Surviving Dysfunctional Holidays

Thanksgiving and Christmas are a time for celebration, to reconnect with family. But what if your family is less than pleasant? What if it’s downright destructive? According to mental health experts, as many as 25% of us feel some kind of holiday anxiety or depression. For many, sitting around the “family table” can trigger old wounds. Perhaps even instigate new ones. For decades, this was how Tessa Richmond* felt. Raised by an alcoholic father and a mother with bipolar disorder, she prayed to get through the season without a fight. When she became a parent, longing to protect her children from the pain she’d experienced, she decided to have Christmas at her house. “I chose to keep the family home for Christmas to give my kids stability,” Richmond said. “I knew I could control the environment (no alcohol), and set the tone—focusing on Jesus.” Her extended family disagreed. “My parents were divorced, and my mom thought we should be at her house. My sister thought we should come to her house. My brother thought we should come to his house. It was such a mess, and no one was willing to compromise.” Familial obligations and expectations created a great deal of stress. Until God showed her these expectations weren’t from Him, but instead, came from man. God’s expectations are simple. He wants us to worship and honor Him. When we sift everything—our traditions, obligations, and expectations—through that, often, we experience a great deal of peace. Rooting out manmade expectations can be tough, especially during the holidays. This might require us to make some difficult choices—to set boundaries. But setting...

Are You Committed?

One of my students recently said, “Me and my dad aren’t close at all. And he knows that. The only thing we ever talk about is volleyball.” Hearing her say that bothered me for a couple of reasons. One, what led to the “distance” between them? I wanted to know because I absolutely don’t want to repeat it with my daughter! The other reason, she came from a Christian home. Sure, maybe that’s not entirely fair to expect more. We are broken people after all, and all have some degree of hurt and dysfunction in the home. But surely, if there's one thing we can get right, it’s to make sure that our children know that we love them, and that love draws them close. It’s the same type of love that draws us to God. Surely our actions and decisions can reflect the same closeness we have with our Heavenly father to our earthly children? The same week, I was informed that three families in our kindergarten class were in the middle of a divorce. Three families! Three God-fearing families. Let me put that in perspective. Three children are in the process of growing up in a broken home. Three children are in the early steps of what will be a very confusing adolescence. Three children will likely have Christmas with a different parent each year! Surely, if we get something right, it can be to show that God’s love can overcome any circumstance. Right? If within our Christian community we live like the rest of the world, then what’s the point? As it always works out, around...

Teens and Porography–More of an Issue Than Some Might Think

Teenage pornography addiction. It’s perhaps the last thing parents want to think about. And we certainly don’t want to talk about it. But this isn't an issue we can avoid because it’s affecting, and in many cases, destroying, our children. As parents, we need to educate ourselves on this issue, recognize how pervasive it is, and find ways to communicate effectively with our teens. Because honestly, they are affected by pornography, and I don’t know about you, but this isn’t an issue I want my daughter navigating alone. Statistics say 93% of boys and 62% of girls have encountered pornography before they turn eighteen. Four out of five sixteen year-olds access pornography regularly. It can start with an accidental encounter, and for some, that may be as far as it goes. For others, a curiosity is aroused that soon spirals into devastating addiction. And it’s not just a male issue, not anymore. Each day, pastors, youth workers, and researchers encounter more and more females struggling with pornography exposure and addiction. “I’ve lost count of the number of adults and students who have shared with me their struggle with porn,” Robert Conn, youth pastor of Reality Church in Papillion, Nebraska, says. “Some are more addicted than others. Some are blind to how bad their addiction really is. Some don’t understand the difference between temptation and sin. All of them feel ashamed and like they are the only ones with a problem.” So what can we, as parents, do? First, we need to acknowledge pornography is a problem, one we can’t shelter our kids from. “Porn is so easy to get...

Love The Season You Are In

In this video, Sarah Martin shares what life season she is in and encourages us to evaluate and love where God has us here and now. What life season are you in? How can you love the season and embrace it? Click HERE to watch the video and then come back so we can chat! Leave a comment…let's...

The Shoreline of Grace

Our footprints lingered on the sand only long enough for the next wave to wash them away.  I walked hand in hand with my husband, sauntering as the wind whipped my hair back from my eyes.  We enjoyed the comfort of silent communication. Early in our walk there were families playing Frisbee or volleyball.  Laughter floated on the breeze and mixed with an occasional sea gull’s cry and countless conversations.  Still other families kept one eye on their little ones playing while the other tended their dinner as it sizzled away on their small grill. We kept walking down the beach and the sounds faded into the distance as our feet dodged the cold rinse of the waves.  The rhythm of the waves seemed a lullaby, like the gentle rocking in a mother’s arms.  I sensed my shoulders setting lower, my breath cleansing deeper, and a languid smile creeping ever so slightly up my cheeks. And an old song quietly rose to my mind… “Grace upon Grace, like the waves on the shore, Always enough, Always more Grace upon Grace, like the waves on the shore, All that we need is ours from the Lord.” I found myself in a state of rest and comfort but as I studied the waves I was grateful that I wasn't caught in their fierce grip.  Water is, after all, nature’s most powerful force.  As I watched the waters on the shore be drawn out and up into the next line of foaming breakwaters I awakened to a new aspect of grace I'd never pondered before. Long before a wave hits the shore...

Sexual Harassment in Our Schools?!

Words don’t hurt. Whoever said this quite possibly never walked through the halls of a high school. Because the atmosphere at schools can get pretty ugly.  Nasty. Mortifying. And destructive. Every time I express concern over an inappropriate book, movie, or television program, my daughter reminds me she sees and hears worse from her peers on a daily basis. Most of the time, she ignores it, pretending those crude, inappropriate jokes and comments don’t affect her. But every once in a while, when it’s just her and I, she lets me know, sexually offensive comments pierce her tough exterior. They hurt, intimidate and devalue. “There’s a certain profile of guys you expect this from,” she says. “They’re the guys that will make comments about your butt, or talk about how they plan to sell prostitutes to people when they get older so they don’t have to go to college. They act like this is the funniest thing ever. It’s like girls are something to be bought in a store, like a candy bar. People buy it. It’s nice, but it doesn’t really last long, and when they’re done, they throw it away.” Our society appears to be giving our teens this very message. From MTV, to Jersey Shores, to popular music, our teens are bombarded with sexual content. The more they listen to and watch sexually explicit material, the more they think about sex, and they can easily begin to expect real life to play-out like the media portrays it. What happens in the movies or on TV when a man is overly aggressive with a woman? He roughs...

What To Do With A Lying Heart

Hearts are liars. I know because my heart lies to me. It lied to me when I was trying to find a publisher for my first book. Nineteen times I heard, "No one is going to publish you. You're not good enough." At first, I cried and agreed, "It's true!" After a while, I got smarter! As my friend, Renee Swope says, I started bossing my heart around. I ran to Jesus with these disappointments. Some days, it was easy. I felt strong and said confidently, "I'm trusting Jesus to figure this thing out!" Other days, I wanted to crawl under my sheets and stay in bed! It was a constant battle not to listen to the cruel voices. I had to get bossier on those days. I bet you have a lying heart too; telling you things that aren't true. "Your parents are disappointed in you; you can't ever please them!" "You could never get into a college like that; it's only for smart kids." "Your art work isn't that beautiful." Our hearts see things as they aren't. They lie, telling us how to feel when we shouldn't feel that way at all! There's a guy in the Bible who let us see his lying heart. In fact, David appears to be having issues with a split personality; he's talking to himself! "My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" he says in Psalm 27:8. Then David turns around and answers himself! "Your face, Lord, I will seek." David doesn't like what is going on, yet he's trying to get past it to pursue God. He's bossing his...

Fine, I’ll Do It Broken!

In an age of #DIY, #YOLO, IDK, BFFs, LOL and the original WWJD – I have found my own tag. #IDIB – I’ll Do It Broken. Time after time, just before I am to speak or attend an event, meet with a friend to share encouragement, or share the vision for a future community based ministry… I get smacked down. My wounds make themselves known. Signs of panic or anxiety course through my veins sending my heart into palpations as the lies I've believed circulate in my mind.  Sometimes it's caused by memories, unrelated to the events I'm to partake in.  Other times I get in a dither because I know I'm called to share about my brokenness. I spend the days before walking hand-in-hand with shame on one side and my Lord on the other. Yet, I know this one thing – I am supposed to speak, I am called to encourage, I am anointed to see the image of God in His kids and write it into a story. And I love my calling. But the truth is I get psyched out…a lot! I was preparing to lead a retreat last fall. Four days before the event I had a flashback to a violent assault as a child.  And when I say flashback, I mean a repressed memory that came to the surface (PTSD).  So, though the violence happened thirty-something years ago, for my soul it happened that night.  The fear and panic of the past were very real in the present. I was a mess.  I cried and cried grappling with this reality.  The sorrow hung heavily...

Teens, Sex, and “the talk”

If you have a teen, sex is on your radar. As I mentioned in last month’s article, we live in a sex-saturated culture, and try as we might to fight against it, cultural influences inevitably seep into our churches, our families, and ultimately, our teens’ hearts. But the issue of teen promiscuity, I believe, goes much deeper than cultural influences, although the cultural tug is strong. It’s also an issue of biology, morality, and emotional health. As with any issue our youth face, we must approach our teen’s purity with honest analytical thinking and deep, authentic communication. We must prayerfully initiate those tough conversations, always seeking to look past the surface to our kid’s hearts, fears, desires, struggles, and motivations. Push for communication, even when it feels awkward I’ll admit, sex is not a topic I like to approach with our daughter. Nor is it one she’s enthusiastic about. But it’s a conversation we must have, because if we don’t, she’s likely to adopt the ideas and beliefs of those around her and those ideas and beliefs may not always be godly, positive, or moral.  Begin by identifying and addressing your own conversation blocks Linda* was sexually abused as a child, so conversations regarding sex were always a struggle for her. Because of this, she shied away from open and indepth discussions with her teens. Instead, she talked about it in a vague sense, focusing more on a “don’t do it” approach. Unfortunately, this didn’t address the obstacles her teens would face nor why sex out of marriage was harmful. All of her children became sexually active during their...

What I Don’t Like To Talk About: Body Image

Join Sarah Francis Martin in a video blog based on her book Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties In A Decade Of Drama. In this video Sarah tackles a topic she just does not like to talk about: Body Image. Let's find freedom with our body image issues and deal with our "triggers."   Be sure to check out Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties In A Decade of Drama! Stress Point is a real, raw and relevant look at 10 major life issues that most 20somethings deal with. By putting Christ in the center of each Stress Point, we find godly success, purpose and well-being {makes a great gift for a recent grad or a 20-something in your life headed off to college this fall}  ...