Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dear Perfectionists, Just Learn to Be Still:

Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

I wrote an article last week for Relevant Magazine titled "When You Can't Pray the Pain Away".  

I'm rather surprised by the response I got from readers, very passionate about the subject matter, advocating the importance of getting one's emotional and psychological world together through the process of therapy.  I got emails from all over the country and even from different parts of the world from men and women who felt that they were validated in their pursuits of professional healing, rather than not feeling "Christian" enough for seeking help. 

But more than anything, the great response and emails reminded me of the truth that people all over are hurting.  Pain and suffering are universal.

One interaction in particular was from a dear friend of mine who is going through a seriously hard time in her life.  She asked me some difficult questions in a public manner, in hopes that the public interaction would be a instrument in helping others.

Even in her pain, she hoped that someone out there might benefit from her struggles and her questions.  Now, that's legit.  To me, that is actually the very indicator of true healing and maturity.  So, dear friend, this post is in honor of you.

S: Debbie: this article is extremely true, factual, and hopefully effective if the individuals you are targeting with this message heed your advice. I can attest to the validity of what you have offered here. Therapy saved my life. Self examination has been the only thing that has helped me change my behavior. Self awareness is often our of my grasp. 

It's only been by friends laying out the realities of my actions and emotions that I've seen what's really wrong with me. Debbie you have personally done this from time to time directly through phone calls and one on one time or through your writings. Lately I've given in to giving up. I honestly have done the opposite. Haven't prayed but just relied on venting all the time to cope. It's less effective... this article is somewhat of a wake up call. 

Genuine question and I expect a practical answer from you: How can you continue to improve when momentum is gone? When friends fail you? When circumstances are too overwhelming? When you become lazy or use excuses? How do you get out of that pattern? I'll call you guys out if your answer is unsatisfactory! 

My Response:  Dear S, First of all, what is up with you asking the most difficult earth shattering questions? That's how you roll, though, isn't it? It's a good question, to be sure...and a hard one. How does one go on in the face of disappointment, disillusionment, pain, and a lack of motivation. This could be an entire article on it's own.

Your question was how do you keep improving, and I want to stop you there...because in my opinion, sometimes staying the same in such difficult times is just as good as improving. Letting the waves crash without causing you to topple over, much less thinking about trying to take steps forward through them. I think we all know when we have reached that most difficult place, and have to be careful not to put too many expectations upon ourselves through such hard times.

On the other hand, there are times when the storm lets up...and we can't use the pain of the past to keep us in the same place. For me personally, I have a hard time moving through such times alone, and I find that surrounding myself with people who help move me forward- friends, family, mentors, counselors- is sometimes what I need to draw upon their strength just so that I can get back on my own two feet and move forward.

Only you know where you are at right now...and how far you can push yourself. Strive to do what you can in the day to day, and to make the best choices in the current hour you are living through, rather than putting so many expectations on yourself for what is to come.

There is always a time for growth and moving forward...but for you, maybe that time isn't now. Maybe it's a time to be still and steady, and keep yourself from moving backwards. Hope that gives some perspective.


Thanks S, for always having such insight into your life...I think right now, this is a season for you just to be still...and know that He is God.  That's actually sometimes the hardest part.  I think sometimes we put more on ourselves than He ever would.  Praying for you, and thankful that you have a heart to help others even in the midst of your own struggles.  To me, that is true healing.  Give yourself some credit for that.  

Love you, homegirl. 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Intruders that can Destroy Your Marriage:

1 Corinthians 13:7
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

When John and I were married, the pastor who married us also happened to be a Licensed Professional Counselor.  I know I may have a slight bias, but they are some wise peeps!

He surprised us all by bringing a few blocks from the nursery room to our formal ceremony in order to conduct his lesson.  Simple blocks, but each shape had a meaning and advice to remember within our marriage.  I loved every lesson these simple toys represented, but one in particular has stayed with me: the Circle.

I'm really struggling lately as I am seeing marriages all around me falling apart.  Couples who have been married as long as 30 years and even those as short as 12 months...all trying to weather the storm, all battling the elements that tear marriages apart, and many times failing.  It breaks my heart to see the suffering that comes from a broken marriage, and the devastating effects it has when a once united body is torn apart in two by the jaws of divorce. 

It makes sense that God hates divorce.  He, more than anyone else, sees the pain it brings to his people.

We have to protect our marriages from the things that can tear it apart.  On the day we were married, John and I were reminded of this truth by contemplating the importance of the Circle, and it's a lesson that we have had to be deliberate in pursuing each and every single day.  

To put it simply, the circle represents boundaries.  It is the wall of protection surrounding your relationship.  The barrier that keeps deadly intruders from finding a way in.  And like it or not, intruders are all around.  They can take on so many forms that if we're not careful, they will find a crack in our walls and slowly seep in.   

In an attempt to guard our marriage from Intruders, my husband and I have been deliberate in keeping a circle around our lives that belongs only to us.  Our marriage is our sacred space, and there are certain components to each other that only we have access to.  We have been careful to protect the things that could easily lead us into the way of an intruder:

1.  Emotions:  Before anything else in an inappropriate relationship comes the root of emotion.  It's important to guard ourselves from interactions that give to someone else a part of us that belongs to our spouse.  Obviously, we need to have great caution when sharing our hearts with someone of the opposite gender, because there are parts of us that are "magnetic" when shared with the heart of another, and should be shared with no one but our spouse.  There are certain conversations that I choose to partake in ONLY with my husband, and he with me. 

But even more subtlety dangerous, I have found there to be truth in this matter even when it comes to same sex relationships.  Women, in particular, love to connect on a deeper level, and there's nothing wrong with that.  The problem comes when those interactions are taking the place of the depths of connection that we are meant to have with our spouse.  Sometimes, even venting to our friends about our marriage can be enough of an out to keep us from "venting" to our husbands.  A lot of communication between spouses is lost because it is finding it's way out through other relationships.  It's important to be proactive about connecting with your spouse, sharing your heart, your feelings, your dreams.   We are created to connect, so we will either bring that need to our spouse or allow it to be filled by intruders. 

2.  Interactions:  My husband and I are very deliberate about the choices we make when it comes to interacting with the world around us.  From what comes out of our mouths, to what we write in emails, to the way we handle our body language- we make a choice to honor each other in everything that we do.  We have built a trust with one another, a trust that started from the first day that we met.  Because of that trust, we have full access to each others lives and anything that has to do with interactions with other people including emails, text messages, computers, conversations, etc. etc.  The trust that we have with each other comes with certain responsibilities, but that trust also allows us to share in an intimate freedom with one another that far outweighs the sacrifices and responsibilities.   

3.  Time:  This is the quietest of intruders, but one that is ravaging many homes because of it's silent entrance.  Our time is a valuable commodity that should be invested in the people that we love and cherish the most, and given to those who we are committed to.  For us, we choose to invest our time in each other. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm up for the occasional ladies night and John has his time to connect with his friends, but when the two of us are available, we do our best to use that time to connect with each other and instead use our "free time" to connect with our friends.  This takes some extra work, some looking ahead at schedules, some planning and preparation.  But it allows us to use our time for each other to the best of our ability and to put each other first.

Although even if you are together every moment, that doesn't protect you from the Intruder of Time.  Time can slip away with your separate hobbies and interests.  You can be in the same room, but find that the time you are spending is really not being invested in each other at all.  With all the modern distractions of Facebook, Pinterest, Reality TV, and yes....even can find that your time is being given to the inanimate in exchange for the intimate. 

Protecting your marriage from intruders is a daily task. We've been mindful of that for the past five years, and we pray that God will continue to keep us on guard...always protecting, always trusting,  always hoping, and always persevering in our marriage and in our love. 

I pray the same for you as well. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

All The Single Ladies: The Mating Game

"And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Genesis 2:18)

My husband and I were watching the television series called Planet Earth.  You may be familiar with it.  Videographers enter into some of the most intricate and untread parts of our planet and capture it on film.  This particular episode was about animals of the jungles.

How does this pertain to single ladies?  Well, I’m getting there…

One thing is for sure: you cannot help but witness the extravagant displays on this earth without standing in awe of the Creator himself.  God was so deliberate as he intimately wove the fabrics of this earth together, from animals to plants to human beings.  I believe that we can learn so much about life by getting a glimpse into His creation.

You see, as I was watching the dynamics of jungle birds mating in this particular episode, and as I listened to the commentator discuss the procedure- I couldn’t help but parallel these truths with our own human relationships.  In looking at birds, I wonder if we’ve somehow gotten it all backwards.

Let me give you a few of my observations:

1.  The first thing I noticed was that it was the male birds who were extravagant and ornate.  Bright and beautiful colors and patterns, lavish feathers of all shapes and sizes, loud and boisterous chirps and calls.  But the females, well, they were “modest” as the commentator pointed out.  Plain in their appearance.  Dull colors, quiet chirps.  They were out simply to be won, with no need to dress or impress.  They had an innate knowledge that they were valuable, and that they deserved great things.  And so they sat, quietly, waiting confidently for the pursuit. 

2.  The second thing I noticed was that the females were very picky.  Even with the bright colors and bold noises of the males, it would take "nothing short of an outstanding performance" for them to even have a shot with the highly valued females.  They would settle for nothing less than the best.  Nothing less than magnificence.

3.  The third thing I observed was that there was no desperation on the part of the female birds.  No need to make sure they got to the right place, were wearing the right feathers, or had the right body style.  They sat patiently, just where they were at.  They knew that in the end the males would find them because they were made to find them.  And in the end, it always worked out that way. 

I look at these standard in light of my past experiences.  I look at them in light of the experiences of countless women I meet every day in my counseling office.  I look at them in light of story after story of broken hearts and a desperate desire to be loved, to be valued. It seems as though our culture has really set us up for despair.

We live in a society that is completely opposed to this model of pursuit.  Call me old fashioned, but I am convinced that we’ve adapted a currency of value that has nothing to do with true love, and everything to do with sex appeal, fashion, and beauty. A culture that has fooled women into believing that they must earn the right to be loved.   A culture in which women have become the pursuers rather than the pursued...

...dancing around, ruffling our feathers, showing off our colors in the desperation of finding someone to love us- all the while trying to convince ourselves that we are worth being loved.  A culture of women no longer believing they have the right to be picky, but rather to, “take what you can get”.  A culture that has forgotten that they are worth remarkable, and that they are worth magnificent. 

As I reflect on these things I’m left with two prayers:

Women, may you be challenged to acknowledge and accept your true value in the eyes of your Creator.  May you be strengthened to settle for nothing less than seeing that level of worth in the eyes of the one who pursues you.  

Men, may you be challenged to become more and more magnificent and remarkable as you draw closer to the One who created you, relying on his sanctification at work in your life to produce in you this level of splendor. 

And may you then come together in the beautiful unity of relationships.  A beauty that reflects the majesty and the brilliance of our Creator. 

All the single ladies…be encouraged.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I'm Not Jesus: Reflections on Good Friday

Luke 22:42
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

I've been reflecting on Jesus a lot this past week.  

The past few weeks have been some of the most mentally demanding weeks I've ever been through.  I have a lot on my plate and the drain of pregnancy has not helped ease those things along.  I've felt overwhelmed at times, isolated, and feeling like no one really understands the energy I have to give day in and day out.

But this week, I've thought of Jesus.  I've closed my eyes and imagined Him.  A lonely man, facing the most difficult week of his entire life.  For Him, this was also a week filled with struggles.  A week that was heavy with emotions of what was to come.  A week that was so exhausting to the point that His body had nothing left to give but blood, sweat, and tears.  This week my Savior was drained: mentally, emotionally, and He walked toward the road of Calvary, where He would ultimately lay down His life for me.

My initial reaction to this thinking was to beat myself up with guilt thinking, "How can you complain about your life, when you consider all that Jesus had to go through".          

But I had to stop myself and recognize my unhealthy thinking.

You see,  I am not Jesus.

The burden that He carried was meant for me...but God's loving grace knew that I could not bear it, and so He asked Jesus to bear it for me.  Only Jesus could bear it.  Only Jesus can bear it.  

If He can carry that, can He not carry this too?

In reflecting on this week of Christ's suffering, I think we do damage by comparing our struggles to His, rather than casting our struggles onto Him. 

I'm thankful for the weight that God carried on His shoulders for me 2,000 years ago...but I am also thankful for that which He carries for me

I'm thankful that I am not Jesus...and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that He is....