How I Overcame Fear

little-boy-1635065_1920I’m not usually a fearful person. I can harness those lurking shadows that threaten to quicken my heart rate and rob me of my joy. I can figuratively hold fear in my hands and evaluate it; deciphering what hidden truth is being masked as something altogether different.

I’ve learned to question my fear in an attempt to whittle it down to its truthful root. Once I know its root, I can acknowledge it, face it, and deal with it. It no longer holds power over me. I learned this tactic years and years ago and it has freed me from worry, anxiousness, and fear–most of the time! Continue reading

Triggered

hot-air-balloonHot air balloons glide over my rooftop endlessly through the summer months. I can hear the distinct whooshing of the flame’s warmth fill the balloons before I can see them. And inevitably I run outside to scan the sky. I’m not just looking for the balloon and the opportunity to wave to its passengers, I’m looking for a connection to my past. Continue reading

There’s a Demon Named “Drama”

fantasy-2935093_1920“There’s a demon named ‘Drama,’” I heard my friend say over coffee this week. She quickly paused and then said, “you know, if you believe in those things.” I assured her that I do and had had more than a tussle or two with Drama over the years.
For me, my Drama is more internal than external. My mind creates scenarios based on half-truths and dwells on the what-ifs. My heart rate gets worked up and before long, I have lost my joy; I have lost my vision because all I can focus on is what is playing in my mind. It’s debilitating. It’s life-sucking. I’ve lost weeks of my life over the years due to Drama. Therefore, she has accomplished what she set out to do.

She not only sets out to steal our joy, derail our focus, and keep us from living life to its fullest, but most importantly, she succeeds when we look outside Christ for our identity and help. It’s easy to beat ourselves up, to see our faults, our insecurities, weaknesses, failures, etc. This is where my Drama lives and stifles me, but for some I know it’s the opposite: the need to be right, the best, the most…. Drama’s spectrum runs from the humble to the proud. Regardless, of where we find ourselves, the method: comparison and results: feeling less than, are the same. Continue reading

Love Hurts

Love_Hurts_II_by_AnyAnemonaIf you know me even a little, you know that I love to love–and I love to love big. It’s all I can do not to hug my checker at Safeway when I leave. It takes all my restraint not to tell my students that I love them as we part ways at the end of the day (I do, but if hugs are frowned upon, imagine the ruckus saying “I love you” would evoke!). I have accidentally told service agents I love them at the end of a help center call and I gush like a geyser when I see my nieces and nephews. And last week, I hugged my mom’s neighbor before we shared a single conversation. Sometimes, loving is easy. And sometimes, loving is incredibly painful.

Like you, I learned at a young age that getting hurt is one of life’s valuable lessons. Our parents allowed us to experience pain and the consequences of poor choices so that we’d learn to either avoid that behavior or put into place healthy parameters. I’ve been hurt in life and I have been hurt in love; maybe we all have.

love-doesnt-hurt-expectations-do-love-quoteThough the reasons we get hurt by love vary, they fall into one of two camps: either when it’s not returned, or it is returned but not in a way we expect or need. Love manifests itself differently in all our relationships, but this truth remains constant: we have expectations of what love looks like from that specific person and when those expectations are not met, we don’t feel loved.

Sometimes love shows up in a different package than we expected and because we do not recognize it, we cannot accept it as it was intended.

Sometimes we are our own road block to receiving love.

Sometimes we make love more about ourselves than the other person. We look inward, rather than outward. If it hurts, if it feels uncomfortable, if it is inconvenient–if it costs too much, then we walk away or we hurt that person back. As I write those last few words, the image of elementary school kids fighting on the playground come to mind. Though we may not be that immature (or physical), we can deeply hurt others with our words and justify our actions because “they started it.” We call this behavior healthy parameters. We push people away so we don’t get further hurt.

The world is full of hurting people, damaged people, and toxic people. We cannot meet all of their needs or expectations—and we were never meant to. Love sometimes looks like creating healthy distance, or calling a person out, or loving without words. We give what we can and trust that God will make up the difference. This is not usually viewed as love to the recipient. Love hurts.

Love looks out more than in.

Love is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. It is a made to order kind of deal. It is specific to each person. If you want to love others well, ask them what makes them feel loved. It may surprise you what they say.

For me, I feel loved through words. If Dennis talks to me for a solid five minutes, I’m on cloud nine all day. For Dennis, well–he loves to be touched. Ha! I know your mind just went into the gutter! Admittedly, mine did too–but he genuinely loves to hold hands while sitting on the couch. I hate holding hands. I do. They get all clammy. But I’m willing to pay that small price to show him love. Sometimes I show him love by cleaning the kitchen. He could care less about the cleanliness of the kitchen. Love comes in a different package than he expects when I do that, but because he knows my heart after 27 years, he knows that’s a package he will open, appreciate, and respond promptly by holding my hand!

Que John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” Sorry—couldn’t resist!

You’re Not Enough

mirrorWhen I was a young girl, I was fascinated with the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What eight year old girl doesn’t love a story about singing birds, Prince Charming, and the pursuit of love?

In reality, I was afraid of birds. I was pretty sure they were going to dive bomb me and peck at my hair! I have no idea where that fear came from, but I wanted to believe they could work together to tie a satin ribbon in my hair as they had done for Snow White, making me just as beautiful and desirable as she. I knew it was make-believe, of course, just as I knew there were no wicked witches, magic mirrors, or kisses that could bring princesses back to life. I knew that and yet in some ways I was just as ignorant as the wicked witch when she asked the magic mirror, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest one of all?” Continue reading

I Don’t Go to Church Anymore

hanging armorI forgot that Satan lives in the Church as much as Christ does. I forgot that he is comfortable and remains undetected as he intricately, methodically, and tirelessly attempts to weave the three D’s: dissention, distance, disgrace shrouded in truth in to the hearts of all its attenders. I’ve known this for a good number of years and yet, I still have the habit of wiping my feet and hanging up my suit of armor at the door.
Continue reading

A Second Victimization

Us three girlsInside, my emotions were wickedly raging; an inferno of sorts– but not the kind that subsides with time, but rather the kind that silently swelters and smolders bitter anger for a long time—for a long, loooong time before it unleashes its fury. But my daughters didn’t see that. Instead, what stared back at them were eyes unable to blink; they were frozen—matching the paralytic state of my body. But my mind; my mind was restless, bouncing from right hemisphere to left and back again. Each of their words were plunked out like a single long note on the piano—played in minor, but resounding in forte.

One. Word. At. A. Time– they slowly unraveled the carefully wrapped evil they had tucked away as a way to protect themselves from further pain. But evil gets heavier with time, not lighter and they began to crumble. I wish I could say that I saw it, that there were some clues as to what had happened in their lives, but there weren’t. Their words ambushed me, just as their attackers had ambushed them. Continue reading

A Distorted Image

Distorted imagery
Moments before she had been a chatter bug, talking about this and that, about dreams and aspirations as well as evaluating how far she had come from her lowest days not so long ago, where death seemed the only alternative to the demons gnashing their razor-sharp teeth at her every turn. The world had not been kind to her and her thoughts attacked her– violated her without pause. Her downward spiral was years of furious plummets, jolting halts, and unexpected drops—kind of like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World–always downward, always without warning. Continue reading

The Prodigal Dissed

outcastI’ve been thinking a lot about mercy lately and how desperately I need it; how much I’ve come to rely on it. I know that when I humbly approach the Mercy Seat and allow my wretchedness to be exposed before the Creator of Heaven and Earth, I am welcomed, accepted, and loved with a love that is infinite, patient, and indulgent. It is a love that exists for us who may not have been disposed to receive it, those of us who continually struggle to be accepted in family, in the job place—in the world in general; those of us who cannot seem to “catch a break” and battle addiction in one form or another, those of us who wrestle with demons of every kind and cannot, even when presented with a way out, cannot or will not accept it because we believe we are un-savable; that our sins are too great; that we deserve the hell we live in.

The mercy I’ve not only come to know, but to adore with every fiber of my being is one where “words are important, but the gesture is explicit.”

The God of Mercy keeps showing up, keeps listening, keeps fighting for me. He meets me where I am. He speaks to me in a language that I understand. He doesn’t give up on me. Times when I have been unfaithful to Him, He has remained faithful to me. Times when it would be fitting to chastise me, condemn me, punish me; He, instead shows me grace and mercy—forgiveness.

At some point in my life, I came to believe God was a God of love and mercy, one of grace and forgiveness, but I never felt worthy of Him and struggled to accept the very things I craved and needed most in my life. The church I grew up in was one characterized as a “Fire and Brimstone” Baptist church. Judgement. Wrath. Hell. Punishment. I heard these words pounded out week after week in hopes that my guilt and shame would lead me to the Cross. Instead, it scared me. It actually scared me into salvation. And… it paralyzed me from approaching the Mercy Seat because I thought that if God really knew me, He would change His mind and pull a lever that opened a trap door in heaven’s floor sending me straight to hell.

wpid-your-sin-is-not-greater-than-gods-mercy-mercy-quotes

Two stories keep coming to mind and although the place, time, and characters differ, I keeping melding them together in my mind. The story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and the story of Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman (John 8).

The story of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of the most revered stories in all the Bible probably because we can related to one or both of the brothers in the story. You may remember that the younger brother asks his father for his inheritance so he can leave his responsibilities and pursue a life of fast and wild living . His crass insensitivity indicated that his father was worth more to him dead than alive. And though this must have grieved the father, he complied and gave his son his share of the inheritance. The son leaves, goes off to a far off place and lives an intoxicating life of sin while the older brother remains, toiling the land; fulfilling his responsibilities and his father’s every wish.

At this point of the story, we may find favor with the older brother, have sympathy for the father, and believe that whatever comes upon the younger brother, he probably deserves. We’re prone to the “eye for and eye” mentality.

But when the younger son, poor, broken, and humbled, crests the hill back to his father’s home to ask to become one of his servants, the father sees him and RUNS to him.

I have to pause here for a brief second to point out that the father sees the son when he is a long way off. The Father, after all these years, was still watching for His son’s return. He remained faithful. He didn’t give up hope.

The son tries to apologize and plead for a job as a servant, but the father won’t hear of it. Instead he sends for his best robe, calls for the fattened calf, and throws a celebration fit for a king. His son was home.

This father didn’t allow the son’s past to interfere with the present. This father did not reject his wayward son. This father celebrated his return and loved him just as he had loved him before. I am certain there were conversations, consequences even, but even in that, there was merciful acceptance.

(I’d love to write from the perspective of the older son, who struggled with forgiving his younger brother and developed a heart of bitterness toward his father, but this post is long already and I have many more words to say.)

We find comfort in this story because we have all be the wayward son in one regard or another and the picture of us returning to family loved—loved as we need, but don’t expect or necessarily deserve is nothing short of gracious mercy. We may not call it grace; we may not even call it mercy; but that is what we crave. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have received such grace from friends and family, while others have returned humbled and forever scared only to be rejected again.

That is not the heart of Christ.

And if it is not apparent yet, I will clearly state that mercy is the central theme of the gospel and we, as Christ-followers, play a vital, critical role in administering this saving medicine for the soul.

The other story that comes to mind is the one of the adulterous woman; the story where the Scribes and Pharisees had brought a woman caught in adulty (and had a reputation for such) before Jesus and asked him what they should do. They were tricksters, those Pharisees, because they knew the law of Moses like the back of their hand, which stated that anyone caught in adulty was to be stoned to death. They were hoping to catch Jesus breaking the law, but instead Jesus calmly said, “Whomever is without sin may cast the first stone.” One by one, the men left and when all had left, Jesus turned to the woman and asked, “Is there no one to condemn you?” she replied, “No, my Lord.” He then looked softly into her dark eyes and whispered, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Did this woman sin? Yes. Did this woman deserve to be stoned to death? According to the law, yes. Although the Bible doesn’t disclose how the woman was caught in the act, we can assume that because of her reputation, these Pharisees had been watching and waiting for her to slip up, to sin again. Some people in our lives do the same thing; they wait to pounce, to condemn, to say, “I knew you’d mess up.”
But on the other hand, we have been in a similar position as this woman, as the prodigal son, where we know we deserve condemnation, punishment and hope against hope for mercy.

What if the father had rejected the son? What if Jesus had encouraged the Pharisees to stone the adulterous woman? What if God withheld His mercy? The prodigal dissed… I weep, literally weep when I consider what I would lose—a love so great, a mercy so rich, a saving grace. It’s my everything. It’s my all.

Christ hears our heart’s plea for mercy and though our words may be choked by our tears and may fail to come to life as we approach his Mercy Seat, He tells us that a repentant heart (an explicit gesture) is all that is required. As Christ-followers let’s not ask more of others than Christ asks of us.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

It’s been eight years since I’ve seen you, but I hear your voice all the time. Sometimes I replay some of our past conversations in my mind; conversations that, at the time, didn’t always hold a lot of value—conversations about waxing your car, who you ran into at the fishing hole or how the “big one” got away. Conversations about what book you were reading, what plants you want to buy at the next plant sale, or your dreams for your retirement years.

Dad, you talked a lot—and sprinkled into each of those conversation were words of hope, wisdom, friendship, love, and humility. I don’t know how you did it, but you managed to make conversations about seemingly little things feel big. Somehow, you could make me feel special and like the most beautiful person on the planet as you were telling a story about fishing. I seriously don’t know how you did it! I rarely left a conversation without contemplating something, without begging for answers to the deep questions of life, or without the desire to grow more as a woman in Christ. You made me want more; not more material things, but authenticity, hope, truth, wisdom. I wanted those things and I wanted to become those things—the very things I saw in you.

And although you talked a lot, Dad, you showed me how to love without any words at all. I saw what broke your heart when tears fell from your grey-blue eyes. I saw what lit them up and how you’d bite your lower lip in hopes to contain a squeal of delight. I saw you hold mom’s hand when you’d watch T.V. together and how you’d hold the door open for her wherever you went. I saw how you’d rush out the door to help fill sand bags when the dam broke in our town or to a friend’s house when he called in need. I saw you write letters to men in prison as well as to our politicians. I remember you even lent my date to prom your dress shoes, when he showed up, embarrassed, in tennis shoes! You gave the gift of time and love to everyone; friends and strangers alike.
IMG_3712I haven’t seen you in eight years, but I feel your presence every day; I still hear your voice, see your face. I still feel your hand in mine, smell the lingering waft of your aftershave. You are gone, but you are anything but absent. Forever, you live on in my heart, mind, and soul. And although days like today, the day you left this earth for heaven, pierce my heart, I find that I am grateful for the pain because it means I had a love so, so great. I’ve tucked it deep within my heart and hope that I leave little remnants of it wherever I go, just like you did.

I can hardly wait to hug you again. I have a feeling when I do—I won’t ever let go.

I love you