"Life Beyond the Picket Fence"

Life & Faith Beyond the Storybook Image with Speaker & Writer Brenda L. Yoder

25 Reasons Marriage Stinks & 26 Reasons Why It’s Good

Posted on May 20, 2015

Today’s my 26th anniversary. Our marriage can be defined as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” only it’s Italian Girl Marries Mennonite Farmboy. I was going to write eloquent thoughts, but the post “25 Reasons Why I Suck At Marriage After 25 Years” was sitting in my dashboard. I think I wrote it a few months ago when it was a “Marriage is hard work” day. Or when I was hormonal. Or just being a jerk.

So here are 25 reasons marriage is hard, and then I’m posting 26 reasons marriage is good after all these years.



25 Reasons I Stink at Marriage after 25 Years:


1. I’m selfish.25 Reasons Why Marriage Stinks

2. I’m selfish and I’m married to another person who’s selfish.

3. I like being right.

4. I still have hurts like a little girl.

5. Sometimes all I want is a knight in shining armor.

6. I’m a counselor, so listen to me.

7. I get focused on myself and how he’s supposed to meet my needs.

8. I need my space.

9. And lots of space.

10. And then some more.

11. I still default to 50/50 instead of 100%.

12. Roman Brady always had the right words and look in the eyes.

13. I take my eyes off of Jesus and look at what’s missing.

14. I look at the “you-should’s” instead of the “thank-you’s.”

15. Romance was left in year 9 along with the body that still felt sexy.

Read More

6 Ways to Equip Kids in an Artificial World

Posted on May 14, 2015

Perfect.6 Ways to Equip Kids in an Artificial




These were answers to questions I asked middle school girls at a recent conference.

The questions I asked included:

  • Who does the world say you should be?
  • Who does social media say you should be?
  • Who do your peers say you should be?
  • Who does your family say you should be?

Every time I do the conference “Who Do You Say I Am” for teen girls, the responses are the same. No matter what part of the country in which they live, messages girls receive tells to be perfect, flawless, popular, and sexy.

These pressures aren’t different from prior generations: they’re magnified and multiplied. Instead of pressure from peers and parents, kids now have additional messages from social media.

They bombard kids.

What’s the message from social media?

Fake” is the word one middle schooler used. “You have to be fake.

Read the rest of the article here. 

Read More

5 Reasons to Engage in Your Teen’s World

Posted on May 7, 2015

You mean they’re talking this way, at age twelve?” a shocked parent asked after I told her about an inappropriate conversation in which her child was involved.

Are you aware of what kids your age are talking about?

From Elvis to twerking, generations of parents have struggled with understanding the world their kids live in. It’s easy to turn a frightened eye, but your kids need you to be involved and aware of their world, even if they push against it.reasons to engage in teen's world

Your kids’ world is expanding faster than you can keep up. You have to worry about more these days with digital and social media. Even if you kept your kids locked in their rooms until college, they’ll still hear, see, and experience things that would mortify you. Being aware and engaged in your teen and tween’s environment is crucial for navigating and equipping them to make good choices.

Some strategies for being aware of the challenges they face include:

1. Being involved in the social media venues and apps they’re using. Have active accounts where they are. Know how they work, and be aware of potential dangers.  Require your child’s passwords when they set them up accounts. Be respectful of their space by being a silent presence in these worlds. Don’t write embarrassing messages on their wall. Let them know you’re “there,” not because you mistrust them, but because it’s the same as knowing who their “real time” friends are and where they hang out. You’re still the gatekeeper for their soul.

2. Read the rest here at 10 to 20 Parenting.

Read More

Where Is God Calling You? – A Give Away

Posted on May 3, 2015

Seven years ago I left the profession I love. I wasn’t sure what was next for me, but I knew I needed something different that would better fit our family and heal things that were broken.Spring Forth

I read a book that summer, “When I Lay My Isaac Down” by Carol Kent. Her story greatly impacted me as a struggling mom. I had hope that life still goes on even when your storybook image is shattered. At the end of the book, something else grabbed my attention. It was an informational page for her ministry training Christian speakers, “Speak Up with Confidence”

It struck a chord with me.

Teaching is my passion. Teaching the Bible my greatest passion.

I shared the information with my husband. The conference was two hours away in Grand Rapids, MI. He encouraged me to go. “I’ll sell books at your book table someday,” he said.

I smiled.

I didn’t tell anyone where I was going when I attended Speak Up that summer. How prideful would that be, attending a Christian conference to be trained as an inspirational speaker?

So I quietly left for a few days, telling a few people I was “going to a conference….”

Read More

Some Things You Keep – Give Away

Posted on Apr 27, 2015

“There’s been an accident. Mom fell asleep in the garage. She’s dead.” When I heard my father say those words, I stood motionless beneath his hand that rested on my head, wondering if he was truly talking about my mom. The reality soon set in, but the grief and healing were years off.download

I was twelve when my mom killed herself. My parents were divorced. My dad was remarried and lived nearby. I had an older brother who lived in his own apartment, so I was alone with my mom.

She sometimes left me home alone when she went out drinking. I begged her to stay home, but she would only promise to be home by a certain time. My neediness was useless to change anything. Once when she was a few minutes late, I jumped to action and dialed the number I had for the bar. A woman answered and I said meekly, “Mom?” Laughter squeaked through the receiver and I hated the stranger. I heard her say to the room I imagined was full of people, “There’s a kid on here calling me Mom.” In seconds, my mom was talking to me. Shamed, I cried for her to please come home, which she eventually did.

Life wasn’t horrible though.

I was charmed with my dad’s new family and didn’t directly connect with the hurt of divorce. Going back and forth between my mom and dad wasn’t as traumatic for me as it seems to be for some children, but I did struggle with dark thoughts. I imagined what life would be like for me if one of my parents died. Often I felt like I was in a vise, being squeezed. I tried to choose who I preferred, Mom or Dad. Who would I pick if I could have just one?

I slept at my dad’s house the night my mom died. More accurately, I moved in. A few blocks were all that separated the houses—a slight but infinite distance.

Read More

3 Responses to A Mother’s Anxiety

Posted on Apr 23, 2015

In the last post, we identified “what-if’s” that feed a parent’s fears and anxiety. We identified three steps to manage momentary and long-term fears.Stop

1. Stop.

2. Breathe.

3. Listen to God.

You can read about the first two principles here.

Let’s get to the third principle: Listening to God


In the land of “What-if’s,” Christian parents have this assurance:

God already knows..

…….your fears.

…….the needs of your child.

…….what’s best for the situation.

…….the outcome.

This is your hope and promise when your life’s in the hands of the Living God.

When you stop and breathe, the Holy Spirit rests your mind.

If you let Him.

He equips you with peace until you’re sure of “what’s next.”

Read More

The Mother’s Anxiety We All Have

Posted on Apr 18, 2015

When I recently asked for topics you’d like me to write about, a mother’s anxiety came up.

I can relate. So I’ll write.


Anxiety creeps in the minute you see the “+” on the pregnancy test:The Mother's Anxiety

What if something’s wrong with the baby?

What if I won’t be a good mom?

What if I it’s a (boy) or (girl)… and I won’t know how to raise them?

What if the father and I aren’t on the same page?

What if we can’t afford the baby?

What if they inherit my problems?

What if….

The “what-if’s” don’t end when the baby comes. They morph into the next season of “what-if’s.”

What if I don’t discipline their tantrums right and they’re a rebellious teen?

What if they don’t have friends because they’re shy?

What if they can’t succeed in school because of their learning disability?

What if they fall off their bike? Get picked up by a stranger?

What if they get pregnant, hang out with wrong friends?”

It. Never. Ends.


I parented my older children in fear of “what-if’s”. I was overbearing and critical. At age 5, one of them had a melt-down in the bathroom at church over things kids should’t be worried about. While calming them in the bathroom stall, God told me something was out of balance.

Read More

10 Ways You Value Your Children More Than God

Posted on Apr 15, 2015


You honor your sons more than me…” 1 Samuel 2:29b

God’s word is complete for parenting. Even in 2015. 1 Samuel shares a principle parents of teens need to hear:

Do you honor your children more than God?

 It’s an eye-opening question. You strive to raise good kids. You want them to represent your family well. You want them to embrace Christ as their Savior.

But in efforts to parent well, do you leave God by the wayside?

God posed this question to Eli, the High Priest, whose sons dishonored Him. They corrupted the sacrifice, intimidated parishioners, and had sex with women at the tabernacle gate.

Good ‘ole preacher boys.

God rebuked Eli because he turned a blind eye to what his sons were doing.

Are you tempted to turn a blind eye to your teen’s behavior?

Eli, a pastor, honored his children more than God. He ignored their vile behavior and misrepresentation of God. God took the offense seriously. In fact, he ended all three of their lives.

Likewise, God takes our parenting seriously in relation to His holiness.

Where does this question find you? Even the best-meaning parents fall in the trap of indulging and enabling a child’s sin more than honoring and loving God.

God’s asking you: Do you honor your children more than me?

If you’re wondering if you struggle with this, consider these questions.

1. Do you dishonor God by compromising His values for the culture’s as you raise kids? What TV shows, movies, or video games do you allow them to watch or play? Do the storylines honor God or dishonor Him?

Read More

4 Steps to Re-image Your If-Only’s

Posted on Apr 11, 2015

I looked around the room thinking how much solace I’d find if only I lived here. I was in the parlor of a colonial home in the mountains of Northern Virginia.tranquility

I’ve been to Virginia often in the past five years, visiting my daughter who’s lived there since high school. The mountains, the architecture, the history – it all inspires me. On every trip, I find myself thinking:

  • if only I lived in a two-hundred year old house…..
  • if only I could have a view like this, then I could write more….
  • if only I could connect with rich history, then I’d be inspired…..

Do you have “if only’s?”

Life can take you to the land of “if-only’s.” There, “if-only” thoughts embed your life, creating covetousness and discontentment.

The “if-only” dream isn’t really what you’re longing for.

If you’re visiting the land of “if-only’s,” you don’t have to stay there. Whether it’s a physical need, a relationship, or a life-style change, here are 4 questions to transform “if-only” discontentment:

1. What do you really want to change? “If-only” thoughts usually have a root problem needing resolved or changed. My “if-only” daydream was rooted in the need for a private writing space in a house full of teens and college students.

Relationship problems, lifestyle needs, health and workplace discontentment are approached the same way. Acknowledging what you can’t change, honestly ask, “What can I do to make the situation better? Is there an attitude or response I need to change?

Read More

5 Tips for Organizing the Mess

Posted on Apr 6, 2015

When toddlers were underfoot, I longed for less messy days

Then my oldest became a teenager, I had a toddler and elementary kids in between. Life got crazy.

How do you keep track of the mess?

Here are 5 household and lifestyle tips I’ve used to manage the multiple-child mess.

1. Expect kids to be responsible for their mess, no matter their age. The unwritten rule in our house is once you’re old enough to do something for yourself, you do it. Putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, picking up the mess after friends leave, taking care of your own room, etc.

If it’s you’re mess, you pick it up.

5 Tips For Organizing the Mess2. Use organizing totes and bins, and lots of them. Decorative plastic drawers on wheels are my favorite to store toys, school work, sports equipment and shoes in various rooms for different needs. My sanity returns when things are “out of sight” put away. When there are designated drawers, it’s easy to put items away in the moment, or at the end of the day, so the mess is out of sight and somewhat organized.

“Where is my paper to be signed?”……”In the homework drawer.”

3. Make your space work for you. Read the rest here. 

If you like this post, you’ll look forward to my upcoming book on balance, busyness and not-doing-it-all to be released June 1. Stay tuned for details to come this spring!
Read More

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: