Emily’s Youth Message – Their Safe Place

Teens are notorious for saving their raging fits for you and your home. Friendship issues, stress from school and hormones on hyper-drive can make your teen seem like they have transformed into a alien from another galaxy. No, your teen hasn’t been abducted! They are just trying to navigate their world that feels out of control.

There are so many places and environments your teen has to hold his or her emotions together, and their home is the one place they feel safe to let down their guard and release what may be pent up inside. For you as the parent, however, this is a test of faith and patience!

Be encouraged, however, and hang on to the promises in God’s Word that He loves your teen more than you do. He has a plan and a purpose for them, and though you might not be able to see it now, you can trust in the One who does. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

When you feel like you are at your wits end, and there is no easy solution for your teen’s frustration, it’s time to get on your knees. Prayer is the harder work, but it is the most effective.

Find prayer warriors to “fight” the battle with you—ultimately, your teens are experiencing a spiritual battle, so you need to fight for them with spiritual weapons. Ask God for His wisdom to know how to pray. In the book of Psalms, it says, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven” (1-7:28–30).

In these three verses, we are given some great encouragement. The Israelites “cried out to God,” and He “delivered them from their distress.” Stand in the gap through prayer, crying out to God for your teen’s distress—and ask Him to “hush” the raging waters in their life and make them “quiet.”

And, don’t be afraid to tell your teen you are praying for him/her. Saying something like, “I wish I could make things better for you. I don’t know what to do to help, but I want you to know I’m praying for you every day,” is a powerful way to let your teen know you love them.

Click here to check out this week’s online parenting class:

I am praying for you and your family too!

Emily’s Youth Message – Developing Gratefulness In Your Teen

Most parents try to teach their children to say “please” and “thank you” from the time they are in diapers. It’s proper etiquette, and if we’re honest, culturally expected.

Your teen has (I hope) mastered the art of habitually saying “thanks” when appropriate. You are now in a critical window of time where one of the best things you can teach your teen is to not only say thanks, but have an attitude of gratefulness. Why? Because a grateful heart is the secret key to happiness.

The best recipe for instilling authentic gratitude in your teen is to model it yourself. Rather than complaining all the time in your teen’s presence, look for the good in the midst of the bad. Then, verbalize it by speaking “gratitude” language. When you’ve had a bad day at work, you can say, “Today was really hard at work, but I’m thankful that I have a good job.” If the refrigerator breaks, tell your kids. “I’m so grateful for all of the technology in this house that is still working!” When you see a homeless person you might say, “I am grateful for my bed, aren’t you? Let’s pray for him.” And though it may sound corny, tell your teens how grateful you are God appointed them to you. They will smile inside.

Every day, think of one thing you are grateful for and communicate this to your teen. It might appear they are tuning you out, but kids absorb more than we think they do. I can guarantee your teen is paying attention.
Looking for ways to be grateful may be a discipline you will have to develop in your own life too, so that you can pass it on to your teen. Being grateful for what one has is one of the best secrets for successful living; fostering gratefulness in yourself will enhance your entire family’s life and give your teen the direction they need to cultivate their own happiness.

Developing gratefulness in your teen takes long-term commitment from you, the parent. However, the benefits are long-term as well . . . and priceless.

According to a study by Froh, Sefick and Emmons, “Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.” The study revealed gratitude is associated with appreciating close relationships and feeling better about both life and school.

Students in the study who kept a gratitude journal for only three weeks had an increased grade point average over the course of a year. They were more sensitive to situations where they themselves could be helpful, altruistic, generous or compassionate—and were less destructive. Research shows ungrateful youth are less satisfied with their lives and are more apt to be aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviors. The effect of a grateful attitude is worth the effort as a parent, wouldn’t you agree?

One powerful way for teens to learn gratefulness is to go on a family mission trip. Spending a week in Leon, Nicaragua building houses for very poor families will leave an imprint on your teen that will be more powerful than your words. Some families hop in the car and drive downtown to bring sandwiches and hot drinks to the homeless. You can also serve food at a soup kitchen or volunteer after a natural disaster. Though your teen might scowl at the idea at first, they will be transformed on the inside by what they see.

Human beings were designed by God to live a posture of grateful worship. Your job as a parent is to gently turn their hearts from what they are ungrateful for to Whom they are grateful to.

Ultimately, teaching your teen gratefulness aligns with the Word of God. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I am praying for you and your family! Please don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions or concerns. I’m here for you.

The Best Week of My Life – A Mission Trip Reflection

The Best Week of My Life – A Mission Trip Reflection

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Youth Students and Volunteers at SIFAT

I want to share with you all the life changing experience I had at SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology), a mission trip I went on with Merge Youth Ministries in July.

It was by far the best week of my life.

The whole theme of the week was ‘restoration’ and the first couple of days I thought that it was about me helping to restore the lives of others. Sure that was a part of it, but more than anything I felt that I was restored.

I had multiple moments of realization everyday that literally brought me to tears. The only way I can really explain it is being turned inside-out.  I have nothing to hide anymore.

It was my first experience of true love.  Love of everyone accepting me, no judgment. I was able to share things with my family group that I’ve never shared with anyone else before and I learned not only about their story, but I learned about my own.

While there, I renewed my covenant with God, was privileged to hear the stories of more experienced missionaries, I connected with other youth through our love of music, learned how to properly cook crickets, and kept a fire going for multiple hours (setting a SIFAT record).

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Isaiah picking fresh fruit for breakfast

I returned with a new purpose and a completely new outlook on pretty much everything.

That week has changed me forever, as I’m sure it has changed everyone who has ever been there. And I want to thank all of you for the wonderful opportunity you’ve given me.

Isaiah Isel

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