Tag Archives: nurture

Focus on Marriage, Part 4: Staying Connected

Golden Wedding Ring  by Danilo Rizzuti courtesy of  FreeDigitalphotos

“We are often too exhausted to care.  We co-parent, we just happen to be married.”

 Married with Special Needs Children: A Couples’ Guide to Staying Connected

Raising children with special needs takes a lot of time and attention. The time and attention spent nurturing a child necessarily come from some part of a parent’s life. Typically the time that couples have for each other can be dramatically reduced.  One of the key concerns parents have shared with me time and again is how little quality time they have with their spouse. What time they do have together is often spent in conversation about children. Gradually their relationship shifts further and further from receiving time and attention. In talking with parents they discussed common challenges:

  • Guilt
    • Feeling guilty for leaving your child
    • Feeling guilty for “imposing” on others for help so that you can have time alone with your spouse
    • Feeling guilty for needing a break
  • The need to tag team parent for a child who needs constant supervision
  • Busy schedules
  • Exhaustion
  • Placing all of your child’s needs ahead of your partner’s needs
  • Sleeping arrangements

With so many aspects of special needs life pulling for time and attention it is no wonder it can be a challenge to stay connected. It may take forming an intentional plan to help keep the relationship on track.  What aspects of your relationship with your spouse are most important? How can you move quality time in those areas to the center of attention for both of you?

Suggestions for staying connected:

  • Regularly set aside time to talk and listen.
  • Keep dating weekly or as often as you can, even if it is just meeting for lunch while children are at school. Look into respite programs through local churches or other special needs agencies with trained volunteers and staff who can offer specialized care.
  • Flirt with your spouse. Keep intimacy alive.
  • Evaluate sleeping arrangements. Who sleeps where and why? If sleeping with children in order to monitor their status overnight, technology can be helpful (seizure alert, video monitor, intercom).
  • Change your routine and look for new adventures. There is nothing wrong with “dinner and a movie,” but change it up every now and then. Create a scavenger hunt. Go to a concert. Play tourist in your own town.
  • Plan a surprise. A favorite story from a parent was of a time she came home from work and was surprised that her spouse drawn a hot bath, complete with candle light and spa music.  He told her, “I’ve got the kids and you’ve got 30 minutes until dinner.” Years later she still says it is one of the best gifts she ever received.
  • Check in regularly throughout the day. Even a quick phone call or text message lets your spouse know he or she is on your mind.
  • Show appreciation for even the smallest of tasks. Offer compliments.
  • Exercise together. Walking counts and also provides some alone time for quality conversation.
  • Share hobbies or at least show interest in your spouse’s hobbies. My spouse and I traded our hobbies of running and scuba diving.  Neither of us had the slightest interest at first, and I actually had a hefty dose of fear of drowning and fish with big teeth.  Once we started we found we really enjoyed each other’s activities. My spouse finished his second marathon last weekend and we have several scuba trips on the calendar.
  • Celebrate accomplishments, both big and small.

These are just a few suggestions for staying connected in the midst of parenting. I’d love to hear other ideas you have to share.

The rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24 NRS)

Loving God, We thank you for our life partners and the relationships that bless us with nurture and support.  At times the business of life causes us to pay less attention and receive less attention than we want. Help us to find pathways of connection to the ones who love us and know us best. Help us honor you in those relationships. Amen

Lorna Bradley

Golden Wedding Ring by Danilo Rizzuti courtesy of  FreeDigitalphotos

Advertisements

Planting a Spiritual Garden

To The Garden Sign With Pot by Simon Howden

A young mom raising three kids was going through a hot, dry Texas summer.  The garden was wilting, grass withering to dry, brown patches.  She moved the garden hose around back, filling a small wading pool for her kids to play in. She meant to reconnect the hose to the spigot out front where it belonged, but instead left it in a heap in the back yard. She’d get to it later when things weren’t so busy. There were so many other things that were more important.

One day she looked out the front window to see that the dry front lawn had caught fire, probably from a cigarette butt tossed out a car window.  She ran to the spigot she had forgotten. No hose!  She ran to the back yard, dragging the hose around.  It was a tangled mess, full of kinks and knots.  She ran back to get her children’s sand castle buckets abandoned by the wading pool.  Racing back and forth from the spigot to the front lawn, she tried to put out the fire, one child-sized bucketful at a time.

This is the kind of story Jesus used for teaching. It’s a parable.  The life-saving water is God.  The hose is our connection that comes through developing an intentional relationship with God. The fire is whatever crisis is waiting in the future.

Have you ever disconnected your hose? Left it in a tangled mess? I know I have at times. Life gets busy.  I mean to read scripture. I mean to schedule a prayer retreat. I mean to… well, a lot of things. Just like physical and emotional self-care from my earlier blogs, spiritual self-care takes intentional nurture.

Spiritual self-care is intentional focus of time and energy on your relationship with God. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and a leading expert on spiritual self-care, offers the following suggestions as ways you can enrich your spiritual life.

  • Internal Disciplines. These disciplines focus on your spiritual life through internal reflection.
    • Prayer
    • Meditation
    • Study of scripture
    • Journaling
    • Silence/listening
    • Fasting – not only from food, but from distractions such as television.
  • Outward Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out in personal actions and outward expressions.
    • Solitude – set aside time to be apart from others to focus on God
    • Simplicity – embrace a practice of “enough” and let go of wanting more
    • Submission – follow where God leads
  • Corporate Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out with others
    • Worship – regularly participate in worship, including the sacraments
    • Service – being God’s hands and feet in the world in help to others
    • Community – engage as part of a Christian community where you can share your talents with others, as well as be supported

There are many additional options.  Look at this list and think about what already works for you. Celebrate those! Well done! Look for what interests you as something you would like to do and make a plan to try it.  For me, silence is a great discipline.  My life used to be filled with noise. The TV always on, or the radio, some distraction constantly in the background. One year for Lent I gave up those distractions. I took a fast from noise and found the gift of silence.  I liked it so much that I didn’t turn on the radio in my car for a decade. When I decide to watch TV I need a quick lesson from my son or husband about how to use the remotes (why do we have to have so many and why do they need so many buttons?)

Solitude is also a great discipline for me. I’m an extravert. I love being around people, but at times I crave being alone.  Right now I have the house to myself for four days, a rare gift. I will be total hermit. Just me and the cat, writing away on my book and blogs, thinking of scripture and seeking connections that offer hope to parents. Even in my solitude I found space for another discipline, worship.  I joined Key Ministry Front Door Online worship.  I was blessed by the message and connection with others for an hour, but now I return to my gift of solitude and prayer for parents.

Where I work there is a serenity prayer garden.  It has five flowing fountains and a labyrinth gravel path that winds its way through an arbor of wisteria. I try to spend at least a few minutes there each day. On a glass water wall there is this hymn:

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear,  the Son of God discloses.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own;  and the joy we share as we tary there, none other has ever known.

My prayer for you is that you find what nurtures your spiritual garden and be filled with the peace of Christ. Amen.

“To The Garden Sign With Pot” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So Many Emotions, So Little Time

Cry Laugh Button By Stuart Miles

Recently I was talking with a friend who is a special needs parent.  She was maxed out on every level and needed to vent.  After discussing insurance, therapy, extended family, children, spouse and everything else that was driving her crazy (I’m pretty sure laundry and sock count was on the list), she paused.  I just waited.  Finally she took a deep breath, spent from her tirade of the many things she had been shouldering.  I asked one question.

“How are you doing with self-care?”

“Terrible!”  Then the tears.  They came and came, a cathartic release long overdue.

Emotional health is just as important as physical health.  I was asked recently, “What is emotional health?” Folks understand taking care of their bodies, or taking care of their spiritual life, but taking care of emotional well-being is the more mysterious part of this self-care trinity.

Emotional health is being mindful of your emotional state. What are you feeling? Why are you feeling it? All emotions are valid, but are you stuck too long in the more “negative” emotions such as anger, depression, or guilt? Taking time for self-care of your emotional health builds emotional reserves for times when life is extra challenging.  Barb Dittirch of SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES refers to it as “Comfort in the midst of chaos.”

Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, experienced emotions. He was angry when he saw the way the temple was being desecrated by money-changers.  When he returned to Bethany after the death of Lazarus he was deeply troubled. Jesus was indignant when the disciples kept the children from coming to him.  Jesus was anxious on the night of his arrest, taking his disciples with him to pray, asking the Father to take the cup from him.

In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:44 NRSV)

Jesus models for us good emotional health by being in relationship with friends, taking time for himself in solitude to relieve stress, expressing emotions in a healthy way, and turning to God in prayer for strength.

So how can we nurture good emotional health? Here are a few tips:

  • Be mindful of your emotions. Especially notice emotions that dominate in ways that have a negative impact on you or your family: anger, depression, anxiety. Look for underlying causes when stuck in particular emotions.
  • All emotions are valid. Allow yourself to feel what you feel and acknowledge those feelings.
  • Nurture friendships. Set aside time to nurture the friendships that matter most to you. Having close friends who are worthy of trust can help process experiences that are challenging and celebrate joys.
  • Spend time in prayer. Talking with God is like talking with your closest friend who knows you better than you know yourself. Emotional healing and emotional health are helped through prayer.
  • Enjoy time with your child. Spend time just having fun with your child without a goal for development or therapy. Simply have fun together.
  • Pay attention to self-talk. Is your self-talk positive (Yes I can! I tried my best, etc.), or negative (Why do I bother? I’m the worst parent ever). Reshaping self- talk positively is a powerful tool in emotional health. Refute negative talk with, “That’s not true.” If it helps, say it out loud.
  • Set aside time for yourself. Take a break and relax when you can. Regularly do something you enjoy whether it’s going outside, reading or meeting a friend. Make it a priority to do what makes you happy at least for a little while each day.
  • Find ways to reduce stress. Do not take on more than you can handle. It is okay to say, “No.” It is also okay to say, “Yes.” (Do you need a break? Would you like some help? How about a night out?) If someone is offering help it is not a sign of weakness to accept it.
  • Engage in your favorite hobbies. Take time to enjoy the things that most inspire you, help you relax, or create contentment.
  • Practice gratitude. Every day say out loud something you are grateful for. Make it part of the family meal, with everyone sharing their thankfulness. Write them on a list and add to it every day.
  • Keep a journal. Writing can be highly effective in processing emotions.
  • Join a support group. It is helpful to talk with others who share your experiences, allowing you to talk openly and be heard.
  • Talk to a counselor. A trained professional is a valuable asset for emotional health.

Look over the list and find the ones that resonate with you.  Do you need more time with friends? Intentionally nurture those relationships.  Are you over-committed?  Take a thing or two off of your plate and feel the stress go down. Need a creative outlet?  Dig out that favorite hobby you haven’t done in ages and set aside an hour or two for yourself to unplug and enjoy.  Do you think you need talk with a professional?  Good for you for seeing that need.  Take the first step and make an appointment. Whatever appeals to you most, make it a priority to recharge your emotional batteries.

Check back next Wednesday for the final part of this blog series, spiritual self-care.

Healing God, We come to you with praise, sorrow, joy, worry, fear, with so many emotions. All of our emotions we lay at your feet knowing you love us and that you can heal the broken places in our hearts. Amen.

 

“Cry Laugh Buttons Shows Crying or Laughing” by Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net