Grace, trauma, mindfulness, and humility…

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I share office space with one of the wisest women I know. Her spiritual maturity vastly surpasses my own. We do therapy very differently. And that’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes my stuff meets hers, or hers meets mine, and I have to rethink some things.

I am a huge fan of mindfulness in therapy and in life. It has made a huge difference for me and for many of my clients. Most times I teach it minus all spirituality as to be sensitive to my clients individual beliefs and needs. But when it comes to my own way of mindfulness…she said something to me that will not let go.

“You know Steph, mindfulness is great, and I use elements of it all the time, but here’s the thing. What happens when we fail ourselves? When despite our best efforts we can’t breath? Or we can’t ground ourselves with the environment because we are in the midst of tremendous grief or a horrendous flashback? Trauma can be overwhelming. It often is. And that’s where we need the power of God…of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. So I’m all for mindfulness, but it must be centered with Jesus.”

I’ve let this simmer a few days and sitting in church this morning a definition of trauma plopped itself in my brain:

“A traumatic event or situation creates psychological trauma when it overwhelms the individual’s ability to cope, and leaves that person fearing death, annihilation, mutilation, or psychosis. The individual may feel emotionally, cognitively, and physically overwhelmed. The circumstances of the event commonly include abuse of power, betrayal of trust, entrapment, helplessness, pain, confusion, and/or loss.”

By very definition, she was spot on. Yes mindfulness is an amazing tool for healing from trauma. The research is profound. And for those who do not ascribe to Christianity – it often works fairly well. But for those of us that do, what a huge disservice we are doing if we limit mindfulness to our own ability to center and access strength.

The sermon today was about pride and how Satan uses it. It had a large scale collision with my word for the year – grace.

“And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” James 4:6-8 NLT

Your loyalty is divided between God and the world…

It’s hard to be a therapist sometimes. I embrace theory. I love research. But it’s not everything. So often research centers itself on the world. And in my practice I vacillate to be ethical and meet my clients exactly where they are. But in my own life, and my Christian clients lives, there is room for so much more.

Pride says I can pull on my own strength, my own resources, humans around me, and my coping skills to get through an incredibly difficult time…and it will pass. And more than likely it will. But trauma again – by it’s very nature – surpasses ones abilities to cope. It’s what makes trauma traumatic. And in my own life God is hammering me over the head with grace harder and stronger because He knows I have knowledge of His divine power but have refused to access it. And it pains Him.

Maybe it’s out of fear that He won’t be enough. That I will be disappointed. I’m not really sure. But I do know this…

I wanted strength for the year. I wanted power. I wanted overcomer. Which are all good things…but I was focused on pulling them from inside myself.

Thank God He sat on me like a ton of bricks and said no. I believe He is telling me I will have these things, but not until I humble myself and stop relying on my strength, and the strength of those around me, and choose Him.

Relentlessly recklessly choose Him. Over and over again choose Him.

Because when I do, He will wrap me in His grace and unending power. He loves me too much to let me rely on anything but the best. But perfection. His power is made perfect in weakness. And all the mindfulness in the world may not heal trauma, but God will. He is the Prince of Peace. He will never fail.

grace warrior…

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Brown. Nothing special. Just plain. Boring…kind of how I viewed grace.

I wanted a cool word for the year. A word like warrior. But God would not leave me alone about it.

Grace. Plain brown grace.

“Grace is weak,” I thought. That can’t be the word for me. This is a year of change. Of growth. Of strength. But here I am, with grace.

To me grace equaled mistakes. Weakness. Incompetence. And I hate feeling incompetent. It terrifies me. I wasn’t sure why, but then it hit me. I hate feeling incompetent because it’s how the dude who raped me made me feel.

Incompetent.

And it wasn’t just a rape. We dated for about a year. A year of feeling sexually incompetent. I was never enough. Physically incompetent. My boobs were little and my butt was big. Emotionally and mentally incompetent. He would constantly threaten to shoot himself because of my “mistakes” or “lack of effort”.

The mistakes I am referring to were centered around things he would do to control me. Things like write him a note every day, talk dirty to him in notes and on the phone, wear a certain thing, or look a certain way. But it was never ever enough. I was always incompetent.

With him, incompetence equalled punishment. Maybe with words. Maybe with threats. Maybe with actions. But it was never forgiven. And the sad thing is, I hadn’t done anything wrong in the first place.

What does that do to a person? Constantly feeling inadequate. Unable to measure up. Not to a reasonable expectation. But to an expectation that was just plain jacked up and weird.

It creates an unbelievable amount of anxiety and shame. I would not leave him because I firmly believed no one else would want me and I was a mistake of a human. Eventually I did get out…but the damage remained. I needed to be everything to everyone. I had to. For self protection. I repeatedly lost myself out of a need to remain safe.

And that’s where grace comes in.

Turns out it has been non-existent with me for a while. Oh…I had it in infinite amounts for others. But none for me. And I didn’t want it. Because grace meant I had not met the expectation – and not meeting the expectation induced panic.

I hid negative internal states, failures, and mistakes over and over again out of fear. I even hid them from myself. Looking at them was too scary. Too painful. If I acknowledged them someone else might too. And then it would happen. My incompetence would permeate the room like a nasty fart that no one wants to smell and everyone would be disgusted and run away.

But it’s not true. Even though I’ve held myself to a jacked up frame of reference, I have never been incompetent. Not because I’ve never made legit mistakes, but because of that brown so-called boring word, grace.

Turns out it’s rather dynamic. Not necessarily pretty. But actually kind of warrior like. It goes to the wounded bleeding broken places. The places others refuse to go…and says yep that sucked and it was far from perfect…and your loved. Not in spite of your crap. But because of it.

Grace is unmerited favor. Not pitty love. Not a bandaid for incompetence. It’s love for the whole person – free of expectations – out of choice. And that’s the choice God made for us in sending Jesus. The choice of grace. And it’s not brown or boring or weak. It’s warrior grace that says yep you fall down a lot, and you can’t be everything to everyone, but you are loved by God and that’s freaking amazing. And you’ll never have to measure up ever again because grace bore the measuring stick for you.

Art by Valerie Wieners Art and available at valeriewienersart.com

Girls, women, ADHD, trauma, and Jesus…

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It’s a chicken or egg thing. Or maybe a chicken AND egg thing. ADHD – trauma – abuse – neglect – genetics – nurture – nature: all players in the game. And not that one has to occur for the other to occur, or that one necessarily comes first or second…but it’s interesting to look at the research about how trauma and ADHD play together.

One study shows that “among women, 34 percent diagnosed with ADHD reported having been sexually abused before the age of 18 while 14 percent of women without ADHD reported childhood sexual abuse. Also, 44 percent of women with ADHD reported childhood physical abuse. In contrast, 21 percent of women without a diagnosis of ADHD reported the same type of abuse.”

Again…chicken or egg…but either way when a chicken and and egg exist, something is going to hatch.

ADHD wasn’t part of my life narrative until recently. Looking back, it was always present, but I used the word failure. It felt like shame, embarrassment, inadequacy, and confusion. Why did I do the things I did? Why did I fall into the same patterns over and over again? Why couldn’t I see what was sitting right in front of me? Why did I give up on things I really was good at and/or loved? Why did I run when things got hard or I felt afraid? Why were my emotions so strong that eventually I learned it was better just to numb them out? I never had answers to these questions until the past few months. And it has been liberating and frustrating all at the same time. And considering my own trauma narrative a whole bunch of puzzle pieces finally fit.

ADHD often looks different in girls than it does in boys. It’s not always the kid bouncing off of the walls that can’t sit in his chair. It’s the girl that get’s bored and tries to find stuff to do. And in trying she may run across someone new that seems interesting. He may offer her excitement. He may be her age and he may not, but she doesn’t really have the skills to process that in her tunnel vision brain. Yep, it was weird and awkward, maybe wrong?, but it felt good. And it was adrenaline, and it was stimulation, and in some ways it was kind of good. A feeling that hasn’t been found elsewhere. So why tell? Why block off that person and go back to the boring lonely reality of before? This may be messy and painful at times…but there is oddly a reward.

Fast forward into young adulthood. He treats me crappy. Yes. But he likes me when everyone else thinks I’m weird. I need a constant emotional boost and even though he drags me through the mud sometimes, when he’s nice he gives me what I need. I don’t feel in control of my emotions anyways, so I will take all the good moments I can squeeze out. And maybe I do things with him that I’m really not comfortable with, and maybe he pushes or even forces, but again it’s exciting. And it feels good in a weird way. So I guess I’ll keep going because leaving him seems impossible. I don’t want to be lonely and bored again. I can’t.

The story of my life. The push and pull of emotions. The “Did I want this to happen?” factor when it came to things that were not ok. Why tell. Why let anyone know. I assumed they would just reassure me that all the awful things I thought about myself were true.

And I have come a long way. Lightyears from the girl and woman I was before. But she is still very much a part of me. And for that I am incredibly thankful. Because I get to sit in the office with these different yet the same versions of ADHD and trauma that need someone to explain to them how their brain works and how all of this stuff that happened really wasn’t their fault. That what was not okay was not okay regardless of how it seemed or felt. That they are not dirty or shameful or to blame. I wouldn’t trade my history for the world for that very reason.

And I have a passion that burns inside of me that could not be ignited any other way. The awareness of how ADHD looks in women and girls is low…really really low. People get misdiagnosed and overlooked all the time. And not that every trauma survivor struggles with this, they most certainly don’t. But when they do-  it’s real. Their brains work in ways that need to know and understand how this whole chicken and egg thing went down. Because once they understand…things happen. The God that loves them says hey – see what I have been speaking to your heart all along is TRUE…and there’s this moment of freedom that is absolutely amazing.

how to jingle all the way…and get other things done…

img_4065I am like the queen bee of starting things and not finishing them…so this kitchen towel totally cracked me up. It’s not that I’m a half-ass jingler. When I jingle – I jingle with all my heart – for the moment that is. Then something happens (attention shifts or I get overwhelmed) and I forget that jingling was ever important to me in the first place! My sparkly bells  just sit there, unjingled, and lonely.

Now clearly I’m not just talking about jingling bells. In fact, the last time I really put effort into jingling bells was in high school show choir. I’m talking about all the other projects and things I pour my energy into like a gargantuan waterfall, only to quickly leave behind a lake of pieces unfinished and undone.

So how does an adult that struggles with ADD sustain a nice full ass jingle throughout the completion of a song? I am still in the process of learning that…but here is what I have discovered so far.

  1. Focus the attention waterfall: Those of us with ADD often have multiple waterfalls flowing in our head. We are constantly inundated with information and easily sucked into things that are unproductive. I can spend HOURS on Facebook doing absolutely nothing if I don’t choose to harness up my waterfall – meaning set a period of time and focus on a productive task. Jingle your bells with a full ass jingle for so many minutes a day.
  2. Let the waterfall move on: Sometimes we get so focused on working one set of bells, and can have difficulty shifting focus, that we neglect other sets of bells. So set your time period, but don’t overspend time doing one thing. It will still be there tomorrow, your brain will be refreshed, and there are other things around you that are important.
  3. Jingle in the direction of your values: If you don’t value it, don’t spend time on it. Facebook is cool, but it doesn’t move me towards my values. I am way better off working on something that involves committed action towards things that are really important. Don’t know what you value? Take a second to think about it and figure it out.
  4. You are capable of and worth a good jingle: If you have a habit of leaving things undone, starting and not finishing, or feeling like you constantly fail…it’s easy for interest to peak with a great idea only to be shot down by our own negativity. Some jingles will work out and others won’t. But that’s not because you are incapable or a failure. You deserve to give yourself time to work on that jingle. Sometimes the best ideas come out of those who process a bit differently. Shut the negative committee down and jingle till they move out the way!

I hope those things are helpful for you. I’m certainly – and will likely always be – in the process of figuring out what’s helpful for me. And process is a beautiful thing. It means growth. So get out there and jingle sister…the world is waiting to dance to the tune only you can provide.

don’t be a sloppy lovahhhhhhh……

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I love me some Saturday Night Live. Especially the old stuff. One of my favs (I know it is so inappropriate but I can’t help myself) is Will Ferrel and Rachel Dratch playing the Professors Roger and Virginia Klarvin. They are so over the top with their hilarious PDA’s. I almost pee my pants every time I watch. Here’s a link…but warning…like seriously inappropriate adult humor…don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I feel weird even trying to bring an SNL skit like this and Jesus into the same blog post, but hey, now that I know I officially have ADD – I feel a little more freedom to do weird crap. So how did I draw a connection between the two? These three words that popped into my mind last night…

Don’t be a sloppy lovahhhh……

Jesus? SNL? A combo of both? I’m not really sure…but Jesus took it and taught me something.

I like to love people. Not in a weird ewwwwwwwww kind of way. Not that at all. What I mean is…I like to care for people. I crave doing it. God put a little bug in my heart that desperately wants to make sure others know they are okay. Even if they did the unthinkable…or experienced someone else doing the unthinkable…we learn, we grow, and we move on. I like to help people figure that out.

But at times…I like it a little too much. The consequence? I provide awesome lip service with little follow through. And I know it’s not just me, I see other lovahs struggle with the same thing.

So what is Jesus teaching me? That the best lovahs need good boundaries. Otherwise their awesome loving skills never get a chance to be properly used. The love-ah feels unfulfilled and like a failure and the love-ee feels like they are were misguided and perhaps not good enough. (and yes I just made up those terms)

But how on earth do we go about setting those boundaries?

1. Recognize it may go against everything that is within you. Your heart and mind will long to say yes, but your physical limitations sometimes have to scream NO…even if it feels awful and like you are letting people down.

2. Recognize there are other awesome lovahs and network with them! Despite your mad loving skills, you are not the only one who loves to love and care for people. If your love plate is full…pass on the next portion to someone else who can love well!

3. Have someone hold you accountable to your boundaries. Why? Because lovahs love to love and we are not good at keeping them!

4. Relish in the awesomeness of being able to fully invest in those God lets you love…and love the crap out of them. Love them like Jesus. Love them beyond what they deserve. And do it well because you of all people are not a sloppy lovah!

Looking back on my life the people who made the biggest difference were not famous. They didn’t write books, or flash up on the TV screen, or make millions of dollars. They were regular people who chose to love God and love people. They were and are amazing lovahs. And they stay that way and sustain their love because they also recognize their boundaries and limitations. Brene Brown does an awesome job of explaining this in this video. Worth the watch if you have time. But either way, remember this…

God did not call you to save the world. He had a son named Jesus who already did that. Love those whom He entrusts you to love. Let others love those whom He entrusts them to love. Making the choice to set boundaries in a love opportunity may just be the best thing that ever happened to them because it opens the door for the right person for that season to step in. And above all know that Jesus – the ultimate lovah – has got this. He’s got them. And He’s got you. Do your best. Love with your whole heart and leave the rest up to Him. He’s a good good father. The very best.

hypersensitivity, fear of failure, cocktail waitressing, and the making of a therapist…

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Hypersensitivity to failure, disapproval, and criticism. I never knew this was a “thing” until I started researching emotions and ADHD. ADDitude magazine describes it like this…

“The emotional response to failure is catastrophic for those with the condition. Perceived criticism and withdrawal of love and respect is just as devastating as the real thing. The term “dysphoria” means “difficult to bear,” and most people with ADHD report that they “can hardly stand it.”  ADHDers are not wimps; disapproval hurts them much more than it hurts neurotypical people.”

I always thought this was something to hide…some sort of character flaw. But no matter how hard I fought, I just couldn’t get past it.

Over the years this hypersensitivity has come at a great cost. For me…it often led to lies.

I hated lying, but I was terrified of disapproval.

As a CPS worker fresh out of college with a toddler and a baby, I failed miserably. I couldn’t keep up with my files, I was emotionally overwhelmed, and would say that I got things done that I hand’t which eventually led to me looking irresponsible and negligent.

Was I?

It was never my intention to hurt or disappoint anyone, but while my heart was in the right place…I couldn’t get my brain to follow.

This has been the story of my life. A huge heart wanting to do and be everything to everyone. Passion that bleeds endlessly but never has the stamina or skills to implement.

So I left CPS quickly with my tail between my legs. At that time I was accepted into the Master’s Program in Counseling, but that was not all…

Cue embarrassing story…

I decided to cocktail waitress and bartend at night to make sure I could pay the bills. I didn’t even know how to make a margarita or the names of any other drink…but that’s what an impulsive spirit running from her hypersensitivity to failure and criticism will do to survive. Just about anything.

I went to grad school and I was successful. Looking back I have no idea how. It must have been the grace of God. There is no other way. Apparently He knew someday my particular take on life and set of experiences would be beneficial to the children who grace my office. To those sweet little souls with unspeakable traumas and behaviors that everyone else misunderstands and sees as ugly. My own mistakes have given me the perspective to see past their messiness into their hearts. Because God did the same for my own.

I feel their pain. I know what it’s like to come undone. To feel like you can’t quite harness up your brain so you can use it. It’s my honor to help them figure out how to take what they have – though it may be little – and rock it.

And I sit here tonight with my intellectually disabled son napping by my side, my ADD daughter (who didn’t fall even a centimeter from the tree) crafting her little artsy heart away, and my amazing husband cleaning the kitchen because he knows cleaning just isn’t my thing. I am blessed beyond measure. I have found what it takes for me to be able to slow my brain down enough that I can keep up with things like files and notes so that the part of my practice I excel at (loving people) can be successful. I am still sensitive. I still want people to like and approve of me. But I know if they don’t, it doesn’t define me. I have learned to handle rejection and that it really is okay to mess up sometimes and just be human. And above all, with Jesus I continue to find that not matter what, it is well with my soul.

one handful of peace…

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Art by Valerie Wieners Art: www.valeriewienersart.com

I find it tremendously valuable to work harder. To be the best. To be the one that others envy due to my consistent willingness to sacrifice. In fact, my mom’s favorite phrase that sticks with me to this day is, “Stephanie has been in a hurry all of her life.” And it’s true. I want to do more or be better. Never have I been able to be settle. To realize my enough was enough or that it’s okay to be right where I am. I need somewhere to go. And quickly.

I supposed that’s been the greatest lesson of learning that I have ADHD. Understanding why I have been in a hurry all of my life. Because if I’m honest, I rush about, but rarely get much done without chasing my tail in a thousand different directions.

My family and friends try to keep up as my hair catches on fire with ideas about a new project, but then move on just as quickly to something else. I am a doer by design. And I embrace it! But treating this lack of dopamine in my brain has helped me to slow down and make sense of some things.

The other day I looked closely at what I want out of life. One word came to mind. Balance. I want balance. I don’t know that I’ve ever had it. So I began looking at what I would need to get it. Worthy and Capable. To slow down enough to achieve balance, I need to trust that God has made me worthy and capable.

I started looking up Bible verses about balance and came across this:

Then I saw that all hard work and skillful effort come from rivalry. Even this is pointless. It’s like trying to catch the wind. A fool folds his hands and wastes away. One handful of peace and quiet is better than two handfuls of hard work and of trying to catch the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4-6

Chasing the wind. All hard work and skillful effort come from rivalry. Rivalry with others – maybe – I do like to be the best. But mostly it’s a fierce blood bath that occurs right inside the darkest corners of myself. Impulsive decisions, lack of being able to organize even when I try, forgetting things that led to someone I care about getting hurt, or abandoning an idea too quickly and leaving others behind has left me feeling so unworthy and inadequate that I wondered if God just made me a faulty human. I tried to do better, but it was like spitting into a hurricane force gust. I kept messing up.

Enter profound depression and anxiety dominating my thoughts: You are a mistake. It doesn’t matter how hard you try. You will never be good enough. You were an accident. There is no reason for you to be alive. You should just give up before you end up hurting someone else. You are too needy. Stop trying to get better. You never will. You are a failure.

Like a bad rollercoaster…I would feel awful about myself, try to do something amazing, sometimes fail, sometimes succeed…but it was never enough. My mind would continue to turn itself like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle with a combination of worries, ideas, and thoughts that never stop. And who wants to be still when your brain is stuck on the spin cycle? It makes you dizzy. So dizzy that you just can’t stand it. Never finding peace because even when you try to be still, your brain makes it exhausting.

One handful of peace and quiet is better than two handfuls of hard work and of trying to catch the wind.

One handful of peace. That is what treating ADHD has given me. One tremendous overflowing amazingly profound handful of peace. It’s the sloppy wet sloshing in between my fingers that I have been looking to find my whole life. It’s my worthy. And my capable. For the first time I can look back on things and think…wow…that was pretty cool what God allowed me do to there. I can tie up the details of a project or organize my closet without getting overwhelmed and giving up. And then I can sit down and be still. I can experience peace.

So it may sound strange to some that finding out and treating ADHD has been an answer to prayer. No one really wants a diagnosis. But when you have suffered for 35 years and finally find the answer it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s the gift of being able to sit down and enjoy the cool brisk movement of the wind as it touches my skin rather than getting up immediately trying to chase it. For the first time, I am content.

believe her for more…


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Most of us want to be believed in. To be trusted with much. We like others to make an investment. When they do we feel worthy. Less shame. These investors likely come and go…but the impact God allows them to make on our life remains.

And when it gets dark outside and insides tremble with pain…we seem to need our investors all the more…

Nothing stretches out a nagging sense of unworthiness like difficult circumstances…and at the pinnacle of unworthiness lies shame.

Shame kicks us when we’re down. Shame works it’s way into our souls and leaves us holding tight onto our value. Will the tough time snatch it away? It can’t. But sometimes we just know that it might.

Maybe you, like me, have a difficult time believing in yourself. Maybe patterns that have been misunderstood all your life leave you weary and carrying a backpack full of rocks that say you are broken-too far gone-unhelpable.

If we truly want to move forward, we lean heavy into our investors, but only for a period of time. The ultimate goal of making an investment is that there will be a return. A gain. The investors job is not to give endlessly into our pool of broken ways – it’s to provide ample resources for success. They believe us for more until we can believe in ourselves.

Then there’s Jesus. Resource rich and impeccably generous. He sees our faulty ways of being and loves us the same. The wisest investor, not out of necessity, but because of grace. The only one who believed us for more even before we spoke the language of His ways.

Because of Him we don’t have to be afraid of what will happen if an investor runs out of resources, drops the rope, or simply moves on.  The sustaining love of Christ is and always has been the totality of our enough. Circumstances may in fact decrease our value for a time being, but God always provides a double portion return. With him, your ways of being never disqualify you. They make you capable.

So maybe we can all thank God for our investors. Those who walk with us until we swallow worth and redemption. Those who never ran away from our mess or pain. And maybe when the time is right we will return the favor in new and sparkly ways as a small part of someone else’s really awesome Jesus thing.

 

perfect peace…

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I’ve always had trouble with peace and gone about creating it different ways. Maybe I can organize peace. Or perfect circumstances and they will become peace. Maybe if I feel good enough I will find peace. Finding peace has become my endless quest for more. Until I slowed down….

I was challenged by a book I read, Present over Perfect, to slow my roll. Because peace is rarely about more – and often about less. Peace is enjoying what is in front of you to its fullness rather than going out and trying to find it elsewhere. It’s a gift inside of you. You don’t have to hunt for it or perfect the endless files in your briain until you finally  find it. No…peace is what God said it is…it surpasses understanding.

Peace is about centering your heart and mind on God’s Word and willingness to accept the present. Peace is always available. We have to allow our brains space to let it in. Peace is about giving our hearts and mind over to God. It’s sinking deep into the moment of life and soaking it in. It’s letting life be what it is.

The past is gone and the future is fleeting. All we have is the present to make peace the most active and understated greatness we can ever experience. Peace is both simplistic and incredibly complex. It’s enjoying what God has for you without rushing off to assume he doesn’t have complete control over what is coming next.

When the big UPS truck pulls up to deliver Monday with all of it’s problems and worries, you can deal with it then. Take the package when it arrives and stop trying to track the delivery. Instead make space to allow the moment to be what it is. That’s the key to letting God’s perfect peace rule over your heart and mind.

Set the files aside. Strength is not always found in understanding. Be still. God is in fact Holy. And He will assume the roll of your understanding when the time comes. Allow your heart some space to rest. Enjoy your perfect peace.

because it’s okay not to be okay…

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It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s NOT okay to stay that way.

I remember hearing this phrase in middle school. I don’t know if it was a Baptist thing or what…but it was clearly a part of my church upbringing. To most people this meant grace. It meant redemption. It meant forgiveness, second chances, and opportunities for improvement. But I had on a thick pair of distorted glasses. And filtering through my lens this statement meant it’s okay that you sucked at life in the past but you better get it together NOW. Don’t ever make a mistake. And if you do hide your baggage and bury the ashes. No one should EVER know!

And so I did. I was excellent at stifling the dirty within. Preaching the Jesus message but suffering under a weight that felt like forgiveness was just a lie. Maybe it was good enough for other people, but not for me. I was the one who had stayed that way. The one who knew right from wrong and wasn’t strong enough to defeat the flesh. The failure.

It didn’t stop after middle school, or even high school, or college, or even now that I have a successful practice. The worn out message and the dysfunctional way I processed stuck. It looks different. I might call it fear of making a mistake, or perfectionism, or approval addiction – but it’s the same thing. The nagging feeling that everyone else moved forward into awesomeness and I stayed that way. 

Turns out other people feel that way too…

Like everyone else has their stuff together and somehow we missed the bus. That something went terribly wrong. That we must work unbelievably hard to cover up the ugly.

And when it interferes with our lives we call it depression, or anxiety, or PTSD, or OCD. And there is a VERY biological component to all of these. But there are also generational ways of being that aren’t easily disregarded. Our parents needed things orderly, their parents needs things pretty, their parents parents truly believed it wasn’t okay not to be okay – and so on and so forth and all of us just did what we had to do to survive.

Here I am listening to It is Well with My Soul wondering how it took me this long to realize this is true. That the first part of the message is just as important as the last. That it is okay not to be okay. And maybe it’s not okay to stay that way is less about never making a mistake and more about resting in knowing that even when I do make mistakes, Jesus doesn’t let it define me. That he sees me as perfectly okay. More than perfectly okay. Perfectly loved. Perfectly blessed. Perfectly equipped. Perfectly flawed in all the weak weak ways that push me to call on His strength and power. Power made perfect in weakness. That Jesus is good with me just the way I am. That He died for you just the way you are. That it can be well with all of our souls because it is indeed okay to not be okay because Jesus doesn’t let us stay that way.

And so looking through the dysfunctional lenses of our past, entangled among fears about the present, maybe we can all just decide that life doesn’t have to be pretty. That the cross was never a pretty thing in the first place. Maybe we can just all agree to accept each others ugly because life was never perfect anyways. And that’s more than okay.