Sheltering Our Kids (And a Giveaway)

If only we could keep our children in a bubble, point them to only the best resources and influences, and saturate their brain with nothing but truth. And yet, that would drastically stunt their growth and likely get in the way of all God wants to do in and through them. There’s a fine line between sheltering our kids and shielding them. So where do we draw that line? My guest today, Tessa Emily Hall, writes a helpful post that encourages us to point our children to Jesus. Read on–and be sure to enter Tessa’s giveaway at the end of this post!

Is Sheltering Teens More Dangerous Than Exposing Them?
by Tessa Emily Hall

unwritten-melody-quote01Is sheltering kids the answer to keeping them safe from the sin and danger that lurks in our world today? In effort to explore this question, I wrote a YA novel, Unwritten Melody. The protagonist in this story, Cassie, is a 17-year-old who has been raised by her overbearing grandmother. As a result of the strict rules, she develops a hunger to ultimately go against her grandmother’s wishes.

We all need rules and guidelines to follow, but could too much of this potentially lead to more harm than good?

Let’s look at the possible dangers that could result from this:

  1. Kids might long to break free from their bubble as they become desperate for “freedom”.
  2. Their walk with God could become based on rules and regulations (“religion”) rather than from a pure adoration for Him, wanting to obey Him, and an understanding of His Son’s sacrifice.
  3. They might not know how to witness to unbelievers since they’ll have no way to identify with them.
  4. If the kid is raised believing that being a Christian consists of all rules and no fun then Christianity might leave a bad taste in their mouth.dad-909510_640
  5. They might not have the chance to walk out their own faith without having to rely on the faith of their parents’.
  6. If the kid is resentful toward their sheltered lifestyle, when they’re given their first taste of freedom, they might rebel in attempt to make up for “what they’ve lost”.
  7. It might cause them to believe their parents sheltered them out of spite rather than love.
  8. They could become resentful toward their parents for keeping them from being “normal”.
  9. The lack of life they experience might cause them to experience depression. They might feel as though they’ve become a slave to rules, have no purpose in life, and aren’t worthy to live the life they’ve longed for. (This is a lie Cassie believes in Unwritten Melody.)
  10. It might cause them to develop a low-self esteem. (In Unwritten Melody,Cassie believes the reason she’s shy is because of the way she was raised by her overprotective grandmother. It’s this temperament that makes her feel as though she doesn’t measure up to other teens and has few friends.)

Since Satan is the ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), we should be careful not to become influenced by the ways of the world. So how can Christians strike a balance between shielding and sheltering?

Encourage children to establish a personal relationship with Jesus. When they fall in love with their Savior and are lead by the Holy Spirit, they won’t have a desire to live a life cross-423157_1920that displeases Him. Show them that the rules set by authority are there to help them, not to keep them from having fun. And remember to always lead and discipline in the spirit of love.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Parents should introduce their kids to Jesus. When it’s time to let go, they should trust that the Holy Spirit will lead, guide, direct, help—and yes, shelter their kids from the danger that threatens to put an end to their faith.

Even when kids do become exposed to the world, they’ll remain much safer in the hands of Jesus than they could ever be if sheltered only by their parents at home.

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Enter for your chance to win the Unwritten Melody Prize Pack! Two winners will be selected and announced on Tessa’s blog the final day of tour (Friday, December 9th) and will be notified via email.

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This prize pack includes…

  • E-copy of Unwritten Melody
  • Signed paperback copy of Purple Moon
  • Unwritten Melody mug, filled with goodies
  • Unwritten Melody swag, including a bookmark, pen, and poster
  • Starbucks mocha flavored instant coffee
  • Free Unwritten Melody: Page-By-Page Secrets PDF
  • Handmade journal
  • Typewritten thank you note

*This giveaway is open to the US only 

Enter here:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Unwritten Melody:

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

unwritten-melody_webCassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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tessa-emily-hall_headshot1Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show others they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, Purple Moon (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, Unwritten Melody, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of PursueMagazine.net, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. She also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency.

When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, Tessa can be found making healthy homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website.

Connect With Tessa on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: When our daughter was young, we sheltered her–in numerous ways. We homeschooled, and I was very careful about who she spent time with and what I allowed her to experience. But I didn’t do this on a whim. I knew this was how God was leading me. Fast forward to her seventh grade year, and suddenly, God turned the tables on me. He told me it was time to release her–to the public school arena. Again, I followed His leading, though I was terrified her innocence would be shattered along with her faith. The opposite happened–her faith and reliance on her Savior grew, and God gave her clear vision into her encounters. In other words, she began to see a clear distinction between good and evil, light and dark, and she was drawn to shine with the love and truth of Christ.

The key then–prayer. Momma’s, make prayer the most important part of your day. Pray for your kids regularly, and pray for yourself–that God would reveal their hearts to you and give you clear wisdom as to how to raise them. Because only He knows what they’ll face and what they’ll need to experience to prepare them for that. (If you and your group would like to hear more, ask me about my Parenting to the Heart talk. I’d love to come share what God has shown me with your Bible study/women’s ministry/moms group. Contact me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com to find out more.)

Your turn! How have you achieved a balance between shielding and sheltering? Do you believe over-sheltering kids could lead to more harm than good? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace on Facebook.

Visit Sarah Ruut’s blog (scroll down) to learn where else Tessa will be on her blog tour. 

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Little Ones

toddler-1312853_1920Imagine what the world must look like, feel like, smell like, to an infant experiencing wind, sunshine, and the melodious chirping of birds for the first time. What must be going through the mind of a toddler the first time they taste ice cream? What drives them to push onto their tiny, fat feet, again and again, undaunted by the countless times they’ve fallen?

Every giggle, every growth spurt, and adorable toddle forward is a glimpse into the heart and mind of the Heavenly Father who created them. Today my guest, Ada Brownell, reminds us to look for the special and amazing in our little ones.

-Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.-Psalm 127-3, NLT

Children: Amazing Little People
by Ada Brownell

Busyness filled my days when our five children came into the world, and although I thought about how cute and wonderful each are, I didn’t grasp the whole picture about the wonder of a child.

My husband and I walk in the mall frequently. Lately I’m struck by the amazing little people everywhere. The mall has a play area and yesterday a little fellow, probably about 18 months old, climbed up and considered going down the slide head first.

kids-635473_640A sister, about age 3 or 4, went around him and showed him how to go down on his bottom. He watched, sat his back side on the slide and slid down, grinning. He figured it out himself by watching.

One of our grandchildren had baby lingo no one could understand, but when our son told, with a laugh, about some of the child’s ornery antics, the child grinned. He understood every word. That ended sharing the boy’s mischief, even if it was cute, when he was present.

What struck me recently is how wonderful God’s creation and design is, and it shows up most amazingly in children.

How they got here in the first place is more than our minds can fathom.

I’ve watched our grandchildren look their mommies and daddies over shortly after birth, and they’re not very old when they can recognize them across the room.

New brains are like a blank sheet of paper, although fantastic stored data governing our neurological systems and instincts operate even while we’re still in the womb. What God “programmed” into us commanded our arms, legs, fingers, toes to move even before birth. Instincts God installed in our DNA prompted us to suck, swallow, cry, and feel hunger, as well as caused the various inner parts of our body to function.

baby-20339_640Babies arrive with a brain download to literally cry for love, care, and being held, and they won’t thrive without these things.

When we were a few months of age, we learned to coordinate movements so we could reach for things because our muscles and brains developed that capacity. Nevertheless, we needed outside stimuli to use the potential from the brain. Children given no attention often don’t learn to sit, walk, or talk.

We learned language skills by imitating. If Mom kept saying “Mama” over and over to us, soon we worked our mouths and tongues around, using our vocal cords so we could come up with a fairly good imitation. Sometimes the child says “Dada” first, and “no” comes soon after.

If the parents speak Chinese, the child obviously learns Chinese instead of English, and children of Spanish-speaking parents communicate in Spanish or whatever language is spoken in the home.

All through childhood, children imitate what they see and hear. We imitate others all our lives. For instance, we imitate experts on everything from sports to dancing, to gardening, to playing or singing music, to doing tricks on a bicycle or skateboard. But imitation isn’t all there is. At some point we think for ourselves. Nevertheless, the decisions we make are based on input we receive around us.child-945422_640

As a parent I exposed our children to godly teaching, wonderful Christian people, and challenges of learning things that matter. Too bad I wasn’t a perfect parent, but none of us are. Yet God gives wisdom if we ask, and ask I did. I’m so thankful all of our five children love God with all their hearts and live for Him. But the other wonderful people who invested their time and energy in our children deserve much of the credit and to God the glory.

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The Peach Blossom Rancher, Sequel to The Lady Fugitive

 

John Lincoln Parks’ works to rebuild his deceased father’s peach and horse ranch, thrown into ruin by a wicked uncle, murdered in the last book.

Amazon Fugitive Cover

The prequel to The Peach Blossom Rancher

John yearns for a wife to help him make the ranch all it should be. He has his eye on his sister’s elegant matron of honor, Valerie MacDougal, a young widow. But Valerie, a law school graduate, returns to Boston to live with her parents since her little son was born. John and Valerie write, he’s kissed her a few times, but while in Boston Valerie and one of her father’s law partners try to get three patients wrongfully judged as insane, out of the Boston asylum and they spend a lot time together.

Will John marry Valerie or Edwina Jorgenson, the feisty rancher-neighbor who has been in love with John since they were in grade school? Edwina’s father is in a wheelchair and she’s taking care of their ranch. John tries to help and protect this neighbor who has a Peeping Tom whose bootprints are like the person’s who dumped a body in John’s barn. But John and Edwina fuss at one another constantly. Will John even marry, or be hanged for the murder?

Tentative Release Date June 1, 2016

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ada brownell (1)When Ada Brownell sat down to write The Peach Blossom Rancher, the sequel to The Lady Fugitive, she drew from her experience growing up in Colorado’s Peach Country near Grand  Junction, picking peaches and working in a packing shed.

In addition, she uses some of what she learned about early 1900s misdiagnosis of insanity. Ada covered the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo on her beat as a journalist for The Pueblo Chieftain.

Ada Brownell blogs and writes with Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement. She is the author of six other books, and more than 350 stories and articles in Christian publications. She now lives in Missouri, a beautiful state except for tornadoes and chiggers.

Find Ada on iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and her website.

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Let’s talk about this: We often get carried away by the day-to-day job of parenting and don’t take time to really think about God’s amazing creation of children. What aspect of your children amazes you? Do you have any favorite memories or stories? Share them in the comments below. I’d love to learn a bit about you and your kids!

Leaving a Legacy by Understanding What Really Matters

MamaMondaysjpgHow do you want your children to remember you once you’re gone? What kind of legacy will you leave? Because every word, action, hug, and prayer matters. A lot. May we be intentional to “understand [and focus on] what really matters” (Phil. 1:10) so that we can faithfully parent these precious lives God had entrusted to our care.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably remember the book, created by my daughter, that I posted. In it, she’d depicted various scenes from our past–moments she remembered. (You can see it at the end of today’s post.) Reading it, I literally bawled, because it told me I’d made a positive impact in her life. That those moments had meant something.

Mamas, they do. Those moments when you pause to answer question number 789, or read that same picture book for the umpteenth time, or crouch with a flashlight–at three in the morning–to peer for monsters under your child’s bed, matter. A lot.

Today, Ada honors her mother and reminds us that simple teachings can leave a legacy of faith.

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April 11
by Ada Brownell

April 11 is my mother’s birthday. She would be 116 years old, but she’s been with Jesus for 58 years. I was 21 when she died. She had eight children, and I was the youngest.

school-543041_640Mama stood out in a crowd because of her flaming hair, but she had amazing spunk and ability to get things done. She attended college, quite unusual for someone born in 1900. She expected to be a school teacher like her mother, but she fell in love and invested her life in her family and Sunday school children instead.

Mom, Rita Shepherd Nicholson, never reached fame but her life impacted the world through her children. Students still receive scholarships in her name.

Her teaching stuck with us. When my siblings and I are together, we often quote Mama, especially the Scriptures that would pop out of her at appropriate times, sharing how we remember her words. “Love your neighbor as yourself;” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you;” “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to bible-706641_640wrath;” “What your hands find to do, do it with all your might,” and many more.

Her children rose up, as Solomon said we would, and called her blessed. Everette became a minister. Joe and Virgil spent their careers in Christian education. Joe also traveled the world in missions. Their students spread the gospel everywhere. We all ministered through music, teaching, writing and other talents. Our mother’s grandchildren still spread the gospel, some in other nations.

Although there were other influences, Mama modeled a life lived for Jesus is the most important success. We learned it and believe it.

***

The Peach Blossom Rancher
Sequel to The Lady Fugitive

Amazon Fugitive Cover (1)

Find The Lady Fugitive on Amazon

John Lincoln Parks’ works to rebuild his deceased father’s peach and horse ranch, thrown into ruin by a wicked uncle, murdered in the last book.

John yearns for a wife to help him make the ranch all it should be. He has his eye on his sister’s elegant matron of honor, Valerie MacDougal, a young widow. But Valerie, a law school graduate, returns to Boston to live with her parents since her little son was born. John and Valerie write, he’s kissed her a few times, but while in Boston Valerie and one of her father’s law partners try to get three patients wrongfully judged as insane, out of the Boston asylum and they spend a lot time together.

Will John marry Valerie or Edwina Jorgenson, the feisty rancher-neighbor who has been in love with John since they were in grade school? Edwina’s father is in a wheelchair and she’s taking care of their ranch. John tries to help and protect this neighbor who has a Peeping Tom whose bootprints are like the person’s who dumped a body in John’s barn. But John and Edwina fuss at one another constantly. Will John even marry, or be hanged for the murder?

Tentative Release Date June 1, 2016

***

ada brownellAda Brownell blogs and writes with Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement. She is the author of six other books, and more than 350 stories and articles in Christian publications. She now lives in Missouri, a beautiful state except for tornadoes and chiggers.

Find Ada on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her web site.

 

***

Let’s talk about it: As I mentioned earlier, being a mother is tough. Each mom wants to leave a legacy for her children. Ada’s mother left the legacy of faith. What legacy do you hope to leave your children? What are you doing to teach your kids what you hope to leave them? Share your thoughts in the comments below; we can all learn from one another!

Before you go, if you’re local, I’d love for you to join me at the SouthPointe Barnes & Noble in Lincoln where I’ll be signing books this Saturday, from 2-3pm.

Barnes and Noble April 16

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Incidentally, for those looking for something extra special to give to their mothers this Mother’s Day, consider commissioning my daughter to make her a memory book. She’ll be beyond touched, believe me. (I was!)

Contact Ashley at ans_1(at)ymail(dot)com to dialogue with her about process and prices, and visit her website HERE to learn more about her, her art, and services (including facilitating fun painting parties!).

Wayward Teens–Their Parents Left First

MamaMondaysjpgThis isn’t a relational law, and obviously, exceptions always abound, but from my observations, when one takes a big picture look at the life of a wayward teen, they’ll discover, more often than not, the parents left first. I don’t mean they bailed or cut off all ties, but emotionally and in terms of accessibility, parents began to drift further and further away. 

I first noticed this trend when our daughter turned twelve, the legal age for staying home alone. It was as if, for many of her friends, life had changed overnight. Moms started returning to work or working longer hours. Family dinners and game nights were done away with. And as parents drifted further and further away, I heard them say, regarding their teenager, “They don’t want to spend time with me anyway.”

And, if we focus on the eye rolls, the arguments, and overly-dramatic, body-flailing sighs, it’s easy to believe that’s true. It’s easy to believe that as our children age, they no longer need us, or even want to be near us.

But statistics overwhelmingly prove the opposite.

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Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

In a study conducted by Childtrends.org, seventy-nine percent of teenagers enjoy spending time with their parents.

Consider this quote from Dr. John Townsend, author of Boundaries With Teens: “Parents are the center of a child’s life, so it’s always difficult for children to disconnect from them. So when you look at your teen’s surly, angry face, understand that she does not enjoy the alienation any more than you do.” (pg. 24)

In other words, our teens need us.

In fact, according to Ellen Galinsky, President of Families and Work Institute, when conducting interviews with children, she found, “it was teens more than younger children who felt that they didn’t have enough time with their parents.” (You can read the entire interview HERE.)

Our children change dramatically during their tween and teen years, for sure. And our relationship will–must!–change with them. But that doesn’t mean it should become nonexistent. If anything, that is the time when they will most need us.

IMG_1219They need to know we’re on their team. That we “get” them and will always be there for them. When they’re world is shifting and they’re bombarded daily by negativity that tears away at their self-worth and confuses their sense of identity, they need a safe place to land, to be encouraged and uplifted.

If the relationship is hard, work through it. It’s okay–healthy, even–to set boundaries on behavior. Healthy boundaries, not emotional withdrawal. Get help if you need to. But don’t pull away. Too much is at stake. 

Back to my original example… As I mentioned early in this post, when my daughter turned twelve, I noticed a dramatic parental shift–in some. I noticed parents who began to distance themselves from their teens, not intentionally, but rather, through self-justification as they allowed busyness to overshadow relationships. Less than two years later, in every single instance I witnessed, those teenagers began to rebel.

To self-destruct.

But then there was another set of parents, some working, others who chose to stay home, but all who determined to stay involved. To intentionally build and maintain their relationship with their teens. They continued with family dinners, maintained open communication, worked through issues to hold tight to positive relationships. And those teens excelled. They grew increasingly mature and remained close to their parents. In fact, in the second set of teenagers, when difficulty and confusion hit, they turned to their parents first.

As I said, our teens need us. Not just to drive them from place to place or glance at their report cards from time to time. They need us to walk beside them. They need us to carve out time, regularly, where to connect with them on a heart level. Because if we don’t, their hearts will break, one hurried, frazzled, disconnected day at a time.

Let’s talk about this! Parents of teens, what advice would you give to moms of little ones? How can their choices today set the foundation for their relationship with their children later? What are some ways you’ve made a deliberate and consistent effort to connect with your teen’s heart? How do you address those eye rolls and disrespectful behavior without pulling away emotionally? For those with rebellious and aggressive teens, have you sought help, and if so, what was the result?

Share your thoughts with us, because we can all learn from one another!

Other resources you might find helpful:

Boundaries With Teens (Excellent!!)

It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again

Making Lemonade

Somewhere Between a Freak-out and a Pajama Party

And don’t forget to come back Thursday for part two of the S word! (Read part one HERE.)

Forced to Choose

sorrow-and-worry-692910-mIt’s a choice I never wanted to make. It tore me up, tore my daughter up, and I’m pretty sure, it tore my husband up as well. But when a situation arose where I had to choose between my husband and my child, I knew there was really only one choice I could make. For if I followed my mother’s heart, the one that longs to buffer my child from every pain and surround her with nothing but abundant blessings, I honestly believe I would’ve robbed her of that which blesses her most–parents with a healthy, united marriage.

It was 2012, and my daughter and I were content. Happy. We lived in a great cul-de-sac filled with involved parents and great kids. The kind of neighborhood where parents kidsplayingfelt safe allowing their kids to play outside on late summer nights. We were involved in a growing church, had our hands in meaningful ministries. Our evenings were filled with family dinners, lots of hugs, and plenty of laughter.

Only my husband wasn’t happy. Not fully. Long story short, things outside our home had become toxic, and he was ready for a change. For peace. When his boss offered him a transfer to the corporate offices in Omaha, he saw his chance.

But this chance came at a price. We’d have to sell the home we loved, one we’d spent a great deal of time and money-making our “own”. We’d have to leave our church and the connections we’d made. Worse, we’d have to uproot our high school daughter. Surviving high school is hard enough. Her trying to navigate the inherently awkward halls as a newbie? The thought made me ill.

I’ve seen her weather enough broken friendships, unexpected rejections, and cliques to know this was going to be tough. Painfully tough. I worried about lonely lunches and even lonelier weekends as she waited, and waited, and waited to establish safe, lasting friendships. In fact, I worried myself sick, and prayed for a solution. One that could provide a much-deserved blessing for my precious husband while allowing our daughter to finish high school in Kansas City.

I knew if I complained or fought against it, my husband would stay. Because that’s how he is, always putting others first. But I also knew how much he needed this move, how much he deserved it. And I trusted if I put my husband first, God would bless our daughter for it.

So we went, and I’m pretty sure the summer that followed was the toughest our daughter had ever faced.

And I wondered why? Why did what was good for one have to come at the cost of another?

It didn’t. It just took time for us to catch sight of God’s blessing. Which is what this move has been–a blessing. For all of us. On New Year’s Eve, as I listened to giggles rising from a basement of teens, I thought back to our move and all God has done since078. God has returned to us all we lost in Kansas City triplefold. And our daughter? She didn’t really lose anything. Her truest friends held on, and they remain close to this day. But now she has many more friends to add to her circle. Great friends. Christ-centered friends.

In short, this move turned out to be exactly what our daughter needed.

Because when we do things God’s way, everyone wins.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this.

But… before we do, I want to invite you to pop on over to a new blog I joined with some of my sweet writer friends, Faith-filled Friends. We started this blog so we’d have a place to talk about our books, our characters, our fun research outings, and all the other things that make us smile. This month, we’re hosting a launch give-away. Join the conversation and get entered into the drawing for some great books and precious jewelry. 🙂 And make sure to subscribe, because you never know when there’ll be other gift baskets to win.

Then, join the conversation at Living by Grace as we chat about making difficult choices. Can you relate? Have you ever felt as if God were asking you to choose between a child and your spouse? If so, what did you do, and what was the result? Why do you believe it’s imperative, not just for us, but for our children as well, to put our marriage first?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly

Our daughter has always been our little princess. As a little girl, she loved hats and dresses and those annoying feather boas that shed all over the carpet. It was cute. Harmless. But for many young women, this desire to be pretty can turn obsessive–destructive. How can we, as parents, help our teens accept themselves as God made them, and does our media make this harder? Today multi-published author Linore Rose Burkard challenges us to engage our teens in this battle for beauty.

Linore is also giving away a copy of one of her books–winners choice. I will randomly select the winner from those commenting on this post. (Visit her website to check out all her novels.)

Note: the winner of the last give-away is listed below.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly

by Linore Rose Burkard

Note: This is something I wrote a few years ago for a column called “Media and the Home.” It was a standing feature of Dionna Sanchez’s blog, “Inner Fulfillment.”  I still have three young women beneath my roof, one of whom is only nine. The topic here is just as relevant today as it was then, and not just for my family but for any parent of a girl.

When Being Beautiful Turns Ugly
Parents today are concerned about media influences on their kids, and with good cause. Suicide is the second-highest cause of death among teenagers in the US—after car accidents. Why are so many young people killing themselves?
The answers are complex, and stem from the breakdown of the family, legalized abortion (which devalues human life), the loss of faith in society as a whole (if there’s no God, how does life have meaning or purpose?) and, finally, an unrealistic sense of failure to measure up.
Measure up to what?
All too often, the media’s idea of how and what they should be. And nowhere is this insidious idea more powerful to young psyches than in the area of appearance. Teens are hard on each other, but not nearly as hard as they can be on themselves, especially when they compare themselves to photo-shopped images. Beauty gets ugly really fast when it takes on visions of perfection that are simply unattainable.
Young women are particularly vulnerable to the society-fueled obsession with weight and appearance, as they are constantly bombarded with images of hyped-up beauty. From Britney to Sleeping Beauty to Barbie, women are supposed to be slim and flawless. School teachers report that girls as young as nine and ten can be heard worrying about over-eating and being on diets. Meanwhile, at the same time, there is so much computer and video game usage today that staying in healthy shape is a greater challenge for today’s kids than ever before.
As a parent, I struggle to find ways to affirm my girls’ attractiveness—just the way they are—when there is so much out there telling them a different message. At age ten, my middle daughter is now saying to me (when I tell her how beautiful she is), “You only think that because you’re my mother!” Or, “You’re supposed to say that because I’m your daughter.” She is already internalizing society’s message that being “beautiful” is directly correlated to how sexy you are, and what brand or type of clothing you wear. She might not put it that way, but this is what it comes down to.
Where is she getting these ideas?
They are seeping in from all sides! We have a protected environment in our home—to a degree. (No TV, just selected videos and DVDs) but as I mentioned earlier, even Barbie is picture-perfect and skinnier than Twiggy.
On an up note, Dove (the beauty products manufacturer) has produced a video showing the transformation of an ordinary girl (read: could be your daughter. Could be you!) into a super-glamorous billboard model. I had both my daughters view this and my ten-year-old was shocked. It’s an eye-opening message we need to get out.

 

 

I suggest you view this with your daughters–and your sons(Guys can get unrealistic expectations, too). After viewing the video, make it a point to pick up magazines that show stars “as they really are”. Celebrities hate this, but it’s a shot in the arm for girls who are struggling with self-image or self-worth issues (and what girls do not?). Finally, remember to affirm that God has created them specially (they’re not an accident); He has a personal plan for their life (purpose); and they ARE beautiful—truly beautiful–in Christ, just the way they are.

 

Once you watch the video let me know what you think. Do you have an effective method for instilling your girls with a confidence that doesn’t come solely from what they see in the mirror? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Warmest Blessings,

Linore

Linore Rose Burkard writes Historical Romance to Warm the Soul. She delights in bringing the Regency to life for readers through adventurous, romantic tales. Ms. Burkard’s novels include the award winners Before the Season Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square, and, The Country House Courtship.  When not writing novels, Ms. Burkard conducts workshops for writers with  Greater Harvest Workshops, and writes e-newsletters for 2200 historical romance fans.  Raised in New York where she graduated from CUNY with a magna cum laude degree in English Literature, Linore now lives in Ohio with her husband, five children, a Shorkie and two cats.

Linore’s novel, Before the Season Ends:

In her debut novel of what she calls “spirited romance for the Jane Austen soul,” author Linore Rose Burkard tells the intriguing story of Miss Ariana Forsythe, a young woman caught between her love for a man who doesn’t share her faith and her resolution to marry only a fellow believer in Christ.

Trouble at home sends the young woman to her aunt’s townhome in the fashionable Mayfair district of London. There she finds worse troubles than those that prompted her flight from home. Ariana is soon neck–deep in high society and at odds with Mr. Phillip Mornay, London’s current darling rogue. Then a scandal changes Ariana forever. Her heart, her faith, and her future are all at stake in an unexpected adventure that gains even the Prince Regent’s attention.

Will Ariana’s faith survive this test? And what about her heart? For it’s Ariana’s heart that most threatens to betray the truths she has always believed in. When she finds herself backed against a wall, betrothed to the wrong young man, how can it ever turn out right?

Jane Austen readers and fans of Regency romances everywhere will love Before the Season Ends.

The winner of Susan Sleeman’s Deadly Exposure is Connie Ruggles. Congrats, Connie! I’ll be sending you an email shortly to get your mailing address.

Let’s talk about this. I love Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As parents, how can we put this verse into action? How can we encourage our teens to have transformed, counter-culture thinking? Join us at Living by Grace today as we talk about engaging our teens in order to help center them on Christ and His will.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.

Stripped to the Essentials

Sometimes life gets hard, lonely, frustrating. We don’t always have answers this side of heaven, but every once in a while, God gives us a glimpse of His Father’s heart and big picture plan. I had one of those moments last week during a leisurely walk with my daughter.

If you are or ever have parented teens, you know how hard it can be to connect on a heart-to-heart with them. They’d much rather spend time on their phones or Facebook than participate in family activities. But as their parents, we know they still need us … whether they think they do or not.

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll remember how difficult our move was for our daughter. You’ll also remember the insight God gave me when I cried out to Him for aid. (You can read about it here.)

Last Thursday, as she and I talked about everything from hairstyles to God’s Word lived out in the day-to-day, I realized what a priceless treasure this time was. What a beautiful opportunity for heart-molding God had provided through my daughter’s brief period of loneliness. Heart-molding that will strengthen her to face her new school, college … life.

This summer, God stripped my daughter of much of the business that weighs her down in order to create time for something she really needed–time with her parents.

I began to think of all the times God does this with us. Maybe He’ll place us in a period of unemployment, drawing us to His side and freeing our time to truly connect with Him. Or maybe He’ll remove us from our family and friends for a time so He can be our all-in-all.

Let’s talk about this. When has a difficult time turned into an opportunity for divine intimacy? When has it brought your family closer together? How might our reaction to frustrations, change, or difficulties affect this?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about God’s loving heart and His longing to draw near to us.

I love James 4:8, and I claim it as a promise. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This verse tells me, the moment I turn to God through Bible study, song, or prayer, He is already turning to me.

I also wanted to announce the winner of June’s gift basket. Most often, the gift basket goes to a Reach Out contributor selected by you, my readers. This time, the winner, Shannon Vannatter, decided to give the basket to a randomly selected reader.

The winner is: Dicky To. Dicky, I’ll be contacting you shortly.

Read this month’s most popular Reach Out story, It’s Not About Us by Shannon Taylor Vannatter.