Guest post - from Mary

I asked my Mary to do a guest post for today.....

With all of the lists that flood Facebook news feeds as of late, I am shocked that I have yet to come across one titled “5 Reasons Why Your Work Ethic Matters”. If this list does exist, I am confident it is only career related. So when mom asked if I would write a guest post on her blog, I graciously decided to fill this void in the cyber world.


Where does my inspiration come from for this list, you may ask? Well I just graduated college (thanks mom and dad!). I think I spent my last semester listening to just about every peer of mine (ok, ok, I fell into this category sometimes, too) complaining of senioritis. Well, maybe not complaining. More like excusing whatever lazy action felt “right” on senioritis. And, it’s weird. My sister and her husband are both pharmacists and, last I checked, there is no biological cure for this obviously common disease. So I’m prescribing my own cure…cause, let’s face it, this is the closest I will ever get to becoming a scientist anyways.


So in my close (and purely scientific, of course) study of causes of senioritis, all of the symptoms seemed to point to our world’s focus on two major things: instant gratification and correlated success. In other words, why would anyone want to do anything that wouldn’t either make him happy in the moment or ensure a successful career down the road? Sounds bogus, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m big on incentives. God created us that way  (Matthew 6:19-20, Luke 18:22, Malachi 3:10, Romans 13:1-14). But God also called us to “work heartily as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23)…no matter what rungs of the corporate ladder that may help you climb.


So this brings me to Reason #1 why our work ethic matters: obedience. Hard work is a commandment of the Lord. I don’t really hear people questioning commandments not to murder or cheat, but for some reason, this one seems to be up for debate. Need some inspiration? Don’t look up to CEO’s or politicians, “go to the ant, o sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).


Reason #2 why our work ethic matters is worship. Working hard is an opportunity for us to give glory to God. One of my favorite stories is that of a man whose job was to clean out sewage tanks. Unlike other people in his industry, he would wade down into the nasty tanks himself because that was the best possible (although not necessary) way to clean the tank. When asked why he does this, he replied “because I clean tanks to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 6:7, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:17). Need I say more?


Reason #3 why our work ethic matters is stewardship. Working diligently is a wise use of our days here on the earth. (2 Timothy 2:6, Proverbs 6:10-12, Genesis 2:15, Proverbs 12:11). Ephesians 5:15-17 says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” One of the most foolish mistakes that I frequently make is listening to the lie that how I spend an hour here and an hour there doesn’t really matter. But did you catch that verse above? The days are evil! They will rob us of opportunities to glorify God if we are not vigilant and intentional to be wise with our time. And hard work is Biblical (another topic for another day is overworking or being too focused on your career but I’ll trust everyone’s interpretation here!). I am a big fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote: “How we spend our days is, therefore, how we spend our lives.”


Reason #4 why our work ethic matters is character-building. Every decision that we make plants a seed for future decisions. Did you ever glance over to someone else’s exam? Or rescind on your acceptance of a roommate or job offer when a better one came along? What about leaving the piece of trash on the floor that just barely missed the trash can when your NBA moment failed? Those decisions matter. One of the many great examples that my mom has set for my family and me is that she never fails to return the grocery cart to the cart return. That’s because she knows that each little decision plants a seed for future big decisions (Luke 16:10). I think that this reason was probably my biggest motivation for finishing my last semester strong, despite the fact that I was taking one of the hardest classes of my life (who knew International Economics and Finance wasn’t a crip course?).  I wanted to practice self-discipline and work habits that will follow me for the rest of my life.


And the final, and maybe most counter-intuitive Reason #5 is generosity. We should work hard so that we can give more away. This may seem to go against my initial argument that we should work no matter what the financial or other kind of rewards may be, but the fact of the matter is that hard work often does result in some sort of gain. I made this reason the last one because the first four argue for working hard no matter what the outcome, but this reason accepts the reality that many times there is a reward for hard work. This, in turn, allows us to bless others. (1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 4:28, Luke 12:48). I am beyond honored and excited to begin my career working for one of the most generous corporations in the country, and if Truett Cathy isn’t the picture of using his hard-earned success to give generously to others, I don’t know who is.


One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 2:24, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil…” – did you get that?! A secret bonus reason why we should work hard is that it will produce JOY in us! Is that cool or what? I remember running cross country in high school (PSA: yes, it is torture) and being absolutely horrible at it. I only did it to prove to myself that I could do it and to finish something strong. I never won a race, but I will always remember the JOY that I felt when I would get to the last quarter mile of a race and SPRINT to the end, gaining remarkable distance between me and the shadow of the person behind me that I could see. Who knows, that shadow might’ve been a parent running after me to hurry up and finish so that they could shut down the race, but nonetheless, I felt JOY knowing that I had “run the race with endurance” (Hebrews 12).


So I hope, if nothing else, you will find some inspiration to keep working hard at what you do. I’m not saying senioritis is not incredibly tempting or that our every day tasks and to do lists are not going to ever feel trivial or frustrating again. But with all of the Scripture listed above, we can no longer use ignorance…or senioritis…as an excuse for not working hard.



When God's plans are different than ours - Guest post

Today's guest post is from a treasured friend of mine, a woman whom I saw walk through years of infertility.  Years filled with hope and disappointment, years of pain and promise, years where she could have turned bitter but she didn't.  This woman graciously agreed to share her story for God's glory.  I wish you could sit across the table from her and share a cup of coffee.  She is so dear to me, and to many others.  She's my hero.  Here's her story......

Several weeks ago, my sweet friend asked me to write a blog about my struggle with infertility.  Honestly, this has been challenging for me and it’s probably not for reasons you may think.  I am happy to share my story with others when Jesus leads me to share.  My struggle is that I simply can’t remember all the details.  God has truly erased so much of the details from my memory.  Perhaps it’s the exact thing that happens with women who forget the pains associated with childbirth.  Here’s what I do feel led to share and my prayer is that my story will reach the hearts of those who are currently struggling with infertility. 

When I think back to my “infertility years,” I vaguely remember the countless medical exams, procedures, blood work, shots, ultrasounds, surgeries, etc.  At the time, I thought I’d never forget a single detail but in God’s goodness, He lessens those memories more and more every year.  Sometimes I think of it as a “graduation present” from Him.  He certainly allows seasons of trials in our lives and I believe He rewards us once we are where He wants usJ  What will always be part of me is the loss my husband and I went through.  We miscarried many, many times.  Some babies were farther along than others.  Some had heartbeats and I’d get so excited, but could tell from the doctor’s face that the heartbeat wasn’t fast enough or strong enough.  Sure enough, I’d miscarry a few days later.   I believe God allows those memories to stay with me as a gift….through the strength of Jesus, I am not only able to empathize and sympathize with ladies in similar situations, but I can truly relate to all their emotions as they go through their journey.  

God changed me though my infertility years.  I learned to be patient and content.  I learned that He makes the plans, not me.  I learned to seek Him, not medical experts.  I learned that He loves to surprise us when we least expect it.  I learned that He forgives and keeps after us even when we don’t deserve his mercy or grace.  Blogs are intended to be short so I won’t give examples for all of those, but I sure have a list of examples if Suzanne ever wants me to write on one of thoseJ  At the time, I was young in my walk with the Lord and you couldn’t have convinced me that God meant my infertility years for good, but He did.  He used every second to mold me into a more Christ-like person. I also believe He used every tear, every heartache, and every detail to prepare my heart for how he would grow my family. 

God grew our family through adoption twice and through a gestational carrier.  There was a time when we thought we may not have children and now we have three.   He blessed us with more than we ever thought possible.   I know some of you reading this are thinking, “That’s easy for you to say because it all worked out!” Please know this, it didn’t work out….not how WE planned it.  God had something bigger, greater than we ever could have imagined.  Our family worked out because God’s planned prevailed!  Glory to His name!  Praise Him for loving us so much that he didn’t allow our plans to work.  We are so thankful that God, in His perfect timing, put up roadblocks when needed so that we could not veer from His perfect plans for our lives. 

Lastly, I leave you with this.  I will never understand the “whys” but what I did learn along the way is that it’s not ok for me to ever question our Heavenly Father.   Some things will not be revealed to us this side of heaven.   As believers and daughters of the King, we must accept that and not dwell on it.  We must accept it knowing that our Heavenly Father only does what is good for us.  As hard as it is and as sad as loss can make our hearts, we need to stay strong and find peace knowing that we will meet and get to know our unborn children in Glory.  There are days when I can hardly wait! 

Guest post - meet Kaitlin

If any of you are discouraged by the college kids and 20 somethings that surround you, I have good news for you.  There are some exemplary young adults out there and I happen to know a bunch of 'em.  I get to hang out with several from time to time and I am in awe of their maturity, their intellect, their zest for life, their depth, and their walks with the Lord.  I asked one of these "kids" to write a post for me.  Be prepared to be blown away....Meet Kaitlin....

First thing’s first: I don’t know what it means to suffer– I mean, truly suffer. I have never known what it is to be in desperate want of any physical need. I’ve never had to overcome (beyond extended family) the deep sorrow of death. And, by sheer grace, I have never been dealt true tragedy. The Lord has overwhelmed my life with love, joy and provision (via both Him and other people) beyond anything I could possibly deserve. So in terms of a series, guided by my hero Mrs. Suzanne, on guest writers who have undergone sufferings in life, I could not be more unqualified. (And trust me, if I thought she’d be willing to publish a blog post written entirely about how much I love, respect, look up to and want to be her, I would have written that instead.) But when I consider the heart, mind and spirit struggle I’ve wrestled with most in my walk with Him, it has undoubtedly been the longing and waiting for things I want but don’t now have.


I’m the youngest of three, and in addition to all the baby-of-the-family trends I likely confirm, my mom often tells the story of having to learn, when I was first born, that to both settle and entertain me, I had to be held facing out. I wanted to see everything. I wanted to be aware of what everyone was doing, part of all that was happening, confident I wasn’t missing out on anything. Fast-forward 23 years, and you find a girl who still hates naps, still is curious about surrounding people and stories, still wants to see all options and still likes to leave all doors open. As a kid, that could be pacified by a quick 180 in Mom’s arms. But as an adult, that often translates to wanting things (specific things, in certain circumstances, in my timing) that the Lord, in His great wisdom and greater love, simply did not choose (or has yet) to grant. So in those times, throughout those struggles, I’ve learned to do two things: (1) examine what He hasn’t given me and the desire ultimately at the root of it, and (2) remember and cling to the truth of the promises He has given me: promises to satisfy, to supply every need and to give me all good things—today, in these circumstances, with or without that thing I long for now.


First, in examining what the Lord hasn’t given me, I remember the story of Balaam in Numbers 22. Balaam wants to go forward. He thinks he’s supposed to go forward. He has places to be and things to do that are forward. He was even acting on a call from God to go forward (v. 19). But in that moment, at that point, his annoying donkey wouldn’t let him go. Three times Balaam smacks her in frustration. Because seriously, what’s more agitating than an immovable object (or circumstance or silence) that stands in the way of what you believe to be the perfect path? But the donkey saw something that Balaam could not see (v. 23). The donkey saw an angel of the Lord with a drawn sword, and the angel did not appear, at the moment, to be Balaam’s biggest fan. Despite this undesired delay–an unplanned interruption in Balaam’s seemingly well-laid course–there were greater things happening in the spiritual realm (i.e. a sword-wielding angel) than Balaam could see, and by not allowing Balaam to go forward, despite how much he wanted to at the time, God was actually extending a momentarily incomprehensible grace (for Balaam’s own good) by choosing not to grant what Balaam wanted most. Elisabeth Elliot often says that some of God’s greatest mercies are His refusals. I think she’s right.


I am so grateful for the encouraging, challenging, believing friends the Lord has used to bless my life beyond measure and point me to Himself. But sometimes, I think we (“we” being an intentional first-person pronoun, because I can be the most guilty of all) are tempted to give well-intending but misleading assurances that have strayed from roots once found in scripture. For example, I’ve often heard that we should be confident we will receive what we now long for (a specific position, different circumstances, future marriage, even children), because we desire those things, and God has promised to give us the desires of our heart. This is true. Psalm 37:4 confirms that He will. But this promise is given on the condition preceding it: that we delight ourselves in Him, acknowledging that our true and only source of joy, satisfaction, purpose and content is in Him. This means, though, that we don’t ultimately want what we (in our narrow perspective and limited understanding) think we want for us. We want what He wants for us. And this is promised to be far better and far more valuable—both in this life and in the one to come.


Second, I remember what He has given me. Confession: for better or worse, I often take Hebrews 4:16 very seriously and confidently declare God’s truth and promises (as found in His Word, not as assumed in my head) before Him­–not because I think He needs to be reminded, but because I know that I do. So I declare them with my mind until I believe them with my heart. God promised that those who seek Him would lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10), meaning that anything I long for now but do not have (at least in my timing and in the form I now desire it) is not good. He promised that just as He watches over and provides for the lilies and sparrows, so He will do for us, because we are worth far more than they (Matt. 10:31). He promised that He knows what I need before I even ask Him (Matt. 6:8). And He promised that if I first seek His Kingdom, that “all these things,” all these things I really need, and all those things I ultimately long for (found at the roots of the things I’m shortsightedly longing for now), will be added to me as well–not according to my timing, my ways or my best-laid plans, but according to His. Thank goodness for that.


Even so, there’s a lot I don’t know. I don’t know whether the things I am currently tempted to pity and sorrow over not having are truly good things. They may be things He wants me to persistently ask for in faith (Luke 11:5-13), or the obstacles standing in the way of them (the unknowns, the silences, the seemingly unanswered prayers) may be stubborn but God-ordained donkeys, blocking my path from what I wouldn’t actually want if I could see them for what they truly are. But here’s what I do know: there sure are a lot of incomprehensibly good things He has promised to give those who love and seek Him that I do want (or at least would want, if I could see with His eyes), and yet leave on the table everyday.


He has made so many bold and unfathomable promises in return for following Him that are “immeasurably more” than all we could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20)–worth far more than anything we leave behind, or anything we do not have yet think we lack. He has promised to satisfy us– in the morning with His unfailing love (Psalm 90:14), and with His good, so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:4-5). He has promised that, if we do not grow weary in doing good and do not lose heart, in due season, we will reap (Gal. 6:9). He has promised that, if we dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). He has promised to work and act for us as we wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4). He has promised to bless us as we fear Him (Psalm 115:13). And He has promised that if we humble ourselves under His mighty hand, He will lift us up in due time (1 Pet. 5:6).


But perhaps best of all, He has promised that He will not be slow to fulfill those promises as some–like me, in my often faithless impatience and prideful frustration–understand slowness (2 Pet. 3:9). He will give me all good things (as I seek Him and His Kingdom) and will grant my desires (as I delight myself in Him, taking on His desires as my own) in His perfect timing and ways. And He will not delay. So at the end of the day, at the end of those prayers, at the bottom of those tears, I remind myself that even in my earthly desires—which the enemy longs to use to distract me from the only true source of fulfillment, goodness and life—that, ultimately, as Bob Goff said best, “Whatever it is we’re aiming for, God’s better.”


But beyond all the truths of Scripture, all the words of Jesus and all the personal testimonies of friends, there is one additional lesson that has given me great assurance, confidence and peace in looking to the Father throughout my periods of uncertainty, of longing and of waiting: watching my own father (fondly referred to, by my two-year-old nephew Hayden, as Dan-Dan) become a granddad to my sister’s precious kids. Maybe it’s because, being the youngest, I didn’t have the chance to watch my dad be a father to other young kids (at least, not any younger than me), but it is truly unreal how much my parents love those two. They are the absolute joy of my parents’ lives. And while Mom provides the unfailing patience and tireless enthusiasm, it is Dad’s deep compassion and quiet love that often strike me most.


I think Hayden is, in some ways, the fourth son Dad never had. And for that reason (and many others) I genuinely believe that if there were anything, absolutely anything, Hayden wanted that was (a) good for him and (b) in Dad’s power to give, Dad would give it–as absolutely soon, and in the absolute best way, as he possibly could. But if Hayden asked Dad to let him touch the hot stove (just one time, because it looked so fun, because it surely couldn’t be that bad, because he could make a very thought-out case, because everyone around him said it’d be great) no matter how much Hayden begged, and no matter how much sorrow, resentment and frustration he harbored for being refused, Dad would not say yes. This is not because Dad doesn’t love him, or because Dad doesn’t want him to have all good things or because Dad wants to inflict hurt, but precisely because of the opposite. And in terms of a heavenly Father who loves me even more, I know that, regardless of what I now see and understand—as He gives and takes away, as He answers and remains silent, as He grants and refuses—He is doing the very same, on an infinitely greater scale, for me.


Of all the things I long for in life right now, I do not always know which are good, God-given desires and which are hot stoves that I want to touch because, with blinded eyes like Balaam’s, I cannot see them for what they truly are.  But what I do know is that our Father rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb. 11:6), He will meet our every need in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and at the end of the day, whether with Him and all these things we want, or with Him and Him alone, His grace is, and will always be, sufficient for me (2 Cor. 12:9).

Yep, this kid is incredible.  One of the most authentically humble, selfless and Christlike people I have ever had the privilege to know.  Take just a few more minutes and listen to her speak at her UGA graduation Spring 2013.
 Kaitlin Miller.....

Parent pain - postscript

Just wanted to add a little to the guest post on parent pain.  My friend is too modest to tell you about all the things that she's done right  - perhaps pain blinds us all to that.  So I felt the need to follow up with some things I've observed from her life and from others going through things like this.  I know there are differing views on how to handle "wayward" kids so feel free to disagree with me.  I am certainly not an expert - just an observer. And a friend to those in such crises.  What I have to share is simply some conclusions I've drawn from these experiences.  Not an iron clad promise of results.

1.  Principles, not preferences
What I mean by this point is that we need to be sure that what we are so grieved about is truly worth being grieved about.  Is it a matter of principle, of conviction, of absolute right and wrong?  Or is it really a matter of personal preferences?  For instance, if my teenager decided to indulge in premarital sex or alcohol, this would definitely be a matter of principle.  This is clearly wrong and I would respond decisively.  (Note I did not say "react dramatically" but rather "respond decisively".  Big difference)  A lot of other things really might be a matter of personal preference instead.  Even if they feel like matters of principle.  Things like hairstyles or clothing choices or dating decisions mostly fall into the "personal preference" category. Things that we can afford to overlook or bend on.  For real.

If we as parents are wringing our hands or issuing edicts or altering our parental relationship, let's be really really really sure that the matter in question is one of principle.  Not personal preference.  I believe very strongly in standing by convictions.  Truly I do.  Not compromising on things that we stake our life on.  Not at all. And I think we can be justified to define our convictions, share our principles (and the reasons behind them). It's just that I am inclined to think that we oughta have relatively few things in that category....and even when a kid is trampling our principles, we can still respond with love.

2.  Perspective
This is such a powerful concept.  Oh my goodness, it's potent.  Perspective means that we can see somebody else's point.  (Note:  seeing does not have to mean agreeing -- just means that we can see it!!  The ability to do this is like an indelible stamp of validity.  Not having it, well, relationships without it are trite, weak, and ineffectual.)  Having perspective means we value the other person enough to try and understand (again - note that I didn't say "agree") what and why they feel as they do. This might be called empathy.  And it's a game changer.  Trust me.

Perspective also means that we possess enough wisdom and maturity to take a long view.
 Maybe, just maybe, some of the things that we parents get hyped up about really won't matter in the long run.  What a kid does at 15 does not necessarily have to define them.  (Unless, of course, the parents blow the whole thing up and ruin the relationship and the kid never is allowed to move past it.  Then it surely would define them) Parental memory can be a tricky thing -- seems like we either conveniently forget all the mistakes of our past or we so fearfully focus on trying to be sure our kid avoids every single pit we fell into that we lack perspective.  Guess what - no matter how perfectly we try to parent, our kids are gonna make some mistakes.  Perspective helps us - and them - be OK with that.  In fact, some of the most powerful bonding possible can take place as we help our child learn how to get up after a fall.

And perspective means that our response to things we consider crises is not over the top dramatic.  (For me, it means I just need to take a chill pill.) Some of the greatest possible damage can be done when we react in earth shattering ways.  Before you encounter one of those heart-wrenching parenting moments, purpose right now that you will take plenty of time to consider your response before you act.  And spend time and energy right now to fill your heart up with love and wisdom and gentleness and grace and mercy so that, when you get squeezed, that's what will come out.

Oh, and in case you're getting this info after you've erupted and damage has been done, there are things that can be done to repair the devastation.  Admission of wrong (yours), asking for forgiveness(theirs), and correcting the course.

3.  Preserve the relationship
Above all else, preserve the relationship.  Yes, I know about tough love and church discipline and I am all for it.  But I believe with all my heart that the times to employ those are rare.  And I believe that the best thing a rebellious kid can have is the assurance of a parent that loves them no matter what.  Not agrees with their choices but loves them in spite of them.  I don't think it means you let them do drugs or sleep with their boyfriend in your home (back to "principles" - #1).  But neither do I think it means you ignore their birthday or forbid your other kids from contact with them or exclude them from family times.  For crying out loud, what you want is a chance to influence them for good and it's helpful to have time with them to do that!! Christ is our example.  He never overlooked or excused sin but He sure made it a point to hang out with the sinners.  And I am so thankful for that!

If your kid is currently turning his or her back on all you hold dear, I know you still love them....but they might not know that.  Be sure they do.  Use words and actions and whatever else at your disposal to tell them you love them.  Kindness goes a long way to healing hurts.  And the hope is that one day he/she will come to his/her senses and you'll be in a position to positively impact them.  If you don't preserve the relationship now, that day's likely never gonna come.

And, it's just my opinion, but I don't think that prodigal son would've come home ever unless he knew he'd be allowed to stay.

4.  Prevail
Don't quit doing all the things you know that are right and good.  From enjoying your other children and your friends to exercise to hobbies to just plain living life - keep on keeping on.  Don't let a parenting crisis derail your life.  One dear friend of mine shared with me that parenting through these storms really wears you out.  One of the thing that has kept her going is that she and her husband are "on the same page".  What good advice.  What really good advice.  So many times I've seen a crisis with a child wreak havoc on a marriage or the other children.  Do whatever you can to guard against that. Go see a good counselor.  Talk things out with a close friend. In private. (I personally don't suggest making your kid's issues a matter of public knowledge for everybody and their sister to gossip about but that's just my opinion). But don't retreat into a shell and forfeit all the good around you.

Never never never give up on your kid but don't let this crisis define your existence.  The rest of your world needs you.

5.  Pray 
This one's a no-brainer, right?  Sure.  Except that it's not.  We can often fall into the trap of doing everything we can think of except that.  We should all tattoo this truth onto our hearts - we are powerless to change people.  Only God can do that.  Talk to Him about it.  Often. He's on your side.  And your child's side.  You don't have to beg Him to act - He wants what's best for your child even more than you do!  Just pour out your heart to Him.  Cry out to Him.  Lean on Him.  Continuously. 

  And, what we often find, is that prayer changes us as much as (if not more than) it changes the situation.  Or the other person.

If you're in a parenting crisis of any kind,  my heart breaks for you.  If you want to confidentially tell somebody about it, I'm here.  I'll listen.  And pray with you and cry with you and hurt with you.
And, I'll believe for you until you can believe for yourself.


Guest post - parent pain

I am a parent with a grown child that is breaking my heart.  I asked Suzanne if I could write something about that for her blog.  We have been good friends for a long time so she said that would be fine.  I think she is going to get other friends to write about some things they have gone through, too.  I don't live near her anymore but I enjoy her blog and her encouragement.

I am not a good writer but I hope that I can say some things that might help somebody else.  That is what I pray.

I have several grown children and they are all blessings to me.  All of them but one have good relationships with God.  I love them all, even the one that does not have a good relationship with Him.  She has been in rebellion for a few years and that is why I am writing.  If you want one of those happy ever after endings, don't read this because that is not what I have to share.  Suzanne knows that and she still wants me to share my story because it is the truth.  And she says because God is still faithful, the story isn't over yet.

Many times I have heard Suzanne say that there is no pain like parent-pain and I would agree 1000% with that.  When my children were young, it hurt for them to be left out or not make the team or something like that.  That hurts but it is nothing like the pain you feel when they turn their back on what you have taught them and tried to live out for them.  That is what happened in our family.

We tried to do all the things that are supposed to make children turn out right.  I will be honest and tell you that, before this happened to us, I used to hear parents say that and in my heart I doubted it.  I really thought that if you did all the right things, then children would turn out good.  So, if their children didn't turn out right, I thought they must have failed in some way as parents.  Maybe that really is the truth but I hope and pray with all my heart that it is not true.  Suzanne says that we all have the perfect parent (God) and we still rebel so the actions of our children are not our fault.  There is a verse in Ezekiel that she bases that on.  Maybe she shared it already.  Anyway, I know we are still supposed to try to be good parents and do the things that will help our children and that's what my husband and I did.  We were (are) very active in church.  In fact, we are in ministry.  When our children were at home, we had devotions with them, prayed with them and for them, memorized Bible verses together. We really do love God and it is our heart's desire to obey Him and honor Him.  We love Him and His people and His Word.  My husband spent a very great amount of time with every one of our children while they were growing up and he was always kind and loving and teaching them. We had fun times and  have some great memories.  I do not know of any major problems in our home.  I have tried to be a good Mother but sometimes I failed.  I would lose my temper and not be patient with them sometimes.  But I always apologized and tried to make it right.  Maybe I am the cause of our child's rebellion but I don't know.  We really did do the best we could - we even homeschooled them for a time- and all of our other children are strong Christians.  Just this one has broken our hearts.  As we think back on their childhood, we think we probably spent more time and energy on this one because she seemed to need it more.  That is very interesting.

When the rebellion first started, I was very afraid.  My husband was very calm and optimistic that it would not last long and would not get any worse.  Sometimes we would see things that gave us hope but once she moved out, things got really bad.  In those weeks, I cried a lot.  And of course I prayed.  Sometimes the sorrow would just overtake me in the midst of other things.  It was strange, though, that even in the deep sorrow, I would have joy.  That doesn't even make sense I know.  But it is the truth.  It was like God was reminding me that all the world can fall away but I still have Him and that is enough.  So I was very sad and my husband was "numb".  That was the word he used.  It caused some tension between us, I will be honest.  I wanted him to take some kind of drastic action and he felt I was being dramatic.  We both felt very helpless.  We had to just sit back and watch her be destructive.  Of course we prayed but we didn't share what was happening with other people.  Our other children knew of course - at least some of the information.  But we didn't feel that we should confess HER sins to other people.  I don't know if that is right or not but I am just telling you what we did.  Maybe it's because we were so ashamed.  Gradually a few people found out some of the things that were happening.  Some of them seemed condemning and self-righteous to me but maybe I was just overly sensitive.  Probably that's how I seemed to other people when it happened to them.

One of the things you might be wondering is did we see this coming.  Yes and no.  I can be sort of a worrier so when I saw certain things in my children, I would take it to the extreme and worry that this is the beginning of something really bad.  My husband does not worry and always sees the good.  When she was in high school, there were problems with her wanting to dress a certain way or watch certain movies or date certain boys. We didn't want to be over-strict so we let her make some decisions that we didn't agree with.  I worried a lot about that but we decided it was not a big deal.  I don't know if that was where things all started or not. I didn't know what to do. One thing that bothers me so very much is that once (when we didn't know how bad things really were) I felt led to fast for her.  And I didn't do it.  Then we received some news that was very encouraging.  We were so happy!  I really forgot about the fast then.  Soon after that, we found out that the news we had received was a bunch of lies and that things were much worse than we had ever imagined.  Of course I wonder if things would have been different if I had fasted.

I will tell you that it is so very very hard not to blame yourself.  Or your spouse.  I don't really have any advice for you except to tell you some things that helped us.  I needed to talk about it but my husband wanted to pretend it wasn't true.  This was his daughter and he wanted to have her still be his little princess.  It tore my heart out to see him hurt like it did.  That made me mad at her.  I know that sounds so awful but I want to be honest with you.  By God's grace, I never have expressed anger towards her for all of this.  That is a miracle, I promise you!  So I had to work with the Lord to get rid of my anger and to truly forgive her.  We have told her that we forgive her and that we love her.  She says she knows that.  Anyway, my husband knew I needed to talk about it, especially when things first got so bad, and he let me.  I know he would rather have not but he did that for me and it helped me cope.

Another thing - we have tried to be conscious of the needs of our other children.  When one demands so much of your time, etc, it can be easy to overlook the others.  And they are the ones that really deserve our energy!  So we have been careful to focus on them, not just on the rebel.

Also, we try to not neglect our own relationship with the Lord or with each other.  It's sad that those can take a back seat when you experience something like this but those are the very things that need to be strengthened.  That is what keeps you going.

We are still waiting for her to come to repentance.  We worry about her and we worry about the effect this could have on the rest of our family.  We pray constantly for wisdom - there are so many complicated decisions that come up.  For instance, we have considered getting out of the ministry.  We have been counseled that the verse about being disqualified for ministry because of unruly children does not apply to adult children.  I don't know if that is right but we have followed that counsel.  Also, do we have her in our home for holidays?  Whether it's right or not, we do.  We welcome her home and try to make things wonderful while she is there. But her values and standards are not ours. Many times, she has ruined things for all of us by being selfish and demanding and exploding and saying unkind things to all of us. That leaves us all upset  but I don't want to exclude her.  I love her and all my children.  I don't know if the others resent her or not. 

If she comes to repentance - Suzanne says to say "when" and not "if" - I know there will be consequences.  Forgiveness (God's and ours) doesn't remove those.  I do not know what those will be and probably those consequences will be hard, too.  But I am willing to bear anything - I just want to know that all my children will be in Heaven with me one day.

This is getting really long.  I have not really offered much advice.  I pray for other parents that have to go though something like this.  It is very hard.  Like Suzanne says, there is no pain like parent pain.  I have to hold on tight to God and pray that He will bring her back.  It really is true that He is faithful and that He can give you joy even when your heart breaks.  Pray a lot.  Read the Bible a lot.  And find one or maybe two friends that you trust and will pray with you.