Building Safe Places

“Mom, can I tell you something?”

“Always.” (Yes, this is my answer to that question. Almost always.) I rubbed her leg as she lay in bed, still cozy under blankets.

“I was on my cell phone this morning.”

She paused. The silent beat testified to what we both knew: this was a clear violation of our tech rules. I sensed her confession held more, so I just waited.

“[My best friend] and I had a fight.”

“Are you okay?”

She proceeded to tell me her version of the details. We talked for just a few minutes and then I prayed with her before sending her off to get ready for the day.

Unfortunately, I didn’t leave it there. I, being her mother, went on her devices while she was in the shower to check her messages and make sure there wasn’t more to the story. She knows I do this. It’s my right as her mother and the one who pays the bills on this technology. It’s my job to guard and guide and direct her in this crazy world.

The messages proved fine. There was no great concern there. But I didn’t leave it there.

When she came down for breakfast, I revived the conversation with all sorts of motherly advice about how she could have handled this better and how it’s all going to be fine and don’t worry, but know that this is how she might have taken your message and consider things from her side and blah, blah, blah…

Why couldn’t I have just shut up? Why couldn’t I have left it alone?

I believed I was doing the right thing. I believed I was helping her. In fact, I probably told her as much. I just kept talking, making a bigger deal out of it than necessary, believing she would soon appreciate all my wisdom and sound assistance.

But my sweet, amazing girl didn’t need a lecture this morning.

She needed hugs. She needed affirmation. She needed to know that I see her life is hard and confusing and that she feels lonely and isolated. She needed to know she’s not alone; she’s not isolated. She needed confirmation that she is loved fiercely no matter what.

We all need safe places. And I failed to provide that this morning.


Providing Safe Places

Recently our church announced the theme for this year of ministry: Tell your story. At an event last week, our senior pastor introduced the theme, why our leadership team chose it, and why it’s important to ministry. Now, I’ll not go into the full sermon, though, it was fantastic. I just want to share a few key points from it.

Community is critical to spiritual growth. We can’t build community until we build and foster safe places. Safe places that go both ways: where we can tell our true stories, but also where we invite others to tell their true stories.

We need to tell our stories — not just the pretty, shiny, churchy versions, but the full versions where we confess our shortcomings and our ever-present need of a Savior. We need to be vulnerable with one another. We need to build places where it’s okay to share the messy parts of our lives with one another.

People need to know that we want to hear their stories. They need to know they can trust us with their stories. They need to know that broken people, imperfect people, are welcome in our lives and in our churches.


I am a fully, completely, embarrassingly broken person. Like Paul describes in Romans 7, my words and actions contradict one another far too often. My life is messy and the imperfection exhausting at times, but it is what it is.

Fortunately, God’s grace also is what it is.

It covers. It reaches. It heals. It extends. It never runs out.

Sweet readers, friends … Let us be people who accept the messiness of others, who welcome the broken, and offer safe places. Let us BE safe places. Let us listen and not just prescribe. Let us remember the great grace of our God and King and allow it to overflow into all our interactions. Let us flood our communities with love, fully aware that we’re all messy people working out imperfect faith through confusing lives.

Nevertheless, God’s grace is sufficient.

Let us celebrate that together.

Yeah, but… PARENTING.

I say all of this knowing full well that being a parent is a tricky thing. Being one who disciples is just as tricky. We seek to offer haven and hope, but also instruction and guidance. How do we know when to step in with advice and when to just embrace with grace?

I don’t know.

I do know that I don’t want my daughter feeling that she always has to be perfect or that every hurdle is an object lesson. Sure, we can learn from everything, but sometimes you just have to run the course. I want her to know she can do that with me by her side, not whipping her from behind. I want to be her safe place even on the toughest days.

And so I pray. A LOT. And I have to trust God to guide and direct me even as I seek to guide and direct her. I have to trust that His grace is sufficient not just for her, but for me, too. His grace can heal and stretch and cover and make all things new.

I pray, but I also need to learn to just leave it. Leave it alone. Let Him work through what’s there.

I don’t need to keep adding my two cents. I don’t need to modify and analyze, prescribing and jumbling everything, hiding what grace meant to reveal. Sometimes (way more often than I do) I need to just step back and watch.

As parents, we need to create safe places for our kids to be themselves, but we also need to create safe places for them to grow into who they will one day be.


How do you create safe places within your church and your family? How do you foster transparency and growth within your communities?

Talk to me!

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