Bribing Them to Sin, Part 2


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Click here for Part 1 of the series.


In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Screwtape tries to help his demon-nephew destroy a human soul by advising that “an ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula”(pg. 44). When we bribe our children, we promote worldly cravings instead of lasting joy in that which “moth and rust cannot destroy.”

Discipline is a grace to us in our Christian walk. After all, “The Lord disciplines whom he loves.” When we have varying difficult circumstances, it can be eternally helpful to view them as part of God’s tender shaping of our souls into the likeness of Christ. “No discipline is pleasant at the time,” but we are promised that it will bear fruit in our lives. Running from God’s discipline to find placebos for our souls is a recipe for rotten fruit. When we forgo godly discipline for bribes, we rob our children of the opportunity to learn to love God’s involvement in our lives.

Something else gets taken from our children when discipline is absent in our homes: the joy and peace that come from forgiveness and reconciliation. If we are bribing our children, we are often not correcting them for wrong behavior. No discipline, no confession, no restoration. We are not teaching our children how to rightly relate to God.

Now all of that said, anyone who’s been to my house in the last few years can attest to the fact that I use M&Ms for potty-training purposes. How do I justify that in light of all I’ve recently said about bribing? The answer is that, in this case, the M&Ms are an incentive, not a bribe. How do we know the difference between an (appropriate) incentive and a (inappropriate) bribe? An incentive is a tool to help a child learn a new skill, to find the edges of a newly placed boundary (“Now we’re going to pee IN the potty!”). The parent is still the authority, making the rules and implementing new procedures. Bribes, on the other hand, reverse the parent/child dynamic and put the child in the position of authority (“If you stop throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store aisle, I will buy you Lucky Charms.”). The child is now the ultimate judge, getting to determine the price she will charge each day for her compliance. She doles out the punishments and the discipline in the home, using her bad behavior as a tool to get whatever her little heart desires. The parents have abdicated their role of authority because they no longer set the price or the consequences. They have become the servants and their children are now the masters, all for a little temporary peace.

On the other hand, incentives are training wheels used to help your child learn a new skill. As soon as he is capable of balancing on two wheels, the extra wheels come off. The training wheels are used to help your child learn to love riding a two-wheeler. A bribe is attaching a motor to a bike that your child is perfectly capable of pedaling on her own. The motor is used to help a reluctant biker to look like she loves riding a two-wheeler while not actually turning the pedals with her own effort.

Here are some more differences between incentives and bribes (if you read the whole chart, I’ll give you a cookie! ;) ):

Incentive  –> Discipline


Is short-term, used to promote new action or activity; removed and replaced with discipline as soon as parent is certain of child’s capabilities

“Look at this fun, little potty! Drink an endless amount of juice! Have an M&M for peeing in the potty!”

Is long-term, used to promote action that the parent knows child can do on his own

If you don’t hit your brother for 15 minutes, I’ll give you a sticker on your chart!”

Helps determine readiness for a new skill so parent can have confidence to discipline for the behavior. Helps to break a bad pattern and show your child that she can do something.

“You are only two-years-old, but you can learn to sit still during dinner. After you stay in your seat for the whole meal, you will get a lollipop just this once. You will love eating with the family!” If the child can’t sit still, even with the promise of a reward, strap him back into a high chair and try again in a few months.

Given for a behavior that is already learned so the parent can avoid the process of godly discipline.

“I know it’s so hard for kindergartners with your disposition to sit still during dinner. If you stay in your seat and don’t run around the house while we’re eating, you can have extra TV time.”

Hard in the short term

“Because you didn’t take out the trash, you’re going to have an extra chore to help you learn to obey, with a good attitude, the first time you’re asked. Let’s pray together that God will give you joy in helping the family.”

Easy in the short term

“Here’s $5 if you take out the trash I asked you to take out yesterday.”

Believes the standards are valuable. They don’t need glitter.

“Share your toys with your friends today. If you feel like that will be hard, let’s pray that God will give you a generous heart!”

Indicates that God’s law is not valuable enough on its own; needs glitter to be attractive.

“If you share your toys with your friends today, you can have some candy when they leave.”

Leads children to the Cross and to their need for a Savior

Child: “I am sad that I didn’t share my toys. God, please give me more love for my friends!”

Leads children to look to their own selfishness to motivate them

Child: “Why should I share my toys tomorrow? What’s in it for me?”

Has High expectations – believes child can and will obey

“Please bring me that book, honey.”

Has Low expectations – believes child will not obey unless coerced

“If you bring me that book, you will make Mommy feel so happy.”

Ultimate Goal: Joyful Meeting of the Standard

 “This homework is the task God has given you to do today. Let’s ask God to give you a grateful heart for the mind he’s given you and the opportunities you have. You are expected to do your homework with a good attitude. If you get all your work done soon, maybe we’ll have time to get ice cream!

Ultimate Goal: Meeting of the Standard with any Heart Attitude

“It doesn’t matter if you hate doing homework. If you just get it done, I’ll buy you ice cream.”

If we realize that we’re in the habit of bribing our children, we’re looking at a great opportunity. We can model right repentance and restoration by telling our children we’re sorry for not disciplining them according to God’s laws and that things will be different from now on (there’s a new sheriff in town!). This models for our children how to respond appropriately to their new and improved discipline!

Instead of bribing our children to sin, using temporary incentives helps to show our children the rewards of obedience. We have the wonderful opportunity to teach them to look to Christ as the source of all joy.

If you would like more on this topic, and many others, I highly recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman.

Bribing Them to Sin, Part I


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Bribes are sneaky, little creatures. They seem fun and innocent, and are brought out in the form of ice cream, stickers, and candies. They dance around, singing happy songs and encouraging children to behave rightly. What could go wrong?


Bribes are cute and cuddly, all right, but bribes are little cheats. They help parents to look like good parents because they have an outwardly-obedient child. They help the child look like he is obeying and in so doing, loving God. But when we use bribes, we aren’t disciplining, and our children aren’t obeying because they love God, but because they are being motivated by their own selfishness.

Bribes can be effective, which is why parents use them. The problem is that they only work to coerce outward compliance; they do nothing to help children to confess their heart-sin or to rely on the Spirit to help them obey.

There are several reasons why these bribes are such insidious creatures:

  1. “Do not sweep my soul away with sinners… in whose hands are evil devices, and in whose right hands are full of bribes.” Psalm 26:10

Bribes are cheats for good parenting. Instead of doing the hard work of helping our disobedient child to love the law, we tie-up the law with a shiny bow and we teach the child to care more about the pretty wrapping than the law itself. We teach him to look like an obedient child, but we encourage him to have idols his heart. The book Shepherding a Child’s Heart (highly recommended!) puts it this way: “A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable. Is this not the hypocrisy that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees?” (4).

  1. “Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.” Prov. 15:27

Bribes trouble our households. Our disobedience in bribing instead of disciplining works its way into our children’s hearts and into our homes. Bribing can create a sense of entitlement – teaching our children to perform for rewards they don’t deserve, causing them to be “greedy for unjust gain.” As children feel they should be rewarded for helping around the house, doing their homework, and being kind to their family members, our households become troubled. Bribing can even become addictive to our children. They become accustomed to performing for bonuses, and over time they need bigger and better prizes to keep up their motivation. Eventually, they may be seduced by the world that can offer more immediate gratification than Mom and Dad. If we bribe our children, we teach them to perform for a reward, but someday we won’t be the highest bidder.

  1. “A bribe corrupts the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:7).

Bribes lead our children to idolatry. One way we corrupt the hearts of our children is to create counterfeit gods for them (Stickers! Candy! Mommy’s feelings!) and encourage our children to perform for these gods. We are carving out idols in their hearts, and ultimately teaching them how to be enslaved by these idols. We are also saying that God’s standards are not worth loving. We don’t believe God will sufficiently teach our children the joys of obedience, so we try to sweeten the pot.

  1. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Bribes try to reap what they haven’t sown. Disciplining children is incredibly hard work. It doesn’t often yield fruit right away – it is a long-term process. Bribing, on the other hand, produces immediate results that look like fruit. It is a deceptive process. By circumventing the sowing and reaping principles laid out in Scripture, we are lying to our children about how God’s world works. We are teaching them that they can reap where they have not sown. We teach them to pretend to have fruitfulness that comes from being yielded to the Spirit, when what they really have is selfishness that motivates them to work just hard enough to receive a pseudo-reward.

  1. “For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Bribes thwart the teaching of delayed gratification. One of the reasons it is so important to help our children understand the sowing and reaping principle is that it teaches our children the art of delaying gratification. Knowing how to be patient and wait for a just reward is fundamental to living the Christian life. Immediate gratification cannot serve as a motivator for resisting temptation, serving others who cannot return the favor, working hard in our God-given tasks, having self-control in any area, etc. Dependence on bribes, the most instant form of gratification, leaves our children ill-equipped in these areas – and ill-equipped to live the Christian life.

  1. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24

Bribes replace godly discipline. The Bible does not mince words in saying that we hate our children if we don’t discipline them. So while we may not feel hateful, our lack of discipline is nonetheless described as hatred. When we are bribing our children, we are not disciplining them. Proverbs says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (22:15). We love our children and want to give them good gifts: the best gift we can give them is to discipline them rightly.

We want our children to be righteous and peaceful people, free from idols. We want them to be patient, able to delay gratification. We want them to sow good things in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. When we discipline rightly, we are demonstrating righteousness and peacefulness as we patiently wait for the discipline to have its effect. We are showing them to sow in hope, knowing that “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful [for the child AND the parent!]. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

This is a difficult topic — incentives can look like bribes but are not harmful. Confused about the difference between an incentive and a bribe? I was too before I went on a long hunt for answers! Want some practical examples of the differences? Click here for Part 2 of the series.

No Market for Souls


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I see my daughter’s little leg, bent at the knee, small foot stretched toward the door as she tries to crawl around her sister to escape – and the image of a similar baby leg and foot, alone in a petri dish, stretching toward nothing sickens my heart (see the third anti-Planned-Parenthood video here). I turn away from my children so they do not see my stricken expression as my mind staggers to the souls that have been ripped from life by forceps that tear asunder soul and body, but leave the liver intact because a liver, unlike a soul, has a market waiting for it.


The pro-choice, pro-baby-parts-selling Left is also Pro-Bullying. The Left shrieks about the bullying of LGBTQ,etc. individuals, and claims that suicides result from this bullying. If they’re against the bullying of adolescents and adults (as we all should be), how much more should they be against the bullying of the most defenseless human beings?

To bully is to frighten, hurt, or threaten someone smaller or weaker than you. Who is smaller or weaker than a baby in the womb? What is more frightening than forceps, a vacuum, or a solution of burning saline? What hurts more than the physical pain of being chased from life to death?

Everyone knows, and has known for a long time, that abortion kills a baby. Even pro-choice enthusiasts have admitted as much, saying “a fetus is indeed a life.” So why is the Left okay with killing a baby? The answer comes down to bullying. Their mindset is this:

Because this child can’t defend herself, because she cannot yet voice an opinion, because we’re bigger and smarter than she is, we get to decide whether she lives or dies. If her life is an inconvenience to anyone, we’re so much bigger and better that we can suffocate this inconvenience before she takes her first breath.

These clinics and political activists hawking abortions are bullies of the worst kind. Their bullying doesn’t sometimes induce a victim’s suicide; it always tears the life from a child. Always death. Every time.

Of course sometimes it’s more than inconvenience that leads a woman to have an abortion. Some women are carrying babies with disabilities, which can be heart-wrenching. Doctors often pressure these women to abort their babies, detailing only the pain and difficulty that can come with disabilities. But who are we to decide if babies will live or die based on how differently abled they are? Would we really want someone else to decide, in advance, how much pain we might suffer in the future and make life-and-death choices for us based on that decision? My daughter has Down syndrome. She would discuss this with you, but she can’t talk yet, and besides she’s too busy laughing and tickling her brother and sister.

Some children are conceived in rape. Society says that because their fathers committed a heinous crime, we should discard these babies as quickly as possible. So, the circumstantial violence gives us the right to have an unborn child totaled and scrapped for parts? Why does a crime committed against a woman (because she was smaller and weaker than her rapist) lead to the assumption that she should visit her anguish on someone even more vulnerable than she? “Pay it forward”  takes on a gruesome new meaning.

Who will speak for the smaller, weaker members of our society? The unborn have been blamed for crimes they did not commit, convicted without trial, and sentenced to death by bullies, most of whom are against the death penalty for the worst criminal yet encourage women to proudly post their abortion stories on social media.

We need to keep pressure on these bullies who promote and perform abortions. We should share articles, share the anti-planned-parenthood videos as they come out, keep using the hashtags #ppsellsbabyparts and #defundpp. This website adds new tools every Monday, helping pro-lifers to put pressure in the same direction at the same time.

When our children look back in horror at this shame of our country, let us not say that we did nothing because we were afraid of what our friends on Facebook might think. Let us not stand silent as bullies market the body parts of the unborn for profit. Instead, let us be valiant protectors of both the bodies and the souls of unborn babies.

I Corinthians 13 (Revised)

I Corinthians 13 (Revised)

Love is accepting; Love makes me feel safe.

Love does not judge or have too much more than its neighbor.

Love is not disagreeable; it does not create unhappy feelings.

Love does not insist on the Biblical way; it doesn’t stand in the way of my happiness.

It does not rejoice in absolute truth, but celebrates my truth.

Love always protects my choices, believes in who I am, hopes all my dreams will come true, and endures constant revision to social constructs because…



I’m pretty sure the preceding version of 1 Corinthians 13 must be in the Bibles at many of today’s “Christian” churches. But the confused neon colors of this “translation” pale in comparison to the deep-hued truths of the REAL version, the Biblical text:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV with other Biblical phrases in brackets):

Love is patient [longsuffering, overlooking a multitude of personal offenses];

Love is kind [considerate of others above self].

Love does not envy or boast [recognizes that anything good is from above and not of ourselves];

It is not arrogant or rude [it acts in accordance with the riches of God’s kindness].

Love does not insist on its own way [submits one to another];

It is not irritable or resentful [forgiving as God forgave us].

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing [does not call evil “good”],

But rejoices in the truth [the Word of the Lord stands forever].

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things [because in Him all things hold together].

Love never fails.

In writing the second passage, I noted how hard it is to love according to the real definition. I fail daily to love my family and friends: I am selfish, impatient, and not able to bear little things let alone all things! But I am in the right place when I am using Scripture to assess the condition of my heart.

The problem is that the more the world tells Christians they are bigoted and hateful, the more tempting it becomes to adjust our behavior to the gauge of the revised version of Scripture at the top of this post: “I know I’m not unloving! I should act more accepting so that my co-worker knows too!” And so we start confessing what’s not sin, and leaving real sins unconfessed.

If we speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, we will be as noisy gongs or clanging cymbals to everyone around us, including those we are trying to convince that we are loving (1 Cor. 13:1). “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). To genuinely love others, we need to check which version of 1 Corinthians 13 we’re using.


Springs Without Water

To the beleaguered, the defeated. The Christians whose newsfeeds have been a disordered-rainbow-colored mess of gloating and rub-your-face-in-it celebration. To those who see this as new legislation, damning for our culture. To those who have the foresight to see that the Gay Gestapo will not stop at bakers and florists but will extend their reign to pastors, private school administrators, Facebook posters, to you.

What are our reasons for dismay, and what is our hope?

1. Dismay: The Gay Rights Movement has commandeered the rainbow symbol and raised it high in proud defiance of the God who chose the rainbow to be a symbol of his covenantal love.

Hope: Noah’s Ark is not a sweet little story suitable for nursery decorations. God saw the vast wickedness of disobedient men and decided to destroy the world. But God preserved Noah and his family. The flag reminds the world that God is faithful to keep his promises. He is a God of wrath and judgment, but he sent Jesus to take that wrath for those who repent and believe. Though we all deserve to die for our sins, the rainbow flag reminds us – and the world – that God is gracious and merciful.

11540923_464833340362132_5679454051556982443_n2. Dismay: God has sent this as a judgment to us (Romans 1:22-32). It has been said that hell is when God says to people: “Thy Will Be Done.”

Hope: The Lord Most High subdues nations under his feet. “He reigns over the nations. God is seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 42). God ordained the ruling yesterday. He is not caught off guard. He will not level us to ruin us. God loves the world, and “His dominion will extend from sea to sea … to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9-10). His purposes will stand.

3. Dismay: There will be people who think that getting “married” will be fulfilling. Just like anyone who seeks fulfillment outside of Christ, they will not find it.

Hope: Some of them, refugees of the lies that have been propagated, will be called out of their lifestyles to join the body of Christ. Lord willing, we will have a wave of new converts who have beautiful testimonies. Rosaria Butterfield is one such convert.

4. Dismay: #LoveWins has taken over Twitter and Facebook. Rob Bell already made a mockery of this phrase. Love by the world’s definition – a gooey, warm, happy feeling that may or may not involve puppy dogs and ice cream – will not win. This definition of love leads people in an endless chasing-their-tails, trying to catch a feeling. Sadly, romantic love alone will not satisfy any of us and is not ultimately sustainable.

Hope: Real love, as in “God is love,” will win. Jesus won the battle over death and darkness when he rose from the grave. Love wins, and love will continue to win as God’s glory spreads like the waters covering the earth.

5. Dismay: We fear the coming trials.

Hope: “The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials, and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment.” God rescued Noah, Lot, the Israelites, and the entire city of Nineveh. (2 Peter 2)

6. Dismay: The false teachers of this age are “springs without water and mists driven by a storm… speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh” (2 Peter 2:17-18).

Hope: You, O Christian, are “like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17).

Some Christians hold out no hope that our nation will repent. But man’s heart is in the hands of the Lord – the Lord turns it wherever he will, like channeling a stream (Proverbs 21:1). God was going to destroy Nineveh, but he stayed his hand. Nineveh repented, and so should we. God is eager to show mercy, eager to give grace. Nineveh was spared, and so can we be!

We need to repent, not of the world’s definitions of “hate” and “homophobia.” Repent of sin, as defined in the Bible. Read the Ten Commandments. We should repent of loving sin, hanging on to sin like a security blanket. Repent of letting the world define sin and love and marriage. Repent of wanting to appear loving to the world more than wanting to be loving according to the Bible. Repent of subjecting our children to the lies of this age. Love others, and as one act of love, call them to repentance. God is eager to forgive.

So though our news feeds are full of celebration and praise for sin, we can stand firm in Christ. We need not be anxious in these years of drought brought on by politically vocal springs without water. We know that our roots are deep in the stream of God’s grace. And though things look bad for Christianity, we are promised that “of the increase of his government and his peace there shall be no end” (Is. 9:7). Though we have lost this battle, we are winning the war, and ultimately, #lovewins.

The Broken Faithful on Mother’s Day


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Our small, sad announcement: Our little Chickpea (so named by Older Brother), our fourth baby, was called home to heaven without ever meeting the rest of the family face-to-face. There was the ultrasound with no heartbeat, then the waiting, then the surgery when my body didn’t realize that there was no need to be pregnant anymore. “In His presence is fullness of joy” – no boo-boos, no tears – a pain-free pass into eternity. We are happy for our Chickpea, and we are so grateful that we will meet one day.


Mother’s Day and Church can sometimes have a difficult relationship. Mother’s Day is always on a Sunday. Churches want to celebrate mothers and exalt motherhood in a culture where mothering is so little valued. Churches also want to be sensitive to those for whom this day is difficult. Sometimes they sway too far one way, sometimes too far the other, but no matter how carefully they balance on the tightrope, it seems someone always feels forgotten. I have been the happy mother, celebrating her children and her own mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers. I have stood grateful for the celebration of the hard job that I do in the daily nurturing of little ones.

But I have also felt unsettled by Mother’s Day, wishing it would stay in the Hallmark aisle and not invade my spaces. And sometimes this tension has kept me home on Mother’s Day, driving me under the covers. But the more I experience life, the more I feel that the pain I avoid by staying home is not equal to the amount of joy and encouragement I receive by spending time with my church family on Sunday mornings.

So I will go to church tomorrow, though yesterday was the day of horrible finality and ending of my pregnancy with Baby #4. In my raw pain, I am sure that something said in regards to Mother’s Day will sting because no church can possibly cover all bases in regards to this issue. But where else can I go? Where else can I find bindings for my soul? Where else can I find encouragement in the testimony of others standing and praising God?

As I look around in church tomorrow, I will see that I am not the only one who keeps coming back to our great and mighty God. I will see the faithfulness of our sustaining God reflected in the faces of many around me. I will see the woman whose husband left her to raise her kids alone. I will see the woman whose husband was suddenly taken home – the woman who sings loud and true with joy carved deep by the pain. I will see parents who’ve buried their children, coming back to the One who caused their pain. I will see a woman standing in strength and beauty, longing for a husband and children to call her own. I will see a husband who longs for his wife to have a child, and a child who longs for healing. I know we are all a family, gathered around our good and gracious Father who inexplicably wounds and binds up wounds with the sweetest salve.

As I sing, my voice confident then falling into the crack between the heavy comfort of God and the continuing intensity of my pain, I am glad for those around me, singing for me when I cannot. I’m encouraged in the pain, knowing that I am not alone. We come together as the body of Christ, knowing that he makes all things beautiful in His time.

So tomorrow, I will stand in church among the broken faithful, praising the Name of the God who gives to take and takes to give. I hope you will join me, knowing that if your pain spills over as you worship, you will encourage those around you by your very presence and praise of Our Good and Faithful God.

A Fiercer Delight


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Parents of children with special needs don’t want pity. We’re perfectly okay, perfectly happy, perfectly in love with the little ones God gave us. We wouldn’t trade them for anything, and they are a blessing in every sense. But at the same time, we’re completely not okay. Our babies suffer, we suffer, and this is really hard.

Our Little One After Her Open Heart Surgery

Our Little One After Her Open Heart Surgery

I have never been easily embarrassed. I’m not easily offended, thanks to my New York mother and grandmother. Despite being an open, non-private person who will gladly share with you about my life, however, I’ve never been vulnerable with people before getting to know them well. Vulnerability was always a choice that I had control over.

But having an obviously special needs child (our Amelia has Down syndrome) opens a chasm of vulnerability that is difficult to explain. I no longer get to choose when/with whom I will be vulnerable. I am open to being hurt All The Time. I can’t escape it. My heart is permanently beating outside of my chest, in the body of a little girl who has a condition that causes 90% of mothers to decide she isn’t even worthy of life. This Vulnerability has been the single biggest adjustment to life with a special needs child.

I keep hoping that this vulnerability will end, that I will find new ways of steeling my soul. I imagine that a similar vulnerability creeps into all sorts of trials: un-asked-for vulnerability is part of what makes Cancer hard, part of why Divorce feels unbearable. Though I haven’t experienced either of those, I’m sure they each have their unique thistles that make the vulnerability challenging.

What’s exceptional about the trial of having a special needs child is that your trial has come to you in the form of a person. The thing that makes my life more challenging is the same thing that makes Amelia who she is. There is no separating Down syndrome from my daughter.

When I take Amelia someplace new, the chasm of vulnerability is flooded with fear. Who will notice her delays? Her g-tube? What will they say? Who will treat her differently? People have mostly been gracious, but it doesn’t change the fact that at any moment someone could knock me over with one little feather of a comment about Amelia.

Even when people are trying to be helpful, the pain is always at the surface, easily pressed down into my soul. One well-meaning couple saw our hands full at church one Sunday and tried to encourage us with how wonderfully empty and free our nest will be one day. A nurse bubbled with enthusiasm about how elementary-aged kids can hook up their own g-tubes (I was imagining my baby outgrowing her g-tube within months, not years). My friend’s 10-month-old foster daughter crawled and talked circles around my 12-month-old.

Like other things in life, this is not one-dimensional. This unintentional vulnerability does have value. I can feel my heart expanding, even as each experience of pain carves out room for deeper joy, deeper understanding.

Perhaps it’s true, as Chesterton says, that “We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent” (Heretics and Orthodoxy, p. 228).

My experiences with a baby in heart failure and with continuing medical needs has definitely created a fiercer discontent with the world as it is. But I am grateful for that discontent because it is also producing a fiercer delight: in every smile, in every new connection, and in the Father whose mercies are new every morning.

One of Our Fiercest Delights

One of Our Fiercest Delights

If I Stay


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Welcome to the Between the Lines Book Club, a book club especially for mothers and teen daughters! If this is your first time using Between the Lines, you might want to click here for an explanation and FAQs.

As a side note, these discussions will be most effective if you both read the book (Mom — no fair just using the questions to “check up” on your daughter). :) Another suggestion would be for you moms and daughters to each select three to five questions before the book club so the discussion is guided by both of you.

Please let me know in the comments section what works/doesn’t work for you, and leave suggestions for future books you’d like to see here. Happy Reading! :)


– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
– From

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.


! There is some occasional crass language, including many uses of the f-word.
! There is a sexual encounter between two unmarried teens. The scene is described using a metaphor of a cello and a bow that is moderately graphic. The characters don’t even speak of love until after they have sex.
! Christianity is viewed as being a negative/unintelligent thing.
! The main character is in a tragic car accident and hovers between life and death. Her view of death is very out-of-line with Scripture, though fortunately it is not a very compelling view.


(This section contains spoilers. I’m assuming you have read the book at this point, so I won’t attempt to summarize or re-cap the whole book.)

 It is interesting to me that another bestseller for teens right now involves death. I think this generation of teens is longing for meaning and purpose in their lives and they seem to be willing to face their mortality head-on, which is an interesting shift.

 I didn’t love this book. I didn’t enjoy the writing style, and I found the characters and their lives to be obviously contrived. If I were choosing a book about death to read with my teen, I would opt for The Fault in Our Stars.

” “First Times” in these books are always wonderful, always with the right person. Never with regrets or consequences. This is misleading and dangerous and oddly idealistic in the middle of books that make a point to deal with “real life.”


(Since a wide range of girls will be participating, questions are written at differing levels of analysis. Feel free to highlight the questions that would be most appropriate for you and your daughter and best guide the discussion. Also, I try to match the questions with the level and depth of the book.)

General Questions

The title “If I Stay” refers to Mia’s big life/death decision, but also to her decision to go to Juilliard or stay with Adam. Do you think the decisions are related? If so, how?

Do you think Mia should go to Juilliard or stay with Adam? Why?

The author states in the afterward that “Love can make you immortal.” What do you think she means by this? Do you agree or disagree?

Faith Questions

? How are Christians portrayed in this book? Kerry’s funeral (p. 168-170) involves several Christian characters.

? Mia’s mom is pro-choice, and even has a bumper sticker that says “If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?” Do you agree or disagree with the sentiment? If you disagree, how would you respond to it?

? Adam’s band has a code: “loyalty to feelings is important” (p. 104) What do you think this means, and do you agree? Is there anything higher than feelings that should garner our loyalty?

? Kim says there are two types of people in the world: those who imagine their own funerals and those who don’t. Which one are you? Does/Would thinking about your death make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?

Family Questions

? Do you think Mia’s parents are true-to-life? What did you like/dislike about them?

? Mia’s dad goes through a pretty drastic personality shift — from a late-night, rockstar hippie to a button-down teacher. Do you think he changed for the better or for the worse?

? Toward the end of the book, Kim tells Mia that she still has family, meaning all the friends that have rallied around her. Do you have friends that you consider to be family? What makes the difference between considering someone a friend and considering them part of the family?

Life and Death Questions

? Mia says that she gets to decide whether to live or die (p. 88). Do you think people have a choice? Why or why not?

? What is Mia’s view of the afterlife (p. 179, 216)? Do you think she’s right?

? How does a person’s view of the afterlife affect how they live now? If Mia had your view of the afterlife, do you think she would’ve chosen differently?

? Mia decides to live after Adam reminds her of the cello and of the possibilities still ahead of her. Are the possibilities ahead of us what give life meaning? If there’s meaning beyond this, what is it?

Relationship Questions

? What criteria do you think Mia used for deciding whether or not to have sex with Adam (they had sex before they even said “I love you”)? What criteria do you think should be used? Do you think she will regret her decision if they break up? Why or why not?

? Mia’s mom says that “seventeen is an inconvenient time to be in love” (p.209). Do you agree? What age is a good age to start dating/open yourself up to falling in love? Is it possible to date and protect yourself from falling in love?

? Mia’s mom also says that “Love’s a bitch” because Mia has to lose Adam or Juilliard. Have you ever felt that that statement is true? Is there a type of love that doesn’t behave this way?

Relationships are compared to music: “All relationships are tough. Just like with music, sometimes you have harmony and other times you have cacophony” (210). How is this true in the mother/daughter relationship?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions? I would love to know how I can make Between the Lines more helpful for you. I would also love your suggestions for our next book! Please leave a comment below. Thanks! ~Sara

What’s Working Wednesday — Kitchen Gadgets


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Anything that makes cooking more efficient is a good thing in my (cook)book. Here are some things that are working for me this Wednesday to make cooking a little more fun:

1. My spice cupboard used to be a disaster. I could never find anything and the honey and other sticky items always managed to seep out over the tops and glue their containers to the floor of the cupboard. In addition, I would double my cooking time by spending so many minutes looking for the specific spices I needed for each recipe.

My spice cupboard is still a mess, and I still seem to find puddles of gooey honey. HOWEVER, I no longer waste time looking for spices, thanks to this invention


The drawers pull out and down, allowing me to see the spices without having to dig around in a dark cupboard. This spice rack even came with labels so I can easily see which drawer to pull down! The plastic seemed a little flimsy at first, but I have had this product for 3 years now, and it’s holding up great. 

2. I like using limes in my cooking. Lots and lots of limes. My sister Emily could not believe that I didn’t have one of these, so I got one for my birthday. :) Life-changing, I tell you! This is not the exact one I have, but this lime squeezer has great ratings over at


3. I’m not a big ice cream fan, but even I can appreciate this little lever of ingenuity. I cannot believe no one thought of this before now: an ice cream scoop that can actually scoop ice cream! The sharp, pointed end works like a knife to slice through the frozen tundra. No need to run hot water over this baby or let your ice cream sit out before you scoop it. (This was a gift from my parents, so I didn’t realize until just now how expensive it is –yikes! I promise it’s worth it! This one also has good ratings and is quite a bit cheaper, though I can’t vouch for it personally.)


So there you have it! My current best friends in the kitchen (besides the little ones who “help” by taste-testing). :) What’s working in your kitchen this Wednesday?

My “Immoral” Choice


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A few days ago, the following tweet was addressed to renowned atheist Richard Dawkins:

I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

Richard Dawkins’s Reply:

Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

I was stunned when I read this calloused response from Dawkins. My daughter Amelia, according to his reasoning, should have been killed in the womb. In his pseudo-apology, Dawkins said that we should be seeking to reduce suffering in the world, perversely indicating that people with Down syndrome are adding to that suffering. Contrary to his belief, it is emphatically untrue that people with Down syndrome suffer more than most. In recent studies, 99 percent of people with Down syndrome responded that they are happy with their lives, 97 percent like who they are, and 96 percent like how they look. I daresay you would have a hard time finding such positive responses among any other cross-section of society. So if individuals with Down syndrome are content with who they are, why should anyone be concerned?


My Amelia

I think people like Dawkins are afraid that children with Down syndrome will cause suffering in society, the idea being that suffering involves having to deal with the imperfect. So suffering might mean having to look at a person who doesn’t look like everyone else. Suffering might mean having a grocery store clerk who is slower than the typical person. Suffering might mean having to be patient with someone who has difficulty getting around or figuring things out.

Suffering is being reminded of human limitations. Suffering is being inconvenienced. This is evidenced by the truth that 90% of mothers who receive a prenatal diagnosis choose to abort their babies who have Down syndrome. Our society has promoted a culture in which we feel that we’re better off without this brand of imperfection. 

When did we become such cowards? Why are we so afraid of doing hard things?

When did doing the easy thing become more compelling than doing the right thing?

When did we stop being brave enough to sacrifice for the sake of another?

Motherhood is supposed to be hard. And it is, even for those who have typical children. It is challenging, but it is rewarding. It is inconvenient, but it is good. It is painful, but it is meaningful. Sacrificing for our children truly is hard, but it is also right.

Our society judges women who do drugs, smoke, or even drink caffeine while pregnant because we know that mothers are not supposed to hurt their children. So when did it become okay to discard a child because he or she has a disability?

We should all be alarmed. We have created a society that looks at innocent, unborn children and asks how we will be affected positively or negatively by their lives. Then we decide if those children will live or die based on the answer. What kind of a warped moral framework supports this thinking?

All born and unborn humans — including Richard Dawkins  — have intrinsic value woven into the fabric of their beings. That Richard Dawkins does not acknowledge this is his loss. That society does not acknowledge this is our tragedy. 


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