Letting Go and Letting Your Adult Child Take Her Own Path

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img_2768When they were little, I repeatedly told my daughters I had two primary goals for them: I wanted them to love Jesus, and I wanted them to love books. My rationale for this simplistic parenting strategy was as follows: loving Jesus would open their hearts and loving books would open their minds. With open hearts and open minds, I believed, everything else I dreamed about and wished for my girls would surely follow, and they would create for themselves lives of meaning and purpose. I still pray these things for my girls every day.

As Christian parents, many of us share similar goals. We offer our tiny babies in baptism in front of our congregations, promising to raise them to be disciples of Jesus. We bring them to church, and we pray with them every night. We protect Sundays from the ever-looming encroachment of extracurricular activities because we want them to understand the importance of regular worship and service with a faith community. They grow up as “church kids.” We pray the seeds planted during childhood will blossom into a lifetime of faith.

In recent months I have had numerous conversations with friends who, like me, are surprised by the changes they see in their young adult children, many of whom are pulling away from the church. According to the Barna Group, the experience of my circle of friends is not unique. Their research finds that three out of five young Christians disconnect from their churches after the age of fifteen. While there are many cultural, sociological, and developmental reasons for this trend, my focus here is not to ask why. Perhaps a more useful conversation would be to look at the ways we, as parents, might choose to respond when we see these trends play out in our families.

Here are a few of the things I am learning as we travel these uncharted waters.

It’s not about me

As parents, especially as moms, we tend to immediately take on every decision or action of our offspring as proof of either our efficacy or failure as parents. With both my children now in their twenties, I am beginning to understand my voice is only one of many to which they are listening. Yes, we as parents are the most consistent and powerful influences in our children’s lives, but not the only influences. Late adolescence and early adulthood is the time for them to experiment with new ways of looking at the world, and there is a high likelihood they will land a few places with which we will disagree. Questioning the messages of childhood is a normal, healthy part of growing up. It can feel like a personal attack when they are questioning things we hold dear, but we are wise to remember it is not about us.

Continue reading at The Glorious Table

Turn Up the Volume on the Better Voices

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Turn Up the Volume
Maybe it begins as soon as you wake up, or perhaps she lets you drink your coffee first. On and off throughout the day, you hear the whispers of doubt. The yammering, nagging voice of inadequacy, the mocking reminder of all you haven’t done, the list-maker of the ways you still don’t measure up.

I don’t know about you, but my inner critic can be a real bitch.

The language of our inner critic is shame. Shame says “No matter what you do, you are never enough.” Shame says “if they really knew me, they wouldn’t love me.” When we experience shame, we feel the need to constantly hustle to prove our worthiness. Although shame is a universal emotion and all of us experience it to some degree, most of us are reluctant to talk about it.  According to bestselling author and shame researcher Brené Brown:

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, acceptance and belonging.

As I’ve gotten older and learned more about what kicks my inner critic into high gear, I can sometimes recognize her shenanigans, call her on her crap and shut her down. However, there are seasons when she seems to gain the upper hand for a time and I need to get more focused on listening to the other voices in my life: the voice of God and the voices of the people who love me.

Here are a few concrete ways I turn up the volume on the better voices: Continue reading

Would I Rather Be RIGHT or Would I Rather Be KIND?

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Would I rather be RIIGHT or would I rather be KIND-I spent much of this morning following a breaking news story about a local politician embroiled in what will likely be a career ending scandal. Sadly, I would usually be right there with the rest of the public shaking my head in judgment and cynicism, lamenting the lack of morals and good sense so often on display in our public officials.

In this case, I am just heartbroken.

I know this man and I have worked with him. In spite of the demons he appears to be battling, I have always liked him and found him to be an outspoken champion for the poor in our community. Without his advocacy and leadership, the dreams of our recently completed shelter for homeless individuals would not have been realized. While we may not personally be friends, I consider him a good friend of The Lamb Center and I am deeply saddened by his struggles.

If I didn’t know from personal experience the good he had done in other areas of his life, I could easily read this morning’s news story and paint him into a monochromatic corner. The crimes with which he is being charged would make it easy for me to categorize him as a “bad guy” and write him off as just another example of evil, corruption and abuse of power .

But life really isn’t that simple or clear cut, is it?

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments people are posting beneath the online story. As I was reading, I wondered if any of these people would say these things to his face. Yet, even as I “judged” them for the joy they seemed to be taking in his public fall from grace, I recognized myself. While I might not post an ugly comment in an online forum, I too have looked at someone I don’t know personally and silently congratulated myself on my moral superiority.

But hopefully, I am still a work in progress. In honor of my 52nd birthday on Monday, here are five things I am still learning. More specifically, here are five things I would like to learn to live without.

The need for judgment

We are right to be outraged by outrageous behavior and we are right to hold each other accountable for our actions. Yet, too much of my judgment of others is based on incomplete information. Continue reading

You Go, Girl: Why Brave Women Cheer Each Other On

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SheSpeaksI just scared my elderly dog. Thank goodness there are no hidden cameras in my house because I may have just yelled a few PG-13 R-rated expletives at the top of my lungs in my living room less than 24 hours after returning home from a Christian writers and speakers conference where I was mostly on my best behavior.

Here is one definition of humility: realizing you sent the unedited version of your book proposal to the publishers who kindly agreed to further consider your book. Luckily, the unintended file was attached to a gracious thank you note. The second thank you note, the one with the correct, edited version of the book proposal attached- the version which my brilliant real life editor friend painstakingly helped me craft- was a bit shorter and included a self-deprecating joke referencing jet lag after a one hour flight. Ha Ha, aren’t I just the silliest?

And I was feeling so fancy. Sigh…

In spite of this latest foible, I am for the most part flying high after my attendance at She Speaks this past weekend. In addition to the exciting opportunity to meet with two publishers, I attended a number of informative and beautifully presented workshops about writing and speaking taught by some of my favorite Christian authors. The quality of the conference was top notch and I gained a multitude of ideas about how I can make my writing and speaking better.

For instance, when you begin with a paragraph which draws your reader in and makes them want to read more, this technique is called A Hook. I have found in the past, dear reader, you particularly enjoy my stories about the times when I do things which scare the dog, thus my willingness to share my epic failure above. You are welcome.

Beyond the high quality training I received, my favorite part of the conference was three days of uninterrupted quality time with my writing sisters. These brave, talented, passionate women flew in from all over the world to learn more about how to spread God’s love and their message of hope. I met new friends and dug deeper with some “old” friends who are part of my online community. We also laughed A LOT. Laughing is my favorite, as IMG_2553you can see in this photo of my squad. Continue reading

Being Brave: Leaving the Safe Familiar

devo_johnson“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” ~ John A. Shedd

Brave has become one of my favorite words.

My younger daughter introduced our family to the word brave. Growing up, she often processed her feelings out loud and needed a great deal of verbal encouragement. When she was little and had about worn me out one day with her worries, complaints, aches, pains, and fears, I told her that I didn’t know what else I could do for her. I had no more answers, and I was at a loss for how to help her. Whatever it was, I couldn’t fix it. She said these words to me, which have continued to be our mantra to one another:

Mom, I just need you to tell me I’m a brave soldier.

As she grew up and faced some difficult circumstances, I said those words over and over and over until she claimed them for herself. She continued to push herself forward in spite of her fears and learned to surround herself with others who will applaud and encourage her attempts at valor. For her nineteenth birthday last year, I gave her a bracelet with the words “Be Brave” etched into a silver cuff–a concrete symbol of my words to her when I am too far away to speak the reminder out loud. I wear an identical bracelet as a reminder that I, too, am capable of courage.

Some days life feels overwhelming, and the path forward is not clear. It is tempting to stay stuck in the safe and familiar, even when the familiar is less than desirable. Being brave is hard work. Stepping out of our comfort zones, risking vulnerability, trying new things, pursuing our passions, and moving forward in spite of our fears often requires all the courage and resolve we can muster. In order to be successful, we would be wise to surround ourselves with those who name us brave and remind us we are meant for lives of risk and daring.

Continue reading on The Glorious Table

Holding Space: When Listening Leads to Healing

Holding SpaceA number of years ago, I had the honor of walking closely with one of my best friends during the final months of her marriage. It was heartbreaking to watch her dreams for their life together be blown apart by his verbal and physical abuse, yet it was a privilege to witness her courage, resilience and determination.

During the months before they split for good, many people in her life pleaded with her to leave him. They were understandably horrified by the ways he treated her, yet she was not quite done fighting for her marriage and started to resent the voices pushing her to make a decision before she was ready. Although my nature is generally to try to fix problems and offer advice as well, in this case I sensed advice was not what she needed from me. Instead, in a moment of uncharacteristic clarity and self-control, I chose to simply bear witness and be with her. I (mostly) avoided giving advice or offering opinions, in spite of what seemed the obvious solution.

I simply listened.

I told her I believed in her and knew she would ultimately make the best decision for her life. I told her she was brave and I loved her. I told her she was welcome in my home whenever she needed a safe place to be.

I held space for her to listen to God and her best self- in her own time and at her own pace.

Blogger and coach Heather Plett defines holding space in this way:

Holding space means we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

I tell the story above as an example of holding space to which I aspire. Even in a situation where I had some clarity about what was needed, I held space for my friend sloppily and imperfectly. She was hurting and I wanted to make her better. Continue reading

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