Format Feedback Requested

Over the past year as I’ve written on my blog, I’ve tried to narrow my focus.  I like to write about my children and the stuff we are doing in school.  I like to write about different decorating projects I’m doing around the house or things I’m sewing.  I like to ponder the majesty of God and write a devotional thought occasionally.  I love to pass on ways to live frugally and save money by making it yourself.  I love to share about books I’m reading or Bible studies I’m working through.  And we all know I love to write about angry moms and their struggle to tame Mount Momma.  The problem is, there is a lot of great stuff to write about!

I’m so blessed to not only be a writer but to be constantly supplied with lots of topics to write on.  Sometimes life is busy and I never write as often as I’d like to, but I’d like to work on writing more regularly.  I’m thinking of setting up a weekly format to help me focus my writing and regularly provide posts on topics relevant to my readers.  These would be theme days like “Mommy Mondays” or “Frugal Fridays”, etc.  And so I need the help of my dear readers!

All of you lurkers out there, now is the time to comment!!  All of you who read occasionally, I really encourage you to subscribe to the blog and have it sent directly to your email whenever a new post appears.  Just click on the box on the right hand side of the screen.

Let me hear from you! What topics do you love to read about? Which ones are not interesting or relevant to you?  What have I not written about that you’d love to see?  This blog is part therapy, part hobby and part my gift to you.  As always (and today especially), your comments are welcomed and really make my day!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Daddy’s Greatest Lesson

I love my Daddy. Even as a grown woman with children of my own, I’m still a Daddy’s girl at heart. I have a lot of sweet memories of my Daddy. I remember riding on the back of his motorcycle across the bridge as the sun went down, headed home after a game of tennis with Mama and my little brother. I remember him coming to kiss me good night, rubbing his chin against my cheek, his whiskers tickling me. Most of all, I remember sitting at his feet while he picked his guitar and sang James Taylor, Pat Terry, John Denver and the Beatles. I thought he was the greatest musician that had ever lived. One afternoon my brother was watching television and called us all into the room to see “this guy singing one of Dad’s songs”. It wasn’t until that moment that either of us realized Daddy was singing someone else’s music.

For many years, my Daddy served as pastor of several churches. I watched him obediently follow God’s call to Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina. Over and over again, he laid down his life to serve his church and his Savior no matter what the cost. In those churches, my Daddy baptized me, played his guitar when I sang the Sunday special and taught me how to serve God’s people.

Of course no one’s life is all sunshine and happiness. There were the years of chaplaincy school that meant he missed my birthdays a few years in a row. There was the house in Kentucky that we spent the summer scraping paint off the exterior and shoveling garbage out of the interior, all of us sleeping in the living room until the rest of the house was livable, sharing one bathroom with no door as he painfully but faithfully continued to follow God’s call to attend seminary. I’ve watched him grieve the deaths of his father, his grandparents, his brother, his niece and his infant great-nephew. I danced in his arms at my brother’s wedding as he cried and apologized for all the ways he felt he had failed in raising us. And yet he is still my greatest hero.

But for all my Daddy means to me, he is human. He has at times made me angry, left me feeling hurt or neglected, disappointed me and let me down. The thought of this breaks his heart as much as it breaks mine. But of all the lessons I have learned about life, love and faith from my Daddy, the greatest lesson is this: It’s not about me. I will have dreams and expectations. I will hope and pray and wish for things that will never be. People will let me down, break my heart and leave me when I need them most. But none of that matters. In view of all of this, God’s mercy and grace in my life is greater than any hurt, any disappointment, any rejection I may receive – even if they come from my Daddy. And because my Savior has endured all this and more, even the cruelest death on the cross, for me, who am I to say the heartache is too much? How can I withhold love and mercy from those around me, even those who are unappreciative or mocking of my efforts to love and serve them? How can I base my decision to follow Jesus on what it will cost me? I’ve seen my Daddy walk this out in his own life over and over again through the years, enduring judgment from others, separation from his family, heartache and grief and disappointment when things didn’t go well despite all his sacrifice and service. And yet he still praised his Savior, still had the faith to follow Jesus, still chose to continue to sacrifice again and again in worship to his King.

Yes my Daddy loves me. And yes my Daddy will fail me at times, because he’s human. But he has taught me to look to the Heavenly Father that will never leave me, never forsake me, who keeps all His promises, who does all things for my good, who withheld nothing – not even His own Son – for me. And so I follow in my Daddy’s footsteps, living for my Savior no matter what the cost.

Thank you Daddy, for not being afraid to do the hard things.  I live my life today because of the life you lived in front of me – a faith that is real and active, not just a declaration on Sundays.  I am who I am because of who you are.  And I praise God that you are who you are because of who He is.

To God be the glory.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Volcano Up Close and Personal

For the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing lessons from the She’s Gonna Blow! mom’s Bible study I’ve been leading in my home.  I’ve shared lots of wisdom from Julie Ann Barnhill, Chip Ingram, Dr Becca Johnson and Paul David Tripp.  Today it gets real.  Today you will see an actual volcano, up close and personal, from simmer to explosion.

This week’s lesson is about understanding why she blows.  It deals with the underground issues that contribute to our anger.  (My apologies that the blog is not up to date with the class just yet but in light of today’s events I need to skip ahead to this lesson and then go back and fill in the previous lessons later.)  Last week in our class we learned that anger is not the problem, it’s the warning light – the signal that something else is going on in our hearts.  Paul Tripp did an excellent job bringing light into our hearts and showing us the sinful nature that dwells there.  James 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from those desires that battle within you?”  Not from those people that live with you.  But from you, your desires and plans and agenda.  The fights and quarrels come when someone stands in the way of what you want.  Whatever set of desires rule the heart, those desires shape how we respond to our children (or spouse or anyone else for that matter).

Some days nothing seems to ruffle our feathers and anything that happens to us is like water off a duck’s back.  But then there are other days, the days when everything is an offense or a hurt, when nothing goes our way and we can’t just let it go.  What makes that day different?

I could easily list the trigger points straight from She’s Gonna Blow! and go on my merry way, fulfilling my obligation in reviewing the week’s lesson with you.  Instead, I’m going to walk you through my day today, one of those days, because God in His sovereign wisdom saw fit to give me one of those days today so I can share with you what a volcano really looks like.

This morning I woke up way too early, dragged Ross out of bed, and headed to Harris Teeter for this week’s triple coupons sale.  I was feeling the pressure of finances and needed to stretch as little money as possible as far as it could go.  Therefore, I was up until late the night before matching coupons and making a careful list.  Late night plus early morning equals fatigue

On my way out the door, I checked Facebook on my phone and found myself broken hearted to learn that my cousin Justin and his sweet wife Jamie were going to the hospital that morning.  The baby she was carrying was now with Jesus sharing His lap with his brother Malachi that had died of SIDS almost two years ago.  This mantle reality (something you can’t change or control) hit me hard and I spent most of my grocery time alternating between prayer, coupons and tears.

We brought the groceries home and I began the list of things I shoulda, coulda, woulda already have done – dishes, laundry, math and history with Ross.  The stress of trying to catch up on what was behind, do what was expected today and get enough accomplished before my girls came home from their sleepover began to get to me and a headache creeped in.  Before I knew it, half the day was gone, the girls were back and I hadn’t finished half of what I had hoped to.  The discontentment with my accomplishments and the family schedule of Wednesday Care Group (meeting at church now and causing an adjustment to my regular pattern of going out for dinner) and the need for a quick easy dinner sent my emotional temperature up a few notches.

And then my precious little trigger points began to contribute to the lava I felt rising in my chest.  Ross bumped into Gracie and she began to yell and cry as if she’d been hit with a baseball bat.  I blew off some steam and snapped at her to stop whining and get back to her chores.  When their job was finished, Ross and Gracie asked if they could play a game.  My “no” resulted in a chorus of whines and objections, which caused me to spew vebal accusations of being “the only one willing to work around here” and ordering them to complete another task. 

Desperately trying to fix dinner while also directing chores and helping the littles to get ready for our departure, I turned around to find Amber taking OFF the socks and shoes I had just put on Georgia.  Another vebal spew of cinders left Amber in tears and me beginning to feel guilt that I was not responding as well to all of this as I had so often prayed I would.  By now, the stress and frustration was palpable and all the kids had picked up on it.  Ross and Gracie began to yell commands and corrections at their little sisters, becoming little dictators in the name of having control over something, anything in the midst of the rising chaos.

Finally dinner was accomplished and I retreated to my bedroom to make a quick attempt of looking presentable before we had to dash out the door.  Again, the mantle reality  of a shaky self-image, the stress of not being able to find what I needed when I needed it, and the pressure of the schedule worked against me.  I screamed out orders, organizing a search party for the missing lip gloss and giving shorter, more impatient suggestions on just where to find the folding card table as time after time its presence illuded us all.  I gave up on the makeup and walked out of the bathroom, where I promptly stubbed my toe on the folding card table propped against the end of my bedroom chair.  Steam came out of my ears and a spewed out command to remove the table from my room and dispatch it to the van immediately left my lips.  And then I heard the loud, wailing scream from Ross.

I stormed down the hall, lava built up to maximum levels and ready to spill over, fed up with the frustration and stress and lack of cooperation from the kids in helping us get out the door.  I walked into the living room and surveyed the situation.  Ross was holding onto the back of his neck, yelling at Amber that it hurt.  Amber was quickly running to the kitchen to put as much space between her and the scene of the crime as possible.  Gracie, large and in charge, marched up to me and loudly announced that Amber had smacked Ross across the back of the neck with “this hanger for no good reason!“.  I snatched the hanger from her hand and whirled around toward the kitchen.

And that’s when it happened.  I saw something I hope to never see again. Fear in the eyes of my children.  Not just the perpetrator, though she was doing her best to hide behind the kitchen table and avoid a spanking, but all of them backed away in fear.  I stood there for a long moment holding the hanger.  Everything in my heart wanted to lash out, to show Amber how it feels to be hit by a hanger, to get them all back in line and in control.  It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.

I walked to the kitchen table and put the hanger down.  I called Amber over to me and sat in one of the chairs so I could be eye level with her.  She came reluctantly, fearfully, crying.  I took her hands in mine, breathed a prayer for control, and began to talk to her about why it was wrong to hit her brother.  Somehow, I walked through correction, asking forgiveness of her brother and receiving a consequence (I was wise enough to know not to spank her) without blowing it.  Then I retreated, shaking, to my bedroom and asked the kids to be ready to leave when I came back.  When I felt like I was in control of myself, I went back out to the living room and we left for Care Group.

In the van, I haltingly grasped for words to apologize to my children.  I told them how wrong I was to yell and demand them to do things, how much I wanted to not be angry with them, how I prayed and tried to hold my tongue and my anger.  As I tried to tell them how sorry I was for making them fearful, the tears began to flow.  I cried and cried and asked the kids to please just give Mama some time to collect herself in the car ride to church.  They graciously did as I asked.  Michael called to see why we were running late and I cried as I tried to tell him what had happened that afternoon.  At his direction, I turned around and came home and he was there within minutes of our arrival.  He held me for a little while and then dealt with the issues of disciplining and correcting the kids while I pulled myself together in the other room.  Afterwards, I confessed to Michael the whole “hanger incident” and how the thought of being so angry I wanted to harm one of my children had jolted me back in control.

Has it been one of those days?  There is grace and mercy, forgiveness and new beginning for all who confess and ask to receive it.  Can you see the trigger points in your own life?  Are there mantle realities of trauma, divorce or past abuse or hurts?  Do you feel the mounting pressures of a hectic schedule, lack of finances, an even greater lack of sleep, self-imposed guilt, discontentment and expectations?  Are you misdirecting anger at someone else toward your children?  And of course you can’t leave out the precious little trigger points themselves – pushing your buttons or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, intentional or not – adding to the layer of anger, stress and frustration already brewing beneath the surface.  On those days, it’s not just one thing.  A multitude of little trigger points lead to our explosions.  Anger always has a deeper issue if you’re willing to do the digging and see what’s underneath it.  And, with God’s help, an explosion doesn’t have to be inevitable.  He can give you the grace to walk away, cool down and deal with the issues in a way that glorifies Him.  Stay with us as we continue to learn how to deal with anger God’s way.  Our next lesson gives us the words to express our desires and expectations without the verbal cinders and ashes.  I hope you’ll join us!

As always, your comments make my day!

Posted in Spiritual | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Volcanoes 101 (week 3, part 1)

This week we move from talking about anger in general to examining anger on a personal level.  We are going to see what we look like when we explode and what damage it creates.  We will discuss the three masks of anger and discover which mask we tend to wear.  Watch your toes! This is an uncomfortable but necessary lesson in our journey to deal with our anger as mothers and as Christian women.

(Blogger’s Disclaimer: This blogger does not claim to be the author of the ideas and information presented here.  This blog post is based largely on the book, She’s Gonna Blow! by Julie Ann Barnhill.)

A volcano, in essence, is a natural thing that explodes under pressure.  And that’s exactly what can happen to us when motherhood gets to be just too much for us.  In an instant, we can change from the peaceful, nourishing women we want to be into Mount Momma – spitting fire and brimstone at all who cross our path.

There are four common types of volcanic eruptions in angry moms:

The Strombolian: Short eruptions at fairly predictable intervals that seem to blow over with little residual damage. Verbal cinders of sarcasm (Yeah right, Einstein!) smolder in our children’s hearts and cinders of regret (longing to take back words and thoughts) sear our conscience. You regularly don’t laugh, relax or enjoy your children. Small eruption after small eruption results in cumulative damage. Small eruptions and cinder damage can eventually bring about as much damage as any other kind of eruption.

The Hawaiian:  Lakes and rivers of constantly boiling lava seething away in its crater, doing little damage. Sooner or later it boils up in the crater and overflows the sides, or it breaks through cracks and fissures and starts flowing out. You have chronic, simmering anger and aren’t really the explosive type. You don’t think of yourself as an angry person. However, there is a lot of turmoil bubbling inside of you all the time. But if you simmer and seethe long enough, even though you may avoid a violent explosion, sooner or later the anger and negativity is going to break out and the resulting damage may be all the greater because your anger doesn’t seem all that dangerous on the surface. The lava flow is mostly verbal – caustic criticism, negative assessments, unfavorable comparisons, sarcastic barbs, teasing that carries an edge or pessimistic pronouncements about life in general. These are all forms of spoken terrorism that scorch and burn our children. The most marked characteristics of The Hawaiian is that they often mask themselves as innocent remarks and actions and they can go on for a long time.

The Vulcanian: Seethes with pent-up molton rock, then expels blobs of viscous magma in a huge explosion. The explosion is loud, scary and dangerous, violently ejecting solid fragments that are hot and deadly, and poisonous gases. You produce shrapnel – verbal, physical and emotional – that can shred the spirits of your children and the safety of your home. You may throw things or use poisonous words and actions (insults, accusations, slaps and shakes). The wrath is unpredictable and doesn’t pass quickly, but can be sustained for days on end, usually aimed at a particular child. The distinguishing characteristics are the “don’t want to stop” level of emotion and becoming engaged in willful, increasingly harder-to-stop behavior.

The Plinian: The most violent and unmistakable of all explosions. Everything about it is big and bad. The distinguishing characteristic is the sheer volume of material ejected by the eruption and the sheer power of the explosion that throws it out. It wreaks terrible havoc upon yourself, your children and your relationships. This type of extreme, explosive anger, though it might erupt infrequently, can easily destroy everything you hold dear. This is an angry explosion that causes your children to hide from you or leave the house, leaves you hoarse from screaming, results in physical abuse or verbal lashings that later wither your heart and makes you wonder what kind of monster you’ve become.

Volcanic eruptions are dangerous! The results of your explosions usually causes damage in these three areas of your life:

*Your children’s sense of security – Do they feel they have to walk on eggshells around you?

*Your spouse’s trust – Have you had to cover up the true cause of a bruise on the arm or been less than truthful about discipline your child received?

*Your relationship with God – Do you feel distant from God, either because of the guilt of your explosions or because the unrepented sin in your heart is causing a barrier between you?

Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? I know I do! Knowing how we explode is just a piece of the puzzle.  In the next post, we will look at how we deal with anger – the masks we wear.

As always, your comments and feedback make my day!

Posted in Spiritual, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Understanding How She Blows: Hope and Understanding for Our God-Given Emotion (week 2)

 

If you let anger get the best of you, it will reveal the worst of you.

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

This week we are going to talk about the truth of anger so that you and your children can be set free from its power. There is a lot of good stuff out there that has been written about God’s design for anger so I will be leaving it to the experts today and sharing a lot of information directly from them. I’m primarily using the Overcoming Emotions That Destroy book by Chip Ingram, chapters 1 & 2, for our study.  If you haven’t seen Chip’s book, you can find it here(In today’s post, anything in quotation marks is from this book, unless otherwise specified.)

In chapter one of his book, Chip Ingram talks about the effects of anger in our lives: “We make a lot of bad decisions when we’re angry. When we get out a sword of anger, we cut people by shutting them out or by knocking them over. Many of the scars we inflicts, whether directly or indirectly are not easily healed.”

“Solomon, an ancient king known for his wisdom, wrote many sayings. “A hot-tempered person commits many sins” (Prov. 29:22), he warned. When angry, we are more apt to do something wrong. We often have wrong reactions and do dumb deeds. We say things that shouldn’t be said, we lash out and hurt people, we do things we abhor, we build up fortresses to keep others out, or we project our anger onto undeserving souls. We generally react in ways that intensify rather than relieve our anger. We end up inviting either self-hatred and shame (internalized anger) or resentment and bitterness (externalized anger) into our hearts.”

Common anger triggers include: feeling categorized, stereotyped, trapped, unfairly treated, blanmed, ignored, misunderstood, insignificant, belittled or put down.  We feel entitled to something we don’t get, have unmet expectations, get unsolicited advice, are teased insensitively or criticized.  Someone hasn’t respected our limits, gives us ultimatums or threats, or kicks, pushes, slaps or hits us.  Our space is invaded.  We have insecurity and self-pity and don’t admit our imperfections.

Where are you with anger? Anger is a pervasive problem but there’s hope in learning how to deal with it.

“Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one.” Benjamin Franklin

Anger is a powerful emotion! “Designed by God to allow us to respond to and enjoy our world, emotions also have the influence to get us off track and out of whack, being used in way we never intended. God intended for our feelings to be helpful, positive and a blessing.”

“One of the most potentially damaging emotions is anger, an emotion that both empowers and plagues every one of us. It is a common, unavoidable, inescapable, God-give emotion.”

So why did God create an emotion so volatile and easily misused? I think the answer can be most clearly seen in this quote by J.I. Packer in his book “Knowing God“, who says God accomplishes his purpose in our lives, “Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology, but rather by exposing us to all these things so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy and to drive us to cling to him more closely. This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another: it is to insure that we shall learn to hold him fast.” J.I. Packer, “Knowing God”

What is anger?  Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.  Don Richmond also says it is “both a divine and human emotion which is aimed at the rectification of wrong and must be wisely expressed and carefully monitored”.

“Anger’s basic goal is to protect and preserve. When we feel threatened, whether emotionally or physically, it activates our survival instincts. Though it can motivate us to preserve and protect what’s right, it is unfortunately often used to preserve and protect us in unhealthy ways that actually keep us from facing the real problem. If you don’t want people near you, get angry – scream at them or shut them out. That works. If you don’t want to be vulnerable, if you don’t want to share the deep issues of your life, if you don’t want to struggle with inner things hat God wants to work out, just shut down or spew out. If that doesn’t work, withdraw, be sullen, pout, be late, procrastinate, jab, be sarcastic, be critical, be faultfinding. It all works.”

Anger is a tool of communication, a morally neutral emotion, and a signal of underlying emotions.  Anger is not bad, dangerous or a sin.

Let’s examine some examples of righteous anger in the Bible.  First, let’s talk about the story of Moses and the Golden Calf (Exodus 32).  For 40 days and 40 nights, Moses had been on the mountain without food or drink, writing the words of God onto the stone tablets.  The Lord tells him the people have made a golden calf and have begun to worship it.  “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 32:19)  Moses felt righteous anger in response to the people’s worship of the idol.  In response to that anger, he threw down the tablets.  His response had a consequence – he had to go right back up that mountain and spend another 40 days and 40 nights without food or drink to write the words of God again on new stone tablets.  But his anger was right and good, it was something God himself was angry about. 

Our second Scripture is the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  When David comes to the battlelines and hears the taunts of Goliath, he is moved to righteous anger toward the Philistine.  David goes to Saul and says “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.  The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17: 36-37) Then David marches onto the battlefield and says to Goliath, “This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17: 46) David was angry when he heard the Philistine speak against the name of the Lord and in his righteous anger, he vindicated the Lord and the army of Israel.

Finally, we see the righteous anger of Jesus himself in the temple with the moneychangers (Mark 11).  He said to them, “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17)  Jesus was angry when he saw the people in the temple taking advantage of the poor, charging extravagant prices for animals to be used as sacrifices.  In his anger, he overturned their tables and drove the merchants from the temple.

Do you see a common thread here?  Each man was angry about something God Himself was angry about.  And each man was driven to action. 

“You need to get angry. We all need to get angry more. We need to pray, “God make me angry about things that make you angry.” When’s the last time you got made about something that was wrong? When was the last time you did something rather than just complaining about it?”

“Anger can be used positively for emotional and physical protection, to communicate feelings, to motivate and energize others, to maintain social order, and to train young children. It’s okay to be angry. We need to be sure, however, that we get angry about the right things and respond in the right way. Many of us may start off with the right reason and the right motives but end up either with the wrong actions or with a completely overblown response. Though we may be motivated by a good cause, we may still respond in ways that are damaging and painful. Anger can be a powerful and positive motivator, but because it’s such a volatile emotion, it can quickly turn in negative directions and get us in incredible trouble.”

Anger needs to be expressed at the right times, in the right ways, for the right reasons, in the right degree, and for the right length of time.  Anger is a problem when it is used in the wrong ways, occurs too frequently, lasts far too long or results in inappropriate behavior.

The bottom line is that we don’t need to get rid of all anger, only the anger that is destructive and harmful.

In our next lesson, we will discuss the volcanic explosions of angry moms and the three masks of anger we typically wear.  As always, your comments and feedback make my day!

Posted in Spiritual | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment