I Can’t Do This!

My daughter brought home a doll that would be her “daughter” for the next three nights and two days. Her name was August. Things didn’t go well for either Maggie or August. Or for Maggie’s cat, Mickey. The poor guy was beside himself with worry whenever baby August cried, which was often enough.

Around two hours into her Child Development assignment, Maggie had lost some of the tenacity that makes her so amazing. She didn’t know what to do with the crying doll. She couldn’t figure it out and she couldn’t fix it. (To her credit, I should disclose right now that the baby hadn’t been programmed correctly.)

“I can’t do this!” she cried.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried those same words or something that sounds like them. I’m a grown woman who’s gone through a whole lot more than three hours of intermittent crying from a baby. I don’t say that to minimize Maggie’s anxiety but to say that – like most of us – I can completely empathize with her.

I remembered the fearless little toddler who had once wobbled and fallen her way to successful walking. This was the same girl who tested a single stair step one day and conquered the other 12 within two days like a boss. My heart broke for her, and I was a bit surprised. This girl is pretty fierce, yet she was buckling under the pressure to “fix” her baby.

My first instinct was to take the baby from her to make it better. That’s what a parent does, right?

ce0b26eb3b3971ff9ee63aa296fc3780Our Heavenly Father feels the same way towards His children as we feel toward our children. He wants so badly for us to let Him make things better for ourselves.

That’s why He invites us to cast all our cares on Him.

That’s why He sent His one and only Son to pay for our sins and secure a permanent home with Him.

That’s why there are so many verses in the Bible telling us to not be afraid.

That’s why He reminds us again and again that He will go before us to make a way where there seems to be no way. He knows the number of hairs on our head and every desire of our heart.

That’s why he keeps pouring out grace and forgiveness every single time we need it.

God doesn’t expect us to handle everything alone. Max Lucado illustrated puts it this way:

“When a father leads his four-year-old son down a crowded street, he takes him by the hand and says, ‘Hold on to me.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Memorize the map’ or ‘Take your chances dodging the traffic’ or ‘Let’s see if you can find your way home.’ The good father gives the child one responsibility: ‘Hold on to my hand.’God does the same with us.”

I3ec4b43543db428aef9763cbff0c0ecbn fact our weakness serves at least three valuable purposes:

God is a loving father, but we must recognize that the gospel is about His kingdom, His plans, His glory. God holds our hand and doesn’t abandon us; but He does so because He has a divine and perfect plan that has already been spoken into existence. It can not and will not fail – even if we might.

Does that mean that we’re merely simple-minded sheep? No. We’re valuable, beloved sheep. We’re the kind of sheep who are cared for, searched for, comforted and guided by the most loving Shepherd we could ever hope for. He knows each and every one of our needs and is never surprised by circumstances. But if we managed everything ourselves, having no need of Him, the glory would be ours, gained through our own strength and wisdom.

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom drew this powerful portrait of a caring father:

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.”

So the next time you find yourself crying, “I can’t do this!” remember that you are not alone. Our Father already has the map and the ticket for our journey! Just trust Him to get you there safely. And try to relax and enjoy the trip!

father and child hand

JANIS IAN, VEGGIETALES & EPHESIANS

I have a teenaged daughter who is becoming an amazing young woman. It seems like she’s constantly changing. She reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (Except she’s not becoming a man. Just so we’re clear on that! This isn’t “that blog.” 🙂 )

fc7fabfb93939c0e8a77e1e051f899a7
AT SEVENTEEN – JANIS IAN

Some of the struggles Maggie has are so much like those I had at her age – you know, the Janis Ian kind; other struggles are unique to her generation. For example, I didn’t have to worry about how people from all over the world might judge my words or my looks or my choices on social media. I had enough trouble with the people in my school, in my neighborhood.  Then, again, I had to wait for America’s Top 40 so I could press Play and Record at just the right time in order to tape my favorite song. I had to buy an entire album to get my favorite song, and she has iTunes! (The struggle was real then, too.)

Growing up, Maggie’s favorite video was VeggieTales’ Jonah. She loved the idea that the God she was getting to know for herself was the God of second chances. And she understood that those second chances were not only for her, but for everyone else, too. This taught her mercy for others, as well as grace for herself.

 

It also taught her that second chances were unlimited with God. All He asks is that we repent. Ideally, repentance would be a one-time thing. I say I’m sorry and promise to change my ways – forever. But it seldom works that way, does it? We ask forgiveness again because we originally didn’t do it with the right heart.

Or maybe we didn’t really understand what it was that we needed forgiveness for – for getting caught, for making someone mad, or because we have a deeper matter that keeps pushing the wrong behavior to the surface. Or maybe there are some deeply founded beliefs that keep us returning to the same behavior; thoughts that need to be addressed before change can occur. Or maybe we didn’t really fathom how important the matter was to God. In any event, it seems we could easily exhaust God’s grace. And yet we don’t.

I think that’s the nature of repentance – co9ec67cd3ebeb832c3e7dfdef617888ffnstantly starting over and moving forward but with a new mindset. Again. And again. And yet again.

Now, it would be nice to sit back and enjoy God’s grace for ourselves while we remembered – again and again and yet again – all the grievances we suffered at the hands of others, right? Not so fast!

As Paul wrote: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

This is more than Rodney King’s plea that we “all just get along.” (Google it.) As Christians, we are a part of one body and one Spirit. It’s imperative that we get along, or nothing will get done! And because we’re a part of one body and one Spirit, this isn’t just about us and we’re not in this alone. Essentially, we’re children of God – princes and princesses. We need to straighten our crowns, adjust our attitudes and act like it. (Doesn’t leave a lot of room for being offended, does it?)

Will it be easy? Considering that the third word in the first verse is “prisoner”, I wouldn’t count on it – at  least not until we fully fathom that we are a prisoner to Him who loves and is love, again and again and again.

But wait! There’s more. Paul goes on to say that the ultimate goal of our life in Christ, as one body and one Spirit comes down to this: Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (14-16)

We will not always be that awkward, insecure, shy 17-year-old. We will become wise and strong and loving! Can we be honest with others when they hurt us? Yes. But with love instead of bitterness. Because of Christ, we are better than we are without Him.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (29-32)

Now, there wasn’t an asterisk by this verse, so apparently social media wasn’t a concern then. All I can say is that whatever method they used for communication gave them much more opportunity to carefully consider their words than keyboarding does today. Even those stupid “footballs” that my classmates fashioned their notes into mandated more time for reconsideration than we have now. And we often wrote “Do not show to anyone” on the outside of it.

Paul later tells us that we will be armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17), allowing us to divide the righteous from the unrighteous. But a sword isn’t something you let a child play with. It’s a piece of the armor of God that should be wielded with training and responsibility. And I think there will be plenty of times that we’ll be called to put the sword at our side and extend an empty hand in greeting to show there is no threat to another. No threat, because we have forgiven as we’ve been forgiven and shown compassion as we’ve been shown compassion by our Father through the sacrificial death of His Son.

Things have changed a lot since I was Maggie’s age, but we can be assured that God never changes. His word is steadfast. His expectations of us are solid. His love for us is never-ending. We are part of the mighty body of Christ, designed to do amazing things for the kingdom of God. And I am excited to see what our children grow up to do for Him!

189acb5abaf0413c8bea59925d7c0410

LOVE IS….

In the early months of my marriage, about 21 years ago now, I remember sitting on the front step of the house we were renting. I’d just moved to a town I’d only seen once, relocating my 4-year-old daughter and myself from Kansas to Minnesota. John and I had known each other all of nine months before we married. All our communication had been by phone and letters. We’d been a few years away from the internet and email, much less cell phones.

But as I sat on the front step that day, I had something that I really needed to talk to God about. He already knew what was on my heart because it was always there, just below the surface of my bravado, my fear, my anxiety. “God,” I said, “I don’t know how to love.”

I know I thought I loved my husband – at least as much as I knew how to. And I loved my daughter – as much as I knew how to. But the truth was that I was primarily grateful that John wanted to marry me, to keep me when no one else had. And I treasured my daughter, but I wasn’t sure I loved her the way other parents loved their children because I could be very impatient with her and sometimes cold to her if I was angry with her.

I grew up with a very conditional, controlling mother who managed my step-father, my half-brother and myself with fear. It would be kind to say she was simply a poor example of how a wife should treat her husband; a mother, her children. I knew from her example what I didn’t want to be, but the only option it often left me with was a glorified ideal of a woman I was not equipped to be. And so…my dilemma posed to God that day.

But He answered me immediately and surely: “That’s why I gave you John.” Those words sunk deep into my heart, and I’ve never forgotten them – even on the days when I thought God’s gift of John was a punishment or misunderstanding because John had done something to disappoint me, anger me or hurt me – which happens. Everyone will disappoint us, anger us or hurt us eventually. They’re only human, just as we are.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what God assured me. John has been gentle, kind, patient and – most certainly – long-suffering, to the tune of 21 years. He’s shown me how to love my family and friends. But I’ve also been thinking about God’s love for us. So often I’ve read 1 Corinthians 13 from the perspective of the one who is supposed to love others. As I spend more time in the Word, though, I realize that this is a description of God Himself.

Our heavenly Father is so patient with us. He meets us where we are and really expects so little of us. He waits and waits for us to be ready, always the gentleman. We make the same mistakes repeatedly, and just as often He forgives and forgets them. When you look at the parables that demonstrate His love for us, He is the father of the prodigal son who runs after the boy as soon as he sees him; he doesn’t wait for the boy to reach him. He’s the woman who searches desperately for the lost coin as if it’s the only one she has and celebrates with her friends when she finds it.

0cfc1f119a658b99d31f89f2830e1970

We see His love when Peter steps out of the boat and starts to sink when he looks at the waves in dread. When Peter calls out for help, Jesus doesn’t say, “Hold on. I’ll be right there.” He doesn’t tell the other disciples to help Peter. The distance between Jesus and Peter is a breath when Christ reaches out to pull him out of the water.

We may feel like we’ve strayed from God and have to make our way back to Him. We don’t! I am confident that if, at any time, we turn to call to Him, we will be startled to see Him a breath away, waiting for us. Yes, we need to repent, but we don’t have to wait. And we don’t have to beg and grovel to get in His good graces again. We don’t have to “prove” our authenticity to Him.

I don’t think God wants our self-deprecation. After all, He sacrificed His only 139ab36c5c3c1e05a202db0a7c66fc5cSon to free us from that sort of behavior. God wants our heart and the obedience that comes from loving Him with all our heart, all our soul and with all our strength (Luke 10:27). So if you think you need to clean yourself up first, forget it. You can’t do it yourself, and Christ has already done the work for you. If you think you have any reason at all to wait to reconcile yourself to God – or to accept Him as your God, Christ as your Lord and Savior – you don’t. Do it now. He’s right there, waiting for you with His arms ready to embrace you – again and again and again. That’s love!

 

WHILE YOU WAIT

I came across this note from Morgan Harper Nichols – an American Christian musician, gospel music recording artist, songwriter and guitarist – and I really like it.

4b0eaf4d987c199abefdeb0de65b5c61

I have a daughter who will be 17 in September. Her father and I think she’s beautiful, funny, smart, amazing, compassionate and very strong and tenacious. She seldom sees herself the same way. It’s my constant prayer, though, that above all things, she sees herself as a child of God, a joint heir with Christ. I pray that she always remembers who and whose she is, that she act in a manner becoming a woman of God and that she expect respect for herself and her body as such, too.

I’ve been a girl, too. I’ve been a child of God since I was 12, but I didn’t really have anyone show me what it meant to live like one. I missed so much and have so many regrets; regrets that I hope I can help my daughter avoid.

I don’t think this text is limited to just the girls out there. I think it is good for boys to hear, as well. I think it’s good for adults to consider, too. So many of us worry that we’re not doing “good enough.” We see the highlights of others lives while we look at our own behind-the-scene takes and bloopers. We worry that we’re missing something. We compare ourselves to other employees, family members, friends, neighbors – even fictional characters on television.

Spend some time in quiet. Still yourself. Listen for the Holy Spirit and expect to hear something. You’re not in this alone. And you’re meant to do great things!

WHO IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT?

I’ve figured out why it’s so hard to sit in the passenger seat when my teenage daughter practices driving. I have no control, and that leaves me vulnerable. I can give her gentle suggestions, or I can grab the dashboard and gasp as if my life were in imminant danger (which was my mother’s personal favorite!), but I can’t control Maggie. Ultimately, I have to accept that she is doing the driving and I am not.

Brene’ Brown is all about being vulnerable, and her message is very liberating.

f0e12b9f6df8461616811f35218393fc

Which, I suppose, makes me pretty courageous!

Sometimes, vulnerability is the unavoidable spinning of your car on an icy road as you draw closer to another car.  You have no control and you have no idea how things will end. Nothing you say or do will avoid the collision. Sometimes it’s just trusting someone, which allows you some amount of control as you determine how much you trust them and what you trust them with. It’s honestly hard for me to say which is more frightening.

When it comes to letting Maggie drive, I’ve narrowed everything down to one rule: Don’t freak out mom! Don’t follow so close, drive so fast or do anything to freak out mom. Essentially, that translates to “Give mom peace while you’re driving.”

It’s the same hope I have in God. It’s my prayer that God won’t do anything to scare me or make me insecure, but that he’ll lead me in peace. But that has a lot to do with me, though. I know that in Christ I have a Good Shepherd who loves me, in whom I can put my trust. He leads me beside the still waters to calm me. I know his voice, and I know that he will keep me safe from predators – whether they’re literal or figurative. But I have the responsibility to believe this truth. If I don’t trust in Him, it doesn’t matter how gentle He is with me if I’m going to freak out regardless of the situation. When I choose to worry, I lose confidence in Him.steering wheel

I have to be confident in this: God has promised to take care of all things that concern me, and He does it because He loves me. I can trust Him to be in the driver’s seat – even if I get a little nervous sitting in the passenger seat.

He loves you, too! So much so that He’s invited us to cast all our cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So go ahead and give it a shot! You might be surprised at what can happen if you’re willing to trust Christ in the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

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.

610d9e7628baa2edc58785869595fda6

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.”

21dd1505a3e4fc6b166cb8c674474370

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?

 

 

 

 

 

GOD’S GOT YOU COVERED!

0fca0f31e3ae70ed82b1e571ed0ed6fdI wasted two days of my  life this past Friday and Saturday. They’re just gone!

I felt angry, bitter, and scared and numb. I was so scared that I shut down. Worry about what my future holds consumed me. I ran future possibilities through my head until I couldn’t think anymore. But I felt I had to look ahead to determine if I could handle any of those possibilities – just in case. I’m so tired! And the only thing I managed is to lose two days of my life.

I struggle between trusting God and trusting all the players, including – especially – me. I can say I’m going to let God handle everything that troubles me now, and then I worry about it.

When I worry, I take the whole thing outp of God’s capable hands. I know what I’m saying is, “Lord, I don’t trust you.” (Like I can trust myself to do better!)

Here’s one of those “fortune cookie” declarations I mentioned in my last post – the ones that are always optimistic and seem to be meant for someone other than me:cd608ccfde83a8700ac72470819c551e.jpg

But I’ve decided to claim this one because I think it reflects the personality of God. And these are the characteristics of God that I need now and believe I can go boldly before the throne and ask him to use in my life.

My God has me covered. He has already been where I’m going and has made a straight path and good plan for me. He has already spoken to the people who will influence my life, closed the doors that need to be closed and opened the doors that need to be opened. He’s got me covered.

When I had an emergency open heart surgery at Allina, I was helicoptered there. I learned later that before I even landed, the path to the operating room was cleared. There were no obstacles at all. Every door was open, including the elevator doors. Nothing was going to delay my arrival. And everything and everyone was there and ready to save my life in operation. That’s what God does in our lives.

And because he’s God, we can always be confident that he will – at his discretion and in his time – provide increase, restoration, healing and breakthroughs. He loves us and meets us where we are, but when we become His child, things need to change. He can’t leave us as we were without him. That means we can expect an upgrade in our life. Praise God that while I’m not yet where I want to be, to his glory I’m not where I was when he got ahold of me!

But I can’t do this on my own. I’ve seen what happens when I try to handb7458c51ee3ce0ffe8fcf57175829bd9le my struggles alone. I waste days feeling sorry for myself and nothing gets done. So I need to turn it all over to God. And that can be hard to do. What if I don’t like the plans he has for me? What if He takes too long? So the first thing I had to do was to surrender my heart to Him. And as I do (it’s a process for me!) I find him softening my heart, making my heart and thoughts right, in line with Him and his plan.

The hardest part for me is to “choose to trust”. I’m already in pain because there’s been a breach in trust, usually, and I’m hurt. Now I’m supposed to put my trust in someone I can’t see or touch?! If I want peace and want to see victory, yes.princess warior

I have to hold onto the fact that I am putting my trust in someone who truly loves me and wants what’s best for me. I didn’t grow up with that. In fact, I grew up with a parent who I believe hated me and would sabotage me every chance she got. She did not have my my best interest in her heart as God does. So this faith alone is very hard for me. But I have to believe it, and I have to believe that God will give me a new set of eyes to go with the new heart he’s given me.

Does God want us to have the victory over our enemy? Yes! Why? Because he loves us and because every victory we have is a victory for His kingdom. What sort of leader would he be if he had a defeated army with no hope in them?

I pray that I can remember Whose I am and who I am as I go through my present struggle. God has promised that He has a good plan for me. He’s promised me a new heart and new eyes to see more clearly. I think trusting Him sounds better than wasting my days in bed feeling sorry for myself.

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.

My Daughter is in the Driver’s Seat!

When I saw the story of the permit driver whose first move was to hit the gas and drive through the front of the DMV building, I assumed the driver was a teen like my permit holder, and it terrified me! It was no less comforting to find that the permit driver was actually 46 years old!

I firmly believe there should be a support group for parents who have to do behind-the-wheel training with their teen. We’re not even talking about insurance yet – just the sitting in the passenger seat, completely at their mercy with no protection other than the occasional deep and audible gasp and grip of the dashboard that tells your teen that if they don’t slow down, they should be fully aware that they may become an orphan.

This is scary stuff, and you have few people with whom to share your anxiety. There are fellow parents out there who could share their experiences with you. There are parents out there who could attend such a support group as proof that teens can learn to drive and that, as a parent, they not only survived the training but survived it unscathed.

Undoubtedly the whole hour of the support group could be summed up in two phrases:
“I thought we were going to die!” and “It’ll be fine.”

I’m confident that either one is just a slight step to the East of the truth. No one’s going to die. At the worst, you might have an accident and see your insurance rates go up before your kid’s even licensed. Still, I seriously doubt that I will get out of this experience without needing a refill on my Xanax!

Of course, someone will inevitably say, “No one ever said it would be easy.” OK, let’s be honest about having children. When the topic of getting pregnant and having a family ever came up, did anyone ever say, “Now, remember that someday that cute little baby will need to drive, and you will need to sit in the passenger seat with absolutely no control.”? No, they didn’t! They encouraged you to have a cute little bundle of joy without full disclosure that it wouldn’t be easy.

But you know what? My little bundle of joy is growing into a fine young woman in spite of my anxiety. And so far Maggie’s been a fine driver. And I have two other things that give me confidence that she will do much better with her driving test than the woman in the story:

  • When she started walking, she fell a lot. Today she’s quite good at walking!
  • I learned how to drive. If I can do it, surely she can.

Long story, short, it’s going to be just fine. Right?