Protecting ourselves from people who drain us

negative smily face

“No, that can’t be done.” “You can’t do that.” “It’s too expensive.” “I don’t like that.” “It won’t work.”

Ugh! It’s hard enough sometimes to be hopeful, especially when you’re really making an effort to believe that God is going to make a way.   To make matters worse, we sometimes have a friend, a spouse a parent or a chld constantly shooting down everything we say. It can be very draining.  How do we protect ourselves from being drained of energy and hope?

1. Understand
What some people call hopeful, others might call unrealistic. After all, they might not have the same conviction as you do or the same experience of seeing God’s faithfulness in their lives. Fear is a powerful master. Some believe that it is best to “play it safe.” What they don’t see, is that there is no such thing as safe outside of God.  So Understand that everyone is in a different stage of their own journey and be sympathetic.  They probably mean well, they just don’t see it the way you do.

2. Evaluate
It is important to evaluate our own thinking and make sure that we are being hopeful and not just optimistic. John Ortberg, in his book, “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat,” talks about the difference between optimism and hopefulness. Optimism says that the circumstances will get better.  While optimism is nice, you can’t count on it. Hope says that even in the midst of trials, God will make a way. So ask yourself, are you just optimistic or are you hopeful?

3. Select
Be selective of who you share your hopefulness with. Some friends and family do not have the ability to be hopeful with you. For whatever reason, they seem to be there just to burst your bubble…over and over again. So why do you keep going to them? Find some encouraging friends who can root for you. Who can believe with you. Who can tell you the truth when you need to hear it, but who are open to God doing amazing things when He pleases.

4. Remember
If God has whispered hope in your heart, perhaps it is for you to treasure, and not to share. Wait for it. And when it comes to pass, it is all yours. You’ll know you weren’t crazy, you’ll know it was possible with God, and you’ll know that He deserves all the glory.

When your child hurts your feelings

You’ve had a great day with your child.  You’ve been playing together, you cooked lunch together, had a nice walk to the park, life is great.  You think, “It’s such a blessing to be able to have such a beautiful child.  Such a loving child.  Such a sweet child.  And look how much she loves me.”  And then it happens.  She wants a cookie.  But she already had two cookies and you told her no more cookies.  Now she is pleading. Begging. Insisting.  But you have an eye on the future.  You want her to know that no means no.  So you lovingly make it clear that she will not get another cookie.  Her face changes.  It looked so sweet just a minute ago.  Now it looks contorted and a little pinkish! With contempt in her voice, she yells, in that no longer cute two year old voice,  “I DON’T LIKE YOU!” And she throws her toy on the floor and stomps away.  Ouch!  That hurt!

Unfortunately, that’s only the beginning.  As our kids get older, the words can becwhen your child hurts your feelings picome even more harsh.  “I don’t want to talk to you!” “I don’t care!” “I hate you!”  “I wish you were dead!”  “This is all your fault!”  Most moms will at some point experience
some level of rejection by their children.  And no matter how tough you are, it will hurt.  At that moment, it is hard to stay focused.  We can become so distracted by our own pain that we might forget the bigger picture.  So here are a few reminders we all need to keep in mind.

  1. Your child is self-centered, immature and focused on what she wants.

In most cases, the rejection is not personal.  It has to do more with them wanting to get what they want when they want it than how your child really feels about you.  While it’s easier said than done, try to remember that you had your own moments when your parents were not your favorite and even moments of drama and disrespect.  (Don’t you wish you would have held your tongue now that you know what it feels like?)

2.  It is our responsibility to love our kids, but we should not depend on them loving us back.

This one sounds rough, but the truth is that our kids are still trying to figure things out.  They are working their way toward moving out. Toward autonomy.  If we are dependent on them for love or identity, when they push away we will try to pull them closer toward us, causing more friction.  Be self-aware.  What makes you do what you do?   Instead of trying to please your child so he can love you or tell you what a great parent you are, get your love tank filled elsewhere.  Invest in having a strong marriage, healthy friendships and a growing relationship with God.  Then you can be objective about what is right for your child instead of what feels good to you.

3.  Evaluate your confrontations

If we always butt heads and have the same arguments, we are probably always approaching our differences in the same manner.  Try a different approach.  If your child complains that you don’t listen, is there some truth to that?  Listening without interrupting could make a world of difference.  The old adage of trying to understand before being understood can go a long way in our relationship with our kids. Do we go into the conversation with an I win-you lose attitude?  If so, it comes across in the way you say things.  No one likes to lose.  If you make it a competition, walls are going to go up and bullets will fly. Examine your heart.  It comes through in the way you communicate, so make sure your intentions are pure.

4.  Stay the course

If you’ve evaluated your position and still think it’s the best course of action, stick to it.  Don’t be swayed by the distraction of a bad attitude or hurtful words.  It is very likely that those hurtful words have worked in your child’s favor in the past and so it has become his go to when he is trying to get what he wants.  Maybe you have been known to give in when your child manipulates you with emotions. Maybe the guilt button is pushed and you feel the need to give in to the request.  Don’t.  Keep an eye on your goal.  And think about your child’s future. Is it fair to encourage your child to think that they can manipulate anyone into doing whatever they want by throwing a fit?  Stay the course.

Raising children is hard work.  The best definition of being an adult that I’ve heard is, “An adult is someone who does what has to be done whether they feel like it or not.”  Remember you’re the parent.  If your values demand respect from your children, than decide what the consequences will be for disrespect, define the boundary and communicate it, all ahead of time to your child.  This will help you feel less threatened and more in control.  Focus on your goal.  And whatever happens, don’t get distracted when your child hurts your feelings.

 

He is true to His promises…and to me.

A friend of mine has been going through a difficult time lately. It’s a pretty big deal, yet if this were the only thing, I would say, well, we all go through rough patches. This too shall pass.  But she has been experiencing one thing after another!  Loss of a parent, challenges at home, and now, personal health! Seriously? And I have other friends going through a whole lot of things, too!

desperate

A few years ago when I experienced something similar, I felt like my family was the only one going through such horrible experiences one after another. Sickness, death, finances, more sickness, losing our home, the list seemed to go on and on. And even though we had a lot of support: friends, family, even strangers, in a way, we felt very much alone. Everyone’s experience is different and we all have our individual perspective on the situation we are going through. And once you have experienced what you thought God would spare you from, even He seems a little distant.

The truth is, sooner or later, because we live in an imperfect world, we will all experience grief, loss, disappointment, loneliness. It’s part of life, but also part of growth. How would we ever know for sure that God is faithful, if we never experienced doubt? How would we ever know that He is for us, if we didn’t need rescuing? How would we know that He is sovereign, if we didn’t experience being out of control? How would we go from theory to practice, if our beliefs were never put to the test? It’s painful, to be sure. And I would still rather believe that my experience a few years ago was it. Done. But probably not. The next time around, I hope that my experience from the past will serve me as a reminder that there is hope on the other side. That God does not just hand out promises all “willynilly”. He means them. He is true to His promises…and to me.

Sweetness to the soul

Diligence:  the constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body and mind.

This definition reminds me of a favorite Bible verse of mine. “Desire realized is sweet to the soul…” (Proverbs 13:19a).  A desire is a longing.  Something we crave.

Some things we desire are easy to get.  Pizza, a day off (well, this is easier said than done), going to the movies, getting a hair cut, tacos.  Whenever we want to have one of these, we simply schedule it in.  We take out our cell phones and order pizza.  We set aside the time to go see that movie or go get that hair cut.  We stop by the grocery store and buy the ingredients for tacos.

Some desires require a little more effort.  A clean house, a garden, a shiny car, some fashionable clothes, fresh linens.  These are more time consuming.  We need to schedule time to clean the house, buy the seeds, plant and care for the garden, wash the car, shop for clothes and change the linen.

Other desires are accomplished through working hard at something else.  Income is needed for these.  Sometimes several jobs and over-time are required in order to get the amount of income needed to get these desires realized.  The big house, the nice car, the kids’ extracurricular activities, the dream vacation, the latest electronics.  In order to realize these desires, we need to make a lot of money.  Still, most people find a way to realize at least some of these desires through hard work and sacrifice.

Then there are things that, oddly enough, we really, really want to have, such as health, a good marriage, a loving family, solid friendships, a good relationship with God, but often we don’t work as hard to achieve these.  These are often the ones we are least intentional with.  We expect to get them as if through osmosis, on the side, or as we go.  Yet I believe these are the desires that the book of Proverbs is talking about.  These are the desires that, when realized, are sweet to the soul.  These are the ones that last.  All the other desires are temporary.  Later we will need another haircut, linens must be changed again, gardens are seasonal and cars get dirty often.  But any one of these desires can be rendered useless, when the other desires we really want are not realized.  Pizza does not taste as good when eaten in the midst of strife; neither do tacos.  A big house can feel empty without the warmth of love and unity.  The precious time invested in all the hours working to have all the “nice” things might be better invested in a date night or family night or just going out for coffee with a friend.

Diligence.  We use it to achieve what we think is important.  Everything I have ever gotten good at has required diligence on my part:  it has required reading, research, practice, hours and hours of work.  That’s probably true of you, too!  So we know it works.  We just have to make sure to be diligent in those desires that matter the most…because those are the ones that will be sweet to our souls.

 (first published 4/6/14 on pactohomeandfamily@blospot.com)

Looking to the new year with a new eye

When I was in my teens (a looong time ago), I read a poem by a famous Hispanic Poet regarding a rose.  The person in his poem had dedicated his life dissecting roses to see what made them a certain color, size, shape, etc.  Now on his death bed, someone laid a simple rose on his side table.  As he admired it, a tear fell from the side of his face as he realized that he had spent his whole life focused on the wrong thing.  For the first time, he realized how beautiful the rose was.

I remember that it made me cry as I realized, perhaps for the first time, the danger of going after the wrong things.  The loss of time that cannot be recovered.  The brevity of life.  And the inevitable evaluation at one’s deathbed of the decisions one has made.  It both frightened and challenged me.  Since then, it has always been a desire of mine to focus on what is most important.

A few days ago, I read something that again reminded me of the importance of being intentional about the direction that we choose.  It is found in Matthew 6.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This is taken from the famous Sermon on the Mount.  I believe that this whole passage rests on verse 22.  “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If the eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

The successful fulfillment of the instructions in verses 19-34 depends on the condition of the eye. How do I see things?  Where is my treasure?  What do I really value?  Where is my heart?  Who do I serve?  Where does my provision come from?  What do I worry about?  What do I seek?

My biggest challenge as a Christian is to change the way I see things.  The lamp of the eye.  This idea of changing the way I see things is repeated throughout scripture. For example, Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  Ephesians 4:23 says, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

How I see things determines how I will act.  If I see the treasures on earth more valuable than the treasures of heaven, I will compromise the more eternal things to obtain the temporary.  I will sacrifice such things as my time with my family, serving others, praying, etc. in exchange for  such things as luxuries, comfort, entertainment, personal satisfaction, a clean house.

If I believe my provision comes from money rather than from God, I might be tempted to compromise such things as my relationship with God, my relationship with my family, my self-respect, my personal values, in order to obtain more money.  It will become my master. I will worry sick because of the unknown and the uncertainty of life, which will only make me seek after security more. It might bring problems in my relationship with my spouse because he is not providing the security that I need.  Not remembering all along that my true security comes from God.

My eye needs to see things the way God sees them. The way I see things will determine what I do.  So in these next few days, as we evaluate our goals for 2016, lets evaluate them through that eye.  An eye that looks at the eternal rather than the temporary.  That desires to serve God above all else. That knows that every good thing comes from God and that He is our ultimate provider.  An eye that looks to the future with the expectation not only of what God can do for us, but of what He will do in us and through us as we look to the new year with an eye of light.

 

 

 

 

Christmas, Family and Traditions

Christmas time can be hectic for many, but especially women.  We are usually the ones making the plans and buying the ingredients for baking, cooking, decorating. We make the list of people to shop for, look for the greatest deals, go to all the stores, shop online, all while making plans for visiting family or getting the house ready for family to visit us!  Right about now, three days before Christmas, we begin to wonder if it’s all worth it.

Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are,the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

What a profound teaching.  I can see how this applies to so many areas of life, especially in regards to the holidays.  Having been married now for 30 years, with four of my six children being adults, I have the opportunity of seeing how all the work I have put into making Christmas special, making some family traditions, setting up opportunities for everyone to have dinner together, etc, has made a difference in their lives.  Oh I know I could have made it easier for myself.  But easier is not necessarily better.

If we take Proverbs 14:4 and tweak it a little, we can be encouraged to remember why we do all this work during the holidays.

“Where no kids are, the house is clean; but much love is formed when there are children.”

“Where there is no cooking, there are no dirty pots and pans; but much community is built by having meals together.”

“Where no extended family is present, no disagreements occur; but much understanding is formed from learning about one another.”

“Where there are no special plans for the holidays, less stress occurs;  but many memories are formed by intentionally planning them.”

Yes, all the work you are putting into making the holidays special is worth it.  It may not always come out perfectly like you planned and maybe not everyone can be there.  But making the most of what you have will make an impression.  On you and the people around you.

So have a love abounding, community building, memory creating Christmas!

 

Do your kids ever call you once they’ve moved out?

Recently, a friend of mine asked me over a cup of coffee, “Do your kids ever call you once they’ve moved out?”  I couldn’t help but smile at this question.  In my circle of friends, I am the one with the “older” kids.   My oldest is 29 and married, my second one is living in Seattle, Washington, my third is hardly ever home, commuting into the city where he is working on his degree, my fourth just recently left for college and comes home most weekends.  Quite a variety of “leaving the nest” experiences.

It is a popular question the first semester of college when parents are experiencing the change of family life and the kids are away from home for the first time.  There is usually a three fold concern that I address in these conversations and that I try to keep in check in my own life.

Complaint #1:  They never call unless they need something.

Someone recently expressed shock that I don’t talk to my daughter ever day! Seriously?  I think that’s normal!  They’re experiencing life away from home and I don’t take it personally if they don’t pick up the phone and have mom top of mind. In fact, I think it’s healthy!  If they call because they need something,  I’m glad they think of mom or dad as a resource or someone they can go to to talk about things that are important to them. So even when they do call because they need something, I think that’s a good thing.

Complaint #2:  Why should I always be the one to call them?

I try not to fall into the “Well, if they loved me, they’d call!” or “I already left a message.  I’m not calling again.”  or “I called first last time!  It’s his turn!”   We are adults, right?  I haven’t played that game since I was in high school!  I think it’s important for my kids to know that I love them, that I’m praying for them and that I’m thinking about them.  If I feel like talking to them, I call them.  If all I get to do is leave a message or send a text, I’m okay with that.  I got to say what I wanted to say.  If I’m not okay with that, it usually has more to do with complaint #3, and not so much with my kids.

Complaint #3:  I’m so disappointed that they never call.

If I’m thinking too much about when was the last time they called, maybe I have too much time on my hands.  Maybe my world has been centered around them too long.  It might be time to take a good look at my activities and see what I’m doing with my time.  Time to dust off some of those old hobbies I didn’t have time for before.  Or why not get new hobbies?  It might be time to branch out and make new friends or reconnect with old ones.  The fact is, my kids shouldn’t be the only ones with a life.

We can embrace the new season we are in and appreciate the new season our kids are in.  After all, we were in that season, too, at one time.  And if you remember (I know it’s been a long time…), for most of us there was not a direct correlation between the amount of times we called our parents and how much we loved them. You might have gotten the guilt trip from mom or dad for not calling home.  How did it feel?  When you called after that, was it because you really wanted to or because you “had to?”  Which would you like from your kids?

New seasons are good!  New beginnings are good.  They are good for them, and they are good for us. They are an opportunity to make new goals, new friends, new hobbies. To look forward with new expectation. To embrace the gifts and talents God has given us and use them to help others. So the next time you’re tempted to ask, “Why has’nt my kid called,” intentionally change the question to, “When was the last time I talked to my kid?”  And then, pick-up the phone and call.

August is a good time to plan the coming school year.

As the end of summer approaches, so the new school year begins.  Now is a good time to write down some goals you might have for the family this school year.  How much television should they watch in a given week?  When should they do their homework?  What time is curfew?  What are the consequences for not following the rules?  Informing the kids about the boundaries ahead of time, eliminates any excuses or guess work on their part and all the headaches on your end.  You can even include them in some of the decisions.  This gives them a chance to voice their opinion and to own the decisions that are made, such as what will happen if they don’t finish their homework before they go out.  Or what if they break curfew?
This is also a good time to switch chores around.  I try to switch chores once or twice a year.  This gives the kids time to get good at the chores they have.  Remember, inspect what you expect (that’s the biggest challenge for me). And I’m sure you’ve heard the process of teaching children how to do their chores well, but just in case you forgot (as I often do):
1.  Have them watch as you do the task.
2.  You watch as they do the task.
3.  They do the task, and you inspect.
Each of these will probably take more than once, depending on the age of the child and the difficulty of the task.  Also, tasks must be age/maturity appropriate for optimum success.
Above all, hold on to your plan loosely.  Remember that life happens and we can’t always follow our plan perfectly.  But having a plan helps us to set the mark and move forward.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t always complete everything perfectly. If you never hit the mark, though, you might want to reevaluate your goals to make sure they are not too disconnected to your current situation or perhaps there are activities you are doing that you might have to say “no” to.
As you work your plan, enjoy the journey.  Remember that the plan is there to make sure you keep on track in the most important things.  And ironically, it is not “things” that are the most important.  It’s the people in you life that are the most important.  It’s people before things.