Our Apologies.

While we were preparing to get married, we heard our friend Ted talk about apologies – it could’ve been a sermon, a conversation, or during our premarital counseling. The years made the specifics of that fade. But he talked about how meaningless “I’m sorry” has become in our culture, especially. I observed how many of us move through our days – sometimes, apologizing for existing. Other times, saying ‘I’m sorry’ out of obligation or on behalf of other people, or for no reason at all. But more often than not, apologizing without ever taking ownership for what what they’d done wrong. Ted talked about how his family had committed to say “I was wrong.”

This resonated deeply with me.
YIKES, though. For real.
Who wants to say those words? Not me. Not really.

But the husband and I agreed that was the approach we’d take to reconciling our differences as we headed into marriage. And that carried over into parenting.

This strategy has helped me stop apologizing when I don’t need to, and it has helped me reconcile when I desperately need it.

Our method for this has grown, especially as we’ve taught it to our kids. It had to be adapted… I’ll talk that through as I address each piece and why it matters.

Let me also add the disclaimer that we don’t always do this well. Sometimes, my heart runs away at the idea of having to say, “I was wrong” out loud. And sometimes, it trembles at saying “I need your forgiveness.” Each step challenges me for the better. It seems to be a structure that works well to properly posture the heart for humility, courage, empathy, and growth.

The Four Pieces of Our Apologies

  1. Connect.
    Simple: make eye contact.
    This can be especially hard when I am experiencing shame. But it is absolutely necessary to making sure I’m facing what I did wrong. I’m faced with the humanity of another living being.
  2. Take Ownership.
    This is the, “I was wrong” part. And it is certainly more than saying I’m sorry. For our family, it’s saying “I was wrong for _________.” And calling out exactly what it is that we did – taking ownership for our (wrong) action(s).
    For example, one that the brave boy has mastered, “I was wrong for hitting you.”
    One that I often practice, “I was wrong for the way I spoke to you.” Which is the perfect transition to the next piece:
  3. Express Their Worth.
    Tell them what they mean to you. This reminds both of you of their inherent worth and what it means about how they should be treated.
    Examples include:

    • “You are important to me.”
    • “I value you.”
    • “I love you.”
    • “You’re special to me.”
  4. Ask for forgiveness.
    Pretty straightforward, this one: “Will you please forgive me?”
    Sometimes, for an extra measure of vulnerability and courage, it comes out as “I need your forgiveness.” There’s a lot to unpack in that, but suffice it to say that we’re set free to forgive ourselves when others choose to do so, and sometimes I have to say that out loud so (let’s be real here:) my husband and kids know that I’m prone to torment myself forever should they decide not to forgive me. That’s how it weighs on me when I’ve seriously wronged them.

That’s it.
It seems simple.
It takes a ton of courage.

I promise that if you put into practice these steps to replace the language of apologies in your house, it will change things. For starters, it’ll push everything in the direction of being more authentic, which is what my next post is about. Stay tuned.

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And, as always, if you have something to add on this – the elements of apologizing – drop it in the comment box below!

Monsters under the bed.

{Written 7 March, 2011. Discovered in the Drafts folder on 2 Feb, 2012.}

No, Amelie isn’t afraid of monsters under the bed.
My guess is that if a monster came out from under the bed at this point in her life, she wouldn’t know the difference & she’d just laugh at him & try to suck on his finger.

See, there was this episode of 30 Rock.
{I’ve been watching some of them on Netflix instant which streams through our TV. Though, it is the worst thing to happen to my to-do-list, my stack of books to read, and my overall productivity since, well, anything yet.}
And on this particular episode of 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy is talking about his mentor, Don Geiss. Don Geiss is supposed to have been this business genius {as far as Jack is concerned.}
Jack’s telling this story about Don & his business savvy.

“Don was the one who realized there was a whole segment of consumers not buying light bulbs. The asleep.
That realization led him to develop the nightlight and the marketing campaign aimed at making children afraid of the dark. ”A monster under every bed.”

I’ve come back to this quote over & over & over & over again since I encountered it on 30 Rock.

It is incredible.
I just watched an awesome little short called “The Story of Bottled Water”
{part of a series called “The Story of Stuff”}
where we’re presented with a story of some facts about the way our consumerism is absolutely trashing our planet.
OUR home.

John & I were discussing a blog post by one of our favourite bloggers when I realized that I believe many things, which, if presented with opposite, even true, “facts” I would not change my belief about.

Because somewhere, someone is developing a nightlight and the marketing campaign aimed at making every American afraid of everything that doesn’t make someone else billions of dollars.

Just start

Being a parent has taught me that I have more to learn than I knew there even was to learn.

One of the things I have always struggled with is structure. I don’t like the idea of having a rigid set of guidelines or rules that determine what I do next. In fact one of the hardest things about school was the projects that couldn’t be done in a day or two, not because I didn’t like the projects themselves but because they required me to plan and stick to a schedule/structure for finished the project over time. Once my 7th grade history teacher called me out in front of the whole class, she said “John likes tests because he doesn’t have to remember to do anything, just show up and take the test.”

She was and is right. My job is requiring us to do a “show and tell” type project for our work activities from 2011. This is largely due to the nature of my job – which is working on a team spread across the country (I only see my boss and co-workers once or twice a year). Besides the feelings of self-doubt about the quality of my work, I am my biggest critic, the project hasn’t gotten done because it requires a start and finish that will likely spread over more than a couple of days. Of course in not starting this project I have now gotten even closer to the due date and the deadline is looming larger in my mind.

Just one example of how I self sabotage my own work. It applies to anything I do, even things like web design and video production which I REALLY enjoy. I will get so overwhelmed by the potential length and obstacles that I just don’t start – until I have a deadline coming quickly.

Listening to the sermon at our church this past week there was one thing that caught my attention. The pastor said, “…everything important has already been done…. Jesus finished THE work on the cross”, and my brain and heart and soul realized that I am free.

Free to start, without fear of imperfection
Free to start, without over planning
Free to finish, knowing THE work has already been finished

Now I just need to embrace Jesus and start….

The stories of my life

Growing up I had a lot of time to myself. We moved so often that it was almost a way of life. The first move came at 4 years old and the typical things, like sports teams, weren’t there to help me make new friends right away.

I often found myself lost in stories.

Stories about the time I saved my whole class from danger by using only my wits and good looks.
Stories about seeing a girl I thought attractive and winning her heart with my words.
Stories about being friends with the boys who were good at sports..

When other kids were talking about the popular songs and getting their new Adidas sandals, I was imagining the building catching on fire and being the one who leads everyone to safety. Some times I even forgot about my disconnect from reality and started smiling about the life I had in my head. It seemed like the whole world wanted to be part of my stories when I imagined national emergencies that needed my blend of super hero abilities and open availability.

For a couple years I invited two boys in my grade to enter this world and we played as a team of Three Musketeer style, high tech super heros. This went on for a couple years until my real story took over and I left Virginia for Connecticut with my family. When I arrived in the ghetto of Bridgeport, CT my stories took on a distinctly darker shade. Crime went from high tech cartoon style to real bullets and real blood. Bridgeport is also when and where I discovered endless porn on the web.

A girl from the boarding school in New Hampshire I attended was the first female I let read my writing. She gave me a four page “Writers Creed” because my story had too much explicit content. The story? A hired gun assassin traveling by air ruins a disguise so he drugs and drags a woman to the airplane bathroom where he uses her outfit as his new disguise. All without the flight attendants knowing.

Stories like that one have been part of my dreams for years.
War games
Spy hunts
Assassin marks

All the time I added characters from my real life. Girls I wanted to woo and the guys too cool to even notice me, all became part of these action adventure movies in my mind.

There were many moments of emotion as well: conversations with my dad about his work or befriending a classmate between crazy running and jumping. My mind would take me on these wild adventures during forced study hall or even while snowboarding (just add guns and national secrets) but always as a way to connect to the greater reality of my life. My stories were strangely real. As I got older my stories stopped working out so easily and I stopped always being the hero. In fact I often find myself as the villain or the broken protagonist who needs help.

The stories always put me in the place of living out my emotions instead of holding them tight. And when I met Lee Anne I slowly began to share these stories, she let me know I couldn’t say or do anything to make her love me any less.
That is the story of life worth living: feeling out loud, letting others see your pain and inviting them to join you for an adventure in vulnerable connection.

Dreams

{Written Jun 18, 2011.}

John Roquemore inspired me to take a look at the daily writing prompts being posted over here.
This one by Michael Rad caught my attention.

Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down your top three dreams. Now write down what’s holding you back from them.

First, about why this one caught my attention so: I need self-reflection. I always do. So do you.
I need to constantly be reminded that uploading pictures to Facebook is not what my priority should be for the day.
{Despite what a beautiful baby I have, whose pictures I do always want to share.}
So, given this opportunity to be challenged to think about my dreams – realize them all over again – and ponder what is keeping me from them, or whether I’m in active pursuit of them, seems like a great thing to do. So, here we are. Let’s dive in together.

I dream of being a writer. Of writing things that inspire people, of writing things that challenge people to become more of who they were created to be. Things that awaken questions in the souls of those who encounter them. I dream of writing often. I dream of writing a children’s book that I’d be proud to read my child.

I dream of traveling with my love. Seeing, exploring, adventuring in new places. Taking in all the new things & processing them together. Having little commentary discussions about cultural differences.

{Written to here, in June… the rest was added today.}

I dream of giving birth to our next baby at home… and any ones that come after that baby. And of adopting babies that make our family multiracial, diverse, and so much more beautiful than we already are.

I cannot wait to see the ways these dreams will shape my life. What’s holding me back from them? Hm. Lots of things, but primarily what holds me back is me. Nothing stands in the way of my beginning to pursue these dreams, and if/when I ever see them come to fruition, I’ll certainly be better for having pursued them.

In a dream

One of my longest running struggles in life has been “guy stuff” (this is what Lee Anne and I used to call porn, before we decided that made it sound okay). When I was younger it started with nervous curiosity but I was never bold enough to try anything with real girls so I found ways to satisfy my curiosity otherwise.

Over time I continued to struggle against the urge to give myself this mutant version of sex. At times I thought no girl would ever want me because I looked at porn, so I should just give in to this fake but immediate solution. Other times I fooled myself into thinking that viewing whatever porn I found would help me become some kind of super seducer. So many years went by and the struggle remained mostly consistent – a cycle of initial resistance, followed by convincing myself that I should look at porn, then a big failure and a version of shallow, guilt-based repentance (which actually set me up for future failure).

That was all before I met Lee Anne. She was the first girl who wanted to actually know me.
Not the public, funny and carefree me.
Not the smooth, fast talking me.
Not even the me I convinced myself I could be if I keep faking it long enough me.

She wanted to know the me that was bound up inside, that I didn’t let out for fear I might be rejected – the same rejection I felt many times as a kid whenever I would let this real me escape into the wild.

Acceptance, by another human, by a friend, by a woman, acceptance did something to the way I understood life and Jesus and even the term “salvation.”
Acceptance meant I could be me – all the time and anytime I was around Lee Anne I was just me. Acceptance meant I could let parts of me become part of the regular me instead of only showing themselves after a couple of drinks. Acceptance meant the things I felt, thought and struggled with mattered to someone else.

Now you might think with such amazing acceptance and love that I would have been a totally changed man right away – at least that is what I thought would happen.
Instead it has been a long painful battle for Lee Anne as well as for me. When Lee Anne reached out in love and accepted me fully, she didn’t accept any part of me that wasn’t true to the real me. Like porn, like my defaulting to failure, like my cynicism about my life and the world. Those parts hurt her, she embraced the now me while accepting the true me and that meant and often still means pain.

A lot of pain.

Jesus did the same and it cost Him a life full of painful interactions with the people He loved and a death that goes beyond what I can even imagine – and I was an extremely vivid imagination.

Jumping forward in time, it has been about 2 years since I binged on “guy stuff” BUT this doesn’t mean I haven’t hurt Lee Anne. I have looked at things that aren’t technically porn and used them to lust in the same way. And one of the biggest struggles, because of my vivid imagination, has been the memories of everything I have ever looked at. After 15 years of struggling and failing at porn, there is more in my head than I could ever exhaust if I left myself drift into those “mutant sex” memories.

This morning I realized there is a new struggle: Inception.

During my dreams last night I found myself in a convenience store (always on some kind of spy type mission) and I walked by a magazine rack that had X rated mags, they were covered by the little plastic thing but I knew if I picked one up it would have real images inside. One by one each section in the store started to have X rated materials, I would walk by something and then walk by it again and the second time the X rated something would be there – covered but there. I realized that the only way to escape was to wake up. So I did.

The struggle against porn is a struggle to wake up. To realize the beautiful family that awaits me at home or that Lee Anne will be free from feeding our sweet baby soon or that someday I won’t feel this disconnection.

Someday we will all be connected in a new earth, we will wake up from this reality to realize the greater truth and be connected to Him in Heaven forever.

Home.

It’s cool.
Like, it’s cool, here.
Which is to say, the weather is lovely.

We haven’t used our HVAC in 48+ hours. I’m wearing fuzzy socks that allow me to slide across the wooden floors of our house with childlike wonder. {I’m still amazed I can do that without falling flat on my bum.}

I’ve discovered that I love having people in our home.
I love it when people come in & stay.
Example: I hosted Mama Circle recently. It starts at 10:30 a.m. After awhile, I felt a hunger pain & I looked at the clock only to discover it was 2:30 p.m. We’d been sitting there in my living room, talking, laughing, connecting, sharing for FOUR hours.
And I was thrilled.
Tonight, I invited folks in for hot cocoa after we’d been outside watching a movie on the lawn in front of the lake at Pics on the Promenade & since it was one of very few hot cocoa appropriate occasions, I jumped on the opportunity.
2 hours went by, and everyone went home. I adore that these friends are comfortable to stay, to just be in our home. It brings me to life just a little bit more, each time that happens.

Amelie is adoring her baby doll, Daisy, these days. Daisy gets carried, snuggled, nursed, hugged, patted, dropped {oops}, kissed, dragged, & loved on all the time. It’s pretty much the most precious thing I’ve ever seen.

And, I’m more in love with John than ever. {Which I didn’t even know was possible.}