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Category Archives: Grace in Big Gulps

Healthy Confrontation—and Unhealthy Triggers

Healthy Confrontation and Unhealthy TriggersEarlier this week I attended a meeting with 30 other people. The topics at hand were shifting leadership and self-examination as we moved into a season of significant change. We all shared faith in Christ and a dedication to move in His Spirit toward a direction in unity—but how to get there? And isn’t that always the question?

As it turned out, I was one of the first to enter the room and find my spot. When I noticed the number of chairs set out, I realized there was an expectation of a greater number of people arriving than I originally anticipated. I felt my blood pressure go up. I have always struggled to be around a crowd of people, and while 30 people is not overwhelming, 30 people with strong opinions on weighty topics could press me in. As the room filled up, I started my deep breathing, tapping my foot anxiously until my husband arrived.

One by one as topics were introduced and I sorted out which personalities in the room were going to weigh in, I prayed for patience, grace, and love. I have a deep love for each of the people who were in the room that night; we serve God together. But I am a feeler with heart overload, and when confrontations arose, I found myself noticeably sucking in my breath. People made difficult statements to each other in love. Full-on panic set in for me. I began to plan my exit.

To be fair, all topics were handled in loving ways and with kindness and open ears and hearts. So as I drove home after the meeting (I managed to stay until the end), I cried out to God:

Why am I like this? Why am I so impatient when people express opinions? Why do I crawl into myself when people disagree with each other? Why am I having an ungodly response to what was a godly meeting? Lord, I prayed in advance of this meeting and prepared my heart. What else could I have done?

You see, I was very ashamed of my reaction, even though it didn’t directly affect another person in the room and it remained all in my head.

I came home and confessed to my Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Apologies Never Come

When Apologies Never ComeWant to know a secret? I am coming out of a cocoon of emotional healing recently, and my life has significantly transformed. I have metamorphosed into Bonnie 4.0. Here’s just a tiny window into the changes that, taken one at a time seem small, but when pieced together, they reveal the Father’s loving, gentle artwork.

The Potter and His clay.

Ready? Here we go.

I get up early. (I am not a morning person and require seven hours of sleep to be pleasant.)

I talk to hummingbirds and tadpoles. (I have never been a nature person. Lately, I’ve turned into my Polish grandmother 40 years too soon, interrupting every conversation to comment on the amazing cardinal or chickadee to land on my bird feeder.)

I cheer on my garden plants. (I never used to be able to keep a houseplant alive; the thought of planting anything made me break out in hives.)

I let more stress slide off me. (I have two teenagers, a younger child with special needs, a traveling husband, and a [small] publishing business. Stress has been my middle name for as long as I can remember. So has sleeping in a position where by morning my shoulders are touching my earlobes and my neck all twisted up.)

I laugh more. (I’ve always cherished humor. I’m 44 years old, and potty humor can still send me into hysterics. So can three shots of espresso. But ab-tightening laughter? It escaped me for many years. I could not find it. It ran off somewhere and didn’t send me the address.)

I tell my dogs crazy things, and they love me anyway. (I get ridiculously, roll-on-the-floor caught up in chatting up my Shih Tzus as if they think about anything but eat, sleep, my lap, going outside, and treats.) Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Father of the Fatherless

Father of the FatherlessPsalm 68:5, ESV, David singing
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

It’s Father’s Day again. [When I first wrote this, it was my first one without my father.] For many of you, a fatherless Father’s Day has been a reality for some time now. Maybe he was never in the picture, or perhaps your loss happened along the way.

For me, it has been six months, and I’m so thankful I’m not breaking out in hives at the thought of writing this holiday column. It doesn’t mean I’m not still tender. I certainly can’t forget the amazing father God gave me. I honor him in my own private ways. My breath caught in my chest when it was time to purchase cards this year. I stood in the card aisle for quite a while just taking my new normal in. It’s moments like that one when I cry out quietly in my spirit: “Oh, God, I miss him. Give him a hug for me, Jesus!”

I lost my earthly father, but the beautiful promise of heaven is that I still have my heavenly Father, and so do you, if you choose Him for yourself.

This is a timely and also timeless message. Wars ravage, terrorists attack, senseless acts of violence prevail, human trafficking spreads.

Can you imagine if we all saw ourselves as we truly are: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Signature of God

Signature of GodStopping at the mailbox on the way home from running errands, I noticed a package. Curious, based on the accompanying card, I looked inside. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t breathe for about twenty seconds.

Before I tell you what was in the package, I should confess that I am a “deep feeler” personality. I feel on several planes at once, so I saw this object on emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical levels all at the same time.

Right there, seemingly from the grave, was

my late father’s signature,

captured on a small charm hanging from a chain.

His full name. The way I remember it on his invoices, permission slips, checks. Sprawled out in tiny font right in front of me. A piece of Dad. It hurtled me back decades. Decades. Suddenly, I was eight years old again, and that script had authority, significance, security.

Then I was mid-twenties, and there it was with the accompanying voice in my head:

“Doll, now make sure you invest this for the future. You’re going to want to pay attention to…”

I couldn’t move for about ten minutes in the car. Tears bubbled up, sobs came, lead weighted me down in the Dad-sized hole within my heart.

“Dad, is that you? Dad?”

I know it’s silly. I didn’t expect him to hear or respond to me, but for a fleeting few moments, almost all my senses felt keenly aware of the jolt and the memories packed deeply within that simple visual: his handwriting sprawled across metal.

Then: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Blessing From Broken Places

[This was originally written before Easter 2017 as I faced down my fears about April.]

April is wrought with good and bad memories for me, especially in recent years. My father’s birthday is in early April; his burial was toward the end of April. The events kick off memories around his death and burial that I’d rather forget. I had been doing so well, but as we turned a corner toward the end of March, I felt the need to “close my curtains” and only let safe people hold me close. “I will reemerge,” I told myself. “I’ll get past this. It will be okay.”

And while I was lamenting to a close friend, she told me she wants this April to be different for me, perhaps from this point forward. She recommended I “redeem” the pain.

Blessing From Broken Places
So I am.

I bought two plants, and call me eccentric, but I gave them names and placed them in the window of the common room where I look outside all the time. I need to see something grow.

I restocked the bird feeder for the first time all winter. They haven’t found their way to it yet, but it’s ready for chickadees and cardinals to land in front of my window.

A friend of mine brought me a set of pansies, completely unaware of my resolve to make April great. They are bright yellow, the color of the sun, of life, of hope.

I bought a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of happy dogs to put together with my daughter on weekends.

And on my father’s birthday, I will Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Burdens in My Backyard

Burdens in My BackyardI took my dogs out a few days ago and noticed some flowers scattered at the foot of the homemade cross in my flower bed. They were sprinkled so carefully: a layer of white petals creating a bigger ring with a smaller circle of pink petals inside, almost hugging the cross.

I was so touched by that, wondering which child put that there, or, did a stranger happen by? That would be unlikely, but it still intrigued me. I guessed the wrong child. My daughter had “prettied up” my little memorial,

my sacrifice, 

my pledge, 

my prayer, 

my surrender. 

Something about it called her in, and she adorned the holy ground there. To me, it was pure worship, adoration of what the cross means to us.

It’s a curious story how the cross ended up there. It all started in my therapist’s office. Yes, I have a therapist. [Feel free to reference some family therapy sessions if you like. If you find them as intimidating as I do to all be in the same room together with the eagle eye of a professional, this might bring you some relief.]

We were processing some events in my life since my father’s passing, and she suggested, in order to move on from some of the wreckage around it, I have some kind of ceremony or visual display of truly giving those ongoing concerns to Christ. That’s when I thought of Good Friday, when my husband and I went up with almost everyone else in the church service to hammer our own particular burdens to the cross. I’ll never forget feeling his muscles exert force along with mine to give those things to Christ. It was so beautiful and worshipful to do this corporately.

But what about in my own backyard?

I decided to nail two twigs together, place them firmly in our flower bed by the back door, and write a note to Jesus.

My note was simple: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Are the Bulls of Bashan Surrounding You?

Bulls of BashanShe came over to my house that afternoon trembling. Life had rocked her, and while she approached the finish line of a chapter of her life coming to an end, she was fearful. Who wouldn’t be? What if all the pieces God had helped her set into place suddenly were yanked away?

The fear was palpable. As I embraced her and held her hands, I could feel it. And so I prayed. There was no other peace I could offer than Jesus. My words were empty. I was rambling as usual, grasping at straws to bring comfort. But His words are always full, life-giving, and without end.

As I prayed, I reminded Christ of these words in His Holy Scripture:

 

2 Timothy 1:7, KJV

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

All I could do was remember His promise and speak it to her. I had no power of my own to take the spirit of fear away.

But I had the name of Jesus. And it was enough.

***************

Initial news of a diagnosis had come in. It sucker-punched

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Pulling Vines: Landscaper of Our Hearts

Pulling Vines_Pulling with everything in me, I grabbed hold of some stubborn vines declaring war on my pachysandra and yanked away. The morning sun beat down with increasing intensity and my muscles pulsed in ways they hadn’t all winter, yet my focus remained steady and determined.

I’ve had enough of weeds choking me over the years. They crept in silently. I would ignore and eventually get used to them, not really seeing how big they were becoming—until one day I couldn’t see past them. I was horrified how they seemed to tower over all healthy growth in my life.

The same was true when I went to the mailbox one day. I saw an overgrown, out-of-control forsythia bush and almost didn’t recognize my own yard. My stomach turned. I was disgusted that I had let my lawn get that trashy, that I lost my vision for intruders, and that I’d let my guard down, given up, lost my fight.

Know the feeling?

I look back to a year ago when the repercussions of years of long drives to therapy, IEP battles, and the never-ending search for new answers, avenues to explore, and home coping strategies for one Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When God Said: “Enough!”

when-god-said_I was doing laundry and packing for our upcoming trip to put my father’s ashes in the ground. Spring Break wasn’t exactly a cheery occasion for us to prepare for, but we were looking forward to finally laying my father to rest with a few of our own personal touches.

As I tried to pack in spurts, we were slammed with nonstop high school jazz band events and a nightmarish two weeks of seventh grade. The latter involved multiple projects, a massive genetics and cell cycle test, and endless homework, none of which was spaced out or staggered. My poor daughter was up until 11 PM most nights making sure she checked off her own assignment lists.

She went out the door one morning a complete zombie. She could barely eat, put her contacts in, etc. She was so rundown and discouraged. Her only sentence this particular morning was:

“I have to go back to school and get more homework to come home to.”

I finally put my foot down and respectfully told the guidance counselor: “Enough! She has worked conscientiously and nonstop for weeks. On my instruction she isn’t doing homework tonight. I’m just letting you know.”

[My husband and I are both products of public schooling and strongly believe in it, but we shouldn’t have to give our daughter an espresso drink to wake her up enough in the morning to head out to school. This is middle school, not college.]

My son, on the other hand, had a band event in which students were driving themselves and taking several other students along. Major highways. An hour away. Rush hour traffic. Seven teens in a van with a teen driver. I adore our school music program, but um, no! Because our car was in the shop, we could not drive. I gently asked our fantastic band director to please place my son with an adult driver, and if not, my husband and I were not comfortable sending him to the event. I hated confronting this, but this was my limit.

Enough already!

Sometimes, when we are beyond defending ourselves and fall weary in a heap onto the floor Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Have You Checked Your Equipment Lately?

Have You Checked Your Equipment LatelyI’ll be back in a few days to collect the equipment. Try to run the fans and dehumidifiers as long as you can stand it,” he said as he nodded reassuringly and left my house.

Seven air movers, two dehumidifiers, two walls, two ceilings, one floor, two bathrooms, and two vanities later, we are drying out a freak flooding incident that greeted us when we returned from church a week ago.

And his parting shot was:

We’ll be back to get our equipment.”

You know what? The equipment, while loud enough to have to shout to be heard over it, is not bothering me. Sure, I have to move the air movers to get to my cabinets. Yes, two bathrooms are currently unusable. Accessing the laundry machines is a challenge.

But I actually like the equipment. It makes me feel safe, in-process, moving forward, working toward a remedy. I dread its removal, to be honest.

Pro-vaccine or not, my whole family volunteered for flu shots this past autumn so we would be healthy and ready to see Read the rest of this entry »

 

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