Posts made in October, 2012

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

How Will I Know?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 0 comments

How Will I Know?

“How will I know, if he really loves me? I say a prayer with every heartbeat. I fall in love whenever we meet. I’m asking you what you know about these things.”

Please don’t tell me I’m the only one old enough for that song to conjure up images of dancing around with my middle school friends, belting out the lyrics alongside Whitney into our hairbrushes, daydreaming about “the one” and all the ways we would know he really loved us.

Fast forward to our adult selves. We found “the one.” We realize that it doesn’t look a lot like the Whitney Houston song in real life, but it’s still great in its own real-life way. Now the question has changed from “How will I know if he really loves me?” to “How will I know if I’m ready to have a baby?” It never became a hit song, but I bet that question weighs even heavier on the minds of women contemplating starting a family than the question of love weighs on the hearts of dreamy preteen girls.

After Husband and I were married a couple of years, we started talking and dreaming about adding a baby to our family. We had enjoyed some time of adjusting to marriage, traveling, and just being together. We knew we wanted to have children. We were financially stable (at the time, anyway). We certainly weren’t getting any younger. Everything seemed to line up and point to it being the right time and the right plan. Except there was just a bit of nagging doubt on the inside of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have children, it was just that becoming a mother seemed like the most life-changing, earth-shattering, death-to-self kind of thing I could ever choose to do – and somewhere along the way, I picked up this notion that to have a child, one must be completely prepared, totally sure, perfectly equipped, and fully without doubts.

Husband was feeling really ready to move full speed ahead into parenthood, but with my mixed feelings and ambivalence about it all, I started asking around among the mothers that I knew. I asked a loved and respected mentor at my church who had adult children (and looked to be the poster mama for family life perfection) how she had known she was ready to start a family. Her own story of ambivalence prior to having children, and even after her first was born, shocked me. I asked a professional colleague with two school-age children if she had experienced any doubts about getting pregnant and having a baby. Again, I was surprised to learn that she had questioned whether she really wanted to have children at all. I asked close girlfriends with very young children how they had felt before having a baby, and the answer was that they were unsure and full of doubts. Absolutely every woman I talked to expressed the same mixed feelings about having a baby, the same doubts about their readiness and ability to be a mother, the same nervousness at giving up so much of themselves to care for another. Each of these women decided in the end that the desire to have a baby trumped all of the questions and doubts, and each became an incredibly attentive, committed, amazing mother.

Knowing that my doubts and mixed feelings were normal and did not disqualify me entirely from motherhood, we took the plunge and added sweet Bug to our family, then two years later our beloved Bear. In the years since I had my own children, a great number of friends have come to me with the same concerns in their early stages of contemplating motherhood. They ask the same questions – How did I know? Was I sure I wanted a baby? Did I struggle with feeling like I wouldn’t be a good mother? Did I feel nervous at the thought of the lifestyle change that having a baby would bring? My answers were much like those given to me when I asked the same questions of any mother I could find – I didn’t know for sure, but I knew enough. I struggled greatly with the feeling that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a good mother, but I knew I would do my absolute best for the children entrusted to my care. I was terrified at the death to self that I knew would come from giving up my body for pregnancy and nursing, sacrificing my familiar life for something I could not in any way comprehend, relinquishing my freedom to focus on myself and my own needs in the interest of someone else completely dependent upon me, but I knew that it was worth it to experience creating a life that was a little combination of my self and Husband’s self.

I’m not saying that this is the experience of every woman, but I do think it’s a far more common experience than anyone really talks about openly. As a result, we are left feeling like motherhood is all black and white – either we know and commit completely with no doubts whatsoever and we’re meant to be mothers, or we have questions and doubts that mean we probably don’t have what it takes. In reality, ambivalence is such a normal state of motherhood, from pre-conception, to pregnancy, to birth, and through childhood, that I think were we not to feel so ashamed and afraid of it as mothers, we would get more comfortable just accepting it as a part of the job description.

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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