6 Lessons to remember when your child is bullied

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (New Living Translation)

In my last post I promised to write out the lessons we learned about bullying. There are two types: One from Kat’s perspective (teenager) and one from mine (parent).

I’m breaking them out and giving our bully the nickname “Brutus” for easier reading and because I still love him.

Lessons Kat Learned

Don’t put too much trust in your friends – We all crave family in one way or another and research shows that teens value the opinions of their friends and peer groups above all else. Kat put all her energy into one group of friends and Brutus was her bestie. He’s also the most popular, so when their friendship crumbled . . .

Teens are apt to choose sides, much like adults do when close friends divorce. Making friends in multiple areas of life is essential for helping teens get through relationship adversity.

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Forgive people when they make mistakes – Forgiveness isn’t only a biblical mandate, it’s a life skill . . . and it’s freaking hard! In this case Brutus was unwilling; he’d built up weeks of simmering anger. He’ll need to learn how to forgive an offense. Kat learned to forgive herself and others as Jesus does.

Pay attention to warning signs – In other words, trust your gut! God gave us powerful instincts. Kat knew something was “off.” She noticed Brutus’ behavior change and repeatedly asked him if something was wrong. He denied it so she decided to trust his word despite contrary evidence.

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Lessons I learned (not including my husband because he just wanted to beat everyone up).

Be available – Like most parents, I’m busy. But years ago my other daughter endured a bullying attack so severe it landed her in the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. When you see your teen suffering or notice a drastic change in their behavior, drop everything. Be available day or night and seek a professional for help.

Listen and don’t judge – Although angry with Brutus, I leaned on Jesus. Who better to lean on than the one who forgives us all? I turned to him in prayer, trust and faith that he knows more than I do and would work it out because he loves all of us.

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Mother and mentor – Teens often don’t listen to parental advice despite our best effort. In this case we met with a trusted mentor who knows both kids well. This amazing woman validated all I’d said to Kat in our tearful late-night chats. That felt great!

She ministered to her which allowed me to step back from the situation. She comforted and encouraged Kat to endure through the trial as a strengthening experience. I can’t say enough about making sure your kids have Godly mentors in their lives.

Your turn: I’d love to hear any bullying advice you can give!

Love and lies: Have you gotten sucked into a gossip triangle?

Three weeks ago, my 17-year old daughter was the object of a severe bullying attack by several of her best friends.

She considers these kids her family and so do we. We love them like family, minister to them when the need arises and eat hundreds of pizzas.

They are all Christians doing ministry together.

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My beautiful girl (in blue) doing what she loves the most! None of these kids are involved in the situation.

Have you ever been hurt by people you’ve shared everything with?

If so, you know the pain and suffering she’s enduring – WE are enduring. When one member of God’s family hurts, we all do.

Gossip is an age-old problem and our situation began with an “innocent lie” (no such thing) between a guy and girl. My daughter took part in the lie in a misguided attempt to spare someone’s feelings. Then someone lied to another person, and the offended party learned about it through gossip.

It was the spark that lit a wildfire of lies, accusations and slander. Despite her confession and begging forgiveness, her name and reputation is ruined (for now).

According to the Bible, gossip is a sin and causes all kinds of strife. In fact the Apostle Paul writes about it in his letter to the Corinthians. He says, “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior.” 2 Corinthians 12:20

She got caught up in the middle of a gossip triangle that sucked her in and spiraled out of control.

The Gossip Triangle

Life is full of hard lessons and while attempts at forgiveness and restoration are finally being made, the damage is permanent.

Yesterday in my quiet time, I read from My Utmost For His Highest and the wisdom is a perfect fit. The author, Oswald Chambers says, “Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical nor suspicious, because He had absolute trust in what He could do for human nature.”

In my next post, I’ll write about the lessons we’ve learned from this fiasco. I hope it helps you keep your kids from being sucked into a gossip triangle.

With love and peace, Erika

Father’s Day: My loss is gain

I lost my earthly father 25 years ago; it seems hard to believe it’s been so long. Devastating is the only word I have to describe my feelings at the time. My father was my world – nothing else could take his place in my life. But I know God took him in order to make way for himself because his death was what made me seek after God in the first place.

As always, his timing was perfect because while I was seeking, he brought another man into my life, the man who would later become my husband and the father of my children.

My loss paved the way for two more fathers: God himself and my husband Sam. So I consider my loss gain.

Father’s day is difficult for those of us who’ve lost our dads. But if you (like me at the time) haven’t yet met your Heavenly Father, I urge you to look up. Seek him. He is as real as the earthly father you’ve lost and is just waiting to meet you.

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Psalm 68:5 says: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Finding and knowing him is as simple as talking to him in prayer. In the quiet of your heart and mind, all you have to do is ask. Here’s an example of prayer: Father, I want to know you and to have you in my life. I believe you are the one true God. That you sent your son to die on the cross for my sins and then raised him from the dead. Jesus, come into my heart and cleanse me. Guide me to my father in heaven and make me into your image that we may be one in spirit.

And if you’re blessed and will be celebrating your earthly father today, that prayer is for you as well. Two fathers are better than one!

Struggling with prayer: 5 Tips to jumpstart your prayer life

Is regular prayer a struggle for you?

If so, don’t worry. Like everything new and unfamiliar, becoming a prayer warrior takes time and practice.

I’ll never forget the first time I went into Starbucks. For months I heard people talking about the delicious coffee drinks and I desperately wanted to experience what all the buzz was about. But I was intimidated. I knew there was a method – a certain way of ordering and a special lingo.

And what on earth was a Frappuccino?

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I stood in a long line with others and watched them, trying to figure out the process. I strained to hear above the din of the cafe with no luck. Then I looked at the overwhelming menu. I selected a drink and rehearsed saying it (in my head), while trying to look like I belonged.

Finally it was my turn and I lost my confidence.

“I’ll take a regular coffee please.” I said.

“What size and blend?”

“Just regular.”

“A tall?”

“Is that a regular?”

“It’s a tall. We have three sizes.” (slight smirk)

“Ok that’s fine.” I said.

I paid for my “tall” coffee feeling stupid, awkward and a grande bit proud. I did it. I was in!

After the first time I got better. It took awhile, but one day I was comfortable and could order without feeling like a moron.

Prayer can be like this at first. The beauty though, is that there isn’t a process. God loves hearing what we have to say despite our fumbling. Unlike a barista, he doesn’t smirk. Prayer is simply a private conversation between you and God.

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Tip # 1 – Start Small

Begin by thanking God for your food each time you eat. This is a pattern Jesus practiced every time he ate with his disciples.

Tip # 2 – Ask For Help

God loves when we trust and rely on him. We all face difficult tasks, problems with people and have personal concerns. Pick a challenge each day and ask him for strength, clarity and guidance.

Tip # 3 – Look Around

Opportunities for prayer are all around us. Choose a family member, friend or neighbor and ask God to meet whatever their needs may be. This is called intercession.

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Tip # 4 – Get On Your Knees

Bedtime is the perfect time to meet with God in peace and quiet. Thank him for the day’s provision and ask for protection and restoration of your body while you sleep.

Tip # 5 – Be Bold!

Getting uncomfortable is sure to jumpstart your prayer life. Ask a friend what they need prayer for and then pray with them out loud. This can be done in person or over the phone. Our friends are encouraged and comforted when we ask for God’s help on their behalf.

Prayer takes practice, but I promise if you actively work on it you’ll grow spiritually by leaps and bounds.

Your Turn: Which of these tips will you choose this week and why?

Putting on the new self: Are you dressed with new life?

This weekend I went on a women’s retreat in the gorgeous countryside of Middleburg, Virginia. Seventy women from the church I used to attend gathered together for a time of worship and discipleship under the guidance of a seasoned speaker.

I went because I felt “called” to go. Although I had to give up a weekend with my family and an opportunity to attend a writer’s conference, I submitted to God’s leading.

Boy was I rewarded! I came away refreshed and renewed in my spirit in several ways.

The highlight of the retreat was a walk with two of my best friends. We had free time and went on an adventure in the woods surrounding the property. One of my friends – who hates nature by the way – was attacked by all manner of flying insects. We laughed so hard I peed my pants, but did we turn back? Of course not . . . we were having too much fun laughing at her!

So we trudged on, despite the stifling heat and barrels of energy it took to make our way to the bottom of a ravine. We marveled at God’s majesty of creation and the work he’d done in our lives since the last time we “retreated” together.

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Our God is good. He promises to renew and reward us through his son, our savior, Jesus Christ.

As we walked back up the ravine we entered into a time of confession. I told them my sins. I’ve been lying. “Little white lies” told not to hurt someone else, but to make myself look better. “Little white lies” are common in our society; as my son says, “everyone does it mom.” But any type of lie still separates us from God, because He is pure and holy.

Today in my quiet time I came upon Colossians 3:10 and as I read, a picture formed in my mind. So I created a graphic to share with you. Look at it (below) and notice the difference between the two selves. Notice the contrast between the “old self” and the “new self” – the deadness on the left and life on the right.

Old Self

We are always being renewed and made into the image of our creator who always wants life for us.

Is there anything you’d previously taken off that you’ve since put back on?

If so, I urge you to repent. Repent is a word we don’t use much anymore, but it simply means to turn away from something and turn to God. As James 5:16 says: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.