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The Author of Reconciliation

This time of year can be rough for families who are dealing with a struggling teenager. Holidays are supposed to be joyous, not full of strife, so it can be difficult to know how to respond.

During moments of reflection afforded by time-off from work and school, we often examine our painful relationships with a spotlight instead of candlelight. We have time to think about and observe our family connections, our time together, and our traditions. It’s painful to ponder why things are not what we wanted or hoped they would be.

One thing I find helpful is to consider the very nature of the season, and allow it to move you to a more hopeful way of dealing with the struggle. I’m talking about what Christ did when He came to Earth as a human being, ushering in the age of hope and reconciliation. We surely didn’t deserve it, and He surely didn’t deserve the strife, but He came into our midst to help us anyway.

Christmas is the season for giving and forgiving. And God, the best “giver” ever, gave us Christ, who made reconciliation with our Heavenly Father possible. What better time is there to follow that example, and let your teen know that you have not given up, you want your relationship to be better, and to offer them God-like, undeserved, reconciliation?

Reconciliation lets them know you intend to keep your relationship alive — even if they don’t make the same move toward you.

God has not given up on you, has He? If God gave up on us every time we offended Him, our relationship with Him would be very short-lived. Instead of giving up, God moved toward reconciliation by sending Jesus, who came to us in the most unselfish way possible. Hopefully, we will humbly recognize our own undeserving nature, and respond with grateful hearts.

“..be like Christ, and consider others more important than yourself.” –Philippians 2:3b

There is a time to be contemplative, but then be sure to move on and act in such a way that lets your teen know you consider them more important than anything else in your life.  Are you willing to offer your teen the God-given gift of reconciliation?

The grace found in humbly offering reconciliation to your teen, or any other person for that matter, is an excellent ornament for your family Christmas tree. It is a beautiful symbol of the love of Christ at work in your life.

This Christmas season, keep in mind that God can touch your teen. His thumbprint is still on your child, despite the struggle. And God is moving in such a way that reconciliation remains possible, even if you can’t see it right now, for He is the author, creator, and originator of reconciliation.

May your Christmas include the joy of reconciliation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program.  Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


A Journey to Hope

Pain is the pen that writes the song that calls us forth to dance. –Michael Card

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the season when we celebrate life and the goodness of God. We give gifts, attend parties, and make an effort to spend time with family.

If all is well, we feel happy. But for those of us facing the holidays with a struggling teen, this time of year may bring more pain than bliss. After all, it is difficult to be joyful when the negative atmosphere in our home is in stark contrast to the happy and celebratory nature of the season.

When you have a teen whose life is spinning out of control, you may ask yourself, “Where did we go wrong?” Or, “Will we survive this?” Or, “Will life ever be the same?” You may even begin to question your own sanity or wonder what demon or alien may have invaded your once happy and contented child.

If this sounds like you, allow me a moment to offer encouragement. I say this often, because it bears repeating often. As a parent you have probably done the best job you knew how. You most likely did a better job than your own parents. Fact is, even the most intelligent and godly people I know have had teens who struggle. That’s because there are often other factors at work that have nothing to do with your parenting skills, nor the level of love and care you provided your child. And these same factors are mostly out of your control.

Where Does Hope Begin?

So, where does a parent turn to find hope when things seem so bleak? Scripture gives us two fine examples of people who found a place to turn when everything seemed to be going wrong. In the stories of Job and King David we learn that that there is a pathway toward hope, even in the midst of despair. Both had honest conversations with God about their suffering, their sorrow, and their need for relief. Each sought to understand what God was doing in their life through their suffering. In the end, both found hope–not because He or they were able to solve their problem, or because their suffering ended, but because through it they also found a nearness to God.

For the frazzled parents of a troubled teen, the journey of hope entails a journey back to the presence of God, where you can know without a doubt that He is there, even when your life remains difficult and your teen continues to struggle.

Tell God Your Troubles

Let me to urge you to not despair and certainly not to quit. Instead, choose to have an honest conversation with God about your struggle. Ask Him your questions, and tell Him how you feel. Ask Him what you are supposed to learn from this struggle. Stop worrying about how it looks to everyone else, and rest assured that it’s not a problem to have a problem. Be okay with life not always making sense. Celebrate being needful of God’s care. Doesn’t scripture confirm that our Heavenly Father shines best when our life is a mess?

How Does That Help?

When you invite God’s presence to invade your life, then you no longer have to fix the problem yourself. You just have to hold on and trust that He sees it all. You can work through your struggle knowing that God is very near, that He loves both you and your child, and that He will use every single bit of your current dilemma for His good purposes.

Trust me. The pain you are feeling at this moment will eventually come to an end. In the meantime, a renewed hope will come from recognizing that this temporary suffering is a part of God’s plan, and that He is not only aware of the struggle, He is right there in the midst of the struggle. He hasn’t abandoned you and He hasn’t abandoned your teen, no matter what you or they have done.

May you find peace in knowing that God is in it, no matter what the outcome may be.  And for that, we can all be truly hopeful, and thankful. To that end, I pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.

 


The Gift of Second Chances

“I choose joy… I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance… I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God”. –Max Lucado

We live in a world where change is constant, and it seems that things change these days at a more rapid pace than ever before. Some changes are for the better and some are for the worse. If teenagers can walk in this changing world and come through unscathed — we are grateful.  But some do not.

Some kids become victims to negative pressures in today’s culture; choosing a lifestyle of self-indulgence, willful disobedience, rebellion and self-destructive behaviors. It is sad to see that happening to otherwise great kids; and no one is saddened more than their parents.

I work with mothers and fathers who have cried over a wayward son or daughter. Words cannot describe the depth of pain and sorrow that comes to a parent’s heart broken by love. These parents experience a depth of feeling for their children that even the children do not understand.

One of the most difficult things parents face is the realization that although they have experienced life and gained wisdom from their own mistakes and failures, their own children will probably not benefit from them. They will not understand until they make the same mistakes and experience the consequences. And mistakes will be made.

In fact, one indisputable truth about human beings is that we have an infinite capacity to mess up. But even more infinite than our ability to sin is God’s desire to love and forgive us. For those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior, God forgives us every time we ask — again and again.

Remember this about your teenager; no matter what they have done, their life isn’t wrecked for good. The most loving, powerful Being in the universe wants to heal them, and He does have the power and creativity to do just that.

So, rather than dwelling on your mistakes, leave those cares to Christ, and celebrate their life instead.  That’s why I recommend that you pull out some old photos and recall the happier moments surrounding their birth and childhood. Let the photos bring to mind the joy of God’s gift of your child. His thumbprint was on their life when they were born, and it still is today.

May we all be grateful for Christ’s gift of second chances. He loves and watches out for our children more than we ever can; and what better gift is there than that?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program.  Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.