Have a Gentle Holiday

I have been hearing people use the phrase: Have a gentle holiday. I like it.

Gentle. What the world needs now is sweet gentleness.

2022–What a year! It has been the worst of times and it has been the best of times for the Bruehls. And we have lived plenty of both in years past, but 2022 was extra.

Now that I am to a point where I am having more good days than bad, I am ready to share what 2022 has taught me personally.

1) My family went through a storm that was rough, and a lot of it unnecessary, that has and will leave a lasting effect on us forever, but…

LOVE followed the storm abundantly, and I am finding we are still being defined by LOVE versus the pain-EVEN in 2022.

2) Our systems are flawed and people are doing the best they can within each system.

Even the most cruel person I experienced in the eye of the storm, I got a taste of what they are dealing with every day and it opened me up as to why this person hardened instead of softened. My compassion grew even in the worst of the times for the person who caused us the most harm. No excuse, but it does explain. I always seek to understand. This is why I am still growing.

3) I am now working for us to be collectively harder on systems and more compassionate toward individuals.

Individuals cannot bear the weight of systemic injustice. This is a call for all of us who work within a system, which is all of us, to do the inner work on ourselves. Find systems, communities that leave room for questions and challenges. Systems, as well as individuals, need to leave room for growth. It is always both/and—individual and collective.

4) Give yourself a break. It is okay to make mistakes. We do not know until we know.

Be with people who understand this and encourage it. We will not grow without mistakes.

5) Systems will make mistakes too.

We talk a lot about personal repentance (although, we only demand it of some) but little about communal repentance.

I feel my Baptist connection is most strongly connected with Walter Rauschenbusch right now (1861-1918). He was adamant we understand why we are Baptist; that our places of worship and rituals are always going to be the thing that will be challenged when we lose our way—he said: “all religious bodies carry with them a good many clinging remnants of their childhood stage;” Rauschenbusch also believed it was time for systems to enter the kingdom of God—systems have to grow up too.

(This is true for all systems. We are trying to operate the United States with the same system set up at the founding, even though we have grown tremendously—in numbers, knowledge, experience, etc. The old ways cannot handle what we are facing now. Time for new wineskins—Scripture still speaks (also why I am Baptist).

6) We are all a mixed bag of good and bad.

I no longer view people as good or bad. I am working to no longer address other peoples’ behavior when trying to get my own point across. I want to address my own behavior; what I can control. I release others to do their own work.

7) You cannot assume to know how people are feeling or what their motives are.

Always ask if you really care to know. Caring to know means seeking to understand with compassion, not judgement or quick fixes. Assuming, even if you are only 1% off, really hurts people.

  1. It is okay to be misunderstood. (That is a really big lesson for me!)

9) Learning to respond rather than react has grown my emotional maturity exponentially.

Things are way more complicated than our reactions. Responding brings a calming presence, even when I do not feel calm, to invite conversation and a new way of thinking/being. I cannot force anyone into a new way of thinking/being, but I can be more invitational.

10) While I said the old ways do not work anymore—old systems or old personal habits—I have found that there are some things that are always true. Do not throw everything away!

This season of going back and remembering who I am and where I have been has shown me what needs to go with us when we make changes.

Here is a simple human example that is spiritually transformative, especially on our toughest day: getting out of bed, brushing teeth, and taking a shower. I learned from Dr. Thema these simple acts of taking care of ourselves has a spiritual impact on our bodies. We are telling ourselves through action that we are sacred beings worthy of care and attention.

She is right. The days I do not want to get out of bed, I do these small things to keep moving. These seemingly simple and routine rhythms are profoundly healing when depression and anxiety want to take the reigns.

In Summary: Being human is a beautiful and sacred thing. It is also really hard, and lots of unjust and traumatic things happen to our bodies. Love truly does have the power to overcome even the most horrible atrocity. Trauma is the feeling of powerlessness. When we are given the tools to find where we still have power and can make decisions, we can face the next moment—moment by moment.

It is okay to go slow.

Have a gentle holiday, y’all. I love you. You can love you too (in the words of my dearest friend Teri Colleen).

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