I was sitting across the table from a good friend, sharing what I felt God was doing in my life—and how painful, but healthy, it was.
She’s the wise type, sitting there tuned in as an active listener, simultaneously praying, and waiting on God to speak to her. Sometimes I stare at her for a full two minutes before she responds. I’ll admit it was unnerving the first few times I experienced it.
And do you know why I love this so much?
Because she measures every single word that comes out of her mouth. It’s never flippant, casual, dismissive, arrogant, or half-hearted. She feels the intensity of every spoken word. And as they flow very slowly from her mouth, there is a soothing tone to them. It makes me feel so safe. It’s the exact reason I go to her for wisdom: Because she loves God more than she loves me and listens intently to Him, and because when she speaks, even correction, it has His loving kindness on it.
“I feel like I’m being scraped from the inside-out right now. This has been one intensely painful year. I feel like God is scraping my insides out.”
She stopped me right there, cocked her head, and said: “What do you mean?”
I replied: “He is digging out old wounds that no longer belong there. He wants to set me free.”
With that, I could see her shoulders relax. She knew what I meant—not that God was hurting me but rather that He was cleansing me. Restoring me. Helping me to let go of junk I was holding onto that was no longer relevant or part of who I am supposed to be.
I wish I could say the process was like a nice micro-abrasion cleanser, you know, the one with the gritty feel to it? But this? This was more significant than that analogy allows.
This was more of a Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3:16, all things work together for good, eternal value, God's kingdom, God's purpose, God's quarry, God's temple, know my thoughts, lasting foundation, new life, personal growth, psalm 139, quarry, quarry of God, redeem, redeems, refining, Romans 8:28, sanctified, sanctify, sanctifying, smoothing, temptation, those who love God, try me and know my thoughts
I was sitting on the lawn chair hearing him crowd out my thoughts. He wanted me to look down at my feet and see how limited they were, how clumsy, how immovable.
He wanted me to stay stuck, frozen, unable to advance an inch—if even to make dinner. Because he loves to tell me this:
“You can’t do this. How on earth will you pull it off? You couldn’t even rescue yourself. You can’t manage this. This family member’s illness is greater than you. It will swallow you whole. And, by the way, you are always worth abandoning. Nobody will be there for you.”
Over and over again. The whispers. The racing of my mind.
I couldn’t move. Everything felt like an epic fail. As much practice as I’ve had advocating for people in my life with various struggles to get the help that they need, I had hit a brick wall.
All my knowledge. All my connections. All my training. All my experience.
Over the course of many months of trying to troubleshoot a medical problem in our lives, all related side dishes of comorbid conditions piled up like unfinished moldy fare at a banquet. The heavier the pile, the harder to see the real issue. Know the feeling?
This could really be about anything physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional in our lives, right? That great overwhelm?
And when we stare at that pile-up of complications and other nonsense, the face walking across the water toward us, reaching out a hand, calling us to trust is hard to see, right?
Then along comes the Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: alone, Christ, christ the hope of glory, comorbid, enemy of our souls, father of lies, fear, fear not, getting honest with God, getting real with God, I have redeemed you, Isaiah 43:1, John 8:44, liar to our soul, lies of the enemy, lonely, never forsake us, not alone, overwhelmed, racing thoughts, the enemy is a liar
This piece is deeply personal to me. I almost didn’t write it. But something that has been bubbling to the surface for a very long time erupted in me as I watched my high school daughter dance at her recital dress rehearsal. It was as if time stopped, and God said:
“I see, Bonnie. I see. You think nobody else does, but Ido. Now, you find a way to communicate that to her.”
And my strong, sometimes fierce, and always feisty self crumpled as I shakily held the iPhone camera to record what I could for family who could not make it to the recital. There was an inner tremble, a hurt child within me, that let go as I watched her glide across the stage with such grace to John Legend’s “If You’re Out There.”
The message of the song is about people coming together in the name of peace. That’s an awesome concept, for sure. But I saw a very quiet, non-attention-seeking young lady dance for the pure joy of it,
“if you’re out there” watching or not.
And it spoke to me in all the hollow places where as a parent I had watched her hurt for so long in several arenas after a very difficult year of poor health and adjusting to a big high school—after time and time again of having amazing character and compassion to offer, but feeling like a wallflower.
My dear sweet daughter, you are not a wallflower. People in your social circles may not know what you can do and what your many gifts are, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: acquainted with all my ways, being overlooked, called you by name, eyes of the LORD, fear not, feeling overlooked, God calls us by name, God knows us, God loves us, good shepherd, I have called you by name, Isaiah 43:1, psalm 139, shyness, the Lord looks on the heart, unnoticed, wallflower, you are mine, you have searched and known me
I came downstairs one morning, sleep still in my eyes, hair wild, and hands feeling around for the coffee machine. Then I remembered to turn on the lamp above our frog terrarium and spray some instant humidity into the screen at the top. As I wiped away the blur from my morning stupor, two of our three baby tree frogs were sitting reverently together with their eyes toward heaven. It occurred to me that perhaps they just might know something that I did not in that moment.
There was an awareness, awe, expectancy.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were having a moment conversing in their amphibian tongue with God.
But do I know better? I am not so sure. Instantly, this verse came to mind:
Psalm 121:1-2, ESV
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
Much to my chagrin, we haven’t named the frogs yet. My 12-year-old son wants them to reach a more significant size so he can name them with greater precision, aligning his name choices with what he assumes is gender. Not me. I’d rather just jump right in (hahahaha) and call them “Jeepers” and “Fly Breath,” but he has insisted that I wait.
After observing these little web-footed friends since their tadpole stage, I am convinced they are identifiable and that they each have a God-given personality, an imprint from their Creator.
“A frog, Bonnie? Seriously?”
I don’t pretend to have conversations with them that they reciprocate in any way, but I can see their expectant eyes. They know they are cared for. While they follow instinct leaping around their habitat rapidly extending those amazing tongues to catch fruit flies, I see the care of God in their eyes. They look up, frequently. They do something we humans don’t often understand: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: adoration, being still, Christ, creation, creator, expectancy, expectant, expectant worship, eye on the sparrow, frog, frogs, frogs in the Bible, Imprint, lift my eyes up, Matthew 10:29, more than sparrows, more value than sparrows, my help comes from the Lord, psalm 121, rest in Christ, sparrows, stillness, terrarium, where does my help come from, worship
“I am sorry. I am going to have to cancel. I am overwhelmed with work and life right now.”
“I can’t get to this today like I promised. Probably not until next week or the week after.”
“I’m not going to be able to drive you there. Something has come up.”
“We are not able to attend as we originally planned. Please have a great celebration.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Either you have said them recently, or someone has spoken them to you?
It isn’t a big deal when it happens once in a while, right? But what about repeat offenders? How does it make us feel when we are regularly cancelled on? Even when it’s a professional appointment, like a doctor’s office calling, we tend to find it flaky after a while, right?
After going through each statement with different folks in mind as your usual suspects, the ones who often don’t carry through, now read the list as your own statements.
Hmmmm. Me, too.
I find these self-reflection exercises so helpful in reassessing my priorities. I am a feeler so I’m naturally wired to process how other people feel. And lately, I’ve been hyperaware I have been letting people down.
To be honest, sometimes, it is about unfair expectations placed on us, but often, we are simply overextending ourselves. Even with good intentions, we fail to say “no” when we need to, and while that seems kind at the time, it demonstrates a lack of integrity if we repeatedly prove not to be true to our word.
Matthew 5:33-37, ESV
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
This verse has been circling round and round in my mind. Granted, this is Jesus speaking, and He is referring to taking oaths and the importance of honoring them. I could choose to blow past it and consider it very specific in context except that it was included in His Sermon on the Mount. He had a captive audience, and He was offering instruction to the crowd. The caution in it cannot be ignored. Like every word that came from The Word’s mouth (Jesus was called “the Word” in John 1:1), Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: assessing priorities, busy life, busyness, cancel, cancellations, commitments, expectations, integrity, keeping commitments, keeping promises, keeping vows, letting people down, life of busy, oath, overbook, overcommitted, overscheduled, priorities, prioritizing, promise, saying no, shall not swear falsely, swear, true to our word, yes be yes
Almost two years ago, my father passed away. Right around that time, my oldest child, an older teen, started a cold-turkey diet of eating clean: no sugars, no preservatives, and organic whenever possible. Mostly fruits and vegetables. Lean meats. He claims there was no connection to my father’s unrelenting battle with seven cancers over four decades. That’s okay. My mother’s heart saw something in that choice that spoke of legacy, taking control where there wasn’t any, and making sense of loss—maybe with some growing health consciousness added to the mix.
At first I was resistant, almost angry. For years, I had spent so much of my time accommodating major food allergies in my youngest child, that meal planning and cooking became a nightmare. On the flip side, it served as the first attempt our family had made to eat more natural. (We were also living in the middle of the South Pacific, but that’s a story for another day.)
Fast-forward eight years later, and here we were: accommodating one child who wanted to be healthier (and who could argue with that?) while the rest of us still had processed food and sugars, just as much as we had any fruits (and sometimes vegetables). Pasta was my go-to. Produce was washed but certainly not organic. Salads—even attractively dressed ones—were not my friends.
Not only did it take me at least a year to adjust to the cost difference of eating healthier, I also had to train myself to limit what I purchased from the center grocery aisles. Everything is fresh in the perimeter; stick to the perimeter! And can I lament for one minute about the condemnation I felt as my hyperaware teen health nut watched the rest of us indulge in unhealthy choices! It was a year of my fighting back, defending my choices, and pointing out that we don’t all have to change just because he decided to be OCD about labels. And he was. I would go out of my way to buy something I thought was all-natural only to find out they snuck in a chemical imposter! I was not a happy girl!
Since that time, especially after the one-year mark of these changes in my son, I began to Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: cancer, clean eating, Dwelling place of God, eating clean, emotional detox, emotional health, God's temple, healthy boundaries, healthy eating, healthy emotions, healthy living, idols, negativity, physical health, safe relationships, spiritual health, temple of God, toxic relationships, unclean
Relaxed. Coffee in hand. A comfortable heart-to-heart with a very dear (and emotionally safe) person. No expectations. Just sharing our thoughts together.
Doesn’t that sound so lovely? We may as well add some calming lavender essential oil in a diffuser, a dog to cuddle with, a warm blanket, a cozy fire in the fireplace.
Seriously, I was at my calmest.
But then that same painful topic came up again: the trigger. You know what I mean, right? The one where a deep gash healed over but the skin that covered it is thin and crackly? After spending two years praying, crying, healing, remembering, forgiving, talking it out, and back to remembering again, I really felt I had cycled through so many times I was in a good place.
And, overall, I am.
But wow, did that volcano of past emotion rumble only a few times before spewing it out. I had no idea it still boiled under the surface. I thought it was quiet—well, mostly.
I think we were both surprised that going back to that space in my head set sparks flying across the room again. I was back to fight-or-flight. Abandonment. This time, remembering was a piercing jab. How does that happen? How does our peace fly out the window like that?
Here’s what James, the brother of Jesus, said in the Bible:
James 1:19-20, ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Okay, James, that’s awesome. It’s true that anger does not produce righteousness, but what about anger from wreckage someone dumped all over you? What about the shrapnel of betrayal? How do we ever get over that?
One part that is key in the verse in James is this: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anger, anger lodges in the heart of fools, anger of man, as God in Christ forgave you, betrayal, bitter root, bitterness, do not let the sun go down, emotional trigger, essential oil, fight-or-flight, full vent to his spirit, godly counsel, is anger wrong?, no corrupting talk, peace, righteousness of God, self-control, slow to anger, slow to speak, taking thoughts captive
Every few months I write a letter to a particular person in my life. I process, digest it, and ultimately decide not to send it. When I review the many letters I have scrawled out over the course of time, I can see the progression of healing, the quieting of anger or pain, and the increase of forgiveness. Perhaps because writing is my therapy, this was a useful exercise, but even better is being able to look back to something tangible—a journal of sorts—and see where years of prayer about the issue and the person have taken me.
So, why not send it, Bonnie? Big whoopedy-doo that you wrote it. Isn’t reconciliation about the sending?
Sometimes, yes. But had I sent my original versions, I doubt they would have bridged any communication gaps with their raw emotion. And if I don’t wait on God for the timing, no matter how “ready” I am, the other person may not be. So, I don’t know. Will I ever send one? I believe I will. My heart beats for reconciliation. But the peace of God has to be there first. That is what I have been sorting out recently as I wrote letter #5 or #6 to this person. I’ve lost count.
I’ve drafted many letters along these lines to many people, never having sent them to:
- school administration or teaching staff
- church leadership
- family members
- other parents
for various reasons: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 timothy 1:7, brotherly affection, fruit of the Spirit, harvest of righteousness, impartial and sincere, James 3, making peace, open to reason, patience, peace of God, Proverbs 25:28, reconciliation, restraint, self-control, self-discipline, spirit not of fear, taming the tongue, unsent letters
Do you have any fears that hold you back from fully functioning? Does it sometimes feel like you are pushing against a weight of overwhelm? Maybe your fears taunt you in the middle of other areas where you feel accomplished. They may look different for each of us, but they can be paralyzing and growth-stopping.
You know what else they do? They deliver a feeling of defeat.
And you know what? That’s not Kingdom (-of-God) living.
Some of my fears are irrational. For example, I fear that if I stop advocating for certain injustices or for my son with special education needs, the world will stop turning. That’s called hypervigilance and sometimes crosses the line into catastrophic thinking. I usually can do the self talk involved to chill myself out, talk myself down.
Like many people, I am afraid of letting people I love down, not meeting expectations, or unintentionally hurting someone.
I back out of my driveway panicked that a child on a bike will go by.
I fear the local black bear entering my yard (it has entered my neighbor’s property) and eating my Shih Tzus.
I can’t say these fears regularly keep me up at night, but they definitely steal joy.
Know what I mean?
Here are the ways they thieve me of peace: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 john 4:4, abundant life, catastrophic thinking, conquering fears, cut through bars of iron, facing fears, fears, he who is in you, hypervigilance, irrational fear, isaiah 45:2, isaiah 61:1, john 10:10, kingdom life, kingdom living, level the exalted places, liberty to the captives, phone phobia, push through fear, pushing through fears, spiritual warfare, steal joy
Over school breaks, my family likes to binge-watch some of our favorite television series. We are a bizarre mix of interests: everything from science fiction to historical drama. We are huge Doctor Who fans, and recently, I introduced my two younger children to LOST. At the time that show first aired, our family had made a decision to accept a temporary post in the Marshall Islands for a few years. LOST became a reality to us in more ways than one, but that is a story for another day. My tween son really enjoys The Flash.
When she can manage to find the time, my daughter loves following Little House on the Prairie, which takes me back to my childhood. My mother and I have vastly different emotional wiring, but the end of a Little House episode was one of the few times I would see her shed tears. As an adult now, I think I understand why. The wholesome, Christian values presented in every crisis on the show are the end goal, right? They show what we should aim for, more or less, but also where we currently fall short. Whatever he was in his personal, real life, the actor who played Pa Ingalls brought an ideal into our living rooms each week.
And Pa regularly weeps.
My stoic daughter sees this as a bit overdramatic at times, and perhaps it is. But for me, Pa’s tears are a huge relief.
Life hurts. We fail at times. We can’t control other people or outcomes. And wayward children/teens/adults often have to learn the hard way.
We have made our way (after many years of intermittent watching) to Season 9, the final season, and in it, Pa’s adopted son Albert starts experiencing negative behavioral changes. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd, needing acceptance, and in the city life, he falls prey to a morphine addiction. Pa does what he can to change the environment to give him a new start; they temporarily move out to Walnut Grove again, but taking the addict away from the temptation does not produce a cure.
When I entered our family room, I caught a scene where Pa locks Albert Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 Corinthians 5:17, Albert Ingalls, being made new, Charles Ingalls, detox, forgiving, he was lost and is found, healing, Hebrews 4:15, high priest, His purposes, Little House on the Prairie, Luke 15, morphine addiction, new creation, New Year, Pa Ingalls, prodigal son, purposes of God, re-creating, restoring, tempted as we are, the new has come!, the old has passed away