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Safari Babies :: March Parent Cue Article

When you have a baby, your world changes in an instant, and you may begin to wonder WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?

We all start out with a picture of what we think family should look like. Then we actually have a family. And we discover it’s not exactly like we thought it would be.

Parenting is complicated. You constantly feel like a rookie playing in the World Series and the stakes are immeasurably high. Once you think you have it figured out, the game changes. But there are no do-overs, no first pancakes. You get only one shot at each child, and you don’t want to mess up.

That’s a lot of pressure. Maybe this job should have come with a ten-page application, references needed. Or at least an instruction manual. But there really is no book on how to do this. No ONE perfect way . . .

You will make mistakes as a parent. You might . . .bribe, bargain and threaten just to get in the car faster. forget that it’s Pajama day at school. order them oddly-shaped nuggets from the drive-through a few too many times. let them hold onto their pacifiers, bottles, and Wubbies a teensy bit longer than they should.

But that’s okay! It really is. Embrace the imperfection by saying out loud, “My child will not be perfect and neither will I! And that’s okay!”

It’s okay because you’re not in this for an Instagrammable life. So, back to the question, what have you gotten yourself into?

A RELATIONSHIP. Your relationship with your child is more important than getting everything right. So, loosen up a little. Be easier on yourself. Let go of whatever image you’re trying to protect.

 Maybe you should stress less and play more, cuddle more, laugh more. . . .Just remember: Kids get messy. And so does family. Kids don’t need perfect parents to turn out great. What they do need is for you to invest in your relationship with them above all else.

This is going to take some time. Years, in fact. But time is on your side right now. And the good news is that you haven’t made any many mistakes yet. This will be the only time as a parent you will be able to say this, so celebrate this moment.

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Pivotal (Parenting) Decisions

From choosing a crib to the college search, parenting is a timeline of decisions. 

If you’ve been on social media or watched the news long enough (or have a mother-in-law), you know what I’m talking about. Public school or private? Discipline? Smartphone?

It’s pretty intense.

Not to mention how it feels inside your head — where your personal fears can turn decision-making into a minefield.

The good news is this is normal. Even better news, many of the decisions you’re stressing about now are not as high-stakes as you’ve made them out to be. Think back to your childhood. Did that plate of broccoli fundamentally change you as a person? Probably not.

If broccoli is the bottom of the list of decisions with huge impact and eternal significance (sorry, broccoli), then pivotal decisions are at the top. These aren’t necessarily big decisions, but they are critical. They are based on your values, and they set a direction for your family.

Think of it this way: when you make a pivotal decision for your family, you’re laying a path. Your kids may stray from that path at times, but fortunately, your job as a parent isn’t to control or perfect your child. Your job is to guide them — with correction, connection, and encouragement — to choose a path that will take them closer to God.

That sounds like a lot of responsibility.

But before you panic and take your stress out on a large pizza, you should know you don’t have to figure out what to do next by yourself. God has already identified some pivotal decisions in His Word, and they’re very, very practical. Remember, the pivot itself is only one step — a small, intentional movement that can change the game. Below is a starter list of steps you can take today to change your family’s trajectory.

Spend time in God’s Word. Every day.
Help your children spend time in God’s Word. Tell stories! Get creative! The Bible App for Kids is a great resource that allows parents to stream or download 30-minute Bible video episodes, coloring pages, and activity sheets.

Pray as a family.
It’s easy, but it doesn’t happen without intention. Help your kids talk to God and understand He is always with us.

Go to church.
Eventually, your children will need peer relationships and crave a community (just like you!). Get planted now.

Find your people.
Our church has groups where you can find community. Whether it’s a parenting book, a Bible study, or a group that discusses Pastor Steven’s sermon, find one. We need each other.

Put your values into practice.
Pivotal decisions are based on values. What does your family value? Plan family activities that reinforce those values. What you practice with your children has a much deeper impact than what you tell them.

Does one of those action steps stand out to you? Choose a new direction this week, and pivot!


To learn about pivotal decisions, check out Pastor Steven’s sermon “Pivotal Decisions (Put A Purpose On It)” from the Maybe: God series. It’s up on the Elevation site, App, podcast, and YouTube.

Safari Babies :: February Parent Cue Article

You love your baby. You might even be surprised by how deeply you love him or her. In fact, there is a good chance this past year redefined how you think about love entirely. But if you want your child to grow up knowing you love him or her, you will have to prove it over time. Every kid needs adults who love them in a way that convinces them they are worth something. And the way you consistently prove love over time will give your child a healthy sense of worth. One way to prove your love is to show up.

It’s hard not to show up—especially when your baby is utterly dependent on you just to eat, sleep, and stay reasonably clean. Besides, if you don’t show up fast enough, your baby’s built-in alarm system may activate and alert the entire neighborhood.

Don’t underestimate the significance of your physical presence. It’s more than just de-activating their crying. Even though your three-month-old may not say “thank you” or make you a special card to celebrate your efforts, the attention you give now is making physiological and a psychological difference that will impact her future.

Brain research shows the more consistently a baby receives loving support—especially during times of stress—the larger and more developed the social portion of a baby’s brain becomes. Psychological studies show that the more consistently a parent shows up and responds to their baby, the more trusting the child will be in later phases. Spiritual development suggests establishing trust in early years lays a foundation for later faith.

Simply put: You cannot give your baby too much love. So keep showing up. You are giving your baby the love they need every time you . . .

»» smile and make eye contact
»» touch your nose to their nose
»» make silly faces
»» wiggle their toes
»» imitate their babbles
»» sing a lullaby
»» give them a shoulder to sleep on
»» pick them up when they cry
»» show up to let them know you care

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Safari Toddlers :: February Parent Cue Article


Life can be challenging and unpredictable. And, if you’re parenting a two-year-old, you’re guaranteed this year will have plenty of both. That sweet baby who used to cuddle in your arms has not only learned how to walk but now he can run away from you—and fast. That little angel whose smile used to light up your world can now smile at you as she drops your phone—into the bathtub.

Personally, I’ve raised two men that have given me four beautiful grandchildren all currently under the age of six years old. I’ve seen enough to know the phrase “terrible twos” wasn’t invented without reason. There are days in this phase when “terrible” may seem like the only word to characterize the state of your home, your schedule, and your patience. This is the phase when a toddler suddenly explodes with personality.

It’s the moment they fall to the floor screaming because you cut their sandwich the wrong way. Or you bring them the milk they asked for, and they realize they really wanted orange juice. Or you tell them they aren’t allowed to do that completely irrational thing they were just trying to do, and the world suddenly falls apart. Yes, you will have moments this year when you stare, wide-eyed, at the determined child in front of you and wonder, What am I supposed to do with this?

The answer, even though it may not seem true in the moment, is really what it has always been: Love. Becoming a grandparent has heightened my senses to my grandchildren’s need for love. It’s funny, the way time gives us perspective. Love is the thing every selfish, stubborn, crazy-headed toddler needs most.

I remember when my grandson Amari was two he told me he loved me for the first time.  Each time he said it, he put his whole body into it. It was like he couldn’t say it loud enough or strong enough. He just had to let me know that HE LOVED ME!

One day, as I was leaving his house, we started a back-and-forth shouting match to tell each other how much we loved each other. It was so passionate and so pure that I took out my cell phone and recorded him on video. Within days after sharing it on social media, over 26 million people had watched, commented, and shared the video. The video was shown on Good Morning America and The Ellen Show.

I know most people’s toddler videos don’t make national television. But that’s not the point. The point is there’s something about the love of a two-year-old that can capture the heart of a nation. And that love is inside your child too.

Sure, this year your toddler is becoming more independent. But that means when she shows you love and affection, she does it because she chooses to. When he tells you he loves you, he says it because he means it. And as the parent of a two-year-old, you’ll discover you have more love inside you than you ever knew possible. It’s a shouting-match kind of love that will see you through the tantrums. It’s a love that may catch you off guard as you find yourself captivated by this adorable, growing, bundle of personality.

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