My first clue that something happened was a facebook status that said “praying for Oklahoma”. My heart and mind jumped to natural and man-made disasters – which would it be this time? I quickly popped over to my favorite online news source and there it was. Devastating tornadoes that had wreaked havoc and changed families, schools and communities forever. Unlike the recent tragedies at Sandy Hooks Elementary School and the Boston marathon, this one fell under the category of “act of God” and not of man.
I’ve been a mom for 25 plus years. Yet when these kinds of things happen, I still wonder and ponder, “what and how much do I tell my children?” We are well past the “just protect them from the bad news” phase of life. Honestly, that was too much of my modus operandi as a younger, less mature mom. I didn’t – and still don’t, by the way – know how to fully process and deal with these kinds of things, so how in the world can I help my children do so? Regularly these days, our ten year old daughter picks up the newspaper, sees a compelling picture and asks, “what is this about?” There are things going on in this world that I’d rather not discuss with a ten year old. But sometimes I don’t have much of a choice.
All children have very active imaginations and come in and out of developmental stages of fear. At some point, they all realize that this life and place that we live is not entirely safe. People die, including parents, bad things happen and life is just like that. Children who have lived through trauma have a heightened sense of anxiety around such losses and the grief side of life. They have anecdotal evidence in their very own lives that bad things do happen. And when the event in question is deemed “an act of God”, simple, pithy religious answers won’t cut it.
So as much as I’d like to reassure and promise my children that this kind of thing would never happen to our family, such a response would be delusional and dishonest. Truth is that shortly before we moved into our current home 21 plus years ago, a tornado flattened the Walmart less than a mile away. We are not immune from the suffering and sadness of this world.
With my kids, I am moving from being reactive in the face of disaster to being more pre-emptive in dealing with the difficult side of life. As parents, it is our job to address, in age appropriate ways, the sorrowful and difficult side of life with our children. That doesn’t mean that we share with them every awful and horrendous thing going on in our world. And sometimes they will catch wind of things before we are able to proactively talk to them. Then we do our best to receive their questions and thoughts and help them through the uncertainties.
This morning, I decided to be the one to tell our girls about the Oklahoma tornadoes (chances are very high that they would hear of it in school today) and then answer their questions from there. They weren’t easy questions and I struggled internally with answers. The truth is I don’t have any “wrap it up in a bow” kind of explanations for this kind of thing. After a short exchange, I told the girls that I’d like to pray out loud as we drove to school. After the warning by our rational thinker child to please not close my eyes while praying, I said something to the effect of , “Dear God, please be with the people in Oklahoma who have lost family, friends and homes. Please send people and resources to help them in this time of great loss and grief. If there is any way that you desire for us to respond, please show us how. Amen.”
As I drove back home after dropping them at school and heard a brief news report on the Oklahoma devastation, I shed tears. Just sorrowful tears – not mixed with anger and confusion like when the tragedies are man made, though I certainly would get any “mad at God” tears others may have. When I returned home, I picked up the newspaper, and skimmed through it as usual. Because of the graphic picture on the front page – see below – I did decide to recycle it right away so that our girls would not see it, at least not on their kitchen table. We don’t watch tv news in our home. God of mystery, whose ways are not my ways, I hope that as a mom, I was faithful on this day. Amen.
She and her sour look are almost always there when I enter the store. I wonder what has or is going on in the life of someone who presents such hardness and grouchiness toward customers. Once when she was “rude” to me, we got into an exchange of words. This was complicated by the fact that my then 5 year old was observing everything that I said and did. Yes, I felt somewhat justified and better in the moment when I let some words fly, but a sinking feeling was close behind as I then had to explain things to my daughter. Owning my own role in a heated exchange and then returning to apologize for my part in the fray happened next.
In Conscious Discipline, Becky Bailey teaches about a concept called, “positive intent” or seeing the best in others. Theoretically, this makes sense to many of us, but in practical everyday living and parenting, it can be downright difficult to practice. Rather than approaching our children or anyone else we interact with as “pushing my buttons”, “just trying to irritate me”, or “out to get me”, we can choose to see it differently. As Bailey says, we really don’t have a clue what is going on inside of someone else and what motivates them to behave as they do. So, since we can only guess the motivations and thoughts of others, we might as well make them up in a positive light. Positive intent is approaching others with the conviction and belief that they are just trying to take care of themselves in the best way they know. Sometimes with children, that can look like a raging fit or an icy silence. The ultimate goal is to teach healthy ways of expression, but that takes a lot of repetition, time and energy. We will be more successful with that when we approach our children or any one else in life with the underlying belief of positive intent. Bailey says it like this, “The truth is that we make up motivations. How we choose to make them up effects both the person we attribute the motives to and ourselves. If you make up negative motives you will be guarded, ready for defense or attack. If you make up positive motives, you will be relaxed and calm.”
Definitely easier said than done, but after putting this idea into practice every now and then, I see the truth and wisdom in it. So, the other day when I had an encounter with this same Target clerk, I walked away in a state of calm and peace rather than frustration and embarrassment. I brought three reusable bags up to the register. She chose the smallest of the bags and with great determination and effort, stuffed all of the items into this one bag. I offered another bag at one point, and she actively shook her head and with seeming delight said, “no”, she was going to get them all into the one bag. On some days, that would have irritated me. On that day, I was in a relatively zen kind of place and told myself, “she likes a bagging challenge, she is saving Target a nickel or two, maybe she gets a bonus for this kind of thing, maybe this is what keeps her job interesting for her.” Making it all up for sure, but in a more positive intent light. It was a much nicer walk out to my car on that day. And I didn’t have to go back in and apologize for anything that time.
The well packed bag:
It really was quite a feat to get it all in:
Much planning and preparation went into this big day. A 4th grade field trip to the coast including a cool aquarium, lunch on the beach and exploring a WWII battleship. Our 10 year old daughter is a planner and preparer. Lunches were made, backpacks packed, cooler ready to be filled in the morning. The last thing she said to me as I tucked her in for the night was, “you will wake me up in the morning, right?” “Absolutely”, I replied – “you don’t have to worry about that.”
And in my mind, I set the alarm for 4:45 am. But it was only in my mind. I rolled over at 5:20 am and was jolted out of the bed. I ran to my daughter’s room, quickly confessed my error and she jumped out of bed. If two people have to adapt to this situation, we are fairly equipped. 25 minutes later, we were on our way having showered and with breakfast in tow to be thrown down on the way. We made it. And I am so glad we did.
When our boys were in elementary school, I went on my fair share of field trips, but I didn’t enjoy them the way that I do now. I was more of a PTA leader kind of mom – PTA does some great things, but honestly that was more about doing things that made me feel good than supporting my kids. Juggling three field trip schedules rather than two created a fair amount of field trip stress for me. It is nice to be in a place in life where I look forward to spending my day with a bunch of kids. They truly are amazing people.
Today, I got to sit and look out at this beautiful sight:
I got to take in a beach volleyball game:
The joy of seeing and putting toes into the water was in the air – some experiencing this for the very first time:
I got to ride in one of these and get a kick out of seeing my daughter head for the back of the bus with her buddies – all girls for now:
I had three incredibly creative 10 year olds to lead in an adventure filled exploration of this:
We had great fun in the belly of the ship. We carefully went down steep ladders and steps:
We pushed buttons and checked out all the mechanical features of this massive ship:
And when a little recreation was in order, “butt sliding” and hanging from the rafters were in order:
We are now on our way home, and most of the chaperones are slumped over asleep. A few kids have joined them. I caught my second wind nap between lunch on the beach and the battleship. I met some interesting people. It confirmed my deep belief that teachers are some of the finest human beings on the planet. A couple of times my sweet girl broke away from her friends and slipped her hand into mine. She is now chatting away in the back of the bus. It has been a great day.
Ever since our girls came home in 2004 and 2005, I have wondered, worried, fantasized and dreamed of what it would be like to take them back to their country and culture of birth. Our two adoption trips, two weeks each, gave us a very broad brush experience of this ancient and beautiful people and place. Living in China as citizen and the experience of claiming home in a place where the majority of people look as they do and speak the language expected is just the tip of an iceberg of losses for our girls. This place also represents the place where, no matter how we try to gently present and speak of it, an earthquake sized shift happened in their very young and innocent lives. Their birth parents were not able to parent them – the reasons are still fairly shrouded in mystery, but the outcome is clear. They now live “somewhere between” China and the USA, in a home where they are cherished and adored, even if they don’t always feel so. We all do the best that we can in a story that began with tremendous loss and grief.
That time to return is fast approaching for our family. Bird flu is throwing a slight uncertainty on the trip that we began talking of 8 1/2 years ago and planning in the fall. But it is looking like a go. We have done our best to prepare ourselves and our girls. Sunday afternoons have been spent trying to learn a small fraction of the vast geography, history and culture of this incredible land. We could do this every Sunday for the rest of our lives and never truly be ready. We have opened up to questions and fears – the biggest one is getting separated from us. We have contingency plans in the highly unlikely event that this happens. Because of rising anxiety in our daughters and selves, we have decided that we will pause on the learning and just focus on meeting emotional needs the best we can as the trip speeds toward us.
We have a big laundry basket filled with things to pack – right now they are just thrown in together in a jumble. Long lists have been made, travel arrangements verified and visas received. Packing and concrete travel preparation are the easy parts. Tending to emotional needs is more elusive and doesn’t fit onto my long to do list. Our introverted quieter child has struggled but had no words to express as of late. I have done my best to be attuned to her needs, but that is sometimes quite the challenge for me. It was a huge relief earlier this week when we were able to truly listen and speak to one another during our own unique communication dance. The message was that while she does want to go to the town of her orphanage, she is not ready to go to the actual place of her orphanage – walking through that door is too scary. There are deep heartfelt reasons for this, even if they can’t be communicated with many words right now. We will absolutely honor and respect this. Our other daughter has begged to go back to her orphanage, meet a special nanny and search for her birth parents since she was 4 years old. But the closer the trip gets, the more she seems to wrestle with which pieces for her are adopted child fantasy -reality is becoming slightly clearer. We will support her in every way possible to make the journey back that her heart desires. She has an escape clause up until we walk through those doors. The bottom line for each of them is that they must be the ones to decide how much and when they are ready to go – just this one step closer to the scene of their life earthquake.
As I sit in a favorite local coffee shop to write this down and clear it from the sometimes overwhelming circuit it is running in my head, three beautiful Asian women sit down in the booth right in front of me. I believe they are Korean – my Asian identification skills are weak but improving – and the joy and excitement they are expressing as they chatter away in their native tongue is contagious. Our girls will never be able to do that in their homeland or in their current country. But they do have a similar experience when they get together with other international or trans-racial adoptees. They feel safe, understood and a special connection is evident. They, like many immigrants and people in general, will cobble together a sense of home as they journey on in life. Our homeland trip will be a chance to make ties and to break ties. Each girl will have her own personal experience, as will each of their parents. Our hope is that this upcoming trip back to China will provide a little more peace, a little more identity, a little more vision of “true home” as they continue down the path of making sense of their lives.
It 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.
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 dictionary.com 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.
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 momastery.com 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.
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!
“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.
I have fought against and struggled with the problem of suffering in the world for much of my life. I’ve read books, listened to sermons, and engaged others in conversation on the topic. There are no easy answers to the questions.
Our family moves forward these days with lots of professional assistance. Two critical teachers/life assistants are a family therapist who helps us as parents and my own personal therapist who facilitates my journey to become a healthier wife/mom/daughter/friend/community member/self. About a year ago, close in proximity, each of these important people gently delivered the same message to my ears. I was bemoaning the early relational trauma that our daughters experienced before coming into our family. One responded “oh no, it is the jewel of trauma” and the other said, “trauma formed them”. My immediate reaction was a heart and soul rebellion against this message, yet I have spent about a year letting it simmer inside, trying to wrap my head around it. This Holy week, a series of events have led to a greater surrender and peace with this viewpoint.
You see, I am almost ready to surrender to this idea when it comes to adults. I see the reality of this beautiful jewel formed through suffering in the lives, stories and faces of those I know and read and love. People who have known great loss and surrendered to this brutal teacher offer a perspective, depth and authentic walk through life that is magnetic. They radiate a haunting beauty. We want what they have. Several quotes from a variety of sources have recently fallen before my eyes and capture the jewel of trauma thought:
“It’s unfortunate, and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They’re kinder.” Emma Thompson
“If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion.” Eckhart Tolle
“A deep distress hath humanized my soul.” W. Wordworth
“Living means changing and changing requires that we lose one thing before we gain something else.” Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised
“Whenever the house of cards we’ve so carefully built comes tumbling down (marriage or relationship break-up, loss of job, health, child, financial crisis), God’s spirit that resides within us is able to show us a greater perspective.” Paul D’Arcy
I embrace this perspective almost whole-heartedly.
But my more recent wrestling matches with God have been over the topic of victims of trauma who are children. Occasionally I argue on behalf of my own children, but more often as a response to the children of the world who reside in some of the darkest places imaginable – brothels, abusive homes, homeless on the streets, uncaring orphanages and the list could go on and on. Is this trauma truly a jewel in their lives?
I’m pretty sure that God does not want us to make complete peace with this tension. Going “there” often leads us to more actively and accurately be the hands and feet of God in this world. Despite the ongoing struggle, there is an internal surrender and faith that is increasing on this matter. What is true for adults must be exponentially true for children. Jesus said it this way: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” As I endeavor to make any sense out of this problem of pain and suffering, God’s still small voice whispers, “I understand. My heart is: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Silent Saturday and ultimately Easter morning.”
My personal prayer this week mimics words of Jesus spoken from the cross: “Into your hands, I commit my spirit”. A prayer for myself as well as all those children in this world whose lives and stories overwhelm me: “with open heart and hands, into your hands, I commit their spirits. Show me the holy work you have for me on this day.” Amen.