Breaking Patterns

We have cats.  Well actually we were kind of roped into the cat ownership.  Our daughter wanted the cats.  And so, it is her responsibility to take care of the cats.  However that responsibility somehow transferred to mom over the last 6 months or so.

That cat box NEEDED to be changed.  And I decided that I wasn’t going to be the one to change it this time.  So a couple of days ago I asked my sweet baby girl if she would change the cat box.

The pattern for this is I ask her to do something, she says she’s going to do it, I ask a few more times, she doesn’t do it, I get frustrated and angry and end up doing it myself.  We have this pattern.

I ask.. She ignores me

I get mad… She ignores me more

I get madder..I finally clean the litter box.

That pattern has worked for her.

It hasn’t worked so well for me.

She not only skates from cleaning the litter box but now she truly has a reason to question my integrity as I talk the talk about love but clearly haven’t been walking the walk.

 Today was different.  Today I fully EXPECTED to go downstairs and see that the cat box had not been changed. I expected there would be a mess on the floor.  And I was already mad about it on the way down to the basement.

Except she had changed the litter box.

And it hit me.  I was already playing in to the pattern.  I walked down those stairs ready for a fight.  And had she been home, I may have even made the horrible mistake of saying something salty to her before I even knew if she had done what I asked her to do. 

Because that was the pattern.

We do that in life, don’t we?  We get into patterns.  They always do this, so I always react this way.  And we often feel justified in those patterns. Well…if he would just clean his room.  Or if he would just get sober.  And the patterns continue.

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We may even have learned those patterns from our family of origin.  For example yelling, anger and verbal abuse kept us in line.  So we bring that pattern into our own child-rearing.  Somehow we have a great sense of control when we yell or get angry.  So the cycle continues.   Sometimes we have such deeply ingrained patterns that they are pathological.  We don’t even realize that we have them.  They are so normal for us that we don’t even know that they are unhealthy.

The good news is that it’s not ever to late to shift paradigms.  I’ve learned is that WE can be the ones to start to break old patterns that haven’t been working for us and we can be the one to start to develop new patterns.   When we interrupt the pathology of automatic responses things start to change.  When someone expects a typical response and we don’t give them that response, things start to change.

When we start interacting differently with someone.  When we stay calm instead of over-reacting.  When we no longer cry or beg, but offer encouragement instead.  When we pause and think, waiting to respond later in the day or the next day.  When we turn statements into questions or validate a person rather than minimizing their struggles. All of these things change patterns. 

This is how people get better.

This is how families heal.

Our family is getting better.

And the cat box is clean!

  For more information on how you can break family patterns, register today for the Family Recovery Conference. This virtual conference is available 24/7 from the comfort of your home, beginning 3/15/19.

You Are Enough

Yesterday I had a crazy busy day. I had a couple of business meetings, a lunch with one of my persons, someone who is a vital part of my support system. And then I got back and had a couple of crisis phone calls.

And in the midst of that, I dropped a couple of important balls.

Life is like that.

We have full plates that we are trying to juggle. And then stuff happens. And one of the plates get dropped. Or a few of them do. Most of the time for me, the plates that get dropped are the most important ones. Like my husband or my kids or my tribe.

And often, when that happens I lay in bed at night beating myself up. The insecure, frail, vulnerable me wants to be perfect. The voice inside of me that screams “see, you are not enough, you will never be enough” is loud and works hard to drown out the truth. At 56, I still battle almost daily with the feelings that I am not enough. That I have to strive. That I have to “do.” And if I fail, no one will like me. Being “liked” is my drug of choice.

So when I can’t find the truth that is inside me, I have to get the truth from outside of me. The truth that whispers in my ear “you are enough.” The truth that says “I see you. I see you in all your shortcomings. All of your failures. All of the disappointments. And I love you. I love you anyway.”

That is grace.

Walk in grace today my friends.

You are enough.

Copyright @ 2019 Our Marvelous Mess

The Foundation of LIving is Giving

I was reflecting today on the journey that I’ve taken. How just 5 years ago I was at the most broken place I’d ever been. I was literally bleeding out (ok maybe figuratively speaking).

A couple of our kiddos were a hot mess.

I hadn’t gotten off of my chair for months.

I was crying all of the time.

I was failing physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I had hit my bottom and realized that I was not living, I was dying.

I determined with purpose and intention that I was not content with the life that I was leading in that moment.

So what changed? How did the transformation take place?

~ I sought Him first. It says “seek Him first and everything else will be added.” So true

~ I stopped putting my hope in outcomes and determined that I was not going to live circumstantially. I could set my goals, place my dreams before God but the outcomes where not up to me.

~ I let go of all the unrealistic expectations I had put on myself and my family (ok I’m still working on that one).

~ I started to dig into my past and deal with the woundings and the areas where I had wounded.

~ I am purposing to live in a giving way. I was selfish (ok truth be told, I definitely still can be at times). If we hold on to our lives, we will lose them. If we give them away, we will gain everything. I’m not talking about an undboundaried life based on my value being in what I do, who I save or what other people do. I am talking about giving and loving out of the overflow of all that I have been given and all of the love that has been poured into me by God and others.

I know that some of you are in that space today. The space of dying with your loved one. The space of feeling as if your life doesn’t matter. It does. It matters to God and it matters to me. And when you can sit in that truth, that you matter, then you can start giving it away. And that will make all the difference my friend.

That will make all the difference.

Copyright @ 2018 Our Marvelous Mess


Managing the Holidays (when you are affected by addiction)

Let’s face it. The holidays are hard! We have way too much on our plates. We have incredibly high expectations and if we have a loved one who is in addiction, we are bracing ourselves for one disappointment after another. Many of you are dreading the upcoming holiday.

The good news is, that with some preparations and advanced planning. The upcoming holidays don’t have to be a complete disaster.

Here are some strategies that have helped me make Thanksgiving healthy and happy.

- Manage expectations of your loved one: Managing expectations (or better yet, just don't have any). If your loved one is in active addiction you can not expect them to be present. You will only disappoint yourself if you have that expectation.

- Be prepared: If you are willing to have them over to your home, prepare for them to be high and don't expect them to be sober or warm and fuzzy. They may not be capable. They may not show up. And if they do they may not be well behaved. Remember that hurt people hurt people. They are not bad, they are just not well. They are not doing this intentionally. They are doing this because they are exhibiting the symptoms of their disease.

- Make Your Own Fun: Don’t sit at home waiting for them. Get together with others so that you can enjoy all that this holiday has to offer even without your loved one attending.

- Manage Expectations of Others: Do not expect your family members to embrace your loved one if they are using and/or treat them with the same love and trust you have for them. To expect family members to tolerate our using child's behavior is not fair to them. Additionally it is important for our using children to understand the consequences of their behavior. Not everyone understands addiction.

- Show Up Anyway: Do not sacrifice the rest of your family for your loved one in active addiction. They may or may not show up. And if they do they may not be sober. Take this opportunity to be brave and be strong. Show them that you CAN be healthy in spite of what is going on in your family.

- Safety First: If your loved one is habitually unsafe, i.e. they will steal from you or create unreasonable drama in your family, it’s ok to set a boundary and not include them. As an advocate of connection, in this case, I would recommend meeting them in a safe location. Take them out to lunch or dinner separately and purchase small, practical gifts that they can use, that will make them feel loved and that they will not be able to sell for the purchase of supporting their substance use.

- Focus on Others: Do not use the holiday as a forum to get on a soapbox about addiction in this country. This is not the time or place for those kind of conversations (unless you never want to be invited back). Again, show yourself to be strong and brave and ask others how they are doing.

- Understand others may not Understand: Don't expect family to ask you about your child. They don't really want to know. But if they do ask, just tell them that he/she is struggling right now and you could use their love, support and prayers.

- Choose who you want to spend your day with: DO surround yourself with healthy people that can offer you support on a day that is sure to be difficult. Be around family and friends who love and appreciate you.

- Support Recovery: If your loved one is in recovery, support that. Have a dry holiday. We should all be able to give up our alcohol in order to provide an environment in our homes that sends a message to our loved ones that we value them and we value recovery.

- Take Care of Yourself: Practice a high level of self-care during the holidays. Take extra time for exercise, meditation and meal planning. Spend time with friends that lift you up. Block out time every day for your favorite craft project or hobby. Increasing your own dopamine during this time will balance some of the negative impact the holiday has on you.

- Give Back: Use the holiday as an opportunity to give back and serve others. It will always make you feel better!

- CHOOSE Joy: Remember that joy is a choice. Focus on those things that you have to be grateful for. We live in a country of abundance. Most of us have supportive people in our lives.

I hope and pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Copyright @ 2016 Pam Jones Lanhart, Our Marvelous Mess

Tap In

Sometimes you just get tired

Tired of the little things...

Tired of eating healthy

Tired of the pain in my butt (literally)

Tired of stretching the budget

Tired of trying to figure things out

And then there are the big things...

Tired of division

Tired of conflict

Tired of systems that fail those who need them the most

Tired of death around me

The other day I was tired.  I was at the end of myself.  

And I tapped out.

And then...the thing that I knew I had to do was to tap in.

Tap in to the source of my strength. 

Tap in to the one who pursues me when I’m done.

Tap in to the one who provides for me

Tap in to the one who seeks justice more than I am able

Tap in to the one who is far more capable of carrying the worlds burdens

The healer, the provider, the comforter, the lover, the shepherd, the freedom fighter, the One.

My friend, if you feel tapped out....the only thing left to do is to tap in to the He who makes all things new.

Copyright @ 2018 Our Marvelous Mess

Beautiful Boy

I went to see Beautiful Boy yesterday afternoon. It was like watching our life on a big screen. I am grateful for the process of family recovery. I'm grateful that we are moving forward in the treatment of the disease. And I am grateful for every single minute we get with our Beautiful Boy.

This movie is very real and raw. There are scenes in this movie that are not easy to watch including IV drug use and overdoses. Please be advised before you decide to go see this, that it could be triggering for some people.

While it does portray the reality of the disease and what many of us have gone through it was a bit disappointing in that it doesn't show recovery. Every day I keep recovery in front of me and that is one of the reasons that I walk in hope. I SEE reocvery daily. I read about recovery daily. And I know that I know that recovery is possible. This movie HAS to be balanced with that in mind. Nic found recovery. He has a hopeful story but they don't show that in the movie.

Please remember that recovery is possible my friends.

If Today

If Today

Life is fragile. When you deal with a loved one that has a use disorder or any life threatening disease, you begin to realize that the next moment could be their last moment, their last breath.

Am I living as if?

If today, my loved one heard their last words from me, what would they be?

If today, my loved one saw my eyes for the last time, what would they say?

If today, my loved one heard my voice for the last time ever, what would they hear?

If today, my loved one read the last text I would ever send to them, what would they read?

Would it be compassion?

Would it be understanding?

Would it be empathy?

Would it be love?

Today I will seek to use words that heal, tones of compassion, messages of love.

Today, I will purpose to walk through this day as if the next moment were the last, not just with my loved one, but with everyone.


Copyright @ 2018 Our Marvelous Mess

Love is Messy

Recently I shared the story about Dusty. The young man that I encountered while we were serving a meal to the homeless a few months back.

I brought him to detox. He was incredibly sincere in his desire to get sober.

I thought I'd never see him again and my hope was that there would be a changed life

I saw Dusty the other night. He was not sober. He was destraught. He remembered what I had done for him and he was embarrased by his relapse.

I gave Dusty a huge hug and told him that it was OK. That he was loved whether he was sober or not. I told him he was always welcome to sit at the table and break bread with our tribe. That this was his tribe too.

In that moment, all Dusty really needed was to feel loved and valued without seeing even a trace of disappointment in my face, my voice, my body language.

Life is messy. We fall. We fail. Loving someone like Dusty is even messier. But I believe that whether Dusty ever gets sober or not, he deserves love.

Copyright @ 2018 Our Marvelous Mess

Loving Well Principle #3

Loving well means being mindfulness and radical acceptance.

I have to admit.  The first time I heard the phrase “mindfulness” it conjured up images of a room full of people sitting on yoga mats.  Not that there is anything wrong with yoga, but I’ve always been a running and biking kind of girl.  The idea of quieting myself in any way was simply foreign to me.  After all, I was the over-reactive crazy mom.  That’s how I was wired.  That’s how God created me, right? 

As the chaos in our family grew however, I began to realize that I was a major contributor.  The pain of what was happening in our home almost daily was so intense that I knew that if something didn’t change it could cause irreparable damage to our entire family.

What I learned through some great therapy was that mindfulness and radical acceptance where entirely different than what I thought they were.

Mindfulness is simply balancing your emotions.  It’s not being too extreme in your logical mind, overthinking and over-analyzing everything that did happen, is happening and may be going to happen, not responding with any emotion, including empathy or compassion.  And it’s not being too far to the other extreme in our emotional mind, which was where I always landed.   That meant responding to everything with anger or assumptions or judgement.  Not waiting to get all of the facts or information before formulating opinions.  The words open-ended question were not in my vocabulary.  I would rush to a quick conclusion to every situation and of course I was always right. 

Radical acceptance goes hand in hand with mindfulness.  It means just assessing the situation without judgement.  That means listening without drawing quick conclusions, asking questions to get information and simply waiting to respond.   And then it means responding thoughtfully and intentionally without blurting out the first things that comes into your mind.

Both of these practices are critical when dealing with a loved one with a use disorder.  When they are out of control, you can maintain control.  When they are verbally berating you, you can pause and listen without immediately jumping to conclusions.  When they ask you for money or lose their cellphone for the 12,000th time you can simply listen without responding or without finding it necessary to “make a point.” 

The most beneficial thing about this for me was that by staying balanced I can become intentional about my actions and my words.  I am no longer subject to my emotions and go to sleep at night, in peace, knowing that I hadn’t contributed to the damage that addiction was already doing to our family.  It also allows me to be “in the moment.”  Neither assuming the worst based on the past nor stealing precious moments from the future by “expecting” negative outcomes.  It means loving well by just “being.”  And for me, as I’ve learned to control my thoughts, control my tongue (which took sometimes biting it), and manage my reactions and emotions slowly but surely things started to change in my relationships with every member of my family.

Copyright @ 2018 Pam Jones Lanhart

Reflecting What We Want To See In Others

I am quite sure that until recently I didn’t truly understand the law of reflection.  We get back what we give.  If we give distrust, we get that back.  If we give anger, we get that back.  If we give loud, fear, doubt, skepticism it all comes back to us.  Conversely if we give kindness, compassion, empathy, generosity, vulnerability and love it comes back to us.  It may not come back in the exact way we are looking for or from the exact person we want it from, but make no mistake, it will come back.  

This is explained so well in an excerpt I want to share from an author named Jonathon Cahn.

“What do you see in the water?
“My reflection.”
“And when you glared at it, the face of an angry man glared back at you.  When you stretched your hand out to the waters to give to it, the hand in the waters stretched back to give to you.  And when you reached towards the waters to take from it, the hand reached back as if to take from you.  This is the law of reflection.  As you do, so it will be done to you.  If you bless others, you will be blessed.  If you withhold blessing, your blessings will be withheld..  If you live by taking, it will, in the end, be taken from you.  If you live a life of giving, it will, in the end, be given to you.  Condemn others, and you will be condemned.  Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.  Live with a closed hand, and His hand will be closed to you.  Live with an open hand, and His hand will be opened to you.  What you give will be given back.  What you take will be taken back.  Therefore, live a life of love, of giving, of blessing, of compassion, of an open hand and heart.”

This is so important when we deal with loved ones who are exhibiting self-destructive behaviors.  We often reflect their behaviors.  When they get angry, we answer with anger.  When they create chaos, we answer with the same.  When they become loud, we get louder.  When they spew hate, often we match their words and tones.   It is human nature to defend and protect ourselves.

But what if, instead, we answered their anger with calm, their chaos with peace, their loudness with a quiet voice, their words of hate, with words of empathy and understanding.  Imagine.  

So today I will make it my goal to give to others, my husband, my children (especially the “difficult ones”), my tribe, the people in the community I serve, what I wish to see reflected back to me.

Copyright @ 2018 Our Marvelous Mess

Loving Well Principle #2 - Intrinsic Value

The concept of intrinsic value stems from the idea that every human being has value because we’re created in God’s image. Nothing negates that image and the value it instills in every human being, nothing. Every human bears that value throughout his or her life.  You may not believe in God the exact way that I believe, but humanity dictates that every person has value.

We look at the 10 fingers and 10 toes and love fills our hearts.  We overflow with the goodness that comes from this little life that was given to us.  Of course we love our babies without abandon, without condition. 

The greatest human need that we have is to love and be loved.

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The greatest human need that we have is to love and be loved.  

 I loved my children. I truly thought that I loved them unconditionally.  But as I’ve traveled this journey of substance use in our family I have realized looking back that inadvertently my messaging became very performance driven.  I was a mom who gave up a lucrative career to raise my children.  It was my full-time job to make sure that my kids succeeded.  And doesn’t society tell us that we should praise our children when they do well?  Of course we do that.

The problem starts to occur when their success becomes our identity.  When our kids do well, we are happy.  When our kids do poorly we end up angry, frustrated or depressed.  When our kids do well we feel like we have lived out our purpose and value in life.  When they don’t do well, we feel like a failure.  

Because we are like a mirror for our kids, we inadvertently send this message that they are the cause of our anger, frustration and depression.   This is especially true when any kind of substance use enters families.    Our loved one’s identity because their behaviors.

When our identity becomes intertwined with our actions, we end up either living in a state of narcissistic grandiose or living in a state of shame.  Neither is a healthy place to live.  When my son started exhibiting the symptoms of his disease, I took that on as my failure and I felt shame.  I then inadvertently heaped that shame on my son.  His first program was in a reputable treatment center where the notion was hammered into him at the age of 15 that he was an addict.  So my son’s identity became his addiction and in the process, because human nature is what it is, he was instantly de-valued as the person he was created to be.  It wasn’t intentional.  I certainly didn’t mean to send that messaging.  But everything about our relationship became what he had to do.  “You have to go to this many meetings. You have to go to this therapy.  You have to stop using drugs and alcohol.  You have to believe a certain way.”  And our relationship was weighted by how well he did at checking off the boxes on his list.  If he checked off more boxes,  he was more valued.  If he couldn’t manage some of those tasks he had failed.  As the use disorder became ore significant the feelings of failure only increased.  And he took that on as his identity.

I don’t think I truly understood this until I went on a mission trip to Ethiopia.  These people lived in poverty.  They existed hand to mouth, from one meal to the next.  They would never hold a job.  They would never go to college.  They would never contribute productively to society (in the way we would think they should) yet they had value.  I could see the value in their eyes when I looked at them.  Then I started working with the chronically mentally ill and addicted.  The truth is, many of the people that I interact with may never get sober, have a home or maintain the kind of lifestyle that is the standard in our country.  But if I am called to loving well, I am called to love them just as they are, not as I think that they should be, simply because they are human beings.

So if that is the case, what about my children?  My family?

As I’ve grown in my own recovery, I have realized how much my own identity was tied to what I did or didn’t do.  I was a runner,  I was a mom, I was a wife, I was a successful sales person.  So when things became difficult or didn’t go as planned, my identity became the failures.  This realization woke me up to the fact that I was sending that same message to my son.  He was the charismatic one, he was the athlete, he was the risk taker and then….he was the difficult one, he was the one who struggled, he was the dishonest one, he was the thief, he was the addict.  He BECAME the symptoms of his disease.  And what if?  What if he never got better?  Would that change his need to be loved?  And would that change my mandate to radically love him without condition?

Only when we can understand our own intrinsic value in relationship to our creator, are we able to pass this along to other people.  Our identity is not the sum of our successes or failures.  We have value regardless of what we do or do not do.  And once we can grasp that concept, that we are loved fully and completely simply because we are humanity, we are able to see our loved ones in that same light, as loved and valued,  not because they do or do not get sober.  But simply and radically because they are humans with a soul and a spirit, just like us.  Because they long to love and be loved

Copyright @ v2018 Our Marvelous Mess 

Loving Well Principal 1 - Understanding addiction as a diseasee

For the next few weeks on my blog, I am going to be sharing the 12 principles of what it means to Love Well.  I hope that you will join me on this journey and that some of this information will be insightful to you.

Loving well means gaining a new perspective on the disease of addiction.

Addiction:  The word alone evokes a thousand emotions and images.  Images that often circulate on social media.  The man shooting up, being held by Jesus.  The photos of the overdose victims passed out in their car with a child in the back seat.  The junkie laying on the street as people walk by him.  The scantily clad woman on the corner with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth.  The picture of the tombstone with the 20 year olds name on it.  

All of these images strike fear in the hearts of the family, when addiction hits their world.

The truth is that there is no other disease out there that flaunts the images of those sick and dying like society does regarding the disease of addiction.    And those pictures give us all permission to look at the “addict” as bad, as a loser, as a weakling who is making horrible choices.

But what if those suffering aren’t bad.  What if they are very very sick?  Would we treat them differently? 

When we begin to understand the power that the brain has to change neuropathways and how those pathways adapt when someone is in active addiction, we can begin to understand that no one in addiction WANTS to do the things they do.  The need to satisfy the compulsion to use, takes precedence over every other matter in their lives.  They will lie.  They will steal.  They will leave their child crying at the door.  They will shoot up with their kids in the back seat.  

And these are the SYMPTOMS of the disease of addiction.  

I was at a funeral recently.  A man who passed from an alcohol related auto accident.  Person after person got up and spoke regarding how wonderful this man was.  How he had helped his daughter get sober.  How he had worked with vets to take them outdoors and fishing.  How he was an amazing father, husband, brother.  His wife had been coming to our group for a few months and had I not heard these stories I would have never recognized that they were talking about the same man.  This man, in his addiction had become mean, controlling, belligerent, manipulative.  He had been lying and taking money out of their accounts.  He would literally go outside barefoot and walk miles to the liquor store to get more alcohol.   The disease had changed him.  These were the symptoms of the disease.

When we can begin to understand how the disease changes the brain, we can begin to stop taking addiction personally.   This man did not yell and scream and control his wife because he was mean.  This man did those things simply so he could get his alcohol.  The disease was not WHO he was.  The disease was the sickness he had.

As we worked with the wife and she began to understand this, things started to change for her.  She began to see her husband through the eyes empathy.  Her responses to him moved from being combative to being kind.  She learned to set loving boundaries that allowed her to be free from anger, frustration and bitterness.  She moved from a place of having to fix him, to loving him where he was at.   The morning her husband passed, she exchanged text messages with him.  He looked at her and said “I do not want to be this way.  Today is a new day.  Today I will work towards becoming the man you love.”  And the wife replied “I believe that you will.  I will do what it takes to help you get well.”  They said “I love you” to each other and shortly after those texts her husband was gone.

Loving Well means, if your loved one dies from the disease of addiction today, what would the last exchange you had with your loved one look like?  It means looking back and knowing that you were compassionate, understanding, connected and had no regrets.  It is possible even in the most difficult situations.  We will continue to explore this more in principal 2.   Loving well means understanding intrinsic value and identity.

The Opposite of Addiction: Connection

I remember the first time I saw Johann Hari’s Ted Talk suggesting that the opposite of addiction was connection, I was furious.  

How dare he suggest to all the mama’s out there in the world, who have kids struggling with addiction, that we were not connected enough.  Heck, 3/4 of the mom’s I knew where so over-connected that they were crippling their kids.  I truly felt like he was slapping all of us in the face, who had done our best to love our kids well.

Since then I’ve read many more books and listened the dozens of experts in the field.  Studying the affects of generational behaviors, environmental factors, mental health disorders and now screen time and how all of those things affect our connections with other people, I know believe that the opposite of addiction is connection

Wait?  But I was a good mom right?  I loved my kids.  Heck, I even gave up a 6 figure salary to stay home with them.  So wrestling through the idea that somehow I could have possibly had a part to play in un-connectedness, was a tough pill to swallow.   Yet, if we were to be honest with ourselves the very moment that the symptoms of the disease of addiction begin to manifest we start the process of disconnection.  My process started long before that with my difficult child.  Strong-willed, oppositional, and over-determined, I think from the time he was 2 I went into self-preservation mode.  Not having learned the skills I needed to stay patient and empathetic with my difficult child, if I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I hid a lot of the time.  And I pulled away.  Inadvertently sending the message that my son was “bad” or “difficult.”  And I am certain that even without saying those words, he felt that he was different, that he was a disappointment.  

And then when extremely negative behaviors start to manifest because of the use disorder, we pull away even more.  We have to protect ourselves.  And we are told to disengage.  And in that way the disconnection becomes even greater. We began to slowly realize that our self-preservation tactics were destroying our family as they manifested in anger, frustration and shame-based language.  None of this was ever intentional.  We told our son that we loved him 3 times a day.  But our ACTIONS and our TONES and our LANGUAGE didn’t communicate love.

When the family is in chaos and the negative behavior patterns have been established over years, connecting is not easy. It may take a long time.  And it may not work right away.  I get a lot of skepticism from people who have loved ones that have stolen from them, lied to them, used them up and left them to “bleed out” (figuratively speaking).  So it will take time.  And it will take perseverance.  And it will take a total shift in OUR attitude.   However, it does work.  It has changed our family.   And I have personally worked with  families radically transformed by being intentional in their efforts to form connections with their loved ones, even when their loved ones were “out there” using, were hard to love, were resistant and were even in attack mode.

In the coming weeks I will be sharing ways that we can reconnect with our loved ones, even when they are resistant.  Even when things have been so bad for so long.  

Loving well works.


Human Value

Lately I have been struck by the idea of “human value.”  

Every week I do ministry, serving the chronically addicted and mentally ill.  There is nowhere else I would rather be.  I choose them.  And we love them without ever expecting that they change.  We realize that the majority never will.

So if they don’t change, if that never happens, does that diminish their value?  Are they a scourge on our society?  Are they freeloaders?  Lazy? Less than?

What if...

What if their value was that they exist solely to teach others to love without judgement?  To teach others what diversity looks like?  To teach others how to give, without expecting anything in return?  

What if their value was to teach ME?  To teach me how to pray more?  To teach me how to understand mental illness better?  To teach me that even if someone in addiction never ever recovers they are valued and their life has meaning and purpose?

What if God sends me there, not to help change them...

What if God sends me change you and I.  And that is their value.


Last week I met Kesim and Abdul.  They work in the same building as our Breakthrough offices, running a home health care business.  These 2 had the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen and it was the most enjoyable conversation I’d had in a long time.

Early last week I met Thomas and Jeremy at a task force meeting I attended.  2 amazing Native American’s who are trying to make changes in their community in the same way that I desire to.

This week I had the opportunity to come alongside and encourage a sweet mama who was in crisis.  She has a very different world view than I do, but we connected on a deep level.

3 years ago I may have missed out on all of these opportunities because of my pre-conceived ideas about life and humanity.  I grew up in the middle of a Native Community where I learned to despise the very people that God put in our country first.

I moved into a neighborhood that has become primarily populated with people from East Africa and I wouldn’t sugarcoat some of the negative stereotypes that are perpetrated by “well-meaning” people.

As I embraced my Christian faith, my circle got smaller as I gravitated towards people who had the same belief systems as I did.  People who looked and acted the same as me.   I began to make things more and more black and white and in that process became less and less like the Jesus I was following.

Over the past few years things have shifted in my life.  

Brokenness will do that to a person.

Through ministering to the homeless I’ve began to view things far more clearly, through the lens I believe Jesus truly would have viewed them.  I’ve learned to see people as well..people, to embrace the diversity of the world that God created.

In practicing the art of radical acceptance I have gained a new appreciation for differences rather than similarities.  I have learned to embrace with empathy, other people’s stories.   I used to think that I “didn’t see color” or just saw people as people.  Now I SEE color and culture and those differences in a new and exciting way...sitting at the edge of my seat as I listen to other people deeply share their lives with me.

I am grateful for the self- correction that has come through this journey....

The rich experiences I’ve gained and the people I have met have been priceless.  


Just the way Jesus would have seen all of these people.


This week was a good week.  Not too busy and peaceful.  Hubby and I decided to forgo a “fun” date and get a landscaping project done.

I went into the evening feeling pretty confident.  After all, I had managed to pull off 2 huge “wins” this week in my effort to “love well.”  I had practiced the pause!  And had great success with it.  Both times I had wanted to open my mouth and react to something but I waited and it served me well because in the end things worked out as they should have (well in my mind anyway).

I keep working on those skills.  And I am definitely making some progress in my life (picture me patting myself on the back here).  Recovery is hard work but this week I had managed to check all my boxes and felt pretty confident in the interactions I had.

Pride goeth before the fall.

We always hurt the ones we love.

Never EVER do house projects with your spous.

It started with how he was cleaning the rocks.  “Really hun, do you have to put them there?  We are just going to move them anyway.”  Then it was “can you not wash them in that area.”  Then “stop with the hose I’m getting splashed on.”  The more we worked the nastier my comments got.  Thankfully about half way through I had to take care of something in the house or we may have been divorced by the end of the evening.

He had to leave to take care of some work for a bit and in his absence I got to thinking about how I had treated him.  I can love the homeless person down at the mission, I can love on the addicted person as I bring them to detox and I can put full-on effort in loving my adult children because for whatever reason my identity is still far too wrapped up in what they think of me. 

But my husband?  Well....he gets the leftovers.  Last night he got the leftovers.

And he deserves the full meal with dessert and a cherry on top.  

When he got home I sat with him as he talked about his time away, I looked him in the eyes and I held his hand, purposing to let him know through my non-verbal cues how much he means to me, how grateful I am to have him by my side on this journey and how much I love him.

And this morning, I will apologize and do better today.

The Power of a Moment

Yesterday was a big family day for us.  Our oldest daughter had a birthday party for 5 of her 7 children (yes, you read that correctly).  It had been planned for months and the entire family was invited and had indicated that they would be there.

The party started at 11:30 and our precious youngest boy was a no show.  

12:00 still not there

12:30 hadn’t shown up and not answering the text I sent him reminding him of the party and that his pappa was in town as well.

1:00 nearing the end of the party I finally get a text from him apologizing for not being there because he overslept and that he was on his way.

Now, at that point I had two choices when he walked in the door late to the party.

I could examine his eyes.  I could listen closely to his words to see how clearly he was speaking.  I could watch his behavior closely (and suspiciously I might add).  And I could hit him with a verbal onslaught of questions about why he was late, why he was so tired, etc. etc.  I could live in the past, thinking “Oh crap, this is what his past behaviors were like.  He always does this.  I’m tired of him not taking his commitments seriously.”  Or I could let my thinking spiral to  the future “Oh crap, here we go again.  He’s going to lose everything if this goes bad” (as I start planning his funeral). Yes, I COULD have done all of those things.

OR I could choose to be mindful in that moment.  I could chosoe gratitude because my son got up and made the effort to come see his nieces, nephews and grandparents.  When he walked in I could smile and say “hey son, glad to see you!” Because I was.  And I could simply accept what was in the here and now, enjoying the laughter in the room, appreciating the funny interactions between the family and marvel at life in the room.

I chose the later.  Love told me to choose the later.  And love never fails.

And it was a beautiful afternoon.

Had I chose the first option, I can assure you that the moments of joy would not have happened.  Things would have been tense.  Negative attitudes would have ruled the day.  And the memories that I would carry with me would have haunted me, rather than bringing me peace.

The power of living in the moment.  Life, love and laughter.

Copyright @ 2018 Our Marvelous Mess