Letting Go

2013-12-02 16.02.42There are some things we just can’t comprehend fully until we walk through them —

The way it feels to hold your child in your arms…

The joy of seeing him or her take their first steps and call you by name…

The emotions on the first day of school…

The feelings as they approach graduation…

This last one I am approaching quickly. I can’t believe it’s almost here. It seems like just yesterday I experienced all the other firsts. Time goes so fast. I’ve talked about it in my messages on parenting – every stage is strategic in preparing my kids to send them out into the world and hit their mark – the mark God created them to make on this earth. I believe our children are our arrows, as it says in Psalm 127:4,

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.

God has great plans for each and every one of them and He entrusts them to us to shape, mold and release. The release part after shaping – is not easy. I’ve seen other mom’s walk through this season. I am now that mom feeling the emotions of letting go. The release moment is here. I wonder, have I done enough? Have I taught Him enough?

As I am working on letting go, he’s already pulling away. That’s good. That’s natural. That’s what should happen. And as I grieve I tell him I want him to go and take on the world. He is excited. I am excited for him. I can’t wait to see what this new season holds for him. It brings me great joy to see his interests and goals take shape and to watch him pursue them with enthusiasm.

I am so thankful for mom’s in my world I can reach out to and talk through letting go. I’ve let go of toxic relationships, I’ve let go of people who’ve passed on from this world, but not one of my own into their future. That is – until now – Here we go! If you are a mom who’s been through this season, what are some things you did well? What would you recommend to other moms? What did you do for your kids that made an impact as you prepared them for what’s next?






Grace in Real Time, Guest Post by Lori Smith


I have this neighbor who bakes. She bakes like it’s nobody’s business – but it’s her business, she made it a business, gave it a name, takes her orders. And our kids, they play well together – her boy and my boy, her girls and my girl. They ride bikes, share Legos, switch backyards. But the belief systems, they’re different. She believes she is still under the law – me I’m under Grace. The rituals are there, the bread baking on Fridays, the annual celebration of Hanukkah, Hebrew spoken to friends on certain holidays. We’re standing outside one day, watching kids play, talking a little about belief, and it rolls off her tongue and hits me like a Mack Truck, like a gust of wind it takes my breath away – I Don’t Care If My Kids Believe In God. Her husband doesn’t believe anything, so maybe I should have seen that coming. I saw other things coming – like when she got plastic surgery or all the ways she belittled her beloved. The Holy Spirit gives us insight into hurt, and I felt her hurt from the time I met her – even if she didn’t feel it. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised then the day her husband whispered to mine they are divorcing. But still I cried, and my heart shattered into a million pieces for them, for the kids.

When there’s nothing to stand on, how do you stand?

At church we are exploring the Supernatural. My son, he’s in the video. At home we teach it. We learn it everyday. We discuss ALERTNESS vs. UNAWARENESS. We home school so God can be in school. And we try to put FIRST THINGS FIRST. One Sunday there’s this illustration. And I’m warned by my friend the day before – it’s powerful. Demons – that’s the topic. The family on stage is being ripped apart, while demons dance around, egging it on. But then a single prayer, a child’s prayer, and in come the mighty angels. I’m crying, tears streaming, because I’ve pictured this scene. I’ve seen it, and I know it’s there. My house, God’s angel army set around it, because I pray it most nights – God set your angels around us, around my house. And my neighbor’s house, ravished by demons, running amuck – because everyone serves someone. I want my angels to go over there, beat them up, take them down in an instant because I know they can. I even pray for it to happen. Whether she is asking or not, I ask for her. But the unseen desolation continues – like in the Matrix – when the “real” world is revealed, all dark and demolished but all the people are living in the matrix and so all looks well, seems happy and bright.

“But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!” Matthew 10:26-27 (MSG)

Everything in me wants to shout it from my rooftop to hers. Because even the demons know the truth. But there’s enough shouting in the world for now, and I know that shouting never got anyone anywhere – I know because there was a lot of shouting in my childhood home, and it never got us anywhere either. So I take the servant’s route.

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 (NLT)

I ask how she’s doing when he moves out. I ask how the kids are doing. I offer my help. But still I pray, because I don’t want to be devoured. I don’t want to be consumed – because I already feel consumed by my own circumstances and there’s demons all around, looking for a way in. And, she’s asking on Facebook for someone, anyone I guess, to watch her kids after school – because she’s a working mom now. When I read the post it’s one of those moments I wish I could hit the rewind button, not have checked social media at that moment. HIS callings aren’t always comfortable. But I feel called immediately by HIS words:

“That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. ‘I took on the troubles of the troubled,’ is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.” Romans 15:3-4 (MSG)

…and I whined a little, because my days are already so overwhelming. Then, I whispered, “yes.” How can we teach obedience to our children, if we ourselves are not obedient?

So I wade right in, help out. I take on the troubles of the troubled children, my heart breaking every bit as theirs. I play God music while they’re here, hoping an angel will follow them home. And, I pray they ask me questions so I can give God answers. My husband and I, we discuss all these things, because how can you ever know anything about marriage if you don’t talk? We talk, and we wonder why others don’t. And we pray because sometimes that’s all we can do.

And my children, they recite the scripture to me:

“Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naïve. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Mark 14:38 (MSG)

So I stay alert. And I pray.

Lori Smith
Shoreline MOPS Coordinator


Parenting on Purpose: Living with Purpose

Living with purpose

The fourth thing our kids need to know when we send them out into the world is what it means to live with purpose. As my oldest son, Russel, is preparing to leave for college after he graduates this year, I am more focused in on how important this is, than ever before.

Like many soon-to-be college students as they embark on the next season of their lives, he is asking himself a lot of questions, such as, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” He is realizing his answer to that question will drive what he studies and majors in. He is asking how much he wants to make, what kind of lifestyle he wants to have… all great questions. On top of that, colleges are scouting him out, offering scholarship opportunities and petitions for him to come to their school. It’s a lot to process through for any high school senior, much less one who is graduating a year early at the tender age of just sixteen.

As my son is pondering these things, my heart is pondering many things as well. I wonder, have I poured everything into him he needs? Have I helped him understand enough who he is in Christ, how loved he is, and how important it is to live a life of surrender to God– for His glory? When our pondering moments come together and we talk through the transition that is coming, I listen and then I try to slip in a little nugget of wisdom… I try to plant a seed to steer his soul-searching in the right direction… and sometimes I outwardly remind him that the most important thing in life is to live within God’s will, fulfilling the purpose He created Russel to fulfill in this life.

That is my hope for my children — that they live within God’s will and that doing so matters to them. In my prayer time, I ask God to set them apart, to consecrate them for His glory, to use them in amazing ways to further His kingdom here on this earth. I want nothing more than for my children to seek God first in all things as it says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” And as they seek God first I trust He will meet their every need. To seek God first… there is nothing more noble than that.

I also think on verses like Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” This verse reminds me that we all have a void that only God and eternity in Heaven with Him can fill, that nothing on this earth can satisfy. My heart’s desire is for my kids to turn that void to God and not look to worldly things, careers, achievements or relationships to fill it.

My absolute dream for my kids is that they live successful lives on this earth, storing up for themselves treasures in Heaven that moth and rust cannot destroy. I do want them to do great things, have a good lifestyle, find a career path where they can live out their gifts and talents and pass on God’s love to those around them, but I want them to do it from a place where they recognize none of these things in and of themselves are their purpose. But rather, their purpose is who they are day-to-day as they walk out all they do in all the hats they wear. 

That brings us back to our family mission statement I started with in the first Parenting on Purpose post. I would love nothing more than to see my kids grasp and carry this out in their lives. That is — “We, the O’Donnell’s, live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our everyday lives.”

For me, I feel if my kids grasp this as they head out into the world, they will start that journey from a place of wholeness — a place of knowing where their identity lies — a place of knowing there is nothing better in this life than reaching Heaven and getting a big hug from our Heavenly Father along with a precious, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” As a mom, nothing would bring greater joy.

What does success look like for you as you prepare to send your kids out into the world, and how do you explain living with purpose to your children?

Amy O’Donnell

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Parenting on Purpose: Intimacy with God

walking with godWhether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

When it comes to Parenting our kids on purpose, the second most important thing we need to teach them is how to have a personal, intimate relationship with God. As I type this, I’m reminded of the story of Eli and Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. In this story, Eli is training Samuel to be a priest. One evening, they both laid down for the night in their usual fashion. This was no ordinary night though. On this night, as Samuel was trying to drift off to sleep, he kept hearing the sound of someone calling his name. “Samuel, Samuel,” the voice called out. The first three times Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “”Here I am; you called me.” Initially, Eli responded back with, “My son, I did not call; go back and lie down.” The third time Samuel came to him, the light bulb went off and Eli realized God was calling out to Samuel. This time Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'”

The whole time, God was calling the name of Samuel, he didn’t realize it was God. That’s eye-opening. He hadn’t learned yet how to discern the voice of God. Being able to hear from God is a big part of having an intimate relationship with him. We are responsible to teach our kids what that looks like.

One thing I have learned as a parent is that our kids learn more by our examples than by our words. Telling my kids something is important,with out modeling it decreases the weight of my words. So one of the key ways we teach our kids how to have an intimate personal relationship with God is by having one with him ourselves.

For me, I love my time with God first thing in the morning. I get up early just to sit with him, pray, worship and read my Bible. It’s the best start to my day. My kids have learned that when I am spending time with God, its sacred. They know not to disturb me unless it’s an emergency. I’ve taught them that, because I want them to see that my time with God is very important to me, just like my time with each of them.

A few months ago, I went upstairs a little before the time we normally wake the kids, and I found my third son Ethan sitting at his desk. He had his hands folded in prayer, his head bowed. He had gotten up early to spend time with God. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t disturb him. I just smiled inwardly – it so warmed my heart. I treasured the sight of my son rising early on his own to talk to God. I couldn’t help but think, he is learning by our example.

Our goal for our kids is for them live a surrendered, dependent relationship with God — that they would be able to hear and discern his voice and want to do His will above all else. And in the end, reach Heaven and hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For this to happen, they need to understand how to have an intimate, personal relationship with God and the value of following hard after Him. In addition to modeling this in our lives, we talk about the Bible, have times of prayer and devotions as a family, and attend church together.

How do you teach your children how to have a personal, intimate relationship with God, and why do you feel this is important?

Amy O’Donnell

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

SHINE 2013 Family Matters Break Out Session


Amy O’Donnell, Lynn Cherry, Heather Frierson – Family Matters – Your children, your spouse & your soul – This break out session offers wisdom for a healthy marriage and family. You will be equipped to parent on purpose – teaching your children to embrace God’s love, live with passion and be an answer to the problems in the world around them. You will learn strategies for honoring your man even when it doesn’t come naturally. Women who have experienced infidelity will find courage and hope in God’s ability to restore our soul. Amy, Heather and Lynn will cover it all in a fun, captivating, real and relevant way.

Parenting On-Purpose

Our family2A few months ago our kids got into trouble of epic proportions. With four kids, we’ve had plenty of moments where one, two or more gets in trouble, but for all four of them to go down at the same time — that’s really rare! On this particular occasion, though – they managed to pull off a real doozy. It all started with an epic Nerf battle. Several of their friends came to join in the fun. With ten plus boys running around in battle mode – the testosterone was raging. It went on most of the night and into the morning. My husband, David and I, were pretty tuned in – we ducked into our room for a quiet movie late in the evening and some much-needed R&R; when I went out of my room for snacks or to check on the kids, I felt like I had stepped into a full-out war. I’d hear things like, “where’s the recon”, and “hold your positions, we have an intruder… “, and I’d think to myself, “Are they talking about me?” Amidst all the commotion, we knew they were going in and out of the house, using the front yard, back yard, upstairs and down as they fought on for hours. I have to say it was hard to keep track of who was going out what doors and who was where in our house. It wasn’t until our two oldest got into it (it’s like I always say, it’s all fun and games until someone gets upset) — that it all hit the fan. They literally had a moment where they ended up in a fist fight, one of their iPhones was shattered… there were tears and wounds. It went from epic battle to epic mess in no time.

When we caught wind of it we sent everyone home, and gathered our kids to have what we call a family meeting. As we talked and sorted through the details, we realized that not only did they get in a fight and a phone get broken; they also were going upstairs, out the windows, on to the roof over our bay windows, down my Crepe Myrtle (which I love, all safety issues aside), into the yard and back into the house. All of this was apparently made easier by the fact that our third son took the locks off the windows a few weeks prior, unbeknownst to us, and then knocked the screens out. Not knowing what to do from there and trying to avoid the trouble he now found himself in, he chose to launch them over the fence into our neighbors yard. What a mess! They really did it that time. It was the one time my husband just had to sit at the table, while they stood in a line listening to him correcting each one of them. As he did, with each word, he brought his hand down over and over on the table for emphasis. And I went into my room, closed the door, laid down on my bed and prayed. When he finished he sent them my way and I just looked at them and said, I’m so disappointed in you. Sometimes that says it all! All their heads hanging – they walked off to accept their grounding of three weeks.

Meanwhile, for us it was a great reminder that our kids left to their own can make some pretty bad decisions. They can go the wrong direction – in ways that are not in their best interest or wellbeing! Our kids need us as parents to steer and guide them and teach them what’s right.

Honestly, we didn’t need an epic battle moment to figure that out. We caught on pretty early on. When they were teeny little bundles of cuteness they displayed the very real human tendency to want to go their own way and have their own way. They come out of the womb with the fallen natures that are a very real part of our fallen world! Don’t get me wrong – I knew they were amazing God gifts with great potential, but they were also in need of lots of shaping.

We didn’t get a lot of time early on to think through what type of parents we wanted to be.  We were just newlyweds when we got pregnant. Three months after our wedding, we got the news our oldest was on the way. As we’d been trying not to get pregnant, he was a surprise – or unexpected blessing as we say. David was working; I was in my last year of college and was going to work for a few years to save money for the future– when HELLO! We had to switch gears and go another direction. It was one of those moments I knew God was saying…. Uh – HUH – Many are the plans in a man’s heart but ultimately it’s the Lords’ plan that succeeds. (Proverbs 19:21)

Before I had Russel, God laid it on both of our hearts that I should stay home with him. It rocked my world. I was on a path toward a lucrative career. We didn’t have a lot of money. We had one car — it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. And I come from a family that prioritized success and personal goals above rearing kids. I didn’t have the greatest examples for parenting well in life. While David couldn’t totally relate to that – he struggled with what a good father should look like, as he grew up in a home with an amazing mom and a bi-polar dad. Neither of us felt super equipped or ready for parenting, but parents we would quickly be!

So we did what many do. We read. We studied. We asked questions. I applied so many things to my  oldest – tips to make him smarter, things to make him sleep better, to excel faster – all pointing toward that same goal of achieving success as I knew it.

Over time we added two more sons and a daughter to our family.  We put them in sports. We ran in many directions. We got on that treadmill of parenting so many get on –running our kids to school, soccer, gymnastics, t-ball, errands, music lessons and more, until we finally looked up and called a “time out.” We realized we were too busy, spending too much money, and our kids really didn’t seem that fulfilled and happy with going all the time. Without realizing it, we had copied what we saw so many parents around us doing. We decided we didn’t want to blindly follow other’s ideas of what successful parenting looks like. We wanted to spend some time figuring out what God wanted for our family.

So, we pulled our kids out of everything and did a little seeking God on our own. We talked to our kids to see what they were really most interested in. We tuned in to what they naturally gravitated toward and where there natural gifting lied. And we asked ourselves some tough questions like – What does being a successful parent look like to us? What values did we want our children to have? Beginning with the end in mind, what do we need to instill into them so they are emotionally, spiritually, and physically equipped to leave our little nest and launch off into adulthood well.

This time was critical for our family. It put us on the path we are now on toward what we feel like our family mission is – to unveil God’s love and glorify him in our everyday lives. That to us is our goal – to raise our kids to live this out in the world. After we established our family mission statement as our compass for parenting, we knew we had to become strategic about instilling it in them so they would know day-to-day what that means and looks like.

We began to have a greater understanding of our role as parents. As Psalm 127:3-4 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, are children born in one’s youth.”

While I’ve never crafted arrows I know enough to know they cannot craft themselves. There has to be a craftsman making them, shaping them, readying them to be aimed at a target to make their mark. We are those craftsmen for our kids, along with God. He entrusts our children, some of his most prized possessions whom he dearly loves, into our hands to train them up in the way they should go so when they are old they will not depart from it, as it says in Proverbs 22:6. With our focus to become more strategic at Parenting On-Purpose, we knew for them to hit their mark and be effective in this life, they need to be shaped well and know a few very important things!

We will cover those things over the next several blog posts. Stay tuned for four great tips on what our kids need to know as well as some tools to craft your own family mission statement.


Amy O’Donnell

Hit the Brakes… It’s a detour day!


Here it is, a blustery 54 degree early April morning. My youngest son is home sick with the stomach bug that has been sweeping through our house. My plans are thrown. My thoughts of getting up and out to run my errands, and cross off my tasks and to-do’s – dashed. Isn’t that how it is with motherhood? Blessed are the flexible, should be our motto!

Yet again, I am reminded great treasure can be found in these unexpected, unpreventable change of plan moments. My much-needed quiet time stretched longer and was filled with the sweet loving presence of God. I am wrapped in a warm, toasty blanket savoring one more cool morning before the Texas heat kicks in. My fire-place is a glow. My son is happily resting and enjoying a good movie, and allowing me to take care of Him a little more than he would, were he feeling better. And the damp, rainy aftermath of last night’s storms lingers over the views from every window. It’s a God kiss morning… full of unexpected glimpses of him.

God is good. I have learned to expect him to show up in the unexpected, to wow me with the wonder of His presence in the most surprising and loving ways! Even in life’s detours, He is there. What needs to get done, will still get done. But in this moment, I am going to treasure every opportunity to soak Him in…

Praying for you today – If life throws a detour your way, that you will look up and find God in the midst of it all; showering you with His love and enabling you to find joy in the moment.


Amy O’Donnell