Category: Anxiety

You are Ruining Your Kids

 

Her hair was slicked back out of her face. Her eyes showed the kind of tired that one night’s sleep wouldn’t make up for. Her tears came as easily as her laughter.

She’d come over to get out of the house with her three kids under four.
“I’m just worried I’m going to ruin my kids!” She said echoing the fears I’ve swallowed back myself. The fear that formed alongside my first daughter and never left. It planted when I first laid eyes on her mustard seed shape. She was a striking white dot of life against the flat black ultrasound screen.

“I give you permission to just survive,” I said, making sure my eyes met hers.
She needed that permission. Permission to breathe—to breathe in the baby smells and soak up the belly laughs. She needed permission to turn off her “perfect parent” switch and just take it all in.

I think we all need this reminder. While I think it’s important—necessary, to be intentional about our parenting, I think it is equally necessary for our souls, for our kids’ souls, to offer them the ministry of presence.

The ministry of presence happens when we stop thinking about how we should parent, we lay down our fears of forming them for the future, we get out of our own analytical heads and we just live life with them…

…we listen to their big questions and don’t provide an easy answer

….we lick ice cream cones with them

…we laugh at ourselves

…we experience emotions in a healthy way–not swallowing them or exploding, but letting our kids see the way we work through the real and necessary emotions of life

…we cry…we laugh…we laugh-cry (it’s totally a real thing just ask my husband)

…we admit when we’re angry, frustrated, exasperated…HANGRY!

…we get dirt and play dough under our fingernails

…we experiment

…we let our kids comfort us
…we let them kiss us a thousand times
…we let them cry on our shoulder without trying to tell them what to think or try to cheer them up.

… we cry with them and ask life’s hard question

I need to slap duck tape over the mouth of the imaginary critic that lives in my head and zoom in, up close, really close to each passing moment with my children. This is scary. It means laying down my plans and my parenting books and letting our messy life unfold in an unpredictable and chaotic way.

But I find that sometimes the best parenting moments happen when I sit on top of a question mark with my girls as we ponder the world– rather than stamping our life with the tidy period that marks things as resolved.

I love a clean house as much as the next person.
I love finished thoughts. I love questions with answers.
I love when a task is as easy as a check mark on a list.

But parenting isn’t any of these things? It’s untidy and unfinished? It cannot be contained in an answer? It is ongoing? (My grammar-check is trying to get me to change these question marks?)

We need to worry about ruining our kids, a little. Just like you’ve got to smell week-old chicken, it’s important to smell our kids to make sure they aren’t spoiled—kidding. But seriously.

But we can’t stay in that place. Once we test our intentions, methods, and goals—once we seek wise advice, and heck yes, once we pray—then we need to roll with it. We need to zoom in and enjoy the messy and complicated reel of parenthood.

Let’s sit on question marks with our kids, ask them our own questions as we figure out life together. Let’s love fiercely and show up with our whole messy selves, trusting that God works in our strengths, but He also works through us in our glorious imperfections.

We will ruin our children (a bit). The Bible reminds us that we’re all cracked pots. But God remakes us and repurposes us. With Him, even our biggest (parenting) mistakes can be repurposed for His greatest good. Amen?

Disclaimer: I am writing this to the parent that is providing love, support, shelter, food, and spiritual guidance to their children but still wrestling with guilt over not being/doing enough. We all agree that our first priority is to be responsible parents that provide for the emotional and physical needs of a child in a supportive and stable home.

How to Get Through the Hard Anxious Day


I’m doing something a little different today. Instead of waiting until I feel cleaned up and inspired, I’m coming to you in the midst of an anxious day. I woke up, and instead of feeling clear-headed and optimistic, my mind feels a bit jumbled, everything around me seems a bit blurred at the edges. I can’t explain why, but my heart feels in a state of unrest. This would normally be a day that I would avoid writing altogether, and especially social media–or I would look at my newsfeed and wonder how everyone else always seems to have it all together. 

Let’s be messy together.

I’m inviting you into my messy space right now. Dishes are in my sink, my coffee is cold, and there are trails of toys throughout the house. The kids are bickering in the background, blasting their favorite Jana Alayra song, “Jump Into The Light” and tossing brightly bedazzled dress-up dresses like confetti.

It’s spring break which has been hard for my anxiety-prone brain. I do better with routines and plans, instead of long, lazy stretches of undesignated time. I feel restless and unsatisfied. Amidst these confusing contradictions, my heart feels weighed down with the needs of kids, unmade meals, and unmade beds. My mind feels on constant overload with kids buzzing underfoot looking for new ways to make messes, and asking for a snack every fifteen minutes. The worst though is the guilt that pokes at the back of my mind, inviting in the other bully, shame. Yes amidst the hard anxious feelings, the worst of all might be the guilt that shames me when I don’t feel grateful, satisfied, and serenely peaceful with my circumstances.

I am grateful and satisfied with my life, and God offers me peace again and again as I enter into hard places. But that doesn’t mean that I always feel grateful, content, and peaceful every day, in every moment. 

So here we are, in this mess of life together, with tangled emotions and untidy hearts. I could wrap all these hard emotions and struggles up in a tidy bow of encouragement, but I won’t.

Instead, I’d like to tell you that these days will come. I believe there are ways we can walk through the hard feelings and unsettled nerves of these days, and allow God and others to walk beside us. I believe that these hard days might be the places where God is shaping us for His greater purposes. 

Here are a couple thoughts that are helping me get through this day. I hope they can help you too.

Be honest with those around you.  If you feel messy and uncertain, then invite others in and let them speak truth to your heart. This could include your children. When I have an anxious day I will tell my family, “today is a hard day.” My four-year-old daughter will nod with a look of concern, and love. She’ll hug me and remind me “Jesus loves me.” My husband will give me more understanding and grace. I try to offer myself more grace and space as I move throughout this tender kind of day.

Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (NIV)

Be Honest with God. I find it hard to pray when I’m having a hard day. My prayers come out as run-on sentences and unfinished thoughts. But God doesn’t need me to have it all together. He doesn’t need a pretty prayer to meet me–I believe He wants all of me, in whatever place my heart is at. Jesus himself prayed in soulful shouts and desperate pleas.

On the hard days, moving through the long hours is an act of obedience to God; obedience when I give my heart to Him each time my thoughts threaten take me down a dark winding path; obedience when I show love to people around me even when it doesn’t flow from me effortlessly. On these hard days, from my first breath to my last waking thought, my prayer never ends. As I wrestle to turn my face to Him again and again, my day becomes a living, breathing prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Serve others. There are some days when all I can do is tend to the people God has placed right in front of me. I need to accept my limitations and set healthy boundaries. Then there are the days when the best thing I can do is get outside myself. Sometimes talking to a friend that’s struggling, sitting and reading silly stories to my kids, or cooking a delicious dinner for my family is the best thing I can do to get out of my own head.

Take His power in place of your weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) Once this hard day is over, we’ll be wiser, stronger, and more compassionate. We are empowered by Jesus who entered into the weakest, hardest places in order to bring reconciliation and grace. I remember that somehow, by God’s power, he can use my anxious mind to grab hold of Jesus more and more–and by some kind of miracle, He can use my brokenness to make others feel wholly loved through Him.

So join me in entering into this vulnerable place, friend. This world means social media, and surface conversations, polite smiles, and hidden truths, but we can crack open these exteriors and let His love seep into the secret hurts and struggles that need His healing. It starts with being honest in front of God and others. My prayer for you and I is that we find space and time for that. I pray that we embrace the slow sacred work that He does in our hearts, minds, and lives, even in these hard, anxious days.

Believe it or Not: This Time Will Pass



Dear Reader & Friend,

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing to you. Life has been full with good things and a to-do list that seems to undo itself–a house that seems to unclean itself each week. But you get it. You feel the same way, having trouble finding time to pause, and breathe in God’s goodness; time to think and ponder and dream. I pray you find time for those life-giving activities this weekend. 

I felt a pressing truth I needed to squeeze in a moment to tell you.

THIS TIME WILL PASS

This time will pass of waiting with questions, and answers that are too big for you to wrap your thoughts around.

This time will pass of mind-numbing work, wondering if you’re making a difference.

This time will pass of sleepless nights and foggy days, up round the clock feeding a needy human that pulls the life from your tired body.

This time will pass of tension in your home–thick silence as you wade in the muddy water of hurt and resentment.

This time will pass of sticky kisses, and “Mommy I want you,” and “Hold me.”

This time will pass of aching uncertainty, chest heavy with rocks, minutes passing like gravel through your tender heart.

This time will pass of “honey I’m too tired,” or “let’s sneak away,” like school children stealing a few sacred minutes together.

This time will pass when you feel called to something greater, but tied to something that’s needed. 

This time will pass of arms and legs pulled in every direction, lap always full, your body never your own.

This time will pass of childlike enthusiasm, curious questions, and “just one more” story.

This time will pass of a confusing blur of doctor appointments and medicine, side effects, and charts of numbers to explain your painful reality.

This time will pass of holding hands, and wrinkling your nose as you laugh at an inside joke, looking at each other with certain love, and fragile hope.

This time will pass of feeling breathless from a pain too big to feel at once, and loss too big to ever fill.

This time will pass of hoping and trying, and waiting, and testing–the crush of another negative, the painful push to keep trying.

This time will pass of disappointment, of resentment and hurt, of unmet expectations, and longing…

This time will pass of smallness, of innocence, of dreaming, and planning…

This moment, in its mundaneness, its beauty, its pain, its plainness–it will pass.

It will all come to pass.

So we must rub our sleepy eyes, and pay attention. We must tie our heart to the present, and offer our presence, to show up, to love, and to trust that each moment is writing a beautiful story of redemption and grace, woven into the greatest love story ever written. 

 

 

“Dear Future Husband”: I Have Anxiety

The catchy tune by Meghan Trainor, “Dear Future Husband,” is a favorite in my house. Since Alexa understands my 4-year-old daughter’s voice commands, she can listen to it until her heart’s content, until mommy pulls the plug.

Its a cute song with a good beat. I’m grateful my girls are too young to understand all the lyrics of course, but overall the message is sweet, but maybe lacking a little depth. No problem Meghan, I get it, “Dear Future Husband: I have Anxiety,” wouldn’t have the same hook.

I’ve been married for almost 8 years. Like every marriage, we’ve had our ups and downs. And while I have absolutely no regrets, about my husband, or the journey we’ve taken together, I can share with you the kind of open, honest conversation I wish I’d had with my man before we tied the knot.

Dear Future Husband,
You say you love me deeply. I’m guessing I probably seem perfect to you right now. Love has a way of doing that. But I’m not perfect. I have anxiety. I’ve come to accept it. Its something about myself that I’ve actually come to appreciate, but I need you to be okay with it too.

Not just the “okay, its annoying but I can put up with it, okay“— because that kind okay won’t carry us through a lifetime. I mean the okay that holds my hand when I can’t breathe, the okay that brings me icepacks for tension migraines, the okay that holds us together through perinatal depression, the okay that understands that our life will look a little different.

If hearing this makes you want to run, then run. I don’t want a man that scares easily. I need a man that fights for me, when darkness threatens to overtake my mind. I need a man that digs in his heels and challenges me to be the person he knows I’m capable of being. I need someone who will pull the covers off my head and kick me out of bed, someone who will make me go outside for fresh air, or make breakfast burritos at midnight. I need someone that will cradle me when my fears feel bigger than my fight.

But before you think this is one sided, wait. If you’re willing to accept me and all my complications, you will get to see the gifts behind my struggle too. I promise you deep empathy and compassion. I promise that when you say “I’m fine,” I will look into your eyes and know the truth. I will feel more deeply, in the hard times and the good. I will love you more than you thought possible.

We are all broken in our own ways. I will stand beside you in your broken moments, and won’t look away. I know what it feels like to feel small, to question yourself, to feel like maybe you weren’t assembled right. But I’m beginning to learn that in the brokenness, we can find the most strength. We turn to God that supplies our strength–Who offers an endless supply of love.

Love can bind up our wounds, love can make us strong together, love can heal us. I believe this like I believe in the sun. But I know that love means a lot of pain, and hard work, and commitment too.

If you’re all in, if you want all of me, anxiety and all, then I know that our life will also be filled with the sweet and simple things too. We will have candlelit pizza dinners, movie nights with popcorn (no butter), and silly inside jokes. We will laugh until we cry, and pick the grey hairs out of each others eye brows. If you say “I do,” know that its yes to all of me, anxiety and all.

What to Do When You’re a Grown Up and You Still Have Anxiety

Once upon a time I thought I had my life all figured out. Things seemed to be falling into the right places. I was leading a group of moms, that made me feel like I had a voice and that I was doing “my part.” I was working towards writing a book, and pursuing public speaking. From the outside, it looked like I was living out my dreams.

But for a while, there have been small cracks webbing over the glossy surface of my life, reminding me that I can’t continue to sustain this image for long. And then the girl who seems to have it all together had a panic attack in the middle of leading a women’s study.

 It shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve carried a lot of stress for a long time. A blend of my daughter’s restlessness and my own insomnia have meant I haven’t been sleeping. For the past couple of months I’ve been having trouble being in settings with a lot of people again, reverting to struggles of my old self. Yes, that anxiety that I’d filed away in the drawer of my past is creeping out and making itself known in my present. Shaking sweating hands, racing thoughts, trouble catching my breath, inability to slow down or process the situation normally, all these symptoms that I share about as things I’ve learned to overcome, are overcoming me.

Its embarrassing and inconvenient. I worry what others are really thinking. I start to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, which is an odd feeling as a 30-something woman– like I’m an awkward teenager again.

To cope, I could resort to old unhealthy habits of my past. But then, I should be older and wiser now right? But the truth is, when I try to think about a long term plan, even when I think about the prospect of finding a counselor, or how I’m going to cope with things that feel stressful and anxiety provoking in the next few weeks, I freeze up. It was this overwhelm that led me to being curled up and immovable on my couch, unable to cope when I was younger.

So this 30-something woman hasn’t learned much, but I’ve learned one simple trick to keep plotting through this familiar maze called anxiety. Its taking the next step.

The next step during my book club was admitting my weakness and getting support to get through the hour. The next step was to leave there with my head held high, to get my daughter, and pick her up and smell her hair, to drive us home and make lunch. The next step was to not give into the thoughts of shame and self doubt, to put her down for a nap, and sit and cry, and listen to good music and pray. Yesterday, all I could do was do the next right thing, and then the next. Today it was waking up, and drinking coffee that tasted like grace, a half of a Pilates workout, and then to cancel my social plans and give myself the time and space I need.

These panic attacks aren’t convenient when it comes to my passion for public speaking and leading. Its not convenient with my husband’s job that is also in the public eye. But I can’t think about the big life implications. I can’t redirect my whole course or make any life changing decisions right now. I just have to trust that God will help me find my way, and the the next right thing will guide me back to who He’s created me to be.

I know that Paul had a thorn in his flesh that God used to empower him. I’m not Paul, and my thorn is probably not as great as his was, but it reminds me that this anxiety thing is a piece of my life that will continue to make itself known on and off. Its something that even as a mom, a wife, a professional, and a “mature and capable grown up,”  I’ll never fully be rid of. While its annoying, and frustrating, its also a gift. Its God’s way of directing me back to Him, so that in this weakness, His power can be made perfect in me. After all, the secret that we grown ups keep, is that we all have so much more growing to do.

 

Bless the Lord O My Soul -Through Depression

I crept outside into the quiet buzz of night. I lay my head on the cool grass of our front yard and stared at the stars. I remember thinking, one day, one day when my life makes sense, I will write about this. 

The memory creeps up on me now after reading Psalm 103, “The life of the mortals is like grass.”

I remember the haze of depression and anxiety  I was walking through that night almost two years ago, right after giving birth to my second daughter Elyse. I went outside to stare at the stars, to remind myself that there was a world outside my own spinning head. I needed to remember that no matter how chaotic my mind was, there were still stars that shone, and grass that grew, and a cool night breeze that could kiss the tears that ran down my cheeks.

Sometimes we need to remember that we are cherished and loved. We need to be reminded that we matter.

But when my thoughts are so loud and noisy that its hard to escape my own mind, I need to remember how small I am. I need to remember that my problems, and my fears are like a blade of grass in a thick sea of green.

The world looks different in the deep night, from the ground looking up. As hard as this disease of mental illness is, I’m so grateful that it forces me to pause and look outside myself. To look for angels on the hillside when it seems like I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m grateful that the deep longing in my soul reminds me to look for “He that is in me,” rather “than he who is in the world.” (1John 4:4 (emphasis added)

When my body feels heavy and ill fitting, and my mind doesn’t seem to tick the way it should, I can call to Him from “my inmost being.” I can be flawed and broken, because “He heals all my diseases,” Yes He satisfies me with good things, He renews my youth, He redeems my life. (Psalm103)

I’m More Like Jonah than I thought…

jonah

Her quilt swallows her tiny body. A large pink gingham mouth envelops her head to reveal her three year old face.

“Mommy I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” I bend down and kiss her brow, creased with a comma.
“I’m afraid because Jonah keeps getting swallowed again and again, because he doesn’t listen to God. He keeps ending up in the whale’s belly.”

My trained words respond “No.” “No honey, the whale spit up Jonah,” but in my head I’m shouting “Yes.” Exactly yes. That is the truest thing I’ve heard all day.

As my body sits there with her, my mind is deep, deep underwater, in the warm, dark, damp insides of a giant fish.

I’m afraid. I’m unsure, and my mind is lonely, but my body is flooded with touch and affection from two little bodies. My mind feels overwhelmed and bored. My heart feels lost and found, and achingly empty and spilling over full, all in the journey of a day.

My body puts away laundry, washes dishes, and cleans sticky hands and faces. While my thoughts float, and dip, and sink into the noiseless depths of obscurity, weighed down by fear and questions.

Do I love my children enough? Am I going to be enough of a mom to form them into good people? Am I the wife my husband needs— the sister, the daughter? What if my people weren’t mine anymore? Or worse, what if I blinked and they disappeared?

These questions flood my mind and steal my identity. I become a hungry whale that swallows and fills myself up with people, and approval, and validation. So full, and sick, and empty again.

I turn out the lights in my daughter’s bedroom and find my way to the living room in the darkness. I fold my body into the corner of the couch. A lamp seems too bright for my mood. The wind whips the branches of the trees and rain beats a dramatic tempo overhead. I wake up my sleeping computer and pull up the story of Jonah and the whale. I read these words from the Bible. Funny, I never noticed them before.

“Notice all through this story that, although Jonah was God’s servant, he was always thinking about himself. God protected Jonah and saved him, not because he was such a good man, but because he wanted to teach him a great lesson.”

A heart turned in on itself is rendered useless. I think of my fifteen month old, how she wobbles from foot to foot, eyes affixed on her bloated belly as she walks into whatever is right in front of her. Sometimes I am so unsure in my own skin that I clumsily stumble through the world, oblivious to the needs of others, rendered useless by my own fears and insecurities.

As I read these words about Jonah, they resonate with my soul. Maybe I keep entering into the same dark places so that God can teach me a lesson too. A lesson about how to resurface. How to look up.

But maybe a fish’s belly is where I need to be sometimes too. In the depth of uncertainty, to be alone with my creator; letting Him form and reshape me.

I think about how God himself entered a woman’s belly to reshape the world- and I crack a smile like the moon. My daughter is smarter than she knows.

Dear Elyse: Your Story

Yawn

Dear Elyse

As I lay immobile on the bed, it felt as though I were on a carousel with the world spinning around me.  I fixed my gaze on one immutable point, your daddy’s eyes, as I mouthed over and over to him, “I’m okay, I’ll be okay,” as the stream of tears threatened to blur my vision.

Despite my words, despite his steady eyes, the tears wouldn’t stop pouring out of me. I heard a healthy cry and I saw you from across the room, all ten fingers, all ten toes, your pink skin and head of dark hair, and then my consciousness gave way to the hazy background.

The long summer was marked by the dry California heat, and the long wait for you. The drought caused a strict watering schedule that turned the landscape from lush green to yellowed and dead. The trees’ leaves were dry and spotted as they scattered the streets with their lifeless forms. My own body felt huge and achy; my mouth and throat were parched with an unquenchable thirst.  My days were filled with to-do’s and restlessness, as I waited  for you to make your radiant appearance, like a small pretty bud giving way to a bright and beautiful bloom.

But in my waiting and quiet anticipation, my own life and perspective began to look stale and dried up. The longer I waited, my focus shifted from living to expecting, and my days became consumed by preparation and obligation– stealing the each moment  of its own vitality.

On a Sunday morning, at 39 weeks pregnant, my slow bloated body ambled through the streets of Old Town Orange in a feeble attempt to “walk the baby out.” The Old Town  neighborhoods seemed to be the one place that hadn’t been affected by the drought.  As my eyes drank up one green manicured lawn to the next, my focus halted on an ugly brown tangle amidst the tidy landscape. The gnarled dead vines wrapped around the splintered edges of the decayed wood siding. A dusty sign on an old stake poked out of a wheel barrel in the center of the dreary scene. It had only one word in bold lowercase letters, “grow.” I snapped a photo because it seemed significant- and then I left it like an unfinished sentence, to go about my business of walking.

grow

That evening I went to church. My heart felt heavy with the anxious anticipation of when you would come. I hadn’t had any contractions, and I was afraid I would need a c-section. I wanted to be in control over what would happen, and I wanted to know what to expect. Yet as we sang the worship song, “The Sound of Grace,” my racing heart and worried mind gave way to an overwhelming feeling of rest and peace.

Grace, sweet grace; A fountain for my soul.                                 Grace, sweet grace; A mighty waterfall.                                         Drops of mercy all around; Everywhere the sound of grace.

As the tears streamed down my face, I looked up and smiled. For the first time in a long time I was soaking up the moment for all its goodness as God nourished me with his love and assurance. Deep in my heart I knew that no matter the circumstances, His abundant blessings wouldn’t run dry.

I awoke to your weight on my chest, your soft warm body and hungry suckling mouth. Tears ran down my cheeks as I heard the heavy pounding of rain outside the window.

You came to me like the much anticipated rainstorm that refreshed us that Tuesday morning, quenching a deep thirst and washing me with relief and gratitude. And since you’ve been here the tears flow unbidden from my eyes. Anxious tears, tears of relief, tears of fear and pain, of fulfillment, and tears of pure joy. But every drop that falls from my face, whether born out of gratitude or struggle, I collect in an alabaster jar;  knowing that they bring me the nourishment I need to grow.

Despite the gnarled vines that threaten to choke out new life; the thorny weeds of shame, fear, and mistrust, God scatters new seeds in my life; He  waters them with His grace, and grows my life into an overgrown garden of beautiful blooms.

As I rested in my hospital room, I stared at your peaceful face. Your perfect lips pushed out little puffs of breath.  My phone lit up and buzzed quietly with a text message. Auntie Erin had sent a picture, with the caption: “Look at the full rainbow over Orange today!!”

Elyse's Rainbow

My arms were full of you, and my heart was full, knowing that God never leaves us exactly where we are. Through the waiting, through the tears and the struggle and the blessings, I never stop growing and He never stops pouring down His Grace.

God gives us rainbows to remind us of His promises, but all I need to do is look into your face and I know:  God is good.

 

 

 

 

I am not Ashamed: Battling Social Anxiety

Originally Found at: Me Too Moments for Moms
I am not ashameddear b

Social Anxiety–that’s what the therapist called it as I sat across from her on the mahogany leather couch. Her office was devised to look like a living room, to make me feel at home, but all I could think was, “I wouldn’t be here if I was normal.

The list of my oddities lay like the stacks of magazines, recklessly piled for bored fingers to flip through at the doctor’s office. 
 The list of my oddities lay like the stacks of magazines, recklessly piled for bored fingers to flip through at the doctor’s office. “No friends, no one calls, head down, ignores people, anxiety attacks…”

Finish reading at: Me Too Moments for Moms

 

“This is crap. You can do better.”

 


reflection

dear b“No! Let go of my necklace,” I yelled as I yanked my favorite turquoise beads out of your fisted hands. Your face crumpled like a used tissue and tears erupted from your eyes. I tucked my necklace back safely into the jewelry box that you had been pilfering, as guilt flooded my chest.

I knew I’d been too harsh, but so much of my jewelry had already become your casualties.

Then, I remember the day before when a wobbly baby had toddled over to you with open hands and a wide smile, grabbing curiously at the teapot you played contentedly with.

As the baby approached, you clutched the candy pink plastic to your chest, swinging your other hand around in protective circles, and screeched, “No! Mine!” I had been embarrassed at your behavior, explaining that you needed to be kind and gentle to babies.

“She’s younger than you, and she doesn’t know any better.” The words resound in my ears as I shamefully look into your hurt, tearful eyes.

You are a reflection of me.

So often those words become stale in my mouth from overuse, but as I sit with them now, they resonate as valuable truth: you..are..a reflection..of me.

When I first entered college I had to pass a test called the Subject A Exam which assessed my ability to write an effective essay. I have always loved writing, but in high school, my teachers focused on teaching me the conventions of writing rather than the art. Mixed with test anxiety, the Subject A and I did not hit it off.

After my third failed attempt, the university mandated that I take a Subject A prep class. I showed up the first day feeling as indignant as a two year old who’s forced into taking nap.

Over the first weeks of class, I stubbornly decided that no matter what, I would despise and resent the class. The teacher, Ms. Gypsum, was young, and carefree. She wore boldly printed scarves and blue rectangular glasses that were disarming with their quirky charm. But I held my resolve.

She had us read books and articles that were actually interesting. She would return our essays covered in her inky cursive with thoughtful feedback and questions. We would sit in class with our cups of coffee doused liberally with cream and sugar, and she would encourage us to have thoughtful and worthwhile conversation.

Despite her attempts to connect with me, the first half of the class I skated by with little effort or dedication. Until Ms. Gypsum handed me back my midterm essay, and across the top of the page, seven words were scrolled beside the big red letter D: “This is crap. You can do better.”

She’d taken three weeks to show me who she was, as a writer, as a teacher, and as a person, and now, she was standing face to face with me and challenging me to show what I was capable of. Her words took me off guard, they knocked me off my pedestal and infuriated me.

But then, they forced me to look in the mirror– and I realized that I didn’t like what I saw. What was my self righteous attitude about anyways? I thought I was such a great writer, but what was I producing besides bitterness and mediocre work?

Too many times in my life I have let my ego decide who I am and not my actions. Sometimes I need to be knocked off my pedestal and told: “This is crap. You can do better.”

Because as I seek to discipline you, God is disciplining me to become a better person and a better mom. After all, the word discipline actually means “to train.”

In order to be the kind of mom I want to be, I first need to be a student. I need to learn how to be patient, humble, selfless, kind, and generous. I need to say please: please God give me strength. I need to say thank you: thank you God for your abundant blessings. I need to say I’m sorry: forgive me God for falling short.

As your hurt eyes peered into mine I put my hands on your shoulders, “I am so sorry I yelled at you like that,” and I pulled you close in an embrace.