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This is PART 2 of the journey of a former agnostic who was raised in a strong Christian home. TJ, now twenty-eight, shares how he shut God out and fell into the party scene. He told me his story to offer encouragement and fresh hope to brokenhearted parents. If God can transform his life, then He can transform your child’s life, too.

After a period of  hard-partying, downtown clubbing, bar-hopping, shameless liquor, girl-chasing, and unrestrained recreational party drugs, losing his girlfriend and who he thought were close friends, TJ’s story continues:

I realized how I’d destroyed everything wonderful in my life. And so, I cried out to God in my brokenness and agony—and, for the very first time Surrenderin my life, I heard Him answer. He picked me up out of the rubble of my self-destruction and from that moment on I promised to never lash out against Him again.

How could I keep pushing Him away after everything He revealed to me and the peace He gave me in the aftermath of what I’d done? And what was it specifically that I had done? (more…)

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Today I’m going to share with you Part 1 of the journey of a former agnostic, raised in a strong Christian home, whom God has transformed into a passionate follower of Christ. TJ agreed to share his story to give hurting parents hope for their son or daughter.

party sceneOnce upon a time, not that long ago, the deepest, most venomous anger, hatred, and bitterness were eating me alive from the inside out. Nearly a decade of rejecting God had finally caught up with me. The burdens of greed and selfishness were at long last caving in.

I was dying in my heart, and there was no one to blame but me. In that moment I faced one terrifying question: What on earth had I done?

On the outside, my image didn’t add up. Raised in a devout home, I went to a private Christian school, had two amazing parental examples, and was taught to memorize the Bible from a young age. But, by the time I got to high school I’d grown bored with everything that had to do with God and church.

Blah, blah – I knew the stories. Blah, blah – Christ died. Blah, blah – life with God is wonderful. Blah, blah, blah. I was tired of the same old, same old.

So one day, when I was about fifteen-years-old, (more…)

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Has it been a really long time since you’ve seen your child? Do your eyes long to see them, your arms ache to hold them? Are they deep into addiction; in a mental hospital; incarcerated; estranged from you for some reason? Has it been quite surprised-man-awhile since they wanted to be with you so much that they hugged you in tears? Maybe you don’t think this could ever possibly happen.

The Old Testament tells us about a parent who got a big surprise one day:

“. . . As soon as Joseph appeared before him (Jacob, the father he hadn’t seen in twenty years since his brothers sold him off as a slave), he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time (Genesis 46:29b).”

The father in this verse thought his son was long dead. He’d grieved the loss and moved on. He certainly never imagined this day was possible. I’m sure he never asked God for it either. It was over. Done.

But you never know what tomorrow holds. Tomorrow just might have a surprise for you. When God is involved, things you never thought possible could happen.

I remember a time when my daughter, then 19, had relapsed after four months in rehab and some time in a half-way house. She was out on the streets again and didn’t want anything to do with her dad or me. She was deeply involved in drug and alcohol abuse; was a self-injurer (cutting) and bipolar (untreated).

I knew the risks of losing her were high. In my heart I felt as though she’d already died. I began grieving her death. It was an agonizing time of deep pain. I held out little hope for a loving reconciliation, though my whole being longed for it. I knew God could do it, but would it happen for us?

Then something amazing happened. A totally unexpected surprise I never saw coming. After a chain of events, my daughter agreed to go into another rehab program. We received word of these things through a mutual friend who was trying to help her.

The day of being reunited finally came (at her request – also amazing). I wondered if she would be happy to see me or not? How would she treat me? I didn’t know what to think.

I’ll never forget it. I walked into the dining area of the rehab program and as soon as my daughter saw me she came running, arms open wide, with a huge smile on her face. She threw her arms around my neck, and in tears hugged me so tight I could hardly breathe.

While we embraced, both of us crying, she whispered in my ear, “Mom, I love you soooo much! I’m so, so sorry I hurt you and dad. I can’t thank you enough for coming. It means so much to me!”

Things haven’t been perfect since then. We’ve had our ups and downs on the road to recovery, but our loving relationship has never relapsed. Every time we see each other she always gives both of us great big bear hugs – sometimes, there are tears.

Hold on dear parent. You never know what tomorrow holds. God just might be preparing a surprise for you, too!

O God, help each mom or dad reading this not lose hope and give up. Help them believe you could surprise them – even tomorrow. Encourage them as they read this post. You could reconcile them with their child, too. You could bring them home with a big hug any day. Strengthen them to wait one more day, and then another.

By your power and outstretched arm.

Amen.

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This is the third post in a three-part series for hurting parents whose children are incarcerated. Part one and two were written by Ellen Gee, mother of Daniel, who was sentenced to six years for armed robbery and grand theft auto. In the first two posts,  Ellen outlined some of the things she and her husband did to show tough love and stay connected  to their son during the difficult years he was an inmate. Today, twenty years later, we will hear from her son, Daniel. I believe he has a powerful message of hope for every hurting parent, whether your child has ever been in trouble with the law or not.

We often forget that the greatest lesson of love is pain. Ellen Gee. son blog photo

As a father, I want to run and embrace my skinned kneed child. I want to wash her pain away with my kisses and hugs. The hardest lesson parents need to learn is boundaries. Our own willingness to travel only so far down the rabbit hole.

Like a body builder gains muscle by tearing and straining them over and over, so do our children, by experience and pain. They instinctively learn the what and the how of relationships and family dynamics, and just how far they can go before it’s too late. They push and push until we’re about to break.

At least that’s what I did, until I knew I had gone too far. (more…)

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butterfliesEaster isn’t a happy day for many parents. It brings a heavy weight of sadness when a child is struggling or has withdrawn, not wanting any contact. They may not even know where their child is or they may be incarcerated. The possible reasons are too numerous to list. I’ve felt that pain. I understand.

I had to make a choice: Turn inward and feel sorry for myself, or turn to God and let him comfort me.  Which one did you choose?

If you chose to turn inward, wallowing in self-pity and isolation, this blog is for you.

Today, Easter Sunday, has embedded in it the greatest message ever proclaimed to mankind. (more…)

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Brokenhearted parents have been on my mind as Easter Sunday draws near. Is this you? You’re depleted and hopeless. Things have gotten Three crossesworse. You haven’t seen any change at all. Your child is still drinking, can’t manage to stay clean, keeps cutting themselves, got arrested again, trapped in a sexual addiction, binging and purging, angry at the world – that includes you.

Heavyhearted, you’re not looking forward to Easter at all. You know what Christ could do for your child and it grieves you deeply that they still don’t want what he has to offer. This has been wearing on you. (more…)

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Parents love their sons and daughters regardless of their behavior. From the day they were born we were smitten. As we watched them grow up our love for them grew stronger and stronger. Then things began to change. They began to rebel and disobey. We caught them in lies. We had to discipline and enforce boundaries. Then the day came when, to our sadness, we found ourselves being the bad guy- the enemy, insteadattitude of their hero. Sigh.

Sometimes we don’t like the person they’ve become. They’re rude, selfish, disrespectful, and even hateful.

Alcohol and drugs changed them.

Depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses changed them. (more…)

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