Trees of Transition

Comfort for people going through life transitions by sharing thoughts, photos, cards, and recipes.


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Be Yourself: Quietness and All

From the book, Quiet, by Susan Cain:
“Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is be deploying the powers of quiet.”
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On p. 447 there’s a quote from Anais Nin that says, “Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.”

Finding your center again is worth the work. Two years ago I had a spiritual experience that settled deep inside me my value: That God deeply loves me no matter what (please ask if you want more details). That experience “centered” me. Since then I’ve been working at rewiring my brain to believe my value and know I can be confident in what I think even when I’m challenged.

Reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, about the power of introverts has also been freeing! It’s okay to need alone time. It’s okay to admit I’m more on the sensitive end of the spectrum, so now that I’m aware of it I can challenge myself, get a thicker skin, and just know I have that tendency.

Discovering that it’s okay to be you is so freeing.

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Thinking About Being a Teaching Assistant? There Are Perks…Among the Humbleness

I earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree to become an assistant? An aide?? A substitute???Well, yes, for a season. For the last three years I have been an aide, then a substitute, and finally a teaching assistant. I called myself a teacher, partly to keep up face and it is true, I am a certified teacher. But I was the assistant. It was like another round of student teaching, but this time with elementary students, which meant lots of parenting:

“No, you do not run in here!”

“You need to say that again without whining and then I’ll hear you.”

“Let’s play the quiet game!!”

I’m thankful to be learning how to parent with other peoples’ children; you can only become better, right?

Some things challenged me. Students knew where the power was…Maybe I had more power than I realized because for some reason I let the assistant title get to me. The students knew the difference — that I was the assistant and when I stepped in to be the full teacher a couple of times, they acted just like they do for a substitute. I felt bound to follow the guidelines, ask permission, and not just be free to teach. I learned how to follow a leader and work under someone. I enjoyed doing more team teaching and that happened occasionally. Being an assistant is humbling, but there ARE perks.

 

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If you’re a newly graduated teacher or if you have taught and are looking for a new job, here are some advantages to being an assistant:

This is a double-edged blade: You are not the one in charge. That means you might hear about some of the challenges, but you don’t have to fix them. This job showed me more of my control issues; I like to be the one in charge. I had to submit to Jesus, then to those over me. You get to follow and serve.

I learned on a deeper level how to have fun with learning. Students learn better when they are interested and having fun while learning important principles. The teacher I worked with was great at making learning enjoyable. For example, we learned about the rain forest by making a bulletin board collage of the layers of the rain forest; we also planted seeds to learn about how plants grow.

I learned different methods and ways of handling kids from seeing the teacher I worked with and the specials teachers work with our students. The art teacher ruled the class with an iron-hand, but the students created colorful, intricate art projects that impressed us all. She laughed at me when she saw I was reading a teaching book that another teacher had recommended, but I just laughed back. Because the kids were busy most of the time, I could read a few lines of the book, then when a kid needed me I could go right then and put into practice what I had just been learning about classroom management. My “teaching style” grew, got challenged, and grew some more.

It has helped me see more of my teaching gaps. I’ve been too sensitive at times, and made mountains out of mole-hills; my skin is getting tougher. I had this weird feeling of not being sure of what I should be doing at times; sometimes it was because I didn’t ask and I needed to talk with the teacher I worked with, and sometimes I just feel weird when I’m not in charge. Following well is harder than it looks. I’m also a slower processor when there’s lots of activity around, so it’s much easier for me to think when it is quiet. Now that I know those things about me, I can work with those traits in me so that they won’t hold me back.

It was a perk to just leave work at work!

Remembering that Jesus, the greatest example of how to live life, served those around him helped me. Being an assistant is a serving job, which is humbling, but you learn so much. And you never know what opportunities will open up because you have been faithfully serving. Take it from me…good things blossom. I received an offer to teach Bible and College Writing–a combination of my gifts I never would have even thought to ask for! Humility and faithfulness pay off. Go for it: assist, help, serve.

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Last Easter to This Easter: A Year With a Lot of Endings (and a Few Amazing Beginnings)

Endings:
Graduating from Grad School!
A boyfriend ending things.
Moving out of a cute house where I lived with friends.
Lots of okay first dates.
Several second dates.
A few third dates and beyond, then an end. (I’ve found that having a song to listen to after a relationship doesn’t work out is so helpful. Mine is “This is not the End” by Gungor. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Cjt83wWDk).
My brother-in-law passing away unexpectedly.
A friend from high school dying suddenly.
My grandma passing away.
Friends planning on moving away…

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Yesterday was Good Friday, and it pushes you to consider death: Jesus, who didn’t have to die chose to die for us, so that we could have new life and hope if we accept his life in exchange for our wrong-doing. Because death is coming, we desire to fully experience the life we have.

When you fully embrace life, you get to feel greater pain, but also greater joy. If you’re numb then you don’t feel emotions fully. For example, my fears caused me to choose numbness for years, and I was able to “control” my life more, but life wasn’t very fun. Now that I’m learning to feel and not have the numbness, it seems like there’s more loss in my life, but also more joy!

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Beginnings:
Life without classes hanging over my head!
A sister getting engaged, and her asking me to be her maid of honor.
Writing more consistently and sharing that writing through a blog.
Moving to a place with a bigger kitchen.
Meeting over a dozen different guys and learning a lot of insightful things from getting to know them a bit.
My nephew came into the world and has brought so much life, joy, and mirth!
New connections with my sisters.
Seeing young people at church and at work keep on growing up to become beautiful young people.

My experience is this: Even with all this messy life, I can have hope because Jesus died  AND ROSE AGAIN to bring new life.

Happy Easter!

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Learning to Not be Clueless: Developing Self-Awareness

Last year a friend made a comment about how I seemed to her: “It’s like you crawled out from under a rock! You’re so wide-eyed at the world and open to learning new things.” Thinking about this makes me laugh and then ponder.

Part of what the friend meant was that growing up I was isolated and chose not to learn average popular culture for a while, and now I’m getting to experience it. (Maybe it surprised her, but she was very encouraging and helped me develop in some new ways.)

Now that I’m learning more communication skills I understand more of what she meant and am seeing the gaps in how I related to her and others.

My selfishness was hidden under a “nice” front, so I got away with it for years. In the last few years I have had situations where I’ve been forced to see my selfish patterns, and I’m learning to change.

I was childish in this area of self-awareness. Children arrive: completely dependent and inward focused.
A parent’s and a teacher’s job is to break kids out of that inward focus and learn how to relate to others.

Self-awareness must be taught (and sometimes taught repeatedly to get through to some humans.) Some humans tend to be more empathetic or feeling, while others have focused on getting their own needs met.

How do you develop self-awareness?

You learn how to love and care for people by just doing it! Sometimes I lament the years I didn’t try as much, but NOW I can be tuned it, feel others’ feelings, and love people where they are at.

Self-awareness comes through having truth-tellers in your life: people who will lovingly tell you “You hurt me when you did that, and please say it maybe this way next time and it would seem more caring.”

Start picking up people’s signals/vibes/ the emotional feelings they are sending out if you care to stop and listen. Pay attention to peoples’ faces and pick up the signals there.

Let love in enough so that you can relax, forget yourself, and tune into how others are feeling.

So I’m learning to not be clueless by being willing to tune into other people’s signals, and responding in an appropriate ways. And I still am wide-eyed toward life because this is a much more life-giving way to live!

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Why Pink and Red Go Together

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When I was ten, one day after I had dressed up to go to church, a family friend (who was visiting) told me clearly, “You do not wear pink tights with red shoes!” and she wanted me to change. I think I did, but I’ve always liked red and pink together ever since then.

Today I bought a dress that is red and it has bright pink piping along the seams…and it’s from a high end store…it’s a classy dress…I knew I liked those colors together…

Why do red and pink belong together?
Well, they are transitional colors. If pink gets stronger, loses its white, it clarifies into red. Or if red relaxes and lets some white in, it changes to pink.

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Letting out your personal style and voice is essential to becoming a mature adult. Today as I watched Top Chef, the focus was on the chefs remembering when they came into their own cooking style. This “coming into your voice” happens at different times for different people, but it is an important transition that people need to go through or else they will just be copying everyone else as they go through life. Copying others is easier than creating your own path…but don’t you want to live your life and not someone else’s’ life?

Developing a personal style takes strength. When I was ten I didn’t have that strength to stand up to that friend and say, “I like pink and red together! I’m going to wear this to church.” But now I do.

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Pink and red go together because they are both bright, cheerful, Valentine-y colors, and I can be bold enough to wear them together just because I like them together. There! And I found the perfect dress to illustrate that pink and red CAN work together… it’s just a little bright…

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Learning to Have a “No”

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When you say “No!” to people, groups, and institutions you separate yourself from them. It hurts. It divides, but it also frees you to define yourself, to open doors, and to say “yes” to specific opportunities and relationships that you desire to cultivate.
Saying “no” makes your “yes” more powerful and fulfilling. It shows who you are as an individual. No’s define you. No, that is not me. No, I don’t believe in that. No, I think this way, but I still respect you.

Some people have a hard time saying “no” to things and people that may be good, but they are not what they want in their lives.
If you say “yes” out of fear that people will reject you if you don’t agree, then that weakens your “yes.”

People know it if we are not fully committed even if we are saying “yes.” Our actions and attitudes give us away through showing resentment, being slow or late, or clear disrespect; it can be passive aggressive.

Yes, there are times when we need to lay down what we want, and should go along with things we would like different for the good of the whole group. That is part of being in community, which is essential, but to have a voice in the community you need a “no!”

For example, I enjoyed a fun group of friends after college, and we had great fun and prayer meetings. After a couple years, things started getting strange, I didn’t feel safe anymore, so I stood up to the group, challenged them, and decided to leave. I was just starting to learn how to have a “no,” so I fumbled and didn’t do it very well. I hurt people through my “no,” but I started learning how to protect myself, and I started learning how to work through things.

It takes inner fortitude to stand up to people and be honest and say what you really mean. Where does this inner fortitude come from? It comes through practice, and through learning who you are, so that you know your values and can stand up for yourself since you are the one who knows where you begin and end.

If all you have said in the past is “yes,” then when you start saying no, you are letting people know you in a new level. You are defining and knowing yourself more deeply. You may create some waves, but the real relationships will survive. You need to have a “no” to be able to be healthy and have real relationships.

Having a “no” will help you choose a life for yourself, and you will not just float wherever. Expressing your “no” will help you be a better friend, family member, and person.

Resource to help you develop your “No”:

Boundaries
by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend


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The Power of a Pause…

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A pause can be many lengths:
seconds within a conversation,
minutes between text messages,
hours between emails,
days between phone calls,
weeks between visits…
years between seasons of friendship…

Pauses come in announcements, “And the winner is…” and when you’re not sure what to say. You take time to think and touch base with what you are feeling.

The pause from taking a breath adds oxygen to your blood, but in my mind, it also adds light and air to the relationship…taking a day between talking causes you to appreciate the person even more when you hear from him again…

In the past I’ve had the tendency to panic if I don’t hear from someone for a while(especially in the beginning of a romantic relationship when you’re still in that relational limbo, unsure stage). This “light and air” concept has really been helping me. Let the relationship breath…let there be a pause…take time to hear your heart…you can try to control this relationship, but it won’t work, so relax and pause…

Purposeful pauses add power to whatever you are saying. It helps people think about what you just said before you move on to your next thought.

Not cluttering up the words and saying the simple truth in a clear way.

It shows you have self-control and don’t just let words fly.

Pauses show you care about what you are saying and are putting thought into your words.

Think about music: Pauses add to the beauty and variety of the music. A pause before a crescendo builds anticipation and the adds to the surprise of when the powerful music returns.

Take the time to pause, feel what you are truly feeling, and process the life you are in right now. You’ll be glad you paused …
because you might be surprised by what you hear…


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Resigning From Trying to be the Savior: Reflections from a Suicide-Survivor’s Daughter

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I didn’t think I had a “hero-complex,” but now I know that I did. I wanted to be in charge. If change was happening that I didn’t like, I wanted to be in control and stop it or do it my way.

Three years ago when my principal was getting let go and a new one coming in at the school where I was teaching, after I had vented to a counselor about it all and how hard it was, she just looked at me and said, “You want to be the one making the decisions.” I didn’t want to admit it, but reality was, yes, I was uncomfortable with the changes, and didn’t want things to change.

Two years ago, from Halloween morning on when my Mom first told me, “I want to kill myself,” I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT to do, but I started trying to do something. I called and listened to her. I encouraged her. I told her I would help her get more help if that is what she thought she needed.

So a few weeks later, I helped my Mom sign herself into a psychiatric hospital. She got help for a few days, but then our family banded together to get her out before Thanksgiving. My sister and I took her into our house, and Mom stayed in my room for three weeks. She started taking medicine to help her thyroid, sleep medicine, and anti-depressants.
She got a little help from therapy, but we still didn’t know exactly what to do or how to help her.

Mom started feeling a little better, Thanksgiving was okay. We ate turkey together and Mom started being more honest about what she was feeling.

Then my Dad got in a car-accident, and she started nose-diving again. We couldn’t say, 
“There IS hope” enough to her, and it didn’t stick.

One Sunday morning, mid-December, my Dad was on his way to take my Mom to church, and my housemate and I were leaving a bit earlier. Mom was deeply depressed, and she tried to block my way as I left the house. I needed to get out of that house, and I knew Dad was coming soon, so I reassured her, “Dad’s coming soon,” and just left.

An hour later, after Sunday School, my sister called me and let me know my Mom had over-dosed on her medicine and was rushed to the hospital.

After I had left, Mom had tried to call a few people for help, but no one answered. Then she gave into the messages of death in her head, and took lots of pills. Dad got there in time to call 911 and get help, so Mom’s stomach could be pumped. They sedated her for a day, and she was in ICU for a bit. Then they moved her back to the psychiatric hospital. This time she did not want to be there. She did not cooperate. She was there for over a week.

When we had the family meeting about where she should go next, I was protesting having her go back to my parents’ farm out in the lonely country where this depression had started. I was saying, “She can’t go back there!”

The case worker looked at me and said, “You can’t save her. If she wants to kill herself, you won’t be able to stop her.” It felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. I stopped talking, and let my family do what they thought was best. Hearing that truth was hard, but it was what I needed right then. It helped me step back and stop trying as hard to save the situation.

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A few days later my siblings moved Mom back to the farm. Several of them stayed with her and Dad for a few days right before Christmas. On Christmas morning we ate together, had a few presents, and then everyone left except me. We went to church, but it was a sad Christmas. I knew I couldn’t save my Mom or pull her out of this depression. I couldn’t fix my parents’ marriage and communication issues.

As the sun set, I waved good-bye to my parents on Christmas night and resigned my job as Savior to my Mom. I let her make her choices: a few days later, she made another suicide threat, but a friend was with-it enough to call 911 to get help. Mom was taken to the country psychiatric hospital, where there, she received excellent attention from a psychiatrist and started to forgive herself and the eventually the depression lifted. The psychiatrist let my Dad know he could either have his farm or his wife. My Dad chose his wife, and they moved into town.

It took me several months to get out of survival “don’t feel” mode, and then feel the sadness of the situation. I had to forgive myself for leaving that Sunday morning; but God protected my Mom without me. Jesus is the Savior, not me.

To hear more of what helped during this time–please read the piece I wrote called, “There IS Hope….”
https://treesoftransition.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/there-is-hope-walking-alongside-someone-suffering-depression-during-the-holidays/

To hear my Mom’s story through this time, please see her message that I shared on my blog:
https://treesoftransition.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/he-brought-me-through-a-message-my-mom-gave-to-share-her-journey-through-mental-illness/

Now, two Christmases past this hard time, I am so thankful my Mom is doing well. Medicine helps, facing issues and getting counsel helps, moving to a new home helps…
These experiences helped me know that people will make their choices, and we can’t fix them. There’s a healthy balance I’m learning to walk about when to help and when not to. People in depression do need support, but just know that you can’t save them.

Stepping back, letting go of control was what I needed to do then, to let the consequences happen to the people’s choices, and resigning from being the Savior was my role in the story right then.

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You Have a Choice About Feeling Valuable

Isn’t it interesting how we feel valuable around some people while around others we feel so cheap, invisible, small, and unworthy? Why is that? Some of us let our value be determined by those around us, when the truth is, we just are valuable!

I’ve been thinking about that and noticing my reactions to different people I interact with in my life. For example, this morning I was running along a forest path, and a guy passed me. He must have been running intervals because a ways up he stopped and started walking. As I kept on steadily running, I gained on him quickly and was thinking about if I would have to pass him.

I’ve had this weird worry (that I’m learning to not give into), but it is that I can’t pass someone twice without feeling strange, so my first impulse was to turn around before I would have to pass that guy. What happened next is a breakthrough in my thinking: I realized how sometimes I put my value on how another person responds to me and I don’t have to do that anymore!

Letting my value be determined by other’s reactions is a shaky and nerve-wracking way to live life. I now understand why sometimes I would feel more peaceful when I was by myself. But what happened this morning was I became aware of what I have been doing. Especially if I would get around guys, I would let them determine my value: It was like I was holding out the baton of my value to him, and if he took it, I would feel valuable for a while, but then the value would fade. Today I received the picture of pulling that baton of value into myself, and it just resting there. I’m just valuable, and I can be confident and rest in that! I can let people react to me in whatever way they choose, but it doesn’t influence my value.

People value something that is important to them. Our culture emphasizes that value comes from education, accomplishments, family… Advertising twists around our desire to be valuable in order to make money off of it. Where do humans get their value? I believe that God gives us value when He created us and that means we are valuable whether other humans think we are or not. Knowing our value frees us from having to do things in order to receive value; it frees us so we can love unconditionally.

What happened with that guy running in front of me? First of all, I relaxed, and then he turned around and passed me. Then I had the wide, woodsy path stretching ahead of me where I ran along and even leapt once or twice.

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The Silvery Thread of Family being Woven: Seeing Three Generations of Campbell Men

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Last night at my sister-in-law’s book release party, I got to see family being strengthened: I was holding my nephew, Jack, who is reaching out and loving to feel things. He put his hand in my mouth, and liked to feel my hair. I got to introduce my nephew to my Dad’s beard: he touched it, felt it, stroked it, pulled it. Then my brother came over and I handed Jack to him, and then my brother put Jack near my Dad’s face again, this time where he could feel Dad’s white bead with both hands! Seeing three generations of Campbell men interacting was beautiful: Tiny Jack grabbing my Dad’s beard and my brother and Dad both enjoying just looking at Jack discover this new texture.

Reflecting on it, the image I would assign to this experience would be a silvery, airy, but strong thread: healthy, loving bonds were being woven between these three men, and it was an honor to behold.