Currently, I am reading a book that I absolutely love…Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. It’s a collection of short stories about her life and about God and the things that God is teaching her about life. She’s one of those authors that somehow writes in a way that makes you feel like you’re best friends by the end of the book, sometimes the end of a chapter… or at the very least like you want to be friends. I think it’s her down-to-earth nature and shameless vulnerability paired with her passion and zest for life that just draw you in. Her stories are so real and so hopeful.
There’s one chapter in particular that had a great impact on me. It’s called “Old House.” Here’s an excerpt…
“On my worst days, I start to believe that what God wants is perfection. That God is a new-house God. That everything has to work just right, with no cracks in the plaster and no loose tiles. That I need to be completely fixed up.
…On my very best days, as an act of solidarity with my house, since we’re both kind of odd, mismatched, screwed-up things, I practice letting it be an old not-fixed-up-house, while I practice being a not-fixed-up-person. I wear ugly pants, the saggy yellow terry-cloth ones with the permanently dirty hems, and I walk around my house, looking at all the things that I should fix someday, but I don’t fix them just yet, and I imagine God noticing all the things about me that should get fixed up one day, and loving me anyway and being okay with the mess for the time being.
I practice believing that, bottom line, God loves me as-is, even if I never do get my act together.
…In my best moments, when I calm down and listen closely, God says, ‘I didn’t ask you to become new and improved today. That wasn’t the goal. You were broken down and strange yesterday, and you still are today, and the only one freaked out about it is you.'” (Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, pg. 38-40)
I just love that. It has major implications for the type of counseling I do. To go along with the house metaphor, counseling is a journey inward, to various rooms of the self, rooms inhabited by all sorts of not-fixed-up parts and broken pieces. And gosh it’s easy to believe sometimes that my job is more like that of a repair man (or woman)…use just the right tools and everything will turn out all shiny and new – hooray! I do love practical tools, but I believe the real healing comes NOT when the broken pieces go away, but when they no longer define who we are, fixed-up or not. When we can begin to believe that we are acceptable and whole, right smack in the middle of our broken-down, worn-out, not-fixed-up-selves… that is where healing lives and breathes and moves. Thanks be to Jesus who is that type of healing. Oh to be a sweet taste of that in the lives of those around me.
Richard Louv has some interesting thoughts regarding the influence of social media on kids and the balance they need to survive. Click here for his full article: http://www.hlntv.com/article/2012/06/11/facebook-children-under-13-years-old-need-nature-0
“But here’s the larger issue. Do we — parents, educators, high-tech barons — really want to keep piling on layer after layer of indirect, electronic experiences? The point isn’t that social networking is bad, but that daily, monthly, yearly, lifelong electronic immersion, without a force to balance it, can drain a person’s ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative.” -Richard Louv
Summer is quickly drawing to a close and as you gather your back to school supplies, don’t forget to equip your child with some good tips for making it a great, anxiety-free transition (for both of you). Here are a few ideas to get you started.
What are the main sources of anxiety for young children around starting a new school year?
Anxiety is about what is unknown or new, so children of any age are worried about things that are unfamiliar or that they haven’t mastered yet. For young children who are just starting school, everything is new: the building, the teacher, the routines, the wake up time, the longer school day. Same thing happens even with kids who have a year or two of school under their belt. They hear some idea that school is hard, or that the expectations are completely different in, say, second grade and they think: “Yikes! Can I really do that?” The answer of course is yes, but they don’t and really can’t realize that yet. That’s because until they get there to dig in and see first hand, they’ve only got their imagination to rely on, and the imagination is known to fill in the blanks with some pretty scary (and unreliable) answers.
What’s the best way to help a child with back-to-school anxiety?
Make sure to normalize for your child that everyone feels nervous before school, even the teachers! Here’s your opportunity to teach your child about the differences between worry thoughts and wise thoughts. Using finger puppets, or even just using your two hands as two different voices, teach your child flexibility by playing with what worry would sound like. Start with the teacher’s worry (it’s easier to learn a new emotional intelligence skill when it’s not about you): the worry side says, (in a funny voice): “Oh no! Will I do a good job teaching the children, will I make it fun, will I run out of chalk?” Then ask your child what the teacher could say to help herself calm down. Together, come up with the alternate version of the story: “I’m a good teacher, I’ll do a good job, it’s always fun to teach kids, and… don’t be silly, there’s always more chalk in the supply closet!”
Now that your child gets the idea of the two tracks of the mind, she’s ready to apply it to her own fears. Don’t assume you know what your child is worrying about, though, because you may inadvertently plant some new ideas. Instead, ask: “What’s worry telling you about school? What’s the thing you are afraid of?” Then switch over to the other puppet, or hand, or the other side of the mind and say, “What do you think is really going to happen?” “Let’s ask your thinking brain for some good answers!” “Worry always makes things sound like that, let’s teach it the facts!”
Finally, remember that worry is fueled by an active imagination, so to “keep it real” help your child get some data: visit the school, play in the playground, peek into the classroom or even help to decorate the bulletin boards with the teacher if you have a chance. Do some “dress rehearsals” of the new morning routine at home, so your child sees how it will work. Practice goodbye routines; and, for fun and a little added flexibility, switch off roles. Give your child the chance to be the parent, not only will they feel more confident seeing what it’s like to be in charge, but you may learn some good lines from your child for how to say a clean-break goodbye.
What’s the tipping point from appropriate fear to problematic anxiety?
In terms of back-to-school fears specifically, most children settle in to the transition to the school year within about a month, some a little sooner, some a little later. If your child is becoming more upset in the mornings, or refusing to go to school, listen to your child’s specific fears and concerns and then check in with the teacher. The teacher may have some clues about what is hard for your child. And sometimes a child’s fears can look like a lack of cooperation, and a teacher’s response to that can only reinforce the fears. It may be that some good teamwork and sharing of information can help create a sense of safety and continuity for your child and help him over the hurdle.
Fears and worries are a normal part of growing up for kids. At any given point, most young children have an average of 2-3 fears. They may fear things like: dogs, or thunderstorms or even just the sound of the vacuum cleaner. It is human nature to want to avoid things that we are afraid of, and children can be great at letting you know—loud and clear—that they are too scared to do something! As parents, our role is to help our children correct their misperceptions (e.g., all dogs want to bite, all teachers are mean, if you go outside you will definitely get stung by a bee) that are fueling the avoidance, so that, equipped with the facts, they will be more willing to approach the feared situation one step at a time.
When children are willing to work with you on this project by taking your good explanations and reassurance and use that to stretch their comfort zone, for example, looking at the doggy in the shop window, waving at the neighbor’s dog, and eventually saying hi when Spot’s owner has him clearly on a leash, then it was just a phase and your child is on his way working through his fears. If however, your child becomes more upset (crying, clinging, having trouble sleeping, or sleeping independently) when you try to discuss or work on the fear, or the fear and avoidance seems to be intensifying or even spreading to other situations, then this may be more than a phase and you and/or your child may benefit from professional consultation with a child anxiety expert.
What is an appropriate amount of pushing that a parent should do to encourage their child to try new things (activities, sports, classes, etc)?
Parents often wonder, “should I push my child when he doesn’t want to try something new?” Rather than pushing, if you can talk to your child and find out the parts that are hard or scary for your child, then you can brain storm how to break down the challenge to smaller steps, or clear up a misperception of the consequences of that step, and in so doing, turn what was frightening into an opportunity for mastery and success. Sometimes however, when a child is simply not going to budge, it may be that there are other issues at play. For example, if you are insisting that your child play a team sport, but the competition and pressure clashes with their temperament, it may be time for you to be flexible. Maybe there is another way for your child to stay active (if this is your goal) besides a team sport—like riding bikes or accompanying you when you walk the dog, or, if the goal for you is more about working together, drama or dance classes may offer that opportunity. Sometimes if you can show flexibility and patience, you may be surprised that next year, with the pressure off, your child is ready to snap into action.
Happy school year everybody! Remember, transitions are temporary, so take a deep breath, exhale, and look forward to the great feeling of settling in that awaits you just a little bit further down the road.
© Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., 2012. Originally published at www.TheMotherCo.com
Dr. Tamar Chansky is a psychologist and Founder and Director of The Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety in Plymouth Meeting, PA. She is the author of many books including: Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, and Freeing Yourself From Anxiety.
The following post is taken from www.netgrace.org and written by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault. This is a great book!
Victims of sexual assault experience many devastating physical, psychological, and emotional effects. The most prevalent responses include denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. If this is you (or someone you love), you need to understand that the gospel of Jesus applies to each of these.
Sexual assault makes you feel alone, unimportant, and unworthy of sympathy. It tempts you to deny and minimize what happened to you to cope with the pain and trauma. It might initially help to create a buffer while you start dealing with the difficult emotions, but eventually denial and minimization will actually increase the pain, because it keeps you from dealing with the psychological destruction and trauma of the assault.
“Because of Jesus, you have the privilege to confidently go to God and receive grace and mercy.”
God does not deny, minimize, or ignore what happened to you. Through Jesus he identifies with you, and he has compassion. He knows your suffering. He does not want you to stay silent or deny, but to feel and express your emotions, to grieve the destruction you experienced. The cross shows that God understands pain and does not judge you for feeling grief. The resurrection shows that God conquered sin—that he is reversing sin’s destruction and restoring peace.
Because of Jesus, you have the privilege to confidently go to God and receive grace and mercy. Your need and your cries don’t make God shun you. He has compassion on you (Hebrew 4:14-16).
Sexual assault attacks your sense of identity and tells you that you are filthy, foolish, defiled, and worthless. It makes you feel that you are nothing.
“If you are in Christ, your identity is deeper than any of your wounds.”
The gospel gives you a new identity through the redemptive work of Jesus. Through faith in Christ, you are adopted into God’s family. You are given the most amazing identity: child of God (1 John 3:1–2). God adopted you and accepted you because he loves you. You didn’t do anything to deserve his love. He loved you when you were unlovable.
The gospel also tells you that through faith in Christ, his righteousness, blamelessness, and holiness is attributed to you (2 Cor. 5:21). If you are in Christ, your identity is deeper than any of your wounds. You can be secure in this new identity because it was achieved for you by God—you are his, and he cannot disown himself.
Sexual assault is shameful and burdens you with feelings of nakedness, rejection, and dirtiness. Shame is a painfully confusing experience—it makes you acutely aware of inadequacy, shortcoming, and failure.
Jesus reveals God’s love for his people by covering their nakedness, identifying with those who are rejected, cleansing their defilement, and conquering their enemy who shames them. God extends his compassion and his mighty, rescuing arm to take away your shame. Jesus both experienced shame and took your shame on himself.Jesus, of all people, did not deserve to be shamed. Yet he took on your shame, so it no longer defines you nor has power over you.
Because of the cross, we can be fully exposed, because God no longer identifies us by what we have done or by what has been done to us. In Jesus, you are made completely new.
Sexual assault attacks you with guilt that leads to feelings of condemnation, judgment, and self-blame.
You are not guilty for the sin that was committed against you—and this realization alone can bring great freedom. Yet the reality is that your sense of guilt goes deeper than what was done to you. You know that you have sinned against God and others—both before your assault and in response to what happened to you.
“If you trust in Christ … all threat of punishment, or sense of judgment, is canceled.”
The shocking message of grace is that Jesus was forsaken for us so we could be forgiven. God turned his wrath away from you and toward Christ on the cross. If you trust in Christ, all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven. All of them. All threat of punishment, or sense of judgment, is canceled. Through faith in Christ you are loved, accepted, and declared innocent.
Sexual assault creates anger at what has been done to you. While anger can be a natural and healthy response to the unquestionable evil of sexual assault, most victims express it poorly or feel they have to suppress it. You have probably been discouraged from expressing your anger, but suppressed anger holds you hostage and leaves you vindictive, addicted, embittered, immoral, and unbelieving.
God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are. He is angry because what happened to you was evil and it harmed you. Godly anger is participating in God’s anger against injustice and sin, crying out to him to do what he promised: destroy evil and demolish everything that harms others and defames God’s name.
Anger expressed to God is the cry of the weak one who trusts the strong one, the hurting person who trusts the One who will make it all better. Because vengeance is God’s, you can be free from the exhaustive cycle of vindictive anger.
Sexual assault can fill you with despair. Feeling that you’ve lost something, whether it’s your innocence, youth, health, trust, confidence, or security, can deepen into hopelessness and despair. And then depression can add seemingly inescapable weight to the experience of despair.
“Your God is strong, and he—not the evil done to you—will have the final say about you.”
The gospel gives you hope. Biblical hope is sure because God is behind his promise of a future for you. The hope you need right now is grounded in God’s faithfulness in the past and anticipation of it in the future.
Because of Jesus’ resurrection, all threats against you are tamed if you trust in Christ. Jesus conquered death and evil, so evil done to you is not the end of the story and you can have hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended to heaven and is “making all things new.” Your God is strong, and he—not the evil done to you—will have the final say about you. That hope animates the “groans within ourselves” that everything will someday be renewed. We will be delivered from all sin and misery. Every tear will be wiped away when evil is no more.
“We cannot treat the Bible as a collection of therapeutic insights. To do so distorts its message and will not lead to lasting change. If a system could give us what we need, Jesus would never have come. But he came because what was wrong with us could not be fixed any other way. He is the only answer, so we must never offer a message that is less than good news. We don’t offer people a system; we point them to a Redeemer. He is hope.”
–Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, page 9.
“The richest love grows in the soil of an unbearable disappointment with life. When we realize life can’t give us what we want, we can better give up our foolish demand that it do so and get on with the noble task of loving as we should. We will no longer need to demand protection from further disappointment. The deepest change will occur in the life of a bold realist who clings to God with a passion only his realistic appraisal of life can generate.”
Larry Crabb in Shattered Dreams
Recently, my pastor/boss/funniest person I know told me about an incredible story he heard on a podcast of This American Life regarding adoption. While I typically nod with interest at the time, it’s rare I actually remember and find the time to go back and listen to such things. However, I knew I wanted to take the time to hear this one. Alix Spiegel interviews Heidi and Rick Solomon, a couple that adopted a young boy from an orphanage in Romania. This is an amazing story of unconditional love and its power to heal even the most traumatic of situations. It is also an incredible example of the importance of attachment in early years and the destruction that can occur without it. Click below to listen.
Secondly, I came across this clever story while I was researching attachment and adoption stuff the other day. I’m a big proponent of attachment theory, and have become increasingly interested in attachment issues in adopted children. This story is writt
en from the perspective of an adopted child and provides great insight into what it could be like to switch from caretaker to caretaker. Click the link below to read the article.
(ht, Tullian Tchividjian)
The heart of most religions is good advice, good techniques, good programs, good ideas, and good support systems. These drive us deeper into ourselves, to find our inner light, inner goodness, inner voice, or inner resources.
Nothing new can be found inside of us. There is no inner rescuer deep in my soul; I just hear echoes of my own voice telling me all sorts of crazy things to numb my sense of fear, anxiety, and boredom, the origins of which I cannot truly identify.
But the heart of Christianity is Good News. It comes not as a task for us to fulfill, a mission for us to accomplish, a game plan for us to follow with the help of life coaches, but as a report that someone else has already fulfilled, accomplished, followed, and achieved everything for us.
This past winter I had the privilege of attending the Liberate Conference in Ft. Lauderdale at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Paul Tripp gave an excellent talk on how “Grace Liberates Our Relationships.” I HIGHLY recommend watching this!
You can see more videos and information about the Liberate Conference here www.liberatenet.org.
Emily Freeman’s, Grace for the Good Girl, is an excellent read for all you ladies! Below is a synopsis of the book and 2 videos taken from her blog which can be found at http://www.chattingatthesky.com.
“You’re strong. You’re responsible. You’re good. But as day fades to dusk, you begin to feel the familiar fog of anxiety, the weight and pressure of holding it together and of longing left unmet. Good girls sometimes feel that the Christian life means doing hard work with a sweet disposition. We tend to focus only on the things we can handle, our disciplined lives, and our unshakable good moods.
But what would happen if we let grace pour out boundless acceptance into our worn-out hearts and undo us? If we dared to talk about the ways we hide, our longing to be known, and the fear in the knowing?
In Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman invites you to release your tight hold on that familiar, try-hard life and lean your weight heavy into the love of Jesus. With an open hand, a whimsical style, and a heart bent brave toward adventure, Emily encourages you to move from your own impossible expectations toward the God who has graciously, miraculously, and lovingly found you.”