Top 5 Posts in 2012

Where did the year go???!!! It's a blur.

I thought you might enjoy knowing the 5 most-read blog posts from 2012. Kinda funny that the top one is about boys LOL!

I'm realizing how long it's been since our focus has been friend problems, middle school issues, be expecting that topic early in 2013! But for now...drum roll are the top 5!

1. Actual Quotes from Teenaged Boys

2. Helping Your Daughter Choose Good Friends

3. How Do You Respond to a Mean Girl?

4. 5 Things Story- Raising a Daughter with a Disability

5. 5 things Story- Roberta Pepin, Mom of 10

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! Enjoy tonight. May your new year be blessed.


Christmas Then and Now- Sharon's Story

Meet my friend Sharon. Sharon is the one I spoke of yesterday that shares the message that causes a ruckus on our Mom's Panel. Miss that one? Catch up right here----> HERE

Today she shares a story of her Christmases through the years, from her childhood, through adulthood as a mom, and now how it looks during the "grandma" years. You can follow her humorous and inspirational blog at Sister Chat. She's always up to something, so it's a good read!


Everybody’s story of their family of origin is different.  It took me a while to discover that the Norman Rockwell scenes were FICTION!  After that revelation I was a much happier person.  Evidently even as a child, I’d been comparing my life with what I THOUGHT my friend’s lives were like and of course I came up short, especially at the holidays. (Only as an adult have I come to realize that all families struggle with something and perfectionism is a curse.)

My mother died when I was 11 months old, my sister was 3.  Our alcoholic father placed us in the care of our maternal grandparents and a bachelor uncle.  We were poorer than church mice but didn’t know it at the time!

Our Christmas celebrations and decorations were FAB.  At least I thought so, it’s all I knew.  They consisted of a ragged cedar tree that my uncle cut and brought in from the woods near our small town and some red and green crepe paper, twisted and taped to the ceiling corners of our very small living room. The tree was covered with those terrible silver string “icicles” and a plastic red and white star that I still treasure.  My sister and I had red “swirl” skirts and a piano!  We practiced “Drummer Boy” and “O Holy Night” for weeks for our “Christmas Program” which we and whatever cousins we could wrangle into the performance would deliver.  Our audience would be our grandparents, show time was immediately BEFORE opening presents on Christmas Eve.

Early Christmas Eve evening, the married uncles would bring their wives and many children to our home and absolutely FILL that tiny house.  After we kiddos sang a song or two, after each person opened ONE gift, the adults would crowd into the kitchen for pie. Granny had spent the day baking all kinds; chocolate cream covered with meringue was my favorite.  That party usually lasted a couple of hours. On Christmas Morning we opened ONE very small gift from Santa, checked out the hard Christmas candy (usually stuck to the inside toe of the stocking) examined the ONE huge orange in our stocking and ate turkey dinner.  It was great!  It’s all we knew and it was enough.

Our Christmas celebrations have since magnified ten-fold. 

I learned from my days in 4-H how to set a table and bake Christmas goodies. After marriage and two boys arrived, our Christmas celebrations grew and were refined to say the least.  We began to party the whole month of December. My mother-in-law taught me how to cook a turkey, sweet potatoes and cheese peas! I had an older woman friend in every city we’ve lived and each shared tips and recipes.   My time spent teaching the Bible to adults gave me the depth of the absolute miracle of Christmas.  I studied Southern Living magazine, took Christmas tours, watched my friends, and yes, looked at Norman Rockwell type paintings. I copied every good idea I saw and so our decorations, food, and celebrations became a hodge podge of everything. Pictures prove that Christmas was often “over the top.” 

Sending out Christmas cards continues to be a favorite activity as I thank God for each person on my list, remember times we’ve spent together and pray for each one and their family.  I’m going to dread the day when hard-copy Christmas cards go out of fashion!

We incorporated stockings filled with toys, a mound of gifts for each boy, lights on the house, music, church services, gathering gifts and taking them to the underprivileged, two trees in the house, Snow Village set-ups, a blow-up Santa riding in an airplane, many children’s Christmas books, kids parties, adult parties, church parties, clothespin cookies, and yes, CHOCOLATE PIE.  

Often the Christmas morning activities would begin very early, one year it was 2 a.m.  Whoever woke up first was the signal for the party to start!

One year when our oldest was three, he was invited to speak at our church and he recited from memory all of Luke 2.  I’d drawn pictures of the story on butcher paper to help him grasp the details.   

Now the “boys” are grown and have many children of their own. And we make NEW Christmas traditions. We visit them bearing gifts (usually not on THE day) and “fit into” their wives and in-laws plans.  We go to church with them, sledding, shopping or whatever they want to do.  It’s fun to watch them make their own memories with their children. 

We spoil the grandchildren terribly and are forming new traditions with them. (Making homemade noodles, taking a light tour, unwrapping gifts on a “pretend” Christmas morning.)  And we try to find time to go back to the “family of origin” and take the trip down memory lane.

I think I’ll go make a chocolate pie!


When's It Ever Gonna Be My Turn?

Over lunch and a cup of hot tea, once again my mind was provoked by a friend who always makes me think. This particular subject was about the holidays.

She told me about a conversation she had with a young relative. This young mom admitted to my friend some frustrations with holidays, extended family plans and pressures she felt to make everyone happy. She said to my friend, "When is it ever gonna be my turn?"

My friend, surprised a bit, said "But it is your turn". This hit her relative with surprise, as brand new thoughts burst forth.

Now back track with me to a post from last year. I shared last year about a Mom's Panel that I take part in. Six moms share 5 minutes about their stage in life, so in 30 minutes the listener has heard highlights of lessons learned in parenting each stage from toddlers to empty-nesting.

During one particular 5 minute segment, the one that covers the phase of life where your own children are married with children, our panel discovered an intriguing phenomenon. No matter where we were, what church we were in, even in other states, the reaction from the audience of women during her segment was the same. Stankface. (That's what a couple of us on the panel eventually named it). What did she say that was so offensive?

Sharon's offending words to fellow grandmas (offered with a smiling face and great humor)- "I've learned to allow my married children to form their own new holiday traditions and in the process make some new ones of my own and be happy about it. Sharing my children and grandchildren with "those other people" at holidays is a good thing but must be learned with gracious cooperation."

As she shares this hard word with grandmas, they don't like it. There is a generalized "stankface" that sweeps across the room, laughter subsides and a bit of thick air permeates as she shares her medicine with a spoonful of humored sugar. We realized how pervasive this problem is and how delicate the feelings are as we watched reactions over and over among diverse groups of women. Strangely, the younger in the crowds always look happy.

My lunch and tea friend shared that her grown kids have not been to her house for Christmas in 10 years. I asked her if she's ok with that. She wasn't for awhile, but decided to be. She's now happy she always has an invitation to one of her children's homes for the holidays. Perspective. She says, "It's their turn". She also said she only knows of one or two other friends who are also grandmas who have made peace with that. "What do the others do?" I asked. "Manipulate, whine, moan, wring their hands, coerce..." A great basis for happy holidays. (Not!)

Since this conversation, I have observed two items in the media relating to this. One is a radio commercial featuring a grandma who brags about all the up to date technology her house offers so that she's the "favorite grandma" to visit at the holidays.

Another really funny Facebook post I saw is this:

"An old man in Miami calls up his son in New York and says, "Listen, your mother and I are getting divorced. Forty-five years of misery is enough." "Dad what are you talking about?" the son screams. "We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," he says. "I'm sick of her face, and I'm sick of talking about this, so call your sister in Chicago and tell her", and he hangs up. Now the son is worried. So he calls up his sister. She says, "Like hell they're getting divorced!" and calls her father immediately. "You're not getting divorced! Don't do another thing, the two of us are flying home tomorrow to talk about this. Until then, don't call a lawyer, don't file a paper, do you hear me?!" and she hangs up. The old man turns to his wife and says "Okay, they're coming for Christmas and paying their own airfares."

No one pretends this is an easy time of life. I can well imagine it's not. But I think of my friend's perspective of becoming okay with the new phase and how much easier and happier the holidays would be if others could do the same. She had "her turn" as she raised her kids and did Christmas as she and her husband wanted. Now her kids are grown and she says they need to do things in a way that's best for their families. It's their turn. Can we think of it as taking turns?

I think of her relative she talked to, the young mom who was stressing over doing what everyone else wanted and putting down her own desires for her young family. It should be her turn. What if she spends all her time as her kids grow up doing what everyone else wants, then her kids leave. Did she miss her turn?

The simple concept of "taking turns" that we teach our toddlers, turns into a lesson we don't want to do ourselves, in later years. Do we regress to fighting for our own way, not wanting to share, this time in ways that are more "dressed up" than the biting, pulling, grabbing and screaming of two year olds?

My friend who served me tea that day said it's not easy. But it's right. It makes life work.

Holidays can be hard in some ways. But many families work it all out with no problem. Take turns with location, all happily gather in one place, compromise, celebrate a different date, etc. Even as you are in the "take your own turn" stage, it's good to be aware and flexible and occasionally do something different that accomodates others. But if you think about all the families who have family at a distance, or multiple families to visit because of divorce and remarriage, things get quite complex. And stressful.

But freedom gives room. Enjoying what we do have. Being flexible.

This doesn't apply to everyone, but it will to some. Whether it's your time for you to take your own turn, or whether it's time for you to let someone else have their turn, this is good food for thought this Christmas season.


Tunnel Vision- Friendship Problems

my friend's son made this one day.
My daughter doesn't like to do anything after school. She doesn't like to talk about the day, answer questions or anything until after having some time alone. The music is turned on, usually followed by her drifting off for a quick nap on the car ride home.

So she was less than enthusiastic when I told her we were headed straight to the Art Museum to see the Christmas displays before the museum closed at 5:00pm. A quick bribe of a drink and a hot dog ensued, and off we were to meet my other daughter at the museum.

Daughter who met us had to observe three paintings for a college class, so we strolled down the "non-Christmassy" side of the museum to ponder paintings. My favorite- The Little Shepherdess by William Bouguereau, was right there, life size and looking at us.

I simply commented to my still reluctant daughter how peaceful and confident the Little Shepherdess looked. Her head whipped around in a suddenly alert, fiery and baffled moment as she challenged my thoughts. "She isn't peaceful! That isn't confidence! Look at her eyes. Her eyes are sad!  She's worried, like the weight of the world is on her shoulders." (As she said this last sentence, she motioned toward the symbolic staff resting on the shoulders of the shepherdess).

Suddenly I realized the power of art. 

I then proceeded to tell my reasonings of why she looked peaceful and confident, and at home with her position, therefore the relaxed stance with her staff.

Up strolls the daughter who is actually there to observe the paintings for class. We ask her opinion since she hadn't heard ours yet. We said, "Look at her eyes, what do they say?"

"She's not happy, she's not mad, she's just okay with everything. Resigned."

There you have it. Three of us all looking at the same painting, seeing three completely different things.

As I thought about this later, oh how this represents so many problems girls have in life with friends. Most friendship struggles and even mom struggles could be pinpointed back to this observation. Everyone looked at the same situation and saw completely different things.

We all see things differently.

All you see is that your daughter says she and her friend aren't getting along anymore. Your daughter says her friend seems "too good for her anymore" and is ignoring her.

You didn't see when your daughter spilled her friend's secrets to a group of friends, hoping to be the one with the latest juicy gossip. You didn't see her friend decide to distance herself from your daughter, hurt that a good friend would do that to her.

All you hear is your daughter moaning over how intolerable a girl is at school and that she just can't take her attitude anymore.

You don't see the "intolerable" girl at her home at night, struggling to learn to be herself and fit in at this new school that terrifies her. She's so used to being mistreated that she's built up a shell of defense.

Moms and girls alike, we never know the whole situation. Sometimes it is like the picture above. We feel like we are seeing a situation so clearly, but we are really just peering through one little hole. (My friend's son made this one day while I was talking to his mom. So creative).

It would help us all to learn to take down the mask of prejudgments, take down the inability to think our own may be at fault, and give others the benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves and our own children.

As we take a look at the whole picture, hear each person's side and consider where each person is coming from, odds are better that we will arrive at an understanding.


Phones and Social Media- Some Parents' Rules

Since my three recent posts, Dating Amongst Tweens, Dads Against Daughters Dating and At Some Point They Will Date, I've been thinking of the moms who do not have a husband at all to handle dating scenarios as they come up, and also those ladies who have a husband who is very hands off and unwilling in these matters.

I don't want to leave you out or leave you feeling discouraged that for whatever reason, your teens don't have a dad to enforce what you wish. Doing that alone is hard work. The answer to that dilemma is not easy. To be both roles yourself, or to find a father figure that your teen will listen to.

Through conversations I had with dads for those blog posts, some tips came up that might be valuable. I'd like to offer these out to everyone, but especially to moms in this situation. These tips can be used very well by dad or mom. In fact, in our house I enforce a lot of these myself, and just leave the big stuff to my husband. These are some steps that are helpful that will probably occur before dating even starts, so having some standards in place early on is helpful.

Here are some thoughts:

Our 16 year old daughter always has to ask us if a boy wants to be her "friend" on Facebook and we have to approve. She can not ask a boy to be Facebook friends first. She is not allowed to chat boys on Facebook either, unless she's related to them, or we know them very well. :)

We told our kids that they can't just give out their phone numbers willy nilly.

I've told my girls the benefit of giving out a google phone number instead of their cell phone number. With a google number, you can block people that you wish you hadn't given your number to or ever have a problem with. But the calls will forward to your real cell phone number. 

In middle school, my daughter is not allowed to give her number to boys, therefore she can't text them either. She can ask me about certain guys and if I approve it, I get their number also, so I have a list of boys numbers that are approved and who they are.

We do random phone and contact checks to see who they are talking to. I know sometimes kids "hide" people in their phone by listing them under someone else's name. My kids have to be ready to answer for everyone in their phone.

I don't let my kids "friend" anyone more than a couple of years older than them of the opposite sex unless it's a good family friend we know well. There's nothing to gain by them "getting to know" a guy or girl that much older.

We don't allow friending adults without asking us first. Has to be approved first. Teachers or coaches don't get cell phone numbers either. (We personally had this understanding too-my daughter was told if an adult asked for a cell number, to just give them mine.)

I reserve the right to have my kids "defriend" or "unfollow" people if I don't like what I see. If they want to stay on social media, that's part of it.

Much of  teens communication comes through these channels before dating ever starts, so having boundaries here in cell phones and social media is a good precursor to handling dating issues later.



5 Things- Holiday Style

Tis the time of year for celebrating!

For those that don't know, I just self published a holiday book! 
5 Things- Holiday Style...Making the Season Meaningful. Affordable. Unforgettable".

It's been in my head for a few years. Actual fruition of the idea was inspired by seeing a book my friend made.

My friend Lisa, who is amazing first of all, had a book published this fall.

Actually her friends turned her blog into a book for a fundraising effort. Lisa's sweet mom is going through cancer treatments right now, Lisa has overcome health issues herself, and she spends SO much time helping various causes in our city, many involving cancer, animals and children. She has spent time with cancer patients, helping them through treatment. She basically brings her happy self to many people who need her. She has overcome much and shares her story very openly, bringing hope and life to many. (She even wears a chicken costume for some occasions, but you'll have to get her book to find out why!)

Her book is called "Joy in the Journey: Finding Laughter and Miracles in Very Dark Places" by Lisa Jernigan Bain. You can find it on Amazon.

So I pounded it out for a couple of weeks and put all the ideas in my head onto paper. With the help of my hubby, this first 5 Things book was created! (Many more to come!) In it, I share many ideas, traditions, menus and recipes that our family has used over the course of many years through the holidays. Many of my mom's best recipes that I use are in it. I love to celebrate, as you will find out in this book!

5 Things- Holiday Style is like a guide through the holidays, and it reads more like a book than a cookbook. Humorous stories guide you throughout. I promise you will laugh out loud at least once, and giggle a few times. Many reports of crying too. The response has been awesome, truly. So many emailed, texted or told me that they read the entire thing in one setting. I'm so grateful for the response!

All the books I sold here locally were part of a fundraising effort too. 10% went to my daughter's youth group fundraiser- a clean water well in Uganda. The rest is set aside to benefit Girls 101 Workshops, the cause I am determined to bring to our city in a bigger way. More to come on that in the future.

If you are interested, you can find me on Amazon. Just do a search for "5 Things- Holiday Style" and up I pop!

Merry Christmas!


Dating Series- At Some Point They Will Date.

So what do we do when "dating" and boyfriends rears its ugly head as early as 11 or 12 years old?
Click here to find out!  Dating Amongst Tweens

As I asked several dads for their opinions on daughters dating, the collective opinion seemed to be a big fat no! Read here:  Dads Against Daughters Dating.

Today I want to share some more similar thoughts from dads, and also how they handle the transition into inevitable dating, when their daughters ARE old enough. Because eventually she's gonna go out with someone right?

There are different approaches towards this. Hopefully in these different approaches and philosophies you can find one that works for you.

Scenario 1- When a 16 year old daughter asked to hang out with a guy friend alone, the guy had to come see the dad first at home, even if the date was just an hour at Sonic.  They would chat about life, or he would throw out random questions to see how the guy handled it. That lasted for quite awhile before he stopped putting him through the process. That dad has the philosophy that boys and girls that are "friends" are never just friends, and someone always ends up liking each other. For that reason, he does not have a different category for how he treats "friends" or "boyfriends". If you want to hang out with his daughter, even as a friend, you go through the same treatment a boyfriend would.

Scenario 2- A daughter is in 9th grade. A group of friends want to go out together. Though no one claims to like each other, the group is 2 boys and 2 girls. Only because the dad knew all kids involved, and knew their families, did he allow it. If he hadn't known the kids and the families, he wouldn't have allowed it at 15.  But the boys were still required to call him first, get his permission and talk to him about the outing. It had a very safe feel to it.

Scenario 3- Dad does not allow any outings at all until the boy meets with him and goes through a series of questions with the dad. Dad sets out a very clear plan of what he wants for his daughter and what he expects from the boy in his behavior.

Scenario 4- After relenting to let his daughter date at age 18 to a pretty good guy, dad still set limits on how much time could be spent together each week. It could not be together all the time every day.

Lastly, I'd like one more dad, who has two teen daughters, to share his philosophy.

"Here are my thoughts on allowing my daughters to "date" in their early to mid teen (13-17) years.

I do not see any scriptural support for allowing daughters or sons to date in the traditional American sense.  The pattern we find in scripture is one where dating (courtship or even engagement might be a better description) was for the purpose of leading to marriage. So unless I, as a father, am ready to let my daughter marry between the ages of 13-17 then dating is not an option.

I am all for my daughters getting to know someone better who they have an interest in, through correspondence and conversation in controlled environments, but even then not until the mid teen years. During this time they should observe the young mans spiritual walk, how he treats her, how he treats his mother and siblings and his respect and obedience toward his father.

Then assuming they find themselves compatible with one another and could see that the relationship could lead further towards the engagement and marriage path, I would be comfortable before the Lord that a "dating" relationship could begin."

This dad's daughter, when she was 18, had a boy interested in her. He approached this dad and asked if he had permission to get to know his daughter better. The boy and girl wrote letters back and forth and texted for a few months (happened to be long distance, family friends who had moved away). Then he approached dad again and asked if he could commit to a more dating relationship with her, meaning that he could foresee the possibility of wanting to marry her one day. Permission granted. So phonecalls and skyping joined the letters and texts. Two years later they are still dating and visiting each other.

Basically, there are many routes to take. These dads just want to make sure their daughters are well treated and respected and protected. There are still dads out there who set boundaries and require things of boys. It isn't always easy to do, because girls may resist it and find it unnecessary, but a decent guy is usually up for the challenge. So dads if you're feeling old school or wimpy, step up! You're not alone. Though it's not as common, there is still a need for dads to play their protective role over their daughters.

As my husband puts it, as the girls get older, he can't stop things from happening, but he can definitely be a good speed bump.


D.A.D.D.s - Dads Against Daughters Dating

Our last post "Dating Amongst Tweens" tackled the subject of how, when and if dating should begin among our kids. Often there is some version of "dating" beginning in late elementary or early middle school (known as the tween years), so it's never too early to start figuring out your philosphy!

Your opinion will be needed sooner than you'd think.

Girls want to feel loved. Every girl wants to know that she is desirable. That may be a main motive for girls wanting to date.

A girl may find herself suddenly in a situation she didn't plan on. Say a middle school girl is innocently strolling around the school hallways, unawares. Before she heads into 5th hour, a boy delivers the message that his friend, who happens to be the guy that all the girls admire, likes her and wants to know if she likes him back. Flustered, and now flattered, this girl has felt the thrill and excitement of being wanted, picked out of a crowd, desired.

That can be an emotion that is heady and takes over reason. My husband has said this to our girls in the past...."There will come a day a guy will like you. It will feel amazing. But here's the clue, you don't have to do anything about it."

I think this is smart because if the above scenario happens, the girl feels giddy and ecstatic, then has to make a decision. What do I answer? Then comes the question, will I be his girlfriend? If she's thought about it prior and isn't caught off guard, she may realize "Wow, it really does feel great...and I think I'll just enjoy it feeling great. I don't think I'm ready to do anything about it." (Or she may yell YES, but we can hope).

The reality though? If all the girls are in love with him, the relationship probably won't last long and he'll  just add you to a list of girls conquered.

On the flip side, some girls now are putting undue pressure on boys at an early age. When they are "dating", suddenly the girl is shooting the evil eye at other girls who simply look in his direction. He's not allowed to have friends that are girls. One girl said "Girls often mistake having a conversation with flirting." Do we really own other people like that? Where they aren't allowed to talk to other people?

I asked several dads for their opinions on tween dating (ages 11-12 ish).
I asked about dating during tween and early teen years.  What I got was largely anti-dating answers, regardless of what stage of teen years we are referring to. (I'm happy to post a dad's opinion who is pro dating, I just haven't been able to find one!) None of these people who gave opinions are against dating entirely, they are just wary of dating before marrying is actually an option. And apparently, they know boys better than we moms do, having been one before.

Here are their thoughts:

"As a teacher and a dad of three girls, I'm totally against dating in the forms that I have seen. I don't want my daughters wrapped up into one person either emotionally or physically. They can go on dates to dances and such. Dating seems to awaken things in kids both male and female long before it is time. Definitely okay with dating in college and maybe late high school, depending on my daughter and the guy. What I tell my high school students is all kids are stupid when it comes to dating in high school so don't date." (I wish you could know this dad to "hear" him saying that last line. He is so fun and loved by teens, and connects with them instantly. Besides being a public school teacher, he has spent years in youth ministry, so he sees alot.)

"Girls basically want to feel loved and guys want to feel respected/have their ego filled. Guys probably love the hunt to make a girl like him more than the actual girl herself. It's more competition and a hunt, enjoying the power to make someone like you, more than the actual person. The girl is thinking it's all romantic and personal, and is doodling her first name with his last, and he's just happy to have someone cool to hang out with at the football game Friday night."

"I am not particularly open to my 13 year old daughters dating. It is no commentary on their maturity. However, I don't see the point or value of such relationships when they must be prohibited from running their course. Since this is the case, I can see no good excuse for them to subject themselves to the anguish of love lost, etc. Nor the pressure to behave in ways they ought not."

"Dating too early is almost guaranteed disappointment. You'll most likely end up taking hits on self esteem, and become an unintended victim."

One dad says he remembers being in 6th grade. His entire goal was to touch a boobie. It didn't matter whose boobie, anyone's would do. His girlfriend I guess would be the first one who allowed him to touch her boobie? That's deep. Haha. But honest.

"If a guy gets dumped, he probably doesn't care nearly as much as the girl would if she got dumped. His ego is probably hurt more than his heart."

"Girls look for relationship, boys look for opportunity. That's why guys can move on so easily. If a girl doesn't want to do something, he'll move on to the next one who will give him an opportunity."

(This last one is deep if you think about it. Girls should perhaps not feel quite so flattered in those times that boys are just seeking anyone willing. What happens is sometimes girls give in to things because they think they have to to keep the boy. That may be true- if it is, is that the kind of relationship you want? He's not after you, just what you can give him? The only fix for that is girls having high enough value and identity to not give into this. Hopefully parents of guys are teaching them that girls aren't just to meet their needs, but valued as people. And vice versa. Dating is best after kids have grown up enough to understand the value of other people.)

"Relationships in teen years usually cost more than they are worth. The risk outweights the benefit. There may be some value, but usually there's little value."

"From experience, boys are generally too immature to come close to meeting a girls' expectations. It's difficult at 42, I'm just figuring it out. Guaranteed a 14 year old guy doesn't know what he's doing. Girls tend to be surprised when disappointment happens, or when a guy is disappointing, but it shouldn't be surprising."

"If you can make it through high school without a boyfriend or girlfriend, I truly believe you'll be a healthier, more whole person".

This conversation happened referring to older teens and college aged dating, but they said, "Ya gotta date through the chemical phase. Aren't there love chemicals that get released that make us all lovey dovey and crazy? Definitely gotta date long enough for the love drug to wear off. Then see."

Here's what's helpful about the dad opinion. They are typically not emotionally involved in decisions, as we moms can be. They are protectors and logical. So often they can see things more clearly than we can, because they don't wrap themselves up in the process, but just call it like they see it. We do have to work together at times and he may need to hear some of our side to understand other things, but for the most part, when it comes to this subject of dating, even if you don't always agree, I say it's pretty good to have a husband with an opinion. He's usually right.

Putting all this thought and care into our dating opinion doesn't mean our kids will always listen to us, or that they'll do everything right. But both parent's perspectives are needed, and care and concern should go into how we approach this subject early on.


Dating Amongst Tweens?

Earlier this fall, a very popular post was "Choosing a Good Husband", written after some college aged girls asked for relationship advice in choosing a man to marry. The girls who asked are at the stage of life where they are thinking about marriage, and want a marriage that will last.

So now, what about all the younger teens? Girls and guys who want to date, but aren't exactly ready for marriage? Then there's the topic of the younger tween years, where some form of dating is already occurring among many in early middle school.

What's a parent to do?

We as parents get confronted with this decision earlier than most of us would care to deal with it.  I remember being asked when my daughter was in 6th grade if she and a friend could go to the movies with 2 boys .Our reaction was, "How could we even be having this discussion in 6th grade?" Some allow this, some don't. For us it was a no, which I'll explain below.

Dating in middle school and dating in later years seem to usually mean two different things. In middle school it could mean a boy and girl like each other from afar, pass notes through friends, just text, ignore each other awkwardly in the hallway, or they may actually be going out to the movies together.

Even the college girls I spoke to this summer ended up confused with all the terms...talking, dating, official, Facebook they tried to explain to me the current dating "process". The confusing part to me is the new "talking" phase, before dating. When it turns from talking to dating I'm still not sure. I really want to understand this though. (Would love clarifying comments if you feel like leaving them on this post!)

This I know, there can't be only one "right way to date", so I'm just going to offer some principles to consider, along with our personal thoughts since we've been asked. Upcoming blogs will offer the thoughts of many I've also been asking.  It's all food for thought, as you decide what's best for your family.

Today let's focus on the tween middle school years.

Boyfriends and dating feel so important to some middle schoolers. Some feel defined by whether or not they have a boyfriend. The first step is finding out what "dating" and "boyfriend" even mean at your kids school. Like I already said, it may mean actually going to the skating rink or movies with a boy, then again it may mean you stop talking and feel awkward around each other in the hallways (this is my preferred definition in 6th grade!)

One value my husband and I share is that of waiting for things. As you look at the big picture, where do certain issues fit in age appropriately. What are the pros and cons of dating, what are the pros and cons of waiting?

Let's draw a line that represents 6th grade to the end of college. I'm starting in 6th grade because that's where I've seen forms of dating start. In 6th grade tweens are about 11 or 12 years old.


Instead of just saying a big fat NO to your tween, discuss the subject with them (even if it's still followed by a no.) Consider this- Sometimes girls actually feel like this particular 6th grade boy will last forever, so for the sake of the argument, let's assume it will last. So if you start "dating" in some form in 6th grade, even if you got married VERY early, let's say after high school, that's 7 years of dating. If you got married after college that's 11 years or so of dating. The average age to get married is age 25, so make that 14 years of dating possibly. The line above is just a visual of all the years you have to get through, for both you and your tween, if boyfriends start in 6th grade.

You will either date for a very long time, or you will break up. When you start to date, those are your options- marrying or breaking up. Dating one person exclusively long term is a very mature decision, and one that will cause your tween to perhaps miss out on many fun friend activities because of being so busy with a boyfriend. Also, the harder truth for a tween to hear is this- Unless you are at a marrying age, the truth about your dating relationship is that it's probably not going to last.  And breakups involve emotions, heartbreak, etc. etc.

Whenever boyfriends or dating do start, look at it in perspective of that line above. Know that they will be living at home until at least 12th grade, and things only escalate. It's easier to delay freedoms and give them when time, than to allow freedoms then have to go backwards, especially when there are many years left to get through.

Consider it this way, what is more helpful to your daughter, to practice giving her heart away, to a probable immature person who will most likely hurt it? Or to practice protecting and caring for her heart, knowing the value of relationships. I know that in middle school some kids have even joked that they were married and divorced. Constant early dating is a form of practicing the beginning and endings of relationships. After so much of that, the heart can get beat up.

Oh, why so serious? Is it really harmful to have a boy that you like at 12? I know there's no way you can "stop" your tween from liking a boy. You can't control their emotions. But as my husband puts it, you can like them, but it doesn't mean you need to do anything about it (spoken like a good dad). In other words, yes you're going to have feelings for people, but talking through and understanding this whole outlook with your kids will help them make better decisions, or at least understand the reasonings behind your decisions. Delaying follow through as long as you can just helps you out a bit.

Our girls hearts are valuable and by design they love to give their heart away to love. Knowing how and when to do that is worth talking about. As they grow up, protecting the value of their heart and who they give it to is an important part of life. For believers, giving their heart and love to Jesus will bring much more fulfillment to their lives than a boy will, especially in middle school. We as parents can help them learn to protect their emotions, and to know that watching over their heart is a meaningful thing. At some point, giving their heart away to another person will be the right thing to do! It helps for them to know that. It's all about timing.

Are boys evil? No. Definitely not. Are dates evil? No. Would my kids have survived unscathed if we had let them go to that 6th grade double date movie? Maybe. Probably. But our decision was based on the principle of this question- why even start the dating process then? For us, it's too young and the tweens have not even grown up enough to handle each other's hearts responsibly. The earlier you awaken and encourage the desire for a boyfriend, the longer and harder the road until marriage. On the other hand, if they grow up in themselves and in friendships, they will probably be happier and have a little less heartbreak.

Now I'm not speaking of boy friendships. I know that sometimes for girls, boys can make better friends than girls because of the middle school girl meanness. Boys are less dramatic. Then again, I have not found a man hardly who agrees with that...he says the boy always secretly likes the girl. The great debate, I don't think we can solve here. This blog is addressing boyfriends. In early tween teen years.

Some parents have a certain number that is the dating age. 15, 16, 18. That works well for many. We don't have a certain number, for us it depends on the daughter, the boy and the situation.

I'm also aware there are parents who are okay with real dating in middle school, as long as the daughter is open about it with the parents and follow certain guidelines. Feel free to leave a comment on this post about what your guidelines and reasonings are, in case someone reading this leans more toward that persuasion than mine.

Remember when I said some middle schoolers are defined by whether or not they have a boyfriend? Why is that. What is the motive? Middle school can be such an awkward uncertain time, and fitting in and social status is fairly important to most. Some may want a boyfriend just because they feel incomplete or out of the social scene if they don't have one. I would ask a girl, "Do you really enjoy him, or do you like who you are because of having a boyfriend?"  If it stands that no, she really likes him, good.

Even if a girl is very mature and has a really quality guy she likes, ask these questions: would you rather take the chance dating, or would you rather keep him for a really good friend? Friends are valuable and generally last longer. It's easy for a really good strong friendship to later become a dating relationship. It's much harder to recover a lost friendship after dating too soon and hurting the relationship.

If you really like him, keep him as a friend for awhile. Take things slowly. Be friends. Be whole yourself. Think about things, don't just take things "the way they are" without thinking for yourself.
I want to teach my girls that other people's hearts are valuable and fragile and not to be played with. I don't want boys using my girls to just get what they want. I don't want my girls doing that to boys.

So asking your tween the honest question of WHY they want a boyfriend is interesting. Listen to what they say. Have them answer the actual pros and cons of having a boyfriend in middle school. If your child understands the WHY of something, they are more likely to listen to you, or at least understand your decisions.

More fights happen between girls about boys than anything else. So much drama is wrapped up in dating life, I think because kids are still very immature in early teen years. Gee whiz, adults can barely handle relationships, why do we think 12 year olds can?

Coming soon...thoughts on high school...and some dads opinions.


Anastasia's Mom- Her Perspective

Yesterday Anastasia told a story of growing up in many ways during her college experience, which she is now in her final year of. If you missed it, make sure and click on those pink words there and read her touching story.

The tragedy of her roommate passing away was something she never dreamed would happen.

If you missed that story, please go back and take a moment to soak in the words of Anastasia.

Today, Anastasia's mom Lucy shares her side of the story, receiving that phonecall, the shock and her response. Here's Lucy:

"From the time our children are born, our goal is to raise them to become independent, self-reliant adults. Ironically, when the day comes, we tend to pull back the reins.

I had so many different emotions as we moved Ana into her dorm. I felt excitement, anticipation, fear, pride. I was so proud of Ana for becoming the young woman that I had raised. She was ready for this moment, this life experience. I just knew she would do well. She would make lifelong friends and memories.

I wanted her to experience campus life. Even though we were only 45 minutes away, I wanted her to stay on campus during the weekends so that she could become a part of that community. It was hard, but I felt that it was best. I tried to give her space, but what I really wanted was to be a college chic all over again! I knew that wouldn’t go over well.

We spoke often and sent texts keeping each other informed of life’s daily happenings. Occasionally, she would come home and spend the night. I loved those times.

I will never forget the day Ana called me and I could barely understand her words through her sobbing.”What?”

She said it again, “Ariane died….”

Did I hear that right? “What?! When? What happened?”

My thoughts were reeling…this can’t be…we just saw her a couple of days ago when we dropped Ana off after a nice meal. We walked her to her room and Ariane was sitting on her bed studying. She stopped long enough to acknowledge us with her beautiful smile. She was her usual friendly self. She seemed fine.

I asked her again. I asked all the same questions over again thinking the answers would be different. It didn’t make sense.

“What can I do? Do you need me to come? How can I help?” I felt so helpless. I thought she needed me. I could have been there for her, but she was surrounded with people who loved her and who loved Arianne. They would support her.

I was glad that she came home that night to spend the night with us. I just hugged her and didn’t want to let go.

As hard as this year has been for Ana, I think it’s made her a stronger, wiser person. She sees life in a “real” way and knows life is short. I can’t protect her from that as hard as it is to see her hurting. She has become that loving, mature, God-strong woman independent , self-reliant, Christian young woman that I always hoped and prayed she’d become."

Anastasia shared the personal struggle she went through in dealing with the loss of her very close friend unexpectedly. Thank goodness she was surrounded by loving friends and family. I never met Ariane but know that she was an amazing and inspiring person, well loved by those around her. I pray for her family in what must still be so hard.

I thank Lucy and Anastasia both for sharing their story. Ana described how through hard times, good can still come. How people live without faith in God is beyond me. I know that there's nothing else that can hold us together during times as hard as the ones that Anastasia described. But He is there even then. And I know He is with Ariane's family.

We have the hope that even our eternal life is secure. Ariane just changed where she lives.


Death & Rebirth in College- Anastasia's Story

I have just completed what feels like the busiest month of my life. Family, school, two speaking engagements, a week long fabulous getaway and writing a holiday book! In all that fun, I realize that I miss my natural flow of blogging. I'm back...

Months ago, if you remember, my friend Lucy shared her parenting journey with us, involving one daughter with a disability and how God has led them through difficult paths into beautiful places. (Lucy and I shared a fun missions trip together for a summer back in the 80's. Good times...lots of laughter.)

Today, another daughter of hers, Anastasia, is sharing her experience of college life.

I remember when Lucy was posting her sadness on Facebook as she learned to deal with her oldest going to school. I noticed because she was one year ahead of me, so guess whose turn was next? She mentally prepared me for what would be coming for me a year later.

I also remember not too long ago seeing Lucy post about a horrible tragedy, as Anastasia's roommate and dear friend died unexpectedly during school. So sad and hard to deal with. Anastasia has graciously agreed to tell her story of college life. I think my favorite thing is hearing from young people, how they view the world and their experiences. So grab a cup of coffee and listen as Anastasia bravely tells a touching story.

"I am now a Senior at a University in North Carolina. I am graduating a year early but I’ve learned so much even in the two and a half years that I’ve been here. I was so anxious to get out of the house and become my own individual the summer before I left home. I was sure that I had everything under control and wouldn’t need my parents/my family for anything once I was 'on my own’. That was not the case at all. I cried like a baby the first two weeks at GWU. I missed my family so much. I wanted to call my mom and fill her in on every little thing that happened. GWU is only about a 45 min. drive from home but over time I would learn that home is however close or however far you make it. It took me about a month to really get settled in and adjusted to GWU.

In high school, there are specific cliques that one must fit into. It’s just too bad if you can’t seem to find your niche. Thus, creating the feeling to need to be fake. Unfortunately enough, in high school I did myself an injustice and pretended to be someone I was not, simply to ‘fit in’. College was a totally different world and I planned on reinventing myself. I was successful in a matter of speaking. I realized that being myself was OK. I made friends who enjoyed me for me! This revolution transformed me. My self-esteem skyrocketed. I was willing to try new things. My relationship with God became so much stronger, and for the first time I was happy and I enjoying my life.

My world came to an abrupt halt the second semester of my second year at GWU. Ariane Patterson, my roommate, my friend, my sister in Christ, and my inspiration passed away.

Her death was completely unexpected. I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into an unforgiving black hole. I couldn’t find any reason to get out of bed. My life had lost purpose. This beautiful girl had so many plans for her life. Just a few days before her passing, we had stayed up talking about our futures. She said she knew that God had a wonderful man waiting for her among other things. How could a girl so sure of what God had planned for her, pass away so suddenly? And why, if we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, is there any reason in trying, in living? These are just a few of the questions I asked myself every minute of every hour of every day.

There is a beautiful ending to this story, I promise. My friends, my teachers, my family and people I didn’t even know wrapped their love around me. They pulled me from my sorrow and lifted me up. Every day got a little easier. Of course, there were days that all I could manage to do was cry myself dry but even on those days, I wasn’t left alone. My friends were there with boxes of Kleenex and bear hugs.

Everyday, we are tested. We run into obstacles, big and small, but obstacles nonetheless. It is what we choose to do with them, that makes us who we are. Sometimes it is okay to lean on others. While I wish that Ariane was still here today, her death taught me so much about life. However, all the changes that have taken place in my life, over the past few years, are from my college experience as a whole. College, for me, has been somewhat of a death and rebirth. The immature, naive, and selfish little girl passed away making room for who I am today; a loving, mature, and God strong woman."


Old School Skills- Passing Notes in Class with Style

Today I want to share a special skill with you. A very meaningful one. (HA)

Remember folding notes like this and passing them in school way back in the day??

I was reminded of this recently by a friend, and was so excited to relearn the skill.

I even made a step by step how to guide to re-teach you too!

Sad that kids today will have not have many tangible memories such as these...just lost texts on a phone they don't have anymore. Sad face.

Think we can bring this back?? Click right here on this sentence for your how to guide!


College Girls Share What Draws Them...

I love this video!!

Almost all of these girls I've met personally and know how wonderful they are. One is my lovely daughter.

I love that Jaime Bofferding took the time to make this video. (Props to you!)  I asked permission to blog this and they happily agreed.

Take a moment to be inspired by hearing what draws these girls into a personal relationship with Jesus.

In a day where many parents are nervous about raising girls, I love to share examples of wonderful, quality, fabulous girls, (not perfect) but still fabulous girls.

They are our very exciting future. I think we'll be okay.


Halloween- A Reason to Take Your Clothes Off?

Wow. Hilar conversation with my youngest just now. I wanted to show her a video on YouTube that Jefferson Bethke was asked to make addressing how girls dress on Halloween (or don't dress, that is). I'd thought about writing a blog and including the video in it.

I was telling her how he got bashed in the Facebook comments by so many Christians who don't believe in celebrating Halloween. I mean bashed. Bashed for even associating himself with the holiday. Though we don't celebrate it either, it made me a little scared to blog on the subject at all!

I asked her if she remembered why we've not celebrated Halloween, all the spooky stuff and trick or treating. (It's been a looong time since I think we've even talked about it...I've learned to never assume).

So we talked about it again, highlighting a few reasons.

Mainly because it seems everything about it celebrates fear and death-like things. I can't seem to find a redeeming factor in it. I know that most don't agree with us on this. I'm okay with that.

In the midst of writing this, I had to go to Walgreens and buy notecards for homework purposes. So I made it into a little field trip! I went down the Halloween aisle to see what I could see. Once I pushed back the 30 foot inflatable cat, I squeezed down the aisle to find this.


Now when my girls were little, we did dress them up sometimes and take them to an alternative "Harvest" party at church for fun, games and candy. In the back of my mind I still always wondered why we even had to have an alternative if it's a holiday I don't care for. Nevertheless, as a lover of fall and all things autumn, we still did it, and have lots of cute pics to this day.
(However, today my daughter acted surprised at this knowledge, like she didn't remember the church dress up events. I'm looking at her like she's absolutely crazy and she says, "Mom! I was in a costume every day of my life! I'm not sure I knew the difference!" True.)

We didn't buy them costumes. Instead, they had to use their imagination and come up with their own, using what we already owned. Only one time do I remember buying a swath of orange fabric so my oldest could be a gypsy.

Memories are becoming foggy, but one year my middle was either a "Lost Bride" or a "Runaway Bride" because the only play wedding veil we had was torn. We do remember that in character, she had been lost, running through the woods and tore her veil on a tree. Now that's awesome use of ready made materials.

runaway bride

Today my daughter stated, "My friends all seems to think my life was empty without Halloween and Santa Claus, but really I'm quite content". (Her verbage is my daily delight). BTW, the no Santa Claus thing- we are not anti Santa Claus by any means, we just never acted like Santa was real. We sat on his lap, had his pictures on wrapping paper, but didn't act like he was real. There was no huge philosophy behind it. I guess we just didn't want to lie. (No one appears scarred.)

Another reason it's not been a big deal to not celebrate Halloween... it's my birthday! Therefore we've always called it Hollyween at our house and celebrated my birthday instead.

Back to why I started this post, I wanted to post this video by Jefferson Bethke, but I didn't want to get bashed like he did. When I said that out loud to my daughter today, she said that my job as a blogger is to stir things up (said in some better wording I've forgotten).

I said "I don't want to get bashed on my birthday!" She looked at me with that challenging look in her eye, almost implying my wimpiness, honor of her, I am posting this. In honor of me and my birthday, will you please not bash me? I never mind if you share differing opinions, as long as it's done respectfully. Thanks. Totes appreciate it. Not that any of you would.

Actually I'm SO grateful I've never been bashed with mean comments on this blog, EVER, so thank you that I've never had to deal with that. I read other blogs where people take a stand or just simply say their opinion, and the comments that shoot back make me want to shut down my entire internet!! Whew.

So let's just say, whether you celebrate Halloween or not is not the issue. I said that I don't, just because I have a blog and am writing about this, but I'm not trying to coerce you into my view.

My only point, that it's taken THIS LONG to get to, LOL, is this: Moms of girls AND boys, are you aware of how some girls dress at Halloween parties these days???

I've seen many pictures on Facebook of girls literally in lingerie, walking around a party like it was nothing. I've heard moms arguing with daughters over "you are NOT wearing that out of this house".

It's become so common that girls use Halloween as an excuse to not wear much. And it's also sad to me how many costumes are sexualized, and for very young girls. Sad face.

When I saw Jefferson's video, he addresses this topic. It was interesting to hear from a guy's perspective.

He talks of before he was a Christian and how he looked forward to Halloween because he knew the girls would be dressed in next to he saw it as a huge opportunity for him to basically freely lust after girls. (He now feels completely different and calls that attitude he had "wicked"). He talks to girls about dressing to please the Lord and not man.

I haven't been able to appropriately ponder all that he says in this video yet, but it has some good thoughts. Just wanted you to be able to see it too. Click on the link below to watch it.

Feel free to share differing opinions and thoughts as usual, just please in a respectful way.
...and Happy Hollyween!!


Pt.2 - Eating Disorders- Prevention

Did you miss the last post? I introduced you to a blog friend, Laura, from www.pruningprincesses.combecause she is sharing a series of blogs on eating disorders. I'm jumping on board and sharing them with you, because she has done a great job covering this important topic.

First, having daughters too, Laura shares her own private thoughts as a mom of girls. As moms, I'm sure we all wonder or fear sometimes of the "what if" questions. What if I don't see it? Is she really just a picky eater? Read Laura's heartfelt intro for this series of blog posts here.

Then she took us to a story of a mom named Sadie who has struggled for years with an eating disorder. She describes a bit of what it's like inside the mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder, and thoughts she still has as a continual overcomer.

Today is Emily's Story. Her eating disorder story began at age 9.

Emily Wierenga is author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder a book that tells the story of redemption, the story of how a little girl decided to get better when she realized God had saved her on that hospital bed. She should have died, and she didn’t, and she was a miracle, the nurses said. 

Emily says, "I’ve written this book, with the help of professionals from Remuda Ranch, Mercy Ministries, Brookhaven Hospital, and other organizations, to help provide insight into the mind and heart of an eating disordered person."

Thank goodness for those who have decided to tell their stories and have written books like this as a resource for others. Eating disorders among girls and women are too common. Educating ourselves as much as we can, to know how to recognize signs and to know how to help others is a good thing.

 There is some research that says tendency toward eating disorders can be genetic.  There are girls who come from seemingly perfect scenarios who still struggle with eating disorders, so don't "beat yourself up" as a mom if your daughter struggles. Jump in and get informed, to help find answers. Check out these wonderful resources that Laura has shared.

Don't miss this list of prevention tips. It's never too early to start talking about body issues with girls. And as Laura states in these blogs, we have to look at our own views and habits as a mom too.


Sadie's Story- Eating Disorders

Hey ladies, moms and dads, grandmas, teachers, caring friends. There's a problem out there that's so hard to see sometimes, but yet so real.

Eating Disorders.

The stats are huge for how many people suffer from eating disorders. I've known too many personally who struggle. I remember being at lunch with 3 other ladies as we reminisced back on high school days. I learned that all three of the other ladies had an eating disorder in high school. Wow.

Sometimes I think about blogging on a subject, then I find someone who has already done it so well, I'd rather just share their blog with you. Today my friend Laura, of Pruning Princesses has begun a series on this subject.

Please take a moment to discover Sadie's Lifelong Struggle. Sadie is a mom of 5 daughters, with a personal history of eating disorders. She shares how she thinks, what the struggles feel like and how she overcomes.

Most importantly, she talks prevention.

More is coming up, but check out today's first story from Sadie.

Thanks friends. It's good to educate ourselves. Most likely we all know someone dealing with this issue in some way.


Is She Too Fat for TV?

If you have watched the news or been on Facebook today, you've probably already seen this video.

Just in case you haven't, please take a moment and watch.

October is Anti-Bullying Month, and this is a great story with which to kick it off.

A Wisconsin news anchor, Jennifer Livingston, who was the intended target of some rude email communication, has instead won the country over today and become the hero. This woman takes on her attacker in an incredibly intelligent, healthy, confident way and I love it.

A quote from the email she received from a pseudo-viewer:

"Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain."

You can read the entire article here.

Or if you'd like to watch the  VIDEO OF THIS BRAVE WOMAN, which I would recommend, you can see the spirit in which she delivered her response.

The main point she came against was the fact that he is saying she cannot be a good role model for girls and/or people because she is overweight, which is just silly.

Yes, obesity is a problem in our country. Yes, I am overweight too. But after years of being around teen girls, just as dangerous as obesity is the opposite end of that spectrum. Girls are obsessed with having to look perfect because of all the images that surround them daily.

Eating disorders and what I'd like to call thinking disorders are just as big of a problem, just not as visible as weight. Believe me, girls struggle with body image.

Would a perfectly sized woman who is anorexic or bulimic be an okay news anchor in this guy's eyes?

I wonder.

Cheers and applause to Jennifer.

Choosing a Good Husband Pt. 2 - Check Yourself

jadyn noelle photography
 Are you one that wants to get married ONE time and make it work?
To actually stay married for life?

If so, good for you. It's possible. A good goal. Not gonna lie, it's hard, but it IS possible. The best headstart you can give yourself is choosing a good man to marry. They are out there! Yesterday we held out 10 qualities to see if your man is a keeper...a man that will make a good husband in the long run.

Today, let's talk about YOU. Your outlook on life and marriage. These are outlooks that will help or hinder you from being the wife that he can marry one time, for life.

1.  Marriage works best when two whole people, confident and complete within themselves, marry each other. If each person feels like a "half", searching for someone to complete them, they will most likely end up disappointed in marriage. No other person can complete you. Work on becoming "whole" yourself, in your own identity and in your relationship with Jesus, the ultimate Fulfiller. Choose a man who is complete on his own also, confident in himself and his relationship with God. Two wholes make a marriage. Two halfs make a hole that will never be filled. Are you looking for someone to make you feel better and complete? Or are you your own person with confidence and goals, who happens to find someone you'd like to live your life out with? Have your own dreams for your life. Be a whole person with or without him. Be confident.

2. Don't marry a dream. What you have is what you get. Aren't girls infamous for thinking "I'll change him?" You won't. Or "things will be different when we're married?" It won't. So, don't marry what you want him to become, or the idea of what you want marriage to be. Look very clearly at what you have NOW because that is what you have.  If you don't have it dating, you won't have it married. Is that too blunt?

3. Keep your standards high before marriage. Don't marry what you're not willing to live with. This is tricky, because some girls' standards are so high they will never marry. Then again, some girls explain away flaws that they'd rather not see, in order to not be alone. That understood, it is still important to keep your standards high if you want a really good man. This leads us to point #4.

4. You want to have high standards before marriage, but depending on how you think, with some girls it's a fine line between high standards and expecting perfection. Even in high standards, you can't expect perfection.  You won't get every single thing you want in one man. It's impossible. Be picky, but not unrealistic. No one is perfect and guys will make mistakes. As will you. Which leads me to point #5.

5. You need to have someone older and more mature in your life to help you decide if some mistakes are immaturity and forgivable, or if they are deal breakers. Sometimes you can only see that if you're older and have lived longer, so a mentor friend is very valuable. More on that below.

6. Don't unfairly judge your man based off of what has become dubbed as "chick porn". Chick porn consists of all the love stories, books and movies that portray boyfriends as perfectly charming, impossibly good looking and always "on" in the ultra romantic department. They slay dragons and run through the crowded streets of Manhattan to chase a taxi down in order to propose to the waiting female. Most guys aren't going to live up to that romantic Hollywood ideal. That's not entirely real.

You don't want to be judged by guy porn, do you? Girls that aren't entirely real? He shouldn't be judged on our girl version of porn, utter and total perfect romance at all times. It makes for a great movie, but then many are dissatisfied with the real guy next to them on the couch. Think about it.

That said, I would worry about a dating relationship where there was NO romance, pursuit or adventure. Most guys will muster up romance during the dating phase to win you over and that is a big part of dating! It's good to feel pursued and romanced, to know that he really wants you. 

7.  Let a good guy be a good guy, without having to be THAT guy. Banners and posters, flying leaps out of airplanes, and heartshapes mowed into cornfields are not going to last. They are endearing, make for great memories and pictures, but sometimes a guy who simply asks you face to face to the prom, or to marry him, is a good guy.  (For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, asking a girl to a dance, a prom or to marry him has of late become an art form. One that I wonder about- are guys intimidated by this? Have girls become too demanding in their expectations of romance and exploits for simple invitations? Guys, be thoughtful, respectful, charming and maybe even romantic in your invitations to girls, but save the big one for a marriage proposal.) Girls, if he's speaking to you face to face and is sincere and thoughtful, receive it, even if there's not fanfare.  If he happens to be strumming a guitar singing a song written just for you, good for you, enjoy it!

8. Tell yourself the truth. Girls, we are SO good at lying to ourselves, seeing what we want to see and explaining away red flags. Ask friends who care about you and are brave enough to tell you the truth. The ones you're afraid to ask. If a lot of people close to you are questioning you two as a couple, listen carefully to that. Ask yourself why you're afraid to talk to some friends about him. Listen to family. Be honest with yourself about any red flags you see.  Everyone I know who is now divorced say they ignored red flags before getting married. Divorce is an extremely painful process. Listen now, even though it's hard. It'll be harder later.

9. Take it slow. Enjoy the process. Enjoy friendship. Don't rush it. We live in an impatient culture that hurries everything along. Instead of acting like you're married, (going on trips together, spending Christmas morning with them, living together, having sex, having him read marriage books with you)  just date and see if you enjoy each other. Hang out, have fun, be friends, date. You can add all those other things when it becomes appropriate. Some things are better and less complicated when waited for.

 10. Make your decision a matter of much prayer. Follow peace in your heart. God will direct you. He wants good things for your life, so let Him in on this decision- the biggest decision of your life. He knows your heart, your life and what is best for you. 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself-

1. Do you really, really love him?

2. Does he bring peace or drama to your life?

3.Does he make you a better person? Are you freer to be yourself or do you feel controlled?

4. Have you lived through each season together?  Summer, fall, winter, spring? Have you been through some "life" together? Hit a bump or two? it's good to be together long enough to have a challenge or two to work out.

5. Are the things that bug you when dating deal breakers, or livable? If it bothers you now, it will only escalate in marriage. Ex. If the issue is that he's messy, you are able to deal with that.  You may not like it, but you can learn to deal with it. If the issue is he cheated on you when dating, that's a deal breaker. Talk it over with your older mentor friend who has lived longer than you. Almost 100% of affairs I've heard of in adult married couples had cheating involved during dating or engaged years. That's a serious issue that will probably be repeated, so you need to talk to someone about it.

"Don't marry someone you can live with- marry someone you can't live without".