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The Opposite of Trauma

I work with a lot of trauma. The impact in men and women whose lives and hearts were ripped apart by pain and brokenness. One definition of trauma I use is "being negatively overwhelmed.” There are so many things in this broken world that can simply overwhelm our person- war, abuse, assault, death, abandonment, a diagnosis, an affair…so many things we really weren’t created for.

We were created for The Garden.

Shalom.

Peace with God and each other, everything as it should be. But from the moment sin entered, we began living in a world where sometimes, it’s just too much of what we weren’t made for, and in those moments we experience trauma.

Perhaps because I work with trauma, or maybe we all feel this way, I am drawn to moments that are corrective to the injury of souls. Moments where some kind of healing or repair or blessing shows up and changes the hurting person involved for the better. I love to hear the stories about those moments. And do you know what I find as a common denominator in all of them- connection.

Confess your faults (weaknesses, mistakes, wounds) to one another and pray for each other THAT YOU MAY BE HEALED. -James 5:16

Above all love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

There is a healing power that comes from taking off the mask and sharing honestly what is happening and then being loved deeply in return. Love from others has the power to heal us, just like God’s love is the power that saves us.

Our world celebrates openness while simultaneously creates a ton of obstacles to getting there. We applaud people who have the courage to “speak their truth” but we so often feel alone and isolated. Because connection doesn’t come from proclaiming your ideas on a platform- it comes from sharing your heart with a person. It’s so easy to lose the healing power of connection in a world that is obsessively focused on crafting an image and curating a life. Connection is about being deeply known and deeply loved. I can’t be deeply known unless I allow you to see the real me- with all my mess and strength and sin and victory. And platforms are simply not safe places to do that. If the primary place we try to connect is a dead end avenue, we will always feel alone.

One of the most beautiful things God gave us to get through this life is each other. We have the ability to sit- face to face and talk.

And cry.

And pray.

We can live in connection with people around us in a way that brings life and hope and healing into our lives. We can choose to climb down from our crafted platforms and be regular, fragile people who share the hurts and receive grace and love from each other. It’s one of the most powerful things we can experience- being known and loved- so much so that it has the power to drive out the darkness around us and heal the injuries within us. It takes great courage to seek out deep connection in a world that lives in the shallow waters of screen connections. Yet, when we do what God tells us we were created to do- stop hiding, confess, be vulnerable, open up- then we are able to be “positively overwhelmed” by love.

How to Grow Weeds and Kill a Garden

Much to my dismay, I have always had a black thumb. My mother has a lovely green thumb and grows all things beautiful from flowers to house plants to vegetable gardens. She comes by it naturally- my grandfather also grew everything from prize winning orchids in his greenhouse to unlikely little patches of strawberries he let the grand kids pick when we found ripe ones in the crushed shell “soil” of his yard on Anna Maria Island.

My current yard, while a lovely shade of green, is essentially a sham. It looks nice when freshly cut, but any real yard person call tell- we aren’t growing grass. We’re growing weeds. Mind you, I am fine with it. They grow with no effort on my part and because of the big trees that shade my front yard, getting real grass to grow would be a feat of commitment I am not willing to make. There are limits to what a black thumb gardener will do!

Last week I spent 4 hours doing yard work, which mainly consisted of weeding, trimming and hauling yard trash to the curb. I could barely walk 2 days later because my hamstrings were in complete rebellion, as though I have never used them. (Which is rubbish as I bend over to pick up all manner of belongings that my ADHD family somehow cannot see!) None the less, all the misery from my hamstrings got me thinking- it’s just so much easier to grow weeds than a garden. It is a lot less work to have a wild jungle than a lovely yard. The bottom line- the ugly, untamed mess of life will automatically happen, but if you want a pretty yard or garden or life- you have to do the work.

I often am surprised by the results in my life when I am not paying attention. It seems so innocent to be busy with life’s distractions and forget to read my bible for awhile thinking everything will just hum along with no change. I forget the weeds are coming- bad attitudes, anxious thoughts, envy, laziness and complaining. They all just seem to pop up without warning- but the cause is obvious. My sinful heart left to itself will revert back to its sin nature.

From the curse in Genesis till now, the reality is for life to flourish- we will have to work. And it won’t be easy. Sin has changed the way the world works. My sin changes the way my heart works. And though Jesus has saved my soul, my life here will always be a work in progress. Just like my hamstrings rebel when I have not spent much time gardening, my heart rebels when I have been coasting in relationships and disciplines and then suddenly decide it’s time to put some effort in. The best garden is one where the gardener spends consistent time weekly, and often daily, tending to the plants. So often in my life, I want to be able to simply show up for church on Sunday’s or read my bible once a month and still have a growing fruitful marriage, family and walk with God. But that is a delusion. My life will not grow and thrive with occasional maintenance on my soul.

Mountain tops are quickly replaced by valleys in life- have you noticed? There really is no “coasting” as a person. We are either growing stronger and healthier in Christ or we are devolving into the worst version of ourselves over time. The Bible is full of gardens. God himself planted a beautiful one in Genesis and gave Adam and Eve the job of tending to it. They got a little distracted by a talking snake and their own sinful urges and very quickly fear and doubt set in and suddenly they weren’t trusting God but themselves. Psalm 1 says we will be blessed like a giant healthy tree when we do not live primarily being fed by the world but instead taking in a steady diet of God’s word. It say our lives will be fruitful and strong with deep roots to hold us securely in times of storm or drought.

In the past couple years I have walked through seasons of both storms and of waiting. Both are easy times for my heart to run to sin or distraction to comfort, numb or give me the illusion of control. My life always looks the messiest and feels most out of control when I quit tending to my heart. When I infrequently pray, quit sharing my struggles in community, don’t spend time in God’s word or never allow myself time to be still and rest- the weeds take over. Thankfully Jesus always provides me grace to start over- no matter how messy things have gotten. But the best times happen when I keep digging into God’s word and staying present with him in prayer and stillness and worship: then slowly fruit appears- joy, peace, contentment, humility and love.

Growing weeds is simple- just do nothing and watch them take over. The life that flourishes comes through the discipline and persistence of staying connected to the Father. “I am the vine and you are the branches, if a man remains in me and I in him- he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

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Perfect Family Photo's- and Other Ways to Ruin Christmas

The last year we had photos made for Christmas cards was 2011. We look happy. Casual.Coordinating but not too matchy. You might even think we seem like the kind of family it would be fun to go grab dinner with when our photo shoot ended.......But that day was awful. The younger two children were not in the mood for pictures, neither was the husband. I fussed around all morning at my family and then had hurt feelings and tears by the end of the ordeal. We were cramming family pictures into an already busy weekend in the busiest month of the year. The only reason those photos are were good is the talent of my sweet friend and family photographer, Kelly.

Among the painful lessons I have learned throughout my years of motherhood and wifery, “How to Ruin Christmas” ranks as one of the worst. Probably because it is one of my favorite times of year, I always placed such high expectations on myself to create magical moments while simultaneously feeling joyful, peaceful and delighted. Shockingly, I somehow managed instead to feel disappointed, irritated and stressed. It took me awhile to catch on, but after one too many“family picture fiasco’s” I began to realize my dreams of cozy moments and perfect memories were being thwarted by my pressure to create them.

It turns out you can’t script which moments in life become treasured memories. They do not follow a Pinterest plan. They often elude all the careful planning and coordinating. Rather, they seem to emerge when simply given time and space with minimal expectation. Some of the best times with my kids came when I carved out space for family time, but allowed them to help plan what we filled it with. The very worst times were when I had a rigid picture of not only how an idea would look, but also how everyone would feel in the midst of it. Times when I not only wanted things to look perfect, but everyone to share a specific emotional response, that I had decided ahead of time would fit my mental picture.

The truth is kids are sometimes cranky, whiny, tired and unenthused. People run late, husbands get sick, cocoa spills in the van while light looking, dogs throw up on the Christmas tree skirt, baby Jesus gets dropped out of the manger and breaks an outstretched arm (true story), dinners burn in the oven and children refuse to sing in the kids choir on the night of the performance.

It’s still normal life,even though it’s Christmas.

Do you know what Emmanuel means? God with us. That’s what makes Christmas miraculous.God came down to be with us, in the midst of our normal and often messy lives. You want to know how to really enjoy Christmas? Be with your family. Fully present. Let go of the lists of ideas and projects and just be with them. Celebrate a God who came down to us. Tell them of a Savior who loves them just as they are. And while you’re at it, tell yourself.


ADHD Medication and How it Taught Me To Be Okay with Disagreement

So how do you know the difference between someone disagreeing with you or judging you?

The conversation between a client and I took an interesting turn and I posed that question. There was a time when I wasn’t sure how to do one without the other, nor could I have explained the difference. As my client sat considering the question I began thinking about many life situations God allowed me to experience during the past 15 years or so, and how, as they intersected with scripture, they began to reshape my view of disagreement.

In my younger years disagreement was uncomfortable to me, to put it mildly. Often it felt painful, as I tended to feel a loss of closeness during disagreement if it occurred in relationships I treasured, or if it presented itself in surface relationships I felt defensive as though someone disagreeing with me was a threat to my security. I was nothing if not right and good, and by God, I was willing to fight to prove it. Except, not directly. Directly I was compliant and avoidant, so most of the fighting took place in my mind and attitude of judgement. Looking back, I realize one reason I felt loss of connection is I projected my own sense of judgement onto others when they disagreed with me. I generally divided opinions in three categories:right, wrong or better.The truth is I took most issues and assigned a moral value to them. Made them issues of right and wrong instead of different. I lived in the shoulds.

There are no “shoulds” unless Jesus says it.

Before I ever gave birth to my sweet bookend baby girl, I held many opinions about the evils of over medicated and over diagnosed ADHD in children. These were based mainly on other peoples highly voiced and strongly held opinions. But nevertheless, I truly felt most people had not done right or best if they were giving their kids medication. Then I had my girl. From the time she was three I could see she struggled to focus, and at five could not complete a three step direction. Her room was a constant whirlwind. She could never find anything and was totally overwhelmed by choices, especially if there was a time pressure, like ordering at a drive through.

So, I began to research options and search for help. Through many conversations with family, her teachers, other parents of kids with ADHD and her pediatrician, we finally made a decision based on what we believe is best for her. Through that process I came to see that while there were those whom I disagreed with in their approach, I was not better because of mine. We were just different. There were so many different ways to handle this one issue, and different methods seemed to work better for some kids than others.

In the end, the difference between disagreement and judgement comes down to the presence of humility and the death of pride.

Most issues are not even matters of right and wrong, but apples and oranges. And even when issues are black and white, humility reminds me that if I believe you are wrong based on what God teaches in His word, I am not better than you-simply more clear in that moment of truth. I am just as capable and frequently guilty of believing lies also, and equally in need of gracious and loving friends who can disagree without judging me.


Motherhood Hacks From a Mama Who's Been There

Published Date : March 2, 2014

There are some things that absolutely should come in a manual, handed to you upon leaving the hospital with your newborn. As I was reading a few of my younger mom friend’s questions on facebook tonight, I felt inspired to pass on a few of the ideas, suggestions and divine interventions of wisdom I have been given in my 19 years of mothering.

Jesus + this list= You,making it! (Just kidding- you actually only need Jesus- not this list- but read on for fun!)

1. Never make a happy baby happier. Don’t move their head, offer a toy, pull out the passy. Until they hit verbal skills, crying will be a constant. If you are not hearing wails and whines, for the love of your sanity, leave them be!

2. There is more than one way to cook a chicken. Find your approach as a mom and in your family, and don’t worry about whatever the new parenting fad happens to be. This applies to sleeping patterns, nursing, bottle feeding, immunizations, discipline, TV, diet, education, Santa Clause and all the rest. The main thing is to find a method that works for you and your child!

3. Make peace with daily laundry. Remember when you used to have a laundry day? That ship sailed the day you gave birth. View laundry like doing the dishes and you won’t be so stressed about it.

4. Learn the name of your pediatrician’s nurse. Call her and ask what to try before bringing your child in for an appointment, to avoid contracting every virus in the waiting room. Also, the first morning appointment and first appointment after lunch have the shortest wait times.

5. Bubbles are the best bang for your buck in terms of distractions and diversions. Keep a bottle in the car, for when stuck in traffic or waiting someplace like the car pool line. Keep a bottle in your purse for when the food is taking too long at a restaurant. Keep some at home just for fun.

6. Speaking of diversions, keep a small bag a toys/books/snacks that you only use in a certain, frequently difficult location for your child. That might be restaurants, or church or the grocery store. But the idea is, you have a special little bag that they only get at that time. They look forward to receiving the goodies and it distracts them from being fussy. The Dollar Store is a great place to find those kind of goodies.

7. Once they are big enough to be in the bathtub on their own, let them bathe while you are cooking dinner. Most kids love bath time, especially if they have toys in the tub, and for many it is calming. This can really cut down on the mania while trying to get dinner cooked, plus it makes it easier at bedtime as they are already clean and in jammmies.

8. Rule of thumb for birthday parties: one guest for every year being celebrated.

9. The best family traditions are the ones you grew up with, have significant meaning or created a really special moment. Try lots of new ideas, recipes and projects-but don’t feel pressured to make it a permanent thing unless it really means something to you. Also, remember whatever you establish will double or triple in cost and energy with each new child added to your family.

10. When going through the “power struggle” toddler years, give your child choices, but limit them. Red shirt or green shirt? PBS or Disney Channel? Often the choice of “nothing” is helpful to offer, as in, “You can have the goldfish for snack, or nothing? Which would you like?” This gives your child some control, and I cannot tell you how many times my kids would choose nothing rather than what was offered.

11. Limit your child to one sport per year. This keeps costs lower, schedules more reasonable and allows for everyone in the family to have their time in the spot light.

12. General rule of thumb: if it’s swollen, put ice. If it’s tight, use a heating pad.

13. Do not be “room mom” for your first child in kindergarten. Take at least a year to see what the norm is for a room mom so you don’t kill yourself doing more than you need, or feel like a slacker later.

14.Boundaries with Kids is a wonderful book on parenting. Jesus Storybook Bible is a wonderful children’s bible.

15. Kids should quit bathing with their parent or other sibling by 8, or before if they develop a more modest personality.

16. Professional family photo’s don’t have to be done yearly. Every couple years is plenty.

17. Rule of thumb for clothes shopping: if the child doesn’t like it, we don’t buy it. If the parent doesn’t like it, we don’t buy it. Then everything in the closet has been agreed on by both people. Eliminates a lot of battles later!

18. To avoid the battle on “it’s not fair”, have one child cut the cake in half, the other child chooses their piece first. Also, assign seats at the dinner table and in the car.

19. Make a “no discipline” commitment to driving the kids to school and dinner time. Unless the child is directly disobeying in those moments, deal with discipline issues at other times.

20. Say yes to everything you can, say no to things that are physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous, or cause chaos in the family.