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Parenting pre-teens and teens is beyond exhausting… all consuming at times. It’s a maze of challenging and chaotic days, sprinkled with those rare moments of peace and tranquility. In the day to day… we run and run to keep up.

It’s in the center of that storm that we can get distracted and derailed as a parent. We start to over-focus on maintaining the structure of our lives, the need for order in our homes and subtly drift from watching carefully for the condition of our kids hearts. sad-teenage-girl-behavioral-consulting-675x278

How do you know if your drifting a bit from the important stuff? Take a second and answer these 3 thought provoking questions… 

1 – Do you find yourself ‘looking’ for problems or issues to correct/discipline in your kids ? 

2- Do you find less and less time for family conversation over a meal? (is your smartphone with you at dinner?) 

3- Are you skipping time alone with God for a chance to get one more item off ‘the to-do” list ? 

These aren’t meant to create shame or guilt but they do give a quick reflection of where your focus is as a parent. The drift is normal, we all have this struggle. What we do when we see the problem will define us a a parent.

My strong encouragement; reconnect with God. Carve out time as a family that is sacred and inviolate in your weekly schedule and protect your kids hearts from an overly critical spirit.

The 1 thing I forget over and over, is the 1 thing that’s most critical to my kids. It’s a detail that can easily get lost in the hustle and shuffle of surviving and it’s vital for us as parents to stay alert, aware, and compassionately sensitive to our pre-teen/teens! Here it is…

“Despair looks and feels just like Defiance”

Cruising through life at redline speed, we can miss this nuance. My caution is to slow down and stay alert to the shifting nature of your kids hearts. The no-nonsense parenting push is commendable and important to maintain order and structure in the home, but it leaves large gaps in its approach. Giving-My-Grief-to-God-FI-700x250

Be careful here… as I look back on my parenting experiences, this is where I messed up the worst.

I missed the signs and cues of despair in my children’s responses. Mistaking their avoidance, clipped answers, and isolation as a ‘rejection’ of me, instead of the subtle symptoms of depression, self-hate, and shame. It’s essential that we listen and look each day. Taking the time to ‘see’ our kids as they really are, and avoid the mistake of ‘assuming’ that today will be just like yesterday.

Grace to you and may God’s spirit of Wisdom and Revelation provide you with all you need to parent your family safely through these turbulent times.

Pastor B.

For more info on how to reach your tween or teen’s heart, click here!

Feeling alone?

Do you wonder in the silent moments if anyone will slow down enough to notice you today.

Someone to feel the pain your stumbling through life with. Someone to see beyond the surface calm and notice that subtle sadness in your eyes…the only hint to the sorrow and weariness within. All of your pain carefully held in check… we suffer in silence. A self-imposed exile. desert

If so, read on.

Life does conspire against us. It forces us to trust or run. To step into or flee away from. For those of us who still believe… we face the constant pressure to decide. Will we trust or doubt or land somewhere in-between.

Will we pick our faith back up from the curb and smooth it back in place somewhere stuck between our brain and beating heart? Or will we leave it behind… a useless token of youth lost…hopelessly broken ? 

This is where we often live. Right in the moment of in-between and if you’re a Christian that means feeling and being ‘alone’ in ways more profound than we know. The wilderness of faith where doubt and distractions rule the days and nights.

It’s here (wilderness) we have to choose.

It’s here where we grow.Where we change and become… something more than we were… and less.

For Moses and the nation of Israel fleeing Egypt… this took forty years to complete. For Jesus forty days. For you and I… well it remains to be seen. But it’s a part of our journey of faith. Not something we can avoid or skip. It’s a process of transformation that must be done in isolation.

It’s here in this lonely place where we move from a vicarious conviction of faith to a personal and intimate dependence on God’s word to live. 

For many of us… Isolation and loneliness are things we avoid… for others it’s a place we go to hide. But for every believer it’s a gateway to becoming… to expanding our faith from a shared experience to a personal conviction of the truth and purpose in Christ.

When we choose to believe God’s word vs. our feelings… we gain strength. When we delay, avoid, or deny… we don’t.

It takes a supernatural touch to move our hearts to trust again. To believe when we can’t see or feel a thing. To care when we’re numb. Yet it’s only here in the isolation that we learn what we must to go on.

So… take heart. God isn’t abandoning you. He’s closer than ever before. 

Blessings…

Pastor B.

Luke 4:1-14 (reference for blog)

Each year goes faster… new names and faces, new places… same old you. Emphasis on “old”. :)

As life moves us along we adapt, streeeeeetching to fit. We keep up with social media, the latest in smartphones and attempt to be ‘current’ as parents. Adjusting our wardrobe to stay relevant, along with our hairstyles and house color schemes. We’re not compromising here, but simply staying involved with the ebb and flows of modern culture and social norms. We adjust our diets to match the trends and make sure our families are equipped to keep up as well. man in a field pic

And about this time each year…We get rid of the old and worn out, and watch for the appropriately ‘new’!Life never slows or stops, a relentless taskmaster we have to obey. It’s twists and turns push us to go further, faster, and farther than ever before. The changes in our world mirroring the faces of our kids. Everything changes… EVERYTHING CHANGES! 

Except it seems… us?

Ever notice the way that extra ten pounds always hangs out in the same old places and spaces of your body? Or the way we repeatedly worry for our kids and spouses. Anxious about the same ol’ things we were five years ago. The same exact things that we sweated out ten years ago or twenty? Or what about our checking accounts… that hasn’t changed has it? Still just enough to get the bills paid… and not much more.

Why is it EVERYTHING CHANGES but us? 

The truth is… we are changing. We do grow. We are moving on an inner journey. It’s just very difficult to see or feel in the process. It takes ‘others’ to help us recognize the growth. It takes a few un-interrupted moments of contemplation… of review.

This new year… take some time to reflect on you. The world is moving by… and it always will. But what about you? Are you maturing, expanding your capacity as a parent, a spouse… a friend?

We understand that our kids have to eat to grow… but it’s easy to forget that truth applies to us as well. 

2016 is here… time re-new our vows of transformation and honor those best-intentions! Not with a fast diet and a new gym membership… but with a simple and profound desire to read and pray. Read and expand your mind, broaden your horizons as you commit your ways to God afresh. The scripture provides a healthy and irreplaceable perspective on all the things that matter most. meditation

This is the time to reflect on how much we have to be grateful for in the past year… and then look with renewed Hope at the freshness of the calendar ahead.

God is waiting for you in 2016. His promises are already in place. His faithfulness ready to be uncovered as you journey into the unknown days ahead, for He is on this Pilgrim path with us and that means we’re NEVER going to walk alone.

For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’

Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
    and they shall languish no more.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:7-14) 

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

What about Peace?

Candles glow, the Advent wreath is full of light, week 4 has arrived… time for us to focus on “PEACE”.

Ultimately that’s the idea behind our search for faith. To find ‘rest for our souls. To relax our clenched hearts… to wonder again. To be secure… to feel safe. 

Our lives often don’t feel balanced…tipping from one extreme to another. Too busy, too empty… too full. We search to find meaning in our wandering, to discover some secret key to unlock all the pain and mystery of our past mistakes, our current dilemmas… future fears! A key to help us make sense of things. It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-christmas-movies-2394010-1024-768

Christmas can be a wonderful time to reconsider our story. To re-imagine life as it was meant to be as we would want it to be. No illness, no shame… no worry and no pain. Full of Joy and promise, we long for things to change. We hoped for more than we can see…

Peace is that most elusive goal. A destination too far to discover. Yet we yearn.

PEACE... not a goal we can work to attain. 

PEACE... too far away for us to find. 

PEACE... uncertain, we’re too afraid to feel.

Christians… have a promise that transcends this life, this world.. even us. A promise of PEACE. Not a hope that we can grasp or learn, but a belief that our Prince of PEACE will come for us. That His PEACE can become our own. Literally infusing us with something ‘other’. Something we can’t understand or fully describe. PEACE in the middle of all our chaos.

PEACE in a world gone mad… PEACE in our marriages, PEACE in our families, PEACE at work. PEACE in our hearts and PEACE at home. candle-hand-blue

Christmas reminds us of the promise of PEACE. A promise that cannot be found anywhere else. It’s essential that we remember…CHRIST ALONE “IS” our PEACE!  A truth that changes everything if we let it soak in. 

Merry Christmas dear friend!

Micah 5:2-5 (ESV) – Source BibleGateway.com 

2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
    to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.”

Advent week three… light the JOY candle and let’s all be happy! 

Plastic smiles at the ready we can brave another day of rushing to get life done. Christmas is crazy! We loose our minds from time to time… recitals, parties, work, church, school… it’s exhausting and worse. Somewhere in there we have to shop, wrap gifts, decorate, trim a tree, and prepare for family. JOY

Sunday we sit for an hour and listen to the pastor tell us to put on “JOY” and we’re urged to remember the reason for the season in our hectic holiday. We smile and nod, seems like a good idea… but by Monday morning we’re so removed from that ideal we can’t even recall the passage it was preached from, let alone live with intent.

First of all… skip the guilt and shame. No one is here to bash you. We’re all parents, living in the same nutty world. It’s a struggle to balance life in the best of times… let alone at Christmas. No other holiday compresses so many facets of our lives into one three or four-week period. Personal, private, family, church, professional, etc… everyone area of living gets a dose of Christmas obligation and in the end we’re left on the short side of it all. 

So… couple of encouragements.

1 – Happiness is NOT the same as “JOY”.  The Christian ideal for Advent isn’t fake happy. It is a cool reminder that God is really the one in control. Gives us permission to relax. In letting go we can rest in the work we’re doing and in letting go we find Peace.

2- Perfection doesn’t exist. So you can stop killing yourself to have the perfect party, dinner, Christmas… etc. Smile at the gaps in your life, instead of critiquing yourself and everyone else for falling ‘short’. After all it’s those imperfections that give us ‘character’… and who doesn’t love “character’?

3 – Enjoy the season at a pace that you can reasonably tolerate. Say “NO” when you must. No Guilt. You cannot do everything for everyone. Include times to rest and recharge yourself in the weekly commitments.

4- Stay off social media for a bit. It can be overwhelming and a huge distraction. The pictures and posts are all awesome and enjoyable, but for parents in overload…. it’ maybe a hill too far. The contentment factor is a personal issues for some… if it affects your JOY… ditch it for a while.

5- Sleep. It’s way underrated. Seven to Eight hours a night. Stop what you’re doing in time to go to bed. Whatever it is… you can do it better with a clear mind, and rested body. The last thing you need is a cold or cough to add to your woes.

Merry Christmas Parents! Your awesome and so is your family! It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-christmas-movies-2394010-1024-768

Philippians 4: 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Waiting is so odd to us.

We’re instant society folks… living in a push button culture. We find what we want in minutes, not hours. Days of delay, a totally foreign concept. We linger little. Time is tight.

Schedules are crammed full, social Holiday parties, church Christmas specials, school choir events, rushed shopping, shipping, spending… the pace of life pushing… squeezing.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple with Christmas shopping

Waiting is not even an option anymore. We have to sprint to stay ahead of the freight train that is our life…endlessly bearing down on us. Exhausted and numb, we scratch at the shimmering screens that surround us. Looking, hoping to find the spark of our old life to ignite some Christmas spirit.

Tired of too many things… we need something more. 

We’re longing to find the reason for rushing, the purpose behind the presents. Christmas shouldn’t be so thin and harsh. Whatever happened to the Joy of it all?

Where did the thrill of the anticipation, the waiting to discover… the wonder each gift reveals.

Slow the show mom and dad. 

Sit down.

Bake.

Watch TV with your kids.

Drive the neighborhoods for Christmas lights.

Go make something crafty for Aunt Bev :)

This season comes once each year. It’s not like the other weeks and days we ram through. This is important. Priceless. Take a deep breath… say “NO” to something. Maybe four or five ‘somethings’,  loose a few ‘ extra’ obligations this Christmas. 

Jesus-Mary-Joseph-1Lets remember the big picture? Christ came… Christ is coming… Christ will come again. Faith flickers in our fatigue… now could be a good time to rest and refresh our hearts. Christmas break is coming. An opportunity to slow down enough to enjoy the beautiful and fleeting moments. Resist the temptation to fill every moment of your holiday. Leave large spaces of unscheduled time available for family… oh and mute your smartphones.

The rewards of unplugging are enormous… including the ultimate Christmas gift for a family… your being ‘present’. 

Merry Christmas from RTP and Pastor B.

 

Advent is an ancient Christian tradition of intentionally ‘waiting‘ and ‘looking’ for God’s coming. As early as the 4th century, Christian converts were preparing for Christ’s return. Over a period of four weeks, starting in late November they would fast and pray in an earnest attempt to renew their hearts and minds for Christ’s coming.

This has evolved into a modern day tradition of lighting four candles (Hope / Love / Joy / Peace)  over four weeks, each candle representing a specific theme and truth about Christ. We anticipate the arrival of Christmas and by parallel the birth of Christ… or “Advent”. But we also should consider the original intent of our ancient Church fathers who sincerely believed that Christ was about to return to earth.

Advent Candles

Advent Candles

So as millions of Christian families light their advent candles or hang their Advent wreaths this Christmas season… consider the possibility that we are anticipating more than a baby’s birth, but a King’s return to earth!

For families looking to re-emphasize the deeper meaning of Christ-Mass, ADVENT is a wonderful way to keep the reason for the season fresh and real for our kids. Simple and easy to do… Advent candles allow for families of faith to ponder the virtues of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace… a time to reflect on our amazing heritage.

Merry Christmas from Road Trip Parenting! 

PS – To find out more about the history of Advent or to start your own family tradition – check out Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” or the free onlineAWANA Advent Devotional!

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