When Church Hurts. And When It Heals.

Church hurts. There, I said it…although I hate that. I was reminded today, at church, just how much church hurt is in my past, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts regarding church hurt…and also, how the church can help heal those hurts.

I’ll be clear: It is not my intention to speak negatively against any specific people, to drag names through the mud, or to, God-forbid, cause anyone else hurt. In fact, I have chosen against sharing openly about my thoughts on this topic, until now, solely for that reason. But some time has passed and part of how I heal is through writing. So here we are. My intention in sharing my story is not ill-willed. My intention in sharing the following is for this very purpose: to give hope to hearts that have been wounded by people in the church. That is all.

Back to today. The leader at our current church asked a question to our group about our experiences in our church – specifically relating to the topic of dress attire – from the churches of our childhood. Quietly, I glanced over at my husband, and we just shared a knowing look and a small, albeit sad smile. I waited until the others in the group shared their experiences and I debated, and prayed about, whether or not I should say anything. But after some silence, I felt peace to share what was expected in my childhood church regarding attire. Women were to wear dresses or skirts (below the knee) and head coverings. I am not suggesting that is wrong, it was just my experience. I also shared two memories from that church with regards to the topic of attire. 1. I remember when an elder stood up and read aloud an actual dress code that was to be adhered to amongst the congregants, and 2. When, after wearing dress pants to church one Sunday (years later), I was pulled aside and informed, not kindly, that if I chose to wear pants (instead of a dress) to church again, I would no longer be allowed to teach Sunday School. I’m aware that’s referred to as legalism. But I truly believe that those same people who did those things would most likely regret some of their actions today. I believe we all make mistakes, and I also believe that, by the grace of God, we can learn from them and grow.

And then he asked me, “Did those actions ever affect how you viewed God?” No hesitation. Absolutely, they did. “How?” For me, it made me believe, in a very skewed way, that God somehow expected perfection from me, along with certain behaviour I was to maintain, and that I was not worthy to receive His love if I didn’t act, behave, …dress… a certain way. I have forgiven those people who enforced their own personal convictions onto me…and our entire church, but as I shared those memories in our church group, I was surprised to find that I became emotional. My whole body was shaking and I fought back tears as I answered those questions. Sometimes, we don’t realize to what extent certain actions and behaviours hurt us until we are forced to think about them…and the consequences of them.

I have been blessed to know a few women who are wives of pastors, and let me tell you – they know church pain more than anyone else. The countless stories I’ve heard from them would shock most people. (I have permission to share the following.) One pastor’s wife shared with me how her husband would wear shorts to church, not out of disrespect, but due to significant discomfort. A member of their church didn’t like it, so she thought it would be acceptable to walk up to him after each service and pull his leg hair and then walk away. Pause. Consider that. If you aren’t outraged by that behaviour, you should be. That’s assault. And that type of behaviour and attitude has no place amongst God’s people. Another pastor’s wife recounted, “We were both serving in ministry together in a para-church organization when we got married. Shortly after we we were married, the directors suddenly left the ministry, leaving the entire weight of the ministry on our 5-month-married shoulders. The strain that abandonment had on our marriage was quite huge at the time.” Church hurt is isolating. I could go on with so many other stories from my friends who are pastor’s wives, but just trust me on this: there is behaviour in churches that would shock you, anger you, and grieve you. And it should. Because that’s not what God’s people are supposed to be like.

On a personal level, I know church hurt also, although differently from pastor’s wives. However, before I share, I want to restate the purpose of why I’m sharing this experience, and I ask that you remember it as you read. The purpose of this is intended only: to give hope to hearts that have been wounded by people in the church. It is not to cause more pain. I also want to make it clear that I harbour no bitterness or resentment to anybody in the churches referred to, and I have forgiven these hurts long ago.

Our family stopped attending church for 2.5 years because of significant pain caused by people in a previous church we attended. We just figured that the more you get involved in a church, the more you know, and when you know things, for us anyway, we felt it was important to stand up for what we felt was right and to stand against what we felt was wrong. When nothing we tried seemed to work, we relinquished our efforts, and chose to remain in that church for the sake of our pastors. My husband and I have developed a deep love and care over the years for those in pastoral ministry and we felt our calling, at that time, was to remain in our church to continue to love and support our pastors how we could. We tried to do just that. But for approximately 2 years, we hated going to church. It was exhausting. Draining. And it was evident we were no longer wanted there by some people. And yes, someone even said, “Well, there’s the door.” But, it seemed to us that we were just causing problems. The only reason we stayed for the time we did, was out of obedience.

After some time, my husband and I both felt peace about leaving. We met with our pastors and reminded them of our love and appreciation for them and expressed our desire, should they wish it, to continue a friendship with them. We sincerely desired and wished the best for that church (and we still do), but we could no longer attend. It was just too painful. Partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our church attendance…to anywhere…just dropped off. We were reminded often by friends of the importance to attend church during that time. I also remember telling one friend that if it weren’t for my kids, I’d never join another church again. Not because I didn’t want to. Not because I didn’t miss worshipping with other believers. But because the idea of joining another church and putting myself into another situation to be hurt was just too much. What’s the definition of “crazy”? Isn’t it doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? No thanks.

There’s nothing quite like church hurt. Perhaps it’s because as Christians we expect other people in the church to behave…like Christians. Crazy, I know. But that idea IS kind of is crazy when you think about it. The church is made up of people. Sinners. And, if you are someone who has been hurt by the church, and you’ve been told this cliché before, don’t close your browser just yet. Hear me out, please. I used to hear people say that when they had been hurt by the church, they gave up on attending entirely. And, out of my ignorance in not knowing what church hurt can really do to a person, I would simply respond with that old adage that has been said to me: The church is made up of imperfect people. Yes, I know. Funny thing though: Hurt people already know that and hearing it doesn’t actually make the hurt feel any less or go away. But, there is a nugget of truth to that thought. I read the other day that churches don’t hurt people; People in churches hurt people. And that is where, I believe, the key to changing our perspective of church hurt lies. We weren’t hurt by our entire church. We were hurt by a few members in the church. Not the whole congregation. Not the pastor. And recognizing that truth was freeing for me.

We knew that we “should” have been attending church every Sunday for the 2.5 years that followed after leaving that church. But every time we would force ourselves to attend church “for the sake of our kids”, it was traumatizing. Yes, traumatizing. I would get fidgety and very uncomfortable and pray the singing and the sermon would just end! I wanted to claw my way out of the sanctuary. It was awful. And I hated it. The people in the new churches we “tried out” were friendly. There was nothing wrong with the sermons or the people, but I just couldn’t be there. And then a friend asked me one day if I had considered, given my reaction to attending any new church since our previous experience, that I may be having a trauma response. And just like that, it all clicked. It made total sense. I just didn’t know what to do with that knowledge. I was associating any “organized church” experience with previous hurt and pain, and I couldn’t shake it.

But, God is faithful.

My husband had been suggesting to me that we should try going to a small house church in the city. I was very hesitant, for many reasons. But we went. And for the first time in years, I exited church on Sunday morning with a feeling that was utterly indescribable. We were loved. We were cared for. We were prayed over. We were encouraged. We were wanted. And we had the opportunity to be and do those things for the others there. For the first time in years, I left church feeling refreshed instead of drained, exhausted, and depleted. We witnessed what church was meant to be: people searching the Scriptures with one another, praying for one another, and caring deeply for one another. And it was incredible. It was clear that this was where God had called us. Our house church has been a place of deep healing for us.

But I’m not stupid. Growing up, my mother would often say, “You’ll never find the perfect church, and if you do, don’t join it, because you’ll ruin it.” How right she was. I have no doubt that we also caused hurt in that same church, and we’ve owned that. Causing hurt was the last thing we ever wanted to do, but I know it happened. The church is made up of people…who are imperfect, yes. But, the church of God is also made up of people who don’t hurt too. It’s made up of healers and helpers.

For our family, for this moment in time, in order to learn how to heal and trust again, God has provided a small group of people who love us…even with our imperfections. In the only way I’m capable of right now, God has met me and has provided an opportunity to still worship Him in a corporate setting. Just a much smaller one, without any resemblance of “organized church”. And I am immensely grateful for that.

I don’t know where God will meet you in your journey of healing, but I beg of you to remember this:

God is faithful.

His people are imperfect. (Including you.)

But God’s love for you is perfect.

And if you ask Him, (although it may take time) He will answer you and meet you where you are. Be patient in that process. Imperfect people will always hurt you. And you will hurt other people too, even if that’s not what you’re intending. But recognize that it is not the whole church of God that has hurt you. It may have been people in a church or it may have been certain beliefs a church holds or it may even be the structure of a church. But it wasn’t the whole church of God.

No church is perfect. The real church of God is humble. And it recognizes when it hasn’t been humble. The real church of God loves people well and it doesn’t cast people out. The real church of God is one that brings healing to wounded hearts and souls.

The only way the church can be real is to love God more than anything else. The only way a church can help heal your wounds is if you allow them to. And I know that can be a very difficult thing to do. But search your heart. If you wish to be part of a church that heals others, you must, as I have learned in this process, also learn to: Practice humility. Love Jesus. Read His Word. Obey His commandments. Set aside your pride and even the identity you have assumed from being wounded by the church and slowly, allow Jesus to bring healing to you – through His Word, through His presence, and through His imperfect church. If you give up on the church entirely, because you’ve only seen the ugly, it means you also give up seeing the beauty that’s there as well. It might be more hidden – because yes, it’s made up of sinners – but beauty IS there. Seek it. And when you find it, grasp onto it and never let it go. Because in it, there is a family that is waiting to embrace you with open arms, to love you, to pray for you, to care for and encourage you. And it’s worth every bit of hurt you experience in the process and every bit of searching you do. Choose to become a part of that healing for others. Choose to become what God intended His church to be – His beautiful bride. And from that, you will reap abundant blessings and indescribable joy.

Side note: When you do find that church family, remember to love your pastor and his wife well. And be their friend.

Tribute to a Godly Woman. A Personal Memoire.

I was given the opportunity to share at my Nanny’s funeral today and the following is my testimony to her life – and a life well-lived, it was indeed.

As a child, I had the unique opportunity to come to Ottawa and live with Nanny, Poppy, and Shirley for a significant portion of each summer. As a result, I had the privilege of spending countless hours with Nanny, and I’d like to take the next few moments to share with you some of my fondest memories and personal observations of her character.

First off, Nanny was resilient. She encountered any obstacle that came her way with dignity and with grace. I remember asking her (I was very young at the time) why it was that she had dentures. She told me it was because she was so poor growing up that she and her siblings had only one toothbrush to share so she didn’t get to use one very often. There was no bitterness in her tone when she told me that. It was just the way it was. She accepted that.

Second, Nanny was courageous and brave! She somehow managed to stay at home with four young children while her husband was serving in Israel as a peacekeeper. She made nutritious meals on an incredibly low budget, managed her home, still attended church services every Sunday (with her and her daughters in matching dresses, which she sewed herself), and still found time to teach her children about the love of Jesus.

Nanny. Was. Frugal! Honestly, she could make many meals off a dime (or from all the food she kept in her multiple deep-freezes or cold room storage of canned goods…which she did all herself). I still remember newspapers spread across her kitchen table with the coupon sections cut out. One fond memory that still makes me chuckle is the time she came home from work at lunch and stated that she didn’t feel like cooking – a first for her! She informed me that she had some coupons for Burger King and asked if I would like to go there for lunch together. This was a BIG DEAL. Not only was Nanny willing to eat at a fast-food establishment, but she was also willing to pay to eat there. I remember being in utter shock at her suggestion, but excited, I quickly corrected my eyes which were wide in disbelief and said, “Yes!” What’s even more amazing about this story is that this happened the next day AND the next! By Day 3 I didn’t know what had happened to Nanny or who this woman even was. But I enjoyed those Burger King lunches, dodging Ottawa traffic each day to get there, and after one of those visits, going with her to the park, just walking around, and taking in the sights of the Rideau Canal, hand in hand.

Nanny was a hard worker. I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of how hard she worked, for so many years. I honestly don’t know how she managed to do it all. She cooked three meals a day, found the time and energy to grow and tend a large garden, can all the produce from the garden, hang the laundry on the line to dry, sew dresses and matching outfits, sew on buttons and hem items for her grandkids, work outside the home part-time, still manage to run home on her lunch break to make and serve lunch to Poppy before going back to work in the afternoon, pay the bills, mow the lawn, plant flower beds, and knit a plethora of items, just to spend every second Saturday at CARP – Ottawa’s farmer’s market – to sell her hand-knit creations. I enjoyed spending those mornings with her at the market. Sometimes, she would open her cash box and give me a bit of change to go buy snacks at another vendor’s booth. She may have been frugal – but she was also very generous. Not only with her money, but also with her time. I remember waking up one night just before midnight and, noticing the kitchen light still on, I made my way out to the kitchen just to find her sitting at the table, knitting a dishcloth – a common occurrence. Instead of being bothered by the fact that I was out of bed in the middle of the night, she just asked me if I was hungry and promptly made me a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I ate it while I watched her knit quietly. I asked if she’d be going to bed anytime soon since it was late, and she casually replied that she had about another 10 dishcloths to knit before market the next morning…so she’d be awhile yet. I just assumed that adults didn’t need sleep after that.

Finally, Nanny loved Jesus. And she made Jesus known. She taught Christ and His love to her children and to those around her. This is evident in the lives of her descendants and in the way she treated others. I remember vaguely her expressing frustration one day because a patient she had been assigned to sit with wasn’t receiving the level of care she felt her patient needed or deserved. To Nanny, the situation was unfair and unjust, and she was going to make her thoughts known to whoever it was that was in charge. She gracefully fought for justice when she could. She aimed to show Christ’s love and character to everyone. I distinctly remember seeing her Bible open on the kitchen table (amidst all the coupons) so very often. Before tucking me in at night, she would kneel beside the bed, gently brush her fingertips over my eyelids to help me sleep and would pray with and for me. I’ve never forgotten how loved that simple action made me feel. She was a very good Nanny to me. With fond remembrance, at times I still glide my hands over other sleepy, little eyelids, and I have to say, that trick still seems to work.

Nanny was by no means perfect. She had her faults. But I will always be grateful for the gentle and loving manner in which she treated me. I am forever thankful for the legacy she has left. She loved Jesus. And, if you knew her at all, then you know her life was evident of that.

Elatasad: A Story of an Empty Home, Broken Hearts, and Inextricable Happiness

Did you know that it’s actually possible to feel inextricably happy and sad at the exact same time? It’s definitely possible. I learned that this past week. I “researched” Google to see if there is a word that describes feeling both of those emotions at the same time and my results seemed to come up a bit skewed. The closest word I could find in the English language to describe feeling both happiness and sadness, simultaneously, was: “bittersweet”. However, I don’t find that word actually provides me with the satisfaction I require today. It just doesn’t seem to convey what I feel…precisely. Google’s mixed results also suggested the words, “saudade” – a Portugese term referring to “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one cares for and/or loves”, and “elatasad”, which apparently means, “feeling sad but also happy and excited”. I don’t know if the Oxford dictionary recognizes those terms or not, but frankly, I don’t care. They’re exactly how I’m feeling right now, so I’ll go with them.

As you most likely already know, there are seven stages to the grieving process. You also are probably aware that those stages rarely are experienced in any order…and those stages are likely to repeat themselves at any given time. The seven stages of grief don’t care one iota about order. They just hit you hard, usually when you least expect them. I won’t bore you with providing an exegesis on those seven stages, rather, for the sake of some brevity, I’ll assume you know most of them.

Anger. I’m so angry that I don’t even know what to type at this very moment. You know it. You’ve felt it. I mean REALLY felt it! There have been times where the anger you’ve felt has made you want to vomit, to shake, to scream profanity into the freezing cold, dark night. And then…you realize there is nothing you can do. So you just stare. At nothing really. You just feel…empty. Angry. Unbelievably depressed. Wondering if there is something, anything, you could have done to help prevent the current events that are swirling inside your mind. But that’s just it. You couldn’t. There is/was nothing you could do. And that’s when you stand in your friend’s empty house, making sure the pipes haven’t frozen in -40 degree weather, staring at the emptiness around you, recognizing that the emptiness you see before you, matches the empty and gaping hole left in your heart. They’ve gone. And no amount of questioning or re-running conversations in your mind will bring them back. And there you are amidst all the “empty”, left to figure out how to grieve it all.

For me, my anger and despair arose this week from saying goodbye to a friend. Not through death, but from a long-distance move. You might think that I’m being overly dramatic. “Your friend moved away? Seriously? Anger and grief because of that?” I hear you. And something inside me snarls that I know nothing of real grief. But the real me knows that I do. We could discuss my childhood friend dying in a horrific and tragic car accident when he was only 5 years old…before I could say goodbye. We could discuss watching my father leave my childhood home while I begged him to come back…before I could say goodbye. (He didn’t.) We could discuss the time I booked my plane ticket in the middle of university finals to fly to Ontario…to say goodbye…to my grandfather, just to be informed the next morning he passed away. I made it for the funeral. I have a profound hatred for goodbyes. I wonder why….

But, we don’t need to get into all that. I do know grief. In my own way. And you know yours. But here’s the real thing: My anger/grief/emptiness/whatever you want to call it, doesn’t stem from the saying goodbye…this time. It stems from the reason my friend had to leave.

I’ve said goodbye to two friends in the last three years due to very unjust and unfair circumstances. This one? Abuse. Does that make you cringe? I hope it does. Because of abuse that had gone on for way too long, my friend and her husband had to pack up their family, their belongings, their whole life, and move away. Her husband quit his job and they are moving from a beautiful, new home to a bat and mice-infested home far away. Why? Her words to me were, “Because it’s better than abuse”. That’s why I’m angry. That’s why I’m devastated. It’s so unfair and unjust. If I’m this angry, how must my friend feel? She’s the one having to say goodbye to everything. I’m angry, not only for me, but also for her.

“Every heart has its secret sorrows which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The burden of grief weighs heavily, doesn’t it? This past year has afforded me the privilege to provide care and a listening ear to two women who have lost their husbands. I’ve had the opportunity to sit with both ladies – to listen to their hearts, to hear some of their grief. And that has been an honor for me. I don’t take those opportunities lightly. I appreciate them. Those moments are sacred. They remind me that our life here is short. Our time is not unlimited. Our relationships and friendships do not and cannot last forever. At least, not here on earth.

But THAT is where we have hope! Our hope lies in Jesus Christ – the One who comforts us and grieves with us. The One who knows grief intimately. The One who said goodbye to the riches and beauty and comfort of His heavenly home, to take on human form, to give us eternal life – forgiveness of sins and the hope and assurance of heaven, where we will never have to say goodbye ever again.

That is why I can smile tonight. That is why I can feel grief and inextricable happiness at the same time. Not only because of the hope we have of heaven and no more “goodbyes”, but also because I love my friend dearly and desire the best for her. And right now, the best thing for her is to move away from her current situation to a more peaceful one. When you love someone, it hurts to say goodbye, but you also can’t help but rejoice to see them encounter freedom and peace in their lives. You rejoice in all happiness for them and their new-found home and hope. That’s just what friends do.

When was the last time you experienced it? Grief, that is.

The sad reality of life here on this planet is that we all do and will experience grief more often than we would ever desire to. But…God is gracious. And yes, I may have to keep reminding myself of that fact (every day), but it’s true. I won’t, even for a moment, pretend to have answers for you on the topic of grief, how long it will last, when it might overwhelm you, or what constitutes the appropriate situation to cause grief, because we cannot be the judge of one another’s grief…ever. I would argue that grief is sacred. It’s a process that must be honored and respected by all and never given a time frame.

I believe it was Dr. Seuss who penned, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” There is profound truth to those words. It seems like just yesterday that a co-worker of mine told me (when discovering I was moving to my current home-town) that his nephew’s wife lived there and that I should really meet her because we’d get along great. I nodded and agreed, having no clue how I’d actually get in touch with or meet this woman, but God did. I found myself sitting in a very random group of ladies one evening when I overheard someone whisper that the woman sitting directly across from me was “so-and-so’s nephew’s wife”. Immediately, I terrified her by excitedly asking her to confirm that remark and by stating how I was told we were supposed to meet and be friends. Thankfully, the surprise and fright that I caused her didn’t last, and by God’s grace, we developed a beautiful friendship over the last few years. One of trust, mutual respect, and love. Although I hated saying goodbye to her this week, I’m profoundly grateful and thankful for the time God allowed us to be friends. And by His grace, we will continue that friendship with the wonderful use of technology. A blessing. Absolutely.

For now, my heart hurts. And that’s ok. Because I know that God is not only with me, but He’s also with her in this move, guiding her steps, filling her with His peace, and being her Providence. And He does that for each of us when we ask Him to. Regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our current pain or grief or heartache, He is our peace. Lay your head on your pillow tonight, resting in the knowledge that He will provide for you, that He is your Peace…in every situation you face. Rest in the hope we have of heaven: a place where we won’t have to say goodbye ever again.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

– John 14:27

Continue reading “Elatasad: A Story of an Empty Home, Broken Hearts, and Inextricable Happiness”

On Words and the Tongue

I talk a lot. Those that know me can attest to this. On top of that, I have a very sharp tongue. And to add to the problem even further, the words that come out of my mouth a lot of the time are anything but pure.

Lately, I have been told by a few people that I am a really great encourager. That comes as a major surprise to me. I don’t feel like I do that at all, but I can’t help but notice that it has come up in conversation not just once, but a few times – to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore and have begun to wonder if that is a spiritual gift that has been hiding somewhere deep within. So it’s no surprise that words have been on my mind lately.

Scripture has a lot to say about words and about the importance of holding one’s tongue as well as encouragement. So I’ve started a mini-study on what impact that should have in my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Fools Talk:

Ecclesiastes 5:3 …Many words mark the speech of a fool.

Ecclesiastes 9:17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.

Ecclesiastes 10:12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.

Ecclesiastes 10:14 …Fools multiply words.

Have you ever noticed that the quiet ones usually have the most profound/meaningful things to say?

Tongues are Powerful:

James 3:5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

James 3:8 …No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

This last verse really made me think. If we can’t tame the tongue, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Christ Jesus. He is the One that created us. He created our tongues and our ability to speak. He alone can tame a fiery tongue. We need only ask. But what if I have asked? What if I have wept over my speech and begged God to take my unholy words away from me? What then? I believe it is a conscious decision to consistently be in prayer (1 Thess. 5:17), asking God’s assistance with our speech, each day. Remembering to really think before we speak. Accepting the challenge of continually seeking to live a holy, God-fearing life. Only then can we expect change.

Guarding One’s Tongue:

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Psalm 34:13 …Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

Our Words:

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Matthew 15:18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

Going Forward:

Desiring a godly heart is a good place to start, but it is not the same as having one. Having a godly heart does not mean being perfect either. I desire a Christ-like heart; one of compassion, love, cheerfulness, goodness, self-control, temperance, (shall I list all of the fruits of the Spirit?), but do not feel that I exhibit these. And truth be told, it’s probably because I don’t – when it really matters. It’s easy for me to have compassion on the homeless person asking for money. It’s easy for me to be cheerful when I’m doing what I love. It’s easy to be good at work when I have a performance review approaching. It’s easy for me to be patient when I’m waiting for something I really want. But what about those other times? What if it’s having compassion on somebody going through a circumstance and your thought is for them to “suck it up.” What if it’s being cheerful in the midst of a failing marriage? What if it’s being good when nobody is watching and you’re aching to do X. What if it’s being patient when that toddler asks that same question for the fifteenth time and you are busy doing something else?

Having a godly heart, I believe, is:

First – having the desire.

Second – realizing our imperfection.

Thirdly – recognizing God’s perfection.

Fourthly – asking for His transformation on our lives.

Fifthly – actively working towards being like Him each day.

So for those that may find a discussion on “words and encouragement” strange coming from me, it’s actually quite perfect. As a woman who struggles with her filthy words and foolish talk, I am the perfect candidate to kneel before God in humbleness and beg for forgiveness and ask for wisdom. For my words to change, my heart has to change (Matt. 15:18 – as above), and so does my mind – Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

On understanding encouragement as a spiritual gift, I am still praying about that one. Discovering our spiritual gifts is a journey. And although I would never have considered encouragement as one of mine, I’m wondering if perhaps spiritual gifts can change as God changes us.

I want to honor God with my words, but change will hardly happen if we don’t set the right boundaries. That’s where accountability comes in. So if you hear me say something that isn’t any of the following, please remind me (gently) of this blog post.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

You’re Always There When I Need You

Have you ever heard it said, “Life is hard and then you die”?  I have…a lot!  And although there have certainly been times where I have believed that to be true, I’ve also wondered if it really is.

My life has been considered to be a “hard life” at times by previous counselors and psychiatrists, but I don’t see it that way.  Have I had challenges?  Absolutely.  But who hasn’t?  We all have something that we struggle with, sometimes on a daily basis.  Life IS hard.  It’s true.  But your attitude towards it can make monumental impacts on you, on how you want your life to “turn out”, and even on other’s lives.  You have the power to choose to see the joy, even gifts, in each and every day.  You!  But are you strong enough to actually do it?  Are you capable to seeing past all of the “negatives” that fill your mind?  This may be cliché but it’s true: If I could do it, you definitely can too.

For those that don’t know me well, I was diagnosed with ADHD and OCD and Anxiety Disorder – all within this past year.  And although that may be surprising to some, it actually came as a blessing and relief to our family.  It’s been a very difficult journey in our home and on my immediate family.  Even close friends and family are unaware of the turmoil I have placed on my husband, children, and even myself.  But I don’t end there.  That is NOT my story.  Because it’s when you remember who you truly are, before all of the psychological labeling, that really matters.  Me?  I’m a daughter of the one High King of heaven.  I’m made in His image and He calls me His child!  So although the life I may have has been “hard”, it’s also been an opportunity.  To learn.  To grow.  To see and to feel things I never thought possible.  To become more and more like Him – each and every day – regardless of my circumstances.

I recently watched a movie scene where a leader took his self-help group out into the middle of a busy street (imagine New York), and they just stood there.  Every person in that group got very tense.  Horns were honking, people were shouting rude expletives, and motioning the same with their hands.  The group wanted out.  They felt stuck, in the way, the problem, and in a way, they were.  But then the leader took them to the tallest building running along the same street, where they proceeded to the roof.  They looked over the skyline and were amazed by the views.  Their reactions changed.  They were no longer scared, stressed, anxious, or tense.  They were relaxed.  The relief was evident on their faces and in their entire posture.  Then they looked down to the very spot they had been standing only minutes prior and it seemed significantly different.  They felt as if they had some control, they were no longer in the chaos.  Although nothing had really changed on the ground level – cars were still honking, people were still shouting, and there were more people running through traffic – they now had a different view of the situation.

And that’s how it is with God and being His child.  Your life may be incredibly stressful and chaotic, but He can help you see past some of those things and live life to the fullest, regardless of your current life events.  Trust me, I know some of the feelings of stress and chaos.  For some very strange reason, God thought it would be good, beneficial, and even wise for me, somebody with Entomophobia (fear of insects/bugs) to not only live with a variety of bugs and spiders, but also mice, bats, and (what we thought were) bedbugs – BUT – God is merciful, and they were “only” batbugs).  But the fears, stresses, phobias, anxiety, and panic attacks that ensued from those things certainly can cloud one’s view.  When you are in the middle of it, you can’t see above it.  And with my ADHD brain, I can’t even begin the process of trying to see above it, to choose to be thankful – in EVERYTHING?!?!  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”)

That’s where the even harsher reality sets in.  Not only are disciples of Jesus asked to rejoice ALWAYS and to give thanks in ALL circumstances, He also asks us to be content.  WHAT?!?!  (Hebrews 13:5a – “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…”)  Oh, that is so, so hard to do – if we only see things from our current view.

So how do we see things from a different view?  From God’s view?  From an eternal view?  (Colossians 3:2 – “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”)  I think the answer is somewhat cyclical; it’s in the previous verses – rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks all the time.  Scripture says in Psalm 37:4 to “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  This does NOT mean that He will deliver you from your current situation or that He will hand over to you what you want.  Because to truly delight in the Lord means to find your entire peace and fulfillment in Him alone.  And when you do that, you leave no room for the desire of extra.  There’s a reason Jesus also said in Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength and with ALL your mind.”

I would add to those the verses from childhood:

  • Philippians 4:13 – I can do ALL things through Christ which gives me strength.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – TRUST in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.

It comes down to a choice, a decision, to wake up each day (or go to bed each night – even if you have to take medication to help you sleep) and trust in Him…even in the right now.  1 Timothy 6:6 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Sitting at a Wal-Mart McDonald’s this evening after a particularly difficult few days with my daughter, setting straight some behavioral issues, and contemplating on whether or not my responses have been the right ones (and dealing with the oh-so-continuous guilt that comes with not being the best/perfect mom), she looked up at me and asked if I could wipe the Ketchup off of her arm.  As I did the “mom routine” once again, she looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Thanks, mom.  You’re always there when I need you.”  Apart from having my emotions ripped out of my chest in public, 🙂 I realized just how profound that statement was.  (My daughter teaches me theology every day – and I’m so grateful for it!)  Because the second part of Hebrews 13:5 is what makes the change of view possible.  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”