RSS

Tag Archives: Jesus

Reshaped by Love: The Cross Before Me

Reshaped by LoveBleary-eyed with bed hair still wisping across my path of vision, I glanced down at the floor in front of the coffee maker. A shiny glimmer caught my eye, and as I wearily bent down to investigate, I saw that it was our cross cookie cutter, sharp side up, looking abandoned and almost unrecognizable against the dark browns of the coffee floor mat. I hadn’t seen it in at least a year. It usually resides in the small utensil drawer where infrequently used items like bamboo skewers and honey stirrers keep each other company. It was clear someone haphazardly tossing clean items from the dishwasher had jarred it free, not noticing it took a slight plunge to the floor. I know the child capable of this, and it gave me a pre-coffee smile, which is admittedly very difficult to achieve.

It reminded me of another time I found a wooden toy snake slithering along my floor near a 4 inch wooden cross made at Vacation Bible School. I was struck that day by the reality of spiritual warfare and how that sneaky serpent had been trying to get the upper hand ever since the Garden of Eden. But the cross. Christ on the cross put that snake under the heel of Jesus.

But this cross…the one waiting for me on a sleepy Thursday morning? It was a very powerful reminder of the road to Calvary, the one my Jesus walked this coming week so long ago.

Like the cookie cutter cross that at one point shaped many preschool Sunday School lessons in Play-Doh, the real truth of the cross Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Diagnosis Sin: What Festers When We’re Not Looking?

diagnosis-sin-what-festers-when-were-not-lookingIt was such a relief to be wheeled into a private room (one of the benefits of an expected flu diagnosis) after a week of high fevers, chills, night sweats, vomiting, and massive body pain. God even delighted me with a feisty, redheaded nurse who got what little humor I had left in the humility of fluids coming out of me in all the wrong ways.

Earlier that day I had sought refuge at the clinic in town, only to find out I had been taking too much Extra Strength Tylenol for a few days. In my mind, you manage the flu by taking Tylenol around the clock as needed. I didn’t stop to realize Extra Strength Tylenol had different rules. Oops.

The visit there was an epic failure. The doctor spent more time berating me for my accidental overdose (later determined to not have damaged my liver after all) and treating me as if I had a pain med addiction than she did listening to my symptoms. Because none of my symptoms followed the logical order of the flu, she said everything was inconclusive and sent me home with strong orders not to take any pain meds for many days. Um, okay. Thanks for nothing. No chest x-rays ordered—just some blood work to make sure I shouldn’t be entered into a Tylenol recovery program STAT.

You see, she had tunnel vision. She was maybe six months out of med school with the script on her diploma just now drying. I am fairly patient with the learning curve, but she didn’t do her job completely that day.

As my husband can attest, I took my little plastic stomach acid depository in the car with me and contributed quite a bit to it all the way home uphill, in his very jerky stick shift car. I was in so much pain, it was all I could do. I threw fluids down my throat regularly and laid down again in agony, so defeated after a week of suffering and no answers, only to discover that without my friend Tylenol, my fever went to high levels; I was no longer able to manage my body temperature. I frantically called my husband back from dance and basketball drop-offs to collect the kids and get me to the emergency room. Operation Stop the Tylenol was not successful. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Part 2: How to Make Holidays More Joyful

when-youre-in-pain_-how-to-make-holidays-more-joyful-2Last week, I listed five very basic, non-festive ways to find more peace and joy during the upcoming holidays if you’re dealing with loss or a difficult season of life. This time I want to focus on how to get through the celebrations, parties, gifting, and busy schedule on the low energy you may be feeling.

1. Simplify your calendar.

Another way of saying this is: Choose your events wisely.

Do not overload your schedule. While this may be great advice during any holiday season, it is especially important when you are feeling depleted, sad, or stressed. You do not have to see The Nutcracker, attend your neighbor’s open house, or participate in five Secret Santas or white elephant gift exchanges just because you have in past years.

You also do not need to focus on anyone else’s expectations or worry about letting people down. If they are true relationships, they will have grace for your “free pass” year. Introvert or extrovert, you only have so much energy to go around when your strength is spent right now getting through the day to day.

While some people may not understand because their expectation levels do not match your reality at the moment, this is a good way for them to learn to respond with grace to those who are hurting. Or maybe you need space from people with inflexible demands right now. Either way, do not carry the extra weight around of pleasing other people.

Because I’m introverted, I limited my holidays outings to two occasions last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas: an open house at a friend’s house and a women’s Christmas tea. I also cancelled my involvement in Small Business Saturday at my church and a meal at someone else’s home. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had the enthusiasm for a few events, even though they were difficult because my father’s passing was still fresh.

I remember wanting to return home after the first five minutes at the open house because I met some very outgoing people who wanted to engage at a high intellectual level when I really just wanted to sit in the comforting presence of a few people I knew and sip something warm. I am very glad I made myself go, but I am also thankful I graciously stopped the conversation to be with low-engaging folks in the other room. I just needed to be with people, so I didn’t isolate, but I had no ability to fake holiday cheer.

Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

2. Be a minimalist in décor.

I have teens and a tween at home. Skipping all holiday décor was not a Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Necklace and the Intimacy of God

A Necklace and the Intimacy of GodIt was December when I received this text: “Hey, Bonnie: Did you happen to get any mail from me this week?”

Oh, wow, mail. I hadn’t gone to my mailbox in days. I usually love Christmas cards, but I had just lost my father, and I knew the mailbox was either filled with Christmas cheer or sympathy cards. I treasured both, but some days I simply couldn’t read any.

I sent my daughter to the mailbox, and she brought back a few advertisements, some bills, five cards, and a small package.

Great. Mission accomplished. I tossed everything else in a pile on the floor and eagerly opened the package.

Oh my goodness!

Inside was a necklace with four charms: The Lord’s Prayer, a heart, a cross, and an angel.

The note read something along the lines of: “I thought you could wear it to remember your Dad.”

My heart caught in my throat. I had not told my sweet cousin about my wish, my regret. I had not shared with her that just that week I had told my husband to get our daughter some jewelry because I wished my father had bought me just one piece that I could wear to remember him by. It just wasn’t Dad’s thing. And yet, my heart ached to Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt

The Warm Hand of Jesus on Cold Days of Doubt

Do you ever need tangible reassurance when anxiety and self-doubt whack you around?

I’ve had the kind of week where I realized nothing was in my control. Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but I still find myself thinking I’m at the helm. It turns out I’m really not.

Nothing earth-shattering was wrong. It was more like low-level frustrations piling up. I chased down a new specialist for one of my children, playing phone tag for days. I could not get a professional I was working with to fulfill an expectation. My traveling husband was gone when I needed to be in three places at once and could have used his help. Christmas wrapping and packaging exploded all over my bedroom. And some of the goals I set for myself post-publishing to market my book were not working out. One of my kids is learning the responsibility of texting and emailing apps for the first time, and her emails went out 70 times to a friend because of a glitch. Yeah, that was just awesome.

Not being able to control other people’s end of an interaction (or computer glitches, LOL) can feel like personal failure some days. But the truth is: It’s not. Some days we wait for a reply, a response, someone to do something we asked them to or paid them for, a problem to come right that we’re working on. It may feel like we’re spinning our wheels on so many things in life. I felt like I could not propel myself forward in any way this past week. Everything I attempted fell flat on its face or blinked at me like a “No Walking” signal that allows traffic to keep moving from all directions but never seems to let me cross. The world seems so slow in those moments, as if the clock is ticking only intermittently, and it can feel like everyone is looking at us waiting for our next move.

When life moved that slowly for me this week and I could not accomplish anything, the temptation was to spin into endless cycles of self-doubt and catastrophic thinking. Know what I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When People Want to Walk Only in Our Rainbows—and Why That’s Okay

I was reflecting on mental wellness struggles (those in our house and in the lives of friends) lately when I saw this article in the Huffington Post: “What If People Treated Physical Illness Like Mental Illness?” It struck me how much of the article was true, but more than that, it reminded me of a related kind of problem: when people only want to see our rainbows, but we are currently walking in mud puddles.

mudsplashWhat I mean by that is this: So many times we hunger for a reciprocal connection in our relationships where we can tell about our entire day, not just the rainbow parts. Granted, a certain portion of our relationships are not going to go that deep. We can’t possibly maintain them all on that level. But there can be an overall sense of “checking in” with folks and only listening for the positive and ignoring the negative. In this blog post, I ask the question:

Is that wrong?

I’m not saying we should dwell on the bad stuff; however, if someone is in a season of months of chemotherapy, we might not want to go on and on about how good we feel (rainbows) and then shut the conversation down when they might want to vent for a second about how discouraged they feel (mud puddles). Balance is awesome.

In a word, this is about depth, but it’s also about with whom we can be real. We often know when our conversation needs to end at “Yeah, overall, we’re good” and when we can take it further and talk about the more raw stuff, the failure that just happened, the bump in our road, the learning experience. So many times people want to know why they are the last to know a sad, difficult, frustrating, devastating moment in our lives, but when we’ve tried in the past to go there, they really only wanted to hear the fluff.

Don’t get me wrong: My fluff conversations definitely serve a purpose. We can’t be meaty/heavy all of the time. But when someone has no interest beyond our rainbows and can’t handle our mud puddles, they tend to end up in the “last to know” pile because:

If you are there when the mud splashes all over me, and I don’t look too pretty and feel a bit like a fool—
you will be there for me when I have a bigger, harder thing to tell you, and I know you are safe in the rough waters.

If you only want to talk about kittens and lollipops under the rainbow, we can certainly do that because celebrating the sweet things is definitely an important part of life—
but you may find yourself on the other side of the line when my Mud Stomping Peeps rally during a heartache, and I don’t want you to feel left out, but you might feel that way anyway.

599259_4490802870800_100980581_nAnd if Rainbow Walkers are okay with that, I’m learning to be good with that too.

Here’s why:

I love the people in life who are really good at celebrating and pointing out positive things. It can be a bright light to keep us focusing on our blessings. It has tremendous value in our lives—as long as we can “get real” once in a while during a mud puddle moment and not be dismissed.

When people tell me, “Oh, good, I’m so glad that’s all better now,” when they didn’t convey in some tiny way that they walked the pain with me, it can sometimes feel dismissive, as if that chapter they couldn’t walk through with me didn’t matter, but

maybe, just maybe,

their role is to cheerlead only, from the rainbow side—to celebrate our walking out.

The only time this breaks down for me is people claiming they strolled through mud puddles with us when they are clearly still under the rainbow waiting for us to bebop back over in the form of our happier selves. If we’re Rainbow Walkers, let’s at least just be honest about it.

I love being in the rainbow. I love my happier self. But I can’t always take a stroll with people if they need to remain there and can’t walk over to the mud puddle once in a while to help someone else out. I am very happy to meet them back in Rainbow World, though, when I get out of the mud puddle, or when I get back from visiting someone else in his/her puddle.

Certainly, we strive for the rainbow, but mud is also present, and we all get stuck in it now and again. The rainbow reminds us there is hope and encourages us to look up when the mud is thick and seemingly holding us down.

Some thoughts to ponder when relationships feel strained:

  • Where can we look at our relational hurts or disappointments and consider if we have been a Rainbow Walker or Mud Stomper with a friend/family member? Maybe we’ve been both! 🙂
  • If we feel cast out or not in the know, where can we examine our communication and what we perhaps convey? Do we want to walk over to someone’s mud puddle, or keep our distance but support them when they get back to the rainbow?
  • If we feel safer dancing in rainbows, because that’s how we roll, that’s completely fine, but then can we accept that we may feel excluded when the march took a detour through some cloudier paths for a while?

It’s all about expectations—what role we play in any given relationship. It always is.

And understanding this distinction always helps me to keep my expectations where they should be, whenever I consider my role in the relationship and the role the other person also plays.

I used to get mad when people only wanted to see my rainbows, but now I realize they are there holding a place, and it’s okay if their feet didn’t get muddy yet.

Because I know muddy pretty well by now, and I know exactly how to bring them back to their rainbow when they find themselves in sludge they have never navigated before.

And when we get back to the rainbow, there will be a Rainbow Walker holding a place for us.

According to the Apostle Paul, from a Christian perspective, we each have something to give. Some cheerlead on the sidelines beckoning to the rainbow, and some walk into the mud to remind the mud dweller that there will be rainbow days again,

but until there are,

the Mud Stomper comes into the mess and says:

Here I am.” 

I believe Jesus was both.

Romans 12:4-13, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Genesis 9:12-13, Moses narrating, ESV
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

More on navigating relationships with healthy boundaries and much grace can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

This blog can also be found at Simply Inspired Wednesdays.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Slice of Freedom: Eating Pizza for the First Time

IMG_4215

I was at a meeting at the dance studio the first time he said, “Can I have some pizza?” I had to ask him to repeat what he said because I was incredulous. He had been set free, through prayer, of his dairy (and other) allergy for a while now, but fear still sometimes prevented him from trying to take in too much. He had been medically tested to back up (for school purposes) what happened through prayer, and we took a cautious approach, introducing a small amount at a time. A tiny smear of cream cheese here, a piece of shredded cheese there. But pizza had not been of any interest to him up to this point.

Backing up…a lot of people who are bold in their faith of healing prayer encouraged us to have him chug glasses of milk. Actually, we had him rub it into his skin first, on the day of the prayer, and then let him swallow a bit of milk. At that point in time, before prayer, he would break out into hives just from his hand touching spilt milk and projectile-vomit any swallowed milk. On the day he was prayed for, he was fine on both counts, but we did not press him to take in more than he wanted to. And while other people’s faith seemed greater on our behalf, and I’m so thankful for them, we ourselves were only just starting to not clench too hard to the epi pen in moments like this one. For better or worse, we needed more faith history in this. And for a while I beat myself up for not wanting to feed him a dairy-only diet for the days following to prove something to myself and to strengthen my faith, but I didn’t need to prove anything to God. He knew my slow unclenching of the epi pen and testifying to each brave new step we took was me yielding, submitting, and learning to trust Him more. Had I rushed into it, I would have missed steps along the way where I needed to learn more about Him. Others may embrace this boldly because their lessons were already learned. For us, there was a story of trust and deep faith being written, and we were the main characters in it.

Back to where we were on the day that changed dietary history in our home with just a simple slice of pizza: We had broken from our event planning meeting (for an upcoming fundraiser) to order some pizza. And Little Man decided this was the day he’d like to try it. I have to admit, 7 months after being released of these allergies after years of them ruling our lives, my first thought was to look to see if the epi pen bag was with us. Knee-jerk reaction. If that shows a lack of faith, I guess you could consider me still a work-in-progress then. I’m just being honest. We lived in fear for years. We were still pushing fear out the door. God had taken it, but we still thought we saw the phantom of it taunting us for a long time.

So, with two of my good friends as witnesses, Little Man took a few bites of that cheesy goodness. Nothing. No belly ache, no vomiting, no hives, no difficulty breathing. I actually think we started with crust, but he convinced me to move on to the cheesy part—my reluctance and not his. This is how I knew in that moment that God was offering peace. Because my son not only expressed interest but was peaceful and eager to ingest something formally seeming like poison to his physical body.

So, I think we let him have two pieces that day. I’ve never seen a kid so happy about anything—not Christmas morning, not a vacation, not the swimming pool opening for the season. He had just discovered pizza at 7 years old for the very first time, and he was head-over-heels in love.

What followed were about 10 days of nonstop pizza eating. I admit that I indulged it. I gave it to him anytime he wanted it: at breakfast, Ellios frozen pizza, Dominos, local pizza places, etc. Every few days we tried a new topping. He was caught up in some kind of heavenly experience. He talked about it at bedtime: “Mom, what kind of pizza can I eat next? Should I try sausage or pepperoni?” It was so fun to watch.

But what also followed were 10 days of his body learning to process the pizza. Mostly our house just needed a lot of air freshener and open windows in those days. I’ll leave it up to your imagination. He wasn’t sick. I liken it to a new baby trying a new food, and for a few days, the bowel does some funky things with it. I told my kids to be patient, that this too shall pass (excuse the pun), and that this is an amazing victory in our lives.

It also meant not packing a special lunch to go to pizza birthday parties with. It opened up a whole new world.

What can be celebrated in your house today? It might not be of this magnitude every day. But any time we can do something we couldn’t do before, it’s an amazing moment for thankfulness. Running that marathon (or half-marathon). Strengthening those abs. Conquering that Rachmaninoff piece. Having something taken off an IEP. Or going off the IEP altogether. Getting through that tough year with a teacher/instructor you didn’t jive with. Training those puppies. Learning better food intake self-control. Choosing not to rage in traffic. Making that career change. Choosing not to gossip when the rest of the room is.

In our family, we thank God for these moments because we feel incapable of making such amazing changes in our own strength. We feel it all comes from Him. We are responsible for our choices, but at the end of the day, we like to look up to thank Him for guiding us.

Which victory in your life can you celebrate today?

James 1:17, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah the Prophet speaking

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: