Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Child's an Adult - Now What?

Dear Friends,

Many parents of adult children think their job is over once the kids leave for college, move out on their own, or head off to the military.  They believe they are getting their life back after all those years and are relieved a new chapter is beginning.

I appreciate the empty nest; Neil and I have enjoyed it for the last six years.  Our children came home during the summer and the holidays while they were in college.  Now they are moving on in their careers and time with them has changed.  With the change of their life status came the awareness of the responsibility that Neil and I had to adapt the way we parented our children.  Yes, they are adults and we had to change the way we parented them because of the different stage of life they were entering.

Changing the way we parent does not come naturally to us.  We have to be intentional and focused in order to facilitate a smooth transition in a time that is often filled with challenge, strain, and fear.  This season of life is one of the most vulnerable in the life of your adult child; failure to appreciate its significance will lead to division, hurt, and frustration for everyone.

Each week I have encounters with young adults that I would adopt if I could.  They are wonderful people who feel alone, even though their parents are in their lives.  Some of them have made numerous attempts to make their parents happy, but they have fallen on deaf ears.  They feel like they are rarely on the radar screen of their parents’ lives and they don’t know what to do to get back on it.

Most of the young adults who feel alone say their parents are clueless about how they feel.  Worse yet, they feel like it comes down to two sides:  The parents either want control over the adult child’s life or they want little to do with them.  To be in the middle means the parents are going to have to really work at the relationship, which may take them outside their comfort zone.

Examine the following questions and see how you are doing in this area.  Better yet, ask your adult children to give you their thoughts on how you are handling your relationship with them:

1.  Do you still tell them what to do?  At this point in your child’s life, it is disrespectful if you talk to them like you did when they were little.  They are adults now and when you forget that, you send the relationship back to a place that will hurt the trust which needs to exist between you.  If you need to talk to them about something, be sure you speak to them like you would a neighbor, coworker, or friend.

2.  Do you ask questions?  Or do you make assumptions because you think you know them?  Too often parents of adult children look at their kids through a filter of who their children were when they were growing up and fail to give them the opportunity to act, feel, and think differently.

3.  Do you say “I told you so”?  Parents get scared when their adult children make mistakes and often will warn them of impending danger.  When a parent seizes the moment to remind their adult child of his or her mistakes, it builds a wall.  One of the best gifts we can give them is to refrain from reminding them of our wisdom.  Let them come to you and be humble when they admit their faults.

4.  Do your expectations get in the way of your child’s dreams?  Too often, adult children will not share their dreams with their parents because they do not want to contend with their parents’ opinions and disappointments.  Listen for hints your children may be dropping.  They may be testing the waters to see if they can trust you with their ideas, hopes, and dreams.

5.  Do you model healthy behavior for them?  I have met some pretty dysfunctional parents.  Many adult children have to work at recovering from the pain they had inflicted upon them.  Instead of worrying about your adult child’s behavior, it may be wise to first do a little reflection to see if you are a good role model of healthy behavior.  As you work through the questions, be sure you capture the heart behind them.

You are extremely important to your adult children, so don’t underestimate the power of your influence.  They need you just as much as they did when they were little, but they need you differently now.  If you are willing to grow alongside them, you increase the possibilities of enjoying a meaningful, loving, and respectful relationship for years to come.


Catherine Hickem, L.C.S.W.
Contributing Author

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Kind of Giver Are You?

Dear Friends,

For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood. ~ Mark 12:44

“Americans are so gullible,” a rescue mission supervisor told me.  “Did you hear about the man who went out and raised two hundred dollars in half an hour from people on the street by telling them he was collecting for ‘The Unknown Soldier’s Widow’?”  I confessed I hadn’t heard about it, but I wondered if it were true.

I thought about the money that I gave away to charity.  Gullible giving is not God’s way.  Guidelines have been given to us.  Tithes first - 10 percent of all our income.  This is His.  We touch it not, lest we be guilty of thievery - robbing divinity is a heinous crime!  Offerings next.  “Nor will I not offer…to the Lord My God with that which costs me nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24), said David.  What say you?  Think of the widow.  She only had two mites.  She could have thought that two mites were too little to give.  But Jesus didn’t think so.  He knew that casting in all your livelihood makes you rich with much more valuable coinage than can come from any earthly mint.

Spastic generosity, triggered by nerves, touched off by impassioned pleas of poverty, or doled out to starving unfortunates pictured in scraggy photographs, is not the best help we can give.  Careful accounting of our budget - as if we were handling someone else’s funds - is the way to go.  After all, we are merely stewards, and as the Good Book reminds us, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Survival Tips with a Purpose

Do you love the lazy, spontaneous days of summer?  Or do you find those endless summer days just that, endless?  If the latter is true of you, then perhaps you’ve  experienced the struggle of trying to come up with ideas to keep your kids active, learning and getting along with each other during these months.  Here are some fresh ideas for the approaching season that will also allow you to get to know women.
Invite all the moms from one of your children’s classrooms to a summer survival coffee. On your invitation, ask everyone to be prepared to share one summer fun idea.  Encourage mothers of preschoolers not to let childcare issues prevent them from coming. Have a basket of toys and a VeggieTales video handy to occupy toddlers.  When women RSVP and offer to bring something, let them!  They will feel ownership for your gathering and are much more likely to attend if they’re contributing something.  On the other hand, assure overwhelmed moms that they don’t need to bring a thing, other than themselves.
By using summer as a theme for your gathering, you can keep the menu and décor simple.  Set out buckets, shovels and sand toys for centerpieces.  Strew jump ropes, colored sidewalk chalk or jacks and rubber balls across the serving table.  Offer lemonade, iced tea, Cracker Jacks, peanuts, and Popsicles ¾ anything that reminds you of summer.  If your kids have some spare stickers, put ladybugs, bicycles, ice cream cones, roller skates and flowers on plain name tags or labels.  Hunt around the house and garage for things you already have ¾picnic cloths, potted plants, bottles of bubbles, a baseball cap or mitt ¾ to enhance your theme.
Introduce your guests to each other, and socialize over treats. Try not to hurry people or appear rushed because you have an agenda.  The main agenda is for you to get to know your guests better and for them to enjoy themselves. This is a fun, casual way of deepening relationships, hoping that God will use you at some point to help bring these friends to Christ.
When it seems appropriate, ask the moms to share their summer survival tips.  Go first in order to give them time to collect their thoughts and to observe you modeling what you want from them.  The last time I did this I brought out my daughters’ and my sketchbooks.  Since the girls were three and four, we have each had a sketchbook we use two or three times a week in the summer.  We may set up a still life to draw, sketch in the garden or study art books purchased at garage sales for ideas.  None of us has any drawing experience.  We merely draw, gab and giggle as we politely peek at each other’s humble creations.
One of the mothers recorded all our ideas and sent copies home in the kids’ backpacks. The list was a reminder of the fun afternoon we had.  Moms called one another for further explanation and to make dates for strawberry picking and museum outings. You also have an opportunity to follow-up with a guest to plan that picnic in the park she mentioned.  One summer our girls each invited a friend over one morning a week for a “club.”  We planned three stations: a craft, a story discussion and snack preparation.  Yarn around the house was collected to make yarn dolls and teach finger knitting.  The girls squeezed into the playhouse for a read-aloud of The Hundred Dresses or There’s an Owl in the Family.  We threw a little of this and a little of that from the kitchen cupboard into Ziploc bags to make gorp: Cheerios, mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, raisins, pretzels, whatever we could find.  And we built plenty of time for free play into our schedule.
Plan time in your summer schedule to get to really know and love your neighbors and their children.  Just as our Father sent Jesus into the world, so our Lord sends us into the world. Our Lord Jesus also prays for those who will believe in Him through our message (Jn. 17: 18, 20)!  Make play with friends a priority this summer.  Knock on neighbors’ doors and invite them to join you in the evening for watermelon in the back yard.  Pray that the Lord will help you develop lasting friendships based on trust and understanding and for future opportunities to talk about spiritual things.  Don’t only survive the summer, but invest in it with hopes of eternal returns.
Summer Fun Ideas
Plan one or several of these fun activities with your kids this summer ¾and don’t forget to invite a friend!

  • Horseback riding
  • Blueberry picking
  • Sewing project, i.e. a “Mom and me” quilt
  • Read chapter books aloud to one another
  • Host a Friday night gathering for older children ¾invite friends for kick the can or
  • Flashlight  tag and snacks
  • Set up tents in the backyard
  • Have a spontaneous kids’ yard sale
  • Throw a Beanie Baby birthday party
  • Set up an outdoor nail salon
  • Put on a neighborhood pet parade
  • Set up an obstacle course in the back yard
  • Put a neighborhood magic show

Beth Seversen
Contributing Author

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jesus is Your Ultimate Burden-Bearer

Dear Friends,

Bear one another’s burdens. ~ Galatians 6:2

There is a time for everything, a season for this and a season for that.  There is a time to bear a care in solitude, and a time to share a prayer with a friend.  We need the wisdom to know when to shoulder responsibility, when to delegate, and when to cast it all upon Jesus - our incomparable Burden Bearer.

Sometimes I have to have a cry, then wash my face and get on with it!  I know I must bear the thing alone.  Another day, when I was burdened beyond belief after watching a loved one suffer, a friend came to me and touched my hurt with tenderness, mending the raw edges of my helplessness.  Such love brought a blessed buoyancy that helped more that I could tell.  Someone cared enough to help make my burden bearable.  Yes, there is a season for sorrow, a time to bear another’s burdens.

But there comes a time when only God’s shoulders are broad enough to carry the weight of my worry.  Then crushing burdens become carried burdens.  Yoked to Him, I can plow my lonely furrow, walk a straight path, cope with the intolerable, and figure out the impossible.  Then, having been carried, I am sent on my way strengthened to help carry another.  I need to pray:

Show me when to share, Lord-
Commission me to carry, Lord.

And teach me not to burden one of your special children, if I must bear my burden alone!


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Monday, June 13, 2011

Making Your Home Guest Friendly

Our church is working on becoming more guest friendly.  Prime parking spaces are now reserved for visitors.  Smiling greeters at each entrance warmly receive newcomers and hosts accompany guests to their destination, be it the sanctuary, nursery or youth center. These hosts personally invite first-timers to one other activity in the life of the church that might interest them: Awana, a men’s golf outing, a church picnic, or a women’s group. The church sends a letter to all who sign the guest registry, and a member calls each local visitor.
This new emphasis on guests at church has encouraged me to think about guests in my home.  How guest friendly is my house?  When my husband and I purchased our first living room furniture in the 1980s, I swooned over the then popular camelback sofa and winged-back chairs.  My colors were crème, pink, cranberry and teal.  The finished room was elegant and formal.  Quite lovely, I thought.  A little too lovely, I later realized, at least for our lifestyle.  I was constantly shooing my young children off furniture, and my teeth were on edge when anyone ate in the living room.
Eighteen years and two moves later I have the opportunity to “redo” our living space.  For years I’ve wished our home said, “Come on in, curl up on the sofa, feet and all.”  This time around I’m shopping for comfortable seating, durable fabrics and an inviting statement.  I hope the room is so enticing people can’t help but curl up on the furnishings. The throw rug is definitely not the latest designer style, but it’s comfy for the kids to lie on and doesn’t show stains.  My decorating goal is no longer to look like a photo op for a sleek magazine.  Instead, I want my home to be inviting, not formal.  Cozy, not cutting edge.
Since we often have out-of-town company, we try to make our home guest friendly by keeping a basket for visitors filled with items they may have forgotten.  Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, razors, shampoo and other toiletries fill the basket.  Many of these items are gathered during our own travels.  Over the years the baskets have taken various forms and sizes, sometimes bulging, other times slim.  During hectic seasons it may contain merely a piece of fruit and a couple of stamped postcards of our city.  Or a simple bouquet of fresh-cut flowers from the garden stuffed in a Ball jar may wave hello from the nightstand.  What the welcome gift is seems not nearly as significant as the gesture itself.
Although the furnishings and welcoming touches are important, what truly transforms the climate of a house is the attitude of the hosts.  The relaxed manner in which we heartily greet our guests sets the tone for their visit.  The thoughtful questions we ask can say a lot more to our guests about their welcome than surgically clean bathrooms and sparkling floors.  Eye contact, focused attention and a ready smile communicate volumes of love and care.
Stop and recollect the homes where you’ve been warmly welcomed.  What made you long to linger a while longer?  How were encouragement, hope and joy shared? Determine how best to imitate these behaviors and values.
My friend Dave fondly remembers his pastor frequently falling asleep in a favorite chair following Sunday dinner with his family.  For that reason, he wanted his own house to be a place of refuge for my husband. Dave’s home speaks to us: come on in, curl up on the sofa, feet and all.  And take a nap if you’d like.
 Special Touches to Have for Guests

  • Keep a toy basket handy for visits from families with toddlers.
  • Have coloring books, paper, crayons, markers, scotch tape and scissors handy to enter-
  • tain school-aged children in a place accessible to them.
  • Stock a bookcase shelf full of books for visitors of all ages: picture books, middle readers, young adult and adult books.
  • Make easy healthy snacks available to guests and encourage them to help themselves. Applesauce cartons, frozen fruit bars, and juice boxes are generally a hit with youngsters.
  • Place stationery, stamps, pen and a notepad within bedside reach for overnight guests. 

Beth Serversen
Contributing Author

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hope When Your Hands Are Tied

Dear Friends,

“Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”
~ John 19:26-27

Take courage!  Jesus did more with His hands tied than anyone else on earth!  When Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, Herod’s soldiers tied His hands behind His back so they could better buffet Him.  Then they sent Him back to Pilate.  “That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for before that they had been at enmity” (Luke 23:12).  Jesus had an amazing effect on people, even when they hated Him.  He even helped people get over their quarrels when His hands were tied!

The centurion untied Jesus’ hands, only to nail them firmly in place upon the cross!  But think what Jesus did when His hands were nailed into place-the centurion came to Christ!  When Jesus’ hands were tied, He never stopped helping people!  Seeing His mother standing at the foot of the cross watching Him die, and seeing His best earthly friend supporting her, He gave His mother into John’s hands.  He could no longer take care of Mary; His hands were tied.  But He still had a mind alert enough to plan for those He loved, and even through His desperate thirst, He could still speak words of encouragement.  Jesus, choosing to die, could not do much for Mary and John, but He did what He could-and it was enough.

Are your hands tied?  Are you imagining yourself helplessly restricted?  Think about Jesus.  Ask Him for a way around the dilemma.  He’ll show you!  He’ll tell you, “It’s amazing what you can do when your hands are tied!”


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why Not Throw a "Matthew Party"?

Sitting around the dinner table one of our daughters said, “We should have someone over to play Skip-Bo.”  “Why not tomorrow night?” my husband asked.  “Who should we invite?”  I queried, “A family from school?  What about that family we sat next to at the Orchestra Awards Night?  You know, the Campbells?”  “Yeah, Conner and Cathleen are nice,” my eldest agreed.  “But Conner is a boy and Colleen is older than me,” my youngest piped.
Eventually it was decided.  Before anyone could back down I was on the phone with Heather who I had met earlier that week at a school event.  When I extended an invitation to join us for a game night, her only hesitation was what kind of game were we planning? She seemed to warm to the short and sweet part as I mentioned getting together from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a game and snacks.  I held the line and my breath while Heather consulted her family.  With relief I found myself giving directions trusting the Lord that both our families of five would have an endearing not enduring evening; guessing Heather was thinking something similar.
Stopping at Walgreen’s the next day, the girls ran in to do the shopping: popcorn, lemonade, strawberry licorice, root beer and vanilla ice cream for the root beer float finale.  That’s my kind of no prep entertaining.  At home the girls all chose a room on the first floor to dust and vacuum.  I want them to learn that entertaining can be simple but at the same time there is usually some work involved.
As the time drew near for our guest’s arrival Mark and I shared one of our kitchen prayers for the Campbells.  We prayed that they might feel at ease with us, that both families would heartily enjoy themselves, and that our great God would use the evening to draw this family to Himself.
I’ve been teaching Becoming A Contagious Christian (Millelberg, Strobel and Hybels/Zondervan), and it dawned on me that our family was throwing a Matthew Party. Remember how the Lord Jesus hung out at Matthew’s house to meet his friends?  A Matthew party is simply a gathering “designed to mix our unchurched friends with some of our Christian friends to facilitate their interaction and do some relationship building” with the hope of eventually introducing these friends to Christ.
We all chatted a few minutes when our new friends arrived and then the kids took their drinks and snacks to sit outside for awhile.  They had no trouble getting to know each other and their occasional laughter spilled over to the adults cheering us on in our own efforts at getting acquainted.  We learned about our backgrounds and sought out commonalities.  And then it was time for the game.
Mark and I chose a rousing game full of rules and penalties that our children are unfamiliar with to help all the kids feel like they were on the same playing field.  We’d played this particular game with adults and young adults alike and knew it to provide much comic relief as an anecdote to the stress of new situations.  The game was a hoot and once was enough.  We visited over our root beer floats and the young people roasted marshmallows outside in the firepot and played some night games.
The Campbell’s gave us the gift of lingering over their goodbyes, and all the kids had that hungering look for more.  As their eighth grade son slipped out the door, a copy of the game rules tucked under his arm he said, “Mrs. Seversen, I had a great time.  Thank you for inviting us and we have to do this again.”  Now, you could scratch that comment up to his enjoying his “harem” for the evening being the only male among five charming females but I’d like to think it was a remark prompted by the work of the Holy Spirit knitting his heart with ours, drawing him to the Father, and dousing him with the love of Christ Jesus.
Spontaneous invitations take the pressure off of us.  We don’t have to entertain perfectly because there generally isn’t time.  I think of it as worry free entertaining.  With no time to fuss there is also no time to anticipate the worst. Spontaneity also gives us a glimpse into our children’s characters.  Do they vie for attention, are they generous with their belongings, and how are they at taking the initiative in asking questions and offering suggestions for activities?  And so we were doubly blessed that evening.  We received the incredible privilege of introducing our kids’ classmates to a Christian home and we saw areas in our children’s lives to applaud and to mold.  Why not plan your own Matthew party sometime soon?

Beth Seversen
Contributing Author

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beauty Secrets

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. ~ Psalm 90:17

Dear Friends,

What is beauty?  There is a beauty of form and figure that catches the breath by its sheer symmetry.  Then there is the beautiful supple strength of the athlete.  But we are thinking “outward.”  What about the “inward,” the beauty of a right mind, for instance?  The queen in Proverbs 31 warned her son, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (v.30).

The most radiant beauty of all is spiritual beauty, that inner tranquility that comes from a meek and submissive spirit resting at the Saviour’s feet.  Moses prayed that the beauty of the Lord would be upon his people.  When David had placed the ark of God inside the tent that he had pitched for it, he offered burnt offerings and told the people to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chron. 16:29).

Romans 10:15 tells us that the feet that take the gospel to the lost are beautiful.  But how perfectly beautiful is our Saviour Jesus!  Beautiful in love, holiness, forgiveness, and grace!  If we will only pray the prayer of Moses as we worship Him, the Lord will think us beautiful too.  We will hear our Saviour whisper, “You are fair, my love!  Behold, you are fair!”  (Song 4:1).


Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor