Love Changes Who We Are: A Letter to Broken Parents

Hi friend! I’m enjoying a bit of a sabbatical this summer and have lightened my workload considerably to spend more time relaxing at the beach.  I hope you enjoy these hand-picked guest posts for Monday Musings on the weeks when I’ll be sinking my toes in the sand.  Just keep livin’.

This post was written and shared by Shannon Guerra.


The noise could almost make your heart stop. Your mind tries to process whether it is a scream or a cry, an unnatural wail that sounds like a mythological animal dying, heaving its last gasps of breath.

Then it stops…and you realize the kids are just blowing through blades of grass. Is any other innocent summer pastime as guilty of inducing heart attacks as this one? It’s just grass blades and air. Nothing to be alarmed by.

But that knowledge doesn’t keep you from almost peeing your pants when the sound comes out of nowhere.

Eventually, though, you get used to it. The noise isn’t any less annoying, but it no longer stops you in your tracks and gives you a panic attack.

You recognize what it is. You know it’s not a threat, and you continue on with what you were doing.

Parenting changes us, and the more we surrender to the process, the more He refines us. He is making us more like Him. And simultaneously, paradoxically, He is making each of us, you and me, more like the unique you and me we were always meant to be.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.

– 1 John 3:18-20

He knows what kind of mother and father our kids need. And He knows what kind of kids we needed to (ahem) sanctify us, as well.

Unfortunately, those things that refine us the best tend to be things that grate against us the most.


This daily consistency is not my jam. I’m also not great at it naturally. I’m more of a free spirit.

– Lacey Steel, adoptive mom


I hate to tell you this, but you probably already know it: The things we each need to learn in parenting and wholeness are probably not going to be things we enjoy learning about.

I love achievement and making progress with things, and reading and education are huge passions of mine. So it makes sense that to sanctify and mature me, God gave me some children who resist those things to extremes. I needed to learn that my success is wrapped up in my own obedience, and not the progress or growth of my kids. (I am still learning. It’s quite the process.)

And you need to learn things, too. So don’t take it as a personal attack when it seems like behaviors or situations push your buttons in just the right pattern. It is SO hard sometimes, yes. But God trusts us to steward these kids and their needs toward our own growth and sanctification, rather than our own preferences and natural bents.

Because, left to the ease of our own natural bents, we become less and less like Him — curling inward, warped and wilted. He made us, though, to stand strong and overcome.


If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

– 1 John 4:12b-13


Last week a friend asked me, “This has been such a hard season, hasn’t it?” and it has been, for so many of us. It hasn’t been the very hardest for me (the first few years post-adoption still make 2020 look like a walk in the park) but it has definitely brought some of the scariest moments and deepest soul seeking for me – questions about who I am and what I’m worth, how God sees me versus how others see me, lies I’ve believed and boundaries I need to put in place.

It is like how when we learn more in any subject, we realize how very little we actually know about it. Our identities are like that. The more broken we get, the more we can heal, and the more brokenness we identify within us that still needs healing.

Don’t misread me — I don’t mean this in the sense of “God loves you very much and He has a miserable plan for your life,” or that we should pursue the kind of brokenness that comes from foolish or sinful choices.

I mean that life is messy, and if we are going to be involved in parenthood, leadership, ministry, or any other significant mission, it will involve brokenness.

So He honors some of us with a lot of brokenness because He knows we will steward it well.

You know, like He did: Beauty for ashes. Joy for mourning. Forgiveness for sin. Because He is making us like Himself, but not everyone surrenders to the process.


So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.

– 1 John 4:16-19


We have to recognize our junk to be able to start dealing with it, and once we recognize it, we start seeing it everywhere. So if you, like my friend, are asking, “How can I possibly still have this much junk to deal with?” be comforted by the fact that if you are recognizing a lot of it, you are making great progress. We only move toward healing when we’re no longer oblivious to our brokenness.

The further we go in adoption, the more I realize that God called us to it not just for our kids, but for us. Yes, they needed us – they needed homes and healing and protection and a family. But we needed the sanctification. We needed to understand more of His love for us, as we loved them. We needed to see the world deeper and wider, and to understand our own brokenness more fully so we could walk in healing and wholeness.

Because He made us to be overcomers, along with our kids.


For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

– 1 John 5:4


And look at how far we’ve come, how strong we all are now: The broken things are starting to rebuild along better paths, in us and in our kids. The hard things have become the familiar things. What used to seem impossible is now routine.

The scream of the grass blades assaults our ears like a fighter jet grazing our rooftop, but there we are – no big deal, completely unfazed, just picking weeds out of the garden as He makes us more like Him.


Shannon Guerra is a wife, prophetic intercessor, and homeschooling mom of eight kids via birth and adoption. Her family lives in Wasilla, Alaska with their cats and a mysteriously increasing flock of poultry. Shannon’s books include Upside Down, Oh My Soul, Work That God Sees, and the ABIDE series. She writes about wholeness, prayer, motherhood, and living deep and wide at

Love Is What We Do: A Letter to Fellow Adoptive Parents

Hi friend! I’m enjoying a bit of a sabbatical this summer and have lightened my workload considerably to spend more time relaxing at the beach.  I hope you enjoy these hand-picked guest posts for Monday Musings on the weeks when I’ll be sinking my toes in the sand.  Just keep livin’.

This post was written and shared by Shannon Guerra.

In a patch of the yard, a two-year-old boy plays in a dirt pile with his red plastic shovel. You can’t really see him but you know he’s there because of the haze of dirt suspended eighteen inches off the ground in that general area, floating lazily to the west.

And down the hill, an older boy gathers a bucket of dirt. But no, he’s not doing it for fun, but as a consequence for refusing to do school. He didn’t tell us he didn’t want to school in so many words; that would be easier but it would also mean admitting responsibility and being honest. Instead, he expresses his desire to not do school by pretending to be unable to do very simple things that we know he can do. On this particular day, he pretends not to know what the word “opposite” means, in spite of the definition and examples right in front of him in his language arts assignment. He has known what the word opposite means for many years, but today he doesn’t want to admit it. So instead of doing school, he does the opposite of everything his language arts assignment asked him to do. Ironic, hmm?

 We cannot fix these choices for him. He has had so many terrific days and made such amazing progress in the last year. But progress is scary and consequences are safer. A big world of freedom is unpredictable and uncontrollable, and when the anxiety gets to be too much he reels it in by some type of self-sabotage and makes his world very small again. Small is familiar and safe.

Adoptive parents contact me all the time, and their stories are so precious to me. It is both hard and healing to read them; it is so easy to slide into hopelessness because of how huge some situations are, and yet we need to hear from each other because we need to know we’re not alone.

You, friend, reading this: Looking at that impossible situation with that kid, or that spouse, or those neighbors, or that school, or that social worker. You are not alone.

 Our stories are all different but the themes are the same, and many of our details overlap. The grief over our kids’ choices is so intense. The secondary trauma from their behaviors is so real. And the loss of our expectations, of what we imagined things would be like when we chose adoption or foster care, is something that we have a hard time letting go of. Because if we let go of those expectations, it feels like we failed. It feels like admitting defeat.

 But it’s not admitting defeat. It’s not lowering our standards. It’s not failure.

 It is surrender. It is acknowledging that we are not in control, we are not responsible for someone else’s choices, and we are not the savior of this child or these circumstances.

We need to remind ourselves of this. And when we have a hard time reminding ourselves, we need to remind each other. God has not left us to deal with this alone, He has given us each other to speak life and truth into when we cannot see clearly for ourselves. The haze of dirt is too thick; our own frustrations and worries are too loud.

 So let me remind you of a few things. I’m reminding myself, too:

 You are the expert of your kid. Professionals are only as helpful as they are, well, helpful. You probably already know that, for example, some counseling does more harm than good depending on the counselor’s experience. Many professionals claim to be experts when they only have a book, lab, or office understanding of these issues but no boots-on-the-ground experience with adoption and special needs. Those who don’t have dirt under their fingernails often have no problem piling 23 more tasks, responsibilities, and suggestions into your lap when they get to clock out at the end of the day and deal with normal life and probably even get a full night’s sleep.

 The true experts are the parents who are doing this day in and day out. Sucks though, right? So hear me: Parents, you are doing a better job than you give yourselves credit for, and you are not responsible for your child’s behavior, choices, or progress.

Yes, you influence them. But no, you don’t make their choices for them or decide how they will respond to any number of triggers or events throughout the day. That is not on you.

Healing for all of us will take time. And some of our adopted kids may never want a relationship with us. We cannot force them to do anything, and coming into their lives at such a late date, our influence was so limited.

– adoptive mom

And those extra 23 responsibilities that might be amazing? You know, the supplements, therapies, classes, programs, books you should read, videos you need to watch, skills you need to learn, songs you should sing, and all the other parts of the hokey pokey? It’s not worth squeezing them into your week if, in order to do so, you have to start eating 3-minute meals and taking one-minute showers and skipping going to the bathroom, and sleeping only three hours a night. Oh, wait…many of you are already doing that.

Well. You pick what works for you and your family, but the rest of those 23 tasks can take a hike because you have got to get some rest and eat a decent meal a couple of times a day. You are not doing anyone any favors if you die on the altar of someone else’s well-meaning to-do list. (Seriously, friend, don’t make me use my mom voice.)

The best thing we’ve learned to do in those hard seasons, whether it is with our kids or our spouse or another close relationship, is to pray that we will like them as we are loving them (and to pray that we will be likable, too). Because when they are likable when we are likable, the atmosphere is lighter and the joy isn’t something you have to fight for. It’s easier to get out of bed and face a new day with hope when we like each other.

“Fake it till you make it” isn’t sustainable, and we need real hope to hold on to when we don’t see things improving. So here’s some comfort: When someone is still not likable and we are still loving toward them, we are actually “doing” love that is truer to the definition of it.

Because love is more of a verb than a feeling.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

– Luke 6:32-33

Jesus loved us when we were not likable, too, and His kindness led us to repentance. When we start to learn about loving as He does, it changes us into someone we never could have become had we stayed inside out of the dirt, with our cute shoes and clean fingernails.


Shannon Guerra is a wife, prophetic intercessor, and homeschooling mom of eight kids via birth and adoption. Her family lives in Wasilla, Alaska with their cats and a mysteriously increasing flock of poultry. Shannon’s books include Upside Down, Oh My Soul, Work That God Sees, and the ABIDE series. She writes about wholeness, prayer, motherhood, and living deep and wide at

Four Principles for a Godly Response to Your Teen’s Crisis

Hi friend! I’m enjoying a bit of a sabbatical this summer and have lightened my workload considerably to spend more time relaxing at the beach.  I hope you enjoy these hand-picked guest posts for Monday Musings on the weeks when I’ll be sinking my toes in the sand.  Just keep livin’.

This is a guest post written by Catherine Boyle and originally shared on Key Ministry.

The phone rang late at night. That’s never a good thing, especially when one of your teens is away from home.

The words from that night are seared in my memory: marijuana, alcohol, police, arrested. So are some of the words from the following week: expelled, school board, conduct officer, suspension.

That phone call came a week before an event organized and hosted by the ministry I had launched a year earlier, the first time I met Key Ministry’s Dr. Grcevich in person. Let’s just say there was some significant spiritual warfare around that particular mental health ministry conference.

For me, the rest of that year and most of the next, were spent in the most important ministry of all: family ministry. After all, man plans his steps, but God directs our path. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9       

I promise you there were things that I did not do right during that time. But there definitely were some things that my husband and I did well, principles that may help you and help your child when – not if – you find yourself in a crisis.

a – Respond to your child with more grace than truth.

Romans 2:4 says “the kindness of God leads to repentance.” When you’re in a situation where you know you’ve made a bad mistake, the last thing you want is someone rubbing your face in it. Your kids are no different.

The day after the late night phone call was actually pretty quiet. We did a lot of hugging without speaking. When we did have to talk about something
difficult, we kept it to the point, speaking gently but firmly, conveying love above all else. Like it or not, parents represent God to their children, even teens, and a thoughtful response to teenaged mistakes is important for ongoing openness to matters of faith.

b – Think about the possibilities, and let your teen make as many decisions as possible.

I’m good at research, so I began exploring all options with school, but also with counselors and other mental health professionals. Kids have limited life experience, so a decision that upends a teen’s world can feel like the end to them. As a parent, especially in a culture where suicide is widely viewed as a way out of pain, you must do what you can in a time of crisis to show your child love and a direction beyond the pain of the moment.

There were some decisions my husband and I made that were non-negotiable – counseling and certain boundaries at home – but others were too personal and important to my teen for my husband and I to decide on our own. Adults routinely have to make difficult decisions, and part of growing up is learning how to sort through imperfect options.

Beyond the immediate crisis, as a parent you must anticipate depression, isolation, and possibly anger at God as a result of unwanted changes. If adults experience these things when we face broken relationships, job losses, unexpected deaths, or even long seasons of seemingly unanswered prayer, then teens are going to respond in the same way. The only difference is that due to limited life experience, teens will feel the pain more intensely.

c – Prepare ahead of time.

This may sound like a ridiculous concept, but for Christ-followers, it’s not. Being in God’s Word regularly, praying regularly, seeking His will and direction for your life fills your spiritual tank.
Such activity may seem like wasted time, but when a crisis comes, you’ll find that God has made you ready in some important way.

I’m not sugar-coating how hard a crisis can be. No one can be prepared for everything. Years ago, I spent a season in prayer for my extended family. I was impressed to pray for several months that we would all ‘be ready.’ Ready for what? I had no idea. The day that my father had a seizure and doctors discovered he had glioblastoma brain cancer, I got my answer. My dad lived seven months to the day from diagnosis until he died, and it wasn’t an easy season in any way. But in my spirit, I knew God had prepared me.

In the same way, I had been praying certain prayers that spring and summer before the crisis with our teen. Make no mistake, that was a hard season as a parent. The first time my husband and I ventured out of the house, leaving our teen at home, I had a full-blown panic attack. Struggling to contain my tears – and my fears – we left the event before I was a total blubbering mess.

d – Protect you child—and yourself—from those who are not helpful.

You know who I’m talking about. Maybe it’s the friend who loves to share juicy tidbits of gossip with the world, maybe it’s a family member who drains the life out of you. Your mission in such a time is to work with God and those He puts in your life to help your teen repair and rebuild his or her heart, and create a new direction.

You won’t be able to be diligent in this way if you lose focus from the mission of the moment. Your teen’s actual life may depend on you not giving way to anger, despair, fear or losing faith in God. If there are people in your life who contribute to these negative emotions, gently but firmly tell them that you will not be able to talk with them until things are sorted out. During this season and in others, I chose to update certain family and friends by email, rather than attempt to talk to them. Just like you would do all that is necessary to protect yourself from infection when you or your child has a physical wound, protection during the healing of spiritual wounds is also necessary.

No one can prepare for everything that happens as you raise your children. But if you live in Florida, you prepare as best you can for hurricanes. If you live in Oklahoma, you prepare for the day when a tornado is coming. Staying prayed up, connected to your teens and to God will gird you for the unexpected day.

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Just Keep Livin’

In our modern age, and particularly in our American, culture we avoid death; we like to pretend we can somehow outwit the grim reaper – create a magical potion, or a pill, or a procedure that will enable us to live forever.

We’ve stuffed death into quiet convenient corners: hospice, ICU rooms, and nursing homes & then we fit the dying into our schedules as they prepare to leave this earth. Not a single one of us gets out of this grand and beautiful thing called life with breath in our lungs. Not a one.

This truth is deeply embedded in my soul after learning that death was imminent for my unborn baby who had experienced a stroke in utero and after lying beside my 33-year-old husband as cancer ravaged his body; a strong man affectionately known as Superman to those closest to him – and Superman died – the suffering of this earth & the beauty of the afterlife so translucent as he communicated with angels & those who’ve gone before.

Death will tap each of us on the shoulder. Maybe we’ll feel the tap, tap, tap from the devastating effects of cancer, or maybe an accident will bring life to a screeching halt, or possibly some new deadly disease will be the villain we’ve feared all along or perhaps we’ll be one of the lucky ones who passes away in our sleep – death by old age – but every single day we’re blessed with time, we also move one step closer to the clock striking midnight, with or without a magical potion.

And the only way to outsmart death is to live: eating, drinking, folding laundry, sweeping floors, reading bedtime stories, playing uno with our children, laughing, crying, and staying present with those we love because through movement, our choice to face another day, we honor the life still present in our lungs. We honor our Creator, we honor our lives, and we honor those who’ve already breathed their last.

Just Keep Livin’

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