Rooted in Grace
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Terra MattsonTerra Mattson is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has helped thousands of women, couples, and families at every stage of their journeys over the past two decades. She is also the visionary leader of a one-of-a-kind trauma-informed women’s conference that addresses issues women face in the church today. Terra and her husband, Jeff, are the founders of Courageous Girls and the counseling and organizational development firm Living Wholehearted. Making their home just outside Por...more
Only a mom can model feminine integrity for her daughter. Terra Mattson explains why daughters learn more from what they experience than what you teach.
Rooted in Grace
Bob: To raise sons and daughters, who are emotionally healthy, Terra Mattson says we have to be moms and dads who are emotionally healthy ourselves.
Terra: If you do not know your own inner life, you can’t know somebody else’s. You cannot give away what you haven’t received. That’s part of the process for moms. We have to understand what’s going on in the inside. It might be doing some of your own work and understanding your own childhood: “What was it like for you to be a daughter?” “Why did you parent the way you parented?”—and having grace for that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Your spiritual and emotional health is not just about you. It’s about everybody who is around you/everybody who is watching you and learning from you. That’s why it is so important to authentically address the issues in your own life. We’ll talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I know what I’m about to say is probably going to get me in trouble, but—
Dave: We never know—we never know what he’s going to say!
Ann: Oh boy! Wait; I can’t wait. I like it when he thinks he’s going to get in trouble.
Dave: Ann’s getting out—she’s going to record it.
Ann: I am.
Bob: I want you to fill in the blank.
Dave: Oh boy!
Ann: Oh no—us?—we’re going to fill it in?
Bob: Yes: “That person is a real drama ______.”
Bob: So how come we never say, “That person is a real drama king”?
Dave: You know, Bob, I never thought about that in my entire life.
Bob: Oh, you are lying.
Ann: No, I—
Bob: You never thought that?
Dave: —drama king?
Bob: We wouldn’t; that just doesn’t sound right; does it?—
Dave: It doesn’t sound right.
Bob: —“drama king.” But yet, there is something in us that thinks, “Drama queen.” That’s—
Dave: What are you trying to say, Bob? You’re sort of making an accusation there.
Bob: I said this was going to get me into trouble. [Laughter]
Dave: I know; it is.
Bob: So we’re talking about what it means for a woman to embrace all that God has made her to be, as a woman,—
Bob: —and to raise daughters who understand that. There are some—as my son likes to call them—there are genderalities/some stereotypes that come to play in this. Part of the reason there are stereotypes is because there is something behind the stereotypes that we’ve got to address; right?
Ann: Especially when you say, “Drama queen,”—as women heard that—many triggers just went off because—
Bob: That’s why I was getting in trouble, because I brought it up; yes.
Ann: Exactly; because what happens, when we hear that, is we squelch our emotions/our feelings; because that seems like drama. Especially, men don’t like to be around drama.
Bob: So do you think we can help both men and women today understand?
Ann: I hope so. Are we going to help you guys?! [Laughter]
Dave: Let’s find out!
Bob: We’ll let you know by the time things are over today.
Terra: Well, if you are a man—that you would want to love your wife, or your girls, or your colleagues—then you should listen in.
Bob: There you go.
Dave: There you go!
Bob: This is Terra Mattson who is offering that advice. Terra, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Terra: Thank you.
Bob: She has written a book called Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace. Terra and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest. She is a mom of two girls. She is a speaker, and a writer, and a counselor. She understands and has written about how women are processing what it means to be a woman in our world today/a godly woman in our world today. Rooted in Grace is the subtitle of your book and how to deal with the reality of your femininity and the cultural implications of that.
Terra: I just want to say that, really, our core passion is helping leaders live with integrity/shrinking the gap between who we say we are and how we actually live. When I am addressing women, specifically, it’s really looking at: “Who do we say we are, as women, and how are we actually living?” Then in practice: “What does that actually look like in our home as we’re raising our girls?”
This systemic shift that is happening: when we say something at church, but in our own home life, it looks very different:
“I want my daughter to be a strong girl/to use her voice, but I struggle with that myself,”
“I want her to have healthy relationships, but I don’t even have good friendships,”
“I want her to not be bullied, but I struggle with bullying other women myself,”—I mean, those are the kinds of things that I’m bringing up in this book.
Dave: In some ways, it’s very similar to what men struggle with; because that sounds like a lot of things I talk to men about; but it’s the same thing for women. Am I right, or is it totally different?
Terra: Oh, yes
Ann: Yes; I think we all struggle with that—that’s true—but I think little girls are really in tune to watching their moms. I think you’re right; when we say, “Oh, you should stick up for yourself,” she’s [daughter’s] thinking, “I’ve never seen that in you.” What will she do?—will she become who we say she should be?—or will she just become who we are?
Dave: Well, let’s go there. If you’re a godly Christian woman, telling your daughter, “Stick up for yourself,” and yet, you’re a godly submissive wife, how do you stick up for yourself to your husband?
Ann: Oh, you just brought in a very big word right there. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, I mean, you are called—we are all called to be submissive to Christ and submissive to one another.
Dave: That is definitely something a godly Christian woman has to struggle with.
Dave: “I am trying to honor my husband in what he is asking; and yet, there are times I feel like I don’t have a voice. Yet, I’m telling my daughter to have a voice.”
Terra: I love it.
Dave: I don’t know. Maybe, I’m making something up.
Terra: You’re hitting it right on the head; yes. No; it’s spot on, and that is the struggle. The culture is telling her: “You speak up. You take the bull by its horns, and you make it happen.” I’m like, “Hmm; that’s not necessarily gospel version of trusting God as well.”
That word, “submission”—is that the word you’re talking about?
Terra: Yes; that’s a loaded word, as is “obey.” I talk about that in the book. But really, those are love words; they are relationship words. When a woman understands that in the context of a loving relationship, it’s so much easier to submit. I would say that is true of our children, too, when they know that they are loved and that they are known.
If a husband wants a submissive wife, learn to love her and to know her; and to know her, you have to listen to her voice. You might have to put up with some of our emotions.
Ann: See, it’s all on you guys. [Laughter]
Terra: Yes; to love like Jesus.
Dave: Somehow, it always comes back; doesn’t it?
Terra: Yes; seriously. It’s a hard—I—you guys have it hard.
Ann: I think you are right, though. In terms of being submissive, it comes through relationship too. When we feel loved, and known, and seen, and heard—and not that we have to have that—but I’m saying, it makes it a lot easier.
Terra: It makes it a lot easier.
Dave: Well, I think there is misunderstanding or misbelief that to be submissive is quiet—you never speak; you never—
Ann: —you lose your voice.
Dave: I remember a meeting we had, not too long ago, in our church with a room of all men. They wanted Ann to be there; because this was sort of about me, and about us, and the future—blah, blah, blah. I think you were the only woman in that room—probably 15 men.
We’re hashing through different things. At one point—and I mean, an hour in, and a lot of strong opinions, going back and forth between us—and then Ann—and she wasn’t sitting beside me; she was sitting in front of me, so I couldn’t see her—she can be strong at times; she can be courageous. She just goes, “Hey! Let me ask you this question.”
Ann: Well, that’s so interesting. I didn’t hear myself speaking out like that. [Laughter] I kind of heard it as, “Hmm, this is interesting; I have a question.”
Dave: Okay; maybe, it was like that. [Laughter] It was gentle but firm. It was just like, “Hey, I’m observing something. Help me to understand. Am I seeing this correctly?” And when she said that, my first thought was, “Oh boy! What is she doing?”—because the guys were almost pushed back. It wasn’t because she was strong; it was just like she saw something; she spoke it out.
She was spot on—exactly what was happening in that room—no guy could see it, or they would not address it until she spoke it. Then, it’s almost like that meeting was several hours—nothing happened until that was spoken out—then we had a constructive conversation.
I remember just sitting there, thinking, “That is the beauty of having a woman in this room.” If she wasn’t in there, I don’t know if we’d ever gotten to where we needed to get to; but I would just—I appreciated the way God made women. So many times, they are not invited into that—they can’t sit at that table—but she was invited in to sit there, and she was—
Ann: —and I love and respect everyone in that room—
Ann: —and I appreciate them.
Terra: It’s out of relationship.
Ann: As I watched, I was thinking, “Why aren’t they talking about this? Are they not seeing this?” When I asked it, I realized, “Whoa! They don’t see it,” which was interesting.
Terra: It is interesting. What you’re speaking to is the way God made our brains different from guys. This is what is so fascinating about the science; our [women’s] brains are interacting—both halves of our brain—our logical and our emotions are firing back and forth all the time. We’re picking up on perception and what’s not being said.
Whereas, that’s where people will say that men are in the waffle or “You’re just with whatever is in front of you right now.” You were bringing in the whole; and you had courage to speak up because you had relationship with these men. The way you said it was giving them the benefit of the doubt: “Maybe, they don’t know.”
Dave: Yes; and I’ve learned over the years—I mean, 40 years of marriage—probably took me 10 years, and I hope the last 30 I’ve learned this—“I want to know what she thinks about our family.” Every time she has said—in the early days, she would say, “You don’t see this?!”—almost like—you remember?
Dave: You couldn’t—like, “How do you not see this?” Then she realized, “He doesn’t!” Now, I realize, “I don’t.” It’s like [I began asking], “What’s going on with our kids?”
Dave: She knows. “What’s going on right now in the family room?”—she knows. I used to get mad, like, “Oh, that’s not what’s happening!” Then I realized, “Oh my goodness! God has made her to feel and sense; and I just need to go, ‘Okay; help me. Help me understand.’”
I think every husband/every man—and I’m not just speaking to men—but man, you should draw out what God put in your woman, your daughter, your wife, your mom and say, “Teach me,” because they are probably seeing and are tuned into something that you are missing. If you listen, everybody is going to benefit. That takes humility.
Ann: I love that. I love that, Dave; because you’re saying they are offering things that you don’t see: “So pay attention and applaud that in her instead of being skeptical at times.”
Dave is great; he is super positive. I can remember, when our boys were in high school—I remember this one night, saying, “Oh man! This one son/he is not doing well.” Dave was—he hates it when I say those kinds of things.
Ann: He said, “What are you talking about?! He is a great kid.” I’m like, “I know he’s a great kid, but I really don’t think he’s in a great place.” Dave would be so offended that I would kind of take this route; and yet, we would pray earnestly together.
Dave: And she was, again, right—spot on right.
Terra: Well, she was picking up, again, on that inner life—the parts that we often miss because we’re looking at the outer life.
Ann: One of the things our kids, now that they are older, have criticized us in our parenting is they said: “You were so concerned about the outside—of the image of what we were doing—instead of thinking: ‘Why are you doing this?’ ‘What’s happening on the inside that’s making you behave in this wrong manner?’”
How do we go into our kids’ inner lives without them getting defensive or—you know, especially when they are teenagers—and they are like, “What are you doing, Mom; come on!”?
Terra: Oh, yes.
Ann: How do you get in there?
Terra: It looks like listening: slowing down and be slow to speak. It means: “Do I have my own identity in Christ apart from my children?—or is my identity wrapped up in what my children say and do?”
Dave: Yes; it’s easy.
Terra: That’s something—step one: “We have God to work on us, as parents, is to say: ‘Where is my identity?’” I can tell by my emotions. Cognitively, I’m like, “Of course, I know God loves me”; but when it comes down to it, if my son or daughter struggles: “Do I still believe that I’m loveable? Do I still believe they’re loveable?”
I think the sandwich effect is constant with our children. It’s: “I love you. Help me understand what’s going on here.” Then, actually, it takes exhausting work, as a parent, to sit down and actually—
Bob: And did you call that the sandwich effect?
Terra: Yes; so I’m going to say: “I love you,” “Help me understand,”—and then—“I love you.”
Bob: Okay; alright.
Terra: You wanted me to close that loop.
Bob: Got it.
Terra: “But who you are is more important to me than what you do,”—I think that’s a gospel-grace message—that God definitely cares about what we do; but more so, He cares about who we are. That has to be experienced in the home, not just talked about in the home.
I tell a story of my daughter, Nevi, hiding cookies in the closet; she stuffed those cookies away. Well, we found out that she was gluten-free at the time; so she was hording. When you’re a counselor, you think everything is like bad; I’m like, “She’s got an eating disorder!” The girl is four. [Laughter] I mean, we’re going to be okay; but this was this pull in me of: “What is going on?!”
Well, Jeff is wanting to go right for the behavior: “She’s hiding. She’s lying. She needs to learn quickly.” We’ve got these two extremes; right? I’m like, “She needs to process.”
We go in there. She’s four; we just say, “Did you hide the cookies?” “Yes.” So great; she just was honest. “So where did you hide the cookies?” She goes to the closet, opens it right up, and shows us. We go, “So what happened, honey?” “I just wanted the cookies.”
Now, my mind goes to: “Okay; she’s four. She needs to learn consequences.” But in that moment, something in/the Holy Spirit was saying this stuff: “She needs to know you love her, even though she did something wrong, and affirm that she trusted us to tell us the truth.”
When she’s 15, I want her to tell us the truth; so we’re practicing, when she’s 4, by saying, “Honey, I love you. Thank you that you told me and trusted me with this. Is it good to hide?” “No.” “How do you feel now that you told us?” “It feels so good.” That’s what I want our kids to experience—what it feels like to come out and to be known, even in our mistakes and our struggles, and have someone tell you they still love you.
Dave: You know, what’s really interesting—as I’m listening, I’m thinking, “Well, that’s how every husband should deal and talk with his wife.” You didn’t just train us in talking to a daughter or a son. I’m sitting there, going, “Wow; that would be nice if I did that with Ann. She would come alive; she would open up.”
Terra: She would.
Dave: I am quick to: “We’re good; right? Come on; it can’t be that bad. I mean, what—okay, okay; I didn’t mean it.”
Terra: Yes; minimize it.
Dave: Yes; and just rather than: “Okay; let’s stop; let’s hit pause.”
Ann: Ooh, I’d love it if you said, “What are you feeling?” [Laughter]
Dave: Exactly; exactly.
Ann: Bob, do you ask Mary Ann that: “What are you feeling right now?”
Bob: Uh; uh. [Laughter]
Terra: He says, “Give me the data points.” [Laughter]
Dave: That would be a “No,” if he goes, “Uh.” [Laughter]
Terra: Well, let me tell you something. We teach this in our marriage—for years, we’ve been doing this—we talk about “flipping the lid.” This is from Dr. Siegel, a neuroscientist. He understands—or helped us understand—that the upstairs brain is the cognitive brain. The downstairs brain is the emotional brain; that’s where all the trauma—it’s where you are mapping everything out with your senses—we are mapping out the world through what we see, smell, hear, taste, feel from when we were babies.
You do not get your upstairs brain fully intact until you are 24, so what is speaking louder?—is those early memories. If I did not feel safe with my parents, I’m going to have a really hard time feeling safe with you, emotionally.
What we know is: “Healthy is integrated,”—when you can have both intact—and you can say, “I’m feeling very angry right now; but I know, logically, it’s not good to punch you.” [Laughter] That’s what I have to do: I’m going to step back; I’m going to go take care of my anger. What I’m going to do is—I actually have a punching bag, because I’m the more physical one between Jeff and me; I’m feisty.
Bob: Now, wait—a real—
Ann: For real?
Terra: I have a punching bag.
Bob: Okay; alright.
Terra: That came out of years of my lid flipping and me feeling like, “I’m wanting to punch Jeff.” I’m verbal, and I’m saying, “I want to punch you; I know that’s not healthy.” I know that; he knows that. He knows I’m not going to hurt him, but—
Dave: His face isn’t on this punching bag?
Terra: No; not at all; but he said, “Why don’t we come up with a solution?”
Dave: So you actually go down and punch.
Terra: Yes; we have a punching bag. What it does is—it helps my lower brain calm down; and now, the blood literally leaves my lower brain and comes back into the upper brain. Now, I feel more able to make a holistic decision on what to do with my anger.
Ann: Everyone right now, with teenagers, is thinking, “I need to get a punching bag for myself, as a parent, and for my teenager.”
Dave: I’ve gone down, and I’ve worked out; I’ve gone for a jog—it’s the blood flow puts you in a different place.
Terra: It releases it.
Dave: Time away helps you process. You come back; and hopefully, you’re in a better place.
Dave: So how does that help your daughters?—as they are watching you guys, mom and dad—
Terra: I love that question.
Dave: —process—and even thinking about being courageous daughters, does this play in?
Terra: In the short run, my girls are watching me use my voice with my husband; and they are watching my husband honor that. We’re feisty; we’re two oldest children. We definitely, both, have a lot of opinions. We do a lot together, but we’re feisty; so we call it passionate discussion. My girls are seeing us talk, process, even be frustrated and angry; but they are watching us with repair.
My husband, actually—I give all the credit for this—he will literally make sure my girls are present when he apologizes to me—it’s profound—and then he goes and apologizes to them. The process of experiencing someone asking forgiveness of you, or watching him come to me—well, then that puts me on the spot; now, I’ve got to bottle—[Laughter]—I’m the more stubborn one.
Ann: That’s true for us.
Terra: I do want my girls to see that. I want to see what it looks like to repair—that Mom and Dad aren’t just vocalizing their opinions, but we’re actually owning the parts where we wounded one another.
Ann: Terra, talk to the mom that is hearing you, thinking, “Oh, I want this; but I haven’t done it.” How does she start this?
Terra: I feel for that mom; I do, because it’s generations of—that’s probably your story too.
I think step one is the fact that you are acknowledging it and to be able to tell your daughter. If you could have the courage—ask God for help there—whether it’s a letter, or maybe you take her out to lunch, just to say, “I realize I have focused too much on the pressure of being something rather than hearing your heart. Will you forgive me for that?” Now, she might not want to forgive you. She might be 25 and really wounded and hurt.
But starting there and then continue to work on your own process. If you do not know your own inner life, you can’t know somebody else’s. You cannot give away what you haven’t received; and that’s part of this process for moms. We have to understand what’s going on in the inside. It might be doing some of your own work and understanding your own childhood: “What was it like for you to be a daughter?” “Why did you parent the way you parented?”—and having grace for that.
Bob: That’s the thread I’ve been hearing all the way through this conversation is—it’s the word you just used; the word in the subtitle of your book—the word, “grace.” Understanding what grace means in our own lives as we deal with our own emotions, our own thoughts, our own behaviors—understanding how grace applies to those—understanding what grace looks like in relationships; helping our kids understand how to embrace grace in the midst of their own immaturity/their own sinfulness. That’s the key word in all of this. That’s why you wrote the book, Courageous; right?—
Terra: Yes. Thank you, Bob.
Bob: —to bring women to a place where they understand—not just women; all of us—but you have daughters in mind: Daughters Rooted in Grace.
I think this has been a helpful conversation, Terra. Thank you for being here.
Terra: Thank you for having me.
Bob: The book we’re talking about is a book called Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the book, Courageous, from us online; or call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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We hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are somehow/someway able to worship together with your local church this weekend. Then I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk about an easy engaging way to make Scripture memory a part of what your family is doing in 2020. Jason Houser and John Majors will be with us to talk about that. I hope you can be with us as well.
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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