Month: October 2012

Will your routines in life sustain you when chaos hit?

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

Happy day to you!  Today is Halloween, which is perhaps my least favorite holiday.  Not sure I should even call it a holiday.  I think its my least favorite because I have to walk around the neighborhood with my 3 and 6 year old in the COLD weather.  If you know me, you know that I get cold easily.  You also know that I loathe being cold.  But alas, I shall walk around this evening with my boys, in the cold, and watch them enjoy being kids.  For now, I have planted myself in my favorite chair at home which sits in front of my big window.  I am enjoying the sun, the trees, the quiet, and the warmth as my little guy naps.  

I have been prompted to think about the word “routine” by my pastor’s sermon this past Sunday (listen here), which I found amazing and helpful.  While we can have many routines addressing different areas of our lives, whether it be exercise, eating, sleeping, or work, my pastor focused on the importance of our routine with God.  Specifically, the importance of having a routine with God so that when the pains and chaos of life enter our day-to-day living we have the fruit of our routine to fall back on.  

I have to say, from personal experience, my pastor is right.  Just about 2 years ago my life changed.  Confusion and chaos entered and my life changed.  Today, my life looks different on many levels and I am still healing from the changes of 2 years ago.  But my point is this:  2 years ago I had routine with the Lord.  I spent time with him daily, both reading and praying.  I was, at one point, working in the church and then began what is known today as Avenues Counseling.  My relationship with God was thriving.  I was learning about His love for me, His steadfastness, His faithfulness to me and my life, His commitment to me, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, His Goodness (the list could seriously go on and on).  As I spent time with Him daily He shaped me to know Him better.  I am forever thankful to Him for His ways with me.  Now let’s focus on my routine with God the past two years since confusion and chaos entered my life.  I cry out to him in prayer, asking Him to make sense of life.  I remember verses from the Bible and Bible stories throughout the 2 years.  I go to church, but not as often as I used to.  I haven’t been in a formal Bible study.  I can’t even remember the last time I opened my Bible and read it, and as a matter of fact, at this moment I have no idea where it is.  

I am not proud to share these things with you.  In fact I’m a little nervous about it.  But really, all I’m doing is being honest.  The honest truth is that as I have lived in these 2 years of confusion and chaos my routine with God (and many other areas of my life) has changed.  I have been unable to maintain my same routines as my life has changed.  

Yet I love God.  He still loves me and I miss Him terribly.  I miss our daily times together – He is my father and friend.  I am okay that my routine has changed, but I know it won’t stay this way forever.  I also know that I have been able to maintain over these 2 years because of the routine I had with God.  I am currently living on the fruit of my prior routine with God.  

What are your routines in life, whether it be with God, exercising, food, managing life stress and anxiety? Will the routines you currently have in place sustain you during the times in your life when confusion and chaos reigns?  

Why do we place time limits on grief?

By Lianne Johnson, LPC

Over the last two years my life has traveled through several seasons of grief caused by a crisis.  Have you ever experienced grief?  If you have, then you are keenly aware of how those around you try to place a time limit on your grief.  Why do people place a time limit on how long another is to deal with grief?

Grief is not clean.  It is dirty.  It comes and it goes and then comes and goes again.  Why is it so hard for us to let people be sad or tired or be in pain emotionally?

I have found that most of those who have struggled with my grief struggle because of how it impacts them, and to be fair, they also miss the “me” before my season of grief.  The result of this is that they do not accept the “different” me – the me covered in grief.  They want to “normal” me – the me they have known far longer than the me in grief.

The Holidays are Coming

by Jonathan Hart

If this phrase fills you with a sense of foreboding, you’re not alone. For many, the holidays can be a time of guilt and frustration in which the traditional family gatherings are fraught with conflict, tension, and heartache. Family gatherings can be confusing. “Why is this so hard?  Is it supposed to be like this?  That’s just how they are, I need to get over it… but I can’t!”

Families are rarely perfect.  We often feel pressures and expectations when we are among our closest relatives that we don’t feel anywhere else or at any other time of year.  I’ve heard more than one person complain, “Mom (or Dad) treats me like I’m still twelve years old!  They don’t seem to understand that I’m an adult now,” or “I just go along with it!  I can’t seem to stand my ground with them.”

While these pressures and conflicts are not unusual, they are painful and difficult to handle for many people.  We feel the power of these relationships and expectations deeply, and we aren’t sure what we have the right to challenge and what we don’t.  All too often we avoid confronting what is painful because the consequences are just too great.  “I can’t say that to my Mother!  It would crush her! It would ruin the whole trip!”

If you are among those who need help sorting out the expectations and learning how to relate in a healthier way when you’re at home, I’d encourage you to sign up for the “Surviving the Holidays” seminar that we are presenting at Rooftop Church in Affton on Friday, November 9th from 5:30-9:00 PM.  We will discuss how relationships are designed to function, how they get off track, and how to change the pattern in a healthy direction.  For details on how to register for this event CLICK HERE!

What’s so great about grief?

by: Andy Gear, PLPC
                  

I remember those first moments after the accident as if everything was happening in slow motion. They are frozen in my memory with terrible vividness. After recovering my breath, I turned to survey the damage. The scene was chaotic. I remember the look of terror on the faces of my children and the feeling of horror that swept over me when I saw the unconscious and broken bodies of Lynda, my four-year-old daughter Diane Jane, and my mother. I remember getting Catherine (then eight), David (seven), and John (two) out of the van through my door, the only one that would open. I remember taking pulses, doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, trying to save the dying and calm the living. I remember the feeling of panic that struck my soul as I watched Lynda, my mother, and Diana Jane all die before my eyes. I remember the pandemonium that followed—people gawking, lights flashing from emergency vehicles, a helicopter whirring overhead, cars lining up, medical experts doing what they could to help. And I remember the realization sweeping over me that I would soon plunge into a darkness from which I might never again emerge as a sane, normal, believing man.

–Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised

I remember a time when I experienced loss. As I walked home that evening, I remember telling myself this isn’t going to ruin me. I made a vow that I wouldn’t let it affect me. I wouldn’t be weak. I wouldn’t feel. I would forget; pretend it never happened. And then it wouldn’t hurt me. Then it wouldn’t touch me. I would ignore the wound; pretend it wasn’t there. Then it would go away.

But it didn’t go away. Neither did my memories. I started watching more TV to try to divert my attention. I had trouble concentrating on work, my mind wandering back to that event. To that pain. I had to distract myself, numb myself. I mustn’t think about it ever again. It was too painful. If I thought about it, something bad would happen . . . I had to avoid it at all costs.
None of us want to suffer. But none of us can truly avoid it.

We all have reason to grieve at some point in our life: loss, mistreatment, rejection. In the end it affects us all. But how we approach it influences how it forms us. As I see it, there are two basic options: we can ignore it or we can grieve it. And the path we choose determines how we come out on the other end.

On the surface, ignoring it sounds like the safer option. Just ignore it, don’t let it affect you. But it doesn’t work that way. When we ignore it, it continues to grow inside us. We waste away from the inside out.

It affects the way we approach life; we shut down parts of our selves. We shut down part of our mind. We shut down part of our heart. We become less than a whole person. Our relationships become shallow and stilted. There are parts of us that are shut away, irretrievable, unreachable to the closest people in our lives. We find ways to distract ourselves: TV, hobbies, work, porn, busyness. They may seem harmless enough. But they begin to own us. We live with eyes half open. We live with our heart half closed.

But we choose to ignore it because we feel overwhelmed and powerless. We want some sort of relief, any relief to get us through the days and nights. We keep ourselves busy to avoid our tortured thoughts. We numb ourselves to avoid the unbearable pain.

When we notice the pain less, we think we are out of the woods. We have survived the grief unscathed. But we have merely pushed it below the surface. And it will pop up again: in anger, in addictions, in unhealthy relationships. We have not saved ourselves pain; we have merely stretched it out, separated it from its source, and allowed it to dictate who we become. The irony is that in trying to escape the pain, we have given it the keys to our heart and allowed it to blindly drive us—as we simply pretend it isn’t there.

So what about the second option? The scarier option: facing our pain head on. Admitting the hurt. Acknowledging the loss. Processing the damage. Mourning what once was and will never be again.

This is the way of healing. We can choose to face it squarely. To meet it head on. To enter it honestly with our eyes wide open. It is a long and painful journey, but it can be a journey of growth not destruction.

But this requires facing reality for what it is. We cannot ignore it and hope that it goes away. A wound will not heal with lack of care; a bone will not mend without being set. We cannot heal by denying that something has been broken. We are made to share our stories, to experience our pain, to feel deeply, to mourn fully.

We must allow ourselves to grieve. This is not something that happens overnight; it takes time and community. It is not easy. It takes sharing our hurt, expressing our pain, acknowledging the damage done. Grieving does not make us weak; it makes us courageous. It is facing life as it is, not as you wish it were. There is hope in authentic suffering, but only false-hope in denial and distraction. Loss does not have to ruin us. In fact, if we face it honestly, it can grow us.