Monday, March 30, 2015
It's Easter week.
As I am writing this, looking back on Palm Sunday and forward to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and, finally Easter Sunday, I know that I should be totally consumed with my Savior. Normally, it is easy for me to focus on His life, His death, and His resurrection and all that they mean to my life. This year I am distracted. I know that this distraction is an attack from Satan.
What's crazy is that I do not feel "under attack" in the usual sense of the word. I do not feel overwhelming anxiety. I do not seem to have any monstrous obstacles looming in the future. I do not feel oppressed or overwhelmed. I don't feel despair or sadness or loss or longing. I'm just distracted. Rather than reflecting on Christ's life and the sacrifice He made for me, all sorts of things are running through my mind. A conversation with my daughter keeps replaying in my head. A song I heard on the radio plays over and over in my mind. Conversations with friends over the weekend, upcoming events at church, reports due later this week at work, my son's first prom, my daughter's 10th birthday, I want to learn to play the piano, I need a haircut... I can't seem to control my swirling, whirling, wandering thoughts. Rather than spending time meditating on my Savior, my life since I've known Him, and my future with him, my thoughts feel more like this:
Lots of nice, pleasant, happy thoughts all mixed up together.
I am aggravated that I failed to see Satan slip into my thoughts. He is so stinkin sneaky. He doesn't always bombard me with tragedy. I learned (or was reminded) today that Satan's best attacks on me go unnoticed at first. His best attack it to distract me with harmless (even good) thoughts or deeds so that I am not focused on My Savior. Once I am distracted, Satan can easily plant more destructive thoughts in my head, and before I realize it, I am in the pit of despair.
I am not sure that I have ever caught him so early in an attack. Normally, I am sliding into despair or panic when I realize "Oh! This is Satan working on me".
I am so thankful that my sweet Savior pressed me and reminded me that my thoughts should be focused on Him. I am overwhelmed that He loves me enough to whisper to my heart. I am grateful that He calls me back to Himself. I am overwhelmed that He keeps drawing my wandering soul back to His side. THAT is what I needed to remember. That is what I needed to settle my thoughts. When I remember His unfathomable, completely undeserved love for me, everything else falls away and only He remains.
That little song from Frozen rings in the ears of many parents even now. Too many YouTube videos have been posted of off-key toddlers belting out the chorus at the top of their little lungs. There is something about the message of the song that strikes a chord in me and I am not embarrassed to admit it.
Okay, I'm a little embarrassed.
But the song is not the point of this post.
I never cease to be amazed a the number if women in my life who are haunted, even tortured, by their past. Some are full of guilt and shame for things they have done. Others are full of shame, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness for things others have done to them. In either case, Satan uses their past to control their present and predict their future.
There are things in our lives that will never be made right this side of heaven. There are things in all of our pasts that are just wrong, and, until we get to heaven, their memories are going to cause us pain. But what do you do about the things you can't "fix"? What do you do about the hurt in your past that rips your heart out every time you think of it?
You Let It Go.
Just the other day, one sweet lady asked me, "But HOW do you just let it go?". How do you just "let go" and move on? HOW do you let go of the hurt? How do you let go of the anger? HOW do you just let go like everything is okay?
You can't...But GOD Can
Here's what I KNOW...
When I am focused on God and what HE is doing in me and through me, I am not concerned about my past. When I am searching for ways to serve God and share His love, I am not concerned about my past. When I am totally and completely focused on Christ, the things that "normally" keep me all knotted up with negative emotions don't even cross my mind. And I know that Satan hates that. Satan slips around looking for one weak spot, one moment where I am focused on me instead of God, and when he finds it, he takes the opportunity to remind me of all the things that once held me captive.
It's a constant battle.
My natural tendency is to focus on me. God calls me to focus on HIM...not because He wants to steal my fun, but because He knows better than any of us how Satan works. God knows that HE can protect me from Satan's schemes if I am totally focused on HIM instead of myself. It's quite magical actually. When I am focused and totally sold out to Christ, when I am absolutely 100% following God, when the thing I desire MOST is God, the things from my past that have kept me in bondage are simply no longer an issue. The circumstances from my past don't change, but they lose their hold on me.
"Let Go and Let God"
You loosen the death grip you have on whatever it is that is causing you pain and you let God take it from you and heal your wounds. You CHOOSE to follow hard after God in spite of, even BECAUSE of, your hurt, anger, bitterness, resentment, and pain. It's a heart issue. You have to DESIRE God more than revenge, more than justice, more that "making it right", more than an apology, more than that person or thing you lost.
When given the choice between your past and God, you CHOOSE God.
THAT's really how you get past your past. You take a stand and make a decision and choose God over all those negative things in your past. Choose God over your guilt. Choose God over your anger. Choose God over your resentment. Choose God over the person who hurt you. Choose God over revenge. Choose God over "making it right". Choose God over "justice". Choose God over...everything. Even your hurt.
Its bad enough that whatever happened to you happened in the first place, but it is an absolute tragedy for that thing to keep you in bondage for the rest of your life!
Monday, March 23, 2015
In just a few short months, I've realized that I like me. I've made peace with my inner-nerd. I'm okay with the fact that I hate to shop and I've stopped trying to make myself enjoy it. I like peace and quiet. I enjoy being alone. I'm making progress, but there is one specific thing that has held me back.
Years ago, I had to see a neurologist for migraines. In the process of working on my migraines, he asked what I was taking for my ADD/OCD. I was (sort of) shocked and told him that I've never been diagnosed with either and he said that it was obvious that I had both. That's a post for another day. In the process of dealing with this neurologist, I asked a friend if there was anything else that I should mention to him while he is diagnosing me with all sorts of crazy things. She said:
"You need to talk to him about your super-spiritual, unrealistic view of God."
I know I've mentioned this conversation several times over the past few years. I'm not sure exactly what prompted her comment, but I do know that at that time I was completely submitted to God and His will for my life. I was recovering from my first bout with cancer and was absolutely solid in my willingness to do whatever I could to bring God glory in the midst of my trial. I KNEW that God would allow whatever brought HIM the most glory. I was eager to be part of His plan...and I told whoever would listen.
However, since she told me this, I've tried to contain my "super-spirituality" in order to protect myself from ever feeling that pain and rejection again. I've learned to stop myself before I explain how any given situation is an example of God's or Satan's influence in the world we live in. I learned project a more "realistic" view of God, even though it's not MY view of God. I've protected myself from comments like "no one thinks that way" and I suppose that's saved me some heartache, but I absolutely hate it. I hate trying to control my reactions to what I clearly see God doing. I hate biting my tongue to avoid the blank stare from someone who doesn't see the connection between what they just told me and what I am telling them about God.
Since I started this journey, I have battled with this more than anything else. This is not who I am. Over the past month, I have struggled terribly. I've not been able to control the "old me" who saw everything as "from God" or "from Satan". I've had difficulty refraining from turning any given situation into a Sunday School lesson (or blog post). I've not been able to hide my surprise when others do not see God working in their circumstances. As a result, I've pulled away from people who I feel could assume that my "super spiritual" attitude is "unrealistic".
I asked God to help me sort it out.
Sunday, The hubs' sermon title was "In Search of.....Purpose". I won't go into detail, but God said a few things to me thru him. First off, according to scripture, our ONLY purpose is to bring God glory. We are created to be submitted to HIM and used by Him to bring glory to Himself. He said that we will never find our purpose outside serving God and bringing Him glory.
I had it right before.
No wonder I have been struggling! My "super-spiritual" view of God is spot on! I am not flawed in my thinking. My purpose is to bring God Glory.
I'm not going to let her opinion of my spiritual life influence who I am any longer. I am looking forward to loosing the restraints I've put in place and becoming more of the "super-spiritual, unrealistic" woman God created me to be.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
I guess there is an exception to every rule, including the Golden Rule.
While I do absolutely believe that I should treat others with the same respect, compassion, patience, forgiveness, etc. that I desire, in some respects, I have to treat others the way THEY want to be treated rather than the way I want to be treated.
I have been made painfully aware over the past 18 years that the hubs and I do not speak the same love language. (If you are unfamiliar with the 5 Love languages, please check out the book by Gary Chapman or take the Love Language quiz online.) His love language is "acts of service" and mine is "words of affirmation".
For years I treated the hubs how I want to be treated (following the golden rule). I told him constantly that I love him. I told him constantly that I am thankful he is my husband. I told him constantly that he is a wonderful dad. I told him constantly that I am so glad God let me be his wife. I pointed out all the ways his sermons touched my heart. I heaped praise on his head...because "words of affirmation" is my love language...but his love language is "Acts of service". So, rather than being overwhelmed with my words of praise, every time I didn't follow through with something, changed my mind about something, FORGOT something he needed me to do, etc. I was telling him "I don't love you" and, because "acts of service" is his love language, actions REALLY DO speak louder than words with him.
Conversely, the hubs picks the kids up from school, takes out the trash, even cooks dinner and folds laundry if I need him to. He goes to the grocery without being asked. He has a knack for picking up dog food just before we run out and for remembering to get that thing I mentioned I wanted (that I have long since forgotten about)...but he sees absolutely no need in constantly verbally telling me he loves me. He has actually told me that he told me he loved me when he married me; if that changes he will let me know. He sees criticism as a means to drive a person to better themselves and believes that telling someone they are "wonderful" when they obviously still need work is lying to them and giving them an excuse to be lazy.
I'm sure you see the problem.
When the hubs and I both show love the way we want to be loved, we both felt un-loved. To make matters worse, we both feel like we were giving 100 times more than the other person and that our efforts were completely unappreciated. It's a disaster in the making.
Thanks to a sweet friend who pointed out the obvious to me, I realized that there is a fairly easy remedy to all this feeling "unloved and unappreciated".
I remind myself that verbally telling him "I love you" doesn't tell him I love him as much as remembering to pick up his drycleaning does. I make an effort to ask him if there is anything he needs me to do. I offer to ease his load when I can. I pay attention to what he has going on and offer to help when I can. I try to do little things for him to let him know that I love him. I will confess, this has been a challenge, because "acts of service" do not come naturally to me.
I also remind myself that his acts of service are how he tells me he loves me. I thank him and praise him when he does things for me so that he knows I notice and appreciate what he is doing.
Rather than cross my arms and wait for him to change, I see my need for change. Rather than stomp my foot and demand he "love" me the way I want, I love him the way he wants. This makes him happier, which makes me happier.
I want him to love me using my Love Language so I love him using his Love Language...
Maybe its not the exception to the rule after all.
Friday, March 6, 2015
This seems like such a simple concept. I mean, I totally know how I want to be treated. I want to be forgiven quickly and completely. I want others to have patience with my shortcomings. I want the people I live and work with to understand that sometimes I just have a bad day. I want the people in my life to believe the best about me. I want my value to be based on who I am, rather than for what I do. When I am angry, sad, frustrated, or otherwise upset, I want sympathy and understanding and compassion. I want the people I love to take a moment to let me know that they love me. Above everything else, I want to be understood and not judged. I want to be appreciated for my strengths and not belittled for my weaknesses. I know where I fall short; I need someone to remind me of the areas where I excel.
I believe that God chose me to be my husband's wife and my children's mom. I believe He placed me in the office I work in with the people I work with. I believe He chose my sister, brothers, nieces, nephews, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I believe He placed my family in our church. I believe that God expects me to serve all the people He has placed in my life....but not to serve them all the same way.
I truly believe that my best, my very best, should be saved for those God has placed in my care. They deserve the best of my patience, the best of my laughter, the best of my affection, the best of my smiles, the best of my imagination, the best of my sympathy, the best of my understanding, the best of my attention, the best of my forgiveness, the best of my creativity, the best of my cooking, the best of my cleaning, the best of my encouragement, the best of my...the best of me.
For so long, I thought that I had to give my best to everyone or I would be a failure. I realize now that I set myself up to fail by trying to give the best of me to everyone. There's not enough "best" to go around. From now on, everyone gets some, but the 3 people God gave me to care for get the best. If I have a bad day and have little to give, then my husband and my kiddos will get that little bit. I am going to strive to save some "me" for them at the end of the day rather than coming home completely spent...
At the end of the day, I am going to forgive them quickly and completely. I will have patience with their shortcomings. I will understand that sometimes they just have a bad day. I will believe the best about them. I'll base their value on who they are, rather than on what they do. When they are angry, sad, frustrated, or otherwise upset, I will offer sympathy and understanding and compassion. I will take a moment to let them know that I love them. Above everything else, I will strive to always understand and not judge. I will appreciate them for their strengths and not belittle them for their weaknesses. They know where they fall short; they need someone to remind them of the areas where they excel...and I want to be that someone...
after all, that's how I want them to treat me.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
One of the things I promised my self I would do this year is write for me. Oh my goodness, it is so easy to fall into writing what I think people will read, like, and share. I guess it's rooted in my deep desire for acceptance and approval. I feel like if people read, like, and share my thoughts, then I am not a failure.
From time to time I go back and read over some of the things I have written and I am almost always surprised by what I find. There are periods of time when words seem to flow freely and there are times when my writing seems forced. Some posts are full of passion and others are empty.
I've been puzzled as to why some posts resonate with emotion and others fall flat. I believe that it all boils down to the motive behind my writing.
I began this blog as a tool to sort through my thoughts. I have always kept a journal and this is pretty much just an electronic version of that. Each time I've had cancer, "In the Battle" gave me a place to vent my frustrations and work through my emotions. It was easy to write during those times because they were so emotional.
Now, when things are normal, it is not so easy to write. So I sit here and stare at a blank screen and wonder if I should even try to write at all. I don't have anything profound to say. I don't have any crazy over the top stories of faith to share. I'm not feeling particularly courageous or inspired. Truth be told, I'm struggling in lots of areas and really need some time to just work through the details of life. My heart is heavy. I am burdened not only because of things going on in my life, but because I have friends who are struggling. I am weary. I feel overwhelmed and under-qualified in lots of areas. I suppose that if I am writing to feed my pride, then no, I shouldn't keep writing because few are interested in the mundane day to day goings on of this Pastor's wife.
However, if I am writing for me, to sort through my thoughts, challenges, fears, anxieties, frustrations, and spiritual walk, then yes, I absolutely should continue to write. Why? Because God ministers to ME through my writing about everyday mundane stuff that means nothing to anyone but me. When I look back over past posts, God reminds me of how CLOSE to Him I have been...and how far from Him I have been. He speaks to me thru me and I think that's pretty stinkin awesome.
So, this year I am going to allow myself to write about whatever and not worry about numbers or visitors or followers or anything else. I think it will be good for me.
I promise myself that I will write what I feel and not what I think I should feel.
I promise myself that I will not beat myself up if I have nothing to say for several weeks in a row.
I promise myself that I will not look at the analytics.
I promise myself that I will not keep up with the # of followers.
I promise myself that I will simply write from my heart about whatever I'm working through when I sit down at the keyboard without trying to anticipate whether or not anyone else will find my thoughts worth reading.
I promise myself that I will relax and trust God to use me if and when He sees fit.