You Don’t Understand Me

“You don’t understand me,” my mom said as she began to cry. The words stung. I knew they held some truth in them. I want to be gentle with her – and be lovingly compassionate with her. I can do that most of the time, but then there are those times – when she begins to accuse me falsely or when she goes into a complaining mode – that I get worn down and snap at her. Rather than seeking to understand, I react to the words that spill out of her mouth. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13 I read these words the other day and immediately knew they were meant for me. Sometimes I am too quick to answer before I hear what another person is really saying. Because of Alzheimer’s my mom struggles to retrieve words. Often what she says is not really what she means at all. Thus, I am getting lots of opportunities to practice listening to her intentions rather than her words. She may want butter and ask for cream. She’ll say her glasses are foggy when she feels dizzy. She’ll say she does not need to shower when what she is expressing is that she needs help in the process. Living with my mom grants me many opportunities to grow in listening to the meaning behind words. When I do that, my responses connect with what she really is trying to express rather than what bubbles up out of her mouth. Conflict between any individuals is best addressed by sincerely trying to...

Gentleness

Taking care of my 88-year-old mom, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, reminds me of the days when my own kids were toddlers.  The fits. Her need for supervision.  Her efforts to do things independently despite the fact that she can’t.  The spills and accidents.  The need for repeated reminders.   Yesterday had been a particularly difficult day and I needed a fresh perspective, so I decided to replace my grumpy attitude by trying to be grateful instead and by focusing on what God was doing within me in this journey with my mom.   “Thank you for these moments with my mom and thank you for using this time to grow my patience and gentleness,” I wrote in my journal. Immediately as I penned these words, it dawned on me that being gentle was exactly what God was perfecting in me.  Just like with my own kids, being impatient and reacting harshly served only to breed fear and insecurity.  I need to be more gentle. Like Jesus.  Isaiah 40:11 speaks of his gentle nature, stating “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”    King David proclaims in Psalm 18:35 that “Your gentleness made me great.”  I reflected back to yesterday when I had reminded my mom, again, to put her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and not her dirty tissues. To be sure, I had reminded her a bit sternly, having grown impatient over her daily practice of filling her laundry basket with soiled tissues and...

Self-Control When You Really Need It

I melted down the other morning. Over our dog.   Glen and I have a difference of opinion over doggy rules and doggy discipline. This can result in tension between us at times. Glen is a dog person. He prefers to have Rufus, our hairy 100 pound labra doodle, with us at ALL times, including the dinner table and even while working in the kitchen. I on the other hand prefer some distance, especially in the kitchen and around meals. Glen wants to loosen our doggy rules. I want to tighten them. Later in the day, after calming down, I stepped outside to watch Joey work with a soccer coach. I listened with fascination as Joey was instructed to jump repeatedly over bars and then, while out of breath, attempt to intercept a soccer ball and kick it into the corner of the net. “Joey, the jumping will tire you and make you feel jostled, much like you will feel in an actual game. When you intercept the soccer ball and head towards the goal, you will need to practice controlling yourself at the core so that your kick will consistently be strong and accurate. Otherwise the ball will often miss it’s mark.”  Joey can easily kick the soccer ball into the goal time and time again when he is practicing alone and not tired. However, in the middle of a game, when he is running out of steam, and opposing players jostle him at every turn, it’s a different story!  That’s when he really needs to establish control in order to accurately handle the soccer ball under pressure. Immediately, I thought back...

Christ’s Rest

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 Amelia was an ideal student. Teachers at the Christian school she attended loved her enthusiastic approach to learning. Her peers respected her insights. Her parents were proud of her. She was a standard bearer – someone who certainly would not stray from her beliefs or standards. But, as a college student, Amelia did stray. At first it was out of curiosity. However, she enjoyed what she experienced on the “dark side.” She found the pursuits to be fun and she delighted in feeling free without restraint. Surprisingly she also felt relief. Gone was the need to prove her worth and value in her Christian community. Gone was the pressure to strive for God. Away from the church, she found acceptance without having to work for it and she found herself actually relaxing. She was not about to go back under the stress she had previously felt trying to live up to what she believed was expected of her. I hear many “Amelia” stories today. While her name is changed, her story is real and represents many young men and women who leave Christian homes for college and wind up walking away from their faith and values. However, the happiness she first experienced, as well as the feelings of freedom and relief, were short-lived. Instead she found herself in a nightmarish prison, one filled with fear, despair, insecurity, and shame. Her new friends had no solutions to the discouragement that invaded her heart. Deep feelings of unworthiness prevented her from seeking restoration...

Mini Blog #13: Maintaining Both a Loving Connection and High Expectations

“She hasn’t learned that you don’t mess with Oma,” Kate whispered to her brother as Haddie stubbornly stood by the piano with her arms crossed. Rather than her typical “I can do this” attitude, Haddie had chosen a whiny “this is too hard” mindset for her piano lesson that afternoon. Kate was right. Pouting, whining and refusing to try fall into the category of behaviors, I won’t tolerate. I love my grandchildren too much to do so. Free to Parent was written with incidents like this in mind….. ……how to hold kids to high standards and at the same time maintain a loving connection with them – even when they mess up and choose poorly. Because I believe a loving connection is of upmost importance, I may at times give the impression that I am a push over or that I don’t promote parental authority. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Ask my grandchildren) I just believe that parents must learn to consistently maintain their expectations and at the same time lovingly affirm their kids. These ideals are not in opposition with each other. Rather parenting within a tension between the two forms a loving authority, one that best incarnates Christ, who was the perfect embodiment of both grace and truth. Without standards that are consistently upheld, children readily fall into bad habits. They get lazy and learn to cut corners. They get caught up in distractions. They give up when the going gets a bit tough. Then goals and aspirations diminish and discouragement sets in. Why? Because deep inside kids want to aspire to great things and...

Mini Blog #12: Eye Contact – a Simple Way to Connect

Loving our children comes without effort but connecting with them can be challenging in the midst of fast paced days. One simple way to foster connection is to increase your eye-to-eye contact with them. As mentioned in last week’s blog, your sons and daughters need to know how precious they are in your eyes. This week’s blog is about expressing this with your eyes. Something powerful takes place when two people gaze into each other’s eyes. Gazing into each other’s eyes says, “I care about you. I see you. Let’s understand each other.” Thus with our eyes we encourage close relationships, because to be valued, to be noticed, and to be understood are all key to maintaining connection. What a mystery our eyes are. Not only are our eyes a marvelous creation, but they convey so very much.  With our eyes we convey emotion, express interest, and build rapport. On the other hand, by neglecting or refusing to give eye contact we convey disinterest as well as coldness. Avoiding eye contact keeps others at a distance. Child development specialists are concerned about the diminishing amount of eye contact many infants receive because parents opt to gaze at their devices during feeding time instead of at their child. They have come to realize that eye contact is vital for babies because it enhances emotional attachment.  When my grandchildren have done something wrong, they won’t look into my eyes. Refusing to give me eye contact is one way they declare, “I am not going to listen – or give in.  I don’t want you to see me right now.” They deny me...