I have been camping out in these testimonies of God’s goodness with the next generation and am undone by His power and goodness to them. Two younger ladies came to me asking for prayer. They shared how their relationship with their father was strained, and wanted prayers. I thought they meant for reconciliation and began to pray accordingly, but they interrupted me to say, “No, we want prayer for Jesus to give us the keys to our father’s heart.” Another gal who has battled self-harm for years due to her father’s alcohol consumption and believing the lie she is rejected asks Jesus why he needed alcohol. She heard, “Because he feels rejected by his parents.” She wept as she realized he was battling the same lie she was plagued with and wanted Jesus to give her the keys to his heart. Another gal asked to meet with me and shared some of her dad’s choices over the years that brought the family a lot of pain. When we asked Jesus what her dad’s heart needed, she began to cry as Jesus showed her he felt like a failure and ashamed. She realized she had punished him and how it was causing him further hurt. She asked for forgiveness, and Jesus began to give her the keys to mending that relationship. We ministered to a boy who said, “All these years, I thought my dad was just mean, but Jesus showed me today that he has a heart splinter from his own journey.” This is so powerful as kids move from victim to empowered. Hurt to authority. Walls of self-protection to love. Jesus loves restoring the family and does not look down on a child due to age. They have the same size Holy Spirit as their parents and can be powerful weapons against the plans of the enemy to destroy the family.
Teen brain is a real thing
Moms of teen boys – this is for YOU! I have been crying out for keys with my son in this new season, and I believe the Lord was showing me some new strategies. I could not believe my ears when my friend began to share the same keys God showed her. I asked her to share in her own words. I believe this is a massive KEY for moms with teen boys.
“I am learning that my perception of connection with my fourteen-year-old son is not my son’s idea of connection. As a mom who parallels the earthly role of the Holy Spirit, I often emulate my role to that of the Holy Spirit – to teach and impart wisdom. And because I love communication and heart processes, I would frequently suggest to my Justin that we can read a book or listen to a podcast together and talk about them. On my end, I can see such meaningful fruit and growth for both of us and bring us closer at the same time. But to my son, that was not connection; I picked that up from his uninterested body language and the frustrated sigh. In fact, I think it made us more distant because I missed the mark in connecting what he desired in our relationship. One day I asked him how he feels connected in our relationship, and he shared that he loves quality time with me, like going out on a date for sweet treats. I cringe as I write this because I am a crunchy mama who loves to feed my kids healthy food. So going out for sweet treats is the last thing I would want to do with my son as a form of connection. But since understanding how my son feels connected to me, we have gone on several dessert dates, and every time his love tank gets filled, we have deeper heart-to-heart conversations. I am learning to meet my son where he is at – to talk/teach less and listen and ‘be’ with him more. Thankfully, he still enjoys snuggling with me, and often when I am on the couch, he sits next to me and puts his head on my shoulder. And we just sit there together. Sometimes we say nothing to each other, and I caress his hair and give him a quick massage. Also, learning to be a learner of things that excite my son has brought us closer. For example, he is a basketball player, so watching a basketball game with him, asking questions about the players/plays, and allowing him to ‘teach’ me and reposition our roles is so healthy as he individuates and develops into his independent self at this age. The process of adjusting to this transition has been so hard at times as I learn to let go and readjust my parenting style to meet him in his teenage development stage.”
Teen girls have been fairly smooth sailing for me. When emotions are big, I feel confident in how to respond and help them. Teen boys, on the other hand, have refined me to my core. I love my son dearly, and connection with him is important to me, but I have been challenged to remain connected to him while he is finding his way. As a mom, I have full awareness that I cannot fully bring him into manhood and learning how to do this dance has been interesting. Parts of this season with him have made me feel so inadequate, weak, and even worried. Yet it has made me all the more dependent upon the Lord in a new and fresh way. I was crying out to God recently for strategy and help when He told me to tap into the incredible men around us who have more wisdom and knowledge than I do in this area. I was blown away by their insight and surprised by how similar their responses were. Men really do hold keys to a young man’s heart.
This is the text I sent to a handful of men: “Hello! I am asking a couple of men who I trust for some feedback. Hudson is 14 and clearly shifting seasons. I am sensitive to these changes and want to grow in supporting him and become all that God has for him, even if the male brain and wiring are not my norm. Would you be willing to give me insight on the following questions from your perspective as a dad but also from when you were his age? What is something he really NEEDS at this age/stage? What is one of the worst things a mother could do at this age? What could I do as his mom to affirm his need to pull away and become his own individual? Any additional thoughts? I sincerely value hearing and learning how best to parent him! Lisa.”
We wrapped up two glorious weeks in Colorado and were up early for our flight. There was so much joy and gratitude pouring out of each of us. That is until we were going through security. It was hectic and very chaotic. The crowd had a subtle push as everyone wanted to get through the security line without further delay. Hudson started getting agitated and was letting everyone around him know it. I would ask him to do something knowing there wasn’t much time to tinker around. He was obeying but with extreme exaggeration. It would have been almost comical if it wasn’t holding up the rest of the people. I became annoyed and upset with his attitude. I made a sharp comment about his attitude which only made things worse. On the train, I was able to take a breath and heard Jesus tell me that I needed to be a student of my son and to allow him to teach me what he needs in this new teen brain season. I apologized for my sharp words that focused more on his outward behavior than his heart. I told him what Jesus showed me because it is always important to me that my children know while I am their mother and to be respected, Jesus is their friend and cares about their hearts, too. I love it when Jesus shows me where I have misunderstood my child’s heart. He is their advocate and I want them to know it. While on the plane, he asked to sit by me which was his way of communicating he wanted to reconnect. I knew he wouldn’t value having a conversation in front of everyone so I wrote him a note. His reply caught me off guard. His frustration was not within himself, but rather stemming from my rushed and chaotic parenting. He is still a child at 14, while capable of much, still a child, and simply needed more time.
I love the concept of purity rings, where parents purchase a ring and give it to their daughter over a meaningful weekend, inviting her to guard her purity. I think all parents should take their child’s sexual purity seriously. However, I began to see over the years that the purity ring concept was actually setting the child up for greater failure. When a teen fails to resist temptation, they build a wall with their parents because it isn’t just about their choice but about profoundly disappointing their parents, who had created such high expectations. Purity shouldn’t be a pass/fail but rather a lifestyle of good choices. I think it is wise to keep the bar high (really high) when it comes to teaching, equipping, and empowering our children with their sexual health; however, we live in a culture that is so flamboyantly sexualized. When we teach purity, we also need to be taught HOW to take our mistakes, failure, and sin and bring it to God. Fear, shame, and pride keep us in our sin, while confession, humility, and honesty bring restoration. Moral failure is a top reason why teens fall away from God. They feel like they have committed a fatal sin and are now separated from God. While it is true sexual immorality does have profound ramifications that affect our mind, body, and spirit, it is only God who can heal and restore what was lost. We aren’t expecting our teens to crash the car once they get their license, but it is wise to give them instructions on what to do in case of an accident so that they are empowered should they find themselves in that mess.
I once asked a girl in her young 20s what contributed to her choice to remain pure despite continuous pressure. She told me how her parents laid the foundation by teaching her the power of sex, attraction, and moral health and then presented it in a way that empowered her that her daily choices were guarding herself FOR something and not just AGAINST something. One is empowering, and the other one is merely obeying a command through resistance. Ex. For the person dieting, they will be much more successful if they make a choice not to eat the cake BECAUSE they have their eyes fixed on a higher goal of denying themselves now SO THAT they can fit into their jeans down the road. The JOY of the future is what helped them to say NO to the cake today. They wanted their jeans more than the cake. Another person diets simply by denying themselves in a self-condemning, shameful way of managing resistance, which only stirs up the desire for cake even more. It is rooted in willpower, “I can’t,” and rules. This isn’t a recipe for success, longevity, or real transformation. I was inspired to keep the concept of the purity ring for my girls but to do it FOR their future husbands. I took them out, and we talked about purity (not sex ed, but the purity of their mind, body, dress, heart, emotions, and relationships), and then we each picked out a tie for their future husbands. They are placed where they can see them daily and are reminded that he is a living human being on earth today. They pray for him, think about him, and some are even keeping a journal about him (wondering, dreaming, and praying for him). This establishes that they are guarding their purity FOR HIM. My daughter came home one day, expressing an interest in a boy at school. I asked, “Is that the boy you have been praying for?” and instantly, she realized, “NO!”
A teen boy pitched a first-class attitude, walked out of a prayer meeting, and went to sit in the car. He was scolded and rebuked by the leaders. He didn’t care and refused to budge from his position. The leader confronted his parents on his attitude, which got them to explore things further. It was revealed weeks later that the male who was leading the prayer meeting was actually grooming his sister! Yes, son, you have every right to respond, react and refuse to follow when someone is threatening your sister. Sometimes kids are reacting to something that is WRONG. They do it in an immature way because they are children, but sometimes they react to something because they are discerning it doesn’t feel right. LISTEN TO THEM!
I have been growing discontent with leading my family spiritually. It is so easy to buy into the LIE that teens don’t want to engage, or that busyness is just a fact of life. I called a family meeting, and we had a deep heart-to-heart about our relationship with Jesus and how we operate as a family. I walked away so impacted by their hunger, even though it looks different now that they are older. We spent a lot of time processing, pondering, and praying about what it looks like to play in the Kingdom at their ages. One of the things we decided to do was each take a day of the week and lead family devotions. It was my turn, and I had them draw out a picture of themselves, and we passed the papers around in a circle, each adding what we saw inside of them (kindness, creativity, leadership, etc.). Then one person spoke over the person next to them who they are. It was so crazy simple yet life-giving. I feel such a renewed sense of hunger to keep going after their relationships with Jesus in a fresh new way.
As my children enter their teen years, I have been sensitive to the fact that things are changing, including my parenting and responses to them. What worked when they were five or ten doesn’t work with pre-adults, which is a good thing. My son was in a funk for a month or so. I would describe it as he has shut down a little, has a wall, refuses counsel, and seems to be making 101 choices in the opposite direction. It was never anything significant, but many little things that added up. He was on a roll one morning, agitating everyone within reach. I was frustrated with the lack of getting through to his heart. On the way to school, I heard the Lord say to drop Ellie off and have Hudson jump in the front seat. I drove to the other side of the parking lot and had every expectation and intention of giving him a firm chat about his choices and attitude. I heard the Lord say, “Remind him of who he is,” and began to declare, “Hudson, you are my son. You are fiercely loved and profoundly cherished. You are a gentleman, kind and caring. You see others and value them. You are a powerful builder…” and on and on I went reminding him who he was. When I ended, he said, “Is that all?” and left the car. As I drove away, I said out loud, “Well, that didn’t work, Lord.” I pulled into the parking lot of my conference when the phone rang. It was my son, and he was so distraught he couldn’t form words. I asked if he needed me to return, and he said, “YES.” I reversed it and picked him up. We sat in the parking lot (the same place we had been a moment before), and he sobbed. No words, just tears. He began to say he was sorry for all of the things he was doing that he knew deep down were wrong. We grabbed Communion at the Prayer House and took it to the Cross. It was time for him to go to school and me to my conference, but his tears would not stop. He has a compassionate heart but is not overly emotional, so I knew something deeper was going on and wanted to partner with whatever God was doing in his heart and brought him home. I went to have lunch with him, and the tears were still coming with ease. He had no words, just tears. He finally said, “Mom, I know I have been making a lot of bad choices, and I just needed to know that you believed in me again.” Gulp! When was the last time you reminded your child of how you felt about them? They may need to hear it again TODAY.