Be. Still. {The Blog}

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Who, Me? (Thoughts About Work)

2014 was a seriously challenging, emotionally draining year for me and my close family. It wasn’t until 2015 was peeking over the horizon did I start to experience relief. My faith was stretched in amazing ways. (Feel free to go back a half a dozen posts to see what I mean…)

2015 has been both chaotic and peculiar. Doors have been opened for me professionally, ones that I hadn’t planned on walking through until maybe 2016. Granted, the nature of my job remains both taxing and challenging, it’s wonderful to work with kids and teens in a variety of roles. Muscles that I haven’t used in over a year are starting to gain their strength again, and I’m feeling my therapist brain becoming sharp where it had grown dull.

I don’t feel 100% prepared, if I can be honest. But then I realized that I felt a similar anxiety when I first started the associate counselor position back in September. But, I threw myself into the role, and sought to give my all to kids every single shift. And I began to gain my own rhythm. I recognized that many of my coworkers, with rhythms of their own, were seeking the same goal. On the majority of our shifts, we were harmonious. And kids found refuge, solace, and safety within the walls of our unit. 

Surpisingly, I found a sense of satisfaction in a high-stress environment. I’d taken the career assessment tests that told me high stress environments are the antithesis of a healthy work environment for me, and thus I should stay far from them. But here I am….in it, and feeling purposeful. 

I feel valued at work but I also feel like I have not all the way earned it. That is truly a hang-up of mine, and I recognize that. What is clearest to me, is that God has a plan for me, and being here with my coworkers and the kids/families who come to us in crisis, is a part of my destiny. 

ME, though? Jeez.

The Race Card (My One Post about Race)

With regards to race, I have come to rest on two main truths:

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

and

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Let me break each one down, as candidly as possible…

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

Each race in America has both individual, day-to-day experiences as their race, as well as experiences shared with the remaining people of the same race. Those shared experiences can be at a community level, a state level, class level, political lean level, national level, etc. Both manners are necessary for statistical purposes. Some people make the mistake of assuming that their personal experience is the same for others of the same race, but that may or may not be true. This is why it is dangerous for people to use generalizations when discussing race, without the correct stats to back it up. Even our modern media can use “race baiting” tactics to make people conclude that a small collection of experiences is the majority. Whatever the race, you should be examining your community (the smallest collective you have easy access to), to see what the racial climate is like.

Having said that, it is easy for some to hide racist agendas on the institutional level (e.g. Job discrimination). Plus, people who have no local awareness of racism, will assume that racism does not exist, or that it isn’t a “big deal”. Many will assume that “the race card” is being used unfairly, and will experience frustration towards the “victimized” people group.

I have seen people compare their individual racial experience with an entire people group of another race. Example: “I don’t know why they need welfare, I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve owned my whole life and never got a single hand out. Those people are just entitled.”

Here’s the problem with that reasoning:

a. This person is making both racist and classist generalizations about that particular people group who are on welfare. This person isn’t just assuming that people on welfare are lazy and entitled, but that the people of that race (who are on welfare) are lazy and entitled.

b. This person is also assuming that just because his individual experience was favorable (He worked hard and received the just due for his hard work), that EVERYONE’S experience will be the same. This is ideal, but naive. If we have learned anything from America’s history is that even though Lady Liberty welcomed many demographics onto her land, whom all had the same hopes and aspirations, not everyone has been able to achieve a piece of her coveted American dream. While it is honorable to teach others that individual hard work gets you success, it should also be taught that often times, the SYSTEM has uneven playing fields. Certain races teach each other to look out for those uneven places, not so we can sit and complain, but so that we can know how to survive and thrive IN SPITE of those places. The person who claims they do not exist are actually doing certain people groups a disservice.

If our nation is truly based on a free market and open, fair competition, I would rather win my place over the next man HONORABLY.

Okay. I hope you’re keeping up. On to #2.

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Inside, we are all the same. Historically, we were taught that blacks were born inferior due to the shape of the skull (re: Phrenology). Thankfully, we now know race to be both a sociological construct and a way to classify and experience shared culture. Some people promote a “racially blind” society, where they believe that if we would simply erase the racial lines, we would all see our similarities clearly and racism would thus be eradicated. Others feel that ridge separatism is the answer; that we should just stick to our own kind.

I’m of the school of thought that a balance should be achieved. That celebrating our differences, and seeing the beauty in each curl pattern and skin tone, will accomplish two things:

a. We will be amazed that we are all capable of great things that are carried out in different ways. It’s the same as with the Biblical analogy of the Body of Christ. Some are feet, some are hands. Their differences in role and gifting are all needed for the Body. Unity does not have to equal uniformity.

b. We will recognize that we are all identical in our ability to commit the worst atrocities. We create a shared humanity by seeing that we are all human. I am amazed by how some people groups fight for equality, but will only fight for the best and brightest claims to being human. Here are a couple of examples: White Privilege exists because some Whites accept the benefits of their race but little of the responsibility that comes with it. And Blacks are infamous for being quick to distribute blame on a collective front, but take no responsibility back to their communities. We all hurt. And we are all responsible.

Going back to the two manners of experiencing race: we share responsibility on both individual and shared levels. If you never examine both manners, then you are only taking half of your responsibility. And you may feel that racism isn’t a huge deal, but it may be because you are only looking as far as your front yard. Look deeper. Look farther.

There is still so much to be done.

Let Them Play

I’m reading the book, Scary Close by Donald Miller and it is jarring loose major parts of my life and thinking.

He tells a story of one of his breakthroughs that occurred while in therapy: speaking to his 9 year old self, who’d he had given the burden/responsibility of gaining attention and validation from others. His 9 year old self had the mindset that he had to be bigger and better in order to gain love from others. Also, this 9 year old represented his outer self; the persona he projected for others. There was also his inner self that existed, his true self, whom the author decided was about 35 years old. His inner self was at peace and okay with being alone most of the time, meanwhile the outer self was stressed and fearful.

The therapist told him to sit in a chair across from his 9 year old self and talk to him. Donald Miller said, “I also want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for pushing you out there in the world so you could impress people for us and fight for us and make money for us while I sat in here and read books”.

I paused after reading this and begin to cry. Looking across my bedroom, I stared at the wall and imagined the age/image of my inner self. She is 14 years old; bangs covering up her quiet, wise eyes, but sitting up straight for fear that others are watching. She wears baggy clothing so that her shape doesn’t show too much, and she’s picking at the sides of her jeans to help keep her from running off to her room; her place of refuge.

She sees me staring at her, so she straightens her back even more, and waits for me to speak.

“I bet you’re exhausted, huh? I’m sorry I let them put so much pressure on you. You’re not even close to being done being a kid, but you’re preoccupied with so many burdens right now. Here, let me take those from you. I know just what to do with them. Please, go off and play. You’re far from done playing.”

Those last two sentences resounded deeply inside of my heart.

Children find both expression and freedom when engaged in play. Imagine, the whole world is filled with turmoil and pain, but our children (the brightest and purest of us) actively seek Play. I had not reached the age where I no longer needed play to express my joys and frustrations. In fact, I needed play at 14 more than ever. It was stripped from me, and I was given adult burdens in its place.

A child who is unable to play is a traumatized child. They see the world with a different set of eyes, and without an adult to protect them, they are left to both understand and defend against this new world on their own.

This was a profound truth to realize because it made me understand why I interact with others the way I do. Why I still throw up a wall when I have conflict in my marriage. And why I still struggle with trusting spiritual authority.

I’m so thankful that God sees me as His child, no matter my age. And that He still encourages me to have liberty and joy in Him. I can cast all burdens to Him and truly be “as a child”. I still believe my days of play are far from over.

Additionally, my struggle fueled my purpose, which is to work with children. Provide them with an atmosphere where they can play freely, without judgement, and encourage their sense of joy and abandon. There are many children who do not have anyone to defend their right to play. Some who have placed adult burdens on to their shoulders and emphasize correct behavior over exploration and the process of becoming an individual. My heart of hearts is to “let children play”.

Their…our…lives depend on it.

Second Wind.

I am NOT a runner. Never have been.

Oddly enough, I hate running outside. If I must run, I’ll do it in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym with a big screen television obstructing my view of the all of the incredibly fit people. I am a poor runner because I am a bad breather.

Let me give you another, unrelated, example:

I remember the year I worked at Liberty University’s Career Center as a Career Counselor, we would go make presentations in various classes. It was a blast, but also anxiety-producing for me. There was a particular class, a freshman Communications class, that had at least a hundred students stretched across the room in theater seating. I and another colleague made a presentation on resumes. I struggled that day, because I had forgotten to breathe in between powerpoint slides.

…by the 4 slide I was completely out of breath and sounded like I’d gotten punched in the stomach. I recall seeing a couple of students in the front row looking amused.

Terrible, right? I stink at breathing (albeit, pacing myself) when under pressure.

I’m drawing a similarity with my life at the moment: lots to do, many hats to transition into and out of, but starting to struggle with pacing all the responsibilities. I won’t write out a list here, because you could probably look back on my previous blog posts and see that I am an incredibly busy woman. Duh.

And at times, I feel that if I have to think of ONE MORE obligation (merited or not), that I’m going to run away. Dramatic, I know. But, it honestly agitates my introversion. My desire to grab my favorite blanket (the one that my former college roommate made for me — thanks Jess), my cell phone, and hide in my bed. Somehow I can do that because the baby has enough milk to last her a month and my husband’s love tank is full so he won’t miss me for at least a week. And miraculously enough, I was able to clone myself to go to work FOR me so that I can continue to help support our family, meanwhile taking care of the finances and managing the home (and never feeling like a failure of a wife). That same clone will also be incredibly active and innovative in church, and call all of my family and friends to give them personal time every week so  no one feels neglected. My clone doesn’t need sleep or pampering or nutritious meals or self-care. And she battles all of the mommy guilt for me, thankfully.

She will take care of all of that, so I’ll be able to sit in my bed and take that much needed second wind.

Glorious, isn’t it?

I feel like I’ve been running for ages but rarely take time to breathe. God the Father Himself took a break after creating EVERYTHING. Why can’t I? Maybe God wasn’t tired, but rather He wanted to show me the way it’s (and by “it” I mean Kingdom building) done appropriately.

All of my efforts to rest won’t satisfy my weariness if I don’t look in the right places. I tend to look for rest externally, when I’ve been commanded to find my rest IN God. And I can free up my schedule to the bare necessities, but still not find rest.

I can have more free time. But miss having genuine rest.

Isn’t that sad? So, is it really about just “not running” or trimming back the distance?

Maybe not, because the race MUST be run. It will be. Once my life is done and over, there will be a summary of how well I ran. How far. And where I ended. Maybe the point is to learn how to breath in the midst. On the journey. Staying connected to the Source that can breathe new life; the One who first breathed into us.

Excuses, Excuses

I have way too many excuses & not nearly enough courage.

Apparently, so do most people. A well-known guy in the Bible named Moses was chatting with God about emancipating his people out of slavery. When told to go, here’s what he said:

Exodus 3:11;4:10
“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Ha. Of all things, Moses brought up his lack of charisma and charm, or that the fact that he might not be able to be very convincing to the ruler of Egypt. Honestly, I was here for Moses on this one. If I were chilling in the desert, enjoying my comfortable existence with friends and loved ones, I wouldn’t want to leave all that and go save a bunch of people I didn’t know anyway…

…but that’s God’s M.O.
Saving folk. Right?

WHO AM I, God? The call is always overwhelming. Too big. Too difficult.
Larger than my hands can hold.
Moses couldn’t wrap his logic around it.

…and neither can I.

I have hobbies. Things that I enjoy doing to pass the time. They are not only enjoyable, but easy.
Then I have talents. Things that I am both good at and enjoy doing. The work that goes into it is enjoyable.
Then…
I have passions. They are overwhelming and taxing at times. Especially when they push me (or pull me, sometimes kicking and screaming) towards my purpose.
Now, Purpose is NOTHING like your hobby or your talent. They can be connected, but they are rarely identical.
Your Purpose is divine and God-breathed. It’s like a distinct birthmark or a mole: it’s unique to you. It’s what identifies you in the Kingdom of God. It’s like your fingerprint, not because no one else will have that purpose, but no one else will carry it out EXACTLY like you.

Imagine this: God made you unique because He needed you to be exactly who you are, so that you can take your place (one picked out JUST FOR YOU) in the Kingdom of God.

So, when I/you make excuses, we are leaving our places unoccupied. And we all suffer because of it.

It’s hard enough DISCOVERING that purpose. Moses had to leave his cushy existence as Pharaoh’s son in order to find it. But the delay caused by excuses are on us. IT’s time to edge them further out of our lives & trade them for a little more courage.

29: Take One

Edging closer and closer to 30 is nothing like the movies portray it to be. At least, not for me. Truthfully, I am thrilled, settled, and more at peace than I’ve ever been in my entire life. It’s difficult not to look at my life from the outside and gauge that my contentedness is based on what I have and who I have to come home to.

…that doesn’t quite explain it.

The 20s are meant to be significant; filled with triumphs and mistakes. You learn more about yourself than probably any other decade in life. There are definitely ways to screw up your 20s, but everyone seems to have an opinion on how to spend these 10 years. Some tell you to live it up because once The Terrible 30s come along, you’ll truly have to grow up, and others bombard you with conversations on marriage, 401ks, and establishing a career. This sort of pressure made me pray for 15, when no one seriously expected much from me.

Thankfully, I didn’t have an overambitious mother. Rather, I had a strong one, and patient to boot, who let me make up my own mind about my future. She treated me like I had the right questions when finding my path, not her. And she provided guidance when I needed it.

(I want to emphasize how much that propelled me into dreaming of my future. I can only hope that I’ll be able to provide that same gift to my own children.)

So, here I am. My plate has never been this full:

Wife.
Mommy.
Working full time in mental health.
In school full time, working on my Addictions certification.
Leader in my church/active in a monthly small group.
And I still go to movies on occasion.

It’s enough to make my head spin sometimes. Yet, I have peace. Not in the fact that I’ve earned where I am.
Quite the opposite. I do not deserve my life. If I felt I did, then I’d feel responsible in fighting to keep it…or drowned in fear of losing it.

But I’ve spent much of my teens and 20s battling fear. And I’ve beaten it these past few rounds.

And I’m encouraged because I’m not yet winded. There is so much better ahead, and my arms are finally, freely open to all that is coming.

Little Me.

So, our little Naomi is coming up on 3 months.

…sheesh…can I just pause and say that happened really quickly?

Anywho.

She’s been doing a really terrifying thing lately:

While I breastfeed her, she will pause and stare at me.

(That’s some hilarious imagery for you, huh?)

No, I am quite serious.

And her stare isn’t, in itself, frightening. Meaning those big ol’ beautiful brown eyes aren’t creepy or eerie. They are very, very intentional. Observant. And almost…”knowing”.

As if whatever secret or shame I am hiding or fronting for at the time, she has already found it. She knows it. This little person stops for a few moments (which feels a lot longer), takes a big, long look at me, & break wide my whole world.

I’m afraid because I remember that soon she won’t be just an ornament on my hip. A super cute, 10 lb. ball of soft flesh wearing a diaper that I can show off on Facebook. Sure, I will blink and she will be an independent, capable young adult who lives her own life and makes her own (hopefully wise) decisions. But, there exists a sliver of time in the near future where she will be at her most impressionable. And not only will she see me, but she will mimic me.

The scariest part?

I can’t control which parts, which moments of mine, she will mimic. “Do as I say, not as I do” has to be the biggest paradox that exists for a parent. And I don’t want too see those big, brown eyes filled with confusion when I chastise her for repeating something that she’s seen her mother do often.

I will naturally try and hide from glances that have a knack for seeing too much of me, too quickly. But I don’t ever want to hide from her.

Not her.

So, after a few moments of Naomi’s glancing up from feeding….

…most of the time, she will giggle or smile at my nervous expression, as if to say,

“Chill, mama. I love you anyway.”

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