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Category Archives: Teens

10 Ways Time Together Can Bring Healing

10 Ways Time Together Can Bring HealingI actually wrote this right after Christmas 2018, but I recently revisited because in New England we have a delightful weeklong break in mid-February. You see, if I’m not intentional about the disruptions of everyone being home on break, our time off together can be an epic fail. Know what I mean?

Whether it’s a vacation you have planned, a school break, too many snow days in a row, or a holiday, time together does not have to be chaotic and tense. For our family, we actually needed it to go so far as to be restorative and healing. It was a huge prayer on my heart. If this is you, read on. Our holiday break a few months ago brought peace and refreshing in only ways God could have orchestrated.

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I’m back—I think—for now. My Advent season went off the rails. In short: We are still troubleshooting causation of a significant health decline in one of my children, and we have seen more specialists than I have money for copays—but that’s a story for another day. We may be talking about parasites. Still waiting on that result. Why parasites? Because we spent two years on a tiny island in the South Pacific Third World a decade ago. And my child is not absorbing proteins—which pretty much screws up health on several counts.

We had a good Christmas. I hope you did, too. We are trying some new supplements while we wait out answers, and there was stability and peace. Even so, I simultaneously slapped the back end of 2018 goodbye with a firm “Harrumph!” (Thank you, Urban Dictionary!) while fearing that the New Year would drop us back where we fell around Thanksgiving: fearful, despairing, shaken.

So, as the high schooler and middle schooler went back to school, I found  the quiet to reflect on what worked for us this holiday break. I do this in the hopes that next year, or any year where we need healing, we remember what to do, with any necessary adjustments.

I was going to give this column the title: The Healing Power of Family, but I could not bring myself to do it. It’s not that I don’t find time with my kids and husband to be healing, because I absolutely do. But I also remember times when Read the rest of this entry »

 

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In the Wreckage: Depression, Anxiety, and Jesus

In the Wreckage

This is a deeply personal piece. I wish it weren’t. I wish I had skipped over these genes in the gene pool. I wish mental health struggles didn’t ravage families, shooting out shrapnel like loaded cannons to anyone and everything around them trying to help.

And yet—they do.

My mental health journey started before we had children. Round One for me was setting right in my head what my heart mislearned along the way for a lot of reasons. At age 27, I was simply trying to make sense of adulthood and childhood, and mesh it all together. I needed to pull out the good I learned and discard the rest, like anyone else does at that age. That time, a therapist was helpful, but chemically I remained untreated.

Round Two was third-child-post-partum. It was short-lived, and I was fairly well supported by friends and my husband. It was a brief re-dip in a dark well. I had a lot to live for. My hormones simply were not cooperating.

Round Three almost killed me. We were on a tiny South Pacific island with three young children for two years. I spent my evenings biking around looking for a place to change my sense of desperate.

(Let me emphasize that I still had a lot to live for then. Three amazing, beautiful, spunky children and a loving husband. That had not changed.)

I was all the way around the world from all that I knew, living a fish-bowl military base, ex-pat lifestyle in a beautiful setting—only Read the rest of this entry »

 

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To Those Who Go Unnoticed

To Those Who Go UnnoticedThis piece is deeply personal to me. I almost didn’t write it. But something that has been bubbling to the surface for a very long time erupted in me as I watched my high school daughter dance at her recital dress rehearsal. It was as if time stopped, and God said:

“I see, Bonnie. I see. You think nobody else does, but Ido. Now, you find a way to communicate that to her.”

And my strong, sometimes fierce, and always feisty self crumpled as I shakily held the iPhone camera to record what I could for family who could not make it to the recital. There was an inner tremble, a hurt child within me, that let go as I watched her glide across the stage with such grace to John Legend’s “If You’re Out There.”

The message of the song is about people coming together in the name of peace. That’s an awesome concept, for sure. But I saw a very quiet, non-attention-seeking young lady dance for the pure joy of it,

“if you’re out there” watching or not.

And it spoke to me in all the hollow places where as a parent I had watched her hurt for so long in several arenas after a very difficult year of poor health and adjusting to a big high school—after time and time again of having amazing character and compassion to offer, but feeling like a wallflower.

My dear sweet daughter, you are not a wallflower. People in your social circles may not know what you can do and what your many gifts are, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Flipping That Tassel: A Letter to the Class of 2018

Flipping That TasselOur oldest son graduates high school, along with close to 400 classmates. Maybe even in the rain. Outside. Oh, joy! It seems to culminate in this one night, but truthfully, the past few weeks have been nonstop events on our calendar: senior awards, senior scholarships, band banquet, language awards, induction ceremony, baccalaureate, etc. It was so hectic I found myself rescheduling medical appointments multiple times on the day of some of these events. Despite syncing Apple Calendar and setting a timer on my phone, I could not keep it all straight. That panicky feeling kept creeping in insisting that I was going to miss something important.

And then there it was: That maroon and white tassel with 2018 dangling off the end of it. And I completely flashed back to 1990. Rainy day just the same, almost three decades earlier. All the nerves of exiting one chapter and entering another one rattling around like a live wire inside me.

Only this time, in 2018, it was my firstborn.

This day was the end of many things, yes, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of choices, decisions, dreams, achieving, and sometimes falling, sometimes failing.

What? Why so negative? Not the most inspiring graduation message, Bonnie!

Oh, but it is! Because the road ahead Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Why Listening Is Part of God’s Repair

Happy September! I’m not sure where August went! Espressos of Faith is belatedly celebrating a Blogiversary! We opened up the site on August 3, 2014 and started posting August 15, 2014. I’ll never forget it because I was on vacation, and my web site manager and I said: “Okay, ready or not, here we come!” (I’ve since learned to put better margin in my life and not attempt huge undertakings while away to relax.) Not long after, by the amazing grace of God, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day was published on October 1, 2014, a day shy of my birthday.

This summer, I’ve been keeping a weekly faith column at Your Tewksbury Today and slowed down in terms of adding content to the blog site. Personally, we had a challenging summer on several counts, and rest became a must.

In honor of a year of faithful readers, engaging conversations, and much-needed personal growth, Espressos of Faith will aim to post twice a week this month, hopefully posting a few guest bloggers along the way.

Thank you for coming alongside me and reading what my heart wants to communicate. I dedicate each post to the Great I AM, Whose hand I never want to let go of—not in the stormy seas and not even when the skies are clear and the air about me dancing with dragonflies. It’s the best hand I’ve ever held: The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt.

Blessings to you this September,
Bonnie

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Why Listening Is Part of God's Repair

Summer: A time when the family spends significant amounts of quality time together, regroups from the busy school year, checks every item off the year-in-the-making to-do list, and catches up on each other’s lives.

Sound good? Yes, yes it does.

But summer can also be a time when all problems shoved to the side by our busyness the rest of the year come rushing into that empty space like an angry brook moving so swiftly, it polishes pebbles along the way.

Only I’m the pebbles, and no matter how smooth I think I am, the water continues to force its way in and demand my attention.

Know what I mean?

We glided into July with a few weeks of calm. It was good to sleep in, not worry about schoolwork, and follow our whims about the schedule.

And then, like a gigantic, threatening, visible but still-out-to-sea tidal wave, suddenly every issue that had been building—some unbeknownst to me—piled on top of my head. When I thought maybe I had a handle on one area, another person in the family would point out another flaw in our relational dynamic. Not fun.

Pretty soon I was seeing not just the frayed edges, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Navigating T(w)een Texting: What Are Good Guidelines for Middle Schoolers?

Today, I am trying something different at “Espressos of Faith.” I was recently drafting a texting contract for one of my children, and I brainstormed many guidelines, but I’m sure I didn’t catch them all. I realize that people have different parenting styles. This is just mine. I can also see where a 6th grader would have (hopefully) tighter parent reins than an 8th grader who has shown responsibility and maturity in this area. I have a high schooler, a middle schooler, and an elementary school child. We have navigated this tricky world of online communication with one so far and are in the middle of the training ground with another.

This list is a brainstorm for training. It’s intended to be the guardrails necessary for helping a tween or young teen find safety and structure in the digital and online world. The wording is designed to let them know which statements are advice best heeded and which ones are imperatives, or non-negotiables. Again, this is a work-in-progress. I’m open to feedback.

Texting

Today, I pose these questions to readers:

What would you add?

What would you take away?

What would you change?

What has worked for you?

Why?

I’d love to hear from you.

Bonnie Lyn Smith,
Author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day

P.S. This topic first appeared at Espressos of Faith in Texting: Can We Raise Our Kids From a Posture of Fear?

P.P.S. risk(within)reason is a great resource for managing your child’s digital footprint.

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Texting, Emailing, and Messaging Guidelines for Middle Schoolers

You can use your iPod Touch after homework (unless we’ve made a different arrangement that day) if the following rules are adhered to:

1.) No texting/emailing/messaging/playing a game with or otherwise interacting with any friend before 8 AM and after 8 PM.

2.) No forwarding *anything* (especially *no video or photo content* but also no email forwarding) for anyone else, of anyone else, or about anyone else, even if you have his/her permission. Whatever you share or forward makes you culpable, not only in our home, but it leaves a digital footprint legally.

3.) No pressuring anyone else to respond/forward/share/get an app you want them to have, etc. In general, no pressuring people at all, without good reason (he/she needs to carry through his/her end of a school project, as one example).

4.) Overall, it’s usually best not to share a photo showing you are with a different friend on a group chat, especially if that chat only has three people on it, and you two are together, but the other person is not. There are exceptions to this, but in general, that is just polite social behavior in the tween/early teen world. Too many unnecessary hurt feelings and insecurities erupt at this age from unnecessary “look whom I’m with” photo postings. In general, avoid group chatting when you can. It leads to trouble. Almost always. Something often gets misunderstood when three or more people communicate digitally.

5.) Absolutely no exchanging of any game or other password on text/email/message in typed/video/audio form. Similarly, no asking for anyone’s passwords.

6.) It is best not to continue an extensive argument in digital form. You must be in person, FaceTime, or on the phone to have productive conversations where meaning and tone are understood. We’ve been there, done that, and lived through the damage. Even though these are the very words you hate to hear follow any parent statement, we’re going to say them anyway: Trust us on this one.

7.) Avoid repeat begging for a reply after second attempt to get your friend to respond to you. Nobody likes to come back and find 40 short texts left there just to annoy or get their attention.

8.) You do not need to follow anyone’s “orders.” You are your own person. You do not have to forward, go fetch, share homework, etc., just because a strong-willed friend is asking you to. “No” or “no, thank you” work beautifully in emails/messages/texts as much as they do in person.

9.) No recorded video conversations until you are in high school, and even then, with guidelines.

10.) No discussing another person in any way other than: “Was she in school today?” or “Have you heard from her?” You leave evidence of every reference, every conversation. We don’t care if it’s venting about a teacher, a parent, or another student: That needs to be done in person or talking on the phone.

11.) If we have to consider whether or not your emoji is offensive, it is. Get it off there.

12.) No pouty/sexy looks in pictures. We are not  ____________ [insert name of any current tabloid magazine celebrity of your choosing].

13.) No pictures of other people sent in text/message/email.

14.) No sharing of locations or plans to leave the house, go on vacation, etc.

15.) No interacting with someone you don’t know. Don’t even join a group chat if you don’t know every member by face and context. Verify, verify, verify.

16.) No telling anything private or confidential in a text/message/email. Any discussions meant in confidence should happen in person or on the phone and with discretion. Nothing’s a secret once it’s in typed/audio/video form.

17.) No threatening/pressuring language of any kind, not even: “I will be upset with you if…” That is putting conditions on someone with emotional manipulation. We don’t play that way, nor do we respond to those kind of messages. Please let us know if you receive those, so we can help you.

18.) No sharing anyone else’s email, text address, phone number, or address with others, even if he/she gives you permission. That is for that person to share.

19.) The texting device gets put on counter or away during meals, family conversations, appointments, church, and any other location you need to talk to people, and it can only be consulted after homework or during designated breaks. It reports back to the dock by 8 PM.

20.) We never text and walk (or bike, or, when you’re older: drive). We would never cross the street or parking lot looking at a texting device. We value our lives more than our devices. 🙂

21.) Failure to respect boundaries and rules results in apologies given individually to people who were involved. Other parents may sometimes have to be involved. So, be careful how you manage rules so you can keep yourself safe and others safe, and you can avoid embarrassing parent involvement.

22.) Passwords can’t change without letting us know. We have a right to spot-check at any time without receiving any attitude about it.

Please sign here that you understand your responsibilities: ___________________________

If this list seems too long, too hard to remember, over the top in any way, or stressful, it’s okay. We get it. It just means that you are not ready to have a texting device, and we can revisit this when you’re ready. We want you to feel comfortable with this new responsibility. Every rule on here is because we love you so incredibly much.

Love,
Mom and Dad,

The People Whose Job It Is to Keep You Safe and to Train You in Becoming a Good Citizen, Friend, Person
Also the People Who Feed, Clothe, and Shelter You

*This blog has been shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Grace & TruthFaith-Filled Fridays, A Little R & Rand Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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Dear Middle Child: A Letter from Mom

Dear Middle Child

Today I unexpectedly ended up with time alone with my middle child, a daughter between two sons. I knew based on a recent family therapy session that she had feelings of being somehow left out, just outside whatever is going on in the house, a sense of being unnoticed. It struck me as so odd at the time that she would feel that way because, from my perspective, she seems to always insert herself in the middle of everything going on. I didn’t fully understand she did this in an effort to remain always included. I wrote this letter to her in my head, and I hope, at just the right moments, to be able to convey some of these things delicately to her with my heart over the holiday season when we have more time together. If you are or have (a) middle child(ren) in your home, I hope you find something in this that speaks to your situation as well.

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Dear Middle Child:

First, let me start off by saying that Mom was not the middle child. I was the youngest. Dad was the middle child, just like you, although in his case: a son between two daughters.

It must be a challenge somedays figuring out who you are.

Are you mature enough to get the same benefits and responsibilities as your older brother? To have an iPod Touch when he does? To know grown-up stuff that he does?

Or are you still wanting to grab your childhood and be young like your little brother?

I imagine that walking through each day uncertain which role you want must be confusing, complicated, and frustrating at times.

Some days, you may not be sure how Dad and I view you.

Or you may want to change it up now and again, and we’re slow on the uptake, not realizing which one you are in that particular moment.

When your little brother is in the room, you like to feel older, sharing a bond of knowledge and growing up with the one above you in age.

When your older brother comes into the room, you perhaps feel awkward caught playing with the little guy when you want to be esteemed as mature by the oldest.

But then I catch you closing the door and entering into the delightful world of imagination playing in your room with the little one. You don’t really want us to know, but

  • You still want to be a child
  • You ache to be as free as the youngest
  • You long for days when playing didn’t require shutting the door to avoid being caught in Play World

What you don’t know is that I’m in no rush for you to grow up, and that when you are in Play World, I get to see how much you have kept sweet, innocent, and free. And the oldest doesn’t fault you for it either. He doesn’t hold it against you or find you less mature. He misses Play World, and while he’d never maybe say it to you—or me—he envies you still getting to be in there.

I also see you walk a balance of wanting to mother and nurture the one below you in age but receive that same safety and protection from the one above you. You do both beautifully, but I can see where you aren’t ever completely sure which one you are: Nurturer or Protected.

I want to tell you, sweet girl, that you are both. Always. Because God put you in the birth order right where He wanted you. And the best part is: You don’t have to choose.

I love when you share a more mature conversation with your teenage brother before the little one comes home. Sometimes, you feel stuck there and get a little haughty about how big you are; you might even get a little disgusted when the little one doesn’t know something yet that you do. You might feel impatient with him. You might wish he’d catch up.

But if he caught up, you couldn’t enter Play World now and again. You couldn’t experience those caretaker moments that you do when Little Man looks up to you, and you get to be Big Sis.

I see when I have a private talk with the oldest child, how much you desperately want to be included, or likewise, when I lavish some attention on Little Man because he’s still a younger kid, you struggle to find the fairness. You often want to keep things even, because, unlike the rest of us, you are the very middle of the kids, and you feel you have a good view of both angles. So you tend to be hypervigilant about making sure things are fair—to the point you sometimes feel you need to play “parent.”

I know you often seem to think there are conversations going on around you that you aren’t a part of. And yet, what you don’t realize is how much we take your input, we hear you advocate for a brother, we listen to what you have to say.

But it’s hard, because when you are the middle of the sibling sandwich, the bread on either side seems to get more attention: The one going first is our practice round, and the one going last has greater dependence at his age. But you don’t see yourself as the peanut butter in-between bringing the bread slices closer together. And that’s exactly what you do. It’s amazing to watch.

I see you playing tug-of-war with yourself over which child to align yourself with, and I can appreciate that fine balance and the daily struggle, My Love. But I want you to know that you get to be the middle of the sandwich, and with that, comes as much blessing as aggravation—as much extra love as feeling a bit unsure at times. You may feel like you are on the sidelines while the action goes on in the different ends around you, but to us, you are critically needed and loved because you bring balance and input that nobody else here can offer.

So, my sweet, middle child with your sense of justice and keeping track, Mom wants you to try to rest, relax, and look for where your role is so vital, so important, so blessed. You touch our family deeply with your ability to play both roles. We love both your childhood and your growing up! We love keeping you free of the worries of the older one a little bit longer but also being able to hand you more responsibility and mature conversations. We love when you delight the youngest with the Play Sparkle you still have inside you when you need it.

Rest, my child, in who you are. And if you can do this, you will be so incredibly gifted in social navigation and dynamics because you walk the balance every day of your life and know so much about how to relate to different ages and different personalities.

Trust your dad and me to keep things fair. And play in your room still—as much as you can! Freely love on Little Man. And let your older brother take you under his arm and teach, guide, and protect you. As you give as teacher to the one below you, freely receive from the one above. You can do both things well.

You don’t have to patrol or be on guard. You truly aren’t missing anything. If anything, you get a double dip into family dynamics and sibling relationships. You have insight we all can learn from.

We learn so much from our sweet “middle.” You are absolutely needed and very deeply loved.

With love forever,
Mom xoxo

*More anecdotal stories about faith, family, and relationships can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

**This post has been shared with Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-UpMake a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin TuesdayBreakthru LinkupGrace & Truth, A Little R & RDance With Jesus, Faith-Filled Fridays, Saturday Soirée Blog Partyand Christian Mommy Blogger.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Teens, Tweens/Children

 

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