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Posts Tagged ‘Raising Teens’

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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.

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“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.

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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).

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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)

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

 

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He’d pulled a knife on my son, in the 7th grade hallway. Pulled it and said he was going to stab him in the back and kill him next week. This boy ran away shortly after that. He was a habitual runaway. He’d run. Come back. Start the threats over again. This cycle continued through the year. This boy was screaming for someone to take care of him, to make him go to school, to scoop his emotional self up and put him back together each day. Youth rail at boundaries – yet cry out for shepherding.

I prayed for this runaway who had threatened my son – prayed for him like I prayed for my son.

I never imagined, though, my children would consider running – ever. I thought love, healthy boundaries, discipline, encouragement, knowledge of a loving God – I thought that would immunize them to a run-away heart.

Please click over to Cause/Pub ‘s Couch Rebel Project for the rest of the story – this story of a silent epidemic in our communities and churches – just click here.

Thank you, Beck, Amy and Karin for all your encouragement to do this!

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desserts2cSometimes I can’t love ’em right
though my heart is full of love
not a taking love
just a giving love

a love bursting
and here I am
wanting to love ’em right
and I can’t
sometimes
no matter how hard I try
no matter the intent

“Love suffers long and is kind” (I Cor 13: 4)

I’ve baked celebration cakes
taken dinners
written poems
asked questions
encouraged
prayed psalms
sometimes even hugs
can’t love ’em right

“love is never envious or arrogant with pride. Nor is she conceited” ( 1 Cor 13:4)

whether it’s with a teen in a stage
a church family member
a kid’s mom my kid wants to play with
a random person
someone who belongs to you
through biology
or belongs to you ’cause
Jesus said so

” [Love]does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5)

sometimes I can’t love ’em right
and all the love languages in the world
can’t break
the language barrier
but God knows
who He gave me to love

“[Love} finds no pleasure in injustice done to others, but joyfully sides with the
truth
” (1 Cor 13:6)

sometimes when I can’t love ’em right
it’s for a reason
He knows
the pain of unrequited love
that God’s true love
isn’t inactive in the waiting
doesn’t stop existing
though it lives unseen
uncovered
over-looked
not sought-out
like a wrapped gift
given and unopened

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through
every circumstance”
(1 Cor 13:7)

He knows
that sometimes it feels like
I can’t love ’em right
but God’s kind of love never fails (1 Cor 13:8)

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Father’s Day weekend was filled with a few moments where I managed to love some of ’em right – not all of them, but some of them. One son wanted muffalettas for his birthday, chocolate celebration cake for another birthday boy, and creme brulee for my husband- and, well, it was just a sweet easy day. No – sometimes, I can’t love ’em right – not the way they want, maybe not even always the way they truly need, or in a way I know how to love.

I am not omniscient – though my boys at times thought I was

I only know what knowledge I have reached for and grasped – or what God has revealed

“but love makes up for all wrongs, trangressions, offenses, sins” (Proverbs 10:12)

The more I learn about God’s kind of love, the less judgemental, the less exclusive I become – the more I realize how imperfect I do love

and because I realize how imperfectly I love –

the greater the determintaion not to give up trying

and forgiving,

not just others but myself

learning

there is not always an immediate return

maybe not ever

on love

The only thing I can do is love my best

hands-on or hands-off

through prayer, creme brulee or muffaletta’s and oreo icing, hugs, talks, time or a filled-up gas tank

or maybe a no to gas-tank fill-ups, groundings and lectures

the only thing I can do is love my best

even if they think I don’t love ’em right.

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grandmamosesMy fourth son, he turned 15 – so I gave him the card –

The Grandma Moses card – the one with the vintage automobile on the front

there’s one for each of the brothers – each of my boys -and I give it to them when they turn 15.

Grandma Moses tells them,

“Life is what you make it,

always has been,

always will be”

I wrote to my son,

Not everyone starts out their first day held in the hands of a loving God like you did – and in that holding he gave you an extra measure of something wonder – a boldness for things of God.

As you know by now, there are moments of blessing, moments of challenge and those in-between moments where a lot of living happens – sometimes moments you call “boring” – but in all those moments you have a choice

a choice to love

a choice to find goodness

a choice to be kind

a choice to forgive

a choice to walk out your faith and hope in God when you might not see evidence of his favor.

Life is not about the challenge; it is about the choice

and the choices are what defines your life

Grandma Moses gave us some good advice. Live it well,

Happy 15th birthday!

 

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I don’t think there’s ever really been a time, I didn’t manage to change my clothes for a celebration event – or, like the new country song says, ‘get my shine on’ – well – this weekend, for the big event – I wasn’t able to get my outside shine on – but I really hope the inside shine driving everything came through and blessed – this team of women and this team of young men and women we were wanting to bless.
soccerb12bccThe senior has been playing district games, woven in with the middle school soccer games. We do our senior pictures right before Prom because I have it in my head they need a black and white tux to go with a black and white soccer ball. They also have lost their junior awkwardness and look like real men by then – and so we did that Thursday right before a soccer game they moved up an hour earlier that day.

Did I mention that I lose grace when I’m running behind? Though I apologize while stressing out because I become graceless?

The tux was too short – but that was o.k. for the photo shoot. However, Michael Jackson-short pants just won’t fly with a 6 ft-4-inch boy with a 29-inch waist who doesn’t like to dance – but is going to prom – so correcting that was added to Friday and Saturday’s schedule.

Much breathing in and breathing out, telling myself that I cannot change the schedule, that my car will arrive at the appropriate destination as is feasible going the speed limit over so many miles in a particular time span!

946566_526325184080244_786862382_nSaturday, with a group of moms, I hosted a Prom Dinner – missing the championship middle school soccer game because they’d moved the schedule to late in the afternoon – in the pouring rain.

Early Saturday, I made buttercream icing to decorate the 48 Buttermilk and Chocolate Celebration Cupcakes (made earlier in the week and frozen). Later in the morning, the moms of sons came over – and we trimmed candles, fitting them into bottles, dipped strawberries – and arranged, organized and prepared.

“Do you think they’re really having more fun than us,” I asked – these moms of sons about the moms of daughters – sitting in chairs watching their daughters get their hair and make-up done.

“Yes,” they said in unison – and we laughed. Moms of sons need this kind of gathering, to share these woman gifts we have with someone – because we don’t have daughters to pass them to, to share them with. Being a mom-of-sons-only risks being an isolating thing. It is a beautiful gift to be able to share words over kitchen tables with another girl, to work together to create a celebration with someone who gets it – which is another girl – a friend, a mom, and, if one is particularly blessed, a daughter-in-law who will join you – all because they want to create something that encourages and blesses.

IMG_6357Juggling a 2.5 month old puppy who went outside and came back with, ummmm, a rabbit head – can I say here, how utterly speechless I was, how I wanted to throw my hands up, jump on a chair and scream, “EEEOOOOWWWW” – but all the real men were gone to soccer – and that left just me at that particular moment, and so I did – handle it, dispose of it – wash my hands and put my puppy in her crate, called the 20 year old to come and fetch her for the evening (he promptly returned her at 8:30 – He’s not ready for full-time Sadie Duty!)

I was on schedule, until suddenly, I was behind schedule – so no change of clothes – no make-up – no chance to get my shine on – just live off my inside shine. How do I do that – have a time surplus – and then 1 hour later – have a time deficit?

I didn’t lose my grace, though – just my outside shine!

But these women and I, we created an evening of shine – because we just loved these young people so much:

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The dinner, the photos, the Guessing-Game of how Many-Candies-in-a-Jar, photos of prom dates, moms/dads and their sons and daughters – and some sons and daughters didn’t have moms and dads to participate – and that is what community is all about – drawing people into home, treating them like sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters – friends – and just plain loving through serving plates, photos, gift cards for silly games.

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The moms – we needed this – to smile, to laugh, to create celebration moments, to live through just pure good moments – because raising teens can be hard, can hurt – us and these offspring we love so much, that are growing tall and strong inside and out – and in the process, love the other teens they bring through the doors, that need to experience a God-kind of love that pulls them into home and welcomes.

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Later that night, after I’d cleaned, put much away, I prepared a safe place for them to come and hang out after prom, when so many youth are torn between good and bad choices.

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I did it because I love my son – and because God calls me to love every person they bring through the door – because the love He gives me isn’t just to be hoarded for my own – He didn’t hoard His love for just His son – He wants us to share it with everyone – like He does.

I can’t express what it meant to see smiles and hugs, evidence of His restoration, of faith parents with redeemed kids, of young people – having the courage to come someplace they haven’t been – and finding welcome, of works in progress trying to make good choices – outward shine and dazzle in tuxes and sparkle – but lots of beautiful inside stuff growing and going on.

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I stayed up till 5 a.m., my husband till 2:30 – some went home at dawn, some went home at lunch time.

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My 8th grader, who has missed my attention this past week – has been waiting patiently to go buy shorts that fit – we found time for that today.

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It really bothers me that I didn’t get my shine on – I took photos of all the dates, the moms and sons, the moms and daughters – and the dads and daughters. Everyone had some shine on – but me. Someone took mine – not beautiful – not sparkly – but I did it anyway – mine shines just on the inside right now!

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I wanted to write about cool pillows, blue cotton blankets, orange dulce tea and wrapped up in a good book. No stress. No gracelessness. Just rest. A Holiday-kind of rest where nothing from the outside nibbles away at the inside.

That kind of rest is not today. Not right now.

Somehow, when the children were littler – even if fevers spiked and cheeks flushed, if brothers squabbled and food spilled – I could usher in rest in afternoon naps or evening bedtimes – rest re-setting everyone’s hearts. I was graceful at that. Temper tantrums and Mid-night wakes? Graceful! Where little hearts unburdened themselves trusting I could help them sort it out – wanting me to help sort to rightness. Graceful!

The teen years – where sleeps don’t re-set hearts, where I cannot site the source for every word, every thought they bring home, where boys-to-men hearts don’t unburden themselves, hide themselves, where home is a cage – and they don’t want to be there, where maybe they don’t quite love themselves like we do – oh, I am graceless here. graceless in rejection. graceless watching my boy-to-man facing challenges God did not design him to face.

graceless
and all I have is faith

To rest my head against
The heart of a mighty father,
A mighty brother
A mighty bride groom

While challenges scratch
Not just at this heart
That loves
That prays
The breathes in
Jesus Christ
Breathes out
Have mercy
Challenges that scratch
This mother’s heart
And scratch
This mother’s child

To rest my head against
The heart of a mighty Father
A mighty brother
A mighty bride groom

It is there that my faith
My hope
My trust
I believe
That He meets
My child
To lead him out
Of the challenge
Into the light
Into His plan
Into Salvation
Into Redemption
And living water

To rest my head against
The heart of the great I Am
the holy shepherd
is to breath life
into this faith, this hope,
this unconditional love He taught me
how to love
how to trust Him
that this is the only way
to walk this mother’s walk

I am not a perfect mom. I am a mom not good enough. I don’t give up, though. I don’t stop trying. I don’t stop loving. I don’t stop believing in Him.

I am resting my head against Shaddai, against His promise that to me, to you, to each of my sons – that He will be like the shepherd who pursues, searches and FINDS the lost sheep – my lost sheep – your lost sheep:

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue” (Luke 15:4-7).

We all struggle. Each of our children face challenges. I’ve been here before. Prayers sent out a few years ago for one son returned this week, returned answered – only to brush up against prayers sent out for another son.

Bitter sweet. How can a heart rejoice and grieve at the same time? Yet, mine does.

I rest in the faith that the Holy Spirit will breathe a fire into the embers of faith planted deep, and that Holy Spirit fire will consume and burn away things not of the Father – revealing a life restored, the journey of a prayer answered returning home.


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butterflyd10 copy_edited-1On holiday at the beach when the sun and clouds pulled closer to my patch of earth and the tree leaves looked like patchwork quilts of oranges, reds, yellows and fuchsias – my husband and I found ourselves floating quietly by ourselves in a sea of salt.

Our boys had abandoned us for a lazy river and video games. The littlest, he’d constructed a half-hearted sandcastle – only because I said we’d needed one – and he’d not grown up enough to relish not heeding me yet.

I bobbed and my husband floated along the currents, savoring the peacefulness of it all, me not quite trusting the quiet; my husband taking it all in stride when a Monarch butterfly beat its wings up and down from shore toward us, past us – and we watched, our bobbing and floating turning to follow his journey beyond where we could see.  We watched, expectantly – and gossiped about its journey until the current pulled our attention to where we wandered – and we set to working ourselves back to align with our beach side property of chairs, blankets and bags.

In the bobbing and floating, trying to catch a good wave – both our attention was caught by a Monarch butterfly beating its wings up and down, out of the distance, past us without a pause, to the beach, straight to the Beggar’s Ticks beyond the beach walk.

We paused – wondering if this was the one that had just left – or if maybe this was one come from across the gulf.

I kept wondering what message those butterflies carried from God – Nothing ever goes to waste if we just pay close enough attention.

A few weeks ago, the message in those butterflies revealed itself like moon runes (The Hobbit).

A prayer – I don’t’ know if it was one prayer sent 2 years ago or the book of prayers sent out 15 years ago for one son – sent out on a journey like a Monarch butterfly. The Journey takes time – maybe one minute, 2 years or 15 years – but a prayer I sent out came back, like that Monarch returning – it came by answered.

Just like Daniel’s prayer sent out on a journey before it returned answered:

“‘Relax, Daniel,’ he continued, ‘don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I’m here to help you. . . .’?(Daniel 10: 12-14, The Message)

Oh, yes – I long ago decided – I couldn’t raise these boys with just what I had or my husband had. It is humbling to realize sheer determination cannot generate the results I want. I cannot  love my boys good enough. I cannot teach or talk good enough to save them from a fallen world. Humbling myself to the Father – saying to Him “only you can”  – and it liberated me – and it saves them.

When I sent those prayers out, “Save him” – this Father God heard – and He set out to come for me to save each of my sons.  Like in Daniel’s story – it was a journey to answer that prayer. He loves us like that – He loves my sons like that.

He came. He helped – and that prayer answered came one night  up my drive way, beating its wings up and down, up and down – and as it hit my porch steps – and it brushed against a new prayer being sent out – a similar prayer being sent out – for another son, another teen facing challenges, wanting to leave before it was time.

Long ago God told me about this son – that his mouth would be loosened – and it did – the stuttering stopped. That his ears would be opened – and we learned how he heard differently – that his mind would be freed, (I believe children diagnosed late with things like Central Auditory Processing Disorder or Dyslexia often develop patterns of frustration that need overcoming) – and then he would turn to Him and be healed.

That brush with that prayer going out knocked out the scales that blinded his soul eyes –  repentant heart revealed, eyes suddenly selfless seeing and in the seeing grieving. Self-centered emerging selfless”– an answered prayer come home.

The prayer leaving? Another teen, he wanted to check out of high school when he was 18 – and go back to the high school he went to Ky in for 2 years, check in, graduate there and in the process minister to his atheist friends.

A prayer returning brushing up against a prayer leaving.

Just like the sun can shine in a rain downpour, my heart rejoiced and cried at the same time.

Hint: from my blessings list in Butterflies and Beggar’s Ticks:

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