Sunday, March 9, 2014

Once Upon a Tragedy...

I have shared before my struggles as a young adult, in a damaged support system, in need of care and support myself. The time in my life when the seed of "Spheres of Grace" was planted. However, I don't know that I have ever shared this story. The circumstances that brought Spheres of Grace into fruition. The details have been changed, the narrative thread is consistent with what happened.

Once upon a time, many, many years ago there was a tragedy... A break your heart, change your life, tear-a-part your relationships, lose your job, lose your home, question the nature of humanity kind of tragedy. The family involved needed help. They needed help yesterday. Did you know that government assistance takes 30-120 days, at a minimum, to take effect? I didn't. I do now. I called every agency I could think of. I turned in many applications requesting assistance. Every response I received, if I received one was...wait. Wait your turn, there are people ahead of you. In your personal experience, you may have noticed most individuals and families in crisis need help now.

I had never asked people for money before. I didn't know where to begin. So I started calling faith based organizations and churches. I called a lot of places. The answers I received included "you can access our food pantry and clothes closet. We don't provide cash," and "you will need to send in an application to our community benevolence fund, including financial information." I get this. Believe, me I get this. It's hard to share your resources and not feel taken advantage of financially. So limits are set in place. I understand. Some people though, are in such emotional, physical and financial need the limits we set in place prevent us from meeting them where they are, in crisis.

And then there was my last call...

The answer I received was "how much money is needed?"

And the total amount was given. A no strings attached, blessing! (Seriously! No strings attached!)

A surprise your heart, restore your faith, and renew your belief in the nature of humanity kind of answer.

The experience changed my life!

And so began a no strings attached, help people in stressful situations, support individuals and families in our community, blessing ministry!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pass Me Not

I have just gone through more change in the lasts four months than I thought was possible, from moving to a new home, to several job changes and more. I will freely admit to one emotional break down several months ago due to all of the uncertainty in my life. The question I always have in regards to change whether positive or negative, is what will the financial impact look like. Will we be able to maintain our home, vehicles and provide for our child? Those questions are always forefront in my mind. The answer quickly became evident; while it would be tough to do so financially, by making some adjustments (i.e cuts) to the budget we would be ok. Then this week came, the low point of the summer, completely expected, but I was very cautious nonetheless. I had everything budgeted out exactly, including a trip to the grocery store. Late in the afternoon, earlier this week, I was able to work the errand into my schedule. With the budgeted money in my pocket, I pulled into the grocery store parking lot. Only, the money was no longer in my pocket. In the moments that followed I could only think of the story of "The Borrowed Axe" from My Bible Friends. When a borrowed axe head is missing, the student cries out "alas master, for it was borrowed." The thoughts going through my head were, "alas master, it's our grocery money." Through perseverance and prayer, I was able to find the missing money. In the process of searching and finding, I was reminded that even though I am in a state of waiting in a very important area of my life, G-d is aware of my needs and is making His presence known in my life in very meaningful ways.

I find it easy to get caught up in a game of comparisions with other people in my life. I have been working very hard to pray for G-d's blessing in other's lives. To recognize scarcity does not exist in relation to G-d's blessing, and the blessings someone else receives does not diminish or take away blessings from me. When G-d is involved, there is only abundance (Luke 6:38).

Recently in my spiritual journey,  my prayer is often the hymn Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior (Fernando Ortega). If you have a prayer, longing, or intense need, please join me in this prayer. I believe when we seek, we will find. And if we ask, we will receive (Matthew 7:7).

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, By Fannie J. Crosby
  1. Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
    Hear my humble cry;
    While on others Thou art calling,
    Do not pass me by.
    • Refrain:
      Savior, Savior,
      Hear my humble cry,
      While on others Thou art calling,
      Do not pass me by.
  2. Let me at Thy throne of mercy
    Find a sweet relief;
    Kneeling there in deep contrition,
    Help my unbelief.
  3. Trusting only in Thy merit,
    Would I seek Thy face;
    Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
    Save me by Thy grace.
  4. Thou the spring of all my comfort,
    More than life to me,
    Whom have I on earth beside Thee,
    Whom in Heav’n but Thee.

Monday, July 1, 2013

We all Struggle

I was driving along the road to an appointment the other day, when I started thinking about friends and family who are going through difficult times right now. I wondered how they were doing and said a prayer for them as I traveled along. My thoughts continued to focus on the concept of prevention, cure and healing for each person and family. I realized as I was praying, that is what the world focuses on.  The world tells us, “you shouldn't have to deal with this.” And we focus all of our attention and sympathy on the tragedy of the situation.  Thereby denying the person their experience of dealing with whatever has come their way,  and interfering with any experience of empowerment. The individual, couple or family (immediate and/or extended) that struggle, is often provided the opportunity in the future to support another who encounters a similar situation, if they so choose.

What if the focus was on supporting those who struggle? For we all struggle
Picture source: Grief Speaks.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Comparison of Loss and Pain

The comparison of loss and pain is an area of frustration for me. I, personally, don’t want to compare my life story to someone else’s. I have always tried to live in a manner where I achieve my personal best, and any competition involved is against myself, in order to improve my own abilities. In school, both undergraduate and graduate school, I didn’t ever seek out ways to compare my abilities to someone else’s. To foster a competitive atmosphere in the classroom didn’t help me achieve my goal of graduating. I don’t think competition helps us in life as spouses, parents, friends and family members either. This saying fits quite well in my opinion, “comparison is the thief of joy” (Theodore Roosevelt).

I take that same attitude when dealing with loss, grief, pain and frustration. I observe other people discount their own pain because someone else is going through something else much worse. It is very difficult to watch this comparison.  Here are my thoughts on it:

 For those who have lived in a disadvantaged world filled with poverty, abuse or a myriad of other issues it can often be stated they have suffered more than anyone else and we should deny our own pain in their presence. This response though, denies them the possibility of experiencing “grit” and resilience. The reasons why grit and resilience are important is described in this Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth,  Ph’D, linked here:

For those who have lived a life of advantage filled with wealth, a loving close knit family or a myriad of other blessings as a reason they aren't allowed to suffer, denies them the experience of vulnerability.  To experience vulnerability is a powerful experience as described in this Ted Talk by Brene Brown, Ph’D linked here:
For others, it may be that experiencing both vulnerability and resilience is important. I think that is where I fit most often, in need of experiencing validation of what has been painful, and also finding a way to experience resilience.

This blog entry by a woman who lost a child, has profoundly affected my view of comparison on grief and loss. Her choice to say “your hurts still hurt” validates that this world can be a tough road to walk, no matter the circumstances.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Child is my Mirror

My child is my mirror - the evidence of how I think about myself, other people and my child. Every word spoken, emotional response and actions I take regarding myself, my husband and my child is evident in my child's behaviors. 

My first child has challenged my abilities to mother in the gentlest, kindest and most patient manner I always imagined myself parenting. My child has difficulty sleeping through the night. My child struggles at times to even go to sleep. These moments are when my impatience and irritation are more likely to be present in our relationship. The moments my child needs me the most. These moments are incredibly important ones to be gentle, kind and patient, because those are the qualities I want my child to have in difficult times. 

I am my parent's mirror, the evidence of their relationship with each other, myself, my siblings and other people. As a little one, my child does not have any power in order to change my response. As the parent, I hold the power, and my child's behaviors are the reflection of how I have used my power. However, as an adult child, regardless of how my parent's have wielded their power, I do have a say in what I reflect back in my relationship with my parents. I can choose my responses to their actions. It is never too late to model the qualities that you value, in your most precious and beloved relationships.

You are your parent's mirror. Your child is your mirror. What do you see? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Inter generational Families

I have been reflecting for some time about the state of relationships within families. Being close to other people, even if it is only physically, creates tension. From observations I have made, natural places for tension to arise occurs within age/generation cohorts and in-law interactions.Within age/generation cohorts there seems to be a natural tendency for competition of emotional, financial or relational resources to occur. Within in-law interactions it is the adjustment to new relationships and new family patterns that creates the opportunity for tension and conflict.

It seems everyone within a age group, unless they are able to support each unconditionally, have a need for some elbow room. Each person appears to need to have an area of expertise, friends of their own and a place where they are just themselves (not related to someone else). Donald Joy, PH'D talks about having a balanced relational trampoline where friends provide one whole side of the needed relationships to connect an individual to a healthy experience of reality. Too many shared relational connections even among family members influences our experience of reality. Close family interactions are good; space from family is good too.

The in -law interactions are based on the necessary growth that occurs in families. It gives rise to an interesting notion of "same and other" though. When I interact with my family it is familiar. I understand comments or looks with hidden meaning, and I understand topics that aren't discussed, or specifically are discussed in my family. My family = same. When I step into that world, I am most likely to step into my familiar role in the family. When I interact with my in-laws, I experience "other." Just as I have an innate understanding of my own family, there is a basic misunderstanding that occurs every time I interact with my in-laws. I do not have an understanding of looks or comments that contain hidden meaning.  I am not aware of topics that are discussed or topics that are off limits. This is a natural place for relational "clashes" to occur, most often unintentionally. When I step into my in-laws world I am creating a role that has not existed before and no one is sure of what that means, only that the role is essential for the continuation of my family. My in-laws = other.

If there is tension and conflict in the family, what is the antidote? It appears to me that is where being an inter generational  complex, dynamic and growing family changes the focus from tension to appreciation. As a mother, after three hours of sleep I have little appreciation for my son's skills.  However, his Grandma is likely to extol his new skills and give the encouragement that is needed. If there is tension in between in-laws, then the ability to focus on nieces and nephews and grandchildren can ease the irritations. If there is conflict between siblings, there might be a listening Grandparent, Aunt or Uncle to relieve some of the irritation between siblings.

The main thing to watch for is triangulating and splitting between family members. It's easy to get drawn into an disagreement and a lot harder to work your way back out of a disagreement. These are fantastic relational skills to learn though because they build character and provide opportunities to learn boundaries and compassion. In families we are bound to people we might not otherwise choose to be around. Perhaps that is why families were created in the first place, to challenge us beyond our abilities so that we grow  and allow us the opportunity to experience a kind of love that can propel us to great accomplishments in life.

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing. " Psalms 68:5-6

Photo Courtesy of Lucent Media Group LLC and Elise H.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The winter of my faith

I had some crazy dreams that life would be different, in a good way, after grad school was completed. No doubt, there have been some good things. No more nights spent in class and free time taken up by homework and internships. It seems though in other ways that life came crashing down around me, making it hard to catch my breath. I have to say, I am incredibly grateful that over the last year I seem to have outgrown the emotional and spiritual meltdowns that often occurred before. An embarrassing experience to constantly call into question the love of my Savior, over truly trivial things. My needs are met, more often more abundantly than I could ever imagine. So while this winter has meant several dreams are hibernating, much like the ground outside is covered in snow, I am confident that with the spring, the changes we are hoping for will happen for us, much like the landscape bursts into bloom with the spring.

I have also faced another chapter in one of the most challenging experiences of my adult life. What to do with the loss of a child, when it is wanted more than anything else in the world, loved with a constant, confident love, and prayed for without ceasing. The most recent chapter isn't mine to share, and so I won't be discussing it here, at all. I have had to revisit my own precious losses though, and in remembering my own losses, I haven't found an answer I like, believe or understand. I suspect that I have a choice and have the chance to maybe, someday be wiser. As I meditate on my choices this concept of joy and sorrow flutters at the edge of my consciousness. I am not sure I am ready to invite it in yet:

"Joy is hidden in sorrow and sorrow in joy. If we try to avoid sorrow at any costs, we may never taste joy, and if we are suspicious of ecstasy, agony can never reach us either. Joy and sorrow are the parents of our spiritual growth." Henri Nouwen

Photo courtest of Lucent Media Group LLC.