Staying Calm in the Storm
About the Guest
Moms Amber Lia and Wendy Speake realized their anger was triggered by what their kids were doing, or sometimes even just by life. Speake struggles with anxiety, and often responded emotionally to her kids. She realized if she stayed on top of what she was feeling, she could avoid taking things personally. Now when her kids jump out of bed at nap time, or drift from the table at meal time, she can stop to consider what she's really feeling and reign in her response. Together they talk about the triggers of fatigue, frustration, and sibling rivalry.
Amber Lia and Wendy Speake realized their anger was triggered by their kids, and sometimes just by life. Amber and Wendy talk about the triggers of fatigue, frustration, and sibling rivalry.
Staying Calm in the Storm
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 12th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. Our kids aren’t the only ones who need to learn the lesson, “You do you.” Sometimes, when things get heated with our kids, we need to learn that “We do us.” We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I thought we’d start—and we’ll just open this up to everybody—see how you answer this; this is a fill-in-the-blank; okay?
Dave: Oh, boy, I love games. Here we go! [Laughter]
Ann: Here we go.
Bob: We’ve got Wendy Speake and Amber Lia, who are joining us, again, today on FamilyLife Today. Guys, welcome back.
Amber: Thank you.
Wendy: Thank you.
Bob: So, here’s the game show we’re going to do.
Dave: They look a little scared right now, Bob.
Wendy: I know.
Amber: I am!
Wendy: “Jesus”—isn’t Jesus the answer?—a good Sunday school answer for everything?
Amber: I’m a little pensive about this.
Bob: It does feel a little like that.
So, the question is—fill-in this blank: “Love is ____.” What’s the first word that comes to mind?
Bob: That’s the first thing that comes to mind?!
Amber: I thought, “sweet,” and I’m not quite sure why.
Wendy: Mine was not a feeling.
Bob: “Love is action.”
Wendy: A verb; yes.
Bob: It’s interesting that, Wendy, you said, “long-suffering.” The reason that is interesting is because, with all of the descriptors that we are given in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is this,” “…this,” “…this,” “…this,”—you know what the first one is?
Bob: “Love is patient,” / “Love is long-suffering.”
Ann: Oh, you win!
Wendy: I win.
Ann: What’s the prize? [Laughter]
Bob: You win a copy of the book, Triggers—[Laughter]—which is the book that Wendy and Amber have written together. It’s a book about what causes us to be—
Bob: —impatient; right?
Bob: Really, at the core of the anger—when I say at the core, this is just a contributor to the anger that we feel that’s triggered in us by circumstances, or events, or our kids, or our lives. There is a lack of long-suffering—
Bob: —a lack of patience. It’s interesting to me that the old King James word was long-suffering. We don’t know how to suffer long for much; do we?
Wendy: No; no. You know, we really are a culture of comfort. If anything is uncomfortable, then it’s wrong.
Amber and I often talk about, when we are talking to moms about—once you are convicted that you are doing it wrong, where’s the first place you should turn? Amber, oftentimes, says: “We need to turn to help. We’ve been parented by a loving God. How did He parent us?” We always come back to this word first; that’s probably why it popped in my head—God is so long-suffering with me, to this day.
Amber: And transforming our character and our issues—and our kid’s character being transformed—is not ever an overnight thing—
Amber: —so then we get really frustrated and angry when that’s the problem that we are facing. When we are triggered by the things that our kids are doing and, then, our own shame and guilt, we think, “Why do we keep doing this over and over again?” We do—we expect it to be a two-day thing, and it’s just really not reality.
Bob: Amber, you and Wendy have written a book called Triggers, where you address: “What are the things that cause us to become impatient, that cause us to become unloving,—
Bob: —“that make us angry?”
Bob: The first half of the book is the things our kids do that trigger us/that provoke us. The second half of the book takes the kids completely out of the equation and just talks about: “What are the circumstances in life?”
As you were talking with other moms and asking them, “What pushes your buttons?” moms came up with things—sometimes, it’s the kids; but sometimes, it’s just—
Bob: —other things. Like what other things did the moms tell you?
Wendy: I struggle, personally, sometimes, with depression and anxiety. I’m very emotional; I’m an artist, so I’m all over the place with my emotions. I would be prone to responding, emotionally, to my kids; so that’s why it’s in the second half of the book.
Now, it’s true—that the brother might punch the other brother, and that could be a trigger—but really, underneath, it is: “What’s going on with Wendy now?”
Ann: So, how do you face that?—and what do you do in the midst of that?—discovering like: “Okay; I’m struggling with this,”—what are your next steps?
Wendy: I really think there is so much power in self-awareness. If I know that I have the tendency to take things personally, then I have the power to not take things personally. If I can recognize this about myself, then I can respond better when my kids do wrong. When my kids do wrong, I can still do right; because I see my tendency to join them in the wrong.
Dave: It’s sort of a—I’ve preached on this before—put an extension cord around my waist and have it dangling out and say, “You’ve got to go back and find, ‘Where is this plugged into?’” That is what you are talking about—some of that generational stuff—
Dave: —some of the tendencies, even, in the way you’re wired.
It was so interesting, when we first started this discussion, Amber; you said there was a knock on the door—
Dave: —when you were in your three-day-old pajamas.
Amber: Right. [Laughter]
Dave: You don’t think about that, but that knock on the door—what made me think is, “God knocked on that door, not your neighbor Joe.”
Amber: That’s right.
Dave: It was so interesting. He started something. Here we are—you know?—years later, talking about it.
Here’s where it started for me. Ann and I have a conversation in the kitchen; we’re young marrieds, at the time, with little kids. I get angry; and she says to me—this is the knock—she says: “You know what? I’m never going to bring up anything in our marriage anymore. Every time I do, you just blow up.” I’m, literally, so naïve I respond this way: “Oh yes! What are you talking about?!” [Laughter] She goes like this—like, “Exhibit A.”
Dave: Here is one of the things I discovered that really changed the way—I was tracing this back—is the whole idea that anger is a second emotion.
Dave: I never knew that I skipped these first emotions that I was uncomfortable with—hurt, emotionally; frustration.
Wendy: Sadness and frustration are the two; and sadness, for me, is what usually triggers into anger.
Dave: Talk about that, because that changed everything. It’s like: “Wait; I should stop right now and go: ‘Whoa, whoa; wait. What did I just skip and let’s investigate?’”—but that’s what you’re talking about—so those are those internal triggers.
Wendy: Your children keep coming out of bed at naptime—like I’m talking a lot of times—or bedtime, or getting up out of their seat at the kitchen table, no matter how many times you’ve said: “Sit down. Keep your bottom in the chair.” Oftentimes, is it really anger?—or what’s at play here? If it’s mom’s only time of the day—and you need to nap—then there is a lot of frustration there.
Wendy: Oftentimes, frustrated means: “I don’t have control of your behavior.” I’ve said that my kids—they all struggle with academics, and I can get angry. Then, I have to pull back and say: “Why am I acting so angry? Well, I don’t have any control over this.” I mean, I can go over the spelling words; and I can go over, “Give me your study sheet for biology”; but if they don’t put in the more effort than their friends have to put in and get ready, they’re going to have another “D” or “F.” It triggers, in me, something of feeling out of control.
If I can address that, before I end up yelling about how they’re not being responsible, then I can talk to them about what’s going on in a healthier way.
Bob: You guys are all saying that anger is something that should cause us to be able to pull back and say: “There’s more at work here.
Bob: “It’s not just that I got angry, but is there pain here?”
Wendy: Right; “Where is this coming from?”
Bob: “Is there hurt from my background? Is there sadness or sorrow? Is there insecurity? Is there—
Amber: —“or guilt?”
Bob: When we can identify those, then, now, we can find: “This is really the root issue.”
We’ve got nut grass in our backyard; right? You can go and mow nut grass.
Ann: Wait; wait; wait.
Bob: You don’t have nut grass?
Ann: What is that?
Bob: So, nut grass is a weed; it’s a noxious weed. It’s a weed that you can try to do everything; but unless you—
Ann: It keeps coming back.
Bob: —pull it up and get the very root of it—
Wendy: —it just spreads.
Bob: —it just keeps going. So, some of these things are like: “We’ve got to get to the root of this thing and pull it up by the root. If we try to just mow over it—
Ann: —“just spread it.”
Bob: —“we can mow over it; the week after you mow over it, it looks pretty good.”
Ann: “It looks good!”
Bob: Three weeks later, it’s like, “It’s back!”
Bob: That’s because all we did was mow instead of pull up by the root.
Ann: Well, I’m guessing many listeners are thinking: “I love this. This sounds wonderful, but I’m working eight hours a day. I come home; it’s crazy. My kids are all different ages. There is school; there are sports, and I feel like I don’t even have time to think—let alone make this strategy and plan.” What would you say to them?
Amber: Well, then, that just simply needs to change. [Laughter]
Wendy: Actually, I didn’t know how you were going to respond to that question. We’ve not been asked that one before. My thought was the same: “You’ve got to make it a priority.”
Amber: Yes; you have to put that as a priority because, if things are unravelling for you, and the culture in your home is filled with strife—
Wendy: —it’s toxic; yes.
Amber: —and friction, and it’s toxic, and you’re angry, it has to become your first priority.
I was crazy busy with three kids, four and under, when I first started down this journey. There is never a good time to—
Amber: —make this an ideal scenario; it’s just not. You simply have to make a choice that, “This is what I’m going to do.” I treated this like it was my new job, so that’s what I did. When you’ve got a new job, you clear the other things aside. You don’t keep doing the other job you did—
Wendy: You make the priority.
Amber: —and, also, the new job.
Wendy: You make it a priority, and then you make a plan. Again, figure out what you mean to say before you say something mean; if you have been running at the mouth, crying at bedtime to your husband about how you failed again. I remember my husband reaching over and—in a very platonic, non-romantic way—saying: “Just go to sleep, honey. God’s mercies are new tomorrow.” [Laughter]
Wendy: My response to my husband, when he said, “Go to sleep. God’s mercies are waiting for you tomorrow morning,”—I said: “But I don’t know what I’m going to do with them! I’m going to pick up those new mercies, and I’m going to do the same exact thing I did today because that’s what I’ve done for every day, for how many months, and how many years now.”
That was my knock—that’s when I felt like: “Okay; abide in God, and God will abide in you. You will bear His fruit; but in the meantime, if you are yelling, you’ve got to stop that behavior and plan a better response.”
Amber: It’s okay to be frustrated by those wrong things that our kids are saying.
Amber: But the problem is we are misplacing our anger. We can have righteous anger that says: “You know what? It is wrong that my child is talking back to me and being disrespectful. That’s not right—that’s a sin that they are doing.” Sometimes, readers are like: “Well, is it okay for me to be angry? I feel like some of this is justified.” The answer to that is: “Yes; some of it is justified.”
You know, the Bible talks about: “Be angry and do not sin.” Jesus got angry; there is a time and a place for that, but we need to be angry at Satan and at the sin in the world—that is the real root of all of these issues.
Amber: So, we can get angry, but we need to not place that anger and direct it toward our kids.
Dave: I like that you are getting a little—
Amber: We need to fight the battle. I’m getting upset! [Laughter]
Dave: You’re getting angry right now; I like it!
Amber: I am!
Dave: It’s righteous anger.
Amber: I am angry that Satan is alive and well,—
Amber: —and tempting our kids and us, because I see how heartbreaking—
Ann: —and causing division.
Amber: He causes division; He is destructive. Get angry; join me in my frustration about that.
Wendy: And remember that your struggle is not against your flesh and blood; right? I mean, the verse says, “…is not against flesh and blood,”—I just threw a word in there. [Laughter]
Dave: “…your flesh…”
Amber: It’s “not against your flesh and blood,”—yes.
Wendy: The struggle is against Christ’s enemy.
Dave: Well, talk about this, though; because I’ve seen this. I’m looking at three women—I don’t know, Bob, but I’m guessing he’s a little bit like me, where I’ve noticed, for my wife, it’s not easy for her to be selfish in a good way, which means: “I’m exhausted;—
Dave: —“I am yelling and getting angry a lot; I need to take time for me; I can’t. There’s no—I can’t do this. I have to give my life away for my kids and my husband.”
Bob: Not easy to rest.
Bob: Not easy to replenish your own soul,—
Bob: —which is a part of how we function.
Amber: That’s right.
Wendy: Well, I think that, when kids are young, and we are exhausted—I think we are the quickest to snap, for sure.
Wendy: We don’t have a chapter in the book on self-care; but I think that’s a wonderful conversation, if looked at it through a biblical lens.
Wendy: We do need to be healthy to respond in a healthy way.
Bob: Because I’ll hear people say, “You know, I just need some ‘me-time.’” I’m going, “I don’t see anything about ‘me-time’ in the Bible; but I do see something about rest—
Bob: —“in the Bible; I do see something about Sabbath in the Bible.
Bob: “If there is no margin in your life—
Bob: —“for these things, Jesus took time away to pray. Jesus took time away to be with the Father. If you say, ‘Well, I don’t have time,’ I’m going, ‘Well, I’m sorry your schedule is so much more intense than Jesus’s was.’” [Laughter]
Wendy: “You’re so much more important than Jesus,”—that’s right. [Laughter]
Ann: Well, I remember a time when I was at a very frustrating phase of parenting. Our kids were in school—at least, I think our youngest might have been in preschool—but I remember purposely looking at my calendar, thinking, “I need time to spend with God to talk about these issues with my kids.” I’m not talking just a five minute slot; I blocked out on my calendar—and I was super-busy—but I blocked off two hours, once a week, just to go in depth—
Amber: That’s great.
Ann: —with God to say: “God, this is what I’m dealing with. What do You think?” because God wants to speak to us in His Word; and He has other ways—with people. That time rejuvenated my soul, my spirit, my energy for parenting. It gave me new eyes to see my kids—
Amber: Yes; absolutely.
Ann: —in a way that I could see what God put in them. I would have never gotten to that place had I not been very intentional with carving out that time on my calendar.
Wendy: Yes; and that really is the answer to the question. If someone says, “I just don’t have the time,” you don’t not have the time, because they are growing up.
Dave: “Better make it.”
Wendy: You have to have the time, or you’ve lost the time.
Bob: I learned, at one point in our marriage, that if I said to Mary Ann, “You ought to—Friday night—get some time; go out with the girls. I’ll take care of things, and you do that.” I got back a new wife—
Bob: —a new, better, refreshed wife, who was able to deal with what was going on. A part of you not having the time may be because husbands need to step up and say, “I’m going to give you the time.”
Dave: “Come on, honey,”—Come on; tell them!
Amber: That’s true; yes.
Amber: Yes; that’s important.
Dave: It’s the best thing I did.
Ann: I’m going to sing your praises, right now.
Dave: Okay; you better. [Laughter]
Ann: Our boys were little—actually, they were, I think—they were really young. Dave would say, “Do you want to get away?” I would say, “I just want to be in my house by myself.”
Wendy: Oh, that’s my favorite place to be.
Ann: Yes; but you never get that—
Wendy: I love it.
Ann: —when your kids are little. He called it Boys Day Out.
Ann: He would take the boys—
Amber: That’s great.
Ann: —for an afternoon and allowed me to just kind of have that time that I needed to rejuvenate. When he came back, I was better; that’s for sure.
Amber: That’s so important.
Dave: I didn’t do a lot of things right; but that I could see, Bob.
Amber: That’s great; yes.
Wendy: Well done.
Dave: Just like she said, she was like a new woman. We had a great time, as the boys!
Wendy: That’s so good for them.
Amber: It’s good—mutually beneficial; yes. I do want to say, though, with those of you that maybe are saying, “Okay; that sounds really good; but I’m just not in a season or a chapter where I have that time.”
Ann: —or “I’m a single mom.”
Amber: —or “I’m a single mom,”—exactly—or “I’m a military spouse.” It’s true—there are going to be times when that’s not available to you.
I remember, when Oliver was a baby, he was a beautiful baby. We loved him—my firstborn—but he had severe colic and extreme reflux. He did not sleep through the night until he was three. He wouldn’t sleep for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time. My husband and I—both—we were just sick with exhaustion and weariness, too. He took up every bit of my time, and effort, and energy; and my husband was working long hours. I mean, there just truly was not margin.
There was time, when we became intentional, and we were able to do that; but I remember holding Oliver, and I just remember saying: “Lord, I just feel stuck. I feel trapped. I don’t know how to have any time for myself or do any of these things for myself that I know would be good for me.” I remember the Lord saying to me: “I’m just going to hold you while you hold Oliver all through the night, and this is going to be our time. Yes; you are still being the mom/you’re still meeting the child’s needs; but you dig deep, because that’s where I am. You can go deeper than you think you can; because when you are weak, I am strong.”
So, every night from then on, I would just—it was hard; I was exhausted. I was rocking my baby, and I was just picturing that the Lord was holding me while I held Oliver. I still had to do the work, but I knew that God was with me. He was going to help me; that’s always true.
Bob: I’m thinking about the fact that triggers change over time—that as your kids grow, what was a trigger when they were three—
Bob: —that fades; but now, they’re thirteen, and there are all kinds of new triggers that come at thirteen, or at fifteen, or at seventeen. You’ve constantly got to be aware of: “What is it that’s provoking anger or impatience in me? What is it that is causing me to not be long-suffering with my kids?”
That’s where having a resource like what you guys have created—and not only the Triggers book—but you’ve created a follow-up resource for this; that is, scripts that—explain the scripts idea; what is that?
Amber: There are a lot of things that we actually do say within Triggers; but we recognized that our readers would get to the point, where they are like: “Okay; I’m getting a handle on my anger issues, but I’m still a little unclear—like: “What is the better way for me to handle sibling rivalry? What do I actually say to my child in this moment?”
Wendy and I—we, collectively, had a number of things that we would say to our kids. We compiled those altogether—again, based on these sorts of 31 different areas that people struggle with. We rooted them all in Scripture, so they are very much based in biblical truth.
When my child disobeys, now, all I have to say to my son is, “Son, what happens when you disobey?” He’ll think for a second, and he’ll go, “Things aren’t going to go well.” I was like, “That’s right”; because I’ve taken the time to teach and train my kids that the Bible says that: “Children obey the Lord; this is right, and it will go well with you and you will have a long life.” Obedience results in blessings; obedience results in things going well for you.
Amber: When you don’t obey, things don’t go well!
Wendy: Right: “When you don’t obey, things don’t go well,
Wendy: —“but obedience gives birth to blessing.”
Wendy: So, now, she doesn’t need to give a lecture. That’s part of the beauty of scripts—is someone like me—I’m really good at lectures; but my kids tune me out, man, so fast; but when I keep it short and pithy—and they’ve already gotten the lecture—they know it’s true; just a pithy statement that brings it right back.
I know that this isn’t the most popular term; because I think it’s been reused by people to justify however they want to live—but when I’ve got kids coming in, tattling on each other: “He did this,” and “He did that!” I say: “Listen, buddy, I have no doubt that he did what you said; but I need you to do you right now. You do you.”
Amber: “You do you.”
Wendy: That’s my short pithy statement. They know, when they come in tattling, that the power is put back on them: “What can you do that is right?
Wendy: “Because people will, I guarantee, do you wrong. Your brother is just trying to teach you that right now.”
Bob: “Your brother knows your triggers.” [Laughter]
Wendy: Yes; “So, I have no doubt; I will address that with him, but that’s not your business.”
Dave: The great thing is this isn’t just parents with kids—this is everybody.
Amber: So true.
Wendy: This is everybody.
Ann: This affects marriages as well.
Dave: I guess they are doing it with, Bob: “Bob, you be you. You do you.” [Laughter]
Wendy: The other resource that we have that has been a huge blessing to church groups or M.O.P.S. groups is—we came up with a study guide for Triggers. There is a companion chapter to every chapter, and these chapters are short because we believe that—
Wendy: —nobody has time to read a long chapter in this season of life.
Wendy: These are, basically, the book itself—there are 1,000 to 1,500 words—a long blog post. Then, your study guide gives you, maybe, two/three more paragraphs of new content, three or four more Scriptures, and three or four questions.
Bob: Thank you, guys, for the resources. Thank you for addressing this subject. Thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Amber: Well, it’s very close to our hearts. Thank you for letting us share our message.
Bob: Good to have you guys here.
Let me let our listeners know. This week, we’re actually making your book, Triggers, available to folks who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife®. We are listener-supported. All that we do, here, at FamilyLife happens because listeners help make it happen. In fact, a better way to say that is: “All of the lives that are impacted as a result of FamilyLife—those lives are impacted because you make the impact happen when you donate to support this ministry.”
So, if you can help us with a donation this week, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of the book, Triggers: Exchanging Parents Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. Who could use some of that; right? Make a donation to support FamilyLife Today. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to donate and to request a copy of the book, Triggers; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The phone number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Thanks, in advance, for your support of the ongoing work of this ministry.
You know, I have always been struck by the fact that when Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, begins to define love, the first word he picks in his definition is: “Love is patient.” I think that’s not where most of us would start when it comes to defining love; but as we talk about Triggers today, I’m thinking, “If we are going to love our kids, we’ve got to learn what long-suffering looks like, as parents.”
David Robbins, the President of FamilyLife®, is here with us. This idea of patience is central to how we shepherd and care for our kids; isn’t it?
David: Yes; today reminded me of a New Testament professor and scholar, Peter Davids—he wrote, “One cannot properly claim to follow a Father, who is patient and slow to anger, if one is, himself or herself, impatient and quick to anger,”—which is one reason why the control of anger is such an important topic in the New Testament.
You know, when I was first reminded of that quote, I remember how deflating it was at first. It made me go way too introspective, as a parent; but I want us to make sure we hear the point, which is the point we’ve been talking about today. If we are struggling with anger, we can turn to our Father God, who is patient and slow to anger. From that place, let’s take seriously our calling to be empowered by His Spirit living inside of us, as followers of Jesus, to reflect and to mimic Him for our kids.
There is hope; because of His power and His presence that’s been made available to us, and that is the pathway that we will display patience to our kids.
Bob: Yes; we can’t just say: “Well, that’s just who I am. I’m just that kind of person”; because God’s at work, taking us from the kind of people we are to the kind of people we need to be by His Holy Spirit and in His power. Thank you for that, David.
I hope our listeners will be back with us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to hear a portion of a conversation that our friend, Ron Deal, had recently with John Ortberg, pastor out in Northern California, talking about where we are all headed—eternity. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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