Month: March 2012

One of Life’s Most Difficult Questions

By: Katy Martin, LPC
I had to do something today that was difficult.
I had to ask for help.
Our basement is getting refinished and, ideally, the new rooms need to be painted before it can be completely done.  My husband is in an extremely busy time at work, traveling a lot, and I’m pregnant: we need some help.
No, this isn’t life altering.  No, I’m not asking for a kidney or something major.
But we are legitimately in a season where we could use some help.  And it wasn’t fun to ask for something I feel like I should be able to handle on my own.
I know I’m not alone in this.  How often in life do we find it difficult to ask for help?
I think one of two things is sometimes happening: 
1. We are too prideful.  We don’t want to admit our need.  Asking for help puts at risk of being rejected.
2.  We are so used to our circumstances, pain, emotions, or ways of thinking that we don’t realize we even have a need that could be met.  We build a tolerance, not realizing that someone could ease our burden, take our burden, or that we don’t have to be alone. 
The trouble is that a lot of times no one else knows we need help.  We’re all busy going about our own lives, trying to survive, unaware of needs around us.  When it comes down to it, we have to admit our need to ourselves and make a step to invite someone in. 
Sounds easy, right?
No, it’s not that easy.  It’s a risk to invite someone in to help.  It’s a risk to admit that we don’t have it all together or that we can’t handle everything.  It’s a risk to be that vulnerable.  Our own stories of trust and mistrust keep us from opening up to others and/or skew our expectations.
It’s important to know whom you can trust and how to find appropriate avenues of care.  If it’s a difficult family member or friend who has hurt you, they might not be your best bet.  We have to identify people to be a part of our “team” as we do life.  Some times it means locating a counselor, pastor, or professional who can help you either in the situation or in identifying your “team.”  This can be a difficult process if you have experienced hurt by others or if the burden/situation/emotions are a major part of your life.
In the end, it’s worth the risk.   Sure, it’s safer to stay protected and not hear rejection or feel our pride raging.  However, inviting someone in can be a huge blessing just by being a part of your life and also by easing your burden or pain.
Today I awkwardly asked my friend to help us paint our basement.  She enthusiastically agreed to help, leaving me feeling blessed by her willingness and feeling hopeful about the work finally ending on our house.  Worth the risk?  Yes.  Good practice for the bigger trials in life?  Definitely.  We have to start somewhere.

A Prayer in Pain: Lamenting in Sadness, Depression, Grief, Disappointment, Sorrow…..

By: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC

I don’t think it a coincendence that many of our posts on this blog have talked about the lost and silent feeling that often accompanies pain, sadness, loss, grief, suffering, sorrow, depression, darkness, etc., like here and here and hereto just name a few. In these dark places in our lives and hearts, we are often at a loss for words or just don’t know where to start. In the Bible, godly people would cry out to God in prayer from those places, and it is called a Lament. I’m sure you can see that this is the root word for “lamenting.” There are many Laments in the Psalms and the book of Job, which God has given us. You can also write your own. A great book on this is A Sacred Sorrow, by Michael Card. Here is a a prayer of pain modeled after the way God has shown us in the Bible.

I jumped into the deep end, or I was pushed, I’m not quite sure.
The water is dark and icy, torrent like a storm.
I can’t even recall what the sunshine feels like on my face.
My tears well up in my heart, and overflow onto my cheeks,
Though they are veiled by the rain.
Do you see my tears?
Struggling to swim, gasping for breath,
My arms grow tired.
Do see my hands reaching for the sky? Do you even see me?
There are weights on my ankles,
And the more I fight, the heavier they become.
I wish I could say my voice is hoarse from calling out your name,
I wish I could say my eyes have never left the horizon, searching for your face.
I’m afraid I have drifted too far out to sea.
If you’re there, I cannot see you.
If you’re there, I cannot hear your voice.
Have you left me to struggle alone?
Do you see me at all, or have I wandered too far?
I told you I was prone to wander,
You knew it was true.
Where was your hand in mine?
Did you forget me too?
I just can’t do it anymore; I’m just not going to make it.
My Shepherd, you have never failed me, you have never let me drown.
I cannot save myself. I cannot protect myself, try as I might.
I must hide in the shadow of your mighty wing.
You see every tear I cry and hold it in your hand, my Comforter.
I long for the day when you will wipe away all my tears.
Keep me firm in your embrace until that day. Hold me fast.
I beg you not to let me drown.
Please do not forget me.

When Grief Suffocates

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

To experience grief is to be human.  Grief disorients us.  It exhausts us.  It clouds our ability to see clearly.  What was once our normal routine in life, which we accomplished with ease, now feels daunting.  Something that at one time caught our eye with its beauty now fades into a landscape of grey.  We feel less alive. 
During a season in my life where grief seemed paramount to any other thing, I remember feeling like I was suffocating.  It was harder to breathe.  Think.  See people I knew.  Talk.  What I used to consider “normal” in my life now seemed unattainable.  A new “normal” seemed to be settling in.  There were times when my chest felt as though a hundred pounds lay on top of it.  It hurt to breathe.  It hurt to be alive. 
Thinking seemed just as labor-some as breathing.   The more I allowed myself to think about the very thing(s) that was grieving me, the more suffocated I felt.  I tried not to think about the “thing(s)” I was grieving.  I tried to numb myself in various ways to stop thinking.  Stop feeling.  Stop the pain.  Though I tried, I could not run.  Thinking was inevitable.  Feeling was inevitable.  Breathing was a necessity. 
I groaned before the Lord many times.  “Lord, help me.  This hurts.  How will I sustain these losses?”  “Lord, please….PLEASE….do you hear me?  Are you there?  I am in pain.”  I groaned as I lived in the pain of grieving. 
So how have I survived my grieving?  Honestly, I really don’t know.  I suppose I can say that even though I groaned before the Lord questioning His love for me, I knew I was safe in His care.  Even though it was hard to breathe, think, feel, live, I knew He loved me and was not allowing me undue pain.  And soon, as time passed, I learned that my grief revealed His truth, His beauty, and His sovereignty.  Aside from fighting to hold on to the truth of God’s love for me, I surrounded myself with an army.  Of course I don’t mean a real army, but I do mean an army of support.  Godly friends, pastors, counselors, speaking truth to me as though it were my food, because while I was in my deepest places I could not read scripture on my own.  I needed them to be my strength and shield from the overwhelming darkness that had taken up residence in my soul. 
Then, over time I began to breathe again, and think again, and the pain felt less suffocating.  I hope you do not hear some kind of formula in all of this, because although time has passed, I still grieve.  Grieving is a journey.  At times, it still hurts to breathe, think, feel, and live.  Yet in all of this, no matter if I have an “easy” grieving day or a “hard” grieving day, God’s truth remains.  God’s goodness to me reigns.  He is my Father and I am His daughter.  These are the truths we find in scripture. 
For those of you in the midst of living in the pain of your grief, may I suggest you read two things?  One suggestion is to read the Psalms, a book in the Bible.  I would encourage you to devour them, as they are life giving to the hurting soul.  The second suggestion is a book called “A Grace Disguised:  How the Soul Grows through Loss,” by Jerry Sittser.  

Fiction, Hollywood, and Real Relationship

by Jonathan Hart, LPC

SPOILER ALERT:  for those who haven’t read the Harry Potter or Hunger Games series, there may be plot spoilers in the following paragraphs, though I will try hard not to reveal too much.

My wife and I were discussing some of our thoughts about how the books The Deathly Hallows and Mockingjay ended, and how they served to wrap up their respective series.  We were thoroughly disappointed in each and for similar reasons.  The core of our disappointment was the principle of “putting a bow on ugly”.

The Harry Potter series ended with an epilogue titled “19 years later”, that (we felt) too neatly and agreeably attempted to wrap up all the threads from the series.  The fact that Harry named a child after the person who most utterly despised him and treated him viciously even behind closed doors was just too much.  I can see coming to respect him, but one simply does not name a child after an abuser of this magnitude.  All the ugliness seemed to have inexplicably vanished.

The Hunger Games series tried to do the same thing, though the attempt at closure was somewhat better.  The author at least attempted to acknowledge that ugly existed in the post-story world, but it was still resolved too simplistically and without the flesh to make it believable for me.

Hollywood and fiction train us to expect that all the loose ends can be resolved, that resolution equals “happily ever after” or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.  They train us to need things to work out that way.  This is most plainly true in the (despicable and utterly useless) genre known as “Romantic Comedy”.  I cannot say more without using profanity.

Think of the sense of disappointment or unease when you watch a movie in which resolution is not clean or neat. We recently watched the movie Moneyball, which does not conclude with a “Hollywood Ending”.  I can only say that the events depicted happened within the recent lifetimes of many, and as such could not be modified to fit the pattern described above.  I feel that if they were more ancient history they would likely have been changed into something completely victorious.

This is fine, and even necessary (to a degree) for celluloid.  The unfortunate side effect is that because reality is very much different, many people are left with a sense of disappointment and even despair when real life does not work that way.  The truth is that human beings are generally a broken, selfish lot that is capable of both great goodness and great evil, often within a single breath.

The fact is that intimacy, real relationship, and engaging responsibly with another human being is often like a wrestling match.  The very best relationship in the world experiences conflict and disagreement, hurt and offense, misunderstanding and tension on an ongoing basis.  The couple who tells you that “never a harsh word is spoken” is either whitewashing, outright lying, or they are not experiencing real, deep intimacy.

If you are going to really do deep, intimate relationship with another person, you’d better know how to fight.  I don’t mean knowing how to eviscerate your opponent in the shortest period of time.  I mean knowing how to hold in tension the following two truths: 1. This other person and I are on the same side,  and 2. There is pain and friction between us.

When I talk about knowing how to fight, I mean knowing how to understand and express my own feelings and thoughts in a way that does not accuse or attack the other, even when it is plainly and wholly their fault.  I mean learning how to uphold their honor and dignity while feeling the painfully powerful desire to rip their eyes out.  I mean knowing how to view conflict as a necessary part of doing relationship, and not as a threat to relationship.

It is often one of the hardest lessons to learn in relationship that resolution is not about coming to agreement, but rather it is about coming to a deeper understanding of the other person, and thereby learning how to craft a unique relationship between the two of you.  No part of that process is clean, neat, or simple.  It is ugly, and to expect or demand otherwise only leads to disappointment.  You can put a bow on it if you like, but that doesn’t make it easier to look at.  It takes patience, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love.  When you’ve come to the other side of it, it will still be ugly, but there is a beauty in what has been created by moving through it that will last a lifetime.