Posts made in April, 2013

Your Story has Power

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Faith, Mental Health | 2 comments

Your Story has Power

Exactly one year ago today, I walked right out of my comfort zone and stepped into the blogosphere. I never really wanted to blog as I tend towards introversion, privacy, internalization, and solitude, all qualities that seem diametrically opposed to sharing personal stories publicly. The idea of casting the story net of my life out over the vast sea of the Internet for anyone and everyone to see made me feel a bit seasick. Nonetheless, in spite of my reluctance, I felt God inviting me to share my story in a more public way, and I accepted.

When I decided to start telling my story, I was struggling with horrendous circumstances, and I realized that all of the stories I had ever heard about overcoming came after the fact. They were told in retrospect, from the vantage point of the finish line where the entire marathon of a trial could be clearly viewed, from start to completion, with the knowledge of how all of the details ultimately worked together for good . They sounded simple, easy, and actually quite fun. Mine felt nothing like that. And I felt God speak to my heart , “All of those stories felt nothing like that in the middle either. It’s just that most people don’t share their story in the middle when they’re suffering and have no idea how it will end. Would you have the faith to show people your middle? Will you let your life serve as an example of how messy the middle can be, and how I protect you all the way through the middle as I take you to a better place? Would you be willing to be honest and vulnerable about the process?”

As I pondered those questions and my anxiety over answering, “Yes,” I picked up a book and read this:

“It is important that we remember our history with God. What is your history? Meditate on it. Record the miracles you see… I just want to put this one tool in your hand. If you will use it, you will stay encouraged every day of your life, and you will have an important key for the renewing of your mind. The tool is the testimony. Let everything be tied to a reminder of God’s supernatural interventions. Your God history needs to become a string of monuments that become reference points for the rest of your life.” Bill Johnson

So, in faith, I started to share, focusing on the testimony, the miracles. And in the process, sharing taught me and transformed me. Sharing my story saved me so many times from depression, shame, isolation, and fear. Over and over, releasing bits of my life and experience released tremendous power in my circumstances…

Power to heal, as putting my story into words helped me to make sense of it, to see the blessing in it, to feel some sense of control over writing my own ending. Because I had choices about my ending, regardless of my outcome. In the end, was I to be the character who gave up, let my family down, withdrew, and withered away? Or could I be the protagonist you root for in your favorite novel who fights, who grows in strength and courage, who overcomes? Ted Haggard’s wife, Gayle, says that in the wake of her husband’s public fall from a prominent ministry position, in her anguish, she asked herself, “Who am I going to be in this story?” Writing my story gave me the power to choose who I would be as it all unfolded, which absolutely crushed despair and terror, and healed me of the hurt and fear found in certain chapters.

Power to fight, as sharing my testimony of God’s presence in the midst of my trials released His power in my circumstances. Showing up to tell my story on the days I felt I was falling apart released something strong. It got in the face of my troubles and said, “I’m still here. I’m not backing down. In fact, I’m getting stronger every day.”

Power to connect, as being vulnerable staved off isolation and brought new depth in relationships. As I shared, other people seemed to feel safter sharing too. People started to reach out, to show me their reality, to let me in on their struggles, to say, “Me too.”

Power to overcome, as I purposed to find joy in the little things instead of allowing anxiety and depression to drag me into their abyss. In November 2011, within one week, I received two of the most frightening pieces of news I have ever heard in my life. In the aftermath, I struggled with fear, no, terror, and depression – but through blurry vision I could still make out the shadow of my little girls and I knew I couldn’t entertain these feelings and care for them adequately, I would have to choose. I made a choice to stay strong for my girls, and the only way I knew to do that from one moment to the next was to focus on the little happy things that showed up each day instead of the giant dark cloud lurking overhead. I decided that if I wrote about these simple things each day – cooking, playing, praying, exercising – along with the bigger picture testimony, I would stay accountable to keep my focus there, and maybe even encourage myself or someone else in the process. I found that no matter how small the source of joy, focusing on it made my problems smaller, and that maintaining gratitude and perspective magically generated peace and joy, in spite of my circumstances.

We all have a story, and in a world where most work overtime to stay covered, it can feel so naked to share. But your story has power, and the benefits of opening your book for others to read far outweigh the risks of feeling exposed.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown

~

The Art of Receiving

Posted by on Apr 7, 2013 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

The Art of Receiving

From as early as I can remember, my Dad told me often that I was a “giver.” Because he obviously valued this quality, I did too. Because he was a giver and I wanted to be like him, I cultivated this quality of giving in my life. I still operate in large part as a giver, but I’ve also learned how to receive. For a person who loves to give, this is not nearly as simple as it may seem.

Over my life, I’ve given a lot for a lot of right reasons. But I also now realize that, at times, I’ve given with an underlying motive or attitude that wasn’t exactly right. All of this started to make its way into my awareness when I went through a season of receiving.

Rather unexpectedly and rather suddenly, Husband and I went from a being in a position to give to a position of having nothing to offer. Not only did we have nothing to offer, we found ourselves in a place of desperate need. We had friends and family who loved us, but something kept us from asking for help or even accepting it when offered. For me, that something was pride. I wasn’t a taker, I was a giver. And if I were to be completely honest, there was something outside of my positive motives of love and grace and generosity and a genuine desire to help that moved me to give – it felt good to have enough to be a giver, to not know the helplessness, hurt, and desperation wrapped up in my own needs.

At some point in the course of our five year downward spiral in which our circumstances went from bad to worse, we had no choice but to accept support from and lean on those closest to us. Some of our most trusted friends turned their backs on us and let us down. That was a hard and hurtful thing to deal with, but what was much, much harder and more hurtful for me was accepting help. I struggled to receive gifts instead of give them.

When my angel of a friend silently slipped in my purse an envelope full of cash that equalled the exact amount we lacked to make a full house payment that month, I wanted to say no and give it back. It hurt me to take it, but we needed it. I knew God was giving me what I prayed for through my friend – I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t tell her we needed it, she prayed for me and somehow heard the exact amount and gave it freely. It hurt to take it, but it blessed me. I learned that God works through His willing people to answer our prayers, and that to receive the answer to prayer I must be willing to receive from other people.

When my talented and accomplished childhood friend came to my aid with unique help only he could offer, I felt guilty and embarrassed to accept. But I had to. I felt obsessed with paying him back or reciprocating in some way, but I wasn’t in a position to. It was hard to let him help, but his help protected my entire family. I learned that God often sends His help through people who have skills, talents, abilities, and resources that I simply do not.

When family members helped us with some financial needs, my discomfort with taking became unbearable. I prayed and begged God to provide through a different means.  His response: “This is my provision for you right now. Take it and be grateful. I need you to learn how to receive.” My thinking started to change as I realized that I needed a shift in my understanding to grasp the balance between giving and receiving.

By the time my dear friend gave me a gift card to buy some needed items for our family, I didn’t feel hurt or guilty or embarrassed to accept, I just felt grateful. I felt humbled.

And that’s when it finally hit me. Receiving is an act of humility. Receiving says I can’t do everything by myself, other people have unique gifts that they are called to give, we need each other in real back and forth relationship.  Giving and receiving are inseparable – if one act becomes dominant while the other stagnates, things get out of balance. A giver who doesn’t receive can grow prideful, isolated, and self-reliant. A receiver who doesn’t give can become entitled, powerless, and self-centered.

The humility of receiving set this truth firmly in my heart: nothing I have is mine to give or keep anyway. Because so many people gave us so much, my thinking shifted from the subtle unconscious belief that I could control what I thought I needed to keep or what was extra to give to the idea that nothing I have is really mine. It illuminated for me the truth that everything I have comes from God and it is His to distribute. When I give now, it is with deep gratitude for all I’ve been given and all I have to give, and humble awareness of what it feels like to be deeply in need.

The Giant Palm

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Faith | 0 comments

The Giant Palm

To the left is a picture of my hand, so close to my face that it seems enormous and I can see nothing past it.

Below is a picture of the world beyond my hand, when I lower it and look farther. There’s a lot going on here, so much I was missing when I could only see my own giant palm, so close to my eyeballs that even that was blurry. Try it and see how your perspective changes, how your focus adjusts. I see people. I see life. I see nuances, subtleties, mysteries, unknowns. I see diversity wrapped up in God’s creation.

Lately I notice a lot of giant-palm gazing at the expense of looking a little farther out in the distance. Looking so hard at one very small part, so up close and in your face that it blocks out any and every other thing, to the neglect of seeing the world beyond. Specific issues become the giant-palm-all-I-can-see heart of the matter, and people rage and fight and judge and hate, all while staring so hard at a hand for Pete’s sake. Put the hand down. Look beyond.

So what I see when I look up from my palm gazing and focus on the bigger picture, is the world. And let me tell you, there’s a lot to take in. People are dying out there. They’re starving, hurting, suffering, lost, abused, confused, alone, desperate. Dying. And we are turning a blind eye and missing what truly matters, instead becoming hyper-focused on issues over people.

” ‘You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.’ [Matthew 23:24] This is a humorous picture which must have raised a laugh, of a man carefully straining his wine through gauze to avoid swallowing a microscopic insect and yet cheerfully swallowing a camel. It is the picture of a man who has completely lost his sense of proportion.” (Barclay)

Like so much of the gospels, the entirety of Matthew 23 is aimed at the “blind guides,” the legalistic hypocrites who were so focused on the outward behavior of those around them (gnat) that they failed to look inside themselves and see the enormity of their own sin (camel). When we focus on one specific issue or behavior in someone else’s life at the expense of examining our own insides to see how we’re responding to the real issue at hand – the call to love, to serve, to go to a dying world and offer hope – we have completely lost our sense of proportion.

I don’t have all the answers and I don’t always know how to love, give, and serve in a dying world like I want to. But I know God is love and if I choose Him, then I choose love too. I am humbly aware of how He chooses to love me even when my outward behavior is ugly, even when my insides are messy. I remember how He pursued me when I didn’t truly know Him, and that it looked nothing like beating me over the head with religious rules, exposing me publicly, refusing to build a relationship with me, or calling me names – it looked like love. I can only believe that this is how we’re meant to approach the world around us.

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do.” Ephesians 1:18 (The Message Bible)

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