Thankful Thursday – 2017 Gratitude Journal

gratitude-journal

Tween was diagnosed with ADHD this fall, which makes two-for-two of my kids with ADHD (one Hyperactive, the other Inattentive). For him, it was the missing piece of his health puzzle: ADHD spins his brain leading to insomnia, and enough accrued sleep debt leads to cyclic vomiting/migraines. He felt so relieved to have new information and help going forward.

They say ADHD is genetic, that if a kid has it, likely a parent does, too. So I took a short online assessment. My answers indicate that I may be borderline, tipping towards yes. One of the suggestions read: “Learn to make lists, and use them.” I mentioned that to a friend who immediately retrieved a small black book from his satchel. He flipped through, showing me the chaos of his brain scrawled across pages. It excited and repulsed me at the same time.

Guy gave me a journal for my birthday, one small enough to throw in a purse but big enough to be useful. I used to be a journaler but, except for travel, my journal has migrated to my computer (I type faster than I hand-write). I had a sense I needed this journal, but wasn’t sure how I would use it. How would I motivate myself to even begin to remember to use it for list-making, when I’m just not that organized (hello, the point)? I set it on a bedroom shelf where I would see it often and ponder its place in my life.

Meanwhile, I heard someone speak on happiness and he reminded me of something I already knew: grateful people are happy people. Specifically, noticing three unique things for which you can be grateful each day will lead to greater happiness. A HA! My journal began to hold new promise. And I’d begun regularly using the notes app on my iPhone to keep various lists–Grocery lists; To Cook lists; To Do lists… So my journal wouldn’t need to fulfill that purpose.

On January 1st, 2017, I christened my journal with the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”, an entirely appropriate New Year’s verse but one to cling to all year. I tore out a page of quote cards from an issue of O Magazine and placed cards throughout to serve as inspirational bookmarks. My current bookmark says: “Every day you’re alive and someone loves you is a miracle” (Rita Mae Brown). Fitting for this miracle-seeker!

On the next few pages, I wrote out Scriptures important to me and that I intend to pray for each of my guys. Last year I read Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, one of the most practical books on prayer I’ve ever read. Her point is to motivate people to pray Scripture over people and situations. That hasn’t been my MO, but by putting those verses right in the beginning of my journal, I hope it will become a pattern.

Next I wrote the date, my three gratitudes, and, working my 2017 theme word, what I re:created–in this case, the beginning of my gratitude journal!

Over the next few days, I included Bible verses that stood out in my daily reading. I recorded the length of time I ran (I haven’t shelled out for a fitness tracker, but I think writing it down will help me see progress). I imagine I will eventually add reading quotes as well, and then, who knows what else? Rather than feeling like this is another necessary and dull to-do, I’m excited to be creating a record of this year in my life in all its fullness.

To be honest, even though it takes only minutes, I forgot to write in my journal the last two nights. So I wrote something about “yesterday” the next morning. I try hard not to “should” on myself; developing new patterns takes time, I will make mistakes, and there ought always to be grace. Every step in the right direction moves me toward health and happiness.

Which is something to be grateful for!

Garage

“Mom, I’m okay, I wasn’t involved, but the police want you to come pick me up.”

My heart races at this rush of words through the telephone.

Teen and two other boys had permission to spend a summer night at another friend’s house. He has a game room and they wanted to play late into the night.

Teen neglected to tell us parents would not be home; we goofed and didn’t check.

Someone invited someone who invited someone else who did something stupid to attract police attention before arriving at the now-party. Police ran a license plate, called parents, and eventually discovered unsupervised minors, some of whom were still obliviously playing games.

Guy went to get him while I stayed home and prayed. Obviously the car ride home involved a conversation about trust and a now-depleted, in fact negatively balanced, Trust Account.

Teen has never been a big gamer. He is a health-conscious athlete and mostly a likable, good kid. He gets in trouble because he acts impulsively, the tell-tale symptom of his ADHD which inclines him to risk-taking. Honest to God, I’m grateful his risk in this situation was relatively low.

Teen barely knew the kid for whom the cops arrived and he easily recognized the stupidity of the kid’s actions. He never argued about being grounded. He understood that the situation could quickly have become So Much Worse. He learned something.

A summer week without friends might be a rough kid-consequence, but his parents enjoyed hanging out with our Teen. He won’t say it, but he might have had some fun with his family, too.

This is the reason we spent our not-truly-a-staycation cleaning out and reorganizing our garage (aka storage-unit) into a hang-out space. Not in response, as we’d already begun the process before the incident, but because we want our house to be a place Teen wants to bring friends.

Teen’s tendency has been to go out rather than invite friends in. Understandably, as our smallish house lacked a space with sufficient separation from Family Life. Almost simultaneously, Teen bought a PS3 + games from a friend who had moved on to a newer system, and friends offered us their sectional couch and rug. We saw an opportunity.

garage

Purging in process

garage 2

Prepping for sanding/painting

Parents did most of the purging; Teen put on his work clothes to move furniture, to sand and paint. He offered input on where things should go (he pushed us to purge even more) and what else might be needed (mini fridge, space warmer for cold nights). He even reorganized games into attractive storage boxes.

It’s still a garage – bikes and sports equipment, tools and laundry, no cars (we live in California) – but thankfully, the renovation worked. Over the last three months, Teen has stayed home more than he might have AND he has invited friends in. Goal! It has also given Guy a new opportunity to bond and play with his boys and provided another comfortable hang out space.

Our garage-pantry makes for easy snack access; cat = happy, too!

Our garage-pantry makes for easy snack access; cat = happy, too!

No perfect solution, the Man Cave has also created new problems. Teen hears the siren call of video games so much louder than our reminders to get homework done first. It has become a too-frequent escape when he’d prefer not to engage with family. And the three guys enjoying the space so much sometimes leaves Mama out. As families do, we negotiate as we go.

We listened with ears, eyes, heart, and our love for Teen led us to a Labor of Love: a garage hang-out space. He receives love best through Time and Gifts, and I’ve seen it in his eyes – he understands that we spent significant Time to create a Gift of space for him.

I asked him again today: “Are you grateful we worked so hard to create this space for you?”

He responded, “No, Mom. Seriously, are you really asking me that? Yes, I’m grateful.”

Sarcasm aside, he is grateful. He received the love. I’ll take it.

Thrive

Both Teen and Tween have learning “differences.” [I hate the term “disability” because, as The Gift of ADHD points out, what society calls a disability comes with its own gifts.] They are both intelligent, and both have gifts that make typical classroom learning a challenge. They might do great at the right charter or private school, but we don’t have that opportunity. And homeschooling would be ridiculously bad for all of us. So we do our best in public schools. Fortunately we have access to extremely good public schools.

Tween had a bad child-teacher match last year. We advocated long and hard for him and yet perhaps insufficiently. I hate being the squeaky wheel and a bigger parenting goal is to equip my kids to persevere even when the going is tough, as it often is.

Prior to this school year, a neighbor suggested I chat with another neighbor, a school psychologist in another district. She read Tween’s file and afterwards recommended that we ask to have him retested as he was previously too young for certain tests that could be revelatory; she felt certain the school would concur.

They didn’t, and I left the meeting in turmoil. Great news: he seems to be doing great. Bad news: we don’t have a complete picture of him as a learner. Major potholes and obstacles likely await him on Education Road. As parents, we will have lots of work to do, meeting with countless teachers and administrators, meanwhile equipping him with various coping strategies and bolstering his courage.

It shouldn’t have to be this hard, but sometimes it is.

Our hearts break for our kids, for the hurts they have and will experience. No avoiding the entwining of a parent’s nervous system with her child’s.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Casting Crowns concert with some friends. Their latest album is Thrive, and the song Dream for You caught my attention:

Let me dream, let me dream for you
I am strong when you’re weak and I’ll carry you
So let go of your plan, get caught by my hand
I’ll show you what I can do when I dream for you

I have dreams for my life, but God’s dreams for me might be different. I have dreams for my kids; they have dreams of their owns; but God holds all of us in His hands. Of course I need to pray and make my best attempt at wise parenting decisions, but I need to let go of the worry and fear. Another line from the song says, “Come to me, find your rest, in the arms of the God who won’t let go.” I can’t change a single thing through my anxiety. When I trust God, I can rest in His arms.

God made these young men, “fearfully and wonderfully,” complete with their strengths and weaknesses. He has planned good deeds for them to do. He wants to know and be known by them, to walk through life in relationship with them, to love them. We all have a better chance at thriving as I make the decision to model faith in God and His dreams for them.