On PTSD: An Update

I love that as a society, we’re more open and honest about sharing the mental illnesses that are impacting our lives. There’s a certain strangeness, though, that I also wonder about.

I love that as a society, we’re more open and honest about sharing the mental illnesses that are impacting our lives. There’s a certain strangeness, though, that I also wonder about. If part one is identifying, and part two is stating it out loud, what is part three? My hope is that it’s “Here’s what I’m doing to try to get better.”

I wish getting better at anything took little time at all. I wish I could dream of an improvement, and make it happen overnight. But that isn’t how behavior works; especially when many of our behaviors are complex. They’re rooted in DNA, patterns we learn from parents, school socialization, tv sitcoms, trauma, and an amalgam of various things.

My entire life I thought I was weird for my behaviors. I had labels of where my clothing went in my dresser. My class schedules were printed and color coded. I was rarely late, hyper organized, and terrified of failure. I hear it isn’t normal to like looking at spreadsheets?

At a counseling session I was talking about my daily routine. For fear of sounding overly type A, I won’t tell you how it goes. But very kindly, she said “In the counseling world, we can this ‘over-functioning'”. At work, my team jokes “Well, I’ll do task X, but probably not as well as Stephanie.” And Del says that sometimes I’m “Just a little extra.”

I like who I am. And my organization, flow charts, and amazing planning skills have gotten me far in life.

When you go through a lot of trauma, over an extended period of time, and experience trauma repeatedly – it changes you.

I could “Let go and let God.” But it’s unfair to say that when as a child I wondered “How did God let this happen?” It feels strange to put so much faith in something that also let that bad thing occur. You’re either omnipotent, or you aren’t – right? Yet, I know the evil that causes trauma is not of God, but of man.

Data is beautiful because it makes the world black and white and simple. And having no marriage or children is easier because it makes the world less complicated. The more things you add the harder everything gets.

There are not enough Bible passages, quips, one liners, or coffee dates to fix a world that feels constantly unsafe.

I once told Del I see all of the world, and I hate it. I can’t go into a room or on a street without scanning for every possibly of danger. I live my life at a 10, in constant fear of every threat. The car that might swerve, the woman who might launch at me. I have a very long list of things I control so I can feel safe.

I wasn’t on guard those few times, and danger struck. So if I am hypervigilant, maybe the world won’t hurt me again? If I’ve learned one thing from society, it’s that the victim gets blamed before the attacker. So I kiss Del and Carly every time they leave; certain one day they won’t come back. A deer will hit the car on a snowy day, and everything I love will be taken away.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. Life always on edge, afraid of what’s around each corner, is exhausting. And it can sometimes be exhausting for Del, who runs to keep up.

I have, in spite of this overwhelmingly sad few paragraphs, gotten better. Two contradictory things have helped me: the safety of patterns, and a messy family.

Knowing I wake up and go to bed with same pattern, day in and day out, for years – allows me to feel like the world is safe. Yet too much control would drive anymore batty. Carly and Del, are my wonderful opposites. Del and I fight a lot over the fact that he sees the world as safe. And watching Carly, fearless of everything, helps me drop my guard. If they can see this world as safe, so can I.

I can go to bed a little later, eat dinner a little earlier, and have a little extra ice cream. If I work out 55 minutes instead of an hour, the world won’t stop spinning. Little by little I arc towards better. Little by little the world is somewhat safer. Trauma fades, and in it’s place stand a husband holding me tight and a baby grabbing ahold of everything she can.

On a perfect mess…

Three weeks ago I was laying on my kitchen floor crying.

What brought me to the floor? A fucking bouillon cube.

A few months ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which means that if I eat anything with gluten (something found in wheat, rye or barley) I get really sick.

I had planned on making a delicious soup for my husband and my mom. But when I reached for the bouillon, I started reading the ingredients and could not figure out if it contained any gluten. So I went to the company website, and there was no more information. I scanned the barcode on an app I have, and the app database couldn’t tell me if there was gluten.

I was tired of searching. My plans hit a road bump. I was exhausted because I had to start a new routine of reading EVERY single label. My brain was confused. Not knowing what to do, I laid on the ground and started sobbing.

Like most people, I have a few pet peeves. My biggest pet peeve is misinformation (that’s a different blog post). But near the top of my list is when people deny having any problems.

I have a really good life. Good job. Good husband. Good friends.

But some days, I feel like I’m falling apart. Honestly, some weeks I feel like I’m falling apart.

But if you listen to some people (you know who I’m talking about) you’d think they had everything figured out. I’m sure there are a few people in the world who live in harmony, but for most of us – life can be a struggle. Struggles are relative. To many, me crying over bouillon cubes is ridiculous. But to me, it was difficult.

When I feel like everything is a mess, I find that there are a few things I can do.

1) I recognize that there is a problem.

Some people never admit to having any personal problems. Some people never discuss their own issues, but excel and discussing the problems of other people. I find those traits exceptionally harmful, because every person has some issues. Denying that we have issues is just that – denial.

In my experience, the best thing to do when I have a problem, is to sit down and think about it. “Why am I mad?” Oh yes, because of this. “Why am I crying?” Oh yes, because of this.

There is nothing wrong with having issues. God recognized sin the first day it happened. He wasn’t happy, but He sent us Jesus. Jesus gives us hope that we are better than our imperfections.

2) I call out for help.

I sat and cried on the floor for three minutes. Then I looked into the other room and my mom and husband were waiting there. Why should I be alone when two people I love are sitting in the next room?

If you can cry out for help – you should. If you don’t have anyone for whom to cry out – you should start looking. If you pick a time and public place, most people don’t turn down hanging out.

I’m not great at calling out for help, but I’m trying. Each year, I get a little bit better.

3)      I recognize that only God is perfect.

I swear a lot. I have a temper. I cry over trivial things. I blame my husband for my own mistakes.

I am not perfect. The trick isn’t to be perfect, the goal is to become better.

The only way we become better is through Christ. Christ died for our own imperfections so that one day we could be reconciled into perfection. Until that day comes, we all just have to live with being a perfect little mess.

On J.O.Y…

J.O.Y.

In Christian-ese, it’s an acronym for: Jesus, Others, and then You.

It’s used to convey the notion that our primary focus should be Jesus, then other people, and lastly – ourselves.

The phrase is used to let many people know that they should not be selfish, and they should put the needs of others ahead of themselves.

I have always hated that acronym. It isn’t the letters, it is their order.

In my life, I have never had trouble taking care of other people before I took care of myself. In fact, I would say that not taking care of myself has been one of my largest struggles. You remember that blog where I avoided going to the doctor for 10 years? And that other one where I never asked for help? Yeah, it’s a problem.

When I was a kid, I can remember packing my mother lunches before she went to work so she would have food to eat. I’d make her an egg salad sandwich, pack her some fruit, and then I’d shower and get ready for school. I was eight.

Taking care of others before I took care of myself is a theme that followed me to other relationships. In eighth grade I had a terrible friendship with a girl named ‘Terri.’ If there was a board game Terri wanted to play, I’d give in. If there was a snack Terri wanted, I’d get it. I’m sure Terri loved having me as a friend, but I did not get much out of the relationship.

In my first few romantic endeavors, I can remember making sure the needs of my significant other were taken care of before I would ever consider myself. With my ex-husband, I remember spending a few months doing all of the housework, working two jobs, and doing all of the laundry because he voiced that he was tired. My needs? Can’t say I thought about them.

Some people are givers. Some people are takers. Many people are a bit of both.

I have found that there are two really big problems with always being the giver.

First, always being a giver allowed me to ignore my own personal needs and problems I should have been addressing. Yeah, I packed my mom lunch because I loved her. But I also packed her lunch because of a deep insecurity that if I did not take care of my mother something bad would happen to her. What? Who knows?

And I took care of so many things for my ex-husband so that I could avoid taking care of my own issues. Lose weight for my health? Why would I do that when I am taking care of a spouse? Spend time in prayer? How can I do that when I am helping all of these friends?

Second, I think my need to take care of others first comes from a deep insecurity that if I do not please other people they will not love me. And if no one loves me, who am I then?

If I pack my mom lunch, she will love me. Right?

If I do everything for my spouse, he will love me. Right?

If I do whatever my friends need, they will like me. Right?

I found out the hard way that nothing you can do will make people like you.

After I got divorced, I lost several of my ‘friends.’ When I moved to Michigan I knew no one, but became friends with two women I thought loved me. When I got divorced these women told me they no longer wanted to be my friend because ‘of my decisions.’

I thought I had done nothing to them. I had been whatever they wanted whenever they needed it. Yet, they could still dump me. I was baffled.

Losing those friends taught me one of the best things I have ever learned. I learned that you have to be yourself and you have to take care of yourself. I could spend my entire life pretending to be some else and do whatever people want, and people can still hate me or leave me. So I might as well be myself and take care of my own needs.

I highly doubt that I am alone on this. In fact, I’d venture to guess that a lot of people take care of others to the detriment of their own needs.

So that annoying acronym. I think we keep Jesus first, because through Christ and our devotion to Him we can understand how we should respond to all things.

Then, You. If we keep in line with Christ, it will guide us to take care of ourselves. If I have little sleep, how can I serve others? If I never exercise and am unhealthy, how can I take care of children? If I never buy myself anything, how can I be happy for my friend’s gifts?

In keeping in line with Christ, and then taking care of ourselves, that will allow us to have the energy to take care of other people. We should be taking care of others. We should love our friends and family. We should take care of others.

So I propose we arrange this acronym. Instead of J.O.Y., how about J.Y.O.?

I think that will save my life, and my sanity.

On how I overcome feeling alone…

Sometimes I think people only imagine that the devil comes to us in big things. You know what I mean, right? That we will meet our demise or downfall through things like drugs, murder, or violence.

While these things obviously lead to problems, I think the devil is in the little things.

 If the devil were to conquer me, I do not think it would be with alcohol or beating someone up. If I am conquered, it will be because I have been convinced that I am alone.

Actually, maybe that is not so small?

Most of my life I have felt alone.

In daycare, I remember struggling to connect and make friends.

In high school and college, I felt the same way. I would talk someone and struggle to feel a of connection.

The need to feel connected is a God give desire.

Feeling alone is often just that – a feeling; it is seldom a reality.

I feel alone, but at any moment, I have a dozen people I can call and ask for help.

Regardless of this reality, my perception has led to some dark times. I have struggled with bouts of depression, paralyzing anxiety, and when I was in college – a suicide attempt.

This last year has not been helpful. In mid-2015, my church campus closed (I wrote about that here), and a few months ago I was diagnosed with Celiac disease (and I wrote about that here). Losing a church campus feels lonely. Learning to adapt to a disease where you cannot eat food others are consuming feels lonely. In spite of being surrounded by people – I feel alone.

This morning I woke up and felt lonely. My brain was telling me to stay at home and sulk. But if you want to grow loneliness – you feed it with being alone. If you want to grow connection – you feed it by being around good people.

Instead of sulking, I drove to church. I was going to sit alone, but instead, I forced myself to sit by some friends.

When I feel alone, I try to overcome it by remembering these three things.

First, I remember to pick up the damn phone. Instead of sitting in silence, I call out to someone I love. I call my mother and tell her I miss her. I call my friend Brandy and ask her about her day. I message my friend Bri and see how she is doing. Honestly, I forget to do this – ALL the time, but I am trying to be better.

Second, I try to realize that my struggle with feeling alone comes from a place of pain. I feel alone because I do not want to let others in because I feel like I have been hurt by a lot of people. When I married Del I put in my vows ‘I vow to let you love me.’ I am surrounded by people that try to love me, but I struggle to let them. I fear that if I let them in, they will only hurt me. Since marrying Del, and learning to let someone love me, I am starting to overcome that. But its hard. Every day it is hard.

Third, I reflect on the fact that even if I lost everything I would still have God. If my friends go away, if my husband dies, and if my church is gone – God still remains (for the record – I would prefer to have those things stick around). I am a child of God. God dwells in me. At any moment, at any time, He is with me. When I am alone, I try to remember Him. With Him, I am never really alone. And if I am never really alone, the devil can never conquer me.

On being ok…

When I was 16 I was in a car accident.

The driver of the car took a corner too fast, and the 1990-something Ford Escort we were in hit some gravel and flipped end-to-end several times. Both the driver and I walked away from the crash, but I’ve had neck issues for the last 14 years.

Around 18 or so I started getting treatment for my neck. Thousands of dollars, too many doctors, and tons of test later I reached the end of medical treatment. The neurologist’s recommendations were: wear tighter clothing, keep mobile, and have an MRI every year.

When I say neck issues, I mean I am in constant pain nearly every single day of my life (about a 4 out of 10).  I have disc degeneration, bone spurs, and a syrinx. I can do most things, but I’ll never ride a roller coaster again. Here’s a picture of what a syrinx looks like. This one isn’t mine, but it’ll work. It’s that little white sliver.

At the start of this year, I hadn’t had that MRI for 10 years. My pain was also closer to a five or six most days.

I hadn’t gotten an MRI or seen a neurologist because I was terrified of what the results would be. I was scared of what the doctor would say. “You’re syrinx has gotten worse, you’re slowly dying.”

I think I was also terrified of how my now ex-husband would respond to the results. Would he leave me, be mad about the expense, or act out against me with retribution

This year my husband I made New Year’s resolutions for each other. One of Del’s resolutions for me was to get treatment for my neck.

I started seeing a chiropractor. I’ve started getting massages. And finally – I got that MRI.

Two days ago I saw the neurologist to go over my MRI results.

Driving to the neurologist with Del I was terrified.

Sitting in the waiting room I was preparing myself for whatever the doctor might say.

Eventually, the doctor came in. He looked at my MRI, did a few office tests, and then told me his opinion. He said, “Well, I can see why you’re in pain. You have issues X, Y and Z. But you can walk and you seem mobile. I’ve seen a lot worse, so I don’t think you keep seeing me regularly.”

To manage my pain he recommended I get physical therapy. To make sure I don’t get worse, he recommended I get an MRI once a year and check up with him.

After Del and I left, we got to the car and cried.

Out of fear I waited 10 years to hear that I was fine.  I am okay. Everything is ok.

This experience has got me thinking about a three things over the last few days: scale, fear and readiness.

Compared to most 30-year olds, my neck is in rough shape. Compared to many folks that have been in a car accident, I’m doing ok. Compared to most people the neurologist I met with sees, I’m doing great. How many times do we forget the scale, and how it shifts based on our perspective?

Out of fear, I waited ten years to get my neck checked out. After waiting so long I was terrified of how much worse my neck had gotten, and if I’d waited too long to get it checked out. I sat in fear for a decade because I was terrified of the outcome. What else have I wanted so long on, just to find out that everything would be ok? What else am I not fixing or working on today that I could be?

Have you ever listened to someone complain about something and thought to yourself, “I know your problem, and here’s what you can do to fix it”? Have you ever told someone exactly what their problem was and how they could fix it, only to have the person shut down or do the exact opposite of what they should do? Everyone has had that experience. But no one can fix something until they’re ready to face their problem. There is no amount of pushing, coercion, or complaining that can get someone to change something they don’t want to change.

The thing is – we have all been that person to someone. To someone, I am that lady that always does this thing, and it’d be great if I just fixed it.

I could have seen a doctor a long time ago, and maybe I’d be better now today. But if I’m honest with myself, I know I would not have been ready. I was not at a place in my life where I felt safe to face the issue in front of me.

This experience has taught me about life.

Life is this miraculous thing. And life is facing one problem after the other. One day, everything is fine – and the next day everything feels like its falling apart.

When those moments come, where everything feels like its falling apart – that is where we find Jesus.

Sometimes he comes in food or water. Sometimes he comes in friends and family. But sometimes he comes from a doctor reading test results. No matter how he comes, he always says the same thing… “I can see why you’re in pain. This terrible thing has happened. But you know what? You’re going to be ok.”

On gluten-free (or, all I want is a fluffy bagel)…

The worst part about having migraines, is waiting for the next one to strike. In high school I got frequent migraines until I figured out that the trigger was harsh smells. For the last few months, I was waiting for the worst part. Without smelling something that is usually a trigger (like Axe cologne or patchouli) I would get a terrible migraine. When I get a migraine, I see a halo, go blind in my right eye, and then proceed to have terrible pain in the front part of my brain for four to ten hours. After my migraine hits, I find a dark room and try to sleep it off.

I only have so many sick days from work, so I decided to see my doctor to get some help. In addition to doing some other testing and giving me some migraine medicine, my doctor told me, “I think you might have celiac disease. You should try cutting out gluten.” I love bread, so I wasn’t thrilled with this diagnosis. But when you’re live your life terrified of getting another migraine, you’ll try anything.

When you have celiac disease, your body attacks any gluten that you eat. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barely. When you have celiac disease and consume something like bread or beer, your body’s immune system attacks your small intestine. The only treatment is a gluten-free diet.

I’m in week two of not eating any gluten.

Week one, Del and I went to the store and just bought nuts, fruits and vegetables. “This isn’t a big deal,” I thought to myself.

Week two, reality started to sink in. I would describe the week as ‘pitiful.’ And the apex of pity struck during today’s trip to the grocery store.

This morning before church I went to the grocery store alone and was trying to find ‘fun’ foods I could eat. The moment I walked through the doors I was hit with a feeling I can only describe as self-pity. That feeling didn’t get any better as I wandered through the aisles. I would pick up a package, see if it said ‘gluten free’ and then would have to put it down when I saw ‘wheat.’

Cereal? Nope. Fluffy bagels? Nope. Pasta? Nope. ALL I WANT TO EAT IS A FLUFFY BAGEL.

When I recognized the self-pity hitting my brain, I immediately felt guilty. I’m not the first person in the world to have a restrictive diet. I know a few people that have celiac disease, and most of them have dealt with the restrictive diet for decades. I’m able to afford food, so I should feel grateful that I have food that I can eat. There are gazillion types of food in the world, and I am able to eat more foods than I cannot eat. Regardless of all of those things, I still felt weirdly sad. It didn’t help when I got to the check-out, and the guy in front of me bought a pack of delicious, fluffy bagels. He better eat ALL of them!

Leaving the store, I started whimper crying as I drove home. The mix of self-pity and guilt over feeling self-pity got the best of me. By the time I got home and started unpacking my groceries I was crying.

In spite of my self-pity/guilt, I drove to church. When I walked through the doors of the sanctuary I noticed tables full of communion elements (wine and bread) in the back.

Seeing the communion materials in the back made me feel strangely pissed off. If a person doesn’t take communion, I know they aren’t any less of a Jesus follower. But still, I really wanted to be able to partake in the ceremony with my church. The entire service I sat in dread waiting for that moment where my pastor says, “Now, go do communion folks!” I imagined that I’d have to sit at my chair and loathe in self-pity as the people I love got to enjoy one of my favorite church activities. I then thought of all of the other people I have known throughout my life that haven’t been able to partake in communion – but wanted to. My heart sank. How had I never thought of these people? Sorry people! I was a selfish jerk.

Thankfully, something wonderful happened. My pastor announced we were doing communion, and then he said, “And there’s a gluten free option at the back table.” My heart jumped. While other people were slowly meandering to the bread and wine, I was walking like a mad woman to the gluten free option.

I got to the table, saw the gluten free crackers and wine, and felt a strange sense of relief. I don’t remember gluten free options when I was growing up. I saw the cracker, dunked it in wine, and slowly ate it. In my entire life, I’ve never felt so grateful to be able to be a part of communion.

I haven’t had any gluten for two weeks. My body has never felt so good. I have a history of stomach problems, but haven’t had any issues since I began my new diet. Most importantly, I haven’t had any migraines for two weeks. Thanks you Jesus.

If you open your eyes to The Lord, you will see Him everywhere. I’ve seen Jesus in people, in nature, and in the kind acts of others. But today, I got to see Jesus in a gluten free cracker at the back of church. The body and blood of Jesus has never tasted so good.

On why I left the church, and how I came back…

When I was a freshman in college, I walked away from God and the church. Actually, I’d say I ran away screaming.

My first six months of college I attended a campus Christian group. We would meet every week, discuss the Bible and hang out. Then, one week we started talking about judgment. No, I don’t mean we talked about how we will be judged, or salvation. We didn’t talk about being saved through grace, or acts, or some other theological debate. I mean, the group of people I was sitting with started discussing who was going to heaven and who was going to hell. I thought that was bullshit.

I was so offended by the conversation that I left and didn’t come back to God for about seven years.

My falling off started small, but grew over time. I began doubting God’s existence. I wondered how a gracious God could create a world with so much bullshit. I was angry that I suffered from depression and had experienced so much loss, while other people seemed happy and full of life. I stopped attending church. I never read the Bible. I stopped praying. I stopped believing. If you asked me if I believed in God, I would have told you ‘Hell, no!’

The thing about God’s voice, is that once you’re really heard it – it is impossible to stay away. Although I thought I had left everything I once knew about Christianity, God still wanted me.

After seven years, my life started turning to shit. My now ex-husband was going to leave me. Graduate school was terrible. I was suffering from three solid years of depression. I felt like I had nothing left.

I got into my car and decided I was going to drive it off of a bridge. I started driving around looking for a place where I could gather enough speed, and where I could drive off without hurting anyone else.

But then I heard something. Something was telling me that this didn’t have to be the answer. Instead of driving my car off the bridge, I called a suicide hotline. The woman on the other end, whose name I don’t even remember, saved my life. She convinced me to call my brother. My brother came and got me.

Two days later, I started going to church again. I googled the church that was closest to me, and just started going. I was terrified that someone in the church would be able to see that I had been fighting for team atheist, and that they’d throw me out. No one did that.

I use to think my journey was beautiful and unique. I guess in some ways it is, because it is mine. However, since time has passed I’ve talked to at least a dozen people who’ve followed a similar path. I think a lot of people leave the church because people within the church are shitty to them.

For some strange reason, growing up going to church, I always had this weird idea that church-goers were somehow better people. After over twenty years of going to church, I now see how naïve that is. I do think that churches need to do more to let people know that Christians are not perfect, and that pastors are people who sometimes fuck up. After attending church for a few decades I hope I’m a better person. Even if I’m better, I’m never going to be perfect. No matter how hard I try, I’m probably going to do something that hurts someone.

Churches are full of people. And sometimes people are really crappy. Hopefully, churches can be a safer (safer than work or home) place where we can turn to each other in our times of need. But sometimes, churches fail.

When you are crapped on in church, it is easy to look at the church and blame God for the problem. It is also easy to think all Christians are as terrible as the person/people that treated you poorly.

I’ve found that when I talk to a crappy sales person from a company I often think that the cruddy sales person IS the company. The number one reason people don’t return to a restaurant is a bad waiter. And the main reason people leave a company is a bad boss. Does a bad waiter mean the whole restaurant is terrible? Does a bad boss mean the whole company is worthless?

If you identify as a Christian, and you treat someone like a jerk, it is probable that the person you treated poorly will think that you are representative of all Christians.

I was able to come back to church because I was able to make an important distinction. Going to church is a lot like going to a gym. Some people are going to be really fit, healthy, and in shape. But there are also going to be a lot of people that are unfit, and need to spend a lot of time getting in shape. We don’t go to church because we are perfect. We go to church because we are hoping to get better. If we all had to be perfect in order to meet Jesus, none of us would be good enough.

If you’re reading this, and someone within the church has hurt you – I want to tell you that I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry that someone hurt you. That sucks.

If you’re reading this, and I’ve hurt you – I am sorry for that as well. I’m sorry I was a crappy person.

In the campus Christian group, those people were just being jerks that day. It doesn’t mean they are terrible people. It certainly doesn’t mean God is terrible.

At the end of the day, the most important thing, is that you are a child of God and God loves you. No matter what you’ve done, and no matter what others have done to you, God loves you. In a perfect world we would always be examples of Christ. We would let other people be themselves. We would hold each other when we are in pain. We would protect each other, help each other grow, we would be safe places in a storm. But we are people, and we will fail.

No matter where you are, if you’ve ever heard the voice of God – He is calling to you. He wants you to hear Him. He needs you. And if you’ve ever heard the calling, you know that you need Him too.
From the day my husband and I were baptized.

On teaching ‘bad’ kids…

When I was eighteen or so, I use to teach swimming lessons to kids.

One of the worst kids I ever taught was a ten year old boy named Daniel. Daniel was a jerk. He interrupted me, he would splash, dunk, and hit other kids, he hardly listened to any instruction I gave him. One day Daniel was being exceptionally terrible. To handle Daniel, I put him on time out. While he was in time out, he started yelling and throwing things at us. I didn’t know what to do, so I just started yelling at him. My yelling stopped Daniel in his tracks. He completely froze. I remember wanting Daniel to feel terrible. I wanted him to stop acting like a jerk and start listening to me.

I still think about Daniel, and how small I must have made him feel. He was a kid, so he probably doesn’t remember some dumb teenager that kind of taught him how to swim. But I can’t help but wonder… does he remember me? If he does remember me, I wonder what he thinks. Does he remember how small I made him feel? Does he remember that I yelled at him when I didn’t have to? I don’t know why Daniel acted like a jerk, but I am guessing he had something going on in his life and he was just trying to find some way to let it out.

I have always regretted yelling at Daniel. I regret yelling at him not because he didn’t deserve it. I regret it because I remember wanting him to feel small. Ugh – what a crappy thing to do to another human being. Why do we want other people to feel small? Does it really add anything of value to our lives?

I recently had a ‘Daniel’ while teaching Kid’s Journey (our churches Sunday school). I had a kid that wouldn’t listen, was hitting another kid (his brother), and was just being difficult. If you have ever babysat, had a sibling, are a parent, or have taught a kid – you know it is frustrating to be around a kid that is having a hard time paying attention.

The thing is, I have changed. I am not eighteen years old, I’ve been doing this a little bit longer, and I have now encountered dozens of Daniels.

There was a part of me that wanted to yell at this kid. However, the part of me that wants other people to feel small – has somehow departed. I don’t know where that part of me went, but I am so happy it is gone.

When the kid interrupted me, I asked him to raise his hand.

When the kid hit his brother, I stepped in between them.

When the kid was saying terrible things about his family, I asked him to say more about his feelings.

I also tried to give the kid TONS of positive affirmation. When he cut out some paper, I told him ‘Great work!’, and when he helped clean up I said, ‘Nice job! You are so great!’

I am not sure what other people would have done. Honestly, I think other people probably would have been a little bit harsher. I am guessing other people would have put him on time out, or yelled at him, or talked to his mom about his behavior.

Teaching Kid’s Journey where I teach is different from teaching at school and it is different from parenting.

There are some kids I will only meet once, and then I will never seem them again. I don’t see these kids every single day of the week, or even multiple times a week. Some kids I meet don’t know me, and sometimes I will only get to know them for sixty minutes of one day of their entire life.

In this position, I need to ask myself, ‘What do I really want these kids to know?’

I once listened to a sixty year old woman tell people about her journey as a Christian. She said that her family never had the opportunity to go to church, and so she didn’t grow up in a Christian home. However, when the woman was five years old a preacher stopped by their house and a kind man told her ‘Jesus loves you very much.’

I don’t know where Daniel is. I hope he turned out to be awesome. If I met Daniel today, I would tell him I am sorry for sucking. If I never get the chance to do that, then moving forward, I want other Daniels to know that there is something better. No one comes to Jesus through me. People can only come to Christ, through Jesus. However, I am exceptionally lucky to be in the position where I can tell kids from all different backgrounds ‘Jesus loves you very much.’

That is what I want these kids to know. I want them to know, that in a world that can be super difficult and super shitty, that there is something they can cling to.