being family to those without family

“Her is ours now!”

This was the declaration of a new 5 year old friend when she discovered I didn’t have my own family. She had inquired about it after a few visits where I’d shown up clearly without one! “Does she have a family?” Her dad assured her I had parents and siblings, but she was thinking more about the kind of family that would come along with me. After some reflection, she made the decision that this ‘no-family’ situation would just not do and announced my immediate and complete adoption into hers!

Out of the mouths (and hearts) of babes.

The reality is that there are many Singles who journey life in the void of all that we are designed to express and experience in family. That’s where you and we come in! The opportunity exists for us to be family to those without family. Here’s some thoughts to consider as we endeavour to do that and do it well.

not all singles are created equal

Every Single is unique. Personality and temperament; factors like extroversion or introversion, history, circumstances or life stage, contribute to ensuring every Single has a unique set of needs as well as contributions to offer. While some generalisations might be made about certain demographics, there are often more exceptions than inclusions.

assume nothing – talk about everything

The only way to ensure what is on your heart to offer to a Single in your world is going to be accepted in the manner you’ve intended is to avoid assumptions and ask lots of questions. What are the situations that you find most difficult? How can I best support you? Is it helpful if I did “this” or would it be better if I did “this”? I read/heard/saw this from another Single, is that your experience? How does it differ? etc Often, things done with the greatest heart to help and include miss the mark because of the misalignment of expectations that could be easily averted if communication had been clearer.

what you take for granted

In the busyness and monotony of your every day life it can be easy to take for granted some of the things you experience in family (and potentially, even begrudge them). The buzz of noise and chatter as family goes about their regular routine, the sharing of responses over something seen on tv, serving one another in practical ways, incidental contact that happens as you move around each other, externally debriefing your day, a kiss goodnight – all this and more takes place in your home constantly and, often, without much thought. Singles often experience deep longing for these experiences and also could benefit from the grace, capacity for compromise and others focus that these circumstances demand.

the gift of normal

Don’t underestimate how powerful it might be to include a Single friend in the normality of your life. As chaotic or mundane as it might feel to you, it could be an incredible gift to someone whose day to day is often absent the dynamic these family environments bring. It’s possible to inadvertently communicate to a Single person that they’re an imposition or separate to your family when there’s a sense that they require a level of ‘hosting’ that is disruptive, rather than a type of inclusion that is mutually beneficial.

singles have more to lose

True, the responsibility to extend invitation, action social planning or nurture relationships doesn’t rest solely on those who are friends to the Single. But, the reality is that in the instigation or execution of such interactions a Single has less to offer and more on the line. If your family invites a Single person to dinner – whether they say yes or no, you’ll still be having a family dinner; if they cancel last minute, you’ll still be having family dinner. For a Single – the contrast is stark and so the risk is greater. When a Single invites a family to their house, they can’t offer an existing social dynamic – you’ll need to bring that with you. Until you are there, nothing is happening! It might seem an obvious point to make but perhaps it’s a perspective you haven’t fully considered. It’s certainly a dynamic by which many Singles feel hamstrung.

monitor & adjust

Seasons and circumstances are constantly changing. What works in one stage of family or life rhythm will need to be adapted as things shift. A biological family navigates these transitions constantly and included others can also – but it requires communication. The courage to ask the questions as changes happen will ensure that relationships are kept strong and mutually edifying as each new season is embraced.

LISTEN HERE – for further ideas for being family to those without family

READ THIS (“arriving alone”) – a practical encouragement to support Singles by helping them overcome a simple yet often debilitating obstacle

 

 

Advertisements

becoming more patient | #1 a big picture perspective 

On the scale of zero to ‘please don’t make me wait for anything, ever’ – how patient are you? How patient would others say you are?

Patience is defined as

the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious

Waiting is not patience. Patience is about how you wait. Experiencing delays, problems and suffering doesn’t mean you’re a patient person – because we all experience those – the attitude with which you journey them is the determiner of patience. Doing things for a long time doesn’t mean you’re patient – it just means you’ve done things for a long time! Doing things without becoming annoyed or anxious is the key characteristic of patience. Our attitude, our grace, our tolerance, our peace and calm, our lack of reactivity, our persistence – these are all indicators of our degree of patience.

Relationships are where, simultaneously, our patience can be so profoundly tested and also where our patience is so intensely required. Impatient people make for unpleasant work colleagues, parents, partners and friends. Impatience expressed through frustration, snappiness, aggression, huffing and puffing or irritating repetitiveness (‘are we there yet?’) are killers of healthy relationships.

We all need to become more patient for our relationships to be positive and enjoyable.

As a quick thinker, speaker, mover, responder and decider, I constantly wrestle with impatience. I want everyone to move at my pace and sometimes do poorly at managing the lag time between when I get something and when others do … seriously, hurry up already!!!

TIP #1 – WE NEED A BIG PICTURE PERSPECTIVE! 

Often our impatience comes from being way too caught up in the moment to understand its significance (or lack of) in the big picture.

Like aggressively racing around someone in traffic only to be stopped beside the same car at the next traffic light. In the big picture of a trip to work, that car going a bit slower isn’t actually going to make us late. But our frustration in the moment can cause us to act irrationally or become unnecessarily emotional (and potentially make unsafe choices).

When children are learning to tie their shoe laces parents or teachers can become frustrated by the need to do it – ‘when are you going to get this yourself!?’. But there aren’t many adults who still need their parents or work mates to tie their shoes. They do get it. Keeping that in mind helps us to be more tolerant in the moment. This won’t be forever – even if it feels like it will.

So much of our intolerance and impatience is related to growth. We want others to get what we get; to know what we know and think like we think and respond like we do. But, often, they don’t have the same knowledge, wisdom, emotional maturity, life experience, perspective or skills and so are unable to respond the same way we would until they do.

When we zoom out our focus to see the big picture it grows our empathy and changes how we gauge others’ actions. Keeping the end in mind can drastically increase our grace, compassion and understanding in the now.

What do you think? How would keeping the big picture in mind shift your ability to be more tolerant and patient in your relationships?

are you the one the one you’re looking for is looking for?


“Describe your ideal partner.”

It’s the stuff of magazine and online quizzes and random questions from well-meaning people at church. What’s on your list? In your ‘quest’ for a partner, what are you looking for? Inevitably this leads to speculation about whether one is too ‘picky’ or not. Matched by another’s assertion to ‘not settle’ because you ‘deserve a good one’ (as opposed to the others who clearly don’t?).

Unfortunately, the narrative around prospective dating or marriage relationships can be intensely focused on what an individual WANTS from or in a partner. We probe others about their preference or tease them about the ‘kind of girl/guy they like’. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me to give some sort of list or description of the guy I’m ‘looking for’.

Andy Stanley flips that question on it’s head and instead asks,

“Are you the one the one you’re looking for is looking for?”

When you imagine the kind of guy YOU would want, and then you imagine the kind of girl that guy would want, are you that kind of girl? If you think of the type of girl you would want to marry and envisage the type of guy she would be looking for, are you that guy?

To personalise it, the kind of guy that I would want to marry would want to marry a girl who was strong in her faith, growing in her walk with God, refining her character through submission to the Holy Spirit and wise counsel, sure in her sense of self, a person who apologises and forgives, a person who loves her family and friends, someone who is generous and open-hearted. Because if they didn’t want to marry that kind of girl, then they probably are not the kind of guy that I would want to marry. And so it follows, that if they’re the kind of guy that I would want to marry, then I need to be exactly that kind of girl.

It sounds like linguistic gymnastics but the shift in focus is profound.

Relationships and marriages that work and flourish are others focused. They are made up of two people who are intent on being their best, giving their best and helping the other to be their best. When it comes to considering our future partner, given that we most likely have little knowledge of if or who that actually is, the only activity we can do to impact the potential outcome of a prospective relationship is to ensure that we are growing into the best version of ourselves.

Of course, the upside of this is that we become the best version of ourselves!

Not just FOR a partner, but because the best version of ourselves is exactly who we ought to be striving to be. We benefit from constant growth and development and the fact that a future partner might benefit also, is just a bonus!

 

single – it’s a real thing!


One of the challenges of youth is that you start making decisions that can dramatically impact your future when you are least likely to be legitimately considering your future! It’s biologically true (in relation to brain development) but also just reality that without a very long personal history a young person’s capacity to consider their future is limited.

When dealing with these decisions that come up, I like to ask young people to try and picture what they hope their future holds because it’s really only in light of this that they can make choices that are heading them in a positive direction. What kind of person do you want to be? What activities would you be doing? Where would you be working? What kind of people would be in your world? … and which of these choices you’re considering would make that future more possible?

Everyone I do that exercise with imagines that they’ll be married. Everyone. Depending on age and how far into the future we’re projecting they might also be considering children. But even those who are not particularly interested in dating right now or still believe the opposite sex has ‘germs’ – when asked to picture their future, expect it to include a spouse.

It’s part of the narrative of life. It’s how humanity was created to continue. Attraction that leads to intimacy and oneness in marriage that leads to offspring who are attracted to others and get married and have offspring. It’s the ciirrrrrrrcle of liiiiiiiiife! (You sang that, I know you did!)

While that may be exactly how the future plays out for most – it’s not a guarantee for all. And even if it is in the future for our young people – it will not be the only or necessarily most significant part of what their future holds. And even if it is to be a significant part of their future – that may be some time away. So what about now? What about between now and then?

We need to develop a theology of Singleness.

EVERYONE is born Single. EVERYONE will remain Single for a significant portion of their lives (marry at 20 and live to 80 and you’re looking at 25%!!).

SINGLENESS IS A LEGITIMATE THING!

  • Created for relationship 

As sexual, relational beings (these things are not just switched on as a preparation for marriage) everyone is called upon to appropriately manage these desires and needs in their time of Singleness – however long that may be. The wrestle of youth is a volatile mix of raging hormones, developing emotions and relational immaturity. They are difficult times to navigate. But, also for the older Single, these needs and desires are God given – how are they to be met and managed when you’re not (or not yet) married?

  • Singleness is a valid life status

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, advocates for Singleness. He says Single life is less complicated than married life (no need to amen that loudly, married people!!). He acknowledges that Singleness allows for a singleness of focus on God without the innate energy, time and heart-focus a married relationship requires. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that he’s right. I don’t believe Paul is saying NO ONE should be married (because he’s a smart guy too, he understood the circle of life even before Disney released the Lion King) but he is saying if you’re not there are some specific freedoms, privileges and graces that are part of that season. There’s some things you can do now that you might not be able to if you marry. A different kind of freedom in your time, finances, decision making, focus and availability.

  • Singleness is a season to be embraced

Ultimately, Singleness is one of many seasons that will make up a person’s life. Ecclesiastes 3 speaks about there being ‘a time for everything and a season for every activity’. Across a life time a person will experience all manner of seasons – times of preparation and study, times of success and achievement, seasons of ‘plenty’ and seasons of ‘lack’, times of ill-health, times of grief, times of celebration and exploration … you get the idea. Every season has its own lessons to teach us, pros and cons, opportunities and challenges. Given that life is just a collection of these seasons – end to end and overlapping, long and short, repeated or forgotten – in order for our life to be lived to its fullest each season must be embraced and maximised. Singleness is no exception.

It’s completely valid to desire marriage – God asks us to bring Him the desires of our hearts. I think we’d serve ourselves, one another and our young people well to let some of these thoughts about Singleness pepper our conversations, our prayers and our expectations.

 

talking with your kids about sex

Where did you learn about the birds and the bees? Do you remember your parents giving you “the talk”? Did most of your learning come from friends, the graffiti on toilet cubicle walls, movies and TV, or maybe your best friend’s super-cool older siblings?

One of the most significant areas of discipleship and leadership we offer our children is in the area of sexuality and relationship – and yet, they can be some of the most awkward or feared conversations of all.

Here are some thoughts to consider – part of a broader conversation that I host with parents – to help empower you for this potentially uncomfortable yet intensely important aspect of your parenting role.

1. do the personal work 

Each of us has a unique perspective on the topics of sexuality and relationship that is heavily influenced by our own life experience. Our ability to lead children in healthy and helpful ways is impacted by the degree to which we have reviewed and processed our own upbringing and history.

If you were sexually abused or mistreated you may pass on fears and stigmas that are unhelpful. If you have had negative experiences or made significant mistakes in your own past, this will impact how you approach these topics with your child. If you have had a sheltered or extremely conservative upbringing you may pass on uninformed opinions or ideologies. If you had multiple relationships or sexual partners, if you were a pregnant teenager (or made a teenager pregnant), if you had an abortion, if you had early exposure to pornography, if you’ve struggled with sexual addiction … all this and more SHAPES your perspectives, understanding and feelings about sexuality and relationship.

In humility, parents must to do the work of review. We are doomed to either repeat the actions of our own parents or react to them (and do exactly the opposite) – for better or worse – unless we stop and review what that looked like and make sober decisions about its validity or usefulness. Our own experiences can be redeemed when we allow them to inform and educate others to make better choices.

2. know where you’re headed 

What do you hope for for your kids? What do you understand of the goal or intent of their sexuality? What type of relationships do you hope they’ll experience? How do you want them to perceive their own body and manage it? What empowerment or wisdom do you want them to be armed with? What situations do you want them to navigate intelligently and safely? How do you wish them to honour and respect others?

Knowing where you’re headed makes the pathway there more clear and more intentional.

The more ‘simple’ outcomes of saving themselves for marriage or protecting themselves from abuse or regret are a starting point, but there has to be more to your focus than that. Beyond the messages of “don’t” and “no” we have to endow our children with a sense of the beauty and joy that sexuality and relationship are designed to bring us and others in our world. Part of our created design includes this aspect of our beings and, as such, it is more than just a set of rules and guidelines that will help our children navigate the murky waters of culture and desires. It is a well shaped understanding of who they are, what God has in store for them and how they might ensure they are experiencing the fullness of His intent.

3. talk, don’t have ‘the talk’ 

It may be stating the obvious, but you’re not going to get this done in one conversation. It doesn’t matter how good that conversation is, how long it goes for or how many incentives are offered with it. One chat over milkshakes is not going to cover everything, it’s not going to accommodate for changing needs and cognition with age, it’s not going to give opportunity for all questions to be asked or all teachable moments to be explored. This is an ongoing conversation. Sorry for those of you who thought you were done! 😉

Make the most of opportunities that present to continue to shade in the big picture understanding you desire your kids to have. Ensure that each time you do talk about these kinds of topics it is left open-ended – ‘we can talk about this some more whenever you want’ or ‘if you think of other things later, be sure to come and ask me’. Engage with TV, media, overheard conversations, events in your family, song lyrics and the like to leverage opportunities to know where your child is and to keep the dialogue happening.

For some tips about talking to your kids about porn – check out this article  For further development of your awareness and language check out this site Fight the New Drug.

4. help your child translate culture 

We live in a highly sexualised world. It’s not sensationalising to make that observation, it’s just how it is. In fact, it is so sexualised we can often be immune to the various ways overt or distorted sexuality permeates our culture.

Rising proliferation and exposure to pornography has changed the water line and we are now soaking in a highly ‘pornified’ environment that requires our intentional identification and rejection. In sociological circles, pornography is considered to be the number one sexual educator of our children. Young people are being exposed to pornography often before they’ve had their first crush or their first kiss. Pornography has continued to become more and more violent and aggressive and less and less (if it ever were at all) reflective of intimate, romantic, private expressions of love.

This article draws attention to the pornography inspired images that are common-place in marketing and advertising. A walk through a shopping centre or a flick through a mainstream magazine will see multiple examples of these images. This website Collective Shout promotes advocacy around issues of objectification – it’s useful for raising your awareness as well as empowering you to be part of the response.

We need to help our children reflect on the things they see around them and to decipher the messages they are being sent and whether or not they are to be accepted or rejected. At age appropriate levels it may be as simple as wondering aloud with your child as to why a lady might look so unhappy in a picture – do you think she is having fun, do you think she is liking what is happening to her? To observing in more mature ways the submission-dominance interplay, the perception of a model as an object more than a person, the idiocy of a promotional picture that has no point of reference to the product or service it is purporting to promote.

***

This is a teaspoon of thought from an ocean of ideas, understandings and considerations that we need to continue to drink from – but it’s a start.

ASK THE QUESTIONS … what do you struggle to help your children understand? What approaches have you tried that you’ve found successful? What resources have you found useful?

3 better choices than “not saying anything at all” 

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all!” – Thumper, Bambi

I’m sure we’ve all heard this quote (or a version of it – possibly without the double negative!) at some point in our lives. Our parents used it to kerb our critical opinions – particularly when we defended our outbursts because they were the “truth”. But then, we’ve probably all used it ourselves. Mostly as a passive aggressive (emphasis on the aggressive) way to say that we have a negative opinion but we’re far too polite to tell you what it is. Yes, because that’s an effective way of defusing a conflict – at no point ever in the history of defusing conflict!!!!

I love Kid President’s rewording. 



Here are three options to “not saying anything at all”. 

Choice #1 – think harder 

Emotion, defensiveness, fear and tiredness can all make us feel there is nothing nice to say. In times when our thoughts, feelings or option seem overwhelmed by the negative, we all can pause and think harder. 

Where is the potential positive? What can be encouraged or affirmed? What can be understood or explained? What alternate perspective could be explored? 

Choice #2 – choose honesty 

“Not saying anything at all” is a choice to withhold truth. Sure, there are times and places where hearing the truth would be more palatable but the truth is always our friend. 

In fact, the truth from a friend is the best. It’s better than a withheld criticism and it’s certainly better than silence – where we are left to guess what the other is thinking. 

Choice #3 – choose empathy

Any attempts we make to feel what another might be feeling will stand us in good stead to make a better response than silence. 

What might they be fearing? What disappointment might they be anticipating? What questions might they be asking? What insecurity or jealousy buttons are being pushed?