It started when I was single.  I have a propensity for loneliness and a history of depression. When my birthday rolled around both had the potential to get the best of me.  I have a friend who broke into my house at 5:30am on the morning of my birthday for 3 or 4 years in a row with bagels and singing. She celebrated me! Because of her intentional presence on that day an idea was born. Why should I wait for somebody else to celebrate my life? Why can't I plan for the same joy she was producing? Why should I get caught in the cycle of dreading my birthday, hiding my actual age and feeling sorry for myself when people didn't acknowledge the day I was brought into this world?  After all, I had A LOT for which I was grateful every other day of the year.  So began, Missy-Palooza!!  The week long (or longer if necessary) celebration of all that has made my life so amazing.  
Call it selfish if you must but at least hear me out.  I plan lunches and coffee with friends who have chosen to do life with me, often bringing them gifts to thank them for making my life so wonderful.  I always schedule time with my mother where she prepares my favorite meal and readily tells the story of what it was like to bring a baby girl home to that house filled with boys.  I take off work a day or two that week and go for walks, ride a horse, paint a picture or schedule a massage.  If it's a BIG milestone birthday I may even plan a trip!  I have a date night with my husband planned by me to assure that I will enjoy our time together. I sometimes call my brothers and say, "Hey, call me right back will you?"  When they do, I answer "Oh!  It's so sweet of you to call on my birthday!" I sleep a little later and I breathe a little deeper.  I spend more time with my God, my family and my friends because to me that is celebration.  And I do it because I believe my life, (our lives!) are worth celebrating and being thankful for.  Even though that number keeps getting bigger and my face and body are starting to rebel I have much for which to be on my knees grateful for.  Who says only children can throw parties and invite their friends to celebrate? I will continue to plan my week of letting others know how grateful I am to be here.  In some ways, it's a 'thank you note' to the One who allows me this blessing.    


The Gift I’ve Never Spoken Of

We did what all girlfriends do when it's that time.  We talked about being pregnant together, raising our babies as friends and siphoning from each other the gifts we saw in each other to make parenting easier.  We had been friends for years.  Despite our age difference and the fact that we had little in common we genuinely did life together.  We spent long hours talking, challenging each other to grow, to become, to be. Late night phone calls, tearful pleas for advice and prayers for comfort were not uncommon. It was a friendship that was both challenging and safe and those can be rare.  Then we found ourselves in a place that life doesn't prepare you for.  A place where friendships are often lost.    
I was 40 years old and pregnant for the first time. She was 30 and had just had a miscarriage. Not at all what we had talked about, planned for or dreamed of. We wanted to be doing the joyous part of life together. Suddenly there were parts of life that weren't so joyous. She wanted to be happy for me and couldn't. Not completely. I wanted to be sitting with her in grief but couldn't. Not completely. We tip-toed around each others feelings going through the motions and making attempts to be there for each other. She came to one of my baby showers and left before everybody got there. Her way of saying, "I'm excited for you."  My way of saying, "I know this is hard, please take care of you." I listened to her cry on the other end of the phone while resting my hand on a very pregnant stomach. It was difficult. Painful. Sad. For both of us. She shared in my joy as much as she was capable but I was always aware of her pain.  I shared in her grief as much as I was able but she was always aware of my elation. I was an acute reminder of the miracle that she had lost. She was a reminder to me of how fragile my experience really was.    
This is where I think we let many of our friendships go.  When it's this difficult and there are no words. When it's painful and there are no explanations. When you can't express your feelings and the only common ground we have is that we are both human. It's easier sometimes to let go. I prayed for her. Frequently. I missed her during this time of celebration in my life. I have a deep belief that through her tears she was also praying for me. Maybe even missing me in her grief. We've never talked about it. While we were in it we didn't really know how. In the years since, I'm not sure we have needed to. In my opinion we survived it because of one amazingly courageous act. A gift to me that I've never told anybody about. I'm not sure I've even thanked her for it. Until this writing, six years later, I must admit that I haven't been able to put it into words.  It was a gift to our friendship that I will never forget.  
Because of my age I was considered high risk and saw the doctor frequently. I had an above average number of tests run. There were a few minor complications but nothing that caused a great deal of concern. Just enough concern however that complete peace always seemed out of reach. No matter how hard I tried to rest in the miraculous I was constantly reminded of the fragility.  I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms, sometimes accompanied by my mother but usually alone.  It seemed unnecessary for my husband to take off work so frequently to just wait. So I sat. Sometimes worried. Sometimes lonely. Sometimes afraid. She knew. One day I believe she sensed in my voice the fear, the concern and the apprehension of the hours I was about to spend in the waiting room. I didn't tell her. I would never have done that. Minutes after I arrived at my appointment she walked into the waiting room handed me a cup of coffee and sat down. I don't remember words. Only soft silent tears from both of us. We didn't even look at each other that I remember. She came to sit next to me. That was her gift. Her amazingly complicated and simple gift to me. All I could think about was the pain in her heart that she had ignored so that she could be there.  I cried for the pain she felt. I cried for the loss she had. Mostly, I cried for the amazing gift of friendship she was extending to me at that moment. I think we both knew we were on holy ground. That's why I don't remember any words. We sat there, drank coffee, rested in the knowing of having each other and cried.    

The Gift I Didn’t Know I Needed

Cell Phone

I went to lunch this week with an acquaintance in hopes of making a new friend.  I've needed something in a friendship that I can't really identify.  More time?  Different time?  More depth?  More vulnerability?  Someone to challenge me?  Someone to not challenge me but be with me in the midst of challenges?  Something, but I'm not sure what it is.  I just know that there is a hole.  A missing piece that I haven't known how to fill because honestly I don't even know what it is.  I just know that it's there. I have GREAT friends.  Among the best, but the ones who have historically provided what I believe I'm missing are no longer as geographically accessible.  Life changes that way doesn't it?  
I moved.  Almost 8 years ago.  (I've never been on the fast track to many things if you are wondering why I'm just now addressing this need.) In my desperation to connect with other woman and gain some semblance of belonging I phoned all of the big churches in town to find a women's Bible study.  I found one!  That was 5 years ago. I've met some amazing women.  I've done some incredible studies.  I've made friends.  I've cultivated relationships with people who I know care about me and my family.  I still need more.  I just can't identify what it is.  So I have prayed that God will either meet the need, fill the hole, take away the "lonely" or bring me to a place of understanding my own soul well enough that I know what to do next.  Meanwhile, I go through the motions of what I believe it is that I need.  
I don't put myself "out there" easily in relationships.  I'm an introvert.  I'm overly cautious.  And as my husband has convinced me I am just independent and competent enough that I give off exactly ZERO indication that I need anything from anybody.  Yet I do.  To the core of my being, I do.  So during the lunch I mentioned previously, I'm sitting and going through the motions of making a potential new friend.  Cautiously hopeful.  Nervously optimistic.  Again attempting to address this hole, this need that I don't know what to call or how to meet.  Her phone rings.  Nothing new that happens all the time.  She doesn't answer it.  That's new.  The conversation is good.  Easy even.  She gets a call or two and a few text messages in the course of our time together.  Each time she glances down to assure it isn't her children and continues her  conversation with me.  She is attentive.  She is funny.  She is smart.  I'm enjoying our time.  When I commented about her not answering her phone she quickly responded, "I set aside this time to spend with you."  At that moment something happened in my heart.  Right there inbetween bites of salad I felt it both physically and emotionally.  It was real and it was powerful.  
Those words.  The gift of those words were like a neon sign pointing to what the need was in my heart.  Those words identified the hole.  "I set aside this time to spend with you."  Intentional on purpose relationship that mattered enough to put down the distractions that our culture sees as so important.  Time spent not in passing or busyness but specifically for the goal of friendship.  Not completing a task, not helping each other with kids, not attending a function…  The means and the end were the same – each other!  Outside of to-do lists and ministry and work and children and everything else we manage to cram into our days it is hearts!  Beautiful, fantastic, precious, unique hearts.  One at a time.  One on one. The burning passion I have had since I can remember.  To know, to love and to encourage the hearts of others.  And she just communicated that she was here to get to know mine. How have I missed it?  It's my deepest need and I have been settling for that which scratches the surface.  I've been denying my own soul the fuel it needs to live and wondering all the while why I don't feel alive!        


Letting Go A Little At A Time


As of 8:30 this morning I have joined the ranks of mothers who are gradually releasing their children into the world. Into their own lives. As she walked into her first day of kindergarten I realized that gone are the days where she spends the majority of her time with me.  7+ hours a day she will now be surrounded by people I don't know.  She will be introduced to words, ideas and feelings that I no longer orchestrate or filter.  Most of you already know the feelings that I am experiencing as you have done this many times over.  You have released your kids into kindergarten, junior high, summer camp, mission trips and sleepovers with friends.  You have watched them drive away on their first date and you have driven away from their dorm rooms where they will no longer come home to you every afternoon.  Some of you have watched them being wheeled away into surgery or chemo treatment.  We gradually release them into those milestones where mama's arms are not in reach and we are left anxiously awaiting for our arms to be filled with them again.  Whether we get to do that at 3:30 this afternoon, in the recovery room, on a phone call, a weekend visit, after their deployment or over Christmas break….our arms await.  And a long wait that can be for mamas and daddies who just want their babies to be ok.        
Isn't the very goal of parenting to work ourselves out of the job?  To get them to the point where they can stand on their own?  It's a hard concept to grasp when one is in the throws of wanting to protect them from all that could be harmful, painful or difficult.  When all you want to do is to go sit in their kindergarten class or live in an RV in the dorm parking lot it's hard to think of anything else.  But it's part of the job description to extend the bungee cord so that they can develop a strong sense of self.  So it is with tears and pain that I gave her more cord today.  Not because she isn't ready but perhaps because I don't want her to be.  I know the world can be difficult.  It's not as safe as mama's arms.  I know that her life will include confusion, pain, frustration and heartache.  Even in kindergarten.  It's not my job to shield her from those things and keep her in my arms forever.  Instead it's my job to help her manage them in a way that strengthens her and prepares her to be all that God created for her to be.  So today there is a shift in my role.  I'm releasing her just a little.  
Instead of protecting her and assuring that she experiences no pain I will be ready to sit with her in that which she finds painful.  Instead of orchestrating only helpful positive lessons I will be ready as she maneuvers through that which is confusing or negative.  I will help her consider how others might be feeling when she is consumed with her own hurt.  I will remind her that she is smart no matter what the homework paper says at the top.  I will hold her when there are no words.  I will encourage her to be courageous in everything she attempts especially when she is afraid.  I will build her up when others knock her down.  I will laugh and play and involve myself in her world as much as I can without hindering her growth.  I will help her reach out, be kind and make a difference in the hearts of others even in kindergarten.  When she wants to know why kids can be mean and hurt her feelings I will do my best to explain why we should love them anyway.  I will teach her to take responsibility for that which she wants to be different and help her to do something to make it so.  I will pray fervently for her friends, her teachers, her influences, her faith and her heart.  And every afternoon at 3:30 I will wait for that bungee cord to snap back to me where I will embrace her and fill her with all the love and truth that I can.  I will remind her that the world will try to change her but that she was created to change her world.  I will fill her up so that she can go out and fill up others.  I will remind her of her source and her strength which is available when I am not.  And on days like today I will seek Him more than usual.  Tearfully seek Him.  And I will be grateful that even though she leaves my embrace she is NEVER out of His.    


What I Really Think of My Clients

I'm a therapist.  I am honored to sit among the bravest of people!  The kind of people who routinely cause me to be in awe.  It's not easy for most people to walk through my door.  Think about it.  The very position from which they are entering is one that goes against our cultures encouragement to pretend that 'all is well'.  It is to admit just by scheduling the appointment that you might need help.  Realizing you might need help can be scary and frightening.  Taking the steps to get help means swimming around in that which you would rather avoid.  Allowing somebody else to be part of the process means you have to trust, a risk that many times led to the wounds in the first place.  Making the initial phone call can be a monumental task if you are feeling broken, lost, confused, betrayed, hurt, alone and hopeless.  When that phone rings I instantly see them as brave and strong.  The level of courage I witness is astounding and motivating.  It is the most beautifully vulnerable strength that a person could possibly be given the privilege of witnessing.     

I see people on the precipice of brokenness and despair and yet they choose to fight.  I'm not talking about the kind of choice where you turn a bad day around or you learn to live with a minor change in life's plan 'A'.  I'm NOT talking about the well who are worried.  I'm referring to those people whose worlds have been blown apart with one phone call, one diagnosis, one massive betrayal.  I'm talking to you about people who have lived through years of daily torment, depersonalization and abuse too unspeakable to mention.  I'm talking to you about those among us who are questioning everything about what they were taught or experienced because they no longer know what is real or true. They are the ones who likely feel the weakest but are displaying the greatest of strengths.  The kind of strength it takes to raise your head above the mire of hurt, betrayal, heartache, grief, hopelessness, addiction and pain then dare to believe that something better could exist.  The willingness to trust a stranger, the audacity to believe someone might care, the perseverance to keep making appointments when the change is so slow and small.  That kind of strength!  The kind that isn't displayed in one decision or action but instead has to be drawn upon every single day no matter the new obstacles that might stand in their way.  It's the kind of strength that shows up every time they make a decision to get free.  Every time they aren't willing to brush it under the rug and pretend that 'all is well'. Daily and difficult choices.    
It's the choice to forgive and love because you want to reconcile.  It's the choice to forgive and walk away because you are changing a legacy.  It's the choice to overcome when you feel overwhelmed.  To stand up when you feel like giving up.  To go to the meeting, face your past, make the apology, value yourself.  To say 'yes' to life and 'no' to anything that stands in your way.  To start over, look up, look within and believe.  To engage yourself in life's choices even if you are terribly uncertain or afraid.  To build a new support system, step out of your comfort zone and challenge the damaging cognitions rolling around in your brain.  To put yourself in new situations and new relationships.  To face the addiction, the fear, and the lies.  It is to be overwhelmed with urges to just be okay where you are and then fight those urges because you want something you can't actually see yet.  That is strength!  And it's the kind of strength that changes lives.  It has changed mine just to be near it.  

Competition Vs. Compassion

IMG_5936It was field day in the grade school playground and I had stopped to cheer for my niece.  

With little concern for competition, Erin made her way to the starting blocks.  

She seemed oblivious to the finish line.   

She wasn't going to win, her legs were a bit awkward and her knees a bit large.

She ran though.  With all of the freedom and laughter she could muster she enjoyed the spirit of the race. 

The runner next to her was more awkward yet perhaps not as oblivious to the finish line.  

She was slow yet intent.  Striving it seemed to not be the final one to cross the finish line.  

I didn't know her name but I could see the desire in her face; wishing she wasn't quite so slow and awkward.  

She clumsily picked up speed weaving in and out of her own lane until she tripped on her own feet.

Without hesitation, Erin stopped.  She went back and helped her up and they finished the race together.  

A six-year old heart with little concern for competition but filled with copassionate wisdom.  

That was the day I learned that it is more important that some should not finish alone.  

“Your daughter is ALL boy!”

IMG_4960"Your daughter is all boy!" This was the exuberant proclamation my brother made after watching my 5 year old play during our Mother's Day celebration with the family.  He was grinning from ear to ear and delighted with whatever it was he saw in her.  He kept walking and added, "I love it!"  I still don't know what she had been doing to lead to this conclusion that so delighted him.  I know at some point in the day she had played basketball and run on top of the hay bales with her cousins.  I know she is athletic, coordinated and tough.  I also know she can be both soft spoken and outspoken.  I know she loves playing in the dirt and can hold her own with a kicked or thrown ball.  But, "All boy"?  I didn't respond.  
I know he meant what he said as a compliment.  I could see it on his face.  To him it was considered a compliment of the highest form.  And that is what bothers me.  Not that he said it.  Not even that he thought it.  But that he believed it was the best way to compliment my daughter. He watched my Marie in all of her fabulous, fantastic brilliance and witnessed her strengths and honored them by calling them "male".  Although I know he meant no harm, my immediate response to his statement was sadness.  We continue to categorize behaviors into gender appropriate roles and stunt the growth of our beautifully diverse children.  
I hope my daughter does a better job than I did maneuvering through this issue in her life.  I hope she never believes that her strength, athleticism, independence or toughness takes away from her femininity but instead adds a great deal to it.  I hope that she never questions her power as a woman because she has the equal strength of men.  And I pray that every sensitive, compassionate, kind young boy out there never allows those traits to be taken away from him because he is convinced they are not masculine.  I hope those boys never question their power as a man because they have the equal strength of women.  In fact, I believe my brother will undoubtedly show considerable sensitivity and compassion when he realizes what he really said.  And when he does, I will refrain from calling him "all girl" to honor those strengths!  


What I’ve learned about Insecurity

I've been acquainted with insecurities for most of my life.  Haven't we all?  I mean let's face it, it's the insecure times that we tend to remember the most.  Those times when I am most afraid or least confident tend to stick in my memory with unmitigated clarity.  Like when the popular boy I liked in 5th grade broke up with me via a friend after only 'going with me' for one school day.  He didn't even give me the pleasure of going home to say I had a boyfriend.  I remember that.  I remember it so well that I can tell you how I felt, where I was standing, what I was wearing and which friend of his delivered the news. One three second discussion branded on my memory with absolute insecure clarity.  But for the life of me I can't remember the long division I learned in 5th grade and I promise I spent more than one day being exposed to those concepts.  We remember the pain produced by feeling insecure.  Moving through those awkward and painful times is how we grow.  Or we avoid those awkward and painful times and stop growing.  Insecurities direct our path more than we would like to think.  For example I could have believed many different messages about that 5th grade encounter.  Here are a few of the options:
1.  "I must not be pretty enough."
2.  "I must not be smart enough."
3.  "I must not be popular enough."
4.  "Oh well, no big deal."
5.  "I can like somebody else."
6.  "His loss."  
Fast forward into adulthood.  The beliefs you chose from the painful moments you experienced previously, dictate the path your life takes now.  If you believe that the interactions you had with others are somehow a statement of your worth or your value then you have likely experienced some pain.  What could have been written off as a 5th grade boy being a 5th grade boy instead became "I'm not enough to be loved, wanted or accepted".  Add a few more encounters that support that idea through the years and before you know it there is a deep rooted belief that "I'm not enough".  Perhaps it wasn't a stupid 5th grade boy but a parent or spouse who sent those messages.  People who had the "title" to love and respect you but they didn't.  Because they had the "title" we believed them.  Never mind that there might have been scads of evidence to the contrary!  We believe the negative more easily.  Mostly because it produces stronger feelings and therefore we think it must be true.  
There is a 5 year old, an 8 year old, a 5th grader, a high school junior, a 22 year old, etc… in all of us.  And unless we go back as an adult and help them edit the lessons they received then to some degree their beliefs dictate our decisions today.  Let's be clear: your insecurities affect ALL of your relationships.  They aren't just your insecurities.  They are an ingredient to every relationship you are in.  They are keeping you from being the you that you were meant to be.  They are keeping you from making friends and keeping friends.  They are keeping you from involving your kids in things because you don't want to feel awkward among the other parents.  They are keeping you from being honest in your marriage because you are afraid of the reaction.  They are keeping your friendships from deepening because you feel like they are more "enough" than you are.  They are keeping you from trying new things, stepping out of your comfort zone, talking to a stranger or mending a past hurt with somebody.  They are keeping you from living, exploring and loving yourself because you are believing a message that you misinterpreted from encounters with other fallible, broken, hurting people.  
Misinterpreted?  Yes, you read it correctly.  Misinterpreted!  If you have walked away from any relationship, circumstance or encounter believing that you weren't enough then you got the WRONG message.  It isn't true.  That belief is not accurate.  It's false.  Wrong.  Not correct.  And most of us move forward as though it were absolute truth.  Well, let me say it again – it isn't!  I checked the owners manual for all of us.  Here is the truth:  You are a perfectly imperfect human being who is loved, loveable, strong, gifted, unique, precious, growing, changing, miracle of existence!  In fact The One who created you goes on and on about your value.  He valued you so much that He gave His own son to put an exclamation point at the end of his defintion of you.  A defintion that includes words like cherished, honorable, precious, forgiven, free, adopted, redeemed, complete, LOVED.  Carry that belief into your next relationship encounter and see if you get a better result!  
Here is what I have learned about insecurities:  
1.  We are all given the opportunity to have them.  
2.  We are all given the opportunity to face them.  
3.  They are always based on a lie.  
4.  They can be crippling if we let them.  
5.  They can be opportunities for growth, change and strength.
6.  Facing them can be difficult and takes work.  
7.  Not letting them win feels AMAZING!!
Anybody up for some work?



photo (20)
Happy eyes.
Sleepy eyes.
Runny nose.  
Dirty nose. 
Hopeful smile. 
Mischievous grin.
  Baby giggle.  
Childish laugh.
Meaningless babble.
Thoughtful discussions.  
From a baby to a girl.  
From a girl to a woman. 
I'm watching it all,
In the rear view mirror.  

Christians Respond To Westboro Church Founders Death

westboro-hateFred Phelps, pictured above is the founder of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka Kansas and he died yesterday at the age of 84.  Some of you who live in the mid-west recognize the churches name as the one who frequently pickets at soldier's funerals, tells the gay community they are going to hell and informs all of us that God hates and therefore we should hate.  This small congregation of people has stirred quite the pool of controversy and hate in their 54 year existence.  Many members of this church are actually related to Phelps either by blood or marriage.  
There has already been lots of responses to his death.  Ideas that some Christians are going to protest his funeral and homosexuals who will be showing up in drag to taunt the family.  All very natural and reciprocal responses to a man who in my opinion was clearly very hateful and hurtful.  Yet, this is what God says about it:
"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."  I Peter 3:9.  
Sounds CRAZY!  I mean it doesn't even leave me room to do nothing!  Quite the marching orders if you call yourself a Christ follower, huh?  The shocking part to me is that God has heard every word this man has spoken.  He has attended every protest this man has organized and yet God's instructions to me don't change because of it.  Unbelievable!  We are just supposed to obey His word.  We aren't supposed to wait until we feel like it or agree with it.  We aren't supposed to determine who is deserving of love, we are just supposed to give it.  Nowhere in scripture (and believe me I've looked) does it care about how I feel when it gives instruction for how I am to behave.  I don't have to like it.  I don't have to think it makes an iota of sense.  And I don't have to feel like doing it!!  But, if I claim to be His then I must take His instruction seriously.  Doing so is what sets us apart.  To extend love, grace, mercy, peace and blessing where there is evil is how the world knows to whom we belong.
So, I say we show his family and congregation to whom we belong.  If you want to be radically God's then let's send cards with our heartfelt condolences for their loss.  Let's pray for them at this time of grief.  Let's hope for them that this change somehow produces reconciliation and healing in their homes and lives.  Let's pray that God and his immense love is revealed through us, His people.  Let's send kindness, grace, love and blessing in any form that we can.  Not because we want to but because we are called to!
Truthfully, if you choose to extend love in this situation you will NOT be honoring this deceased man, his beliefs, his legacy, or his life work.  You will be saying that his actions of hate don't change who you are and what you believe.  You will be making a choice to honor your God and the Lordship He has in your life.  You will likely be going out of your comfort zone and feelings to say, "I trust you, Lord and your ways are higher than mine."  And you might even be part of the reason that hearts are changed at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  God's love is the only thing that penetrates that kind of hate.  Let's send them some!  
Westboro Baptist Church
3701 SW 12th Street
Topeka, Kansas 66604 
(The irony of the zip code is not lost on me!)