because what should have happened did…but sometimes that feels really painful…

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There is so much in life we have very little control over. We can blame, and shame, and throw could’s, should’s and would’s at a situation – but it doesn’t change what happened. What should have happened did. And that’s it.

Maybe it doesn’t feel like what should have happened did. Maybe it felt horribly awful. Maybe there is no conceivable way of making sense or meaning out of actions that are just senseless…but we try to. Because if we can, well that would mean we had some element of control. And let’s face it, we all hate feeling out of control.

I hate it so much I can hardly stomach it…literally. When I feel out of control, I don’t just walk, I run to the bathroom over and over again because my insides just want to get all the painful crap out – in whatever means possible!

And it pains me to think about it…that there is nothing I could have done. That I had limited control.  But I did the best I could with what I had at the time.

And isn’t that just who we are? Humans muddling through life doing the very best we can. Hoping and praying He gives us the knowledge we need to love well and that God’s complete sovreighnty will reign over the rest.

Because we don’t always know what we are doing. Sometimes we make bad decisions without even realizing what we did. Blinded by past hurt and pain we react out of broken places. Sometimes it turns out well. Other times it doesn’t.

In the end, we just have to keep going, knowing humanity isn’t all there is. That there is a God that loves us beyond our ability to even recognize what true love is. That He loves us in a way that never wants to be separated. So much He sent His son to die WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS.

He didn’t die for perfect us, or healed us…

He died for sinner us.

On your worst day He died for you.

On your best day He died for you.

On every day He died for you because that is who He is.

He would die a thousand deaths over and over again if it meant getting to bring you into His eternal presence. Because He loves you. That is all.

No should, could, or would because that stuff doesn’t matter to Him. He sees you not as you are, but as He would have us be. Who He made us to be. And we can choose to see ourselves that way too, because if that is how Christ sees us, well that’s good enough for me.

what if I stopped trying to be, and just allowed Him to be in me…

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Because sometimes I don’t feel like I can be. That no matter how hard I try, I will not measure up.

And it scares me. How am I supposed to do God’s will when I can’t remember to buy toilet paper at the grocery store? How can He use such a hot mess? It seems dang near impossible.

And it’s in times like these that I prop up my sails and set out on a journey. Maybe the original revelation I experienced wasn’t true. Maybe when God was passing out vision for the future He accidentally sent me someone else’s. Someone much stronger and smarter. Someone more gifted. A talented poised woman who lives down the street. There must have been a mix up.

And I search and search for a more appropriate vision, but all that sits on the horizon are empty waters. And I get frustrated.

God show me where and how I need to be?

I see nothing.

All the while, the original vision God placed with purpose sits on the deck of my life, veiled in blanket after blanket of insecurity. It is readily available, but out of fear I leave it untouched. Afraid of what looking at it might mean.

Have you ever felt this way? Like you seek vision after vision from God – direction – a big flashing light – yet you see nothing? I wonder what would happen if instead of seeking to discover, we sought to uncover the greatness of what is already present? Would we find that what we are looking for sits right under out noses?

Because that vision He gave you may look frightening, and masking it with insecurity may seem less threatening. But until we look at what God truly has for us, even the parts we might be afraid of, we will continue to feel unfulfilled and empty. He set each of us out for a purpose and it’s not a cruel joke. He has already given us everything we need to survive and thrive.

His purpose remains. It hasn’t changed just because of our feelings. The way we feel about our purpose has nothing to do with what He offers us. We decide if we will accept it with grace and empowered strength, or run away in fear. Either way, His purpose remains unchanged.

What if I stopped trying to be, and just allowed Him to be in me?

anxiety and hope…

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Hopes are often expectations that don’t yet have a voice. Sometimes we think they sound silly. Other times we just don’t want to speak them because then they gain life – and when they gain life – it might hurt too bad if they don’t come to fruition.

Here is what I have learned about hope. Hope is amazing. Without it, people become suicidal. It’s true. Hopelessness is a huge indicator for a person completing suicide. With hope, life seems to have purpose and meaning.

But if you are like me, hope can also cause you a great deal of anxiety.

And what particularly causes me anxiety is when I choose to place my hopes in someone else. I wonder if they can deliver? And what if they don’t? I’m so empathetic that I usually understand, but it hurts me none the less. Dashed hope can cause a brutal amount of sadness and unrest.

And here is the thing. Anxiety flourishes when hope is built on an expectation that can only be fulfilled by someone else. Because no matter how hard we try, we cannot control another person’s actions. We just can’t. So what do we do?

Our expectation, our hope, must shift to becoming our own – knowing that whatever choices are made outside of ourselves – we can handle it with Christ’s dignity, peace, grace, mercy and strength. When we actively accept these qualities from Him as part of the hope process-our anxiety melts into rest and hopelessness simply ceases to exist.

I have high hopes going into this school year. But as a parent of a special needs child, there is a part of me that must know there is going to be difficulty. I have to accept this – or I am setting myself up for an emotional roller coaster ride that makes me want to puke. So I have high hopes, but they are not dependent on my son’s behavior – the teacher’s skill – the recommendations that come out of an ARD – or how he will be treated by other students – my hope rests inside of me. And inside of me lives Christ. I can speak this hope, I can give it life, because I know it’s true. I can handle all things with Christ inside of me. And even when my insides feel like they are being ripped to shreds – I know I will get through it with Him.

He has to be the center of our hope. There is no other way. He is the creator of our peace. We must choose to accept Him as our enough.

we seek God’s peace, but do we accept it as enough..

IMG_20150813_162705So there’s this whole peace seeking thing that I do. I’m pretty good at it. I have some effective coping skills. Things like going to the gym, walking my dog, listening to music, reading my Bible, soaking myself in counseling research (weird that I like doing this – but whatever), and praying. All good things.

But what about the times I run myself through the list of adaptive stress management skills and I still feel like my brain has kicked into full throttle anxiety mode? What do I do then?

Here’s the thing about seeking peace…we can seek it all day long, but unless we accept it as enough, we remain distraught.

I can read scripture, I can pray, I can blast worship music on my iPod while I work out – but unless I let it come in and change my heart and mind – what’s the point?

Because a lot of us are good at seeking Jesus. We are good at begging God to intervene and feeling frustrated when we don’t see Him act. But few of us are skilled at accepting His peace as enough.

Because we want more. We want change. We want an intervention. Be it a change of circumstances, vision and understanding of the future, or even just a break from emotional turmoil – we want results. And sometimes we get them. But for me, my life rarely transforms quickly.

Because He’s not a magician, a genie, or the Easter bunny.

He’s God.

And He’s not in the business of responding to my every desire and command. He’s in the business of transforming my heart. And part of that transformation is the concious decision to say, “God I am seeking your peace, and even though I may not feel it – or understand – I choose to accept You as enough.”

Luke 1:45 says , “Blessed is she who believed The Lord would fulfill His promises to her.”

Dang right she is blessed! Because if a certain she, being me and/or you, would believe the promises of His Word are true – that He always has our best interest in mind, that a bruised reed He will not break, and that He is always enough – our hearts and minds would look different.

What if we stopped bending over backwards seeking peace and rather sought it a little – but accepted a lot?

Because His peace is enough. Always has been. Always will be. But only you can make the choice to breathe it in.

how to help someone who is hurting…

11811520_1050918934939091_3566199109181994073_nHelping someone through suffering can be as simple as saying, “Hey I see your pain, and I am not afraid.”

But so often we are afraid. And it makes me think of the bully stay away agreement we do in elementary schools. Someone is being harmful to someone else, so naturally, if we can get them to stay away from each other, the hurting will stop. But we do that when we see another person’s burden.

It looks harmful. It looks scary. So we decide to enlist a stay away agreement and keep our distance until they at least appear better. Because if we go to them in that moment, we might have to feel their hurt too, and that is something we are afraid of. Desperately afraid of.

And what if we don’t know what to say? What if we go to them in that moment, have a panic attack, and just go completely blank? Maybe we could cause more harm than good?

And it’s under these suppositions that we leave hurting people balled up in the fetal position and feeling desperately and completely alone. And it’s not right. But fear bullies us into these positions and we run away – afraid.

My wise friend Brene Brown puts it this way, “Rarely can a response make something better.”

And she’s right.

Even if we are as eloquent as Shakespeare or as wise as a Bible Prophet, there is rarely something we can say when people are in pain that will help them shake it off and feel better. Because they are not ready to move on. What they need is someone to get down in the garbage can with them. And if you don’t know what to say, Brene Brown nails it again…you can say, “I don’t even know what to say right now, but I am just so glad you told me.”

And isn’t that what Jesus did?

He made the choice to see our suffering.

It was ugly, and it was weak, and it was dirty, and it was everything we can imagine as a social outcast that no one wants to approach or talk to, and He said – I’ll take that. I’ll take the very worst parts of you. I’ll meet you there. I’ll even take it on myself…because I am not afraid.

And because He is God, He can take it one step farther – He heals us.

He may not remove our suffering in that moment. But He heals by walking with us, giving us hope that does not fail, and never ever leaving our side. He takes the burden of our sin, and promises I will never ever hurt you, even when the choices you make deeply hurt me.

And so obviously we cannot be Jesus, but at the same time, we must choose to see.

People hurt people. Pain is just pain. And sometimes we need to be held in the midst of it all, and know we are not alone.

because you were enough…you did enough…and you are enough…

 

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Photo Credit: Valerie Wieners Art

This print is available for purchase at valeriewienersart.com

Sometimes we go to therapy because a bad thing happened and we need to talk about it.

Other times we go to therapy because we have already talked about it, and now the bad thing is talking about us.

Maybe it says you are a second class person for “letting this” happen. You should have known better or done something differently. Maybe it calls you guilty by association and says what happened was ugly – so you are ugly. Maybe it screams you are worthless, unkind, unloveable, or weak.

Our baggage can loose all kinds of destructive messages. And they are very personal and very painful.

Today I don’t want to advice give, because honestly, it’s rarely helpful. Instead I want to listen as best I can via a blog based computer screen. And if I could hug you I would say, “Hey, I see you, and you are not alone.” 

And somehow I want you to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that unless your baggage is speaking words of love, kindness, and compassion over you – what it’s speaking is not true. It’s absolutely not true. 

Someone who has been through what you have been through would have done the same thing. They would have reacted the same way. And you did the best you could with what you knew and had access to at the time. Hindsight is always 20-20, but in the moment, you did what humans do. And that’s respectable. That’s loveable. That’s understandable. And if needed, that’s forgiveable.

You were enough. You did enough. And you are enough. And even in the darkest places, He picked up your failures and those who failed against you – and said that’s enough. No more hurting for my girl. I took it on the cross, and it is finished.

So sweet friend. I’m sorry baggage has such a big mouth. But it’s good that God’s mouth is bigger. His Word runs deeper. His love runs wider.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is test what it speaks against God’s truth. Because we have control over the volume switch by where we choose to place our focus. On the true or untrue. And every time we tell our story, offer and receive compassion, and spend quiet moments just breathing in His truth – the baggage voice gets a bit weaker.

The sweetest frame, and an Antlered Rose jewelry giveaway…

“This will not define your life Stephanie. It doesn’t have to. It’s just a part of who you are, not all of who you are.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this, but I’ve heard it a lot. From different people in different places. All well meaning, but none with voices I could hear.

Because it felt like it defined me. It felt like it made every decision of every day. It kept me from looking the grocery store clerk in the eye, or walking into a meeting with confidence. It robbed me of feeling like a good wife or a good mom. It caused me to second guess myself constantly. And so when people would say it didn’t define my life, I would politely nod-smile-and agree, but inside I wanted to scream, “you have no ******* idea!”

And then it happened to my daughter. Not the same thing, but I saw her get hurt in a very real way. And I wanted to punch God in the face.

Why her God? Was it not enough to punish me? Can you not take your wrath out on me? Why her? She did nothing wrong.

Because if I am honest, for a long long time, I felt like I did something wrong to get raped. And even after correcting that distortion – the feeling hung on. And then I attached to her.

All I could see were years and years of therapy. Her standing in the checkout line experiencing panic and wondering what everyone around her was thinking. Her sacrificing her gift of dancing at the alter of anxiety and depression. It seemed so unfair.

And then someone said the phrase. The familiar phrase. The phrase I had heard countless times before.

Stephanie, it sure would be a shame if she saw this as something that defined her life, because it doesn’t. 

And I don’t know what was different. Maybe it was that it was projected towards her instead of me. Perhaps it was easier for me to look at her with a hope and future than it was for myself. But for whatever reason, the same old familiar words rung with a different tune. They made sense, not just on a head level, but to my heart. It was as if she said,

Sweet friend – this has never defined you – and your shame didn’t shake loose and attach itself to her either – it doesn’t define either one of you. It wasn’t her fault, and it wasn’t your fault – you are both set free. Shame has no power here. It doesn’t get to win. This does not, will not, and can not define you. You both are daughters of the One True King. And you are already amazing.

Like I said, I don’t know what was different. Maybe my heart was just in a place where it was ready to hear. Perhaps the pain of staying in the same old bondage just seemed to heavy to bear any longer, and it finally seemed easier to just let go. For her, and for me.

And as I thumbed these thoughts through the chapters of my brain, old words from a hymn came to mind…

My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name.

It’s a sweet frame to know this doesn’t define me – or her – or anyone who has been through trauma. But I have to be real and also know even though I feel set free today, there are going to be days in the future where my feelings shift. Because that’s what feelings do, they change. And so if I build my frame, my trust, my hope on anything other than the truth of Christ – the frame will shift along with my emotions or circumstances.

So the sweet words of truth that God allowed to pierce my heart have to ground themselves in Christ. I have to know…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

All that defines me is Jesus. All that defines my daughter is Jesus. All that defines you is Jesus. We have faith, hope, love, confidence, and freedom in and through Him. And no matter what her emotions do, or my own, or yours, this truth cannot change. It is the sweetest frame that we can trust. We can bet the farm on it, and then some. It’s hard core ya’ll.

Whatever happened to you – no matter how ugly – there’s a new structure waiting to take over. He longs to take what happened and speak life into it and beyond it, so that nothing has the power to hold you back any longer. You are set free. And that’s a sweet frame.

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My friend Amber James does some amazing jewelry. Seriously, I love it ya’ll. The other day she came up with a necklace called the sweetest frame. And since I was working on this blog post, I thought it would be the perfect time for a giveaway.

I am giving away one $30 credit to Amber James store which can be found here: http://the-antlered-rose.myshopify.com. To enter to win, leave a comment on this post, or the two posts below this one. Share some truth Christ is speaking to you. Maybe something He is working on in your life, or a favorite verse – just whatever is on your heart. I will email the winner Friday August 7th, so you have until then to enter!

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because she was a friend…

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“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Philippians 2:1-4 MSG

I miss her. I really do. I hadn’t thought of her in a long time, but tonight, as part of the fallen cast of TEXAS, I heard her name.

We grew up together, danced together, laughed together, and cried together. She stood beside me at my wedding, and I miss her.

I miss the way she drew me out of my shell. From convincing me to audition for middle school show choir, to trying out for the high school dance team. She was always by my side. Things I never would have done on my own, I did, because she encouraged me.

Her talent far exceeded my own, but talent meant nothing to her. If she couldn’t convince others through her dancing to believe in themselves, then what was the purpose? She loved, and loved deeply.

And tonight I saw her in my daughter’s best friend. A friend so very similiar. A friend who pulls my Lauren up by her hand and says “come on, let’s do this” even when Lauren is crazy afraid. And I’m thankful, beyond words thankful.

My sweet sister Elise’s time one earth was cut short, but her spirit of kindness and love – a spirit given to her by God – lives on. She was empowered to breath encouragement into others and she took her gifting seriously.

And so sweet sister who feels like you don’t have much to offer…you have no idea. Your smile means the world to someone. That conversation you had over coffee…it changed a life. The funny text you sent…it gave her a break from the tears, even if just for a moment. The cookie and sweet tea you left on her desk…it made her day. It doesn’t take much to be a friend. It doesn’t take much to show the extravagant love of Christ. It’s easy. Living a life of purpose doesn’t have to be complicated.

So maybe it could be a thing. Maybe we could show someone some love. Not in the large kind of way, but the simple I see and notice you – and I think you are amazing – kind of way. Maybe it would make a difference. Maybe they would see Jesus. Maybe they would do something afraid and discover strength they never knew they had. If we took the time…just maybe…

And I think of the mom and it breaks me…and it breaks Him too…

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It wasn’t just me. Or you. Or Him. When Christ was nailed to the cross we were all nailed there with Him. Our heart could not handle the weight of depravity, so His did.

And as I sit here reading about the thousands of babies aborted, sweet life sold for parts and profit, it breaks me. And then I think of the moms. The ones who made the choice for countless reasons. Believing with their whole heart they were doing the right thing. And then those that were deeply questioning but made the choice anyways. And even some who were forced into the decision. And then my heart breaks deeper.

And it breaks Him too. It breaks Him over and over again too.

And if that is you, it’s important that you know you are not alone. That Christ died for you. And that when He died, He meant it. He drug your darkest day up on the cross with Him and it rose from the grave the same as He did. The redemption He has given you is not partial – but in fullness.

There is no grave too deep or shallow. No decision made too many times or with too much certainty that is beyond the power of redemption. Even if you fell hard on the side that life was not life and now you look at things differently – it’s not too late. The choice cannot be undone, but the shame can be released. You do not have to suffer or live in darkness. You are set free. Redemption is full.

The night before Jesus was crucified, He went to the garden to pray. He prayed so fervently that He sweat blood. He knew the weight of suffering and was bent over in agonous desperation. All the while, the disciples fell asleep.

They fell asleep. He asked them to pray that they would not fall into temptation, but flesh won that night and they drifted off. And still, Jesus loved them. Their depravity did not change His decision.

And our flesh is no different. At times He asks us to do something, and we fail miserably. We fall into temptation when He warns us not to. We deny Him as we sin, over and over again. Yet it did not, does not, and will not change His thoughts, love, mind, or actions. Redemption remains.

You heart may not be able to handle the weight of depravity, and that is okay. He knows. So He handled it for you. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

He didn’t set you free so that you could live in the darkness of bondage, hidden from grace. He set you free so that you could walk in the light. So that you could share your story with others, and they might find freedom too. None of us are too broken, too bad, too dirty, or unloveable. He loves us all the same. He loved you as much before the abortion, or whatever you are struggling with, as He loves you after. You are His beautiful daughter and that will never change. You can look back all you want, but He looks forward, and in Him your value will never change.

what are you calling yourself?…because He calls you mine…

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I have no scars on my arms, because I was a cutter of different sorts. The scars are on my heart and mind from year after year of stripping and slicing away everything God says I am, and embedding into my flesh everything that I am not. It’s a dangerous habit and every bit as harmful as the physical slicing of skin.

I think it was the grace of timing that saved me. During this period of my life, I never heard of cutting. It wasn’t an option I knew about for numbing the pain. Because there were times I would have done just about anything to numb the pain – it just happens I turned to alcohol, performance, and relationships because those things were accessible.

I say all this because I work in a field where I see cutting on a weekly basis. But guess what I see on a daily basis? Internal slicing and dicing that is more easily hidden, but certainly no less painful. And if there is one thing God has showed me about this habit, it’s that it pains Him deeply.

Isaiah 43:1 says this, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”

Why does this verse matter? Because I want you to think about something. When God looks at you and calls you by name, He calls you mine. Not loser, dirty, broken, ugly, coward, unloveable, shame filled, or hated. He calls you mine.

And God doesn’t just call anyone mine. He calls you His because He chose you on the cross, and He would choose you a thousand times over again. He calls you His because everything un-perfect about you is perfected in Him. You are certainly not unwanted or alone. He looks right at you and says, that one – she chose me and I chose her – she is mine.

We can cut, slice, and dice ourselves verbally all we want, but God refuses to do it. And if we want to feel towards ourselves the love He feels towards us, we are going to have to stop. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m just telling you it’s possible.

One of my favorite verses is Mark 9:24 where a man exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Because here’s the thing…if we believe in Jesus, He can help us overcome the lies we believe about ourselves.

When we start verbally bashing and beating ourselves, and it feels impossible to stop, that’s when we call on the power of God. That’s when we yell out, “God you have called me chosen, worthy, beautiful, and redeemed, but parts of me object – help me overcome my unbelief!”

There were times in my life I literally had to exclaim this out load. Because I needed help y’all!

I didn’t overcome this cutting behavior on my own. I didn’t overcome it strictly by going to therapy – although it helped a lot. I overcame exactly how God says we overcome – by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony. He gave me the power to overcome. And I am so thankful I couldn’t do it without Him, because I learned to depend on Him for my identity – and nothing else.

If you are a cutter of any sort, today is the day that can begin to change. Not that it’s an instant fix, it takes time. But today is the day you can say for the first time, “I do believe Lord, help me overcome my unbeleif.” And keep praying and asking, as long as it takes. Keep fighting. In this battle, you will win. But it’s time to pick up His truth and put down the blade.