A Conversation on Pain

I’ve been prompted to write about pain ever since I got home from the World Race in 2013. I remember sitting on the beach with my parents when “a blog hit me” and I scrambled to jot it down on the inside cover of a Kingdom Journeys book. I wrote a short article on the topic of pain. I never did publish it, and I never did find the book I wrote it in. (hah!)

But I remember what I wrote. I wrote about how we don’t talk about pain. And not broken arm / sprained ankle kinda pain, but deep down pain: emotional and spiritual pain. I wrote how I think we are conditioned to not talk about it.

I had to look back to my old World Race blog to see what prompted this. Immediately, I remembered. One of my final months on the Race was in Rwanda — a country that inspired me deeply, because they embrace, acknowledge, and talk about their deepest, darkest pain as a nation — and they do it openly.

After being home for just a few weeks, I was unsettled with the stark contrast of how we don’t talk about pain. It’s like we aren’t supposed to. We act like it’s so awkward and uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say or how to deal with our or other people’s pain. Oftentimes, we say something stupid that minimizes or dismisses the pain… ’cause we’d rather they just not bring it up in the first place. Right?  WRONG. I can’t stand that.

 

In 2015, I remember traveling to a close friend’s wedding in gorgeous Antigua, Guatemala — which barely resembles a developing world country. On one of the pre-wedding days, a big group of us traveled to a day-spa an hour outside the city. There were lots of friends of friends on the bus ride and people were going through the get-to-know-you chit chat: life in the big city, their business initiatives, houses they were buying, weddings they were planning. Then we drove by a ‘tent city’ and conversation slowed as the sight of dramatic poverty polluted the view for my new vacationing friends.

One girl asks, horrified: “Do people LIVE in there?” 

Me: “Yep, they do…”

She quickly shields her eyes with her hand and says, “I can’t look! It makes me feel so bad!”

…hmmm, didn’t expect that reaction… “Why?”  

A little annoyed by my question, she quickly replies something about guilt and not wanting to feel bad about her lifestlye and changes the subject.

That reaaally stuck with me. I don’t think we are supposed to shield our eyes from pain of the world. We are supposed to feel the discomfort and then    A) Do something about it  and/or    B) Be more grateful for what we have

But the main thing that bugged me was the unwillingness to feel the pain.  Just one year prior, I had visited homes just like those in Honduras. I sat in one of those tin shanty houses and cried with a mom whose teenage son had decided to join up again in the dangerous gang-life that she thought he had left behind. I couldn’t do anything but sit, cry, and pray with her in that tiny, dirty little home. But she was encouraged by willingness to sit with her in her pain — and I was blessed by the experience.

I think there’s always something God wants to show us, if we are willing to press in to pain. But it seems like we’ve been taught that it’s something better left swept under the rug. Or avoided altogether.

Just today I was reading about our ‘Millennial Generation’ and how we were protected from pain and surrounded with prosperity growing up, and that’s caused us to be super idealistic and perhaps ill-equipped for the rough journey of life. A friend wrote a short article on the topic and this line really resonated with me: One day, hardship will awaken them to resilience they don’t know they have yet.”

I think she’s right. A lot of us DID grow up as a generation shielded from hardship. My dad told me stories of how he would take my dead goldfish to the pet store and ask them for “a fish that looked just like this one” and h replace it before I got home from school! 🙂 My dad shared with me, as an adult, that he had been exposed to so much death when he was young that he wanted to protect me from it.

As I am sure you know by now, last summer Seth and I lost a baby. The pain and the sting of death was unlike anything I ever experienced. It was particularly miserable for my parents to watch me go through it. But God used it to teach me about the depth of my faith, His trust-worthiness, and the depth of character and resilience that comes from walking through hardship.

If we can learn to really sit in the pain of the world — and the pain of our own journeys — I know God will use those experiences in great and powerful ways.

I don’t intend to talk to explain why we suffer, but you can see my father in law’s recent post about that here, but I just wanted to open up this conversation on pain. It’s a topic that’s drawn me some really worth-while places. It’s what resonated with me immediately about Beauty for Ashes (B4A), the women’s ministry I helped build at Adventures. In B4A we teach women to face their pain. Share their stories. To get to the real stuff. The raw honest stuff. The stuff that really matters.  And it’s what resonates with me still about the writing of Glennon Doyle MeltonBrenee Brown, and even Emily McDowell’s greeting cards (a few pictured below).


   

That’s why I like to write about the hard stuff. I think talking about the hard stuff is what makes us real.

What do you think about talking about pain?  

Do you think it’s SO awkward and uncomfortable to talk about your own or someone else’s pain?   What has been your experience?

I’m sure this is the beginning of a much longer conversation.

Cheers. To the hard stuff.  😉

How Do We Wait Well?

Who LIKES waiting?

Nobody does. Waiting in traffic. Waiting in line. Waiting for that phone call you’re expecting. Gosh, it gives me a bitter taste in my mouth just writing those examples! In fact, my husband Seth says waiting is the “worst thing,” second only to losing.  < Yep. And God gave him ME as a wife. Me: “the Tardy Queen”. No joke: I was awarded “Most Fashionably Late” as a superlative in school. Didn’t know that was a superlative? It wasn’t. They made it up for me.>  So yea, that’s where we’re coming from. Neither one of us has a lot of patience. God has a sense of humor.

 

 

As you might remember from my previous posts, God asked me at the start of this year to “try” → to try for yoga ministry, try living overseas for 4 months, and try for a baby. The ‘baby try’ was the try most riddled with emotion and fear. In late March, God spoke to me again and said it was OK to stop trying for a baby, which was confusing. The only thing that was clear was that it was a part of my journey to learn obedience, even when I don’t understand. And, of course, learning to wait well.

Although I don’t want to learn to wait well, the thing I find encouraging about acquiring this skill-set is that it’s a skill that will prove transferrable to future seasons of life. I imagine waiting on a baby will NOT be the last thing I wait on. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. And, unfortunately, it’s a virtue not attained through getting what you want when you want it.

I feel like I’ve heard God tell me that the season I am in now is “set apart” and special — and that it would be terrible for me to wish it away by focusing on the one thing I don’t have.

And then, I realized something that really blew my mind: this IS the season I’ve been waiting for!

Allow me to explain: I’ve never been one of those girls who day dreamed about my babies. I never picked out baby names or nursery themes. I never sat around and thought about what it would be like to raise small humans and or what my tiny humans would be like. I always figured it would happen, but never really gave it much thought. In fact, I was more concerned with NOT getting pregnant, so that I could pursue my dreams! (…and keep partying hard, but that was a different life and another story for another blog)

The things I DID daydream about were the adventures I would have, the businesses/organizations I would build, and the kind of impact I would have on the world. I wondered about the guy God would pair me with. I’d imagine how we’d do bigger things together than we could ever do on our own. I dreamed about traveling the world with him and doing things that make a difference.

And then, it hit me: THAT IS WHERE I AM LIVING.
I am living in the season that I dreamed out.

And I realized I am being ROBBED of the JOY in soaking up the juicy goodness of THIS SEASON, because I am so fixated with anxiety of when the next season start.

Lemme tell you, I am someone who prides herself on being present. I am always the one to soak it up and be in the moment. But from the moment I saw those two lines on that pregnancy test last summer, I was already IN the next season. And then when that season was taken from me, and I was catapulted back into the previous season (which I had been enjoying), I freaked. It REALLY threw me off. I was stuck thinking about that baby. That pregnancy. That questionable blood work. Fear of the future.

 

 

I share this all with you because, as in most things, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So I write this to any of you who are looking with anxiety-filled-eyes at the season ahead of you. I’m challenging you — and challenging myself — to focus on the good in the season you’re in now. What things did you look forward to that are already happening?    What dreams have already come true?    What are you supposed to be learning?  What do you need to do to allow yourself to soak up the juicy goodness of NOW?

Perhaps the JOY of the NOW can overshadow the bitter taste of the waiting.

I’ll believe in that. Who’s with me? 🙂

 

What does it mean to TRY?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try and then let go?”

Nah…that’s not the way the expression goes.
It goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

You see, I have often lived it out that expression in one of two ways:

“If at first I don’t succeed… well, I wasn’t really trying anyway…”

OR

“If at first I don’t succeed…I’ll try and try again, and then try again and again, and then I’ll force the damn thing and make it work!”
Neither have proven an awesome strategy.

As I’ve shared, 2016 was one of the roughest years I’ve had. I accumulated more fear and anxiety than ever before. I got pregnant and was afraid to lose the baby. I lost the baby. I was afraid to get news that I had a blood disorder, (like my Mom’s) that could cause major issues with all my pregnancies. Test results said that could be the case. I was afraid to get pregnant again. Haven’t gotten pregnant yet — still trying. I was afraid to pass off my job and leadership over the ministry I was building for 3 years. I was afraid to leave my safe, cozy community of friends to go travel the world. Afraid to rent my beloved home out to a stranger. Afraid to get pregnant overseas. Afraid to not get pregnant. Bah! Enough to drive me mad.

And I realized at the end of 2016 that I was weirdly comforted by this pathetic idea that maybe I wasn’t giving it my all, so it didn’t really count. Maybe I wasn’t reaallly trying.

I wasn’t risking myself fully… so it wouldn’t hurt so bad if it didn’t work out.

From last month. I feel like it’d be more gentle if it said, ‘not yet! keep trying!’ hah.

Example: last spring when we first talked about starting a family, someone suggested to me, “You don’t have to start trying. Just stop preventing.”
“Genius,” I thought. This way, if it doesn’t work out, it’s OK, because I wasn’t really trying, anyways.

This concept is about a LOT more than baby-making. It transfers into many areas of my life — and maybe yours.

“If at first you don’t succeed, well… it’s OK, because you weren’t really trying anyway.”
Doesn’t sound like a bumper sticker I’d want on my car.

At the end of 2016, I found myself eager to NOT try.

To just let things BE.

To relax, enjoy, and ‘see what happens,’ like everyone seemed to be suggesting.

And then, of course, I heard the Lord ask me “to TRY.”

To give it my best shot:

Give getting pregnant another shot

Give starting a yoga ministry a shot

Give moving overseas and living abroad a shot

To TRY. At everything. Even if that meant doing it afraid.

But, naturally, when I actually try at something, I expect it to work out.

I expect to give a valiant effort … and see success.

And when I don’t…well…

That’s when the other version of the old expression chimes in:

“If at first you don’t succeed…
force it and make it work!”

When it doesn’t work out, I think to myself, “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I didn’t try smart enough. I tend to half-ass some of these things…”  So then I push the pendulum to swing way on the opposite end and I decide that I will make it work at all costs! To prove to myself that I can!

And as much as that sounds like ‘the American way’, I’ll tell ya —

As I’ve lumbered through forcing things, it’s been made clear to me that forced blessings is NOT what God has for me. When I am forcing things to work, I am NOT doing them in trust or in faith. I am doing them in my own strength.

Example: before leaving Cambodia our apartment in Guatemala fell through. First reaction: Frantically searching for another. What we felt God was saying: wait and see what I have for you. Result: we decided to listen (smart). We waited and got a last minute deal on an apartment even better than the last.

The courtyard in our apartment complex. SO dreamy.

This is NOT to say that it always works out. It doesn’t. Sometimes you give it a good healthy try and it doesn’t work. But that’s not the point. I’m discovering the point is OBEDIENCE. God wants to know that whatever He tells us to do, that we’ll just do it.

If He tells us to try, we try. If He tells us to wait, we wait. And we let go of the outcome. We leave it up to Him. Because, it’s up to Him anyways. We can only do our part. We listen. We obey. And then we wait.

What is God asking you to REALLY TRY at?

What is He asking you to STOP TRYING TO FORCE?

I pray you’ll press into finding that divine balance that I am trying to learn…

“….TRY and then… let go.”

Why Yoga?

I believe yoga can be just an exercise or it can be a spiritual discipline.

And, like all spiritual disciplines, it matters where your heart is and where you are devoting that discipline.

Are you glorifying God? Glorifying yourself? Or are you aimlessly emitting your devotion out into the world and inadvertently glorifying something you’re not even sure of?

I believe that when we engage our minds, bodies, and spirits in devoting our yoga practice to glorify Jesus Christ, we can cultivate a deeper more purposeful connection to God, ourselves, and the world around us.

Yoga helps us grow in our awareness of where we are at — in our minds, bodies, and spirits. And self-awareness is important to our spiritual growth. We can’t grow past our level of self-awareness.

I believe God is a personal God who wants relationship with us. He is both the Creator of the universe and the small still voice within us. He wants to journey with us and be our guide and closest friend, as long as we invite him into that place in our lives.

I believe faith is a beautiful thing to be celebrated and shared, not forced.

I know the transformational power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve seen the healing and redeeming work of His love in my life and in the lives of so many other people. And that’s my inspiration to share this love with you through yoga.

I believe God is as alive and powerful today as he was during the times of the Old and New Testament. That’s why I offer Biblical scriptures as meditations. The Bible is God’s timeless word — appropriate for encouragement and wisdom always. I also believe God speaks to us individually through the Holy Spirit. In this way God can offer us a timely word — a word that’s uniquely suited for us in the very moment that we hear it. This is why I offer a moment of prayer and meditation in our practices; so that we can intentionally create a space for God to speak, and for us to listen.

My aim is to invite you into a yoga practice that will strengthen your body and fill up your Spirit.
Throughout our time together on your mat or perusing this site, my prayer is that you’ll find connection, feel loved, leave refreshed.

If you want to read more about how yoga can serve our Christian faith, see www.christianspracticingyoga.com

The Opportunity in a Broken Heart – part 2

July 6, 2016
The Day We Lost Our Baby.
D&C Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

(continued from The Opportunity in a Broken Heart Part 1)

I want to be someone that loves fully, hopes fully, and grieves fully. I want to be someone that invites others into that space with me.

“Why?” you might ask. Well, because I know that it’s healthy. And that it’s real.

Most of us have unprocessed pain in our life. And when we find or create a safe space to talk about it — we pry open the top on a can of worms that was festering in our souls — spoiling even the good stuff. It’s not compartmentalized into tidy little boxes for most of us, it’s all tangled up together inside of you.  And one rotten can spoil everything.

I don’t want my good stuff spoiled. So into this can of worms I go.

I say yes. I say yes to this opportunity in my freshly broken heart.

I say yes to inviting you, my community, into my story.

Am I scared? Yes. I don’t like worms and I really don’t like pain.

Do I like my story? Not today.

Am I sorry for inviting you into it? No way.

Why? Because this is real life. Real life is pretty sometimes. But other times is royally sucks. But it’s part of our story — it’s all part of our “whole”.

“We are the sum total of all of our parts.
And when we choose to just share the sparkly, pretty stuff  
— that’s fake and it’s bullshit and I’m not about that.”

To make matters even more pathetic this morning, my extended family was here visiting. My aunt and my precious, innocent 11 year-old cousin Cassey were with me today at the Dr’s office when we got the horrifying news that our baby had died.

When I was able to stop sobbing long enough to give Cassey a tight hug, these words spilled out of my mouth:

 “I’m so sorry that you have to see this. I only want you to see beautiful things in life. But life is painful and hard sometimes. And this is one of those terrible, painful, hard things. I’m so sorry you have to see this. But this is part of real life right now…this is real.”

So, I choose to be real with you, too.

And I hope you’ll choose to be real, too.

What’s something in your life that you need to be real about? Do you need to get real about it and share it with someone else? Or do you need to simply face it, and be real with yourself?
Be brave. I believe in you.
It’s worth the risk.

The Opportunity in a Broken Heart

The Opportunity in a Broken Heart
July 6, 2016
The Day We Lost Our Baby.
D&C Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

As long as I can remember, I have always been an opportunist. Always looking for a way to make the most of every opportunity.

Sometimes this has rewarded me with incredible, juicy insights on how to squeeze the life out of every precious experience. Sometimes it has gotten me into trouble for taking it a little too far  and find myself over-indulging and erring on gluttony. And sometimes… well, sometimes… it’s just really hard to feel all there is to feel in an experience. Like today.

A few months ago my husband Seth and I started trying to get pregnant… and we did! We were so excited and so full of hope.

My mom has a really rough medical history in carrying babies to full term. “Rough” = 5 miscarriages, 1 ectopic pregnancy, and one 6 week early baby: me!  🙂

So,  the whole ‘getting pregnant’ and ‘being pregnant’ experience was joy and hope laced with threads of anxiety and fear.  I did my absolute best to drown out the ugly emotions with as much belief, faith, and positivity  as I could possibly muster. I was constantly reminding myself to take my thoughts captive, rebuke fear, and speak life-giving thoughts into my atmosphere, over my body, and over my baby.

And I DID.

Hard core. Day in and day out. For 11 weeks. All the way up until this very morning… when my worst fears came true.

We went in for a regular sonogram check-up, and found no heartbeat.

We lost our baby.

My heart is breaking now in a new kind of way. The kind of way no one ever wants to grow familiar with.

We’ve been very very fortunate to have lots of friends sending us notes of encouragement already today. Bottles of wine and craft beer dropped off at the doorstep. And a sushi dinner getting delivered tonight. But even relishing in my beloved sushi and craft beer seems like squirting a water gun on a raging house fire.

The grief, confusion, and pain is like smoke around I fire that I can’t even see yet.

But what I can see clearly is the weighty burden of this new and awful “opportunity”.

The opportunity in a broken heart.

You see, when your heart isn’t just “broken”, but it’s ripping and tearing in places you didn’t even know you had, you have a two options:

1) You can stuff it all down and in. Down and in. Down and in, as far as it’ll go. And then do your very best to drown out your heart’s desperate cries with distraction of all kinds.

OR

2) You can open up wide, dive in deep, let it all hang out, and see what’s there.

It’s only been a few hours since I got this paralyzing news. But I already know: I am choosing the latter.

Already, my face hurts from crying.

I have a sinus headache from blowing my nose.

And I do NOT for the life of me understand why this happened.  BUT… I am choosing to believe, choosing to trust, and choosing to share. (Lucky you!)

But seriously. We ALL have pain.

Maybe you haven’t recently lost a baby, but you’ve lost something.

Something died along the way, at some point. A person, a relationship, a hope, or a dream.

Something you loved. Something you risked your heart to love.

How did you grieve it? Did you even grieve at all?

I want to be the kind of person that risks my heart to love and hope fully… and then bravely opens up to experience the depths of pain that come with that risk.

Do you have any cans of worms that you’re tip-toeing around in your heart?

How can you muster up the bravery to crack it open?

Who do you know that would stand by you to root through it?

You can do it.

It’s worth it.

Continue reading in part 2