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Ask Jani: “When Parenting Gets Tough” with Special Guest Kevin Morris

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Episode Synopsis

Author and musician Kevin Morris joins us to share about his new book, The Many Phases of Lily Andrews, a fascinating story written as a metaphor of faith. Jani and Heidi also answer questions about parenting little ones who consistently fight bedtime, along with a listener’s request from a mother who is having a hard time relationally with one of her children.

Audio Transcript

Jani: Hello, everyone. Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Heidi Howerton and Jani Ortlund.

Heidi: Hello everyone. It’s good to be with you today.

Jani: We’re so glad to be together on this summer day. Here we are in the middle of July. That’s amazing. The summer is passing quickly and we have been encouraging our listeners, each one of you, to do some extra summer reading.

Special Guest: Kevin Morris

Jani: Now, this is an Ask Jani episode but before we get into it, we want to give you an idea for another book. We have a very special guest with us, our editor by the name of Kevin Morris.

Kevin: Hello, hello.

Jani: Hello, Kevin. We’re so glad you’re here. Every podcast episode that we send over to Kevin, he fixes all our mistakes.

Heidi: We make so many mistakes, you have no idea and so we send them over and he takes out our “ums” and “yesses” and our laughter and our “Oh, what was that Bible verse again?” He’s such a huge help to us.

Jani: We really appreciate you, Kevin.

Kevin: Oh, it’s a great job. I love it.

Jani: And the reason we invited Kevin here today is he has written a book. And I’ve started reading it. Heidi will when she has a little more time. You young moms know with three little ones and another on the way, you know how busy your summer days are. But Kevin has written a book called The Many Phases of Lily Andrews. And I’ve started it, Kevin, I find it fascinating. Could you tell our listeners a little bit about the book and how you ever came up with this idea?

The Story Behind The Story

Kevin: Well, back in 2014, I decided that I was going to try to write short stories because I had never written one and I thought they were really cool. I was like, “Oh, I’ll finish a bunch of stuff if I just write short stories instead of full books.” And so I wrote a little story about a little girl who turns sunlight into liquid. And I got the idea from a C.S. Lewis quote, I don’t remember the exact quote, but he’s talking about when people try to put Jesus in a box. And he says, “Trying to put Jesus in a box is like trying to bottle a sunbeam.” And I thought that’s an interesting idea. And so…

Jani: Wait a minute, was this 2014 you wrote the first?

Kevin: The first short story called Sunshine. So that was a thing. And then I wrote it and I was like, I actually really like Lily and I really like where this is going and I kind of wanna see you know, how it plays out. And the whole thing is a metaphor for faith. But I’m just like, can you keep pushing it? When does the metaphor break down. And so I ended up writing two more short stories. And I realized that I was really bad at writing short stories because they just doubled in size every time I wrote them.

Kevin: But that’s where it started and that’s kind of still the the premise of all of it. And there’s now a full length book, that’s the fourth one. It’s a lot more in depth, then she goes to sixth grade, she gets a little bit older in every book. I try to make the language kind of reflect her age. So she is a lot easier to read when she’s five in the first one then she’s 10 in the second one, it gets a little more mature, but still pretty kid-friendly. And then she’s 12 and the new one, so it’s still accessible to kids, but also a little more adult in the way that it’s played.

A Brief Synopsis

Heidi: Can you summarize a bit of the story for me? Like give me a little bit, a little snippet to help our listeners understand what it’s about.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s it’s kind of hard to explain without spoiling it because she’s learning about this ability to turn sunlight into liquid and kind of what that does to you when you drink it. It’s kind of almost like a superhero type thing in the sense that like, she has a power and she kind of keeps it hidden from people. But the power is based on just straight up belief. So like, kids don’t know that they can’t do things until you tell them. Oh, you can’t actually do that. That’s not the way the world works.

Kevin: And so I thought, how interesting would it be if a kid was able to have perfect faith because she didn’t know that you could bottle a sunbeam? And she just did it and drank it and then took it to her parents and how would they react and what would happen after that? So it’s basically just a normal kind of reality. But then there’s that one kind of fantasy monkey wrench thrown in that throws everything off. Kind of just as she learns, as she gets older and shares it with people and all that and how they react. That’s kind of the core of most of the stories.

The Deeper Meaning of the Story

Heidi: And I enjoyed earlier, you and I were talking about that there’s a homeschool family that you know who is actually reading it together. Tell me a little, do you think it would make a good read aloud story for a family in the evening?

Kevin: Yeah, I sure hope so. They’ve really liked it. They do like you know, a little bit of reading in between class during the day and their youngest is five and their oldest is 12, which is perfect because that’s the age range of Lily in these books. And I mean, the five year old has called some major plot points way before they’ve happened. I’m just like, I’m getting owned by the five year old but it’s been very accessible and I’ve really loved the way that my friend, the mother, has, she’s kind of used it as a curriculum in a way. Like they have discussions afterwards about, “Why did Lily do this and how did that make you feel?” and “What do you think liquid sunlight would taste like?” and they’ve all had their, you know, things and they’ve been sending them to me.

Kevin: And it’s been really cool just to see how they’re interacting with it. And it’s a lot more thought provoking, I guess for kids than I ever thought it was gonna be. Because it’s very much like Narnia in the sense that like, adults read it, because adults see the whole picture. But kids read it because the story is great. And then, you know, the adults can kind of lead them into, “Do you see what’s happening here a little bit deeper?” I think it’s working that way.

Where Can I Find “The Many Phases of Lily Andrews”?

Jani: Kevin, I’m so excited about this. I’ve really enjoyed the copy that you let me read. And I want our listeners to know where they can find it. I know there are two different versions. There’s one book with the three short stories and then the full book. And there’s one version without the three short stories. Is that correct?

Kevin: That is correct. Yes, I did not assume people have read those short stories. And so you will need them. So yeah, if you haven’t, then that version is for you. And if you have or, if you want to listen to them in audiobook format ahead of time and then just read the big one, the fourth one, then that version is by itself as well. So those are all on Amazon, the e-book and the paperbacks are on the same page. So really, it’s just a button you clicked to go between the two of them.

Heidi: So they just go, they type in “The Many Phases of Lily Andrews” on Amazon, and it will take them right to the book?

Kevin: It will take them straight to it. Yep. And Lily is spelled L-I-L-Y.

Heidi: And if they want to listen to it on audiobook, what’s the best website to send them to?

Kevin: So Audible. For the first three short stories, it’s like an hour and a half. So it’s perfect for like, hey, I’m going home for the weekend or I’m traveling or, you know, even just two commutes probably, you could finish it. So you can get just the first three short stories by themselves. And then the fourth book, the big one, is going to be a podcast, which is out now as well, over the course of probably three or four months. There’s gonna be a preview that you can listen to for free with probably with the ads. And then there’s a Patreon where you can go and listen to the whole thing if you support that.

Jani: Perfect.

Heidi: And I’ll mention to that our wonderful webmaster has put the links to each of these in our show notes. So that’s one other simple way that you can access it.

Jani: Well, Kevin, anything else you’d like to tell us about The Many Phases of Lily Andrews to entice us?

Kevin: Oh, well, I have one more thing that I’ve completely forgotten. So the other thing I was doing when I wrote these short stories back in 2014, was experimenting with mixed media stuff. So I actually wrote a song. I’m a musician and artist as well. And I wrote a song to go with each of the three short stories. The songs have the same title as the short stories. And it’s just kind of a cool way to be like, here’s something that will mean a lot more to you after you read the story, but also isn’t gonna spoil the plot of the story if you want to listen to the music first.

Kevin: So it really kind of weeds out the metaphors and pulls them out. It’s like, hey, you know, this song is about faith or whatever. But it also doesn’t spoil what happens in the story. So I wanted to do that for this as well. So there’s actually an EP, which is a short collection of songs. And so you can go listen to that on Spotify right now. It’s under my name Kevin Morris, it’s called the Apricity EP. And Apricity is spelled A-P-R-I-C-I-T-Y. It is an archaic word that means the warmth of the sun in the snow.

Kevin: There’s a lot to listen to, there’s a lot to do, you know, you read the book, there’s still some stuff you can do with the music and everything. So hopefully, it’s a good experience for everybody and it’s it’s more of an experience than just a story.

Jani: Kevin, thanks so much for joining us for the first part of this podcast. I mean, this is amazing! Music with your book, an author and a musician together is just wonderful. And we hope our listeners will check it out and be as blessed by it as I have been.

Kevin: Thank you so much. I do hope they enjoy it.

Featured Book

The Many Phases of Lily Andrews: Read the story of the early life of Lily Andrews, a little girl with the unusual ability to turn sunlight into liquid. Follow her as she learns that this gift and the consequences of sharing it with others make for one complicated childhood.

The apricity EP

The Apricity EP complements the story of Lily Andrews by giving an additional avenue to experience the story.

Additional resources

The Many Phases of Lily Andrews is available in many forms.

Time For Some “Ask Jani” Questions

Heidi: It’s been so great to have Kevin with us telling us about his book. And so now he’s slipped out. So you and I can get into some Ask Jani questions today. Are you ready for the first one?

Jani: Well, let’s see. The Lord’s gonna have to help us on these.

Question 1: Naptime Nightmares

Heidi: We’ll dive in. Okay, so here’s our first one.

“Help Jani! My husband and I have a very vivacious three year old and an almost four month old at home. Naptime and bedtime has become such a dreaded time for our oldest girl. We’ve done our best to reward obedience and discipline disobedience but she’ll often choose the consequences, almost as if to say they’re worth it. We’re all exhausted and tempted to frustration. It seems as if we’re not in control of the home anymore and that we’re failing her deeply. We love both girls so particularly dearly and need advice on how to love them better.”

Jani: Oh, what mom listening hasn’t dealt with this at times.

Heidi: That’s what I was thinking and sleep deprivation is the worst because then you’re exhausted and you need more sleep and it’s so much harder to hold your tongue and handle things with patience and with grace.

Jani: Yes.

Heidi: So what would you tell this dear mom, Jani?

Jani: Oh, my heart just goes out to her. Heidi, I need you to speak into this as well.

Jani: As I think think it through a three year old is old enough to begin understanding that sleep is our body’s friend, it’s not our enemy. And God made us to welcome sleep. So we don’t have to be afraid or mad or angry. I do wonder if she’s at the age where you don’t by three, three and a half, where you shouldn’t be pushing a nap so much. She says in this question, naptime and sometimes bedtime has become such a dreaded time. So it sounds like their girl is just a go-getter, she loves life, and she doesn’t want to stop.

Jani’s Advice

TIP: Consider a quiet time

Jani: Well mama, listen to her. My advice is: ask the Lord for greater wisdom and understanding for how he made this girl. When each of my children turned three and a half right around that time, they just didn’t need as much sleep. So either they would take a good afternoon nap, and then not be able to get to sleep until 9:30 or 10 at night or they’d fussle during their naptime and fall asleep at dinner at five o’clock. What I want to tell this mom is, she is your oldest child and you haven’t gone through this yet. Ask the Lord for wisdom. I would encourage you to possibly let her give up her afternoon nap. I’m sure you think, “Jani, no don’t tell me that I need that time.”

Jani: With each of our children, we taught them that they don’t need to sleep but this is a quiet time where mommy needs to read. So you can get some books here and you can read you don’t have to sleep but we are going to take, and I started very short, like a 10 to 15 minute time where we’re going to be quiet. And then I lengthened that for reading time up to half an hour to 40 minutes.

Jani: It will take time. Heidi, I don’t know how you found this with your children but I found it was usually a two to four week transition from no naps to getting through supper without a breakdown and then I would put them to bed a little earlier, 7 or 7:30. And they’d sleep all night. It will be a transition. But I think it’s worth it if she’s fighting you day after day.

TIP: Make the evening routine consistent

Jani: Another thing I found really helpful with was to make sure my evening routine was consistent. So you know we’d have dinner and then the kids would play for a half hour or so while I cleaned up the kitchen and then if Ray was home, he’d helped me bathe them, get them ready for bed, read a story, get their drink and tuck them in in a way that seemed calming and oh, this is what comes next and something interesting for them like a good book or a story.

Jani: Heidi, do you want to add some advice here?

Heidi: I think you’ve addressed it well, Jani. That transition is hard. I remember transitioning Gideon from no naps to sleeping at night and we just decided it’s really hard for me during the day but it’s worth it to know that he would be so exhausted when we got rid of his nap by the end of the day that he would just go to bed. And so the fights that we were having about him staying in bed and I was getting tense and Gideon was getting tense and Mike was getting tense. All of a sudden those one away and it was a gift I could give my husband to just make that transition. Gideon was ready for it. And so I was probably the one that wanted to hold on to it the longest.

Heidi: So I would again, I love what you said about praying and asking God for wisdom and then I love what you said too, about try to transition into a quiet time. That’s something that I didn’t do well when my kids were super little. And so it’s something that I’m still working on now as a mom and my kids are older and we have a quiet time in the afternoons and I wish looking back that I would have stuck with it and that I would have been more patient and given it one to two months. But to say having a quiet time every afternoon is important. And so for one to two months, it’s going to be hard. I’m going to be tense, I’m going to want my own time, but stick with it, Heidi, because it’ll it’ll pay off in the end. So I would encourage the mom, even though it’s hard to stick with trying to have an afternoon quiet time, once she gets rid of the naps.

Jani: That’s good. Heidi. Yes.

One more thing about Consequences

I might just add one more comment. Tell me what you think about this, Heidi. When our listener writes this, her daughter will often choose the consequences of disobedience almost as if to say they’re worth it. I’d rather stay up and get those consequences. When I would see my children responding that way, I knew the consequences were not painful enough.

Heidi: Yes, that’s just what my mind was thinking. It sounds like the consequence might need to be changed.

Jani: And you can talk to your husband about that. With your oldest, it’s always a little bit tricky trying to figure out how that works. You could maybe talk to a friend nearby as well about some of these consequences and see how you could change them so that indeed, they truly are a consequence. They’re not a consequence if your daughter’s playing with them because a consequence is meant to change behavior.

Heidi: And ask the Lord for wisdom. You know, God, what would be the right discipline? That’s what we do sometimes. Every child the discipline needs to look different and sometimes what will work for one child doesn’t work for another. And so then Mike and I are humbled, but we say, okay, God, what does this child need help us. And I’m so thankful we can go to him for wisdom and don’t have to come up with it all by ourselves. I would be lost if it was all on me.

Jani: I know, I would have been too, Heidi. We have a heavenly father who loves us and cares for us and loves our children even more than we do. We can lean on him.

QUESTION 2: when the parent-child relationship is hard

Heidi: Yes. Well, I think we have time for one more question today, Jani. So here we go.

“Jani, on a recent episode, you spoke to a ministry wife about how she can help her children not feel neglected when ministry calls her away from them. You mentioned spending one on one time with her children and making sure they know that she enjoys spending time with them and how that can help her children not build resentment towards her. Jani, can you speak any words of wisdom to a mom who has a hard time relationally with one of her children. I want my child to know I love him or her. I want to communicate that I enjoy spending time with him or her. But if I’m completely honest, it’s very hard for me to enjoy spending time with this particular child right now in this season of life. I want to overcome this and so desire to be close with my child. I truly want him or her to feel that they are not a burden.”

Jani: Oh, Heidi, this just brings tears to my heart, my eyes, my throat. Hmm. Here’s a mother. She’s struggling with guilt. And she’s struggling with an emotional response that she has no control over right now. So I would encourage her to go to God with that. God, your heavenly Father, is the only one who can change the heart setting deep down within you.

Jani: So first of all, I would start praying, maybe even fasting, if you have a friend near you who would join you in praying with this, ask her to join you and pray, pray, pray, cry out to your Father in heaven. He gave you that child. He has a plan for this child and your relationship and he wants to bring good from it. I have a feeling Satan wants to trip you up. Don’t let him. Whoa, go to God.

TIP: Join them in what they enjoy

Jani: Now, here are are some things I thought about as I read this question and my heart was so deeply affected by it. I would try, if you can, to enter into this child’s world in a specific way something they like. One of our kids loves science fiction. I am not a science fiction fan. But I learned to enter into it. I mean, he’s even written a science fiction book, I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover. And I found I kind of liked it after all. What I’m saying is, try to figure out what this child enjoys. What makes this child tick and see if there’s any way you can invite that child to help you enjoy it as well.

TIP: Public Praise

Jani: Another thing, look for things to praise him or her for in front of others. Genuine praise. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the good in this child, even though there is this relational difficulty and hurt and pain. The Lord can do that. This is his beloved creation through your body he created this little one. Although maybe this one isn’t so little anymore, maybe it’s a teenager. I don’t know you didn’t indicate the age but I would encourage you to look for things to praise him or her for in front of others, in front of their father, in front of teachers, neighbors, other children in your family. Let this child know that you do notice him or her and just see how that helps.

Jani: And then finally, I want to encourage this mom, that love is a miracle. It’s a gift. It’s not a list of things to do well, if I just do this, this this, my child will feel loved. No, it’s a miracle from the Lord. So again, I want to close up the answer to this question by encouraging this listener, go to the Lord daily. Ask him to expand your heart in ways that you can enjoy this child more, and in ways that the child can feel your enjoyment of him or her.

TIP: Walk in the light

Heidi, what can you add to this, give us some of your wisdom. You’re with three little ones and pregnant with your fourth right now.

Heidi: I think things that come to the top of my mind, Jani, as we talk about this, I love what you said about praying. And I also would just encourage, to walk in the light. Walk in the light with a group of women, walk in the light one on one with their girlfriend, I know I had a close girlfriend struggle with something similar. So know that you’re not alone, and she just asked our small group of women to pray for her every week. And every week, I remember her saying, “I don’t have much of an update to give, I’m still struggling with it but please pray for me.” And God changed that relationship that she had with this child and God changed her heart. And I remember her saying just how freeing it was to be able to share that guilt or that struggle with us. And so walk in the light with somebody. Don’t hide this. Choose somebody that you trust that loves Jesus that you can share this burden with and they you can pray together that the Lord would change your heart and know that you’re not alone. We’re all full of sin. We all have so much sin inside of us that we need to walk in the light. Could spend a whole podcast talking about my struggles.

TIP: Slow down

Heidi: And then something else that came to mind is just find what you enjoy about the child. I’ll oftentimes look at if I’m struggling in relationship with one of my kids and I’ll just slow down and try to think about what do I love about this kid? What makes this kid special? What about this kid brings a smile to me, you know, see how they interact with their siblings or how they interact with me. And there’s sweet things. They all have these sweet little gifts or these little smiles or these little looks or how does this child show me love? And if I can just stop and realize that this one showing me love right now it feels so good in my heart. So ask God to show you what are the things that I can love about this child.

TIP: One-on-One Time

Heidi: And then lastly is to just carve out some one-on-one time or even just a moment in the day where you get down on your knees and you look at this little one in their eyes. I’ll never forget my sister-in-law telling me, “Heidi, every day, I try to look at my kids right in the eyes because I know these moments are fleeting and one day I won’t get to look in their eyes anymore.” And that was so convicting to me, but it’s so precious, Jani. All it takes is 30 seconds for me to stop and really, you know, look at Hannah, and look at her in the eyes and see her smile and say I love you or I see you or what are you struggling with? So try to make time to look at them in the eyes once a week, once a day, however you can. That helps me connect with my kids too.

Jani: So good Heidi, so good. I loved how you refer to walking in the light. And that’s something we do at Emmanuel Church, isn’t it from 1 John 1:7.

“But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”

1 John 1:7

Jani: So we might even do a podcast on that sometime and give our listeners some ideas of how we can do that even more. Thank you, Heidi, what good advice. Heidi’s and my prayer is that this podcast would be restorative to your souls today. May God bless you. Thank you for listening.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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