Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

Two Desperate Words of All Parents (and what to do about them)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Paul)

***************************

“BUT I…”

It’s a cry heard all over parenting land.

BUT I took my prenatal vitamins and I did exactly what the doctor told me.  Why does my baby have a heart defect?

BUT I waited until she was “ready” for potty training and I followed the exact steps that worked for all my friends.  Why is my six year old still wetting the bed?

BUT I had him evaluated and got him a specialized tutor.  Why is his teacher still telling me he’s not doing well in school?

BUT I gave up my job and made her a complete priority in my life, even leaving cute notes in her lunch.  Why is she rolling her eyes at me and hardly ever coming outside of her room?

BUT I never had liquor in the house and he’s been through all the drug and alcohol awareness programs.  He’s even seen his friends lose their licenses.  Why did I just find vodka under my senior’s bed?

BUT I took her to church her whole life and we even had family devotions.  Why did my college student just reveal that she doesn’t believe in God anymore?

BUT I paid for four years at a good college and I remember the dreams he had growing up about becoming a doctor.  Why did he barely receive his diploma and can’t even find a steady-paying job?

BUT I TRIED MY BEST AND LOVED HER WITH MY WHOLE HEART, WHY IS SHE STILL NOT OKAY?

We want so desperately in our lives to have A + B always = C.  We want the formulas to work.  We get advice from all kinds of sources (friends, parenting books, the internet, pastors, counselors, doctors) and we cry in frustration “BUT I…” when the recipe ends up more like all those Pinterest fails we’ve seen on the internet (note the picture above).

***************************

When I was just a wee bit younger (okay, like 30 years ago, but I’m not that old, right?!), I believed wholeheartedly in all the formulas, and especially that they would work.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s perfect.  Just do all right things, make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.  I’d heard it from preachers, parents, teachers, friends, authors, and I’d repeated it endlessly in my own head.  Being the “good Christian” woman that I was, I brought this into my parenting.  Of course I did.

As you may have heard in my Podcast with Sarah, our oldest (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN – IT’S WORTH IT), these lovely formulas worked with her.  She was naturally compliant.  She loved the formulas herself.  (If we were Catholic, she probably would have wanted to be a nun.)  She followed all the rules, had sticker charts completely filled in, received accolades in school for being the best citizen, and excelled at “being a good Christian” whatever that means.  Our formulas seemed to work (especially to the outside world).

But inside our home, they weren’t.  She struggled with tummy aches even as early as three.  She had full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at 10 years old.  She struggled to go away to sleep away camp for a week when she was 14 because she couldn’t leave the perceived “safety” of our home.  She needed meds for her anxiety in college.  As much as she and I tried our hardest to make A + B = C, it just didn’t happen.  The “right” side of the equal sign became D or J or V or most like a giant question mark.

WHY?  I screamed in desperation.  I was doing everything right!

Should I just try harder?  Maybe I am doing something wrong?  Maybe the equation isn’t right?  All questions that swirled around in my head.

And believe me, I still tried to fix it for years.  I read books, took parenting classes, listened to podcasts, asked friends, had mom prayer circles and even begged Allen to figure it out.

Still, I couldn’t make A + B = C.

New questions swirled.  If this doesn’t work, then what?  What do I do now?  How do I parent?  What really makes me a good mom (something I so desperately wanted and still want)?

***************************

It’s funny how when we come to the end of our trying and our finagling and our controlling and our rope and our selves, our hearts open to the possibility of something new.  A new thought.  A new possibility.  A new way.

God used the end of all of this for something new in me.  A new thought about what matters in our family.   A new possibility of how to be a mom.   A new way of seeing my child.

He invited me into relationship, both with Himself and with my children.   At first, this uncertain place seemed like a curse.  It would take lots more time and wisdom when making decisions.  I might not even make the same choice twice.  What I did for one child in one circumstance might not be the best for a different one.  There might be “it’s unfair” shouts.  It would be complicated, messy.

But as I embarked on this different journey of parenting with much trepidation, I found that it just might be a gift, and a good one at that.  Instead of living in a “what I wish were true” place, I began to live in a “what’s actually true” space.   Life is messy and no amount of “doing the right thing” ensures complete safety and success.

I slowly began to gain freedom from the formula master, one chain link at a time.  Instead of viewing my child as a problem to be solved, I began to see them as a mysterious person to be known, loved and enjoyed (kind of like action thriller enjoyment, which is scary and fun all at the same time).  Instead of seeking certainty,  I began to pursue wisely-placed trust, trust in a wild God, One I can’t control, but One who is completely good and utterly safe.  He doesn’t need any formula for my children to thrive and be okay (the real cry of my heart).

My relationship with my kids slowly began to change.  Instead of having an agenda (the sum of the equation), I could just BE with them, no matter where they were or what they were doing (good or bad).  It was hard for me, like super hard.  I know best, especially as a mom.  I want what’s best for them.  I know how they should get there.  But it doesn’t come from the best place.   I like a little bit (I mean a lot) of control.  But we all know how control works out (see formula above).  It doesn’t.

As I turned the tables (another new thought), I realized I don’t want to be anybody else’s agenda or project.  Neither do my kids.  Instead of “here is what I think you should do, be, act like, etc., I love when others say, “I’m with you,” and that’s the end of it.  That’s what my kids want.  I don’t want to feel like I’m going to the principal’s office when I am with someone.  Neither do my kids.  It creates defensiveness, hiding, guilt, shame, people-pleasing, all the yuck we parents are now in counseling for ourselves.

However, when someone is just WITH ME in my beautiful, messy life where sometimes I make bad choices or think terrible thoughts, unconditional love opens the door for vulnerability and trust.  THIS is what my kids want.  All the good stuff happens the most in this safe place.   No one is going to counseling for this.

Now I had a new question.  Was it as simple as love God and love others (including those people who’ve been placed in this family under my purview)?  Yes.

Formulas are not love.  To boot, they don’t work.  Loving God is trusting Him (the hardest part of parenting), especially when things don’t go as planned.  DON’T FORGET:  it is a trust that is wisely placed.  IT BRINGS US FREEDOM.

Agendas are also not love.   Loving others (our kids) is being WITH them, especially when they are not where we think they should be or want them to be.  That’s a love that’s unconditional and safe.  IT BRINGS THEM FREEDOM.

***************************

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT OR SHARE.  AND ESPECIALLY TAKE A MINUTE TO LIKE  OR COMMENT ON THE POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!

AND IF YOU DON’T EVER WANT TO MISS MY POSTS, SIGN UP TO FOLLOW ME VIA EMAIL  I WOULD BE SO HONORED!

 

 

Posted in Family, Grandparenthood, Health

The EstherGizer Bunny

“What’s your reason for waking up every morning?”  (Huffington Post)

I lay in the dark, my grandson’s eyelashes brushing against my neck as I held him close.  Only moments before, I had been power-washing a fence and had heard his cries over the monitor.  “Not yet, Broden,” I thought, “I have much to do.”

This has been my cry for as long as I can remember.  “Not yet, ___________ (fill in the blank with any given human in my life).  I have much to do.”  I am a doer, a cross-it–off-my-list person, and proud of all that I accomplish in a day.  My daughter, Sarah, calls me the “EstherGizer Bunny,” hence the blog post title.  I can accomplish more in a day than most can in a week.  It’s just true.

But today, that is not to be.  I have about 10 things I could be doing, all big projects that will supposedly “save the world,” including writing a meaningful blog post, organizing Sarah and Cody’s garage, making nutritious meals for Sarah as she goes back to school this week in her new position as a second grade teacher, writing another chapter in the book I am writing (BIG REVEAL IN ABOUT A YEAR), yada yada yada.

Today, I choose what my heart truly cries for.   I choose to stop saying “Not yet, _________.”  I choose love.  I choose holding Broden in the dark.  I choose relationship over task.  I choose dancing with Allen at the wedding of a friend tonight.  I choose being present to people over checking boxes.  I actually choose myself.  Those to do items will get done or THEY DON’T HAVE TO (good news for my EstherGizer Bunny heart).

If you need more today, read my Go with the Slow (I Love Turtles) post.  It was a great reminder for me once again as I was writing this.  It puts the EstherGizer Bunny right back where she is supposed to be.

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Charity, Faith, Health, Word of the Year

Shattered Shalom (restoring it…in my home and in our world)

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

If you asked me even five months ago what I thought peace meant, I summed it up as “the absence of conflict.”  In fact, a quick search on Google backed me up on this. My husband also cheered this idea in spades.  He loves an atmosphere where everyone gets along (how one Facebook friend defined it), especially us.  It’s like heaven to him.  Having a house with four very unique and spirited children did not lend itself to this.  The constant conflict and fighting sent us to our beds exhausted many nights.  I would mutter to myself (and sometimes scream loudly to my kids which, if you take a second, is pretty ironic), “Just a few moments of peace is all I’m asking!!  Is it too much?”  I know I don’t have to talk any further without a bunch of nods of the head, muttered “mm-hmms” and loud “AMENS!”

Whether it’s the constant arguing of politicians and political analysts on “news” shows, gut-wrenching war across our world, bickering among children or family members over the latest “who-knows-what,” co-workers disagreeing over how a project needs to be done, or late-into-the-night discord (or should I say straight-up fights) among spouses, it is just plain tiring.  No wonder we want some peace.  Some quiet.  Some “everyone-just-get- along-please” moments.  We are saturated with it all day long.

YES, THAT IS MY SON AND HIS SOCCER TEAM AT HIS SENIOR PASTA PARTY!

Sorry for the diversion.  Back to the blog post.  I think you understand my point.

ALL.

DAY.

LONG.

To combat it and try to find some measure of inner calm, I find myself doing one of four things:  fighting, running, avoiding, or just standing there with a blank stare not knowing what to do next.  This is the natural response from our human bodies when we feel threatened and overwhelmed.  It’s our “lizard brain” (as I like to refer to the amygdala) doing what it can in the moment when the adrenaline rush takes over to protect us.  Psychologists refer to these responses as fight, flight, faint or freeze.

As I very feisty and passionate individual, I naturally gravitate to fighting.  As we all know, this does nothing to help.  It escalates the issue and then the whole house is in an uproar, hurt and angry.  It becomes a mess.  Allen, on the other hand, is drawn toward fleeing.  He shuts down, gets quiet and goes into another room.  Our kids vary on the spectrum, with some fighting, some getting quiet, some going to their room to watch TV or sleep, and some utterly dumb-founded, not knowing what to do.  It makes for a little bit of a “not-so-peaceful” house.

ENTER COUNSELING and the beginning of understanding that although, in the moment, those responses are normal, they don’t restore harmony.  We are working from brokenness not health.

ENTER BOOK, As We Forgive (Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda) by Catherine Clare Larson, suggested to us by our group leader before we head to this beautiful country to dig a well in September (HUGE SHOUT OUT AND MUST READ).

ENTER VACATION with family members (nine people plus baby for seven days).  Arguments and behavior patterns and all that good stuff.  (You know what I mean?!)  I figured out that nine people make up 36 different relationships.   That’s enough to start a war.

RE-ENTER BOOK.  Reminder that all of the above are really just shattered shalom (the fancy Hebrew word for peace).

I have always believed that shalom had the same meaning of peace that I had in my head.  Come to find out I am missing something.  A huge thing.  And it just might really make the difference in my own little world with my own little group of people.  But it also might make the difference in our huge world with all the groups of people (like seven billion and counting much to my son’s chagrin as he’s a little paranoid about over-population).

So what is it?  What is this shalom?

SHALOM IS NOT DEFINED BY ABSENCE.  Instead, it encompasses the PRESENCE of true human flourishing (my friend’s Word of the Year):  socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Larson reminds me that it is “ultimate harmony.”   Shalom speaks of fullness, completeness and wholeness, hardly the absence of anything, except perhaps division (as another Facebook friend reminded me).  In Ancient Israel (where the word comes from), when a crime was committed, the central point was not on the outer (the broken law and restoration of order), but rather on the inner (broken shalom and restoration of peace) for all involved:  victim, community and even offender.  It was important that ALL would flourish, all would be brought back to wholeness.

As I stated above, our human body responds to conflict in one of four ways:  fight, flight, faint or freeze.  We are naturally drawn to one of those responses when it comes to personal conflict.  However, somewhere among attacking, running away, avoiding and becoming paralyzed lies a completely different way, one that is more difficult, but offers much in the restoration of this fuller peace, or shalom.  In fact, sometimes conflict and disagreement are required to achieve it.

Really?!?

In the flight, faint or freeze responses, the focus is on “ME.”  I am looking for what’s easy, convenient and non-threatening.  Protecting myself becomes the highest priority.  However, in the fight response the focus is on “YOU,” blaming you and expecting you to solve my problem or my pain.  Again, protecting myself becomes the highest priority.  The peace-making, shalom-restoring response shifts to “US.”   The restoration of the relationship and the flourishing of ourselves and the other becomes the highest priority.  Wholeness, fullness and completeness come to the forefront.  Conflict happens and disagreements occur, but the relationship is not threatened.  In fact, clashes and variance might just provide the avenue for greater wholeness than without them.  The move from YOU vs. ME to US changes everything.

For this girl who tends to blame others and fight, this is really BIG.  A huge change of thought.  And practice.  It’s not enough for me to “not have fighting,” the absence of conflict.  I want more.  I want wholeness and healing and true flourishing.  In every area of my life.  For me and for you.  When I think about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace (guess what the Hebrew word is there),” this makes more sense now than ever.  He doesn’t just want “quiet” for me.  He wants shalom.  He wants me to flourish.  He wants the same for you.  And he wants the same for our world.   Here’s to restoring it more and more every moment and every day.  I hope to start right now.

 

Thank you again for reading all the way to the bottom.  WOW!  Please like this here and especially out on social media if you can!  Comment here or there as well.  It means the world to me!  

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health

Unraveling and Re-raveling (Getting Rid of the Formula)

“Trust me.  There is no formula for most things that are not math.”  (Daniel Pinkwater)

 

godly husband + passionate wife = great marriage

great marriage + good parenting = well-behaved child

well-behaved child + right school and strong youth group = wise-choice making teen

wise-choice making teen + strong college = successful adult

successful adult + other successful adult = godly husband + passionate wife

And the formula goes round and round.  Or does it?

When I was just a wee bit younger (okay, like 30 years ago, but I’m not that old, right?!), I believed wholeheartedly in the formula above.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s perfect.  Just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way it should.  After all, isn’t that what I’ve heard my whole life from preachers and family and professors and authors and friends and even from my own head?  Things like:  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in step with the wicked…whatever he does prospers.”  (Psalm 1)  “We proved to ourselves that when you do things right, good things happen.”  (Tom Sawyer)  And my new favorite:

main-qimg-985b0e8087f5ef15eea7a4af5d8e3618

To say it again:  just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way it should.

EXCEPT.

WHEN.

IT.

DOESN’T.

What happens then?

Somewhere along the line of that cute little formula, the “right” side of the equal sign fails to happen.  Sometimes it goes like this:

godly husband + passionate wife = messy divorce

great marriage + good parenting – child with Oppositional Defiance Disorder

well-behaved child + right school and strong youth group = teen substance abuser

wise-choice making teens + strong college = struggling-to-find-or-keep-a-job adult

successful adult + other successful adult = distant husband + depressed wife

For many years, I counted on the formula.  When it didn’t seem to be working, I just tried harder.  “It must be something I’m doing wrong,” I thought.  “Maybe I don’t have the equation right.”   After all, there is a way to guarantee a great marriage, well-behaved children, wise-choice making teens, and successful adults, right?  I read “10 Step” books.  I made long prayer lists on color-coded index cards.  I went to seminars and then led them.  My formula-living was not limited to the above scenarios.  Much of my life was permeated by this black-and-white thinking.

Until…

Until…

Until…

Until the formulas stopped working.  Good people got divorced.  My kids weren’t all that well-behaved at times.  Many teens, including my own, made “not-so-wise” choices and some of my children’s friends struggled with addiction.  Well-educated people had a hard time finding a job.  Many lost their jobs.  Successful people were anxious and depressed, including me.  Ugh.

My idea of how the world worked came crashing down.  I didn’t know what to think.  Anxiety took over.  Hopeless thoughts came much more than I wanted them to.  I kept trying harder.  It just got worse.  Finally, I came completely unraveled.  UNRAVELED.  My carefully-built-rubber-band-ball-of-how-life-works began snapping.   If not this, then what?  What do I do now?  How do I live?  UNRAVELED.

BUT, (and I love these “buts” of life) what seemed like a tunnel without a light became just what God used for a whole new “RE-RAVELING” as Rachel Held Evans refers to it: a very different way of looking at people and relationships and what matters.  I began to live in more truth and with that truth came some slow steps toward freedom.

Once the formulas were stripped away, I was invited into relationship, both with God and with others.  At first, this uncertain place seemed like a curse.  It would take lots more time and wisdom and there wouldn’t be simple answers.  It would be complicated, messy.  But as I embarked on this different journey with much trepidation, I found that it just might be a gift, and a good one at that.  The truth is that life is messy and no amount of “doing the right thing” ensures complete safety and success.  This might sound harsh and hopeless at first glance, but it is actually helpful and freeing.  Instead of viewing life as a problem to be solved, I began to see it as a mysterious adventure to be enjoyed (kind of like action thriller enjoyment, which is kind of scary and fun all at the same time).  Instead of seeking certainty,  I began to pursue wisely-placed trust, trust in a wild God, One I can’t control, but One who is completely good and utterly safe.  I am steadily (actually it seems to be in fits and starts) finding that as trust is developed, love thrives.  And this is what I truly want.  Chasing certainty is slavery; carefully-placed trust in a God who loves us is freedom.

My relationship with others slowly began to change as well.  Instead of having an agenda (the sum of the equation), I began to believe that I could just BE with others, no matter where they land on the spectrum of life.  This is hard for me.  I really struggle with this.  I have an agenda for everyone.  I think I know best.  I want you to change for the better.  And I believe I know how you should get there.  It doesn’t come from the best place.  It’s because I think I am better and know better.  I like a little bit (I mean a lot) of control.  UGH.  But as I’ve turned the tables, and the truth is told, I don’t want to be anybody else’s agenda or project.  Instead of “here is what I think you should do, be, act like, etc., I love when others say, “I’m with you,” and that’s the end of it.  I don’t want to feel like I’m going to the principal’s office when I am with someone.  No one wants that.  It creates defensiveness and hiding.  However, when someone is just WITH ME in my beautiful, messy life, this unconditional love opens the door for vulnerability and trust.  Change is much more likely to happen in this safe space.  As Bob Goff says in his book, Love Does, this kind of “love operates more like sign language than being spoken outright.”  I need more of this in my life, both ways.

The best thing for us (and our world) is to love God and love others.  Formulas are not love.  And to boot, they don’t work.  Loving God is trusting Him, especially when things don’t go as planned.  It is a trust that is wisely placed.  IT BRINGS US FREEDOM.  Agendas are also not love.   Loving others is being with them, especially when they are not where we think they should be or want them to be.  That’s a love that’s unconditional and safe.  IT BRINGS THEM FREEDOM.

I am glad my rubber band ball came UNRAVELED.  I am also very thankful I am on the path to RE-RAVELING.  I don’t know about you, but I want to keep living in and from these places, creating safe spaces for both myself and others, filled with vulnerability, trust, love and freedom.  In the end, St. Paul was so right when he wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  Let’s do what counts together!

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT OR SHARE.  AND ESPECIALLY TAKE A MINUTE TO LIKE THE POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!

AND IF YOU DON’T EVER WANT TO MISS MY POSTS, SIGN UP TO FOLLOW ME VIA EMAIL  IT’S RIGHT BACK UP AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE ON THE RIGHT!