Facebook Female Blackout

I noticed yesterday on Facebook an appeal for women to change their profile pictures to a black square in protest of domestic violence, today Friday, August 17, 2018. I am unaware of how broadly the campaign reached.  However, it made me think (which, I guess, was the point!) As a professional counselor in a small private practice, I deal with domestic violence issues on a regular basis.  Domestic violence is a real concern and I applaud the attempt to draw attention to the immense problem, and my goal is not to offend those who chose to do so.  I chose not to blacken my profile picture, though.  Here’s why….

  • Domestic violence is not a gender issue.
    • In my very small counseling practice up to 20% of my overall clientele are men suffering domestic violence from a woman. Considering only my clients dealing with domestic violence alone, and excluding those with other issues, the percentage of male clients suffering domestic violence in my practice would be even higher.
    • I have treated many male clients who are abusers, but the interesting fact is that when underlying psychological issues are resolved (such as PTSD) the abuse is resolved as well. So, to categorize domestic abuse as a “him against her” issue rather than the psychological issue it is (regardless of gender) only propagates gender conflict.
    • While I identify myself as a feminist in many ways, I find that we as feminists can get pulled into an “us versus them” black and white mentality all too easily. We forget, or fail to recognize, that that the issue of domestic violence is multifaceted.  To so narrowly categorize it, does a disservice to the cause, as well as to discredit ourselves.
  • Violence, in and of itself, dehumanizes the individual suffering the abuse, who many times becomes faceless.
    • Many of these individuals, both men and women, live in the shadows, unnoticed, without a voice and without acknowledgment. Blackening my face plays into the faceless dehumanization. I feel passionately about domestic violence and my passion is to give a face, a voice and a proclaimed story to those suffering individuals.
  • When we speak, we need to speak with a strong clear voice what we want, what we need, and our message needs to be clear.
    • Blackened profile pictures, send no clear message, only puzzlement.
    • How will the target audience even know what the point of the blackout is unless there is a clear message attached?

As I stated, I applaud and share the passion to bring awareness to domestic violence and in so doing I wish to bring a broader perspective to an issue, that I believe, is sometimes too narrowly categorized and ineffectively publicized.

Our Greatest Need

Last week, I had the opportunity to share a short thought with the congregation regarding one of my favorite verses. My husband helped me put my thoughts into words. The following is what I shared. I hope you gain a blessing from it.

In 1943 Abraham Maslow, a renowned American psychologist, published what has become one of the leading theories of human psychological development. It is known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” In this theory, the first human need after our physical needs are fulfilled, is what Maslow called “Love and belonging.” I think that we could call it Relationship. Every human being, if one is honest with himself, has an innate passionate need for relationship. This characteristic began with God when He said, “Let us make man in our image…” I believe that was a statement of relationship…a God that wanted relationship with His creation. Relationship is bilateral. It goes two ways. He created that very same desire within each one of us.

Throughout the millennia, that desire has remained. Sin has not erased the need that we have for relationship. Nor, has it erased the desire that our God has for relationship with us. There are many verses that have become precious to me over the years, but one to which I am particularly drawn is Genesis 3:9. It’s a short phrase and may be seemingly insignificant, but for me it has great meaning. “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”

Think about that! Adam and Eve had just discounted God’s love for them. They had doubted His benevolence and good will toward them. They had believed the lie. They had slapped Him in the face. But God, didn’t change his behavior toward them. Even though they had committed great offence toward God, He moved toward them in love. He sought them out, even in their sin.

How often as a child, young adult, and even as a wife and mother when I am angry and have perhaps behaved hurtfully, down deep in my heart I desperately desire someone to come to me and “know my heart” to seek me out, even in my darkness and sin? God did that for Adam and Eve. And He does that for me.

But not only do the words of God, “Where are you?” speak hope to me, they serve as an example of how I should treat others. The natural human heart, when wounded recoils from that which offended it. We naturally withdraw from our spouses, our children, our parents or our friends when we feel offended or hurt by them. But God’s example teaches us to seek them out. The words, “Where are you?” is packed full of other questions. “What’s going on with you?”, “What is the matter?” “What made you act that way?” It is an invitation for dialogue—an invitation to open your heart.

Putting the offense against God aside, and looking from the perspective of Adam and Eve, we see humans full of shame, regret, fear, and perhaps loneliness. Knowing the need of the human heart, it was in this condition that God came seeking them. He didn’t wait for them to “straighten up”. Because frankly, they were incapable.

In this season of Thanksgiving…a season of family and friends, I am so thankful first of all for a Father God that seeks us out, even in our mess, and secondly for an example of how I should behave toward others in my immediate family, my larger church family, and even to those people with whom I come into contact outside those spheres. To whom is it that I can purposely and meaningfully ask “Where are you?”

Caged Bird

I love to collect bird cages in my office.  My young clients will often circle the office counting them.  I have a couple on the window ledge and several on the walls.  Many people often ask why I don’t put birds in my bird cages.  The answer to that question lies in my favorite poem.

Caged Bird
by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
And floats downstream till the current ends
And dips his wing in the orange sun rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
And he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream.
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied,
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill,
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

Many times the bars of our own personal “bird cages” are of our own making—our own choices.  Choices to hang on to resentment and an attitude of unforgiveness.  Choices to be selfish and ungracious.  Sometimes the bars are of fear—sometimes simple laziness.  I ask myself every time I read this poem, “Of what are my bars made?” “What changes do I need to become free to soar with the wind” Or, “Am I a caged bird at all?”

When I am caged, I may sing of freedom, but I certainly don’t experience it.  I miss it…that feeling of letting go and flying without guilt or shame, or the heaviness of hanging on to the past.  For me it is not just a onetime solution.  Sometimes, life happens and before I know it I have been captured again and find myself sitting on a perch gnawing at cuttlebone.  (Or a cupcake!)  I have had to gain my freedom many times over and over.

With which bird do you identify?  Are you soaring on the wind, flitting from bush to tree and back again, or are you only dreaming of freedom?  Either way, don’t become complacent.  If you need to, reach out and ask for help.  Search for a new perspective, and do what it takes to unlatch the cage door outside of which is precious freedom.

If you are free of the cage, stay there.  Let be what needs to be let be.  Let go of what needs to be let go.  Live, laugh and love—consciously—and soar.

I want to remind myself, as well as inspire others people to be free.  That’s why my bird cages are empty.

Encouraging Fathers

Fathers’ Day is coming up in a little more than 2 weeks.  And thus, I think it appropriate to talk about fathers. I would like to share some thoughts about fatherhood from a daughter’s perspective.

I remember when I was a little girl, my favorite thing was to get a Bible story book, hide it behind my back and come to my dad with a grin and say, “Guess what time it is?” He would pretend not to know what I was talking about and then I would bring out the book and say, “story time!” He would then read to me with all the voices the stories of Mary and Joseph, Noah and the flood, or Moses in the basket boat. Sometimes he would try to skip parts and I, knowing the books by heart, would protest and remind him not to leave anything out. It was a safe and comfortable time for me, sitting in his lap.

Another favorite memory I have from childhood is singing with my dad while he played his guitar. He has a great voice and he taught me to harmonize. We sang for church many times—me standing on a chair beside him because I was too short to reach the microphone. I loved to sing with him as a little girl, and still do.

Being a school teacher in small one room schools, my dad was my teacher for six years. So we went to school and came home together. When I was in 3rd grade, we lived close enough to the school that we would often ride our bikes to school, but going home was a problem for me because we had to go uphill and my little legs got too tired. So Dad would remove his belt and hook it over my handle bars and holding it with one hand, would pull me up the hill, while still biking and steering his bike with the other hand. It was quite the feat!  He never complained about it. He was my hero!

My dad and I have always been close, but we have had the normal ups and downs that most often characterize father/daughter relationships. We are just alike. It is fun to see our identical idiosyncrasies now, and we often joke about it. But back then, it created a situation that led to the butting of heads many times. I had an independent streak and would throw out strange thoughts and ideas, usually of a religious nature, just to bait him. Every time, he would take the bait and an argument would ensue. I would argue my point, whether I truly believed it or not.  He would try to change my mind. As any good parent is, he was genuinely concerned about me and my spiritual welfare.

Our relationship remained like this for years until it came to a head one afternoon. We argued on the telephone and I hung up on him. He called back in ten minutes and said some important words that I will remember forever. He said, “Sweetheart, I love you and I want to pursue you and treat you in a way that you need, but I don’t know how. Will you teach me? I am willing to learn because you mean so much to me.” Wow! What more can a girl ask for. He was my hero again! Ever since, he has done just that. He has pursued me as his daughter. He tells me he is proud of me. He calls to just talk and not to change me, and by not trying to change me, I change. Amazing!

One day quite recently, we were talking and I told him of my discouragement as a mom. He listened and instead of engaging  in my negativity and telling me what to do, he told me that he had faith in my daughters and that they would grow up to be fine people. He also told me that he believed that I was a good mother and he was proud of me. That did more for me than I have the words to express. Even just writing it down now makes my eyes fill with tears.

So what does it take to be a good father or parent? I have thought about this question a lot from a mother’s standpoint. It doesn’t take being perfect, it takes being present. There is a lot of pressure on fathers and I want to say “Thank you” first of all to my father for being there and for trying so hard to be a good father; second, to my husband for being there every day for my girls and loving them; third, to all of you fathers who are in the trenches right now. Hang in there and realize how important you are. The little things you do and say mean the world—things like:”I am proud of you”, “I will always love you”, “Way to go!”, “Keep trying. You’ll get it”, “You have such a good heart”, “I have faith in you”, “I am sorry”, “Will you forgive me”, “I forgive you”, “I believe in you”, “I believe you” or “I am proud to be your dad.” You may not see the results of your efforts now, but, just as my father’s words and deeds from years ago still means so much to me.  A seed is never wasted unless never planted.  So, I encourage fathers during this Fathers’ Day season to plant seeds of loving and encouraging words and gestures.

Happy Father’s Day!


Relationships: For every action….

I’ve been under the weather this month and have been unable to blog as I had planned.  But, the following is a guest blog written by my wonderful husband.

Today, I want to look at relationships in the context of Newtonian physics.  It’s not a perfect parallel, but the simile should suffice.  In Newton’s third law it is stated “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  What does that mean?  Well, let’s look at some examples:

When you sit in a chair (a good sturdy one!), do you fall to the ground?  No.  Why? Because your gravitational force downward on the chair is opposed by an equal and opposite force upward on you.  Another example…when you drive and your car wheels push backward on the road, the road pushes forward on your car tires, propelling the car forward.   And yet again…imagine a firefly happily flying toward that car and SPLAT!   It hit the windshield.  Now, without going into too much physics here, in the interaction between the car and the firefly there are two forces acting in opposite directions of one another, the car hitting the firefly and the firefly hitting the car. (The poor outcome for the firefly has everything to do with the comparative difference in the size of the two interacting objects.

So what does this have to do with relationships?  Just this:

How many times have you said or done something to your spouse, child, parent, or friend, only to have them suddenly respond in a surprisingly angry and sometimes mean way?  You wonder to yourself, “Where, on earth, did that come from?”  Well, just like in Newtonian physics, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  So, you are thinking to yourself, “In no way, was the reaction I got equal to what I did!”  Well…when this happens, just remember that we each approach relationships with different baggage.  Some people are able to carry that baggage in a purse or hand bag.  Others have to use a backpack.  Still others must utilize the whole trunk of a car, while others still have to have a U-Haul or even an 18-wheeler.  The size of our baggage to a large degree determines the perceived size of oncoming traffic.  On-coming traffic is usually perceived as even bigger than us.  So even though that little word or comment that we throw at someone else, to us seems like just a pedestrian, to the person at which we threw it , it may seem like a Mack truck.  And the reaction will be in kind. So, always remember, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” as determined by the recipient of our words.

The more you lovingly search out, unpack and investigate the backpack, trunk or trailer of that person, the more they may decide that they can throw away.  Maybe you can reduce their baggage down to only that camera, to capture all the wonderful memories you’re making together!

Every Day Romance

Since it is February, and February is the month of Valentine’s Day, it is understandable that my first blog is about love. I have an 18-year old daughter and we talk a lot about love, romance, dating, marriage, boys, and men.  She is at that stage where she is looking at her future and wondering what it might look like. The other day, we were having one such conversation and I began to reminisce about  my own dating relationship with my husband and began to ponder the meaning and definition of “romance.” I used to think romance was all about the candles, music, dancing, and flowers. But after being married for almost 20 years now, I have a different view of “romance.” I now see romance in the ordinary and the “everyday.” My husband is a quiet man. He isn’t one who would just sweep you off your feet with quick words and suave actions, but I think my husband is very romantic. Why? Well, besides being so darn cute, he lives out romance every day.  I have learned that sexy is as sexy does. He always compliments me and says ,”Thank you” for the meals I cook. He washes dishes for me after I have cooked dinner. He tells me I am a good mother. He tells me the truth even when it hurts. He is teachable. He will leave five dollars on the counter for my lunch when he knows I need it. He will sacrifice things for himself to give me something. He sings silly songs. Romance is lived out every day. I remember one Valentine’s day he brought me my favorite bouquet of flowers–not ordinary flowers, but he went and purchased the little porcelain knobs with blue flowers on them, that I wanted for the buffet I was fixing. I loved those knobs. Even when I got rid of the buffet, I kept them. I love practical gifts that don’t go away and he knows that about me. That’s romance. Knowing your partner and showing that you care in their language. He does that very well. There are things he doesn’t do well. He doesn’t plan parties well. We have established this. He will invite 20 people over with only one small fruit pizza to feed them. But even then, there is an element of romance, since the party was for my birthday and we can now share a good laugh about it. But He is very good at the practical, every day, love and romance, and to me, what more can a girl want? That is the kind of romance that will hold you for the long term.

So, when I am talking to my daughter about romance, I tell her to learn to see romance in the “every day” because it is there.

I’d love to hear how you see romance in the “every day.”  Let me know. (Please keep it Rated G)