Shame will do that to you. Shame will keep you quiet.
“How was your summer?” she asks.
“Oh, it was good, busy.”
Shame will have you keeping secrets you never intended to keep.
It will have you hiding your struggles, even while you encourage others to share theirs.
You all know I’ve intentionally set the tone of vulnerability and openness here at Velvet Ashes, firmly believing that real community only comes when we peel off our masks, the masks that attempt to convince people we’ve got it all together.
Despite all of this, I still did it. I stayed quiet about the fact that we spent this past summer going through intensive, professional counseling.
There… Secret’s out.
I never intended for it to be a secret. I alluded to our struggles. But I held back from sharing the full extent.
I wasn’t ready to admit to everyone that we were not okay, that the past year of transition and medical issues and too much on our plates had all piled up to a heavy weight.
That my family and I were starting to crack under this weight.
The warning signs were flashing. Burnout was right around the corner.
All too often an overwhelming angst would clutch me and say, “You are not okay.”
Shame will do that to you. Shame will tell you that you should be better than this.
You should be able to handle this, and why can’t you?
The past year was an odd dichotomy. On the one hand, it was an incredibly fulfilling time. I birthed Velvet Ashes alongside our amazing team and saw women being touched and reached around the globe. It was a vision growing beyond what I had ever dreamed, and God’s fingerprints were all over it. It felt like a culmination of my passions and gifts, giving that deep “you were made for this” feeling.
On the other hand, I was struggling to figure out life overseas all over again, navigating new territory, trying to meet the needs of my family. That wasn’t nearly so fulfilling, as it kept dangling all my inadequacies before me.
I tried to keep all my plates spinning, all the plates we had in our life in China before – kids, home, team, students, locals, supporters. But life now also held homeschooling my kids and Velvet Ashes. Two major time and energy commitments.
But I could do it all, I told myself.
Shame will do that to you. Shame will tell you to just keep going like you are, because what will happen if you don’t?
So I stayed up late and woke up weary.
All the while my husband was navigating his way through increased roles and responsibilities. We didn’t have much left to give each other.
Then the New Year came with a series of medical issues that left us reeling. As summer approached we were trying to figure out whether we’d even be able to stay overseas or not. We were eventually able to get the help we needed medically, but the whole process left us more than worn out.
Burnout’s warning lights were flashing faster. More often than I cared to admit, that overwhelming angst would grip me, saying “I am not okay…We are not okay.”
So we decided to go to Link Care* in Fresno, California and go through their Restoration and Personal Growth Program.
It may be one of the best things we’ve ever done.
It was a time to peel back the layers of myself to see what’s really there and what defines me.
It was a time to peel back through all the layers of our marriage. To root out the gunky build up. To find and set fresh patterns.
It was a time to stop running and to instead be still and found by Jesus.
Shame is like that. Shame fades dim when you listen to His voice.
I left Link Care feeling very raw. Like my soul had just been bared and all it’s junk tossed up on the table. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave the counselors that were pouring into us. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the other women in the program that I had bonded and shared tears with.
We’d have stayed longer if we could.
But we left that place with new understanding. With parts of our souls revived.
There was a part of me though that was scared we’d get back in the thick of life and find ourselves right back on the brink of burnout. Perhaps that’s why I hesitated to open up about our story, why I kept quiet about what we did this summer. I wanted there to be a “happily ever after” at the end of this story. I was holding my breath to see what our ending would be.
So what is our ending?
Well, it’s not really an ending at all; we are living in the middle of our story. And it certainly isn’t all “happily.”
Healing is rarely picturesque. More often than not, it is messy and slow.
There have been days in the months since our time at Link Care when my toes have brushed up against that brink of burnout again, when old patterns have reared their ugly heads, when the angst starts to rise back up in my heart.
But it’s different than before. This time we have new tools in place. Commitments to circle back to.
And somehow, in the ebb and flow of good moments and bad, change has been happening.
My angst has lessened its frequency and intensity.
Shame is like that. Shame begins to loosen its grip when you begin to believe you are enough, right now, just as you are.
When shame fades, joy peers through.
I’m learning to embrace my limits rather than fight them. I’ve set down some plates.
My husband and I are enjoying an intimacy deeper than we’ve ever known.
He just was away for the weekend. He texted me Saturday asking, “How’s your morning?”
I responded by listing out all the issues of the morning. You know, the stuff of kids and life and overseas living, the wet beds, the busted lips, the mold inside, the pollution outside. I ended by saying…
“And yet…and yet right now my heart is good. I’m humming with hope, in the new spark of our marriage, in the grace I’m giving myself in mothering, and in the freedom of finding a lighter way to live.”
So… am I alone in this struggle with shame?
It’s your turn now to share your story…
This is what we call The Grove. It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt. So join us in the comments. Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt. Click here for details and instructions.
*Disclaimer – Link Care is not sponsoring or endorsing this post.
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