I’ve been doing a lot of personal work on boundaries recently. It’s such a hard subject and really difficult for me personally because I am an enneagram nine and tend to lean too much into over functioning and enmeshment. Over functioning is doing for someone else what they could be doing for themselves or getting overly involved in a situation to control it as a means of placating your own anxiety. I realize I have been over functioning in many areas of my life and so now it’s time to put in place some boundaries to help me begin to understand my place in relationships. When you over function, you prevent others from growing and maturing because they don’t have to, you are buffering them from hard things. Let me give an example.

I do the kids laundry. If I were over functioning I would not only do their laundry but also pick up dirty clothes from the floor and put the clothes away. Those are things they could be doing for themselves. So, I have put up a boundary. When it’s laundry day I expect the kids to have all their dirty laundry in the laundry hamper. I will only wash what is in the hamper. If they fail to put their clothes into the hamper and they are all over the floor, then they will not have clean clothes.

Boundaries are not to tell others what they can and cannot do, they are to tell others what you will and won’t do in response to their action or inaction. You cannot control what others do or don’t do, even kids. I cannot control whether my kids choose to put their dirty laundry in the hamper or not, but my boundary is that I don’t pick up dirty laundry off the floor. So, if they choose to not put their laundry in the hamper then I choose not to pick it up and therefore they don’t have clean laundry. It’s not punitive, just stating what I will and won’t do.

When it comes to over functioning I have realized that I have been overly involved in relationships around me as a way to prevent conflict. I try to help people see the other person’s perspective and work things out. This is okay to a point, if they asked for help, but when I insert myself into situations that they could work out for themselves then I’m over functioning. Then when they don’t do what I’ve suggested I get resentful and that’s not helping anyone. This happens in family situations and also with church people. Sometimes I can get too involved in church situations as a means to control the situation if I feel like it’s not going the way I would want it to. That’s over functioning. It’s gotten me to the place where I become resentful when people don’t take my advice. That’s not helping my relationships, so my boundary is I will not get as involved in situations that do not directly involve me. You can help people with situations, but then there is a point where you get too involved and can become resentful and hurt when things don’t go as you would like. I can particularly fall into this situation because I am a good listener and I enjoy listening and counseling people. Sometimes that can lead you to carry to much weight of people’s problems if you know them personally. This is why professional counselors do not counsel people they know. I get that now, I did not before.

Boundaries are hard particularly in dual relationships, which are relationships which exist on two levels. For example, you work with a friend and they are your boss. So you are both friends and boss/employee. That is a dual relationship. This happens frequently in small organizations and communities, but it’s a very hard line to balance. You have to be very mature to make it work and few people have that much emotional ability. So, you have to put up boundaries between where one relationships ends and the other begins, such as “we will not talk about our personal life at work”. This can become even messier at church. When you are friends and co-laborer for the kingdom, things can get messy. For some reason things become much more personal at church and feelings can get hurt easily if their is a disagreement. People tend to see disagreement in church as an attack instead of just a difference of opinion. We have to have differences of opinion to make a church work otherwise we are all just “yes” men and women and that helps no one. We have to put up boundaries and work together to find a solution without taking offense so easily with others. We have to be committed to quickly work things out between each other if there is misunderstanding and not let it fester into a real offense. Things can get toxic very quickly. I used to try to get in between situations where there were disagreements or differences of opinion, but that is over functioning. It comes from my need for everyone to get along and for there not to be conflict. I am putting up a boundary to step back and allow people to work things out for themselves or not to. If they choose to not step up and work things out between them they will part ways, but my involvement will only forestall the inevitable and keep them from using their own emotional skills. I can’t keep carrying that weight.

Some questions to think about with regard to over functioning and boudaries:

  1. Am I doing something for someone else that they could be doing for themselves?
  2. Am I resentful in a certain situation? could it be that I am over functioning in that situation?
  3. What boundaries could I put in place to help preserve myself and that relationship?
  4. Am I getting involved in situations to placate my own anxiety and try to take control?


I heard a podcast on resentment today and it really hit home for me. I think it’s something so many of us deal with. Brene Brown defines resentment as “the feeling of frustration, judgment, anger, ‘better than,’ and/or hidden envy related to perceived unfairness or injustice” Resentment happens when we have expectations that we don’t communicate and are not met and we then harbor resentment against that person for not meeting our need. It can also come when we are asked to do something we don’t want to do or don’t agree with but we give in instead of saying no. Can I hear an Amen? Anyone else guilty of doing something you don’t really want to do because you don’t want to rock the boat? Or worse is we have been taught we aren’t allowed to say “no” because we must not upset others or that having our own opinions or wants are not allowed. This happens particularly to women. I feel like men are, on the whole, better at saying no, and allowed to say no more often without judgement. It also happens when you stuff down feelings of anger or hurt instead of dealing with them head on. It’s what I have heard called “toxic positivity”. We have been taught at times, particularly in Christian circles, that one needs to be positive all the time, don’t dwell on or even have negative emotions because that’s not Christlike. And so we stuff those down and don’t acknowledge them and it breeds resentment. We can have resentment against all types of people in our lives our spouses, kids, parents, friends, leaders and even God.

So how do you know when you have resentment? Here are some signs:

  1. clamming up: refusing to talk about an issue. (Guilty)
  2. using generalized statements like always or never. (Guilty)
  3. being passive aggressive. (it’s my spiritual gift)
  4. comparing a relationship to some else’s
  5. feeling hopeless about conflicts (guilty)
  6. focusing only on fairness
  7. complaining excessively
  8. explosive anger (yikes)

Some described resentment as leaking anger. I totally feel that. One tell for me is I get overly angry about stuff that is not important. Kids fail to run the dishwasher and then we have no clean dishes and I start yelling about people. The anger doesn’t match the situation. Then I have to look at myself and ask what my real issue is. Usually it’s resentment. In this example maybe I feel resentment because I feel like I always have to do everything around the house and as a result I need to better communicate my need for help. I have concluded that I have resentment because I fail to communicate boundaries or needs. I grew up thinking I shouldn’t have needs and that I should be independent. That’s unhealthy. I also think people should instinctively know what I need, particularly those closest to me and that’s unfair. So how do we fix this well of resentment?

  1. Choose discomfort over resentment. Practice setting boundaries and saying ‘no’. Don’t volunteer for something you don’t actually want to do or can do just because you feel like you should. No, is a complete sentence.
  2. Journal about your resentment. Let it all out. Write whatever comes to mind. Do it regularly.
  3. Break out of the norm. Take a break, go to a quiet place and allow yourself to break out of the routine of life to really sit and think about what is bothering you. Slow down and contemplate.
  4. Have hard conversations with those you love about your resentment and then do better about communicating needs or wants in the future.

I have not got this all figured out yet, quite the opposite. This feels like a overwhelming journey to me to dig into this well of mess of resentment. It’s scary and I don’t know what is all in there, but I do know it’s poisoning my relationships. It leaks out sometimes in anger or gossip. And really I’m only hurting myself by not dealing with it.

“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” Brene Brown

Something to contemplate today as you examine your feelings.

Whatever you are feeling…

Yesterday was 4 years since my mom passed away. In some ways that feels like a long time and in others just a minute ago. It has been said that there are six stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finding meaning. When I first learned about these stages in my psych classes in college, I thought this was a linear process. You start with denial and move through them one by one to finding meaning and then that’s it. I thought grief was something to get through or something to endure until the process was over and then it was all better. Now that I’ve experienced some grief in the forms of loved ones passing and other losses, I know that this is not a linear process, it’s more like a spiral that you go around and around until you come out the other side. And there is no timeline. It could take months or years depending on the depth of loss and how you allow yourself to experience the grief or not. There are also other factors such as if a loved one has a prolonged illness then you can pregrieve their passing and go through some of these stages before they even pass away. This might make the process shorter after they pass or it could make it longer, depending on the situation. Grief is personal. It’s unique to each situation and person. We cannot compare grief. Two people can experience the same loss but experience it in different ways. And what I have found most recently, and I know this intellectually, but it always surprises me still, is that grief begats grief. When you are going through something that causes a grief response that can trigger you to go through old grief that is unresolved. For example, I’ve been to grief counseling three different times but each time I found I wasn’t processing my most recent loss but the one before it. When I went to counseling after we lost our stillborn son Andrew, I was processing adoption and raising special needs children grief. When I went to counseling after I lost my mom, I was processing Andrew’s loss and when I went to counseling after I lost Kaki, I was processing my mom’s loss. Then a year later I had to go back to counseling to deal with Kaki. Now I find myself grieving another situation in my life and my mom’s loss has hit me all over again. I think it is because losing a parent is such a earth shaking thing in ones life and also because It was just Mother’s day, and her date of passing and my birthday is coming up. It’s a time of year when I miss her more. She made every holiday special, even the seemingly insignificant ones, and I miss that. She was always there to listen to me when I was going through something, and I miss that.

I have also realized that one thing she didn’t teach me was how to be sad. In my house growing up being sad was not something we dwelled on. Anger was okay but sadness not so much. So when I find myself sad I am not sure how to process it. Sadness is a tough one for most people. Lots of people see it as weakness to be sad. Or like you need to go medicate that feeling away with something. We don’t understand how to sit with sadness. It’s a skill you have to learn. Back in the old days they used to have a room in your house called a Parlor. There was also one in the church. We still have them in some houses and churches but few of us actually know what they were for. When a family member died you would lay them out in the parlor for a few days and friends would come and pay their respects. But often the family members would sit in the parlor and go about life around their deceased family member. Sound morbid? It does now because we have institutionalized and sterilized death. We have put it in the basement of the hospital and in funeral homes so we don’t have to deal with it at all. I think it has stunted our ability to deal with sadness and loss. We deny it’s even happening and go on about our lives. We have even renamed this room in our house the “living room” as a way to overlook death and focus on life. Focusing on life is good but we need to get back to realizing that death exists and grief exists and we need to learn how to deal with it and stop medicating it away with our addictions. Addictions have grown exponentially with an estimated 20 million people in the US being addicted to drugs or alcohol, and many many more addicted to gambling, sex, food, video games, or other things. Most treatments programs that are successful not only deal with sobriety but primarily deal with teaching people how to handle their own emotions. How many people could we save from those addictions if we learned to handle emotions as children?

So, as I deal with some sadness over the loss of my mom I am learning to be okay with that. Some days I will be sad and that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with being sad. Many people in the Christian tradition think that so called negative emotions such as sadness or anger are not okay. One should always feel joyful if they are following Jesus. That’s just not true. Jesus was angry and he showed it in the temple of all places. Jesus was sad when his friend Lazarus was dead, even though he knew he was going to bring him back to life shortly. Jesus was feeling intense emotion before the crucifixion, so much so he was sweating blood. Negative emotions are okay. They are meant to be felt, not stuffed down and self medicated. And so I will sit with my sadness and know that it is a reflection of my relationship with my mom and a life well lived. And I know I honor her as I sit with sadness or joy. Obviously if we have clinical signs of depression, that should be dealt with with medication and counseling, but I’m referring to just general grief and sadness. You cannot even be diagnosed with clinical depression if you have experienced a loss within the last six months, because sadness is expected and a normal part of the healing process. But as you learn to deal with sadness and all the emotions that come with grief, you may find that you are grieving very old losses that have not had a chance to be processed, and that’s okay and good. Emotions are called feelings because they are felt in your body as sensations and those can get trapped in your body and you carry them with you until you deal with them and release them or they manifest in physical issues such as pain or even heart attack and stroke.

Today I want you to know its healthy to feel whatever you are feeling. Sadness and anger are okay, joy and happiness are okay. Don’t be afraid to sit with whatever feelings you have, it brings healing.

Happy 18th Sam!

Today my oldest son turns 18! Today I am the parent of an adult! How did that happen?

It feels like just yesterday he was born. It was just the three of us. We had no idea how to be parents and he wasn’t the easiest baby, but we worked it out.

And then he became a big brother.

And again…..

And again….

And then a “little” brother….

And a big brother again….

And one more time….lol. He takes his job very seriously and they all look up to him and love him.

He’s stepping out into his future and I’m so proud. He’s been through some dark times. This pandemic and all it’s losses has been hard, but he’s grown so much and is doing the hard work of becoming the man God has called him to be.

Sam, today you are an adult. I couldn’t be prouder of you and all you are. I know without a doubt you will step into a bright future and be an amazing man. I can’t wait to have a front row seat to watch you walk down your path. Over the past few months we have begun the shift from you being our child to you being our fellow adult who we advise from time to time. It’s a hard shift for a parent, but you have made it easy. You are owning your choices and walking forward in the path you believe God has for you and we are thrilled to see that. We have complete confidence in your decisions and know you are following where God leads. This next chapter is full of you slowly leaving the life you have known all these years, but it’s also full of new beginnings and such exciting moments and we are cheering you on. We love you!! Happy Birthday!!

Loss of Control

I finally saw the movie Encanto, because my teenagers said I should. I was really impressed with the music and especially the message of the movie. It’s one of those that makes you think about it long after you’re finished watching it. The basic message is how a family deals with loss in different ways and how it can either bring you together or tear you apart if you let it. The grandmother of the family, who experienced great loss, is determined to never experience that loss again and so she seeks to control her family and community but in the process puts such pressure on those around her that it damages their relationships. Spoiler alert: she finally faces up to and deals with her trauma, and heals the family. As a person who advocates for mental health, I really appreciate this message. Generational trauma affects families all the time and if it’s not dealt with it can tear them apart. Most people have experienced some type of trauma, be it a loss of a loved one or serious illness to much more obviously identifiable trauma like war. If that trauma isn’t dealt with it can effect generations to come and not just in the way you might think. Obviously maladaptive behaviors of people who have been traumatized can traumatize their family, such as alcoholism or abusive behaviors, but recently science has learned that trauma effects people at a cellular level. It changes your genetics and then you can pass those genetics down to your children. That is both fascinating and sobering. We have to be about the business of dealing with our trauma, not just for ourselves but those generations to come.

One way my own trauma manifests itself is seeking control of situations and people. I feel like this was the most severe right after we lost our son Andrew to stillbirth. I would sit beside my other kids beds at night and watch them breathe because I thought it could prevent something bad from happening if I did. Over time and counseling, I realized I am not in control. My daughter’s passing almost two years ago really showed me this. I did everything I could to keep her safe and do the best for her and yet a senseless tragedy occurred anyway. I have a freer sense now with my kids then I did before. Through that horrible experience, I let go. I realized I don’t have control over my family, but God does and I have to trust Him. I may not like what happens, like with my daughter, but I trust He is in control. I trust He was right there with her in her final moments because He told me He was. It doesn’t make sense to me, but comforts me somehow. That doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. This seeking control seeps out in other ways sometimes.

We have been renovating our bathrooms in our house. We have a wonderful contractor but still there are lots of things out of my control. Currently, it’s doors. We had to order specific doors for our bathroom and Josh’s bedroom and it’s been a month and they still aren’t here yet. Its driving me crazy! But there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Not being involved in every single detail of doing this project is also a challenge for me. This is the first time we’ve used a contractor to do something. I know they have it under control but I fight every day to not be in control. It’s good for me, but HARD!

Loss of control is hard, but it’s necessary to realize you aren’t in control before you destroy those around you with your need to control. You will find yourself holding so tightly to someone or something that you smother them and they leave. Or you will put up such walls that don’t allow anyone in for fear of loss. Neither are doing anything but isolating you. You need people. You need relationships and relationships hurt. The hurt is worth it though. I’ll leave you with this quote about loss from C.S. Lewis:

Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.

House Renovation: Before

We started a renovation on our house in the middle of January. These are some before pictures of the project. We are adding a door and wall to this room, where the half wall is to the right. It will separate two bedroom spaces giving Josh his own room. He does better when he has his own space.

This is our hall bathroom. We only have two bathrooms in the house, so this one sees the most traffic. Currently we are renovating the master bath and bedroom so we are all using this tiny one. It’s quite an adventure with nine people using this bathroom. We’ve been this way for three weeks and probably have 2-3 more to go. We are making it work, but I will be so glad to have two toilets again! After we finish the master bath they will renovate this one. Basically they are taking everything out and putting it all back in as new, but the main improvement will be a shower. This bathroom originally only had a tub. Glenn put up some temporary shower walls and a shower head that attaches to the tub faucet. It’s not great but it does the job for now.

This is our master bath as it was before the demo. It is the same size as the hall bath but only has a shower, no bathtub. We are currently about halfway through the renovation of this bathroom. They removed the shower you see here and knocked through the wall behind it into what was my closet to expand the space. We also moved the door so that we will have a double vanity and jetted tub/shower in this bathroom when it’s finished. The downside is Glenn and I will share a closet, but to have my own bath tub, it was worth the sacrifice.

I will post more pictures next week of the work in progress. I will say we had no idea what to expect going into this project. We had never done major home renovation before. It’s been not as bad in some ways, like the baby has been napping through all the noise surprisingly, and harder in others. There have been slow downs due to supply chain issues and back orders. There are a million small decisions, which tends to overwhelm me at times and the noise and dust is intense to live in the middle of. Overall, I know we will be thrilled to have the finished product.

What is my calling?

If you grew up in church you are familiar with this question. Particularly my generation sought to find their “calling” in life. We worried we wouldn’t find it and thus waste our life doing things we weren’t “called” to do or we would do the wrong thing. We thought God had one thing for us to do in our lives as our main occupation and if we weren’t doing that we were out of God’s will, but the ownness was on us to figure out what that was and not miss it. This produced so much unnecessary guilt and pressure. If you were highly favored of God maybe he would call you to be a pastor or missionary. That’s what I grew up believing. My whole life I thought I was supposed to be a Christian counselor. I studied psychology in college and intended to go to grad school but we were blessed with Sam before I could do that. I knew motherhood was also something God wanted for my life but I saw it as something I would do until I went back to school to pursue my “real” calling because in my view you could only have one calling on your life. So, for years I was looking for an opportunity to go back to grad school and become a counselor. I actually applied to grad school and I’m in the process of pursuing that but recently God showed me something life changing. I am called to only one thing in my life and yet I am called to many things. Let me explain.

God has called us to be in relationship with Him. We are “called” by God to be in communion with Him. It’s not about what I do, it’s about loving Him and being his child. God is more concerned with me listening to his voice and spending time with him than he is about what occupation I have. In the book of Colossions Paul was writing to the church, most of whom were slaves. He tells them to do whatever they do as if they are working for God. God can’t have “called” them to be slaves and yet he encourages them to do their absolute best in the job they have been given. Most of the heroes of the Bible were not in vocational ministry, they were employed in a wide variety of jobs and God used them right where they were and even put them in those jobs for his purpose. Even Jesus was in construction for most of his life before he spent three years traveling around teaching. The teaching was important, obviously, but so was the construction or why would he have spent the vast majority of his life doing it. There is not hierarchy of jobs in the Bible.

We are all called to full time ministry in whatever job we find ourselves. And not just in our jobs but in our whole lives. Sometimes people get so focused on their “calling” in life that they neglect their family or friends. We ourselves are called not just to an occupation or volunteer role in the church but into relationship with God and with those around us. Love God and love people. God has called you to be in relationship, not to try to find some cosmic ideal job for your life. In my life, this is life changing. God has called me to relationship not to occupation. It’s not about whether I am a counselor or a stay at home mom, it’s about my relationship with God and other people around me. Am I creating community and sharing God’s love with those around me in whatever I’m doing, be that church work or running errands? Both are my calling and both are equally important. Being a stay at home mom is not the thing I do until I can do the thing I’m called to, it is the thing I am called to for this moment. I am called to many things at the same time, to my family, to my church and to my whole life.

So, bottom line is God is not a puzzle to figure out. You don’t have to worry about finding your calling because you already have. You are called. It’s not about what you do, it’s about Whose you are.

Special Needs Parenting

Our 11 year old son Joshua has special needs. He was born premature and spent two months in NICU. He also has a genetic condition and had prenatal exposure to substances. All those things have lead to him having intellectual disability and anxiety. He is 11 but developmentally he is younger, closer to 5 or 6. Parenting a child with special needs comes with it’s own joys and challenges. He’s not like other kids so he can’t be parented like other kids. That’s hard as a parent. You can’t expect him to act 11 when his brain is only able to act like a 5 year old. That’s hard for others to understand when he looks “normal” but doesn’t’ always act like what you would expect from a child who should be in middle school. You constantly have to remind yourself to have realistic expectations so you don’t get frustrated. It’s is magnified in our family because we have a son who is 10, so we are constantly reminded what that age child “should” be acting like. It’s hard not to compare. It doesn’t help that our 10 year old is very smart and an old soul anyway, so that makes even more of a gap.

One of our biggest challenges is that when Josh gets mad he throws monster tantrums. Just imagine what a two year old kicking, screaming, throwing things, tantrum looks like in an 11 year old body. Compounding that is the fact that he’s going through puberty and all the lovely hormones and feelings that he can’t understand. We are getting help from an Occupational Therapist to manage the tantrums but I am also in counseling for myself and she is trying to help me work through my side of things from a parenting perspective. I know that other special needs parents understand what this is like. Many special kids don’t know proper ways to express anger and throw tantrums. Thankfully this is something we only experience at home, he does very well at school. That can make you frustrated though, because you think, “why does he save all this for when he’s at home? It seems like he can control himself at school, why not here?” What I have realized is that it’s because he feels safe enough to really express what he’s feeling here, which is ultimately a positive thing, even though it seems negative.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in dealing with this

First, tt’s okay to feel frustrated about your child throwing tantrums. Sometimes, I hear from other people what a gift a child with special needs is. While that is absolutely true, it can also be a nightmare at times. Josh has trouble with impulse control, regulating emotions and expressing himself which leads to him getting angry and thus the tantrums. As a parent I have realized I grieve that sometimes. I grieve that he will never be “typical” and he may continue to have these issues his whole life. It’s okay to acknowledge that and work through the feelings. If you deny those feelings, then you cannot resolve them and come to a healthy place. It’s okay to not be okay with it. It’s also okay to feel frustrated when people say “oh, special needs kids are such a blessing, they are sweet all the time and love everyone”. It’s just not true of any child, one with special needs or a typical child.

Second, when he’s throwing a fit, what is he trying to tell us with his behavior? Is he tired, hungry, overstimulated, or just hormonal? Can I fix any of that? Can I look past the behavior and see it for what it is? He’s not doing this to be mean or annoying, he’s trying to communicate and lacks the skills to do so.

Third, you needs breaks. When you feel frustrated walk away. Get regular time away. You will be a better parent for doing so.

Finally, when he does throw fits he ultimately needs to know he chose to do so instead of choosing to be calm and as a result of this choice he may not get to do other things. For example, today he was starting to whine and throw a fit about not getting the food he wanted for lunch. I told him “Josh, if you choose to throw a fit about this food, you are telling me with your behavior that you are tired and need to go to bed early tonight instead of going trick or treating.” He needs to understand when you choose a behavior that behavior may have consequences. I take myself out of it though. I say, “you chose this behavior, so you chose this consequence”. That way it helps him better understand he is in control of what happens in his life to some extent. He can choose to not throw a fit and get to participate in good things, or he can opt out of certain things by choosing to throw a fit. It’s not me giving him punishments, it’s him choosing a consequence. I tell him that I hope he chooses to participate in this fun thing we are going to do, but it’s his choice. It’s a hard concept for such a concrete thinker but I think we are making progress. He chose to not throw a fit at lunch, which is positive.

Have grace for yourself as a parent. I’ve made so many mistakes and tried so many different tactics trying to get him to change his behavior, but ultimately it’s not up to me. He has to choose for himself and I have no control over that at all. I cannot let myself get caught up in his choices, whether positive or negative. At least that what I tell myself on my good days, lol.

Are you connected?

In March of 2020 we stopped going anywhere we didn’t absolutely need to be. The kids stopped school, I went to the grocery store once a week and we stopped church and social outings. We learned how to see friends and family on zoom and spent a lot of time hanging out as a family. It was a weird time. It was welcomed for a while, everything that’s novel is interesting at first, but then our world fell apart on April 24, 2020 when our daughter passed away in an accident. After that friends and family came and brought us meals and it was the first time we had seen many of them in weeks. We had a very small funeral outside with family only, and even that was welcomed at the time because I wasn’t sure I could do the whole large funeral thing. I just wasn’t sure I’d make it through it emotionally. As time passed we continued to see people as little as possible and go out as little as possible. A year went by and in March of 2021 my husband suggested we go back to church again. I was resistant and had a full on panic attack when he suggested it. I was terrified to walk into a group of people. I hadn’t been in a group like that in a year and to add to that I hadn’t been back to church since our daughter passed. It was a place full of memories and I wasn’t sure I could do it. He insisted so we went. I didn’t want to be there and it was uncomfortable. That whole year had been a place of growth for our family and healing as we gathered each Sunday morning and had a bible study as a family. We talked about hard things like grief and loss and pandemics. Why did God allow such things? And how do we move forward? It was what we needed at the time, but as we were growing together we were also growing apart from others. We didn’t realize it, but we were. During that year there was a lot of political division happening around masks and vaccines but also the election. We saw the division and it’s easy to get sucked into the lie that when we think differently than others we can no longer be in relationship with those people. It divided and continues to divide the church based on who you voted for and if you got vaccinated or not. We are missing the point of Christianity though if we allow those things to divide us, we are to love others not segregate based on beliefs on political ideology. At a certain point it can become political idolatry and not political participation. We are to be involved with the electing of our leaders, but we are not to be so concerned with those elections and what those leaders do that they become more important to us than what Jesus says.

As we eased back into church we felt lost. The roles we used to fill had been filled by others in our absence. We just kept going week after week, but we didn’t feel connected. Why? Because we had lost our small groups, if you will. We had been youth leaders and involved with music before the pandemic. Those provided connection with other people on a deeper level than just walking into church each Sunday, saying “hi, oh yes we are fine” and leaving. That’s attending church but there’s no connection. If you are just attending church that’s a great place to start but at some point if you want to stay in church you have to get connected on a deeper level. You need a small group to be apart of so you can do life with other people. You need relationships to help you want to stay in church when times are tough, as they have been these past couple of years. We are seeing so many people content to do church “differently” and stay isolated on zoom, but where are their relationships? Where is their community that will sustain them in hard times? If you have physical challenges that prevent you from actually coming to church and you have no other choice but zoom then you do that, and that’s wonderful, but I would challenge you to find a small group to connect with via zoom. Many churches have small groups on zoom. It’s the connection you need. We are working to find our smaller groups again at our church. It takes time to find where you feel connected. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep working hard to make myself come to church this past spring. It was hard, my anxiety was high and it was just easier to find the differences between me and others than it was to find the commonalities. But there is this wise group of older women at my church who drew me in and asked me to pray with them on prayer team. I had been doing this alongside Glenn before the pandemic but they were asking me to serve with them by myself. It was very intimidating but I felt God telling me this was where he wanted me. Each week I would go and they would encourage me and we would build community. It was my smaller group. You need a place you can feel purpose and connection within church or else you will give up. We aren’t meant to be in isolation. Now I go each week and I pray even though I feel like a junior member next to these ladies who are such spiritual powerhouses, but I keep learning and growing. And I’m slowing realizing why God has me there. I’m able to bring a unique perspective with my youth, my experiences good and bad, and my continuing education in counseling. I feel purpose and that brings connection that I was lacking a year ago.

So how do you find this connection in church? Well, first you just reach out to those around you. You don’t need to look for those who look similar to you, God can bring connection with people you never thought you would find anything in common with. Keep trying and get involved with a small group that’s already at your church. Don’t have any? Maybe God’s calling you to start one. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t isolate yourself. Invite people over to your house or to an outdoor setting if that’s more comfortable. It might feel awkward at first but keep trying. To have a friend you must be a friend. Look past political and social lines and find people’s hearts. We are so focused on our differences lately that that’s all we can see. Let’s make church a place we come each week and put down our political and social differences and just be. Take a breath and seek God. Jesus was friends with so many different people, who no doubt thought differently than each other about different things going on in their world and time, but they were all united under the leadership and purpose of Jesus. We should be as well.

If you are feeling disconnected at church, ask yourself what you can do to fix that? Don’t be a victim, make yourself available to others and be in community. Satan wants nothing more than to divide and devour us, that’s the only way he can stop the church from it’s purpose of spreading God’s love.

An Epidemic of Stuckness

We have two high school aged boys, one is a senior and the other a freshman. Our senior is almost 18 and has almost completed his transition to adulthood and the freshman is just beginning. This whole raising adults thing is tough, much more than I expected. As I have struggled in my own parenting of my boys, I have looked around at other kids in my sons generation and noticed an alarming trend of stuckness. It seems like many older teens these days are getting to high school graduation and then they freeze and have no idea what to do, they seem like deer stuck in headlights. This seems to be a new thing, I don’t remember it being a problem when I was there age. So, the question is why and how do we fix it? (Disclaimer: it’s about to get real over here. I’m going to tell you my experiences good and bad, hopefully my kids don’t kill me. And I’m going to give suggestions from my observations, which may not be comfortable to hear. If I step on toes, I apologize, but I think we need some self reflection here as parents, so be open minded.)

This past year has been a rough one, for everyone really, but specifically I have learned, and am continuing to learn, a lot about myself as a parent and how to be better. As my oldest son was growing up, I saw him a certain way based on his likes and dislikes and behavior. I pegged him as serious, particular and studious. He was very smart and seemed to do well in math. So, I had a assumed path for his life. It’s not that I was trying to put him a box on purpose but unknowingly I did. I suggested careers during high school that dealt with math, like accounting, or science, like medicine. I was trying hard to help him find his path, but I was failing at it. Last summer he was stuck in a big way. His mental health was suffering and physically he had some issues as well. I didn’t understand where I went wrong. Turns out it was my perspective. I was still seeing him as the 8 year old who did well in math and liked things just so, but he had changed with my realizing it. He had grown up and he was now beginning to show who he really was as he sought to come out from under our influence as parents. It’s a completely normal process for teens to go through. They must assert themselves as people and become their own person. That person often times looks different than they were as children. As a parent trying to survive our own life crisis that I won’t get into right now, I missed the change. I also think I may have missed it even without the external stress because parents are often too close to see their kids grow. This is where trusted friends and family can be so helpful in a teens life. They are far enough away from the situation to see the teen for who he or she really is in a way a parent cannot. Thankfully in our situation some friends, family, counselors and youth ministers came around us and supported us as we sought to better understand this teenager we had. Turns out my son, who I thought loved math, science and order, really has a passion for art and music. It is still something we are navigating as we are seeking to better understand and support him for who he is becoming and not who WE thought he was.

So, why are kids stuck? Two things that come to mind as I have looked around and tried to understand this issue better:

  1. Social media is so immersive and our kids are terrified to make any kind of wrong moves because the whole world is watching, so to speak. So, they just sit down and do nothing. That’s not something my generation had to deal with growing up and it’s a heavy weight on this one. Mental health is skyrocketing, it’s certainly tied to this pandemic, but also social media has allowed bullying and people just saying whatever they think and speaking into our kids lives all the time good or bad. Our kids feel scrutinized all the time, so we as parents have to be careful not to add to that.
  2. We are majorly overparenting. As a reaction to all this and probably other factors in our own pasts, we are trying so hard to shelter our kids, in a good way, to protect them and help them find their way that we are paralyzing them. We are controlling every little aspect of their lives and not allowing them to fail and learn they will be okay if they do. I am talking to myself here as well for sure. I have controlling tendencies and want to keep my kids from harm. Honestly, after you lose a child you tend to struggle all the more with these things. I fear their harm as much as any parent, but I have to fight against that and allow them to make their own choices and respect those choices. Our goal as parents has to be to launch our kids into the world with the tools they need to be successful, but they can never gain those tools unless we allow them to practice using them at home. They have to be allowed to make their own choices about even the smallest things and then the larger ones. I’ll give you an example with my kids. We have chosen for our kids to not have a curfew. We ask them to let us know generally when they will be home and to make good choices about what they are doing. If they want to go out with friends and they change locations then I expect them to make good choices and safety but I have stopped requiring that they tell me every place they go. Obviously, if they did something that was unsafe or made poor choices then we might have to revisit that, but particularly with my 17 year old, he is almost an adult and I really have very little say about what he does. If he chooses to make a bad choice such as going to a party where drugs are being used and uses those drugs and then gets arrested, he would have to deal with his own consequences of then being in jail. It doesn’t even require my parenting adjustment. It’s a mental shift for sure, but it starts with allowing them to choose small things like bedtimes or how often they shower, so if my teens smell, just know I’m allowing them the freedom to choose that. lol Honestly, overparenting wears you out as a parent, so give yourself a break and find a hobby to immerse yourself in and give your kids some freedom to make choices.

One thing I have realized is that I must untangle my own self worth from my kids successes and failures. I can’t make their choices for them so whether they make good choices or bad ones that’s not up to me. I can neither claim the credit or the failure for that. As a mom this is so easy to do. Society makes me think that my kids success or failure is a direct reflection on me. Is my kids throwing a tantrum in the store? I’m a bad parent. Did my child make the A honor roll? I’m a good parent. Did my kid get a scholarship to Harvard and become a successful doctor? Good parent. Is my child in prison? bad parent. In reality it’s not that black and white there are many things we as parent cannot control. I can’t control my three year old and his emotions and really he has to have tantrums to express his displeasure until he learns that doesn’t accomplish what he wants. All these things good or bad are the choice of my child and not my own. I have realized that I put too much stock in apparent success or failure of my child to find my self worth. I ‘m working to change that. First by acknowledge it and then by living my own life apart from my kids. It’s one of the reasons I am choosing to pursue a degree in counseling. Now, I absolutely don’t think you need to pursue a career outside the home as a mom in order to live your own life. The point is that you should pursue your own interests and find your self worth in yourself and not those around you. It’s about knowing the boundary where my kids stop and I begin. This helps your child become his own person and you be yours. If your child feels the weight of your self esteem riding on their success or failure they will have an unfair weight of expectation on them.

We certainly don’t have this all figured out, but we are growing. As a parent you have to be willing to acknowledge when you haven’t quite hit the mark and then ask for forgiveness and take different path. How can we expect our kids to acknowledge shortcomings and find a new path if we refuse to. Let’s focus on raising adults and not raising children.