Wednesday, March 28, 2012

True Confessions...

I'll confess something to you... I've been noticing my impatience with the kids lately. I try to notice and tell myself to do a "re-do". What I used to do when I blew it was walk away and beat myself up in my head. I'd say, "What's wrong with you Michele? You think you'd know better by now!" But guilting myself out only keeps me in a negative cycle and is so unproductive. I find it much more helpful to just stop and observe my negative behavior rather that judge it, and then immediately retrain my body memory by having myself do a "re-do". I tell myself exactly what I'd tell my kids if they were impatient and disrespectful. "Whoa, you want to try that again with respect?" Then I take a deep breath and do a "re-do". If I've blown it with a person, it also involves an apology on my part. It's so easy to form a negative habit, but I'm learning it's just as easy to replace them with positive ones. I also try to make time at some point to think about what might be driving my negative behavior. What am I feeling? What do I need? What is causing the stress or fear that is driving my negative behavior? 

Lately, I think I've been short and impatient because I've been overwhelmed. I'm doing too much and not getting enough sleep. Recently, I took on a side job to help a neighbor decorate her daughter's room. Also this week, my husband is out of town for work. The girl's spring sports have just started and if that's not enough, all our family's dental appointments and annual doctor appointments happen to fall in the next few weeks. I'm adding on extra things, with one less set of hands, and trying not to let go of any of my normal responsibilities. I think when I take on extra projects every now and then, or Keith is traveling and I lose my extra set of hands, I need to reassess and choose to lay down, for a time, a few things that I normally do. At first glance, it can appear that there is nothing I can put down, but if I look a little more closely and am honest with myself, I realize there are a lot of things I can delete from my schedule, even if it's just temporarily. For instance, I can lay down cooking, cleaning, bathing, sleeping... hee hee hee.  Okay, seriously, I can limit my time on the computer. (...after I finish this of coarse.) I love to read and write and there are so many great resources that can eat up my time on there. For me, it can be like a Calgon bath and take me away. I get on to just check a few emails and then 2 hours later... Whatever did we do before computers? I can forgo staying up late to watch some of my favorite shows that I taped. Whatever did we do before we recorded shows? I can turn off my cell phone. Whatever did we do before cell phones? I can simplify the meals I plan that week. I'll still cook, but just make simple meals. The kids favorites are the easy ones anyway.

In today's world with all it's distractions, I'm convinced that if we are not intentional about what we give our time to, we will not have time for the most important things. My goal is to give my husband and each of my children at least 10 minutes of  'focused, fun, all about them time' each day. I want them to genuinely know, without a doubt, that they are precious, cherished, and valued! It's not easy with a husband and 5 kids (4 still at home), to make time for each of them every day, but there is really nothing more important that I could do with my time. Not only does it fill their love tank, but it fills mine as well. We are created for relationships, we are created to love one another, there is nothing more fulfilling! We sometimes think, I just don't have time, but I've learned that we always have time for what's most important to us. 

Last, but certainly not least, if my love tank is empty and not getting filled, I have nothing to give. I need time with my Father every day. Not in a legalistic way, but in a father / daughter taking their daily walk in the garden kind of way. My Father offers me ' focused, fun, all about me time' each day as well. I look forward to our special time when He assures me that I am precious, cherished, and valued, not because of what I do or don't do, but because I'm His daughter. Those times with Him fill me, sustain me, and overflow to those around me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Love one another as I have loved you... Jn 13:34

I’m learning that loving people is the path to helping others find a meaningful relationship with Jesus. When I love as He loves, others can actually experience who God is through me. As I reflect God's love, people can’t help but be introduced to Him. I used to try to share my faith with a lot of words and scriptures. I tried to live out (as well as impose on others) godly principles, obligations, and rules. I thought a relationship with God was all about “doing what’s right and avoiding what’s wrong”. I thought the goal was to get to heaven and avoid hell. I lived in the question that the pharisees lived in, “What must I do to have eternal life?” Then I realized, the reason Jesus always seemed to be answering a different question than they were asking was because they were asking the wrong question. They were looking at life through the wrong lens. Jesus was trying to get them to change their whole paradigm. If you think that you have to “do” something to earn it, you will stay on that exhausting treadmill that never gets you anywhere. You will always feel conditionally loved (which is not love at all). It’s not about what you must do, but about seeing what’s already been done. It’s about opening your eyes to how loved you are. About seeing your true unsurpassable worth through His eyes as well as seeing others unsurpassable worth. 

Our salvation is not based on being good or bad, right or wrong, in or out. Salvation is a work that was done for us 2000 years ago. It's not something to work toward, but to wake up to, so we can walk in security and freedom, manifesting who we are... children of God. We are loved no matter what choices we make, that is settled. Our choices matter in so far as they carry natural consequences that can bring us and others either pain and suffering, or healing and wholeness. God cares about our choices because He cares about us. He, like any good parent, only wants what will bring His children the fullest life possible. 

Language like “right/wrong, good/bad, in/out” all have to do with eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We were never meant to eat from that tree. When we eat from that tree, we ask all the wrong questions because we come from a place of fear and judgement instead of from a place of love. When we live our life from the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of Life, we are deceived and live independent of Him. We end up trying to save ourselves. We don't see the truth of what has already been done for us, and therefore, can't enjoy the freedom and security of walking with Him and resting in Him.       

My husband and I have 5 children, three biological sons who are now in their 20′s, and 2 daughters we adopted from China that are 10 and 6. As my older children hit their teen years, my religious world came crashing down. The “formula” didn’t work. I couldn’t understand. We raised our children in church from birth. In fact, it consumed most of our time. We fed them scriptures and tried to model the “good” christian life…  When my children began to struggle, I felt frustrated. When they did wrong, I was disappointed in them, and when they did right, I was proud of them. I figured that's how God felt about me when I did right or wrong. I reflected the image I had of my Father. I viewed Him as a conditional lover, someone to fear if I didn’t do what was right. 

As I'm getting to know my Father's true nature, I’m reflecting a completely different image. I’m beginning to love my kids where they are.  I'm learning to crawl into their pain with them and really listen to them. I'm realizing that I can validate their feelings without condoning their actions. As I reassure them of their preciousness in the midst of their mess, and remind them that our love and God’s love for them never changes, it sets them free to be honest with themselves. I'm discovering that walking with them in love has far greater impact than shaming them ever did. Shame and condemnation seek to control external behavior. Walking in love opens a door for trust and influence.

Psychiatrists say there are only two primary emotions: Love and Fear.  All other emotions stem from one of these two primary emotions. Fear and love cannot co-exist. As I begin to get a glimpse of how perfectly I am loved, fear is being driven out. God says, perfect love drives out fear. I have spent too much time in the past operating from a place of fear because I believed it was more powerful than love. I was wrong. Love is much more powerful. The best fear can offer is temporary conformity. It never actually heals what is driving the behavior. Love is a better way, love transforms.