Friday, November 13, 2020

Cultivating Gratitude in Your Family

The words thanks, gratitude and giving derive from the word grace and refer to meaningful, authentic ways to acknowledge the grace in our lives. Too often, however, we are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives.

Gratitude is a perception, a way of looking at things, and an attitude of gratitude is a cornerstone of long-term mental and physical health. It balances us and gives us hope. Numerous long-term studies suggest that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives and the lives of our children, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. When we practice giving thanks verbally for all we have instead of complaining about what we lack, we give our children—and ourselves—the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing. There are many things to be grateful for: autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, cars that work (usually), warm jackets, jump ropes, garage sales, the ability to read, swings, rain boots, being alive, butterflies, ...

Every evening before digging in to dinner, members of the Wang family take turns sharing something, good or bad, they have experienced that day.  One by one, each person acknowledges something that might have been difficult or a stretch, and something that they are grateful for. A typical response from the children (ages 10, 9 and 6):  "I got a compliment from a classmate. I finished piano practice before school. And I'm so glad for our dog and cat." Though full of the everydayness of life, their responses show that the childrenand the whole familyare developing a profound practice of gratitude.

This may mean overcoming the three main obstacles to gratitude: self-preoccupation, expectation, and entitlement. Self-preoccupation leads us to focus our attention on our problems, difficulties, aches and pains. Similarly, it's only when our expectation isn't met that we notice what is special. And when we think we're entitled to something, we won't consider it a gift.

Here are some ideas to help your whole family learn the attitude of gratitude:

• Keep a family gratitude journal or "Gratitude Attitude Calendar." Younger members can write one-word answers.

• Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.

• Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of the bedtime routine.

• Make it a game to find the hidden blessing in a situation.

• Let each child have his or her own day on which the rest of the family tells why they are grateful for his/her life.

• Compile a gratitude list to counteract a litany of complaints.

If others don't want to share gratitude, don't force them.  Just set an example by being the first to express gratitude.  Bit by bit, an inner shift begins to occur, and we may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful we are feeling. This sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Monday, October 12, 2020

Turn Relational Conflicts into Blessings

Conflict is as natural to the human experience as thunderstorms are to springtime. When left unchecked, conflict can generate heat and discomfort, disrupt interactions and destroy relationships. Between a couple, discord can lead to divorce. Between countries, hostilities can lead to war. But when differences are openly acknowledged and addressed, conflict can be a powerful source of energy and lead to creative solutions that encourage growth, deepen intimacy and strengthen bonds between people.

The world is made up of individuals with different ideas, wants, needs and beliefs, and conflict may occur when our differences meet. Like so many other aspects of human interaction, it's how we deal with controversy that affects our relationships -- with others and ourselves.

Dr. Wei-Jen Huang said, "Facts seldom cause conflicts. It's each person's value system, point of view, perspective, and interpretation about such facts that produce conflicts."

Some relationships appear to be without conflict. This can mean that everyone is in tune with everyone else. But what's more likely is that some people are not being honest and real with others, or that some individuals regularly and routinely acquiesce to others. This is true with a couple, in a family, or in any group. When conflict appears to be totally absent, it is best to take a look under the carpet.

For some, the inability to face conflict comes from old, deeply imbedded fears, such as the fear of being wounded or absorbed by another. Or some may fear that there is no resolution to the disagreement. In avoiding conflict, individuals may lose themselves in a forest of fears where no one says what they truly feel or want or believe.

Without resolution, conflict converts to stress that causes all sorts of ills and disease and may ultimately release itself in explosions of rage, withdrawal, acting out, addictions and general unhappiness.

However, with resolution comes the release of fear and tension, clarity and remarkably creative solutions or ideas. A feeling of closeness may result or, at the very least, a deeper understanding, acceptance and respect for one another.

If you are reluctant to engage in conflict resolution, consider the following:
  • Because people are different, conflict is natural.
  • It's more important to find clarity and unity than to be right.
  • No one is right in God's eyes. Outside of Christ, we are all fallen creatures (Romans 3:23). Remember it is God who made us different and unique (Psalm 139).
  • Conflict is about speaking up and telling our truth (what seems so real and true to us).
  • Conflict is about being open and honest with others.
  • There is usually a win-win-win solution somewhere. This solution can only be formed in Christ.
  • Resolving conflict keeps us from living in fear.
  • Resolving conflict helps us clarify, sort and value our differences.
  • Resolving conflict can bring us closer together.
  • Resolving conflict is respectful of ourselves and others.
Guidelines to Resolving Stress in Your Relationship

Resolving conflict is a commitment to clarity, to listening with an open mind and an open heart, and to respecting and valuing one another and our differences. Following are some guidelines for working through conflicts. In some instances, it may be helpful to have a third person to help guide you through the process.

1. Agree that no one will leave the discussion session and that each person will be respectful. Commit to stay with the process until you reach an agreed-upon solution. If you need to take a break, agree on a time to resume.

2. Have each person name the problem or conflict and describe feelings, thoughts and needs. Be as specific as possible. Take turns to listen actively without being defensive.

3. Admit that each of you have contributed to your unpleasant and unhealthy interactions. Own your part in creating (or maintaining) the conflict/problem. List past attempts that were not successful in resolving the issue.

4. Take time for silent reflection. During this time, allow each person time to reflect and consider each aspect of the concern. Affirm that there is a way to come to resolution. From this place of silence, tell each other any thoughts, concerns or considerations that arise. Braintorm solutions with an open mind. Do not judge or criticize any suggestion until all ideas are on the table.

5. Discuss and evaluate each possible solution. Stay with the issue until a resolution emerges. Allow for all the time it takes. Pick one solution that both of you want to try (with specific actions from each person). If you can't find a resolution, you may need to accept that you disagree, or get professional help to continue working toward resolution. In any case, set up another time to review and discuss your progress.

Because conflict is natural to the human experience, the best way to deal with it is to create the kind of connections in which differences are acknowledged and supported as part of the ongoing and spirited process of being in a relationship. We all want to be understood and accepted!

Do you know your problems will become smaller if your God becomes bigger? As Christians, we also need to stay in relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit so that we can rise above our human limitation and turn conflicts into blessings.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

2020 06 05 Voice Training Script

Have you found everyday conversations turned into arguments filled with criticisms or personal attacks?  Have you avoided certain conversations because you know it will end up in a fight?  Have you got into a fight but later could not even remember how it got started?  Do you understand your triggers, reactions, and patterns of interactions?

Hello, my name is Winnis Chiang.  I am a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in helping people to turn their communication breakdowns into opportunity for personal, relational and spiritual growth.  I not only work to solve your current problems but will give you a foundation of skills that will last a life time.

Today I'm going to talk about the "fight or flight" survival reaction, and how it break down our communication.

We often say "Fight or flight" but it's actually a "fight, flight or freeze" which is the physical and psychological reaction to a perceived threat, harmful event, or dangerous situation.

The "Fight, flight or freeze" survival instinct is the emergency responding system programmed into our brains to protect us.  It is natural and common to all mammals and human beings.  It is unconscious, meaning we have no control over it.

There are parallel among human behaviors and mammals.

In the animal kingdom, we have predators with sharp teeth and claws (like lions and bears), they are programmed to attack and hunt down prey animals (like horses and rabbits) which runs very fast for their lives.  Then there are animals (like opossum) that play dead to escape the predators, have you heard about "Playing Possum"?

Unlike animals, human beings can do all three by God's design in different situations.  However, sometimes a person gets stuck in ONE habitual reaction because that's the reaction that worked in their life.

When our five senses receive warning signals that our safety and security are threatened (for example when someone is pointing a gun at you), the programmed "fight, flight or freeze" reaction automatically happens and we have no control over it in the following sequence:
  • Stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) are released.  You have an adrenaline rush as if you just drank 20 cups of coffee.
  • Blood flow changes from normal (e.g. helping your digestive system to digest your lunch) to essential functions to get ready for battle.
  • Prefrontal Cortex (the part of your brain which governs your brain's reasoning and executive functions) goes offline and suddenly you have impaired thinking, processing, decision making and language skills.
  • Amygdala (the emotional brain) instinctively responds with "Fight, flight or freeze".

The Amygdala is the processing center for emotional responses.  It screens the information your five senses take in to.  As a result, certain sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and touch are time-stamped and stored into the hippocampus (which is the brain's memory filing system). When certain powerful memories are triggered by a specific cue there may be an emotional or body reaction. Because the Prefrontal Cortex is offline, we don't even realize what prompts us to get so upset!

We all tend to remember the central survival details, and the brain's filing system, the hippocampus, filters out the peripheral details.

When emotional and body reactions seem to pop up from seemingly unrelated occurrences, it can be disconcerting, confusing, frightening and overwhelming. When triggered, we find ourselves back in the "fight, flight or freeze" mode and those stress hormones got kicked in again and we become out of control.

Remember that "Fight, flight, or freeze" is our survival instinct by God's design.  Our previous experience programs us to react automatically in certain way to survive, to stay alive!  Do you have a repeated pattern of reactions?

Next time you are triggered and suddenly start to attack, run away, or play death, call a timeout.  Each of you will need time to calm down your emotional brain so that your logical brain can function again.  By reflecting on your feelings, thoughts and needs, you will have a choice of how to respond instead of react.  To learn more, please sign up for my webinar, "Breaking Destructive Cycles and Building Constructive Communication that Help, NOT Hurt, the person you love" on my website, ParentingABCToday.com

Monday, May 18, 2020

Grace Awakening on Mother's Day

My biggest joy on Mother's Day was when our son and his family Skyped us. Afterwards, James and I went out for our daily walk. Naturally we talked about his mother (Mama) and my Mom. As usual I missed my Mom who died young at age 48. This year we feel sad that we could not visit Mama who will be turning 98 soon. What has made the situation worse is that James' sister told us that Mama recently would sometimes forget that she has given birth to four children. I was lamenting about mothers when suddenly I heard James said, "Life is a bliss..."

got upset before he could finish his sentence and began to attack him verbally. My intense anger almost caused James to walk away, but he chose to stay with me. Soon after that I also chose to stop scolding him. As we continued to walk, we gave ourselves a chance to understand and be understood by sharing our feelings, thoughts and needs with each other.

The next morning, I made a collage with selected photos from 2017 to 2019. Let me give you a tour from the lowest left corner going clockwise.

I was holding my fourth granddaughter in 2017 while reading to her older brothers and sister. Afterwards, their Mommy took us out for ice cream. See how they had to stand on chairs to pick out favor? Two years later, I was holding my fifth granddaughter. Can you see how she looked back into my eyes? Her little big sister has become a toddler who loves playing with her little big brother! Before I returned to California, we celebrated Mother's Day ahead of time. My oldest granddaughter made me a beautiful bracelet and her younger brother cooked "egg in the hole" breakfast for all of us one Sunday before we went to church!



















I flew back to San Francisco on Friday so that I could visit Mama with James on Mother's Day (see the oval photo in the middle). As usual, we had dinner, sang praises, and studied the Bible. Before we left, Mama asked us to stay overnight, and then take her to the park the next morning. Oh, how we cherish our weekly walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park all those years. See those photos of James walking with Mama in 2017-2018.

Due to the pandemic, Mother's Day 2020 was not easy for any of us. I feel helpless and sad whenever I think of people who died prematurely and others who have amnesia in old age and lose memories of their lives. When James wanted to share his thought on life, I cut him off too soon. As we walked, he finished telling me, "Life is a bliss either long or short because being alive is a gift from God. I just want to enjoy life with you."

God understands, forgives, heals, and never forgets His children. What a blessing it is to know Him!

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15)

If you are overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, fear, doubt and uncertainty during this pandemic, you are not alone. Please let me know and I will pray for you. If you want to talk with me, please book a 30-minute F.R.E.E. consultation on my ParentingABCtoday.com website. May God bless you!

Better Late than Never. Belated Happy Mother's Day! 

Friday, May 15, 2020

May 15 2020 Speech for Voice Training

Hello, my name is Winnis Chiang and I help couples. Today I'm going to talk about relationships and communication in marriage and family.

Connections in life are important.  When someone said, "I don't care!" (whether it is "I DON'T CARE!" or "i dont care"), that person is probably is looking for someone who cares and yearning to be connected.

Relationship struggles, while extremely tough at times, are quite normal.  Have you or a friend said the following:


Everyday conversations are turned into arguments filled with criticisms or personal attacks
We avoid certain conversations because we know it will end up in a fight.
I thought we were soulmates.  Now we are worse than roommates!


With these craziness going on at home, I don't know whats going to happen to my child?
I feel disconnected and wonder what happened to the love we used to share.
Disagreement about parenting, money, in-laws, chores have turned us into enemies.
I am desperate and I feel hopeless.  I really don't know whether there is any way to move forward.

These struggles are not uncommon for couples.  I know because I was there.

In fact, normal couples are supposed to have growing pain in their relationships.  But what if the patterns of negative communications and painful interactions repeated themselves so much that they become triggers and automatic reactions that are destructive?

That's why I love to help individuals and couples to get the relationships they really want based on my own experience of growing pain.

You see, I met my husband in college and we got married after only three months of dating, I thought we would live happily ever after.  Imagine my shock when the honeymoon is over.

Like most Asian parents, we both love our son.  So we argued a lot about parenting.  He said I argued and I said he never listened.  I was feeling depressed and I thought about getting a divorce, but I didn't bring it up because I didn't want to hurt my son.


To make the long stroy short, it was during those times of hopelessness and despair that Jesus Christ found me and save me from my misery of living on my own terms, and the rest is history.  Our only son has grown up, got married, and now has five children of his own.  This year James and I will celebrate our 45th anniversary.  I know that relationships are challenging; yet I believe enormous growth is possible.  

I believe I exist to help couples to flourish and build stronger relationships and to prevent premature and unnecessary divorces.  Your issue might be something occurring just under the surface of the relationship, or it could be hidden within negative cycles of fighting and disconnection that have lasted for years.

One of our most important connections is with a romantic partner.  This relationship can be a great source of joy and support, yet it can also cause a great deal of pain and push us to confront difficult aspects of ourselves.  Whether you are in the middle of a crisis, struggling through a difficult transition, discovering unpleasant behaviors, or want to build a strong foundation for the future.  I am here to help you, directly or indirectly, get the support, strength and growth you want.

I love to help couples and families to live, love and work together.  Last Christmas, my husband and I had the privilege and joy to serve with our son in a Christian Mission Conference.  Right now, we are learning voice training together so that all three of us could be better speakers.  I'm grateful that our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ saved me 31 years ago and put us into this new path.

I help you work through frustration, anger, resentment to get to workable solutions.  My greatest pleasure is seeing couples emerge from a difficult or even traumatic situation feeling more intimately connected and committed than they ever thought possible.

I help couples with their major communication breakdowns.  I not only work to solve current problems but will give you a foundation of skills that will last a life time.

I have learned that couples improve their relationships faster with a thorough understanding of the dynamics underlying their behavior, and I'd like to invite you to my upcoming workshop called,

Breaking Destructive Cycles and Building Constructive Communication: Help, NOT hurt, the people you love.

You may choose to join me in the workshop in your preferred language:  English, Mandarin and Cantonese.  Please sign up on my website, ParentingABCToday.com

Monday, May 11, 2020

愛喜樂生命 Love, Joy and Life

How was your Mother's Day? Did you miss going out to eat? Were you sad you could not get together with people you love? Were you happy when you could use the phone, Whatsapp, WeChat, LINE, Text Msg, Facetime, Skype and/or Zoom to stay in touch?

My answers are Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. I tried to keep in touch with family, friends, brothers and sisters in our church family. This Mother's Day could be quite difficult for the sandwich generation who are caring for both elderly parents and their own children.

Instead of write this ezine, I looked at old photos and make a collage for Mother's Day. Please start with the bracelet from the middle bottom and travel clockwise around until ending at bottom right.

(1) Receiving a bracelet of LOVE made by granddaughter when I visited them last year.
(2) Reading to three grandkids while holding my fourth grandbaby.
(3) When little sister became big sister, she likes to feed herself.
(4) Holding my fifth granddaughter who was looking into my eyes.
(5) Taking three oldest grandkids out for Cold Stone Ice Cream.
(6) Enjoying breakfast made by grandson to celebrate Mother's Day ahead of time.
(7), (8) and (9) James walking with his mom in Golden Gate Park.
(10) Celebrating Mother's Day with James' mom last year upon my return.

As I was picking out photos and making the collage, a Chinese song came to mind and I started singing. Here is the song "Love, Joy and Life" on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyIljkJKZso

The song is written in Chinese but I have found a youtube that also has English subtitle.

Time cannot quench His love
For He loves me to ten thousand generations.
The world cannot hinder His love
because His love for me will never change.
His love prevails over death's dark haze.
His love drives away worry and sorrow.
Let the love of God overflow our hearts.
Joyful springs welling up from the depths of our hearts.
Worries are no more ... We have a life of joy.
Let the love of God overflow our hearts.
Life's sparkle bursting from the depths of our hearts.
Tears are no more ... We have everlasting life.

時空不能隔絕祂的愛 因祂愛我直到萬代 世界不能阻擋祂的愛 因祂愛我永不更改 祂的愛勝過死亡陰霾 祂的愛驅走憂愁悲哀 讓主愛澆灌我們的心 喜樂泉源湧自心底 憂愁不再 我們有喜樂的生命 讓主愛充滿我們的心 生命火花揚自心底 淚水不再 我們有永恆的生命

Happy Mother's Day!







Friday, April 10, 2020

Be Still and Know Who is God

"Mom, let me read something to you, okay?"

Although feeling feebly, I nodded. My son placed two pillows under my head before flipping through books and newspapers next to my bed. Finally he picked up the only book written in Chinese and English – my devotional. Leafing through, he cleared his throat and began to read.

That was in the summer of 2003, two days after I had a major surgery. I was lying in my hospital bed, dealing with pains on my wounds, feeling weak and worrying about my recovery. With half-opened eyes I watched my dear son.

As he read one article after another, my heart gradually became calm and still. His strong baritone voice carried the comforting words of God. My heart was filled with warmth and sweetness. I thought, “My son has really grown up. He just finished his second year of college. It is really special that he came home to help his dad and me to down-size into an apartment. And now, he is taking turns with dad to take care of me in the hospital. With a child like this, what else could I want?”

Suddenly, he grinned: “Hey Mom, here is another article quoting Psalm 46 verse 10.”

He began to read, and I got very excited, “Do you know we could sing this verse?”

As he was still nodding, I couldn't wait and started singing, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Spontaneously he accompanied me at the second and third stanza. “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God.”

We sang the song over and over again in English. As we worshiped God in the hospital, we received the truth of God, enjoyed His presence, and experienced His great love.

Time flies. In 2019, our son's wife gave birth to their fifth child. A month later, I visited them for 24 days. Since I was suffering sciatica pain at that time, I could not help much other than holding the baby. I could hold the baby all day, although I also enjoyed spending time with the other grandchildren, often playing one board or card game after another, or reading one storybook after another. Before holding the baby, I always turned off my cell phone and computer so that I could just sit still and enjoy the baby. One day my daughter-in-law came into the room to check on us. Quietly she took a picture. 

Whenever I look at this photo, I remember how my Father in Heaven is holding me in His arms. All I need to do is to hold onto Him, be still and enjoy His embrace and protection.

During this pandemic sheltering in place, sometimes I feel anxious, depressed, afraid and even angry after reading bad news and listening to people's suffering day after day. I worry about all the people I love ... Imagine my joy when I received a video with my grandchildren singing my favorite song! The love, grace and faithfulness of my God endure forever!

I first heard of the song, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" on January 28, 1989.  That day was the turning point of my life, marriage and family. You can find out why it means so much to me from a 6-minute video recorded a few years ago via this link: https://vimeo.com/180843010

This song has been my favorite for 31 years.  It always reminds me that I can take whatever pain, grief, sorrow and troubles to the Lord in prayer.  You can pray to Him directly or let me know so that I can pray for you and with you.

Jesus told his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)


Today is Good Friday. Jesus came from heaven to earth to save us. He suffered and died on the cross for our sin. On Easter Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. May you find protection, peace and living hope in Him.