Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #11

This is my first moment of genuine rest since I awoke to the smell of the pulled pork that was cooking in the crockpot all through the night. So I didn't earn an A+ in self care today...but I'm okay with that because in reality there will be days where I have to get a lot of things accomplished. What I think I'm most concerned about is trying to shift the axis of my world a bit. I'm trying to figure out what it means to be centered in my own body, mind, and spirit so that when there are days where I have to get a lot of things done - I can still remain grounded, weighed down by the gravity of my own essence. These days of immense rest over the past week and a half are what prepared me for a day like today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #10

Oh my gosh. 10 days down. 60 to go. That's an "oh my gosh, I can't believe I only have 60 days left in this season of my life!" not an "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I have 60 more of these blog posts to go!"

Self care for today came in the form of my own personal therapy. I have been in and out of various forms of therapy since I was a teenager. Is it any wonder I ended up pursuing it as a career?! I used to think that therapy was all about trying to better understand oneself...or how to better understand another in the case of marriage counseling. And though I may still believe that through the process of therapy one can make such discoveries, I think I'm convinced now that therapy has more to do with learning how to simply be oneself than it has to do with understanding oneself. It's about discovering, through a unique relationship, that you are lovable, beautiful and valuable. It is a redeeming relationship - one that struggles to help set you free to be you.

I'm so thankful I've met someone to journey with me in this process.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #9

I am beginning to wonder if this looming sickness will ever depart from our household. We attempted to usher the girls off to school today despite not being 100% and an hour later I received a call from the school that Bailey just wasn't holding up very well. Poor Miss B. She always seems to be more significantly impacted by the illnesses that pass through our household. And so I was homebound yet another day. It was a bit of a bummer since the sun managed to stay out for most of the day in our neck of the woods.

After going through a roller coaster of emotions as I surveyed the internet to see what jobs are available in the mental health arena all morning, I decided it was time for me to start cracking into my reading for this next and final term. So what does that have to do with self care? That's what I'm about to reveal. Geesh. For this last term I just so happen to be taking a class titled C.S. Lewis: Theological Perspectives for Spiritual Formation. I'm super excited about the class...except for the fact that there are 13 books for this 8 week class (hence the need to start reading NOW). I have read most of C.S. Lewis' more popular...and perhaps more serious literature but only recently began reading his Chronicles of Narnia series. Brian got the set for free a little while ago (a little perk for being a teacher is that sometimes you get free books!) and we started reading it from the beginning with the girls. And this was before I even knew I was going to take the class.

I love entering into a world of fantasy...always have, but was never exposed to really good literature when I was young. There is something about getting lost in a story that is entirely other-worldly. It's an escape in one sense, but more fully it is about the igniting of imagination. I try to envision every detail written on the page as if I were actually in the scene somewhere. The symbolism - of course, is what I am most curious about and somehow I always seem to find a way to feel connected to these fantasy worlds. They offer a new paradigm. I've decided that this is a form of mental play that I deeply enjoy.

Now...I'll let you know if I still feel the same way after finishing all 13 books, a group project, a serious paper and a quiz.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #8

I had an unexpected day off today...sort of. Faith and Bailey both came down with the same cold that Bri, Krisalyn and I managed to survive so I decided to let all three of the girls stay home from school today. I was able to get quite a bit accomplished because the deal was that they could stay home only if they were willing to take it easy and rest all day long.

I've been on Spring Break for over a week now. It's strange how I look forward to these little breaks in between terms but then when I'm on break I'm simply anticipating the next rush of adrenaline that seems to accompany a new round of courses. I can't tell if I'm eager for classes to start next week because the mental stimulation makes it easier to get through the mundaneness of my day-to-day life or if it's because once I finish these classes I will officially be considered a master of something (whatever that means?!).

Something of this day spent at home with all three girls reminded me of what it was like when they were all very young and I spent much of my time at home with them. I was technically working full-time, but it was work for the church so I only spent a portion of my time at the actual office, but the bulk of my work I was able to do from home. They were wonderful years...and very difficult and lonely years. I had two kids by the time any of my girlfriends or family members joined me in mommyhood and I was the only mother of small children on staff at the church during those early years. To say that I felt alone is an understatement.

My babies were the greatest gifts of my life. And yet, they forced me to face myself, my loneliness and isolation at an age when most young women are off at college somewhere having fun and taking their time making some of the decisions I made before I was even able to legally have a glass of wine or a hard cider.

Graduate school has distracted me from that place of loneliness periodically throughout this season of my journey...but it's always there. It is easier to bear now, though, I must say...and I'm not sure why. It's not a loneliness that can be cured by hanging out with people or even by having meaningful conversations - though such encounters are a sort of balm at times. It's a loneliness that seems to stem from living a life that cannot be fully known by any other human being. I thank God that Brian and I discovered that we have to always strive to understand and know each other more fully during every season of our lives, but even we are a mystery to one another.

I felt something of the loneliness that seeps out of my pores and bleeds all over the mundaneness of my life today. And you know what I did to soothe that feeling? I cooked pasta. I ate comfort food. And it filled my belly. And sharing that meal with the gifts of my life helped slightly fill that hole in my soul for at least one day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #6

Figuring out what it looks like to take time to myself during these family-filled weekends will be interesting. We were at a track meet all day today. Literally - from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening. We were rained on, wind-blown, and cheered-out by the time we rolled into our covered parking spot over here at the Peasley Canyon Lodge. It was a long and full day...and I wasn't actually that intentional about finding a moment or two to be present to myself. But maybe on days like today, simply taking a few minutes to write about my thoughts in this space is enough. And I must say that sitting in those damp bleachers all bundled up in blankets and watching my little ladies run their little hearts out is quite fun actually! I'm one proud mama.

p.s. I've decided that every Sunday, in an attempt to establish a form of Sabbath, I will take a break from blogging. Rhythm...that's what I'm trying to establish here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #5

I knew sticking to this commitment to intentionally caring for myself everyday would be a challenge. I knew that setting limits to what I require of myself each day would be a necessary part of this commitment. I knew that I would struggle with a paradigmatic shift in learning how to balance my own needs with the often demanding needs of my children. I knew that it would be a task that would incite the kind of creativity that I often don't fan into flame on a regular basis. I knew it would be a challenge. But I didn't know it would lead me to a place of deep sadness. Or perhaps, unconsciously or subconsciously...or not, I knew that this sorrow existed and the busyness and failure to be truly present to myself was a way to avoid this space of deep sorrow.

Granted - it has been an emotionally-charged week. Brian traveled to Colorado for his Grandfather's funeral. Elmer was an amazing man and everyone who met him was sure of it. He lived a long and beautiful life - but knowing this still doesn't detract from the sense of loss. The 11th anniversary of Columbine came and went. And we discovered that my granny has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It has most certainly been a tough week. But I don't think that is the only reason I have met such sadness this week.

Because I've also experienced a growing sense of peace as I've faced this sadness. I think this may have something to do with joy and sorrow being interwoven or at least intricately connected. My hope is that the more time I am willing to face, to feel, to acknowledge the sadness, then the greater my capacity to bear it and grow in hope within it.

I've done a decent job at caring for my body these past few days. I am still trying to figure out what it means to begin really caring for my spirit. I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #4

Just a small lesson for today: Sometimes self-care is simply taking a moment to ask yourself what you need. There are moments, days, or seasons where needs are easier to assess. And there are moments, days, or seasons where identifying need seems like a nearly impossible task. For today, however, sickness is declaring that my body needs rest. Therefore, I am signing out early tonight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #3

I heard something interesting at that little seminar on Secondary Trauma that I mentioned in an earlier post. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky (the author of the book posted above) talked about how often there is a fundamental notion of scarcity at the root of many of our systems, institutions, religions and philosophies. A perspective rooted in the notion of scarcity claims that there is never enough time in the day, never enough money, never enough people to work the fields, never enough resources. This mentality is sneaky and dangerous. It leaves a person exhausted, bound by obligation, and thereby, unable to experience the abundant life.

One of the reasons I wanted to commit to this endeavor was so that I could develop eyes to see the abundance all around me...even amidst the chaos and deceptive appearance of scarcity. I grew up in a home that functioned out of the oppressive notion of scarcity - there was never enough money, there weren't enough hours in the day, there were too many needs for a working mom, an angry stepfather, and a distant father to tend to. I worked in a church that was often plagued by the same spirit - there were never enough resources, never enough people serving or giving, never enough youth trips or activities. Essentially I internalized this concept of scarcity and deemed that I just wasn't enough...and so I had to work harder and harder and harder. Until one day I was exhausted.

I want to believe that it is possible to experience life in a different way. I want to place the notion of abundance and peace at the center of my daily living. I want to believe that there is enough...for each and every day...if only I have eyes to see and ears to hear.

I did yoga today. I felt the joy of having a body that could move with grace and strength and take in the breath of life. Today I believed, with each breath for those 45 minutes, that my body and it's glory has something to do with the abundant life.


I have had the privilege of intersecting paths with many remarkable people during my time at MHGS. One such individual is a gifted woman and artist named Heather who vulnerably and ingeniously invited our student body to experience Lent in a new way through 7 weeks of performance art. I was only able to attend three of these performances and was deeply moved by each piece. She posted a blog about the experience here. If I have learned anything during my time at this school it has been that I desperately need to be surrounded by people willing to take creative risks and people with the audacity to stretch imagination. Heather's creativity, like many others, has been food to my hungry soul.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #2

I am finding it especially difficult to type words this evening. Perhaps it is because I am simply exhausted - worn out from illness, emotionally-drained, and aware of my loneliness this evening as I sit on my couch in this silent apartment. But I'm inclined to believe that my difficulty with words tonight has more to do with the heaviness that this day holds for me and so many others. I learned today that sometimes care for the self can take the shape of allowing the space and time necessary to enter into memory - not in a way that could in anyway be experienced as re-living the memories, but in a sacred way that holds onto the present and the future while entering into the past. I remembered today. I remembered the horror, the loss, the confusion, the community, the faces, the places, the media, the protesting, the conversations, the songs, the dance, the trees, the trips, the book, the girl. But there was something different about today's process of remembering - I was able to remember my "self" in all of it - who I was then, how I was then, what I was longing for, how I was naive, what I needed, who I was becoming, how my world was being cracked open. In the past I would have felt guilty for spending too much time thinking of my own woundedness when so many others were far more wounded and directly impacted by the shooting 11 years ago - but today I valued my own life enough to acknowledge my pain and my growth as worthy of remembrance as well.

One last quote from Serene Jones in her book Trauma & Grace as I sign out for the night:
"The fragmented anatomy of trauma can leave one without a world, without speech, stories, memory, community, future, or a sense of self; theology's task is to renarrate to us what we have yet to imagine."


I did a lot of reading on trauma this past term. This was partly due to the nature of my classes, partly related to work at my internship, but mostly it had to do with the work I am attempting to do personally and within the context of my own therapy and theological questioning. I've discovered some remarkable books along this journey thus far, one of which is titled Trauma and Grace by Serene Jones. On this day in particular I have found myself thinking upon much of what she has written on theology and it's role in the process of healing from trauma. Here's a quote that prefaces the very first chapter of the book:

"Too often we believe that when physical healing occurs, mental healing naturally follows, and that with time, all wounds heal. Such is not always the case, however. Violence often cuts so deeply into our minds that surface healings cover it over and, hidden away, allow it to expand. The balmlike work of theology and of religion is to uncover and mend such wounds. And what medicine does this? Healing lies as much, if not more, in the stories we tell and the gestures we offer as in the doctrines we preach."

I posted some thoughts on Columbine and Cassie last year that you can find here.

And because I love her still and love this video, I couldn't resist reposting it here as well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #1

Whelp...not a horrible start to this commitment to caring for myself in these final weeks of my NW adventure. However, I think it is important to note that I don't think it's a coincident that I woke up with an awful head cold. Of course - on the day that I plan to intentionally take care of my mind, body and soul - I wake up feeling miserable. Last week I attended a brief lecture on secondary trauma (the vicarious trauma people experience when they work with highly traumatized populations) and self care where the guest speaker indicated that when you just happen to get sick on every vacation or as soon as you have some time off then you know you're not doing the best job of taking care of yourself. Hello story of my life. This is a pattern I am way too familiar with. Hence, I believe this little mission could not have begun at a more appropriate time.

Self-care today looked a bit different than I thought it would. I thought I would awake at 6 for a little strength-training routine and my own uninterrupted shower prior to waking the wee little ones who aren't really so little anymore and ushering them off to school. Waking with a nasal cavity filled with all sorts of stuff I'm sure you don't want to read about here required that I change my plan a bit. Instead, I allowed my body a bit of extra sleep and chose not to feel guilty about it or allow myself to feel stressed or rushed as a result of this change in plans. Surprisingly, the morning pace was remarkable calm despite my extra sleep and we were all able to enjoy a delightful breakfast together! The girls were thrilled to have both Brian and I actually sit with them while they were eating rather than making their lunches or preparing our own. Overall, it was a great start to the first day of this 70-day mission.

Other delights of the day included: a warm cup of spiced chai while I completed some afternoon paperwork at my internship, a brisk walk around the track at a nearby middle school with Bri while we chatted about our day, a fabulous Greek dinner that all of the girls gobbled up, and a little creative card-making after the girls went down to bed. Not too shabby. But Brian leaves
town tomorrow to head back to Colorado for his grandfather's funeral. It will be a challenge to find time to tend to myself while I am completely husbandless for a few days. Maybe it's a good thing that my commitment is being challenged by all sorts of unexpected occurrences so early in the game. If I tackle these challenges and prove to myself that I can still find time each and everyday to nourish my own body, mind and soul - then maybe this little mission will revolutionize this mom-of-three's crazy life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Missional Moment

So...I have this wild idea: I'm going to take the next 10 weeks until I graduate and roll on out of here to seriously commit to a little phrase I've had drilled into my head since arriving at MHGS - SELF CARE. Basically I am going to attempt to blog everyday as a means to check in and log this final leg of my journey out here. That's 70 days of blogging people (not sure who you 'people' are...but I like to envision that there are at least a handful of you checking up on what's going on in my little world every now and again). Can I do it? Gosh, I hope so. It will be a part of the order and rhythm I'm attempting to establish as a way to become as present as possible to what is going on for me as this season comes to a close. There are a lot of reasons as to why I'm taking this risk (of potential failure), but I'm going to save those musings for the daily posts I'll be making in the weeks to come.

That's all for now. Just a little introduction. And tomorrow will be day #1!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The body informs theology...not the other way around

Jane Grovijahn on the impact of childhood sexual abuse:

"For a young girl victimized by another’s brutalizing touch, more than just her flesh is violated. her very self- that root of whatever we like to think makes us persons - is attacked and violated. And somewhere in that place or location of raped subjectivity, God is very much at risk. Both our relationship with God and the way we achieve personhood occurs within this ambiguity of embodiment...In other words, her sexually abused body teaches her that she is not a person before God. When this extent of spiritual diminishment is combined with traditional Christian language about sin, evil and redemption, an abused woman’s understanding of herself as powerless and without value becomes distinctly religious and rooted in a God-consciousness that all too often confirms her denigrated status. In its most graphic form, the rapability of women’s bodies - their visceral powerlessness and ravaged value - constructs and informs their religious sensibility. Let me say that another way: for childhood sexual abuse survivors, the traditional understanding of theology as faith seeking understanding, exists in direct relationship to the rapability of their bodies. Their knowledge of an experience with God is inescapably woven into their horrific vulnerability scripted onto/into their bodies” (p. 32).

Grovijahn, J. (1998). Theology as an Irruption into Embodiment: Our Need for God. Theology & Sexuality: The Journal of the Institute for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, (9), 29-35.