“Isn’t it better to know what would have meaning to someone, rather than not know?” 

The question was voiced as my family boisterously chatted in the kitchen before Easter dinner. 

My culinary-inclined brother-in-law Kyle was in the midst of making something delicious, assisted by my parents. I had the lazy job – bringing a dessert, which I had Tim pick out at Byerly’s so I didn’t even have to make anything – and sat lounging on a high stool on the periphery of the kitchen, watching Ashlyn try to crawl along behind her big cousins as the children played and worked on bead projects.

Kyle had just asked my Mom for a bowl, and she’d pulled out her largest one. A large, light-colored, heavy-duty bowl, with think pink and blue stripes on it.

“I want that when you die,” Kendra said, half-seriously, as we all laughed. 

“Uh, nice!” someone said. 

“What?!” she defended. “Isn’t it better to know what would have meaning to someone, rather than not know?” 

“It’s just so amazing the way you can open yourselves up to their biological families.”

This statement was said to me by a dear friend as we had dinner together one night and were discussing my adopted daughter’s birth family.

How can you not? I think. I love these people and feel a connection with them. Maybe it’s because of the love for my daughter that spills over in a natural desire for me to connect with her birth family, or maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but including others has always been a part of my DNA.

Sighing a little, I checked my hair one last time in the mirror and reapplied my lipstick. We were headed to a work-related event and, unlike most times when I can get dressed up and out of the house for dinner, I was not looking forward to it.

I remembered the last time we'd attended this event, with these same folks: Although the woman I sat next to had responded enthusiastically to the questions I posed to her, she didn't ask me any questions. Not one. single. question.

She knew I was a mom. She knew I stayed home with my kids. And that, apparently, was all that she needed to know.

It's not that I have a burning desire to talk about myself, but her reaction was mystifying and, if I'm honest, a little hurtful. From her perspective, was I only defined by my marriage, my children? Wasn't it possible for me to have outside interests, an identity outside of my home?

It's the same reason that I find myself stumbling around a bit, trying to explain my life. Well, yes I stay home with my kids, but I also do freelance work, write books and a blog. I like doing volunteer work. I've got a master's degree, too...

I end up feeling like I'm trying to justify choices I've made, the woman I've become.

Sitting at her table, our hands wrapped around steaming cups of coffee, her story (shared here with full permission and approval) tumbled out.

Their son, a truly sweet kid, had been giving her and her husband a serious run for their parenting money - especially during the past 12 months.

His independent streak is a mile wide, and they were having epic parent/child clashes over matters large and small - all ultimately boiling down to topics revolving around independence and freedom.

They'd tried all sorts of parenting strategies, with neither rewards nor punishments ultimately reaching the underlying issue.

She found herself scraped emotionally raw and particularly vulnerable when issues of parenting comparison were raised, even innocently, by others. She began comparing every other child in their best public moments to her child in his secret worst moments and then counted herself a failure as a mother. 

It was the repeated gentle suggestions of a friend that finally had her picking up the phone and dialing the number of a recommended therapist - just for an informational interview, no promises she would consider anything further.

The therapist returned the call late one evening, and my friend, gripping the phone in her hand as she dashed out of the busy family room with dad and kids, locked herself in the bedroom and began a conversation that changed her life.

After a few thoughtful questions, the therapist began explaining the three primary personalities types found in bright children:

Affirmation children. These are the kids teachers and parents love because they are eager to please, eager to do what is asked, and eager to earn love through pats on the back and verbal kudos. These kids make parenting look easy, and this type of child was the perfect description of this woman's husband as a kid. Their weakness? The Nazi SS ranks were filled with grown up affirmation kids whose need for affirmation overcame their ability to stand against authority when it turned evil.

Social Interaction children. These kids have to be in the midst of the action. They hate being alone and desire to be with friends, family, and everyone else. These kids will do anything you want, as long as they get to be with people. My friend immediately recognized herself in that description - her childhood was spent surrounded by friends from an early age and that pattern had lasted into adulthood. She is vivacious; a woman who makes friends easily and keeps them forever.  The downside to these kids? Gangs and organized crime are filled with adults who were social interaction children and whose desire to belong is stronger than their ability to say no.

And the last, the therapist explained, are the Internally Motivated children. These are the kids who want to decide, from the earliest age, their own path and make their own decisions. They are the most difficult to parent because their motivation comes from internal sources, not external influences. Handled too harshly, these kids turn further inward and rebellious. Handled too gently, they go off the rails and get into serious trouble.

My friend, tears streaming down, whispered into the phone: "That is my son, perfectly summed up."

And the therapist responded, "Can I tell you the best thing about the internally motivated children? These are the adults who transported slaves along the underground railroad to freedom in the North. These are the adults who hid Jews in Nazi Germany at the risk of their own lives. These are the adults who will stand firm for righteousness and will not be swayed by public opinion. They are the hardest children to raise, and yet they are the children who will change the world."

The therapist said lots of other wise words that night, but it was the promise of world-changing potential spoken over her sweet, darling, oh-so-independent child that my friend has clung to in the days and weeks since that conversation.

And it isn't that she believes her son will be famous or "big" in his world-changing. So often, world-changing starts with small acts in quiet spaces. It requires courage and bravery and allowing God to be bigger than our scared little hearts.

It was that my friend finally caught a glimpse of the hope and the future that God has planned for the internally motivated son that he has given to an affirmation father and a social interaction mother to raise. She realized that her greatest legacy might very well reside in that 9 year old's body - and that, raised well, her son might do more wold-changing that his mother and father ever dreamed of doing.

And while not easy, her perspective has shifted and she has been reminded that God stands with us on this parenting journey. He knew, before our children were first placed our arms through birth or adoption, that they would be ours. He knew their strengths and weaknesses, just as He knows ours.

Friends, we do not parent alone. And, believe it or not, He will equip us to parent these crazy, sweet, independent little creatures in ways that exceed our skill sets, if we let Him.

You can follow us on Instagram as The Ruth Experience for additional encouragement, ideas, and camaraderie. If you are looking for additional resources, sign up for our email list. We send out a monthly newsletter filled with resources and freebies.

Finally - have you bought our book, The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional? It is the story of how our families embarked on a one year journey of kindness - our successes, failures and how God redeemed it all in the most incredible ways. If you already have our book and love it, we'd so appreciate it if you leave a review on Amazon.   

We would love to walk alongside you in encouragement, inspiration and community.

- Julie, Kendra, and Kristin
There are days when hope seems to be in short supply.

This creates a problem because I've realized that I need hope in every area of my life. I need hope when I imagine my future, or my children turning out all right, or my marriage making it to fifty-plus years. All these things require hope. Hope in something and someone greater than myself. Hope that things will turn out in spite of my screw-ups and do overs.

Yesterday we met as a missional community, a group of believers who gather together to share in our journey of the pursuit of God and what it means to live out our faith, and toward the end everyone shared a request that needed prayer. For parents and kids and work. And all I keep thinking is how do we get through this life, these concerns or problems, without hope?

Hope is is much more than good thoughts or conjured-up positive feelings. Hope is the anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:19) and the buoy for our faith.

This week, let's pursue hope together.

Good morning, friends! We are so excited to feature a guest post today from Jessie Christensen. As a recovering perfectionist, I so appreciate Jessie heartfelt post on how we're not perfect -- and it's ok. It's a message I need to hear, again and again. Here's more from Jessie:

Perfection -- something we all strive for, right?
Or at least, that is what our world tells us.
The perfect hair, the perfect body weight, the perfect car, the perfect job.
The perfect emotional reaction, the perfect speech, the perfect ministry.

What exactly is perfection, anyway?
What defines a perfect body?
What defines the perfect life?

The Webster dictionary defines perfect as having no mistakes or flaws, completely correct or accurate, having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.
In this season of political unrest and transition, I have had a continual companion in my thoughts and
heart: fear. Fear over the changes that will come. Fear that the wrong person will end up in power. Fear for where our country will end up if we continue to be as divided as we are. Fear of the future.

This morning, after all the hoopla of Super Tuesday, I decided that enough is enough. I’m tired of uncertainty. I’m tired of being afraid. I opened my Bible and reminded myself of these things:

1. God is Sovereign.

Psalm 93:1-2 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.

Nehemiah 9:6 You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.