Is It Raining Again?

So I got my feelings hurt. Again. It seems that it gets easier and easier to get hurt feelings. And I’m not alone.

How do I know? Well, for starters, I wrote this post a while back and the feedback I got really helped me to see how many of us walk around with hurt dripping from us, as if we were caught in a sudden rain. And each time we begin to dry and heal and recover from that rain, another wave of the storm blows in and we begin to drip from the hurt the pours over us. Again. And again. And Again.

So I started a conversation on Facebook, asking others about how they get hurt. And it is always interesting to me to see the insecurities, the fear, the hurt and the isolation of others. And it angers me.

When will I stop taking the bait? When will I stop letting satan steal my joy and lie to me? When will I stop being hurt and isolated? Because I am certain, dead certain, that the people who hurt me don’t even know. They don’t even realize that my feelings got hurt. It wasn’t intentional. They didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, we could really hurt her feelings if we did this! Let’s go!”

The truth is, most of the time when I’ve been offended or gotten my feelings hurt, the other party never intended it to be viewed as a slight.

Knowing I wanted to address this, I asked my Facebook friends which is worse:
Being thought poorly of
or
Not being thought of

There was no consensus. But what I was able to see was how satan once again uses our insecurities to trip us. The people who commented on the question had differing answers and reasons why. Some seriously cannot stand to be thought poorly of (I mean none of us like it, right?) and others feel like at least that can be dealt with and talked through but being not thought of at all is impossible to change. Several admitted it was based oh their own insecurities.

One of my big insecurities is that I am invisible. I’m a pretty unremarkable person. I tend to think I’m forgettable, and it tends to be proven to be true. I’m also an introvert who doesn’t really like much attention. At the same time, I have a terrible weakness (I know, supposedly it isn’t a weakness, just a personality trait) in needing to be affirmed. Apparently Words of Affirmation are a big part of my love languages. So the quickest and easiest way satan has found to upset me is to make me feel unseen, unnoticed and unappreciated.

So, to all of you, my friends who are reading this, I want to encourage you.

We are all  walking around, one rain cloud of offense from dripping our hurt feelings all over the place. And I don’t really know how to help my friends not get hurt. But I hope to encourage you that you are not alone. That person that hurt you is probably also hurting. They might not even realize that you are hurt. That anger and frustration you feel are probably focused at the wrong enemy.  Because I have come to recognize, even in the midst of the hurt, that it truly is just an epic battle to steal our joy!

Someday I will stop taking the bait.

And if you find that you cannot seem to shake the clouds above you that threaten to pour out more hurt, just remember, the only thing that scatters these clouds is the Son.

 

 

How to Have a Beautiful Marriage – Part One — The Strong Arm Effect

*** NOTE***
Original post has been updated with a note of clarification at the bottom.

This is the first post in a series on marriage. I call it the Strong Arm Effect. I didn’t make it up. I merely adapted the theory from a really great lecture I heard at a conference one time. The guest speaker was a man speaking to a room full of only women. He said, “Hang on his arm and tell him he is strong.” I have remembered this advice for years.

And here is how I adapt this advice.

Hang on his arm and tell him he is strong. Literally.

But that is not all.

I’ve heard the phrase “speak what you hope as though it already is”.

So my advice to you young married ladies, or you older married ladies, is a combination of these ideas.

Your man needs to be needed. Wanted. Admired. A hero.

But if you are a younger woman getting married to a younger man, there is a secret you need to know. He’s young. He (and you, frankly) have so much to learn and so much time ahead of you to learn it. He isn’t a failure because at 22 he doesn’t know how to plumb a sink. But if you are marrying him (have married him) I’m guessing you see something in him. A promise of greatness.

Your job is to help him fulfil it. And this is how, my dear friends, you go from nagging to helping your husband fulfil his greatness.

You hang on his arm and tell him he is so strong! And you mean it. You tell him that you admire him learning to change your oil so that you don’t have to take it somewhere. You thank him for taking out the dead mouse. You find the good things and you lavish great praise on them. And when you need to suggest something to him, you can. Because he knows you respect him.

Respect is so key to marriage.

When we, as wives, constantly complain, critique and micromanage, we emasculate. We show him that we don’t respect him. You want him to do better? What is his incentive if each time he does something you tell him it is wrong? What if you chose life? What if you chose to approach each thing he did for you with gratitude, acceptance and love rather than disdain? What if you looked at his strengths and spoke those daily into his life? What if you took the time to build up the man you are choosing to spend your life with?

I’ve watched women destroy men with their words. I’ve heard women speak to their husbands in such a way that would never be tolerated in reverse.

No. It is our pride. We think we know more and by golly we are out to prove it. We love him, but if he would just do this one thing he’d be perfect.

He will never be perfect. And neither will you. But if you want a beautiful marriage, you have to start breathing life into him, into your marriage.

So, hang on his arm and tell him he is strong. Thank him for putting away dishes (and for crying out loud, don’t criticize where he put them). If you know he’s afraid to fix things because he never learned how, don’t call your dad, ask him to help you. Tell him how much you appreciate when he unclogged your drain. Give him reasons to be your hero. Call him your hero!

Stop listening to the “you don’t need a man” mentality. You chose to marry him. You chose to have a man. So now, need him. Let him know you need him. And be grateful to and for him.

I challenge you to start using your words to build him up and start looking at him as your hero. Grow together to create a beautiful marriage.

Do you have examples of how this concept has worked in you marriage? We’d love to hear from you.

***NOTE***

It came to my attention after a chat with Mr. Right, that the intent of this “exercise” was not made clear.

I know from experience that sometimes in life we develop a bad habit of how we treat people we love. It can be easily fallen into. Nagging. Criticising. Tearing down.

This exercise that I’ve shared with you is a habit trainer. To help you learn to speak with love and kindness and words of encouragement.

IT IS NOT intended as a way of never speaking what needs to be spoken. Nor of being walked on or having to hide your thoughts and concerns.

When you find you have trained yourself to speak unkindly and naggy, or if your spouse is used to hearing everything as criticism (even from someone else), it is hard to speak your mind and give feedback. When we have retrained ourselves to speak from a place of building up and encouraging, we earn leverage, we earn the right to speak into their lives when it isn’t always positive.

Using the dishwasher example. If he puts dishes away incorrectly, and you usually nag, even a “Thank you but I usually put bowls here” sounds naggy. If you cannot say anything without it being heard as critical (even if it wasn’t intended to be), then don’t. Quietly, and joyfully, fix the dishes later. Once you have earned the ability to be heard as a loving voice, you can say, “Thanks, Sweetie for helping. I usually keep the bowls here,” and it will be heard as you intended.

And in all things, be joyful of the spouse you have chosen.

 

A Beautiful Marriage

I’m beginning a series of posts on How to Have a Beautiful Marriage.
What is a beautiful marriage?

The following definitions of the word beautiful apply here:
Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically
and
Of a very high standard; excellent

A marriage that is pleasing to my senses and of a very high standard. This sounds like a marriage I want. Not just a tolerable marriage. Not just a marriage that leaves me content. Not just a marriage that looks good on the outside.

A Beautiful Marriage, one of high standard and pleasing to my own senses. Yes. This is the marriage I want. A marriage that leaves me with joy, peace and deep pleasure.

And this is the marriage I want for you, too.

As you read these posts, please keep in mind that I am writing from my view as a:
1) Christian
2) Woman

If you are either a man or not a christian, please feel free to continue to read. You may still find many nuggets of truth that speak to your heart and affect your relationships. But be aware that I am writing from that viewpoint. The views expressed here do necessarily represent the views of this author.

I hope you find some ideas and concepts in these posts that speak to your heart. If you do, please let me know. I love hearing from you all. And please share if you know others who might enjoy.

Happy Reading!

 

You Are Not Alone

You are not alone.

These words keep coming back to me. As I have tried and tried to write this. To put my heart into words. To share God’s heart with you, His beloved.

You are not alone.

Satan wants to separate you from the love of God. But he knows that he cannot. The Bible tells us in John 10:29 that no one can snatch us from the hand of God. Satan is well aware of this. He cannot take us from the love of the Father.

So he tries to take us from the love of one another. To separate us from each other. To divide and conquer. To kill, steal and destroy the hope that is within us.

My dear friends, God so loves you. Many of us who are Christians and yet struggle with depression, we know, in our heads, that God loves us. He wants the best for us. But our hearts hurt. And every little thing simply hurts our hearts more. Our Christian brothers and sisters hurt us sometimes – intentionally, sometimes ignorantly. And our hearts ache daily.

And depression tears at us. It lies. It lies. It lies.

And depression makes no sense. It’s not rational. It compounds and adds. Any thing you have ever done or not done adds daily to the shame.

We feel that we cannot share the shame. “No one understands what I’ve (my husband, child, parent) has done. If I tell them, they won’t love me.”

You are not alone!

Oh, my friends, you would be so surprised how many people do, can and will understand what you’re going through. Your friends, your neighbors, your pastors and elders, these people are human people, and I can guarantee you many of them have done or experienced some of these very same things.

I’m not advocating airing your deepest darkest secrets to the lady next door, or everyone at church. I don’t think we need to necessarily know each other’s garbage to love one another. I only tell you this to encourage you. Lose the shame and the fear. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Do you see that? No condemnation. Only love.

When you can lose the shame and fear you can open to the people of God. And when we are open to one another we cannot be so easily separated. Lose the shame and fear and seek the love.

Love.

In my moments of fear and shame and desperation, God has sent me messages that I am not alone. I’ve learned secrets others have shared in whispered moments of brokenness. Secrets of shame hidden beneath the facade. The facade that protects us from the prying eyes of others, protects our heart from judgement and from love.

It is that very facade, the one we use to protect us, that separates us from one another.

We must learn vulnerability. We must learn to be real. We must risk our hearts to one another to achieve the love that God has for us through His people.

You are not alone.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

We must learn to open the walls around our heart, open our eyes to those around us. See the broken hearts that need tended and learn to tend them.

Guarding your heart while keeping it open is such a hard thing to do. It is painful. It hurts.

But living a closed off life, hiding behind our shame, our fear, our hurt, and closing the doors to our hearts brings only destruction.

Stop listening to the lies. Stop believing “no one will understand”. Walk out of that shame and fear and embrace the love not only of Christ but of His people. Love one another.

Love one another.

Battle Wounds

We’ve all got them. Battle Wounds. Scars.

Many of you know that I LOVE VBS! Some of you have no idea why. Let me explain. When I was a baby christian and a new church goer and a new stay at home mom, the children’s ministry at my church was my learning ground. These women totally didn’t care that I didn’t know a lot of bible and were obviously hard up for help able to see more in me than I knew was there. I quickly found myself not only “helping” with my first ever VBS but helping direct the preschool section.

My mentors were (ARE) amazing and by the end of that week I was hooked.

I was amazed to see how much the entire body of our church poured into this event. I’m not going to go on and on here, but I realized that VBS was a yearly unification of our church body. And I felt the love not only of Christ, but of the body of believers I called my family.

That is why I love VBS. And every year it just got better and better. Reconciliations have been brought about, hearts restored, children have found their forever savior. Whole families have gotten saved from a week of VBS. I cannot oversell VBS.

But alas, like all good things, the enemy does seek to destroy it. And this year was no different. The weeks leading up to VBS had been emotionally difficult for me. I was only half in it. But sometimes you must in fact “fake it til you make it”. And the week of VBS had been good.

Teaching the bible lesson. Not bible stories. No, the bible. With some old friends and mentors. Really teaching the kids some good stuff. Watching the nightly salvation message be delivered. Being a part of delivering the salvation message one night. Man, friends, it just doesn’t get any better than this! Teaching the Word to kids is my passion.

Then, on Friday, just as everything seemed to be going well, minutes before our first group of kids walked in, it happened. I fell. I just tripped on air and fell. I managed to save my laptop, but not my knee.

With help I hobbled inside. We found antiseptic spray and tried to bandage the bleeding wound minutes before I had to stand for the first of three 25 minute lessons. My teaching partners brought me a chair, but friends, you just can’t teach the Word to 30-40 kids at a time while sitting in a chair! So I stood to teach and tried to sit when it wasn’t my turn.

I’m not gonna lie. It hurt. It was a bloody mess. I even left a blood stain on the sidewalk that could be seen for days. And as I uttered these words to my teaching partner “I’ve got a battle wound” I knew that it was truer than I wished it were.

The nature of physical wounds is that they leave a mark. Here are some pictures of my knee through the healing process. The first picture is two days after the incident. You can see bruising at the top of the leg and the big scab as well as abrasions below. The second picture is a week after. The scab is very well formed and the abrasions are still visible. The third one is about a week and a half after. You can see the scab is starting to fall of in spots leaving the tender scar beneath it. You can also see that the scab and abrasions are interfering with normal self care functions, i.e. shaving the knee area.

I still have a scar. It no longer hurts at all, but is a visual reminder of that day when satan tried to take me out and stop my mission.

The truth is, though, emotional battle wounds are just as bloody, painful and scarring, but far less visible. They, too, leave scabs that eventually fall off exposing tender new scar tissue. They, too, interfere with self care.

We all have battle wounds. This moment, when I fell, when I uttered a glib remark about my “battle wound”, was a physical reminder of the pain and scarring I have endured as a part of this battle.

The Battle isn’t against flesh and blood. No matter how much we think it might be. Sometimes we see a person that is the face of all that hurt, the person on whom we can pin our frustration and anger. But we must know, the battle isn’t against them. It is against the powers of darkness.

When we are hurt, we tend to hurt others. That is not God’s desire for our hearts, our lives. But the pain is real. And denying it doesn’t do us any good.

The problem with these emotional wounds is that we don’t see the scars, but we see the effects of the scars. We see how short tempered we are with people, how quick we are to presume they are out to hurt us, again. Our bad behavior, that we feel is excusable in the circumstances.

Friends, I don’t have an answer. But I’m so thankful to know the One who does. I’m so guilty of letting my Battle Wounds be an excuse for stopping the mission. For failing to love others. For not stepping out into the battle again. For hurting others.

I encourage you to pause for a moment. Examine your Battle Wounds. If you have been in this War with Christ for any time, you certainly have some. Are you allowing those wounds to stop you? Are you so busy convalescing that you can’t carry on? Are you nurturing hurtful feelings as you tend to your wounds? Are you avoiding self care, like bible reading, that you know will heal you in time? Ask God for his restorative help as you tend to your wounds.

The bad news is that Battle Wounds leave scars.

The good news is that Battle Wounds leave scars.

Scars tell a story.That story is yours alone to tell.  How are you going tell it? Are you going to use it for your own glory? Or are you going to use it to show the glory of the One who has already won the war?

Living Quiet in a Loud World

I’ve just begun recovering from Extroversion Crash. That’s what I’m calling the cycle I’ve fallen victim to in this chaotic, loud, interactive world.

I’ve identified a cycle, just recently, that explains this phenomenon.

You see, I am an introvert. I’ll pause a moment while you collect yourself. Yes. I know. If you  have known me for a few decades, you are not shocked. If you know me primarily from church, etc you find yourself very surprised indeed. (If you are reading this and don’t actually know me, welcome! I didn’t think you existed! Please comment so I know you are real!)

I found myself surprised by how many people were themselves surprised to hear that I am an introvert. “But you were so welcoming to my family at church!” This surprised me. I presumed everyone saw the real me. An introvert. A shy one at that. (Not all introverts are shy.) But realizing that I was seen as an extrovert by so many helped me identify a crucial key to this cycle of Extroversion Crash.

One of the best explanations of introversion/extroversion I’ve heard is simply this: Extroverts feed off people and the energy of other people. They draw their energy from a crowd or group.  Introverts feed their energy to other people. It takes, not creates, a great deal of energy for introverts to be a part of a crowd or group. We draw energy from a small group of close friends or quiet alone time and feel exhausted by parties, not energized.

It started when I began teaching public school and leading a scout group of teenagers. I was intimidated and overwhelmed by the thought of interacting with parents and other adults in groups. I, unwittingly, developed my “on” persona. This persona allowed me to participate in certain areas in which I felt experienced or capable (teaching, scouting or Children’s Ministry) with a confidence and outgoingness not natural to me.

I thought this was a good thing. Until I crashed. Each time. After this final crash, I began looking at the pattern. Why? I’m capable. I’m passionate.  I’m intelligent. I was qualified in some ways for each of those “jobs”. Yet each one sent me skittering across the ground as I crashed. And each in much the same manner.

I won’t bore you with the details. But I finally realized, I was trying so hard, using so much of my energy pretending to be what I’m not, that I consistently failed to be authentically me. I think this lack of authentically me causes more problems than people realize. I think I’m being “judged” on an extrovert scale and falling far short. I’ve been seen as closed minded, snobby, clique-ish. None of which are actually the case. I’ve realized that perhaps my efforts to fake extroversion failed in one large area. People.

I lack the standard people skills that you expect to see in people who like to “people”. (“People” or “Peopling” is a verb I use to mean socializing and visiting and small talking and all things generally associated with being around people.) Peopling in hard for introverts. I suspect that all my efforts to do the job in a manner in which an extrovert would left me very out of place in a world of people who are good at “peopling”.

So I crashed. Repeatedly.

I hope someday to learn to me more authentically me. I think I’m getting there. I have a great future post in store about all the things I’m learning to love. Maybe some day I will find the place God plans to use me next and I will, maybe, learn to serve him as the introvert me and not the “on” me. Maybe I’ll avoid the crash. Maybe. Until then, I will continue to practice living quiet in a Loud world.

Unwillingly Blessed

I didn’t want to go.  And when I don’t really want to do something I can always count on my partner in crime to back me up. As I expected, we were a unified front, if we can get out of it we will….

You see, the women of our church were planning a retreat. And knowing these women God would actually show up, because when they have a party He wants to be there. And I wanted to hang out with God. But I’ve been sort of pampering my bruised ego and trying to grow up and all that stuff. And I really didn’t want to do that with a bunch of amazing women who have all their crap together. Because, you know, I’m the only one who is a mess.

So we show up to church one Sunday. The announcement was made and my cohort leans over and says, “So, are we going?” Now her sister (who was leading it and is a huge mentor of mine) had asked, pathetically, if we would PLEASE come and I really have a hard time saying no to her, but I was resolute. I was only going if God made it really clear I had to go. Which is what I told my dear ally, who concurred that in fact that was her plan. We were both praying that God would tell us we had to go, or that (preferably) He’d stay silent and we’d skip.

But God…

So about 30 seconds after this conversation takes place, a dear friend of ours sits next to my cohort (she never sits by us at church, we are troublemakers – really, you should not sit by us…) and leans over and says “You two are supposed to go to the retreat.”

What do you do with that?! (We did verify that she had that on Higher Authority)

These prayer warriors, these women of God who you have to trust, praying you into things you don’t want to do…

I’m so stubborn. I knew I was supposed to go. For at least 6 years, maybe more, the signature line on my email has been “Psalms 46:10”

Be Still and Know that I AM God.

When the retreat was titled “Be Still”, I sort of knew… But I was grouchy. You ever get grouchy with God? No? Yeah… Me neither…

I had prayed that God would make it abundantly clear I had to go (I had 3 good excuses to skip). And when I saw two different friends on Facebook post two different memes with that verse, neither of whom were organizing the retreat nor knew each other, I knew that I was supposed to go.

I knew when my dear friend and mentor pleaded with us to go, that I was supposed to go.

I didn’t want to go.

I went. I went almost cheerfully. I went mostly expectantly. I took a step. A hard step. And God did his thing. As He always does.

I want to share with you what I really got from this weekend. It had nothing to do with the programming. The ladies did a remarkable job. Our worship team was astounding. The teaching was top notch.

But God is so personal. He’s so amazingly personal.

That Sunday when God told us to go, I had been praying some very personal, very specific prayers. You see, I feel lost. Hidden. Missing. Invisible. Forgotten. And that Sunday he used a few women to begin answering that prayer.

But God… He’s not content there. He then used some other women at the retreat to work on the same things. You can’t imagine. Random women, some I know well, some I barely know but all women who I admire and respect, began speaking life into me. Just little things. Comments. Words. Encouragement. In deeply needed areas of my life.

I can’t say I’ve settled all my anxiety. I can’t say I won’t struggle further. I already have. But how encouraging to know that God cares that much. I mean the retreat was great. I certainly got good stuff out of it. But our powerful, loving, amazing God dragged me out of my comfort zone, pouting and all, and brought me to a place where He could tell me what I needed to hear. And He used women I respect so deeply to do it. If I had stayed mired in my unwillingness to go, I would have missed the blessing of the women He used in my heart that weekend. He just wanted my step forward, and He pummeled me with His goodness.

Friends, when you feel the need to say a kind word, an encouraging word, even if you feel silly, even if you think they know, please, please do. So many times I’ve found my best comfort and solace, not to mention encouragement, in a few words spoken and likely long forgotten by the speaker, but deeply imprinted on my heart.

God loves you so desperately my friend. And when you know He loves you, but you aren’t sure about the world, when you know He has good plans but aren’t sure they are for you, when you never doubt Him but you doubt yourself:

Be Still – Stop Striving – Release and Let Go.