Category Archives: Idols

Worth in the Wrinkles & Grace for the Grey

One night a couple weeks ago my husband and I were eating dinner. It was just the two of us that night. I don’t know what we were talking about but I do remember when he looked up and out of the blue asked, “Do you think you will grow old gracefully or fight it as long as you can?”

Had I not just seen for myself that very day the grey hairs framing my face I wouldn’t have known what he was referring to.  But as it was I instinctively knew he saw exactly what I had – all those wiry greys! It was as if he read my mind because since seeing how obvious they had become I had been thinking maybe it was time to add a little color.

Fast-forward a few days to when I was looking over the headshots a friend took for me.  My husband’s question floated back into the forefront of mind. This time it wasn’t so much the greys bothering me, but the wrinkles around my eyes. It would be so easy for my friend to smooth those out a bit in the pictures. (And to be honest, in one she did). But apart from a miracle cream I don’t know about it, those lines in real life aren’t ever going to totally disappear.

My insecurities over these visible signs of aging got me thinking about how alike we women are to our daughters. Here we worry about how they see themselves and the pressure to be perfect, but we are no different. Whether we admit it or not, we too look to our appearance as an identity.

By this I mean we base our worth on how we look. Our weight, the wrinkles, the grey, the sag or flab, it can consume us. Only made worse when we look around and compare how we stack up to others. So at any given moment – at a party, the gym or scrolling through Instagram – we have those same thoughts as our daughters. I’m not enough. I need to be better. Everyone else is perfect. And just like our daughters, we also exert alot of energy trying to make ourselves enough, better, perfect.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with taking care of ourselves and wanting to feel and feel good. The problem is when our appearance becomes the measuring stick for determing our worth, and the worth of others too. What we turn to for our identity.  What we think if we attain or maintain will make us happy and give us life. And in its ruling over us, we will in direct and indirect ways communicate to our girls and others that appearance is where their value comes from too.

But if my true identity is found in Christ, then the extra pounds, the wrinkles, the grey hairs, my grey tooth (yes, it’s true I have one!) or whatever else it is that bothers you about yourself is not what defines us!

I’m writing this for myself, because what I saw in the mirror and reflecting back at me in the photos knocked me off this gospel truth. I didn’t want others to see the wrinkles or think I looked old because of them. But it takes a constant reorienting to remember who we are. One minute I know the truth and feel secure, and the next minute I’m looking to false sources to make me okay.

Because this is true of me, what better entry point to help our daughters see we are in the same boat. We understand her self-obsession because we too become self-consumed.  So what we both need is to see our false identities as the sin it is, and point each other back to who Christ is for us.

In Christ, I am perfect and perfectly loved. An his opinion, truly, is the only one that matters. If only I could always fix my eyes on this truth, maybe I could grow old gracefully (with colored hair or not)! By his grace. 

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:5).”

For more on this topic for teen girls, check out my book Face Time! Also be sure to subscribe for posts in your inbox, and follow me on Instagram!

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8 Things Parents Can Do Now To Shape The Teens Years Ahead

I can’t tell you how often I hear from parents of elementary age children or younger (babies even) how fearful they are for the teen years ahead. I get it. In today’s selfie world of cell phones and social media what we experienced growing up is intensified for our teens. So it is daunting to consider what they may be faced with and how to help them navigate through it.  But it is also a huge opportunity.

An opportunity is how I chose to view it way back when I was a young mom and first read Paul Tripp’s book Age of Opportunity. At that time my husband was a family pastor leading a group of parents of teens through the book and I joined in. I’ve read it several times since then, but from the get-go what I carried away is I can either dread the years ahead or approach them as an opportunity to significantly shape their lives.

Instead of living in fear and dreading what might be, this idea of opportunity has enabled me to press on through the turbulent times with a grander perspective in mind. I think of my daughter’s battle with an eating disorder and while I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through it I see God’s goodness in it to shape and grow her (and me). It was an opportunity; to see it that way was not easy.

As believers we are called to shift our eyes from the here and now to the hope of what’s to come. It’s no different with parenting. We must look beyond the peace, fun or ease we long for today, and set our treasure on something far greater for them and us. So whether you are standing at the cusp of middle school or still in the diaper days, don’t wait to adopt this opportunity mindset. There are many practical everyday things parents of younger kids can do to lay the groundwork for the teen years ahead.

Of course, our tendency is to think if we just follow the right steps everything will work out how we want, but that is just not true. We can do everything right, or nothing right – ultimately God is the one ruling and reigning over the lives of our children, and ours. So I hesitantly give you eight things to be mindful of now, but hope you will put your trust in him and not in your own “work” as a parent.

  1. Create categories for understanding their heart. Talk about sin as idolatry- whatever rules their hearts is what they functionally look to for “life” instead of God. Even if your child is too young to understand, remember teaching precedes understanding. If they already know the terminology and have been trained to think deeper about what is going on in their hearts, the conversations will naturally go deeper as they grow older.
  2. Live redemptively in your home. This means owning up to your own sin instead of hiding it, dismissing it or justifying it. Let your kids hear you confess and ask for forgiveness. Tell them how unlike Jesus you are, which is why we need him. When they know mom and dad need a Savior, it will help them see their own need to live dependently on Jesus.
  3. Shepherd hearts rather than police behavior. If you’re only concerned about having an outwardly well-behaved kid and punish/address the external behavior without going under the surface to see what is driving the behavior, you will simply put band-aids on the real issue. By the time they become teens they may master the art of “appearing” godly, but their heart may be far from him. So you’ve got to deal with the root sin (the idolatry) of what is controlling their heart to lead them in deeper dependence on Jesus.
  4. Seek to understand and love them for who they are rather than conform them to who you want them to be. Sometimes when our children have different personalities or interests than ours we try to push upon them the way we do things, or our hobbies. Without meaning to this can make them feel shame for not measuring up to your standard or for being more like their sibling. If they do have similar interests, do not make them feel like they are in competition to your previous successes. Their performance is not why you love them, but if they grow up thinking it is the idol of performance and perfection can drive them to despair as teenagers.
  5. Learn to say NO! Your child does not need everything he/she asks for. They also don’t need to do what everyone else is doing, or to be constantly entertained. Teach your children discipline. Allow them unscheduled time to be creative. And impress upon them an attitude of gratitude. You do not want entitled teenagers. But if you don’t ever tell them no, they will grow up to expect to be catered to.
  6. Slow down. Your kids will want to be older than they are, but they will get there sooner than you want (and sooner than they actually want too as our college daughter discovered). There is no need to overload the activities and enter the competitive sports world too young. They will burn out. You will be too busy. And you will miss out on time you will never regain. You control the schedule; don’t let their schedule rule you because once you start it is really hard to go back.
  7. Prioritize family time. This seems obvious, but as kids get older the more friends and activities do take over. Easily every family member can be going in all different directions. So work now to make home a safe haven and a fun place they want to be with you and their siblings. It is the family relationships that carry on with them for all of life. Again it’s okay (and necessary at times) to buck what everyone else is doing to protect your time for family and church.
  8. Identify with them. If you want your kids to talk (really talk) when they are teenagers, you’ve got to start now.  Pay attention. Ask probing questions. Put your device down. Cut short the lecture. Most importantly when they share their sin, don’t act shocked. Reassure them of your love, identify with them in their struggles and be willing to walk the hard road with them. And always remind them who Jesus is for them is who they are.

Remember none of this is a prescription, but comes from what I’ve learned. And one thing I’ve learned is we are all in the same boat, growing in grace together.

Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World is now available and though the primary audience is teen girls I believe it will benefit moms of younger kids to read too. 
For a great book to help shape categories for little ones to understand their hearts, check out an old favorite of ours: Big Truths for Little Kids.

ABC’s 20/20 “Digital Addiction” Review

Who are we without our cell phones?  I know I’m as guilty of cell phone addiction as my teenagers at times! Like for many, my phone is my calendar, to do list, reminder, notes, contacts, music, photos and a plethora of other apps, including of course social media. And while it is convenient, I admit, my phone often distracts me from fully-focused face time interaction!

In addition to cell phones and social media, an abundance of other electronics – in particular obsessive gaming among adult men – are contributing to our disconnected, disengaged selfie-society. To this end,  ABC’s 20/20 aired a “Digitial Addiction” special highlighting the seriousness of technology’s effect on individuals and families.  Reporter Elizabeth Vargas followed three families’ intervention stories with their family member so addicted to a device it was destroying their daily lives. Through interviews and video diaries, we the viewers were given the behind the scenes look at the individuals’ obsessive behaviors.

Considering my own research on technology use among teens, I’m rarely surprised by statistics on the topic. However, I was quite surprised by the dad so addicted to his video games that he had checked out from his family.  It actually gave me a scary glimpse of possible future realities for a generation of kids whose day-long and into the night playing is something we passively accept. For this dad, it was his unwinding time; his de-stressor. Well, that’s fine in its proper place, but he was leaving his wife to solely tend to their four young children all evening, every evening before she retreated off to bed alone.

In another family the teenage son’s gaming addiction kept him holed up in his room. He got angry and was disrespectful to his parents whenever they asked him to get off.  This in itself signaled another alarming trend with detrimental future consequences, and that is: entitlement. The 20/20 special didn’t hit on entitlement, but in not telling our kids “no” or laying down/enforcing rules we have allowed them to take the reigns of control that leads to a path of being controlled by their idols. (As I’ve fequently written, when anything is elevated to a place in our lives that rules or controls us, it is an idol.)

The third featured family was dealing with a teenage daughter’s phone addiction that included sexting strangers.  While sending inappropriate pictures is happening waaaay more frequently than most of us realize, the constant checking her phone, fear of missing out, staying on her phone well into the night and anxiety without her phone that could describe amost any teenager today. So it struck me  that what was dubbed as “extreme”  behavior has actually been accepted as normal.

None of these individuals realized (or cared) how self-centered and disconnected from their families they had become. So to help them re-engage relationally and sever dependence, a device detox was ordered. Many times this is absolutely necessary. My own daughter at times has deleted her social media. And quite frankly I think it’s needed for more parents to enforce limitations and restrictions on devices for their good and the good of the family.

But at the same time for true heart change, we must address the root behind the ruling idols and addictions. On the surface a cell phone or play station (money or material possessions) may appear to be the problem, but eliminating it from our lives doesn’t change the underneath desires that point to what really rules a heart.

To get there we need to ask probing questions. For instance…

  • Why did the girl have to have her  phone? Because of her fear of missing out and not wanting to feel disconnected.
  • Why was she so afraid of missing out? Perhaps it was a fear of looking bad, experiencing rejection, or not getting the attention she craved.
  • Could it be the reason she wanted attention – to make a name for herself – was in order to feel her worth? What she needed was to hear who Jesus is for her. In him she is perfectly accepted, valued and loved.

For the two consumed with the video games, one sought to escape from life, not wanting to deal with the chaos and responsibility of his household; basically an unwillingness to die to himself. He was looking for “life” in his own pleasure. For the other, he turned to his games as an escape to a virtual world, perhaps out of fear of engaging in real world relationships, or being known.

So we can take away social media or a game console (again, at times necessary), but whatever it is at the core will likely resurface in a new or more extreme way later if we don’t deal with the heart – whatever the ruling desires driving the behavior.  Otherwise, we will only be putting bandaids on the real issues.

Uncovering the sin beneath the sin is not easy, but it is good.  It takes seeing our sin as the idolatry it is in order to see our deep need of the One who rescues us from slavery and sets us free. Only living dependent on him (and nothing else) will we find the true life we seek.

Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World comes out Monday! To receive it next week, click: here. Link to 20/20 Digital Addiction special here.