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  • Lisa Popcak

Often when I talk to women who have called with a question on More2life radio, I hear words about their concerns that label them, or their loved ones, in some way. Things like,”I’m overwhelmed.”, “He’s got a sanguine personality”, “I’m an introvert but my husband is an extrovert”, “I’m (insert letters) on the MMPI”, “My son is shy”, “My baby is high need”, I’m really type A, and many more.

In many ways these words are very helpful, but they can be limiting. They are labels we give traits in order to help ourselves, and the other people we talk with, to understand tendencies or characteristics in a more efficient way.

It reminds me of organizing a pantry. In pantries we store things like brown sugar, castor sugar, salt, all purpose flour, self-rising flour, cinnamon, nutmeg. Some of these ingredients look very much alike but taste and react very differently when we cook with them. Labeling them allows us to quickly recognize which is which and apply our knowledge of them to know how to use them in recipes. Without these labels our cooking would truly suffer. Confusing the salt and sugar would make for a horrible cake.

But, as in cooking, the label is just a starting point. Let’s take flour as an example. Just looking at a container labeled flour does very little for us. But once we know more about it we can bake lots and lots of wonderful treats. If we learn more we can also use it to create a rue for sauces, or coat chicken for a piccata. If we think outside the kitchen we can even use it to make a paper mache piñata for our child’s birthday.

Just as in our pantries, simply having something in a container with a label on is only a first step. Labeling the traits of ourselves or others isn’t meant to be an end in itself. It’s meant to be a first step in exploring what we can do with that “ingredient”. It doesn’t define us. But instead gives us a bit of information that we can explore in order to use that trait to become our best selves. We can discover how to use that part of us to reach goals and find the blessing of that ingredient in our personality, especially when mixed with our other gifts and talents.

But just like in cooking, this discovery and transformation takes work. A good cook isn’t born knowing how to make a wide variety of excellent dishes. She or he must read and work the recipes of others who know more, learn alongside those who have more experience, and perhaps take classes with experts.

Likewise when we are able to label a trait, we need to learn how to use that trait to benefit ourselves and others. We should talk with others who have that trait and see how they have grown to use it as a blessing. We can read about how to form and achieve goals using that trait positively on our journey. We can consult with great coaches and counselors who have become experts in how to use those characteristics as a boost to help us embrace all the possibilities God may have in store.

Again looking at our pantry, very few of the ingredients are delicious all by themselves. A spoonful of flour, or cinnamon, or almost anything all by itself can be really awful. It can seem useless and disappointing. But when we learn how to combine it with other ingredients and cook it the right way, we can bring out the best in that ingredient and it can feed us and give us joy.

Is there a trait or tendency in you or a family member that you find discouraging, frustrating, or limiting? I encourage you to instead see it as an invitation to explore the positive ways you can train and use that part to bless your life and be a blessing to others.

Just as any ingredient in our pantry can be used in various and wondrous ways when we learn how to use it, we can use any personal label to become the amazing, unique people God created us to be. We just need to be kind to ourselves, and creative while we look beyond the label.

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  • Lisa Popcak

Expectations. We all have them… usually a lot of them. But the way we manage our

expectations makes all the difference in the way we achieve them and, in the long run, in the way we think or feel about ourselves. 

A mom once said to me, “Some days I don’t feel well, and I know I could be a better mom if I could get an extra half an hour of rest in the mornings, but I feel guilty for not being with my kids during that time. In the long run though, I just end up feeling grumpy and more tired the rest of the day. I just don’t know what to do.”

This mom is not alone in feeling this way. Her expectations were telling her that she “should” be able to do it all. That she “shouldn’t” feel sick in the morning so that she could spend that extra time with her kids. But when that expectation failed her, or became unrealistic, she felt that she was letting her husband, her kids, and herself down. 

To help her work through her expectations, I asked her which option would help her be her best self: Saying to her kids, “mommy doesn’t feel well right now, so it would help me out a lot if you could do this activity for 30 minutes and then we will get together and make a yummy breakfast and have a great day together,” or getting up and spending that extra half hour with them, but not feeling well and ultimately feeling drained and angry throughout the day. 

In this situation, the answer was clear. She saw that in this way she could engage and take care of her kids, but still take care of herself so that she could be the mom she wanted to be the rest of the day. 

Her follow-up concern was that her children would get used to having mornings “off” and then fight her on days when they started their morning routine at their regular time. At this point I encouraged her to come up with a title for these more relaxed mornings such as a “rest morning,” or a “special morning.” This way her children knew that these mornings, where mom rested and they got to do a special activity, were not going to be the norm, but a special surprise on only some mornings. 

This is just one example of the common ways our expectations tend to get the best of us. We think we have to do it all and when we can’t, we feel as though we have failed. But here’s the great part: we can do it all if we do it realistically. We can be our best selves, we can do what we want to do—but we often can’t do it alone, and we certainly can’t do it without acknowledging our needs. 

So moms, make your best self your new best friend. 

What does it mean to be your best self? Start by identifying the strengths and qualities that you want to exhibit, the strengths and qualities that reflect who you are when you’re at your “best.” Examples of this could be calm, patient, creative, organized, thoughtful, loving, joyful, playful, etc. 

Once you have identified the qualities that you have when you’re feeling your best, write them down. 

Now that you have identified what it means to you to be your best self, ask yourself in all situations (especially those situations where you are feeling harried, stressed, or frustrated), “What do I need to do to be my best self in this situation?” This will prompt your cortex (your thinking brain) to kick in and let you know that maybe in this moment you need to take a deep breath before responding, you need to set your kids up with an activity so you can rest for 30 minutes, you need to take a moment to listen and understand why your child—or another adult—is acting out, you need to get a drink of water and stop and say a prayer in the midst of the activities of the day, or you need to make a plan toess your needs with another person at a time you can both be calm and undistracted. Whatever you need to do, act out of the perspective being your best self. 

Working to be our best self helps us improve in the art of balancing our expectations. In no situation does “being my best self” mean running around and exhausting myself so that I’m angry and resentful. It means saying yes to what I can say yes to, saying no to what I need to, being loving, and working to meet everyone’s needs—including my own.  

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  • Lisa Popcak

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Today’s Momfidence moment is brought to you by the letter “P”.

The Sesame Street reference sprang to mind as I thought about what I want to share with you today.

I am very blessed to have a treasured friend who I am in touch with almost every single day even though we live thousands of miles apart. We are very close and we tend to lean on each other when this mom thing gets tough. We encourage each other and pray for each other on the daily through so many ups and downs.

Over the years we’ve developed a shorthand reminder to encourage each other that I want to share with you as well. It’s the phrase  “PRAYER and PROTEIN”.

This phrase has developed between us over the years as we began to realize that so many of our mothering struggles could be soothed by applying these two things to so many irritating situations.

“The kids are so whiny and uncooperative. They’re driving me nuts.”

“The kids are fighting with each other so much today!”

“After school pick up is such a grumpy time. I want us all to enjoy being together again, but it’s so unpleasant.”

“I’m just not in the mood to mom today.”

Comments like these, and so many others, would go back and forth between our daily text often. Then we began to see a common pattern. They happened mostly when one or all of us hadn’t had anything healthy to eat in a while, and they escalated when we tried to control it all in an attempt to demonstrate our dominant power over the obnoxious behavior coming from our kids, instead of prayerfully accessing the circumstances and asking for God’s grace and help.

But when we paused and gave everybody a healthy snack and a bit of time for the protein to kick in, everyone would begin to feel, act, and get along better. Sometimes the issue disappears completely. But if it doesn’t at least we feel better and are able to work it out with clearer heads.

Many of us as moms feel like we have to get our children under control when they aren’t behaving well and many times we end up not behaving so well in the attempt. Because when we as people (children or adults) don’t feel right we don’t act right. Sure there are many things that can cause us to not feel right, but the first and easiest step should be making sure everybody has had something healthy, that includes a protein, to eat before we try to look for other causes and correct behaviors and attitudes.

God himself gives us this model over and over again in the Bible.

Elijah grumbled to God that he was so miserable that he wanted to die. God gave him food and a chance to rest and Elijah felt better and was able to do as God asked.

The Israelites were grumbling in the desert so God fed them Manna.

Jesus fed people over and over and over again throughout his ministry because he knew that once people were fed they would feel well enough and calm enough to enter into relationship with him and be guided by him.

Jesus even made a breakfast of grilled fish for his disciples after his resurrection!

If God in all his perfect wisdom shows us how he took care of those he loved, why should we as imperfect moms mess with the system?

But, so often, we do. For instance, we tell ourselves that we don’t want our kids to “spoil their dinner” so we make them wait to eat and wonder why the dinner preparation time of the day becomes a nightmare. Yet a healthy afternoon snack could make that time far more pleasant because everyone is no longer “hangry”. If a healthy snack means they eat a smaller portion at dinner, we can be at peace and enjoy meal time together because they have already had healthy food.

Another example is when we use food as a reward for after completing something difficult. “You can have a snack after you finish your homework/clean your room/mow the lawn.” Then we wonder why we get a negative reaction, or the kids melt down in the middle of the task. Our minds often go to thoughts that our children are rebellious, disrespectful, or too strong willed. But they may just be running on empty and are out of balance because they haven’t had protein in awhile. Food shouldn’t be the reward at the end. It’s actually the fuel required beforehand that helps us do what we have to do.

I know a brilliant mom who, when one of her children comes to her in an emotional state with a complaint, will say, “Have a quesadilla and wait fifteen minutes. If you still feel this way we’ll talk about it then.” Ninety percent of the time the problem disappears.

Of course the other very important “P” is prayer. We as moms can often become reactionary to our children’s behavior. We can get cranky and angry and let our own pride drive away our wisdom. So it’s really important to take a moment and ask God to help us be the best mom we can be in that moment and for him to guide us and give us his wisdom in dealing with and discipling our (his) children.

While I’ve chosen to make this a habit throughout my day, I’ve found it really helps to do it with my children. A simple spontaneous prayer such as, “Lord we’re really in need of your grace and guidance right now. Some of us are cranky and irritable and aren’t behaving as we would like. Please show us what to do to make it better so we can love each other and you well, and so we can feel your love and our love for each other. Amen.” can be a real game changer in the midst of a difficult moment. God loves us so much and he really wants to help us. We just have to remember to ask and have an open heart to his guidance.

While of course not every problem is going to be solved with protein and prayer, these two things will help you be in a much better problem solving place then you would be without them. So the next time you find family members at odds with each other, have a protein filled snack, take a moment to ask for God’s help, and give yourselves a little time to feel better before you try to work things out.

Keep in mind the equation that my friend and I have discovered:

Protein + Prayer = Patience + Peace

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