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Nicole Johnson shares her current struggle to trust in the midst of raising teens.

Today, he is nothing less than an upstanding citizen. He is honest and responsible, pays his taxes on time, never misses Sunday Mass, is quick to help his neighbor, and is a rockstar husband and father. Only a matter of years ago (ok, like 30) he and his best buddy thought it would be fun to light a few fireworks in the trash can at the park across the street from his house. Said trash can happened to be housed in a small shed, and said fireworks happened to be a little too explosive. Things got out of hand quickly and the two teens decided to flee the scene and head for home. It was from the comfort of the couch that they sat and listened to the fire engine make its way to the shed that was now fully engulfed in flames. When they were comfortable that enough time had passed, they actually had the gall to mosey their way back to the park under the guise of a couple of passersby wondering what had happened. 


sparks from a fire pit


Today, she is the wife of a town official, mother of four amazing children, a shining example of service to others and a leader in her faith. One might never guess she’s seen the inside of a cop car, but there was a time she was “offered” a ride to the station after being found driving her friend’s parent’s car ... that had gone “missing” ... with no license to speak of. 

Today, these stories are retold with much laughter and shared in the peace of knowing all worked out for the best. Back in the day however, they were intimately tied to the prayerful hearts of Grandma and Grandpa seeking God’s protection over their teens. Now, I am the prayerful mother of teens and let me just be honest: I’m struggling. The worry feels paralyzing and the search for peace, ever evasive. 

During a recent conversation with my teen, I was asked THE question: “Why can’t you just trust me?” Because, I thought to myself, I know too much. I know the science behind the brain’s development and I know you don’t yet have what it takes to recognize the gravity of your choices and all the possible consequences attached. I’ve read the stories -- pored over them, in fact -- those that describe every parent’s worst nightmare; looking, hoping even, that there was something obvious that mother missed -- something I would never fall victim to. But there never is. 


teenager ignoring mom, who has a headache and is worried


And then there’s the small fact that I too was once 17 and 19 and I wasn’t always making choices that accounted for how they might affect my future plans and dreams. My teenage brain and I were living for the moment, absorbed in me, myself, and I. Honestly, I’m really not one to be critical of God’s design, but this stage of parenting has really got me questioning the logic here. All in all, I can’t guarantee the safety of my children and it is tearing me apart. 

“Why can’t you just trust me?” The voiceless question breaks through my worry-filled prayer and I’m left answering to the One I should be able to trust. My answer is much the same. I know too much. I know that trusting You doesn’t guarantee all will work out how I want it to. I know that being created in Your image doesn’t mean I’m not gonna mess this up -- doesn’t ensure I have what it takes to get my children on the other side of their teen years with only stories that will one day be met with laughter and the peace of knowing all worked out for the best. I know too much. I love too deeply.

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“Why can’t you just trust me?” The voiceless question breaks through my worry-filled prayer and I’m left answering to the One I should be able to trust. #catholicmom

“I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.” I’ve said this to my children a hundred times; fit it into any appropriate moment as a public service announcement, a gentle reminder, a plea for understanding. It’s all about communication, they say. Just keep them talking -- at the dinner table, in the car while driving them around, when you are saying good night -- just keep them talking. I do have to wonder: do they get it? Amidst the hounding and questioning and annoying parenting, do they really get it? I may not trust they will always make the right choices, but no matter what, my love for them will never change. It’s real. It’s present. And they can count on it always being there no matter what life hands them.

And there you have it. In the midst of my worry, He has broken through again and I am reminded. He can’t help me if I don’t keep talking to Him. His love for me (and my children) will never change. He is real. He is present. And He will be with me no matter what life brings.

All those years ago, Grandma and Grandpa didn’t know the specifics of what they were praying for. Their daily intentions most likely did not include requests to keep their son safe in the midst of the impending shenanigans with errant fireworks. Nor, I imagine, did they include a plea to guide their non-licensed daughter safely down the road. They simply showed up. Day after day, moment to moment, they placed their children into the hands of the One who loves them even more deeply and knows all He needs to know.


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Copyright 2021 Nicole Johnson
Images: Canva Pro; Matt Dragseth (2006), FreeImages.com