Why you’re in debt and what you can do about it

Most people are in debt. Maybe you’re one of them.

Being in debt has gotten to be so normal that many people never question it. So many of us believe that debt is just a normal part of life and there is not much you can do about it.

In fact, some people even believe that having debt is a good thing.

Seriously, do you really need a ton of debt weighing you down to have everything you need in life?

No, you don’t.

In fact, I think it’s ridiculous to believe that debt is just a necessary part of life.

Being In Debt Drains You

Think about it. What does debt actually do to you financially? It unnecessarily drains away your hard earned money by making you pay much more for those things you buy with it.

When you’re in debt, you are paying money in interest and fees that could be used for things that are much more useful. Debt causes you to spend much more than you otherwise would on the things you want and need (read about how we overpaid for our car).

Ultimately, it sucks you dry financially while giving you a false sense of prosperity.

Being In Debt is a Choice, Not a Necessity

Most Americans, if given the choice, would probably tell you that it’s better to have no debt.

So why is it that the majority of Americans are swimming in debt?

Why are most people not making the choice that they know is best for them in the long run?

There are plenty of reasons why, a few of which I’ll cover here:

Marketing. Every one of us is barraged with over 3,000 marketing messages every day, and that number is growing. Most of those messages are trying to get you to spend money by turning wants into needs.

Wanting to Fit In. You want what other people have in order to be like them or to fit in with a group. So you spend money you don’t have to be part of the crowd.

Lack of Control. Some people just don’t know how to control themselves well. They don’t know how to say “no” when it comes to spending. So they spend on whatever they want, whenever they want it, which results in a lot of debt and the consequences that come along with it.

Lack of Education. Some people think that having debt is just as normal as breathing. Some even think it’s good to have debt so they can maintain a good credit score or get tax breaks. Those numbers just don’t add up.

Here’s the deal: when you have debt, you are wasting hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year in interest and fees.

In the long run you are poorer because of it. You could use that wasted money for other things that create much more value in your life than helping to keep a finance company or credit card company in business.

Being In Debt Stresses You Out

When you have debt, you also have more stress and worry in your life.

You worry about making the payments. You need to make more money to meet your obligations. You’re having trouble saving for the future because your present debt is eating you alive.

Life is stressful enough without having to worry about debt and the emotional unrest it brings to your life.

If you can’t sleep at night and have that constant gnawing in the pit of your stomach because of stress, it’s very likely that at least some of that stress is being caused by debt if you sit down and take an honest look at your situation.

Don’t let debt rob you of your present, your future, or your peace of mind.

It’s just not worth it!

Debt Freedom Is Achievable

I’ve been out of debt (except for my house) for 7 years now. I can honestly tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that debt freedom is achievable, and that life is exponentially better without that bondage tying you down.

Debt is called “bondage” for a reason.

I can help you do that same thing I’ve done to get out of debt and stay debt free for life.

It’s not an extraordinarily complicated process, but it does take time and dedication.

– cross walk

5 Big questions every graduate should be asking

When I graduated from college, I felt overwhelmed with questions.

“What am I going to do for work?”

“Where am I going to live?”

“How am I going to pay rent, all the bills, and somehow also pay off my college degree that isn’t exactly flinging open the bank vault for me right now?”

Then the real kicker question — “Where do I even start? What are the questions I should be asking?”

That final question was the real punch in the gut, making me feel more nauseous than the three pieces of graduation cake I consumed with the green icing that had encouraged me to “Catch the wind in my sails,” right before it was journeying down into my stomach.

I’d spent four years and thousands of dollars preparing for this moment, and yet as I climbed all those steps and flung open to the doors to the rest of my life, I didn’t even know where to start.

I quickly realized I wasn’t alone.

The statistics about twentysomethings right now are pretty startling; with around 25-30 million twentysomethings living back at home with their parents, the highest percentage ever recorded in the United States. (US Census Bureau) Plus, Millennials are earning less in their twenties than any generation before, and 88 percent of minimum-wage workers are 20 years or older, with 4 in 10 of those workers college graduates. (Pew Research and NPR)

So for the last decade I’ve dedicated my life, through my website allgroanup.com, publishing three books, and adding onto my tab with a Masters degree, to figuring out what questions we should be asking as we graduate college and journey through our twenties.

5 Purposeful Questions Every Graduate Needs to Ask:

1. What’s the best way to break-up with myself?

Life transitions, in general, are much more difficult than we give them credit for. Just like breaking up with someone you thought was “The One”, when you graduate college you’re breaking up with many different things at once — a place, a time, a season of life, friends you thought you’d have forever, and in a way, you’re breaking up with a version of yourself.

Yet, there’s something of strange significance that happens to us when we’re stripped of everything we used to depend on.

Maybe transitions aren’t something to fly through, but something to marinate in.

Don’t just make it through a transition—make the transition matter.

Transitions are not simply a bridge to the next important season of your life. Transitions are the most important seasons of your life.

You learn the most when you’re the most uncomfortable. Your senses are the most alive when you feel the most lost. As I write in my new book 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties,“your twenties aren’t about them going as you planned. But how you adapt, change, and grow when they don’t.”

2. If I’m going to pursue a big dream, am I willing to drive a 1993 Honda Civic Hatch back with no power steering, no air conditioning, and no right mirror for 15 years?

Pursuing something bigger than yourself will cost you something.

Thus, why I posed this question in Honda Civic Hatchback terms because I’ve been driving it since I was a senior in high school. And let me just admit that I’m just a few years north of high school graduation. And that Honda is currently running north of 240,000 miles!

So if you’re going to pursue a big dream, what are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to give up, and what are you going to cling tight to?

If you’re going to dream big, are you also going to be faithful in the small?

In your career, your relationships, your life—what’s going to be your Honda Civic Hatchback? Functional, yet not exactly something you’re pulling up to valet parking.

3. How do I stop networking and start “relationshipping”?

Networking events feel like going to prom all over again, except you didn’t even come with a date this time. And you might be feeling even more self-conscious than you did at seventeen. (I didn’t believe this was possible either!)

Yet, there’s nothing more important to invest in after college than your relationships. But let’s stop networking to make it happen. Let’s start relationshipping instead.

Let’s stop networking like a machine and start “relationshipping” like a person.

Some of the ways I define “relationshipping” is building relationships when you don’t “need” them. Meeting another person and being more focused on asking them good questions than you giving profound answers. Checking in on people and giving real, meaningful, compliments.

Basically, networking often feels like asking, “what can these people do for me?” Instead, relationshipping asks, “What can I do for them?”

4. Where’s the future of work headed, and what does having a successful career look like today?

A successful career path looks much different today than it did in the past. The days of climbing the corporate ladder to get to the top is now filled with broken rungs. I created a full diagram in 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties of what a successful career path looks like now — a strategic journey from island to island, picking up specific resources and skills along the way.

If you’re not changing your expectations of what today’s new career path looks like, then you might end up stranded on an island you never wanted to be on.

5. How do I make a choice when I don’t know what to choose?

Graduates today more than ever are overwhelmed with information. With research. With a million different sources, reviews, and searches we could do to find the perfect answer.

Yet, there is no perfect choice. No perfect path. Sometimes the most perfect path is the imperfect one that you’re willing to walk down.

So if you’re not sure what to do with the rest of your life, that’s normal. You’re not really supposed to. So instead of figuring out the rest of your life, let’s just focus on what you need to do tomorrow.

As Oprah once stated as her key advice for young people to ask themselves, “What’s my next right move?”

Make a choice that you’re going to make a choice.

Find your “I’m 77% sure” and give it a try. You won’t know how it’s all going to work out until you start doing the work.

Don’t worry about everyone’s “success” on social media. There’s an ugly side to every amazing picture they’re posting. Don’t let, what I call, Obsessive “Comparison” Disorder take over. Focus on writing your own story instead of trying to live someone else’s.

Climbing through your twenties can feel like being a pug trying to scale a mountain. It’s loud, ungraceful, and it feels like all eyes are on your slow climb.

But one tiny step after another, you’ll make it to the view you forgot you were climbing for. To everyone’s disbelief, including your own. I promise.

– cross walk

Time to spring clean your financial files

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Spring is in the air.

The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the temperatures are warming. Who doesn’t love this time of year? Not only does spring remind us of the beauty of the outdoors, but it also reminds us to get our homes organized—in other words, to do a little spring cleaning.

This year, though, while you are cleaning out the garage, shampooing carpet, and organizing closets, we suggest that you do a little spring cleaning in another area of your life—your money. Regardless of where you are on your journey to financial peace, you’ve got to stay organized to win with money.

Centuries ago, Solomon said, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). In other words, it’s important to know where things stand—and that takes organization. After all, if you don’t know where your stuff is, how in the world can you use it most effectively?

So what exactly does a financial spring cleaning look like? We have some suggestions:

Clean out file drawers

Do you really still need that cable bill from August 1999? Seriously? You need to keep old bills, bank statements, tax documents and other important papers for varying lengths of time. But utility bills, sales receipts for minor purchases, and ATM and bank deposit slips can be shredded after a few months.

Organize all of your financial files into one easily accessible place. Then determine what to shred and what to save. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve been holding on to.

Prune unnecessary expenses

Are you really getting your money’s worth with that gym membership? Do you really need 250 cable channels? Is it necessary to have a landline and a cell phone? While you’re organizing your file drawer this spring, take an in-depth look at your finances and see where you can cut back costs. This is especially important—and should be a top priority—if you are still working your way out of debt.

Update important documents

When was the last time you checked your car insurance? Your home insurance? Tax withholdings? Your will, 401(k) or Roth IRA? If it’s been awhile, then now is the time to make sure you have all the coverages and investments you need. What made sense two years ago might not work for you today. In the middle of all this spring cleaning, make sure you are protecting yourself, your family and your future!

You may not have flocks and herds, but God has given you some incredible financial and material blessings to manage. Don’t fall behind by letting them fall into a disorganized mess.

Spring is a great time to get re-energized and refocused on your financial situation before summer arrives with all its distractions. The small amount of time you spend now getting your financial house in order will pay off for you in the long run.

How will you apply these tips to your life?

– cross walk

Delighting in our children

April 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Recently, I read an article about a growing trend among mothers: they regret ever having children. It’s not that these mothers are sad or overwhelmed from time to time because of the commitment it takes to raise children, nor are they simply fearful because of the responsibility. No, these particular mothers mourn having their already birthed children. They feel trapped. They hate it with everything within them. Their children aren’t seen only as a burden and interruption from life, their children are a mistake. Most of us, thankfully, aren’t where these mothers are, I’d imagine for many of us we fall somewhere in between worshipping our children and thinking they are the center of our lives and desiring more free time and rest for ourselves. We can empathize with the women in the article in regards to those moments of feeling overwhelmed, but most of us aren’t likely mourning our children. But, what if I said that our children are for our joy? Could we accept that? Do we believe that?

I remember a time I dropped my son off at his school and yelled my usual through the rolled down window, “I love you. Make good choices. Obey your teacher.” As I began to roll up the window and drive away, my little first grader took his small hand to his mouth and blew me a kiss.

It was like everything stopped at that moment.

I realized how quickly this season would pass. Would he blow me a kiss when he’s 16 years old? I don’t know. I blew him a kiss back and he waved to me, mouthing the words “Bye, Mom.” I was overwhelmed. I wished I could freeze that point in time.

Sweet Ragamuffins

I like to call my children sweet ragamuffins. Motherhood is challenging. My kids don’t obey me every time I ask them to do something. They are rambunctious, loud, and messy. And they are also sweet. They are gifts. Like many moms, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything. What I think we can so often forget, though, is that motherhood isn’t a task to be checked off like the laundry. It is a calling.

Maybe the word “calling” makes you want to run and hide. For many, “calling” can sound as if motherhood is your only identity, that it’s all encompassing and you will never get a break from your endless responsibilities. This is not true. You are likely called to be a wife and church member and friend as well (and the list could go on). So motherhood is not your only identity; it is, however, a part of your identity. And there is a weight to that. Mothers are more than just mothers, but we are never less. God’s word instructs us to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I can’t think of a greater challenge given to us as parents. As one who is in the throes of raising and teaching young children, I am regularly reminded of my desperate need for Jesus.

Gifts to Enjoy

But I don’t think remembering the responsibility that we have to train our children is the best way we embrace and savor the short days we have with them. Remember that, “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Our children are not tasks to complete, but gifts to enjoy. And we enjoy them by remembering that they are truly gifts from God. Yes, even when they stand in the hall refusing to put away their socks, or when they throw their cereal on the floor, or when they make it almost impossible to complete a trip to the grocery store. Those are trials mothers and fathers face weekly and yes, even these things are gifts.

Paul, instructing Timothy to challenge the rich to put their hope in God instead of their wealth, reminds us that it is God who provides all things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). Our children aren’t meant to be checked off a list, they are to be delighted in. And as with every gift we receive and enjoy, we must be careful not to idolize our children. Only God should be worshipped. But what if we began to think of our kids as true gifts from God aimed at our enjoyment? Both in enjoyment of our kids and in God at work through them.

A Call to Treasure

It might seem like a funny connection, but I think of how much I enjoy looking at colorful birds at the zoo. They are exotic creatures, each with their unique beaks and a beautiful mosaic of feathers. The birds are a wonder of God’s creation, and he cares for them. But not more than he cares for us: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

In a similar way, I can think of many things I enjoy, but I value my kids more. I love looking into my kids’ precious eyes. I want to get into the world of their God-given personalities and take in their laughs and answer their questions. I want to enjoy them.

Maybe that’s precisely what the main thing of this parenting calling is all about. Maybe it’s not as much a call to train your kids as it is a call to train and treasure them.

Our children won’t be our little children forever. So, let’s enjoy and savor these days that God has given us. Our kids are his gifts to us, glimmers of his goodness, which leads us to say with C.S. Lewis, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary sparkles are like this!”

– cross walk

Snoop Dogg releases a gospel album, says He’s a born-again Christian

April 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Rap artist Snoop Dogg caused a stir recently when he released his first gospel album Bible of Love.

Snoop Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus Jr., has a past fraught with controversy and underhanded dealings, which has added to the skepticism many feel about his new album and assertion that he is a Christian.

As The Christian Post reports, Snoop Dogg has been accused of offering alcohol and marijuana to underage girls and he even bragged about prostituting young women.

As far as his religious beliefs, in 2009 he announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam, then in 2012 he became a Rastafarian. Now, he claims to be a born-again Christian.

When asked what he has to say to those who doubt his conversion, Snoop Dogg responded, “The devil is a liar. I thought church was supposed to welcome sinners. If you find someone trying to find their way back home, the natural thing would be to accept him with open arms. We not gonna throw stones while you trying to get right and walking back into the church house.

That’s what’s running people away from church right now as we speak,” he continued. “We’re trying to get people back in church with a different perspective of come as you are, show love. We show love, we give love.” Then, looking straight at the camera, he asked, “What about you? Have you checked your status? Are you going to Heaven? Why are you judging me? How much have you done for the Lord?”

– cross walk

7 of the worst things parents tell their kids

March 15, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

What we look for, what we believe, what we expect, what we seek, we will find. If we expect that our children will be trouble, if we verbalize it, not only do we find it even in places where it doesn’t exist, but we also put that thought into the minds of our children. Here are seven foolish things parents say that create poor expectations for both parent and child and cause the very things we are trying to avoid.

1. Belittling

“Johnny, how many times have I told you not to do these stupid things?”

“Johnny’s always messing up his schoolwork.”

This one isn’t a specific word or phrase but a series of things parent say, either in front of or to their children, that tend to humiliate or focus on what the child doesn’t do well. This embarrasses the child, who then concentrates more energy on the problem instead of the solution.

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Parenting isn’t for wimps. It’s an eighteen-year (or longer) tireless commitment that tests your patience and brings you to the edge of your sanity in sleep deprivation. This is why God, in his infinite wisdom, gives us nine months to prepare for babyhood and eighteen years to prepare our children for their adulthood. It’s understandable that parents sometimes get overwhelmed, but it’s important not to speak out of our frustration or anger. It’s imperative that we take care not to damage our children’s self-esteem by constantly pointing out their flaws, especially in front of others.

2. “Not now. I’m busy.”

Saying this frequently will give our children the impression that we either don’t have the time or won’t take the time for them when they need us. Moms are some of the busiest people on the planet, but we should always remember our most precious charge: our children. They should come first, and they should know that they come first. Not only should we moms not say this, but it’s equally important not to give this impression with our body language.

If children feel that we are too busy to talk to them, they will feel as if they don’t matter and will be less likely to come to us when they have a problem or a concern. This can be devastating when their concern is with us.

3. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

This is just a silly saying in my humble opinion. Yes, there are things adults can and should do that are not appropriate for children, but this saying goes far beyond that. What this often communicates to our children is that we have the freedom to make bad choices, but they do not. I’ve heard many parents use this saying as an excuse to make bad decisions they don’t want their children to make.

We are to set the example for our children. Fourteen-year-old Johnny gets in trouble for smoking and reminds Mom that she smokes. “Do as I say, not as I do!” just doesn’t cut it here. Instead of giving an order, explain why you started, why you wish you could quit, and why you don’t want the same for your son. That will make your case for you much more effectively than a mandate not to smoke.

4. “Those dreaded teen years!”

This is one of the most foolish things I hear parents say, especially recently. Did you know that until relatively recently the word teenager didn’t exist? People were children until they were adults; during their childhood, they were prepared to accept and successfully carry out the responsibilities of adulthood. While transition from childhood to adulthood can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be dreaded, and I wouldn’t speak it into existence by uttering this out loud!

“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Psalm 34:13).

5. “Because I said so!”

Okay, this one is actually the most foolish thing any parent ever said. I remember hearing this as a kid, and I remember thinking, that’s no answer! Just telling someone what to do or what not to do doesn’t teach him why he should/shouldn’t do it. Once he understands your reasoning, he may adopt your position, and then you’ll never have to say no to that again—because he will make the wise choice himself.

– cross walk

Hope when you’ve lost a child

March 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

If delivering a baby is the sort of universal marker for extreme pain, surely losing a child is the definition for the most extreme emotional pain we can experience.

I’ve shared tears with bereaved mommas suffering fresh loss and ones where the years had worn on. I’ve mourned my own loss (through miscarriage).

For most grieving parents, I think hope feels as far removed as a distant galaxy. Our emotional receptors are so full of pain, there’s just not room to feel much more than the grief we are processing. And yet, as children of God, there is always the presence of hope, even in those darkest moments when we cannot perceive it.

Here are three hope-centering truths to hold on to in the midst of grief over losing a child:

1. God is sovereign. God is good. God is love.

In any tragedy, our human perspective tempts us to dethrone our Lord. When we can’t feel His love (goodness, faithfulness, kindness, etc), we are prone to declare its absence or nonexistence.

That was Satan’s entire plan with all the loss he hurled down on Job. He planned to overwhelm Job with so much grief that even the memory of God’s goodness would be so removed from Job, that he would in turn renounce faith.

The truth we must hold on to is God’s character. When we aren’t actively experiencing the traits of His character, we are living in faith. This kind of grief is so intense it will require faith as we inhale and exhale. And the enemy will most likely make the most of this time – tempting our souls to retreat into unbelief.

Before God, before your family and friends, before all heaven watching, like Job, cover yourself in sackcloth, weep, mourn, but holdfast to your belief. It is the only real gold that will be with you when you have reached life’s finish line.

2. You are not defined by this loss.

The loss of a child comes in as many different scenarios as individuals. From the mom who lost her adult child from addiction to the mom who has suffered miscarriages, the threat for the loss to define you is enormous.

According to U.S. national statistics, the leading cause of child death between ages one and 14 is unintended injury. And it is simply human to require copious amounts of reminding yourself, and having others remind you of this, so that you don’t permit this grief to become who you think you are.

Mothering is so deep, so intimate, so personal. Even if it’s solely the profundity of the grief and there’s no way to connect yourself to any sense of fault, the grief all by itself is big enough to swallow you whole. While you grieve, blame and guilt are normal emotions. But when it is your child, it is so easy to blame yourself.

After the loss of our baby, I was consumed with guilt. I knew 100 percent it wasn’t what the Lord wanted me to feel or believe, but there it was. Bigger than me. Bigger than my ability to pray it away or “truth talk” it away. Me and this monster guilt lived together for some time, until eventually, the Lord who is bigger than any guilt we can experience, removed it. But there was an agonizing time where I waited on Him to rescue me from it.

I also had long term health effects from the miscarriage. They were (and as some remain, are still) the most unwelcome reminders of our loss. They impacted my ability to do the things I wanted to do, carry the responsibilities I wanted to carry, and changed parts of me against all effort to the contrary. So when I say you are not defined by this grief, don’t think I say it flippantly. I know the loss of a child can and often does change us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is a fact that you can die of a broken heart. After extreme stress, the heart muscle can suddenly be weakened with no other explanation for it beyond intense stress.

The loss of a child has been ranked as the most stressful event of the human experience. Studies have found that mothers in particular are prone to physical and physiological changes after the death of a child. Doctors refer to “Maternal Bereavement Effect” to explain the 329 percent increase in the “hazard of mortality” that follows a mother’s loss.

In every sense, the loss of a child deeply threatens to change and thus define us. Marriages and family dynamics often struggle as grief overshadows the relationships until the family itself is defined by the loss. There is so much to grief we can’t control but we can, at the very minimum, ask for prayer for protection for us and our relationships from being defined by the grief process.

It is a point of pondering that could be debated, but after the loss of David and Bathsheba’s son, we don’t see him lead his family as one would hope. While it is true that his sin brought certain consequences to him and his family, I’ve heard some Bible scholars mention that it was a sad turning point in his spiritual leadership. As if he sort of deflated and never fully stood back up all the way again.

I’m not dogmatically saying David’s grief caused him to half-heartedly lead his family. Perhaps his grief over his sin caused that more than grief over the death. Perhaps that’s not what happened at all. Maybe he was indeed fully restored within himself and his leadership, and it’s just not entirely spelled out in Scripture. But it is a reality that child loss, because it is so deep and so potentially defining, can derail the way we care for or connect with the rest of our family. And maybe David’s experience can serve as a warning for us.

You are defined by your God. It is part of His Lordship in your soul. It’s His place as your Creator. Your circumstances, no matter how big they are, cannot define you. Don’t make your grief your god by giving it that place. While losing your precious child is lasting and deep, it is not the whole of you.

3. You are not alone.

U.S records show that every year, in the US alone, more than 50,000 children die. That doesn’t include the parents who bury grown children from car crashes, addiction, suicide, cancer, and more. Statistics estimate young adult death to bring that total up to 220,000 plus people each year.

Those numbers don’t include miscarriage through infant death. Records show that more than one third of pregnancies miscarry before 20 weeks, stillbirths attribute another 26,000 losses, and infant mortality adds another 23,000 to that toll. This is just for the U.S. That’s a lot of people grieving the loss of their precious child.

Each circumstance brings its unique grief; whether you never knew your little one or loved them for decades, the loss remains the most profound kind our hearts carry. Some estimate that at least 20 percent of parents will bury their child before they pass away themselves.

While the numbers tell part of the story, they are of little comfort. I dearly hope there are people loving you through this valley. I hope others who have suffered deep loss before you can pray and walk you through this time. In grief, we are perhaps the least able to reach out for people, and yet we need them the most. Whether or not you feel supported by others at the moment, God sees you and deeply shares your pain.

The very first parents suffered the loss of two children, one who murdered his brother and one whose punishment sent him away. Job lost all of his children. All of them! David lost a little son and more than one adult son. These are just a few of the individuals in Scripture who lost children. And while God’s children writhe with the loss of their own dear children, He is not far off or unmoved.

In the New Testament, we see Jesus at two funerals. Both times He grieved and His grief moved Him to reach in with miraculous resurrection (Luke 7 and John 11). I think death disturbs our Lord so much that it always moves Him to action. Whether we can perceive it at the moment or not.

God the Father gave His one and only Son for our sin – sin that causes physical and spiritual death. You think He would have done all that if death didn’t move Him? He gave His Beloved Son for the very purpose of conquering death. So, if you can, lean into Your Lord who understands. Share the grief with Him and in it, share His sufferings (Romans 8:17). Let it teach you something about who God is, who willingly endured such pain on your behalf.

The last facet of not being alone for us to consider comes from Deuteronomy. In the last pages of the book, the Lord tells Moses he is nearing his final days. Moses has glimpsed the Promise Land, but won’t get to taste it. He has served faithfully and fervently, but not without flaw. That flaw would keep him from the Promised Land. So he and the Lord go up on top of the mountain to see the Promised Land from afar, and then God takes Moses to the True Promised Land in Heaven.

This sets hard on my heart. It feels unfair to Moses. He served through such hardship and to not get the Promised Land… oh, I don’t like that. And in the past, each time I read through that part of Scripture, I took up his offense before God.

In my personal grief, there have been moments that felt unfair and have been bigger than I could wrap my arms around. While I sought God during a time when a number of losses cascaded into our family, I found a key in this story that unlocked precious peace for me. God buried Moses. God Himself did it. When we face grief that feels insurmountably unfair or just simply too big for us, God understands, and He will bury it for us.

You are not alone. And you won’t finish this grieving alone either. God will finish it for you.

“I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

In the midst of your grief, I am praying the Lord’s comfort to surround you and His grace and truth to anchor your soul.

– cross walk

3 Dangerous “Honesty” apps our kids are using

March 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Most likely to succeed? Best smile? Cutest couple? These were questions once reserved for the high school yearbook. No more. Now, a new breed of massively popular apps targeted to teens lets them poll one another on everything from their new haircut to their popularity any time they get the urge for validation. (Read: All the time.) This may be troubling enough for some parents, but the truly disturbing part is that these “honesty apps” are designed to deliver opinions anonymously. Developers argue that feedback is more honest if it’s anonymous. And judging from the near overnight popularity of these apps, teens seem to agree. The result? Honesty app users can posit questions such as “Am I pretty?” and be inundated with brutally “honest” answers, often with no ability to reply or block the person who has posted the response.

Here are three of the most popular “honesty apps,” along with everything you need to know about them.

#1. ASKfm: A Tool for Cruel?

What is ASKfm?

One of the original honesty apps, ASKfm is a social network that lets users anonymously ask / answer questions. People can’t see who is following them, but they can see the number of followers they have.

Who has ASKfm?

With more than 150 million users around the world, it’s estimated that 42% of its users are under age 17.

How does ASKfm work?

After creating an account, users can post an anonymous question. Then people who they are following can respond with a text, photo or video. Questions are asked anonymously, however answers to questions are identified by username and photo. ASKfm lets all users post their own questions. While many of them are positive in nature, not all are, and many request feedback on personal appearance with provocative images.

Why is ASKfm dangerous?

Founded in 2010 by Latvian brothers Ilja and Mark Terebin, AskFM was blamed for a rash of teen suicides. In 2014, ASKfm was purchased by the owners of Tinder and Ask.com amid promises to invest “millions” into improving safety and to reduce cyberbullying. Its recently released feature Shoutout allows users to ask questions to fellow ASKfm-ers who are geographically close to them. This includes both people you follow, and those you don’t. It also means that you can receive questions from people who happen to be in your vicinity (example: your school, neighborhood, live music concert or other event).

What should I do if my child has an ASKfm account?

Be aware that there are no private accounts on ASKfm. Your child will not be able to see who is following them, and everything they post can be seen by everyone. Explain this to your child. It is also critical that your child understands that their profile is public and searchable beyond ASKfm. Their profile picture, background picture and posts can be found on Google. Given this, it is critical that their profile name does not contain their first or last name, even though the app will automatically generate their user name with their real name when creating an account. If your child links their ASKfm account to their Facebook account, friends will still be able to find their profile.

In order to disable Shoutout, follow the directions below:

From your child’s device, open the ASKfm app and tap upper left “hamburger” menu.
Tap Settings
Tap Account
Deselect Allow Shoutout

#2. TBH: Mostly Positive – For Now

What is the tbh app?

Released in August, the tbh app (which is short for “to be honest”) already has more than 5 million downloads, according to its developers and was just acquired by Facebook . The free app connects to your entire contact list, and then invites these people to anonymously partake in pre-written feel-good quizzes. Examples: Best shoulder to lean on; Makes you laugh the hardest; Should DJ every party, etc… When chosen to be in someone’s poll, you earn gems that can then be used to unlock additional features in the app.

Who has tbh?

Middle and high-schoolers are downloading the apps in droves. In fact, tbh is currently holding the Number 1 spot on iTunes for a free app, ahead of YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram.

What’s good about tbh?

The tbh app takes has mostly factored out the negativity found in other anonymous apps. The polls are by turns clever and silly, and use enough teen slang to feel relevant and fun to kids. Furthermore, users can customize their own polls, but they won’t go up immediately. Instead, the app must approve each poll before it’s published, in order to ensure that the quiz is uplifting/silly in nature and not mean spirited.

What’s bad about tbh?

While the polls may be feel-good in nature, parents may not feel as positive about the fact that the tbh app links to users’ entire contact list. Worse, it prompts kids to not simply select their grade level in school, but also to select their actual school. This is ostensibly so that polls will include fellow students, but that may be too much information for many parents. Furthermore, unlike other social media apps where you can choose not to connect to your entire contact list, that option does not exist with tbh.

What’s in store for tbh?

For now, there is no direct messaging among users, but that could change in the future. And if that’s the case, its positivity-only promise could be hard to keep.

#3. Sarahah: Possibly Most Dangerous of All

What is the Sarahah?

Translated from Arabic as “frankness” or “candor,” this is another “honesty” app that is considered by many to be the most likely to facilitate cyberbullying. Teens can connect this app to their Snapchat account and then send and receive completely anonymous “feedback” to and from friends and strangers.

Who has Sarahah:

With almost 100 million registered users, its biggest market is now the U.S.

How does Sarahah work?

Unlike ASKfm, where users receive anonymous questions, with Sarahah, you receive anonymous in coming messages from friends and other users. And while anonymous compliments are common, there have also been reports of anonymous death threats and sexual harassment. Unlike tbh, comments are entirely unmonitored. Receive an upsetting message? There’s no reply function on the app.

Recent changes to Sarahah

The company recently added a new tool to let users block messages from senders who may have sent offensive messages. When blocking a contact, Sarahah won’t reveal who sent the message but will make sure they are not able to send any more.

What Can You Do about It?

We’re well aware that no parent is able to physically supervise their children online anymore. For parents looking for a safe way to monitor their kids’ phones without restricting total access, there’s a new app developed specifically for that purpose: Forcefield.

It offers features such as an “App Sleeper,” allowing you to remotely turn off apps, games, and social networks on all of your kids’ mobile devices from your own phone. It also includes an activity report, “safe browsing” mode, a curated library of reviewed websites, an app report, and even the ability to recieve continually updated location reports on your child’s whereabouts.

– cross walk

How to help your grandchildren become strong Christians

March 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

As a grandparent, you play an important role in your grandchildren’s lives – so important, in fact, that your influence on them has eternal significance. Making the most of this opportunity to invest in their lives will lead to great rewards.

Here’s how you can become the best grandparent you can be:

1. Answer the call.

Realize that becoming a grandparent isn’t just another season of your life; it’s a God-given calling. Take full advantage of the awesome opportunity to influence another generation of children in your family. Even though you likely have more freedom to live the lifestyle you want than your own grandparents of old did (better health, more money, etc.), you share the same responsibility to be committed grandparents. View your investment in your grandchildren as one of the best investment opportunities you’ll ever have, because it will pay off in significant ways that have eternal value. Don’t let the comforts and freedoms of an empty nest or retirement cause you to neglect your grandchildren. Don’t let other noble causes (like ministry work through your church) divert too much of your time and energy away from your grandchildren. Decide to stay connected, emotionally engaged, and personally involved in your children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Ask God to give you a clear understanding of the great potential good that could occur if you fully invested in your grandchildren’s lives.

2. Develop key assets.

Ask God to help you develop qualities that will make you an invaluable asset to your children and grandchildren: maturity, experience, perspective, a willingness to help out, and decision to love unconditionally. Make a deliberate decision to learn from life and keep growing, especially spiritually (such as through reading and living out biblical truth). Use what you’ve learned to encourage and support your family members. Approach problems with calmness and hope. Be willing to help your children with your grandchildren by giving them time, offering them relief from their parenting duties for some much-needed breaks, serving as a sounding board for them to try out parenting ideas (without giving them unsolicited advice), and assist them with money in cases of true need, as God leads you. Love your children and grandchildren so much that you commit your will to their needs and best interests, regardless of the cost.

3. Model your relationship with your grandchildren on God’s relationship with you.

Just like God does with you, show your grandchildren kindness, love, patience, and acceptance – no matter what they say or how they behave. Create a comfortable affinity between your heart and theirs by giving them grace. Grant them the same freedoms that God grants to you: the freedom to be different (by refraining from passing moral judgments on what they do or say that, while not biblically wrong, aren’t what you personally agree with), the freedom to vulnerable (by making it safe for them to share their doubts and fears, and to work on their inadequacies with you), the freedom to be candid (by making it safe for them to openly and honestly share their thoughts and feelings with you), and the freedom to make mistakes (by responding graciously when they do).

4. Give them a blessing.

Bless your grandchildren whenever you can, by joining their parents in helping to meet their three key inner needs: a secure love, a significant purpose, and a sufficient hope. Bless your grandchildren with a secure love by letting them know that you accept them as they are, assuring them that you will always do your best to love and honor them, and giving them plenty of affection (such as hugs). Bless them with a significant purpose by regularly affirming them, applauding the things they do well, encouraging them when they’re working hard to overcome challenges, giving them your attention, boosting their confidence in who they are and why they matter, set clear moral boundaries to give them accountability, praise them when they honor those boundaries, and lovingly correct them when they don’t.

Bless them with a significant hope by helping them discover the ultimate hope found in a relationship with Jesus; helping them recognize and develop their God-given abilities; encouraging them to try new things, think on their own, and stretch themselves to their limits; and helping them succeed in their various endeavors. Pray for them often. Refuse to show favoritism for one grandchild over another. Approach every point of contact with your grandchildren as an opportunity to bless them in some way, spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

5. Leave a good legacy.

Realize that you’re determining your legacy every day by the choices you make about how to use your resources (time, energy, talents, etc.) and how to respond to the various opportunities God brings your way. Make the most of your chances to do something good in your grandchildren’s lives that will live on after you die. If you have regrets over opportunities you’ve squandered in the past to be a good parent, ask God to bring the healing that’s needed – in your own attitudes and actions, and in your relationships with your children and grandchildren. Repent of your sins, seek forgiveness from God and your children, and forgive yourself after God has forgiven you. Expect that problems in your relationships with your children that took years to form won’t go away quickly; be patient, allowing your children to gradually rebuild trust in you that will hopefully lead to restoration.

Learn how to be an ally to your sons-in-law or daughters-in-law; don’t do anything that would alienate them, and do everything you can to build close relationships with them. Respect your grandchildren’s parent’s standards and rules, even if you disagree. Never undermine their parenting authority or the unity in their marriage. Make sure you speak positively about both of them. Bring honor to your family’s reputations by living with integrity, both publicly and privately. Make decisions with an eternal perspective in mind. Demonstrate what faith in action looks like to your grandchildren who are watching you.

6. Carry a torch.

Shine the light of the Gospel into your grandchildren’s lives by incorporating biblical truth into every part of your life. Model a faithful life for them, so they can clearly see the light of hope in a dark world. Make right moral choices and lovingly help your grandchildren develop the discernment they need to make right choices themselves. Update yourself on your grandchildren’s culture, becoming informed about their movies, music, video games, fashions, etc. so they’ll know you understand their world and can speak into it in relevant ways.

7. Set standards.

Use your lifetime of knowledge and wisdom to help your grandchildren set a clear course for their lives. Help them develop these key character traits: contagious faith (by showing them how to take God out of a box and build their whole lives around Him), consistent integrity (by showing them how to do the right thing even when no one is looking), practical poise (by helping them act appropriately in various situations), personal discipline (by showing them the power of self-denial and self-control to achieve what they want), steadfast endurance (by helping them keep going when many others are telling them to give up), and inspirational courage (by showing them how to do the right thing even when they’re afraid). But as you set standards, be careful not to push unsolicited advice on your grandchildren. Instead, earn the right to be heard by developing close relationships with them in which they’re naturally inclined to ask for your advice.

8. Deal with divorce.

If your children go through a divorce, do all you can to help your grandchildren. Find an outlet for your pain and support from others so you don’t add to your children’s and grandchildren’s pain, don’t torture yourself with regrets and guilt, ask God to give you an objective perspective on the situation so you don’t take sides (especially around your grandchildren), let your grandchildren know that they can trust you to listen without criticizing them as they process their emotions, assure them that your love for them will never change – despite the change in their circumstances, pray for them and ask your friends to pray for them as well, protect your legal rights of access to them, let them know that the divorce wasn’t their fault and that you won’t abandon them, answer their questions, always speak positively about both of their parents, and remain a calm presence in the midst of their turmoil.

9. Respond wisely if your grandchildren come to live with you.

If your grandchildren ever join your household for any reason (such as when their parents are going through a temporary crisis, or if they can’t care for them permanently), trust God to help you every step of the way. Deal honestly with your disappointment from having this responsibility limit your leisure and increase your stress. But don’t take your anger out on your grandchildren; remember that they’re the innocent victims of their circumstances. Don’t make them feel guilty about the sacrifices you’re making. Instead, welcome them warmly into your home. Establish reasonable standards and discipline, working with your grandchildren’s parents if they’re still involved in their lives. Be a grandparent first, before acting as a parent, and keep hope alive that their parents will come to take over their full parenting responsibilities again.

Hold the parents accountable for whatever financial and time contribution they’re capable of making, and seek help from whatever assistance programs you can find from the government and charities if you need it. Ask other family members like siblings, aunts, uncles, and other grandparents to pitch in to help. Find a support group for others in your situation, and take advantage of childcare and kids’ Sunday School classes through your church.

10. Love step-grandchildren and adopted grandchildren.

Respond to these family members with just as much love as you would give a traditional grandchild. Ask God to give you His perspective and view your step-grandchildren and adopted grandchildren as vital parts of your family. Refuse to express disappointment or blame over the circumstances or people who brought about your family configuration. Give your new grandchildren plenty of time to figure out where you fit into their lives, and be gentle with them. Speak respectfully about the other adults in their lives. Pray for each of your grandchildren often.

11. Spoil your grandchildren constructively.

While it’s great to want to give generously to your grandchildren, be sure to obey two basic rules when doing so. Make sure what you’re doing is: okay with their parents, and helping your grandchildren grown into better people. Consider giving gifts of time, character building, and prayer rather than just money or things. Don’t undermine your grandchildren’s ability to learn the responsibility that comes from working hard and earning their rewards. And don’t undermine their parents’ authority to teach them that important lesson.

12. Intervene instead of interfering.

Recognize that intervention becomes interference when you push you advice on your children when they aren’t asking for it, when you criticize them in front of your grandchildren, or when you undermine their authority. Diffuse or prevent tension by distinguishing between morally absolute values mentioned in the Bible and personal values that are simply a matter of preference – and choosing not to get upset when your grandchildren’s actions or appearance don’t align with your personal values. If a family crisis requires you to intervene in your grandchildren’s lives, be sure to think and pray about how best to do so before taking action. Ask God to give you the grace you need to resolve conflicts well whenever they come up between you and your children or grandchildren. Don’t put pressure on your children or grandchildren to visit you on holidays like Christmas; give them the freedom to work out whatever schedules are best for them.

If you have a grandchild with special needs, get to know his or her condition well and make sure your expectations for your grandchild are realistic.

13. Babysit wisely.

Be willing to babysit your grandchildren when you can, and do your best to care for them well while they’re with you. Set clear boundaries with your grandchildren’s parents so they’ll know how often and how long you’re available to babysit, and you won’t feel resentful. Before you get together with your grandchildren, have a plan for how to use your time with them in fun and meaningful ways. Protect your grandchildren when they visit you by making sure your house is safe for them (such as by placing medicines and cleaning solutions out of reach) and making sure you’re prepared in case of an accident (such as by having a first aid kit on hand and knowing how to perform CPR). Ask their parents to let you know their schedules, needs, rituals, etc., and show respect for them. Talk with their parents about how to handle discipline whenever you need to correct them for something. Respect the parents’ rules, if you don’t agree with them.

14. Connect with teenage grandchildren.

Know that you can still enjoy close relationships with your grandchildren even when they become teenagers. Just keep in mind that you should accept them for who they are, be patient with them, take the initiative to find out about what’s going on in their lives (such as by asking them thoughtful questions), and getting to know their culture so you can engage in discussions that are relevant to them.

15. Reach out across long distances.

If you live a long distance away from some or all of your grandchildren, keep in touch as often as you can through e-mails, phone calls, letters, notes, exchanging digital photos, etc. Try to visit them for the celebrations and milestones in their lives, like holidays, recitals, baptisms, and graduations.

– cross walk

3 hard lessons you learn on the journey of parenting

March 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

The day my son left for college I thought my heart had just been ripped from my chest. And I don’t say that because it sounds dramatic and makes for a great read. I mean, it seemed like my world would never be the same. I had been planning for this day for months, well…years. I knew it would come, but when it did, it was much harder than I had even imagined. It all began the first day of his senior year of high school. He drove his sisters to school, as he had for several years prior, and when they left the driveway, the tears streamed down my face. I knew it was the beginning of the end. Then, there was Senior Night for his football team and later his basketball team, and more tears flowed. With every passing event over the next few months, the looming anxiety of his certain departure from my home became ever more present.

The weekend before he left for college we took him shopping for dorm room gear – bed sheets, towels, toiletries, and the like. I fought back tears the entire time. (By this time, the entire family was sick of my tears). The night before he left, the family flocked into his room and helped him sort everything he owned into piles. We packed suitcases and duffle bags. We laughed about old times and told stories about when he got caught sneaking around. And after everyone had gone to bed, I knocked on my son’s door and asked if I could come in his room and just sit. We didn’t say much, just idle chit-chat, but I needed to just be there with him.

The next morning we loaded two cars to head to college. Before we left, my husband asked our son if we could talk. We took him into the living room and sat down. My husband began to read a four-page letter of how much our son meant to us, how honored we were to be his parents, the significance of his role in the Kingdom of God, and our hopes for his future. Though they tried to fight them, tears welled up in both my son’s and husband’s eyes. We made the short drive to his campus, unloaded his things, and within an hour, drove away without him. On the way home, we stopped for lunch with our daughters and when I ordered, the tears came and came and came. The tears didn’t stop coming for weeks, and then months.

Nothing is natural about letting go of the hand of the little boy that you birthed, reared, rocked, spanked, and encouraged for the last eighteen years. Nothing. It seemed I had been teaching him for the last many years to learn to be independent and let go of my hand, only to realize that the one who would struggle with the release would be me, not him. Letting go of our children as they age into adulthood is one of the hardest things we will ever do, as moms. We feel comfortable kissing boo-boos and cleaning up spilled milk. There’s not much comfortable about letting them go it alone, but it is necessary.

For you see, it is the natural order of things. It is God’s intention for our adult children to move on, leave the nest, learn, grow, become strong men and women of God, and be productive with their lives. Don’t hinder their life’s fulfillment by being the parent that cannot let go.

This journey of letting go has led to me learning a few facts along the way, and I thought I’d share them with you:

1. They will make mistakes, and that is okay. Part of my inability to let go of my young adult children was the fear that my children would not be perfect, wouldn’t measure up, or life would get hard, and they wouldn’t handle it well. It’s hard to even admit that to you now, because I cloaked that fear with the façade of legitimate concern. I told my Christian friends that I had given it all to God, but the truth was, I was secretly fretting day and night. Our children’s mistakes are life lessons, tools that equip them. No more. No less.

2. God loves your children more than you do. We know this in theory, but to embrace this truth and trust God with his plans for them is hard. God created them and knew them before they were even formed in our wombs (see Jeremiah 1:5) and this same God loves them more than comprehension. He gave them to us. It’s baffling to me, yet reassuring to know that my God, that God who formed Heaven and Earth, is the same God who is caring, leading, guiding and directing my children.

3. You will get over it. I cried about my son’s departure probably much longer than I should have, and I had spontaneous tears even after I stopped the daily tear flow. But I can say to you now, I am learning to let go. My son is a young adult, as now also is my daughter. Their departures from the nest didn’t kill me or hinder God’s plans for me. If anything, it has created a new journey of self-discovery in me and a deeper exploration of who God is and how his love abounds for his people.

I will not tell you that I don’t eagerly wait by the phone if I think my children are going to call or explode with excitement when they are coming home, but the fear of letting them go no longer disables me.

– cross walk

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