Tag: Patience

Marshmallows, Moving and Michigan

My family is in the middle of a major transition. For over a year Chris and I have sensed God is up to something. While in prayer for God’s direction and clarity, we felt like our time in Illinois was coming to a close. We had the sense Immanuel was calling our family to a new adventure in Michigan. I felt a sense of excitement along with some dread!

You see, about 11 years ago we moved to Illinois from Michigan. Since that time, we have dreamed of returning one day to the land of lakes, ice cream and cherries. My husband and I have the flexibility to continue our ministry from wherever we live, so this direction worked out well to continue doing the work we love from the place we love.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of change. The prospect of moving was scary. From the moment we felt God nudging us this direction we began working during the winter months to get our house on the market. We began praying for God’s timing with the sale of our house. The last two times we felt God guiding us to move, He worked in miraculous ways to quickly sell our house and settle us into our new place. Because our intention this time around was to keep our sons in school here in Illinois until the end of the school year, we expected this move to be different than previous transitions. Little did we know.

As soon as our home was on the market and ready to sell, I began to fearfully question whether Chris and I were doing the right thing. Keeping our home in “perfect showing condition” with 5 and 7-year old boys along with my husband’s dear 94-year-old grandmother, has been stressful. While God continues to encourage and faithfully guide us along in this new adventure, I find myself dreading the thought of starting over. Starting from scratch feels, well, it feels overwhelming to me. Can you relate?

Anyhow, now that the boys are done with school I feel restless. I am eager to sell our home. The urge to, “Get this move over with already!” becomes stronger with each passing day.

Recently, I was praying and expressing to God my desire to have our house sell. “Sooner rather than later would be GREAT God!” I desperately pleaded. I then sensed Immanuel remind me that when I feel afraid, my way of handling fear is that I simply want to get it over with. Quickly. Now.

I sensed Immanuel tell me that He knows I am scared about the process of finding new friends and getting plugged in to a new community. He understands I feel worried about getting the boys settled. Yet, I sensed Him saying, “I have everything covered. I am going before you and preparing your path. My timing is for the best possible transition.”

After hearing this from God I felt a deep, profound peace settle over me. It was at this point an odd thought popped into my mind. “Do you want one marshmallow or two?”

This thought reminded me of the study on delayed gratification a team of Stanford researchers led by Walter Mischel first performed in the 1960’s. Basically, they left a young child in a room with one marshmallow in front of them. The children were given instructions they could eat the marshmallow or wait until the adult returns and have two marshmallows instead of one. Sounds easy, right? Well it was not so easy. Those who waited for a second treat often creatively distracted themselves in some way while waiting up to 20 minutes for the adult to return. Those who gave in to their cravings would usually sit and stare at the marshmallow before gobbling up the treat.

I felt like God was showing me that waiting on His timing would bring the best possible outcome for this transition. If I push for my timing to “get this move over with” I will be settling for less than the best that He has for me and my family. I sensed Immanuel asking me to trust Him and rest in His timing. I quickly answered, “Yes!” Then I proceeded to give Him permission to help me during the inevitable moments I begin to doubt and worry. I felt comforted that God has all the timing worked out, including Chris’ travel schedule, our July THRIVE Training, the boys starting school, etc. As only God can, I sensed He is going to work everything out. At this point I took a deep breath and relaxed.

While I still check in with Immanuel for daily doses of peace, I am excited to see what the Good Shepherd has in store for my family. Where do you need some peace today?

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My Mad Mommy Moment

The other day Andrew was not doing what I asked him to do. He was repeatedly getting distracted from his task. I felt my frustration intensify with each reminder. By the fourth reminder I yelled, “Andrew – DO IT NOW!” As soon as the words flew out of my mouth I observed his little face crumple. His eyes teared up. I felt horrible.

My heart sank. My irritation took a back seat to sadness and shame as I realized my intense reaction hurt my son. He usually listens well. He regularly follows through when I ask him to do something. Andrew has a sweet and tender spirit. Usually a little correction goes a long way with him. I just overwhelmed and scared him. Ugh; I felt so bad.

Once I noticed his reaction, I sat down on the floor next to him. Looking into his eyes, I invited him onto my lap. He tearfully agreed. I held him and apologized for yelling at him. I validated his big feelings and after a few moments he calmed down. We started smiling together. After returning to joy I pointed out that we both had some things to work on for better interactions in the future. I mentioned how I needed to calm myself before talking to him when I feel angry and upset. I should not yell in my frustration. His job in all of this is to use his listening ears and obey the first time I ask him to do something. We agreed we could both do better with practice.

I look back on this interaction and I can see my relational brain had taken a hiatus during my mounting upset. I did not use Skill 2 to self-quiet or Skill 12 to remain my relational self during upset. As parents, we are not going to do things perfectly. We can’t expect to get it right every time. The good news is we have the opportunity to repair with our children once we realize the areas we could do things better. It is good to acknowledge we were wrong and it is helpful to tell our sons and daughters how we would like to handle things differently next time. This time of connection is both healing and redemptive.

In this instance I caught my mistake right away. Thankfully, I was able to attune with Andrew in his distress – that I had caused. Admittedly, there are times when seeing my child’s response to my over-the-top reaction doesn’t stop me in my tracks. There are times when my son’s reaction increases my anger. Those are the times there is a delay before I recognize the need for repair and we can return to joy together. Thankfully those repairs still count!

There are many days I have parenting fails and wish I was doing a better job. Even though I am working on the 19 skills and using relational skills in my parenting, I still mess up. I am so thankful that the goal is not to be the “perfect parent” since that goal is unattainable. The more manageable goal is to get really good at repairing when things go wrong.

I hope you give yourself grace this week when, not if, you make mistakes. May God guide your focus and energy to repair when things go wrong. I am now convinced we parents should be the best repairers in the entire world because we get so much practice each day.

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Discipline that leads to rest

Both of my boys have been extremely hyper today. It is clear their little brains have been spinning which causes their behavior to spiral out of control. They keep getting into trouble which means a lot of time spent in quieting practice. In case you are wondering what quieting practice is, I would like to tell you about this sanity-saving opportunity designed to reset their boisterous brains.

A couple years back my husband and I changed how we handle discipline. Around the time we discovered Matthew exhibited symptoms of ADD/ADHD we knew we needed some useful solutions. Matthew was very hyper which meant he was in constant motion, incredibly impulsive, unable to focus or calm down and he ended up in trouble because he did not listen, stop or obey. Timeouts and other discipline techniques were not working. My husband and I felt like we were spinning on an out of control merry-go-round!

We realized, ultimately, one key skill was missing because my son was not able to effectively quiet himself. His inability to “down-regulate” and calm down was impacting every one of his relationships and every single interaction. In many ways, it is like trying to walk when you have a leg cramp. This is no easy task, and for my son, his brain was in a cramp and he needed some relief!

For children with ADD or ADHD it is much more difficult to quiet. Some brain regions are working too hard while other areas are not working hard enough. This means children need more practice to learn how to calm and quiet as well as learn to use the skill effectively in life and relationships. Even when children have learned the quieting skill we parents must help our children find the motivation to use the skill. Learning a skill and having the motivation to use a skill are separate issues and each requires purposeful effort and clear guidance.

Now back to how we handle discipline issues. Instead of a “Timeout”, we frequently tell our boys to take a “Quiet Practice.” This means they must go to a designated chair and sit quietly and take some deep breaths to calm their body and thoughts. They are not allowed to talk or play with toys. We usually wait until they have been still and quiet for about 2 minutes then we release them. If they talk or interact the time starts all over. If they “sit and stew” or look enraged all the while sitting still, the 2 minutes does not begin until it is obvious they are trying to calm themselves. Their designated seat is usually somewhere in the room with me, so I can see if they are quieting, but if they are both in quiet at the same time and interacting with each other, we send them to their own separate rooms so they no longer interact.

Sometimes Matthew and Andrew argue about going to quiet or, if they are angry, they will do something destructive or mean while walking to their quiet moment. This leads to what we call a “punishment” or “consequence.” In the past, when they did not obey, I would take away television privileges or toys for the day, but the problem was it was such a big consequence I did not have additional options if they further disobeyed. We had to find a small enough consequence that I had enough options when they would rack up 10-15 on the way to their quiet destination! We have defined a punishment as 5 minutes without toys though, when we first started this process, we started with 2 minutes while they were getting used to the new system.

While there are still occasions when we use other kinds of consequences for behavior, this is our go-to system. What I enjoy about incorporating quieting into their consequences is this: no matter the reason they end up in trouble, they will benefit from quieting whether they are sad, mad, overwhelmed, or frustrated. While this is especially helpful for Matthew with his ADD, it is also very effective for Andrew as well.

I am thankful to say that the day has improved after the boys spent much of their morning in quiet. They better regulate their emotions and are staying kind with each other. They are more grounded than before and the day has not spun out of control like it would have in the past. Now that they have practiced this skill for some time, I often say to Matthew, “You are getting hyper, go calm yourself or you will end up in a longer quieting practice” and he is able to calm down his energy levels before he needs a formal consequence. All of this has gone smoother because my husband and I first practiced quieting ourselves and spent a lot of time quieting with the boys when they were infants. Quite simply, every one of us benefit from some much-needed rest.

Discipline is a hot topic today because there are many strong opinions and different camps on what’s appropriate – or not. This can feel overwhelming. Additionally, many of us parents feel hopeless trying to find what works for our children. I find it helpful to remember that discipline is not so much about getting results rather it is about guiding our children to learn how to manage and return to joy from distressing emotions, learn to stay themselves while feeling upset and learning right from wrong. These are gifts we can give our children and a rewarding investment in their future.

 

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Sick and snappy

We have had another crazy round of sickness these last two weeks including two rounds of the stomach flu. With being sick during the holiday season I have found myself falling into a bit of a funk. Feeling discouraged and even a little depressed with the ongoing sickness, low energy levels and endless to do lists leaves me in a place of more to do that I have time or energy to accomplish. When I get overwhelmed I have a tendency to get snappy with my husband and kids. I don’t like this about myself and work hard to get back in a relational state of mind so I am not taking things out on them. These last few weeks reminded me of a couple of years ago when life was very overwhelming. At the time our boys were two and four, and Chris injured his back. He could only work a couple hours a day and the rest of the time he was laying down on ice—unable to function. It was a low point for both of us. The added strain of caring for the boys and the house by myself, and picking up some of his responsibilities with the ministry had me in a constant state of overwhelm. He was unable to care for the kids (on a no lifting/no bending restriction) and I was unable to leave the kids with him for any length of time. Talk about a difficult season! At times I struggled with resentment that he wasn’t helping, even though it was something beyond his control. Today I was reminded of what got me through and helped keep the life in my marriage and in our family during that lifeless season.

Each morning and evening I would take several minutes to focus on things I was grateful for, the people and moments that brought me appreciation. It was only about five minutes a few times a day, but feeling appreciation made such a difference in my ability to cope with the emotionally and physically overwhelming season. This was a time of remembering things that brought me joy and letting myself feel the warmth of the moment all over again. This can be a beautiful sunset, laughing with a friend, cuddling with your spouse, giggling with your child, a day at the beach, a hike in the mountains or any joyful memory that you can recollect. I found that usually the warm feeling from a joyful memory would wear off after a moment or so, and in order to finish the full five minutes I needed to think of a series of moments. I started a list in my journal of the appreciation memories to help jumpstart my time. I also noticed that pictures on my phone or having a photo album nearby could quickly get my mind going in the right direction. It always amazed me how just five minutes could drastically change my mood and often shift the course of the day.

I also spent a lot of time with Jesus. I would take 10 or 15 minutes whenever I could find a window in my day (often during the kids naptime or when they were in bed for the night) and spend time talking with Him about the things weighing me down. I took some focused time to listen for any encouragement He would bring. I found that after our interactions, I felt a deep sense of peace, even though nothing about my circumstances had changed. I also noticed a renewed sense of patience with Chris and the kids and my resentment about all that was on my plate would shift into a desire to serve them. My favorite method of journaling and interacting with Jesus is based on the Immanuel Journaling exercise we use at our trainings, written by my friends John and Sungshim Loppnow, Anna Kang and Dr. Jim Wilder. If you are interested to see the list of questions written out, you can find a downloadable copy here and order this amazing resource here.

These moments of appreciation and times of interacting with Jesus provided the much needed fuel to get me through long, hard days. They also refreshed me in a dry season of our marriage when Chris was largely unavailable, both physically and emotionally. I feel refreshed and restored practicing these skills again in recent weeks. While I don’t like the feeling of living in a constant state of overwhelm, these intentional practices gave me the daily bread I needed to sustain me and allow me to be physically and emotionally available for my family.

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.