Archive for the ‘Teens’ Category

I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture ~ John 10:9

“Jump a Fence

Climb a Tree

Homespun, he is Free”

from Blackberry Roland, by Blue Cotton Memory

From little feet puddle jumping to  muscles and cleats sliding through mud and rain-soaked tackle, these boys of mine don’t always choose the neat, tidy paths and gateways.

God placed within their tiny hearts before they were born – a desire for freedom, a frontier-kind of spirit that would lead them out of bondage, through a parting sea – and into a new land, a land where the banner of Shaddai flies high for all to see, where children are taught with their first steps that Jehovah-Rohi shepherds them through the gate, hand-in-hand with the Savior.

Through the gate – it sounds so simple. Forging new paths, to discover new ideas – like Ford with automobiles or Charles Best who discovered insulin – or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon – fence jumping sure seems a quicker way to get there. Their toes almost itch to jump fences – from the time they learn to walk.

These boys to men seem designed to avoid gates.

I see it in their desire to debate – just for the sake of debate – chewing (sometimes it seems like gnawing) their logical teeth on challenging authority or the status quo.

How many times have I said, “Don’t outsmart your common sense.”

The oldest, he taught them all the longest word in the dictionary: Antidisestablishmentarianism – and, to him, it meant not taking establishment ideas at face value. At first glance, the gate looks like establishment ideas.

Some shun the gate because their parents walked through. The gate seems to have always been there. It seems so ordinary, so every day, so already done. These boys to men don’t just go through the gate because it’s there – it often seems like a life motto they’ve worn emblazoned inside.


“I am the Gate for the Sheep,” Jesus tells us (John 10:7)

These boys to men – they gotta have Him – there’s no other way – no other way to be delivered from all that life will throw at them – from the liars, cheats, and thieves who aim to steal more than their wallets, identity or cell phones.

The gate isn’t religion. It isn’t rules. It isn’t an activity list of things we do. The gate is relationship. Relationship releases the gate latch – relationship with the one who designed you, the one who died to save you.

Real relationship. You cannot get there by fence jumping (fulfilling the bucket-list of Christian-expected behavior but not relationship) – or digging under it.

I imagine that if you wanted to spend time with Him debating – I imagine He would welcome that as the beginning of relationship. You might not be through the gate – but at least you’re at the gate with Him.


A few years ago, I hosted a an unofficial small group with some parents of teens, friends of my sons still at home – and we read Sticky Faith together, trying to figure out how to get these boys to men who have walked through that gate when they were little – to continue living through the gate – in His pasture where they live “saved from sin, the dominion of it, the guilt and condemning power of it, and at last from the being of it; and from the law, its curse and condemnation, and from wrath to come, and from every evil, and every enemy”(Gill’s Exposition, Bible Hub).


Some were frontier parenting – this was their first foray into the teen years. Others, like us, had older children who entered through the gate or were fence jumpers or tried digging under it, trying any way to avoid the actual relationship required to go through the gate.  We needed fresh eyes to break battle-fatigue habits, to re-equip, re-adjust, re-train for the next 6 years.

Sitting across the table, breaking bread – (getting ready for them to start the teen book while we went over the parent’s book) – learning ways to intentionally open the clogged conversational arteries with our children, how our spiritual gifts communicate with each other (not part of the book, but part of what we are doing) – and how to encourage real relationship with the one who created them, who loves them – who died to save them.

One of the things I loved about this group is that it included some of their inner circle of friends. As one teen filled a bowl of soup, a parent asked,”Who influences you most now – your parents or your peers?”

We were not looking for a right answer – We were looking for his answer.

“My peers,” he answered. Another answered, “My parents.” Each gave valid reasons, truthful reasons.

Maybe by pulling them to the table, bowl by bowl – with friend’s parents who they tease includes their “favorite mom” – maybe, just maybe we can mentor faith that sticks: real, life relationship faith.

How can we as parents encourage relationship building of these sons with their Savior? Real relationship building – We asked our sons to define what it meant to be a Christian?

Sometimes there was a disconnect between the logos “right” answer and the rhema (the aliveness) of their answer in their every day. They knew the right answer but their actions weren’t always in tandem with the right answer. Both were still fusing together.

Over the bowls of soup, I also wanted to ask, “Who is influencing your gate relationship with Christ?”

“What does that gate relationship consist of?”

What does it mean to pass through the gate to the pasture?

Or are you just fence jumping?”

Today, about 2 years later, those mentoring relationships are making a positive difference. Other moms and dads interacting, having real conversation – not scared-to-intrude conversation have created peers who reflect that interaction into their peer relationships.

I’ve seen hard decisions made by these young men who prayed first and put self second.

I’ve seen young iron sharpening young iron because of real relationships with other moms and dads showed them how in breaking-bread, over-the-counter real conversation.

They’re pausing at the temptation to fence jump – and instead making the decision to hang out at the gate, take ownership of that relationship found there. In the ownership, they’re discovering it’s not an establishment relationship. It’s a real, personal, one-on-one relationship – a grafting together kind of relationship.

Going through the gate? Or fence jumping?

(updated, September 9, 2015)


All gate photos except for last were taken at Colonial Williamsburg, Fall 2013


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“I’m gonna punch you,” the teen tells his younger brothers – whether it is their silly songs, their loud talking, or actions designed to provoke. I’m not really worried about the “I’m-gonna-punch-you” threat.

That’s brothers building boundaries, uncomfortably building boundaries (for post on Types of Brotherly Physical Contact, click here) – and, often, code for “I need quiet time”  – brothers communicate holisticly with an arsenal of choices: humor, story telling, warnings, helping, encouraging, praying, directions, messages, and back-off words.

In school, though – in school it’s different.

“I was thisclose to punching someone today,” I’ve heard all of my boys say. The provacation is usually someone disrupting class, someone bullying another classmate, possibly bullying them. The girl in me, that God put there to nurture, to comfort, to hug – it rebels against those words, those actions.

Don’t get me wrong – if someone ever punch my son, I’d want them to defend themselves. Sometimes I think that if the good-guys could defend, there’d be fewer discipline problems in school – but, the good-guys get suspended for defending themselves these days.

When my sons say, “I was thisclose to punching someone,” I realize they have reached the end of their rope, their buttons are being pushed, their boundaries overrun – or, maybe, someone sitting behind them tapped a pencil to a staccato beat during an entire class.

Frustration, though, is really no reason for punching.

We drove, this teen and I, to pick up his brothers. “I was thisclose to punching someone” – and I remembered a youth who wanted to hurt another son ( click here to read: Unoffical Day of Prayer to Stop School Violence), threatened to stab him in the back and kill him. At first, I wanted law-and-order justice – until God whispered what he really needed: someone praying for him.

Looking at the road in front of us, I told this son what I thought was really going on:

“The urge to punch someone is really a call from God to pray the person you want to punch – except that call has been hijacked by the devil.”

He wasn’t buying it . . . but I was.

But if I say it over and over again, he might one day live it and believe it.

56) pinking rotary cutters

57) a mother-in-law who has open-heartedly and with grace helped me cut out the pieces for my very first quilt – helped and taught, handling with dexterity and acceptance the way I learn new things.
58) blue polka dots on white cotton material
59) material with a vintage feel, prints mixing yellow, pinks, and blues
60) courage that pushed me from the safety of ignorance into the midst of a color challenge to finally make my blue cotton quilt

61) I’ve read all the Jane Austen Books, the Bronte sisters books, seen all the I Love Lucy’s – but the realization I haven’t read, seen or done all – starting my quilt showed me that – and seeing the movie the movie “Love Letters” with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton, and holding grandbaby girl.
62) Walking up 3 concrete steps, walking toward restoration, choosing to leave behind a broken moment, refusing to let that brokenness break anything more than a moment.
63) the dinner blessing that included, “and bless the hands that prepared our dinner.”
64) My oldest son giving father words to his new daughter, kissing her before handing her over to his wife.
65) A little crease in baby girl’s cheek, between her nose and mouth
66) My husband, holding baby girl for the first time,
67) telling his son a story filled with laughter – baby girl furrowing her brow at the new sound before falling asleep in this new Papaw’s arms, her Papaw.

68) a grocery store green pepper and summertime canned tomatoes in soup.
69) a blue ottoman beside a son’s bed that allows me to lean comfortably and listen during bedtime conversation.
70) “Did you count your freckles today? Did you come home with 10 toes? What’s it like without the bully in the bathroom” –serious and silly questions to fill my question-quota my son demands at bedtime.
71) not having the boys rack up squats on the way to church on Sunday
72) a phone call about a job interview on Friday- Yeah!
73) my soldier son calling me in mistake: “Sorry, mom – I didn’t mean to call” he said. “Never tell your mom you didn’t mean to call – just say, “Love you , Mom,” I laughed. “Love you, mom,” he said.
74) sitting, knitting with a group of women at Sweet Sallie’s Bakery and coffee shop, with a sugar-free caramel macchioato, sharing a morning, knitting words and making friends.
75) going places, like the World Foods shop, ordering 2 Rueben sandwiches and a lb of pancetta, the owner, friends with my DIL’s family, asking about sweet baby girl and  saying nice words about my son who had come in earlier to pick up lunch for he and his sweet wife. Community roots digging deep – relationships grow from knowing, knowing, and knowing, loving like the Father loves.
76) the wind, though it tormented me tonight, wouldn’t let me cook my steaks on the grill, rib-eye steaks that I’d been saving for a celebration moment, when life’s ordinary sweetness was the celebration – and I turned to the wind and said, “God, can you turn it off for 5 minutes. It’s blowing out my grill.” In retrospect,  I sounded like one of my sons tattling on another son. The wind, it kept blowing – and the steaks, they kept not cooking. Stove-top steaks don’t do rib-eye steaks justice – but God has been wanting me to learn to jump tracks lately, to soften for His changes without breaking – and the wind, well, it tossled my hair, blew out the burners like a Crosby and Hope absurd scene, and I chose joy instead of pouting because I did not get my way. Plans blown amuck is how it could have ended. My plans were for blessing – so I focused on blessing instead of grilled steaks.
77) clouds that fall from the sky, cocooning my home – and me. Driving home from school, up the hill into the mists,  like the world is left behind and it is just us, a cottage in the clouds.
78) My little guy helping me carry the tall Kitchen Christmas Tree to the basement where we discovered it fit perfectly between the rafters so we wouldn’t have to hang it horizontally from the ceiling.
79) My little guy coming up behind me, as I’m typing this, sitting on the couch. He wraps his arms around my neck, saying, “Hug” – and I stop and savor!

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Got a son that doesn’t want to succeed in school? Doesn’t care? Leaves you baffled with your jaw dropped on the ground? I have one.

He is an awesome worker outside of school. Frustratingly, just like the young men in my college composition course at a phenomenal engineering school, if he does not see how he will really use what he is learning, he just is not interested – and just will not try. “I was short-sighted,” is how my oldest son described his view of education in high school – of course, he was in college when he realized that. It appears short-sightedness is a common high school ailment.

Friday night found me in the van with my high school student-son. Sometimes the best discussions are when I am behind the wheel of the car. I told him that if you cannot succeed in school, you cannot succeed in life.

“What? If I don’t do well in English, I won’t succeed? How does that work with cars?” he asked in his usual let’s-tear-apart-arguments style.

I told him, “English doesn’t matter. Math doesn’t matter. History and Science? Well, really they don’t matter.  There’s something you do in each class, that if you cannot master, you will utterly fail at everything you do in life:

Without the ability to do that, you cannot hold a job. Who wants to hire someone who has not mastered the process of task completion? Would you hire someone to work in your auto shop who would not successfully complete the assignment you gave them?”

Since Saturday, he has been quizzed relentlessly on this Trinity of Success – in the car, at the table, while he is walking through the room, reading in his bed. I really ought to record it and play it while he sleeps.  I am texting it to him daily. School is no longer about subject matter. It is about learning how to get the job done – whether you like the job or not.

As a parent, you can take things away like social events, phones, games and privileges. Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not. We pray every morning that we do our best as a gift to God. I pray that God gives me the right words at the right moments. The teen years are like the Dark Ages, followed by the Age of Enlightenment and Reformation. What is obvious to me – or even obvious to them before they hit a certain age – leaves me baffled. 

But I accepted this assignment (as a mom). I am going to complete it with determination (not give up and do the best I can even if all I have to get through is faith).  And I will turn it in (I will be held accountable for the job I’ve done – my grade might not be perfect – but I can claim I did my best)!

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Once upon a time, my boys were little enough to fit beneath the microscope of my attention. I could identify the entry point of every new word in their increasing vocabulary. I knew every friend, every friend’s mom and the nature of those friendships.  I could match every sock, find every shirt and dress them neatly for church without much of a howl.

Beneath the microscope, they learned the following kinds of things:

How to Pray
Handle nightmares
Discern Friendship
How to Read
How to Swim
Handle Frustration
See Animals in the Clouds
Appropriate ways to Say No
Not to Talk to Strangers
How to Really Blow your Nose
How to properly shove off with your upper arm in soccer so you don’t foul with your elbow
How to make boxed brownies in the 3rd grade and homemade cakes in the 5th grade
How to make your needs known if you are a need stuffer
Unconditional Love

Beneath the microscope, how they ate, what they ate and when they ate – well, I pretty much knew where it came from – and, yes, where it went – and, hhhhmmm, probably even what it looked like for a long time at its exit.  I still miss orange noses from sweet potatoes and carrot baby foods. All beneath the microscope.              

All children should have parents who place them beneath the microscope – because this studying of their hearts, learning of their dreams, recognition of their gifts – better enables nuturing what God placed within them, better enables healthy healing of their hurts in addition to teaching them to heal their hurts, and train each how to handle their individual challenges. 

Pre-12 is just the training ground to prepare for ages 12 to 20. From 12 to 20, my behavior,  my message is meticulously examined by my boys.

Around age 12 – suddenly, everything starts changing, from knowing what goes on inside the classroom, to the nature of their friendships, to some things they know and when they knew it? “Where did that word come from?” leaves me guessing. Well, their desire for independence, even 12-year-old independence, has burgeoned so they literally pop themselves from beneath the microscope.

In their quest for independence, they have turned the tables, placing me beneath the microscope.  They have so diminished me in their hearts and minds that I fit there, at least in their estimation. I am not saying this is a bad thing. Maybe our children as they grow need to think of us as little before they realize really how wonderfully big we are inside.

It is not comfortable beneath the microscope. They record findings with which I disagree. Beneath the microscope, the parent is not nurtured.  It is a cold, critical place. They re-evaluate the slide notes I recorded of what I placed inside them (you know, all those messages, those values, insights, every good  intention instilled) and compare with their fresh notes of how they see my behavior beneath the microscope. Frustratingly, 12-to-20-year-old microscopic analytical skills are short-sighted. 

When the parent is placed beneath the microscope, it is not a nurturing act. It is a tearing apart and putting back together. They are studying themselves and studying us, seeing if everything we hold them accountable for is within us, too.

Nuance discernment is non-existent. Sharp focus comparing and contrasting message and action rules. Recognition of discrepancies in behavior and action is followed by a stiff call to verbal accountability – and they remember! I am judged by what I have instilled within them. Brutally so! The do not let me forget when I fail.

It can be a scorching place, beneath the microscope of my children.  Being the parent of a 12-to-20-year-old is vastly different from being a parent to a pre-12-year-old. It is an important time, an important training, this testing of that which we placed within them.

No more pre-nap failings, missing it, only to put them down for a nap and the moment is forgotten. No! When the saying “the memory of an elephant” came into the language, they must have been talking about this particular age group.

Starting at age 12, out from under the microscope, they make decisions (12-year-old decisions) on friendship, vocabulary choices, how to communicate with the parents, struggling for more independence – readying for the great pull-away at 14/15.  Out from under the microscope, they test those ideals, those values, throw some away, hold some close, and retrieve some they thought useless. It is a tough time for them, just as it is a tough time being a mom.

It is a time I risk being mis-labeled, suffering a level of censoring, my failings enlarged beneath this microscope. I desperately hold on to the promises of my Father, my faith that they will return, re-analyze with fresh eyes and fresh wisdom, and recognize the valuable specimen they had all along.

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Tag-Team Chaos Results = 100 squats for every participant

You know about tag-team chaos, don’t you? First one provokes another who provokes another. Nobody stands down when the referee (me) orders the participants to stop or take it down a notch. The result? No red card! No fouls! No being thrown out of the house or car (LOL) – just squats! Beautiful form, this discipline. And I don’t have to raise a hand!

The oldest one walked away saying, “I did mine.”

One of his brothers said, “No! He didn’t do 100.”

I just looked at him and said, “Well, I don’t know. But God knows exactly how many you did. Can you live knowing God knows you lied?”

He smiled at me – yes, the teen smiled at me. And he finished his squats.

Sometimes being a mom has its. . . ahem. . . oddly sweet moments – even in tag-team chaos.

For more on squats, please visit my post, “The Discipline of Squats.”

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The Bread Basket Award T was designed to recognize inspiring, encourage blogs whose messages reaches out to strengthen, encourage, and inspire hope. So many women share the best of what is in their hearts to help encourage other women struggling with the same things. It is a beautiful exchange, an exchange of grace. 

And I wanted to create an award – not one that you have to work hard to pass to a lot of people – though they are fun and encouraging – but one that just said, “Thank you! You blessed me! You fed me when I was weak.” So I created The Bread Basket Award, to be given out monthly to a blogger who feeds us when we are hungry for support, encouragement, inspiration, laughter.

You might be thinking, “Who is Blue Cotton Memory to create an award?” – Well, I thought so, too – but since Words of Affirmation are my Love Language – and I so wanted to bless these blogs that give so much to us – I did – as a hug of gratitude for what they did for me.

The October Bread Basket Award





Off the Beaten Trek: Life’s Journey Of A Correctional Nurse and Prisoner of the Lord…

Billy Graham said, “If you want to change someone’s life, tell a story” – and Rosel does just that with her posts.  She tells riveting stories from her experience as a correctional nurse within the prison system.  With a nurses’ eye for detail – and a missionary heart for the children of God – or rather God’s children who need to come home – she provides a glimpse into the struggles of  men and women literally “Off the Beaten Trek” – Lost from Home. She is one of those amazing women able set healthy boundaries in dealing with people.  She knows when to back off – when to press forward. The underpinnings of this woman is faith in Jesus Christ.

She tells a great story – then she ties it to what God had laid on her heart.

If you are the parent of a teen – this is an awesome read. Not that our teens are headed to a prison. Rather that teens struggle.  Sometimes home might feel like a correctional institute – and when our sons and daughters fail, we need to read encouragement, not from people who have not been there, swear their kids will never be there and condemn those youth and their parents, but go someplace where people struggle with ugliness and find God despite of it. A place where mercy reaches out with both hands. That is Off the Beaten Trek.

Please visit with her for some riveting stories and inspiring encouragement:

Thank You , Rosel, for sharing the side of the journey to God that is filled with struggles, imperfection but also filled with hope, faith – and a willingness to reach out!

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Raising children really was a breeze – until they reach about 13/14.  The difficulty level ratchets up a few notches at about 16/17.  This growing up business is not for the faint-hearted. Some teens do not have both parents in their lives.  Sometimes, their parents are unable to be spiritual mothers and fathers due to challenges they face.  And, guess what? Sometimes, even very hands-on parents are unable to reach their children. That is why it is even more important to reach out to other children, other teens – to become spiritual parents to those who you do not claim on your income tax – but who desperately need to be claimed into the family of God.

You might be the only person who ever prays for that teen.

Maybe a kind word, a wise word, an uncalled-for prayer might be the seed planted that not only saves a life, but saves a soul.

And not just prayers and kindness for the children and teens that are doing things right. But prayers and kindness for the ones who are missing it – the sinners, the ones you do not want your kid hanging with.  The one you think, “My kid will never do that.”

However, if your kid ever did “that” – would you not want someone standing in the gap, praying for him/her – praying maybe for you, too – Comfort for you? Strength for you?  Hope for you?

Do for other teens as you would want someone to do for yours?

It could maybe save your kid’s life – when you yourself are unable to.

Hebrews 10:32-39 with a prayer from Blue Cotton Memory

“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated”(Hebrews 10:32-33)

Being a parent can be a struggle. Sometimes people reproach, not understanding the situation.  Sometimes even my children may reproach – out of rebellion, speaking untrue words just to afflict.  Oh, Father, send friends who help lift us up when we are down, who encourage us on this child-raising journey. Friends who Extend a Friendship.  Encourage.  Pray.

34“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34)

Give me a heart of compassion on those children and teens who miss it, not just mine. I see teens crying out for help.  For a God they either do not know or refuse to acknowledge. Fill me with Love in my Heart for these youth – not judgement, not condemnation but love.  Let my hands reach out, both in prayer and help.  Let me not give up, either on my kids or someone elses.   Open my eyes to recognize the destruction for what it is – and see God’s plan beneath. Why? Because you know God has a better plan for you and for them.  I am assured of my place in God’s family.  Let me to effectively bring them into the family room of God, to discover their place in the most powerful family in the universe. Give me will and desire to serve with a heart full of love – not bedrugdingly, not judgementally, not dragging my feet.  Grow my heart to love both inside and outside my household family without resistance.

35“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:35).

Strengthen me to Stand in confidence of God’s power. God’s Plan.  God’s Mercy. God’s Hope. Sometimes my teen and other teens seem like they are on a path to destruction – Let me not waiver, but stand firm in confidence in God’s plan for their life and mine as a parent.

36For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36)

I will Not Give Up! Arise Faith within me that God knows everything going on in my teen’s life and the life of other teens God places in my life.  God is the shepherd who goes after every lost sheep. Because God. Promised. He. Would. Neither. Abandon. Nor. Forsake. He knows how to reach into the coldest heart, the most rebellious heart. He knows how to bring life back to the dead. He knows the desires of my heart – and the desire of my heart is not only for my teens to stand beside My Father – but for other kids, too.

37For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37-38).

Yes, God finds no respect, no pleasure in rebellion, in disrespect, in sin.  But I cannot give up on the children God has given me and the other children whose lives I touch. I cannot shrink back – not matter the pain, the confusion, the frustration, the desire to walk away.

39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39).

On the Day of Pentecost, God gave us a great gift.  The Gift of the Holy Spirit, who so empowered the man who denied Christ 3 times before being filled with the Holy Spirit, that he went out, bringing multitudes to Christ, never shirking with fear from standing firm on the Gospel of Love. Because, if we shrink back, not only are we destroyed, but those who so need saving are destroyed.  What worth is my soul  if I give up and let another be destroyed because of my lack of initiative, strength or stamina? I must stand on my faith.  Persevere in the face of the storm. And continue reaching to pull someone into the loving arms of the Father.

Help me Father to be the parent I need to be!

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My littlest guy wants to be an artist, so he loves to draw art for me.

 My second to littlest writes art for me.

And the two teenagers just avoid communication with me

which is an art-form all in itself!

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