Empathy: Love yourself, love others

 

A couple years ago, my brother did a DNA test that resulted in me finally understanding where my crazy-curly head of hair came from. We have some African lineage, that is obviously determined to be passed along from generation to generation through whatever DNA is linked to hair. You can only imagine some of the playground comments I got, in those sad days before real hair products. I often joke that it is a good thing I never met Farrah Fawcett in a dark alley, for what she did to me in junior high. I was so jealous of my straight-haired, blonde friends who could use one of those flimsy plastic curling irons to get results that took me hours to achieve and then didn’t last if the humidity markers were above 1%.

I realize now that my mom hated her hair too. I will never forget her pulling up to take me home from piano lessons, with a new wig on. It was the 70’s and I guess that was the solution for bad hair days back then. I didn’t know it was a wig, so I burst into tears when her new “frosted” wig had blonde streaks in it. I thought I was going to be alone in my brown-frizzy-curly-haired world. I wept all the way home. When she finally removed It so I could see that it wasn’t real, she told me that should would not wear it anymore if it hurt me so much. Of course, once I knew it was removable, I was good to go.

At her 4th birthday party, my daughter Emilee came running in the house bawling her eyes out. I pulled her into my lap to check for scraped knees but she wasn’t hurt. She sobbed into my chest, “I hate my hair!”. I was ready for this. I told her how Jesus made everyone different and that our family had curls…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…. She looked up at me and said, “No mama! I LOVE my curls! I hate my BLONDE hair. You, Azile, Daddy and Maddy (her little bestie at the time) all have BROWN hair!” I looked down at her beautiful platinum blonde hair and thought to myself, “How many people would love to have this color hair?” BUT WAIT…did my daughter say she loves her curls? Could I learn to love mine?

On my drive to get my hair done, I was nervous. I had never ventured into the world of blonde. I had never felt like it would fit. But my baby did not feel part of our family. So I added some blonde streaks so that my hair color would be the color of both my children. I remember Leelee touching those strands over and over when I got home. Years later when I tried to go back to my real hair color to save some money, people would ask me if I felt well. They would tell me that I didn’t “look myself”.

We all have voices in our head that tell us we aren’t good enough…that we don’t belong. I also know that this example is just hair…but almost every person has, at some point in their life, felt excluded because they were not like other people, because of physical appearance, or belief system, or family of origin, or where they lived, or WHATEVER!

What piece of yourself are you willing to give up, share, let go of, or offer as a gift to another human so they feel included, loved and part of a family?

When my oncologist was giving me my treatment plan 6 years ago, I think I shocked him when I told him I was less afraid of losing my boobs than I was of losing my hair. It had taken me a lifetime to love it and I wasn’t ready to lose it now.

 

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However, I am willing to give parts of myself, while I work through my story, for the emotional healing of others. As we all are living in this turbulent time, I encourage everyone to dig deep and find how you can be part of the solution for others feeling whole. And who knows…in that process you may find a YOU, that fits you even better.

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

My Offering: Sitting in the Pain

I just got off the phone with my best friend from my childhood. We met in 7th grade when she and her brother accidentally rang my doorbell, when they were going door to door selling magazines for the school fundraiser. She told me later that she was mortified when I answered the door…we were in 7th grade where everything is embarrassing. I honestly thought it was hilarious, and it lead to a joined-at-the-hip friendship that took us through high school and beyond. I can’t tell you how many memories I have of the two of us laughing till we cried. We passed notes, talked on the phone, double dated, played sports, went on family vacations, were in each other’s weddings…we had no idea that life might not always be so carefree. Since then, our lives have not always been intertwined, but we talk and get together whenever we can, because we will always be heart sisters.

This morning I was liking a photo of her handsome son on Instagram. Her son and my girls are the same age. I remember thinking it was so fun that we were pregnant at the same time. He was recently made a deputy and I thought the picture was celebrating that. It wasn’t. It was the picture in the paper, that told how he died in a car accident yesterday. His was a young, beautiful life, cut short and his mama is my dear friend. And even though I am a trained counselor, and have lead grief groups, and taught seminars on grief… I had no words.

Sometimes in life, there are no words for the pain we shoulder. Even as I have been crying for her all day, and reflecting on our earlier conversation, where she shared about the last time she saw her son and the way God allowed some moments to take place in the last week that she will be forever grateful for…I still do not know what to say. I know better than to think there is a sentence or a phrase that will take any of her pain away. She has faith. She is relying on that to get her through this time. I can only offer myself to sit in the pain with her.

Have you ever had someone sit with you in the pain? I can think of several times in my life where my situation in life was inconsolable and there were no words to ease my burden and there were people who sat…sat next to me…no words…just presence. Presence just says, “I Iove you and I wish had a magic wand to wave on your behalf…but since I don’t, I will sit and pray and hold your hand…” I can only hope that is what I offered this morning.

Our world is topsy turvy right now and you might know of people who need some sitting next to. Maybe you need someone to sit in your pain with you. If you have ever shied away from being with another human because you didn’t know what to say, know that words are not always the only way to be there for someone. I am grateful for every person who has silently come alongside me and sometimes it is all I have to offer.

I wish I could wave a magic wand today…for my dear friend and for those who are facing all sorts of crazy in this pandemic. But today, all I can do is say I am sorry and offer my presence.

Love,

Sonia

Stormy Waters: Who is in your boat?

For those of you who follow my personal Facebook page, you know that my recent trip to counsel global workers started with a bang. I was sitting on a plane, minding my own business, watching a movie, when I experienced the most painful back spasms ever. If you have flown internationally, you know there is that time, in the middle of the flight, where the cabin is super dark and everyone is supposed to be asleep. I was trying to comply! I am a girl who flies a ton but in all those travels, I have never had the need to push the call button. I was humbled when I had to not only push the button, I had to engage numerous flight attendants to help me. (Shout out to Lufthansa Airlines…I am forever grateful for the care they gave to me! Carol, Caroline and Lauren literally held my hand, encouraged me, and did everything they could to help me through a crazy time.)

The rest of that day was equally humbling as the back spasms continued and I had to be transferred through airports in a wheelchair, transported with special equipment and given special assistance at every turn. If it weren’t for Lorrie Lingren, the CEO of Thrive Ministry, I would probably still be sitting in a concourse somewhere in Germany. Of course, the larger concern looming through it all was, how effective would I be once I got to the conference!?

Fortunately, once I got to the hotel and was able to take some muscle relaxants, the healing could begin. I also had Mary Ellen, our Physical Therapist on the volunteer team, who worked on me and our precious doctor, Cheryl, who walked me through the pain management. I felt close-to-fine once the retreat commenced and I was able to use the experience to relate to some women in tough life situations.

Our speaker was ironically talking about navigating stormy seas in life. Talking to a room full of women, engaged in serious work around the world, who live cross culturally…you might have expected the message to be one that gave them license to take a break. Instead she crafted her message with words like; keep going, don’t quit, trust the journey.

Our speaker referred to the familiar Biblical account, in Mark 4, where the disciples of Christ are in a boat with Him when they encounter a storm. While they fret, He is sleeping, giving them the impression that He doesn’t even care. But if you look a few verses back, He actually took them into that storm so He knew all along about the trial they would face and that He would calm the waves at the right time.

Life is full of storms. Everyone faces struggles that, in the moment, seem overwhelming. When I called my sweet husband from Germany, he was ready to hop on the next plane to come and save me, but I knew in my heart I needed to trust that God knew my struggle. I am grateful that I did not turn back. I would have missed out on connections with women who needed encouragement to stay put, keep focused, fight for good things in the world. My calling can’t be minimized because of a bump in the road!

Are you in a life trial where you feel alone and unseen? Are you unsure if the God of the universe cares for you? I am positive that He does. Who else is in your boat? When I look back on it, I had a whole team of people caring for me so that I could, in turn, care for others. Do you need someone to remind you not to quit, to keep going, to trust in the journey?

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Got Baggage?: Resolutions 2020

Mike and I have almost been married for 28 years and almost every one of those years, we sat down at the start of the year and laid out some hopes and dreams for the year…not so much typical resolutions like going to the gym more or losing weight, but forward thinking plans, to be intentional about in the new year. We have always loved that time to reset, plan and strategize, to improve life as we know it.

However, we entered 2020 with a heavy back pack and honestly, we still haven’t sat down for our yearly goal setting. 2019 ended with losing our sweet pup, Lola, after 13 1/2 years of dedicated service to our family, and my oncologist suggesting a PET scan, because my tumor markers continue to creep upwards. We were in the middle of an insurance battle to get the test approved, feeling discouraged because our medical bills feel like a second home mortgage, without the beachfront view. Sometimes it is hard to dream when you are determined to “just keep swimming”.

Throughout 2019, so many precious people have prayed with us, spoke words of encouragement and pronounced victory over our journey, but it is still so scary when medical science suggests otherwise. The baggage of the last 6 years…of surgeries and chemotherapy…of not always hearing good news…of being given timelines that seem too short…statistics supporting terrible outcomes…it can be hard to believe that anything will change! Right? Do you know that feeling? Can you relate to the feeling of trying super hard and having desired results feel out of reach?

The day before the PET scan, I was challenged by a pastor, to identify what I wanted for my relationship with God this year. My first response was to list my petitions of healing and restoration. But as I journaled and prayed, I felt the Lord ask me if I would BELIEVE, so I concluded that what I wanted for 2020 was to believe that the Lord’s plan is one I can trust and no matter what, I would praise Him. Trust Him…BELIEVE HIM. Believe that the God of the universe truly does want good things for me and that His timing is perfect.

Leaving our cares on the altar is easier said than done…we all know that. Can I do that in 2020?

This week I am indeed praising the Lord…the scan showed NO evidence of progression of disease. The back pack, for now, is lifted! I can breathe in, and live a little more fully.  I even talked my oncologist into giving me a 3 month hiatus from the chemo! (You have no idea what a blessing that is!!!!)

But for those of you have lived with ongoing dilemmas in your life, you know the fear I have to push down, the uncertainty I have to ignore and the effort it takes to believe… It is hard.

I don’t know the baggage y’all are carrying into 2020 or the pain brought on by life, that you wish would just go away. I don’t know what situation makes it hard for you to hope and dream. But resolutions are statements of resolve…not silly goals…STATEMENTS OF RESOLVE. I resolve to press on. I resolve to serve others so that they might get a glimpse of heaven on earth. I resolve to love fully and passionately. And I resolve to praise the Lord for all He has done…some of it I REALLY appreciate and some of it, I absolutely hate.

Our baggage speaks to the resolutions we need to make. What baggage is influencing you? What resolutions do you need to make?

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

Rebuild: Loss after laying it on the field

Caring about football is new to me. I grew up in a boy-house, so I had lots of opportunity to be a fan, if I had wanted that. A father and two brothers who love sports meant that our weekends and Monday nights were filled with games on TV. But it wasn’t until my girls started attending Baylor University, and I got caught up in their underdog team, that I became passionate. I am now a crazy fan who has lucky Baylor clothes and I admit to having screamed, cheered, prayed…all on behalf of a team, playing a game.

Having my team go to the championship game, in my girl’s senior year, was something I predicted their freshman year, and I have been anticipating the game all season. When my Bears lost their first string quarterback early in the game, to a concussion, I was praying for a miracle. We almost got it. I really thought we had it, when our third string QB passed for a touchdown tying the game. Losing in overtime, after watching those boys lay it all on the field was heartbreaking.

In those final seconds, when it became clear that the game could not be won, I had an aha about how this relates to everyday life.

Have you ever laid it all on the field of life…in a relationship, a job, or a dream…only to lose in the final moments? Has your heart been broken by situations or by people, in a way that impacts you for a long time? Have you, at those times, felt defeated in a way that makes you question if all the hard work was worth it?

Broken hearts and broken dreams can either steal our hope or empower us for more. It all depends on how we process and learn from those seasons of life. I have brokenness in my past. I am refusing to let it ruin me. How about you? Do you have situations that need reframing, and healing so that you can move forward with wisdom, learned skills, new dreams and vision for your future?

Experience tells me that when we allow healing to take place, the new relationships, new dreams and new possibilities can wow us in a way we never thought possible! But we must let the good in! What, in your life, do you need to embrace as part of the journey so that you can move into new life?

As always, let me know if I can help. But don’t call on January 1… I will be cheering for my Baylor Bears who will, no doubt, be even better on the field than ever!

With love,

Sonia

Learned anxiety?: Learn Faith

Part of being a new client, when beginning therapy, is a general intake form. These entry forms have questions about your mental health history, including past counseling, identified diagnosis and current symptoms. Most clients, who are ready for time on the counseling couch, feel ready for outside intervention because their life situation has caused enough anxiety, enough depression, enough anger…whatever it is…that they are driven to counseling, by that symptom, that is starting to feel unbearable.

Some anxiety and depression are healthy!

Anxiety and depression naturally accompany hard life situations. Who wouldn’t feel depressed or possibly anxious after the death of a loved one, loss of a job, strained relationship with a child, ongoing illness or any variety of trauma? Some anxiety and depression is actually a sign of processing hard life things WELL…it is when you can’t get off the couch for days, can’t go to class without heart palpitations, or you feel like fainting at inconvenient times, that we intervene to make life manageable again.

Anxiety, in particular, can be limited by learning your body signals, using positive self talk in the crisis, changing up life routine, and even taking medication if you need a reset. But once you feel a little more yourself, there might be some talk therapy surrounding how living life, feeling just a bit out of control, may not be the worst thing imaginable. In fact, it might be a little healthier than the I-have-all-my-ducks-in-a-row model. (Those ducks-in-a-row people have issues too, just so you know.)

Right now, there are a number of self-help gurus, who have large audiences believing that if you just work a little harder, stay a little bit more positive, create better mojo/karma/tribe, your life will instantly improve and all your dreams will come true. I am not against any of those things, but in my experience, anxiety and depression aren’t eliminated just because you try harder.

So, what if, instead of beating ourselves up that our lives aren’t perfect, we embrace a little of the chaos, as part of the larger plan? I for one, have worked hard, have been positive even in some really dark times and have an amazing tribe, and yet…life is still freakin’ hard.  BUT…that difficult stuff is the stuff that allows me to do my calling well. I have a calling to counsel people in dark places and my personal chaos is sometimes the best tool I have…empathy and compassion rarely come from easy peasy lives.

If you are in control of your destiny, is it your destiny?

I want to leave you with a little thought provoker…for those of you who are looking for purpose, looking for a way to feel whole, wanting life to mean more… Do you believe in calling, destiny, or a “reason you were put on this planet”? Are you struggling to feel like you are doing “it” because your life feels out of control or a little messy? What if feeling in control of your destiny means you aren’t on the path to your destiny? What if destiny HAS to come from the outside and be a bit of a struggle? In my case, my purpose is God-driven…He dictates my path. Is there a higher power dictating yours and you are busy trying to organize, plan, hustle, team build and in that controlling stuff, you are missing your purpose, and as a result…feeling depressed, anxious and messy?

My friend, Hunter, texted me this morning with an “aha” from a book she is reading. Paul David Tripp says in New Morning Mercies, “What is the lie? It is the lie that life can be found outside the Creator.” Hmmm…now that is something to think about!

As always, let me know if I can help.

Love,

Sonia