This Is Us: “Deja Vu” Invites Pain to Experience Healing

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The third episode on this season’s This Is Us invites viewers to experience “Deja Vu” of their own past pain. Each one of the Big Three experiences a new layer of the loss of their dad as they embark on new parts of the personal journeys. Though the tragedy happened while they were teens, they still feel the pain. As Sylvester Stallone (playing himself) wisely points out, “There is no such thing as a long time ago. There’s only memories that mean something and those that don’t.” While Randall and Beth’s new foster child clearly shows signs of pain in her not so distant past, a lot of pain lurks below the surface where others can’t see easily. In all cases, we see a need to face the grief (or pain) and that it requires talking about it.

Jack continues to fight his alcohol related problems, which in the previous episode we see him literally fight at a boxing club, and he points out how going through AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and talking about his issues prove difficult for him. He knows his wife Rebecca stands by him and wants to partake in his recovery, yet he finds it hard to share his pain with her. Grown Kate and Kevin have an argument over neither one having talked about their dad’s death since they were teenagers. Kate, Kevin and Jack all take the first step of facing their grief and reaching the relief on the other side by recognizing they need to discuss their pain. Kate tells Kevin that she saw a counselor at her weight camp, and there she learned that she couldn’t talk about her father’s death. She now sees that not doing so is “like taking in a breath and holding it for the rest of your life.” By the end of the episode, she and Kevin make up, knowing they need to talk through their grief. Jack shares a similar conversation with Rebecca. We see him struggle to tell her what he experiences going through the AA program, but he finds the words to say that he struggles with it and that he wants to keep telling her and will over time. All the Pearsons exemplify how the healing and recovery processes are a journey and take time.

Meanwhile, Randall’s household grows both in number of occupants as well as in experienced pain as his family welcomes a teen foster child. During her first night, she has an argument with Beth, and we witness her flinch when Randall appears in the doorway to check on them. We don’t know her past yet that might have caused such a reaction, but it becomes clear that her history involves pain (and highly likely abuse). In her case it seems obvious due to the severity of her reaction to Randall, but those roots of pain don’t show themselves so obviously in everyone. Again, we see issues taking root from childhood. Like the Pearsons, she took on some pain and coping mechanisms at a young age. She too will have to undergo a healing process, hopefully with the Pearson family by her side.

One key aspect all these characters have in common in their childhood homes with Pearson parents is their known safety. Also, despite the circumstances, they clearly know their parental figures love them. Even those enduring healing and recovery find love, security and hope through their connections to each other. Jack finds the courage to stand by Rebecca and finish their date night with added intimacy after he shares his struggle with her, Kevin calls Kate to make up (she easily agrees) after their “twin fight” and admits he needs to talk about their dad, and Deja illustrates her high need to recognize her pain and need to heal when she slams down Randall’s family photo as she storms out of the living room.  The family members stand by each other.

As AA (or Celebrate Recovery) would point out, the first step to recovery is admission of the need for healing. These characters show how that helps them move forward. They also show that a long time ago does not guarantee healing. Not all may flinch like Deja does, but they show a need to face their grief and pain. Jack perfectly captures that struggle as he shares his difficulty in talking about his struggle. People commonly have a hard time confessing their pan to others. The Pearsons show the importance of holding onto their support system and persistently pursuing the next step on the healing and recovery journey.

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The Breaker Anointing: Book Review

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I received a copy of The Breaker Anointing: How God Breaks Open the Way to Victory by Barbara J. Yoder in exchange for an honest review.

Yoder’s book highlights an important message: God will break through to deliver us. God breaks through to do this on numerous levels. These range from bringing us healing to getting us to a point where we can fulfill the purpose for which He created us. As Yoder points out, we can see examples of this throughout history. He did it for Moses, and He does it for us. However, I would have enjoyed a little more descriptive depth to connect to these illustrations on a more personal level. Yoder describes truth but doesn’t paint an emotional picture like most Christian living books tend to do. She does know her message though, and she makes her point with scripture and experience to back it up.

This Is Us: Family Ties Are “A Manny-Splendored Thing”

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This weekend I’m catching up on NBC’s hit tearjerker This Is Us, and the second episode doesn’t disappoint. Filled with touching moments, especially between characters who haven’t been as close previously, it captures the difficulty and depth of developing a family. Randall and Beth further contemplate fostering a child. Through Randall’s doubt and Beth’s persistence in their discussions, they demonstrate the uncertainty in family connections and the communication necessary to develop those connections. They show triumph over uncertainty and difficulty to connect leads to the development of strong family ties.

Randall knows firsthand what it feels like to struggle through childhood. As the adopted child of the Big Three triplets and only one of a different race, he knows how easy it can be to feel separated. He also has witnessed the effects of parents’ problems on children; his adoptive father Jack struggled with a drinking problem passed down from Jack’s father, a problem that stirs conflict within Jack and Rebecca’s marriage and family, and, his biological father struggled with drug problems and ultimately died from cancer. Randall understandably fears not feeling equipped to deal with a foster child who may have been abused in some way (Beth at first guesses he feels nervous about answering the question about his family history of alcoholism and drugs). As Beth points out, they didn’t know what they would get when they had their two daughters.

Their discussion and their potential to know beforehand whether a child would have the difficulties of healing from abuse or difficult medical histories intrigued me. As Bev points out, people generally don’t know what problems may arise related to their children or their preparedness to parent. Life, and families in particular, face a lot of uncertainty. Yet Randall’s life proves that the uncertainty and challenges can be overcome. Perhaps some of Randall’s perfectionism and hard work ethic stem from a desire to prove himself worthy. It also fuels him to work to stay connected with his family despite the difficulties. Ultimately, in this episode, we see how Beth’s insistence to continue their discussion until completion of the foster care questionnaire demonstrates how communication can further deepen and develop family connections. She does not let Randall give up, and together they progress their goal to broaden their family.

Beth’s story arc in this episode also shows how connections can develop even where they don’t have much depth already. She informs Randall that she does not find his brother Kevin funny and that she does not care to watch the recording of Kevin’s show The Manny. Kevin knows their relationship does not go deep, but he still seizes his chance to be there for her and his brother. Beth finds herself in Kevin’s room backstage and shares her frustration with Randall. Rather than remove himself to give Beth space, Kevin chooses to stay and communicate. As she divulges their plans to adopt, Kevin sees Beth’s need for understanding and connects with her through a humorous background story Beth didn’t previously realize connected them. It serves as a point for them to start deepening their friendship as well as encouragement for Beth to not get discouraged in her journey with Randall to become foster parents.

As usual, this episode makes me tear up at the touching depth to these characters and their situations. They remind me that with effort and communication we can all develop deeper connections with family. Their strength does not come without difficulty. Opportunities always exist to connect as well, whether they be with family members who have been around for years or with ones who may not have joined yet. Like Randall and Beth, we should not let fear of uncertainty steer us away from developing those ties.

Book Review: The Perfect You

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I received a copy of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book The Perfect You: A Blueprint for Identity in exchange for an honest review.

This selection reads like an easily accessible textbook. While that may conjure an image of a boring book, it provides a lot of insight. The idea of understanding how your thoughts work and how you can shape them to improve your life gives you not only knowledge but hope. As Leaf explains, a lot of people feel stuck in their negative thought patterns, and she shares understanding and guidance to alter those for the better.

Leaf divides the book into sections, separating the parts that explain how the thought processes work and the biblical bases she uses with the assessment tool and explanations on how to apply it. The flow generally made sense as it gave a foundation for the information so you could have a strong base to use the assessment rather than simply take the assessment and have no background for it. I preferred the first two sections most as they provided all the information. However, the assessment could be used as a workbook for further reflection. I would like to spend more time on nit to use it as an ongoing source of encouragement and growth. The assessment has a lot of questions and depth to it, so it seems like this can be used over a lengthy time for best results.

I enjoyed the book overall, both for its insight as well as its tools for improvement. Leaf knows her brain as well as her bible. I particularly liked how she ties them together. She makes the information accessible and relatable to real life by pointing out how people feel when they do good and how we tend to steer our thoughts. Then she anchors the hope for improvement using biblical principles on how God created us and continues to shape us.

 

“But, as I have emphasized throughout this book, you do not have to let your thoughts control you. You are not a victim of your thoughts and their biology; you are a victor over them. This means you can change these thoughts! You may have been nursing these negative mindsets for so long that they are so familiar to you that you think they are normal. This mistake is often made. However, only the thoughts formed when you are in your Perfect You, from God’s perspective, are normal, while the rest need redesigning or, to use the scientific term, reconceptualization. You can analyze your thoughts and, because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, redesign and rewire them. This is ‘renewing the mind’ in action, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit it is an essential part of a healthy, good life. Indeed, it is grace meeting science, since research shows that conscious awareness of thoughts makes the thoughts amenable to change because they are physically weakened!” (page 257)

Our Time, Our Days

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just as I was leaving

you found me again

now we’re right back

onto that same track

 

you make me want to stay

you make me want to go

wherever you decide now

I’ll figure out how

 

each with a foot out the door

we found an anchor of hope

like a welcoming homecoming

a reminder of becoming

 

when we lost touch then

we lost our way to stay

yet here at a crossroads now

we have place to share our odes

 

you kept in my time

feelings ticking on your wrist

a subtle reminder of me

and what we may not see to be

 

while I tucked away mine

let the hands fall still

waiting for a chance to tick

yet on your day it’d stick

 

 

 

 

because once we reached

our time coincided

the days the same

despite what the calendar said

 

 

July 20, 2017

 

Craving Higher Hopes

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no money, no rent

no way to meet ends

yet you daydream away

hoping somebody else tends

 

a day laid in bed

a blanket blocking out

no light streaming in

inspiration to move about

 

until I’m invited again

a smile lift lips

as you start to arise

head resting on my hips

 

my lap brings comfort

the presence you need

to embrace the real you

as that desire you feed

 

a connecting you bring

to go deeper you crave

what you hold dearly

you still can save

 

 

July 20, 2017

Chester Bennington

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listening back now

seems so hard to miss

that deep felt desire

for life more than this

 

so how did we not

see that darkness filling

what light was left

as hope went spilling

 

radio plays nonstop

an endless tribute stream

what now seems proof

in that musical scream

 

let us not forget

the reality of those songs

as hopelessness expresses

it feels it belongs

 

success matters not

when the mind does miss

a light, a hope, a faith

to make life worth this

Gaining Independence and Staying In Dependence on God

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Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day. Since my situation encountered another change recently, I found myself contemplating my own independence. Specifically, I considered how much independence fits a healthy lifestyle. I saw a blurb from a Christian resource pointing readers to remain in dependence on God. That reminder got me thinking about leaning on God, my family, friends and community.

I tend to isolate myself. That stems from a way I’ve coped with difficulties that started in childhood, and I’ve had to work on rerouting that habit. While good results arise from me wanting to take care of myself and my physical needs, I can take care of my spiritual and mental needs only to a point. Well, even my physical needs require me to seek help. I just have a hard time asking for help. Yet it’s there. I do not need to isolate myself; that only tends to worsen the situation. Somehow I forget I truly do have a team of people who care about me and whose relationships have proven fruitful for me (and them). God created us to depend on Him as well as live in community.

As I contemplate my next step for my career and my focus on my physical, mental and spiritual health, I seek to regain more of my independence again in terms of taking care of myself. Yet I also want to remind myself that part of that responsibility involves asking for help and seeking resources. Wherever I end up, I can lean on God and my community near and far.

Under a Summer Sky Makes a Warm, Tender Summer Read

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I received a copy of Under a Summer Sky by Melody Carlson from Revell Books in exchange for an honest review.

Once again I got a third in a series, but this one also didn’t require knowledge of the previous books for me to enjoy this novel. This time I had the added pleasure of reading a sweet summer love story during the summer months. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the characters, especially the protagonist Nicole.

Nicole, a high school art teacher, moved from Seattle, Washington to Savannah, Georgia to run a family friend’s art gallery for the summer. She agreed to the arrangement with the hope of not feeling stuck in her job and relationship status. While there, she encountered new career experience, difficult co-workers, friendships, and a budding romance. She even took one of her friend’s children under her wing.

I appreciated Nicole’s character since her experiences and time of life resembled my own. She showed strength in trying a new angle to develop her career and skills, moving to gain perspective and allowing a nice gentleman to pursue her for a relationship. I too made a faraway move to gain perspective and job experience and could relate to the uncertainty. It felt hopeful to read about someone else doing it and overcoming the obstacles.

My only knocks on the book were that some of the dialogue seemed contrived. The content still made sense; they just didn’t flow as naturally as real dialogue usually would. However, the situations and characters still maintained their authenticity and relatability. In a way the story had a certain simplicity, but I enjoyed it and appreciated the positive outlook.