Saying “No” to Your Kids

Recently I was chatting with a mother of a four-year-old. This four-year-old, according to others, has never heard the word “no.” Unusually bright, this child is a terror to be around. She is difficult to control, throws temper tantrums, and demands her own way. She does not like rules of any kind. Her parents are bright Ivy League graduates. They love their child and want to encourage her creativity and independence and they want her to be secure.  However, they seem to feel that if you say “no” to a child, you are restricting and limiting their growth. So they employ diversion, distraction, and reasoning in an attempt to get her to behave.

Now, there is nothing wrong with diversion and distraction. They can be very effective with a one-year-old or an eighteen-month-old. It is wise to avoid conflict when possible. Reasoning can be effective, particularly with an older toddler. However, you cannot reason with a one or two-year-old—and diversion and distraction are not enough. Our children must learn to cope with the word “no” and we must not be afraid to use it.

We teach our child not to run into the street. He must hear us say “no” and immediately stop. There is no time for diversion, it could be a life or death situation. Our first “nos” have to do with safety issues.  Soon we move to other “nos”:  “No, you may not bite your brother.” And we follow through with swift punishment when they proceed to bite. Our kids have to learn that our “no” actually means “no” and not “maybe if you pitch a fit.” We must follow through with a swift punishment when they disobey.  In this way, our kids learn that we are reliable—we mean what we say.  They can count on us. As they mature, reasoning becomes crucial but there will still be times when they (and even we!) simply have to accept “no” even if they don’t understand the reasoning. No, you cannot skate board without a helmet even if you are an excellent skater. No, you cannot stay out all night even if you disagree with our rules. A lot of life is full of “nos” and we don’t prepare our children for adulthood if we are afraid to say “no.”

Every parent wants their child to feel secure and valued. But we have to remember that a young child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure. God did not intend for that child to have that much power over his parents. His security comes because he begins to understand at an unconscious level that he is not the boss. Mom and Dad are and this gives him security.


Tongue Control

Lately I’ve been thinking about my tongue and how hard it is to control! This is nothing new for me. When I was young and my words often got me into trouble my Mom would say, “Susan it’s not what you are saying it’s how you are saying it.” My husband has often mentioned the same thing to me so I know it’s a legitimate criticism. It’s so easy for me to come across as bossy, arrogant, or critical without even realizing it.

When we were kids ourselves we learned the rhyme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. “ Nothing could be further from the truth. Words hurt, words are remembered, and words are hard to take back. This is true no matter how old we are.

Since our own children are now adults we realize even more how important our words are and how careful we need to be in what we say and how we say it.  This becomes even more crucial when we have in-law children. During this season we are also learning that it’s more important simply to listen than to offer advice. And that’s hard. After all we’ve spent most of our life advising and directing our kids.

This week I read Proverbs 16. This one Proverb has enough on the use of words to make anyone pause.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction. A wise man’s heart guides his mouth and his lips promote instruction.  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16: 21, 23-24)

Oh how I want my words to be sweet and healing.

The screen saver on my computer is a photo of a beautiful mountain set behind a gently curving rural road and the white steeple of a small church. Across the top I have written:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

This is a good prayer for me to pray every time I turn on my computer!


Beating Boredom

“School’s out. Yay! Summer’s here. Whoopee! Finally, I can do what I want!”

Sounds good, but it’s not too long before we’ll hear: “I’m so bored, there’s nothing to do.”

It makes a mother (or grandmother) want to pull her hair out! When did boredom become a sin?

Kids today are used to being programmed, scheduled and entertained. It’s no wonder they have lost the ability to be creative and to entertain themselves. Summer gives us the opportunity to help our kids learn that they can be responsible for their own play!

Gather the kids together for a brainstorming session. Make two lists: one of fun things to do by myself and one of fun things to do with others. Neither list should necessitate an adult. Be sure to include some rainy day activities. Many kids like to make lists and to compete so create your lists in the spirit of a challenge, “Let’s see how many we can come up with.” Electronic devices are not allowed on this list.

Be sure to leave space on your list for them to add ideas they’ll think of later. We have a list on the wall at our farm. Some of our ideas include:

Read a book, climb a tree, play with trains, work a puzzle, look at old photos, play hide and seek, play dress up, color with chalk on the basement floor (or street), play hopscotch, get a cup and collect bugs, count stars, build a fort, create a scavenger hunt, play in the sprinkler, go for a walk with a bag and collect things God made, use old tooth brushes to clean rocks, paint rocks, build a block castle, cut things we like out of old magazines, write postcards to friends, cook, play with modeling clay or make clay from the mud in our yard, play in a creek, make something out of pieces of old wood  (keep a hammer, nails and glue handy), think of something special you can make or do for someone else.

These are just to get you started. It’s best to have the kids write the list and then post it in a convenient place.

Next time you hear, “I’m bored,” simply respond, “This is a great time for you to try out some of those good ideas on the list. And I bet you can even think up some more! You are such a creative kid.”

They’ll probably roll their eyes and whine but if you persist they just might re-discover the joys of creative, independent play. And if they don’t, you can always suggest doing a chore for you as an option!


Highlights from Cousin Camp 2017

We just finished our tenth Cousin Camp and it was an incredible, exhausting, thrilling blessing. Our granddaughter Isabel Yates (12) wrote this beautiful poem about our farm—where Cousin Camp takes place—and Callie Gaskins (19) made the video below of camp highlights.

I Am the Farm

I am the farm
I am the steady galloping of horses hooves
As they run
Through my wooded trails
Ever listening
To the song of the birds
Each whistling
Their own tune
Yet singing
The same song

I am the soft smell
of fresh picked mint
Wafting through the leaves
Of the Indian cigar tree
As it sits
Under the cloudy sky
Oblivious to
The rest of the world

I am the old fence
The dusty
Weathered boards
That so many of us
Will never forget
The gentle curves
Of the Appalachians
In all their hidden splendor

I am the trickling of water
Over eager feet
Of happy children
In my bashful stream

I am the memories
Old and new
Shared by all
Who come to me
The meaningful gatherings
Of families and friends
And the love
The strong
Unfailing love of God
Coursing through every inch
Every corner
Of me
Every corner
Of the farm


Our eldest granddaughter, Callie Gaskins (19), put together this video of some of this year’s highlights.

To read about past Cousin Camps click below:

Getting Ready for Cousin Camp 2017

Getting Ready for Cousin Camp 2016 ; Cousin Camp Highlights 2016

Getting Ready for Cousin Camp 2015 ; Cousin Camp Highlights 2015



The Power of a “Buddy”-Cousin Camp is coming!!

Banana split in a gutter lined with foil

I know it’s getting close when I start getting phone calls from my grandkids asking,

“Ghee, whose buddy am I going to be this year?”

Cousin Camp is almost here!

It still amazes me that buddies are such a big deal. I started this system out of desperation! I needed the kids to help each other out. John and I couldn’t do it all.

So each year at Cousin Camp an older cousin is assigned a younger one to be his buddy. The buddies help with everything from brushing teeth, to finding lost water bottles, to filling plates with lots of food. And the kids seem to love it!

10 years ago we began Cousin Camp with 5 cousins. Our purpose has been to provide a time for our grandchildren to get to know each other since they live in different places. We pray that they will build friendships that will last a lifetime.

You have to be age 4 to attend. (We’re not totally crazy.) This year we’ll have 21 kids ranging in age from 5 to 18 from 5 different families. Parents drop kids off at our little farm for 4 days and 3 nights and then quickly leave for their own “couple time” before joining us for 4 more days. A young couple from our church comes to help out. We know we can’t lifeguard 21 in the pond by ourselves!

Sweet hands with fun bracelets

We have a detailed schedule. But it’s flexible and can change at any minute. Morning Bible study, horseback riding, crafts, berry picking at a nearby orchard, swimming in the pond, fishing, a hay ride in 2 trucks, badminton, and even cooking classes and a fierce guacamole “cook-off” which the kids invented. And always “Warren County’s largest banana split.” The kids lead lots of the activities. And yes, we have hurt feelings, stumped toes, a rare temper tantrum, but mostly lots of laughter, silliness and good old fun.

At the end we have 2 totally exhausted grandparents!

We’d love your prayers for safety and health for all or us!

We begin next Wednesday so stay tuned for news and live updates straight from camp!

To read about past Cousin Camps click below:
Getting Ready for Cousin Camp 2015
Cousin Camp Highlights 2015

Getting Ready for Cousin Camp 2016
Cousin Camp Highlights 2016

Camp last year


My Second Hike on the Appalachian Trail


My friend Melody and I just finished our 2nd hike on the Appalachian Trail!

4 days, 3 nights, 37 miles, each with 37-pound backpacks; We hit the trail at Trout Creek, Va and staggered off 4 days later near Daleville, Va. We scaled Virginia’s triple crown-“Dragon’s Tooth,” “McAfee Knob,” and “Tinker Cliffs.” Even my “Tarheel blood” has to admit that Virginia is one of the most beautiful states in the nation.

Several have asked:

“Why in the world do you do this?” (Translate: Are you crazy?)

We are a little crazy. But there’s something about pushing your body to its very limits. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. But one of the most re-freshing things I’ve ever done emotionally. When you are on the trail it’s like you are lost in another world- cut off from life’s worries, lists, projects. You have no time to think about anyone or anything except putting one foot in front of the other. And that is refreshing.

“What are your favorite things about the AT?”

Being quiet in God’s nature is at the top of my list.

This year our theme verse was from Pslam 111:2.

“Great are the works of the Lord, they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

We wanted to ponder what we were seeing in creation and specifically look for metaphors. A large uprooted tree with weak roots spoke of the need to sink deep roots of faith in our lives in order that we might not be toppled over by the whims of culture. The delicate art in the flower of a mountain laurel (calico bush) spoke of the whimsical nature of God’s artistry. Why the pink lines? I think God just wanted to have fun. Everything doesn’t have to have a serious purpose. It makes me want to be more whimsical.

The people you meet on the trail.

These are the best folks ever. Helpful, kind, and willing to share. On the trail we feel completely safe. We all have trail names. I’m “Trailblazer” and Melody is “Deep Roots.” (We named each other last year.) Along the way you meet up with the same people: rich, poor, black, white, corporate, blue collar, no collar-no one cares. We are all equal, sharing the same adventure. It is not a stroll-it’s up and down and up and down all over again. Hard, sweaty work. Yes we’re all a little bit “weird.”

What are special memories from this year?”

Waking up to the birds singing praises to God and going to sleep to the robins’ bedtime concert. Pitching our tent by a stream-the perfect sound machine. Sharing Lectio Divina in the evening. Cooking on our tiny stove (3 ounces) and filtering water from the creek to drink. (This did get old.) And then those times we said, “I’m not having fun right now.” Almost stepping on a huge black snake. He jumped one way-I the other! Falling down 3 times – I still haven’t conquered the backpack balance. Becoming dehydrated. Excruciating muscle pain in my calves and glutes-4 days after the hike!

And yes, we’ll do it again…just not next week.

After all I am 71!



Read about my first hike HERE


Is it really a vacation with toddlers?

I used to think vacations equaled rest. Sleeping in, curling up with a book, long walks, and romantic dinners with my husband… and then I had kids!

I distinctly remember one of our early family vacations with toddlers. It was a disaster. The babies did not sleep, the siblings fought, and it was either too hot or too rainy. Add into this mix two exhausted parents—each waiting for the other one to take over and help out. With grumpy, irritable adults, romance was a distant, vague memory. Somehow we staggered through the week and returned home to real life.

The good news was that I learned a few things from our bad vacation. I realized that my expectations needed a major adjustment. Vacations with small children do not mean rest; they mean running a “Family Camp.” Here are three things we learned that helped us on future vacations.

1. Small kids respond well to structure. Make a daily schedule with built-in flexibility before you go. For example, have a craft time (pack scissors, markers, glue, paper, etc.). Institute a quiet time/nap time. Children need to learn to entertain themselves and they need some alone time (without electronics) in which to do this. It encourages them to develop their creative skills. Provide coloring materials, journals, puzzles, blocks, and books for this time if they do not nap. Use a digital clock and show them the number they must see before they can get up or leave their quiet area.

2. Both parents need to know they will have some time alone each day. Divide the morning into two sections. Have Dad take a one to two hour period with the kids while Mom has time alone and have Mom take a similar time with the kids so Dad has a break. After lunch have nap time or quiet play time for the kids and then do family things together in the afternoons and evenings. A family movie night can be fun!

3. Create a theme for the vacation. Once, our theme was God’s creation, and we went on a walk and collected every different thing we could find that God made. Each child had his own collection bag. We made a large display of our treasures on the floor when we returned. On a beach trip we read Bible stories that had to do with the sea. We collected shells and created all sorts of things with glue guns.

These three simple steps enabled our next vacation to be much better. Planning ahead and adjusting expectations to fit the season of life that we were in was a big help. The good news is that a disastrous holiday can turn into a valuable learning experience!


How You Can Build A Strong Friendship with Your Husband {& Marriage Book Giveaway!}

I’m thrilled to have my dear friend and colleague Lisa Jacobson share a guest blog today! Her words are rich!


He often introduces me as his girlfriend.

Ever-so-slightly embarrassing.

He’ll say it to the barista at Starbucks, or the cashier in the check-out line of the grocery store. Even to the new couple we met at the homeschool picnic.

After 22 years, you’d think I’d get used to it, but it still makes me blush.

And smile.

I always hasten to add that I also happen to be his wife –an important fact to establish when you have 8 children together.

And I’ll flash my wedding ring to prove it if necessary.

I think he gets some kind of odd gratification out of my embarrassment.

Then pretends to protest, “What . . . you are my girlfriend, aren’t you?”

Yes, well . . .

It’s true: I am a girl. And I am his friend. A close friend.

The best of friends, really.

So I guess that does make me his girl-friend.

And like most good friendships, ours has grown over time. We’ve had to invest in our friendship and look after it.

So many times people think it’s because we somehow just “click.” But while there might be some “clicking” between us, it’s more than that. Far more than that.

It wasn’t as though we instantly became best friends. It’s been a long, purposeful process.

Here is how we became the best of friends….

How Your Husband Can Become Your Best Friend

By spending time together. I know. You’re going to tell me how busy you are. I understand busy. And yet I figure I manage to get a shower (usually) and several meals a day. That’s because it’s a priority with me. I need these things.

I also need time with my husband, so I can make that happen too.

By being nice to him. You know how you’re super sweet to your girlfriends? Smile and cheer them on? Do nice things for them? Yeah, well, it’s kinda the same here. This friendship is no different.

Play nice.

By being interested in his stuff. So I have one friend who is really into gardening. And another who is into goats. I am not particularly keen on either of those things – but since it’s my friends we’re talking about here, I’ve decided to be interested. For their sakes.

Same with my husband.

By having fun together. Friendships are never all business, are they? Of course not! It’s not like you sit down with your girlfriend and constantly go over the budget, or decide who is going to drive which child where. No, you sip coffee, go fun places and laugh at each other’s stories!

Hello . . . ?

By praying for him. If you’re a friend of mine, than you already know that I pray for you. I can’t always get away from the kids, or write long emails, but you can count on my praying for you. It’s one of my “love gifts” to my friends.

And I pray for my husband and he knows it.

Just this past week-end Matthew was out-of-town on a business trip and called to ask me to pray for him about a particular issue. I started praying as soon as I hung up the phone.

Because that’s what friends do.

So if you ever run into my husband and he introduces me as his girlfriend, just smile and go along with it, will you?

Maybe even tell him that you feel like you already know him . . . . since Lisa talks so much about her boyfriend. 😉

Embracing friendship.

*This is an excerpt from the newly released marriage devotional, Marriage Wisdom for Her by Matthew L. and Lisa Jacobson – see below!

In His grace,
Lisa Jacobson,

We’d love to invite you to enter our giveaway! You can enter below for a chance to win a copy of both books, Marriage Wisdom for Him and Marriage Wisdom for Her.

Marriage Wisdom For Him & Her: A 31-Day Devotional for Building a Better Marriage

★★★★★ “Genuine and gentle” by
Reading Marriage Wisdom for Her is like having a chat over coffee with two mentors who are committed to speaking the truth. Matt and Lisa take turns giving practical, scriptural marriage advice. Matt gets straight to the point, giving wise counsel while helping a wife see the husband’s perspective. Lisa is genuine and personable, humbly admitting her own mistakes while gently sharing exhortations along with memorable anecdotes. Marriage Wisdom for Her is the kind of book you’ll want to share with all your girlfriends–but you’ll want to keep your own copy close at hand to re-read often.From the authors of the best-selling 100 Ways to Love Your Husband/Wife, Matthew and Lisa Jacobson have recently released their new Marriage Wisdom devotionals!Each book contains 31 short, easy-to-understand readings on topics uniquely suited to a husband or wife – topics that are vital for growing in wisdom and maturity in marriage. Also included are prompts that help you be successful by asking questions that encourage you to wisely apply what you learn.Marriage Wisdom is for every intentional couple focused on building an amazingly enjoyable, enduring, beautiful, and biblical marriage, starting right now.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Lisa Jacobson is happily married to Matthew and they live together in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. They’ve homeschooled all of their eight children—four of whom have graduated and another four to go.  She and her husband are the authors of the best-selling his-and-her marriage books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband/Wife, as well as the new devotionals, Marriage Wisdom for Him & Her. A popular writer, Lisa shares her passion for husband, home, and family on her blog,

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married

This summer I have several young friends getting married. Mostly millennials, these young women have been asking me for advice. I must seem terribly old to them, but it almost feels like yesterday when I too was walking down the aisle. I had no idea what was ahead and how much I would learn. As we approach our 48th anniversary I guess I have learned a few things—things I wish somebody had told me before I got married.

Here are 10 of them:

  1. Marriage is like a 2000 piece crossword puzzle. Don’t be in a hurry to get it all figured out in the first year. God is the artist of your marriage. He has the final picture in mind and He is not in a hurry for you to get it all put together. He is FOR your marriage. So relax and enjoy the putting together of this complicated gift. You won’t really ever get it all figured out. But you will enjoy the journey!
  2. Your husband will never be able to meet all of your needs. It’s not his job to make sure you are always happy. Of course he wants you to be happy but you must not rely on Him to keep you happy. Too often we look to our husband to meet needs that would be better met by going to God first and then to female friends. No man can love you as much as you want to be loved. Only God can. If you run to Him first, your marriage will be enriched.
  3. Your husband is selfish. So are you. You may be shocked when marriage reveals to you in a new way how selfish you are. When we are single we can focus more on ourselves. But now there’s someone else we are called to serve first. We will blow it over and over again. Be quick to ask forgiveness. You won’t feel like it and you will want to justify yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go to John (and my kids) and say, “I shouldn’t have said or done what I did and I need to ask you to forgive me.” I can’t remember a single time I felt like doing this. We go out of obedience and conviction, not out of feeling. It takes time for feelings to be healed and trust restored. But it begins with asking for and granting forgiveness.
  4. You still need girlfriends. Pray for God to give you 1 or 2 “soul sisters” with whom you can share your heart. And seek out an older woman who can mentor you. One of the main prayers I pray for my 5 daughters is that God will give each of them an older mentor who loves Christ and will love them. Each of us needs someone who has “been there.” Make sure that your closest girlfriends are women who will push you to the Lord and towards your husband. Avoid hanging out with women who “bash” husbands. Once when I was angry with John and venting to a “soul sister,” she listened, empathized, and then asked me, “Susan what are you doing to move closer to John?” That’s a good friend.
  5. Let him go play with the boys! And let him have his man cave. Don’t take it personally. It isn’t about you. He needs time alone! And he needs time with guy friends. They fill him in ways that you can’t. It is good for him to cultivate hobbies apart from you. A man with good guy friends and lots of interests is a happier man and a better spouse because of it.
  6. You are more different than you thought! As you learn your differences, make them work for you rather than pulling you apart. You both have weaknesses and strengths, and different gifts. These differences can irritate. But as you get to know one another make the decision to figure out how to work your differences together to make you both stronger. Take care to compliment one another instead of competing with one another. (Read my post about this HERE). Believe in your spouse’s ability to change and grow. Encourage him.
  7. A man views sex differently than a woman. Generally speaking his appetite for sex will be much greater than yours. We are made so differently. Men are usually turned on by sight whereas women are turned on by touch. Women can take longer to “get in the mood.” We are similar to a crock pot- slow to warm up . Men are more like a microwave. Quickly turned on! We like atmosphere-candles, music, etc. And we can be easily distracted. For men it’s more- anytime any place-“I’m not distracted!” Remember that sex can be a comfort to a man. If he’s had a bad day, been rejected or is discouraged, initiate sex with him. It builds him up. If we have an argument with a friend or get a bad job review we’d rather him curl up with us, put his arms around us and tell us it will be ok. And just listen. We are so different! But God made us this way. It helps to view sex as a 20-year warm up! It gets better and better with age.
  8. Keep your first priority time alone with God. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (marriage, etc.) will be added unto it.” The best way to build a strong marriage is to make sure you have time alone with God each day to study His word and to pray. Pray for your husband: for God to put other strong believers in his life, for him to hunger for God’s word, for his colleagues, for his decisions, for protection from temptation, etc. God’s word is clear that believers are to marry believers. (2 Corinthians 6:14). If you are not both believers with a hunger to grow it is either the wrong man or the wrong time.
  9. You have married His family. They are now yours too. She’s not just his mother; she’s yours too. Reach out to her. Communicate with her. Do whatever you can to build a friendship with her. Be patient. It will take time. The first couple of years may be awkward but persist. Taking turns with holidays can be really hard. But you now have 2 families. It will be hard on your own family too! You and your husband should be united in nurturing your relationships with both families. We are called to honor our parents but we are called first to our spouse. You two need to be on the same team.
  10. Delete the “d” word. Divorce. Don’t allow the thought: Well, if this doesn’t work out then… or maybe we made a mistake, into your thoughts or talks. You are married period. In our first year of marriage I burst into tears and said to John, “Well maybe we never should have gotten married in the first place.” My even-tempered husband got mad. “Susan, don’t you ever, ever say that again. We are married period. And we will work out this argument and future ones. Our marriage is not to be questioned.” With those words he gave me security. And I’ve never said them again!

For the past 20 years John and I have had the privilege of speaking on marriage retreats for Family Life. ( We highly recommend this marriage weekend to you.

You can read my perspective on this marriage retreat here


A Mother’s Legacy

Her long white hair was usually tied up in a bun. A twinkle in her deep blue eyes revealed a well of joy and perhaps mischievousness. Even though she was already 96, she still met weekly with twelve young mothers she had been mentoring for nearly a dozen years. Widowed at 62 she had poured her life into caring for others and teaching the Bible.

She’s one of my heroes. She was my mother-in-law. When I think of her I think of her in two postures. One is talking on the phone. Faithfully she called her four children, their spouses and her 15 grandchildren.

“What’s happening in your life? How can I pray for you?” or “Are you in love with that boy yet?” She had a way of getting right to the point.

The other posture that is cemented in my brain is that of her on her knees. This was her nightly habit. Tiptoeing past her room one night I marveled to see her kneeling on the bare floor beside her walker, her frail hands folded as she prayed for those she loved.

Oh, how much I want to be like her. Her selfless life has impacted generations to come.

Father help me-help each of us to become women and men who pray regularly for the next generation and those who will follow them!

“How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.”  Psalm 116:12-13


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