Pride and Power...... AKA God didn’t give me a snappy title

I just read an article on Bill Hybels, leader of the Willow Creek, one of the biggest “mega churches” in the United States. He has resigned after sexual abuse allegations within members of his staff. My heart is sad.

We can analyze all day long about how this has happened. Doctors taking advantage of student athletes, preachers taking advantage of staff, teachers taking advantage of students, bosses with employees...everything from promises of job and stardom to “date drugs”. Hollywood, Illinois, Ohio, New York......no one is immune. As a society we do analyze. We want to know HOW this happened. We want to know HOW to stop it. We want to make sure our daughters, our friends, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews are SAFE. 

I am not going to pontificate about all the breakdowns in our society that could have brought us here even though I could........I AM going to say, I know more women who HAVE been sexually abused than women that HAVENT. Think about that. I know more women with fuzzy stories with memories that just don’t fit right, like a blurry puzzle with pieces missing than I know women WITHOUT those stories. Add those stories to the many with clear memories, details framed like movie stills.....physical sensations intensified while emotional sensations stunted. This isn’t a hashtag#, folks. 

No one, in all the coverage I have watched as said one thing about POWER. What is power in the United States? Is it leading with humility? Is it vulnerability? Awareness of our weaknesses? Admitting insecurity, failure, fear, rejection.....Pride. 

I watched women become empowered. And....then I watched allegations that seemed to go to far. Tweets with random allegations. Guilty by association. Death by the firing squad through a Tweet. Power is dangerous without accountability. 

I know I should end with some grand solutions and wrap this up in a neat little bow......it doesn’t work that way. Nothing will change until we teach people to be humble leaders. Show we respect our celebrities as much as we do our neighbors. Can you imagine what this world would be if we started this adult race showing our vulnerability rather than hiding it. 

“Hi, my name is Beth and I am a terrible speller so I might ask for help sometimes. I am not a good housekeeper so dont’ drop by without calling first. I sing too loudly in the car and to be really truthful, I am not the best driver. But, I love puppies and conversation and good red wine. I am a good friend. I wanted to be a synchronized swimmer when I was 12 even though I never learned how to dive.  Nice to meet you.” 

What would your introduction say? 

Shuffle, Bridge, Deal AKA: God says put down the phone

I played cards this weekend. A wonderful card game that was taught to me by one of the kiddos I see in my private practice. I love this kid for a BUNCH of reasons but I also love him because he taught me two of the coolest card games ever (Instructions here) that I teach other kids. Those kids sometimes teach the coolest card game ever to other kids. You see where I am going with this........

I am teaching him to shuffle and do the bridge at the end. It's a fun time.

I went out of town for Labor Day and at the last minute, I threw a deck of cards in my bag knowing we would have some down time. I was correct and was able to "school" my friend. (I ended up losing, btw.....)  As I was shuffling the cards and doing the bridge, I thought about the kiddo who taught me how to play this game and how he is one of the most resilient kids I have ever gotten to work with.

That thought led into the next------my grandmother sitting at the kitchen table playing solitaire, hand after hand; shuffling and bridging the cards. Sometimes I sat on her lap as she played around me. I remember asking her why she didn't look under the cards so she wouldn't lose as much. She replied, "What would be the fun of that? It's cheating."

My little 3rd grade self was a little fuzzy on rules (44 year old self rolls her eyes!) "But if you looked underneath, you wouldn't lose as much..." I said to her. 

Shuffling-Cards-1.jpg

She didn't respond and shrugged her shoulders. The message with that shrug was clear: You shuffle, bridge the cards and deal.

I thought about that story as I dealt out a new hand. You shuffle, bridge, deal. My grandmother taught me that. And my uncle. And my mom. And my best friends' mom. And my sisters. And my 7th grade history teacher. And my pastor. And my best friend. And a college professor. And a bus-driver. (Again, you get the point.....)

I use to think we were like ripples in a pond--connection and love spreading outward but one ring doesn't have impact on the next. I don't see it that way anymore. We are a net. Each piece connected to the next piece and so on. We teach people how to shuffle and bridge and deal by doing and watching and connecting. 

This week I pray for my friends in Haiti and in Florida. I pray for the people in Texas. 

I pray for our connections. I pray that we put down the phones, tablets, remotes and connect. Go teach someone how to play a card game. It could change their life. And theirs. 

No cute title AKA: God sometimes says, Enough Already.

It has been a while. The first "awhile "was because everything was good. The second "awhile" was because everything was not good.

Don't you love playing in the ocean and watching for the next wave, still reeling a little from the previous one? But, then, sometimes, the upcoming wave is bigger than you thought and you go---well, crap.

I like to blog in-between the little waves. I like to blog after a tiny wave and having some small insight into whatever life issue just came and then blog, journal, meme, FB post a funny clip and then wait for the next wave. The next small wave. The next tiny swell. The little hiccup in life that makes good sayings of "God loves a mess..." "Not a hot mess, I'm a spicy disaster....." "It's all messy, the hair, the bed, the heart, my life......." We advertise our train wrecks as cute sayings and funny stories and it's all good. We post on FB about how messy we are......in-between the waves when, let's face it, we ain't that messy.

But, what happens when our mess spills over to other people and becomes destructive? Harmful? Evil? Debilitating? Life-altering, can't get out of bed, my life is forever changed, this has shaken me down to the core, I don't know how to survive this........What if it is THAT kind of mess? What if you are the recipient of THAT kind of mess?

What if you are the giver of THAT kind of mess?

I've been both. Both suck. Both are keep you up at 3 am, wide awake, praying for the wave to Just. Go. Away.

So much easier to justify being the giver to anyone in my path when I have been recipient being in anyone's path.

I wanted to blog about my insight in Haiti and actually wrote that out as my next paragraph as such until I realized that was so an in-between the wave moment. I did have insight while I was in Haiti. God did speak to me and told me to get on board with some hard stuff like my money and my time. (Sidenote and foreshadow to next blog: He told me to STAY in the boat!? And that boat is in Jackson, MO and not the Caribbean?? Totally unfair) I really wanted this blog post to be about justification, about righting a wrong and how God spoke to me about fairness and justice and equality. Not about the other stuff.......

But.....some of the other stuff? (I always feel blasphemous if I think about what Jesus might say to me but here I go.....) Jesus: You know I love you and I am right here with you but this is something you are gonna have to face the consequence. Me: Totally unfair. I went through (insert me justifying my poor decision on hot mess status) Jesus: No excuse. You have free will. But, I love you and I am with you through this. Me: Then I check out. I'm done. I'm a hot mess and thats all there is to it.

Jesus: I died on the cross to take away your hot mess. Stop using hot mess as a means to justify your behavior. Get. On. Board.

We say keep it real but do we really really mean it? We say God loves a mess but do we really believe it? Because, let's face it, folks. We don't social media when the wave hits; do we???

 

12 Steps to Recovery Or How God is the Ultimate Therapist

Today sucked. It just sucked. It has been a slow build, long time coming suck. (Okay, I debated using the word "sucked" because--well, goodness.....all the reasons we shouldn't use the word sucked HOWEVER, I googled and a more appropriate synonym would be "stunk".....reread that first sentence.....it doesn't cut it, does it?) So, yes, today sucked.

Take that back....half of my day was awesome; half sucked.  My job is awesome, amazing, incredible. God allows me to be part of someone's life when it is hard and they struggle and hurt. That is truly a blessing that I will never ever be worthy of and I only am able to do it because God allows me. The other half of the day---the part that I sometimes struggle to allow God to control---well, that part sucked. I know. Imagine that!??!?! (Doctors make the worst patients?? Try therapists!!!!)

I come home after a 13 hour day and brush up for my social work class tomorrow. Here is what I read:

       A Report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration outlined the following 12 principles:
 

  1. There are many pathways to recovery
  2. Recovery is self-directed and empowering
  3. Recovery involves personal need for change
  4. Recovery is holistic
  5. Recovery has cultural dimensions
  6. Recovery exists on a continuum of health and wellness
  7. Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude
  8. Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition
  9. Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma
  10. Recovery is supported by peers and allies
  11. Recovery involves rejoining and rebuilding a life in the community
  12. Recovery is a reality  

(SAMHSA, 2012a, p.6) 

One thing that drives me crazy about mental health (okay, no pun intended) and social work is sometimes we therapist and social workers act like we invented these rules. Really?? Read over those again---see a theme? Can you think of where else it may say that we might get to the same place but the journey might look different? That we are  empowered by change? We have to have a personal need for change? That it impacts all aspects of our life? Our upbringing and backgrounds might impact how we view things? We have different spectrums of where we all are on the journey? We develop hope and gratitude and healing and we redefine our identities? Shame and stigma are discarded and we rebuild and rejoin a community? We need support in the journey? And, most importantly, it is real?

I was at a crossroads today. I can do what is easy and known or what is hard and unknown. I can rejoin and rebuild or I can stand on the outside and look in. I can move forward or backwards but staying where I am is not the option. 

But, I can't do both. 

So.....I have debated and debated my Haiti trip and have had a thousands reasons why I can't go. But, when I come down to it, when I really admit what my delay is about---it is the fight to be transformed. To rejoin and rebuild and heal and pick the higher road with the steepest climb but the greatest of all views. 

In the past 18 months, I have often asked God to take away suffering but I have been resistant to the transformation. I am not a Bibical scholar but I am pretty sure that isn't how it works. To be on that mountain, quiet, peaceful, forced to listen rather than ask---I can't help be transformed.  

The question then becomes----what happens if I decide to heal. (And make no mistake---it is a choice!) Rejoin. Rebuild. What does it mean about ME if I let it go? Does it mean I am gullible? Manipulated? Stupid? Unlovable? Abandoned? I know in my HEAD those things are not true but sometimes my heart takes some time to catch up. 

So.......(how I love the SO!) which road are YOU fighting? What does recovery look like for you? What rejoining and rebuilding are you saying no to?

 Addiction? Fear? Mistrust? Lying? 

Surrendering? Peace? Honesty? Love? 

It's a journey we all take together. 

Renmen Lavi with love, 

Beth

Please comment, join our email list or share! 

Waiting Tables in the Florida Keys AKA: Sometimes God tells us "Not Yet"

Anchors and the Backstory (insert dramatic movie music here!) 

This is the post I have dreaded to write. The reason my Blog is “Haiti Heals” rather than “Heal Haiti” because I am not so arrogant to think that I have some white-girl magic fairy dust that can transform a country. More importantly, that country doesn’t need to be transformed but God has informed me that maybe I do. 

How do we talk about the freeing of anchors without the backstory? How do I tell the backstory while still NOT being messy? I have struggled for a year to find the balance. 

When I started talking about my “story”, I will admit, it was out of spite and revenge. Like any good therapist, however, I was able to wrap it up in a nice little package, put a pretty bow on it and call it “healing” (the term we use in the therapy world for this is "reframing", in the real world I think some might called  it "BS" and it God's world, there might be a story about a plank and some sawdust? Matthew 7:5).  It wasn’t healing. It was revenge. I was betrayed. By two people I loved. And then again. And again.

It hurt. A LOT. 

I found out about this betrayal two days after my only child left for college. My identity as a mother changed. My identity as a wife ended. My identity as a therapist changed (I thought no one wants a therapist who is messy!!!). I was, for the first time in my life, free of any hats that I once held closely to define who I was. 

I seriously debated my options. The best plan I could muster was to grab my two little dogs, pack five pairs of shorts, tank tops, two pairs of Chacos, eyeliner and ponytail holders into my convertible and wait tables in the Florida Keys. I will admit, there were many days that I struggled to keep my car going east rather than south. 

Too much freedom is a bad thing. No accountability to other human beings is a bad thing. Despair and sadness and loneliness and fear and hopelessness are bad bad things. 

I struggled to keep my car from pointing south. I went through the motions of my life. Then, slowly, ever so slowly and quietly, I started to heal. A little bit. A tiny bit. I opened up to friends. I started telling my story asking for help rather than asking for validation that I had been wronged. I prayed more for forgiveness than revenge. Then I went backwards. And forwards and stayed still and moved to the left and right and all over. I felt better....slowly. One day, I didn’t have to fight so hard to keep my car to the east. 

While I was in the middle of the waves, I met up with my friend from Haiti. I told her my story. She was heartbroken and said, “You should have came down for a month! We would have taken care of you.” 

God didn’t want me there then. Because I was running. I was running from despair and sadness and loneliness and fear and hopelessness. The Holy Spirit told Paul to keep quiet in Asia because it wasn't the right time----God told me---not yet. I couldn’t have healed anyone running and I wasn't allowing God to heal me.  In the meantime, I sat in despair and sadness and loneliness and fear and hopelessness. And sat. And sat. 

When I finally made the decision that waiting tables in the Florida Keys might be a waste of my very large student loans and I had purpose and meaning with my stained, messy, modified hats, I suddenly was open and then was called to go to Haiti. My business is running well on it’s own. The team God has assembled there is amazing. My focus and attention have increased. God’s plan for microloans and The Play Bridge (more to come! So exciting!!!) are flowing and sometimes, I am in the right place at the right time to catch them. 

God said—maybe but just not yet. I know, through faith, that God allowed my crazy ideas of running away to open up my heart for what is next. He not only freed anchors of things and people and obligations but He also freed my soul, my heart, my mind, my body to do what is next. I allowed Him to anchor me when all I wanted to do was free-fall. I asked and prayed and begged for Him to anchor me when I only wanted to drive south. 

I can’t heal Haiti. I can provide a small spot in a small corner on top of a mountain. I can wear a new hat that is only defined by God's love and promise. I can ask God to continue to heal me on top of that mountain and I can ask Him to pour in to me so I can pour in to the people I meet. I will say from my years of working in child welfare, my years in private practice, my years of social work, and the years I have been a Christian----this is the ONLY way happiness, healing, and hope work. To quote the famous words of Paul and John (the Beatles Paul and John---not the Apostles ((but that is RATHER ironic, if you ask me....))

"And in the end, the Love you take, is equal to the Love you make...."

As I prepare for this trip, I ask for YOUR prayers for healing. For me, for them, for you. 

I ask you to pray to be poured in so you can pour out. Forever and always!! 

Renmen Lavi, 

 

 

Beth

How My Hair Prevented Me from Missions AKA: God Does Not Call the Perfect

I have horrible hair. Flat, brown, straight, thin, limp boring hair. My hair MUST be washed every 21 and a half hours or it actually has grease clumps. No, dry shampoo does not work. No, not washing my hair every day is NOT going to change the make-up of my hair. The money I have spent on perms, creams, shampoos, color, and hair do-dads could have fed an entire village for a year. Yes, a LARGE village with LOTS of teenage boys. I have horrible hair.

True confession: I have told myself I couldn't go to Haiti for an extended period of time because I have bad hair. I have actually said---well, if God really wanted me to go on a mission trip for an extended period of time, He would have given me thick, wavy, naturally highlighted hair that can be put up in a messy bun with minimal effort. You know, THAT kind of hair.

I know, right?

Then I take it a step. If God really wanted  me to go to an extended mission trip, He would give me a burning bush. He would provide very clear, very precise, unfathomable directions in a color-coded flow chart with checklists and itineraries.

Then I take it ANOTHER step. If God really wanted me to go on an extended mission trip, He would make me less broken, less insecure, less scared.  He would "fix" all this stuff that I need "fixed" before He allowed me in all of MY mess to enter into someone else's mess.

Because, you know, that is how it works in the Bible, right? A quick Google search gives many examples:

 

  • Noah drank. A lot. 
  • Abraham was old
  • Moses was not a good public speaker
  • Elijah had depression 
  • David and the whole Bathsheba thing
  • Disciples LITERALLY fell asleep when praying
  • Paul AKA Saul of Tarsus---Well, he was just a hot mess before Damascus! 
Some of the people were imperfect because of certain THINGS about them. Abraham's age, Moses stuttering. Some of the people were imperfect because of certain CHOICES they made. Noah's drinking. David's adultery.

My horrible hair. My doubt. Sometimes it is a THING; sometimes it is a CHOICE.

God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him"

My sister-in-law made this for Christmas a few years ago and it has been sitting on my desk since.

Isaiah 6:8 "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?' Then I said, "Here am I. Send me."

Is God asking you---"Whom shall I send?"

It doesn't have to be a mission trip--is it to ask the waitress at the diner to your small group? Check on your neighbor? Apologize to a friend? Become a foster parent? Conserve your money for bigger things? (More on this later!) Start a blog? Run for office? Buy someone a meal? Close Facebook and pray? Sponsor a child? Memorize a verse?

God calls ALL of us. All the time. To do all sorts of things.

Even with mess. Even with bad hair. Even with pain and sorrow and insecurity and fear and doubt.

Renmen Lavi,

Beth

 

As always, please comment and share! 

SERIOUSLY? YOU WANT ME TO GO FOR A MONTH??? AKA: God has Bigger Plans

I will start off saying this year has not been the easiest for me. (Even that is hard to admit because anyone who knows me is aware that 1. I am a glass is half full kind of person and 2. I don’t like to appear messy). Messy. My life has been messy the last year. Keeping it quiet, just made it messier. 

Through it all, however, God has gently, quietly, lovingly covered me in protection until the time I was ready to understand and accept some hard, difficult truths He was revealing to me. During that time, He was also preparing my heart, my business, my life, my goals to do His work. I have always known One Accord Counseling was His. Out of all the things I have turned over to God and then taken back to micro-manage in my-oh-so-messy way…..One Accord Counseling is not one of them. The day I opened One Accord, I told God it was His and I was only managing it for His purpose. 

In that time, I have been able to work along with the MOST AMAZING THERAPISTS EVER! I am beyond blessed to work with Jennifer, Jani, Debbie, Misti, and Larry. I have seen One Accord Counseling grow and touch so many lives through counseling, relationships and a blending of spiritual, emotional and physical healing. It truly is God’s work. 
 

I have also been able to go to Haiti twice within a year, provided mental health services, and trained staff on trauma. It would have not been possible without being God’s plan. 

Once the chaos of my life calmed and I refocused my attention to God’s plan for me rather than MY plan for me (His plan is ALWAYS better, BTW!) it became clear that some anchors were lifted—not to leave me aimless (which is how it FELT!) but rather to free me—financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically to do His work. 

Through LOTS and LOTS of prayer and conversations and journaling, and yelling in the car………..“SERIOUSLY. I LIKE SHOWERS AND AIR CONDITIONING AND I HATE BUGS AND…YOU CAN’T WANT ME TO GO TO HAITI IN JULY. FOR A MONTH?!?!?!”……I have decided to go to Haiti for a month this summer. J Actually. Let me change that. I feel God wants me to go to Haiti for a month. I agreed with Him (eventually!) 
 

I debated doing a Go Fund Me Campaign. I know that God will provide 

everything I need---financially for the business, for me personally to cover expenses while I am gone, for my expenses in Haiti and for the needed supplies that I will take with me. However, I also know that Go Fund Me is a great way to get the word out for fundraising and marketing. Giving is also a way that people bless things. 

So, here is what you can do!
 

  • Share the Blog and the Go Fund Me page. The more shares, the more people we can reach. Donate only if you feel called to do so. https://www.gofundme.com/bring-mental-health-to-haiti
  • I will post an Amazon Wish List for Haiti for play therapy supplies that I will bring with me. More information to come! 
  • If you are local, One Accord Counseling and CG Yoga will partner on some fundraising classes. Specially, we are developing mindfulness and yoga combinations for children. I would love to hear ideas for classes too! 
  • Most importantly, PLEASE PRAY! I truly believe the Holy Spirit can direct us to pray for what is needed. Pray for whatever is on your heart. I also ask for specific prayers for One Accord Counseling and our staff, development of The Play Bridge, all the people I could meet on this trip, guidance, and wisdom.   

Renmen Lavi, 

 

Beth

My First Tattoo AKA: How Does God Make You Special?

Who gets a tattoo when they are 42 years old? Me. Impulsive, wild, crazy me somehow missed the “lower back tattoo” trend in the 90’s and opted for no needles. I instead opted for a foot tattoo in a foreign language. Cliché at best, right??

I got my first tattoo at the age of 42 after my second trip to Haiti. It says “Renmen Lavi” Here is the story:

I was doing an individual session with a young man who experienced things you can’t even imagine. He was in a restavek situation and all the difficulties that go with it plus a lot of additional trauma. 

We started our session with him drawing on an “award ribbon” and I asked him how God made him special. He immediately said something in creole. I looked to my translator who said, “He is friendly.” I exhaled feeling confident that some of my play therapy techniques could translate.

I went on….”How else did God make you special” I asked. 

His reply: “Renmen lavi.” I looked up at my translator whose smile was both sad and sweet. “Loves life. He loves life.” 

Tears filled my eyes. I was sitting in front a child whose life was harder on the easy days than mine has ever been on my worst day. I flashed to the moments of insecurity, doubt, fear, anger that I felt over small annoyances—the times I doubted God’s plan for me because it just wasn’t happening fast enough ----the times that I didn’t love my life because I wasn’t getting my way with the people I love the most. The times that I hurt so much that I can’t breathe. The times that I cry in session with someone and wish I could take away their pain. The times that I see how we treat each other and think---how can this be happening?? All those times that I didn’t love life but also didn’t do anything to change it. 

Renmen Lavi. I made a promise to love my life. Always. Forever. As God has given it to me. The ups. The downs. The times I get my way and the times I don’t. Because it is all a gift. A Beautiful Gift. 

Renmen Lavi, 

Beth 

The Beginning AKA: How God Changed My Heart, Path and Purpose

I was so blessed to find myself making a second trip to Respire Haiti only seven months after my first! Everyone told me your first mission trip is really about getting to know people and absorbing everything around you and they were right! I prayed that this trip strengthened bonds I previously made with staff, friends and families of Respire and for guidance on my purpose. 

As a social worker, I am keenly aware of cultural issues and social injustice that plagues the Haitian community and challenges every mission program within their borders. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that is needed and to have grand ideas of how to “fix” Haiti. As a play therapist I am also keenly aware of the hurt for these children and families.  I see and hear about the abuse, hunger, lack of drinking water, and struggles that Americans can only imagine.   

 

One asks themselves, “How do we fix this? How do we help?” The answer, as always, is provided for us. It is so simple yet so overwhelming complex.  

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

I could go on and on about the experiences I have had in Haiti. I could tell stories and name lots of names and show you a ton of pictures but that isn’t what I did. So, I will say this. 

I sat on the floor playing puppets with children and we giggled. Students and I pretended to be big and brave as we walked over the dirt road back to the school. I hiked down the back of the mountain with staff members and we shared some stories of our past and hopes of our future. I laughed so hard with new friends that I couldn’t breathe. I held a baby for a family while they participated in a community support group for families with disabilities. I talked with a mom who told me about her son dying in the earthquake and I had no words except, I am sorry.

Haiti is part of me now. There is a love that I feel that only comes from the love of Jesus. My prayer upon return is from Genesis 31:49 “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” Jesus doesn’t want us to “fix” Haiti, the Haitian people or any other social problem we face. It is about loving people and relationships. It is about laughing and crying and sharing and being. 

Renmen Lavi,

 

 

Beth