Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Learning to Listen

I wrote this article in response to a writing teacher's challenge: Write about a humiliating moment (of hopefully redeeming value)! I hope it inspires you to listen — an important challenge and responsibility as we parent. 

I felt confident walking into the New Jersey post office that afternoon. I had set clear rules beforehand for my children. They knew to avoid the automatic door buttons. As tempting as the buttons were, an open door would land them right on Main Street with oncoming traffic while I was still in line.

In typical 2-year-old fashion, my younger son was not persuaded after our arrival. He wanted to push the door buttons. My left hand held his; the other was juggling two large, rather awkward packages of art that I was sending to his grandparents. What started as a gentle pull, a slight lean toward the door really, soon became a full-body pursuit.

“Mom, let me goooo! I want to push them!” he exclaimed. He threw himself to the floor, hoping the weight would cause me to drop his hand. But I knew that trick from raising his older brother. I held onto his hand tightly when I saw his attempt at a jump.

My son swung from my arm, a few inches off the ground until he stood back up. He started crying. Here comes a tantrum now that he knows I will not give in, I thought. Line, please hurry up! I made it to the front, quickly paid for the packages with embarrassment, and left with my two sons, one still screaming.

When we got to the car, he told me his arm hurt as I tried to strap him in. I was gentle with my movements but emotionally raw. I wanted to get home and get him down for his nap. I needed a quiet moment to compose myself. I tucked him in as soon as we got home. I told him he would feel better after his nap as he often did after boo-boos, real or imagined.

After about ten minutes of a quiet room, he started crying again as he had in the post office. It was the first time it clicked that something was wrong. I rushed into his room to see my son sitting up in his bed, telling me his arm hurt. It was lying motionless. He couldn’t move it. Panic ensued. What was going on? I rushed him to the ER.

After an X-ray, the doctor told me that nothing was broken, but my son had nursemaid’s elbow. I didn’t know what that was. Then he said these simple words: His elbow is dislocated. And it had happened when he swung from my arm.

While the doctor reassured me that this condition is common in young children, I was devastated. In an effort to protect my son, I had hurt him. Further, I hadn’t listened to him. He had told me that his arm hurt. He had been screaming at the post office, and I had misread the signs.

The latter particularly stung because I’m a minister who’d worked for two years as a hospital chaplain. It was my job to listen to people’s pain and accompany them through their healing process. I had learned the best chaplains erase their own agendas and become skilled at empathizing with patients. I had done this with countless cancer patients and high-risk pregnancy mothers. I had held hands with those who were dying. I had helped others, but not in this instance for my own vulnerable child, whom I adored.

After the doctor had manipulated his elbow back into place, I looked at my now pain-free son. I recognized that sometimes listening was easier at hospital bedsides. There, it was typically a conversation between two adults. With my children, I was used to knowing better and instructing them. They often depended on me for that.

I’d spent the afternoon talking nervously on my cell phone with my husband, keeping him informed. When he got home from work that night, our 2-year-old bounded toward him with his arms flung wide for a hug. My husband picked him up gingerly and let out a quiet sigh as he held him close; meanwhile, our son chattered about the events of the day. He seemed unfazed. I, on the other hand, was different.

Parenting is one of God’s best character crucibles. Even the best parents have imperfect moments. I learned that day that good parenting doesn’t just involve sincere attempts to keep my children safe. It doesn’t just involve imparting necessary care and guidance. It also involves pushing aside my preconceptions and agenda, getting down on my children’s level, and saying, “I want to listen.” I still needed to learn something.

If you resonated with this article, please give it some love here! It's been published by my writer's guild in their monthly RedBud Post. Discover their other parenting-themed articles here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

How to Receive My First Free E-Book

"The first step to living a soul-filled life is to make time for what feeds your soul."

I am delighted to offer YOU my first e-book. It's one that I hope will impact your life as I've written it with you in mind. 

Are you looking to move from chaos to calm? For parents, this is a daily journey ... and this devotional can help! Every day for one month, read a different meditation complete with Scripture and a challenge to think about that day. Your parenting, personal development, and connection to God will grow as you experience this resource and its professionally-edited, color-illustrated pages!

Going on a monthlong journey together is intentional. You'll get to know me better as I honestly convey my thoughts, aspirations, and struggles in an effort to encourage us all ... Parenting is no easy gig, and we're in this together!

This e-book is yours for FREE when you sign up for my mailing list and follow the prompts. Those of you who are already on my mailing list got the download link this morning. YOU can join hundreds of others and sign up by clicking this link. Please note that you will not be spammed. This service is simply for weekly blog updates and occasional newsletters. My hope is to give you an exclusive sneak peek into my new book on life purpose through the newsletter, for instance.

Thank you for reading and being a part of this community. I am grateful for you. Please let me know what you think of my e-book. I can't wait for you to read it!

Want to keep the momentum going? This resource is named after my TV series. Don't miss its episodes, which are available on demand. Watch here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Provision

The end of the school year is no joke. I’ve heard parents describe it as a busier time than Christmas! With the end of the year productions, teacher gifts, and goodbye parties, that might very well be true. It’s a scramble to fit in everything that’s important.
That’s why I added one more thing to the calendar a couple of weeks ago. Yes, you read it right, I ADDED something. And that something was cooking a meal for the homeless with my children for Family Promise.
In case you’re wondering, Family Promise is a national nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income families. My church, Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, occasionally hosts some of its families. Most of them are employed; they just cannot afford New Jersey’s high rent.
Equally saddening was the news I heard recently that approximately 40 percent of the children at a nearby school, Jefferson Elementary, are food insecure. That makes snow days, holidays, and summer break precarious times in which some children could go hungry in my community and perhaps in yours.
As we turn to summer and think about the wonderful memories that are hopefully in store, I want to also consider the fear that some might be feeling as well. As farmers’ markets burst with abundance, let’s take the time to share some of our provision to make our community stronger, our children wiser, and our hearts just a little bit softer.
Are you local and interested in helping? Contact Amanda Parish Block (nokidhungryin07901@gmail) of GRACE. She’s looking for surplus produce! GRACE stands for Giving and Receiving Assistance for Our Community’s Essentials. To learn more about it, click here to read an article from a New Jersey paper. 
This post was also shared with Central Church on the staff blog.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Season Finale: Watch HERE!

I am delighted to pass along the on demand link to watch the season finale of my parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner! In this episode, entitled "The Calm of Connection," I explore the many benefits to a church connection. People often think of the church as simply a provider of religious education. This episode will explore how it is SO much more - largely, how it can be a valuable partner for parents in the character building of their children. I'll explore transformative moments through mission, racial reconciliation, key components to resiliency in children, and more! Meaningful connection is essential to help us all move from chaos to calm! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sermon Sunday and Show Tuesday!

I am excited to pass along some important end of the school year news! 

For those of you who are local, I will be preaching for the last time this school year on Sunday at 5 pm. The service is Central Presbyterian Church in Summit's contemporary service called WAVE, which will be held this week in the sanctuary. We've been covering the beatitudes from Jesus' first sermon, and I'll be exploring: "Blessed are the pure at heart, for they will see God." How can we have a pure heart? What does it mean to see God? I'd love to see you there!

Also, the season finale of Chaos to Calm will air this Tuesday night! You can watch "The Calm of Connection" on Verizon (channel 33) or Comcast (channel 36) if you're local, or via live streaming here if you're not at 9 PM EST. In this episode, I sat down with other church leaders to explore the many benefits of a church connection, which span well beyond simple religious training. Find out how the church can partner with parents for important character development, foster healing in our communities through reconciliation, and empower the voice of your child. Meaningful connection is essential to help us all move from chaos to calm! I can't wait for you to see it! 

On set for the finale with two of my guests!

TODAY Video Clip