The Traumatic Life of a Betta with a 3-Year-Old


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 B (the betta) escaped trauma a few nights ago because after giving my three-year-old his allergy medicine, he put it in his mouth, then bit off a piece and ran to B’s tank to drop it in and “feed” him. I couldn’t catch him quickly enough to stop him, but I rushed and got B out of the tank to empty and clean the tank.

Today, however, I joined Paxton in the living room after he’d been there a few minutes. Not immediately after, I turned around and noticed that the lid of the tank was standing upright and there was water all around the tank. I scrambled to get the lights on because that corner didn’t have window light like the rest of the room and was dark. When I looked back over, I couldn’t see B in the tank. “Where’s B???” Then I saw him. Poor little B was lying BESIDE the tank. I didn’t know how long he’d been there. I grabbed a piece of paper to try to scoop him up and put him back in the water, hoping it would be less likely to hurt him more… if he wasn’t already dead.

I admit; I was upset. With dismay in my voice (and probably a stronger reaction than I should have had), I said “Paxton!!!! You killed your fish!!!”

I know he’s three and curious, and I didn’t want to be too hard on him, but I wanted him to know how serious it was because I have told him many times to not open the lid of the tank or put his hands in.

For a moment, seeing the look on my face, I think he got it. His little eyes looked very sincere and solemn.

I asked if he thought we should pray for B and he said yes… so we prayed for his fish. Then, unprompted, he told B he was sorry.

I wonder how often we do things out of curiosity, knowing that we “shouldn’t,” but not fully understanding the implications of our actions. Spiritually, there is a maturing process that takes place too. Until you face the trials in life that are required to develop maturity, you don’t have the understanding our Father wants us to develop.

My little guy knows he’s been told not to open the fish tank, but he doesn’t have a full grasp on the concept of dying. He knows about Heaven and knows his sister lives there, but he’s still too little to fully understand what that really means.

“He’s okay,” he kept saying.

“I don’t know, buddy… I don’t know if he’s going to live or not.”

There are many instructions God gives us that we may not really understand WHY He gives them. If we are following His instructions and striving to live as He calls us to live, we will continue to grow and mature spiritually. Until we have that deeper understanding though, we just have to trust.

Trust that God has a reason for giving us the instructions He does. Trust that God loves us and His plans are out of that love. Trust that He’s not going to do things that will harm us in the big picture. Trust… and don’t traumatize the betta. Even if you don’t know WHY you’re not supposed to touch it the fact that He said to leave it alone is enough until you are mature enough to understand the why.

B tried a few times to swim up off the bottom of the tank, only succeeding in a crooked, awkward movement- at first. Within about 30 minutes, miraculously… he was swimming seemingly normally, eating, and acting like nothing had ever happened. The therapist in me wonders just how traumatized he is after today’s adventure out of the water!

 

James 1:2-5

New International Version (NIV)

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

 

Keri

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On the Ark with the Lions


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For some reason, when I woke up this morning, one of the first things that popped in my mind was “On the ark with the lions.” Why? I don’t know either, it just did. I don’t remember dreaming anything related, yet the thought was there. Sometimes I think God works that way, so here I am, writing to all of you about being on the ark with the lions.

I’d never really thought about it before, but that would have to be potentially intimidating. Lions… and Tigers… and bears… oh my (couldn’t resist)! To be on a big ship with animals known to be predators, surrounded by an earth entirely covered by water, with nowhere to escape…wow.

We already know that Noah had to have had a great deal of faith to follow God’s command to build the ark in spite of taunting, inexperience, and meteorological history. Even still, to willingly board a vessel that contains dangerous animals, knowing there would be nowhere to run if things turned bad takes another level of faith for Noah and his family; but what were their options?

All of these thoughts were running through my head as I was trying to get my eyes open. Then I thought about how often we embark on journeys with lions. True, for most of us, it wouldn’t be a literal translation, but even so, there’s truth in it.

Have you ever been in a scary situation with nowhere to run? If so, you can probably relate to some degree with what I’m saying. It might be a bit scary, or it may be scary in a nearly-immobilizing way.

Faith is what keeps us going when life is intimidating. It can be easy to feel like you need to be on you guard at all moments, waiting for a lion to sneak up behind you. You know they exist in your small world.

I’ve been on an ark with lions. I longed for escape. I battled the temptation to fear the creatures by dwelling on the promise of God’s protection and loving plans. I could feel them breathing down my neck but I did my best to keep looking toward Heaven; and you know what? When I looked up to focus on Him, my faith felt stronger, and He protected me. As exhausting as my voyage was (and still is at times), He has protected me and continues to give me hope and peace. He gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. Lift your eyes!

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

 

Are you on an ark with lions today?

Keri

 

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5 Lessons from Frozen


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Like many households, we’ve seen the movie Frozen a time or two. Or a hundred. Each time it plays while I go about my daily routines, Little bits stand out in my mind (in addition to the songs that may get STUCK in my head for DAYS).

Though I’m sure there are more truths buried in there, I wanted to share 5 lessons from Frozen (so, do I even need to say “spoiler alerts ahead”?)

1. The only fixer upper fixer that can fix a fixer upper is true love. We’re all broken and needing to be fixed up. God is love. He is the only fix for a fixer upper. If you don’t believe yourself to be a fixer-upper, ask those around you if you have some areas needing improvement.

I often see social media posts from adolescents and adults alike seeking their fixes from the world. Whether waiting for Mr./Mrs. Right, losing themselves in drug use or other fixations, they seek the answer to their brokenness everywhere but at the feet of Jesus. If you see yourself there, step back. What are you doing?? Earthly things will not fill that hole. Temporary answers will not heal those wounds. Only God can.

2. Fear will be your enemy. It leads to isolation and defensive walls, but still doesn’t provide true protection.

“Bottling up” or hiding your fears will not make them go away. On the contrary, it is more likely that they will grow stronger and begin to escape at the most inopportune moments and in the most inconvenient ways.

It is impossible to love as God desires while focusing inwardly on self-preservation alone.

3. Only an act of true Love can thaw a frozen heart. Fear and bottling up emotions can “freeze” a heart. It may be an attempt to not hurt self and/or others, but in reality, shutting out loved ones still hurts them, and it also keeps you from having the companionship your humanness longs to have. We were created in God’s image, and since God IS Love, that would imply that we are relational beings by nature. We weren’t intended to be loners.

If shutting yourself off from others isn’t helpful or healthy, it makes sense that the opposite would be true. Love by God’s design can thaw frozen hearts. A little compassion, encouragement, and acceptance can do wonders for a frozen or thawing heart.

4. “True love” is more than just emotion or the excitement over finding someone who appears to have the qualities you hope for. Love is also the mortar of healthy family and friend relationships and the most effective means of sharing with others who God is.

I have to admit, I LOVE that there is finally a Disney Fairy Tale that doesn’t truly feed into the “True Love’s First Kiss” and “They lived happily ever after” nonsense. Because…

5. In the words of Olaf, love is putting the needs of someone else above your own. It’s not just about emotion or love at first sight. It’s a choice that must be continually made. It’s not fleeting, and it’s not selfish. What a wise little snowman!

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

What lessons can you pull from Frozen?

Keri

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When Life Shatters

shatters

The other day, I knocked my tablet off a counter and cracked the screen. It’s not pretty. The same day, I was setting up at a hair jewelry party with a mirrored tray that I absolutely love….d. I bumped the table and it tumbled into the floor, shattering the mirror. Two items in one day. Shattered. One instant and it’s over and done. Even though it’s just “stuff,” I wanted to cry.

It’s symbolic, really. So many things in life can be shattered in an instant. A car wreck. A moment of distraction. An accident. A decision. A natural disaster. A snippet of news. Evidence of betrayal. A diagnosis. A stillbirth. A heart attack…

I could go on and on listing, but do you see yourself in that list? Have you had a time or times in your life when you watched a piece of you shatter? As you stood, feeling helpless, looking at the pieces, maybe you were tempted to feel angry or believe you were abandoned by God.

Maybe you were okay and it wasn’t until something else crashed down into pieces that you started to feel yourself cave. These things sometimes happen several at a time, and you can almost watch as experience after experience just chips away at your faith and composure before you begin to crumble. Maybe.

Maybe you’ve felt like Job and it seemed as if you were being stripped of all your blessings and happiness bit by bit like waves that just wouldn’t stop coming at you. Maybe you felt like you would drown in your sorrow and despair. Maybe the father of lies whispered to your soul.

If God loves you, why is He doing this to you?

If you were a good enough Christian, this wouldn’t have happened.

If you only spent more time in church… reading your bible… doing “Christian” things… you’d be able to handle this better, but face it – you’ll never be able to do it right.

You’ll never be enough.

You’ll never do enough.

You’ll never deserve better.

GET BEHIND US, SATAN.

When we are weary, weakened, and insecure, those lies from the deceiver seem to carry more weight. We are likely to be more susceptible to them, even if we know in our hearts they go against what God has said is true.

Challenge them. Challenge him. Like Jesus in the desert, respond to them with words from scripture.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

John 3:16 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Seek God’s truth and choose to focus on it when you feel like you are crumbling. The truth is, He Loves You, and He has a plan for you.

not toying

What truths about God and His love have you found helpful when you are dealing with life-shattering experiences?

 

Keri

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When Patience Wears Thin


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This week, our home has been filled with coughing, breathing treatments, tissues, and cranky attitudes. When I finally had to accept that I had gotten sick too, I also had to acknowledge that I didn’t have much energy to deal with a three year old on a steroid and albuterol. I’ve really tried to be as patient as possible, but I do confess that it’s not easy when I’m sick and exhausted myself.

So, as I pray for divine intervention, I find myself yet again incredibly grateful that our Heavenly Father is always loving, always patient, always kind… when my patience and energy wear thin, His never do.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your never-ending patience. Thank you for loving me even when I’m sick and cranky. Help me to be more like you as I strive to raise my children as you have modeled in your love for us. Please help me to respond lovingly and calmly to my boys’ antics, even if I don’t feel well myself. Help me, I pray, to model your love in every interaction with them. Help them to see you through me.

Amen.

 

Keri

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Loving your Neighbor

An excerpt from my book, Love Isn’t Selfish about loving your neighbor


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“I encourage you now, reader, to stop and think of the neighbors in your life. Start with those who typically come to mind. Your first thought is probably your next door neighbor. Does your neighbor keep the radio up too loud? Or maybe the neighbor’s dog keeps getting into your trash and they refuse to keep it chained or fenced. Maybe, they’re just hateful and criticize seemingly everything you do. How do Jesus’ words apply? Your neighbor doesn’t have to be likable to be lovable, right?

Now think about other neighbors in your life. Think of your coworkers, employees, or bosses; are they your neighbors? Yes. The cashier at the grocery store is your neighbor, too; as is your hair stylist, doctor, dentist, dog walker, postal carrier, coffee shop barista, baby sitter, fellow shoppers, banker, insurance salesman, bookstore clerk, the stranger in the next car over… Get the idea? At any moment in time, one of these neighbors could be having a distracted or self-absorbed moment and do something that may hurt your feelings or offend you in some way. You may experience this when someone cuts you off while you’re driving to work, if your boss is grumpy, if the barista is less-than-cheery, or if your hair stylist says, “Oops, I forgot you didn’t want that cut short.”

What matters is how you respond. When looking at the responses to a situation, it is important to look at what you think about the situation, as well as the emotions at are elicited by those thoughts. For example, as a youth pastor, I once gave each member of the youth group a little slip of paper. Half of the notes said, “To give a penny to someone means that you think they are valuable and special.” The other half of the notes said, “To give a penny to someone means that you think they aren’t worth a cent.” Each teen was then given a penny and asked to discuss what emotions were experienced as a result. Of course, the responses were mixed. The teens who believed the gesture to mean they had no value reported feeling hurt and discouraged. The ones who believed the penny to signify that they were valuable and special reported that receiving the penny was a positive, encouraging experience.

Often, as we function in society with other fallible humans, we encounter events in which interpretation dictates response. If someone at work avoids eye contact and gives very curt replies, it would be easy to believe that the coworker was trying to avoid talking for some reason or was angry about something. This, in turn, may result in negative feelings such as rejection, irritation, frustration, or indignation. In turn, these emotions may lead to inappropriate, self-centered behaviors if they are not held in check.

How many arguments or feuds have begun by such an incident? To think of possible motivations for the coworker’s behavior, it could be considered that she had an argument with her spouse that morning and was overly distracted from current conversation, or perhaps she was merely feeling rushed and trying to focus on what she was doing. There are many possibilities, but in all of them, it’s easy to see how assumptions and emotions may play a part in our relationships with others – especially neighbors with whom we are not intimately familiar.

Emotions are part of being human. We all have them, and they play a big part in our interactions with one another. Earlier, we discussed how we were designed to be relational beings. Emotions serve as a way for people to connect. They help in relationship building as well as self-preservation. It is vitally important to learn how to manage emotions so they serve to benefit relationships rather than end them.”

 

Keri

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How’s the Atmosphere?


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How would you describe the tone in your house? Is it relaxed? Tense? Anger-filled? Dark and depressed? Chaotic? Stressed? Peaceful? Do you and your family tip-toe around for fear of someone’s outburst?

Every household has an atmosphere. We may not always be fully aware of the atmosphere in our own homes because home is our comfort zone. Sometimes, though, our comfort zones are not very comfortable.

We’ve all been around people whose attitudes are contagious. Positive or negative, the people who surround us may be capable of setting the tone of our own mood if we allow them to do so. After a while, mood can become habitual. I’m sure you could probably think of people who are in the habit of being in a bad, negative mood, and you could probably also think of people who are in the habit of being optimistic and cheerful. Which are you?

If your atmosphere is draining you, maybe it’s time to work on it.

  • Call for a family meeting to discuss the atmosphere and ask for possible solutions. TALK about the issues everyone tries to avoid. if your family has difficulty doing this on your own, seek help from a professional counselor for your family. Misinterpretations, hurt feelings, etc. may cause tension in all families at one time or another. Remember that when issues are swept under the rug, they do not disappear; they only pile up and cause everyone to trip.
  • Monitor what you allow IN your home. TV shows, Movies, Video games – the themes matter! If you allow your home to be filled with violence, horror, disrespectful attitudes, etc., it may very well set the tone for you.
  • Make spiritual growth and family time top priorities, and learn to say “no” when it would be best for your priorities to do so.
  • Model a godly atmosphere by responding as lovingly as humanly possible in ALL situations (pray often!).

 

Philippians 4:8

New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

Keri

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Like a Buggy with a Bent Wheel…

Mmmmm spaghetti
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I was recently reading an excerpt from Dr. Dobson’s book, The New Strong-Willed Child. As he gave the analogy of pushing a shopping cart that glides smoothly along versus pushing a shopping cart with a bent wheel that requires constant redirection effort, I could immediately relate. Even now, as I write, I am watching my oldest son eat his spaghetti and meatballs (very messily, might I add… but hey, he’s a kid. I don’t expect him to be neat!). I know odds are when he’s done, he’ll either sling food in the floor or throw his messy fork in the floor. Because he does that every time. I address it every time. He’ll probably be upset when he has a consequence because he typically is. But… he keeps doing it.

For about 7 years, I was in a position where I taught parenting classes and did in-home therapy, most often for families of children with behavioral problems. As I worked to help family after family, I did a lot of research. I learned from experience and trainings about many useful, effective techniques. I know they work. I’ve seen them work, and work well! They work in general for my little strong-willed fella too, but he still has some areas that require constant redirection. Like a shopping cart with a bent wheel.

(And….. there went food in the floor)

As I watch my children grow, I have learned that any time I feel “stuck” as a parent, I can ask God to reveal to me more clearly how He “parents” us.

Most often, His answer is simply, “I love you anyway.” He gives us boundaries, He is consistent, and He is firm. Above all, though, He is loving.

So, I will continue to pray that  God gives me what I need when I need it so I can be the best (though human) parent I can be. I will continue to be firm and consistent as part of showing my children that I love them. No matter how many times I’m being told I’m mean.

 

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for putting up with our temper tantrums and strong-willed attitudes. Thank you for your patience while we kick and scream in the toy aisle. Thank you for redirecting, even when our “wheels” seem to be bent. Father, please give us the peace we need in order to be patient and loving while we respond in our frustration. Help us to parent our children as you parent us; with love, firmness, patience, understanding, and wisdom. Help us to strive daily to be more like you. 

Your humbled child, Amen.

 

Keri

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Facing the Storms

cemeteryWe all have rough times. If you are married and your marriage hasn’t yet experienced difficult times, it will eventually. For any of you who know me or have visited my personal blog, you may already understand the difficult time my own marriage has experienced. In 2011, the relationship was under a great deal of strain due to the loss of one of our twins about 7 hours and 13 minutes after birth. Our daughter had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a neural tube defect, at about 16 weeks gestation. Anencephaly is always fatal, so we knew we wouldn’t have long with her.

Because of our loss, we’ve been forced into a “club” that no one wants to join. We are “baby loss parents.” We have two boys on earth, and a girl in Heaven. Since becoming a member of the baby loss club, I’ve learned how common it is for the loss of a child to lead to the end of a marriage. It seems very often that one or both individuals are afraid to acknowledge the pain, which leads to bitterness. The bitterness masks the pain and eats away at the marriage until it’s no longer strong enough to stand.

It’s heartbreaking.

When Aaron and I began life as a couple (after knowing one another for a good 15 years), I recognized and appreciated his ability to communicate. But, even though we both had relatively decent communication skills when we began together, we had plenty of room to grow and continue to do so. I had trouble feeling open enough to express myself early on but did better with writing, so I’d write. I remember one time, he asked me if I was okay about something, then added, “I’m not going to get an email about it when I get home, am I?” As time went on, we continued to build trust and our communication improved. It has proven to be a very useful and vital skill for our marriage to survive. As we’ve endured the storms we’ve faced, I am very thankful that we’ve managed to keep an open line of communication about what we were thinking and feeling. It’s not always easy, and we’re not always perfect at it, but we keep working on it.

Every relationship has its storms. Some are bigger than others, but they will come. Communication is essential. A marriage requires that its members communicate about their thoughts and feelings.

  • Share with one another what emotions were behind the anger (hurt, disappointed, scared, frustrated, etc.) or came along with the happy (excited, loved, content, appreciated, etc.).
  • Help one another identify the thoughts that led to hurt feelings and talk out your plan of action to address a difficult situation.
  • If you don’t express your emotion  in some form, you will begin to experience unhealthy symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and anger. These symptoms can add strain to a marriage in addition to the original stressors. Remember, a marriage is a team, and teams can’t function without communication.
  • Above all, PRAY together. Remind one another who God is. Communicate your needs and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Regardless of what storm you are facing, God still loves you and has a plan for you. He’s not toying with you for His own amusement because He IS Love and Love isn’t selfish. He WANTS marriage to succeed.

If you had to rate the communication in your marriage on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best…how would your communication rate?

 

Keri

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A Challenge for the week

Sweethearts
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Take a few moments before reading further into this article to replay in your mind the words you have spoken to your spouse over the past 24-48 hours. If you had to estimate the number of criticisms and the number of encouraging statements, what would those numbers be?

In the busy realm of every day life, it’s easy to get into the habit of focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right. This happens all too often in marriages. It may start with one spouse forgetting to take out the trash and turn into a list of every other perceived wrong.

“You never help with the dishes!”
“You always leave the bathroom a mess!”
“You never put your dirty clothes in the hamper!”
“You’re never home because you spend too much time at work!”

Critical statements like these leave no room for the positive in their “always” and “nevers”. They stem from the indignant roots of a heart that feels wronged. It seems as though when we feel justified in our disgruntled attitude, we may look for other supporting factors. Pride leads us to seek justification to feel superior.

It’s as if we are saying, “See?! Look at all these ways you’ve wronged me! I have a right to be angry!”

Yes, you have a right to feel the way you feel. You do not have the right to invade the rights of your spouse and treat him or her disrespectfully because you feel hurt. It’s not healthy for you, your spouse, or the relationship. It is self-centered, and a marriage cannot survive if its members are focused on themselves. Love is a choice to not focus on self.

My challenge to you this week is to keep track of your criticisms and jabs as well as your words of encouragement. Make an effort to offer at least twice the amount of encouragement as criticism. At least.

Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

Keri

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