Faith

Joy and Sorrow

Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 1 comment

“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The top of my home page says “It’s about finding joy in the little things.” Sometimes I think about removing it because I wonder if it makes sense to my readers – I write about a lot of things and not all of them seem to relate to finding joy in the little things. I choose to keep it there because it serves as a reminder to me of why I write, and more importantly, how I want to live. Life is hard right now. When I see “It’s about finding joy in the little things,” each time I write about my life, thoughts, or experiences, it reminds me that what I’m really saying is “There’s still so much joy, even in pain, when I take time to notice it.” It reminds me that every day I have a choice – will I let my problems wreak havoc on my life and spirit, or will I choose joy on purpose? I choose joy. I choose to purpose to look for joy each day. I choose to focus on what’s joyful and wonderful in my life instead of what’s sad and hard. I choose to stay connected to the source of my joy, my God, because the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Most importantly, I choose to find the joy that arises as a direct result of my struggles, and surprisingly, that has been easier than I could have imagined.

Paradoxically, joy and sorrow go together. I can think back over many difficult experiences in my life that led to a tremendous blessing. Looking back, I know that I wouldn’t trade the suffering because it produced something wonderful.

“The source of anguish can morph into joy. This is not a swap but a transformation, wherein the same thing that gave you a nightmare becomes your source of joy. The very thing that was your horror becomes something so very dear that you can not imagine what you would do without it.” Beth Moore

Even in the midst of my trials, I can identify so much good that has arisen from the pain. Really, the trials have changed me in ways I would not want to undo. I wouldn’t trade what has happened because I don’t want to be the same person I was before. I would not do without my new passions birthed from a greater sense of compassion for people who are hurting.

“God will take your pain and turn it into your passion…passion from pain is a gift from God.” Beth Moore

“If you will trust God with your anguish, it will birth something precious to you.” Beth Moore

This is not to say that I stuff all of my emotions down inside and turn a blind eye to difficulties in an attempt to deny they exist. On the contrary, the anguish often becomes overwhelming and I cry my eyes and heart out to God for help. I am in a battle, mostly in prayer, to see difficult circumstances transformed and removed from my life. But it’s taking a while and I refuse to let my life be ruined in the process – I refuse to let my joy be stolen.

“I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Corinthians 7:4

I find it easy to keep this irrepressible joy alive because I really do believe to the depths of my being that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28) – I believe it because it says so in the Bible, and I believe it because I see it in my life. I believe and have experienced that trials, hardships, and heartaches can become the most beautiful things and make the most beautiful people. Pain produces.

“The things we try to avoid and fight against – tribulation, suffering and persecution – are the very things that produce abundant joy in us. Huge waves that would frighten the ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them. ‘We are more than conquerors through Him IN all these things’ – not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it. Paul said ‘I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.'” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“You did not know you were in labor, but all of this was labor. Maybe at the peak of the pain the baby is just about to get here – are you really going to give up right before the baby is born?” Beth Moore

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:20

Rock Solid

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

Rock Solid

Last night, Husband used the words “rock solid” to describe me. As in, I’ve been “rock solid” through a lot of difficult things we’ve faced.

I kind of chuckled inside. I would guess most who know me outwardly would not use the same words to describe me. I’m often described as soft spoken. I am moved to tears with emotion over just about any and everything. I think I seem soft.

Plus there’s the fact that I used to struggle with fear, fear of just about any and everything. But the truth is, I don’t struggle with fear anymore. I’m not scared, not even of those things that appear threatening in my life right now. Do I ever feel fear? Of course, but it is fleeting and transitory, and it disappears once I recognize it as a reminder to pray. Do I ever break down? Of course, regularly, but the breakdowns release emotion and then quickly pass instead of breaking me down. I have been, overall, rock solid through our trials.

Except it’s not me who’s rock solid. It’s God in me.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I’m soft. I’m emotional. I tend towards fear. I’m prone to breakdowns. Left to myself, the trials that my family has faced would have broken me into nothing, completely unraveled me. They have not, only because I know the Rock, the One Who is Rock Solid, and His strength to my softness, His unconditional love to my emotions, His faithfulness to my fear, have changed me from the inside out. Him in and through me has changed the way I think, feel, and respond when trouble presents itself in my life.

I take the compliment, Husband – sometimes I don’t want to be rock solid anymore and in those moments it’s nice to know that at least it means something to my family. But then I’ll turn that compliment back towards you, God. Thank You that Your grace is sufficient for me, that Your power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Thank You that You see me and take note of my life’s distresses (Psalm 31:7). Thank You that You take my burdens upon Yourself every day so that I don’t need to worry about shouldering them, because You care for me (1 Peter 5:7).

If you live in fear, you’ve just got to get to know Him Who is Courage, Strength, Grace, Love. Not because He is a self-help program that will magically show you how to fix your life in a few easy steps, but because a relationship with Him is so absolutely life giving that you can’t help but be changed by it.

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

10 Ways to Defend Yourself When Falsely Accused

Posted by on Oct 5, 2012 in Faith | 0 comments

10 Ways to Defend Yourself When Falsely Accused

Jen was a hard worker and faithful employee. Her managers trusted her with a high level of responsibility, and over the years that she worked for them they increasingly trusted her more and more. Until Craig showed up. Craig didn’t like Jen. Jen didn’t completely understand why, but what she did understand was that Craig was higher up in the hierarchy than her, he held a position of power in the company, and he had an inside connection with the people who oversaw her job. A job that Jen had enjoyed and worked diligently at for years became, overnight, a nightmare. Day after day she went into an environment in which she was talked about behind her back, she was accused of things she didn’t and wouldn’t do, and she routinely had her character called into question to the people who paid her salary. This went on for years. Jen felt she had no recourse but to turn the situation over to God and then do her job to the best of her ability, with the same integrity and dedication she had always displayed. She feared she would lose her job along with her reputation daily, but she persisted in showing the truth through her actions. Eventually, Craig showed the truth about himself through his actions as well. Craig was exposed for lying not only about Jen, but also about several other important business matters. Jen was promoted and rewarded with a pay raise and the increased trust of her employer.

~

My close friend who I have known for years (but whose name is not really Jen) recently shared the above story with me. I knew her through all of those difficult years but never knew the full story of what she had endured or how it had ended so much in her favor. Her story reminded me that we all face false accusations at some point on some level, whether it is as serious as being accused of a crime you did not commit, as common as being gossiped about or maligned behind your back, or as simple as having your motives and character questioned. Jen’s story encouraged me because, in the end, her character spoke for itself and the truth was exposed. It reminded me of what I’ve learned over the years as I’ve felt misunderstood in different situations or watched people I love struggle with how to defend themselves against false accusations and character attacks.

10 (unconventional) ways to defend yourself if you are falsely accused, gossiped about, your character is questioned, or your motives are misunderstood…

1. Close your mouth

The temptation to speak up in your defense when falsely accused or questioned is unbelievably strong. You know it’s not true, you know all that is on the line if people hear the false accusations or gossip and believe what they hear, and it seems if you can just tell the truth then the whole matter will disappear.  In reality, I have found that regardless of what you say, some people will believe what they hear about you, but the people who truly believe in you will not believe lies about you. Writer Elbert Hubbard said, “Never explain – your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.”

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“When He [Jesus] was accused by the chief priests and the elders, He gave no answer.” Matthew 27:12

2. Pray

Closing your mouth does not mean turning a blind eye to the accusations surrounding you. Action is important, but before you try to defend yourself the first course of action is to ask God to be your defense and show you how to respond.

Yes, they open their mouths wide against me; they say, Aha! Aha! Our eyes have seen it! You have seen this, O Lord; keep not silence! O Lord, be not far from me! Arouse Yourself, awake to the justice due me, even to my cause, my God and my Lord! Judge and vindicate me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness (Your rightness and justice); and let [my foes] not rejoice over me!” Psalm 35:21-24

3. Trust God to defend you

Jen waited years to see the evidence of God’s defense in her life – it was difficult, painful, and infuriating for her to wait, yet she resisted the urge to be her own defense or to go on the offense against her accuser. In the end, God made her look better than she could have made herself look. We humans lack the wisdom and knowledge to see the big picture and administer justice fairly and impartially when we have been wronged, but our God of justice knows just what to do.

“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.” Exodus 14:14

“Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.” Proverbs 29:26

4. Let your life speak

Your actions always speak louder than your words. If you’re not caught up in trying to defend yourself or do damage control, you are free to move forward living your life as the wonderful person that you are at heart. The way you live your life will absolutely reveal the truth about you and your character over time, no matter what anyone else says about you.

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9

5. Build your character

Like any difficult trial, the silver lining of living through false accusations or gossip is that it comes with an opportunity for personal growth. The patience and steadfastness required to get through the pain can make you more dependent on God, more humble, more compassionate, less likely to gossip or accuse others, more able to watch your own actions and rise above petty disagreements.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

6. Build your faith

Many great heroes of the Bible survived false accusations, often to the point of apparent ruin. Joseph, Moses, David, Job, and Jesus were falsely accused and suffered greatly as a result – loss of possessions, family, reputation, freedom, and even life. Yet in each case, there came a time of redemption  in which all of the suffering was worked into a plan for their greater good and they were promoted into a position of honor and favor.  Reading through these stories and the Psalms provides great encouragement and comfort. Waiting on God and seeing Him come through for you builds deep faith.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Ephesians 6:16

“For there is a happy end to the man of peace.” Psalm 37:37

7. Find forgiveness

Your accuser has wounded you and may even have cost you something, so the natural reaction is anger, rage, vindictiveness.  The problem is, your anger rarely hurts your accuser but it does hurt you.  It is at times seemingly impossible, but it is crucial to find forgiveness and stay free from offense so that you can move on free from hindrances and reminders of the past.

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

8. Find a friend

There is incredible loneliness, isolation, and helplessness in living with false accusations or as a victim of gossip.  You need someone who believes in you and knows your true character to encourage and walk with you.  It may surprise you who ends up on your side and who ends up against you, but focus on and invest in those who believe in you.

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10

9. Stay true to yourself

In the face of false accusations or character attacks, it can be easy to question yourself, to become discouraged, and to feel a need to overcompensate by proving your worth.  Ask God to show you your faults and part in what has happened, but then move forward in confidence that you’re right with Him, forgiven for any mistake you’ve made, and cleared of accusations in His eyes.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

10. Take necessary action

Often there is action to take to protect yourself or your family, depending on the severity of the accusations or gossip. I have seen people I respect hire attorneys and launch campaigns to gather support in the face of being accused of a crime, and I have seen others I respect shake the gossip off and more or less ignore it when it was less serious. After taking the time to get quiet, pray, and ask God for His wisdom and protection, you will have a much clearer sense of any action you should take without being motivated by vindictiveness, bitterness, offense, or anger.

If you are discouraged and disheartened at the trouble that false accusations, gossip, or character assassinations have stirred in your life, I hope you are encouraged that our God hates gossip and lies and that He is a protector of the innocent.

“A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Proverbs 6:12-19


 

 

The View From the Top

Posted by on Oct 1, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

The View From the Top

Since my family moved to Colorado a little over a month ago, we have been in overdrive taking in all of the scenic views, mountain air, and outdoor activity. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we leave the house as early as we can, find a mountain to hike, and spend our days outside soaking in this new place we love. Each week, we have progressively worked our way up to more challenging trails and terrain. We take our kiddos everywhere with us – partly because we enjoy them and partly because we have no one to leave them with – so these hikes involve getting a 1 year old and 3 year old up a mountain in addition to ourselves. Bug and Bear have turned into little mountain ladies, I am amazed at how they can keep up with us on some pretty strenuous hikes, but the fact remains that they have short legs and they always wear out just as we’re nearing the summit of our hike.

The hikes have developed a predictable pattern. We start out strong, all of us, full of energy, determination, and conviction that we can get to the end of the trail where the stunning overlook awaits. Bug runs most of the way up yelling, “Mommy! JOG ME!” That kid has a future as a personal trainer, I’m telling ya. Her yelling motivates me, and so I do as I’m told and JOG HER. Husband brings up the rear with Bear, who walks most of the way but occasionally needs to be carried over a rough patch.

After about an hour, we all start to wear out a little. We start asking the hikers passing us on the way down how far we are from the top. “Oh, about halfway,” they always say. Always. We are halfway, then 5 minutes later still halfway, then 10 minutes later still halfway, and so on and so forth until we start to feel that we’re not actually moving at all, that we have, in fact, come to a complete standstill despite all of the energy we’re expending to continue upward. We have no way to gauge our progress and it feels like we’re no longer getting anywhere.

Me: “I’m feeling done with this. I think it’s still really far. The girls are wearing out. Maybe we should turn around.”

Husband: “No. I’m not quitting.” Long pause, heavy breathing sounds… “Unless your wisdom is really telling you it’s better to turn around.”

Screw wisdom, I’m not about to be the quitter in this bunch! So onward and upward we go. The last part of the trek up to the peak is always the hardest, longest, most exhausting part. Honestly, it stops being fun for just a little while. But then all of a sudden, we’ve arrived, just when it felt like we never would, and we find ourselves at the top looking out over the most amazing view, breathing in the fresh air, feeling full and invigorated and thrilled. It was so worth it.

On our last hike, the whole process reminded me of what it feels like to pursue a big dream, to work hard towards any meaningful goal. The beginning is always so full of excitement, energy, and optimism. It feels like you can conquer the world with your big ideas and unique dreams! You run forward with all of the enthusiasm and determination you have in your being so that you can reach the top and enjoy the view. But then come the obstacles – the climb is steeper than you anticipated, the people around you aren’t giving the guidance and help you need, it’s taking much longer than you planned, your legs seem a little too short to finish as strong as you started. Sometimes there’s an absolute failure and seems to be no reason to continue. Maybe you should quit, you start to think. You were too ambitious, you have too much slowing you down. It’s perfectly respectable to just head back down and do something else, something easier.

The thing is, you are probably closer to the top than you realize. The last leg is always the hardest, longest, most exhausting part. But all of a sudden, when you think it will never happen, the path opens up and there you are.

The view from the top is always worth the climb.

 

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The Good Enough Mother – Part 2

Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith, Mental Health | 4 comments

One of my least favorite things about writing is that it seems like whatever I choose to write about in a given week becomes an area in which I struggle exceedingly that week. It’s a reason I often want to just stop writing and sharing altogether. When I write about my marriage, then it seems Husband and I fight and bicker more. When I write about trusting God, it seems I struggle with a greater measure of fear and worry. And when I write about my kids, it seems I struggle with less patience and greater feelings of inadequacy.

Just a couple of days ago I wrote The Good Enough Mother. The next day, I woke up with a feeling of heaviness, a feeling that I’m doing a bad job with my kids. I’m surprised at my tendency towards impatience and anger. I should know better, for goodness sake, I’m a child therapist. In trying to determine the source of the heaviness, I became vaguely aware that it had to do with unrealistic expectations of myself and children and inaccurate perceptions. When I looked deeper, I saw that when my kids don’t listen or follow the rules I unknowingly let a slew of lies flood into my heart… It’s because I’ve done something wrong… It’s because I’ve been so dang imperfect… It’s because no one in my house respects me. Giving these thoughts real estate in my brain then generates a snowball effect. I end up feeling so inadequate that it negatively impacts my mothering, my attitude towards myself, my relationship with Husband, and the atmosphere in my home. Then, to compensate, I try to work harder and be better. Do more. Become different. I unknowlingly get caught up in trying to change my behavior into something more perfect instead of weeding out the roots of my inaccurate perceptions and giving myself (and my family) grace to simply be Good Enough.

Just so you know, in case these same thoughts ever invade your brain as well, they’re all lies. Your kids don’t disobey and fail you at times because you’re a failure, but because they’re kids. Kids just don’t know all that much, they lack judgement, common sense, and life experience. They’re learning, but it is a long and tiresome process.

As soon as I recognized all of the lies that were leading to my sense of heaviness and feelings of failure as a mother, I set to work evicting them from my mind and replacing them with a better tenant – truth about myself and my children. For me, the truth about who I am as a person and mother and who my children are as little people comes from what God says about us.

Before each of my children was born, I got to know them through praying about them, and felt like I had a Bible verse for each of their lives. For Bug, it was that she would be “full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love.” For Bear, it was that she would have “great peace and undisturbed composure.” Ironically, Bug often struggles with anger and Bear often struggles with fear. Sometimes I think that God gave me these specific verses for them as an anchor to keep me grounded and focused on the truth when I could see no actual evidence of these truths in the children who are actually in my home. It works. When I start to feel overwhelmed with their challenging behavior in these areas, I purpose to stop and speak these words of truth about them. Then I purpose to speak these words to them. It never fails to change their behavior and my perception. Truth will do that. And it serves as a much better motivator than negativity, criticism, and punishment.

As for myself, I am highly imperfect and in need of much grace as a mother. Thankfully, that is okay, and part of simply being a Good Enough Mother. More importantly, in spite of my human imperfection, my heart is home to a perfect God who helps me be better than I am in and of myself when I let Him. Because God lives in me, love lives in me, and this is what love is:

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful orvainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Amplified Bible)

In an effort to speak truth about myself as a mother, and because I believe truth is a better motivator for me than negativity, criticism and punishment just as it is for my children, I started saying this about myself in the morning before the children awake and start pulling on my emotions:

I endure long and and I am patient with and kind to my children.

I do not display myself haughtily in my home.

I am not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); I am not rude to my children (unmannerly) and I do not act unbecomingly to them.

(God’s love in me) does not insist on my own rights or my own way, for I am not self-seeking; I am not touchy or fretful or resentful with my children; I keep no account of their mistakes after those mistakes are addressed.

I can bear up under anything and everything that comes, I am ever ready to believe the best about my children, my hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and I can endure everything [without weakening].

God’s Love in my family, my marriage, and my relationships with my children never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

Speaking words of life and truth about myself and my children in the morning did not magically make me the Perfect Mother, but it did change the tone of the entire day. There was less frustration and negativity, more patience and grace. I know that as mothers we try to speak kind and encouraging words about our children each day, but what if we did the same for ourselves? What if every mother mothered herself with kindness and love? Kindness, love, encouragement, and truth are, after all, better motivators than negativity, criticism, and punishment. An added bonus of filling ourselves with these things is that we are then full of them to pour out to our children – it is hard, if not impossible, to pour into our kids what we are not full of ourselves. Try encouraging and building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down in your thoughts today and see how it lightens everything in your home.  See if it doesn’t give you the grace to believe you’re Good Enough.

The Long Dark Night

Posted by on Aug 8, 2012 in Faith | 3 comments

The Long Dark Night

Husband left a month ago to start a new job in a new state, leaving Bug, Bear and I behind to pack up our home and prepare for a cross country move as soon as he finds us a place to live. Well, let me rephrase – Husband left me to pack up our home and prepare for a cross country move because, quite frankly, the 1 year old and 3 year old really are no help at all. Okay I’ll be honest – they’re actually a bit of a hindrance. An incredible hindrance. Oh all right – the truth is, I haven’t been able to pack a single box in the past month since Husband left because the 24 hour maintenance of two little girls who miss their daddy terribly is all consuming and never ending.

I know this sounds naive, but it kind of surprised me. My Bug is just absolutely laid back about everything, nothing really phases her. My Bear is kind of a mama’s girl, so as much as she loves her daddy, I knew she’d be okay with just me for a couple months. So I definitely wasn’t looking forward to him leaving, but I just tried to adopt a positive attitude and think of the time as being a unique opportunity to enjoy the quiet solitude of my own thoughts.

Well that didn’t work out at all. Bug, who is just 100% daddy’s girl, had her world turned upside down when he drove away. She’s 3 1/2, so old enough to know he’s gone for a long time, but not old enough to really grasp why and that there’s an end point. My laid back, happy-go-lucky girl has been stressed. Particularly at night.

Last night I found my exhausted self trying to explain to my exhausted Bug that I needed to go to my own bed to get some sleep and take care of Mommy, to which she replied, “Mommy? Why you got to take care of Mommy?”

Ah yes, a poignant question. There was no use really trying to answer it, but I thought about it a long time in my head and longed for her to understand that I just see a big picture she’s not aware of. To Bug, the night must seem infinitely long, dark, and alone while she’s missing her daddy and wanting extra reassurance that mommy is still there, but I have a better understanding of time and realize it’s not all that long and she’s perfectly safe. I care about nothing more than her safety and well being and am continually working to make sure she’s protected. I know that if she can just relax and get some sleep she’ll feel so much better. If I get some sleep, I’ll be a much better, saner, more enjoyable mommy. Plus we’ll all have more energy to throw our stuff in boxes so that we can actually live with Daddy again one day. I wish she would just rest and trust me. I’m watching out for her. I’m not going anywhere. Our family is getting to a better place, and in the big picture the wait isn’t all that long.

This morning I woke up to God speaking this to my heart…

“You know how you wish Bug would just rest and trust you at night? How it would make everything so much easier if she could know you’re in control through the dark, let you carry the burdens, then just rest in peace and comfort? I feel the same way about you sometimes. I know you’re in a long, dark night of your own. I see that it worries you, that you have no sense of an end in sight, that you’re exhausted. But I’ve got it. I can see straight through to the other side where the light is, and it’s good. Really good. It’s worth the wait, and the wait isn’t forever. You’re perfectly safe, I’m constantly working to keep you protected. Just trust me and get some rest.”

What Did Jesus Do?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Faith | 2 comments

Jesus never told anyone, “You’re bad publicity for my ministry.”

“And a leper came to Him, begging Him on his knees and saying to Him, If You are willing, You are able to make me clean. And being moved with pity and sympathy, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him, and said to him, I am willing; be made clean! And at once the leprosy completely left him and he was made clean by being healed.” (Mark 1:40-42)

In the religious and social climate of that time, people with leprosy were despised and feared. Their leprosy was commonly believed to be the consequence of secret sins. They were excluded from religious customs in the temples, shunned and forced to live in separate communities. Lepers were seen as the ultimate example of ungodliness, sin, and shameful living.

Can you imagine if Jesus had responded something like this: “Hey! Leper! Could you please keep some distance? Your leprosy isn’t compatible with the feel I’m trying to project in my ministry. Please don’t get too close or the more desirable people I’d like to include in the body of Christ are going to become uncomfortable. It’ll affect giving.”

“At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11)

This story would most definitely read differently if Jesus had said something along the lines of, “Woman! Are these accusations true? If so, we’ll have to plan a church meeting to figure out how to deal with your sin and reconcile you. First I’ll need you to explain yourself to me and all these other people judging you. It makes no difference that they’re sinners too because your sin is just plain worse. Well, at least it’s more visible.”

I love the actual, real Jesus in the Bible. He is bold, courageous, gracious, kind, compassionate, and a bit scandalous. He is love. Unconditional and unshakeable love. He came to “seek and save the lost.” He did it by actually seeking out, keeping company with, and loving unconditionally, well, the lost, the hurting, the sick, the poor. He actually spent time in the dark places where these people congregated, not within the safe and comfortable confines of the church walls. He was not made uncomfortable or nervous by those who did not share His lifestyle. His love, grace, salvation, and healing were intended for everyone.

Detours

Posted by on Jul 19, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 1 comment

Detours

A few weeks ago I took Bug and Bear to meet some friends of ours at a splash park about 20 minutes from our house. As we drove along the country back roads that took us to our meeting place, we came upon an accident. It had just happened and there was a car blocking the road, but the first responders weren’t there yet to clear it and direct traffic. We waited for about ten minutes until it was apparent that no one was getting anywhere anytime soon. I turned around and started looking for a different route that would get us back on track going the right direction.

I really had no idea how to get around this unexpected obstacle, but I took the first road that seemed like it had a good chance of being the right way. As we wound around the unknown road that seemed to be taking us out of our way with no idea if it got back around to where we wanted to be, we started to find we were really enjoying ourselves. We saw sights we ordinarily missed on our regular route – quirky looking farms, pastures full of cows and horses, and the best part of all, two giant giraffe shaped shrubs in someone’s yard.

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You have to understand, we’re giraffe people.

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It was a really big, exciting deal. We would have missed the giraffes entirely if we hadn’t been steered off course.

After a bit of driving with seemingly no direction, feeling a bit aimless and lost, I spotted the road we needed to get back to running parallel to us. We relished the rest of our detour and then caught back up to our original path and finished our journey according to plan.

Detours nearly always seem undesirable at first. They’re not the way we know, they’re not the way we planned, they seem to take us away from where we are needing to go. They come upon us without warning, the result of some unforeseen, unanticipated obstacle that arises in our path that is not good. If we can surrender in the course of the detour, however, and find a way to cooperate with what it has to show us and maybe even enjoy the wild ride, the detour becomes a significant and indispensable part of the overall journey.

Unexpectedly, the detour we found ourselves on that day has now become our regular route. We enjoy it so much, and never lose our enthusiasm for the giraffe hedges. It’s better than the only way we knew to go before. It showed us a new way that held more fun, joy, and adventure than the route we knew to plan on our own.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Our Heavenly Father

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith | 0 comments

Guest Post: Our Heavenly Father

Have you had that moment yet where you realize… “I am my mother”? If not, give it more time, it will happen. I am not only old enough at this point to admit that I’ve become my mother, but also to say I’m thrilled about it. She’s neat.

On a recent visit to her house, I learned something about my mom that I’ve never known in 36 years – she writes. Another thing I discovered we have in common. She showed me some of her writing and I loved it. I asked her if she would let me share the story below on my blog and she said yes. Enjoy!

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Bear, 13 months old, stood beside the chair, apparently seeing challenge in the rungs of the legs and felt the call of the flat hard seat. As she began to climb, Celia calmly picked her up to prevent a mishap, surely protecting the petite child. Repositioning herself among the guests at the birthday party, Celia put Bear down. Moments later, Bear, exiting the room of festivities, tiny legs marching in determination, her mother quietly got up to follow. Bear took the long route, and in determination, found her way back to the kitchen zeroing in on the object of her desire. Celia, in her wisdom, stood and watched as the child climbed up and proudly sat in the seat. Once positioned, her mission accomplished, Mom pick up the toddler and returned to the party. Upon putting Bear down, to her surprise, her child was now content, having accomplished her mission.

In much the same way, our Heavenly Father will give us reign to accomplish those things that we see as necessary and important, all the while keeping watchful eye, ready to rescue, to protect; allowing us to exercise our free will and to fall, if necessary. Are we content with mission accomplished? Have we discovered our capabilities once the goal is reached? Are we content to remain with Him, much as Bria was content to stay close to Mom once she was allowed to exercise her own will. Do we know, as the small child shows, without our Protector we are on a mission without the watchful eye; that the only help we have is of ourselves?

 

Sometimes A+B=Crap

Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

Sometimes A+B=Crap

I am not good at math. Never have been. Something about formulas and concrete answers and exact outcomes just confuses the heck out of me. I am much more comfortable with abstract thinking, shades of gray, and metaphors.

Maybe it’s my failure to fully comprehend math that leaves me frustrated with formulas… not just true mathematical formulas, but also formulaic thinking that tries to define things that I think really have no definition. At the same time that I’m frustrated, I also find myself craving formulas, exact parameters that make life more sensible and easy to navigate. I think this is human nature, that as much as we reject rules and formulas, at the same time we crave them for the sense of order and control they provide.

Take, for example, the following experiences…

At work: Oftentimes, a friend or acquaintance sends me a quick text or e mail asking for my input about a mental health issue, usually a concern with their child. I know it must seem like I can message back a quick and tidy answer since I work in this field, but unfortunately, there is no formula a + b = mental health that I can apply to a person or problem that will instantly cure it. Yes, there are principles and theories that guide the work, but there is no specific formula. Every person is different. It is harder than using a one-size-fits-all approach, but the work requires significant time and energy getting to know and understand each individual person and finding meaning in their unique background and experiences to understand how to help on an individual basis.

At home: If you have had a baby, then you know the entire world has an opinion on how you should be raising your precious child. There are so many books and approaches that reduce parenting to a formula. With my first baby, I found this to be especially true on the topic of infant sleep, a + b = sleep. All of the formulas that I read or heard about went against what felt right to me, so I didn’t use one. Husband and I used the most non-formula approach to baby sleep that I imagine the world has ever known. It was harder than using a one-size-fits-all approach because we had to pray and discern and adapt to find what felt like it best suited the unique needs of our babies and our family (we approached sleep with each one slightly differently), but in the end we found what was right for us. And both of our children go to bed easily in their own beds at night and sleep through the entire night, even though the formulas said it would not be possible.

At church: I find that sometimes even good church teaching gets twisted into the idea that there is a formula we can activate to make God perform on our behalf, and that if we have done a nice job of this, our lives will look just right… “If you do this, God will do that”… a + b = easy living, yes please, Amen! This is tricky, because there is some truth to this equation… there absolutely are principles and promises that you can count on in God. The problem is with the formula. Many times, the part of the equation between receiving the promise and seeing the end result of it involves a lot of stuff that just doesn’t seem to make good, simple sense. The truth is, you can do everything in your power to live a good, Godly life, and still have hardships and difficulties factored into the equation. God does not fit into the box of our human understanding. He tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways… As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is harder than using a one-size-fits-all approach, but following and trusting God requires effort to hear His voice for you, confirm it through His Word, and then trust that it may look nothing like what you imagined.

The point I’m making is that in each of these instances, really in any area of life, the formulas oversimplify a much more complex and individual process. They provide an easy way out that only scratches the surface of everything that may be there. The examples I gave from work and home are really just observations, silly things in a way, but the issue of applying a formula to life in God I think is much more significant.

Here’s the problem with putting God into that kind of formula. It breeds pride in those who are prospering and condemnation in those who are struggling. It can give people who are blessed by the world’s standards a sense that their success is a result of their own piety and righteousness. It tends to leave those who are hurting or facing adversity feeling that they have been marginalized and ostracized by the church, and perhaps even God as well. We’ve again applied human understanding and formulas to the mystery that is the way of God. We forget that blessing, favor, and gifts from God don’t always fit the human definition of money, titles, and things.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message Bible).

I personally have felt the sting of well meaning people implying, sometimes stating directly, that some difficulty I was experiencing was the result of my failure to pray or perform correctly. What these people were saying is that I didn’t follow their formula. To them I say, respectfully but emphatically, you are wrong, about me and about the way my God of grace works. To anyone else who has felt this same sting, I encourage you to seek God’s answers and grace to understand the difficulties you have endured – He will not give you a formula, but He will give you direction, truth, conviction, understanding, and comfort.

“Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing…Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.” ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

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