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Be Transparent

By Jonathan Pitts

I woke up early Sunday morning, as I often do, prior to any of my other family members. I wasn’t feeling especially “holy” that morning, but I just knew I needed to spend some time in my Bible and in prayer. I found the quietest place in my house, my closet. It smelled of old shoes and was especially damp.

In that closet I admitted my failure before God and pressed forward.

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again… Proverbs 24:16

It continued. At church I heard a message centered on loving my neighbor as myself, taken from Mark 12:31. I was challenged to measure my love for God in how I loved others around me. Convicted of my own failure in how I treated my wife and children at times, I took my family to the front of the church to pray.

At the altar I admitted my failure before God and pressed forward

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again… Proverbs 24:16

As hard as it can be, the first step in a growing relationship with Jesus is transparency with Him on where we have missed the mark.

If you are honest with yourself, then you can probably admit that on your worst days you are a failure; that is easy. However, admitting that you are a failure on your best days can be a challenge. Your human nature challenges you to do better, try harder, and press forward and in some way maybe you will earn God’s approval. If you aren’t careful, you will look at the italicized scripture above and think that you can somehow “rise again” and be righteous on your own. But the Bible reminds us over and over again that there is one clear bridge between man and any right living that you can accomplish, namely Jesus.

In the gospel (good news of Jesus) a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

I simply want to remind you today that our right living begins and ends in a relationship with Jesus. If you aren’t a Christian I challenge you to find out who Jesus is! If you are a Christian, I still challenge you to find out who Jesus is! The process never changes, and you will find that you are always finding out more about Him, and getting to know Jesus more and more as you look for Him with all your heart.

Challenge Questions:

• Are you on a consistent basis being transparent with yourself and with God, and admitting your failure and sin to Him?

• Have you asked God to forgive you of your sin, and do you continually take your failure before Him?

• Are you looking for Jesus to find who He is for yourself, and not just trusting what others tell you about Him?


Lessons from My Daughter’s Camping Trunk

For the second time my oldest daughter (8) is spending a full week at a nearby Christian camp. The weeks leading up to now have been full of excitement for her and include wearisome tasks for me! There are theme nights to prepare for, trunks to decorate and flash lights to dig out! After gathering each item from the provided list of “what to bring,” the real work begins. With my sharpie in hand, I plant myself in front of the piles of folded cloths, shopping bags of random new items and a large box of gallon sized Ziploc bags! Each bag is labeled with terms like “day 1,” “dirty cloths” “extra”  and “martial arts night!”

As an extra treat I create care packages with treats like stickers, note cards, scented erasers and other items she loves  in order to remind her that she is missed throughout the week! I am also sure to place a few bucks in her camp store account so she can get things I may have forgotten.  Best of all, my husband and I write notes and small gifts each day that are reminders to her of who she is and why she is at camp.

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When the time finally arrives and she is  packed up and ready to go, I am confident that she has everything  she needs to survive for 1 week in the woods…without me! And I must admit I feel accomplished and pleased with my ability to fit everything into her trunk.

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Preparing to send your daughter off for a week is a gentle and sweet reminder of what you are to be doing each day you have with her.

As a parent, God has given you the task of preparing a trunk of items that your child can live out of…without you. You are to seek out the tools they need and delicately present them in a way that your child can sort through and pull out practical and special treats of love and wisdom to uplift and encourage them on their journey!

Now I wish I could tell you different, but when I picked my daughter up from camp last year, there were about three Ziploc bags that had not been touched. All of her camp store money had been spent on Sodas and Popsicles and we were missing a few towels, shirts and socks! However, I knew this was not a result of her lacking necessary  items but rather a result of the path she chose. 

Your child might not always pull the right item out of the trunk, but I can promise you she has a better chance if the trunk is full of emotional and spiritual blessings that you have purposefully placed for that time when you know they’ll need it.

What things are you placing in your kids trunks? How much effort and preparation are you devoting to imparting tools, preparing their hearts and decorating their worlds with the things of Christ?


Memories-3 steps to creating great ones with your kids!

 


My brother and I with our kids!

If you are friends with us on Facebook you may have seen some of my recent posts about our visitors this week! My brother, his wife and their 3 children have been with my family since last Friday! Yes, your math is correct, that means a total of SEVEN children (ages 3-8, 6 girls and 1 lonely boy) have taken over my home! It’s been the best week of their young lives- mostly because they are too busy making memories to realize that they are actually sleep deprived and functioning in a constant state of sugar overdosed excitement!

Making memories. Isn’t that what childhood is all about? Giggles, funny faces, and talent shows-while wearing pajamas, eating Popsicles and smiling whenever you see a flash! I cannot count the number of times I have uttered these words in the past week: SAY CHEESE!


I also have to admit that my brother and I have also loved taking our late night trips down memory lane to relive some of our own favorite childhood moments!

Here’ s a few:

I can remember sitting on the front porch of my row home in Baltimore city, begging my friends to join me because I was not allowed to leave!

I can remember my mother making spontaneous drives from Baltimore to New York City with my brother, grandmother and I in tow!

I can remember blankets lined up across the dining and living room floors of my grandparent’s home because our cousins from Texas were in town!

…I can also remember being the first to have to go to bed because I was the baby of the bunch…

I can remember my mother gathering neighborhood kids and piling us in her car to go to Monday Night Youth Group! (Seat-belt laws were not nearly as strict as they are now!)

I could go on and on, and believe me, over this week we have!

The funny thing about memories is that whether or not we are intentionally creating them really does not matter. Everyday our children are experiencing moments that will find a corner to reside in their young minds.

When your kids gather around a table with a sibling, spouse or friend, what will they remember?

Here are 3 steps to ensure you are doing your part to create moments that your children will recall for years to come!

  1. Be Spontaneous!– Children love to be surprised and often by the littlest things. Think of creative ways to surprise your kids!
  2. Be Present!– Often as parents we are so busy setting up great opportunities for our kids to enjoy that we forget to enjoy it with them! I challenge you to join them!
  3. Be Happy!-Are you remembering to ‘Say Cheese?”

Daddy, don’t doubt yourself! We can do it!

“And a little child will lead them…..” Isaiah 11:6

The day started with much excitement, and nothing could curtail my enthusiasm or optimism.  You see, it was the day, just a month ago, that I was able to meet my twin brother’s daughter, my new niece, Faith.  I was taking my eight and five year old on the trip from Dallas to New Jersey and in their eyes it was like we were going on an African Safari.  Needless to say they were excited!

Surprisingly, the morning started well at 3:30 am.  My daughters were excited and even at that ridiculous hour they could not stop talking. They talked from the moment I pulled them out of their beds until the plane was in the air.  They slowly settled in and sleepy, grumpy, attitudes began to prevail.  It never totally got out of hand – yes there were a few arguments over spit fingers, sharing crayons, and lack of things to do on the plane, but overall I was pleased.  That is until we heard the captain come on the intercom and tell us that we were landing 35 minutes late.

It was at that point that I started to doubt God’s plan for our lives for this particular day!  We only had 33 minutes from when our wheels touched down until our next flight took off.  Having flown more than a million miles, I knew that in Detroit, a turnaround and terminal transfer like that was near impossible!

I settled in my mind before we landed that I would not get frustrated, hotheaded or anxious. I also decided that I would not run like a lunatic through the airport dragging my children behind me.

Upon landing, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  First of all, we were situated near the back of the plane, so de-boarding took no less than ten minutes.  Once we got off, we waited for an additional four minutes for my bag that I was forced to check at the gate because of overhead space issues.  When we finally walked off the bridge and looked at the departure/arrival board, we had 13 minutes before our connection was scheduled to leave the runway from a different terminal.  I figured they would close the door at least five minutes before that, so DEFEAT HAD SET IN.

I was already preparing my daughters, and in my dignified, adult way I was sharing with them about how things don’t always go our way.  I was thinking of secondary options and had given up on making the flight.  In my mind I was handling things maturely.  I was proud of myself, almost self-righteous, that I wasn’t storming the terminal upset because our plans would be altered.

That is when God spoke to me.  Literally, he spoke to me through my eight year old!  I started to walk slowly in defeat towards the gate, expecting to meet an empty gate and a closed door.  I figured we would be making new plans with a gate agent and had resolved to give up.

As I was pouting, I looked up and saw my eight year old sprinting away from me towards the first of a long series of the “people mover” belts found in most large airports.  Annoyed, I yelled something like “Alena! Slow do…..!!”  Before I could finish my statement she yelled back at me in excitement:

“Daddy, don’t doubt yourself!  We can do it!”

It is funny now.  Thinking back to that moment, I can’t say that I even believed her cognitively, but her shear determination and the confidence that she exuded through her body language and her voice gave me a glimmer of hope and enough motivation to pick up my pace.

She led our pack, running the entire way dragging her roller bag.  At times she’d throw it on her back so she could put some extra hustle in.  My five year old kept pace and never faltered.  My daughter’s courage and drive carried me the entire way when I wanted to throw in the towel and just make other plans.

We boarded that plane seconds before they closed the door, and I was immediately very emotional.  I was proud of my daughter who showed me real courage and strength in the face of a large challenge.  I was embarrassed that it took an eight year old to lead me into my destiny for that day, when I was ready to accept something less than the best.  And ultimately I was grateful for the lesson that resolving to be patient and levelheaded should not translate to giving less than your all, no matter how insignificant the task.

How many of us have missed our purpose, our opportunity, or our joy, by simply making an excuse to not put in work?  How many times could the results have been different had we resolved to give our all?  How many of us are grateful that we have a leader, Jesus, who is always there to take the lead, to tell us we can do it, and not to doubt…?

What’s your story?


A new friend answers our prayer!

Meet For Girls Like You’s newest friend, 3 year old Abigail!

Take a moment and look at Abigail. She’s just a little girl who enjoys playing with dolls, reading stories, doing flips and stomping in puddles of water. She dreams about spinning in circles while wearing a big bright yellow poufy dress with her favorite red and white polka dot rain boots! Imagine a princess, wearing her favorite crown, her mom’s old slip, one high heeled shoe, and a hot pink boa tossed around her neck; as she gallops to a table full of bears and a teapot filled to the brim with imaginary water….

That’s who Abigail is, a little girl who enjoys doing what little girls do. Unfortunately, this is not the life that Abigail lives.

Abigail is just one of the many children around the world whose unimaginable uncertainties are simply considered a normal way of life. On a daily basis, children like Abigail and just like your daughters and mine, live without a safe place to rest, without clean water, proper clothing and a nutritious meal is nowhere to be found.

As a parent of girls Abigail’s age, I place myself in the shoes of her mother. How would I look into those sweet eyes and explain that tonight we will sleep on the very ground we are standing on? What words would I use at an attempt to comfort and quiet the rumbling of my baby girl’s tummy?

The thought alone brings tears to my eyes and an ache in the pit of my own stomach. I cannot imagine having to watch my daughters struggle day to day knowing that tomorrow will not be any better.

Abigail is not just a picture, she is someone’s daughter.

She is also an answer to our prayer. God sent us Abigail and we are thrilled to support and to share God’s love with this precious girl and her family.

For Girls Like You Magazine is humbled by the opportunity to support, pray for and befriend Abigail through the Cien Fuegos HOPE Center in the Dominican Republic.

We just want you to know that funds from each subscription purchased go towards supporting Abigail and the many children being served through Cien Fuegos HOPE Center.

If you and your family are interested in sponsoring a child or getting involved please visit: Cien Fuegos HOPE Center for more information.


3 Tips to Strengthen Your Daughter’s Ability to Standout

The other day my four-year old, Kaity, randomly came to me and asked that I take her earrings out. When I asked her why, she responded with, “I don’t want them anymore. I just want the holes.” With a house full of girls, our fashion requests range from wearing skinny jeans with a tucked in shirt to wearing lime green tutus with red tights and purple boots! So a simple request to remove her earrings was easily granted!

About two days later when I picked Kaity up from school, she was dying for me to meet her new friend, Sophie. She went on and on about the various conversations and activities that she and Sophie shared that day. She was thrilled with her new friendship and I was excited for her! Later on that evening, while sitting at the dinner table Kaity said, “Sophie and I are twins. She has a pink coat and I have a pink coat. She has purple boots and I have purple boots. She doesn’t have any earrings just the holes, and I don’t have earrings just the holes.”

What I had just heard my four-year old express, very innocently, was that she desired to change something about herself in order “fit in” with her new friend, and it felt good.

Does this scene sound familiar?

She’s only four! Scary right?

The reality is at one point or another we all have or will experience this same pressure. Not just with our kids but in our own lives. We all like to fit it and feel accepted. It’s how we are wired as people. It hurts to be left out and can be lonely in life when we perceive ourselves as being different. However Romans 12:2, tells us that being different is exactly what Christ has called us to.

Empty ear lobes seem to be the very beginning for my Kaity, but surely not the end. Who our children choose as friends will inevitably impact, reinforce, change or challenge their value systems. As parents our job is to empower them to stand out by giving them something and Someone to stand for.

In lieu of this, and my recent earring-less situation; here are a few steps you can take towards helping your girls resist the urge to be like everyone else:

1.  Don’t judge her friends or make her feel bad for wanting to be friends with certain people. Telling her who she can and can’t be friends with, will likely cause resentment. Instead be intentional about getting to know them and their parents. Set up play dates, ask questions and show your daughter that you are interested in helping her cultivate true friendships.

2.  Help her to develop her identity in Christ. Show her in the scriptures what God has to say about who she is and why He created her. Having and knowing purpose helps to develop confidence and sustains character. Here are a few scriptures to start with (Also there is a special “Sprinkles Challenge” in our current issue using these scriptures)!

Psalm 17:8, Exodus 4:1, Matthew 10:30-31, Ephesians 2:10

3.   Broaden your daughter’s perspective and encourage her to have a wide variety of friends. Go as far as challenging her to befriend the new kid or the kid that plays alone at recess. Often we have an idea of who we want our kids to be friends with; the smart kids, the athletic kids, etc. Challenge her to broaden her circle of friends by setting the example. When you attend a school function, don’t venture off into your private mommy click, but find the new mom, the quiet mom, or the mom you you’ve never met!

One of my favorite quotes is from the book “Raising Kids For True Greatness” by Dr. Tim Kimmell. It says:

“God has not called us to raise safe kids; He’s called us to raise strong ones. He hasn’t called us to raise popular kids; He’s called us to raise spiritually potent ones.”

Also be sure to check out For Girls Like You Magazine. Our current issue is focused on self-image. Each article, activity and photo in this issue is dedicated to helping our girls discover who they are, embrace their differences and see themselves through God’s eyes!

Question:

Think about your daughter’s life, her friendships and her daily environment. Ask God to show you areas where she may be experiencing pressure to “fit in.” What practical things can you and will you do to help stand?


What’s in Your Cupboard?

 

Do you have a favorite coffee mug? Ok maybe you’re not a coffee drinker. How about a favorite tea mug?  Water bottle? Well, I have a favorite coffee mug!

It’s just perfect! Not only because it has that big “W” on it, or even because of that cutesy, yet adult print.  It feels custom-made for me!  It fits nicely into my hands and is the perfect height. I can fix a large cup of coffee and it fills up just right. You know it doesn’t overflow but it teases the rim just a bit! When I am feeling special I may even twirl a little whip cream on top and even the whip cream sits just right!

Unfortunately, there is a small problem.   I hardly ever get to use it! Instead of being filled and topped with whipped cream, it normally stays put, dry, and empty in my cupboard.

Here is the coffee cup I actually get to use.  It’s not even a mug!

It’s cute but it just doesn’t do it for me.  For starters, it’s too tall to even fit under the Keurig. So I normally make my coffee in a random kid cup and then o-so-carefully transfer it to this generic “to go” cup; losing about 3 tablespoons of fresh hot coffee each time.  Even worse, it just doesn’t have that custom feel and homey aura.

Ok so you may be wondering what my big affection with mugs and coffee has to do with anything….well, absolutely nothing!  It’s just that today I had a chance to use my preferred cup and something dawned on me. The experience made me think about how easy it’s become to settle for things that I really don’t prefer; chalking each decision up to “that’s just the way things are.” I normally rush out of the house in the mornings with book bags, lunch boxes, diaper bags, phone, keys, and yes, my pink to-go coffee cup all in tow.  The simple truth is, I could easily get more use out of my favorite mug by waking up just 10 minutes earlier and drinking my coffee before I leave the house. OR the least I could do is purchase a new to-go cup that fits under my Keurig!

Something as simple as a coffee mug, has me wondering what other things in my life are staying put, empty, and unused because I have decided it’s just easier to settle for something common, something easy, something………

What are you settling for?  What is sitting on your shelf?  What minor adjustments could you make to get better use of these gifts, passions, desires, tools, disciplines, etc.

Even more than that aren’t you glad that God doesn’t mind going in cupboards and pulling out His unused favorites?