9.19.2016

The Gift of an Unraveled Soul

I just completed the second of two weekends at an experiential training that could best be described as an emotional and psychological healing boot camp.  While at the training, I was given the opportunity to basically see my naked soul in a mirror and process all that I saw.  It was intense, raw, unconventional, vulnerable, hard, and incredibly healing.  After just the first weekend, I described to Val that it felt like my soul was unraveling…it felt like a really good and necessary unraveling…all kinds of false paradigms that I’ve lived under throughout my life coming undone...and while good and necessary, it still felt like an unraveling.  And unravelings are never easy. 


I had signed up for this experiential training because I knew someone who had been through it and I had seen her truly change…I had seen her become freer and more confident.  I saw my friend embrace and run with her God-given design in a way that I hadn’t quite seen so fully expressed in her until this point in her life.  I also have this dream of seeing women know their own story and become reconnected to their God-given design, so I signed up for this training just so I could know whether or not I could, in good conscience, recommend it to others as a tool of sorts toward that dream of mine.  I had no idea how God would actually use it to overhaul me. 

The first weekend truly let me see myself in a crystal clear mirror.  My soul.  My emotions.  My patterns.  My false paradigms.  My struggles.  My strengths.  Me.  In a mirror.  The first weekend also gave me some new tools to incorporate into my life as I saw these things about myself.  Over the month in between the two trainings, as I connected with God over these false paradigms, He began to unwind many of them.  Some of these false paradigms I’ve been living under for as long as I can remember, while others had come into play as recent as four years ago.  I began taking them one at a time, praying over the specific one, asking God where it came from, asking Him for His truth over that paradigm, and ultimately asking Him to heal and reset what was false into what is true. 

As I got closer and closer to the second weekend, God begin pulling forward memories that I hadn’t thought of for years.  I knew He wanted me to pay attention, to find themes, to remember where some of my patterns and beliefs began.  So, I did.  I engaged with Him, because this process was way outside my comfort zone and I needed to know that it was Him walking me through every step of the way.  In fact, this training was so outside my comfort zone, so incredibly vulnerable that I considered not going to the second weekend.  But after some encouragement from my friend, and a deep sense inside myself that I needed to see this process through to the end, I went to the second weekend. 

Now on the other side of that second weekend, I feel like I have been given an incredible gift to have been able to go through this training.  God used this training to bring me face to face with some things I desperately needed to let go.  And at the same time, He used it to call me forward and reclaim some of the things I had lost along the way amidst life’s struggles.  In fact, over the course of the last few years due to some deep wounding, I had stopped trusting.  The love and support I felt through this training, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, dismantled that wall. In the rawness of soul, facing myself as I truly am, as I engaged with God throughout the experience, I found myself reconnected with my design and realigned with who God made me to be. There is nothing like being reacquainted with who you truly are, the false paradigms unraveling, your soul reawakened, your whole self reengaged.

I feel like I am a stronger, more peaceful, more present mom…more self aware, more able to find my calm in the chaos than ever before…and more able to really connect with my kids.  I also feel like I’ve got a new tenderness and love for Val now, too.   Honestly, I feel like I’m a revived woman.  Not just going through the motions of life, carrying all my responsibilities, trying so hard to do a good job, but breathing, loving, present, me. 

After experiencing such a profound impact through this training, I wanted to tell you about it!  This training is for anyone, whatever your background…whether it be traumatic or not.  It’s for men, women, young, not as young…anyone.  However, this training isn’t for everyone at this very moment…it would be something you would have to want to do.  I will tell you this: if you come to a place where you want to see yourself honestly and be realigned with who God designed you to be, this experience is precisely what you want.  The training itself is definitely unconventional, yet it is this very characteristic that makes it so effective.  The best way I could describe the training is that it is like a counseling session on steroids in a group setting done through active learning experiences, direct teaching, open sharing, and personal processing.  I will also tell you that it is possible that there could be parts of the training you may not agree on a philosophical or theological level.  As you face those, discern those for what they are without letting them negate the training all together. If you can do that, this experience could be one of the best tools you ever gain in life.

Also, while the training is led by Christians, the training itself is not a faith-focused training per se.  In fact, the training primarily deals with emotional and psychological healing…and it is up to each participant to take it to the spiritual level if he or she so desires.  For me, because I chose to engage the training on a spiritual level, I experienced a powerful and personal spiritual healing connected to my emotional and psychological experience.  I believe that the deepest healing and lasting change will come when you engage your spirit with the Spirit allowing Jesus to do the work of truly changing you.  However, this is still a phenomenal and powerful experience simply at the emotional and psychological levels!

If after reading all this, you feel a longing in your heart for this kind of shift in your own life, I’d encourage you to check out The Journey Training website (click here).  If you decided to go through this training, you would ideally sign up for “Threshold”  and the “Crossroads” that follows it the very next month so that you go through the experience with mostly the same group of people.  If you have any questions or just want to know more, please contact me (click here).  While I’m not personally affiliated with The Journey Training, I’d be happy to answer whatever I can from my own experience! 


If you ever do sign up to go through this training, please let me know (click here), I’d like to be as much of an emotional support through your process as I am able.  

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9.13.2016

Two

Silas,

Dad and I tell you often that we are so glad you came to our family.  And we really are.  It’s hard to imagine us without you!  We love you so much and find so much delight in just watching you be you. 

You live life so expressively.  When anything good happens (great or small), you will put on this surprise face and gulp air in, “aaahhhhh,” eyes big and filled with excitement.  I love this expression of yours!  You also equally express your disappointment with slumped shoulders and dejected, “aaawwww” when things don’t go the way you had hoped.  It would be impossible to not enjoy you! 

You are busy, active, and very productive!  You go along with me all day as I do chores around the house.  You like to have things to do.  So we do the laundry together and make the beds and do the dishes and then after those things, you also use your toy vacuum to “vacuum” and often enjoy picking up toys. 

You also love to get out of the house.  You love going places.  Especially with Daddy.  Your most favorite place to go is to the pond near our house to feed the geese.  You “go geese” at least once a day! 

You are adventurous in all of life.  Even with food.  You actually enjoy spicy food. Your favorite food is any food on Daddy’s plate.  You share Daddy’s breakfast with him every single morning.  He could make you the exact same thing and put it on a separate plate for you, and you’d still want to eat off his plate!  You just like our food.  We’re sure you’re going to be a foodie…actually you already are a foodie! 

You have a special bond with Daddy.  He is your best friend.  I love watching your connection. I am actually also pretty sure that you believe that the three of us are a unit.  If Dad and I are together, you often find your way right into the middle of where we are quickly becoming a part of whatever interaction we are having. 

You adore your brothers.  You imitate everything they do…the way they play, the words they say…everything.  Elijah and you have a truly special connection.  He can make you laugh so easily.  And he is often so tender with you. This is so special to watch. 

One of my greatest surprises when your brothers started school this year was that you wanted to be included in school.  While dad takes you out most days for the first hour of school, when you come back, we do calendar time and some workbooks…and you actively participate in those.  You’re just now turning two, yet you actively join in with school.  It has been delightful.  You sing our songs and when we do our workbooks, you pull out your coloring books and work right along with us.  You. are. so. cute. 

You’ve been cutting your two-year molars all summer.  So your sleep has been choppy at night.  And while you are adventurous with food in general, your most “eaten” foods have been frozen Gogurts and blue Naked Juice…all summer long.

Your favorite shows are “Elmo” (Sesame Street), “Chase” (Paw Patrol), “Boos Coos” (Blues Clues), and “YackYardins” (Backyardigans).  Sesame street is like magic for you if you ever just need to chill out for just a bit.   You also love “Puppy” (your stuffed puppy that is your comfort object) and “Nee-nee” (binkie).  You are so adorable when you are looking for “puppy-nee-nee, nee-nee-puppy”! 

I cannot imagine our family without you!  You have been such a gift.  You are an incredible little person and I am so glad that I get to know you!


Happy Second Birthday, Buddy!!!

8.17.2016

Maternal Soul Health


This past January, God placed a dream in my heart to walk with women through their stories for the purpose of reconnecting them to their God-given design.  This dream began after a season of seeing what a significant impact a mothers’ soul health plays in the lives of her children…whether a healthy soul bringing about a life-giving impact or an unhealthy soul bringing about a detrimental impact.  As I’ve listened to so many people’s stories over the years, the thread of the mom’s impact began to be highlighted and magnified. 

It seemed as I listened more intently to others’ stories, often a person’s season(s) of greatest pain occurred during a time in childhood or adolescence when the mom wasn’t emotionally healthy.  More specifically, it seemed that either direct or indirect hurt (whether emotional, physical, or otherwise) occurred in a person’s story when his/her mom couldn’t deal with life on some level during a season in that person’s childhood or adolescence. 

Let me pause there.  Just so you know the truth and to caution us from engaging judgment and condemnation: we all, each one of us, can’t deal with life on some level and to varying degrees at various points in our lives. The pattern I saw in these people’s stories, though, was simply that the moms had seasons of not being able to deal with life yet didn’t pursue transformation or healing of the issue or struggle in the “can’t deal” seasons, ultimately cascading hurt onto their children. 

As I saw this, a dream began. 

What if, in my generation, I did what I could do to prevent this pattern from spreading?  More specifically, what if I could sit with women and hear their stories and help them connect the dots in their life stories of God-given design and life themes to pursue, lies that are believed that need to be overhauled with truth, and wounds that need healing.  What if we could identify the “can’t deal” places and find healing and hope and tools for those?  What would happen if we could connect the dots of our stories and not be stuck in the “can’t deal” places, not be bound by the places of pain and struggle?  What would happen in our own selves?  What would be the cascade into our children’s lives?  Envisioning the ripple effect of moms living life connected to their God-given design, living from truth (and not from lies), and ultimately living with healthy souls is so, so beautiful to me. 

So, I began to engage this dream.  I began to pray and pursue training in these areas.  And as I began, I also had a sense that God would want to start this process of maternal soul health with me.  And He has.  I did not expect the intensity of the process He would begin taking me through this year.  Yet, it makes sense…how could I take women somewhere I hadn’t first gone myself.  So, I’ve been engaging the process He has me in, facing anything He unfolds in front of me.  It’s been a soul-healing year for sure.  Destabilizing at times.  Unfamiliar often.  But new and better and hopeful and restorative always. 

This past weekend, I went to an interactive training on emotional healing.  It was incredibly intense and way “outside the box”!  In fact, I am still trying to discern how I feel about the training.  What the training did, though, is let me see myself with a new depth of honesty.   While humbling, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to look at myself with such clarity.  It was like looking at my soul in a mirror. 

After such an intense experience and seeing myself with such clarity, there are many things now to process with God, for me to pray through, for me to ask Him for further transformation and healing.  I feel slowed in my life.  Which is actually a really good thing for me…a slowing of all the drive, ambition, productivity, and accomplishing to sit still, listen, and heal.  So, I will be taking the next six weeks (at least) as a blogging sabbatical.  I will be stepping back and spending time engaging my soul with God and seeing what He has planned in this process of Him guiding me into my own “maternal soul health.”   For these next six weeks, I will let the blog be silent but didn’t want to do so without letting you all know why. 

So, will you pray for me as I engage this process?  And will you also pray for the dream…the hope of one day being able to walk with women into their own stories so that they, too, have soul healing and become reconnected to their God-given design? 




(Photo credit: Val)

7.25.2016

A Poem by My Husband on Our Seventh Wedding Anniversary


This morning, after three little boys had started our day well before the crack of dawn, I took some time upstairs getting ready for the day and found a card by the bathroom sink with a poem written in it that not only depicts our marriage in its rawest, most honest moments but also depicts the wins we’ve had as well.  I asked Val if I could share his poem here today mostly because it is simply amazing, speaking of marriage as it really is. But I also wanted to share it here today because we all, in our darkest marriage days, need to believe that two people fully surrendered to Jesus’ transformation of their lives can make it together.*  This is our story…


“We Win”
      By Val Tramonte

I love you more than I did back then
Seems like way back then
When
Planned to love you completely as a reflection of Him.
Didn’t know the pain that would come
            Or the lack I would find within
Overestimated my skills and underestimated
            The hills…that would come.
Found myself burning out and in a state
            Of spiritual drought.
Not what I planned when I said, “I do,”
            Honestly thought I could handle it
            And never need to depend on you.
But oh how I have had to depend,
            And in so doing have deepened
            As a man and as a human.
Can’t really express how much you have carried for me
            And how much you have taught me.
You persevere in difficulty
And love me fantastically
You are the best friend I have ever had
            And next to Jesus you are my rock within.
Thank you for sticking with me
            Through thick and thin.
Thank you for loving me when I didn’t fulfill
            My part of the bargain.
Yes, especially then.
#sevenyearsin #wewin






*  An End Note to The Hurting Ones: And to you, whose marriage has ended because of an unsurrendered spouse, a spouse who has continued unrepentant in sin (whatever it may be…affairs, narcissism, abuse, pornography, and the list goes on…), unwilling to pursue Jesus’ transformation, to you there is so much grace…and hope…and life.  If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, He will never leave you.  You are not alone.  He is with you.  And He has good things for you.  Maybe those good things will look different that what you had once hoped for...but He will give His good in what is real now. 

7.18.2016

When Parenting Is Hard: How to Be a Good Friend to Someone Who Has a Challenging Parenting Reality



I have some real challenges in my parenting reality. 

The extent of which I did not even fully understand until about a year ago.

But those challenges have been a part of my life every single day for a long time.  And in the midst of navigating them over the years, I have felt eyes on me.  Sometimes judging eyes.  Sometimes gentle eyes.  The stress of trying to navigate a challenging parenting reality while feeling judgment and criticism both silent and spoken has left me with wounds that are still healing. 

Parenting is challenging in and of itself.  But add in any other complicating factor…whether ongoing or for a season…having a child with special needs, having a chronic illness, having a child with a chronic illness, having a child with sleep struggles, being a single parent, having a child with emotional or behavioral challenges…and you’ve got a whole new level of challenge on your plate.  Any one of those challenges adds its own layer of stress onto parenting.  Mix two or more of those together and the stress level increases exponentially. Because the nuances, struggles, and difficulties of any given challenging reality are intricate and specific to each family, it can often be hard for others outside that family to grasp the complexity, added weight, and stress of parenting in the context of those challenges.  Without understanding, judgment can easily occur. 

While I certainly have felt the pain of critical voices and judging eyes, I’ve also been incredibly blessed by accepting hearts and affirming voices along the way, too.  In fact, there were times when those accepting people were the ones who God interjected in my life at specific moments so that I could hear the words I needed to hear to keep going.  Those accepting hearts and affirming voices have made more of an impact in my life than they will ever know.

There were a few things that these people said and did that mattered so much. Their acts of understanding, affirmation, and support impacted me so greatly that I wanted to share them with you, too.  These were the things that made a difference in some of my hardest parenting seasons.  If you have a friend who is in the midst of a challenging parenting season or a challenging ongoing reality, these three things can make a world of difference to that mom or dad…

Accept:

Accept that person, that child, that family as they are.  In order to truly accept someone as they are or their reality for what it is, a level of understanding is necessary.  And to understand you have to be willing to listen.  Good listening involves asking questions without interjecting your own solutions; rather, it involves empathy and reflecting back what you hear the other person saying.  Good listening leaves the person sharing with a sense of being heard with attempts at being understood.  Take time to try to understand your friend’s challenging parenting reality.  Take time to really listen to what her reality is like.  Listen to what is hard, what is exhausting, what is sad.  In her challenging reality, there has probably been so much adjustment and loss.  As you listen, offer acceptance…of her, her child, her family as it is. 

Affirm:

Affirmation is so incredibly strengthening to someone in a challenging parenting reality.  Take a moment to think about your friend, asking yourself this question: What do you see her doing well?  Be specific as you think through that question. She most likely already knows her challenges…she lives it every single solitary day…and may even feel waves of personal failure in parenting depending on how extensive the challenges are.  Make a point to tell her specifically what you see her doing well, whether over the phone, in a text, in person, or in a handwritten note.  Your words that point out what she is doing well…the things that are working in the midst of the challenges…can make all the difference in the world!  It can give her something to hold onto when so many things seem to be falling apart.

Ask:

If you have the margin in your own life, ask your friend how you could help.  Not in a condescending “man you’re really bad at this parenting thing” way, but in an “I see you and I know it’s really hard right now, what can I do to help” way.  Most likely, she’d love a break from the challenges (whatever they are), which might mean babysitting or might mean you intentionally engaging her child or might mean you running to the store for her or might mean you brining dinner over or might mean you going to coffee with her for some grown-up processing time.  Ask how you can help and then do what you can from what she shares. 

There were seasons early on in parenting before I knew the specifics of the challenges we faced in our family that these three things were the very supports I desperately needed to make it through. 

To be understood.  To be affirmed.  To be supported. 

You can make all the difference in the life of someone with a challenging parenting reality be doing any one (or all) of these three things!


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