Let Hope Arise


The passage in John 11:17-27 tells the story of when Jesus found out his friend, Lazarus was dead. Had been dead for a few days. His sisters were lamenting and questioning his timing…

One of my former pastors and friend, Hilary Millikan penned this great post on hope based on this passage of scripture and graciously allowed me to re-post it here. Hilary is an exceptionally talented writer who gives us a great dose of “wow!” laced with humor. I hope you are encouraged by her words.

Let Hope Arise by Hilary Millikan

I had the privilege of writing and recording a message on Hope for the beginning of Advent at our church. Most of you know that hope is my main “lane” in life. There is always hope. But only because we have THE Hope. How filling it is to rehearse and articulate what we have lived and become convinced of in the Lord. May hope arise and re-arise for each of us…

Now hope… is tricky.

There’s that verse in Proverbs that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is the tree of life.” So simple. So short. So catchy.

But anyone who has spent any time in the first half of that Scripture, who has lived out the carving of that first phrase is familiar with what a desperate, lonely, painful place hope can be.

The very presence of hope in my life means that I have unfulfilled promises, unanswered pleas, unhealed woundings. Especially right now, when my hope is basically on its “last leg.” The ropes that tether hope to my heart and keep it from flinging wildly away from my soul are strained because my everyday is now filled with unfamiliar and new “hopes” that I now have to navigate.

I hope my children come out of this pandemic emotionally unscathed. I hope this is just a cold and not something trying to kill me. I hope when I go to the store I don’t accidentally pick up an extra carton of COVID.

It’s hard to keep a “stiff upper lip” in my day-to-day, much less give any sort of trusting thoughts or faith-filled prayers to the deeper, longer-lived, farther away hopes. And as in this story, it is especially hard to hope when it is just plain too late.

I’m always struck by how Jesus asks Martha and Mary to trust Him even though Lazarus is ACTUALLY DEAD. There’s not much more to do here, nothing left to hope for. And yet, Jesus comes offering them hope–Hope in Me, can you trust Me, do you believe Me?

I don’t know how you’ve reacted to Jesus when He’s tried to touch your “too late” spot with His hope, but I’ve reacted much like Martha and Mary. “Lord,” they BOTH said, “if You had been here–if You had come when we called for You, if You’d answered us. You, Who we DO hope in, Who we DID hope in, because… You could have… I know You could have, if You’d been HERE where we are, where Lazarus was, where it was all going down, in that moment, if You’d been HERE WHERE I AM, then it wouldn’t have happened this way.”

The implication (at least in my heart) being, “But You weren’t. And I don’t understand why. I trusted You. I hoped in You. I put all of my hope in You. And You didn’t come when I needed You. It’s too late. You came too late.”

When things don’t go the way we had hoped, when things are so far away from what we believe would or should be true of our lives, it has a way of sometimes even making us question what is true of the Lord.

I remember a time when I just couldn’t reconcile the goodness of God with the gaping loss in my life. When I couldn’t put together this God that I had trusted my whole life and given my every moment with what had happened. How could He allow this to be? He could have stopped it. He could have fixed it. He could have… He could have… Why wouldn’t He… How can I trust a God who didn’t when He could have?

Jesus’ answer to Martha? Do you believe Me? Do you believe that I AM the life? Do you believe that I AM your hope? Not just something to hope in, but I AM hope itself? Do you believe this?Martha’s like “don’t come at me with all Your there’s-hope-in-the-end, it’ll-all-be-fine-in-Heaven stuff. That doesn’t help me NOW. That doesn’t help me HERE.”

Again, but before He has done anything, before anything has changed, Jesus stands before her and says, “Yes, but Martha… Do you believe Me?” Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are everything I hoped You were. You are God. You are my hope.”

The Lord asked me in my moment, “Do you believe Me?” And immediately my spirit cried out Yes! I believe You. I don’t know what to do with You, I don’t know how to trust You, but I know I believe You.

And it was enough.

Somehow the formation of what I DO believe quieted all the unanswerable questions that had caused me so much disbelief, and the faint whispers of hope began.

I also have experienced times in the midst of my darkest, farthest, not-sure-I-will-make-it-out-alive places, when the Lord’s words and promises, it’s like they hurt. There was a time when I was so desperate, so close to the edge of myself, that I told the Lord, Enough! Enough promises! Stop. I can’t take one more promise from You. I can’t take the presence of one more unfulfilled thing that I have to hold onto. I can’t… I can’t do it. I can’t hope. I’m like Lazarus, Lord. My hope is dead. And I’m not far behind it. I can’t hold on anymore.

I need hope to hold onto me.

Sometimes we say to our souls–like Martha and David and so many others–“oh my soul, trust in the Lord, hope in the Lord! Let hope arise!” And our souls respond.

Sometimes we are like Lazarus himself, where there is not even the option to hope anymore. Still Jesus stands outside the tomb of our heart and calls us forth. He calls hope to arise from places that feel long gone. Because, He has been there. That’s why He is our hope.

He has been to hell and back again. He has experienced the utter betrayal and abandonment of the Lord. He has born our grief, our sorrows. He has been unable to lift even His head. He has been to the unimaginable edges of His heart and life. He has asked God why. He has even heard nothing in return. He has been here. He knows this place. But more importantly, He knows the way.

He IS the way to hope everlasting.

He is the life to our long-gone places. He is the truth that makes that way. He is our morning star, a promise in the darkest of our nights that MORNING IS COMING.

He IS coming.

Though you be bones in a valley, though you be a body in a tomb, though you be grieving an unbelievable actuality, though you be living a hell. Do you believe Him? It is enough.

And may He who IS our Hope arise in your heart, in your situation, in your soul, outside your tomb, in your yesterday today and tomorrow. May hope arise.

“God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” Psalm 46:5

To hear Hilary’s podcast of this post click here.

I’m grateful for the influence Hilary has had in my life and my family’s life. She is a woman of great faith and wisdom, not to mention fun and quirky humor. Thank you, Hilary!

The Uncertainty of Life


20171018_074229Hundreds of posts this week have regaled thanksgiving blessings mixed with multiple cyber sales, and many venture solidly into a coming Christmas season. It’s enough to make my overloaded inbox cry.

I don’t want to be that article.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m beyond grateful for God’s amazing blessings. As a matter of fact, I don’t go through a day without thanking him numerous times, many including heart-filled tears. And I’m a girl who appreciates a good sale.

And while I’m never ready to embrace Christmas decorating or festivities until after Thanksgiving, unlike one dear California friend I’m thinking of (you know who you are JG), I love Jesus and his birthday and all the joy, peace and goodwill towards men it brings.

But let’s be real.

Friends have lost loved ones and are stumbling through the holidays. Couples are separated or worse, divorced, and wondering how they will bear another party alone. Illness or a diagnosis just wiped the joy off the face of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and someone is missing a child who seemed to die too early, was never conceived or who is walking along the edge of death with their life.

Life holds great uncertainty.

And pain, disappointment, fear, anger along with many, many questions. No black Friday or Monday cyber sale can make a real, solid dent in that. Maybe for a moment, until the regret and shame and credit card bill comes.

While fires rage, destroying homes and earthquakes, war and poverty wrack third-world countries, when rebuilding progresses at a crawl after a hurricane, tornado or a  flood, how do we hold on?

How do we go on?

What holds us during those moments, days, months or years? Where is our hope that life will right itself again so we can draw another shaky breath and see a new day without fear?

I am the Lord. I will sustain you. I will hold you with my right hand and comfort you in your darkest night. Cling to me. Come to me all who are heavily burdened with pain, sorrow, expectations and fears. Let me take those on me and make your burden lighter. Wait on me, and you will be able to breathe and keep walking when you are so weary you want to curl up in bed and never wake up. Don’t try to figure it all out. It’s too big for you to comprehend. The sin of the world knocks at your door all day and night, and you can’t grasp the full significance of a spiritual enemy that wants you to blame me and end the life I created in you. You can’t assimilate all I’ve created and brought life to: creatures, people, dreams, visions, greatness beyond your imagination. So don’t try. Just be still and know that I’m God so I’m bigger than your biggest disappointment, fear, tragedy, crisis or pain. I see you. I’m here to comfort you and lead you through it. I’m here. I’m here. Lean on me. Let me into your heart and life. I’m here to love and comfort and sustain you. I gave my life so you could live yours, and no matter what destruction the world throws at you, I have a way to make it turn out for something good. Better than you hoped, though probably not what you expected. I love you. Let me love you.

I believe that is a word from God for someone. Maybe a few or dozen someones.

Those are God’s words typed from him to you through cyber-space just as he spoke them to me. Those are words from his word, the Bible, so I know they are true. And you don’t have to believe me, you can go there and find them for yourself.

I didn’t wake up this morning expecting to write this. I didn’t have a plan or map out what I should write. I know our world is hurting, and I know what hurting is. But more importantly, God knows.

I don’t know what your circumstances look like. Trusting in and leaning on God doesn’t necessarily change the circumstance, though sometimes it might. What it changes is how we live in the tragedy or loss or fear. The presence of God and the name and power of Jesus changes things. Usually, our heart or our view.

He’ll heal past hurts and show us where the fears come from. He’ll comfort us and open our eyes to his love and care. He can “turn the heart of a king” like a stream or river, bending it the way he wants it to go. Maybe that’s our heart.

I’m thankful. Oh yes, so very, very thankful for the love of my God, my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I couldn’t live or breathe without him.

And I’m thankful for you. Each one who reads my blogs posts. May God bless you in every way. Today.

 

 

Are You in Chains?


woman in maroon shirt with black chain on her body
Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

“I will break the yoke of bondage from your neck and tear off the chains…”                                    Nahum 1:13

Say what?

This verse from the old testament prophet spoke of the ancient oppression of the Assyrians. The Lord promised his people that their freedom would come from his hand. So what does that have to do with us today?

We can be chained by pain from our past. Wounds caused by the actions of others whom we still haven’t forgiven or poor choices we made and their consequences, but often our bondage comes in the form of patterns we’ve developed to cope with daily life.

I love what author, Mary DeMuth, wrote in her devotional Jesus Every Day. Her words grabbed me with their simple truth.

“…the chains and yokes have become terribly familiar to me, like companions I nurture instead of anomalies I should shun. They are my normal. And so without even knowing it, I walk around shackled, and I can’t even see where they’re cutting my soul anymore.”

We all have those places that we don’t even recognize.

They can cause us to:

  • Get stuck in unhealthy ways of relating
  • Excuse our destructive behaviors
  • React unreasonably to the words or actions of others
  • Over react in common situations
  • Become isolated or suspicious of others
  • Feel haunted by our past

God wants to free us.

He uses his word, his presence and other people to do so. Connecting with a trusted, wise leader or good friend who will speak truth to us even if it hurts can reveal those hidden places of bondage and start us on a road to freedom.

Unfortunately, that can be scary.

We don’t like to be nudged outside our comfort zone. And as Mary writes in her “Chains” devotion Day 179, we like what has become normal for us because it’s how we navigate our lives.

“It’s like a comfortable blanket.”

The thing is, we might think those chained areas are secure, but they keep us from the abundant life God has for us. They keep us from good, healthy relationships with people who love us. They rob us by making our world very, very small.

So, I’m asking God to reveal those places to me that need to be freed up and changed. I’m trusting God can and will do it.

Will you join me?

 

 

A Sneak Peak


A Journey of Broken FaithRachel's Son Book Cover (2)

I’m all about taking our lives forward into more abundance. When we deal with our past, God can heal us, offer us hope and redeem the broken places in our heart. That’s why I’m so excited about my new book, Rachel’s Son. Rachel’s heart has been broken by the murder of her son, and that’s not the only challenge she faces.

As a result, she’s shattered and lost, not understanding God or his purposes. She can’t get past the pain to find freedom, love and life again.

Ever felt that way?

Yeah, I have too. But what I’ve learned is that by pushing through the pain, not hiding it, ignoring it, denying it or burying it, we will step into an abundance of joy. But it’s not easy. It’s scary. And it hurts. It may even feel as if we won’t survive.

It may take us months, or years or decades, but when we finally decide to step through, like pushing through the wardrobe or sea in Naria, we will learn to live again.

“The deeper my past sorrow, the greater my present joy.”  Simeon, Rachel’s Son

Rachel’s journey is a grueling one, maybe like yours and mine have been. But with God there is hope, healing and redemption.

Rachel’s Son releases on March 20th. I thought you might like a sneak peak 😉

“‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”          Matthew 2:18

Chapter 1

Rachel pulled a loaf of crusty bread from the fire as the ground began to quake. Terrifying reverberations shattered the morning peace. Thundering hooves. Neighing horses. The roar of an approaching army.

Micah!

She dropped the bread and lurched for the front door.

Within seconds an army flooded the village. Soldiers on horseback pounded through the street, weapons ready. Children scattered, mothers screaming their names. A two-year-old lay trampled in the dirt. Another ran, wailing. A soldier speared him through the back. A man jumped off his steed and forced his way into the home next door. Rachel’s neighbor shrieked, “My baby, my baby!”

The soldier reappeared, blood covering his hands.

Rachel froze, her knees buckled beneath her.

“Micaaaah!” She stumbled into the road, darting between horses, “Micah!” A roughened hoof clipped her hip. She fell to her knees and crawled out of its path. Dust caked her face, the stench of blood suffocating her.

Her closest friend, Elisabeth, staggered from her house, the battered body of her baby son in her arms. Her keening tore through Rachel’s heart.

“Stop!” Rachel forced herself to her feet. “Stop!”

A grim soldier scooped up a toddler and dashed his brown, curly head against the stone wall of his home. A woman laid crumpled outside her door, a swaddled baby in her arms. Their blood pooled together in the dirt.

Bile rose in Rachel’s throat. Chest heaving, her muddled thoughts rushed over each other in a torrent. The only clarity in the chaos was the certainty that Micah was dead.

She dodged around the corner of their house. Her worst fear materialized. His chubby little hand still clutched a stone he had been playing with. A shriek pushed out of her.

“Nooo!”

“Oh, dear Jehovah, please no.” A bleak whisper tumbled from her lips as she stumbled to his body now crumbled in a tiny crimson heap. She fell on her knees in the wet dirt where earlier he had played, stacking rocks and chattering to himself.

“Miicaaah!” The scream burst from her lips as she scooped him up, hugging him to her chest.

“Oh, Micah.” She wailed, rocking his bloody body back and forth.

Her only son. Her miracle from Jehovah.

Why? Why? Her heart screamed. What kind of war was waged against helpless, innocent children?

Look for Rachel’s Son on Amazon March 20th. The digital version will be FREE for a limited time.

For updates as well as behind the scenes information and extra material not found on the blog, sign up for my email list here.

 

The Third “D” Word


IMG_4658Ever feel like smashing something?

I certainly have. And I have smashed, slammed, thrown and torn up things. Sometimes our pain lashes out in rage. Whether it’s with words or objects, towards others or ourselves, destruction is never a healthy answer to our distress.

But how do I stop?

In the book of Romans, Paul says

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.”  Romans 7:15 & 19

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

We ALL struggle with feelings of depression, despair and even destruction. Even if our destructive patterns are “minor” like not taking care of ourselves – overworking, eating poorly, not getting enough good sleep – or something more serious like abusing alcohol or drugs or cutting our body, the underlying issue is a lack of a healthy view of our value. Paul’s answer in that letter to the Romans was that Christ is the one who saves me. He makes a way for us where there seems to be no way.

So how do I get a handle on my destructive behavior?

  • Discover your value. You are loved. God created you to be special, unique and he wants a relationship with you. Write out the words to I Corinthians 13:4-8 as a love letter from God. “God is patient with (insert your name). He is kind to (your name). etc. Then write the same verses out to yourself. For example, mine reads: Laura is patient with herself. She is kind to herself. Eventually, I started reading “I’m not easily angered with myself.” Read this every day until it sinks in. God is love. He loves you. Love yourself. (I can’t take credit for this – my counselor had me do this.)
  • Discover the root of your anger. Anger is a secondary emotion. What is underneath?  Are you hurt, disappointed, frustrated? Feeling betrayed, abandoned or scared? It takes some work, but the next time you feel angry, try to stop and consider what is really going on under the surface of that rage.
  • Deal with your past. Past pain reveals itself in present problems. It may hurt, but any destructive behavior is adding to your pain, not relieving it.
  • Realize you have choices. Often we feel the compulsion to destroy because it gives us a sense of control. Especially for those of us who were in abusive situations where we were being controlled by someone who hurt us, as adults we now find we can take charge. But often we are taking control as adults with child feelings and action. When we understand that we now have choices to make, we will feel less out of control.
  • Ask for help. When you let a couple of trusted individuals know you’re struggling and ask them to hold you accountable, you’ll find that the compulsion loses some of its power. That’s because hidden things control us, but revealed things that are let into the open offer freedom. Think of a festering sore. If you kept it wrapped up in an old, dirty bandage, infection would set in and cause further damage. But letting in light, air and cleaning it out creates an environment for healing. It’s the same with our wounded hearts.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is understanding and accepting that we have an enemy who hates us because God loves us. Satan wants to hurt God and if he can destroy God’s children, it breaks God’s heart. The enemy wants us to be like him – destructive to ourselves and others. He wants to keep us in pain, bondage and away from our loving Father. The more we move forward, the harder he will try to hold us back. But knowing this is empowering. God can do all things. He’s bigger than the bad guys.

I’m not an authority.

And this list isn’t exhaustive. But these are a few things that have really helped me. Oh, and one last thing…remember it took us time to get messed up so it will take time to become free. I slammed a door the other day. My fear and frustration got a hold of me before I could get a handle on it.

It’s been a few months since I’ve done that. And as I was forceful with the car door, I realized it. Fear produces adrenaline and adrenaline seeks fight or flight. I fought with the door. But I’m learning to deal with the feelings first or remove myself from certain situations.

That’s actually progress. 

I just don’t want you to think I’ve got it all together. 😉

If you’re struggling with destructive behavior of any kind and you’d like to connect, shoot me (no, wait) I mean send me an email at laurabennet14@gmail.com or comment below.

 

The 3 “D” Words


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Another tragedy struck Florida this week.

I hate to say this is becoming common place – may that not be true! But at the very least when people are senselessly shot down, we are left with questions, anger and sorrow.

But a tragedy isn’t the only situation that can set off the 3 “D” words. Sometimes it’s past trauma or something as simple as a difficult day. Maybe they’re set off by prolonged distress like abuse or bullying. Perhaps we’ve managed to survive for years when one of them, or all three, strike, leaving us reeling.

What are those words?

Depression. Despair. Destruction.

From the limited information I’ve heard, I would guess that the young man who open fired at the school in Parkland, Florida experienced those emotions. And certainly the families devastated by his actions will grapple with them.

So how do we handle depression, despair and destructive patterns?

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have formal training. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. But I’ve experienced all of these feelings at some point in my life, and I’ve talked with others who have struggled to get a grip in the wake of these emotions. Along the way, I’ve learned some information that has helped me.

Maybe if we each learned to cope with our feelings of depression, despair and destruction and noticed the indication of those emotions in others, we could help lessen future incidents of violence that result from hurting hearts.

Depression.

First, I want to acknowledge that there can be chemical and hormonal reasons for depression. For some people, medication may be the answer. I don’t propose that someone who is being helped by medication should not take it or feel bad about taking it. Each individual needs to do what’s best for them. Here are a couple of things that have helped me:

  • A dear pastor friend once told me that depression was caused by something being “pressed down” in my life, thoughts or heart. So I learned that whenever I feel depressed I should ask myself “What are you pressing down?” Usually, it’s sorrow, disappointment or frustration created by some previous incident, and I haven’t allowed myself to process, cry, talk, grieve or somehow deal with my feelings. Maybe I’ve been too busy, or thought I shouldn’t feel that way or tried to pass it off as no big deal. It’s usually a far bigger deal than I think if it leaves me feeling depressed. Sometimes I’m not sure what my feelings are or why, but I believe God knows. So I ask him. The Bible says:

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”   Jeremiah 33:3

  • I had to learn how I process situations and the emotions arising from them. Some people process internally, mulling over things until they can sort them in their head. Others process externally. I’m one of those. I think of it as dumping the contents of my purse on the table. When I see it all, I can keep or discard what I need. I have to talk out loud about things, sometimes more than once, in order to sort through it. If I try to process internally, I become depressed. Likewise, for some internal processors, if they’re forced to talk about something before they’ve had time to think, they may feel depressed by their inability to pinpoint what is in their heart or head. How do you process? It’s good to know and act according to how you best function. Whether you are internal or external, it’s good to talk to God and a trusted friend about your feelings when the time is right for you. God says in Hebrews 4:16 that we can approach him with confidence. He understands what we’re going through.
  • Sometimes we need to do some simple, everyday, ordinary task. Take out the trash, get dressed, make a bed or take a shower. Just one task at a time. And then another one when we’re ready. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah was depressed. He’d just had a show down with an evil woman and was exhausted. An angel came to him and said

“Arise and eat.”  I Kings 19:5

No earth shattering advice or vision or deep spiritual explanation. Just get up and eat. Sometimes God tells us to do something ordinary.

“…His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things– things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find him there.” Oswald Chambers

  • A change of scenery can change a perspective. Often when I am feeling depressed, I’d rather lie in bed than go out and face the world. But sometimes getting out to another setting even if it’s simply going outside for a little while can shift my thinking. Isolation begets depression so even when I feel I can’t be around people, interacting with others, especially if I’m doing something to serve them, is exactly with I need to break out of a depressed state.

These actions help me when I’m feeling depressed. I pray they will be helpful to you as well.

Next week we’ll look at the next “D” word: despair.

What helps you when you’re feeling depressed?

 

 

 

 

Why Perspective Matters


perspective

Did you see snow on mountain tops or sand on beach rocks?

I took this picture at the beach, and I still think of snowy alps nearly every time I see the photo in my gallery.

Interesting, isn’t it?

A couple of days ago, I was driving somewhere and pulled up next to a car at a stop light. The car had an Indiana license plate, but at first glance I thought it said Nevada. As a matter of fact, I absolutely believed, in that initial moment, that the car was from Nevada. (Could it be because I lived in Nevada for 10 years?)

Until I took a second look.

How can we be so convinced that the way we see something is actually the way it is when it isn’t? My children were all raised in the same household, but each of them remembers incidents the others don’t, or from a different angle. Kind of like the movie Vantage Point in which we watch a plot unfold from several different angles.

What affects our perspective?

  • Exhaustion – the day I saw the Indiana plates I had little sleep and much stress
  • Anxiety – seeing life through anxiety places a filter of fear over every situation
  • Age – a three year old and sixty year old will have a vastly different perspective
  • Culture – a thumbs up here in the States is positive, but elsewhere it’s an insult
  • Point of View – asking my grandchild seated in a stroller if he can see what I see over a fence is kind of pointless, right?
  • Attitude – are you a half-full or half-empty kinda guy?
  • Preconceived concepts – our values and beliefs become ingrained in us
  • Experiences in life – each joy filled or painful circumstance defines how we will perceive the next similar situation

Everything we process is in relation to all of these things in our mind, heart and life.

No wonder people experiencing the same situation can have vastly different perspectives of what has happened. Granted, perhaps we can agree on general absolutes like the color red. But even as I write red, what color comes to mind? Tomato? Strawberry? Cherries?

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this concept.

I know what is in my heart or mind when I do, say or see something, but what if the next person has an opposite view of my action, words or vision? Is one wrong and the other right?

Or are they both right?

2 + 2 = 4   seems pretty absolute and concrete to me. And I, by nature, tend to see things pretty black and white. But my math-loving husband might throw a variable in there and contest that even numbers can change it up. (Unless they’re absolute numbers, right? But now we are in a realm for which I have limited perspective.)

So, how do we handle perspective?

My go to reference is the Bible. Here are a few things I’m learning and working on:

  1. Speak truth in love. My perspective is my truth, but I can present it kindly.
  2. Consider others’ interests not only mine. Their view is their truth so listen to them.
  3. Respecting each other honors Christ. Humility benefits us both.
  4. Be honest with myself. I may not see the whole picture.
  5. Don’t assume. I’m not someone else so even if I think I know what they feel, I don’t.

In the end, only God sees everything. The entire world, universe without time and distance is his. He can see from every angle and into every heart and mind. The Psalmist said,

Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.”  Psalm 139:4

That’s good news, because I can ask him to help me see as he does. From his perspective. He says if we lack wisdom (his way of thinking) we can ask him, and he’ll give it to us. And even better is that he can transform us by renewing our minds – changing our perspective.

The brief moment when I had an inaccurate perception about the car with the Indiana license plate didn’t matter in the big picture of life, but when my spouse or kids or friends and I think differently it can cause turmoil if we can’t tolerate and accept each other’s view of things. Even if we don’t agree.

Even now in our world, huge battles are taking place because of perspective.

Their perspective is true. My perspective is true. But only God’s perspective is 100% accurate.

What is your perspective about this blog post?

 

 

 

What Triggers You?


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No, I’m not talking about guns.

(But fun picture, isn’t it?)

Milan and Kay Yerkovich define a trigger as

…a strong reactive feeling about something that is happening in the present, a feeling turbocharged by a hurt in the past.”

Ever have one of those?

Yeah, I thought so.

It took me years to understand that when my reactions to situations or people were far greater or stronger than the setting warranted, it meant that some hurt or trauma from my past was amplifying my current emotions. I did learn to recognize the pattern, and it has helped me navigate my life better. But today, I discovered through reading How We Love, that ANYTHING can be a trigger.

Anything?

Apparently, and it makes sense why communication in relationships can spiral out of control so quickly and easily. If the tone of someone’s voice, or their opinion, attitude or behavior can trigger an unexpected, agitating reaction in me, then I can become defensive or angry at the other person whether they said or did something good or bad in that moment.

Even my sincere, valid emotions can trigger another person.

Wow. I had no idea.

Perhaps because of what that person has suffered and not fully dealt with in the past, my comment or start of a conversation that to me is neutral, or my sharing a feeling about something that occurred during the day or my tone of voice because of that situation can cause the other person to react negatively.

I probably wonder why they are reacting and may take it personally. After all, if I don’t know what is happening for them, and don’t know to ask, it seems reasonable that their response is directly related to me.

So I respond in a defensive manner.

They do likewise. I react back. See how that happens? We’ve now set a pattern of communication which is not desired, nor intended, but spins out of control leaving both parties shaking their heads in confusion, hurt and disbelief.

Crazy, huh?

Well, the good news is if we are aware of triggers in ourselves and others, we can deal with our past and have grace for the other person’s stuff. Maybe we can even help each other by using the following practical tools to build rather than destroy our relationship.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Settle yourself. Take a brief time out if necessary.
  3. Ask yourself three things:

When have I felt this way in the past? Who was I with? What soul words describe my reaction? What would I like to say to that person (in the past)?

See, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

Okay, so it’s not always easy, and it can be painful. But the benefits to removing triggers by dealing with these issues is two-fold. We become healed and stronger, and we develop healthier relationships.

But there’s also a third benefit.

If we share those feelings with our spouse, and willingly listen to them share with us, we’ll build trust and a stronger, more intimate bond with them.

That’s a win-win.

I credit the Yerkovich’s with all these insights. I’ve been sharing what I’m learning from their book, How We Love. The great thing is that our church has been presenting a series on marriage called, A Love that Lasts. Our pastor’s teaching lines up with this as well.

I don’t believe that is coincidental.

As our pastor, Matt Keller, has shared (and I agree) we have an enemy who is out to destroy every marriage. Marriage is the foundation of community. There is a power in family that can’t be denied. That’s because the union between a man and woman was created by God as a picture of his relationship through Jesus Christ with his bride, the church.

Satan hates us and anything that displays God’s love for us.

So if you thought even for a moment that the enemy I mentioned in the earlier paragraph is your spouse, think again. Our enemy is Satan. But oh, how he’ll use each of us to hurt the other one if we let him.

But our spouse isn’t the enemy.

I for one am going to work hard to remember that, to deal with the triggers in my life and be open to the probability that triggers cause grief for my spouse as well. And other people with whom I interact.

Maybe that’s why God has grace for us, and asks us to love others the same way.

I’ve linked a number of resources in this post. I’d love to know in the comments below if you find any of them helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel Like Your Life is in the Gutter?


monterey ca

Ever question the choices you make?

Do you wonder why you act the way you do? Or react in certain ways? Do you find yourself in the middle of a road rage moment, a fight with your spouse or yelling at your best friend and question how you got there?

Like, what just happened?

I’m discovering that most of us have. And while it’s bewildering to experience those situations, it’s even more surprising to learn what causes them. Not just that we’re sinful creatures or lacking self-control, although those certainly explain a lot.

The underlying secret is imprints.

So, what’s an imprint you say? I’m glad you asked. An imprint is an impression or a groove in your soul created by prolonged or traumatic experiences in childhood. Especially during those “formative” years.

Imagine pushing your hand into wet cement.

After it dries, the cement hardens with your hand print forever imprinted in it. Or think about cars (or wagons in the old days) driving through mud on the the same road. Eventually the traffic forms a rut.

Our impressionable young lives take on imprints.

All parents do the best they can with what they have. Some do better or worse than others. But let’s say you had a parent who showed great affection and enthusiasm only when you did well in sports or brought home good grades. You subconsciously become a performer for love and attention.

Or suppose you suffered some kind of abuse, lost a parent or sibling, survived cancer or saw your father beat your mother. Perhaps your parents were addicted to drugs, sex or alcohol. To survive trauma and constantly stressful situations, children adapt the way they relate to compensate for something they can’t handle.

Imprints.

The rough part is that if we don’t know this (few people do) and never deal with whatever issues caused these impressions on us, we will act and react in the same unhealthy ways as adults without even being aware of it. And we’ll hurt ourselves and others including our children in the process.

This is why I’m so thankful for  a book I mentioned a few months ago called How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. They set out to figure out why, when they both loved each other, they couldn’t seem to make their marriage work.

But this book isn’t only for married couples.

Everyone can benefit. I read a lot of various books, but no book has helped me like this one in dealing with the bottom line issues of my soul. (Okay, besides the Bible.) I’ve been to counseling over the years. I talk a lot about my feelings and questions, and I thought I’d figured most of it out.

Now I understand the depth of the even the little things.

Why I react the way I do in certain situations. How I think about other people and why. The way I use anger as a defense, and an explanation for why I can suddenly explode in rage at times when I’m a generally optimistic, happy person. Why I’m afraid to speak truthfully to some people, and why saying “no” used to be so difficult.

I can’t tell you all of it here.

Go to www.howwelove.com and take the quiz. Find out your “love style.” Order the book on their website. Read it alone, with a spouse, a friend or in a group and work through the workbook in the back. Take your time. Cry, pray and keep pressing through it. God will use it to reveal your pain and bring you healing and freedom.

You will not be sorry.

Disclaimer: I did not receive anything for this. I don’t get paid anything for promoting or if you buy the book. The authors have never heard of me. These opinions are based on my own gratitude and excitement. I wish I could offer a money back guarantee.

What’s your style…if you feel courageous enough to share?

 

Why Getting Help is So Important


DSC_0024I wish everyone would stop hiding and seek help for their issues.

There. I’ve said it.

I’m not as hardhearted as that may sound. It’s voiced from a place of compassionate frustration because I know the freedom available. I’m living it. The women in the small groups I lead experience it. My heart breaks in pain to watch people continue to struggle because of denial, minimizing and fear.

I get it.

It’s painful and scary and hard work. I’ve been there. It feels like you’re going to fall apart and lose yourself. There’s a gap between the broken place you are at and the healed place you’re going to so it takes a leap of faith to let go of one to grab the other, and that leap feels as if you will plummet to your emotional death.

BUT if we can take one little step at a time, like Indiana Jones walking over the precipice with invisible steps (you know the scene I’m talking about?), God will put a step right out in front of us to keep going. A lamp to our feet and light to our path deal.

A blogger friend, Sarah, who I met a few years ago has struggled big time with some debilitating issues in her life. But I’m so happy to offer a post of hers (with permission of course) here today from her new blog. One that is dedicated to helping others learn to care for themselves.

Because she has taken leaps of faith to persevere and allow God to heal, grow and deliver her, she is now able to share what she’s learned. I’m so proud of her.

She addresses this situation very well in the following post:

REAL TALK

Alright, I’m just going to dive right in with the blunt honesty part.  Here we go.

You can’t help yourself unless you accept that you need help.

It’s that simple.

If you aren’t able to acknowledge that something needs addressing then you can forget about making any progress in that area.  Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away, and usually, it only perpetuates the situation.  There’s nothing weak about admitting you need help.  And there’s nothing out there saying that if you do need help with something that you need to broadcast it to the whole world. But that being said, it’s so integral to talk someone about what you’re going through, be it a counselor, friend or family member.

People need people.

There is absolutely no reason to be going through anything alone. I have discovered that the more I talk about my story, and my struggles with depression and anxiety and a host of other things, that I connect with people more. Chances are, whoever you’re sharing with can relate to you in one way or another. I live for the “me too!’s”. The more you share and choose to be vulnerable with others, the more courage it gives others to share and be vulnerable too. And suddenly the work you’re doing on yourself transcends you and sets off a wave of healing that engulfs those around you. How’s that for motivation? Sharing your story openly could be what it takes to give someone else that final push to seek help for whatever is going on in their life that they never felt they could talk about before.

I can’t stress it enough how much my friends and community have helped me with my mental health and processing trauma. If I didn’t have them I don’t know if I’d be here right now, to be honest. I’ll probably write an entire post on my community later, they are phenomenal.

There is no shame in acknowledging something is off or not working for you in your life and saying it out loud.  Start with admitting it to yourself.  When you’re ready, talk to a close person you trust like a friend or counselor, and if you think you need a psychiatrist then ask your family doctor to refer you to one.  It can’t hurt, and in Canada it’s free.

If you are waiting for permission to put your mental health first and foremost above everything else, then wait no longer, here it is:

PERMISSION!

It’s your responsibility to take care of your mental health.
There’s nothing selfish about it and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
And you’re worth it.  You deserve to be healthy.

Remember that.

You are not alone!

Catch more of Sarah’s blog here : Sarah’s Guide to Self Care

And if you haven’t seen or don’t remember Indy. Here you go: