Are You Cultivating the Relationship?

The phone had been silent for several days and Shannon began to worry. Silence usually meant something was going on that her daughter didn’t want her to know about. Silence meant whatever was happening was something that her daughter knew she wouldn’t approve of. Silence meant this chasm would widen, the earth would give way, and then it would all come tumbling out–every unbelievable detail.

Shannon had grown accustomed to the turbulence that accompanied these silent times; they rattled her very soul. Shannon prayed; she sought answers from Scripture; she had given her daughter back to God more times than she could remember. But here she was again, crying out to God for some sort of awakening to occur in her daughter’s life. “Speak to her, Lord,” she uttered once again.

Shannon was learning that she was the one who needed to stay connected to her daughter. Amber needed a steady force in her life. Without Shannon reaching out in Amber’s own mode of communication “texting” or “Facebook – IM”, the telephone lines would continue to remain silent. “Checking in to see how you are doing,” she pounded out on the mini touchscreen. “Just wanted you to know that you are loved.”

“Love you too, Mom” came quickly back on the screen.

“You doing ok?” Shannon responded.

“I guess.” Amber replied. “Call you when I get off work.”

Shannon prayed throughout the day. She prayed for Amber. She prayed for whatever Amber would share with her this evening. She prayed that her responses would always come across as loving.

But silence continued throughout the evening. No call from Amber. Shannon continued to pray for her daughter. She’d try to reconnect again in a few days.

Three days later she sent a text to Amber just to see how she was doing.

The phone rang. “Hi, Mom. Sorry I didn’t call you back the other evening.”

“Honey, that’s okay. I know you’re busy. How’s work going?”

“Fine. How’s Harold doing?”

“He left, Mom.”

“What do you mean, he left”?

“Mom, he moved out.”

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry. How are you feeling about that?”

“I’m so upset–yet part of me is glad he is gone. At least I know what kind of man he really is.”

“What made him decide to leave? You two were starting to talk about marriage.”

“Mom, I guess you’ll find out soon enough anyway. I’m pregnant.”

Shannon took a deep breath. She knew her next words were critical. She could either bring life into her daughter or create an avalanche of destructive feelings into their conversation.

“Honey, I’m not sure how to respond. I’m in shock. I’m going to be a grandmother. How are you feeling about it?”

Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.

Sometimes our 20-Somethings make choices that we not only disagree with, but they make choices that will impact our lives in ways we would rather not deal with. Even though it would be easier to write them off saying that they can deal with their own issues (they know our phone number), we need to show them the love of Christ and initiate relationship. Words that come out of our mouths can either incite further anger and rejection or bring healing. We may not always be elated by the news they share, but it is important that we respond with the love of Christ.

Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Dare you to connect with your 20-Something today by speaking words of tenderness to them. Why not send them a text?

“Let go…and let God,”


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When Our Kids Come Home

Melanie lay across the university lawn excited yet tentative. She couldn’t wait until finals were over…one more to go and she would be finished with the semester. Yet she wasn’t ready to leave the university. She loved the comradery of being with the other kids not to mention the independence of doing what she wanted when she wanted. To go back home to be a “child” in her parents’ home for the summer was not something she was looking forward to. She knew they would be harping about her finding a job the minute she walked in the door. She had applied for a summer internship she thought would be so much fun and would surround her with people her own age, but unfortunately she didn’t get it. Most of her friends lived in other parts of the country so there wouldn’t be much social life for her summer.

She found herself becoming a bit agitated as she started packing her belongings. If only she had a more exciting summer planned!

Back at home, Jill, Melanie’s mom was apprehensive about the turn of events for their summer. She was disappointed that Melanie didn’t get the internship she had wanted. She would have been perfect for the youth camp position! Yet, Jill was looking forward to getting another summer with her daughter. “There won’t be too many summers like this left,” she thought to herself. “Before we know it, Melanie will be graduating and moving on with her life. I just hope we can find a sense of rhythm where we can enjoy each other.”

Then there was re-entry!

It took forever to unpack the van! “Why did she take so much to school,” was muttered more than once from Mark, Melanie’s dad. Then there was the mess that hadn’t been cleaned out of the refrigerator for an entire year and the mountains of laundry that engulfed the laundry room. The family room was swimming in boxes and plastic tubs filled with school supplies and miscellaneous dorm room paraphernalia. She could tell Mark was struggling to work through their new reality.

Melanie was mourning the loss of her friends at school while Mark was mourning the simpler life without stuff everywhere. It took days to get the house to some semblance of “normal”.

Melanie muttered her dissatisfaction with life on more than one occasion. “I wish I could have just stayed at school! I could have taken a couple of summer classes. Then life wouldn’t be so boring. There is no one to hang out with here.”

Jill held her tongue. Re-entry wasn’t easy on any of them. The simple life of just she and Mark had grown accustomed, eating when they chose, doing what they wanted whenever they decided, and working their schedules around just the two of them had come to an abrupt halt with Melanie home. Enjoying a cup of tea on the back patio while Melanie was still asleep gave Jill an opportunity to work through her emotions of the changes.

“Lord, help me realize your purpose in having Melanie home this summer. Help us to re-acclimate to having us all under the same roof.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.  A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.…

“That’s it. I need to recognize that this is a season. This is a time to build up our new relationship,” Jill breathed in praise as she sat quietly in His presence.

Ephesians 4:29

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

“Lord, that is my prayer. Whatever I speak to Melanie over the next several months, may it build her up. When she is crabby and lets her emotion fly out of her mouth at the frustration of her circumstances at home, may I remind her that it is only a season and encourage her to try to enjoy the moments we have as a family. May the words I speak to her bring a balm to her soul such that she will return to school in the fall knowing that her parents love her.”

Re-entry is a stressful time for everyone when the kids come home from college. It can become a mourning of freedom and independence for both the parents and the student. Realizing that this too shall pass and is but a season of life should help everyone. My prayer is that when the stress is high and feelings of frustration come into play, that you remember that your student will either leave your home in the fall anxious to get away from you or anxious to continue their life journey.

Dare you to provide a place of respite from the demands of college life rather than pressure cooker where your students can’t wait to leave.

“Let go…and let God,”


 

 

You Want Me to Argue?

2014-08-19 19.41.26My world is spinning in marriage as of late.  Not my own marriage, but difficult marriages.

About eight months ago my husband told me he had been looking into getting some training to help men in difficult marriage situations.  It seems that his work world was being ravaged by men who were on the brink of divorce. Read more

Parenting Skills from a Movie?

TAKE INVENTORY of you.  What do you (2)Snuggling with my husband on the couch last night, we were looking forward to an evening without the kids.  It had been virtually months since we had watched a good movie and  Mom’s Night Out (2014)  had been recommended by several friends.  Being several years removed from the exhaustion of small kids under foot and the distant memory of a husband who traveled more than he was home, laughter filled the room from memories gone by.

Trust me when I say that the last place I expect to get any real parenting skills would be  from today’s movies, yet I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and realism of the characters’ parenting dilemmas. As I enjoyed the comedic antics of the young children and remembered  when girlfriend time was something to be craved, I was struck by the interaction between the pastor’s wife and her teen daughter.  From a parenting perspective there was much to gain for those who were tuned in to how the mother reacted to her daughters requests!

  1. WHEN YOU SAY “NO”, STICK TO YOUR GUNS.  It was great to see the mother of this teenager stick to her “no” when it came to an inappropriate pair of shorts that the daughter had purchased.  Several times the girl pleaded her case.  The mother’s response was always the same.  There was no dialog defending her position.  Just a simple “no”.  Know that teenagers fully understand what your standard of dress is and they will push the limit.  Why argue with them when they already know what your response will be?  They’re testing the waters.  Don’t let them push you to give in.
  2. SAY “NO” AND ANTICIPATE WHAT THEY ARE THINKING.  Plans had been made by the daughter to go meet a boy from church.  Again, the mother said “no”.  But she took it one step further!  Knowing that her husband’s sports car was sitting in the driveway, she told the girl that she was not to take his car.  She further told her not to ask her dad about going out when he got home.  Her answer was “no”.  How many times have our children skirted our “no” with a twist of circumstances that we didn’t anticipate? Make sure you learn to think like your child.
  3. LET THEM CHOOSE TO COMPLY.  This is the part where I struggled as a mom.  (Just being honest here).  In the movie Mom had a night planned to go out with girlfriends.  She told her daughter the rules, anticipated ways that she might try to get around them, and then left.  This is where I applauded her!  How many times do we as mothers try to control our teens’ decisions?  The truth of the matter is that her teen could have put the shorts on, gotten in Dad’s car, and gone to see the boy.  If mom had stayed home, the daughter could have been forced to stay as well.  But Mom did the right thing!!  She went out, had fun, and allowed her daughter to make her own choice to obey or disobey.
  4. GET REAL.  How many times do we choose to keep the past a secret?  All of us have a past that impacts how we parent.  As the film plays out, we find  that this pastor’s wife has something that she would prefer others not know about her.  She bravely faces that past and even chooses to share it with her daughter.  Yeah for the pastor’s wife!!  She took her mask off so that she could connect with her teenager!  If this were a true story, sharing that sordid past would most likely save her daughter a similar pain in the future.  I’m not saying that everything we’ve done needs to be an open book, but at some point, teens need to know about some of the decisions we may not be so proud of.   It helps them come to grips with not only our humanness, but the fact that we make decisions for them based on the painful experiences we’ve endured.

If only I had had such a role model early on in my parenting!  Watching the character of Sondra fulfill her role as mother on screen, made me take a look at my own parenting.  How many times have I changed my “no” decision because I allowed my child to sway me to their way of thinking?  How many different ways did my teen twist my intent because I had not anticipated their potential ways to skirt the issue?   How many times did my child succeed at playing my husband and I against each other  until they got the answer they wanted?  How many times did I forgo my plans in order to make sure they understood that I did not trust them?  How many secrets am I holding on to with fear that my child may do the same thing?

Dare you to take inventory in your parenting on some of these issues.  Maybe after watching this film and snuggling with your husband?

“Let go…and let God,”
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Are You Really Listening?

SECRET (2)

Last week I encountered a bazaar conversation that made me wonder who had trained the receptionist I was talking with on the phone.  It was really quite a simple request.  The conversation went something like this.

“I’d like to make a follow-up appointment for my son on Wednesday, December 17,” I stated in a matter of fact tone.

“He has an opening on Friday, December 5.”

“No, my son will still be away at college.  I’m hoping for the 17th,” I continued.

“The doctor is out of the office from the 15th through the 19th.”

“Bummer, I was really hoping to schedule that week.”

“We could schedule him on the 16th”.

“But you just told me he is not in the office that week!!”

By this time I was more than frustrated!

The truth of the matter is that this is the condensed version of a more than 5 minute conversation that I really didn’t have time for.  That was after all the prompts that I had to get through just to talk to her.  I felt like I was spinning my wheels with someone who truly wasn’t listening to a word I had uttered.

After hanging up the phone, I quickly ran to get a shower.  Ugh, now I was going to be late for an afternoon meeting!

Lathering my hair with shampoo, in the silence of the moment, my brain went into hyper-critical mode.  “I can’t believe what a frustrating experience I had with this woman!  I’ve never encountered anyone that bad on the phone before!  She was unbelievable!”

As I stood with water pelting from above, ranting to the walls of my shower, a still small voice came from somewhere within me.

“How many times were the words you had to say more numerous than just letting your kid talk?” God seemed to whisper.

“What about the details you always tend to miss because you don’t think the story your child is telling you is important so you let your mind wonder to other things?”

” You think your agenda trumps theirs because you’re the parent, so you speak and expect them to listen.  Then you get mad if they don’t get all the details.”

“How many times have you only heard their tone, but not their heart?”

“Are you listening, Debbie, really listening to the full communication of what they are saying?  Do you advantage of the whole communication process?  Do you listen, give eye contact, watch the body language, and try not to frustrate them? What about your heart?  Are you trying to connect with them with your heart.

“Oh, Lord, forgive me for all the times I haven’t really listened!  Help me to listen with my ears, my mind, and my heart.”

Proverbs 18:13

He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame

Bottom Line:  Parents, just like the receptionist hadn’t been trained to listen well, we need to remember that even if we haven’t been good listeners to our children in the past, we can learn the skills and choose to do it from here on out.  May God give you time and patience to learn to listen well so that you can develop heartfelt communication before they leave the nest.  That time will come sooner than you think.

Learning the same truths over and over again along with you!

“Let go…and Let God,”

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Dare 23 – The Respect Dare for Parents of Tweens & Teens – ME or WE?

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Olivia stood in disbelief at the kitchen sink watching 14 year old Emily interact with her 13 year old brother.  Typically they were pretty good friends, but something was wrong, terribly wrong.  She had seen them walk out back together as they got off the bus.  As backpacks landed on the deck, they had climbed up in the playhouse that was still standing in the corner of the property.  Sitting on the wooden planks the two were in deep conversation.

Being able to see everything from her kitchen window, Olivia was mesmerized by the continued friendship even as they had entered the junior high years.  She wished she had a similar companionship with her siblings.  As she stared entranced at what was transpiring between them, something seemed to snap in Emily.  What had seemed like a natural exchange between brother and sister turned into a rage of anger followed by a wrestling match with fists flailing.

As if standing in quicksand, Olivia felt like she was moving in slow motion. Just as she reached the back door, she saw Dean push Emily up against the side railing allowing him a little relief from her continuous blows.  Thankfully it was enough to stop the fight before someone fell from the 6 foot high perch.

Ordering each of her kids to their separate rooms, Olivia assured them they would talk about it later after cooler heads prevailed.

“Lord, I have no idea what just happened!” Olivia breathed out loud as she settled herself in a chair in her own bedroom.  Behind closed doors she voiced her prayer, “You know what this is all about.  Please help us to get to truth and give me wisdom in how to best handle the situation.  Give me your eyes and ears to truly understand what each of my children are thinking.  Calm my heart and may your glory be seen in this situation.”

At the dinner table, it was obvious that neither of the kids were going to speak to each other.  After dinner dishes were put away, Olivia sauntered into Dean’s room.

“Is now a good time to talk about this afternoon?”

“I guess so.  I just don’t get Emily anymore.  She’s changing.  And not in a good way.”

“How so?”

“She just seems to want a boyfriend so badly that she’ll do just about anything to get one.”

“Is there something specific you want to share?”

“Not really.  What she did was not what our family is all about.  It’s all about her and not about us.”

“Tell me more.  Why did she get so angry?”

“I told her that what she did was impacting me as well.  I tried to tell her I thought what she did was wrong.  She didn’t like what I had to say.”

“I’m sorry, Dean.  I’m glad you love your sister enough to speak truth to her.  I’m not sure how we are going to resolve this, but I’ll get back to you after I’ve had a chance to talk to Emily.”

Later that evening, “Emily, do you have a minute that we can talk?”

“I guess so.”

“You want to tell me what was going on out there in the playhouse this afternoon?”

“Mom, I just got so angry at Dean.  He has no right to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do!  It’s none of his business!”

“Is that what you truly think?”

“Well it isn’t!  I can make my own decisions and he needs to stay out of it!”

“Do you want to tell me what Dean is so upset about?”

“I’m sure he already told you everything.”

“Actually he didn’t.  He told me you did something today that he thought was wrong and it had an impact on him.  Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Not really.”

“Would I have been upset at what you did?”

“Probably.”

“Did you have a right to go after Dean the way you did?”

“You would say I didn’t.  I just hate having a younger brother tell me what I shouldn’t be doing!”

“Emily, family is about “we”.  We want what is best for you and it sounds like that was what Dean was trying to convey to you.  No matter what you choose to do, it has the potential to have an impact on our entire family.  Do you understand that?”

Silence from Emily.

Olivia continued, “Emily, your dad and I want you to become the person that God created you to be.  Obviously, I don’t know the details of what came down today, but I’m thinking maybe Dean telling you what he thought today was about how much he cares for you as a sister and wants the best for you as well.  Life isn’t about “me”.  Your entire life you will have to make choices about pleasing yourself, but know that those decisions will more times than not impact others”.

Continued silence.

“Let’s plan to go to lunch on Saturday and talk about what happened today.  Maybe I can help you sort through what you are feeling and why you did what you did.  In the meantime, I’m hoping that you will pray and work through your anger with Dean. You know you need to apologize to him.”

“Emily, we all make mistakes.  Learning to own up to them and talk about them with those who love you will help you make better choices in the future.  You know we love you.”

After hugging Emily, Olivia left the bedroom.  She headed toward Dean’s room to say goodnight.  “Dean, I spoke to Emily and encouraged her to come apologize.  I’ll be praying for the two of you.  I love you.”

Parenting through conflict situations can be so difficult!  We want to know all the details.  We want to tell them what they did wrong.  Sometimes just encouraging our child to do the next thing allows them to “own” what they did wrong.  Setting up a time to work through the details usually takes the emotion out of the situation.  Remember that the important piece is that our children need to see that “we” are in this life together and we both want the same thing…for them to be the best at what God created them to be.

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

“Let go…and let God,”

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Hope you will join Nina Roesner as she provides insight on marriage and Leah Heffner as she blogs to wives with little people as we go through The Respect Dare together.