"Life Beyond the Picket Fence"

Life & Faith Beyond the Storybook Image with Speaker & Writer Brenda L. Yoder

6 Tips To Teach Responsibility to Teens

Posted on Jan 28, 2015

The first article on raising kids in an age of entitlement identified that your kids “absorb” privilege because it permeates their generation. Being a role modelthe entitlement generation and teaching kids your values about work, finances, and privilege rests on those of us who are parenting. When I polled parents about how they’re teaching values to teens in today’s privileged culture, here are suggestions from seasoned parents:

  1. Requiring kids to pay for big ticket items From college to cars, many parents give these responsibilities entirely to their children, or require their kids to pay for a portion of them. Some parents purchase an inexpensive car for their teens, but then require the student to pay for gas and insurance. Requiring students to pay for all or a portion these big ticket items teaches them that these privileges shouldn’t be taken for granted.
  2. Teaching kids basic bookkeeping. Some parents open checking or debit accounts for high schoolers, requiring them to pay their lunch money, gas, personal products, and other bills (car insurance, etc) out of the allowance parents give them or from money they earn. This is a good option even if parents financially provide for their students because it teaches teens how personal finances work.
  3. Requiring students to be employed. Read the rest of the article here. 
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What Social Media Can’t Provide

Posted on Jan 24, 2015

If it were just you and Jesus, would it be enough?What Social Media Can't Provide

I’ve been asking myself this question. I’ve found myself getting side-tracked from quiet times with God. If I don’t reach for my Bible first and go to a room where I can shut a door, I easily get distracted by other things.

Things that provide temporary joy.

I have to admit, other things are naturally more enticing than cuddling up with the book of Exodus. Meeting a friend provides affirmation and understanding. Even social media gives instant feedback that makes you feel good. 

If were just me and Jesus, would that be enough?

I recently watched a live drama of Jesus’ life. I was so captivated by it, feeling like I was physically near Him.

I hungered for more and more interaction with Him.  His words became alive as I experienced Him “in person.”  He seemed so real. 

Then, I was reminded I have access to the same Jesus every day. His words are just as powerful when you read them in scripture. So what’s stopping you and I from excitedly seeking more of Him through Bible Study, prayer, or quiet time in His presence?

Often when I run to Jesus first, it’s out of need: “Lord, help me!” 

What would it be like if you and I allowed Him to meet our craving for fun, food, or fellowship? Would we anticipate meeting Him authentically and excitedly like those He walked with in person?

Several years ago, God convicted me similarly. While experiencing grief and depression, I cried to God,

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How Your Choices Affect Your Teen

Posted on Jan 21, 2015

She sat in my office with tears streaming down her face. Tough girl was having a tough day. It was supposed to be her last day of 6th grade at our school because her mom was moving in with a new boyfriend. Now her mom wasn’t sure about the relationship or the move. Her daughter was confused and a mess.TEXT 300x300 How Your Choices Affect Your Middle Schooler

She’s not the only middle schooler whose life is affected by their parent’s choices.

As a counselor, I’ve heard middle school kids express anger, hurt, frustration and grief over their parent’s choices. Changing jobs, schools, and relationships affects a child’s life. Lifestyle choices of addiction, self-medication, lack of treatment for mental illness, violence, and other unhealthy behaviors also affect a child’s life.

Be aware of how your choices affect your kids. Your child might first respond in anger. The girl in my office first raged at her mom, but later identified frustration, confusion, and hurt as the source of her anger. When first recognizing your child’s anger, asking a few questions helps them verbalize their real feelings.

Read the rest of the post here

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Finding God’s Faithfulness When The Phone Call Comes

Posted on Jan 17, 2015

Guest Post by Donna Bontrager for the #Live2015 series

It was a sunny Saturday morning. I was doing the normal chores, laundry underway, dishwasher loaded, and on my second cup of coffee…wondering how far the boys had made it on their drive home from Florida after spring break. I was in the living room and was just plugging in the vacuum when my cell phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and saw “Adrian,” one of my son’s best friends.

You know those seconds between seeing who is calling and answering your phone when your stomach starts to hurt? You get this overwhelming sick feeling, and also feel the need to pray. Well, it was after those seconds I picked up the phone.

“Donna, it’s Adrian…Parker’s having a seizure and we have pulled off beside the road. Conrad called an ambulance but we don’t know what to do.”

I was able to walk them through it, having them get his emergency information ready for the first responders as well. I stayed on the phone until he was loaded into the ambulance and they were ready to follow it to the hospital.

They were in Tennessee.

His dad and I were in Indiana.

This was the first of many epileptic seizures his friends would witness, and not my last phone call.

What I didn’t realize, until years later, was how the Lord prepared me years before to be ready for that phone call.

You see, I’ve had more than my share of phone calls in my life that haven’t had the greatest of news.

At age 21 that call brought the news of my father’s accident, which is a story all in itself.

Another phone call at age 22 said my brother had an accident, which hours later lead to the Lord and I telling his wife of his death.

Another call six months later telling me that my nephew just died of SIDS and I needed to notify my family.

Now friends, that will make you want to change your phone number.

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5 Tips For Raising Kids In The Age Of Entitlement

Posted on Jan 14, 2015

The age of entitlement’s been around for a while. As a former teacher and current counselor in public schools, I’ve observed privileged teens over the last three decades, beginning with kids raised in an American economy of plenty. Not only do modern kids receive excessive material items, they get trophies entitled kidsjust for being on a team, and expect A’s for minimal work.

Raising teens myself, I’ve also witnessed an expectation of entitlement that’s embedded in the current generation. Even if you don’t raise your kids to expect privilege, today’s youth assume they should have certain benefits.

So how do you raise kids in an entitlement generation? How do you teach fiscal responsibility, understanding the connection between work, debt, and living a life within your means? As part of a monthly series on privilege, here are the first principles that will get us started:

  1. Accept that entitlement part of your teens culture. After talking with well-meaning, intentional parents, it’s evident that teens and tweens “absorb” entitlement just being in today’s society. It permeates from peers, media, and advertising. You can raise your kids without extra privileges, and they still might have those expectations. Understanding this helps your own expectations of how to teach your children.

Read the rest of the post here.

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4 Steps for Secure Footing When Life Is Rough

Posted on Jan 10, 2015

Stumbling is something I’m familiar with. Two years ago I tore my ACL and meniscus and I’ve had an unstable knee ever since. Even with surgery, I have to keep my leg muscles strong for a lifetime so my knee doesn’t become weak.

I’m more aware of places that could cause me to stumble when I walk, run or hike. One misstep can take my knee back pain and weakness. I can’t afford to stumble.

But with Jesus, we can.

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand. Psalm 37:23

I’ve read this verse before, but today it brought new meaning.4 Steps For SecureFooting When Life Is (1)

The verse says we’ll stumble. Does that surprise you? Sometimes we live like we’re guaranteed and easy path.

I don’t know about you, but life ain’t so easy sometimes.

But God promises many things:

1. He will make your foot secure. If you’ve never had unsecured footing, you may miss the depth of this promise. We walk firmly throughout our lives and don’t realize it’s blessing. Having secure footing means you can walk with strength even when you are weak or the ground below you is unstable.

I’ve observed my father-in-law, who has Parkinson’s, walk with secure and unsecured footing. It makes all the difference for him. One misstep, and he can fall and not get up.

Secure footing is important.

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15 Things I’ve Learned From Being A Holiday Minimalist

Posted on Jan 5, 2015

The holidays are over. Today’s the first day back to school for kids and back to work for many of us. How are you surviving the back to routine blah’s?  15

I began the 2014 Holidays as a minimalist. My goal was to simplify, scale back, say no, and rest. With a child in college and one on her own, I wanted to avoid stress of a fuller-than-usual-house because I wanted to enjoy them and their siblings.

Really, that’s all I wanted for Christmas was time with my kids. No fighting.  No bickering, no disappointment for unmet expectations.

So I decorated less and am making it last longer. My “winter trees” will be up for a few more weeks yet. Candles and lights make the winter just a little more brighter.

On this first day of “normal” in 2015, here are lessons I’ve learned from the most recent holiday season.

1. A house full of laughter is a great joy. 

2. A home that feels safe is where the Holy Spirit is at work. 

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10 Reasons I’ve Chosen to Live in 2015

Posted on Dec 29, 2014

There’s a trend among bloggers to chose a one-word theme for the upcoming year. Normally I don’t do what others do because I’m a silent non-conformist. But I’ve been thinking about this space, wondering what’s needed when you and I find our lives beyond the picket fence image.

One word comes to mind:Live

So here are ten reasons I’ve chosen the word Live for 2015.

1. Life can be dark, so let’s focus on life. I’ve been in a rough place this fall, working with situations full of despair and heartache. Instead of focusing on the darkness, it’s important to live well even in painful circumstances.

2. Hard circumstances aren’t for the minority, but are national and worldwide, too. I want to live intentionally to impact broken communities. Do you?

3. God wants more from Christians – not just belief in Him, but faith in what He says He’s do. I don’t want to just believe by faith, I want to live by faith!

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The Facebook Post That’s Here Instead

Posted on Dec 20, 2014

I was going to post this on Facebook, but it was too long and sappy post. Instead, here are thoughts from my kitchen table.

There’s a lot I want to say about these picture, but I’ve got to finish a book instead, so here are the thoughts behind the snapshots.


These photos are from my morning walk on our farm. I put on my shoes, outdoor running gear and walked. My mind was cleared, I prayed and talked with my Savior. But I didn’t take it for granted.


It’s a stark contrast from some of the kids I work with who don’t know what a barbed-wire fence is (really, I’ve had that question).

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5 Truths About Being A Teenager

Posted on Dec 15, 2014

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9 (NIV)Truths AboutBeing A Teenager

Your teen years are some of the most exciting yet confusing times. Your emotions are random, intense and all over the place. You feel alone or misunderstood. You feel like you can’t do anything right or that no one cares. Do you ever wonder if why you feel the way you do?

If you do, youre not alone. In fact, here are five universal truths about being a teenager.

  1. Your feelings will lie to you. The emotions you feel are more intense during adolescence, especially in the middle school and early high school years. Your feelings are often magnified, making you feel out of control. How you feel in the moment is not always an accurate assessment of a situation.
  2. Read the remainder of the article here at Whatever Girls.



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