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Category Archives: Drawing Healthy Boundaries

Are There Foxes in Your Wheat Fields?

Are There Foxes in Your Wheat FieldsJudges 15:4-5, ESV

So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards.

We have been slowly working through the book of Judges in the Sunday School class my husband and I teach every week. After revisiting the cycle of redemption playing itself out over and over again in the book of Judges, we finally made our way to Samson, the infamous judge whose strength was his unshaven hair and whose heart was easily seduced by enemy women. Not exactly the hero one might picture helping Israel get out from under enemy oppression, Samson was fond of sleeping with the enemy.

For a quick review of biblical history at this time, Israel had wanted to define itself much in the same way as surrounding people groups did at the time. It wanted a national identity, a ruler, a king. But God’s plans were to have Israel follow Him, with allegiance toHim alone. He wanted to set it apart from other cultures and establish it as His own.

When the book of Judges begins, the Israelites had already made their exodus from their oppressor Egypt, wandered the desert, and reached the Promised Land: Canaan. All God had asked them to do was to clear out the land of all other people and to not make a covenant with any of them. They were not to intermarry or follow foreign gods.

Well, they made a sad attempt at clearing the land and then gave up, intermarried, and worshipped in the style of those they were living among. Yeah, not exactly obedience. Hence the first turn along the cycle:

  • Disobedience
  • God’s consequences to bring Israel back to Him
  • Israel’s repentance
  • God’s blessings on Israel

God, in His provision, provided Israel with judges, leaders who could bring His people back to repentance and help them fight their enemies. The problem was, by the time of Samson’s appointment as a judge, Israel had become complacent. The Philistines were living somewhat peaceably with them—but with Israel clearly the lesser nation.

God told Samson to keep a Nazirite vow and grow hair (as part of that vow). He set him apart, from his birth, to create a conflict with the Philistines so Israel could show itself mighty again. And how did He do this?

He used Samson’s greatest weakness: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When You Can’t Force Conflict Resolution

When You Can't Force Conflict ResolutionWhen there is relational conflict, is waiting a copout?

I would say that sometimes it can be, but there comes a point where we have to realize that even if we’re ready to move forward and heal with someone, we can’t force healing and readiness in others.

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I sat across from her pleading with my heart and eyes to offer me a different answer. She could not. She confirmed what I had been hearing from God in my prayer time:

Wait.”

Me: “I want to, but I can’t offer peace in this situation.”

Person offering me counsel: “Why do you think that is?”

Me: “Because I didn’t take it away in the first place. My actions did not cause any of it. They need to seek peace through and with Christ. Until they surrender that, I cannot offer what they seek, and I don’t want to go ahead of what God wants to do in each person’s heart. Besides, I would only screw it up since I do not have His peace to act on this right now.”

Person offering me counsel: “Then that’s your answer. You’ve prayed. You’ve sought godly counsel. You’ve daily surrendered this. You are so right to not go ahead of the LORD. He cannot be rushed.”

And that settled it in my heart—what, in many ways, I already knew:

While the reassurance came from another Christian, I needed to check myself with God. God would not Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Part 2: How to Make Holidays More Joyful

when-youre-in-pain_-how-to-make-holidays-more-joyful-2Last week, I listed five very basic, non-festive ways to find more peace and joy during the upcoming holidays if you’re dealing with loss or a difficult season of life. This time I want to focus on how to get through the celebrations, parties, gifting, and busy schedule on the low energy you may be feeling.

1. Simplify your calendar.

Another way of saying this is: Choose your events wisely.

Do not overload your schedule. While this may be great advice during any holiday season, it is especially important when you are feeling depleted, sad, or stressed. You do not have to see The Nutcracker, attend your neighbor’s open house, or participate in five Secret Santas or white elephant gift exchanges just because you have in past years.

You also do not need to focus on anyone else’s expectations or worry about letting people down. If they are true relationships, they will have grace for your “free pass” year. Introvert or extrovert, you only have so much energy to go around when your strength is spent right now getting through the day to day.

While some people may not understand because their expectation levels do not match your reality at the moment, this is a good way for them to learn to respond with grace to those who are hurting. Or maybe you need space from people with inflexible demands right now. Either way, do not carry the extra weight around of pleasing other people.

Because I’m introverted, I limited my holidays outings to two occasions last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas: an open house at a friend’s house and a women’s Christmas tea. I also cancelled my involvement in Small Business Saturday at my church and a meal at someone else’s home. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had the enthusiasm for a few events, even though they were difficult because my father’s passing was still fresh.

I remember wanting to return home after the first five minutes at the open house because I met some very outgoing people who wanted to engage at a high intellectual level when I really just wanted to sit in the comforting presence of a few people I knew and sip something warm. I am very glad I made myself go, but I am also thankful I graciously stopped the conversation to be with low-engaging folks in the other room. I just needed to be with people, so I didn’t isolate, but I had no ability to fake holiday cheer.

Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

2. Be a minimalist in décor.

I have teens and a tween at home. Skipping all holiday décor was not a Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When God Said: “Enough!”

when-god-said_I was doing laundry and packing for our upcoming trip to put my father’s ashes in the ground. Spring Break wasn’t exactly a cheery occasion for us to prepare for, but we were looking forward to finally laying my father to rest with a few of our own personal touches.

As I tried to pack in spurts, we were slammed with nonstop high school jazz band events and a nightmarish two weeks of seventh grade. The latter involved multiple projects, a massive genetics and cell cycle test, and endless homework, none of which was spaced out or staggered. My poor daughter was up until 11 PM most nights making sure she checked off her own assignment lists.

She went out the door one morning a complete zombie. She could barely eat, put her contacts in, etc. She was so rundown and discouraged. Her only sentence this particular morning was:

“I have to go back to school and get more homework to come home to.”

I finally put my foot down and respectfully told the guidance counselor: “Enough! She has worked conscientiously and nonstop for weeks. On my instruction she isn’t doing homework tonight. I’m just letting you know.”

[My husband and I are both products of public schooling and strongly believe in it, but we shouldn’t have to give our daughter an espresso drink to wake her up enough in the morning to head out to school. This is middle school, not college.]

My son, on the other hand, had a band event in which students were driving themselves and taking several other students along. Major highways. An hour away. Rush hour traffic. Seven teens in a van with a teen driver. I adore our school music program, but um, no! Because our car was in the shop, we could not drive. I gently asked our fantastic band director to please place my son with an adult driver, and if not, my husband and I were not comfortable sending him to the event. I hated confronting this, but this was my limit.

Enough already!

Sometimes, when we are beyond defending ourselves and fall weary in a heap onto the floor Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Last 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 3)

Last 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church

 

We continue this week with the last installment of a three-part series on healthy Christian churches. The goal of this series is not population growth in a church but to give our churches a “check-up” to see if they are healthy or suffering from dysfunction: toxic dynamics, wrong teaching, or unbalanced leadership.

The first 10 signs can be found at 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church and 5 More Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 2).

At the end of this list is a “bonus” sign listed, but really it is essential in the same way as Number One (Christ is the center of conversations, preaching, teaching, programs, prayer, worship, and all decisions.) Be sure to check it out because we begin and end with who God is, and really, isn’t that upon whom our faith is built? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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5 More Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 2)

5 More Signs of a Healthy Christian Church, Part 2

Last week we discussed 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church in an effort to take the pulse of our churches and discern whether they are healthy or suffering from dysfunction: toxic dynamics, wrong teaching, or unbalanced leadership.

This series is not intended to determine metrics for church growth. It serves more as a checklist to measure the heart, practice, and biblical integrity of our individual Christian churches.

Be sure to revisit our starting point in last week’s blog post, but here’s a quick recap of the first five points covered:

 

  1. Christ is the center of conversations, preaching, teaching, programs, prayer, worship, and all decisions.
  1. Conviction (repentance) and grace are both present.
  1. The church welcomes and includes children, individuals with special needs and disabilities, and the mentally ill. This takes place from the top down.
  1. There are sinners, still working through their sanctification, in the church.
  1. The pastor is not a solo act. He is accountable to his denomination and/or affiliation.

Picking up where we left off, let’s examine five more signs of a healthy church. How is your church doing? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church, Part 1

5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church, Part 1I think from time to time it’s good to do a “wellness check” on our churches. Over decades of church participation, I’ve been able to reflect on unhealthy congregations from the vantage point of safe, healthy ones.

With some regularity, I watch hurting folks crawl out of churches, still strong in their faith, but damaged and limping from the psychology of unhealthy leadership. Twice in my life, I, too, had to detox from churches that damage.

Why is that? How did well intentioned, theologically sound, God-fearing pastors and ministers of the Word end up being instruments of harm?

And really, no church is going to be perfect, so what’s the big deal?

To be clear, I do not have a theology degree. I do not currently have a paid staff position of ministry (although I have in the past). I have been merely an observer of brokenness within the church and have studied what it is that leads faith-filled, humble people to run for the exit ramp after years of trying to make it work.

I prefer to take it from the positive side. If you find your church has most of these elements, then I would say Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Healthy Boundaries: Loving People With “No”

HEALTHY BOUNDARIES- Loving People With %22No%22Recently, I’ve found myself saying “no” more frequently. Admittedly, when we go through difficult seasons, we definitely draw more inward and limit our interactions and involvement. That’s a normal response when we need more mental and emotional energy to process the harder parts of life.

Even so, I’m becoming more comfortable with “no” and finding it to be another way to love people. For one, it’s being honest about ourselves instead of making false promises. Good intentions are a beautiful thing, but when we regularly can’t carry them through, we become people who disappoint.

In child-raising or managing employees, “no” can be a friendly word that clearly delineates where the guardrails and boundaries are before they are accidentally (or intentionally) crossed. Children tend to feel secure when they know expectations; this is also true in the workplace.

So why are relationships so difficult?

Why do we struggle at times to place down a healthy “no” in our closer relationships?

Is it because: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dental Shaming: Dear Pediatric Dental Hygienist

Dental Shaming-Dear Pediatric Dental HygienistI wrote the following to my children’s pediatric dental office. I did not want to mention their name, as a courtesy, because overall I’ve had a great experience there, and it takes a lot for me to put down someone’s business. We all need grace and second chances.

But I had to write it. And I had to share it. Because I know other parents out there deal with this. I know you struggle to get your child comfortable with going, and there can be something so subtle as tone and attitude that make or break the positive experience for a child.

I left the office before I spoke from my anger. I consulted friends, slept on it, prayed about it, and decided to send this. I measured each word carefully. I hope they take my advice and use it as a learning tool. If nothing else, I helped Little Man’s voice be heard. I don’t care how someone makes me feel, but he walked out of there feeling completely defeated, and a pediatric dental hygienist with a bad attitude is not someone we base our self-esteem on. Shake it off, Little Man. I got this. You worry about chasing butterflies and checking on your cabbage plant.

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To the attention of the office manager, the dentist, and the hygienist who treated my son yesterday:

I wanted to discuss my poor experience yesterday at the 4:30 PM appointment for my 10 year old son. What I’m about to share with you will hopefully be used as healthy feedback for your staff. We all have bad days now and again, but when I see a consistent problem that can drive people away from your business, I would like to share with you my experience in hopes that you use it constructively for the future.

First, let me say that I have had mostly wonderful experiences over the years with everyone in that office, from front desk staff, to all dentists I’ve encountered, and every dental hygienist, except for one, the one who did follow-up with us, alongside the dentist, around 5:20 PM yesterday.

We have had her before, and I was less than pleased by her tone and attitude toward both child and parent in several experiences, but my older son is a teenager and could blow it off. Not everyone is going to click. I don’t have to like someone to have them do a great job with my child’s teeth.

Fast forward to yesterday. My anxious/special needs child (10 years old) was reasonable and compliant. I even expressed some of his concerns and needs to the first pediatric dental hygienist who greeted us (different from the one who cleaned his teeth). When I came back for the report: no cavities. The dentist and I were having a lovely conversation when I asked about how well he was doing brushing. The dental hygienist interrupted and spoke in an inappropriate shaming tone, something along the lines of this:

“We called his bluff, Mom. He did a good job preparing today right before the appointment, and so now, Mom, we know he can do it, and there’s absolutely no reason he can’t take care of his teeth like this all of the time. That was far too much plaque for him. He shouldn’t have to be cleaned to that extent. There’s no reason he can’t do better. He proved it today that he’s capable so you need to hold him accountable.” 

This all was said in front of my son, by the way, as if he were an object in the room and it was her job to give him a lecture.

Let me just say that I don’t mind honesty, but the delivery was insulting and shaming to a child and a parent.

I sat there, stunned at the tone (not the content….I don’t mind honest content). It’s not the first time she’s left me ruffled in her lack of bedside manner and condescension.

What she doesn’t know is he spent 20 minutes brushing his teeth 3 times, flossing, gargling. 

What she doesn’t know is he was desperately afraid of displeasing her based on a previous experience.

What she doesn’t know is the toothpaste flavor is difficult, but he didn’t complain.

What she doesn’t know is he chews his toothbrushes for sensory feedback.

She doesn’t know I had already done a lot of work to get him comfortable coming in to the office to be less anxious in seeing her in the first place. I was already exhausted trying to make it a good experience for both my child and the hygienist ahead of time.

After taking a deep breath and composing myself, I said something like this:

“You know, what you just said may be important, and I agree that it is, but with this particular child I see so many specialists for so many things and get told difficult things all the time, that what you just said isn’t as important to me in light of that right now.”

When the dentist asked if I was okay, I said:

“I’m overwhelmed, to be honest, by this. I’m going to need to leave now.” 

My only requests:

1) My children’s charts get flagged so that none of them have this hygienist ever again. If that requires rescheduling future cleanings, I’m happy to be flexible about that.

2) Please make sure those involved read this. I believe every bad experience can lead to greater understanding and personal and professional growth. I would like to think the office staff involved in my situation feel the same way.

The moral of the story is: Yes, he does need to brush his teeth better. But, my son is a child with multiple issues. He was compliant. He did what you asked. He didn’t take up extra time, really. But you do not know his personal battles, and teeth do need care, yes, but so does the whole person. I have bigger battles right now.

There are ways to communicate truth about how to have better dental health to parents without shaming and embarrassing both parent and child. Her response was offensive and completely inappropriate. This is a pediatric dental office. You never know what someone is dealing with in the “whole child” when you express concern over the dental piece. The dental piece is one piece of a whole child. Instead of shaming, try encouraging and graciously communicating the concern. It goes a long way to build trust and understanding. These are children.

Best,

Bonnie Lyn Smith

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Dental Shaming- Dear Pediatric Dental Hygienist2

*This blog has been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon & Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

More of my personal story of uncovering my child’s special needs can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

 
 

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5 Reasons to Lick a Shut-up-sicle (and 5 Reasons Not To)

5 Reasons to Lick a Shut-up-sicleEcclesiastes 3:1,7, ESV, King Solomon speaking

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…

Years ago, a dear friend, trusted mentor, and fellow editor introduced me to a word with which I simply cannot part ways: shut-up-sicle. Once I wrapped my mouth around that powerful little descriptor, I was on my way to any and all usage possible. It fits so many situations, doesn’t it?

“Why don’t you lick a shut-up-sicle already?”

“Oh, man, I might need to pass out the shut-up-sicles today. Everyone is talking at once.”

“Sure wish I had brought my shut-up-sicle with me. I said more than I had planned to.” 

Yeah, such a beautiful word. I’ll admit some possible uses can be a bit unkind, so I’m not recommending them. [Smile.] Today, I’m really thinking more in terms of my own need to grab one and lick it at a slow pace. When we have nothing left to say and/or whatever swirls through the filter of thoughts is better left unexpressed, the most challenging approach to a perplexing situation or problem can be to simply

shut up.

Several times in different scenarios in my life I had reached a point where I did all I could do, and God was not telling me to move forward. He was calling me into a period of shutting my mouth. I know it was Him because He confirmed it with Scripture, sent godly counsel to affirm it, and gently put my mouth to sleep.

What I mean by that last part is that, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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