Category Archives: Resilience

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter – Medicine for the Heart

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Here’s to all those who make us laugh! Without any need for alcohol or even inspiration, something said or done, a facial expression or shoulder shrug, and we are happily taken off-guard and laughter follows. No matter the setting. In fact, I have memories of laughing with friends at the family visitation before my mom’s funeral. As off-putting as that might have been for some, it was a joy in reminiscing over shared times together, with Mom in the mix. I’m sure in some Heavenly space, Mom was glad for that momentary release from grief for us. Laughter…what a gift!

Photo Credit: Swedish proverb, PPT-Online

Earlier this morning, I was thrifting with my friend, Angela. We were scanning titles in the used book section of the store, out of view of each other. Then I heard her actively engaged in animated conversation with a man also looking at books. They clearly knew each other and their laughter at this chance meeting splashed over into my own heart. He was an old co-worker from another season of her life, Angela would tell me, and it was a happy remembrance of those days.

For me, it was just fun to hear her laugh. I was reminded of a situation yesterday afternoon while reading a book my daughter had shared with me. She said I should occasionally take a break from my serious non-fiction reading and recharge with some fiction. The first book she lent me, some weeks ago, was author Gary D. Schmidt‘s Okay For Now. [I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a break from the serious.] I finished it in a couple of days. Then she gave me Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars. Both books tell the story of middle school boys and the trials and tribulations of their lives (as seen through their oftentimes hilarious take on reality). The stories are set in the late 60s during the Vietnam War era (I resonated so much with that period and those stories).

There’s an especially funny part in The Wednesday Wars where seventh-grader Hollings, the hero of this story, was assisting the school custodian, who was replacing bulging ceiling tiles damaged by two enormous rats. Previously, the rats were the class pets (cute when tiny, terrifying once grown) but they escaped and built a nest in the unseen space above. In dislodging one tile, the custodium unleashed an avalanche – the gross, chewed up contents of the rats’ nest fell straight down onto Hollings’ head. [You’ve got to read it to know just how hysterical it was.] Reading that portion out loud to husband Dave – we were both laughing so hard, it was nearly impossible for me to finish what I wanted to share with him.

Laughter.

All this gave pause today, thinking about the joy of laughter. I’m a fairly serious sort, so folks aren’t drawn to me for hilarity. You can count on me to stay in the room if you’re struggling with something. Hopefully, you might feel better, encouraged, hopeful after our visit, but laughing out loud? Probably not. Thankfully, others bring that gracious gift to relationships.

[I actually took a few minutes to go through my phone directory to be reminded of those who simply brighten life by showing up…more than that, they regularly make me laugh. They probably aren’t that way all the time, but they are genuinely and gently funny. Steve C., John D., Sarah DeJ., David G., Anne S., Heba T., and Sharon W. Combinations of people also have a chemistry that literally combusts laughter for everyone – Khiry, Cam, and EB are such friends. Who are your people?]

Being a serious person who leads a fairly quiet life, I end up going to reels on social media for laughter (too often really; should just invite these friends over for dinner…or invite ourselves for coffee dates). Recommended for you are the three comedians below…there are many others, including folks who are just funny without making a living at it. Please put any favorites of yours in the Comments.

Michael Jr. – From Comedy to Clarity

John B. Crist

Leanne Morgan Comedy

Finally, in my family of introverts, I’ve had great cause for laughter. Husband Dave is one who makes me laugh. He can be very serious himself, but his take on life can be quite oddly funny. He also remembers perfect lines from movies for just about any situation.

Then there are our children. Christie, as older sister to her brothers, has always been a buffer for their shenanigans. She calls them back to perspective and, like her dad, has a sharp memory for stories, situations, and song lyrics (that make us laugh and can shake us all out of sourness). Her tales of babysitting in college and teaching kids in public school are still favorites when we’re together. Now with children of her own (who aren’t subjects for social media), she captures the sweet and funny with them and shares with us.

Nathan, our middle child, makes us laugh, with his many faces, and his wise and sometimes unusual takes on life. Growing up, he could be hard on both his big sister and little brother, and yet he also brought the joy. Even more now.

[Nathan with one of his many faces and post-anesthesia after wisdom tooth extraction. Legendary.]

Daniel, our youngest, is also one who can make us laugh and whom we want to make laugh. He loses it better than anyone I know. We never tire of each of the kids’ retelling stories of Daniel’s antics growing up and his many funny outbursts and creative word pronunciations. We have hilarious memories from our family vacations together, especially in the seaside town of Oualidia, Morocco. Like experiencing seafood we’d never eaten before – sea urchin (the spiny exterior was still moving) is one that caused uncontrollable laughter at our table.

Our Daniel works very hard at living independently and can take the struggles of life too deeply to heart. That’s why it’s especially lovely for his Mom to have his siblings around the table to pull that smile and laughter out of him.

Is There Laughter in Your Walls? – Cavin Harper

The grandkids are their own story which I won’t share here. Still, don’t kids say amazing things? Their wonder and joy at living, their perspective on life, and their sibling and cousin challenges and how they get sorted…always make me smile.

So there you go…now, you may be one of those people in your world that makes others laugh. I just want to thank you for that. If you’re one who takes life more seriously (as part of your own wiring), and you don’t have regular encounters with the people above, maybe it’s time to take an inventory. Watching YouTube videos or Instagram reels are a bandaid for sure, but let’s be intentional about having laughter in our lives. That generous kind that spills over into the lives of others. Bring it!

[Please comment on those folks, professional and personal, who make you laugh. Share away. Also what do you do to up your appreciation of the joys around you? – like collecting and remembering stories, journaling the joys of life, being present in the moment wherever you are and whomever you’re with.]

Laughter in the Walls – a poem by Bob Benson

Leave Some Laughter in Your Walls – The Raineys

The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy – Emma Seppälä Ph.D.

Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s No Joke – Mayo Clinic

How Does Humor Affect Mental Health? – Dan Brennan

Give Your Body a Boost–with Laughter – R. Morgan Griffin

Feel-good Hormones: How They Affect Your Mind, Mood, and Body – Stephanie Watson

Monday Morning Moment – Contempt – the Cold Killer of Hearts and Humanity

Photo Credit: Armstrong Economics

Ah…contempt. It is defined as a strong negative emotion that joins disgust and disrespect. We have all experienced contempt, either for someone else, or a group of someones…or the contempt of another towards us.

Contempt is a harsh response…a cold killer of hearts and relationships.

It became more real than ever when I experienced it myself recently. Not toward me personally maybe but because of an association/affiliation I have that is viewed by some as contemptible. When we express contempt, it is usually in conversation with those who agree with us. Rarely do we have the person(s) toward which we feel contempt in front of us. We don’t engage them as much as we complain about them. We hold some in contempt because of their beliefs or actions, and our temptation is to have nothing to do with them. We may view this as a strength, but (as I’ve heard said), “an unguarded strength is a double weakness.”

“Knowing our weakness, dividing leaders on both the left and right seek power and fame by setting American against American, brother against brother, compatriot against compatriot. These leaders assert that we must choose sides, then argue that the other side is wicked—not worthy of any consideration—rather than challenging them to listen to others with kindness and respect. They foster a culture of contempt.” Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save Our Country From the Culture of Contempt

Contempt is something I’d like to annihilate in my own thinking, and thankfully there are helps. Below you will find two thought leaders who have worked to expose contempt for what it truly is and does to us, and who have given us counsel on how to recognize it and rid ourselves of it. Author and academician Arthur Brooks and clinical psychologist John Gottman.

How do we confront contempt?

Arthur Brooks’ 5 Rules to Counter Contempt

1. Refuse to be used by the powerful.“The accurate image of a powerful manipulator is someone on your side of the debate: a media figure who always affirms your views, a politician who always says what you think, or a professor who never challenges your biases. They declare the other side is terrible, irredeemable, unintelligent or anything else that expresses contempt — and they say you should think these things as well.” Brooks encourages us to tune out that person “on our side” who seeks to manipulate us, whatever the reason. Then (this is the harder part), we are to call out contemptuous behavior among those with whom we agree (our friends and maybe family). Contempt tears us down, and we don’t want that for ourselves or those we love.

2. Escape your bubble.“The culture of contempt is sustained by polarization and separation. It is easy to express contempt for those with whom we disagree when we view them as “them” or never see them at all. Contempt is much harder to express when we see one another as fellow human beings, as “us.”” We do well to make opportunities to share space and conversation with people not like us. Seek to understand and look for ways we are alike.

3. Treat others with love and respect, even when it’s difficult.“Never treat others with contempt, even if you believe they deserve it. First, your contempt makes persuasion impossible, because no one has ever been insulted into agreement. Second, you may be wrong to assume that certain people are beyond reason. There are many examples of people forming unlikely bonds precisely because they didn’t treat each other with contempt.” Sometimes we are the ones toward which contempt is aimed. If we have offended, then we can apologize. Raising an issue higher than the value of the person doesn’t take us anywhere positive.

4. Be part of a healthy competition of ideas.“I believe disagreement is good because competition is good. As in politics and economics, competition — bounded by rule of law and morality — brings excellence. In the world of ideas, competition is called “disagreement.” Disagreement helps us innovate, improve, correct and find the truth. Of course, disagreement — like free markets and free elections — requires proper behavior to function.” The goal is not to disagree less but to disagree better, notes Brooks.

5. Disconnect from unproductive debates.“Get rid of curated social media feeds. Unfollow public figures who foment contempt. Want to get really radical? Stop talking and thinking about politics for a little while. Do a politics cleanse. For two weeks — maybe during your next vacation — resolve not to read, watch or listen to anything about politics. Don’t discuss politics with anyone. This will be hard to do but not impossible.” This exercise will reveal how much of your life and mental energy is wasted, allowing you to refocus on people you truly love and work/play that matter more than those things you probably won’t be able to change. – Arthur Brooks, Sick of the Culture of Contempt? Here are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It

One last quote from Albert Brooks: “We should be careful to note that love and agreement are not the same thing. There are ideas and actions that are worthy of our contempt. But while some ideas and actions are worthy of contempt, we should always remember that no person is.”Defusing a Culture of Contempt: Arthur Brooks on How to ‘Disagree Better’ – Joan Frawley Desmond

Another exceptional thinker and clinician is Dr. John Gottman, psychologist and professor. His focus is primarily on marriages and individual mental health within relationships. The Four Horsemen is a metaphor pointing toward end-times. Dr. Gottman uses the same metaphor in describing four elements of communication, any one of which can predict the demise of a marriage (or any other relationship). These elements are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote.

Photo Credit: John Gottman, Gottman Institute, Instagram

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling – Ellie Lisitsa

Contempt is much more mean-spirited than criticism. It communicates a measure of cold superiority over the one being criticized. Gottman isn’t talking about a political stand or a point of contention over culture or morality. He is concentrating on the relationship between two people, usually being a married couple.

“Contempt, simply put, says, “I’m better than you. And you are lesser than me.” [It] is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about one’s partner, and it arises in the form of an attack on someone’s sense of self. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict—particularly dangerous and destructive forms of conflict—rather than to reconciliation. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with them and that you’re condescending and acting as their superior.”

Gottman prescribes two antidotes for contempt in the marriage relationship – one short-term and the other more long-term:

  • First, the person feeling contempt toward the other would do well to name the emotions that rise to the top during a conflict. Express these emotions to your spouse without blaming, and appeal for help with a solution. “I am sad that we don’t have friends over. Could we talk about a way forward on this?” Or “I get worried when the bills pile up. Can we talk about what we can do to stay within budget?”
  • Second, Gottman suggests establishing (or re-building) a home culture of fondness and admiration for each other. This is a discipline that may take some strong determination, but it is doable. In fact, I have go-to Bible verses (Revelation 2:4-5) that help me immensely during those dry times in my own marriage. It speaks about what to do when we have lost our first love (for God and each other). Essentially, the instruction is to remember how it was in the beginning, repent/return, and repeat the actions/emotions/intentions that came naturally when the relationship was new. We don’t have to feel the fondness or admiration at first, but as we practice them, they can be restored. Among many tools, Dr. Gottman uses the instrument below to kick-start the process as the spouse chooses three descriptors and then gives examples of those to the other person.
Photo Credit: John Gottman, The Gottman Institute

Contempt is deceptive. It feels so good to think we are right, and yet in the practice of contempt, we become more isolated and less engaged in real community. Only preferring people who think like we do. At some point, our competencies will be impacted because our problem-solving shrinks down to just judging others and determining they aren’t worth our time. We miss learning from them, and we miss the possibility of genuinely understanding them, even loving them.

Having faced contempt myself in the last week, It has brought me to a “come to Jesus” moment. I don’t want to hold contempt for anyone, no matter how different they are, no matter what wrongs they have done. I want to figure out how to stay engaged with people…such that “if [I] can’t move mountains, [maybe I can] move a stone”.*

Photo Credit: Instagram, Ullie Kaye Poetry*

Monday Morning Moment – The 6 Sacrifices of Leadership – in Memory of Clyde Meador

Photo Credit: GOBNM

10 years writing this blog. I started 10 years ago this very month. The reason, in particular, was because I felt my memory clouding some, and there were memories and counsel I wanted to make sure were left for my children. As writing does, the blog cut its course through many topics – God, life, marriage, parenting, beauty, friendship, work, meaning, purpose, and reflections of all sorts. Now 10 years out, my memory is still hanging in there, and for that I’m thankful. Also for the having of words to share with those I love.

Our friend Clyde Meador started a blog himself 3 years ago this month. He may have had similar hopes – to leave something for his children and for the sake of a greater work.

Leadership was a topic that I studied for years (posting in my Monday Morning Moment). I learned so much from great leaders in my life, as well as some leaders who could have used some mentoring by our friend Clyde. That may not have been kind, but good leaders matter – in our lives and in the futures of organizations.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Stephen White, 2017 [Clyde and his beloved wife, Elaine]

In the first year of Clyde’s blog, he wrote a series of posts entitled 6 Sacrifices of Leadership. The topics were:

  • Loss of Constant Firsthand Involvement
  • Too Much Negative Knowledge
  • Constant Criticism
  • Leaving
  • Sacrifice, Isolation, Ostracism
  • Impact on Family Ties Due to Travel and Workload

Take the time to study those posts to learn from Clyde. In a recent tribute to him, a friend and colleague, Charles Clark wrote a brief summary of Clyde’s six sacrifices, their dangers and rewards. You find them in the image below:

Photo Credit: Clyde Meador from Charles Clark’s Facebook page, May 2024

In April 2024, Clyde Meador, this wise, humble, and insightful leader friend of ours, died, at 70 years of age. Complications of a long battle with cancer. He leaves a big hole, for his family, but also for the many people who have known him and loved him through the years. However, he would say something along the lines of God doesn’t leave holes.

We all have stories with Clyde in them – his lessons on life and leading. His legacy is that he never wavered in his faith walk, his love for his family, or his determination to do excellence in the work God had given him. He and Elaine have been a picture of constancy in our lives. Leading and loving.

In July of 2023, life and cancer treatment got in the way of Clyde continuing his blog. What turned out to be his last blog is so appropriate and beautiful. “To Those Who Come After Us”. Here are the last paragraphs.

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”  (Psalm 89:1, ESV)  “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.”  (Psalm 78:4, ESV)  This commitment of faithful followers of the Lord must be our commitment, also.

“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”  (Psalm 71:18, ESV)  I am grateful that I have reached old age and gray hair, and pray that I will faithfully do all I can to communicate the truth of the Gospel to those who come after me.

Of all those things which we teach our children and those who come after them, nothing is more important, more urgent than the truth of the Gospel.  I have a less-than-perfect record of success in this endeavor, yet I seek to faithfully persist in sharing the Truth.  I challenge each of us to a major focus on sharing all we know about our Lord and Savior with the next generations! – Clyde Meador, To Those Who Come After Us

[Dave & Clyde, a few weeks before Clyde went to be with the Lord. So grateful. What a humble and wise mentor he was to so many.]

Monday Morning Moment – Hall-of-Famers and What Makes Them So

[One of the W-3 Huddles – staff retreat for Holston Valley Hospital’s W-3 cancer nurses]

What is it that distinguishes an individual or group and sets them apart from all the rest?

I’ve had the privilege of working with such folks from time to time through my life. In the late 80s-early 90s, it was a group of nurses in Kingsport, Tennessee. We had moved there as young marrieds after Dave finished his Ph.D. for him to start work as a research chemist at Tennessee Eastman Chemical Company. I left my job as professor in the nursing program at Yale University to find my way into a tight medical community. People were kind, but it would take awhile for me to prove that I had something to offer.

The nurses on 3rd Floor Wilcox Hall of Holston Valley Hospital, in those days, were a rare collection of capable and caring women. We all know the adage about working smarter, not harder. They worked both smart and hard. I was honored just to help in whatever way I could as they shouldered heavy patient loads with stressed families to care for as well.

They were funny, scrappy, no-nonsense, determined, and loving. It’s been almost 30 years since our days together, but I will never forget them (and others of whom I don’t have pictures).

L to R: Nurses – Nan Ritchie, Kay Mitchell, Debbie Seymore Shields, Chris Blue

Just this weekend, I was on a long, refreshing phone conversation with Kay Mitchell. She, Kathy Visneski, and I worked closely together during those W-3 days. Kay was nurse manager, Kathy a nurse educator, and I was clinical nurse specialist. We dreamed, planned, and executed programming, support, and training for some of the best nurses we would ever know.

Kathy and I led a support group for cancer survivors and their families. Part of its success was the trust these folks had in the care they received during the times when the cancer was new and raw, and for some, when it would finally take them. The W-3 nurses would be wholly there for them in every season.

[in conversation during Take Time…to Help to Heal cancer support group]
[an activity from the Take Time…to Help to Heal support group]

Love Your Neighbor – Cancer Support – How It’s Done Well – Deb Mills

In our phone call, Kay told me a story. A few months back she had a knee replacement surgery. Years of nursing, like with many professions, are hard on our knees. As she was “ambulated” – being walked in the hall shortly after surgery, she was in the company of nursing friends who’d come to see her. Friends from the era we shared. Like Kay, they had gotten older (it is odd how we get older but still, with each other, feel the full vigor of life shared in the workplace). It must have been a sight, this nurse “patient” and her friends filling the hall, walking slowly together, in conversation and encouragement. A physical therapist observing them captured the scene with the word, “Hall-of-Famers”. These women who were known and, as it should be, revered.

Kathy Visneski & Dr. Chip Helms, Radiation Oncologist
L to R: Nurses Chris Blue, Ruth Couch, Kathy Visneski, Volunteer Sherry Weaver
Amy Thacker, Chemo Nurse
Sherri Rogers, Nurse Manager

So how do people become “hall-of-famers”? What made these women…and other men and women like them…notable? Remembered with tremendous fondness and honor.

Here’s what I think. It was their servant leadership. Whether staff nurses or nurse managers, they led with excellence and a serving heart.

The phrase “servant leadership” is not new, but it is more than just a prescriptive or descriptive style of leading. Such a leader, as described by Collins and Collins, is “‘compelled by an unshakeable desire to serve’. Leaders who lack that core belief are not servant leaders but rather using servant leadership practices among the many in their toolkits. Notice we are not describing a servant but a servant leader. Servants generally don’t have a choice, but a servant leader, through humility, chooses to put others first…Leaders who do this well focus on where they can bring the most value to others…When we see someone step up in a difficult situation despite the probability of failure and commit themselves wholly because it is the right thing to do, we are more likely to join with them for the long journey. The unconditional nature of serving may be the most defining quality”..of these women.

“I saw this picture today that captured so well the amazing nurse Chris Blue. I was so blessed to have had the best role models as nurses! Chris Blue, Nan Ritchie, Joan Bishop, Jane Faries, Evelyn Parker, Kathy Visneski, Deb Mills, Amy Thacker, Ruth Couch, and Cynthia Wright to name a few. This picture captures the care we provided on good ole W3! Beyond blessed. So glad my roots are strong that started with this group. Brought back some amazing memories!”Teresa Bailey, 2020
Teresa Bailey

Hall-of-famers. Steadfast. Hard-working. Resilient. Intelligent. Caring. Full of life and love.

Who are the hall-of-famers in your life? Maybe you share your workload with some of these wonders. Please comment, if you’d like, about your experience with hall-of-famers. Maybe you are one…or on your way to becoming one. Thank you.

[A note I sent to our nurses and other cancer nurses in the region in 1994, the year we left East Tennessee]
Kathy, me, and Kay…some years later.

Worship Wednesday – Seasons – Benjamin William Hastings

[Some of our raised beds, winterized, resting and waiting their replanting]

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”Genesis 8:22

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

[I’ve written about seasons many times. If you have time…catch them again here.]

It’s winter here. Although our garden is quiet now, the promise of Spring is still visible.

[Japanese Maple seeds]
[Daffodils coming up]

[My beloved irises pushing through. Mom’s favorite flowers, thus they are mine as well.]

Most all my life, I’ve had the pleasure of living in four-seasons places. Except for Egypt when all the seasons we knew were hot and then a little less hot. Still the beauty surrounded us there…different yet still a witness to our Creator God.

Seasons aren’t just studies in the growth cycles of plants, trees, and produce. They also mark periods in our lives. Some more fruitful than others. Some more filled with wonder and joy. Others remembered with some measure of regret and disappointment.

God is not surprised or taken aback by any of our seasons. He was there for all of it, and He loved us through every season.

A few weeks back, I heard the northern Irish singer/songwriter Benjamin William Hastings for the first time. He was one of the songwriters on “So Will I”. His song “Seasons” is a beautiful description of what it is like to be patient in our seasons, both with ourselves and with our God.

“You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting.”

Whatever your present season, keep tilling the soil of your life (and that of your children), keep counting on God’s promises, keep trusting Him for the harvest. “Like a seed, believe that my (your) season will come.”

Worship with me.

Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh, how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience
So like a seed in the snow
I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal
From seed to sequoia
I know

[Chorus]
Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come

So like the low winter sun
So it is with Your love
As I gaze, I am blinded
In the light of Your brightnеss
So like a fire to the snow
I’m rеnewed in Your warmth
Oh, melt the ice of this wild soul
Till the barren is beautiful

And I know

[Chorus]
Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come

[Bridge]
I can see the promise, I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons, I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done workin’, God, I’m not done waiting

Well, You can see my promise even in the winter
‘Cause You’re the God of greatness, even in a manger
For all I know of seasons is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second, instead, You sent a child

[Chorus]
Though the winter is long, even richer
Is the harvest it brings
And though my waiting prolongs, even greater
Is Your promise for me, like a seed
I believe that my season will come
For one day, I’ll see my tree
‘Cause I believe there’s a season to come

[Outro]
Like a seed You were sown
For the sake of us all
And from Bethlehem’s soil
Grew Calvary’s sequoia, ooh-ooh-ooh
*

[Our tall maple tree and the waning winter moon]

*Lyrics to Seasons – Songwriters: Benjamin William Hastings, Ben Tan, & Chris Davenport

Worship Wednesday – Abandoned (in the Best Possible Way) – Benjamin William Hastings – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Brandon Lake – MORE (Music Video) ft. Benjamin William Hastings, Leeland

Your Work Matters to God: Staying On Course Through Life’s Seasons – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Healing from Sorrow and Grief – with Adam Young, Francis Weller, Curt Thompson, & Jesus

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Allume

So much sorrow and grief in the world…if you clicked on this blog at all, with such a sober title, then you are facing what is true for you, and for all of us.

Take a moment more and let’s sit together over this. Or if you have 2-3 friends or family members you deeply trust, gather them for a talk that will begin the healing of both a current grief or a distant sorrow. Losses, whatever they are, endure in our minds and bodies. If we leave them unshared, we still attend to them, either by the work of keeping them buried or by numbing them with the aid of our idols or addictions.

“When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side.” … I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.”Barbara Brown Taylor

When you think about a sorrow, grief, or loss in your own life (current or past), what comes to mind? Something always comes. We are all experiencing a global sorrow in the war brewing in the Middle East. Here in my town, a young widow and an older one are daily finding their way forward through grief. For you, maybe it is a past loss of great import…or even one you think is only important to you. If it’s important to you, it matters to those who care about you. We self-edit and compare our sorrows, but they stay strong and real in our own life experience.

What can we do to heal the ache of these sadnesses? To refuse to isolate ourselves and our losses from community? To experience hope again?

Just today I came across the incredibly helpful series of podcasts on sorrow and grief by the therapist Adam Young.

How to Heal from Sorrow and Grief – Part 1 of 5 – Adam Young Counseling – Podcasts 132-124, 137, & 138

Adam Young describes the four conditions needed to allow us to work with sorrow and grief:

  1. We own that our sorrows and griefs matter and should be taken seriously.
  2. We need to gradually move from a posture of contempt toward our sorrow and grief to a posture of compassion and kindness and welcome.
  3. We need to find a few people who can be the village for us… allowing us to risk sharing our sorrow and grief with other people.
  4. We need to move our bodies in a way that allows for the integration and release of our sorrow and grief. Adam Young

We can be very hard on ourselves regarding our sorrow and grief, because somehow we think we should get over it or not care so much or ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Even when we push our grief into the deep interior of our minds, or we try to forget through our “drugs” of choice, it is present. Closer to the surface than we imagine.

Photo Credit: Francis Weller, Pilates Embodied, Pinterest

In the above podcasts, Adam Young quotes psychotherapist Francis Weller extensively, which is a huge help for those of us who have yet to read Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Weller emphasizes the impact of grief over time, on our minds and bodies and relationships. He encourages community as the place, or people with whom, to release our sorrow.

Francis Weller Quotes from his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

I’ve been reading The Deepest Place by Dr. Curt Thompson (the fourth book he has written and the fourth book of his I have devoured!). Thompson talks about the common nature of suffering in all our lives. Once we embrace that fact, then we can be more open and honest with “villages” of people who are there for us…and we for them. This has been so healing for me as I’ve opened up about my own sadness regarding the rupture of my extended family and the pain we have all suffered from it.

A group of us just today were hearing an update from a friend who has endured through a chronic illness for which her doctors have found no solution…yet. She is tired and struggling. Reading Thompson’s chapter on perseverance reminded me of her ordeal. Her faith in God and her determination to keep open and close to her community have given us all hope that the future will be brighter for her…and we will be there with her for it.

Healing from Trauma: the Power of “Being With” – Parts 1 & 2 (Podcasts episodes 141-142) – With Curt Thompson MD and Adam Young

That new landscape that C. S. Lewis talks about (in first image above)? It’s one we have the privilege of seeing together when we show up for one another…especially in sorrow and grief.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Being Known Podcast – Season 7 – Confessional Communities – Curt Thompson MD

Monday Morning Moment – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

[Adapted from the Archives]

Yesterday was Father’s Day with all the sweet and hard of such a day depending on your situation.

Photo Credit: Refuge in Grief

Today is Juneteenth – a huge day in American history that I never learned about until the last few years. Our Daily Bread Voices has provided an incredible documentary on Juneteenth – beautiful and redeeming.

This morning, rolling out of bed, I have so many thoughts pinging around my mind…thoughts and accompanying emotions. Missing fathers from our lives. A young woman with three small children facing eviction because of a father who abused and then deserted them. Afghan refugees and friends sorting through their own losses and fighting to build their lives here. Taking in the intensity of Juneteenth and the experience of freedom for all of us.

As happens sometimes, a simple song, and the not-so-simple question in its title, settles in my brain.

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

Whether the Bee Gee’s epic original or Al Green’s amazing cover. Here’s a more recent Bee Gee’s performance (2001):

The Bee Gees, Al Green, and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” – Alyson

Even when our hearts are not presently under attack, we share space with those we love whose hearts are breaking. A dear friend whose husband wants another future. A friend who spent his Father’s Day without his children (because his ex-wife chose a different future). Friends who lost their fathers before this Father’s Day…or parents who lost their children (whether to death or to an estranged life). Friends heartbroken over the what-ifs or what-may-never-be’s.  Fill in the blank with your own. #BrokenHearts.

[Too heavy for a Monday morning? It does get better.]

Maybe you aren’t so aware of broken hearts. Maybe you haven’t had the experience of sitting on the phone of a friend scream-weeping at the hard reality of her life right now. Maybe you haven’t worked beside a friend whose stone face and deep quiet haven’t touched your awareness of what is going on under the surface of his silence…his pain.

Broken hearts can take us on spirals that lead to self-protective withdrawal, confused anger, terrifying isolation, or hard bitterness.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Or we can heal.

One of the best TED talks I have ever heard is on “How to Fix a Broken Heart” with psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. Check out its 12 minutes of wisdom and helps.

I also found some helps in a somewhat odd place: Kristin Weber‘s Adulting for Jesus. Whatever you currently think about Jesus, this book on adulting is refreshing, funny sometimes, and so real. Midway of the book she talks about developing something she calls Godly grit.

“Adulting requires learning how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again.” – Adulting for Jesus, p. 89

Weber presents 10 ways to shift perspective on the struggle (our heartbreak) and develop that grit:

  • Expect hardship.“Western comforts have lulled us into the false assumption that life is meant to be easy and the hard moments few. In reality, much of life is hard, and the easy moments are the exceptions.”  We can learn to live in such a way that difficult situations/relationships don’t catch us off guard.
  • Depend on God.  “…when a relationship [ends] abruptly, failure hurts – often deeply. We can be honest about our hurt and struggles while still trusting God.” We don’t ignore the pain of our broken heart, but we recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere. He sees; He hears; He will work on our behalf.
  • Ask “What’s Next?”“Rather than ask ‘Why me?’…ask a different question about life: ‘What’s next?’ Obstacles, especially a long string of them, can make us short-sighted. By asking ‘What’s next?’ we recognize this failure or hardship isn’t the end of our story…Hardships will undoubtably change you, but keeping a long-term perspective will prevent them from destroying you.”
  • Look at Adversity through Eternal Lenses.“As a child of God your trials, both big and small, have an expiration date.” When our hearts are broken, we are consumed and exhausted by our loss. We can’t see down the road but so far. “Do the next thing”. Eternity comes but until then we grieve the loss, but we also train ourselves to stay in the moment and hope for a better future…a different future. We have that confidence in God’s care.
  • Appreciate the Bottom. “A lot can be learned on the bottom step of the ladder”. Our broken hearts can bring us low…but that is not where we stay. That is not where we belong.
  • Develop Thick Skin and a Tender Heart.“Try to be slow in getting offended and quick in extending grace. If someone causes you to have a knee-jerk reaction, that person controls you. That person has all the power…Choosing a calm response and keeping a level head, you remain free to live your life.”
  • Be Teachable.“Though we don’t need to let the opinions and critiques of everyone we encounter control our lives, we do need people who can lovingly speak truth into our lives…Our natural instinct is to make excuses or get defensive when someone corrects us, but adopting an attitude of teachability puts us on the track to growth and maturity. We need to take ownership of our actions and be humble enough to receive input about where we can improve.”
  • Do Something.“Big changes happen through tiny actions, and tiny actions require doing something.” Every day…step by step. #MakeYourBed.
  • Laugh. “Once I learned to laugh at myself and find humor in situations that didn’t tip in my favor, I became less stressed and anxious about every little thing. I didn’t dread life or failure as much…Our hope isn’t ultimately in everything going our way, and humor keeps the weight of our circumstances from crushing us.”
  • Count Your Blessings.“Instead of focusing constantly on everything that’s going wrong, take time each day to remember what’s going right. We might find our ‘gratitude attitude’ changes our entire outlook on life.”

Thanks, Kristin. I can tell you’ve known heartbreak and have learned to come out whole on the other side.

Closing out this Monday Morning Moment, for those of us who are sharing space with one or many dealing with broken hearts, we need to remember its pain, and have patience and compassion…be present, listen, and, when we can, speak the truth in love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger

P.S. The Scripture verses are strong anchors and the links below are super helpful. None of us are in these broken spaces alone.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73:26

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

“I have chosen you and haven’t rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9b-10

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon – Deb Mills

4 Bible Secrets to Heal a Broken Heart – Dudley Rutherford – really excellent and rapid read.

How to Heal a Broken Heart – Cecil Maranville – another excellent read (also from a Biblical standpoint)

How Can I Recover From Heartbreak? – GotQuestions – another.

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond?

Photo Credit: South Mountain Works

My childhood memories have gaps. A year ago, I began exploring the possibilities that there were memories being kept hidden in my brain. Reading and working through the three books of Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson moved me to consider the power of shame in keeping my memories silent. Dr. Thompson encourages his clients (and book readers) to write down our life stories, in long-hand. Journaling the decades. Especially working on recalling our childhood. Bringing those memories into the light.

My preschool years are still mostly devoid of memories. My mom had told me later that our rarely employed biological father neglected us such that she had to employ a babysitter daily while she worked. Even though he was home. Whether neglect is abusive or not, I have no recallable memories of my father from those years. Mom divorced him by the time I was 6.

In doing the exercise of writing out my life, one childhood memory that I was able to re-remember started out happy. It was a neighborhood “garden party”. I was maybe 7 or 8. These so-called garden parties were a gathering of family and friends to process the harvest of large vegetable gardens – for canning and freezing. Those who came enjoyed lively conversations, engaging stories, and finally a large meal together. The adults were caught up in the moment, and the children wandered in and out…and farther away.

I’m not sure who all ended up with me in a large barn some distance away from the home of our hosts. In that barn, an older boy (trigger, sorry) talked me into letting him touch me in inappropriate ways.

I had put that memory far back in my mind.

In remembering it, I also recalled telling my mom that evening and her taking action by going to talk to the parents of that boy. That’s where it ended, I believe.

Later in my childhood, I would discover my older brother’s (I suppose) hidden stash of pornographic magazines. [We didn’t have internet pornography in those days, and this sort of perusing seemed an expected coming-of-age pastime.] Page after page of naked or scantily clothed women in sexually provocative poses. Even as a pre-teen, it drew me in, even though it felt dirty and shameful. I don’t think I understood the power of taking such images into my brain. It is what pornography does and why it is so toxic.

[Could this sort of pornography be a launch-pad for girls who, seeing those images, become sexually aroused, then thinking they might be  same-sex attracted? Especially if it happened today in our current culture…I wonder.]

Being exposed to pornography as a child isn’t abuse, of course, but it forces an unhealthy peering into an adult world. I wish I hadn’t stumbled on it and hope parents take seriously the availability of porn on the internet. OK…done with that topic.

At the age of 13, my parents invited a young co-worker of my step-dad’s for a cookout. He must have been 18 or 19. He stayed long into the evening. I have no idea what my parents were thinking at the time (and they were excellent parents), but they went to bed and he was still there. This seemed to set up a green light for him, and he became very aggressive physically. My 13-year-old sensibility was at first enthralled at his interest in me and then frightened, too timid to cry out or get away. If my older brother hadn’t returned early from a date, and sent him on his way, I’m not really sure where that would have ended. So thankful for my brother that night.

Where does abuse begin? Did it start with the neglect of a father? Even with an incredibly loving and supportive mom, she couldn’t be everywhere all the time. Was I vulnerable to the attention of boys (and men) growing up because of a father who started out uncaring and became increasingly absent (don’t remember seeing him ever again after my early childhood years). Even with the love of a dear step-father, did I struggle with needing approval, wanting to feel special, absorbing the very adult messaging of pornography geared toward adult men?

[I’ll stop my story here for now.]

My extended family has known the searing pain of abuse. The abuse of power, the deceitfulness of sin (protecting the perpetrator), the isolation that comes with shame, and the complicit nature of silence.

In fact, with the statics (of sexual abuse alone), in the US, we’re talking as many as 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 10 and 1 in 6 boys.

How do we respond to abuse? How do we even consider such atrocities? Put aside sexual abuse for a moment. It comes in many different ways.

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes That Heal, talks about the role of crossing personal boundaries in abuse…when people step over a line, a boundary, wounding another person.

“The essence of boundaries and limits is knowing what we own and what we do not own…when we do not own ourselves as separate people from the ones we are bonded to, we develop unclear boundaries, and we allow people to cross those boundaries when we should be saying no”. –  Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes That Heal

One thing we could all assess within ourselves is our own understanding of personal boundaries – where we stop and another person starts. Abuse can happen with overreach (in parenting, marriage, friendships, and the workplace) or a lack of understanding or ownership of our own personhood.

This boundary breach leading to abuse can happen with strangers, but, more often than not, it happens with people we know – parents and children, spouses, other family members, trusted teachers or clergy.

Abuse Is Never the Victim’s Fault – video – Dr. Henry Cloud

Abuse can be subtle…still with the impact of intimidation or silencing. Even something we are all familiar – the silent treatment – is its own form of abuse.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

I’m not going to cover what we need to do comprehensively in handling abuse. Resources abound in this area. However, my work on memories coming back to light (and processing them as an adult, not as a child) helped me understand some attitudes and behavior that affect my sense of self and relationships today.

So in brief, I would say:

  • Do a journey of self-discovery (with a counselor or trusted friend) – examining and reframing painful childhood (or early adulthood) memories.
  • If abuse is still a part of your current life – get what distance you can from it, as you develop coping skills to protect yourself but also the generations coming after you. Building forever boundaries between you and that person/those persons can be its own abuse. It is a stop-gap measure and still holds the abused in bondage to the abuser.
  • Don’t be silent. Talk to someone. Tell your story.
  • For those who suspect abuse in another, don’t be complicit in the abuse, by your silence. Prayerfully, carefully, come alongside the abused. If you have a relationship with the abuser, reason with that person, if you can.
  • Isolation is a product of shame for the abused and the abuser. It also works to keep the abused more vulnerable. Shame, isolation, and secrecy.  Don’t ignore isolation (even in these post-pandemic days when it may be harder to detect). Be vigilant in surveilling those in your circles – your family, neighborhood, workplace, and friend group.
  • Finally, be aware of “vicarious trauma” – for those helping, caring, mentoring persons – experiencing a secondary trauma because of your leaning in and coming close to the trauma of another. You may need help from another as well, choosing not to leave the room but needing support yourself.

This is just a start.

Again, there are so many resources. Curt Thompson’s books and podcasts. Dr. Diane Langberg‘s website and YouTube channel. Adam Young Counseling podcasts and videos. Counselor Matthias Barker podcasts. Just to name a few.

I’d appreciate your thoughts in Comments below. Please…don’t keep silent. There is help…and healing.

Photo Credit: Connecting Paradigms, Matthew S. Bennett

15 Trauma Therapy Techniques to Implement to Help You Heal From Trauma – Gala Gorman

Understanding Trauma – Loretta Grieve

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia, Parents & Adult Children, Welcome to Holland, Food Fit for Memory-Making, and Boundaries that Define Us

This week’s Friday Faves – GO!

1) Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia – How about all the feels from musical themes of favorite old movies? That’s what happens for us when Nathan arranges and performs themes from films we love.

While he takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on other work, only we Patreon subscribers get to hear the latest (subscribe). He is creating some new instructional content which makes me want to learn classical guitar. In this bit of time in the interim, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by 500k-plus YouTube subscribers. Enjoy. Oh, and comment below a favorite song of yours that he arranges/performs.

YouTube Video – The Last of the Mohicans: Promentory – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – How to Train Your Dragon – Romantic Flight (Classical Guitar Cover)

YouTube Video – Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka) – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – The Lion King Main Theme (“This Land”) on Guitar

YouTube Video – Amazing Grace Meets Classical Guitar (Epic Version) – this one Nathan did as a request from his mom and dad. So beautiful. Thanks again, Nae.

2) Parents & Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 excellent and empowering articles by author, counselor Dennis Rainey. If you want to parent adult children well, these articles have wise and applicable counsel for you. You adult children might enjoy them as well. The articles are linked below along with a couple of others that are also treasures.  https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2012-December-family-snapshot-014.jpg

Sometimes, we can be hard on our adult children. Too many demands or expectations.  I’m sure I’m not alone with bringing my own vision into the present of what our family would look like, all grown-up with little ones. To be honest, they can also be hard on us (without even realizing it). However, what’s more important? The people in these relationships! Full-stop. Our kids have their own sharp learning curves of life without pressure from mom and dad to bend in our direction. It’s enough to see them when we can and cheer them on in their own new life configurations. If they make choices we would not make…it doesn’t change the love. Remember they also deal with the choices we make.

Read the articles. You’ll be glad you did.

“Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished.”John Stott

3) Welcome to Holland – This goes out to you who are parents, siblings, extended family or friends of children/adults with special needs or medical complexities. A friend introduced me this week to   “Welcome to Holland”, a beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley. My friend has a medically complex child, and so did I.

“Did” only because he is grown now. When he was little, he had major struggles and still has some of the aftermath of those struggles and always will.

When Dan came home to us through adoption, we knew he would have his challenges, but you’re never prepared for the twists and turns of that through childhood and into adulthood. With all the trips to doctors and therapists, meetings with teachers, and one-on-one times with him as the topic, there was still his joy that kept us marveling at this wonder.

He was an incredibly exuberant kid and seemed far less bothered by his struggles than we were.

A friend, years ago, asked us, regarding Dan, “What’s it like to have a ticker tape parade thrown for you, every time he sees you?”

It was something very special.

So…welcome to Holland.

Welcome To Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

Copyright©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. 

All rights reserved. 

Reprinted by permission of the author.

 

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this……

 

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It’s all very exciting.

 

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

 

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

 

But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

 

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It’s just a different place.

 

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

 

It’s just a different place.  It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

Pin on WindmillsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”  

 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

 

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

__________________________________________________________________________

Love you, Dan.

4) Food Fit for Memory-Making – Writing for the last two weeks has been on the back burner. We’ve been traveling, seeing friends, and enjoying great food as part of those experiences. Now that we’re back home, eating to live more than living to eat will have to be restored to the daily.

However, can I just celebrate great food for a moment. The images below take us back, just the last two weeks, to food shared with friends in beautiful spaces. An anniversary was celebrated and Dave got his Butterfinger Blizzard – a twice-a-year indulgence which never disappoints.

My mom’s cooking has settled deep in my memories since she’s been in Heaven for 20 years now. Nothing like her biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving dinners, and vegetable soup and cornbread. Sweet memories of her and the food she prepared. Memories imprinted by food shared together.

The memories we’ve made recently, accompanied by food, will suffice for now. Bon appétit .

Shyndigz – a local desserterie. Their fresh fruit cake has always been my favorite UNTIL they’ve recently introduced a Tres Leches cake. Once a month it will tempt me for sure…so amazingly good!

5) Boundaries that Define Us – All my adult life, I have struggled with (and been known by) being fuzzy-boundaried. Easy-going, fairly amicable, not very demanding. Then recently, on more than one occasion, friends have asked me about my preferences and desires in life. What do you like to do? What do you want to accomplish these days? How do you fill your day? What are your goals? Hopes? Dreams?

I stuttered…trying to answer. It seems much of my life has been spent bending toward helping, serving, pleasing others…That is NOT a bad thing, but to not be able to come up with answers to the above questions really got me puzzling about my own self-awareness.

Henry Cloud Quote: "That is why success and fruitfulness depend as much ...Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, Dr. Henry Cloud

Presently I’m reading a book that may very well help me get to those answers. It is Dr. Henry Cloud‘s Changes That Heal. His chapter on Boundaries has me stopped in my tracks.

“Boundaries, in a broad sense, are lines or things that mark a limit, or border. In a psychological sense, boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want. Boundaries, in short, define us.”

Being a fuzzy-boundaried sort, I’m not really sure about some of these things, but now I’m on a mission of determining who I am and who I’m not. This may seem a strange venture for someone as old as I am. Hear me out.

Dr. Cloud talks about the various boundaries that make up our identity: physical appearance/body; attitudes; feelings; behavior; thoughts; abilities; desires; choices; limits; and, lastly, negative assertions (who/what we are NOT).

If we don’t know these things about ourselves, then we are bound to bump into, step over, or be drawn into the boundaries of others.

Here’s an example of this: I AM a reconciler, and I AM NOT a grudge-holder. So when my extended family is struggling with a family rift, it’s somewhat confusing for me, and really hard personally. How boundaries come to play in this is that I can’t make this rift go away…my own limits, attitudes, feelings, and desires (among other things) keep me from crossing others’ boundaries…This leaves me feeling hopeless, and sometimes helpless. My alternatives (and they are good ones) are to love my family, encourage those also reeling from this, and praying for all of us.

I can NOT fix it. If my fuzzy-boundaried self insisted on somehow making things better, it would leave me worse for the wear…and the rift still unchanged. We all have boundaries at play in our relationships.

In fact, some boundaries we set up voluntarily by our attitudes and thoughts. When we feel harmed by someone, we impose boundaries to prevent getting hurt again. Are these actual or imagined? It seems the pain continues in the trauma of unforgiveness. I just don’t know. One thing I do know is that this sort of boundary is something I AM NOT willing to do…especially with family. Where does that leave us who disagree on this?

So…forgive all verbal processing on this. Just trying to figure some of this out, and I’m only beginning. Unless you know yourself well, Dr. Cloud’s lesson on boundaries might be an excellent one to consider. One very beautiful extra thought on this: although we are made in God’s image, this is one place we differ from Him. He is infinite, and we are finite. As we get to know ourselves better, we can appreciate Him all the more and depend on Him even more readily for what we need both inside and outside our boundaries.

[This same Dr. Cloud also wrote Necessary Endings and Boundaries.]

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s all for this week. Any comments or thoughts you have, please share below. Blessings on you and thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Road to Wholeness Podcast – Redeeming Heartache

How Do You Move Through Past Trauma? – Interview with Jerry Sittser – Podcast – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Laugh It’s Free Facebook page

Books on my Summer Reading List

Your Home Affects Your Longevity – Here’s How the Longest-Living People Outfit Their Spaces – Erica Sloan

Anniversary Reflections – 38 Years Married – a Walk with God and Each Other

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from the Archives]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

38 years today.

The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives, work, and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us…and I am grateful for his company.

IMG_0009 (2)2012 December family snapshot 014

Our marriage has always been of a quiet steady sort . My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in most ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. He was “read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.

In fact, those of you who know us well know the struggles we have had figuring out parenting (both young children and then adult children). Also the challenges of having very different ideas and giftings on doing life. I’ve written so much about this in my journals over the years, wrestling with God and my own heart in these areas. Our daughter already knows to handle with understanding the pages of angst about our marriage. She would probably be the only one who will read those journals. The best part is she has seen us pull together more than pull apart.

I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being “a laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.

2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)

Whatever these nearing forty years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 beautiful extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far)…and GRANDCHILDREN! Alongside those treasures is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.

I have some idea what is ahead, given our ages and the world around us (we’ve already been through a cancer diagnosis, big job changes, losses of dear parents, and sickness in our children and grandchildren). The hard is softened by what is promised (and proven) through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 38 years ago.

He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who never leaves the room, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others.

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. For many years I didn’t think marriage was to be mine…then Dave came into my life quite providentially. God gave me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. Whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this 38th anniversary, that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

YouTube Video – Jesus and You – Matthew West

YouTube Video – You’re Still the One – Shania Twain [Twain’s “still the one” is no longer her one, but the song is beautiful. So I wanted to keep it in this list since Dave’s still my one.]

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes