Sunday, April 14, 2013
The path to healing was a challenge thought. The physical was one thing, but it was figuring out the emotional that was hard.
It was a journey I kept mostly quiet. My d-group girls knew and I would be able to go with them when I had hard nights. But almost immediately, I found out that one of my girls had been struggling with self-injury. So as I was on this journey--I would wake up in the middle of the night to find her by my bed giving me a guitar pick or safety pins that she was tempted to injure herself with. I was woken up to be given gloves because she was going to hide the scars if she hurt herself with them. And I could go on. So I still had to be strong. We went through a school year like that.
Then something happened. I was on camp teams. We got to our first week of camp--which was interesting to say the least. We dealt with things that normally don't come up (not that they don't happen). That week with 40 high school students we talked about every subject you can think of--because they asked questions: sex, abuse, self-injury, addictions, family problems, etc. And one night, it was my turn to lead campfire. I took Jeremy aside and told him we would talk after campfire. And in front of those 40 campers, I told my story of self-injury. I told my story of pain, of how the church hurt me. I told them how one of my best friends sat across from me and had no idea I was injuring myself...and how that was the last time I hurt myself. As campfire finished, I had a hard conversation. I told one of the members of my team, he was the one who had no idea I was sitting across from him while I injured myself. That night I told 40 high school students that they were brave--that they were taking off their masks during that week of camp--something that was painful and took a long time for me to do. That summer, I told hundreds of students my story. I talked to countless girls about self-injury. I talked to countless girls about church hurts--because that is where the self-injury stemmed from. I allowed my mask to come off and I ministered through it.
But as I read though other blogs, I know I am not alone. They echo my heart. "But despite it all, I still love the church. Every single beautiful, complicated, and broken part of her."
"Yet, for all that I don’t understand, I do know this: Jesus is the only answer to the brokenness. Rejecting the Church will not heal the pain. Harboring bitterness will not heal the pain. Denying these stories will not heal the pain. Only Jesus can."
But, is it easy? No. In a little over a week, it will be 8 years since 6 men decided to start a journey which just this week I have been able to define spiritual abuse. They used their authority as elders to make decisions that they felt were right for my family. They told people to not help us. The spread gossip about our family and tried to tarnish our family name in the community. And it is no longer a hourly, or daily, or even a weekly struggle to forgive. In fact, I have forgiven those men.
But some days are still hard. As the man who stood and told our church--our family--that he had to ask his best friend to step down as senior minister of the church and lied to us and told us we had to move from our house (the parsonage) within two weeks (after we had been told we would be given time) steps across the counter from me at Chick-fil-A and asks me how I am doing, I sometimes struggle. Most days are okay, some days I feel like I am going to fall apart. And I just wish I had somebody to tell me it is okay--that I don't always have to be strong.
My physical scars from my self-injury behaviors have faded, but the emotional scars are still there.
Here is the thing.
I am not bitter.
I have forgiven.
But healing takes time.
I don't know how long it will take. I wish I did. I hope that the date April 25 will someday be easier. But for now this is what I know: God loves me. God has given me a ministry--and year after year goes by, I will use my story and my experiences to minister. I will not lose heart.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The self-injury came in stages. It was never bad by most standards--I was too scared of what would happen if people found out. It was my way of dealing with all the emotional pain. In Kern's book she writes, "If you've bought into the secretive nature of self-injury, you might find that you're left without the support you desperately need. God designed people to be in relationships, not only with him, but also with others. It's often within relationships, not in isolation, that he does his most awesome healing work."
I had been hurt, trust had been broken. I would walk up and overhear conversation--some even had the courage to ask me to my face if either of my parents had been unfaithful and that is why the church had asked my dad to resign. We had to move 3 times between the end of my sophomore year of high school and graduation--another two times before I was half way through college. I had to experience nights with no electricity, go home wondering if food would be on the table or in the fridge even, starting the school year without school supplies. And in the middle of all of that, I was told by "friends" that I should be over everything. I shut down. I fell into isolation. I didn't have support. My parents were dealing with enough on their own.
But then came one night my freshman year. I had gone to Family (our Wednesday night, student led chapel) and just couldn't stay. I went to my room and saw a friend on chat--and without thinking simply asked this question: "Is it okay to be mad at God?" The answer was immediate. "Yes, but you have to tell him why." This started a path toward healing. I had a friend who cared. We talked about free-will. Why good things happen to bad people. If it was God's plan for my life to be turned upside down. He taught be that people do care.
Fast-forward about a year to half-way through my sophomore year. I had been promised a position as a Dining Supervisor. In a decision that didn't then and still doesn't make much sense I wasn't given it. (A semester later I did become a supervisor). I was told in the middle of a cashier shift--a shift where I got to put a smile on my face and get through. I could see the reflection of the supervisors -my friends--who had passed me up for the position and given it to somebody else (who also was and still is a friend) watching me. That night, I talked to one of them and sitting two feet away from a guy I trusted and respected (and is today one of my best friends) I hurt myself enough that I started bleeding--scars that took a couple years to fade. I had trusted this group of people--these friends--and that trust was betrayed. That night I went to my D-Group. As a leader I sat down with these freshmen girls on the stage in our chapel, took off my gloves and showed them my hands. We talked about the heart of the matter. They learned my life story. We talked and cried for hours (until we were kicked out at curfew). That was the last time I intentionally injured myself.
To be continued.
Monday, March 18, 2013
I am reading the book Scars that Wound: Scars that Heal: A Journey Out of Self-Injury by Jan Kern. It is one that I have had on my reading list for a while. I have picked it up multiple times, but it is a hard read. It is hard because I can put a face on the stories. People I know, people I have helped, in some cases, myself.
This is how the book starts:
"You've picked up this book, so you probably have self-injured or you know someone who does. You're not alone. Many have turned to hurting themselves in some way in order to deal with the hard stuff in their lives.
If you self-injure, I hope that in these pages you'll discover--especially through Jackie's true story told here--how much God wants to be involved in your unique story. A story in which you can begin to head in a new direction out of self-injury and closer toward him.
Your reasons for wanting to hurt yourself and the pain and history behind it matter. Don't believe for an instant that no one would possibly care. God does, and he will help you find others who care too."
My story. Monday, April 25, 2005. My sister had a track meet at Owen Valley, Lindsey set the hurdle record for the first time that season, I went to Young Life with some friends on back roads--it was Cowboy Club. Emily eventually showed up and when we got home we found Jim talking in the parking lot with mom. There had been an elders meeting. The elders had asked my dad for his resignation. He refused. They fired him. The weekend before had been prom and we showed off Emily's dress to some of the leaders who had followed us home. I walked back in the house and down the stairs. I walked into the office to ask Dad why Mom was talking to Jim...I saw the printer...ministry listings from Lincoln. I knew the format. I was then told what happened. As I screamed and ran toward the stairs, I hit the stairs and collapsed and cried. It was a late night. Homework didn't get done. We were told we couldn't tell anybody, but my parents made a few exceptions for friends not from the church.
That starts my story with self-injury. The following day I was cornered in the hall by youth group kids, the elders had gone home and told their families--they had told their friends. I was asked why my dad was abandoning the church. As I sat in band and cried into my saxophone, I didn't know what to say. The facts were simple. The reality was hard. As Kern writes, "The need to talk is there, but you may feel like no one wants to listen. Confusion slithers its way in when people try to change what you feel or what you remember and make your feelings seem like nothing. They don't understand, or they aren't sure how to handle your emotions....The silence brings yet another pain that's difficult to overcome--shame. Your thoughts and emotions seem unacceptable to others, so how could they understand why you hurt yourself? Shame is at least partly what turn your self-harm into a secret that you hide under long pants and sleeves."
I was smart enough to not get caught. I didn't feel like I had anybody to turn to. I was repeatedly told that my friends didn't have time for me. Until I got to college...
To be continued.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Here are some thoughts I gathered from other blogs and my take on them:
- They want on-going feedback and coaching. We currently have one young women working for us who when she is communicated with us or we give her goals, meets and exceeds them. However, if she is not talked to in a day (she has a position where she mostly works by herself) then her job performance suffers. It is an ongoing debate whether or not we need to encourage her on a daily basis or if we should expect her to just do her job. I like encouraging her to do her best. It takes me 10 seconds as I walk by to give her the boost she need. Then every week or so she comes to me and asks if she is doing better--I am honest and give her things she can work on and things she has done great at.
- They like transparency at work--they want a community. This is one that having a ministry degree (and working on another one) is huge to me. I know personally I thrive in community. Knowing that somebody cares enough to sit and ask me how my day is, or having a team leader who can look at me and send me at texts telling me that he knows I am having a bad day and what to do to help fix it means the world to me.
- They see the workplace as flat--they want the best idea to win. This is something that is a struggle at our store at time. There are times that one of my high school team leaders has a great idea, but I have to launch it to our director team because the team leader won't be heard. After I launch the idea I give credit where it is due (because I have an AWESOME Hospitality team and amazing leaders) and sometimes the best idea should win.
- They expect to switch careers. This means that we need to prepare them the best we can while we have them and know that it is a launching pad. At our store, besides myself and my operator, I am the only leader that plans on staying long-term. That isn't bad--it is just how it is. Now, the other leaders at my store are invested and plan on staying for the near future, but their dreams are beyond what our store can offer in the long run--for instance, one of the guys I work with wants to be an operator some day, he can't very well be an operator when we already have one. His heart is also for a different market--and that is great, but for now he is committed to Bloomington.
- They want advice from those older. Many in this group want a mentor. They want somebody who has already lived life, who can help them through the decisions they need to make. I understand that, I have been praying for a mentor for years. It is about having somebody who will pour into you, who can understand when you have problems and help you talk through them, even if they can't fix them. It is about doing life together.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
A HPLT focuses on results, selects and grows talent, helps build skills, and creates community.
Chick-fil-A defines 6 Characteristics of HPLT's as the following:
- Talent--are leaders growing?
- Accountability--capture action items
- Community--strategic and intentional; it is about "doing life together"
- Remarkable Results
Monday, March 11, 2013
- Be Constant and Predictable--but Surprising. Flying off the handle and overreacting to a situation is not good, being constant in the hard things--discipline, communication, etc is important but be surprising in encouragement and rewards.
- Be Intentional--language matters, placement matters, consistency matters.
- Be a Connector. Help team members create a strategy for connecting to others and help them trim the excess in their lives that get in the way of them connecting where they need to be.
- Help People Transition. For me, I work with a lot of high school and college students. A lot of my job is about helping them transition well from high school to college. They are leaders among their peers and the people who will one day be leading the workforce. Helping them transition through areas of their life and through different positions in our store is important.
- Serve your team members and along side your team members. This can be in different environments and contexts. Think about service opportunities outside of your normal environment.
- Invest. Value and believe in your team. Help them create a foundation for the rest of their life. Be realistic with expectations and give them time to learn.
- Build a Community. Live life. Give mutual respect. Seek to understand their life and what they are going through. Have consistent communication. Leave no gaps where things are able to fall apart.
- Provide Accountability. Give goals and tools to help team member meet those goals.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Some days it's really hard to be vulnerable. It's easy to put my mask on and let people know what I'm really thinking. Today was one of those days today I didn't even mean it to be.
My mask something that is really hard to take off. Few people know who I really am. They don't know the scars, they don't know the past, they don't know my struggles, they just know who I am now. They don't try to figure out why I am the way I am.
And that is hard.
Tonight was hard. And missed being able to walk down the hall and just go sit in a chair in the room of a friend and cry. I missed being able to walk down the hall and just know that somebody was willing to listen. I miss those crazy, intense, awesome, unpredictable, unconditional relationships.
But years and miles later those are still the relationship that keep me going.
Pulling on Audrey's too small for me sweatshirt.
Remembering that time that I sat down and in a strange room for open dorms and left with a best friend.
Knowing that I could send a text and get a response.
That is what keeps me going...that is what keeps me fighting.