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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Home is Where the Hugs Are

photo taken from
This is from my September 19, 2012 Thoughts of the Day. It moved me then; and, it moves me now.

When our children see Mom and Dad hugging, they will usually run to sit on the floor between our legs. It has become a sort of game for my husband and me to move about forcing the children to pick up and follow us. Tonight however our son said something rather profound (though I'm sure he did not know it). When he caught Mommy and Daddy hugging he yelled out "Look sister, home!"

It is my sincerest hope that our children will always view that place between Mom and Dad as home and seek refuge there.

"I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." - Psalm 91:2

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Anger Management - Part 2

February 12, 2013

“My struggle with rage was not uncommon to mothers… it just isn’t talked about.”

This is one of the opening sentences in booklet entitled Mommy Anger Management that I recently read to help me focus on what exactly triggers my anger and give me tips to help deal with those situations. I got my attention because it is so true. Especially among stay-at-home, homeschooling moms. So what did she have to say? Nothing earth-shattering; just exactly what I needed to hear though.

She suggested keeping a notebook to answer log answers to questions like:

-         Why did you do lose your temper?
-         What happened just before you grew so angry?
-         How are you feeling? Do you have a headache? Are you hungry?
-         When was the last time you went outside?
-         How did your body react as your anger grew?

Keeping a log book would help you see the pattern you would not see otherwise. For me those answers were easy. No one listens to me; I repeated myself for the 30th time; tired; yes; no; days ago, unless you count driving three kids to Tae Kwon Do for a one hour class; I clench my teeth, my fist, and stomp on the floor. But knowing these answers wasn’t helping me avoid being angry in the first place. So I kept reading.

“I was less-likely to blow up when I was spending time with God every morning”

Now there was something I could grab a hold of. I had made the connection to Bible study and prayer and my bad moods before. But somehow never made the leap to my angry outbursts. And the truth that spending time with alone with God sets the tone for the whole day is such a simple one that I constantly forget it. I make an effort to do a devotional every day with the children after breakfast. Hey, might as well start their day on the right foot too! Now when my blood is starting to boil because I’ve told the children to clean their rooms for the 30th time I stop and ask myself if we remembered to do our devotional. If not we stop and do it. That alone will usually fix the problem.   

“I recognized my triggers for a meltdown”

The need to repeat myself has always been a button pusher for me. And if I get an ‘I heard you the first time’ response after I start yelling I get even angrier. Really?!? If you heard me the first time then you should have obeyed. Now, I know kids can hear you without actually hearing you. They are so wrapped up in the game they are playing that even though they recognize the words that are coming from my mouth, true understanding just isn’t there. So now I try to make sure they actually heard me. If I don’t get an immediate ‘Yes ma’am’, or if little feet are not rushing off to carry out my every command, I will call out their names. This I found is particularly helpful. Now they know I am talking to them and not to thin air.J Making eye contact with them makes it impossible for them to say they didn’t hear me.  

“I needed to take a little time for me”

Aha! Of everything I read, this one statement resonated with me. It didn’t really sink in until a couple of days later. I had scheduled a play date with family friends. We spent the entire day together. We took the day off school (cuz sometimes you just have to do that), the children played together, we had lunch, and we two mommies sat and chatted. It felt good to be out of the house. It felt good to talk to another adult. It felt good to walk away from everything that stresses me out on any given day. And as I sat there babbling about my problems I said something to my dear friend I didn’t even realize I was feeling. Bitterness and resentment. Toward my husband.

He regularly gets up at 4:00 am. Most days it is just to go to work. But quite regularly it is so he can have breakfast with some men from our church. I was feeling angry because he was getting what I needed. Time with friends to talk over coffee.

That was an epiphany moment for me. I confessed that to my poor unsuspecting husband and we talked. Mostly I talked and he listened. But just that simple discovery was so freeing. Now I know when the boiler is about to explode it is time for a play date.

“I personally believe that our rage is a habit. Whether we were victimized or just developed this pattern because of the craving for control over that which we cannot control, we are stuck in a rut.”

Control. Yes. I want control. I want people, especially my children, to do what I tell them to do, when I tell them to do it. My husband and I often joke that our son would make a very good dictator of some third world country. He barks orders at every one. He has been that way since birth. He is out little command-man. But he comes by this trait honestly. The notion that everyone would be happy if thy just did things your way is not only a control issue, it is a sin issue. It is selfishness. It is putting your needs and wants and desires above someone else’s.

That said a child does need to learn to obey and do so immediately and with a joyful heart. I read somewhere (I think it’s in the Bible but I can’t remember the reference) that if a child cannot obey his parents, how is he ever going to obey God?  I haven’t got that one figured out yet but we’re working on it.

Finally, she ends with a few tips:

1. Seek to put God first
2. Commit Scripture to memory and quote it out loud
3. Do a Bible study on how God rescued His people
4. Walk through your home and pray in every room out loud
5. Spend time with God daily
6. Stop and pray

Her final parting words will be mine.

“Believe this: There is no mistake we can make as parents that will place our children outside of God’s grace.”

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Anger Management

Art by Aurora Andrews

February 3, 2013

I struggle. A lot. We all have areas in our lives that plague us. Mine is anger. I never considered myself an angry person. Low tolerance, non-existent patience, and an inability to suffer those I considered stupid. (And that could be a good many people on any given day.) All those things I can readily admit to. But anger? No, that just wasn’t me. It took a husband, four children, and a lot of “stupid” people for me to realize that all those things I could easily admit to being basically boiled down to a well-controlled anger. I never exploded in a violent outburst, throwing things across the room, and yelling like some lunatic. That is until recently. I seem to have lost my ability to control myself. My already low tolerance and non-existent patience took a turn for the worse.

I could say it’s hormonal but my doctor says it’s not.

I could say I’m sleep deprived. And though I am tired A LOT, I get eight hours of sleep almost every night.

I could blame it on my husband for adding to my burdens, but I would be a liar. Sure he asks things of me I would not otherwise need to deal with. He does things, too, that can drive me up a wall. But the problem is not him, it’s me.

I could say being the mother of four is the cause. And that does present a challenge to someone who is used to having things her way. I am surrounded by three little people (my fourth, really my first, is away at college – a whole other list of worries and stresses) who have no concern for my needs, wants, desires, or plans. They want what they want when they want it. Not a good situation to have four strong-willed, demanding individuals under one roof, all day, every day. But that is what we have and I’m the grown-up. I’m the Mom. It is my job to teach my children to control their anger. To handle their frustrations and hurts in a Biblical way. To die to self, and live for Christ.

I have failed more often than I have succeeded. And have modeled all the wrong things. Recently, I have reread How to Win the Heart of a Rebel by Dr. S.M. Davis. In this booklet he introduces us to the destructive force of anger by using King David and Absalom as a case study. Written for fathers, I found much of the strategies to be useful for Mom too.

Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart.” It is a reminder that if we want our children to listen to our instruction we must first have their hearts. You CANNOT gain someone’s trust when you’re erupting in fits of anger. I cannot raise Godly children if I am behaving in an unGodly manner. At best I’ll be seen as a hypocrite. At worst I’ll cause my children to turn their backs on their God entirely. After all, if that is what being a Christian is all about why would they want any part of it?

Dr. Davis bottom line advice is this: The key ingredient in raising Godly children is to get their hearts early, keep their hearts, and be extremely vigilant to not lose their hearts. And if you do lose it, quickly find out when and where and then do whatever it takes to get it back, not matter what the cost.

For me, I know when and where. I know what is happening while it is happening. My problem is in stopping it from happening in the first place. It is a very humbling thing to confess your sins to your child and beg for their forgiveness. But that is where I find myself all too often.

The verse from Galatians 5:19-20 says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…” The point is, that we would never subject our children to 99% of this list; why, then do we subject them to our anger?

Listen, talk, touch. These three things are how Absalom won the hearts of the men of Israel. And how Dr. Davis suggests I win the hearts of my children. This is not an easy thing for me. I am not one to sit around chatting. I do not engage well. And I don’t initiate conversation. I often find the things my children want to do with me are things I have absolutely no desire to do. And so, I put them off hoping they’ll forget and move on to something else. I am learning though that I cannot do this. I need to play dollies and legos. I need to drop everything and sit around chatting. And I need to stop saying “Because I told you to, end of subject!”

How to Win the Heart of a Rebel end with a 12 Step program, which actually has 15 steps, to help parents win back the hearts of their children. Among them are things like: confess and ask for forgiveness, self-evaluation, and time. Maybe I should print them out and post them on my wall as a constant reminder of what I should be doing.

Next step learning to deal with my Mommy anger.

“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” - James 1:20