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Month: February 2020

Rupture and Repair

I will never forget that moment.

My two year old son stared at me, stricken. I don’t remember the events that led up to the moment, although I’m sure it had something to do with being an exhausted mom of two small boys. There was probably a meltdown or two involved. What I do remember is that I yelled, loudly, in response to the misbehavior of my incredibly sweet and wild toddler. The toddler who now stood looking at me as if I was a monster.

His shocked face crumpled, and he began to sob. “You scared me, Mommy!,” he wailed. The truth was, I had scared myself too! I had not been prepared for the stress and strains of emotion that parenting would require. Growing up with a sister, I felt ill-equipped for the physicality and noise level that little boys brought into our home. I had not set out to be a yelling Mom. How could I love someone so much that I would give my life for them and be boiling angry with them at the same time?

This is the perplexity of motherhood.

My sweet boy with the bright blue eyes

As my son sobbed, he ran towards me, seeking comfort. I knelt down, scooped him up, and hugged him for all I was worth. “I’m sorry buddy,” I crooned. “Mommy should not have yelled that way. I didn’t mean to scare you.” I patted his back and rocked him back and forth. Soon, he hiccuped a few last sobs and, feeling secure and safe again, ran off to play.

Just like that, our ruptured relationship was repaired.

Relationships are hard, and we often make mistakes along the way. In fact, ruptures in our relationships are inevitable. Sometimes these ruptures occur because we intentionally make poor choices. Sometimes they occur due to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Sometimes they occur because of plain old sin.

I’ve heard it said that parents get it right about 50% of the time. This dismal success rate, however, does not mean that you can’t be a successful parent. You don’t have to be a perfect parent or spouse to provide a secure attachment. You just have to be a “good enough” parent or spouse. Relationships can survive and thrive even after ruptures. Sometimes they even come out stronger.

It’s the repair work that makes all the difference.

When you know that a rupture has occurred in a relationship: a hurt, a slight, a sin, or a miscommunication, it is important to go back and make it right. Sometimes this looks like an apology, and sometimes it looks like correcting a misunderstanding. Sometimes it looks like showing support verbally, and sometimes it looks like a hug. Whatever it looks like, the message is clear: “You matter to me, and our relationship matters to me.” This repair work creates safety, trust, and intimacy.

Repair work is the message of the gospel. Christ came to bridge the gap of our sin and do the repair work for us, so that we would be united with our Father. In Him, we can experience the felt safety we so desire.

Pause: Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Read the above verse and consider how confessing our sins and praying for one another helps to repair relationships.

Renew: Think about your own relationships. What repair work have you recently experienced? Is there currently a relationship in which some repair work is needed? What might this look like?

Next: If you’d like to learn more about rupture and repair, watch this video of Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child, discussing repair work in parenting.

May we revel in the forgiveness and second chances that repair work provides for us.

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Regulation, Integration, and Soul Care

It was on the third day of an 8-day overseas mission trip that I found myself losing patience. I managed to make it through the jet lag of a six-hour time difference, the money exchange, a broken-down van, meeting new people in a new culture, and beginning the ministry portion of our trip, before my overwhelming exhaustion made itself evident in my behavior. I found myself feeling irritable, overly critical, easily offended, and misunderstood. I reacted to issues that I normally would have let slide. I responded in anger to well-meaning family members.

Jet lag, excitement, and travel adventures…

As my sister-in-law and I were getting ready for bed later that night, I mused, “Wow, today was not great. I got into two arguments today, and I just cannot believe I said those things.” She nodded, agreeing that she had noticed my attitude, and asked, “Are you talking about what you said to Nathan earlier?”

“No,” I laughed, flabbergasted at myself, “I wasn’t even counting that whole thing. Make that three arguments.” Clearly, it was time for me to go to bed and start a new day.

By the time I woke up the next morning, life seemed more manageable again.

That’s what exhaustion does to us. It takes us to a place where we no longer feel regulated and integrated. We begin to feel dysregulated and disintegrated: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even relationally.

  • Dysregulation: abnormality or impairment in the regulation of a metabolic, physiological, or psychological process.
  • Disintegration: the process of losing cohesion or strength; the process of coming to pieces.

We are not just spiritual beings, or relational beings, or physical beings, or emotional beings, or thinking beings. We are souls, comprised of all of these layers. When one of these areas becomes disintegrated, it tends to affect the other layers as well. For example, if my body is depleted of energy, then my emotions and relationships are affected by the exhaustion as well.

Dallas Willard’s model of the soul

Dallas Willard, author of Renovation of the Heart, developed a holistic model of the soul as being comprised of all the layers of the self. In other words, we are created as integrated beings, a sum of all of our parts. All of these layers affect the others. For instance, if I have a headache, it is my body affected by pain, but I will find myself with less emotional, spiritual, and relational bandwidth as my physical pain takes the majority of my focus.

If I am disintegrated relationally, due to a conflict or abuse, I will probably find that not only my relationship is affected, but my mind is also affected by feelings and thoughts about the hurt I’ve experienced. My body may also be affected, as I find myself crying, or holding muscle tension from the stress of the conflict.

Often in Christian circles, we talk about spirituality as if it is separate from the other three layers. As if bodily issues, or our thoughts/emotions, or our relationships are separate from our spirits. Yet, the Lord created us as physical beings. Jesus was born into a physical world where he suffered physical hurts, he experienced human relationships, and he had thoughts and emotions. Even our new lives in heaven will be lived in glorified bodies. There, we will still be physical. We will eat. We will love. However, in our glorified bodies, we will be fully integrated, with no sin, pain, physical or emotional exhaustion left to disintegrate us.

For now though, in these real, physical bodies that we are blessed to live in, we need to give ourselves and others grace. It is easy to become depleted and disintegrated. We must give ourselves permission to pause and rest, allowing ourselves to renew and recharge. And of course, we can always seek forgiveness for hardships and misunderstandings that were caused when we were feeling dysregulated. Soul care requires caring for the whole self: relationships, body, mind, and spirit.

Pause: Take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Quiet your mind and your heart; then meditate on the verse above, Psalm 107:9.

Renew: As you read this verse, contemplate how the Lord satisfies your longing soul and fills your hungry soul with good things. How does He provide for you in each of the following areas: in your relationships, in your body, in your mind (thoughts and emotions), and in your spirit?

Next: If you have found yourself feeling disintegrated lately, take time to think about which layers of your soul feel affected. Try to enact one form of soul care this week and give yourself the grace and rest you need as you work towards feeling more integrated again.

May your longing soul be filled with the good things God provides… …even rest.

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Let’s Talk About Stress

If you feel like you are under a lot of stress, you’re not alone. Stress is a normal part of life on earth, but it definitely gets a bad rap. For years, we’ve been warned to avoid it at all costs. We’ve been told about the negative health effects it causes. Still, if surveyed, most of us would say we have a significant stress load in our lives. So, if we can’t eliminate it, how can we better manage it? I explore this question in today’s podcast episode.

In this episode, I talk about all things stress: from how the fight or flight response affects our brains and bodies, to research about our interpretations of stress, to the role support and community play, to practical ways to manage stress in our lives. Best of all, this podcast ends with a self-calming exercise, so you should feel relaxed by the end of the podcast.

During this episode, I reference a fantastic Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal entitled, How to Make Stress Your Friend. In it, she talks about a study in which thousands of people were surveyed about their interpretations of stress. If you find the information in this podcast intriguing and want to learn more, you may want to check out Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress.

If something in this podcast episode resonates with you, please leave a comment below the shownotes or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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This Too Shall Last: An Interview with K. J. Ramsey

I have been a fan of K. J. Ramsey for quite some time, so it was a delight to speak with her on this podcast episode. She is a therapist, speaker, and author, who writes eloquently about suffering. K. J. is no stranger to pain in her own life, living with an autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis. In her writing and speaking, K.J. uses facts about interpersonal neurobiology and the truths of Scripture to encourage others towards curiosity and courage in the midst of suffering.

K.J. Ramsey, author of This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers

During our conversation, K.J. shares how her own pain has forced her to reckon with how suffering is a part of every Christian’s story. She believes Scripture encourages us towards a model of interdependence. Pain, both physical and emotional, leads us toward self-protection, but healing is found in relationship. K. J. explains, “The invitation in our pain is to take some deep breaths, reintegrate, and acknowledge that there perhaps are people who can meet us where we’re at, including Jesus Christ.”

Her new book, This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers, is scheduled to be released in May, but is available for preorder now. If you’d like to learn more about K. J., visit her website, KJRamsey.com. There you can peruse the articles she’s written and learn more about her book. K. J. actually just released her own podcast series, This Too Shall Last, where she interviews guests about their experiences of suffering.

If something you heard on today’s podcast episode resonated with you, please share it with a friend, drop a comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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