Of Mountains and Valleys

Lately I’ve been contemplating the difficulty of life. I’m not that old by many people’s standards, yet I have lived through a lot of hardship. I won’t get into the specifics here, because it’s really not the point. I’ve been thinking about the highs and lows, all the the cliches and adages about them, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, mountain tops and rock bottoms. It happens to everyone. I’ve been thinking a lot about how easy it is to be swallowed up in the valleys, to get stuck there. To lay down and give up. 
A lot of goals in life seem to focus on happiness, success, well-being, etc., but what about those people who seem to find themselves in valley after valley. I’ll speak from experience, it’s easy to look around and see people who appear the be on the mountain top. It may or may not be reality, but at least they are laughing, smiling, enjoying. It would be easy to feel envy. But the thought that keeps swirling in my mind is “why are they there, how did they get there?”. Is it luck? Fortune? Did something/someone pluck them from the ground and drop them off on a mountain peak? No.
The truth is, we don’t often think about what it takes to climb a mountain in regard to the analogy of peaks and valleys in life. We just see the end result when looking at someone else’s life. The victorious summit. In reality, climbing a mountain is hard work. It takes effort. It takes perseverance, fortitude, strength, and endurance. It also takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. To climb a mountain, you are working against the force of gravity.
So today I am writing to encourage you. If you find yourself in a valley. Start climbing. Don’t sit down and look up and expect to find yourself miraculously on a peak. It doesn’t work that way. You must make intentional steps in an upward direction. What those steps are may look different for everyone, and you may be stuck and in need of someone to pull you out, and if that’s you, your step is to reach out and ask. You may know exactly what you need to do, and where you need to go, or you may just need to start and make some forward progress. The important thing is not to give up.
Without the contrast of the valley, the summit would hold much less satisfaction. This is a part of the journey. We are not meant to take it alone. Don’t buy into the lie that you are the only one in a valley, or the only one climbing, or the only one slipping and sliding. You’re not. Life is a pursuit, it’s not a lottery. Sure there are things outside of your control, obstacles, but you can make a way. Turn on some good music, put on your hiking boots, and just put one foot in front of the other. Don’t forget to take in the scenery, there is beauty to be found along the way.
John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Reframing Difficult Behavior

I feel like a lot of the difficult qualities in childhood are actually strengths. They are things that we as parents have to train our children to use positively. Whatever the thing is I’m dealing with, “strong-willed” for example, I try to think of synonyms for, like strong, motivated, determined. Then I try to remind myself how the child will be well-served by those traits in the future and try to steer them that way as they grow.

Let’s look at some common negative childhood behavior labels and some positive skills that usually go hand-in-hand.

Strong-willed: strong, determined, motivated, confident, intelligent, independent

Argumentative: confident, strong sense of justice, expressive, strong verbal skills, determined, engaging

Hyper: energetic, joyful, exuberant, kinesthetic, engaging, active

Loud: passionate, enthusiastic

Dramatic/Emotional: relational, sympathetic, empathetic, enthusiastic, tender-hearted

Now I’m not saying there is no such thing as a negative behavior. What I am saying is that negative behaviors are often sinful expressions of traits and qualities that God intends to use for His purposes. It is our job as parents to call these qualities out and to help them see that there is a purpose to how they are wired.

If we are constantly telling our children no and stop when they behave a certain way, we are not teaching them healthy outlets for what they are experiencing internally. That leads to frustration for them and exhaustion for you. If you don’t get the root, the weed will keep popping back up. Taking the analogy a step further, we need to help them understand the soil they are working with and why they are prone to certain weeds, and how they can instead produce healthy fruit with a little work.

If we zoom out on the labels and qualities mentioned above, we can see where they fit in terms of the qualities that God is calling out in His children. In Galatians, we are given a blueprint of what a mature child of God looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

So here they are:

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-Control

These are qualities that we should seek to cultivate in our children (and of course, ourselves!). For each of these, there is also another side to the spectrum. Often, we focus on the rotten fruit rather than the good fruit because the rotten fruit draws our attention with its stench.

Hate

Despair*

Anxiety*

Impatience

Meanness

Evil

Deceit

Violence

Impulsivity

Many of the behaviors we deal with as parents on a daily basis fall on the spectrum between good fruit and rotten fruit. As the parent, we must guide them toward the side which gives life. If we look at these negative behaviors in relation to their opposite, it can be easier to see which fruit of the Spirit we should be working on. If a child acts impulsively, self-control. If they are deceitful, faithfulness.

It can be especially hard in the early years, when communication is limited, but now is the time to lay the groundwork for how you will parent, what your outlook is, and to determine your philosophy of parenthood. I think it is even a good practice to write a mission statement as a parent.

Ask yourself questions. What kind of environment do you want to create in your home? What kinds of qualities do you want to encourage in your child? What kind of attitude and character do you want to exemplify as a parent? What kind of adult do you hope your child will grow into?

Once you have your mission in mind, it will be easier to think up strategies and game plans for accomplishing those goals. I don’t want my children to be victims of accidental parenting. I want to be intentional in the shaping of their tiny beings.

My mission statement is a work in progress, but here are some of the things I want to focus on. I will provide a safe and stable home for my children, built on faith and a vibrant marriage. I will model well-regulated emotions and the fruits of the Spirit (Oh sweet Jesus, please help!). I will model conflict resolution and kindness. I will strive to show how to love God and others.

So how can you effectively parent difficult behavior?

  1. Make a mission statement for your parenting
  2. Recognize the positive side of the coin when dealing with a difficult behavior
  3. Guide your child to find their strengths and to recognize their weaknesses
  4. Help them to grow in the fruits of the Spirit

What are things you do to keep negative behavior in perspective? What do you think is important to include in your parenting philosophy?

*I am not discounting clinical anxiety or depression and I realize that in some cases, these are present in children, even though they usually do not present until adolescence. However, we are still responsible for our behaviors and will be held accountable for how we respond in such situations. If you would like further clarification, feel free to email me, oneaddmommy@gmail.com

Every Creature Was Stirring

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, every creature was stirring, even the mouse. There is no hush here, no silent night. Only the hustle and bustle of rush, rush, rush, rush! 
You see, there are gifts to be wrapped and lights to be hung, tables to be set, jingle bells to be rung. The house is a mess, it’s not ready for guests. The stockings aren’t hung, there’s pine needles in the rug. 

Daddy’s been standing under the mistletoe with care, but no notice from mom, not even a glare. 
Just then, there arose such a clatter! She glanced at the nativity set on the mantle, to see what was the matter. “Oh no, not again! That star just won’t hold! There we go, perfect!, 

                           **

everything for this Christmas should be perfect!”. 

                           **

Just then she stopped, and realized what was the matter. It wasn’t the fallen star, unwrapped gifts, or chores left undone. It was the failure to recognize the Savior who had come.
She paused there and pondered the cold manger and hay. Certainly, not a new mother’s picture perfect day! Yet among all mothers, she was surely blessed. 
So when did all this need for perfection and production come into play? After all we’re all a mess at times, life doesn’t wait for the holidays. 
So right then and there she made a choice to just be real and focus on the the manger and hay. To let the imperfection show, to not run away. For in our imperfection, Christ’s perfection is on display. 
At last she turned and saw him beneath the mistletoe, without a word she joined him there as the sky began to snow.
May you have a Merry Christmas, but if by chance you’re not feeling very merry, may you be surrounded with family and friends who let you feel what you feel. And if you find yourself lonely, reach out and remember that manger and hay and be reminded of God’s perfect love on an imperfect day.

Living Causes Death

     Ok, so the Internet, especially social media, is a hot bed for trending topics. The last couple of weeks I have seen many posts in my feed about things that can lead to cancer and or death. Now, I’m not making light of cancer or death in anyway. No one reading this has been untouched by cancer or death. They are undoubtedly traumatizing realities and a part of life.
     What bothers me is the obsession that people seem to have in creating and sharing articles and memes with these scare tactics. Fear-mongering and spun-out statistics have become the norm. If there is one thing I took away from my college statistics class, it’s that correlation does not equal causation. The majority of these knee-jerk posts are quoting correlation studies. 
     Here’s a couple of good correlations for you. High ice cream sales are positively correlated with drowning deaths. Also, the fewer honey-producing bee colonies there are, the more juveniles are arrested for possession of marijuana. So clearly, if we just stopped selling ice cream, fewer people would drown, right? And if we focused on producing more honey, less young people would get into drugs, right? Clearly, there is more at play here than these correlations are telling us. 
     So, why then are we so obsessed with these tiny pieces of information that might somehow be related to death? We know that there is more to it. We wouldn’t stop buying ice cream hoping to decrease our chances of drowning.
     I realize this is an oversimplification of a complex topic, but my point is. Do your research. Make informed, intelligent decisions for you and your family. Don’t be caught up in fear and anxious living.

Matthew 6:27

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

     I’m not suggesting that what you eat and drink doesn’t matter. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m extremely mindful of what I eat and feed my family. I have catered our diet to our needs and according to my research and conscience. I’m also not advocating that anyone change to my way of eating, what I am advocating for is making choices based on your own critical-thinking and not based on carefully crafted headlines that float around the Internet. For every pro, there is a con. We need to look at the big picture.
Bottom line: there is one universal statistic that applies to every one of us. There is a 100% causal correlation between living and death. The longer you live, the more significant the correlation becomes. Sure, we can eat well and make good choices and be cautious, but at the end of the day, you could still step off the wrong curb at the wrong time. We just do not know. So yes, let’s make good choices and live well, not because we might stave off death one more day, but rather in case we don’t.
“The object of life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “[Woo Hoo!], what a ride!” -Mavis Leyrer (some debate about the attribution and exact wording)
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln 

I’m Back…?

Well you can’t say that I didn’t warn you! I told you I’m great at starting things, but not so great at following through. So I’ve taken a bit of a writing hiatus from my blog. Shortly after I started it, I began writing monthly articles for an online magazine called Writ Magazine. I haven’t had a regular deadline for my writing in a very long time, and I found it rather exhausting. Even though I was enjoying it, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of brain space or creativity left over for my own blog.

Now I am on a hiatus from writing there, so I am venturing back into the blogsphere. In the meantime, I have been running around being mom to my busy boy, trying out some new hobbies, and started my own business (no, I haven’t quit that yet). You can learn more about my business venture here.

My son just turned one, so I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the last year. It was painfully hard in places, but also immensely joyful. Such a range of emotions and experiences that I had always hoped to one day have. Yes, I still miss my sleep. But last night as I was getting up for the third time after bed, I thought to myself how in the back of my mind I was a little bit excited to go pick up my son, despite my exhaustion. Let me tell you, that is saying something.

So back to the blog, I really enjoy writing, but I often wonder if I really have anything that other people want to read. I find it really easy to rant, it comes naturally. I tend to be a little bit cynical and even negative at times. Over the last year I have found myself focusing much more on the positive. Especially when it comes to the power of words.

Since having my son, I have begun to follow a lot of mommy blogs, especially through their Facebook pages. I am always shocked and horrified by the comment sections on these blogs. Some of the “moms” on these pages are just plain cruel to the author, to each other. It really drives me crazy. I even wrote an article about it. 

The experience of reading these comments, was one of the main things that led me to thinking about the positive impact that words can have for encouragement, or the negative impact they can have and the pain they can cause. I’m not saying I will never rant, Because I want to be real, and sometimes people just need to vent. What I am saying is, I want to be more focused on my blessings than my burdens, I read that somewhere recently and it really struck a chord with me. It is such a good reminder, not because you might bring others down, or because you should fake a smile and hide the hard stuff. It is because a spirit of thanksgiving fosters true joy, no matter the circumstances. By focusing more on your blessings, you will be blessed. 

On social media, it’s really easy to get riled up and share negative and inflammatory posts. After a while, all the negativity starts to seep into your heart and affect your mood and attitude. I still get riled up at things I read online, and I’ve even started and deleted ranting posts about it. But you know what I’ve discovered? It’s really no harder to post the positive, to motivate, and encourage. It might take a little more thoughtfulness and intentionality, but the benefits far exceed the effort.

I’m hoping you will follow along on my journey and that maybe I can encourage you and you can encourage me in my writing by being willing to read it and share your own thoughts and experiences with me.

Thanks for reading.