the other side of humility…

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As a therapist I have to be careful. I can’t internalize my clients successes and I also can’t internalize their failures. The former is pretty easy. I am good at recognizing that another person’s success rarely has anything to do with me and has everything to do with them and God. But that later? Much more difficult to accept.

I remember the verse God placed on my heart last year. Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up (James 4:10). It didn’t matter what part of the Bible I was studying, or what book I was reading, God would always bring my heart back to this place. I wasn’t sure why…I mean…I felt like I tried to be humble. I wasn’t perfect at it, but who is? I didn’t take credit for my place in life. I knew it was only by the grace of God that I even maintained the position I was in. But then God shifted my perspective to the other side of humility. A side I was not familiar with at all.

The other side of humility (for me) pairs closely with the fact that I have a limited amount control. Yes I am in control of my own thoughts, actions, and behaviors. But when I internalize another person’s actions, thought processes, behaviors, or even circumstances – I am anything but humble. I see myself as having way more control that God ever intended. He gave us all free will, and that free will not only applies to them, but it also means I am not in charge of anyone else.

And it doesn’t mean I can’t offer help, skills, suggestions, and always a safe place to be heard and understood. It doesn’t mean I don’t do everything in my power to have as much specialized knowledge as possible on how certain things affect certain people or the biology of how the brain works. Of course I embrace and use these things. But at the end of the day, I have to know the outcome never has and never will rest with me. God has power to do far more than I could ever imagine – or possibly choose to do nothing at all. He always knows best.

When I accept this as truth I am free to give my all — released from pressure and anxiety. I am lifted up beyond the outcome and free to just be me. He asks us to be humble not just because it’s a “good” way to be but because it helps us function in the fullness of His grace each and every day. Humility is a blessing as we begin to realize He is the ultimate author.

you deserve the chance to make a mistake…

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Middle school boys do weird stuff. Like really weird. Over the past 2 years I have gotten phone calls involving bananas, trees, bathroom incidents, middle finger mishaps, and verbage I never knew existed! Looking back I can totally laugh, but in the moment it’s tough to see my kid make mistakes.

If I could encapsulate him in a bubble and keep him from missing the mark – ever – I think I probably would. Well…maybe…

There is also this part of me that says – he deserves the chance to make mistakes – no matter how funky-weird those mistakes are!

And I wonder if Jesus feels the same way. If it’s hard for Him to watch us fall…but letting us because He knows the fall is what we need to heal and grow stronger. Because when you think about it, freedom (including the freedom to totally f*** things up) is a really cool thing. Apart from freedom, none of us would be who we are.

And you and I sit here as adults – no one telling us what to do – and sometimes we get it right. Other times – many other times – we get it wrong.

But here’s the truth sweet friend. You deserve the chance to make a mistake.

With mistakes can come tremendous growth, especially if we practice self-compassion (the ability to say ya, I jacked it up, but I will learn and move on).

You deserve the chance to make a mistake because you are human and it’s what humans do. If we never messed up there would be no need for Jesus. And Jesus didn’t die so we could sit around wallowing in our woes – telling ourselves what a ding-dong we are. He died so we can say, that was weird – I made a mistake – what have I learned? – and God please help me do better next time. 

And sometimes we will do better next time, and sometimes our flesh will fight hard, and we won’t. But we just keep going. Trying. Repenting. Caring for ourselves and those we love. And allowing God to mend the wounds. Because you sweet sister deserve the chance to make a mistake. And you deserve to do it without bashing yourself with your internal baseball bat afterwards. You deserve to make a mistake and you deserve forgiveness, grace, and compassion.

So get up, and try again. Help your kids do the same. They are watching you. And the more grace you give yourself – the more they will learn to do the same. You got this. And even when you don’t – well that’s just part of being human – and you are gonna be okay.

 

Some thoughts on depression…

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It’s a place no one wants to be. Sobbing uncontrollably on the floor. Knowing I couldn’t do it myself, but begging God to make it stop or just let me die. The feeling of the carpet on my knees. I even remember watching classic anti-depressant commercials saying “depression hurts” and thinking – no shit! I felt so violated.

It’s almost like – in fact it’s exactly like – trauma. Depression took me to the ground over and over again. I begged for it to stop.  I said no as loud as my breathy cries would let me. But the sadness would not go away. It felt like my sense of self was violated in a way I could never get back. Stained, raped, and ruined.

And I know this description may sound extreme, or dramatic, but that’s exactly what depression is. A scrappy relentless animal. It fights hard and doesn’t give up. And even when we think we have it beat, it comes back for round two, three, four, or more… It’s been several years since I’ve faced depression of this magnitude, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

So what if we tell ourselves not to be depressed? To watch out for sadness and beat it off with a womping stick before it gets too close. To guard our happy with thankfulness, kindness, servitude, and even busyness. It works sometimes. But what happens when it doesn’t? When the sad creeper comes and camps out in your brain despite your best efforts to keep his nasty at bay. If you are like me you feel defeated, alone, confused, not good enough, and violated all over again.

So what does work? If we can’t beat it off or busy ourselves out of it, what helps us in the moments when sadness seems like too much? I’ll tell you what works for me. And it sounds silly and oversimplified…but it works.

Drop the rope.

Drop the rope and stop fighting it.

It’s often the fear that depression will get TOO bad that takes us from sad to miserable. We borrow trouble from past experience and drag it willingly into the present and future. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t fit there. So instead of kicking into full fledged panic when we feel sad what if we just learned to accept it for what it is. Not making it bigger or smaller. Not tugging it closer or smacking at it in attempts to make it go away. Just letting it be what it is.

I’m not saying depression doesn’t hurt. We all know that it does. What I’m saying is that we don’t have to make it go away or never struggle with it again to live life. Depression can ebb and flow and you can keep on going. It may be a part of you but it doesn’t have to define you.

And where does Jesus fit in all of this? Right smack dab in the middle. He came to heal the lame and set the captive free, but He did not come to squash and extinguish all of our negative emotions. Jesus wept. Jesus got angry. Jesus felt. And He allows us to feel too. He gives us freedom to experience, hurt, learn, grow. To find joy in the MIDST of sadness. Joy that knows who God is even when we feel violated on the floor. Joy that says God is good and I accept this pain knowing it likely has purpose. That with God, pain is and will be okay.

Depression is tough. But so are you. You don’t have to be violated. You can welcome it for what it is, and at the same time know Gods got this. Soon enough, you will rejoice.

where you came from is not where you have been…

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“You aren’t ever going back there. I don’t care how low you sink. It’s a physical impossibility.”

~ words spoken straight to my soul by a sweet friend

I know you feel lost and alone. At times it hurts way too deep. You wonder what you can do to feel better or how to make it through today…much less tomorrow. You feel tired, overwhelmed, and wonder how to keep doing this thing that you do. Everything in you wants to fight, but the energy is waning, and the water seems so deep.

It hurts. But you will not drown.

And I get it. You have a story. We all do. But where you have come from is not where you have been. Where you have come from may be poverty, loss, abandonment, grief, abuse, neglect, hate, and really tough tremendous pain.

But look at where you have been…

You can’t go back to the past. It’s a physical impossibility. But where you have been will never leave you. Where you have been is transformed. Where you have been is saved. Where you have been is redeemed. Where you have been is made new. 

So that deep dark space that you remember so vividly, the moment the world stopped spinning and you don’t know how you took the next breath…it’s over. It lives in the past. There will be new moments. Circumstances that leave you ruptured on the floor. But you are not who you were. And you will get through this.

Lift your head sweet friend. There is no you that you should be. You are exactly who God says you are. You are who He always wanted you to be. Nothing you do can make him love you more and nothing you do, or have done, can make him love you less. He loves you with the fullness of perfect love right now and always. Love never fails.

 

attached arms…

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I’ve had a trash truck on my mind for days. Sounds strange, I know. I was sitting in the drive-thru waiting to get my London Fog, when across the alley roared the ruckus.

I observed (because what else does one do when sitting in the drive thru) as it approached with forklift-ish disconnected arms. The operator tried to make contact with the small slots in the side of the dumpster, but he missed. He backed up and approached again, and missed. At this point I began to laugh. He backed up again, and yep, missed again. And then finally the mechanical arms made contact with the slots, the truck precariously lifted waste into it’s bin, and then returned the dumpster to the ground.

So why has this odd yet ordinary occurrence rummaged in my mind for days? I guess it’s a God thing, because I normally don’t contemplate garbage trucks. But I just couldn’t escape this thought…

loving with disconnected arms…

Perhaps it was the sweet children I visited with the day before who were deeply grieving a loss I could never understand. Children seeking unconditional love from a system that cannot provide.

Maybe it’s the way I see myself loving others. Always reaching towards this or that. Wanting to provide even the tiniest bit of relief so those I care for can breath just a little bit easier. But like the truck…I approach a burdensome load, and more often than I would like to admit, I miss.

Maybe it’s the way I feel loved. People caring for me. Loving me with all they have. Loving me as unconditionally as is possible for a human to love. Yet there’s always a small sense of detachment.

And when I step back and think about it, we all love with less than adequate/accurate arms.

We are like the awkward garbage truck, seeking to make contact. Trying to fit our arms into the small windows of opportunity where we could actually connect with the fullness of a heart. Yet we miss…again and again. Our approach is often sloppy and even if we do make contact we rarely have stamina to sustain the lift. Not for lack of effort, but simply because we only have so much horsepower to give.

But Jesus is different. He connects each and every time.

In the places we feel hopelessly alone, He has already noticed. He doesn’t miss a thing. His arms are not cold and mechanical. They aren’t operated by anything less than perfection. His embrace is warm and loving. Directly connected. Ever present. All sustaining.

If we do anything for others, anything at all, perhaps our biggest job is to stop trying to approach and empty their garbage. Instead we could lead them to the one who says I am okay with your garbage just as it is. The one who says you and your baggage are well with me, and when you feel safe enough, we will pick it up together and let it go. With real arms. Whole arms. Attached to an unconditionally loving heart.

 

“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” Deuteronomy 33:26-27a

when we worry and really, desperately, want to protect our kids…

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Today in my Jesus Calling there was a phrase.

Don’t try to make today fit into yesterday’s mold.

And it’s not that I am in love with yesterday. It’s more that I teeter on the edge of fear for tomorrow. How will this all unfold? What if the worst that could happen did? How would I function and cope then? And I need not borrow trouble, or worry about tomorrow when today has it’s own worries…and blah blah blah…but this girl does worry, especially when it comes to her kids. She just does.

So if I worry…and I know I cannot worry my children into a corrected pattern of behavior…what do I do then?

I have to ask myself how it functions. Because if it isn’t functional, and most especially if it creates dysfunction, I must choose to hang onto it or do something different.

Again, I’ve tried to squash the worry, and I can’t. As I lean over my son in the early hours of the morning, his 13 year old frame looks so tiny in his bed. I want him to stay there. Where I know he is safe, and warm, and protected. Tears pour down because I know there are things, and will be even more, I cannot fix for him. All the worrying in the world will not keep him sheltered and nestled in a protective bubble.

And these moments are not bad. They are real and raw and breathy. I wouldn’t trade the desire to protect him for a moment of apathy. But it’s what I do with the worry that matters.

Prayer and petition.

I have to move myself from frantic and panic to prayer and petition.

Sometimes I don’t pray because I wonder if it makes a difference. I know God will hear me, I just don’t know if He will do anything about it. It seems more comfortable to not ask, than to ask and deal with the rejection I feel when prayers appear seemingly “unanswered”.

And the logical part of me knows it’s not about rejection. His plans are greater, deeper, and wider and His perspective is so much bigger and better than my own. But it feels like rejection and hurt and disappointment. And a failure to protect. When I ask for different/better things for my children, I desperately want Him to protect them.

At the core, I just want today to fit into yesterday’s mold.

Yesterday they were safe. Yesterday I was able to shield them. Yesterday I could block the technology that scares me, tell them they can’t go here or there, ensure that sources of temptation are not accessible, get them resources, and continuous support. But that won’t always be the case. It just won’t. And this is where I have to pray and trust.

That God’s good is always way more than good enough. That His protection is perfect, even when I think it looks less than adequate. That His plans really are great and that my fears of “unanswered” prayers will not move me to a place of refusing to pray at all.

Because He is good. He knows. He never changes. He never fails. Not me. Not His children.

It’s just a phase…

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“It’s just a phase.”

A paltry attempt at encouragement. That whatever we are facing will not last. A fading portion of the growth process. Phases become something we buckle down and endure rather than soak in and enjoy.

There are phases in childhood. 5 phases of grief. We might see depression as a phase. Maybe we go through an anxious phase. An awkward phase. A transition phase…

Phases – ways and periods of expression that we and others may not understand. 

Painful phases often leave me wanting to crawl into a hole, yet sprint as fast as I can, all at the the same time. But no matter how quickly I try and move, the phase will last as long as it is going to last. I can’t rush it by quickening my pace, exhausting myself, squashing myself in shame, or hyperventilating in panic. None of these things will deliver me from a portion of my life God intentionally designed me to walk through. Where He wants me to walk, I must walk. Even in the midst of incredible disappointment and frustration, the path remains.

And what if it wasn’t just a phase? 

What if I stopped excusing away difficult portions of life and started swallowing them for what they really are – moments that I can stop – open my eyes – immerse myself in the rawness of life – and soak it the heck in.

We run through and from these crude, rudimentary places as if they could harm us greatly. Like they will burn us alive if we dare let them cradle the unrefined secret places.

And what if the secret places could be healed by phases? What if depression and a deep sense of still could lend itself to new understanding-and eventually overcoming-dysfunction? What if a toddler throwing themselves on the floor is a chance to soothe the most tender needy places? What if the blistering sting of anxiety is necessary for growth?

The moments God places before you are precious. Perhaps painful, but freaking awesome. Do not dismiss them away as unstudied offhand occurrences. They are calculated. What if we embraced the rawness of their brutish glory? It pains me to think of how much life we miss because we are so dang afraid of a little discomfort and sadness.

It’s just a phase, and at the very same time, it’s so much more.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19 ESV

It’s a new thing and the passing of an old thing. It’s a way and a wilderness. It’s a river and a desert. It is both and all of these things – all at once. Sweet Jesus, help us to behold exactly what you have for us in this phase, even if it’s horribly distressing and inconvenient. In the midst of it all we don’t want to miss what you have for us. We want to see you.

 

 

 

It’s about the relationship…

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I’ve done a good bit of studying when it comes to counseling techniques to use for this or for that. I read scholarly journal articles on at least a weekly basis. I love learning new things. But sometimes I get obsessed with learning new information and forget what is most important.

Research shows 90% of success or failure in counseling is based on the relationship between the therapist and client. Only about 10% is what theory or method the therapist uses.

I don’t know why this surprises me. Because at the core of everything I value is relationship. A relationship so unconditional I could do or say anything and still be completely loved, valued, adored, and set free.

Relationship is the cornerstone of healing because God designed it that way.

Isn’t that amazing news? For you, for me, for everyone. When we don’t know what to say or how to help, the ministry of presence and relationship remains. Modeling the unconditional love and acceptance of Christ is a foolproof method. It helps every single time.

Some of us back away from others who are in pain because it quickens our heart and increases anxiety. Even after years of work in the helping profession, my heart still gets tied up in knots when there is a tremendous amount of hurt. And frankly, I hope it always stays that way. Because the moment I stop letting myself become undone in the presence of another’s wounds is the moment I render myself ineffective.

Relationship demands I let down internal walls and barriers. Relationship pushes past anxiety and says, “It’s tremendously uncomfortable, but I’ll stay with you here. You are not in this alone.” And in those moments there can be a tremendous amount of healing.

And that is what Jesus does for us. Like Hebrews 4 tells us, we do not have a stoic withdrawn High Priest who is unable to empathize. We have a loving Jesus who came to earth so He could feel what we feel and endure what we endure – ultimately to have a relationship with us. He could have remained above our offensive depravity, but instead He jumped into it with us and promised to never leave us alone.

He chose relationship with you so you could choose it with others. Yes it can be scary. You might say the wrong thing. You might shake with uncertainty through the entire process. But if you attach yourself to Christ and do what He has called you to do, you will not fail. You will show love. And someone will know Jesus because of what they see in you.


 

for when we panic and old messages come on strong…

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I couldn’t hear Jesus yesterday.

The voice of internal panic screamed loudly.

You can’t do this.

You are not enough.

You will never be enough.

My brain tore through file after file ripping out failures as evidence that this must be true. Showered with shame, I could hardly catch my breath.

What if I made the biggest mistake of my life by thinking I was capable of something I clearly was not?

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t squash the harshness of my internal critic. And it’s in these moments we feel incredibly alone, unloveable, and abandoned.

“Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.” Psalm 46:10a 

God how can I be still? I must make up for what I lack. I must account for my mistakes. I must be perfect. Please God, I just can’t stand to know I made another mistake.

And at the core of it all…

Am I loveable? God please tell me that if I mess up, I will still be lovable…

I heard nothing. The reverberations of my heart pounding against the walls of my chest roared. It wasn’t until much later when I curled up into the safety of my covers that He spoke.

He never disrespects me in the same ways I disrespect myself.

He holds my pain with gentle hands. Never telling me it’s unjustified or that I shouldn’t feel this way. That I shouldn’t wonder if I am lovable or if I am enough. He respects the messages that have become very real to me over years and years of living in the world. But He knows these messages hurt, and for that reason, He whispers change.

It’s a sacred internal space where He mends the fences of protection around my heart. He roots me in security and draws me deep below the waves. Down where it’s calm and I can find rest. It’s safe. I don’t have to be more. Or less. Or even enough. Because here, in this space, He is all I need.

Sweet friend, I don’t know what it is that sends you into panic. Maybe you struggle with similar messages, and maybe they are very different. But we all fight internal battles. In times of stress, difficult circumstances, and transition…they come on strong.

And maybe we can choose to be as gentle with ourselves as Jesus is with us. His expectation is never perfection. He removes our shame, but also understands the throbbing pangs of our humanity. He knows we get anxious, uncomfortable, and all twisted up with agony and that’s okay. But we can choose a new thing. We don’t have to be ashamed of the old, but we feel much better when we accept the fresh reality of His new.

It’s never been about how much we can do, but what He chooses to do through us. And no matter how hard we try, we can’t mess up the hand of God working through us. We aren’t that powerful. He’s got this. He’s always been in control and He won’t give up. He is enough and you are loved. It’s going to be okay.


 

 

 

because anxiety, though it continues to exist, has NO POWER OVER YOU…

psalm 116

I love the Eternal; for not only does He hear my voice, my pleas for mercy, But He leaned down when I was in trouble and brought His ear close to me. So as long as I have breath, I will call on Him. Once I was wound in the wrappings of death; the terror of dying and the grave had a grip on me; I could not get away, for I was entombed in distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Eternal…Psalm 116:4

Anxiety wields power. It rarely has form, shape, or color; yet it’s structure seems taller and wider than the largest mountain. It’s shadow has covered me. It kept me from moving forward into the places and spaces God has called me to be. It silenced my voice and kept me in the grave…too many times.

You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north… Deuteronomy 2:3 NASB

There has always been a choice. Dwell in foothill encampments, dredge myself around the base of impossibility, fall down in defeat as the magnetic shards of insecurity suck me closer and closer to the core. Or turn north.

North is unknown. And scary. We have no idea what lies ahead. But we can go anyways.

And what if I told you no matter where you turn, another mountain will appear? When it comes to anxiety, it will. We may walk away from one moment of paralyzing angst and insecurity only to run smack into another. It happens over and over again. There are mountains everywhere.

God, You alone rescued my soul from the grips of death, my eyes from weeping, and my feet from slipping. I will come before the Eternal as long as I journey in the land of the living. Psalm 116:8-9  

But we walk anyways. Knowing if we wait for the anxiety inducing mountain range to move, it likely never will. Because God doesn’t do it that way. He walks us through the wilderness, and rarely obliterates it for our comfort.

The mountains do their things with me. Anxiety manifests in my mind and body in so many ways, and likely always will. But I will go north because there is nothing of value to be found hiding or even standing still.

Anxiety is powerful. But God is greater. I have yet to encounter a room full of people, a confrontation, a platform I am expected to speak on, or a life God has asked me to invest in that has killed me. It’s always made me stronger. God always wins. And I have always been left gasping on the wings of His greatness.

He will do the same for you. Over and over again. He wins.