Tag Archives: Trauma

Monday Morning Moment – Walled In, Dismissed, Frazzled, and Discouraged…Nevertheless

Photo Credit: Heartlight

What’s your situation? How’s your heart? What is your body holding onto? Remember when you were so full of the possibilities of life, so fresh with anticipation of what was ahead, what you could accomplish?

Then life happens, and it doesn’t always work out like you thought it would. Running turned into slogging. Your passion got sucker-punched. The opportunities and advancements kept coming in, but at some point, bewilderment set in. You just got tired…just plain weary.

Some call this burnout, and it may be. What if it is more than that? What if it is a bloody battlefield where, if not our very lives, our joy is under full attack. What if those God-given strengths, those life-honed skills, and serendipitous accomplishments seem not to be at play. Maybe you’re overthinking, or maybe…just maybe…the way through is surprisingly simple.

We all have an important place to occupy in this world. Every single one of us. Fight for it. Walls may seem high, bottlenecks too narrow, and, at times, adversaries hammering around us. Nevertheless…We can find a way to bring the walls down (or just go around them), squeeze through the bottlenecks, and shake off the idea that we can’t win…just. too. tired.

Circumstances in life and work can drain us. Especially over time. Oddly we can still be effective in life but the emotional, mental, and physical toll adds up. The body remembers…and keeps score.

Jesus gives us a beautiful and intimate picture of the “nevertheless”. The night before he would die on a Roman cross, he appealed to the Father, as his painful and humiliating death loomed ahead of him.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

Nevertheless…here was the Messiah, the Christ, in all the sinless perfection of his life, coming to the very end of himself. Exhausted, emotionally overwrought, yet clear-minded, understanding exactly what would be required from him. Nevertheless…he stayed the course. He was not giving up. He knew what was at stake. He trusted the Father, and he persisted in what he was called to finish.

Photo Credit: Leonard Ravenhill, QuoteFancy

For us, we have choices. We can resign ourselves to a life and work not what we anticipated…or we can clear our heads and remember our own callings. No walls are too high nor adversaries too strong.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

We each bring something to the table. If we withdraw from the table or accept a perceived exclusion, we can miss the fullness of life we were meant to have. Others will miss us as well. Believe that. It’s true.

When fatigue and discouragement set in, and our bodies are drained of response, we need to take hold of the “nevertheless”. It’s reminiscent of the many “but God’s” in Scripture and in life. We may be up against a Red Sea like Moses, or a Goliath like young David, or a corrupting culture like Jesus. We lament “but God”…we are too inadequate. Too small. Too aware of risk. Nevertheless, our “but God’s” can change to what is truth. The meaning of the protest changes into the “but God” miracles when He shows up and does what only He can do…in us. Through us.

Photo Credit: Biblepic

Hoping you lean into the “nevertheless” today.

Podcast – Why Everyone’s Freaking Out (& Why We Don’t Need To) – David Marvin, Guest on Relatable Podcast with Allie Beth Stuckey

15 Proven Ways to Suck the Life Out of Your Staff – Scott Cochrane – applies to any workplace. Take note of the “Strategies To-Avoid List”.

6 Things That Can Suck the Life Out of You! – Dale Hudson (and Part 2 on his story and how he dealt with those things that sucked the life out of him – to get you started, they are: People, Problems, Pressure, Pace, Pain, and Personal Sin)

The Humble Rejoice – Rick Bee

Nevertheless – Robert Ferguson

Photo Credit: Pinterest

5 Friday Faves – Work Songs, People Who Inquire, Fall’s Breathtaking Beauty, a Rightful Memorial, and a Christmas Tree

Here we go: this week’s Friday Faves. Thanks for reading.

1) Work Songs – On a walk in the neighborhood this week, I pulled open the door of the little free library near us and discovered a tiny book. Its title and cover art were intriguing. It was Matt Johnson‘s Work SongsI tucked it in my pocket and finished my walk, thinking about some of the work songs of my day: The Eagles’ Get Over It or Bachman & Turner’s Takin’ Care of Business or Sam Cooke’s Chain Gang or Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 or Rose Royce’s Car Wash. However, it is not a volume about work songs, per se, but more about the lack of them in our current culture. Johnson has written a book of true stories of notables through decades. People who may have been considered ordinary to begin with but who persevered in the work of their day. He (and they through these short essays) teach us lessons on the impact possible when both individuals and connected groups stay at it and refuse to be dissuaded from their task or their vision. 

Podcaster and leadership trainer Laurie Ruettimann had a fascinating conversation with author Matt Johnson on the topic of his book Work Songs. The title of her piece is “Modern Work Has No Song – How Stories Create Perseverance”.

“For as long as we’ve had language as a species, we’ve actually had music for the work we do,” he says. “We’ve actually, for a long time, had music that actually created meaning — not just unify the sort of actions in the job of the people, but it actually gave them a bigger context for the work they were doing. And what’s interesting is, if you look at the evolution of that, modern work absolutely has no song.”  – Matt Johnson

Work Songs – Matt Johnson – Buzzsprout Audiobook (narrated by Matt Johnson, in individual essay chunks)

This Is How a Book Can Change Your Life – Matt Johnson

2) People Who Inquire – Psychiatrist Curt Thompson preached a sermon in the Spring of this year on the topic “Generational Trauma, Shame & Redemption”. While on errands, I was listening and actually had to pull the car over to capture one quote in particular.

“One of the most important developmental experiences for us, not only as children but that continues for us as adults, is to have others inquire of us and teach us to be people who do the same…Who is inquiring of you?” – Curt Thompson, MD – Generational Trauma, Shame & Redemption

We are told as parents of adult children not to give unsolicited advice. Same actually with friends and coworkers. I get how wary our grown children might be to seek advice because then there is the perceived expectation they must follow it. What happens when young people (and older ones) inquire of others  about life and what their experiences have been? Instead of going straight for the advice offering, our inquiring and listening can be a springboard can encourage and embolden toward wise decision-making. It is a joy to see people inquire of others – wanting to know them in deeper ways as well as wanting to know how more deeply to follow God in life.

In his sermon, Thompson used a passage out of the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Thus says the Lord , “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”Jeremiah 6:16

In the text, Jeremiah is challenging the people of Israel to take four actions as they proceed in life, especially in situations when they aren’t sure of the direction or struggle with making a sound decision. He says to:

  • Stand – when we come to a fork in any road (relationally or situationally), we should stop. We don’t have to have a knee-jerk response. We are not bound to take a direction we always have in the past. We stop…we stand…and
  • Look (or examine) – we take a breath. We count the cost. We consider.
  • Ask (or inquire) – Inquiring in this passage is done as a people not just an individual. We inquire of each other. We inquire of the Lord. We seek counsel. We explore the thinking of the others. We consider.
  • Walk in the good way. – Then, and only then, do we continue on. We do so with confidence and hopefully with peace and a pure heart…that we have considered God’s definition of what way is good, and we have considered those on the paths with us…not making assumptions but inquiring what is their thinking on the paths before them.

Jeremiah tells the people, if they will “stand…look…ask/inquire …and then walk (in the good path…God’s path, not our own self-serving or impulsive path) – we will have “rest for (y)our souls“.

The sad part of this verse is the last phrase: “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’.” What makes us break with each other and/or with God? What makes us determined to go our own way, no matter where it leads?

In our culture today, the inclination is toward self-sufficiency and self-determination. We don’t know each other as we might if we would but lean in and inquire of (get to know, truly know) each other. We might do this on a small scale with those very closest to us, but on a larger “people of God” scale, we are what? Disinterested?

What are your thoughts? Please comment below.

The Conversational Habits that Build Better Connections – David Robson

3) Fall’s Breathtaking Beauty – Just a few shots from our neighborhood and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden:

4) A Rightful Memorial – A dear friend of ours died recently and his family arranged a fitting celebration of life. This 91-years-young man was a delight to his family and friends. He took so much joy in the people in his life and the work he relished in his long career. With faltering health and mounting years, his family knew time was precious and did all they could to be very present in his life. I wish I could provide an image of his crinkly, smiling eyes. All I can say is that he took joy in life. His family and friends took joy in his.

Funerals these days aren’t always treated as the opportunity to salute these passing figures entering into eternity. It’s a pity. Our friend (who I don’t identify by name to protect privacy) would himself have been pleased and humbled by this one. Military honors (including an honor guard, presenting the flag, and the shooting of three volleys) were an appropriate part of his funeral, given his military service, followed by his long years as a deep sea tugboat captain. The reading of Scripture and singing of hymns and remembrances from friends were all a part. The pastor spoke of his life and our friend’s relationship to Christ. We prayed and wiped tears away and counted ourselves blessed to know this friend, gone too soon at 91. See you again, dear Brother.

 

5) A Christmas Tree – For many, an early start on Christmas is just wrong. Sorry, not sorry. We start listening to Christmas music in October. Starting to decorate by mid-November is not to laud this holiday above all others. Simply, it is hard to pack in all the joy and remembering that come with Christmas in just the confines of one month. Our main Christmas tree is still stored. It will be covered with white lights and ornaments celebrating the birth of Jesus. [It actually stays up right through February 14 – Valentine’s Day – changing out the nativities to hearts and snowy winter ornaments.]

The Christmas tree we do have up (see images below) is one of a vintage feel. Colored lights (LED but reminiscent of my childhood). Ornaments depicting eras gone-by, storybook characters, and symbols of the past that continue to lift our hearts.

My parents’ names on quilted ornaments

Is your tree up? There’s still plenty of time… The lights have been a sweet respite from the darkness coming so early these days.

AND…for those who would appreciate a nod to our American Thanksgiving – the Hot Turkey Bowl at Wawa’s is amazing!

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Wawa Hot Turkey Bowl

Until next time…thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Nokia to Release New Version of Its 6310 ‘Brick Phone’ – Andrew Court – This is so exciting if you are really wanting to get less screen intrusion in your life and just use your phone as a phone. It does have a camera but less than what we’ve become used to. Watching for its arrival in the US after its introduction to the UK market.

[With permission, the Instagram post below made me smile all over. That sweet girl and the amazing breakfast displayed. I miss Moroccan cafe breakfasts!!!]

Your 9-Step Strategy to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays – Darya Rose

11 Mental Tricks to Stop Overthinking Everything – Scott Mautz

Leaders, Talk About Power to Protect the Vulnerable – Chris Davis

How to Maintain a Healthy Brain to Reduce the Risk of Dementia – Kailas Roberts

Watching Children Learn How to Lie – Gail Heyman

Gandalf’s Best Lord of the Rings Line Explains the Trilogy’s Magic – Susana Polo

How Anxiety and Depression Can Take Years Off Your Life

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

Monday Morning Moment – Living Between Adult Kids and Older Parents

God put us in families. All of us.

God put me in the middle of boys with a mom who loved us completely and a father of whom I have little memory. His relationship with us was not one of outright abuse but neglect and eventual abandonment. When I was five, my exhausted mom divorced this never-working man. She  would later explain that action as simply “just one less mouth to feed”. She soon after came back to faith in Christ and brought us with her (unchurched until then). Our dad had long since disappeared from our lives.

Fast forward to the present: married to a man who deeply loves the Lord and loves us well also. We have three adult children and two added by marriage, and now four precious grandchildren.

All our parents (including a beloved step-dad) are gone except for Dave’s exquisite praying mom.

Sandwiched between adult kids and older parents is where we are, and I’m grateful. In fact, I think about our kids and their littles (and some of you) now in this same season, just a different generation. 

The room is delightfully crowded (not without challenge) with multiple generations – each bringing extended families of their own. So many faces and so many voices.

Every family member (and each of us in that family) has great value to God. His desire for us is to bear  the fruit of His love (Galatians 5:22-23) – making it beautifully tangible to others. He is with us in this.

What if our parents made life hard for us either by trauma or, as adults, by intrusion or neglect? Or what if we find ourselves in awkward places in our adult children’s lives? These “what if’s” make us want to pull ourselves out of obedience to God, as we feel justified by our pain to distance ourselves from some in our family. The ripple effect of pulling away is wide-reaching in a family. Wider than we can imagine.

Even when relationships are healthy, the heavy responsibility of parenting young children puts its strain on our precious adult children. We feel the pull – torn between kiddos and our olders or others (sibling families, too). We also model for next generations what family looks like. How we handle the hard is quite probably how they will handle the hard.

We all choose, consciously or not, from among four ways to engage with or disengage from our families.

  1. Embrace. We can trust God with the families He has given us. We can love them well. We forgive and seek forgiveness. We spend time with each other and attune to how God sees them. We who share adult space try to find the balance of loving each other well without our own preferences getting in the way. The older ones will only be with us for a moment. They have stories and history and lives that matter. Our younger ones also grow up and have their own families and life pressures. We extend ourselves in both directions – up and down.
  2. Debase/Disgrace. Sometimes members of our family wrong us or another beloved family member. We “triangle” talking about them with others, without them being present. Their behavior may warrant our disdain. We are tempted to debase them privately or disgrace them publicly. However, God is not finished with them or they wouldn’t still be here. Wisdom is to take our sorrows to God and appeal for Him to help us love these hard-to-love ones. He is able. It helps to remember we may also be the ones not so easy to love. [I forget that sometimes.]
  3. Replace. We are tempted to completely replace hard family members with friends. Adult friendships are such a gift from God. They fill in empty places in our hearts. They can actually help empower us to love and live like Jesus with these family members. Or they can usurp their place in our lives. Friends, help bolster our resolve, as we choose to “stay in the room” with family members. Let’s be that one who is not going anywhere – that picture of Christ for these.
  4. Give Grace. This is similar to “Embrace” but with God-guided boundaries in place. The Word is full of instruction, like Colossians 3:12-14. Living between olders and youngers, I want to be that one who gives grace both ways. Speaking love often and always. Not judging or applying pressure. We can choose to honor one another, which, in turn, honors God. Giving grace includes giving grace to ourselves.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

 Do I get this wrong? All the time. We are works in progress. God’s door of healing is always open to us.

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, Bent Lily (w/ permission)

[One last pic – my mom, our youngest son, and me sandwiched between them & behind the camera – wishing I could roll back the years to when she was still here. Embrace & give grace. The years rush by.]

Monday Morning Moment – Confessional Communities – What Are They? You’ll Wish You Were In One If You Aren’t Already

Photo Credit: Group Therapy Central

[As I was preparing my own take on confessional communities, I came across Aimee Byrd‘s piece on the same, as part of her analysis of Curt Thompson‘s latest book The Soul of Desire. Byrd’s blog is a quick read and very helpful.]

Confessional communities – probably sounds like some sort of monastery life. Or a group with all kinds of touchy-feely exercises framed by unintelligible psycho-babble, right? Oh no! So much more and so much better!

I’ve been awakened to the presence and possibilities of confessional communities since recently reading of the Thompson trilogy below.

What rung intuitively right for me throughout my adult life has actually been tested and found true in something called Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB). No time to go deeply into this now, but, in short, our brains are wired for connection, and that is connection inside the brain/mind itself as well as with others (and God).

Confessional communities are used by Dr. Curt Thompson and others as ways to help clients get in touch with shame, trauma, fear, anxiety, etc. in the company of others struggling with some of the same. Shame, for instance, drives us to isolate from God and others. It compounds interest over time, if left to itself in our own minds, and muffles our desires and longings, as it condemns and flattens us.

“We need to create confessional communities where people are confessing the truth about their life – some of which includes confessing sin or doing things that show my brokenness. Some of it is just things that have happened to me, or things that I feel; things that I sense; things that I dream; things that I long for; things that I’m conflicted about. But I’m trying to tell the whole truth about my life – but not so that anybody can just hear it and then move on.…In confession, what I’m really looking for – in your eyes, in your body language, in your voice – is for you to be able to say, “You’re right, Curt; you were wrong to do that. You’re forgiven. I’m not leaving.” I need to know you can bear the weight of what I know to be really wrong [with me], and that you will still stay. If it’s minimized, it will continue to linger with me…Shame always requires outside help for healing. My shame needs you. If it’s a small thing, I might need only one conversation with you. But, if it’s much bigger than a very, very small thing, I’m going to need multiple conversations with multiple people, because shame will come through multiple different doors into my head when I’m left by myself…”Curt Thompson

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

“…in order for me to be liberated from the shame I carry, …I need to hear that my behavior was really as bad as I think, if not worse, while simultaneously sensing that the person I am confessing to is not leaving. Shame has the effect of coaxing us into pretending that sin is not as bad as it seems; for if it really is that bad, and I have to face it, it would be too much and I fear I would be overwhelmed. When someone seeks forgiveness for the wrong they have committed, we who have been wounded must be able to acknowledge the reality of the pain inflicted if forgiveness is to be real, and if the offender’s shame is to be effectively healed.” – Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame

Confessional communities are spelled out in Thompson’s writing, teaching (found on YouTube), and podcasts (his own and as guest on many others). The common factors include:

  • small group meetings over weeks or months.
  • willingness to tell our stories as truly as we can.
  • intentional leaning in to the stories of other group members such that “being known” is part of the outcome for all.
  • commitment to stay with each other; to “not leave the room”.
  • imagine beauty together – learning to explore and create beauty, to see what is good, true, and beautiful in each other’s personhoods.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson, Twitter

I have a friend who for several months was part of what I would now call a confessional community. She called it “Vegas”. Remember the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”? It was a Bible study/house church. A group of people who committed to care for each other with masks off (not the COVID kind, but the masks we don in shame or fear). A group of people who would stay in the hard and love no matter what.

My Mom modeled this for our family. She died way too soon. My prayer is that our (birth) family will model it for each other, and my children will learn from their Dad and me how to love like this…To have the joy of being fully known and deeply loved. No matter what.

Trauma, Healing, and Side Effects with Dr. Curt Thompson – Jamie Ivey’s Podcast, The Happy Hour

Shining Light on Shame – Curt Thompson, Angulus Wilson, Steve Beers, and Morgan C. Feddes

Curt Thompson – 51 Podcast Episodes

Monday Morning Moment – We pray…and We Don’t Give Up.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

I really don’t have words this morning.

Scott Sauls gave me the words below.

The blaming takes us nowhere. The hating definitely diminishes all.

Some think of prayer as a soft and impotent action. Not so! The God who hears our prayers is mighty to save. His purposes are not thwarted. He calls us to prayer and we, and those of the this broken world, are best served when we obey.

Do we do other things? Like sending our resources and opening our communities to those no longer with a home. Absolutely. However… if we don’t pray, we neglect the greatest salvation…and the greatest Savior in these seemingly hopeless situations.

The blaming and hating change nothing and care for no one. It is a dreadful waste and dishonors both God and humankind.

So…we pray.

…and we don’t give up.

Photo Credit: The Fellowship Site

5 Friday Faves – A City Tour, Best Organizing Tips, Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, On Being Heard, and Summer Delights

Here we go!

1) A City Tour – Have you ever taken a tour of your city or town? It’s a transformative experience. We toured our city (Richmond, Virginia) this week. No pictures of the James River this time around or any of the actual “tourist sites”…[I did write about our gorgeous Capitol building visit here]. Just neighborhoods this time. What about you? Comment below about your city/town.

2) Best Organizing Tips – OK, full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Marie Kondo (link to my blog on decluttering and relationships). I think what she helps people downsize gets repurchased. So it is a constant cycle. However, I get the stress that clutter can bring to moms of small children. Our children understand that I will downsize until it starts getting painful, and then they can just hire an estate clearing company, for the rest one day.

When I come across an article that shows wisdom in dealing with the strain of stuff, it encourages and empowers. The Pioneer Woman has a list of 76 tips for organizing our households. Some of the tips have affiliate marketing attached which means buying stuff to store your stuff. Still, among the 76 tips, there are great helps for anyone. I love the ideas on beautifying and functionalizing the foyer/entryway of a home. Also, her tips on managing toys and their cleanup were great!

Best Organizing Tips – The Pioneer Woman

Photo Credit: The Pioneer Woman, Tidbits

3) Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – I don’t usually recommend sad things unless it causes such a stir in me, it seems necessary to share. The church doesn’t belong to people. The church belongs to God. He established it, and He will care for it. If judgment is required, He will judge. However, some situations may need to be examined, not to judge, but to avoid going there. We are all vulnerable. It can happen to any of us as collections of people. Power and ego can soil anyone. None of us are immune.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Podcasts | Christianity TodayPhoto Credit: Christianity Today

If you don’t know the story of Mars Hill, you can listen to the cataclysmic fall of a mega-church and its pastor, starting here.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

Our small but growing church in Richmond, Virginia, loves God, loves His Word, and loves the world. Hopefully we love each other and our neighbors as well. We will want to do our part in keeping our church on track with God’s mission.

Mission drift can occur to any organization. Watch out for it. Put guardrails around what matters.

4) On Being Heard – Just before doing the city tour above, a documentary focused on our city was recommended to me. The local film company responsible for this Emmy-award-winning gem is Belltower Pictures.

“Heard” – PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”

I watched this documentary after the city tour.

It was an amazing opportunity to listen to residents of Richmond’s subsidized housing who talk about what they loved and hated about their neighborhoods and how they were able to take those foundations to launch into positive futures. So glad I listened. You will be, too.

Heard Discussion Guide

5) Summer Delights – Summer…it sprawls lazily…and yet seemingly overnight, back-to-school ads and products spring up all over!

We will savor summer. And all its goodness. What are some of your summer delights?

Sleeping under the stars upgraded by cool retro campers and sweet technology capturing it.https://scontent.fric1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/fr/cp0/e15/q65/224199211_10222604686818054_2935923857622714896_n.jpg?_nc_cat=100&_nc_rgb565=1&ccb=1-3&_nc_sid=8024bb&efg=eyJpIjoidCJ9&_nc_ohc=Na2pVp6USPsAX_3XgP7&_nc_ht=scontent.fric1-1.fna&oh=a4fed52179684ef263f8fc5153deef8b&oe=61003131Photo Credit: Todd Carey, Facebook

Rainbow hues in all the beautiful flowers:

Fishing with Papa:

Yard Sales back in style:

The yummy “reds” of summer:

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That’s it for this week! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot!

Bonuses:

Support your small businesses – great post on the challenges of having a sustainable business right now (this being a local restaurant)

Watch Luke Bryan Bring a 7-year-old Girl Onstage for adorable “Down to One” Duet – here’s the quick story. Below is the video.

No photo description available.Photo Credit: Tim Keller, Gospel in Life, Neighborhood Church Facebook page

Monday Morning Moment – Sensitiveness – This Might Not Be About You

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Adapted from the Archives

The word “victim” is one I rarely use because the word itself further victimizes the person. Sometimes we may intend to wound with our words, but often we just state/post a thought, viewpoint, or opinion having no idea what a strong and public reaction we may receive in the aftermath.

Just yesterday, I was in a Twitter conversation where what I said exploded a barrage of words (from passersby not the person with whom I was engaged). My person (we follow each other but don’t know each other) had been victimized by an awful situation and I was trying to comfort and reason with him over it. Then the attacks came (not from him but from others). The words “Karen”, “gaslighting”, “oppressor”, and a “cishet” Christian (not in a good way) were used to describe me (I had to look up the linked words).

We stick to our own in life, in a way to enjoy a certain measure of understanding and acceptance. If we stay surface enough, we hopefully don’t offend, don’t disturb the sensitiveness of another.

Decide to go deeper or venture out among those different from us (be it politically, or gender identity, or race/ethnicity), in our current culture, it can get messy.

I want deep and wide relationships with people, but at times, I will mess up or be misunderstood. Our social media walls can get full of the most always graffiti, well-deserved, others might say.

Real face-to-face conversation and not fleeing the scene can both help…at least the relationship. The passer-bys? Not so much. I want to scream sometimes, “This might not be about you.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

I digress…

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line.

We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has encouraged me in more recent times when I find myself in similar situations.

In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience being very dependent on the other, we found we could each be irritating. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny people.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those dear to me who read the blog. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a reading from British scholar C. S. Lewis

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both.

Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of EmotionsWade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.

Monday Morning Moment – Building Our Own Personal Surge Capacity in the Longer Stretch of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Long Running Living

Let’s talk about capacity! I’m still working on my Monday blog on a Tuesday. One of the fall-outs of COVID.

What started, in our country, as a sprint in March is turning into more a long-distance run. 6 months now. 184 days thus far of physical distancing (for this medically at-risk person).

Remember how we first thought it might be just 2 weeks of quarantining to eradicate the threat? OK, I was super-naive.

We’re becoming weary of certain words and phrases. Pandemic. Unprecedented. Uncharted. New normal. We’re all in this together. Even social distancing. [I was thankful when that phrase went out of vogue and “physical distancing” replaced it. “Social distancing” put a wrongful prescription on its hearers. We need to physical distance, yes, but never social distance. We have learned.]

Remember when surge capacity became a worrisome phrase in our daily news cycle. Will our hospitals have enough ICU beds and ventilators to properly care for the rising numbers of persons with grave cases of COVID? That was the fear. We heard the daily troubling reports from New York state officials. Those reports were heard, and hundreds of ventilators were sent, as well as the provision of field hospitals, even the arrival of a huge hospital ship.  Peak hospitalizations with COVID have passed for now. Surge capacity tested and proven ample.

Why does this matter?

Each of us has our own surge capacity (related to stress, trauma, loss). During COVID, we are all having it tested. Some more than others. I think of parents trying to juggle work, child care, and monitoring schooling. Teachers preparing in-class lessons and teaching remotely as well in the various hybrid programs. Essential workers. First responders. Hospital personnel.

Here is a general definition of capacity-building. It is where we are.

Capacity-building is defined as the “process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” An essential ingredient in capacity-building is transformation that is generated and sustained over time from within; transformation of this kind goes beyond performing tasks to changing mindsets and attitudes. – United Nations Academic Impact

Remember when we first started experiencing COVID (at least in the news)? We had big plans for the physical distancing and working remotely and the time we would recoup in that experience. We would take a college course, learn a new language, renovate the house, or declutter our lives.

Then we were surprised at the sluggishness that we encountered. The dullness. The quiet that gradually turned into isolation.

We mentally prepared for a sprint, but the rules changed. We had to change how we ran to set our minds and bodies for a longer run.

Science journalist Tara Haelle recently posted an excellent piece on human surge capacity. “We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.”

[Her article is one of a collection of three articles at Medium.com on capacity, power surge, zoom fatigue, and workplace diversity and inclusion.]

Haelle writes in detail on our surge capacity and how we can endure and actually build capacity for this season of prolonged uncertainty. Her main points follow (read her piece for greater detail).

  • Accept that life is different right now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognize the different aspects of grief
  • Experiment with “both-and” thinking
  • Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you
  • Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
  • Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

We don’t want to fall victim to what seemed like it would be a sprint but has turned into a marathon. Organizational psychologist and professor Adam Grant tweeted wisdom about the problem of becoming sluggish or judging that in others. [I do disagree that we’re all socially awkward now…just pointing to his Tweet.]

Photo Credit: Twitter, Adam M. Grant

Moving into the 7th month of COVID experience, we are making decisions on how to better maneuver. Still committed to safe practices but re-engaging in life with people we love…people whose influence and very presence we have missed in these physically distanced days.

Life is precious. There is a balance in what is real and how we can build capacity to meet that reality. Otherwise life becomes something less. We know what’s working and what’s not. If not, we can counsel with each other. I say we go for it…stretching ourselves out for the long distance run, bringing all those we can along with us.

Forgive the “motivational speechiness” – it’s what happens when I think too long on something and yet lack the answers. Recognition, desire and hope all together birth action…so let’s get after it!

Please post in Comments what is working in your life to build capacity. See you on the road.

[Postscript: The image below is one sort of those “both-and” situations Haelle prescribes. We as parents teach our children had to be resourceful and responsible in hard times, and we also teach them how they might make the world a kinder place for us all.]Photo Credit: The Purposeful Parenting Movement, Facebook

I’m Listening – Talk Has the Power to Save Lives – Radio Show

5 Friday Faves – ‘Interstellar’ on Guitar, Healing After Trauma, Benefactors in Education, Hope for Human Trafficking, and the ‘American Idol’ Finale

It’s the weekend! Here are my five favorite finds of the week plus a big list of bonuses (since I didn’t post my faves last week). Enjoy!

1) ‘Interstellar’ on Guitar – Get ready for Nathan‘s arrangement and performance of Hans Zimmer composer ‘s brilliant theme for the film Interstellar.

The Story of How Hans Zimmer Wrote the “Interstellar’ Theme Will Give You Chills – Gus Lubin

Beyond the Guitar YouTube Channel

2) Healing After Trauma – A favorite author of mine, Karen Swallow Prior, got hit by a bus one year ago this week. It is not the sort of thing you rise up from – especially in the way she has, back to teaching, writing, and running. Nigh unto a miracle! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

She writes about the trauma she experienced in the article Role of the Body in Healing After Trauma.

“I confess that before experiencing this trauma, I thought that emotional (as well as spiritual) healing consisted primarily in thinking the right things and believing the right things. I didn’t understand the role the body plays. Yet, the original meaning of the word “emotion” is “a physical disturbance.” Emotions originate in the body, not the mind.”

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explains in The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, “traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies.” Because trauma is an embodied experience, the book shows, those who have suffered trauma must pay attention to the sensations of their bodies in order to recover:

Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them.

For healing from trauma to take place, Van der Kolk says, “the body needs to learn that the danger has passed”.” – Karen Swallow Prior

I am thankful that Dr. Prior has recovered so well from the terrible accident she experienced. The healing she is experiencing after that trauma clearly goes so much deeper than just her body returning to its [new] normal.

Role of the Body in Healing After TraumaKaren Swallow Prior

A New Normal: 10 Things I’ve Learned About Trauma – Catherine Woodiwiss

3) Benefactors in Education – We have all benefited from others all across our education. Benefactors – people who went above and beyond. I have teachers from as far back as first grade whose names are still with me. Teachers who instilled curiosity and wonder. Others, including our parents, who invested in us, both in our learning and our mastery of the stuff of life. Through this week, I discovered 3 small news events/articles that I wanted to pass on – three very different benefactors but heroes all:

Billionaire investor Robert F. SmithMorehouse Commencement Speaker to Pay Off Class of 2019’s Student Loans – Bo Emerson

Photo Credit: KUT NPR Radio

The folks at Libraries Without BordersBringing Literacy to Laundromats with Libraries Without Borders – Kim Doleatto

Parents and parent-surrogates who emotionally engage with their kids (young and old) – New Study: The More You Hug Your Kids, The More Their Brains Will Grow

Are there benefactors in your education? Please give them a shout-out in the Comments.

4) Hope for Human Trafficking – [This is about sexual trafficking, in particular.] This past week I got to watch the film Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. It is a documentary on the global sex trade and it will shock you at the scope and complexity of this terrible problem.

We must be willing to look at this pervasive problem, and we must have hope. The kind of hope driven by awareness and action.Photo Credit: Abolitionion

  • Read all you can through the International Justice Mission.
  • Volunteer with and/or support a local justice agency. Ours is Richmond Justice Initiative.
  • Seek training through one of these agencies.
  • Investigate what your local law enforcement agencies are doing to combat sex trafficking. Determine what the laws are in your state.
  • Finally, be vigilant in watching for those around you who may be victims of sex trafficking, or targets of sex traffickers. I have the National Human Trafficking Hotline in my phone contacts. It is 888-373-7888.

I have the hotline number in my phone because one day I was shopping in a large thrift store, and caught a strange exchange between a very young mom and a middle-aged man. We were all in the children’s clothing section of the store. He was making small talk with her and clearly (by the content of their conversation) had not known her before that interaction. He asked her too-familiar questions, and she talked freely, revealing intimate details about her life situation.To this stranger. They ended up leaving the store at the same time, if not together. It was hard to tell. I actually followed them out, but when I got outside they were gone. That fast. Maybe it was nothing…but that was the day I put the hotline number in my phone…and I still remember that young mom and pray for her when I do. Now, she may be just fine, raising her baby in the circle of a loving family. I hope so.

This problem is so wrong, the world over. We must do what we can.

YouTube Video – Sex Trafficking Survivor Tells Her Harrowing Story – Megyn Kelly Today

I Am Jane Doe Film

[After such a serious subject, I almost feel weird to end with such a light one…but I don’t think it will make you forget the problem above.

5) The ‘American Idol’ Finale – I’m not so much into reality shows, but this particular show has captured a bit of my heart. No way to know what happens behind the scenes of this production, but the young people who compete to become this year’s American Idol are stellar! Out of hundreds came a Top 20 who all have incredible voices, personality, and style.Photo Credit: American Idol, ABC

Week by week, contestants were let go, first by the judges, and then by a vote of American fans. In the end, three incredibly talented and lovable finalists remained: Madison Vandenburg, Alejandro Aranda, and Laine Hardy. All three of these young people will have music careers ahead of them. Incredibly talented. The winner this season? Louisiana country singer Laine Hardy – watch the video below for the exciting reveal and Hardy performing his debut single.

That’s it for me this week. Any favorite finds you’d like to share with us? Please do in Comments below. Blessings!

Bonuses:

C. S. Lewis: Beware the Temptation of the ‘Inner Ring’ – Art Lindsley

Tim Conway died this week. A man who made us all laugh.

People living with ALS share their data in extraordinary effort to end the devastating disease

How we respond to one grieving…what do we say? Video below with Kelly Corrigan (author of Tell Me More)

45 hilarious times Americans didn’t get how things work in Britain

It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain – Maria Godoy

The season of produce stands (this one is in the family):Photo Credit: Carol Wink, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Confronting and Overcoming Disappointment

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Disappointment is a common experience for all of us. We can’t have expectations low enough to avoid it. Patterns, in dealing with disappointment, begin in early childhood. We have both experiences of either disappointing someone or being disappointed ourselves, and we lock in on a way to prevent or minimize it in the future.

With our children, I remember an occasion with each when disappointment stormed in hard. Our quiet oldest and only daughter had disappointments to overcome of too many hellos and goodbyes in our overseas life. However, the disappointment that comes to mind was a high school birthday party when I pretty much ruined it by including someone who could go all “mean girl” when she deemed it advantageous. She came to the party, and it happened. I was wrong to include her and our daughter suffered from my decision.

Our older son’s 8th grade disappointment was not getting on his school’s soccer team. At the time, he loved soccer and this was a unique opportunity that should have yielded success for him. It didn’t and he was devastated. Sitting by him, while he cried the most heart-broken tears in his pillow, I was so angry and sad…trying to figure out what to say…feeling like such a failure and having hate-filled thoughts for that coach who so flippantly capped his team, leaving just two students without a place on it. You hear the emotion still with me at my son’s disappointment so many years ago?!

Our youngest, who is adopted, has probably had the most adjustments through his life, of all three of the kids. He has weathered them well, for the most part, or as far as we can tell. There was a time when he was very small that he suffered some sort of disappointment. I can’t even remember what it was, but I will never forget his anguish. At one point, through his tears, he cried out, “I miss my mommy”.

Now, he had never known his birth mother. It’s possible he was missing his foster mother who cared for him until he was 14 months old. Even that seemed doubtful…that he would remember her at that point. The missing, I believe, came from a deep place of longing…an expectation that some mommy…some mommy he no longer had could have kept him from the pain he was having at that moment.

I missed that mommy, too. Metaphorically speaking.

Photo Credit: AF.mil

Disappointment happens when our desires get thwarted. These desires can be very temporal and superficial or they can be deep full-on longings. When we disappoint ourselves or others, we want to hide. That’s when sadness or anger roll in which takes our response to disappointment to a darker place.

Overcoming disappointment begins when we recognize how common a human experience it is. Those of us who struggle with disappointment do not have targets on our backs. Even those who seem never to show disappointment, it just speaks to their own deceptively well-developed pattern of communicating or not communicating it.

My mom was our sole provider in the early years of our childhood. She was my hero and I never wanted to add to her stress. The goal was to be good. Full-stop. My little-girl “being good” could not take away all the difficulty of Mom’s life. The sitting by her, as a little girl, when she was crying over some disappointment, very naturally carried over into my own mothering of our children.

If I could be good (enough) maybe I could fend off the disappointment of those I loved…it does not always work out that way.

Once we reckon with our knee-jerk responses to disappointment, when our desires or goals in life get blocked, then we can moderate those responses. Again, that doesn’t mean we drop our expectations or hopes as low as possible. Nor does it mean we try to control every possible outcome. Or create a hard shell to protect ourselves.

Overcoming disappointment is to “check our hearts” regarding the cause of the disappointment and “set our minds” to put it into perspective. In that, we determine ways to deal with the loss or failure such that we can diminish the amount of time we spend sad and hopeless. We can reason together with others in the equation (family, friends, coworkers), but this is ultimately a private process through which we will wrestle on our own. We need to be patient with ourselves and with  others near us dealing with disappointment. It will not become our permanent address. Disappointment is best written with pencil to move forward.

I came to grips with the fact that my “being good” didn’t solve all my mom’s troubles, and that had to be ok. It was a worthy goal and cost me little really not to add to Mom’s load. When I got to that place, her disappointments were not because I wasn’t “good enough”, and her quick emotional recovery didn’t have to be an outcome of my coming close and showing care. It was simply a loving thing to do. We both grew together in responding to and overcoming disappointment.

As for my kiddos. Our daughter notes “mean girl” behavior but doesn’t let it define her or steal her joy; she is also aware that she could fall into the same patterns and has put accountability safeguards in her life to avoid that. Our older son played soccer for a county youth league and learned a lot about just having fun with other kids who didn’t make the school team. We have watched him mature so much, using his disappointments to fuel change and resilience. Our youngest has leaned into the “mommy” he has, and the life he has now. He, too, has learned to roll with his disappointments and to re-calibrate when things don’t go as he hoped.

Disappointment is a mean experience. However, if we can identify the deeper why (that longing or desire) that ignites disappointment, we can put out its fire. The fire that prompts us to loathe ourselves and our failings or moves us to punish or distance ourselves from those who disappoint. The fire is just best put out.

Life has so much more joy and meaning for us than our sinking down into the sackcloth and ashes of disappointment. It is possible to not even be aware of disappointment because some of us have put such controls into our lives so as NOT to feel it or ever be the cause of it for someone else. If this is you, consider what you are missing in the busyness of all the work of managing and deflecting disappointment. Join the rest of us, and let’s learn together how to overcome it and how to comfort others going through it.

[Below are helpful links – two are devotional; two are clinical; and the last is a list of to-do’s. Blessings.]

Worship Wednesday – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist – Deb Mills Writer

Disappointment with God – the Root of Our Frustration – Dodie Smith

Expectation, Disappointment, and Sadness – Mary Lamia Ph.D.

Dealing with Disappointment – Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

11 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Overcome Disappointment – Laurie Sue Brockway