Friday, January 28, 2011

Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Parenting

I've had a rash of friends who recently had babies. One of them posted on Facebook something to the effect of "HELP! All my extended family has gone home and it's just me and two babies. What do I do with them?" One of our mutual friends saw her post and reminded me that when she was feeling the exact same way, I had written out a list of random things I'd learned as a mom and emailed it to her. We both started digging through old files and I found the list.

I in no way think I have it all together as a mom. In fact mothering my children is one of my greatest insecurities and I see my inadequacies clearly and daily. I share this list as a tribute to my Savior, Jesus Christ, who gives grace to cover my weaknesses, laughter when I want to cry, and who is enabling Curt and I to raise Grant, Kaitlin, Alli and Paige without completely ruining them (at least yet). To Him be the glory!

Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Parenting...

  1. Don't neglect your relationship with God - it has to be a priority if you want to have the energy to parent well. And God always comes through - when you make quiet time with Him a priority, somehow the other stuff seems to get done in some miraculous, unexplainable way!
  2. Fall madly in love with your husband, over and over again. Date him. Be affectionate with him in front of your kiddos. Tell him specifically why you respect him. Why you love him. Let your kids know that he is your FIRST love, aside from Jesus, and that he came first, before the kids. Your kids will find security in your love. Find a reason each day to love your husband more, even if you have to really dig deep that day for your reason!
  3. Make sex a weekly priority, no matter what stage of parenting you’re in and don’t make excuses about why you can’t do this. I know- sex is the furthest thing from your mind when you’re sleep-deprived, 20 pounds heavier than when you got married, and filling sippy cups, changing diapers and shuttling kids all day. Believe me - I get it and I often feel the same. But God is very clear in His instructions to us as wives to meet our husband’s sexual needs and to have our sexual needs met as well. After all girls, we are IT for our hubbies – they have no other sexual outlet. If we want to stay pure and have our marriages thrive, we need to make sexual intimacy a regular part of our week.
  4. Find your self-worth in who you are in Christ, not in your body shape or size. This has always been a tough one for me. We are saturated with images of size zero women with big boobs and flat abs and they look like that 2 weeks after giving birth! We are led to believe this is the “norm” and it’s so depressing. But this is not truth. We are valuable, not because of our waist measurement or our bra size (or lack thereof), but because we are daughters of God. Princesses in His kingdom. Embrace this truth. Let it soak in. Rebuke Satan’s lies and realize that our worth comes from our identity as God’s daughter, not on our outward appearance.
  5. We don’t have to look like Angelina Jolie to smite our husbands. They CHOSE us and WE DEFINE BEAUTY to them. My husband is so good at enforcing this truth for me. He often simplifies this by saying, “I love you and think you’re hot, so what else matters?” To his credit, he tells me this when I’m nine months pregnant and ready to explode with varicose veins that could touch the moon AND on those rare days when I can squeeze into my “skinny jeans.” Remember that you are the hottest naked woman your husband will ever see!
  6. You will never be a perfect mom and you will never have perfect kids. Anyone who tries to tell you differently or tries to pass themselves off as “perfect” is LYING! Set yourself free from this expectation and relish the times when your 6 year old is screaming on the side of the road because she fell 6 inches off her bike pedal and all traffic is stopping to see if you need medical attention.
  7. Say “I’m sorry, I was wrong to do that” frequently and often. Be willing to admit your faults to your kids and tell them how sorry you are when you mess up. I feel like I’m confessing sin to my kids on a daily basis, and even if it’s HUGE in my eyes, they always forgive me, embrace me and give me a clean slate. It’s not easy to backtrack and fess up, but it’s a great example to our kids on how to Biblically deal with sin and forgiveness and it also helps them gain a realistic expectation on relationships. Even when we love someone, we mess up and have to confess and seek forgiveness. The reverse is true too. People we love will disappoint us and wound us. It's our job to choose forgiveness instead of being resentful.
  8. There is no ONE correct way of parenting. If you are a schedule-freak like me and decide to follow Babywise religiously (at least with your first baby), you are not a better mom than the laid-back mom who lets their infant nap in the car seat if he happens to get tired while he’s getting schlepped from one place to another. We can all learn from each other and I grew so much relationally when I ditched the judgmental attitude and started to view other parenting styles through the eyes of “not wrong, just different.”
  9. Find parents you admire, and pick their brains. Ask them why they do certain things, what they like about parenting, what they would avoid, why they opted for 3 kids in 3 years or 4 kids in 20 years, etc. Look for kids you enjoy being around, and pick their parent’s brains too.
  10. NOTHING ever goes according to plan. Once you have kids, things have a way of spiraling out of control every time you turn your back. You think the kids are loading in the van while you take the dog potty, when in reality, your 4 year old is riding her bike down the street sans shoes, your 2 year old just messed her pants, and your 7 year old forgot his towel. Within 30 seconds, you just became 10 minutes late. Parenting forces you to become flexible. You can either laugh or cry. I’ve done both, but recommend laughing!
  11. You can’t control what your child does, but you can control your reaction to what they do. Acknowledging this fact has set me free from a lot of guilt over embarrassing toddler behavior. When my daughter started screaming at the top of her lungs in the library and the librarian kicked us out before I could even respond, I just took a deep breath and chanted internally to myself “You can ONLY control your reaction!”
  12. Don’t discipline in anger. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Nothing good ever comes from acting in anger. I have made my kids sit in isolation for up to an hour before until I can deal with the permanent marker drawings on the wall in a spirit of love instead of rage, and I’ve never regretted it.
  13. Parenting requires creativity. What works for one child, doesn’t necessarily work for another. So get creative and don’t try to force each of your individual kids into the discipline mold that worked for your first born.
  14. You will come to dread the “bewitching” hour. It miraculously occurs every afternoon around 4:30, right at dinner preparation time. Your child will become whiny, tired, hungry and inconsolable at precisely the moment when you can NOT focus on your child. In spite of what “the experts” say, your two-year-old will not need special ed if they watch Dora while you make supper, so put the movie on already!
  15. Try to embrace each phase of parenting, even the sleepless-nights-everyone-has-a-need phase, and live joyfully in the moment. I look back now and think we were CRAZY to have 4 kids in 4 years, and there were definitely days I would dial the emergency pager when my husband was in the middle of a surgery, bawling my eyes out, begging him to come home because “I just CAN’T do this!!” But drama aside, those days in the trenches overall were great. We still laughed all the time, managed to get out and about, grew in our marriage and in our walk with God. We made wonderful memories, although I wouldn’t choose to go back because I’m completely enjoying this next phase of parenting too.
  16. If you choose to be an at-home mom, it’s OKAY and normal, to go through a grieving process for the person you were before kids. My dream as a little girl was always to be an at-home mom, so I was really surprised when I wrestled with giving up the job I had come to love to stay home with our son. My work gave me a sense of purpose, a measure to weigh myself against, and defined a big part of who I was. Once Grant was born, I walked around in a constant state of sleep-deprivation, feeling like an over-weight dairy cow that was about to be sent to slaughter because I wasn’t producing enough of my daily quota! I would look in the mirror and see a shadow of who I used to be and I grieved for the familiar. Life at home all day with a baby seemed bleak with no way to measure success, but it does get better. You will find a routine. You will fall hopelessly in love with your baby. You will find something to stimulate yourself intellectually. You will lose the baby weight. It just might not happen overnight.
  17. People ask me all the time what my hardest transition was between kids. Although we both struggled with being forced to realize the depth of our selfishness after our first baby, the hardest transition for us, was from one baby to two. Figuring out how to juggle multiple needs was really challenging, but after a few months, we settled into a more predictable routine. Transitioning to 3 and then 4 kids was much easier for us.
  18. God’s plan for you family may look much different than your dream or your parent’s dream or your neighbor’s opinion, etc. Ask God to give you an open heart to accept His family plan for you and then embrace His answer. And remember, what works for your family may look completely different for your best friend, so try to embrace “not wrong, just different.”
  19. Consistency is a big key to successful parenting. Think carefully about what you say to your kids, because if it comes out of your mouth, you HAVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH. If you are constantly changing your mind or can be swayed by whining, fit throwing or negotiating, you leave the door open for your kids to NEVER obey the first time or with a happy heart. Believe me, we have seen this work to our advantage and we’ve been humbled publicly when we are failing in this area.
  20. If you stop enjoying your kids, it usually is a good indication that you need to step back and take a hard look at how you’re approaching parenting. It’s a cyclical pattern in our family that occurs approximately every 6 or 9 months. Curt and I will look at each other and ask, “Where have we gone wrong?” And it almost always comes back to CONSISTENCY. We get lazy enforcing discipline, the kids take advantage of it, and we all end up miserable. In that light-bulb-comes-on moment, we confess our failures to God, regroup, and start fresh.
  21. Don’t give your kids a higher level relational than they Biblically deserve. We should love God first, our spouses second, and our kids third. It breaks my heart when I see moms and dads neglecting their spouse because they are overly in-love with their children. If we want to be families that God can get behind and bless, we need to keep our love for kids in a Biblical perspective.
  22. We once heard a parenting expert suggest that we as parents say YES to our kids as often as we can and say NO to our kids, only when we really mean it. We have tried to put this in practice. If you really don’t care if your son has a handful of M&M’s for an afternoon snack, say YES. Does it really matter if your 4-year-old daughter is wearing pattern-with-pattern-with pattern and has a skirt layered over capris? Say “YES you can wear that – you have a great sense of style.” If you’re uncertain, say “I don’t know” although this leave room for negotiating from your budding attorneys to sway you to their side. And when you say “No,” mean it and stick to your guns without being swayed.
  23. Choose your battles. Wow! Have we learned this lesson the hard way! Two of our four kids know what they want, the path they’re going to take to get it, and will NOT be diverted from their course (we have no idea where they get it from – must be a recessive gene). Needless to say, we’ve had many battle-of-the-wills showdowns at our house and it forced me to evaluate the criteria I was using to define “important.” Does it really matter if my “fancy” daughter leaves the house wearing a sundress with flip flops in winter? Will the fact that my son took 2 years to potty train cost him a job offer as an adult or does it bug me just because it makes me feel like a failure? Will my two-year old need counseling if she still uses her pacifier for sleeping? If, in the grand scheme of things, the answer is NO, I force myself to just let it go, and life flows so much smoother. If the answer is YES and you chose to battle, you MUST win, no matter how long it takes.
  24. Take a specific area of parenting you’re struggling with and really give it to God. Do a topical Bible study, find worship songs that combat that sin, memorize scripture, and leave yourself positive reminders. I have been surprised to see that one sin I consistently struggle with is my tone of voice. I find myself raising my voice, even yelling at time, minimizing what my kids are saying, or speaking to them in a sarcastic or condescending tone. I HATE that about myself and am continually giving this sin to God. I have James 1:19-20 written in permanent marker on fancy paper and taped to the inside of my pantry door. It reminds me to be slow to speak, slow to get angry and quick to listen, all of the things I am consistently working on. Thanks to God’s grace and theses visual reminders, I’ve made significant improvement in this area.
  25. Maintain hobbies outside of being a mom. It took me a few years of trial and error, but I finally figured out that I might not be able to exercise 7 days a week, sing on the worship team every weekend and scrapbook at least once a week with girl friends, but I could still say YES to those things, in moderation. I started making time to maintain those interests and hobbies on a schedule that worked for our family and I have found such fulfillment, invigoration and refreshment in them. Taking time to pursue outside interests actually makes me a better mom.
  26. Laugh with your kids and write down all the funny things they say. I keep a book of all the goofy, cute, and funny things the kids say because if I don’t write it down when it happens, I forget by the next day. We often take out those books, re-read them, and laugh our heads off at how fun kids are to have around. And I know we’ll be re-reading them in 20 years and still laughing.
  27. Find moms you admire and ask them to mentor you and pray for you. I have found comfort beyond measure and great encouragement in times of wisdom gleaning and prayer with mature moms who have walked the road before me and can truly empathize with me when my heart is heavy.
  28. Love never fails. I have a friend who has been such a role model to me of what a Godly mom looks like. She has 4 amazing kids who are lots of fun to be around, a home that she opens to everyone she meets, and a thriving marriage and relationship with God. I came to her one day, crying hysterically because I felt like such a failure as a mom. She told me to look up I Corinthians 13:1-8, read it out loud and replace the word “love” with “a loving mom.” Verse 8 ends with “A loving mom never fails.” Girls, if we love our children, the way God asks us to love them, we will not fail. We may have days that feel like a failure, but in the grand scheme of life as a mom, love NEVER fails!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


So many people I know are suffering. A young mom valiantly battling cancer that has yet to stop spreading. An adorably expressive 2-year-old little girl who looks completely healthy but bears the label of a deadly disease with no cure. A soon-to-be mom carrying twins on bed rest playing the waiting game of balancing what comes first - her health or the babies. Friends whose marriages are dissolving. Friends with marriages teetering on the brink of disaster. Beautiful young women who have had their purity stolen from them and are left to pick up the pieces of what used to be their innocent lives. Addictions. Assault. Disease. Loneliness. Anxiety. Depression. Spiritual emptiness. What on earth can I offer these people? The burden has kept me awake well into the night and the heaviness of their sadness weighs on me each morning.

I almost didn't go to the gym this morning. I felt physically exhausted and was mentally drained. My house is a mess, I have piles of things that need to get done and I just didn't think I had it in me to go work out. But I knew I could ride the bike and read the Word at the same time so I made myself go. Katie (our eight year old daughter) and I decided to read the New Testament cover to cover this year. Our assigned reading has us in the book of Matthew and I've really been enjoying it. Matthew often highlights Jesus' power to heal both physical and spiritual disease. He tells a story at the end of chapter 20 that really spoke to me today.

Jesus and his disciples leave Jericho and are heading toward Jerusalem. Everywhere they go, they attract quite a crowd and cause chaos. Amid the dust, the crowds, and the chaos are two blind beggars. Homeless, dirty and lacking any money, they were not the type of people you want front and center on the parade route of a powerful leader. Nonetheless, they realize Jesus is coming down the road, push their way to the edge of the crowd and start shouting at the top of their lungs, "LORD, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON US!!!" Can't you just picture it? The homeless man on the street corner with the "will work for food" sign that we all ignore and try not to make eye contact with is not only engaging with the upper class but is begging for help from a national leader. It's a media magnet's dream story.

People in the crowd get embarrassed and annoyed and try to get them to be quiet, "but they shouted all the louder, 'LORD, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON US!'" These two blind men are so loud, persistent and uninhibited that they attract Jesus' attention and He stops to talk to them. He asks them one simple question. "What do you want me to do for you?" They replied, "Lord, we want our sight." The text says, "Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him."

These men knew they had a problem that no doctor, no counselor, no amount of money and no psychologist could fix. So they went to the only One who could fix them and then screamed and yelled persistently until He answered. It was if God was saying to me, "Jodi, you can't fix all these people you love and I don't expect you to. What you can do is point them to the One who loves them more than you who wants to bring them healing. Encourage them to ask Jesus to heal their diseases, their marriages, and their spiritual emptiness. Tell them to be persistent. To be obnoxious. To scream and holler and persist until they get an answer. 'For with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19:26)"

I got off that bike much lighter than when I got on. The burden I walked into the gym with was lifted and resting comfortably at the foot of the cross. To those loved ones who I've been praying for, don't lose hope. Jesus is asking you, "What do you want me to do for you?" He has compassion on your situation. He will answer and we can have confidence that His answer is just what we need. Sometimes we just have to ask persistently before we get our answer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alli and Babies

Alli has ALWAYS loved babies. When Paige was born, Alli was 22months old. We have a melt-your-heart photo of Alli holding Paige for the first time at the hospital. She was in awe and verypossessive of "my baby." When we brought Paige home, Alli snuck into Paige's room, climbed into the crib, and snuggled in next to her. She was so proud of herself and she was irresistibly adorable until we realized that her next thought would be to try to get the baby out of the crib by herself and we promptly installed a child-proof lock on Paige's door. Poor Paige was constantly being smothered by Alli's "love" and I resorted to leaving the playpen set up on the main level so I could use it as a protective devise! We often went to story time at the library and had to modify the "don't pet people's dogs unless you ask first" rule to apply to babies as well. Each time we'd visit the library I'd go over the rule with Alli and she'd say, "Me no touch people's babies if me no ask baby's mommy?"

Alli is now almost seven and she still loves babies. She knows all my friends that are pregnant, when their babies are due, what they're having and what the baby's names will be. When the babies are born, she bosses me to "hurry up and make them a meal so I can hold the baby" and she always helps me choose the perfect newborn baby gift to bring with our meal. The crazy thing is that she really knows how to handle a newborn and acts like a professional already. No doubt about it, she is a future babysitter in the making.

She was DYING to hold George Buchstaber and counted the three long days until we could stop by with our meal. Britta got the cutest pictures of Alli meeting George and I had to arm-wrestle her to get my chance to hold him. When she finally gave him up "for only five minutes Mom" she hollered at me to "watch his neck" and then hovered in my personal space bubble while she watched the clock until it was her turn again. Oh Alli. You melt me.

Speaking of melting over adorable kids... Griffin Buchstaber stole my heart when I met him at 4 months old. He reminds me so much of how Alli has always been - spunky, feisty, mischievous, adorable, fearless, and loads of fun. I love this picture that Paige took of Griffin and I.

And with that, I will stop blogging for tonight and go get my beauty rest.

Sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's

My Mom and Terry took the kids for a sleepover during Christmas break so we could celebrate our 13th anniversary. They always have so much fun together and this was no exception. They made burritos out of kids and air mattresses much to the kids' delight. They hiked in the woods at night and played at the park with flashlights. They went down to the river the next morning and walked on the dock that normally slopes down but was inverted because the river was so high. Grant and Grandpa threw a huge log into the river. Paige and Grandma had matching hats. They made pancakes. Watched movies. Stayed up late. Played at a different park. From the pictures and the excited stories they shouted over each other on the ride home, a good time was had by all.

Thank you Mom and Terry for being so fun and making time to play with the kids. We love you!

Weekend in Snohomish

This weekend we traveled to Snohomish, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, to hang out with our old and dear friends, Brian, Nancy, Grace and Griffin Godines. We met Brian and Nancy in Chicago when our daughters were six weeks old which means our friendship is almost nine years old and is layers rich with memories and good times.

Nancy is the Hostess with the Mostess. Her house is always spotless, her pantry stocked, and activities planned. Brian makes the best home-made scones I've ever tasted and each time we visit, he gets up early to have them piping hot from the oven by the time we roll out of bed. Our kids play really well together and look forward to our visits just as much as the adults do. The Godines' are the kind of friends that you can lounge around with in your jammies, unshowered with morning breath, and still feel comfortable. We often joke that if communal living was an option, the Godines' would be on our list to join up with.

We had such a fabulous time together. We, adults included, played Dance Party on the Wii and let me tell you, Brian has some mean dance moves. The kids played entirely too much Wii, watched movies, played games, stayed up late, and the girls changed their hairstyle every ten minutes. The adults stayed up way too late each night playing games and finally found a game that we all like - Settlers of Cataan. We took the kids swimming at the pool and to an old-fashioned roller rink to roller skate. We went to church, watched football (Go Bears!), took a nap on the couch, ate way too much and talked and talked and talked. Nancy planned and executed a full-scale Minute to Win It game show with Paige helping her on the timer and remaining kids as contestants. It was hilariously fun, especially Nancy's demonstration of how to stick the cotton ball to your nose and transport to the plate across the room. We put another trip on the books before we left making it easier to say goodbye.

On the way home we stopped at a rest area half-way between Snohomish and Newberg. As we were piling out of the van we heard a friendly voice say, "Well if isn't the Stilp's." What the heck? We're in the Middle of Nowhere, Washington, and someone recognizes us? We turn around and coming toward us with a big smile is Chad Clevenger, a friend I haven't seen since high school! He's one of my Facebook friends and he recognized Curt and the kids from my pictures before he even saw me. We got to meet his wife and adorable kids and catch up on almost 20 years in less than ten minutes. Of all the randomness...

Thanks Brian, Nancy, Grace and Griffin for a great weekend. And thanks Chad for saying hi. It was great all around!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Babies, Babies Everywhere!

I love how life cycles through stages. We’re infants. Then toddlers. Then students. First elementary school, junior high, then high school. Upon graduation we join the college crowd where some of us stay indefinitely. If we’re lucky enough to graduate from college, we move into the work force and become “young adults.” Eventually the young adult crowd starts marrying and every weekend of every summer is filled with weddings, weddings, and more weddings. The weddings start tapering off just in time for the babies to come fast and furious. We’re having them. Our friends are having them. Everyone we know is up to their eyeballs in baby showers, diapers and breastfeeding. As I moved into the “mothering elementary school children” phase, the number of new arrivals became fewer and far between. Thankfully some of my friends are still reproducing and this week has been filled with a rash of babies to celebrate.

A big welcome to George Jeffery Hunkins who just barely gave his parents a tax credit for 2010 by being born on December 30th. Welcome “little” baby Clara Abigail Bailie. She, like her Mommy, didn’t want a Christmas birthday so she waited an extra ten days to make her 10 pound, 1 ounce debut on January 4th. Today another healthy baby girl, Hannah Grace Huntington, appeared on the scene tipping the scales at 8 pounds 12 ounces! Congrats to Maggie and Jeff, Clint and Adrianne, Erica and JD.

The most memorable birth this week, for me at least, was the arrival of George David Buchstaber on Thursday, January 6th. I had the honor and privilege of photographing his arrival and I am in awe at the miracle of new life. It was really amazing to be on the other side of the birthing process and be the support person instead of the one breathing through contractions.

George’s mom, Britta, is one of my best friends. A kinder, more thoughtful, and self-less person would be hard to come by. Britta is very much a planner and is always poised and beautiful, even when giving birth. George’s birth was so serene and peaceful that it was almost comical. Britta got her epidural and “labored” quietly for two hours while we chatted and hung out. She calmly told her nurse she thought it was time to start pushing and then proceeded to deliver her sweet baby boy in three pushes. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even break a sweat and I have NEVER seen such a beautiful momma. She was positively glowing.

All 9 pounds, 4 ounces of George David Buchstaber are pure perfection! He has a full head of soft, curly hair, perfectly shaped little ears and the most expressive eyes. His round cheeks are filled out and he was born with at least two chins and multiple rolls on his arms and his thighs. He has big broad shoulders, a thick, manly chest, ten perfect fingers, and ten perfect toes. He is mellow, sweet and very much alert. He just stared and stared and stared at his mommy, appearing as enthralled with her as she was with him.

I have no idea how many pictures I took. Poor baby was so sick of the flash in his cute little face but I couldn’t contain myself. I got to be the one documenting his first batch of “firsts.” His first breath. His first time in his Mommy’s arms. His first bath. His first outfit and of course his well-prepared mom switched out the hospital hat and white T-shirt for a more stylish infant-sized short bill hat and gray and white striped outfit. I got pictures of him meeting his Daddy, his brothers, his sister, and his Grandma. I documented the birthing room, the view outside the windows, the white board that said, “Welcome George” and the computer screen on the scale that said in bright primary colors, “9 pounds 4 ounces.” I even had Grandma Trudy document my first time holding and falling in love with him.

A big thank you to Lisa Swartout for managing her kids and ours to make it possible for me to participate in George’s birth. And thank you to Bucky and Britta for being willing to share your special day with me. I am still in awe.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Moment

I’m having “a moment.” My son, who I promise was only days ago a five-pound, wrinkly preemie, is approaching double digits. As I was mourning how quickly he’s morphing from a wise-old man in a toddler’s body to a loud, active, intelligent boy, I realized that his time in our home is already halfway gone. In eight years, he’ll leave for college and if those eight years are anything like the last ten, they will be gone in a blink of an eye.

I admit I may be a teeny bit melodramatic, but this realization has evoked some deep introspection. What am I doing right as Grant’s mom? Where am I failing him? What skills does he still need to be taught between now and then to be a self-sufficient, functioning member of society? How do I simultaneously protect and release him? It’s a daunting task this job called raising children.
Grant is such a good boy, in spite of being our parenting guinea pig. He’s loud and boisterous, stylish and fun, rough but kind, intelligent but teachable, athletic and musical, sweet and Godly. I often look at him in amazement and marvel that God entrusted me with such a treasure.

Last year Curt and I asked Grant if he wanted to read the Bible cover to cover with us in 2010. It required reading five chapters a day and by December 31st, he would have read the entire Old and New Testament once, the book of Proverbs twelve times, and the book of Psalms 2 ½ times. He thought about it for a while, declared he was up for the challenge, and immediately started getting up thirty minutes earlier every school day to make sure he had time to read the Word. He stuck with it the entire 365 days of 2010.

Tackling this task together created accountability for all three of us. It’s hard to ask your kid, “Did you read your Bible today?” if you haven’t done it yourself. The passages I skimmed over (genealogies, censuses and architectural plans) fascinated Grant. The “stuff on adultery” he found “sooooo boring,” but he loved all the battle stories and minor prophets filled with God’s passion for justice and making all things right. By starting with creation in Genesis and ending with Jesus setting up His eternal kingdom in Revelation, Grant’s knowledge of God’s big picture has grown.

Grant’s bedroom floor became home for his Bible because he’d see it each morning and remember to meet with God. When we traveled, his Bible came along. It’s been to Seattle, to Crater Lake, Mirror Lake, Timothy Lake, and on a road trip from here to Great Falls, Montana, and back. The binding is broken from being dropped multiple times and the gold-foiled picture is peeled off the front cover.

Grant’s dedication to develop his personal faith in God, to be a true follower of Jesus, and to finish what he started has moved me to tears on several occasions. His character has been developed and I see Jesus in my son. In eight years, my sweet boy will spread his wings and fly our coop and I’m having a moment about that. I know that in spite of my mistakes and inadequacies, God is faithful and I, “being confident of this” declare, “that He who began a good work in you, Grant Stilp, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) I can hardly wait to see the awesome Jesus-following dude you will be when you kiss my cheek and walk out that door. I love you and am SO proud of you!