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?

Say what?

The other day I came across a title of a book written by a pastor that made me literally laugh out loud, “Stupid shit people say at church”. I mean can’t we all relate? I certainly can. Usually this happens when you are going through something hard. It’s things like, after you lose your loved one, “God just needed another angel in heaven”, or “It was God’s will”. Or when you are going through a hard time, “God will never give you more than you can handle”. None of that is biblical by the way. We have all heard people say stuff that is meant to be helpful, but is hurtful instead. I’ve learned that people are uncomfortable with pain and silence and so they speak to try to say something to make the pain go away or minimize it without realizing they are maximizing the hurt.

Sometimes people say stuff in good times too. Stuff like, when you are announcing the birth of your fifth child, “When are you gonna stop having kids?’, or asking someone without kids when they will be having them as if it’s any of their business. People can also speak badly about others who have gotten something they wanted like a new job or a bigger house or new relationship. So many times envy and jealousy sneak into the happiest moments.

Sometimes though the hardest things to hear are from people you expected to be your friends. When people gossip about you under the guise of sharing a “prayer request”. “Oh, we have to pray for Sue, did you hear she’s getting a divorce because her husband cheated on her?” “Oh, we have to pray for Dave, he’s attending AA meetings now! (Gasp!)”

Sometimes people speak directly to you and say hurtful things under the guise of confessing what they have done or said about you that you weren’t aware of. And sometimes they say things under the guise of admonishment or improving your character that are hurtful. Most of the time those things are true but we have to ask ourselves two questions when considering what we will say, “will this further my relationship with this person or am I just trying to make my shame go away?” And “do I have the type of relationship with this person where I am being invited into their lives to speak to them about character flaws and blind spots?” If you are just trying to make yourself feel better by getting something off your chest then that’s not a good reason to then drop that burden on someone else. There is a verse about confessing our sins to our brother and we should do that in certain contexts but only if we are then going to provide a strategy for changing our behavior so as to not hurt that person again. Words are cheap, actions matter. As I often say in my house with my kids, “sorry doesn’t cut it, you have to change your behavior” I think there are few relationships that can withstand telling another person about their character flaws without serious damage occurring. You have to ask yourself if you would accept that type of admonition from this person for yourself? And what is your motivation behind doing so? If it’s not true sacrificial love, then it won’t be productive. Sometimes I think we use difficult conversations as a way to protect ourselves and subconsciously push others away.

It really comes down to empathy and really trying to see a situation from the other person’s perspective. Ask yourself how might this person be feeling or thinking in this situation, and how could what I’m about to say affect them? If what you are about to say has any motive other than building the other person up then don’t say it. We are especially bad in the church community of shooting our wounded and it’s got to stop. Why would anyone want to come to a place where people are hurting one another even if unknowingly? We are so quick to judge others and their situations and make rash statements and we just don’t stop long enough to think through the implications of our statements.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26

Posted in God

Sabbath Rest

Glenn and I have been studying about Sabbath recently. Growing up I saw the Sabbath commandment in the Bible as a mandate to attend church regularly and to have absolutely zero fun on Sunday. It was a day we didn’t really do much and I had to take a nap. I certainly didn’t understand what it was for and didn’t plan to observe that as a adult. But then when I became an adult I hit a wall and I didn’t know why. Our society says we must go, go, go all the time and the Christian community is no better, we just do different things with our time. It’s a badge of honor to wear yourself out for the sake of ministry.

The past ten years have been tough for us. We’ve lost my mom, our daughter, had two miscarriages and a still birth, moved, changed jobs and dealt with other crisis’ in our family. It has left us feeling drained and emotionally unstable. What is the solution? We realized we needed to do something different so we started reading and examining ourselves and our life. One book that was very influential was “The emotionally health leader”. In it the author talks about his own ministry as a pastor where he too hit a wall and had to make some changes. He did many things in his life but one very important change was observing Sabbath. So, we decided we should learn more about Sabbath and try to make some changes to observe it better.

If you look at the Bible passages on Sabbath, there is of course the ten commandments where it is mandated that we keep the Sabbath. Then there are lots and lots of laws in the following books about how one should do that, very nit picky stuff. But in the new testament Jesus addresses the Sabbath again when he is caught doing things on the Sabbath that the church leaders disagreed with. “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Sabbath was made for us to rest and not for legalism. It’s not about rules but about relationship. It’s about stopping to acknowledge God’s place in our lives and to rest in the knowledge HE is in control of everything. It’s a mindset shift more than a list of things to not do.

So, we decided to make some small changes to honor the Sabbath in our house. We decided that our Sabbath would be Saturday night at 6pm till Sunday at 6pm. We start with a family dinner and dessert and a time of sharing a Bible verse and discussion. Then the next morning we go to church. Come home, lunch, naps and rest that afternoon. No chores if possible. No social media. No checking email or work things. It’s our first attempt at this and it’s going pretty well. It’s a work in progress and we will slowly make steps and changes as time goes on and our situations change. Right now we have small kids which is less than restful most of the time, but it’s a process. Our Sabbath now will look very different than 10 years from now. What I find interesting is it has caused me to slow down in all areas of my life. I am less concerned with getting things done and stressing out about perfection or performance. We are contemplating how to life a life of rest, instead of busyness.

Posted in God


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.