Crisis Line

 

Like many people I spent Sunday watching the Academy Awards.  I have a love/hate relationship with this show, but some how they manage to keep me engaged for more than 3 hours.  One commercial after another, I hang in there anticipating the award of Best Picture.  Somewhere buried in the middle of the Oscars they gave the award for Best Documentary.  I am not a documentary watcher, these days I look to comedy to bring the medicine of laughter to life.  This category however, caught my attention.

The nominees were read and I made my private vote.  I had a feeling and sure enough they picked my movie, "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. This little film documented Crisis Hotline employees manning phones to save the lives of a vets considering suicide.  Today I watched it.  With resounding calm the individuals took calls of veterans holding on to a string of hope as they contemplated taking their lives.  Desperation, exhaustion, had overtaken their once vibrant bodies on alert to protect their life and the lives of those they loved. The conversations were empathetic and compassionate but not overly emotional.  Peace and breath eased through the lines.  Phrases like “I’m not going anywhere”, “I’m going to call you back”, “help is coming”, “you are doing a good job” were spoken with love and sincerity.  

It made me think, in this life we are here to be the hotline, the stretcher bearers, the search and rescue for anyone God has placed in our path. Wounds deep or light barely scraping the soul, wounds temporary or long standing, it doesn’t matter. We are here to be givers of such love and at the same time, we need to prepare ourselves to be receivers, the harder of the two roles.

There up on the stage the director and producer gripped their Oscars.  Ellen Goosenberg Kent said, "We want them (the Vets) to know it's brave to reach out for help.”  It’s brave to find a safe place to be vulnerable, to decide not to walk your pain alone.   There is no shame in asking but we think there is, that somehow we look weak and incapable.  But nothing is further from the truth.

 Today consider the help you need no matter how big or small and then ask for it.   Or today, no matter how big or small, offer your help to someone in need of you.   

 
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The Bnote Speaks

I remember the moment clearly. We were all sitting in the living room grieving together the news of our beautiful boy, each sharing our thoughts and sadness when a comment was made that struck us all. 

 

“Beau’s story isn’t over, it has only begun.”

 

You see the Bnote family always knew Beau was created for greatness and that his life would be a testimony and have the ability to make a difference. We all envisioned this happening while he was living but the thought occurred to us that Beau still WAS created for greatness and his story could move mountains even in his death. So…in a matter of a few minutes the Bnote was created. 

 

The people in that room all knew this had to happen, it NEEDED to happen and so it did. Sometimes when you step out in obedience to what God is telling you, you don’t have a clear direction but we trusted. We knew. 

 

With the help of many friends and family a website was created in a matter of days, branding was clearly thought out and perfected and the message was there. Again, we trusted. The Bnote was then launched during Beau’s celebration for life. Hundreds of Bnotes were created and tied together with gift cards to send out into the community. Each person who attended the celebration of life was given these cards and a challenge. Keep one for yourself and give one to someone else. The message of the Bnote needed to be heard. A smile spread across our faces as we watched Beau travel back out into the world into spaces unknown. 

 

With each passing month after Beau’s celebration of life, the Bnote family met frequently to discuss the vision of this organization and perfected the mission. Overtime, we grew closer. 

We had the opportunity to discuss the purpose of the Bnote in small group settings, to individuals and peers. Then we were encouraged to speak publicly.  

 

Even though most of us in the Bnote family work in education and feel comfortable speaking in front of people, this was something we were all of little weary of. This was different. Of course, we all knew that Tyler {Beau’s brother} would be the one to speak if it ever came to that. When hearing this Ty would just shake his head and say “my brother was always good at putting me in uncomfortable situations.” 

 

Well that is exactly what happened last Tuesday evening. 

 

The Bnote was set to speak to one of the largest college groups in town called the Compass Collective. There can be up to one hundred students who attend to hear the messages and the anxiety quickly grew. The Bnote family met frequently before the speaking date to perfect the message and give a clear, concise vision of the Bnote in a matter of thirty minutes. 

 

The night arrived and the Bnotes were printed and ready to hand out. The message had been perfected and again, we trusted. We prayed for confidence for Tyler and that Beau’s story would continute to teach us all about love and compassion for ourself and others. 

 

It. was. amazing. 

 

Watching the event unfold, I couldn’t help but think about that moment in the living room where we knew Beau’s life could make a difference. Boy was it evident that evening. God was right and we were so glad we trusted in Him.

 

We always knew there was a reason for theBnote and that night we felt it. 

 

 

*If you are interetsed in having the Bnote speak, you can contact us via our email at hello@thebnote.org

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Priceless

The other night I drove to the coast. I had made a decision that had caused me a great deal of pain and I entertained the punishment I thought I deserved for hours. Although I told myself it wouldn’t be helpful to beat myself up about it, I began to rehearse words of shame,“ Now you did it, how stupid are you?” The phrases flew through my brain like fireworks, searing my heart. When I arrived at my destination, I walked into a roomful of colleagues. I caught the eye of a friend. We walked out to the deck and there in the quiet with a fresh breeze blowing, I decided to speak my pain. I spoke without taking a breath then silence sat, honoring my bravery. At the right moment, my friend spoke words like “I understand, I’m here, I’ll be right beside you and you aren’t alone” instead of words like “what were you thinking, why did you do that”? I had confessed thoughts of my perceived nothingness, my foolishness and in return heard there was nothing further from the truth. I was special, cared for, loved, normal, accepted and sane. I love my friends that allow me to be so courageous, who love me because I am willing to show my hand. Friends who remind me that when people act crazy, I too should offer compassion. I love that they are trustworthy.

I recently read, trust allows for vulnerability to take place and being vulnerable creates trust. I thought, “who knew?” and at the same time I thought, “of course”. We are not created to go it alone. God tells us he is waiting for us to be vulnerable, to speak our shame, he wants nothing more than to offer forgiveness, to ease our burdens, to say I understand I too walked mountains and valleys of earth and who wants to remind us of how priceless we are. And if that isn’t enough, he has placed people in our lives that can safely hold our moments of shame, creating connections that cease its dangerously corrosive nature. It’s these friends I am thankful for today, my friends who love me because of my vulnerabilities.

Today, say thank you to your Father, friend, family member, whomever you trust to listen as you speak your pain out of its secrecy, shattering shame.

Favorites

His picture should be on the side of a New York skyscraper, his cuteness hanging near the clouds for the world to see. “That is my grandson”, I would say smiling at the bigger than life photo of an incredible 4 year old. I would chuckle and say it again, “that’s my grandson”. But better yet, I get to see him in person. He’s fast, busy, happy and crammed with emotion. His hugs could knock you over. He squeezes me so close and tight that even though there are no words spoken it equates to screaming I love you. During those hugs, the both of us, just for a moment leave earth for the moon! So, the other day, after our hugging ritual, I set him down and asked if he wanted a Popsicle. I held a box brilliantly beaming with primary colors “Orange or Red?” I asked. “Red is my favorite”. “My favorite” is his new phrase. The beauty of his life is played out in the just a few words, “it’s my favorite”. Do you snuggle with you mom? “Yeah it’s my favorite.” Do you play tackle with your dad? “It’s my favorite.” Do you like your bike? “It’s my favorite”. You gotta love that word, favorite for it means, beloved, my chosen, my much loved.

His uncle Beau, had favorites too. Toy accordions, coffee, nachos, white t-shirts and bandanas, this list could be a mile long, changing with the next commercial, or the next conversation. I never had to ask what his favorites were because he bore them like a badge, bright and shiny, in your face. It became so easy to find the next new favorite in his kaleidoscope of likes.

I knew his favorites when it came to things. What I was unable to do is persuade him that he was my favorite; my beloved, that he was favored and wanted by God and that in the end, he should be his own favorite. In the quiet of the night when his favorite things were long put away, if he felt he wasn’t being picked, it seemed he just never believed enough to pick himself.

Our favorites are our part of our distinction, our specialty. So I got to thinking about favorites. Do I know the favorites of my family and friends? Have I taken the time to notice? Have I shown them that I care about what they love? Do my actions scream “I love you; you are my favorite” to my loved ones and myself?

So the rest of this month I am going to find out the favorites of those around me and tuck them away for future moments of surprise and delight while I show them why they are my much loved.

Share with us something that is a favorite of yours.

Wild

I went to see the movie Wild. The story of Cheryl Strayed’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail after the death of her mother and it took my breath away.

I walked out of the theater and into the fresh air, squinting through my headache as the sun bleached any chance of my seeing where I was walking. Sunglasses covered obvious tear stained eyes; protecting me until I made it to the sanctuary of my car. The car door opened and I sat as words, wet and unintelligible rose from my throat like dry heaves. It seems these days I never know when the creep of grief will overtake me. However, this grief was different, more tangible, less flighty, I needed to listen to it.

I needed to resist the pull to go home and make dinner, take the dogs out, load the dishwasher. I needed to resist reverting to the grind of self-preservation wrapped in bows of daily chores and instead lean in and soak up this lesson. I wanted to hang on to this feeling, not try to get over it. This story had somehow connected me with Beau; maybe he would share with me something I had missed that he wanted me to know. Maybe God would speak to me, guiding my next steps with the sureness a Savior. Listen, I told myself. And so I did.

In silence I rewound the story of Cheryl Strayed in search of the voice that was speaking only to me. In the end it was the vastness of her world that enticed me, the space in the wilderness where she could scream without notice, pain she could ponder in the quiet, love and memories she could replay, beauty absorbed and the time counted in steps, mistakes, sunsets and sunrises, all harrowing yet healing. An ache began to grow in my gut, the ache that is satisfied only by doing what you must. “You must have a journey” were the words spoke boldly to my soul. Ok. So I grappled with where I would go, what exactly would this journey entail? I got nowhere. Then God answered…..”It has already begun”.

Through this raw story I had connected with Beau. I lived the ache that had pulled him out of contact with those who loved him. I saw the dream he carried, to find healing in his own version of a “journey in the wilderness”. That night, through her story, I had walked with him. I observed his steps, his choices, smiles, and his sadness through a distant screen, unable to reach him, but feeling everything. At that moment Beau and I were in tune in ways we had never experienced before. And so I speak to you now my child and I want you to know I understand your pain and the gut wrenching “must” that lived within you. Finally, I get it and may my lesson bless others while God readies me to listen for whatever is next on my journey.

I wrote Cheryl Strayed to let her know I was up for buying her a cup of coffee and I shared with her my deep appreciation for her story, raw and real. We’ll see if we ever share that cup of coffee.

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A Christmas Gift

A Christmas Gift to Myself

Exhaustion, indifference and procrastination hung like a weighted blanket over my shoulders. The usual buzzing of my brain combined with the satisfying lift of a pen crossing off the latest task on my Christmas list felt unattainable. Where was that place in my body where the extra energy was stored? I needed it. Christmas was after all, just a few days away. Christmas, with it’s traditions waiting to be entered into, offering the same but different; the perfect mix of the unchanged with enough variety to keep us all coming back year after year to mold a new memory.

This year was too different. The sickening separation from the child loved had us cocooned by shock slowing down the world and depleting our energy. However, today I decided to take on a piece of the Christmas to do list, wrapping presents. I asked my husband where the gifts were and if he could help me gather the beautiful paper glistening of snowflakes. He shared with some concern that he had already wrapped the gifts in the old green paper that rested under the bed. A visceral, warm, gripping compulsion overtook my body, my words spewed wet and shaking from my mouth, “bring me the presents, I am going to unwrap them!”

So there I sat at the table, presents piled around me. Weeping deep from within, low, loud took the place of traditional sounds of Christmas carols. I ripped each package open making a statement as the pieces of green paper landed on the floor. My daughter walked in just at that moment, I’m sure I appeared absolutely certifiable. Questions, reasonable and sane slowly began to enter my thoughts. “Do you hear me? Can I see myself? What is happening?” Slowing down, I took a breath. It was the wrapping paper and grief. That was the problem. Silence settled in. I began to speak as if for the first time. In the basement of loss I had discovered what this was about. When I wrap, I think about each person, you know how you do when you fold your loved ones clothes after removing them fresh from the dryer, considering the gift of their presence and gratitude for the honor to love them. When I wrapped, I would choose just the right color of ribbon and paper for each person and with satisfaction I would consider, this is a match, this paper and this bow and then I would place it under the tree picturing the smile I will see upon the reveal. It wasn’t just about the paper at all, it was about picturing the person, virtually touching them, hearing their voice and feeling their presence, it was my own personal Christmas ceremony of love played over and over with each gift, a ceremony unconscious, now understood. This is the gift I look forward to giving myself this year and one that had remained unopened until my son took his place in heaven.

No Shame

No Shame

I heard the therapist say, shame is probably the biggest emotion he carries day to day. I didn’t get it then, but now I do. We were both familiar with shame. It had pitched its tent in my heart many times only to stay for a short while. The difference was, shame had moved into his heart like a stronghold.

Over time the silence and secrets of shame hardened like the cast of a statue, where life would stream out for a moment only to be greeted by another stone placed strategically in it’s path. His life began to form it’s own theater. This must have been easier for him, as facing reality meant welcoming and ushering in and out the smorgasbord of emotions that shame kept buried. It was there deep in his soul where unworthiness grew, where God had deemed him whole, yet he believed himself unlovable. In this place, mistakes and his past danced wildly in the shadows, mocking his very being, reminding him of his worthlessness. Now when I look back I can see it, the darkness for what it was, sitting there in silence grimacing back at us all. With it’s lies stripping away life from the inside out.

I am no longer naïve to the work of shame. I have seen it, alive, fighting to threaten lives like on a battlefield. So, I vow to fight back and take control with confidence that God is more than enough, that he sees me and you as whole, no matter our faults, mistakes, and fantastic failures. I will be empathetic with myself and those I love, I will listen, I will seek to understand, I will refrain from judging, I will share my story, I will laugh in the face of rejection, I will welcome guilt and ask for forgiveness for my behavior when necessary, I will seek out safe places to unearth my secrets that feed the sickness of shame. I will approach each day knowing I am enough and so are you. When I step out to make a difference in the world and the nagging question “who do you think you are?” resonates in my head, I will pick myself just as God has. I will rip off the labels that keep the light from streaming through the awesome cracks earned in my imperfect life here on earth. And in these ways I will beat shame at it’s game and really live life.

10 ways to embrace the Bnote message

1. Create a safe space to hold on to, listen understand the story of someone who is ready to share with you. I love the idea of double confidentiality offered in Courage to Lead where no one can talk about the issue again unless the storyteller brings it up. Something you might agree upon or not if you have an opportunity to care for someone in this way.
2. Besides your conversations with God, your most important conversation is with yourself. Speak kindly.
3. When someone is doing something that seems crazy, there is usually a reason, offer compassion.
4. Be aware of the difference between guilt and shame. Simply stated guilt might sound like “I made a mistake”, shame speaks like this, “I am a mistake”.
5. Share a bnote with someone; it’s a great reminder!
6. Pray for someone today and if you are able, take action to love them.
7. Resist accepting the labels others give you or that you give yourself and resist placing labels on anyone else. I love that Pastor Drew said, “give the label maker to the rightful owner, God”.
8. Brene’ Brown shares that shame cannot live in a petri dish full of empathy. Practice empathy.
9. Forgive someone or forgive yourself.
10. Believe that shame is not anyone’s destiny.

Let us know what is your favorite on this list? Or add a way to embrace the Bnote message, there are way more than 10!

The perfect gift of imperfection

My toes caught the vines, causing a slight trip. The next step landed my foot onto a rotten pumpkin, goo eased under my toes and over the top of my sandals. Shaking it off made no difference; like glue, it would stick to me for the remainder of the search. I scrutinized each pumpkin certain I would find perfect one, round faced and beautiful with no flaws. I moved from one to another with no luck. I would spy a beautifully round front, only to roll it over to find the birds had feasted on it or the back was flat, evidence it had laid gazing up at the sky during it’s growing season.

Defeated, I stopped. What am I doing looking for the perfect pumpkin? What is a perfect pumpkin anyway? So I stood still as if soaking in a sunset. Thousands of pumpkins sat quiet, waiting, waiting….It was as if I was there alone in the middle of that field. I heard nothing. In silence I spanned the crop waiting for the one pumpkin to call out to me. Back and forth and further away my eyes explored and then, I saw it, the one.

The pumpkin lived off in the distance. I walked with some effort over vines, wiggling my toes back from the fine prickles that lightly scratched as I maneuvered on my mission. I bent over to pick it up. It displayed a scar across it’s back, pock marks were spattered over it’s side and dirt was dug into the ridges on it’s backbone. It radiated a remarkable color of orange with a twinge of yellow vibrantly seeking its way out. This was it, my perfect match. In the patch of thousands of pumpkins, this is the one that spoke to me.

I lifted from the ground and dusted it off. Out of the stem, vines leaped giving it a sense of whimsy. I walked back slowly, proudly and gently laid it in the wheelbarrow where it became one of many, each different, each a perfect match for the one who chose it. An excellent pumpkin I thought. And after all, excellence doesn’t require perfection and perfect, well perfect is my pumpkin and it’s us, just as we are, flaws and all.

I couldn’t have had a better experience or embraced a more beautiful fall gift, a pumpkin, and a reminder of how perfect is this gift of imperfection.

No words

No words

It was early. The café had just opened. Even still, a line of weary morning coffee drinkers was growing. I sat at the table, readying myself for meeting. How are you? A new acquaintance asked. Fine, I’m good. I began to ramble about all the busyness in my life. I was after all surviving the loss of my child and it was nothing I wanted to bring up. My words flew, rapidly, and impatiently from my head. They grazed by my heart….nothing connected. She wants to know how I am doing, I thought. Nothing more. Slick and fast I spoke. Breathe, slow down. My heart sputtered. Breathe, one word at a time. No, she said, how ARE you? My shoulders dropped, emotion caged, wiggled itself out. After all, emotion had no place staying still; it is a part of me. My heart now connected, not with my head, but with her. Her hand on mine, her arms reached out. And there it was, the knowing hug. She knew. I breathed a sigh of relief, I thought, I don’t have to speak my story, she understands it. My breathing slowed, I don’t have to talk, just to be. Placed in my life that day, she reminded me I was not alone and all with one question and no words. There was no fixing. Just being. Love.