Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Not About Me

This blog post isn't about me. It's not about my next trip to Romania. It's not about raising funds. It may look like those things but it's not.

Yes, I am going back to Romania. In fact, I'm going very soon. May 30th to be exact. That means I have a little over 30 days to raise the $3000+ needed to go. Daunting? A little bit. But then I remember, it's not about me.

It's about this kid:
And this letter from him:
Dear Melissa,
I love you a lot and I miss you and can't wait to see you and I want to play with you and we can play together. And I know Jesus will help you come back quickly to Romania and you will play with all the kids and they miss you and I love all the Americans.

It's about the faith of a 13 year old orphan half way around the world and God's fulfillment of a promise He gave to that orphan.

This is totally not about me.

To help me fulfill this promise you can donate through my charity at www.eerop.org or through Heart to Heart International (http://www.h2hint.org/index.php/h2h/give/). Feel free to share with friends and others through Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for your faithfulness!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Emotions, Feelings, and Being Smart About Them Both

As a therapist who works with young children one of my biggest challenges is getting kids to talk about their feelings and emotions. It's not that they don't want to talk or even that they don't know they are experiencing complex emotions. The issue is usually that they don't have the EI (emotional intelligence) to understand their own emotions much less the emotions of others. I have a client who described school as "stupid" and "boring" because they were feeling overwhelmed and frustrated at not being able to keep pace with their classmates. A pre-teen client doesn't understand the emotional impact their anger outbursts have on others because they can barely articulate what makes someone feel happy or sad. These kids lack the EI to process their emotions. Why is that important? Because when a child understands their emotions they can control them better. They can also perceive others emotions and learn to sympathize with others. I have seen it happen in a teenage client who suddenly began to view their parents' overbearing behavior as concern for their well-being and stopped bucking them on their rules. The teen stopped feeling powerless and started talking to their parents again (which improved their relationship immensely) and made life a little more bearable for everyone.

How do we develop EI? Are we born with the ability to sense others emotions or is it something we learn? I think it is something that can be developed and it starts with understanding our own emotions first. Too often I find children use anger to respond to a variety of emotions: frustration, boredom, irritation, being overwhelmed, even sadness. That's a lot of emotions for one response to cover! If I feel a child has misnamed their emotion I might say something like, "It seems like you are really frustrated with school right now" or "I wonder if you are worried about something and that is why your tummy hurts?" I may need to try and explain the emotion: "Sometimes I feel like my stomach is turning circles. That's when I know I'm nervous" or "Being excited is like being super, super happy!" I also use games. I have a feelings BINGO game that I use to help clients familiarize themselves with different feelings.
This game covers things like sad, mad, and happy as well as shy, hot, and sick. I also use this to help clients to differentiate between feelings (externally affected reactions) vs. emotions (internally controlled reactions). I can also link the two (sometimes when you get angry you actually feel hot). I also cut these pictures out and use them for a matching game.
These resources came from http://www.mes-english.com/flashcards/feelings.php. You can look for other ESOL resources for teaching feelings and emotions. These are usually basic and include pictures which I find to be helpful. In fact, I think I'm going to buy 1 of these:
for each of my kids so I can always know at a glance how they are feeling.

If you are having trouble with a child who is responding in anger or sadness to everything and seems to have a hard time feeling "heard" try some of the emotional vocabulary building games and suggestions above. A quick search of Google reveals hundreds of links to worksheets and games. By providing children with the words for their feelings and emotions we are empowering them to understand and take control over these emotions before the emotion overpowers them.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shut it Down

"Shut it down" is a popular phrase I often use with my therapy clients when discussing negative thought stopping.

Just shut it down.

I wish I'd take my own advice sometimes.

Yesterday I got a bit of discouraging news. It wasn't anything earth shattering, just something I knew would be problematic for the non profit. Immediately I began the "Prayer Scramble": frantically uttered prayers as I dash around trying to figure out ways to circumvent the impending setbacks.

"Lord, I don't know what to do..."(as I clicked open files)
"Lord, does this mean we need to abandon this project?" (as I shifted through emails
"Lord, what are you trying to teach me?!?" (as I angrily shove the cat off my notebook of scribbles messages)
Not my cat. But pretty close. (Source)
Finally, I admit a level of defeat: there are too many emails and none with the info I need, none of my notes seem to have been penned in this century, and the cat is dead asleep on my computer keyboard.
Why do cats sleep on warm electronics? #1stworldproblems (Source)
Then Jesus lays something on my heart.

"Ask for my will to be done and love those in front of you."

Ok! Wait, um...what???

I've been reading The Relationship Principles of Jesus and these are the 2 most recent chapters: seeking God's will and loving your neighbor (those in front of you now). But how was this going to apply to my situation? This was a problem that spanned continents, governing systems, and people groups. But I stopped. And I *really* prayed, "Lord YOUR will be done in this situation, no matter what." Then I began to mentally review the organizations that the non profit currently has contact with. A list that had been right in front of me a few minutes earlier (literally "those right in front of you").

And then it hit me. The thing I was worried about didn't apply to the organization/situation I was thinking of. It's a long story but I had literally missed the mark by several hundred miles.
Ah ha! (Source)
I had nothing to worry about.


Jesus often tells us to shut it down. Shut down the worry. Shut down the negative talk. Shut down completely and stop trying to "fix it" (::cough, cough:: me) because the answer is already there.

Maybe next time I'll actually remember that before I irritate the cat.