My Best Advice for the Bride and Groom

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How in the world do we prepare you for marriage? It’s like trying to prepare for an earthquake or tornado– really quite impossible. You really can’t fathom what it’s like until you are smackdab in the middle of it. That’s really why is it so incredibly scary. Well, that, along with the fact that, as Christians, we know it is for good. So it’s not like we can change our minds next year if we don’t get along.

As I was thinking a bit about this, I thought I would just share a few things that have helped your dad and I along the way. Stuff we learned early on and stuff we learned later but wished we would have learned early on (these are in no particular order)–

1. Worry most about the opinions of God and your spouse. You will get so much advice in life. People telling you how to live, what to buy, how to raise your kids. When it comes right down to it, only what God and your spouse think matters. Don’t let your decisions be dictated by your parents (yes, that means me,too!), your siblings, your friends, or your church. Instead study God’s Word together and come to a mutual decision.

2. Remember that God has designed the man to be the spiritual head of the home (Ephesians 5:22-25). Oh, how we women get so uptight about these verses, but if the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, then it is a joy to submit to him. Of course, this is in a perfect world, right? Which is where we don’t live. But we need to keep working at it. This is so important because, when you come to an impasse (which you inevitably will) someone needs to make the final decision. God has designed it to be the man.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Before you get too far into an argument, ask yourself if this really matters. So many times your dad and I would fight over the dumbest stuff. Does it really matter where we go to eat or what color we paint the room? Sure, some of these little things add up (like being consistently late, etc) and need to be worked out, but let the little stuff go. (I can almost hear you, Jess, telling me that I have not been a very good example in this area, and you would be so right–I am still working very hard on this one).

4. Apologize sincerely. If you mess up, admit it.

5. Accept apologies whole-heartedly. Don’t stiffen your back and refuse to forgive. Nothing good comes from that.

6. Talk openly about everything. No conversation should be off-limits– from what happened at work today to how you feel about sex to how your feel about your parents to theology. Talk about everything. Communication is so very important in moving a marriage from a simple partnership to a deep and abiding friendship.

7. Keep family relationships as a priority. We have learned that friends come and go, but family is forever.

8. Keep God at the center of your relationship. Pray and study the Word together. Have discussions about spiritual things. Find a good solid church and be committed so that you are regularly fed good spiritual food.

9. Be genuinely interested when you listen to each other. We all love to talk about our hobbies and interests. You will deepen your relationship considerably if you are an active listener.

10. Please don’t let us (your parents) ever come between the two of you. It is so much more important to Dad and I that you honor God and each other, than that you do what we want you to do. If we get intrusive without realizing it, please tell us. We are here to support you and offer advice, but only if and when you want it.

11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are struggling, don’t be embarrassed or too proud to ask for help from us or your pastor or someone else you trust. Sometimes you need some help and that’s okay!

12. And, finally, and really probably most importantly, remember that all marriages go through stages. You will have days –maybe sometimes even longer–where you don’t even really like each other. You will wonder how you can possibly live with this person for the rest of your life. But hang in there, because the good times will come again! Don’t give up. Obey God’s Word by choosing to love even when you don’t feel like it and then wait, because the feelings will return.

I am so very excited for you both! It is made so much more exciting by the fact that I can see God’s hand so clearly at work in how He brought you together and how perfect you are for each other. We are looking forward to having another son and watching the two of you live your lives together for God’s honor and glory.

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Fly, Birdie, Fly!

baby duckling

I reached for a pair of socks. Once again, I had to root around for awhile before finally finding a matching pair.

I knew that someone had been in my sock drawer and I had a pretty good idea who. This nest is just getting a little too small for the six of us who live in it.

“That girl!” I thought, “it is time for her to leave and move into her own house…”

And then it hit me.

She is leaving. Very soon. For good.

This happened a few weeks ago. But how quickly time flies and now here we are: The week of the wedding.

You know, from the time our children are little we raise them to become responsible adults. We want them to live their own lives, hoping that it will include love and marriage and children, if that is their desire. We prepare them to leave us. We want them to fly!

But I guess no one ever told me that when our children start experiencing new beginnings, so do we!

You see, for awhile, I felt more like the exciting and new beginnings of my children were indicative that all my life’s dreams and hopes were ending. And in many ways they are. To get married and raise kids is all I ever wanted in life. Life as I knew it is drawing to a close. I still fight the feelings of nostalgia and sadness sometimes. I think only a mom who has faced the empty nest can truly understand this.

But recently I have realized that, in so many ways, I am starting a new beginning, too. Gradually– or was it suddenly?–I started going to the grocery store by myself. And then we went on little weekend trips and didn’t have to worry about a babysitter. And as they got older, my freedom increased and continues to increase.

So what am I going to do with it? Play? Work? Give my husband some of that attention that I poured on the kids? (that is his favorite option!) Start a new hobby or new career? Waste time watching TV?

Yes, this is one child and I still have three at home. But, I can feel the winds changing very quickly. And this Saturday will not only an indicate a fresh start in the lives of these precious young people, but in our lives, too–one that will include additional children (it is our goal to make the word “in-law” a positive thing!) and, hopefully, quite a few grandchildren.

Life is changing. Elisabeth Elliot says this about change: With acceptance comes peace. Yes, I think that may be true.

And so, while I still feel like life has gone a little too fast for my liking, I am so excited and thrilled for my daughter to be experiencing the wonderful adventure of marriage with the young man I’ve prayed for for all of her life. How faithful God is and how blessed we are.

The first birdie is leaving. Let the empty nest process begin.

 

 

 

The Messy Middle

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Before I even begin this post I may as well just make a confession.

I do not excel at cleaning my house.

You know how you go into some homes and everything is so spotless that you don’t even have to look into the closets to just know that they are probably organized by color and size? The fact that you could eat from the floor gives pretty solid proof that their pantries probably do not hold any old boxes of crackers, a bag of chips with just a few crumbs remaining, or empty tasty-cake boxes?

Anyway, that’s not my house.

I am just not one of those women who is checking my pantry every day for empty boxes. I am not one of those women who is cleaning out my cabinets every week…er…month…or even year?? I confess, I just believe there are so many other important things to do!

If you are one of those women who keeps a really neat house, then your family is blessed! Many have been the–shall we call them discussions?– regarding my method of housecleaning. Now, I do want you to understand that I do not keep a hovel. My house is basically clutter-free and clean–at least the areas that you can see when you visit!

BUT if you look into any given cabinet or closet…well, just don’t do it, okay? It may be dangerous. I try to stay after them. I really do. But–like I said– there are so many other things to do and, with six “not-so-tidy” people living here, well, they quickly become disorganized again, anyway.

But yesterday, I decided to tackle my family room. I don’t think I had actually thoroughly cleaned the cabinets in that room for several years. They were therefore unusable. I had a basic idea what was in there, but knew I would probably find a few surprises, too. I also decided to change the furniture around to make for more seating and to clean out a few other baskets.

The messy middle came about 30 minutes into the project. This was exactly why I didn’t want to start in the first place! And why I had put it off for so long.

So. Much. Stuff.

What is this? What if I give this away and then I need it again later? What in the world does this cord belong to? Where is the case for this dvd? Why do we even have this dvd?  If I haven’t read this magazine from last year, I wonder if I ever will?

While I was in the midst of all that clutter and stuff, which was spread all over my kitchen table and family room floor, one of the kids came in.

“Wow, this is a mess.”

Yes, I know. Thanks for telling me.

Another one came in.

“Whoa! What are you doing?”

?? Really? I thought it was obvious.

I started to get discouraged and overwhelmed. I would escape to my computer every 15 minutes or so to check e-mail and Facebook. Anything to escape the dreariness of what lay ahead. I did not want to finish this job. But it had to be done. For goodness’ sake, we couldn’t even eat a family meal until this job was finished.

And so, I finally made myself sit and work without any escape. I forced myself to finish the big job I had undertaken, even though I didn’t really feel like it.

After it was all done, I looked over my rearranged and clean family room with the satisfaction of a job well-done. It was so miserable in the middle, but the end result made it so worth it!

Oh, how true this is in so many areas of life! Raising kids can get very messy in the middle, can it not? Marriages can get pretty messy, too. As can extended family relationships, church situations, and job situations.

Oftentimes, we warily stand back, so fearful to address an issue. Sometimes we are just lazy. And sometimes we are just too busy. We just figure it will have to go away sometime. And, very occasionally, that does happen.

But, just like my messy cabinets weren’t going to disappear, most problems aren’t going anywhere, either. And just like the cabinets grew worse– more layers of dust, more stuff, more disorganization, so do our problems grow bigger and deeper. And so we need to face them head on and deal with them. And, YES, dealing with it will be messy and unpleasant and hard work. But we can’t give up in the middle. We have to keep going so that we can get to the other side.

And when we do, we will feel a peace and satisfaction that is comparable to little else this world has to offer.

The messy middle is no fun. That’s the truth, plain and simple. But the results are so worth it.

And now you know far more about me  and my house-cleaning practices than I wish you did but don’t let it be said that I’m not willing to sacrifice my reputation for the Lord ;)

 

Teaching Our Children to Work

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One of the most disheartening changes in this culture over the past 30 or so years is that children are no longer taught to work. Instead of teaching our children a good work ethic and diligence, we are teaching them that everything else is more important. We have an epidemic of laziness in this country.

This becomes obvious rather quickly, I am afraid, when you watch young (and some not so young!) people work in public. We can size up pretty quickly which waitress or cashier we don’t really want. They are slow and incapable. They are more interested in their conversation with a co-worker. They don’t give any effort to their job because it’s “just a job”.

Owning a business that hires young people as our employees has also made this change rather obvious to my husband and me. It is a rare thing to find a hard-working, diligent young person these days. Most applicants expect to be given a good salary, great benefits, and lots of extra incentives, but they don’t want to work for it. They expect it all to be handed to them on a silver platter, giving nothing in return. Thankfully, there are still some hard-working, young people full of integrity out there but the pickings are getting slimmer every year.

I know many of us feel that there will be enough time for work when our children grow up, which is true to a certain extent. However, if they are never taught to work when they are young, they will not magically learn this when they grow older.

Of course, I am not suggesting that we use our children as our slaves, but we need to stop the sports and playtime long enough to have them join some of the family chores. Kids who know how to work are better citizens, less self-centered, and tend to look at what they can give to the world, rather than what they can get from it.

Have them join Dad in helping to fix the shed or do the lawn work on a Saturday or help Mom bake or do laundry during the week. Don’t worry if it isn’t done perfectly.  It is more important that your child learn to help fold towels, than that the towel is folded just right. Sometimes when teaching children to work it is hard to remember our priorities, isn’t it?

And, YES, your kids will complain. If they don’t complain when you ask them to do something, be pleasantly surprised. My kids complained most of their lives. And sometimes they still do. But we have made it clear that if they are going to live here and take part in all of the benefits of living here, they will also take part in the work involved to have what we have.

We cannot forget that we are responsible for preparing our precious children for their future lives. Their future life is, most likely, not going to be about sports or dance or getting good grades. There is a place for these things but how important it is that we not get so busy running around with activities that we have no time left to teach our kids how to work.

But there is a second aspect to this, as well. Not only are we to teach them how to work, but we are to set a good example. How do we talk about our necessary duties? What attitude do we have about Mondays? Do we work for God’s Glory and enjoy each day or are we “Working for the Weekend”, as the old 80s song says?

I failed at this one many times, I am afraid. Being a homemaker has its challenges–a big one being that we determine our own schedules, task lists, and priorities. The other challenge is that we never get to pack up for the day and leave it behind. We are always on call, 24/7. This can be a bit of a challenge for someone like me. I have learned a lot over the years, but this was not originally an easy thing for me. Having a positive, selfless, and diligent attitude was not something at which I excelled, quite honestly. I would change that now. Hindsight is always 20/20.

It is so sobering to realize that these little (or not so little) lives that we have been entrusted with are counting on us to teach them everything they need to know before being thrust into a pretty hard and cold world. We can’t get so caught up in our desires to provide them with special and fun experiences that we forget to teach them how to work.

And, trust me, your kids will thank you later. And so will their boss!

 

please note: This post has been updated and expanded from its original form, which was written for The Prudent Life, my homemaking blog.

A Look Back

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In just a few short weeks my oldest daughter will be getting married. My dining room is filled with boxes and wedding supplies as she prepares for her big day. She and her fiance are busy fixing up an old house they were able to purchase. It is fun to watch them together, as they work on wedding plans and prepare to start their new life together. But it is also frustrating because my daughter lives here and her stuff is here, but she isn’t really here. Know what I mean?

And I wondered how I felt the summer before my August wedding? Was I as in love? Were my parents frustrated with me?

But I didn’t have to just wonder. I could actually look back. Because, as you may already know, most writers journal. And so I have some kind of record of my feelings about life since about 5th grade. I have pulled out those journals every great once in awhile as I have raised my teen girls.

So a few nights ago I decided to pull out my journal from the summer of 1988. I had not read those words since I had written them. It was strange to read the words of my former self. I am the same person. And yet, I am not the same person.

In those pages, I read about events and relationship dynamics that I had totally forgotten. And guess what? I had some of the typical problems with my parents, too, as an adult living at home. Only I had a different perspective back then. I had not remembered any of that.

It was also interesting to see what I had written about my future husband and myself and the problems I anticipated us having as we headed off into marriage. And all these years later, I could see that I was right. They were the problems that we have faced over and over again in our marriage.

As I told my husband about my insight into our future as a 22 year old, he jokingly said, “well, I guess you shouldn’t have married me.”

But I can honestly say that never crossed my mind. I’d marry him all over again in a heartbeat. And so I responded, “If it wouldn’t have been those problems, then it would’ve been different ones.”

Yes, we have issues. Every marriage does.  There is no perfect relationship. (Why do we think there will be? Could it be the romance novels we read? Or the chick flicks we watch? Why in the world are our expectations so high?)

But we work through them, one step at a time, with candor, forgiveness, a sense of humor, and total commitment.

And how gratifying to realize almost 26 years later, that we have made some progress. We are not the same people we were when I was writing all those years ago. We have changed and matured and become just a little bit more like Jesus as we have added years. Oh, those flaws flare up and still stare us both in the face sometimes, but it isn’t as often. And it isn’t as severe.

I don’t know if you have your life recorded in journals. If you do, why not pull one out and take a few moments and look back? See how far you’ve come. If you don’t, then just take a few moments and think about how far you’ve come. Whether you are 25 or 95, think about your past years. Has your marriage relationship improved over the years? Have you become more like Jesus? Praise the Lord if the answer is yes. The Holy Spirit is working to sanctify you, just as we believers are promised in scripture (I Peter 1:2). But if it is no, don’t despair! Start today to create a new future! One step at a time. It is never too late! (And remember, real and lasting change can only be found after our relationship with God has been made right. If you don’t know Him personally, please click here.)

Our future is created one moment at a time. We are given choices each and every day–we can choose our attitude, our responses, our reactions — and these small choices are what creates the person we will become.

I didn’t think so deeply back when I was writing that summer of 1988. I didn’t realize all of this. Now, looking back, I can see that the prayers of my parents and grandparents helped to keep me on the right track. So that’s my second point. Pray for your kids and grandkids. There is so much we don’t understand when we are young. And most of us don’t want to listen to anyone tell us about life. Let’s cover the young people we love with much prayer.

It was interesting to take a look back. And in some ways I’m jealous. Starting out in life sounds fun and exciting. But then I realize– I wouldn’t really want to go back and learn everything all over again. So, here I am, middle-aged and headed into the future. Still determined to become more like Jesus through the little choices I make every day. Failing daily, but always brushing myself off and starting over again!

 

Don’t Let it Go

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Oh my goodness. I was looking up the lyrics to the popular song “Let It Go” for a different blog post (which will still be coming one of these days) and found something so worrisome, I just have to share it.

You see, little girls (and even quite a few little boys) are singing this song at the top of their lungs across this nation. As Christians, most of us tend to view Disney as fairly innocuous. And before you think I am on some vendetta against Disney, let me assure you that is not the case. I love stories with princesses and happy endings as much as the next guy.

But reading these lyrics made me realize that they are not neutral when it comes to what is being pushed on all of us in this nation. And what is that? It is that there are no absolutes. We are all free to decide in our own mind what is right and what is wrong.

Here are the lyrics I found–

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

I know that many of you will think I am –as the cliche goes–making a mountain out of a mole hill. Others of you will shrug your shoulders and not care. But please keep reading.

Am I suggesting that we ban Disney movies from our homes? No, that is not my point. That is between you and God.

What I do want to talk about is teaching our kids discernment.

If you see something on any kids’ movie that is completely opposite of biblical truth, do you speak to them about it? Do you discuss it and share with them why this does not agree with God’s Word? Even two year olds can understand that mommy and daddy want to honor God and this song or phrase doesn’t do that.

But are we even having the conversations?

These conversations are pretty easy and productive when your children are small. They are like little sponges and it is a wonderful time to fill them with the resources they need to live a life that pleases God. However, as they grow older, it takes a little more courage, because you will get ridiculed and teased by teenagers and they will think you are very annoying and maybe even a little crazy.

Just keep going back to the Word of God.

You see, it’s not my opinion or your opinion that matters. The only opinion we should care about is God’s. If we can teach our kids that from the time they are little, we will be well on our way to raising young people who put their faith in God.

Now to go on a little rabbit trail–

I know that some of you are probably thinking that it is hard to even know what God’s Word says with all of the interpretations out there. And I agree with you. I have seen, in the last few decades, the flood of scriptural “interpretations” and confusing commentaries on scripture that have been let loose on the church so that even we Christians can get confused about what God’s Word says exactly. This is when I go back to history– what has the true church taught for thousands of years? Because, let’s be honest, God’s Word didn’t change 50 years ago to give a carte blanche on man’s sinful desires (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

So, instead of using the “Bible is confusing” as an excuse to avoid good discussions, why  don’t we commit right now–today– to study the Bible ourselves and see what the Holy Spirit has to teach us? If you don’t know where to begin, then click here for a great website to get you started on studying God’s Word.

It is only by doing this that we will have the knowledge necessary to combat the attacks against scripture that are coming from all sides– even in the form of an “innocuous” Disney movie.

 

 

My Four Mirrors

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When I had babies so many years ago, I don’t think that I fully realized something.

Wait– let me rephrase that. I know that I absolutely did not realize something.

Each one of my babies– in one way or another– would mirror some of my own worst sinful traits and most annoying habits.

They say that kids change you. And that is certainly true. And, quite honestly, I expected to be changed. It was coming face to face with my own sin on a daily basis that I wasn’t quite expecting.

I have great kids. I am so blessed. But almost every day, I will spot a bit of selfishness or anger or backbiting or gossip, and, while with my mouth I am “encouraging them” to stop what they are doing, inside I am frustrated because I know–as sure as I know the sun will rise again tomorrow– where they learned that behavior.

It is rather interesting to me that, as parents, we often have the toughest time getting along with the kid(s) that are just like us. Could it possibly be because of this dynamic? These kids that are like us force us to come face to face with our sin almost every day. And we don’t like that. It irritates and frustrates us. Our pride is hurt over and over again, because we know we haven’t conquered this sin in our lives and now we’ve condemned our children to struggle with it for the rest of theirs.

Could that possibly be part of the reason?

Whatever the reason, I do believe that, instead of growing frustrated, we need to humble ourselves and recognize the sin in our own lives, while we do the necessary task of raising our children.

How important it is that we do not pretend we are perfect while we discipline our children, while all involved — children, spouse– knows full well we are not.

Life is changing now for me. My kids are young adults and my role looks quite different. And the mirrors grow so much clearer. I can see some of the struggles and battles they are going to face because of the example I set. And I feel like a failure.

But, then I remember God’s grace and the victories over sin I have experienced through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. No, not perfection, but victories. I am not the same person now that I was twenty years ago. God is slowly, but surely, sanctifying me and making me look more like Jesus.

And I know that, through their obedience to God’s Word and the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in their lives, my much beloved children will also have that same victory in their lives as they mature.

Now my main job is to pray.

 

If you like this post and believe it would be an encouragement to others, I would very much appreciate if you would share it. Thank you! :)

 

Parenting 101: Being a “Great” Grandparent

7 GrandparentOf course, as you know, I am not a grandparent. At least not yet! But my husband and I are looking forward to those days (after all, as I always say, if you are going to be old you may as well enjoy it!) I am sure some of my readers have some good input to give on this topic of grand-parenting. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments after this post.

From my perspective as a parent of a grandchild, I can think of four very important gifts that grandparents can give their grandkids–

1. Time. Time for conversations, reading stories, and playing games. Times for spotting leaves, finding butterflies and smelling flowers. So often, Mom and Dad are so caught up in their busy lives that they don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the little things of life. But many grandparents finally have the time to stop and enjoy and appreciate things. Including little ones in this special time of life is a wonderful gift for them.

2. Support their Parents. Supporting your children in their quest to raise godly children is such a gift to your grandchildren. Giving Mom and Dad a night off, so that their marriage can be nurtured and strengthened is also a very special gift to give. It is also important to keep our mouths closed around our grandkids. If we are going to speak about their parents, our words should be uplifting and positive.

3. A Listening Ear. Little children love to talk, don’t they? And, sometimes, parents get tired of listening. But that is where grandparents can step in! Grandparents often only have the children for a limited amount of time. Listening to them, without condition, during those times will make them feel valued and loved.

4. Neutral Ground. As kids grow older, the job of raising kids becomes a little more difficult. Battles take place and many are the frustrations. As parents, we are called to teach our kids and to grow them up to be godly men and women. This takes work and sweat and sometimes it hurts. But grandparents, while maintaining basic discipline and, of course, not doing anything contrary to rules Mom and Dad have set, can offer a wonderfully comfortable place where grandkids can just be kids. They offer neutral ground where frustrations and hot topics can be discussed from a more objective view point. Grandparents can be so valuable by functioning as mediators during these times.

These four things will be such special gifts for your grandkids. They won’t understand it until later, but, one day, they will grow up and realize how tremendously blessed they were in having grandparents like you. And that is when you will reap tremendous rewards for your investment in their lives. Many of these children will grow up and want to keep their relationship with you. Instead of a dreaded chore, they will count it as a privilege to spend time with you in your old age. My grown kids still make spending time with their grandparents a priority (NOT that I am suggesting that they are old yet!) 

And, so, this post wraps up the month of January’s posts about parenthood. We went from the first stages of parenting to almost the last. Life just keeps changing and sometimes it is hard to keep up. But being flexible and accepting the changes that come is key to enjoying each stage to its fullest!

 

Parenting 101: What’s My Role?

6 Adult KidsTo be extremely transparent with you, I am still working through this stage. I am in the midst of finding a healthy balance of being supportive without being over-supportive, if you know what I mean. I am trying to find the balance of expectations in this new and strange world of mothering adults. Once again, I find myself way out of my comfort zone.

I think we almost need to break this stage down into two different sections–

Adult Kids living in the home

and

Adult Kids living outside the home

Personally, I have only experienced the first one. As all four of my kids are still living at home and three of them are 18 or older, I do feel somewhat qualified to write about it here. Please notice the word “somewhat.” When you are in the midst of a stage it is hard to tell what exactly you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. But I am fairly confident about a couple of things. First, it is still our home. No matter if they are 15, 25, or 40, if they are living in our home, they still have a responsibility to abide by our rules. Now, those rules, we have found, do need to change and relax a bit. i.e. While we ask the kids to be discerning in their choices within our home (we don’t want to hear ungodly music blaring from a speaker or see worldly junk on the TV in this home), we do not put restrictions on what they do outside our home (although we do feel free to share our disappointment in any bad choices!).

And, second, we do ask them to help a bit around the house without pay for their room and board. Trust me, they are getting the deal of their lives– although, as is typical of life — they really don’t understand this.  I know parents who charge room and board and parents who don’t.

If they do not like our rules, we have made it clear that they are free to leave with our blessing. We love them but our responsibility for this home before God remains. So far, they have all decided the perks are worth it! Lots of parents do this stage differently for a lot of different reasons. What do you do? And why?

As we navigate through this time in our lives, we still keep talking and loving and messing up and forgiving. Life is changing substantially for us as parents and for me, particularly, as a mother. I try to lean into the curves, but I don’t really always do such a good job (as my kids will attest to). I wasn’t mentally prepared for this and I find myself feeling lost and out of my element much of the time. There. That’s a bit of honesty for you.

As for parenting our young adults who are married or have moved away, I have a few things to say because of my own experience as a child. And I have been giving some thought to this recently, as my daughter recently got engaged. I want to pattern my parenting in this stage after my own parents. I feel so incredibly blessed and I want to share with you what I believe they did SO right in this area…and continue to do so right. I want to be just like them for my kids.

1.  They take their role to support my brother and I very seriously. While they have their own lives and friends, they have made our family (and my brother’s) a priority.

2. They use their words to encourage and love, rather than to criticize.

3. They backed away from their role as “fixer” and got comfortable in their role as “mentor”.

4. When my parents confront us about anything, we take them very seriously. We do this because this happens so infrequently that we know they must feel very strongly if they have chosen to speak to us about it.

5. We have become friends in a two-way sense, so that I can also be an encouragement and support to them sometimes.

6.  They bring fun and joy and help to our lives. Vacations and trips and outings are much more fun when Grandpa and Grandma are along.

7. Because my parents love the Lord and have made God a priority in their lives, we can always count on them for biblical counsel.

8. They are not intrusive. They did not criticize us about raising children, handling our finances, or the choices we made that troubled them. And I know that there were times they would have liked to. I am not sure how they were able to sit by and watch, but I am pretty sure that what they weren’t saying to us, they were saying to God. I know we were (and continue to be) prayed for.

And here’s the thing (before you get the wrong idea)–my parents are NOT perfect. They would be the first to tell you that. It’s not about perfection. It’s about humility and love and grace. They have messed up and have their personality flaws just like everybody else.

And, while I picked my parents to write about here, we have also been very blessed by my in-laws (my husband’s parents) as well, who have offered so much love and support through the years and have been there whenever we needed them. We have often said that we don’t deserve so much support when some couples don’t have any.

We are so deeply grateful for all four of our parents. As we enter this new stage of parenting my husband and I pray that we, too, will be supportive and loving and, instead of filling hearts with dread and irritation when we are around, we provide joy and comfort and fun!

I think Adrian Rogers says it best. Here is his formula for being the best in-law you can be —

Hands-Off,
Prayers-On,
Mouths-Closed,
Hearts-Open

 

Parenting 101: I Need a Reason

5 TeensMy nine year old gave me a little attitude. She was my oldest and, while she wasn’t one to keep her opinions to herself, this was a little unusual. I looked at her and wondered.

But as the attitude continued over the next weeks, I realized that we were starting our journey into the wonderful world of adolescence. I wish somebody would have warned me that it starts so early. Oh, it’s not full blown at nine. Thankfully, I had a nice long transition into this strange world. The next seven years were a bit of a rocky ride for our family as she figured out who she was as a person and we figured out who we were as parents of a teenager! I felt exactly like I had felt when I first held her in my arms as a newborn. Who was this child and what did we do with her?

But we muddled through and she had the wonderful opportunity of being our family “guinea pig”. Now, on our fourth teenager (our youngest is fifteen), we have fallen into sort of a pattern.

You will notice that I said seven years above. That is because, without exception (so far, anyway– one more to go!), age sixteen became the turning point for all of our children. It is when things started to improve– attitudes, motivation, disrespect. Oh, they didn’t disappear overnight (wouldn’t that be nice??) but they started to get so much better.

Now, before I go any further, I think it is important for you to know that our family had some difficult times during these years. It was not all happiness and roses. We had moments when we feared that we were going to lose a couple of our children to the world. Moments where we were weighted down with heavy, heavy hearts by those mistakes we have made and realized we were going to probably pay a very high price for making them. God, in His great mercy and kindness, reached down and touched hearts and wrought change. Only He could do that and we give Him all of the glory.

I am not here to give you some perfect formula. I don’t have one and I doubt there is one. But, by the grace of God, each of my kids has committed their lives to the Lord and we see fruit in their lives that gives evidence of that commitment. I do not tell you that to boast, but to give validation to what I write here.

And, while this time in the life of a family is a little scary, it can also be very rewarding, especially if you did all of that hard work when they were toddlers and elementary-aged children.  And while some of what we did when they were younger still held true as they turned into young adults–things such as loving them unconditionally, making time for fun, and having lots of discussion time– there were a few other things that we learned were also really important during this time.

First, pray for your children to love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Mark 12:30) before they give evidence of needing that prayer. Don’t wait until they are in some kind of trouble and then pray for God to extricate them. Pray often and hard for them to hunger for God and to hate sin. We know this is God’s will for them and we can pray with confidence!

Second, this is the time that we have to provide reasons for our rules. These kids beg for and need a reason for the rules you set in your home. And rightly so. As an adult, don’t you like to have a reason for requests made of you? Oh, you may get them to obey you on the outside during their teen years but when they get to college– look out! They are just itching inside to do and watch and listen to all of that “fun” stuff that wasn’t allowed and when they finally escape the watchful eyes, they take in the world with giant gulps. These kids have never understood that they are accountable to God, not to Mom and Dad.

In our family, we tried to help our teens understand that we were accountable to God for what we did and did not allow in this home. We tried to give reasons. We did not ask them to agree, only to respect our decision. Gradually, as they matured, they started to understand that they are accountable to God, as well, for their own choices and we had the pleasure of seeing them start to make their own wise decisions. Notice the word “gradually”. It is a long process.

Giving rules that make sense was a challenge for me, at first. I remember times that one of the kids would come to us and ask to do something and I would give an automatic NO without thinking and my husband would look at me and say two words: Why not?  Why not, indeed? I realized I actually didn’t really have a reason and would humbly change my mind. And so, you can see, this was something I needed to learn.

Third, ‘tweens and teens do need some rules. Oftentimes, children of legalistic parents often end up parents of children with no rules. These parents know how harmful legalism was to their souls and so they decide they are just going to let their kids do what they want and hope and pray they come around. While rules without reasons should cease, rules themselves should not. We need to set standards in our homes that please the Lord. It is our job as parents. And it is important to remember that as our kids get older, we need to back away and gradually let them make some of their own decisions. It’s a slow, gradual process, but it does need to take place.

Fourth, the Bible needs to be established as your family’s solid foundation. I cannot even begin to tell you the value this has in the life of a family with teenagers. Especially in this crazy world. The other day my 15 year old and I happened to watch a clip of a news show that had six different women giving “their views” on marriage. We both had to shake our heads as we realized that these women were basing all of their views on their own personal opinions. Nothing else. What a precarious place to put your trust.

Here in this home, we knew we had to teach our kids that God’s Word is where we find the way we should live and so this is where we turned, not only for big questions, but for reasons for the standards we set.

You want to go to that movie? Please tell me if Jesus could come along and watch with you.

You want to buy that group’s album on iTunes? Print out the lyrics and show them to me so we can compare them to what God’s Word says.

Your friend did what to you? Let’s see what God’s Word says about responding to that hurt.

A girl at church started living with her boyfriend? Let’s find out why that isn’t right from God’s perspective.

The Bible provides truth, answers, comfort, strength, and guidance. It has proved itself over and over to us. It is far more valuable than what any magazine or talk show host or psychologist has to say about anything. We tried to make that clear in our home.

Fifth, we need to set a good example ourselves. We can hardly expect our kids not to cheat and lie, if we do so. We can’t expect them to practice discernment in their TV watching, if we don’t. If we want them to make church a priority, we need to make church a priority. If we explode in anger, are we surprised when they explode in anger? We need to try to be what we want our kids to be as adults.

Sixth, we need to keep our loving authority in place. In this weird, wishy-washy world we somehow have found ourselves in, your teens will try to convince you that you have no right to judge or critique anything they do. After all, you have plenty of your own sinful habits and areas to grow. Who are you to tell me? This is a constant theme in much of the Christian world and I have a sneaking suspicion it is working its way into our homes.

It is a hard day when we realize our kids see our flaws and foibles. It’s an even harder day when we have to discipline them for something we struggle with so much ourselves. It does feel a little hypocritical, quite honestly. But, as parents, this is our job. We want them to go into the world more prepared than we were to handle the struggle we still battle. And, by the way, tell your kids that. Don’t ignore their concerns. Talk to them and let them know how inadequate you feel and the struggles you still face. Be humble. This goes a long way in building your relationship.

Seventh, keep the future in mind. Instant gratification in raising teenagers may exist, but it comes with an extremely high price. Now is not the time to be your teen’s friend. It’s going to come but it isn’t now. There will most likely be some very difficult moments. Moments when you want to give up. Moments when failure looms in front of you. Try to keep the goal in mind. Ignore the embarrassment you feel from the comments of others. Ignore the few minutes of hatred spewing from your teen’s mouth. Don’t be too proud to listen to advice, but run it all through a biblical grid. And, most importantly, this is not the time to worry too much about your reputation. Your child is more important than any reputation. This one I learned first-hand.

Don’t let each battle with your teen weaken your relationship, instead face it head-on with loving leadership and open communication and let it strengthen and deepen your relationship, until eventually, the battles become less and less fierce until one day they disappear completely and you are left with the beautiful promise of a lifetime friendship.

There is so much more to say. A short blog post cannot even begin to encompass my heart on this issue of teens. My heart aches for so many kids who do not feel they can talk to mom and dad and feel so lost. For the parents who feel almost as lost as the kids. It was not meant to be this way.

And, while this is a challenging stage, it can also be very rewarding. I cannot begin to tell you the joy that comes from watching your children grow to love and serve the Lord. It is truly the only thing that matters. It is the legacy we carry with us into eternity. May we remember this during each and every moment of this challenging time in our lives.