Dear kids, you’re not gonna like this (but I’m ok with that)

Dear kids, 

I love you two more than you can imagine—more than my own life or happiness. I love you with a forever love. A fierce love. A protective love. A love which is stronger than my desire to make you happy every second of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I want you to be happy. I really do. That’s why when your dad and I want artichoke chicken for dinner, I will gladly make you a pizza. And why when you were little I had sippy cups in every color of the rainbow, because heaven forbid you wanted a red one and all I had was blue! I love making you happy. I love seeing you smile at something I’ve done for you.

But….your happiness is not my main concern.

Go ahead and breathe, I know that’s hard to hear.

And don’t worry, I still want you to be happy. But the truth is my main concern is your heart.

My main job as your parent is to help you grown into a kind, caring adult who contributes good to society. And for our family your dad and my main goal as your parents is to lead you to Jesus and pray you will find your joy, contentment, peace and strength in Him. For He is all that will truly satisfy.

You are growing up in a loud and chaotic culture. You are being bombarded with images promising fame, riches, happiness and satisfaction. Your mind is being engaged every second of the day with screens offering escape and engagement. Every moment is packed with noise and images. Your brain is inundated with stimuli.

It seems good on the surface right? I mean, you hate boredom. You loathe quiet. And why wouldn’t you? It feels unfamiliar. Wrong even.

And yet…..

Silence, quiet and boredom are the fertile soil from which springs creativity, growth and progress.

Your minds are precious gifts—filled with limitless possibilities, gifted to you by your Creator. But those possibilities depend on one vital thing—silence.

For only in silence will you hear Your Creator whisper the combination needed to unlock the possibilities He’s placed within your mind.

Only in silence will you hear the voice of the One who created you with the talents, attributes and gifts which make you you! Only in the silence will you clearly hear the voice of the only One who can give you true joy, contentment and peace.

Don’t be afraid of the silence, even if it feels weird or uncomfortable.

You will need to retrain your mind to accept silence and boredom.

But do it sweet ones. Please! It is a skill and a discipline (I know there’s another word that makes you cringe) but silence is a skill and a discipline which will create in you invaluable things such as wisdom, compassion, discernment and joy. Those are things I cannot give you. I can show them to you, model them, pray them over you, but they are traits which must be grown inside of you, grown from the seeds of silence and boredom.

This world is just going to get louder. Opinions, advertisements, and voices will continue to come at you like a blizzard—whiting out everything else. It is going to be vital for you to make time to ponder and process all you hear. To be still and think before you speak. To allow yourself space to form your own opinion. All of this will require quiet.

Silence—a way of life just a few decades ago—is now a skill which must be practiced.

You must train your body to allow for silence, just as you would train your fingers to play guitar or your body for a marathon. But I promise, as your mama who loves you with a fierce and protective love, it will be worth it!!

And because I love you so much that I’m ok with you not being happy every second of the day, this summer we are going to practice embracing the sound of silence (cue the theme song!). We are going to devote one day a week to being screen free. One day a week to turning off the noise and listening.

Listening to nature.

Listening to each other.

Listening to our own thoughts.

And listening for the voice of God.

For only in the sound of silence will we hear the call of the Creator.

Remember, I love you with all my heart. Which is why I feel so passionately about protecting and nurturing yours.

(but it’s ok if you don’t feel so happy with me right now, my love for you can handle that)

Love,
Mom

Be The One

Tonight I sat on my teenage son’s bed, fighting back tears as he asked me if I thought he would ever get shot at school. It was the first time I’ve seen real fear on his face—fear born from the stark realization that life-altering, life-ending violence can happen anywhere. And I hate it. I hate not being able to tell my son with 100% confidence that violence, evil, or the effects of brokenness will never touch him or those we love. I hate it. I hate it so much it makes me physically ill. I despise the mess our world is in. I want nothing more than to make it better. I want to tell my son he and his sister are safe. That they can grow up in a safe and stable world. A world where goodness and kindness reign.

But sadly that is not our world.

For we live in a broken world, a hurting world. A world tainted by evil—marred by sin.

A world full of wounded people, shattered people, confused people. A people capable of great acts of violence—violence born from violence.

And we as a culture are left to cry out in fear and anguish—mourning one senseless loss while dreading the next. For we know the next is always coming.

We lament and ponder. We accuse and blame. We draft laws and memos. We train and we equip. But nothing changes. Why?

God, why???

Is it because the change we need—the change we truly need—cannot be legislated or mandated, instituted or decreed?

Is it because the change our society needs cannot come from politicians or platforms but from people just like you and me?

Is it maybe because the only way we are ever going to put a stop to the senseless violence destroying our schools, is by radical acts of love and kindness?

I am just one person—and an introverted scaredy-cat one at that—but if I am one person willing to show love, compassion and kindness to one other person, then could I possibly affect a larger change.

For what if—just what if—at some point in my life I end up reaching just one person on a crash course with a deadly act of violence? What if I (one ordinary nobody) interrupts their life with light and love? What if I plant a seed of hope into their life? And what if that seed grows large enough to push out the seed of violence, planted earlier by an experience with trauma or hurt? Wouldn’t it stand to reason then that one seed, planted by one regular person, could potentially spare the life of another—or possibly even many others? Thereby bringing much from the one?

Could it really be as simple as that???

Maybe not, probably not—and clearly there is much that needs to change and many many things to fix—but for the sake of our kids, for the sake of my kids, I am willing to try anything!

And I might be naive—it wouldn’t be the first time and it certainly won’t be the last—but here’s the thing: By myself, I can’t make a law. And I can’t enforce a law. And I can’t even change a law. But because of God, I can change a life. And maybe that’s even better. Because one life changed could mean many lives saved. And isn’t that reason enough for us to be willing to:
Reach out to one
Pray for one
Show love to one 
Teach one 
Guide one
Stand up for one

Platforms are great, pulpits are needed, policies are warranted, but ultimately people need people. And most of all people need Jesus. Real Jesus. True Jesus. The powerful, perfect, redemptive love of a Savior capable of transforming hearts and lives.

Kids need us to see them, to hear them, to offer them another way—a better way. Our kids, both those inflicting pain and those bearing pain, are victims of the broken world in which we live. And it’s a mess. A giant mess. And when we look at it as a whole it’s overwhelming—feels too far gone to save.

But when we look at just one child—step into just one life—suddenly it all seems a little more doable.

And so maybe if we want to change the world—really change the world—we go look for the one. We teach a class, mentor a child, get involved in our schools, hang out on our front porches, coach a sport, invite someone to dinner. Maybe we stop looking at the big, giant overwhelming picture and instead take one step, speak to one person, ask God to lead us to one hurting soul. 

It will probably feel awkward. It will no doubt get messy, but what if—just what if—God uses us to interrupt the cycle of violence?

What if God takes our little and brings forth much—much good, much love, much lasting change? Then wouldn’t just one be worth it? 

It’s probably naive, it’s undoubtedly too simple, but maybe it’s at least worth a try…

Much love,
Jen

Learning to Let Go: when God has to pry the mom fingers from our teenagers’ faith

Teen faith

“God,” I whispered, afraid of uttering aloud the thoughts in my heart. “I wish my son would never have started reading the Bible.”

There. I said it. And I meant it—even though the admission brought a fresh wave of tears. I mean what Christian mom doesn’t want her son to read the Bible?? What Bible believing, Bible teaching, Bible loving mom wishes—at least weekly—that her teenage son would have never started reading the Bible through in a year? 

As a young boy, my son would declare his love and devotion to Jesus by writing John 3:16 in sidewalk chalk on our driveway; by scribbling “Jesus Loves You” on napkins at restaurants; and by hammering scraps of wood together into crosses, painting them with left over spray paint, and scattering them across our yard—resulting in more of a creepy pet cemetery look than the “Jesus loves you and wants to give you life” look he was hoping for, but still…he was expressing love for the Savior he loved so much.

From the moment he could speak, my son talked about Jesus and God and the “Ho-wee Spear-it.” He once asked me (at the age of 4) “if satan said he was saw-ree to God for sinnin’ would God forgive him?” And then just a few months later, after listening to the story of Jonah from his little rhyme time Bible, he declared, “Jonah made a bad choice so God put him in time-out in dat whale’s big ol’ belly so he could think about makin’ a good-er choice.”

And on many occasions he would meet random strangers and say he was “God’s boy” or “Jesus’ bestest friend.”

His early faith—his strength of faith—caused me  to think that his faith was a sealed deal. That God had imparted into his little heart a rock-solid faith that would never be shaken.

I was so blissfully naive!!

Oh, if only we could live out our 4 year old devotion to the Lord all of our days. If only we could remain Jesus’ boys and girls.

And yet, He made us to grow. In fact, He put within us a yearning for wisdom, discernment, knowledge and understanding—things which can only come from questioning, wrestling, doubting and deciding.

God wants us to make our faith our own.

He doesn’t want us to ride the coattails of our parent’s faith, or our teacher’s faith, or our mentor’s faith. No, He wants us to own our faith.

And that all sounds well and good—until…you watch your child begin his own faith journey. Until you see your son shake off your faith and begin to question his own. Until you watch as your little boy trades his sidewalk chalk for doubts; his napkin evangelism for questions, and his haphazard crosses for objections.

Yet even in that you hold onto hope that the little boy faith is still in there—just morphing into big boy faith.

But then….

Your son trades his rhyme time Bible for the real deal and then asks one night at dinner, “How can you think God is so loving when he ordered the annihilation of entire nations?”

His questions and objections catch you off-guard. You feel completely unprepared for his criticism of the Word you hold so dear.

Since my teenager decided to read the Bible through in a year, I find myself wishing God would have sought the help of an editor. Or maybe consulted a publicist. Or ran a few Old Testament books past a focus group.

As I watch my son wrestle over who God is and whether or not He is good and trustworthy, all I want to do is put his little Rhyme Time Bible back in his hands.

“He’s mine. Trust me,” I hear the words in my heart, but I shake my head against them. For my role is to lead my children to faith in Jesus. This is my job as his parent. It’s on me if he walks away. Right?

“All I ask you to do is introduce him to me. Now, it’s my turn. Trust me.”

“But God,” I cry, “What if he doesn’t choose you?” the words cause pain as they escape my lips. All I want—all I really want from this life—is to know that my children are walking with the Lord. What if….I can’t finish the thought.

Trust Me with your son.
Trust Me with his heart.
Trust Me…I am starting a new thing.
Trust Me…I am working all things together for his good.
Trust Me…I know the plans I have for him.
Trust Me…Neither height, nor depth can separate him from my love.
Trust Me enough to let go. Let me have his heart. It is not your job to win his heart, that is MY job.
Trust Me.

I’m not gonna lie…this has been the hardest part of parenting for me. Realizing that I can’t control my kids’ hearts and thoughts. Allowing them to make their own choices, understanding that those choices could lead them places I never wanted them to go. BUT, at my core I believe that God is good. He is trustworthy and He loves my kids more than I do. I trust that God still speaks through His Word—even in our confusion and doubts. And I rejoice that my teenage son is reading that word…even if he’s wrestling with it.

And so…I will trust and pray. Believe and encourage. And I will stay close, but let go enough to let God take over.

But between you and me, I’m holding onto that sidewalk chalk and Rhyme Time Bible…just in case!

Much love,
Jen

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