Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teenagers part 3

This is the next (final?) installment on this little series on parenting teens. If there is a desire for discussion, please feel free to leave comments in the comments section and i'll do my best to facilitate it!
One the most humbling, difficult thing I've done for my teens is to prayerfully find mentors for each one. Each of the three mentors is in a different decade of her life - each has different strengths and opinions and life experiences... each was open to welcoming one of my girls into their lives and hearts in the midst of their neediness.
I've found that sometimes teens want or need to expand their circle of trust. I want them to be able to find safe places to grow. Sometimes teens will be tempted to unload to another vulnerable (young)  friend - rather than in a safe, stable place. I want to be intentional about facilitating relationships with adults who they can relate to - who will consistently point them back to Jesus... and hopefully to us (her parents) too.
I've spoken to these women about my girls too - I want them to understand that they're not stepping on my toes. I want them to know that I see my own brokenness and I want my kids to have support and love and good, godly women in their lives. I want them to know that I'm grateful for their input.
My prayer is that these mentors would give similar advice to me - & also that they would say things like, "hey... maybe you should talk to your mom or ask your dad___" I know that when I've been so blessed to have the opportunity to build into other younger women's lives, that's the kind of advice I've tried to give - as well as turning consistently and persistently to my Father's word.
I've asked one of my best friends, Fawne, to guest post this blog because she has a passion for women and relationship - and also has been a beautiful shining example of discipleship in our church and every circle that she has ever been a part of.
I hope you love her thoughts as much as I do!!


The first mentor I remember in my life was a beautiful young woman (our pastor's wife) and I adored her. I was twelve when she came into my life and at the time I had never even heard the word mentor or discipleship and throughout the years she spoke truth into my life I didn't even realize I was being mentored. It wasn't until I was twenty-one and went away to a Bible college whose very core and foundation was discipleship relationships that I began to understand the importance and absolute need not only for being mentored but for mentoring as well. In fact, I learned that God's word does not suggest that we do this but actually commands it. Jesus' final words on earth were . . . "Go, and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19).

While I was at college I had a mentor who changed my entire worldview on discipleship and suddenly I knew that it was something I needed -- always and forever -- and I knew that if I needed it so badly that other young women would need it too. 

A discipleship relationship is not complicated, it's simple. It's one person helping another person to know Jesus better and to walk in light of the truth of God's word. Sometimes it's very practical . . . an older woman teaching a younger woman the tricks she's learned over the years in time management, childcare, and loving unconditionally, etc. Sometimes it's deeply personal and hopefully God's word is always central. 

That first mentor I was telling you about (our pastor's wife) left my life while I was still in my early teens and how I wish there had been another woman to take her place. I didn't know it yet while she was in my life but I was teetering on the brink of a tremendously painful season and as I look back on myself during those extremely difficult years my heart aches over my own loneliness, my need for someone to be there . . . speaking truth into me . . . my need for someone to listen. It's not that I didn't have great parents but a parent isn't a superstar and there's only so much they can do in each child's life. 

If you're a parent of teens I can't emphasize how important it is to have other godly women speaking into your daughters and other godly men speaking into your sons. Already I have begun to pray for God to raise up men and women who are strong in the faith to speak into my own children, especially as they hit those teen years. Don't be afraid to help direct your children (especially young teens) toward godly men and women although often enough I believe they're drawn toward people who love the Lord all on their own.

Is this risky? Yes. Yes. Yes. Your child will probably spill your dirty secrets and even if they don't their mentor will see things you would rather keep hidden but in reality (in most cases) your pride is the only thing that will receive a solid blow.

Could it go wrong? It could. You could end up with someone who uses what is shared against you and makes you the object of gossip and slander. It's possible. Not likely, but possible. It's a risk you have to be willing to take. When we obey God's commands there is risk involved . . . not a risk of losing our security and significance . . . because that is wrapped up in what God says about us and no one can ever take it away. But there is a risk of pain. Sometimes it hurts to obey God but in the long run it's never as painful as disobedience.

Although I have had some difficult circumstances come out of discipleship relationships the good that has come out of them far outweighs the negative. I echo what Ann Voskamp said on her blog today:

I am the woman who needs saving from herself again, again, everyday —  the dirty that needs to be wiped clean everyday, the hands that need a cross to wrap a life right around so she won’t get lost.

As a woman who is filthy, who needs constant saving, this is one of the tools that God has used mightily in my own life -- discipleship. Women who are wiser than me speaking truth, asking me questions that lead me to see my own wrong, helping me see my brokenness, and teaching me what it means to walk under the umbrella of God's ruthless love.

I dare not even begin to assume that I would be half the woman I am today without so many godly women in my life who were willing to pour time and energy and prayer and love into me. I am convinced that when Jesus commanded us to "make disciples" it's for a very good reason . . . we were not meant to go it alone. We need each other. 

Practical Tips For What Discipleship Looks Like:

1. Does it have to be face to face?  I'm a busy mom and I don't always have time to meet with someone for an hour so I do discipleship over facebook; some people do it via texting, others by phone

2. What do you do during discipleship? My favorite way -- which I learned from my mentor -- is to allow the person I'm mentoring to talk about whatever is going on in their heart and life . . . their struggles, fears, what they're thinking about, questions they have about God or His word, etc. and then to bring truth into that situation using God's word as the foundation. Ask lots of questions.

3. How long is discipleship and how frequent? It can be however long you want. Ten minutes. An hour. However long you need it to be to talk about what you need to talk about. You may have to set a time limit though. I like to "meet" once a week but again, there are no set rules.

4. What if I try it and it doesn't go well? It happens. I've had it happen in my own life. Don't force it. Some mentor relationships were not meant to be. If either of you feels that it's not going well than you are free to walk away at any time. It's not a contract. Don't be too quick to walk away though, sometimes it just needs a bit of time. Both of you are learning. But if it's not going well don't be afraid to be honest about it and to ask someone else or as the mentor to quit mentoring that person. My discipler use to say that if the person she was mentoring was only in the mentor relationship because she wanted to be a "good" girl but wasn't serious about learning that she would say, "We're done for now. If you ever change your mind and want to get serious about following Jesus than I will be here for you." Don't feel as though you have to continue mentoring someone who doesn't want to learn, being mindful that some people take time to soften. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

teenagers part 2

It was something I've longed for from the beginnings of motherhood; and it grew as Cai learned words and how to string them together to make sentences, and put her thoughts out for the world to see.
(You can read Cai's incredibly thoughtful and insightful blog HERE.)

Talk to me.

Please, babies... talk to me. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know what they did when they were out of my sight. I wanted to know what they thought of their childhood as it was in progress. I wanted to know their opinions about events, circumstances, experiences - what did music do to them... and how are they growing?
It's in my nature to talk (& often... to talk too much...)
But I genuinely find my kids to be very interesting people.
Sloanie recently wrote a poem and I loved it so much because it painted such a vivid picture of how she sees herself growing into someone different than the shy little girl we see in pictures of her at age seven.

Little Seven Year Old Me
The music I listen to would terrify little seven year old me,
The jokes I make now would horrify little eleven year old me,
The books I read now would bore little nine year old me,
And the clothes that I wear aren’t the frilly dresses I swore I would wear,
When I was little five year old me.
But fifteen year old me,
Looks back with love,
at the girl I used to be.
I’m older,

Maybe little seven year old me would be proud
Of the girl that I am now.
Instead of staying up in my cloud,
I grew up a little, I’m not sure how.

We still have lots of time to go,
Her life’s a part of mine like a silky soft sigh,
Just watch us as we change and grow,
Little seven year old me, and I

And so... a huge piece of my 'parenting teens philosophy' has been to talk to them. I kept talking to them when they were seven, 8, 10, 13, 17... and I sure hope I never stop. I talk to them about everything. We talk about prayer, gay marriage, poverty, racism, social justice and current events. We talk about boys, dating, hairstyles, 'fandoms' and clothes. We talk about friendships and family, rejection and divorce. We talk. We talk. And we talk.
And they have things to say. I try not to give my opinion as much, but I try to say things like, "but what about_?" if I think they might be missing something big. They are forming ideas and opinions - and I know that my teens aren't abnormally smart or socially aware - so i'll venture this fairly broad statement: teenagers are captivating. It's not going to be long till they're grown - and gone... and their teen years become a part of their accompanying, "silky soft sigh..."
I want to be friends with that piece of them too...
I want these to be years where they can bounce their newly forming thoughts off of someone who loves them. I want our conversations to be safe places to explore ideas and ideologies. I want to give them opposing arguments so that they can figure out their own heart as they wrestle (and sometimes struggle) through issues that are deserving of sincere contemplation.
I'm eager to see my little ones grow in 'wisdom and stature and favour with God and man'. And part of making sure that as a mama, I'm facilitating it happening - is by having conversations.
And here's where I tell you what happened today and maybe make myself look a little strange...
It was one of those one sided conversations that sometimes occur with teens. It was a crucial conversation that needed to be had, but it was uncomfortable - and hard. And so I spoke until my words ran out...
And then on impulse, I layed hands on the little woman who was  only murmuring in response. Instead of words of instruction - or forcing conversation (which incidentally works a whole lot better when there are two people taking part) - I just lifted her up to God. I prayed for her like I don't remember ever praying for another human being in my life ever. It was my best parenting moment of the day... (week? Year?)... Not heavy, just love. The words flowed as I prayed blessing over her life and our relationship.
Prayer? Is bringing someone bigger than yourselves into the conversation.
It was an instant reminder that this child is the workmanship of a Holy God who created her with a purpose and a plan in mind - and because it pleased Him to do so.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(ephesians 2:10)
“You are worthy, O Lord our God,
    to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
    and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
(revelation 4:11)

And so, even in those moments - I gave her back - and I continue to give them back again and again and to trust the One who loves them a seemingly impossible amount when I acknowledge that He loves them even more than I do...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

teenagers part 1

Teenagers are kind of breathtaking.

You get glimpses of the fruit that you planted in their infancy and childhood.
It's both encouraging - and terrifying.

i don't feel like I'm in any position to offer advice on raising teens.  I'm so in the thick of it right now. i have three teenagers in my house - and I've done nothing perfectly... but at the same time, when a sweet friend texted me the other day to ask advice,  her questions resonated deeply with me. These were the exact things I've been dealing with these past years - and as we chatted back and forth, i realized that in this time, i *have* been learning and trying my best to implement the little pieces of truth that I've gleaned along the way.
So, i'll post here a bit - (knowing full well that i'll look back on this post in 10 years with a house full of different teenagers and laugh at my naivety) - and hope that there will be bits and pieces that are useful to remember and to pass along.

The first bit of advice that i would gently put forward is to make every attempt not to react or engage when provoked. This has been such a great exercise in humility and laying down my own pride. i want my girls to be able to say anything in my presence - and know that they're safe from harsh reactions and judgements. i want them to be able to voice their questions and know that I'm not going to take it personally if they have a different opinion than me. Sometimes they'll insinuate that I'm not doing a very good job... that's ok. Pride would get defensive, but humility would admit that chances are, they're right. Sometimes they'll imply that the things that i hold very dear and precious are just chaff to them. Pride would be offended, but humility is surrendered. Sometimes they'll hold someone else's opinion in higher regard than mine. Pride would be possessive, but humility reminds me to make an offering of my insights - understanding that rejection is a risk worth taking in these crucial years. My girls all talk to me differently - and in differing amounts too. That's ok. Sometimes communication is harder - we talk in the car when we don't have to make eye contact. We talk about song lyrics, current events, relationships - they say things that i agree with... and about things i disagree with too... and sometimes i know that I'm a little too transparent, "Ahhh - haha - mom doesn't approve..." they might laugh at me; but my hope is that our relationship can be one where defensive pride has no power to hold us back from getting into the places where a mama might actually be able to be of use to her nearly grown girls.

The second bit kind of builds on the first; my advice to my own self is to give grace in the moment, but then be intentional about having "the conversation" later. "Hormotional" is a fantastic word that works in many situations. So often we're worked up - and aching for resolution. I've learned (and am learning painstakingly) that resolution isn't up to only one person. You can be as ready as you want, to get through to resolve a heart issue that is resulting in sin - unkindness to siblings, anger or disobedience... but if my teen's heart is still overwhelmed with emotion - or hormones - it's like banging your head against a brick wall. It's so different than dealing with little ones who need instant conversation (because they won't remember having a melt down in 2 minutes let alone 2 hours). Teens might need time. i am trusting God that we planted good seeds and that the Holy Spirit is working in their lives and convicting them at a deeper level than my words ever could. So i let them leave when they need to. But i try to pick it up later - when the heaviness has lifted... "wow, that was pretty crazy back then eh?" Sometimes you get a little farther, sometimes you don't... but that leads me to number three.

Be intentional about dropping things. I AM THE WORST AT THIS. Ask any of my kids or my husband. i feel total rejection when i can't be reconciled. It has been a huge lesson for me in these years to learn to just drop things. (Neil? Is fairly awesome at this most of the time. He was born to parent teens, and i am so grateful that I'm married to such a masterful daddy). What i mean by, "dropping things" is that i can have a tendency to, "flog the dead horse". i notice that when I'm in a conversation with another person about a difficult topic, if they are silent - i often feel the need to fill in the silence with more and more and more and more and more words. I've needed to learn to stop. Have the conversation, let the conversation end... and then drop it. Done. It's finished. i know that so many times i would have been further ahead if i would have dialed back my words - and learned the value of quietness in my response.

And i guess the whole point of this first piece is to state declaratively: nothing is worth the cost of your relationship. So your child has a perfectly clean room and straight A's - if it cost you your relationship, it was way, way too high a cost. So i was wronged. Find me a mama who never, ever spoke in a rude tone to her child (& maybe some do exist, but I'm pretty sure they're more rare than we'd like to realize). We've been caught in that sin ourselves - let's extend some grace to the angry hormones-coursing-through-their-veins teenager who couldn't remember to treat us with common courtesy. i know we're trying to train our children to respect us - but at some point, that can't be enforced with an iron will. At some point, you have to choose the relationship over enforcement. I'm often reminded in parenting that I'm representing my Father to my little ones. And it breaks my heart to look with piercing eyes on the question, "Are they able to see His Goodness in the way that i parent them?"

Oh Papa, these little ones you gave me? i give them back to You. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight...

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For thir souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
― Kahlil Gibran


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