Monday, May 29, 2017

Finding Peace in Chaos: Summer Survival 2017

I was having a hard time keeping my thoughts straight, hovering somewhere between "yeah I am fine" and "ah man I am loosing it". Two separate viruses had hit our normally healthy home in the last 6 weeks. Couple those with a jumbled up schedule packed with extras like sacraments and recitals and tryouts and house hunting all as we finished off the school year. It wasn't that we had so much more going on that normal. Being released from sports practices for a few weeks gave me much more than a few extra hours in the day. No, it was the complete lack of predictability that caused the unease. 

There are seasons in life where structure and planning and purposeful living comes easier. Then there are seasons like this.  

I was leaping into summer without any vacation plans in ink, without a master calendar dotted with ideas to structure out days, without team commitments for my three club athletes, crossing my fingers that my healthy ones would stay healthy and the sick ones would get better already. Oh and we quite literally did not know where we would call home the next month. 

I am a hyper-planner. I think I was blessed with a charism of administration. Scheduling the lives of the little and big people under my roof really brings me joy. And riding through a harried spring into a more laid back time of triple digit temperatures should be refreshing and instill feeling of relaxation. So why did I find myself living instead with a sense of dread? 

During Lent I had developed a beautiful practice of rising early to work through my BIS Lent journal. I am not a journalist by nature, but the concrete daily time for me to get grounding with God was life giving. But it is hard to drag oneself out of bed early. Having a Lenten promise to do so was the only reason I persisted. Plus I didn't want to get behind in the book. The perpetual student in me wouldn't allow for that. 

But Lent ended and the Easter season brought with it joy and celebration and the sacrifice of getting up early... well it was easy to give that up. I had an Easter season book study to do. On my nightstand, on the counter, in the car. It didn't matter where I put it. I wasn't getting done. I was sleeping a little later, checking in with social media, glancing over my email and getting the daily readings, making my coffee and going about my day. But it wasn't Lent anymore so why should I sacrifice sleep?

Gone was the time to just sit with God. 
Holy Spirit come. That was the simple prayer I would utter before opening my Lent journal. Holy Spirit come. So simple and so easy, and those were the first words each day. 

Today I woke up and instead of checking the feeds or opening my email even, I listen to God. I asked Him to give me peace.

Peace doesn't come from the schedule, or the plans, or the organization and structure of the day. Peace comes from God. He will provide peace in the days of uncertainty. But our God is a gentleman God. He doesn't force himself into our lives. He loves us from afar in those times when we keep Him at a distance. When we invite Him in closer he comes equipped with all the graces we need, ready to rekindle the holy gifts he has given us in baptism and confirmation. 

In Matthew 11 Jesus tell us 

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." 

He invites us to come to Him. He offers rest, but in the next line he offers so much more...

 "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves."

He doesn't say he is going to take away our problems. He says He is going to teach us and give us rest. 

I don't want God to take away my problems- my problems are good problems. Having many hearts to love and many mouths to feed and many talents to nurture in my little ones is a joyful problem. I need him to teach me how to enter into the fullness of life without feeling weary or burdened. I need to learn how to have faith and trust so deep that uncertain and shifting schedules don't keep me up with worry at night. I need to have confidence that my children will grow through their physical suffering and if they all end up getting sick so be it. 

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light". 

The load is still there because that is life in this world. 

When we take our uncertainty, the frustrations, the worries, the sadness,whatever we have weighting down our hearts and we cast that upon the yoke of the Lord, the load is made manageable. 

I still don't know where we will be living when the next season begins. I don't know what the summer will bring. But for me, putting on His yoke each morning means starting each day with an invitation to God.

Come Holy Spirit Come. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

When Rescuing is Wrong

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We were siting around the little patio at our local pub. Just a group of us moms out for a little fellowship and some time away from our cumulative 20+ children. One of us had gotten the wrong beer or maybe it was just a stinky beer and she wasn't going to drink it. There was some passing around of the glass and the agreement at the table was that the beer was nasty and she should send it back. We all agreed that the friend who ordered it should just send it back and let the server know it was bad. But this friend was really tentative and would rather not have anything to drink if that meant she may make someone else (the server) feel uncomfortable. After some good natured teasing and laughing, she decided that maybe she would try to be assertive (see the hesitation there already?) and give it a try. As the server approached I could see the stress in her face. She hemmed and hawed and hesitated and so I just blurted out - "Can she get a new drink? This one is awful" - at which point the server smiled and acquiesced and the problem was solved.

Except it wasn't.  Another friend (who is a counselor by training and practice) looked at me with a smile and stated "You are a rescuer!"

A what?

I had never heard that term. What ensued was a bit of more drinking and lot of laughing and even more self-reflection on how each of us as the table handle conflict. 

My counselor friend is absolutely right. I am a rescuer.  I don't like conflict, but what I hate more than conflict is to see my loved ones uncomfortable, in pain, or really suffering in any way. Although it is a nice and noble thing to be willing to help alleviate others discomfort, especially when it comes to beer, being a Rescuer can lead to some rather negative parenting situations. 

Our children grow through conflict. As a mother I should be providing them with a safe and loving environment in which they have the opportunity to solve their own conflicts. I can provide guidance, I can give suggestions (when asked), I can model frameworks for conflict management, but stepping in to take away their pain, discomfort and sometimes genuine suffering, only handicaps their ability to grow into mature and capable adults. Rescuing behavior shows a lack of awareness or appreciation of the good that can come from suffering.

Children are going to have conflicts - daily - and if they have sibling it can at times seem like they life a life of constant conflict. Kids can be mean (yes even my kids) and they make poor choices all the time. I blame their poorly developed frontal lobes. But it is through their conflicts that they learn. They learn when to speak out and when to let things go, they learn how much crap they can take from their peers before they snap, they learn at what point they need to stand up for others, they learn that some friends are fun but not good for them, they learn about honesty, and loyalty, and trustworthiness. They come to value people who are virtuous and learn to avoid those who lack decency.  

So what's a Rescuer- Mom to do? It hurts so much to see our little ones hurting, but swooping in and messing with their business isn't often the best way to handle it. What we need to do is Love and Listen.

First, we are called to love. They need to know that what ever they do, however they handle a situation, they are loved by both us and by God. They are going to mess up. They are going to make poor choices. They are going to fail in some way at some time.  And we are called to loved them through that time. They need to know that good behavior is not a condition of our love. Is it easier to show them love when they are acting awesome? Yes. Will behaving well make us love them more? Nope. We may like being with them more when they are awesome, but we love them the same amount when they are awesome and awful. Our heart are designed to love them. When the rest of the world is giving them crap, we will give them love.

Secondly, our kids need to know that we are here for them when they want advice, and all they need to do is ask. We aren't too busy or too stressed or too important to listen to their struggles. We have open doors and open hearts and when they want help we are here for them. But we have the confidence in them to let them make their own choices and reach out to us when they need a little assistance.

Our children don't need us to rescue them, but they do need us to notice them. When our children are having a tough day, we ought to let them know we recognize their struggle. We don't need them to tell us everything that happened (unless they want too), but we should take a minute to let them know we see them, and we notice they don't seem quite right, and that we love them. This opens the door for the conversation and it lets them know we care. Sometimes that is all they need to push through those rough times in childhood. 

So the next time you find your little one is in a sticky situation, hold back. Give them a chance to figure it out. Let them know you are there for them, but you trust in their abilities to problem solve and to identify when the problem is bigger than they can handle on their own.  Be there for them, but let them grow through their struggles and come out more confident and competent young men and women. 

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