When I was in graduate school I remember sitting in our group therapy course bewildered by my expectation of the class versus the reality of what was being asked of us. You see, humanistic psychology knows we must get in to the depths of ourselves before we could ever lead another in doing the same. It seemed so backwards at the time in my young life. After all, we were all in this room going to school to help people get shit together. Naturally in my young mind it was easy to think we should probably already have ours shits together if you know what I mean?
Nope, doesn't work that way. So there I was expecting to learn about how to manage a group therapy but in fact WE, the students, were IN group therapy.
I sat in the same spot every week, a comfy chair in the corner. Yes! There but only as close as I needed to be. We had about twenty or so of us in the room with the professor. The thought of sharing any piece of myself made me completely nauseous. When it was my turn, each week I would carve out a small piece of my box and share it with the group. The smallest amount possible in order to get through this class. I remember feeling what seemed a million eyes on me wanting me so badly to give more. They inherently knew there was more to me than what the world will see.
The truth is I did not make the most of the experience but I took away with it a deep appreciation for authenticity. And in the midst of it was a group of incredibly diverse people, gathered in a safe forum, able to share nothing less than their truest, most purest selves. It would take me many more years to finally figure it out in myself.
I find myself missing that group enormously these days. There were no words such as tolerate or love anyway.
We created a space where acceptance, diversity, respect and love wasn't simply tolerated. It was embraced, celebrated, honored just exactly as the messes we are.
Sometimes it is the only therapy one needs…a place to just be. This is us, I miss you more than I loved you. ❤️
A sweet angel stopped me in my tracks this week. "Mrs. J, I need you to give me your hand." Before I knew it her little hand was holding mine. She was to be writing a story about real life. A teachers hand with hers. I like to think that space carries on with me and every now and again little blessings like this show me that it does.
I love this, I love this, I love this! I love everything about this and I just wish the rest of the world did too.
Loved By Grace,
If you knew about something that was locked up in a cage, something big and beautiful that was locked away unfairly, for no good reason, and you had the keys to the cage, would you let it go?
Because I want to tell you about a little boy I've come to know at school. You hear about him in my prayers. Eli does not have a healthy home life and although Mom is in the picture, a nurturing person in his young life is seemingly absent. Most days he comes to school in the same clothes as yesterday. He brings canned food for a snack which he can't open on his own and therefore doesn't eat. Our cafeteria feeds him breakfast and lunch during the week so we know he has been fed on school days. Eli's younger sister has a comb and toothbrush her teacher keeps in the classroom because she does not have them at home. The teachers buy Halloween costumes for them to have for our upcoming parties so they will not be left out.
I believe Mom is doing the best she can in the brokenness of life but these children nevertheless experience profound neglect. Outside of school, Eli and his sister are very much on their own.
Eli keeps to himself most of the day and spends much of the time refusing to do his schoolwork. He acts out at the bus stop and often finds himself in quite a bit of trouble. He does not know how to handle his emotions until it comes out of in uncontrollable ways. When he is doing his school work he writes about his remote control car being the most important thing to him…the only thing there for him in his life. His emotional attachment has been modeled off an absence of nurture. Each day it is teaching him the message that he not important, not seen, not lovable. Why would he not be checked out?
It feels like an impossible task but in Your name we can do all things. The message prevails until he sees a teachers smile. Someone who stops and notices him. While he might find himself in trouble, someone who still believes in him regardless of trouble. Someone who looks for and finds ways to show him that fact. Because this is You Jesus. This is exactly what You did on this earth with people. You loved them, no matter their Tiger.
In a perfect world Eli would not experience the absence of nurturing but we do not live in a perfect world without you Jesus. His development is already deeply impacted in many ways. His relationship to people around him is already impacted too. He already feels like an outcast.
People will undoubtedly disapprove of Eli as these realities continue to form and shape his life. But that does not mean he is any less loved by You.
That remote control car…it may be the only source of love this little boy has and to take it from him would be devastating. It may be the only bridge to your love. Affirming him where he is at or not is crucial. Another Christian may be the only bridge from that remote control car to you Jesus and that link is fragile.
The best way to show Eli Christ's love is through his experience with me each day. To accept and love him exactly where he is at, not with rules and regulations to which he could never attain. To do that I can not harbor an opinion that could jeopardize the bridge to the key. Because the bridge to the key is more important. It might be the only time he sees Jesus. That is a fragile truth to which I will either point him toward Christ or drive him farther away.
We finished A Tiger Rising this week in class and here is the great part about the book…Eli is not the only one dealing with a locked up tiger. We all have some kind of Tiger…just depends on what the cage is for us.
Why would we ever begin to regulate another locked Tiger and its freedom
when we have our own to be dealt with? Other than to do everything possible to help them find the key?
The locksmith of my cage is Jesus. The locksmith of Eli's cage is Jesus. Even if we seem to know the right key combination well…we could be wrong.
Death is the final cage to be unlocked from in this life. Jesus absolutely has the keys and let's it free.
Let's not be the ones who damage the link to the key.
What is this Tiger for you?
You have been bought and paid for by Christ, so you belong to him—be free now from all these earthly prides and fears. 1 Corinthians 7:23 (TLB).
Loved By Grace,
Now seems like as impeccable time as any to write about this topic. Those who read my blog know I'm included in the me too hashtag. Those who read my blog know my periodic therapy descriptions in dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. And while life experiences compounded this in complexity, trauma for me began at an early age.
Trauma began with me too.
Without question me too is a reality in my life as it is with so many other women. It is an interesting phenomenon to observe this movement flooding our online feeds and what I notice most is that not many people react, comment or acknowledge when it is shared. I'm not saying there is a lack of support or lack of empathy but for whatever reason reaction is minimal. Perhaps because the topic is uncomfortable and we don't know how to react? Maybe we are afraid to say the wrong thing so it is just easier to react with nothing. Furthermore could it be that silence is the way our society has been trained in dealing with uncomfortable topics? But the truth is we know it is there and we know history continues to repeat itself. Silence is not working and we should then applaud every ounce of bravery differently. We need to stand up for it, speak it out and reinforce it. That my Loves, is the heart of the me too message.
I've reflected on a number of things through therapy from a biblical perspective and in the course of doing so these two questions are critical for me, for this one particular me too girl.
How has this strengthened my faith through the course of my life?
Do you see yourself in a particular character from scripture and how does this reflection impact you?
I'm not going to lie. Reflecting on these two questions stirs up a ball of multiple emotions, both good and bad. It can get ugly and perhaps my therapist is the only one who has seen the darkest of ugly. It's hard dealing with this dichotomy but the truth is light and dark, joy and grief can co-exist together.
As for the faith part, this thread in my life has been and always will be the pathway to my relationship with God. Because when we are hurting that deeply we learn there is no where else to turn but to Jesus. But that does not mean I am not angry. Anger itself is not sin, it is what we do with the anger that matters. Quite frankly I'm angry because me too is way too many and I know a bible character who can painfully relate.
My answer to the question above is Tamar.
If you have not read about Tamar in scripture I will do my best to summarize. First, she can be easily skimmed over or missed entirely because we are not told much about her. What we are told is horrible. Tamar can be found in 2 Samuel 13, she is the daughter of King David. She is young, we are told she is at or around the age of puberty. As a royal daughter it is likely she has a future marriage arranged for her but at this age Tamar is not married yet. She is a cherished princess, watched and protected closely within the harem at her fathers palace. It is what we might think of today as having a body guard with us at all times in closely guarded social interactions. The women in the harem and those guarding them are generally Eunuch's, a man anatomically incapable of marriage or in other words, physically incapable of producing children. We read King David had many wives and concubines and many children. As such Tamar had a half brother who we also learn of in 2 Samuel. Sadly this brother arranges for approval from their father for Tamar to go and care for him in sickness. Sadly there is no such illness but it is the only way her brother would ever see Tamar socially outside of the harem guard ship. Tamar obeys her father and goes to care for her brother in kindness and trust. It is there he sends all the other servants away and he assaults her. Tamar pleads with him to stop but the assault occurs.
When we study the cultural norms of the time, we learn unmarried women, no longer virgins regardless of the reason, are disgraced unless they marry that partner. Naturally scripture tells us Tamar pleads for her brother to marry her in the wake of his assault but her brother refuses. He throws her out and loathes her. In grief scripture tells us Tamar collapsed. She tears her garments, a sign of grief in that cultural time. She covers her face in ashes. King David was furious but he did nothing toward his son as a consequence for the assault. Nothing…
In today's world this is an example of a human rights violation being swept under the rug, not talked about and silenced. In scripture, little more is said about Tamar.
If you are anything like me you might be thinking, "WTF?" "I'm not okay with this!" Like me you might wonder why God's word does not tell us more about Tamar's life after assault. I don't care about these dudes fighting and killing each other over this sister then go on to assault even more women themselves. Now having said this rant, scripture does demonstrate the compounded destruction this family experienced as consequences of assault.
What I want to know though is WHAT ABOUT TAMAR????????
Just because scripture doesn't cover it all doesn't mean this woman's life wasn't significantly altered. Silence is not right but sadly something that has repeated itself for thousands of years.
Me too is the outcry and it is a testimony of Tamar's living spiritual descendants. I might not be able to read much about her life but I certainly know much about mine. Me too then, is a continuation of God's word through our voices spoken by incredibly wounded but brave and strong lives.
I need to know about Tamar, I need to bring light to it. There may not be written account of the rest of her life but we can infer pieces by studying the cultural time in which she lived. Tamar would have returned to her fathers harem, never married or having children. She lived out her days in the harem with other women. For Tamar, daughter of King David, justice was denied. But 2 Samuel 14 does give us hope of a next generation Tamar. Tamar means palm tree, a symbol of justice in the Jewish tradition.
In the body of Christ, "me too" is a testimony of our lives. We are her voice.
Who are we?
What do we look like?
What kind of lives do we lead?
What are we passionate about?
What are our struggles?
Most importantly, how does all of this strengthen our faith?
Like Tamar, some of us may never marry. Thankfully in our age and time we may marry. Yet another might be a single mother who was not successful in making that marriage work. We might have children from relationships that haven't lead to marriage. We might marry and stay married. And through all of this we might experience love with a man or with a woman.
I'm not writing to debate the approval or disapproval of any of these circumstances. For God's sakes, suggesting someone be hanged for their humanness as our country's leaders display is just outright evil.
I'm bringing a voice to these circumstances because they are real and they very much exist. Regardless, our ability to give of ourselves and to spiritually connect on a soul level with another person is deeply altered. Tamar was deeply altered even though we don't know all of her circumstances.
Yet scripture tells us God made us in His image and we are made for this kind of soul level connection.
Using myself as an example, my spouse and I know this level of connection is an issue for me in this relationship. I have not ever developed the ability of successfully connecting with him on this level as God intended for a marriage. This is a man who is an incredible friend to me, hardworking, respectful and could not be a more loving father to our children. Yet I can not wholly function in this partnership.
I can either continue to stuff this reality away like it doesn't exist or I can accept it. But I can also bring a voice to it that makes a difference. I can fight for the future generation of Tamar's and to help them bravely, fiercely, without fear or compromise accept themselves for who they are.
This is what one Tamar looks like.
What God cares about most is that I love my Lord, my creator with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind. The only thing God declared as not good in the story of creation is for a human soul to be alone. Tamar, a me too is going to connect differently, whatever that looks like for her and this is bravery. Whatever that looks like…it is strength.
One thing I know for sure…my Jesus, our Jesus is here through it all.
Approximately 20 percent of girls (1 in 5) and 8 percent of boys (1 in 12.5) will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
The estimated number of women who have been the victims of rape since 1998.
The percentage of perpetrators of sexual violence that will walk free.
The percentage of men who will be raped in their lifetime.
The age range in which people are most likely to be sexually assaulted.
The percentage of women who experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks directly after being raped.
The percentage of child sexual abuse perpetrators who know their victim.
Statistics from Huffpost.com
Loved By Grace,
It is amazing as person's how we can so easily appear to have everything going for us in life yet be completely void on the inside. A void when left untreated, produces a life going to great lengths to be fulfilled.
There is a difference between spiritual beauty and the physical meaning of beauty. One is ultimately meaningless while the other is eternal. No matter how gifted, it's grace that makes it grow to its eternal potential. It's grace that leaves the legacy.
Things achieved will fade.
Things acquired will fade.
Things will never become enough.
Things return the void.
Hence the void remains.
Jesus has an amazing way of helping us learn to fill that void very differently. Because He goes about treating void differently and when we listen, the healthy fillers start presenting themselves. Before we know it, simple gratitude in every day moments becomes the fullness of the heart instead of things. A life combined of simple moments produces fullness and beauty permeating on the inside as equally as it's shining on the outside.
A life of moments is not concerned with the chase or the inevitable fade. Humility never fades. It can't help but pave the road of happiness.
In the end our bodies will die and with it goes the things. It is our legacy, the condition of our hearts that live on. It can't be bought, orchestrated, stolen, consumed or borrowed because it is eternal.
A beautiful soul may be a mess at times on this earth but it will always be a beautiful soul.
Loved By Grace,
To all of you who have anxiety like me. Sometimes you just gotta get out there and force yourself to live through it anyway.
This is me at Van Andel Arena which is just about THE VERY LAST place it feels safe to be frequenting in today's world.
In times like these…if I'm being honest… one hundred percent DID NOT want to be thrown in with a large crowd this week. Everything was screaming inside me to crawl in a hole and hibernate. In other words, I would rather poke my eyes out than be serving beer at a large public event.
Can I hear an A to the Men?
Crowds in general make me nervous not to mention the kitchen area is just plain gross. But in return I get to travel places with my boy and so here I am, making America happy one drink at a time. Definitely worth it.
What's the best thing that happened to me there? Realizing a friend was also battling through similar difficulty of the night. While this doesn't seem promising for either one of us, we both understand what it is like to manage existence with this thing called hyper-vigilance.
What happened that made me sad, frustrated, or impatient? On good days, the not so fun perks of the above are more than manageable. On bad days my friends, uber frustrating but not to be ignored.
What is God teaching me based on answers 1 & 2? Each day is still a gift. What we do with it is completely up to us because the truth is we are all more similar than we might think. Being honest instead of pretending a mess is not there brings blessings we would not otherwise expect.
Therefore it is worth the honesty.
Live in the present moment. Put one foot in front of the other and take the next right step at a time. Some moments will be a marathon while others might be a binge watch This Is Us kind of time.
Team Kate 4 EVA peeps! Oh how I LOVE this show! Perhaps because it's so much like Christ minus the ianity it's not even funny.
Love you my hyper-vigilant friend. ❤️
Loved By Grace,
I love moments when I have opportunities to reinforce this with our daughters. Because the truth is the world will always tell us we are not good enough. It is our job to remind them of Psalm 139:14.
The person you give the beautiful painting to constantly points out its flaws. How does that make you feel?
We feel small.
We feel less than.
We feel weak.
We feel flawed.
We feel incapable.
We feel unworthy.
We feel angry.
We feel sad.
We feel defeated.
We feel imperfect.
There are 2 billion women with girls on this planet who have not heard of Jesus or do not know Him. Perhaps having the same feelings about the painting He has given to them too.
Perfectly imperfect is God's reality about you and me, my sweet girls. Imperfection is and always will be perfectly enough for His love.
We want to follow Jesus but doubt our ability to do it. Well of course given what we see above. But what if it is not about doubting our faith. What if it is that Jesus has faith in you?
Perfectly imperfect in Jesus's eyes.❤️
Loved By Grace,
I don't know about you but this week, this month, sure feels like a huge gigantic shit show. I would like to tell you that I'm drawing on the strength in Jesus, strength all us Christians have exponentially. While this is true, I am drawing on His strength, it is also true that I am not feeling fine.
How can we be fine with this? How can we just offer empty words that everything happens for a reason to someone who has lost everything? Whether it be from a hurricane, from an earthquake, from ever changing policy or opinion or at the hands of another human. This is horrific.
Everything happens for a reason is not a comfort to us. It might be eventually in our heavenly fathers presence but certainly not now. What does God want us to do when we just don't understand? When we can barely see past the tears struggling to hold on to our trust in Him? When we are angry and scared from tragedy and from things out of our control. What are we to do?
We can do one of two things. We can shut down our own humanity or we can pour our hearts out to Jesus. I'm not talking about the nice, well written, well spoken all positive prayers we think we should be saying to God. We can certainly speak those positive prayers and we very well should be thankful for many moments. But to pour out is to give Jesus ALL of our emotions. The good, bad and the ugly. Whether we speak them or
not we can not hide any thought from Jesus.
And the truth is I'm not very happy with God right now. I don't get it, I don't understand and I just want to make it stop. He could make it stop and He hasn't yet! None of this makes any sense! Yes, I have told Jesus every last emotion I've felt this week. He can handle it.
Shutting down our humanity because of shame instead of pouring it out to Jesus only subjects us to a life of sadness. Jesus lived in a human body, He knows humanity in its most intimate sense and while He did not succumb to the evil of shutting out good, Jesus sure faced it head on. Just like we do in all of life's tragedy and mess.
I truly believe what must be happening when someone loses touch with their humanity is they shut out good until gradually all that is left is the lie in their head that all they are is bad. Reinforced by the shutting out of good, reinforced by opinion around them, reinforced period. Once that lie is in place…why not the unspeakable or anything else for that matter?
One of the things that haunts me the most with all the news coverage of Vegas is that the shooter called his family just weeks prior to make sure they were not harmed in the wake of hurricane Irma. I don't want the focus of my blog entry to be on the shooter because his actions are horrific. But this piece of the coverage is not an indicator of someone being all evil. Yet evil prevailed in them just weeks later.
How did things go so wrong Jesus? I don't understand. I can't accept throwing our hands up in the air and directing people straight to hell. It's just not in me to give up on good.
Rewind back to school earlier this week. Children have an amazing way of restoring hope in humanity don't they? This is going to be a good day. At times I get the opportunity to work individually with at risk children and this was one of those weeks. If I had my choice this is what I would do full time, I just adore them.
In walks E who I've known for a while because I taught him last year a few times. The para and I weren't sure if he would be in to see me today since Mom has had to find an alternative way of getting him to school. You see E was suspended off the bus for behavior but he is here and we are to work on writing. This is E's fourth grade writing story so far…
"The kids are at recess and there is a bully with them. The bully has a brick, throws it at the kids and hits a kid in the head."
E needs to add more detail to finish the story. What happens after the bully hits the kid?
"The bully tries to run away from them."
Who is chasing the bully E?
"The teacher guard is chasing the bully to try to catch him."
What was happening at recess to the bully, why did the bully want to throw the brick at one of the kids? Were they hurting the bully E?
"The bully threw the brick at the kids head for fun," said E.
This right here is heart breaking. This is a child who is emotionally at risk for shutting down his humanity and in some cases is already doing it. But here is the thing, we can not assist him in shutting out the good. We can not give up. We can not let the lie of bad win.
I'm also reading a book currently which I should possibly set down because one more tragic tale is just about one too many for the week for this girl. Why did I think this was a good idea? I'm not sure. Nevertheless my reading brought me to this family's story. Perhaps I'll do a book review in more detail but it is about differing opinions in which not all supports the others choices. At the same time they are desperately hoping this loved one will accept Jesus as their savior before death. At the end of the day, it didn't happen. They passed on not believing in God.
OH EM GEE, I can't take this sweet Jesus. What on earth am I supposed to take away from all of this? After hyperventilating for a few days pouring out to him I think I finally get it. We have to be very careful about winning hearts for Jesus and while we think we are speaking truth as God might want us to speak, we are in an equal position to reinforce love. When in doubt, choose love over anything else because it is the only way to win hearts for Jesus. He would rather have us in heaven then lose us from shutting down our humanity. Which means he will take us as we are, no other emphasis needed.
At the end of the day, it is an individual choice and therefore our impact toward others is not to be taken lightly.
Mental illness is one of the biggest killers of humanity. The gun, the brick, the bomb. Whatever tool used is the culmination of human experience screaming to say, you were right.
Satan is not right. Those at risk children throwing bricks for fun are the same children who reach in the closet for their snack, pull out two bags, hand one to the teacher and say "I want you to eat with me because you need to have food too."
We can all say…WHERE IS THE KLEENEX BOX!
Good is always there for the taking and we must do everything we can to have it win in us, for us and for our children's future.
Constant prayers to all lives lost, comfort for their families and loved ones even if it is just one breath at a time with peace only Jesus can bring.
Psalm 34:18 ~ The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.
Loved By Grace,