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(Temporary) Parenting Fail : Xbox

How many parents who tried to maintain control and put limits on their child(ren)’s Xbox time lost the upper hand? 
I’m certainly one of them, but it didn’t start out that way. I mean isn’t that usually the response after something spiraled to a place you didn’t think it would? I thought I was doing a good job, but before I knew it…
I had gone to see the Kirk Cameron movie Connect in the theater, and took advantage of the discount code to buy the Disney Circle. My son was just starting to use his Xbox more frequently, and I loved the ability to set limits.
For someone like me who is no where close to being tech-savvy, I really appreciated the simplicity of the Circle. I advocate for human trafficking awareness, so I understand the dangers of free reign device time. 
Things were great. Until they weren’t. 
My son tried to disable the Circle one day because he felt my restrictions were too restrictive and unfair. In the process of trying to temporarily disable it, he ended up breaking it. 
I was so mad I was going to sell his Xbox. And I should have. But I let someone talk me out of it. 
I didn’t have the money to buy a new Circle, and I couldn’t figure out parental controls. (I’ve since learned more, but I’m sure I don’t know it all.) 
It wasn’t long before Fortnite has not only infiltrated our home, but took over my son both day and night. 
There are those who will point out that as the parent, the full responsibility is on me for how this played out. And they’re not wrong. Unfortunately, I had lost the upper hand and control in my home faster than I saw coming. I’m not alone. I’m not even the exception. The creators of Fortnite are brilliant, let’s give them that. But Fortnite, and Xbox in general are problematic for many families. 
I saw changes in my son’s mood, attitude, sleep cycle, motivation, and behavior. Plus, he started speaking like his peers (*imagine that*), and I didn’t like how they talked to each other. 
A day came when I’d had enough of everything and brought the Xbox to my friend’s house. To suggest that my son was upset could *possibly* be an understatement. 
When he finally got it back there were terms and conditions, which he adhered to without much pushback. He knew I’d not only take it away again, but that I’d probably keep good on my word to smash it! Call me crazy, but I was ready to show him a little “crazy” to get my point across. 
One of the conditions of having his Xbox back was doing away with Xbox live. My son certainly wasn’t happy about that, but I just didn’t care. Actions have consequences, and he needed to remember that.
It didn’t take long before he started getting bored with Xbox, though. He wasn’t wanting to spend every hour in his room. The best part was when his attitude started to return to the way it had been. His whole demeanor changed and softened. And there’s less tension in our home now.  
Now instead of spending hours playing Xbox, my son is keeping busy by starting a business. He’s not irritable when I talk to him, and our conversations are about all sorts of things besides video games! 
He cleaned and rearranged his room yesterday, and decided to give his little sister his Xbox (no worries) because he’s too busy with starting his business.
My hope is that this situation ends up being a lesson that will be one of those turning points in life – something he can reflect back on to help make positive decisions/good life choices going forward. And if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a lesson he’s already learned. I’ve learned, too.
He spent hours talking to me before bedtime last night like he used to do, and even said if he could go back and not play Xbox so much he would. He has goals and dreams and talks about investing money just like he always did, but instead of “someday thinking,” he’s taking steps now to be successful. He has insight and foresight, and wisdom that humbles me since he’s only 13.

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Send Me

I took this photo nearly 2 years ago at a luncheon where I heard Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizade share their story. Their book Captive in Iran is an incredible look at what they went through.

I’ve often thought about Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizade over the last two years. Listening to their story about spending 259 days in the worst prison in Tehran left a lasting impression on me. 

But for the better part of last year, every time I thought about them, I thought about how afraid I was to have the kind of faith these women possess. 

I didn’t want what they had because I was so afraid of what God would ask of me. I always want a deeper faith, but I’ve put safety limits on it since Tom died. Regardless of the reason, that demonstrates a lack of faith.

But I’ve been breaking free from the spirit of fear, and I’ve been noticing changes in my life.

This morning I attended a church whose worship leader is Hector Cervantes (formerly of Casting Crowns). 

He led us all in worship as we sang a new song he wrote called Send Me

Look, I might be one of those people who cry over sentimental things, but I haven’t gotten teary-eyed during worship in a long while.

I felt the Spirit speaking to me. I wish I could say it was some big revelation, an ah-ha moment. But it was a quite, calm that washed over me, as I felt the lyrics of this song so deeply. Each word felt like it was written for me.

I don’t know what this is going to look like. I seriously doubt there will be any big moves in my life (hello yesterday’s post!), but I’m confident that here in my small sphere of the world, God will ask of me to do things out of my comfort zone – things that require big faith.

Send MeA song that months ago would have scared me to pray, but today left me saying: I’m ready.

My faith may never require me to be as brave as Maryam and Marziyeh, at least not in the same ways, but it does require me to be willing to go and do whatever it is that God asks of me. 

I’m ready, and best of all is that there’s no fear. It’s exciting.

So, now I pray for discernment and help with obedience. The possibilities are endless. 

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When God Says “Stay”

Change can be exciting, but it can also be scary. And moving is a really big change, especially if it’s to another town or state – or country for that matter.
In some ways I really love moving. I could do without the whole packing and unpacking, though. 
Moving feels like an adventure to me, but I’ve been in my current home for 6 1/2 years, and I’ve been talking about moving since before my furniture arrived.
I did love it here for a time. And even with all the complaining I do about things like traffic (and a few other biggies), there are many good things, too. 
I’ve looked at other places, and I’ve tried to figure out where I’m supposed to be. But I keep feeling like I’m not meant to move.
For a while I was having one of those, “Okay, God. I’ll stay for now, but can you tell me how long now is – a month, six months… a year?!” conversations with God. I was willing to stay… for a while. And I was waiting and waiting for peace about where to move to.
I once even had some good friends offer me a couple of acres of land to build on, but the average temperature there during winter was closer to my kids’ ages than I think I could handle.
More than the weather, though was the lack of peace. I was excited about it, too, especially when my friend sent me a video of the view around where my house would be! 
Part of me felt like I was squandering an amazing opportunity. But over the years I’ve made so many seemingly great decisions, which I’ve ended up regretting. And the one common denominator was that with each of those decisions, I had ignored that still, small voice. 
I finally resigned myself to the idea that I’m not supposed to move, but it hasn’t been easy to accept. For over 6 years I’ve been talking about moving, researching and visiting different towns, and going to look at houses. 
That’s a long time to pursue something only to realize that God was asking me to lay it down at His feet the whole time. 
My house is literally falling apart in some ways, but I’ve decided to put it all in God’s hands. Several months ago when my house fiasco started, there was a very generous gift given to us, and it helped ease a burden. 
I’m not handy to begin with and most of what’s going on requires more than just being handy anyway. There have been some absolutely overwhelming days. And on those days I think about that gift and remember that good people exist, and God has everything under control. I’ve held on to that reminder as things spiraled.
I don’t know why we’re still here or why so much happened all at once, but I think about my blessings more than I think about how everything will get resolved.
I still ask God why, but in a curious way more than anything. I know He has a plan, and as much as I’d like to know it, I’m not meant to right now.
So, I stay. And trust that He will provide as only He can. 
And because I’ve laid it all down at His feet, I have peace even in the chaos and uncertainty. 

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A Response to the NY Abortion Law

There are two things that Christians are vocal about: abortion and homosexuality.

I think we often get the second one wrong (but that’s for another time). And while we get it right when it comes to abortion, are we fighting enough for those babies once they are born?

Emotions often run high when discussing abortion regardless of where one lands on the issue, and we’ve seen that again this week with the changes to the New York abortion law. There are many facets of the law we could focus on. But this was sparked from one particular conversation I had this week.

I did this for FB, but it wouldn’t post so I put it on YouTube, then decided to add it here. I’m not great with articulating my thoughts off-the-cuff, but here they are:

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Politics or People?

I’ve always been interested in politics. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise those who know me. Once in college, one of my good friends told me I was the most closed minded person she knew. That kinda rocked me because I thought I was open minded, albeit opinionated.

Since then I’ve worked at being more open minded. But anymore it feels as though people pride themselves in being closed minded.

Many may not even recognize it, but they refuse to even engage in conversations with those who don’t think identically to them, and when they do engage with others it’s full on attack mode and very full of hate.

I’ve taken the bait more times than I’d like to admit, and I’ve called out people for it, too.

So, I’m not here to preach anything to anyone. I’m just here because I’ve seen the unfortunate side of political discourse, and I’ve reflected on it. This is what I think.

We need to be more open minded. Now, I’m not saying that we should all go changing our minds on everything. There are things that I’ve changed my mind on either partially or fully, just as there are things that no one can ever change my mind on.

But are we willing to have conversations with people to at least understand where they’re coming from and why they land where they do on different issues?

I saw someone post how they’re going to keep posting all of their opinions because hopefully it help someone change their minds. But this same person isn’t interested in listening to anyone else let alone changing their own mind. So why expect that from others? Is that fair? To me, that’s choosing politics over people, and our nation isn’t going to get any better until we stop it.

Now, read this next part with care and understand that I’m not saying what my political beliefs are. I’m trying to make a point.

I read an article last night, which said that one side of our political leaders are going to try to distract the other side and not work together, while the other side has said they hope for bipartisanship. So basically one side isn’t choosing to put the American people first. They refuse to work together out of spite. They’re choosing hate and politics over the best interest of the American people they’ve been elected to represent. And they are proud of it. This makes zero sense to me for anyone who loves this nation to do. I feels more like hate than love. And perhaps I’m missing something, but I’m willing to hear out someone with a different view.

Why are we so afraid to listen to others? Why do we just want to silence them? If we believe that we are right then we should have no fear of being honest and having open dialogue.

When we choose politics over people we are missing out on so much. We miss out on the human connections, which make the world a better place. We’re not going to see each other as fellow human beings if we automatically shut them out and label them in some horrible way without even listening – I mean really listening to them.

We can bring back civility, but it will take a bipartisan effort on the government’s part, and even if they fail at that we can bring it back by not letting our political leaders set the standard for how we communicate and treat our neighbors both near and far.

Let’s choose people over politics.

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New Year, New Me or Another Pinterest Fail?!

New year, new me… Right?! Well, maybe not totally. I haven’t made resolutions this year (I rarely keep them), but I have made some goals.

One thing that has been long ago established is: Martha Stewart – I am not! And yesterday was another funny reminder of that.

But let me back up just a bit first.

The healthiest I’ve ever felt was when I did a vegan diet and went to Pure Barre classes. But maintaining a vegan diet is hard to do long term. And I’m not doing Pure Barre for several reasons, though I highly recommend both of the above.

Right now my interest is losing weight, and I’m turning to Keto. I did it this summer and gained weight at first, but eventually saw the inches melt away – until I stopped and went back to some old unhealthy habits.

People have strong opinions on both sides of the fence about the Keto diet, and I respect wherever you land. For me right now, this is what I feel I can commit to.

So, I did the obvious: I binged on all the carbs and chocolate I could over the last couple of weeks in December, and decided to start Keto with the New Year.

Well, I was SO hungry yesterday, and I haven’t done a big Keto grocery shop, yet, so my options were limited.

I turned to Pinterest and found the below recipe and picture, and decided to make it:

First of all, I wish I had a picture of my first “pancake.” It was pathetic. My daughter took a bite and said, “With salt these would be decent scrambled eggs.” Hahaha

My next pancakes didn’t look awful, but they tasted closer to it than I’d prefer.

Perhaps if I had blended the cream cheese better instead of having chunks (yuck!) it would have been slightly better. Even soaked in butter these pancakes were lacking. It needed salt and sugar (the fake kind of course). And I need to learn to cook. Even simple pancakes are too difficult for me, apparently.

As for the Keto part? By the end of the day, I was still hungry and had a horrible headache, which has yet to go away. I suppose that’s to be expected at the beginning and is part of the “Keto flu.” I did have some coffee, which helped a little.

This is going to be *fun* unless I decide on another way to get in shape. But hopefully whatever I do, my Martha Stewart skills will improve!

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On Monday night, a 19 year old disappeared after he went for a run at the park where this picture was taken – a park I’ve often gone for a run at myself.

Yesterday there were so many people who volunteered to look for this young man that they were being turned away. I followed this story intently because it hit so close to home.

There were many, many comments about prayers for the missing 19 year old and his family. Then there were comments mocking those prayers saying things like praying doesn’t work and other similar things. That’s becoming a rather popular response when tragedies strike these days.

Well, in the middle of the night that young college student returned home. I don’t know the circumstances of his disappearance, and as curious as I am, the details aren’t the important thing. What truly matters is that he is home safe and alive.

But what about all those prayers that were said for his safe return? Does this mean that God is real and answers prayers? Some would say a resounding “YES!” But what if he had been found dead somewhere instead? Would that make the claims that prayers don’t work true? Others would say yes to that, too.

As hard as it is to accept, prayer isn’t out gateway to getting everything we want – even when what we want is seen as good and righteous in the eyes of the Creator.

God doesn’t work like a magic genie, and His existence isn’t contingent on whether or not our prayers are answered to our satisfaction.

I’ve been there; I get it. I have fervently prayed for things, which I didn’t get. Big things. Life and death things. I begged God to keep my husband alive, and when I came back from Iraq and Afghanistan it helped strengthen my faith. But eventually when I prayed those prayers for his life, I didn’t get the answer I was desperate for. I lost my faith over it for some time. I know many can relate to that.

I wanted to know WHY? I questioned if God even real. I thought at best God didn’t exist and at worst God betrayed me. It took me a long time to reconcile the allowance of suffering in my life (feel free to ask me about it sometime).

We don’t always understand God’s plan or purpose, but sometimes we get glimpses. But even with those glimpses our pain isn’t erased. That doesn’t mean that prayers don’t work, though. I know it can certainly feel that way when we don’t get the happy ending like the family of that boy got last night.

So where is God when things don’t go our way? He’s right there with us as our comforter. I know for some of us it doesn’t feel that way, but if you lean into Him eventually it will.

Why pray if we don’t get the answers we want? Well, sometimes we DO get those answers, so hold onto that. But when we don’t? Remember that we can only see our part of this much grander story. Only God knows how each piece fits together.

It doesn’t seem fair, but this is where faith and trust fit into the equation. Those can be very challenging – I know. And yet, prayer brings us closer to God. It makes us submit to Him and depend on Him. He will walk with us through the hard days. I still credit the prayers of many to get me through my hardest days when I had no faith or desire to pray to God.

Trust that God is for you and find comfort in the prayers of others who speak to God on your behalf. Whatever the answer to your prayers, God has not abandoned you.

Note: If you’re looking for a book on prayer I’d recommend Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.

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