Sisters and Grace

Growing up I had two sisters (also a lone brother, pity him).  My older sister is 7 years older than me so I mostly looked up to her, followed her around, and attempted to read her diary (unsuccessfully though because it was in cursive, and I was 7).

My younger sister was only a year younger though so we were incredibly close but fought like you wouldn’t believe.

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We only looked sweet and innocent!

I’m pretty sure my parents considered adoption at points!

We’re both so much alike in that we are head strong, idealistic, and passionate.  We’ve gotten into many debates.  We’ve taken different paths.  At times those paths led us in wildly different directions.  We’ve done things to hurt each other.  I was the dutiful, worried big sister and she was the care-free little sister throwing caution to the wind.

But blood is thicker than water and we’ve always come back and managed to sort through our differences. cicisash

When you love people you find common ground.  You work things out.  You forgive.

Offense can sneak in and bring down families, churches, marriages, even ones faith.

I was wrestling with it recently (um, today, it was today) and I want to share how we can recognize it and deal with it effectively.

As soon as I realized I was upset with a certain someone I tried to quiet my emotions and keep my perspective.  But when you are offended your emotions get inflamed with hurt and anger and indignation and perspective can be quick to fly out the window.  My own tendency is to get offended and then try to figure it out on my own, like “why did that person do that?  What are they really saying?  What is their problem? (it’s always their problem, amiright?!)”…

But today I felt all that rising up in me and I stopped, dropped and prayed.  I did.  I put my hair dryer down and knelt right in my bathroom to pray.  “Lord, I don’t want to be offended.  I know it is a big deal to you.  Lord, help me to let this go.  Lord, please help this person.  Please give them clarity and grace and maybe a gentle smack up the side of the head with an anointing of perspective.  Amen.”

Normally I wouldn’t surrender it like that.  I’d analyze and over-analyze and get all tied up in knots over it.  I would sleep horribly and then feel even worse.  Because offense steals our peace.  It steals our joy.  It stops up the fountain of the grace of God from flowing freely in our lives.

But I did pray, and I felt so much better.  I let it go.  I didn’t pick it back up.

Often, people hurt us out of their own places of wounding.  Our insecurity causes us to act a fool at times.  It can control us if we aren’t careful.  I know I’ve sinned from that place.  I’ve needed grace a’plenty.  Why would I not being willing to extend it?

There are very serious warning about not letting offense come in and take over.

“Pursue peace with all men…that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:14-15 

Your bitter root is not staying contained.  That thing is going to wind its way around you until it chokes the life out of you and goes on to defile many.  Bitterness is something that we starve or nurture.  We need to pull it out by the root.  We need to deal with offenses as they come so that we don’t have any rotten roots growing wild producing rotten fruit stinking up our lives.

We’re all human so it’s safe to say that wherever we gather; stupid, insensitive things will be said.  People will feel left out.  People will clash.

We need to keep strengthening those forgiveness muscles.  Especially in those close relationships where you see people at their best and also at their worst.

There isn’t much sadder than the distance that results from a refusal to forgive.  People can genuinely love each other but lose years of precious time together because of the bitterness that took hold.

Also, (hello) it’s a major, major deal to God.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:15

God isn’t going to give you this beautiful and costly gift for you to hoard to yourself.  We don’t siphon grace.  We live it out.  He forgave, so we can too.

Mini-Me Emo

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish I had a mini-me!”?  lol  Me neither. 15977912_10158152160410074_5460029857167451154_n But it happened.  My son Gabe is so much like me.  He looks like me and basically has my personality down to his music taste.  True story; as a child my favorite song was “Take on Me” by A-ha.  Which is now his favorite song.  It’s so odd sometimes just how much gets passed down from one generation to the next.

I’m a sensitive introvert (an INFJ, to be exact) and I’m guessing he is too.  I swing between two extremes in personality- everything is wonderful and I love everyone…or woe is me!  Nobody loves me!  Life is horrible!

Basically wildly vacillating between these two extremes…

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I see so much of that in my son as well.  Finding out my personality type was extremely helpful in understanding why I think and act the way I do.

I know I write in a very serious manner but that is just part of my personality.  In my life I am really very goofy and silly and weird.  I love to laugh and would do just about anything to elicit a laugh.  But I also have this very serious, reflective side.  Lately, that part has been very much in the forefront in going through an extended health crisis with my son.

Under stress I’ve just not been in the best “head space”.  I think a part of me was upset when everyone else’s life just kept going like normal when mine came to a screeching halt.

INFJs are known for “door-slamming” when under pressure and I can look back and see I have done that multiple times in the past few months.  A door slam is when we reach a point of stress and frustration that is such that we completely cut people out of our lives.

Today I took a major step forward in repairing one such damaged relationship.  It felt really good.  I realized (ouch ouch ouch) that I can be a bit of (!!!) a drama queen at times.  I have compassion on myself though because I’ve been given this weird insight into how I am wired, because I see so much of it in my son as well.

I’m emotional.  I get hurt easy.  I tend to turn inwards instead of just outright addressing problems.  But I’m also caring and thoughtful and quick to forgive when I eventually do come to my senses.

Having children is humbling but also enlightening.  I know, for me, it has helped me to be more compassionate with myself.  I love my children so dearly but I see the humanness there.  Their weaknesses.  Their struggles.  But I love them so much, they are so precious to me.  I love them for who they are, not in spite of their humanity but because of it.  They are vulnerable and they need me and that only makes me love them more.

I think God sees us very much the same.  He loves us in our humanity, in our struggle.  He has a Father’s heart towards us.  It gives me a tremendous sense of comfort to think of God in that way.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15

I think that is a word for someone.  I will not forget you! 

“Heavenly Father, help us to get a sense of how much, how dearly, you love us.  Help us to know and truly understand that you will not, can not, forget us.  You fashioned us uniquely in our Mothers womb.  You know us intimately and love us eternally.  Amen”

A Midsummers Night Blog

This is just going to be kind of a random blog about Gabe’s progress and life in general.

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Lindt chocolate ball,  mmm

Gabe is now 5 months into topical steroid withdrawal.  I know I left off with sharing what rough shape he was in a couple weeks ago (with what may or may not have been measles…) without any real update.  He did get better.  Now he is back to his usual TSW self.

His skin looks much better than in the early days (or even two weeks ago with mystery illness!) but his energy levels are still very low.  I imagine long term topical steroid use caused major adrenal gland suppression and it is just taking a long time for them to “re-boot”.

At this point he is still sitting in his favorite spot, the recliner, for most of the day.  He doesn’t want to go anywhere.  I can’t blame him.  Minnesota summers are hot and very humid and it aggravates his condition horribly.  Just 5-10 minutes outside will lead to a 20 minutes “itchfest” where he’ll scratch till he is bleeding and in pain.

One of the hardest things is feeling guilty because so much of my time goes to taking care of Gabe.  My other two children just aren’t getting as much attention.  We could have picked a better time to start!  I feel like we are all missing out on summer fun, seeing as how we spend most of our time indoors.

I know next summer will be different, will be better.

In the mean time I can’t wait for school to start.  I know moms aren’t supposed to say that, but it’s true.  I am truly an introvert, and I need a good deal of peace and quiet every day for a sense of emotional well-being.  Being mostly stuck inside all day with three loud children is very draining!  That plus the fact that many nights Gabe is literally up till midnight and then up again at 7 am, needing care.

As someone who is naturally prone to depression, I feel like I have been handling this all really well.  My husband is my support system for sure.  Plus my sweet dog (the subject of my last blog post) he is always there with his comforting presence.  And of course, God (!!!).

There has been quite a lot of pain along the way.  In that this condition is very alienating and I haven’t gotten as much support from other people in my life as I would hope for.  I have felt judgement (real or imagined) at our decision to take Gabe off of his potent steroid creams.

I know that ultimately it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  My husband and I are 100% on the same page.  We feel like God led us to this point.  I know that Gabe will heal and that will be vindication in itself, along with being our greatest hope realized.

In closing I think that so often we feel like if God is with us, the journey would be easier.  We feel like if we are hurting and exhausted, God can’t possibly be involved.  But that just isn’t the case.  Just like how he met with the Patriarchs in the desert, he meets with us in our “desert”.

“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” Isaiah 41:81

“Lord, help us to find your streams of life-giving waters in whatever barren wilderness we find ourselves in.  Help us to rise above our circumstances as we keep our eyes on you.  Do a work in our hearts as we submit the brokenness of our situations to you.  Help us to know that you are the prize we seek and that we have eternal value as your workmanship in Christ Jesus.  Amen”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puppy Love

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I haven’t blogged in a bit because I have been busy with our new puppy, Copper.  Our kids have been begging for a dog for years.  Last year we went the chintzy route and got a couple pet rats.  About the fourth time they bit one of the kids they went back to the store!  SO I finally twisted my husbands arm- er, talked him into- a real live puppy.  Not just any puppy.  A golden retriever.  Like and 90’s kid I grew up watching movies that featured talking golden retrievers and have always wanted one.

Right now he is super cute and super annoying!  He is really mouthy, which I guess is common for a hunting breed.  He is also sweet and follows me around the house.  He’s only had a few accidents and seems to be doing well so far with the training.  I can’t wait till he is grown and calm and the famously easy going, happy family dog.

So here are some purely gratuitously cute pics for your enjoyment… 🙂

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A Trip on the Short-bus

Shout out to all you who parent, love, or work with challenging kids.  Autism, O.C.D., O.D.D, A.D.D., A.S.S…(ha jk about that last one).

I have one (Michael) who is a whole lot of aspergers and a little bit of the other ones.  He is also very capable, almost a genius in fact.  He was starting to read at three and was put in a gifted program this year.

He is super smart but not the most *ahem* driven or compliant child to ever grace a classroom.

This year he has been quite a pain to his teachers- argumentative and refusing to complete work.  He was shocked to learn that he might be held back a year, and have to repeat fifth grade if he doesn’t get his act together.  “But I’m in the Quest program…”  Sometimes (all-the-times) we can’t sail through life on sheer giftings alone.  We need to be willing to work hard, to persevere, to see it through.

My son Michael also had one too many infractions on the bus and got put on the ‘short bus’.  He came home after his first day riding and was humbled.  He had to be strapped in and the other children riding had much more severe problems than him.  I think it was a bit of a wake up call.

Like Michael, we all have God-given giftings, abilities, talents, and passions.  But we also have many weaknesses, frailties, and struggles.  We have to wade through, work hard, never give up… if we want to realize our God-given potential.

Michael has the ability to be well-behaved and do great at school.  If he will or not is ultimately up to him.  Just like any of us.

So take this as an admonishment to do your best with what you have.  We all have cards stacked against us.  We might have to yell at some mountains in faith.  We might have to be stronger than we ever thought possible.  K2-Eight-thousander-List_of_countries_by_highest_point-List_of_highest_mountains

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20

 

 

 

Dark Tunnel

Today I’ve been thinking about brokenness in life and finding glimpses of light in dark spaces.  Cheery, no?

Life is heavy.  Life is hard.  Sometimes it all, plus the unrelenting pull away from God can all be too much.

I have a child with aspergers, high-functioning autism.  It’s never easy but sometimes it is just so hard.

Another child has eczema an it is a daily struggle to keep it under control.

I have my own health issues- which means I am on a very restricted diet or  I feel awful.

I tend to get sad and withdrawn because of the weight of it all.  So often we bear our burdens alone.  No one can totally understand what we go through.  Or we get platitudes or the dreaded unsolicited advice.

Plus the pressure we feel to act like everything is ‘ok’ when it isn’t.  Suffering is just part of life.  I wish we could just let things be what they are without trying to put a positive spin on it.

But if we are real we risk being judged or having our pain minimized.  Like Job.  We are uncomfortable with suffering so we try to come up with a quick fix, an answer, a reason…when sometimes things are just broken.  Sometimes prayers just go unanswered.

If we can’t be real in our brokenness and honest is our faith even real?  Jesus was the ‘man of sorrows’.  He understands even when no one else does.

“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne…” Matthew 19:28

I’ve been thinking about that a lot- that there is going to be a great renewal of all things.

Every burden lifted.  Every tear gently wiped away.  Every last broken thing gloriously made right.

In the mean time I pray that my own pain and brokenness makes me a more compassionate, merciful, caring person.

No one has it all together.  We all have private hurts, pain, and burdens.  We all need mercy.  I think pain can be like the surgeon’s knife- cutting out the pride and arrogance and leaving something a little messier and tender and Christ-like in it’s place.

“Lord, all you asked us to do was to believe and follow you.  Help us to do that in spite, or even because of, our circumstances.  Help us to love.  Help us to be beacons of grace in a harsh world.  Help us to be strong until you come to set all things right and make all things new.”

 

 

Law of Grace?

I read these words of Jesus in my bible this morning; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 17-20

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Ok, so Jesus came to fulfill the law.  Right-O.  Wait, if we don’t follow the law we are going to be the least?  What?  Does that mean I can’t eat bacon or clean my house on Sunday?

Jesus’ words seem to contrast with Paul’s in Romans 6:14 “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

So…. which is it?

I believe this is one instance where you have to take in different scriptures to get the full picture.

According to Jesus, the most important commands were about love- loving God and people.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Jesus rejected the Pharisees because they were so enthusiastic about following the law but they missed the entire point of it all.  They strained out a gnat but swallowed a camel!  They were self-righteous and hypocritical.  They loved religion because it elevated them and gave them a false sense of security.  They hated Jesus because he came and uprooted the whole system.  He broke down all the pompous-ness and ceremony and refined it down to love.  The easiest and the hardest command to follow.

So the question remains, how do we follow the law in keeping with how Jesus seemed to define it?

It is all about a supernatural love.  A divine love.

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18

It is a process of yielding and abiding.  We can not follow God properly in our own strength.  We either get defeated and give up or turn into modern day Pharisees.  We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14

If we are walking in the Spirit we will naturally follow God’s ways.  It’s pretty simple.  For example- many times I have started reading an article and gotten a bad feeling (like I shouldn’t be reading it) if I ignore the warning and read it anyways I soon find out why I shouldn’t be reading it, and regret it.  Same with watching movies.  I’m sure many can relate!

The more we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us the easier and more natural it is to follow.  We always get the awesome benefits of joy and peace.  Yes, please!

Is there anything that blocks the Holy Spirit from working in our lives?  The Bible tells us to not ‘quench the Holy Spirit’.  I believe we quench the Spirit when we refuse to deal with bitterness, unforgiveness, or a besetting sin that we allow to steal our testimony.

“My Spirit will not strive with man forever”….

God gives us time to sort through and get those things right.  But the more we refuse the more de-sensitized we become to his gentle leadership.

We need to lay our hearts bare before the Lord and pray like David, “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

A.K.A. Deal with junk in your life/heart that is blocking God from working freely.  This is absolutely, critically important and you will not grow a single bit if you don’t.

Everything we need to live life victoriously as a Christian flows out of being led by the Spirit.

Don’t get anxiety if you don’t know if you are filled with the Spirit.  Jesus said he would never reject any who come to him (John 6:37), he wants to come in to your heart (Rev. 3:20) and He isn’t far from any of us (Acts 17:27).

“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so……But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Romans 8:17 & Galatians 5:22-23

So in closing, don’t get bogged down in details.  Stay connected to God.  Love the person in front of you.  Be kind.  Be a peacemaker.  Be humble.  Be teachable.  Follow the Spirit’s leadings.  In doing that you are fulfilling the law of Grace, and reaching the World around you.