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The Wrong Reason to Say “Yes”

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

If anyone had it together, it was Jason. He had a good job, beautiful wife and two children whom he loved. He exercised regularly and looked it, and he was always one to keep in touch with friends and family members.

But one day out of the blue, a deep depression hit Jason so heavily, he could hardly get out of bed. It made no sense to him. He came to see me.

We talked for awhile about Jason’s snug and untroubled life before his breakdown. We gradually uncovered that Jason’s structured lifestyle was basically a way to send off a lifelong depression. He had grown up in an alcoholic and abusive family, where he’d lived through all sorts of chaos and crises.

His activity and responsibility saved Jason. Because no one else in the house washed his clothes, prepared meals and budgeted money, Jason learned to. He became a 30-year-old at the age of 9.

Jason did the right thing, not because he was selfless and loving, but to stay alive. The depression inevitably caught up with him.

Not that it’s unhealthy to be responsible. The reasons behind the responsibility are the problem. Jason has lived a lifetime of sacrifice. Fearful of falling apart inside, he stayed busy and active to ward off a breakdown. He was driven by fear and panic.

A truly responsible lifestyle is the product of being loved just as we are, with our imperfections, our wounds, our weaknesses. Then as we are loved in that state, we learn to give back and love. Jason had not been so loved, and so it was impossible for him to obey love.

Some people lead highly functional lives not so much to keep their depressions away, but to keep from being shamed by others. I knew a woman who kept her weight in check by being around critical people who would come down on her for gaining weight. When her critical friends moved away one year, this woman put on 70 pounds in several months. The shaming external control hadn’t solved the problem — it had postponed it. She finally lost the weight for the right reasons, but she first had to learn mercy and sacrifice: She had to receive mercy in order to sacrifice her longing for food.

When we do the right thing reluctantly or under compulsion, not freely, we live in fear. It may be fear of loss, of falling apart, of guilt, or of others’ disapproval. But no one can grow or flourish in a fear-based atmosphere. Love has no place there, for perfect love drives out fear.

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6 Tips to Reduce Stress for the Working Mom

SOURCE:  Lisa Lakey/FamilyLife Ministry

When my youngest started preschool, I took my first job outside the home in nearly 10 years. I was frazzled, guilt-ridden, and late everywhere I went.

I was in the school drop-off line one morning when the license plate of the car in front of me caught my eye. “L8AGAIN” it read. My first thought was, That should be mine. Those seven characters summed up most of my days as a working mom.

When my youngest started preschool, I took my first job outside the home in nearly 10 years. I was frazzled, guilt-ridden, and late everywhere I went. (Okay, maybe I’m still working on all three of those.) After spotting a shirt in a local boutique with the phrase “World’s Okayest Mom” emblazoned on the front, I joked with my kids and husband that that was me. The best mom ever at just getting by.

But behind the laughter of the moment, there was something else. Fear, doubt, and a hefty dose of self-pity overwhelmed me. I didn’t really want to be an “okay” mom. I wanted to be the absolute best mom. You know her. The mom who has it all together—perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect kids. She probably only feeds her family made-from-scratch, organic, non-GMO meals. She would hate to know how often I drive through Chick-fil-A. I can’t even remember what GMO stands for right now.

To be honest, I just want my kids to get the best of me, although that isn’t always what happens. But I have learned that trying to be the perfect mom will always backfire. I might not always be the best mom, but I am always the mom my kids need—me.

Thanks to some loving reminders from other working moms, I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way:

1. Plan, plan, plan.

I am a terribly late person. Punctuality is not my strong point. So naturally, one of my greatest struggles as a working mom is getting myself and everyone else where they need to be on time.

I’ve had to extend myself a bit of grace in this area more than a few times and completely reevaluate my routines. I take a planner with me everywhere I go, and I jot down appointments, parties, deadlines, etc. as soon as I can. I plan a week’s worth of meals at a time (usually) and thank God for the stores in town that offer online grocery ordering.

2. Let go of the excess guilt.

Forgot to send your daughter to school in red for spirit day? Toss that guilt to the curb. Shamed over sending a bag of cookies and juice boxes for your son’s snack day at preschool? Let yourself enjoy the fact that for one brief moment you were just a tad cooler than Luke’s mom who always sends organic carrot sticks and overpriced bottled water.

My point is, there will always be moments where our best inner mom just doesn’t shine through. We’ll mess up, make our kids mad, forget stuff, and so on. But we’ll also get so much right.

Like loving our kids. Moms, we are great at that. So don’t let the less-shiny moments bring you down. Learn from the moment if you can, then shake that guilt off, pick up your “Supermom” cape and move on. Just be intentional in the moment you’re in.

3. Ask for help.

Yep, I feel you. This tends to be a hard one for us moms. We like to sport our bedazzled capes and fool only ourselves into thinking we can do it all. But the hard truth is that we can’t. We weren’t meant to.

So don’t feel any shame asking for a little help when you need it. Ask your husband for help getting the kids to bed. See if another mom could give your daughter a ride to dance. In a culture that has all but destroyed the proverbial “village” it was supposed to take to raise our children, it’s time to rebuild it.

4. Find a working mom friend.

I adore all of my friends—working in or out of the home, kids or no kids. No matter what your life stage is, the following will always be true: We need someone who gets where we are and who won’t judge our struggles.

I need close connections with other working moms who are struggling with the dilemma of taking off for sick days and field trips. Those who can understand the horror you feel coming home to a meal you intended to slow cook all day, only to discover you didn’t plug the darn thing in. No judgment, ladies. Back to Chick-fil-A we go.

5. Stop with all the comparisons.

You can’t be Luke’s mom, so get over it. You weren’t supposed to be. I tell my daughter all the time she was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). I don’t want her to think she has to be anyone other than the amazing girl God created her to be. So why should I?

God made you with a purpose, mom. He knew just what your future kids would need when He created you. Trust that He knows what He is doing. Just be you.

6. Find time in your busy schedule to connect with God.

When I neglect to set aside time to read Scripture or pray, all of the above points are harder. If I don’t go to God in prayer, I try to carry all my burdens myself—every ounce of guilt, all the comparisons I hold myself to, all the ways I will never measure up.

Connecting with God is the most important thing I can do not just for my family, but for myself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” He tells us in Matthew 11:28, “and I will give you rest.”

One day not long ago, I was fishing through my purse for my keys before leaving the office. I found an M&M, an earring I thought I had lost, and something sticky that I didn’t waste time on identifying (it’s probably for the best).

But amid these small pieces of my life, there it was. Attached to a tangle of keys was a purple butterfly my daughter had given me—“#1 Mom,” it read. I’ll take that over “World’s Okayest Mom” any day.

Parenting a difficult child

SOURCE:  Julie Lowe/CCEF

Some of the most burdensome moments for a parent are when it is clear to those around you that your child is defiant or difficult. What are other people thinking? What does this say about me as a parent? They might assume your child’s behavior is a result of inadequate parenting or something else amiss in your home. People may even be bold enough to share their views, without any sense of the shame they are heaping upon you. Those of you with a difficult child understand. You feel marked, and even judged, by your child’s personal struggles. You hang your head around people who “know” about the problem. You assume they see you as a failure. If you were a good parent, surely your children would be well-behaved, love God, and have good manners. After all, their children are not so insubordinate.

If this is how you feel, you may have bought into the belief that good parents produce good children and bad parents produce bad children. At times, this seems downright biblical. If you raise a child in the way he should go, he won’t depart from it, right? So it follows that if you were godly enough, wise enough and patient enough, your child would not be so rebellious. It seems that the right formula is: love plus discipline plus godly instruction = “good” kids. And because, at times, the formula does seem to work, you determine the error must be in your parenting.

I’ve heard many a parent say, “We’ve exhausted all options, all approaches, all forms of consequences… and nothing worked. I tried being calm; I tried consistent discipline; I tried appealing to their conscience and praying with them and for them. Nothing helped. Nothing changed.” What the parent means is that it did not produce the desired behavior change or a visible heart change. The assumption is that, once again, the formula was applied, and it proved useless.

But this is a faulty, unbiblical approach. Good kids come out of horrific family backgrounds, and rebellious, willful kids come out of good, Christian homes. Children do not come to us as blank slates, but with their own personalities, strengths, weakness, desires, and temptations towards particular sin. They are born with hearts that are wooed by their own desires, and they exercise volition to choose for themselves the type of person they will become. There is an active moral responder on the other end of your parenting—one who chooses whom they will serve. And there is no way a parent can ensure the outcome.

Of course, a parent does play a significant role in a child’s life, but don’t buy into the belief that assumes good parenting will produce well-behaved children. It incorrectly places all the ownership and blame on you. And the burden of it might tempt you to want to give up or resort to poor or ungodly parenting (anger, yelling, harshness, despair, backing down, or backing away completely) because it might appear to work in the short run.

What then are you to do? Let me suggest two things that might help.

First, evaluate your motivation. Though you are not responsible for your child’s bad choices, could it be that, without realizing it, you are adding to the problem? If you are frustrated, despairing, or angry because your child is difficult, you need to ask yourself: What standard do you judge yourself by? Whose agenda is dictating your parenting? Is it a worldly, self-centered agenda, or a Christ-centered one? You can desire good things that become driven by very bad motives. Do you care too much about your own comfort or reputation? Do you desire a well-behaved child with few problems, or struggles? Children that make you look good, that are productive, smart, and kind? Are you embittered because you have invested yourself in this child and see no results? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, consider confessing the desires that grip your heart. Ask God to give you the grace, fortitude, and wisdom to parent your challenging child. Ask him to show you how to respond to your child out of love and concern for his or her wellbeing, not your own.

Second, remind yourself of what God calls you to as a parent—no more, no less. He calls you to love your children, to model a Christ-like character and lifestyle, and to respond wisely and thoughtfully to their struggles. You are to foster a personal relationship with the living God, and, to the best of your ability, shape your child’s strengths and weaknesses in his image. Though God expects you to parent with consistent love and wisdom, he does not hold you responsible for results that are driven by the child’s sin or rebellion.

Stop “trying” to make things turn out a particular way and just do the hard work of godly parenting. Do not judge its effectiveness by your child’s response. Simply wrestle with this:

Is my parenting loving?
Is it consistent?
Is it wise?

That will be challenging enough. You will fail, be convicted, and need forgiveness on those fronts alone. The rest must be left to the work of the Spirit in a child’s life. You will find much freedom from judgment, less care for the opinions of others, more hope and less despair when you commit your parenting to the Lord. Let him do the rest. As Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary of doing good.”

Asking Forgiveness From My Kids … Again

SOURCE: FamilyLife Ministries

My kids need to grow up with the knowledge that I require a Savior just as much as they do.

I yelled at my kids tonight.

It started before the mouthwash spilled all over the floor, my jeans, and my new shirt.

That I have an issue with anger and emotional control is not something I’ve kept secret. But it’s still painfully destructive in my own home: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).

So when my blood pressure had returned to an appropriate range and I determined the mouthwash only minimally soaked my front, I called all of my kids to our little loveseat. Some of them crawled out of bed. They piled around me like puppies. And I took the time—again, like I have to do so often—to apologize to them and ask for forgiveness.

Then, I led us in praying and repenting to God. It was duly needed for all of us.

I thanked my kids for forgiving me—also not so bad a quality to practice—and ended with tickling them into screaming laughter.

As I backed out of their room in the dark later, I yowled in pain after stepping on an electrical plug someone had left in the doorway. My second son was quick on the draw: “Still love me?” He collapsed in giggles.

None of this, I’m afraid, undoes what I did.

I wish I could take away my eruptive lack of self-control, or the way I morphed instantly into a drill sergeant. I wish I could subtract what I modeled for my kids. But what still remained in my power were two words: “I’m sorry.”

Their sin doesn’t justify mine

A family that practices repentance keep short accounts with each other, apologizing quickly and sincerely. The point of apologizing to my kids even when they’re in trouble isn’t at all to detract them from their sin. They need to grow up with my willing confession as the norm, to give them the knowledge that Mom requires a Savior as much as they do. An awareness of the log in my eye—even when my children or spouse are the offenders—is biblically commanded (Matthew 7:1-5).

So take it a step further, even, than those two critical words. Deliberately ask for forgiveness, and then humbly and verbally extend forgiveness: “I want you to know that I completely forgive you, and that I believe God forgives you, too.”

I guess it can sound a little hokey when we’re not used to using such language in our homes, but that’s my point. Should it be?

Call me an idealist, but I’d like this replication of Christ’s words to become the norm, a chance to apply the gospel to myself and to my loved ones daily.

My Big Flaw: I’m an Impatient Mom

SOURCE:  Kelsie Huffstickler/Family Life

When I’m in a hurry, I tend to plow over my children.

Here we are again, all buckled in and driving down the road. I’m at the wheel. My two girls are behind me strapped in their car seats. The music playing on my Christian radio station is uplifting, but my heart—it’s heavy. I’m weighed down by my own actions, not five minutes before.

Getting ready and out the door is a chore, as any mom of littles will tell you. No matter how much extra time you allot yourself, it’s never enough. It seems those last 10 minutes before leaving are pure and utter chaos.

It never fails. Somebody poops right as I step out the door. Did I get the paci? Oops, I forgot to water the dog.

It’s enough to drive someone mad—at least if that someone is me.

I like to think I am a good mother. But I know for a fact I have one motherly flaw that protrudes like a plank from my eye: I lack patience. At no time is this flaw more evident than when my girls and I are trying to get out the door to go somewhere.

The problem is, I’m an “arrive on time” kind of girl. Or at least I used to be. Now, with two kids, I rarely reach my destination on time. But the drive to do so still pushes me to run over any obstacles in my path.

Even if those obstacles are often my children.

Today my 4-year-old, finally strapped down behind her five-point-harness, crying in the back seat, asked me, “Why are you being so mean to us?” I was buzzing down the road, my eye on the prize of my destination, but in that moment my heart stopped, and I knew I was in the wrong.

At the next stop sign, I turned around, looked her straight in the eyes and asked her to please forgive me. She said she did, as she always does, and we kept on driving. But my heart couldn’t move on because I knew the truth—this wasn’t the first time this had happened. In my determination to get out the door and to wherever we’re headed, I tend to plow over those I love. (I know my husband’s been in the line of fire plenty of times too!) The fact is, my actions show that I place more value on the opinion of whoever is waiting for us than on that of my own family.

I decided right then and there that enough was enough. I don’t want my children to remember their mother always in a hurry or always about to burst from frustration. I want them to remember examples of patience and love.

Lord, please help me remember the power of my words and attitudes on my children’s hearts. And in those moments of frustration, help me reflect on Your Word and remember that my character is more important than them perfectly meeting my expectations.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2, NLT).

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1, NIV)

Parenting: Making “Getting Ready For School” Work

SOURCE:  Prepare-Enrich

First-day Blues

It’s 7:00 AM on the first day of school for your kindergartner. She is sound asleep, it’s still dark outside and you have to wake her up to prepare her and yourself for the adventure this day will surely bring.

You’re anxious. Let’s face it; you are terrified to let your baby leave your sight. She is not getting out of bed as fast as you would like and even though she picked out her outfit for the day, the weather changed overnight and you clearly cannot send her to school in shorts and sandals.

She finally awakes, and much to your surprise, she isn’t hungry for breakfast; you can’t let her leave the house on an empty stomach. You’ve read all the studies about fueling the brain and body. In typical childlike fashion, you can see the temper tantrum that will erupt and the tears that will certainly follow.

What is that noise? Is the bus at the curb already? Oh no, you wanted to take a picture of her stepping up to the bus waiving back at us with her cute, smiling face.

Drat! We missed the bus!

Time to pack up the car. You drive your child to school late, hungry, cold, and with a red nose and swollen eyes from crying. You are a wreck and now you have to go to your job.

That first day of school commemorative picture of her will not be anyone’s fondest memory.

But wait – it doesn’t have to be like this.

Here are some helpful ideas to make getting ready for school a win-win for all whether it’s the first day or well into the semester.

Do whatever you can the night before:

Plan out two outfits, using the weather forecast as your guideline (maybe even special new jammies the night before the first day of kindergarten).

Provide a special bed time snack, along with a bedtime story. No scary stories on this night.

Offer, then plan to serve healthy breakfast items – ones that can be easily prepared in the morning. Check and then re-check the backpack.

The week before school starts, set an alarm a tad earlier than usual to get her used to the fact that it may be dark when the alarm goes off.

After that first day of school, talk about what you both can do to get ready for the next morning. You might have her help you make a “getting ready for school” chart to hang on the fridge or place on her bedroom door or bathroom mirror. Include all the tasks, step-by-step.

Have a Family Meeting

Family meetings are beneficial in times of change, such as the first day of school.  There are many websites devoted to the idea of family meetings with content to guide you.  Use your planned family meeting ideas life-long.

Need some help deciding the format for a family meeting?  This is how we, at PREPARE/ENRICH, define a family meeting:

A family meeting is a time for all family members to get together and to share and re-connect with each other.  Spend­ing time together helps family members feel supported and it can become an important family ritual.

Guidelines:

Includes all family members who are old enough participate.

Establish a regular time and place when the entire family is together, such as after a family meal.

Encourage discussion by everyone. Do not criticize and critique.

Allow the speaker to finish their thought before offering your comments, observations or input.

Ice Breaker Questions: (use age-appropriate terminology)

What do you feel was the best thing that happened to you or our family today (this week or recently)?

What was the worst thing that happened to you or our family this week?   What could we have done differently to resolve the issue?

Have conversations that encourage, support, and offer solutions. You might be surprised at how close you become as a family on many levels at any age for any of the daily issues that surface.

Unfortunately, your job as a parent is to prepare her to leave you. Start her off with the best possible skill set, because before you know it she will be grown and out of the house – on her way to an adventure of her own.

Lastly, remember to celebrate your accomplishments.  For your first family meeting, go out for ice cream!

Don’t Let Toxic Family Members Shame You into Compliance

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Holly was one of the angriest women I had ever seen in my office. She was angry at her family’s excessive expectations of her. Her mother expected her to call her every week and to accompany her on shopping trips. If there was a family function, Holly had to be there. Her father expected her to come home for Sunday dinner. Her brother expected her to come to all of his sporting events.

And if she didn’t, Holly’s family shamed her into submission.

I agreed with Holly that her family’s expectations were extreme, but when I suggested that her family wasn’t going to change and that she had to free herself from their expectations by changing her attitude, she became angry with me. She felt that if I didn’t see her as a victim, I didn’t care. I assured her that while she had indeed been victimized growing up, she had to stop allowing herself to be victimized by freeing herself from both her family’s expectations and her expectations of them.

“I don’t have any expectations of them,” she replied. “They are the ones with the ‘shoulds.’ “

“On the contrary,” I said. “you’re just like them. They say that you should come over for dinner every Sunday, and you say that they should stop pressuring you to come.” In other words, her expectation was that they should not have any expectations.

Over the course of many sessions, I tried to help her see that until she took responsibility for her own attitude that her family “should” change, she would never be free. Since I would not agree with her that her family needed to change in order for her to get well (which was out of her control), we hit a stalemate.

She could feel I was on her side if I would agree with her that her misery was their fault and not hers. I could agree with her that they had deeply injured her and were the source of much of her pain, but they were not the ones who were continuing it in the present. She was now an adult who had control over what she did and what she allowed others to do to her. But, because she felt that I was “on their side,” she quit.

When I saw her three years later, she was still stuck, still blaming her family for their attitudes toward and expectations of her.

Whenever we feel pressured by someone to do something, it is our problem [rather than] the one who is putting the pressure on. In reality, our, “feeling pressured” is our tendency to agree with the pressurer’s attitude instead of setting forth our own. We must get in touch with how we are getting hooked into saying yes and not put the blame on the other person.

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