Making Grown-up Friends by Joy Patton

Reprinted with permission from Joy Patton From Ice Queen to Princess:

Making friends in high school and college was easy.  I had several girls I automatically saw every day at lunch or in my dorm room.  We had “touchpoints” where we could learn basic info about each other, but also have opportunity to go deeper.  However as a working adult, I had fewer “automatics.”  Then when I stayed home with my babies, the only people I automatically saw every day were my husband and my kids.  To see anyone else required effort, like phone calling and emailing.  And many times we don’t have the energy to make the effort in our busy adult lives.  A lot of women never make this shift and then wonder why they feel so lonely.

When I moved to Nolensville, I decided to be intentional about creating some “automatics.”  My friend Heidi and I carpooled kids to preschool two days a week.  And two days a week, we took an hour or so to chat.  We also started a Supper Club with three other couples so that we had people we “automatically” saw the frist Friday of every month.  Those “touchpoints” have allowed those friendships to grow to depths I had not known in high school or college.

In our modern culture where we seem very connected (facebook, cell phones, etc.), we are actually very disconnected.   We have become isolated, and many women don’t even know how to be a friend or how to make friends.  I’ll never forget an older woman who approached me after she overheard me talking about “automatics” and “touchpoints.”  She told me that when she moved to Tennessee, she decided to homeschool her children.  She never felt like she was able to build friendships with other women because she was so focused on her kids and their activities.  Now her 20-something daughter was asking her how to build friendships with other women.  This woman had no idea what to tell her because she had never learned how herself.  My heart broke when I heard her story.

Last year when I studied the story of Ruth and Naomi for Women Who Dare to Believe, I talked about what they showed us about making and keeping true friends.  These six truths that have fueled my friendship with Heidi and many others, and I wanted to share them with you.

1.  True friendship requires sacrifice.  Ruth left everything she knew to be in relationship with Naomi.  She left her own family and her own culture where she felt the most at ease.  She left the religious systems she had known from birth.  Boaz’s relationship with Ruth also cost him something.  He gave up some extra grain and offered her lunch.  Looking back at what he gains in the end, I don’t think he saw those things as a sacrifice.

However, as modern women, even the slightest inconvenience can keep us from relationship.   We want to keep our life as comfortable as possible, and if the friendship is “easy” and doesn’t cost me any time or money or discomfort, I’ll do it.  Like Ruth, we have to be willing to make sacrifices for friendship.  We need to make room for friendship.  Sometimes our standards are too high.  We miss potential friends because they aren’t the right age or their interests and values don’t perfectly align with mine.  What are you willing to sacrifice?

My friendship with Heidi grew quickly because of carpool.   We “automatically” saw each other two days a week.  I had to “sacrifice” passing my daughter off to the preschool teachers in person, but I got to see the teacher in the afternoon when I picked up.  We were both willing to “sacrifice” two hours that we could use to do housework or squeeze in errands so we could talk to each other, often with four children running around.  When I look back at the friendship we enjoy today, what we gave up hardly seems like a sacrifice.

2.  True friendship requires loyalty and commitment. Ruth doesn’t leave even when Naomi is mean or  depressed.  She made a covenant promise to Naomi  (Ruth 1:15-17).  Ruth doesn’t leave when they get to Bethlehem, and she is gleaning in the hot fields all day.  She could have decided to look out for herself and leave Naomi, but instead she takes on the responsibility of providing for Naomi.  Naomi also sticks with Ruth.  She doesn’t try to get rid of her when they get to Bethlehem.  She looks out for Ruth’s interests by trying to find her a husband.

As modern women, we can be quick to abandon a friendship when our feelings get hurt or when things don’t go our way.  When our friend goes through something difficult and we don’t know what to do or say, sometimes we don’t do anything.  Our fear of messing it up paralyzes us, and we end up avoiding the other person.  We need to be willing to stick around even when it gets tough, and sometimes risk getting our feelings hurt.  Depressed people like Naomi can say mean things, and they aren’t always easy to be around.

I remember when Heidi was making difficult decisions after she tested positive for the breast cancer gene.  I had never been through this with anyone or watched anyone close to me go through it.  I had no idea what to do.  I told Heidi, “I want to be a good friend to you.  But I’m afraid because I don’t know what that looks like.  I need you to help me know what you need, but I want to be there for you.”  Since then, she and I have walked through many more difficult things together.  But even when we don’t know what to do, we don’t leave.  Often just being there makes a big difference.

We also need to follow Ruth’s example and be willing to risk vocalizing our commitment.  It is a risk to tell someone you want a deeper friendship with them.  In our culture, people don’t often vocalize those things.  But it is so good for the friendship when we tell a friend that we value her.  Especially when I’ve been hurt by someone, I’ve said, “Normally I wouldn’t bring this up, but my friendship with you is important to me.  I value my friendship with you.  I don’t want there to be anything between us, and I need to tell you that I was hurt.”  I know it’s terrifying, but it is worth it.

3.  True friends treat each other with kindness, honor and respect.  They let each other feel their feelings. Ruth doesn’t try to “fix” Naomi’s depression.  Her kindness toward Naomi is one of the things that attracts Boaz.  Boaz treats Ruth with respect and kindness when she is in his fields.  “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:13)

You will experience a different level of relationship when you can let someone share their feelings.  In my friendships, true intimacy has come from those times when we let each other be hurt, sad, angry or lonely without trying to fix it and make it all better.  Most of the time what I need is someone to hear what I am saying.  My friends need my attention and my presence more than they need my advice and wisdom.  The word “compassion” literally means to “suffer with.”  That’s what true friends do for each other.  But my friends also love me too much to let me stay wallowing in my hurt and sadness.  At the proper time in the right way, they call me to action.

4.  True friends call each other to action with humility, steadfastness and boldness.  Ruth’s steadfast commitment to Naomi gives Naomi the ability to press on to Bethlehem.  Naomi told Ruth to go to see Boaz, which is a very bold move.  Ruth humbly accepted Naomi’s advice.   Ruth approached Boaz with humility, yet she called Boaz to action.  He had to accept her or reject her.  Later Boaz, with humility and boldness, approached the closer kinsman.  Boaz called him to action and asks him to make a decision about redeeming the land and Ruth.

We need to speak truth to each other.  Often I wait until God gives me the compassion and mercy to approach my friend in a way she can hear.  I don’t want to go in a spirit of judgment, pride or fear.  If we are going to do this for our friends, we also have to be willing to be open to our friends saying hard things to us as well.  Sometimes my friends call me to repentance, to prayer or to the next step of action.  Many times I have told them I don’t want to do that or that I’m afraid.  But deep down inside, I know they are speaking wisdom.  I have to humble myself and listen to their words spoken in love.  I have told my friends before to remember what I say to them because some day I will need them to tell me the exact same thing. (see Galatians 6:1)

5.  True friends minister to each other’s needs.  Naomi took Ruth’s companionship even when she had nothing to give back to Ruth.  She had no more sons to offer in marriage and no livelihood to provide.  When the got to Bethlehem, Ruth provided for Naomi’s need by going out and gleaning.  She did for Naomi what Naomi was physically incapable of doing.  Boaz looked out for the needs of Ruth and Naomi by being overly generous in the fields.  When Ruth needed a husband, she humbly took Naomi’s advice on approaching Boaz, despite her fear.  When Naomi saw a way to provide for Ruth’s need for a husband and long-term livelihood, she helped Ruth know what to do in a foreign culture.

In our culture it is a bad thing to be needy.  I’m afraid to take from someone if I don’t have a way of repaying them back.  I had a friend who told me she was willing to watch my young children.  However I was always afraid to ask because her children were older, and I could never “pay her back.”  But then I realized how much she enjoyed being around my kids, and that joy was all she needed in return.  I got over my pride and my self-made rules about only taking what you can re-pay.

Risk is involved in asking friends to meet your needs.  Every time I ask a friend to meet a need, I risk being rejected.  This is what often keeps us from asking in the first place.  But when I live in authentic relationship with others, I trust them to tell me no.  That’s how it was with my friend who loved watching my kids.  I called her to ask for what I needed because I trusted her to tell me the truth.  I’ve had friends who felt like they had to say yes and then my kids weren’t such a blessing and I felt guilty and I never called to ask for a favor again.

Sometimes we are afraid to go next door and borrow an egg for a recipe because it will make us look disorganized and forgetful.  But when I went to my next-door neighbor for the first time, she told me she was so glad to have a neighbor who could borrow things.  Will you take the risk and be needy?

6.  True friends dream big dreams for each other. When they left Moab together, Ruth joined Naomi’s dream for a better life.  She kept going toward that dream in spite of Naomi and her depressed state.  Naomi dreamed of a better future for Ruth when she saw how she had found favor with Boaz.  Boaz took action to help make that dream come true when he confronted the kinsman redeemer.

One of the greatest gifts my friends have given me is that they dream big dreams with me.  This past year, I decided not to teach a Bible study at church and instead take time to write a Bible study of my own.  It was a big switch going from teaching and getting pats on the back every week to sitting in front of my computer all by myself.  Whenever I felt like giving up, my friends reminded me why I was doing what I was doing.  They wouldn’t let me believe the lies that my work didn’t really matter and would never impact anyone.  They reminded me of the places where God had given fruit and shared with me the fruit of their lives.  They kept me accountable to my goals and encouraged me to say “no” to the things that distracted me along the way.

When we don’t share our dreams, we miss out.  It is a risk to share these things with someone else.  Sometimes the dream fells too big and too ridiculous to even say out loud.  But something inside us changes when we tell someone else what we dream and what we feel like God is calling us into.  Will you take the risk and share your dreams?

True friendship is terrifying and amazing all at the same time.  It’s terrifying to be honest about how you feel and what you need and what you hope and dream.  However a true friend who knows how you feel and what you need and what you hope for and loves you anyway is the picture of Christ in your life.  I stand as one who has taken the risk and faced the fear and found it to be worthwhile.  My hope is that you will find the same.

A Message from the Field (TMoms) by Marya Elrod

Dear Brave TMoms,

 Isaiah 43:18-19

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  

 

I love that picture of Him bringing life & hope to something that before was overwhelming and desolate.  But today, as I was reading that chapter again, verse 5 hit me in a new way.  “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.” 

 

So here we are…some of our children are wondering in the east while we are evidently somewhere in the west…we tend to be scattered people even living under one roof…and God is the one doing the gathering, the pulling together.  He does not say for us to get ourselves together or come to Him when we think we can do it right.  He has His arms wrapped around our children and he has his arms wrapped around us in all our broken states. And He says, “Do not be afraid…See, I am doing a new thing!”

 

Have you had a chance to use your “How They Are Wired” chart to figure out some ways to SEE your teen differently?  Remember that vision for who God is creating them to be is what they see us reflecting back to them.  We can trust Him to do the work.  He is capable!

 

Side Note:  Below is the poster I started at TMoms in December the week Jenny Watson spoke.  She encouraged us to make a poster to remind us to be grateful.  My kids added to it and it took me until January to get it finished and hung up on our pantry door but it is helping me.  I forget so easily just how much I have to be thankful for! We may just keep adding things to this as we go! Thank you, Jenny!

 

In His Amazing Grace,

Marya

 

 
 
 

GUEST POST: Tinkerbell by Joy Patton

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM  Joy Patton From Ice Queen to Princess

Visit Joy’s blog to view more of her amazing work!

Tinkerbell
A poem by Joy Patton

I am a tinkerbell.
Come to me, I’ll make you well.
I have the solution, you will see.
Just follow steps one, two and three.
I will tinker with your heart
And give it back in parts.
I am a tinkerbell.

I am a worry wart
Anxious about things that aren’t.
I fret and worry all night long
Afraid that it will all go wrong.
I will worry for your little heart
And quietly take it all apart.
I am a worry wart.

I’d rather be a carry-well
With no goods to sell.
The only thing I know to do
Is carry you to One who’s True.
He will heal your soul,
Only He can make you whole.
I’d rather be the carry-well.

(If you don’t like it when Christians explain their art, you can stop reading.  If you don’t mind it, feel free to continue.)

Are you a tinker bell? I have discovered that I like to tinker with people and situations.  I spend a lot of time analyzing people and situations and trying to make them better.  It’s part of how I escape the reality of my own brokenness.  It’s part of what allows me to sit in a seat of self-righteous pride oblivious to my own problems.  Either way the art of tinkering stems from unbelief.  I don’t believe that God is big enough or powerful enough to act in the situation.  Therefore I must step in and save the day.  This is how the Ice Queen thinks.  She tinkers so that she can fix, and ultimately control, the people around her.  She operates under the belief that she knows what is best and has the solution to the problem.  I am ashamed to admit that I have a trail of relationships that I have messed up with my tinkering attitude.

Are you a worry wart?  I have found that when my tinkering can’t fix a situation, I resort to worrying instead.  I spend much time worrying and planning for “what would happen if…”  Worry keeps me trapped in fear and despair, unable to move or make a decision.  I don’t believe there is a God who sees or knows or cares about me in my hopeless situation.  Surely he has bigger problems to solve than mine.  This is how the Orphan thinks.  She worries because she feels powerless to do anything else.  She doesn’t believe she has a Father who will take care of her and the people around her.  I’m ashamed to admit that I worry far too often about far too much.  Even now I am stuck, unable to move, lacking hope.

Are you a carry-well? I have found that whether I tinker or worry, prayer is the answer.  By its very nature, prayer requires that I admit that there is Someone bigger and more powerful than me who can handle the situation.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t have the answer to the problem, and as I pray, my heart begins to trust the One who does.  When my Ice Queen and Orphan patterns start to get the best of me, I must remember that I am a Princess with access to the great King Father.  Like the friends of the paralytic in Mark 2, the Princess carries the people and situations around her to the King Father, believing that he has the solution.  So rather than tinker or worry, I must carry it all to Jesus.  I must choose to believe that God sees, that He cares and that He loves.  I must believe that he is powerful enough to overcome any obstacle.  I will carry it all to him and lay it at his feet over and over again even when my head says to run the other way, my feet must go.  I choose to believe.

So are you a tinkerbell, a worry wart or a carry-well?  What will you carry into the throne room today?

Open This Heart and Let me In! by Jenny Watson

“Let me come in” “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.” Then I’ll….

How many times could this be a script of a parent trying to get into a teen’s heart? The question for us – what will we fill in at the end of that sentence. Then I’ll… do what? Our teens think they know what we will do, and they are usually right. We are so predictable.

 

The chapters from, The Backdoor to Your Teen’s Heart discussed in December at T-moms gave us some fresh ideas, some unpredictable responses to help us answer the big question, “What’s a mother to do?”

 

The answers given by the book seem very simple. Creating an environment where our teens have an adequate amount of downtime and creating a place where laughter and joy are commonly heard will soften the hearts of our teens. But, when we see our son playing video games for hours, or our daughters watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model our skin begins to crawl. We can’t help ourselves. You can predict what happens next, “You have been doing that for too long. Get up and do something.” What does that communicate to our children? How does that make them feel? What would happen if we walked up and said, “I’m so glad that you have been able to have some time to play videos, or watch this show? I know you love it.”

 

While you have to have a balance and can’t allow this all the time, the holidays are upon us, and can’t we allow a little spontaneous downtime especially if that softens our teen’s hearts and allows us access?

 

The chapter also gave some ideas for some planned, proactive downtime. One thing our kids needed was some time to stop thinking. When our kids were small we sent them to their rooms to think about their behavior. Looking back we realize that was a big waste if we didn’t direct them how to think. In the same way, we have to teach our teens how to stop thinking, how to control their thoughts so that they can free their minds to hear from God. Remember to practice the method we learned to stop and clear out our minds, and lest you think it is not necessary, read II Corinthians 10:5 “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” What about Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, what ever is true, what ever is honorable, what ever is right, whatever is pure, what ever is lovely, what ever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Teach our children to take their thoughts captive and learn to change the thoughts they are dwelling on if necessary.

 

Another way for us to train our kids to have downtime is to encourage journaling. Looking back at what they have written in their journals helps them to gain perspective that doesn’t come naturally and helps them to clarify what they are really feeling, but some of our kids might want to sit down and write in a journal just about as much as they want to read a book about studying for the ACT. It seems more like work than downtime. One idea we tried was to lay out magazines on the table with journals, glue and scissors. Have everyone cut out pictures, words, colors, or phrases that they like and glue them in their journals. Use these “inspired ideas” pages and just comment in the journal as to why they liked a particular picture or what a certain quote inspired them to think about. They may cut out cartoons and comics that they think are funny. This is not a waste because as we learned in the next chapter of the book, laughter is a very necessary ingredient if we are cultivating an environment that will encourage our teens to open the door to their hearts.

 

Now this seems like an easy assignment. We must enjoy ourselves. There are times living with a sullen teen or one who thinks we are the dumbest person alive that could suck the joy right out of the room very quickly.

 

Their lack of joy is their problem right now, and we can’t make their problem our own. We must model happiness. We cannot make them the source of our happiness. They are not responsible for it. They have the right to think we aren’t funny, and we have the right to crack ourselves up and think we are hilarious.

 

Have fun without them if they won’t join in, and maybe sometimes don’t invite them to join. Play a game with your husband. When they were little, we orchestrated their activities, schedules and friends. We made sure they had happy times. They need to learn how to make themselves happy in the same way they learned to comfort themselves to sleep at night. Watch for the things that make them laugh spontaneously. Have those things in your home. If you would like more laughter in your home in 2012, then what can you do to nurture that into being? Buy a joke book. Write out a riddle in the morning and give the answer at dinner. Read three jokes and have everyone vote on which they think is the funniest. Play games. Laugh at your self when you do. Do embarrassing things. Take your family to a pottery place and make a coaster set with each person painting one coaster. Find a movie or TV show that you can watch that is funny.

 

Especially at this time of year, you can find knick-knacks that say, “Joy” or “Hope” or even “Laugh.” Put one in your home and keep it displayed year round.

 

Ecclesiastes 2:25 says, “For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” If you are struggling with enjoying your life, with enjoying our God, it seems cliché, but keep a gratitude journal. Put a poster board with this verse on it inside your pantry door and have everyone write something they are thankful for on the poster before they can “eat” a snack. It will probably end up being a very funny poster.

 

Remember Psalm 126. The first two verses talk about great things God has done for His people which contributed to their happiness. The center verse states that presently the people are glad. The next verses speak to the future and give hope. Hope is crucial to enjoying a teenager. In order to be presently glad, or happy, we need to look at the faithful past and the hopeful future. This too will be funny one day.

 

Don’t wait until after the holidays to start enjoying yourself. Begin now. It’s a really fun assignment and may lead to some moments over this holiday time where you can go through the backdoor to your teen’s heart. You will say, “Let me come in” in a way where they don’t even recognize that you asked, and instead of, “not by the one scraggly hair that you just noticed is growing on my chinny-chin-chin” you may get some unexpected access!

GUEST POST: Helping Your Teen Make the Transition to Adulthood by Carol Worsham T-Moms

My family and I recently watched the movie 2012.  The movie is basically about Global Flood 2.0 (caused by sun explosions instead of God’s wrath this time), but the world’s leaders, who have been warned of the imminent cataclysm by scientists, decide to keep it under wraps for several years – while building massive “arks” to carry a chosen 400,000 people (smartest, strongest, richest) to start a new life somewhere.  This is not typically my type of movie, but I actually liked it because of the characters’ willingness to sacrifice themselves to save others: a father pushing his son to safety, losing the chance to save himself; a pilot helping passengers escape a crashing plane while he stays behind; a man flirting with almost certain death to save an arkload of humanity. The president of the United States himself—who, by virtue of his job, has a spot on one of the arks—elects to stay behind in solidarity with the rest of the country.  There are several poignant moments of family members telling each other goodbye over the phone or as they hold each other before dying.

I got to thinking about the last chapter of our For Parents Only book … if our teenagers knew we were about to die, what would they want to tell us most?  Do you wonder, like I do, if your teen really cares about you at all … your feelings, thoughts, opinions?  And what do you think he or she would say if asked what they would want to tell you if they knew you were going to die tomorrow?  Would it surprise you if they said “I’m sorry” and “I love you so much”?  I hope not, but I realize that may be where some of you are with your teens right now.  I encourage you to keep the faith, hang in there with unconditional love and fervent prayers, and keep trying to step into their world and understand where they are coming from and what is going on in their heads and in their hearts.  Even though it may not show right now, our children likely hold tremendous love, value and respect for us in their hearts.  One day they’ll be able to tell us so!  And it is so comforting and reassuring to me to know that as much as we love and want the best for our children, God infinitely more desires to see our children grow into amazing adults who fulfill His design and their callings to the fullest.

I am naturally a task-oriented person – as opposed to a relational one – so I often miss rich times with my kids because I don’t take time to formulate good questions (read: think before I speak) and really “interview” them.  My husband and children can also attest that my timing often stinks – I usually don’t choose the ideal time for criticism, even if it is constructive.  Thank goodness God’s ability to produce the amazing, fruitful adults my children may become far outstrips my ability to mess it up!  And His vision for who they can/will become is so much bigger than my own.  As I looked back over the book, here are a few of the highlights that I really want to remember:

*Understand that a craving for freedom is a natural part of growing up. Help them move from

fearing their parents to fearing God.

*Separating themselves from your identity to their own identity is a painful but often necessary part of growing up. Stay strong in your values while affirming who they are becoming.

*Be a parent, not a friend. Exercise authority in ways that build your kids up and promote personal responsibility.

*Be there for your kids. Make the effort to step into their world regularly. Let them know you love them unconditionally and truly want to understand them.

*Remember to be an oasis of calm in your teen’s life… don’t overreact – positively or negatively. Gently probe deeper to get past their surface answers and really listen.

*Remember that a bad attitude often masks insecurities … a fear of failure in boys and a fear of rejection in girls. Extend grace as you encourage and affirm them during these tumultuous years.

We have three children, and this year was the senior year of high school for our second daughter.  For those of you who have yet to experience this, along with the infamous 18th birthday, just get ready!  Most likely many of the things you thought you knew about your child are going to get turned upside down. Some in a good way and others… not so much.  Thankfully I had been somewhat prepared by some wonderful moms who have gone before me, but it has still been an emotional rollercoaster.  One of the moms in my small group surmised (wisely, in my opinion) that when the time to leave the nest is drawing near, a teen needs to make that nest feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, so that leaving it is not so hard or so bad.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, take heart.  The days are long but the years are short.  Enjoy the good days and rejoice in the growth in maturity and wisdom that both you and your teen are experiencing in the hard days.

GUEST POST: I’m a Mother of Teenagers. Who Needs an Attitude Adjustment Them or Me? by Jenny Watson

I’m a Mother of Teenagers.

Who Needs an Attitude Adjustment Them or Me?

by Jenny Watson

 

How do you feel about cooking? Talking on the phone? Shopping for clothes? Did you just have a reaction of anticipation or dread? Many women do have intense emotional reactions to these topics.

 

How do you feel about teenagers? Did that evoke a strong emotion as well? We’ve all known parents who dread the teen years for probably more reasons than one. Parents can’t control where their children are and what their children are doing like they used to be able to. Teens’ brains aren’t developed enough to think through all the consequences of their risk-taking behavior, and that scares the people who love them out of their wits.

 

And let’s just face it; they can be emotional, disrespectful and sullen. Teenagers can have really bad attitudes.

 

When surveyed by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice for their book, For Parents Only, teenagers from different backgrounds all across the United States were asked about what was happening inside when they exhibited these negative behaviors. The kids knew they were doing it. Those surveyed said that the attitudes were really just the outward sign of their fears and insecurities. Both females and males agreed that the fears were the cause, but there were different insecurities between the sexes.

 

Male teens said that one of their greatest fears was failure. Another fear was that no one would notice them when they achieved something. Boys needed to feel successful. They needed people to watch them and comment on their success.

 

This is a conundrum. They need to feel successful. How do you become successful at something? You practice, which means trying and failing. So, to meet one of their greatest needs, they had to get there through one of their greatest fears.

 

Girls replied that they feared rejection. They feared not being unique. They needed acceptance. They needed to be known. Another great dilemma is that in order to be accepted, they give up their uniqueness. They can’t be known, because someone might not include them. Just like the boys, the very things they need are hindered by their fears.

 

Think about how adults respond to teens’ bad attitudes. Do we make boys feel like failures? Do we communicate that we were watching them and noticing that they did not achieve? With girls, are they feeling rejected by our responses to them? Are we giving them opportunity to reveal their uniqueness, or are we squashing it? It is becoming obvious why raising teens can be a challenge. Our responses to their disrespect toward us trigger their fears that caused the disrespect in the first place – a vicious cycle.

 

Do adults have to accept bad attitudes? No, but we can still accept the person behind the attitude. Knowing what we know about teens, we can work to build up their self-confidence so that their fears are diminished. We can develop empathy and practice responses that meet emotional needs instead of feeding fears.

 

God, in His infinite wisdom and creativity, made teens this way, probably so that we would have to depend on Him. If the goal is to produce a secure adult, and you have to get through the insecure teen years to get there, then who can meet the goal? No one can accomplish this alone. Good thing we aren’t alone. The very creator of these precious beings is waiting to encourage us and guide us through.

 

Think about a teen you know. Hopefully, the feelings you just experienced were feelings of anticipation and understanding because, if you think it is scary being a mom of a teen, just try being a teen.


 

GUEST POST: Our Teens Need to Feel Secure by Anna Clagett

OUR TEENS NEED TO FEEL SECURE


When my oldest child entered the teen years, I remember thinking, “Who took my sweet little boy and replaced him with this guy?” My son who liked to laugh, cuddle, talk, and just be with me had been substituted by one who would rather be with friends, listen to music, or just hide out in his room than interact with me.  As bewildering as that was, and even hurtful to my mama’s heart, I’ve since learned that teens still need you to engage with them, to initiate, and to keep connecting.

Teenagers are desperately trying to figure out who they are.  Their bodies are changing, their hormones are raging, and the pressures of life are increasing (grades, college plans, jobs, finances…).  The tumult going on in their world makes them even more eager for some sense of stability and security.  We as parents, who have known them and have loved them more and longer than anyone on this earth, must be the source of that security.  The tricky part of this equation is that we as parents need to figure out the best way to serve up that security in a way our teens can receive it. And lest you think there is a single recipe that will fill every teens needs, let me say that I have found the recipes to be different for each and every one of my five teens.

For example, my college freshman recently celebrated her birthday. She and I are very close, and I happen to know that for her, being in the kitchen speaks love to her.  She is the one who is famous among her friends for bringing to-die-for lemon squares, or homemade chocolates to their gatherings.  Needless to say, the freshman dormitory life has curtailed her culinary outlet, so I decided to prepare dinner for her and her friends in Knoxville that weekend.  She planned the guest list and the menu, which she also loves to do, I brought all the ingredients, and we had a great evening together.

Now, my other kids would not have appreciated that type of weekend nearly so much. But what are some general principles in communicating security and love to our teens?

  1. Be honest about your failures, both past and present. They want to know that you are REAL, and that you can relate to them as they muddle through these years of learning to be adults. Along with this comes asking for forgiveness from them as well as readily forgiving them!
  2. Step in with confidence to protect them and to cheer them on. They need to know that when they get into a bind, you will be the adult in their corner, that you believe the best of them, and that they are safe with you.  Does that mean you let them off the hook or back down when the situation calls for discipline or consequences?  No. But even then, make sure your love for them is clearly communicated.
  3. Be united as parents. Respect your spouse and deal with issues that arise behind closed doors at an appropriate time.
  4. Spend time in their world. Go to concerts, ball games, coffee shops, and the mall with them. Enter into whatever it is they love.
  5. Communicate! This is the time in your life where, much like the infant years, you may be sleep deprived.  Your child may really open up at midnight, so take an afternoon nap if you need one to be available to them.
  6. Ask questions. Your teen needs to learn to make decisions and come to their own conclusions, so we must bite our tongues when we are tempted to jump in with an answer (or a lecture!). These are the years to ask them and coach them in establishing their own world view.
  7. Don’t FREAK OUT! Be calm at all costs.  Your teen will likely throw you some doozies. Whether it involves tattoos, hair color, or a broken curfew, if you react emotionally, they will NOT feel secure being honest with you.
  8. Give them opportunities to try, and even to fail. These are the final years for your kids to get their “sea legs” before they sail off into the big blue shark-filled ocean. Walk beside them, but resist the urge to do it for them.
  9. Point them to Jesus, the ultimate source of security. From Psalm 62, we are reminded that God is our Rock, Salvation, Stronghold, and Refuge.  On Him our salvation and glory rest, and we can trust in Him and pour out our hearts to Him! Our teens’ heavenly Father will be present with them when we can’t be, and they couldn’t be in better hands.
  10. Play with them. They may not be into Barbies and Legos anymore, but they still want you to play with them.  Dancing together in the kitchen, verbal banter, practical jokes, cooking together, bike rides, and special family vacations are just some of the ways you can play with your teens. Playfulness shows them that you are fully present, that you like them, and like being with them.

 

GUEST POST: Gingerbread House Outreach by Anna Clagett

Gingerbread House Outreach

by Anna Clagett

I love Christmas!  I have been known to begin playing Christmas carols around September, and I’m always eager to get out all the Christmas boxes the day after Thanksgiving.

The reason I love Christmas so much, is that it is a holiday where most of the world remembers and honors the birth of Christ in surrounding itself with beauty, and responding to His gift to us by giving of themselves to others.

It is also a wonderful and natural time to share with those who may not know Him about what Jesus means to us.  I have many friends who’ve taken advantage of this time of year to share their faith in creative ways.  Some of my friends have hosted a holiday tea at their home for neighbors where a guest speaker has shared the Gospel with them.  I have several friends who host an annual “Birthday Party for Jesus” where a cake is assembled with each step symbolizing parts of the Gospel.  Some friends deliver holiday dinners to the less fortunate or even go caroling as a means to share the Gospel.

One tradition that I especially cherished as a child was making a gingerbread house with my family.  And as I had children of my own, over the years I’ve developed our own tradition using gingerbread houses as the basis for sharing the Gospel with families in my neighborhood. 

I happen to have a mold for a gingerbread house, so a couple of weeks before my party, I begin to bake walls and roofs enough for each of my guests.  I prepare enough component parts for each child, or one per family depending on the number of people I expect and on how much time I have.  If you’d like to simplify, you could accomplish the same thing by using 1/4 pt. milk cartons and graham crackers on hand for each child.

I ask each guest family to bring a bag of candy for decorating to give us a good variety, and as they arrive, I let them spread out around my kitchen and dining room to create their houses.

I take pictures, and provide coffee and cider, and keep everyone supplied adequately with icing, and candy.

When everyone finishes, I invite all the children and adults to join me around the Christmas tree.

Gingerbread Recipe

(Makes 1 Gingerbread Building)

[Section Break]

3 c. all purpose flour

1 ½ t. ground cinnamon

1 t. ground ginger

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

¼ t. ground cloves

½ c. margarine

½ c. sugar

½ c. molasses

1 egg

[Section Break]

Combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves.  Mix well.  In large mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar until blended.  Add molasses and egg.  Beat until smooth.  Gradually add flour mixture.  Mix well.  Lay plastic wrap tightly over dough and chill at least 30 minutes. 

If using a mold:  Press dough firmly into lightly greased mold filling all sections.  Trim away excess using serrated knife.  Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes.  Cool in mold for 5 minutes.  Remove pieces from mold.  Repeat as necessary.

If not using a mold:  Draw walls and roof on paper and cut apart to use as a pattern. Roll dough onto lightly floured surface approximately ½ inch thick.  Cut to desired shape around paper, and carefully place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Icing Glue

4 c. powdered sugar

3 egg whites

1/8 t. cream of tartar

Place all ingredients in a medium, non-plastic mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed for 5-7 minutes or until icing is glossy and holds peaks.  The icing dries very quickly, and must be covered or kept in an airtight container and refrigerated when not in use.  Icing may be tinted with food coloring if desired.

House Kit:

1 set of 4 walls, and two roof pieces, pre-made

OR 1 1/4 pint emptied milk carton and graham crackers

icing glue

plastic or butter knives

cardboard base (approximately 12”x12”)

candy assortment (ask each family to bring one bag)

wet paper towels, washcloths, or wipes for messes

Make gingerbread ahead of time, one per family, or one per child depending on how many guests you expect and on how ambitious you are.  As the guest arrive, hand out the “house kits,” and let them have at it.  (I always try to take some pictures of each family working on their house(s) to give to them later.)  As the guests finish up their creations I like to gather all the children around the Christmas tree.  The adults make themselves comfortable around the room as well.  Then I begin to tell the children about what gingerbread houses remind me of:

“The Gingerbread Gospel”

Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a life-sized gingerbread house?  What would your favorite candy house be made out of?  (let the children offer ideas.)

That would almost seem like the perfect place to live, wouldn’t it?  Well, the Bible tells us about a real perfect place to live.  It’s called heaven.  That’s where Jesus lived long ago.  But God decided to send Jesus from His perfect house in heaven to earth.  Do you know what was the first house Jesus lived in on earth?  (pause to let children answer)  It was a stable, and his first bed was a manger.  What is a stable? (a barn) What do you think it would have smelled like?  What would it have looked like?  What would have been in that stable?  And what is a manger?  (a feeding trough for animals)  Was it anything like the perfect place Jesus came from? (Luke 2:7)

Now why do you think that God would send His own Son from a perfect house in heaven (John 17:5), to a dirty, smelly, cold place like a stable?  (children offer answers)  Because He loves you very much!  He wanted you to know Him and so He sent His Son to tell you and show you all about God.  Jesus did just that.  He taught us about God, and the things that He taught are all written down for us in the Bible.

One day, when Jesus was still a young man, he left his home on earth.  He died for all the bad things we’ve done.  And now He has a new home.  Do you know where that is?  He wants to live in our hearts.  (Rev. 3:20) He will come and live in our hearts if we ask Him to, and forgive us of all the wrong things we’ve done!  Now, why do you think He would want to live inside us, and forgive us of our sins?  (listen to any responses)  He does that because He loves each one of you so much!  He wants to always be close to you, and help you.

Finally, the Bible says one more important thing about houses.  It says that Jesus is preparing a house for each one of us in heaven. (John 14:2) He says that one day, we can all live forever with Him there in that perfect, wonderful place!

Now, when you take your gingerbread house home, I want you to remember how much Jesus loves you every time you look at it.  And I want you to remember that Jesus wants to live inside you, and to have you live with Him in heaven some day.

Let me pray and thank Jesus for all His houses. 

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for leaving heaven to come to earth to teach us about God.  And thank You for dying for all the wrong things we’ve done, and wanting to live inside us.  Thank You for preparing a place for us in Your beautiful heaven.

Amen

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