I sat snuggled up with my children last night watching The Nativity Story.  It has become an annual tradition for us.  Joseph is so often overlooked as we reflect on the birth of Christ yet he is indeed part of the story.  An honorable man who chose to stay with Mary, to adopt the Child who was not his despite the scorn he surely received from friends and family.  The Nativity Story does a good job of portraying the man of Joseph.  And while scripture does not offer many details about him we know he was a man and had emotions as does any man.  With some creative license we see some of the internal struggles Joseph may have had in taking on this role as Mary’s husband.

With some additional creative license we see Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem after dark.  Mary suddenly goes into labor and Joseph runs frantically from inn to inn seeking a place to stay, pleading with the owners as his wife is about to give birth.  We see Mary pray, ‘Lord, will you not provide for us?’ just as someone finally points and says ‘it’s all I can do.’  You then see Joseph carrying Mary past the animal, shooing them out of the way with his foot.

‘Lord will you not provide for us?’

He did provide.  He always provides.

But His provision for His only begotten Son, for the second Person of the trinity, for the Word made flesh, for the One who spoke all things into existence – was a lowly manger.

Of all the births that ever took place or will even take place, this one deserved a grand entrance.  This one deserved the best of everything.  Yet instead it received accommodations that were subpar even for that time.

And yet I (wicked, sinful, created being) have the nerve to grumble when God’s provision and accommodations in my life are not to my desired standard.

A few weeks ago I had a girls night out with my 2 daughters to attend the Glory of Christmas production at a local church.  This year they focused on the birth of Christ through the eyes of the Wise Men as they followed the star.

I was enjoying the production, following along with the story until the end when the Wise Men finally arrived in Bethlehem.  They showed each coming down the aisle of the church one by one with their gift, approaching the Child, kneeling before Him as they presented the gift.  And that’s when I lost it.

I have a 19 month old son. The thought of having anyone, let alone rich, important, learned men come from afar with gifts, bowing before my son in adoration — in the words of Princess Bride – INCONCEIVABLE!  An infant.  An INFANT.  Who would worship an infant?  Why would anyone worship an infant?

An infant is small physically.  An infant is weak.  Totally dependent upon others for care, for food, for warmth, for clothing, for everything. An infant has no power in this world.  No authority.  No control.

Yet, that is exactly how our Lord chose to enter this world.  As a lowly infant.  Helpless.  Powerless.  Weak.  Dependent.  The KING OF KINGS, the CREATOR OF ALL THINGS entered the world as a weak, small, helpless, powerless, dependent baby.

That scene of the Wise Men coming before the infant King of Kings with all respect and humility, honoring and worshiping Him was more than I could bear.  What a reminder of the humility of our Lord.  What a reminder of His care and sacrifice.  What an AMAZING GOD.

We are *enjoying* a lecture series by Paul Tripp on parenting in our Sunday School class…and I use the word enjoying loosely.  We are learning a lot, and getting kidney punches each week as we see again and again where we are failing as parents.   It has been a GREAT DVD series thus far, and is reorienting my master plan when it comes to my children.

Listening to Tripp talk about getting to our child’s heart, and not simply dealing with the outward behavior, I am reminded again and again…parenting is H-A-R-D!  It takes T-I-M-E.  It’s not a quick fix on the run.  Good parenting takes deliberate effort.  And did I mention it takes time.

Life is so busy these days and everything seems urgent…especially checking my latest Facebook updates.  But when 2 kids are squabbling, or someone is throwing a temper tantrum, my full attention is needed.

To handle those situations the right way, I cannot be in a hurry.  I cannot seek to manufacture in them the appropriate outward response.  Well, I could, but that doesn’t help with the longterm goal of raising my children to be godly adults.

So, it seems to me, I either pay now or pay later.  I either decide now to take the necessary TIME to talk with my kids, address their hearts, help them see their heart motive behind their poor behavior, and not solely seek outward conformity, OR, I can take the time and heartache later when they are rebellious teens and young adults who have never come to understand their own sinful hearts, and are tired of outward obedience.

I can invest the time now to enjoy a good relationship with my children later.

I can sow into my children’s lives and hearts now so that I can reap the joy of seeing them grow into godly adults, and enjoy a relationship with them that is not only mother-daughter/son, but that they also become my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our give-it-to-me-now culture, it can be hard to remember that the blessings of good parenting are worth the effort, but are not immediate.

We may have lost something as our economy shifted away from the family farm. Scripture has so many references to agricultural life that most of us cannot relate to first hand.  A farmed plants his crop.  Waters the field, waits patiently, and prays like crazy.  All along, trusting that underneath the soil, roots are being established, and that one day, in due time, the plant will yield its crop.

Our children are those plants.  We water them with biblical truth and biblical parenting, we wait on the Holy Spirit to do a work in our children and we pray like crazy that God would draw them to Himself, all along trusting that their little roots are digging down deep, and that one day they will be strong, godly young men and women who stand firm on the Word of Christ.

Parenting is exhausting.  But just look around at the godly young people you see in your church, and the wonderful, respectful relationship they have with their parents.  I desire that blessing.  I desire that outcome.  By God’s grace, I will sow into their little lives day after day, and by His grace, I will reap great joy in my relationship with those precious children well into their adulthood.

WOW!  I’m almost speechless.  Simply WOW!  I should be getting to bed but  I just had a horrendous experience with a company online, and it is such a case study in customer service FAIL!!

Earlier today I ordered some mini-garbage pails that I plan to use in a marketing campaign for a business I have.  I’d been searching a number of sites for the best price, and came across a company that had both the best price and did not have a minimum order like all of the others.

So I ordered 20 pails, went through their check out process to see that shipping was going to be almost one hundred buck!  yikes!  But I figured to myself, well, this is why their price is the cheapest…they get you on the shipping, and since I didn’t want 100 (the minimum on another site) this was still the least expensive way to go.

A little while late I thought, well, if shipping is that much anyway, maybe I can add some to the order and save myself from that crazy shipping price a month from now when I’ll likely reorder.

So back to their site I discover that shipping this time is coming up as $15.62…a far cry from the $99 previously quoted.  So I sent a note to the company asking about the shipping cost.  I wasn’t expecting a refund since I had placed the order knowing full well what I was ordering, but some sort of explanation would be nice.  Here is my initial email:

I placed an order today (#506681314803429) and just realized that the Ground Shipped amount charged was $99.  That seems rather high.

I  had gone back to your site to see about possibly ordering additional
items and the shipping cost the second time was appearing as $15.32 for the same items.

Can you please explain the high shipping amount.

Thank you,

Here is their response:

You chose a third party processor, Google.  You were on their website using their application.

When you were on our website you were given the opportunity to check the shipping cost simply by typing in your zip code and apparently you opted out of that.

So to answer your question, YOU are solely responsible for all charges
because YOU made all the choices and yes the shipping charge was excessive, obviously excessive, but YOU paid it.  YOU paid a shipped charge calculated by a third party that you picked and went to THEIR website and paid 5 times more than you would have been charged had you chosen PayPal or our own payment processing.  So you should be asking yourself how did you let that happen?

The point of all of this is that you are asking us about something that was
done by another company as if you don’t have a clue to the fact that you
were on another company’s website.

If we hadn’t already processed your order and shipped it we would just
cancel it and let you go on your way.  We certainly don’t want a client like
you.  But since we have already processed and shipped your order we will now have to spend many more man hours than your order is worth fixing the problems that YOU cause yourself.

We will fix this but we will never accept any future orders from you.

Customer Service

I have never received such a rude response before.  How do these people stay in business treating a customer like this.  Being the outspoken person I am, I replied:

Wow.  What a completely rude response.  I asked a simple question in a respectful manner but received back a disrespectful response.  I did not blame your company for the charge, but rather inquired as to the shipping charge discrepancy.  A simple explanation was all that was needed.

I do not have a paypal account, and given the option between having complete a customer profile or use the google option your site provides where my data is already stored, I chose the faster method.  There is no indication on your site that shipping costs would be different from one method or another, and from a customer service standpoint, it is illogical to offer a different payment method but fail to note that there may be a difference in shipping costs.  But again, my inquiry was not an attempt to blame your company.  I was simply looking for an explanation.
I was pleased to find your mini garbage pails at a reasonable price, without the high minimums required by other sites.  I would have been a repeat customer for that item about once a month, but you can be sure that with your customer service skills, I have no desire to use your company again.
I hope you are simply having a bad day and that the manner in which you handled this is not a pattern for how you treat your customers.
Melissa Amaya

And their oh so nuanced response:

We don’t want your business.

We will not answer or reply to any more emails.

Your email address has been added to our spam filter.

They did refund the difference in shipping (it took them far less than the HOURS they claimed they would be spending to fix the problems that I caused).

All of that hostility over a misunderstanding.  All it required was an explanation and I would have done a face slap to myself and said, ‘stupid.’  I’ll gladly take that refund, but what I was looking for was a simple answer.  What a shame.

Am I delirious?  I’m still in a bit of shock that a company actually responded in this manner.  My business profs would surely have given them an F (well, more like a C since everything was graded on a curve).


Oh, and in case you want to avoid dealing with these people, the website is:



We have a modern day holocaust going on in our country under the guise of ‘choice’.  I cannot recommend enough this 30-minute documentary.  For my pro-choice friends, please watch.  I am very interested to hear your opinions after watching.


We are all imitators.  It’s not a question of whether we imitate, but rather what we imitate.

I’ve had a vivid reminder of this lately with my 2-year-old son.  Part of our daily routine usually includes Go Fish Guys videos on youtube.  It didn’t take long before he began to mimic the fella in the way they sang the songs, danced or played their instruments.  It cracks me up watching him praise the Lord so enthusiastically due to these videos.  In this case, he is imitating good things, holy things, pure things.

Fireproof has become a favorite movie for my kids lately.  They all like the firefighter action, my son especially.  He has begun quoting the movie, ‘never leave your partner behind, ‘specially in fires.’  Well, he does his best.  And mimicking Caleb.

I have a small garbage pail outside our front door to house the ‘stinky diapers’ because I grew tired of our house and then our garage always smelling wretched.  One day as we were getting ready to go somewhere, he was outside throwing the garbage pail against the wall, and then picking up the diapers and putting them back in.  I corrected him, letting him know that was not okay.  It took a few times of this happening before my daughter explained that he was copying Caleb.  Ah, that makes perfect sense.  But uh-oh, he had picked up that behavior too.

Both of these stories have showed me how my children can be so easily influenced by what they see and hear, but it isn’t just kids.

How many of us adults think that we are free from being influenced by the culture?  That we are so spiritual to think that outside stimuli do not effect us?  I would like to believe this, but I know better.

My husband is a restaurant cook, so when Hell’s Kitchen came out a few years ago, he couldn’t wait to tune in each week.  Gordon Ramsey was entertaining, to say the least, and it was neat to watch the action of the kitchen, so I would often tune in with him.  But a few weeks later I noticed I was growing more impatient with my kids.  I realized that I had adopted a few of the mannerisms of Gordon Ramsey.  For anyone familiar with him or the show, that isn’t really a good thing.  More than once I barked at them like Ramsey did on the show, except these weren’t contestants, they were my children, little gifts from God.  I wish I was above being so influenced, but I am not, so I have chosen to tune-out from this particular show.

We are either growing more like Christ or growing away from Him.  We are either imitating our Heavenly Father or Satan.  There really is no middle ground.  There are plenty of outside influences that we simply cannot avoid each and every day. Unwholesome billboards that we have to drive by, cursing coworkers who talk about  their latest sexually immoral fling, etc.  As Christians we are to guard our minds.  We are to renew our minds.  Not with the latest sitcom, but with the Word of Christ.  We are to dwell on that Word richly.

So my brothers and sisters, by what are you being most influenced today?  Who are what are you most imitating today?  Is it your Savior, or something else?

So often we women try to conquer the world and say ‘yes’ to every request brought to us.  As a result we over commit and stress out.  Creating healthy boundaries and learning to say ‘no’ to things without feeling guilty is an important lesson for us of all.  In the past few weeks, however, I have realized that I need to learn to say ‘yes’ more often…’yes’ to my kids.

Just as ‘yes’ can become the default answer to requests of my time, ‘no’ has become my default answer to my kids.  Saying ‘no’ is simply easier than actually giving the request some thought.

“Mom, can I…”    without even thinking, ‘no’ just rolls off my lips.

If I just say no, then I don’t have to think.  If I just say no, then there will likely be less to clean up later.  No is easier.  But not always right.

There will come a time when my children realize that it is easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission.  There will come a time when they realize that mom is often to busy to actually listen to their simple requests, too busy (read: too selfish) to consider their desires.  I do not want to reach that point.

Similar to the 10-minute rule I’ve recently implemented to combat the same tendency, I’m also [slowly] learning to pause for a few seconds before answer their little requests.  I am trying to give myself enough time to actually HEAR them and to actually consider what they are asking.

Just this morning I heard, ‘Mom, can I play with your flashlight.’

‘No’ flew out of my mouth so quickly.  What about the battery she’ll be wasting? (as if I can’t just get new batteries when needed).  What about the fight that may ensue as the others want a flashlight too? (what an opportunity to teach all of them about sharing, and about coveting.  Another opportunity to preach the Gospel to them).

So after I said no, I reconsidered.  I asked her what she wanted my flashlight for.   She simply wanted to play with it.  No harm there and I’m sure it was fun.

I think I may have just gotten a glimpse into the future, 15-years or so down the road.

My 3 older are playing outside.  Two are coloring on the easel and my oldest is driving around in her little fisher-price buggy.  She came up to the screen door, her poofy pink purse on her arm, to let me know that she is ‘heading out to Costco to order her tires.’ With a smile and a wave she said, ‘bye mom, I’ll be back later.’

15 years from now, when she is driving around in a real car, I may experience some déjà vu.  This time she may be really taking that car to Costco.  And I will think back, ‘I remember when she said that to me in our backyard with her toy car…boy, does time fly.’

This is a post I wrote in April 2010, but never published.  It still applies…


I love being a mom.  I left the corporate world over 4 years ago to stay home and be a mom.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I would take the worst day as a mom over any day at the office, and I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be the one raising my kids for all the money in the world.  Yet, being a mom is tough work, and often, I make it tougher.

I like lists.  Okay, I love lists.  I have papers and pads with lists and notes everywhere. It drives my husband crazy, but it’s just how my logical brain operates.  I have my grocery list, my to-do list, my project list, my ‘need to buy’ list of non-grocery items, I have my ‘goals’ list.  I have a list of recipes I want to test.  A list of new foods to try. Obsessed much?

On top of that craziness, and well aware of my weaknesses, I am always reading up to learn ways to become a better homemaker and mother.  I read about games to play with your kids.  Crafts to do.  Books to read to them.  One source says that scheduling is key, and gives a sample schedule for every hour of the day, including different activities for different children.  Clearly these people have it all together, I might as well curl up in a ball and go back to bed.

God bless my husband, who is so patient with me, (even though I know he secretly laughs at my ridiculousness), who reminds me that being a mom is hard work, and overlooks the fact that we are having eggs for dinner, again, or cereal, or whatever you can find, because I just didn’t get to it.

I am learning though, albeit slowly.  Learning that lists can have a useful purpose in my life, when I am able to keep reasonable expectations.  As I write my daily to do list, I often just cross off the word “Monday” at the top and put “Tuesday” since it seems like a waste of ink to re-write all the activities on a new page.  And I am reminding myself that that’s okay.  With three small children, there are times when getting through the day with everyone dressed (pajamas count), fed, and without any major bleeding, I count it a successful day.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who makes the difficult job of being a mom that much more difficult with lofty self-imposed expectations….

continued from Tuesday.

It starts with Mama modeling it.  With me kneeling before them after I’ve lost my temper and yelled, saying, ‘I am sorry.  I lost my temper with you and that is not okay.  Will you forgive me?’  I have had to do that more than once.

The great thing about kids is that they are so ready to forgive.  I have never had my child say no to that request.  In fact, they are so quick to say yes, I sometimes don’t even finish my apology.

The next thing is helping them realize their own guilt in conflict.  When one while intentionally offends another, they need to recognize that as wrong.  When one brother wallops his sister, he needs to recognize that as wrong.  We all have that God-given conscience inside of us, and a child’s conscience is often very tender.  Our job is to keep it tender.  To keep them in-tune with that ‘alert system’ that tells them when they have sinned.  Unless they can recognize that hitting is wrong or being mean is wrong, any attempt as an apology is pointless.

Once they can recognize that, I will again walk them through.  My end goal isn’t that they will mimic what Mommy says all the time.  My goal is that they will eventually take the initiative to reconcile with brothers and sisters, and mom and dad, and others, without prompting. But while they are young, and while they are being training, I need to help them know what to say.  They have full license to change the words to their own, as long as the meaning is the same.

So, brother wallops sister on the head with a car — true scenario.  Here is how that conversation might go.

Me to brother: “Alexander, your job as the big brother is to protect your sister, not to hurt her.  Right?”

Alexander: ‘yes. I protect her.’  (his actual words 😉

Me: ‘were you protecting her or hurting her when you hit her?’

Alexander: ‘i protect her.’  (I then give him the right answer and remind him that hitting his sister is not protecting).

Me: ‘hitting your sister is not kind.  God wants us to be kind. What do you need to say to her?’

Alexander: in his ever so sweet voice “I sorry Annabella”

Me: ‘What else do you need to say to her?’

Alexander: ‘will you forgive me?’  If he doesn’t remember this second part, I will remind him.

Me – to Annabella: ‘what do you say?’

Annabella to Alexander: ‘I forgive you.’

It’s important for both sides to be there.  The humbled offender seeking forgiveness, and the humble offended granting forgiveness.

It doesn’t always go this smoothly.  Rarely does the offended refuse to extend forgiveness.  More likely, it is the offender whose heart is still hard not wanting to apologize.  I don’t make them.  I may later decide I’m wrong on this, but I remember being forced to ‘say you’re sorry’ when I really wasn’t sorry.  With a long term view in mind, the goal isn’t getting them to say the words in that moment.  The goal is that 10 years down the road they will say those words without prompting when they realize they have offended someone.

And just a postscript: for a long time, in my mind apologizing was really a chance to justify what I did.  ‘I’m sorry I called you a jerk, but you did….’  And really I was just justifying my sinful behavior.   That is not what I’m writing about here.  A true apology that seeks forgiveness is an owning up to ones sinful actions.  Taking responsibility.  Calling it what it is, specifically.  A proud heart seeks to justify.  A humble heart seeks forgiveness.  And we know that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.