Seeing and Hearing the Disabled Community: Dr. Amy Kenny

We’re back with our series For The Love of Being Seen and Heard. There is so much right now floating around in culture about what happens to us when we don’t feel like we’re either being seen or heard. For most of us, the longing to be understood by others is a core need. And for some groups or communities, including the disabled community, the task of being seen, heard and understood is more challenging, and we’ll hear why as we talk with disabled scholar-practitioner Dr. Amy Kenny. Dr. Kenny has made it her life’s work to shed light on and help clear up misunderstandings around the abled community’s view of the disabled. Her latest book, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request does a deep dive into one of those communities—places of faith—and the particular biases and unintentional ableism propagated there. Amy compassionately offers insight and solutions toward understanding in a new way.

Jen and Dr. Kenny discuss:

  • Common misunderstandings that abled people have toward disabled people plus words and actions they can learn from disabled people toward connectedness
  • The “invisible qualities of God’s divine nature” and how we might be able to accept imperfections in nature, even considering them beautiful, but are unable to accept or find beauty in the imperfections of our bodies
  • “Inspiration porn” a phrase that relates to the overall view of disabled folks being the poster children for overcoming—putting them in the position of feeling as if they are objects on a pedestal and that their sole purpose in life is to inspire the abled
  • The challenges around access for disabled people and how to think differently about the right of access for all people

There’s hope in this conversation, and Amy guides us to a place where we can unlearn some ableist tendencies and learn more about a community that has much to contribute to our world.

Elephant in the Room Part 8: Planning for Life after Death ft. Abby Schneiderman

As we wrap up our Elephant in the Room series, there will be no awkward topics left in our wake. And this week, we’re putting the nail in that coffin (so to speak) and we’re talking about–yes, you guessed it– Death.  It’s really hard to think about how to plan for your death when you’re too busy living, not to mention that we don’t even want to really contemplate our demise, but alas, none of us will escape it. And we’ve all heard the horror stories of people who leave this earth with no will or last testament, families put under duress because they don’t know how to manage it all, or the provider of the family passes suddenly, and in an instant, there is no income, no insurance and perhaps unexpected expenses for hospital stays and/or funerals. As stark as it seems, it doesn’t have to be. Planning well for the life that you’ve built so that legacy is created for those who are left behind is something we all can bravely face. And to help us through it is someone who has taken this hard topic and turned it on its face so that it’s actually approachable and less scary to contemplate–we’ve got Abby Schneiderman, the founder of Everplans–to hold our hands through the process. Abby has the answers to the questions we need to take care of In Case You Get Hit By A Bus (also the title of her book). Her company Everplans focuses on providing resources to people as they think about what needs to be done to put the right things into place once we pass on. Some of it is just practical stuff we might not be thinking about—like a list of passwords so getting into accounts doesn’t take an act of congress, developing a way to keep track of medical forms, legal files, and so much more.

Elephants in the Room Part 7: Getting Real About Divorce with Jen, Kristen & Jamie

Get ready for some real and raw conversation with Jen and two of her most trusted friends about an experience they’ve all shared [which happens to be this week’s elephant in the room as well]. We’re talking about divorce. We’ve all heard the not so fun stat that at least half of all marriages in our country end up in divorce. No matter how it happens, who makes the choice, or however long the marriage lasted—it’s traumatizing. Like any elephant in the room, there’s a sense of failure, a sense of shame that keeps the pain and loneliness of a marriage that is on the rails shrouded in silence and solitude, and when the marriage finally crumbles––we’re not only grieving over own dreams and expectations dashed, but wondering how we’ll manage all our people’s disappointment and confusion over it all–including our children’s.  And moving forward as a single person after being married has its own challenges as well. How do you tell people in the office your plus one has vacated the position? Who’s your emergency contact now? Do I keep the same last name? How do we even process it all–what we were taught about marriage to begin with, why we stayed when our boundaries were pushed to their limits, and who we can trust as we put our lives back together again? Jen shares more than she ever has before about her own divorce with her good friends Kristen Howerton and Jamie Wright who walked with her through every step of the process. They discuss the trajectory of their marriages, how they each grappled with choosing divorce, and what they are learning in “real time” in the aftermath. And here’s the good news–they all agree that as devastating as it can be, our friends can help us remember who we are in all of it; new dreams can be made, old dreams can change and hope and healing is possible. 

Elephants in the Room Part 6: Accepting The Reality of Mental Health Issues And Their Impact with Jamie Tworkowski

In the tail-end of this series, we really acknowledge some of the bigger elephants in the room we all face each and every day. And this week’s elephant is a big one that likely we’ve all experienced first hand or with those we love. Mental health disorders have been around for as long as we’ve been walking the planet, but bringing them out of the dark has been a fairly recent phenomenon. Even as recently as 3 or 4 decades ago, depression and anxiety were rarely diagnosed as clinical disorders, and in previous generations, people with more profound issues that are now treatable were hidden away from society by their families or locked up in institutions. And while there have been huge strides made in the past  or so regarding treatment of now commonly diagnosed mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, there is still reticence to recognize its impact and shame taken on by those who deal with it.  The time has come to bring these issues out of the dark as we see the growing impact of unchecked mental illness and where it leads for those who don’t know where or how to get help. One of the people that’s leading the charge toward legitimizing mental health conditions in a bigger way is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, Jamie Tworkowski. Jamie founded TWLOHA after guiding a friend through her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. He saw the need for guidance in this space and created a world-renowned organization that offers resources and help to those who need it most. Jen and Jamie talk about the painful process of loving our people when they are hurting, how to give our own selves grace when we struggle, and why mental health needs to be treated as seriously as physical health.


Content Warning: This episode addresses hard topics including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, so it may not be suitable for young listeners or individuals on the path to healing.

Elephants in the Room Part 5: Undoing the Stigma of Menopause with Cheryl Bridges Johns

Have you ever heard anyone say they are looking forward to menopause? A rare occurrence, to be sure, as our culture seems obsessed with keeping women “young” on all levels. 50 is the new 30, right? And while women inevitably age, the maturation of women has not classically been held in high esteem in our culture. So no wonder we view the onset of menopause with fear and trepidation; a stark reminder that we’re not what we once were. And as most elephants in the room, this natural transition into what should be a wise, peaceful and well-earned season of our lives is met with disdain; something to be hidden and ignored, or “fixed” with surgery, hormones, and a host of anti-aging products. For those of us who haven’t gotten there yet, we’re treated to the negative aspects played up historically by a patriarchal perspective giving us dread of hot flashes, mood swings, body changes, gray hair and overall loss of youth and vitality. Though this transition is unavoidable for all women, we’re here to look at what it all really means–to those who are currently going through it and to those who inevitably will. We hope you’ll be encouraged to find that there is much to lean into that gives us hope for a productive and meaningful second half of life. We’ve got a wonderfully educated and compassionate leader in this space–she’s not only been through it, but her work focuses on de-stigmatizing the whole topic for women and taking to task the historical negativity around a woman’s aging process. Cheryl Bridges Johns is an author, she’s an academic lecturer, she’s a leader. She advocates for women’s full empowerment, care for all God’s creation, and the renewal of the church to boot. She’s written a compelling book about navigating the second half of life as a woman–it’s called Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause, which gets to the heart of this change by helping women find their voice and speak openly about their journey. Cheryl wants women to see their menopausal journey as a time in which we can become more and more of ourselves. She believes if society can embrace this natural occurrence, women can flourish in the second half of their lives, which can only lead to the flourishing of society as a whole. 

Elephants in the Room Part 4: Facing the Reality of White Privilege and Systemic Racism with Reggie Dabbs & John Driver

Elephants in the room are historically hard to acknowledge and easy to ignore. And though it seems like the conversation about racial divides in our country is getting more attention than it ever has, there are still some of us that are unable to see that there’s a problem in their own ranks. Sometimes, it’s not even that we don’t recognize it looking from the outside in–but a lack of being involved toward change or acknowledging the concept that the white community has historically had a giant leg up on thriving in our country today contributes to the acceptance of the status quo and to the systemic issues that still persist in our country today. White privilege is simply this: because of the color of your skin, there’s an added disadvantage or advantage as to how easy it will be to navigate our world today. Not whether you worked hard or went to college or did everything else right. Our intention for this episode (as with all our elephants in the room) is not to point fingers or cause shame. It’s simply to shine a light on a tough topic and ask ourselves the question as it applies to those of us who are white: where is it that we have privilege and can we have the humility to examine that deeply?  We have some thoughtful leaders to guide us through this conversation–Reggie Dabbs and John Driver. These lifelong friends are the authors of the book, Not So Black and White, which details race in America from a Christian perspective. Reggie is one of the most sought-after public school speakers in the US and has been for more than 20 years, while John is a writer, minister, and former history teacher. Their book came out of a vulnerable conversation years into their friendship about what it is like for Reggie to live as a black man in America. Jen, Reggie and John get into why many of us, as part of faith communities, didn’t think racial divides were ours to contend with. We’ll talk about the unique things that black parents have to teach their kids that white parents don’t, and we’ll look at culturally wise responses to the challenges of racism in hopes that we can all make a difference in this fight for equality. 

Elephants in the Room Part 3 – Addressing Broken Sexual Behavior with Jay Stringer

We’re back with another elephant in the room–one that likely has affected us all at one time or another either personally or within our circle of friends, family, associates. Society’s struggle with sexual brokenness–whether that’s pornagraphy use, paying for sex, or engaging in infidelity–is a real issue, and it impacts us in many ways, sometimes to the point of being devastating. But it’s time to bring this problem out of the dark and begin to look at the roots of where sexual brokenness begins. Our guest this week has made finding a way to wholeness in the aftermath of sexual brokenness his life’s work. Jay Stringer is a therapist, author and speaker who has done countless hours of research with over 3800 people to offer practical guidance rooted in clicnal evidence that is helping people discover their way to sexual wholeness. If you grew up in a conservative environment, you might remember being a part of the purity culture movement—a set of beliefs that Jay believes instills an unhealthy fear of sexuality among its followers. Jay and Jen discuss the harms there, and how this movement is still negatively impacting the sexual lives of the adults who were taught this set of beliefs in their teenage years. They also discuss a way forward from the tangle of shame sexual brokenness leaves in its wake and how there can be forgiveness and understanding for those who have engaged in it or have been hurt deeply by it.  Jay believes that when we pay attention to our unwanted sexual desires and identify the unique reasons that drive them, the road to healing is revealed. This conversation helps us see light at the end of this brokenness, and those who are willing to unpack their stories can live a new story, one filled with hope and a future. 

Elephants in the Room Part 2: Responding to LGBTQ+ Friends & Loved Ones with Celeste Lecesne

When it comes to addressing the elephant in the room, many of us really want to shy away and say “what elephant?” and whisk whatever the pesky and uncomfortable topic is under the rug. But, in the grand scheme of this life, addressing hard topics and working through difficult conversations is so important as we try to move forward and create a brighter and more accepting world for all people. One elephant we’ve tackled many times here on For the Love (as gently as possible–no elephants are ever harmed in the making of this show) relates to shining the light on the issues and struggles our LGBTQ+ friends & loved ones have faced. And while it is 2022, it remains unbelievable to us that we are still fighting for equality for our LBGTQ+ peers. Yet, in our culture, in our churches, that struggle is real. And what, as sensible, compassionate people and perhaps even as Christians, should our response to our LGBTQ+ counterparts be? Celeste Lecesne, one of the founders of The Trevor Project, is our thoughtful guide in this episode where we talk about that very thing. The Trevor Project started as a crisis hotline specifically for the queer community, offering them comfort and solace when they had nowhere else to turn. Celeste has fought for years to create a brighter tomorrow for LGBTQ+ youth, and we’re pleased to share this conversation with Jen to tell the story and shed some light on how we can all respond and understand the individual journeys of people in this community. Celeste uncovers some hidden parts of the LGBTQ+ history, tells us how young queer kids are coping today, and why acceptance and love can be a path forward for us all. 

Elephants in the Room Part 1: Grief on Your Terms with Sal & Im

Hey community, it’s a new year and it’s time to get uncomfortable. We have all spent the last few weeks relaxing and indulging and prepping for what we hope is a good year. If your families or friend groups are anything like ours, maybe some hard topics popped up over the holidays. That aunt that can’t help talking about politics, or maybe passive-aggressive grandma’s racist comments caused a stir. Instead of stuffing our faces full of another dinner roll and changing the topic, we’ve decided to embrace these topics head on—yes, we’re tackling those Elephants in the Room for a whole series. And for our first topic in the series we’re dealing with something that’s difficult when it’s happening and sometimes awkward for those around it–plus it affects every single one of us who has been on the planet for any significant amount of time. It’s grief. And you may say, “well grief is not something we should shy away from,” yet many of us do–or we don’t recognize that we are grieving, or we don’t know how to walk with or give space to someone who is grieving (or even carve out that care and space for ourselves). We have some good guides in this conversation; Sal and Im are the delightful hosts of The Good Mourning podcast, a show that talks about ways to work through grief and accept the changes grief brings into someone’s life. Brought together by the early deaths of their mothers in close proximity, Sal and Im began to examine how they both looked at grief and came away with all kinds of real life examples of how we tend to defer grief and push it down, how we shame ourselves for grieving too much or too long, and how we try to structure our grief to play out  in a linear way (when grief is just gonna do what it’s gonna do). They encourage us that it is possible to live fully while grieving, giving ourselves space and grace as individuals to let it run its needed course in our very own timing. 

Deconstructing Fake News With Mediawise’s Heaven Taylor-Wynn

Remember when newspapers and 3 TV channels were the only ways you consumed the news? That world will never be a reality for our kids—and it’s up to us to teach them to think critically about where they’re getting information and who may be trying to feed it to them. And get excited, parents, because we have a killer partner in this effort: it’s called MediaWise, and it’s a media literacy project that aims to teach 1 million teens how to sort fact from fiction online by 2020. Jen talks to journalist and MediaWise member Heaven Taylor-Wynn, who schools us on ways we can teach our kids (and ourselves) how to sniff out fake news and gives us the skinny on some of the new scams we need to watch out for (anyone who’s seen the “deep fake” video of Ron Swanson on the opening credits of Full House knows what we’re talking about). We learn how keyword searches take the sensation out of crazy headlines and how “lateral reading” helps us give a more full context to a story. Heaven’s right when she says, “The information we consume directly affects the decisions we make.” And if we can equip our kids to navigate digital waters successfully, we’re setting them up to have healthy media diets and make well-informed choices for life.