Monday, November 16, 2015

Letting Light In

It's really easy, when you find yourself in a dark place to feel alone and like no one else can possibly understand. It's easy to feel like your brokenness is somehow a special kind of broken that is worse than everybody else's. But the reality is, we're all broken. I don't care who you are or what you have or haven't been through...we are all broken. It's the one thing I can guarantee we all have in common. Our brokenness is different. Our experiences and circumstances are different. But we are all broken and we all have wounds that hurt, whether we tend to them or not. 

When the hurt is more painful than we can stand and the world gets dark, it's really hard to let the light in. There's something about the darkness that sucks you in and grabs hold of you, trying to shake off any kind of hope you may have in you. And when you're in that darkness you have to fight to let the light in. It is so easy to get into a dark place and just wallow in it. And when you do that it just sucks you deeper into the darkness until that light gets smaller and smaller. It doesn't go away, but it's lucky to get in just a crack. 

I have learned over the last many years as I have struggled with my own battle of darkness and light that the only thing that heals us is light. The only way to conquer the darkness is with the power of the light. Light means different things to different people. For me, light is my faith. Light is knowing that there is a God who loves me no matter how much I hurt and that He wants me to be healed. Light is my friends who will sit with me, pray with me and just be with me and comfort me. Light is every good thing I have been blessed with that I can possibly think of in my moments of darkness. 

Light is sharing my story, knowing that someone else is hurting too and comforted knowing that what they feel is felt by other people too...hopefully letting them know that they're not as alone as they may feel. Because the darkness is lonely. It's isolating. We don't want anyone to see our brokenness and our pain. We want to fix it and pull ourselves together again and then we are worthy of being around others. That's how I feel, at least. Go in my dark hole, fix my brokenness and when I've got it to a presentable state, I can come back out and face the world again. It's hard to let people see us because there's that unknown: will they judge and criticize me or will they want to help me? Unfortunately, not everybody is interested in helping us. But I believe that's a risk we have to take. There's no healing in the dark, only when we bring our brokenness into the light can we really begin to heal. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Protect Your Upgrade

When you go through a personal transformation, it's kind of like "upgrading" yourself in the same way you would computer software. Once you have gone through a transformation and experienced personal growth and change, you usually don't respond to your circumstances and situations the way you did "before." And if the people around you have not gone through the upgrade process with you, receiving "updates" along the way, chances are, they are not able to interact with you in the way that they once did. 

This is not a bad thing but it does mean that they will need to receive the upgrade if they are going to continue being in relationship with you. When you no longer respond and react to people and things the way you did before your upgrade, your friends won't know what to do with you if they don't have the upgrade. It's basically like getting to know you all over again. You're still you...but you're not. 

Here's the thing: not everyone that knew you before is worthy of receiving the upgraded version of you. Not everyone in your life is designed to go the distance with you and not everyone in your circle is "for" you. After your upgrade, you need to guard yourself and use discernment in your relationships. Not everyone is happy to see your growth. Not everyone wants to help you on your path to personal improvement. People that aren't willing to change themselves usually have a hard time watching and supporting other people who want to grow and change.

Personally, I think the upgrade is a huge blessing because it allows you a fresh start so to speak. It allows you to determine who you want in your circle...who deserves to be in your circle. You have to protect this new, upgraded version of you. Not everybody deserves to know you intimately. You should always be authentic and real, but there are many people you need to keep at arm's length if you want to continue to grow and change. The upgraded version of you can't go back to old ways and some people are "old ways." 

It's perfectly okay (and recommended), to be authentically you to everybody - whether it is social media, work, school, church, etc - but that doesn't mean that all of those people get to be in the circle of people you are vulnerable with...the people who you let see all parts of you because you know they are not going to judge and condemn you but they genuinely want to help you grow and heal. 

Protect your upgrade. It's ok for some people to expect you to respond the way the previous version of you did. It's ok for them to never get the full upgraded version. Protect yourself, protect your growth. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Loving Thru Pain

I was reading a blog this morning in light of the recent "red cup" drama that pointed out the fact that it is easier for us to think about a paper coffee cup, to become consumed by a paper coffee cup, than it is to care about other people. Most specifically, hurting people. 

It got me thinking about my own social circle and the way I have personally witnessed people respond, and how I have responded myself, to people who are in painful, broken situations. Over the last three years, I have had many friends who have, in the midst of my deepest pain, stepped up and showed me more love and care than I ever knew was humanly possible. I have also seen friends fade away because they could not face the brokenness I was dealing with. 

It hurts when people we love can't handle our pain. It hurts when
people we thought would be with us through anything, fade into the distance when we need them the most. I remember when this first happened with a couple of people in my life, I was confused and I did not understand. I needed them and when I needed them the most, they left. But as time has passed and I have learned more about how people face pain and suffering I have realized that not everyone can face our pain with us...and that's okay. I have learned that for some people, our pain is too painful for them. 

It's easy to stand beside someone when the issue is something silly like the design (or lack thereof) on a paper coffee cup. It's easy to face the trivial, frivolous things in life with our loved ones. It is not easy to face trauma and tragedy with our loved ones. Doing so requires us to dig deep and to pour out when we know that the person we're pouring into cannot reciprocate during the crisis. It's a sacrifice. I think it's one of the ultimate sacrifices in relationship. 

Three years later, I know my friends in a much different way. I know that I have people that would do anything for me, would walk through anything with me. That is an amazing feeling and an enormous blessing. I also know that there are people in my life that love me, that just don't have the ability to face more than a "red cup crisis" with me. Not everybody can walk through the fire and that's okay. 

*I'd also like to give a shout out to my ex who is one of my biggest blog fans! Heyyyyyyy! Wassup!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Have No Fear

We all have adversity in our lives and we all have people who cross our paths who will try to delay and divert our destiny. The enemy comes in human form and often times it is very easy for us to let those individual induce fear and distract us from our destinies. 

Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. 
1 Peter 5:8

Sometimes we get complacent and comfortable and we forget that we have an enemy that is always near, waiting for the opportunity to catch us in our weakness and "devour" us. This is why it's so important to stay close to God and His word, the truth. 

The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can [mere] man do to me?
Psalm 118:6

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Gift of Presence

Sound asleep, I thought it was our kitten that pounced on me in my bed. But even in my sleepy state, I know whatever just jumped on me was too heavy to be one of the cats. I started feeling this "figure" in the (ok, it's a child), long hair..."who are you?" I asked, very groggy and confused as my children are far too old to pounce on me in the middle of the night. "It's me, Heather." I hugged her. She's a "lover" and she requires a great deal of physical affection in the form of hugs.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I don't really know. I just had a dream that made me feel bad."

I hugged her tighter, stroked her hair and told her I loved her and that she was safe.

I have learned that I don't have the ability to hug out her sadness and fear. I don't ask the details of her sadness - if she volunteers them, I always listen but I know enough that sometimes her sadness is more than any human can express in words, let alone a child. 

The aftermath of trauma is like that. When you've been through something traumatic, life-changing, there are often no words of comfort from others that will make it better. In my own recovery, I found that when people tried to make it better with their words it only frustrated me because I felt like it minimized my experience. 

Over the last few years when I was struggling the most and feeling a sadness so strong, it felt physically heavy, it was the people that didn't try to fix it but instead let me know I was safe and I was loved, that helped me heal the most. The people who simply embraced me with their presence brought me comfort and peace and so much healing. 

Life ins't fair. My daughter told me this last week on our drive home one evening. "Why do you say that?" I asked her. "Because. Other kids have a goldfish and I don't. It's not fair." I could have spewed a bunch of cliches about how "everything happens for a reason" and "if God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it." And while I believe those are the truth, they invalidate our truth sometimes. They minimize our pain. She is right. Life is not fair. Her goldfish chose not to do what was necessary to be in her life and that's got to be painful. Nothing I can say will make that better. And so, the best I can do is acknowledge her: "You're right, life isn't fair" and let her know that she is loved and she is safe and I will not waiver.

We think we need to use words to help people but really, it's our presence that helps people the most. Knowing that they are not alone. Knowing that they are safe and loved. This is stuff we need when we hurt the most.

The people who have done this for me over the last few years have not only helped me heal but helped teach me how to help others heal, most specifically my own children. We don't need to be "fixed" we need to be loved, we need to be safe and we need to be heard. 

The best gift we can give in our relationships is to let others know:

You are safe and you are loved.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Go Boldly

A few years ago I had the word "fearless" tattooed at the nape of my neck. It's usually covered up by my hair but I know it is there which is what I was most concerned with. I figured if I had the word tattooed on me then I would be more inclined to feel fearless. About a year and a half ago, I sat in my therapist's office, crying to her telling her that I must be the least fearless person on the planet and how could that possibly be since I have the word tattooed on my body?! She offered up the suggestion that perhaps I needed to have it somewhere I could see it. I'm not sure she was serious about that, but I took her at face value and the following week I showed up with an identical "fearless" tattoo on the inside my left wrist.

I tell you, that was like magic. It was a constant reminder every time I looked at my wrist...oh yeah, feel the fear, do it anyway. While it merely serves as a reminder, it has been significant for me and has helped to remind me who I am on many occasions.

A year ago, I got another tattoo on the inside of my right wrist..."bold." I'm not a huge fan of tattoos
but after I put fearless on my wrist and realized what a significant impact it made on me, I decided to make use of the blank space on my right wrist. The words don't mean anything or make sense to anyone who doesn't know me and know the story behind why I have them. They serve one purpose and one purpose only - to remind me of who I am and whose I am.

Hebrews 4:16 says "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God." It doesn't say "approach with caution." It doesn't say "come if you think you are worthy." It says come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. Don't be timid. Do not be fearful, be fearless and bold when you approach the throne. This scripture really resonated with me and spoke deep into my heart.

I had messed it up. Big time. Who hasn't, right? For so much of my life, I was certain that I had messed it up way too much for God to accept me. But according to this verse, I was supposed to approach the throne boldly. This was a completely new idea for me...and I liked it. It gave me hope. Hebrews 4:16 goes on..."There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

He wants to give us His mercy and grace and He doesn't want us to be timid in approaching Him to receive it. He wants us to come boldly. It's easy to lose sight of that, especially when we make mistakes every day that we need His grace for. It's easy to forget that he desires for us to come boldly before the throne to receive the gifts of mercy and grace when we need it most. On my bad days and my good days, I just look at my wrist and I remember...go boldly to the throne and receive His mercy and grace.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Just Love

I grew up in the Lutheran church...was baptized and later confirmed Lutheran, went to private schools, went to a Lutheran college. I was no stranger to church, to "religion." Most of my adult life I have been repelled by the church, in general, because my experience was a lot of judgement, hypocrisy and criticism. For a group of people who were supposed to love, I wasn't feeling any of it. In fact, I think it's safe to say, I couldn't wait to be old enough to decide for myself not to attend church.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
John 13:33-34

When I found myself in a relationship with God a year and a half ago, I was pretty much committed that I would never go to church again. It just wasn't "for me." I felt like I could have a good relationship with God and be the kind of person I wanted to be without having to go sit in a church every Sunday morning with a bunch of people who were probably judging me for all my wrong doings. I found myself craving that fellowship with other "Jesus people" last fall, probably about 6 months into my own faith walk. I felt like I needed that community to continue to grow in my faith. I slowly started tip-toeing around the idea, considering where I might go first.

After a little trial and error, I found myself at my current church, Gold Creek, where I was baptized this past Easter. I would like to clarify that my opinions and statements in this particular post are not tied in any way to experiences I've had at my church. They are general feelings and observations, not specific to any one organization or people.

With everything that is going on in our country there is a lot of talk against Christianity. It is becoming "frowned upon" to call yourself a Christian. Just two weeks ago Christians were shot because of their faith and our President did not have much to say about that (but that's another post that I will likely never write). I found myself wondering recently - "WHY is it viewed so negative to be a Christian?" Christians are love. Christians are the safe people. You need something, you call a Christian. We work to be like Jesus...and Jesus loved everybody and had a special place in his heart for the outcasts and the misfits.

That's what Christians are supposed to be.

Are we confused?

Have we as Christians decided it's our place and our job to read and interpret scripture and hold everybody else accountable? Do we think it's our job to decide if someone is "good" based on how we feel they do at living according to Bible? Have we determined that it's okay for us to pass judgement on other people based on our assessment of how well they're following Jesus and the choices they are making in their lives?

I am a Christian. And I mess up a lot. I like to think that, for the most part, I'm a good person and I am good to other people. But I screw it up, on the daily. In big ways and small. I used to be good at judging, shoot, I still am. Who isn't?  It makes us feel better about the stuff we're messing up in our own lives.

Here's the thing: when I mess up...then and now...I am more concerned with the harsh judgment from other Christians than I am from the non-Christians. Why is that? Why? It's not a rhetorical question. I wish it was. I don't know the answer but I do know that as Christians we should be about love. When a person hears that we are Christians the first thought that should come to mind is..."Oh yeah, those people are the lovers. They're the safe people. They're the people that will accept me regardless." I don't know about you, but I don't very often feel that way about Christians in our world today. And I think that's a huge problem. That is not how it is designed to be. We are supposed to LOVE each other. Judgement is not for us, it's for God.

I have not found any place in the Bible that says - judge people and if you see fit after that, go ahead and love them. Just love. Think about it - if we JUST LOVED, if we just followed the instructions, maybe more people would want to follow Jesus.