Denial Is Not A River In Egypt: Intentionally Preparing For The Current Of Transitions

imagesFor the last two weeks, I have watched on Facebook as many of the teens I have known since they were barely potty trained, begin life on their own in a college dormitory. Pinterest and Target have made the dorm room experience post-worthy for sure, as the pictures make me want to redecorate my own home with cute bulletin boards and new throw pillows. I am excited for these sweet kids because I remember the exhilaration I had when I went off to college for the first time. And let’s be honest, college memories truly do last a lifetime. If my husband has to sit through my college bestie Karen and I, relive our adventures one more time, he may leave me.

Having college-ready kids comes with a feeling of accomplishment, as parents finally get to pat themselves on the back for all those nights of homework help and the carpooling that never ended. It is exciting for parents to see the babies that they nurtured making adult decisions. But I have also sat with a couple of mama’s who, after the excitement of the big move, have felt some of the emptiness that comes when one realizes this change is real. My friend Tammy shared that move in day was so busy and fun that she was able to hold it together. However, what really got her was when she began cleaning her house the next day, there was no toothpaste in her daughter’s sink and no clothes thrown everywhere. It was then that she lost it.

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Getting The Junk Out of Your Trunk – Clear Out Your Emotional Trash

file0001731376547I just put 12 bags of clothes and household goods on my front porch, to be picked up by a local charity. There is something so satisfying about moving out the junk in my house. I wish I could say that the job is now complete, but like most people, I could stand to unload another 12 bags to get my drawers and closets where I would like them to be. It is amazing what our small family of 4 has accumulated in the 13 years we have lived in this home.

I always get a kick out of my girls when I ask them to assist in the cleaning out process. There are always items added to the pile that were hung on to just long enough, that we are able to recall how desperate they were to own it and how ridiculous that now seems. Fortunately there are also those moments where I hear, “I forgot I had this! I love this! I am going to use/wear this tomorrow!”

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That is between you and the Lord: Allowing others a personal relationship with God

ToleranceI grew up in a no-nonsense Christian home. My parents did not apologize for their faith, their lifestyle choices and their commitment to principles not always popular in mainstream culture. They also were, to this day, the greatest example to me of what it means to be gracious, hospitable and sacrificially loving. I often heard my mom say in response to those that disagreed with her theology, “You know, that is between you and the Lord.” She also used this boundary setting technique with me, when I challenged things as a teen and early in my adult life. Quite simply, she had a belief system that she was comfortable with and yet, she allowed others to explore their beliefs, hear from God and be completely unique in their world view. Because of this, she had an enormous circle of friends from many walks of life, with whom she was able to enjoy deep relationship. When I think of tolerance, this is what I envision.

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Gratitude Is Not Faith

GratitudeI often meet with people who begin therapy with, “I have never told anyone this before.” Part of my job is to be an unbiased, objective listener so I am used to this pre-qualifier. I will never get used to what often follows. What often follows, is simply an honest admittance that life is hard and there is no one in this person’s life who will let them be real about life occurrences that happen to so many of us: illness, death, job loss, disappointment, addiction, betrayal, abuse, spiritual battles, and the list goes on. Why is it that so many have few people to share life with?

There is a wave in our society right now that is calling for “gratefulness”, for the abundance that the United States has experienced for a long time. It is true, that as a nation, we are rich in resources and opportunity. Most, and I don’t mean all, healthy people in the United States have access to some support, to live a life beyond the streets. For that, there absolutely has been a lack of understanding of what it means to live without and to fight daily, to simply live. When I travel with Thrive Ministries, around the world, I see firsthand, the poverty and degradation that many in our world are subject to. I serve a population of women sacrificing daily to see this eradicated, so the need for gratefulness is not lost on me. Our first world mindset often forgets that the majority of souls, living in this world, are every day facing the challenge of simply staying alive another day and for many, making life choices that sacrifice their hearts and souls to survive. Our nation would do well to cultivate a spirit of gratefulness, to keep our hearts humble and motivate us to share more than what is expected. Gratefulness is a wonderful attribute.

But as most people can attest if they live long enough, our life journey is more than having food on the table or even, having the latest cell phone. Even those in the most fortunate of situations, still battle through life. From the poorest to the most wealthy, people suffer. All people encounter difficulty far beyond what they ever imagined as they dreamed a plan for their life. As a Christian, I believe that God can turn any pain into dancing. I have experienced it in my own life and I have seen it in the lives of others. However, I wonder if this attachment to gratefulness or a “positive outlook” has clouded our need for honesty, for God’s work, and for faith that all things work together for good. Yes, all things work together for good, but NOT ALL THINGS ARE GOOD!

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Is the result of a DIY home repair an indicator of relationship health?

IMG_2319This afternoon my husband and I fixed our broken washing machine. As I sip my celebratory beverage, I reflect on how this accomplishment is an indication of how far our marriage has come in its 23 years. (It is also AMAZING what you can Google these days.) There was a time in our marriage when calling the repairman was as much for our marriage than whatever issue was at hand. I actually remember a time, many moons ago, when we may have simply replaced a few broken appliances rather than venture into the world of DIY repairs. When two independent, opinionated and generally competent people try to problem solve, the results vary and sometimes words are exchanged that simply aren’t relationship-building. Anyone tracking with me here?

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Families… Talk Amongst Yourselves

stock-footage-attractive-young-african-american-family-talking-togetherIf there is one thing I love about the family I have, is that we do a whole lot of communicating. There is something so adorable about my teenagers telling me that they “don’t want to talk about it”, and then plopping down on the edge of my bed, to do just that. Even if I had intended to go to sleep, my parenting make-it-or-break-it moments often involve talking about “it” until I can barely keep my eyes open. Someday, these moments are going to be the bedrock of a mature relationship between my adult children and me. It is something I learned from my mother and I intend to pass it on.

All four members of my family are somewhat introverted and often need to be alone to sort out inner thoughts. However, we are all quite talkative when that sorting out is all done. Like every family, not every conversation is a love fest and we suffer breakdowns in communication when the subject matter is difficult, controversial or simply uncomfortable. I have come to understand that the more awkward the conversation, the more important it is to muscle through to the other side. It is not about regaining control of any issue, but rather about getting to the place where the real stuff resides and deep relationship can be fostered. It is about allowing authenticity and truly knowing one another. The process is not always pretty but there is nothing more beautiful than a family dynamic that has love, trust and open communication.

When I went into the field of psychotherapy, I was following a call to work with women, in a ministry capacity. However, in the course of study, I learned a whole lot about relationship dynamic and this, coupled with my life experience, makes me confident when I speak into families in need of therapy. What other people view as “listening to other people’s problems”, I see as solving a relational puzzle where parents and children, who all want healthy relationships, do and say things that complicate what God intends to be somewhat harmonious.

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