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Dear Anxiety: You Don’t Get to Win

Dear Anxiety-You Don't Get to WinThis piece is deeply personal. More than usual. It opens a window into a vulnerable moment and struggle in our lives. But I felt God calling me out of deep depression years ago to tell my stories openly—protectively, but openly. To make sure others know they are not alone in their struggles and to show them the hope that is ever before them if they can just outstretch a hand and a heart. Belief and trust start out tiny. They are a walk and a dance with Christ that are lifelong.

Perhaps you don’t believe in Christ and want to just know what I have to say about anxiety. I welcome you here, but please know my faith informs what I have to say because once I started my relationship with Christ, I never wanted to leave His beautiful heartbeat. It brings me comfort on the darkest of nights.

We believe for better days in our house. We’ve already come so far. But if it weren’t for the journey we’re on watching God’s hand move in different ways, I’d feel so alone, so defeated, so hopeless and helpless. Maybe you’ve been there—or are there—too. Let me pray for you right now.

“Almighty Father in Heaven: You care so deeply to reach into our broken world and war-torn hearts to bring peace, love, hope, and even joy. Show us Your mighty hand! Help us to spread a few fingers toward You in trust, surrendering what we don’t understand, can’t figure out, and feel overwhelmed by, and let us walk in peace with You wherever we are. Let us walk as Your daughters and sons, truly knowing You. Flood us with Your eternal peace, and teach us the liberty of the captives. Set us free, Oh, God! Amen.”

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Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dear Thief of Personal Peace: Meet the Policeman

peacethiefThis was my post on social media this morning:

To crippling anxiety on the face of my child this morning: I’m about to kick your rear with a blog. If I could have come bounding across the basketball court to punch the living daylights out of you by speaking the peace of Christ and shining Light so the liar would flee, I would have, but I just quietly prayed. I’ll settle for shining the Light into a blog where people can see you for the cheating cowardly thief that you are with just a façade of power that stands on nothing because Christ has already defeated you on the cross. ‘Nuff said. ‪#‎mamawontstoptillyouleave‬ ‪#‎youvebeenwarned‬‪ #‎iknowthevictoranditisntyou‬

 

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Boxing Kangaroos and Other Signs of Hypervigilance

Boxing Kangaroos and Other Signs of Hypervigilance

Lately, I have had my hands and schedule way too full. Our daily schedule involves speaking with at least two doctors/specialists a day, multiple evaluations, massive amounts of paperwork, class observations (volunteering is a great way to keep an eye on your own kid), interacting with teaching staff, and constantly considering how to adjust sleep, vitamin intake, dietary choices, and schedule to maximize the best functioning for just one of my three children. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a tricky thing in the middle of growth spurts, metabolic changes, classroom setting, sleep patterns, and any stress in the house. I can’t say I have anything figured out yet, but I am learning to be proactive, attentive, and flexible.

In the middle of the crazy merry-go-round we are riding, my son was doing a school research project. For his poster, he had to choose a continent and an animal that lives there to blend the concepts of habitat and geography, with some zoology thrown in for good measure. Since we had visited Australia a few years ago when we lived in the Marshall Islands, he chose a kangaroo so he could happily declare how he had pet one!

Well, actually, he went to feed it and accidentally stepped on its toes (yes, they have toes!).

Know the feeling? When you go to help someone, but you unintentionally end up making it worse or, at the very least, have your intentions misunderstood?

Well, I happened to be in the school library during one of the days the students were working on their continent/animal posters, and I caught Little Man, 9 years old, fascinated with several pictures in the book. He was so captivated, in fact, that I had to keep redirecting him to stay on task. But if I hadn’t stopped telling him to “stay focused,” “answer the right question,” and “finish up,” I would have missed what had him so enthralled: two kangaroos boxing each other. That’s right— boxing. They actually support their entire bodies on their tails while they aim two feet at their opponents at one time. (It’s true. I saw footage here.) That was Little Man’s fun fact of the day.

But it stuck with me beyond that. I couldn’t shake the image of those intense marsupials getting a swing in here and a swift, two-legged kick in there. (Apparently, their legs go together and can’t kick independently. Who knew?)

And it’s what I felt our family had been doing for so long.

We were boxing kangaroos!

Sometimes, we would sit on our tails trying to hold everything else up while we kick-boxed and punched at everything around us.

Often, we would stop in the middle of something else we were doing and drop everything to go a couple rounds with the current battle or struggle that threatened to rob us of peace.

Know what I meanEver been there?

But, as it turns out, I don’t have to take a swing at all strife everywhere all of the time. I don’t have to do amazing balancing acts on my tail and whack at everything offering me the slightest look of menace or provocation, no matter what the challenge is before me.

Why?

Because the Lord my God goes with me. He fights for me. I can rest in that. I can ask Him to take it and then show my trust by being still and waiting for Him to act on my behalf, as He promises to those who believe in Him. I might not be fighting Moses’s Egyptians, but the mountains ahead of me need moving. I cannot do it only in my own strength.

And really, once we grasp that concept, it’s such a huge relief, isn’t it?

Deuteronomy 31:6, English Standard Version (ESV), Moses narrating
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Exodus 14:13-14, ESV, Moses narrating
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Isaiah 45:2, ESV, God speaking through Isaiah the Prophet
“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron…”

He goes before me and levels the exalted places.

What now? He’s going to “break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron.”

Well, it sounds a lot to me like I don’t have to put up my dukes after all and break out in a sweat over everything that comes across my path. I can be diligent, and I certainly don’t want to be complacent, but it sounds like I can put my trust in God, a mighty and very capable warrior. When I believe and trust Him, He promises to remain close, go before me and with me, and remove obstacles from my path.

He says: “Fear not.”

If I really place my trust in Him, it also sounds like I can stop boxing kangaroos.

How about you?

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Intrigued by Australia? Here is a wonderful guide on 100 Best Things to Do in Australia and also Our Aussie Adventure, a personal travel experience, written on my original blog site about life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (and our travels in that part of the world).

More on hypervigilance can be found here.

 

*This blog is also featured at Your Tewksbury Today.

**It can also be found at Grace & Truth Link-Up, Mom 2 Mom Link-Up #23, Pick Your Pin Tuesdays, and Simplified Life.

 

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Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile 

BeStill

“’Be Still’ isn’t just for crisis mode.
That’s simply where we found it.
It is a new way of life, ensuring the health of our family.”

Today, I am so excited to be featured as a guest blogger at “The Urbane Flower.” My piece, “Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile,” can be found here.

Check out this uplifting blog site that my new friend Heather Gee put together!

I look forward to Heather guest-blogging here at “Espressos of Faith” very soon!

 

 

 

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Frazzled and Faith-Tested? Let Me Introduce You to Grace

Frazzled and Faith-Tested-Let Me Introduce You to Grace

Do you see that?

Hear that?

Sense that?

People are watching us. They want to see how we do this whole life thing with faith in Christ.

Will we slip up? Will we yell at God? Will we forget what the cross was for?

I can’t really say. Some of us might.

Life is hard, and the fluffy moments are not really what faith is for, are they? Sure, faith is present in those moments, but faith is not tested when life is cuddly, warm, prosperous, and carefree.

Yesterday, I felt like several balls were in the air at once. I had just gotten over being bed-bound for two days, and I had just survived the Let’s-See-All-Specialists-for-Myself-and-My-Children-All-in-the-First-Two-Weeks-of-January stress that I put on myself. Yup, eye doctor, dental torture, mammography, child psychiatrist, child therapist, pediatrician, and a long line-up of other such Happy Copay Collectors. I was apparently fulfilling some kind of unrealistic New Year’s resolution to maintain the family health. It felt like penance more than anything else—although for what, I wasn’t quite sure.

I thought, finally waking well, that it could be that often-just-out-of-reach day of rest. I wrongly assumed, after a four-day weekend off from school, that my kids would be in their respective learning institutions, and me? I’d catch up on some things—although I’m not putting the Christmas decorations away yet. I’m not that ambitious, and after all, my daughter tells all her friends (and their moms) that I keep them up until Valentine’s Day, so why ruin that little rumor? That’s too hyperbolic to pass up! 🙂

But then, after completing some tasks and starting to bury myself under some nice flannel sheets for a half-hour snooze, 

the phone rang.

It was the middle school nurse. The Day of Peace and Catch-Up came crashing down. I had to pick up my sickie Little Chickie. (I knew she was really sick because she’s my best patient and one tough cookie.)

After settling down Chickie, I headed to the elementary school to help with math in my son’s class, but when I arrived, I saw that The Look That Rips My Heart in Two was on his face.

The one where he’s given up.

The one where he’s overwhelmed and tear-filled but hiding it because he has looked over his math sheet a gazillion times and doesn’t know how to start.

Dear ADHD: Some days I admire your amazingness, and I want your incredibly swift-moving mind. But today, you put that look of failure and disappointment on Little Man’s face, and I just want to bash your face in. Love, Not-Feelin-the-Love-for-You-Today-ADHD, Mom

I choked back that sick feeling and shushed that haunting voice…the one that whispered to me we were doing last year’s depressive spiraling all over again. I got a grip, pulled my big girl trousers (such an awesome, antiquated word!) on, and backed off. I helped other students in the room. I kept a distant eye on him, but I didn’t hover, and I didn’t display Mama Panic.

Awesome Teacher and I exchanged a knowing glance. She would catch me up later. It was okay. She’s got this.

Faith-tested? 

Yes, it’s very hard to understand the “whys” of the struggle and if it will ever end. I cried on the way home and had this conversation with My Very Best Friend:

“Jesus, You know how much I love him. How I want to help him.” And then I said: “You love him so much more! So much more. I know You do.”

And with that statement of faith came a peace that I cannot explain.

But I find that in these testing moments, declarations of faith in God release His work in our lives. 

He certainly doesn’t need our permission, but it’s like a big nod or “go-ahead” that we trust what He is already doing and about to do.

James 1:3, ESV, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

The day didn’t end before a dog ate something she shouldn’t have and my oldest fell sick on the way home from karate. Some days just stink like a sewer. And this was my post on some social media platform (can’t even remember which one now) by the end of the day:

Daughter is sick, is vomiting, and son needs . Don’t we all some days ?

Okay, what happens when we’re frazzled?

When I’m frazzled, it usually means scrapping everything I had planned and begrudgingly accepting a rework when illness/crisis/advocacy can’t be put down. To me, not being able to do it all used to equate to feelings of failure. Ridiculous, right?

Dinner might not be made.
Deadlines may suffer.
I might not meet the needs of Children #1 and #2 as well as I would like to, since #3 needs my help right now.
The dogs may chew the couch or leave a little mess because they aren’t getting the usual dose of attention.
Dust might pitch more than a few tents on my furniture.
Permission slips might not be signed on time.
Tests might not be assisted in being studied for.
My spouse and I might be quick to quarrel.
I might rage at times about the feeling of lack of control a disorder or disease may bring.
Kids might go to bed after a cereal dinner in the clothes they wore to school.

These sound like silly standards, right? And yet, how many of us get derailed by not meeting them?

But I can’t do everything. And neither can you.

So, I ask God to help me do my best, but I try to keep in mind that:

The only one interested in me beating myself up is the liar to my soul.

It certainly isn’t God, even on the days I’m wondering why I fail to trust, why I slip into measuring myself by ridiculous standards, why I forget I’m only human and need His amazing grace to cover where I fall short.

Maybe you’re going through something significantly tougher than what I describe here in my own personal anguish about my son. Jesus’s hand is warm whenever we remember to grab it. I’m squeezing it tightly. You can too.

He never leaves us. And He holds up what we cannot carry when we ask Him.

Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV, Moses writing

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

More anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).
 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Espressos of Faith!

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Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

I truly appreciate those of you who regularly follow “Espressos of Faith” as well as those of you who stop by to check it out! You have made this blog what it is, and I’m thankful for you.

I’m going to make this short, since we are hopefully all with loved ones and/or taking some good rest and food to restore ourselves. For those of you working, blessings on your day, and thank you for working a holiday for others who do not have to work it this year.

Today, I am thankful for family and friends, for healing and things still in the process of healing, for a published book (Not Just on Sundays), and for all those who made that possible (editors, artist, photographer, book marketer, printer, pastor, readers, and people who encouraged and prayed me through).

I’m grateful for lessons learned and for places where God is working out my character and peeling off areas of pride and replacing them with areas where I hopefully rely more on Him. I am thankful for His Holy Word, which brings the only true wisdom to me in managing marriage, raising children, getting through challenges, fighting things that come against us, seeing blessings even in the valleys we walk through, and healing relationships.

This has been an intense year for our family for many reasons, and I’m so thankful for lessons learned—sometimes painful—in the valley, where answers still were not on the horizon, and all we had was faith in things unseen. I’m grateful both for the people who walked through the valley with us as well as those currently in a valley of their own who allowed me in to hold their hands for a while.

Hebrews 11:1, Author unknown but he is recording the words of God, ESV 
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are thankful for the warm hand of Jesus in ours as each step we take—in work, our families, and our faith—is often uncertain, except for with Whom we are walking.

May you know the peace, rest, love, grace, mercy, and incredibly deep love of Christ this Thanksgiving and always!

Grateful for you,
Bonnie

[Did I mention I’m also thankful for chocolate-covered pretzels? And pie! 🙂 ]

 

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When We Humans Find Ourselves Barking at Everything

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My otherwise laid-back, lazy, happy-go-lucky Shih Tzu Samson couldn’t care less about much most days. The world goes on around him, and he sometimes gets up to engage, but he’s often very content just to lay in his warm bed and give us a toothy grin or a quick glance of acknowledgment. Unlike his high-strung sister Delilah, he is easy to be around, low-maintenance, easy-going.

Except when he perceives something different outside as a threat. 

Usually this is a trash tote at the end of my neighbor’s driveway or a lawn mower my husband left out in the yard for a time. Sometimes it’s a squirrel, turkey, or deer, but most of the time it’s an inanimate object casting a shadow that isn’t usually there and therefore is a threat.

Samson can sit at our window-paneled door for 20 minutes solidly barking away at said “threat.” I often wonder if he finds it confusing that the trash can and/or lawn mower don’t therefore scurry immediately off—or at all.

And when I watch him going crazy for a while, spending all of whatever little energy he has being fierce protector against a mythical enemy, I see myself.

I see all of us.

How often do we, in times of stress, bat at everything in sight in front of us, viewing everything as a perceived threat?

How often do we live in attack mode, ready to pounce? This subject is touched on in “What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common,” but looking at it from a slightly different angle: Whom are we screaming at, coming against, jumping on, cutting off, and defending ourselves against, when really, that person is just a lawn mower—coming to, of all things, mow the lawn?

I think so often we do this to those closest to us, with whom we are most comfortable, because we know they’re here to stay, and we need to attack something, after all, and they’re a ready, available, easy target. But I also think we run around in times of stress seeing everyone and everything as the enemy, against us, ready to snatch our time, money, or resources. Dumb as it sounds, it could be the driver in front of us some days whose mission, we’re convinced, is to keep us from getting to that appointment on time. (Yeah, because we know perfect strangers wake up every day plotting to make our lives difficult.)

Or maybe it’s the child coming into the room for math homework help when we finally sat down to pay a bill that’s overdue. Or maybe we just took our first few sips of coffee that afternoon? Maybe we were about to “get our peace on,” and they came into the only time of quiet we have had all day.

Could it be the phone call coming in from a friend who might need help? Do we see that as a drain, a struggle, a time suck, a distraction, keeping us from something else? Something we are frantically trying to cross off our to-do list?

What about the well-meaning neighbor kid coming to the door to sell popcorn for a cause? Is it his fault dinner is burning, our phone is ringing, the toilet is clogged, and the husband is home late?

How about the husband who just walked in the door and straight into Mama Rage without warning because an injustice in the kids’ world needed to be set right, and he’s the first adult she encountered since her anger started smoldering?

Not always, but often, our short, sharp, barky replies in response to anything that moves—or even things that don’t but we think they should!—are the result of us being way…too…busy and overplanned. And when we realize for a fleeting second that we are not God and can’t possibly accomplish all we set out to do that day, we notice we actually have no margins. Life quickly becomes ugly, frantic, stressful, and impossible, really. Nothing feels doable. Even the next crisis needs to take a number. We simply have no room for anything extra to squeeze in and need our attention.

Everything unplanned is “in the way”—and therefore barked at.

We are edgy, grumpy, short-of-temper, and really of no use to anyone.

Maybe that is never you. Or maybe you are around someone who is stuck in this rut and can’t see the light leading him/her out.

The first step is recognizing we have our bat out and are taking a good, solid swing at everyone in sight. (That might feel good in the moment, but we leave scars and dents all over the place that we later have to deal with. They don’t usually repair on their own, as I’m finding out.)

The second step is breathing deeply, being still, taking a moment to regather our thoughts. Pretzel breathing has become one of my new, closest friends. We need to clear our heads and allow for some self-reflection. Taking a few steps back can help us to see at whom and what we are slamming and to decide if that is truly warranted (it rarely is).

Third, for my family, we believe we need to ask God to cleanse our hearts:

Psalm 139:23-24, David speaking ESV
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 51:9-12, David speaking, ESV
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

and bring us fresh peace: 

Psalm 29:11, David speaking, ESV
May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! 

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah speaking, ESV
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27, Jesus speaking, ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Philippians 4:4-7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. For us, these verses give us hope that we can stop barking. They offer a fresh start after repenting and then getting our peace on.

We’re not really in control, and barking and swinging are mere attempts to try to grab some control, order, and structure back. What we really need is to be still, examine ourselves, ask God to examine us, and let His peace wash over us to refresh us for the next thing coming our way.

Spoiler Alert: The “next thing” might not be in order on our list. It might very well be an interruption. Either way, we need His peace to keep us from sitting at the door ready to attack anything walking or standing by.

I’d rather live employing defense when I need it and not remain tense and rigid in a constant posture of offense. What about you?

Referring to this book again, because it’s pretty awesome:
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem 
by Kevin DeYoung
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/

 
 

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Cows, Cornfields, and a Father Who Cares for It All

Cows, Cornfields,This past weekend, I took my oldest son with me to visit my parents. It was a nice, long drive through New England and the middle states during leaf peeping season. The hand of God almost seemed to be painting treetops as we drove. My parents now live in farm country, where life somehow seems slower and cornfields abound—even the occasional buggy or two. And I really didn’t know how much my frantic, suburban heart needed cows and cornfields until I had been there a few hours and soaked it all in.

My father recently had surgery to remove his bladder. I went down there post-op to check on him but also to hear face-to-face the plan from here on out. Phone calls just didn’t cut it. I needed to look at him and see where life after surgery had taken him.

I was amazed. In addition to decorating the foliage with a beautiful array of color, God was apparently also strengthening a body that should be beaten down and exhausted after a sum total of five tumors over many years and, most recently, ten hours of surgery and four units of blood—but, overall, it wasn’t. I’m sure it was for the first few weeks after surgery, but it certainly wasn’t now.

While God was growing cornfields so tall with bonneted women bending over to eagerly check the harvest, He was also apparently breathing fresh peace through a cottage home: winds of reassurance, a cloak of safety.

While He was giving cows full milk to squeeze in industrious dairy farms all over His rolling fields, He was also delivering love, food, gifts, and messages to two of His children weathering a raging storm.

And this moment converged in my own life with crazy-busy slamming in regularly and not letting go. So, sitting in this peaceful countryside did much to soothe me and my son. I napped when they napped. I worshipped when they worshipped. And I slowed way down for a few days.

Blogs and book signings by the wayside.

My own “mom duties” minimal.

Just breathing in hay smells and watching the buggies clomp-clomp down a street that wasn’t too busy for them. How badly I yearned to be a buggy in those moments.

We even watched an old movie snuggled under afghans after warm chicken pot pie.

This isn’t where I grew up. Where I was raised used to have tall cornfields. I could get lost in them for hours. I still dream about them from time to time. But developments popped up everywhere, the high school grew enormous, and streets became busy. My parents found that quiet space again when they retired, and it’s a place to truly feel restoration and refreshment.

I thought I was going just to see how things were going, but God also delighted me with rest.

The noise around me stopped.

I could see where this was the best place for my father to convalesce. How could you not heal in a place where people seem to have enough time and quiet to feel God’s breath on their faces as He exhaled?

When I asked my son what his favorite part was, it wasn’t the Chinese food buffet we went to (although that ranked up there) but rather the amazing worship choir/band/orchestra at their church—and relaxing. It said a lot to me about what a family in our season of life back home in Massachusetts was like. We had been spinning like tops, trying to find a good stopping place, but we hadn’t found it yet.

Until this trip.

I found it difficult to part with the calm I felt in their part of the country. I found myself longing for another escape there very soon—with a different child this time, to be fair.

But I also realized that God provides in ways that are sometimes not thought of or expected by us.

–The visiting nurse arriving to discuss my father’s body functions, in her own way, was Jesus tangibly holding his hand.

–The woman at church who wrote so many sentiments and cards was Christ’s disciple washing my father’s feet.

–The beaming smiles of the friends in the pew behind them were life-giving gifts from a Father Who deeply loves us.

For seven weeks, I had been sitting in my home, half a day’s drive away, crying out to God (joining the voices of many others) for my father’s provision, and this weekend, I got to meet some of them. I was able to thank them. I was able to touch into what God had been doing while I lived away. And I was able to feel the Father’s warm embrace that “He’s got this. He always has. He takes care of His children.”

I returned to talk at a speaking engagement the very next day, but I was rested, calm, at peace, and knowing my Father in heaven better. He knew I came to check on my dad, but isn’t it just like God to take care of us at the same time?

Life picked up where it left off, except I had auburn-golden-crimson colors in my mind. The kindness of strangers. God’s kiss on my face in the smile of a coffee shop manager. A peace that passes all understanding swirling through my parents’ home.

That peace certainly didn’t belong there on its own because cancer doesn’t speak peace.

But Jesus does. He put it there.

Philippians 4:7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus speaking, ESV
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This blog has been shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Tell It To Me Tuesdays, Pick Your Pin TuesdaysWomen With Intention WednesdaysCoffee & Conversationand A Little R & R.

More anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

 

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The Beautiful Road Less Travelled: Reconciliation and Relational Restoration

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I consider myself deeply committed to keeping relationships working. So, when they fail (due to my own shortcomings and/or someone else’s issues), I take it very hard. I’m sure many of us do. I believe that there are very few situations in life that warrant a complete walk-away.

Taking space: Yes! That comes up from time to time and is healthy.

But jumping on an exit ramp out of a relationship at the first disappointment or hurt: No.

Everything in me screams against that. Why? Because redemption and reconciliation do not have to be ruled out. Yes, it takes two. And yes, it takes hard work. And yes, we can’t control the response of the other person. But if it’s important enough to us, we can always leave the door open. We may have boundaries. We may have healthier ways we’d like to try to interact when we re-engage. We may have apologies to exchange or offer, but relationships can heal if both parties are

willing

and

committed.

This has been on my mind as I thank God for relationships in my own life that have healed. Sometimes, people take a lot of space from each other. That can be painful and rejecting, but it is also a chance to pray for God to put things back together. That is what I have done in several situations, and He is so incredibly faithful. In some cases, the wait has been years. Yes, years. Sometimes, it was just months. But it was always worth the wait.

Has every broken relationship in my life healed? No. Will they all heal? I don’t know. That depends on the other people, too, and where their hearts are, but I do know the best thing is asking God to do something beautiful with the wreckage, show me my own wrong, and help me to remain in a posture of humility.

Is there any other posture possible, really, when we want reconciliation?

I don’t think so.

It doesn’t mean being a proverbial doormat and taking all wrong upon ourselves if some of it isn’t ours to take. It just means being ready to be sorry, apologize, open our arms back to the one ready to rejoin us. When we stand in angry stances, we aren’t exactly an open door.

That said, I don’t believe toxic relationships should be re-started unless new boundaries can be agreed upon and followed, so I’m not suggesting every situation is healthy enough to re-enter. There are definitely situations in which we need to let go or keep distance when they are regularly unsafe, emotionally or otherwise.

This has been on my mind a lot because I love watching my kids discover this. When they have had falling-outs with friends, I always tried to remind them that today’s difficult misunderstanding or hurt does not have to mean a forever rift. Sometimes, people grow in different directions and come back to a place where they find value in each other again. They grow from tiny, elementary school kiddos whose biggest disagreement is that Cassidy isn’t sharing nicely anymore, to more upper elementary school grades, when the friendships shift and twist, and alliances are made so frequently and painfully, it’s like watching a reality tv show about social survival. Middle school is its own bomb going off of hormones and insecurities, and then comes high school when they can settle in a bit more. I love when my children come to me and say: “So-and-so and I are hanging out again sometimes” (assuming so-and-so is not some horrible influence). And I love to respond: “That’s so awesome! Aren’t you glad you allowed the space, expanded your friendships, but left the door open? I bet you will find new things that you appreciate about each other in these new ages/grades that you are.”

I don’t have a hang-up about my kids losing some friendships and making new ones along the way. That’s part of life. It’s human sorting, more or less. It’s how we find out what we value in ourselves and others. And that leads to growth.

But I do celebrate when they make a choice to not permanently shut off or out a person they once cared deeply for—when they take the space needed but leave an open door for healing and recovery. Not every relationship will go through that door, but doesn’t it teach us something so beautiful about God’s redemptive work and reconciliation to Himself through Jesus on the cross on our behalf when we see Him take our yielded, open hearts and make what’s messy all sparkly and new? There is so much darkness and lack of hope in this world that one of the most precious things to me is seeing answered prayer through restored relationships. It’s God working in our midst, taking what is broken on each side of the relationship and giving it the wholeness only He can give. He asks us to be reconciled, before it escalates into something big and brutal.

Are there places you desire this? Do you struggle, like I do, on waiting it out, being patient, letting God take it? We can find hope in His promises, today and always, if you trust Him and call Him your own. There is a God who hears and wants to bring not only reconciliation of people to Himself but also with each other. It can require the often difficult choice of humility and a yielded heart, but that’s the road I want to always travel on—because it’s the only one that leads to peace of heart and lived-out grace.

Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus speaking
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

Colossians 1:19-20, Apostle Paul speaking (reference to Jesus Christ)
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Apostle Paul speaking
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

More on relational healing and restoration can be found in Not Just on Sundays.

*This blog linked up at Grace & Truth, Saturday Soirée Blog Party, Christian Mommy Bloggerand Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up.

 

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What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common

What Scaring Turkeys and Catastrophic Thinking Have in Common

I was out of the house for a while one day not too long ago, and when I came back, the kids were very excited to tell me how our 10-pound Shih Tzus, Samson and Delilah, scared off wild turkeys in our yard. Apparently, they howled and howled, diligently assuming their roles as our protectors, and when the turkeys returned a second time, the kids took Samson and Delilah out again so they could give those birds another talking-to.

I thought a lot about how my pups are really not any different in size than these feathered impostors in our yard. And how in that moment of angst, Samson and Delilah took their job seriously, no matter the cost. Yes, they bark at butterflies. They also bark at the black bear that visits our neighborhood each spring and fall. It really doesn’t matter the perceived foe—big or small—they’re at the ready to scare intruders off, tiny Shih Tzu teeth and all.

And isn’t that really what hypervigilance is? Don’t we all get that way sometimes? With some of the anxiety struggles in one of my children this past year, I have remained in a constant state of “watch,” not being able (or willing) to let down my guard. I think at the root of it is a trust issue. I wrongly believe that the minute I take a deep breath and sigh, all of the balls I think I am holding up in the air will crash down on our heads and shatter, never to be repaired. But, isn’t that really arrogant in a way? Do I really even hold them up? When I look in a mirror reflecting back, I see them up there, but it’s not my hand keeping them spinning in the air. It’s an invisible, mighty one attached to my Father in heaven.

And, the truth is: I have had to scare turkeys this year. There have been wild flocks coming into my life pecking at what doesn’t belong to them. There have been bullies (in adult form), anxiety, depression, toxic people, gossip, malice, slander, you name it! Things have been taken, or attacked, that were mine. And then beyond our own home were dear ones struggling through job loss, affliction, mental illness, death, disease, injury, personal loss of other kinds.

Sound familiar? It’s the world outside of the Garden of Eden—

—And we all live in it.

So, it’s easy to see why we get catastrophic in our thinking after a while. After a year (or even a few weeks) of one thing after another slamming up against us, we don’t live just “at the ready.” We live at Disaster Preparedness Level 10.

And that’s where I was sitting when I went in to see my son’s therapist to check in, only to have her tell me I was readying for a war that isn’t really even on the horizon. And while I wasn’t suited up sitting in a tank, I was definitely eyeing the property line for more turkeys. She more or less told me I could relax my shoulders now. It’s not all up to me. The turkeys aren’t there right now. At ease, Bonnie. At ease.

Say what now? It’s not all up to me?

That was such a huge relief.

I cried for days after that.

Because she was right.

If the Time of Great Sadness comes back into our house again, God will be with me just as much as He was then. Like Samson and Delilah, I will naturally kick into protective mode, but I don’t have to live there all of the time. I can enjoy the in-between moments and live. My Shih Tzus bound around fighting over a rubber alligator and see how many different ways they can jump on my couch when I’m not looking—and practice quick jump-aways for when I am.

The turkeys aren’t actively hanging out in our yard right now. They’re probably a few streets over taking their good ole time crossing a road in rush hour traffic—just because they can. Samson and Delilah aren’t staring out the window in expectation of them. They only scare them off when the need arises.

When anxiety strikes and we can’t let go, we need to know we don’t have to walk around scaring off turkeys. They will find us; they always do, eventually, and if we’re prayerful and consulting with our Father in heaven, we’ll know how to scare them into retreat when they do. But not everything is a wild turkey.

And there’s so much living to do in-between the times the turkeys visit. Catastrophic thinking steals our joy, drains us of the energy we need when it is time to protect, and cheats us of the peace of looking up into the very capable eyes and arms of the loving Peace Giver.

Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah the Prophet speaking

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27, Jesus speaking

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

This blog has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

More anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

 

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