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.

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!!

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.

Affair-Proofing a Marriage

My husband and I were talking about the latest christian sex scandal *sigh* again Josh Duggar is the news.  If you haven’t heard, a (gag me) popular site that links up people seeking other cheaters; Ashley Madison, had a huge data breach.  Tons of private info was leaked online.  Josh Duggar was one of literal millions seeking affairs.

It’s a very public display of moral failure.  Especially since Josh had been espousing family values with the Family Research Council.  The biggest failure isn’t to his public image, the Duggar brand, his career- it is to his wife, Anna, who is now dealing with the pain of betrayal and the humiliation on a national stage.

Tim and I prayed for them.  We don’t judge Josh because while what he did was incredibly wrong- we all have that potential inside of us.

I think there were two things that ‘allowed’ this to happen.  First- Josh has been in the public eye since his teen years and has probably felt pressure to keep up a good christian front for the sake of his family.  So when he started dealing with pornography addiction he kept it quiet instead of seeking help before it turned into adultery.  I also think that Satan targeted this family in a big way because they have such a huge platform for their Christianity.  In Josh’s own words, he had allowed the enemy to build a fortress of immorality in his mind.

We need to be willing to ask for help even at the sake of our ‘image’.  So often a moral failure seems to come ‘out of nowhere’.  In reality, Satan has been chipping away at that person’s defenses for years under the cover of their ‘good christian’ front and it was a carefully orchestrated fall.

The Bible says that our enemy is cunning and that he sets snares and pits in our path.

The best way to avoid falling into one is to have a degree of transparency and accountability in your life.  A close friend, Pastor, prayer partner, or best of all- your spouse.

Tim and I have really opened up communication about our areas of stuggle this past year.  And we are closer and stronger than ever.

We all struggle.  You are not a freak.  But God doesn’t care so much about your ‘front’ as he does what is going on in your mind and heart.  “You desire truth in the innermost being” Psalm 51:6

There needs to be a daily coming before God and his Word.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  There are some temptations that we can’t avoid but there are many that we can.  Don’t overestimate your own strength “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Cor. 10:12

What the enemy means as a ways to bring you down, God is allowing as a test.  If HE is allowing the test he has given you the means to overcome it.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Cor. 10:13

Another biggie is appreciating your spouse and not taking them for granted.  Making it a practice to focus on their good qualities and being thankful for them is huge in strengthening your heart against temptation.

Marriage is such a gift.  God even used it to illustrate Christ and the church.  If you are married then God has given you this person to experience physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy with.  Make sure all those important needs are being met according to each other’s needs.

Allowing God to direct your steps is huge too.  God is not going to lead you into disaster.  Many end up there after ignoring many warnings signs along the way.

As Josh is finding out, in his words, “You get to choose your actions, but you don’t get to choose your consequences.”

That is why it is not unwise to consider carefully what would happen if you cheated.  Who it would affect and how.  I have three kids and I want them to grow up in the very best environment- with parents that love Jesus and each other.  More importantly, I love my husband and I really think I would rather die than betray him like that.  And most importantly I have a God that loves me and is for me that I do not want to let down.

The amazing thing about the Gospel though- is that there is hope and redemption beyond the pain.  We’re praying God keeps them through this and they come through humbled but strengthened.  God can take our heep of ashes and make a crown of beauty.  He’s just amazing like that.  wedding-all