening ears.  It’s what Mom to Mom is all about, really.   And Hearts at Home, too.  (Check out their website for future conferences, and come see us again!)

So here’s my takeaway: Encouraging another mom is one of the best things you can do.   And as much fun as it is to hang out with thousands of moms, you don’t have to be at a conference to encourage another mom.  You can do it right in your own backyard.  Or preschool.  Or supermarket.  Or via email, text, twitter, or Facebook.

It’s what Paul was talking about when he said “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  (I Thessalonians 5:11)

Encourage another mom today!