Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Sometimes I need help. Sometimes you need help. Sometimes we all need help. I wrote a bit about bearing one another’s burdens at WORLDMag.com today.

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Three days ago I lost my wisdom in the form of two impacted lower teeth that had to be surgically removed. Suffice it to say, it was not a procedure I was looking forward to, nor has the recovery been all that much fun either.

It never ceases to amaze me that it takes a forced event like this to make me really relax. I’ve napped more this week than I have in my past 36 years. I’ve watched movies with my family without simultaneously attempting to multitask. I’ve asked for help.

That could be the big one, after all—asking for help. It isn’t that easy to do. Asking for help implies a certain weakness and the inability to do something for yourself.

My family has been super-great about anticipating needs and responding to requests, and I’m trying not to take advantage of that to an extreme (though I will confess to getting used to the concept of ice cream on demand).

But I do wonder why, after all, is it so difficult to involve the very people who love me best in caring for me in a way that loves me best? Why am I so hesitant to allow this to happen? Why does it take surgery (albeit, minor) to allow it to happen at all?

Recently I received an email from a friend who is about seven months pregnant with her fourth child. Her husband is currently going through training for the Navy chaplaincy program and has been gone for several weeks. To top it off, my friend hasn’t been sleeping well either. In a moment of desperation, she emailed some friends and confessed her need for help. She confessed she was tired, lonely, overwhelmed. Her floor needed swept. She needed her friends to be family for her.

I was out of town when I got her email, so sadly there wasn’t anything I could do for her except one thing: I could affirm her decision to seek help.

Asking for help isn’t an easy thing to do. It means giving our pride a little beating and admitting we can’t do everything we thought we could. I was proud of her for admitting that and seeking help in her weakness.

I know for a fact that if someone asks me for help, I’m more than willing to give it (often I don’t know there is a need until someone makes it known). I’m seeing now that the reverse is often also true: I need to make my needs known to receive help from others, because others often don’t know there’s a need.

Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Sometimes we all need a helping hand . . . the hard part is learning how to ask for one.

Celebrity Sighting!

I have a bunch of stories to tell from our time in Colorado this past month, but one that I want to be sure to post tonight. I met a cyber-celebrity on my trip.

We had a great visit. And we had our photo taken together:

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Then we had our photo taken together again. This time you can see that really there are three of us in the photo:

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But enough of this keeping you in suspense. The cyber-celebrity of whom I am speaking is none other than the eloquent Gretchen of Lifenut fame. And I was able to meet not only her and her soon-to-be-born baby, she was kind enough to bring her entire entourage down to Colorado Springs for an interesting lunch meet-up at the Squeak Soda Shop. Here’s the whole Mopsy crew:

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My family tried to one-up them in the attention grabbing department by breaking one of the glass vials of flavoring the shop keeps accessible for customers to sniff, and thus choose, which soda they want to create. I smelled like Lemon-Lime Rickey for the rest of the day.

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Not to be outdone, the Mopsy family came back with a one-two punch by tossing an 8-ounce Lemonade Stand overboard.

We stood even on the number of times the mop had to be employed by a Squeak Soda Shop employee.

As a little aside, the Squeak Soda Shop does not charge extra for use of their mop, employee included.

Gretchen and the entire Lifenut crew, thanks for coming to Colorado Springs on a sunny day in July. I enjoyed meeting you (finally) and am confident that had we not moved away from Colorado five years ago, this meeting, and possibly more, would have taken place much sooner.

I’m looking forward to reading the news of your newest Mr. Baby.

On Moving, Part 3

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This story On Moving is part 3 of 3.

I’m not writing this story out so that anyone will feel sorry for me. It’s been five years. We have once again settled. We’re in the house we will most likely be in the rest of our days. We have friends. Good ones. Our kids are thriving. Craig has a really good job, one that he loves and is a good fit for him. We’re in a good place.

No, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not unhappy with our life. But being back in Colorado Springs for exactly two weeks now has forced me to face some things I simply haven’t been able to face some 800 miles away.

We didn’t just leave Colorado, we left a life. We started a new one. The life we left here is still going on. Stepping back in to it, even for a few weeks is so good and so hard. Coming back, my heart is thrilled to see the work, the ministry, the people here growing, thriving. Coming back and seeing that, my heart is sad to know we’re no longer needed here.

Isn’t that how it should be, though? You work hard for so long and then God raises up a new generation of people to do what you’ve done, even do it better?

It’s right. It’s good. And it’s hard.

I drove the girls up Rampart Range Road last Sunday to take them up to Eagle Lake Camp. They’ve heard our stories over and over and over so that they’ve become their own. They feel an ownership over a place they barely remember, that maybe doesn’t remember them. I showed them where Craig and I met back in 1993. I showed them where my tent was (now a cabin) in 1994. I showed them where we lived when Maddie was just a tiny baby in 1999 and 2000. I showed them where we lived with Maddie and Chloe when they were both tiny babies in 2001. I showed them where toddler Chloe sat on infant Katie’s head during one of Craig’s talks to the summer staff in 2002. I showed them. And together we remembered.

I’ve cried pretty much every day we’ve been here. I can’t even quite name the reason why other than I’m still grieving the loss of of the last five years with the people we became adults with so long ago.

You can make new friends. You can make really good friends. But you can’t recreate this kind of history with anyone. So many of us got married within a 2 year span of each other, so many of us started our families around the same time. So many things we shared in common in both life and ministry.

I’ve had the chance to look many of these dear people in the eye this week and tell them I’ve missed them. To tell them I’m sorry I was so excited about what the future held I failed to hold dear the past while I was still living it. To tell them I love them. I loved them. I will always love them.

Facebook helps, you know? But it provides a false intimacy. None of us are going to share that we’ve struggled with infertility, job loss, marriage struggles, educational concerns, and other life struggles in a two sentence status update. These are the kinds of things you have to be present with people to know about and walk with them through. I’ve learned a lot of these kinds of tough things in the past week that has made my heart ache. Because I didn’t know. And there are things about me they didn’t know. We’re losing our shared history because of the distance.

And I think that’s what I’m grieving this week.

These transitions – they aren’t easy. They aren’t quick. And they don’t get easier with time.

It’s just that continual process of moving on that we have to continually process.

And as bitter sweet as it is and as cliche as it sounds, it really does make the thought of Heaven seem all the sweeter.

As you can see from the photo above, we may be gone, but we still aren’t forgotten. I think my heart needed to see that this week.

But here’s what else my heart needs to be okay with: life in Colorado Springs has been and will continue to move on without us. There will come a day in which the Dunham name will be a far distant memory to everyone associated with Eagle Lake Camp. We now live in St. Louis. And we’re going home tomorrow. Home. Where the Cardinals play ball, where the Arch remains an overpriced, but cool landmark, where we live ten minutes from the free zoo.

Where we have new friends. And cats that make me itch. And a life.

But it doesn’t make the leaving here any easier, but I will leave this time having made peace with that.

We live in St. Louis. And I’m okay with that.

On Moving, Part 2

Megan's View from the Road

 

On Moving Part 1

You wanted to move. You wanted to move. You wanted to move.

Those words replayed in my brain over and over and over. They were true. I did want to move. Our move made sense on a bunch of different levels. Craig’s role with the Navigators had become less about hands-on ministry and more about reconciling numbers. He’s not a numbers guy. The whole “do 20% of what you hate so you can do 80% of what you love” principle had reversed itself in his role. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it was just the nature of the situation we were in. It wasn’t exactly a healthy one for a guy who needs to be on the content end of things and not just the implementation end.

I don’t think I knew this about myself at the time, but have really come to know it now – I just really thrive on change. We moved four times while in the Springs, not counting all the 4-month summer moves up to camp we did. We’d come to a place where we’d stopped doing that and landed in the house we were probably going to be in for the rest of our days. We’d also stopped moving to camp. We were stable and I suppose there’s something about stable that threatens me. I’m not sure what that is, but there you have it.

It’s hard to reach back to the details of that time. Time has a way of polarizing emotion – you either remember only the good or only the bad. Finding balance in your memory is tricky.That’s why it’s easy for me to sit here, five years later, and only remember everything good about being here. Honestly, I’m thankful it’s that way.

Now back to the story:

I started packing immediately. Being a change-lover, I started processing the move as quickly as possible. We’d only been at Village 7 officially for four months, so I didn’t really become intentional with many people there, knowing we would be moving in four more. I regret that decision.

I can look back at my story and think I was just oh-so-ready to move, but when I go back and read blog entries from that time (because, yep, I was already keeping a blog at that time), I see I was grieving the move even before we left. I knew what I was leaving. I just REALLY knew it after we left.

Here’s the thing I think I want to remember if I’m ever in the position of walking someone else through a move like this – it’s right to be excited about what God is doing and it’s right to grieve what you are leaving.

It would be more sad to be involved in a move where it’s just relief to be done with what you were doing and away from who you are with. Not so in our case. Thank God for that.

But here’s the other thing I want to remember – if one of my friends moves away someday, confident in what they are moving to, and excited about it, and then they email me four months later, because they are so lonely they can’t stand it, I want to step into that grief with them. I want them to hear from me that I know it’s hard. That they are conflicted. That they are grieving.

What that email did for me was this: It made me cry, and it made me think that EVERYONE in Colorado Springs felt the same way – that I wanted to move, so I deserved to feel isolated and alone.

I never processed that move with anyone else from Colorado Springs. I never really processed it with anyone in St. Louis.

I stuffed it. For five years.

Click here for Part 3.

On Moving

Colorado Springs to St. Louis (April-June, 05)

Some things you have to learn the hard way, you know? I’m one of those people who has to learn just about everything the hard way.

I know I’ve processed our move from Colorado Springs to St. Louis on my blog before. But there’s just something about coming back that makes you have to do it all over again.

Our time with the Navigators is one I do not regret by any stretch. The people we worked with were family to us, and in many ways will always be. They also probably know us better than anyone else on the planet, so I’ve found myself asking the question over and over this week: Why did we leave this place? These people?

I’ve had to remind myself that the move was one ordained by God and that I can definitely see his hand in where we are now and the work he’s given us to do for this season of life. I know that. I see that.

But I still grieve what we left.

Some of you have read my recounting of our struggle with the church, mostly taking place right here in Colorado Springs. So knowing that, and knowing that we’d finally found a place we loved in Village 7, the struggle we faced when we moved to St. Louis was a shock to me that I never saw coming.

The struggle to make friends in St. Louis was one I did see coming, though the weird culture of pseudo-cliquishness that made up seminary campus-life was one I didn’t.

A few months into our campus existence I began to sink in this relational void I couldn’t even name. I had nobody to process this with in St. Louis so I emailed a friend in Colorado Springs and mentioned how much I was struggling.

Her response to me burned itself in my memory for the rest of my days. It was short. It was sharp. It was sad. In response to my plea for something from someone who knew me, she responded with, “Don’t forget, you wanted to move.”

Click here for Part 2 of this story on moving.

Missing

We’ve been in Colorado for 12 days now. We’ve been Craig-less for 10 so far. There is so much I’ve intended to process about our transition from Colorado Springs to St. Louis five years ago, but I’ve been unable to do it yet, at least not on my blog. I think it’s coming, though. I’m about ready to formulate some of these thoughts into words.

Some things just need to be processed with Craig. He’s the whole reason I ended up in Colorado for so long in the first place, so it’s rather hard to process the move away without him here to do it with.

Come on Tuesday. We need him back with us.

Addicted to Gaming

I posted on kids who grow up addicted to gaming and other techno-stuff today at WORLDMag.com.

My friend, Jess, wrote the springboard for this post, as she and her husband work with college students who find themselves entrenched in this very thing. Her post  on gaming addiction really is a must read.

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I recently attended a two-day event for bloggers sponsored by Build-A-Bear Workshop. The purpose of the event was two-fold; they provided great content and ideas for the bloggers in attendance while we provided some feedback for them on their product line.

One of the sessions was on cyber-safety for kids, and the statistic thrown out was that kids spend an average of 10,000 hours on computer games and internet activity by the time they graduate high school, which is roughly the same amount of time they spend attending school.

10,000 hours.

When I heard this all I could think was, “Parents, where are you?”

Jess Dager and her husband, Ben, are collegiate Navigator staff in Illinois. She recently wrote a blog post on their experiences with college guys who are, in fact, addicted to gaming. She wrote:

“When we walk through dorms these days we are bombarded by young men in coma-like trances playing video and or computer games for literally DAYS on end – no eating, no sleeping, no speaking… just mind numbing gaming… Most students will say they’ve been gaming since they were very young. Of course, at first they played “harmless” games like football and Super Mario brothers – then slowly moved on to more mature games – but by then parents had usually stopped supervising the media intake… College students addicted to gaming, who can choose to play day in and day out, do just that. They skip class. They skip life.”

When I read that, all I could think was, “Parents, where are you?”

As much as it sounds like common sense, the view of limiting our kids’ computer/internet/x-box/whathaveyou time is one that is in the clear minority.

In the July 12 Time, Nancy Gibbs makes her case for keeping out of our kids cyber lives. She wrote:

“Most of us were probably less than immaculately honest as teenagers; it’s practically encoded into adolescence that you savor your secrets, dress in disguise, carve out some space for experiments and accidents and all the combustible lab work of becoming who you are.”So let us praise dirt. And sneakiness. And normal youthful messmaking. Let us even praise the very tools and technologies that make us crazy. Thanks to Facebook and its nutty quizzes, I know that my mysterious older daughter, if asked, What kind of candy are you?, is a Hershey bar; she is also the goddess Artemis, Elmo, a poppy (‘childlike and carefree’), a double-neck guitar and a chocolate Lab; her eyes say she’s happy even when she’s not; she should be living in the Middle Ages and has a shy, melon-colored personality. These are not things I would ever have thought to ask, or that she would ever tell me. But she and the laptop have a very trusting relationship.”

I fully get that many parents don’t have much of a relationship with their adolescent kids.

I also understand that kids share more about themselves online than they do in person and that’s the way many parents find out anything at all about their kids.

But I submit that if your only real knowledge of your kids is what kind of candy bar their personality most resembles, you don’t really know your child.

My kids are still on the youngish side, but even with my oldest being 11, I’ve discovered that if I show interest and intention in her in any way at all, she responds. I can take her out for hot chocolate and ask her about her thoughts on life and she tells me. She asks me questions too and we have a conversation. Through the art of face-to-face communication and relating I am finding out who my daughter is and who she is on the verge of becoming.

I do not want to lose that to 10,000 hours of a plugged-in form of relating, or worse—zoned out gaming.

I know there could come a day when I have a conversation with my daughter via texting or some other form of electronic communication. We may even one day play electronic games together. But if the only relating we do together is that of a plugged-in/cyber kind, I believe I will have failed as a parent.

Yes, I Am *That* Conference Attendee (Round 2)

Time for another rousing rendition of “I am the Savvy Blogging Attendee who…”

  • Actually confessed to the ladies at her table that she was once asked to do a product review of “The Foot Flush.” And said yes.
  • Has accidentally been pronouncing the word “monetization” as “monotonization” in her head and when she mentioned out loud to her husband she would be tending a workshop on the latter, he wondered why a blogging conference would be teaching her how to be monotonous.
  • Because clearly she doesn’t have a problem with being monotonous.
  • Promised a bunch of business card holders to ladies here at the conference, but never had a chance to finish them up before leaving St. Louis so she hauled her sewing machine half-way across the country with her and it is sitting here on the table in her hotel room as she types.
  • Managed to get said business card holders done on Thursday night after the first session was over.
  • Has four kids in attendance with her and allowed them to pretty much have free reign with the three (count ’em, THREE) television sets in their suite today.
  • Paid $8 for four packs of Halls cough drops from the hotel gift shop and has thus far consumed 29 of them in the past 36 hours. She will probably finish the last pack tonight while attempting to hack herself to sleep.
  • Pretty much burned the tip of her tongue off by sucking on said Halls cough drops all day.
  • Tied her sweatshirt around her waist today in case it got cold, but failed to notice the bright orange “Oklahoma State University” print was showing…right across her behind…for about three hours.
  • Finally noticed her fashion faux pas when a strange 60-year-old man asked her if she actually went to Oklahoma State University.
  • Carried on a conversation about said university for four minutes before realizing how he even knew that.
  • Got harassed by The Happy Housewife repeatedly for not being on WordPress.
  • Likes The Happy Housewife, though, so it didn’t bother her.
  • Learned a really cool camera trick today as a result of the photography workshop.
  • Showed her photographic success to everyone around her she could make look at her camera screen in proper 2nd grade fashion.
  • Allowed her kids to drink caffeinated beverages tonight at the
    restaurant.
  • Will be paying for that decision for probably another hour at this
    point.
  • Is pretty glad her kids will all be at summer camp next week so she can attempt to process some of what she’s learned.
  • Feels a teensy bit sorry for fellow attendees who are hopping on the 4:30am shuttle to DIA in the morning.
  • Will herself be sleeping in as late as possible in the morning before packing up and heading back to Colorado Springs for the next 12 days.

Night.

Yes, I Am *That* Conference Attendee

I am the Savvy Blogging Summit Attendee who:

  • Has not updated her blog in a whole week.
  • Has kept a blog longer than anyone else in the room.
  • Has done less professionally with her blog than anyone else in the room.
  • Had her introvert show up for dinner at the Mexican restaurant we went to tonight.
  • Realized upon arrival yesterday that she had forgotten everyone’s swimsuit but her own. Ahem.
  • Actually got in the hot tub tonight with her four kids (they in shorts/t-shirts).
  • Got back out 30 minutes later and remembered it’s cold in the mountains at night.
  • Walked out of the session on CSS and seriously considered 1) switching back to WordPress and 2) hiring a professional blog designer.
  • Walked out of the session on professional business law and seriously considered 1) hiring a lawyer and 2) canning the whole blog altogether.
  • Will forever be remembered by everyone in attendance when they listen to the audio recordings of every session and hear her coughing. And coughing. And coughing.
  • Got schooled by another blogger on the proper pronunciation of the word “niche.”
  • Looked it up online later and decided she was going to keep pronouncing it the way she’s always been because Professor Google doesn’t lie.
  • Don’t tell her otherwise. She doesn’t’t want to know.
  • Had a serious deadline due on Wednesday.
  • Knows it’s Friday and still hasn’t finished it.
  • Can’t stop coughing.
  • Only got 3 hours of sleep last night and is about to die.
  • Is going to bed really really soon.

Night.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Connect

On May 24 I received an interesting email from Build-A-Bear Workshop inviting me to participate in their first ever Build-A-Bear Workshop Brand Building Learning Session.

I didn’t zero in on the title of the event as much as I did what followed: free hotel for two nights and some other snazzy perks. I immediately asked if my family could join me in the hotel and was immediately given the affirmative and then I pretty much immediately forgot about the whole thing for two weeks.

Pretty soon we started telling people what we were doing that week and when they asked what it was I was going to be doing with Build-A-Bear Workshop, I had absolutely no idea. I finally dug up the original email and saw the title again. Still, I had no idea. We went anyway.

I’m going to sum this up in one short sentence: I was seriously surprised.

I’ve been to a handful of corporate sponsored blogging events, though nothing of this magnitude for sure. The events are always about what we can do for the company. They give us some cool stuff in exchange for some free press on our blogs/Twitter accounts, etc. I don’t have a problem with this, it’s part of the gig and I just don’t participate in the things I have no desire to promote.

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This was not the case with this event, from here on out referred to by the Twitter hashtag we used, #BABWconnect (you can follow BABW on Twitter here). The intent behind this event was to *gasp* benefit the blogger and not the company. I couldn’t have been more surprised.

Among the sessions included were Building a World Class Brand with Maxine Clark (owner and Chief Executive Bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop) and Adrienne Weiss (a favorite) and one on cyber-safety for kids where we were given some insight into the digital habits of kids by people who know. I was blown away to find out that kids spend an average 10,000 HOURS on games and internet activity by the time they graduate high school – roughly the same amount of time they spend attending school. PARENTS, WHERE ARE YOU? Just. Say. No.

Ahem.

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We were given a tour of the facility, invited to dinner at the home of Maxine Clark, shown some new products/ideas that BABW is considering, and given the full Build-A-Bear Workshop party experience at the local mall.

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So much fun.

I could pull up my notes for you, but there is still so much I’m processing from the event that I think will coincide very nicely with the upcoming Savvy Blogging Summit I’m attending next week. Namely, that of owning your own influence (this phrase is actually Craig’s but it’s one we’ve been talking about lately that seems to be popping up in my life over and over as of late). Also, that of weaving story into your business concept. You really aren’t just selling a product, you are offering something else as well. Identify that, own it, make it part of who you are and what you are doing.

So, to sum things up:

Most surprised by: The intent: That this was as much about helping us as it was about helping them.

Most impressed by: The heart: BABW does an amazing job of giving at almost every level. They receive about 2000 requests for donations each MONTH and they try to respond in some form or fashion to every request. They passed out $25 gift cards to each of us to DonorsChoose.org so we can also participate in the giving.

Most thrilled by: The family inclusion: My entire family enjoyed the hotel, tour of the BABW facility, and dinner at Maxine Clark’s home where not only was the food amazing, but the magician and balloon artists who were hired to entertain the kids were indeed a huge hit.

Most fun personal connection: Joy Missey: Joy works for BABW as the Manager of Interactive Operations. We randomly sat by each other the night of the dinner at Maxine’s. As we were chatting about where we lived we realized that we’re about 1 mile away from each other and attend the same church. It was fun to see her the following Sunday and know that’s a connection I will be able to keep up with.

Biggest take away: What am I going to do about this now? Still thinking about that one.

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Now for the disclaimer: Build-A-Bear Workshop provided my family with two nights of hotel accommodations, and dinner. I was given the Hello Kitty I made during the BABW party as well as an additional $100 gift card for a return visit with my kids. These gifts, while appreciated, did not influence my opinions here, indeed, they are my own.

THANK YOU, BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP AND MAXINE CLARK! We had a super fun time!