Friday, December 30, 2011

Magic Dancing Shoes

“And now, I’m glad I didn’t know

the way it all would end,

The way it all would go.

Our lives are better left to chance;

I could have missed the pain,

But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

-“The Dance” (sung by Garth Brooks)

(written by Tony Arata)

I was watching Sesame Street the other day (because that’s the only thing you can do when you have a three month old and a three year old and your sweet three year old decides to wake you before the sun has come up), and they had on an episode that I’ve seen a few times before. It’s a story I think we’ve all heard some version of, but on Sesame Street Gonegan the fairy wishes he could dance but doesn’t think that he is able. He’s given some magic dancing shoes and has to chase them around the room. The moves he does while trying to catch the shoes actually are dance moves…he didn’t really need the shoes at all, but the “magic dancing shoes” allowed him to dance and eventually showed him that he never even needed them…he was able to dance the whole time.

Older folks always seem to say things like they don’t regret the bad things in their life because they made them who they are, and I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around that idea. There are things that have happened in my life that I just wish hadn’t; I felt like in my fantasy of how my life would be perfect, if those things had never happened I might be different, better somehow, and wouldn’t have had to feel the pain.

But I had this moment last week when I realized about a specific instance in my life that I wished had never happen because the aftermath was so painful, that this very thing actually helped me to realize some potential and gain confidence in myself that I definitely did not possess before. My confidence began by leaning on an unstable foundation, but even when that foundation fell, those gifts were still within me as long as I was submitted to God. They were God given strengths that I didn’t know were within me until I found this “prop” to lean on…and once I had built the strength and muscle, I could stand tall in these, firmly rooted in Christ without the prop to hold me up.

I feel a bit like a tree that’s been newly planted in the yard. At first I needed some help to stand, but eventually I can weather the storm without the ties because my roots are spreading further and further in the foundation of the Lord.

Painful things will happen in our lives, and the things that we counted on (people and things) will let us down. But God is still on His throne, and He prides Himself by making something beautiful out of the dust.

God is our hiding place; He will protect us from trouble and surround us with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7) Songs we can dance to, like we never knew we could dance before. So “I might have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rose Colored Glasses

Today as we rushed out the door to the car and I started to pack my daughter into her car seat, I looked up and realized that we forgot her glasses. We were on a time crunch to get things done, so I rushed back inside to grab them. I picked them up, lifted them up to the light, and saw that her lenses were smudged. Usually I can just run the cloth over them a couple of times and that wipes the smudges clean but this time it was particularly difficult to get all the dust particles and smears off. (You can only understand if you’ve ever seen the face of a three-year-old after they’ve eaten…now imagine they have glasses…yeah…gross).


As I took the extra time to wipe her lenses clean, I thought about how, as parents, we are largely the lenses through which our children see the world. And we are often careless about taking care of our own minds, letting ideas, words, images, etc. endlessly fly in and around ourselves without a second thought. But what we fail to realize is that we leave our children to look through glasses that are smudged, scratched, streaked – they are left with lenses that keep them from seeing hazards clearly and cause them to bump into things or see things out of proportion. It reminded me to keep my heart and mind clean and clear before the Lord – let Him wipe my glasses clean and give me new glasses altogether if need be, so that I can help my sweet children to walk forward in peace and clarity.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Photo Card

Picture Tree Christmas
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Song of Redemption

There are few moments as precious as the moment the torrent of pain breaks wave into a bursting forth of song.  What a sweet, sweet release.

This was not what I expected
This was not written in my plans
but somehow you have not rejected
me and all the mess I am

You are more beautiful
than I have ever imagined
and You are more gracious
than I have ever believed
and You oh You Lord
only You could make this happen
Oh God
You are all I need

Now I know what it's like
to cling to you for dear life
I thought that I was strong
but oh I was weak and I was wrong

You are more beautiful
than I ever imagined
and You are more gracious
than I've ever believed
and You oh You Lord
Only You could make this happen
Oh God
You are all I need

This was not what I expected
This wasn't written in my plans
but somehow you have not rejected
me and all the mess I am

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Still Learning to Forgive


What does it mean to forgive?  We all know we need to do it, and we keep hearing that we are supposed to forgive for us not for the other person.  We forgive so that we don’t become bitter and so we can move on…right…I think we all know why we forgive, but it’s the what and how that really get us.

Everyone has offenses they’ll have to forgive, and many of us have been sinned against in ways that most people wouldn’t blame us for not forgiving.  The world tells us some things are unforgiveable. 

And I keep hearing that you forgive, but not forget.  But again, what’s the difference?  Every single time that I remember what happened, it hurts all over again, even when I thought I had already let something go. 

What does it mean to forgive?

Christian psychologist Dr. Arch Hart says that “forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me,” and I think that is a pretty good place to start.  Ir means letting go of the “eye for an eye” mentality and choose to allow God to deal with that person.  Ok, that sounds good start, but I think it misses two essential things, especially if you have to continue to be in relationship with someone who has hurt you.

In my experience, one of the biggest components of really forgiving someone, is grief.  We often tend to try to cover up how much it hurt or somehow water down the offense in an attempt to forgive and move forward, but a friend used to tell me that if you keep sweeping things under the rug, eventually you are going to trip. 

When we grieve, though, we'll only make matters worse if we vent to the person who hurt us, and often even third party friendships will misdirect our grief by dramatizing or minimizing the situation.  But God will never do any of this.  Tell Him exactly how you feel, hold nothing back, even tell Him if you are mad at Him about it (don’t worry, He can handle it, I promise).  He hurts when we hurt, and bask in that…He’s the one that can actually hear our hurts and pain and feel compassion but not be brought down by our emotions.

That brings me to the next important part of forgiveness.  It’s not just about letting go of your right to hurt them back, but often it’s about letting go of them making it better.  Especially when we are close to someone who hurts us, we often take our pain to them, wanting them to make that hurt better, and many times, they can’t or won't.  In fact, the more we take our hurting hearts to them asking them to make it better, the more they usually hurt us. 

It is here that the “forgive but don’t forget” thing is vitally important.  God allows us to remember hurts to keep us from continuing to get burned.  We have to remember what happened because people often keep repeating the same behavior.

Think of a people like fire.  Flames can keep us warm, kindle our hearts, but there are substances that can ignite a fire making the flames out of control and if we stick our hand in the fire we will be burnt.  If we confuse forgetting for forgiving then we will keep repeating the same mistake and eventually become a pile of ashes.  We have to remember what caused us to get burnt.  We often have to set healthy boundaries to keep from getting burnt and remember what substances caused the flames to get out of control; in this way we can still experience the warmth but remain safe.  Then there are some fires that no amount of water or proper boundaries will contain, and in that case you always RUN!  The Bible says to flee from devouring relationships, and sometimes that is what you have to do...it doesn't mean you are not forgiving, you are not trying to hurt them back, you are just protecting yourself. 

Thus far, in learning to forgive, God has shown me that I must first let that person go to God.  I let go of my desire to vindicate myself and give that person over to God.  Next, I tell Him how much it hurts and where it hurts, and instead of asking that person to make it better, I must let God heal it.  If they do change eventually and say/do the things I was longing for, it’s just icing on the cake, but it is not what I am holding onto to move on.  And finally, I have to remember what happened so that I can learn from perhaps giving inappropriate access to my heart to someone who is not able to handle this delicate treasure.  People are broken, but God can handle our pain and our pearls, and He is tender and trustworthy at all times.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Life Ain't Always Beautiful"


It is often our most painful moments in life that become our greatest victories.  The old saying is true, “That which does not kill you will make you stronger.”  But the key to walking through pain and heartache to strength and prosperity isn’t pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. 

Believe me, I was raised in the south too, by generations of hard working men and women who have seen themselves through hard times that you and I could never dare imagine.  And the phrases “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “put on your big girl panties” have rung in my ears more times than I can count.  Along with “____ or get off the pot” and “mind over matter”. 

All useful sayings and often appropriate, but what happens when you have pulled yourself up and put on your big girl panties and done your business and gotten your mind in order…and the bottom still falls out from under you?  What happens then?  You are face down in the dirt, a pit even, with no way out and no one to help you.  What do you do then?  All that advice is useless and discouraging even, making you feel like you must be made of lesser substance than every one around you.

It’s in times like this that we often do what we should have done in the first place.  We cry out to Jesus.  When there is nothing and no one left, we cry out to God, even those who claim they don’t believe start saying His name.  But when I’ve reached the bottom, my most desperate and painful place, and I find myself stretched out naked on the floor unable to help myself, and I cry out to Him, desperate for help and healing, these are the times that I see something great. 

But we hate this place…we don’t like to give up control. That’s what all the bootstraps business is about – you being in charge of your life.  It sounds great, except that every last one of us at our core is a mess.  Pulling ourselves together and looking nice, even just to impress a few people for an hour or so, makes us feel in control.  But we are really not, and when we think we are is when we are in the most trouble.

Facedown in the mud, in the depth of that pit, I found the most beautiful truth – it is not control that I need.  I need to submit.  In submission to the Father there is something even better than control: Freedom, Love, Wholeness, Security, and oh sweet, precious Grace.  When we come before Him in every area, recognizing that we do not, in fact, have what it takes, He fills us with His power and we are blessed – not because we deserve it or earned it, but we are blessed out of the abundance of His riches none the less.

And you know, “should” will just only carry you so far…we all have a jacked up “want to”, and that’s what we need to be giving to Him.  Instead of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, we need to fall down on our faces before Him, asking Him to change our hearts and minds, to raise us up in desire and discipline to serve Him and with strength and wisdom to press through what life throws at us. 

If you are going through a painful time, a trying time, and your struggling…stop struggling, just fall down on the floor before the one who created you, tell Him that you can’t do this, and ask Him to change you, to see you through…you’ll never be the same.

I’ll leave you with some lyrics that God often sings to me when times are painful.  I’ve heard Gary Allan wrote this song after his wife committed suicide.  

Life ain't always beautiful
Sometimes it's just plain hard
Life can knock you down, it can break your heart

Life ain't always beautiful
You think you're on your way
And it's just a dead end road at the end of the day

But the struggles makes you stronger
And the changes make you wise
And happiness has its own way of takin' it sweet time

[chorus]
No,life aint always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life aint always beautiful
But it's a beautiful ride

Life aint always beautiful
Some days I miss your smile
I get tired of walkin' all these lonely miles

And I wish for just one minute
I could see your pretty face
Guess I can dream, but life don't work that way


But the struggles makes me stronger
And the changes make me wise
And happiness has its own way of takin' its sweet time

No, life ain't always beautiful
But I know I'll be fine
Hey, life ain't always beautiful
But its a beautiful ride
What a beautiful ride

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Penciling Him In

I am a creature of habit and structure. That’s just the way that I operate. If I ever want to ensure that something happens, then I have to be intentional at first about carefully building a habit, and eventually it becomes second nature as part of my routine. For example, every single time I get out of my car I always put my keys in purse…I was tired of locking my keys in the car or losing them and locking my 1 year old in the car in triple digits will make a person do anything. For weeks I very carefully, each time I got out of the car, ensured that I put them there, and now it’s an automatic function – I always know where they’ll be, no matter how sleep deprived or distracted, I always put them in my purse when I get out.


Dear God, please do not let me lock my keys in the car now that I’ve just thrown this out there.

Anyway, this is sort of the way that I approached my relationship with God for many years. I knew that I needed to spend more time with Him and in His Word if I was going to grow in my relationship with Him, so I very carefully planned my time to get up early every morning to spend “x” amount of time with Him and made myself go to “x” amount of church services until it became natural. I would build up more time spent alone reading and praying, and going to church became so natural I was there almost every day. But each time something would happen that seemed to set my routine in a tail spin. What if I woke up late one morning? My day was ruined and I was grumpy and rude. If I missed church one Sunday the next became all too easy. Before I knew it, I was not only not spending time with God, reading His Word, or going to church, but I was almost avoiding Him because I knew for sure that He was frustrated with my lack of discipline.

Do you ever have that feeling?

Almost a year ago now I read this book called “The Shack”, and the author describes a totally different kind of relationship with God. It’s sort of like the scripture “pray without ceasing” where you walk in relationship with Him all day. Missing one morning’s devotional or a church service can’t ruin your relationship because He is internalized. All day long you are talking, remaining present with one another.

I think about it a little like the way my husband and I try to remain in relationship with each other while he is at work. We text each other messages about things that happened that day or thoughts throughout the day as well as pictures of things we see. Most of it is not that exciting or important, but it does keep us present with each other and mindful of each other. In a job like his it is easy to live dual lives and become separate when we are apart.

It was tough at first to build this kind of relationship with God because I kept thinking He’s not going to care or like this thought. And when I have slacked off in certain areas there is this temptation to believe He is disappointed in me. But, as they talk about in the book, that is just what the enemy wants us to believe, because this will keep us from coming back to the one who loves us unconditionally. You hear that word, but do you think about it?

Unconditionally means that there is nothing we could ever say, think, feel, do, believe, etc that could ever change that God is totally and completely in love with us. Seriously, I mean that is pretty incredible. As I began to wrap my mind around that, I could tell God things like, “You know God, I know I probably should read my Bible right now, or pick that up, or be kind to that person, but I just don’t really feel like it at all.” And – surprise – God is not afraid of that. He’s glad that we know His love well enough to share with Him. The crazy thing is that even if we don’t do what we think we “should” and we tell Him, He will still love us anyway.

After this, another wild thing happened. I began to tell God, “You know I just don’t want to, but I feel like I should, so can you please help me to do the right thing and change my heart”. Then God would either show me that I am putting a “should” on something He really didn’t intend for me to do or He would actually change my heart and motivation (even about things like doing the laundry, which is no small miracle)!

As I am reaching my last days of pregnancy (and praying every day will be the day) I am becoming increasingly more physically and emotionally weary. I am functioning at a pretty minimal level and just doing what I need to do to get by…there is no getting up at the crack of dawn before my family wakes to read my Bible or exercise or whatever...but as I move in and out of getting through the day and consciousness (who knew I’d need so much sleep) I am learning to still to remain in conversation with God. Mostly our conversation exists these days of “God please let today be the day that Mason is born, and if it is not please help me to make it through peacefully”. And then there are moments, completely uncontrived by me where I find myself alone and more mentally conscious than usual and He shows me a verse and a Word and breathes life into my tired soul.

Isn’t this so much sweeter, so much more freeing, than trying so hard to incorporate a discipline of devotional into your life and feeling guilty all the time because you failed to measure up? God never meant for us to try to reach all that He has for us in our own strength. We are meant to recognize how weak we are and fall into Him; it is His strength that allows us to move mountains, to do the inhuman (like forgive the people that have hurt you the most), and to keep moving forward when all that is within you is breaking down. He loves us, fully, freely, and without a single condition. Amazing!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

People are Just People

“People are just people” seems to be the phrase that I keep repeating lately.


People are broken and imperfect; even those with the best of character seem to let us down. It’s just the nature of being human.

But when you place your focus, your trust, and your security in Christ, you have the ability to lean confidently in Him. He’ll never let us down, and He always accepts us as we are (even as hard as that is to believe) because He loves us unconditionally.

In Him, you can hold two seemingly conflicting truths and maintain peace. You can recognize and discern the humanity of the people placed on your path, and realize that people will continue to follow the same patterns of behavior (no matter what they might say or even a short stint of trying harder) until they choose a drastic course change and allow God to change them. You can recognize unhealthy behaviors and set healthy boundaries to protect yourself…which basically means not expecting them to change and not placing yourself in an unwise position, but all the while, still love and accept them and appreciate all the great things about that person.

When we lean into Christ, others coming short of perfect does not cause us to fall down too. It might hurt for a bit, but we can take it to Christ. And in my own personal experience, God often shows me that this is what this person usually does, I really should not have been surprised, and I need to forgive again but use that knowledge to make better choices in the future. Thankfully, we never have to go it alone.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Emotional Bullying"

What is it?
Well , let me begin by saying that it is a tactic that, for most women, is well used in their armory . I’d dare say that most of us are taught (whether intentionally or not) that it is a “skill” to be fine tuned and honed in upon. I think in many ways, we know what it feels like when it happens to us, but the best emotional bullies are so subtle we can hardly articulate what just happened.

Let me also confess that this is not a trait that I have been innocent of in the least. In fact, it is something that I ignorantly used for many years to make things go my way. It was not until I realized that this was what was happening to me, dealt with that hurt, and forgave those who had hurt me that I was even able to recognize this action in myself and have the personal security to stop.
What is emotional bullying? I have no letters after my name or any other person to back up this definition - this is only a functional definition to describe this word that came into my head that we are discussing. So for our purposes…

Emotional Bullying is using forms of emotional manipulation to get one’s own way.

Some examples of emotional bullying include trying to force everyone to agree to see and do things one’s own way. There is no room for differing opinions unless they are kept silent and actions lend toward agreement.

For example, in an argument, an emotional bully can tell you their point of view in a way that makes it appear if you do not agree with them, there is something wrong with you (you are mean, naive, selfish, etc). They prey on others who are sensitive to others feelings or need approval. By the way, you can still be sincerely sensitive to others feelings, and yet hold your own separate point of view.

Emotional bullies might throw out terms like “loyalty” to keep others guilty and tied to them. There is no freedom to be separate.  Emotional bullies will undermine your values.  They will often paint others as overly sensitive or needy to keep them from having validity in their point.  Emotional bullies say they do, but they truly not want to hear others thoughts or opinions; often they only allow them spoken in short bursts so they can say that they did listen, but they are not valued or considered.  They might even allow you to explain so they can use that information to convince you to change your mind or plans.  Ironically, this is what the emotional bully will often say the person they are preying upon is doing.  It's a sick cycle.
There is much more to say on this, but this is all I have so far in the way of description and examples.

My greatest point here is to recognize that healthy minded people do not force you to agree with them or trust them or tell them everything. They are secure in themselves, secure in your separateness, and you should experience freedom in relationship with them.

What if you recognize that you are an emotional bully. First of all, don’t beat yourself up, many of us have been bullied by so many people that this feels like the only way to hold our own in the world. Second, try to take a look at why you need others to agree with you and who might be also doing this to you (behind every bully is usually an even bigger one). Third, be willing to go to God with confession and ask Him to change your heart and mind. Don’t be afraid if He asks you to take some greater steps toward healing, like counseling, to deal with the things that cause you to bully others. He can and will heal your heart and mind completely if you’ll let Him (but you must be willing to obey and invest the time that He calls for us).

What if you recognize that you are being bullied. Recognizing it is the first step. The next step I would say, if possible, is to remove yourself from the person (or people who are doing the bullying) for a time while you gain the security to recognize and deal, but sometimes that is not possible (for example with coworkers or members of your own household and you'll have to take each situation to God, but anyone else can be kept at a distance for a time so you can gain perspective and health).

To stand up to emotional bullying, you must have the confidence and security to recognize that you are separate and experience the freedom to say no. Sentences like “I’m sorry you feel this way but this is my choice” are the cornerstone to this kind of thinking, but I’ll be honest with you, unless you deal with the hurt from bullying in a safe place outside the situation…it is not likely to heal itself. Here God is also the master healer, and you can go to Him for help and healing, but He may call you to Christian counseling or some type of support group as well. Be brave enough to do to get your life back.

Christ can and will make a total transformation that gets you out of this cycle. He does not manipulate or force us into anything, we are free to come and go and receive His unconditional love no matter what our choice is. He also sets clear boundaries and lets us know the consequences of those, so that we can make educated choices, but they are still ours to make. Two good resources on this subject that I have found very helpful are by John Townsend and Henry Cloud Boundaries and Safe People…they also have a website devoted to such subject matters.

Wishing you much freedom!

Please Make Me Normal

There have been many times in my life where I prayed that God would just make me “normal”. I just wanted to fit in, to be average. And equally probably just as many times when I felt much less than average and perhaps of little worth at all.


I just wanted to be liked, accepted, and to feel like I was a part of “the group”, but those moments have been rare and for short periods.

God has spent my lifetime wooing me and romancing me to convince me that I am uniquely and wonderfully made. Every now and then for a shinning moment I can wrap my head around that in a way that is not conceited but humbled by the grace that God has bestowed upon me (and upon every man as well). But the path of following God and living to fulfill His purposes for me and please Him only is not a simple task.

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” – Galations 1:10

God has given me a unique view of life and some incredibly strong convictions that make my life choices much different from others. When I follow what He has told me, I see the beautiful fruit of His guidance, but it is often painful to feel so alone.

“But when it pleased God, who separated me…and called me through His grace to reveal His son in me that I might preach Him…I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…And I was unknown by face to the churches…which were in Christ.” - Galations 1:15,16,17, 22

“And I went up by revelation.” - Galations 2:2

Paul goes on to talk about how He was not taught by the disciples but mostly by the direction of the Holy Spirit through His intimate relationship with God. We must be careful about this, though, because the enemy can use these times of loneliness to deceive us and distort the Word.

But as much as I cry out to God for fellow men to walk with me, it feels like when Jesus was in the garden struggling with his burden and to stay the course and the disciples could not stay up to pray with Him but continued to fall asleep. It is lonely and painful, but it does draw us closer to the Father. It makes us stronger.

God continually reminds me that while a community is essential and beneficial, and friendship builds us up, that each time our friends let us down and we look to God for our strength, we build intimacy with our Beloved Creator and gain greater character and strength from Him.

It is challenging to walk alone. It is so tempting to just compromise a bit here and there to keep friends or make others like us. No one wants to be an outsider. And these feelings are not only outside the church, they sometimes even feel magnified for me there, because it feels like that’s the place where everyone should be seeking Christ. But the church is full of fallen human people too. And just because God has called me to one such season, doesn’t mean that He has called everyone else to it. 

The other temptation in pushing forward in God’s call alone is to judge other’s for not going with you. This is a fruitless effort as well, and only builds bitterness and a greater likelihood for us to trip and fall.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” -Galations 5:1

The “yoke of bondage” Paul talks about here is that of living by the “law” instead of the “spirit of the law” which is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. All the laws hinge on these points. When you walk with God, you walk in the Spirit, and you walk in freedom. In many ways, the law also represents the need to impress or be liked by others. Paul talks a good deal about those who are even in the church who try to bring people back into bondage and create divisions and criticize and judge.

“But you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another…But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” - Gal. 5:13,15

“But if you walk in the Spirit, you are not under the law. But the works of the flesh are evident (OBVIOUS) which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murderers, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” -Gal. 5:19-21

There are many loaded words here, but the two that stand out to me are contentions and jealousies – these are so common among relationships…the same relationships in places where we are trying so hard to be liked.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Gal. 5:22

Ironically, though, as wonderful as all these things sound, these traits are not likely to make one popular. People much prefer someone a little “rough around the edges”, someone they can compare themselves to and feel better about themselves. The fruit of the Spirit while healthy and free from condemnation of self and others, will elicit much admiration and respect, but many feel lesser in the presence of such traits. It is easier to be around someone who you feel is kind of a mess.
Christ told us that the way is narrow, but He also told us that His burden is light. What makes His burden light? When we are only living to please Him, He carries it all for us and supplies all the grace we need for each moment. We become burdened when we start to look outward or inward instead of upward, and try to please others or do it all on our own.

We are not called to be “normal”. We are not called to be average. We are called to live extraordinary lives and walk in victory that others cannot explain. Extraordinary is measured by the opposite of ordinary, not the measure of success labeled in this world. And it will be challenging and painful and even many times lonely, but will reap an incredible harvest.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"I am Free"

Like a bird in a cage, I'd stand and I'd sing
a tender melody.
Like a horse tied in chains, I'd cry my prayer:
please let me be free.

And all the while, the door was open.
And all the while, I didn't know it.

I stand on a mountain now.
You stood in the gap.
I stand on a mountain now.
No looking back.

LIke a child in the night, I was afraid
of all I couldn't see.
You held my hand to show me the way;
you gently beckoned me.

And all the while, the door was open.
And all the while, I didn't know it.

I stand on a mountain now.
You stood in the gap.
I stand on a mountain now.
No looking back.

I dance and I sing, what a beautiful thing.
I throw my mane; I'm not afraid to be free.
I dance and I sing; oh, what a beautiful thing.
I throw my mane; I'm not afraid to be free.
I'm not afraid to be free.
Oh I am free.
I really dislike talking on the phone.  It just feels like a terrible barrier to good communication.  It makes me uncomfortable because I feel like you have to sound perky the whole time and you can never see any of the other person's nonverbal communication.  Plus, most of the time, there are children demanding attention or noises going on in the background or two people without really anything to say to each other just rambling on to talk...my least favorite thing to do. 

If someone has something quick to say - why not just send a text or an email or a message on facebook where I can send a quick reply without interrupting anything else.  Or if there is something deep to say, I love getting emails and letters where I can think it over and respond.

However, with Scott and a couple of close friends who live far away, we do make specific dates to talk on the phone uninterrupted.  We have catching up to do and real things to say.  Otherwise it just feels that people expect others to be available by various outlets 24-7 and that kind of stresses me out! 

When I tell most people this, they look at me like I'm an alien.  I just really pretty content with my life and want to be available in it; talking on the phone feels like an interruption of real life happening.  There are only two people I am always available to - Scott and Laurelei (or whomever happens to be watching her)...whoops, make that three...Mason too (but him and I are pretty well always connected these days...the nature of pregnancy :) )

Maybe I'm just not cut out for the 21st century...sometimes I think that's true, but maybe other people feel this way too, like its asking something of me that I didn't offer to give.  I just turn my phone off or don't know where it is when I'm at home - is that so crazy?

The truth is, I know it's not, I know it is healthy for me.  That's how I operate best.  I am totally available to those whom I have made myself available, and if others want to get in touch with me, a phone call is just not the best way to do it...takes too much time and energy that I'd rather invest somewhere else.  And I make time to check texts and emails when I can.  But I try to stay present in real life.

But I can't help feeling a little guilty and wishing I were different sometimes - everyone else seems to have adapted to this...maybe I could start a revolution.  Maybe I just need to wear a sign that says, I don't want to talk on the phone just to talk about nothing, and if you really want to get in touch with me, here's how, but I am not available 24/7 like the rest of the world...that's probably too long.  Sigh.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are You in the Way?

Recently I read a book on my Kindle that was recommended to me by a friend. It was an incredible book, by a Godly woman, full of rich, deep, pure scriptural Truths. This was the kind of book that one does not walk away from unchanged, unless you just fail to do anything more than read it for information. A week or so later, I went to purchase the book from the bookstore for a friend. I was surprised when I saw the cover; something about it gave it a tone of a cheesy self-help book. You know the type, they liter the shelves of the bookstore, going through spurts of popularity, only to end up in the bargain bin to make room for the next wave of ideas to come forth. The books are not transformational; they are just 5 cent theories that fizzle quickly. I was so embarrassed by the tone of the cover that I bought it in hardback so I could give it to my friend without the cover to distract her from the good word inside.
This sent my mind into overdrive, thinking about how God has equipped each of us with a ministry, and how sometimes our cover distracts from the good things inside. The cover of this book was not inappropriate; in fact she is a beautiful woman whom I respect and admire. But the truth is there was something about it that seemed to draw attention to her rather than the meat of the book.

My desire is that the ministry that God has given me is about making Him famous, not me. Please don’t think that I am suggesting that we all start becoming consumed with what others’ think about us and if it is causing them to like or dislike God more. That’s not a burden that anyone can carry. I hope that this will remind us that in our culture that tells us to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and make a name for ourselves that we will do just the opposite. We will lay ourselves down at the altar of the Lord and ask Him to use us to make His name, and then we will get out of the way.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Look Where You are Going

Look where you are going or you will go where you are looking.


These words came together for me as we were taking a family walk this morning. We walk along the trails through the park…actually, I power walk and try to keep up with Laurelei as she runs (not so easy at 27 weeks preggo). Laurelei will get distracted by something on the side of the trail or on the ground and start veering off that direction, me calling out to her, and often barely missing running into something. I found myself repeating this phrase to her, “Look where you are going”, and suddenly I added “or you’ll go where you are looking”. I kept repeating it to Scott, and I said – this is a good word. He agreed (any wise husband would ).

Where we are focused determines where we are headed…our pastor talks a good deal about having a vision and to keep talking about it so you stay on track. But I want to talk to you about how your focus can help or hinder relationships.

I’m not sure if everyone has this same struggle that I have had, but I do know many share this pain. So I want to share what God has been teaching me about pursuing and maintaining relationships. Before I met Scott, I had experienced a very frustrating series of events with men. It left me feeling a little jaded about the potential for ever finding the man of my dreams. God led me to a book, that, while I’m not sure the entire premise is effective for everyone, it did offer good criticism of how we look at the opposite sex and dating in general. It’s called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, by Joshua Harris. After reading the book, I realized that I needed to stop looking at the men around me as potential future husbands, but rather as my brothers in Christ and to protect, encourage, and love them.

When God brought Scott into my life, I didn’t take the cool coincidences that kept happening as a sign that God was bringing my future husband into my life. I didn’t examine Scott’s actions to see if they might be those of my husband (which I often did before, often finding myself disappointed with that person when they didn’t measure up – what unfair pressure on a relationship). Actually, I enjoyed our conversations, but kept my eyes ahead on where God was leading me. Scott did too. And eventually discovered that where God was leading us was right to each other. Without trying, God revealed Scott’s character and intentions to me over time, and we built a firm friendship. By the time romantic interest was even on the table, we both knew the kind of person we were dating and dating with the intention of marrying this person.

What does this have to do with other friendships? Well we often (and by we I mean me) look at the people we meet as potential to fill certain needs/desires in our life. Perhaps I go to a women’s event and sit next to a girl who’s about my age, married, and a child around Laurelei’s age. Let’s say we have a positive conversation and seem to have a lot in common. She might say, we should hang out sometime. Often by the time we are both home we have decided that we are going to be best friends for life and our husbands are going to love each other too and our children are going to grow up together and we are all going to live happily ever after. Well what if I go to friend her on facebook and see images of her doing things that I’m not really interested in, or what if I send her a friend request or call her to invite her over and she doesn’t respond? I’ve had only one conversation with this person, but built her up so much in my mind that it often leads to utter disappointment.

(I have another post on being careful not to say “we should get together” if you really have no intention of doing so or are not able to hold up that end with your current schedule…just say “it was great to meet you”…but that’s a whole other story)

God has really been showing me that when I keep my focus on Him and walk where He wants me to walk, He will bring the right relationships in and out of my life and the right time. Timing is ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. When I start trying to pursue relationships, I change my focus to that person, and speaking from experience of being on the receiving end of such attention – all it makes that person want to do is run the other way…just the fact of human nature. No one wants to be the center of anyone’s attention…actually that is not true – codependent people want to be the center of your attention and make sure that you are never able to do anything by yourself and need them for everything so you can never leave them. Yikes!

Anyway, only God can handle being the center of your attention. He’s the only one who will never cause you to sin in that, He will never disable your ability to grow and be healthy. But the moment we get our focus off of Him, things start to get messy. And when we start to romanticize everything that a relationship could be, we put an incredible amount of pressure on that relationship where there is no strength yet to hold up.

So if you are struggling with relationships or feeling rejected, try redirecting your focus to the perfect friend, God. And when you meet someone new who you are excited about, tell God about them and how you feel. Ask God to help you not to think about them and to bring the relationships in and out that need to be there. Then go back to what God has already been telling you to do.

I heard this said growing up that we are all running a race toward the goal of Christ. Every now and then God will allow some people to run alongside you and enjoy one another’s company and spur one another on, but if you cling too tightly to that person one of you will end up being held back or tripped. You must each have the freedom to run ahead or change direction as needed. This is real, healthy friendship. Beth Moore says to beware of instant relationships; healthy relationships grow over time. Their foundation is in trust earned through real-life experiences. Think about it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Praise the Lord

I feel like God has had me in intensive training for the past year.  We have had some small matches or races to test the waters, and I've learned from those mistakes and gone back to the drawing board.  Then the challenges started getting harder and closer together.  There were times in there that I thought I wouldn't make it and I had to grit my teeth and push harder.  But now, oh sweet glorious moment, now I am seeing the fruit of that labor.  The challenges while more intense than ever before are coming more naturally to me...I can do this, my legs are strong enough, my lungs are strong enough, and my mind is strong enough to finish this race.  If I fall down, the Lord is still by my side, and He'll pick me up, dust me off, and send me back on my way. 

Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me. 
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefit.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
He lifts my life from the pit.
He crowns me with love and compassion.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul.
(A song I wrote adapted from Psalm 103)

I am clothed in strength and dignity.  My confidence is set securely in Christ.  Praise you God for you are faithful and good and lovely.  You are true to Your promises and faithful to your servant.  Jesus, you are good, so good to me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This is the Time

For the last few days God has been working on something big in my heart...big really doesn't do it justice.  God is working a thing in my heart that I can only compare to three other spiritual milestones, one of which being the first moment that I truly accepted Christ as my savior.  The process began I don't know how long ago but has reached an intense apex that has required nearly all of my attention for the past few days. 

At the recommendation of a good friend I am reading "So Long Insecurity..." by Beth Moore.  The title didn't really grab me as exciting or life changing...no one wants to be insecure, and what person wants to read a book with the word in the title...it's about the equivalent of reading a book on pride.  Why not just announce to the whole world "I'm an overly sensitive basket case!" 

God nudged me ahead anyway, and like everything else I have read from this incredibly wise woman who is so finely in tune with the Spirit, this book is relevant, meaty, and if you will submit it to God - transformational.  It also brings some great insight to the fact it is hardly the wallflower or basket-case type women that tend to make up the majority of insecure females.  I'm about 3/4 of the way through, and God is still working on some things in my heart, so forgive me if my writing is not quite formative just yet.  I just wanted to share one small thing that is on my heart this evening if I can spin the words into something worth reading.

We have to choose to deal with our issues now.  Why, you ask, we've been semi-successfully sweeping them under the rug and looking mostly nice and only have a few falls when someone trips over that growing lump under there.  This is why:

Yes, I just shamelessly posted a picture of my daughter...and she is beautiful, but in a society like ours today the odds of her keeping her joy and security that she knows so well now are slim.  We must deal with our issues so that our children and the generation that comes after us has some hope.  We must slay the giants so that they can enter the Promised Land. 

This sweet, precious girl is not the only little girl who's future is at stake.  Every girl that comes after you will look at you for what it means to be a woman, and if we keep trying to keep up with the crazy media frenzy and keep tearing each other down and keep pretending everything is ok all the while dying inside we set every last one of them up for failure.

I can tell you that God used my sweet Laurelei to get the gears in motion for me to get on a path to healing.  There's not a day in my life that I don't look at that face and remind myself that I can keep fighting for her to know peace and freedom and wholeness.  My sisters, my brothers, my friends, there is a world full of insecure men and women and boys and girls right on their heals that are hurting younger and younger.  We must, absolutely must, right now, seek the help and healing that we need.  We must deal with the things that are haunting us and dare to be real and honest about who we are instead of continuing to put on a facade of perfection. 

Dealing with these things and seeing them through to completion is a lifetime commitment and it won't be easy or painless, but I promise you the rewards are much greater than any momentary pain you may endure.  The fruit will show up in  your lifetime and oh the sweet moments in heaven when those who have come after us can tell us what victories they achieved because we paved the way. 

Beth Moore talks about how the word that is used in Proverbs 31 to describe a woman of "noble character" or a "virtuous" woman is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe a mighty warrior.  For this reason, she calls the passage instead "A Woman of Valor".  I don't know about you but that resonates with me.  Something about a nice, kindly, quiet little church mouse kind of a woman just doesn't stick with me often.  But a woman of valor, a warrior princess, a woman of strength fighting for her generation, for her family, for her friends...this kind of woman that I want to be.  I want to be a woman who rises to the occassion and is not afraid to go into battle to fight for those she loves and even those who will come after her that she may never know.

Think of Eowyn in Lord of the Rings.  She disguises herself as a man and goes into battle to kill the witch king.  As they fight he tells her that she is a fool because he can be killed by no man.  She laughs as she pulls off her helmet and her long hair flows out below, "I am no man!" and she slays the beast.  This is the image that dealing with our issues should conjur instead of a small woman crying about her hurts or wishing that her thighs were thinner.  WE ARE SLAYING THE BEASTS SO OUR CHILDREN AND OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN CAN WALK IN FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY!

She is clothed in strength and dignity...not she sometimes feels strong and occassionally dignified...literally God has covered her vulnerabilities with strength and dignity.  We all have dignity because we are made in the image of our Most High God.  We can all know strength if we will humble ourselves and be vulnerable enough for God to give us His strength.

Now is the time.  I hope the image of my sweet daughter and the other children or young adults that are coming up behind you remain on your mind.  Be willing and courageous for them...be bold and fearless for them...God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, self control, and sound mind.  Slay the giants, mighty men and women of valor, so that we might all enter into the victory that God has in store for us.  You'll experience joy and freedom you never imagined, and you never know just how your courage will echo through eternity.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unprepared

For days now I’ve suspected an enemy in the forest. All the signs were there: it was the occasional rustling of the trees, the quiet crunching of leaves, and when I turned to look I had this sense that things were moving barely enough for the eye to see. But I ignored it. And then today, there it was. I woke up to not so distant gunfire, and by this evening I was under full fledged attack.


I’m coming to understand that even the most confident and seemingly happy people have this same enemy, this same struggle, but it is so painful. It’s insecurity. This morning in the car I found my emotions so close to the surface that I began crying at every song (and not my usual pregnancy hormones cry at every commercial, this was deep, it was personal). I found myself afraid of what might be under that, and I tried harder to hold my head high on the top of the mountain.

By this evening I had been flung off, cast so deep in pain and self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness that I just felt ready to call it quits…what “it” is that I was going to call quits, I’m not exactly sure, but I felt done fighting. I felt defeated. And I found myself assessing other things that were happening around me as a clear sign that my worst fears are true: I am worthless, I am disgusting, I am unlovable.

I did tell God that it hurt. I told Him that I didn’t know what to do. I told Him that I feel lost and alone. About an hour later, He showed me that my perspective on the situation was skewed, and that the enemy had just attacked me in a way I should have been prepared for, but that He still has the victory…God and I, we still have the victory…because I recognized it, and I fought back.

Each time I start to feel this way, this song really speaks to what’s in my heart…

"Cry Out To Jesus"

Third Day




To everyone who's lost someone they love

Long before it was their time

You feel like the days you had were not enough

when you said goodbye



And to all of the people with burdens and pains

Keeping you back from your life

You believe that there's nothing and there is no one

Who can make it right



There is hope for the helpless

Rest for the weary

Love for the broken heart

There is grace and forgiveness

Mercy and healing

He'll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus



For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on

They lost all of their faith in love

They've done all they can to make it right again

Still it's not enough



For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains

You try to give up but you come back again

Just remember that you're not alone in your shame

And your suffering


There is hope for the helpless

Rest for the weary

Love for the broken heart

There is grace and forgiveness

Mercy and healing

He'll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus



When your lonely

And it feels like the whole world is falling on you

You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus



To the widow who suffers from being alone

Wiping the tears from her eyes

For the children around the world without a home

Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless

Rest for the weary

Love for the broken heart

There is grace and forgiveness

Mercy and healing

He'll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Late Night Wakeup Call

About a year ago, the emotional pain daily plaguing my life became too great a burden to bear and I began counseling.  I had been struggling with anxiety so great that I was literally vomiting daily, several times a day from the tightness in my chest, and had to take anti-anxiety medication just to function at the most basic level.  In retrospect, I had prayed for changes in my life for years, but I don't think the pain was great enough yet...I believe now that God allowed some truly painful seasons to push me to a point where change had to happen to survive.  Thankfully He also gave me a wonderful husband to support me and a beautiful daughter that gave me incredible drive to fight for my life, for our lives.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Anais Nin


"Anxiety is love's greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic."
Anais Nin


Looking back at the changes God has made in my life through Christian therapy this past year is incredible.  You know, I have had an intimate relationship with our incredible God for most of my life, but the truth was that I hated myself (an incredible paradox).  I hated everything about me - I despised the face in the mirror, even a hint of fat on my body, everything about my personality....I could go on and on.  And I wanted to so desperately to love others around me well and to be a good friend, but I felt like I kept falling short.
The truth is that I couldn't love anyone because I didn't really accept God's love of me and I was heavily burdened by shame.  I am in no way pretending that I think I'm awesome now every day and that I have it all together...I don't, but God has done a pretty miraculous work in my life. 
It's the middle of the night, and I honestly have no idea why God is waking me to share this with you.  Maybe He's just testing me to see if I really mean what I say when I tell Him that I'll be real about who I am and where I've been and I won't pretend to have it all together.  It's tough to admit that I'm in therapy...sometimes there's fear of a stigma.  Maybe you are struggling with your own hurt and feel like this will be with you for the rest of your life...it's a lie from the enemy...he wants to keep you trapped so you can never become all that God has created you to be.  Maybe you are going through a season of change that seems painful...hold on, God might be doing His greatest work yet in you. 
Whatever the case...that's the truth.  I am a mess without Christ.  I am nothing without Him.  I am impulsive, anxious, and .... anyway, without allowing Him to bring to light some really painful things about myself and reliving some of my past, I would not have allowed Him to heal those things. 

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On another note, if you are in need of counsel and don't know where to start, I have a couple of suggestions.  Your church is usually an excellent resource for Christian counseling and may even provide a few free sessions and after that referral for more help.  Focus on the Family also has a link on their website to Christian counselors that you can find in your area...this was a great resource for me: http://referrals-loc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/referrals_loc.cfg/php/loc/enduser/loc.php

A Short Leash

Sometimes I pray that God keeps me on a short leash.  The closer He keeps me to His side and walking in step with Him the better I am, but it's as soon as I start to feel like I've got it and walk out on my own that I get distracted and fall.

As I am preparing for our son, Mason, due this October, I've been thinking a lot about how I'll keep up with both him and Laurelei.  Right now, when we go to the grocery store, Laurelei knows that she must sit in the front seat and get buckled.  If she obeys then she can choose a toy to play with in the store (but has to put it back before we leave).  When Mason is born, we'll have to set his carseat in that seat, and I can't have Laurelei sitting in the big part of the basket with all the groceries...that's how yogurt gets opened in the store and explodes throughout the cart or grapes come flying (it's happened!).

This week I bought her this backpack that we can put her pullups and wipes in, but it also has a clip for what is essentially a leash.  Laurelei calls it her monkey tail.  For the past couple of days we have been practicing walking next to Mom and Dad (outside the cart, like big girls do), but she has to allow one of us to hold her "monkey tail".  She has freedom to look around a few feet from us, but is not allowed to tug on the tail or she has to get back in the cart. 

In thinking about myself as Laurelei with her backpack and God as the parent holding the leash...I am reminded again of how I must seem to God.  She walks beside me, in step with me most of the time, but every now and then she will get distracted.  Give her a cup full of goldfish and she starts to lag behind...I have to constantly be pushing her to stay up with me.  If I stop to look at something, she'll look too and start to see just how long her rope is...she gets interested in something and is all of a sudden running and pulling on the rope.  A couple of times she has tugged so hard that she fell (not too hard though, don't worry), but with the "monkey tail" in my hand, she is always in my sights and easy to reel back in...

this is right where I want to be with God.  It stinks sometimes when He does it...particularly right now He is really working on some things in the area of relationships and literally I have a short rope to interact with most people other than the core group that He has placed around me.  It's tough, but it requires me to go back to Him...Reset - Refocus - Refuel...and then I'm off for a short leash walk again.

The closer tethered we allow ourselves to be with God, the less likely we are to encounter the depraived abilities of our quite ugly humanity...and sometimes I think God allows us to see just that so that we will tighten our tether. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Change

This morning I was watching Joyce Meyer...Laurelei likes to call it "Mommy's show" (it comes on every morning at 7:30 on the CWAustin or you can watch it online at http://www.joycemeyer.org/broadcasthome.aspx - there are also podcasts that you can download to listen to in your free time).  I also have some of her CD's that I listen to in the car, and she's been talking about how we pray and pray and pray for change, but when God starts to make a change we often freak out. 

Change is painful and scary; it can take us to uncharted territory where we often feel out of control.  Hello - terrifying!  But the thing is, this is often the safest place for us to be.  When we step into uncharted territory, where we don't know how to forge ahead, we have to get out of autopilot.  We have to get quiet before God and carefully listen to each step He tells us to take because we know that otherwise at any moment we might just fall off the cliff.

This year God has brought about the fruition of years of praying for changes in my life, and time and time again I feel like I just started throwing a temper tantrum in response.  I have this mental image of myself from God's perspective throwing myself on the floor, pounding my fists, kicking, and screaming...much the way my two year old responds when something doesn't go her way.  I would try to go back to old habits so that I could feel in the driver's seat and that I was really in control of what's going on...each time of course, things became a mess, but God picked me back up and put me back on the new course we are taking together.  God also has placed me in a position to make the changes I have wanted to make, but the position was that things were not all mapped out and I didn't have other things to occupy my time - also, terrifying. 

But this morning I was reminded that right now, I am starting to see the fruit of these changes in a big way, and I remember when God started rocking the boat how frightened I was...so I hope to encourage you that if God is rocking your boat or if you are at a place in your life where the future seems uncertain and unplanned, you are in a perfect place for God to show up and make major transformation in your life.  Remember when Peter got out of the boat to walk to Jesus?  As long as he kept his eyes on Him, he could walk on water...you can too, we can. 

You are in a perfect place for God to take you to new heights, to open new doors, and to become closer to the person He created you to be...so resist the temptation to find a way to control or to find things just to occupy your time (which also happens to be a bad habit of mine)...relax, and let the potter do His work.  You will be all the better for it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You Don't Need to Have all the Answers

A few months ago, a friend of mine and a very wise woman, sat me down for a conversation that God has used to really help me change my course.  The things we talked about were things that I felt God stirring in my heart in the form of discontentment with the current state, but just couldn't really articulate how to change course or why. 

It came to mind a couple nights ago when Scott and I had an argument.  We were talking past each other, really, both communicating to each other, supposedly in response to one another, but really just speaking to the fear in our hearts.  And the more we talked, the more the fear and frustration seemed to spin out of control.  We don't really argue very often, and a heated conversation is even more rare - so when it takes place, we take note about what went wrong.

In the end, we realized that I had been holding back some pretty strong emotions about how we were doing life.  I know, we both know, that in these areas we are certainly following God's direction, but even though it's God's direction does not mean it is sunshine and roses.  These emotions on top of pregnancy hormones and a physically and emotionally exhausting week just spilled over like a mighty current, rushing my poor husband without warning.  I think I really just needed to vent (and maybe I should have vented this to God a long time ago), and was really just wanting Scott to say he was sorry for how I felt but that God would see us through and that he was here with me.  I visualized him putting his arm around me and praying with me and letting me cry on his shoulder; instead, he thought that my outburst was a strong argument to change direction, and he was defending the path we were going with all his might.  I, of course, took this personally, and assumed that he was saying that my feelings were invalid and I needed to get over them and see clearly.  Thankfully, God helped both of us to see clearly.

What really hit home for me was the realization that, as my friend told me several months ago, emotional vomit is often dangerous ground.  She was telling me that when others are sharing their hurts and frustrations with me it is often human nature to go negative and that it is truly unhealthy for me to go there with them.  She suggested the best way to help them is to help keep them from going further negative, further aggrivating those emotions, or getting sucked into that whirlwind with them.  This seemed so cold and heartless to me in some ways, but I have often felt emotionally wiped after conversations so much that I felt that I must withdraw to survive.  Instead of going there, she suggested acknowledging their frustration and asking how can I pray for you...not in some cold heartless way, but rather to protect them from creating further emotional turmoil by reliving the situation and protecting myself by jumping in to trecherous waters. 

As I have prayed and sought God more in this area, He has shown me that when I am emotionally volitle, that I should go to Him.  A rush of emotions is often a sign that something is out of order (even positive emotion), and that when I talk to Him, He is never tempted to sin, never speaks out of His own emotion, and cannot be destroyed by turmoil.  He won't run away from my emotional outbursts, and He can help me to see clearly (and, as He often does, bring people in my life with superior wisdom, each bringing snippets of the bigger picture that He can paste together so I can see more clearly).  He has shown me that when others are emotionally charged, it is best for me to lovingly acknowledge their hurts or fears, because that is compassionate, but not to "go there" with them so to speak, but rather to point them back to Him and pray for them.  I have struggled so much with this because I hate to see others hurt and I want everyone to feel heard and cared for, but God has reminded me that it is prideful to think that every hurting person on the face of the planet needs me to care for them.  They need Him, and when I exhaust myself on a cause that I am not really helping I am beneficial to no one and often destroy myself in the process.

With practice, this has become easier, but I have struggled to find the balance with my more intimate relationships (ie: my husband, best friends, etc.)  The conversation with Scott helped me to realize that when I am the emotionally charged person, I really need those who know me and love me best to do a few things.

1. Recognize and separate out the emotional "mess" from the real me...who I am, what I am living for, and what I am really working toward and believe.

2. Be stable enough not to be drawn into the hurricane, that only seems to propel it to move at greater speeds and create a greater path of destruction.

3. To sympathize with me and not withdraw in fear.

4. Unless I specifically ask for advice, not to tell me how to fix it...this often makes the problem worse as well.

5. Help diffuse the emotional charge by pointing back to God...everything always gets messed up when things get out of focus.


Overall, I recognize that it is my responsibility to recognize when I am becoming emotionally tumultuous and turn to the Lord and allow Him to bring others in or out as need be in helping to sort through those feelings.  And when I am on the other end, that I should do for those I love as I want as well, but that requires me to be at peace within myself and to submit my own emotions to the Lord - otherwise, there's no room for anyone else to have emotions.

I think these truths are often the source of miscommunication and turmoil especially within families because we spend so much time together and are more likely to spill over on each other.  But when we can recognize that we are not feeling ok and give it to Jesus to allow Him to provide us peace, then we are able to be a safe place for others as well.  That's the kind of friend I want to be, a friend that is a safe place and will point others back to the safest place. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Humility

Sometimes the coolest thing that comes out of times when we fail is recognizing that we just aren't all that great but God loves us anyway.  It's a bit easier to accept His love when we feel like we deserve it, but in the times when we fall flat on our face we often expect Him to leave.  The times when we fall short of our expectations, of those we respect, and of what we know the Lord desires of us, the times when no matter how hard we try we just can't seem to pull ourselves together, or the times when we intentionally do what we know is wrong - all these times can break our spirit, and for me they often leave me hiding from God, feeling He must be so disappointed with me.  But it is really these times when He just wants us to sit at His feet and say, I give up.  I'm not strong enough; I am a mess; without You, I am nothing.  In this place of humility He can use us, He can mold us, and He can raise us up because we know it has absolutely nothing to do with us - it is really all about Him.

Humility.  It's a word we so casually toss around especially in Christian circles, but it is earned through much pain and sorrow and failure.  Humility comes when we recognize that in our humanity we are worthless, but by completely submitting ourselves to God, He can use this worthless person for incredible things.  It tosses out our need to try to inflate ourselves or make ourselves look bigger, and it transcends the insecure need to self-depreciate.  Humility does not make us a door mat or to think we are worthless...a synonym of humility is submissiveness, and I think that's a key point.  Humility is an honest look at the reality of ourselves, low in greatness compared to the righteousness of God, but submitting ourselves to Him, and in that becoming part of His greatness.  It looks like quiet confidence, diligent submission, and a consistently peaceful spirit.

Humility...walking out a humble life.  That's the kind of person that God can use.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Makes us do the Right Thing?

Why do we obey? Why do we do the “right thing”? What makes something the “right thing” and can we really just do that simply because it is right with no thought of consequences?
Parenting leads me to reading stacks of books on the subject, searching for answers on discipline and training up a child. Focus on the Family has an incredible website with resources for parents and suggestions on Biblically sound reading. My most read authors up to this age are John Rosemond, Robert Barnes, and James Dobson. Coupling that information with relational literature by authors such as Henry Cloud and John Townsend and marrying that to its scriptural foundation, my conclusion is that human nature is inherently bad. It is human nature to be selfish and self serving, and that same nature also leads us to misery. We can see the way it started in the garden.

Even my sweet, precious Laurelei has a strong desire to get her own way, and a keen ability to see how she can manipulate the situation to get just that…children obey because they trust that there will be negative consequences when they do not, and they can trust that their life will be better, happier, and more peaceful when they obey their parents. This trains their minds to listen to their parents and trust their word (because when Mommy said “Each time you throw a temper tantrum you will go to your room, and if you do not go when I tell you to I will take your toys away and place you there myself.” Mommy followed through) . As Joyce Meyer is always telling us, we train our minds first and then our hearts follow.

When children learn that they can trust their parents word, they have to test it less because they trust it with their heart. This transfers over to God, they can trust His Word written that when He says to do or not to do something that obedience leads to prosperity and disobedience inevitably leads to negative consequences.

Now fast forward to adulthood. Books like “Boundaries” and “Safe People” have taught me that in many ways people treat you the way you teach them to treat you. This doesn’t mean that others aren’t responsible for their actions, just that we must recognize that the entire human race is depraved, but that people respond to consistent boundaries, and if there are none they will keep pushing for what they want (unless of course they have a trained heart and an intimate relationship with Jesus). Just thinking of this makes me want to crawl into my hole and avoid all people – God is there no one I can trust.

He reminds me that I can trust Him, totally and completely, and that when I come to Him with my brokenness and hurt, He won’t ever be tempted to sin. He can bind up our wounds, He can fill us, and from that fullness we can walk out into relationship. Anytime we take our half full cups to anyone else, they are likely to spill out their own hurt emotions on us…

I’m doing a Beth Moore Bible study on David, and looking at the life of a man who is considered the man after God’s own heart is quite eye opening on this subject. When David’s focus was fully on God, He walked with pure intentions, grace, confidence, and obedience. But every now and then David would get distracted by things like his enemies or selfish ambition and the path of destruction he left is unnerving. David.

It is challenging to hold these two conflicting ideas at the same time: recognizing that human nature is self seeking at its core so even the best Christians will let you down and fall short and hurt you, but that we also need to have relationships with others to grow and serve the Kingdom. I think it is important to recognize that we must submit ourselves to Father and keep our focus on Him. We also must recognize in the times when we fall short that we are human as well. This does not give us an out, but if we think that we can do “the right thing” on our own, we are sorely mistaken, and likely to end up in a world of disillusionment or pride or shame of our own making. When we fall short, we must come to our sweet Lord, telling Him our struggles, the same way Paul did when he said he knew what to do but could not do what he wanted to do. We can come before our Father and ask Him to thwart our ill-purposed plans, to provide ready consequences to train our hearts and minds, and ask Him to transform us from the inside out. It is Him that makes real transformation happen…pulling yourself up by your bootstraps sounds strong, but it puts all the focus on you. Instead, if we will humble ourselves before the Father, He will transform us, and He will create a heart that follows Him.