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Healthy Confrontation—and Unhealthy Triggers

Healthy Confrontation and Unhealthy TriggersEarlier this week I attended a meeting with 30 other people. The topics at hand were shifting leadership and self-examination as we moved into a season of significant change. We all shared faith in Christ and a dedication to move in His Spirit toward a direction in unity—but how to get there? And isn’t that always the question?

As it turned out, I was one of the first to enter the room and find my spot. When I noticed the number of chairs set out, I realized there was an expectation of a greater number of people arriving than I originally anticipated. I felt my blood pressure go up. I have always struggled to be around a crowd of people, and while 30 people is not overwhelming, 30 people with strong opinions on weighty topics could press me in. As the room filled up, I started my deep breathing, tapping my foot anxiously until my husband arrived.

One by one as topics were introduced and I sorted out which personalities in the room were going to weigh in, I prayed for patience, grace, and love. I have a deep love for each of the people who were in the room that night; we serve God together. But I am a feeler with heart overload, and when confrontations arose, I found myself noticeably sucking in my breath. People made difficult statements to each other in love. Full-on panic set in for me. I began to plan my exit.

To be fair, all topics were handled in loving ways and with kindness and open ears and hearts. So as I drove home after the meeting (I managed to stay until the end), I cried out to God:

Why am I like this? Why am I so impatient when people express opinions? Why do I crawl into myself when people disagree with each other? Why am I having an ungodly response to what was a godly meeting? Lord, I prayed in advance of this meeting and prepared my heart. What else could I have done?

You see, I was very ashamed of my reaction, even though it didn’t directly affect another person in the room and it remained all in my head.

I came home and confessed to my Read the rest of this entry »

 

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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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Anxiety Volcanoes: Typical Expectations on Atypical Children [Excerpt]

Anxiety Volcanoes

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.

—————————

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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Un-Defining a Day: Setting Expectations Properly

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.54.46 AM

I wasn’t going to blog this morning. I was going to take the day off. I’m tired. I just published my first book. It’s my birthday. It’s the dogs’ birthday (that was God’s very personal gift to me last year: Samson and Delilah landing on this planet exactly on my birthday). I just took my child to the early arrival program while still in my pajamas (vest over me, but you get the picture). I have the oldest home from high school today. I haven’t had my coffee.

I could watch the dogs play with their new rubber squeak toys, sip a pumpkin spice latte, and read my own book. LOL.

I haven’t stopped much to rest in the past two months.

And really, after a blog 6 times a week, for 7 weeks, how much more could I possibly have to say right now?

But this morning was an OCD battle morning. And I realize that I need to blog. I sometimes can’t turn off the writing noise in my head until I’ve thrown a few words out there, italicized and bolded for good measure.

The blogging compulsion is so strong lately that I blogged an email to a high school teacher. Yes, yes, I did. What I mean by that is that I wrote the email blog-style (although it was shorter). After, my son and husband agreed with me that maybe right now I shouldn’t really be trusted to write emails to teachers. It wasn’t horrible or anything. But she probably needed it more in paragraph form. I hope she at least sipped some tea and might consider a little trip to my amazon.com page as a result. But, that really wasn’t my goal or my point.

And this blog isn’t about the specific episode I encountered this morning with some inflexible thinking, rigidity, and panic in one of my offspring. It’s really just about how to not let a day completely derail you. I’m actually learning a lot about this as we look for ways to keep our calm on around here.

As this morning’s getting-dressed-for-school-and-twitching-about-the-time-arriving-to-the-flexible-arrival-school-program episode played out (how’s that for avoiding detail?), I found myself back to my pretzel breathing again. My blood pressure was climbing to unpleasant levels, and I needed to get a grip. I’m not a morning person, I made a decision as a parent not to rush that morning, the husband is traveling all week, and I just have to let perfection go.

But this particular child of mine could not let it go. And so I drew a calm, clear boundary (while thinking a lot about the metal pot I once threw in frustration on Kwajalein—I didn’t throw it at anything but the floor, but that’s a blog for another time). Reliving the feel of tensing my muscles for that metal pot throw in the past really did alleviate the need to do it again today. I don’t throw things anymore (I only have a handful of times anyway). I’m growing up! But I thought about it.

Boundary was received not too long after the last round.

And I know that not every morning is going to fly by and smile at me. I know when we’ve been up too late the night before, the next morning will not be smooth. A birthday doesn’t guarantee that a traveling spouse is home, high school three-hour Back-to-School Night isn’t on the same day, and our usual issues and struggles take a vacation.

I’m in my 40s and just recently figured this out. If you’ve figured it out sooner, that is so awesome. It’s toffee-nut-latte-worthy, really. I genuinely mean that. Sometimes I wonder how I got to be this age and still do not have this whole expectation thing down. My child certainly had expectations this morning. I kind of just threw mine out the window today, but I’m not mad about it. I’m actually quite peaceful.

Expectations can often dictate the day. Mine always have coffee in it. And Jesus. Beyond Jesus, everything else can flux and be unpredictable (even my beloved caramel white mocha latte!).

I want to start un-defining my day because it’s not me who really controls everything. And reasonable expectations help me chillax. When I over-define the way in which it should go: epic fail. I can strive to achieve a few things in my day, but I do not actually define it. Wrapping my head around this has been incredibly freeing.

The sidewalk I walk on suddenly got bigger, more open, and lots of room for more of Jesus and peaceful living.

Psalm 18:36, David speaking about God
You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.

Jeremiah 29:11, Jeremiah the Prophet sharing the words of God
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

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When We’re in Pain: Keeping the Circle Small

When We're in Pain-Keeping the Circle SmallThe blog right before this one talked about opening ourselves up to more feedback in life. This one is more about the times when we need to keep our circle small.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m hurting, my circle of interaction suddenly shrinks to about five people outside my own immediate family. I think we’re all selective on purpose, during these moments, as a self-protection reflex, an instinct. I’m sure shelves of psychology reference books have been written about this very thing.

Part of the reason behind the shrinking circle is because others are often in their own very rough seasons and can’t really take on something else right now to help.

And that’s okay. We’ve all been there.

Another reason is because it can be difficult to be around people who aren’t tuning into our pain on any level. It can be beneficial to just put those relationships on hold until we regroup and come out of the gray clouds over us. They’re still our friends. They just might not know what to do in this particular situation. That’s okay too.

Sometimes our pain touches in too close to someone else’s pain, and they can’t be part of our inner circle for this reason—at least not in this exact moment. Grace, much grace for them. It’s okay to need some space in these situations. Our experiences can be used to help others, certainly, but if we are still in the throes of deep pain ourselves, it might be wise to not advise others until we’ve come out of it.

Then there are other folks who only really want to be around us for what we offer—not for what we need. That’s okay, too, but they are definitely not entering into the inner circle of “safe”—and really, it’s okay, because that’s not necessarily their goal. They don’t want to. Better we realize that up front. It’s all about expectations, and setting them correctly.

Neither should we let in, during these very sensitive times, those likely to remind us of our own failing (or the failing of one of our children) later.

Yup, not allowed in.

While we may find that our support group of prayer or bringing meals in a moment of sickness or sorrow may be larger than we realized, when we are either struggling with our own particular torment, or a loved one in pain or at risk, we tend to not want to share that with the world. We tend to keep it close, at least until the storm has passed.

Although people are well meaning and offer comfort in their own ways, there are also those tougher moments when someone might walk right up to us, see our tears ever on the edge and rigid tension in our face, and talk on and on about themselves in whatever mundane way or demand our audience over something we can’t really handle at the moment. And while they are not wrong—just maybe a little insensitive—it can make us want to run and hide, find the exit ramp and speed madly down it.

These are the things that overwhelm me personally when I’m in that place. One of my worst triggers is not feeling heard or understood. It also throws me into a panic if I think someone is coming to take from me when I am beyond depleted. I’d so much rather not be approached when I am in that place if the pain is going to blown past as if it is a figment of my imagination. That’s assuming, of course, the person is aware. Obviously, they are not accountable for what they do not know.

And it needs to be accepted.

We recently closed our shutters during a nine-month struggle getting one of the birds in our nest from mental unwellness to a better place of mental wholeness—or something approaching it. I walked around during those nine months tensing up so incredibly afraid of encountering people who wouldn’t “get it” because they hadn’t experienced anything like it yet (thank God!), wouldn’t offer grace, would probe unkindly, or would still want to take something from me in my weakness. My shoulders are still coming out of that tense posture, even now, months after the crisis. And I did run into those kinds of people. Definitely. And I had to draw my boundaries. But I found more grace along the path to soothe my wearied, battered soul—dear, trusted folks who loved me back to safety.

And really, it’s healthy to keep the circle smaller in those moments. Not only is our private stuff, well, private, but I find God calls a few people to help carry us in these times—not the masses. The masses often bring tangible provision, like meals during moments of sickness or for welcoming a new baby, but few will walk through each burden with us in our heaviest times. And that’s okay.

When We're In Pain- Keeping the Circle SmallAnd it may be different people each time. Sometimes it’s a family member or a different friend than the last situation. I love how God uses the people who are going to be able to give us what we need emotionally and offer good counsel at that moment in that particular struggle.

I don’t think we’re all meant to carry around all burdens at once. It would be too weighty. Only Christ could do that on the cross.

I need to also be okay with the idea that I am not always someone else’s answer or “circle person” as they walk through something difficult. I love it when I can be used in this way, but I certainly cannot meet every deep need out there. None of us can. That’s why listening for His guidance and leading is so important. It can overwhelm otherwise.

What do you think? Do you find this to be true?

More of our faith walk through personal struggles can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

*This blog has also 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 ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

 

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