Being Like Christ

“Be like Christ.” We hear that message a lot in Christian circles. We all need to “be like Christ.” Sometimes it’s phrased “be the hands and feet of Christ.” But how do we actually do that?

Are we being like Christ within the comfortable confines of the church walls? Or do we need to go to a foreign country on a mission trip to be like Christ? Do the only lost and hurting people live halfway around the world? Does being the hands and feet of Christ require a plane trip to a foreign country?

All of the above things are great. We definitely CAN be Christlike inside the church building or during a missions trip to a foreign country. But I think we can also live out the gospel by showing Christ’s love in our own community, and many people forget that.

Most of the time, we overlook the needs of our neighbors. It’s easy to do. We live in our own little bubble because it’s comfortable (I am SO guilty). So many people are hurting in our own backyards, in need of help and hope. All we have to do is open our eyes.

I work for a local non-profit organization, More Grace Outreach, that just recently hosted a local missions week. With the help of around 170 volunteers and private donors from multiple churches and states, we were able to help 6 local families and 3 local non-profits with projects — none of which would have been possible without Christ showing up and regular people being the literal hands and feet.

Yes, going to church is important. Yes, foreign missions are important. But so are the people in your own community. The people that other people choose to look the other way when they meet on the street. The people that are probably on drugs or rely on food stamps. The people that make most of us uncomfortable. They live next to us, and they are loved by God as much as you and me.

I pray that God gives us the eyes to see these people like He sees them so that we can give them hope and show them the love of Christ.

8 “Instead of” Tips for Parenting Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

Are you parenting a child who has had trauma?

Are you parenting a child who has a capital letter syndrome — such as ADD, ADHD, FAS, SPD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder — or another special need?

If so, then this is for you!

When it comes to parenting kids who have had trauma, I  struggle with imposter syndrome. I often ask myself, “How can I help other parents when I couldn’t do it perfectly or even well myself sometimes?”

We must let go of the myth that perfect parents exist. They don’t. And raising kids who have had trauma means a huge learning curve for us parents — especially if we have parented our bio children okayish with great results.

Traditional parenting is for securely attached children — kids who want to please. Any sort of parenting requires a foundation of connection with the child. That connection comes more easily with kids who haven’t experienced trauma. For those who have, the foundation is absent or shaky, and as a result, the child feels no need to follow commands or listen.

Traditional parenting tends to swoop in and fix the immediate problematic behavior. It is a short-term approach that doesn’t work with kids who have trauma. Instead, you need to take the time to consider the need behind the child’s behavior and focus on the ultimate goal of connection.

Kids who have trauma care more about control and survival. When a child has a disorganized attachment style born out of trauma, he will want to control his surroundings. Control will trump following instructions every time. In fact, the very thing that would make him feel more connected, he will fight.

As the authors of The Connected Child explain, “Children who encountered deprivation or harm before they were brought home lack many types of connections. They can lack social connections, emotional connections, neurochemical connections, cognitive connections, and sensory connections.” Because these connections do not exist, traditional parenting will not work. We must change our parenting to adjust to the fact that it will be different with these kiddos.

“Instead of” Parenting Suggestions

  • Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).
  • Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.
  • Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.
  • Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”
  • Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.
  • Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.
  • Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.
  • Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).

Many of us grew up with the lecture approach to parenting. For every infraction, Mom or Dad had a carefully selected and time-tested sermon they could pull from a database in the recesses of their mind. “If your great aunt Mary knew that you turned on a show in the middle of the night, [insert stories of monsters, bible verses, sticks in the eye, etc.].” You get the picture.

After a while, all our brains heard was the sound of a grown-up talking on Charlie Brown: “Wah, wah, wah, wah.” No matter how eloquent you are, your child may only hear the first 8 to 12 words. If you waste those first words, you have lost them. And long lectures aren’t the best way to get your child to listen and learn anyway.

Choose and use your words carefully. Aim them at the behavior, not the child — and there’s no need to bring other family members or what your parents would have done into it. Try instructions like these:

  • “Walk, don’t run.”
  • “We don’t hit.”
  • “Use your words.”
  • “Try that again.”

Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.

We’ve all done it. We see the precursor to a meltdown or a potential fight brewing over a toy, but we wait. We wait because it isn’t that bad yet or hasn’t gotten violent. Next thing you know, the situation is out of control.

Sometimes it helps to stop and ask yourself: Why wait? Would you rather spend five minutes addressing the behavior and reconnecting now, or spend the next two hours living with the fallout? It’s a pretty simple choice in my mind. I’ve learned from experience how draining the two-hour or day-long fallout of a complete meltdown can be. As a result, I lean toward addressing an issue while it is a tiny seed instead of waiting until it grows into a giant oak tree.

Recently, my daughter and I were on our way to the zoo with her kiddo. We were meeting her sister and her kiddos for a day of fun (four grandkids + zoo = fun). As usual, we talked about our trips together when she was growing up —  zoo trips, field trips, vacations.

My grandson had been watching a show on the iPad while we talked, but it ended. “I can start a new one,” I offered. We had been hoping he would fall asleep during the first one, but no go.

“Are you sure you can get back there?” my daughter asked.

“Remember who you are talking to,” I reminded.

“Nevermind,” she said, and laughed. “You used to climb back and sit with us to get us to calm down.”

“Yep, I did.”

Some super safety-conscious parents are shaking your heads right now in disbelief. Yep, I crawled over seats and sat on the floor of the suburban to calm kids down or interrupt a fight before the trip turned into a giant meltdown.

Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.

When I was a young and naive parent, I thought I needed to have control all the time. There were no choices. My first child blew that theory out of the water. She was very much an “I can do it myself” child. If I didn’t offer her choices, she offered them to me. I got a lot of flack from family members for not being more strict, harsh, or punitive with her.

The funny thing is, I was judged for being too strict with my kids with trauma just a few short years later. That’s another story for another time.

The point is, Audrey taught me the value of giving choices. I’m not talking about moral choices. I mean giving kids simple choices like:

  • Do you want to wear black tennis shoes or purple?
  • Do you want a peanut butter sandwich or a ham sandwich?
  • Do you want to read this book first or that one?
  • Do you want to give Uncle Bob a hug or not?

Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”

A re-do is simple. Remember when you missed five on your spelling test and your teacher had to write the ones you missed each five times? Or when you were in gym class and missed the basketball hoop on the first shot but kept trying until you made it? Or when you got married and were trying out your cooking skills for the first time and something didn’t taste just right, so you called Mom and with her help tried again? Those are all re-do’s.

As the Empowered to Connect training manual explains, “Offering your child a chance to “try it again” and get it right — what we call a re-do — is often an ideal way to respond. In addition, this approach provides your child with body memory for doing the right thing and offers an opportunity for you to then give praise and encouragement once she re-does the task, follows the instructions, or interacts in an appropriate manner. This approach can help your child to experience doing the right thing and deepen your connection with her as well.”

Practice Outside of the Moment.

When teens or adults start a new job, they go through training. Usually, this training is practiced outside the moment. Training is not introduced when an employee is melting down over not knowing how to use the computer system (although that can happen). Practicing outside the moment allows you to teach a child when his upstairs brain is activated, instead of waiting until he flips his lid.

The authors of The Whole-Brain Child explain the concept of your upstairs vs downstairs brain: “Imagine that your brain is a house, with both a downstairs and an upstairs. The downstairs brain includes the brain stem and the limbic region, which are located in the lower parts of the brain, from the top of your neck to about the bridge of your nose. Scientists talk about these lower areas as being more primitive because they are responsible for basic functions (like breathing and blinking), for innate reactions and impulses (like flight and fight), and for strong emotions (like anger and fear).”

The downstairs brain is survival mode. No logic or reasoning is applied — just illogical, knee-jerk responses. When a child gets stuck in their downstairs brain, his body shoots cortisol through his system, and he lives on the edge. A simple request sounds like YELLING.  IN FACT, EVERYTHING IS AMPLIFIED. A CAR THAT PASSES THROUGH THE NEIGHBORHOOD IS A THREAT. A COMPLIMENT IS TWISTED INTO A CORRECTION.

You get the point. Scary, huh? It’s no fun to live there.

I did lots of practicing outside the moment with my kiddos before we went somewhere. My funniest story using this tool is practicing to go to the library. My newbies had recently come home from Poland, so I had kiddos aged 12, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 1. Four of them had never been to a public library before, so we practiced at home. We pretended the bookshelves were the library. I showed them how to get a book, whisper, sit down at a table, and look at the book they had retrieved.

Our town had a small library with an unusual practice. When you got a book out, you replaced it with a ruler to mark your place in order to return it if you didn’t check it out. My kids loved this practice a little more than I realized. When we got to the library, they used all of the rulers to mark places and got a giant stack of books — which ties in nicely with my next point.

Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.

Traditional parenting often relies on assumptions. We assume that the child should know how to behave in an environment or know what to expect. We say things like, “You should know better” or “Be quiet! This is a library,” as if a child who has never been to a library would know that information. Just like my kiddos didn’t recognize the implied rule that you should only get one book out at a time.

You can practice outside the moment for about anything:

  • Going to a restaurant.
  • Going to a ball game.
  • Flying on a plane.
  • Shopping.
  • Skating.
  • Visiting a friend’s house.

Not only does this help your child know what to expect, but it also alleviates fears. Many kids need to know what’s next, and if you have informed them and practiced with them, it will be a smoother ride for both of you.

Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.

One of the popular parenting tools frequently used is time out. As the authors of The Connected Child explain, “These isolating strategies may be useful for biological children who are already connected and emotionally bonded to their families. But isolating and banishing strategies are extremely problematic for at-risk children because these kids are already disconnected from relationships, attachment-challenged, and mildly dissociative because of their early histories of neglect and abuse. Isolation is not therapeutic for them.”

Instead of isolating, keep the child near you so that you can co-regulate for them. Your presence as a calm center can help them become calm down more quickly.

While a traditional time-out may not be a good idea, you can still have a “calming corner” in a public room (such as the family room or kitchen) with a pillow and a few toys for toddlers. This is a think-it-over place and can become more sophisticated as the child gets older. You can say, “Sit here and think it over. When you’re ready to talk, let me know.”

Just a caution — your child will not turn into Pollyanna just because you created a think-it-over space. When the child is ready to talk it over, he may say “ready” with the voice of a Balrog. That’s okay. Meet him where he is. Let him tell you in his own words what he did wrong, and if he doesn’t know, give him the words. Lead him through an apology or a redo or both. Make sure you finish connected. Then it’s done.

And when it’s over, it’s over. Don’t keep bringing it up. Saying things like, “Earlier today, you did that thing so I don’t trust you” or “You couldn’t handle yourself earlier, so never again” or any other broad statement makes the child feel less-than. If you know a child can’t handle participating in whatever brought on the meltdown, keep that to yourself and parent. Arrange the environment to give him something else to do.

For example, if the child has had too much screen time and it caused the meltdown, play a board game together (even if you don’t want to). You are investing in your child.

Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.

When parenting a child from a hard place — i.e. one who has had trauma — it’s easy to get into a pattern of only noticing “bad” behaviors. Because the child already believes he is worthless or of little value, harping on the negative only solidifies his belief.

When my newbies first came “home,” they were in a state of disorganized attachment. At times, I felt as if my home would never stop feeling chaotic.  My kiddos had a survival-of-the-fittest mentality, and finding something praiseworthy was difficult in those beginning stages of “family.”

Instead of waiting for my kiddos’ behavior to rise up the bar I had set before I offered praise, I set my sights on something other than measuring up. I began by praising them for playing with Play-Doh, creating something with LEGOs, putting on a puppet show, eating food — pretty much anything I could praise. The kids sometimes bristled at the praise. They may have wondered what my motive was, but eventually they began to accept it and even expect it. “Mom, look what I built!” This is connection.

Imagine if you never received any praise at all. Imagine if your life was just a fight to survive, and everything you did was wrong. You couldn’t sit right, eat right, speak right, or behave right in general, and people pointed those things out constantly. How would you feel? How would you feel if suddenly you started receiving some praise for things? Wouldn’t you keep doing the things you received praise for?

Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

When we look at behaviors as needs, we are less likely to take them personally. For instance, when we remind ourselves that the child can’t regulate — not won’t regulate — we can set our personal feelings aside. When we set our personal feelings aside, we can take the reins and parent. It’s not us against them; we’re all on the same team.

So before taking a behavior personally, ask yourself what the child needs. Is the child. . .

  • Hungry?
  • Tired?
  • Over-stimulated?
  • Triggered?
  • In his downstairs brain?
  • Unsure of the expectations?
  • Unable to adjust to a change of plans?

It’s our job to be the emotionally stable person in the relationship. In an article for PBS, Katie Hurley explains one thing you can do to help your child become aware of their emotions: “Express your own emotions. Parents have a tendency to hide their own emotions from their kids. While kids don’t need to be involved in the fine points of adult problems, it’s okay for them to see you sad, mad or overwhelmed. When you label and talk about your own emotions, you show them that we all have big feelings to cope with and that you trust them just as they can trust you.”

Two of my kiddos struggled with recognizing emotions in themselves and others. I made flash cards with different expressions on them: happy, sad, angry, afraid, frustrated. We practiced recognizing emotions with a mirror and with the cards.

Sometimes, the things we take so personally are emotions the child isn’t equipped to express. In that sort of situation, the child often reverts to anger — the go-to for kids in survival mode.

Using the IDEAL Approach

For all interactions with your kiddos, use the IDEAL response as a guide. The IDEAL Approach is among the best tools for parenting, teaching, or supervising kids who have had trauma:

I: You respond immediately, within three seconds of misbehavior.

D: You respond directly to the child by making eye contact. Get down on their level.

E: The response is efficient and measured. Use as few words as possible.

A: The response is action-based. Lead the child through a re-do.

L: Your response should bed leveled at the behavior, not the child.

One final note: The suggestions in this article are simply tools for parenting. Not every tool is useful in every situation or with every child. You must find which work for your child. In extreme cases, a child may be so violent that he is a danger to himself and others the home. In that case, you need to get professional help. Don’t try to go it alone.

How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Feel Welcome in Your Home

Have you brought a child home through foster care or adoption?

Or are you just beginning the foster/adopt journey and want to make sure kiddos feel welcome in your home?

On The Whole House Podcast episode 77, How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Feel Welcome in Your Home, Kathleen and Kristin share some quotes from crowd-sourcing and some from experience.

What are some things you do to make your adopted/foster child feel at home?

“Top of it:Schedules.

Their own stuffed animal bought by us the day they arrive.

A light on at night.

An anthem.” – Paige Bowser

I asked Paige to explain the anthem, and she said, “A song. Let the older child pick a song that expresses what he feels. This becomes their anthem.”

“I’m not sure how to answer this. We have only had a couple of placements and they have been babies. We give hugs and talk softly. We give them a new blanket. We try to get to know them as soon as we can by watching carefully so they have a chance to teach us who they are, and then we meet them there.” – Rachel Eubank

“ I agree with Rachel. We first have to see how traumatized a child is. Comfort comes from different things for each child. I think the first thing we give each one is Space enough to catch their breath. An overwhelmed child can’t make healthy trusting connections. Honestly, You have to trickle your love and comfort Into their lives. They gradually begin to trust You. The second thing is a smile and words of comfort.” – Bob Eubank

Smiling is super important because kids will mirror you. Everyone feels stress when a kid is first coming into your home. Don’t let it show on your face. Smile.

Some things to consider when welcoming a child:

  • Toys. Some kiddos (mine included) have none when they come “home.”
  • Ownership. Having their own stuff when they come to your home is big deal.
  • A comfortable bed. Some kiddos have never had their own bed.
  • A backpack. We got L.L.Bean backpacks embroidered with the kids’ names when they came home through adoption.
  • Words of reassurance. We need to give words of reassurance such as, “So-and-so loved you so much that they bought you this gift.”

Consider the perspective of the child. Older kids are more aware of what is going on in the adoption/foster care arena, so they may be able to communicate their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. Either way, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. Consider what they need and do it for them instead of for yourself.

Ten Practices to help your adopted/foster Kiddo feel welcome:

1. Calm fears. If kids don’t feel safe, they will act out in survival mode. Be aware of their past, and keep an eye out for triggers. You’re not always going to know why a child is afraid, but they almost always have a reason.

We all have fears, and even as adults, we sometimes can’t figure out where they came from. One of my fears is riding in the back of a car. It took me a long time to trace the fear back to after my parents’ divorce, when my dad would come to pick us up, load us into the back seat of his car, and start driving without giving us any information about where we were going.

2. Adjust the surroundings. You may have to adjust your surroundings for a season to help your new kiddos feel more comfortable. To them, you are weird, and your house is weird.

Even if a child was removed from an unsafe home, that doesn’t mean his home of origin didn’t feel normal to him. He’s still connected to it. Be more flexible than you are used to being. It will be chaotic for a while, and that’s ok. Helping your child achieve felt safety is worth it.

3. Be aware the child may have never been alone. My college roommate adopted a sibling group of three who had never been alone. For the first few years, they refused to sleep in their own rooms, opting instead to all share the same bed.

In cases of neglect, on the other hand, a child may be a little too used to being alone. It’s important to be aware of this and gently coax them into family time together.

4. Be prepared to adjust your menu. When we brought our four home, the youngest had a cleft palate. Getting nutrients into him became my second career. He was underweight, and because of his limited food choices in the orphanage, he wasn’t interested in eating anything new. I bought a food processor and pureed a variety of foods to meet his nutritional needs. It was a challenge.

After his cleft-palate surgery, he lost the ground we had gained in eating new foods after his month of liquids. One day at lunch, I stayed at the table with him, trying to get him to eat. All the other kids had left the table. I was so frustrated, I cried. I called a friend for prayer. Her husband answered the phone, listened, and prayed with me. Food challenges are real.

Yours might not be that extreme, but you still have to be flexible. You may find out your new kiddos refuse to anything spicy or that they hate peanut butter sandwiches or something else that’s a staple in your house.

5. Your child may miss friends (as well as family, which is a given). Be sensitive to that. Let them talk, and don’t take it personally. Missing their bio family, their old friends, and other parts of their past is natural. It’s not a comment on your abilities or value as a foster/adoptive parent. It’s not even necessarily a reflection of their thoughts or feelings about you.

6. Make sure your kiddos have plenty of snacks they can get to. In the orphanage, my kids didn’t always have the food they needed when they needed it. Kids from neglectful homes may have had a similar experience. You can alleviate the fear by having a snack basket within easy reach that they can access whenever they want.

7. Be sensitive to the clothing needs and the types of clothes your kids want/need. My kids had never owned a pair of jeans, so jeans were the item they wanted first.

8. Understand that their belongings have meaning, but they may not understand the value of things. Our kid came with nothing. Some kids come with a blanket or stuffed animal. Those belongings are important to them, even if they seem insignificant to you.

Keep in mind that kids who have never owned anything may not know how to take care of things. They may let something float downstream because they lack cause-and-effect thinking and don’t think about the fact that the item cost money.

Also, understand that if you put a high value on things, that will be tested by these kiddos. Remind yourself: “People are more important than things.” I reminded myself of this aloud so much that my kids repeated it to back me when something got broken.

9. Remember that your kiddos may need extra supervision, online and otherwise. In The Case of the Missing Person (more on that below), Sera is messaging people without her parents’ supervision or permission. All kids need supervision, but kids from hard places can get into trouble quickly and have trouble spotting dangerous situations.

One of my kids, for instance, started a forest fire out of a simple lack of understanding that lighting a fire in the woods is dangerous. The orphanage didn’t give them much practical experience with the great outdoors.

10. Schedules are security. They let kids know what will happen next, which is especially important to kids who find themselves suddenly in unfamiliar surroundings with complete strangers, as foster kids do.

If you’re not a schedule type of person, don’t worry! You don’t have to break your day into inflexible half-hour increments with every second account for. Instead, you can implement a general “first this, then that” routine. For instance, “after breakfast, we do chores” or “after lunch, we take a nap.”

The video below is an advertisement but paints a realistic picture of what happens when foster children come into your home.

Remember the weird things you had to tell your kids?

If you had biological children before you fostered or adopted, then you know you have to tell kids things you never thought you would have to say — like “Don’t lick the bathroom floor” or “Don’t lick your sister.”

Remember that, and apply it to foster kids. You don’t know what they have been taught about hygiene or whether they know the stove is hot. They may have been taught things that are not acceptable in your family culture. Don’t blame and shame the child for where they came from. Grace. We all have our perceptions of good and bad.

Assume that they know nothing — not as though they are stupid, but in the sense that they weren’t raised in your family culture. The first few times they do something “wrong,” assume they really didn’t know any better. Don’t assume they are being intentionally defiant or trying to push your buttons. They may just not know that something is annoying, generally frowned upon, “gross,” or “bad.”

Also, be specific in your instruction. Remember that it’s easier for kids to process positive instructions (“Do this”) than negative ones (“Don’t do that”). Instead of saying what you don’t want them to do, take some of the guesswork out and let them know that they should do. For example, you could say, “Use your inside voice” instead of “Don’t yell!”

Excerpts From The Case of the Missing Person

In the podcast, we mentioned The Case of the Missing Person — a book I wrote about a girl named Sera who is adopted through the Colombian hosting program (more info about that program here). The following scene describes her thoughts on coming “home.”


“Let me show you your room, Sera,” Clare said. I mean Mom. I couldn’t get used to that. I had spent my first eleven years in Colombia without a mother. I had come to the Craven family as part of the Colombian hosting program. Through that program, I had stayed with the  Cravens for three weeks. The Cravens had decided to adopt me. I was glad. Most of the time.

Right now, I was scared out of my wits. There was no going back to Colombia now. It wasn’t perfect there, but it was all I had ever known. Now I was here in the U.S. in a home I would be in forever. FOREVER.

The house was nice. Clare liked white. A lot. White walls. White cabinets. White furniture. There were a few colors in pictures on the walls. Totally different from the bright colors in the orphanage. Sunshiny yellows. Oranges. Terracotta tile floors. My room was white too. White bunk beds. Those were new.

“What do you think?” Clare, I mean Mom, asked.

“It’s very white,” I said quietly.”


You can listen to the first chapter of The Case of the Missing Person below:

A Few Responses to some Flack we received on What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?

Kristin and I take a few random moments in this week’s podcast episode and respond to some of the criticism we recieved about this article. One theme was that we shouldn’t see our adopted/foster kiddos as a ministry. Our response?

Whatever we put our hands to is a ministry.

We aren’t running around John 3:16 ing everyone. I didn’t  to adopt to have a ministry. I love my kids. They are a priority to me. I’m very protective of them. I don’t share their stories. Those are there own.

Another theme was – all parents need support to an extent.

All parents need support to an extent. Fostering is different. It’s harder. You can’t plan a vacation. You can’t take them to get a haircut. There is so much added stress. The visitation is planned according to the the availbility of bio family, not foster family or the child. Saturday-

Another theme was -Reunification should be the goal.

Culturally, that is not always a good goal anymore. Drugs, alcohol abuse is prevalent and our culture has changed.  There has been a moral downward shift in our culture

It is not always in the best interest of the child to be reunified. Keep children in mind first.

4 Reasons to Be Real – Even When It’s Uncomfortable

We’ve all heard the call to be real — to stop putting on a show and let the “real you” shine through. To be open and honest about the struggles we face, because we’re all human. To really put ourselves out there so that we can form deep, genuine connections with other people.

Of course, the problem we run into is that being real is uncomfortable. It involves risk and vulnerability. When you let others see the real you, you risk rejection. You risk judgment, criticism, mockery, and hurt. So why do it?

The good news is that being real is worth the risk. Here’s why:

Keeping Up Appearances Is Hard Work

Often, we assume it will be simpler and safer to fake perfection than to deal with all of the risks that come with being real. But is that really true?

As scary as it is to let yourself be real and vulnerable with other people, in the long run, it’s actually easier than the alternative. Keeping up the illusion that you are infallible, invulnerable, and self-sufficient is hard work. It is stressful, exhausting, and dangerous (more on that in a moment). We think we’re protecting ourselves, but in reality, we’re perpetuating a myth about our lives and our selves. Brené Brown explains it well:

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

The problem is, we can’t control what other people think, say, or do. No matter how “perfect” we manage to look, we cannot guarantee we won’t get hurt. We subject ourselves to the monumental strain of keeping up appearances, and in the end, we’re not really any safer than we were before. Don’t we have enough to worry about, without adding to our list the unnecessary and futile attempt to maintain a perfect image?

Dishonesty Can Become a Lifestyle

You’ve probably heard that practice makes perfect, but life isn’t that simple. A more accurate saying is “practice makes permanent.”

Here’s where the danger of perfectionism lies. Even if we manage to fool others into thinking we’re perfect, we do so at great risk to our souls. Eventually, that dishonesty about who we are, what we’ve done, and where we stand can become second nature.

In Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, John Ortberg explains:

“We fake it in life to bolster our ego. But the result is, we feel like phonies and become more deceptive and cynical with others.”

No act of dishonesty is truly insignificant, because it shapes how we view ourselves — which, in turn, affects the standards we hold ourselves to and the choices we make. You’ll drift further and further into the fakeness until you lose sight of not only yourself but also God.

We need to ask ourselves (in the words of Brené Brown):

“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”

Your Kids Will Get the Wrong Message

We’ve all heard someone say, “Do as I say, not as I do” — and we all know that’s not how life works. If you won’t follow your own advice, why would other people listen to it? No one respects hypocrisy.

Kids, in particular, can spot hypocrisy from a mile away, and they are far more likely to follow your example than your instructions. As James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” No matter how good you are at faking perfection for other people, you won’t fool your kids. They see what you say AND what you do, and when the two don’t match up, the message your kids hear loud and clear is that being real isn’t worth the risk.

Set a good example for your kids by being real with them and with others, even when it’s uncomfortable. Let them see your flaws and imperfections. Your kids need to know you’re human. Perfection is an impossibly high standard that neither you nor they can ever live up to. There is great freedom in allowing yourself to be real. Give them that gift.

God Made the Real You for a Reason

Finally, remember that you were made in the image of God — and God doesn’t make mistakes. In Philippians 1:6, Paul wrote:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

In the meantime, our struggles and imperfections serve a purpose. They allow us to better empathize with others and demonstrate God’s grace and love.

None of us will achieve perfection here on Earth, and it doesn’t do anyone good to pretend we have. After all, perfection isn’t very relatable or approachable. The heaviest burdens people carry — post-partum depression, miscarriages, childhood trauma, grief, abusive relationships, cancer, chronic pain — are often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. They worry that no one will understand. They wonder if there’s something wrong with them. They agonize over whether it’s their own fault.

By cultivating the illusion that we ourselves have never struggled with anything greater than skipping a day of devotions, we send a message loud and clear: “Don’t come to me for help. I have already arrived. You could be like me, if only you tried harder. I don’t understand what you’re going through.” It’s like closing a door. Being real, on the other hand, is an invitation. As Brené Brown put it, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

I can guarantee that if you choose to be real, you will be uncomfortable at times. Some people will judge you. Some people won’t understand. Some people will think less of you. They may gossip behind your back or say hurtful things to your face.

But for every woman who uses your vulnerability to make herself feel superior, there will be one who sees your realness as the precious gift that it is. Who hears your story and feels relief because she’s not the only one. Who feels hope because someone else has been where she is and come out the other side. Who realizes it’s ok to ask for help and finds a community of women to support her.

And that is worth the risk.

The Basics of Design With Tessa Allen

On the podcast this week, special guest Tessa Allen shares some design tips and a little about her background in interior design. It’s encouraging to listen to her perspective because she doesn’t come from an attitude of “having it all together” or “knowing it all.”

It’s okay to copy color

In Tessa’s home, the color flows from room to room. It’s cohesive, calm, and comforting. What’s amazing about the color? She copied. The ideas/tones/color palettes came from looking at other people’s homes. She picked her mindful gray (Sherwin Williams) and navy from friends’ homes and a model home.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief. It’s okay to copy. This isn’t a third-grade spelling test — it is your home. If you feel comfortable with a color in someone else’s home, try using it in yours!

Don’t follow a trend you don’t like

On the podcast, I share a story about a blue couch. I bought a blue couch with those tufted pillows attached to the back because it was a trend. Neighbors and friends were putting this style of couch in their homes, so I followed suit.

Guess what? I didn’t like it. I bought it because I wanted to follow a trend. I put that couch in my basement family room hoping the kids would jump on it, spill stuff on it, and it would need to be replaced. They did all of the above, but I didn’t get to replace the couch right away. Instead, I had to live with the stained couch for quite a while until I passed it on to my younger brother.

The lesson? Don’t buy something you don’t LOVE just because it’s trendy.

If you love a Trendy Idea, use it in Moderation

I have a wall of shiplap in my family room. I love it. The truth is, the shiplap wall was birthed out of a need to cover some holes — big holes that meant the wall needed to be replaced or covered. I chose shiplap, and I love it.

I also love bright colors. Sometimes they are the trend, sometimes not. Although I learned the hard way not to cover the walls of my house with them, I still have lots of accents of color that can easily be changed. If you see a new trend such as the popular navy or blush, try doing an accent wall, or a paint a piece of furniture that can be changed with little effort.

Shop for Used furniture

Let’s face it: We don’t all have unlimited funds to purchase furniture and wall art. I can’t tell you how many times I see a piece and tell my husband, “It’s all in the details,” as if he will jump on board for my purchase. The truth is, he doesn’t really care about the details until he sees it all together. It’s just a personality trait, not a fault. He often doesn’t mind my logic or my latest purchase at Hobby Lobby of a coffee mug to display on the coffee bar — if there is money set aside for it.

If there is no money, there is no money. If there is a bit of money, then consignment stores are the way to go! Consignment, second-hand stores, and yard sales all have treasures waiting to be found! You just have to go find them. Just don’t go hog wild without Tessa’s next point in mind.

Know your color Palette before you purchase

Tessa suggests carrying your paint swatch in your purse when shopping for decor. Brandi Panson mentioned this on last week’s podcast (and article). “Begin with the end in mind” is the way she phrased it. If you have no color palette, no end in mind, no style in mind, you will buy whatever appeals to you (raising my hand) and waste money. It doesn’t save you any money to buy all kinds of knick-knacks and decor unless they fit your home’s style and color palette.

They don’t make it like they used to

My parents used to say “they don’t make them like they used to.” I thought it was weird, then. What’s weirder is I say it myself now. I have wanted a yellow chair for years because yellow is my favorite yellow! I’ve looked at ones at IKEA for many years, but I just couldn’t plunk the money down to get a yellow chair that doesn’t fit my style.

So I waited. This past Christmas season, my sister Anne found a vintage yellow chair in a local shop, The Looking Glass. She sent me a photo. As soon as I opened the message, I knew that chair was yelling my name! “Kathleen! Kathleen! Kathleen!” I immediately contacted the owner of the shop and asked her if it was available. She said yes, but she could only hold it one day.

I texted hubby: I found my Christmas present. I waited a few minutes and shot him this text: We have to pick it up tomorrow, and we need the truck. A few minutes later: It’s this much $$$$. He got a laugh out of it, and I got a vintage yellow chair that I love… which leads me another one of Tessa’s points:

It’s okay to wait

We have been conditioned by HGTV to think that a whole house can/should be done in a weekend or a matter of months. That’s not realistic in many scenarios and not always the best idea. When you move into a home, it’s important to see how your family functions in that space. It’s also important to figure out what style you want to see. This takes time.

And with a limited budget, often we have to design in the most cost-effective ways. That may mean stripping wallpaper off the dining room walls is the first design step. It may also mean that sectional you want for the family room will have to be on the back burner for a while, even if you are shopping second hand. That’s okay. It is more important to be content with what you have then to have everything look perfect.

If you are struggling with this concept, I hear you. I struggle to. For years I made my home an idol. You can that my story here.

Make your home fit your family

I think we alluded to this on last week’s podcast, but it’s worth repeating. You may be looking at all the photos of homes from our social media this month and thinking, “That’s just not me. I don’t like any of that.”

If so, that’s okay. The point isn’t to pattern your home after someone else’s (unless you want to) — the point is to make your home fit your family. Your home should be unique. It should speak your name, not mine. My family affectionately calls our home “The Guire Shire” (we’re huge Lord of the Rings Fans). Maybe you could try naming your home, too.

Whatever you do, make your home fit your family, then invite me over for a cup of coffee.

Tessa and her daughters

Hi, I’m Tessa.  Daughter of the King, wife of Jess, mother to Lexie & Alivia.  I love to laugh and have fun (not the wild and crazy kind of fun, just simple fun).  I also love music! I play piano, teach piano lessons, and accompany local choirs and soloists. I love teaching, whether it’s piano lessons, general music class, or teaching my girls something new.  I also love to learn.

Interior design has always been something that I have enjoyed.  As a freshman in college, I took an intro to Interior Design class and really liked it.  While I was working on my music education degree, design was always in the back of my mind.  So, once I completed my music degree, I stuck around and got an interior design degree 😊  

I used my design degree for a few years once I graduated, although it didn’t really look like what I had envisioned while in school.  Throughout the years, I have always loved putting my house together, choosing colors, figuring out where things go, discovering new items I want, and deciding how to put it all together.  Since we have moved four times, I’ve gotten to do that a lot!

For me, design and having people feel comfortable in my home is important.  If it brings peace to my soul and my family and friends feel at home, then I consider it a success.