Creating Conversations with Teens: Personal Observations and Insights

Two weeks ago I shared a challenge I had given myself.  Recognizing that much of my conversations with my own teens revolved around COMMANDS, CRITICISMS OR CORRECTIONS, I decided I needed to be more intentional to create conversations centered upon creating a richer CONNECTION.   I invited my readers to join in this challenge to increase our efforts to create deeper conversations with our teens. Whether you were able to join me or not, I would love to hear about your triumphs as well as your struggles in this area.  And if you have any great ideas or insights , please comment on this blog.  My own observations and insights are listed below.

Before I say anything, I must say that God sure does have a sense of humor.   Because of winter weather, school was released early one day. The next two days were snow days and the final day of the week, they reported to school on a delay. The Lord definitely increased the amount of time I had to work on this area with my teens!  And while I absolutely love snow days, I am not a fan of the messiness that seems to be associated with these days in our home.  I think you know what I mean- wet snow pants, boots, jackets and gloves all over the place; empty cups, plates and snack wrappers; socks, blankets and pillows left in the family room from after they lolligagged on the couch for hours.   While their time at home was indeed a blessing, there were definitely moments where it was much HARDER for me to minimize the three C’s in conversations with my kids in order to increase the connection!  Throughout the last two weeks, however, I did learn a bit about what interfered and what added to my ability to remain intentional in our dialogues with each other.

Here are a few things that hampered my willingness/ability to focus on connecting conversations.

Amnesia: Simply put, I forgot what I was trying to do.  When this challenge was not on the forefront of my mind, I sadly found myself commanding, directing, correcting or even criticizing.  While my goal was not to completely avoid directive interactions, if I wasn’t consciously thinking about my desire to be intentional in my conversations, I often failed to create deeper dialogue.  Change is hard and it’s easy to forget about our goals.

Agenda/Activities: My agenda, my wishes, my needs.  These all trumped my ability to have deeper conversations.  Rushing from one activity to the next, wanting/needing something for myself and getting caught up in the busyness of my day kept my eyes and heart turned inward instead of outward.

Attitude:  Just like our teens, our own emotional state can interfere with our desire to discover what is going on in the heart and mind of our kids.  Exhaustion, anxiety, and irritability often made it difficult to move beyond the three C’s.  If I was not in the word daily and talking with the Lord on a regular basis, oh how I could become a big grump.  Lord, how I need you.

Despite the problems that hampered my ability to remain intentional, there were some things I noticed that really aided me in my challenge to be more intentional.  Perhaps, they will spur you on in your efforts.

Continual Prayer/ Surrender:  Constantly praying, confessing and leaning into the Lord helped me to stay present, focused and committed to creating a deeper conversation.  Thankfully, when I am weak, He is strong!

Communicating with a Confidant: Sharing this challenge with my husband as well as a friend helped me to work harder at minimizing my commando language and maximize my caring words.  God bolsters us up as our friends spur us on.

Connecting with their Friends: This may seem odd, but when my teens had friends in our home, it seemed easier to create dialogue with all of them.  The conversation with friends in the kitchen or family room seemed to offer me a bridge to my kids’ hearts. Even after their friends left, sweet conversations often continued.

Creating an Atmosphere: Snow days most certainly helped me in this regard.  A fire, bowls of chili, hot cups of cocoa, and delectable delights all seemed to foster connections in our homes.  With two teen boys at home, I was repeatedly reminded that good food or lots of food surely is a way to a young man’s heart!

Calling on their Expertise: I am a techno-dummy and my teens are techno-savvy.  When I asked my boys to help me out with anything to do with media or technology, they jumped in and longed to show me all that they knew.  This jump started conversation about their interests and passions.  I now have a Sound Cloud account and can tell you about “all the cool things you can find on there!”

Whether my observations and insights help you or not, remember that Jesus offers us the perfect example of selflessly interacting with others.  Read the Bible and study His example.  And, remember with Christ in us, we have the ability to deeply love and connect with our teens as well.   Romans 12:1 says,  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”  I think it is awesome when we consider that listening and loving our teens well as a “spiritual act of worship”.   As you consider being intentional in your conversation with your teens, I pray that you will find streams of living water flowing out of you as you ask Him to help you move toward a healthier connection with your teen.

Jackie E. Perry: MS, LPCS, NCC

www.jackieperry.net

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Storms

My friend, Jan, moved from Florida to Western North Carolina. She is passionate about taking pictures of our beautiful mountains. Having lived here now through a few rough winters, Jan shared with me how she observed that evergreens and other types of trees snap in half or become uprooted in high wind or a storm. She compared this to the storms she’s witnessed in her hometown in Florida. She said, “During tropical storms and hurricanes, Palm trees bend over and protect themselves. When the storm is over, they stand back up.”
Psalm 92:12 tells us, The righteous flourish like a palm tree.
God’s words are intentional. Every word He utters carries intense meaning.
While living on earth all of us experience personal storms—the righteous included. These trials shake our foundation. Everything we thought we knew or depended on suddenly becomes foreign. We’re whisked away by the wind. The hail-stones pound our hearts and minds. Some trials are hurricane-type storms with lasting consequences, changing the landscape of our circumstances. Other storms can be compared to a heavy rainstorm that keeps us inside all day.

Regardless of the type, storms we experience in our personal lives are for a season, have a purpose, and will be used for God’s glory—meaning, to show others what He has done.

Romans 8:28 tells us, We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)

Not everything that happens in our life is good. But collectively God takes the painful things and turns them into something good.

When times are hard it is helpful to remember what 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 tells us: We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; We are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted but not forsaken; Struck down, but not destroyed. (NIV)

In time we will gain a godly perspective and realize that even if we don’t understand the trial or see the purpose in it, we can choose to trust the One who has allowed it. Our tested faith will become a stronger faith; God’s faithfulness will become more real.

The storms we face in life are hard but God is our anchor. When the storm passes, we will not be left defeated and ripped apart. We will be like the palm tree and stand back up.
To Think About:
Are you currently facing a storm? What impact is this storm is having on you?

Written by Debbie Presnell

Ruth: Remaining Faithful During Hardships

One thing I love about being an author is the ability to see my life through the lens of a story. When I go through a difficult situation, I know it’s for a reason. Not necessarily because I believe that “everything in life happens for a reason”, but because I know God is the author of my story. And when He’s penning my life’s story, there is nothing He is unaware of, no detail of my life that doesn’t have a specific purpose.    

This is what I reminded myself of last week when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. So many Christians believe that we “deserve” to live a worry-free life since God is on our side, yet this is not the case.

John 16:33 (NLT) says,

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

When we give our lives to God, we can trust that every situation we face is in His hands. There are multiple reasons He may allow us to experience trials–one is so that we can learn lessons that we may not have grasped any other way.

In my case, there are already 5 things God has shown me since my diagnosis:

1. It’s all about perspective. 

There is a positive and negative side to every situation, and we have the option to choose which to focus on. Ultimately, this decision is going to affect our mood. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather look at the “bright side”.

In this case, I am grateful that I now have a diagnosis and treatment. This past month I have been experiencing crazy symptoms: constant thirst, hair falling out, sudden weight loss, dizziness, etc. Now that I’m on treatment, these symptoms have subsided. (I’ve even gained back three pounds already!). How frustrating would it have been to come back from the doctor without a diagnosis or any way to treat those symptoms?

I am also very thankful that I did not get diagnosed with anything worse than diabetes. I can still live a normal life, I will just have to make adjustments. (And you can imagine how happy I was to find out that I can still drink coffee!)

So rather than blaming God for some illness you may now have–or for your “bad day”–trust Him and thank Him anyway. Satan wants us to focus on our problem because he knows we will become miserable by doing so. Yet when we lift our eyes and focus on God, we can see our situation through His eyes, and we will realize that “He is with us and will never leave us” (Deut. 31:8) and that “we are more than a conqueror through Him” (Rom. 8:37).

2. This life is not about us. 

I was only in the hospital for three days, but needless to say it was not very enjoyable. I don’t know how people don’t go crazy staying in a hospital bed all day, every day. I want to remember what that felt like, only because it is just a taste of what so many kids experience. I have always had a heart for kids in children’s hospitals, and now the desire to reach out to them has increased even more.

It can become so easy to live with a selfish mindset. Besides, we go throughout our entire day focused on ourselves: our time, our desires, our tasks, etc. We tend to keep that mindset, all the while blinded to the needs and wants of others. Yet God says we are to put others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3). We are not called to live our days according to us. God has given us the gift of time, and we need to use that by being a blessing to others. There are so many ways we can reach out to those who are less fortunate, and even a portion of our day devoted to them could really make a difference.

3. God can turn around any situation that Satan meant for harm.

I believe that God can heal any and all sicknesses or diseases (Psalm 103:3)–yes, even the chronic Type 1 Diabetes. I believe that He can turn this situation around for good: whether its purpose is to become a testimony for others, to learn more about living a healthy lifestyle, to one day write a book that will relate to other teens with diabetes, or to simply to make me stronger.

Whatever the case, I am not going to let Satan win in this situation by letting this disease discourage me. Rather, I am going to trust that there is so much good that can result from this.

Genesis 50:20 (NLT) says:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

 

4. God is aware of all of our situations.

Many Christians blame God for the hardships in their lives, assuming it’s proof of His lack of love towards them.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it always makes me upset when I hear another Christian say something along these lines. Again, God never said we would have a worry-free life, and just because we may face difficulties does not mean He isn’t with us. 

Think about it: God sent His son to die a criminal’s death on a cross. But that doesn’t mean He didn’t love Him! Rather, God knew the end result was going to be much greater than the momentary persecution. 

The good news is that we serve a big God: There is nothing we will face in life that is too big for Him, and He is with us every step of the way.

5. Trials build muscle. We were never intended to live a comfortable, smooth sailing life.

I always remember the movie Karate Kid when I’m put in an uncomfortable circumstance.

In that movie, the main character, Daniel, wants to learn how to do karate–but rather than learning how to fight, his instructor makes him do chores such as painting a fence, waxing a car, etc. Daniel doesn’t understand the purpose behind this work and becomes frustrated that his instructor isn’t allowing him to do what he really wants.

However, Daniel later realizes that he had been practicing for karate all along. Although those tasks seemed pointless to Daniel at the time, his instructor showed him that he was actually building the muscles he needed in order to learn karate. 

Similarly, many times God will answer our prayers by allowing us to go through trials that aren’t necessarily comfortable. Yet rather than getting angry with him (like Daniel first was with his master), we need to understand that He sees the big-picture. Some prayers can only be answered through hardships. (For example: If you ask God for more patience, He may answer that prayer by putting you in situations that will give you no choice but to build patience.)

Whatever the case, trust that God knows what He is doing, He knows far more than you, and learn whatever lessons that He may be trying to teach you during this trial.

No, God did not call us to have a comfortable, smooth-sailing life. But I’m glad He didn’t. He has a greater purpose for us than that, and the only way we can get there is if we first go through times that strengthen our faith and leave us with no choice but to rely on Him. 
In the heat of a moment, it’s not always easy to find the “bright side”, or to remember that God is with us and can turn any situation around for good. However, it is during these times when it is crucial we do just that. We aren’t called to only trust in God when our circumstances are going great!

When the Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness for years, they made their situation much worse than it could’ve been. Rather than continuing to thank God for freeing them from Egypt, they chose to complain; Rather than being grateful for the manna He blessed them with, they longed to have the food they used to eat in Egypt (Num. 11:4-6). Not only did this mindset during their wilderness cause them to be miserable, but it kept them from reaching their Promised Land.

When you go through a wilderness in your life, refuse to have the kind of attitude the Israelites did. Instead, thank God for the many ways He has blessed you and trust that His ways are always best.

Perhaps the only way you can reach your “promised land” is by first going through the wilderness–so if that’s where you currently are in life, then you know there must be a promised land somewhere along the horizon. =)

     Have you ever gone through a time when you had to completely rely on God to pull you through? Looking back, can you now see why God may have allowed you to go through that season? 

post signaturewww.tessaemilyhall.com

Working Cattle With a Decimal

Before I met Marc, I had no idea what “working cattle” meant… and if I’m honest I probably still don’t know what all is involved in sending cattle through a chute. Heck, I didn’t even know what a “chute” was. I didn’t know the difference between a steer and a cow and a heifer.

So with that shining reputation in mind, you can now read the following with the knowledge of my abilities and therefore NOT judge me. Too harshly anyways.

It was a cloudy Wednesday morning and my very first morning working cattle! It was early so I was wearing some extra glamorous leggings, an old college t-shirt, a Co-op ball cap, and some polka dot muck boots. Okay, if I’m honest I wear that even when I don’t have to get up early. Comfort is key.

I was feeling pretty good about my cattle-driving clad self as we drove over to the farm to run the cattle through the chute. I felt pretty good, until I was surrounded by mooing mama cows, mooing calves, and a mooing bull. You got it, lots of loud mooing. Which I never thought would be intimidating. When you ask your 2 year old niece what a cow says, “mooOOoo” sounds so cute. When you make cows mad and they “MOOOO”… it’s downright frightening!

Not only were all the cows letting us know how they all felt, moving cows through pens and into the chute sets up a semi-tense environment. Or maybe it just feels that way for a newbie country girl… regardless, I was feeling tense, from my ball cap all the way down to my newly manured boots.

I was given a very important job. I was going to write down each cow’s number and weight when they were in the chute getting shots and fly spray and whatnot. I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible so that Marc and Kirk could work. I stood to the side of the shed, and peeked my head around to see the scale and jot down the weight with each new cow.

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“Number 23, 109.0 lbs” I wrote.
“Number 18, 89.5 lbs”… and the list continued with the cows weighing anywhere between 80 and 110 pounds.

Kirk turned to me after one particularly large mama cow exited the chute, “How much did she weigh?” He asked.

“104.5 pounds,” I stated, very matter-of-factly. My job was important, I was finally giving some valuable information. But I thought his response was odd. Instead of commenting on how big she was or his surprise at the number, he gave me a second glance and then turned to work the next cow in line.

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I continued in my job for around 10 cows when Marc came up and questioned me on how much Number 26 weighed. So I told him some number with the decimal. Without stopping he sort of chuckled and called over his shoulder on the way to vaccinate the cow in the chute, “There is no decimal on the scale.”

“Yes there is!” I retorted, very confident in my ability to read an analog scale. I wasn’t an idiot!

“No way that cow weighs a hundred pounds, babe.” He said as he moved more cattle into line in front of the chute.

“Oh.” Was all I muttered as I looked at my list. Then I walked up close to the scale to see either a glitch in the scale, or manure, or a smashed gnat… whatever it was looked deceivingly like a decimal point from my little corner of the shed.

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I rolled my eyes at myself and felt like that smashed gnat. I was so tense about doing my job right and staying out of the way, that I wasn’t thinking logically about how much a cow would weigh… What would a suburban girl care how much a dumb cow weighed anyways?

So… I’m not the best when I make mistakes like that. Typically very hard on myself. (please know I don’t think cows are dumb… Marc, that was for you if you read this. I was just upset) BUT now I think its hilarious and I told Marc this last time we worked the calves that I would make sure to include the decimal point again. 😉

By: Brianna Molitor

http://farmhousestories.com

 

When a Teen is Hurting

Skinned knees.  Bee stings.  Bicycle wrecks.  Sibling spats.  These are just a few of the many circumstances that compel a child to seek out their mom and dad for comfort and relief.  But as kids enter the teen years the struggles they face will often take more than a band-aid, a hug and a few simple words of reassurance or redirection.  Before teens reach adulthood, most will likely encounter broken relationships, academic challenges, friendship problems, personal failures, sudden losses and bouts of loneliness.  Anyone of these can emotionally pummel even the most resilient and well-adjusted teen.  Yet there are other teens who will seemingly glide through problems like these with little fallout.

Regardless, of how teens handle pain parents must be ready to walk beside their teens as they face the varied storms that frequently rise up during the teen years.   Most of the challenges a teen faces will not require the help of a professional counselor.  But unfortunately many parents initially doubt their own ability to help their teens when they are emotionally hurting.  As a licensed counselor I certainly believe that seeking professional help is in order when a teen is quickly decompensating, engaging in dangerous or life-threatening behaviors or unresponsive to a parent’s efforts to walk beside them and help them.   Otherwise, parents must remember and trust that God placed them in the best position to help their kids when pain comes their way.  Just as He guides the Christian counselor who surrenders each client before Him, so too will He offer wisdom, direction and insight to a parent who regularly yields their teen and the tough stuff they encounter to Him as well.

Yes, I know.  Dealing with the depth and complexity of problems that kids are dealing with these days can certainly be a daunting task.  Not only that, a teen’s emotional displays can compel any sane parent to suddenly become emotionally unstable as well.  Nonetheless, a parent’s willingness to enter in, stick beside, and commit to see a teen through life’s challenges will accomplish far more than any paid professional could do for a teen or their family.  Why?  Because whether they say it or show it or ever disclose it, most teens want their parents to be the one who guides them to the other side when the waters become rough.  So roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath and soak up a few tips that may help you as you personally counsel your son or daughter through impending storms.

Enter In:  Sometimes parents forget that teens are still comforted by their parent’s presence when they get hurt.  Teens still lack key emotional and relational skills necessary to cope with big problems.    Entering in does not mean you own the problem, fix the problem or rescue them from the problem.   Instead, it means you remain face forward in your relationship with your teen and commit to check in, be available and offer guidance as you walk beside a teen who is hurting

Remain emotionally and spiritually anchored: If you are standing on a slippery rock, the last thing you reach for is something that is not tightly tethered or firmly planted.  Sadly, that is what many teens have available to them when they are in distress.  Commit to remain a parent who is emotionally and spiritually firm so that you can give them the security they desire.   This means that you consciously separate yourself from their problem and remain a separate individual.  A spiritually anchored parent is praying, seeking God’s wisdom and strength and remains confident of His provision to help them see their teen through.  Your ability to remain emotionally safe, calm and confident in the Lord regardless of the crisis will be one of the most powerful testimonies you can offer your teen about living in Christ.

Actively Listen: Listening well requires an enormous amount of patience, impulse control and emotional energy.  When you actively listen you are not only tuning into both the spoken and unspoken expressions coming from a teen but as a believer you are inviting God to speak to you in the midst of  your conversation.  Discover what lies beneath their words.  What is the focus of their emotion/ pain?  What do they long for?  What do they want/need and what are they doing to get those needs met.  Is there a deeper struggle going on?  As you listen ask clarifying questions that will help you and your teen begin to uncover some of these bigger problems.

Teach:  When emotions are regulated, allow these difficulties to be opportunities to teach your teen.  They need to know how to effectively manage emotions, solve problems and most of all seek the Lord in the midst of their pain.  Counselors use presenting problems as a way of assessing deficits and strengths.  Do the same.  Through it all your own ability to model all of these to your teen will offer the most powerful instruction.

Look Beyond: Be a hope giver.  Most teens have difficulty seeing beyond today’s problems.  When parents can’t see past their teen’s emotional struggles, they can actually thicken the emotional quick sand in their midst.  Offering hope does not mean making false or trite promises.  Instead, it is an opportunity to demonstrate confidence in the Lord and his ability to rescue, resolve and relieve as we lean into Him.

Counseling your teens can be one of the most difficult yet rewarding tasks as a parent.  In Proverbs 4 Solomon tells how his father David encouraged him to seek wisdom when he was a young man.  The Christ-centered instruction and counsel you have to offer your teen offer them far more than anything the world can give them.  May we lean into Him as we love well, lead well and listen well to the teens in our midst.

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.  For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.  Proverbs 4:20-27

By: Jackie Perry MS, LPCS, NCC

www.jackieperry.net

Parents: 10 Ways to Handle your Teen’s Teacher

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Students aren’t the only ones headed back to school. Teachers are gearing up for a new school year too. But for many of my teacher-friends, they never did gear down. If they weren’t teaching summer school or reading camps, they have been in the classroom organizing and cleaning. Why? It’s not because they are receiving a paycheck (because they are not making extra money by working in their classrooms over the summer), it’s because they want everything to be good—not perfect, but right and wonderful for their students. The following ten suggestions are ways that you can help your teen’s teacher adjust to his/her new students (your child in particular) and have a happy new school year!

 

 

  1. Encourage your teen’s teacher. Everyone—EVERYONE—needs a bit of encouragement. Just because the teacher is someone in authority doesn’t mean he/she is automatically an enemy. When things are right, tell your teacher about it. Encouragement and praise go a long way. Consider your work: when your boss tells you that you did a good job in a particular area, you feel good and want to strive to do better. When your husband compliments you on how beautiful the house looks, you feel good. Teachers are the same way. When you notice how hard they worked, and give them a word of appreciation or affirmation, they are inspired to continue to do their best.
  2. Do not talk negatively about your teacher—to other people, to other parents, and especially your teens. Gossip just hurts, no matter who it is.
  3. If there is a problem with the teacher or a particular situation, go straight to him/her to resolve it. Believe it or not, the teacher wants the problem resolved as much as you do. Everyone’s life is better when it’s free of conflict. But the reality is that conflict often occurs where more than one person exists—whether its friendships, marriages, work environment, or church group. The main thing is to work it out so everyone benefits.
  4. Presume the best of your teacher. There are always two sides to any story. Get the facts before you react.
  5. Trust your teacher. He/she has been trained to deliver a quality education to all students. And you are the expert on the personal needs and learning styles of your child. Together you make a DYNAMIC TEAM. Make time to share your knowledge and listen to the teacher’s knowledge as well. This will help facilitate the best education your child can receive.
  6. Parents aren’t perfect—and neither are teachers. Forgive them when they make a mistake. Like you, they come to work with all of their own “adult stuff.” And like you they are concerned about their own children or problems within their family. Like you they can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Treat them the way you want to be treated.
  7. God can use anyone in any situation. If things are tough, find the good lesson in it.
  8. Model for your teen how to treat a teacher with respect.
  9. Different personalities make us beautiful! Just because you are an enthusiastic extravert and your teen’s teacher is a quieter-introvert-type, (or vice versa) doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t like you when you don’t respond in the same way. Keep it real people—relax!
  10. Pray for your teacher.
By: Debbie Presnell
Co-Founder of Polished Conference Ministries
Author, Speaker
www.debbiepresnell.com

 

Paying Attention to Our Words

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Sophie Magazine. 

One of the most powerful resources we have as parents are our words. What flows from our mouths has the power to build up and encourage or tear down and dishearten. Many great books have been written on this topic. A favorite of mine is How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. In it the authors use humor and helpful illustrations to give the reader with skills and insight to motivate kids with words. Another favorite is the Bible. Throughout God’s word we are repeatedly offered nuggets of wisdom to help us guide our word choice. Some of the most profound are found in the book of Proverbs.

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The words ofthe reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.Pr. 12:18

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Pr. 15:4

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Pr. 29:20

The gist of these verses is that words have great power. The wise parent should learn to be intentional and prudent in speech.

Believe it or not, even those words that are hidden in our heads carry great influence. These are the phrases that we instantly form as we make observations throughout our day. They shape how we feel and then respond to what we see. In my work as a counselor, these secret perspectives offer a critical insight about the paradigm from which a person may be operating.  For example, one parent might say, “I’m afraid my daughter is emotionally sinking from all of the stressors she is facing.” While another parent may say, “I have noticed that my teen daughter is lacking some key coping skills to manage her stress,” about a similar situation. The difference may seem subtle and unimportant but the variance in word choice is quite significant. The first parent’s fear may actually drive the way they helps their daughter address the problem. The second’s parent simple observation will also affect the tone and manner in which they come alongside their teen. Even though the differences may seem subtle or overly analytical, when we are addressing problems, a slight distance like this can significantly impact the hope we feel and the solutions we generate as we help ourselves and our teens.

Of course, both our thoughts (observations) and feelings have enormous value.  But when we pay more attention to the fear we have, we actually engage a completely different portion of our brain. Because fear is experienced in our primitive brain, fear-based responses to situations tend to lead to one of two extreme reactions. The first is a tendency to be more passive, which may lead us to withdraw, ignore, or even to create a barrier of protection between the problem and our teen. We may pull away from actually addressing the problem, hoping it will all disappear. The second is a tendency to hold a more aggressive stance. This may cause us to become threatening or overly controlling as we strive to control the situation and the outcome. Both of these fear based responses provoke a roller coaster of emotions, especially if we shift from one extreme to the other.

When we choose to pay attention to what is required instead of focusing on our fears deep fears, however, a completely different part of our brain is activated. This region is known as the cortex and it operates very differently than our more primitive and protective portion of our brain. When we operate from this region we are more able to generate the most rational, creative and thoughtful responses to the difficulties we face as parents. Not only that, it is as we use our cortex that we are able to fix our eyes on Christ. Utilizing His help and our best brain, we will find it much easier to minimize fear and maximize our hope. Above all, we provide our teens with a godly example of stress management.

Words matter.  So, pay attention to what is coming out of your mouth. The way we audibly or mentally combine them greatly impacts how we address the dilemmas we and our kids face each day. I challenge you to notice your first response to a predicament you may be in. If you are reacting or coping out of fear adjust your posture to a more hope filled, Christ centered observation. You will be amazed at how this slight adjustment can positively impact how you and your teenager individually and collectively move through the next problem that arises.

By: Jackie Perry

www.jackieperry.net

Am I REALLY called to be vulnerable?

Vulnerable is a hot word immersing itself in the Christian community as well as the culture today. Too often and too easily we jump on the newest bandwagon of trends gullibly believing it’s good. Everywhere you go people want vulnerable and raw. But do you?

Webster’s dictionary defines vulnerable as

  • Capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
  • Open to attack or damage (vulnerable to criticism)

In essence to be vulnerable is to put yourself in a positon with those around you so you are open to being wounded and attacked. Does that sound wise to you?

There’s a lie that seeks to tell you the only way for real community to happen, is for you to be vulnerable. To put your heart out there, to others whose hearts are corrupted by sin, to be wounded or open to attack can be incredibly hurtful.

There are people I’ve known for a long time and all the more reason I wouldn’t be vulnerable with them. Love them? YES! Honest and sincere with them? Of course! But open myself to be wounded or attacked by their judgments and opinions? No!

Beloved, this doesn’t mean we wear masks, pretend we have it all together or not share our lives with each other. God desires us to live in authentic community together.

Paul prays our love would abound more and more in depth of knowledge and insight. (Philippians 1:9). He urges us to love the family of God more and more in 1 Thessalonians 4:10.

God’s Word instructs us to be sincere, to be honest, and to get rid of all hypocrisy. Real relationships happen when people stop pretending, share honestly and sincerely. Sincerity and honesty is not vulnerability.

Love without wisdom can lead to a lot of hurt to already wounded hearts. I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact the rise in vulnerability has in the rise of emotional abuse.

Vulnerability can display itself as a counterfeit love that whispers unless I know your deepest wounds and struggles; I can’t love you or be in a real relationship with you. Real love accepts you where you are and believes the best without stipulations. It’s okay to wrestle some things out between you and God until you are willing or led to share with a trusted friend. Confessing our sins to one another and praying for each other is powerful and can bring a deeper intimacy and love to relationships when it happens in a trusted setting. Not everyone is that person.

Too many are getting hurt by the church and instead of running away licking our wounds, we need to ask God to give us wisdom in our relationships and not believe every fad or trend.

Not everyone is trustworthy. Vulnerability is not what’s needed to build authentic relationships: truth, love, trustworthiness, honesty and sincerity are.

Be wise. Be careful. When God leads you, share authentically. Don’t feel obligated to put your heart out there to people you don’t know well or who appear untrustworthy. Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life

By: Kelly Vance

www.kellyvance.net