When Being a Grown-up Means You’re Still Growing Up

life lessons for grown-ups via @lizzylit

My daughter’s chocolate brown eyes are sparkling. “Mommy, I’m going to plant these apple seeds, and they’re going to grow into trees, and then we’re going to save money and eat free apples forever!” Cassidy holds out her hand. A dozen tiny seeds rest in her palm, plucked and saved from apple cores all week long.

“Okay, honey, let’s give it a try,” I say. My heart gives a painful squeeze, because I know she knows I’ve been worried about money, and she’s trying to help.

I know nothing about planting apple seeds—I’ve always thought they wouldn’t grow until they’d passed through a bird’s digestive tract or something gross like that—but I figure, why not?

So we go outside and she pokes her seeds into a planter. For several weeks she waters and watches. I mostly forget about the seeds, but Cassidy doesn’t.

Then one shiny spring afternoon she comes running into the house, shrieking, “My trees are growing, my trees are growing!”

The whole family rushes outside to gather around the planters. Sure enough, nine little sprouts have nudged out of the dirt. Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome and I stand gaping at them as our daughter does a proud happy-dance.

“She did it!” I whisper to Kevin. “I didn’t actually think they’d grow!” His raised eyebrows say he thought the same thing.


life lessons for grown-ups via @lizzylit

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The little seedlings unfurl and stretch skyward, soon large enough that we have to transplant them into nine medium-sized pots. Some don’t survive the transition, but most do. And within a few months, we’ve got six growing apple trees, each about eight inches tall. My daughter fusses over them like they are her children. We start calling her Little Farmer.

Summer fades, the long luxurious evenings shorter now, and cooler. And something happens to the trees. A dark stain wraps around the base of the green stems, and spreads upward. Within a few days, the stems have turned brown and hard—they look dried out. Barren. Cassidy doesn’t seem worried, and I dread telling her that I think her beloved trees have died.

A few autumn weeks pass. I keep a wary eye on the hard brown sticks poking up out of their pots, wondering when it’s time to give up and throw them away, fill the pots with something else. But then I notice something: the sticks are taller. A few are dotted with tiny golden leaves.

And I realize: the trees weren’t dying—they were growing. They were changing their green stems into tough woody stems, future tree trunks. They were getting ready for winter and hard cold. Shedding their fragile baby shape and forming the tough layers they’d need to survive the winter.

For a minute I let my imagination run free: How did the baby apple trees feel about the transformation? Did they understand what was happening inside, or did they fear the change? Jesus’ words flash through my mind: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24).

Begrudgingly, I sigh a little prayer. “I hear you, God. I don’t like it, but I hear you.” He’s been trying to teach me something for a while now, and I’ve been fighting him, trying to find a way around it. But now, looking at the little trees, I let myself listen: Sometimes growing is like dying.

Our family has faced some hard things in the past few years, things I couldn’t see past. Problems that felt too overwhelming, too exhausting, too much to bear. Sometimes I felt little pieces of me dying inside, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the transition. How often I’ve come back to ponder our little trees. Every time they remind me: sometimes growing is like dying.

My kids are growing up, and it’s my job to help them through it—to give them the perspective and character and tools they’ll need to grow through the countless changes and challenges life will throw at them. Some days I hear myself spouting canned wisdom: “Don’t worry so much about what people think—you can’t make everyone happy. It’s not up to you to make people happy; it’s up to you to do right and make God proud.” I walk away and God makes me eat my own words, take my own advice, re-learn my own “wisdom.”

I never realized how much grown-ups have to keep growing too. I have to keep growing too. Life doesn’t stop being hard or complicated just because you’ve made it past puberty, or through college, or through the early years of marriage, or past the potty-training stage, or into your empty nest years. At every step, there are hard things. Things you aren’t ready for. Things you’ve never faced. Things you think you can’t survive.

And it’s time to grow again, to shed the green baby stem that helped you through a gentler season, and develop a tougher layer that will see you through the long hard winter.

I fight it, that growth. I don’t like it. I’m happy with my cute green baby stem.

But there’s no other choice. Frost is coming, maybe even ice and snow. And if I don’t surrender to growing, as scary as it is, then I might really die.

Sometimes growing looks like dying, but it’s not. Sometimes growing feels like dying, but it’s not. Growing is how we keep living. How we make it through the barren months, the painful times.

And when spring comes with its warm breezes and life-giving rains, that growth—that small near-death we suffered so many cold months earlier—pays off. We uncoil new leaves to the sun, happy to be alive. A little bigger, a little stronger, a little more beautiful. A little closer to bearing the fruit we were meant to bear.

Today, three years after those tiny apple seeds first sprouted underground, six huge pots line my back porch steps: four leafy apple trees and two pear trees, added to our “orchard” later by my Little Farmer (who is not so little anymore). The trees reach past her waist now, and again they need larger pots. Fall is here, with winter hard on its heels. Soon the young trees’ summer leaves will blush and die. All winter long they’ll rest and wait, looking naked and sad. But come spring, they’ll bloom again, stronger than ever. Although these trees have already given our family a lot to chew on, metaphorically speaking, their work is not yet finished. One of these summers, they will have grown big enough and strong enough and mature enough to fulfill the purpose that God intended and a faithful little farmer dared to dream: bearing fruit to feed a growing girl, a growing family, a growing me.

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The simple plan that gets game-loving kids into books!

strategies to help kids love reading

When Plants Vs. Zombies started eating our son’s brain, we had to help him overcome a gaming obsession and make crucial decisions about the kind of person he wants to be. I am so proud of the changes he’s made and the boy he’s become.

He’s doing great, but even so, we are experimenting with a new plan—a strategy that is not only keeping his technology usage balanced, but is also… (but wait, there’s more!)… inspiring him to love reading.

Yes, you read that right.

A game-loving boy who also loves to read!

A strategy that helps him maintain a healthy, balanced relationship with technology and develop lifelong reading habits!

I know, it sounds too good to be true. And I sound like an infomercial. Sorry. I’m just really that excited. We are so thrilled with the new plan that I had to share it.

strategies to help kids love reading

Even though technology isn’t a problem right now for our son, his interest in reading recently hit a low point. Last year, he got hooked on the Harry Potter series. He spent months devouring all seven books, and I must confess… during those months, watching him laugh and cry and gasp over my favorite books, I was the World’s Happiest Book-Loving Writer-Mama. But ever since he finished all 8 million pages of the Harry Potter series, it’s been tough to get him excited about another book. But Minecraft… yeah, he’s still excited about Minecraft.

So here’s the new reading-meets-gaming plan:

Every week, he gets to “earn” his iPad time for the following week by reading. He can earn up to two-and-a-half hours of iPad time per week, depending on how much he reads. (That works out to about 20 minutes of reading/gaming per day.) If he reads 2.5 hours this week, then he gets to play 2.5 hours on the iPad next week; if he only reads an hour this week, he only gets an hour of iPad time next week.

So far, the new plan is working beautifully. Our son remembers how fun it was to be excited about books, and so he has embraced the new plan. Because he is a diligent kid, a goal-oriented person who thrives on systems and schedules, he loves the idea of planning ahead and having some control over his own choices and free time.

But best of all, after just a few days of reading, he has already rediscovered the joy of books. He keeps coming to tell me what’s happening in his novel, wanting me to laugh with him at all the crazy parts. Here’s hoping that this new plan helps to inspire a lifelong love for reading and habit of reading, while also allowing him to enjoy a healthy system of reward with the games he loves!

What a balanced relationship with technology looks like 

In case you’re still suffering in the My Kids Are Obsessed with Games and I’m Losing My Mind Stage (a thousand sympathies, friend), I thought I’d back up for a minute to paint a picture of what a healthy relationship with technology looks like. After some painful mistakes, many heart-to-heart talks, and a lot of family soul-searching, here’s where our son is now:

He still loves to play, but the games are no longer the highlight of his life or the center of his thoughts. He has developed a conscience about what is healthy and pleasing to God, and what is not. He has learned to monitor his own time and mindset, to evaluate whether or not he’s becoming obsessive and selfish, and to take breaks when he needs to free up brain space. And even though he’s doing well, my husband and I continually reevaluate how things are going. Every few weeks, my husband checks in with him to discuss basic questions like,

  • “How are you feeling about iPad games?”

  • “Are they taking over too much of your thoughts?

  • “Do you need to spend more time with people, or more time playing outside?”

— Click here to check out 26 Questions Every Parent Should Ask About Technology.–

Those simple conversations have gone a long way toward helping our son develop his own convictions about having healthy priorities, godly thoughts, and an unselfish focus in his life.

If you try this reading-meets-gaming strategy with your kids, please let me know how it goes!

I’d love to hear about your experience. And if you have any other creative strategies for helping kids take a healthy approach to technology, please share them in the comments section below, or email me—I’m always looking for new ideas.

If you scroll to the bottom of this post, I’ve included a fantastic graphic on Children’s Media Usage from California Cryobank. It gives a fair, balanced perspective on the pros and cons of children’s media usage, with helpful suggestions for parents. I hope you find it as helpful as I have!

Looking to share this post? Thank you! Scroll down to the bottom of the page, underneath the graphic, and you’ll find the share buttons there. 


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What Moms Say Vs. What Kids Hear—post and podcast!

parent-child communication

This week I’m over at Bonbon Break (a mom site I adore!) offering a “Communication Guide” for all those times when you wonder if you actually speak the same language as your kids. You can either read the post, or . . .  wait for it . . . LISTEN TO THE PODCAST, my first-ever one! Woohoo! To hear the dulcet sounds of my voice (I’m kidding about the dulcet part—am I the only person who feels totally weird hearing herself speak?!), you have a few options, listed at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!

What Moms Say Vs. What Kids Hear

Moms say: “The answer is no.”

Kids hear: “You should ask me again 18 times.”

Moms say: “Please stop making that noise.”

Kids hear: “That is my favorite noise ever. I’d like to hear it 500 more times.”

Moms say: “I’m going to take a shower now.”

Kids hear: “This would be a fantastic time for you to crack open the bathroom door with your eyes squeezed shut and ask me life-or-death questions like. . .”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

To hear the podcast, you can: 

listen right here from LizzyLife, by clicking on this fancy player doodad:

Or you can:

listen on STITCHER.

listen on iTunes.

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You Can Go Now, Mommy

Before you leave, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter. Recent newsletter topics have included 5 Ways to Help Siblings Become Friends and 6 Simple Ways to Teach Kids to Walk with God. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to Do Around the Breakfast Table with Kids!


13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens

scriptures to build confidence for kids and teens

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is on a mission to beat down our kids’ confidence. Maybe they are teased by a friend or a sibling; maybe they don’t get the encouragement they crave from a teacher or coach; maybe their own insecurities constantly whisper, “You’re not enough.” And yet, when God created our children, he created them as his masterpiece; when he was finished, he stepped back and said to himself, “Oh, this one is very, very good.”

How can we arm our kids with the right kind of confidence? Sometimes it’s tempting to teach them to put confidence in themselves, and certainly there is a place for showering our kids with encouragement and compliments that build them up. I love telling my kids how beautiful, smart, and talented God has made them. How much I love them and—even more than that—I like them! But confidence that lasts comes from a different place:

  • Lasting, godly confidence comes from God and his Word, not from our own looks or achievements or popularity.

  • Lasting, godly confidence comes from the unchanging fact that God loves us no matter what. We haven’t earned that love, and we will never have to.

  • Lasting, godly confidence comes from the staggering knowledge that God’s love doesn’t fluctuate based on how well we behave or even how much we love God back. Of course God hopes his love will inspire us to give our hearts to him and follow his ways, but he doesn’t love us any less when we make mistakes.

If your kids need a dose of godly confidence, try these 13 scriptures. And hey—read them for yourself, too! I bet you’ll walk a lot taller after you’re done.

13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens


1. Luke 12:6–7

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” 

2. Ephesians 1:3–8,New Living Translation

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. 

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3. Exodus 3:11–12; 4:10–12

Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. . . .”

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

*I have to interrupt the list here to make a quick observation: Notice how God responds to Moses. He doesn’t say, “Oh, Moses, stop saying that! Of course you are a wonderful speaker. You are hilarious, and you have the best anecdotes—I love the one about Pharaoh and the donkey!—plus there’s that fantastic vocabulary you gleaned from all those fancy royal tutors.” Nope. God brings the attention back to himself. The point is, God didn’t choose Moses because of who Moses was; God chose him because God himself was powerful enough to use Moses for his purposes. Deep thoughts worth pondering, right?! Of course this will sail right over the heads of our younger kids, but teenagers can begin to grasp this concept and teach themselves to focus more on God and less on themselves.*

4. Isaiah 43:1–2,4

But now, this is what the Lord says. . . . 
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned. . . .
 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.” 

5. Zephaniah 3:17

“The Lord your God is with you,
    he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
    he will quiet you with his love,
    he will rejoice over you with singing.”

6. Psalm 37:19,23–24

The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty….

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

7. Psalm 71:1–3, 5–6

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;

    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
    to which I can always go. . . .

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.

 I will ever praise you.

8. 1 Samuel 16:7

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Related post: 13 Back-to-School Scriptures for Kids


9. Hebrews 10:35–36; 39–11:1

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. . . . We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

10. Galatians 6:9–10

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 

11. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

12. Philippians 4:6–7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

13. Psalm 103:11–13

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

Want to share this article? Thank you! Share buttons are at the bottom of this post. 

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You Can Go Now, Mommy


help children become confident via @lizzylit

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You Can Go Now, Mommy

letting go of our kids via @lizzylit

“You can go now, Mommy.” 

My daughter’s words are so quiet I’m not sure I’ve heard her right.

It’s the first day of pre-kindergarten, and we’ve only been here six minutes. We held hands through the door and now I’m helping her settle in at her table with the Play-Doh and new friends, but none of the kids are talking to each other yet, so there’s no way she’s ready for me to leave . . . I lean in closer. “What, darling?”

“You can go now.”

I heard her right.

“Oh, okay. Okay. I guess, then, bye. Have a good day.”

I dart in for one final kiss on her cheek, and backpedal out of the classroom, unwilling to take my eyes off her. She gives me one tiny, sober wave, then ducks her head back down, focused on her Play-Doh.

letting go of our kids via @lizzylit

Out in the hallway, I start blinking hard and walking fast, not wanting any of the other moms to see what a wreck I am. Isn’t this backwards? Isn’t my four-year-old supposed to be the one crying and clinging as I try to pry her fingers off me so I can dance around my quiet, empty house and do whatever I want (mostly laundry) for three glorious hours?

I escape to the parking lot and hide in my goldfish-carpeted minivan. Eyes clouded with tears—too cloudy to drive—I flash back to a brown racetrack under a sunset sky. I’m eight, and I’m running with my dad, ready to run forever just to keep pace beside him. He’s slowing down for me, way down, and I’m pushing my little legs as fast as they’ll go. There’s no talking, just the slap of shoes and the rhythm of breathing. And I’m happy, so happy I think my heart might burst. After a while Dad puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “I’m going to do a couple of fast laps and then come back and we’ll run the final stretch together, is that okay?” I nod. “It’s okay, Dad. You can go now.” I watch him sprint away, the fastest man in the world, and on we run at our two different paces, and I’m still happy, knowing he’ll come back to me and we’ll run the last laps together. We’ll sprint to the end and he’ll let me win and we’ll collapse, gasping and giggling, onto the grass in the middle of the track.

And now I flash to my wedding day. It’s minutes before the Big Walk, and all the bridesmaids have just left to line up. All morning it’s been a blur of makeup and hair and flowers and grandmothers and mothers and sisters and girls, girls, everywhere, but now for six precious minutes, I’m alone in the bride room with my dad. His eyes are red and it’s almost time. We should probably be having some profound father-daughter moment, but I’m suddenly hot, so hot in this huge silk dress, so hot the room is spinning and—more importantly—my makeup is going shiny. I’m giggling, “I’m melting, I’m melting!” And Dad, ever the Fixer of My Problems, grabs the long cardboard box the florist used to carry the bouquets, and tells me to stick my arms out like a scarecrow, and he stands there in his tux and fans me till my adrenaline cools and my makeup is saved. We’re half-laughing, half-crying, Dad flapping a box in his tux and me holding a scarecrow pose in my gown, and we’re four feet away from each other but it still feels like hugging.

We’re still laugh-crying when a woman with a headset pops her head into the room. “It’s time to go now.”

Neither of us is really ready, but it’s time, and people are waiting. My husband-to-be is waiting.

Dad puts down the box and holds out his elbow. I take a breath and take his arm. The pianist starts to play: “Jessica’s Theme” from The Man from Snowy River, all tender notes in sentiment and swirls. We wait, and listen, and breathe. The music hits a crescendo of exquisite expression.

Headset Lady says, “You can go now.”

Doors open. We start walking, into a blur of smiles and waves and camera flashes, “Jessica’s Theme” now punctuated with “oohs” and “aaahs” from family and friends. Overwhelmed, I lose all sense of my dad. My head, my eyes, my heart, are everywhere else, with everyone else.

And halfway down the aisle, Dad squeezes my arm and leans in. “Can we slow down a little, Honey? Please?” He laughs a little in my ear, but I hear the tears in it. Happy tears, but still. “Yes, of course,” I say, realizing I have been sort of sprinting.

We slow down. This one last time, this final “final stretch,” I let Dad set the pace, and this time, he’s slower than I am. We’ll get there when he’s ready to get there. He’ll let go when he’s ready to let go. His steps are even and sure, and I know he’s counting every one.

And when we get to the end of the aisle and the preacher says, “Who gives this woman?”, Dad lifts my veil and places my husband’s hand on mine and says, “Her mother and I.” His voice doesn’t shake, and his kiss on my cheek tells me, You can go now. 

Still blinking tears in my van, I smile at the memory and marvel at my father, my mother—how’d you do it? hold on and let go?—and then I marvel at my daughter. Only four, and she gets it, this life. Maybe a little better than I do.

The next summer, I watch my mother and her sisters say good-bye to their beloved mother, the redhead with the laugh as big as New Jersey. One by one, they sit at her bedside, hold her tiny hand, and kiss her. One by one, they tell her, each in their own way: You can go now, Mom. She cannot speak, but her eyes say thank you.

And I realize, reluctantly, that life is all about holding on while you can, but letting go when it’s time. That’s the magic—the struggle, the wonder, the heartache—of childhood, of life: It’s over too soon, and while it lasts it’s a maddening whirlwind of joy and sorrow and affection and anger and a thousand bittersweet emotions all in the blender at once, exploding all over the kitchen. Making art or a mess, depending on how you look at it, what mood you’re in.

And the magic is in the whirlwind. It’s in the blender, the mess, the art. The magic is in the holding on, but it’s also in the letting go. It’s in the first-day pictures and the track meet medals and the wedding cake cutting, yes. But it’s also in the Play-Doh greetings and the sunset sprinting and the florist-box fanning. It’s in the vigil-keeping and the long goodbye. The magic is in the places in between the holding hands and letting go.

The magic is in taking turns being the one to say it first, the one to give permission. The magic is in letting yourself—sometimes making yourself—hold on a little tighter, and run a little slower, and enjoy the long walk with the one beside you. The magic is in the voice at the end, the quiet voice that gives you a nudge and gently whispers, You can go now.


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13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter

Before you leave, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter! As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to Do Around the Breakfast Table with Kids!