Tag Archives: teenagers

She didn’t know He loves her, even though

Last week we had some hard days in the Ballon household. It was an especially hard week for my 16-year-old. And of course for dear old mom and dad.

I’ve written frequently about the joys of raising teenagers, and for the most part, it is a joy. It’s really so much better than people tell you. But then, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the problems feel so enormous and grown-up that it’s hard to reconcile the fact that this is your “baby” facing all of these big feelings, big mistakes, and big choices.

One good thing that came out of all of last week’s hard (and there’s always something good to come out of it) was that I bought a 40 day devotional written for teen girls, to do with my daughter.

Because even though she’s been going to church since she was in diapers,

Even though she’s been in a Christian school most of her days,

Even though she lives in a home where we pray and talk about God, and her parents have told her multiple times how broken we once were, but also how we were saved by the love of Jesus,

Even though she’s served as the hands and feet of Jesus on two different mission trips and I saw it change her,

…even though…

She is still her own person and she is walking her own faith journey, which sometimes takes detours, and looks a little sidewinder-ish.

So I bought this devotional and we are only on day 3, but it has already paid for itself ten-fold. Because last night we read all about grace and how God knows we will fall short and we don’t have to be perfect to win His love. And when I asked my daughter what she thought about it she said, “It’s such a relief. Because sometimes I feel like it’s not true. Sometimes all I hear is everyone telling me I have to be like Jesus and follow the rules to be a good person, and I feel like I have to be perfect. It’s a relief to know that He doesn’t expect perfection. To know that He will love me anyway.”

And my heart broke into a million pieces.

Because how did we get to 16 and she still not know?

How have I failed to make sure that if she knew nothing else — literally nothing else — she knew about grace and the unfailing love of our Father?

How have I forgotten that there is so much pressure on her, so many rules, so many boundaries, and sometimes we talk about those things ad nauseam until grace sounds like a footnote instead of the headline?

How is it that I write a blog called Neither Height Nor Depth that is based on the very verses that confirm that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, and she didn’t know?

So I held her and we both cried and I told her out loud that there is nothing she could ever do that would make God stop loving her. And there was nothing she could ever do that would make me stop loving her.

If that is the only message she takes away from our 40 day study, it will be totally worth it.

So, in case no one has told you recently — or ever. In case you hear more about rules, and being “good”, and not messing up, than you do about love. In case you feel forgotten, unloved, unworthy, or unclean. In case you didn’t know that the price was already paid, and you have a Father that loves you so much He would go to the ends of the earth to find you, here are the words I want you to hear:

For I know that nothing can keep us from the love of God. Death cannot! Life cannot! Angels cannot! Leaders cannot! Any other power cannot! Hard things now or in the future cannot! The world above or the world below cannot! Any other living thing cannot keep us away from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NLV)

Nothing from your past, nothing you are going through today, nothing in the future, nothing you have done, nothing that has been done to you, nothing you can imagine. No. Thing. No hurt, no failure, no mistake, no illness, no fear, no person, can separate you from God's love.

Featured image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

This is Fifteen

Fifteen.

Today you turn fifteen and I’m feeling very emotional about it. I can’t say exactly why, only that some ages hit me harder than others. I remember crying the year you turned seven, for no particular reason except that seven seemed so much older than six and I felt like a season was coming to an end.

Today it’s feeling less like a season coming to an end and more like a new beginning. Like you are embarking on a journey that will lead you straight into a new world — one that you are inventing and crafting for yourself — and straight out of the comfort and safety of the world I created for you.

I finally understand why there are entire sub-groups of the population that celebrate Quinceañera when their daughters turn 15. In these Latin American countries and communities 15 is seen as an important coming of age for girls. Large parties are held to recognize her journey from childhood to maturity. And that’s what it feels like today. Like I am finally having to recognize and accept you have crossed the threshold from childhood to maturity and are walking quickly toward adulthood.

I realize that this didn’t happen overnight, but there’s something about 15 that feels like this journey has suddenly gone into warp speed. This past year has been full of so many moments reminding me that you are no longer a little girl. It’s almost like someone gave you a check-list of things to do to signify you are leaving behind childhood and you are rushing to cross-off every item.

First love. First driving lesson. First phone. First bank account. First broken heart.

You got your braces off. You started making a list of colleges you might want to attend. You are earning your own money through babysitting, pet-sitting, and tutoring jobs.

In two days you leave on your first missions trip. You are traveling out of the country…without me!! It will also be the first time you won’t be home for a major holiday (somehow I did not make that connection when I agreed to this trip all those months ago).

I know it’s just the beginning. A sign of things to come. There will be more trips, more stamps in your passport. More time behind the wheel of a car, and more planning for college and life after highschool. More holidays spent away from your family, more time spent with friends and on dates.

So much more.

But the truth is it’s not just all of the things you are doing that has me feeling this shift, this change in trajectory. It’s also the changes I see in you. Physical changes, of course: you’re stunning, no longer a child’s face, but a young woman’s smile. And those long, long legs! You are now as tall as I am and will likely surpass me soon.

More striking, though, are the changes to your personality. At the core, you are still you — goofy, adventurous, dramatic, loving, talented, fiercely loyal, strong, and smart. But these traits have evolved. I see how a recently-developed maturity overlays each of these and makes them something different. You are protective of your family, vocal about social injustice, devoted to your friends, generous with your time, serious about using your gifts, but also humble and willing to admit your mistakes and shortcomings, committed to doing better and being your best-self. I am often amazed by how self-aware you are, a trait I find lacking in many adults, and especially in teenagers and children.

The most significant part, though, is that while you are this woman-child walking boldly toward adulthood, growing more confident with each step, I see you pause every now and then and look back over your shoulder at me. Are you making sure I’m still there? Not wanting to leave me behind? Or saying, “come on, mom, keep up! I need you with me”? I’m not sure which. Maybe a little of both. But I can tell you that taking this journey with you is simultaneously the greatest joy of my life and also has me completely undone.

But then, that’s motherhood in a nutshell.

My beautiful girl

Happy birthday my darling girl.

 

 

The surprising truth about parenting a teenager

You don’t have to be a parent to know that the general consensus around raising teenagers is “oh boy, hold on to your hat, it’s going to get bumpy” or perhaps something a little more blunt than that. There is this universal understanding that the teen years are the hardest to navigate as a parent, with perhaps the exception of the toddler years. I see it every time someone learns that I have a 14 year old daughter and they respond with a loud whistle or raised brows and big grin and say, “oh boy, you’re in the teen years!” or “phew! I remember those years, hang in there!” or even, “God bless you, teen girls are so hard!”

I’ve heard it all, and I’ve even said these things. I’ve joked with other parents about needing prayers to get through the teen years, or about the extra grey hairs growing on my head, and they’ve laughed or nodded knowingly. Because everyone seems to agree, parenting a teenager is challenging, trying, and even painful.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned  since we entered this phase of life nearly 2 years ago, the surprising truth about raising a teenager: It’s actually the most extraordinary stage of parenting I’ve experienced.

Here’s why.

The relationship is starting to shift. Her needs have changed. My daughter doesn’t call me mommy anymore and she certainly doesn’t need me to hold her hand when crossing the street, pick out her clothes, or even pack her lunches. She is becoming increasingly more independent each year, and while that may sound sad at first, the reality is it has created space and allowed for a new dynamic that I don’t have yet with my younger two.

Beautiful Hannah

She doesn’t need me in the same ways, but she still needs me. Often for something really important like someone to listen to her (just listen) when she’s struggling with a particular friendship or obstacle.

She needs me to set boundaries and then step back and give her the freedom to try new things, even fail, within those boundaries, while remaining close enough to help her up when she falls.

She needs me to know that sometimes a good cry, for no particular reason, is cathartic and part of life. But a hug and chocolate can make it all seem better.

She needs me to speak truth into her life, about how I need and rely on God every day so she may learn to do the same.

She needs my advice about decisions that will shape the rest of her life — big decisions and character defining moments — but only when she asks for it.

She needs me to recognize that she is not a little girl anymore, but also that sometimes she still needs her mom and be ready and available for those moments, without hovering or complaining when they pass.

Mom and daughter

I’m not saying this is always easy, this shift in how she needs me and the ways we relate to each other. And I most definitely get it wrong! I criticize, nag, and yell. I have a tendency to be sarcastic when I should be gentle. I ask too many questions when she doesn’t want to talk, and sometimes offer advice before it’s solicited. I’m still learning.

And for her part, sometimes I am the best mom ever and she will thank me 100 times for something little, and other times I am the enemy or invisible woman who she takes for granted. She’s still learning.

But even with the parts we get wrong; even on the days it’s really hard and one or both of us feels angry, scared, or disappointed in the other, this new relationship is nothing short of phenomenal.

Parenting a teenager is like getting an exclusive preview of the adult this child is going to be. It’s like reading a book about your favorite character and actually getting to play a role in influencing some of their story.

Because you know them more intimately than anyone else. You know where they’ve come from. You know what they’re afraid of, and what they hope for. You get to see all the good in them and the potential that is yet to be realized, but also know there are real struggles and mistakes to be made, which make the victories all the more sweet.

I’m still fairly new to this parenting a teen stage. And maybe it will get more challenging in the coming years, or with my other children. But what I want to say to every other parent who is approaching this stage: Take heart! Because while it might come with some really difficult moments, it’s also so much better than anyone ever tells you!

mom and teenage daughter