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Perspective from the Second Season

I love this quote from the Bible study I’m currently in, on Gideon: “Today’s tasks—even the most mundane of them—are often preparation for tomorrow’s calling. They can carry clues to what He is leading us to learn and accomplish as we faithfully serve Him.” (Priscilla Shirer)[1]

From this vantage point in my life (50-something), it’s much easier to see this principle in place in my life than when I was in my 20s and 30s. In those years, I struggled with getting and staying organized in managing my life and household (which included a husband, five children, and assorted pets along the way). Besides the regular household tasks, there was homeschooling, kids’ activities, and ministry in our church and community. Sometimes, in my mind’s eye, I would see myself perched atop of a towering list of responsibilities and commitments, teetering at the top, fully expecting the whole thing to come crashing down!

I remember one day in particular, sitting in the driveway of our home with the five kids in the back of the minivan. I think I must have been feeling particularly overwhelmed at the (seemingly) mundane nature of my life and activities, and the sense of never-ending tasks beckoning me that, come the next day, would simply need to be done again. And again. And again. As I looked in the rear-view mirror at my brood, ready to leave the driveway for yet another chauffeuring trip to kids’ activities, I remember thinking, Will there ever be time for me? What about what I want to do?

There wasn’t a flash of revelation. I don’t remember a shift of perspective or a booming voice from heaven with a new calling for me, like Gideon experienced (Hail, mighty warrior!). But it’s interesting to me that I remember the feeling. I’m glad I do, because it gives me a benchmark to measure what happened in the years after that.

I’d always had an interest in writing and teaching, and in the midst of the flurry of the rest of my life, I was putting those interests to work where I could. I found I loved organizing people and tasks and ideas (much better than I liked organizing three-dimensional objects!), and learned to build teams in the ministries and community organizations I served as a volunteer. Teaching found its place in my life in homeschooling my children for 14 years, and teaching Sunday school and Bible studies in our church. Writing found expression in creating curriculum for our church’s children’s and small group ministries, and writing articles for newsletters, magazines, and the local newspaper.

Eventually, and much more quickly than I ever anticipated, the children grew up, went to college, moved out, and started establishing lives, homes, and families of their own. Through those years, the activities in which I was developing all those skills morphed organically into greater and greater opportunities and spheres of influence. In this “second season” of life, I have a career I love, working as a developmental book editor and owning my own company that employs a team of talented writers, editors, and designers to help authors write and publish beautiful and impactful books. I’ve had the joy of writing and publishing books of my own, and teaching at conferences, churches, and schools in many different places and settings. (Plus, I get to be Nana to five beautiful grandchildren who fill our lives with much joy!)

In retrospect, I can see how God used those years when my children and world were much smaller to teach me the skills I am using in this season of my life. Getting organized and keeping an orderly schedule and environment (that comes more with effort and experience than with natural skill, I’ve learned). Establishing systems for responsibilities and activities. Coordinating multiple people and tasks for common goals. Polishing my writing, teaching, and speaking skills. Teaching me patience and perseverance and punctuality (still working on that one). And more!

I guess that’s why that phrase in my Bible study jumped out at me. It was like a little wink from God. Remember that day in your minivan when you wondered if there would ever be time for you? Even back then, I was planning for this season in your life, even when you thought it would never come. And I had bigger plans for you than you ever imagined, didn’t I?

If I could pass something along to other women in that season in life, the same season I was in that day in my minivan in the driveway, it would be the gift of perspective. Remember that she who can be found faithful in small things can be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). Remember that God has plans for you so amazing, you couldn’t handle them right now if He told you. Remember that even if an angel doesn’t show up in person, calling you “Mighty Warrior,” the Lord still thinks that way about you. And He will use the seemingly mundane tasks you are doing right this very minute to build in you the skills, maturity, and wisdom you’ll need for the calling He has on your life.

Stick with the small stuff joyfully and faithfully. Enjoy the moments, crazy as they are. Don’t rush through this season to get to the next thing, or try to make greater accomplishments happen for yourself. God doesn’t do things the way the world does things. Follow His lead, trust His judgment and timing, and let Him bring it in His way. It will be better than you would ever think to ask for.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

(c) 2018 Arlyn J. Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Shirer, Priscilla, Gideon, Lifeway Publishing, Nashville, TN:2013, p. 47.)

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Family Togetherness

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If you were to ask either Doug or me what has been the single biggest blessing in our lives, I think we both would unanimously and enthusiastically reply, “Our kids!”

Being the parents of five children has been … shall we say … an active existence. If you had asked me back when they were small what “family togetherness” looks like I would have said, “Crazy!” These days, I get asked all the time, “How did you do it, raising all those kids?” Frankly, I’m not quite sure! I certainly don’t have the energy today that I did back then. (I’m sure glad we started as young as we did. Funny how your energy fades as you age. The spirit may be willing, but the body, well …)

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Our brood in autumn of 1997. 

I’m grateful that our now (mostly) grown kids have become such great friends of ours and of each other. They are all starting to move out in their own directions in life: college, careers, travel, marriage, starting families, etc.  But despite distance and schedules, staying connected to one another is still a high priority to all of us.

Families are incredibly important for a number of reasons, no matter how old you are (and don’t let your teens try to persuade you otherwise). For one, the security and support that come from being in a healthy, loving family are a foundational part of God’s design for humans. We need each other! We need the belonging and community. We need the opportunities to practice patience, kindness, and generosity. We need the “iron sharpening iron” effect of learning to live in harmony with (other) imperfect humans. There’s no better place to learn these graces than in a family.

Our family has always found that a great way to maintain family togetherness is to play together—to hang out, have fun, and do things we enjoy in each other’s company. That was a lot easier when everyone lived with Mom and Dad. Nowadays, since we aren’t all under the same roof anymore, we have to find new ways to cultivate family togetherness, like our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away where we rent a lodge in the mountains and the whole family “retreats” there for a long weekend of games, swimming, fishing, and food. Everyone has to take a turn preparing a meal, because cooking together is another great way to build family togetherness.

And guess what? It’s still crazy. 🙂

 

FamilytogethernessSome of the crew hot tubbin’ during our annual Labor Day Family Get-Away.

After a Summer of Launching, a Long Overdue Vacation

If I said it’s been a busy summer, that would be the understatement of the year.  We’ve been “launching” pretty much non-stop since May, starting with a graduation …

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Hayley’s Graduation from WSU with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education

(L-R: Darian (Tim’s girlfriend), Tim, Hillary, Spencer (Hayley’s then-fiancee), Doug, Me, Tyler, and Lexi (Tyler’s wife)

Followed by a wedding …

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Hayley and Spencer, July 5th, 2014

And then a move to a new house just a week later!

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Moving Day, July 12th, 2014.  Yes, we must be crazy.

Then we sent Hillary off to the Bahamas on a Mission Trip with our church youth group:

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Leaving Seattle, August 4th, 2014

L-R: Nikki, Hillary, Dani Rose

And no sooner did we welcome Hillary home then it was time to launch Tim off, back to WSU for his sophomore year:

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Family Night to celebrate Hillary’s homecoming and Tim’s departure with BBQ and croquet, August 16th

     As the parents of five kids (very busy kids, I might add!), Doug and I think one the best things we can do for them is to not only prepare them for the launch, but also to provide a “landing pad.” They come and go, off to school and back, around the world and back, getting married and still coming home often for encouragement (or babysitting, or a home cooked meal from Mom!).

     The other important thing we realize we need to do as the parents of five busy kids is to take time for US!  Which is why, after a crazy busy summer of much launching and landing, we are doing a little launch of our own.  Mom and Dad are taking a vacation.  All by themselves.  Now fancy that. 🙂

SEE YA!

Summer Before the Launch: Tips for Parents of Graduates

Friends Carrying Cardboard Boxes In Front Of New House

Note: This article of mine was published on FoxNews.com.  

 

Graduation season is here and excitement is everywhere! Neighborhoods are being marked by balloons in school colors indicating “the party is here,” and each weekend in June streets are lined with the cars of well wishers making the rounds at open houses.

But what happens after the diplomas are handed out and the celebrations are done? Can parents breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief? Not so fast.

Many onlookers believe that most high school graduates are not fully prepared for “the real world.” A Google search on “preparing teens for graduation” would have us believe the focus should be on transcripts, GPAs, college admission requirements, work and community service experiences, and job applications. But with college graduation rates lagging and employers complaining how woefully underprepared young people are for the demands of the workplace, we have to question whether we’re missing the forest for the trees in preparing teens for adulthood.

It’s a time of high anxiety, for sure—both for parents and teens. Teens are experiencing the stress of losing their comfortable support systems, their friends are taking off in different directions, and they’re feeling the impending pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. Parents are asking questions like,” Have I taught them everything they need to know? Will they make good decisions? How will our relationship change? Are they ready for independence?” That’s a lot of stress—for everyone!

Realistically, parents can’t squeeze 18 years of “what might we have missed?” into the last six weeks before the launch. However, with some strategic effort, they can make vital last-minute deposits of wisdom and encouragement, and position their graduates for success in their new environments:

Destination Preparation:

  1. Talk with teens about the changes they will experience and some successful strategies for navigating them, particularly coping and relational skills.
  2. Help them plan ahead for ways to meet new people and reassure them that it takes time and trust to build new friendships. What are their “must haves” in a true friend? The most common derailer for young people after the launch is loneliness, whether they are on a college campus or living at home while their friends go off to college.
  3. Teach them time management and organization strategies. All too soon they’ll be managing their own schedules with loads of distractions. Equip them for this challenge.
  4. Point out that they’ll have to earn the right to be heard, respected, and granted privileges; they’re not “entitled” to any of that. Encourage them to apply their best efforts in every arena and be a standout in terms of character, teamwork, and work ethic.

Relationship Preparation:

  1. Build an enduring relationship that will transition from parent-child to adult-young adult. Carefully monitor your “relationship capital” with your teen. (Do you have a positive or negative balance in your “account?”) Time your delicate conversations strategically when they’re willingly engaged.
  2. Discuss communication expectations for after they leave home. If your young adult will be away at college, how often will you expect to hear from each other and under what circumstances? If he/she will still be living at home, what will be the new, more “adult” boundaries and expectations now that he/she is no longer a high school student? Being realistic and respectful on both sides is the key.
  3. Consider a weekly meeting at a coffee shop (neutral territory) to discuss the upcoming transition. Go through a book together that can help raise pertinent questions and guide your conversations, such as What I Wish I Knew at 18 by Dennis Trittin (LifeSmart Publishing). Third party voices are especially powerful at this time.

Transition Preparation:

  1. If you haven’t already, begin to incrementally release control by allowing more decision-making freedom and holding back on correcting, reminding, and overly “helping.” This is the time for you to move from driver to passenger seat in your teen’s life.
  2. Speak positively about your expectation of their success and your unwavering belief in them. Avoid too much talk of “losing my baby” or anticipating out loud the tremendous sense of loss you will feel; this can erode their confidence and lead to feelings of guilt over leaving home.
  3. Celebrate a rite of passage to mark the transition between childhood and adulthood, such as a simple ceremony, special gift, or letter of affirmation. We aren’t always good about this in American culture, but it can help tremendously in terms of empowering young adults and releasing them with blessing and confidence into the next season of their lives.

Importantly, seek to understand your graduate’s feelings about the impending changes he or she will be experiencing, often alternating between anticipation and apprehension. Don’t take it personally if they want to spend more time with friends before they head off to their destination. They may vacillate between wanting to cling to the last moments of childhood, and wanting to rush headlong into the “freedom” of adulthood.

Give them space either way. There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue in “real time” as they encounter the pressures and responsibilities of adult life. This last summer at home, if navigated strategically, can pave the way for those future conversations as parents build a strong relational foundation with their young adult. That’s a win for everyone!

 

 

When Helping Is Hurting: What NOT to Do for Your Kids

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What parents don’t want their children to follow their dreams, land a solid job, have strong relationships and family, and enjoy a great life? We want them to be happy. We want them to be well-regarded by others. We want them to be successful.

But, here’s the rub. In a genuine effort to help our kids be happy and successful, there are some things we parents can do that are extremely counterproductive and actually work against our objectives.

Those who commonly work with young adults (e.g., teachers and administrators from high schools and universities, employers, etc.) report growing issues with this younger generation, four of which are particularly troubling: disrespect for authority, lack of social skills, apathy, and an entitlement mentality.  Guess where these particular issues generally originate–in the home! And, they are worsening, according to organizations receiving and trying to work with teens and young adults. The effects of media and culture aren’t helping either!

We can’t point the finger at anyone else on this one. It’s our job as parents to do our part and to help reverse this course, and the younger we can start with our kids, the better. From a parenting perspective, consider this scenario:

Say two-year old Joey is hungry.  Mom says, “Joey, do you want a banana or some grapes?” Joey doesn’t want a banana or grapes. Joey wants a mango. Mom tells Joey he needs to eat what is offered to him. He pitches a fit.  What does Mom do next?  She sends Dad out to the store to buy a mango.  Mom and Dad are happy because Joey’s happy.  Everybody’s happy, right? Wrong.

If this style of parenting continues throughout Joey’s life, as it does for many, what do you think Joey will grow up thinking?  How about:

–       he will always have choices

–       his happiness and satisfaction should be priorities to the people around him

–       he doesn’t have to comply with what he is told to do

–       Mom will always advocate for him to get his way and come out on top

–       other people are there to serve him, not the other way around

Granted, this scenario is overly simplistic, but here’s the point I want to make: Out of our desire to provide the best for our children (and keep them happy), some of our parenting methods may be contributing to their perception that the world revolves around them. If this is the case, they’re in for a rude awakening when they leave home and find that the world owes them nothing. And this is exactly what is happening—in astronomical proportions.

Do you see how this can translate to their life after they leave our home? To their experience in college or the workplace? To interpersonal skills with professors, coaches, and other superiors? To a marriage?  Not very well! Here’s what it can look like, now and later:

  • Parents doing their children’s homework, chores, etc.
  • Parents defending unacceptable behavior of their children in meetings with school officials
  • Parents complaining to and threatening educators, coaches, and employers when their children aren’t receiving their desired rewards
  • Parents whose lives and schedules are dominated by their children’s activities and wants
  • Young adults who call in “sick” at the last minute because they’ve found something better to do
  • Young adults who don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls or show respect to others
  • Young adults who expect teachers and employers to accommodate them instead of the other way around

Entitlement is what we call this attitude, this sense that other people owe us something—that we are deserving, regardless of whether we have done anything to earn it. It stems from the parenting style just described and some undesirable consequences of the “self esteem movement.” As a result, children feel entitled to get their way, viewing rules as arbitrary and voluntary, their needs as paramount, and other people as existing to serve them. And parents, unwittingly, are generally the ones who are cultivating this mindset.

In order for us to give our young adults wings on which they can really fly, we can’t coddle or cave in to them. If we’ve been doing it up to this point (as revealed in our children’s behavior), we need to turn it around fast, before they get out into the real world.

We can’t set our kids up as the center of our universe and let them think the planets revolve around them. It may seem a short-term solution when they’re pitching a fit as a two-year old, or even as an immature teenager. But in the long run, it will come back to bite us—and them.

Adapted from Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, by Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence, available through LifeSmart Publishing and Atlas Books.

The Launch of “The Launch!”

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Great news!  My new book on parenting teens is here! Co-authored by What I Wish I Knew at 18 author Dennis Trittin and myself, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World is now available for you to order, just in time for Christmas.

We never envisioned writing a parenting book when we began collaborating on What I Wish I Knew at 18. But, through our work with educators, counselors, business leaders, employers, and families, we regularly hear feedback about the training today’s kids are not getting, and what’s needed—from the perspectives of those receiving the kids we are raising – i.e., employers, schools, colleges, and youth organizations.

Click here for sample of Introduction, Chapter One, and Video Trailer

As part of parent communities ourselves, we’re also keenly aware of the emotions and concerns that surround the launching and releasing of our children into society—out of our arms and into the real world. Questions about whether we’ve covered the bases, built an enduring relationship, and set them up for a smooth transition keep us awake at night! All of these reasons are precisely why we wrote Parenting for the Launch. Here’s how you can order:

Click to order

Or call 1-800-BOOKLOG

Use coupon code P4TL

only $12.99 (regularly $18.95)

now through December 31, 2013.

It’s our joy and privilege to serve other parents, who, like us, want to set their children up for every success in life. And, it’s an honor to help educators build stronger bridges with parents. We hope you enjoy the book, spread the word to others, and join us on our journey at www.parentingforthelaunch.com!

Parenting Is a Team Sport

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Last Valentine’s Day, the parents of our teenage daughter’s best friend took the two of them, and a third friend, out to a fancy restaurant. The dad gave the girls pretty rings and a pep talk about their priceless worth and the importance of loving and respecting themselves. He had contacted Doug and me earlier to ask our permission and we happily consented.  After all, he was reinforcing something we felt strongly about and we were glad for Hillary to hear it from more than just us.

Doug and I joke all the time that parenting is a “team sport”—and our team extends beyond ourselves as Mom and Dad. Some experts believe the magic number is five—that every teen needs at least five adult voices in his or her life that will reinforce positive values and a healthy self-image. For our kids, these voices have included:

  • their grandparents and other extended family members
  • family friends
  • youth group leaders/mentors
  • teachers and coaches
  • parents of some of their friends

It’s been rewarding to see the different perspectives and qualities these other “voices” have contributed, especially at times when Mom and Dad were a little less popular! They offered wisdom in diverse areas like:

  • work ethic
  • integrity
  • perseverance and self-discipline
  • relationships
  • financial management
  • spiritual life (faith, encouragement, prayer)
  • practical skills like construction, painting, cooking, and car repair
  • the value of family
  • aspirations for college and a successful career
  • modeling a lifelong marriage

Do you have the benefit of other influences in your teen’s life that will tell him the same things you would? The unique value of other adults in our teens’ lives is not just the wisdom they offer, but the fact that they are listened to. So, if our voices are temporarily devalued and our influence seems to be waning, we can recruit others to “shore us up.” Plus, sometimes other adults offer unique perspectives and insights that we as parents simply lack.

For example, when one of our kids was going through a rough patch in high school, his track coach stepped in and brought some much needed perspective, encouragement, and accountability. This coach was also our son’s AP Psychology teacher. Because of that expertise, he was able to offer him unique insights that spoke directly and objectively to his logical nature, helping him better understand himself and his reactions. It ended up being a win on a number of levels.

Guaranteed: your children will stumble here and there as they make great strides. Sometimes, they will want you there to pick them up, dust them off and set them straight again. Other times, they’ll prefer you keep your distance and let them handle it. In these instances, having those important third part voices in place will be great backup support.

If your teen is having a tough time, who in your life could become an asset for the situation? It always pays to know, and to keep them in your “hip pocket” just in case!

What do you think about the idea that “parenting is a team sport?” Who are other adults that you would consider to be on your “team?” If you need to shore this up, who are some likely candidates?

 

This post was originally posted on http://www.lifesmartblog.com and adapted from the soon-to-be-released Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World (co-authored by Dennis Trittin & Arlyn Lawrence, LifeSmart Publishing).