Why Can’t You Let It Go?

shutterstock_251283712There is a very familiar song from a very popular movie that continually tells us to “let it go.”  Not a bad thought considering how many things in life seem to take us down in one way or another.   We are hit continually with circumstances beyond our control – jobs, family issues, health issues, even the political climate – all of it can just wear us down to the point we truly feel like we cannot get up one more time.  After all, why get up when life is just going to knock you back down again?  That seems like a very valid question, doesn’t it?  Of course it does, until you remember something all people of faith forget:  Our circumstances may be out of our our control, but they are never out of God’s.

I have written a lot about the struggle with trying to control everything in our lives, to mitigate the effects of the world around us.  We save to avoid financial collapse.  We work out and eat right to avoid illness and disease.  We go into professions that we don’t want to be in because they provide stability.  We do all kinds of things to keep from being at the mercy of the elements.  The truth is we can do everything perfectly and think we are prepared for (and protected from) almost anything, but we aren’t.  I’m not saying it doesn’t help, but saving won’t prevent a financial disaster if the conditions are right.  Eating right and exercising won’t keep you from getting sick.  There are people every day who are examples of perfect health who suddenly drop dead from a heart attack, or find out they have cancer or some other dreaded disease.  We don’t want to consider it, but it seems we really are at the mercy of the elements.  Or are we?  How do we walk through this life, bombarded with situations that shake us to our core or bring us to our knees?  How do we keep moving when things fall apart?  How do we press on, when we’ve been betrayed or let down by someone we love?  How do we lift our heads when we lose jobs, homes, or even families?  How do we actually let it go?

We tend to hold on to things; it is in our nature.  We even hold onto things that are harmful for/to us.  How many people remain in terrible relationships because they can’t let go?  How many jobs do we stay in because we can’t let go?  How many places do we live in because we can’t let go? We like the familiar, even when it’s bad.  We like to be in control, or have the illusion of control.  Sometimes the illusion of control is more powerful than actually being in control.  We mix up those two things often – actual control vs the illusion of control.  We rationalize our hoarding of things or relationships and then wonder why we feel so bogged down, stressed out or depressed.  shutterstock_218214685God never meant for us to hoard things in this world.  He never wanted us to put down roots here when our forever home is actually with Him.  “Yeah, yeah, but that’s just a nebulous concept when I’m living in the NOW.”  We really struggle with letting go of anything!  The things we consider “good” in life (money, secure jobs, good relationships, homes and possessions, etc.) are hard to let go of because we think if we “let it go” that means we lose it.  The things we consider “bad” (money, secure jobs, bad relationships, possessions we’ve acquired, etc.) are hard to let go of because they are familiar and serve a purpose for us – even if that purpose is less than desirable.  What we have is what we know, and we don’t like to consider the unknown.  We don’t want to consider that letting go means everything might change.  Letting go of the “good” means we lose and letting go of the “bad” means everything will be unfamiliar.  After all, either way, what if we let it go and then don’t make it?  What if we don’t survive? What if, what if, what if?

What if?  Therein lies the problem.  We don’t know the “what ifs,” but as children of God we know that HE does.  He knows what is around the corner and tells us over and over to trust Him even though His ways are not our ways.  As people of faith, we talk a good talk but our “what ifs” paralyze us and keep us from letting go.  We can’t let it go because we don’t trust the One in whom we claim to place our trust.  The truth is that it is impossible to let go without having trust in something higher than ourselves.  That is true not just for people of faith, but for everyone.  We tend to make our decisions from a place of emotion rather than a place of reason, but God wants us to look at what He has said/promised to us and then trust Him to keep His word.  Trust is not an emotion; it is a decision.  We can trust and let things go, even if we are fearful or apprehensive.  We can have faith even though our knees are shaking.  We can decide to let go and trust, even when we may feel like it’s crazy to do so.  Trust (or faith) and fear are not mutually exclusive.  We can let go and be afraid.  We can let go and be sad.  We can let go and feel all kinds of things, but we cannot let go without trust.  No one can – people of faith or not.

shutterstock_299434214Life is difficult.  We were never promised it would be easy, but it can be rich and fulfilling if we can learn to let things go.  When we learn to let go, we also learn to embrace.  Hurts that we have endured through various means or people can cripple us forever if we let them.  People who have let us down, angered us, treated us poorly or unfairly, or rejected us completely don’t have to diminish us.  Situations that have (or are) less than perfect don’t have to destroy us.  We don’t have to hold onto our grudges or hurts.  We don’t even have to hold on to our expectations that have gone unfulfilled.  We probably need to readjust those expectations anyway.  We, especially as people of faith, have a problem.  We hold ourselves in such high regard that we feel like we have a right to hold onto our anger and hurt.  We think so highly of ourselves that we feel entitled to NOT let things go.  We think it is our right to make sure everything is eventually evened out in our world and that we are treated fairly, and we spend a lot of our time, energy and resources to ensure it happens.  I have news for you: making things “fair” is not your responsibility.  Do you know what IS your responsibility?  Loving God, loving each other and letting things go.

The key to being able to let go is in rationally, reasonably and logically taking God at His word, in spite of our emotions or our desire for control.  It isn’t an easy thing to do, and I struggle with it continually, but it doesn’t change the truth of it.  Emotions are powerful things that can drive us into all kinds of states.  They are volatile and yet they are a very real part of who we are and how God created us to be.  Every emotion we experience, God himself has experienced.  Every betrayal and hurt, every anger and fear, He has experienced them all.  Yes, in the fleshly manifestation as Jesus Christ, He had to deal with every emotion we have dealt with – or ever will.  He was betrayed by those He trusted, his closest friends.  He wept with sadness and grief over losses during His earthly life.  He was terrified in the garden of Gethsemane as He looked at what He was going to have to endure.  But you know what?  He let it go.  He let all of it go and died for us anyway, in spite of how He was treated or how we would dismiss Him today.  He loved us even though He knew we would often reject, disobey and even hate Him.  How was He able to endure such emotion and still press on?  Because He knew the truth and rested in it.  He knew He had a higher purpose and the end result was worth it all, regardless of how he felt emotionally.  When we are able to live from a place of knowing the truth and being willing to walk in it, regardless of how we feel, THAT is when we are able to finally trust and let go.

So I guess I will leave you with what I desire for myself as well as all of you.  I pray we all can step back and realize just what we give up when we are afraid to lose what we already have.   BlessingStop trying to cling to the familiar or to your desire to see that others get what you think they deserve.  Quit holding onto your wounds as badges of honor and be willing to let the wounds in your heart heal.   Let it go.  Open your heart and let go of the pain from those who didn’t love you and embrace the One who does.  And when the circumstances in your life start overwhelming you, or you feel that need for revenge start to rise within you, let it go.  It isn’t worth it.  We were never meant to carry around the weight of the world with us.  We can do exactly what God’s word says in 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”  When we do that, we can still see the sun, no matter how the storms may rage around us.  We can say, with great assurance, “Here I stand in the light of day.  Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway.”

Blessings!

Get Out Of Other People’s Closets And Open Your Own

I recently read a Facebook post from someone I knew from church when I was younger.  We didn’t attend the same church, but we attended church camp and youth events together, and ran in pretty much the same circles.  It was a beautiful post from a beautiful person with a genuine heart for God.  Brandon Beene is my friend and I wish so much that we had gotten to know each other even better when we were younger because we share some very common struggles.   Another of Brandon’s friends shared the entirety of his post on his blog, and it was so impactful that I put a link to it at the bottom of this page because it’s worth reading, especially if you grew up in church.

Something that Brandon talked about in his post was the way he was bullied growing up, much of it coming from the fact he was not a masculine guy.  What Brandon doesn’t realize about me (or hasn’t until he reads this) is that I experienced many of the same things.  Maybe some weren’t to the same degree because I didn’t get beat up physically, but I got beat up in every other way.  shutterstock_184639775The bullying and teasing and humiliation I felt drove me to the point of standing on the edge of a bridge,  picking which car I was going to jump in front of in case the fall itself didn’t kill me.  I understand Brandon better than he probably could have ever dreamed.  We’ve shared very eerie similarities on the opposite side of the same issue.  First of all, I couldn’t agree more with what Brandon said.  His comments about love and what it should be are spot on.  I’ve often written about what love really is and what it means to truly love others.  I’ve written about what God’s love really looks like and how greatly we can affect this world if we would strive to love as God loves.  The problem with loving that way is that it often bothers or even offends most “religious” people today.  It also doesn’t sit well with people who are not religious but who consider themselves to be superior because of their own moral compass.   The interesting thing is that our problems are an epidemic that only genuine love itself can resolve.

Most of the people who are around me know I’ve never been a girly girl.  I don’t like cooking or sewing.  I don’t like pink.  I hate dolls.  I didn’t like to read love stories.  I didn’t like to watch sappy movies.  I liked watching the creature from the black lagoon, and my favorite author was Edgar Allan Poe.  I burned bugs with magnifying glasses.  I spent all my time outside playing football with the boys.   I participated in all kinds of sports and was good at them.   I even cried when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to play football in high school, because girls weren’t allowed on the team.  I got teased all the time because I was scrawny and gangly, and hadn’t developed physically.  I hate dresses.  I never wore them unless I was forced to.  There were some pastors I encountered that insisted women wear dresses or skirts, and all I could think was how miserable it made me in church.  When I was a kid, probably about 6 or 7, I told a friend at church that I actually WAS a boy.  She pretty much believed it until the day she told me to prove it, and of course I couldn’t and had to pony up to the truth.  My opinion of girls was that they weren’t strong.   They were concerned with makeup, hair, nails and shopping.  Blech!

I got teased and was the brunt of a lot of jokes.  I suffered privately and tried to find other tomboys with which to hang out.  I liked being rough and tumble.  I am glad that in this day and age, it is more acceptable for girls to be that way, but it wasn’t so in my generation.   I even got teased in my family for not cooking or not knowing how to cook.  The truth is that I can cook when I try, and the things I have cooked have turned out well, but I still don’t enjoy it. I go shopping, but I don’t like it.  Another thing Brandon mentioned was that he didn’t really like sports or know the rules of all the different types of sports and I thought, “I know the rules of all the different sports.  Heck, I even know the rules to curling!”  I love sports.  I watch them and play them, and would much rather hang out with a bunch of guys watching a game and having a great time than sitting around the kitchen table with the girls talking about “girly” things.

shutterstock_200320292Brandon also revealed in his post how he was called gay on many occasions and had to endure many times when he was called a fag or faggot.  It was painful to read his experiences.  While I do think that men and boys can be much harsher outwardly than girls with that kind of name-calling, the truth is girls are just as mean and brutal; they just do it behind your back.  Where Brandon had to deal with people calling him those names, I had to deal with the looks and snickering that people thought I didn’t see. I certainly felt the awkwardness of being excluded because I wasn’t a “normal” girl.  I got teased unmercifully for wanting to hunt with all of my cousins and uncles.  I didn’t get called gay or “dike” to my face, but I found out later it was going on all the time behind my back.  I even had an experience where I was called into my school counselor’s office because a friend (who I trusted completely and considered to be one of my closest friends) told a teacher that I was a lesbian.  I’m sure it came from the fact I wrote very expressive poems and writings all the time and shared them with the people I loved.  I loved everyone.  It didn’t matter if it was men or women, or from which walk of life they came.  Unfortunately, that was unacceptable to the people around me.

I would often write how I felt about my friends and my mother even warned me to be careful about what I said to people or wrote to people because they would start to think I was lesbian.  I ignored it and you know what?  It happened.  I really struggled in high school.  I think everyone does.  We struggle with figuring out our true selves.  We struggle with who we are and who we think we should be, and that struggle is made so much worse when we don’t fit the mold of what our family, friends, or religion thinks we should be.  We get sideways glances.  We get rejected.  I had one friend in high school who always understood me as much as anyone possibly could at that age.  She knew that I was just emotional and expressive and was not a girly girl…and she didn’t care one single bit!  I liked to dress odd and funny.  I was a little bit of everything and never really fit into one particular group.  But the rumors apparently continued, and have throughout my life.  Even now, I manage an exceptional team of people on the job and have been successful professionally.  One day a few years ago, we were sitting at the end of a meeting just visiting a bit, and I made a comment about being such a girly-girl and my team all laughed because they all knew I was the opposite.  The newest member of the team made the comment, “Oh, you don’t wanna know what I thought when I first met you.”  She went on to say she thought I was gay.  When I asked why, she said, “ I don’t know.  You just seemed that way.  You are always in a suit and the way you walk….”  I just laughed it off because the truth is I LOVE suits.  I wear them continually and I don’t carry myself in an extremely feminine manner.  I walk heavy.   I’m not one to sit around and say, “Oooooh…aaaah” when babies come into the office.  This woman told me it wasn’t until she saw me with my husband that she realized differently.  She said anyone who sees me with him would know I wasn’t gay.  But me by myself?  Apparently I still give it off.  And you know what?  I’m ok with that.  I had to get to the point where I didn’t care what anyone else thought or I would have to remain captive to their opinions forever.

shutterstock_266832950Brandon mentioned how he didn’t have a gender identity crisis.  I will echo that statement.  I didn’t/don’t have a gender identity issue.  I had a comfort issue.  I was uncomfortable because I didn’t fit in.  When I was small, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, but as I got older, I realized how rejected and judged I was by others.  I knew I was a girl but I didn’t like anything girls liked.  I never owned a Barbie.  To this day, I hate them.  I walk into something girly and just cringe.  I can’t stand baby showers or wedding showers.  I feel like a man when it comes to those things because I have the same reactions to them.  I’d rather do pretty much anything than spend hours at them. Over the years, I’ve had countless people tell me they thought I was a lesbian.  Of course, they never divulged that impression until they had known me a while and figured out I’m just me, that I’m just quirky…but it still hurt.  Feeling like you don’t fit in is one of the worst feelings in the world, and it can drive you to some very dark places.  When you add on top of everything else that I have a form of bipolar disorder, you can see how my brain chemistry issues complicated things for me.  It made me highly creative and highly connected and intense, but this world doesn’t understand that.

I mentioned earlier that I was constantly the brunt of jokes about my lack of traditional femininity.  It was a struggle when I tried to square what society expected me to be vs. who God created me to be.  It was so difficult that when a member of our high school choir touched me in  very inappropriate ways as we sat waiting to go on stage for a performances, I was frozen and didn’t know what to do because the wounded side of me thought, “Well maybe I am ok as a girl because at least I’m not unattractive to him.”  The vast majority of my boyfriends were guys who liked to hang out.  They weren’t terribly romantic and I was fine with it!  I liked to do the kind of stuff they liked to do.  I eventually married someone who is a man’s man but who loves me because I’m not such a girly-girl. He is the perfect partner for me because he loves me exactly as I am and actually embraces it.  He is a gift from God, himself.

I have friends of all walks of life, including friends who are openly gay or lesbian…and I love them dearly.  I love them because God created me to love people – all people – passionately…because HE loves them passionately.  I don’t have to agree with their politics, religion or choices in order to love and appreciate them.  It has nothing to do with that.  It has to do with loving people exactly where they are.  And maybe I’m even more passionate about that fact because it felt like it happened so rarely in my life.

shutterstock_153650339The truth is that God made me this way for a reason.  When Brandon said God doesn’t make mistakes, I couldn’t agree more.  I have said that for most of my life but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized God wired me this way for a reason because there are certain people out there that I can touch as a result.  As a matter of fact, there are some people out there that only we can touch because of who we are and the experiences of our specific individual lives.  We can reach people that others would have a hard time connecting with because they can’t understand their situation or personality.   I’m different.  I’ve always been different.  I’ve also been ridiculed and mocked for it.  I’ve been called all kinds of names for it.  I’ve almost died for it.   On the outside I may have looked like a fun, carefree, and well-liked person, but in my heart I struggled with many of the same things as Brandon did.  It is time for us to get over our fears and live exactly as we are created to be!  Stop judging each other.  Stop labeling each other.  Stop bullying people who aren’t like you and call it something else.  It doesn’t matter how we try to rationalize our behavior, it is still wrong.  Don’t say you are a Christian and then spend your time making the people around you feel less than you.  God doesn’t do that.  Jesus didn’t do that while here on earth, and He certainly doesn’t expect us to do it either!

It’s time to be who God called us to be, not who our parents, friends, bosses or churches are trying to call us to be.  I teach this to my Sunday school class all the time.  The things you like, you like for a reason.  The things that don’t interest you, don’t interest you for a reason.  God created us with our likes and dislikes because it’s those likes and dislikes that connect us with others in different ways.

So I’ll close with something that came up for me when Brandon said he can relate to the struggle of Caitlyn Jenner feeling like an outcast.  I thought to myself, “I can’t imagine any man wanting to give it up to become a woman and everything that is supposed to come with it.”  But I can sure identify with the same things about it with which Brandon identifies.  I can identify with hiding mental health issues.  I can identify with hiding suicidal tendencies or attempts.  I can identify with struggling to just be who we are and let God sort it out because NONE of us have a right to stomp on someone else.  Let me just add that Chaz Bono encountered a lot of the same things even though he wasn’t as well-known in his life as Chastity as Caitlyn Jenner was in his life as Bruce.  I could better identify with her struggles because they were closer to mine.  If I were a child today, raised in a more liberal home, I would be “pegged” as having a gender identity issue.  And  if I continually said that I was a boy or wanted to be one, I guess I could more easily become one.  But you know what would be a million times better than labeling a child (or adult) as having a gender identity issue?  It would be saying, “It’s ok that you don’t like all that girly (or boyish) stuff.  It’s ok that you want to do what you like to do.”  Maybe we should sit down with our kids, as well as with our adults who are still struggling and say, “It’s ok to not fit into what our society has defined you to be.  You just be who you were created to be because God loves you just exactly as you are.”

shutterstock_219355915It’s scary to think of how far left of center we have become.  We’ve started labeling people as one thing or another instead of looking within and seeing them as they are.  We have actually started crippling each other by embracing the new politically correct labels instead of dropping the labels all together.   It used to be a shame to be called gay, where now it is embraced by society.  Now it is a shame to be called other things.  In some circles it is a shame to be called a Christian.  It doesn’t matter what era of time we look at, there are always people who did not fit in, who were bullied and mistreated because of their differences.   Society and humanity is cruel because we are continually looking for labels to put people into boxes where we can look down on them and feel better about ourselves.  What an absolute contrast to what God does and what He has asked us to do.  We need to drop the labels and embrace each other.  It doesn’t always mean we will agree, but love goes so much deeper than differences.   It would be so much better if we just simply loved each other.  I realize with an imperfect world and imperfect people it will probably never be that way, but we can hope.  And we can, through the telling of our stories, change the individuals who can eventually change the world.

Blessings!

Brandon Beene Facebook Post

Michael Robison Blog of Brandon’s Post

Revelation and Fragility

Lately I’ve been immersed in a process of revelation.  I just completed writing a book that details the journey I took with my best friend, Annette, over the years as she eventually lost her battle with brain cancer.  It has been an intense and emotional process and one that has put in me yet another position of vulnerability and revelation.  Doing anything creative opens us up for all kinds of judgments (and even ridicule).  When we reveal the truth of our journeys, and the truth of what we experience and feel, the risks are so great that we often shrink back behind the veil of what we think we should look like to the world around us.

Throughout the process of writing and editing the book, I was taken to new places of reflection and realization.  At times it was a painful process as I stripped away the final layers of my protective covering, but it reminded me of how beautiful life truly is when we are wiling to risk judgment for revelation.  Annette and I trusted each other and refused to let society dictate to us how we would treat each other or express our love and care for each other.  As a result, we risked all kinds of ridicule and misperceptions but we didn’t care because we found something that far surpassed the fear of rejection and ridicule:  the strength of being understood and loved without condition. 

Love maskThe revealing of ourselves is often a painful experience.  Whether it is due to the revelation of traits we are not proud of or simply the revelation of our emotions in their most raw state, the result often brings us pain.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, and we don’t like our relationships to get out of balance between give and take…or revelation and reticence.  Even in our most difficult emotional moments, it is often hard to let down our guard or know that we need to reach out to someone who we know loves and cares about us.  We would rather curl up into a corner by ourselves and bear our burdens alone instead of “troubling” someone else with our struggles or let them see us in our fragile state.  Not only that, we don’t want to BE fragile with someone else because it opens us up to more hurt if we are not embraced in our fragility, or worse, judged for it. 

Recently I had the amazing blessing of being able to help someone I love get through a difficult time.  Interestingly, it happened at a time when I was struggling with my own internal issues, but the moment she became vulnerable, nothing could have stopped me from being there to support her.  All the things I was struggling with suddenly paled in comparison to the love and care I felt for another person.  It was an honor to have someone lay their heart in my hands for a short while and to be trusted to not injure it.  It was humbling to be allowed to care for someone who needed to be cared for in that moment.  lost and aloneAnd it was beautiful to see the openness and vulnerability of another’s spirit – even if it was something they would have fought to hide under normal circumstances.  It strengthened and comforted me far more than any strength or comfort I provided for her.  It was as a result of this experience that I remembered why honesty matters so much in our relationships and in our lives.   It reminded me why I had been willing to pour intimate details of my life into a book for all to read.  It whispered to me, “Without revelation and fragility you will never experience true acceptance and strength.”

Helping HandsIt was that experience that gave me courage to keep moving forward in the midst of my own struggles.  It strengthened me to know life is full of relationships that help us grow and it made me proud of my own revelations I shared within the book I just finished.  It reduced my fears of being judged or rejected for the exposure of my own heart.  Revealing ourselves, or becoming openly fragile for a while, allows us the opportunity to see love manifested in the ways someone else cares for us.  But beyond that, it also allows us the opportunity to strengthen those same people in ways we can’t even understand.  We need to stop being so worried about those who will reject us if we reveal our true selves and focus on those who embrace us more purely and love us because we reveal our true selves.  And as I say that, I can’t help but think, “Annette would be so proud.”

 Blessings!

I Am Not Presentable

shutterstock_57395806Image can be a powerful thing.  We would like to say that we don’t judge people by their appearances but the truth is that our society has a way of doing so anyway.  It says a lot about us when we duck and hide from people we might actually want to see just because we think we don’t look presentable.  And how do we even define what “presentable” means anyway?

Yesterday I went against what I believe in my heart and it bothered me enough that I felt compelled to share it with all of you.  I was out with my husband and since it was the weekend, I didn’t think twice about going out in my old shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap.  I didn’t take time to do my makeup because I was spending the day relaxing and taking care of some things around the house.  I know I’m not the only one who does this but we all know there is that proverbial risk of being out and running into someone you know.  As my husband and I were leaving the parking lot of where we had just eaten lunch, I saw an old friend of mine walking into one of the other restaurants in the same complex.  We have wanted to see each other in person for quite some time but we just haven’t really had the opportunity to do so.  It would have taken nothing more than stopping the car to be able to see her for a few moments.  I told my husband who she was and he said, “Let’s stop!”  I panicked and told him no, to keep driving.  I knew she hadn’t seen me so I was still in the “safe” zone.  When he started to stop anyway I told him I had far too much to do and didn’t have time to talk so we just needed to go home.  The truth is I was too embarrassed with the way I looked to stop and say hello.  As a result, I missed a great opportunity to connect with someone I care about very much.

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know I am a huge proponent of being who you are and embracing the people in your life.  It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you are wearing; what matters is how you clothe your spirit.  I believe these things with all my heart and here I was going against those very beliefs.  I must admit, I was shocked at myself.  What is it that would cause me to so quickly and strongly avoid making a connection for which I had been longing?  It was fear, embarrassment and a feeling of not measuring up.  shutterstock_137315255You see, this friend of mine is beautiful.  I mean really beautiful.  When we were in high school, she was pretty, funny and popular.  She was always friendly to others, even those who may not have been as popular as she.  I always liked her and considered her a friend but we were never close.  It wasn’t until much later in life that we found a beautiful connection of our hearts which has become a great treasure for me.  My friend would have been thrilled to see me yesterday, even in my “grubby” clothes and no makeup but I instinctively recoiled at the thought because she is even more beautiful today than she was all those years ago…and not just physically.  She has a beautiful spirit and I have been blessed to know her and yet I reacted before I could stop myself.  So what happened?!

Society tries to engrain in us an image of what beauty is and if we fail to attain it, then it means we are somehow less worthwhile.  Even though most of us would agree that image is warped, we still have moments where it pops up and causes us to react before we think. Even those of us who are usually strong, confident and know our worth is not in our appearances sometimes fall prey to the images that society tries to dictate to us.  We see someone who we think is more attractive than we are and – without even thinking – we start reacting as if we are in different classes of people.  We think someone is more beautiful so we avoid being near them when we don’t look our best.  We think someone is smarter so we avoid talking with them.  We think someone is more athletic so we refuse to play sports we love because we don’t want to look stupid.  We don’t dance because we think we have two left feet.  We don’t sing because we don’t want to be made fun of.  We develop a life that is fragmented and stressful because we spend all our time measuring ourselves by those around us instead of embracing OUR beauty and our gifts.  We spend our lives looking at the gifts of others and wondering why we weren’t blessed with them instead of looking at the ones we have been given and finding value in what we have to offer.

d river islandWe all have unique abilities, gifts and physical traits.  We are all beautiful in our own ways and the sooner we embrace that truth, the more amazing our lives will become.  We are all so hard on ourselves and we need to start focusing on the fact that we all feel “unpresentable” in one way or another.  We are all imperfect but what a shame it is when we allow our imperfections to keep us from connecting to those we love.  If we are willing to be seen as we are, even when we are not at our best, we begin to free others to let down their guard as well.  And when that happens, we may be surprised to find out that they are just as fearful to be seen without “makeup” as we are.

So today I apologize.  I apologize to myself for letting the madness of this world override the sanity of my spirit and for missing a wonderful opportunity to see the true beauty in life.  And I forgive myself for it all and choose to embrace the beautiful lesson I have learned.

Blessings!

Living Through the Wounds

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of living where you are, in spite of the wounds you have caused or how you may have been wounded by others.  I’ve talked before about how important it is for us not to hide.  It is so important that we show ourselves.  It is the only way to combat the isolation that drives most of us to the brink of insanity.  Don’t be afraid of your wounds.  We are all wounded in some way and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

I keep coming back to a bible story in Mark 5:1-19 that really touched me a few years ago.  There was a possessed man who was living among the tombs.  The people of the town he called “home” had rejected, ostracized and thrown him out to fend for himself.  He had become violent, crazy and frightening to the “normal” people of the town.  They had even put him in cuffs and chained him but he was so out of his head that he had broken them.  shutterstock_71090605They didn’t want him, so here he was living out in the tombs…naked and totally out of his mind.  He cried out and even cut himself trying to get relief.  Nothing helped.  Nothing worked.  So Jesus comes through and heals him by casting out his demons into a bunch of pigs that ended up killing themselves.  When the people saw this man sitting there dressed and in his right mind, it actually scared them!  They were not convinced the change in him was real.  The man‘s reaction to this amazing event is totally understandable.  He was SO incredibly thankful for his restoration that all he wanted to do was to go with Jesus, to follow Him wherever He went and to serve Him.  His motives were pure!  We would applaud His desire to go with Jesus but the story tells us Jesus told him No and to instead go home and tell others what had happened to him.  For most, the story ends there but I see so much more.

You see, it’s easier for us to be different or become a better version of ourselves if we go somewhere that people don’t know us or our history.  We can choose what to share with them from our past and paint a prettier picture of who we are.  shutterstock_76320961It’s easier to start over somewhere else not only because we are with people we haven’t wounded, but also with people who haven’t wounded us.  Restoration of our selves is easy because it is between us and God.  Restoration of our relationships or influence is much more difficult because it involves others.  When Jesus told this man to go home, it was to a much different situation than comes to mind for most of us.  If it was me, I might not be happy about having to stay where I am but I have a good life, friends and family here.  Going home for this man, to HIS situation, would have been much more difficult.  He was going to have to be with people who had wounded him and thrown him away.   He was going to have to face people he had wounded or scared.  He would have to face things HE had done and said – some he might remember and some he might not.  Why would anyone even listen to him when he proclaimed what God had done for him and how his life had changed?  Why would they believe him?  The truth is they probably wouldn’t!  It might take years to overcome his past because these people KNEW him!!

It’s much easier for us to go to people we don’t know than to those who know us and have seen our faults.  BUT to live where we are – through the difficulties – is where we have the most influence in the long run.  When people who know us or have seen us at our worst finally see the change in our lives and understand that we have truly changed, then it is different.  It has a much deeper impact than if they simply heard stories of where or how we used to be and how we came out of it.  Just like this man, it may take a long time, yes – even years, for people to finally see us as we are instead of how we used to be.  shutterstock_93000241Some may never be able to let go of their old visions of us but it doesn’t matter.  We cannot force them to open their eyes but it is still up to us to live where we are planted.  It isn’t always easy, especially when there are wounds involved (ours or the ones we may have inflicted on others) but if you really want to change the world, start with yourself.  And then be willing to humbly stand strong even if it takes a while for the world around you to finally see things differently too.  Be humble.  Be honest.  Be open.  Be forgiving.  Be you…and trust that sometimes perspectives can only be changed with time.  

Blessings! 

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(Here is the text of the story from the book of Mark:  “They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.  6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.  11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.  14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.  18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”)

God Chooses the Vulnerable

shutterstock_86702158If you are breathing, then you know very well that life is not without struggles. They are certainly going to happen and usually the most control we have is simply how we react and respond to them. If you choose to hide your struggles, God will most certainly give you the grace you need to get through it. What you LOSE is the positive influence you might have had on those around you. The reality is that you are going to be “in it” no matter what. You are going to have to live through it no matter how you react to it. The problem is that if you hide yourself and your struggles or weaknesses and God does something great in your life, you’re the only one who truly sees it.  You don’t know how God is going to choose to bless you and you don’t know who may be watching. He’s capable of healing everything. He’s capable of making you completely whole on every level.

Not hiding your struggles, ailments or disabilities means you are vulnerable. You can be vulnerable in two ways: 1) you can do it by choice or 2) you can be forced into it. Forced vulnerability is never comfortable and it certainly doesn’t feel good. For example: Let’s say you are a physically strong and independent person but suddenly become paralyzed and can’t walk anymore. You no longer have the choice of whether or not you are going to be vulnerable. You ARE going to be vulnerable but you do have a choice in whether or not you leave your house again.  This same principle applies to mental health struggles as it does to physical struggles or ailments.  shutterstock_102250687If you choose to never leave your house, there are people who have known you that may not even realize to what extent you are now struggling.  This is so important (and may even be labeled controversial) but because you’re not willing to let people see you as you are in your weaknesses, you may miss out on being healed. If God is going to choose somebody with which to do something great and to be a great example of what He can do, He’s not going to choose someone who hides. He’s going to choose someone who’s visible…and sometimes being visible is painful. It can be painful for the one who is struggling and sometimes painful for the people who care about them. But being visible allows for help to be given. Being visible brings experiences that cause you to “expect” and it’s not always negative expectations. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be great. Sometimes our greatness is our infirmity. Our greatness is in our willingness to not hide. Our greatness is in living with our infirmities, our failings and faults, our quirks and imperfect bodies, our rejections and our wounds. Our greatness truly lies in our smallness.

God chose a lame man who sat at a city gate and begged. He chose a man who had nothing and no way to help himself. As a matter of fact, he had an infirmity that everyone could see but no one could resolve. God chose him and then did something no one else could do so that everybody who knew it or witnessed it had no doubt that it was God who did it. That’s why this man was chosen; because his infirmities were not hidden. So for us, we need to remember God is going to take care of us day to day no matter what because He has promised that He would and He cannot lie. But He’s not going to choose someone or something that’s hidden to show His power to others because He can’t. If you hide your weaknesses then it is impossible for others to see the amazing way they are resolved. If you’re not willing to be vulnerable and open, you may miss out on a life‑changing blessing! The best thing we can do is to live day to day being open and expecting God to take care of us for today. Expect God to take care of you in THIS moment. Expect God to take care of THIS situation or need, no matter if it is physical, mental or emotional.  shutterstock_59477860You can have peace by knowing, expecting and believing that God will take care of you right now in this moment. You can live openly and vulnerably by knowing He has you in the palm of His hand and will take care of you no matter what risk is involved in the exposure of your weaknesses. If you live this way, you are in a position where God can use you for something amazing, something great, something that shows HIS power whether it’s physical, mental or emotional healing. And when He does it, there will be no doubt it was Him because the ones who witness the change are the same ones who have seen your infirmities first-hand and understand that what was “wrong” was genuine and valid. So then what went right was miraculous.

So the next time you think your struggles are without purpose, think again.  It may not only be something to help you grow personally but it may just be that God is getting ready to do something AMAZING in your life so that the lives of others are changed. You never know who is watching and you should NEVER underestimate the power of your God!  Nothing is without purpose and nothing is beyond repair!

Blessings!