My Word Lesson

It wasn’t always this way.  Words haven’t always meant so much to me.  I didn’t always grasp the impact of a word, or the chasm created by the absence of words.  Now I seem to have a love affair with words.  Sometimes I choose to keep them to myself, and sometimes I use them to express my heart, and sometimes I use them to make someone else feel good, but unfortunately, sometimes my words have made someone feel bad.

 

Recently, our son said “mom, you don’t talk to us the way that you used to – you’re not as kind and patient as you were before”.   Before what?  My heart broke, and I thought long and hard.  It seems that the pressures of my current life and challenges were really getting to me.  Due to the necessary busyness of my life, I now believe that my relationship with my Lord began to suffer.  The branch, had become disconnected from the Vine.  The fruit that had existed on the branch, was beginning to shrivel and rot.  This manifested itself in short-tempered and harsh attitudes and speech.   As I wrote this post, I realized something else.  My son had been witnessing his mother as she worshiped God on Sunday, and then she returned home as a hypocrite.

 

I make no excuses for myself.  Yes, the demands are great, but do I have the same power in me that raised Christ?  Yes, it is available to me as a Christian, but if the branch is disconnected from the Vine, I am also disconnected from His power.  This is the power that could enable me to have grace on my tongue, no matter what my circumstances.

 

Now we’ve come full circle.  Why do words mean so much to me?  One word – legacy.  I want to leave a sweet legacy.  As it has been said, “taste your words before you spit them out”.  I want my words to be silent when appropriate.  I want my words to be carefully measured, with exactly the right amount of grace combined with truth.  I want my words to be merciful, encouraging and uplifting.  I want to be speaking these words for the rest of my life.  I want these words, to be the words on my lips, as I speak my very last.

 

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from Me, you can do nothing.   John 15:5

Youthfulness Doesn’t Have a Number

You know her.  She walks into the room, and others become aware of her presence. She is hated by some women, and loved by most men. The woman that despises her, will search high and low, to find a chink in her armor.  Men will notice her, and think that she rocks completely chink free. There is just something about her.

 

What this woman possesses and releases into the room, is the magic of youthful feminine loveliness. She is confident, but this doesn’t mean that she believes that she’s perfect.  Actually, it is quite the opposite. She is very aware of her imperfections, but she chooses to view them in a positive light. This kind of confidence, comes from a deep relationship with the One who designed her.  She is happy with her appearance and her personality – imperfections, quirks and all. The confidence that she feels, allows her to reach out to others, freely giving of herself, and she works to accept that she may never receive anything in return.  This doesn’t always come easy to her.  There are days that she could easily curl up inside of herself, to lick her wounds and insecurities, but she chooses to reach outwardly instead.

 

How does she do this?  It’s really not that complicated.  She is sweet, spicy and fun.  She is open and honest – showing her authenticity.  She smiles.  She looks others in the eye. She talks to the ones that others ignore. She listens with care. She doesn’t allow herself to be cliquish.  She may not be young, but she exudes youthfulness.  She’s like a magnet that draws others in.

 

Don’t be jealous of her – she isn’t your enemy.  You would be better served to examine your own attitudes and demeanor, and then learn from her.  Here’s a word about men.  They like this woman, and they can’t see anything wrong with her, so if you are tempted to speak negatively about her, or even raise an unapproving eyebrow when her name comes up, you might be pushing a man away.  A man won’t always be able to identify why this offends him – he just knows that it makes him very uncomfortable to hear a woman attempt to destroy his image of woman that he admires.  Men are attracted to youthfulness, and they are repelled by prudish catty behaviors.

 

Good news – youthfulness doesn’t have a number.  It exists in a woman that whether she is physically young or not, she captivates others with a glow that comes from within.  It’s her capacity to love others, and it comes from a confidence that quietly, softly radiates outward.   Youthfulness is so much better than merely a young physical appearance. This woman will actually make others feel better after they have had interaction with her. She breaths life-giving oxygen into a room and into the lives within it.

Going Sleeveless

Mostly ready for church, I reached over to grab my little white sweater and place it over my sleeveless blue jumpsuit.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stopped.  I faced the mirror.  I turned to the side.  I was the same woman, but I was a different woman.  I still had the same scar on my upper left arm and the same arms that I haven’t liked for years, but I was seeing the silhouette of a different woman.  She was a woman, that God was making into something, that she could feel good about.  Suddenly I was comfortable exposing my arms.  I took that sweater and carried it to the car.  I told myself, “better bring it, just in case I get cold”, but that wasn’t entirely the truth.  I was bringing it, just in case I freaked out about going sleeveless.

 

There I was with my exposed arms in a room with over 300 souls, but there were only two that knew the victory that I was celebrating.  Me and my daughter.  She knows because, we have discussed our body image issues.  She sat beside me and smiled a knowing smile.  This past week, I thought about it a lot and I marveled.  I sensed that my last Sunday moment, was a pivotal moment in my life?

 

Like most people, I’ve lived with body image issues during my life.  There are occurrences that may have sent me in this direction.  Some serious – the innocence of a young girl being taken by someone that she trusted.  Some trivial – the hurtful snarky remarks by women that I didn’t even like.  It doesn’t really matter how trivial, because all of these occurrences shape how we perceive ourselves.   Thankfully, how I have perceived myself, is not where the story ends.  God is taking a caterpillar and turning it into a colorful butterfly.  Ironically, it was as though my perimenopause years were my cocoon and now that I’m at the doorway of menopause, the metamorphosis is bursting forth.  He is replacing my insecurities, with an ever-growing understanding of who He says I am.

 

There sure is a lot of heartache in this life, but I’m choosing to trust God with it.  Instead of getting bogged down, I’m learning to focus on my blessings and the work that God is doing in me.  My God is good and faithful.  He loves me and calls me His beloved.  My husband and I celebrated 35 years of marriage this week.  He loves me, likes me and still thinks that I’m the most incredible woman on planet Earth.  I could just stop there, but let me go on.  I have two amazing children, and although they are each going through their own “growing pains”, I can see and believe that God will bring beautiful fruit forward.  I have kind and thoughtful friends that love and accept me, exactly the way that I am.  God has provided me with everything that I need, plus a little bit more.  And finally, you actually want to read my ramblings.  By the way, I’m celebrating my 2nd writing birthday soon  – I’m now in my terrible twos.

 

I’ve wished that I could have gotten to this place sooner, but then arriving wouldn’t have been so monumental.  Everything that matters takes time and hard work.  That scar, is evidence of a life lived, mistakes made and a reminder to me that we all have scars, and we still need to be loved and accepted.  Those lines around my eyes, tell a story of a woman who even though life is never perfect, she can still smile from a genuine joy that exists deep inside.

 

I realize that this might be a silly story to many, but I’m glad that I get to share it with you.  It’s about way more than going sleeveless.  It’s about being at peace – with myself and with God.  Is there anything that you’ve been trying to hide?  I hope that my story inspires you to “go sleeveless”.

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

Drama Junkie

I’ve spent my lifetime, silently watching and listening.  Wondering.  Why do some people seem to continually be surrounded by difficulties?  My heart would break and I would step in to help.  Then, I stumbled across unfamiliar terminology – excessive attention seeking disorder.  Did you know that for some people, receiving attention gives them a chemical high, similar to a drug hit?  Excessive attention seeking or addiction to drama is very real and this enslavement reaches outward and affects everyone that comes into contact with the drama junkie.  If someone that you care about seems to crave excessive attention, there are reasons for this behavior.  This post is not intended to offer in depth scientific evidence, or a cure but instead I hope to provide clarity and understanding to the one who suffers from second-hand drama.  Please allow me a few moments to take what I have learned and break it down into a very simple explanation, then we’ll look at your role in the drama.

 

Research shows that when a developing child feels neglect, their brain interprets this as danger and wires itself to survive within this environment.  This wiring for survival trains a developing mind to do whatever is necessary to attract the craved attention, even if it’s extreme.  Sometimes this means creating turmoil by making decisions that cause difficulties.  These behaviors attract attention which then trigger a chemical reaction in the brain, similar to a drug high and the behaviors have now been rewarded and reinforced.  You see, endorphins and dopamine are released which suppress pain and bring feelings of happiness.  This becomes a cycle, where the end goal is a reward of short lived feelings of elation – then the cycle begins again.  Just like any other addiction, a tolerance is built up and it will require a bigger and better crisis to achieve the good feelings.  Here’s the cherry on top.  Researchers believe that a consequence of neglect is a smaller hypothalamus gland in the brain.  The hypothalamus plays a key role in sleep, body temperature regulation, hunger, healthy parenting and processing of the “feel good” chemical, serotonin.  When the brain doesn’t efficiently process serotonin, problems occur.  Have you noticed that your attention getter struggles with other addictions, obsessions or depression?  It is common for the addiction to drama and excessive attention seeking, to accompany other addictions such as food or substances – legal or illegal, or obsessive tendencies and depression.  This is the serotonin link.  So, now that we have a better understanding, how can this intrusion into your life be managed?

 

First, realize that enabling the behavior isn’t helpful.  If you care about someone who exhibits these behaviors, maybe it has felt easier to let the turmoil and crisis roll in, or maybe you’ve been helping them feed their other addictions, but if you have influence in their life, it might be time for you to confront them with truth in a loving manner.  Second, never minimize the great transforming power that God can exercise in our lives when we are willing participants in His work in us – pray for them.  Encourage them in the following areas.  Contentment – loving what we already have more than what we don’t have.  Forgiveness – forgiving our parents or other caregivers from our developing years is crucial.  Acceptance – realizing and accepting that sometimes other humans only have so much to give and that sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough.   Self-control – encourage them to make sound decisions.  Belief – remind them of God’s everlasting love and encourage them to read God’s word and devour it.  We all benefit by being continually reminded of the great love that God has for us and His unmerited favor upon each of us.

 

One last thought – if you are exhausted by someone like this and you are tempted to remove yourself from their drama, it might be necessary to do so, but remember that 1st Thessalonians tells us to be tender and patient toward those that are weak.  This person probably has a root of hurt that goes deep.  If you have a influential relationship with this person, God could be calling you to help them.  Without enabling the behavior, you can present the truth in a loving and supportive manner.

Meaningful, Valuable & Impactful – Words Have Meaning

How do you feel when someone acknowledges a positive characteristic in you?  You’re elated, right?  It’s like they’ve become the wind beneath your wings.  I sincerely hope that each of you has someone in your life, that gives you the gift of encouragement.  Now, I challenge you – be that person to someone else.  Give the gift of words that are meaningful, valuable and impactful – words that lift up.

It is pleasant to hear that someone likes you or even loves you, but when they are specific as to why they feel this way, it takes you to a new level.  Put some thought into your admiration and let them know what it is.  Put a name to it.  Following are some examples but don’t stop here – add the how, when and why that you’ve noticed this about them.

>You’re kind.

>You’re observant.

>You’re sensitive.

>You’re cheerful.

>You’re charming.

>You’re joyful.

>You’re wise.

>You’re gifted in the area of ….

>You’re talented in the area of ….

>You’re an encourager.

>You’re generous.

How about when someone has a deep impact on you?  Have you observed that they smile and lift the spirits of others?  Are they a musician who impacts you with their music?  Did they teach you or exhort you and open your eyes?  Did they sweep in and help you to improve your living conditions?  Does their gift give you joy?  Do their writings inspire you?  Has their input into your life, made you a better human being?  Has their encouragement lifted you up out of a pit and put you upon a rock?  Tell them.  Write your thoughts down and give it to them.  Your words have more meaning than you might realize.

One last thought, don’t overlook that person that appears to be confident.   They are mostly self-assured but all humans need to receive encouragement and many long to know that they are positively impacting the lives of others.    Life has a way of demoralizing even the most self-assured people.  Your kind and thoughtful words, might be the boost that they need to continue on.

Be a characteristic specific encourager, and be sure to tell them the how, when and why.  You might be the person that brings sunshine into a gloomy heart and mind.

Backwards, In-Place or Straight Ahead?

It’s a period of change, or the process of changing from one circumstance or condition to another.  We’ve all gone through it and most of us are going through some form of it right now.  It is transition.

Transition comes in many forms and for many reasons.  It is one of the most common aspects of living the human experience.   A wedding, childbirth, returning to school, a job change, retirement, death of a loved one, relocation, divorce, empty nesting, down-sizing, health crisis, losing a friendship, geographical separation from a spouse and countless other changes.

Traveling through transition can be forbidding.  The emotional pain of letting go and the fear of the unknown, can grip us and sometimes we get stuck or even begin to take steps backwards.  Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life”.  Since we know this to be true, why not stop fighting it and instead, embrace it?  Yes, the key to success during transition is to accept the realities of it – but how?

It starts with our perspective and I’m not going to sugar coat this – it won’t always be easy. If we find ourselves mentally curled up in the fetal position or perpetually with a heavy-heart, we must change the way that we are perceiving the process of change. View the transition as an experience that you are marching forward into.  Look straight ahead and focus on the good things to come.  If you are unable to imagine the good things in your future, go to someone who knows you well and ask for help with seeing the possibilities.  Reach outward to others who are trustworthy and have the ability to help you analyze your circumstances and separate each problem.  Once each problem stands alone, you can more easily deal with it and it will be merely one stepping stone on your journey.  Share your struggles and allow others to shoulder some of your burdens.  Accept practical helps along the way.  Check your outlook and attitude regularly – is your heart heavy or light?  All of this minimizes the internalization of your struggles and will help you to prevent overwhelm within your mind.

Experiencing difficulties is usually not something that we seek out or enjoy but I do encourage you to remember.  As you experience your next transition, you’ll remember and know that you’ll survive.  Think back.  Did you grow stronger and wiser?  Are you more kind, compassionate and giving?  Don’t forget to share this with others as they are experiencing overwhelming stress during periods of transition.

If you have been attempting to march forward through life by the power of your own strength, separated from the One that created you, knows everything about you and yet still loves you with an everlasting love, I would like to tell you just a little of my story.  When I was seventeen, I faced a huge transition – my father’s first suicide attempt.  At that time, I placed my trust in Christ’s payment for my sins and He became Lord of my life.  I cannot imagine experiencing life’s difficulties without my Lord at the helm.  He doesn’t remove the challenges but He supports me while I walk through them and He uses them to mature me.  He is the Living Water that sustains me during the droughts of my life.  If you don’t know Him, I encourage you meet Him.  He never expects you to get cleaned up enough to meet Him.  He says come as you are.  Meet the One that made you, gives you breath, died for you, resurrected Himself and intercedes for you – Jesus Christ.  Meet Him, trust Him and watch Him bring a beautiful metamorphosis out of the challenge of change.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Get Messy

It’s free but it is expensive and it can be messy.  I’m referring to putting your time, effort and heart into the lives of other people.   Whether a big investment or a small gesture, never disbelieve the power of your sincere care, encouragement and kindness toward another human being.

 

We live in a rushed society where most of us are striving to build a life.  Providing for the needs of our family is godly but we can easily get caught in the trap of wanting more stuff or being involved in every activity under the sun.  Are we too pressured trying to get to the next activity to even smile at the stranger that comes across our path? How about the elderly person that might need our time, ear and patience?  Have we taken notice of that person sitting alone that might be in desperate need of some companionship or encouragement?  Are we so over-committed that we can’t invest in a young person’s life?  How about that friend who has been through a difficult period and would benefit from some empathy and support?

 

To demonstrate the impact of one life investing in another, I would like to tell you a short but true story.  There was a woman who for various reasons, endured many years of persecution.  She was treated hatefully, wrongly judged, falsely accused and alienated.  Due to circumstances that were outside of her control, she could not leave this environment.  The many years of this treatment shattered her self-image.  She began to believe that she was worthless.  By the time that she was removed from this environment, she was a wounded, broken shell of who she had been.  She kept to herself, rarely letting anyone get close, because deep down inside, she believed that no one wanted to be her friend.  One human being, who was gifted and sensitive in the area of noticing hurting people, began to talk to her.  This person began pointing out her strengths and gifts and they became faithful and supportive friends.  She began to believe the good things that she was hearing about herself.  This one person took a step toward another person and made the investment of their time and friendship and a hurting soul received healing.  Without the investment made by this person, this woman might have continued on in her hurt and probably retreated further into the protective cocoon that she had knitted for herself.  Instead, she is now encouraging others.  So many people are benefiting because one person reached out to bind her wounds and now the cycle of blessing continues.

 

If you lighten up your load and look around, you will see hurting humans – unfortunately, they are in abundant supply.  They might even be in your own household.  Be available for these God appointments.  What appointment does He have for you today?  God says that pure and undefiled religion is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.  Ministering to the lonely, broken and needy is pure and undefiled too.  Let Him send you into someone’s life, so that you can get a little messy.

Tender Hearted Warrior – Part II

Thank you for reading Tender Hearted Warrior.  After reading the feedback, I felt that a continuation of this post might be helpful.  Specifically, I would like to explore emotional resilience.

 

It is natural for the tender-hearted warrior to become bogged down and weakened by emotional turmoil.  They carry a heavy mental and emotional load but as stated in my earlier post, highly sensitives, also known as empaths, must take care of themselves. Cultivating emotional resilience or mentally strong traits will help you to feel more at peace with your personality and ensure that you will be able to continue blessing others and feel the joy of doing so.

 

Do you remember the proverbial phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”?  Can we all just agree that life is going to give us plenty of lemons?  It’s what we do with those lemons, that makes us or breaks us.  For the highly sensitive, this is going to be a greater challenge but I myself am a highly sensitive/empath, and I’m assuring you that it is well worth the training of your mind.  I have found the following general guidelines to be crucial to my survival.

 

>Realize and accept that life is full of difficulties, set-backs, challenges and pain.  Don’t fear them.  When you get knocked down, don’t stay down for long.  Get back up, brush yourself off and commit to working toward overcoming the pain that you are experiencing.  View the experience as an opportunity to grow as a human being.

>Realize that you won’t be happy all of the time.  Our culture is obsessed with feeling good and being happy.  It’s alright to be sad sometimes, just don’t get stuck there.

>Realize that there is nothing wrong with existing in the mundane of life.  Life isn’t always fun and exciting.  Those boring quiet periods, can be loaded with precious growth.

>Realize that relying on substances such as alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal), or even over indulging on food or spending, cripples you emotionally and mentally.  Get help if you are enslaved by unhealthy behaviors.

>Realize that you can develop alternate habits that are healthy.  Exercise, eating for nutrition, visiting with a supportive friend, journaling, listening to uplifting music, watching comedy or an uplifting movie and learning a new skill.

>Realize that you should not dwell in the past.  This is not the same as remembering pleasant memories.  If you are dwelling or obsessing, you are making deep grooves in your mind that tend to be negative.  Try limiting your obsession sessions to 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before bed.  Eventually, you will not need these sessions and your mind will be able to recall a pleasant memory without negativity.

>Realize that you should not be jealous of the position, status, possessions or accomplishments of others.  No matter how minuscule, we all have good things in our own lives to focus on.

>Realize that you should not wallow in self-pity or self-doubt.  If you have experienced a set-back, examine it and determine what could have been done differently.  Learn from the experience, commit to doing better next time and move on.  Do not use negative self-talk.  It is helpful to have people in your life that will hold you accountable in this area.

>Realize that it is healthy to have a good balance between optimism and pessimism.  A positive attitude combined with reality, can help you in many ways.  A positive mental attitude alone is akin to lying to yourself – unfortunately, life isn’t always grand or perfect.  When you learn to be content and joyful in the midst of reality, you are steadier when challenges come.  Also this balance enables you to formulate executable plans which can give you something to look forward to.

>Realize that you should spend time remembering the past and looking forward to the future.  This is not the same as dwelling on past hurts and mistakes or fearing the future.  Focus on how far you have come and where you hope to go.

>Realize that this will not be easy.  As a sensitive, you absorb the negative of life, so your brain has tendencies and leanings in that direction.  Accept that you will have to continually practice these guidelines.

>Finally and I believe the most important guideline.  Realize that although we are created with emotions and emotions are not sinful, we should not allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions.  Always, check your emotions against who God says that you are and what God says to do and what God promises in His word.  Your emotions can sometimes mislead you but God never will.

 

Journaling is a valuable tool.  A highly sensitive will easily believe that they are the problem in almost every bad outcome.  Learn to examine yourself and if you have made mistakes in a relationship, job or other situation, learn from these mistakes, ask for forgiveness if appropriate and move forward to the next experience.  In your journal, record what you have learned and what should be done differently in the future.  As you struggle with self-doubt, this record will be useful to keep you on track as you try again.  Also, the highly sensitive is naturally a feeling oriented and deep thinking person.  They will gradually or suddenly slide back into reliving old painful experiences.  You are usually aware of what triggers this slide and I would like you to use this for your benefit.  Make a record in your journal.  You will have three columns.  In the first, include a description of what you are thinking and feeling – the problem, situation or fear.  In the second, indicate whether it is real and confirmed or merely perceived and in the third column describe what action you will take, even if that is committing the item to prayer.  You can be as detailed or brief as you feel necessary.  This helps in separating each aspect which makes the problems smaller in your mind.  Otherwise, a sensitive can have a huge pile of problems in their mind and they become overwhelmed.  When the turmoil has passed, which can sometimes take days or even longer, journal about the success that you have experienced.  These recordings will be valuable to you later, when you experience difficulty and need the hope that things will get better.

 

All of us are a work in progress, but working toward something is better than doing nothing at all – or even worse, trying to cover it with substances or over spending.  Since each of us will experience the ups and downs of living this life, why not sharpen our positive but realistic perspective?  If you find that you become bogged down in emotional and mental mire, I genuinely hope that these guidelines and suggestions will help you to experience relief.