Category Archives: alone

Visiting Home

Jessica had a rocky childhood (not her real name). It was plagued by a lot of emotional turmoil and conflict as a result of feeling unwanted. Her parents were emotionally disconnected and her older brother became her mother’s confidant. Her mother had expectations of her, to do chores and not get in trouble, but there was little warmth between them. Her father checked out of the family emotionally and spent as much time at his job as possible. So Jessica grew up feeling that she was not lovable and worthy of attention.
Eventually Jessica moved out, got married and started a family of her own. Unlike her father, her husband was warm and supportive. They moved several hundred miles away from her parent’s home. Things were certainly better, but she still felt somewhat insecure and anxious, especially when it came time to make the annual trip to see her parents and siblings for Christmas.
What was driving this anxiety about visiting home? 
Jessica still held expectations that things within her family of origin would change. Each year she visited, she hoped that she would finally feel special and loved. But her Mom, an active narcissist, still primarily pursued and got attention from her brother and his family. Her Dad was better these days and connected with her family, but not intimately with her. Each year she let her unmet childhood needs rule her thinking and her emotions.
So what should Jessica expect when she visits home each year?
Nothing. Tough as it sounds, grieving the loss of the way it should have been growing up and holding no expectations of change in the future is the only healthy choice. She can actively choose to go through a process of forgiving her parents for the hurts they caused when she was growing up. And she can lovingly detach when she visits, keeping the interactions light and polite.
It probably sounds unfair that Jessica needs to do the work of healing. After all, it’s her parents who missed the mark. And it isn’t fair – but it’s necessary. Otherwise, Jessica will be re-wounded every time she visits and she will become more and more bitter and resentful, and it will leak into her relationships with her husband and children.
Christ did not ask us to walk the easy path. He asked us to walk the path of freedom. Often that path is uphill and twisty, and hard to see ahead. And we have to trust that the path leads us to where we want to go. Trust is the belief in an unseen outcome, because of the assurance of the source of our information. Hopefully you place your trust in Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)  

Finding Your Personal Retreat

cozy retreat


I grew up in a small 2 bedroom rental house, which was fine until my twin brother and sister came along. Since I had five birthdays behind me before they were born it didn’t take too many years before I started feeling a distinct lack of privacy. I made a claim on our small dining area and did my best to make it “my room” – bed and all. The problem was that it was positioned between the kitchen and living room. Except for after-hours, I entertained all kinds of unwanted guests.

When I was a bit older and could handle a hammer and paintbrush, I did my best to refurbish an old guesthouse attached to our garage. At last I had a private space back. It was my sanctuary. My piano and I turned out lots of music without disturbing anyone. I wrote, I listened and I dreamed.

These days I have a “man-cave”

I guess I am a bit introverted by temperament, so for me this is especially important. It contains some stuff I like. It isn’t fussy, and it is usually cool and quiet. I can listen to music there, watch movies, do my devotional reading, praying or play my Rhodes piano. It is somewhere I can renew my attitude and charge my batteries.

Everyone needs a private space to find solace. Do you?

Not everyone is as blessed as I am to have a whole separate space (Nan has one, too). But for mental health reasons, known as self care, everyone should have a place to retreat to that calms and inspires them. For some it might be a bedroom or a private bathroom. For others it could be a garage or workshop. Is there a garden area or an unused alcove that is separated from the maddening crowd? Can you build or re-purpose something?

Apartment dwellers may have to get creative and even find an offsite refuge. Sometimes libraries, parks or school campuses work. As a last resort there is always the local coffee bar. Nan has an annual pass to a local botanical garden.

I know that husbands and wives will often have to share the same safe haven. So decorate it together, letting it reflect both of you. Moms and dads will probably have to take turns giving each other a break. But who needs a quiet retreat more than parents of young children!

We cannot adequately connect with God in the midst of chaos and confusion. It takes some intentional disconnection from our often overwhelming busyness. I find it so much easier when I have a designated place.

Mark 6:31 (NLT) Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

Help! I’m Stuck

Right now there are decisions that have to be made. They are time sensitive and somewhat complex. My friends that know me well know how difficult this can be for me. My tendency is to withdraw and suffer. If you were around me you probably wouldn’t notice since I have had a lot of experience at refining this skill.

There are all kinds of ways to get stuck.

One thing I have discovered is that stuckness usually affects others. You may be stuck, or others around you may be stuck. But either way you are affected. So what can you learn to do that will help?

First, do no harm. Like the Hippocratic Oath of physicians advises, don’t add to the problem by taking rash or foolish actions. Backing out of a dead end street is more difficult than driving into it. Often it is our mouths that react first. Words released cannot be retrieved.

  • Face the problem. Sometimes it’s even hard to admit that there really is a problem. We can’t fix what we won’t acknowledge exists. Or we try to minimize or ignore it. Usually it only gets worse. Try to brainstorm solutions. Focus on possibilities.
  • Ask for help. This is often hard, especially for us guys. We don’t like asking for directions. We don’t like to reveal vulnerabilities. Somehow it triggers shame. But we were not created to do life alone.
  • Calm yourself. In difficult times we must practice self-soothing. If you are adding to the difficulty by imagining “worst case scenarios” (called awfulizing) it will only serve to keep you frozen.
  • Practice humility. Getting into a power struggle with someone will keep you stuck. It takes more strength to soften than to power up. Be the more mature person in an interpersonal struggle.
  • Press on through. This is often the biggest challenge. Discouragement can set in and make you want to give up when things don’t seem to be going well. Sometimes the darkest hour is right before the dawn.

    Stuck might last for only a little while or may feel like forever. Getting out of debt can be like that. So can grieving significant losses. You may be powerless to change the circumstances, but you can always choose the way you deal with the situation.

    Please tell me how you have been stuck and what you did to alleviate the problem.

    Deuteronomy 31:8(NIV) The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”