Monthly Archives: April 2013

We never know the backstory

Public encounters with strangers or people we don’t know well can be fraught with misunderstanding and judgments. The reality is that each person in any encounter comes to that moment with a story, a history – it may be full of pain and suffering. We just don’t know.

My friend’s facebook status caught my eye and it pierced my heart. She had been to our local grocery store. Sometimes she walks with a cane – the rheumatoid arthritis pain is just too much to bear. A stranger yelled to her “why are you using a cane – you are too young for that”. It stung. She had been judged right there in the produce aisle.

Going to the library is one of life’s greatest joys for this bibliophile mom and her two daughters. It was a beautiful sunny day. The girls bounded from the car with excitement. My youngest tossed back over her shoulder, “Mom can you grab my bag?”. That’s how we cart out the big stacks of books that we mine from the shelves. I picked up the bag and the stranger said, “NOOOOOOO, she needs to learn to do things herself.” In the past that would have stung and my defensive self would have at least thought – “do you have any idea how hard I have worked to get this child to trust and attach to me. What is the big flipping deal about getting that bag for her?” Thankfully on that day I said, “Is that your perspective? I disagree, this time.” We are working on independence, but it is a careful dance. I was at peace with my choice to help on that day.


Victoria is a beautiful 3rd grade girl. Being a reading buddy group leader with 6 children in her class is one of my life’s greatest joys. Before the experience of raising children with trauma, I would have had some very strong thoughts and opinions on the fountain of lies that bubbled from this child’s mouth and heart. Knowing what I know now, my response was, “I wonder what kind of trauma is going on in her home?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that mid-year Victoria told me one of the only reliable things she ever spoke to me – her grandmother had come down from Chicago and soon the two of them were leaving together and heading north. Leaving her mom, who despite what was happening, she loved and idolized. Settling in with Grandma in a cold and distant place. She hoped to be back by 4th grade. I doubt that is how this story will unfold.

The lesson for me is to offer grace and mercy to those that cross my path. I wonder what led that lady to yell hurtful words to my friend in the grocery store? She certainly wasn’t mindful of the backstories of others. And the library lady. What pain led her to interject herself into my family on that day? And precious Victoria – I bet my heart would break over the details of her backstory. We just never know.

PS I am working to create two different blogs – one will be primarily about parenting things and the other on my journey as a recovering legalist. I will keep you posted.

One day post Boston bomb

DSC_0009It is always tricky and confusing for me to get on facebook after a national or international disaster. The Newtown school shootings and now the bombings at the Boston Marathon are happenings that slow or stop the heart of most in the USA as well as a high level of international attention all at once. Big feelings and grief are expressed on some level. During events like this that don’t lend themselves to facebook status updates there is a tension and challenge in my mind and heart. Is there an appropriate mourning period before I say something humorous or cute? Or is it best to just go right on with life and somewhat mindless facebook statuses?

Our most emotionally expressive son texted me these words at 3:34pm yesterday: “You watching this? Oh my goodness….” My soul did not know what had happened, but I knew something that would be on the national stage had indeed happened. Our girls were just coming home from school so turning on the tv was not an option. I texted back and as my son described the news with minimal words, I got a vivid mental picture. We have been here before.

My first thoughts jumped around a bit but included: 1) Prayers sent up for any injured or dead and all the people who love them. 2) A compassion for the terror of those in the vicinity and a realization that their lives are changed forever. PTSD will have spread its’ grip a little further on this day. 3) We here in the USA are certainly entering the pain and suffering of the world on a more regular basis. In war torn or poverty stricken countries, the regularity of such atrocities is common. Our long time perceived shielding from such suffering wasn’t good for our souls, but these experiences certainly are sad and devastating. 4) Where is my dear friend Margie and her family – they are supposed to be in Raleigh. I hope she got here. I bet she is reeling right now. 5) Kyle and Lauren – a sweet young couple and good friends of our oldest son – are they ok? Are their friends ok? 6). My friend who is to arrive in 30 minutes with her sweet daughter. She is so grief stricken by the recent loss of her almost full term baby – should I mention this when she shows up at my door? My answer was no, but she already knew when she got here. 7) This is really going to sink deeply into the hearts of our friends Hope and Chris who are both running enthusiasts. This will be extra painful for them.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. Romans 12:21

So my response on this day to this tragedy was:

1) Get up, get our girls ready for school. Request an extra long hug from each and receive it with gratitude. Shop for healthy food and cook it for myself and my family.

2) Go by Target to check out the flower girl shoes possibilities – our nephew is marrying in 46 days. Be overjoyed when I found a long sought after pair of white biking shorts in the size of my daughters. You see, in our family, a flower girl must be able to turn a cartwheel – it is a necessity and they are too old to have their underwear show when they do it.

3) Be excited that at the 2nd Target store, there was a 2nd pair of white bike shorts size M. At our house, two things that meet a real desire make for a lot more peace than one thing that is desired by two girls.

4) Call my mother in law and sister in law. They are highly involved in the care of their sister/aunt who is awaiting news of a possible cancer recurrence. The last several months have been grueling for this beloved aunt and those who love her and care for her.

5) Look at the wedding registry of my precious nephew and his fiancé. Notice that the luggage that they are hoping for hasn’t been purchased. Ask if this is still desired and get a response that they would be thrilled to use this for their upcoming honeymoon.

6) Take a nap, because the emotional strain of the past several days was catching up to me. Be very grateful for a bed and pillow and a beautiful home.

7) Turn on NPR, be reminded that this marathon is an international affair and listen to the perspectives of people who have lived in Israel, Spain and Russia. Take to heart that these people are very familiar with terrorism and they live each day with more purpose and joy and hope in the midst of such places.

8) Recall to mind two special law enforcement agents that I have watched grow up and marry. Pray for all first responders and ask God to grant them strength, love and perseverance in their work.

9) Hope that investigators will be deliberate and careful and not repeat the ruining of a man’s life, Richard Jewell, like after the Atlanta Olympics bombing.

It is now 4:30 and time to do homework, play and then get dinner onto the table. We look forward to welcoming husband/Daddy home from an overnight trip. This was my response.

Two faces of shame

Update on last blog, The soccer coach. Saturday, this well coached team won their first game. It was a genuine celebration mixed in with a message that “winning is not all important”. Experiencing this very first soccer win with our daughter was a precious gift.

Now, onto Two faces of shame:

“A fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret” so says as the #4 definition for shame. This 5 letter word is a secret, hidden fire that burns deep within many a heart. It is often hidden under layers and layers of pain, coping mechanisms, and it silently and stealthily robs our joy and rightful place as beloved children of God. Its’ greatest ally is secrecy. It is most potently defeated by vulnerably sharing our shame dwelling stories with fellow life journeyers we know to be utterly trustworthy.

I personally know a thing or two about this silent thief. As a child, the dominant message I heard in church was one of right and wrong, with a heavy dose of instruction on how to behave in a way to avoid the flames of hell. This message seared my tender heart and contributed to making me a person full of fear and unacquainted with true grace – as the shame definition says, I lived in a state of dis-grace. I am grateful that this has not led me to reject God and faith, but I understand those who go down that road. Gratefully, through time spent in valleys of pain mixed with the hard work of climbing mountains of healing, I am getting to know a gentler Christianity that calls deeply to my hungry soul. The path to here has had many twists and turns and unexpected stops. Grace filled Bible teachers, life giving authors and books, a husband and true friends willing to share and receive deep hurt and vulnerability, psychotherapy, yoga practice, times of soul filling silence with fellow journeyers, time spent in God’s beautiful creation, forgiveness of myself and others and being thrown into a sink or swim situation in the world of therapeutic parenting: these are high on the list of places where God has shown up and been healer.

November 10 081

Recently I spent several hours with a beautiful friend of 15+ years. Due to earthquake type circumstances in each of our lives, we don’t get to see each other very often these days. I am not a big fan of the term, “divine appointment”, but I can’t deny that this particular morning was a holy ground time. I unexpectedly showed up at her door with the intent to just drop off a birthday gift and quickly head home to a mountain of tasks waiting for me. The doorbell woke her from sleep yet she graciously invited me into her cozy, well-loved home. This friend has traveled a rough road. Chronic physical pain, a rip your heart out divorce, judgment from a pharisaical crowd, life as a single mom – just to name a few of the recent twists and turns in her life. She has a magnetic personality and is beautiful through and through – in both the internal and external ways. In our heart to heart conversation, her words shed light on the person I used to project to the world and words of grace were imparted about who I am now becoming. She doesn’t know a lot of specifics about my last 8 year journey, but she has a heart that KNOWS others. We were real and vulnerable as we caught each other up on our lives, challenges and joys.

As we were laying open our lives before one another, I sensed and spoke that there seemed to be something deep down in her soul that did not believe she is a beloved and precious child of God. She took a deep breath, the tears began to flow and then she told me the story of having an abortion when she was in college. She is the second close friend to recently share this same story – the incredible pain and suffering in their words and on their faces wrecked me. The deepest source of the pain seems to be in the shame of having such a dark secret with no one to walk alongside and bear the burden. This hidden wound has built up shame, and the kinds of churches that both of these friends are acquainted with are not places to receive grace on this matter. God forgive us and make us your grace bearers.

As I look inward to the shame bearers in my life, they too have festered in the dark, hidden places of life and flow from a place of doubt in my rightful place as beloved by God. But my “go to” armor looks different than that of my precious friends who have felt less than and not good enough as a result of their secrets. Same shame, different response. My shame shield has been much more about building up a wall of pride, arrogance, and self righteousness while trying to make myself and others fit into a legalistic system. I was a Pharisee looking down on things from the moral high ground. The list of boxes I have tried out is long – theological correctness, political affiliation, correct behavior in living, dietary habits, economic systems – you get the point. If I could set up a system where I am “in” and “right”, then anything outside of my box could be viewed as wrong and other. This led to a glittering but false image that I projected to the world. My heart was full of judgment toward others. I lived in a shameful place of great frustration as my inside longings and outside life didn’t match. God forgive me and grant grace to and through me.

As I get more comfortable with the gray of life and the mystery of God, I don’t feel pressure to have all the answers. Healing as well as a joyful pursuit of true abundant life flourishes. My desire is to be a person that can receive with grace and mercy the dark secrets of others, walk alongside without judgment or trying to save or fix , and points them to God as ultimate healer. I want to be a journeyer who can share my own shame and secrets with trustworthy fellow sojourners, embracing Jesus’ words, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. I want to live life to the fullest.

Two books that I highly recommend on the matter of shame and the power of vulnerability to overcome it are: 1) Daring Greatly by Brene Brown if you are interested in compassionately communicated research on the topic. She also has a tender you tube video on same topic and 2) Carry On, Warrior ; Thoughts on Life Unarmed by the wildly popular blogger Glennon Doyle Melton if you want a whole hearted, passionate page turner about a life lived in this manner.

We must first be honest with ourselves, God and then with others to get intimately acquainted with the shame that resides within. It takes courage. It will hurt. I leave you with a wish based on Glennon Melton’s writing: Life lived together is brutiful – a mixture of brutal and beautiful. Let’s walk side by side along this brutiful journey. When we do, the power of shame will be destroyed.

The soccer coach


There was something palpably different about her the first minute I was around her.  Her introductory email with the tagline of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness” was a clue.  The first several soccer practices had been cancelled due to weather, but she wanted to meet her 8 and 9 year old girls before coaching them in their first game.  We huddled up around her.  My daughter, who has heightened stress at the beginnings of new things – school years, athletic teams, vacations – made an immediate connection with her.  My own internal worry was eased.  Deep in my heart I knew this was going to be a good thing.

Just last season, this same daughter played organized soccer for the very first time.  The coach was a kind and compassionate man, but the dynamic between he and his own daughter spilled out onto the rest of the team.  Children who have lived through trauma are often hyper vigilant and have an internal radar device that detects even the slightest stress of others.  That first practice, it became evident to all that this dad had some big dreams for his daughter, they were being frustrated and no one was the better for it.  While my 8 year old could not put this into words, her sensitive spirit knew it nonetheless.

As the mom of five children, many coaches have come and gone, playing a role and impacting our children through many years.  Some of them have made lasting positive impressions on our children; most were a mix of positives and negatives.  The few that stand out as less than ideal had one thing in common.  They were parents who seemed to be trying to live their own dreams and expectations through their children – a very real danger and temptation for every parent.

The last “mom coach” that our family experienced was when our eldest son was in the 5th grade.  She was a lovely, kind person off of the field.  But coming from a soccer family and having her own, possibly unrealistic, dreams for her child led to a screaming, almost fanatical sideline display during each game.  One wise dad turned to me during a game and said, “someone needs to videotape this and show her what she looks like”.  I imagine she had no idea.   Sensitive male spirits were damaged. Another story is a “dad coach” of our youngest son during his middle school basketball playing years.   This coach seemed blind to most of the other boys’ talents, contributions and sensitivities because of a focus on the hope and dream of having a son who could take it to the next level.  Playing times and offensive roles were skewed, and winning became all-important.  Yes, his son does currently play for a top NCAA team, but I am pretty sure that this would have happened even if his son had more fully shared “the limelight” during the middle school years.  We parents can get so far off track trying to live through our children or setting up dreams of our own on their behalf.  I know I have been guilty of this.

So, what was so different about this particular soccer coach?  She had introduced herself by email and now in person.  She clearly loved the game and had played in college. Confidently with just the right amount of pride, she talked about her three children – the oldest a member of the team.  Genuine connection with each 3rd grade girl in the little huddle was made – each team member was addressed, heard and made to feel important.  All girls are respected and given the chance to play all positions – her daughter included -but not favored or pressured in any way.  The girls are learning to be better soccer players with each and every practice and game.  Encouragement is valued ahead of winning.   Being a new team amongst established teams has led to 0 wins but it feels like the hard work and excellent coaching will soon pay off for those with a competitive spirit. When and if the win does happen, we will all rejoice together.  Life lessons are being learned.

I did not get a critical piece of the answer to this question until the 6th game of the season.  It was “silent Saturday” when all parents were asked to be quiet during the game (another great learning experience!).  This silence led me to be more attentive to the world around me.  I noticed a beautiful little girl playing close to me.  She had been born with Down’s syndrome, and her joy for life was captivating.  At the end of the game, she ran up to her mom – our mom coach – and gave her a big hug.  Aha.  This coach/mom/human being knows much about life partly because of the gift of her daughter, a journey that I imagine has been both a grief and a gift.  I certainly am grateful that our daughter -who just this morning happily bounded out of bed, threw on her soccer practice uniform and gathered her gear anticipating practice after a 2 week hiatus – has crossed paths with this woman.  She is making a big difference in the world.

Facebook and smart phone update:  I hope that as I write, you feel my sincere belief that I am a fellow journeyer and struggler in this life.  I recently smiled when a friend told me she was “afraid” to “like” a facebook post of mine after reading “on a like strike”.  My strike is over – I still try to be mindful and use it infrequently, but the like button I have pushed.

And on the smart phone addiction battle:  I removed facebook from my phone.  Email is still there, for now.  We’ll see how compulsive I get about it.  I check facebook once or twice a day from the desk top computer.  When I get into the car, I tried throwing the phone into the glove compartment – it was a hassle to get it out of there.  I have a little “garage” area at the front of our van – I throw it in there and close the door.  I still mentally go to grab it at stop lights, but haven’t so far.  I make and take occasional phone calls while driving.  Next step if the old habits creep back in – put it in the trunk area.  Thanks for journeying with me!

Facebook, smart phones and a Lenten lesson


“The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity” – so says the dictionary on the topic of addiction. In recent months, I began to notice some life patterns that were beginning to feel an awful lot like unhealthy dependency. They weren’t the kind that require a daily meeting, but nonetheless were working a level of distraction and destruction in my life.

I grew up Baptist. Lent and the practice of “giving up something” were foreign to me until more recent years. After a short stint in the Anglican church and a settling into a Methodist community, Lent more fully entered into my consciousness. This year, I threw about 4 ideas up against the Lenten wall, and one in particular stuck. The commitment was to check Facebook only once a day – down from a level that on some days felt utterly compulsive. Lessons abounded during the 40 days. Here are just a few:

  • Owning an iPhone is dangerous for me. There are apps that make life highly convenient – google maps, yelp, to do lists, npr podcasts and an ever available camera sometimes enrich life. Facebook and email access on same device are a huge distraction and can easily tip over into compulsion.
  • Facebook has a connecting role in life, but checking it once a day is sufficient. During Lent, I had a genuine, heartfelt interaction with a college friend that I haven’t seen in 25+ years. I learned that her husband had died after battling ALS. Sincere condolences were offered, her amazing faith and spirit were shared – all on facebook chat. Really.
  • Limiting my facebook access leads to a significant increase of peace and presence in daily living. Less time is wasted on facebook bunny trails and black holes
  • I can feel like the “late to the party” girl when interacting, but 24 hours after a post is not too late to join in a conversation. My true friends are willing to engage at a slower pace.
  • Email access on the smart phone is the next frontier. If I start slipping into old patterns, there are options. I can take facebook and mail off of my phone – then there is no temptation to check anything, except an incoming text, while I am driving. Or if I really can’t get a grip, the flip phone is still an option. Putting the phone into the glove compartment or the trunk when I get into the car has a lot of value.
  • I have two sets of eyes watching me regularly interact with my phone in the car. If I want to teach them about the dangers of texting and driving, I’d better stop picking up that phone while in the car.
  • In a discussion with one of our two 20 something smart phoneless sons, he expressed a deep sadness over the fact that as he rides public transportation, 80% of the people have their heads bowed – not in prayer or meditation, but bowing over their smart phones. That is deeply tragic on so many levels. We are missing the incredible gift of conversation with strangers on a bus, or in a line or in our families. We need to lift up our heads and be with the people around us.
  • During this “facebook fast”, my creativity and ability to be present increased exponentially. I have blog post ideas galore and I have enjoyed my husband and children more fully.

So overall, the lesson was that if I don’t thoughtfully manage this piece of technology, it is going to control my behavior on some level. Do I really want a rectangular computer that fits into my pocket or purse running my life? My Lenten answer is “no”. Check in with me in a few months and ask me how I’m doing. I am going to need some accountability and support.