Thursday, April 28, 2011

39 to 39: Empathy!

Perry (my husband) and I have had an on-going conversation, feud, conflict, and understanding about the application of "empathy." As a therapist I felt like I knew all the tricks to get people to talk. And I didn't want Perry to use those tricks on me. Writing that down really sounds horrible, but it is the truth. So as we have worked through how to do "empathy" a really important step in the process emerged. Perry started asking me to stop and then repeat after him. For instance, he would say: "Andrea, I need you to say this..." Those words transformed our communication. First of all, what he would ask me to say, would never have come to me on my own and secondly, he felt heard and understood. I need to give a "shout out" to my husband tonight. He has done very good soul work over the years.

This week in my "Ordinary Courage" class with Brene Brown the topic has been empathy. The final podcast focussed on finding the courage to ask for what you need. As I was listening I realized that what Perry was doing with his "Andrea say this..." was actually ask for what he needs. And I realized that I don't do that. I don't have the expectation that he should know what I am thinking... but I do sit in my shame hole all by myself a lot. Brene rehearsed few scenarios and catch phrases and I was amazed by what resonated with me. And I was horrified to realize that I never say it. I don't practice it. I'm alone because I choose to keep it on the paper in my journal. I have acted as a coward.

So, what resonated with me? One of Brene's examples was: "?Husband, I need to share a very shameful story with you. I need you to listen. I need you to hug me. And then I need you to leave me alone for a few hours. Wait until I bring it up again and am ready to talk about it." This idea was the equivalent to quantum physics for me. It takes me so much courage to say it: to speak the shame... I'm not ready to process it or hear feedback or even hear support. I just need comfort and space. My defense mechanism is to sit in the shame hole alone, rather than invite someone to care for me in a way that I can receive it. Identifying the problem is the first step to change.

Brene Brown made the following wonderful distinction between sympathy and empathy: "Sympathy is walking to the edge of the hole and looking in. Empathy is climbing in the hole with the one who is hurt. " Amazing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

39 to 39: Love

I didn't expect it to be so hard to faithfully blog. All day long, I think of fun things to journal and share. I jot them down on pieces of paper. When the day finally winds down, my kids are in bed and I have time to write... I can't find the slips of paper. I can't tell my husband because he gets frustrated that I have an expensive iphone with all kinds of automated applications which will allow me to hold my "notes" and save them in one place until later... no slips of paper. But, I'm old fashioned and I write the thoughts (gems) on the back of envelopes and on check stubs, then in my mad rush to clean up... I throw them away.

Tonight I had a gem that lingered and didn't need to be written down for fear of being forgotten. Love. At youth group tonight we talked about love. Love... God's way! The act of loving your enemy and praying for those who persecute you. I was amazed by the intensity in the room when we began to talk about loving our enemies. One of our leaders gave the following instruction: write down a name of someone who has hurt you and then list the five love languages... then consider taking a step toward loving him/her in one of those ways. The five love languages are: physical touch, gifts, quality time, acts of service and words of affirmation. It was amazing to watch the teens squirm. They physically recoiled at the thought of loving their enemy.

I found their example humbling. Earlier in the day I was meditating the idea of love. All I could think was that God was love. And Christ as the God in flesh was love. And that as a Christian I was to be like Christ. I pondered how people were drawn to Christ. I imagine that people felt completely loved by him, completely safe, and completely vulnerable in his sight. It also made me realize why the Pharasees hated him so much. When they were in His presence they saw their complete selves. They saw their faults and they hated Jesus for it. As Christ-followers we are to emulate Christ in our behavior. We are not God but we are in the pursuit of looking like Him. I want to pray for those who hurt me, and love those who hate me. I want to be so loving that people feel safe and unarmed in my presence. I want others to see Jesus in me.

I can wax eloquent all I want... but I remain humbled: when I find myself frustrated that my living room was left a mess after youth group; when I yell at my dog to stop barking; and when I want to acknowledgement for my accomplishments. So those are my gems for today!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

39 to 39: Sick Day!

I missed blogging yesterday because I was sick. Both of my daughters had the flu for a week. I am typically a resilient Mom who can withstand the "buggy" germs. But this time, I was not. From mid-day Easter until this morning, I fluidly moved between chills and fever. I ended up in bed under multiple comforters. How is that for genuine and authentic!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

39 to 39: When I think of Easter...

Today our church served the community by putting on an Easter Egg hunt. We had over 700 people come through Micon Cinema in a 2 hour span of time. It was chaotic and fun. I was a widget volunteer. I was given a job (to stand at the door of theater 8) and greet 1rst and 2nd grade egg hunters. About half way into the morning a little girl with sparkling eyes looked up at me and said: "I know you?" Without hesitation I reached down and hugged her. Luckily I actually recalled her name as well. A moment after the greeting her mother walked by with the same eye sparkle. The family was truly having fun together!

I have thought about that encounter throughout the afternoon. This family has visited our church a few times over a few years. So often I am busy with process and I miss people. Have I missed this little girl, even when she was sitting in my Sunday School class? Have I looked her mother in the eyes and welcomed her? Have I been present with these people? Today, I was very comfortable with who I was and what my role was. I was able to genuinely engage with the folks who came to my theater.

After dinner our family watched the newest VeggieTale: Twas the Night Before Easter. I was struck by the simple theme, people over production. The finale has a catchy tune: "When I think of Easter... I think about God's love." Today, I was able to love. Not because I have something to give... but because I know of the gift given for me.

I am as ADD as the next person... I can get distracted very easily. My prayer for tonight and tomorrow is: "When I think of Easter... I think about God's love." And I challenge myself to take it one step further. "When I think of Easter.... I want to demonstrate God's LOVE."

Friday, April 22, 2011

39 to 39: Holy Irony

So I'm taking this class on vulnerability and I'm trying to demonstrate authentic living by sharing the "real" or the "raw" in my life. I feel like a few years back I was really "raw" and able to stay in the uncomfortable in between for longer periods of time than I can now.

Yesterday while I was walking my dog, I was thinking about my Easter expectations. So far things were not going as planned. My big outdoor youth service had been moved inside for snow - It was April 20th and we had snow. Crazy! After another late night with my 4 year old it had become clear that I wasn't going to make it to our annual Seder Supper. The re-enactment of the Last Supper was something I enjoyed each Easter Season.

So, there I was, walking my dog, clearing my head so that I could resume the "cuddle" position with my daughter for the 10th consecutive hour.... and it dawned on me. While I was out walking the dog, the kids had put in a movie to watch, Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix. In leu of attending the Seder Supper we were watching a movie about sorcery. It doesn't get any more genuinely ironic than that. While my church family remembered the ultimate provision of God, His Son Jesus... I watched a Harry Potter movie with my kids. And that's the TRUTH.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

39 to 39: The start of the journey

Life rattles along like a train on a track. Some mornings more than others I look like I have been hit by a freight train. As I approach the last official year of my 30s, I am keenly aware of the movement. I remember my 30th Birthday. I was afraid it would be difficult but it wasn't. My 30th Birthday was met with many life accomplishments: a husband, 2 children, a house, a dog and a career. I had everything I had hoped for at 30.

As I approach 40 everything is different. I can't figure out if I'm less interested in accomplishing or just more interested in being. Since I have found it so difficult to "be" I haven't quite hit the mark as I did at 30. In fact I am actually bumping up against a wall. The wall divides what I am suppose to be and who I really am.

I have challenged myself to journal (publicly) for the next 39 days. My challenge is to be consistent and to genuine. My goal is to authentically share who I am, what I'm doing and how I feel with you every day. Let the journey begin!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Countdown!

I'm launching head long into a challenge: to blog (journal) daily for the next 39 days leading up to my 39th Birthday! Starting tomorrow.