The Best Gift You Can Give Your 20-Something

Having had four teenagers under one roof at the same time, I know what it was like to literally feel as though every second was accounted for. I took my role as Mom seriously having given up a corporate job when my kids were little. For me, motherhood became a passion, a calling that I was going to strive to do to the best of my ability. I’ve packed lunches, driven to more sporting events than I care to admit, sat and talked until the wee hours of the morning with an upset teen, attempted to keep the house clean, tried to keep food on the table (that’s hard with three boys to feed!) and, well, you get the picture.

Then all of a sudden, the house got silent…deathly silent. The house stayed clean. There were only two sets of dishes. Laundry could be done in three loads once a week instead of being a full-time job.

I was lucky! I got an inkling of what goes on in those 20-something heads when they first started to leave the nest.

It all began with my oldest, right before he moved out of the house for that permanent transition.

“Mom, what are you going to do with all your time when we’re all gone? You’ve spent your life doing for us. What are you going to do for you?”

It was an innocent question that I thought was so endearing. He was worried about me? I gave him a laundry list of all the things that I needed to catch up on. You know, that list of things you wish you could get done but never have time for while you have kids in the house.

He called me one day about a month or so after moving out. We spent most of time talking about his new job, his apartment, his friends and all the other “new” in his life. After he caught me up on everything that was happening in his world, he asked me, “So, Mom, what did you do today?”

Even though I had accomplished quite a bit by my expectation: cleaned out the closet, paid the bills, fixed three meals and cleaned up the kitchen, had my quiet time, talked to a friend, picked up his brother from school…I could tell he wanted more. He was looking for something exciting in my life.

As I contemplated the conversation later, the light bulb went on! “Oh, I get it! He wants to be free to go live his life now!”

By the time my fourth was leaving for college, I was prepared for the conversation that took place.

“Mom, what are you going to do with all your time when I’m gone? It’s time for you to do something for you!”

I had a plan in place. “I’m going to work for a ministry, Michael. I’m going to do what God is calling me to do.” And I excitedly started sharing my anticipation of the days ahead when he left. His shoulders relaxed–and a smile came to his face–he seemed content.

It was okay to leave.

Now, on days when my kids call, I can share with them how I’ve spent my time. I share with excitement…because they are interested! They want to know that I’m passionately living my life!

What I’ve come to realize is that most kids need the freedom to “fly from the nest” knowing that we’ll have a life outside of theirs. While they are flapping their wings, they want us to soar too. If we are happy and busily engaged in our own lives (of course, still leaving room for them), doing something productive, we’ll still have lots to talk about even though we aren’t intimately involved in the daily activity of their lives.

One of the best gifts we can give our 20-somethings is the assurance that we will thrive even though we aren’t part of their daily lives.

Proverbs 31:28-29

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

“Let go…and let God,”


Learning to Listen Our Kid’s Way

Several years ago I remember a distinct day of listening and trying to walk beside two of my kids in a way that they needed.  What I discovered as I interacted with my 20-somethings that they both needed me in different ways.  What worked for one didn’t work for the other.

I caught myself opening my mouth when I should have been silent. “Just listen,” I kept telling myself. “Don’t offer advice; don’t ask too many questions.”

My son had gone into his silent mode, yet again. Right in the middle of his story, he just stopped talking. He was annoyed with me. It was his way of getting my attention.

The silence remained…

It became deafening as we sped down the highway.

“I know,” I ventured. “I asked a question and you were getting there. You don’t like me to interrupt your stories with questions. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m trying real hard to break the habit. It’s just that I’m used to talking with females. That’s how we communicate. It’s how we know that the other person is engaged. I know that it annoys you, but know that I am trying. Please finish your story. I’d love to hear the rest.”

It took my son a while, but he did start his story again.

“Whew, I salvaged it,” I rejoiced to herself. I continued to listen. Even when I was tempted to chime in, I bit my lip and said nothing. I knew this was the way I could communicate respect to my adult son.

Later that afternoon my 27 year old daughter dropped by to do a few loads of laundry since her apartment’s washer was on the fritz. I knew that times like these would become counseling sessions.

Being single was hard for my daughter. She struggled to make the money stretch far enough even though she had a good job. There always seemed to be something that was going wrong in her life and she needed someone to work through it with her. Since I knew my tendency was to try to fix my kids’ problems, I recognized that I needed to  shift gears in order to allow my kids to be fully independent. I wanted to be there for them, but not be enabling.

As my daughter continued with her most recent frustration, I knew from experience that she was someone who needed to verbalize every detail and feel heard.

“Mom, I just don’t know what to do. There just doesn’t seem to be anyway out. The noise level is ridiculous in that apartment complex. It is so hard to come home from work at 10:00 with the TV blaring next door. I got woken up twice the other night with those two love birds having a screaming match out in the hallway. I’ve just about had it.”

As I watched my daughter get more agitated about her circumstances, I started asking pertinent questions as I engaged in her story.

“Wow, how did you handle it?”

“Did anyone call the cops?”

“You must have found it really difficult to go to work the next day.”

And the conversation continued for what what seemed like eternity as I listened to every minute detail.  Finally she said, “Mom, what am I going to do?”

This was my moment of truth.  Would I give her my honest opinion on what she should do?  And that is when I threw the ball back in her court to solve her own problem.

And I started asking questions again. “What do you think your options are?”

“How do you think you should handle it?”

As my daughter continued to think through her options, thankfully I was able to say, “Sounds like you’ve solved your own problem.”

“Mom, thanks for listening and helping me figure it out. I got my laundry done and have an action plan for solving the problem at the apartment. You’re the greatest.”

Communicating with our 20-somethings can be so different. Figuring out how they like to be communicated with and adapting our style to theirs allows them to feel the respect and love they need. Listening can mean two totally different things depending on their bent. My son wanted to tell his story–his whole story–without interruption. My daughter needed lots of dialogue with questions that made her think.

If we want to build relationship, we need to adapt to their needs in order to communicate in the way our 20-something can feel connected.

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

“Let go…and let God,”


Am I Too Involved?

Being involved with our kids is a good thing, right?  After all, we want to have relationship with them.  We want to have influence over situations that our kids get themselves into that we know won’t turn out so well.  And, naturally, we want our kids to be successful.

But can we be too involved?

I’ll admit that I have been that mom at times.

I remember the days when I would make sure that I looked at their class syllabus at the beginning of each school year.  After all, I reasoned, I might need to remind them of their test or project due date.  I wanted to make sure that I could lovingly nag them enough to start early so that school didn’t interfere with extra-curricular activities.  “Better to start that project on Monday rather than wait until the last minute.”

And then there was the electronic grade system that gave me play-by-play updates on how my kid was doing any hour of the day.  And, of course, the feature where I could easily direct email the teacher sometimes came in handy.

Don’t get me wrong, we do need to be involved in our kids’ lives; however, we also need to figure out when we need to start backing off.

I remember a mom who sent her kid to college for the first time and had a tracker on his phone.  Throughout the day, she would “see” where her son was physically located on campus.  Was he in class?  In the cafeteria?  Or heaven forbid off campus?

Unfortunately technology allows us to keep close tabs on almost everything our kid has going on in his life.  It makes it easy to be that helicopter parent without even trying.  It also means that we can easily assume responsibility for the very things that our teen needs to be learning for himself.

Turning 13, or 16, or 19 means that we should be out of the coaching phase of parenting having moved to the role of consultant.  Being a consultant means that if our kids need help, they can come to us.  Sure we might ask at the beginning of the school year if there is anything they need.  We could even take time to help them get a system in place.  And then, let your child know that you believe in them.  This is the opportune time to let them know that you respect that they are starting to grow up and become responsible for themselves.

By letting our kids go, it allows us to focus on what God has for us.  Rather than worrying about every move our kids make, setting them up for what we consider success, why not figure out what God has for you during this phase of life?  Our kids need to see that we have a life too–one that is not always focused on them.

And if school has already started and you’ve already started being “overly helpful”, why not have a conversation now.  Maybe you could try something like this:

Hey, Honey, now that we’ve gotten you set up for the school year, let’s talk about how it should play out from here.  I want you to learn to be successful on your own with minimal involvement from me.  Part of growing up is owning what is yours to own.  Part of the process of you being a (teenager, high schooler, college student) is trying to become more independent and I want to respect that.  Another thing is that sometimes I become so invested in your success that I start to take the reigns when I should really allow you to be in charge of you.  I’m thinking that this year, you should be responsible for __________.  If you see me starting to step in by nagging or telling you what to do, feel free to tell me that I need to own what is mine to own and let you own what is yours to own.  I love you and want to respect that you are growing up and moving toward adulthood.  I’ll be available if you need to consult with me anytime.  I’m not going to stop being Mom, I just want to give you the opportunity to discover who God created you to be without me pushing you.”

Galatians 6:5

For each will have to bear his own load.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

“Let Go…and Let God”,






Change Around the Corner?

Graduation time always has me thinking of transitions.  I coined a phrase from a friend who was talking about the changes with her daughter.  She calls them her “happy/sad” moments.  I don’t know about you, but that phrase conjures up a lot of emotional images for me.  I find it awesome that she takes time to notice her feelings of these moment-in-time changes as she goes through the parenting process.  There are SO many of these times to recall as our kids start gaining more freedom.

  • Happy that your child is off having fun with friends; sad that she doesn’t need you as much.
  • Happy that your teen is starting to see success in several areas of his life; sad that he doesn’t share as much with you.
  • Happy that your teen is graduating; sad that you’ll miss her when she goes away to college.

We’ve all been there through each change, sometimes happy for the passage from one phase into the next, but a bit of sadness of the unknown. 

As I write, my daughter-in-law left her 17 month old for the first time this past week.  I watched as she quickly made her flight reservations excited for a break.  As she neared the airport, I watched the tears flow.  Happy/sad indeed.

“Happy/sad” moments are a clue that we need to change our parenting especially during the teen years.  If we watch for them, we’ll know what the next step should be.

Unfortunately, by the time our tweens and teens are in middle and high school, we’ve sometimes become so accustom to these “happy/sad” moments that we almost forget to take notice of our emotion.  We get trapped in the norm of change and forget that  we need to start parenting differently.

I loved it last week when my friend sent me a text.  “Happy/sad.  My daughter got her license last week and now drives herself to work.  Excited Megan has more freedom and I have more time. Missing our long talks together in the car.  How do I get my daily time back with her?”

Each of the “happy/sad” situations we encounter typically means less interaction with our kids.  So it means we have to be more intentional in connecting with them.  We need to be an initiator in the relationship.  The hard part to the equation is that as our kids get these new freedoms, they have more things they can do and more people to interact with that can keep them entertained.  They no longer need us.

Or so they think.

So what can we do?

  • Engage with them intentionally.  What fun things do you both enjoy?  Sports?  Hobbies? Food usually works, especially Starbucks.
  • Take note of what they like to do and schedule a date with them.  Don’t forget to remind them as the date gets close.
  • Let them know that you miss your time with them.  “Honey, I’m excited that you have your license and are becoming an adult.  I want you to know that I miss our talk time in the car.  I don’t want to lose our connection since you’ve only got a couple of years left here at home.  What kind of things could we do?”

As your kids move through their milestones toward freedom, we have to become more deliberate in connecting with them and also make sure that we don’t become someone who is overly needy of their time.  Learning to let go sometimes means that we need to find other people or projects to fill the void of time we are typically with our child.  Try to remember that you are learning to walk a tightrope balancing life so that your tween and teen feel free to grow and explore and will know that you’ll be just fine when they do leave.

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Each new phase we enter with our children gives us a new opportunity for growth.  “Letting go” means we have to trust God more and more with those we love and if we do it well, we’ll reap the benefits of growing closer to Him in the process.

Glad you’re on the journey with me.  If you have a new graduate, celebrate the happy/sad moments.

“Let go…and let God”,



So what “happy/sad” moments are you currently wrestling with?

How Do Your Kids See Christmas?

I had an interesting exchange (or maybe it’s better termed as frustrating discussion) with one of my kids this week that makes me wonder how I could have been so blind.

We were talking about Christmas. 

Christmas for me is all about the surprise.  I typically choose to toss out a few gift ideas to my kids that I know they can afford and let them choose what they will purchase and put under the tree.  That way when I open it I know I’ll be at least somewhat surprised.

Maybe it is still the kid in me.

Maybe it is because of the memories that I have when my kids were little and I could see the surprise and wonder in their eyes and I want to continue to experience it over and over again each year at Christmas.

And maybe I think all my kids should be wired just like me and want Christmas to be the way I want it to be.

Our conversation started out innocently as I’ve been wracking my brain trying to find something for this kid that will be a total surprise–something not on his radar–something that will blow him away and will be the best gift ever.

And I found that perfect gift!

There was only one requirement before I made the purchase.  I needed to make sure he was available to enjoy the “event” on a specific date.

The text message read, “Could you keep the evening of January 3 open?  I have a Christmas gift for you, but don’t want to buy it if you aren’t available.”

“What is it, Mom?”

“It’s the season of secrets and I want it to be a surprise.  Are you available?” I texted back.


Then every event in the city on that date popped up in the text from him with a smiley face.  It felt like he wanted to prove that he was smarter than me and had figured it out.

None of them were right.

“Yeah!”  I thought.  “I’ve stumped him.”

“So, can you be available?” I texted again.


Then the phone rang.  “I want to know what it is before I leave the date open.  Why can’t you just tell me?”

By now my frustration was on the rise.  How dare him ruin my surprise.

After a few exchanges and me continuing to ridiculously keep my secret, I could tell we were at an impasse.  He wasn’t going to budge and I was holding onto my belief that Christmas was about surprises.

And then this wise kid asked me a question, “Mom, what is Christmas all about?”

“Surprise and wonder,” I quickly quipped.

“I thought it was about family.”


And then I remembered my frustration down through the years.  As this kid opened up his presents he would announced to the family what was in each package before it was opened.  And I would be disappointed that he had figured it out.


Was Christmas about me, the gift giver, or him as the receiver?  Didn’t I need to speak his love language during this season?

Suddenly, our exchange changed to one that was more positive.  “You don’t like surprises, do you son?”

“Nope.  I never have.  Are you just figuring that out?”

He nailed me there.  Guess I’ve been pretty slow to pick up on that one–more accurately blinded by my own desires without thinking about his.

And I shared my gift idea with him. 

And I could tell he was genuinely excited!

So, no, there will not be a surprise element to his Christmas.  But he’ll know he is loved–the way he needs to be loved.

And there won’t be any hard feelings because I’ve already apologized.

Ephensians 4:2

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Dare you to see Christmas through the lens of your children in how they receive love.

Double dare you to ask yourself if it’s about the gifts, the surprise, family time, or teaching the true meaning of Christmas in light of our Savior’s birth.

God keeps teaching me to:

“Let go…and Let God”,

With Christmas around the corner, why not fill a parent or teacher’s stocking with a gift that will help them grow in their relationships.  Order your copy or copies of With All Due Respect here .










Finding Peace in the Midst of Parenting

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind.  I’ll admit that I’m having trouble remembering what I’ve done from one day to the next.  Grieving the loss of a child is so very hard and the enemy is relentless in attempting to get me into the pit of despair.  I’m thankful for all of you have who have been there to help carry my burden in the midst of such pain.  The little things–a meal, a text, a card, a donation to a ministry in our daughter’s name, or a response to my blog have been a lifeline to keep me out of the rabbit hole that could swallow me up.  These small things give me peace in the midst of the turmoil in my present circumstances.

As I treasure all of those who have been there for us during a time of death, I am contemplating how we as a body of Christ can be there for each other in a time of life.

I’ve spoken to many parents who are struggling to find peace in the midst of their parenting.  Many have strong-willed children who are determined to control their universe, others have kids who are struggling — peer pressure, sexting, cutting, pornography, alcohol, drugs, sex, pregnancy, same-sex relationships, and the list goes on.  One day we think our NOW is good and the next day brings trouble we can’t even begin to comprehend or explain.

So how do we find peace in the midst of the pain our children sometimes bring to our lives?  How do we deal with our own self-condemnation that we should have been a better parent or this wouldn’t be happening?  How do we deal with a culture (and sometimes church) that wants to blame someone for what our kids are doing — so it must be the parents’ fault?

If you are a parent whose kids seem to “get it” and by the grace of God they are choosing to follow His will, delight in the fact that He has chosen to spare you the pain of suffering through your children.  It can be an overwhelming cross to bare.

But can I ask you to stay here with me for a few minutes?

Can I ask you to  stop a minute and try to put yourself in other women’s shoes?  Can you take a moment and  feel their pain and offer empathy and a shoulder to cry on?  Can I ask each of us as Christian women to carry each other’s burdens?  Can you reach out and listen without condemnation and trying to tell them how to “fix” their parenting problem.  Can we all just listen and feel for our beloved sisters in Christ?

Our pastor said it eloquently at our daughter’s funeral service, “Who’s to blame for a child who is born blind, the child or the parents?”  Jesus answered “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)

Think about that.  When our children make wrong choices they are blind.  They can’t see that they are on a path to destruction.  However, God can use us or them, and even in spite of our choices or their choices, to accomplish His purpose.  He is writing a testimony on our child’s heart and on our heart that He will use for His glory.  

That’s our hope.  That should be our peace.

I’ve been talking to women around the country who feel like they have to hide in the church.  These are the moms whose kids are making choices that are against everything they as a family believe in — yet they don’t feel safe to share their pain even to their church family. How sad.  They feel judged for things beyond their control because to us as Christians their child’s behavior is an unfathomable sin.

There is a lie the enemy wants us as a church to believe.  It is a lie that the enemy wants us to believe as parents.

And that is that our child’s sin is nonredeemable.

The last two weeks I’ve seen what God can do through us in spite of the choices we make.  By the Christian standard my daughter had made more than her  share of wrong choices.  Eventually, her choices caught up with her.  But in spite of her choices, God used her in some pretty incredible ways.  Ways that I would never have dreamed were going on “behind the scenes” of what I saw as her life.

Even in her choices, my daughter led a troubled young woman to Christ and helped her overcome an addiction to cutting.  Even in her own pain, she encouraged a young man by inviting him to her Bible Study group.  This young man now knows Jesus as his Lord and Savior and through her words of encouragement just recorded his first song.  In the midst of trying to find herself, she taught a young girl to braid hair and now this young adult has graduated from cosmetology school.  Because of my daughter’s bent toward helping others, she was ministering to a young woman with downs syndrome taking her into her home to bake and just spending time with her.  Because of her desire to have others know a Jesus who forgives sin, I’ve sat beside sinners in a church pew because she brought them to church desiring for them to find hope.

In spite of our kids’  choices, in spite of our kids’ sin, in spite of the road they choose to travel, God will use even their wrong choices to put them in a place where He can use them.  He’ll use them for His glory.

As for us as parents, we need to look to God for peace in the midst of our parenting chaos.  We need to understand that He is weaving His story and that story might bring pain for us.  We need to cling to a verse in John.

John 10:28-29

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

If your kids accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior at a young age, He’s got them even in the midst of the path they’ve chosen as teens.  If not, there is still time for redemption. They may make wrong choices, but don’t we all?  Some of us may struggle with alcohol, some overspending, some anger, some lust, and some self-righteousness, but if we’ve raised them to follow Jesus, He’s got them and He’ll use them in spite of their poor choices–just like He’ll use us.

And that should be our peace.  

God’s got this even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Isaiah 54:10

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Can you trust Him in the midst of your sorrow?  Can you trust Him with your pain?  If you are fortunate enough to have kids who are, by the grace of God, making wise choices, can you be a beacon of light to a hurting mom who is struggling because of her teen’s path?  Can you choose to let God use you to help other moms feel safe among their church family?

My prayer is that, just like I am trying to do, you will cling to Him for peace in the midst of it all–whatever your parenting struggle and that there will be other Christian moms who will give you a shoulder to cry on.

May you choose His peace as you…

“Let go…and Let God”,

Want to help moms develop a deeper relationship with God as they create more fulfilling relationships with their teens and tweens?  With All Due Respect was bathed in tears as God walked me through a powerful life-changing process that impacted my relationship with my daughter.  Because of what God taught me through parenting her, other moms can now grow closer to Him as they work through the devotional Dares from this book.  What is more, if you choose to do the book in a group you’ll have opportunity to develop deep connecting relationships with other women who are also on the parenting journey.  Check back next week to see how you can get your copy of our small group leader’s guide that will make your small moms group a WOW experience.