Happy Monday! I’m hoping you had a joyful Easter.

Today’s guest post is from my friend, Kathy, who also happen to be an incredibly gifted therapist. 
I love when therapists post for me because they understand the gritty and powerful work of overcoming shame. 

Kathy Jack is a licensed clinical therapist with over fourteen years of experience in individual, couples, and child & adolescent family therapy. She works in private practice in Wheaton, Illinois at Alliance Clinical AssociatesKathy believes everyone has the potential for transformation in their lives. She is passionate about helping others discover joy in their passions, positive meaning through painful life experiences, and God-moments in their relationships. Kathy enjoys date nights with her husband, board games with her two daughters, long coffee-talks with friends, reading, and the outdoors.

Birthday Parties and the Beauty of Pain
“Why do friends say they’ll invite you to their birthday parties…then don’t?”

As we pulled into the elementary school parking lot, already brimming with moms and dads dropping off their precious ones, my eight year-old daughter asked me that pointed and painful question. Thank goodness we came to school early, because I knew it’d take more than a minute to answer this one.
I parked the car and turned to face her in the backseat; her little eyes filling up with tears. All I could think was, Well, now what? What do I say to ease the pain in her heart?
I knew I couldn’t actually answer her question, but I could give her all the empathy I had. 
I started by attempting to give her a vocabulary for her pain. I told her how I thought she might be feeling: “That totally sucks and you must feel hurt and disappointed.” (Yes, I did say the word “sucks” to my eight year-old. What else could I say!? It does!)
Then I noticed something—an old habit trying to creep its way into my conversation with my little girl—a need to make this situation about my own childhood insecurities. 

I want my daughter to know I can relate and empathize with her feelings, but if I’m not careful, I can quickly make these moments with my daughter all about my child-self and my need to “fix” my childhood. 
So, I stopped, took a deep breath, and reminded myself not to make this about me. This moment was about her pain. I am an adult and I need to be there for her— as my adult-self— not as my little- girl-self. (I would take some time for my little-girl-self later; for now, I would choose to be present with my daughter.)
After working through that little internal drama, I guided the conversation towards the topic of good friends. “What constitutes a good friend versus a classmate?” I asked her.
You know how my daughter responded? She blatantly ignored my question and began to plan her own birthday party! She talked about who she wanted to invite, what the theme would be, and where it would be held. (I pushed her towards a house party, but she has other, much bigger, plans.)
Right now, the way my daughter handles rejection is to plan her own party. Is that okay? Of course it is. She is eight, and frankly, I am just impressed she was able to let me know how she was struggling. 

If I’m being honest, I sometimes handle my own pain and rejection just like my daughter–by avoiding the discomfort. I prefer the party. 

But later that day, I decided to face my childhood pain. I sat alone in my office and talked to God about the rejection I experienced as a child. After some time, I began to feel His concern for my struggle and His love for my inner little girl. I felt the tangible tenderness of God.
See the ironic truth is, if we want to develop emotional maturity, we have to learn to be present in our childhood pain. The only way to stop bringing childhood rejection issues into adulthood is to be willing to struggle through them, by bringing them to God over and over again.
Avoiding our childhood (and even adult) pain can lead to addiction, regret, self-centeredness, unresolved guilt, shame, and more. But if we face our pain with God at our side, and sometimes in community with the help of a mentor, spiritual director, friend, or counselor, we can find freedom.  
That night before bed, as I prayed with my daughter, I checked back in with her. “How are you doing?” I asked, “How are you handling your feelings and your pain now?”
Ultimately, she expressed that she just wanted to feel invited.
I understood her feelings. We all want to be the center of everyone else’s universe, don’t we? We all want to feel invited. But I wonder if that is really what we need. 
When we face our pain rather than avoid it, we find we aren’t at the center of the universe; we are actually at the center of God’s immense love. 

And in my experience, there’s no better place to be invited.   

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