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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Espressos of Faith!

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Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

I truly appreciate those of you who regularly follow “Espressos of Faith” as well as those of you who stop by to check it out! You have made this blog what it is, and I’m thankful for you.

I’m going to make this short, since we are hopefully all with loved ones and/or taking some good rest and food to restore ourselves. For those of you working, blessings on your day, and thank you for working a holiday for others who do not have to work it this year.

Today, I am thankful for family and friends, for healing and things still in the process of healing, for a published book (Not Just on Sundays), and for all those who made that possible (editors, artist, photographer, book marketer, printer, pastor, readers, and people who encouraged and prayed me through).

I’m grateful for lessons learned and for places where God is working out my character and peeling off areas of pride and replacing them with areas where I hopefully rely more on Him. I am thankful for His Holy Word, which brings the only true wisdom to me in managing marriage, raising children, getting through challenges, fighting things that come against us, seeing blessings even in the valleys we walk through, and healing relationships.

This has been an intense year for our family for many reasons, and I’m so thankful for lessons learned—sometimes painful—in the valley, where answers still were not on the horizon, and all we had was faith in things unseen. I’m grateful both for the people who walked through the valley with us as well as those currently in a valley of their own who allowed me in to hold their hands for a while.

Hebrews 11:1, Author unknown but he is recording the words of God, ESV 
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are thankful for the warm hand of Jesus in ours as each step we take—in work, our families, and our faith—is often uncertain, except for with Whom we are walking.

May you know the peace, rest, love, grace, mercy, and incredibly deep love of Christ this Thanksgiving and always!

Grateful for you,
Bonnie

[Did I mention I’m also thankful for chocolate-covered pretzels? And pie! 🙂 ]

 

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When People Want to Walk Only in Our Rainbows—and Why That’s Okay

I was reflecting on mental wellness struggles (those in our house and in the lives of friends) lately when I saw this article in the Huffington Post: “What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?” It struck me how much of the article was true, but more than that, it reminded me of a related kind of problem: when people only want to see our rainbows, but we are currently walking in mud puddles.

mudsplashWhat I mean by that is this: So many times we hunger for a reciprocal connection in our relationships where we can tell about our entire day, not just the rainbow parts. Granted, a certain portion of our relationships are not going to go that deep. We can’t possibly maintain them all on that level. But there can be an overall sense of “checking in” with folks and only listening for the positive and ignoring the negative. In this blog post, I ask the question:

Is that wrong?

I’m not saying we should dwell on the bad stuff; however, if someone is in a season of months of chemotherapy, we might not want to go on and on about how good we feel (rainbows) and then shut the conversation down when they might want to vent for a second about how discouraged they feel (mud puddles). Balance is awesome.

In a word, this is about depth, but it’s also about with whom we can be real. We often know when our conversation needs to end at “Yeah, overall, we’re good” and when we can take it further and talk about the more raw stuff, the failure that just happened, the bump in our road, the learning experience. So many times people want to know why they are the last to know a sad, difficult, frustrating, devastating moment in our lives, but when we’ve tried in the past to go there, they really only wanted to hear the fluff.

Don’t get me wrong: My fluff conversations definitely serve a purpose. We can’t be meaty/heavy all of the time. But when someone has no interest beyond our rainbows and can’t handle our mud puddles, they tend to end up in the “last to know” pile because:

If you are there when the mud splashes all over me, and I don’t look too pretty and feel a bit like a fool—
you will be there for me when I have a bigger, harder thing to tell you, and I know you are safe in the rough waters.

If you only want to talk about kittens and lollipops under the rainbow, we can certainly do that because celebrating the sweet things is definitely an important part of life—
but you may find yourself on the other side of the line when my Mud Stomping Peeps rally during a heartache, and I don’t want you to feel left out, but you might feel that way anyway.

599259_4490802870800_100980581_nAnd if Rainbow Walkers are okay with that, I’m learning to be good with that too.

Here’s why:

I love the people in life who are really good at celebrating and pointing out positive things. It can be a bright light to keep us focusing on our blessings. It has tremendous value in our lives—as long as we can “get real” once in a while during a mud puddle moment and not be dismissed.

When people tell me, “Oh, good, I’m so glad that’s all better now,” when they didn’t convey in some tiny way that they walked the pain with me, it can sometimes feel dismissive, as if that chapter they couldn’t walk through with me didn’t matter, but

maybe, just maybe,

their role is to cheerlead only, from the rainbow side—to celebrate our walking out.

The only time this breaks down for me is people claiming they strolled through mud puddles with us when they are clearly still under the rainbow waiting for us to bebop back over in the form of our happier selves. If we’re Rainbow Walkers, let’s at least just be honest about it.

I love being in the rainbow. I love my happier self. But I can’t always take a stroll with people if they need to remain there and can’t walk over to the mud puddle once in a while to help someone else out. I am very happy to meet them back in Rainbow World, though, when I get out of the mud puddle, or when I get back from visiting someone else in his/her puddle.

Certainly, we strive for the rainbow, but mud is also present, and we all get stuck in it now and again. The rainbow reminds us there is hope and encourages us to look up when the mud is thick and seemingly holding us down.

Some thoughts to ponder when relationships feel strained:

  • Where can we look at our relational hurts or disappointments and consider if we have been a Rainbow Walker or Mud Stomper with a friend/family member? Maybe we’ve been both! 🙂
  • If we feel cast out or not in the know, where can we examine our communication and what we perhaps convey? Do we want to walk over to someone’s mud puddle, or keep our distance but support them when they get back to the rainbow?
  • If we feel safer dancing in rainbows, because that’s how we roll, that’s completely fine, but then can we accept that we may feel excluded when the march took a detour through some cloudier paths for a while?

It’s all about expectations—what role we play in any given relationship. It always is.

And understanding this distinction always helps me to keep my expectations where they should be, whenever I consider my role in the relationship and the role the other person also plays.

I used to get mad when people only wanted to see my rainbows, but now I realize they are there holding a place, and it’s okay if their feet didn’t get muddy yet.

Because I know muddy pretty well by now, and I know exactly how to bring them back to their rainbow when they find themselves in sludge they have never navigated before.

And when we get back to the rainbow, there will be a Rainbow Walker holding a place for us.

According to the Apostle Paul, from a Christian perspective, we each have something to give. Some cheerlead on the sidelines beckoning to the rainbow, and some walk into the mud to remind the mud dweller that there will be rainbow days again,

but until there are,

the Mud Stomper comes into the mess and says:

Here I am.” 

I believe Jesus was both.

Romans 12:4-13, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Genesis 9:12-13, Moses narrating, ESV
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

More on navigating relationships with healthy boundaries and much grace can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

This blog can also be found at Simply Inspired Wednesdays.

 

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When We Humans Find Ourselves Barking at Everything

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My otherwise laid-back, lazy, happy-go-lucky Shih Tzu Samson couldn’t care less about much most days. The world goes on around him, and he sometimes gets up to engage, but he’s often very content just to lay in his warm bed and give us a toothy grin or a quick glance of acknowledgment. Unlike his high-strung sister Delilah, he is easy to be around, low-maintenance, easy-going.

Except when he perceives something different outside as a threat. 

Usually this is a trash tote at the end of my neighbor’s driveway or a lawn mower my husband left out in the yard for a time. Sometimes it’s a squirrel, turkey, or deer, but most of the time it’s an inanimate object casting a shadow that isn’t usually there and therefore is a threat.

Samson can sit at our window-paneled door for 20 minutes solidly barking away at said “threat.” I often wonder if he finds it confusing that the trash can and/or lawn mower don’t therefore scurry immediately off—or at all.

And when I watch him going crazy for a while, spending all of whatever little energy he has being fierce protector against a mythical enemy, I see myself.

I see all of us.

How often do we, in times of stress, bat at everything in sight in front of us, viewing everything as a perceived threat?

How often do we live in attack mode, ready to pounce? This subject is touched on in “What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common,” but looking at it from a slightly different angle: Whom are we screaming at, coming against, jumping on, cutting off, and defending ourselves against, when really, that person is just a lawn mower—coming to, of all things, mow the lawn?

I think so often we do this to those closest to us, with whom we are most comfortable, because we know they’re here to stay, and we need to attack something, after all, and they’re a ready, available, easy target. But I also think we run around in times of stress seeing everyone and everything as the enemy, against us, ready to snatch our time, money, or resources. Dumb as it sounds, it could be the driver in front of us some days whose mission, we’re convinced, is to keep us from getting to that appointment on time. (Yeah, because we know perfect strangers wake up every day plotting to make our lives difficult.)

Or maybe it’s the child coming into the room for math homework help when we finally sat down to pay a bill that’s overdue. Or maybe we just took our first few sips of coffee that afternoon? Maybe we were about to “get our peace on,” and they came into the only time of quiet we have had all day.

Could it be the phone call coming in from a friend who might need help? Do we see that as a drain, a struggle, a time suck, a distraction, keeping us from something else? Something we are frantically trying to cross off our to-do list?

What about the well-meaning neighbor kid coming to the door to sell popcorn for a cause? Is it his fault dinner is burning, our phone is ringing, the toilet is clogged, and the husband is home late?

How about the husband who just walked in the door and straight into Mama Rage without warning because an injustice in the kids’ world needed to be set right, and he’s the first adult she encountered since her anger started smoldering?

Not always, but often, our short, sharp, barky replies in response to anything that moves—or even things that don’t but we think they should!—are the result of us being way…too…busy and overplanned. And when we realize for a fleeting second that we are not God and can’t possibly accomplish all we set out to do that day, we notice we actually have no margins. Life quickly becomes ugly, frantic, stressful, and impossible, really. Nothing feels doable. Even the next crisis needs to take a number. We simply have no room for anything extra to squeeze in and need our attention.

Everything unplanned is “in the way”—and therefore barked at.

We are edgy, grumpy, short-of-temper, and really of no use to anyone.

Maybe that is never you. Or maybe you are around someone who is stuck in this rut and can’t see the light leading him/her out.

The first step is recognizing we have our bat out and are taking a good, solid swing at everyone in sight. (That might feel good in the moment, but we leave scars and dents all over the place that we later have to deal with. They don’t usually repair on their own, as I’m finding out.)

The second step is breathing deeply, being still, taking a moment to regather our thoughts. Pretzel breathing has become one of my new, closest friends. We need to clear our heads and allow for some self-reflection. Taking a few steps back can help us to see at whom and what we are slamming and to decide if that is truly warranted (it rarely is).

Third, for my family, we believe we need to ask God to cleanse our hearts:

Psalm 139:23-24, David speaking ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 51:9-12, David speaking, ESV
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

and bring us fresh peace: 

Psalm 29:11, David speaking, ESV
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! 

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah speaking, ESV
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27, Jesus speaking, ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Philippians 4:4-7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. For us, these verses give us hope that we can stop barking. They offer a fresh start after repenting and then getting our peace on.

We’re not really in control, and barking and swinging are mere attempts to try to grab some control, order, and structure back. What we really need is to be still, examine ourselves, ask God to examine us, and let His peace wash over us to refresh us for the next thing coming our way.

Spoiler Alert: The “next thing” might not be in order on our list. It might very well be an interruption. Either way, we need His peace to keep us from sitting at the door ready to attack anything walking or standing by.

I’d rather live employing defense when I need it and not remain tense and rigid in a constant posture of offense. What about you?

Referring to this book again, because it’s pretty awesome:
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem 
by Kevin DeYoung
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/

 
 

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Goodbye, Monkey Box, and Goodbye, Hoarding!

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Wow. This is a big day. If you are or live with someone with hoarding, collecting, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies, you will appreciate this. I asked my little hoarder if we could please get rid of this “monkey box” (which is referenced in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day at the very end of the section on ADHD, so it’s special to me too) today because we needed to clear out some things. He didn’t deliberate, perseverate, complain, or bargain. He just. Let. Go. “Okay!” HUGE VICTORY over here! Thank You, God! We are making progress. (We are photo documenting so we can purge in freedom.)

I have Little Man home sick with me for the fourth day in a row. He found something on Cartoon Network, and I was going to finish some expense reports (yawn), but then Little Man rediscovered his love for his NERF gun and wanted to build some structures with Magna-Tiles® and knock them down in his room. I’m good with that. So, as he headed up to pursue that for a while, he said these magic words: “Mom, I want to play in my room, but it’s too cluttered.”

WHAT?

Okay, first step to healing is admitting there is a problem. Well done, Little Man.

So, then I dropped the expense report and went upstairs with him, asking: “How would you like me to help you de-clutter your room?” And he told me exactly what he wanted moved out of the way.

More progress. He had the executive functioning skill to know where things needed tidying.

And then I saw it: The monkey box. The one that Chickie (his big sister) helped him make one cold, winter day when the rest of us were outside shoveling 20 inches of snow. She helped him plan, execute, and clean up this project. At the time, monkeys were the latest obsession, and we decided art would be more therapeutic and cheaper than allowing the pile-up of ten different species of monkey in plush form playing zoo in his toy hammock.

It’s been a journey realizing that we have more than just a collector in our house. I can actually measure his anxiety levels based on how strongly he fights throwing something out or giving it away. Over the years, we have hoarded pirate toys (that part is my fault, as discussed in “The Pirate Who Saves Good People“), superheroes, Rescue Heroes, Pokémon toys, art projects, drawings, stuffed animals (particularly bats), etc. I recently learned from his child therapist that I need to stop letting him collect so obsessively. It’s not that we spend a lot or even on the spot. We make him wait for a special occasion and save up his money. But it’s apparently allowing him to order his world around things he can control, and it’s spinning his thoughts into perseveration—a no-no for OCD folks. So, we are learning to limit our collections, expand our interests, and purge our toy and art closets. I love this because we can all think more clearly when we clear our personal space, rooms, desk, and environment.

Anyway, I took a minute to ask him if we could get rid of the monkey box. I held my breath, completely prepared for the buckle-down, inflexible, anxious response. The past few days his mind had swirled about tornadoes and other such concerns (even though they rarely happen here in New England). He had fallen ill with a fever, and I think that all kicked in the anxiety this week. I’m learning to anticipate the triggers and ride the wave. So, I just about danced out of the room when he told me: “Okay, sure.” There wasn’t much of a pause, no second-guessing, no take-backs, no decision remorse. He was busy with NERF target creation. Beautiful!

I grabbed that lovely box and ran out of the room, with the few recyclables inside of it (yes, he hoards those too…right out of my recycle bin), not looking back. I even tested the waters by having him walk by it in the kitchen before I had a chance to bury it in Big Bad Recycling Tote outside into which no eight year old would care to dive. He walked by it a trip or two.

Still no comment.

So I finally took it out.

I’m not sure why I tempted him. I guess I wanted to know how far we had progressed, and I was willing to face the fallout.

Maybe I’ve progressed too.

Matthew 6:19-23, Jesus speaking, ESV
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Most days, I strive to give him a choice of what to purge. That is empowering and teaches him how to manage the clutter independently. I’ll admit that on school days when I’m in a spring cleaning frenzy, I will toss some artwork and no-longer-touched projects out without permission. Most of the time, those don’t get asked about. Toys, on the other hand, do (reference “Dolly in a Stinky Sack of Potatoes” in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day). Today we celebrate freedom, decreased anxiety, and getting healthier. Monkey boxes have their purposes. This one definitely saw him through a tough time, as did Chickie, when he was climbing his way out of a depressive episode.

But like anything else, we can’t “lay treasures up for ourselves” and think they help us control life. They serve a purpose, and most times, we move on—or we should. Holding onto our clutter makes us and everyone else around us anxious. It reflects our inner turmoil and our sometimes desperate grasp for control. It becomes a crutch when we lean on it too much. If we cannot part with something, it keeps our focus from being clear and on what can really be trusted.

For our family, that is our Father in heaven. As Jesus described in the Gospel of Matthew, our stored-up treasure reflects our heart, and what we see with our eye (the “lamp of the body”) can either shine light and clarity or cloud our thinking and ability to see. He is referring here to sin, but I think the analogy also works well for anything we are cluttering our lives with that we mistakenly feel we can’t part with.

Today was a victory. I’m so proud of Little Man. Each step toward not being controlled by or trying to control and hold onto things is a step toward the amazing freedom Christ bought for us when hanging on that cross, dying, and rising again. Little Man is already free. He just needs to learn to see those chains as gone as they really are.

We’ll get there.

By the way, I came downstairs and decided to make pumpkin muffins instead. Expense report can wait. 🙂

This was shared at Grace & Truth.

 

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Dear Middle Child: A Letter from Mom

Dear Middle Child

Today I unexpectedly ended up with time alone with my middle child, a daughter between two sons. I knew based on a recent family therapy session that she had feelings of being somehow left out, just outside whatever is going on in the house, a sense of being unnoticed. It struck me as so odd at the time that she would feel that way because, from my perspective, she seems to always insert herself in the middle of everything going on. I didn’t fully understand she did this in an effort to remain always included. I wrote this letter to her in my head, and I hope, at just the right moments, to be able to convey some of these things delicately to her with my heart over the holiday season when we have more time together. If you are or have (a) middle child(ren) in your home, I hope you find something in this that speaks to your situation as well.

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Dear Middle Child:

First, let me start off by saying that Mom was not the middle child. I was the youngest. Dad was the middle child, just like you, although in his case: a son between two daughters.

It must be a challenge somedays figuring out who you are.

Are you mature enough to get the same benefits and responsibilities as your older brother? To have an iPod Touch when he does? To know grown-up stuff that he does?

Or are you still wanting to grab your childhood and be young like your little brother?

I imagine that walking through each day uncertain which role you want must be confusing, complicated, and frustrating at times.

Some days, you may not be sure how Dad and I view you.

Or you may want to change it up now and again, and we’re slow on the uptake, not realizing which one you are in that particular moment.

When your little brother is in the room, you like to feel older, sharing a bond of knowledge and growing up with the one above you in age.

When your older brother comes into the room, you perhaps feels awkward caught playing with the little guy when you want to be esteemed as mature by the oldest.

But then I catch you closing the door and entering into the delightful world of imagination playing in your room with the little one. You don’t really want us to know, but

  • You still want to be a child
  • You ache to be as free as the youngest
  • You long for days when playing didn’t require shutting the door to avoid being caught in Play World

What you don’t know is that I’m in no rush for you to grow up, and that when you are in Play World, I get to see how much you have kept sweet, innocent, and free. And the oldest doesn’t fault you for it either. He doesn’t hold it against you or find you less mature. He misses Play World, and while he’d never maybe say it to you—or me—he envies you still getting to be in there.

I also see you walk a balance of wanting to mother and nurture the one below you in age but receive that same safety and protection from the one above you. You do both beautifully, but I can see where you aren’t ever completely sure which one you are: Nurturer or Protected.

I want to tell you, sweet girl, that you are both. Always. Because God put you in the birth order right where He wanted you. And the best part is: You don’t have to choose.

I love when you share a more mature conversation with your teenage brother before the little one comes home. Sometimes, you feel stuck there and get a little haughty about how big you are; you might even get a little disgusted when the little one doesn’t know something yet that you do. You might feel impatient with him. You might wish he’d catch up.

But if he caught up, you couldn’t enter Play World now and again. You couldn’t experience those caretaker moments that you do when Little Man looks up to you, and you get to be Big Sis.

I see when I have a private talk with the oldest child, how much you desperately want to be included, or likewise, when I lavish some attention on Little Man because he’s still a younger kid, you struggle to find the fairness. You often want to keep things even, because, unlike the rest of us, you are the very middle of the kids, and you feel you have a good view of both angles. So you tend to be hypervigilant about making sure things are fair—to the point you sometimes feel you need to play “parent.”

I know you often seem to think there are conversations going on around you that you aren’t a part of. And yet, what you don’t realize is how much we take your input, we hear you advocate for a brother, we listen to what you have to say.

But it’s hard, because when you are the middle of the sibling sandwich, the bread on either side seems to get more attention: The one going first is our practice round, and the one going last has greater dependence at his age. But you don’t see yourself as the peanut butter in-between bringing the bread slices closer together. And that’s exactly what you do. It’s amazing to watch.

I see you playing tug-of-war with yourself over which child to align yourself with, and I can appreciate that fine balance and the daily struggle, My Love. But I want you to know that you get to be the middle of the sandwich, and with that, comes as much blessing as aggravation—as much extra love as feeling a bit unsure at times. You may feel like you are on the sidelines while the action goes on in the different ends around you, but to us, you are critically needed and loved because you bring balance and input that nobody else here can offer.

So, my sweet, middle child with your sense of justice and keeping track, Mom wants you to try to rest, relax, and look for where your role is so vital, so important, so blessed. You touch our family deeply with your ability to play both roles. We love both your childhood and your growing up! We love keeping you free of the worries of the older one a little bit longer but also being able to hand you more responsibility and mature conversations. We love when you delight the youngest with the Play Sparkle you still have inside you when you need it.

Rest, my child, in who you are. And if you can do this, you will be so incredibly gifted in social navigation and dynamics because you walk the balance every day of your life and know so much about how to relate to different ages and different personalities.

Trust your dad and me to keep things fair. And play in your room still—as much as you can! Freely love on Little Man. And let your older brother take you under his arm and teach, guide, and protect you. As you give as teacher to the one below you, freely receive from the one above. You can do both things well.

You don’t have to patrol or be on guard. You truly aren’t missing anything. If anything, you get a double dip into family dynamics and sibling relationships. You have insight we all can learn from.

We learn so much from our sweet “middle.” You are absolutely needed and very deeply loved.

With love forever,
Mom xoxo

Mom's Morning Coffee

*More anecdotal stories about faith, family, and relationships can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

**This post has been shared with Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-UpMake a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin TuesdayCoffee & ConversationGrace & Truth, A Little R & RDance With Jesus, Faith-Filled Fridays, Saturday Soirée Blog Partyand Christian Mommy Blogger.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Teens, Tweens/Children

 

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The Pirate Who Saves Good People

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My husband Salad Boy and I were both at my youngest son’s pediatric appointment today. We were there for a med check, but we were also there to discuss bringing yet another specialist into the already large group of professional hands tending to his care. While there, we got to fill out a Vanderbilt form and ask about an insurance-imposed change on some asthma management medication. Oh my, what we parents can squeeze into our 15 minutes with the pediatrician!

While there, this lovely man, who has seen us through eight years of all kinds of things, reminded Little Man how he used to refer to himself not by name, but as: “The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

We pretty much revisit this little memory every time we see this doctor. He continues to tell us each time how much it struck him that a then-three year old would define himself that way.

Today, it struck me afresh as well. I thought about it the entire two-laned, windy, 30-minute ride home.

At eight years of age now, Little Man may have rolled his eyes at that past reference, but inside, I saw a twinkle of something familiar, something beckoning forth a younger time. I saw him remember, and that was a beautiful thing.

I am going to take a minute to bless that. To consider it a dream inside his heart that may take slightly different shape over the years. But I believe it’s a tiny glimpse of how he sees himself.

I remember the fascination with pirates. We had just left residence on Kwajalein Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, when he started to find the world of pirates so interesting. At the time, I didn’t make the direct connection to seaside life. But I think he was hanging onto something by wanting to fill his fantasy world with eye-patched, peg-legged, scruffy-bearded characters. I have to admit that I indulged this. I bought pirate wall border, sheets, and a matching throw rug. I bought every Playmobil and Imaginext pirate toy I could find. He loved the role play, and he really got into character. I’m pretty sure preschool teachers continue to remember this. When asked his name in the grocery store, he would reply with his name and, without skipping a beat, quickly add that he was The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

Now I know he was holding onto a little piece of the island that he mourned, because looking back, that was one of his depressive episodes. He used to come home from preschool right after our move to the States and lay his head on my lap and weep. I thought he was just adjusting, but five months went by like that. Five months watching a curly redhead sob for his old home.

So, if pirates were a world he could get lost in, I was all for it. When we’re three years old and we grieve, Mommas indulge a little imagination to soothe the loss.

But getting back to his title…what a great identity to take on! It was an early indication of his thoughts about himself, and I want to go back to that place for a minute—because in that place is an innocent heart who wants to protect good people, who sees himself as a warrior, who feels like he has something to offer, who has a role he wants to play.

And I won’t be at all surprised one day if whatever he ends up doing in life goes back to that early theme of protection, empathy, justice, safety, and rescue.

My point is this:

Where can we go back to that simple childhood role-play and see what surfaced early on that matches the dream God has put into our hearts?

Where can we bless it?

What about our kids?

Or people we know who seem a bit lost at the moment?

How can we look for traces of where a holy God was whispering dreams into our hearts before we even knew how to recognize it?

I think we get a little tossed about in life, a little seasick now and again. We get jumbled on the ride from there to here and here to there, and we forget how simple those early moments were when innocence was all we had, and we were free to hear what God was telling us about ourselves.

I want to listen more again. I want to climb up onto the lap of Jesus. I want to remember those early dreams and redirect my sails.

In some ways, I think He wants us all to be Pirates Who Save Good People, although that may look differently according to how it’s lived out.

Ephesians 2:10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

But He will honor us coming to Him as purely and trusting as a child because He promises this.

Matthew 18:1-6, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Mark 9:36-37, Apostle John-Mark narrating, ESV
And he [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Matthew 19:13-15, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

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A great book for trying to identify the dream God has given us is The Dream Giver: Following Your God-Given Destiny by Bruce Wilkinson. A sweet friend gave this to me as I was rounding out the edges of finally becoming an author. It’s an easy read and sweet story to help us go back to the place where He first put the dream into our hearts.

 

 

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Anxiety Volcanoes: Typical Expectations on Atypical Children [Excerpt]

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Today’s blog is an excerpt from the recently published Not Just on Sundays (giveaway below–hurry, ends March 25, 2015!). It’s about what ADHD/ADD children may think about/hear/feel when different adults are making a lot of noise about how they should behave and act when they are struggling to regulate their bodies and minds. I believe it relates, in pieces, to children with autism spectrum disorders as well—and children with anxiety disorders, often a combo meal with ADHD/ADD. Anxiety is already present in these kids, but this blog—this very short snippet just skimming the surface—is specifically about the anxiety produced by typical expectations on an atypical child.

Thankfully, we are in a much better place with my son right now. This was written at the beginning of 2014. But I go back to my journaled thoughts very often to try to “walk in his shoes” and never forget the perspective and tiny voice inside a child who can’t quite express all of these things yet but so desperately needs the adults in his life to understand.

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I debated adding our ADHD/anxiety/OCD journey to the book. It’s a footnote to the anxiety section, but to show how we walk through these trials and find the other side—or often learn to wait in the valley for another side to come into view—real-life examples from my life are needed. Being bare-naked-vulnerable for myself is one thing; my child is completely another. But people need to know how we walk our children through these challenges. I have heroes who went ahead of me in this. I know how badly we all need to walk this journey together.

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, a child with mental health struggles like anxiety, or an ADHD child, this is for you. I pray that you will find something in it that ministers to your heart, encourages you to go on, but more than anything, points to my heavenly Father, the only One Who can sit with us in that place and bring sweet peace in the midst of seemingly endless storms.

I originally wrote this very sensitive blog to a limited number of trusted friends and family. I feel this is really important to understand. I’m only beginning to unlock it myself. This is what a child with ADD/ADHD hears every day of his or her life, from all of us: teachers, coaches, parents, etc. We’re mostly well-meaning, but we’re all completely guilty of it.

“Sit down, Joey. Stop talking, Joey. Joey, stay on task. Joey, are you cutting correctly? Joey, pack that backpack faster. Did you hear me, Joey? Joey, are you listening? Joey, stop tapping your pencil. This is time to be still, Joey. Joey, are you with us? Joey…Joey…Joey….Joey….”

I get it. I understand how and why it happens. I am guilty of it myself, but this is what my son feels, trapped inside a jail of anxiety about something he struggles to control and is developmentally too young to solve or even know what the adults are so frustrated with. Because my son is such an external processor, I have the benefit of hearing what is often in his head. I’m beginning to realize that it sounds like this:

“I need to worry if I did everything they just said. What did they just say again? I might not have done that. Oh, wait, maybe I did. Oh, I don’t know. I might be bad. They think I can’t listen. I didn’t mean to not do the first three instructions. Maybe I’m dumb. I don’t think I have a good memory. I don’t know how to sit still. Oh, she might be mad again. Should I put a bandaid on this cut? Wait, did she tell me to get my shirt on? But I need a bandaid on this cut. I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t stop crying, but that slows me down, and they think I’m being a baby when I cry.”

This morning, I chose to say this (next paragraph). I don’t know where it came from except God. He showed me a glimpse of what my son was feeling, and it felt incredibly heavy to carry around. He’s so worried about the simple tasks he can’t complete that he has retreated into a world where things can be better controlled. He is locked into this: “Did I wash my hands? I can control that. Maybe I washed my hands. Let me do it another time because I’m not sure. That way at least my hands are clean. I know I can do that. Maybe I touched a germ, so let me wash again” and other such small tortures.

It’s a prison of the mind, and I am committed to daily blessing and praying him into seeing that he doesn’t have to live this way.

Me as we waited for the bus:

“Little Man, you are amazing just the way God created you. I know you are told all day long to ‘stay still, listen, stop talking, don’t fidget, did you finish that worksheet, are your boots on, and do it faster,’ and that must be really, really hard. And that must make you feel like you don’t meet expectations a lot of the time. But you know what? You are a wonderful little boy with a big heart, and I would never think that you did wrong on purpose. People are trying to help you focus, but it sounds like a long day of demands, and I’m so very sorry. You go off today with the peace of God on you. You stop and quietly ask Him for help when you can’t please an adult. He knows how pure that heart is inside of you because He put it there, and He knows you are trying your best every day and that some days are very hard and you hurt big inside. I love you deeply, and you don’t need to worry all day long if you did everything right. As long as you try, I know you are doing your best work. I’m really proud of you. Don’t worry if you did everything right or in the right order. You don’t have to be perfect. I’m not perfect. I need God’s help too. Every day of my life. I am very proud of the wonderful son and child you are. Go in God’s peace, Son. I love you so much.”

And it could be that I wanted to see it. It certainly could be. But I felt his shoulders lighten a little. I felt something heavy blow off between us. I felt his painful guard relax. A tiny bit. For the first time in weeks, he let me quickly embrace him. He might have skipped once as he walked to the bus. And I came inside and wept because God showed me what he carries around inside, and it’s way too much for a child. Way too much. I hope my reflections somehow help those of you with children who struggle similarly. Thank you for reading.

[Nothing about this post is anti-medicine or anti-behavioral therapy in addition to prayer. We are taking steps ourselves to pursue the best course for our child. It was more or less to share our journey and to open up our adult minds as to what goes on inside the mind of a young child trying to deal with this. It’s also not a post soliciting help or sympathy. We are prayerfully taking our own steps. It’s a dialogue for parents on this road alongside us. You are not alone.]

Espressos of Faith has dedicated entire blog categories for more discussion on Anxiety/OCD/Depression and ADHD.

*This blog can also be found at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays Link-Up, and Simply Inspired Wednesdays Link-Up.

Great resources: Positively Atypical! and Dr. Hallowell

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Not Just on Sundays by Bonnie Lyn Smith

Not Just on Sundays

by Bonnie Lyn Smith

Giveaway ends March 25, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

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