Monday, April 29, 2013

Blog 14- Week 12

The chapter I read in the Boundaries book this last week goes right along with all the other issues I have been processing through lately. It was called “I Can't Do It All, But I'm Not Helpless Either- The Law of Power”. All to often I as the perfectionist parent have to be the one in power. Learning to let go of some of that power has been very hard for me. But on the flip side my oldest is 16 and my youngest is 13. They don;t have that many years left in their home of origin to figure out how to live in the power they have over their own selves. If I rob them of that by hanging onto all the power then how on earth are they ever going to learn how to make those choices and those decisions on their own?
The big point in this chapter is that “a child needs to understand what she can and can't do regarding herself” (p. 90). At the bottom of this page is a chart that shows “I don't have the power to” and “I do have the power to”. Some of the examples it gave are: I don't have the power to survive without needing others, but I do have the power to choose whom I depend on. I need to present the choices to my children like that.
Last night my 15 year old daughter had a friend over while I was gone. She and her 13 year old sister share a room. I received a text from my 13 year old stating she wants her own room because her sister is not respectful of her. When I got home I had both girls come into the living room and I asked my younger daughter to explain to be what was happening. The girls ended up talking most of it between them however, for part of it I acted as mediator and I know I was conscious of my word choices while this was occurring. Toward the end of the discussion my 15 year old objected to needed to talk to her sister about where she would like the girls to hang out. Stephanie felt this was asking permission to be in her own room. I walked her through the difference between being respectful and asking permission. I think she got it, but the bottom line is that there are choices in life but sometimes those choices are limited. I have proven I can present it like that, now I need to state it like that in the moment.
Another chart that was included in this chapter was for parents. It says in one column “attempt to have power over others” and “your response”. I feel that I need to recreate this chart for myself. My 15 year old seems to be the one I who struggles with this the most but all my kids do it. One of the examples is “I can ignore you requests for me to _____”. Instead of my losing my temper I need to state “I won't ask you more then once and I am giving you____ time to accomplish it. If it is not done then you will miss (specific activity).” If I can act like the grown up in the home then they will come to understand that certain behaviors are expected. On the flip side my kids are older and I should have been raising them to behave this way. For a variety of reasons I was not, but now I need to help them create a space of growing and being able to be more in control while at the same time holding them accountable for the behavior they display. Very tricking line to walk. I hope I am managing to balance it fairly well.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blog 13- Week 12

It has been a couple of weeks since I had picked up the Motherhood book but the chapters that I read this week have left me speechless. I have had it brought to my attention several times lately that I have a perfectionist problem. This is not an issue limited to only certain parts of my life.
When I was almost 7 years old my baby brother died. I had babysat him the night before his death. When I found out the next afternoon that he was dead I was convinced for years that I had killed him. Shortly after my dad left my mom and then I thought I had broken my family apart because of the neglectfulness on my part which resulted in the death of my brother. While I was in my teens my mother often said to me that she wished I could be more like my brother. If all these are added together is it any wonder that I have dragged the need to retain tight control of all the areas of my life, to be “good enough” all the time into my adulthood years. I have been working on learning that all I have to be is who Father created me to be. I am not perfect, I cannot be perfect, it is not my job to be perfect.
Being fully human means embracing all the foibles about oneself. The way I am made makes me perfect for the purpose for which I was created. If I am struggling with the issue of all the things wrong with me, then I need to stop and take a look at the ideals I am striving for. Am I trying to be someone other than the person He created me to be?
The chapter of the Motherhood book that I was reading talked about balance. The chapter was called “Mt. Shoulda” where we as mothers spend much of our time thinking I shoulda done... The author quotes another mother as saying, “There's no such thing as balance. It's all about choices- choosing this to gain that, giving up that to make this a reality.” I have spent many years trying to keep tight, rigid balance in my life. But the reality is that I have to makes choices based on the information I have now. I cannot know what I don;t know. I am only human and I am only expected to do the best I can do based on the information I have.
Another mother in the book states, “stop trying to make your child's life happy and simply help the child discover who he or she was meant to be”. If I can't figure myself out, how am I supposed to help them figure themselves out? Oh yeah, that's what my perfect Heavenly Father is for. I keep forgetting that He doesn't want me to drive myself crazy trying to be more than He created me to be. He only wants me to be the best me that I can be. And the trick to that is that I can only be the best if I stop trying to be the best!

Blog 12- Week 12

This week in my morning devotionals I have read several little opening thoughts that have left me with things to think about.
The first one was entitled “True Value”. In it the author talked about the play The Admirable Crichton. In this play there were several very rich people who were stranded on a desert island. Since they had never had to work at the everyday things of life such as started a fire or cooking they had no idea what to do to take care of themselves on the island. On the other hand the butler, who prior to this had had no value, suddenly became their ticket to survival. In other words, we never know when the tables will turn. While there are many times when I feel I have very little value, like I make only small contributions to my world. But I never know when the skills I have will be the very skills someone else is in need of.
Another was called “True Identity”. This one talked about we need to embrace the identity we were given at birth. The author shares the story of a man who went on a hike, found and eagles nest and took an egg back home with him. He put the egg in a hen's nest. After the egg hatched it acted like a chicken, sine that is what the eagle knew, until the day that an eagle flew overhead letting forth a mighty eagle screech. At the sound the eaglet returned the called and flew off toward the eagle. How often do I deny the woman God created me to be. Am I spending my time scrabbling through the dirt scratching for corn like a chicken when He wants me flying through the air with my wings spread wide embracing the air currents?
The last one that truly stood out to me was titled “Personal Ideals”. In this one the author asks the reader to question what qualities they think define good character. This is not for the purpose of saying those are not good qualities, but rather to discover if there is a discrepancy between what they say they believe and the way they act each day. The story is told of a teacher who challenged her students to identify what they would like their tombstones to say. When faced with the challenge of identifying it many had to say that there was a difference between what they said they wanted others to act like and the way they acted themselves.
So the self-reflecting question I have for myself at the end of this week is what do I think makes a person of good character? Is the thing that I have identified a thing of value? Why or why not? AM I so busy trying to be what I think is good, but is not me that I forget to be the woman God created me to be? What skills did God bless me with? How am I using them to bless others?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blog 11- Thoughts on the Book "Through the Painted Desert"

I found it amazing how well this book tied in with where my thoughts have been all semester. It was a great book to read.

There was not one favorite part for this book for me. I appreciated the imagery throughout the book. It was almost as though you were sitting in the desert with them while they contemplated their broken down van or that you were in the bottom of the Grand Canyon with Donald as he suffered from blistered feet and screaming calves. But what I connected with the most was all the self-talk times that he went through as he was questioning God, questioning life, questioning the hows and whys of what really matters.
Because I am a single mom with three kids I cannot just drop everything and travel across several states looking for a deeper meaning in all this. However, I can be envious, to a degree, of those who can. I love my children and I am a homebody at heart. But I do get itchy feet at times. I long to go explore where the road goes, but when I have found the end of it I am ready to come back to the place I call home. This is not to say I am a person who is never satisfied where she is- when home wanting to be gone and when gone longing for home. This is to say that when I do go exploring I come to a place where I value what I have all the more Having said all of that I feel that there is something to be said for getting away from what you know and feel comfortable in. Is it truly comfort or is it really complacency? Do we go along with the flow of life, not questioning because it is easier than stopping and thinking it through? On pages 10 and  11 the author begins talking about how when we are living in the day to day of life it is really the how questions we are asking: how do I get money? How do I find happiness? When what we really need to be asking ourselves is why we are doing what we are doing and how it plays into the big picture of life? He says that when he started questioning the whys he faith began to get shaky but so did his ideas of what he had thought was valuable in life. How often do we stop and question the validity of our presuppositions?
On page 24 he hit on a point that I think gets at what I was trying to say above about getting out of the complacency of day to day life in order to take a fresh look at the life I am living. He says, “It's interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult's funny how you can't ask difficult questions in a familiar place.” It is like the passage in the bible that talks about the man who looks at himself in the mirror and walks away and forgets what he looks like. We are so familiar to ourselves that we don't really see ourselves. Our lives are kind of like that, so familiar to us that we don't really look at them until we see them from the angle of an unfamiliar place and then we look and say, “How did that piece get in there? Why am I doing things that way?”
I found the passages that the author spread throughout the book to be especially thought-provoking for me given the questioning I am doing of my life right now. I have already talked about how I am a divorcee` who never wanted to be raising three kids on her own, however it turns out that getting a divorce was the lesser of two evils in the story of my life. Now my children and I are learning how to create a new family structure that does not include their father. How do we create a whole in a unit that should have another piece? I could spend the rest of my life being bitter, questioning how he could do that to his family? Or even asking why it had had to happen to us? I would rather, like the author come to the point where I can say, “this is what I was made to do, this is who I was made to be” (p.77) and I can know that by not teaching bitterness to my children, with God's help we made lemonade out of the lemons life dealt us.

The other life lesson that goes right along with the walk that Father and I have been going through this semester has to do with the baggage I carry around with me, we each have our own baggage we lug through life with us. On page 113 our author reminisces about the physical weight in the pack he has just carried down miles into the Grand Canyon. Things that it does not sound like he even looked at- a book of poems- yet he needed to have them. How much stuff do I hang onto in my life, either physically or in my spiritual backpack that I really don't need? Things that are weighing me down and keeping me from the blessings the Lord wants to heap upon my life? Why do I hang onto them so tightly? What kind of a witness could my life be if I were to let go and let God?
I guess my walk away from this book really is “What does my dance with God look like? Do I point others to him when they look at my life?” It was a reminder to me just why I changed my username for many of my accounts 3 years ago. So much of my life I have been determined to do my way all of my life. The reality is that my Life is a Song, everyday, so what kind of a song am I going to make it? Can I reach the end of my day each day knowing that with His help I have done everything I can to reflect His love and His grace to those around me? That there is nothing I am missing in my life story? Am I teaching my children this same lesson? I don't have to travel the highways and byways in order to find that meaning, but I can take a short pilgrimage- which might look more like a retreat- to get a refresher perspective on the matter.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Week 10 Reflection

This morning I was reading Romans chapter 8. It left me with more questions than answers. This chapter starts out talking about how there is no condemnation in Christ. Often I feel self-condemnation. I am beginning to understand that in those moments I am subjecting myself to the law, to the evil one. Then I must ask myself, “Do I really want to live my life by the law?”
I also am beginning to understand something else about myself. I don't like ambiguity. I prefer things to be clear, to be black or white, not gray. But when I wait for that I am waiting for the rules of the law (those boundaries that make things cut and dry, right or wrong) to give me clarity of action.
As easy as that makes things in some ways, it makes them next to impossible in others. I cannot live by the law. I am not perfect. I am doomed to failure.
How does this tie in with ambiguity? How do I get clarity without trying to live in the law? I am currently working on defining boundaries and clearing out unnecessary clutter—tangible and intangible. It has been a very healthy process, but aren't boundaries rules—another way of saying what is allowed and what isn't? Rules get back to the law and here I am living under the law again.
How does one find balance?

A couple of days ago my morning devotional talked about a “To Be” list. All to often we go through life with our “To Do” lists. But when we slow down and think about who we are we leave more of a lasting impression on the world. In stead of focusing on the things I need to accomplish today—which could be important, I am not saying they are not—rather than on who I need to be today I miss the important parts of life.
For example, if I am more concerned about getting to the grocery store to buy food than I am about spending time with my daughter then I miss out on that time with her. If she sees me constantly trying to do stuff then the lesson I am teaching her is that stuff is more important than she is. What kind of a mark is that going to leave as my legacy? No one remembers that I went to the grocery store promptly each week, they remember that I did not have time for them. So if I start focusing on the things I need to be, I naturally begin to reflect the distinguishing marks of Christ in my life.
However, it goes farther than that. I cannot just decide “I am going to show the Lord's kindness today”. In order for me to reflect something I have to understand it in my own life. If I do not think I am worthy of God's kindness how can I show it to others?
I think the “To Do's” have become my self laws. In other words, I have decided how I need to be acting and when I am not acting that way I am obviously a big failure and then comes the self-condemnation. So now I am right back to looking for that balance again.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Week 9 Reflection

The big thing I have been finally learning is how to slow down. I have been being told for years that I overextend, that I take on too much, that I need to learn to say “no”. And I have been told this by a variety of people, many of whom I know have my best interest at heart. I tend to say “I know” then continue doing exactly what I have been doing all along.
Because of the need to set boundaries both with my kids and with myself God has been getting my attention about many things in my life. After many years I am beginning to hear it.
In my morning devotional a week or so ago I read about a man who was trying to start each day by spending time in God's Word, yet he could not understand why it seemed to make no real difference in his life. One day as he was talking with a friend he came to understand that he was reading the Bible as though it were a textbook. (How often have I been guilty of the same thing?) When he stopped and took his time with God rather than acting as though he expected God to reward him for putting in the time he found it made a big difference.
I have been struggling with not being happy with several areas of my life, but I have not been unhappy enough to do something about it. I am grateful to the people my Heavenly Father has surrounded me with in my life. The thing is I am a very stubborn person. It wasn't until I began working through the idea of what values I want my children to learn that I began to see where I had areas of weakness. I cannot expect them to act in a way that I am not modeling for them.
I recall that a few years ago I went to the doctor suffering from being exhausted and depressed all the time. She ran some blood vitamin levels and discovered some of my levels were very low. I started drinking more water everyday, walking everyday, talking vitamin supplements, and eating better as well as adding an antidepressant to my daily regime. When I went to see her a couple months later I felt much better. She asked how I was doing and I told her I felt much better. We talked about what I was doing. When she asked which part had done the trick I told her I had no idea, nor did I want to experiment to find out. I was afraid of ending up back where I had been. I feel like I am kind of in the same type of situation now. I have changed my eating styles again due to the health needs of my son. I am drinking primarily water now. I have begun to be very conscious of the choices I make based on what I want my kids to take away. I have begun a daily exercise regime again. And I am diligent in my quiet time. I am learning that I am a much calmer person on those days when I start out in God's Word then I am in those days when I “don't have time”.
I have a friend who keeps reminding me that my priorities need to be:
...then everything else.

I keep wanting to put other things in places they don't belong. Then I wonder why things feel out of control. When I start out with my focus on my Lord and Savior then everything else seems to fall into place without my even having to think about it. Why do I keep struggling with this particular issue? It seems like I have been at this crossroads before. I begin to see a pattern in the thought of how much I truly care about this thing. Am I going to care enough to step up and make a change or do I just want something to complain about? Is this finally going to be the time when I step up, own it, and do something about it?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Week 8 Reflection

I was reading my morning devotional this morning. It perfectly summarized where I keep finding myself in my life. The title was “Take Your Time”. I tend to move in speed mode. Once I have completed one thing I am quickly into the next topic or issue. One thing I truly appreciate about the man I am dating is that he operates in a much slower manner than I do. I find myself slowing down naturally every time we are together. Now I just need to learn to slow down when I am by myself.
When we were talking last weekend he reminded me that I am much harder on myself than I am on others. I think this is because I have come to a place in my life where I am hypersensitive to hypocritical attitudes. Because of this I expect myself to be acting the way I expect others to act. If I am not displaying the specific behavior then I have no business expecting others to display it. This is not a problem. I think where I struggle is that if I decide I need to be behaving a certain way or that I need to change a certain attitude, I want me to be the way I need to be right away. Life is not about the arrival. Life is about the journey on the way. My self expectations are admirable, but I need to extend myself grace as I learn to apply the lessons I am learning- sometimes moment by moment.
Which makes it all the more ironic that the chapter in Boundaries this week was on taking responsibility for one's own actions. I have realized that I naturally tend to want to help, but that is not always helpful. Children need to know that they problems are their problems. Because I want to show them how to tie all of life up in a neat little bow often what I am doing is demonstrating that their problems are my problems. The problem with that is that I will not always be there to help them solve the issue. So I am having to learn how to expect them to solve it and give them the room to do so. Sometimes giving them room includes giving them room to fail- and I hate that. But if I allow them to mess up and to grow from there then like Thomas Edison they will be able to say, “I didn't fail, I found a way that didn't work”.
I am truly not sure who this transition is harder on, me or them. I have always done for them so we are both used to that pattern. Now we are both having to learn that I am not going to do it. I may assist—if they request-- but I am not going to do. I keep wanting to do and they keep thinking I am going to step in. But in the end not only is it better for both parties involved if I let them take care of their own responsibilities but it is also freeing. They do not have to hold back because “Mom, is just gonna come do it her way anyway” and I do not have to step in, it is not my problem.
Wow! I need to repeat that for my sake more than anything else. Their problems are not my responsibilities. I am not sure how I feel about that at the moment.