By Brenda Yoder
When my daughter was born, she was all I ever dreamed up. I was excited to be a stay at home mom. I was going to teach her things my heart said were necessary for raising a beautiful godly woman. I took the assignment seriously. I faithfully listened to teachers on Christian radio on raising children. From the first day, I poured into this little girl and daydreamed of our idyllic life together.
She was fifteen months old when the ideal picture was more like a scene from the Bad Mommy Chronicles. One day when I picked her up from her grandma’s house, she looked at me and threw herself on the ground saying “No, No, I no go home!” After trying to calm her down, distracting her, and disciplining her, I finally left my mother-in-law’s house, defeated, angry and humiliated.
“How dare she act that way in front of my mother-in-law. What was I doing wrong that she acted this way” were thoughts running through my mind as I left with her kicking and screaming under my arm.
I didn’t expect to feel angry at my beautiful little girl. Moms aren’t supposed to feel that way. As she grew older, I didn’t know how to handle her temperament, and the beautiful mother-daughter relationship I dreamed up became a relationship of conflict and turmoil during her adolescent years. Pain, not peace was our routine, anger and hurt was normal for us.
I often wondered why God gave me only one girl and designed our temperaments, wills, and birth order to be at odds with each other. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t struggle this way with my sons. Hadn’t I walked in God’s ways, pursued Him, and served Him? Why would He allow us to be at odds with each other?
He didn’t answer that question in the pit of despair. But as she and I continued to pursue Him, He changed both of us. Out of our brokenness, He’s called both of us to ministry – her to the fatherless and me to give hope to others when life doesn’t fit the storybook image. As we’ve walked from hurt to healing, God has proven Himself a tangible presence of Hope and Healing in our family.
I’ve learned to fight for what the enemy tried to steal. I’ve learned to ask and give forgiveness, to be humble and full of grace when things aren’t going well. I’ve learned to be honest, to be strong, and to choose God in brokenness.
It’s a privilege to give hope and encouragement to mothers and daughters at Whatever Girls. The journey I’ve walked is hard, beautiful and grace-filled at every turn. It’s my hope and prayer as I write here that I can encourage both moms and daughters who may be hurting individually, who may be at odds with each other, or who may need hope in their unspeakable pain. This space here is for you. How can we encourage here?
We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions about your struggle as a mom, a daughter, or as a teen. I’ll do my best to share professional and personal insight through a Christ-centered lens. We want you to know you’re not alone. How are you struggling today?
Broken and Beautiful: Brenda has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and a BA in Education. As a Parent, Counselor and Educator her ministry is helping moms and daughters navigate the tough stuff of life. Have a question for Brenda? Email her at [email protected]
By Emily Miller
You are in your bedroom quietly working on homework. Suddenly, your little sister barges in without knocking, demanding that you play hose with her. Irritated to be distracted from the assignment that you are working so diligently on, you tell her to get lost.
When she finally leaves with a pout, your older sister storms in with a scowl on her face, demanding that you give her favorite scarf back. Insisting that you never borrowed the prized scarf only starts an argument between the two of you. This particular situation is only intensified when your little sister returns, dragging your mom behind and whining about how you were mean to her. This all culminates into you getting in trouble and wishing, not for the first time, that you were an only child.
One way or another, most of us with siblings have been in similar situations. It is hard having siblings, older or younger. I have a younger brother myself who seems to go out of his way to annoy me at times.
Yet, no matter how annoying siblings tend to be, we still have to live with them. This may be a challenge when they are constantly getting on your nerves. However, there is one particular verse that can help us stay focused.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (NIV)
We are supposed to love our siblings no matter how much they annoy us. Yet when we look at this list as a whole, this task seems to be a daunting one. My personal challenge for you is to take one thing that love is from the verse and work on it for a whole month. Each month, add one more thing to the list until you are eventually in the habit of practicing every aspect of love, which this verse lists, towards your siblings.
In the coming months I will be discussing ways we can be patient, kind, and so on towards our brothers and sisters, as this is something I will be attempting as well. It will be a challenging task, and we may fail, but the important thing is to not be discouraged, and to continue to persevere until the end.
All for Him,
By Cheri Gregory
Notes to Teenage Me Part 1
Notes to Teenage Me Part 2
Notes to Teenage Me Part 3
Notes to Teenage Me Part 4
It’s 10:00 pm and I just got back from our first Vacation Bible School meeting. How do I begin to explain the joy and ecstasy of working with seven delightful little girls?
It was wonderful to be surrounded by seven admirers! I just know I’m going to love it!
To Teenage Me,
I know you were worried about whether VBS would be your “kinda thing.” Kudos for giving it a try! You have so much love to offer these little girls, and you will be amazed by how much they will teach you.
By now you know that admiration is fickle–from “delightful” little girls or BFFs or b-o-y-s. Continue serving as God leads regardless of the temporary moods of your young charges.
You’ll learn valuable leadership lessons as you discover that their reactions – you’ll hear plenty of complaints like “This is booooring!” and “But I don’t wanna!” – are about them, not you.
Your Future Self
(P.S. Secret Tip: Don’t over-use this, but laughing at them and/or yourself often dissolves a band of bad mood girls into a giggling group that’s “all in this together.”)
Talking about h-e-c-t-i-c…this week has been one for the books! I’ve had four or five meetings, ranging from the Girls’ Club to church to a skit rehearsal. Then a poster to make for the International Club and a potluck this week.
Every lunch period and evening is packed — no time for any relaxation!
To Teenage Me,
Oh honey, you are SO headed for a crash and burn. I know you say you thrive on activity; what you don’t yet know is that you’re a Highly Sensitive Person who can’t sustain this kind of relentless schedule.
When the crash comes, and you’re wondering what on earth went wrong, here are a few answers:
1) You need sleep. I don’t care that your friends can get away with 4 hours a night. You need more and aren’t functional without it. And don’t even think about caffeine; your brain and body can’t handle it. It’ll only make things worse.
2) You need down time. Yes, you’re an extravert; you gain energy by being around people. And you are overwhelmed by people. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it’s merely part of the paradox of being uniquely you. So by all means, get out there and have fun. But also schedule time to unwind after.
3) You are overly-optimistic. You look at squares on your calendar as spaces to be filled with To Dos–in teeny tiny writing! But when the time comes, you discover you can’t possibly do it all.
It’s okay; you don’t have to “do it all.” When you’re listening to God’s leading, you’ll only do what He asks you to.
Your Future Self
I want to improve the world around me and make things better for others, but I don’t know how. And I don’t think anyone believes in me.
I guess you could say that the one void I feel is a great lack of support and affirmation.
To Teenage Me,
Ahhhh…the dream of being surrounded by people who bolster your confidence so you can finally take bold action. It’s a lovely dream. And it happens for some people.
But I can tell you right now: it’s not going to happen for you. And this is a fact, not a problem.
You can’t change or solve it. Accept it.
If you wait until this dream of “support and affirmation” comes true before you start living out your calling to improve the world around you, you will waste decades doing nothing but waiting, wallowing in the belief that you are unworthy.
If God has called you –and He has!–answer. Take action. You will find yourself supporting others. As you do, you’ll find yourself receiving all the affirmation you need from Him.
Your Future Self
On Thursday, I start Driver’s Training.
I’m so excitedscarednervous & dyingofanticipation!
It’ll be so cool to be able to DRIVE!!!
To Teenage Me,
First: When you come home from your first lesson, do not brag to your family that you were “driving around town in a Corvette” when, in fact, the training car is a “Chevette.” (If you do, your brother to spend the next 30 years laughing at you. Trust me on this one!)
Second: You don’t need to swerve hard to the right to avoid possible on-coming traffic when entering a freeway onramp. Just sayin’.
Third: Take the responsibility of commandeering a lethal weapon seriously. And put a few thousand dollars into savings ASAP. Insurance only pays so much after accidents.
Finally: Your world is about to get waaaaaaay bigger. Soon, you’ll be independently traveling all over the county and then the state. Sometimes you’ll get lost. Sometimes you’ll get stuck in scary parts of Los Angeles.
Keep in mind who’s the real Driver of your life.
Your Future Self
- What would you like to say to my “Teenage Me”?
- What would you say to your “Teenage Me”?
- Post a diary excerpt that shares what’s on your teenage heart!
By Kim Chaffin
Looking back at the dirty diapers and sleepless nights, I remember thinking how hard it was at times to be a mom of little kids. I actually thought, “Hang in there, it well get easier as they get older”. NOT! All I did was trade the worries of them falling down the stairs–while learning to walk–into a whole new set of worries. Handing them the keys to the car for their first drive alone, after I had almost worn a hole in the floor mat pushing the imaginary brake from the passenger seat, made those sleepless nights something to give thanks for.
When they were little I could control the environment they were in: I could place covers over the outlets so they would not be shocked, a gate by the stairs to keep them from falling. I could check the size of a toy to be sure they would not choke. I could set up play dates and get to know the parents of their friends. As the teen years hit and we were running from baseball and softball fields after our kids, and as they began to get freedom to do more on their own, my ability to keep a safe environment slipped away.
I began praying for God to be my eyes and my ears when they were out with friends, to keep them safe and to help them make wise choices. Now don’t get me wrong, I prayed for them when they were little but I began to find that in order for me to let go, and allow my kids a healthy teenage life, I had to put all my trust in the Lord. One of the big issues we have faced as parents was the whole dating issue.
We faced the dating dilemma with our son first because he is the oldest. He liked a girl in the 9th grade, but we were not ready for the whole dating thing and–thankfully–neither were her parents. We found the best thing was to have open communication with her parents and let the kids hang out, but not date officially. We did not want them to sneak and we knew they had some feelings for each other. We allowed them to hang out but we set guidelines, much like the gate that kept him from falling down the stairs as a child. They could hang out with each other’s family; they could go to dinner, have a game night, or study after school at one of our homes with the parents there. One day they went on a jog and they actually thought it was cool that they were allowed to be alone for that. They went to a dance at school and–so they could hang out after the dance–we let them invite a bunch of kids from their class over for an after-dance party.
We took it one step further and invited the parents of the kids who were at our place to come over for games. Our attitude was: they are boys and girls, they like each other because God made them to eventually find a person of the opposite sex to spend their life with. We understood that they wanted to hang out and we wanted them to be in a safe place to do so. My husband and I were well aware that all of us are hard wired to want to have physical contact with a person of the opposite sex. God wants it to be with the person we are married to, but with raging hormones comes temptation. Many kids–and many of us who are reading this–have fallen into the temptation of sex outside of marriage. It was our job as parents to set healthy boundaries, or guidelines, so that our kids could hang out with the opposite sex and begin to learn the roles of a healthy relationship. In those interactions with the opposite sex our kids were able to grow into adults and have an idea of what to look for in a spouse.
I was talking with a 27 year old woman recently, who is engaged to be married, and she shared with me the struggles of keeping their relationship pure for her wedding night. At age 27, if it is a struggle for her just think of what it is like for our teens. She shared with me a great analogy her dad had given her. She said, “when your children are babies you can set them in their playpen and put the toys in that are safe. They have the ability to crawl around and choose to play with the toys they want; however, the crib sides are the healthy boundary they have to stay in. With the baby in the crib the parent can step away to grab some laundry, make the dinner, and so on, without having to hover constantly over the child.” I loved that. We as parents have to give our children healthy boundaries and be able to step back a little without hovering. As with any parent whose baby is in the crib, we always have an eye on them from the other room, so that if we see something that could really cause them harm we can step in.
We chose the age of 16 to be the “Yes, you can date” time line. We thought: our kids are able to drive a car and leave our sight, so we better have some things in place so that they don’t sneak and end up in the back seat of a car. Please know that I am not saying that I have all the answers to this; the age of 16 may not be the age you choose for your family and that is okay. I think the guidelines of dating are more important than the age, because to just pick an age you feel is right–without guidelines–can lead to a lot of things that can cause regret. We choose to have an open dialog with our kids, and to give them the opportunity to spend time with the opposite sex.
This whole dating thing is like walking on a tightrope. It is about finding the right balance so that your child can have some freedom to learn to make healthy choices, and you have to trust that God is the safety net below that will catch your child if they fall. The reality is that they have their own feelings, that we cannot control, and they will make their own choices. I want to share with you how we tried to find the balance that worked for our family as we walked the “dating tight rope”.
I am writing this to share with you the guidelines we set: the importance of prayer, how we found the need to talk to our son differently than our daughter, and how we had to change our approach as the years moved on and our children became young adults. We now have a 19 and 21 year old, and when you throw in apartment life and promise rings, the dating tightrope takes on a whole new level of difficulty. The one thing that remains the same is that God is always the safety net, ready to catch our kids in case they loose their balance.
With all that being said, I see there is way too much information to put into one post and this is going to become a short series of posts. In my next post, I want to look at the guidelines we set for our kids when their dating years began. I cannot say I have all the answers, but I hope I can help some of you with younger children figure out the best way for your family to make if safely across the dating tight rope. Until next time, God’s blessings.
By Susan Norris
How many of you would say you’ve seen sex trafficking take place? Anyone? How many of you would say you’ve seen some things that just didn’t look right but you didn’t know what to do?
Sex trafficking is all around us. Called the “crime hidden in plain sight,” you may be looking right at a victim and not even know it. I didn’t know what it looked like until I learned the indicators.
I had been working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, (FCA), for years as a sponsor at a middle school. There was a student, who came to FCA each week, who appeared to have some problems. She was the brunt of the joke in the hallways from time to time. People gossiped about how fast she was. The signs were blaring right in front of me, but I didn’t know what they pointed to, so I did nothing.
When I learned about the indicators of sex trafficking, I nearly panicked. I instantly knew that Hope was likely a victim. She had manifested almost every symptom of a victim right in front of me, her teachers and her classmates, and none of us did a thing. It’s like we had scales over our eyes and we couldn’t see.
Jesus sent Ananias to pray over Saul so the scales could be removed from his eyes so he could see [Acts 9:10-18]. I believe one of the things the Lord has called me to do is help people see what’s right in front of them. By learning what the indicators of sex trafficking are, we can report what we see, pray for those manifesting the signs, and sound the alarm for help.
Years later I sat in the county jail talking with Hope through a phone and computer screen. She was incarcerated for prostitution. She was no longer a minor and because of the mental trauma she had been through, she failed to self-identify as a victim. If a victim isn’t a minor, they must prove force, fraud or coercion in order to be seen as a victim instead of a criminal. There’s a chance this could have been avoided. Hope could have been in college somewhere studying or hanging out with friends. Instead, she slipped through the cracks unnoticed.
You may be saying, What can I do? I’m just a teenager? I’m glad you asked:
- Learn what the indicators are and tell others.
- Pay attention to the things going on around you. What are you seeing in the hallways at school or at the mall when you go shopping? Does something stand out or look abnormal?
- Listen to the chatter. Are people talking about the way a girl dresses at school? Are they discussing how she’ll let a guy do anything he wants with her? Rather than participating in the gossip, tell a trusted adult. Call the hotline number and report what you’re seeing [1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to BeFree, 233733].
- Do not ever question an individual you think may be a victim of sex trafficking yourself. They may refuse to self-identify and you could be putting yourself at risk. Report what you see to your parents, school counselor, or a police officer and allow them to follow up on things. Don’t risk your own safety.
You may be a teenager, but you can make a difference. Be brave. Take a stand. Raise your voice for hope.
For more free resources about sex trafficking, click here.
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