Help! I’m So Lonely! 10 Practical Suggestions

lonelyAre you lonely? During the holidays, lonely folks–and Christians get lonely too!–are as numerous as snowflakes in a Minnesota blizzard. Still, knowing this fact doesn’t take away the emptiness, does it? So what helps? Pastor Paul Tautges shares part of the booklet “Help! I’m So Lonely” by biblical counselor Deborah Howard, RN, an article that appeared first on his website. He is the editor of the Help! series.

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Loneliness takes many forms and its causes are almost endless. There’s loneliness from. . .

  • Losing a spouse or other loved one.
  • Being alone in a new environment.
  • Being single in what seems like a world full of couples.
  • Being in a loveless or troubled marriage.
  • Being married to someone who, through debilitating illness, is a shadow of his/her former self.
  • Being elderly, often starved for companionship or a friendly touch.
  • Being exceptional—whether exceptionally beautiful or plain, exceptionally intelligent or cognitively challenged, exceptionally fat/skinny, exceptionally tall/short, exceptionally famous or seemingly invisible.
  • Anything that sets us apart from others can cause us to feel disconnected and isolated.

Not only are there different causes, but loneliness varies in other ways. Some loneliness is temporary; some is long-term. Some is deep and aching; some is merely unsettling. Some causes minor discomfort; some causes major dysfunction.

Deborah Howard, RN, penned the wonderful mini-book HELP! I’m So Lonely. In it she explains why loneliness is an age-old problem and how God ministers to us in our loneliness.

10 Practical Suggestions

But what practical suggestions could help us in our loneliness? And what help could we give to lonely people? Deborah gives the following bits of counsel in her final chapter. The following is a brief summary of her counsel.

1: Spend Time with People When You’re Lonely

Spend time with people. Whether you realize it or not, you need people. Loneliness and grief shouldn’t be kept to yourself. Perhaps you don’t want to be in big crowds. Fine. Then spend one-on-one time with someone you care about. Schedule lunch with a friend and notice the taste of the food, the décor, the waiter/waitress—try to live “in the moment.”

2: Listen Closely 

Listen closely to your lunch companion’s conversation. The first few times you do it may seem empty and unfulfilling. But keep doing it.

3: It’s OK to Cry When You’re Lonely

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to cry. Crying can be therapeutic. It may make other people uncomfortable, but that’s their issue, not yours. Tears are a healthy response to loss. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust the Lord or that your faith is weak. It simply means your heart is breaking and your body is responding appropriately for you!

4:  Spend Time Outside

Enjoy some peace and quiet in nature. If you prefer spending time alone, don’t do it locked up in your house. Get outside. Surround yourself with nature. It’s amazing how the Lord ministers to us through His creation. Even something as simple as sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine or a gentle breeze can be amazingly restorative and uplifting.

5: Take Care of Yourself When You’re Lonely

Take care of yourself. Basically, this means doing the things that ensure your overall physical well-being. Grieving people sometimes forget or skip the simplest tasks. Eat regular, healthy meals. True, cooking nutritious meals for one isn’t easy.

But don’t just eat “easy” stuff—take-out, fast food, or microwave meals—and miss out on important nutrition (in fact, watching a person’s weight is a good way to determine how well they are coping with loss). So try to eat regularly, even if food seems to have lost its taste and appeal. You need it to get better.

6: Try Something New!

Cultivate new interests. Get involved in meaningful activities. This may mean taking a cooking or art class. Helping others can be fulfilling, so you might consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, church, hospital or hospice. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn another language, or how to garden, play tennis or the violin. Do it now.

7: Journal When You’re Lonely

Keep a daily journal of your thoughts. Set daily goals and meet them. No one else has to ever see your work. But writing is a way to express the inner workings of your heart/mind. It can be therapeutic to put your thoughts on paper, to review them periodically and see the progression of the healing process.

lonely8: Hello, Fido! Hello, Fluffy!

Consider getting a pet. It’s amazing how much company a pet provides. Pet ownership provides unconditional love, a reason to get out of bed, something to be responsible for, and a continual source of amusement.

9: Hang with Your Church Family When You’re Lonely

Don’t abandon the people of God. The church can be of significant value to those who are hurting and lonely. In a way, the body of Christ (His church) is like arms that can embrace you, hands that can serve you, expressions of empathy that can comfort you. Don’t turn your back on that kind of support. Sometimes a person becomes angry at his circumstances and angry at God. As a result, he becomes lonelier.

10: Stay in the Word

I’ll end this list of suggestions with this one. Even if you know the Bible well, you’ll need to stay in the word. It reminds us of truths we need to meditate upon. The scriptures help us keep the big picture in perspective. We must constantly remember who we are and Who He is! We must constantly be reminded of His love, His justice, His sovereignty, His patience with us. By keeping our minds focused on His word, we can do this. Stay in the word. Devour it. Trust it. Lean upon it. It will provide all we need to live our lives responsibly, lovingly, and obediently.

Resources!

If you are struggling with loneliness (or are concerned about a friend), seek counsel in Deborah’s mini-book, HELP! I’m So Lonely.

You also may like to check out all of the books in the Help! series. Click here to see them.

Counseling Hearts to Hope (and healing!),

Super Practical Tips! Best Mom Ever ~ part 5

super practicalMom, let’s get SUPER practical. Here’s HOW to be THE best MOM ever. 

Your goal: changing the way you relate to your kid so your little monster saint learns to submit to God’s rule over them and, as a result, experience change their thoughts, emotions, and behavior. The heart is always the place to begin.

But first, I want to introduce you to the Y of P.R.A.Y.

Yield to God!

In this series on becoming the best mom ever, I’ve use the P.R.A.Y acronym.

1.    Prepare!

2.    Recognize you’re in a war.

3.   Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.

4.   Yield to God.

As you yield to God, wanting what God desires for you and your family, you will become best mom ever! Believe God can handle your problems, and guess what? Your faith will increase, and you’ll become calm and confident as a mom, and as a woman of God.

And just as you yield to God, your child must yield to you.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3

So are you ready for super practical tips?

Super Practical Day 1

Be a student of your child, even kids as young as age 2. Watch the attitude and the behavior (both good and bad). Your child’s behavior and words reveal what’s going on in the heart. Biblically speaking, the heart is called the inner person. And be sure to confirm in your mind and heart that you are THE MOM.

You’re about to shake things up in your home. So expect great things. And pray.

Super Practical Day 2

Each time your child (again, even as young as age 2) cops an attitude (including mouthing off, pouting, rolling eyes, and so on) OR misbehaves, choose one of these two approaches:

1. State your expectations once. Not twice or 10 times. ONCE.

Then get busy doing something, anything, like. . .email a friend, paint your toenails, or capture dust bunnies.

2. Let reality be the teacher.

For instance, if your Emma doesn’t set the table after you said it once (remember, only once), then she loses an hour or more of electronics (TV, computer, phone) even if she says she is sorry and will remember next time. Expect her to her chore with no reminders. If she forgets, well, bye-bye TV/computer/phone for an hour or more.

Why These 2 Super Practical Tips?

For one thing, you are looking for a teachable moment. You want to look happily to the privilege of sharing gospel truth with your child. Her disobedience lets you discipline in love, just as God disciplines you and me and every believer in Jesus.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1

And you also get to show your child how to handle conflict biblically. When you correct him, calmly say, “You didn’t follow through on your responsibility so I must obey God and discipline you.” This show that just as you are under God’s authority and must obey him, your child is under your authority and must obey you.

As you may have guessed, the hardest part is changing how you parent. It takes work. It requires consistency. The choice is yours: You can be a pushover (and irritated and sad) or you can BE THE MOM.

Friend, if you need support in parenting a difficult child, feel free to contact me. I offer biblical counseling in person and by Skype. And, exciting news, it looks like I’m expanding to a secord office, God willing.

Counseling Hearts to Hope,

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Mom, Be Authoritative! Best Mom Ever Series ~ part 4

authoritative

The Golden Rule

Mom, be authoritative. Be a benevolent dictator! Here’s why.

Our culture tends toward two parenting extremes: crass authoritarianism on one end and wimp-dom on the other.. God calls you and me to be neither authoritarian nor permissive but authoritative.

Yes, embrace the role as benevolent dictator.

Your job – which God gave you — is to be THE MOM. God gave you and your husband, if you are married, the authority to direct your children, to shape them, to benevolently dictate to them. You do NOT direct them for your own agenda or convenience but on God’s behalf for their own good and for His glory.

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6, NIV

In this series on becoming the best mom ever, read the part 1 here and part two here and part three here. Here’s the acronym to remember.

1.    Prepare!

2.    Recognize you’re in a war.

3.   Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.

4.   Yield to God.

Does Your Child Have Too Much Power?

We moms often give our children too much power. It’s one thing to say, “Jarrod, do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt.” That’s OK. It’s quite another thing to say to your four-year-old or your 14-year-old, “It’s time to come to dinner, OK?”

OK?

Mom, are you asking your child permission? As in, do I have your permission to serve you dinner at such and such time? Yikes.

I know when moms tack an “OK?” at the end of their statements rarely do not really mean to hand over this power, that the kid gets to decide, but this is the message.

Your Child Needs You to Be Authoritative!

As Kevin Leman says in Have a New Kid by Friday, kids have a game plan to drive you bonkers. Look around and observe what’s going on in malls, stores, restaurants, and even your own home.

What about the toddler who cries until she wears her mother down and gets to go not only once but three times on the carousel?

The teenager who yells, “Bleep you!” at his dad and stalks off?

The 7-year-old who gives his mom the “I dare you to do anything about it here” steely glare as he pushes the broccoli off his plate and watches it fall to the floor to the floor at the restaurant?

The 14-year-old dressed in all black who has “attitude” written all over her and gives every sign of going the wrong direction?

The 3-year-old who spends his day screaming, to make sure his parents appease his every whim?

In their eyes the world owes them—and owes them big time. But when children rule, a home becomes chaotic.

Yet boundaries give them freedom to mature within the parameters of God’s gives in his Word under the guidance of parents. Then children have true freedom to to learn, explore, and have fun. Boundaries also help you refrain from ripping out your hair! Right?

How to Be Authoritative, not Wimpy

The main thing to remember is this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe write it on paper and stick it out the fridge. Teach it to your children.

Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Matthew 7:12

The bible shows that there are consequences for disobedience and blessings for obedience. God’s rules to help parents to nuture children through structured discipline. But our real focus is the heart, especially motivations, beliefs, and desires. God’s rules also help us to admonish children when they make foolish choices and to give encouragement to make wise choices.

The wise and authoritative mom teaches her child what is expected and how to do it. And she emphasizes why obedience matters to God. Doesn’t it follow that parents rejoice when children understand God’s heart for obedience, and obey?

But this takes work, doesn’t it? Your’re right! Motherhood isn’t for sissies!

Next time we’ll finish up the “Becoming the Best Mom Ever Series” with lots of practical ideas. If you have not yet signed up to receives my blog posts in your email, please type in your email address below. Thanks.

Counseling Heart to Hope (and heal),

 

 

Winning the War! The Best Mom Ever ~ part 3

warTo win the war for your child’s heart, you’ll fight three forces. But first, you must recognize you’re in a war!

Winning the war requires you to focus on your child’s heart!

Read the part 1 here and part two here in the Best Mom Ever series, teaching you to–

1.    Prepare!

2.    Recognize you’re in a war.

3.   Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.

4.   Yield to God.

This post calls you to fight once you recognize you are in a war, a war you must win, God willing. . .and he is willing.

3 Battle Forces!

In this battle, you face three strong forces:

First, your child’s natural, selfish nature.

Second, a spiritual undertow.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

And third, our increasingly wacked-out, confusing, chaotic culture.

Our culture says the best kids are happy and successful kids. This is a lie. The best kids are not the ones who seem happy and successful, who look good on the outside. Rather, the best kids are GOD-honoring KIDS.

Ground Zero: The Heart

As I’ve mentioned, your Number One goal is to shepherd your child’s heart. Scripture teaches that the heart is the control center for life. A person’s life is a reflection of the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

From the heart flows your behavior.  What you say and do and think expresses your heart. That goes for your child, too.

So when your child misbehaves, he is revealing his selfish nature, his battle-weary soul, or his bent toward a sin-city culture.

OR ALL THREE!

You may be thinking, “No, not my little Ethan, not my little Emma.” The truth is, every child is selfish and foolish.

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Even kids who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ miss the mark, as do their parents.

We all mess up. Our intentions may be good but, well, our own desire to please our little darlings can get the best of us. Here’s one of my many “what-were-we-thinking?” stories.

What Were We Thinking?

Laura was about 2.

And sneaky.

She knew my weak spot.

At bedtime after I laid her in her crib with five — yes, five —  pacifiers — I said a sweet good night, gave her an equally sweet kiss on her chubby cheek, and tip-toed out the door.

By the time I made it down the stairs, I heard:

CLUNK. . .CLUNK. . .CLUNK!

Three pluggies down. Two to go.

CLUNK. . .CLUNK!

Yes, my sweet, sweet Laura had a good arm. She had whipped her pluggies at the door, knowing I’d come back. She was barely 2 and she was telling us who was in charge. And what was I thinking? Doesn’t scripture say kids must obey their parents? Yes, it’s right there in black and white.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1

Winning Your Child’s Heart

We were in a war. And so are you, Mom. The only way to win: Look past my child’s behavior and see what was going on in her heart. To win the battle for her heart, my husband and I needed to show that, with God’s help, we were in charge.

God gave us the job of effecting godly attitudes, behavior, and character in our adorable child. In the next post, we’ll look at assuming your role as a benevolent dictator. 🙂

Let’s Talk

  1. What behavior problems do you see in your child?
  2. What have you done about them? 
  3. How does focusing on the heart help your child glorfy God?

Be sure to read the next post on assuming the rightful role as the mom. To make sure you get it in your email, subscribe to blog. The subscription box is below.

Counseling heart to hope (and heal!)

 

 

Prepartion: Step 1 for the Best Mom Ever ~ part 2

preparationPreparation is a first step in becoming the best mom ever. God shows you the way. He guides your steps.

Becoming the best mom ever is within your reach. This doesn’t demand perfection. Not at all. If it did, we’d all fail! But it may require a shift in your approach as you. . .

focus on your child’s heart!

Read the first post in my “Becoming the Best Mom Ever” series. There are four more to come. 🙂

First P.R.A.Y.

To become the best mom ever who shepherds her child’s heart, you need to:

1. Prepare!

2. Recognize you’re in a war.

3. Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.

4. Yield to God.

P Is Preparation!

My preparation for motherhood lasted nine months, but my labor was a different sort: paperwork! Nine months is EXACTLY how long it took from from finishing adoption paperwork until precious, newborn Laura snuggled in our arms.So far, so good. Right?

But when Laura turned 3 weeks old, she screamed out of no where. I checked her diaper. Nothing. I offered her her bottle. Not interested. I gently bounced her. She screamed louder. When she finally fell asleep, I read every book I could get my hands on.

The diagnosis: Colick!

Four months later she outgrew this stage, and I learned the value of preparation, big time. I began reading AHEAD to the next stage of child development so I could handle it better.

Preparation doesn’t solve every parenting dilemma but it helps immensely. Your two most important preparation tools: knowledge and wisdom.

Getting Knowledge and Wisdom

King Solomon wrote in Proverbs,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

You’ll find knowledge and wisdom in the pages of Scripture. So read the Bible, soak in the truth, pay attention to the moms and dads in the Bible, what they did right, and what they did wrong. This prepares you for shepherding your child’s heart.

You can get wisdom from other sources too, such as parenting books from Ted Tripp and Lou Priolo. I highly recommend these five books:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Instructing a Child’s Heart

The Heart of Anger

Getting a Grip (for teens)

I use these books often in counseling hope to moms (in person and by Skype). Plus, another helpful tool I incorporate in counseling is this Thought Journal..

Around the time I inhaled Tripp’s and Piolo’s books, I was facing backtalk from my eldest and craziness other kinds from my two youngest. The middle child argued. And the youngest whined! (And I’m a biblical counselor, for crying out loud. . .I was crying!)

It’s little wonder I prayed  and prepared, and prepared and prayed, and read parenting books more times than I care to admit. Now my children are adults. We survived! If I can, you can. We moms must stick together, right?

My next post in this series at my website centers on recognizing that you’re in a war.

Join the Conversation

How have you prepared to shepherd your child’s heart? What help do you need?

Counseling Heart to Hope (and Healing!)

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