Tag Archives: wellness

Parenting From fear

Looking into yesterday can be painful but productive. At least my youngest two children will have a mom who can parent from wisdom instead of through fear.

Twenty-five years ago, I was a young married woman having children every 2.5 years. I had no idea the intricate fear structure in my soul that influenced my parenting.

As I look back, I see myself – picking up my kids from the rare occasion of having a babysitter, quizzing them and analyzing their body language for the first five minutes to try to discern if something bad happened. Subconsciously, I micromanaged their childhood moments so that they’d never, ever experience sadness or pain.

My concerns were legitimate. I clearly remembered many of my childhood experiences and was in the process of cleaning myself from the unhealthy residue of those experiences. Statistics show that bullying and peer-to-peer sexual abuse is increasing. But there is a difference between parenting from peace-filled wisdom and fear-based projection.

I’m a bit in shock as I sit a few months from turning fifty, and realize that no matter how successful my four young adults are today, that success is a product of the gracious and healing hand of God. Although most people would have never known it, and my husband and I certainly didn’t at the time, but one child dealt with suicidal thoughts as a nine-year-old, another experienced tormenting dreams that paralyzed them physically while they slept, and another dealt with a huge amount of self-rejection at age five.

But I get it. I’ve read online articles, books and blogs about everything from epigenetics to early child development and I know now that my own early trauma was not only passed down to my children, but that it caused a bent in my God-focused journey. A bent inward, like an arrow jabbing at the deep wounds in my soul. Each child’s birth was an unconscious trigger. I didn’t realize that my motherly effort to “save” them from pain was a symptom of my own need to be healed.

We live in a broken world. We have to face the reality of the war zone we were born into. One way that Jesus destroys the works of the devil is through us overcoming struggle and hurts and wounds with His help, not in our own strength. I can’t keep my kids from every situation that will make them cry, but I can weep with them. I can’t monitor every friendship, but I can teach them how to choose wisely and pray for them. I can teach them about the world-brutal but beautiful, hate-filled and divisive, yet filled with people who will genuinely accept them for the content of their character.

Most of all I can point them to Jesus. He fills. He restores. He heals and teaches anyone who comes to Him.

Psalm 91: 14-16 “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in [e]trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
“With [f]a long life I will satisfy him
And [g]let him see My salvation.”

In another post, I will discuss why the Bible calls children, His “arrows”. What a mighty purpose they have!

Our Greatest Cheerleader

“That’s great, Tina!

My fingers ran clumsily over the white keys of my mother’s piano. I was lost in a childish reverie of imagination. One minute I was a concert pianist and the next, I was a daughter whose silly playing was lulling her dad to sleep.

My dad sat behind me in my mother’s rocking chair, rocking and dosing, in no rush to leave, which surprised me but warmed my heart. My daddy was content to hear me play on the piano even though I’d taken lessons for a short time.

“Oh, play that again, that was nice!”

This memory is etched in my soul. I treasure it since so many memories of my childhood years had to be healed by God’s compassion. As a child, I didn’t see my dad relaxed and content very often; his time was usually spent on projects or sports or shouting and it’s the latter that makes this single moment a gift from God.

Silhouette of little girl leaping in the sunset.

As children, it is appropriate to want a parent, a favorite teacher or any regular caregiver to be our greatest fan. We are born needing affirming words. Studies have been done showing that babies respond differently whether they see a frown or a smile.

There are times when the people most vital to our care cannot give us what we need. It’s a painful reality that often shapes our emotional development and taints our self-image. My gift, this memory that God brought forth during a season of emotional healing, showed me that my dad had a tender place in his heart for me.  Some people don’t have a memory like this to hold on to and for years they scratch their hearts wondering, “What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t be loved or wanted?”

For many people, over time the mystery unravels and family secrets are brought to light and the scratching of the head becomes a nod of understanding that heals the ache a little. Understanding can help begin to close the door of pain, but the void remains. We need to be affirmed and encouraged. We need someone who takes pleasure in our existence.

For me, the road of healing opened my eyes to a screen that exists between my tangible temporal reality and the unseen eternal reality. I needed to see the unseen. Though the screen I saw the fears and insecurities behind the shouting. I saw parental heartache when material displays of love went unreceived by a bitter and hurting teenage girl.  What brought the most healing was when my eyes saw a figure reaching his arms to the little girl within my soul, urging me to come to him and be held so that his divine love could make every bad memory fade away. I saw scenes from my childhood home where this figure stood in a corner of a room, weeping and praying and agonizing over the pain felt by the humans in the room. His nail-scarred hands were chained – human pride and resistance had shackled his ability to deliver and rescue. I also recognized this figure as the man hanging on a cross in a book in one of my grandmother’s bedrooms. For years, my spiritual eyes would look behind the screen and see the figure with the outstretched arms encouraging me to come to him.

Finally, one day I saw behind the screen again and the little girl that was me crawled up onto his giant lap and buried my aching head into his bosom. My tangible pain was washed away by my new eternal reality. Isaiah 53:4  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…

Psalm 28:6-7 Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.

Jesus is our biggest cheerleader but most of us don’t know it. He’s there in the darkest scenes of our lives, trying to show us that he is not the author of those scenes but the desperate rescuer trying to break through the darkness. He’s the one that brushes the dirt off of our knees when we fall and when we fail he reminds us to come to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help when we are in need.  When we long for affirmation and encouragement, we have to ignore the silence of our parent, the teacher or the caregiver and hear him say, “That’s great son!” or “That’s great, daughter!”

Psalm 27: 10-14
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me…
 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

1

Realizing that Our Kids Can Become More Important to Us than God

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:12

So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress…Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father… 1 Samuel 2:23-5

Eli

Eli was a priest. How in the world did the sons of a priest become corrupt and unrighteous? It was their dad’s fault. When it came to raising his kids, Eli had areas of emotional immaturity.  Emotional immaturity and a weak will kept Eil from applying his knowledge of God’s ways to his parenting style. In verse 27, God speaks to Eli through a prophet and later through a young boy named Samuel (1 Sam 3:13). Both tell him the harsh reality about the way he raised his sons and the forthcoming consequences to his lineage.

For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.

Eli preferred his children more than he revered God. How would this have looked? It may have meant that when his sons were mischievous boys, he did not discipline them. He let them get away with more than he should have. Maybe he catered to their whines and false apologies and never helped them see the sin in their hearts through gentle and honest conversation. As a priest, he did not teach them to honor the systems of offerings and sacrifice and he greedily took the best of what the people brought for their offerings. The fact that he preferred his children more than God was idolatry.  At the stage where we meet Eli, he was a priest who did not revere God enough, did not revere the system of repentance that God set up, hadn’t acknowledged his own issues, and was confronted with the scandal of his sons.  Propitiation of their sinful behavior was available through the Hebrew practice of blood sacrifice, which foreshadowed Jesus’ bodily sacrifice, but the sons scoffed at offerings and sacrifices.  Now grown men, they were promiscuous and defiant adults. When Eli tried to reason with them, it was too late. He missed the opportunity to guide and train them during their formative years.

Eli and Samuel.  And he said 'It is the Lord:

Now Eli wasn’t a total screw up. Despite being faced with his fatherly failures, God allowed him to mentor the young Samuel, who was called from an early age to be a prophet. Eli affirmed Samuel as he learned to hear and obey God even when the boy was tasked with telling Eli his forthcoming demise. Because of Samuel’s success story, Eli became one of the most important prophets in Jewish history. He was a man who eventually recognized his issues, addressed them and became a different man. This was the man that Samuel was trained by.

When we are confronted with our issues we must remind ourselves that we have the opportunity to change. We must be quick to close the door to self-condemnation and guilt. When we humbly acknowledge areas of immaturity, God steps in and begins the unseen and somewhat mysterious process of changing our hearts and minds.  

The truth is that we are fallible adults who still need guidance and help. We are not all bad and we are not all good. Better than those two subjective measuring sticks is this truth: we are treasured! In Christ, we are forgiven! We are desired by a perfect God! Worth cannot be based on how well we do, but on the fact that our very existence is significant. The Old Testament did not offer the option for redemption, but the New Testament does through the blood sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. This redemption is so amazing, that today’s parents who may have been “Eli’s” at one time and whose adult children are now prodigals, whose hearts and minds are far from God’s best, enjoy the possibility of these adult children can be wooed by the Spirit of God. The course of a lineage can be altered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. 

I believe in a Creator who imagined each of us out of the goodness of his nature.  We have to keep our eyes on the process of change, not the goal. God is in charge of the finish line; we just need to yield to the journey.

…being confident of this very thing, He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ  Philippians 1:6

parenting3

New Seasons, Shifting Sand

dpp_0055.jpgOceans lovers like myself know what it is like to feel wet sand being displaced under your feet as the underwater current urges waves forward. We continually have to lift our feet and reset them for firmer footing, lift them, reset them, lift them and reset them.

Such are the seasons of our lives.

This last day of August 2018 offers both a “finally” and a “beginning”, a lifting and a resetting. School started a few days ago and since after 20 years, I am no longer a home educator, I find myself settling into another season journeying with the precious parents at our small Christian private school. I must say, parental involvement in this top-notch school is noteworthy — here are working and stay-at-home parents that give their time to help the teachers, encourage the administrative staff and join hands with each other in friendship. God will bless this, indeed.

For most US communities, personal lives are dictated by academic schedules. So like millions of other parents I now exhale summer activity, spontaneity and Southern humidity, and inhale reflection, coffee shops, after-school schedules and vocational duties.

I’ll be honest, August has been tough until today.

I exhale loss and sadness and inhale hope and promise. The stain of death and two older kids leaving home for higher education made sleep difficult. My dad died in August 2017. Another friend died in August 2015. Two families I know had sons killed in August 2018. (sigh)

I inhale God’s comfort and I exhale the difficulty of shifting sand under my feet that makes me lift and reset, lift; reset. Underneath this metaphorical sand is a very real rock: God’s Truth which is my foundation.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8)

August was ironic. I drove to some of the highest peaks of my life….traveling across theLake Tahoe nation to luxurious and amazing destinations like the Rocky Mountains and Lake Tahoe. My heart soared and my eyes absorbed the beauty of God’s creation. God kissed me through this trip. I remember driving through Kansas on I-70. It’s not the most scenic route and I kept watch of the dark clouds to the north, but for a few moments, I was overwhelmed at God’s goodness. I teared up. This bucket-list trip had happened! Joy in the midst of a challenging month.

Beauty in the midst of pain. Hardship in the midst of hope.  Newness in familiarity. I encourage anyone who, like me, is experiencing a shift in their lives to imagine your hand reaching and holding the Divine hand.  My personal picture is me grabbing God’s hand with all of the strength that I have! He holds on just as intensely.

Friends, we are loved by a faithful and devoted God, who created us with good reason and profound intent. Yesterday I heard a pastor say this (my summary) “Our heavenly Father is SO good at taking tragic situations and events inspired by pure evil; reworking their consequences for our good….(in order that we grow through them), that we often begin to believe that he actually authored the events.”

The Lord says of us:
“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15)

14446133_1189737564418217_4322761516211056887_nMy soul rests while I regain my footing because I am loved by God who takes challenging events and uses them to cause me to seek his comfort. He teaches me how to get through earth’s journey triumphant rather than beat up and disillusioned. He wants to do this for all of us.

Do you need to exhale your yesterday so that you can inhale your present and your future? As you lift your feet under the ocean water of your life, remember that the current of God always has new sand for you to reset your feet on. Lift, reset. Lift and reset.

Beneath seasonal sands is a sure foundation.

14359050_1186267708098536_4055132088894199258_n

 

 

 

 

Mommy or Me: Who is first?

Ages and Stages Part 4 Mommy or Me: Who is 1st? (Repost from 2014)

bw profileI think I was in my upper-twenties when the dawning occurred. “I” had become lost in the role of “Mommy”. The decision to be a stay-at-home mom cost us financially but rewarded us with the certainty that we could completely oversee our children’s formative years and we could home educate them, teaching each subject according to a Biblical worldview.

Sure, I loved strolling to the playground, attending story-time at the library, and visiting friends 3-4 times per week. But I also loved writing, playing the piano, and learning whatever I could about God.

I never wanted to forsake my “personhood” for the roles that I’ve been blessed with. As much as being a wife and mother delighted me, I knew that I had been endowed by my Creator with certain gifts, talents and missions to accomplish while on this earth.Deep within

Some young mothers get caught in the cage of “I have no time for me.” Ladies, whether we work in the marketplace, at home or not at all, we have to make time for ourselves and I know it ain’t easy. I thank God for the friends that became like family. They encouraged me to nurture my interests even though my husband worked 80-90 hours per week back then.

As moms, we can make it work. Our dreams really can come true…one day. For me original bedtimes stories became the inspiration for a fiction series that I started called The Ages of Laus Perennis. My passion for prayer, teaching and personal ministry grew as my husband and I began to attend various East Coast conferences that equipped us for future roles within our local church.

I remember playing piano for a Baptist church, sitting my one year old daughter on my lap and teaching her to keep her hands on her thighs so that I could reach around her to play the piano. Since I had no babysitter I had to make it work. 543159_570549866336064_696008493_nMany times I had to volunteer to host something in order to be a part, especially when there was no money for a babysitter. My kids would play quietly in their rooms or be in bed while a prayer meeting or bible study was going on, or the “baby at the time” would just sit on my lap.

You know the adage: “where there is a will there is a way.” Really, this is quite true. God wants us to enjoy life. Since He doesn’t want us to shrug off our motherhood, He shows us how to juggle the duties of these roles with the wonderful interests, talents and missions that make us come alive. After all, He gave us those interests, talents and missions.

I wouldn’t trade motherhood for the world! I’m a strong advocate of parental rights. I love having so many children and I love their wide age range. It isn’t always easy, but I applaud God for the choice He made for my life.

What opportunities are waiting for you? What doors are open but you haven’t noticed them? Being an author, intercessor, friend, gardener, DIY-er, home chef ( I LOVE to invent recipes), songwriter, worship musician, Castle TV show junkie, and home educator enables me to be fully me.

We are better parents when we give ourselves time and attention, not by neglecting our kids or spouses, but by heeding the wisdom of our Father.

Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Father, Your desire is to continually guide us, for our desire to be satisfied in scorched places, and for our bones to be strong; so that we will be like a watered garden. (Isaiah 58:11) As we faithfully fulfill our family roles and spend time with You, show us how to use every deposit that You’ve given us, that You may be glorified and we may be satisfied.

When Silence Screams

Restlessness. Distractions. Chatter. We don’t know how to be silent anymore.
But Silence desires our attention.

Psalm 46:10
Be Still and Know that I Am God

As an introvert, I can sit quietly in the shadows at a party.  That is different from sitting alone in my house with no phone in my hand, no window open to hear the distant traffic and no TV on in the background. Silence. Complete silence can be uncomfortable because I’m wired for sound. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a household of four children who played instruments, a mandatory chore for some, but a pleasant break from homework for me. When we weren’t practicing the tuba, cello, piano or viola, we were playing our radios in our bedrooms. Silence arrived when everyone was finally asleep.

My current family is even bigger. I’m mother of six children, ages 5 – 25. All but the oldest lives at home and so sound is a part of my life. Lots of continuous sound.

My best friend still doesn’t understand how one of my sons can ask me a question and I don’t “hear” him. Sound. It’s always around. I’m so used to it that someone’s question just melts into the stew of busyness in the house.

Don’t get me wrong, sound isn’t bad, but it can be such a constant in our lives that we forget sometimes to turn everything off and just appreciate the silence.

In the past week, I’ve asked myself “Why is it to challenging to sit down and do absolutely nothing, close my eyes while fully awake and just be?” After all, God’s still small voice and the reality of his omnipresence is more apparent when I’m still and quiet. Sometimes it takes so long to even turn off my inner voice that I hear Silence scream “Shshsh!”.

As a former worship leader, there were times when it seemed as if Jesus had come into the sanctuary. A holy awe swept the room and silence urged our attention. But still, it was terribly difficult for me to restrain playing the piano quietly, thinking that He needed my sound in order to stay.

What He desired was 100% of my attention.

DPP_0091
Practicing silence can be an act of worship to God. Due to the variety of denominations in the Christian church, outsiders may think that some do “it” right and others do “it” wrong when it comes to service style. We’ve seen scenes of  loud “holy roller” Pentecostal churches and quiet and stoic Anglican or Quaker churches. The contrast is stark.

I’m a firm believer that God inhabits the praises of his people in song and spoken word. I believe that every believer should be comfortable “shouting to God with a voice of triumph”. Can we hear the Spirit of God say “Clap your hands, all ye peoples!” and do it?  (Psalm 47:1) But sometimes He wants our silence. “Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1) In the place of silence is divine rest. We quiet our own voices because we know and we trust in the One who has all of the answers. We turn off our internal speakers, the mental lists, yesterday’s marital squabble, and the spirits of hell that seek to steal our peace.

We can and should use silence in two ways. Sometimes we need to be silent in order to actually hear what is going on within our souls. Have you ever been quiet for awhile and then you get to a place where you are forced to pay attention to the state of your soul? We can carry on conversations with co-workers with smiles on our faces and sobs in our hearts. We are good at masking ourselves. We are good at denial and suppression. Silence is helpful in allowing us to admit what’s really going on inside and then turn to the One who can make things better. At the same time,  there are times in our moments of solitude when we self-introspect and talk too much. God is trying to speak and we have our lists and wants and petitions and needs and then we finish throwing it all up, get up and resume our day with burden-laden souls. There are times when we need to be still and listen to the silence. A mysterious rest descends like a soft blanket. Reliance and devotion to God is strengthened because in our silence we are saying, “Your presence is enough.”

Psalm 131:2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Are you willing to wean your soul from the distractions and just be still? and silent? Are you ready to close your eyes and not be afraid if you, oh tired mother of toddlers, fall asleep in the midst of your quiet time with God?

images (2)

Feel the weights fall off and every atom in your God-breathed being begin to vibrate with heavenly peace.   And if God chooses not to speak in his still, small voice, welcome and appreciate His constant presence. Jehovah-Shammah. God is there.

I know He speaks in the stillness.

I believe He heals in silence.

When silence screams “Shhhh!”,  stop and

just be.

 

Isaiah 32:17-18 (NKJV)
17 The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

18 My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,…

 

 

 

 

My Kids Need To Grow Up!

Repost from Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I looked at the woman reading peacefully under the tree at the park. Her kids were old enough to play by themselves and by the sound of it, were having a great time. Thoughts of envy blared in my head.

I can’t wait until these two are old enough to play together”, I thought as I helped my toddler navigate the stairs to the platform. Once he was there, I ran around the playset to meet him at the slide where I waited to catch him at the bottom. A few feet away, his slightly older brother “drove” on the playground motorcycle.

A couple of years have passed since this scene at the playground. What I realize now is that the woman that I witnessed was probably having a rare but needed respite from two loud and adventurous boys.  Now, I’m in her shoes.

Every step on this staircase of raising kids has its sighs of relief. “No more middle of the night feedings!” No more diapers!” “No more chauffeuring, they have their license!” But each step also has its challenges. “Lord, help them drive safely.”  “I’m not buying you a phone. You’re too young.”

When my four oldest children were young, there was another playground we would frequent.  On a particular occasion, a mindset changing thought popped in my head. “I’ll never have this moment in time back.” I remember looking around at my kids, each born around 2 ½ years from the previous one and making a commitment to relish each moment and each stage no matter what the challenges.

I decided to write this post not just to encourage moms and dads but to remind myself of this commitment that I made so many years ago. Child #5 is now old enough to care about how I cut his hair and occasionally tells me that he doesn’t like me because he has to do school work. Child #6 has decided to pick on his older brother as much as he can. The yelling and tears are ridiculous. Sigh. Just last week I thought, “Wow, it was so easy when they were younger and didn’t care about which TV show they watched before bedtime.” I stopped and caught myself. I shook my head at the irony.

One day these two will be as old as my first four who are seventeen to twenty-four years of age.   I am familiar with the upcoming road, its challenges and its joys. But in the meantime, right now, I need to make a decision. The same decision that I made over a decade ago: “I’ll never have this moment in time back. I need to relish these moments and understand the Father-heart of God through them as well as help my little boys discover God in them. I need to thank God for the opportunity to have children and steward them.”

So now my heart is tearing up. I do love my children. SO much.  Parenting has taught me more about myself than even marriage, which says a lot! So when the bickering starts, I’ll choose to look up towards heaven and breathe in deeply. When I hear, “I still don’t like you.” I will smile ‘cause I know better. And when they hug me from behind, I’ll pause what I’m doing and receive their clutch.

Cause it only lasts for a moment.

God, help me remember that in every difficult moment, you are my very present help. When I’m tired and frustrated, give me wisdom and peace. I surrender to the way you mold my character. Help me train my kids in the way that they should go. In Jesus’ name. Amen.