In the New Year, deciding DAILY to follow the real Jesus!

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      Jesus made LOTS of decisions that left other people scratching their heads: he rejected the Pharisees’ and Saducees’ superficial notions of perfection and the Law, and spent his time reaching out to the flawed, good people that God brought into his path: the tax collectors, the poor, the huddled masses, the fishermen (the blue collar workers of that day!) – some of whom became his disciples, also the diseased and homeless.  But he also lived in truth, and spoke truth to those who had lost themselves in sin (anything that separates us from our heavenly Father), in corruption, even into demon possession.  He came that we might have everlasting life, and live in Heaven with his Father forever, and that our lives might have the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22).  He lived the life that his Father had intended for him, from the very moment that he was conceived.

    Life is a series of decisions.  Who to spend time with, how to spend money, and reminding yourself to practice compassion – DAILY – and be gentle with yourself, your spouse, your children, others – anyone that is brought into your path.  The “old” self could believe others’ assessment of her by making decisions based on guilt, shame, or what others wanted for her.  The New Self stands firmly on discernment (this intuition often comes in flashes of inspiration and truth – if a person is toxic for you, you are an adult, and you are able to choose to not to spend time with them); healthy boundaries; compassion expressed through action and prayer; and a solid foundation of Biblical truth: a good person will SHOW that they are good through their words, actions, and interactions. 

    So, a good person is not a Perfect person, but one who learns lessons daily, adjusts herself accordingly, and operates from compassion but also from truth.  Something that another person is called to may not be something that I, myself, am called to.  Their personal mission will not be my mission.  All I can be is who I am MEANT to be, and the moment that I step away from that personal path, the discomfort that I experience from being on someone else’s path should lead me right back to the home that God intended for me. 

    This New Year, may I be the person God designed me to be.  May YOU be the person God designed you to be!  And may we both respect that our paths are our own, and that we are not products of our circumstances, but products of our decisions.

    Can I get an “AMEN”??  😉

 

 

“One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”

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I’ve always been a weird mix between morbid-inner-teenage-angster and Miss Positivity (my yin and yang energy signature).  On the one hand, I embark on something new with my breath held, just in case it is a total disaster.  On the other, I jump in with both feet and think that if I give it my all by devoting time, energy and a positive attitude, that there’s nothing new I can’t handle! I think that is a result of my genetic heritage: passionate, impulsive Italian mixed with skeptical, hesitant German/Irish. 

The impact this mixed energy has on my parenting is probably considerable.  One day, I see the progress one or two of my children have made and think: the sky’s the limit with that kid!  The next:  one step forward, two steps back.  Or even three.  And I will feel like a failure.  But my job as a mom isn’t predicated on whether this kid or that is stepping on some linear line to personal or educational success…or whether they have absorbed all of the hands-on instruction and are executing it well.  I have to show up, hair clean and shoes shined, WHETHER OR NOT they meet the bar my husband and I have set for them.  Okay, not hair clean and shoes shined – because most of the emotional or logistical work that I do happens before nine a.m., especially on school days.  But I DO have to keep showing up.  And keep putting that foot forward, even if some days feel like a total loss, parenting-wise.  Because the dance doesn’t stop just because your kids are growing up – it just transitions from a cha-cha to a foxtrot to a waltz.  And I gotta keep up, even when I fall.  ESPECIALLY when I fall.

Aside

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Okay, so I am a nerd.  Two of my favorite media “families” are the Star Trek enterprise and the Lord of the Rings movies.  I have a love of the fantastical, and a love of any story that beautifully dramatizes the fight between good and evil.  I think that is probably because in my own life, my personal story encompasses these elements.  I have always had a vivid imagination (which made me a prolific liar as a child – being scarcely able to distinguish between my real, everyday life and the life I imagined myself to have) and an ability – call it discernment – to distinguish between a good person, and a person who had dark or evil intentions.  I also have had experiences that could have seriously ruined me, could have turned me permanently bitter or jaded.  But GOOD PREVAILED, and I couldn’t let my joy be stolen!  My counselor in college once told me: “when you let your joy be stolen, you let the bad guy win” and I have never forgotten that.  Alan also taught me that pain cannot be buried: his interpretation of that was to find the “dead body” in my psychological house and to give it a proper burial, so that my past pain and hurt wouldn’t steal the possibility of a happy future.  That advice (and the hard work that I did personally and spiritually to give that body a proper send-off) saved my marriage; restored my joy; instilled a curiosity of understanding the battle between good and evil; and helped me rebuild my own psychological house so that I would have a good, solid foundation going forward.  It was Alan’s (and my husband’s!) small acts of kindness and love that led me out of personal and spiritual darkness, and I will be forever grateful.  Hopefully I will never forget that.  Thank you Gandalf for reminding me!

The complexity of teenagers

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhen people ask me the ages of my kids, my brain goes “POW!” when I say my oldest is a sophomore. We have always had an easy time of it, until this last year. The interference of technology into our home life (and into our relationship) has been a source of contention and argument…I’m sure other parents of teens get it. How do you balance time with the necessary technology (school laptop to use Blackboard online and electronic delivery of papers and homework to teachers) with time using the entertaining types, like iPods and phones and emails and IM’ing and and and and….?
And it’s not just the time element, but the idea of content. Sure, I can put K9 on my computer (which limits any content under categories that I choose, such as Sex, Alcohol, Drugs, and Cigarettes) and I can have talks with the older ones about using discernment when choosing photos for Instagram (a particular draw for my 12-year-old daughter). But they still can make decisions unbeknownst to me which could potentially embarrass me (or them!), affect friendships, even affect their future. This is a frightfully complicated layer of parenting that OUR parents never had to deal with, so much of the advice about how to navigate such waters with grace and dignity I have found online.
IRONY.
So this is the complicated part: how do I equip my son to make good choices that honor how we raised him, our values, his spirit, without putting a chokehold on his independence and limiting the development of independent thought and coping skills?
(sigh)
My husband and I have actively sought to help him learn these things: grace, discernment, coping, pride, respect for himself and others. But at the end of the day, it’s up to HIM to either sink or swim. And it’s TERRIFYING. So I hand him his lifejacket, push him off, and keep my fingers crossed. ALL DAY, every day. Because soon, he will be a man.

I’m not that fun Mom who wears a Dora shirt to Walmart

I’ve never been the kind of parent who can readily download a “childlike sense of wonder”, even when parenting small children. I can handle being mildly playful, but tend more towards the teaching type of play with kids. However, I did happen to marry one of those “fun dads.”
So a few years ago, when it came time to pursue discovering what was different about one of our daughters, I plunged in headfirst. Having worked in mental health services in the past (and having had about two years of child development courses in college), I was the natural go-to in our marriage for the UN-fun part of this venture. Handling the doctor’s appointments, finding a therapist (and then finding a new therapist when I discovered the first one wasn’t prepared to handle the finer distinctions of our daughter’s problem behaviors), translating the results of various medical tests (including an EEG that came back abnormal); the medical part of me kicked in and the mom part took a back seat.
It took a lot of self-discipline to see when I had wandered away from treating my kid as my kid, and not a project. And even though that is true, this daughter has always been closest to me – that means, as a kid with an adjustment disorder, she gives me the lion share of the misbehavior, the tantrums, the lying, the emotionally distraught moments; it also means that I carry the bigger burden of keeping her centered, giving myself a time out when things get overwhelming, and constantly reminding myself that God gave her to ME for a reason – that our blood connection and our relationship is PURPOSEFUL, not accidental, and that I’d better swim and not sink, no matter what morass I find ourselves in, day to day.
That means that I always have to be the bigger person.
It can be freakin’ exhausting.
It means that even when I want to give up/run away/change my name/find a new life-path
that I have to come back to myself and throw myself back into the adventure
of life
as a parent
of a special needs child.

Don’t bother me on my day off

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Don't bother me on my day off

Many times, I don’t answer phone calls on the days I am not working. My me-time is premium with four kids and I make no apologies. Those days are devoted to catching up with laundry; planning meals for the rest of the week; staring at the dust gathering on my mantel; and reading good books and watching movies that I’ve put off until I am ALONE. My family of origin is very large; the family I have made together with my husband is medium-large; and my me-time is teeny-teeny-tiny. So if you call me on my day off and I don’t answer? Now you know why.