5 Questions About…Parenting Teens

Ok, so I know many of you don’t have teens, but you interact with teens, or you’ll raise teens someday or you’ve already raised teens and can add to this post in the comments section!  I’m super excited for you to hear from my wise, authentic, fun, friend, Molly Dykstra sharing on our “5 Questions About…” series.  You might recognize her from Wednesday’s post too :).

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1.  You are a parent I admire so much!  Can you tell us a little about your kids and their personalities?

Admire?!! I have three “kids” although they are really all young adults now (need to keep reminding myself of that.)

Mackenzie is 18, just graduated from High school.  She is articulate, insightful, outgoing, an organizer and initiator, can be impatient, has learned to love time on her own to recharge her batteries, loves photography and creating beautiful spaces.  

Clara is 16, going in to her junior year of HS.  She is open, adventuresome, empathetic (intensely), laser focused about things she is excited about, passionate, daring, can be indecisive, loves being at the cabin, and caring for kids on the margins.

Bennett is 12, heading into 7th grade.  He is charming, witty (funny!), thoughtful, talkative, prone to forget to pick up after himself, caring, gregarious, smart, loves lacrosse, skiing, and drumming up fun with his friends.  

2.  People look at your family and see an ideal, but I know parenting hasn’t been without its challenges (just like for anyone).  What have been the dynamics that have been most challenging to you as a mom?

Not so sure about people seeing an ideal in our family, maybe a collection of craziness!! Oh the challenging dynamics…. Lots and lots of personality/opinion/need to voice that opinion–not a quiet one among us which makes for many heated dinner table ‘conversations’ (when we are able to corral the troops), slammed doors, raised (?!!) voices clamoring to be heard; having two girls close in age–tons of comparison/feeling they ‘fall short’ vs. the other who ‘has it all’; having a home with tight quarters that can feed the intensity.

3.  What are the resources that have been most helpful?

Partnership. Being married to someone (Jeff :)) who ‘gets it’ (the emotional dynamics) and is willing and wants to talk things through, be intentional, roll up his sleeves and do it together.  

Friends. Spending time with/sharing in a vulnerable, authentic way with friends who are in the same life stage–getting past our well kept homes and conversation about our jobs and kids’ schedules and into the nitty gritty…gives us the sense (Truth) that we are not alone. 

Spiritual Disciplines. Being willing to do the hard work of taking care of myself (therapy, forced rest, time alone, capturing early morning as my Sacred time.)

Most “parenting” books have been the WORST thing for me (Ahhcckk!  We aren’t doing allowance/chore chart/family devotions/serving together/fill-in-the-blank well/consistently/at all!!)

Like Dew Your Youth: Growing up with Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson is the only book resource specifically about parenting that I would stand firmly behind.  I picked this book up off a shelf at a house where we were staying a few years ago because I didn’t get the title (it’s a reference to a psalm-something about how dew is fleeting, so is adolescence, etc.) and have read it over and over.  The premise is that going through the stage of having adolescents is about something WE, as parents, need in order to refine us and humble us and bring us back to a place of dependence on God.  Seriously.

4.  What have you learned about yourself and God in the process of walking alongside your kids through hard circumstances?

About myself: I am vulnerable to self-condemnation; I am prone to panic and try to do rather then pause and pray for strength and wisdom; I need my support crew–they don’t just need me; I am good at listening to my kids; I do not have answers/solutions/programs that work or stick or last, so it’s best to not put too much stock in those.

About God: He is near-even in the middle of the night when the overwhelm can be most intense-especially in His Words in the Psalms; He is shaping all 5 of us all the time–we are all in process; light does come again after dark, spring after winter– He carries us THROUGH things.

5.  What advice would you give parents of teens?

Trust that God is at work and will finish what He has started.  And know that, at the end of the day, you are loved and that doing the best you can (which is often not that great) is enough–He fills in the gaps.

5 Questions About… helping people in pain

The next in our “5 Questions About…” series!! Patty McGeever is my best friend from college.  When John met her he said, “I can sure see why you guys are friends!”  She’s fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and has all-together the best laugh ever.  She has been on an amazing life-journey where God has been using her to come alongside people in pain, or resource people helping others in pain around the world.  This picture was taken this May when our paths crossed in London.  She had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh? 
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You have a background in counseling and social work.  How did you discover that God had given you gifts in this area? 

I didn’t discover this. My father was the one who recognized this for me.  He was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and treated for 9 years at MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  During that time, he got to know 2 Social Workers and shared with me that he thought I would like their job.  As I began studying this in college, it was the one subject that I made good grades in without a lot of work.

Upon graduation as I sought where God might want me to work I read:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Suddenly, it was like all the pieces of the puzzle were put together.  This was a job I could do well and God had created me this way because He knew the path my life would take. He had equipped me in ways I had not realized.  

2.  Can you share a story of a time when God used you beyond how you felt you were capable?

Always.  

But you asked for one.  

My family and I had moved to Papua New Guinea to serve with a nonprofit organization there.  I was a counselor in a community of over 300 ex-pat workers from over 14 different countries.  The students had gone on their annual retreat.  Early one morning, I received a phone call informing me that a 17-year-old girl had been gang raped by 3 Papua New Guinea men.  A helicopter would be bringing her back to our compound and I was to meet her with our doctor at the clinic. 

I was overwhelmed.  How could I help this young woman, her family and the youth on the retreat and then the entire community who would know that this event had taken place?  

I had not received any training that would prepare me for this type of scenario.  But I was the counselor there. I had to cling to God to provide the words I did not have. 

In looking back, I realize that God could have picked someone else who had experience in this but He didn’t.  He picked me with all my weaknesses.  He must have His reasons for doing that and I just need to show up.

3. What’s one lesson you’ve learned over the years about helping people in pain?

Bad things happen to good people. So much of the time I encounter well-meaning, really wonderful people who are experiencing really challenging things. There isn’t an easy explanation for this either.  Somehow telling people that ‘in all things God works for the good to those who love him’ just wasn’t helpful or appropriate.  The truth is that so much of the time the good seems very far away.  I had to learn to trust God even when I didn’t understand why things were happening in a certain way.

4. Even those of us who don’t have specific gifts in this area want to help friends who are hurting.  What are some mistakes you see people making?

People try to fix the other person’s problem when most of the time the best thing we can do for a friend is listen.  

People worry about saying the ‘right’ thing. Often there isn’t anything to be said. The best thing you can do is be there and stop thinking about you.

5. What advice do you have for those walking alongside others in crisis?

  • Listen, listen, listen.  
  • Ask questions to help them continue to tell their story… like ‘what happened, what was the hardest part for you, or what else happened’?
  • Don’t make judgments.  No one needs to hear that they are doing something wrong in the midst of their crisis.  
  • The process of telling their story will bring healing.  

Additional resources Patty recommends:

5 Questions About…Singleness

Ok, many of you reading this may not be single.  Or a woman.  But who doesn’t have single friends we want to love well?  I think this is post in our series “5 Questions About…” will be helpful for all of us.  Claire Wyatt is one of my many incredibly-talented-beautiful-inside-and-out-full-of-life single friends.  She writes a witty blog called Single Christian Girls.  You should totally check it out!

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1.  What lies are you tempted to believe during this season of singleness?  What is God reveling to you about his character?

One of the main lies I go to is wondering if I’m single because I’m being punished, or if God is trying to teach me a lesson but in a very vindictive sense.  I have to CONSISTENTLY remind myself that God is good and that all of my sins have been taken care of on the cross.  While I might be disappointed that I’m not married, God’s plans are better than my plans.  Not only because he’s God, but because He knows me even better then I know myself.  He also loves me even more then I love myself.  If I rest in that, being single feels manageable.

2.  What has been your worst experience as a single woman? Continue reading

5 Questions About…Disappointment with God

Conrad family-40Emily and her husband Steve are dear friends of ours. I had the delight of working with Steve in ministry and traveling with him in Congo before he knew Emily.  Then, John and I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony together!  This remarkable young couple inspire me with their faith and authenticity.  It’s an honor to walk alongside them on their journey!  I asked Emily 5 Questionsbecause I knew she’d be honest and reflect from a heart seeking God.

1.  Over the past year and a half you’ve had an experience that has been deeply painful and disappointing.  Can you describe what happened?

In early 2013, my husband and I got the green light to travel to Congo to meet and pick up the little girl and little boy that we were in the process of adopting. We had spent 13 months previously preparing our home and our family for the addition of 2 more little ones, a little girl 18 months old and a boy 2 ½ years old. Although we knew it would be crazy to have 4 little kids in our home, we felt that adoption was always supposed to be a part of our family’s story and felt that it was a desire that God had placed in our hearts.

We had been prepared for the fact that the little boy we were adopting might be a little older than what we had originally been told, perhaps 6-9 months, however, when we met him in Congo he was clearly at least 6 ½ and was a very angry, emotionally fraught child, quite prone to physically aggressive outbursts. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Risk

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Sharon is a dear friend who both inspires and intimidates me with her amazingness.  She has guest-posted here before.  I’m so thankful that in the midst of a busy, stressful time, she was willing to share some more of what she’s learning.  Here’s the next in our 5 Questions About…series.

1. Recently you took what must have felt like a huge risk. Can you tell us about it?

Eight months ago, I resigned from a job I had loved and made the leap to running my own business. This happened after an extended season of prayer and discernment, so by the time I made the change, I felt certain it was the right thing to do.

Yes, there were practical risks involved: leaving a certain income, benefits, 401K; losing the familiarity of my office and team. And as a single person, I didn’t have a safety net of a second income, back-up insurance, or a support person to pick up slack in other areas of life. But I was also very clear about why I was making the change: 1) to be faithful to what I understood God was putting in my hands; 2) to learn and grow through a new challenge.

So when I framed it that way, I realized that even if my business failed (and I had to move into my parents’ basement), I would experience God in deeper ways and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Infertility

IMG_0002Happy 4th of July!  As you read this, chances are I’ll be with my friend Cathy Wood, watching the parade, or fireworks or laughing about how we both could have been great spies.  There is so much I admire about Cathy.  Her ability to forgive hard things.  Her indomitable positive spirit. Her kindness, and listening ear.  We’ve been in a couples small group for about 25 years and she’s also one of the “7” girls, so I’ve been privileged to walk through a lot of life with her!  All of us either know someone or are someone who has wrestled with a dream to have kids, but an inability to make it happen.  I always benefit from her wisdom, so I’m thankful she agreed to share today!

1. What has been your experience with infertility?
We struggled with infertility and trying to create a family over about a decade.  Although this time is in the rearview mirror of my life, I can readily recall the cycle of doctor appointments, shots, temperature taking and miscarriages…periods of great hope and equally great despair. Thankfully, by the grace of God He brought us thru it all.  He has graciously put our family together thru primary/secondary infertility, adoption and natural birth.

2. What was the hardest thing for you while you struggled with infertility?
I think for me the hardest thing was believing that God was trustworthy and that I could trust him with the outcome. I could pray “ah yes this is a light and momentary trouble” but my heart was breaking. My borders defining God needed to be blown wide open. What did it mean to follow him? My current view wasn’t holding up. I kept thinking that God wanted me to do that “one thing” and then I’d get pregnant. Not sure what that one thing was but I kept trying to guess.

I spent lots of time staring at what I thought was a road block with blinking lights, razor wire and a sign that said ”keep out”. I could see others beyond the gate with children but I couldn’t get there. A turn away from this road to another path was dark and unknown. I had no idea what it would mean or require. I DIDN’T WANT TO GO! The decision really became do I go alone or with God? Slowly and gently (as I am stubborn), God turned my heart towards Him and then the road He had for us.

3. You have had children now, but what would you say to women who maybe are never able to conceive?                                                                                                  “I am so sorry” feels like the only one for me because no feeble attempt by me could make sense this side of heaven. God needs to handle that one. My sincere hope for them would be that they come to know and believe that God loves them and has not lost sight of them.

4. What advice would you give to those who are walking alongside women experiencing infertility?                                                                                                   It is a privilege and holy ground to be let into a person’s life at any time but especially when it is a painful season. Being a safe place to share deep emotions and process is a gift to another. I think it’s a way God redeems our own experiences. Pray, trust God and show up. He’ll do the rest.

5. What did you learn about God and yourself during your season of infertility?
Ha!  Well I would love to say I never doubted… that I have the gift of unshakeable faith but I don’t want to be struck by lightning! I tend to be a bit more of a rebel. What I learned was that God is gracious and merciful. When I began to seek Him, stumble after him and look for Him in the everyday, not just answering this big prayer, I discovered He was there and had been there all the time with small surprises of Himself, the love of friends, reminders of His grace and answered prayer in his time.

Additional Resources Cathy found helpful:

Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey

If you liked this post, you might also like The Spiritual Discipline of Plan B.

Continue reading

5 Questions About…Mentoring

Do you have friends who you look forward to spending time with because they are just. so. much. FUN?  Heather is one of those people in my life.  I know whenever we get together the ideas will be exploding like confetti and laughter will punctuate our conversation.   She is the discipleship pastor at the National Community Church in D.C. – one of the most vibrant and innovative faith communities I know.  Heather has also written two books, Community is Messy (about small group ministry) and Amazed and Confused (about Habbakuk).  You should check them out!

HZ.20131.  One of the things I admire about you is the way you build into others around you.  How did that come to be a value in your ministry?

I don’t think there was one catalytic moment; it was just a slow process of recognizing the way that God was working in my life and taking note of where I was feeling most fulfilled, seeing the most fruit, and having the most fun. I was captivated by 2 Timothy 2:2, realizing that the only investments we can make that truly last are the investments we make in other people.  Growing people grow people. I’d rather grow people than manage programs.

2.  Can you tell about an experience you have had with someone who built into you and what you learned from it? Continue reading

5 Questions About…God’s Plans For You

Today we start a new Friday series called “5 Questions About…”  image-4

Recently my friend, Lee Hanssen, who is the director of student ministry at our church, (and just happens to be a rodeo rider on the side :)), preached on Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Oh my gosh, have you seen that verse quoted on all the cards everywhere in the history of the world without end amen for anyone who was sad, or getting married, or graduating, or…?  I loved Lee’s message and I wanted him to share some of it with you.

1.  What made you choose this popular verse for your text? Continue reading