Tag: Grace

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

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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.

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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.