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Facing the New Year’s Changes…

Hello Friends!

Our time for this “semester” is coming to an end, and a natural break is coming up in the first week of December. After the first of the year, we will have an “open enrollment” time to add new members to our groups, and Teresa and I (Marina) have been praying about what the new year might look like for our group.

We have much more activity going on at the Facebook page, and we want to be sensitive to those that don’t have a Facebook account, but we also need to be discerning about the time that we spend online. We have come up with a few options, and want to include YOU on helping make those decisions.

One option is to have guest posts appear here on the blog. You could email a submission to us at our group email (I am not typing it out as a direct link, to help thwart spammers) relativelyemptynesting(at)gmail(dot)com. If you think that you’d like to share your story, or a successful solution, please email it to that email address, and we will glean the submissions for use in the upcoming semester.

Another option is to engage more through study, or book conversations. I provided this option with Holley Gerth’s book “You’re Already Amazing” and several of you had already read it, while some of you were open to going through the book together after the first of the year. That’s still an option – I’d love to do it with you!! If there’s another title that some of you would prefer reading, please mention it here and see if we can get some other interest going on it!

A third option is to be active ONLY on Facebook, since it is the largest of the groups, and the most active. For those of you NOT on Facebook, you’ve been missing out on prayer requests, conversations, and friendship building. We’ve shared ¬†in a grandbaby’s birth, a wedding, and LOTS of prayer requests. It’s been a delight, and the burdensome times have been brighter knowing we are in community. Our group on Facebook is a PRIVATE group, so after our enrollment time, we shut the door tightly and don’t let anyone else read our posts. What you put there won’t be traceable by your kids. ūüôā

We’ve had only a few members on Twitter, and Google +, and I’m sorry that it’s not worked out for us to do a group hang out there. Because we are focusing on hard topics in life, it doesn’t make much sense for us to do an Instagram or Pinterest page (although I am on both of those, and would love to connect there as we continue to build our friendships). The heart and core is to lift each other in prayer, and support each other through good and bad. We want to remain effective, and we hear from only a wonderful small group of you – so we don’t know if we are achieving our goals, or missing the boat. Those of you that regularly engage – it’s been GREAT. ūüôā

So, please respond and give us some feed back. We are praying for you, for this delightful and sometimes difficult holiday season. For broken hearts and God’s intervention. For Christmas Miracles. We will touch back in a week or so, looking forward to hearing what your responses are, and praying about what changes might occur in the New Year!

Grace and peace, marina

 

Books to help you in your empty nesting walk

I don’t know about you, but when I am going through something, I like to find books to help me through. Don’t get me wrong, God’s Word is where I always go first. But, finding Christian authors who have written about the subject can bring me wisdom and good direction. So, today I am going to share some book reviews for you in case you are like me and want to find something to help you in your {relatively} empty nesting stage of life. Two of the books I’ve already read, one I am currently reading, and three are on my “to read” list.

If you want to add any reviews, please do so in the comments! I’d love to see what you have found to help.

The Two I’ve Already Read

Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it by Ken Ham & Britt Beemer

I mentioned this book in a ¬†previous post. This book is filled with the results from a study that Answers in Genesis and America’s Research Group did to find out why our young people are leaving the church. If you don’t care for statistics, it can be a dry read. I fall into that category, but found some of their results to be interesting and helped me to understand what was going on with my two young adult children. The big take-away for me from this book was that these kids have left the structured church, they haven’t necessarily walked away from their faith. This would be a great read for those involved in church leadership especially with children and teens. Ham & Beemer give great ideas on how to slow the exodus starting at a young age.

You Never Stop Being  a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children by Jim Newheiser & Elyse Fitzpatrick

I picked up this book when our son returned home after dropping out of college. My husband and I realized he was living a life far from the one we desired for him and were lost what to do now that he was back home. This book is filled with personal stories gathered by Newheiser. This book helped me tremendously in wading through the waters of parenting a young adult. Our son coming home was now an adult, no longer a teenager–how was that supposed to look? How did we allow him to be an adult but still require respect for us and the conduct we expected from him? While wading through disappointment and confusion, this book gave me some great advice.

Currently Reading

The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick

I started reading this book after one of the gals posted about it on our {relatively} empty nesting Facebook group. She had not read it herself, but had run across it. I’m finding this one to be just as helpful as Fitzpatrick’s other book above. In this book she delves into marriage after the kids are gone, becoming a grandparent (particularly timely for me!), boomerang children, prodigal children, and ministry during our midlife. She is hitting on all the topics that are poignant for me right now. This book would be great to do as a women’s small group study. There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter for group or personal study. I highly recommend this one for you ladies out there wondering what this next season of life is supposed to hold.

On the “To Read” List

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman

From a review on Crosswalk.com–“In this book, Kinnaman argues that young people are leaving the church not because they won’t listen or aren‚Äôt trying to fathom what the church has to say; actually, quite the opposite is true: a large majority of young people consider themselves spiritual, seeking, or as possessing some sort of faith. However, at some point the message the church is sending doesn‚Äôt add up with what they are experiencing in the rest of their lives. As a result, we‚Äôre losing them, not just figuratively.You Lost Me,¬†which focuses on the church from the inside out, seeks to explain why young people who have grown up in church are now departing from it, and what older generations of Christians can do to fix the problem.”

I want to read this book for the same reason I read Already Gone. To help me understand where my kids are coming from in their walk and what maybe I can do as their mother to bring them back to life in a community of believers, aka, the church.

Engaging Today’s Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches, and Reasons for Hope¬†by Carol Barnier

I found this book in the book store at Willow Creek Church outside Chicago. My husband was attending a conference there and one afternoon while I was waiting for him to finish, I wandered around their large book store. The title of this book captured my attention. When looking at the Table of Contents, it grabbed my attention even more–Part One is “Debunking Myths” and Part Two is “Dos and Don’ts”. The author is, herself, a former prodigal. It looks like the book is written with some humor, but also with some very good information and helps for us parents of those 2/3 of 20-somethings that have left the church.

Blessing Your Grown Children by Debra Evans

I, also, found this book on the shelves at Willow Creek. ¬†The book’s description says “Being a parent of an adult child is a delicate balance of loving and accepting the child while maintaining healthy boundaries. Many parents find releasing their grown children a challenge, and while parents usually want to be supportive, the choices adult children make are sometimes unacceptable to them, leading to disappointment, anger, and guilt feelings. Both parents and grown kids have many adjustments to make as the child separates from the parents‚Äô control. With this book, parents will learn to move forward into a new type of relationship with their kids.”

This book interests me because it has a more positive bent. Instead of focusing on the path our children are taking (that we may not like or agree with), it shows how we as parents of adult kids can have a positive influence and give them blessings/praises instead of discouraging and disparaging words. It is a more active book than just gathering information type of book.

I hope in this list you’ve found some books that might be of interest/help to you. Remember, if you’ve found some books to be of use to you, please list them in the comments. Also, if you’ve read any of the books I’ve listed, please let me know what you thought of them. It’ll help others to make a decision on whether they should read them also.

–Teresa

The hope I found with a wandering young adult child

He came home at spring break. He looked terrible. We knew classes were not going well, but something else was up. He relished telling us about all the parties he went to, how drinking was a favorite pastime. At dinner one evening, he asked us “you smoked pot during college, didn’t you?” His dad never did. I explained that I tried it once and didn’t like it. He was looking for validation for his own waywardness.

I was sure he was using more than pot. I cried out to my mom, she thought I was overreacting. Because, of course, no one in our family could believe that this kid could go down this ugly path.

Next, he told us he wasn’t returning to school. He was dropping out. His dad tried to convince him that there were only a few weeks left and he was doing good in at least one class. Try to finish strong. He wouldn’t listen, his mind was made up. He’s always been a head strong kid, but would listen and weigh what we had to say, not this time. But he did listen to the dean who told him he couldn’t drop out. After being home for almost two weeks, he went back to school. Took his finals. Then moved back home.

This is the boy who told me when entering the secular, state-run school after one year at a Christian school, “Mom, everyone will know I’m a Christian. I’ll stand strong. Don’t worry.”

Now my worries were coming true. Though, I really didn’t think he’d fall this far. He was strong. That strong-headedness of his also played into his faith. There was no way anyone could get him to wander from Jesus Christ.

Two years prior at his high school graduation from our homeschool, I had commended him on becoming a wonderful young man of Christ. I was proud of his accomplishments but most importantly his walk with the Lord. He spent his first semester in Ireland and was on the worship team for chapel. When we visited in October, along with the other parents, he led chapel that week.

What had gone wrong?

We are still unsure of what led him done this path. What has caused him to move away from the Godly principals we raised him with. We do know that he did not seek out a Christian community. A body of Christ to build him up and help him walk the walk. He still does not go to church on a regular basis. And now, he is going to be a father. His coming home did not help even though we set up some strict parameters for being back in our home. It is heart breaking.

But there is hope.

I went searching for why these young adult kids stray. Why do they leave behind that strong faith they had as teenagers? I came upon a
book by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone. And, I found nuggets of hope:

  • Of those 20-somethings that have left the church, 3/4 of them report high levels of belief in Biblical accuracy, authority, and history–they are still solid believers in Jesus Christ. They’ve just left the structured church, not their faith.
  • 38% answered “yes” when asked if they plan on regularly attending church once they have children.
  • The Bible is relevant to them, but the church is not. They need to be convinced that Christians in the church are living by God’s truth and living in a way that is relevant to their lives.

This last point, I actually asked my son. “Does this represent you…You find the Bible relevant, but the church is not relevant for you.” He said yes. It gave me a glimmer of hope. His actions were not Biblical. He was walking far away from the Savior he used to love and serve, but there was still something there. He admitted to me that he still read his Bible every night in bed.

Already Gone¬†provided me with some knowledge and some hope. It gave me something to ask my son to open a door. And now that he is going to be a father, he has mentioned that he and the mother want to start going to church again. We’ve offered to visit churches with them and that they are always welcome to go with us, but they haven’t taken us up on it, yet. I keep praying and rest in the fact that he hasn’t completely walked away from God. He still believes and I just know deep in my heart that God will answer my mother’s prayer that my son will one day again be that strong man of God.

Now my daughter…..that’s another story!

On Parenting Prodigals

I was feeling led to write about saying good-byes, thinking I would share about the times my daughter has left for the mission field. But looking at our Facebook page and the discussions and prayer requests, I think that the good-bye I need to write about is releasing a prodigal child to God.
In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus shares the Parable of the Lost Son, or Prodigal Son. It is a wonderful story that shares how our God, as the Father, is always ready to celebrate and welcome us in, or back in, to His presence. I think too, it’s a beautiful example to prepare us that sometimes our kids make bad decisions, and we too, need to welcome them back into our home, or our life.
Our son, Jason (he gave me permission to use his name) was the “best” kid in high school. Not only was he a top academic student, he was also a top athlete….and in a small town, THAT carries a LOT of weight. He was a¬†VERY LARGE fish in a VERY SMALL pond. The kind of person, who at the end of the day would drive through a fast food place and the manager would comp his meal. That as a college student, the policeman that pulled him over for speeding would issue his warning asking if he was going to get to hear his name on the radio next year during football season. He played soccer in the fall, kicked for football his Jr and Sr years, and was the catcher for baseball in the spring. He was a student leader in his church, on campus, and in the community. He was the kid that everyone loved. EVERYONE.
He was renown for his abilities, but¬†mostly for his walk with God. He testified with his life, of all God’s goodness.¬†His faith was solid.
I was proud of Jason’s decisions as he had transitioned from a homeschooled kid (grades 1-8), into a public high school student, and then a college student. He alone chose his college, his field of study, his sport. We prayed hard – SO hard – for these decisions to be the best ones for his walk with God too. He chose to go to a fairly local, secular, state college, but he got involved with Christian Campus House (CCH) right away, and pulled a high GPA his freshman year to sustain his Academic and Leadership scholarships. He had redshirted his first year in football (Kicker), and although he was not on a sports scholarship, he fully invested himself in the program, despite the new coach not appreciating him being there. He took his first big mission trip to Kenya over the summer, and was more passionate than ever to pursue missions after college was over.
Then something happened his sophomore year, and he…changed…
I don’t know if it was pressure from the football program, from his classes, from seeing kids on scholarship that skated through class without studying; or if it was just the sense of freedom that took off, or pride, or peer pressure….I honestly don’t know what it was. But he really changed in so many ways.
Ultimately, he made decisions that affected the rest of his college career. He made choices that could have hurt him for the rest of his life, and have changed him for the rest of his life. And there was nothing we could do about it. We tried to talk with him about his choices. About his grades. About changing schools, majors, schedules, dropping sports altogether, changing a circle of friends. It all fell on deaf ears.
When he started sharing more about a certain girl, an international student he had befriended, red flags popped up all over. It was not just the over-protective mom concerned that there was a girl in his life; this was a non-believer, with a group of non-believing friends, influencing him – instead of him influencing her/them. For the first time in our life, we had to go over the house rules when he brought a group over for the holidays. No laying down on the couch together was the hardest one for me to keep insisting on. It was evident that their relationship had crossed over into areas that were completely inappropriate, but we insisted that while they were in our home, that they abide by house rules. The same rules we had with our daughters, but never once had to remind them of. This was SO different, and we were in completely unchartered territory.
That’s how some of the worst 3 years in my life started. Now I realize that we are all in different places in our faith walk, and in our convictions as to what that walk means, but me – who was not raised Christian, who was raised in a non-Christian home, had been sexually abused as a child and pre-teen, and became a very promiscuous teen ager who dabbled in any religion (outside of Christianity) and just about every drug; I had a solid sense of boundaries for my kids while raising them. They always had good mentors in place, college students from a local Christian college who would feed into their faith, and show that it’s cool to be in your 20’s and be a Christian with a strong relationship with God. But this season of life with Jason – where he was still DOING Christian things, like playing drums in the worship team, going to CCH, was involved in other Christian groups, and played the part of the Christian back in his hometown – was making choices completely contrary to what God’s Word said to do, how to behave, how to live.
For Mark and I, we had to enter a season of “tough-love” for him. We knew that he was drinking (I believe he waited till he was 21, but he was still being irresponsible with his actions then), and that he had lost all his scholarships for school. He chose to take light schedules in his class schedule, making time for drinking and dancing at clubs (To clarify, I’m not against going out and having a good time, dancing, or even an occasional drink – but his balance was way out of line, to the point that that and computer games became more important than his coursework.). As his habits became worse, we reminded him that if he lost his scholarships, he would have to take on that financial responsibility (we had a 50/50 arrangement for college with each of our kids, as long as they were trying their hardest to pass classes and proceed to the next level; but Jason’s actions forced us to withdraw financial support for his schooling all together). We entered into a season of tough love; knowing that we didn’t trust him with any financial contributions we made for him. We would take him grocery shopping, or drop off groceries. We tried to meet with him occasionally, usually on Sunday’s after we went to church (without him). It was hard to see him change physically, and spiritually. The light left his eyes, even though he never denied Christ. He was backsliding.
I asked Jason today – who is a few years older, wiser, walking stronger with God and recently engaged to a wonderful Christian woman – what made a difference, and what could we have done better. I realize that each of us is different, and each of our kids is different too!! But here are a few things that we discussed:
1. Prayer is always good.¬†Even the tough prayer – “Lord, do WHATEVER You need to do to restore this child’s walk with You” is good. Offer to pray WITH them (not the hard prayer) and not just say we are praying for them.
2. Remind them of the house rules.¬†Don’t be afraid to say “I recognize you are an adult…but in our house, these are the rules…”. Make it hard for sin to take place in your home. (When Jason was with us after he graduated, living for a short season, we didn’t allow him to be in our house with a girl alone. Period. We provided a bench on the front porch that they could sit on instead.)
3. Love them, but don’t be afraid to “tough love” them.¬†He always knew we were there for him, but it was going to be on our conditions, based on Biblical principles. If he needed gas money to get to work, we put it in his tank – so we were sure that it didn’t go for going out. For a season he lived alone in a green house (really), and we sent him Subway gift cards. You might have to be creative, and it hurts to see our kids flounder, but it gives them the courage to stand up on their own, when God moves them to.
4. Don’t rescue them.¬†If they make a mistake that impacts their future, they need to choose what to do about it, and “suffer” the consequences of their sin. We had a pack that we’d never bail him out of jail….thankfully, we didn’t ever get that call…but we made a plan, and he was aware of it.
5. Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page,¬†with whatever you decide. Even if you play “good parent/bad parent” – be aware of what it is that the other is doing, and work together on it.
6. Speak the name of Jesus over that child, or into that situation.¬†There were a few days that it was all I could do. Like the song “You’re Great Name” by Natalie Grant, “the enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your Great Name”.¬†Satan can not be where Jesus is given control. It brought peace to my broken heart feeling the burden of guilt, the sin of worry, and to RELEASE CONTROL of that moment to God, who loves Jason even more than I.¬†
 
7. Be real. Be honest. Don’t be sneaky.¬†There were a few times that God would give me a scripture that spoke to my heart and I would post it on Facebook in my status, and Jason took it that I was posting it for him to read. He even unfriended me for a season (it was heartbreaking!!). It was coincidence in that case, but be sensitive as to what you are putting out there, it may do more harm than good.
 
8. Keep talking truth, light, and life into their lives.¬†Don’t brush over with friends and say that “oh, they’re just doing fine” – be honest and say something along the lines of “he’s in a difficult season right now, and could really use your prayers” and maybe even ask if you can pray THAT MOMENT with a friend for your child/children.¬†God uses our trials to build up our community, the body of Christ!!
 
I’m sorry to say that there is not any way to keep this from happening, no magic inoculation, no wall tall enough to keep them from trying what the world has to offer. I’m forever grateful that God brought Jason back into the fold, that His mercies are new every morning – even in my own life. I know that He was walking alongside me that whole time, and that He had a hand of protection on Jason’s life too. He also protected our marriage, by allowing good communication and prayer to take place in our home.
How have YOU handled the situation with your “prodigal child”, and would you do anything differently? How can we pray for each other today?? (Pray for the person above you in the comments area please, and however else God leads you to pray!)
(NOTE: for another view on the Parable of the Prodigal, please see a post I wrote a while back over at Auntie Em Writes at :  http://auntieemwritesat.blogspot.com/search/label/prodigal%20son  )