Tag Archive | family

Help! I Have A Teenager!

Today’s post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes, give or take, without any heavy editing, on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is “teenagers.”

People tend to think that parenting teenagers is pretty scary. It can be, if you’re not prepared for what you might encounter.

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For me, preparation for parenting teens started when they were born.

I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are a constant source of rules and punishment and harshness when they are little, the rebellion they are going to feel when they are beginning to spread their wings and figure out what they are capable of will be greater. But if you are there to build a relationship with them, give them solid boundaries and are a safe place for them to process, then the likelihood of constant turmoil in your household will be diminished.

OK, stop right there. I’m going to make a big statement right now.

There are no guarantees. Your kids’ decisions are their decisions. All the best parenting you think you’re doing may not be enough to keep them from making stupid and life-altering choices.

Just like us, our kids are endowed by their Creator with free will. So don’t think that if your child starts down a path of destruction that the fault is yours. If you have been doing the best you can and leaving the results to God, then you have a clear conscience. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes.

Maybe I let me baby cry in his crib too long when I was wanting him to take a nap. Maybe that’s why he chose to walk away from a path of faith.

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Maybe the time I yelled at my daughter for not doing something I had asked her to do made her try to find friends who would tell her what she wanted to hear, but ultimately led her into a destructive lifestyle.

We can second guess ourselves all day long, but in the end, we do our best to love our kids and bring them up to love and serve the Lord, but they ultimately have to decide how they want to live.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that prayer is absolutely essential. And so is community. If my kids make bad choices, I can’t carry the burden of their behavior. To be able to share what’s going on in vulnerability and safety with close friends is life giving instead of life draining. I only have one teenager left in my house. In three and a half years, she’ll be 20. It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride, but God has been faithful as always.

FledgeI recommend a few books for those of you in the throes of raising teens.

  1. Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, by Brenda Yoder. This book was definitely life giving to me as Yoder said, “We are not called to raise godly children, we are called to be godly parents.”
  2. Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Yearsby Dennis and Barbara Rainey. It’s been many years since I read this book (it was written in 2002), but from what I remember about it, the principles were solid, #1 being have a close relationship with God yourself. Seems to echo the “be a godly parent” quote from above.
  3. Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teensby Paul David Tripp. Again, it’s been many years since I read this book written in 2001, and I can’t find my copy (I probably loaned it out to some parent of teens), but I remember most that Tripp talked about not being afraid. Of using every opportunity you have with your kids to build relationship. I do hesitate a bit on recommending something with a subtitle like “a biblical guide,” but I don’t remember this book being a “do this and get that” type of thing.

For me, the bottom line is that we are trusting God to keep writing our kids’ stories—and our stories as well. Our goal should be heart change, not behavior change, and only God can change hearts.

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Strong Willed Or Resolute?

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt that a friend has supplied and write for 10 minutes without any heavy editing and see what comes out of my head. Today’s word is “strong-willed.”

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When people hear the term “strong willed,” they probably jump to the idea of a strong-willed child. Oh, you know how hard they can be! They are stubborn, obstinate, tantrum throwers when they don’t get their way. There has to be special books written about how to parent them.

Nobody has ever seen a book called Parenting the Compliant Child. We think that would be easy.

But what if we started looking at being strong willed in its positive form? What if instead of being obstinate, these people were considered resolute?

I think about Jesus who resolutely set His face toward the cross. I would say His will was very strong.

Trouble is, I know with kids who are considered strong willed, their will is usually against whatever it is their parents want them to do. I didn’t have a strong-willed child, so I don’t have any parenting advice, but I wonder if a mindset change could make a difference.

Can a 3-year-old be reasoned with?

“You sure seem to have your mind made up about what you want to have for lunch. It’s too bad we’re not having that today. I wonder what we can do about that?”

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Makes me chuckle to imagine it.

I know the struggle is real, you parents of strong-willed children out there. So I would just like to offer hope. It won’t come immediately, in fact, it may take them into their 20s to figure it out, but your resolute child could be one who has great perseverance. Once they’ve made up their mind, they go after that thing with gusto.

Think about Jesus. When he was 12 he was left behind in Jerusalem because he was sitting in the temple teaching the men there. Teaching! At 12 years old. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

He knew what He needed to do, and He did it. Now, granted, He was the perfect Son of God, but what lessons can be learned from His life about being resolute?

Huge differences with our kids, I know that. But I think it’s not just a sin nature that is at play. Guiding a child to submitting their will to that of their parents is an arduous process. Parents have no easy task figuring out how to mold their child without crushing them.

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I don’t envy them the task.

But a compliant child also needs to be molded. They need to know that they have a mind of their own and that God has a plan for them. Every whim of someone else doesn’t need to be followed. It’s not a bad thing to question directives in the right manner and at the right time.

Does that make sense? We don’t want our compliant children to become doormats that others use to get what they want. And I think as parents we need to be careful to make sure our kids have a voice. Can compliance become apathy? Can these children become people pleasers?

I’m not a psychologist, so these are just rambling thoughts. But I do wonder.

I’d love to hear what you think.

I See You

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up where we write for 5 minutes on a one-word without heavy editing and see what happens. Read all of today’s post here.

Like any typical American parents, we were armed with our video camera (this was in the days before cell phones with cameras) and waiting expectantly for our sweet tow-headed 4-year-old boy to appear on the stage for his end-of-year performance for Mom’s Day Out.

When he came out with his classmates, dressed in his green collared shirt and cute khaki pants, I looked through the viewfinder of the camera to make sure I could get him in focus before things began.

 

What I noticed as I watched him through that lens was that he was looking all around the crowded church sanctuary, searching for us. I could read his little lips saying, “Where ARE they?” as his gaze grew concerned. David and I waved our arms and halfway stood trying to get his attention, but the lights were too bright on the stage, and there were too many bodies in the auditorium.

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He couldn’t see us.

Once the music started, he was happy singing along and doing the hand motions as he’d been taught, and I recorded him and clapped when it was done. But my heart was a little sad. I so wanted him to know that we were watching him. That we were there. That we cared.

Now, 18 years later, that little 4-year-old is 22 and searching for who he is. During a crisis time just a few months ago, I wrote him a letter reminding him of that night all those years ago and asking him, “Do you see us now? Do you know that we see you, that we’re here for you, that we love you?”

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Hagar gave God the name El Roi in Genesis 16:13, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”

 

 

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Home, Sweet Home

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “cross country.”

I have a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on my Discover Card, so I get to see it often.In 1991, my husband, David, and I moved from California to Florida. We were working as missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ (known as Cru in the U.S.) and the leadership had decided to move our headquarters.

I wasn’t in favor of the idea.

IMG_8307I’m a Californian born and raised. All of my family lived no further east than Colorado. I was leaving everything familiar to relocate across the country. Even my husband wasn’t yet all that familiar. We’d only been married for 6 months.

But move cross country we did. The organization provided a moving company that packed up what we wouldn’t need in the immediate, we had both our cars loaded on to transports, and we headed to the airport in Los Angeles with my kitty in a carrier, drugs at the ready to keep her calm.

Only, we missed our flight, so the drugs wore off halfway through the trip. The stress finally got to me, and I cried there at the gate of the airport.

IMG_5453But, we made it to Orlando and found our way to our new apartment sometime in the wee hours of the night. We were starving, but this was in the days before there were so many restaurants on the road from the airport, so we couldn’t find anywhere to eat.

When we got to our apartment, we noticed that it was not the one the complex had promised us. The teal carpet gave it away the minute we walked in the door. So, we somehow camped out on the floor (the details are fuzzy after 27 years), my cat hiding behind the washer and dryer, and tried to get some sleep.

The next morning, we visited the office and notified them that they had given us the wrong apartment. After asking whether we could live with the teal carpet (no, it would clash with every piece of furniture we owned), we were relocated to a slightly bigger apartment with a lake view at the same price because it was their error.

Everything worked out and we lived that first year plus a few months in that apartment with the grey carpet and the lake view. And we have now been in Orlando for 27+ years. My parents have passed away, my brother is my only family left in California, and our 3 kids call themselves Floridians, though each one of them seems to think they were born for a colder clime.

Go figure.

I love my house, I love my church, I love my friends. I still long for California.

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If I could pick up everything that I have here (minus the humidity) and move it back to the hills of Oakland, I would do it in a minute. But that’s not where I’m supposed to be. Everything that matters is here in hot, humid, flat Orlando. I can allow myself to be discontent, or I can embrace my space and trust that I am exactly where God wants me.

After 27 years, I’ve lived in Florida almost as long as I lived in California. My heart would be very cold and hard if I allowed my yearning for a state to overshadow my joy at being “home.”

I can always pretend the cloud formation in the distance are mountains if I squint long enough.

 

Family Treasures

This post is a part of my 10-Minutes Tuesday collection, written today on the prompt “family.”

85670316F034We found out I was pregnant after 4 years of infertility treatment right around if not on Father’s Day itself. How ironic and sweet is that?

15 weeks later, after we thought we were safe and had told our friends, we discovered that our baby had not made it past about 6 weeks. I didn’t have any sign of miscarriage until that day.

Not knowing whether we would ever be able to grow our biological family was crushing to us. But now, as I sit here and write this, I gaze upon the pictures and portraits of our 3 kids that grace the walls, shelves and pretty much every horizontal surface of our home.

Now almost 22, 19 and 16, my kids are my treasure. The thought of them ever moving far away from me where I won’t see them frequently squeezes my heart, and even more so now that I also have a grandson that I care for 5 days a week. But I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

DSC00247_2I myself moved across the country from my own family of origin. My parents have passed away and my sisters live in Colorado and Washington State, and my brother is still in California where we grew up. I don’t see them nearly often enough.

Family is a complicated, hard, beautiful thing. We can either thrive or flounder in our relationships with those we should hold most dear. Just a few years ago, my husband’s sister and her family moved from Texas to Florida, to a house right across the street from us. Just this week, that sister and her husband signed divorce papers after more than 30 years of marriage.

She doesn’t live across the street from us anymore, but her husband, 15-year-old son, and 27-year-old son who is about to get married, do. We value these last 3 years with them so close by. It means the world to me to be able to see them and know them and be there for them, especially during this hard time. My father-in-law is far away. But my mother-in-law lives with us. See what I mean? Complicated.

fullsizeoutput_1e0Many people complain about Facebook, but I’m thankful for it because of the connection it has given me to my faraway family. I can see pictures of my great nephew and great niece that I’ve never met, and know that my oldest sister is loving being Mimi to her new granddaughter. I long for my grandson and her granddaughter to meet. They would be super good friends. They are 2 months apart.

But for now, we treasure our family both far and near. Keep up as well as possible, and build an extended frie-maly here. You know, friends who are like family. They mean the world to us too!

With the holidays right around the corner, I know many people will be facing family situations that will be uncomfortable, hard, ugly even. I pray that you can find peace and maybe even that some relationships can be repaired.

Sweet Summer Memories

Today’s 10-Minute Tuesday post (a day late) is on the prompt “Summer.”

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The day had been its normal hot in Bakersfield that late summer day in 1968 when I was approaching 7 years old, the thermometer topping out at 100 dry degrees. My older sister and I had gone to bed in the cool back bedroom of my grandparent’s ranch house on Wible Road, anticipating a phone call about the birth of our new sibling.

I’m not sure where my brother was, but I don’t remember him being with us.IMG_9994 2

It felt right that that’s where I was awaiting this announcement, because I loved that ranch. I loved everything about the house and the grounds. I spent many days playing in the irrigation ditches among the cotton or alfalfa plants, whatever happened to be growing that season.

The smell of cut alfalfa still takes me back.

It always seemed to be summer when we spent time there, so hot was something I was used to. I clearly hear my grandmother “Mimi’s” voice yelling, “Close the door, the refrigeration is on!”

The kitchen of the ranch house was huge, the eating area separated from the cooking area by a bar. The windows looking out over the back yard with the brick walkway and covered outdoor kitchen area that I never remember being used as such. My great grandmother Nona’s house sat just feet away. The rose bushes in their neat rows bordered the side driveway where visitors often parked.

From the old wooden storage shed that held remnants of tractors and other paraphernalia of ranch life to the long rows of growing plants, everything about the place spoke of family history. And I loved it.

IMG_9993I remember one particular summer when I was either in junior high or high school. I went to Bakersfield to stay for a week. I spent most of it that summer at my great aunt “Zizi’s” apartment.

Zizi was my grandmother’s only surviving sister. They had lost my mother’s namesake, Ada, when she was young. Zizi, Zia Emma (“zia” being Italian for “aunt”), had never married, though she had been engaged at one point. We never really got the full story, only that she had moved back with my grandparents when she suffered a nervous breakdown in the aftermath.

That week I spent with Zizi, all I wanted to do was read. She tried to get me to go to the pool, but I only wanted to read. I don’t think she quite knew what to do with me.

Three years ago, my aunt—my mother’s sister—and her son—my cousin—made the decision to sell the house and land. It broke my heart. Never again would I spend any summer days in the stifling heat and lovely memories of that Wible Road home. My grandparents are gone. My great aunt is gone. No more card games with my Nona at the kitchen table of her little green house just a few yards from my grandparents’ place.

My heart yearns for them, those lazy summer days and my precious Italian family.IMG_9995 2

Oh yeah, and my newborn sibling was a girl. Not that she’s a side note; it just happened to be this memory that first came to mind at the word “summer.”

I have so much more to say about this place, but my 10 minutes are up :-). I will touch on this again in a future post.

 

Your Story Matters

Today’s 10-minute Tuesday prompt is “story.”

I have a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on my Discover Card, so I get to see it often.I’m typing this on my iPad today because my daughter is using my laptop for schoolwork while her computer is being upgraded. In the mobile version of the WordPress site, there is a space for a blog post title, and then under that the words “start your story here.”

Made me think for a minute. Where did my story start?

Several years ago, the staff of Cru was challenged at a staff conference to write out an essay that was called “I am from.” It’s a look back into your personal history to learn what it is that has made you what you are today. It’s not to give an excuse for our shortcomings because “that’s just the way I was raised,” but instead to give insight so that we know where to go from here.

fullsizeoutput_6badTherapist Adam Young talks about giving our parents too much of an out when we say that they did the best they could. I know I’ve done that. But if that were true, then my dad would have stayed with AA and found a way to curtail his drinking. My mom would have tried to learn how to be open hearted and really tried to know her kids. And their parents before them would have read and practiced and learned how to do better.

I have copied my “I am from” poem here, just to share a piece of my story. Consider writing one yourself, because your story really does matter, more than you think it does. I would also encourage you to listen to Dr. Young’s podcast, “The place we find ourselves.

I am From

I am from the Golden State
I am from the winding, hilly roads overlooking the San Francisco Bay
I am from mountains & beaches, rocky shores & tide pools waiting to be explored
I am from sunshine & foggy mornings with the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge just peaking through.
I am from the country, the smell of alfalfa & the lowing of cattle
I am from searing heat & shimmering highways
I am from the Old Country, where garlic & olive oil permeate the air
I am from family, from privilege, a name & a reputation to maintain
I am from the land of bagpipes & brave hearts
I am from clan Grant, an unknown entity in my life
I am from a popular mother & a father who wasn’t sure who he was
I am from the affects of alcohol & disappointment & dying dreams
I am from generosity & volunteering & friendships that lasted through decades
I am from a love not sure about how to be expressed
I am from acceptance & forgiveness & new life
I am from purpose, from words knocking at the door, waiting to be let out
I am from unconditional love
I am from the heart of God, written on His timeline before it began