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Faith, Parenting

Parenting Prayers: Psalm 119

Recently, I’ve been asking God to give me specific verses to pray over each of my children. We already give them life verses that go along with the meanings of their names. But I’ve also been asking God what else is on his heart for each of them. As I was helping Gavrel brush his teeth and get ready for bed one night, I stood playing with his hair and watching his face in the mirror, and a verse rushed to my mind as loudly and clearly as a thunderclap.

Psalm 119:9-11:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

So I began to pray this over him as I continued to watch him in the mirror. Later, I went back and wrote it out in the margins of my Bible so that I can remember and continue to pray it. But I also wanted to share it here, in the hopes that it empowers you in praying for your own children in line with God’s will for them.

Lord, I pray that (name) would keep his/her way pure by always guarding it according to your word; that (name) would seek you with his/her whole heart and not wander from your commandments. Teach (name) to store up your word in his/her heart, that he/she might not sin against you. 

And just for fun, Seeds Family Worship has a fun song based on this verse. It’s a great way to help you and your little ones memorize this verse as you’re praying it.

Kids, Names

In a Name: Declan Ezekiel

I’ve talked before about how we choose our children’s names, and how we sort of stumbled into the process while pregnant with our firstborn: Gavrel Lagersen. So here’s the next chapter in the story.

When we discovered I was pregnant for the second time, our friends and community seemed to think it was the most natural thing in the world – of course we were having another baby! But after all the fanfare and rejoicing over my first pregnancy, I wondered if this baby would be overlooked. After such powerful prayers over Gavrel, would this kiddo have just as big a mission in life? One Sunday morning during church, I was praying “Lord, this baby is just as precious to me as Gavrel. I want this baby to be celebrated and rejoiced over like Gavrel was!”

In that moment, God reminded me “I am rejoicing over this little one just as much. They are loved beyond measure.” As I looked up, I saw some good family friends standing at the front of the worship center as part of the weekly prayer team, and felt prompted to go ask them to pray for our baby. I’m not sure I did a great job expressing what I was feeling in that moment, but they seemed to understand my desire for baby to be celebrated and rejoiced over.

As they prayed, they began to declare that this baby would be “courageous and strong in spirit.” And I knew that this was going to be the foundation for our name. Listening to who God said our baby was and choosing a name to fit that meaning had worked so well the first time, we figured we should probably keep running with it. So we sat on these words and mulled them over for a while.

I had a name I had come across while digging through lists the first time that I couldn’t quite shake. I loved the sound of it, and I loved the meaning. But it didn’t literally mean anything like “courageous” or “strong.” So I started back through our short lists of names that we hadn’t used for Gavrel, to see what was there. That’s when I found a middle name we’d tagged – Ezekiel – “God will strengthen.” When I paired this with the name I’d been sitting on, it painted a bigger picture. Declan – “man of prayer” became:

Declan Ezekiel – “man of prayer strengthened by God.” This described the spiritual strength and courage we were looking for – in the context of dependence on and communication with a relational God.

And this kiddo is who God said he would be. He is brave – sometimes to a fault. He is courageous. He loves to pray for his friends and family. He feels deeply and understands spiritual things in incredible depth. I can’t wait to see who he continues to become.

Lifestyle, Parenting

Living Without the TV

I shared recently how we came to live without a television, or really with almost no screen time at all for our kids. I promised to circle back around on what that looks like for us and how it works, so here I am to do so!

First a couple disclaimers: Most of my kids have lived their entire lives this way, and they don’t know any differently. If this is a transition you’re hoping to make, there will be some “detox” and adjustment needed – we’ve seen it with foster kids coming into our home. It’s drastically different than what they are used to. Secondly, I am a stay-at-home mom. I don’t work outside of my family, nor do I have other major commitments that I need to fulfill for someone. I am also married and Jon is a very hands-on dad; I’m not a single working parent trying to do it all myself. I don’t expect that this is the perfect solution for everyone, so please feel nothing but grace here. So how do we make it work?

Out of sight, out of mind.
We got rid of the TV completely. Like I mentioned before, it was old and a safety hazard. I don’t even have the temptation to turn it on, because it’s just not there. We have a projector that we bring out occasionally for family movie night, but it lives in a suitcase in a closet when not in use. It takes significant effort to set up, so it’s not something I can break out without thought. A friend of mine shared that their TV stays unplugged most of the time so that her small kids can’t turn it on. Maybe putting the TV in a less-frequently used room (like we originally did in our master bedroom), will keep it from being the go-to.

I’ve had to adjust some of my routines to accommodate life without the TV. For example, I leave my little kids in their beds for a few (or sometimes several, honestly) extra minutes in the morning while I get myself dressed and ready for the day. I started a habit a couple years ago of getting completely dressed (and not in sweats – dressed enough to go out, if need be) and ready (hair, makeup, jewelry) every single day before I will even leave my room. The baby will be ok in his bed for a few extra minutes, and I won’t feel like I’m desperate to get away to do these things later. I also shower at night after my little kids are in bed. That way I’m not worried about who is getting into things while I’m showering.

I’ve trended toward a lot of automated or cook-ahead type meals. I have a rice cooker, a crock pot, and an Instant Pot. If I can put these things to work for me, or just throw something in the oven that I’ve previously assembled (say, during my littlest ones’ nap times), it allows me to spread my attention around and not feel like I need to try to be watching the stove while making sure a toddler isn’t pulling curtains down at the same time.

I use a lot of “near me, but not with me” time for my kids: having them do something nearby without necessarily having to directly interact with them. When I’m exhausted out of my mind (when I’m hugely pregnant, for example) and I just need to lay down, I will sit a child or two on my bed or on the other end of the couch with a pile of books to look at while I rest for a few minutes. Or I can put a baby or two in high chairs with a book or a couple toys while I’m prepping a meal or sweeping the floor. I have my kids sit together at the kitchen table and color or look at magazines while I’m making lunch or breakfast, instead of trying to make it and then corralling them all to come sit down.

And honestly, there’s a lot of the kids just learning to entertain themselves. They’ve gotten used to not being actively entertained most of the time. I’ve allowed them to get bored enough to find something to do on their own. They’ve stopped expecting me to keep them occupied and have learned to occupy themselves. For the natively-screen-free among my kids, this comes a little more naturally. For those that have had to get used to it, it develops over time and can be hard at first.

And, of course, the nitty-gritty… What do my kids actually do all day while they’re not watching TV?
Pretend play: We have a big collection of dress-up clothes and costumes; a play kitchen, table, and chairs where they pretend to cook for each other; baby dolls with clothes, bottles, a high chair, cradle, and stroller; and a few action figures that regularly save the day. One of the favorite games right now is “going home,” where the kids pack a bag of random toys and tell me “Bye Mom! I’m going home!” and then proceed to walk around the house with their bag of toys as if they are travelling home.

Building: Wooden blocks, Duplo, Lego, K’nex. Something is usually being created at any given point in time. Train tracks and Hotwheels cars are also constants.

Arts and Crafts: Crayons, markers, colored pencils, and a steady supply of printer paper are always available. Most of the time I’ll allow simple watercolor painting, too. Play-Doh is popular and a good one for when I need everyone sitting in one place for a while. I also have a variety of stickers, beads, yarn, felt, glue, scissors, etc. Painters tape is handy for all sorts of things, and my boys especially are fond of making all kinds of creations out of cardboard.

Games: Matching/memory kinds of games are great because they can be scaled to fit different ages and developmental levels; my two- and three-year-olds just sort through the piles looking for the matches, while the older kids can play structured memory and take turns flipping the cards. We have lots of puzzles in varying difficulties. Simple board or card games: Candy Land, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Uno, War, etc. Pictionary can be modified so that even very young kiddos can participate. My fourteen-year-old recently taught my four- and six-year-olds to play Uno, so that is the game of choice right now.

Books: Books, books, books for days. I am a total sucker for books. Always. I’m sure we have in the neighborhood of a couple thousand books in our house. I do a lot of reading aloud to the kids, but I’ve also collected a variety of big, beautiful, elaborate picture books that non-readers can sit and look at happily for extended periods of time (seek-and-find type books are great for this, too).

Outside: We spend a lot of time outside. We have a big yard, a couple great climbing trees in different sizes, a massive sandbox, and a swing set/playhouse. Bikes, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, kiddie-pool, studying nature, collecting leaves or rocks, going for walks, and playing tag are all fan favorites.

And what about the older kids? You might be surprised how much these things scale. My teenage daughter will sit on the couch with a book for a couple hours. She’ll use the art supplies to work on hand-lettering Bible verses to hang on her wall. She takes the dogs for walks up and down the street. She’ll journal and listen to music. Or she’ll sit in the room and just talk to me while I do other things.

A Place for Technology
Even without the TV, there’s still a place for technology in our everyday. I do sometimes put on an audio book for the kids to listen to on Audible. A sweet friend got us a subscription to Adventures in Odyssey this year for Christmas. We have a series of Google Home speakers that we use to listen to music or podcasts. Once in a great while, I will let the kids play the Bible App for Kids for a little while. And yes, once in a while we drag out our projector and watch a movie together as a family.

It does require some different thinking and planning to be screen-free. It takes creativity, and sometimes a lot of patience. But if paring down your screen time is a goal, I hope I’ve given you some practical ideas to try. Questions? Comments? Things I forgot? Let me know!

Kids, Names

In A Name – Gavrel Lagersen

I shared a couple weeks ago just how we stumbled into the process we use for choosing names for our children. Most people know that our kids have unusual names and most people know that their meanings are particularly important to us, but most people haven’t heard the whole back story. If you missed it the first time, go check it out.

I shared that after more than a dozen different people, in unrelated times and places all prayed the words “prophet” and “worshiper” over our first baby, we decided that we should sit up and take notice. Maybe this was something God wanted to say about this kiddo. We felt like our extended families had most of the good prophet names covered (some of them multiple times). So we decided to focus our search on the “worshipper” aspect.

We started with an off-the-shelf baby name book and found… nothing. So we bought a Christian baby name book that came a lot closer and had some great other suggestions, but still didn’t quite have what we were looking for. (It’s still a resource we go back to each time looking for ideas, though, if you are looking for a good jumping-off point.) So we did what any other good tech-generation parents-to-be would do: we went to Google.

Turns out, there are a lot of names in other religious cultures that mean worshiper – namely Muslim, Sanskrit, or Hindu. Again, that wasn’t quite what we were going for. Finally, after months of varying search terms, following links, digging through lists, and following all sorts of internet rabbit trails through background stories, we stumbled on an old Russian name that meant “Worshiper of God”: Gavrel. I’ll admit that Jon was much more strongly attracted to it than I was at first. But the more I sat on it and prayed, the more right it seemed. There were other names I liked the sound of better, but they just didn’t belong to this child.

It really clicked for me when Jon approached me one night with another idea. “I know you don’t necessarily want to use family names, but I have one I’ve been thinking about that I would really like to at least consider using.” Ok? “Lagersen. It’s my grandpa’s middle name. It was his mother’s maiden name.” Jon’s grandpa was a medical missionary to Hong Kong, founding a hospital there. I didn’t want to use family names because I didn’t want something that had been repeated over and over, but this name seemed to subtly pay tribute to someone who had taken the name of Jesus to the nations – a specific prayer over our baby – without being a standard “prophet” name. When I said it aloud together, I knew it was right:

Gavrel Lagersen. Our worshiper prophet to the nations.

It’s a big name. When he was born, people didn’t understand – they asked what we would call him, assuming we had a much more familiar nickname picked out. But we just call him Gavrel. He knows, even at a young age, what his name means and why we chose it. And we pray that it’s a legacy he can continue to grow into.

Lifestyle, Parenting

What’s Missing?

“I’m looking around your house, and I’ve noticed something missing.” It’s a comment I hear occasionally when someone comes to the house for the first time. So what’s missing from my home?

A television. That’s right – we don’t own a TV.

Not only do we not own a TV, but our children get near-zero screen time as a rule. Now wait, before you start to defend your own family’s screen time to me, let me explain. We didn’t set out to be that way – my husband owns an IT company; we’re certainly not anti-technology.

When we were dating and after we first got married, we watched a lot of TV. We had a big, clunky, box of a TV that was handed down to us. I publicly admit to being a Food Network/HGTV junkie. Jon could sit in front of news channels most of the day and be a happy camper.

We moved into a new apartment just before our second anniversary. It was a God-send and provided some much-needed extended living space with a 3-month-old baby now in the mix. But the living room was an odd shape, and there wasn’t a natural place to put that clunker of a TV. Plus, we knew screen time wasn’t supposed to be good for babies, so we moved it into our master bedroom. Jon and I would watch movies or the occasional Netflix series at night, but it quickly became “out of sight, out of mind.” Life got busier: Jon’s new business grew, we had another baby, and we increasingly had other ways to spend our time. Eventually we realized that it had been eight or nine months since we had even turned the TV on.

About the same time our firstborn son, Gavrel, learned to climb. When he pulled the (thankfully short) dresser in his own bedroom over one day while climbing, we started taking a look around the rest of the house. Our dresser was much taller – with that giant box TV on top of it. If he were to climb that, it could kill him. We really weren’t watching it anyway, so away the TV went. We realized pretty quickly that we didn’t miss it. Jon and I still watched a very occasional movie, but a laptop screen worked just fine for that.

For a while, we would let the kids watch videos on a tablet or play with an app (I’m a huge fan of the Bible App for Kids) for those times when “Mommy just needs to rest” or “I just need to get something done.” You know – those times we all have throughout the day. It didn’t take us long to realize, though, that it affected our kids’ attitudes and behavior: they were meaner, shorter-tempered, and more demanding after screen time. We weren’t actually saving ourselves any time or effort by adding screen time back in. Finally we decided enough was enough, and we stopped even that.

Today, we will set up a projector for family movie night once in a while. I play videos off of my phone or computer for school lessons some days. But we largely still live screen-free at home during the day. It’s pretty drastically (and noticeably) different than most people. But it has been a good thing for us.

Trust me, I’m not sitting back here judging you because you let your kids watch TV or play with iPads. Life is hard, parenting is harder, and we all do what we need to to get through. I do frequently hear “I would really love to cut back on our family’s screen time, but I just don’t know how” or “I just don’t know what else to do with my kids while I…” I just want to gently and lovingly encourage you that it is possible, if it’s important to you or a goal of yours. I’ll be circling back around to talk about what that looks like on a practical, daily basis – you know, what I actually do instead of turning cartoons on.

If that’s not something that’s for you – great. Enjoy those cartoons with no shame! And hey, now you know why my family and I are a little slow on the popular culture references. We’re weirdos; we know.


Faith, Parenting

Parenting Prayers: Ephesians 1

A few weeks ago, as I was going to bed on a Friday night, I felt Jesus whisper “Get up before your family tomorrow morning.” Anyone who knows me knows that this is a stretching directive for me – I don’t do early morning. But I opted not to argue this time around and dutifully set my alarm for early Saturday morning.

When I got up in the morning, I sat at the kitchen table with my Bible and a cup of coffee and asked God what he wanted to tell me. What am I awake early on a Saturday morning to hear? He had already been leading me through Ephesians chapter 1 slowly throughout the previous week, so I was drawn back there. I started reading where I had left off. I came to verses 17-19:

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…”

I felt like I’d been punched in the gut and my eyes teared up. Parenting is really hard sometimes, and we had been in the midst of a particularly hard stretch. But as I read these verses, I knew this was what I wanted for my children. This was what Jesus had called me up early to show me. So I began to pray these verses over my children – copying them out and inserting each of their names as I went.

I finished these prayers (seven times over) as my first little ones were appearing downstairs and set it aside to begin the day. Later that evening, long after I had moved on to other things, Jon showed me a text from someone who had been praying for us. It included these same verses being prayed over our children. It was such a sweet confirmation that I’d heard correctly.

Two weeks later, in church, the sermon included the same passage, with instructions and specific encouragement to pray these verses over others in our lives. It seems that Jesus is stressing their importance to me. So I want to share them with you now, in the form I prayed them over my children. I hope this blesses you and gives you a concrete way to pray Scripture over your own children and family.

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, glorious Father, I ask you to give (name) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that he/she may know you better. I pray also that the eyes of his/her heart may be enlightened in order that (name) may know the hope to which you have called him/her, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparable power for he/she who believes. Amen.

Faith, Names, Parenting

In a Name

If you know me, you know that my kids have weird names. Even if you don’t know me, well… my kids have weird names. When people meet us for the first time and we introduce everyone, we get a lot of “wows” or “those are really interesting names.” Inevitably, someone always asks,

“Where did you come up with those?”

It is both one of my favorite and least favorite questions. I love to tell the stories behind my kids’ names, but the stranger in the grocery store probably doesn’t want the full download. So my easy, fast answer is “we choose them based on their meanings,” which is both true and yet oversimplified.

So, for inquiring minds who want to know, here’s just how we came to our particular naming method.

When we announced that we were expecting our first baby, the crowds went wild – everyone we knew was so excited. We have an incredible community that loves to pray powerfully for each other, so people were pretty quick to start asking “Can I pray for your baby?” The first time was incredible as phrases like “a mighty worshiper of God,” “a gifted prophet to the nations,” and “declaring the Word of the Lord from the mountaintop” came out through my friend’s prayers.

But over and over again through the next several months, the phrases “worshiper” and “prophet” repeated themselves – to the tune of a dozen or more individual people praying at different times and in different places. Finally, Jon and I looked at each other and said “Maybe we should take this seriously.”

We’d been looking at baby names, trying to find some that we liked. The meaning of a name was important to us, but not our starting point. As we began to take note of the repeated patterns of people’s prayers, we decided to try something crazy. What if we started with the meaning? What if we took what we believed God was saying about this child and who he/she was, and picked a name to reflect that? And so we began our search.

Let me tell you, it adds an interesting layer of challenge to choosing a name. Searching for a specific meaning narrows your options very quickly. Sometimes it leads you to some unusual names – which, thankfully, we like. But since then, we’ve always started in prayer over each child. We ask “God, who is this person you’ve created? Who and what have you called them to be? How do you want us to speak into them and their life and legacy?” When we feel like we have a consensus through prayer, we dig in to find a name that reflects that.

I always loved that this would give us a chance as parents to speak legacy, calling, and greatness into our children’s lives. But an unexpected benefit has been how often we get to share our own hearts with others – often strangers or unbelievers. A candidly curious response to a name can very quickly open deep conversations about what it important and meaningful to us. It’s a very different process than most people take, and we acknowledge that.

We trust that God knows and loves these kiddos even more than we do and has a lot to say about who they are. We’re just following his lead, and that seems to be working out pretty well so far.


Vote of Confidence

I am a mother of seven children, currently. I know the face you just made when you read that – I see it pretty often. It’s a wonderful, busy, chaotic life that we lead. And I love it. But some days I worry that I’m falling short. Some of my kiddos come with extra, intensive needs. They require more time and attention just to function normally. Others are so extremely healthy and well-adjusted, that it would be really easy to let their needs fall to the wayside in the everyday.

I try to be intentional about spending time with everyone and paying attention to everyone’s moods and personalities. Some days I feel like I’m rocking it. Others, I feel like I’m completely missing the mark. Do my kids get enough of me? Do they know and feel that they are each so incredible?

At the finalization of our last adoption, the state closed our home for further foster placements, since we have exceeded the number of kids allowed in one home. Our case worker was here talking about the logistics of closing, and my oldest son Gavrel (who is six) overheard the conversation.

He asked, “Mom, why won’t they give us any more kids?”

“Because the state thinks we have enough kids in our family, and more would be too many.”

“Why do they think that?”

“They’re just afraid that if there are more of you here, then Mommy and Daddy won’t be able to pay enough attention to everyone the way you need.”

Gavrel looked thoughtfully into his lap for a minute, then turned his face back to me.

“But mom, they’re wrong. You can.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever received a more meaningful vote of confidence.