Book Impact: Schema of a Soul

Two years ago on Novemer 22st, Aaron and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska for Kimberlye Berg’s Schema of a Soul book launch party. It wasn’t just any old party or launch of a book. It was a sacred moment in time, set aside to honor the life and memory of a young man and woman lost tragically in a car accident, years before. It was a sacred space, set aside to hold the terrible-beautiful reality of suffering families and a mother who emurged from years of struggle with an offering: words that artfully and authentically tell how she found a love that is stronger than death.

I met Kimberlye Berg at Dr. Larry Crabb’s School of Spiritual Direction in 2011. I tend to be curious about quiet, introspective people. Kim had me burning with a curiosity that was left unfulfilled that week, but a year later that changed. I was in town and I wondered if she would want to have coffee.Kim & I
We ended up sharing the morning and a few tears together. When I left, I walked out the door with a precious gift – the first few chapters of a book she was writing. I read it all in one sitting that night in our hotel room. I felt strangely cleansed in the remnants of salty tears and trembling sobs. The offering of her mother-heart revived the decaying corners of my own. Schema of a Soul reminded me that I’m alive. And I need to live like it.

Since then we have become good friends with Kim and Jim, staying in each other’s homes and sharing in each other’s experience of writing, family and business. Kim taught me how to make the most amazing bagels and I facilitated a few of her speaking engagements. When I couldn’t decide where to focus my writing efforts, she steered me back toward Frozen. It is a rich friendship, despite the distance between us. That is why I chose Kim’s book to be the first book I feature in the Book Impact series on this blog.

Schema of a Soul

In this book, Kimberlye Berg shares about the deep relational and spiritual struggles she faced with her family when they lost their oldest son/brother in a car accident. She writes to her husband, reflecting on their experience and utilizing beautiful metaphors from his experience in architecture.

Kim gave me the opportunity to share my endorsement in the book:

When the raging winds of pain below, we yearn for a safe shelter for our souls. The beautiful tapestry of practical and spiritual connections woven in schema of a soul wrapped securely around the reader, offering connection where there is isolation, vision where there is chaos, and faith where there is doubt. Whether you seek to understand and comfort those who mourn or you were aware of your own pain, nestle in. And may sacrificial love demonstrate the truth of it strength in you. p.9

Quotes from the Book

IMG_5437Seldom can you know what time last words will come to you. All words hold the potential of being last words. p. 23

He suggested we were being invited to enter into a place where, if we would go, could lead us to knowing God in ways we never had before. It would be hard. Uncomfortable. Take time. Or. We could try to get back into life the best we could. Fill the pain with work, Getting over it, and moving on. We would need to choose. One or the other.

It is a daunting thing to feel and seriously wrestle with intense pain deep within your soul, intense questions regarding everything you thought you believed about God. Many of us go to great extent in trying to evade soul pain, as if that would be the most noble choice. We focus instead on being busy. We are very busy, proud people, and we desperately want to be happy people, not sad. p.64

Pain and heartache are indescribable to someone who has never been inside of them. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do to make us feel better. That was the wrong battle, and we intuitively knew it deep within. p.64-65

We have been soaking wet and all drenched in ugly together, but in our weeping we have been been discovering the more that transcends the pain. p.136

 

Share this post on social media and comment to let me know you did. Please let me know if you share! You will be entered to win a copy of Schema Of A Soul.

 

Questions for the author, Kimberlye Berg

I would love for you each to meet Kim. Here are some wise thoughts from her about pain and loss.

2014_sept_kb_01-21. What one thing do you want us to remember when we face deep pain and loss?
I hope you remember this: Embrace pain and sorrow as an invitation to know and relate with God in this holy place. It is in this place that He does some of his deepest work in forming you, shaping you, sculpting your soul. Enfold yourself in what it really means that God loves you with an eternal love. A sacrificial love that has battled death and emerged stronger than death. He invites you to know and love Him in this place, to love others as He has loved you. Seeking soul to soul spiritual affection, you are invited into the fullest of relational soul to relational soul life even in the emptiest of places.

2. What can we do to support our friends and family when the face deep pain and loss?
I hope you will not put the burden on them to make you feel better because you want to “help” them. One of the most common comments is ” I don’t want to make you cry…” Like it is you that will make them cry. Realize your words can be subtlety demanding. If I sense you are not afraid to be with me where I am in my pain, I will feel some sense of hope. This will cost you something. You may need to think hard about what that is. Think in terms of being “with” rather than of “helping.”

Book and Author Information

For questions or more information about Kim, please click the following links. And if you read Schema of a Soul, please consider posting a review on Amazon.com.

Purchase Schema of a Soul: (Click Here)

Invite Kimberlye Berg to speak to your church or event: (Click Here)

Follow Schema of a Soul on Facebook: (Click Here)

 

This is a beautiful video tribute to Michael and Courtney made by Kim’s daughter, Megan Berg.

 

19 January 2013 from Megan Berg on Vimeo.

What Every Friend Should Know About Offering Advice

5 Questions and Responses

I realize it’s hard to find real friends. I’ve heard a lot of complaints over the years about how people don’t really listen, they don’t really care and they don’t really want to connect deeply. But I believe that while it may seem that way on the surface, there are actually WAY more lonely people longing to connect than we realize.

Yesterday one of my articles ran with Her View From Home. The point of the article is this: there are more kindred spirits out there than you probably realize, but it takes courage to find them. I offer some suggestions about how to do so: (click here to read the article and share it if you think it might help someone.)

There is something else I learned about finding connections that feel like kindred spirits.

https://www.facebook.com/TauniMorrisPhotography?fref=ts

Photo courtesy of Tauni Morris Photography

We are all different on the surface. Our differences are enormous. Different genders, religions, cultures, stages of life, hobbies, interests, etc. The list is not infinite, but it seems like it is. With all of those differences, how could we ever find someone like us? How could we ever find a kindred spirit?

Let me tell you! By focusing on our humanity. What makes us all human? We all have bodies, thoughts, feelings, goals, longings and deep fears. And we all need love. But you’ll only have surface-relationships if you only talk about surface things. You will keep feeling alone and distant from everyone else if you try to “fit in” by doing what others do and saying what others say. No. If you want to actually connect and be known, if you really don’t want to feel alone, you’ve got to be brave and get to the heart.

Simply being there to listen and see the insides of a person is helpful. You don’t have to change them. Simply inviting a friend out of the darkness of secrecy and shame and into the light where they are loved can change a life! There may be a time for advice, but stick with the 80/20 rule. Listen and acknowledge 80% of the time and then when it feels like the other person is ready, go ahead and offer your wisdom – but only about 20% of the time. If you meet their pain with your wisdom all or most of the time, they’ll start to feel disrespected and tune you out.

5 things to ask and do to see and acknowledge the heart of your friend:

  1. What is my friend excited about right now? Be excited for them without bringing in your own story.
  2. What is my friend afraid of right now? Allow them to admit it without trying to dispel their fears.
  3. What is my friend longing for right now? Assume that there is a longing even deeper than the one they admit, but don’t press too hard. Do they say they long to be married? I’m sure that’s true, but what about being married do they long for? Validation? Companionship? To feel loved?
  4. What is going on underneath my friend’s frustration right now? Is he sad? Does she long for something she can’t find?
  5. How is my friend’s health? Is she getting enough sleep? Does he need a break? Is there anything I can do to relieve their physical burden?

Don’t give up on finding kindred spirits. Don’t give up on connecting and love and hope and the power of loving people right where they are.

The world needs your love.

**Tauni Morris Photography: Facebook (click here)

 

I Don’t Want To Read This Post

Some Days.

Some days I don’t want to read.
Some days I don’t want to write.
Some days I want to go to the movies and eat popcorn and let someone else inspire.

Some days I don’t want to care.
Some days I don’t want to hope.
Some days I want to leave my sunglasses on and let someone else see the depths of others.

But other days I do read and write and care and hope.
And on those days I tend to the weeds growing through the foundation of my soul.
On those days as I soak in the sun, I plant and water and nourish and share the harvest of kindness, hope and love.

Because I don’t want to forget the other days on some days.
I care too much to let the some-day weeds overtake my other-days garden.
So on some days I walk slowly through the other-days beauty and try to remember the passion and power and joy of the other days.

And then I go to sleep praying that I’ll not forget to rest in the grace of the well-tended garden of the other days.

Rest in the garden

When The Walls Close In

This weekend I made a poor decision: I went to the department store Sunday morning. My daughter had a birthday party to attend after church and needed a gift. We were up early and in need of a few staples, so I grabbed my bags and we headed out so I could cross one of the jobs off my list. Sometimes it feels good to get a head start on the day.

Sometimes it’s just foolish. Our little mother-daughter shopping date turned into a race against time – a race I knew I was going to lose by the time we hit the self-checkout. Frantic-mommy whispers escaped as my sweet daughter tried to help.

Just stay BACK! Stop doing that! Move! I HATE coming here!

She looked at me and backed off. I can only imagine what was going through her head: “What happened to the kind mommy who held my hand as we walked in?”

I carried that irritable energy with me through most of the day. When I had a few quiet moments, I took a step back and recalled something I said in my talk to a mom’s group last week.

I didn’t realize I was depressed because for two years I covered my sadness with irritability. Sadness was under all of that frustration.

I’m not depressed right now, but I certainly have my irritable days. I don’t want them to multiply and become the norm for me again, so I intentionally work to discern irritability’s cause.

In this quiet moment I asked: What is sad about this situation?

I felt the walls of the store closing in on me. I felt pressure. The competing pressures to be on time and accomplish my tasks pressed in on me in the store. I generally seem to be able to handle one without the other, but when there is a time crunch on my to-do list, I feel trapped.

That’s the thing about pressure. Unless there are actual walls closing in on me, pressure is an illusion – just like this picture. There was no real danger.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

The objective reality was that I mismanaged my time and there were going to be natural consequences for that. I was going to be the reason we would walk into church late. None of us like being late and I don’t like to miss any music at the beginning of the service. I felt like I was letting my family down. And that was sad to me.

But I wasn’t going to change the sad consequence at the self-checkout, so what did I do? I redistributed the pressure I felt and placed it on Amelia. Brilliant.

Managing time is not my forte. I’m going to mess up again. But I hope next time I will take a breath and choose to reject the perception of pressure, accept the consequences that follow and live with kindness in the moment.

Because finding sadness under my irritability can relieve pressure and release me to love.

For more on my experience with depression, check out my series: 

When I Should Feel Joy & 11 Tips for Preventing and Fighting Depression

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When it’s not the end of the world, after all.

Sometimes it’s not the end of the world, after all.

Perhaps you remember Belle from the Birthday Cake post (here)? She is our bull-in-a-china-closet, adorable and adored Pyredoodle.

Belle-Gate

One night a few days ago she pushed her way under our back yard fence and started running around the neighborhood. It’s happened repeatedly, despite our best blockades. We have learned that chasing her is counter-productive. She sees us or hears us call, gives us a taunting glance then takes off for a new hiding spot. So this night we left the front door open and waited, busying ourselves with work we could do near the entryway.

It wasn’t 5 minutes after she almost came inside and took off again when we heard her get hit by a car.

BAM!  YELP!

Yelp, yelp, yelp!!!!!!

Aaron and I ran outside to see her take off behind our neighbor’s house and into the dark river-wood.

The poor driver never saw her coming. He felt horrible. I wish we could get ahold of him and let him know the rest of the story.

It was clear that we wouldn’t find her in the night woods so we headed home and lay wet-wide-eyed in bed. Aaron was sure she ran off to die. He thought through all of the should-have’s then fell asleep. Through a steady stream of sobs and tears, I thought through all of the could-be’s and eventually had a restless nap before morning.

What if a fox finds her?
The kids will be devastated when I tell them tomorrow morning.
I haven’t introduced her to my niece who is longing to meet her.
What if it were one of our kids?
What if it were a friend’s child?
Would I ever recover? I’m sure I would not…

The big black hole of catastrophising sucked me in and swirled me around. I subconsciously gave into it as a sort of punishment for letting something bad happen to my family. I needed to feel bad.

I told the kids what happened when they woke up. One child ran off in great sobs, the other sat on my lap with quiet tears, hoping she would come home. But after the initial moments of sadness, they became energized with hope that Belle would return home if they just

…put out a trail of bread
…call her name
…take the flashlights into the backyard and look outside the gate.

They spent about an hour coming up with ways to lure her home.

I kept crying when they weren’t looking.

Poor, naïve children. They don’t realize how horrid this situation could be.

They stuffed a bag with “dog snacks” for me to carry with me on my journey into the woods to search for Belle. I took them to school, then headed out on what I was sure would be a long, sad journey. FullSizeRenderI got as far as the back gate when Belle barked at me from the other side of the fence – at her escape spot. I’m convinced she would have run away again if I didn’t have the kids’ snack pack. Miraculously, she suffered only a broken leg and a couple of flesh wounds. She asked me to carry her (yes, she asked) so I heaved her up and forward a few feet at a time until we made it to the house and eventually to her sweet veterinarian, my friend Amanda.

You can imagine our relief.

Well, their relief. For the next few days I remained on edge. Fragile. Anxious. The black hole spit me out, but I was still dizzy.

Because I forgot.

I forgot that I don’t have to punish myself. I forgot that many things can’t be explained or prevented. I forgot that sometimes little naïve children know the way of Love better than their wise and learned mother.

And sometimes it’s not the end of the world, after all.

End of the world Belle

Behind Closed Doors

It’s not that I want to pretend when I see you today, I just want to hide.

I would rather hide than open myself to you. When I feel overwhelmed, deflated and defeated as I do right now, I have no desire to write or engage or do any sort of active loving. I just want to sit quietly by the fire, consume comfort and contain the storm within.

Oh, Elsa.

Last night my sister and I spent an hour in a text conversation. Think we’re crazy? Lazy? Disconnected? Sometimes texting is as close as I want to come to emerging from my hiding place. She wanted me to open the door.

Oh, Anna.

The truth is, my door opens wider in writing where there is one point of engagement: words. Talking on the phone requires that I say words as well as speak them in the appropriate tone. Add a third dimension of body language and I’m sure to let my cold front move in on you.

I don’t want to do that, so I’m going to hide. If you’re in my presence, I’ll hide behind my genuine desire to care for you, knowing that what’s inside of me is best left for me to deal with on my own. Maybe I’ll draw the shades, but I won’t be opening any doors when we’re together.

Unless…

Unless you are safe.
Unless you don’t compare yourself to me.
Unless you are unafraid of the strength of my emotion.
Unless you are un-intimidated by the tangled web of my thoughts.
Unless you are willing to walk directly to the eye of my storm and invite me to open it wider.

Maybe then I will open my door.

But you’ll have to knock first.Doors

photo credit: Closing Time via photopin (license)

Frozen Top Ten

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

We were sitting on the only furniture left in her late-grandma’s dimly lit nursing home room. She was back for the funeral and my friend invited me over so we could talk one-on-one with no kids around. Life-lived poignancy struck me. I suppose it was the perfect place to have a life-living conversation. This is how I remember it:

“Are you depressed?”

Well, I might be. I thought I would do better after having realized how I had been looking to others to make me feel valuable. We have really been doing well the past few months because of it…but I still feel rage when I feel overwhelmed.

“Do you enjoy your kids?”

Well…I love them. And there are moments I enjoy them but most of the time I feel frustrated by all their needs I am expected to meet. But I’m their mom. Isn’t that my job?

“Do you want to be angry at your kids or will you look back on this time of your life and wish you would have been able to enjoy it?”

Boom.

There’s nothing like end-of-life reminders to evoke right-now-life movement. Her question made me realize I didn’t want to live to survive, I wanted to live a life of deep joy alongside whatever pain would come. But I could not do it on my own. Something significant happened in my heart while at the spiritual direction class, as I described in my last post. I am so glad I didn’t miss the opportunity for inner growth in the middle of my pain. But nine months later, at the time my friend confronted me, I was still struggling.

That’s the thing about depression. There very well may be spiritual transformation in the middle of it, but if it’s been around long enough, our brains may need help to finally overcome it. Soon after our conversation, I began taking anti-depressants. Choosing to take or not take anti-depressants is a very personal decision. My goal was to utilize them to help me regain chemical balance while I continued to work on integrating more healthy practices into my life. Several months later I went off of the medication and through another transition into a new beginning: a life aware of how the choices I make daily impact my spiritual/mental health.

I had expectations about what it would be like to welcome our children into the world and raise them. Some of my expectations became sweet reality. But if I have learned anything through this season, I have learned that joy is not found in fulfilling the “should’s” of life. It is not something you feel just because it is your middle name. Joy is much deeper than that. It is the others-centered freedom and love released when I lean deep into pain and find that I am safe and Loved, just as I am.

Joy Is Deeper

Here are some final observations from my heart-experience with depression:

  1. Depression may be emotional and spiritual, but it is definitely practical and physical. Meds brought their own set of side effects that helped me get back on track but also made me ready to be done with them several months later. Every person is different – if your doctor recommends anti-depressants and you are willing, give them a chance and follow the doctor’s lead to try something else if the first option doesn’t work. I offer other friend-to-friend practical advise in my post 11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression.
  1. We needed our friends and family. I’m so glad my friend moved into my chaotic heart to help me realize I was still depressed. But I’m not sure how we would have made it to that point without the unwavering support and practical care from our extended family – especially my mom who stayed and helped care for us a lot those first few months. If you think someone might be struggling with depression, reach out and invite them to share themselves with you. And just as importantly, reach out to their spouse or care-giver who may need and appreciate support, as well. Perhaps you want to utilize the discussion points in the 11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression as a place to begin.

Has this series been meaningful or helpful to you in any particular way? Are you left with questions unanswered or things with which you disagree or would like to add to the discussion? Leave a comment below, message me on Facebook or email me at awenburg@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression

11 Tips for Preventing and Fighting Depression

Depression may be emotional and spiritual, but it is also practical and physical. ~From When I Should Feel Joy #5

In my series When I Should Feel Joy, I tell of my heart-level experience with and transformation through depression. But depression is not just spiritual. So in this post, I want to offer hope and practical advice for people wanting to prevent or cope with depression. If you know someone who is struggling and you want to help, you may find this list helpful. I think through many of these items on a regular basis, even now.

Though I have checked with professionals to be sure I’m not suggesting anything harmful, *this is NOT advice from a doctor or psychologist. It is simply what I would say if we had a chance to sit down and talk, friend to friend. If you want to pass this information along to others, you are welcome to send them a link to this post or walk them through it.

  1. Name it: Depression. Naming it is the first step in grabbing ahold of it rather than letting it hold and drag you around. If you acknowledge you are feeling or beginning to feel depressed, you can do things to adjust thought patterns and work to create a safe and stable environment for you and your family. But don’t stop here. Conquer the fear in depression by taking steps toward getting back to your life.
  1. Talk about it. You, your doctor and people in close relationship with you need to take your mental state seriously so you can work together to create and execute a plan (which may include antidepressants, counseling, etc.). Tell them and let them know you need help. Your spouse or others close to you may be struggling too, so working together is vitally important. Think and pray through these things with someone you trust, then take action.
  1. Assess and adjust for your sleep needs. How much sleep are you getting? Too much or too little sleep can affect your mental health. If you are sleeping more than usual, it’s time to get out of bed and get dressed. Come up with an incentive or goal that gets you out of bed. If you are sleeping less than usual, what steals your sleep? Is it something you have control over? If so, what can you do to keep from robbing yourself of sleep? If not, is there something others could do to share the nighttime responsibilities or give you a chance to nap during the day? Do you have a friend you can regularly swap kids with? Can you afford a sitter for 3 hours a couple of times a week? Does your doctor suggest sleep meds?
  1. Assess and adjust your food intake. Are you eating a variety of healthy foods? Are you eating enough? If you go to food for comfort, what alternatives can you opt for when you really want that sugary carbohydrate? I know from experience that they might be helpful in the moment but eating too much of them can do serious harm to your long-term physical and mental health.
  1. Identify and plan for overwhelming factors. When did you feel overwhelmed in the last few days? What was going on during those times? What sensory stimuli were you experiencing in that moment (sight/taste/smell/touch/sound)? What changes can you make or what help can you ask for in order to avoid or cope with these emotional and sensory stimuli that make you feel overwhelmed?
  1. Identify and plan for current stressors. How are your relationships? Do you feel disconnected with your spouse? Are there situations in your life that you are dreading or anxiously awaiting? Do you avoid thinking about a situation or person for some reason? Is there someone in your life (trusted advisor, spiritual director, counselor, pastor, etc.) you would be willing to talk to about these things?
  1. Identify and utilize your stress-relievers. What inspires you or reminds you of a deeper truth than you feel in the moment? What do you enjoy doing? How do you like to exercise? Find time every day or so to work on something you enjoy. What time of day could you do that without neglecting kids? If sensory stimuli overwhelm you, fight back with positive sensory stimuli. What do you enjoy looking at, smelling, touching and listening to? (The feel of a basketball, music with a strong and deep beat, a hot bath, sugar scrub for your hands and body, etc.) Perhaps you could put inspiring scripture or quotes up in strategic places with sticky notes. Write your stress-relievers down and take action to add these things to your home and daily existence!  If you have other stress-relieving ideas, please share them in the comments below.
  1. Prepare for productivity. What time of day is your “up” time when you feel the best? Use this time for active endeavors that are difficult when you feel down. Prepare meals ahead of time, vacuum or de-clutter. (Clutter can have a negative effect on our brains. Get rid of things you don’t need or really want.)
  1. Plan ahead. In a good moment, think through your family’s practical needs, preferably with your spouse, roommate or trusted friend. What needs to happen this week?  What is on the calendar? Create a plan of attack for potentially stressful events coming up. Think ahead about your meal plan at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to spend energy consumed with it three different times a day. What do you want to do for fun this week?
  1. Do not over-spiritualize when you have serious physical needs. I want to reiterate that if you are suffering in deep depression, this is not a good time to let your mind think of what might have been or what you might be missing out on or your deep doubts about God. This IS a good time to say “it’s not as bad as my brain chemistry is telling me it is. It won’t always be like this.”  And then go ahead and distract yourself with a healthy stress-reliever. Give yourself the grace to feel crummy without trying to analyze it. I have been there and I know how quickly those thoughts can lead you into a really dark place. Your family & friends need you. Don’t go there, friend.

It won’t always be like this.

  1. Seek help immediately if you have thoughts of suicide. You are Loved and your presence in the world absolutely makes a difference. It may not feel like it in this moment, but what you feel or think right now may be skewed by brain chemistry. Please ask for help.

Is there something you would add to this list? Feel free to comment below. To read about my experience with depression and lessons learned through it, click on the following links:

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

Depression is Physical

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

I was so afraid that God was shaking his head as he looked on me that I couldn’t bring myself to look at him, either. When I did lift my gaze, all I seemed to see was God’s profile. Maybe he was not only shaking his head at me, maybe he wasn’t even looking. Maybe he turned his head when I called out to him. What’s the point of talking to a god who doesn’t see me? It’s humiliating.

And yet, I felt something stirring. Deep-seeded belief kept whispering                Don’t give up…Wait for it…

From When I Should Feel Joy #3

Seventeen months after the experience of childbirth that sent me in a tailspin, I joined thirty other men and women for a week with Dr. Larry Crabb for his School of Spiritual Direction. Attending had been a goal of mine for years but when I arrived I knew it was much more than an item to check of my bucket list. Red RockI pulled into the Glen Erie retreat center, greeted by an enormous red rock standing tall and strong and beautiful. It was time to take a leap of faith off of Mount Self-Protection and trust that God was going to catch me. I simply couldn’t live there any more.

It is amazing how much can happen in a heart that is open to receive what Love might offer.

At one point during class, something hit me. The words spoken weren’t magical. I think sometimes we over-estimate the value of words and forget to listen for what might be stirring in the heart.

My openness to Love was greater than my resistance to pain.

In that moment I was stirred up. My openness to Love was greater than my resistance to pain. I had to leave. I barely made it to the bed in my room before the sobbing began. Heart-whispers of Love held me securely as I recalled my physical and emotional and residual pain.

Heart-Whispers

I heard you when you called for me to save you.
I held you when you writhed in pain.
I stood watch when you lay awake in fear.
True Love was there
when you couldn’t find its shadow.

I am here.

Cry your heart out, my love.
My Love is unending and does not depend on what you bring.
You can depend on me.
True Love is dependable.
Shadows depend on light.

True Love is here.

I hear you now as you call to be filled.
I hold you now as you weep with hope.
I stand watch over your heart as you rest in peace,
Love.
Come out from the shadows.

You are here.

Speak
Hold
Dance
True Love.
Make shadows.

What happens in a relationship when someone says, “I am bursting with longing to love you freely, without demanding that you make me feel good about myself?”

Let me tell you.
There’s a lot less expectation, demand, dependence, pressure and ugly.
There’s a lot more forgiveness, sacrifice, offering, freedom and beauty.

When you know you are deeply seen and you carry deep weight that makes a difference, you do not have to demand others see and approve of you.
You seek forgiveness. You love regardless. You give boldly.

Sometimes I live like that. Sometimes I love like that.

I want to do it more. How about you?
Live and Love Deeply

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

11 Tips for Preventing and Fighting Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

I should have handled it better.
I should have been prepared.
I should have more to give.
I should get more done.
I should be happier.
I should be kind.
I should pray.

I couldn’t pray.

Praying evokes some sort of awareness of God’s presence and I didn’t want my heart to be in anyone’s presence. It’s hard to want to be around anyone when you feel disgraced:

When all was said and done, I felt I had failed this natural birth thing. I didn’t overcome anything or feel empowered like some women do. I felt dragged and beaten and terrified and discarded. That is really hard to say.…I felt my loss of control had embarrassed him (my husband). I couldn’t look him in the eye for fear of the disappointment I was sure I would see.                                                  ~From When I Should Feel Joy #1

My “should’s” slopped me in shame so all I wanted to do was hide. That’s what one does when covered in sticky, smelly sh*t. Cover. Hide. Blame. Get me outta here.

Shame doesn’t want to be near any person – much less God. And the truth doesn’t matter a whole lot when insurmountable feeling blocks reason. I couldn’t look my husband in the eye for months. He couldn’t convince me of anything. It didn’t take long before I realized all of this was about God, too.

I was so afraid that God was shaking his head as he looked on me that I couldn’t bring myself to look at him, either. When I did lift my gaze, all I seemed to see was God’s profile. Maybe he was not only shaking his head at me, maybe he wasn’t even looking. Maybe he turned his head when I called out to him.

What’s the point of talking to a god who doesn’t see me? It’s humiliating.

And yet, I felt something stirring. Deep-seeded belief kept whispering –Don’t give up…Wait for it…

This went on for a year. We made plans for me to have a week away at class with an author who mentored me through his books since I was in college. For a few more months I maintained the resolve to tread water and wait for time when I could slip away from the expectations of young motherhood and deal with all I had been avoiding. I needed those days without tangible responsibilities in order to untangle. And boy, was I tangled – strangled by my own fear.

Something had to give.

I had to give back to God something I had taken: the right to determine my own value.

To tuck in our hearts today:

  1. Shame is not guilt. When I feel guilty for things I’ve done wrong, it’s like feeling the realistic weight or consequences of what I’ve done. Feeling that weight is heavy and sad but it also has a simple answer. I’m forgiven. Debt paid. Done. Guilt is eradicated by forgiveness. I am Loved and loveable, guilty or not.*Though I try not to seek it, I actually welcome guilt because I want to know the consequences of what I do. I don’t want to be oblivious to how I hurt others – I want to turn pain-infliction into healing-love. Forgiveness produces beautiful things like freedom and joy and love and gratitude.
  1. Shame assumes my value goes up and down based on what I bring to the table. It isn’t surprised when I hide because it wants me to feel embarrassed when I don’t meet expectations. It assumes I will work hard to keep from being embarrassed. When I failed and couldn’t make up for it, I hid. I didn’t want anyone to see me like that.Whose expectations was I concerned about, anyway? Truth be known, I spent a lot of time comparing myself to my ideal self – the Andrea I always thought I could be: strong, competent, prepared, happy, kind, good, etc. When all of that unraveled, I didn’t know who I was or how to hold it together. Other people had expectations for me, as well. When I met their expectations I felt more valuable. When I didn’t, I felt worth less. Shame colored my vision of the past, present and future. I couldn’t feel the guilt that leads to forgiveness and love because I didn’t feel I was worth it.

I had to give back to God something I had taken:
the right to determine my own value.

Your value is NOT based on what you bring to the table. You are not an object to be assigned value by any person, including yourself. Your value is inherent in your being and is no more or less than any other human being’s value.

From the bottom of my forgiven heart:

YOU are Loved. Live it out loud.

You are loved. Live it out loud.

*I do believe that I am Loved and loveable. But I also realize that when I hurt another, their trust in me is not automatically restored with forgiveness. Trust takes time and faithfulness.

You are welcome here – no matter how you think you may smell. Find me on Facebook or sign up here on WordPress for updates. I’d love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Andrea Joy

When I Should Feel Joy #1: Unprepared

When I Should Feel Joy #2: Postpartum Depression

When I Should Feel Joy #3: Shame

When I Should Feel Joy #4: True Love

When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy

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