Conviction vs. Condemnation

Last Sunday I had a really great day.  My daughter and I met up with my mom and her husband at the Mall of America.  I have so much fun with them.  We walk around and giggle and act silly.

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Shiloh had my mom in a death grip!

We bought chocolate at Lindt and had fresh guacamole and chips.  It was just a really great day and a much needed break from the daily grind.

As I lay in bed that night thinking about the day, I started feeling guilty.  Why?  No good reason.  I just felt almost like the day had been so fun and easy that I must be missing something.

As I lay there thinking, I felt like the Holy Spirit reminded me that God is the source of every good and perfect gift.  I shouldn’t feel some weird, misplaced guilt over having a light-hearted day.  “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

Yes we should be fighting the good fight and fight against the desires of the flesh.  But it’s ok to laugh and have fun and enjoy the gifts that God richly provides.

I was folding laundry the other night when condemnation struck again.  I dump all my family’s laundry on my bed and sort and fold my way through the giant pile every night.  For whatever reason my mind always wanders to dumb things I’ve said and done in the past.  I was going over those same stupid mistakes and feeling the familiar waves of condemnation rolling over me and weighing down on me.  So much so that I just layed my head, somewhat pathetically, on my bed and buried my face in the clean laundry.

The voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted this little condemnation sesh with an abrupt, “You could have joy right now.”  Like, HELLO, you need to reclaim this time.  Stop falling into the old trash heap and letting the enemy beat you down.

The condemnation I was feeling was not from God at all.

Another instance happened today.  I had responded a bit snippily to a woman on my TSW support page.  It was a post from a woman who was only a week or so into topical steroid withdrawal and wailing about “when will this end?!?!?!  Give me at time frame and it better be days!!!”  I was incredulous and irritated because most of the people in the group have been suffering horribly for a long time and yet maintain a positive attitude.  Then she promptly responded even more snippity-ish (yes, I’m making up a word!) and back and forth it went.

Later that day when I was singing worship songs when I got the feeling I needed to apologize to this woman.  “Hmm….  That’s an interesting thought.  noooLet me file that away for later.”  Then later then day when I sat down to read my Bible and pray, I closed my eyes and BAM! “You need to apologize to her.”

I knew it was conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Did I want to apologize?  No.  Is it something God would want me to do?- Humble myself and be gracious..?  Yes.

I sucked it up and wrote her a quick message to apologize for being harsh and that I wished her well on her TSW journey.  I let it go and went back to praying.

When God convicts it is not to bury us alive in feelings of shame and worthlessness.  It is always quick and to the point and it comes with a solution to make it right.  In this case I just needed to apologize for my part.  Because that’s what I responsible for.

The good news is that when we do respond quickly to conviction it brings us closer to the heart of God.  Conversely, when we recieve the spirit of condemnation from the enemy, it does absolutely nothing to help us become more Christ-like.

We all need to be aware of the thought patterns we have in our lives that may be building us up or bringing us down.

       “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

Proverbs 23:7

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Spring, Sadness, Hope

I watched this video yesterday and broke down crying.  It pulled on my heart strings because I know exactly how each of the moms feel.  You struggle privately and have to put on a brave face for your kiddo.

Going through TSW is incredibly isolating because it isn’t a well known condition.  People have never heard of it.  Whenever I post updates or pictures I always get people saying things like, “OMG!  That’s an allergic reaction!”  or “coconut oil took care of my small patch of eczema!”  Insert head-slap here.

Also not particularly helpful is reaching out to the mother of a sick child….trying to sell them something as a MLM distributer.  We’ve tried every lotion on the planet at this point, I’m sure yours isn’t going to be the magic bullet that will end his suffering.  But….um thanks for offering??

Or posting progress pictures.  I always point out that’s he still has a long way to go.  But still people “be like” Hallelujah!  He’s finally healed!!  Um…slow down.  He’s still very much suffering and going through this.  I just like to post pictures when there is any progress to encourage myself and let everyone else know how he is doing.

Speaking of that, he has come a long way.  When you deal with something like this it is easy to fall into hopelessness because it just goes on….and on.  He’ll make major progress and then flare again.  Our hopes will rise, then get squelched.  But I know every single day we weather brings us one day closer to him being healed.

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This was about 1 1/2 months ago.  Yep, RSS is that horrific.
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That’s him now.  Not healed but making progress!

At the moment he is flaring on his face pretty badly.  He doesn’t want to leave the house, because he is so embarrassed.  He’s lost weight off of his already very skinny little body.  In spite of seemingly eating 24/7 he is very thin and his clothes hang off of him.

I also believe he is healing on the inside too.  His organs became steroid dependent as well.  Every morning he has a hard time getting going.  We need to carry him out of bed, get him breakfast, and then bathe him.  I still need to wash all his bedding every single day.  Because every night it gets bloody and crusty and covered in his dead skin.

We are hitting this thing from every possible angle.  Probiotics, vitamins, homeopathy, bone broth, garlic, sea salt….just every thing we can do to help him.

That’s been our focus and it’s really brought us all together.  I feel closer to my husband than ever.  I thank God for our solid marriage.  He has been my partner in this 100% and is so quick to sacrifice for his family.

Most days we are doing pretty good considering.  When you’re going through a long term crisis everything else get’s backburnered.  We barely celebrated Easter.  We haven’t really been able to go to church in ages because it takes so long to get Gabe going in the morning.  I was ok with that until I drove past a cross with ribbons billowing in the wind the Monday after Easter.  I felt an unexpected tidal wave of sadness at not being able to celebrate my favorite holiday the way I would have liked.  It threw me into a bit of a depression for the rest of the week.

But I know that next year will be totally different.  Next year we will go all out for Easter.  Next year we will properly celebrate our Anniversary.

We know that our faith has carried us through this and also all the many prayers offered up for Gabe.  Thank you everyone for your continued support and prayers!!

A Quiet Sort of Romance

I quit my job at Starbucks so I could be home full time.  Gabe is still struggling daily with TSW.  Half the time we have to carry him around.  There is loads of laundry to be washed daily.  Lots of skin to be vacuumed.  And of course he just needs a lot of care and attention.

We are 2 months in to this journey and it has been a huge drain on us- in every way.  My husband said at one point, “we are just going to have to give each other extra grace right now.”  As sleep deprivation piled up and emotions ran high we have gotten in to petty arguments and snapped at each other…. but more than that we have loved and supported each other through this.

Our 10 year anniversary is this Friday and it will likely pass without much fanfare.  We wanted to go on a trip together and I was hoping for some anniversary “bling”…. but that was back before TSW took over our lives.

That’s mostly ok with us.  We’ve never really done things conventionally anyways.

The real gift is ten years of happy marriage to the man I love.  You get married hoping that that person will love you and stand with you through the good and tough times.  You get married so that you have a partner in life, that you never have to face the difficult things alone.  You get married hoping to create a family and a lifetime of memories.

I’ve found that in my marriage and that is enough.  A quiet sort of romance.  An enduring love.  Ten years in and I still enjoy his company.  He’s still amused at my antics.  I still don’t want to let go when we hug.

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Our first Easter as a Family, 9 years ago

When I met Tim I was 20 and a single mom to a toddler.  I had been dating without much luck.  When I met Tim, I knew from the first date, that he was “the one”.

The INFJ in me loved his humility and lack of pretense.  That first date I saw the true him.  He was authentic, honest and kind.  He is truly honest to a fault.  He is just a good person.  He didn’t hesitate to take on a step son.  When we went through a difficult custody battle two years into our marriage he sold his beloved truck (that he had just finished paying off!) so we could hire a good lawyer.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17

I know Tim is just that to me; a good and perfect gift.  17951693_10158638684060074_7487367056105280349_n

Honey, I love you and I am so blessed to be your wife.  Through good times and bad, there isn’t anyone else I would have by my side.

I know things will get better but until then, I am just happy to have you by my side.

I love you so.

Faithfulness

There is this middle-aged couple I really like that I talk to at work.  They first visited Caribou and now I see them frequently at Starbucks.  The are so cute together.  He brings her lunch and eats with her on her break.  I saw her leaving (she also works at Target) with a bouquet.  I asked how long they’ve been together (you know, expecting something like ’25 years!’) she said less than two.

That isn’t the first time I’ve asked (yes, I’m nosey, ok?!) a lovey-dovey, middle-aged couple how long they’ve been together, hoping that they are still that in love after decades- and been disappointed.  No, there isn’t anything wrong with a 2nd chance at love.  I’m happy for those couples, I am.  But we all know there is something so special about a couple that has been faithful over the course of decades and is still deeply in love.

I remember praying and seeking a couple years ago and the one word I got from God, over and over again, was just to be faithful.  I wanted a ministry.  I wanted to kick down some demonic doors.  I wanted the miraculous.

God wants all that too.  But do you know what is more important than zeal?  Perseverance.  What is more important that extraordinary miracles?  The every day miracle of being steadfast and faithful- not only to God but to the people he has called us to love.  The hearts that have been entrusted to our care.

I think God cares far more about the way we love the people close to us, than anything big and extravagant we could do for him on the public stage.

In a world where the divorce rate is 40-50%, we are called to be faithful.  When 1/3 of children are being raised by a single mother, God wants us to invest in our families.

God wants us to do big things.  But not to the neglect of the little things.  Our most important ministry is to our own family.

In a world where divorce is almost celebrated and affairs are glorified in secular entertainment- let’s stand out as the exception.  Let’s be steadfastly faithful.

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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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The Good Fight

Conflicts happen in relationship, it is just a fact.  Two people, two personalities, two sets of opinions, two sets of ‘buttons’ (!!!)… conflict is inevitable.  And if you say you never fight, well that isn’t necessarily healthy either.  Problems/conflicts arise and need to be dealt with, specifically in the most important relationship; between husband and wife.  iStock_000011553872Small

It helps to understand your personality style and what makes you tick.  Sounds silly, but what is your place in the birth order in your family of origin?  Oldest children tend to be independent, A-type personality, directive (read: bossy).  Middle children tend to be the easy going, peacekeeper type.  Youngest children are often affectionate and charming but self-centered.  Only children are mature, calm, but may have trouble relating to others.  This is not set in stone!  But really, usually most people do tend to take on traits based on their birth order.

My husband and I are both middle children so we both tend to be more easy going and avoid conflict.  Fights still happen though, because of course, we are human.

And then; what makes you tick?  For most couple- it is finances.  For us, it is definitely stress from our kids.  It helps immensely to identify the source of strife and get on the same page.  Get on a budget with your spouse.  Or take time to decompress after a stressful time (like putting the kids to bed!) so you don’t take your stress out on your spouse.

Don’t let anger get the better of you in the heat of the moment.  Have certain boundaries that you will not cross, no matter what.  Such as- absolutely NO name calling.  No bashing.  No re-hashing past failures.  No “you always or you never” statements.  No screaming.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1  That goes for men too.  Love builds up, it never tears down.  You only lose ground when you throw mud.  Attack the problem, not your spouse.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1  It doesn’t have to escalate.  Keep your tone gentle and respectful.  If the other person feels like you are actually listening and valuing what they say, any anger will quickly dissipate.  Men need to feel respected, women need to feel loved.  If I get ‘snappy’ with my husband and will quickly swallow my pride and apologize.  Same if he is harsh towards me.  It happens.  Life can be stressful and overwhelming.  But if you swallow your pride and make things right there is so much reward in that.  A marriage built on humility and love is going to be wonderful and fulfilling.

Ideally the objective of a fight is coming to an understanding, an agreement, resolving an issue; then being stronger and more unified than before.  A good fight should be constructive.  A bad fight is destructive.

And for goodness sakes don’t let it get nasty in front of your kids.  They don’t need to see that.  It is so incredibly damaging.  It is totally fine and even helpful for them to see you acting like mature adults and handling a disagreement calmly and rationally.  They learn how to act from watching you.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8  Love makes it work and makes life worth living.  Love covers, not exposes.

I know this verse is very well known, but it is completely and radically life changing when applied in the context of marriage…. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres….LOVE-love-36983825-1680-1050 Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

Talking Codependencey

I’ll start with some backstory ya’ll. (I’m a Minnesotan but ya’ll is really catchy, dontcha think?)

I first became aware of codependency through my sister who was really involved with a 12 step program.  She told me I might want to look into it.  I did and was basically shocked that it was painfully descriptive of me.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and how I can practically grow to become a healthier person. unwrapping-codependency_newlife

I grew up with loving parents but there were major issues too.  Generational alcoholism wreaked major havoc.  There was periods of major dysfunction.  Hurtful things were said and done.  It was tough.  Basically if you grow up in a family with chemical dependency issues, mental health problems, abuse, etc. you WILL have codependent traits to some extent.

In my case I see it rearing it’s head in many ways.  It is sheer agony to say ‘no’.  We’re talking wracked with guilt and self-doubt and then feeling like I am letting someone down.  I get borderline panic attacks when I need to confront someone.  Example: years ago my then little boy was playing at McDonalds.  A far larger boy was acting like a bully, just wailing on kids for no reason.  His mom sat nearby, completely ignoring the situation.  I had to confront this kid.  I was literally sweating and shaky when I told him to cut it out.

You see, if early on, normal confrontations were met with explosive anger it ‘conditions’ you to avoid confrontation because it feels terrifying and unsafe.

So it might affect someone with codependency in that you cannot/will not address a major issue in a relationship.  You’ll either ignore it to the detriment of the relationship of just let that relationship go.  Because confrontation could mean an angry outburst, rejection, retribution… and you want to avoid that at all costs because it is so painful.

Codependents are also pretty notorious for taking on someone else’s problems while neglecting their own.  Case in point- spending hours on the phone with someone trying to help them with their drama.  And then loosing sleep over it and feeling hurt when they don’t take your heartfelt advice (and then want to cry on your shoulder about their same ole drama next month and on and on…).

This situation gets even trickier when you are trying to make a relationship work with someone with their own issues.  Someone who won’t accept your setting healthy boundaries.  Someone that is quick to get hurtful and vindictive if you aren’t bending over backwards for them.

Talk about navigating murky waters!  I personally had to all but cut a family member out of my life because that person would not respect or accept my setting up some boundaries.  It was tough but ultimately I realized that my feelings and time were important too.

Sometimes you just don’t have any idea how problematic this behavior is until you see healthy behavior.  My husband is just a very normal and stable person.  Like: textbook normal.  Like: 0% crazy.  Yes, normal does exist and I am married to him.  He cares about people but he doesn’t ‘own’ their drama.  People come at him with drama and he’ll shrug and say, “they’ll get over it.”  He doesn’t lose any sleep or act nutty.  He can be assertive without being a jerk about it.

The ‘biggie’ here is learning boundaries.  What they look like (some people honestly just don’t know) and how to enforce them.  People with codependency issues are at a huge risk of ending up in abusive (mentally and/or physically) relationships.  You can see how it can create major problems if you don’t value yourself enough to demand being treated right, or just don’t know how.

We need basic, healthy boundaries to navigate life.  Sadly, there are people out there that will try to use and abuse and we need to be able to stand up for ourselves.  From dealing with aggressive sales people to full-on abusive, manipulative relationships.  We need to be strong to deal with people who would bully us and try to bulldoze through those boundaries.

If we go along with something out of a sense of guilt or obligation we are not being authentic to ourselves.  Not only that, but resentment simmers and grows.  When an simple and polite ‘no’ would have saved us from so much turmoil.

It used to be just thought of as a product of being in relationship with an alcoholic.  Now it is recognized that a lot of these wounds originate in childhood trauma and then get played out in adulthood.  People with issues attract other people with issues.  If not dealt with, they raise kids with issues.

Childhood trauma actually physically changes your brain.  Just like a broken arm- if it isn’t properly treated and healed it never heals right.  The pain and dysfunction remain.  People can be crippled in their emotions just as much (if not more!) than they can be in their physical body.

Change is so hard.  Healing is painful.  But what is the alternative?  My motivation is my kids.  I don’t want to keep perpetuating dysfunction.  And man if you have issues, kids will bring them out!  It is the ultimate stress test of mental and emotional health.

And to the final issue- really the major driver behind all codependent behavior- shame.  Shame is feeling like there is something fundamentally wrong with you.  That who you are isn’t acceptable, let alone loveable.  It drives eating disorders, abuse (on both ends), substance abuse, suicide, and on and on.  Self-rejection is the most painful and crippling and difficult to overcome.  If you can’t love yourself your heart is too crippled to fully love anyone else or experience love.

This is the core issue.  If the belief in your own lack of worth is planted somehow early on in life, it really takes a lifetime to overcome.

I really don’t believe there is enough love and acceptance in this world to heal a wounded soul.  It takes divine love.

I’m still very much on my journey.  I would still describe myself as someone who regularly struggles with depression, low self-esteem; all that fun stuff 😉 But I have hope.  I know healing is a journey.  I know when I get my own issues sorted out, I want, more than anything; to help other people.  Isn’t that really the point of it all anyways? a4d70636041d97f9d61addd98c86f4e4_500

Beth Moore said in one of her books, “I think most people would choose a meaningful life with pain over an easy one.”

I believe that with all my heart- that you can see meaning and beauty resulting from even the ugliest and most painful struggles.