When Our Story Intersects With the Faceless

by | Jan 27, 2012 | Five Minute Friday

Seated among the halo’s of wisdom scattered throughout the high school auditorium, I listen to the statistics from the principal. How seventy percent of his students don’t live in a nuclear family and the systemic disconnect of parents leaves teenagers alone to navigate life’s journey, fuels emotional and  spiritual holes large as the Grand Canyon.

And when he goes on to say that loving God, being a Christian is who he is. That a Bible lays permanently on the table in his office at all times, for anyone who comes seeking. It is a tender moment. The tears ebb gentle like the sea at sunset.

Because I am one of those kids.

I know Christ redeems.

Empathy spreads out like a blanket over me and I remember what it is like to play my instrument for the parents of friends, not my own. To sit waiting for hours on the curb of the high school parking lot after everyone is gone. Wear the same two pairs of pants and three shirts for a whole season. Dream nightmares of law enforcement taking my mother away for selling illegal drugs grown in our back yard.

A tender moment of realization seated there on that bouncy theater seat.

That God answered years of fearful nighttime prayers. Prayers for rescue, safety and provision. Fulfilled the longing of my heart for parents that were like the ones I watched interact with their kids at basketball games, school programs, on field trips, at sleepovers – when I got a mother-in-law.

I thank God for the opportunity to be that kind of parent to my own kids.

Meanwhile, I will say yes to investing in one of those kids like me. God is in the business of transformed lives and I long to see the beauty of His redemption, because our identity lives outside of our circumstances. It resides in the one who made us.

Have you ever been a mentor to a teenager? Tell me about it. The challenges and joys.



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  1. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Ah, yes. A friend of my daughter’s, whose household was fractured and fragmented.
    (When I was 15, if I returned home late, I was in for some serious attitude adjustment, delivered via an “I’m disappointed in you” chat with Dad. This young lady was told to find somewhere else to spend the night if she wouldn’t be home on time. Anywhere else.)

    She was 18 when she came to us. She’s a young woman now with a family of her own. An intact family. She overcame despite my sometimes clumsy efforts to guide her, to grow her.

    I remember a time when we (or at least I) addressed basic manners: “Don’t walk into a room talking. Take a moment to see if you’re interrupting. Swallow your food before you speak. Ask for dishes to be passed; don’t reach clear across the table.” Yup. I had a whole improvement plan outlined. Yikes.

    Finally, in tears, she said to me: “The only reason [my daughter] Elaine is like that is because you MADE her that way!”

    Those words taught me a lesson that I carry to this day, about the differences between leading, coaching, and chiseling at people.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Sheila, Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. What a treasure. And yes, there is a fine line between leading, coaching and chiseling at people. The way we love people walks along a cliff sometimes, we don’t know when what we do pushes them over or keeps them steady. I pray that God use my mouth for his glory,ordinary conversations that bless people. And I am sure you were a bright spot in the life of that girl all those years ago. I had a few people like you in my life and I am so grateful.

      • Sheila

        Thank you, Shelly. It was my privilege, truly. This I know: She was, and remains, a bright spot in mine.

  2. Dea Moore

    I could click off their names because they are so close to my heart—the girls I mentored when they were away from home in college. Most are all grown-up now. They all were in my life for different reasons as I look back on our times together. I may have given them something of value as a friend, mentor— but as I look back maybe they gave me more.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Dea, I can imagine you were quite a blessing to those college girls. And I agree, I think that what I receive when I coach people is such a gift. I learn more about God, myself and humanity every time.

  3. dianewbailey

    Yes tender is the perfect word. Each time I hear a redemption story, I fall in love with Him all over again.

  4. Sharon O

    wow I loved Sheila’s writing.
    I can allow myself to be both, the wondering ‘child’ wishing for someone to care deeply and I can also be the mentor knowing sometimes all they want is to be noticed. For a season I mentored junior high girls, I felt they were the most likely to act out and be unwise with choices and pressure.
    We all can be leaders in some way or other, just to realize we are being watched is a great reminder. (my own grand daughter is 12 now)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Sharon, I think at the core of each one of us is the need to be loved and know we are loveable. No matter what our age and circumstance. Our stories inspire others, even when we think them mundane, uninteresting. Just like the one Sheila told in the comment box! Inspiring!

  5. Celeste A.

    When I was a SS teacher, I soon realized that the teens were tired & not much into communicating. so, since working with food was my job, I began to get up early, bake some muffins, lug my coffee maker to church and have it set up before they came. The coffee cups stood next to the stack of Bibles. That was some time ago. One of the teens, the Ministers son, told me just the other day, that this is just one of the things he recalled about our class, the teaching and the muffins.
    I was a driving teacher for a time and most of the time the kids just wanted someone to talk with.
    This is obviously something I think about as we anticipate the adoption.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      If we can just get past the behaviour on the outside knowing that the intrinsic needs on the inside are common to us all. It’s not always easy. And we never know how what we do or say will impact someone. Like your muffins!

  6. Megan Willome

    I love how this ended with the gift of your mother-in-law!

    I’m not a mentor to teens–except my own. I hope.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, I am so thrilled to get a personal visit from the birthday girl! Hope you have had a good day and feel loved by all those words written about you. I have only mentored adults so its new to me too. But maybe the one in my house is good preparation! Have a great weekend.

  7. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    How on earth did it take me so long to find my way to your blog? I need your words. I need to be reminded, over and over, that the gospel is true, that God does indeed redeem; that the truths I profess to believe aren’t just theoretical notions. My husband spends time with some of the young men in our church who don’t have a dad, just doing guy stuff with other guys. I like hanging out with some of the young women who attend college nearby because I know how important it was to me to have faithful Christians invest in me at that age.

    I’m so glad I met you here, online. Truly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks for visiting again Nancy. I can imagine you are quite a blessing to those college gals.

  8. tara@pohlkottepress

    the two years I spent as a junior high youth leader as an intern right after highschool are some of my fondest memories. this is beautiful as always…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My daughter is helping out with the junior high girls now that she is in highschool. She really enjoys it. My husband did a short stint as an interim youth pastor at our church in Phoenix years ago. My fondest memory is going on a youth retreat in the California mountains when my daughter was a toddler. The highschool kids took care of her almost the whole time. It was like having their very own baby doll to play with. Hope you have a great weekend with your family Tara!

  9. Sandra Heska King

    Beautiful, tender story, Shelly. I worked with junior high kids years ago. And when my daughter was going through her rough period in high school, we reached out to her friends–also going through rough periods. We’ve lost track of them now, burned by some, but I can only hope that God has used our time together for their good.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You look too young to have had a teenager all ready! Those teen years are so trying, even more reason why they need some security and mentors in their lives. Thanks for sharing a bit of your experience.

  10. Katie

    Some of my most life-changing moments have come in the midst of mentoring. These girls are reaching out for older, wiser ladies to guide them on the way. It’s a gift for them AND for us! God constantly brings them into my world, even if it’s only for a short time, and He blesses me every single time. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Katie, your comments give me hope. Hope of what God will do in me as I lean in beyond myself to give to someone else. And what a blessing you are to give this way. Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

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