AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

This is a different post than you’d probably expect to find here, so just stick with me. A couple of nights ago, I was surfing the ‘net for a couple of my favorite songs from the movie, Fame. Naturally, I ended up watching part of the 5th People’s Choice Awards. (It’s called “quantum thinking”, it’s a thing now and I’m quite good at it.)

On March 7, 1979, Dick van Dyke was hosting the show and introduced Christopher Reeve, who would be announcing the winner of Favorite Male Performer in a New TV Program. Robin Williams secured the honor for his performance on Mork and Mindy.

This is where things began to get slightly bittersweet for me.

Robin Williams was a comic whose talent was out of this world. Christopher Reeve was the man who performance of the comic book superhero from another world would be remembered as the definitive face of Superman for my generation.

The friendship these two men began in 1973, when approximately 2,000 students auditioned for 20 places in the freshman class at Juilliard. Reeve and Williams were the only students selected for Juilliard’s Advanced Program, and they had several classes together in which they were the only students.

We know that in 1993, two years before Reeve’s accident, he gave breath to Superman for the last time. On May 27, 1995, Reeve was left quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, Virginia. He died October 10, 2004.

And we know that on August 11, 2014, Williams committed suicide in his home at the age of 63.

But this was still March 7, 1979. I watched the video, nearly holding my breath as Reeve rose in an elevator. In spite of the fact that this ceremony was several years before Reeve’s accident, it had been so long since I had not seen him in a wheelchair that I was still surprised to see him standing tall. First, I saw his head, then his shoulders, his torso, and finally, his legs. It was beautiful to watch him take the long strides toward the podium as Superman’s theme played. He was Superman, giving his best friend an award that would be the first of many to come.

They were two young men with the world ahead of them and time on their side. And I realized that on that night, they were blissfully ignorant of the future that, for the rest of us, had been been history several years already.

For many of us, Reeve had become the superhero who’d lost the ability to move from the neck down. And Williams was the comic who was able to make anyone laugh – except himself. But for a few magical moments on the evening of March 7, 1979, all was right with the world for two young men who’d been roommates and friends at Julliard.

For the moment, life was really, really good! See for yourself.

YOU HAVE AMAZING THINGS TO DO!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I’ve always liked that passage. At the very least, it’s encouraging. At the very most, it’s permission.

I know it sounds strange that grown, mature adults would need permission, doesn’t it? But consider what the opposite of permission looks like? I’ll show you.

Picture this: A college freshman is at a car dealership, narrowing down her choices first by price range, then by the only thing a college freshman would think was important – the cuteness factor. The only choices left are an adorable little sunshine-yellow sports car or an imposing Chrysler Newport. The budding relationship between girl and auto was rudely interrupted by her mother.

“We’re big people. We need a big car.” said the woman who’d never owned or driven a car in her life. Or been a college freshman!

Apparently, Lesson 1 in Auto Shopping 101 was: Make sure everyone can shove their big butts into it.

That was a very (very) long time ago, but I don’t think I’ve made a single decision since then that didn’t account for the size of my body. To this day, I am uncomfortable anywhere small-ish. I’ve often defined myself and limited my ambitions by my size.

We all have at least a bit of that in us.  It may not be your size. It might be your height, you academic aptitude, finances, your gender, the color of your skin.

I’ve participated in workshops where the speaker asks, “If money was no object and success was guaranteed, what would you do with your life?” And the thing is that I still see myself trying to squeeze into a cute little sports car. I just can’t imagine myself without limits.

I want to share something with you, and I don’t share this to get a pat on the back. It’s just to show the disconnect in my perception of myself.

god is already workingI’ve always loved words and spelling came easy to me. When I was in Grades 6 through 8, I competed in spelling bees and did fairly well.

When I was in the 8th Grade, I accidentally discovered that in spite my absolute fear of speaking in front of an audience, I had a real aptitude for it. Who knew? I spent my high school years in competitive speech and debate. I earned the highest level of recognition the National Forensic League offered at that time, lettered in Forensics and competed at the state level three years in four events.

When my first daughter was born, I had the opportunity to go back to school. Instead of returning to college, I opted for the Vo-Tech in town. That’s where I served as the president for our local chapter of Business Professionals of America, the state Vice President and the national Secretary-Treasurer. (Did you spot the trend? Yes, I’d peaked at the local level.)

The night of the ceremonies, I placed 1st in one of my events, 2nd in the other and became the second member from Kansas to be elected to a national office. (It. was. awesome!) I had given my campaign speech in front of an audience of almost 4,000 people. I was the only candidate hadn’t use note cards or the podium. My instructor was later mortified when I told her I’d gone in front of my peers with nothing more than a sketchy outline of a speech in my head.

Ten years ago, Chicken Soup for the Soul bought the only story I’d ever written with the intent of being published. This year, my second. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to get my very own book published. I’d love to be able to turn the broken pieces of my life into a stained glass vision of God’s grace, his favor, and his power. It would be a shame to waste all that trauma and drama, don’t you think? Do I expect myself to get such a book published? Can a fat girl squeeze her butt into a cute little yellow sports car? I have no idea, because I never tried it. I bought the Newport that day. I didn’t even test drive the smaller car.

There are three take-away’s from this.

  • I really don’t know how to say ‘No.’
  • I settle for a big car too often.
  • God has a plan for me whether I’m on board or not.

blown gods planDuring those years, I didn’t even acknowledge God. At the age of 12, I’d accepted Christ as my savior, collected my get-out-of-hell-free card, and went around doing my own thing.

Just remember that God’s going to do what God wants to do. And while he waits for us to surrender ourselves, he keeps busy.

So many of us, though, are the man Jesus met at the healing pool who had been crippled for many years.

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him.

The beggar never said “Yes.” Jesus healed him anyway because he had compassion. But the beggar had come to identify himself as broken, needy, helpless and dependent. He had no concept of what he would do if money were no object and success was guaranteed.

He simply wasn’t that guy. (You know…that guy.)

God has used so many of his children who couldn’t see themselves the way God saw them. Moses argued that he wasn’t good with words. Abraham and Sarah reminded God that they were beyond fertile years. Jonah? Well, Jonah had his own issues.

How did their stories end? Very simply, God got his way.

disney impossibleWe seldom grasp how the kingdom of God works. God’s all about doing the impossible, using resources that we don’t have access to. He’s about  and what’s on the other side of the wall.

We are his creations, and by limiting ourselves, our potential, and we’re limiting God.

Our lives aren’t about what we can do. They’re about what God can do with us. When God speaks, things happen!

Think about the beggar by the pool. When he was healed, he was suddenly able to walk, to get a job that used his particular talents, to become a valuable part of his community, to meet a woman who would love him and raise children with him.

Or he might have hung out at the market, doing nothing more than telling everyone why he can’t work because he used to be a cripple.

We don’t know what he did, but what a waste it would have been to not do something with the potential that Christ loosed in him with a touch and a word!

Isaiah 55:11 tells us “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

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This is the same word that created the impossibly intricate detail of our bodies. The way it heals itself, the way blood flows through it, the way it regenerates itself – they’re all on autopilot because God set them in motion with a word.

This is the same word that called this planet into being – all on auto pilot.

This is the same word that called you by name and created you in your mother’s womb, imprinting his purpose in your spirit.

People say children don’t come with an instruction manual. Actually, they do. God has a copy of it, but he doesn’t let us read it because he has seen what happens when we have brilliant ideas and try to help him. Crayon marks, highlighted sentences and corrections in red ink everywhere!

So the big question is this: If money was no object and success was guaranteed, what would you do with your life? Are you willing to at least test drive a cute little yellow sports car?

Go ahead! What are you waiting for?

 

 

AND STILL I RISE

Getting up can be a much bigger deal than we think, really. Essentially, the physical act of getting up is a matter of defying gravity, isn’t it? When I think of it that way, it seems like a really big deal! We seldom think of it, though, because we do it all day long – we rise from bed, from a chair, from the floor. Toddlers are forever getting back up!

So when do we become conscious of the mechanics of getting up, of rising?

When it gets hard and takes more strength than we think we have – in the way Andra Day sings about in “I’ll Rise Up.”

Age, long hours and illness can make it a physical challenge to get back up. Anxiety, depression, high expectations, loss, and disappointment can make it an emotional challenge.img_4464

But sometimes there is something especially inspirational and profound in getting back up again. Our lives aren’t always as dramatic as a boxer’s, where a win is dependent upon getting up after being knocked down for the count while “Eye of the Tiger” plays in the background, but rising can be just as challenging and every bit as vital. And equally powerful

Our story may not be as beautifully worded as Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise”, but it’s inspiritational just the same. After all, it’s our story!

As I’ve mentioned before, I belong to two different Facebook groups – one for survivors of aortic dissections, which I joined after surviving my own ascending aortic dissection, and one for survivors of CPTSD/PTSD. I’ve been fascinated by how much they overlap. Those in the group dealing with health issues are also dealing with some serious emotional challenges,  and those in the group dealing with emotional issues are also dealing with their share of health issues. What they seem to share most is a sense being alone and feeling quite weary.

So many members of these two groups feel like no one really “gets” their struggle, and they are aware that their recovery, their moving forward, is in fact an individual effort. Others can sympathize, empathize, encourage and support, but the journey of getting back up is ultimately their own.

Still, I know those feelings aren’t unique to these groups. I don’t think any of us have gotten through life without getting knocked down a time or two. Some of us come from a long line of people who have been knocked down and have fought hard to rise up. Some of us have gone through seasons of challenge in spite of every privilege and benefit the world has afforded us. Difficulty is no respecter of wealth, beauty, education, age, gender or ethnicity.

The apostle Peter knew a bit about difficulties, and yet he passed on this promise:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 5:10-11

How could he be so certain of God’s grace? Because he’d experienced it. Jesus still loved him and called him after Peter denied knowing him. Jesus pulled him from the roaring waves the moment Peter cried out for help.

Peter is telling us that, yes, we will suffer. But! By the grace of God, we can rise up…again and again and again.LBG2015Thrill-of-hope-01.jpg

But even before that, Jesus had been born Emmanuel, God with us. That was God’s descent. And how glorious His rising was! In His descent, the weary – like you and me – were given hope. In his rising, we were redeemed. It is by His grace and the strength it affords us that we can always rise again. God has plans for you, fighter. You may be down, but don’t you dare stay down!

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GUESS WHO?

Have you ever played Guess Who? It’s a two-player game where players ask yes or no questions to isolate a hidden character. You might ask if your opponent’s character is male or female, blond or brunette, wears glasses or not. You get the idea. Essentially, the questions help you eliminate which of the characters your opponent’s person is not in order to determine who the person is. The first player to guess the other player’s hidden character wins.

This last year has simply been the most recent in my search for who I really am. I believe this is something most, if not all, of us do throughout our lives. As our roles, interests, and needs change, we evolve and our very identities change as we age. We become physically, mentally and emotionally more capable as we mature from baby to child to adolescent to teen to young adult to mature adult. We adopt and abandon roles as our lives change – friend, sibling, child, partner, parent, employee, coworker, Christian, voter, consumer, neighbor. And yet, all the while we maintain a core image of ourselves.

It’s that core image that I’ve struggled with the most. This year, I’ve been pre-occupied with who I am in Christ,  who I am as a child of God. It’s as a child of God that I want to grow and thrive. As a child of my mother, there are so many ways in which I simply didn’t grow or thrive; although, I had successes in spite of the way I was raised and sometimes because of how I was raised. There’s a lot to reconcile between the two lineages. One tolerated me, the other treasures me. One held me in disdain, the other holds me in the palm of His hand. One denied me affection, the other sacrificed His Son for me. Two very different caregivers; two very different identities for myself.

So I reviewed the lists of verses that declared who I was as a child of God and meditated on them, reminding myself of them when my heart needed reminding, when my mind suggested I was “less than.” But on the heels of each reminder was a quiet but pernicious doubt.3868d1bcf797b5ee2b985299be4794e9

‘Yeah, but….’

I realized that who my mother had told me I was had become a foundational certainty for me. And it wasn’t just what I’d accepted from her. I’d selectively held onto a lot from the kids who picked me last at play, the boys who showed no interest in dating me, the coworkers who didn’t invite me to join the group for lunch, the people on the street who seemed to look right through me. All of them verified my deepest belief about myself. I was unlovable. While there were those who thought I was smart, funny, sweet, dependable, or talented, I was more convinced that I wasn’t really worthy of attention or affection.  I was convinced of a reality that no amount of kindness could crack. And no amount of scriptural affirmation was going to completely convince me otherwise.

296D57B8-6681-406C-82DD-E8A9B00BD724Then I thought, what if I stopped trying to believe the truth of who I am and started disbelieving the lies of who I am not? What if I started with my conception – the point at which God knitted me in my mother’s womb and created a plan for me? I thought about the rows of babies that shared the nursery at the hospital where I was born and considered that each one had been born just the way God had designed them, which was good. Then we each went home to our respective families, where we were raised by ordinary men and women who were just doing the best they could with what they had. Some of us ended up nurtured and some of us ended up challenged. It’s just that simple.

It ultimately becomes our own responsibility to determine how we want to stand in the world, what we want to stand for, what we want to stand up for. And at some point, we become accountable for our own choices, our own identities. That’s when knowing who we are not becomes every bit as important as knowing who we are. Many of us are children of God, but we’re living without conviction of our heritage, without the fullness of our inheritance, falling short of our ordained potential.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tell us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

We can’t don the new clothes God gives us over the old clothes that have worn thin and have developed a stench. The stench eventually leaks through the fabric. We need to strip ourselves of the old before we can put on the new. We need to be cleansed by the sacrificial blood of Christ in order to be wholly clean. Who are you not, and perhaps have never been, or haven’t been since you chose to change? Are you not selfish, alone, tongue-tied, absent-minded, usc04eb15ce15b1aeb817f35a814166545eless, stupid, unattractive, worthless, boring, clumsy, insensitive, broken, talentless? Are you no longer a liar, an adulterer, a thief, a gossip, a using addict or alcoholic?

Today is a new day. We are a new creations!

God has a good plan for us. Satan has a plan for us, too. The plan we bring to fruition depends upon who we believe, who we let define us, who we choose to follow. We can be victims or victors. We can stay bitter, or we can become better. We can hold onto the lies or move forward into a new life. We can choose to disbelieve the lies the enemy has told us and hold on for dear life to the promises of He who is the Author and Finisher of our story.

So never let someone judge you by the chapter they walked in on. You’ve turned the page and begun a new chapter. Your character is still in development and your story isn’t over yet. But I’ll give you one spoiler alert: As a child of God, you’re on the winning side!

ARE YOU CHISELED OR CHUBBY?

I have a friend who is incredibly self-motivated in a way that I’m not sure I could ever be. He’s more persistent, more passionate and more resilient than most of the people I know. He’s an inspiration to a lot of people, and recently, as he was gearing up for a new level of physical fitness, he posted this on his Facebook page:

NINE MONTHS

And I knew that in nine months, there would be a new Chris emerging. Because Chris wants to succeed. He wants his life and his body to be different, better.

Me? Yeah, I want those things, too – just not enough to really work very hard at them. And I accept the consequences of that mentality.

Three years ago, Chris faced a unique challenge. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis – flesh-eating bacteria. He was fortunate to have it diagnosed and treated as quickly as it was, but it was still a steep hill for him to climb and it took its toll on him. But he was beautifully resilient!

So I’ve been thinking about the vast difference between his determination to work hard and my determination to keep a low heart-rate and not perspire if I can help it. I began to consider the characters in the Bible who were so desperate for the healing touch of Jesus – the woman with the issue of blood, the man whose friends lowered him from the roof into the room where Jesus was teaching, the blind man at the pool of Siloam, the lepers who begged for pity, the daughter of Jairus, the multitudes He and the disciples fed on the hillsides.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them” (Matthew 4:23-24). 

But I’ve always been curious about the man at the pool of Bethesda in John Chapter 5. This man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized that he had spent a long time in this condition, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Now, I’ve admitted before that I am not a Biblical scholar, so I may very well be wrong, but I’ve long believed that this is the only time that Jesus didn’t just “hand out” a healing. I believe this is the only recorded incident where Jesus asks directly if the person wanted to get well. And the recipient didn’t ask to be healed.

That seems like a silly question, right? Who doesn’t want to be well? Who really wants to be sick or infirmed or physically challenged when they can be whole, healthy and capable? But the man doesn’t say he wants to be healed. He gives Jesus an excuse for why he can’t be healed. Maybe he just didn’t know that the man before him could heal him.

Or maybe – just maybe – he wasn’t really committed to a life free of poor health.

Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am on my way, someone else goes in before me.”

That didn’t answer Jesus’ question, did it? Jesus simply let it slide, apparently, and told the man to get up and walk. And the man did just that; he walked. On legs that had atrophied over decades, he miraculously walked.

That meant he was no longer a prisoner to pity or a servant to shame or a miserable recipient of mercy. He was no longer dependent on the kindness of others. He could take care of himself now. He could now get a job, have a home, be worthy of marriage, have a family, be a contributing member of the community. In short, Jesus had just redefined who this man was – to himself and to everyone in his town.

That can be a little scary, can’t it? No doubt, this man had dreamt of what a life would be like if he were healthy and able bodied. But now he had to actually walk. Where would he walk to? What would he do once he got there? Along with health, this man was given purpose, responsibility, independence. And I think that’s what Jesus was asking him: “Do you want to be responsible for yourself?”

So often, we say things like, “I’d give anything to be able to afford what I want.” Really? Are you willing to do without an immediate gratification? “I’d give anything to look like that!” Are you willing to get up an hour earlier every day to exercise? “I want to be a more Godly person?” Are you willing to be loving instead of right?

I’m not judging! Trust me, I am not self-disciplined. I’m with the kids in the Stanford marshmallow experiment who went ahead and ate the marshmallow before the tester returned. I don’t do well with delayed gratification. At all. It’s not fun and, honestly, it’s hard.

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That’s why this summer – in nine months – my friend, Chris, will be an incredibly healthy, fit father of three energetic kids and I will be wondering if I really have to shave my legs if I don’t plan to wear a pair of shorts – because, let’s face it, chubby thighs are only cute on babies!

What about you? In nine months, will you be a new person? Do you want to be healed?

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ALWAYS RISE AGAIN!

just finished reading a great post from Dr. Perry from Make it Ultra about dealing with “Imposter Syndrome”. It takes a good look at the anxiety and insecurity that comes from success and starts with one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou, which addresses the fear of being found out as a fraud in spite of success. Actually, I suspect it’s a fear of being found out as a fraud because of success. After all, if you don’t call attention to yourself, you can stay camouflaged in mediocrity for your whole life, right? Which may be a very sound reason for people to not aspire to greatness of any degree. And I believe c0deb00acb17459dbea15fdfec3b07e8that so many people have been afraid to stand in the spotlight because they know that, even if they pull this off this time, they may not be able to replicate it. Can you imagine the pressure of coming up with the manuscript for the second book in the Harry Potter series and how exponentially terrifying it became with each book that came after it? J. K. Rowling had to have been as brave and resilient as she was brilliant to travel that road. And the books and movies were such a success, had such an impact on our culture, that hoping to follow it with anything else could have been paralyzing.

Dr. Perry’s post examined the anxiety of maintaining a self-imposed façade, but what it brought to my mind was the risk successful people always take of failing. Moreover, the conflict I’ve often felt personally between absolutely avoiding failure altogether and reveling in the things I learn from failing. I don’t like to fail because I grew up believing that failure came from mistakes, and mistakes were not what you wanted to make. Mistakes were often followed by punishment, right?

As I grew older, though, I began to learn the value of mistakes. Mistakes show that you’re trying something. More importantly, I believe there is more to be learned from mistakes than from successes. I can’t tell you how many good recipes I’ve made and could never replicate because I couldn’t recall how I got there. Now, if I had a recipe and it turned out badly, there’s a really good chance that not only do I know exactly what I did wrong, I’ll also make sure I never make the same mistake again. The same can be said of almost every learning experience. We might learn the hard way, or we might be fortunate enough to learn from the experience of others, but we learn, adapt and improve, wiser in the end.

e01b1eaed926eedb61c9e8b3fae6a4e8My most memorable experience with this was in the mid-80s when I had to learn the software for four different word processing programs. I shared that story in a previous post, “Failure is not Fatal.” I’d had absolutely no experience with computers and was given no directions for the programs. Everything I learned, I learned from mistakes. I not only knew to not do something, but (more importantly) I learned why I shouldn’t do and what would happen if I did do it. Best of all, actually, was that I learned every mistake that could be made by the people I would be teaching the programs to – and how to fix each one. And they understood that I had already made those same mistakes myself and that there wasn’t a situation that could not be remedied. Then there are the two daughters I’ve parented, my 21-year marriage and every job I’ve ever had. Lots and lots of learning curves and lessons!

I think it’s so important for us to be merciful and gentle with someone when they make mistakes – especially with ourselves. Everyone learns in their own unique way, at their own pace. Mistakes provide valuable information. Mistakes are just a sign that you’re trying something new. And mistakes are (usually) transient. After all, you’ve never heard a toddler announce, “This walking thing just isn’t for me!” because they fell. We’ve all learned how to walk, and some have even become Olympic, record-breaking runners in spite of all the times they fell down when they were learning to walk. Don’t ever be afraid to fall. But more importantly, be sure to always get back up again. Remember, Rocky didn’t win the fight in the self-named movie, but no one questions that he was, absolutely, a winner.

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WHEN YOU’RE ALREADY DISTURBED!

I love Pinterest! I think it’s great therapy. I can hoard all I want and not need more totes, and I can organize to my heart’s content. But I have two boards that are locked; no one but me can see them. One is Christmas gift ideas. The other is a combination of pins that talk about depression, poor self image, etc. They’re all things that I don’t want anyone to see because each is a part of that place in me that I don’t want anyone to know about.

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Some of you know what that place is like. It’s dark, sad, ugly, desolate and deliberately uninviting. It’s the “What Would People Think?” part of ourselves, and it’s the loneliest place in the world. As you can imagine, the only light is a single, naked bulb hanging in the middle of the room. (Ambience at it’s worst.)

But you know what I’m finding out? A lot of people have a room like this! Sure, some of them might be small closets while others are as large as a ballroom, but I think most of them are just about the same size as any other person’s. So I’m finding out that I’m really no more weird or damaged than the next person. (Although I have to respectfully acknowledge that there are people who have been through so much more than I have been.)

I think genuinely depressed people try very hard to appear happy because if you asked them how they’re doing (in any way other than that socially appropriate, rhetorical way), they might be tempted to tell you. And if they tell you, they might start crying. And if they start crying, they might not stop. And if they can’t stop, you might find out just how broken and frightened they feel. (Kinda sounds like a depressed person’s version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, doesn’t it – but without the cookie, which in itself is depressing.)

b93374320808c392e99e91e03685948dI applaud Brene’ Brown for bringing shame out of the closet. I appreciate Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for revealing his own bouts with depression. I believe it’s time for mental health to be treated with the same degree of importance as physical health. After all, poor mental health can be life-threatening, too.

It’s one thing to tell children (and adults) that bullying and abuse is wrong. But there are so many victims of abuse and bullying who don’t see the wrongness of being bullied and abused! They don’t see enough value in themselves to make a stand and say enough is enough.

What’s even sadder is that some of those people are born-again, church-attending Christians. They’re children of a mighty God, and they’re living in despair. I know there’s hope, and as long as there’s hope, there can be victory. Christ has secured the victory over sin and He holds the keys to Hell. As Christians, we do not glorify God if we live our lives defeated and hopeless.

We don’t have to wear a fake smile and act like that everything is just peachy. Sometimes it’s hard. Cancer is hard. Financial problems are hard. Unemployment is hard. Depression is hard. Recovery is hard. Life is hard! But we’re not alone, and we’re not without hope and help.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this blog and how I could use it to encourage others. God has put it on my heart to not waste my own experience and to use the talents he’s given me to help others. But I haven’t figured out how. Who knows? Maybe someone else is already doing a good enough job of it, and I am doing this out of boredom or pride.

But here’s what’s on my heart that I want to share:

We are valuable. While we may feel broken or damaged, we’re not – at least not so much that we can’t be put back together as something even more beautiful. We started out valuable simply by being born, and someone perverted our value into something ugly.

We are not alone, even if there’s not another soul in the world who treats us with respect and affection, there is the offer of relationship with God through the sacrificial death of his son, Jesus Christ. But I also know how empty that can sound when we’ve been rejected by people who we can touch and hear. How are we supposed to trust in God when he isn’t physically present?

We are lovable simply because the One who has created us has set us aside for a divine purpose – all of us. But I also know how hard it is to believe that when those who were supposed to love us, nurture us and keep us safe did anything but that.

We are deeply and unimaginably loved by that same God, but how does that love translate into something tangible? It can feel pretty futile to tell ourselves, “but God loves me” when we go home to an empty house and eat lunch alone every day.

Some of you may think I’m looking for pity when I reference my childhood. I can assure you, I’m past that. I believe I’m finally at a place where I can refer to my past without living in it. If it bothers you, this is your warning to walk away while you can. But if you want someone who understands, stay tuned. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to send me right back to my mother’s house. I just don’t stay there as long as I used to!

I don’t want my experience wasted; I’ve wasted enough time with it and I’m done. I know that you can be a Christian and still be far from enjoying the love, approval and victory you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ. Christ didn’t just give you a Get Out of Hell Free card. You’ve been adopted into a whole new family where love and acceptance are abundant. You’ve been given the right to point to the Son of God and say, “I know I don’t deserve to be here, but I’m with Him.”

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Too many of us are still living as a child of Judy, Bob, Maria, David – pick your adult’s name – and are failing to live as a child of God. We’re missing out on the blessing we could be to others. We’re missing out on a radical, abundant, joyful life because we can’t see ourselves the way our Creator sees us. Heck, even other people in our lives see us more favorably than we see ourselves and we can’t even manage to accept their version of us, much less God’s. My husband and girls love me like crazy, and I still don’t get it!

We were created to be glorious reflections of the God who created us and, in doing so, live amazing lives. But we’re not. And attending a church service or listening to a great preacher on television or reading an inspirational book just doesn’t cut it when you walk away thinking, “except for me.” Trust me, this includes you! This is one team for which you won’t get picked last.

So where do we go from here?

 

 

 

 

 

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!

I love quotes. I know a lot of people don’t. But I find that in each great quote is an entire philosophy, a unique take on life, that someone has managed to put into one or two sentences. Of course, Marianne Williamson’s quote is longer than one or two sentences, so forgive me for straying from the norm this once. I think its value justifies its length:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that in order to move forward, people need two things: validation and permission. I consider this my permission to be more than I’ve thought I could or should be.

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It’s often been hard for me to play small, actually. I seem to have needed the affirmation too badly to let an opportunity to succeed pass me by. It doesn’t usually start out that way, though. Each time I’ve done well with something, it’s begun with, “Hey, why don’t you _________________!” The word ‘no’ was never really in my vocabulary, so I did _________________ whether I wanted to or not.

From that point, there were always nudges and encouragement from someone to move to a new level. And, to be honest, I was always my own greatest competition. If I could be a leader at a local level, maybe I could be a leader at a state level, or a national level. No one else around me wanted to do it and were very encouraging, so I ended up being on a national leadership team for Business Professionals of America – the second from the state of Kansas.

This blog is something entirely new for me, and I wouldn’t be doing it if my teenage daughter hadn’t told me to. She doesn’t suggest or encourage; she just tells you to do it. And so I’m doing it. Still don’t know why I’m doing it.

I suppose that’s not entirely true. I know why I’m doing it. I want to write a book someday, and I know that to be a writer, you have to write. Ten years ago, I had a story published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul edition. It was pretty cool, but by the time I found out it was going to be published, I’d forgotten all about it. I’d done it on a whim, I’d never submitted anything for publication before, and I had no expectations of ever being published. But then something happened.

I stood in the aisle of a local Barnes & Noble, looking at the single copy of the book with my story in it. I wanted to stop the first person who walked by and tell them, “My story is in that book!” But that would have been weird, so I silently squealed in my head while running my finger lovingly down the spine of the book. Then I looked inside – you know, just to be sure it was still in there.

Then a single thought began to form in my mind. I found my husband, looked him straight in the eyes and firmly told him, “I want my own book.” Then I didn’t write another thing until my daughter told me to start a blog. I have no idea how I thought a book was going to materialize without words on paper, but that’s where things stayed for 10 years.

However, I never stopped wanting to write something, anything, that could affect people. I want to write something that will show people who feel unloved that they are loved, and the people who feel unlovable that they are lovable. And I want them to know that they are loved by a good God. I want to show people that they can do more than just survive a bad life, that they can actually thrive with a really good life because that’s what Christ died for us to have. And I want to show people that while they may have had a rough beginning – even a rough middle – they can still have an epic end starting now.

Has this been done before? Thank God it has been! Has it been done by me? Not yet. But I believe (and this is hard to put out there in case someone disagrees – and they probably will) that God has given me a past and a talent that I can put to good use for Him.

One more quote and I’ll be done for the day. Erma Bombeck was my favorite humorist when I was growing up. I treasured using her books as selections when I was in high school speech. She said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

Now I don’t expect to be an Erma Bombeck, but I can be a LaRonda Bourn – the first of my kind. I’ll start sentences and even paragraphs with conjunctions when I probably shouldn’t. I may use sentence fragments. And by golly, I will use commas like they’re on sale. But if I put those conjunctions, fragments and commas in God’s hands, maybe – just maybe – something new and beautiful can come from them all.

Wow! I really said all that, huh?

BUIDLING SNOWMEN AND CHARACTER

I am admittedly not fully experienced with winters in Minnesota. Granted, I’ve lived here for 20 years, but I know that’s not long enough to make me an authority on Minnesota winters. Still, to hear it from others, mid-April was certainly late enough in the year that not even Minnesotans should have to tolerate hours of unending snow the likes of which we were experiencing a couple of weeks ago. Very simply, enough was enough!

It Wouldn’t. Stop. Snowing!

Isn’t that the way our lives feel sometimes? “It” won’t stop! The bills won’t stop piling up. The pain won’t go away. The oh-so-irritating spouse won’t give it a break. The children who were supposed to be blessings won’t stay out of trouble.

It Just. Won’t. Stop!

We’re told to be patient. After all, things can’t possibly stay this way forever. To everything there is a season. This, too, shall pass, right? What they don’t tell you is that it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

It always passes. See? The last traces of snow are almost melted already. And the bills will eventually get paid. The pain will eventually be treated. The spouse has to go to sleep and be quiet sometime. And the kids will somehow manage to grow up and surprise us by becoming fairly decent contributing members of society.

So what do we do with the challenge of waiting for things to change? We let it change us. We use it to strengthen us! Romans 5 starts out referring to the peace we have ”with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” which seems absolutely ironic when we’re in a situation that seems to be robbing us of our peace. But he goes on to talk about how we can “boast in the hope of the glory of God” in verse 2.

Then comes the promise:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” (v. 2-5).

So the next time life seems ready to break us instead of give us a break, we will know that we made it through before and we’ll make it through again. That’s when God’s glory shines – when we fail to lose hope in an otherwise hopeless situation because we know that God is faithful. Therein lies our strength.

But you say you feel helpless right now? Paul addresses this, as well.

Verse 6 tells us that “when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”

True, in this instance Paul is talking about God’s timeliness in sending Christ to live and die for our eternal salvation, but the Bible is full of references to God’s knack for being right on time. One example I can think of is the parting of the Red Sea. Think about it. If the Israelites had had enough of a head start such that the Egyptians hadn’t been on their heels, the miracle would have lost some of its brilliance. But in God’s hands, the Israelites saw God part the sea just in time for them to get through and to close it just in time to see the destruction of their enemies. Any sooner and it would have been a “convenient” (though no less mind-blowing!) miracle that would have left the Egyptian army scratching their heads, wondering where those pesky Israelites could have possibly gone.

There are plenty of times we ask God, “When, God? When?” Usually, it’s when we think we are about to break from the pressure. It’s always as we’re standing at the edge of our own Red Sea with an army at our heels. Sometimes, it’s simply when we wonder when the snow will finally stop falling, like the other weekend. But remember that God is always on time, and while we’re waiting, we’re getting stronger. And the strength of our hope will display God’s glory!

YOU’RE AN OVERCOMER!

I belong to a Facebook page for people who have been through some degree of post-traumatic stress. I joined because there are still elements of my growing up that still adversely affect my self-image and my relationships with others today, long after the “threat” is gone. I wanted to be part of a group that would help validate what I’d been through. I wanted to see how others dealt with their struggles. To be honest, I was expecting to see stories worse than mine. Unfortunately they’re out there. Some of the group members have been through far more horrifying things than I have. I was one of the more fortunate dysfunctional adults. I was raised by a mentally unhealthy mother and a step-father who was probably as afraid of her as my brother and I were and did nothing to stop her.

Living with a mentally ill parent can distort the way you see the world and yourself. It alters how you trust yourself and others. Learning a healthy perspective of the world and yourself can be a challenge. Sometimes it can take years of dipping your toe in the pool of “normalcy” before you decide to even get into the water. (Imagine trying to get in the pool when you’re terrified of drowning.) This can be especially true if you’ve lived in an isolated abusive or destructive home. And most likely that how your home was – isolated. When you grow up thinking your isolated life is normal, you have to learn what “normal” is. Now, I know…what’s normal? Let’s refer to it as “healthy” instead. After all, there are a lot of “normal” people out there who aren’t especially “healthy”, right?

There will be no navel-gazing today. Someday, we can talk about the past, but not today. Today, we look to the future with hope. I want to just put this quote in front of you to think about.

“Instead of being ashamed of what you’ve been through, be proud of what you’ve overcome.”  Dr. Phil

I know…it’s a quote from Dr. Phil. And before you try to engage me in a debate over his qualifications or practices, just let me say that this is simply a stand-alone quote that I think is valuable to ponder, regardless of its source. Can we agree on that? Good.

Now, if you want a word from a greater authority, we can look at Romans 8:34-39.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life –  is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through the sacrificial death of Christ, we no longer need to be ashamed of the pain, discouragement and fear we went through before we committed our life to Christ. Because of God’s great love for us, we are more than conquerors; we are victorious and free to start anew!

So don’t dwell on your past pain (or failures). Don’t continue to live in shame. Rejoice that God has a good plan for your life. And what he has declared will not return void. If he declares that you have a good life ahead of you – and he has – so it will be. It may not always be easy, but it will be good. And remember, you may have been through a lot, but you’ve survived. Now, through the power of a risen Christ, you can not only survive; you can thrive! Be the overcomer Christ died for you to be.