Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Parenting 101: Cristine's Guide to Soul-Care

When we first started this journey of parenting kids from hard places, I was in a constant state of educating myself.  I would watch all the Karyn Purvis videos I could find.  She was so gentle but so firm and such a fan of the kids in her care, I wanted my parenting to look like her.  

Karyn Purvis is amazing and I learned so much from her, but when I tried to do what she did it was falling flat.  I learned all her phrases and I now say them as if they were mine. 

"Let's try that again with respect."

But something wasn't clicking for me.  I felt impoverished and frustrated.  

I was scheduled to speak for a women's retreat and our theme was "Flourish", a theme I helped pick out.  In the back of my head, a voice kept telling me I couldn't speak on flourishing when I wasn't flourishing.  The more the voice spoke, the more I started to fall apart.  But I kept studying, because no matter how desperately I was falling apart I was determined to speak.

One day as I studied Psalm 92, I saw it clear as day.  I saw the fault in my thinking, at least one my faults. 



I grabbed onto the words "flourish like", it didn't say the righteous will flourish if they do all the right things.  It just said that they flourish.  They flourish because God makes them to flourish.  This is not their own thing, this is the work of God.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about how we start thinking we can create things like community and spiritual experiences, when what we are called to is to enter into what God is already doing.  I am called to walk into the flourishing that God is already doing in my life.

The question then became, why do we flourish like a palm tree?  Palm Trees were considered the most useful trees of the ancient world, they provided materials, to build homes, make rope, feed cattle, and their fruit feed humans.  They can bend and sway in a storm without coming down.  I am supposed to be flourishing like this tree, bending and swaying in the storm without falling apart.  It is also the storm that causes them to flourish, it is the storm that strengthens their trunk.  It is my storm that is causing me to flourish.  It is parenting kids from hard places that is causing me to flourish.

To care for kids from hard places and flourish we must engage in soul-care.

When Beth Guckenberger is speaking about caring for kids from hard places, she says things like, "There is not enough Diet Coke in the world for me to like you past noon."  

Can I get an AMEN??? For me there is not enough coffee in the world to make it to bedtime without tripping a trigger.

We need SOUL-CARE to get us from morning to bedtime.

I have watched mamas and daddys and siblings and teachers do this journey and come out the other side joyful and I have watched some come out of it devastatingly bitter. Let's not be the bitter ones, let's be the joyful ones.  

Cristine's Guide to SOUL-CARE:

1. You are a SOUL and you must commune with the one who made your soul.  

You must pray and meditate and read the Bible and create sacred space in your heart.... if you want to change your mind-set, if you want to be joyful, if you do not want to grow bitter.  I know its hard. I know everyone wants a piece of you. I know there are a thousand reasons why you don't do this, but can I suggest that you don't do it because it is vulnerable and painful.  It is painful to lay out the hurt and frustration.  It is painful to let go of your dreams and expectations.  It is painful to say to God, "Whatever you will my story to be, I am okay with that."

2. You must create a SACRED SPACE.  

A place to rest, a place to think, a place to feel, a place to be safe.  Kids from hard places are notorious for crossing all our boundaries, manipulating us and taking away our safe spaces.  What if you had a space that for a designated period of time was just yours to be safe and vulnerable, a place to think and feel and ponder?  This summer that space for me was on the porch before anyone else opened their eyes.  Now it is in front of our little, space heater that looks like a fireplace.  I pretend it is a fireplace, I pretend I'm in the mountains and I make that space sacred.  


3. You must offer yourself GRACE.

You have to have grace with yourself when it comes to soul-care.  I do NOT make it every morning, some mornings I have early meetings and sometimes I have late nights and early mornings are not a good idea.  The goal is not perfection, the goal is soul-care and inflicting shame on myself is the opposite of soul-care.  

You also MUST have grace with yourself as you deal with your kids.  There are hard moments and most of the time there doesn't seem to be a perfect solution.  I had one of these moments this morning.  As I was reflecting on this interaction, I realized that my response was probably not the best solution.  It was a solution and it wasn't a bad one, but there were definitely better ways to handle it.  I chose grace and then I chose practice. I replayed the scenario and I practiced doing it better.  I practiced having more empathy (which we'll talk about down the road in another post) and redirecting and choosing my words more carefully.  And I practiced GRACE.

4. You must have FRIENDS.

Friendships are a big part of soul-care.  As souls, we were made to be in communion with other souls. I love deep conversations over coffee, long walks, learning new things and moments of hilarity.  All of these things bring life to my soul.  The best friendships not only encourage me, but challenge me.  It's in these friendships that I have gained the courage to face another hard day and found new wisdom for the hard places.  You must find a friend you can laugh with, because laughter is good medicine.  It is as important as finding a friend you can cry with.



5. You must take care of your BODY

There is not enough coffee for me to like my kids at the end of the day.  There is also not enough coffee to provide the energy my body needs. I'm a little like a plant, I need sunshine and exercise and lots of water. I have to have people around me that also value this, and I follow people on social media that remind me to drink more water and go to the gym and not to eat doughnuts on hard days (it's a thing).

6. You must do something you ENJOY

I set aside time everyday to read.  Reading creates a space for me to slow down, engage with an idea and maybe relax a little bit.  Quite honestly, it is a sacred space for me.  It is where my ideas are stretched and my world is broadened.  It is where I started to learn what it would be like to walk in my kid's shoes by understanding our cultural differences and how their background has changed the way their brain responds to the world.  



There is no way to shift your mindset from "I'm going to fix this child" to "I CANNOT FIX THEM" without soul-care.  Take some time to take care of your soul and next time we are going to jump into how to grow in empathy for your child.  

Resources:

1. Karyn Purvis is the BOMB.  I still watch her, hoping someday to be as gentle as she is.  She challenges my parenting and quite honestly, she nourishes my soul.



2. I mentioned a quote from Beth Guckenberger, check her out! She will challenge you to care for your soul :)



3. This podcast helps me rethink my perspectives and make the mind set changes I need to make. Honestly Adoption Podcast



4. If you want to hear more on flourishing, this is a video of my Mother's Day Message at SONrise, Flourish: Made to Be Flourishing

Monday, November 12, 2018

Parenting 101: I Cannot Fix Them

Although I would like to pretend it’s not true, there are hard things in this world...people, hard circumstances and sometimes our kids are hard. The thing is, there are kids that have a harder time in the world because the world is hard. Some kids are harder than others because they come from a hard place. Karyn Purvis defines children from hard places as “children that have experienced some type of abuse, neglect or trauma during their lives (including prenatal exposure to substances or high levels of stress, difficult labor or birth before or medical trauma).”

If you have a kid from a hard place in your care, you know the struggle. Kids from hard places trigger us. They push on our tender places. They reveal something in us, something we don’t like.

I wonder if we struggle to respond well to hard kids because of our PRIDE. It might look something like this -
I would never act like that.
No kid of mine is going to act like that.
This makes me look REALLY bad.

OR when dealing with kids we don’t parent like a teacher or other caregiver...
my kid wouldn’t act like that.
What is wrong with their parents?
What is wrong with me that I can’t handle this?

I wish I could look you in the eye right now and speak these words to you -
It is hard, there is an ugliness that wells up inside us that we wish would go away. We, the strong safe adults, feel anger when we are hurt physically or emotionally. We, the strong safe adult feel frustration deep within when we are trying as hard as we can and nothing we try works. We, the strong safe adults, are not perfect and sometimes we have control issues and that butts up against the kiddos control issues.

When we look in the mirror, we find our own small child inside us, hurt and alone choosing its own coping mechanisms like escape, control, anger, laziness, overly helpful, blaming, so much blaming, shaming, overwork, or being super needy. I spent the majority of the first couple years of loving kids from hard places trying to fix them. Trying so hard that I was shaming myself when every technique in the book didn’t work.. I did not have the longview in mind because the short term was so overwhelming.

There has been a slow steady shift in my mind-set to, I CANNOT FIX THEM! 

I can provide interactions and environment that provide the structure that healing can happen in. I can work on me and shift my perspective. 

But I CANNOT FIX THEM! 

I was surprised when one of our last interventions did not work. I really thought it was going to be the key to my life becoming easier. The problem was that my son was not interested in participating. He had no desire, he shutdown and get this,

I COULD NOT MAKE HIM.

He reminded me daily that he didn’t have to if he didn’t want to. My pride was bruised, my desire to control was driving the truck and we were not liking each other.

Over the summer as I started to think about this differently. I realized, I can be in control of only me and my responses (I know we teach this to first graders but seriously, if you have a kid from a hard place you know they reveal the first grader in you). I can be in control of creating an environment for healing. I can be in control of the boundaries surrounding me. I can be in control of taking care of my own heart. I can be in control of my own expectations.  I am learning to let go of what I cannot control.

Over the next few posts I am going to dive a little deeper and show you how I have worked to make this shift in my own life.  I invite you to make this slow and steady shift from controlling our kids to guiding them.




Tuesday, October 30, 2018

My More Than Enough Life

How can I have so much and yet not enough?  




It seems that I do not have enough of the clothes I want to wear or the food I want to eat.  I don’t have enough time to do what I want to do and yet I have so much.

My house gets cluttered, my closet is full and so is my refrigerator.  I have more books than I have read and more movies than I can watch.

And yet, I have nothing to wear and nothing to eat.  I seem to always want what I do not have.  



I know I am not the only one, our whole culture operates this way.  Each new season brings new clothing trends and new food trends, like pumpkin spice everything (FYI... I don’t need that trend).

This seems to be a part of the first world human condition, too much but not enough.  I can not imagine that we are meant to live in this state, the angst and tension of needing more clouding our vision of what we have.  This tension becomes its own type of bondage, we become stingy and entitled whiners.  I have no desire to fall into the entitled whiner trap. Thus, I have developed strategies to combat the too much but not enough situation in my heart and in our home. These are neither new or creative but they are effective:

Be Thankful: I make a gratitude list as often as I remember, and more often when I’m feeling like I don’t have enough.  Today it looks something like this... I am thankful that I have clothes and I will be warm.  I am also thankful that I have a few really cute pieces of clothing that I really love.  I am thankful that my freezer is always full and not once in my life have I really experienced hunger.  I am thankful that my kids don’t experience hunger anymore and take full lunch boxes.

Clean It OutI have found the more paired down my wardrobe is, the more I feel like I have, things don’t get lost in the closet and I can easily find what I want to wear.



Be mindful when shopping:  OKAY,  this is the hardest solution for me.  I am an emotional shopper, especially with clothes.  I can stick to a grocery list (if my kids are not with me). But when I start looking at clothes, I imagine myself in the outfit and how amazing I will feel and I know it will definitely make my life better and in the cart it goes. 

Have a financial goal: I do much better when I am mindful, have a goal and make a list.  This summer I was really trying to create some fun experiences with our kids.  This required some financial goal setting and A LOT of self-discipline.  I went a whole month without buying coffee at any coffee shop in Torrington (I let myself buy it when we were out of town).  We did not eat out, except for fun meals when we were traveling.  The end result was lots of fun and I never once missed the coffee.




Use the library more than Amazon:  I have to throw this one in because I read a lot (check me out on Goodreads or on Instagram at cristinereads).  There are times when I buy books.  Because I read so much I have had to make some book buying guidelines for myself.  I buy the books my book club is reading, that’s about 12 books a year.   I really like to buy used or from an indie bookstore.  I also buy books when we are traveling. I try to buy books as souvenirs for myself and my kids when we travel by searching out indie bookstores, check out indiebound.org to find great bookstores.  But let's be real, I live in the middle of nowhere, with not a huge library and sometimes I need to use the 2-day Amazon prime shipping.


Splurge on experiences, not on things:  I want my kids to experience life, and not be tied down to things.  They think they are completely deprived because they don’t have an xbox one.  The money we would have spent on that has gone to museum memberships and zoo trips.  They have been to the theater and concerts. They have travelled widely within the United States.  I can guarantee, in the long run that those experiences will be more important than any gaming system that will go out of date.


That’s it! That's how I combat the too much but not enough syndrome.  Just the act of writing this down has reminded me how much I have, I have so much to be thankful for.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

My ReEvaluated Life

The wheels fell off the bus this week. All the way off the bus, rolled into the ditch and the bus screeched to a complete halt. Okay, let's be real, that is my first very dramatic response. It’s not really that dramatic, it's just time to re-evaluate.  Its no different than the parent/teacher conferences I just had with my ELL boys.  Every once in awhile we have to ask ourselves, what's working and what's not.  It turns out there are some things that are not working for me.

As fall comes and the sun doesn’t shine as brightly, I’m a little more tired, even a little more cranky. 
As my kids hit the end of the first quarter, the newness is wearing off and now people are complaining about going to school.

My energy can no longer run off warm days and sunny skies.  I was listening to Rachel Hollis' Facebook Live on Monday and this phrase stood out to me,

energy is not something we have, it is something we create

The season has changed, I can no longer create energy from the sun hitting my face, I need a new energy source. I think I’ll try the new energy source of.... coffee. JK, I want more coffee, but more coffee doesn’t actually help. It is in this season when I am tired and want to watch Netflix and eat junk food that I need physical exercise more than ever.  I am less active because it is less warm.  But I want less chub and less grumpiness, so I will have to hitting the gym more and eat good healthy green food. My new mantra, “less chocolate, more kale, less Netflix, more treadmill."




I was running off the newness of my schedule and adrenaline. Adrenaline burns out and newness tarnishes. I have to find something a little more consistent to make them go around. Rhythms replace adrenaline. Don’t get me wrong, I love running off adrenaline. I love the jolt of energy and flying down the highway at the speed of light and throw-you-off-the-cliff kind of feeling. But that only takes you so far and usually ends in a crash. Consider us crashed.

Putting the kids in public school has been a complete shift in our family rhythm. In August, Paul and I worked to create a decent daily rhthym, and when-the-kids-are-away rhythm. We didn’t really establish a family rhythm. This week, we had to sit down and figure out a family rhythm. Expectations had to be restated and a rhythm re-found. Rhythms help our kids feel safe and secure. Now they know what to expect so they aren’t randomly getting into trouble for not meeting an expectation that they didn’t know existed.

Here we go, we got some rhythm, let’s get some purpose.

Purpose takes the place of newness. So much about this fall was new. 

Kids were in school, I was putting more energy into the church. 
Our oldest went to college. 
I used to cook three meals a day for my kids, now I sometimes make one. 

All of this was fun, but the newness is fading. The cracks are showing. I have to know my purpose. Why am I doing what I am doing? It’s been a while since I have written a purpose statement for myself. In Micah 6, Micah reminds the Judeans of their purpose and I think I will steal it as my purpose statement.

HE has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you?
But to DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, and TO WALK HUMBLY with your God 

Although all of these three phrases goes together.  The phrase that is really connecting with me is to LOVE MERCY.   I don't always love mercy, because mercy feels unfair and like I'm giving something up.

The thing is that what really sent the wheels flying off the bus was me.

I want to feel a certain way....happy, peaceful, in control
I want my life to go in a certain direction.
I want to be affirmed and told I’m doing a really good job.
I want people to like me.
I want to be valuable.
I want to be important.
I want my family to love and appreciate me.
I want to have a voice and have people listen to it.
100% me



Without fixing this, this bus will only gimp along. It's not that I don’t read my Bible or pray. It's not that I don’t listen to podcasts or sermons or worship music... okay I barely listen to worship music, but we can talk about that later. It's not that I don’t serve the church or read books that grow my faith or journal. I do all these things. I serve and serve. 

I love my “job” but I struggle with the people. And when I say struggle, I mean I am embarrassed to be associated with certain people.
 
I struggle with the people that have so combined their beliefs and politics that it has become a religion.
I struggle with people on social media who proclaim truth, but to the end that it serves them. 
I struggle with people that leave no space for diversity or differences or viewpoints that are different than theirs. 

My struggle has left me embarrassed to be a follower of Jesus.

I know the real problem here is me, and the solution is Jesus. But what if that means people think that I hate the same people that they hate because we both say that we follow Jesus. I don’t want that and I don’t know what to do with that. I have found that this tension requires mercy, for me and for others. In Anne Lamott’s book, Hallelujah Anyway, she riffs on the theme of mercy. And when dissecting how mercy met the Samaritan woman she says this, “She kept lying. Jesus did not stomp away. He stayed with her.” Maybe following Jesus means following him to these places with all the people I struggle with. When I feel like the “christian political agenda” is self-serving and not people serving and certainly not even close to serving the Kingdom of God, I am not going to stomp away. I will try to at least graciously walk away without stomping.

In the best version, I will bring mercy to the table. 



Anne Lamott finishes the chapter with this:

Jesus said to the woman at the well, Be like me: be true to who you really are; be in truth, share, and above all, try to forgive.

This is the mercy I will hold out to the others and myself...
Be like Jesus
Be true to who Jesus made me to be
Be in truth
Share
Try to forgive

I would love to know how you are re-evaluating your life?  What are the things that keep you moving?


Monday, October 1, 2018

My Rhythmed Life

Rhythm’s make life easier. We are made for rhythm, the rising and setting of the sun, the seasons, the phases of the moon, and most obviously, when great music comes on we can't stop moving. All of this tells us that we were created for rhythm. I wane in and out of rhythm in my life. Sometimes my groove is totally on and I am moving through life.  I'm productive, but rested.  I spend time doing what I love and feel great about.  But there are other times in my life when my groove is OFF.  I'm tripping all over myself.  I don't love how I am spending my time and I can't figure out how to be productive.  

Just like untangling the knots of my emotional life, to really understand my life I have to observe it.  I make note of when I feel good and when I feel out of sync.  I track down the source of the angst and make a correction.  I have noticed that during seasons of having my groove on, this is what my weekly rhythm looks like.

Mondays are for getting my life in order, calendar, groceries, meal prep, etc
Tuesdays are for every kind of staff meeting you can think of, from our whole staff to worship planning to stage decor
Wednesdays are for youth group prep and youth group 
Thursdays are for laundry and putting the house together
Fridays are for rest and hanging out with friends
Saturdays are for family and recreation with a mix of weekend service prep
Sundays are for gathering with my church family, laughing with my SLUGs (student leadership underground group), with a nap thrown in there somewhere

To keep my groove grooving, my days must have rhythms too.  The times are not important for this to work, but moving through the flow is.

Get up, start coffee and listen to a podcast
Make lunches and throw in a load of laundry
Get the kids to school
Workout and listen to a podcast or book
Give my Soul some rest through meditation and reflection
Get on to the days tasks
Nightly walk/debrief the day with Paul

My weekly workouts even have a rhythm... gym, yoga at home, gym, yoga at home, gym, super long walk, nap.

To keep my rhythms in check I have to check-in with my values. This has not been the easiest task for me. I’m an ENFP, otherwise known as the never ending loop opener, i.e. it takes an act of God to close a loop. I have to set aside time to check-in with myself and ask myself what is still resonating with me and start closing the open loops that are no longer apart of the values I am called to at the moment. This is a great Monday activity for me.

One of the ways I keep my rhythms going is by having music to guide me.  The music I choose helps to point my heart in the right direction. This changes regularly, but this is the playlist for the moment.

For the last six months, I have started my days with this...




Then I wake my kids up with this... 




My Soul Rest time is guided by this album...




When I’m connecting with my social justice longings, I listen to this...




You can find the whole album here:
https://open.spotify.com/album/3HmkL2AENDW4XO9Da0NGy9?si=paxOAvx9SFCNC4ayln9U4w

When I’m getting my life in order and enjoying life, I listen to this...



You can find the whole album here:
https://open.spotify.com/album/7dwIWyB2jdJgL3P2JEgRKm?si=4dTU7F8ZT3SMqMEPrc8M7w

I bet you have rhythms too. Intentional rhythms guide us, unintentional rhythms can hinder us. Do you know what your rhythms are? I would love to hear how you create rhythms in your life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My Spiritual Life: Doubt

Doubt becomes WONDER 
~ Audrey Assad

I’m besties with doubt, in my early thirties this unraveled me. I can clearly recall sitting at Harmon Park in Kearney wondering how I was going to have a meaningful conversation with the young woman I was preparing to meet.  How when when my faith felt so shaky, so unsure would I have anything of value to lend her? At the time we served in a church that was built around certainty. If we weren’t certain we didn’t do it. If we weren’t certain, we were doubting and if we were doubting, we were sinning.

So there I was swinging and crying and mad because I wasn’t certain of anything. I wasn’t certain God was good. I wasn’t certain he was faithful.  I wasn’t certain we wouldn’t get to the end and find out it was all a sham.  I had a choice to make, was I going to be real about my doubt or was I going to pretend to be certain. The choice was HARD! This wasn’t safe. This wasn’t easy. This could be the undoing of me. I was certain of one thing, judgement loomed just around the corner.

That night I sat in my living room across from this beautiful put-together young professional, who was everything I was not, and said, “I have to be real, I have some doubts.” Her response was relief that I, a pastor’s wife, would also doubt. That I, someone who was supposed to have it all together, would say through tears, “I don’t know, but can we figure it out together.”


But, like I said, I’m besties with doubt.  This wasn’t the first time I admitted doubt and it wouldn’t be the last. But it was the first time I let someone in on my secret. It was the first time I noticed words like “wonder” and “mystery” in scripture and began to make friends with doubt. I made it my bestie. Now, I want every doubt I have about Jesus, the Bible, and the church to lead me to wonder, that magical feeling of awe. When I question the way we handle different issues within the church, I want to link hands with doubt and wonder, not always the magical wonder but the wonder that leads to questions and doesn’t just accept answers, like, “because it’s the way we’ve always done it.” This wonder asks and digs and keeps asking.

Here is my promise to you, when you doubt, I will link hands with you and doubt. We will wonder together. Sometimes, we will stand in awe at the profound mystery we have stumbled upon and other times we will ask as many questions as we can.  We will become besties with doubt.




Saturday, September 22, 2018

My Mommy Life - Knots

I would be a better mom if I could get rid of the knots inside me, the things that trigger me and make me crazy. I would offer greater wider spaces for grace if I knew that space for myself. I know this because of the knots already untangled, the shame already put to rest, the space for grace already offered.

I have found it to be consistently true that people who have dealt with their own shame are less likely to shame others. I have also found it to be true that those who have found wide open spaces of grace are able to offer those to others.

The difficulty is... how do I do the hard work of untangling? 

Once upon a time, I cross-stitched and once upon a time, I crocheted. If you know me, you may be giggling right now because these are detail oriented operations. There is counting and special stitches and ridiculous hours of hand cramps and neck aches but I did it because the mature women around me did it. It was possible that this would be the key to my maturity. Both of these activities nearly always required me to untangle knots.  Maybe this is why these women were mature, they had the patience to find and untangle the knots. They knew which knots to cut and start over and which knots could be easily untangled. 

I’m now looking at the handiwork of my life and trying to decipher the same thing.  I know that some knots need to be completely cut away and I need to let go and start over.  Others can be easily untangled, it’ll take time, patience and energy but over time the knot will be freed and the thread ready to stitch something beautiful.  I want something beautiful...not something crazy...not something triggered, but something full of grace and exquisitely beautiful.  





As I ponder the nature of knots, I recognize that they have some wisdom to lend me.  The process of untangling emotional and long-held-onto-belief knots is very similar to the process of untangling physical knots.

First, follow the string. What was I feeling before I snapped, lost it, went crazy and flipped my lid? Emotions are crazy destructible magnetic little buggers. They attach themselves to the wrong things and place blame in unlikely places. For example, one morning I may realize that our money in our food budget has been spent for the month but we still have a week left and at the same time one of my children is disrespectful. I am likely to blame my frustration on my child’s disrespect when the real culprit is my anxiety about money issues.

Second, ponder, get curious. Why would it be that this would cause me anxiety? Is there something in my past that leads me to believe that this is worthy of being angry, scared, anxious or nervous over?

Third, tell yourself the truth.  "I want my kids to do what I say when I say it.  My need for control is not their problem and not worth hurting our relationship."

Finally, fix what you broke and start making something beautiful out of the untangled knot.  Say you are sorry to people who were hurt by your emotional outburst or silent treatment and move on.

I know that being a better mom, means dealing with my own junk.  This is hard work and the harder our kids are the more aware we have to be about the knots in our lives.  I'm working on untangling, how about you?