Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Parenting at it's core. Jesus, spanking, and perceptions.

I believe that the way we parent our children lays the foundation for who they believe God is.

I train parents. I have no idea how I got into this. I don't think I am great at it. But I do think God is great, and he uses asses like me.

A while back I spoke to a group of pastors from a large church. They asked us to come in and teach our parenting techniques, and research-based interventions to their entire church staff. I was ecstatic, you see usually we train in non-religious groups so I don't get to talk about how I believe these methods are truly the heart of God, I was excited to get to share the parts that I am most passionate about.

Yet I left weeping.

God didn't tell me that training parents meant I would be shifting people's beliefs of who God is. I didn't realize that we parent our children, the way we believe God has parented us.
(Tellingly, when I train a group of non-Christian parents the idea of grace based parenting, and attachment focused problem solving goes over so well. They have not confused the way they parent their children with their views of God, and thus research-based parenting techniques that require second-chances, and shame-free parenting methods are easily grasped.)

It is really hard to not distance your children when they make a terrible choice if you believe that God distances you when you make a terrible choice.

It is difficult to encourage parents to listen to their children, and respect their feelings, even if their children are being disrespectful; when you believe that you cannot go to God when you are angry or disappointed. That God only listens when you have your stuff together.

I believe that God wants us to come messy. He wants us to come angry.
He wants us to work out the mess of this world with Him.
And ultimately we are shaping little hearts and minds toward God, or away.
And we do this most directly in how we act when kids mess up.

I think this is the core issue when we watch young people stray from God as they become adults. Because when they finally get to make decisions for themselves, they run from disconnection, fear-based obligations, and harsh judgements or punishments.

I am nowhere near perfect, I mess up all the time. And I know that doesn't represent my Heavenly Father well to my children. But my hope in all of my failures, is that my children see that I will never remove my love, acceptance, or emotional availability from them despite their choices. I give grace, lot's of it. And the beauty in that, is that I get grace.

If we decided to start parenting with the grace and unconditional love that we preach about from pulpits, I believe we would see revival again, beginning in the youth.
But this would require a bunch of us adults to deal with our skewed views of who we think our Heavenly Father truly is, and why we believe He is that way.
And that is hard stuff.

(Here are a couple of the blogs I read that gave me the courage to finally post this blog I had written a while a back, was afraid to put out there.)
and This.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Unrelated things I am Pondering

A friend texted me today and said she was pondering my wise words, and quoted me. It totally made me laugh.

I am so not wise. At least I don't feel that way. And I am totally fine with that.

Summer has brought me to my knees. And I don't mean in that thank-God-for-all-He's-done kind of way. And that is probably my problem. [Should I just end the post here?]

One of my sweet dear children lost his mind while we were in New York. And we're all still recovering. It sort of rocked our[my] boat.

Our pastor started a series on rest when we returned from New York. And it's funny how God does sh&% like that you, when you're feeling more stressed and confused than ever before, he wants you to hear about rest. Because upon our return, I was feeling as if I would never be able to rest again. And summer was just beginning. And I was trapped.

My definition of rest= leaving my children for a designated period of time to not take care of anyone, at all.

Our pastor started out the series with the idea that most of us rest from our work, when we should be working from our rest.

I wanted to stand up and shout, "Hello! I am a mother of five traumatized kids!" (I do realize only three of the came to me traumatized, and I take full responsibility for traumatizing the other two.)
"I don't get any rest to work from! And when I do get rest, it isn't to fuel my work, it's to keep me out of jail!"

Needless to say, I showed up the other three weeks to hear all the answers to how I could feel rested. And work from my rest. If I get it figured out this summer, I will fill you in.
But I haven't yet. I think it might take a lifetime to fully grasp God's rest.

So I am pondering rest.
I pondered it in the middle of the night last night as I curled up at the feet of D's bed because I had left my own after a coughing toddler and snoring husband had me lying there pondering how to suffocate them both, with one pillow.

I pondered it while sitting in the backyard at 2 am with the puppy who refuses to go to the bathroom outside.

And I pondered it while watching 10 kids at the pool ages 7 and under.

How do I do the work of mothering from a place of rest? How do I work from my rest and not rest from my work?

I will continue to ponder it next week when I leave all my children behind. I think I will get all the answers on rest while I sit on the bow of a boat, on the lake.

(And to my friends who are helping to watch dear sweet child, I will eternally owe you, and I already asked God for an extra big shiny jewel for your crown, that I get to put there!)

Eternal Perspective
When I talk about adoption and foster care in the big picture, it is easy to remind and encourage others that they are changing the world. Literally, I believe that. From my core.

But I read this quote the other day that made me cry, and laugh, and try to blow away the mist... "Sometimes the mist of our time clouds our eternal perspective." - A.W. Tozer.

The more I work with hurting kids, the more my kids hurt, the more mist I see clouding my perspective of eternity. And thus I am pondering how to gain eternal perspective in the mist of summer cloudy days.

We have one that keeps sneaking around our house, and eating our berries, and our trash, and pooping on our driveway. And I am pondering killing him. And making a sweet sexy rug for my bedroom.

I am so so grateful for other adults in my children's lives. When people asked me why I don't think I went super crazy as a teenager, I attribute it a little a lot to my parents, and even more so to their wisdom in putting other adults they trusted that WERE NOT THEM, into my life.

It was essential for me to have other adults. Adults who gave me love and praise that I did not and/or could not receive from my parents. Adults they knew and trusted, and that I loved.

I am so grateful for having other adults in my children's lives. And they're still little. I believe our friendship with so many amazing people is benefiting my children more than I could ever imagine. Demetrius' very first case-worker is now a close friend. She knew him before we knew him, she knows what he looked like as an infant, and has stories of he and his birth-mom that I don't. Her friendship is an unspeakable joy in my life, and I know she will be a part of the village that is helping to raise up this amazing man!

We have bad-ass pastor friends that hunt and shoot guns, and stop bad-guys, and they will always be cooler than us, and I am so grateful for them. They will speak Jesus into our kid's lives like I never could.

We have a single friend who loves on my kids like they were her own, she spoils them and gives them all the stuff that I forget to do. And she makes them feel wonderful. When a kid get's in trouble by David, they cry for me. When a kid gets in trouble by me, they cry for David. But when a kid gets in trouble from both of us, they cry for her. And it melts my heart, and is worth eternity that they have someone like that.

I LOVE sitting at football practice and watching the coaches teach my boys about responsibility and being a good friend to everyone, and all the lessons I try to teach them everyday. I love that there are big strong black men modeling for my sons what it means to be a big strong black man.
And I could go on and on.

I am pondering how on earth we got so blessed to be surrounded by the village of amazing adults that we have, because Lord knows, it will take a village.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


There's been a lot of hustling around here lately.

And sometimes as a mom, the one who is suppose to make the world make sense, the one who is the kisser of boo-boos and the wiper of tears, the one who sings them to sleep, and wakes them with mango juice and fresh eggs, the one who determines the fate of desserts and night time rituals, it is unbearable to watch my kids hustle for their worthiness.

And yet even in my prideful reality of believing that I could fix it, if just...
I realize that I am hustling too.
It's not my job to heal my kids.
It's not my job to protect them.
It's not my job to try and make-up for the losses they've endured.
I can't hustle hard enough, or fast enough, or long enough.

I just can't.

And it's so offensive to me.
Because if I could, I would.
I would make up for everything that they've lost.
I would wipe away the hurt and pain.
I would erase rejection from their souls.

Because hustling is no way to live.
Hustling is exhausting.
Hustling is ugly.
Hustling is consuming.

As a mom to kids from the hard places, this is the hardest part. Injecting worthiness and hope into children whose stories have so far told them the opposite.
I've mentioned here before that shifting foundations is slow and tedious work. And I just have to keep reminding myself of this.

I am not at all hope-less.
I am not at all defeated.
But I have been hustling.
Their stories are now my stories.
And I need to find my path in them.
Not stand outside their stories and hustle to help them find their worthiness.
But stand with them, in their pain, and remember, it is our story now.
And God promises to complete the story.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Art of Playful Engagement

 I woke up on the wrong side of the bed the other day. Which means all of us did. I had only been up about an hour, when I realized that this day was going to go on the books of bad attitudes and negativity if I didn't do something to turn this ship around.
Now in another life, I would just go back to bed. I would sleep for another hour or two, and then take a shower alone, it would be warm, and no one would bust down the door trying to tell on anyone. Then I would have a quiet cup of tea with warm eggs and read a book, in quiet. Until my over-tired body woke up and I started this beautiful day with a smile. 
But I don't live in that world. 
At five am, my husbands alarm went off.
Then at around six my lovely, naked (as per usual) three year old came to snuggle me, he slipped under the covers and backed up into me. Then he turned his head and kissed me and said, "Mama, there is poop all over my bed and all over my bum."
That was the beginning of this day. 
And it went on from there. 
Kids refusing to get dressed for school. 
Snobby chef inspired children who were critiquing my over easy eggs, that I had "ruined their natural bitterness with all this garlic salt! Next time just use the chopped onion! And DON'T flip them!"

My little blessings were feeling more like God's plagues. What have I done that you must smite me Lord?!

I knew I had to restart the day. 

And then it came to me. The angels were singing and the lights from heaven were shinning down on me, as I started an aria about the water cups that my three year old had left in the middle of the kitchen floor. He had just finished throwing a fit because he wanted to get it on his own, and I'd let him, just for him to turn around and put it on the floor, get another, and fill it, then place it on the floor. By the time I had walked backed into the kitchen there were six glasses full of water in the middle of the floor. 

And so it began. 

A bel canto that went something like this, "You wanted A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a glass of water. You wanted A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a glass of water. You wanted to get it by yourself. Now you have gotten the whole neighborhood glasses of water, and my kitchen has become a splash zone. PLEEEEEEEASE dump them ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL out in the sink. NOwwwwwwwwwww (I held out now for a super long time.) And put every single glass back in the cupboard. 

All of the kids froze. It was a moment from heaven. 
And then all of us started laughing, for a long time. 

And thus it had begun. 

The rest of the day was filled with song. It was like being at the grand opera. There was emotion, tears, falsetto, crescendo, there was laughter, and drama. 

There were songs about practicing dribbling in the kitchen (for unending hours at a time), there were repetitive motif's about the toothbrush heads I find all over the house, in beds, and in DVD cases, in bathtubs, and music boxes, the toothbrush heads are everywhere except in the bathroom. 

There were many melodramas touching subjects from homework, to genital cleaning procedures, to sharing trains, to lessons on reactional behavior. 

And if nothing else, it kept me calm, and laughing, instead of angry, and upset. When you are constantly bursting into song, you can't go there. It kept me calm. And laughing. 

When I teach TBRI® Correction Principles I always emphasis level one, Playful Engagement. It is the beginning. This is how we should always begin to correct behavior in children. Because most often, they know. They know they've made a bad choice, and they wish they could take it back. SO just a playful, "Whoa Nelly!" or an over exaggerated British accent "Excuse me sir?!" Or whatever else, works for you. That makes your kids smile, that makes you feel ridiculous, and forces a smile out of you too. That is where we should all begin with correction. Because often times, when we don't go straight into attack mode, when we laugh, that's all it takes. Do you know the brain HAS to be fully engaged to laugh, to find humor. And when the brain is fully engaged is when we learn the most, and the quickest. It only takes 12 repetitions about the toothbrush heads in song. But when I scream, it can take over 350 repetitions. 

Early in the day I put up a Facebook post about my new parenting strategy. My friend suggested I try rapping as well. I was afraid that would encourage my cursing. You see it is so hard to use foul language when singing opera. But she uses it like this: "I said a hip hip a hippity hop. You bettah clean up yo room or I won't stop. " 

So try it? Whatever works for you. For me it's opera. I feel that I can add more drama and umph. For you maybe it's rap? Or country? 

But whatever you try, I bet it will help keep things light, and fun in your home. And I know we all want more of that.

(Side note, after a morning of singing I found this going on in the basement. Apparently they wanted me to just let it go! This is the first time I've ever heard Charli sing.)


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A place at the table.

One of our kiddo's self talk is really bad.
I've talked before about the attachment cycle, a baby cries and a tender, responsive, and consistent care giver is suppose to respond, every time. This cycle of, I have a need- I get upset... You hear me, you come- you help me calm, this is the attachment cycle. This cycle happens hundreds of thousands of times in an infants first year of life, and it lays the foundation for self-worth, self-efficacy, and mental health.

Unfortunately, three of our five kiddos didn't get this ground work laid correctly. And we are working to help shift and replace their foundations. I consider it one of our most important roles.

The negative self talk is heart breaking for me and comes from this experience of: I cried and no one came, I do not matter. Or I cried and someone came and treated me poorly, thus I am bad. The way I often describe it is this, most children walk into a room and assume everyone in that room adores them, and wants to hear all about their minecraft explorations, or worm digging, or football practice, they assume that they are the center of the universe. And so it should be.

Many kids who didn't have the correct attachment foundations don't feel this way. They walk into a room and assume they are disliked. They assume that they are the worst, or the stupid-est, or the one everyone is laughing at. And so many times any correction, or rule enforcing comes across as a direct confirmation to them that their worst fears are true.
"I knew I was the worst one."
"I knew she didn't like me."

Recently the negative self talk had taken a turn for the worse with one of our sweet babies. So we began talking with him regularly about how his choices, whether good or bad, do not effect our view of him. We talk with him regularly about how our love is constant, just like Papa God's.

Its been interesting to see his development as this truth has begun to take hold in his heart.

Yesterday I totally messed up with him and flipped my lid. As I was apologizing (a few minutes later) I asked him, "Do you still love me?"
He looked up at me as if I were crazy.
"Of course!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.
As I pulled him in tight I whispered, "Thank you! That is exactly how I feel whenever you make a poor choice. Of course I still love you! I will never stop loving you."

He asks for reminders about his status of unconditional love. What I have found most interesting is this, he often asks at dinner.
He still needs confirmation of his spot at the table.

He doesn't ask in times of trouble, and he doesn't ask in times of joy. He asks during the everyday moment in which we gather to feed our bodies and pour into each others souls.  The time when he looks around and can tangibly see each person's spot. He can actually see all of us, at once, fitting together, tucking ourselves around the table. And it is in these times when he feels our closeness as a unit, that he still doubts his place.

And that makes me cry.

And yet, what I love, is that now, instead of sitting there silently questioning his worth and his belonging. He reminds himself.
Sometimes it is a quiet whisper I hear him saying to just himself as he waits for his turn to talk about his day, and sometimes it is a declaration that he makes to all of us. "You guys love me no matter what!"

Progress is slow when you're shifting foundations.
But progress is progress.