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.

Writing and Calling

Lately I’ve been thinking about the nature of our calling and how we practically walk that out.

I’ve known since first grade that I loved writing and wanted to be a writer.  It’s been a bumpy road to actually start though.  For so long I wanted to write, and not just write but fulfill the calling I felt.  I would feel like the Holy Spirit illuminated things to me in my time with him and I wanted to share with others.

What I was lacking was technical skills.  During my years in high school I was not a great student and went to an alternative school where we mostly just got credit for showing up.  I have zero college.

I just started though.  I had no idea how to set up a blog so I started writing little notes on Facebook.  Starting this blog was a big step as well.  Still, I’ve really struggled with wanting to just delete everything because of personal insecurity.  While I want my platform to grow, I’ll admit that I’m happy that I write in relative obscurity.  I really like to be real and authentic and I write from my heart…which is what I want but it also leaves me vulnerable to criticism.

I read a blog from a fellow INFJ recently that addressed our need to be validated https://ispeakpeople.com/validation/  Do I relate?  uh…yeah!  sallyI feel you, Sally.  The struggle is real!

About a year and half ago I joined a question and answer website (ah heck, it was quora)….  I was looking for answers on my then little pup and his biting.  I got sucked in.  I can offer advice online to strangers?  People care what I have to say?  People asking me for HELP!  Yes, please!

I went from having a few people read my stuff to thousands.  I was getting all kinds of recognition that I hadn’t gotten before.  It was dizzying and exciting and wonderful.

The approval went to my head and the entire thing became an idol to me.  I knew without a doubt it was coming between God and myself.  But it was so hard for me to give it up.  After months of tug and war, and becoming increasingly miserable, I did.

Now I’m back to writing for a very small audience.  I know that God has a call on my life.  I hope for more.  But I realized that all along I was seeking the dreams God had put on my heart more than God himself.  The dreams were all good.  I genuinely want to help people.  I genuinely want to write in a way that glorifies God.  But… do I want that actualization of my dreams more than God himself?

I got a mental picture today in church.  I’ve been feeling pretty isolated lately.  I feel like I’ve gone through a long season of giving things up but I’m still waiting for doors to open, you know?  It’s that tough place in between.  But God put in my mind a mental image during worship today at church- that it’s better to be alone in the desert with God than virtually anywhere else without him.

The desert is his training ground.  It’s sacred ground.  It’s the secret place where he can nurture the character until you can operate in your gift with grace and humility.  Your gift isn’t the be all, end all.  Your character is far more important.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well….” Matthew 6:33

Not going to lie, I know I still need more time.  I still have lessons to learn.  I realize I need to seek God first, and everything else (including opportunities for ministry work) will be like a cherry on the top of the sundae that is knowing God and walking with him intimately.

I also know I have a very (looonnngggg) way to go where I don’t need approval so badly.  It’s just a process.  There’s no way to rush it.  In the mean time I know there are treasures to be found right where I’m at.  Treasures I may not have noticed if I had more “going on” in my life.

 

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…

PinkiePieHiRes tickle-me-emo

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”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devotion

When I get up in the mornings it’s usually just me and my dog for a blessed period of relative quiet until my kids wake up.

This morning was no different.  I got myself some coffee and gave my dog, Copper, a scoop of food and headed down to the basement to read my Bible.  My dog actually abandoned his uneaten bowl of food to follow me.  Which is hilarious, because we joke he has two great loves in life- eating and Mama (me).

I was really touched that he would rather be by my side than eat alone.

My husband calls him my “Hachi” because of his devotion.  On nights when I went to work he would refuse to leave the door until I got home.  This is him waiting (so sadly!) for me to get back. spudy

It’s an honor to have the love and devotion of a pet.  He wants to be near me because he knows I love him.

I wonder what are we willing to give up to be with our Heavenly Father?

A few minutes of sleep in the morning?  Our “channel-surfing” time?

How do we show our love and devotion?

This morning I just absolutely had to go to church.  We’ve mostly missed church since Gabe started TSW about 5 months ago.  This morning we went, though it meant rushing around and the kids eating snacks and having juice boxes for breakfast in the car for a makeshift breakfast.

It was so great though.  The worship and message were great, and exactly what I needed.  We went up for the altar call after the service.  Tim carried Gabe up.  An older couple prayed over us.  I just cried and cried and the older lady held me and it was very healing.

I’ve read about people going through extended dry spells where the presence of God seems to always elude them, but that has never been the case for me.  If I’m dry it’s because I’m not really seeking.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

I have always found him so faithful, so eager to meet with me.  When I put my phone down and instead spend those early moments in the day seeking Him, I find he is there waiting.  I’m so thankful for that.  That he isn’t far away, or hard to find.

“….though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27

“Father, thank you that you are so available to us, so near.  Help us to put aside distractions and earnestly seek you with all our heart.  For those of us who are seekers, please make yourself so visible and tangible.  Amen.”

 

Irrevocable

Today I put the final entry in my journal of over 3 years.  It wasn’t a big journal.  It was something that I wrote in sporadically.  As I filled the final page I reflected over the past three years and changes I want to make.

I felt a general feeling of sadness.

I haven’t been as close to the Lord as I could have been.  I wasted a lot of time.

I wrote out my last entry with some pretty basic goals/hopes for the coming years.  I want to see my baby healed.  I want to be closer to God.

I opened my Bible to Romans 11 and read “….for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29  I love the word “irrevocable”.  The Greek word here is ametamelétos which means “about which no change of mind can take place”.

The call on your life, the gifts God has given you- those things are irrevocable.  Does that give anyone else a tremendous sense of comfort? 20170712_130709

“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.” Romans 8:30-31

Foreknew.  Predestined.  Called.  Justified.  Glorified.

I can’t type these words without tears welling in my eyes.  There is a destiny on your life that supercedes the things that bog you down, the pain that leaves you crippled, the sin that separates you from your Father.  His call, his choice…it’s irrevocable. 

“Lord, fan into flames again the dreams you put into our hearts.  Work in us the will, the desire to obey you.  Help us, Lord, to be courageous and to be more than overcomers through Christ Jesus.  Thank you, Lord, that you knew us before the dawning of time.  You chose us and your banner over us is love.  We love you and we trust that you are working all things out for our good, because we love you and are called according to your unshakeable, irrevocable purpose.”

 

 

Social Media O.D.

I sat shaking while drinking my coffee this morning.

I had left a comment on my local news station about a local story.  I was just trying to offer an alternative view.  It inspired a dirge of negativity and name calling.  Wow.  Not a good wow.  Just a wow.  Social-Media-Crap2501

The internet provides a medium for people to make quick judgements and be downright nasty with a level of anonymity not previously afforded.  My husband compares it to people driving in their cars.  You probably wouldn’t cut someone off (budge in line) at your local grocery store.  But people feel empowered in their cars to act brazenly in ways they wouldn’t in a face to face setting.

There is a name for this phenomenon- trolls.  People who are bored and nasty just for the sake of being nasty.

I also think in this age of instant news and all the negativity it inspires that kind of behavior.  People are so angry.  It’s why I basically stopped following most of the news and politics.  It gave me a ball in the pit of my stomach and filled me with anger.  It just wasn’t healthy.  It was fostering an “us verses them” mentality that isn’t conducive to being a Christian and loving your neighbor.

Another problem I run into is that people use social media to market and sell.  Now, nothing wrong with that, in a sense.  But it means that a lot of the hype you see just isn’t real.  “I AM SO HAPPY AND FULLFILLED SELLING LEGGINGS TO MY FRIENDS!  ERMAGOSH!  HERE’S ME ON A YACHT IN FRANCE!”  or “GUYS!  I AM SO THRILLED THIS CREAM SIMULTANEOUSLY FILLED MY BANK ACCOUNT, RID ME OF CELLULITE, AND I LOST 20 POUNDS!!!  I CAN’T STOP GRINNING, GUYS!”

It’s only a slight exaggeration.

I recently befriended another young mom at a park.  We connected on facebook and she was instantly trying to sell me stuff.  I eventually just stopped talking to her because it was awkward.  I wanted to be her friend, not her next costumer.

I have to confess in over-using social media.  Ok, just facebook.  I’m not cool enough for Instagram and I’m obviously too wordy for twitter.  My excuse is that I’ve been mostly housebound for months with my very sick child.  That and my closest friend, who literally used to live down the street, has moved a 90 minute drive away.

I think a lot of use (er…miss-use) social media to fill in the gaps in our lives.  We get lonely, or sad, or anxious….and those feelings suck so we block it out by scrolling away on our social feed.  The problem is- there is a lot of nastiness out there.  Trolls gonna troll.  People are trying to sell you stuff.  The whole thing rings hollow and leaves you feeling empty.

So what to do?  In my typical extreme fashion, I’ve seriously contemplated deleting my 9 year old Facebook account.  But it is how I stay in touch with my siblings, who I rarely see in person.  It’s how my sweet Grandma gets to see my kids and our shenanigans every day.

I need to find some kind of balance.  I’m guessing I’m not alone in this.  I need to figure out a way to get the good out of my social media usage (and there is good to be had) while skimming over and minimizing the bad.

Social media is a tool.  The problem comes when we try to make it more than that.

I’m going to consciously limit my time indulging in social media.  I’m going to listen to the radio more.  I’m going to set some goals (even within the walls of my home, where I’m currently spending most of my time).  I’m going to do things that feed my soul so I’m not looking to social media to meet a need that it just can’t.