The New Frontier


“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
― Anne Frank ―

This is my first time being an adult, and I’m afraid I’m not very good at it.

No trial runs were offered me, though, so I guess I’ll just have to do my best and see what happens. Responsibilities to juggle, decisions to make, futures to determine…it is all very sobering.

One of the strangest things about growing up is how that impacts the family dynamic. We’re in an odd place as a family. Two adult children, 19 and (almost) 23, with both parents working at home. My brother is in college online. I work long-distance, also online. Mom keeps the farm running like the proverbial “well-oiled machine.” Dad works on the farm and does consulting work for a Gulf Coast pipeline company.

Four adults, bound up in one house, who must all work together somehow as a team. I won’t lie…it can be a challenge.

Plus, two of these four adults–namely, my brother and I–have spent the last 20 years or so learning to be obedient children.

Now, suddenly, we have been thrust into the world of adulthood, and I’m not quite sure how to act.

“This is your decision,” my parents tell me, and I know it is true…but what am I to do with this new thing called adulthood?

Honestly, the hardest thing about being grown up is not the responsibilities or the decisions. There is a certain…depth to the new situations I face and the deeper kind of hurts that I receive now that they are not being filtered through my parents all the time. I appreciate how God is using the sometimes-difficult realities of adulthood to grow me spiritually.

However, the hardest thing is knowing how to be a grown-up daughter who lives at home.

And, if you were hoping for a list of answers…I’m afraid I can’t help. I am feeling my way through this too. As an adult-child, it is hard to tell where house rules end and personal choices begin. I want so desperately to please my parents, yet I want to cultivate my own convictions and approaches as well.

Sometimes, it gets messy.

My parents–especially my mom–have been superbly involved in my life ever since childhood. I cannot even count the ways that they have taught me, given me opportunities, encouraged me, toned me down…they have truly been absolutely amazing, godly parents. There are probably a hundred day-by-day things in this family that I take for granted, but know I want to implement someday in a home of my own.

So, for 20 plus years, my parents have been instilling great truths in me. Over two decades, involved parenting becomes a habit. It has been a beautiful, necessary part of my growing up.

Now, I can only imagine how hard it must be for Mom and Dad to re-route these parenting habits into adult-to-adult interactions (especially when I still behave like a child sometimes!)

Meanwhile, from my perspective, I am trying to figure this whole grown-up thing out…and certainly not always succeeding. I’ll be honest–I skipped out on the teen rebellion, but my hardest battles with honoring authority set in after I became an adult.

These are uncharted waters. Old ways are familiar, yet they are like too-tight shoes long grown out of. New ways…how do I begin to lay a foundation for interacting with my parents as an adult?

There are many perspectives on the proper relation of a single, adult daughter to her parents. My views might seem too loose for some of you, and far too conservative to others.

Bottom line: I am an adult, responsible before God for my decisions. God has told me in His Word that I am to honor my parents–not any longer as a child obeys, but as a mature adult, who seeks to respect and bring praise to the many years of self-sacrificing parenthood that both my mom and my dad have given to me.

This is complicated by the fact that I live under their roof. I want to be useful at home–not a drain on the family finances. I want to honor the “house rules,” while somehow deciphering which parts are “house rules,” and which are optional approaches that I must decide for myself.

I will be utterly honest here: I tend to have an independent spirit. 

This can be both good and bad.

Good, because I don’t want to shirk responsibility. Good, because I know that God has created me for good works He has laid out for me individually to accomplish. Good, because I can approach certain new situations with confidence.

Bad, because God sets His people in the context of community. Bad, because the healthy desire to be grown-up can grow into a resentment of any constraints. Bad, because I often expect the right to rule myself without any advice or interference.

There is a certain measure of initiative, confidence, and self-possession that is healthy for a child of God–but it can be overrun by pride.

Mine rears its ugly head, typically in a scenario like this:

Mom: “How is work going today? Are you getting all your hours in?”

Me: (thinking): She is checking up on me. She doesn’t think I’m responsible enough to get my work done without being reminded. (I start to get irritated.) “It’s fine.”

Mom: “Do you think you’ll finish it in time?”

Me: (now biting my lip tightly to keep the frustration from spilling over) “Yes, I think so. I can take care of it.” (Not a raised voice…but a tight one. Definitely not the joyful, communicative soul I aspire to be…)

What just happened?

Well, Mom wants to be involved in my life and wants to help me succeed. I remind my family members of things all the time. So why is it that I start to get hot under the collar when someone else  reminds me of something I should do?


I want to chart my own course. I want to control my own way. I want to be my own boss–so much so that I cannot even listen to advice without quietly arguing my own opinion. I’ve never ranted or railed or outright rebelled–but I’ve done plenty of pouting and quiet resisting of godly advice.

So what if I don’t need a reminder or I have a different opinion than my parents? They are still the parents God gave me to honor. My pride can take a hike and I can humbly listen to wisdom.

The balancing act of relationships transitioning is marked by uncertainty. Keep the communication open and your ego squashed.

I am learning as I go. I’ve never done this before…and neither have my parents. They are doing a fantastic job, steadily giving over more responsibility and freedom as I mature.

We are charting a new frontier together.

If you are passing through this same journey into adulthood, be patient with your parents. They aren’t going to get it right, and neither will you. Ask God for grace to squash down your pride and just listen. As an adult, you are not bound to obey, but you must whole-heartedly honor them. Honestly, they’ve seen a bit more of life than you. Being an adult is no piece of cake, and they have invaluable experience at this whole grown-up thing. Make use of that…it is God’s gift to you.

Beating your chest and yelling about your rights Tarzan-style is never a good choice. Just because you can make certain decisions as an adult, doesn’t mean you should. There is a lure to the unknown, the unexperienced, the new, all things “out there” away from accountability.  Whether you are away at college, or working, with an apartment of your own, or living with your parents, remember: They love you. Don’t take it personally. Advice doesn’t mean they think you’re a failure without them. It means they care. Receive the advice with grace. Learn from them as much as you can soak up. Appreciate their involvement–lots of people don’t have that. And if you come to a decision where you and they just don’t see eye to eye…douse it with prayer. I can’t tell you what to decide, but whatever you do, do it with honor and the knowledge that they can often see a lot better than you can. Just because we’re “legal” doesn’t mean we get an automatic infusion of wisdom. That’s what parents are for.

“The way of fools seems right to them,
    but the wise listen to advice.” – Proverbs 12:15, NIV

So, maybe I haven’t cleared up much for you. I sure don’t have this figured out. Tomorrow, I’ll probably be speaking this truth to my heart again, doing some more pride-squashing.

Jesus never promised uncomplicated answers. But God does promise wisdom to the true seeker (James 1:5-6). I can pretty much guarantee this: If I consistently put the priorities of Jesus ahead of the priorities of Shelbie, much of my adulthood-angst would vanish. It’s when Shelbie gets in the way that things get muddy.

Adulthood is a wild, uncharted frontier, but we do not walk it alone. God has built special people into our lives to cheer us on and share their experience.

That’s not a reason to groan. It is something to make you deeply, overwhelmingly thankful.

“Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!”

– Psalm 68:19, NKJV –





straw-in-the-field-1318272103QII“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain –

Just when life is nice and normal, something rumbles through and knocks you off your feet.

That happened to me this week.

I really shouldn’t be surprised by anything these days. Yet, again and again, events shock me and bring me to my knees.

Life’s earthquakes feel something like a light blow to the stomach. Not necessarily a gut-wrenching pain, but a sense of lostness, breathlessness. Disorientation.

Sometimes I actually start feeling grown up…until another earthquake rolls in and reminds me just how small and unprepared I am for the rigors of adulthood.

I’ll be 23 this year. That’s an adult, right?

But still part of me wants to go crawling into my mother’s lap for a while. Hide from the problem, hide from the people waiting on me for a life-changing answer, hide from the fear of bungling an uncertain future. Hide from the responsibility to sort out a complicated swirl of desires, relationships, convictions.

I guess I like to have it all together, and earthquakes remind me that I don’t.

Not at all. Not even a little.

Today, my dad got a funny tone in his voice and I just had a hunch. I asked “Is it ____.” And it was. Oh boy. Why did I have to be right? Just when I thought things were settling in, now things get complicated instead.

You know, crises come and go. Today, my mind was in a whirl all day, processing the latest “earthquake.” Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, things will calm again. Sure, maybe my dilemma won’t disappear. I still have choices to make. But the earthquake passes and the aftershocks ripple with decreasing intensity each time they visit me again.

And, you know, as unprepared as I was for an earthquake this week, I’m really glad it came.

It reminds me how much I need God.

See, I often try to float along on my own. I figure I can hold it all together pretty well. Maybe I don’t consciously think it, but my actions show that I tend to forget God’s present help, and lean on my own understanding instead. 

Earthquakes send me rushing for the only security I have — the holy love of Christ.

So somehow — beneath drama and options and strange events — I have an anchor.

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, 

Hebrew 6:17-20a, NKJV

Not only do I have a safe place to hide when life’s earthquakes try to bowl me over, but I also have the hope that all these interruptions, confusing choices, and complicated friendships will birth into something beautiful.

You never know when an earthquake might come rumbling in. When it does, where will you go?

Maybe you could join me, on my knees.

“My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.”

– James 1:2-4, CEB –