Keeping your Child's Heart through the Teen Years--it starts when they are born!

Durnstein, Austria

Traveling is a sort of hobby with me and with our family. Starting out in missions so many years ago, and having our books in 6 languages, keeps us going internationally, and hopping from country to country.

However, when I have the privilege of choosing a place to travel that feels like home and suits my soul, I go back to Austria, a sort of second home to me. As I travel in many other countries and big cities, the evidence of American culture is all around me--I could almost be in any other American city--there are McDonald's everywhere, Apple stores, Kentucky Friend Chicken signs, IPhone ads, Starbucks--the draw of the material culture of America has been so powerful that I see its effect everywhere I go.

Yet, when I go to Austria, though some of those marketing ploys are obvious in places, Austria is yet little changed by the Western materialism, as its historical culture and values is stronger than the values that would be imposed upon it. In other words, Austria, with the hearts carved on wood, the mountain chalets and piles of wood for the wood-burning stoves, coffee cafes,the flowers at the tables with pristine white table cloths, the strong Austrian coffee in dainty, real porcelain cups, the small glass of water and the quiet cafes where people talk for hours, the cobblestone streets--the predictable order and clean streets and good service--so many things never change, and the strength of such stability is a comfort and strong balm to my soul.  The culture has retained its strength.

(As an aside, Sarah and I had coffee out every afternoon we were in Austria and I only saw two people who had cell phones out or ipads or computers, during the whole time we were there--At every other cafe people talked, eyeball to eyeball and just shared one another's company--it was not a gathering of machines, but personal friends sharing minds and hearts.There was a blatant lack of media present in the cafes--though, of course, all use their cell phones and computers elsewhere.)

How does this apply to Family culture? The culture of the world--the music, movies, moral values or lack thereof, sexual revolution calls out to our children every day. Teenagers must grow into adults and learn to own their lives and values and convictions in order to be strong healthy adults. And the cultural impact of cell phones, facebook and websites adds a magnetism to the cultural values of teens and young adults that would draw their hearts away from the spiritual and moral underpinnings of home and family and church.

What to do? First, we must recognize that the desire for teens to have friends is healthy and from God and it is normal and good for our children to want community. Teens  are on the pathway of growing into adults so that they can form their own families eventually, and find a living and live their own life story. So how do we retain their hearts throughout their lives?

We make our own family culture and traditions and community and home pleasure stronger, more powerful and more fun, and more satisfying, than that of the world culture that is calling out to them. Personal relationship must be cultivated through all the traditions--not dependency on time-filling media at the center, but focussed, deep relationships that say, "I love you. I know you. I validate you. I am listening to you and I care for your thoughts and dreams."

That is the lesson I learned in Austria. Even as the Austrian culture has maintained most of its cultural values and strength against the onslaught of America's influence, so our children can retain our family cultures if we make them stronger influences than the world.

Pleasure, deep love and close friendship is at the center of life.

Family culture is comprised of the rhythms of life kept throughout the weeks; (for us it is a daily tea, coffee or hot chocolate afternoon time, devotions in the morning, hot  candlelight dinner together each night,  piles of book baskets and magazines everywhere, loud, daily discussions on every topic, back scratches, homemade treats always awaiting them and their friends in our home, all kinds of friends greeted and intentionally welcomed, Sunday morning feast, Saturday night pizza and movie every week; me making hot breakfast and homemade bread and music every morning, candlelight on tables, read alouds together evenings, game nights, seasonal parties and treasure hunts and car and scavenger hunts for teens); the traditions we keep on holidays, (spoiling the children on birthdays--the morning cinnamon rolls, family affirming and pouring words of life and appreciation and prayers on birthdays, shepherd's meal on Christmas, feast on Thanksgiving, monthly dinners in our home with close family friends, fireworks and lake gatherings on 4th of July, family day and hikes every year, every month no matter what dinners with our history group;  the activities we invest in in momentous occasions--(whole family support for recitals, speech tournaments, awards ceremonies, sports activities, rite of passage teen dinner, sending off graduation ceremony at 16 with the closest of family and friends, girl's club, boy's outings each week, working side by side in national conferences for 16 years as a family project).

Family culture is built from the time they are born into your home--the life that is crafted, takes years to perfect, but builds strong roots.

The point is, we have so much fun and life going on in our home and so many invisible threads from our hearts to our children's, that the pull of home and the deep connections and friendships we share with our children is a stronger pull than that of the culture that would seek to draw them. Our family culture, values and commitment is much stronger and more satisfying to their souls than the lure of their culture. Our ties to each other are strong.

This kind of culture takes a lot of work, investment of time and emotional care, and creativity, and yet, it is a work of art for the mom who would bring life, beauty, love, grace-giving atmosphere into the warp and woof of the fiber of her home, so that every day brings life and gives life to the heart mind and soul. There are, of course, seasons when traditions fall by the wayside, as life happens and emergencies and exhaustion can, for a time, take our rhythms away. Yet, if the rhythms are established deeply, they are always there, just below the surface. I have had to cut back on public commitments and answering email and comments so often over the years, because I know that family culture cannot be dropped, ever, if I am to retain the souls of my children at home, with the Lord, close to our hearts. This is the work of heaven and home.

To ignore the pull and draw of the world, is to ignore the battle strategy of Satan. So we must outwit him and be stronger in our own battle plan. Each child is different and does not conform to the family culture without the foundation of love. Yet, if we are to hold hearts faithful, we must aim intentionally and work diligently and wisely to be used by the Holy Spirit to keep their hearts strong, protected and sure.


This week, in celebration of Mother's Day, we have several giveaways to moms at!

Please come by and celebrate with us and tell your friends, too.