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
I am not very good at keeping still. In fact, I turn still into a such a multitasking event that I defeat its entire purpose. Last night, for example, I sat down to watch The Peanuts Movie with my youngest son, and I turned it into a moment of buying a subscription to a creation science magazine for my oldest child for Christmas.
I was always the child who had to play a board game with myself or work on a scrapbook project while watching television. Even when my friends would come over to play Barbies, I would sing commercial ditties or manage multiple tasks at once. Ask any one of my childhood friends, and she will tell you I drove her nuts! Being at rest is not a concept I have ever understood. I have always been driven and project-focused. The night of my bridal shower, I stayed up late for hours to make sure all thank-you notes were immediately written, stamped, and addressed.
For a long time, I chalked it up to an amazing work ethic. I was the ant of Proverbs 6—and proud of it!
Proverbs 6:6-9, ESV
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
Right now, for example, I am writing an email reply to my mother while
–looking for dressy heels for my daughter at Famous Footwear online,
–writing this article,
–checking on the dogs,
–and thinking about the school evaluation forms I have to fill out and promptly sign and return to special education office in the school district.
I also might stop and wrap one present.
I might be productive, but I certainly am not focused.
What does still mean for you?
My still consists of the few moments Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: advent, Advent peace, ant of Proverbs, be still, being at rest, being still, fighting still, finding still, focus, gathers her food in harvest, God with us, Hebrews 4:16, immanuel, keeping still, know that I am God, peace, Proverbs 6, psalm 46:10, quiet the storm, still, The Peanuts Movie, Throne of Grace, walking on water
This year, I made myself a promise that I would buy 95 percent of Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. I’ve even managed to ship a few care packages and boxes of presents already. I think I learned from previous years that if I want a peaceful, Christ-focused Advent season, I have to be organized, planned, and efficient.
Two years ago, my father passed away on December 2. Advent was a blur. I don’t even remember if I shopped. This is a difficult time of year for that and other reasons, and I am choosing to spend December reading about shepherds watching their flocks by night, singing worship carols, and focusing on Immanuel, God with us. I want to create more family time, play board games, do a jigsaw puzzle, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, The Christmas Story, and Elf. I can’t wait to cuddle my dogs on cold nights and breathe in Christmas candles and essential oils diffusing in every room. I look forward to my daughter baking cookies and filling the house with the delightful smells of Christmas.
I want to be expectant in my heart and soul, like Mary, mother of the Christ, my heart trusting in my God.
Luke 1:46-50, ESV
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
What about you? Did you anticipate the fun or the stress of last-minute grocery runs for the cranberry sauce, post-Thanksgiving cleanup, Black Friday shopping, crowds, traffic, and the tensions that can be both beautiful and stretch us taut when around extra family during the holidays? Did you put up your Christmas tree? Lights?
Is there anticipation in the air—or just weariness?
Whatever season you are in, wherever the needle on your stress gauge is at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: advent, call me blessed, Christ, Christ child, expectant, finding advent, God with us, holiday peace, holiday stress, holiday weariness, humble estate of his servant, humility, immaculate conception, immanuel, Jesus, live peaceably with all, living peaceably, living peacefully, Luke 1:46, Magnificat, mary mother of christ, peace, rejoice in hope, romans 12, soul magnifies the Lord, weary
I was having the most peaceful, productive, encouraging day. I had just finished up a videoconference with a professional collaborating with me for a special needs inclusion ministry we were trying to build within our church. After an hour and a half of bouncing ideas around with an expert I greatly admire in the field, I drew in a deep breath, composed an email to the ministry leaders at my church, and made my lunch.
I was jazzed. Passions of mine were not only being picked back up again, but they were riding the surf into deeper waters. This is the stuff I live for! I was being equipped to do it better. That was invigorating!
Then in came Kids One and Two.
Phew, no teen angst. Happy days. They shared a few thoughts and even made me laugh. A complaint or two was offered about it being Thursday and the snacks were running out (wonder how that happens?). Everyone moved on to showers, dressing for karate and dance, and homework. If you interact with any teenagers, you know that you have to prepare yourself for anything coming at you. Kids-metamorphosing-into-adults are a complex breed. I love them but never know which persona will walk through the door.
Ah. Another few moments to ponder the peace.
And then Bus Number 3 pulled up. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Peter 5:6, angst, anxiety, casting our cares, emotional health, emotional regulation, emotional triggers, He cares for you, humble yourselves, peace, peace of God, praying, relationship with God, school stress, stress, talking to God, worries
I woke up in the middle of the night. An old wound reopened. My mind was rushing, and I could not for the life of me understand why certain memories were flooding back upon popping one eye open.
Didn’t I take care of that business, Lord? Why am I awakened by this?
Truth be told, I was having a hard time sorting out whether I was being tormented (which isn’t God) about something in the past just to derail me and disrupt my peace, or if God had woken me up to sort through something.
I was aware of the small trigger that had set off the memories, but I felt I had dipped them in His amazing peace, prayed them down, and stepped off the memory platform.
Apparently not so.
Ever have something come back and revisit, and you’re not sure what to do with it?
Yeah, me too.
Whenever this happens and old tapes play in my head, I have two choices (because ignoring them doesn’t work): Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: break free, coming back to God, confession, discernment, faithfulness of God, forgiven, galatians 6:1, God wakes us up, God's rebuke, know my heart, luke 8:24, memories, peace, perfect peace, prayer, psalm 139:23-24, relationship with God, repentance, search me o God, search my heart, shame, sin, spiritual discipline, torment, trigger, unfinished business
This article was first published at Your Tewksbury Today, where I wrote in real time as I processed the loss of my father during Advent 2015. While this was two months ago, to the day, I feel it is important to revisit it; it is part of an ongoing series I am writing on grief. Sometimes it is a stuck place, and we need a little help to get unstuck, but it’s not just grief that leaves us feeling this way. We can land with legs up in the air, unable to find our ground during any kind of loss: relationship disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, a crushed dream, etc.
I hope you find something in it to bring you or someone you know peace and comfort as you/he/she experience/s the inevitable: mourning what was and adjusting to the new normal.
I was stuck—a stuck mouse to a glue trap in my grief. Arms and legs flailing in perpetual motion but no ability to move forward. My sweet father lingered in a place where peace was promised ahead, but he had to cross the precipice by himself, and there was nothing I could do about it. The push-pull of those last days brought such conflicting feelings that penetrated my very marrow. Waking or sleeping, all I could do was picture the glory ahead and a sweet man with fingers gently reaching up to wait for the hand of Christ.
When I look at my youngest son’s limbs, hands, and feet, freckled and long, I see my father. The auburn wisps around his face? Another genetic transfer. For years, when we lived in the Marshall Islands, we would send his hair clippings to Dad to show him that beautiful autumn fire that successfully lived on in the gene pool.
Last week I found myself holding my breath just looking at my son. I was grateful my father was so evident in his appearance. I walked around half-completing tasks, afraid to be in public when the phone would ring, immobilized in my favorite IKEA chair with both dogs on my lap, and unable to fully clear a table, finish a load of laundry, or make a meal. Time. Stood. Still. I was waiting for the crossover with a grief that engulfed me for what would be—a fearful anticipation of life without Dad. I could not move on.
What about you? Have you found yourself stuck in grief, fear, disappointment, shame, or disillusionment? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: be their shepherd, broken heart, burden, comfort in grief, complicated grief, cry out to God, death, deepest need, disillusionment, down to the pit, dying, fear, God provides, grief, holy sanctuary, hospice, inheritance of David, Lord my rock, loss, loss of father, Marshall Islands, mourning, need for God, peace, prayer, Psalm 28, quiet you by his love, relationship with God, strength and shield, strength of his people, stuck grief, zephaniah 3:17
My 9 year old Little Man and I were out waiting for the bus, watching Bobo the Smith Lawn Chipmunk scuttling around in our front wooded area. He was eating and storing things in his little cheeks.
Little Man was fascinated for quite some time, but then he
said: “Mom, what if a snake gets him today?”
And isn’t that a sign of how we all mature from our innocence and learn the darker side of the world? When fear creeps in where we used to prance about with untainted optimism?
Don’t we all so quickly “go there” in our minds and hearts? Fear is always crouching. Darkness always wants us to think it wins.
2 Timothy 1:7, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
It’s interesting that the King James Version uses the word “sound mind” instead of “self-control.” It suggests to me we are given the tools in Christ to put our minds where they should be. Our minds don’t have to be tossing about at the whims of our fears. We are given the power and love to keep them sound, safe from the torment of crippling “what ifs.”
- The chemo doesn’t work?
- We never work through this conflict?
- S/he leaves me?
- S/he never learns to read?
- We can’t pay for college?
- They never learn to live on their own?
- I fail?
- The car dies before we can afford to replace it?
- We never sell this house?
- There’s a car accident?
- S/he never comes home?
- I never get well?
- We die before the kids are raised?
- I lose this job?
Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 John 4:15-19, 2 corinthians 10:5, 2 timothy 1:7, abandonment, abides in God, abides in Him, anxiety, casts out fear, chemo, concern, eye on the sparrow, fear, fear of abandonment, fear of not having enough, fear of outliving children, God is love, he first loved us, healthy fear, Matthew 10:29-31, no fear in love, panic, peace, perfect love, Philippians 4:8, power in the name of Jesus, renewing our minds, self-control, sound mind, spirit of fear, take thoughts captive, taking thoughts captive, unhealthy fear, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is true, worries
I don’t know about you, but I set many goals for myself this year that were unmet. Partly to blame was the overachiever in me. Also, I have no crystal ball to tell me how my year is going to go, so I wrongly assume I have 18 hours free in every day to accomplish tasks.
I lay my plans out as if I wear a cape and boast superpowers, and then I privately whine to myself (and sometimes to others—okay, often to others) when they don’t happen. Meanwhile, my crazy ambition starts hissing a slow leak all year, and I fold under my unrealistic expectations into a heap of frustration.
If you can relate to this in any way, then this post is for you.
Maybe you don’t feel like you’ve failed work projects, but you regret not having more one-on-one investments in people, especially close loved ones in declining health. Maybe you wish you would have spent more time on home repairs this year, or you wanted to go back to school but didn’t.
At any point in time, whatever we keep busy with, we often feel something else is passing us by: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 Corinthians 14:33, ambition, calibrate, calibration, confusion, disappointed goals, disappointment, establishes his steps, failed expectations, failure, frustrated goals, goals, God's purposes, heart of man, peace, peace of God, plans, pressure gauge, proverbs 16:9, relationship with God, unrealistic expectations
I grew up just outside Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell and, for that matter, the Statue of Liberty, were important visuals to me of all that America stands for. As I’ve been walking through stores and seeing red, white, and blue adorning every aisle, I’ve had a lot of opportunity this week to consider what freedom really is.
I could focus on so many different topics: what our soldiers uphold for us every day, the Constitution, freedom from religious persecution, opportunities to receive an education, safe harbor within our own borders, and even our leisure, which is completely unheard of in so much of the world.
While I love my country and appreciate everything about it that protects my liberties, I celebrate my freedom in Christ every day because Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (and resurrection) makes all of the following possible (and more!): Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: forgiven, forgiveness, fourth of July, free in God, free of labels, free of my past, free to bless, freedom, freedom in Christ, fruit of the Spirit, God's purposes, grace, His promises, His truth, identity in Christ, independence day, liberty, living generously, not compare to others, peace, peace of God, rest in Christ, Throne of Grace, to not be judged, to not judge, trusting God
The other morning I thought I’d start work early so I could spend most of my
day with the kids, who are now on summer vacation.
As I sat down on my IKEA chair, my Shih Tzu Delilah jumped up to sit at my feet on the ottoman. Her barrel-chested brother Samson, a few pounds heavier and a bit more awkward, couldn’t leap up to join her, so he pawed my arm and whined for several minutes until I heaved him up. This time he didn’t want her company. He wanted to be close to me.
He immediately resituated so he could lick my bare feet and then laid his soft, teddy-bear head against them.
I believe this was Samson’s way of snuggling in, receiving reassurance, tapping into my “master love.”
Oh, Samson, Buddy, what a parallel I draw here. Thank you for being my morning muse.
[Samson’s sister likes to lick laptops. Yeah, dogs are weird.]
How much I am like Samson! When I wake and know my Master is with me, Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: anxiety, deep love, everyday faith, fear, feet of Jesus, go in peace, holiness, Isaiah 52:7, kissed his feet, luke 7:36-50, Master's feet, OCD, peace, posture of worship, relationship with God, salvation, shih tzu, sit at His feet, the feet of him who brings good news, tween girls, wet his feet with her tears