5 Ways to Help Your Kids Make Wise Choices

**  The following article was copied from www.theparentcue.org.

Any of these sound familiar?

Dad, can I ride my skateboard down the driveway and into the street?
Mom, can we jump off the roof into the pool?
Mom, can I slide down the banister?
Dad, can I jump on that beehive right there?

When you hear questions like that you want to scream, “NO!”
That, or run crying into your bedroom and hide under the sheets until your kids grow into adults.

Let’s face it, some decisions are easy to make. Clearly, the beehive should be left alone.

Others? Not so much. Sliding down the right banister can actually be pretty fun.

As parents, we’ve (hopefully) figured out how to make a wise choice over time. Our kids on the other hand are just starting their journey to discovering wisdom, and unfortunately, choices aren’t always cut and dry. As our kids grow up they’ll soon learn that the decisions they’ll have to make are not as black and white as we might wish.

Helping kids understand that is often easier said than done. How do we help our kids learn the importance of wisdom and making the wise choice?

1. MODEL YOUR OWN DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

Kids are concrete thinkers, and often that means they need some connections made that are intuitive to you. As you walk through a decision such as what to eat for a healthy snack or how to respond to a neighbor’s barky dog, verbalize what’s normally just inside your head. Invite kids into the process and ask them their opinion. If it’s a big choice that you’re praying about (like buying a car or new home), pray with them about that decision as you ask God for wisdom. When your kids see you make wise choices, they’ll be more likely to make the wise choice themselves.

2. TELL STORIES

The Bible is full of people who both succeeded and failed at wisdom. Read those stories together and talk about the consequences they experienced. And not only the Bible, as you’re reading (or watching) anything with your children, pause and talk through the decisions you’re seeing played out in the storyline. Use these as teachable moments to help kids discover more about wisdom.

3. GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE THE WISE CHOICE

We often think it’s easier to make decisions for our kids. And let’s be honest—it usually is. But when we consider the end in mind for our kids, this isn’t the best thing for them. Rather than give them the answer to decision, we can guide them through the process making the wise choice. Ask questions that walk them through the sorts of ideas they should consider when making a decision. Eventually, they’ll start asking themselves those same types of questions. They may still not make the choice you wish they’d make, but at least they’re thinking through it. And who knows, they may surprise you and consider something that you hadn’t.

4. LET THEM MESS UP

Like or not, we often don’t learn without messing up once or ten times along the way. As much as you’ll want to step in and fix it, resist the urge to rescue your kids from the consequences of their choices. It’s hard to watch of course, but sometimes we need to let our kids touch the proverbial stove in the short-term choices to help them gain wisdom that will help them win at the rest of their life. And if they do mess up (and they will), don’t take away their responsibility. Let them learn from their mistake and get back at it. Show them that you can still trust them even when they mess up. This will help give them confidence to get back at it and grow in wisdom.

5. CELEBRATE THE WINS

When your kids make the wise choice, let them know you noticed. Celebrate them with a high-five, a hug, or slip a note into their lunch box. You don’t need to throw a party to celebrate they chose to finish their homework before playing video games all week, but showing appreciation will affirm those choices and reinforce to your kids that it was worth the effort to make the wise choice.

When it comes to wisdom—finding out what you should do and doing it—it’s important to remember that parenting is a marathon sport. Over time, the conversations that you have about making decisions will influence your children to consider the value of wisdom. Giving kids a strong foundation of wisdom is important. Let’s equip them to face down whatever choice they may face in the future.

10 Dangerous Video Games Your Teen Might Be Playing

** The following article was copied from www.crosswalk.com.

“Just one more level!” they plead. Late night, playing video games with friends, it seems they’ve been on for hours. You know where your kids are. But do you know what they’re playing?

Many of us grew up playing video games. But we’ve come a long way since Pac man, Atari, Donkey Kong, and the early days of Super Mario Bros. The truth is, gaming has changed, along with technology and all of the other influences in the world. Never has there been a generation so attached and wired to a constant influx of media messages every single day. The gaming industry is big. And immensely profitable. Though studies have been debated over the years about the potential negative effects of violent video games for teens, indicators seem to suggest, it’s not all “just a game” anymore. Gaming has progressed down a more dangerous pathway, and parents would be wise to learn more.

While most would probably never allow their kids to eat a constant diet of junk food, or see a steady stream of R rated movies, many teens are playing hours upon hours of video games every week, with mature, suggestive, adult content, profanity, and graphic violence. So what’s the difference? The lines seem blurred; kids receive mixed messages of what’s OK, and what is not. We are affected, by what we choose to watch, focus on, listen to, and even by what games we play.

Recent statistics show:

“The global market for video games is expected to grow from $ 66 billion in 2013 to $ 79 billion in 2017. This forecast includes revenue from dedicated console hardware and software (both physical and online), dedicated portable game hardware and software, PC games and games for mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablets, music players and other devices that can play games as a secondary feature.”

In our nation alone, “8.5% of youth gamers (ages 8-18) can be classified as being clinically ‘addicted’ to playing video games.” 

A nationally representative study found that the average 8-12 year old plays 13 hours of video games per week, while the average 13-18 year old plays 14 hours per week. Total that up and within the ages of your child’s growing up years, they could be logging upwards of close to 10,000 video hours.

While some top selling games promote learning and encourage positive messages and themes, there are many other games to avoid. The ratings, content, and reviews alone can give you much information. This is by no means an exhaustive list; there are many games that could be discussed here. Often, you will find a combination of several key characteristics they hold in common:

1. Graphic, bloody violence, real, vivid images which research indicates that over time, can lead to overall desensitization of violence or suffering, as well as increased aggression in dealing with conflict, and lack of empathy.

2. Inappropriate sexual content, overall disrespect, and violence towards women.

3. The idea that “killing” should be rewarded. Though it’s all part of the game, the lines between reality and make-believe can sometimes become blurred, and the disregard for human life seems all too real.

4. Player adopts the role of first person shooter, actually looking down the barrel of a gun, demolishing the enemy, thus making it all more real and vivid.

5. Game success is often measured by negative behaviors which promote criminal activity, theft, disrespect for authority, drug and alcohol use, and other things that parents would not likely want their kids to emulate in real life.

Ten Dangerous Video Games for Teens:

Grand Theft Auto V
Genre- Action/Adventure, Shooter
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Mature

When a video game sells $800 million worth of software in a single day, it says a lot about our culture. This game is rated “M” for many reasons. It is not a game intended for kids or teens. Violence, deviant behaviors, foul language, and graphic, sexual content abound in this game.

Diablo III
Genre – Role-Playing, Combat, Horror/Suspense
Platform – PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
ESRB Rating – Mature

As its title may suggest, this game is full of demonic images and monstrosities. Its graphic, violent content is disturbing and raw.

Wolfenstein: The New Order
Genre – Shooter, Combat, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

This first person shooter game takes aim at Nazi Germany forces and allows players to take on the full effect through extreme battle images. Blood, gore, intense violence, strong language, use of drugs, and strong sexual content abound through it all.

South Park – The Stick of Truth
Genre – Role-playing, Combat
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB rating – Mature

This is no innocent cartoon series. It is crude, rude, and full of graphic sexual content and foul language.

Assassins Creed IV – Black Flag
Genre – Action/Adventure, Combat
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, WiiU, PC
ESRB rating – Mature

In following the pattern set by other Assassins Creed games that came before, this version is also high in violent, graphic content, sexual themes, and profanity.

Mortal Kombat
Genre – Combat, Fighting
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Mature

Fighting game of unprecedented violence. This one game led to the establishing of the entertainment software rating board, and is still, quite possibly, one of the most historically controversial games ever.

Watch Dogs
Genre- Shooter, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

This game is all about a hacker seeking revenge, but it gained the “M” rating for extreme violence, strong language, and strong sexual content.

Dead Space II and III
Genre – Shooter, Horror/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

Extreme violence, blood, and gore typify this game which launched its initial ad campaign this way: ”It’s revolting. It’s violent. It’s everything you love in a game, and your mom’s gonna hate it.” Many moms may have been thankful for that heads up information. And quite possibly they forgot, that Moms are often the ones who choose which games to buy, or not to buy.

Mafia II
Genre – Action/Adventure, Shooter
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC
ESRB Rating – Mature

Real view of the mob world, including gangsters’ devaluation of human life, drugs and alcohol, and mistreatment of women. Foul language abounds and Playboy centerfolds are scattered around the environment for players to find and collect.

Naughty Bear
Genre – Role-playing
Platform – Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
ESRB Rating – Teen

The Teen rating may fool many, but this is a violent and disturbing game about a sociopathic bear who spends his time beating his peers until they commit suicide. It is basically a game that encourages imaginative murder.

The popular mindset of our culture may have a strong opinion of what they think is right. But you have the freedom to choose what you believe is right for your own family. Here’s what you may hear:

“It’s really not that bad.” 

The truth is, it really is.

“Everyone else is playing it.” 

The truth is, everyone is not.

“The parental controls make everything safe.” 

The truth is the games still contains graphic, mature content that can’t be fully controlled, and some allow for modifications to be set, where players can add extra material, characters, or plots twists that actually change the game.

“We don’t buy “M” games, so they’ll never see them or play them anyway.” 

The truth is that even though you may not buy them, many of their friends probably do.

“It’s just a game, it’s not real and they know it’s not.” 

The truth is, real or not, young minds are still affected by what they see, play, and hear. Older minds are affected as well. Young minds are still being wired and influenced by all they’re taking in from the world. And the experiences a teen has, even virtual ones, can have a huge impact on their core beliefs, values, and attitudes.

As parents, we can form our own conclusions about what we feel comfortable allowing for our kids. But if you’re like me, maybe you haven’t known enough about what’s out there and the full content that a game actually contains. I encourage you to do the research. Talk with your teen. Ask questions about what they’re playing or what their friends are playing. Keep communication open. Keep computers and games devices in common areas of your home. Make the choice for your family of what is allowable and what is not.

Most importantly, there’s One voice that rises above all the rest. More than what your teen wants, or what their friends are playing, more than varying opinions of what research says, or what the top selling games trends are. His voice reminds us to take care of what we allow in, to guard what we think about, watch, and do. And that’s really the most important thing to impress upon our kids as they grow. The one truth – that what we do – that what we choose – it matters.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

The Missing Ingredient in Our Parenting

** The following article is copied from www.thegospelcoalition.com.

In our new parenting book, Equipping for Life, written primarily for young new or aspiring parents, we set forth three important aspects of parenting (we call them the 3 “Rs” of parenting): realism, relationship, and responsibility. While young couples often start out their parenting adventure with a healthy dose of idealism, in reality parenting is done by sinners on sinners and takes place in an imperfect world.

Additionally, the nature of parenting is often misconceived; it’s more than merely a task or assignment. Rather, it’s a complex and evolving relationship between parent and child, under God. Moreover, parenting needs to be given more of a priority than most give it; it’s a mistake to delegate parenting to teachers, coaches, or youth leaders and sideline essential parental involvement and engagement.

In this article, we’d like to share one insight that has increasingly deepened during the course of our own parenting journey that, if taken to heart and applied consistently, has the potential to revolutionize the way many of us go about parenting our children. This simple insight is that throughout our parenting efforts, character consistently must be made the key priority in everything we do and say.

Throughout our parenting efforts, character consistently must be made the key priority in everything we do and say.

In theory, this point may seem obvious, and few would likely disagree. In practice, however, many of us don’t actually parent in such a way that character is the overriding focus in the way we relate to and guide our children.

So, let’s briefly define character and then look at ways we can help our children develop character through the various life stages of parenting.

Importance of Character in Parenting

Character is who a person is at the core of their being. It affects all their relationships and accomplishments in life. And character doesn’t just appear in our children; we must be diligent to make it a focus, cultivating it in their lives, especially when they’re young. While many parents prize activities or achievements (sports, education, or good grades, to name just a few), character should be the priority and be valued as that which undergirds every aspect of life. In conjunction with establishing children in their personal faith in Jesus Christ, parents’ central concern should be on their child’s character development—as a response to what Jesus has done for them. At the core, we want to encourage our children to be more like Christ (Rom. 8:28–29).

As a child encounters various challenges and opportunities, his or her character is molded. The tendency for many young—and not so young—parents is to indulge their children, especially their first child and often also the youngest. However, if we pamper our children and permit them to get their way all—or even most of—the time, we’ll reap the consequences in the form of a spoiled, ungrateful child bent on getting his or her way. We’ll be training the heart of a manipulator who subtly but effectively subverts the role of the parent. This runs counter to the parental responsibility to foster traits of submission and cooperation within the family. The stewardship of developing character in our children is vital, not only for ourselves and our children, but also for the sake of family unity and dynamics, for the community of believers, and ultimately for the mission of God. It’s absolutely essential to stand firm as parents and make sure we’re parenting our childrenrather than the other way around.

Your primary goal in parenting is not to minimize conflict but to build genuine character.

Toward that end, it’ll be important to communicate from the beginning that you, not your child, is in charge. This isn’t a matter of trying to stifle our children’s development and self-expression or acting as overbearing despots shutting down all their initiatives. Rather, it’s a sign of true, committed love and of being responsible as a parent. As the book of Proverbs continually affirms, discipline is vital in childrearing, and the loving parent provides consistent correction and accountability (e.g., Prov. 6:23; 12:1; 14:24; 29:15).

As you move through the life cycle of parenting—from infancy to childhood to adolescence to early adulthood—the nature of your relationship with your child will inevitably change, but your commitment to building character should remain constant. This is what “responsible parenting” is all about.

In the short run, a laissez-faire, hands-off approach may seem preferable in that there may be less conflict, but it will not likely result in a young person marked by character and maturity. Remember—your primary goal in parenting is not to minimize conflict but to build genuine character.

Detriment of Misplaced Focus

So, as your child starts school, what is your main goal for them? Is it to see your son or daughter get good grades—straight A’s? Good grades certainly have some value and may be an indication of intelligence and academic ability—or at least of being able to do well within a given system of expectations—but they’re not always a reliable indicator of character (though they can be).

If not grades, is your focus as parents to promote your child’s athletic success? Being a good sports parent may be one of the signs of a “good” parent in this generation, but are you pushing your children too hard to excel in baseball or basketball or some other sport? You may be the perfect soccer parent, present at every game, capturing memorable moments on camera and posting them on social media—only if your child’s team won the game, of course—perhaps even the coach of your son’s or daughter’s team. You may sacrifice much of your time, especially on weekends, to invest in your child’s recreational pursuits. Yet your child’s heart may remain unregenerate, his mind set on winning at all cost, and his sense of identity staked on how well he did on the baseball or football field.

In the end, who is going to watch all those videos? What does it really matter if your son’s team won or lost a given game? But his character will have been affected, for better or for worse, and it’ll be too late for you to turn back the clock.

Role of the Spirit in Developing Character

Rather than focusing on good grades or athletic (or other) achievement, invest the bulk of your efforts on helping your child develop character. Since character is who a person truly is in their heart, exemplified in what they do when no one’s looking, good character means integrity—a stable core of conviction that isn’t easily shaken by peer pressure, cultural influences, or shifting circumstances.

As you seek to shape your child’s character, which values will you seek to impart? And what will be your strategy to teach and reinforce those values? Character isn’t formed by default or by chance. What’s more, children tend to imitate their parents’ behavior, so we’ll want to make sure that we ourselves are people of integrity.

So how do we accomplish this aim?

First, we can recognize that, while requiring parental focus and commitment, developing character in our children can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in your child’s life. If we take on the task ourselves, the burden of forming character will be overwhelming; we just can’t build character in our children through our own efforts. The Spirit will do his work in our children as they enter their own relationship with God and as they themselves strive to be men and women of integrity and moral excellence by God’s grace.

Developing character in our children can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in your child’s life.

A catena of Scripture passages on the Spirit shows that the Spirit produces in all of us (including our children) what is pleasing to God. As they walk with him, are led by him, livein him, keep in step with him, and are filled with him, they’ll set their mind on spiritual things, and the Spirit of the risen Christ will infuse their mortal bodies with supernatural strength to surmount their sinful nature. Paul encourages believers to “walk by the Spirit” and be “led by the Spirit,” and writes that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:16, 18, 23). He adds, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24). He also urges believers to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) and affirms that “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5; cf. v. 11).

In this way, our children will be able to please God and “do all things through him who strengthens” us (Phil. 4:13). Again, the apostle Paul strikes the balance beautifully when he urges believers, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Encourage your children to strive actively to “work out their salvation,” trusting that God is at work in them, both to have the resolute will and the actual power to live the life God wants them to live.

If you’ve introduced your child to Christ—and he or she has received him and become a child of God—you have the opportunity to nurture their spiritual lives by impressing on them Scripture about the work of the Spirit in keeping with the above-cited passages. The last thing you’ll want to do is condition your children to live the Christian life in their own strength!

Final Plea

It’s character, parents! Focus your energies on developing character in your children. Don’t worry too much about good grades or athletic achievements. Those do have their place, but character trumps scholastic or athletic accomplishments in the end because Christlike character is a permanent, lasting fixture of our children’s lives, both in this present life and also in the life to come. Winning a tournament or playing at a recital, on the other hand, are temporal achievements—here today, gone tomorrow.

It’s character, parents! Focus your energies on developing character in your children.

Therefore, parents, care more about inculcating virtues such as integrity, honesty, and selflessness in your children than being unduly preoccupied with or blinded by external badges of honor.

The virtues God celebrates are Christlikeness and the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If your child were to take his or her final exam in these characteristics, how would they do? Would they get an “A” or “F” in self-control, for example, or somewhere in between? What about the other virtues on the list? And how would you do? We know these are convicting questions.

While ultimately character is the result of the work of God’s Spirit within us, Scripture nonetheless urges us to “make every effort” to actively pursue these virtues and even to excel in them (2 Pet. 1:3–11). So, parents, let’s get to work and strive to build Christlike character in our children by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Parent Network Podcast

On The Parent Network Podcast we connect with parents and friends who can help equip and encourage us along our parenting journey.  Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.  We release a podcast twice a month.

Father’s Day: 10 Things You Should Ask Your Kids For

** The following article was copied from www.allprodad.com.

Most dads think of Father’s Day one-dimensionally. We tend to look forward to kicking back, enjoying a few guilt-free hours watching the US Open on television. A Father’s Day gift guide might include a nice card or two, a needless tie, and maybe a day-off when it comes to active parenting, policing the drama that goes on around the house. But the foundational idea of Father’s Day is that of celebrating the relationship, not catering to the dad. We are dads so that we can do dad things that mean something, and we have the best celebrations when stuff happens that draws us closer to our kids.

With that in mind, consider setting the agenda for Father’s Day this year and actually putting some ideas out there that will help solidify what to get for father’s day. Here are some suggestions, the 10 things you should ask your kids for this Dad’s Day.

1. Time

If you’re a dad, you’ve already done the math. You know it’s going to be no time at all until they head off and live the rest of their lives. Do what it takes to grab some memories before they grab the car keys.

2. Honesty

It’s a fact that we can’t love what we don’t know. Make it clear to your kids that your love wants to know more than it wants to judge. It’s the love that heals, not the disapproval.

3. Advice (theirs)

Father knows best? How’s that working for you? How about asking for “Kids (might) know best?” Trust them enough to let them in to your open-ends and loose-strings. You’ll be surprised how much they already know.

4. A one-page note of their favorite memory

Get the kids writing and sharing stories and remembering good “Dad moments.” These are golden, and good for both dad and the kids.

5. Hugs

It doesn’t matter how old the children are, hugging dad should never go out of style. Be proactive on this one. Ask if you have to, but get it done.

6. Big ideas

Ask the kids to share their vision with you. This is a little different from advice, it’s “big picture” stuff. Ask your kids things like, “How would you solve world hunger?” Ask them what they think about big ideas such as space travel, world peace, and racism. Then listen.

7. A gift with staying power

Ask your children to think about a Father’s Day gift that won’t disappear in a day or two. Or ask them (for example) for one hour every Sunday afternoon for the next three months so you can pick their brain. Ask them for the commitment to walk a mile with you three times a week. You can even ask them to read you their favorite comic strip every day for a month. Ask for gifts that don’t end the moment they leave their hands.

8. A fresh start

We all need a little redemption. How about coming clean with your kids and asking for a fresh start? Maybe you’ve been harsh… Or maybe they’ve been consistently disrespectful… Maybe you’ve lost ground…Whatever is going on, try to model humility and see where the relationship goes.

9. A glimpse into their world

Prepare a list of ten “I’m too old, I don’t get this!” questions and have a Q&A session with your kid(s). Maybe they can respond with a list of their own. Who knows, you may end up communicating!

10. A dinner date

You may have to help pay for this one. But dinner out, one-on-one with each child, can be the most fun and the most productive parenting experience.

The Parent Cue Podcast – Celebrating Father’s Day

Check out this great podcast from our friends at The Parent Cue celebrating Father’s Day and dads everywhere.

7 Scripture Verses for the Single Parent Journey

* The following article was copied from www.crosswalk.com.

Single parenting is not for the weak. Everything, yes, that’s right, everything falls on your shoulders… especially when your kids are young. Here’s some to name a few: all the meals, the bills, the laundry, the homework, the after school activities, the bath times, the bedtimes. And, y’all that’s just the easy stuff! Then comes the responsibility of actually raising a Christ-loving productive member of society. It can seem overwhelming.

When I was a single parent, trying to do everything on my own left my spirit totally depleted and my nerves on edge. My children and I were having daily meltdowns like ice cream cones left out in the July heat. We were a sticky hot mess. I had to change. So, I learned it was impossible for me to survive without the supernatural peace and strength of Jesus. I leaned into the Word and applied it to my everyday life. It didn’t mean our lives were perfect; it just meant that we weren’t on our own. These verses helped me through my single parenting journey.

Acceptance: I didn’t dream of becoming a single parent when I was little girl. But, sometimes life happens and we don’t get a say in the roads we take. Instead of fighting my circumstances (a losing battle I should say), I had to learn to accept it. I couldn’t change the fact that I was a single parent, but I could control how I responded to it. I learned to find joy through Christ in the midst of a difficult situation.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13)

Guidance: To parent well, we have to guide and shepherd our children’s hearts. That responsibility is heavy for married parents, but when you’re single parenting it can seem almost seem impossible. Every night, I would repeat the day’s conversations and interactions with my children over and over again in my head. Did I handle that right with my daughter? Was I tender enough with my son? Have I scarred them for life? That’s just in one day! I had to recognize that the Lord purposefully chose me to be my children’s parent, and He is guiding me every step of the way.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

Speak Love: Being a single parent can make the most patient person lose their entire jar of marbles. When we are pulled in a trillion different directions and little Sally just took a drink out of your sweet tea with her green runny nose, we can say things we don’t mean out of sheer exhaustion. Our words have so much power over how our children see themselves and relate to the rest of the world. I know we all make mistakes, but let’s try to lift our children with our words, and not crush their little spirits.

“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

Protection: Becoming a single parent wasn’t an easy journey. The children and I were emotionally bruised and battered along the way. So much so, I had become conditioned to chaos. After the dust settled, and we had this new “life”, I was always waiting for some other kind of traumatic event to happen to knock us off our feet. Every phone call caused anxiety because I didn’t know what kind of news it would bring. But, living life in high anxiety didn’t work for me. I knew the Lord was in control, but I had to put my trust in His protection.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (Psalm 3:3-6)

Strength: We all need strength being a parent. But, it seems that in being a single parent, we need supernatural strength. We need strength physically for the everyday needs. But, we also need strength for the emotional attention of the long talks before bedtime with the teenage daughter, the loving hug that can cure the skinned knee, and the sheer will that it takes to make eye contact with a toddler that is telling you a story that is amazing to them, but all you can think about is that bar of dark chocolate that you’ve hidden away. Finding strength in the present is the investment in our children that will reap a beautiful return in the future.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:27)

Faith: My children were raised in a broken home. They have seen and felt things that no child should. But, just because life has been hard doesn’t mean that God is not good. Yes, we went to church and Sunday school, but the Christian walk is so much more than that. I felt a deep desire and responsibility to intentionally guide my children to Jesus in the everyday situations. You know, I can’t make them choose to become believers, but through my personal faith, I hope to share His unfailing love.

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

Finances: For me, I used to worry about money constantly. We were barely making ends meet on a good month, but throw in a sick visit or a school fee… and well the budget was blown to smithereens. I found I was putting my security in money instead of the Lord and it was making me all off balance. The Lord had always met all of our needs; what would make Him stop now? Me worrying about it didn’t do anything but cause a few extra wrinkles and a whole lot of gray hair.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

 

Written By Shannon DeGarmo; speaker; author of The Bounce Back Woman; Featured Contributor of Keep the Faith radio; Contributor of LifeWay’s HomeLife Magazine. Check out Shannon’s website (www.shannondegarmo.com) and visit her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

 

 

 

I’m a Parent Who Struggles with Depression

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

Hi, My Name is Brandon O’Dell.

I am a husband and a father of three young children.
I am a writer, an actor, and a Christian.
And I suffer from clinical depression.

Let me give you some background. I was a happy kid, raised in a Christian home by two loving parents. I did well in school. I made many friends, some I still have to this day. When I was going into college, my guidance counselor asked where my greatest area of stress was, and I replied that I didn’t have any stress. I was carefree.

In 1993, my sophomore year at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, my mother died of a brain tumor. And yet, I immediately accepted her death as part of God’s grand plan. I did not mourn. I did not let it stress me out.

And then, a year and a half later, the proverbial poop hit the fan.

A friend of mine invited me to hear her sing in an on-campus recital, which I agreed to attend. I did not attend. She confronted me in the school’s dining hall that evening, and wracked with guilt, I broke down and cried. I cried all the way back to my dorm room. I cried because I had let my friend down, but not only that. I cried because people in the world let people down all the time. I cried for the state of humankind. I cried for what seemed like that entire year.

I had no idea what was going on. I thought I was going crazy. And I knew that I was the only one who felt the way I did, so I had no one to talk to. No one who would understand. It wasn’t until I had an emotional breakdown in front of my father, that he encouraged me to get some help.

Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time helped me put a name to what I was going through—major depressive disorder. I realized then that not only was I not alone, depression was fairly common. People just didn’t talk about it. Because they were ashamed for some reason. Or embarrassed. But for me, learning I wasn’t crazy was the first step to understanding my illness, and that was a good thing.

Time has passed. Depression comes in waves, like the flu season, though without the predictable change in the weather. Sometimes it lasts for a few weeks, sometimes months, and currently I’m in a season that has lasted two and a half years.

Everything I do is hard. Work is hard. Being a dad is hard. Getting out of bed is hard. Writing this blog has been hard. I have to force myself to do everything, even things I might normally enjoy. In fact, I desire nothing. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I hand in work late or when my wife has to pick up a lot of the slack around the house. But even so, I refuse to be ashamed to talk about my depression.

I decided a while back to be open and honest about what was happening to me. You see, I still believe there’s a purpose in this. That God has a plan to use my depression somehow for His glory. There’s meaning, even if I never discover what the meaning is.

As far as my children are concerned, I don’t lie to them and pretend everything’s okay. They know that Daddy has depression and that sometimes he’s too tired to play. I want them to see me weak and broken. Then they can see God at work in me. And if my children ever go through something like this later in life, I want them to be able to recognize it, talk to me (or someone else) about it, and deal with it without shame.

I’ve been reaching out on Facebook to friends and acquaintances who have had a similar experience. I’ve had several lunches, texts, and phone conversations with people who I barely know but who KNOW me because of depression. This is how I can love others. It’s a small thing, but in depression the small things often seem insurmountable.

If you’re a parent struggling with depression, I don’t really have answers for you. But I can tell you that you’re not alone. And I can tell you that you are created by a God who loves you. And no matter how messy it gets, I believe God is at work in your life telling a story of restoration for you and for your family.

For me, the past few weeks have seen some brighter moments. I’m on some medicine that seems to work for me. It may not work forever, but today, right now, this moment, I’m doing fine. And that’s enough.

A Word to Strengthen Parents of Disabled Children

** The following is the transcript of an audio message from www.desiringgod.org.   Click on the link to hear the message.

Happy Friday, everyone. Today, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of a question, we’re going to attempt to encourage one particular listener, and many like her, in the form of a letter.

This is a letter from Pastor John to a mother he knows personally — a mother who wrote him because she needed strength in the great calling she carries. She’s been caring for a disabled son for over twenty years, a son who cannot talk, cannot dress himself, cannot feed himself. He just turned twenty.

Most of us can only imagine the enormity of the burden this mom carries as his primary caregiver for now over two decades. So, Pastor John, what did you say to this amazing mom in your letter? Share your thoughts with us here on the podcast.

I’m sure this mom would not want me to lift her up as a hero, make her name public, or her situation known, so I won’t. But I know that she wouldn’t mind if I took this public occasion to share with others the kind of encouragement I wanted her to feel. There are thousands of moms — and not just moms, of course — who quietly carry huge burdens for their disabled children and for other relatives.

I am sure that they often feel like this is one of the loneliest jobs in the world, with little or no public recognition or reward. How do you laugh? How do you keep on, so quietly and out of the way, bearing so much weight? How do you press on?

I’m going to make enough changes in this letter that I wrote to this mom, to encourage her on the birthday of her disabled son, so that she won’t be given away. I’m going to call her son John. That’s not his real name. I chose my name because it’s what I would want somebody to pray for me. So I’ll stick my name in there. I hope the basic message comes through and that all those who have the relentless job of caregiving will take heart.

Letter to a Mom of a Disabled Son

Noël and I remember being at your dining-room table, talking about this new little one who had just been born. You were just beginning to come to terms with his disabled situation, and you were wondering about how to think about healing and prayer. Now, here we are over two decades later, and your world has been forever changed.

My birthday wish and my prayer is that John will be able, in some way, to show you love, and that you will be strengthened in the depths of your soul. Or as Paul says, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you [may be] rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:16–17).

Prosperity Is Coming

I would love to share with you my most recent effort to grasp the psalmist’s meaning when he says in Psalm 1 that the man — or let’s say the mom — who delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night, will prosper in all that she does.

Really? I mean, I know and the psalmist knew that there are dozens of things believers experience that do not make them feel like they are prospering. We know he knew it because he said so in Psalm 44:20–22.

I can imagine you feel this day in and day out. But here is what I think he meant, since he knew as well as we do that there are horrible days for the worshipers of the true God. When he said, “Everything you do prospers if you delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night,” I think what he meant that there is a day coming when our Redeemer will arrive, and he will snatch futility and death out of the hands of Satan.

As it says, “He will bear all our iniquity” (see Isaiah 53:6). So he’ll cover all our sins, and we’ll obtain grace that is so powerful and so pervasive that it turns every disappointment and every frustration and every pain in the path of obedience to Jesus into a final triumph.

In other words, he will pay the price — this Redeemer who will come. He will pay the price to purchase for us the reality that it will all work for good (Romans 8:28). Everything is going to work for our good, and he’s going to make that come true because he bought it for us.

Repaid by God

Here’s why I think that’s what the psalmist is getting at when he says that in everything you do, you prosper in caring for your son. Paul said, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8).

In other words, not one expenditure of effort in the service of your son will go unrewarded. This was spoken to slaves who probably were only rewarded in this life with pain for doing good things.

In other words, in this life, it regularly does not look like the things we are doing are prospering; they’re not being rewarded with good. It doesn’t look like all the expenditure, energy, effort, and care is prospering. But Paul says, “In the end, every good deed will come back with great reward from the Lord.” In other words, in the long run you will prosper in all of it.

Paul makes it even clearer. I love this text. I had never seen this in this light before. Paul says, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Now that’s a negative way of saying something. What’s the positive way of saying, “Your work is not in vain”? Isn’t the positive way of saying “not in vain” to say that your work will prosper? It will.

The therefore at the front of verse 58 makes this promise the outcome of the resurrection. In other words, the sting of death is sin, the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory — yes, victory through Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Therefore, everything you do will prosper.

So when Psalm 1 says, “You will prosper in all that you do,” I don’t think the psalmist is naïve. He was prophetic. Jesus came; he paid our debt; he defeated Satan and death. He secured our future. He takes note of every good deed, writes them in a book, and he will make them prosper. He will reward us in due time.

Resurrection Security

Let’s just put one more promise on the table to make this crystal clear. Jesus said, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14).

Your son cannot repay you. Even if there’s some wonderful, deep longing in his heart that he could do it, he can’t. His disability is too profound. You spread a feast of love for him every day, and he cannot repay you. Yet you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. I don’t think I’m going too far beyond Scripture to say that your son himself will join the Lord on that day in active, joyful repayment.

Happy birthday to you both — to John, who cannot respond, and to you, who makes his life possible. May you and he know, deeply and sweetly, the love of Christ. May you be strengthened with the promises of your merciful high priest, who is always there with mercy and grace to help in time of need.