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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It’s something we often take for granted until we lose it, right?

Freedom to work
Freedom to vote
Freedom to worship
Freedom to choose how many children we have (or don’t have)
Freedom to marry who we want
Freedom to change things when they’re not working
Freedom to pursue our dreams!
Freedom to rest
Freedom to grieve
Freedom to celebrate!
Freedom to move, if we so choose
Freedom to reach our highest potential!
Freedom to live & breathe & be ourselves in whatever capacity we desire.


This freedom can be elusive for some –

Not entirely graspable –

Or palpable –

Or attainable.
Freedom for those of us with profoundly disabled children can look very different & not so “free.”
The inability to attend the local parade because of sights, sounds, & lack of adult changing tables.
Or the lack of job options that accommodate the demands of the caregiving life.
The hindrance of freedom to choose the firework show because of sensory overload.
The ache we feel as we decline a cookout invite because of inaccessibility.
Or the inability to rest because of constant fight or flight.
The divide & conquer with hotdogs & s’mores in our own backyard because of strict, immovable routines.
The fear of moving to a new state because we’ll lose our waiver spot.
The lack of communal worship because there are few special needs ministries.
The inability to vacation because of elopement & meltdowns.
The void of play because parks don’t spend taxpayer dollars on big kid options.
The isolation of home, which sometimes feels like a prison because the world is not made for children like ours.


It’s a gift that’s not guaranteed – not even in America.

Notice the families with needs.
Notice how your freedom might look different than theirs.
Notice & then do.
Do something to help them feel a little more free.
Do something to invite them in
or show them that you care.
Create a special needs ministry.
Reserve spaces of quiet at the local parade.
Set aside your fear & learn.
Ask questions.
Advocate for adult changing tables in public restrooms.
Offer respite.
At the very least, offer a meal.
Recognize that your freedom is not their freedom & then in gratefulness, act accordingly.

Happy (almost) 4th of July

God Bless America

Just Keep Livin’


To read more of our family’s story, check out my three books!


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A Glimpse – I Choose Hard

“You and Ryan seem so calm.”

This was a phrase I often heard when Luke was in PICU for almost 4 weeks during December 2019 and into January 2020.  We probably appeared calm because we’d experienced the worst-case scenario. Someone died on our watch in 2010. We’ve waded through the depths of hell and survived; not only survived but found immense joy on the other side of our grief, but that’s not the only reason.

What most people didn’t understand was how difficult normal Luke was at 15 years old. Baseline Luke was hard. The restlessness, constant high-pitched screams, puberty, incontinence, and the inability to verbalize what he wanted or even understand what he desired made it exhausting to raise this unique individual, but we did it. We went through the motions and thanked God for giving us a child who taught us numerous lessons through his fragile life. But it was still hard.

As Luke lay quietly sedated in PICU a few years ago, I was given a glimpse, a glimpse much like Nicholas Cage experienced in the beloved movie, Family Man. A 25-day glimpse of a different life.  Not a life in ICU with beeping machines and lifesaving equipment; instead, a life at home; away from the beeping machines; a life I returned to after Ryan relieved me at the hospital; a life with the other kids. A life where I awoke to the rising of the sun and not to my 15-year-old screaming over the baby monitor. A life where I had the freedom to run to the grocery store for milk and not worry about who would stay with Luke; a life where I didn’t have to constantly decipher what my non-verbal child wanted, and a life void of diapers and wheelchairs and walls smeared with food from wherever he ate his last meal.

An easier life. A life of peace or more peace than I was used to. A life of occasional silence. A life without Luke.

Struggle has a way of forcing beauty to the surface. The pink cactus, planted in a dry, parched land – sinks its roots deeply into the brittle soil; willing its way to the surface – beyond the menacing thorns, the bright pink petals unfold in majestic glory as the soul reaches for the sun.

The hard, holy treasures of life. Dull glittering nuggets that contain what really matters – unearthed through trauma and agonizing moans and breaths that can’t be released and heartache that brings a mama to her knees as she begs God to intervene and heal her son.

I wrestled with the Almighty for days as Luke lay in ICU. Weeping, moaning, begging – my thoughts scary, laced with guilt There’s peace, it’s quiet; my heart isn’t racing, I slept all night…

In the garden of Gethsemane, beside the cords and tubes and beeping machines, sweat dripping from my brow, pleading –

Father, grant me the strength to endure the hard, screaming, physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining cup you have asked of me to drink.  Please spare my son. I choose him. I choose the difficult path you have called of me.  I choose life. Give me the grace and strength to walk the road. Crucify every desire for prideful control. May I serve the least of these in your kingdom, and may I serve them joyfully.  Yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22

This is my road, my journey, and this is the way I must walk. I choose the narrow, parched path where only the pink petals bloom; the path lined with thorns and littered with dull and dirty nuggets – nuggets masking a priceless treasure beneath the smut and the grim, and the walls smeared with food. I choose hard and holy.  I choose Luke again and again and again.

Just keep livin.


To read more about our story, check out my three books below!


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Lovin' With Grit and Grace Book Cover

Lovin' with Grit and Grace