Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I am...

Dear parent,

I am a therapist.

I am not a fairy godmother. I cannot wave my magic wand and fix your child or your problems. I have no fairy dust to blow in your child's face that will change their behavior, though I have some glitter in my purse if you want to give it a shot.

I am a therapist.

I am not a genie. If you have wishes, I am glad to hear them, but I work in reality. I may cross my arms and blink, but only to make your child giggle. Real change takes hard work. And you need to be a part of that change. This is not a drive-through office. You sit, you stay, you talk. Good dog parent.

I am a therapist.

I am not God. I'm glad you give you some ideas to improve your circumstances, but I cannot change them. I cannot change who you are or who your child is. I cannot give you money or a job or motivation.

I am a therapist.

I am not the parent to your child. I cannot be the only adult in this relationship. Fighting with your child like a five year old will not improve things. Giving them whatever they want will not work either. Complaining to me won't change anything, but if it keeps you from saying nasty things to your child, by all means, go for it. It won't fix things, however. It takes hard work, from the entire family. Communication. Participation. Perseverance. Maturity. Patience. Love.

I am a therapist.

I am not perfect. I will make mistakes. I will not always have the answers. I am not an expert on your family. That's why we must work together. Sure, the world might be perfect if everyone would just do exactly as I say, but, as we've already discussed, I am not God, or magical in any way.

So please. Stop blaming me for your problems. I refuse to take credit for your failures, just as I refuse to take credit for your triumphs. That's all you. Your choices. Your responsibility. I gift it to you.

You're welcome.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Laughing through it

When I switched over to this blog from my old one, it was with the idea that I didn't want to focus on the negative things in life. I wanted to be able to find those happy things, those sweet gems of joy, that many of us pass over or take for granted. After all, most people who can read this have numerous blessings in their lives. I think we all just have a hard time seeing those blessings at times. It's not just that we can't see through the storm to the sunshine ahead, but we can't see the ways we're protected through the storm, with our shiny rain slicker and stylish galoshes. All we see is the rain.

There are times when it's hard to laugh. Really, really hard. This has been a rough week in my world. Last Sunday, the pastor at my church announced that our season of being an organized church had passed, and this Sunday will be our final service together. As some of you can imagine, this was met by a collective gasp throughout the congregation, and plenty of tears. After the service, we practiced the art of the "long hug," clinging to each other and whispering words of comfort. To an outsider, this may have seemed odd. To those who have few connections at their church, it may seem like not a very big deal. Find a new church. They're pretty much all the same, right? Yay, Jesus!

Let me tell you a little about my church.

I wasn't always so connected with my church. I started attending about four years ago. At that time we were meeting at the Historical Building in downtown Des Moines. I liked the music, I liked the teaching, but I could not seem to really make connections. Thank God (literally) for my pastor and his wife. They made me feel welcome, would seek me out to check in, would call if I had been absent for a few weeks. Though few others made the effort, the love and kindness that I was shown by those two was enough to keep me coming (semi)regularly for three and a half years. Now, in that time I also attempted to join groups that were available, attended retreats, even inquired about singing on the praise band, but they were always dead ends. For some reason, at that time, I was not encountering people craving connection as I was. During my first three years, I was probably a bit depressed in general, so that didn't help my view of the world or my efforts at becoming an integrated part of the church.

A year ago, I was approached by a woman who I had heard sing in our church several times. She had a beautifully soulful voice, and I always looked forward to hearing her. She had been sitting behind me in church, walked up to me after church, and quite bluntly asked, "Do you sing?" Later, she told me that she was so embarrassed to ask a question like that, but had felt like she needed to. Somehow, sitting behind me, she had heard me singing during worship. I confirmed that, yes, I do sing, usually in the shower, but sometimes in public. She asked if I would sing with her sometime, I said yes, and that was the end of it.

Fast forward a couple months, and the pastor's wife is talking about doing a retreat for the teen girls in the church. She asked if I would be interested in helping, and suggested that I talk to the singing lady about helping with leading some songs. So I did. And we did. And it was amazing. And that's where it began. Soon after, I was contacted by the worship leader and began singing a couple times a month with the praise band. My confidence grew. I continued working with the teen girls, and met several more people. I started approaching people at church, instead of waiting for them to approach me. It helped that people started to recognize me, something that really hadn't happened in the three previous years (it's a little sad when you have been attending somewhere for a long time and people ask if it's your first Sunday).

Suddenly I was talking with the pastor's wife about reviving the women's ministry and co-leading the group. I was building connections left and right, and I realized that this church, these people, were my family. They were more supportive than some of my family, for sure (except my parents, who are A+MAZING). This was a group I could count on to check in on me, to really care about what was going on in my life, and how I was doing with it. People who raised me up and affirmed me and helped me to really see what a glorious creation of God that I am. (Did I mention the boost in confidence?)

Then came the switch. Last November, it all seemed to be crumbling. We were talking about closing. Attendance was down, participation was downer (yes, I'm using that right), and we couldn't sustain at the rate we were going. After meetings and talking and lots and lots of praying, the decision was made to stay open and work on growing our church. After all, as the best church in Des Moines, we should have been bursting at the seams. We hired a consultant, who gave us specific areas to work on. We moved locations, since rent was a major barrier in the financial health of the church. All seemed to be going well, which brings us to last Sunday.

I don't pretend to know what happened, to really understand all the nuances behind such a tremendously huge decision. I have talked to a few people, and in some ways I get why. The goal of the church was never to continue to exist as an organization at any cost. Growing up in a pastor's family, I understand the stress and tension placed on that position, and that trying to hold on to something that keeps trying to slip away, while also juggling everyone else's problems and ideas, is incredibly exhausting.

So we're closing. And I'm devastated. Heart-broken. Confused. Angry. Hopeful.

Wait. What?


Despite this current darkness, the future is bright. God's got us covered. The lessons we learned, the philosophy of grace and love no matter what, can now be spread out wherever we go. Ripples in a pond. We won't all end up in the same place. And that's a good thing. Really, it is. There are so many churches in the area with plenty of money and not even close to the passion of my church. We now have the opportunity to infuse some of that passion into those churches. We have the opportunity to share the gifts we honed. And family doesn't go away. Though we're not connected by blood, my church family will find ways to stay connected. Because it's important. We will continue to support each other, to learn from each other, to affirm each other. We will always be a church, but in a different way. The name of my church is re-church...I like to think of this next stage as another way of radically REthinking church.

I don't pretend to understand what everyone is going through. We each have our own ways of reacting to tragedy. Though it may seem small to some, this is my current tragedy. But it is also an opportunity to choose happiness. To choose hope. To see beyond the storm and the rain in my eyes, and realize that the sun is coming, and, if I'm lucky, a beautiful rainbow right along with it. Above all, as ever, this is my opportunity to...

Laugh on.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I've done it again. I have packed my life to bursting with things to do, people to see, jobs to accomplish. It seems like everything always seems to line up to happen at the same time. My busiest times at my day job line up with the time I have agreed to teach a class, those people I haven't spoken to in months come out of the woodwork and want to get together, another women's Bible/book study at church starts up... So I end up behind at work, procrastinating working on my class nonstop the rest of the time, sneaking in socializing when I should be working, and neglecting my women's group duties. (Thankfully I have an understanding partner in the women's group leading!) As the paperwork piles up, the extra meetings and letters and phone calls suck up my time, the weeks of class keep starts to get a bit overwhelming...

A couple of weeks ago, I had had enough. I was on the edge of a mental breakdown. So Tuesday after work I drove to the movie theater for their super bargain matinees. Cheap movie, cheap popcorn and pop.

And it was the best decision I could have made for myself.

I wrestled with myself over it, knowing that I should be going home and grading papers or staying late at work to catch up on paperwork, but I can't even describe how many millions of times better I felt after allowing myself to escape for a couple of hours. Yes, I had to return to reality, but it was with a lighter heart and more energy than I had before the break.

Thus, Cinema Tuesdays were born. It's only been a few weeks, but I love it. It doesn't matter what I see. Allowing myself those couple of hours in a dark theater has helped me to calm my anxieties, and sometimes get out those emotions I don't have time to deal with. (The first week, I bawled during one of the was very cathartic!)

My apartment is still a pit. My car looks like a hobo lives in it. I eat out way more than I should. But I only have one week of class left. Then I can shovel out my apartment, declutter my living space and my car, go to the store and actually start cooking again, and, best of all, start writing again! I have a lot of catching up at work to do as well. But I'll get there. I found my escape. Have you found yours?

Laugh on :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I know I should have been prepared. It happens every time. But I just pretend it's not going to happen. I pretend that it won't hurt as bad. I pretend that it's no big deal.

It is a big deal.

As I was sitting there, I was thinking about what I could have done to prevent the pain. Then I moved to thinking about what I could do to stop the pain. Violence was considered. A sound punch to the jaw might have done the trick. My hands clenched as the violent compulsion rushed through me.

Just a little longer, I told myself. It'll be over soon. I could taste the blood.

When I thought I couldn't take it any longer, the dental hygienist finally leaned back and flipped off the glaring spotlight.

"See you in three months for your next cleaning!"

Can't wait.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


As I wrote my entry yesterday, I was clearly frustrated and feeling slightly overwhelmed. I think that's why I forgot something that I had meant to share. Something that I found fairly significant, at least for me.

At the school I have the privilege to work in, I see daily examples of people doing things that I consider "above and beyond." When I mentioned this to the principal, she just replied, humbly, "I don't consider it going above and beyond. I consider it doing my job. I don't want any obstacles to get in the way of these families getting the chance they need." Inspirational in and of itself.

Taking this philosophy to heart, I offered to accompany the principal to the hospital to meet with a parent to sign intake paperwork. The parent is quite ill, and the kid is having a rough go of it and needs help. As we boarded the elevator, a tall man, just a bit older than myself, joined us. He grinned and said, "How are you all doing today?" We murmured that we were doing well, then the principal politely returned the question. Without hesitation, this cheerful man said, "I'm really good. In fact, I'm great every day. Life is a choice!" With that, we were at our stop, and parted ways.

As I donned my surgical mask to enter the parent's room, it stuck in my mind. Life IS a choice. We will all have struggles. Things will not always go our way. But in the midst of all that, we can CHOOSE to find joy and laughter. We can CHOOSE to focus on the positive things.

The parent I was meeting with to sign paperwork had just had a treatment. She was clearly in pain and exhausted, but insisted on doing every bit of the intake, including the long comprehensive interview/history, even when I offered to complete it with another family member instead. She CHOSE to work through the pain and exhaustion for the love of her child, and the hope that her child would get the needed help.

Some days, I know I don't choose to be happy. Some days, I choose to wallow in my own self pity, thinking of the things I don't have, drowning in unfulfilled wishes and impossible dreams. But I am determined now to find things every day to be thankful for, to be happy about, to laugh at. Because without laughter and joy, life is empty. And I choose a full life.

Laugh on.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Laugh or cry


That's all I have to say about this day and this week. Let's recap, shall we?

. My computer won't charge anymore. It's been sent to the computer doc at a total cost of probably my firstborn child.

.My car sometimes decides not to start, it squeaks, and at times I'm sure the engine is going to fail. I can't really afford to even get it checked out.

.I have been working extra hours to try to keep afloat at work, and dealing with suicidal kids and uncooperative adults is no cup of tea.

.I got a call from my apartment management saying there is a leak right below my apartment. Everything was fine when I left this morning, but I am dreading hearing what happened. Plus, my apartment is a pit, so I am mortified that someone will be in there. I just hope I didn't leave any unmentionables hanging around. I am sitting here stewing because I don't have time to run home and check on things.

.When I finally made it to the bathroom after a morning of rushing around, I discovered that my eyeliner had been masquerading as eye shadow (all over my eyelid) for who knows how long, and I was developing a lovely stress zit on my chin. Wonder why.


At least I have access to a computer and therefore access to communication and the world. I have a computer at work and a phone with internet access, so I'm not cut off. And while I will have to put the repair on my credit card, I have a stable job that allows me to pay a little at a time.

At least I have a car, a mode of transportation. I use it to get to the above-mentioned stable job and all over to see friends and do the essential errands of everyday life. Eventually I will be able to bring it to be checked out, and when I do, I will figure out a way to pay for that little by little as well.

At least my job is busy enough that I am not in any danger of being fired or moved elsewhere. I have a good relationship with the people I work with, and my clients trust me to bring up really difficult stuff to talk through in therapy. I am making a difference.

At least my apartment management is on top of maintenance problems. I'm sure they've seen much worse messes than what is left in my apartment. If there is a major problem, they will fix it at no cost to me. There aren't many perks to living in an apartment, but that is definitely one of them.

At least I have a fabulous support system, friends and family who are there to listen to me moan about my first world problems, or to step in and help me out when the situation calls for it.

At least I am healthy. I did an intake in the hospital this morning with a parent who is very very sick. My family and friends are relatively healthy as well. Many families cannot say the same.

At least I have clean drinking water and clothes, a place to call my home and plenty of extra conveniences that I often take for granted.

At least I know that I will have a warm and comfy place to sleep tonight, and people to take me in if anything happens to the shelter I am able to provide myself.

At least I was able to eat lunch, even a quick cheeseburger in the car between running paperwork downtown and coming back to my busy afternoon.

At least I have my faith. I know that God will be with me no matter what. To some this may seem like a crutch, but for me, it is an opportunity to admit my weakness and find true strength.

Even when things seem to pile up, at least I know they will get better. And I will always find a reason to laugh.

Laugh on.