It wasn’t like she asked for the opportunity. We simply walked into the auditorium to save seats up close because we knew Grant was excited to see the Jedi training show on our Disney cruise.
A woman stopped Amelia in the aisle and inquired, “Do you like Star Wars?”
“Ya,” Amelia responded.
What was she supposed to say? She never showed an ounce of interest in it until that morning when she decided to join us for the little show, but it might be rude to say anything else.
“Would you like to come up on stage and be trained as a Jedi?” the woman offered.
“Sure,” Amelia shrugged.
My stomach sank to the floor and before I could stop it, I turned into the ungrateful mom who asks for an extra freebie for her other child. “Her brother would like it so much more,” I pleaded with my eyes as the words came out. I knew Amelia wouldn’t mind giving up her spot so her brother could do it.
But they didn’t have time to wait for him. So they whisked Amelia away and the next time we saw her, she was wearing a brown robe and holding a coveted light saber. Grant was giddy when he realized she was going on stage but by the time she had her turn doing what every Star Wars fan ever dreamed of doing (fighting Darth Vader!) the question hit him.
“Why her and not me?”
I knew exactly how he felt. For years I read other people’s books, watched other speakers give presentations and listened to other people’s podcasts. And all the while I wondered, “Why them and not me?”
Maybe you’ve asked that question before.
Why did he get that part and not me?
Why is she married and not me?
Why does he get to travel for work and not me?
Why are they happy in their marriage and not me?
I’m sure we can all come up with answers to those questions.
He sucked up to the director.
She’s must be more comfortable talking to guys than I am.
He’s been in the job longer than I have.
If I had a spouse like that I’d be happy, too.
Maybe there is truth to some of these assumptions, or maybe they are just excuses. My reason for not doing what I longed to do certainly was…
“Because they haven’t discovered me yet.”
Do you hear how passive that sounds? I was waiting and waiting for someone to see me in a crowd and say, “I choose you, Andrea. It’s your turn now!” Because I assumed that the powers-that-be were the only ones who could finally give me my big break. They were the ones who could decide if I’d get that book deal…that speaking engagement…that interview. I was waiting to be discovered so I could make the impact I longed to make.
The statement, “God will make it happen if it’s supposed to happen,” is just as passive.
Yes, I just said that. Do you want to know why? Because whatever you believe about God, you still have to get up out of bed in the morning and put one foot in front of the other. God doesn’t do that for you.
Sometimes YOU have to act. YOU have to move.
You work your tail off for the next part.
You take risks to become more comfortable around guys.
You display the integrity, intelligence and grit it takes to travel for your job.
You stop demanding your spouse to make you happy and find your happiness in something more reliable.*
What are you waiting for?
Grant was quite disappointed by the time the Jedi training concluded. He tucked his head into my neck and I picked him up to carry him out of the auditorium. I let everyone else move on and then I paused in the aisle to speak to my son.
“Grant, I know you’re disappointed, but that happens a lot in life. Look up at that stage. Do you want to be up on that stage someday? If you really do, I believe you can. If you want to be a magician or get a job as a Lego Creator, I believe you can. But those things don’t just happen. You have to focus and work hard for it instead of being upset with others when you’re not chosen.”
Grant came home with all of the moves Amelia learned in her Jedi training and now the boy is ready to fight his own Darth Vader.
I don’t know what you long to do, be or say. But whatever it is, you won’t get there by waiting to be discovered. Take a risk and take action. Someone needs what you have to offer.
*Relationships are complicated. Please seek wise counsel if you are struggling in your relationships.
Would you like to read my story? Read the Prologue HERE or go directly to Amazon to purchase the book HERE.
I just got a call from our daughter’s school. Amelia forgot her glasses. Ugh. Those glasses are special glasses to help her eyes focus so she can read. Reading is pretty important in elementary school, so I hear. Immediately my heart sank and I began thinking on the dark side…
How did I not notice she didn’t have her glasses this morning?! I always screw stuff like this up!
And as I tracked down her glasses and ran them to school, I thought of all the things I forget – every meal that gets thrown together because I didn’t plan well…every piece of trash that was apparently lying around somewhere so the dogs could get to it and rip it into pieces…the dirty floors…the pants that need ironing…and on and on. By the time I got there, I felt worthless.
When I Put Myself Down
When I feel worthless, there are a few things that I automatically start doing:
- I start saying really mean things to myself.
- “You never remember the important things.”
- “Why can’t you be like ____?! She would pay attention to whether her kids have their glasses on or not.”
- “Oh good grief, Andrea. You’re setting your kids up for disaster!”
- I show my attitude with my facial expressions and body language so everyone knows what a jerk I am.
- I begin to feel and act resentful toward others for judging me. Because if I can’t say anything good about myself, surely no one else can either.
But I’m pretty sure self-deprecation never made anyone more loving. And it certainly doesn’t make me any better at remembering things. My self-shaming comments make it nearly impossible for me to love others well. In fact, when I’m mean to myself, I’m mean to others.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that the answer is that we need to be kind to ourselves and stop feeling so bad for when we mess up. But I believe the process is incomplete if we ignore or deny the impact we have on others. When we mess up without acknowledging those we have hurt, we diminish the influence we have with them.
Humility, Not Self-Deprecation
If you want to love well and offer your gifts to others, it’s time to stop putting yourself down. It’s time to stop the self-shaming internal dialogue and start believing in something more true. How?
By stepping into a beam of light that exposes the reality of your situation, while warming your heart with love. This is the kind of love John talks about in 1 John 4 of the Bible. It’s the kind of love that says,
“I see you for who you are: all of your mistakes, all of your wrong-doing, all of your short-comings, and you are forgiven. Now live in the humility of knowing that you are not perfect, but you are loved anyway. Then go and invite others into the light of love.”
If you want to empower your kids or your friends or your students to become all they can be, stop putting yourself down. Walk humbly, with an honest sense of the reality of your situation.
- Step into the light that exposes your weaknesses. See them for what they are.
- Take responsibility for your short-comings. Ask forgiveness when forgiveness is needed. Ask for help when help is needed.
- Enjoy the freedom from your burden. Bask in the warmth that love provides and say kind things to yourself and those who forgive or help you.
- Boldly go and display this light of love by inviting others to be honest, allowing them to take responsibility for their mistakes and then demonstrate your forgiveness and love for them.
The fact is, it will always be a struggle for me to keep up with daily life. I will always be better at things that have nothing to do with keeping our family well-dressed, well-fed and on-time. But if I give my mistakes and failures more air time than asking forgiveness and/or help, then my little snafus will turn into a deflated Andrea, who ends up deflating others.
What unkind things do you say to yourself? Perhaps it’s time to expose the reality of your situation and walk humbly into the light of love.
Do you want to empower your team to empower others?
It was time for bed and my daughter was distraught, “It could happen anywhere!” She overheard the news about Paris that morning and then managed to avoid thinking about it. But when the hubbub of the day calmed at bedtime, she had nowhere to run. Fear chased her down and mocked her. My sweet 8-year-old begged me for a distraction, “What can I do so I don’t have to think about it? I’m too young to know about stuff like this!”
Aren’t we all? I don’t know anyone old enough to be comfortable with the possibility that a gunman could come into a restaurant and take us out while we’re enjoying a glass of wine. And who is mature enough to handle the picture of a real-live human being strapping explosives on their chest and pushing a button that scatters pieces of their insides throughout a crowd of unsuspecting people?
I don’t blame my daughter for wanting a distraction.
I totally understand why she feels afraid. In the moment of my daughter’s intense fear, I felt confronted with my own. I know what it’s like to be taunted by the terrifying possibilities of what might happen. I experience it more often than I’d like to admit and all too often I get the feeling that something is chasing me down. In times like those I need a distraction to help bring me back into balance.
But there is an art to the use of distraction.
Distractions are helpful in moments of distress. Sometimes I need to shift my focus so I can stay calm and think clearly. In those moments I need a distraction to help diminish the fear I feel. But when I continue to use them to avoid thinking about painful things altogether, distractions increase my fear.
Because monsters are more frightening when they are hiding under the bed.
So this night when fear was mocking my daughter, I knew what she needed. She needed me to look under the bed – to give her the opportunity to bring her deep doubts, questions and fears into the light so she could see that they aren’t the big monsters she imagined them to be.
“Ask any question you want, Amelia.” The next hour was a beautiful outpouring of real, deep and intense questions. I hardly answered any of them. She didn’t really need answers, nor could she probably have handled it all. She just needed to know that it’s OK to ask the questions.
I savored every moment. When all was said and done I asked, “How did it feel to ask so many tough questions, Amelia?”
“It felt kind of good – you know – not to hold them back.”
Doesn’t it, though?
Holding back or distracting ourselves from the fear of pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the moment, until holding-back becomes locking-in. Avoiding. Refusing to be honest with ourselves, God and others. Fear feeds on secrecy and avoidance. So perhaps one of the most merciful things we can do for one another is to invite fear into the light.
Who needs you to check under their bed for monsters?
Find a few Words To Say when you’re left speechless. Grab your free mini-eBook today and be the first to know when my book is released. Click Here
Apparently, I have a new superpower.
My daughter has been sad a lot lately. She is entering that delicate tension between child and teen, running toward independence while simultaneously mourning the loss of naiveté. I rejoice with her and hurt for her. This is, what seems to be, the second in a series of transitions into what we eventually come to know as “real life.”
I don’t blame her for having a difficult time with it all. Everyone was in awe with her when she was little. Two tiny pigtails atop her head and words like they came from an adult, she had everything a two year old needed to get all kinds of ooo’s and ah’s and wow’s. It’s hard when a little girl’s years catch up with her cuteness. Precious as she is now, she also has a lot more responsibility. It will never be the same. I totally get it.
I know she’s sad because she gets angry. The kids love each other so intensely that they drive each other crazy with the expectation to be honored and loved and considered. It’s hard for kids to do all that for each other. It’s hard for any of us to do that for each other, regardless of how much we want it for ourselves. So several times a day they are offended and angry – especially after 4:00 in the afternoon. And in those times it is hard for them to do anything but scrutinize my favor.
You NEVER make Grant…You ALWAYS let Grant…He got more…Oh of COURSE he gets that!
I stopped rationalizing with her in these moments a long time ago. It doesn’t matter if she’s right or wrong, it matters that she isn’t feeling loved. We have no intention of changing her consequence or our decisions; but when this happens, the girl needs help.
One night a couple of weeks ago I realized that my little gal needed some extra sweet love – the kind that reaches the sadness under her anger. Right after an angrily offended outburst I followed her to her bed…
Hey babe. Look at me. Right here – look at me.
Her eyes wandered over for a brief second and met my adoring whole-face, gentle smile.
I love you, Amelia.
She immediately turned her head and hid the smile she couldn’t keep off of her own face. I didn’t joke this time. No arguing. No giving in. I just told her I loved her and I said it with my entire being. And I’ve been doing it periodically ever since. Then last night it happened again.
“How do you do that?”
Do what, honey?
“Make people smile.”
I don’t know. I guess it’s just my new superpower.
…a superpower we all have when we put on our super-deep goggles to see past surface-anger and find deep-pain. There’s no need to be afraid – no need to rationalize it away. Just meet it with deep-love.
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.
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.
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. I 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.
I have a friend in Wisconsin who recently discovered her great love and talent for knitting. She’s made some amazing things this winter! I adore this picture of the smile on her face coupled with the display of her fabulous craftsmanship. Chris has found something special – a way to express her strong attention to detail, perseverance and love for her family.
There was a time I thought I would find those things in knitting, too.
Eight years ago when we lived in Wisconsin I was pregnant with our first child and exploring what it looks like to be a homemaker. My friends were particularly adept at the art of homemaking. I was inspired by their passion and ability to garden, cook, sew and…knit. I didn’t have much interest in these skills until the reality of motherhood began to hit me. As my baby bump grew I felt an increasing desire to imitate my friends so I could create a similarly homey atmosphere for my little family.
I went to the store and purchased knitting needles and yarn. One of my friends taught me the simplest knot and started me off on my very first knitting project. It took a couple of weeks but I was excited to see the scarf grow from the labor of my hands. I finished and held my triumph before me, then realized…one end was twelve inches long and the other end was six! I have no idea how I lost so many stitches! I looked at it and just started to laugh. My knitting project was quite similar to all my other projects requiring precision of hand: a hot mess! I made the instantaneous decision that I would never knit again.
My declaration was not made out of embarrassment or defeat, I simply accepted that I am not made to pay detailed attention to projects I do with my hands. It was an empowering, exciting moment. In minutes I was at my knitting mentor’s home, surrendering my needles and yarn.
And I never looked back.
My heart swells when I see friends in their game – doing their thing. I celebrate them, learn from them, benefit from them and am inspired by them. But…
I don’t need to be them.
Through trial and error I continuously explore what it means for me to be a homemaker. Now that I’m not nurturing tiny children, I’ve found that I can nurture a garden. I enjoy cooking healthy meals for my family. I write. I think. I have deep conversations. And I throw parties. When I focus on developing my strengths that are highlighted in these activities – rather than tying myself in knots knitting – I feel more alive.
This morning my friend and Strengths Coach Laurie Hock led our small group in discussion about our strengths (take the Clifton StrengthsFinder here). With her guidance we are all beginning to understand how things that have made us feel different, weird or wrong in the past may actually be our brightest and most unique contributions to the world. She offered this very important point: “You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be more of who you are.”
Another friend, referring to her small stature, said “The idea that we can be anything we want to be is not true! I will never be a great basketball player (no matter how hard I work at it)!”
You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be more of who you are.
I could have spent my entire pregnancy working on knitting a scarf with equal ends. But what interests and strengths of mine would I be neglecting to develop or offer as I trudge through the effort of becoming simply proficient at knitting? I ended up spending that time painting items for the nursery and reading.
Here’s the thing:
I could huff and puff on my weaknesses and end up with a nice bunch of party balloons but no energy left to party.
Or I could apply effort to developing my interests and strengths and find that the fire I ignite fills a hot air balloon that brings the party to the sky!
So here’s to you, my beautiful friend who knits up in the clouds!
I will meet you there with ideas and questions.
You will offer me warmth. I will offer you depth.
And together we will make a home for the world.
For more information about Strengths Coaching and Speaking, contact Laurie Hock through her website www.growingpoints.biz. She has helped me tremendously in the past few months as I’ve begun to step into my calling.
Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your follow here (sign up for email updates on the side or bottom of your screen) and on Facebook (Andrea Joy Wenburg). If you find this post helpful or inspiring, I’d love it if you’d share it with your friends!
What are your interests and strengths? Are you willing to offer them?
Let’s meet in the clouds!
Click to Read this related post: Stretch Into Who You Are – like it’s your JOB!
We had time to kill before school. I was feeling particularly drawn to this child in this moment, so I heaved up her 8-year-old self and we bounced around the kitchen to the morning music.
We used to dance like this when you were a baby. I’d hold you like this and would bounce you around the room. You loved it.
Then before either of us knew it, we were swaying softly to a song we weren’t expecting to hear. The melody continued as the words bound us together:
You were my first love, always there for me
You taught me how to walk and how to dream
God gave me your eyes
But it was you who showed me how to see
Now I can stand on my own
But I know you’ll never let go
I’ll always be your baby
No matter how the years fly by
The way you love me made me
Who I am in this world…
Ignore this moment and I’ll miss it. Hold it tight and I’ll worry.
Cradle it and I’ll cry.
These are the moments when time stops and the weight of love nearly knocks me down. It is the tender weight of what is, what was and what will be. It is the awkwardness of these moments that beg me to turn away.
Find something to do. Find something to say. Find something to rationalize. Whatever you do, don’t feel this moment, tearfully, with the one you love.
Intimacy is so frightening.
Acknowledging the tenderness is so vulnerable.
But I’d rather be knocked down by the weight of love than run strong into isolation. So would you like to sit with me as I listen and cry?
My baby turns 8 today.
“I’ll Always Be Your Baby” Natalie Grant
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. ~C.S. Lewis
Last weekend I had one of my favorite dates ever – with our 5 ½ year old son, Grant. After a quick trip to Burger King to devour his cheeseburger and strawberry-banana smoothie, we headed home to watch Planes Fire & Rescue. I brought three baskets of laundry out to the living room but when the he invited me to sit next to him, I decided not to multi-task the little guy.
He snuggled into my arm for a while until the heat from the fire got to him. Not long after that the intensity of the movie heightened and the date became epic.
Oh my! What’s going to happen?! This is kind of scary!
I melted into my son. He held my heart in his sweet hands and we connected deeply. At the tender age of five, the kid saw me in my distress and reached out to comfort me the same way I often comfort him. He knows instinctively what most of us push away by the time we are adults: tender touch and acknowledgement of distress is comforting, lessoning our experience of pain.
I’m not sure when it is that people begin to resist giving and receiving physical expressions of comfort. At some point it seems we get the message we need to be tough, not letting physical or emotional pain get to us. Shake it off. Deny it’s presence. Use distraction to keep from feeling it. Stay away and I won’t cry.
I suppose each of these strategies has its merits. The fact is that neuroscience is making interesting breakthroughs in understanding pain as a perception translated in the brain. Both physical and emotional pain are processed similarly and thus intimately tied. I hate to admit it, but the more I learn about it, the more I realize that pain is indeed all in my head.
But one fascinating aspect of physical and emotional distress is that their relief is also intimately tied. When I comfort Grant by kissing his wounds, he literally feels better! When I deny him my attention, his experience of physical pain is apparently worse. It is a lot easier to see this in a child. Young children still want to be comforted by a person.
Stay away! I don’t want you to touch me!
Why? Because I don’t want to cry in your presence. If you offer comfort and I am actually comforted by you, you hold my heart in your hands – and I’m not sure I can trust you with my heart, so I’ll just scare you or push you away.
Is it possible to be deeply connected to another person if we refuse their comfort?
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned from our kids and my own experience needing comfort:
- The gruffest reaction comes from the most tender heart. See tears under the refusal of comfort and under the anger.
- Ease your way in. When I am overwhelmed and throwing a grown-up tantrum, I need some perspective. But I won’t be ready to receive that perspective until you reach out. I often rub lotion on the back of a child throwing a tantrum. It is a physical reminder that we are not fundamentally and irreversibly screwed up in each other’s eyes.
- It is easiest to receive comfort from someone who isn’t afraid of being comforted themselves. If you aren’t comforted in your own pain, you won’t be able to truly comfort someone else.
I hope Grant continues to use the movie move – to comfort others with the same kind of comfort he receives.
Like Andrea Joy Wenburg on Facebook for additional information about pain perception and sensitivity.
She was upset. Really upset.
I was calm. This time, I was calm.
Earlier that day I determined to start a heatwave to offer Warmth for Cold Hearts around me and so I was focused and ready for this little tantrum. This was one cold heart that I’d been concerned about for a while. And the tantrum was an opportunity to warm it up.
What are you upset about, sweetheart? What has made you so sad that you feel you have to yell at me? I can’t stay in the room while you are yelling, but when you’re ready to talk about what you’re sad about, let me know.
After a few minutes she was ready. There were tears. And indeed, she was really and understandably tangled up inside. The conversation went on for quite a while – way past my usual “I have to leave the room at 8:00” time. I didn’t get the laundry put away that night (OK…the laundry still isn’t put away three days later!) but I’ll tell you what DID get done. Thaw. The cold hard heart before me warmed quite a bit after I explained why people speak harshly (because they’re actually sad or hurting) and why some people are sad and hurting a lot (because they think they need to do something or be something to be more valuable).
“Why can’t you just tell them that?” she asked.
Through my many, many tears and while she gently rubbed my back I said:
I can try to live it. And I can write and teach about it. But I can’t promise that anyone will take what I say and apply it to themselves. So we pray and we treat people with respect and love even when they are harsh with us.* We see tears where there are harsh words or actions and we remember there is sad or pain under that anger. We offer Love whether it is accepted or not.
Friends, I ask you: How might this apply to you?
- Is there a sweet heart that is longing for you to hear that you can cry in front of them instead of treat them harshly?
- Does some sweet heart feel torn and anxious when you worry about how much you are worth to the world – to them?
- Who is angry around you and really just needs someone to see underneath the anger – to breathe LIFE and LOVE to the deep places inside of them?
Today. Do it today. Don’t let another day go by without offering warmth to a cold heart. You might be amazed at the fire that ignites inside of you.
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*Sometimes loving and respecting someone else means we must withdraw from their presence so we do not feed their hunger to dominate and control. Just as I left the room when my sweetheart was directing her tantrum at me, sometimes we need to leave the “room” when others direct their anger toward us. I do not intend to suggest that anyone stay in an abusive situation. There may be a time to come back and listen, but sometimes we need to leave to let the other find out how sad they really are.
Links to more posts on this topic: