When the Wound is Healing {Father's Day Re-Visited}

Three years ago I wrote one of the most difficult posts of my life. In it, I describe why Father’s Day is deeply painful for me. Mostly, because my own dad isn’t, can't be, in my life. While this continues to be the healthiest choice for me, it is still tinged with grief.  

You see, when a person chooses to harm us even when we ask them to stop, a relationship is no longer possible. And so, it's been for me.

 Quote by: Maggie Kuhn 

Quote by: Maggie Kuhn 

But here is what strikes me today: awe at the possibilities of healing. I am humbled and grateful at the resilience embedded in our DNA by a God who never, ever leaves us or gives up on us. Almost as if overlooking a canyon just traversed, my gratitude is visceral. My body has kept the score of my healing and it's been worth it. The journey is scary and beautiful. It has been fraught with hardship, but oh my, it's priceless.  

What I’ve learned in just these three years is so vast, it’s feels like a decade instead of just a few years. Mostly what I’ve learned in a new way, is how much it matters that we let light into our wounds. I've learned too, how connection and gentleness is the stuff of life. I’ve learned that even when we think our process is over--that it’s as healed as it will ever be—it’s not.

I actually adore this reality. I am grateful my thirty two year old self wasn’t as healed then as she would ever be. Indeed, there is more for me, and I believe for you too.  

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I have stepped back from blogging as much as I did a few years ago, primarily out of the need to stay sane, manage tiny people, and pursue some other projects I’m passionate about. But when I think about Father’s Day, about how many of us carry the shame of our parents, it cracks me open a bit, and this is why I write today.

For you, dear ones, the ones who don’t know yet—who have not yet experienced the balm of healing--I offer you this:

You are not the words spoken over you in anger.

 You are not the shame you were given.

 You are not too much.

 You are not too little.

 You are not other’s mistakes.

 You are not the mistakes you’ve made.

 You are not the trauma you’ve lived.

 You are not the trauma in your body.

 You, magnificent you, are the gorgeous handprint of a God who loves you madly.

 You are the resilient, fireball who is still here; who hasn’t given up.

 You are the valuable soul who is in process.

 You are cared for + known.

 You are deserving of kindness + worth second chances.

 You are worth dying for.

 You are right on time for your redemption—not early + not late.

 You, magnificent you, are beloved.  

Grace + Peace,

Aundi

3 Ways to Support Someone Recovering From Trauma {Guest Post for Relevant Magazine}

In my days as a novice therapist, I was terrified to work with trauma survivors. I had been given tools and plenty of support from supervisors, sure. But as a trauma survivor myself, I worried I wouldn’t support them adequately. My greatest fear was to re-traumatize people. Graciously, in the decade since, God has utilized therapy, relationships and His goodness to mend me and grow my confidence to walk with the wounded. 

Lately, there is no shortage of news regarding survivors of trauma and abuse. Just recently Time magazine named the “silence breakers” of the #MeToo movement as their person of the year, and as I write, fires plague Southern California. While sexual assault is finally making headlines, it’s not new, nor are the multiple ways people can be traumatized. 

 Picture via Relevant Magazine 

Picture via Relevant Magazine 

Defining Terms

But what exactly do we mean when we say trauma, or more accurately, traumatic stress? According to leading researchers like Bessel van der Kolk and Peter Levine, it’s when a person’s natural threat response is activated in their body, but their ability to cope becomes overwhelmed and ultimately stuck in a hyper/hypo vigilant mode.

Thus, the traumatic event(s) become “stuck” in a person’s body instead of being stored as a normal memory. This inability to properly integrate the event into the narrative of their life is what results in symptoms such as flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, physical ailments or emotional volatility.

According to The Sidran Institute, 70 percent of Americans will experience at least one major trauma in their life and 20 percent of those folks will go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As Christians who want to love well, it’s vital we recognize our role in supporting the hurting within and without our walls.

Click here to keep reading at Relevant Magazine. 

 

Waiting for a Miracle {Guest Post for The Redbud Post}

Happy Advent, dear readers!

If you've been following along with me for awhile, you'll recognize this piece from last year, written prior to the birth of our new son. However, I had a chance to contribute to the newest addition of The Redbud Post which features experiencing Advent: The Sacred Amidst the Secular, and I knew this piece would be a good fit. I pray it meets you in the hustle and bustle of the season and invites you to see God in your moments. 

Grace + Peace, 

Aundi 


Growing up in the Catholic tradition, I learned Advent was rich with meaning and longing. I remember how the time between the initial Advent mass and Christmas Eve felt like a sacred eternity. One year, I decided I would stick it out and stay up until midnight mass with my dad. When the hour finally rolled around, I was full of food and heavy with exhaustion. I barely remember the service, but I do remember the sense of beauty there.

While I no longer identify as a Catholic, I have always connected with the significance infused in this season. Perhaps, as a person who frequently searches and yearns for meaning, I find goodness in honoring the wait as much as the arrival of Jesus. I see a metaphor for our lives here on earth. We are the “already, but not yet” people. Jesus came to us over 2,000 years ago and brought his kingdom. And, though his work has begun, it’s not yet finished. So we wait, still, for the fullness of his arrival.

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While Advent has always been sacred for me, this year feels especially precious. Even now as I write, we are waiting for the arrival of our own miracle due on Christmas Day—a baby boy; one we’ve longed for and dreamed about for several years now.

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, we found out I was pregnant with another deeply hoped for baby. We went through Christmas expectant for what was to come. My perceptive four-year-old daughter knew something was happening, and we shared with her our exciting news. Then January brought heartache and difficulty, as we found the baby in my belly didn’t seem to be growing. 

I'd love for you to keep reading over at The Redbud Post {And while you're there, check out the other beautiful offerings too}. 

The Spiritual Act of Honoring Pain

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other." -Mother Theresa

I awoke this morning and the air felt heavy, maybe because sometimes grief can be sensed before it is spoken. I looked at my phone and saw an alert telling me the deadliest shooting in modern history occurred last night.

Is it stranger that this happened, or is it worse that these horrific events don’t seem so unique anymore?

My husband was starting the morning routine with our daughter, and so I stole those five minutes to read my Bible, and I felt, I’m sure like many of you—angry, sad, and confused. Why God? Why?

 pic: James Walsh via Unsplash

pic: James Walsh via Unsplash

All morning I’ve been trying to take it slow and articulate in some logical way, what is on my heart. Mostly, this is what comes out: how do we engage, or for some of us--re-engage--the practice of valuing the personhood of others? How do we recognize they too are the image of God (imago dei)? How do we slow down the escalation of hate and fear that seem pervasive and replace it with curiosity and respect?

How do we keep our hearts soft, grieve our sorrows, but maintain a fierce resolve to fight for goodness—for God’s kingdom come here on earth?

Sometimes I think when the pain feels too much; we become hardened to the plight of those around us. We create our own narrative of why they are less valuable or less worthy of human dignity. In my clinical opinion, this is the reason we usually stop valuing the stories of others, it simply feels too much, and we don’t have the resources to process the pain.

But what if God is asking us to care for our hearts, as they are the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23), but also, to never ever, ever, stop believing others matter too.

What if part of the way we begin to change our culture is exactly as what Jesus said, “love your neighbor, as yourself ” (Mark 12:31b, emphasis mine).

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As a counselor, I too often have seen folks become numb and overwhelmed amidst pain and trauma. Always, always this shows up in other ways in their lives. We simply don’t get a pass on reality. If we don’t process the legitimate emotions we experience it will come calling somehow, someway. It shows up as addiction, or panic attacks, or relational issues, or unexpected anger, or complicated grief, or even physical ailments.

We simply can’t pretend something isn’t happening.

Our body tells the truth of the experience. As Bessel Van Der Kolk’s wise book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” attests to, we are whole people and what is not dealt with will always come calling.

And so my hope and challenge for you today is this, what practices do you need in your life to give way to legitimate expressions of grief and emotion? Who do you need to call? Do you need to make an appointment with a counselor or a pastor? 

Where are you stifling these experiences and how has that affected your ability to connect or make space for the Imago Dei in others?

This is what I know to be true: God has made us for connection. And if we choose to numb, to leave, to disconnect, to shame others, so we don’t have to deal with the sorrow—we will always see the consequences in other ways.

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May we care for our hearts and souls, and those around us well today. May we be empowered by the God who loves us to choose the harder, more courageous way of love.

Grace and peace, dear readers.