I really shouldn’t…

read the news before I go to bed…I discourage this for my clients all the time, but for some reason, this week I’ve read my “news briefing” (which makes me feel important like they are specifically ‘briefing me’ :)) before I go to sleep. The news is …ugh… most of the time, I can’t watch it, but need and want to stay somewhat informed whether it is fake, real or somewhat in the middle, so I typically go to the ‘NEWS’ app and scan the titles. HOWEVER, last night I dug a little dipper into a couple of horrible stories including the evilness of the California family (a blog for another day) and the Nassar doctor (I just can’t put the Dr. before his name right now) story surrounding 100s of young athletes over the years which led to me not sleeping well and getting up at 5:15 feeling the need to blog…

The funny thing is or actually I believe the spiritual thing is, I have thought about/felt God prompting me to write this post for the past couple of weeks. I was going to title it, “SPEAK UP” or “How to teach your children to SPEAK UP”.

In my profession, I have the bittersweet task often of being the first one to hear people disclose terrible things that have happened to them sometimes 40 years prior or 4 months… It has been a true humbling and honorable experience to be someone God uses to help people heal from true evil that has been done to them. People often think if they don’t talk about it or deal with it that it doesn’t affect them. I explain that it is similar to having a house that hasn’t been dusted in many years. It may look like everything is in place but you still sneeze and are affected by the dust and may not realize that just keeping things neat and orderly isn’t enough. Yes, once you start dusting, it may feel worse at first and your sneezing may increase momentarily, but when it is all clean out and up, you feel so much better and free.

My approach to teaching parents and encouraging victims always includes:

SPEAKING UP! Preferably sooner than later! Whether a boss or co-worker is saying inappropriate things to you, a dirty old man at church (unfortunately church is full of imperfect people) makes comments to you, a classmate smacks your bottom, or a family member/neighbor/stranger or ANYONE says or does anything (even if the person touches your shoulder and you feel weird) SPEAK UP, tell someone you trust and if you don’t have someone you trust, keep searching until you find someone who hears you!

The good news about SPEAKING UP!

Speaking up helps people learn: If you inform an adult that your 8th grade classmate smacked your bottom and he gets in trouble. You are actually helping him to learn that you DO NOT touch a woman inappropriately and without her permission. He hopefully will learn early on NOT to do that again. Boys this applies to you as well. If a girl says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or touches you, when you SPEAK UP and call her out, you are helping her to learn.

-Speaking up helps individuals stay out of trouble: I have boys and they are silly, which is normal. However, they at one period thought they could give me a love tap on the bottom like their dad did while flirting with me. It is my job as a mother to inform them that is it NOT appropriate to touch a woman like that unless you are married and know one another is joking. Basically, my husband had to stop doing that because they needed to see it modeled. Maybe you think this is extreme, but if it helps my kids learn, then it was worth it! Of course, there are times when the kids aren’t in the room ;).

Speaking up breaks the cycle: I’m that weird mom who stands in the doorway of men’s restrooms talking to her boys the entire time they are in there. Yes, they’ve had karate, Yes, they are getting older, BUT… I WILL CUT YOU  if you touch my kids inappropriately. My boys think I’m nuts and hate it, but I’m not their mom to be cool or friendly. Part of my job is protecting and preparing them. Things happen in public restrooms and other places. Teach your kids this…Yes it is an ugly truth but knowing it will hopefully help them. If enough crazy moms stand up, maybe we can begin to break the cycle for some.

Speaking up shows love: This one is very personal to me…You see I firmly believe that children must be taught to speak up against anyone. My neighbor and I are like family, but we’ve even had the conversations with our children that even if one of us tries something, they should speak up! They should learn that even those that are closest to them can and should be held accountable. One way to teach this to your children is to create an environment where your children feel safe telling you anything. My parents are not perfect, but they got this one right at a very crucial time for my older sister and me…A family member once tried to “show himself” to us “and have us touch him” as little girls and my very brave (sometimes she doesn’t realize how brave she really is, although she can’t even give someone the stink eye she looks and is SO sweet…) SPOKE UP. My sister told that person to stop and we got out of the bathroom and when our parents came, she told them what happened. She felt safe telling them and they responded by protecting us. Part of your children feeling safe is knowing you’ll listen and respond (this is love)!  I want go into long details except to say, our dad confronted the person (mom couldn’t go or trust me she’d be in jail to this day, which is basically what she told our dad…You go or I will…) and eventually we were NEVER around that person EVER AGAIN until his funeral. I truly believe I would not be who I am today without my parents allowing us to speak up and then responding appropriately. It wasn’t easy and it tore a family apart, but it was worth it! If you have to tear a family apart, turn a neighborhood upside down, or take on a corporate executive, DO IT!

Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (By the ways, this proverb was based on what a mom taught her son).

God love you and He didn’t intend for us to ever even taste evil, but because of Adam and Eve chooses to think they knew better, we live in a very broken world. The good news though is that Jesus came to make all things new…He is doing that now and will wipe away all evil one day. This is what I have hope and faith in that keeps me going. I hope you will consider this hope too.

With love,

Natalie

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Wolf dad

Recently, I’ve been reading a book titled, Six ways to keep the ‘good’ in your boy, by Dannah Gresh because I’m raising boys, interact with others doing to same, and have realized it is not a task for the faint at heart to say the least. Just yesterday morning, my son came in after taking our puppy out and explained that he had to grab poop out of her butt…(stay tuned for the rest of this story…)

It is a great book with some practical advice on raising boys. By the way, she has one written for ‘good’ girls too. She starts out addressing the fears of mothers, transitions into the importance of connecting with your children and then explains her six ways. Some of the ways aren’t surprising such as encouraging boys to go outside, hosting fantasy football parties, giving them a book to read, etc. However, one story in particular has really challenged me..

She discussed reading a book herself called, The Man who lives with wolves, about a true story of a man named Shaun Ellis who studied wolf behavior to the point that he was accepted into a pack. Wolves apparently are very family oriented and cubs are raised in two distinct stages.

In stage one (the first 5-6 weeks of the cubs lives), the pups are sheltered and nurtured by their mothers. During this time, the mothers teach them to be intimate by cuddling them and bathing them. She also keeps them safe during this time and teaches them to bathe, eat and rest. The cubs are rarely seen by the rest of the pack also during this time.

In stage two, the cubs start to come out of the den and learn about risk and purpose with their dads. The wolf dads begin by teaching them through games similar to a relay game. As the weeks progress, the dads lead the cubs further away from security and their den. The intent of the relay type game they are taught is to teach them to hunt which is how wolves survive. Dads teach the cubs their purpose in hunting and then they come back to the den where moms continue instilling the value of community. The moms and dad work together to teach their cubs needed values for survival.

Ok, you say, that is nice and we can learn from that but it’s nothing shocking, maybe not but this next aspect of “wolf dad” is. Shaun, the guy studying the wolves, was actually accepted into a pack of wolves. However, one day when Shaun and another male wolf was left behind during a hunting adventure to guard the den full of younger cubs, Shaun got thirsty and left the den to only to be found and pinned against a tree for several hours by the wolf dad. I can’t imagine how intimidated and scared Shaun must have felt. Eventually, the wolf let Shaun go and Shaun realized that evening walking along the stream where he was trying to find water to alleviate his thirst, that a grizzly bear had been where he was and the wolf dad knew this from experience. The wolf dad pinning him against a tree for several hours potentially saved him from being ripped apart by a grizzly bear. Wolf dads teach their cubs to play, take risks and eventually hunt for survival. They know when to push their boys and when to punish or discipline them. The mothers also know to stay back and let the dads do this at the needed time.

As human mothers, somehow we tend to want to stay in stage one way too long. We want to secure and nurture our baby boys and often get in the way of their fathers teaching them to take risks, push them to work hard and accept challenges which includes loving discipline at times. It is hard as a mother to see your husband parent differently at times than you do or feel is right. We may think they are “being too hard on them, etc”. However, I do not know what it is like to be a man in this world. My husband has experiences, gifts, talents and abilities according to his design by God as a man that I simply don’t have and vice versa. I have seen my boys grow as I have stepped back at times and not tried to nag the manhood out of the men in my house.

For example, the story about my oldest from the beginning is that he took the puppy out to pee and poop before school and noticed that our dog couldn’t get the last bit (turd-sorry but that is the best way to describe it) out by herself so our son grabbed a paper towel and helped the dog to get it out and cleaned her up. At times, I may have felt my husband was being tough on our son when it came to taking care of the dog. However, hearing that my son who is in still in elementary school saw a problem, figured out a solution and took care of someone else without coming in to ask me for help or wine about it…made me realize that I need to sit back at times and allow my husband to push my son to be the man God created him to be.

Again, I realize that there are single moms in this world and parents who abuse their children and this is not at all what I mean by loving discipline. I encourage single moms to find a good man to mentor their boys. The beauty of the family of God is that we are supposed to look at one another as family and help one another. Families need to be available and willing to help single moms also. I encourage fathers to lovingly push their boys to reach their greatest potential. Finally, I encourage mothers to nurture and teach intimacy but also allow dads to teach the other needed skills for their boys to survive and flourish in this world!

Proverbs 29:11, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”

TGIF,

Natalie

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How to respond to evil…

My husband and I recently discovered the Amazon Prime series, “The Man in the High Castle”, which explore what life would be like if Japan and Germany had won WWII. It is a sober, thought-provoking, cliff hanger at the end of every show type of series. I love it but I’ll tell you it make you think and makes you thankful. For example, I would have been exterminated if I was in the Eastern Reich of the States because I was born clubfooted so I’m thankful that I live in a nation where birth defects don’t make you a mistake. However, recently I’ve been thinking even more about making my life matter and doing more for those in need. I was convicted that Americans today are somewhat like the Germans at times by thinking we are better than the rest of the world, happy to live in our nice homes, driving luxury cars, and giving pennies to those in need. It is a sobering yet true thought…

As this thought has been on my heart and I’m praying about what this means for me, I wake up and see the news of Las Vegas… I was reminded of the Bible verse in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, overcome evil with good.” This is the right way to respond to tragedy. Do good.

It was very sad to see that so many died at a concert last night, but it is also sad that thousands die all over the world of starvation. We cannot be so consumed with ourselves that we miss out on using our blessings as Americans for good.

Here are some ways you can specifically overcome the evil in the world.

Donate to Compassion International. http://www.compassion.com They give food, education and hope to children in extreme poverty.

Pray for the victims and victims’ families from the Las Vegas tragedy.

Pray for the mentally ill in our community and world. Pray for those who work with this population.

Be thankful.

Be kind to a stranger.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter.

Go to a great church and be a part of a family of believers that are working to overcoming evil with good. If you haven’t find one yet, keep searching.

Teach your children to do good and be great people not just great at a sport or activity.

Be encouraged today and overcome this crazy evil world with the good news of Christ today,

Natalie

A lot of wasted toilet paper: Anger and Love

Growing up in a small town if you didn’t want to drink and party on the weekends at a friend’s house, you had to find something else stupid to do, so we ‘rolled houses’ (aka throwing toilet paper in trees) all the time. At some point it became so much fun to roll the ‘Roper girls’ house that my dad would sit and wait in his car (a very scary 1980 something red Nissan Sentra) laid back in his seat ready to scare some teenagers. It became quite comical and was really a ton of fun. Teens will be teens, right? I’m thankful that my parents let us have fun and didn’t make a big deal out of it as long as we cleaned it up…Parents often get very frustrated parenting teens and teens often get frustrated with parents. As kids, many will go through a phase of saying, “I hate you.” which can truly hurt a parent’s feelings. So how do we deal with angry kids? How do we deal with anger?

Truly, there is a fine line between love and hate. People get angry at the people they love and about the things they love. Anger in and of itself isn’t bad. God may allow anger in us to motivate us to correct evil such as child abuse or poverty or to help us set others things right. Hopefully as adults we’ve learned to manage our anger effectively, but let’s be honest, most of us are still learning in this area. At the same time, for those of us raising children, we need to help them learn how to manage their anger effectively also.

Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell in the book, “The Five Love Languages in Children” state, “The primary lifetime threat to your child is his or her anger.” It’s not pornography, sex trafficking, being kidnapped, drugs, etc. I tend to agree with their further statement, “The mishandling of anger is related to every present and future problem your child may have,–from poor grades to damaged relationships to possible suicide.” Teenagers are often the most difficult to deal with because parents often think, “We’ve tried everything and nothing works.” Teens are often being passive-aggressive, which is a subconscious determination to do the opposite of what the authority figure (parents in this case) wants.  Sometimes, passive-aggressive behavior in teens can be drugs, violence, sexual activity resulting in disease or unplanned pregnancy, school failure or even suicide. The good news is we can learn to manage anger and teach others how to positive manage anger as well.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all anger is wrong and needs to be disciplined in children. Teach them how to manage it. Here are some tips:

-Give them choices. Ask them, “What is/was a better way of handling this situation?”

-Let small things go while parenting teens such as messy rooms or toilet-papering trees! Proverbs 19:11, Overlook offenses at times.

-Encourage physical activities such as mountain climbing, ropes courses, white-water rafting, sport, biking, etc that can help teens to satisfy their desire for excitement and danger.

-Model how to deal maturely with anger. Apologize to you kids when you haven’t done this so well.

-Allow them to tell you they are angry at you. When my kids starting saying, “I hate you or ____ person”. I  encouraged them to say, “I had what you did or I hate what this person did” instead of “I hate you”. Let your kids verbally express anger, which can be better than behaviorally expressing it at times. Let them get verbal at home when you are there to help them so they hopefully won’t do it at school. Allowing this isn’t permissive parenting, it is an opportunity to teach them. Proverbs: 15:1 A gentle angers turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger. This take time and practice!

-Give behavioral alternatives such as a punching bag. My kids will go punch their pillows. Some kids will hit themselves and I tell them they don’t have the right to harm a body that belongs to God, but they can punch the stuffing out of their pillows!

-Take time to listen to your kids, love them unconditionally and spend quality time with them. Explain your reasoning behind decisions to your kids. Most angry adults felt unloved by their parents. It is a sad but often true reality.

-If you need help, contact a family counselor who can help. Never let pride stand in the way of seeking good counsel. Proverbs 12:15 Wise people realize they don’t know it all and seek wise counsel!

God Bless you all for reading and use anger for good!

Natalie

p.s. A great toilet papering trick: My friend, Jill’s dad was one of the local assistant fire chiefs and he told us to light a match at the end of the toilet paper and it would burn right out of the tree without burning a tree! It worked for us! Just don’t try alone..lol

 

 

My mom and Jane Fonda…

I’m sorry I’ve been gone from the blog scene for a while, life is too busy at times I guess. I do love to write and encourage you all (my two faithful readers).

Since Mother’s Day is this weekend (hint to all those who still need to get something to show their appreciation for the mothers in their lives), I figured I’d write about my mom.

My mom truly is one of my heroes. I really think she can do just about anything. I grew up watching her at home keep an immaculate house. The times we talked were typically on Saturdays as we cleaned the house together with my sisters, and listened to the “oldies music” of the 50-70s. Somehow my oldest sister convinced me that the toilets were my job! Although sometimes her borderline OCD cleaning tendencies drove me nuts, one thing I learned that she kept things nice because it made them last longer. Our house was small, but it was so nicely kept we though it was as nice as anyone else’s. Now, I try to keep my house clean too, but not quite like her. I think my husband married me because he loved how clean my mom was, lol.

Dressed to the nines is definitely a term used to describe her at work. Her work ethic was solid from the tasks she completed, the reputation she acquired, to the clothes she had on. She wasn’t a mom who tried to dress like a teenager, thankfully, but was always dressed professionally no matter what job she did from working in insurance to being a school secretary. She always looked like she could be working in Manhattan. She takes her job seriously and all of her daughters have a strong work ethic as a result. We also like to dress nicely too :).

However, my mom dressed completely different while mowing the lawn and weed-eating. Basically, she looks like Jane Fonda from the old work out VHS days. She wears a headband, truly a sweatband. Somehow she was always outside with that headband on when dates came to pick me up. She had nice arms from weed-eating she says. She is very strong physically and was a great softball player yet the ultimate portrait of a business woman during the week. I think I’m tough anytime I pick up our week-eater!

Lastly, she was faithful and supportive as a wife although it was not always easy. She always taught us to “never say never” and be careful not to judge others because you never know what types of situations you will find yourself in one day. My mom supported my dad while he was in the military and as he serves in other ways today. She is not easy on him though and expects him to bring her coffee every morning! “He brews” is a book of the Bible by the way…:)

Raising three girls wasn’t easy I’m sure, but we weren’t allowed to get too dramatic so as difficult as having a home with three girls may sound, she just didn’t tolerate our crap… We thought she was mean, but now I’m so thankful for the way she raised us and the example she showed us. The lessons are truly unending but Proverbs 31 probably sums it up minus the Jane Fonda headband.

So thankful for my mom who still doesn’t put up with my crap,

Natalie

My Grandma taught me about the “bird and bees”.

I think I was in the 6th grade and stayed with her sometimes after school and I’m not sure how it came up but it was something like…”A girl has a garage and a boy has a car, don’t let a boy put his car in your garage until you are married…” No, my wonderful, amazing parents did not have this talk with me, but good ole’ Granny did…:)

I’ve been studying effective communication between parents and children. One startling statistic I read from http://www.fivethirtyeight.com this week is that on average parents spend about 3 minutes a day in meaningful dialogue with their children. We wonder why they don’t listen…maybe it’s because we don’t.

I also read in an article from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships called, “Parental behaviors related to adolescents’ self-disclosure: Adolescents’ views” by Ana Tokic ́ Ninoslava Pec ́nik,

that the following are reasons according to one study why adolescents’ don’t talk to their parents:

-Parents are distracted, unavailable, show mistrust, interrupt, lack understanding, break confidentiality (I just told grandma…), argue/yell, lecture, show disapproval or disappointment only and give the silent treatment.

Adolescents stated in the same study that parents who do the following make them want to talk to their parents:

-They are positive, creating opportunities for disclosure, ask open-ended questions, recognize their mental status, invite unconditional disclosure, wait for them to talk, provide support, self-disclose, are empathetic, appreciate adolescent disclosure, trust them to keep secrets, give constructive feedback, and approve requests.

So when should this start, if you are a parent, now…even if you have young children…If mine are in trouble and beating themselves up about it, I may share one of the many stories of when I got in trouble like the time I tried to do pull-ups on the towel rack and the sheet rock came down with the rack…Children learn to overcome mistakes and failures by learning from you sharing yours.

Make time for your kids today. They are worth it!

Have a great week!

Natalie

 

 

 

“Make Christmas Great Again, skip church”, says the atheist billboard…

It has been a tough year to listen to the news for many reasons, but at least once a week I try to listen, read, or watch some sort of news outlet to get an idea of what is happening in the world. I am so thankful that I heard about this billboard campaign sponsored by the American Atheists group because if you are one of my two faithful readers…you’ll know I have blogged in a while and this news made me eager to blog!

It is very interesting on so many levels and I am simply going to ask a few rhetorical questions in response to this to get you thinking today.

1-They say, “Make Christmas Great Again…”  which implies that once it was great. How was it great for the atheist I ask in the past?

2-Do we truly know the meaning of Christmas? Yes, this is a question for even the Christians…

3-Will Christmas be great if we simply “skip church”?

4-Are you fulfilled by the materialistic, hurried, people-pleasing through gift-giving, expectant hope of the perfect gift and perfect mate to come thoughts of Christmas for those who celebrate Christmas without believing in the true meaning?

5-Wouldn’t it be more politically correct or accurate rather to say, “Make December Great, skip Christmas?” if you are an atheist?

6-Is it interesting that those who don’t believe in Christianity expect Christians to be tolerate of everything, yet those individuals are extremely intolerant of Christians and their beliefs?

Please think about these questions this season..

Here are my final thoughts… I read this on the pathos.com site, “It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. At first glance of this quote, I sarcastically think, “Oh yeah, let’s go around telling everyone what we believe about them and that is the best gift we can give. For example maybe you think about a drug addict, ‘I think you are a horrible person with no future.’ ” Wow what a gift to give them..your beliefs..

However, then I thought you know this atheist is one to something. First of all, he is exactly right, Christianity has nothing to do with being a good person. It is about Jesus being that good person in our place. Our desire to be a good person after we accept Jesus in our place is because of the realization of how much we are loved and that love overflows to those around us. Maybe all the other religions are about being a good person, but not Christianity! The God of Christianity is truly the only God of grace (unmerited favor-meaning nothing we do would ever be good enough for God, but he loves us anyways and sent his son to pay our debt of being good.) Also, The best gift I can truly give someone as a believer in CHRISTmas is to share my beliefs and be open and honest about those beliefs. The loving thing for me to do is to share Christ and the hope he provides for me! Great thoughts Mr.Atheist!

The sad thing is that many of us will be silent and not share the love we have with others this season. Let’s change that and let others see the greatness of Christmas by sharing with everyone we know the true meaning of Christmas…which is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. What does the simple birth of a baby 2000+ years ago in a cattle trough really mean? Well for Christians, Jesus is the son of God who came to live a perfect life we can’t and to die a death we owe to pay for all of the bad within us. The Jews at the time were expecting a reigning king to come but if God had come in any other form but a lowly human, we couldn’t have handled his wrath and judgment. Instead he came to suffer for us and pay our price for sin (all wrong choices, thoughts, etc.) Christ represents the hope of our future, the peace in our present, and the redemption of our past. This is a truly beautiful thing to share. By the way, you don’t have to go to church or invite someone to church to share the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas,

Natalie

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