Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Tag: Brene Brown (page 1 of 2)

Fitting in vs. Belonging

I sat my two months shy of his 13th birthday son down and told him I wanted to talk with him about a book I just read.  Me reading a book certainly isn’t unusual to him, and we often talk about what I read, so he wasn’t too suspicious.

You see, I just finished reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. In chapter 7, she talks about the difference between belonging and fitting in. She interviewed 8th graders to find out how they would define the distinction between the two. The three conclusions that she included were spot on, but my favorite was this one: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” What a huge topic for a middle schooler to explore!

If you are reading this and you are a parent, then you know the worry of hoping your kid can find a tribe. And, usually we say we want our kids to fit in, but I think what we should want more than anything is for our kids to belong. I don’t want my sons to be anything other than what God created them to be. I want them to be loved for who they are, not who they try to be.

The part of the chapter that made me think more than any other part was the fact that the kids told her that not belonging at school was one thing, but not belonging at home was ultimately even worse. I thought home is where everyone is supposed to belong, but that’s just not the case. Here are some of the examples the kids gave her:

  1. Not living up to you parents’ expectations.
  2. Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be.
  3. Not being good at the same things your parents were good at.
  4. Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader.
  5. Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do.
  6. When your parents don’t pay attention to your life.

So, my son and I talked through these. I wanted to make sure his dad and I weren’t doing any of these six things. I remembered at the end of last school year when he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with trumpet. He was so remorseful when he told us since his dad had been such a great trumpet player. Neither of us cared, but he had been so worried. Then, I thought about how he loves Pokemon and I am 100% clueless about it. He reassured me that he knows we don’t care if he plays an instrument, and as for Pokemon, we listen to him tell us about his great finds and take him places to play. For him, that’s enough.

We had such a great conversation, and I can’t believe the young man he is turning into. And, I’m so relieved he feels like he belongs at school, church, and at home. There have been various scenarios throughout my life where I felt like I didn’t fit in, but ultimately I knew it was okay, because I always had a place to belong. Some of us are square pegs in round holes and instead of complaining about it, maybe we need to embrace it, or go look for a square board.

If you haven’t read any of Brown’s books, I highly recommend them. She puts language to things we feel inside, but weren’t sure how to define. Braving the Wilderness was an easy read and opened up great dialogue with my kiddo.

Where do you feel like you most belong?


Community Carries Our Pain

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“Often it seems that two-thirds of God’s song is the sound track to tragedy and ruin. And because the math doesn’t make sense to us, we either close up our hearts entirely or refuse to live in reality, hanging our theology on spiritual clichés. Or we write
God off as a liar, a cheat, or even nonexistent, the biggest scam of all time. But if we learn to live with the tension of God’s major and minor melody, we will find his beautiful refrain ringing out in our lives, which is his purpose for us—a song bigger than ours that identifies God alone.” Matt Bays: Finding God in the Ruins

During the difficulties of life, it is good to have others to spur us on and give advice. We can learn so much from one another.

I’ve talked about the value of mentoring and being mentored before. One of my life’s greatest blessings in this area is a sweet lady, Joanne. She was my mentor during high school. A few of us would meet her at a restaurant downtown and she would pour into us. Honestly, I can’t remember one specific thing we talked about off the top of my head, but I do remember wanting to model her character, her faith, and her depth of insight. She is one of those people that in her presence everything just feels like it’s going to be okay.

Our paths don’t cross often anymore, but when they do, I always know she will intently listen to me. During a recent interaction she recommended a book to me, but she didn’t stop there. She went out and bought me the book and gave it to me with a lovely card. Joanne has not been untouched by life’s struggles. What a gift it is when someone you admire is willing to say that life is hard, doubt is real, but God is ultimately good. I look forward to reading all of Finding God in the Ruins.

Today I spoke with Joshua’s teacher. I had previously asked her to keep an eye on him as our family goes through this clinical trial and we experience ups and downs. (Important note: if there is any kind of upheaval in your home, let your kids’ teachers know. They can often act out in school in unusual ways during this time and it’s good to give a teacher a heads-up. As a teacher, I found out too often after the fact about a divorce, illness, death, etc.). She recommended a book to me called Ida B, about a girl whose mother gets cancer and she becomes angry with many of the changes that happen in the family as a result. I think we’ll be reading that together to help process some feelings.

ida b

I’ve read many blogs about what not to say to someone going through a difficult time. Individuals have complained about well-intentioned suggestions for treatment for illnesses and unsolicited advice. In my experience, it is the community that surrounds me and their advice, thoughts, and prayers that help me to see God’s goodness to me. I would rather err on the side of saying the wrong thing, I guess, than saying nothing at all. I realize others might not agree.

Author Mary DeMuth wrote a memoir called Thin Places. In her words, “A thin place is a place where you experience the presence of God, where the veil between heaven and earth is thin.” I feel like it is his people who help me peel back the layers and see God’s faithfulness to me in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.

Life will present many reasons to doubt God and his goodness. I like this quote I read recently on Facebook by Brené Brown: “What’s spectacular about my life today, at forty-seven, is finally realizing that the prime of our lives is not about answers – it starts when we finally allow ourselves to soften into the mysteries and live in the questions.” What a joy to have people come alongside us in the midst of the mysteries of this life.

If there is someone in your life having a hard time right now, take a moment to send a card, a gift, or just let them know you are praying for them. Small acts of kindness can make all the difference!



Discovering the Truth


I can think of few times in my life I have been so heart happy and heart heavy at the exact same time.

Recently, I had the privilege of witnessing a dear friend of mine graduate from a three month stay at a home that helps rehabilitate women suffering from eating disorders. My tears fell instantly upon my arrival when seeing her physical transformation into a much healthier version of herself. Yet, the majority of my happy tears fell because of the brighter light radiating from her eyes.

Tears fall even now as I write this. I am struggling for words to convey to you everything I experienced and felt in the brief hour I joined her there.

The commencement begins with the graduate presenting a body image project. Art therapy is a significant part of the treatment program. Proper, healthy, supportive images are so important to the rehabilitation of these women. Encouraging quotes and pictures adorned the walls of the house in what seemed like every possible location, surrounding the residents with positive messages at every turn.

My heart felt like it doubled in size when I saw my friend’s two projects. One, was a new depiction of an image I had sent to her shortly after her admission. Added to the image was a heart, depicting one of her goals for connection, which she found with the women in her program. Another addition was the symbol of recovery, which for me represented so much hope and a clear representation of God’s hands in her healing.

The second picture is a figure with arms spread wide open and origami butterflies all around. What you can’t see in the picture, are words written on the butterflies…words of new characteristics implanted during her stay. Her old messages of unworthiness, failure, and fear are being rewritten into something much more beautiful.

Another part of the ceremony allows all of the residents and employees (nurses, therapists, resident assistants, etc.) to say something directly to the graduate. It could be what they might have learned from them, their impression of the project, how that person touched their life, etc. How humbled I felt to hear so many amazing facts about my friend and the impact she had on others during her stay.

Yet, for all of my joy, I drove away with my heart very burdened. My mind could not conceive of the pain many of the women in that room have experienced. I cannot comprehend the struggle they endure to become healthy, both mentally and physically, again. What I saw before me as I listened to them, were beautiful, articulate, caring, compassionate, intelligent women. In their own minds, that is not what they see, and it leaves me dumbfounded.

I got to speak to them for only a brief time. They surrounded me, and one of our other longtime friends who was with us, as my friend and her husband gathered her belongings to leave. They told us more stories of how wonderful my friend had been to them. These ladies were funny. They seemed kind. Their smiles were lovely.

We talked for only a mere 10 or 15 minutes. I hugged many of them as I left. Friends, I don’t make it a habit of hugging near strangers, so that was pretty weird for me to do. My inclination was to load them all in the van with us and take them home just so I could speak words of encouragement over them daily. What an honor it would be to help them rewrite their inner dialogue.

I am reminded of another picture I saw once. Not long ago at a leadership retreat we were assigned the task of drawing a picture that represented how we had experienced God’s love. One of my friends, a survivor of abuse, drew a picture that made a great impression on me. I don’t remember exactly what it looked like, but it depicted a person’s mind with all kinds of negative words. Those were crossed out and positive words were put in their place. She admitted she continues to struggle with replacing the ugly thoughts, but God’s love for her helps her do that. I hurt to know my friend who is so talented, capable, encouraging, creative, and simply lovely could think such awful things because of cruel people.

Our minds can be our own worst enemies. In her book, Rising Strong, Brené Brown talks about how our minds long to make connections. As a result, our brains will often make up a story that isn’t true, simply to create a beginning, middle, and end to something we don’t understand. People who are able to rise strong after falling due to difficult circumstances are able to do so because they reckon with those stories and seek the actual truth about them, not simply accepting the made up story. Our brains can easily fall into negative thought patterns, and we must work hard to rewire those patterns.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, Mercy Me’s Greater (or you can click the link and listen to it on YouTube):

Bring your tired
And bring your shame
Bring your guilt
And bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not you’re name
You will always be much more to me

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world
In the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

Bring your doubts
And bring your fears
Bring your hurt
And bring your tears
There’ll be no condemnation here
You are holy, righteous and redeemed

Read more: Mercy Me – Greater Lyrics | MetroLyrics

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 The Message 

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

What you choose to become...

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*To my dear friend, thank you for allowing me to share your images and your story. And to all of your fellow warriors at the house, you are beautiful, you are worthy, you are enough.*

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