We’re continuing our “Women in the Trenches” series this week with Elaine Hamilton.

I think of Elaine as my very young aunt. My dad was an only child and my mom’s only sibling passed away when I was young, so I didn’t really grow up with blood aunts and uncles after Aunt Judy died.

When Elaine came into my life, we were both in the early stages of writing books for Zondervan, and we began meeting weekly to share our writing and, what has turned out to be, our lives.

Through those meetings, Elaine became family to me.

Elaine is the author of Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy? a book about authenticity in the Church—where it’s gone and how we might get it back. What a resource. Elaine is always both compelling and practical. Love this about her. Not just theory with her; always something useful.

She has also restored two old houses recently. One in the dreamy Pacific Northwest and one in a fabulous little enclave of San Diego that houses her practice, The Soul Care House. Gorgeous.

Elaine has been through hard things and survived. She is wise and funny and visionary. She has beautiful curly hair and amazing style and she knows had to decorate a room on a shoestring.

Soak up every word this woman has to offer.

Here’s Elaine . . .

Age: 53

How long you’ve been married: 26 years

Names of children and ages: Katie 21, Josh 19

Where do you live? What’s great about where you live?  San Diego.  Love the indoor/outdoor living.  Don’t think I could go back to wearing long underwear half the year! (Necessary in my homeland of Canada!)

What is your job and why were you drawn to that particular field? I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist. I love spending my days with people who are pursing wholeness and healing in their lives and relationships. It’s an honor to be a part of that process in someone’s life. Their courage and resilience inspire me every day.

What is the best piece of parenting advice you can give? Small children are like dogs. Teenagers are like cats. When kids are young, they can’t get enough of you.  They are always excited to see you, want you to be everywhere they are, hang onto your leg when you try to leave them.  And you think, this is what it’s like to be a parent.  You get used to this devotion.  Then out of the blue, somewhere around junior high, a horrible, tragic turning occurs.  Suddenly, this loving child who adored you just yesterday, becomes aloof and withholding.  Now our singing, our jokes, our breathing, our very presence is “ruining everything!!!”  You know this can happen, but you just didn’t expect it to happen to you.

This is not your fault.  Or theirs.  It’s just part of the deal.   This is also what it’s like to be a parent.  Best to accept that, for a while, you must tread carefully.   I find it’s helpful to think of them as cats during this period.   If you chase them, they will run from you. If you try to hold them too tightly, they will scratch you to get away.  But if you sit very still and pretend you are very busy doing something very important, they will work their way over to you and silently lay their head on your shoulder or your lap, because a part of them knows they still need you.  You will ecstatic but please, for you own sake, do not make a big deal of this.  Do not shout for joy.   Do not start to cry because you’ve missed them so badly.  Just soak it in.    Cherish this moment.   Let it nourish you. There’s no telling when it will come again.

Comfort yourself with the truth that, someday this phase will be over and you will all be grownups together.  And ask yourself this question:  “What kind of a relationship do I want with my kids 5 years from now, and are strategies I’m using right now going to help me get there?”

Looking back at the season when your kids were younger, is there anything you’d do differently? Where do I start?!!  But mostly I wish I had been kinder to myself.  I love the theme of your writing right now about being a companion to yourself rather than a critic.  As a young mom, I was always judging myself:  Was I creating enough structure, enough fun?  Was I trying hard enough, was I willing to sacrifice enough for them?  Every book I read, every parenting tip I heard, was added to the pile of things I should be doing.  I couldn’t meet my own expectations and I couldn’t let go of any of them.  If I could do it again, I would be kinder to myself.  I would relax more, play more, take better care of myself so I wasn’t always running on empty.  I would spend more money on babysitters and let things go a little. I would trust that my love for them was enough.

In your opinion, what is the biggest struggle women face today? How might we engage in that struggle? We have a hard time being on each other’s side.  We desperately need a group of “sisters” to do life with but we are so tormented by our obsessive judging and comparing, our fears of rejection and abandonment that we can’t really let down our guard with each other.   This is tragic because the only way to let go of those fears is to take them on, find some safe women and tell them the truth about you.  Your insecurities, your secrets, your longings.  All of it.  And inviting them to do the same.

In your opinion, what is the biggest struggle men face today? How might men engage in that struggle? I work with a lot of men who have been told over and over, in many ways, by many people, particularly women, that no one cares about their feelings.  We just want them to take care of things for us, to get the job done no matter what it costs them, and to make us happy because we don’t know how to make ourselves happy.  This leaves them cut off from their internal world and vulnerable to porn addictions, workaholism or other self-medicators to stay numb.

Change often happens when they decide they have had enough of staying silent and feeling dead inside and they go after their own freedom.  Healing occurs as they begin to explore what they have been through and how it’s affected them.  And as they open up to themselves, they become more connected to the people in their lives as well.

You’ve been through some significant traumas, including sexual abuse as a child. How have you found healing in your life? The last thing we want to do when we are dealing with something painful is devote time to exploring it, feeling it, and understanding it.  But I’ve found over and over that trying to push away or ignore horrible things never works for long.  It always finds some way to surface and torture us.  So I do what I know works.  I talk to people I trust, who get me and validate me and aren’t afraid to see me cry.   I read, I journal, I beg God to show me how and where he is in this.  And after a lot of time has past and there’s been a lot of thrashing about, I feel myself coming up for air.  And I begin to see that while there is pain and loss and suffering in my life, there is also a lot of beauty, and meaning and a lot of love.  And that helps me bear it all.


Beautiful and rich and real. Thank you, Elaine.

On Tuesday, Elaine will be back with Part 2 of her interview where she’ll be talking about starting her own business, life balance, her spirituality, her best marriage advice, and even a couple of her life staples thrown in! I’m telling you . . . come back for more Elaine!

What’s one insight you gained from Elaine’s words today?

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