38. (A Letter)

You’d be 38 today.

If you were still here, I’d probably call and poke fun at how old you were getting. Make plans to have you come over to have dinner with me, Nick, and the kids. I’m positive my mom would come, too.

…maybe you’d bring your wife and kids too. I’m sure my daughter would be excited to see you. After dinner, you and my husband would most likely argue about New York Hip Hop being better than Southern Rap. I’d smile at how you’re just as overprotective of me like when we were kids.

We’d retell the same jokes. Laugh about the same stories. I can actually hear your laugh in my mind. It never changed.

These images have made me sad before. But not today.

Because today is your birthday. Today is, and will always be, special.

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I miss you, Mike. Happy Birthday.

Love, Your Little Sister

Mommy Brain

Super strange phenomenon.

And it’s only happened to me less than a handful of times. I am sitting with or near one of my kids, they will be gabbing away about something…persistant in getting my attention, of course.

I’m usually super distracted and will try as hard as I can to master the parenting art of Multitasking. Parenting is 99.9% multitasking, mind you. After a few minutes, my annoyance level peaks on about a 3 on the 1 – 5 “Why Did I Have Kids Again?” scale. I break my attention on whatever I was doing and end up looking in my kid’s direction.

My eyes sweep past their tiny frame and I manage to lock eyes with them as they excitedly tell or show me something, seemingly insignificant to me, but they find fascinating. And then I notice it.

The spark of personality. A growing personhood that, in this millisecond, appears complete and whole. And I feel like I didn’t realize that I had a child like them UNTIL THAT VERY MOMENT.

I think, “Holy crap. I’m actually a mom. This is my daughter! Oh, wow. She is so beautiful. Look at her little face!!”

It’s feels like I’ve been away for awhile or in a coma and I’ve only been a mom for a day, actually. Once my emotions catch up with reality, I do realize that I’ve been active and present for many, many more moments. My heart is flooded with images of their births, first feedings, funny and frustrating moments. I relive it all as if my life is flashing before my eyes…but in a good way.

Love, for Goodness Sakes… (Thoughts on Faith)

I don’t want to be weak & ineffective. And I do not want to be mean-spirited. Most definitely in my faith. But I find myself caught in between two ideologies & it’s a tough line to tow. On my right, the militant & unashamed, wearing theological combat boots & bum rushing through  a person’s wounds & hurtful history in order to dominate the conversation with their own piety. But of this they aren’t aware. On my left, the blended believer whose faith is so contoured into the universe, it’s hard to know where their feet are planted. They unintentionally coax people into embracing their sickness, often giving no true remedy. 

Honestly, I can only share with others the God that I truly know. During my church’s prayer service yesterday, I heard the following, “Don’t be afraid to talk about my Love.” 

Why be fearful talking about God’s Love? And how are we missing it by dwelling in either of the two extremes: militant Christianity or passive Christianity? My guess would be we are defining Love through our own experiences, rather than through God’s explanation. 

The militant believers are afraid of using Love as the center of their evangelism and theology because it appears weak. In their eyes, it waters down the Gospel, taking away the urgency in the call to repentance. 

On the other hand, the well meaning passive Christians oversell the Love aspect as if God is not multifaceted. They take the compassion of God and dumb it down to the fickle level of human experience. And that would be doing the world a great injustice. My feelings change often. But the way God feels about me never will. It isn’t necessary to be overly emotional to help people identify with this Truth: God truly loves me. 

Romans 8:38-39 sums it up immensely:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we have an inaccurate view of God’s Love, then we cannot fully grasp the Gospel in its totality. I can have a head knowledge of how sin entered the world or how I need a Savior, or even the difference between good and evil, but if I do not let His Love affect me, to the point that I am fully convinced of it more than anything else, then I run the risk of dwelling in the extremes of my Faith. Either I conjure a emotional counterfeit that lulls the heart into a slumber or I will push potential believers into a corner of self-righteousness. 

God is Love. And He loves you. There’s more, but it’s that simple.

Trekking Through Madness.

“I have traveled through madness to find me.” – Danny Alexander

 

I’ve spent countless moments giving off a bit of my light, but mainly in secret. My biggest nightmare has never been to give a public speech or being the center of attention. (Although those things are terrifying…) I’m most afraid of being perceived as faking it. Being disingenuous. That I’d be characterized as a phony.

Someone would assume that the things I truly love, the passions and beliefs I carry, I may not be as passionate about as I claim. Or that my abilities and skills probably won’t match what others perceived. It’s funny because the price I’m paying for coming out of hiding; for being me out in the open, is that now I’m looking over my shoulder. Aware that others are, in fact, watching. And they are constantly drawing conclusions about what they see or don’t see. It makes me paranoid, honestly.

I know that the right answer is to not give a single care about what others think. But you must understand something about me: I care. And I cannot help it.

One of the struggles attached with being a self-declared empath (google that one) is that I’m aware of others without trying to be. I can feel variations of others comfort levels, hear depths within the inflections of someone’s voice, feel tension the second I walk into a room. While navigating through this, I often gather that what I’m picking up is directed at me. Ha. Insecurity is poison for an empath.

Beyond wanting to be liked (which is what we all want if we’re honest), I desire to be helpful. Effective. I want people to leave my presence with more good things than they came with. I understand it’s not all on me, or about me, and I often do not have the power to make things happen 100% of the time. But I’m aware that a tiny bit of my own madness can find a way to attach itself to others…..if I’m not careful.

So…

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I just self-published my first collection of poetry. It took me much longer than I’d like to admit, but I did it. Something concrete that I created is public. Open to be consumed and critiqued. Interpreted.

I hope people are inspired. I hope people understand me more. I hope to help others put their books out. I hope this is just the beginning.

I feel clean. Like I’ve made a lengthy confession about my first 31 years. Now that this is done, I can move on, and write more honestly. Clearer. Some of the poems in this book represent a trek from mindsets that I don’t even hold anymore. Battle wounds that are simply scars.

Wow.

It’s done.

If you’re interested, find the book here:

For James

Safe Spaces (Thoughts on Being a Therapist)

I still experience brief panic whenever I’m notified that my next client has arrived. You would think that after working for 6 years in the mental health field, I’d more often face a new session with solid optimism and focus. There are times, admittedly not as often as in those earlier days, that I simply want to run away.

Is this the type of therapist that you’d want to see? Be honest. If you knew what went on in your counselor’s mind before, during, and after your sessions, would you feel offended? Would it lessen your desire to come back the following week? If you knew the script of anxiety, self-doubt, and soul sickness that he or she ruminated in their minds on a daily basis, how would it affect how you viewed their skills? I’d assume most of you would feel too squeamish to continue bringing your personal problems to someone like this.

Truthfully, I feel it is this, more than any of my therapeutic skills, that qualifies me to be a therapist. Let me explain….

I spend about 9 hours a day, Monday through Friday, helping others unpack and process the most horrific memories. The most dysfunctional thought and behavioral patterns. I walk people through their traumatic histories and admit their deepest secrets out loud for the first time. I’ve seen people cry in moments of grave despair and from being overwhelmed by relief. I’ve been a stand-in/substitute for people to unload their most narcissistic and down-right cruelest philosophies. I’ve seen my clients possess personal breakthroughs and insights, but also be gripped by irrational and rational fears.

Not a full week of sessions will go by without me identifying with something one (or more) of my clients say or do. I can’t help but see flashes of my face while listening; hearing my own voice serve as a faint echo when they speak. Even in some moments when they say something completely irrational, knowing the context, I secretly agree and will understand their thinking patterns.

It is a very thin line to walk. Crossing it would mean that I lose whatever insight I’ve gained through my own treatment. The torture lies in having to relive my history over and over. Circling back through whatever grief I’ve processed; being reminded of a painful past of which I’ve been able to stop dreaming. I sit in silence after a client leaves my office, and complete a self-check. There are moments when I am blind-sided and can only repeat out loud, “You’re okay. You are okay.”

This isn’t denial. Simply reminding myself of my path. The steps that I’ve taken and the storms that I’ve endured to equip me to be a “healer”. I read in a book once that, historically, therapists were seen as healers. Synchronized with that of a shaman, in some cultures. Meaning, we help others fight against unseen sicknesses. Whatever your point of view regarding therapy, we can all agree that there is no poster child for issues such as depression and anxiety. The sufferer changes faces, races, and ages all the time. Healers are meant to be strategic, compassionate, but also experienced when faced with the plight of these sicknesses.

This is why I feel, in some strange way, thankful that I require a deep breath, a prayer, and a period of quiet before a session. I am thankful for the brief battle that occurs before I go out to the waiting room to greet my clients. There is a shift that needs to happen. There are things that I need to remember. I’m never totally sure what needs my clients will bring with them into session. Many times, they aren’t sure themselves. Which is why that moment of quiet is so necessary. If they need a safe space, then I will clear the room to help them create one.

Ten.

I’ve loved Nick George for 10 years. Give or take. May 18, 2007 was the day I realized it was actual love. There we were, walking across our college campus, mere hours before we were both meant to go home for the summer. I’d spent a week in a sort of funk because I knew that our friendship would end up whittling away to “oh, she’s just that girl I hung out with my sophomore year”. I had come to accept it…until he asked me to take a walk with him.

That Day led to a forever.

Because three months after May 18th, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Another almost 5 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And a year after that, we would start to have our kids.

Our path has been far from easy. And we have both felt like giving up at one point or another. But the fruit of being loved by Nick is immeasurable. The “18th” will always be significant for us. I’m so glad I agreed to go take that walk.

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