Parenting is about as simple as refueling a fighter jet at 30,000 feet. At some point, no matter how hard you try, you are going to disappoint your child. Here's some simple advice for when that happens.Read More
My little boy is a Lego-maniac. He's only six-years-old, but he's got a brilliant imagination and is meticulous with the details. At least once a month, his grandmother takes him to a "build night" at the local Lego store. Forthe first few months, on build nights, Ben would get a small kit and follow the instructor's directions precisely. Eventually, he started bringing extra packages home, one of us adults would supervise and guide him as he pieced the characters, airplanes, and superheroes together. Building Lego's with Ben reminds me a lot of my journey as a spiritual misfit.
For Christmas, I bought Ben a Lego "blockhead" (great name, right?) of the Beast from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Sitting with my son through the construction was a great chance to have some quality time with the little boy I adore so much.
At first, things were going great. My son was following the booklet, section by section, piece by piece. The longer Ben worked, I started to notice an interesting tension between his excitement over what was coming to life, and his exhaustion over not being able to follow such detailed diagrams.
But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do. (Matthew 18:6-7)
We were about 80% complete with building the Beast when Ben realized he'd put one piece in the wrong place. It couldn't have been any bigger than 2cm x 2cm, but that one out-of-place Lego messed up the entire construction. If you've been following my blog for the past few years, you know my spiritual journey has mirrored that of little Ben and the Lego's.
Eventually, Ben lost his temper and smashed his brand-new construction to bits. It wasn't perfect, and to my son, if it's not perfect: it's worthless. I've been there, trying to jump through the hoops of manmade religion. I've exhausted myself, attempting to live up to every unrealistic expectation of religious leaders and armchair theologians. For a while, I became an angry Deconstructionist, too.
If you've had a similar experience, stubbornly seeking the approval of the institutional church, but only becoming more disenfranchised and disillusioned, I hear you. If you have more questions than answers, me too. I have been angry, frustrated, and worn out.
As a spiritual misfit, I find solace in the words of Jesus:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30)
After a while, my son calmed down and wiped his angry tears. In the process, Ben learned three lessons I hope he clings to the rest of his life:
- Manmade rules aren't for everyone.
- Whatever has been crushed can be restored.
- Everyone belongs, not everything fits.
Looking for more?
Jon Scott and I had a great conversation on The Holy Heretics Podcast today. The title of the episode is "Faith...I doubt it!" If you are looking for a faith that embraces the gray areas of spirituality, listen to this podcast episode today!
- Is Your Faith Water or Cement?
- I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened...
- Wholeness in a Time of Polarization
I vow to let go of past failures and strengthen what remains so I can be a better version of myself each day. Not let go of them completely, as in forget them, but take my fear, shame, mistakes and misgivings, and put them under my feet.Read More
On Father's Day 2017, I had the incredible honor of speaking at Unity of Birmingham on the truth about parenting, recovery, and messy grace. The title of my talk is, "Eat Your Heart Out, James Dobson," and I got really honest for a few minutes as we discussed the messiness of life, faith, parenting, and more.
I started the talk with 4 words that changed my life...
Parenting, Recovery, and Messy Grace
Life is not one-size-fits-all. Neither is parenting or marriage or faith. And recovery from a suicide attempt is hard work. But I have learned in the past five years that it is absolutely worth it.
My family may not look like the subject of a Focus on the Family book by James Dobson, but in this talk, I discuss the truth about marriage, faith, and parenting in the real world. This is a classic "grace is messy" message and I'd love for you to check it out right now!
If you'd like to book me to speak to your church, school, or civic organization, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Hi, it's Lindsey! I'm over at Songbird and a Nerd today talking about the kind of Jesus I need. My kids were watching a happy little Christian t.v. show. You know, the kind from the 80’s that airs on some random public station, over the antenna. The one with the ultra cheesy choreography and bad music. My kids were watching that. It’s not what I would have chosen for them, but let’s be honest. Sometimes I just don’t care what they watch. I’m raising a toddler and a preschooler, and there are times that I’m simply thankful to have a moment to breathe.Read More
Here's the good news: you are not alone.
Just last night, Ben woke up twice with a bad dream, and Caroline ended up in our bed by midnight. Eventually, I found respite on the couch around 2am because I was just sick of fighting with them.
And here's the thing - I adore my kids. Lindsey and I CHOSE them. We made a conscious decision to have them. We chose to move forward with growing our family and bring little ones into the world. But as cute, smart, and funny as my two kids are, they still wear me out.
Self-Care Tips for Parents
In Episode 011 of the #AskSteveAustin podcast, I share 7 simple self-care tips I've learned in the past (almost) 6 years of parenting. The first lesson is: DON'T FORGET TO PLAY. There are six other lessons, like the why I believe Grace throws us an ice cream party on our very worst day, plus the difference between bitterness and boundaries.
If you're a parent facing burnout, or maybe you're not a parent, but you're completely exhausted because....life, check out Episode 011 today! Maybe your kids are no longer at home, or you might not even have children...that's okay! These self-care tips apply to everyone!
What did I miss? What parenting lesson would you add to the list? Do you have a hilarious #parentingfail to share with the rest of us? Bring it on! Let's continue the dialogue in the comments...
Thanks for listening.
Relationships can be tough. When there is tension with the people you love, it can make connecting with someone you genuinely care about difficult. Whether it's a friend, lover, loser, or leaver, the unpredictability of people makes relationships...interesting...at the very least.
The latest episode of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast covers relationships, in all their glory.
In this episode, I talk about:
- Dealing with parents who don't approve of your lifestyle
- How to fight fair
- People who seem to never suffer
- How to best love someone with a mental illness
- The Rules of Wrestling
As usual, I answer your questions from a place of honesty and as a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. I'm not a doctor or a medical professional - just a guy who's been there and is willing to tell it like I see it.
Check out my latest episode today!
Got a question? The best questions make it on the show!
Don't miss another episode - click the button below to get an email each time I publish a new episode!
Support Grace is Messy and the #AskSteveAustin podcast! There's tons of FREEBIES for Patrons! Goodies include:
- Access to my brand-new, exclusive Facebook group.
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According to the Miami Herald, 14-year-old Nakia Venant hanged herself in the wee hours of the morning on January 24th, while broadcasting her suicide on Facebook Live. Less than a month before that, Katelyn Davis, a 12-year-old from Georgia, killed herself during another live broadcast. Each news report shows the image of a beautiful young girl, gone too soon.
I clearly remember the first time I considered suicide as a viable option.
I was 18, and had just finished a day’s worth of college classes. I was sitting on Highway 17, on the outskirts of town. I had come to the end of the road. The yellow street sign in front of me had an arrow pointing in either direction, left or right. After months of misery and secretly wishing I could die, I felt I had to choose. I sat in my old Isuzu pickup truck on that hot summer day, and considered my options. Instead of going right, down this unfamiliar stretch of road, I chose to go home, back to what I knew. There was no flash of light, no voice from Heaven, I just decided to give it one more day, one more hour. I decided to live a bit longer.
For the ten years between my first consideration of suicide and the night I nearly died, I continued to perform. I allowed people to see the guy who was always “on” - the good guy, the big personality, the singer, the smiles. Everyone assumed I would become either a preacher or a politician. They got the first part right. I went from being the good student to being on staff at a few churches. I was the encourager, the life of the party.
I can’t imagine what my Mom would have done if I had died my freshman year of college. I know she would have been crushed. And shocked. Back then, no one suspected I longed to die because I was so ashamed of childhood sexual abuse. No one felt the dampness of my tear-soaked pillow as I begged God, night after night, to heal me from my raging porn addiction.
[clickToTweet tweet="Parents lose children to suicide every single day. Know the warning signs. Start here. #suicideprevention" quote="Parents lose children to suicide every single day. Know the warning signs. Start here. #suicideprevention" theme="style3"]
Look at these statistics from The Jason Foundation:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2014 CDC WISQARS)
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2014 CDC WISQARS)
- More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
- Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
If you’re reading this after the suicide attempt of your own child, maybe you’re wondering what these statistics really mean. The first take-away is this: you are not alone. If your child was unsuccessful in their suicide attempt, thank God. Now the hard work begins.
The good news? Humans are hard-wired for survival. If you’re reading this article immediately following the suicide attempt of your child, you’re probably in fix-it mode. I would bet you are frantically researching everything you can find right now. You are most likely desperate to help your child. Maybe you’re surprised or confused by their behavior. Maybe you never saw this coming. And maybe you just want it all to be okay, to get better and feel normal again. Unfortunately, you are not the savior of the world, neither is the psychiatrist, and a psych ward isn’t going to magically make your loved one reappear as good as new.
What do I do now?
But remember this: there is no normal. There is only today. There is only this moment. You can’t change yesterday and tomorrow is far too predictable to even begin to predict. From my experience, trying to put former expectations on what life (behavior, goals, etc.) should be like, just won’t work. Former things don’t fit. It’s literally back to the drawing board, especially during the early days of recovery. Be patient with yourself and those you love. This is a new experience, a new leg of the journey. And you’ll make it, if you’re committed to the hard work.
After a suicide attempt, nothing else seems to matter except what is happening to the person you love. But there are two courses of action. First, you have to deal with the crisis. During that time, you’re putting out fires and taking the hits as they come. As things begin to calm down a bit, then you consider moving toward more long-term help.
Why didn't I see this coming?
One of the most common questions caregivers ask is, “Why didn’t I see this coming?” You didn’t see it coming for a myriad of reasons: Maybe your loved one is an incredible performer, and has not been sharing his or her pain with you. I certainly was. And, assuming this was the first attempt, you probably didn’t know you were supposed to be looking. You can’t put the pieces of a puzzle together if you don’t know you’re supposed to be looking. The Jason Foundation reports that four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. But they can be easy to miss, especially if you don’t know to look for them.
[clickToTweet tweet="4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. Know the signs. Start here. #suicideprevention" quote="4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. Know the signs. Start here. #suicideprevention" theme="style3"]
In my own situation, I was faking it. Faking life, faking confidence, faking that everything was okay. No one - not my best friend, not my mother, not my wife - knew the depth of my despair. No one knew when I wrote suicide notes for the first time at the age of 18. I sat on my bed in my parents’ basement and had it all planned out. I would end my life the same way my aunt did, by hooking a garden hose to the exhaust of the car. No one in my life knew they were supposed to be watching to make sure I was okay.
But it’s not just the kids wearing all black who might attempt. It’s not just the quiet homeschooler or the angry foster kid. The child who seems to have it all together is just as susceptible to the lies and desperation that precede a suicide attempt as anyone else. In dark moments, it’s easy to believe that death will free a person from the pain, will give an escape from reality, or even will get back at their parents.
Most people don’t know what their loved ones are capable of. Once the truth is known, it is important to encourage them, with professional help, to identify some “red flags” for the future. Tell-tale signs you can both recognize that say, I am veering off the safest path for my life and I need to regroup. Is it a lack of sleep? Are there triggers causing flashbacks? Is it social situations? Or something as simple as low blood sugar spiking their anxiety? Is their depression seasonal?
Here’s a few great tips from The Parent Resource Program of The Jason Foundation:
- Watch and listen to your children and pay attention to sudden changes in behavior that cause you concern.
- Be willing to seek professional help and guidance if you feel your child is becoming depressed or contemplating hurting him/herself.
- Talk openly and honestly with your child or your child’s friends about your concerns and be supportive in helping them cope with their feelings.
In knowing specific red flags, you can begin to create a defense for the future. But even with a great game plan, remember this: you can not “cure” your loved one. Give them space, allow them to own the path toward recovery, and know that this journey is long, difficult, and often unpredictable. But with love, patience, and grace, recovery is possible. I am living proof.
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Self-care is giving yourself permission to be first for a little while. Join me for 3 reasons why your self-care matters.Read More
Brandi Burgess, daughter of conservative Christian radio host, Rick Burgess, is gay. And her father's response is heart-breaking.Read More