The cure for spiritual teenagers

By Erika Rizkallah

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I have three children; two adult daughters and a 15-year-old son. It feels like I’ve been in this stage of parenting forever. And I do mean forever!

Teen girls are difficult but raising my son is harder because our thought processes are completely different.

I mean, why would you do this when I told you not to . . ?

 

Most days I dread waking him up. It sounds awful but I’m just being honest. He’s my baby and our tight-knit bond is unraveling. I know his need for independence is a good and healthy thing. But I’m often nostalgic for the good old days when he wasn’t embarrassed of me and I wasn’t irritated by him.  

Some weeks are tougher than others and this is one of those weeks. When I came across the Romans 8:28 verse this morning, I reflected on this question:

           Who doesn’t want good things?

The gentle me said, “Everyone. We all want good things.” angel-640996_1920 

But my inner cynic shoved her aside and snapped, My kid doesn’t want good things, otherwise he wouldn’t be such a pain in the butt. (I named that voice – I call her The Commander).

She looks like this . . . 

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The Commander is mean and she lies. A lot.

My son does want good things. He just thinks his wants are the good things and my wants are irrelevant. He’s obstinate and acting his age – he’s excelling in rebelling.

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I loathe rebellion. It annoys and frustrates me because I know my want is greater. For example:

He wants to drink soda all day.

        I want his teeth to stay in his mouth.

He wants to stay up late at night.

        I want him to be ready and alert for school.

He wants to take Driver’s Ed.

        I want him to obey house rules before road rules.

But the more I think about it, I realize that unless we’ve spent years walking with Jesus, we grownups can also act like self-involved spiritual teenagers.

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God loves us no matter our age or stage but his wants are always higher.

Always.

Jesus is our standard and pattern for living. He was devoted to Our Father’s purpose and plans for his life. He was obedient in every word and deed. The same obedience is required from us despite our wants and it’s not easy. 

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He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21

Obedience often has negative connotations in our culture unless it pertains to children or animals. In Biblical terms it’s not demeaning. It’s a yielding of self and when we offer ourselves we receive much more. We receive his love and look at those last few words . . . he shows himself to us.   

We can learn from his example and pattern our lives after his. This is called discipleship and not only benefits us, it changes the world. 

Obedience is the antidote for the harmful effects of sin. When we keep our hearts focused on loving and serving God, our perspective changes. Those harmful desires that trap and keep us in spiritual bondage begin to melt away.

Parents wanting good things for their children won’t allow them to wallow in immaturity.  We want them to live full lives and that’s what God wants for us. As disciples, we’ll be drawn ever higher, ever deeper, and ever richer into the fullness of Christ.

 

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His death on the cross gives us strength to keep walking forward. He gives us hope as we push through the squirmy emotions and resentful attitudes we encounter from ourselves and others.

He’s working all things for good!

 

 

Ghost stories at midnight

By Erika Rizkallah

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by very loud teenage boys. We started telling ghost stories a half an hour ago and now everyone’s afraid to go to bed.

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Except me. I’d love to go to bed, but I can’t until I know everyone’s safely “tucked in” for the night.

Things have changed a lot for me over the past couple of years. When my oldest daughter was that age I came to the realization that our best conversations happen at night.

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe they’re a little more open and vulnerable – or I’m more approachable somehow. Maybe it’s because their circadian rhythm is the exact opposite of mine. At any rate, I learned that if I made myself available and sat quietly doing my own thing, they’d mosey on over and start telling me stories.

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I bet Jesus was that kind of guy. We know people were drawn to him. Great crowds would follow him and he would sit down on some mountainside or take a walk at the water’s edge. We know that he taught, preached and spoke in parables.

But I bet he was a great listener and a compassionate friend.

As a parent I strive to be like him. I wish I knew what was in my children’s hearts (most of the time). I wish I could get my message across in a way they’d be more open to hearing – in the daytime as well as the night.

If you’re a parent of teens and young adults, never underestimate how important your availability is to them. Always remember that they need you now just as much as they did in the early years. Make it a point to stay up late with them, tell them ghost stories and God stories and occasionally have cookies and milk at midnight.

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The payoff is well worth the next day’s tiredness.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.                                      Galatians 6:9

 

 

Helping kids understand prayer

By Erika Rizkallah

The other night as we were praying together my son, Sam, said, “Mom, how do you talk to someone you can’t see?”

“Well, it’s the same as talking to anyone you have a relationship with. Like me or dad.”

“Yeah, but how do you know God’s real? We can’t actually see him.”

“We can’t see the wind, or germs, or sound waves but we know they’re real. We may not be able to see them, but we know they’re real because we can see the effects. We see trees sway, we catch colds from other people and somehow we can hear music on the radio.”

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“I know but it’s still hard.”

We joined hands and I prayed, thanking God for all the things he’s given us and for helping us “see” him through answered prayer.

The truth is, sometimes it does feel awkward to talk to God in our heads or out loud in front of others. But it’s a gift to be cherished. To be able to speak to the creator of the universe and have him answer is beyond comprehension.

And that’s ok. He already knows how we feel about it. He searches our hearts and minds – so keep talking! As with all new things, eventually it will get easier.

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Sunday blessings to you friend!

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!