Sunday, August 26, 2012

A New Paradigm

Hello again!

The most difficult task in writing about living in relationship with Gay is paring it down into readable, digestible parts. I guess that would be true of any dynamic relationship. I cannot think about my relationship with Gay apart from her character and the woman I know and love. Gay has taught me that it is possible to be in relationship with others as the whole person God created and is daily transforming. There's a fancy psychological term for what I'm talking about:  integration. Before I could understand integration, I had to know some important things about myself and about relationships.

I'm admittedly simple. It's easier for me to explain what I value now by examining how I learned healthier relational patterns with Gay. I came to Gay 20 years ago with the goal of NOT having an eating disorder or feeling depressed. I wanted to maintain my figure, my perfect marriage, and my ideals about how that should happen. I already had the big picture answers, I just needed direction and validation from an expert. More importantly, a Christian expert. I was the quintessential people pleaser. I played it with fluidity and, on the surface, great ease. Be the person you need to be with the appropriate person. Do what is necessary to make the other person feel good. Make sure the person leaves with the best possible opinion of you as well. More importantly make sure that God is honored by your words and actions. I was exhausted and failing.

Based on my paradigm, one I learned in college while training to be a social worker, Gay would be the impartial, impersonal expert. She would point out my unhealthy patterns, offer new strategies, bolster strengths and support systems. I'd leave the better person for having interacted with the expert.

Being in relationship with my therapist was not only not in my paradigm, it was unthinkable.

Knowing my personal and educational bias now, it may be easier to understand my shock I wrote of last time when Gay, without reservation or concern for proper social work protocol, said, "I am overweight. I have been this way my whole life..." What? This psychologist just broke a RULE. I'd already made up my mind that this woman was my best option. I gave her the benefit of those who recommended her and stayed seated. However by the end, I wasn't sure if she could really help because she didn't offer any eating plans or any tips on how to stop binging and purging. In fact, weeks later when I fell off the wagon, so to speak, she had the audacity to affirm how smart I was for purging? She didn't even scold me! Instead she told me how smart I was for knowing deep within that I needed comfort and affirmation. I'd hear this same phrase hundreds, if not thousands of times in the future, "Your motive was excellent. Your method could be improved."

Although unaware of my bias, I believed that rules and structure were the bedrock that held relationships together. Follow rules and all was well. Break rules and suffer because of your disobedience. (For those of you that are concerned....I'd learn, in time, that, of course, structure and rules were and are very important. I'd learn that I had power and choices to set and manage the structure.) I needed my old system turned upside down to see how it worked. I also needed to see that alternative methods would not maim or dismember me.

Gay, with brilliance, sensitivity, and skill was teaching me a new way of living. She was building new life vocabulary for me. She was pointing out strengths with which I had been utterly unaware. I  began to trust what she was saying to me and about me. In part, I trusted her because she was so blasted honest about herself--she broke rules.

Some of the phrases that she taught me about myself, still resonate deep within me. For lots of years, it was her voice that echoed within. Now, it's my voice.

The most profound lesson that I've learned with and through Gay is this:

Relationships heal.

The risk is great. There are no true short cuts. Pain is inevitable. Yet, to be known deeply and still be loved by another brings ineffable joy.

Continue with me to pray for Gay and Beth during this difficult season. She'll be back next week if all goes as planned. Blessings to all of you, ~lori

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Just" Waiting?

August 19, 2012

Dear friends,

In the past I have casually used the phrase, “Just waiting.” In this experience, however, there is no “just” about any aspect of the waiting I am doing. While there are times when the vigil is filled with physically motionless hours, the experience cannot be described as “just waiting.”

I understand only in part this time and the life changes that it brings. I sense clearly the great motionless stillness that sometimes comes. But I also sense that there are no mindless moments unmarked by living significance.

Increasingly I know this waiting as a noun, not a verb. Waiting is the place where I am, rather than something that I do.

This waiting place forms an unboundaried space. Time has a strangely fluid quality here independent of clock and calendar. I do not do—I just am, and presence fills the waiting space between Beth and me. Love is the language of the silence that threads between us.

One day Beth drifted in and out of a far world that touched only the edge of my experience, but this waiting space enfolded us both. Once she turned her head as though she sensed my presence. I touched her cheek, and smoothed back the damp hair on her forehead. She made no sound, gave no evidence of wakefulness. But in that waiting space the relationship that we share bloomed warm and vitally alive between us. Waiting made the space in which presence together—Beth with me, and I with Beth—could happen. I was with her and she with me in this waiting space, and in this shared presence we knew love.

Several times David instructed God’s people to wait on the Lord.  Psalms 27: 14 is a good example.

I've been rethinking that phrase from Psalms these days and find that I’m paraphrasing it for myself somewhat like this:

"Make a time-unboundaried space in which the presence of God may bloom into a reality beyond substance or language, and relationship form an untethered bond of love.”

Thinking with you this week about the ways in which relationship prospers when there are waiting spaces through which it may flow, a silent place in which love can be known and learned.

Thinking with you too about the ways in which our relationship with God flourishes when there are waiting spaces through which the Spirit
flows, a stillness in which His love can be known without coercion or constraint. And I am increasingly aware of the ways in which I can encourage or inhibit the development of such spaces in my life.

I am enroute back to Kansas for a few days.  Lori will share with you next week.

Blessings and peace,


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ah, Schucks

August 12, 2012

Dear friends,

H-m-m. Now what to say?

After reading Lori’s guest blog, I was, as she anticipated, embarrassed. More seriously, in this culture of political bombast and calculated exaggeration, I was concerned that you might view this exchange writing as an obvious bid on my part to elicit kind things from Lori so that I might do an artful “Ah, shucks,” and further burnish my ‘humble’ image.

However, my sense of humor promptly rescued me from any serious worry about the issue. Anyone who knows me personally and has risked relationship with me knows all too well the limitations with which I live. The ashes of my mistakes and failures, to borrow Lori’s fine phrase, have blown all too frequently into everyone’s eyes for anyone to have illusions of anything other than the flawed ordinary humanness that lies at the core of my unspectacular life.

But the way in which Lori reports the good things that have emerged from our years-long relationship raises an important question. How is it that the plain ordinary practice of simple relational skills has yielded such rich dividends?

I never tire of the story of the little boy who brought his lunch to Jesus—five little barley loaves and two small fish. Such an ordinary lunch—barley loaves paired with two ordinary fish.

In “Just a Housewife” the boy’s mother wonders about that lunch:

           I packed five cakes of bread and two small fishes,
           Sent him off, my youngest lad,
          To take his father’s dinner to the field.

          Came back alone he did, all goggle-eyed.

          My fresh-baked bread that varmint gave away
          To some young travelling preacher out of Galilee.

          It fed five thousand people.
          What a tale!

         It can’t be true. . . but if it is,
        What kind of dough did these hands knead
        This morning?

                                         -Cordelia Baker-Pearce

It was, of course, plain ordinary dough, no magic yeast.

But—and this is the point, that, like the boy’s mother, we often confuse—plain dough placed in His hands was more than enough—five thousand fed, and a great amount left over.

I am deeply blessed, friend Lori, to know that our relationship over the years has blessed you. It has, and continues, to bless me deeply as well.

But I am thinking tonight about the quiet miracle we share. We each bring plain bread that is transformed into more than enough by something other than human skill.

See you next week.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Different Point of View

August 5, 2012

Dear Friends,

This is Lori Clark writing for Gay again. She planned a trip to spend time with Beth this past week. Gay called me with a specific request, "Would you be willing to write about what it's like to be in relationship with me? If you agree, maybe we could dialogue for a few posts?" In typical Gay Hubbard style, she gave me the option of saying a solid, "No, Gay. I cannot or will not do that."  In typical Lori Clark style, I instantly answered, "I'd LOVE to do that, Gay!"

In the discussion that followed, she explained further that it seemed fair to her readers to hear if, indeed, her actions matched what her words reflect about living in relationship with others.  Because I know Gay well, I could hear in her voice a bit of trepidation in the request. Not only did she give me full permission to say what I'd like to say, there was an implicit agreement for honesty. 

Her desire for others is to learn and grow. If through her life, she can offer opportunities for others to be transformed--even through the ashes of her mistakes and limitations, she takes the vulnerable position of truth and transparency. Which, in my estimation, might just be her greatest asset.

I've known Gay for over 20 years. I came to her as a client. I was newly married, living far from nuclear family support and struggling in a different, powerful way with an eating disorder. I was also recognizing for the first time that I was depressed. Standing 5'8 in my size ten dress, I was concerned about how fat I was on the first day I met Gay face to face. I will never forget what she said to me just after she'd handed me my Styrofoam cup of coffee in her Lakewood office. She rolled her chair towards me, put her arms on the round table, and said without a smile, "I am overweight. I have been this way my whole life. If my weight is a barrier to your healing, you'll need to find another therapist."

I was stunned. It wasn't because of her weight. I'd already decided I wanted to see Gay. I knew of her through the seminary my husband attended. I even knew what she looked like. I was stunned because I'd never met anyone who was willing to openly admit what for me, at that time, was a source of shame. Much more, she didn't apologize or make excuses as to why she was overweight. I knew deep in the core of my confused and mostly undiscovered self that Dr. Hubbard could help me. I couldn't have articulated what I wrote earlier; but, it was her willingness to own her limitations that sealed the deal all those years ago.

What I could never have imagined at that moment is that Dr. Hubbard's influence would alter my life, my thinking, and my patterns in ways that would lead to joy and contentment I'd never known. I couldn't have dreamed that as my friend, Gay would walk beside me and war for me in Heavenly realms while I sat contentedly overweight before a jury to decide the outcome of the custody of my only child. What I can say, along with throngs of others that walk in relationship with Gay, I wouldn't be the person I am today without her.

Gay is truly the most humble person I know. She is not perfect. She and I have had conflict over the years and found reasonable, rationale ways to work through our differences. Her trepidation was not primarily, I think, because of anything I might say that would be unflattering. Her concern is that I might speak the truth of how marvelous she really is. Reading her blog, you know that she tells on herself regularly. I'm just going to point out the particularly wonderful sides of her that she would never, in a thousand years, write of herself.

I feel confident, that although slightly red in the cheeks, Gay will approve of my approach only because many people will learn and grow.

Let me add.....Gay also knows me well. I'm fully comfortable knowing in many ways, she knows me better than I know myself. She knew I'd say glowing things that would embarrass her. Isn't that the power of true humility? She understands the balance between sharing what transformation looks like. She does her part. God does His part. Miraculously, He makes us more like His Son. I just plan on sharing the family resemblances that will last for Eternity.

Please, if you will, keep Gay in your prayers. She is weary and in need of both physical and emotional energy. Whether via me or Gay, her blog will be posted again next week. Until then, ~lori