Monday, August 26, 2013

The Single Best Piece of Advice I Can Give You For This New School Year


By Laura Hull, LMFT

Coping Coach



I might as well disclose upfront that I am the proud mother of six wonderful kids.  My two oldest sons started college last fall on the same day my youngest child started Pre-Kindergarten.  It was the first time in 18 years that a school year had begun and I had an empty house for a few hours per day.  I am not ashamed to admit to you that I was in the throes of a “woe is me” pity party.  I am not one of those mothers who count down the days of summer vacation, eagerly anticipating and then rejoicing as the summer break comes to an end.  I always miss my children when the school year begins.  I miss them terribly.  But last fall was particularly harsh.  The realization that my first babies were in college and my last baby was not a baby anymore was like a cold smack of reality right in the middle of my mother worrying, stress-lined face.  Friends, let me just tell you.  I was in a bad way.  I tried to drown my sorrows in greasy cheeseburgers and reality checks (and counseling go-to speeches) along the lines of “This. Is. Normal.”  “It won’t feel so bad tomorrow.” “They will always need me, but in a different way.”  Ok, there was not enough cheeseburgers and girl talk in the world that could have made that day any better.  I will concede to being at the beginning of a three-day funk. Those days were LOOONG!  It seems hard to believe that it’s been a full year since those dark and dreadful days of cheeseburgers and tears.


I am not sure what was more jolting to me - my oldest starting college or my youngest child leaving for Pre-K.   I would probably say my oldest sons starting college threw me back into memories of being a much younger mother.  I had very poignant moments of questioning “where was I and what was I doing when they grew up all of a sudden?”  Of course, the answer is that I was right there beside them.  I was a stay at home mom until my oldest son was 11 and even now only work part time.  I am very blessed that I have been able to stay home so much with my children, and my profession allows me that flexibility.  But in those moments I was stunned at how quick their childhoods went by and are still flying by for my younger kids.


It is so cliché to say, “it all goes by too fast”.  But I will join the chorus of middle age parents who bemoan the speed with which time is racing by with our kids in tow.  Having said this, I am going to bestow on you the best piece of advice I can give you, as both a professional and a mother: hit the brakes.  Find a way to live your life at a less frantic pace.  I used to dread the hurry and chaos of school day mornings (and in truth, I still do at times).  But now the demands of our schedule and our pace fluster me much less often.  I can see that by stressing out as much as I did, I allowed our routine to rob me of some of my joy in raising my children.  The world doesn’t end if the house isn’t perfectly clean.  The world does not end if we are occasionally not on time.  Weekends should not all be about ballgames and house chore catch up.  HIT THE BRAKES.


It makes me a bit sad when I hear parents speak of dealing with their children in ways that resemble herding cattle, with about as much joy involved.  The years of childhood will go by quickly whether you enjoy them as a parent or not.  My home is always loud.  We have eight people bustling in my home during the evenings when everyone is home.  It’s alive with laughter, noisy conversations, and the sounds of life….happy engaging and the sounds of a family who love each other dearly.  I was keenly aware of how quiet my house was the first day all my kids were gone.  It felt like I was walking around in a tomb.  I got a glimpse of what the empty nest feeling is probably like, and I am not in a hurry to get there, though it is just around the corner, really.


Commit this new school year to enjoying your kids.  The time you have with them during these school years is so very brief in comparison to the years they will live away from you.  Slow life down enough to actually enjoy it.  Do not over-commit your time in ways that make it hard to enjoy time with your family.  Make each child feel special and make a point to touch base with each of them individually, each day.  You will never regret the time you spend with your children in ways that create special memories.  You may very well regret the time you didn’t give if you don’t make a conscious effort to slow down now. 


Make the time.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Intentional Intimacy

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC
            Recently, Ichiro Suzuki slashed his 4,000th hit in professional baseball.  It was also revealed that he has the most hits in his 13 year major league career than any player has EVER had during a 13 year stretch.  That is amazing, considering how many incredible hitters there have been in the history of the major leagues.  Ichiro is supremely talented as a baseball player, blessed with great hand-eye coordination, blinding speed, and a rifle arm in right field.  However, one doesn't get to 4,000 hits just because of talent.  Ichiro has also been a tireless worker in honing his craft.


            I heard a great story about Ichiro.  It referred back to when he first came to America from Japan to play with the Seattle Mariners.  He and his wife informed the Mariners that they were looking to purchase a 3-bedroom apartment to live in.  The team was well aware that they had no children at the time and so they advised the newlyweds to look for a 2-bedroom apartment instead.  Ichiro refused.  He indicated that they had to have 3 bedrooms; one for them to sleep in, one for houseguests and family who would come to visit, and one where he could practice his swing. 


            I love that story.  Ichiro was a major-leaguer.  He could have had access to multiple, top-flight facilities to practice his swing.  But he was so committed to excellence that he wanted to have a place where he could practice anytime he wanted, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is that kind of commitment, combined with his natural ability, that led him to knock out 4,000 hits and beyond. 


            This kind of story is not unusual for the all-time greats in any sport.  I have often heard stories of how many shots Larry Bird would put up every day in practice, the middle-of-the-night workouts of Kobe Bryant, and the workout regimen of Jerry Rice.  Those who want to excel in anything are willing to put in the work it takes to get there.


            The same is true in our walk with Christ.  I am not promoting a "work-for-our-salvation" mentality at all here.  We can do no amount of work that would pay the debt we owe to God for our sin.  What I am talking about is being intentional about walking deeply with Christ.  This type of spiritual intimacy does not happen by accident.  It is not based on natural talent, as if Jesus only wants to draw near to those who are spiritually elite from birth (as if those people exist).  True spiritual intimacy takes time and effort, commitment and devotion.  It is not something I have mastered yet.  I am not writing this piece because I am spiritually putting up 1,000 shots a night or because I have an extra bedroom so I can meet with God all the time.  However, I know people who do these kinds of things and they walk closely to our Lord.  I know people who have kept prayer journals regularly for over thirty years; their shelves are teeming with intimate conversations with God.  I stare at those journals and I want that.  I know guys who wake up at 3 or 4am every day to meet with the Lord.  I stare at my alarm clock and wonder why I don't do the same.  I often wonder why there are times when I feel like God and I are walking in step and then, at other times, that He is a million miles away.  I believe it is because I'm not being intentional enough...and that has to change. 


            A scripture that has always concerned me is Matthew 7: 21-23:  "Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord!' We prophesied in your name and performed many miracles in your name.  But I will reply, 'I never knew you.  Get away from me, you who break God's laws."  (NLT)


            Jesus emphasizes that we are to be in relationship with Him...and any relationship takes intentionality and time.  Any healthy marriage is one where the partners make time for one another.  The best friendships are those where each person carves out space in their schedule for the other.  It is a simple fact that intimate relationships do not just happen.....they happen because those involved make the relationship a priority.  This is never truer than it is in our relationship with Christ.  Satan would deceive us into believing that there are other things that deserve our attention far more than God does.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God may not need our attention but He desires it.  God does not need us to be God.....but we need Him more than anything.  We need Him to make it through this fallen world.  We need Him to endure the crucible of suffering that this life offers us.  We need Him to save our very souls. 


            And He offers us these things.  Because of Christ's suffering on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, we are offered relationship with God Almighty.  In a world where nothing is sure, where anything can change in a moment, we are offered a relationship with a God who never wavers and is always there.  There is no greater offer to be had.  And seize that opportunity, we must be intentional.  We must make Him the priority in our lives. 


            To do that, we've got to put in the time.  We need to start putting up 1,000 shots a day; we need to clear a separate room just for Him, we need to hit off a tee until our hands bleed.  We've got to be intentional about our time with Him.  It's not easy.  It certainly is much easier to NOT be intentional.  I know it is for me.  It's easier to skate by on rote knowledge learned from years in Sunday school.  It's simpler to fall back into the "religious" speak learned from growing up in the church.  It's easier to settle for being a .280 hitter than to put in the work it takes to bat .300 in my walk with Christ.  But I look at guys like Ichiro and I want more than mediocrity.  I want to know and walk with God as intimately as I can. 


            I hope you want that as well. 


            But it's not enough to want it......we must act.  We must spend time with the Lord in prayer, in reading His Word, in learning to listen.  We must be intentional about our intimacy.  And when we are, amazing things will happen.  When we put in the time, we give God permission to do what He wants in our lives and the results will be fantastic.


            So, Ichiro......thanks for not settling on 2 bedrooms.  I'm not going to settle either.




Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist.  He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world.  He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”.  For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit or call us at 407-647-7005.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hurting the People You Say You Love?

How to put out the fire of conflict before you blow up what’s left of your relationships
By Dwight Bain
You make me so mad!    You are just wrong!   You will never get it!    You bring out the worst in me!
Heard these comments before? I hope not, because these are the comments that blow up relationships. Not in an instant way, rather little by little until the relationship erosion collapses the entire marriage or family relationship. You see, it’s not usually big fights that end relationships; rather, it’s small ones. Little conflicts, little disagreements, little resentments and little criticisms can build up into tsunami sized rage filled episodes. The sad irony is that people who say they love each other the most, and that they would even die for the people they say they love, are the very same people who use hostile words to crush the spirits of those same people.
These type of conflicts aren’t limited to husbands and wife’s either. No, Parents can have major conflicts with teens, siblings can go after one another in a rage, neighbors can go to battle over barking dogs, coworkers can go off on customers and even churchgoing people can start quarrels of epic proportions.
Conflict is as old as time, but the consequences seem to be growing more intense. Lawsuits, jail time, divorce, domestic violence, assault, battery, broken families and shattered trust are just the beginning of pain when two normally rational people set upon a course of action to go to war with one another. Remember in a war there are no winners, just survivors. Would it surprise you to know the Bible teaches against irresponsible conflict? Listen…  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that.
By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (St.
James 2:5-6)
Viewing needless conflict as a fire can be helpful since there are four main ways to respond to a forest fire that are similar to the four main approaches people use to manage conflict in the relationships. of my friends lived in Colorado where they had to flee for their lives from the devastating fires that destroyed hundreds of homes last summer. As dangerous as those fires were, the reality is that dangerous words full of rage and resentment destroy more relationships than wildfires during a drought. You can rebuild a house that has been destroyed, but it may take decades to try and rebuild broken trust from hostile words used against family members. The four main types of fire response are:
GASOLINE – yep, I said it. Gas, which when poured on a fire causes a massive explosion. When parties go from name calling to full scale attack they are pouring gasoline onto the flames of conflict. Acting with Aggression will not solve your angry conflict, but it will make matters worse, sometimes even dangerously so.
FIRE – You’ve likely heard the saying, to “Fight fire with fire” meaning to stand up Assertively to protect your rights while fighting back. While it is true some firefighters use the fire break strategy, if conditions change things can go bad quickly. This is another dangerous approach.
SILENCE – To let a fire burn out from an apathetic approach of doing nothing is often the passive-aggressive way to respond. Remember, relationships are not usually destroyed by problems, but rather by silence about those problems. Finally, – This is the safest way to end a raging fire. To Accept what is going on and take bold action to do something about it, all while protecting against being drawn into more conflict by others.
If you desire a deeper level of relationship, instead of being destroyed by it, make sure you are living out the words of scripture, again from St. James, who said, “My beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Learning how to put out the flames of conflict will make you feel stronger, more confident and protect the place and people you love the most. Making Home a safe zone from the ‘fires’ of relationship will protect your future legacy and lead to a world of joy, instead of continual pain and problems.  
About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2013), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Recognizing Exhausted Woman Syndrome

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

“Burn-out” is an understatement of what you are experiencing; in fact it happened so long ago that it is now stored in long-term memory.  What you are experiencing is beyond burn-out and feels more like a chronic condition for which physical symptoms of stress have become the norm.

If this sounds familiar, then you might be suffering from Exhausted Woman Syndrome (EWS).  The symptoms are as follows:

·         Over-annoyed – little things set you off like people who can’t use their debit card fast enough at the check-out aisle.

·         Over-apologetic – saying, “I’m sorry” when you are not really sorry just to move past this item and on to the next one as quickly as possible.

·         Over-attentive – fixation on potential problems, trying to keep them from exploding into bigger ones to the exclusion of taking care of you.

·         Over-burdened – juggling too many balls in the air at one time resulting in a couple of them crashing to the ground.

·         Over-committed – taking on responsibility for things which others should do but aren’t doing to your satisfaction.

·         Over-competitive – driven to achieve in every area of life at one-time with no allowances for failure.

·         Over-conscientious – striving for perfectionism while denying that you are.

·         Over-dependable – so reliable that nearly everyone around you takes it for granted that you will get the job done.

·         Over-gratifying – trying so hard to please others that sometimes the entire point of the activity is lost (especially true for vacations and other fun family events).

·         Over-protective – feeling the need to defend your decisions, actions, beliefs, and emotions to the extent that you withdraw or withhold intimacy.

·         Over-thinking – obsessing over a conversation, decision or event over and over without coming to any new insights.

·         Over-whelmed – stressed to the point of exhaustion and feeling crushed by the weight of every day.

 If this sounds like you, you are not alone.  Many women suffer from EWS which is brought on by the competing demands of work, marriage, kids, extended family, friends, church, and community.  Unlike codependency which requires a dependency on a relationship, EWS strives to be independent of dominating relationships.  However this effort is met with great resistance from every relationship and consequently each relationship pushes for dominance.  This then results in exhaustion from trying to balance the conflicting requests.

There is hope for your exhaustion and it lies in repairing, restoring, and rebuilding your relationships to healthy perimeters.  Begin your journey by recognizing the need for help and then get it.

To make an appointment to speak with Christine please call our office at 407-647-7005. We’d be happy to assist you.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Turning Hopeless Back Into Hope

Brian M. Murray, MS


“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison


Hope can be a powerful force. It drives the future with a sort of romanticized vision with excitement and enthusiasm. Whether it is with marriage, having children, an exciting career or a certain lifestyle, hope and dreams drive the motivation and inspiration to achieve that dream.

Sometimes, however, those dreams get crushed. Reality steps in and begins to paint a bleak picture of that future and over time the anticipation begins to fade. The vision gets lost, the hope disappears, motivation wanes and life can feel stuck. It’s almost as if the color gets washed out of the dream and it loses its luster appearance and develops that sense of hopelessness.

How does someone who is feeling in despair about their life bring hope back into the picture? Feeling like being in a hopeless situation does not necessarily mean they have to abandon hope itself. How a person chooses to view their situation can make a big difference. There is a quote from the Greek Philosopher Epictetus that says “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  Pastor and author Max Lucado in one of his devotionals UpWords points out this example regarding someone who is optimistic in the midst of a hopeless situation…

On the wall of a concentration camp, are carved these words:

I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t shine.

I believe in love, even when it isn’t shown.

I believe in God, even when He doesn’t speak.

Whoever wrote these words may have been in a tough place, but they refused to surrender their heart. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man's Search for Meaning” talks about how after being held prisoner in a Jewish concentration camp during WWII he lost his wife, children and all his possessions. He explains how he developed the mindset that even though his captors have taken away everything from him they cannot take away “my ability to choose how I respond.”

So what is a person to do when they find themselves suffering, in despair and feeling hopeless? These are normal feelings, however uncomfortable as they may be there are some questions that a person can ask that may alleviate unnecessary suffering. Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker that often talks to college students who are failing or dropping out. He tells them to “get a reward for the pain they are enduring, to go through it, they are already in pain, get something for it.” Mr. Thomas was homeless and took 12 years to get a college degree. He suffered, he endured but when he decided to change his mind about his situation was when things began to change. He helps other students come to this reality.

The people and quotes mentioned have some things in common for not losing hope even though their situation seemed hopeless. They kept their dreams alive by changing the way they looked at their situation. Here are some of the common characteristics they share regarding resolve and keeping their hope.

·         They keep their vision alive by changing their tactics. They understand there are different paths to achieve goals.  

·         They learn from life. The take what they learn and apply it to future situations. A setback is not defeat or failure, it’s a learning experience. They gain understanding from it and move on.

·         They keep negative self talk to a minimum. Negative self talk rarely helps achieve goals or inspires hope. Self talk is habit forming, monitor which language is being used.

·         They don’t worry about what others think. This is different than caring, worrying about what others are thinking requires time that could be put toward a goal or self improvement.

·         They understand that results may vary. Two people can do the same thing but they don’t let the results define or validate who they are.

·         They rarely let their emotions cloud up their reasoning. Emotions can tell a person a lot about what they are experiencing in life. Emotional reasoning is about “if it feels bad then it must be bad.” Staying objective and being reasonable is about taking another perspective, or to think of alternative viewpoints. What is another way of looking at the situation that contradicts the bad?

Life can be difficult and at times it can feel hopeless. Changing the view of a situation can go a long way in turning things around. Take some time to examine life, find the good, monitor the self talk, take a different path and look for renewed hope.


 “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” – C.S. Lewis

Dream Another Dream, This Dream is Over: Parents Wake Up!

Laura Hull, LMFT

Coping Coach


I borrowed part of the title of this blog from a song made popular by a famous group in the early 1990’s.  It was a contagious little ditty, if not blunt and to the point.  Songwriters throughout modern history have made a lot of money writing songs about broken hearts and broken dreams.  Alas, broken dreams are a common experience; perhaps even a common thread in the human experience that binds us together like a stadium wave, with lit smartphone flame in hand.  At one point or another, we all have ideas that are born in the form of a dream.  We invest ourselves, if not physically (or financially) at the very least emotionally, in the making of those dreams coming true.  I am a big believer in dreaming big.  I am also a big believer in having a “dream big, plan B” and a “dream big, plan C”.  I will explain why later.


Before I dive into the meat of this article, I want to make an upfront disclaimer.  While the purpose of this article is to take a rather light-hearted yet informative look at the concept of broken dreams and the perception of failure from the parenting perspective, please do not misunderstand my intentions.  With great empathy, I acknowledge that the loss of a dream and the reality of “failure” can have devastating consequences on people’s lives.  Parents who have lived with the reality of a miscarriage or the death of a child are forever altered by the reality of a broken dream; dreams that will never be realized and for which there isn’t a plan B.  Families who pour everything into the dream of being entrepreneurs, only to lose every material thing they have…there may be a plan down the road, but it may be slow to materialize. Those people do not desire to hear a light hearted “chin up” pep talk from a therapist who wants them to focus on the sunny side of life.  Consider the teenage girl with a beautiful singing voice who dreams of making it big in the music industry but the reality of a teen pregnancy makes those dreams unrealistic.  Lost dreams can have harsh consequences.   For now, I will leave those articles addressing this side of broken dreams to my colleagues, though I reserve the right to re-address those types of challenges to dreams at a later time.


I think we are conditioned from a very early age to believe that if we can dream it, we can be it.  We tell our children that they can “be anything they want to be”.  As good parents, we want to encourage our children to dream big, to not “settle” for “lesser” things in life.  Parents beam when their kids say things such as “I want to be a doctor when I grow up” or “I want to be President one day”.   In an effort to keep our kids motivated, sometimes we feed our children’s dreams, never wanting to introduce or entertain the notion that at times, specific dreams, no matter how hard we try, do not come true, cannot come true.  After all, there have only been 44 presidents in the history of our country.  Millions of kids have uttered the words “I want to be President someday”.  It didn’t happen to any of them, save the 44.  What happens to the kid who spends his whole secondary education and undergraduate experience planning to be a doctor, only to discover that he/she cannot enter medical school due to a MCAT score that is not competitive enough, despite numerous attempts at retakes?  How about the father that dreamed of his son playing college football because his own collegiate dreams never came true?  This actually happened to someone I knew.  This well-meaning father planted this dream of collegiate football in his elementary school age son and drove him hard throughout his childhood to dedicate his life to playing college football.  This son gave up play dates as a young child to attend practices most days and to play football on the weekends.  He gave up parties, dates and proms in high school.  And guess what?  The boy had the heart but did not have the tools.  His stature and speed could not compete for Division 1 scholarships.  This family traded much for a dream that never materialized.  Relationships suffered for that dream.


As responsible parents, as responsible people, we must accept that failure is a part of life.  We do not achieve everything we set out to do all the time. We just don’t. Our kids don’t.  No one does, despite the perception that some people get everything they want, and everything they touch turns to gold.  How we handle failure can, in many ways, help define who we are and who we will be down the road.  Failure never feels good, I won’t try to sugar coat it.  But we can grow from failure and this is a concept that we MUST teach our children.  We must lead our children by our example.   While we should never tell our children that they are not capable of achieving their dreams, we must frame those dreams in a way that is encouraging but at the same time gives a bit of a reality check.  For example, for the son who desires to play in the NBA someday, but whose doctor predicts an adult height of 5’ 8”: “Son, I think it is fantastic that you want to be a part of something that requires such hard work and dedication, you are clearly very motivated.  I hope you get that opportunity someday.  Everyone needs a back up plan.  Life doesn’t give the same opportunities to everyone.  What are some other things you are interested in, as well?” Start that conversation.  Keep having that conversation at various points in the child’s development. Help him see the value in dreaming and developing a “plan B” and “plan C”. It is not dream-killing to give our children options to think about.  It can help them greatly down the road.


To the group of parents reading this newsletter (of which I am one), a word of caution:  do not imprint your dreams on your children.  It is ok to introduce them to things that interest you or are important to you.  But do not impose your dreams on them. They need the room to dream their own dreams without the fear of disappointing you if their dreams are not the same as yours.


We can comfort our children when their dreams are broken or they feel like they have failed.  It is our job to re-direct them, encourage them, and require them to dream another dream. 


It’s in our job requirements.







The Death of a Parent's Dream

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

It seems like yesterday when you held your child for the first time and stared in to their eyes with wonderment, awe, and intense love.  It was a magical, miraculous moment when all things seemed possible and they could become anything they wanted to be.  You poured optimism into them daily and began dreaming of the adult they would one day become and all the accomplishments they would achieve.

But something happened.  Perhaps it was a medical condition that would forever alter the possibilities of becoming an Olympic athlete.  Or perhaps it was a behavioral issue that would preclude them from attending certain schools.  Or perhaps it was a developmental disorder that would significantly change their interaction with others.  Or maybe it was simply fear, anxiety, obsession, depression or an addiction that would leave a lasting imprint, forever revising your dreams.

Whatever the cause, the dreams you first dreamed about your child are now dead and the harsh reality of who they are is incongruent with who they could have become.  So how do you deal with the unmet expectations and dreams of what your child could have become?

Don’t deny.  While there are Olympic athletes that have overcome seemingly difficult circumstances such as asthma (Jackie Joyner-Kersee) and ADHD (Michael Phelps), not all kids with asthma can be runners nor will all ADHD kids enjoy swimming.  Furthermore, while there are good suggestions for managing asthma or ADHD, the suggestions might not be right for your child.  Don’t waste valuable time and energy denying an issue exists - acknowledge it and accept reasonable limitations that coincide with the issue.

Don’t get angry.  A common parental reaction when a child does not live up to their potential or the dreams of their potential is to get angry.  Sometimes the anger is internalized and other times it is projected onto the child.  This type of anger is unproductive and will only alienate a parent in their relationship with the child.  Instead accept responsibility for creating an image (however wonderful that image might be) that is inconsistent with the person your child is becoming.  In the end, this is their life to live, not your life to live through them.

Don’t get discouraged.  When things get tough, it is far easier to throw in the towel and call it quits with no expectations about anything for your child.  This is an equally destructive attitude as too many expectations or too unrealistic expectations.  When your child has greatly disappointed you, don’t allow discouragement to settle in and abandon all hopes and dreams, rather take a realistic assessment of your child’s strengths and modify your dreams accordingly.

Accept.  Allowing a dream about your child - even a good, well-intentioned dream - to die is hard but it is essential in order to have a functional relationship going forward.  Accepting their natural limitations is not giving in but rather healing in that it allows you to have a more realistic dream going forward.  Many dreams about your child will come and go over the years but don’t allow the lost dreams to distort your perception.  Rather, allow the lost dreams to morph into realistic ones that are consistent with the hopes and dreams your child has.


Broken Dreams and God's Surprise

By Matt W Sandford

Everyone, I think, has goals and dreams: a great job where you are respected and with travel opportunities; finding “the one” to spend your life with; becoming a Mom or Dad; starting your own business. But many of those dreams are not realized and sometimes the dream is found and then lost. I know this personally. My wife and I had reached our dream, but then in flash, it was gone. Many times it’s not just that a dream has to be put on hold or doesn’t materialize, but that “life” interferes in cruel ways through hardships of all kinds, like injury, chronic illness or disease, death of loved ones, financial loss, crime, or natural disaster. A dream can be broken slowly over time or could go up in smoke in a flash, but the loss of our dreams is like experiencing a kind of death.

We seem wired to dream and make plans. When someone has no plan and has no interest in making plans for their life, most would believe that there is something wrong. Without dreams we feel we have no future, nothing to look forward to, nothing to strive for. And without striving, our dreams seem like nothing but fairy tales and fancy. Dreams give us motivation and motivation feeds our dreams. We will work long and hard to reach our dreams. The harder we work the more of our heart gets invested in the dream, the more it becomes part of us. And so when the dream is lost, it is like a part of us dies with it.

Loss and heartache draw us to look beyond ourselves and that’s a good thing: to look beyond ourselves and our own strivings, dreams and desires and to look to heaven with a burning, a hunger for something to quench our thirst and satisfy us in a disappointing world. Since we believe that God has the power to make it otherwise, and since we believe God is sovereign over all that we experience, then it has got to mean that there is a purpose for our losses and broken dreams. What might be that purpose? What value of a loss of a dream could there be for the believer in Christ? Is there a surprise behind our losses and tragedies?

Let’s say I have been trying my best to walk with God and follow him and then a circumstance, a tragedy, or change comes along and rips my heart to shreds? I feel confused and even betrayed by God. “I thought God had given me this vision, this dream, but now I don’t understand what God is doing.” Taking a look at things from the perspective of the book of Job can be very relevant. Job was likely living his dream out when everything came crashing down and God allowed Satan to take his children, his livelihood, his respect in the community and his health. Let’s look at how Job responded and why God commended him.

1.       Job’s losses focused his attention in a dramatic way on seeking after God. We are told that in all of his grief, pain and anger he did not turn his back on God, but rather he moved towards God.


2.       Job desperately sought out God to understand why. When God answered Job at the end we notice that God never answered Job’s questions. I think that something we miss in that is that God does not condemn Job for questioning him. Although God doesn’t always directly respond to our questions, He does not resent our questions or our upset.


3.       Job is then rewarded by God. He is once again given family, health and respected status. Have you ever wondered why that is and assumed that God was replacing what was lost? That may be part of it but I don’t believe that God felt that He owed Job for all He put him through. Rather, He commended him for how he conducted himself through the loss. In the Old Testament, physical fortune was often a sign of God’s favor so maybe that was partly for the benefit of observers. But what if these blessings were really a representation of the increased closeness between Job and God? What if the blessings were a result of the traumas and the way he processed them and grew from them? Job was a righteous man before this all happened but could it be that afterwards he was twice the man he used to be and so was commended by God accordingly? 


When God takes our dreams away it is not to crush our spirit, control us, make us obey him, or to punish us. Those things just don’t fit God’s character. God is not messing up our lives as an end around the whole free will concept. No, every action of God towards us is one that is wholly directed by nurture, patience, kindness and love because God is our Good Parent. And just like a good parent who sometimes has to do things that hurt their child, God does the same. It’s not for the purpose of hurting, although from the child’s point of view it doesn’t seem like care. God may enact limits, re-direct circumstances or allow tragedy because He has a dream, a great plan too. An amazing, incredible dream that will not fail! And just like a good parent who supersedes the desires and plans of their children because they know what is best and they have the advanced knowledge and experience to back up that claim, God too superimposes His plan over ours. The surprise is that our Good Parent is perfectly accomplishing His super plan even while ours comes crashing down. It is actually by aligning with that plan that we will find our deepest desires and dreams fulfilled. This can be an awful, devastating season. It was so for me, but when a part of us dies, it may be leading us into something better – a resurrection.

 How then do we live in the light of this super plan? In other words, how should we respond to God’s parenting of us?

The first thing is to practice embracing the reality that God is our Good Parent. The key is to begin seeing yourself as a preschooler in God’s family. See Mark 10:13-16 as support of this notion. Just like a preschooler has to realize that their parent is in charge and not them, we need to often be reminded that we are God’s children, and that means that we are not in charge of our lives. The more we embrace this reality, the easier it gets to walk with God and receive from Him the events of life. Seeing God as our Good Parent also protects us from leanings towards resentment and jaded anger towards God when He interrupts our life with His agenda. Consequently, when we experience the loss of our dream, we can turn towards God, pursuing Him even more fervently. We may recognize that we need to revisit our longings and see if there are parts of us that need to be resubmitted to God’s authority. There is grief associated with the loss of our dream, but this grieving is healthy and clears out our soul and makes us more ready to receive God’s plan for us.

May you find peace and renewal in our Good Parent’s Super Plan!


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