Mental Health

The Good Enough Mother – Part 2

Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith, Mental Health | 4 comments

One of my least favorite things about writing is that it seems like whatever I choose to write about in a given week becomes an area in which I struggle exceedingly that week. It’s a reason I often want to just stop writing and sharing altogether. When I write about my marriage, then it seems Husband and I fight and bicker more. When I write about trusting God, it seems I struggle with a greater measure of fear and worry. And when I write about my kids, it seems I struggle with less patience and greater feelings of inadequacy.

Just a couple of days ago I wrote The Good Enough Mother. The next day, I woke up with a feeling of heaviness, a feeling that I’m doing a bad job with my kids. I’m surprised at my tendency towards impatience and anger. I should know better, for goodness sake, I’m a child therapist. In trying to determine the source of the heaviness, I became vaguely aware that it had to do with unrealistic expectations of myself and children and inaccurate perceptions. When I looked deeper, I saw that when my kids don’t listen or follow the rules I unknowingly let a slew of lies flood into my heart… It’s because I’ve done something wrong… It’s because I’ve been so dang imperfect… It’s because no one in my house respects me. Giving these thoughts real estate in my brain then generates a snowball effect. I end up feeling so inadequate that it negatively impacts my mothering, my attitude towards myself, my relationship with Husband, and the atmosphere in my home. Then, to compensate, I try to work harder and be better. Do more. Become different. I unknowlingly get caught up in trying to change my behavior into something more perfect instead of weeding out the roots of my inaccurate perceptions and giving myself (and my family) grace to simply be Good Enough.

Just so you know, in case these same thoughts ever invade your brain as well, they’re all lies. Your kids don’t disobey and fail you at times because you’re a failure, but because they’re kids. Kids just don’t know all that much, they lack judgement, common sense, and life experience. They’re learning, but it is a long and tiresome process.

As soon as I recognized all of the lies that were leading to my sense of heaviness and feelings of failure as a mother, I set to work evicting them from my mind and replacing them with a better tenant – truth about myself and my children. For me, the truth about who I am as a person and mother and who my children are as little people comes from what God says about us.

Before each of my children was born, I got to know them through praying about them, and felt like I had a Bible verse for each of their lives. For Bug, it was that she would be “full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love.” For Bear, it was that she would have “great peace and undisturbed composure.” Ironically, Bug often struggles with anger and Bear often struggles with fear. Sometimes I think that God gave me these specific verses for them as an anchor to keep me grounded and focused on the truth when I could see no actual evidence of these truths in the children who are actually in my home. It works. When I start to feel overwhelmed with their challenging behavior in these areas, I purpose to stop and speak these words of truth about them. Then I purpose to speak these words to them. It never fails to change their behavior and my perception. Truth will do that. And it serves as a much better motivator than negativity, criticism, and punishment.

As for myself, I am highly imperfect and in need of much grace as a mother. Thankfully, that is okay, and part of simply being a Good Enough Mother. More importantly, in spite of my human imperfection, my heart is home to a perfect God who helps me be better than I am in and of myself when I let Him. Because God lives in me, love lives in me, and this is what love is:

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful orvainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Amplified Bible)

In an effort to speak truth about myself as a mother, and because I believe truth is a better motivator for me than negativity, criticism and punishment just as it is for my children, I started saying this about myself in the morning before the children awake and start pulling on my emotions:

I endure long and and I am patient with and kind to my children.

I do not display myself haughtily in my home.

I am not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); I am not rude to my children (unmannerly) and I do not act unbecomingly to them.

(God’s love in me) does not insist on my own rights or my own way, for I am not self-seeking; I am not touchy or fretful or resentful with my children; I keep no account of their mistakes after those mistakes are addressed.

I can bear up under anything and everything that comes, I am ever ready to believe the best about my children, my hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and I can endure everything [without weakening].

God’s Love in my family, my marriage, and my relationships with my children never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

Speaking words of life and truth about myself and my children in the morning did not magically make me the Perfect Mother, but it did change the tone of the entire day. There was less frustration and negativity, more patience and grace. I know that as mothers we try to speak kind and encouraging words about our children each day, but what if we did the same for ourselves? What if every mother mothered herself with kindness and love? Kindness, love, encouragement, and truth are, after all, better motivators than negativity, criticism, and punishment. An added bonus of filling ourselves with these things is that we are then full of them to pour out to our children – it is hard, if not impossible, to pour into our kids what we are not full of ourselves. Try encouraging and building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down in your thoughts today and see how it lightens everything in your home.  See if it doesn’t give you the grace to believe you’re Good Enough.

The Good Enough Mother

Posted by on Sep 12, 2012 in Mental Health | 3 comments

The Good Enough Mother

One of my favorite concepts from all of the theories and therapy models and treatment methods I learned about in the course of my education as a Clinical Social Worker is the Good Enough Mother. Say it with me – Good Enough Mother.  Doesn’t it just make you feel a million pounds lighter to string those words together?  This mother, well, she’s not perfect, she doesn’t do everything right, she makes her fair share of mistakes, she has to give herself grace and acceptance for her perceived shortcomings, even her children aren’t perfect, but she’s good enough. Good Enough.  I think I can be that mom.

There’s something about mothering children that tends to make women feel not good enough. Every mother I know, even those I look up to as seeming to have it all together, feels it at times… a sense of guilt, a nagging insecurity, a feeling of failure in at least some area, self-doubt. Why?  I don’t know, exactly.  I have ideas…

I think in general we live in a society that strives for and celebrates the appearance of perfection…

Mothers struggle under the weight of information overload – there are a million billion trillion books that spell out, step by step, exactly how to be the perfect mother, so why, why, why can’t she get it right…

Mothers are more isolated than they have ever been before – we raise our children primarily in solitude, then look around at our friends and neighbors and, from the outside, they look to be making easy work of raising children…

Mothering is just freaking hard – it’s a lot of work, and the costs of messing it up seem so high…

And so arises the exepctation, pressure, and drive to be the Perfect Mother. The Perfect Mother is not nearly as nice as the Good Enough Mother – not to her children, not to the other mothers around her, and certainly not to herself.  With the drive for perfection comes the expectation for perfection.  Those who let the Perfect Mother down with their messy imperfections spark anger, resentment, bitterness, and judgement. Most often it’s her that’s letting herself down, and herself she finds on the receiving end of her own enormous anger, resentment, bitterness, and judgement.  And it’s no wonder – being perfect is even harder, more impossible work than being a mother. And being the Perfect Mother requires a relentless pursuit of something that can never be acheived.

Let me introduce you to D.W. Winnicott, who conceptualized the Good Enough Mother. Winnicott was a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst who pioneered many prominent psychological ideas between 1930-1970.  He worked extensively with mother/child pairs and based his ideas on decades of experience. His work revealed that what a child really needs from its mother for optimal development is just an ordinary ability to respond to his or her basic needs.  In infancy this looks like intense responsiveness to needs for food, bodily care, and comforting of difficult emotions, but as the child grows and moves more and more towards independence, it looks less like total self sacrifice from the mother in service of meeting each and every need, and more like a mother preserving a sense of herself while helping her child to experience both the general satisfaction of met needs and occasional frustration of unmet wants.

“A mother is neither good nor bad nor the product of illusion, but is a separate and independent entity: The good-enough mother. .. starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure. Her failure to adapt to every need of the child helps them adapt to external realities.” (Winnicott, 1953)

Well there it is, failure, right there in the explanation of what good enough mothering entails.  The Good Enough Mother fails.  Not only so, but her periodic failures in the overall nurturing and secure relationship she has with her children are actually to be embraced and celebrated as valuable moments in her parenting.  Despite what we’ve been led to believe, our children are not meant to experience us as being perfect mothers – what a horrible set up for failure in the world outside of our homes.  It’s enough for our children to be generally satisfied with what we offer, but at the same time frequently frustrated with our inability to give them everything they want. The frustration our children experience as we meet their needs quite imperfectly is, in reality, something important that helps them separate into being their own person, develop a sense of self and autonomy, and gain independence and self control – isn’t that the goal of parenting in the end?

Can we collectively agree to kick the Perfect Mother to the curb?  To stop putting the pressure on ourselves to achieve perfection, and stop casting judgemental glances towards the women around us who we think aren’t quite perfect enough either? It’s enough to be Good Enough.

 

Moving on Up

Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 in Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 4 comments

Moving on Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple weeks ago my family made the big move from the 110 degree heat of our Texas home on up to a new home near the mountains. We are so excited. The weather is beautiful. The scenery is amazing. The view from my front porch swing takes my breath away every morning while I wake up with my cup of coffee.

We’ll check back come winter. I’m a Texas girl – I feel a chill when the temps drop into the fifties at night, and I wear my new fleece everywhere. Bug is equally easily chilled and wears a hoodie all the time, even during the day when it’s almost Texas warm. I asked a local mama how to dress my kids for winter and she said just pants and a hoodie, unless it’s “bitter cold, like in the teens.” Ummmm… a glance at me in my fleece and Bug in her hoodie suggests we find it to be bitter cold in the heat of summer, so either we’re going to have to toughen up over the next few months or get some serious winter coats.

Other than my nervousness over the impending winter weather, the ease with which this move took place reassures me and gives me an extra measure of peace that we’re in the right place. Bug, Bear, my mom, and I left Texas early afternoon, drove 6 hours to spend the night in a hotel before driving the remaining 6 hours the next day, while Husband drove our moving truck containing everything we own and our two badly behaved, overly active large breed dogs. I just envisioned how it could all go very, very badly, and I kind of braced myself for car trip meltdowns, hotel room sleep disruptions, and possibly tense mother daughter moments. None of that happened. Bug and Bear were a dream for every moment of the trip. We slept great in the hotel. My mom commented on how safe my driving made her feel – that is a miracle. We ate the most delicious carne asada burritos from a restaurant inside a Conoco station instead of greasy burgers for our road trip meal.

When we arrived at our new home, we had barely started unloading and arranging furniture when a neighbor showed up to see how we were doing and introduce himself. He left and then returned about 10 minutes later with his sons and they stayed until everything we own was unloaded, making quick work out of something that otherwise would have taken all night. It was such kindness, and after all that, he and his wife came back over with a homemade dinner for us and lots of extra food.

The next day I watched Bug and Bear in our backyard playing on their new swing set.

Our neighbors came out to talk and introduce themselves. Our yards have low fences separating them, so the setting lends itself to running into people and conversing. I find myself having trouble getting my kids bathed and in bed on time because our neighbors come out in the evening and we get caught up talking over the fence, or lifting one set of children over the fence to play with another set of children, and everyone is having so much fun that bed time just doesn’t seem important. I love it. I told Husband that it’s strange to me, although we’ve only lived in this new place a couple of weeks, I feel less alone than I have in a long time.

I am really struck by how nice people are here. It’s not that people weren’t nice where we lived before, but there was a busyness, a self focus, a pretty serious emphasis on money and financial success. The pace here is different. People are more into playing outside than building castles full of beautiful things. People take time to stop and talk, to get involved with their community, their neighbors, the people in their path throughout the day. What was intended to be a quick stop at a farmer’s market last week turned into a two hour trip spent having one interesting conversation after another with the people we encountered. I just notice an ease of enjoying life and the people who are in it in this new place.

This change of pace has made me aware of how tightly wound I’ve become. Here, I notice I’m out and everyone around me seems so content and at peace, and I realize I’m tense and on edge. It has made me exhale, relax, let go, and enjoy. Instead of sticking to our daily schedule with a vengeance, I take the time to let the unexpected events of each day take us where they may. Instead of becoming hyper-focused on the plan that’s outlined in my brain at the start of the day, I allow us to get distracted and off course if something or someone interesting presents a new opportunity. Instead of worrying about all that there is to worry about, I look out over the mountains and feel such a sense of awe and peace and enormous gratitude, say my prayer, and leave my worry at God’s feet.

I’m writing this all down partly to update those friends and family who are curious about our new adventure, and partly to call attention to the phenomenon of busyness and preoccupation that seems to pervade our culture and keep us from really noticing the people and circumstances around us that are worth our attention, worth laying down our agendas and getting off track. I just didn’t realize all of the pressure and wrong priorities I had allowed to settle on me until I got here and felt the tangible peace and enjoyment of slowing down and letting go.

Here are some of the unexpected and spontaneous adventures we’ve gotten to enjoy so far…

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Feeding the giraffes at the zoo

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Making a quick stop to hike a trail that looked fun on our way somewhere else

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Spontaneous off-roading and hiking trip on our way home after we dropped off the moving truck

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We made the long and adventurous drive to the top of Pikes Peak

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Chipmunk sighting – it joined us on our hike and followed us the entire way

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Our mountain girls hiked to the top of a waterfall

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A spontaneous drive took us a couple hours from home to beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park

Thank you to all of the friends and family who have prayed for us and checked in on us.  We are very comfortable here and are enjoying our new home.  Come visit!

Detours

Posted by on Jul 19, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 1 comment

Detours

A few weeks ago I took Bug and Bear to meet some friends of ours at a splash park about 20 minutes from our house. As we drove along the country back roads that took us to our meeting place, we came upon an accident. It had just happened and there was a car blocking the road, but the first responders weren’t there yet to clear it and direct traffic. We waited for about ten minutes until it was apparent that no one was getting anywhere anytime soon. I turned around and started looking for a different route that would get us back on track going the right direction.

I really had no idea how to get around this unexpected obstacle, but I took the first road that seemed like it had a good chance of being the right way. As we wound around the unknown road that seemed to be taking us out of our way with no idea if it got back around to where we wanted to be, we started to find we were really enjoying ourselves. We saw sights we ordinarily missed on our regular route – quirky looking farms, pastures full of cows and horses, and the best part of all, two giant giraffe shaped shrubs in someone’s yard.

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You have to understand, we’re giraffe people.

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It was a really big, exciting deal. We would have missed the giraffes entirely if we hadn’t been steered off course.

After a bit of driving with seemingly no direction, feeling a bit aimless and lost, I spotted the road we needed to get back to running parallel to us. We relished the rest of our detour and then caught back up to our original path and finished our journey according to plan.

Detours nearly always seem undesirable at first. They’re not the way we know, they’re not the way we planned, they seem to take us away from where we are needing to go. They come upon us without warning, the result of some unforeseen, unanticipated obstacle that arises in our path that is not good. If we can surrender in the course of the detour, however, and find a way to cooperate with what it has to show us and maybe even enjoy the wild ride, the detour becomes a significant and indispensable part of the overall journey.

Unexpectedly, the detour we found ourselves on that day has now become our regular route. We enjoy it so much, and never lose our enthusiasm for the giraffe hedges. It’s better than the only way we knew to go before. It showed us a new way that held more fun, joy, and adventure than the route we knew to plan on our own.

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Mental Health | 3 comments

Perspective

This morning I took Bug and Bear to “The Sandbox Park” as Bug has appropriately named it for its giant sandbox (we’re not the most creative namers over here, which is why I call my husband “Husband”, and all of our stuffed animals have names like “Giraffe”, “Brown Dog”, “White Dog”, “Pink Dog”, “Flat Dog”, you get the idea). I used to detest going to The Sandbox Park because it’s just so sandy, but then the weather started getting warmer and I noticed that when the sun is shining and I kick my flip flops off and bury my toes in the warm sand, if I close my eyes a little, it feels a lot like being at the beach. I love being warm and sandy at the beach. Thus began my love affair with The Sandbox Park, which my children occasionally get sick of, but I never do.

Then this afternoon we went swimming in our “pool.” When Husband first brought this 8 feet in diameter, 2 feet deep inflatable pool home, I turned my nose up at it, and while my mouth formed the words, “Wow, thanks,” my brain thought, “We will never use that.” But then Husband brought it to life with water and I took Bug and Bear out to swim, and when I got in it to play with my girls it was cool and refreshing and perfect because the girls could stand up in it all the way across. When I sat beside it with my feet propped up soaking in the sun, if I squinted just a little, it felt like an actual pool.

There was a time Husband and I entertained the idea of moving to the beach. There was another time we were shopping for nice houses with beautiful swimming pools in the backyard. Instead of either of those scenarios, we ended up selling our house and downsizing a bit into a smaller home, with no pool, situated pretty solidly inland.

When I sit at my pretend beach or sunbathe next to my inflatable pool, I realize I’m not disappointed that those dream scenarios didn’t exactly pan out. I love where we are, it’s just right for right now. And when I look at it just right, it feels like exactly what I wanted. Its just a matter of perspective.

Sometimes A+B=Crap

Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

Sometimes A+B=Crap

I am not good at math. Never have been. Something about formulas and concrete answers and exact outcomes just confuses the heck out of me. I am much more comfortable with abstract thinking, shades of gray, and metaphors.

Maybe it’s my failure to fully comprehend math that leaves me frustrated with formulas… not just true mathematical formulas, but also formulaic thinking that tries to define things that I think really have no definition. At the same time that I’m frustrated, I also find myself craving formulas, exact parameters that make life more sensible and easy to navigate. I think this is human nature, that as much as we reject rules and formulas, at the same time we crave them for the sense of order and control they provide.

Take, for example, the following experiences…

At work: Oftentimes, a friend or acquaintance sends me a quick text or e mail asking for my input about a mental health issue, usually a concern with their child. I know it must seem like I can message back a quick and tidy answer since I work in this field, but unfortunately, there is no formula a + b = mental health that I can apply to a person or problem that will instantly cure it. Yes, there are principles and theories that guide the work, but there is no specific formula. Every person is different. It is harder than using a one-size-fits-all approach, but the work requires significant time and energy getting to know and understand each individual person and finding meaning in their unique background and experiences to understand how to help on an individual basis.

At home: If you have had a baby, then you know the entire world has an opinion on how you should be raising your precious child. There are so many books and approaches that reduce parenting to a formula. With my first baby, I found this to be especially true on the topic of infant sleep, a + b = sleep. All of the formulas that I read or heard about went against what felt right to me, so I didn’t use one. Husband and I used the most non-formula approach to baby sleep that I imagine the world has ever known. It was harder than using a one-size-fits-all approach because we had to pray and discern and adapt to find what felt like it best suited the unique needs of our babies and our family (we approached sleep with each one slightly differently), but in the end we found what was right for us. And both of our children go to bed easily in their own beds at night and sleep through the entire night, even though the formulas said it would not be possible.

At church: I find that sometimes even good church teaching gets twisted into the idea that there is a formula we can activate to make God perform on our behalf, and that if we have done a nice job of this, our lives will look just right… “If you do this, God will do that”… a + b = easy living, yes please, Amen! This is tricky, because there is some truth to this equation… there absolutely are principles and promises that you can count on in God. The problem is with the formula. Many times, the part of the equation between receiving the promise and seeing the end result of it involves a lot of stuff that just doesn’t seem to make good, simple sense. The truth is, you can do everything in your power to live a good, Godly life, and still have hardships and difficulties factored into the equation. God does not fit into the box of our human understanding. He tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is harder than using a one-size-fits-all approach, but following and trusting God requires effort to hear His voice for you, confirm it through His Word, and then trust that it may look nothing like what you imagined.

The point I’m making is that in each of these instances, really in any area of life, the formulas oversimplify a much more complex and individual process. They provide an easy way out that only scratches the surface of everything that may be there. The examples I gave from work and home are really just observations, silly things in a way, but the issue of applying a formula to life in God I think is much more significant.

Here’s the problem with putting God into that kind of formula. It breeds pride in those who are prospering and condemnation in those who are struggling. It can give people who are blessed by the world’s standards a sense that their success is a result of their own piety and righteousness. It tends to leave those who are hurting or facing adversity feeling that they have been marginalized and ostracized by the church, and perhaps even God as well. We’ve again applied human understanding and formulas to the mystery that is the way of God. We forget that blessing, favor, and gifts from God don’t always fit the human definition of money, titles, and things.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message Bible).

I personally have felt the sting of well meaning people implying, sometimes stating directly, that some difficulty I was experiencing was the result of my failure to pray or perform correctly. What these people were saying is that I didn’t follow their formula. To them I say, respectfully but emphatically, you are wrong, about me and about the way my God of grace works. To anyone else who has felt this same sting, I encourage you to seek God’s answers and grace to understand the difficulties you have endured – He will not give you a formula, but He will give you direction, truth, conviction, understanding, and comfort.

“Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing…Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.” ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Difficult Questions: Forgiveness

Posted by on Jul 5, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

Difficult Questions: Forgiveness

You may have heard me mention that Husband and I have faced years of difficult and kind of bizarre trials. I use the word bizarre because many of these trials have been unexpected, unanticipated events that no one else we know has gone through or really seems to understand. Honestly, I’m still trying to understand most of them myself, not sure I ever really will.

A number of the trials we’ve endured have been the result of being wronged by other people, something that I realize is common and inevitable in life – but a few of those times it felt bizarre and unexpected to us because it was at the hands of people we loved and trusted, people we served, people we helped. Wow, that hurts. And when the hurt and betrayal is executed by people you love, trust, and/or depend upon, it is so tempting to erect impenetrable walls that guard your heart from vulnerability to another person so that you never have to experience such a horrific wound again.

The problem is that building these walls with bricks of bitterness, unforgiveness, self preservation, and defensiveness really does nothing to vindicate the hurt or prevent it from happening again, it only forces the builder into a miserable inner shell. Believe me, I know. I’ve lived a lot of my life behind these walls, and a lot of life without walls of bitterness and offense to protect me… I can tell you there was no difference between a walled existence and an open existence in terms of people doing crappy things to me, but there was an unbelievable difference in the quality of my life and condition of my heart when I chose to forgive and move on, no walls.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~Lewis B. Smedes

So the question is, “How do we forgive the unforgivable?”

I find forgiveness to be a process, the first step of which is simply purposing in my heart by speaking aloud to myself and God, “I choose on purpose to forgive this person.” Then this is where it gets messy, because purposing to forgive does not erase all of the damage that was done and the emotion that bubbled up as a result. I think trying to shove those very real feelings down and gloss over them as though that is what forgiveness demands is the very act that makes forgiveness impossible. I think the feelings have to come out to go away. Wrestling through the intensity of the hurt, the anger, the desire to retaliate (not with the offender initially, just internally and with God), but all while keeping in mind that you’ve purposed to forgive, the end goal is forgiveness, and that the point is to let the emotions out so that they can be let go is all part of the process.

“When we forgive evil, we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” ~Lewis B. Smedes

Often I think we know we’re supposed to forgive but either don’t know how or find it impossible. Forgiveness, in a way, goes against our human nature to protect and preserve ourselves. If we recognize that the power to forgive is not always within ourselves and keep taking our hurt and desire to forgive to God, He can supply the power to do the seemingly impossible within us. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom shares the following story:

“It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.”

The story says that she then took his hand and the most incredible thing happened.

“From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” ~The Hiding Place

Sometimes forgiveness results in a restored relationship, but sometimes it can not. Either way, forgiveness does not equal forgetting, it does not make the event as though it never happened… instead, true forgiveness leaves us able to recall events without a rush of intense emotion, in a state that we could see the person who committed the wrong with no desire left to retaliate in hurt and anger.

“Forgiveness does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we can not forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” ~Lewis B. Smedes

Difficult Questions: Suffering

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 2 comments

Difficult Questions: Suffering

Over the past week I’ve found myself heavy-hearted from hearing one sad story after another. Some of these stories belong to my friends, some to people I’ve never met, but all have in common that they’ve happened to good, loving, giving people. Some of these stories are especially striking to me because they involve people encountering devastation in the midst of doing over-the-top amazing things to better the world and humanity.These stories have left me wrestling, once again, with the question of how such terrible things can happen to wonderful people.

One of my prayer times looked something like this:

Question : “God, why does it seem like the people pursuing the most loving, self-sacrificing, God-inspired things are suffering the most?”

Answer: “It’s because the world views suffering differently than I do.”

I can’t stop mulling over that answer and learning all that I can about what it means. Here are some things I’ve read in the process that I have found especially moving and encouraging…

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~C.S. Lewis

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” ~Winston Churchill

“…the value of suffering does not lie in the pain of it…but in what the sufferer makes of it…It is in sorrow that we discover the things which really matter; in sorrow that we discover ourselves.” ~Mary Craig

“I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I have found myself, my work, and my God.” ~Helen Keller

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~Khalil Gibran

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ~Helen Keller

“To fly, we have to have resistance.” ~Maya Lin

“If I (the Shepherd) carried you to the top (of the High Places, without all the struggles you are going through) you would never develop hinds’ feet for yourself”…” ~Hannah Hurnard

“If we are going to pursue the things of the Lord, we will often not understand what He is doing…As my friend always used to tell me, ‘Sometimes God crushes a petal to bring out its essence.’ Sometimes He offends our minds to reveal our hearts.” ~John Wimber

“Somehow we need to bring a sense of realism into the way we read familiar Scripture. Picture in your mind a bruised, lacerated, limping Apostle Paul addressing the church in Derbe, Lystra and Iconium just three or four days after being stoned to unconsciousness and apparent death, “encouraging” the believers to remain true to the faith, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) These believers themselves were only days or weeks old in the faith. Or imagine Peter and John, with their backs raw with welts from the cruel flogging they had received, “rejoicing” that they were worthy of the ‘shame’ attached to the name of Christ, as they burst back onto the streets defiantly and fearlessly to preach and teach. Such realism seems totally foreign to our pleasure loving Western Church scene. However, it would not seem out of place in southern Sudan or the Maluccas in Indonesia or in northern Nigeria or upper Eqypt.” ~A. David Macnaughtan

“What God really wants is for us to be ‘strong in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:10). And becoming strong in the Lord almost always requires that God weaken us. For it’s when our weakness forces us to depend on His strength that we grow in our understanding of the gospel and learn to walk by faith. And usually our deepest, most precious encounters with God occur in the context of our weaknesses, not our strengths.” ~Jon Bloom

“Things which she had thought dark and terrible and which had made her tremble as she looked up from the Valley because they had seemed so alien to any part of the Realm of Love, were now seen to be but parts of a great and wonderful whole. They were so altered and modified that as she saw what they extended into, she wondered at having been so blind and stupid at having had such false ideas about them.

She began to understand quite clearly that truth cannot be understood from books alone or by any written works, but only by personal growth and development in understanding, and that things written even in the Book of Books can be astonishingly misunderstood while one still lives on the low levels of spiritual experience and on the wrong side of the grave on the mountains.

She perceived that no one who finds herself up on the slopes of the Kingdom of Love can possibly dogmatise about what is seen there, because it is only then that she comprehends how small a part of the glorious whole she sees. All she can do is to gasp with wonder, awe, and thanksgiving, and to long with all her heart to go higher and to see and understand more.” ~Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places

I could write pages of my own words about this idea as well and probably will at some point! I just loved reading these words of inspiration and encouragement from people who faced extraordinary obstacles yet saw extraordinary miracles come to pass in spite of them, or sometimes even as a result of them. On that note, if you are struggling with this question I would highly recommend the Hannah Hurnard book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, it is an incredibly uplifting look at how sorrow and suffering help us on our journeys.

Difficult Questions

Posted by on Jul 2, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

Difficult Questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mommy, what’s that?”

“A bulldozer.”

“Mommy, why is the bulldozer on the road?”

“It looks like it’s driving to a construction site.”

“Mommy, what’s a construction site?”

“It’s a place where something is built.”

“Mommy, what does built mean?”

“It means to put things together to make something.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

~

“Mommy, may I have a yogurt?”

“Yes. I think you’ll like this new yogurt, it’s smooth.”

“Mommy, what’s smooth?”

“There’s nothing in it. It doesn’t have chunks of fruit.”

“Mommy, what’s chunks?”

“Pieces of things.”

“Mommy, what’s pieces of things?”

“I don’t know. Eat your yogurt.”

~

These are real conversations from my morning. These types of conversations comprise the bulk of what I talk about day in, day out. If you have attempted to speak to me lately and found me mostly incapable of talking like a normal adult, this would be the reason why.

Answering a constant string of questions can be exhausting, but I really love these converstaions with Bug. They are the way my almost 4 year old is learning about and making sense of the world around her. I love her curiosity and excitement about the newness of everything. I make a real effort to answer the questions completely and truthfully, to the best of my ability (sometimes they’re pretty hard) as evidenced in the first conversation above; but as you can see from the second, sometimes I just run out of answers.

Most of Bug’s questions at this point have real, concrete answers, but this morning I was reminded that there are so many questions in life that don’t have clear answers.  And that’s what I’m writing about this week, difficult questions and hard to find answers, mysteries that don’t seem to make much sense. More to come…

Vicious Cycle

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Mental Health | 5 comments

Vicious Cycle

I swear it feels like 1000 times a day I watch this scene unfold before my eyes…

Bug, running, screaming: “Stop chasing me!”

Bear, running, laughing: “Hahahahaha”

Bug, running, screaming, breaking into hysterical sobs: “STOP CHASING ME!!!”

Bear, running, laughing maniacally: “HAHAHAHA!!!”

And so it goes, round and round in circles, over and over and over. Repeat.

It’s a frustrating scene for all involved. Poor Bear thinks its all a big game, and an insanely fun one at that. Poor Bug can not understand, despite my repeated attempts to explain, that running away only fuels Bear to keep going because the more Bug runs, the more it seems like a game of chase. Poor me, no matter how hard I try to throw reason into the mix, I’m powerless to stop this vicious cycle of chase from hell. It will only stop for good if Bug just stops running, just stops doing what looks to Bear like playing along.

The whole scene is enough to drive a mama to the edge. It makes me a little nuts. But today it also made me think.

How many times do we engage in this same vicious cycle in our relationships? Someone is doing something that we desperately want them to stop, we keep trying to get them to stop, but then we simultaneously act in a way, probably without realizing it, that encourages them to keep going. Instead of extracting ourselves from the vicious cycle, getting out of the game, and no longer playing along, we just keep running and screaming, all the while sending a covert message to the other person that we are, in fact, playing their game.

The thing is, when Bug stops running, Bear can’t play chase anymore. The game is over, and Bear very quickly loses interest and moves on to something else. Bug’s unwillingness to react to Bear quickly brings the whole cycle to a stop.

Too bad Bug doesn’t really get this, and large chunks of our day continue to be occupied with hell chase. She’ll get it some day. The good news is, I got it today, identified a few people from whom I will quietly disengage, and decided to refrain from reacting to irritating games. And then I had a glass of wine to soothe my frayed nerves.

 

 

 

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