Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clicker Torture

Is there a treatment program for clicker addiction?

We just got back from a vacation and my poor daughter is shell-shocked. Yes, she's only ten, but apparently some revelations hit early.

We go away each year the week before Thanksgiving (TDH and I reward ourselves for making it through another round of soccer without strangling coaches, children or each other).

We eat tons of junk food, relax in the hot tub and even go to the movies. So for the kids, it's kind of like we left their mother at home (the one who limits TV, sweets, and monitors bedtime—in our rental house, there was a TV in every bedroom.)

Around our second day I heard my daughter protesting quite loudly (apparently you do bring some things on vacation you'd have rather left at home) from the bedroom. I went to investigate—it is the mother's job to keep everyone on harmonious vacation bliss.

It appears that her brother had the remote control (yes, another male joins the ranks). While I calmly explained to her that it is an incurable madness, this frenzied clicking between programs with a bored look on one's face, we were fortunate that it is not contagious, nor an affliction that our gender will ever have to suffer through. At which time she reminded me that she was suffering.

Ah, yes, the torture of sitting beside a male with a clicker.

It wasn't but a night or two later that she and I happened to catch about a third of a program (between other commercials) regarding a man with a perplexing array of ailments, none of which the doctors had been able to diagnose. As the story seemed to be getting closer to its gripping conclusion, we did finally send the children to bed.

After herding them through brushing their teeth and the "I'll die if I don't get a glass of water" vocalizations, I hurried back to the living room. Of course, there was another program on the TV. I asked TDH what happened to the man. What did the doctors find out?

TDH replied, eyes never leaving the TV, his voice telling me he was in the clicker zone, "I don't know. When I turned back, it was over."

Breathe deeply, I tell myself. This man is the father of your children. And then I slumped down on the couch as the realization hit. The father of three males. Males who, undoubtedly, would grow up with a remote growing between their fingers.

Not one minute later, Brielle hollered from her bedroom, "What happened with that man?"

I trudged toward her room trying to find the words that wouldn't dent her daddy's armor too much. An evil wayward thought crossed my mind. I could tell her about credit cards and the beauty of clicker revenge.

Lower your eyebrows! Of course I dismissed that delicious thought. We are all about fiscal (and marital) responsibility. Though it was fun to think about parading our purchases while he's in the zone. . .

Thursday, November 20, 2008


It happened again tonight. I was tired and a bit grumbly. Started thinking about my own comfort, my own wants. How much work it takes to do the things God's called me to (like parenting!).

I want to retire. I even told God that. I want my own island and a stack of books. Good books. The kind you get lost in.

My own little self-absorbed paradise (with a cook and a maid) would suite me just fine.

Then God reminded me that when I'm thinking about my comfort and myself and what my needs are, I'll implode. Maybe not literally, but certainly spiritually.

God is outward, while selfishness is inward. Selfishness is opposite His kingdom and slowly kills us.

Walking His path, giving out of the gifts He's equipped us with, actually fills us. Paradoxically so.

Because we're not really giving out of our own resources. We're giving out of His. His living waters flow out of us, and yet fill us.

So while a tropical island filled with my favorite foods and books sounds delightful (heavenly, in fact) there is far more joy and fulfillment in traveling the path God's designed for me.

And I'm sure there's a few tropical R&R stops along the way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Library Etiquette

I was at the library the other day perusing the new release rack when my cell phone rang. Focused on an interesting title, I answered it without thinking and proceeded to carry on a conversation.

A harsh, "Shhhhhh!" broke into my bubble and I turned to see a lady, who'd also been perusing the books, frowning at me. She said in a stern voice, "You're not supposed to be talking on a cell phone in the library!"

I'd like to say that I immediately apologized and hung up. Maybe it's part of my independent, first-born nature, but I don't like to be told what to do. So I continued my phone call, while thinking a few ungodly things about that woman.

I spoke to my friend for another minute before I heard God firmly clear his throat, "If the library rules are . . . " I grumbled back at Him, "All right, all right," and got off the phone.

I had a wave of God's nature sweep across me at that moment, as if he'd sprinkled some Holy Spirit love over me, because I had a sudden urge to apologize to the woman.

I went up to her and with genuine warmth (see how I know it was God) and apologized for talking on the phone. I explained that I hadn't known about the library's rule, gave her a kind smile and walked away.

About five minutes later, the woman came up and softly said, "I'm sorry I spoke to you so angrily." She went on to explain her frustration with the teenagers who frequent the library and are constantly on their phones.

I stood there with my mouth on the floor.

I know a gentle answer turns away wrath, but that's just a proverb. I didn't know it actually worked (okay, I'm being a bit facetious here). Isn't that the coolest? I got to be Jesus to her—and the amazing thing is Jesus let me even after my grumbling, rebellious attitude.

See, God can use anyone. Even an independent, first-born!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Listening to My Wiser Self

I had a mom moment last night. The ah ha kind when a piece of truth clicks in place empowering you in love and authority.

My older boys wanted to sleep together. It was a school night, but life hasn't been normal the last two months and phantom fears come out to plague my one son when bed time approaches.

For the first month after his grandpa passed away, my son was convinced he was dying and bed time became an agonizing time of self-diagnosis that ranged from appendicitis to cancer.

So, yes, I let him sleep with his brother after admonishing the boys that they had five minutes to settle down or they'd have to sleep in their own beds.

One hour later, I made my pre-bedtime rounds. The boys' door was closed (to keep the dog in) and the light was on and they were visiting away.

I told the oldest he'd need to return to his room. Shock and indignation filled the air between the boys and I as the trial got underway. Councilor number one explained that they thought the five minutes I'd given them was to settle down and talk quietly. Councilor number two told me that they'd turn out the light and go straight to sleep.

I stared into the blue eyes and then the brown, looking closely for a hint of manipulation. Sincerity shone.

I felt myself begin to waver. They sensed the weakness and went for the kill like wolves after their prey, begging for another chance with loud promises of going straight to sleep.

I opened my mouth to give in, but had a moment of self-awareness. I tend to be weak when it comes to allowing my kids to feel the pain of their choices.

I knew what my original intent was, so I needed to discipline according to my intent. Not according to their interpretation.

If I receive a traffic ticket, the judge isn't going to say, "Oooooh, you thought a yellow light meant speed up, Mrs. Sand. Well, of course we'll wave that fine."

It's my job to lead my kids and teach them to follow, rather than try to keep up and contort myself into the image that meets their desires.

And not try to wiggle my way out of traffic fines . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My seven-year-old told me he thinks he has a cavity in his ear because it hurts when he pushes on it.

I think I have a cavity in my heart. It still hurts. The ache doesn't go away, though sometimes it goes missing for a few hours.

Today I furiously worked at getting the house back in order after a long weekend with hubby and children home.

After several hours of vacuuming and sorting loads of laundry, the dull ache became a loud roar and I realized that trying to create order around me was my method of coping . . . and avoiding.

There is no getting around grief. It must be gone through. Sometimes I putter around, and try to ignore it.

The result is, with no outlet, the pressure inside builds.

I see this operating in my children. They go to school, come home and do homework and play . . . and fight. And the fighting is more intense, less reasonable (if you can consider fighting over the PlayStation reasonable).

I think we all struggle with areas of pain that we either face head on or spend immense amounts of energy avoiding.

Kind of like that tooth that we worry and fuss over, but refuse to see the dentist about. The day-to-day dull ache seems less painful than an intense one hour visit.

So we limp along, not fully functioning, but not completely incapacitated. Not who we were designed to be.

The best way to face something we dread is with a friend. Reaching out when we are down puts us in a vulnerable position, but healing comes more quickly through the kindness of a friend.

Sometimes we don't know anyone who can be that safe for us. There is one Friend whose arms are always safe and loving, and who aches to wipe our tears.

I've found much comfort leaning into the refuge that is Jesus.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mountain Climbing

My husband called me from a business trip this morning to see how things were going. I told him it was all I could do not to drive straight to the airport and buy a one way ticket to Hawaii. There was a slight pause and he asked in a rather tentative voice, "Can I come?"

I told him that he was welcome, but that children with attitude could only come for short visits.

One of my children is struggling heavily with grief this week and it comes out as button-pushing anger. That would be his anger and my buttons.

I had a less than stellar parenting moment in the midst of the fracas and was sharing the situation with a friend. I marveled at how I could shrug the whole episode off with an, "Oh, well. It just wasn't a great day."

In years past, I would have bludgeoned myself with regret, guilt and shame. Feeling something like the slime left behind a slug. It would have eaten me up for days.

And it's not that my behavior would have been off-the-charts-bad, it's that I felt I had to be a perfect parent.

When I fell short of that perfection, I believed I was the root of all the fleshliness in their little lives. If only I had parented better they wouldn't lie (or fight or be sullen . . .). If only I had read to him more as a toddler, he'd be doing better in school. If only I had played with them instead of doing housework . . . and the guilt list went on ad nauseum.

Yesterday, as I thanked the Lord for this change—this freedom from guilt and shame, I saw a picture in my mind of a mountain. There were many people around this huge mountain. Some marching in endless circles around the base for the entirety of their lives.

Others struggling to climb up the mountain side. Toiling with great effort and a few bloody scrapes to reach a plateau. That plateau is the place in their lives where they emerge from a painful situation with new insight. A place where a piece of God's puzzle falls into place. Illumination comes.

Then a new situation arises that nudges them out of the comfort of that safe place. They start climbing again with great effort until they reach another plateau of understanding and peace. Maybe some healing of past hurts. Forgiveness for wrongs made. They rest in that place for a while.

But as we grow and climb, the plateaus come more easily. Insight more quickly and the vistas become more wide-sweeping.

Some remain on the same plateau all their lives, some just circle the mountain.

But I want to climb as close as I can to the summit before I hear those sweet words from the mouth of Jesus. "You have fought the good fight. You've won the race. You've kept the faith." Welcome home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Have you ever noticed that some people don't know where they end and others begin?

They feel the need to take charge of your life and try to live it for you, or at the very least urge you to live it the way they would.

In-laws often get the bad rap for this, but I think many struggle with not knowing when to stay quiet, when to tone down the body language, when to let go.

As parents especially, we can struggle with over-protective love.

We see the train wreck coming if our children stay right in the middle of the tracks. We tell ourselves that it's really in their best interest that we speak up.

But isn't it really about us?

About our need for their lives to reflect our values, our desperate need to keep them from the pain of their choices.

But is it their pain or our own pain that we wrestle with?

If we don't see others or our children as their own, self-contained entities we'll continually cross out of the space that is ours and into the space that is theirs.

One parenting class I took referred to it as our "space bubble."

When we cross into their space bubble, in a sense we are tying their hands and keeping them from priceless treasure—learning from the error of their ways.

Lessons learned are like gold nuggets we accumulate across a lifetime.

When we save our kids from themselves, we steal their gold. And sadly, keep them on the very path we are trying to save them from.

Each day they get older the price gets higher.

Much better to release them into the hands of the One who yearns to deposit much gold into their (and our) lives.