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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Week 7 Reflection

This week I am back in the Motherhood book. The two chapters I read this week were called “The Foothills of Wasgonnabe” and “Mt. Shoulda”. They worked well with the place I was in in my life this week. Last Friday after I blogged I had a very hard weekend. I had a stressful night Friday night and that spilled over into Saturday. Because of my issues I did not deal well with my former spouse and also with my daughter who had an issue of her own. All of this brought me much self-inflicted guilt.
I was talking to my counselor on Monday. We talked through some of my stress and crisis issue during our session. He gave me some great pointers and some ways I need to rethink things for my self. I want to be a better model for my children. But I want know that I cannot become healthy—that is something we never arrive at. The best I can hope for is healthier.
One of the things I appreciate the most about this book is the incorporation of “things I have done right” comments from moms of various ages. It reminds me that no matter how much I may screw one thing up I will always have other things I have done right. Some questions I am starting to ask myself:
What is the best choice in this situation?
How can I help my family the most right now?
What is the best thing to do to avoid harming my family?
What does self-care look like in this situation?

There are all kinds of shouldas that I could beat myself up with. I could say that I shoulda prayed more or I shoulda been home more or less than I was or that I shoulda disciplined differently.
But the bottom line is that the past is what it is. I cannot live in the land of shouldas from the past. I need to use the past to learn from but not to beat myself up over it.
The chapters I have been reading in Romans this week talked about God's faithfulness and how faith brings joy. I understand that trials cause growth, but in the midst of the trial do we think about that? Do we think “I am glad that this thing is happening to me because it will cause me to grow” or do we say “why is this happening to me”? In my case it is often the later. I need to learn to trust God and to know he would help me endure. This is my focus for self-care for the next months until God shows me that we need to move onto another topic.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Week 6 Reflection

So I try to blog on Friday mornings. I got to it late today and I am so glad that I did. An exciting thing just happened to me.
This week I am back in the Boundaries book. The chapter is entitled, “What Will Happen if I Do This?”. It talks about entitlement vs privileges, also known as the law of sowing and reaping. As I was reading through it I realized that I have brought my children up to varying degrees of belief in entitlement. While it was unintentional it still happened. So now I have a 15-year-old who just automatically assumes if she wants it she will get it. I am trying to teach them the difference between wants and needs and also the attitude in how they ask for something.
The author opens the chapter with a family scenario in which the child was given a job to do and he failed to do it, but still got the privilege. A few pages later he contrasts it with a family situation in which the child lost out on a privilege for failing to do what was required of them. So now I am examining my role as a parent. Am I making the expectations clear? Am I holding them accountable? Am I acting more like parent 1 or parent 2?
After I got out of class I had an appointment in SW Portland. While on my way to the appointment I called my daughter to find out why she had not called me to tell me she was home yet. During the course of that conversation she informed me she had left her keys at home and so had no way to get in the building. The parent I was a month ago would have canceled the appointment and driven back across town to let her in. Instead today I said, “Well the natural consequences of not having your keys is that you cannot get into the apartment. I have an appointment and cannot come back across town. Nor will I be free until I pick you up at the pool until 6 pm.” (The two reasons I could feel comfortable doing this are that: 1) it is not raining and 2) she can wait inside the building, rather than outside, for her siblings.)
Her response to this was, “What am I supposed to do?” Now I did have to walk her through some solution options, but this is because I have always solved their problems for them. I suggested she check with the apartment manager- she was not there. I suggested she could call the assistant manager and find out if he was on the property- he was. If he had not been her final option would have been to walk to the middle school where her sister is in school today and get her keys. And I didn't even feel guilty about it. How liberating it is to make them responsible for their own actions and the natural consequences of those actions!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spirituality of Relationship

I chose my boyfriend to interview. I chose him for several reasons. The man that I married at the age of 19 I met at church. We always went to church together. The issue of not going to church never came up. But looking back I realize he had the same issue my mother did- there was one set of behavior for at church, during church time and there was a different behavior for the rest of the time. Needless to say that I became a very jaded person when it came to trusting others who said they were “Christians”. The funny thing is that my faith never wavered. Once I came to the place that I acknowledged that I couldn't do it by myself and I needed to live what I said I believed, my faith in God to be in control and to care for me remained constant.
I knew my boyfriend 25 years ago, in another life. Through an interesting series of circumstances that I am convinced were a God thing our worlds collided almost a year ago. He began actively pursuing me at that time but I kept turning away from him, fighting the curiosity that crept up in my heart. Finally I gave in and responded to his reaching out. But we only “talked” through email for 3 months before we met in person after all those years. The first time we talked at Lloyd Center mall. The second time I went to his work. The night before I went to see him I was praying about all this. I am scared because of my past, because of the relationship I am coming from, even though it has been three years. I prayed all this to my Heavenly Father and asked Him to show me very clearly what path I should take. I said, “Lord, if you are telling me it is okay to see where this path leads then when I get there tomorrow Lloyd has to pray. I am not going to say anything to him about it. I will go in and talk with him, but if he doesn't pray then I will not take the next step. I cannot date a man who does not love you first, to whom talking with his Lord is not as natural as breathing.” I was saying all this in my head, I couldn't even speak it out loud for fear of jinxing something. The next day I got to his work and walked into the office. He stood and pulled out a chair for me, just like an old fashioned gentleman. Once I was seated he went back to his desk, sat down , and started praying out loud. I started crying.
He was raised in a catholic church, then he attended a Pentecostal church as a young man. Neither group felt right to him as far as their theological belief systems, he says they seemed to regimented, too legalistic. He wants his relationship with God to be one of awe but also one which feels natural, just happens without having to think about it- like breathing. Over the last several months of dating we have discussed all manner of subjects but as I was asking him questions over the weekend in reference to this assignment I found that in many ways it was like talking to myself. I thought that was absolutely awesome. I think I serve a Great God who wants us to have an abundant life and to have it beginning here on earth.
My former spouse and I couldn't talk about things that we appreciated about God, or ways he was working in our lives, or bible verses that touched our hearts. Lloyd and I can do so and do it several days a week. This is not to say that all we talk about is God or that I am putting him or us on some kind of pedestal of perfection. But I value that fact that we can talk about so much more than my ex- and I could. I value the fact that without even knowing God seemed to be at work in both our lives bringing us toward one another through each step of our lives.
He will stop as we are walking together and show me something. Oftentimes that something is very simple, like the first bird of spring up in the branches of a tree and talk about how God works to renew the seasons of life year after year after year. He will break out in prayer on the spur of the moment and take me by surprise quite often. It is almost as though he is having a running conversation with God all day long. I do the same thing. I do not feel this is approaching God in a manner that is too casual however.
God desires to be in relationship with us-that ought to blow your mind- He desires for us to be in relationship with Him. Lloyd is in relationship with God. He can see how every step of his life-good and bad- has helped to create the person he is today. He knows God created him for a purpose and he feels he is fulfilling that purpose.
Ever since acknowledging that my marriage was a toxic one and ending up a divorced single mother- something I promised myself I would never do- I have had one focus. This focus has been to make sure that everything I do, no matter how small, is done the way God wants it done. My marriage was something I never prayed about prior to getting married. My relationship now, and all other areas of my life I pray about frequently. I do not want to look back in 10 years and realize that I was on a personal foray again and not on the path God had planned for me.
As Lloyd and I talked last Saturday about his religious upbringing and his thoughts about living a Godly life I realized that here was another person who also was focused on living an abundant life like Jesus talks about in the book of John. I remember thinking how amazing it was that we have lived life completely separate from one another yet have arrived at virtually the same place in our walk with the Lord. I am dating a man who loves God, who lives God, and yet who isn't one to shove God down the throats of others. I want to be in a relationship with God that makes it almost impossible to see where I end and he begins because he is so much a part of who I am and what I do. I see this in Lloyd. I am amazed at the way God works. It was an enlightening conversation to have, especially since I have had all this time of dating him to be observing his actions prior to hearing the words. The awesome thing is that the words match up to the actions I have observed.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Week 5 Reflection

I am back in the Motherhood book this week. It has been very beneficial for me to switch back and forth between the two books. The information in each seems to blend well with the information in the other- which is very interesting as the two books are not written to go together, in fact they are not even by the same author. I guess they just each meet me where I am at right now.

I am also reading the book of Romans for the first time. Sure I have read parts of it in the past, but I have never sat down to read it over as a whole. So each morning I wake up and read a short little devotional, then I dive into my chapter of Romans for the day. After I have done both of those I journal on what I read and what it means to me. After my journaling I shower and pray while I am in there. It makes for a longer relaxing shower each morning, but I am finding that it starts my day off on the right foot. If I am calmer and have clearer boundaries my children seem to naturally be calmer as well. It is just like Henry Cloud was saying in my reading from last week- Kids NEED parents with boundaries. They also need parents who are not hypocritical. If I am expecting them to acting in a certain way then I darn well better be modeling that for them.

So this week I read two chapters in the Motherhood book. I do not try to read everyday because of 2 reasons: 1) I am super busy but more importantly 2) I want to give myself time to process through what I read and be able to have it have an impact on my life, not just a check mark on a list. The two chapters are entitled: The Mountain Range in Your Backyard and A Base-Camp Confession. Both chapters were amazing. How wonderful to hear that other mothers experience the same frustrations, guilt, doubts, and regret that I do. Julieann Barnhill, the author of this book, calls this phenomenon Mt. Guiltmore National Park. She assures us that we are normal but that when we “learn to scale the peaks of Mt Guiltmore the view is terrific” (p. 19). That rather than stay at the bottom and allow this mountain to “dominate our landscape, we can rise above and live where God intended us to- on the plains of grace and confidence” (P.19). In the second chapter she talks about the things she has done in her past as a mother that have caused her to be overwhelmed with guilt. Some of them I have done as well so it is a comfort to know that the person I am choosing to try to glean information from has her feet firmly on the ground when it comes to “I have been there” statements. It is always disheartening to find out that someone you turned to for help has no knowledge of the subject and is just spouting of what sounds good.

I am anxious to get into the rest of the book, but I know that if I try to rush into the next part that I will overlook something that is important for me to take in. I want to do this God's way, in God's time.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Week 4 Reflection

The chapter title that I am working through in Boundaries this week is “Kids need parents with boundaries”. The author's point is that though by nature we resist rules and limitations, from birth even, we need them. While a child's actions are that child's responsibility the parents teach the child what is permissible and what is not. If I ask my daughter to take the garbage out and then do not hold her responsible for the chore, I am actually teaching her that it is her choice to do what I ask or not- that she does actually have to obey me.
The author's state early in the chapter “You need to interpret a child's behavior as a response to your own.” Ouch. Does that mean that when she does not take the garbage out it is truly my issue not hers? Yes, she is still responsible to obey. But did I say it like I meant it? Did my words and my tone of voice match? Am I sending mixed messages?
Lately, many changes having been occurring at my house. The changes are for the better, but they are mostly physical changes. I have been down sizing which is diminishing the physical chaos in the home. Now it is time for me to examine the emotional chaos. This is a less tangible thing to look at. How do I measure my life? How do I measure my parenting?
The authors remind us that a student can only learn to the level of the teacher. It is not possible for me to teach my children how to be better than me. They can learn how to be better than me- but not from me. The statement made is, “Children will mature to the level the parent structures them, and no higher.” So if I am not happy with the behaviors exhibited is the fault of my children who are displaying inappropriate choices, or my fault for teaches them that those choices were appropriate to begin with?
The challenge is to not take the responsibility of my children's choices from them but to learn how to set clear boundaries and then hold them responsible. I have taught my children how to take physical care of a household. In other words they know how to do dishes, to clean up their rooms, to vacuum, to sort and wash laundry and clean bathrooms. What I have not taught them is respect and how to value another person. My mother taught me through fear and I do not want to parent that way. She also was not consistent in her expectations and punishments- so when I did something wrong I may or may not get punished for it and if I did, the punishment may or may not have had a direct correlation with the original misbehavior. \
I need to figure out what it is I am wanting my children to learn, what characteristics I am trying to teach. Then I need to set clear boundaries and hold to them. When correct behavior is displayed I need to bless and praise for that- everyday. When incorrect behavior is displayed I need to follow through with consequences that have a direct correlation to the behavior. For example, my youngest daughter has the job of loading the dishwasher. Often she loads it without cleaning off the dishes first so that any debris on the dishes simply gets spread around the load and all the dishes end up dirty- after it has run and they should be clean. A direct consequence could be that it is now her job to check the dishwasher when it is done and she has to judge whether they got clean or not. If not then she gets to immediately deal with the dirty load and reclean/rerun it. Over this next week I need to seriously think about each one of my children: what are their strengths an their weaknesses. What am I doing to build them up. What is it about each one's behavior that I would like to improve? How can I help them in that area? Am I being inconsistent in that area, if so how? What can I do to change me so that I am an example to them?

Week 3 Reflection

In addition to working through Boundaries with Kids I have also started a book called Motherhood: The Guilt That Keeps on Giving by Julie Ann Barnhill. Her premise is that moms naturally feel guilty for not “being_____” for their children. In a mother's eyes any shortcomings on the part of the child or children is the direct result of her parenting. Part of the summary on the back cover of this book says “On your way to the peaceful valley of Grace you'll discover...
*the difference between false (imagined) guilt and real guilt
*the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations and overconfidence
*God's path to less guilt and more grace”.
My hope for myself this semester is to settle more comfortably into motherhood, and single motherhood at that. My children are special, are valuable, and I seem to forget to tell them that. My ex-husband used to literally say, “I told you I loved you when I married you. If that changed I'd let you know.” And it did, and he did, but the point is that I do not want to parent the same way- where the only things they hear from me are corrections. The Hebrews have the right idea when they give 10 blessings for 1 rebuke. God extends grace to me, I want to extend it to others- and if I cannot start in my own home...
In the introduction to this book the author talks about how she got to the point of writing the book. She was teaching at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group and the topic had to do with moms and being good moms, what that meant, and what part guilt played in mothering. Due to conversations she was overhearing in the discussion groups she stopped the activity and changed the question to, “What do you not feel guilty about as a mother?” The room grew silent. In a room full of women no one could answer that question. What a sad commentary on motherhood. Not that I would have been any different had I been there. How would I answer the question? Up until about 5 years ago, I would have said I didn't feel guilty about the amount of attention I gave my children, about the time I set aside for them, about the love I showered on them.
About five years ago my former spouse voluntarily admitted himself into a mental health facility for suicidal tendencies. Our marriage went rapidly downhill after that. Looking back now I am not sure when I stopped lavishing attention on my children. Part of it has to do with their ages and the fact that teenagers naturally pull back from their parents, but a big chunk of it does not. In fact, a dear friend asked me recently when I grew hard-hearted toward my children. My initial response was denial that I had done that, but because the person asking is a dear friend and I know has my families best interest at heart I began examining the issue. They were right, and I don't know when it happened. So now I have a choice- I can either feel guilty about yet another thing, or I can allow God to begin to transform me from the inside out as I work through my boundaries and my guilt. In the end my prayer is that my children and I come out of this portion of our life journey with a stronger bond with each other and a deeper appreciation for the grace of God.

Week 2 Reflection

I have mentioned before that I have three teenagers. My oldest is a boy and is 16. My two younger ones are both girls and are 15 and 13. In June of 2010 our family separated. My former spouse and I had a very unhealthy relationship and could never get on the same page that the way we interacted was not only harmful to our feelings for each other, but also harmful to our children, and to our family as a whole. Finally after years of trying to hold it together I had to acknowledge that nothing was going to change and that although I wanted my children to have two parents, it was less toxic for them to suffer a separated family than to continue to grow up in an environment that said this was an acceptable way to treat another person.
Understandably, both my children and I have had relational setbacks because of the breakup and consequent divorce of our family. We are all having to relearn what it means to show others they are valuable. To this end I have started reading a book called Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. These men have written several other books on Boundaries: in relationships, in dating, in marriage, in life in general. They write from a Christian perspective which I value because if my relationship with God is not what it should be then it does not matter what my other relationships are like. Only when my boundaries and my Christian walk is what it should be can I be the example to those around me, including my children. And only when my foundation is set on the rock of Christ can my other relationships have the balance they should.
The authors start out the book talking about a mom who is “helping” her teenage son by cleaning his room up for him. She is a helper and enjoys assisting others. But it was not until it was pointed out to her that her treatment of her son was not healthy in preparing him for living in the real world that she realized that at times helping is not actually helping. This introduction made me stop and question what I may be doing that is actually enabling my children. I have had to examine my attitudes, my choices, my behaviors and question whether I am modeling what is healthy for my children to take out into the world with them.
The second chapter the book talks about character building. The authors had several good points including that as parents we need to have a clear picture of what it is we are trying to build into our children. If I cannot define what characteristics I want my child to have then how do I know when they have achieved it? And even if I can name qualities that I want them to have- until I define what those words mean how do I know what specific thing I am attempting to instill? And finally, what am I modeling? Ouch. That one hit a little close to home, however it is true. As the authors stated so concisely in the final remarks of this chapter: “To develop a child of good character, we have to be parents of good character. To develop boundaries in our children, we have to have boundaries.”
I believe that my job over the course of the next months is to develop boundaries of my own that will Finally model those characteristics that are healthy for my children in life. I have stated before that in a way I feel as though I am going through my teenage years now as well. I never had the opportunity to sort through the value my family of origin handed me and decide which I truly agreed with. Then I got married virtually right out of high school and was handed a plate of my spouses values. Now at the age of 40 I am attempting to sort through and unpack values I agree with at the same time my children are attempting to do the same. The trick in all of this is to be consistent in my expectations as we unpack this as a family. Tough road ahead: but it is worth it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spirituality of Place Reflection

I took a trip down the scenic highway in the gorge. I chose this because I always connect with God better when I get away from the city. To me quality time with God equals time away from a schedule and time literally reflecting in a body of water. By choosing to explore the waterfalls I was putting myself in an environment where my body naturally slows down. By leaving the city I was leaving time constraints. I wanted to do all I could to give myself room and permission to connect with God.
I stopped at Vista house and spent a great deal of time on the top of the house looking out over the gorge and the freeway. Finally I moved on because of the traffic flow of people coming and going from the observation deck. I was not paying attention to the time as for me that is part of relaxing and reflecting. I would say I was here for at least 45 minutes and possibly closer to one hour.

One thing that really hit me while up there was Psalm 23. As you look down from Vista House facing east you see two things. You see the I-84 and all the traffic flowing quickly along it, and then you see just south of the freeway a meandering creek with the peace and beauty that it brings. Do I choose to rush through life missing the things of beauty provided by God or do I slow down and take in the trees and flowers near the creek? It felt as though I were in heaven watching all the people on earth making the choices that would govern the speed of their lives. Most of us choose to speed through life oblivious of the creek just to our right. God is saying, “my burden is easy, my yoke is light,” if only we as humans will stop- or at least slow down- and enjoy the scenery.

I spent most of my time reflecting on the second and third verses of Psalm 23. I especially like them in the New Living Translation: He leads me to rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.
How often do I stop, or slow down to spend concentrated time with my Heavenly Father, just resting in Him. He says in the book of John: I am the vine you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing. Yet I repeatedly continue to try to live my life apart from Him- or if not truly apart from Him, then at least not in Him. I try to tell Him what I want to do and expect Him to come alongside me. And the funny thing is- I have experienced how easy life is when I join Him where He is instead of trying to get Him to join me where I am. I exhaust myself trying to do it on my own and wonder why I am so very worn out. Really? Haven't you learned yet girl?
After leaving Vista House I continued on the scenic highway trying to find a waterfall area that was somewhat protected from the elements- it was cold even though the sun was trying to come out- yet not overrun with people. Multnomah Falls was too busy and Latourell Falls were too far off the road. I ended up spending the bulk of the rest of my time at Horsetail Falls. Though they are located right next to the road there were virtually no people there.

I sat near a set of trees that reminded me of two people talking. I tried to envision those two trees being me and God. The “face” on one tree was slightly higher than the “face” on the other. If the lower tree were me then I was looking up to God and focused on Him. I want to want to live my life this way. I have experienced the peace of being so connected to Him that I know in the moment that the very air I breathe comes from Him. Then I swing to the other extreme where I am sure I am doing it completely on my own. Can I find a middle ground? It seems as though my “want to” is broken. I say I desire things to be different, yet I do nothing to change my behavior. Until my behavior changes, or I am at least motivated to pursue ways to change than I can't say in all honesty that I really desire things to be different.

Week 1 Reflection

This week has been a very interesting week. Because I have been preoccupied with my boyfriend's health I have been reflecting on life through the lens of health issues. In other words, if I were to die today what would I be leaving behind?
The biggest issue is my kids. I do not want them to be raised by their father, who has enough issues of his own. However, I am coming to realize I am a control freak. My kids are 16, 15, and 13. I have a few things I have allowed my son (the 16 year old) to have input in- such as how we control his ADD. But mostly I play the MOM card. This is detrimental to them at the ages they are getting to since they will soon be out in the world on their on. How am I preparing them for that?
I have been working my way through a book by Henry Cloud called Boundaries for Kids. What I am coming to realize is that my children cannot operate within the boundaries they have set for them. Not because the lines are unclear, but because I do not have the same rules for myself. Ouch!!
The basic things like clearing your dishes off the table I do as well. But some of the bigger issues, like getting up and doing your bible study time- they don't see me doing. And the intangible issues like politely listening to the speaker and waiting for them to be done before you speak- that is one I am terrible at.
So now it is time for me to back up to the basics and begin making sure my walk and my talk line up. How depressing. When I was growing up my mom had one set of rules for me and another for my brother- that drove me nuts! Especially since I was the older sibling and he got away with more.
Now I find that I am doing the same thing to my kids only it is one set of rules for them and another for me. I have a lot of work in front of me. I am excited for what our family will look like at the end of this part of the journey, but I am terrified as to what we will have to go through in order to get there.