This post is day 9. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
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A child’s world comes apart quite literally in transition. The train track is taken apart and put in a box, the bed dismantled and wrapped in paper. There is an undoing and a breaking in their worlds in this time, and truthfully, it is happening in our world as well. We may not have the same innocence a child has to acknowledge it, but it is there.

Our children need words of life to build their souls in this breaking, we need words of life to build our souls in this breaking. 

Put on your shoes, quick! These are the words that come naturally to me, I am a rusher, I like getting things done, a child’s pace is approximately 10000 times slower than the speed at which I want my to-list accomplished. But I have learned the very hard way the power my words and my attitude have in building or destroying my children. The very, very, very hard way. I feel the need to say this again today, I make these mistakes almost every day. Speaking words of life is an intentional, character-forming, tongue-restraining, control of my natural impulses in every way. It is not easy, it is not natural, but it is a choice. This is good news because as long as I am alive, I can make a different choice, I can choose to speak life and turn away from words that push and rush and from words that hurt and destroy.

I can think of fewer things that put life, joy and vitality back into my children and husband than affirming words. The only way I am able to intentionally speak words of life over them is to slow myself down. I don’t need to hurry them, my words can build them, and my words can show them that they are seen and known.

When he called and asked me to put his socks on after trying and I want to get out the door, You tried so hard to put your sock on, I am so proud of you.

When we arrive exhausted at a restaurant, but I still want to keep driving, That car ride was so long, I can see that you were hot in your car seat. Thank you for your patience.

When I cannot believe I have to deal with yet another aggressive move on the playground, I see you are sad to lose your toys, but you may not hit and take this other boys’ toys even when you are sad. Come to me and tell me about your sadness, we can talk about it together.

When it is way past dinner time and bed time and it’s Child Fall Apart time but an AirBnB host has messed up our booking, I know it is late and you are tired, we are doing everything we can to get the key to the guest house. Papa is trying to get a new SIM card to make a phone call about the key, we have to wait together right now. We are a family, we are a team, and we are in this together. We can do it.

Your spouse needs to know you can see what causes them stress, and they need to know that you know when you are the one contributing to their stress. It is humbling, it can be exhausting, but it leads to a tired but tried trust.

Thank you for taking the time to sort out the visa application. I really appreciate that.

The garden looks fantastic, thank you for all the time you spent working on it.

I said I would call the airline, but I forgot. I know that adds work to our schedule, I am sorry.

Gentle, patient, building words provide a rhythm of grace and kindness for our family. It makes the pace of our lives manageable in a season that carries with it inherent stress. I have to fight daily to find these words, but it is worth it.

Now it’s your turn: Who needs words of life in your world right now? What words can you speak over them? Do you need words of life yourself? Where can you find them?

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This post is day 8. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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So you’ve felt angry, the grief overwhelms you at times, there is an unexplicable sadness in your heart when you think about your losses, and then what? How long does it last? How can you get over it? I want to tell you, Expect negative emotions. Accept negative emotions.

I didn’t say to accept negative behavior – for anyone who is wondering – there is no justification for angry words or actions or passive aggressive conversations or hurtful ways of behaving. Those things will always be wrong, requiring humility and repentance to turn from them, and forgiveness to make things right with the people we have wounded.

But negative emotions are different from negative actions. Emotions are feelings caused by our circumstances, and while we cannot allow our life to be determined by them, we have to acknowledge our anger. We have to honor our grief. We can allow our emotions to lead us to places in our hearts that we must face for the work of wholeness to take place in our lives. 

Talk to someone about how you are feeling, preferably not someone who is in the transition with you because they have their own set of negative emotions. It has been crucial for me to find women who are not connected with our transition, friends in Sweden, friends in Germany and friends in other places, to whom I can vent. Irrationally. Negatively. Anything I want to let out, I let it out to them, they are a safe place for these negative feelings. I am angry because I don’t want to move. I am so sad. Life with kids is disappointing and discouraging. Find safe people who can handle the full weight of your emotions but who do not try to fix you or explain your emotions away.

Accepting my negative feelings and acknowledging them to someone else is the door to letting those feelings out of my life.

For those of you who are parents, I want to tell you to expect negative – very negative – emotions and behaviors from your kids during a move. When we moved from Switzerland to Sweden, Big Boy was only two years old. We moved everything out of our apartment, and the boys and I stayed separately at a new place for a week while Husband went to Sweden to start unpacking. Big Boy woke up five to seven times in the night almost every night, and this is after he had been sleeping through the night for well over a year. He woke up more than our newborn did. I was blind with fatigue and frustrated out of my mind. I wish I could tell you I was gracious and patient. I was not. I did not realize how afraid and unsettled he must have been, he had lost his only home and watched his physical life get packed into boxes, and he was apart from his Papa for the longest stretch ever in his life.

This move we’ve dealt with tantrums, defiance, all kinds of controlling weirdness with food and sleep and many other things. Yes, there are certain behaviors we cannot tolerate. But our kids need their fears acknowledged. My sons need to know that they can be sad about leaving their home. They do not need to move on. Right now, it is time to grieve.

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They need to hear me give words to their emotions when they do not have the vocabulary for it yet, Are you sad because we are not in the yellow house anymore? You are angry because you don’t have your toys here. You don’t want to say goodbye to your friends. You are sad about leaving Sweden.

And they need to hear me honestly express my own emotions about this move. I was getting ready for our going away party by hanging up lanterns when Big Boy came up to me. He was distressed because he had accidentally broken one of his shoes. But I could tell it was something else, he was falling apart completely. We had set out a table of our things that we didn’t want anymore for people to take, and he had asked me several times that afternoon why people were taking our things.

I pulled him into my arms and said, Are you sad because there are things here that we are giving away? Do you feel afraid that we won’t have anything left for us? Are you sad because we are saying goodbye to our friends and to Sweden?

He nodded yes to each question and sobbed in my arms. I held him, and I cried, and I told him the only thing I could, Mommy is so sad, too, buddy. I’m so sad to leave the yellow house and to say goodbye to Sweden.  

Now it’s your turn: Is it difficult for your accept your emotions? What can you do to help yourself feel your feelings?

I’m linking up with The Grove, part of the Velvet Ashes community today. 

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 Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas

This post is day 3 of 31 Days of Thoughts & Tips on Transition. Head here to read the rest of the posts. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here

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We were sitting at our dining table with Big Boy, who is four, when we told him the news. We are saying goodbye to the yellow house and leaving Sweden, and we are moving to Australia. I had been dreading this moment for weeks. Once a long time ago, I asked him where he thinks he is from, and without missing a beat, he said, I’m Stockholman. The yellow house is all he can remember, and he loved Sweden, his friends, school, and church.

But there it was the news hanging in the air, and his face lit up immediately. Australia?! We had returned from Melbourne a few weeks prior, fresh in his mind were precious times with aunts and uncles, new friends and kangaroos. He was thrilled.

And immediately after that, his face crashed, and tears filled his eyes, But what about all my toys?  We reassured him that they would come as well on a big ship. He thought about other things he could not take with him, I won’t have the rocks in our driveway anymore!!! There were more tears.

He understood perfectly what was going to happen.

My children need me to tell them what is going on, and I lose sight of this need constantly. They are not bags we pick up and put down in a new location, they are human beings with a heart and spirit, deeply sensitive and aware of what is going on around them, and acutely aware of their parents’ emotions and stressors.

They need to know what is going on, and they need the news communicated to them in a time and way that they understand. And for smaller kids, they need the same information repeated over and over again.

For Big Boy we didn’t want to tell him right away, we wanted to wait until we were certain of what we were doing and also until it was a bit closer to the time of the move. I think we told him five weeks before we moved. For a child who isn’t naturally a worrier or anxious perhaps telling him or her earlier would be fine.

I do not remember a big moment when we told Little Bear, who is two, but a few weeks later, I was talking to a friend who works with kids in a preschool, and she challenged me to communicate with Little Bear in the same way as Big Boy, to tell him the things that are happening. The moving truck is coming today, there will be boxes in your room, they will put your things into a box. Every little thing that you can think of, perhaps most especially the things that do not seem important enough to warrant a real conversation, these are the things we have to tell our kids.

Because they can see and they know that something is going on.

Because it makes them feel afraid.

Because few things can give them peace and security like knowing that their parents are honest with them about what’s happening in their lives.

Now it’s your turn: What do you need to talk to your kids about? What are some creative ways you could have these conversations?

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confessions graphic FINALapples

Dear Devi,

Hey, you over there, can you hear me? Yes, I heard the lady in the church crèche, too. Her son was talking at 10 months, and I saw your heart filling slowly with fear. You wondered about Little Boy – nine months at the time – and why he didn’t have words yet. You’re feeling afraid, afraid that you haven’t read enough, talked enough, spent enough time together, and you’re wondering about development, intelligence, autism.

How is comparison working out for you today? Here’s my opinion – not very well.

You thought you were great at not comparing him to other babies, but that’s only because when you compared him at the beginning, he was doing fine. There was no reason to worry and lots of reasons to feel like you were doing a great job.

Because that’s what comparison was about, wasn’t it? You needed all the evidence you could find that you were an adequate mother, that you were figuring out this baby thing, that you were doing a good job. In the absence of a progress report, salary or job performance evaluation, what you had instead was a baby, and there had to be a way to find out how he was doing you were doing.

Was he rolling over in time? Yes. Was he sleeping well at night? At the beginning, yes. Was he napping? Like a star. Did he cry for long periods of time? Never.

You desperately needed to know you were doing a good job, and he made it so easy for you to do that in the beginning. Comparison seemed like the only way you could know for sure that you were enough. You were enough because he was doing well. You knew he was doing well because he was winning a game. 

Here’s the thing, Devi. Children aren’t trophies, they are your treasures, your relationships, your gifts, but they are not trophies. They are not evidence of parenting successes or failures. Please don’t set yourself and your son up for a co-dependent future. He can own his successes, and he can own his failures. Your successes and failures are yours to own.

The more you feed the comparison monster, the more it will grow. Put yourself around comparison-oriented people, and the monster will thrive.

You don’t want this way of life for yourself, and you don’t want it for your children. You long to be the mother that only you can be because you are unique, with a unique past, moving toward a unique future. And you want your children to live free without the fear that they can’t meet a certain standard set by other people or even set by you. Little Boy, he wants to know that he can live, grow, thrive in a way that is his alone, not the way the sons in other families live. No other family in the world is like yours, every family has it’s special purpose, so don’t lock yourself into the box that comparison will build for you. 

So relax a little. You’re free to be a good mother, you’re free to be the mother you are supposed to be, the one who cooks with her boys, the one who doesn’t have lots of rules, who sings and dances daily, the one who reads a lot, who doesn’t give baths, the one likes to sit and think and think and think and so many other quirks and oddities and specialities and normalities. This is you. No need to be anyone else or try to meet someone else’s standard.

When you compare yourself, when you compare your children, this is what you are doing – making someone else’s life and standard the best thing and measuring your worth and your life to that standard. Whether you succeed or fail in the comparison game isn’t the point, as long as your way of measuring success is comparison, you will just keep having to do it. This is why it is so destructive – it keeps you coming back for more.

And one day it will wear you out. You will get tired of succeeding in your comparisons because it means you won’t get close to people. You will get tired of failing in your comparisons because it will make you feel worthless. But before it does that, it will wear out your kids and give them lots of reasons not to trust you. Every child gets to the point when they realize a parent is measuring their worth against someone else, and it immediately leads to feelings of inferiority, guilt and resentment. 

No comparison, Devi. Never. Ever. No one has a perfect family, and your family relationships are not your achievements. When you understand who you and Husband are, how you parent, who your kids are and what makes them tick and build the family only you are supposed to be, you give yourself, your husband, and your boys the gift of freedom.

Set your family free from the burden of comparison and watch them thrive in the light of grace and truth. 

Love,

Devi

If you’re interested in more thoughts about comparison, I wrote about it for 31 Days in October 2012.

This post is Day 23 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)