Amber Lia: I was really focused on my kids’ disobedience, and I was taking it personally with that victim mentality. And so I was always reacting to my children’s disobedience. I was not responding to it in a godly and biblical way.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Amber Lia and you’ll be hearing more from her and from Wendy Speake as they join us once again for a Best of 2018 Focus on the Family broadcast. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, last time we started a great discussion on how you can better handle disobedience without losing your temper. And I’m excited to continue that discussion today. It can be hard. Our discussion had so much energy and was such a reminder to me that I need to be in control of my own emotions when it comes to interacting with my boys. I mean, it was convicting.
Jim: And that’s a good thing.
John: In a good way.
Jim: Yeah. We’re reminded in James 1:19, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” And that is hard to do at times. But with God’s help, even when our buttons get pushed, we can respond in an adult attitude. And that probably is our forever parental challenge, isn’t it, John? Here at Focus, we wanna be here for you. If you’re struggling in that way, in your parenting role, we have so many resources for you to help you think differently and hopefully, act differently in your parenting. It will inevitably help you.
John: Yeah, we have downloads, audio discussions, video and more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And once again, our guests are Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. And together, they’ve written a great book called Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle, Biblical Responses.
Jim: Welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Amber: We are so glad to be here. Thanks for having us.
Wendy Speake: Yes. Thank you.
Jim: We covered some ground last time. And if you didn’t hear the program, uh, get a download. Uh, call us here at Focus on the Family. Get the smartphone app, because that’s the easy way to listen to things that you’ve missed. And I think the conversation last time, John, was really helpful. And I’m looking forward to today’s conversation. Last time, Jean was able to join in. She’s had to leave, so she’s not going to be with us today. But, uh, what helpful insights there were. Let me kick it off with this question, Wendy. Uh, a couple triggers for you have been all the noise and all the mess. Oh, moms just went, “Yep, my triggers. Those are my triggers.”
Amber: We hear it all the time.
Jim: A lot of women can relate to this. How has God worked through your heart on this? How have you realized “I can relax on the mess”? Maybe even how does your husband embrace it? Because so often there’s a little bit of conflict there. Husbands like order, and, you know, they want their environment kind of tidy. Uh, how have you dealt with all of that?
Wendy: Well, in the whole book, dealing with trigger after trigger, there are moments where we focus on the child’s behavior. But really, the – the lion’s share of the encouragement is, what’s going on with you, Mom, that you can’t cope, that you become a hot mess when there is a mess in your home? Why does the mess in your home make a mess out of you? Um, and the same is true with all the noise so that mommy’s ears are bleeding. Take it outside. And what I’ve learned is that – that we can do things both externally and internally to deal with that stress. We can actually – for example, the mess. I have one room – it’s the front room. We don’t spend as much time in that room. And I have learned, if I keep that room rather organized, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have a place that is visually peaceful for me to go.
Jim: And that’s good enough?
Wendy: And that’s just a technical thing. Well, I don’t know if it’s always good enough, but it’s what I can do in the season. I’m homeschooling kids. I’ve got kids’ friends coming through. And I wanna be available to living a life that requires a messy house. If I want a home full of people, if I want to have people at my table, if I want to host, uh, parties for my kids, then the consequence of that is that we will have a mess. And I am more passionate about being available to my kids than about being in control of my home. Because really, we can’t have a flourishing home life and a clean home all the time.
Jim: And how – do you and your husband have that discussion? Has that ever been an issue? Or is he good with it?
Wendy: You know, he actually likes more order than I do.
Jim: Okay. So he has expressed some kind of desire?
Wendy: Yes. Yes. And we have in our budget, right now, the room to have someone come in and help me every couple weeks. So we’re making that – you know, when you break down your budget and you’ve got your line items, sometimes it fits in our budget and sometimes it doesn’t. And another thing as they grow older, and even when they’re young, you put on the song, um, ”Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere.” And the whole kids, you know, they say, “We’re just focusing on the family room.” Or, “You’re just focusing on your rooms.”
Jim: I like that room.
Wendy: Um, so there are some technical things that you can do. And I’ve learned that lots of parents have a problem with you know, they call them the witching hours. You know, you’re making dinner. And then you’re – after that, everyone goes downhill, and it’s chaos in the home. And then at that time, you’re also wanting to do clean-up around the house. So you can make some plans. It keeps coming back to the idea of if you have a recurring issue, a recurring trigger in your home, make a plan. Try something new. So during that time, when I’m doing that, I say, “Okay, who wants to choose the song?” And we’ll put on a song on repeat. I say, we’ve got 10 minutes of “Jesus Freak” by – by, um…
Jim: I love it. Yep.
Wendy: …By DC Talk. And we’re just gonna play it on loop while everyone – all you gotta do is your room and the family room while I get dinner on the table. And then we’re gonna be ready to just have a great evening after dinner. And so it’s one of the things – it’s now – it’s a plan. I’ve made a plan. But there are times I do not have a plan, and I lose it with my kids. And what I’ve had to realize is I’m not actually responding to my child. I’m responding to me feeling out of control in my home. So my house is a mess. There’s too much noise. And then my child dares act like a child. Right? Right? That, you know, “I need help with my shoelace.” “Why do you need help with your shoelace? Do you not see how much chaos is in this house?”
Jim: I’m getting you Velcro.
Wendy: Yeah. We did slip-ons for years. We did slip-ons for years. So just realizing that the noise and the mess can be that thing that makes us feel unsteady. And so when we have to parent on unsteady ground, everything shakes.
Jim: Uh, Amber, let me ask you this: you share that you were blindsided in motherhood by exhaustion. Uh, what were the first few years of motherhood like for you, and how did you learn to rely on God? I mean, every woman’s…
Jim: …Leaning in right now going yes…
Jim: …Tell me the answer.
Amber: Yes, absolutely. My firstborn son, my sweet Oliver, he was beautiful and perfect in every way, except that he had extreme colic and reflux and never slept.
Amber: And I was totally unprepared for that. And it sort of wrecked me and my husband. We were getting only maybe 15 minutes of sleep at a time…
Jim: Oh, wow.
Amber: …During the night. We hired a sleep expert. She gave us our money back. I mean, it was…
It was terrible.
Jim: Good thing you had a guarantee.
Amber: Yeah, she did.
Jim: But how long did that last?
Amber: It lasted a good almost two years.
Jim: Oh my, goodness.
Amber: He didn’t sleep…
Wendy: And by that time, you had another newborn.
Amber: And I had another baby along by that time. And so we were not sleeping well. And, you know, about halfway into those two years, after the sleep expert told us – she said, “You know, he’s just not a sleeper.” And when she said that, I felt such freedom because I had been trying to fix my child. And there are certain situations where we can’t fix our children, or we can’t fix the circumstances. And it may be an actual sleep deprivation situation, like I was experiencing. It could just be that we are weary. We’re just weary from our teenager’s rebellion.
Wendy: Yeah, we’re weary from the struggle.
Amber: We’re weary from the struggle. We’re weary that our child has some special needs. And it’s just day – and there really is no light necessarily at the end of the tunnel. And so I had this really prayerful time in the middle of the night one night when I was holding Oliver, rocking him tearfully, and I just very personally had this picture of Jesus holding me as I held Oliver all through the night, just all through the night. And so I just began to pray, “Lord, I’m snapping a lot at my husband. I’m – we’re both on edge because we’re so sleep deprived, and we’re exhausted.” And it can be so grueling and hopeless feeling. And I just sensed that, you know, the Lord was speaking to my heart through His word. But He was just saying to me, “Amber, this was really about refining you. This is really about you. And so you need to rest in Me. And so be exhausted, but do the good parenting anyway.”
Wendy: Yes, I love the word weary, and it reminds me of the verse from Galatians that we – we talk about a lot. “Let us not grow weary in doing good” – and we say in doing the good parenting – “for in due season, we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart.”
Amber: Don’t give up.
Wendy: And whether it’s real weariness – I’m not sleeping – or just being weary of the struggle…
Wendy: …Of the constancy – one of the things that we hear from people all the time is “When will they ever, like, learn?”
Wendy: “When are they gonna mature? And when will it be over?” And it feels like there’s no hope. And we just say press in and press on.
Wendy: You press into Jesus. And you say, “I trust that You will complete what You have started.” And He says that He’s gonna do that with us. But oftentimes, our focus is on our child’s behavior. And we’re like, “Okay, Lord, when are you going to complete what you started here? Because I’m ready for that child to stop X, Y, Z.”
Jim: Yeah, my timeline is, uh…
Jim: …Right now.
Wendy: …I’m here now.
Jim: But I’m mindful of the mom who is still back there. She’s not getting that impression, Amber, of Jesus holding her as she holds her child at 2 in the morning, and that little one is screaming, and it’s colic-y or whatever the situation might be.
Jim: How does she find that hope…
Jim: …In that hopelessness?
Amber: I think I – you know, one of the things that I did also is that I lowered my expectation for myself. You know, I was still trying to put a lot into my day, um, be the kind of parent I thought I was going to be. And I was just too tired to do it all. So it created a lot of stress for me. And for a long time, I didn’t sense that the Lord was alongside me. I spent all my time praying that He would change my circumstances. And really, it was just this personal journey kind of over some of that time where I had to make a choice and say, “I know that this situation may not be improving and so I really have to go back to the Word and remember God’s promises are.”
And so I started to focus there, even though I didn’t feel it. And I had to say, “Okay, the Lord tells me that when I am weak, He is strong. And I’m feeling really weak right now. And Lord, I can’t even necessarily sense that You’re with me holding me through this, so I’m gonna choose to believe Your promises and that You will never leave me, You will never forsake me, that You work all things for my good, that You will give me wisdom when I ask for it, that I can be refreshed through You.” And I had to really make that my focus during that time. And then eventually, that’s when the Lord began to really even allow those feelings of closeness to come.
Jim: But we…
Amber: But this started with me disciplining myself to meditate on Scripture.
Jim: And I’m thinking of the exhausted mom who now this feels like yet another task that I’ve got to complete, and that’s…
Jim: …Spiritual time with the Lord…
Jim: …So I can get my bearings. And I’m sure it feels like a bundle going on my back, you know…
Jim: …Somewhere – I’ve got to make some time now at the wee hours in the morning, or after…
Jim: …The kids go to bed, and then my husband’s not getting my time. And…
Jim: …How do you manage that all…
Amber: Yeah, you know, it…
Jim: …When it feels overwhelming?
Amber: It – and…
Jim: And what’s the prioritization for all of it?
Amber: And you’re desperate at that point.
Amber: You know, exhaustion weariness, it makes you pretty desperate. And so it was very, very low-key. That’s what I meant by kind of lowering those expectations. I did not spend hours. When I was single, I would get up at 5 a.m., and I would spend a full hour with the Lord. And that was a really sweet time for me. That was not happening during this time…
Jim: Did you feel guilty?
Amber: …Of weariness. I felt a lot of guilt. And I thought, “How – I just can’t. Lord, I cannot wake up. I’ve been up all night. How can I do this?” And so it just started with me writing a Bible verse that I put on a note card. And I actually put it on my steering wheel so that when I got in the car – because my child also happened to hate getting buckled into his car seat, and that was a trigger, too – and so it would just be this little verse that was taped to my steering wheel or on the mirror in my bathroom. And this – you know, God is not – He doesn’t want religion from us. He doesn’t want this hour every morning necessarily. He wants a relationship with us. And so…
Jim: And He knows what you’re going through.
Amber: He does. He was – He is sympathetic to my situation. And so for me, it was more of just these little breath prayers throughout the day…
Amber: Like, “Lord, I just need your help right now. I’m so tired.” That is a great quiet time with the Lord.
Amber: You know, that 30-second little, “Lord, I just – I need you. I’m so tired.”
Wendy: I think our command to pray without ceasing was for moms, you know, because we – it’s this “If you can just have a constant dialogue with Me.”
Amber: That’s right.
Wendy: And also, that idea of giving God your first fruits – that’s a hard one for moms because, “Well, I didn’t have first fruits.” And so I had to reprogram my understanding of what my first fruits were. Because oftentimes, my first fruits happened at 11:27 in the morning…
Jim: Yeah, right?
Jim: That’s the best you could do.
Wendy: Like, “Whoa! I actually have some time right now. I’m not going to scroll through Facebook.” This was a big one for me – was when – back in the day before children, I would, you know, stretch in the morning, reach over to my side table, pick up the Bible – you know, can you imagine it? – and read. And then I had kids at the same time that smartphones became a thing. And now I stretch in the morning, and I reach over, and what do I pick up?
Jim: Your phone.
Wendy: My phone.
Wendy: And I can justify it saying, “Well, my bible app,” right? But really, I notice, “Oh, I have a notification from this person, and I have a notification on this social media platform. And, oh, look what they say. Oh, look what they like.” But really, I want to know what God says, and I want to know what God likes. So if I have a moment to scroll, I have a moment to stroll with Jesus and listen…
Jim: Oh, I like that.
Wendy: …And just spend some time with Him.
Wendy: And that has been probably the biggest way that I’ve been able to find first fruits.
Wendy: If I have a moment to check in with everybody else, then I need to first check in with Him. I want to like what He has to say before I like what somebody else – I want to follow Him before I check in with the people that I follow.
Amber: And we know that there’s a lot of parents that will feel guilty – a lot of moms do – about spending that time with the Lord. But Wendy and I always say, “Look, this is not us trying to put a burden on you, but we know that this is the thing…”
Wendy: This is going to help you.
Amber: “…That’s gonna transform you.”
Jim: The secret.
Amber: This is the secret. You know, it’s not a specific formula. It’s Jesus. So you’ve got to carve out some time…
Amber: …With Him. If it’s just a little bit, let that be your focus…
Amber: …Every day.
John: Our guests today on Focus on the Family are Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. And we’re talking about angry moms and angry dads, too. The book is called, Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle, Biblical Responses. And of course, we’ve got that and a CD or download of the conversation, yesterday’s discussion as well, just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Let me ask both of you this question – because John, you and I, we’re husbands. And what can husbands do to help? Uh, sometimes we feel incapable. Uh, we feel like we’re out of our depth because our wives are in trouble, but we don’t know exactly what to do. We’re fixers, so we’ll start suggesting things, which doesn’t always…
John: The timing of those suggestions has to be…
Wendy: Well, and I think…
John: …Really important.
Wendy: I think that’s the main point is the timing of the suggestions. And if you can, just like we suggest you do in your parenting, find a moment void of the problem. We say don’t parent in the problem. Sometimes if you can’t handle your responses, you need to find a time where you’re not having the problem to address the problem. And I think finding a time and maybe even building it into your schedule – my husband and I went through a season where we were struggling. We weren’t communicating. We were just so busy. And we were going to church. And after church, we were going to a Sunday school class for married couples, and our kids were in two hours of Sunday school. Anyway, what we decided to do was to drop the Sunday school class for a season and to instead go to the cafe at our church and grab a cup of tea…
Jim: And just be together.
Wendy: …And sit. And that was – we knew it was coming. If you know you have a built-in hour a week where you’re going to talk about how are you doing? What are your struggles? How can I partner with you? And I even said, “These are the questions that if you had asked them, just regardless of what follows, the fact you asked me makes me feel so entirely loved and supported that even if you have no wisdom for me, the fact you are finding a moment to do it” – so I almost – I told him what I needed to hear him say. And then, of course, that was just the intro to the conversation.
Jim: Let me – you touched on this, Amber, but I want to get a little more specific with it. As the mom, we’ve – boy, we’ve spent two days now talking about a mom’s anger. What if she generally is pretty good with that, and it’s dad who’s got the problem? But where are those boundaries where mom really needs to engage and say, “Honey, this is not healthy”? I mean…
Jim: …A lot of men, we have different reasons for anger. It could be abuse when we were children.
Jim: This is how they learned to parent.
Jim: Men are very vulnerable to that…
Jim: …Because it’s part of us.
Wendy: Well, and it can come from a really good thing, too. Like, I – I have a very strong-willed man. The dude’s got testosterone just coursing through his veins.
Wendy: And I find it attractive. Except sometimes he can respond with all that masculine passion towards a little person. And so…
Jim: And then you don’t find it so good.
Wendy: So I think that’s what you’re asking about.
Wendy: And to just affirm, “Man, I love the fighter you are. Let’s remember we need to fight for our children, not with them.”
Wendy: You know?
Jim: Or against them.
Wendy: And we’re do – we need to do that in our marriages, too.
Amber: You know, and ultimately, too, there are some of us that are listening today who maybe do need some – some outside help. You know, you guys offer resources for some counseling. That’s so important. You know, if you don’t feel equipped, or maybe you have spoken to your spouse and there really isn’t that growth that you’re seeing over time, and you see that there’s even some damage that’s happening to your family because of that person, it’s appropriate to get some help to navigate you in the right direction and to walk with you through it and to mentor and support you. But I always tell parents – and I think about this for myself, as well – is that, “You know, Mom, maybe your husband, or your – or dad – you know, your wife is not willing to get that kind of help.”
Amber: Having at least one parent that is focused on doing the good parenting and growing in their life spiritually and trying to apply biblical principles to their parenting is far better than not having any. And never underestimate the power of prayer for your spouse.
Amber: You may have tried those things. They may not be working. Again, this is not about fixing other people. This is about maybe you growing in your prayer life, you know, saying, “Lord, I’m desperate for change myself. I’m desperate for my spouse. I believe that You are who You say You are, that You – nothing is impossible for You. Your arm is not too short to save, so prove it to me, Lord.”
Wendy: Yes, what an invitation.
Amber: “Respectfully, prove it in our home, Lord. You want this to be an – a picture of how You designed marriage and the family to be, so Lord, will You do it? Because I’m not the Holy Spirit to my spouse…”
Amber: “…But you are.” And in the meantime, I’m gonna look at myself, and I’m not gonna be a reactionary parent myself. I’m gonna respond to my children. And hopefully, if I’m living in such a way that my light is shining so brightly, and I am loving unconditionally, and I’m trying to draw my children with loving kindness instead of my angry reactions, that is a situation that’s gonna rub off on anybody that’s…
Amber: …Around that all the time.
Wendy: Well, it reminds me of the verse that says, “Wives, do not win your husband by a word but by your chaste and respectful behavior.”
Wendy: And I think oftentimes, when we model it – look, my husband has said, “Wendy, if you really want to see me change, if you really want to see me change, pray for me.”
Wendy: And I remember we got married, and someone gave me the gift of Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of a Praying Wife.” And um, I remember opening it up – this was in the early days of our marriage. And I specifically went to a chapter because I thought, “Wow, he struggles with anger.” And we had a really short courtship, so we didn’t know each other very well. And I wasn’t raised by – in an angry home, so I didn’t really know what this was.
Jim: Or how to manage it.
Wendy: He wasn’t angry at me. He was angry at the person that cut us off. And he was angry at, you know, it took so long for our meal. And it wasn’t…
Jim: And the dry cleaner.
Wendy: …Or the dry cleaner. And so I opened it up, and he had left for work. And I read through it, and I prayed through it, and I inserted his name. He came home early that day from work, and he said, “Wendy, you know, what’s been on my mind all day? How angry I’ve been. And I’m not sure where it’s coming from.” So the next day, he goes to work, and I opened up – I was like, “Wow, well, gee…”
Jim: “That worked fast.”
Wendy: “…What’s next?” So I opened it up…
Amber: That’s good stuff.
Wendy: …And I fold – you know, how sometimes the Bible, or your book, whatever, it just opens to the right chapter. So that chapter was on pride. I was like, “Huh, I never thought about pride before, but okay, I’ll do this one, God.” And I did that one. He comes home early from work. He said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about my anger. And do you know where I think it comes from?” “No. Matt, where do you think it comes from?” “I think – I think it comes from pride.” But I tell you, I think that the Lord allowed that to happen less for him and more for me…
Wendy: …So that I see there is power in praying. If this is true, why are we not on our faces for our…
Wendy: …Spouses and our children? So there was a…
Wendy: …Season my middle boy could not fall asleep. He was struggling with anxiety. And I would stand in his doorway. And I put my hand on that door frame, and I would just pray and – because I remembered there is power in prayer.
Jim: That’s good.
Wendy: And so, so often, moms, dads, we just forget how powerful…
Wendy: …Our prayers to God, our words to God are. And so man, we, “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” We just use all our words on our spouses. And we use all our words on our kids. And we use all our negative words on ourselves. And really, what we need to do is we need to do two things with our words – we need to go to the Word, and then we need to use our words and talk to the Lord. And that is where the transformation really happens.
Jim: Wow, this – you guys have said it. And, uh, your book, Triggers, is a must-read for moms and dads. I think it helps all of us. And this has been so, so good. Thanks so much for being with us.
Wendy: It’s been a joy for us. Thank you for having us.
Amber: An absolute pleasure, thank you.
John: That closes out this Best of 2018 conversation on Focus on the Family with our guests, Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. And I’m sure that what they’ve shared has given you some hope to work through any anger that is part of your parenting experience.
Jim: You know, Wendy and Amber are so good when it comes to helping moms – and dads, for that matter – they are really honest, and that helps. But they also have strong, practical advice to work through some of those tougher parenting moments that we all encounter. And so many of you loved this broadcast.
In fact, one of our listeners, Lisa, wrote to us after hearing it and said this: “Wanted to thank you for your broadcast today. This was just what I needed. As a mother of five boys” – that’s amazing. Five boys!
John: Five boys. Yeah.
Jim: She went on to say, “I could really relate to not only the isolation and frustration, but the need for God’s grace. It’s me and not my kids who need a heart-check in my parenting before I can lead them and teach them to obey the Lord and not just me. After a day of battling yesterday, I’m so encouraged to seek the Lord and to let Him use me in my weakness to raise these little men to follow Him.”
John: There is so much there that I love, Jim. That she recognizes in her weakness is where God can really speak to these boys and just the fact that it was right when she needed to hear that. That’s awesome.
Jim: And that’s why we’re here everybody. We want to help families heal and thrive in Christ. We’re here to bring peace to your troubled heart. We’re here to support you in your marriage and parenting journeys. Those are our core missions here at Focus on the Family. It’s our calling and truly an honor to walk alongside you and offer whatever help we can.
And if we’ve helped you, consider giving back to others. Focus on the Family is a listener-supported ministry, especially here at Christmas. That’s when a lot of the year’s budget will be raised. Most of us are anticipating the celebration of our Lord’s birth, of course, but many people are hurting at this time of year. People all around us desperately need hope and help in Christ. And we couldn’t do this without you. Your prayer and financial support are what allows us to strengthen families like yours and so many more across the globe. And no amount is too small, so please partner with us today. Give the gift of family. And on behalf of those who you will help through Focus on the Family, let me say thank you.
John: Yeah and when you donate today, your support is gonna go twice as far thanks to a limited time matching gift opportunity some friends of the ministry have made available. Your gift will help strengthen families and that’s gonna be doubled until the match is met. And then, of course, we’ll also send a copy of the book by Amber and Wendy – Triggers – as our thank you gift. Donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And be sure to check out our Best 2018 12-CD set or audio download. It’s got some great programs from this past year.
Next time on the program, you’ll hear from radio host Brant Hansen talking about the importance of learning not to be offended by others.
Brant Hansen: I’ve had to work through forgiving my dad instead of living in response to that the rest of my life. Because I could say, “Well, it’s righteous anger, he was so wrong.” Like, yeah, he was wrong, but I don’t want to be defined by that the rest of my life.
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