Displaying items by tag: parenting
I opened the conversation as usual, “What would you like to discuss?”
Suddenly animated, the young woman across from me, hit the table with her fist and exclaimed “why are some people at church so angry all the time?”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t disagree about anything without getting a lecture back.”
“What is your reaction to that?”
“I’ve stopped talking to them and I may even stop going to church to avoid it.”
Sadly, I’m hearing this question over and over.
I’ve tried to look at this topic from all sides, remembering that the end goal of our journey here is to build the Kingdom of God. Our society has developed an either/or culture. In general, it plays out as either you are with me, or you are against me.
With the pandemic we became more isolated, siloed with like minded people. We sought out information that we agreed with and interacted with only those sources, especially on social media. Once we reunited with others, many of us were set in a cultural truth we believed. In addition if you disagreed with me you were simply wrong.
To many those who disagreed were perceived as a threat to their way of life. This was true on both sides of each debate. So much so that their “either/or” became paramount in their mind and needed to be protected.
We became so entrenched in the “either/or” we have forgotten how to live in the AND. What does that mean? You are welcome at my church AND can disagree with me. Jesus is the center of our unity. Yes, the fruit of our lives reflects our relationship with Him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit pours out of us with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patients, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness.
As young people inundated with information, you are continually making choices of right and wrong. Discussing and debating issues allows us to develop our ideas of the truth but it also needs to be in a safe environment.
We each need to answer Jesus’ question of Mark 8:29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” This is the foundation of our faith. However, even if you don’t agree with Peter, as I do, you can still be my friend if you accept me for who I am. A believer of Jesus and a minister of the faith.
To my older friends, on current events and cultural issues, I ask these questions:
What do you value?
What causes do you care about?
Where do you want to grow?
How does that line up with Jesus’ teachings?
I follow up with their belief statements with:
Where did you hear that?
Why do you believe that?
In the process of examining our own answers to these questions we develop the ability to think for ourselves. This practice of critical thinking prevents us from the sway of the next social media influencer that comes along. The process of dialoguing develops relationships that grow with grace. It allows the participants to grow in understanding with unconditional love. It invites in, instead of pushing out.
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On a steamy July evening, we sat on the porch reflecting on her faith journey. She had spent the last ten weeks away from home for the first time. At twenty-one, she tasted independent living, although she entered it with anxiety and she’s now leaving with a newfound confidence.
“I’m thinking of looking for a new church home, is that ok?”
Certainly, that is ok.
The question to answer is why?
This was the church she grew up in, her family still attends there. She, however, no longer felt like part of that community.
You may relate with her concern but feel conflicted over this move. Especially if you experienced a healthy church life as a child, you may struggle with feeling disloyal. Your loyalty lies with Jesus first and your church family second. Pray and ask Him to show you whether you need to stay or go.
The church or Ekklesia, is the gathering of people who share in their belief of Jesus Christ. This group of people are meant to be family, sharing in worship, serving one another, and building the Kingdom of God. It is to be a place where the participants learn and grow to be more like Jesus.
Every church is flawed with imperfections of one kind or another. This is part of the human condition, so if you are leaving to find the perfect church, you aren’t going to find it. But leaving your childhood church, to see what else is out there, may help your faith move to the next level. As young adults, especially Gen Zers, you are looking for autonomy, for a place in which you will be treated as an adult.
Here are questions to ask yourself as you explore new congregations:
- Can you authentically serve in your current church?
- Does this church draw you closer to Jesus? Do you reflect Jesus to others because of attending there?
- Are you building community or see the potential to build community – especially an intergenerational community?
- Are you recognized as an adult, ready to commit to this community?
We are to avoid cherry picking, taking what we need, to meet our own needs. We need the love and support of other people to continue to pursue Jesus. True, as a young adult, you are going through a lot of changes, but you are also setting habits that will last a lifetime. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” We each need a place to learn to live vulnerably in community.
As summer wains, transition looms on the horizon. Back to school season empties our nests once again, opening the gates to a surge of emotions we may be unprepared for.
Believe it or not, life does not end when our children reach adulthood.
Some days, it feels that way. Our feelings are a part of what makes us human; I am not a robot. Emotions define us as a species, and they are an amazing gift. When life is good, happiness fills every moment. But when it is not, it can be hard to overcome these unwanted feelings. Emotions reflect how we feel, but they aren’t always anchored in reality. They can conflict with one another, but that doesn't mean they can’t or shouldn’t both exist at the same time.
For example: I am happy that my children are succeeding, AND I am sad that they are far away. I’m thrilled they are happy, AND I still miss them.
But the real question is how do we deal with our reactions as we age and enter this new season?
Symptoms of empty nest syndrome include sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. It's not a clinical diagnosis. But those are common traits among empty nesters in this transition. It gives us a reason—but not an excuse—to continue living this way. I felt it deeper than I thought I would. My heart goes out to you as you negotiate these feelings.
I’m so glad this is only a temporary time for each of us. Here is a strategy I am finding helpful as I move through this season myself.
Read the following Scripture, meditate on the gift given to us in the verse. It is powerful. Let it empower you to move one step closer toward the woman God sees in you.
Proverbs 31:21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (NIV)
This verse depicts the emotional battle won by our Proverbs 31 friend. Fearless, she knows her loved ones are protected against the dangers of this world. The stark contrast between the white snow and the scarlet clothing reminds us to thrive not just survive. Certainly, we can see this for our physical needs, but I believe it also represents our emotional and spiritual needs as well.
Scarlet cloth represented luxury, abundantly providing for all in her family. Jesus also wore a scarlet robe on the way to the cross. He paid the full price for all our needs including our emotions. Our goal is to take all our emotions and place them at the feet of Jesus. He reminds us that His burden is light. He is calling us, the weary, to Him. He is always to help us into the abundant life in which we will flourish.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even in emotional transitional seasons, you can make us new. In Ephesians 4:23-24 it says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Yes, let Your Holy Spirit reawaken us to our designated design. Invigorate us to a fresh new life. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families. Celebrating our family identity keeps those relationships fresh and alive.
Although our nuclear family has transformed into an extended—and even long-distance—family, we still maintain our core identity. Who are we and what it means to be a member of this family changes over time as the children mature and add spouses, but that sense of family can always be there.
I asked my kids to give me a list of descriptors that described us. They immediately responded with silly, goofy, and weird. My son added “zany at times.” (Their friends say our family is not normal.) Don’t worry, they also included open, communicative, loving, adaptive, loyal, and close.
How would you describe your family? What is your family identity that keeps you close even when you are apart? Here are a few things we do; feel free to adopt and adapt to your family!
- Humor is an essential part of our relationships and keeps us in touch in a lighthearted way. We love puns like, “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!” (You heard the rimshot, right? Ba-dum-SHH) Whether we laugh or groan, it’s a simple way to connect and requires little-to-no response. It simply says, I thought of you today!
- Communication is key but doesn’t need to be constant. Regular and diverse forms such as phone calls, texts, video chats, and visits all work together for this. It allows us to keep our relationships a priority. But be flexible, and give each other grace; just because you didn’t hear from them in the past week doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they are living an active life. When you do talk, learn to be an active listener. Reflect to them what they are sharing so that they know you are engaged.
- Shared Experiences: Occasionally, we choose a show series or movie to watch. We don’t watch it at the same time, but we set aside time to discuss it. The content ranges from light to serious to a little bit of both. The point is to connect—you don’t have to be together to be together!
- We regularly meet with extended family on both sides of the family. This reaffirms our relationships with our core family, reunites us with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and promotes the value that family is important. Of course, it depends on your family dynamics and who is willing to participate. For us, it’s not a coerced event, and our kids participate eagerly.
- Share hospitality. Friendly reception of their friends increases your family reach. When college friends came to our house for short visits, we tried to embrace them as our own, doing our best to make them feel welcome. Not only does this show love to the friends, but it also honors your kids’ and makes them feel loved as well.
- Keep an Open-Door Policy. Our ongoing relationship needs to be a place of security. No matter their choices in life, they need to know they are an accepted part of the family Luke 15;11-32). We may not agree with you, but we will always love you. Love outshines our opinions; they know what we believe.
My son summed it up this way, “We’re all so comfortable with one another. We celebrate our strengths and support each other in our weaknesses. We enjoy our similarities as well as what make us each unique.”
We’re not a perfect family. We get frustrated and annoyed with each other at times. But we work hard to see past the frustrations to celebrate and support each other.
What does your family value? I’d love to hear about how you would describe your family identity. Send me an email and tell me all about it!
I clenched my hands in my lap as my daughter slipped into last place after swimming a difficult race. Once out of the pool, she sunk to the floor, her body heaving as she struggled to catch her breath. Come on girl, it wasn’t that bad. Teammates gathered around her. Should I go down there? I’ve never seen this in her before.
I’d just witnessed my child having the first of many panic attacks. It was a surreal experience, and it reminded me that as a parent, my ability to control my child’s world is an illusion. We could not fix this for her. Seeing my child spiral in her own mental health magnifies my own temptation to worry. As we escorted her back to health, she saw doctors and counselors and gained tools to battle this beast.
As a senior in high school, fear of the future fed her anxiety. Feeling pressured to determine a lifelong career, she struggled to balance her current responsibilities with the best choice to continue her education. We watched as her battle ebbed and flowed, her triggers unpredictable. Unbeknownst to us, this inner conflict had been brewing under the surface for years.
As senior year progressed, her growth in health and faith complemented one another. She took control of her diet and exercise. She questioned promises in Scripture, pressing into the One who created her. She began to understand the Holy Spirit guided her daily through this difficult journey.
She left for college one year into the healing process. Far from us, I cried myself to sleep. Could she do this without our daily support?
As her parents, we prayed and determined to trust Jesus. On particularly bad nights, I lay in bed and repeated “I trust you. I trust you,” until my own fears quieted and I drifted to sleep. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us our “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Our hope rested in Jesus: Even when we did not see her healing, we knew Jesus was at work.
Our faith rested in Jesus.
Our faith hoped for healing.
Our hearts knew Jesus was present even when we didn’t see the evidence.
His presence brought peace when our world seemed so dark.
Today, she is a thriving college junior. Her battle continues, but she wins most days. The healing we hoped for is gradually occurring. Her struggle developed her independence and growth in her own faith.
Our current world circumstances push at our faith to anger and fear but our faith doesn’t rest in what we see. Trust Jesus in the waiting. He brings peace and hope when circumstances feel out of our control.