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Okay. Now that I’ve got all the mooshy-gooshy conference-love emotions out of my system, I thought I’d try to share a few of the wonderful words from the speakers.
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If you’ve so much as glanced at this blog or know me in real life, you know that I LOVE Jen Hatmaker. She’s my version of a celebrity crush. So you can imagine how completely giddy I was when I looked up at Friday morning’s blogger breakfast and saw her standing there, just chillin’ by the refreshment table. (I may or may not have accosted her, forced a hug on her, and blathered admiration and thanks rather incoherently. I’m cool like that.) In any case, she agreed to take a picture with me.
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Her edgy and slightly irreverent sense of humor partners with her deep love for God in the most marvelous and inspiring way. I read her books, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Interrupted, and then I read her husband’s book, Barefoot Church. (Writer husband. Hot.) Anyway, the Hatmakers are all about messing up people’s lives by suggesting that those lives should look less like the American Dream and more like Jesus. Punks.
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Anyway, Jen opened the conference as the first main session speaker, and I can’t speak for others, but her message was exactly what this mama needed to hear.
Do Not Fear!
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Currently, Jen is the kind of mama that makes today’s helicopter parents cringe. Within five minutes, she was proudly showing a video of her kids boogie-boarding down her stairs on a pile of sleeping bags. Without a helmet, y’all. The horror!
She said, “When you put your car seat in my car to drive your 11-year-old somewhere, I’m stressed out!”
But she wasn’t always that way.
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Jen called to mind early struggles in parenting when “fear threatened to ruin the whole adventure” as she would pre-worry about possible dangers and make escape plans in her head for what she’d do in potential dangerous situations….such as tornadoes in Austin. (Read: not likely.)
Jen’s message? RELAX our parenting.
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For modern mamas, it’s not just planning what we’d do if the car were to suddenly plunge off the bridge into raging water or a rabid dog appeared from nowhere in the Kroger parking lot; our fear causes us to parent with the goal of avoiding any struggle or failure at all in the lives of our little darlings.
And Jen reminded us that cushioning every blow is actually doing a great diservice to our kids if we’re trying to raise disciples of Christ.
Safe and Happy Life?
Jen then read from the most beloved verse, Romans 8:28: ” And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
She also pointed out that folks tend to ignore the following verse. Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”
Because here’s the thing about becoming like Jesus…..it’s not safe and happy. It’s messy, uncomfortable, painful, and challenging. As Jen said, “it invites hardship and requires courage.” We are refined into disciples through fire, not through easy living and lack of conflict.
She’s not suggesting we throw our kids out into the world at age 5 and say, “Good luck, buddy,” but we do need to teach them how to deal with hardship rather than avoid it. It’s our job to help them learn from challenges rather protecting them from disappointment.
“When have I changed most?” she said. “Times of failure. Loss. Risky obedience.”
Raise Brave Kids!
As the mother of a 19-month-old, it was a challenging message to hear. I think for the first few months of Ellie’s life, I was perhaps a bit overprotective. Through adoption, I became a mother with almost no notice or preparation. For the first six months, I had adoption counselors and social workers checking in regularly, and I think part of me was terrified that if I forgot a cabinet lock, they’d deem me unfit and whisk her away. I’m the mom who put colored foam pads down across my entire living room floor. Tied bottles of hand sanitizer all over the house. Attached a breathing monitor to her diaper for months, even though she had absolutely no health problems.
But within the past year, I have relaxed substantially and found solace in embracing the knowledge that I will never be perfect. I’m now the mom that shrugs when I find her using her pacifier to collect dog hair from under the couch. I no longer follow close behind her as she explores the back yard. As much as possible, I let her try things on her own. I can’t protect her from everything, and her mistakes are the most effective teachers.
But Jen helped me see that stepping back from over-parenting is also a step toward raising productive disciples for Jesus.
“I never want to be the reason my kids choose safety and comfort over courage,” she said. “Brave moms raise brave kids.”
Jen also emphasized the necessity of leading by example with this tenet. Her kids see her leading a life of service, and they emulate what they see. I want to make sure that when Ellie looks at her father and me, she sees bravery. Service. Sacrifice. Devotion. Gratitude.
I want her to see Jesus, and with that goal as a guiding principle, I think it’s easier to make life decisions. What holiday traditions will we have? How do we spend our money? How do we treat others? What does our worship look like? I think of what she sees now, and I know there are still so many changes we need to make.
Jen reminded us again to relax…that God is sovereign over the lives of our children. He has a plan for them, so we should “parent with diligence, but without fear.”
I came home with all these thoughts and looked at Ellie—my sweet girl who climbs on top of our bar-height kitchen table 15 times a day. The girl who is half-way up the “big-kid” slide before I realize she’s gone. The girl who approaches new kids with animated laughter and a fiercely enthusiastic hug. (And yeah, okay, sometimes she may kiss-bite them, but whatever. Nobody’s perfect.)
She is already so brave. So ready for an adventure. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for her.