Category Archives: Relationships

Tripping Over the Potholes Of Comparison

This week I have the honor of setting aside my random thoughts and contemplations and instead, I get to introduce you to one of my dearest friends – Meagan!  After much persuasion and a bit of patience (good writing, like wine, takes time and a bit of squeezing), she’s finally graced us with a guest blog post!  I’m thrilled. 
                She has written articles for several well-known publications, has traveled to one or two  corners of the Earth, is a wife to a pretty decent dude, lives in them there mountains, is the friend of a fox or two AND is provider of sugary nectar for several hummingbirds.  But as cool as all that stuff is, those things are merely indicators of the large heart and vibrant spirit this woman envelops – not who she actually is.  She is a woman who has the humility to merely seek the Father, vigilantly deal with her personal healing, love those around her, and enjoy life as best as she humanly can. 
                Meagan has been a major force in my life over the time I have known her, and I am excited for you to meet her and get to know her heart too.  Also, when you’re done reading, leave a comment for her! 

It’s so easy to look at others — and I do it all the time — and see what we don’t have or who we aren’t. “She’s written a book,” “she has a nice house,” “he’s smarter and more capable than me,” “he’s traveled the world, “she has an amazing job,” “she overcame cancer and is a doctor now,” and, my personal favorite, “They all have purpose and I don’t have anything that is special about me.”

The fact is, looking around at everyone else denies and detracts from what God made you. It’s kind of an insult. Yeah, I may not have those things or talents or experiences that the people I look up to have, but we’ve got to learn that those external things are not what give us value. What gives me value is the unique person God made me, simply because he loves me. I have worth, because I belong to the God of the universe. My identity is as His — not as the things I accomplish or the talents or stuff I have.

How could he have made me and not love me? Would he have spent so much time making me that he knows every hair on my head, and not given me a unique purpose in this world to live out? Would he let me miss out on that– if I’m really seeking His will? Certainly not — he’s not a petty, ruthless God out to show you how bad you suck compared to him and everyone else. Instead, he is your champion and cheerleader. Embrace what he gave you, learn to love what he made you.

So stop looking around at everybody else, stop looking down at the potholes in your life — your inadequacies, your circumstances that look to ensnare you in an endless pit of discontent — and look forward to Christ alone.

A wise lady, my counselor of 15 years, told me: If you are running from a monster, and you look back at it, all of your energy is consumed by focusing on it instead of the path of escape. If you are running a race, and looking around at your competitors, they will overtake you.

Keep your eyes focused on the one thing that can keep you going forward, in the right direction. Christ alone.

So that I don’t leave you without any idea of what that means, here are some ways to get your eyes off yourself and others, and on to the place they belong.

  • Instead of waking up and thinking about the day in front of you, pray this prayer FIRST thing: “God, what do you have for me today?” Wait and listen. Tell him your thoughts, feelings and fears and listen. Keep talking to him, keep listening. This will be very difficult to do at first, so don’t beat yourself up, just keep trying. If your mind strays, come back to talking to him.
  • Then, as you are eating your brekkie, or before you leave for school or work, read a Psalm every morning – pick an encouraging one, not a sad one or the ones that have ancient Israeli history that you can’t relate to. As you read, focus on God’s promises and his greatness.
  • Think of what promises he’s kept to you and WRITE THEM DOWN. In a journal, on a notepad, wherever. It will help you remember them. Think of the scripture you read throughout the day.
  • As you go throughout your day and good things happen, or you are encouraged by something, WRITE IT DOWN on that notepad, thank God for it OUT LOUD (even if you work in a cubicle, do it as a whisper). Praising God audibly discourages the enemy’s attacks.

 

That’s a start. We’ll do more next post. There’s lots of help to be had. Keep up hope.

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Facebook, peer pressure, cold water, and what to do

It happened.

I knew it would, and I had been trying to figure out how to respond to it when it did, but, when it actually happened, I still didn’t have a clue.

See, there’s this thing, going around on Facebook where people dump water over their heads in support of a horrible degenerative disease that goes by the initials ALS, and since over half my Facebook friends are kids, well, I was gonna get nominated to dump ice over my head at some point, sooner or later.

But see, I’m in this thoughtful season of life, when I want to think about everything before I do it.  So, I wanted to know where I actually stood on this “challenge” thing before I simply lemming-style dumped five gallons of ice on me – in public (well, filmed, and then posted on Facebook, so the modern form of public).  I know, I know, I’m probably over-thinking it.  Or, as my brother would affectionately say, I’m “femaling it up”.

But I didn’t want to just mindlessly dump water over my head.  And no, it’s not because it’s cold.

See, I want my kids to think through something before they do it.  And if I want that from them, then I need to model it.

And I’m not really sure of the best response.  See, ALS is a degenerative disease where you lose control of everything.  And that’s horrible.  And if pouring a bucket of ice over my head will help someone research it and come up with a cure – great.  Pour five buckets over my head.  But see, pouring a bucket over my head means that I’m not giving money to fund that person to go find that cure.  So, I should give money.  Which I’d do if I had any (being a student will take all the money you’ve got – and then some).  But even then, even still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.  Because, see, if I simply give money, than I can be done.  I don’t have to think about it anymore.  I can say I did my part and go dive back into school papers, or hiking in the mountains, or drinking coffee with one of my teens.

But that’s not really what we’re called to do as Christians.  We’re called to sit with each other in our pain.  We are called to help someone out – to take care of them – no matter what.  To stay there, where they are.  Not to throw money at them and then walk away.  Not to say, “Hey, look how much I care; I’m pouring water over my head” and then walk away.  I’m called to befriend those in pain, those who are uncomfortable, those who will ask much of me because they can’t give anything back.

So, how do I do that?  I don’t know anyone with ALS.  Do I go find someone who has ALS?  Do I just accept that God hasn’t put anyone in my life with ALS and focus on the people He has put in my life – and their needs?

Truth is – I don’t know.  I could dump a bucket of water over my head in solidarity or something, sure.  But…doesn’t that just bring more attention to me than to the thousands suffering?  I mean somewhere the video label will say ALS on it, and so everyone will know I care…but do I, really?

The only answer that comes to mind, as I wrestle with this, is one that feels trite because it has been a Christian cop-out so often – prayer.

I don’t know anyone with ALS; I don’t have anything to give; I don’t really believe pouring a bucket of watery frigidness will do any good, so what do I have?

I have God.  I have prayer.  And, in the long run, assuming I actually pray and ask God to do a work – in my heart at the very least – that might be the most powerful thing I could do.

Note – if I felt God was calling me to do something about ALS specifically, this would be different.  Maybe I’ll talk about that next week.

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Mommy, why is the sky red?

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The sky was red last night.  Gorgeous streaks of what my fourth-grade self would have described as neon watermelon (it was a colored pencil name – mid 90’s, era of the neon…until now, of course) swirled among puffs of deep soul blue and quiet gray.  It was glorious.  Gorgeous.  Breath-taking.  And I took pictures, because that is one of my favorite ways to express all the joy and love that is inside me during such moments.  And I did a couple step-hops as the neon watermelon swirls got deeper and brighter and less watermelon-y and more…indescribable.  And I ran from one side of the house to watch the sunset over the mountains to the other side, to watch the sunset over the city. And every atom currently making up my body felt loved, and overwhelmed, and accepted, and beautiful, and…. And I am full.

As I watched the sunset, the phrase, “The sky is red Momma, why is the sky red?” kept coming to my mind.  My last year of college (so, a while ago) I wrote a one-act for my college’s final theatrical fling of the year – called Drop Dead.  It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime-experiences-that-I-got-the-privilege-of-participating-in-three-wait-four?-no-I-can-only-remember-three times.  I wrote one acts for all three times.  And the last one act I wrote I don’t remember as vividly as I remember the first one, but I know it started out with a little girl and her momma staring at the sky, with the girl asking her momma why the sky is red.  The point of the play was a bit about perspectives, and a bit about arguing with God, and a bit that God really does have a plan for all things. 

I’d re-read it right now, but I wrote it on a different laptop, and I don’t have the jump drive with me that I saved it onto when that computer died. 

But it got me thinking about sunsets, and God, and love, and how He really does have a plan for everything, and how He’s in charge. 

Recently, I’ve wondered a bit if He does.  I mean, yes, I know, God’s in control and has everything covered.  But, as is always the case when what we know in our minds is challenged by real life experience, I’ve had to do a bit of trusting that it’s really true, and then releasing worry to God, and praying my heart out. 

Because, see, I’m rather human, and I don’t understand everything. I mean, how does free will work?  If God loves us, and if He’s constantly pursuing each of us (I’m not much of a pre-destined-er) in the best way for us, what about when we don’t want Him to pursue?  Does He still pursue our hearts, just more gently, more from a distance, more from the shadows?  Does He let us go about our lives, doing what we want, in the hopes that our empty lives will draw us back to Him?  Does that tactic work? 

How does this work?  If true love really does allow us a choice, how do we express that choice?  And then if God is love, than He respects that choice….  But then He also knows everything, and is outside of time, and knows how it all plays out…so if He knows that you say you don’t want Him now, but you will in five years, then what? 

I don’t know.  I trust that He loves each of us, and that He desires each of us to enter into the relationship with Him that He originally created us for. He wants us to be the best, most fulfilling version of ourselves.   And I’m not sure I’ll ever know – or ever really want to know exactly how He handles every little detail.  God is God, and I am not.  And He is love, and good, and righteous, and merciful, and graceful, and just.  And patient.  God is sooooo patient.   And I trust in that – even when it’s easy to trust that because the skies are full of masterpiece red and orange and yellow and purple swirls.

 

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“Love thy neighbor”

“And love your neighbor as yourself.”

The first time I actually thought about that verse must have happened sometime in middle school, because I remember thinking, “Huh, I can do better than that.  I don’t love myself, but I love others.  I can love my neighbor better than I love myself.”

I’ve heard quite a few sermons and theories about this particular verse over the years.  Everything from, “Well, it actually means to love yourself as you’d love your neighbor” to “You know, try to love yourself, try to love your neighbor” to “Love God, that’s what really matters”.

I wonder if loving ourselves is a uniquely Western culture problem (where very few people actually love themselves, actually are comfortable in their own skin – everyone just pretends) or if this is an age-old human problem.   I think maybe, if it were a universal problem, perhaps the scriptures would have been worded differently.  Maybe.

Because we pretend we love ourselves.  And sure, we’re selfish, we still take care of Number One before we take care of everyone else.  And if that’s what the scripture means – to take care of everyone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself – as some of my professors think – than it’s an easy scripture.  I mean, no not easy.   Taking care of someone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself, or protecting someone else as much as you protect your own well-being is never “easy”…but it’s rather surface-level if you ask me.

I have come to realize, over the years, that if I don’t “love myself”, than I can’t love others well.  And this gets tricky.  Because, yes, without fully being comfortable with whom I am, without liking my quirks, strengths and weaknesses, I can still be nice to people.  I can still be kind.  But…it is not the same as if I am fully embracing myself.  If I’m not a fan of who I am, I can only be nice or kind or giving or date someone so long before things start blowing up.  Whether I suddenly start showing my judgmental thoughts, or just stop showing up to hang out, or start getting super depressed (this is NOT the only reason for depression, mind you) or dependent on others or any number of super unhealthy things, something awful is going to show up.  Guaranteed.

But even bigger than that is the simple thing that love is generally meant to be reciprocated.  So, if you don’t love the person you are created to be, than how can you allow anyone else to love you (because yes, to some extent you have to allow and accept love from others)?  If you don’t love yourself, you can’t allow someone else’s love for you to really penetrate the depths of you that love is meant to penetrate.

The tricky thing is – that you can’t.  You just can’t love yourself, love the person you are, without God’s help.  Sorry.  It’s just not going to happen.   Only through the knowledge that you are Christ’s kid, and dearly loved by Him, specially created to have the quirks, strengths, weaknesses and passions you do, can you begin to really, truly, embrace the person you are.  And it is only by His strength in this world of brokenness that is trying to get you to believe the lie that you are never good enough and must be constantly doing something else; that you can even begin to accept the amazing being you have been created to be.

So, again, start praying.  Pray that God opens your eyes to see yourself as He sees you – as much as He’ll let you.  If we could see how deeply loved and precious we are in God’s eyes, than I’m pretty sure we’d be able to enjoy and hold close the person God is calling each of us to be.

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Moments

I have been troubled recently by how busy I am.  I am not proud of my busyness.  I do not think I am running from anything; I am not trying to avoid anything.  Yes, there is brokenness in me.  I experience acute loneliness, but I do not run from it, or ignore it, or deny it.  Not all of my relationships are what I would like them to be, nor are they all healthy, but I do not think I am running from them either.  If I have had one realization over the last ten months (I’ve had many, but one of the most obvious ones), it is just how very important relationships (family, friends, romance) are, and how incredibly crucial it is for us to enter into them as fully, as brokenly, possible.  We are to fight for them.

Not the point of today’s entry though, however.

My busyness bothers me.  When I picture who I want to be, the woman I feel called to be, my fullest self, I envision a woman with enough time to be spontaneous.  I don’t have that time, currently.  I envision many other things for that version of me, but living a slower life is the one aspect most incongruent with the current version of me (well, the part which bothers me the most).

So this afternoon, I was given a gift of an inconspicuous realization.  With an adorable, almost-two -year old princess on my lap, blowing bubbles and watching them float above the curves of purple bell flowers that I love so much, I realized sometimes a slower lifestyle is not so much in how busy we are, but in the willingness to slow down when the unplanned moment presents itself.  Watching one large bubble in particular float extra gently, with more grace than you would expect for a mere sphere of soap, ascend above the tips of the twilight lavender fairy-skirt flowers, the iridescent magenta orb popped, and then ceased to exist, I realized that in that moment, I was given the gift of a reflecting a bit more of the woman God originally thought up when He thought of me.  It was a beautiful moment of stillness, of buzzing bees, of feeling deeply, intimately loved.

I might not be able to leave my life of busyness right now.  I deeply want too.  But, until that time comes, I am going to start searching for more delicate bubble moments.  Moments to witness the fleeting bubble lives.  Moments to watch the pearl clouds sing the harmony of a luminescent full moon.  Moments to watch the yellow butterfly flitter around, delighting in the freedom of wings after being mere mush, unable to even walk, let alone fly, not so long ago.  Moments to wonder if that flying thing is a gigantic moth, or a bat with antennae.  Moments to delight in the song of the hummingbird, or the enticing fragrance of pine in the early mountain air.  These moments are more valuable than gold, or knowledge, or anything else physical that I might try to hoard.   These moments whisper lyrics of the woman my heart strains for and is being, ever so slowly, whisperingly sung into being.

 

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Be STILL, and KNOW that I am God…

Abide in ME….

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Time Treasure

It is late, and I have had a very long day, and I am in the middle of saying “good-bye” to two very special people who have been a huge part of my over the last five years and “hello” to two others who I suspect will become incredibly special to me as well.  I am in the middle of a whirl-wind of emotions.  Planning a sermon and parties and photo books on top of “normal” life.
I’m ready for things to slow down.  I’m ready for this craziness to end.
But not really, because when it does, I’m that much closer to saying good-bye to my two dear friends.
I’m learning how incredibly precious each and every moment I am given is.  I am realizing that I need to get better at simply enjoying and treasuring life – the crazy times, the heart-wrenching times, the tired times, the wonderful times, the every-day times.  I’m not good at this.  This is something I need to get better at, a gift God has given me that I need to learn to treasure.

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Living in a material world

On Wednesday, I was sitting in the last class I would have of a course, (yay!  Summer is here!)  and we were talking about volunteers in churches, or more accurately, problematic volunteers.
This particular discussion was about what to do with volunteers who cause pain and division among a congregation – because, unfortunately, it happens.  People want to serve in the church for all sorts of different reasons, and often, those reasons are selfish or poisonous (not that the volunteer realizes this, or has even taken the time to reflect on why she wants to volunteer).  We joked about how it would be so nice to have a list of the people who moved from church to church, causing destruction (because that happens), or how maybe we should warn whatever church they are going to next (assuming they tell someone – which they usually do), or how we should maybe call their previous church to see what their impact was, before allowing them to serve in our church.  Like, actually having references (and checking them) in order to volunteer with your church…or maybe even join the church.
Someone in my class likened it to sexual predators, saying that if they knew the person was a sex offender, and was going to another church, she’d warn the other church.  And everyone in the class seemed to agree.  But, everyone quickly followed up, only warn the other church THEN.  Not if the volunteer was causing spiritual or emotional pain, or even a split in the congregation.  You can’t warn the next church congregation victim of the destructive volunteer is the volunteer does ONLY spiritual or emotional damage to their previous church.
WHY IS THAT?
I mention this because I think it shows a fault in our physically-aware Western culture.  If someone is going to harm the physical side of another person, we do everything we can to stop it (as we should).  But if someone is known for causing spiritual harm, or emotional harm, well, the victim should just toughen up.  Distance themselves, if they can, sure, but often we Christians encourage them to stay in the painful, awful situation.
SERIOUSLY?
By saying that, we are saying that the physical part of a person is the most important, or most valuable part.  At least, that’s how I see it. Protect the physical part of people from those who would do harm, but if we know of other harm – our hands are tied.
GAH!!!
Assuming you believe in an afterlife, than you probably believe that physical body is not the part that lives on.  It is not the most important part of you.  Is it important?  Sure.  Are all the facets of who you are (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental – just to name the big ones) somehow intertwined with your physical body?  Yes.  If a man rapes a girl, is he somehow also harming her emotionally, spiritually, and mentally (despite the fact he’s only touching her physical body)?  More than likely – yes.
We put so much emphasis, so much importance, on the physical world.  On our bodies, on our possessions, what we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.  We call this physical world Reality.  But the thing is, this Reality, this physical world, it’s not going to last.  Look around, decay is everywhere.  Western Culture’s Reality is crumbling, and crumbling quicker by the day.  And yet we cling to what our physical bodies can experience, ignoring the fact that God created us with other, more long-lasting parts.
Why is that?
We get so trapped up in this immediate world, that we forget to prep for the next.  We forget to protect the spiritual and emotional parts of us and of others.  We forget (or get too lazy) to stretch the mental parts of us.  The parts of ourselves that we can’t see, we forget matter.  And so they sit, curled up in the fetal position, in the corner of our existence, starving to death with skeleton-like faces and twig arms, too emaciated to even cry out.
Something needs to change.  Our priorities need to change.  The way we see the world, the way we experience the world, the way we view ourselves, needs to change.
Only God can change our perspective.  Only He can help us remember that the world we live in is more than a physical one, that who we are is more than a body and a mind.  But the change of perspective, the realization that this physical world is not the only layer of our existence, is vital.  It needs to happen.  Has to happen.  So pray.  Pray that God will change how you see yourself and others, and that you can be an influence in changing what others think is most important.

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