Good Friday

“NO!   Death FIRST!”

It doesn’t even phase my family anymore when we drive by the Christian school in our town, and I shout those words.  Their marquee has read, “He is risen!” for weeks.

 

Today, I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed today musing that somehow or another even Good Friday has become a Meme.  How can the event that caused such a totality of darkness become Meme fodder?  “Sunday’s coming,” so say the memes.

And it’s true.  It is….

But first.  First….

 

The Death of Jesus

(Psalm 22:1-31; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)

45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,f lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”g

47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He is calling Elijah.” 48One of them quickly ran and brought a sponge. He filled it with vinegar, put it on a reed, and held it up for Jesus to drink.

49But the others said, “Leave Him alone. Let us see if Elijah comes to save Him.”

50When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit.

 

First there was death.  First the light of the world was extinguished.  There was darkness.

I have always struggled with what I was taught growing up–that “God turned his back on Jesus.”  I was comforted by other theologians who believed otherwise.  They explained that “My God, my God why have you forsaken Me?” was simply the first line of Psalm 22 and in a very Jewish way, Jesus was invoking those words…  Words that spoke prophetically about what he was experiencing in that moment and a Psalm that ultimately ended in hope.

 

This year what strikes me as important is this:  Perhaps Jesus felt like he had been forsaken. I don’t want to turn my back on Him in that by reassuring myself.

 

At 38 years old faith has been a full out wrestle for a long time.  I am not sure how to approach these events of Holy Week except to know that they are Holy.

But still, I yell, “Death First,” when I see “He is Risen,” during Lent before Easter has arrived…

Because the darkness needs a minute. 

 

We are a people who rush people to their happy endings.  We can’t rush this story.

God died.  The creator incarnate breathed His last.

The world quaked.  Darkness covered the land.

The people standing there scoffed at his ending

Or despaired

Because

Hope Himself…

Died.

 

For 3 days that was the end of the story.

 

Yes, Sunday is coming.

But it’s not here yet.

 

On my “Fridays,” on the darkest days…  On the days when hope seems to have breathed Her last, I don’t need people rushing me to a happy ending.  I don’t want people asking me to “see the bright side.” I can’t stand people telling me that “It all happened for a reason.”

I need people who pull up a chair next to me

And simply…

Feel the darkness.

 

More than a Meme….  More than a hastily issued, “Sunday’s coming,” Good Friday to me is that.

May you be brave enough today and on the Fridays you encounter (whether your own or someone else’s) to pull up a chair and feel the Darkness.

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To Hell and Back

 

Remember the movie What Dreams May Come?  I was always struck by the power of Chris journeying through Hell to bring someone he loves back.  That has been an image of the highest form of love for me since I first saw the movie.

I never thought I’d have the chance to make such a journey myself.

If you ask the parent of a kid with OCD what they said when they first got the diagnosis, almost to a person the answer will be, “Have you seen my kid’s room?  They CAN’T have OCD!”

This is because OCD is so terribly misunderstood in our culture.  It’s thought of as that disorder that people have when they want things to be clean and organized.  “That’s the handwashing thing, right?” we hear a lot.

Ordering and hand-washing are often part of OCD, but they are far from the totality of the disorder.

A fuller picture would have to include how debilitating it can be–how it can hijack, not only a person, but an entire family.  It would have to give weight to the fact that hours and days of a person’s life can be lost to obsessions, and compulsions. It would have to include how illogical it is….  How the obsessions that can take over a person’s mind don’t make sense even to her, and yet she can’t ignore them.

It would have to include how terrifying it is when aggressive obsessions or sexual obsessions take hold….  The terror of being a person who believes that you could kill someone just because you didn’t perform a ritual perfectly, or touch something exactly right.  The sticky images that get stuck in a person’s head of her loved ones perishing in a fire. The belief that because you thought that someone would die, that they will.

It would have to include the mental anguish that can make a person want to die to escape the pain.

This is the Hell that is OCD.

I stood in the road one day after my daughter tried to run away.  I was doing all I could to be an immovable force. All she knew was that she wanted to escape.

When you are 11 and you want a feeling to stop sometimes the only words you can come up with are, “Mama, I just want to die.”

And then, because OCD is OCD those words can be followed by terror.  Terror that because you said them, because you thought them, that you will die.  

This happened to my daughter over and over again.

~~~

We arrived at IOP after over 4 years of treatment.  For so many people the journey of OCD treatment includes seeing counselors and psychologists who don’t know enough about OCD to treat it skillfully.  We were lucky that pretty quickly into our journey we found an expert and he kept seeing us each time OCD crept up to a level that was unmanageable. Over four years in, the cycles of crisis were coming closer together and he leveled with us–this is going to need Intensive Treatment.  You should consider a Residential Treatment Facility. That took our breath away.

A few months and another round on the crisis cycle later and he said, “She could be part of our Intensive Outpatient Program.  I think that could be our best shot.” And so we signed on.

Andy was gone on a boat when I formally told Dr. Wiegand that we wanted her to attend the IOP.  The IOP was kind enough to wait for him to return before my daughter started attending. We determined that the drive from Oak Harbor to Seattle was too difficult to do every day on top of the exposure homework my daughter would need to do.  Dr. Wiegand and a social worker on base helped us to figure out lodging options. In the end we split time between two facilities that serve families enduring medical treatment.

It turns out, there are a lot of logistics to nail down before you start a journey to hel

~~~

If you pressed me to sum up IOP in one phrase the words would be “Upside Down World.”  The first week we were there kids were saying swear words and sex organs out loud multiple times a day as part of their homework.  Kids were asked to do homework and tests in highlighters, to break rules, to lie, to eat food off of toilets and shower floors, to forego handwashing.  Kids watched horror movies, and scary TV shows.

We began celebrating the oddest things, “My daughter went 5 days without showering this week!”  We all cheered. Then we looked at one another and laughed.

We deconstructed our parenting.  To a person each of us had seen our child go through intense distress and as a parent all you want to do when your child is in intense distress is to make it go away.  Unfortunately, often our attempts to do that make OCD grow bigger instead of smaller. We learned to withhold reassurance. We stepped back and watched our kids, many of whom were screaming, yelling, and sobbing for extended periods, contain their own explosive emotions.

We unlearned what all the parenting experts had taught us and what all of our maternal and paternal instincts had led us to do for so long.

And our kids?  Our kids fought like hell.  They did an assessment at the beginning of the program and ever 4 weeks after, that allowed the therapists to essentially catalog their worst fears.  Then, they methodically faced them. Each child would take on the things that caused the most distress, one by one, and learn to sit in the discomfort to “Ride the Wave,” as the therapists explained it.

I don’t know many adults who have catalogued all of their fears and methodically faced them.  But my 11 year old did.

Don’t get me wrong, the IOP program tries to make this process as fun as they can.  We spent large parts of every day clapping and even laughing. OCD is absurd and laughing about that absurdity can be healing.  The kids in the program realized they weren’t alone and they realized they had other people fighting alongside them. The parents found the same to be true.

I realized quickly I was part of an elite club–the club of parents who HAD moved heaven, hell, and earth to help their child find healing and wholeness.  The club of parents who would literally follow their child to their darkest hell and then journey out of that darkness beside them. It’s important to note that my “Where Dreams May Come” analogy breaks down in a significant way.  In the movie Chris journeyed to hell and brought his wife out. In this OCD IOP treatment reality, parents journey with their kids to hell and then watch THEM claw, and scrape, and crawn, and eventually stand up and walk out on their own.  We are merely companions.

~~~

In a few hours, my daughter and I will go to our last day of treatment at IOP.  My daughter will listen to the words of those who have traveled with her, and those who have been her guides: the amazing therapists who taught her the skills, who sat with her, cheered her on, and helped her believe that within her was a force so powerful that it could shout down even her most relentless demons.  Then she will take us on a journey. She will walk us through what she has experienced over the last 13 weeks.

We’ll eat cake.  We’ll laugh a lot.  And then we’ll go home.

I can’t tell you what an honor it is, what a JOY it is, actually, to emerge from this day having journeyed with my daughter to the darkest regions of her mind.  I can’t tell you how proud of her I am–how teary, blubbering cliche Mom I am when I look at her.  

And if I’m honest, while I tell you that, I’ll also tell you this.  I’m proud of myself too. I am proud that I was willing to journey to hell with my daughter.  I am proud that I was willing to unlearn what I had always known about parenting. I am honored to have put syrup on my hands, and read scripts, and stood beside her as she fought each and every one of her fears.  

We are warriors she and I, and today we taste victory.

 

 

Porch of hearts

I woke up this morning and read the headline about the shooting at the Synogogue in Pitsburgh. All I wanted to do was to pull up a chair on the porch of my friends who are Jewish so that I could cry, or rage, or be quiet with them. I wish they could know that essentially that’s what my heart did all day.

I feel like that’s where I am on a lot of the world this weekend. There is so much pain and chaos swirling. There is so much hatred being legitimized and stirred. There are false fears being stoked which are making real fears into reality.

And I don’t know what to do except to pull up my chair and sit with those whose hearts are shattered by it.

So many of my friends are in the Christian community, and so many of my friends are white, and straight, and I think for us it can feel like not much changes in the day to day. But for people who don’t look like us, or pray like us, and for people who are in the LGBTQ community, the things that are happening today aren’t just talking points or rhetoric. They are threats. They are real, tangible, terrifying things that are turning their worlds upside down. Some of what is doing that is straight up policy from our government right now. And some of it is language and actions that have been not just tacitly accepted by looking the other direction but actually encouraged over the last few years. Our friends are hurting. We talk about mourning with those who mourn and weeping with those who weep. Now is the time.

And after that “now,” comes the part where we go beyond thoughts and prayers and act. We vote. We write to our representatives. We engage in conversations that might change the way we view the world. We listen.

Friends, I am pulling up my chair and sitting on your porch. I will weep, or rage, or sit in silence with you. And I will stand with you and for you in all the ways I know how to as well.

Dear Navy–They Say It’s Your Birthday…

In all seriousness, to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Navy, I am so grateful to you and I celebrate YOU everyday–not just today. Thank you for the sacrifices you make, thank you for the work you do, thank you for the living conditions you cheerfully (most of the time) endure, and know that even with this heavy dose of snark, my love for YOU ALL is boundless.

With that said, my slightly snarky salty Navy wife message on the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Navy:

Dear U.S. Navy,

How about we hold off on celebrating your birthday in person for a few months because “A Day is just a Day on the calendar!” after all? I’m sure we’ll be together next year… or maybe the year after that??? Hrrm…, Well… I guess we’ll just have to see….

I’m sorry you didn’t get the birthday care package I mailed you. It must have gotten lost in the mail or damaged when it was being transported out to the ship….

What?! The card isn’t there yet either? Give it another month or two. I guess the mail system just hasn’t caught up to where you are in the ocean yet…

And the happy birthday email didn’t go through? Oh, silly me. I guess coms are down AGAIN and you all have gone dark at just the *wrong* time. I know how that feels…

How about this… . the next time you are in port, we’ll light some candles on a cake and show it to you via pictures on Skype or Facebook video. No you won’t actually be able to taste, or touch, or smell the cake, but “We get to Skype all the time,” and that makes it all better, after all!

Since these celebratory days are so fluid, I hope you’ll understand that we just have to keep a stiff upper lip, put on our big girl panties, and “keep calm and carry on!”

After all… that’s what Navy families do…..

Dear Parents,

Dear friends who are parents:

You are rocking it. We live in a society that is hell-bent on telling parents just how wrong they are doing it, how dangerous and harmful every choice they make is, and how the downfall of society lies squarely on the shoulders of the current crop of parents at the helm.

Every time I look around I see parents putting it all on the line for their kids. I see parents who are praying and sitting through the heartache of pain as they fight for their child in some way or another. I see parents doing research into the wee hours of the morning that makes them able to be an expert on their child and to advocate for them with wisdom and clarity.

I see parents making educational choices that are right for their kid whether that’s public school, homeschool, or private school.

And I see parents who are exhausted, tired, frayed around the edges, and just need a break who nevertheless say–It’s all worth it for these little people that I love.

I spent a few minutes this morning reading through one of “Those Facebook Threads” where people come from all angles to shame and berate parents. And I just couldn’t disagree more.

The parents I see every day CARE SO MUCH and TRY SO HARD and do both in a landscape of pressure and few concrete answers.

And for once, I wish that was seen.

So I am seeing it. And saying it. And putting it here today.

We are rocking it. And the people we are raising will change this world for the better because of it.

Dear Girlie,

Your psychologist says that I can’t hug you or calm you when you are in the middle of an anxiety event or attack.

What I know you don’t understand is that is probably the most counterintuitive thing that could ever be asked of me.

I know that you need to come to know from the inside out that YOU are a formidible foe for your anxiety.  I know you need to know that you have the power within yourself to ride out the storm of OCD and anxiety.

I know that when I hold you and calm you that I complete a feedback loop that reinforces the anxiety meltdown and convinces you that *I* am the only thing that can fix it.

But that’s just the thing.  I desperately WANT TO fix it.  I desperately want you to be ok.  I desperately want to put together the broken pieces for you.  I desperately wish that I could trade places with you and let the storm fling hail and wind and rain down on my back instead of yours.

It is really hard to give the control to you…  even though I know I never really held it in the first place.  I trust you little girl.  I trust you to be able to do this…  But I still want to protect you from it.  I still want to take on the pain for you.

This disease, this terrible disease.  It twists things for all of us.  I was telling my best friend how desperately I hate the thought that by my impulse to take it on for you I am making things worse.  I was telling her that I hate any hint that any of this could be my fault.  That by comforting you…  which is what a Mom is SUPPOSED to do when her child is coming apart was somehow the wrong thing.

And she said–that’s the disease.  It’s NOT the wrong thing to do.  Unless it is feeding the OCD.  Its the disease that’s twisting things.  It is the OCD that is at fault.  Not me…  and certainly not you.

I think it is one of the things I hate most…  The way things are twisted.  The way they must look.  The messages that I worry you get from it.

I don’t ever want you to think that your feelings are unacceptable.  I don’t ever want you to believe that you need to go elsewhere and not be aroud me when you are hurting.

I worry that this road will eventually lead to residential treatment…  And it’s the same sort of terror.  I worry that you will think I am abandoning you when you need me most.  I worry that you will see me walking away and not have any concept of how deeply that will hurt me….  In the end it will be more my pain than yours as it WILL be part of your healing, but it will always be the day I left my baby to a system I coudln’t be part of.

The primary way I try to support the people I love is by simply being with them in their pain…  but instead I’m told not to comfort.  Instead I’m told to go to another room.  I’m told not to reassure.  “Are you mad at me Mommy?”  “That’s the OCD talking, I can’t answer that.”  “Can I have a hug, Mama?” “When you get to the other side of the anxiety wave, I’m here, babe.”

It is growing us both.  It is stretching us both.  We are both learning new ways to show up and do our pieces.

But don’t for a second think, baby girl, that I want to do anything but be right next to you in your pain.  Don’t for a second  think that I don’t accept you–all of you. In your anxiety, in your fear, in your sadness, in your anger, and yes in your joy, your content, and in your victory over challenges.

Don’t for a second think that I am not on your side.  Always.

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

Breath

Five hours of driving.  Hushing the kiddos.  Tired of the drive and the feeling of the road beneath us. Just ready to get there.

The fog is thick when we arrived.  We dropped off our bags, inspected the place where we were staying and then, we headed to the beach.  It’s why we’d come after all.

There is the usual Mama goading as we wander along, and pick our way down the path.

And then we were there.  The sand beneath our feet.  The wind rustling through our hair.  The waves crashing in.

Immediately I noticed it.

I could breathe.  I breathed deeply, in and out.  I breathed and I sighed and something deep inside welled up and overflowed and without knowing exactly why my eyes brimmed with grateful tears.

Deep breaths, deep luxurious breaths.  The tension in my shoulders begins to unwind.  My hands unclench, unfurl.

Four days.

The sea was different each day.  The wind whipped mist off the backsides of the waves one day with the backdrop of a clear, blue sky.  The fog rolled in and out.  The sun shone.  And the last day it was rainy and cold and almost oppressive.

But I could breathe.  I uncoiled.  The lightness was effortless.

The weight was lifted.

I could BE.