Lindsey Racz

When You Give a Kid a Smart Phone

By Lindsey Racz

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When you give a kid a smartphone, he’s going to want Instagram. When you give him an Instagram account, he’s going to want all the other social medias. Once he has the other medias, he won’t be able to put his phone down. When he can’t put his phone down, you will wonder where your kid went. When you try to get your kid back, he will demand you give him back his smartphone… and this is what happens when you give a kid a smartphone.

The above scenario plays out in countless homes across America every single day. At least some version of it. Personally, I’m ticked. I’m ticked at what smartphones are doing to our kids. Or rather, what peer pressure is doing to parents of tweens and teens regarding the usage of smartphones. I write to you today from a clinical and professional stance based on what I see in my counseling office, as well as what I know about the current research on this topic. I also write to you as a parent of a 9-year-old and step-parent of a 14-year-old. A parent who very much feels all the pressure to keep up with social norms and wonders if it’s possible not to be swept away in the cultural undertow. There’s no judgement here. I get it. But today we need to talk truth.      

I’m not here to shame you if your child has a smartphone or if you’re planning to give them one for their next birthday. What I am asking is that you reconsider.  I am asking that we all be reminded of one simple fact:  we don’t have to give in. Give in to what? The temptation to feel guilty. To feel like you’re the only one not getting your child a smartphone. To feel like your kids are somehow deeply deprived of meaning and acceptance because you haven’t caved in this area. And like you’ll ruin their lives drastically and permanently if you don’t allow them to be part of the in-crowd and get the latest iPhone. For crying out loud, our kids can be the worst culprit in trying to convince us of these things! However, they simply are not true. But what is the truth?

The truth is, in my counseling office, I cannot begin to report to you the number of tween and teen clients who are there because of something related directly to unmonitored use of their very own smart phone—social media bullying, social media drama, body image issues, depression, sleep issues, anxiety and lots of pornography addiction. These are just a few of the issues that stem from the combination of kids and their smartphones. It seems that it’s become the norm for anyone age 9 or older to be walking around with their very own personal computer—keys to the world, so to speak. And yet, we wouldn’t give a 9-year-old keys to a car, would we?

You see, until about age 25 the pre-frontal cortex—that is the part of the brain in charge of decision making and impulse control—is still developing. I’m not suggesting we wait until our teeny boppers hit their 20’s to hand over a cell, but I am suggesting we really examine the age our culture has deemed appropriate. At age 14, children’s brains are making more neural connections per second than at any other time in their lives (aside from the first year of life). Their norms are forming—social, sexual, body and moral norms. Now ask yourself, how does the internet swamp contribute to that development? How about social media usage? How about addictive feedback loops that are intentionally engineered by social media managers?

The truth is, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be set apart from this world and have renewed minds that seek Him. Romans 12:2 says,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God.

Is it a sin to have a smartphone? Absolutely not. Do smartphones usher in a lot of sin when not used responsibly? Absolutely. And it’s tough for someone with an undeveloped brain to know what responsible use of this device looks like.

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When is an appropriate age for a teen to have a smartphone? My professional suggestion is 16—and even then, you don’t just give them a phone and walk away. You give them a phone along with frequent conversations about the responsibility they must practice when using it. You give them a phone along with parental controls and accountability software. You give them a phone with a list of understood rules and a contract they sign stating they understand the rules. Giving our teens a smartphone without standards is equivalent to handing them a bottle of Tylenol and telling them to wash it down with some Jack Daniels. It’s not okay!

Here’s the bottom line. Tweens and teens do not have adult brains and they need our help and protection to become healthy, functioning adults who love the Lord. They need our help to avoid a world chalked full of the enemy’s traps for them. With that in mind, I suggest the following bare minimum guidelines for those who choose to let their teens or tweens own a personal smart device.  

1.     Set parental controls so that adult content may not be viewed.

2.     Do not allow a social media account on their phone. If your child simply MUST have social media accounts, set it up so they can access them only on a family computer.

3.     Do not allow phones to stay in their bedrooms.

4.     Keep phones locked from 7pm- 7am.

5.     Do frequent and random content checks.

6.     Install accountability software.

One final point: I know we don’t all have complete control over what our kids do. As stated above, I am a step-mom, which means I don’t control if my step-son has a smartphone or not. But I can still encourage him to live a life of godly standards. A life that’s set apart. I can encourage him and I can encourage all of us. When we choose to protect our kids hearts and minds from the multitude of dangers lurking on a very dark and adult world wide web, we say yes to living a life that’s set apart for Jesus. No matter how hard it seems, no matter what fight we’re up against, it’s worth it.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
— Galatians 6:9

Faith, Hope, and Infertility

By Lindsey Racz

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Just under three years ago, I wrote a very personal post on a different blog about my behind the scenes struggle with infertility. At that point, I hadn’t yet shared the struggle with many at all. Writing that post and publicly declaring our infertile status provided more healing than I knew it would. So many people’s comments—both friends and strangers—poured in to say, "us too." Suddenly, although still hurting deeply, I didn’t feel so alone.

Today, 8 months pregnant with our SECOND child since that post was written, I share the original post along with HOPE. To my friends struggling with infertility, I say this: miracles are possible. I don’t know what your story will look like, but here’s where ours began.

Our Behind the Scenes Struggle with Infertility (published 09-2016)

Many of our friends know our story and have been rooting for us. Matt and I love the Lord with all of our hearts and desire to serve Him with our lives. We were both foolish in our youth and squandered blessings in different ways. Each of us survived the shattered dream of a divorce and lived as single parents for a season. And then, in a beautiful swoop of restoration, the Lord introduced us to one another. By this time, we had each grown in our faith and we knew that if we were going to do life together, it was going to be God’s way.  We had a beautiful courtship; one full of purity and hope. Yes, folks, we did save sex for marriage. Gasp. I remember one friend who said “Why are you waiting? I mean, you each have a child already so the cat’s kind of out of the bag!”  But we knew the Lord could restore our purity if we walked in obedience with Him, and again, this whole marriage thing was going to happen His way if it was going to happen at all.  We had a beautiful wedding complete with burlap and white lights strung from high hopes.

We each had a dream on our heart to grow our family. I brought a girl to our marriage. Matt brought a boy. But honestly, I pictured us having at least 2-3 more children together as being a mom is the greatest joy of my life. I came from a broken family and believe I’ve lived most of my life trying to put a family back together—right or wrong, this was our hope.  We were so excited and began trying from month one! Six months went by with no pregnancy. Each month I had a reason to think I was pregnant and in this time frame, I probably went through at least a hundred pregnancy tests. I had a growing sense that something was wrong, but I was calmly assured that these things take time.

After a year of deep hope for that little pink plus sign to show up but instead of ending in a puddle of tears, we decided to seek medical help.  We saw a primary care physician who ran an analysis. We waited to hear back hoping this would give us a clue to what we needed to do next. But the doctor called me a week later—in the middle of my work day—and spoke very matter-of-factly: “You two will probably not have children together. Have you thought about adoption?”

…. “what?”

This is not the kind of news you deliver to a woman at 3 PM on a Tuesday afternoon when she’s getting ready to sit down with her next client. But, there it was.  I responded in some robotic way and set the phone down and shut my office door and sobbed harder than I ever have.

I asked God if this was punishment for being divorced. If this was because of all the mistakes I’ve made. If He was testing me. I cried out to Him.  He was silent.

I went home to tell Matt the news (that the doctor should have called us into his office to share with both of us). I tried to maintain composure, but it was not a pretty night.  For several months after that, I cried daily and tried to imagine never having a child with my husband. Not a big deal, right? We both have a child. So what if we don’t have one together. We share these children with ex-spouses, which wasn’t exactly the original plan, but they are healthy and we are raising them together. It’s fine.

Except for that, it’s not. I can’t let this dream go. My heart aches to grow a family with my husband. To experience him holding my hand in childbirth. To see his gentle-giant hands pick up a tiny life that we’ve created together. To have this bond with one another that is part of God’s purpose for marriage.

We began looking for a second opinion. We met with a fertility specialist who put us on supplements. We tested again three months later, but the outlook was even bleaker. I cried some more. I read a 300-page book on conception and changed each of our diets in drastic ways for six months.

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Twenty-one. That’s the number of months we’ve been married– which isn’t long at all unless you’ve been hoping and praying and trying and crying out to God every month for 21 months to please have mercy on you and bless you with a life you know you don’t deserve.  In that case, 21 months feels like an eternity. We recently went to another specialist who gave a little more hope but stated a surgery would be necessary. Thankfully, this specialist found a problem area that others weren’t able to locate. And here we are. After much prayer, our surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. Neither of us knows the outcome. Matt has been brave and strong as an oak (he’s the one who has to go under the knife!) while I’ve just been an emotional wreck.

I haven’t been myself for at least the last year and a half. This is why. Struggling with infertility was never part of my formula. It took me by surprise and came at a time when I thought I was leaving the worst of my heartache behind. Matt and I are a stronger couple for it. In our first two years of marriage, we’ve survived the dynamics of a blended family along with this monthly roller coaster of emotion. We hit our knees in prayer each night and take it one day at a time. It’s hard to count it all as joy, and yet I’m thankful for a new understanding of what it feels like to face infertility. It gives me another “specialty area” in my counseling ministry; compassion that is only birthed from experience. But most of all, when and if God decides to give us another child, the glory will be all the more to Him because HE IS ABLE even when doctors say “not possible.”  That is the God we serve.

And although I know what I desperately want, I will continually declare that thy will be done.


The Get Outta Debt Dance

By Lindsey Racz

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In a survey published with CNBC in 2017, it was reported that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Not just the lower and middle class, though; even ten percent of Americans who make over 100k report having trouble making ends meet. Debt has become a way of life in our culture. More often than not, accumulating debt is the only way to live up to what are considered cultural norms—you know, shiny cars, vaulted ceilings and pretty Pinterest chandeliers and the like—but I am here to tell you, folks, there really is another way!

The reasons to get out of debt are numerous. For us, following biblical principles, seeking financial peace, being able to give freely to others in need, and teaching our children financial wisdom rank among the very top. This is our debt story—at least part one of it.

When I married the love of my life, Matt, he had 40k in student loans leftover from a bachelor’s he’d received from a private university. I had an expensive graduate degree from the same university and 20k of student loan debt left to repay myself.  We both loved the university and our respective experiences there; we both hated the debt. And because when “two become one flesh” nothing is left out, we started our life together with a whopping 60k in student loans that carried payment obligations of over 500 a month. Ouch.

I’m exhausted when I think about where we were just four years ago. We both worked full time; my husband worked a full-time day job and owned his own freelance graphic design firm. I had a good job on staff with a local college. We were raising two children, clocking lots of hours at the office, and falling into bed utterly spent each night. And still, after all our efforts, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We were still working toward our original goals of paying off our student loans, but life didn’t always go as planned. We would pay off our phones only to have a car break down. We would pay off a student loan and then have a child break a foot and add back double the amount of the loan in medical bills. We had a pregnancy that had complications and a baby that requires consistent medical care.  It was two steps forward, one step back. Okay, more like five steps back. My dream of working less and spending more time investing in our kids seemed to be slipping further and further away.

 It's no surprise that we felt like slaves. God warns us about debt in Proverbs 22:7,

The rich rule over the poor; the borrower is a slave to the lender

No sugar coating there. If you choose debt, you’re a slave. Simple math. Yes, we had at one point allowed ourselves to become slaves. But by God’s grace and wisdom, He had plans to change all that. It was time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thankfully, Matt and I each had goals to work toward being debt free even before we met one another. I had knocked some debt out, he had knocked some debt out, and most importantly, we had like minds when it came to our dislike for debt. We both studied and followed some principles of financial guru, Dave Ramsey. We knew how to work hard and, most importantly, we were ready to take some risks and get creative to reach our ultimate goals of living a debt free lifestyle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! 

Fast forward four years. That was then, this is now. Let me paint a picture for you of how things have changed.  One month from now we are on track to be 100% debt free (excluding a mortgage which we always factor in as an investment). We will have a three to six-month emergency fund fully funded. I will continue to work part-time—one day out of my practice and a couple of days from home teaching online psychology classes. We will soon welcome our 4th child, and we will be ready to begin saving for future goals of retirement, building our own house, and most importantly, being able to give cheerfully and generously when we come across another’s need. 

Please don’t let me come across like this journey has been a cake walk. It’s been anything but! On my next post, “The Get Outta Debt Dance Part II- How?”, I will break down how this miraculous transformation in our finances has occurred. Let me be clear—there was no magic lottery ticket and no massive promotions that came to the rescue. We have never made six-digit salaries, even with our income combined! We know there are some who may shake their heads as we bare this much information about our personal finances, but we know there are even more who are out there drowning in debt and stress and pressure to keep up with current culture. It’s the second group of people to whom we write this post and the next. Take heart and have hope; if we succeeded at learning the get outta debt dance, you most certainly can too!

To read HOW in part 2, head over to Lindsey’s website here or by using the button below.


Confessions of an Evil Stepmom

by Lindsey Racz

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I am a step-mom. I am not evil. At least, I didn’t use to be. I used to be a girl who dreamed of marrying a hunky man of God, having lots of babies with said hunk, and building a quaint little homestead with hunky man and hunky man’s babies. But alas, as many of us have discovered, our earliest dreams don’t always pan out exactly as we plan.

My first attempt at this dream didn’t go so well and I became a single mom at a young age. After a tender season of brokenness, healing and walking hand-in-hand with the Lord, I learned this dream of mine had become an idol to me. Which, of course, is why God allowed it to be stripped away.

Once I made Jesus my priority over any other dream, and because our God is a God of endless restoration and grace, He did indeed bring my original dream to fruition. Sort of. I met Matt. Hunky? Yes. Tall, dark, and handsome? Check, check, and check. But the greatest part about this new gift was nothing physical at all. I could see Matt’s heart was completely humble before the Lord. He was not perfect, but he was earnestly seeking God with all he had. And this, girls, made my heart tumble and flip in new ways! Commence falling madly in love.

Getting close to Matt meant getting to know his 8-year-old son who lived with him 50% or more of the time. Matt also got to know my 4-year-old-daughter well. There were four hearts—not two—becoming entangled in future dreams of a family. I cannot overstate that this delicate process took time, caution, and lots of prayer.  But when Matt proposed on the rocky shores of Maine, I knew this man was my forever.

We were married and It. Was. Beautiful.

I was not evil that day. In fact, I can’t tell you when I became an evil step-mom.  You see, evil often creeps in a cracked back door and sets up shop before we even know it’s arrived.

In our first year of marriage, I began struggling with feelings toward my step-son I didn’t want to have. Confusing feelings. Yucky feelings. Terrible, no good, very bad feelings. How could I care so recklessly for a little boy one moment and two seconds later feel as though he was an intruder in my home?  I felt resentful and jealous. I looked at my new husband who was knocking this step-parenting thing out of the ballpark with ease. But me? I was struggling with concepts as simple as being nice. What was wrong with me? I had indeed become the evil step-mother.

Thankfully, life is not meant to be done alone. Had I continued in isolation and yuckiness, I’m certain I would still be there today. I knew I needed some help. I began to pray earnestly for guidance in my new role. I searched the web for literature on blended family dynamics. I sought out other step-moms—good women who also knew the Lord—and learned I wasn’t alone in these feelings! Glorious relief! I wasn’t crazy! Or evil! Or alone!

You see, the step-mama conundrum is a very real one. There’s a reason we often become evil. We, like peanut butter in a PB&J, are stuck right smack dab in the middle. Between good intentions and less than ideal circumstances. Between dreams of unity and realities of split weekends. Between holiday cheer and schedules that don’t align. Between love and resentment, past and present, spirit and flesh. We are just so very human. There is only One who can help us in this desperate state of stuck-ed-ness. His name is Jesus Christ.

I am so, so thankful that on my days of selfish, evil-stepmom mentality—those days when I can almost hear myself with an evil cackle—my Lord and Savior has not left me alone! He promises His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and that if we lean into Him, the things that are impossible for us become possible (Luke 18:27). That, my friends, is very good news for this very weak mom who often sees things through an impossible lens.

Fellow step-moms, I don’t know if you’ve been where I’ve been, but I’m willing to bet you have. Because even amidst mercy that abounds from second chances, we often find ourselves disillusioned, disenchanted, and disappointed. All these dis-es can drag even the strongest woman under. Unless, of course, she reaches out and grasps onto one thing.

Love. Colossians 3:14 tells us that the most important thing we can put on in the morning is love, which will then, in turn, bind us together in perfect unity. 1 Peter 4:8 doesn’t mince words either,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sin.

I don’t know about you, but I need some sin covering!

My step-son, whom I do not ever refer to as my step-son but simply as my son, is now 13. I’ve watched him grow from an 8-year-old with red cheeks to a 13-year-old who now towers over me and makes me think there’s an unidentified man in my home every time I hear his deepening voice. I love this boy with all my heart. Sometimes the urge is still there. To be resentful. To feel slighted. To show favoritism. To be the evil step-mother. Yes, these urges still come, and when they do I must be intentional. I remind myself that I have just four more years with this precious kiddo under my roof. Four years to show him the love of Jesus. I grab a bible, text a friend, and above all, put on love. Love is the antithesis of evil. The two cannot exist together. Goodbye, evil step-mom. I choose love.


Embracing Your Mom Bod

By Lindsey Racz

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Confession: I am a recovering perfectionist. Sadly, there have been seasons of my life through which no one and nothing was safe from my raging perfectionistic tendencies—including my body. For many years, I mercilessly and meticulously scrutinized every part of this body I’ve been given. Every. single. inch. Not a one was safe. And because I now work as a therapist specializing in women’s issues, I know I’m not alone.

We, as women, are so very harsh on our bodies. And why wouldn’t we be? We are bombarded with images of perfection. We checkout at the grocery store next to sleek and shimmering bodies on countless magazine covers. We turn on the TV and suddenly our living rooms are paraded by 15-year-old Victoria Secret models. Come on! We think to ourselves. These “women” haven’t even hit puberty. This just isn’t fair! We glance through our Insta-feeds and even the older generation of women we once looked up to are now posting perfectly lit and angled body-selfies. “Wow” we secretly, if not sub-consciously, say to ourselves. “She looks good for her age; I better up my game!” And so, we stand in front of the mirror a little longer in the morning. We try on a few more outfits, hoping to find something that makes us look a bit slimmer. We commit to a Keto diet, a stricter interval training routine, a little more hot yoga, and hope for the best. But it seems the harder we strive, the more behind we feel.

Why is this a losing battle? Because our bodies weren’t created to secure our hearts. Our deepest longings cannot be filled by toned abs or a number on a scale.  1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 says this about our bodies:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

It’s clear that we are to care for our temples. I’m pro-exercise and pro putting good foods into our bodies; however, the current culture twists these things into a form of idolatry. Look again at 1 Corinthians 6—"your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.”

Yes, mamas, these bodies are simply shells! Lest we forget why we have them, let us all be reminded. Look down at the body you are sitting in right at this very moment. This seemingly mundane thing (yes, including those thighs that might just have a few stretch marks) is breathing, reading, processing, and beating. It houses the most precious gift we could ever receive—the Holy Spirit. It was not made for criticism or to be used as a tool of seduction. It was not made to get us attention or wear clothing that detracts from our integrity. It was not made to be objectified or beaten down or forced into a size it is not. It was not made for promiscuity. It was not made for starvation. This body you see? It’s a gift, a tool, and a house for the Holy One living in it.

I remember looking into the mirror in horror shortly after arriving home from the hospital following the birth of my second baby girl. The pregnancy was emotionally traumatic as she faced health issues; I had so many things to focus on besides my body. And yet, there I stood. Feeling simultaneously swollen and deflated, hormonal and sad. A pit in my stomach began to form and I wondered if I would ever look or feel like myself again.

But then, God. 

Yes, God. He has a way of teaching us in the smallest, quietest moments. He was there with me in that moment full of self-criticism and He gave me an ever-so-gentle word of truth that I’ll never forget.

Do not worry about feeling like ‘yourself’ again, precious daughter. You are more yourself now than ever—you have just been broken and poured out to create a life, just as I was poured out on the cross for you. I was beaten, hung, bloody and unrecognizable, all so that you could live.

Let us use up every ounce of our youth on God’s purposes instead of desperately clinging to it.

As mamas (biological or adoptive), we pour out our bodies each and every day to take care of our littles. Our hearts break for them in prayer.  We are tugged on, stretched out and run ragged by emptying ourselves into the gifts that have been entrusted to us. Let us thank GOD for these bodies that allow us to do these mama-warrior tasks! Let us care deeply but not obsessively for these soul-houses of ours. Let us use up every ounce of our youth on God’s purposes instead of desperately clinging to it. Let us stop comparing and start sharing the light of the One who lives within.

Cheers to our ever-changing, gravity-succumbing, Holy Spirit-dwelling mom bods, fellow mamas. We truly wouldn’t be here without them; they are a gift to be cherished and embraced for as long as we all shall live.