A Mother’s Influence

cropped-img_1451.jpg

Yellow Rose – Friendship

One morning I received a grief-stricken text from my daughter attending high school that a peer she was fond of is not in her classroom because he died last night.  I could hardly bear the news.  I have met the boy’s mother and the grief that overcame me for all those affected by this sad news was overwhelming. How does a friend and parent ever endure the hardship and pain of that? It seems like curling up in a ball and only isolation would ever conquer that reality.

Pardon the immediate emotional contrast, as the night before I had stumbled across a TED talk based on a study of 75 years that followed a select group of men from their teens and later included woman, some of them up into their 90’s that helped researchers understand what made these people happy. (What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study On Happiness; Robert Waldinger)  One of the key components from this study that struck me was connection with others and its relationship to ones happiness.  The opposite of connection would be isolation leading one to feel loneliness which caused all sorts of health problems.

In the context of a mother’s influence and her happiness having an effect on others in the situation of her son; it seems to me that isolation for a time would be good for meditation and healing as an obligation to self for grieving.  Subsequently, honoring loving relationships with those so eager to share their love and concern by connecting with them.  In this initial phase of torment for a mother, it also seems to me that receiving helping hands and communion with loved ones to grasp the sensual aspects of life would be challenging.  Yet, on the other hand, how could one ever cope without the love from others?

You and I both know that everyone experiences a life-time of “roller coaster” emotions.  And these emotions, high (happy) and low (sad) are experienced at different levels depending on circumstances.  It may be safe to say that feelings of happiness don’t lend to a feeling of “longing” for something like a feeling of sadness may.  Take a moment to imagine a happy moment.  Now compare that to a sad moment.  Notice the difference?  When we are happy we don’t have the desire so much that triggers the “longing” for something effect. That feeling of “longing,” my friend, is the feeling of desire.  Not only do you feel that, but your children do to.  When we don’t have an understanding of what that “longing” is or what the feeling of desire or perhaps a heartfelt void is, feelings of anguish or anxiety prevail. When does this reality cease?  How can we stop it and what do we do?  The first step is acknowledging its existence.

Havoc on the heart felt. Structure of the soul crushed. Grasp for peace revealed. ~Susan Husa

By acknowledging our discomfort we take the first step in overcoming our circumstances. For example, you may ask yourself questions like, “Why did my friend die?”  “Why am I so frustrated?” “Why do I even exist?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” When we live in this turmoil, it is hard to connect with others.  When we isolate and fixate on these questions without a way to go about getting answers, we can make ourselves ill.  And when children especially wrestle with these insecurities, they, like us need tools to overcome.  If fear is the unknown and this theory is applied to a myriad of situations, knowing that we need to acknowledge this discomfort to overcome, we can then move on to the next step of education.  This is a time to explore the answer to your question to stop the wondering.  Your research and/or counsel will help you identify what it is you don’t know or understand.  Now you know what to do and you choose to accept (or not) and take action or start the whole process over again.

For just a moment, let me give you a glimpse of what I have discovered about connection and happiness.  We can be happy connected in healthy relationships and involved in different activities.  But happiness is not a constant. There is a song by Jonny Lee titled, Looking For Love In All the Wrong Places which reminds me of a major reality check I had when I discovered what true love is. The ultimate feeling of happiness that I have discovered and have come to know through experience is my personal relationship with Jesus.  I have sought counsel in many ways and my most number one “go-to” now is, The Holy Bible.  One of my resources is the Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).  I love finding resolve by referencing subjects in the index or simply basking in the stories told long ago for direction and leadership in living out this life for eternity.

These are some truths I have come to know and believe: Jesus is the Creator of all things and by choice we accept Him into our lives. A personal relationship with Christ is the ultimate relationship through the Holy Spirit which transforms and levels our state of mind to peace and tranquility. Through faith (belief in Christ) we assume the role of being sanctified (made Holy) for the sake of our salvation (being delivered from the power of sin; desire of the flesh) to be overcome with righteousness (morality).  Since experiencing a relationship with Christ, I have come to understand and know what it means to have transformation of the mind.

Transformation of the mind is powerful. As a mother, my influence has a tremendous impact on my children.  My values are shown by my actions.  If you are experiencing hardship and you don’t feel equipped to deal with your own issues or feel you can’t help your children with theirs, seek counsel.  Happiness is something we all experience and want.  And I agree with the study that was done, that when we engage in healthy relationships with others, we are happy.  When we question and isolate and don’t have a way to come to know our unrest, feelings of loneliness can devour our soul.  Don’t let that happen to you or anyone you know.

Over the years I slowly came to know what parenting with truth and grace meant.  I love the book shown in this picture as you can see, it had many years of use.

Raising Great Kids

Raising Great Kids John Townsend and Henry Cloud

Since I have taken the time to build a relationship with Christ and I know who he is and what he promises I am much more at peace.  Do yourself a favor and understand what the fruit of the Spirit is (read Galatians 5:22).  When we are not led by the Holy Spirit we are works of the flesh (read Galatians 5:19).

As I folded laundry that day I couldn’t help but grieve the loss of a precious young man in our community.  I was entranced in my thoughts when all of a sudden the cat swiped at the string that turns on the lamp next to me and caused it to fall onto a potted plant, turning it on it’s side spreading dirt everywhere! I caught the lamp mid-air, placed it back on the floor and resumed folding laundry.  The site of the mess was overwhelming in my state of grief and I refused to react by cleaning it up immediately.  From the actions of one, I am left to clean up the mess.

IMG_1598 (002)plant light dump

Light in the midst of havoc.

My attitude was in check here even though I was disappointed in the circumstances.  Disaster in all shapes and forms surrounds us at times.  Shielding ourselves from pain is inevitable.  Sometimes we can’t even feel ourselves breathe because the pain or reality is too much to bear.  Just stop and think about the meaning of these few words:  Grace. Serenity. Love.

What’s all this have to do with a mother’s influence?  Mothers have so much to accomplish in a day and this reality can be overwhelming.  When we do things intentionally it is because we “want” to.  “I want” to do the laundry so that we all have clean clothes to wear.  Or rather, “I want” to leave the laundry alone today so I can focus on having lunch with my spouse.  I don’t “have” to do anything.  But I do “want” to do “x” because it will serve a purpose of “y.”  These tools will guide you with purposeful and well-thought-out reasons for doing “why” you do what you do.

If you “have” to do something it will be done grudgingly and without a thankful heart.  Think of the example of the mess the cat made.  With all I had going on that day, I “wanted” to leave it until I was ready to clean it up.  Give yourself permission to leave things alone if it does not serve the purpose you need it to or it interrupts in such a way that something else will suffer because of making that the priority.  The task becomes too arduous and especially when you already have a full plate.  When I cleaned it up at a time I wasn’t stressed out, it felt way better than had I cleaned it up with angst.  Only to lead to perhaps more stress.

Chilling out on the idea that it had to be cleaned up in an instant allowed me to focus on what mattered in the moment and what I had anticipated as a plan for the day.  I was able to move on into the evening and embrace those I had planned on being with in a much more peaceful state and my choice allowed me to make preparations so my family was equipped to carry out their evening and their plans with the things they relied on me for before I left.   What you choose to do will impact the influence you have on maintaining your happiness and extending that to others.

For me, my only hope is in Jesus and His promise of everlasting life.

What makes you happy and your connections with others has a big influence.  When we identify with that statement, we are able to examine the source of happiness and the impact that has on our thoughts and our actions.  If you have a hard time grasping that explore the opposite.  Embrace the relationships you have and reach out to others in your community building relationships outside of your inner circle of friends.  Make time to visit clubs, join a class, reach out to someone you have not spoken to in six months or more.  Write a note to a friend or an acquaintance or business in your area thanking them for a special service or memory of days gone by.  Just as we inquire about the well-being of others, encourage your children to do the same.  Follow-up with them if things aren’t so well and find out if they found any resolve.  Hopefully our outreach can help those choosing to isolate mentally or physically.

IMG_1370

Peace

You are lovely and you give so much of yourself.  Embrace the new day by helping your kids define what they like to do.  Help them realize what they need to do in order to accomplish what they dream of doing.  Listen to them so they can hear themselves talk and sort out their thoughts.  Zip the lip and don’t give advice unless they ask.  (Hint: It will be a question.) Actively listening, you will help them learn how to figure out what they want to do by giving them the opportunity to sort out their thoughts.  This is a great way to build trust and they may ask you for help on how to take action. Whatever the case, pay attention to their cues and be thankful for the relationship you have built in helping them or a friend engage into meaningful actions.

Small achievements bring happiness just as much as larger ones do.  When you find yourself smiling and filled with joy, cherish that and embrace it.  Stop what you are doing when you are feeling insecure or agitated.  Evaluate your intention.  If your intention is to stay at peace then meditate until you are centered again.  A relationship with Christ has helped me overcome many emotions that needed leveled out over the years.  I am thankful for the security I feel.

When you’re young, pain = the absence of pleasure. When you’re old, pleasure = absence of pain. When you’re wise, you know facing pain leads to pleasure. – Dr Henry Cloud

When we acknowledge the existence of desire, it is then we can act on overcoming obstacles and identify with an outcome.  As a mother I feel a great responsibility to educate myself on a myriad of topics for the sake of my influence on myself, husband, children and in community.  What shields you from the unexpected?  How do you cope with pain and fear, loneliness and uncertainty?  Is your reaction something you want to change?  Through the years, seeking knowledge on these questions, then putting those ideas into practice has brought much peace in the midst of what seems like disaster. Happiness prevails.

As a mother, connecting with others truly is an important piece to our health, happiness and survival amid the chaos.  Not such a profound statement here but being solo does not exist – we live on a planet where each relies on the other directly or indirectly.  Think about where you are right now. Imagine what it took to develop the place you are currently.  How about the shaping of your thoughts?  The support from your friendships and family.  Without connection, where does that leave one?  In isolation.  With Jesus we are never alone and if you come to know Him, you will understand the importance on a whole different level of why connecting with others is part of our key to happiness.  Seeking out places to get acquainted, having conversation with others on any given subject can only enhance joy and especially in times of turmoil.  When you lead with joyful confidence, you will inspire those around you with your influence.  You will come to know how a mother’s influence truly contributes to more than you will ever know.

Joy in experiencing another’s thoughts and they giving yours attention, truly grounds each in a myriad of emotions. ~Susan Husa

No Longer Inferior

IMG_2250

Great place to identify with lazy.

My parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade. I remember the day vividly when my dad left. My mom was standing at the mixer licking the dough off her finger while the two had exchanged a few words and out the door he walked carrying some of his clothes on hangers. It was awful, in a flash, my life had changed. Immediately I thought about my friend crying at school one day, about a month prior, saying that her parents were going to get divorced and I told my other friend that if my parents did that, I would kill myself. Those words wrecked havoc in my mind that day and night. Resolving that I wasn’t going to do that, the pain left in my heart haunted me for many years.

As a teen I had no identity to stand on. Other than a girl that comes from a divorced family, struggling to make ends meet. A dad that was admired in the community for his profession. And my mother that felt most of the women in town talked behind her back about what an awful house cleaner she was. (I would be too, frankly, if I was handling eight kids day and night.) My mother worked graveyard in a potato factory to make ends meet after the divorce. This was my identity.

With a hundred dollars in my pocket and my first month’s rent paid,  I moved from a small farming community to a large city. I was in my early twenties, had a high school diploma and felt inferior to peers I met with a higher education. But I never stopped dreaming of being a professional of some sort. I knew that I wanted to do great things. I wasn’t sure what, but I had a desire.  I walked onto a college campus one day trembling with fear. I waited in line to speak to someone not even sure if I was in the right line. When my turn came tears flowed from my face as I explained that I wanted to go to college but didn’t know how to register. Shame fell over me like I had never felt but I wanted to somehow, some way change my life. She was kind and suggested I take a career decision-making class.  My identity: “Lost.”

Years later in my late twenties I landed a job I absolutely loved. I worked with a company that managed a University and I continued my education while working with them. I represented a group of consultants in management development as Sales and Marketing Director. The maturity, personal and professional growth I experienced was outstanding.  I participated in every aspect of starting up a company with them and thrived in my position.  With fear in my every move each day I conquered and prospered. My identity was defined by my performance.

Shortly after my career was established, I became a mom with a husband building his career and had two little ones. Life was great until a huge dark cloud loomed over me. I had accusations made against me and my truths, which triggered memories of days gone by and I didn’t feel equipped to deal with the memories of tragedies that I experienced or the relationships I had to endure. I shut down and as hard as I tried to stay positive; I couldn’t bear the struggle. There were too many memories and realities I was trying to make sense of. My identity as a mom was stricken. I didn’t have the right tools to deal with what I was experiencing in my heart and soul.  Identity: “Messed up.”

For now, at least fifteen years has passed since that time. I identify with being equal and without an inferiority complex. These are the days where I can rejoice and be thankful that I do respect and forgive the scenes of yesterday. As hard as that feels to write, I rejoice in those experiences as they are what lead me to the place I am today. I have shared what I have learned with my children and they have learned from them too.  Identity: “Loved.”

No longer inferior. I am beginning to understand what fear truly is. We can only live in this very moment.

Silver Lining of Expectations

Shadows of doubt can hinder one's journey

Shadows of doubt can hinder one’s journey

Going about my merry way I witnessed a mom roll her eyes when she was asked about her son. She said she wishes that he was doing things differently in his life. I couldn’t help but wonder why she thinks he needs to be doing things differently and what at this point has inspired him? If he’s living with a parent that wishes he was doing things differently, unless of course it is something harmful, that parent is subconsciously exuding a negative attitude toward him thus creating underlying friction, ultimately wrecking havoc on the relationship. By acknowledging her son’s decisions, a conversation would take place for her to understand why he is making the decisions that he is. For example, let’s assume the son wants to take a gap year before going off to college. If she simply says, “Wow! I’m surprised to hear you say that. Tell me more about what you are thinking in terms of what you would like to do in the interim?” She now has the opportunity to discuss his view. 

Knowing this young man is a senior in high school, I found myself wondering what conversations may have taken place over time in the home to build trust? How did she handle conversations related to emotions? It seems that struggling with emotions without a grasp on how to label them would hinder one’s maturity. Was this going on in their home? Did her son feel he was violated or not fully accepted? Was he ever able to express his thoughts or have help labeling his emotions? Teens are bombarded with social aspects and hormones that contribute to their struggle and development. As a parent, it is our responsibility to help our children navigate these bumpy roads. Hoping our kids make different choices may actually hinder their progress as they discover their true identity.

It may seem like teens don’t want to engage in conversation but think twice! What they think is real and what we know, is that they need help sorting it all out. Who do you want leading them? Finding a time to be one-on-one in conversation is key to building trust and a place for them to reveal their thoughts. It has been said that if a teen is struggling, one of the best things you can do is go for a drive and drive for as long as you need to until they open up.

This poor mom, one might think, must feel unequipped. We only have so many tools before we head back to the hardware store for more. Helping our kids grow up is not an easy task. Researching, asking others who have gone before and applying principles of love enables us to help them be their best. Teens need tools just like adults. Engaging with teens emotionally and intellectually builds healthy relationships and fosters mentoring for the many challenges they face.

Do you suppose, had the mom turned the thought around, that perhaps she should be doing things different in his life? That maybe she might be able to be more at ease with his decisions? That he would feel accepted if she did? Allowing our kids to explore within the confines of house rules helps them with their own decision-making skills. These practices of acknowledging and engaging in conversation about their actions and motives builds trust. Humans want to belong and impress. To whom do you want your kids to impress? I hope it is you as the one that they can trust and rely on. Your home then rests in love and respect. Ideas are honored, accountability resides, discovery is encouraged, structure reflects boundaries and forgiveness is vital when we make poor decisions. Our leadership in the home prepares them for the leadership they seek and experience outside the home. The bumpy roads they experience living on their own hopefully are overcome by way of consulting with their Creator. There the silver lining of expectations exist. Pure and of truth.