Sometimes Parents Need a Christmas Miracle

When Things Look Like an Impossible Mess

“… Into the middle of impossible messes — comes the Messiah who makes the miracles possible.”  (Ann Voskamp)Renee butterfly1

Does your child’s life look like an impossible mess this Christmas season?

Are they so trapped in addictive behaviors and destructive relationships that it looks like there’s no way out?

Are drugs and alcohol, self-injury, an eating disorder, mental illness, jail sentences, a same-sex relationship or pornography holding them in bondage?

If all you see is impossibilities –  in their lives and in yours – then you need a miracle.

Can Parents in Pain Celebrate the Holidays?

Choose Where You Will Focus

Can you remember when a special event was ruined because of something bad that happened? Maybe it was your birthday or maybe it was Christmas. For me, it was Thanksgiving Day 1997. We were living in Illinois. The morning was cold and sunny. I was up early to prepare our family’s special breakfast before we watched the Macy’s Christmas parade. I looked forward to this day all year. Our home was full of cheerful anticipation as pleasing aromas drifted in through the house.

An Unwelcomed Surprise

Suddenly, the phone rang around 8 am. It’s really early to get a phone call on Thanksgiving Day. My world was about to come crashing down.

“Hello?” I answered, expecting to hear the voice of one of our parents wishing us a happy day.

“Dena . . .  honey,” My dad’s shaky voice stammered. My stomach sank. Uh oh. Something’s wrong.

After an eight-month-long illness, my mom had finally made enough progress to go home. Today was the day! I couldn’t wait to talk to her for the first time in months. How wonderful that would be.

“I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but I just got a call from the nursing facility. It’s about your mom . . . honey, she passed away early this morning while they were helping her get dressed.” Nooooo!!!! It can’t be!

Thanksgiving has never been the same. I caught a flight out the next day. Her visitation was on my birthday. I didn’t want to celebrate anything that year. Thanksgiving. My birthday. Christmas. Who cares. I didn’t.

Have you had a similar experience with one of your children? You’ve been profoundly hurt, rejected, shocked, disappointed, and grief-stricken. You could care less about the holidays. There will be no Norman Rockwell Christmas for you.

5 Tips to Help Hurting Parents Survive the Holidays

"I'm Not in a Festive Mood!" but God Understands

Holidays are the most difficult time of the year for anyone in emotional pain, especially hurting parents.

I’ve been one. Our hearts are full of pain and sadness over our child’s struggles and destructive choices. This pain might be from any number of issues: alcohol, drugs, self-injury, mental illness, and more. We’re not in a festive mood.  All we can think about is the last trauma or what the next one might be. We wonder,  where is God and how can I survive this so-called happy season?

When Thanksgiving Day Hurts

For Parents Who Wish Things Were Different

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday season, but many people aren’t looking forward to it.

For parents whose childrenturkey are ruining their lives with drugs or alcohol, struggle with a mental illness or self-injury, have an eating disorder, struggle with their sexual orientation, are in trouble with the law (in prison) or can’t stop gambling or looking at porn, the holidays can be a brutal time of year. They don’t look forward to Thanksgiving – much less the Christmas season.

I remember when my daughter was young and innocent. She’d curl up on my lap, giddy with excitement to watch the parade. Happy sounds filled our home. After the big meal, she would join in pulling on the turkey’s wishbone, smiling and laughing, hoping her wish would come true.

Years later, when my daughter was in full-blown addiction, the holidays changed for me. I became desperate for my wishes to come true.

What I once looked forward to, I dreaded. What previously brought joy, brought increased pain and sadness, regret and longing. I didn’t know how to cope.

What about you, dear mom or dad? Do you know how to cope? Do you yearn for your wishes come true – for your child to be restored? Would you be giddy with excitement just to have them back, healthy and whole? If only things were as easy as pulling on a turkey bone and making a wish.

Four Golden Nuggets for Parents in Pain, Part 2

Lessons Learned in Hard Times

My wife and I were clueless when we began our journey of parenting a rebellious teen.

We found an endless amount of information on how to raise a great kid, but little help when it came to hard issues … like what we were facing: alcohol and drugs, mental illness, and self-injury and more. We had never even heard of cutting prior to discovering the marks on our daughter’s arms.

While I don’t cherish my time spent on that difficult road, the lessons I learned there have become treasures—similar to panning in a river for gold and finding something of great value.

Last Monday (Nov. 6th) I shared two golden nuggets of truth I found. Today I’m sharing two more truths I gleaned on my difficult parenting journey:

3. Set Reasonable Boundaries

Four Golden Nuggets for Parents in Pain, Part 1

Lessons Learned In Hard Times

photo cred. wikimedia commons















My wife and I were clueless when we began our journey of parenting a rebellious teen. An endless amount of information was available on how to raise great kids, but I found little help when it came to hard issues … like the ones we were facing. Addiction and mental illness were strange to me, and I had never even heard of self-harm or cutting. Many of you are dealing with many other hard issues.

While I don’t cherish my time spent on that difficult road, the lessons I learned there have become treasures—similar to panning in a river for gold. I found something of great value.

Halloween: 5 Tips to Help Parents of Teens

How Will You Cope with the Stress?

Halloween. The day was fun when my children were small, but not when they were older. Maybe you enjoyed the day when your kids were young, too, but now … everything’s different. Your son used it for an excuse to go out and drink with his friends – or worse. Your daughter planned to sneak off and meet up with that boy you know is bad news or smoke pot with her friends while they’re out trick or treating.


Now you dread the night. If you’re child is a minor, you feel like you have to be the bad guy – again. Your child will treat you that way when you ask those annoying, oh-so-hard questions: “Who’s going with you? Where are you planning to go? You’re wearing that? When will you be home? Who is __________?”

Then there’s the oh-so-tough boundaries you have to remind them about – and enforce, even if you don’t feel like it: “No, you can’t go there.” “I’d rather you not be with them.” “No, you can’t ride in their car.”

You can do this … but you can’t do that. This isn’t the best idea … that sounds risky. “You need to work on making another plan, please.” Ugh.

Be sure your rules, expectations, and consequences are clear. Mutually understood. A good idea we found is to write them out and agree on what they are ahead of time.

It’s because we love our children that we do these things. We want to keep them safe. If only we could.

We do everything we can think of or that we’ve heard others have done. Sometimes it works. Other times it doesn’t. It’s a crap shoot.

Will something happen? Will your phone ring late in the night when they don’t come home on time? Could there be bad news on the other end? We never know.

An older, wiser parent once told me, “Our kids are so smart. One way or the other, if they want to badly enough, they’ll find a way to do that thing you’re trying so hard to protect them from.”

Thanks a lot. That’s not what I wanted to hear.

chaosHow will you cope with the stress of the evening and other similar nights? With the worry? The anxiety?

Here are 5 tips that helped me:

Sometimes Parents Feel Guilty

Are My Child's Problems My Fault?

My daughter was going to rehab. She had graduated from high school only a few months earlier. I didn’t want to believe it. I was so hard on myself. Guilt set up residence in my heart. When your child has a problem with alcohol or drugs, self-harm (an eating disorder, cutting, etc.), sexual promiscuity, same-sex identity, is incarcerated, has thoughts of suicide or a mental health issue, guilt is a common reaction. We, the parents, wonder if it’s somehow our fault.

There’s no rest from the questions that plague our minds:

“How could this happen to MY child?” “Is it my fault?” “What did I do wrong? “What did I not do that I should have done?” “Could I have prevented this?”

The revolving door of What ifs and If onlys torments us. I could find no other way to answer these questions other than blaming myself.

Lessons for Hurting Parents from the Las Vegas Mass Shooting

The Value of Learning to Assess Your Situation

Vegas vigil

A few weeks ago we were shocked by the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas. Dozens were killed and hundreds were injured, in need of immediate medical attention. Hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of people flooding their emergency rooms. With the demand on the hospital’s limited resources, staff had to make some important decisions: who would receive treatment first; who could be treated quickly, and who could wait?

For parents, having a rebellious or prodigal child is not like the tragic shooting that took place in Las Vegas. But, the decision-making process the medical staff used in dealing with the crisis, does have some lessons hurting parents can gain from when dealing with their own heart-breaking events.

Parents of troubled teens or adults often find themselves in a crisis at a time when their mental, emotional and spiritual energy is depleted; when financial resources are overwhelmed by the demands being placed upon them.

We were often in this condition.

Five Things I Learned from Parenting a Challenging Child

What God Taught Me

My husband, Dave, and I were struggling with a boundary that needed to be set with our 19 year

photo cred. Ravish Kumnar

old daughter. Torn between the possibility of losing her or losing our other kids, we were battle weary and neither option was a good one. With tears streaming down our faces we cried out to God for a miracle.

Nothing came.

The risky behavior our daughter was engaging in brought fear into our home and a realization that this was something we couldn’t fix.