Read an Excerpt
The Family Secret
MY HANDS WORKED with angry determination, stuffing random items into my faded JanSport backpack. Through tears, I shoved in a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt, a surfboard necklace given to me by an old crush, two granola bars, and a few crumpled bills I'd pulled out of a wooden piggy bank. At fourteen, it felt like my family was spinning out of control, and I wanted out. Now the biggest question was whether that out would be through my second-story bedroom window or the front door. The decision kept me occupied longer than I wanted it to, and while I thought about it, my mind wandered.
I had planned my escape just that afternoon, while listening to a Depeche Mode album that had recently become my anthem. It was dark and depressing music, matching (causing?) the storm clouds that now filled my heart and darkened the sky outside my window. Dad had yelled at me again. I felt like whatever I did wasn't good enough. He seemed to get mad at me for no reason, and even though I knew my attitude had room for improvement, it all felt so unbearable. Unfair. Unreasonable. Unloving. Un-everything. Maybe once I was gone, he would realize that I wasn't such a bad kid.
The word sounded both exciting and final. Would I do it? I knew I would miss my mom. Maybe my brothers and sister, too. But the thought of being free to make my own decisions — go where I wanted with whomever I wanted — filled me with a wild excitement. It ignited something in my teenage heart that felt rebellious and right all at once. Plus, I was so angry with my dad that I couldn't really think straight.
I looked at the Rollerblades leaning against one corner of my bed — my "getaway vehicle." Brilliant, right? My brother Henry had given them to me when he got a new pair, and for the past few months I had been practicing in a small, relatively flat parking lot a few miles from my house. Getting my blading legs had been slow — really slow. I mean, I could stay on two feet and turn wobbly circles if I wasn't going too fast, but ... stopping. Oh man! In all my angst and determination, I had completely forgotten that because my brother had been into trick Rollerblading, my new wheels were missing one important feature: brakes.
I looked out my window again, tracing the road with my eyes. Downhill to the right, even steeper downhill to the left. And we're talking mountain roads, so when I say downhill, I mean some long, steep grades on cracked pavement. Fear suddenly replaced the tug of freedom as I pictured myself speeding out of control down Voltaire Drive on my brakeless Rollerblades, crashing in a tangled mess of bruised ego and broken bones at the bottom.
And that, my friend, was the end of my runaway plan.
Of course, it wasn't the end of the heartache I'd feel in my family. It wasn't the only time I wished I could do something to change my circumstances or just change families altogether. There were other moments when I'd wonder if things would have been different if my mom had married my biological father or if my three stepbrothers lived with us full-time or if my half sister weren't seven years younger than I am. But my decision to stay was the beginning of a long road to learning to love my family better. I figured that if I wasn't going to leave, I might as well learn to stay well.
In case you haven't caught this yet, my family wasn't perfect. And (I know this might come as a shock) I wasn't perfect either. There were nights I cried myself to sleep, wishing my parents would get a divorce because I was so sick of the fighting. There were days when I rolled my eyes, slammed doors, and probably made my parents, brothers, and sister wish they could divorce me. My family had some stellar strengths too — such as humor, work ethic, and devotion to one another — but I'm not going to gloss over the ugly family moments that marked my growing-up years, because there's about a 100 percent chance that your family isn't perfect either. And I'm guessing that you want to know how to fix what you can and how to make it through what you can't.
As kids, we don't get to choose our families. We have no control over our family members' issues and, if we're honest, we rarely understand our own. Family can be awesome, and it can be just plain messy. There might be times when we feel secure, safe, and thankful, and other times when we feel afraid, unappreciated, and unloved.
Whether you are nothin' but thankful for your family or have a genuinely warped family life, I have some really good news and a handful of tips that will show you what it means to love your family well, how to help them like you back, and a secret plan God has for you through — not in spite of — your family.
We're going to get down to business soon, but before we do, I want you to take a few minutes to sum up your family life by taking a little quiz. Let me give you two reasons why you shouldn't skip this part: (1) It's going to help you pinpoint where you stand in your heart with your family, and (2) We're going to refer back to your answers in chapters to come, and you can't refer back if you skip this. Savvy? That said, if you're afraid someone (read: little brother) is going to find your answers or if you're going to lend this book to a friend, you can write your answers down in that journal I mentioned in the introduction and hide it in your underwear drawer.
1. This first one's easy. Draw a mini family tree of your immediate family members: parents, brothers, and sisters. (For who counts as your family, see the "Who's My Family?" box.)
Now rate each of those relationships on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being "We have a great relationship" and 1 being "I'd rather be related to President Coriolanus Snow.") Write a number next to each person's name.
2. What frustrates you most about your
Brothers and sisters?
3. What do you like most about you
Brothers and sisters?
4. From your perspective, do your parents trust you?
5. Do your parents act more like parents or friends? Do you like it that way, or do you wish they acted differently?
6. What's your favorite memory with your mom? Your dad?
7. What do you argue with your parents about? Check all that apply, and then circle the top two.
 Social media
 Faith or what's right/wrong
 Food and health issues
8. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate the level of respect you show your dad and mom, with 1 being "I can be pretty snotty" and 10 being "I always show respect." (Put an initial above each rating if they are different for each parent.)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
9. If you could ask your parents one question about anything, what would you ask?
10. What's the most important thing you wish your parents knew about you?
11. What do you argue about most often with your brothers and sisters?
12. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how well you treat your siblings, with 1 being "I treat my dog better" and 10 being "I'm an All-Star Sis." (Again, you can have separate ratings; just put an initial above the number you choose for each person.)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
13. If you could ask each of your siblings one question, what would you ask?
14. If you could change one thing about your family, what would you change?
15. What's the best advice a family member has ever given you?
16. If I asked your family to tell me one thing they wished they could change about you, what do you think they would say?
17. What would you say are the ingredients to a happy, healthy family?
18. Is yours a "happy, healthy family"? If not, what do you think it would take to change your family dynamics to make it a loving, safe place?
19. What do you think other people would say is your family's greatest strength?
20. Did you discover anything new about yourself or your family by thinking through these questions? If so, what?
Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions. I know from experience that when we're in the middle of family life, whether our family relationships are fairly healthy or need a whole bunch of work, we can have a hard time seeing the real issues and how to solve them. Sometimes it's good to take a step back from our world and evaluate why things work the way they do.
The Big Why
Why has always been one of my favorite questions (which I'm sure my parents adored about me). I believe that if we're willing to keep digging for answers, asking why can help us understand ourselves and the world around us better. In fact, I discovered that secret I mentioned earlier — the secret plan God has for you through your family (which I promise to share with you before this chapter is through!) — by asking some key whys. Topping the list: Why do I exist?
Revelation 4:11 says,
You are worthy, O Lord our God,
That means everything in this life is from God, for God, and about God. For some of us, that's a hard pill to swallow. We're used to people — from teachers to parents, from friends to a gazillion advertisers — making it about us. They tell us that we should go for our dreams, make names for ourselves, do what feels good, treat ourselves like princesses, and do whatever makes us happy. So if you are (as I was) used to feeling as if the world kind of revolves around you — at least in your own mind — you're going to need a big heart adjustment for the secret to stick. This is not for the faint of heart. It's tricky to change the point from which we see the world — to move from seeing everything as it affects me to how I affect others. And the most important "other" is God.
It's all about God, from the galaxies overhead to the microscopic critters beneath our feet. He made this all for Himself — for His enjoyment, yes, but also for His glory, His greatness, and His fame.
We exist to bring God glory.
Okay, then how? (Coincidentally, my second- favorite question.) How do we bring God glory? Well, one way that God gets bunches of glory is when we live our lives for Him and take daily, careful steps to become more like Jesus.
In case you're wondering where in the world I'm going with this, let me assure you that this has everything to do with your family scene. See, God is in control, doesn't make mistakes, and sometimes does things that make no sense to us. And the family He has put you in? Yep, He did it on purpose. He had a reason for choosing your parents at the beginning of your life, and He has a plan for all the ups and downs since. That plan just might not be what you've thought it was up till now.
God's ultimate goal for putting you in your family isn't your happiness, although happiness might come from it. It's not to make you feel safe, though at times you might feel secure. It's not even to give you an example to follow, though you might pick up some good family habits before you leave home. His reason for choosing your family for you is way bigger than those things. He chose your family because of the secret, which I will share after one more pit stop — promise!
What about Abuse?
If you've been abused, that last paragraph might have you asking more questions. Namely, if God chose your family on purpose, does that mean He wanted you to be abused or abandoned? I mean, if God is all-powerful, couldn't He have prevented it? And because He didn't, does that mean He isn't loving? These questions, dubbed "the problem of pain" by famous theologian C. S. Lewis, might be the number one reason people reject God. And I get it. How could a good God allow such wicked things to happen in this world?
I wish we could talk about this while sitting curled up on my couch with cozy blankets so you could see the tears in my eyes as we dive into these difficult questions. When I say that God wants to use the pain caused by your family members, I am not saying that He wanted you to be abused or abandoned. And yes, I do believe that God is all-powerful and could prevent evil if He wanted to. I also believe that God is love. So how can both be true?
When God created humans, He wanted us to choose Him on our own, without being forced to love Him. Love isn't love unless it's a choice. And the only way we could choose Him is if we had something called free will (i.e., the ability to choose right and wrong). So God gave it to us: He allowed humans to choose to love Him or choose to reject Him.
God loves us so much that He respects that freedom of choice to the point of letting us make a mess of the perfect world He created. Sis, it isn't God's fault that evil runs rampant; it's ours, as a human race. When we reject God and do what seems good in our eyes, rejecting His ways and will, then we also say "no thanks" to the blessings He wants to give us. It breaks God's heart to watch us self-destruct.
Even though this seems completely backward at first glance, only a loving God would allow evil to exist, because it's the by-product of the free will He gave us. Only a humble God would allow Himself and His plan to be rejected by His creation.
My favorite thing about God, though, is that instead of saying, "Well, y'all made a hot mess of things, so good luck — I'm out like trout," He swept up the splintered pieces of this world and built a cross with them. He made a way to dwell with His people (through His Spirit in the hearts of those who choose Him) so He could walk with us through the pain, catch our tears in His nail-scarred hands, and promise to redeem every hard thing that has happened to us, including the evil committed against us, for His glory and our good.
So the people in your family who have hurt you are, in their free will, saying no to God's plan for them. And that has consequences, sometimes for the people they are supposed to love the most. My heart breaks if you've experienced that. It is not what God wanted for you. But because He is good and loving, He can take what is painful and make it something beautiful. And that takes us right back to the secret.
This family stuff is no joke. It can be hard and messy, painful and confusing. But it all has a hidden purpose built on the truths we've discovered through the questions we've asked: God wants to use your family — whether its close to perfect or completely messed up — to make you more like Jesus.
That's His secret plan! Romans 8:29 says, "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son" (emphasis added). That little for at the beginning of the verse is really important. In hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Bible), it's called a "causal conjunction." That's fancy speak for telling us that this verse explains why the verse just before it is true. And the verse just before it is one you've probably heard before. In fact, it's one of the most read and highlighted verses in the Bible!
Excerpted from "Family"
Copyright © 2017 Jessie Minassian.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Family Secret 1
Chapter 2 Dreams, Meet Diaper Rash 25
Chapter 3 Ouch! (Learning to Forgive) 39
Chapter 4 Ditching the Attitude 57
Chapter 5 Earning Trust (and Gaining Freedom) 79
Chapter 6 Becoming the Best Big Sister 101
Chapter 7 Becoming the Best Little Sister 121
Chapter 8 The Family Feud 141
Chapter 9 Daddy's Little Girl 161
Chapter 10 It Wont Always Be This Way 177
Chapter 11 A Family of Your Own 193
Bonus 1 Question Time: Getting to Know Your Parents 211
Bonus 2 "Can I Be Trusted?" Quiz 215
Bonus 3 The "Me" Quiz II 219
A Big Thank-You 221
A Note from the Author 225
What People are Saying About This
In Family, Jessie is honest, relatable, and completely down to earth. She doesn’t shy away from sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly about her own family and growing-up years. She gives you an honest inside peek that not many people are willing to give. This book is filled with solid biblical truth and practical advice on how to love and live with your family well. Jessie is the big sister that every teen girl wishes she had. We highly recommend this book!
God is in the habit of using broken families for His glory. In Family, Jessie vulnerably and authentically shares the power of that truth through her own story and then effectively empowers young girls to discover it for themselves. Wow. This book is for all teenage girls who want to discover purpose and find healing within their families; for parents who long for deeper, richer, God-honoring relationships with their daughters; and for small group leaders who want to bring reconciliation into the lives and homes of their students. Grab this book, read it in community, and expect to receive gospel truth, fresh perspectives, and life-altering advice.
An easy read with lots of fun, useful, and engaging exercises for teen girls. This book belongs in the hands of every Christian girl trying to do the teen years right. It is biblically solid, relationally focused, authentic, and very practical.