Parents of Teenagers….Please Read.

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To say I am disturbed is an understatement.
To say I am lost for words would be another.
To say I am struggling with what I have seen, would be yet another massive understatement.

I have just finished the series on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why” and I have to be honest with you, I am shell shocked.

13 Reasons Why, if you haven’t heard about it, is a series about a fictional character Hannah Baker, who through a series of events, bullying and being raped two of these things, ends up taking her own life. The series is about what led her to this point, and the aftermath that ensued with her family and friends trying to make sense of it all.

It is raw, it is emotional and it is graphic. There is no doubt as to what went on and the episode where she takes her life is disturbing. And when her Mum finds her, well that is truly disturbing.

So why would I watch it you ask?
Well, because it is Netflix’s most-watched series of all time and since it came out has been tweeted over 11 million times. Because all the teenagers I know (including Gracie) are watching and talking about it on social media. And because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. But I don’t think I was quite prepared for what I saw and is not something  I will forget in a long time.

There are lots (and lots) of websites and blogs out there talking about 13 Reasons Why. Blogs that will satisfy your curiosity if you don’t want to watch the whole series. Blogs with helplines, numbers for support networks and reasons why they made the series. There are some great sites for support and I encourage you to go and read them, so I’m not going into all of that here, but I do want to say this:

If you have a teenager, please please, please be aware of what they are watching. Please pay attention to what is going on in their lives, and please have those awkward conversations! As parents, it is never easy, and teenagers are a breed unto themselves. But this stuff goes on in their world and we need to be aware of it. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that this kind of thing doesn’t happen because it does. We can’t bury our heads and think it will never happen to our teen because it could. And that is the cold hard reality here…..it could.

Life is so different these days. So many more challenges and pressures facing our teens. And we need to educate ourselves the best we can to help our teens navigate their way through this season of their life. We need to be hands-on, and involved in their lives, no matter how much they complain or think we are awkward!

Now I am not naive enough to think that Gracie shares absolutely everything with me, but she always knows she can come to me if she needs to. She knows she can use her parents as an excuse (Mum and Dad won’t let me….) and she has an amazing network of good, Christian friends speaking into her life. I know this won’t protect her from all life will throw at her, it won’t completely protect her from peer pressure, and as much as I want to wrap her in cotton wool and protect her from the mean ole world, I know I can’t do that either! But what I can do is be aware, be educated, and be involved.

And parents, please don’t forget to pray. Not just if things aren’t going well, but all the time! Cover them in prayer.

So friends, please be aware.
Aware of what your teens are watching.
Aware of who has influence in their life.
Aware of what is going in their world.
Aware of their social media and the anxiety that come with it.
And please, please be aware of the pressures teens face. Not just any teen, but your teen.

 


Are You Having Fun Today?

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Ever have one of those days where you don’t want to be the grown up?
Where you just want someone else to be responsible and you can just do what you want?

Well, to be honest, I have a few of those days…..every week! Somehow I have made to my mid-forties and still don’t want to grow up and be the responsible adult in the house. In saying that, some days I think I take my adult responsibilities too far the other way and I find myself a boring, stick to the rules, mundane person who has lost the ability to have fun.

And so when Gracie asked me to beatbox yesterday and told me she was putting it on facebook, I said ok!

Now if you have seen my beatboxing, you will know that it is not my forte. I may have many hidden talents, but beatboxing is not one of them. So why did I let Gracie film me and put it out there for the world to have a laugh at?

Why not?
When, as adults did we loose the ability to have fun?
When did we become so ‘mature’ that we can’t laugh at ourselves?

And so, Gracie put it on facebook and everyone had a laugh at my expense. And you know what? I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t ‘shamed’ as the kids would say and I wasn’t even a little bad mad that she put it up. In fact, I probably laughed the most out of anyone that watched it.

Yes, I looked silly! No, it was not my proudest moment, and lets face it, I am not holding my breath for a call from Ellen to go on her show!

But to be honest, I am more worried about having fun with my kids, than I am about my reputation, or looking silly of front of people who don’t really know me. It has taken me a few years to get to this point, but I think the older I get, the less worried I become about these kinds of things! Actually, it is quite freeing to just be me, silliness and all!

So, when is the last time you laughed at yourself?
When is the last time you had fun with the kids?
When is the last time you worried less about what people thought of you and lived more in the moment?

When I am lying 6 foot under, I hope my kids, my family and my friends remember me as someone who could have fun. Someone who didn’t worry about what other people though and someone who could laugh with others as well as at myself.

How will your family remember you?

And in case you missed my Grammy award winning performance (ok, maybe not quite worthy of a Grammy!) you can watch it here

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My Girl……

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I remember when I was 15.

I was a screwed up mess of a kid who struggled with who I was and doubted whether I had any worth on this planet. I was insecure, afraid of the world and all I wanted to do was party with my friends or hide away in my room (which was probably a good thing as I was grounded most of the time!). I was sulky, pouty, and definitely not fun to live with. I was far from God and was not living in a way that I was proud of. Basically, I was a self-absorbed teenager with no regard for anyone or anything!

But my girl…….she couldn’t be more different from me if she tried!

I am beyond happy and proud to see the young women she is becoming!

We have had so many changes in the last couple of years and none more than for Gracie. We took her completely out of her comfort zone and took her to Africa and then to build houses in Mexico. She got braces, moved from the only place she remembers as home (and subsequently has no furniture in her temporary room!) and now this week she has started High School for the first time (2.5 years later than all her friends!)

And through all this she has remained her bright bubbly cheery self! Sure we have had days where she is not quite herself but through everything she has shown maturity beyond her years. She has looked for the best in every situation and taken it all in her stride. I think she was more worried about me on Monday than she was for herself starting High School!

She talks to me about her dreams for the future and gets excited about what God has in store for her. She is secure in who she is and isn’t swayed by the world. She is a loyal friend,  has a huge heart for young kids and can hold a conversation with any adult she comes across. She is incredibly talented at art and photography and I know she will move mountains when given half the chance. Yep, pretty much she is the opposite of me at the same age….Praise the Lord!

So Mums, never under-estimate the power of prayer. I have been praying for Gracie since before she was born, that she would be all God has called her to be from any early age. That she wouldn’t get in with the “wrong crowd” but instead she would be an influencer.  That even through her teen years she would hear God’s voice and never walk away from Him.

It’s long days, and often longer nights when they are little, but I can guarantee you, putting in the hard yards when they are tots, sure pays off when they hit those teen years. Spend time with your kids, sometimes not talking but just listening, allowing them to be themselves, and be intentional about how you parent.

So as we celebrate Gracies 15th Birthday this week, I thank God for the amazing gift He has Blessed me with. For an incredible daughter who I am just so proud of and so excited to see where God takes her!

Happy Birthday Gracie

 


When Your Heart Is About To Burst!

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We don’t always get it right as parents!

Sometimes we are too strict, other times too lenient. Some days I have all the patience of a Saint, and other days I snap at the smallest things! Some days I feel like the world’s worst Mum and wonder how much my kids will need to pay in counselling when they are older!

But yesterday, yesterday was one of those days when you think to yourself “Maybe I’m not doing such a bad job!”

Yesterday our Gracie got baptised.

She has been planning it for a while with her youth leader at Church and she felt last night was the right time! Phil and I purposefully have not pressed the kids to get baptised, in fact, we have never brought it up at all! We wanted it to be the kids own decision with no pressure from Mum and Dad (of course I was praying, but they didn’t know that!)

Poor wee poppet was so nervous all day: What if no one prays for me? What if no one has a word for me? What if I stuff up what I want to say?

I think the biggest thrill for me, was that she asked me to baptise her! Not her Dad, not the Pastor, but me! Her old Mum who I’m sure she thinks is funny and old-fashioned and not part of the “Cool Mum Club” When she asked me a couple of months ago, I couldn’t hold back the tears and was completely blown away!

So the million dollar question was “Could I hold back the tears on the day?” And, of course, the answer was No, No I couldn’t! But that’s okay because to be honest it was pretty emotional for the whole of Team Strong!

It was an amazing night with so many of our family and friends coming out to support Grace. She was showered with love, and had some amazing words spoken over her.

We are just so super proud of Gracie taking this next step in her walk with God and we are so excited to see it all unfold! Yep, I am so proud, my heart is about to burst!

So on days when I am feeling a little less than the perfect Mum, I will look back at this blog, remember that you don’t get it right every time, but that’s ok God has her in the palm of His hand!

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It’s December, So You Know What That Means…..

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So I sat down today to write a blog about Christmas today, and thought I would double check what I wrote about last year so I don’t repeat myself. But you know, what I wrote last year still resonates with me, so thought I would share it again with you, in case you missed it, and even if you didn’t, it’s a great reminder!

 

I have to admit…… I am super-duper, pretty jolly well excited!

It’s only 22 more sleeps till Christmas and I am definitely getting more and more excited as the day draws near. Now you are probably wondering why a grown woman would get so excited about Christmas? It’s not like my kids are littlies anymore and wake me at 6 in the morning with a gleam in their eye begging me to get up so they can open their Santa Sacks (knowing they have already been downstairs and rummaged through them!) It’s not like I even have grandkids to spoil (they will come in due course, but not for a few years yet Jackson & Gracie!) So again you may be wondering why all the excitement, and my simple answer would be……… Why not?

Why not celebrate? You know, so often in our society now days, we just don’t celebrate…… Anything! Life has become mundane and people just don’t celebrate milestones or special occasions anymore. But it’s a choice people, and I choose to celebrate!

So often I hear the excuses “Oh, we can’t afford it” “Oh, we don’t want to spoil our kids” “Oh, we don’t want our kids growing up thinking they will have a party for their birthday every year” “Oh, we don’t celebrate Christmas because it has become too commercial”

Sure, I could almost agree with some of those excuses, but come on, when did we all turn into the Grinch?

Now, I’m not saying you have to go and spend hundreds and thousands on every special occasion, in fact, we celebrate most things on a tight budget, and for me that makes it even more challenging and fun! It’s not about the money, it’s about creating memories for our kids, its about creating traditions (I blogged about that here) that will long outlive me, and it’s about what’s in your heart!

So when it comes to Christmas, why wouldn’t I get excited and celebrate? It’s a great excuse to hang with family and friends, indulge in a little too much good food and bubbles, to play my never ending list of Christmas songs and to relax at the end of the year!

But most of all, why would I not get excited about celebrating the birth of the most incredible man ever born, the man who saved me from a life without love, the man who died so I could live! The man who gave His all so we could have this festive season. Why would we not celebrate this man?

I think that’s a pretty good reason to celebrate….. and so I do!

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My Teenage Son is in Love……HELP!

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It was bound to happen sooner or later right?. Ok, so I was hoping for later, but it was inevitable. It happens to all teenagers, yep it even happened to me, so why would my son be any different?

My teenage son has fallen in love!

It’s true! As much as I am in denial about it, it is so plainly obvious, and there is no denying it. We have managed to get him to 16 before it happened so I guess I should be thankful for that. But as his old Mum, I am not ready. I am not ready for teenage emotions and all that entails. I am not ready for sleepless nights worrying about him, and I am not ready to lose him to another female. But really, will I ever be ready?

I have tried over the years to prepare myself. You know, go through different scenarios in my head, about how I would react to such news. I have even practiced my happy face when inside my heart is screaming “NOOOOO, He’s my baby!” I try and be the grown up parent and not react like she really is stealing my baby from right under my nose, but right now I don’t want to be the grown up parent and I don’t want to lose my son! Breathe Kathy, just breathe! This happens to all parents at some stage and if they can cope, so can you! You can do this! Put on your big girl pants and just breathe!!!

But, I have so many questions swirling around in my head:
Will he still love me as much?
Will she take up all his time?
Have we taught him how to treat her right?
Will I be completely forgotten?
Will I ever recover from this?

But in my heart of hearts, I know we have brought him up well and I know we have equipped him as well as we can to cope with the real world. So I need to trust in what we have done, trust in God and trust Jackson! He’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders so I know (and pray) he will always do the right thing.

It’s that whole thing about letting the baby bird fly from the nest. A Mother bird does all she can and then it’s up to that baby bird to spread their wings and fly. I want Jackson to fly, really I do, but it’s hard letting go of the apron strings, or as in the case of the bird, let him spread his wings and fly on his own. Surely, I could just keep him in the nest for another 10 years…...yep, 26 seems a good age for a baby bird to fly, right? Ok, ok, I know 26 is a little old (I think Phil will have kicked him out well before then!) but 16? What does anyone know at 16?

Ok God, we can do this! I know you have been preparing me for this. Sure, there may be a couple of tears along the way (from me, not Jackson that is!), but I will survive this!

Yes, Jackson is in love.
And I am so thankful the object of his affections (at the moment) is his new car! One step at a time, Kathy, one step at a time….


Dreaming Big!

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IMG_3847This is our Strong Family Dream Board. I shared a picture of it on facebook a couple of weeks ago and I have numerous requests from people to share the idea behind it, so here it is…..

In 2011, Phil and I went to a dreaming with God workshop which was incredible! That’s when God told me that we would be taking the kids to Africa in 2013 (you can read about that here) It was a crazy dream at the time, but I knew without a doubt I had heard from God so had to do all I could to make it happen.

They told us at the workshop that if you write your dreams down, they are more likely to happen than if you don’t write them down at all. So being the visual person that I am, I figured what would work for me was a Dream Board. Now, this is something I wanted the whole family to get on board with so we all thought about things that we would want to go on our Dream Board.

This workshop was just before my birthday, so when Mum asked me what I would like for my birthday, I knew exactly…..a Dream Board! We found the hessian covered board at a gorgeous wee gift shop in town and I knew straight away this was it! The jute was already on there which was perfect for putting the photo’s on with. I already had the “Family” sign and I got a lady online to make the “Strong Family Dream Board” sign that sits above it.

Coming up with dreams was the easy and fun part. We talked to the kids about personal goals they would like to achieve and also some family goals that we could all work together for. Just a wee note here: Don’t limit your dreams! So often, we put God in a box or think we could never achieve some things, but with God all things are possible. So remove those self-imposed limits and dream BIG!

The Dream Board hangs in our kitchen and is a daily reminder of our God dreams. It is also a great talking point when we have friends or guests over.

The photo’s change over time as we reach a dream or goal and it is replaced with another. Some dreams are bigger than others and will take more time, but each dream on there is important.

I love having it as a daily reminder of how big our God is, and when we dream with Him, anything is possible. I hope we are teaching our kids to dream beyond what they can see and believe for greater things!

Remember: These goals are for you and your family. Some people may not agree with believing for a new car or whatever it is that is on your board. But that’s ok! This is your Dream Board and it’s between you and God. Not all our friends and family get what we do or why we do it, but we know God has called us to live this way, and we know He has called us to dream BIG! And so this week we take down 4 photo’s (of dreams reached) and as we add new ones, I am excited at partnering with God and seeing Him do more than we think is ever possible!


Back to Routine?

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Well, we are home! It is always bittersweet for me landing home after being in the USA. For some reason, I feel such an affinity with the USA and could quite happily call it home! But, I know God has called us to live in New Zealand (in the meantime!) and so I will get myself settled back into life here, despite my heart fighting against me!

My mind is still going a million miles an hour, thinking about our latest Family Adventure. It is hard to comprehend all we did, all that we saw and all that God did for us, and through us. It was an adventure of epic proportions and I am so thankful that God has called us to live outside what most people would consider normal, and take those steps of faith that would see us doing such incredible things.

There are 100’s of stories that will no doubt come out on here over the next few months as I process it all, and once this jet lag has worn off, will get writing again!

 

But for now it’s back to routine! I love holidays and spontaneity, but I also LOVE routine and order, and so as we settle back into life this week, it is my mission to get us all back into some form of normality! The kids have had 5 weeks off school work, and I have had 5 weeks of no cooking, cleaning or even having to think about what we will have for meals, which is seriously one of my favourite things about being on Holiday! But now we are back, I suppose I really should think about what we will eat tonight, and tomorrow and even the day after!

So I guess as we settle back into a routine, there’s only one thing to do…...Countdown to Christmas! It’s only 10 weeks to go and I can’t wait! I may just have bought a whole lot of Christmas goodies while I was in the USA, so can’t wait to unpack them all. It’ll be like Christmas…...literally! The Christmas music has secretly (or not so secretly) started and I am furiously searching on Pinterest for Christmassy idea’s.

When one adventure ends, there is ALWAYS another one to look forward to!

65 days people, 65 days!


Why Yes, My Husband is Actually The Greatest!

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So, this week Phil and I celebrated our 18th Wedding Anniversary. I know right, who would have guessed we have been married that long! 18 years is a long time to spend with the same person. Waking up to him every morning and kissing him Goodnight every night for the past 18 years! That’s 6574 kisses Goodnight! Yep, 18 years sure is a long time!

There have been ups and downs on our journey, but over the most part we have been as happy as a kid at Christmas….well ok, I guess I am one of those too! But our marriage has always been one of give and take, and when one is down, the other is always there to pick them up!

I feel so incredibly blessed that I get to travel this crazy journey called life with my very best friend. That we get to go on this amazing adventure together and now bring our kids along with us.

So some of you may be asking yourself about now if this is going to turn mushy, and the answer to that is YES! Yes, it is!

You know, there are so many women out there tearing down their husbands (sorry girls, but yes, I am aiming this at you!) Sometimes it seems on Facebook there is a competition who can bag or put down their husband the most. They moan and they complain about life and the person they chose to do it with. They speak negatively and don’t have a kind word to say about them ever.

Then, on the other hand, you get the women who just won’t say anything at all, even if their husband is awesome, for fear of bragging. But you know what I say…...brag away!

me and phil 1Phil is an incredible husband, so why should I not brag about that? God has blessed me with an amazing man. One who provides for his family and always puts us first in all that he does. He is selfless, generous, a mighty man of God, an amazing Dad, a great husband, a fantastic cook, and if I was going to be totally honest, SO good looking!

There is enough negativity in the world being aimed at men, that I for one, don’t need to add to it! So instead I am going to uplift Phil as often as I can. I am his number 1 fan and so I am going to be his biggest cheerleader! Not just at home, but in public as well.

My good friend Rachael does something called Marriage Monday. Every Monday she either blogs about her marriage or posts an amazing post on facebook about her husband. I love this, she writes:

Marriage Monday is a way for us to honor our spouse and God by speaking life over our spouse rather than complaining about everything that is wrong.
You can read more about Marriage Mondays here

So gals, please don’t be afraid to praise your husband and uplift him in public. This is the man God has called you to spend the rest of your life with so let’s be our husbands number 1 fan, on and off the field!

Oh, and Happy Anniversary Honey, you really are everything I never knew I wanted or needed!

love

 

 


Are You A Gazillionaire?

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I was chatting with a couple of friends the other day and we were talking about Team Strong’s upcoming trip to Mexico in a couple of weeks. One of them said, “Didn’t you take your kids to Africa last year? Are you guys Gazillionaires?”

My first thought was “If only!” but I laughed and said to her that we were far from being Gazillionaires!
As a family, we have chosen to live a life of faith, and that means we live a lot of our life outside of our comfort zone, not only with finances, but in so many area’s of our life!

I would love to tell you that we have unlimited amounts of money and can travel the world where ever and when ever we want, but for us, that is just not the case!

There have been many sacrifices made along the way. Hard choices to be made and many opportunities turned down to focus on what we know God has called us to do! Some of our friends and family don’t understand our choices, but we know this is the way God has called us to live. It’s exciting and exhilarating, but not always fun!

4 months ago our dishwasher completely died! It just stopped. Well ok, it didn’t just stop! It made a whole lot of weird noises, flooded the kitchen and then stopped!
The kids were like “Are we going to buy a new one tomorrow?” I would have loved to have said yes, and gone to the shop and put one on credit….that would be the easy option right? But Phil and I talked with the kids and explained that yes, we could go and get one tomorrow, but that wasn’t the right thing for us to do. We (as a family) don’t borrow money for things like dishwashers, and we weren’t going to use any of our money put aside for Mexico. We knew there were going to be some sacrifices along the way, and it looked like having our dishes washed for us was going to be one of them!

We told them we wouldn’t even be thinking about getting a new dishwasher till we get back from Mexico. They were pretty gutted at first (ok, I was too, having a clean and a tidy bench is one thing I absolutely LOVE!) but we have all muddled through. Yes, our plates now have a few more chips in them, there have been a couple of smashed glasses and every now and then you will get a plate out of the cupboard that is a little less than clean, but we are surviving! Surely, this is a small sacrifice to pay for what God has called us to do?

In Matthew 25:40 it says ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
For me, I would rather make a difference in one life than have a dishwasher. I know we are going to change the lives of the families we are building houses for, our kids’ lives will be changed and I know my life will be too.

And so as a family, we continue to make decisions that don’t always make sense. We continue to step out in faith, and we continue to live the life we know God has called us to live, whether that makes sense to most people or not! And yes, this week we continue to wash dishes!