If at First …

I carefully read all of your comments, and I enjoy each one of these gifts.  Why then did I feel slightly uncomfortable, when I read a comment that complimented my writing abilities?  Somewhere around twenty years ago, I mailed a manuscript to several publishers.  Somewhere around ten weeks later, I learned that all of them thought my manuscript stunk.  They didn’t say stunk – they were professionals – they used a much more courteous approach.


I’d never attempted creative writing.  I was home with my newborn, and my job-from-home workload was under control, so I decided to venture into the world of fictional writing.   My hope of becoming a writer was dashed as those letters started arriving in the mail.  As I write about this, I’m experiencing that same sick feeling in my stomach.  Why didn’t my writing attempts stop there?


It’s because of my own personal ending.  Not a literal ending, but where I decided to finally accept that a handful of publishers didn’t own the world.  Their pass on my work, didn’t mean that I was a failure.  It simply communicated that they weren’t on board with my writing, or that I needed to eventually go back and work to improve my writing.  But when it first happened, it negatively impacted me.  I was embarrassed and felt like a loser.  I was dejected and out of sorts for a time.  I grew to accept the rejection, and even realized that it was proof that I was courageous.  I had tried something different and challenging, and that fact made me proud.  I always knew that being published after my first attempt was a long-shot, and I don’t want to diminish the efforts of those that have or haven’t been published after years of perseverance, but I had stretched myself and I’d tried despite the odds.  As the years passed, I was honest about the inferior quality of my writing, but I also chose to be gentle with myself.  I accepted that it wasn’t the season to put more work into this, but nothing had to stop me from trying again someday.


Working through this taught me a valuable life lesson.  Rejection should not define me.  Easier said than lived out – rejection hurts.  We either believe that it tells our story, or we fight hard to come back from it.  In this way, I’m a fighter.  I fought and refused to allow the rejection to speak for me.   I speak for me through the good things that have already happened, and will continue to happen because of my involvement.   I’m a good wife, mother, daughter and friend.  I’ve encouraged and stood by my husband through many difficult times, and as he completely changed his career at age forty and moved us to an entirely different environment and lifestyle.   I’ve had success in the corporate world, but left it, to go home and do my most important job – raise my children.  I’m far from the perfect home-school mom, but I’ve demonstrated tenacity by sticking with it from kindergarten through high-school.   There are people who trust me and desire to share their time with me.  And yes, I’ve attempted writing again.  This time I chose to write about my own experiences, and my hope is that my writing will reach a special person at precisely the right moment.


I’m not the sum total of all of my rejections and neither are you.  You now know more about me, and why your encouragement means so much to me.  Is there something that you need to try, try, again?


Look Up

How are things going?  How are the people that you care about?  What was that?  How about me you ask?  It seems that a deluge of adversity is raining down on many that I know and care for.  Each new day brings another conversation, text, message, email or phone call – another dear one sharing their news and asking for prayer support.  Disease, marital disharmony, betrayals, relationship failures, worrisome decisions, unfair circumstances and wayward children.


Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that I carry a heavy burden for those that are dear to me.    I will go to war with my prayers.  I’m relentless until the Lord releases me.  I’ll wake up and pray.  When I’m alone at home, I’m praying.  One of my favorite times to pray is when I’m alone in my car.  Pray without ceasing, He says – no kidding.  Recently, bearing the weight, wore me out.  I found myself in a minor health crisis – an outbreak of shingles.  I imagine that stress along with a weakened immune system, allowed the sleeping virus to wake up.


Shingles are painful and vile.  I stayed home for two weeks, which was a blessing and a curse.  I suddenly had more time to sleep and rest, but the quiet in my days left my mind more time to think.  I’m a thinker – can’t seem to shut my thinker off sometimes.  The extra time to think, became time to obsess, and the burdens that I felt for others became overwhelming.  It snuck up on me too.  I felt crushed and I couldn’t even put together a cohesive thought and pray.  I sat on the floor of my bedroom and cried as the thoughts raced, and then it all changed in a moment.  For the first time in all of my years, I truly understood what it meant to have the Holy Spirit intercede and make sense of my groanings.  I didn’t recite a list to the Lord – I simply thought of the person and the circumstance.


What was happening here?  God was teaching me.  He was teaching me to look up and release the burden to Him.  I can’t walk and hold onto my burden while I am looking up at Him.  If I try to, I stumble and fall.  There’s a fine line.  We are to carry the burdens of others, but we are not to retain them.  We are to hand them over to the only One who has shoulders that are broad and strong enough.  The only One who can bring lasting healing and change.


What have I learned?  To boil it down – I can make anything a curse when I attempt to do it in my own power and in my own way.  God brought me to the end of myself.  My own strength was exhausted – literally.  Resting became a necessity, and in His gracious mercy, He taught me to look up.  Being self-protective isn’t the answer – looking up is the answer.  I’m looking up a lot more these days, and I’m not letting the weight of the burdens separate me from the power that my Father has over them.


Some might consider me to be old-fashioned.  I believe in the value and necessity of kindness, civility, others-respect and self-respect for all man-kind, but this post is written specifically about a certain person.  The person that proclaims that they are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the son of God, blessed redeemer to those who put their trust in Him.


I’m finding myself increasingly demoralized by the lack of civility in our society, but what really gets to me, is when the foul language or vindictive attitudes come out of a fellow Christian.  When they’re behind a computer screen, some seem to have invincible courage, or at least a lapse in good judgement.  Why do so many feel the freedom to behave in a mean-spirited way online?


I wonder if they’re not thinking very far ahead, and only considering what feels good to them in that moment.  I wonder if in that moment, they are forgetting who they belong to.  I know this for sure – there is a human being on the other end of that remark, meme or photo.  The snarky words that make the writer feel as though they’re hilarious or vindicated, have the potential to break someone’s heart.  The recipient is not weak-minded – they are simply human.  There is nothing outdated about common decency, using discretion, and respecting other human beings, or even self-respect.  The author of poor taste humor or foul attitudes and language, would benefit by following the golden-rule.


Perhaps using some simple damage prevention tactics would be helpful.  Consider how you’d feel if this was directed at you.  A personal cooling off period – say ten hours of prayer and consideration on whether or not the comment or post is acceptable.  Will it hurt someone or damage a reputation?  Does it add value?  Institute a personal code that you will not violate, and double check that your code lines up with Scripture.


Unfortunately, there will be times that we unintentionally hurt other people, but being mean-spirited is disgraceful.  There’s a flesh and blood human with feelings on the other end of the comments and posts.  Our words and actions have consequences – they will always have an effect.  Even though you cannot see the reaction on the other side of the online world, it is still occurring, and that reaction might be a tearful, broken heart.  Is this really who you are?  Is this who you want to be?


Do not be wise in your own opinion.  Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans 12


Unacceptable Heartache

Scrolling through her feed, she sees a prayer request.  A child with a debilitating disease, a husband fighting the ravages of cancer, a parent injured in a car accident, an elderly couple needing assistance.  She stops to pray, and something very treasured has taken place.  Facebook connects us to each other, and people who find themselves in horrible circumstances can feel the support of caring human beings.  But unfortunately, there is a dark side.  It is the loneliness of the unacceptable heartache.


What is an unacceptable heartache?  It’s not a real thing – no heartache is unacceptable, but due to shame, embarrassment, stigma and the fear of judgement, some would never feel the freedom to share their difficult circumstances or heartache.  At this very moment, you know someone who is experiencing unacceptable heartache.  A mother and father that cries because their child is rebellious and wayward.  A husband that walks on eggshells around his mentally ill wife.  A child who lives in a difficult home situation.  Someone held captive by a life enslaving sin.  A wife or husband that is lonely in their marriage.  A marriage that is falling apart.  You know them, but you do not know the pain that they are in.  They walk this hard, dark and lonely road alone.


What then can we do?  Get involved in the life of others.  Not in a nosey way.  Build relationships.  Be trustworthy.  If someone shares their heartache with you, two things are happening.  They desperately need to unburden themselves and receive support, and they are exercising great trust in you.  This is a monumental privilege – please don’t abuse their trust.  Be a friend.  Listen.  Help in the method that they are asking for help.  Never, ever share their story with anyone else without their permission.  Your mere presence in their “secret”, may be a lifeline to them.


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.


Lending More Than Your Ear

Listening is a craft, and it involves so much more than simply hearing.  Some are fantastic listeners, but most of us could improve our skills to effectively listen, and demonstrate empathy toward others.


We may lack confidence in our ability to speak well, but have you ever considered that listening well makes you a far better communicator?  Listening can be a way to demonstrate that you put others first.  As long as listening is not for the purposes of plotting, scheming or searching for a chink in someone’s armor, it is a selfless action to listen, rather than to be heard.  When a person needs someone to listen, they need someone to lighten and share their burdens.  Their mind unlocks, and burdens begin to ease as they feel that another human being cares for them.  You have helped them to pour out their confusion and overwhelm, and now they can gain clarity.  Since this is so important, let’s look at a few of the most crucial aspects of good listening technique.


>Concentrate on what is being said, instead of how you will respond.  Most of us tend to hear while we are actively thinking about our response, or how we can relate to what is being said.  Instead, completely focus on what they communicate.

>Let them speak without interruption.  Interjecting your questions or thoughts, causes them to feel as though they didn’t complete their story.  They feel cut off.  If you’re concerned about forgetting questions or points that you would like to make, try jotting down some reminders.

>Don’t finish someone’s sentences or help them find a word, unless they ask for help.  They don’t feel helped, they feel interrupted.

>When they’ve finished telling their entire story, it’s time for you to jump in.  If they are looking for advice, here is where you may offer it.  If they are not looking for advice, but are instead trying to problem solve or gain clarity, try drawing them out with open-ended questions.  Asking questions is also a great non-confrontational way to help someone see error in their thinking, and they are more likely to come to conclusions without feeling judged.

>A pleasant and relaxed smile with natural eye contact, will communicate your sincerity, empathy and engagement.  Be aware of your head nodding.  Nodding gives an impression of agreement.  If this is not the impression that you want to communicate, then make an effort to control that.

>Summarize what you’ve heard.  This is your opportunity to prove that you have been actively listening, and that they have been heard.

>Be patient and understanding.  They may need to tell the same story repeatedly.  They are working through things, and for some, this is very helpful.

>Finally, make sure to follow up with them.  This demonstrates your sincerity, and that they are not out of sight – out of mind.  Knowing that someone truly cares, removes feelings of loneliness.


Let’s look at another type of listening.  Listening to someone who is upset with us.  Too often, we feel the need to defend ourselves, or make excuses.  God’s word gives us helpful guidance in this area.  James 1:19 says “so then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger”.  As difficult as it is, a confrontational situation can be defused by following these very simple words.  Arguing or making excuses for yourself, will further inflame.  It is wiser to listen, and then take it to prayer, allowing God to show you the truth.


Listening is so much more than hearing.  When we really listen, we are fully engaged.  We hear, but we also see the other person’s emotional state, and we feel compassion and empathy.  One of the most powerful ways to minister to another human being, is simply listening to them.  Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems – they need someone to listen.  When we give our time, and make the effort to really listen, we lighten the burdens of another human being.  Most of us won’t get this completely right every time, but try putting a few of these tips into practice every time that you have the opportunity.


Friend of Comfort

The one that you trusted so much, was untrustworthy with your heart, and now they are your lost one.  It feels safer to climb up onto a shelf and watch life, rather than allowing someone else into your heart again.  So many tell you to move on, or get over it, or their words communicate their thoughts of “why are you still hurting”?  Whether platonic or romantic, your lost one, possesses a piece of your heart, and you have a piece of theirs.  That aching that you feel from time to time, is the void that was left in your heart, when they left your life.


Hopefully as you learn to trust again, a friend of comfort will come into your life.  They won’t be able to fill the void that the other one left, but that’s alright, because they will make their own special home in your heart.


How will you recognize a Friend of Comfort?  They won’t tell you to get over it, because they might have a void in their heart from a lost one, and they might still be hurting.  They will understand and be patient with you, when you grieve.  They will tell you kind things, like when you feel a tugging on your heart, it is your lost one tugging from wherever they are, and that they must be remembering and missing you, because you played such a special part in their life.  They will remind you that rebuilding after an emotional storm, is a process.  They will encourage you when you’ve seen your lost one, or heard from them, and feel as though all of the rebuilding that you’ve done, has been for nothing.  They will see that you are strong and compassionate, and they will tell you so.  They will see that you are special and beautiful, and they will make sure that you believe it.  They will see that you have a heart that can comfort, because it knows pain.


I have been blessed with friends of comfort entering my life, and this post is dedicated to them.  Each one has played a very special part in rebuilding me, after the storms that have hit in my life.  They each are a piece to my puzzle, and this has become a beautiful puzzle.  Some are sensitive.  Some are quirky.  Some are hilarious.  All are smart, honest, loyal and fun to have in my life.  They persist in telling me that I’m special.  They have proven to me that I am worthy and deserving of having true and loyal friends, that also have the capacity to give back to me.  I’m just so thankful for each one of them.


Come on down from that shelf.  You’ve learned a lot about who to trust, and how to trust.  There is a friend of comfort waiting, because they need a friend of comfort too, and that might be you.


2  Corinthians 1:3-4 All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source of every mercy, and He comforts us.  He comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us.


That First Step

It’s so natural for us to get bogged down in the negatives of life, or even the trivial details of living life.  Perhaps you’re dealing with many challenges right now.  It can be overwhelming.  This is not a think positive post, because I know that these difficulties are real, and they cannot be positive mental attituded away.  Instead, I’m asking you to hit them head on.  Take the actions that are within your ability or resources, and don’t forget to search for, and focus on, the blessings that already exist in your life.


I’m writing with my knee propped on a pillow.  I really have no idea what I did to injure my knee.  It might have been when I stumbled off of some unfamiliar steps a few months ago while moving boxes, or perhaps, it is as simple as turning 54.  This bum knee has been the source of a lot of angst lately.  I love to dance in the privacy of my own home, and that’s not as easy, or enjoyable as before.  Also, I must work out, or I gain weight – rapidly in fact.  Right now, I’m 5 pounds up and my clothes don’t fit correctly.  My modified workouts don’t feel effective.  I know that I should go to see a doctor, but we are within a month of moving into our new home.  I’m in a conundrum.  I’m not comfortable sitting and watching others put my house together, or letting others take care of me.  I’m a worker bee by nature, but I’m concerned that if I attempt to do this move, in my current condition, I’ll do more damage.  I’m not exactly hitting this head on, am I?  The pain and indecision nags at me. That’s it – I’m going to put some action behind my words.  I just got up, grabbed my insurance card, performed a few Google searches, made a few phone calls, and presto! – I have an appointment with a doctor.  I’m now unstuck and moving forward.  It was that simple – I took the first step, and then I’ll take the next and the next and the next.  I’m no longer focusing on the uncertainty of how it’s all going to work out, but I’m focused on doing what I have to do, to feel better.


Once I took the first step, things moved rapidly.  Suddenly, the appointment that I had made for the following week, was being rescheduled for the next day.  When I went to see the doctor, he examined me and sent me for x-rays.  Once I returned to his office that afternoon, we reviewed the x-rays together.  He remarked that I had a gorgeous set of generally healthy knees, and he determined that I have a meniscus tear in one knee.  We began working on scheduling the surgery, which has now been set for next Thursday.  My doctor thinks that I’ll heal quickly.  I should be good as new, and busting my moves a couple weeks after surgery.


Was that so hard?  I was completely psyching myself out.  The current complicated nature of my life, didn’t make things easy, but I just needed to take a step, and get moving forward.  What do you have going on in your life that’s nagging you, or bogging you down?  What’s the very first thing that you need to do?  Take that first step today, and start moving forward.


For Exactly This Moment

I hear other people talking about God’s call on their life.  Starting a ministry, going to Bible college, training and going into a remote mission field.  I’m excited for them and happy that they are following God’s leading, but I’ll admit that sometimes I feel like I’m inadequate.  Every ministry that I’m involved in, is a behind-the-scenes venture.  There isn’t acknowledgement or “stage-time”.  I’m fine with this – even comfortable and at peace with it, but sometimes I feel like I don’t get to handle the big guns – kind of inadequate.


I was just crawling into bed, getting ready to settle down for some much overdue writing and then some television watching.  It was going to be a nice quiet evening with my husband in bed next to me, doing his evening scroll through Facebook.  Then the call came.  It was a distress call.  I was to throw a few items into a bag, get out the door to someone who needed me.  I handed the telephone to my husband, who began to sooth the distraught soul on the other end of the line.  I stood there completely frozen – stunned at this thing that was happening.  So much was at stake here.  I’m so inadequate.  How would I be able to be wise enough and strong enough?


I flew down the highway.  Praying constantly.  I prayed for His protection over the hurting one.  I prayed for wisdom.  I prayed for God to keep my car on the curvy road and to keep the animals off of the road.  I prayed that He would empower me to keep my mouth shut when I needed to, and to give me the words to say that were right for the moment.  I felt inadequate.


What should have been a forty-five minute drive, became thirty minutes and when I drove up, my fears abound.  My mind played tricks on me, replaying a time of a hurting loved one from my past – the one that I couldn’t help, because I was inadequate.  I knocked.  We embraced.  We prayed.  I prepared a meal.  I did the dishes and I listened.  I realized that my entire life was preparation for exactly this moment, and this was His call.  It was the appointment that He had made for me.  I then knew, merely listening with only a pinch of input, being in the room while they slept, and praying for them as I kept watch, was completely adequate.


His strength is made known in my inadequacy. 2 Corinthians 12:9


Pet Pain

None of us are immune from experiencing mistreatment, but have you ever wondered why two people can experience this and the effects are so different?  One person eventually moves on, accepting the realities and they become stronger, but the other becomes enslaved – blaming every weakness, shortcoming or failure, on the things that have happened to them?


The process of emotional healing looks very different for each of us and I would never suggest that there is an appropriate ending time for your pain.  We are unique creations and so our grieving is individual.  Have you ever been devalued and written off as insignificant?  Have you been forsaken by someone that you love?  Have you been the recipient of rude confusing behavior?  Have you been slandered or blamed for something that wasn’t your fault?  Did they seem to get away with it?  Did you choose to not tell what they did?  That old high road is a hard one to walk.  If for some reason, you are still experiencing extreme pain after a significant period of time, beware – your pain may have become your pet pain.


Do you believe that keeping quiet about the details of the mistreatment, betrayal or slander is the right thing to do?  Maybe you are protecting someone that would be hurt if the entire truth came out.  Maybe you are protecting a marriage.  Maybe you are protecting another’s reputation.  Whatever the reason, I commend you for your integrity.  You have made a commitment to not run your mouth around – even if they do kind of deserve it.  What’s the downside of handling it this way?  When you watch your offender get away with their crime, or even be rewarded in some way, it will be natural for you to replay what has happened and then your hurts become a familiar and comfortable pet pain.  You can take your pet pain out of the cage any time you like and it’s comforting to cuddle with.  Beware – this type of pet grows into a monster called bitterness and bitterness requires a heavy price to us and those that love us.


Why would we want to keep a pet named pain?  When things are done to us, we feel victimized, and victims often feel like losers with no control over the situation.  We are in control when we decide to take our pet out for some quality time.  Even if you’ve forgiven, you might still have difficulty accepting the realities and crave a sense of control.  You do not have to live as a victim.  Realize that when other people treat us badly, there is not necessarily something wrong with us.  Actually, when another human being treats you badly, it says more about them, than it says about you.  Seek out relationships with people who value you.  You’ll feel like a winner with them.


If you are not moving forward and still in pain after a significant amount of time, get some help.  First, I always encourage you to spend significant amounts of time, praying and reading God’s word.  Ask Him to help you understand your part and to take responsibility and ask Him for the healing and guidance that you need.  Secondly, get input from a wise trustworthy friend and/or counselor that is not personally involved.  Be aware that they can’t fix you and be willing to hear hard things and do hard work.  Work to get to the point that you despise the pain, instead of seeking alone time to go cuddle up with it.  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  At times of my life, when I experienced heartache from another human being, I would go out to the garden, on a drive or hike with the intention of praying, but often found myself cuddling up with my pet pain instead.  It’s a process – do the work and when you get distracted by your puppy, just tell him “no, not now”.  If needed, give yourself 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night to cuddle.  Soon you may not feel the need to cuddle at all.



Get ready to move on.  Stop paying the price of reliving what someone else did to you and don’t view every new relationship as though the same things will happen.  Realize that what they did to you, doesn’t say anything about you and good things happen because of you.  God says that you have a future full of hope and He is truth and justice.  If there is anything that God needs to deal with, He will do so, when and how He chooses.  Sorry pet pain, we’re finding you a new home.