Saturday, February 23, 2019

HMJ: Life and Teen Talk: Relationships

Wow, I have missed a few weeks of entries.  Did I mention how God laid on my heart that this year would be "challenging"?  He also said my learning curve was to be on "grace".  The last few weeks have exemplified this...

Our sewer pump went out 2 Monday nights ago, which wouldn't have been so bad because it only controls our downstairs bathroom and laundry... upstairs kitchen and bathroom were unaffected... except... 30 minutes later our water heater went out, spewing steaming water all over the basement floor... at 11pm.


It took until that Friday to have life back to normal, all the while wondering what would be "next"!!  The roof is still leaking and bubbling my walls and it has been toooooo cold and snowy to have anyone else out to look at it.


In the midst of no showers, no normal dish cycles and using all our spare cash to eat out because I wasn't feeling well and didn't have muster to boil water every.single.time we cooked and needed to scrub pans, a situation arose which fuels my "Teen Talk" segment this week.  It was my shining opportunity to practice "grace" and, for the most part, I feel as though God helped me do it well.

For the most part.

I felt an apology call was needed where I was actually reassured that I had handled it well.  I guess that was a relief.

As we got back to schoolwork this week I was also preparing a study on Philippians to share with a women's group at a new church plant in a rough part of town.  I cannot begin to measure the mounting spiritual warfare which has resulted.  God must be up to something really BIG!!  The study launches this weekend, as I also piece together the Newsletter to meet deadline later this coming week (if you are interested, scroll to the bottom of this article to see how you can subscribe!).

Life in full-mode!

School has gone well.  The week the pump and heater went out, Brooke and I had decided to move our pre-spring break up... not because of the problems, actually, the break was Divine intervention.... the plumbing troubles came that night!  And the next day, Brooke got sick and remained sick all week!  It is a crazy thing to see "mercies" in, but that is exactly how we viewed it.  She's feeling much better now.

We started in on Business Math this past Monday.  She completed Consumer Math right before our break.  I thought the new math class might be boring and monotonous, but it actually isn't and she seems to really be enjoying it.  I have decided to put together a project for her in which she will develop a business plan through the course of this class.

We spent a short week on middle-Asia covering all the "-stans" and now have moved onto a two-week study of India and that general region.  I really am enjoying our BJU curriculum for this course.  My only complaint would be that we have older, used curriculum produced in the mid-90s.  With the constantly changing political climate, especially in Eastern Europe and the whole of Asia, I recommend using more up-to-date material.

In conjunction with our launch into western Asian we are studying some Kipling for English Comp.  We had been reading about Paraphrase and Precis (Abeka Grammar Comp 11) and decided to use our own material for practicing on.  We are starting with his poem, "IF".  It is a favorite I keep on the fridge, though I don't think my kids ever actually take the time to read it!!  Brooke should be able to quote this particular work by the time we are done with the unit!

We have also been very deliberate in getting out and about for "adventures"!  We like to do some novice photo-journaling as well...

Our biggest news from the last few weeks is the college tour we took. 
Brooke had her sights on attending Montana Bible College in Bozeman, MT. However, once youth group leaders and friends learned she was planning to study Biblical Counseling, everyone rallied to encourage her towards Yellowstone Christian College, her sister's Alma Mater, right here in our own town.  Knowing and respecting these peers, she took it under serious counsel and we went for a one-on-one intro to the college and campus.

She seems sold!  Next year she will be a senior which means we can take advantage of drastically reduced rates for dual enrollment (earn credit for high school while also earning for college).  She is planning a full slate which will cover both her final few classes she will need for graduation (English, Government and Speech) as well as working on her degree requirements.  She is considering ESL and some of the Bible classes.  The other great piece was learning they had finally obtained their full accreditation which means, by the fall of 2020 when she is a regular student, she will be able to obtain FAFSA to pay for school!

If you have high schoolers whom you would like to see in a good Christian college, I highly recommend YCC.  We've known the Deen as well as the Admissions Director since we moved to the area... great people, great standards, great academics!

Also, since I last tapped out an entry, Brooke received her first non-family member Valentine's gift this year which included a bouquet of roses!
I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  Her cat was "helping" while she was in frumpy clothes, still sick AND recovering from some unfortunate events the day before (the same ones which prompted my apology phone call, though apparently not needed).

On the note of Valentines, I will move onto our Teen Talk segment this week...


I am learning this is a sticky word in Christian communities where teens are concerned.  My husband and I grew up mostly secular, we were even secular when we met, and while I have been a Christian for many many years now, I will admit to being somewhat naive to many of the nuances of Christian relationships for teens.  PLEASE NOTE, the following is just what I have picked up through trial and error with my kids.  I absolutely respect that each family has their own way of doing things... this is just our approach in helping our teens navigate the relationship field in a God-honoring way and I share today as I way of inspiration for families who aren't sure what direction they should/want to go.  Please feel free to comment below with other great ideas and angles on this topic.

Set boundaries.
As a parent, it is hard to talk about some of the personal aspects of relationships with teens.  However, the saying is true; "An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure".  I have always tried to keep an open dialogue with my kids on EVERYTHING and discussing boundaries is no exception.  What I DON'T want to do is create rebellion OR make them afraid to talk to me about intimate issues.  So, we work together in discussing what is/isn't appropriate.  I then leave the ball in their court to OWN their boundaries... if they own them, they will be better able to maintain them.

Fact is, no matter the age, it is good for Christians to set clear boundaries for themselves prior to dating.  However, if the courting or dating has begun, it is never too late to define the boundaries. It is good for a couple to sit down together and agree on their boundaries and expectations.  We encourage our teens, especially the girls, to stand firm on good boundaries and recognize; any guy who may ask them to overstep boundaries instead of respect them, isn't someone who will treasure and value them as they should be and therefore not worth the time of serious relationship status.

Keep it Biblical.
The Bible has clear guidance for couples.  The biggest stipulation: Coming together in intimacy is meant to be reserved for marriage. By the way, I'm sorry to say, but even "messing around" HAS TO be talked about with teens and young adults now... much confusion is flying around about 'how far can we go' and, while many are still saving their virginity, just as often they are pushing other intimate lines assuming it is OK because they haven't gone "all the way".  If intimacy, even "messing around", is meant to be saved for marriage, than one could honestly pose this question as a filter: "How would you feel if Jesus walked in at that moment."  Truth is, in the marriage spectrum, intimacy is a beautiful thing and honors God's command for man and woman... outside of marriage, the answer to that question should be, "I should not do it"!  Trust me, talk about this with your teens if they are beginning to consider relationships.  It may be VERY uncomfortable for both of you, but more uncomfortable would be if you chose NOT to talk about.  Also, remind daughters that ANY guy worth his weight in gold will respect her purity in ALL measures.

Beyond intimacy, though, many families may feel there is a lot of gray area when it comes to kissing, hugging, and holding hands. A good rule of thumb: anything which could push the line of restraint should be avoided and saved for marriage. We encourage our kids to save as much of these 'simple' things as possible until marriage or, at the very least, until engagement or more serious relationship levels.  However, we try to balance cautious advice with giving them freedom to choose in this area.

All in all, we ask them to filter with these points in mind:
  • Will it cause them to take their eyes off of Jesus (feelings or the other person become more important than following God's commands)
  • Could it cause one or both of them to stumble
  • Will it project un-biblically to others around them (since one of our greatest Calls is to glorify and exemplify Christ in ALL we do as a witness to others)
A peck on the cheek may be good and well, but making out in a movie theater will push lines.  Hugging to communicate connection is understandable, but working towards copping a feel crosses a line.  I know I may be ultra conservative (or maybe not conservative enough) but these are examples we discuss with our teens to help them understand the scope.

Stay accountable.
We have decided, until our kids are 18, one-on-one dates are discouraged and riding alone together in cars is out of the question.  Once they turn 18, these decisions will be entirely up to them.  Dating in groups is strongly recommended and avoiding dark corners and hallways is also frowned upon.  Having these guidelines, for our girls in particular, helps them avoid compromising situations.  My kids feel as though they have enough freedom in relationships that they don't argue these points.  As a matter of fact, they thank me for keeping them accountable!

Consider Encouraging Courting First.
This can be viewed in different ways, our family considers it the "get to know you" phase!  I explain to my kids how dating involves a deeper sharing of hearts and lives.  It also opens the doors to things like we discussed: kissing, hugging, hand holding etc.  Rather than investing deeply in someone on a whim only to find out they are not a good fit, courting allows them to determine if this person is appropriate for deeper investment.

During courting they do agree to be "off the market", so-to-speak, in order to feel more comfortable in a focused friendship.  If they haven't been friends beforehand, this courting phase allows them to see true colors.  We explain that, in dating, people are usually trying to impress.  However, in courting, even if there are trying to impress in some areas, there aren't as many strings and attachments if everything goes south.  They should take time to see each other in their friend and family environments to understand how they act around others.  They should also be realistically mindful of how the other person talks about their family and friends. This will be honest footage as to how their "in-like" interest will act around them as time progresses.

Another element of courting is the involvement of parents.  You may not always have the other person's parents on board with this method.  However, as parents, we are able to help advise and guide.  We try hard not to impose what WE want, but rather, to help them really consider what they want and how it fits into a God-honoring scope.  Again, we try to give them many freedoms so they won't feel they need to run the spectrum on rebellion or insecurity.  Instead, we guide with good thought-provoking questions and advise when the situation allows.

In conclusion.
I know there is much more I could say on this subject and perhaps I have even picked a controversial angle on this very personal topic. I won't pretend like we have this all perfectly figured out trial and error has comprised the bulk of our learning curve.  But I do feel as though we are growing well through the process.  I also respect the diverging areas other families choose to pursue this path with their teens.  I have seen A LOT of great ideas from other families out there, this is just what works for us.

In the end, we find, by talking with our kids on these issues, we become partners with them in preserving their purity.  Open dialogue enables them to make better choices, feel mature and independent, to be open and comfortable talking with us and taking our advice, and we avoid rebellion and/or destructive secrets as well.  We believe this approach will allow each of them to continue along a proper path post-graduation which, after all, is our ultimate goal as parents: making our 'kids' ready for the great-big world on their own!

Interestingly, I am reading this book right now for review.  I find it truly inspiring as I seek to guide my daughter well through courting.

How has your February been?
Do you have any ideas or tips on Teen Relationships?


P.S. I DO keep my Instagram updated if you want to see our latest escapades, especially when there are post delays!  Follow the link in-text.

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