Storytelling: “Restless in Chicago”

I’d like to welcome *you* into my home. Will you join me?

I’m hosting a brunch with women gathered around my breakfast table. The theme is “Rest” and I’m going to tell a story.

Storytelling: “Restless in Chicago”

It was a beautiful summer night on our little street, over-looking the Chicago River. Our building was a quiet refuge in the city. There was a cozy neighborhood feel of safety in being tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue- just around the corner.

Despite that safety, my heart didn’t feel safe and the journey to refuge was an all-out war.

I have no idea how the turmoil within my heart began on this particular night. I must have felt an offense from my husband; somehow I felt that he wasn’t loving me. This “unloved” experience always came with a sensation of being 11 years old inside. Adult Catherine *was safe and loved* but it was 11 year old Catherine that felt neither and it was her little heart that needed comfort.

It must have been this “11 year old Catherine” inside my adult mind that got angry in response to feeling unloved, ignored, and unwanted. (In fact, it was an inner “little Catherine” that used to ask my husband, Ryan, almost every single day, “Do you love me? …Why? …How do I know? …It wasn’t until I realized years later that these questions were never for him, that my inner little girl was finally quieted and the questions ceased. But that’s another story.)

On this late night, the wounded 11 year old girl inside of me was stomping through the house, and my mind was filled with exhaustion, adrenaline and resolve to leave. As I was lacing up my shoes, my husband, Ryan, sat down on the bed next to me, and said, “You can go if you need to, but let me get you a hotel. And I’ll make you a deal: for every hour that you stay, I’ll upgrade your hotel. And if you stay until midnight, and you still decide to leave, I’ll get you the “W” Hotel.”

A gleeful smile and delighted laughter broke through my anger and tears.

It was a brilliant display of love, humor, and giving of freedom that was enough to melt my heart.

He put his arm around me and I began to sob- full-body sobs, reaching deep down into young Catherine’s heart. He guided me to lay down, and then rubbed my back. He listened to how hurt I had felt, and he apologized. I apologized too.

Ryan prayed over me as he rubbed my back and I fell into a deep and deeply *restful* sleep.

God’s Gift to us is Rest

I once heard Dan Allender say that we each have a war with rest, and this is our war with faith. Now I understand this truth in my experience.

Through the praying, writing, and sharing of this story God began to open my heart to see that my “war with rest” is correlated to “little Catherine’s” struggle in the past. God showed me a young part of my heart that He wanted to heal.

I found several “rest correlations” in my story: 1) Rest and relationship; 2) Rest and being seen and heard; 3) Rest and receiving; 4) Rest and our physical bodies; 5) Rest and repentance and 6) Rest and unconditional love.

I came to a tenacious conviction that “true rest comes *only* through communion: communion with God and with others in a context of unconditional love.”

My story illustrates that this true communion comes through a battle.

I hope you can see that this is your story too. For each person, rest comes through a fight. If you do not find true rest in your life perhaps it’s because you’ve never engaged the war.

Rest, through communion with Himself, is God’s desire and gift to us.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

Past and Present Converge in War

The battle surfaces and rages because there is an Enemy who does not want us to come to Jesus for rest. Our own nature also resists the coming that involves repentance and receiving.

Isaiah 30:15

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

But you were unwilling…”

Are you familiar with the part of your heart that resists rest- that is “unwilling” to come to Jesus? What is your *war* with rest? What does it actually look like in real time and what does it feel like in your body? How can you begin to actually fight this war *for rest*?

We live in a sin-torn world where Evil reigns, if only for its allotted time. Evil wars against life, against communion, and against love… and therefore, against rest; and against us coming to Jesus, where ultimate rest is found. How does Evil wage this war and what are the weapons? Evil always weaves lies in such a crafty manner such that the lies seem to be truth to the very core of our being.

“You will only find rest in solitude.”  Evil whispered this lie in my ear from an early age.

Young 11 year old Catherine desired to be seen and heard, yet she lived in silence, and no rest came. The only “rest” she knew was time alone, with her bedroom door locked shut. However, the “rest” itself was a lie; an illusion. It may have been an escape from the reality outside the bedroom door, and at the time she had no experience of true rest, so how did she even know what rest was? The illusion of rest came through self-destruction. It was behind this locked door that she began to slice her skin open with a knife. Was it through the red, salty blood that “rest” came?

The Battle Won

We can either continue on our own path, which is really no rest at all but only an escape that leads to hurt and destruction or we can follow God’s way to true and lasting rest.

In my teen years, I began to settle in rest when God opened my eyes to the fact that Jesus had died on the cross for me. I had known and believed this since I was a little girl, but as a teenager it became personal to my own struggle.

It was healing balm for my raw heart to know that God saw the worst in me and saw all the things I hated about myself but still loved me: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

His blood paid for all my sin, therefore, I didn’t have to make myself bleed anymore. I found rest in God’s unconditional love for me through Jesus.

My heart found rest and joy in communion with Jesus. Spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture was my delight, and my heart was full.  This was abundant life that I had not known through the false rest of escape.

A Paradox: The Battle is Won yet Keep Fighting

The book of Hebrews sets forth a paradox: we work to rest.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience {unbelief}.” ~ Hebrews 4:11

Jesus was the final sacrifice and offering for sin; therefore, we can accept his gift,  and cease from our own labor of earning merit before God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus in our place, we are reconciled and accepted before God.

Jesus has done all the work on our behalf; now it is our lot to rest in the acceptance Jesus has purchased for us by his own blood, and yet we need to fight to experience in our daily lives the rest he has secured for us eternally.

The fight is to keep coming to Jesus continually and to keep trusting that we are indeed forgiven, loved and accepted by God. The fight is to believe this in every moment of every day.  In my story above, the lie that I was unloved and a second lie offering isolation as a solution both threatened to steal my experience of rest.

In this life we never arrive at perfection, or wholeness or fullness of healing. God always has more for us: more healing, more freedom, more rest. In order to continue into “more” we must say “yes” and follow Jesus as he invites us into exploring our stories, and therefore our hearts and minds.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24

Each story contains insight as to how Evil has woven lies that we’ve unwittingly or wittingly agreed with. New insight invites us to repent of ways we’ve attempted to find life, healing, or solace apart from God.

In the aftermath of my story work, repentance involved renouncing and turning from the lies that promised safety through escape in solitude, instead of in Jesus. In repentance I turn more fully to Jesus as THE source of life.

Evil still comes to me and whispers the lie of “rest in solitude.”

The settings and circumstances may be very different. Instead of a late night drama, it can be a joyful family afternoon.

I might be out rollerblading with my family in our drive way and suddenly a guttural need to flee will arise. I will find an excuse to go inside and be alone. I was never aware of this pattern until I did this story work. Now can I recognize and name the excuse; previously, the reason to leave felt like a true need.

Now I can hear the invitation of Jesus through Ryan’s gentle voice urging me to stay; telling 11 year old Catherine, “it’s safe, you’re loved and welcome here. You belong with us.”

I am waging war against Evil.

I keep my roller blades on and skate a little longer.

I am staying in communion.

 

Advertisements

Delight of my Life’s New Look

Introduction:

Whether you’re new to Delight of my Life or have been following since the beginning, I want to introduce to to my new page and invite you to join the conversation.

The goal of my blog is “creating community around an honest journey through the joy and grief of life.”  Blog topics include Child loss and Grief; Attachment Theory in Parenting; Mental Health; Christian Theology and Ministry; Veterinary Medicine; and Community Stories.

Why a blog anyway?

After my daughter Tirzah was stillborn at 40 weeks on August 20, 2014, I began writing “Dear Tirzah” letters. I believe these letters were true communication with her; that she can see me and hear me from Heaven. These letters became a source of healing for my broken heart.

I decided to dedicate a blog to Tirzah, using the meaning of her name, which is “delight of my life.”  I wanted to share my own journey of grief, in order to help other women grieve, and help people understand how to support their friends and family through loss.

Over the past three years of walking this grief journey, I’ve found that *grief expands* and *trauma begets trauma*.  Loosing a child is so life-shattering that it has a ripple effect that goes far beyond only the initial trauma of death. Therefore, my blog has grown to include other topics of trauma, mental health and parenting.

You may find this to be different then other “loss communities” that zero in on the topic of grief. My writing will address many peripheral topics, that will be relevant to many other people as well.

My hope is that my writing and the community formed around this blog will be a blessing and life-giving. I hope that together we will learn how to better listen, better suffer, and each grow in knowing our own story, and therefore where we need kindness, repentance, and freedom.

What can I expect?

My plan is to increase my posting, hopefully to 3 times a week. I hope to have a predictable rhythm to posts: starting with a post on prayer at the beginning of the week, midweek featuring a community story, and on the weekend posting on a main category topic (grief, mental health, theology, etc).

How can I join?

 

You can follow my blog and get my posts in your email! I welcome comments and feedback to my posts!

I want to grow a community section. I eagerly desire your questions, and stories! I have a blog email: catherine@delightofmylife.com. Please submit stories of child loss, grief, trauma, joy, goodness and blessing… anything in your life journey! You can request your post to be anonymous, and I will not post anything without your approval first.

A friend suggested that I have a veterinary category to my blog! Besides a Jesus follower, a wife, mother, and blogger, I am a veterinarian!! I love the idea of writing in this category, because I do love this field, but am not currently working. Please help me keep my passion alive, and submit your pet questions or stories!

Happy 3rd Birthday Tirzah!

Dear Tirzah,

We now celebrate your 3rd birthday! (August 20th)

It’s been a gift to celebrate you and remember you… You were our little perfect Gift! and still are.

With the school year starting and Jeremiah entering Kindergarten, I’ve been thinking that you would be going into preschool… what would it have been like for you to be buddies with Jeremiah and him showing you around CHA?

I can picture it clearly in my mind… but then I think, “No! no, you’re just where you’re supposed to be… with Jesus… held in His arms… walking with Him in the heavenly gardens.”

I remember the words in my speech just 2 1/2 months after your birth:

( https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/119/

“The Lord convicted me that I needed to submit to Him so FULLY that I could honestly say before God and men that I would not change the story, if given the chance… I needed this unshakable faith and trust in the goodness of God… such that I would not rewrite Tirzah’s life on this earth. These questions: “Would I rewrite the story? Would I write it differently?”  … there is still the temptation… but still the same conclusion.

Dearest Tirzah, my most beautiful and precious little princess, you are our perfect gift just the way you were… still, silent, yet carrying a loud message of LIFE.

You brought us the gift of LIFE in so many ways:  Faith, Hope, and Love in new depths, new vibrancy…  and a farther reaching spectrum of emotions- more tears and steadfast joy (for now we cling to Eternity… a part of our hearts are already in Heaven with you, Tirzah.  Hope in Heaven is the only true Hope, and the only true joy has eyes toward Jesus and Eternity) These tears and this joy are a little closer to the heart of God (who weeps with deep mourning and rejoices in the heights of Heaven).

You opened our hearts to deep grief, such as we had never known before, and pain that we didn’t know was possible. But yet, we have seen the Lord’s faithfulness, felt His presence, and heard His voice with an intensity and reality that matched the depth of our brokenness. Job says in 5:18: “For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.”

Tirzah, your life is still bringing us the gift of healing. We can only be healed so far as we are broken. Dan Allender once said that “trauma begets trauma”… and oh! did we find that to be true!

I have a theory: that all grief, pain and trauma have the same biochemical outcome in our brains… therefore, one traumatic event can actually trigger all past trauma and bring it to the surface again.

The last three years have been tumultuous for your dad and I, as not only the trauma of loosing you on this earth was felt, but all past traumas of our lives were also brought forth.  This brokenness in our hearts was there before you, just buried beneath the surface. Now you have brought us the gift of healing and the gift of being “wounded healers”, by the grace of God.

My good friend Rose shared this verse with me often:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  ~ 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

This is where we are now, Tirzah. Because of you we have the gift of a new calling on our lives. And when I say “we” I include Jeremiah and Judah!

Ever since you were born, Tirzah, Jeremiah has a sense of empathy that is stunning for a small child. He was about 2 1/2 at that time. As a result of our grief over you, Jeremiah became keenly aware of emotions. When we read him stories after your birth, he would point to every character on the page and want to know how they were feeling. Every single day (this is no joke), multiple times a day, Jeremiah would hand me a train and say, “Percy is sad because there are no beetles, lets just listen to how he feels.”  One day we were at a park with a sandbox (of course another mom with a similar age boy was sitting right next to me), and Jeremiah (about age 3) handed me a shovel and said, “This shovel is sad because he can’t dig, let’s just listen to how he feels.”  I was a little tongue-tied… but beaming with pride.

God has joined your story with ours, Tirzah, and He is beginning to work in Jeremiah his own life verse:  “He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well…”  (Jeremiah 22:16)

Tirzah, you’ve given him eyes of empathy… to see pain in the eyes of another.

Just a couple weeks ago, (at age 5) he prayed in the evening, “Dear God, I pray that Mommy wouldn’t feel guilty…”  My mouth dropped open: for him to understand that emotion, to recognize it in me, and to have the compassion to pray for me was simply stunning… and I believe Spirit-given.

I believe we will see God use you, Tirzah, in Judah’s life as well. Judah’s life verse comes from Ezekiel 37: verses 4-5, 10.

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, “Oh dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live“… So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army.

Your little brother’s first birthday is now just a few days away! I wrote this in Judah’s newborn album:

“The Knight family is now a family of five. Judah is our third child: his older brother Jeremiah, and older sister Tirzah. We want Judah to know all about his sister. Our desire is the same for both Tirzah and Judah: That they would both carry a message of LIFE.

“The verse that Tirzah carries in her still and silent way, for it is engraved on her headstone, is one that Judah will carry with a strong and loud voice:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? ~ John 11:25-26

 

 

Do you love me? : Every child’s question

Almost a year ago, our family was in a state of desperation. The arrival of our sweetest little bundle of joy, Judah, had apparently upset the balance of our happy home. Four months later, Ryan and I were sleep deprived and Jeremiah was having daily temper tantrums. (I started writing this when Jeremiah was still 4; He is now 5)

I knew something HAD to change after Jeremiah punched Ryan in the face and stomped on my IPad.

After I recovered from my initial shock and disbelief, I geared myself up and flew into action. I spoke with trusted people and asked others for prayer.

Eventually, I remembered a book that a few CHA moms had been raving about… “How to Really Love your Child” by Dr. Ross Campbell. When I looked it up on Amazon, I realized THIS was the book that Park Community Church had gifted to us at Jeremiah’s baby dedication!!

And then sheepishly I also remembered I actually had tossed the book aside and thinking, “Why would I ever need this?? I know how to love my child!”

Oh the pride of a new parent!

Parenting has a way of humbling the most stubborn pride.

The truth is: I need this book (probably to re-read it often!); we all need this book.

While I strongly encourage you to read this book (whether or not you have children), I will share the journey God lead me on through this book. And I do believe this book was an answer to prayer and a God-send. It is true that within a week of reading this book, Jeremiah’s temper tantrums not only stopped, but he was answering us, “Yes, Mom”, and “Yes, Dad”, all on his own! It felt like a miracle! I can’t even describe the relief it brought my heart to have peace and joy return to our home!

  1. The Wrong Question

First, I realized I had been asking the wrong question: “How can I correct Jeremiah’s behavior?”

I’ll admit I was sick and tired of the tantrums. I simply wanted them to stop. And I was angry. I was fed up and ticked off about the disruption in our home. I felt like I was being robbed of peaceful mornings and enjoyable dinners.

Dr. Campbell writes (p. 104): “The tendency is for parents to ask, “What can I do to correct this child’s behavior? Unfortunately, all too often this question leads initially to punishment. It is then difficult to consider the real needs of children, and we may end up spanking or sending children off to their rooms. Children will not feel loved if we approach handling misbehavior this way.

“We should always begin by asking ourselves, “What does this child need?” 

In other words, where is there a breakdown in the experience of love? Has the child been receiving loving eye contact, loving touch, focused attention and loving instruction?

The basic tenant of Dr. Campbell’s book is that children are constantly asking, “Do you love me?”

They don’t ask directly with words, but instead with their behavior. The more rebellious and disruptive their behavior is, the more desperate the question: “Do You Love Me?”

  1. The Essential Needs of a Child

Dr. Campbell opens the book with the story of “Tommy”, a 14 year old who had been a “good kid” and whose parents are now bewildered by the troubled road he’s traveling. Tommy’s parents feel like they’ve loved him and given their best into raising him the right way. However, when Dr. Campbell talks to the boy one –on-one, he finds that Tommy’s experience is quite different. He does not experience the love of his parents, and doesn’t feel like they’re concerned about him either.

“Tom Smith’s parents do love him deeply. They have done their best in rearing him, but something is missing. Did you notice what it was? No, not love; his parents do love him. The basic problem is that Tom does not feel loved… Like most parents they believed they were meeting Tom’s needs: food, shelter, clothes, education, guidance, etc. In the process of meeting all those needs, they overlooked his need for love- unconditional love. Although love is within the heart of almost all parents, the challenge is to convey this love.”

The thought shattered my anger and broke my heart: When Jeremiah was having a temper tantrum he was actually pleading with me, “Do you love me??”

The hard truth is that we often unwittingly answer with a “no” through OUR behavior…. And consequently our children feel unloved.

In his book, Dr. Campbell has a chapter on each of 4 essentials children need from their parents in order to experience love: 1) Eye contact; 2) Physical Touch; 3) Focused Attention, and 4) Loving Discipline or guidance.

Once I had the insight that Jeremiah’s outbursts were an understandable reaction of anger to his experience of feeling unloved, I had to determine where the gaps were. How had I changed since Judah was born?

I realized that eye contact had taken a sharp decline and so had focused attention. I was letting him watch quite a bit of TV or movies while I was caring for Judah.

Dr. Campbell defines focused attention as “giving a child full, undivided attention in such a way that the child feels without doubt completely loved; that the child is valuable enough in his or her own right to warrant the parent’s undistracted watchfulness, appreciation, and uncompromising regard. In short, focused attention makes a child feel like the most important person in the world in his or her parents’ eyes.” (pg 57)

He goes on to give the example of the priority that Jesus gave to children: “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and [He] said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; … for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’… And He took them in his arms and began to bless them, laying His hands upon them,” (Mark 10:13-16, NASB)

  1. Hollow Substitutes for Real Love

Dr. Campbell says that in his experience, “focused attention is the most demanding need a child has, because we parents have extreme difficulty in recognizing it, much less fulfilling it. We do not recognize this particular need for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that other things we do for a child seem to suffice. For example, special favors (ice cream or candy), gifts and granting unusual requests seem to substitute for focused attention at the time. These kindnesses are good, but it is a serious mistake to use them as a stand-in for genuine focused attention… Focused attention is not something that is nice to give children only if time permits; it is a critical need each child has. How children view themselves and how they are accepted by their world is determined by the way in which this need is met. Without focused attention, a child experiences increased anxiety… He or she is consequently less secure and is impaired in emotional and psychological growth. Such a child can be identified in the nursery or classroom.”

  1. We must answer with our Presence

Dr. Campbell asks hard questions of parents in his book:

“What are the priorities in your life? Where does your child fit in? Does your child take first priority? Second? Third? Fourth? You must determine this! … No one else can do this for you. A spouse cannot determine your child’s priority in your life… Only you can do this. So what is it fellow parent? What and who gets priority in your life? Job? Church? Spouse? House? Hobby? Children? Television? Social life? Career?”

As I read these words, I recalled that after Judah was born I had bought Jeremiah new toys and a batman shirt… I would let him watch batman shows on TV… or how I had continually pass Jeremiah off to Ryan while I cared for Judah. I was dismayed as I evaluated the sum picture.

Even though I am a stay at home mom, I realized that with the little time I had when I wasn’t caring for a newborn baby, I was not actually making Jeremiah a priority. I was exercising to lose weight. I was cooking healthy meals. I was organizing our home. All good things. But I wasn’t face to face with Jeremiah, simply enjoying his presence with me.

I decided to make changes… immediately. In the chapter on focused attention, Dr. Campbell instructs that “Careful Planning Pays Off.” I considered and planned how I could rework my days and weeks to have one-on-one time with Jeremiah. I know that Jeremiah loves to bake or work with food, loves his Boys Life and Ranger Rick magazines, and doing our Bible devotional book. So I made sure they were available and ready for when Judah was napping or content with tummy time. Instead of seizing this time to exercise or clean, I would seize these moments for Jeremiah.

  1. God is the ONLY Perfect Parent

The idea that your child might not feel and actually experience your love may cause an initial guttural reaction of defensiveness… “Of course my child knows that I love him (or her)! I tell him that I love him every day!”

We must realize that our *unspoken* language actually speaks louder than our words. Words are meaningless if we do not show love FIRST by our presence.

Think this through with me: how does a child learn the meaning of language? Of a word? It is by an embodied experience of the word… such as “hot” or “cold. They must feel it with their bodies to know the meaning of the word. Similarly, how does a child even come to understand the meaning of the word “love”? It is not through hearing the words “I love you” only… but through delighted eye contact, gentle touches and holding, and it is through the time spent enjoying each other.

This is the model given to us by God- the Father of His people. God shows love for his children time and time again *through his Presence*.  His very purpose in the creation of mankind was for intimate fellowship with them. Before the entrance of Evil, God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day… enjoying each other’s presence. And now God is working all of history toward the supreme goal of restoring His intimate presence with us… The highest desire of God’s heart is to be *with us*.

It was this desire that lead him to come to earth as a Man (equally God and equally man) to reconcile mankind to Himself. As the God-man he became “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us.”  And as Emmanuel, He could fully empathize with us (Hebrews 5:2). To empathize is to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)  This is empathy: what you see and hear and feel in your body reverberates in mine. It is to see another fully; to see with body, emotions and mind.

How can this happen between two people without undistracted, face-to-face, eye-to-eye presence? This is essential to love. Sadly, I fear that many people have never experienced this… instead only a hollow, empty shell of what we call “love.”  Because we can never give away what we haven’t received.

The good news is that regardless of the failings of our earthly father and mother, God always stands with his arms open for the prodigal child, wanting to be our Perfect Parent. We can receive His perfect love, and His Presence.

God receives his first personal name in the Bible by a woman who has been abused and traumatized… she runs away, isolated… only to find she is not alone. God meets her and says: “I see you.” … Therefore, the woman names Him: “The God who sees”; which is “El Roi.”  (Genesis 16:13)

Through receiving the perfect love of “El Roi” in more fullness day by day, we can in turn continually grow in loving others including our children.

We must meet our children with our full presence and see them with the eyes of our heart and soul.  Yet, you cannot give away what you have not received. Therefore, go to God… continually. Each day we must make the journey from being “elder brother” to become the “prodigal son”… Is it ONLY the prodigal child that can *receive* the Father’s unconditional love (the only TRUE unconditional love in the world).

(for more on the Prodigal Son: https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/dangerous-waters/ )

(for more on Face to Face with God: https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/a-slap-in-the-face/ )

6. Know Your Own Story: Personal road blocks to Love

Have you ever seen the “self-awareness” grid? It’s called the Johari Window. (click below)

johariwindowmodeldiagram

I still remember my bewildered feeling when my first counselor, Cyndi Mesmer, showed me this diagram. It was frightening to realize there were things about me that others could see that I couldn’t see. The point is we need to be open to others in order to grow. Without their feedback we will never enlarge the “open and free” window.

Part of this willingness to receive feedback is the humility to admit that we don’t love our children perfectly. There is room to grow.

The journey goes like this:

  1. We realize that we don’t love our children perfectly. We have road blocks.
  2. We consider our particular road blocks- do you struggle with focused attention? With eye contact? With physical touch? or with loving discipline? (discussed more in the book than in this blog post)
  3. Consider how these roadblocks fit into your childhood story? How did your parents give (or not give) these essential love ingredients?
  4. Seek healing and growth by bringing these struggles into relationship- with a counselor, your spouse, and even your children. Most importantly, bring your struggles to Jesus- ask Him for insight, healing, and growth.

For Mother’s Day this year I asked Jeremiah for feedback. I asked, “What makes Mommy a good mommy?” Jeremiah said, “You give hugs and kisses.” I asked further, “Do I give enough hugs, or do I need to do it more?”  He replied, “You need to do it more.”

I was glad I asked! I never would have considered myself to be a parent that struggled with physical contact… never in a million years!! But in Jeremiah’s experience he needed more.

A wonderful resource for this journey is the “How We Love” book series by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. As professional counselors, they look attachment styles that they call “love imprints.” We all have “love wounds” from our primary relationships that cause us to give and receive love out of insecurity. The five types they look at are “Avoiders”; “Pleasers”; “Vascilators”; “Controllers” and “Victims.”

In their book “How we Love Our Kids” they look at how a parent’s love style impacts their children. For example, how does a child experience a parent who is a “Pleaser” or an “Avoider”?  They also look at children: How does a child become a “Vascilator” or a “Controller?

Perhaps this will be my next book review!

 

A Slap in the Face

Think with me for a moment and imagine… In your life, who have you known to have kind eyes toward you? Whose face and eyes have been a safe place for you?

Looking back over my early life, the safe eyes that I remember are those of my cat, Garfield. Does that strike you as silly… or sad? It is true, and I think it’s true for many of us.

Why are so many people animal-lovers, so lavish with their pets and truly heartbroken when they die? I believe it’s because our animals offer us attunement when perhaps no human does. They look into our eyes without shame or judgment. They know how we’re feeling, perhaps better than any person. In the best and worst of times they offer to us their simple, but whole presence.

Isn’t this what we all desire? What we’re made for? The presence of another who truly sees us and understands our thoughts and feelings.

This universal human need for connection, attunement, and love is by God’s design. It is woven deep into the fabric of our hearts… indeed, studies have shown that we cannot live without the tender love of another person.

Consider newborn babies. Their development shows how radically God has hard-wired our brains for “face to face”. The entire world of a newborn baby is narrowed to facial expressions and eye contact. As a result, they are intensely in tune to the unspoken messages of their care-givers.

In his book, “How to Really Love your Child,” Dr. Ross Campbell writes, “An infant’s eyes begin focusing somewhere around two to four weeks of age. One of the first images that hold an infant’s attention is a human face, but in particular the baby focuses on the eyes… you will notice that the eyes are always moving and seem to be searching for something… Do you know what the baby is looking for? That’s right: the baby is searching for another set of eyes. As early as two months, the baby’s eyes lock on another set of eyes.”

This very basic need is most clearly seen in babies, however, it is a need of every single person regardless of age.

The need for face to face is a God-given design and furthermore, is essential to what it means to be made in the image of God. Our triune God is in essence a God of relationship. We reflect this quality in our life-sustaining need for relationship.

Our need for face to face is reflective of our need for God himself. We were designed to be face to face with our Creator.

“Shining like the Sun: A Biblical Theology of Meeting God Face to Face”  by (my own brother) David Wenkel is a book that exposits this point.

The book’s thesis is this: “Those who meet God face to face are changed. The face is the essence of a person… that reflects the person’s relationship to God.”

This book goes through God’s progressive revelation of His face and presence beginning in Genesis and ending with the person of Jesus and the full consummation in the New Heaven and New Earth.

I found this to be an enlightening and enriching way of viewing the Biblical narrative. It provided a unified story frame that is applicable and transformative to my own relationship with God.

God’s design and purpose in all of history is relationship with each one of us. The focal point is an intimate relationship of unity, and surrounding that are desire, delight, and love… *for us*!!

The following sections are questions that came up for me as I read David’s book.

What does God experience when he looks into our face?

“So God created man in his own image… and God blessed them… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” ~ Genesis 1:27,28

When I read these words I have a sense of the sacred, holiness of this moment: God looked into Adam’s face and Eve’s face and he *delighted* in them… He was in awe of his own creation.

We were made for someone to look at us and be delighted.

However, there is a tension, or obstacle here… Evil has come into the picture and through sin has marred and thieved our goodness, beauty and glory. Instead, we are as a leper: sin-sick through and through… and yet, our need for love remains.

Into this impossible tension= our need for life-giving, life-sustaining love… and our total unloveliness (indeed, total depravity) comes a miraculous, stunningly scandalous rescue.

God turned His face away from Jesus so that He would not have to turn away from us. Jesus’s death on the cross means the removal of all sin, stain and shame—for those who receive Him. The total sum of our soul-sickness- past, present and future- was transferred from us to Jesus. He bore our sin, and paid for it with his death, and then he rose from the grave- conquering Evil, sin, and death! *For us*!!

Jesus said, “It is finished!” and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  With the just satisfaction of God’s wrath, He now looks at his own with the same eyes of love he has toward His Son: “This is {Catherine} in whom I am well pleased.”  {Call upon the name of the Lord, and insert your own name!!}

This is the Gospel= we are loved when we are most unlovable. God’s face is toward us. His eyes are locked on us in love.

 “Let me see your face. It is lovely.”   (Songs 2)

Because of Jesus, this is now God’s voice to his own: Desire. Delight. Love. *For us*!!

Why are we changed from “face to face” encounters?

When Ryan and I were in premarital counseling, this one point was engraved deeply in my mind: “The feeling of being listened to is the *same feeling* as feeling loved… A person will feel loved in proportion to the extent they feel seen and heard.” 

Seeing and listening is the essence of love.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is described as “love”… AND the first name he was given was “El Roi”… The God who Sees.

This is an earth-shattering truth. Let that reverberate in your mind and body: We are changed by face to face encounters because this is the purest channel of love.

And HOW are we changed?

We are changed BY love TO love. We are able to love because we’ve been loved.

 “We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

This is the pattern.

Ryan’s experience with his counselor, Joel Murphy, is a wonderful example. My husband is a changed man. He is wise beyond what I could have imagined in loving Jeremiah and I with tenderness, grace and truth. I credit his change and growth to his time *face to face* with Joel. Ryan has received love and is able to give love. This is a visible example of the invisible experience we were made to have with God. We can *only give to others what we have first received.*

How do we respond? What is God calling us to?

First, those who know the love of God in their hearts are called to be face of Christ to others. We must not only share the Gospel of God’s grace with our words, but also with our eyes and our face. Otherwise our words are empty and void.

We must realize this: Our face communicates either judgment or blessing to those we interact with.

Are we actually anti-gospel with our eyes and our face?

The good news of Jesus is that we can draw near to God, finding mercy, in our time of need; this means that when we are most “unlovely”, we can look at God, not fearing condemnation… but finding kindness, forgiveness, and welcome… *For us*

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. ~ Romans 15:7

And yet, we punish, judge and shame another just with our *eyes alone*.

Think of your spouse… your children… those you interact with each day… Do your eyes show delight or distain? … Or worse still, do you not see at all? Do you withdraw your eyes and your presence… through escape to the TV, internet, video games… a thousand ways we find to disconnect from what face to face relationship asks of us.

Let me get specific on the range of anti-gospel interactions we have. There are two main categories: First, there are direct actions, and secondly, there are covert ways of withdrawing or withholding love. Both communicate a “conditional love”… instead of love and welcome to the unlovely, there is love available only when the other has earned our regard.

First, there is physical “defacing”- this is the action of slapping across a child’s face, or any person’s face for that matter. Any physical violence to a child’s face or head, no matter how light the force is *child abuse*, and is deeply damaging to a child’s heart. It is an acting out of a desire that most parents will not voice or consciously think: a heart-desire to remove the child’s face from existence. How many people were punished this way as children?

One person I know received blows to his face by both parents throughout his childhood. As an adult he seems to be confident, assured of himself and successful.  But in his private thoughts he struggles to believe that anyone would want to be his friend or enjoy his presence. In his heart he believes that he is unlovable, unworthy, and not good enough. He feels that he is only desirable through performance.

His experience of *conditional love* I believe is a common struggle. Most people have learned a *works-based acceptance* through the actions of their parents, which has been indelibly etched into their hearts.  The actions may be less violent then hitting… but may be a hardness in the eyes or a cold facial expression that communicates anger and judgment.

We may be completely unaware of these mannerisms until we take notice to examine what our eyes and face are doing in our relationships. And because we are not able to see our own face, we must open ourselves up to feedback from those who can see our face.

My four year old prophet-son said to me yesterday, “Mom, I don’t like the look on your face.”  I replied, “I’m so sorry, Jeremiah. Tell me what you see in my face.”  And he said, “You look mean.”  The vulnerability we both had in this moment opened up an invaluable opportunity to connect and repair… for repentance and forgiveness.

There are also covert ways in which we withdraw our eyes, face and presence. Consider the message that banishing a child to a “timeout” communicates: “When you misbehave, you are no longer acceptable to be in my presence. You cannot be face to face with me until you earn it by good behavior.”

For this reason, Ryan and I have been intentional about conducting our discipline of Jeremiah always within the context of relationship. However, I had another very revealing moment just the other day when Jeremiah was shining a flashlight in my eyes, after several requests that he would not do this, I stood up, and said in a huff, “I’m going in another room!” Jeremiah replied, “Don’t leave me!” Again, in that moment, my heart was unveiled by my little Prophet.

Conclusion

Have you experienced what your heart was made for: Have you had a face-to- face encounter with God?

We all need this- if you’ve never had it before, or have been walking with the Lord for many years- we need to be face-to face with God continually.  Like the prodigal, we need to come home every single day.

And like the prodigal, you must come to God with your presence, your heart, and your voice. The promise of welcome, grace and forgiveness is not for those who stand far off… but for those who draw near and actually *talk to God*. To all who *come*, His arms are wide open… and his eyes are full of kindness.

“…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance…” ~ Romans 2:4

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9-10, 13

And then…

Can we search our hearts and ask Jesus to show us how we have been anti-Gospel in our eyes and in our faces toward those nearest to us- our children, our spouses and our closest family?

Can we ask God to give us new eyes… seeing eyes… full of light… and love… grace and mercy… kindness… welcome.

Have you found safety in the eyes of the Living God?

and

Are your eyes a safe place?

 

drain. the. swamp.

1. Part One

Pussy. Tits. F***.

These are the words of Trump that have caused a national uproar and a torrent of emotion across the country. People were outraged. Shocked. High-profile men and women withdrew their support from Trump.

Social media went wild. People wrote comments such as, “I could never look my daughter in the eye and tell her that I voted for Trump.” … and  “Whoever votes for such a man is humiliating and debasing themselves.”  People are saying that what he did was a sex crime, and by their words convicting him as a criminal.

Clearly what Trump said 11 years ago was wrong, sinful, and encompassed by the work of Darkness.

However, as far as I know, Trump has not been accused, tried or convicted of any crime. Do we really want to revert to the witch hunt tactics of the 1600s?  This was also in the tape: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”  He is not describing an act of rape… seduction and adultery yes, but rape or forced assault- no.

  1. Part Two

My purpose is not to elevate one political party. I want to address the self-righteousness that is rampant. My concern is your heart and my heart.

The question I’d like to ask is: what man out there has not ever talked or thought about a woman in a crude way? How many men out there have not even *once* been a consumer of pornography, which supports sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and a “rape culture”?

The point is, as the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3). I’d like to challenge people to get off their self-righteous high horse and not act like Trump’s sin is worse than ours. (or Hillary’s sin… for some reason Trump’s seems to be more spoken of).

{Jesus} said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone. ~ John 8:7

The self-righteous talk that I am reading and hearing is a severe offense to the Gospel of Jesus.

We ALL need to be saved by the free gift of grace offered by Jesus.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:15

Here’s a story about the political self-righteous rhetoric:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray,… The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: *** ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like [Trump] ***

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, *** ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’*** ~ Luke 18

Are *you* more like the Pharisee or like the tax collector in your words and thoughts?

Be *outraged* at Trump’s sin… and Hillary’s. But are you more outraged at your own sin? Who has the log?? and who has the speck?

You’re either humble or prideful. Your heart is either repentant or self-righteous.

And here is the end of the matter: God gives *grace* to the humble, repentant sinner, but opposes the proud.

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18

  1. Part 3

How DO we address the wrongdoings of both political candidates?

Paul uses the two words: *GENTLENESS* and *HUMILITY*

Galations 6:1- Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.

In Matthew 7, Jesus defines true humility with the analogy of the log and speck:

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:3-5

First, you must have the integrity and honesty to take **ownership** of the log in your own eye.

What you see in Trump, or Hillary will fall into the 2 core issues of the human heart: Lust and anger.

Jesus said that those who struggle with lust are adulterers and those who struggle with anger are murderers. (non-sexual lust is idolatry or adultery before God).

Perhaps Trump is the adulterer and Hillary is the murderer.

BUT SO AM I.  Like Trump I am an adulterer and like Hillary I am a murderer. Anything less than this, is *self-righteousness*.

Got it?  (Just to make sure, try saying out loud to your significant other- “Honey, just so you know, I AM an adulterer and a murderer. Seriously.” )

The point is that you never address someone whom you see to be MORE of a murderer or an adulterer than yourself. This is true humility.

As Dr. Dan Allender said in his podcast, “This leavens the playing field. We can say, “In this struggle I have *been there*, I AM there, and I will BE there in some form until the coming of Christ and full redemption in Him.”

4. Conclusion.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

Drain your OWN swamp first!!

“..the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ Mark 1:15

To him {Jesus} all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” ~ Acts 10:43

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. ~ Ezekiel 18:30

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 CHR 7:14

an enemy within: OCD

I will NEVER stop fighting for you”… these are the words that have started my journey against the enemy: OCD.

First of all, I believe that OCD is a very little understood mental illness. Most people think of someone who can’t stop washing their hands. That may be true in some cases, but for many people with OCD you might never see any symptoms.  Instead, the obsessions and compulsions occur within their minds. This is actually the most severe form of OCD, in my opinion.

The way I experienced my friend’s OCD was as an Enemy that took her completely away. She was present physically, but at the same time completely absent.  When the Monster was at its worst we couldn’t have a normal conversation for weeks.

She saw several professionals over a 3 year span, including a counselor, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. There seemed to be a general consensus: It’s a genetic condition in which the wiring of the brain has a malfunction and thoughts get stuck in a highly anxious, obsessive pattern. The person has to perform various compulsions in an attempt to escape the unimaginably high levels of anxiety.  The two treatment options were a medication like Zoloft, or CBT therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy).

She tried both… long story short: neither was very helpful for her. At some level she gave up, and tried to find a comfortable way to live with this unwanted companion in her life. However, it made life hard for her and all who loved her. It was excruciating for her loved ones to watch her suffer. My new approach was to research natural supplements that could help her brain function. I read and researched and made endless phone calls. I told her again and again, “I will NEVER stop fighting for you.”

In 2014 I went to a “Trauma Care” Conference. This changed my entire perspective on OCD.

I was sitting at the conference listening to Gina White speak on “Dissociation”… and I felt like I was hit by a ton of bricks… ***OCD is a very sophisticated, rather ingenious way of dissociating*** is what I realized. Everything she was saying clicked. She said that people who are highly dissociative will say things like “I don’t feel human.” My eyes must have just about popped out of my head. My friend had said that countless times!!

Again, this was a conference about *Trauma.* I began to make connections between events in my friend’s childhood, that now with Dr. Dan Allender’s definition of trauma I could name as *Trauma* and see the connection with her OCD.

In all of her experiences seeking professional help, not one of them had suggested childhood trauma as the fertile ground for the seed of OCD to rise.  I don’t fault them because this is not what is taught.

It is a *FACT* that people with childhood trauma below the age of 4 years old have a hippocampus (the calming center that balances or overrides the amygdala- the danger center) that is 17-20% smaller than the general population. This is supporting evidence for my theory.

If infant and childhood trauma can change the brain in one way that researches have detected, and the intricacy of the brain is akin to the cosmos, doesn’t it make sense that other things about the brain’s networking are also affected?

Here is another premise about childhood trauma: Whether it occurs through childhood sexual abuse, parental divorce, addiction or violence in the home (verbal or physical) there is a common denominator of a severe deficit of attachment for the child.

The child, who has no ability to find resources outside of himself, will find internal mechanisms to bring down cortisol and increase dopamine and serotonin.

The book, How We Love our Kids, discusses 5 insecure attachment types in parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vacillator, Controller and Victim Parents), the effect it has upon the children, and also how these attachment types will develop in growing children.

The chapter entitled, “Controller and Victim Children” opens with an example of a chaotic home in which there is alcohol addiction, verbal violence and fear. In this scenario there are two children, Clare and Caleb. Clare has a more timid disposition and becomes a “victim” in response to the trauma:

She grabbed her bear and wrapped herself in her bedspread, organizing all her other stuffed animals in a protective circle around her. The rest of the evening depended on Dad’s mood. Most likely her parents would fight, and her dad would yell at her mom. Clare’s stomach hurt. She wondered how bad it would be this time. She whispered to her bear, “If Daddy yells, we can put our heads under the pillow and sing. Nobody will find us.” She began to count her animals over and over to distract herself from the ticking time bomb beyond her bedroom door…”

The authors Milan and Kay Yerkovich explain:

This is a chaotic home. {Parents} Leon and Candi attend church, but their difficult upbringings have left scars. Behind their closed door, Mom and Dad switch back and forth between roles of victim and controller…

Since Clare’s personality is more timid, she deals by trying to comply, retreating, numbing her emotions, and creating an imaginary world. She’s learning to surrender, avoid conflict, and dissociate: the traits of a victim. 

Victims deal with high levels of anxiety by freezing and moving into an internal world to escape.

Kids reenact their trauma in play, trying to master and make sense of their experiences. Sometimes they assume the role of powerful perpetrator to feel some sense of relief over their helplessness.

My theory is that for many people, OCD was birthed through childhood trauma. A vast dissociative internal world was created, in which the child could feel safe and in control. Repetitive thoughts or actions became a way of alleviating anxiety. Later in adulthood, there is an aspect of recreating trauma within their mind, so that they can reenact the control and alleviation. OCD becomes an addiction that takes on a life of its own… the drug is the good feeling of mastering the obsession or fear and the alleviation of intense anxiety. It is an addiction to an interplay of control and victimization where roles are played out and conquered all in the individual’s mind.

The “intrusive” thoughts that are talked about in the professional and treatment realms are really not an “Outside Monster” as I once considered OCD to be. Instead, I believe the voice of OCD is an enemy within, akin to DID (dissociative identity disorder). A fragmented “self” that sabotages and becomes the “Controller”, allowing the person to have a target of self-contempt, a source of fear, for reenactment purposes, that can be escaped thus alleviating the fear and giving a sense of power to the previously powerless child within.

How can this addiction of OCD be treated? (Again, it is our theory that OCD is actually an addiction)

I believe that it can be treated through trauma resolution counseling… In which the underlying goal or purpose of the counselor is to create an attachment relationship for the person. In a sense, to re-parent the person through healthy attunement and containment (the two components of attachment).

It has been proven that the hippocampus will actually *grow* in the presence of a long term (3-4 years) relationship of healthy attunement.

I believe that CBT therapy doesn’t actually work. If it gives results for a time, I believe it’s because of the attunement of the therapist… if therapy only lasts a year or so, when it is over, I suspect the OCD will return.

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts that come from my experience with a loved one with OCD… I don’t claim to be a professional expert… These thoughts are my humble perspective, and I wanted to at least offer my ideas that are counter to main-stream approaches to OCD.