Happy New You!

by: Jonathan Burchard

One of our children used to express new year wishes with an exclamation, “Happy New You!”.  It was funny and everyone thought the child was cute for saying it, but I believe there was great wisdom in the expression.

I think most of us know what types of changes would be healthy and helpful for us, yet change is difficult.  The biggest barrier to change seems to be fear related to possible rejection, the unknown, and even success.  Think of the opportunities you didn’t step into because of a negative self-concept.  We are prone to move toward the familiar, and sometimes that means making choices based on what others have said about us rather than what we could possibly become.

This year, I hope you take the chance to experience newness.  When you find yourself crippled by self-doubt, self-destructive patterns of living, or hopelessness, fight for something better.  Better yet, look to the one who fought and won a new possibility for you.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

You can begin a new life today that is based in hope: “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Happy New You!

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The Superlative of Family

by: Jonathan Burchard

Family is a beautiful mess. It is a walk in the park on a glorious fall day and a horror movie that never seems to end. It is what we run away from and yet seem to be consistently influenced by. It is a long look in the mirror.

Extreme emotions and life decisions can be prompted by family issues, because family is a powerful system loaded with expectations. The problem is that our expectations are somewhat unrealistic. It’s natural to want family relationships to be perfectly loving, yet it’s more realistic to expect family to be a “learning lab” in which we encounter flaws and learn to respond in love.

In families, the flaws of our loved ones are genetically embedded within us or are part of the “approved living package” that has been reinforced over the years. As we see the same patterns in our life choices, it’s easy to become self-critical and judgmental of our family-of-origin. We don’t want the flaws to continue, so it’s easy to emotionally or physically distance ourselves from the madness.

There is a powerful personal freedom that can occur from reconciling with family, though.  When you can move towards family, see flaws honestly, and engage with forgiveness and unconditional love, you can begin the process of seeing the beauty within and make choices that reflect your values and life direction.*  You can look in the mirror and appreciate the beauty of imperfection.

Don’t just settle for self-acceptance, though, because you’ll never fully convince yourself of your value in this world. There are too many voices that remind you of your inadequacies. There is only one voice that can truly speak of your value; the One who created you. He made you to enjoy Him and worship Him forever through Jesus. Reconciled to that truth, you can rest in His acceptance and love.

David exclaimed to God in Psalm 139:13-14:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

*It is important to realize that some relationships are best reconciled from a distance due to a history of abuse. Boundaries are essential for emotional and relational health. It might be helpful to consult a counselor, pastor, and the Bible regarding the best way to engage, forgive, and express unconditional love.

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Track Your Energy to Help Manage Stress

by Rob Basler

Everyone is busy.  Between work, school, kids, errands and everything else you’ve got going on, feeling stressed out and overwhelmed can sneak up on you. The symptoms of stress can include headaches, muscle tension, sleep and digestive problems, trouble thinking clearly and irritability. It can be hard to monitor your stress levels and manage them.

Some things you can do to keep your stress levels in check include getting adequate sleep and nutrition, exercise, using supportive relationships and taking time to relax.  Sometimes, even thinking about trying to do these things is enough to stress us out!

So here is a quick and easy way to check in on yourself and help manage your stress level in the moment. First, ask yourself a simple question: what’s my energy level? Then ask: do I feel comfortable or uncomfortable?

Often when we think of energy, we think in a simple binary fashion; high is good, low is bad. The reality is that all of us have a level of energy that feels best to us. Ask yourself what you like to do on vacation. Do you like to sit on the beach with a good book? Do you like to go out dancing? Hitting that optimal energy level helps us recharge and function at our best. So if you are in a long checkout line, or the boss has dropped a new project on your desk, or if your child tells you they have a project due TOMORROW, take a second and pay attention to how your energy is. If it is high, do you feel energized and excited, or jittery? If your energy is not comfortable, take a few seconds and do something to change it.

If you want to bring your energy down, try closing your eyes and taking three slow, deep breathes. If you want to bring it up, get up and move around for a minute or two. Take note of how that moves your energy. Over time, you can build up a toolbox of quick, anyplace activities to manage your energy and feel better right when you need it most.

A tip of the hat to Kristine Kinniburgh, co-author of Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents for giving me the idea.

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The Beauty of Fall by Jonathan Burchard

I love living in an area that has four seasons. I am easily bored and prone to take things for granted–situations and relationships. I also tend to grump about anything, even good things, so I’m pretty confident that I would find something bad about experiencing perfect weather every day.

The change of seasons makes me stop and reflect, though. I’m reminded that I’m not in control of most things, except my responses. I also take time to consider life–where I’ve been and where I’m headed. Fall reminds me of college days in beautiful Colonial Williamsburg. I remember taking walks with my future wife and pondering the big questions of life.

In this season of my life, Fall reminds me of pending death in the life cycle. Why so much beauty before winter? Maybe it’s because God is the beautiful redeemer who takes the sting out of death and makes all things new. Maybe it’s a reminder that there is beauty and purpose every day, regardless of our limitations, because each moment is full of His purposes.

“For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven:…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Stop Doing These 8 Things for Your Teen this School Year by Amy Carney

Originally posted September 19, 2016 here


Don’t judge me if you happen to see my kids eating packaged Ritz crackers for school lunch. Don’t judge me if they’re on the sidelines of PE because they forgot their uniform. Don’t judge me if they didn’t turn in their homework because it’s still sitting home on their desk.

What some may view as a lack of parenting, is what I deem parenting on purpose, as we work to build necessary life skills in our kids.

I stopped making daily breakfasts and packing school lunches long ago. I don’t feel obligated to deliver forgotten items left behind at home. School projects and homework are not any part of my existence. How do we raise competent adults if we’re always doing everything for our kids?

  1. Waking them up in the morning

If you are still waking little Johnny up in the mornings, it’s time to let an alarm clock do its job. My foursome has been expected to get themselves up on early school mornings since they started middle school. There are days one will come racing out with only a few minutes to spare before they have to be out the door. The snooze button no longer feels luxurious when it’s caused you to miss breakfast.

I heard a Mom actually voice out loud that her teen sons were just so cute still, that she loved going in and waking them up every morning. Please stop. I find my sons just as adorable as you do, but our goal is to raise well-functioning adults here.

  1. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch

My morning alarm is the sound of the kids clanging cereal bowls. My job is to make sure there is food in the house so that they can eat breakfast and pack a lunch. One friend asked, yeah but how do you know what they’re bringing for school lunch? I don’t. I know what food I have in my pantry and it’s on them to pack up what they feel is a good lunch. It will only be a few short years and I will have no idea what they are eating for any of their meals away at college. Free yourself away from the PB and J station now.

  1. Filling out their paperwork

I have a lot of kids, which equates to a lot of beginning of the school year paperwork. I used to dread this stack, until the kids became of age to fill all of it out themselves. Our teens are expected to fill out all of their own paperwork, to the best of their ability. They put the papers to be signed on a clipboard and leave it for me on the kitchen island. I sign them and put them back on their desks. Hold your teens accountable. They will need to fill out job and college applications soon and they need to know how to do that without your intervention.

  1. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you. We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

  1. Making their failure to plan your emergency

School projects do not get assigned the night before they are due. Therefore, I do not run out and pick up materials at the last minute to get a project finished. I do always keep poster boards and general materials on hand for the procrastinating child. But other needed items you may have to wait for. Do not race to Michaels for your kid who hasn’t taken time to plan.

This is a good topic to talk about in weekly family meetings. Does anyone have projects coming up that they’re going to need supplies for so that I can pick them up at my convenience this week?

  1. Doing all of their laundry

“What? YOU didn’t get my shorts washed? This response always backfires on the kid who may lose their mind thinking that I’m the only one who can do laundry around here. Every once in a while, a child needs a healthy reminder that I do not work for them. The minute they assume that this is my main role in life, is the minute that I gladly hand over the laundry task to them.

Most days I do the washing and the kids fold and put their clothes away, but they are capable of tackling the entire process when need be.

  1. Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches

If our child has a problem with a teacher or coach, he is going to have to take it to the one in charge. There is no way that we, as parents, are going to question a coach or email a teacher about something that should be between the authority figure and our child.

Don’t be that over involved parent. Teach your child that if something is important enough to him, then he needs to learn how to handle the issue himself or at least ask you to help them.

  1. Meddling in their academics

Put the pencil down parents. Most of the time, I honestly couldn’t tell you what my kids are doing for school work. We talk about projects and papers over dinner, but we’ve always had the expectation for our kids to own their work and grades. At times, they’ve earned Principals Lists, Honor Rolls and National Junior Honor Society honors on their own accord. At other times, they’ve missed the mark.

These apps and websites, where parents can go in and see every detail of children’s school grades and homework, are not helping our over-parenting epidemic.

Every blue moon I will ask the kids to pull up their student account and show me their grades, because I want them to know I do care. I did notice our daughter slacking off at the end of last year and my acknowledgement helped her catch up, but I’m not taking it on as one of my regular responsibilities and you shouldn’t be either.

What is your parenting goal? Is it to raise competent and capable adults?

If so, then let’s work on backing off in areas where our teens can stand on their own two feet. I know they’re our babies and it feels good to hover over them once in a while, but in all seriousness, it’s up to us to raise them to be capable people.

I want to feel confident when I launch my kids into the real world that they are going to be just fine because I stepped back and let them navigate failure and real life stuff on their own. So please don’t judge me if my kids scramble around, shoving pre-packaged items into that brown paper lunch bag, before racing to catch the bus.

It’s all on purpose my friends.

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