Tag: Grace

I Can’t Believe My Child Did This!

Have you ever cringed watching your child misbehave? Maybe you felt a dose of shame when, after your best parenting efforts, your child still says or does THAT? Let’s face it. If you get right down to it, you are deeply concerned how your child is going to turn out. More than anyone, you are invested in your child’s development and well-being. Will your child grow into an adult that you and others will like? These are weighty thoughts.

I confess I have moments where I ask myself these hard questions. In fact, if I am brutally honest, shame and fear creeps in and creates intensity in my parenting and discipline style that I don’t like. It’s not as though I consciously think to myself, “I need to figure out how to control these kids so they turn out right!” However, in the moments I am short and sharp with my children, I notice a common theme: I feel overwhelmed and out of control. Do you ever feel this way?

I was telling Chris about this recently and he asked me an insightful question. He said, “When you feel so overwhelmed by the kids, do you think this is an issue of emotional capacity or are you feeling triggered by something from the past?” To clarify, emotional capacity is when something is greater than my ability to adequately manage it, and I need to grow in my maturity skills. Triggered is a term to say unresolved pain that includes thoughts and feelings from my past that creep into the present and add intensity to an already difficult situation, which sends me over the edge.

As I thought and prayed about this question, it was clear that I had unresolved triggers impacting the interactions with my sons. The intensity of my feelings over their misbehavior was more than the situation called for. While it is discouraging to know how these painful triggers negatively impact interactions with my children, at the same time, it is hopeful to realize these unprocessed pain landmines can be disarmed! These responses do not make me a bad mother nor do they define me. These are places in my character that need some of God’s peace and healing. I do well to identify these places and repair with my children when I overreact.

After learning this, I spent some time with a friend practicing interactive Immanuel Prayer. I talked with Jesus about the situation and my big feelings. It became clear that part of what was creating intensity for me was the pervasive weight of responsibility I felt to raise my sons to be kind, generous, secure, capable adults who love Jesus. I was carrying around a heavy weight!

As I asked Jesus what He wanted me to know about raising the boys He has given me, I felt like He lifted the weight of responsibility from my shoulders. It was like Jesus was saying that, ultimately, He is responsible for how my sons turn out. My job is to follow His lead, and do what He asks me to do as I parent them. I realized my fear comes from a desire to protect my boys from pain and suffering. I felt like Jesus showed me there is no way to fully protect my children from pain. Rather, my sons will experience hard things in their lives and Jesus will use these hard and painful times to mold their character into the men He is calling them to be.

Whew! That was just what my heart needed. After these interactions with Jesus, I felt a renewed sense of peace and purpose wash over me. My boys are safely in Jesus’ hands! Yes, they will experience pain. Yes, they will endure hardship, but it will not be without purpose. Even in those moments, Jesus is drawing them closer to Himself.

Since my prayer time last week, I have seen a difference in my parenting style. I feel noticeably calmer in situations that previously would set me off. I am more patient and better able to extend grace to my boys when they act out and misbehave. When Jesus met me in my fears, something changed. I am deeply grateful for Jesus helping me remain a more peaceful parent. I feel thankful to my husband for asking the insightful question that led me down this road.

What fears drive you? Keep in mind that our fears tell a story about what we value. What do your fears say about you? I pray you find a fresh dose of peace as you turn to the Prince of Peace for clarity and relief.

SUBSCRIBE

Immanuel’s Strong Suitcase

My seven-year-old son struggles in the fall. The rest of the year Matthew’s busy ADD brain can be a challenge, but we have skills and strategies in place to stabilize his behavior and help him focus. We have observed profound changes when we practice relational brain skills such as quieting and appreciation, utilize neurofeedback to optimize his brain, add exercise into his routine and monitor his diet. The math is simple: as long as we remain proactive, he stays grounded and the results are glorious.

However, when August and September arrive, things spiral out of control. My son’s hyperactivity increases. His ability to listen and follow directions fly out the window. The frequency of his emotional meltdowns increase. Suddenly, EVERYTHING becomes harder.

Since Matthew’s seasonal allergies also kick in this time of year, I am confident the two are connected. However, I have not figured out a way to turn my hunch into a practical solution. In the meantime, my husband and I continue to explore strategies to help him when things get tough.

The other day Matthew landed in trouble for not following through on something I asked him to do. As a consequence, he lost an expected privilege. There are times my husband and I allow our sons to earn back lost privileges, so when this happened, I decided to try something new. I reminded him it was important to know what Jesus thinks about our behavior. I then mentioned how fun it would be for Matthew to talk with Jesus about his behavior, and listen to Jesus’ response. I said, “If you do this, and share with me what you feel Jesus says, then you can earn back your privilege.”

Matthew responded to this plan with excitement, because, after all, he simply needed to do something he already does, which is interact with Jesus. [1] I then sat next to him and asked him to tell me something he appreciates. Next, I suggested he ask what Jesus wants him to know about his behavior. I reminded Matthew to “turn on his listening ears” to notice what Jesus might say.

At first, Matthew’s mind wandered a good bit. He struggled to focus. Not surprised, I then suggested Matthew ask Jesus to help him focus, and check if Jesus wanted Matthew to know anything about focusing. A moment later Matthew’s face broke into a wide smile. Seeing this response, I asked, “Did you have a thought or a picture from Jesus?” Matthew told me a picture came to his mind. He saw an image of Jesus with a large suitcase, and he saw Jesus packing up the “extra thoughts” in Matthew’s head that were distracting him so that Matthew could better focus. When I heard this my face lit up. Matthew and I then rejoiced together that Jesus wanted to help him with these distracting, busy thoughts that were flying around.

Next, we returned to the first question and Jesus showed Matthew that He was sad when Matthew had trouble listening. Matthew went on to report that he felt like Jesus said He was glad to be with Matthew and wanted to give him a big hug, even when his listening ears aren’t working. Hearing this reminded me that I need to work on giving Matthew more grace in these moments, rather than respond with frustration.

After our interaction, Matthew’s focus and attention improved for the rest of the evening and our peace  levels increased. We have since been able to return to the “Immanuel moment” when Matthew struggles to focus. We ask Jesus to, “bring the suitcase and pack up the extra thoughts” so that Matthew can better focus without being distracted by fluttering thoughts.

A busy mind can be hard for an adult to quiet, much less a child. I feel encouraged that Jesus wants to help us and our children in our struggles. Thankfully, He is able to do something about the things we feel powerless over. I bet you have a few things in your life that you are struggling with today. I would encourage you to start with some appreciation, then talk with Jesus about what is on your mind. Like Matthew, be sure you, “turn on your listening ears” to see what He might want to share with you!

[1] We call this an Immanuel Interaction. Learn more with The Immanuel Approach by Dr. Karl Lehman, Joyful Journey by Kang, Loppnows and Wilder and Share Immanuel by Coursey and Wilder.)

SUBSCRIBE

When You Don’t Feel Good Enough

by Jen’s husband Chris

The other day I noticed my mind wandering to past events, previous relationships and moments in the rearview mirror of life where I felt shame. Thinking about these moments made my face cringe and my stomach roll in knots. The steadiness of my breathing slowed and shallowed.

As I pondered my tense reactions, I realized the common denominator in each of these moments: these were times I failed. I felt I failed by handling the situation poorly. Hurting someone’s feelings. Saying or doing the wrong thing. I took a wrong turn. Thinking about this turmoil left me feeling regret, shame, even some sorrow. I wanted to press the “Redo” button and start all over.

While these “recordings” have played before, I had the thought, “These are moments my brain has not fully finished processing something. The replaying that is robbing my peace is an indicator something needs resolved in order to return to peace again.” The absence of peace is an indicator something needs addressed. As you may notice from Jen’s blogs, our family strives to live a lifestyle where we turn to Immanuel in the good times and bad. I knew I needed to feel and share these feelings to find resolution.

After thinking about moments in life where I felt peace and joy, I then prayed, “Lord, I am grateful for the ways You are with me. Thank you for Your goodness. It appears I am missing peace in these places my mind keeps gravitating toward. What do I need from You today?”

At this point I had an image in my mind, where I was standing before Jesus with my head hanging down in shame. I didn’t want to look up. I felt like I was standing before a spotlight because bright light shone all around me. It was magnificent. Next, I sensed Jesus reach forward to lift up my head and I had the thought, “Stand up and face Me like a man.” This surprised me even more and reminded me of Job 38:3, where God tells his servant Job, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” The tone and thought behind these words were empowering and inviting, not harsh or cold.

Next, I felt like Jesus shared several things including, “You are forgiven. I washed the filth from you. You are clean. I am in You. You are in Me.” There was more, but each word breathed life into my forlorn frame. While surprised by this “Immanuel moment” as we call it in our training, I felt seen, refreshed, validated and valued. Peace replaced my guilt and shame.

Later in the day I shared bits of this story with my sons at the dinner table. I said, “Guys, you won’t believe what I felt like Jesus told me today!” I asked my 7-year old son to lower his head as though he was feeling sad. When he did, I lifted up his head with my hand to see a big grin on his face. I said, “This is what Jesus did for me this morning; isn’t that neat?” I want them to learn through both words and actions that Immanuel is an available God who freely gives peace to all who need it.

I was using Skill 13 of the 19 relational brain skills during this interactive encounter to pursue God’s peace. Next, I was practicing Skill 18 to notice my brain had stopped processing and I was in need of a specific solution. Needless to say, this was a most remarkable moment that I cherish. The Good Shepherd was tender toward my weaknesses. I remembered the writings of a successful king who sometimes failed. He once said, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” (Psalm 3:3-4, NIV)

Now, when I think back on these moments that used to rob my peace, I see a picture of myself standing before the Mighty One in confidence. I don’t feel the heaviness in my chest. I can breathe easier. I feel accepted. Where do you need peace today?

Learn more about these skills with my book, Transforming Fellowship. Learn more about the brain’s Verbal Logical Explainer and The Immanuel Approach here

SUBSCRIBE

When Sparks Fly

This evening ended peacefully with Matthew and Andrew working alongside each other. Andrew enjoyed helping big brother complete the 3-foot tall dinosaur robot that Matthew has been trying to build for several months. You wouldn’t know it by the picture, but the day did not start this peacefully.

Bickering, teasing, whining, fighting and tears mostly defined our household the past few days. Doesn’t that sound fun? Now that school has ended for the summer, the boys have been together for two weeks without much of a break. Usually the brothers enjoy their time together. They tend to be close and cooperative but this weekend they mixed together about as smoothly as oil and water. Both boys were getting on each other’s nerves. It seemed that no amount of refereeing could calm the chaos.

My husband Chris was sick in bed for the last three days which didn’t help. It also didn’t help that I have been feeling “off” both emotionally and hormonally, which deflates my emotional capacity because, well, I simply don’t feel well. We are still in the midst of a major transition trying to move out of state which also pulls on our emotional batteries. It is safe to say our crew has been out of sorts lately.

As much as I hate to admit it, and yes, it drives me crazy every time my dear husband points it out, we the parents set the tone in our house. If I am in a lousy mood, low on my reserve of patience, (my relational circuits are missing in action), I can expect my boys will also feel this and end up having a rougher day than usual. These are the days we see an increase in fighting, whining and bad behavior. Whether I like it or not, there is a direct correlation between the joy levels and overall well-being of parents with the joy levels and well-being of children. This reality motivates Chris and I to pursue a life of joy, peace and healing.

Anyhow, this morning the boys and I piled into the car and drove to the dentist. I apologized to Matthew and Andrew for my short fuse and my sour mood. I pointed out that all of us seemed to be having a rough day, and we could use some quieting and appreciation. At this point we took a few minutes to quiet ourselves in the car. Next, we shared some things we appreciated. Once the appreciation faucet was turned on, the boys didn’t want to stop the fun. I had to cut them off once we arrived at our destination. It was obvious we were all thirsty for some life-giving gratitude and joy.

Thankfully, these exercises uplifted our moods for a good couple of hours before the next blow-up occurred. Later in the day I walked up the basement stairs to hear both boys hysterically crying. They apparently spiraled into some sort of quarrel and verbally hurt each other’s feelings along with some pushes and scratches. Alarmed by this, I decided they needed a break from each other.

I sent the boys to play in their rooms by themselves for a while with the rule they are not to interact. A short while later I heard giggling sounds emanating from their rooms. Curious, I investigated and discovered that, after a short period of calming down, they snuck into each other’s rooms to apologize and share peace offerings of gifts with each other. “Are these my children?” I wondered.

While my sons did break the “No Interacting” instruction, I was delighted to find out they apologized to each other, and wanted to return to joy together. While my first inclination was to be upset they disobeyed, I caught myself. I was able to focus on the fact they wanted to repair with each other and they did not want to leave the other feeling sad because of hurtful words and actions.

As a whole, the day had its ups and downs, however, I was encouraged to see how a change in my tone transformed the overall tone of the day. I was especially excited to see my sons learning from my example in how they were able to self-quiet, then repair after realizing they messed up. If the times I mess up and repair better equip my children to repair when they make a relational mess, I will be one happy mother! This is good news for all of us. Our blunders can be redemptive as we quiet ourselves and work on repairing ruptures and returning to joy where joy is needed.

SUBSCRIBE

Does it bring joy?

These last two months have been a crazy season of sickness for our family. One illness after another keeps taking us down, and usually a few at a time. Things seemed to be looking up until a week ago. Andrew (4) came down with a cough. Then Matthew (6) spiked a fever. Next Chris and I were also fighting the boys’ colds. This round took all of us down at once! As you can imagine joy levels dropped. Grumpiness levels rose.

The boys have both been home from school at least a week. Then to top it off, Chris came down with the stomach flu last night. It feels like the perfect storm. And when is this happening? In mid-January when life slows down for the winter? No, right in the height of the Christmas preparation season! To make it even more stressful, this is also the birthday season in our house, with Chris and Andrew celebrating their big days next week.

Something you should know about me is I am a bit of a perfectionist. I try to cook healthy, homemade meals and snacks for my family. I also like to make a big deal of Christmas and birthdays. This season for me is filled with shopping, wrapping, party planning, hosting, baking and creating handmade gifts for all of my family. It is usually a stretch to include my long holiday To Do list on top of my already full life as a Mom, wife and director for the ministry, but add prolonged sickness and you have a recipe for STRESS. Even as I write this I feel the tension levels increase in my stomach and shoulders thinking about all the many things that are still yet undone.

This afternoon during a rare moment of quiet when all three of my sick guys were sleeping, I took a few moments to talk with Jesus about all that has been going on. I started by focusing on some things that I am thankful for and the ways I am grateful for Jesus’ care in our lives. Starting with some appreciation helps calm my restless thoughts and allow me to take some deep breaths. I asked Jesus what He wanted me to know during all this crazy sickness. A thought popped into my head that brought me peace “You can’t do it all and I don’t expect you to”. I felt the tension drain from my shoulders and stomach. The next thing that came to my mind is what my husband frequently asks me “does it increase joy levels?” I realized this needs to be the question I ask myself about every task before I add it to my To Do list. Baking multiple cakes from scratch and elaborately decorating them and the house to celebrate my special guy’s birthdays is a good thing to do, and something I am usually excited about. But in this season of sickness and reduced capacity, I know it will create additional stress and I am likely to start snapping at my husband and kids. While they would enjoy the results of a delicious, healthy and beautifully decorated cake, will it increase their joys levels if I get grumpy in the process? If ordering a cake frees up time for me to relax and be the emotionally present and joyful mother I desire to be, isn’t that better for my family than something I make from scratch? After all, the Christmas season is about celebrating the joy of Jesus’ birth. If all the things I do to make the season “perfect” actually steal the joy, is it really worth it? So what if this year we go out to dinner instead of making a special birthday meal at home? And if the neighbors receive a Christmas card without homemade goodies, is that the end of the world? I need to give myself grace. I need to adjust my expectations to my capacity given the current circumstances. Keeping joy levels high in our home is a priority, even if it means ordering take out. Or tonight, it means we are having cereal for dinner (and in Chris’ case, saltines and Sprite).

I encourage you to slow down and evaluate the things you add to your calendar and your To Do list this season with the question “does it bring joy?” and let the answer influence your decisions.

Immanuel

Thanksgiving day was a whirlwind with a flurry of cooking, eating, hosting and interacting with family members. As the day began to wind down, I was sitting with my sons reading bedtime stories and praying. At one point I asked the boys to each share something with Jesus they feel thankful for. Andrew (4) gave thanks for flowers. My oldest, Matthew (6), was in a silly mood and he started saying gibberish things. I asked him to stop being silly and say something real. Refusing my direction, he again continued with the gibberish. I became frustrated. My body tensed and I noticed my face flush with some anger. Again, I asked him to share something serious instead of being silly because, after all, we were talking with Jesus and my son was being disrespectful. He defied me again and started with the gibberish. Feeling flushed and frustrated I sent him to bed with the added consequence of losing his light which he usually relies on to look at books before bed.

Matthew was very distressed by my response. I was irritated. I put Andrew down for bed then took a few minutes to talk with Jesus about the interaction with Matthew. To help me move from my non-relational, frustrated mindset I started thinking about something I was grateful for. I then asked Jesus what He wanted me to know. I was surprised by the thought that Jesus wasn’t frustrated with Matthew like I was. Jesus was more patient than I was feeling and I sensed Jesus asking me to show Matthew some grace. Grace? Really? I struggled with these thoughts because I felt like going back on a consequence I had already handed down was not “consistent” parenting. In fact, this might be setting a bad precedent. However, as I thought more about this I realized I would be passing up the opportunity to share Jesus’ grace with Matthew and this is something I did not want either one of us to miss.

After feeling calm and peaceful, I walked into Matthew’s room and laid down on the bed next to him. He was mad at me. He resisted my attempts to be near him. Once I was settled next to my son I told him I had just talked with Jesus about something important, and Jesus had something for me to say to Matthew. Now my son was intrigued and he was eager to hear what I had to say. I told him that Jesus is more patient than Mommy and Jesus was asking me to give Matthew grace. I said, “Matthew, you are going to have another chance to share something with Jesus that you feel thankful for!” This time my son quickly responded and shared he is also thankful for flowers. At this point we went on to talk about the difference between Mommy and Jesus. I clarified, “Jesus is much more patient than Mommy is. Even if Mommy is angry about something, this does not mean Jesus is mad. In fact, Jesus is more often feeling sad than mad when we disobey.” I noticed my son’s eyes fixed on me while saying these words.

While this example is humbling for me to share, I feel blessed with the opportunity for a “redo” where I could do a better job the second time around reflecting Jesus to my son. I am also so grateful for the gifts of patience and grace Jesus shares with me. The goal of parenting is not to do everything perfectly, as this is just too much pressure on us. We are to repair with our kids when things go wrong. I was especially encouraged the following night when I again asked Matthew to share something he is thankful for. He responded “I have something silly in my head, but I will share the serious one. I am thankful that Jesus is always near us and protects us”. His response brought a big smile to my face and I felt especially grateful that I had not missed out seeing the fruit of the grace Jesus asked me to extend to Matthew.