Living with Empathy: Perspective

Empathy Thoreau quote

Earlier this week, I think my husband fully understood what it was like to be married to a disabled person. Don’t get me wrong, I have warned him plenty of times how my body could respond in certain situations. But, I knew he wouldn’t fully get it until he lived through it.

Well, a couple days ago, we had one of the worst, craziest thunderstorms. I am pretty sure I woke up at least three times and was quite scared throughout the whole night. Each time I woke up, I instantly latched on to my husband and didn’t let go until I did so in my sleep.

The moment in my life reminded me of a simple, yet profound truth someone once told me, “Many people have a perspective. Few have the perspective.” Hearing those words in a season of life filled with much hurt was such an encouragement. They showed truth and grace.

Prior to earlier this week, my husband had a perspective of what it would be like sleeping beside his disabled wife during a huge thunderstorm. But, now, he has the perspective. He now has a significant moment in time he can recall that he learned from. He no longer has a vague, distant idea filled with “What if or maybe.” He has, “This happened and here is how I responded.”

There are countless of other situations in our lives that are just like that. I say this to be a word of encouragement for some and a stern call to others. We live in a society where people frequently say, “I know how you feel. I completely understand.” Or, they may say something completely different like, “You cannot let this situation or person completely affect you that much.” Neither statement is wrong. There are a time and place for both.

The important thing is knowing when to say one over the other. It’s important to be discerning of the people around you. It’s being able to admit, “I really do not have any idea how you feel or what you are going through.” It’s knowing that, in the grand scheme of it all, you may not be of much help to the person in their time of need or even joy.

Another person once told me, “Every experience people go through, whether good or bad, is an experience completely unique to themselves.” Their feelings, thoughts, or attitudes about a situation could be completely different than the person sitting right beside them. That is not bad either. It’s honest. No person is the same as someone else, so why would he or she respond the same way? That’s not humanly possible.

God created us to be beings who share with others. He created us to be encouragers. He created us to be listeners.

Instead of saying you understand, say “I am here to listen.” Instead of saying, “You cannot let one person affect you in that way,” say, “I am sorry that is impacting you in this way.” Yes, it is good to share wisdom with others. That wisdom very well could be to not dwell on the past or person. But, the point is, sometimes you won’t know what to say or how that person feels until you live through it. And learn to be okay with that.

The recent trial in my life continues to teach me lessons about God and His perfect timing. He showed me that He will bring people into your life who understand you, whether it be when you are in the worst of the waves or years down the road filled with tough days working to continuously heal with every new milestone.

The point is He will bring people into your life who truly understand. And He will bring people into your life who may not truly understand, but will diligently and wholeheartedly listen. He will provide as He deems fit.

No matter who you are in the equation, let Him guide you. Don’t try to be the person who understands if you are called to be the listener. Don’t just sit and listen if you truly feel led to say, “I really actually understand. Here is the time in my life that this very situation you came to me about happened. Here is how I responded.” Listen to His nudge and obey His call.

Blessings,

Renata

Shattering the Stigma: An Untold Story

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I recently discussed how much I hold back and how much I share on this blog. Depending on the topic, I may be an open book. Other times, I may be rather vague and safe. I may not know how to share, I may not want to share, or I may not know what to share. Today, I have no fear or guilt in sharing a part of my life. In fact, I probably should’ve said so much sooner. For whatever reason, I never did.

I am in therapy. Yes, I am seeing a counselor. I have been for about a year now. Truthfully, though, I wish I would’ve started going years ago. Alas, I didn’t. But that’s not the point. The point is I am seeing a counselor and I am GLAD I am.

My intention of consistently seeing someone for my emotional and mental well-being is such a big part of my life, to not tell people is to almost not tell them I am adopted. In this past year, I have learned and grown so much. Yet, I still have so much more to learn about myself, my thoughts, and my behaviors. And I am more than okay with this. In fact, I am grateful for this.

However, I was not always grateful. Initially, I was somewhat fearful. Originally, I began going after a nudge from my pastor and his wife. I always knew I needed to go. I have always been willing to go, too. But, you know how it goes sometimes. No matter how willing we are to better ourselves, a part of us always wants to second-guess and say, “Oh no, I am fine. I don’t need that.”

But, guess what? I needed counseling then. I still need it now. Truthfully, I don’t know how long I will see my therapist. I will go as long as the Lord wills me and leads me. It could be only a few more months or it could be for the rest of my life. And I am okay with that.

I know this next statement may not please everyone: I believe EVERYONE should have some form of counseling. You don’t have to have a completely messed up life story to need help. You simply need to be human. That’s right. My counselor even once said, “Even counselors need counselors!”

At first, I wasn’t the biggest fan of my counselor. It didn’t seem like she cared or valued my issues. But, she wasn’t the issue. I was. My heart was still hanging on by a thread to the stigma society creates for improving mental and emotional health. Once I acknowledged my heart issue, I truly began to see a change in myself.

Now, I look forward to counseling. I only wish I could go more than once a month. My counselor helped shatter the stigma that comes with therapy. She helped me see the benefits. She cares. She encourages me. She challenges me. She helps me make some sense out of life. Most importantly, she listens. I cannot express to you how wonderful it is to have someone completely outside of my life circle and situation to have an open ear and honest advice.

Yes, many may say, “Well, doesn’t she get paid to listen?” Yes, she does. But, she cares, which speaks more than a dollar sign ever could. When I look at my therapist, I see someone who has probably gone through her own set of struggles and tribulations. I see someone who wants to use her educational knowledge and caring spirit to help others heal and grow. I see grace.

My call to you is simple: At least one time in your life, see a counselor. And I don’t mean someone whom you view as your “counselor-type” friend. I mean go see a clinically licensed therapist. Go just once simply for the experience. Better yet, go four or five times and see if you notice any change in your thinking or attitude. One small notice, that’s it.

I leave you with this: There will always be a stigma about counseling in society. Of course, human beings are going to think seeking support from others–professionals or mere acquaintances–won’t do squat. It’s human nature to believe we don’t need other people. It’s human nature to believe we are our own healer and provider.

If my experiences have taught me anything, it is the stigma will be there until you walk through the door of a therapy provider, sit on their couch, and share about your life. It is then and only then that people will begin to see why it is so important for everyone, no matter their life story.

Blessings,

Renata

Faithful and True: God Will Carry Me Through

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This week is one of the hardest and most emotionally exhausting for me. I knew it would be long before it began. It’s one of those weeks where no matter how hard you try, the week will challenge you and shape you. It will test every fiber of your being until somehow it comes to an end.

This past Sunday, I discussed the hurdles that would come with this week with a dear friend and mentor. In those five to ten minutes, I finally learned a lesson. I say finally because she has told me this countless of times. Yet, I never let it truly sink in. I acknowledged it, but I did not let it capture my heart and captivate me.

She is someone who has definitely gone through her fair share of trials and difficult years. She has lived in valleys and sung on mountaintops. Each year, she reflects on the good God brought her through. Some years were filled with much more disappointment than joy. Yet, she still dwells in the goodness of God’s never-ending grace and peace.

Knowing all this and much more about her, this dear sweet friend of mine said, “You can look back on this week one day and know God carried you through.” At first, I said to my husband, “We can look back at this moment years from now and know we can handle whatever comes our way.” Again, my friend gently and loving said, “God will carry you through.”

I don’t know what was so different about this one moment compared to all the others she had spoken this to me. But, while standing in my church sanctuary, I finally processed what she’d been saying to me all along. Realizing this made the moment even richer and His grace that much sweeter. Realizing this made me overcome with a sense of peace and heavenly comfort I have not felt in months.

This current trial in my life will probably come to an end one day. But even if I never see the end, I know God carried me through. I know it surely was not in my strength or ability, but only in God’s. I know I do not have to carry and contain my battles on my two shoulders. I can give them to Christ instead.

Nothing I say or do in this trial will change the outcome. God has already predestined the result. I cannot cling to the notion that my words or my actions had a truly lasting effect in the end. Only God’s power and sovereignty did. Yes, I can be a tool in His hands. But, I am not the crafter. I am the clay. He is the Potter.

Ultimately, I can choose to be upset at myself for how long it took me to learn this lesson. Or, I can be grateful He brought me to this realization, especially in a time of my life filled with much confusion and uncertainty. I choose to be grateful. I choose to rest in His strength and perfect will. I choose to surrender my life to Him today and every day. I choose to trust He will always carry me through, not in my timing or strength but His.

I hope to look back on this post and part of my life with gratitude, no matter how difficult it has been and could still be. I hope to look back with peace. Even if I may never understand why I have this current trial, I trust He will use it and me for His glory.

Blessings,

Renata

 

 

San Diego: Beach Waves, Cool Breezes, and My Best Friend

san diego lovin'

During my childhood, I grew up in the country. I wouldn’t call my parents’ home a farm either. Yes, we had plenty of animals. But, we didn’t raise them to butcher or sell them like most. Our home was somewhat the place for stray animals to come and go.

In fact, I remember we had a wild peacock live with us for about a year. He came and went during the day, but he always came back at night. My creative dad named him Mr. Peacock. Then, we had a Shetland pony horse, George, and a donkey, Jack, roaming down our road one day, so my parents kept them.

As much as I loved my one-of-a-kind country living home growing up, I don’t want to live in the country again. I like living in the city. I enjoy being in close proximity to people and places. Although I will say, I would not have known what I wanted unless I experienced both.

And yet, I am still not home. I want to live in San Diego one day. Not just California. I want to specifically live in San Diego, California. Everything about San Diego feels like home to me. I went there for my honeymoon and never wanted to leave.

This may sound cheesy and extremely Midwestern of me, but I absolutely loved the palm trees. I remember getting off the plane and being mesmerized by the palm trees alone. I loved being able to smell the beach shore the moment I walked outside. I could live there just for the palm trees and beach alone. Everything else I experience is simply an added bonus.

From our hotel room, we watched a huge Dole Foods banana boat unload and reload. We had limitless transportation options. It is filled with the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals. A number of people and cars always around was a slight downfall, but that is expected anywhere in California.

Thankfully, we got to experience the area with a couple locals. Truthfully, the locals helped me fall in love with the area. Knowing someone personally who lived in the area made the trip that much more exciting and enjoyable. The lovely couple treated us to a boat ride along the bay where we learned about the history and culture of San Diego. I thought surely my stomach wouldn’t be able to handle the waves. But, with a little ginger ale and cookies, I was good as new.

We didn’t really know where to eat before we got there, so we solely went off of reviews online for local restaurants. We eventually decided to eat at a breakfast shop in town. I can still smell the sweet, citrus freshly squeezed orange juice.

We further immersed ourselves in the culture by eating at Anthony’s Fish Grotto, where I had some of the best coconut shrimp. Nothing compares to the taste of fresh seafood. Truthfully, everything about San Diego’s food was fresh, not just the seafood.

Of course, though, our trip to any California location would not have been complete without a stop at In-n-Out Burger. We took a nearly thirty-minute Uber ride to reach the nearest location. Let me tell you. It was totally worth every chaotic minute on the highway.

San Diego felt like a place filled with never-ending possibility. It is also a place where two introverted Midwesterners may have initial trouble making friends. But, with time, we, too, may become locals. And even if I never live there, I am so grateful I experienced California with beach waves, cool breezes, and my best friend.

Blessings,

Renata