"Boundaries" is not my favorite word. It ranks right up there with "diet" or "ticket." I prefer words like "indulgence," "flexible," or "break." All my friends would tell you that my dislike for the word "boundaries" comes from how agonizing it is for me to set boundaries. By the grace of God, some accountability, and hard work, my boundary-setting has improved over the years, but I still have a long way to go. My sophomore year in college, there was this semester where I over committed myself to the point where I never had time to eat. I literally lived on protein bars. I had multiple jobs and a full course load, but I just kept saying "yes." Instead of asking my boss to reduce my hours, I agreed to more hours. Instead of blocking off time for homework, I agreed to meet with someone to help them with their homework. Instead of buying myself food, I'd take an international student to get food. Get the picture? I was boundary-less, weary-more, and happy-less. Basically, I was a mess. Eventually, my poor boundaries led to some good friends having an intervention. One friend told me that I had to turn in my two weeks at one of my jobs that day. I did and my life after that semester was much better.
I still really struggle with the boundary thing though. "Yes" just feels so much better than "no" most of the time, but I've learned that "yes" often leads to resentment, obligation, and missing what God has for me. My perpetual "yes" problem comes down to being a people-pleaser. I want to make everyone happy, so I tend to spread myself incredibly thin to accommodate them. The things is though, the Bible is really clear that pleasing men counters serving Him: "For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ" (Galatians 1:10, HCSB). I don't know about you, but I want to be a slave for Christ. In other words, this people-pleasing thing has to go.
In the season where Christ is supposedly the reason we celebrate, my slave mentality tends to go out the window for a pleasing mentality. I want to do all the holiday things. I want to buy all the presents. I want to eat all the cookies. Therefore, my calendar, finances, and health all seem to be enslaved to traditions and wants rather than Emmanuel, the God that came down to free me from all this. Boy, does that sound a lot like me and the protein bars.
So here are two easy holiday boundaries (by "easy," I mean simple; no boundary is effortless):
Want to go a little deeper with boundaries in 2018? Try reading Townsend and Cloud's book, Boundaries, or Lysa TerKeurst's book, The Best Yes.
On the 1st Day of Self-Care Katie gave to me . . .
One key to holiday relief!
My mom’s cousins know how to have a good time. Their favorite Christmas Movie is A Christmas Story, someone always has at least one practical joke in mind, and, most importantly, they know how to laugh. When I’m around this side of my family I’m always reminded how often I take things too seriously and don’t forget to laugh.
When you think of laughing this holiday you might think, “Good thought, I need to plan a silly game night with the kids or schedule in at least one of my husband’s favorite Christmas comedies during our holiday movie nights,” but that’s actually not what I really mean. Yes, game time and comedy are good, but I am actually talking about laughing in any circumstance. You see, the cousins I’m referring to haven’t had cushy lives or lives lacking loss. Actually, they’ve had it pretty rough some years. Some would say, most years. I won’t go into a list of the struggles they’ve had, but I will give an example. One of my cousins lost a leg a few years ago in a tragic accident. Of course, there was (and sometimes still is) grief associated with that. However, there is still laughter. You can only imagine the brainstorm I heard happening the first Christmas we were back together after my cousin's lost leg. She and some of my other cousins realized that my legless cousin had new-found Halloween costume potential. (I think they landed on a pirate with a peg leg for the following Halloween.) Despite big losses, the family was able to laugh.
Christmas after losing a leg isn’t perfect. It requires laughter to thrive. The thing is every Christmas is imperfect and every holiday requires laughter to thrive. There is always some loss during the holidays.
How can you laugh more this holiday and stress less? What can you do to let go of the imperfections and find the strength to laugh?
Can you let it go when the kids decorate the walls with markers right before the guests arrive?
Can you laugh when your husband runs to the store and grabs the wrong brand of chocolate chips (or gets peanutbutter chips instead)?
Can you chuckle when you burn the turkey and be okay with calling in a pizza?
Can you laugh when the dog licks a corner of the cake you just baked?
Not quite there yet? Me either. Join me in asking God to help you receive this gift a little better this holiday season. I believe laughter is a gift from God. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength" (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).
My cousin's laughter hasn't come without effort. Joy requires strength and discipline, but the art of letting go can produce soul healing. May we use laughter as part of that “good medicine” rather than dwelling in the brokenness that “saps [our] strength.”
I remember the first time I tried lifting weights. I was a kid and my dad had some weights stored near my toys. I thought it looked fun. My sister and I asked my dad if we could try. Despite our objections, my dad removed the stacks of weight on each side of the barbell. He told us to start with just the bar. We rolled our eyes at his suggestion. Just the bar? Really? That sounded like baby stuff.
Well, to an experienced weight lifter, yes, just a bar is baby stuff. However, to two elementary school girls, it was not baby stuff. We were able to lift the bar...a couple times. A few lifts and we were done. Exhausted. Wiped. Compared to our dad, we were weak. We wondered how we could ever lift weights like him.
Ever been there? Realizing you're a lot weaker than you think? Thinking you'll never be able obtain a goal you desire?
I'll be honest, I still can't lift weight like my dad. Not even close. I can lift a lot more than just the bar though. How did that happen? Obviously more developed muscles don't hurt, but there were a few other steps:
1. Work. Becoming stronger requires endurance, perseverance, and sweat. A person can't just take a magic pill and be strong. It takes little steps of lifting more and more weight, eventually building up to large amounts of weight. Similarly, a person can't just snap his or her fingers and acquire emotional and mental strength. While this may not include literal sweating, it will likely include hours of challenging self-reflection and developing new habits.
2. Rest. Muscles need rest. To help muscles grow, a proper amount of rest is necessary. They can't heal without it. In the midst of mental and emotional growth, rest is also necessary. Without rest, there's only so far a person can go. Old habits and difficult processing don't take place where rest is absent.
3. Consistency. Lifting weights for a few weeks and then stopping doesn't work well for resistance training. It doesn't take long to have to start from scratch. Similarly, a lack of consistency with mental and emotional training means a lack of progress. Long term results requires consistency.
Mental and emotional strength is a lot like physical strength. It requires the same kind of resistance training. It takes work, rest, and consistency to build the kind of strength to obtain the goals we desire.
Why not start today? I bet there's a bar out there somewhere you can lift.
I remember the first time the holidays didn't feel quite so merry. It was the year after my uncle died when I was nine. Sure, I remember presents galore, great food, and a lot of smiles, but there was something missing. Not just something, someone. There wasn't the happy-go-lucky guy that used to sneak my sister and I across the street to play on the playground. There wasn't my aunt or my cousin to laugh and play with. There wasn't the vegetarian option that he always required. In other words, there was a hole. Chances are you too have some mixed emotions around holidays and the hole I experienced after my uncle died. Each year brings new changes. Some of those changes are mostly sweet, some are mostly bitter, and some are a mix, but all require some of that tough adjustment I remember so well when I lost my uncle. It seems like holidays bring up those emotions more than any time of year.
Did you know that the holidays aren't the only reason that the fall and winter can be sad? There's actually a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that sometimes causes these feelings to be worse. Simply being away from the sun for too long or not going outside enough is enough to increase your risk of experiencing SAD this fall/winter. Below is an infographic I made to help explain SAD. I hope it will help you prepare for the colder months of the year.
If you or a loved one may be experiencing SAD, talk to your primary care physician today about getting some help. Counseling may also be a good option for you during this season. That's where I can help. Give me a call about some a possible appointment at 405-664-3960.
In the meantime, you may be able to take some preventative steps. Here are a few ideas:
Happy fall! May this fall and winter be less SAD than every before!
"It's not fair!"
"_____'s parents wouldn't do this!"
The dreaded teenage years. Ever wonder how you got here? Suddenly your mostly well-behaved, respectful kid is a landmine of emotions just waiting to explode. The smallest thing can set them off. Sometimes it seems like they don't even know why they're upset. You try to talk and it gets worse. You try to do something as a family and they sit their with headphones on, a phone in hand, or go to their bedroom instead.
So how can you talk to your teen?
It all starts with one simple, but seemingly impossible word: listen.
Listen with your body. Model the respect you want them to show. Stop what you're doing and show them you're listening. Don't be on your phone, washing dishes, cooking dinner, or responding to an email. Look at them and turn your body toward them. Uncross your arms and take your hands off your hips. Relax your face and try to look calm. Nod your head as you listen and make sure not to smile or laugh when your teen is saying something that's really serious (even if it seems silly or minor to you). Think of this like listening to a co-worker or another adult. You have to look a certain way to get a certain response.
Studies show that teens often struggle interpreting nonverbal communication accurately. It's important to model the right nonverbals so teens learn, but it's also important to realize that this can't be the only form of listening. If it is, teens still may not understand that you're listening.
Listen with your words. Chances are this is going to start with no words at all. Just let your teen talk at first. You'll get your turn, but they need their's too. Next, summarize or repeat back what they said. Empathize. Use phrases like, "It sounds like _______ really hurt you" or "that must have really been upsetting when it felt like I _______." This could also include clarifying. For example, "So it felt like ______ when I said _____?" This isn't the time to correct, give your opinion, try to fix it, or give your point of view. Just let them know they're heard, you care, and you respect them enough to hear their side.
Listen with your response. After your teen has gotten enough time to talk without interruption, arguing, or you defending yourself, it's time to respond. Some conversations may not require advice-giving, explanation, discipline, or rule-clarification. If your teen is just talking about what a kid did at school, it might be a good opportunity to just empathize. However, some conversations require you explaining yourself or even disciplining. The key here is to still explain that you understand what they said. It could be a good opportunity for a compromise or a discussion about how to make a certain frustration work better; however, it could also be a time where you have to say tell your teen they have to obey your rules. For example, "I know it's frustrating when _____ gets to _____. It must be embarrassing sometimes and I'm sorry that feels hurtful right now. I still can't let you ______ because _________, but I do want to try to help you enjoy yourself. Is there something else we could do to help?" Continue to empathize with your teen, explain your decision, and let them know you're still there for them.
You may also have to confront your teen sometimes, but empathy can be included here too. For example, "I know you're upset about _____. It's not fair that happened, but that doesn't mean you can slam doors and yell at your little brother."
It's also important to share your feelings with your teen. Your teen may act like they don't care sometimes, but chances are they do. Saying something like, "I was scared when you didn't come home on time. I worried you might have gotten in a wreck or been hit by a drunk driver," means a lot more to a teen than, "What were you doing out so late?!!"
Listen with you. If your teen tells you something that bothers them, make sure you try to respond to that. For example, if your teen tells you that it makes them angry when you talk about them to all your friends, make sure to try to change that behavior or at least respond more sensitively or compassionately. Similarly, if you and your teen come to a new agreement about a curfew or social media usage, make sure to follow your agreements as much as possible and explain when they cannot be followed. Teens care that you practice what you preach and they can see right through lies.
Talking to your teen will still be frustrating at times. They will still choose to respond poorly and irrationally. You will still lose your temper at times too. However, you can have enjoyable, productive conversations with them though. Teenage years can be full of hope, joy, and love, despite raging hormones and relentless boundary testing.
In 2016 it was Pokemon Go, in 2017 it's fidget spinners. Sure, they're a choking hazard, but is there anything else that could cause this new trend to be harmful?
Psychologically, I can't think of anything. Culturally, I can.
You see, I'm a fan of fidgets and I have been for awhile. Fidgets are excellent tools to help children (and even adults) cope with anxiety, stress, and sensory issues. In The Out-of-Sync Child, Carol Stock Kranowitz describes how important these tools (or toys) are for kids with sensory issues. For parents, fidgets can be a game-changer as they try to help their kids succeed in school.
My problem with fidget spinners isn't the spinners themselves. It's that their popularity seems to lessened their value and make them a joke. Instead of bringing awareness to their use, they've given stand-up comedians new material and teachers another item to ban from the classroom.
So you want to know how fidgets can help? Here are three fidgets and how they can help your child or teen:
So whether fidget spinners are on your kid's Christmas list this year, there may be some fidget that can help you and your family equip your child for success.
Does this mean I need to go to therapy? Is this problem really one that means I should see a counselor? Could I really benefit from counseling?
I hear these questions and others like them on a daily basis. If you're asking these questions, chances are there is something in your life that could use some exploring through therapy.
Here are some of the common issues that bring people to therapy:
Do these issues sound like something you're experiencing? Today may be the day to make an appointment. Coping with these issues is no easy task, but tools found in therapy can help.