August 15, 2018

A Few Things I'm Learning About Parenting Teenagers

When my children were much younger, at any occasion where the subject of parenting teenagers came up in conversation, I paid close attention. I also felt my heart seized by panic at the thought that one day my dear little boys would grow into tall, hairy-legged teenagers who, I assumed, would declare their independence from me at every turn. I myself was a terrible teenager, moody and turned inward, unwilling to hear my parents' counsel, and so I braced myself that one day I'd parent some form of me.

However, in those conversations with more seasoned parents, my assumptions were consistently challenged. Not only did these parents speak about the joy of relating with their teenagers, but I saw their relationships with my own eyes and recognized the possibilities and opportunities ahead of me. These parents (and their teenagers) taught me through word and deed that I didn't need to fear parenting teenagers, but they also taught me that I should be prepared to parent differently than I had when my boys were young.
I'm starting to understand what they meant. Here is what I'm learning about parenting teenagers:

There are tremendous joys in parenting teenagers.
The greatest joy among many is my deepening relationships with my children. We have conversations that friends would have about everything from movies to the deepest issues of life. Their witty comments make me laugh, and they needle their father and me in fun. They are growing into themselves, into who God made them, and I delight in pointing it out to them, because they don't yet have eyes to see.

Young parents, these days I'm experiencing are the result of the rote, exhausting years of necessary training, discipline, and unending togetherness. You may feel that all you're doing is correcting, you may feel it'll never sink in, and you may feel that you'll never have a true relationship with your child. But I'm here to tell you that your consistency and persistence in the younger years will pay huge dividends in the teenage years. Press on toward joy, my friend.

There are tremendous lows in parenting teenagers.
In the teenage years, emotions run high and low, and I'm not speaking of the actual teenagers. I'm speaking of myself, the parent of teenagers. The stakes feel so high, and they are. As they are exposed to more choices, more independence, more of the world and its nature, there are landmines everywhere. As a parent, I know my children don't have the full extent of wisdom they yet need, but I also know that I can't hover over and control every aspect of their lives as they get older. Parenting a teenager is ultimately an ongoing lesson and test in whether or not I trust the Lord.

This past year, one of my sons found himself in a situation I would not have preferred. He'd done nothing wrong, he was very open with us about it, but I was nonetheless surprised at my own reaction. I was at various times angry, fearful, distrusting, panicked, and grasping for control. I also knew he was in over his head and didn't know exactly how. Looking back on that time now, I see how good it was not only for him but for me to walk through that situation. We were able to have many good conversations as he navigated a difficulty, and he saw our predictions and warnings actually play out in real time.

Mistakes and difficulties can be good for teenagers (and for their parents), especially if the relationship between parent and child is in place and is characterized by open communication. Mistakes and difficulties grow their faith, and they grow ours as well, but the emotional stakes are nonetheless high.

Teenage years are the busiest, most exhausting years of all.
When my children were young, parenting was physically exhausting. But they went to bed at 7:30 pm and they took naps and they didn't have their own social lives. I had hours with my husband uninterrupted in the evening, they went with us everywhere we went whether they liked it or not, and the calendar was dictated by our desires and our relationships.

Life now combines my children's social schedules, extracurricular activities, and needs with ours. We make decisions about what we can and can't do differently now, because we don't want to drag our kids to everything we're invited to and also because we want to protect time when we can all be home at the same time together. Life feels full and can often feel overwhelmingly exhausting.

Because these years are so busy, the greatest challenge we face as parents is maintaining relationships: our marriage relationship, our relationships within the family, and our friendships. For example, teenagers stay up later, so we've had to relearn as a married couple where to grab alone time together. (We slip out for dinner alone together regularly or to simply run errands together. One of the joys of parenting teenagers is that we're done hiring babysitters!!) Without intentionality, in other words, the teens' schedules and activities come to dictate everything, and though we want to support them in their interests, we also know it's not healthy for their interests to rule.

In the teen years, other teenagers (and their parents) come into play.
When should a teenager get a cellphone? When should a teenager be allowed to go on a date? These are questions we've discussed and decided on together as Mom and Dad, but the influence of other families' choices cannot be overstated in the life of a teenager. I'm not saying that we allow other parents to make decisions for us; I'm saying that we have to work really hard to know our children's friends, we are willing to ask uncomfortable questions of our children's friends' parents if needed, and we have to be okay with our child being different than everyone around them. I think this last one is perhaps the hardest and most important of all. I have often had to ask hard questions of myself about why I wouldn't want my child to be considered "different" around their peers even though I know the "different" decision we've made is absolutely best for my child. We must be intentional in decision-making and willing to stand our ground according to our convictions.

My children need me more than ever.
Have you noticed a theme in these lessons I'm sharing? I'm learning how necessary relationship is with my children, and how necessary it is to know my specific children. In this stage of the game, they need me more now than ever. They need my presence, my awareness, my structure, my questions, my discipline, and my engagement in their lives. They need to know that I'm here, I love them no matter what, and that I will always sacrificially help them. Above all, they need to be close enough to see and hear my trust in the Lord for them.

Now it's your turn. What are you learning about parenting teenagers? 

This post is written at the request of a Patreon supporter of mine named Stephanie. Thank you, Stephanie, for helping make the By Faith podcast possible, as well as my continued focus on writing. If you'd like to join Stephanie and others in supporting my work, I'd be thrilled to have you. Find out more here.

August 8, 2018

Season 2, Ep #6: Ask Me Anything (about Ministry)

Each week in this mini summer season of By Faith, I’ve talked to a pastor’s wife about life, ministry, marriage, and parenting.

Today is the final episode of the season, what I call the "Ask Me Anything" episode, where I’m answering listeners' questions about all things ministry-related. I’ve asked my husband Kyle to join me for this one, not only because he’s my favorite person, but also because I get an up close look at his life, and I think he’s an incredible leader and pastor. I wanted you to hear from his perspective regarding some of the questions sent in.

I want to take a moment to thank my Patreon supporters. Back in the spring, I realized I need some financial help to cover the costs of producing this podcast, and when I put out the call, I had people immediately jump on board. I was so encouraged by that, and have continued to be encouraged by their support and help. This episode is dedicated to those special folks who have helped make this podcast happen each week. Thank you so much! If you want to jump on board too, I'd love to have your support.

I invite you to join me back here in September for a season full of conversations about the ins and outs, ups and downs of friendship. Friendship is a complex topic, so we have so much to discuss and think through. I can’t wait to share with you the wonderful conversations I’ve been having with wise and insightful people! If you haven’t already subscribed, I encourage you to do so today, and better yet, start inviting your friends to subscribe as well. I think these episodes will be great conversation starters for you and your friends. Subscribe on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, or Spotify

Listen to the Ask Me Anything episode with my husband Kyle on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below:


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August 1, 2018

Season 2, Ep. #5: Irene Sun on Raising Kids While in Ministry

Each week in this mini summer season of By Faith, I’m talking to a pastor’s wife about how she navigates her role and ministry while also thriving in her walk with the Lord, her marriage, parenting, and her own unique gifts and passions.

Today my guest is Irene Sun. Irene is a wife and mom living in the Chicago area, and she joins me today to talk about raising pastor’s kids to love Jesus and his church. You’ll hear us talk about the dual role of being a mom and the pastor’s wife on Sunday mornings (and all the other times we’re parenting while being available to people in the church). Irene is also a pastor’s daughter, so she shares some really good stuff about what she experienced as a kid and how her parents handled difficult situations.

One of the main things that will most certainly stick out to you is Irene’s confidence in the Lord’s sovereignty and how that affects her roles as a mom and a helper to her husband. I know you’ll walk away with great perspective but also practical tools that will help you moving forward.

If you listen all the way to the end, you'll hear next season's theme for the podcast and the closing question we're discussing on Instagram: "What resources have you found helpful in ministry?" Come give us some helpful tools, websites, online groups, books, or whatever your go-to's are!

Listen to my conversation with Irene on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below.

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July 27, 2018

Give What You Need

Last week my husband described our state in the last few months as grieved and starved--grieved over losses and starved for encouragement. This is no one's fault; there is no bitterness, no blaming in the statement of these words. This is life, especially perhaps the faith-life. We've sensed all along that this is a starvation and thirst God alone can fill. And so we've prayed, trusting in God to meet our needs, sometimes wavering and faltering into doubt and tears.
This is what I want you to know: God answers prayer. He has met us in our doubts and tears, and he's also met us in words and in ways we never expected. Perhaps we may not have even noticed them in a different season, but because we're looking and receiving every person and every word as his answer, we've seen how he doesn't just answer but pours out his love in abundance. I'm asking him for more of a grateful heart, because I'm noticing how a grateful heart gives me clearer vision.

But friend, if we were together today, this is what I'd want you to know and really consider: every single person is walking this planet in need of encouragement. No one feels constantly certain that they are making a dent in this world. No one can see their own gifts clearly. What if we are the answer to prayer God intends?

There is a specific type of vulnerability that I desperately think we need to be better at and it's this: we need to call each other up and out with specific words of encouragement. We need to name one another's gifts, one another's impact, and one another's value. We need not assume that someone else is doing this or that the person already knows what seems obvious to us. Let's speak it, even though it can sometimes be sort of awkward to do so. In other words, give what you need. According to Proverbs 11:25, there's a unique refreshing that comes when we ourselves are the refresher. 

Does the person who's made an impact on your life know that they have? Does your friend know specifically what you appreciate about them? Does that woman in your church know what you so clearly see in her? Have you said the words out loud? As my husband says, "No one is suffering from too much encouragement." My challenge to you today is not that you'd tag a person on social media and say something digitally. My challenge to you today is to be extremely intentional, in thought, in word, and in action. Get face to face. Write a letter. Build someone up today. You may just be God's answer to prayer.

This post originally appeared on Instagram on July 26. 

July 25, 2018

Season 2, Ep #4: Katie Orr on Friendship for the Pastor's Wife

Each week in this mini summer season of By Faith, I’m talking to a pastor’s wife about how she navigates her role and ministry while also thriving in her walk with the Lord, her marriage, parenting, and her own unique gifts and passions.

Today my guest is Katie Orr. Katie is a pastor’s wife, mom, and the author of many Bible studies, including Everyday Hope and Everyday Obedience.

Katie joins me today to talk about friendship for the pastor’s wife. This is definitely a hot topic for pastor’s wives. Anytime I’ve ever been to a conference or a gathering for pastor’s wives, the questions raised are often about loneliness, how to have friends in the church, and whether or not we can realistically have friends in the church. Katie and I talk about all that and more, including how we tend to hinder ourselves in friendship, and what to share with others and how to do so wisely.

Also, I need your questions! I’m planning another Ask Me Anything episode in a few weeks. I’ll be sitting down with my husband Kyle and we’ll be answering all your ministry-related questions. Submit your question here.

Listen on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below.


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