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.

Three Ways to Fight

My husband John has been in the leadership boxing ring with a maddening challenge for the past couple years.

I’m on the sidelines, literally jumping up and down, shadow-boxing in our kitchen and yelling “Go to the mattresses!” when he reports the latest crazy atrocities at the end of a day.Unknown

I’m a DO-er!!  I want to take out an Uzzi and FIX this now!  Ok, as a Jesus-follower that might not be the best plan, but for the love of justice!!!

Trying to ratchet back the passion and put on the mantel of patience John seems to wear so easily, I’ve been reflecting on the different responses to THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES I see in Scripture.  Here are three I’ve come up with: Continue reading

When We Can’t See the Angel Armies

I know this is a long post, and it’s still just a tiny bit on a hard topic. I’m posting it because I know many people are facing really hard battles. If you want to listen to the whole message, it’s here.

This past weekend I got to preach at our church.  It is a privilege and a blast for me, but it is also very humbling when you’re preaching the weekend after the 4th of July to a handful of the faithful, and the old guy in the front row is asleep before you even start speaking. Too much celebrating with root beer floats?

Anyway, I got to preach on a passage I love – 2 Kings 6:8-23. The Israelites are being attacked by the enemy Arameans.  Map-Aram attacking

Elisha’s servant is afraid and here’s what happens:

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyesLord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.elisha-army

It’s a story about Elisha, his servant, and trying to see God in hard circumstances.  I love this passage because it highlights the challenge of the with-God life: to pay attention and recognize His presence and power with us in the everyday situations and the dramatic moments. Continue reading

Maybe We Can

I imagine that each of you reading this post today has a story to tell of something you’re doing (or enduring) that’s A HARD THING.

Really hard.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually…

It may be a challenge to get out of bed in the morning, knowing the REALLY HARD THING will still be there, lurking like a terrorist, or enveloping you like humidity.

A friend of mine wrote a song with the lyrics: “Somedays faith means just tying your shoes.”

Ahhh, yeah.

This is a guy I see every day when I run a certain route.

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I’m out of breath and I’m sweating like a horse and my feet and hips ache and I want sooo bad to stop.  I keep trying to keep in mind WHY I’m doing this HARD THING. (cleanwaterforAfricacleanwaterforAfricacleanwaterforAfrica…)

Then I see this guy who must be so much more determined and braver than I am.

Continue reading

What I’m Learning as I Scuffle Along

It’s Fearless Friday!  A few weeks ago I shared that, in spite of my fears, I had been convinced (tricked?  shamed?  hornswaggled?) into running a half marathon in Minneapolis with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water for Africa.

It’s on October 26th and is called the Monster Dash.  “Dash”??  Really?  How can a half marathon be called a “dash”?  For me it may be a shuffle or a trudge or a slog, but I will definitely not be dashing!

No, I’m not a “runner”.  I do more of a scuffle that’s so slow 80 year old men in wheelchairs could pass me.  Before a few weeks ago, I don’t think I had run more than 3 miles in my whole life.

And, yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m 55 years old and have rods and screws in my back.  So, if I can give this a go, anyone can.  Today I want to encourage you to sign up to run with me, and to give you a little update.

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Continue reading

When God Invites You to do a Big Thing and Fear says You Can’t

I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago.  The purpose was for me to help a World Vision guy do some brainstorming and networking.  At least that’s what I thought.

I’m pretty creative.  I’m good at ideas.  I’m good at making work for other people.  It’s a gift.  My family likes to say “God loves you and Laura has a wonderful plan for your life.”  So I was feeling good about meeting with Bradley (the guy) and giving him some ideas.  That is until he finished telling his story, turned to me and said, “I want you to run a half-marathon with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water in Zambia.”

What the what?!  Not much surprises me.  Even less than that leaves me speechless. This did.

I don’t run.  Unless I’m running from a bear.

I’ve tried running.  I hate it.  Truly hate it.  Bike, walk, play tennis, golf?  Absolutely!  Run? Ugh, please no!

As I reflected on the possibility, Fear whispered in my ear:

  • What if you really can’t do it?  What if you don’t finish?
  • What if you let people down?
  • What if you don’t raise any money?
  • What if you don’t motivate others to run?
  • What if you hurt yourself and it compromises your ability to enjoy other things?

Honestly, one of the loudest whispers was:  This will be a painful, grueling boatload of work and you don’t want to do it.

But Bradley said three things in that meeting that made me think maybe his idea was so crazy that God might actually be in it and I needed to pay attention.

1. He said this run is for clean water, something I’m passionate about.  Dirty water is the leading killer of kids under 5 in the world.

IMG_1977In Zambia two years ago I danced with women as a well was dug and fresh water gushed out.  They sang “Come and see what God has done.”  The old woman next to me spoke in wonder “He saw us. He answered our prayers.”  Wouldn’t be incredible to part of an answer to someone’s prayers?

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2.  80% of the people who run on Team World Vision are not runners (as in, never done it).  And that’s both scary and inspiring.  When Bradley speaks to churches his theme is fear not.  My one word for this year is Fearless, the word I’m trying to live into.  As he spoke I sensed a little nudge.  Perhaps this is a tailor made (albeit crazy) invitation to step into something scary that God desires to use.

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3.  My first response was unequivocal.  There is no way I can do this.  (Did I mention I. Don’t. Run. Ever.?).  But maybe that’s an additional reason why this might be of God.  Perhaps, besides providing water, there is something He wants to show me of Himself in this hard thing.  His power perfected in my weakness.

There are many days of “small things”, but sometimes God invites us into something big and hard and seemingly impossible.

I think, in this case, God’s answer to Fear is “What if I run with you and do something bigger in and through you for others than you think is possible?”

So, although I have visions of my daughter (who may be running with me), dragging my lifeless body across the finish line, October 26th (Lord willing) I will be running (or shuffling) the Twin Cities Monster Dash half-marathon.  You can join me running here! They have a great training program – starting from zero.

You can donate here.

Confession, Serena Williams, and Justice

Confession #1: I used to look down my nose at women who played tennis, deciding they were snotty rich suburban women who had nothing more meaningful to do with their time.

Confession # 2: I started playing tennis this summer and am on a team of the worst players in the universe. (http://awakemysoulblog.com/2011/10/03/youve-got-this/)

Confession #3: I’m enjoying it.  I think it brings balance to my life.  And I think I also have a meaningful life outside of this sport, so either I was wrong before, or I’m deluded now and I really am a loser.

All that was prelude to Confession #4:  Today I lost a match that I thought was totally unfair, and I was totally ticked, and it was really hard to be Jesusy about it.

Why was it unfair you ask?  Because I was playing against SERENA WILLIAMS in the “worst-players-in-the-universe-league”!!!  Clearly Serena got confused and went to the wrong court!

Ok, maybe it wasn’t ACTUALLY Serena Williams, but it might as well have been.  The girl I played belonged in this league about as much as Serena would have.  She was a ringer and she took this deal veeeerrrry seriously.  Like U.S. Open seriously.                  It was a grave injustice.

This made it hard:

  1. not to get killed as tennis balls rocketed towards me at 200 m.p.h.
  2. to pray “Come Holy Spirit, help me to be gracious” WHILE I was dodging the balls coming at me, AND saying “Great shot” repeatedly through gritted teeth.

It struck me as quite bizarre that God might be using this stupid tennis match to actually form something in me…

  • To submit to something that felt unfair.
  • To put my pride to death and resist reporting her to the highest authorities in tennis world for public censure on the nightly news.
  • To humble myself to listen receptively when she told me after the match all the mistakes I had made.
  • To genuinely affirm the talent I saw in her.                                                                   (Lest you think I handled this with Mother Theresa-like poise and grace, I did call and rant to my daughter Maggie after the match)
  • Probably most important, it prompted me to do something for people who are TRULY experiencing injustice by taking action in the International Justice Mission’s campaign to stop Human Trafficking.  http://www.ijm.org/justice-campaigns/tvpra  (You can too!  If I can do this ANYONE can!)

When have you gotten angry at something that hasn’t been fair?  Is it something you’ve challenged, or covered with grace?

I think both are appropriate in different situations. How do you determine when to do which?