When There Are No Answers

  • images-1Where was God this week when the family went missing from the floods in Texas?
  • If He is all-powerful, why didn’t He save them all?
  • Why does He allow for such tragedies?

These are our questions. Variations of these same questions have been asked throughout time. Yet God’s sovereignty, goodness, presence and power can’t ever be completely comprehended this side of heaven.

I wish this wasn’t how it is. I wish we had the foreknowledge to see well into the future – to know things were going to be okay. To see how God would use bad for good. To help us to trust Him better. But this isn’t how it is and that is what makes faith, faith.

So we are left to wrestle with our faith, our questions, our doubts and our anger.  And, yes, we can be angry at and question God. He knows what is in your mind anyway and if you look at the Psalms you will see people praying their pain.

“O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep…” Psalm 88:1-6

This is how honest we can be before Him. And for those who are grieving and mourning the loss of loved ones, you do not have to sugar-coat the real feelings you feel. You don’t have to put a Christian-spin on your pain and pretend your faith is so great you don’t question.

One of my husband’s seminary professors used to say, “I pray for people when they are suffering that God would protect them from other Christians.” Christians who mean well but actually add more hurt by throwing out spiritual platitudes to try to help. 

So though we don’t know the whys, we have a God who knows what it is like to lose a Son and Savior who knows what it’s like to suffer.  A Savior who left his heavenly throne to enter in to the brokenness of this world so He could identify with us as Friend.

He did not come just to suffer for us, but He came to suffer with us. So now we have a resource to turn to with all of our questions, all of our hurts, all of our pain and all of our suffering. 

By God’s grace may we know this One who is a Friend to the broken-hearted and may we feel His presence near.

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The Power in Our Words

When my son walked in the door on the last day of school he immediately pulled out his yearbook to show me what one of his fifth grade teachers had written. All year she has praised him for his journal writing and commented on how many journals he filled. He never was without a story to tell, which even surprised me, as a writer, knowing there are just some days that I’ve got nothing!

When I opened his yearbook to see her note I knew exactly why he was smiling and so eager to show me this…FullSizeRender Because she thinks he will be a famous sports writer, he believes he will!  

All year he has said this is what he wants to be when he grows up (after his professional baseball career ends, of course :) ) But, it wasn’t until the next morning when she texted me that I realized the extent to which the power of her encouraging words have impacted him. IMG_7975

“YOU ARE THE REASON I WANT TO BE A SPORTS WRITER!”

Of course! She is the one who has fostered this dream! Her encouragement has given him the confidence to believe he is a good writer and just having that belief is enough to motivate him to keep writing and to not be afraid to put his thoughts down. What a gift that is to him whether becoming a sports writer is ultimately what he pursues or not!

Simple words of encouragement can change our kids (and anyone else), just as simply as negative feedback changes them too. Our words are either a gift or a curse, but too often we forget to consider the real power of our words. Too often we only see what needs correction or change and neglect to give the life-giving words of praise.

I am so guilty of this. I see it in the faces of my kids when the first words out of my mouth communicate they have fallen short of my expectations. Just as I see the satisfying smile when they know I am proud of them.

The truth is my love is not tied to their performance and neither is God’s. But I see how they could think otherwise. 

By God’s grace I will speak more words of encouragement and affirmation instead of words that sink them into thinking they are not good enough and stifle their self-assurance. Words like-

  • “You look beautiful!” instead of “Is that what you’re wearing?”
  • “You make me laugh!” instead of “I’m trying to do something and you are so loud.”
  • “I’m proud of you for working so hard” instead of “Why didn’t you get an A?”
  • “You are so thoughtful!” when they treat their siblings special or help around the house instead of just remarking on where they fail.

Words like-

  • Thank you for being so patient when I was not.
  • I love how compassionate you are toward those who are hurting.
  • I love how your eyes light up when you smile.
  • I love that you aren’t afraid to try something new.
  • I love that you acted as your “brother’s keeper!”
  • I love you!

Words that breathe confidence and life. Words we should also be speaking to our spouses, friends, neighbors, kids’ teachers, pastor, the woman checking us out at the grocery store, the man in line next to us at the post office and the young mom with the crying baby on the plane.

You get the point – we all need to be encouraged and we all have the ability through our words to bring light and encouragement. So, thank you to my teacher/friend who reminded me of the power of words by the way she communicated to my son that he is a great writer. Perhaps someday you really will see him on ESPN :) !

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Growing Up Along with our Kids

IMG_7905After twelve consecutive years in an elementary school, the curtain is closing on this chapter of our lives. When my first two moved on to middle school it felt like such big steps, but this time around my youngest and I are more than ready. 

Watching him transform into a teen-in-the-making this year has reminded me of how he was back in half-day kindergarten– just chomping at the bit to move up with the big kids. So though my baby will bid goodbye to a place he has called home for six years and to teachers whom we adore, there will be no tears.

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Thank goodness, no tears, considering how often I’ve cried lately over my oldest who is sailing into her senior year.  Makes me wonder based on our readiness for the youngest’s next stage, if by the time he is graduating high school that will be different too. Is that even possible to be ready for empty-nester-hood?!

I can’t imagine that now. It sounds so sad to have them all grown up and out of the house, but I am guessing just like now, he will be more than ready to spread his wings. And, maybe (just maybe) seeing him ready and having watched the older two go through it, I’ll be ready too. 

We’ll see… But I have noticed typically when we are in a certain life stage looking to what’s ahead seems scary, sometimes causing us to want to cling tightly to where we are.  

Just think about prior to becoming a parent and feeling unprepared to raise a child.  Then upon having one, God instantly gave just what was needed to care for the baby only now you are already looking in fear to what’s next.  Again, God gave you the ability and wisdom and before you know it you are onto the next stage that had also seemed overwhelming in the past.

I remember dreading when we would no longer have quiet evenings at home with the kids in bed at 8pm. Just the thought of having to be out of the house every night for all the kid activities sounded exhausting. And while it can be and an unexpected night at home is nice, the thrill of watching my kids play ball and do what they love while also socializing with the parents of their  teammates is something I love. In fact, with all the rain lately forcing our games to be cancelled I have felt sad stuck in the house and not out on the ball field!

Today I would never trade our life with teenagers to go back in time. Although easier emotionally back then, the joy in seeing my people mature and the conversations we now have is amazing. Six years ago though when my oldest was headed into the middle school years it was scary. 

Something wonderful I’ve discovered along the way is God is growing us alongside our kids! He makes us ready and gives us the grace to walk in what He has put before us. He grants us wisdom, experience, the ability to endure and to persevere through it all.

Knowing this has been true gives me hope for tomorrow (or rather next year) that even with college looming it too will be a stage to fully embrace and love as much as every other. Until then – you’ll find me clinging to where we are, wishing I could stop the clock!IMG_7947

A Thousand Words Not Told In A Picture

Have you ever tried describing a spectacular sight, perhaps a place you visited or maybe just the sunset, and your words just couldn’t get across the beauty in what you saw?

Exactly why it has been said “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

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Marvao, Portugal at sunset

But in a world where we no longer go develop film and then pick through the batch of often blurry, red-eyed or off-centered shots, our now cropped, edited and filtered pictures aren’t always true to the thousands words they seem to say. 

The problem is we still think they are.

We think in viewing the social media feeds of our “friends” that life is great for them. They are smiling, skinny, fit and fashionable often surrounded by friends in fun settings. Their little ones – all dressed darling and perfectly epitomize sibling love; the older ones – look to be the most perfect teen based on their string of successes and friends.  When we get a sneak peak into these friends’ homes, we see fabulous tablescapes, decor and gourmet meals.  And, we assume these picture tell it like it is, everyday, all the time in their worlds.

The irony is we post our own versions of our best self with similar scenerios though we know the truths behind the facade. We know we only post picture that have been carefully edited to camoflouge the wrinkles, the grey hair and the extra pounds. And the cute outfit and Kendras we have on, we know isn’t our norm. In fact, many days we don’t even get around to putting make-up on.

We also know about the on-going struggles and heartaches at home, the bickering kids  and the spouse we contantly nag, but the thousand words of our beautiful family picture say otherwise. Others see it and wonder why they can’t be like us. Ha!  If the only knew what happens behind closed doors. But too often we refuse to let others in and by the stories our curated photos tell no one would ever suspect life is not a bed of roses.

  • If this is all true about us, why are we so sure everyone else is perfect?  
  • Why do continue comparing ourselves and our lives to the facade?
  • Why can’t we be okay with the mess of who we are and see that everyone else is too?!

I like the way author Kay Wyma asks the question in her new book, I’m Happy for You {Sort Of… Not Really}:

“Has comparison-living hijacked your life?”

This issue of comparison is causing us to feel less-than and robbing our joy. Sadly it’s as true for teenagers as it is for adults. But, if we adults don’t get outside of ourselves to see it for what it is, we are only going to add to the unrealistic pressure our kids already feel. From the teen survey I’ve been conducting their level of stress is already averaging at a 7-8 on a scale of 1-10. The cases of depression and the ways in which they are dealing with it are devastating.

So what do we do? Where do we start?

Answer: Our own hearts.

We must ask the Lord to help us admit our struggles and to see where we are buying into the lie. If our own hearts are discontent and distracted we won’t be able to see where and how are kids are falling prey to comparison too.  We must taste and see what the Word says is true about where “life” is found and not be deceived by the so-called perfect lives behind the pictures we see.

Very practically to undo the lies, let’s focus on the joys. As Ann Voskamp advocates, let’s instead count the One Thousand Gifts of joy and thanksgiving and blessing. We are trying to do this more in our own house by deliberately looking for the daily graces He gives and the little reminders in our days that He is near and that He is good and that in Him there is life – true “life.” 

Looking to the One who was perfect for us is where we must go to reboot our minds and be filled with what His words say about us. It is in Him we are fully loved, accepted, declared righteous and made perfect. The thousands words of the cross is the only picture we need and must see as truth!IMG_7884

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A Lesson for the Busy from the Man with the Remote-Control Airplane

In a recent post I mentioned briefly the man who flies a remote-control airplane in the park. I have seen him numerous times and even laughed out loud the first time I noticed him. How odd I thought! 

What grown man flies a remote-control plane without any kids? Why isn’t he at work? Doesn’t he have something else to be doing at 9 AM?images

But as I turned out onto the street and caught him in my rearview mirror this last time, a thought pierced through the judgment. A thought that actually caused me to cry! (I  know, you are probably thinking not what is wrong with him, but what is wrong with me?!)

There is something wrong with me, but I don’t think it’s just me! Maybe he knows something in a deeper way than I do – maybe than most of us do. Granted I’m speculating, but whether it’s factual or not isn’t the point because God used the man and his remote-control airplane to speak to me all the same.

What if this man comes out to fly his airplane in the morning sun to start his day with a clear head?

What if he uses the time to reflect and pray?

What if what looks like wasted time to people like me he sees as time to just be free from the worries of the world?

What if the joy he experiences flying his plane, even for just that short-time in the park, rejuvenates him in a way that impacts the rest of the day?

It made me think about how in our busyness, self-reliance and stress we push forward trying to manage it all. We complain of being exhausted and of our ever-growing to do list – especially it seems in the month of May.  The irony is it doesn’t have to be this way! Christ offers to carry our burdens for us. We weren’t meant to tackle life on our own. Yet, we can’t stop or slow down enough to see.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

If God’s Word and His Sabbath Rest were given as gifts of grace meant to put us back together and to hold us together, why do we consistently dismiss it?  Why do we think we are too busy for the eternal things – His Word and His people, His church – (the things that will actually renew us), but try to cram everything else in?

If you are like me, just thinking about giving my valuable morning time away to mindless moments flying a plane stresses me out. But, what amazes me again and again is when by God’s grace I stop for focused time to pray, to read and to reflect, He meets me there. The same is true on Sunday mornings and on the slower Sunday afternoons. He calms my heart and reorients my mind to His truths. And when I am tethered to Him, there is Rest … even admist the fast-paced days, life’s struggles and the burdens we bear.

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The Indelible Mark of a Mom

Earlier this week as I thought about today being my mom’s first Mothers’ Day without her mom – my grandmother.  I wanted to know how my mom was feeling, what she misses, the memories she holds close and some of the shaping influences of her mom.

For that matter, I wanted to hear from my Dad, too. His mother passed more than thirty years ago. But no matter how much time goes by, the indelible mark of our mothers (and fathers) remain.

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My dad and his mom.

My paternal grandmother liked to play games with my dad and his siblings and she took them on camping trips despite not particularly loving to do that herself. She desired for my dad to have good friends, to get a good education, to go to church, to play the piano, to eat what was on his plate and to do his chores. She worried about him when he took the car out.

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My mom with her mother and brothers.

My maternal grandmother enjoyed cooking – especially making special treats tailored to the exact preference of each person she was serving. She taught my mom to tell the truth, to be dependable and to use good manners. In her quiet yet strong demeanor, she led by example by always making the best of difficult situations, not complaining, putting others first and loving Jesus.

In reflecting on the lists my parents wrote about their mothers, what stuck out to me was their recollection of simple, daily life, kind of things.  But it was through those on-going, ordinary ways of daily nurturing that made them extraordinary moms. The same being true of my mom in the ways she still continues to love and care for us. 

For those of us though in the throws of raising children we are often exhausted (if not physically, emotionally), maybe we feel discontent or become distracted by comparing ourselves to those around us thinking we need to do or be more.  Perhaps we think something other than parenting will be more stimulating, so we give our most focused attention to other work or projects. Maybe we think in order to be the best mom we must give our kids every opportunity or thing they desire.  In other words, a keeping up with the Joneses’ mindset. Maybe we feel like we are failing as moms if we can’t pull of the perfect Pinterest projects that others are always photographing. Or perhaps we base our parenting decisions on trying to be our child’s best friend and not the parent they need.  Whatever it is we easily become fixated on the wrong things and undervalue the ordinary, unspectacular moments.

But it is in our presence, sacrifice, nurture, instruction, discipline and unconditional love, not tied to our kids’ performance or our expectations, that is the true gift of being a mom.  

This made me wonder,  “What is it my kids might one day recall to their children or grandchildren about me?”

I hope it won’t be – “she was on her laptop all the time!”  What I want them to know is my undevoted love for each of them and for their dad. And for them to recall a mom who showed them grace and pointed them to Jesus. I don’t do it perfectly by any means, but I hope over the long haul in the things I say and do and in how I invest my time they will see extraordinary significance in the ordinary daily ways of a mom.

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My mom and dad with all their grand babies.

Not Alone in the Wasteland

For those of you who know me pretty well personally, you know I am normally even-keeled, not particularly emotional or too easily rattled. Well, three times over the last week I have spilled tears in public places.

The first time happened while sitting at a bar with my husband. We were talking about all the upcoming graduation parties when tears started streaming down my face just thinking about our daughter graduating this time next May.

A few days later as I was driving away from the gym I saw the man who flies battery-operated planes in the park and started to cry. That is a story in itself that I will explain in a future post so stay tuned!

The third time was during the Compadres concert this past Thursday night. We were having a great time, enjoying our friends and the incredible performance by my new favorite artists when the words to the NEEDTOBREATHE song, Wasteland, perked my ears.IMG_7698_2

“All of these people I meet
It seems like they’re fine
Yeah in some ways I hope that they’re not
And their hearts are like mine
Yeah it’s wrong when it seems like work
To belong all I feel is hurt”

The anguish in these lines resonated well as we live life with teenagers and see so clearly how the struggles we think are unique to us are true of those all around us. They may look perfectly put together so we have no idea they are barely holding on, thinking the world is against them too.

And then the chorus came: 

“Oh if God is on my side
Yeah if God is on my side
Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me”

I had just posted earlier in the day my last blog When God Seems Against You and quoted the same verse from Romans 8:30. These words echoing through my head felt like God affirming what I had written. 

Yes. Kristen. I AM with you. I know intimately everything going on and have you in the palm of My hands.

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Then the music broke back in through my thoughts and with these next lines I started to weep:

“Yeah in this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to get by
Yeah in this wasteland where I’m livin’
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it’s all that I need to shine.”

Yes, Lord. You are the Light and only hope for this sinful broken 
wasteland we call home. Help us to see you even in just a sliver 
coming through the cracks. Illuminate the darkness so we know you 
are here. So we know you are on our side.

I love how music can speak so deeply to our souls and in that moment standing by my husband, the words became a prayer and the tears my surrender. Only God can burst through the darkness to expose and change hearts. But even so in the midst of my own wasteland He shines His truth through the words of a song and I know He is drawing near.  

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When God Seems Against You

I remember as a high schooler trying out for cheer, which I had no business doing considering I had never taken gymnastics in my life! Back then though kids didn’t have to choose an activity from such an early age and at my high school the cheerleading squad was a privledge just for seniors. I’m sure my soccer coach was so annoyed, but the status of being a cheerleader carried great appeal with me at the time.

Needless to say I didn’t make the squad. I did continue playing soccer. Initially though I was bitter that God didn’t give me what I wanted. In my mind as a “good” Christian, I deserved it. So why did he “bless” others and not me?

This example seems trivial and silly now. But, do you ever think this way?

Perhaps, you have been passed over for a position or promotion. Maybe you’ve been trying for months, years even, to get pregnant. Or, you can’t ever seem to get ahead with your finances because something is always breaking down or needing repair. For us, it’s God not working according to our timetable with the church we are planting. Regardles of what it is, do you sometimes feel like you are doing everything “right” so why isn’t God coming through?!

The part that is hard to admit is this mindset points to a works-based religion, a theological persepective that most Protestants would deny. Yet functionally we are believing our “performance” should determine God’s response. If we hold up our end by doing “good” and acting obediently, we deserve God’s blessing. On the flip side, when something bad happens we assume it was deserved because of a lack of commitment to Christ. When it doesn’t work out this way, our prevading reaction: God failed us.

Image by hauntedbymymemories.deviantart.com

Image by hauntedbymymemories.deviantart.com

Does He though? 

His Word says He is for us and “if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” It sure doesn’t feel this way when at times it seems everything and everyone is against us – including, and maybe even especially, God!

Continuing to the next verse we read: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?”

Giving us all things? Really?

Certainly it isn’t the all things that we want! Nor all things we think would be best. Could it be all things is actually something greater than we imagine – something more?

I think the key to this verse is found in “how will He not also with Him graciously give.” ALSO WITH HIM refers to Jesus.

In Jesus, God graciously gives us all things. All things being His perfect perfomance record credited to us, His righteousness replacing our filthy rags, and his sacrificial, atoning death so that we might live. In a nutshell, God gives us Himself!

Because of all these things when we fail, God still views us as perfect. We won’t ever get what we really deserve because He became sin for us. So, instead of judgment – we receive His grace and mercy and unending love.

The problem is in the midst of our here and now and not getting what we want, we forget these things. We believe He is against us becaue it looks like He is withholding “good.” We charge Him for not coming through according to our plans. We rebuke Him because what we really want is for Him to hand over His reigns. We think certainly we would do a better job of ordering all things.

What we fail to see in this is how He could possibly be using (even allowing) our sin, struggles, disappointments, rejections, hurts, heartaches and hardships for our good. A good that is better than what the world views as “good.” Good in the sense of bringing us to the end of ourselves so we land at the foot of the cross.  

I know that may not sound better than the “good” we want, but to the degree we see our need and dependence on the One who took our sin and gave us His life is to the degree we will be overwhelmed by His love for us. 

When I know His unfailing love for me and see the all things God has bestowed upon me through His Son, it may not take away the pain or make life easier, but it does give me hope to hang on to. And it gives me the reassurance I need to know He is not only not against me, but He is for me. My ultimate good and His glory is always, without fail on His mind.

Finally Coming: My Book for Teens…BOOKS, that is!

For a few weeks I’ve been sitting on some news. Not sure why or what I’ve been waiting for, but today I thought I would fill you in on some happenings at the House of Hatton.

Many of you know I have been in the book writing and publishing process for awhile now. For those who don’t know – I’ve written a teen devotional book, for both girls and guys, being published by New Growth Press, called Get Your Story Straight: A Guide to Learning and Living the Gospel! If you click the link you’ll see its already up on Amazon and can be PRE-ORDERED!FullSizeRender

Though the journey of waiting, writing and editing has been long, seeing it on Amazon and finally having a release date is amazing! October 12th is the day!

Since this whole process is new to me, I continue to learn alot as I go.  What is very clear though is the truth of the gospel I so passionately want teens to hear can’t happen without your help!  

As a first-time author, I especially need people who will spread the news of this book through social media, sharing my blog posts, writing Amazon reviews and asking your church or youth ministries to pre-order books in bulk, host book signings or speaking engagement for me. And starting now is not too early.

Will you partner with me in this way? For the sake of our teens?

Teens need to understand how the gospel applies to all of life. They need to see how Jesus is life. There is a disconnect between believing the gospel and really believing what that means practically in very specific situations. There is also a void in books for teenagers focused on deep issues of the heart. Most simply skim the surface of topics teens face, but don’t adequately apply the gospel as the only true and lasting solution.

This is the reason for this book and you can be certain you will hear lots more about it in the coming months. Hand in hand with this is the other part of my exciting news… In February I submitted a new book proposal and have recently been offered a contract on it!

This second book will be specific to teen girls and related to the Teen Survey some of you may have helped circulate or remember reading about in my post: Behind the Scenes of a Selfie Society for a Teen.  Actually, I still need your help getting it out. I need hundreds more surveys back. Would you please share the link below with teens and/or youth pastors/leaders who can send this out to more teens? 

This will be so helpful in collecting research to be used in my next manuscript. The purpose for it is to help teen girls find their true worth and identity in Jesus. In our social media age, the struggle for acceptance, approval, of measuring up, performing well, popularity and the like has only intesified.  And, issues such as eating disorders, stress and depression among teens is at an all-time high. Parents often don’t know how to deal with the problems or even know what is going on in the mind of their teen who may be secretly comparing themselves to everyone around them while sinking into a dark emotional and spiritual place.

The only answer is Jesus.

I don’t mean this in a Sunday school answer kind of way, but truly unless our identity is found in Christ, we will continue turning to other things to give us worth or make us feel okay. This is true of all of us, not just teens. But how much better life will be for our teen girls if they come to know and rest in their identity, firmly rooted in Him, nowI wish this book was out on the market currently, but by God’s grace He will give me the time and the words as I work to get it submitted by August.

I could not be more excited about the opportunity to author two books – something I never even would’ve dreamt of. But both of these have been born out of a growing passion for teens, my personal experience as a mom and Bible study teacher for teens and the void in gospel-centered teaching and material available to them.

Thank you for following me and reading what I have to say. Thank you for encouraging me and thank you in advance for helping me any way you can to share the word of these books and circulate the survey! Look forward to hearing from you!

Survey link to share with any teen you know: http://www.surveyface.com/study/Behind-the-Scenes-of-a-Selfie-Society-for-a-Teen-15022.php?l=y

Parenting Upstream Stinks!

Parenting is an exhaustive job, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of the ages of your kids. Though the physical demand dissipates as they grow, the emotional and mental energy only intensifies.  As our pre-teens and teens face a range of issues, we become increasingly burdened with tough decisions requiring much guidance, thought and prayer.  At least we should. But over the years what I’ve discovered in various situations is parents tend to respond by either-

  1. Abdicating their authority and allowing their teen to run with whatever plans they wish.
  2. Abstaining from speaking out against/changing plans they don’t agree with so as not to be the “party pooper” or for their teen to miss out.
  3. Aiding their kids with the plans but failing to prevent or address red flags out of naiveté.

Now I know this post runs the risk of sounding judgmental or stepping on toes, but to be honest, I am tired of feeling judged and dismissed for putting my foot down. Some may presume because my husband is a minister we are stricter, though I don’t think so.  As we’ve told our daughter countless times, “This has nothing to do with Daddy being a pastor, our decisions come from our core convictions as Believers!”

Thankfully, even when she hasn’t initially seen eye to eye with us, she has accepted our stance without too much argument. It hurts me though that she often feels alone in having restrictions and it angers me to feel as if we are swimming upstream alone in an increasingly permissive “Christian” culture.

imagesHaving ministered to college students for nearly eight years my eyes were opened wide to the effects of hidden sin and struggles in the world of teens. And still today being behind-the-scenes in ministry exposes us daily to the reality of the sinful, brokenness that is in all of us. So, while my daughter has never given us reason not to trust her, why would I hand her over to opportunities of extra temptation and lack of protection?

The truth is none of us are above doing things we never thought we would do. We can have pure intentions and absolute resolve yet still fall to temptation. The deceitfulness of our own hearts and Satan’s relentless pursuit make us easy prey. Don’t you know this to be true from your own heart and experience? Whether we love Jesus or not, we are all prone to wander and at any given moment something other than Christ becomes more desirable.

The answer, however, is not to shelter our kids from everything of the world since sin comes from within us and not outside of us. Instead, allowing our teens to learn through things like experiencing formals or navigating social media can lead to opportunities for deeper dialogue, growth and learning while under our roof… and with the loving protection of boundaries.

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Though boundaries restrict they are designed for our flourishing by providing and protecting. Author Paul Tripp in his devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel DevotionalNew Morning Mercies describes boundaries well by saying, “It may seem constricting that the train always has to ride on those track, but try driving it in a meadow and all motion stops.” 

We, too, are most free when we are within the boundaries of God’s grace and provision! Anything outside of that (appealing as the freedom of doing whatever we want seems) will actually enslave us to our own desires and expose us to Satan’s snares.

Jesus says in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Let’s prepare kids who can swim upstream by shephering them in awareness and wisdom of the lurking evil – not just in the world – but in their hearts, while simultaneously setting perimeters to help them remain pure. To do so, we must also be willing to swim upstream from popular opinion, new cultural norms and fear of man.

Having to parent upstream stinks, but by God’s grace I intend to keep going that direction. Will you join me in swimming against the tide?