Relationship: Two people, two stories

I can tell you the first and last names of almost all these kids. Nolan is the swagger in the middle of the second row.

When I was in the 4th grade at Faith Lutheran School, Mr. Johnson was thrust into our combination 4/5 class, his first year of teaching. I was a first year teacher once, so I understand that it can be rough that first year, but I think it is safe to say that Mr, Johnson had it worse than most. His class control was so bad that I can still see scenes in my 53 year old brain of my class running around, having too much fun for a Christian school education. During one of those times, a kid named Nolan was swinging his arms around, and by accident, his fist landed square on my face. Later a doctor told me that it probably was fractured but I was a kid in the days when you didn’t go to the doc for just anything, so I think it just healed on its own over time and now I have a little bump to remind me of that day.

Mr. J’s solution, to what must have appeared to him to be a fight…(why he thought I was fist fighting is of concern to me at this moment)…was to make Nolan and I put our desks side by side for the rest of the day to work it out. While I remember not totally blaming that kid for accidentally punching me, I also remember being irritated that I had to sit so close to him, as he still wasn’t my favorite person, since my nose hurt and he was the cause. But, sit there I did, because I am a rule follower most days…and, of course, there weren’t cell phones in the 70’s, so I couldn’t call my mom. By the end of the day, he and I were chatting and having a great time. Maybe Mr. Johnson wasn’t as clueless as we thought. Nope…he was. But, whatever, it is kind of funny now.

Sometimes, between people, there are disagreements about how things should be handled. But it doesn’t always mean that one person meant to hurt the other one or that someone has to be wrong. Nolan was swinging his arms and I was probably running, and sadly, I got a splintered bone out of the deal. But when we were made to sit next to each other and each made to apologize for the part we played, we ended up getting along just fine. I can almost hear the conversation when Nolan told me it was an accident and how he felt really bad and then he reenacted the whole thing so I could fully get a picture of his intentions.

Obviously, Nolan isn’t the last person to hurt me. Over the years, I have had lots of times where infractions have occurred in relationships, apologies exchanged and life continued. I have also had situations where people have hurt me, or I them, and there has not been reconciliation. I know I prefer the times when the relationship was recoverable.

We are in a historical time where tensions are high, opinions differ and people are getting very hurt. Some people are willing to sit next to their friends who have different perceptions or solutions to problems, and others are hell bent at getting everyone else to say, do and act exactly like them. There might be some value in sitting next to another person, to hear their story, to see if there are more similarities than differences in our viewpoints, as we navigate controversial issues and the approaches to solving the tough questions. I have a gut feeling that many of us have good intentions and want similar outcomes.

Hopefully, one day we will look back at this time and we won’t remember the fighting as much as remember the healing. Hopefully, we will remember good people, trying to do good things in a hurting world.

With 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

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

Broken Things: God can’t use perfect people

I always wanted to be a counselor. From the time I was just a kid, I found myself sitting on couches, listening to people’s stories. When I suggested the idea to my parents prior to heading off to college, my dad seemed confused by the idea of it. He was the son of immigrants, grew up in a gang in East LA…he did not get the concept of sharing your story with a STRANGER. Plus we had church, which was supposed to be where you got that kind of support. So instead of focusing on an actual profession right at first, I attended a liberal arts college and studied Communications and Political Science and got a Masters in Education so that I could teach high school history and government. I loved teaching but even then, my favorite part of the job was building relationships with students and mentoring them in life. My revised plan became to continue in the field of education and be a school counselor someday. But marriage and my girls and a few moves across state lines changed all that. I now realize that our journeys are not completely our own, and there may have been just a tiny bit of wisdom in the madness of God’s plan for me.

When I finally went to seminary to get a degree in Clinical Mental Health, in my forties, I was actually thinking that I would use my degree in a ministry setting, since at that time I volunteered in those capacities on a regular basis. I was going to grad school again because I had a number of life experiences by this time that gave me some wisdom to speak into other people’s lives and I wanted to enhance that life experience with some big time book knowledge. But my time in my second-time-around grad school, mostly outside the classroom, broke me in so many more ways. Once again, life journey often outweighs book stuff. I have seen things now…hard things. I know now, all that real life was so that today, I can sit across from almost anyone and empathize with their situation, using an emotion I have once experienced, maybe not in the exact way, but similarly. It took me awhile to fully understand that it isn’t the perfect stories that minister to people, but rather brokenness and rebirth that encourages the downtrodden and broken hearted in their pain.

Have you ever been weary? Are you broken hearted now? Do you wonder what you have to offer anyone? My guess is that if you have endured trials in your life, you are more than prepared to be a mentor, a soul mate and an encourager. You might be just getting started in leaving a legacy of helpmate and friend. When people are perfect, they really have nothing to offer the hurting world. Who wants to be told how to live by someone who has not faced struggles? Are you ready to accept the challenge of taking your brokenness and turning it into service to the world?

When I look back at the times in life that I felt broken…when I was lonely, depressed, struggling in relationships, financially wrecked, betrayed and overcome with grief…I never felt that I had something to offer anyone. But once the wounds began to heal, because of God’s mercy, good counsel, the elapsing of time and support of other encouragers, I started to realize the power that comes from overcoming the battles of life. Do you have some power that has yet to be tapped into?

 

This morning, I was listening to this song…and I once again was reminded that in brokenness, we are simply in training for our calling. Are you ready to join in the hard work of turning your sorrow into dancing?

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia

You did me wrong song: Boundaries after forgiveness

As I walk beside people in the counseling setting, I have found that forgiveness “in the moment” is difficult for most of us. It is hard to look the other way when someone has made us hurt, or move on from a toxic situation where we keep getting burned. There is a struggle between wanting to get over a situation and wanting to give it every available inch of your mind space, 24 hours a day until you feel good and ready to release it. Sometimes that inner dialogue is hard to turn off when you are feeling pooped on.

It is important to understand that forgiveness can walk right alongside the execution of good boundaries, allowing people to forgive almost immediately. It is possible to feel confident to move on from blows that are bound to come, if you live in this world where miscommunication, unfortunate life circumstances and dishonesty in relationships can bring painful interactions. I have found that it is possible to forgive, even forget (although not at the risk of losing the wisdom that comes from remembering what you have learned). No bill-paying, full-fledged adult has to put themself in a position to be clobbered by the same person or situation if they choose not to! Forgiving and walking away is an option!

In life, there are situations that occur when people you think have your back, just don’t. Depending on how much you invested in the relationship, the pain of betrayal can feel like a big ol’ kick in the stomach. I feel like I have had this experience in life plenty…enough to know that the pain is real. But I also know that it does not have to be debilitating. To be clear, I can look back and remember times where I was so debilitated by people wronging me that I experienced situational depression…bad enough to sit and stare at a wall for days on end. But not today…not today. Forgiving and walking away is an option…did I already say that?

Forgiveness is not saying that what happened is okay. Forgiveness is the acknowledgement that we all screw up at times and grace is an important gesture if we are all to live, work and grow side by side in the journey of life. But any person with good boundaries has a responsibility to self protect after the extension of grace and in some situations that means it is best not to interact for a time or for forever.

When forgiveness and boundaries work hand in hand, a person who is trying to spend less time lamenting and more time living life, can forgive whole heartedly, but also realize that there are times when people and situations are not meant to be. Sometimes we can forgive from across the room, or across the city or across an imaginary world from the person who betrayed us. Sometimes the best way to keep the situation from taking over our mind space is to literally move on with life by acknowledging that hurting people hurt others, and you can choose to not be the human punching bag for the family member, friend or co-worker who makes you their target. Removing yourself prevents the toxicity from taking over your life….it gives you freedom to be the positive-you that you want to be.

When I counsel people, I liken this to standing on a train track when there is an oncoming train. The first time it hits you, you might blame the train. Maybe the conductor didn’t see you on the track or tried to put on the brakes but not in time.  But if you stand in the same spot and get hit again, the responsibility might lie on you to get off the tracks and get out of the train’s way. People who get hit over and over by the same oncoming train might need to get away from the train. Yelling and screaming at the train, thinking they will for sure stop THIS time is not healthy for anyone. Remember:  Forgiving and walking away is an option. (The teacher in me knows that if you read this 3 times, you might remember it for the test. The bold print should help with that too!)

Being able to forgive and move on is freeing. It enables even the most wounded of people to remain positive and life-giving in a world that can be exhausting. Forgiving others allows you to get your sleep back and enables you to focus on the people and situations in your life that motivate and encourage you. If you have a situation in your life that is taking up your mind space and keeping you from being all you were made to be, ask yourself if it might be time to get off the train tracks…

As always, let me know if I can help.

With love,

Sonia