Eject the Rejection

Does anyone else have to pause and consider what day of the week it is since the pandemic started? I thought today was Saturday but it turns it is actually Wednesday. Also, I have been home sick for a few days and hibernating in my basement with no windows, so now I am also disoriented and have no clues what time of day it is. I typically am at my sharpest first thing in the morning. I just sat down to write and am questioning my judgment since it is actually—let me check—oh sheesh! It is 4:37PM. This could be rough. This one’s going to involve a lot of actual thinking and even, like in elementary school, a few definitions or vocab words, so consider yourself warned.

I want to unpack a threatening word that has come up among several of my conversations recently: REJECTION. Just typing that word gives me an unsettled, oogy feeling in my being.

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench
Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

How did it make you feel? Here are some other words for rejections, just to add to your nausea:

  • Abandoned
  • Shunned
  • Ostracized
  • Snubbed
  • Dismissed
  • Forsaken
  • Excluded
  • Refused
  • Ignored
  • Deserted

Now, if you aren’t in a fetal position, and especially if you are, after I triggered you with all those deeply disturbing words, keep reading. Trust me—there is light at the other end of this twisted tunnel.

I mentioned the theme of Rejection has been rearing its pathetic head lately. I didn’t even realize how much I needed to investigate this until I was listening to a speaker the other day (I watch pastors/speakers on YouTube while I curl my hair in the mornings because, well, have you seen my hair? It takes about a half hour to curl and I refuse to waste that time just standing and looking in the mirror mindlessly. Thus…I will share with you some good stuff I heard while doing so this week!).

Steven Furtick, teaching pastor at Elevation Church, got distracted from his original message and seemed to “bring it” just to me regarding Rejection. The rest of his talk went a totally different direction! I knew God was trying to get my attention.

Furtick suggested that when we experience Rejection of any kind, be it from a boss, a friend, and spouse, a child, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a church, a family, we need to learn to ask God some better questions than “Why do I have to go through this?”

Maybe try asking Him:

“Where are You redirecting me because of this rejection?”

Or

“What are you using this rejection to protect me from?”

When we finally calm down and look up, most of us know that one of those two questions has a pretty firm answer. We just didn’t think anyone, including God, who knows better than we do what is best for us, was noticing we needed redirecting or protecting.

As I was digging a bit deeper into the dreaded visitor of Rejection (dismissing someone or the act of pushing someone or something away) that seems to drop by uninvited from time to time, I became a little obsessed about it’s root word, “-ject”. “-ject” means “to throw”. So naturally, my brain ran down a rabbit hole to find out the meaning of several other words that we use often and contain the same root. Fascinating!

Bear with me on this, I promise it will make sense eventually!

Object: to THROW your opposition to something

Reject: to THROW out

Inject: to THROW something into something (like a shot)

Eject: to THROW out especially by physical force, authority, or influence

Project: to THROW forward

Traject: to THROW through the air along a path. To cast ( to cast a vision)

(From bespeaking.com)

So, when you are feeling rejected, let this little prayer roll of your tongue:

“God, I OBJECT to this REJECTION and ask you to INJECT me with the power to EJECT this pain and PROJECT a new TRAJECTORY.”

In other words, as Furtick put it, “focus on what is left, not what is lost.” Ask God the right questions: “Is this rejection for my protection or my redirection?” Then, and this is important, lean in to what God thinks of you. Don’t let the Strongholds of rejection hold you hostage.

What are those, you might be asking? Well, lucky for you, as I was mulling around the idea of writing a blog on Rejection, I opened up a random book and found a piece of paper with notes I took from a study I did two years ago with a guy named Robert Morris. The title at the top of my one page of notes was: 6 Strongholds of Rejection. I’m dead serious. Here is what I wrote: 1) anger 2) insecurity 3) pride/EGO (or Edging God Out) 4) over-independence/isolation 5) easily offended 6) control and manipulation. Um, no thank you, friend.

I am acutely aware that moving past Rejection with these pithy tips is easier said than done. Feeling rejected hits our most sensitive and vulnerable nerve. It can make us feel like we are walking around boneless and skinless. And I have been there, friend. Many times (read Boneless & Skinless). But by applying some of these truths and talking to ourselves (about what we know is true about us) instead of listening to ourselves (telling ourselves that we are indeed worthless, unlovable, stupid, annoying, needy, lazy, ugly, high maintenance, flawed, unforgivable, etc.) we have a fighting chance of recovery ( also read Start Talking To Yourself ).

I want to also leave you with a couple verses that I cling to when I start listening to the wrong voices (and sometimes that voice is my own). Maybe they can help you too:

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in al creation will be able to separate us from the love of God.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8

P.O.P.D. (Perfect Ornament Placement Disorder)

P.O.P.D. In case you missed my social media post, these initials represent a very serious, potentially debilitating, often contagious, disease that effects thousands annually: Perfect Ornament Placement Disorder. Over the years, much of the extreme cases have been lessened due to an inordinate amount of people turning to pre-lit and permanently decorated (fake) trees. Could it be that they had reached their limit of the drama and stress of erecting and organizing a perfect tree…year after year after blessed year?

Well, ever since that post, which received over 25,000 hits (highest in Soul-Selfie history!), I have been wondering why that seemed to resonate with so many people. And naturally, I decided I better dive a little deeper and explore ways we can get some recovery from this serenity-threatening disease.

I considered that it might be a condition that primarily effects those of us with extreme control issues. I think that’s a viable option and I could write for hours about that one. But ultimately, I want to talk about one major component of this prefect placement obsession: BALANCE.

It’s all about balancing out the tree so it not only looks perfect, it stays upright.

person holding rocking horse christmas ornament
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Balancing a tree is imperative. We learned this the hard way a few years ago when a loud crashing sound woke us up in the middle of the night. We ran to the living room to find our giant tree on it’s side with ornaments scattered throughout the living room. We couldn’t quite get it steady, so we just tethered it with fishing wire to the window frame. Problem solved.

Apparently, we didn’t learn our lesson very well. At a new home a couple of years later, Blake’s sweet great-grandma (read: pretty old and somewhat frail and slowish) was observing our Christmas tree, when “timbeeerrr”, it fell over on top of her before she knew what hit her. No injuries. Just a teensy bit of trauma.

Here is the main problem as I see it. Over the years it has been a tradition for each grandparent to get each of my 3 children an ornament that represented something they we obsessed about at the time. We have lots of basketball ornaments, band instruments, ballerinas and in ungodly number of Disney-related ornaments. Multiply 6 new ornaments a year by 3 children and by year 5 we could barely even see the branches.

We also have some that were purchased from craft malls and are made of clay. Clay=heavy. These have to be put on first because, to avoid the whole “tree falling on grandma” thing, you have to balance them out with other ornaments.

So, now that I am 439 words in, I’ll try to land this plane….

Christmas, like no other time of the year, tends to provide us with countless opportunities to get out of balance.

There are parties and concerts and pageants and decorating and shopping. All fun. All good stuff. But even through we are preparing for the birthday of the One who came to give us peace and rest and the ultimate sense of balance, we are frenzied, frantic and freaking out.

However, I am not oblivious or insensitive enough to assume those are the only things that knock us off our center. Our world is riddled with people who are suffering from loss, grief, divorce, addiction, financial difficulties, health crises, depression, and despair—those clay ornaments whose weight can pull down the tree of life we are all trying keep upright. It can be an exhausting and sometimes excruciating expenditure of emotional, spiritual and physical energy.

When I decorate my tree, I always start with the heavy ornaments and then, at the end, I strategically position 20+ shiny red (cheap and cheesy) balls to fill in the gaps. This balances out the weight but also the aesthetic vibe of the overall tree.

Christmas can be a time when the heavy feelings and circumstances of our lives (the clay ornaments) and those we love can override the sparkly light ones (the shiny red balls). We have to be intentional about sprinkling in some fun activities or sweet moments of prayer, meditation or reflection to counteract what threatens to steal our joy during the holidays.

And remember how I got my tree to stay up that one year? I tethered it to the window frame. No matter what ornaments are on your tree this year, you would do well to keep it tethered to a source of strength that can prevent it from falling.

Remember: God is the stronghold that holds you strong. Tether your heart, your spirit, your entire being to Him. He alone can keep you fully balanced. He is aware of all that is weighing you down. He knows you feel like you are running in circles and doubt you will ever get your shopping done in time. He understands that you are dreading your family get together or grieve that your family looks different this year since your loved one passed. He sees your pain, your strain, your sorrow.

As I re-read a blog I wrote at Christmas a few years ago, one particular sentence stood out to me: Jesus didn’t just come to earth as a baby 2,000 years ago…He stayed.

His spirit stayed here so He can help you stay balanced. He is available for help if you just ask. We don’t have to obsess about the tree anymore. There is a remedy for the P.O.P.D. We can simply turn over our will and our lives to the care of God and invite Him to balance us out.

He’s got you.

A Thrill of Hope

Last month I did a book signing at Stepping Stones Bookstore in Iowa. The owner, my lovely new friend Mindy, let me take over the front of the store for the whole day and gave a lavish and gushingly grand testimony about my books to each and every customer (You can order from her store on line but it would be worth your time to go to Grinnell, Iowa and visit her in person and stay at Gloria’s quaint Bed and Breakfast–The carriage House).

When I had some down time, I browsed around, grateful to be in an actual bookstore where I could pick up books and preview new authors! In my perusing, the message on a box of Christmas cards caught my eye: “A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices”. I had never before isolated that line from the carol “O Holy Night” and have been letting it roll around in my head and heart ever since.

I mentioned before that I read from a variety of daily reading type of books every day. So on the 1st of this month I added in my favorite Thomas Kincaid Christmas with an entry for every day of December. Between his insights, various scriptures and the persistent melody and lyrics from “O Holy Night”, I have had an epiphany about my own writing: The message of this Christmas carol and the message of my books are one and the same.

Let me back up a bit. For the past few weeks have been doing dozens of interviews and have spent countless hours scrolling though my posts to better define my purpose and passion for continuing my work with Soul-Selfie. In talking with other authors and podcasters, I can hear my own consistent refrain: “We are all in this together and there is always hope.”

I write to let others know they are not alone in their sufferings and that together (with God and with each other) we can get better. We can move toward. We can get unstuck and unfrozen (from fears, regrets, betrayal, angst, etc) and start the healing process.

Last week, one of my daily readings directed me to read 1 Peter 5:6-13. It’s not a verse I have regularly visited but has now become one of the key verses that help me define why I didn’t stop writing after my cancer was gone. We are all chronically sick with the disease of the soul; the plagues of the heart, as I call them. Plagues like worry, fear, doubt, resentment, control, and jealousy, just to name a few. It is a veritable soul-pandemic.

Peter (who, in case you don’t remember, knows a little about suffering, having denied knowing Jesus 3 times before the rooster crowed and eventually was told by the risen Jesus that the upon Peter, the Rock, His church would be born and built) urges us: “cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you…stand firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings…and the God of all grace….will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Did you catch that? “We are all undergoing the same kind of suffering.”

Regardless of age or race or location on the planet, we are all created by the same God who gives the same hope—a Thrill of Hope. That’s what God gives each of us, in all our sufferings. We need to embrace the thrill of hope, because we are indeed a “weary world”.

As I prepared to write this, I read through the history of this carol and refreshed my memory of all remaining lyrics. Another beautiful phrase I have sung mindlessly over the years gave me similar pause: “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining…till He appeared and the soul felt its’ worth”. Pining, longing, hoping for change, relief, fulfillment, satisfaction. It had been a long-cold-lonely-winter of suffering and the world was waiting for the coming, the ADVENT of a Savior who could finally deliver what their pining, longing hearts had been waiting for their whole lives.

God has appeared and continues to appear to us, even today. Everyday. How has he appeared to you lately? Maybe you haven’t sensed Him but trust me, He is there. Especially when you feel the most weary, anxious or overwhelmed. He longs to give you the thrill of hope so you can also rejoice.

Fall on your knees friend. Ask for the thrill until it comes. Because even though December 1-24th is the season of Advent, or a time to remind us of God’s “coming”, the reality is, He has already come in full force. And just as we wait for Christmas, He is waiting for us turn to Him and rejoice in what he came to earth to bring us: the “new and glorious morn” of life lived in communion with God and his people.

Recently, I have been contemplating starting a movement called: Life Is.

Life Is: hard, good, beautiful, stressful, sometimes boring, exhilarating, challenging, transforming, mundane, sweet, tragic, painful, inspiring, precious, terrifying, excruciating, frustrating, glorious and exquisite.

It all counts. Invite God in to the trauma, drama and minutiae of everyday life. God gives you His power to walk through all of it as he “restores you and makes you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Remember we are all in this together and there is always hope. Embrace the thrill of it and rejoice, my dear friend.

Watch Your Battitude

Maybe it’s a common suggestion, or maybe people think I am just a brat, but over the years I have occasionally been given the assignment of making a gratitude list. Sounds easy enough, but for some reason my lists are pretty trite. Just the standard stuff that most anyone would be grateful for (homes, kids, pets, jobs, vacations, spouse, etc.). I have to say that I have never experienced the warm fuzzies I was expecting as a result of such an exercise.

I don’t think you can really do a gratitude list wrong, but I was given a similar assignment more recently and the way they broke it down made a world of difference. I thought, “now that, I can do!” I formulated a new type of “list” and have been making those lists regularly ever since.

As a result, I am happy to report that I have even been able to capture a few warm fuzzies.

So what is this revolutionary gratitude list of which I speak?

For starters, it is less like a grocery list and more like, well, a Soul-Selfie Blog post. The main shift in my brain came when it was suggested to me that it is an issue of quality vs quantity. My list may only have one or two items on it, but the items are full, rich and impactful. Instead of merely rattling off people, places or things I am grateful for, the goal is to focus on more soul-level stuff.

Soul-level stuff, for me, might look like a conversation about faith and doubt with a co-worker, a sweet connection with an old friend on facebook, someone who reached out to tell me that my blogs encourage them, or the realization that I don’t feel contempt or angst in my heart when I hear that person’s name.

person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Or maybe it’s realizing that I have finally had a long awaited transformation or psychic change (more on that in a blog to come): I don’t have my usual angry reaction to things that don’t go my way (flat tires, home deals falling through, kids getting sick, etc.), I “get over it” more quickly when my feelings are hurt, I stop taking things personally that have nothing to do with me, or I realize I don’t beat myself up so badly when I do dumb things or make mistakes.

All these examples are new ways I can choose to live with gratitude (the word used for having a grateful attitude) rather than battitude (my cheeky made-up word for having a bad attitude 😏).

And just in case you don’t get the warm fuzzies from trying this new method, maybe try the pessimists’ version. You know who you are. Those who tend to think of the cup half-empty as a general rule. Never fear…you too can learn to make a new kind of gratitude list!

You get to put all things that “are not” on your pretty little list. Maybe every sentence starts with “At least…”:

At least I don’t have Leukemia anymore

At least I don’t have to work on Thanksgiving

At least “so and so” does have to work on Thanksgiving and won’t be able to come to dinner

At least I have a job

At least I have legs (even if I don’t love the look of them!)

At least my kids aren’t in jail

At least I don’t have to live that way anymore

At least I can FaceTime/zoom with my kids who live across the country

Thank you God, Amen.

Whichever way you choose, even if it’s the grocery list version, just make sure you do it. In your head is good, but on paper is better. I have often caught myself complaining about certain people or situations, only to re-read my gratitude list and realize they are the same! In that case, it’s all about mindset and perspective. Being grateful is always a choice.

So today, I will be that bossy person that strongly urges you to take a few minutes to reflect and create a type of gratitude list that grabs hold of your heart and creates a habit.

“Gratitude enables us to savor the unrecognized good that surrounds us, no matter what the circumstances. As we become accustomed to noticing the positive aspects of our lives, we begin to recognize small, subtle gifts and cloaked opportunities when they appear in our day-to-day experiences.”

IT part 2: You are still not IT

“Write in the messy” she said. Oh, wait, that was me saying that. This morning I am feeling particularly trapped and overwhelmed by the “cares of this world”.

I spoke about this very thing at a women’s retreat this past weekend. In preparing and sharing I was reminded that it is often the little obstacles and annoyances in life that wreak havoc on my serenity: in my case, it’s been a dead battery in my car which is still sitting 20 miles away, leaving essential items in my car, getting picked up by my husband and speeding to pick up the cat from the vet before it closes, somehow locking myself out of my house while draining the hot tub, and working out this morning only to have our internet fail in the middle of my workout, cancelling it abruptly. I have a few interviews today that require internet so I guess I’ll work on that after I go try to jump start my car.

I know. Sad story. Poor me.

I am writing because it seems like the only thing that might turn this day around and get me some perspective. Anyone else have days/weeks/months like this?

So, instead of focusing on all that really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things that do matter, let’s pause together, pray together, and proceed to some truths that will give us some peace.

Last time I wrote (check it out now if you haven’t read the first part of “IT”) I talked about how you are not IT. The object(s) of the IT was whatever character defect, addiction, or signature sin you battle. It may be an area you need to grow in or give up. But IT does not define who you are. That is a job reserved for your Creator alone.

And speaking of God, let’s shift our thinking and declare that, in the full picture, He is the ultimate IT. Not the kind of IT that haunts and shames you. The kind of IT that encompasses the beginning and end of life and of you. There is a Power that has the ability to banish what threatens to harm or master you, and that Power is God. He is the ultimate IT.

I love the image of God being IT. Not just any IT. The one and only IT.

When we play tag, we declare someone IT. And what is that person’s job? To chase down the other players. To capture. To seek out those who are hiding until he finds them. And no human can play the game with that kind of passion, love or relentless searching. Only God is that invested in seeing every last player be found.

And only God has the power to turn your day or your life around. Only God has the power to instill in you the strength you need to turn the drama, the trauma and the minutia of everyday life into something useful, hopeful and beautiful.

I intend to put my money where my mouth is today. I spoke this weekend about how I want to let God have all of me, good and bad. I want Him to use even the seemingly insignificant circumstances, like car batteries and internet services dying, to help me grow up and learn what I can learn in no other way.

God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving IT. And I hate to break it to you, but you are still not IT. 🙂

IT (You are not IT)

Pretty sure IT is one of the scariest movies ever. The movie IT, by Steven KIng, is about a demonic clown who terrorizes a group of kids. Just watching the previews is enough to give me nightmares. And to be honest, that’s the only part of the movie I have ever watched; the previews. I had to google the plot and was surprised that the point of the movie was not just to cause even adults to sleep with the lights on and do a quick check under their bed before hitting the pillow at night.

The IT is actually a physical representation of their individual worst fears. IT stalks and even kills a few of the kids throughout the movie.

If you have been reading my posts for any length of time, you have probably realized that there are a few “plagues of the heart” that I revisit regularly. The chronic diseases of the soul—worry, fear, jealousy, resentment, image management, control—seem to haunt me. I think it would be safe to define them each as an “IT”. In the same way, the ITs in our life seek to steal, kill, and destroy us.

But God….but God has a different plan.

If you take nothing else away from what I write, please, please, please remember that regardless of the what haunts you, YOU are not IT.

You are not defined by your character defects or your fears or your past mistakes. IT may rear it’s ugly head now and then, but IT is not who you are. Don’t let IT do what IT did in the movie; drag you down into the sewer and terrorize or kill you.

I love how Cory Asbury puts it in a song that has been rolling around in my head for the past few weeks: “Failure won’t define me, because that’s what my Father does.” Feel free to substitute “failure” with whatever shortcoming or sin you battle. If you are anything like me, you might have a fairly steady rotation of behaviors or attitudes that you could use to fill in that blank.

But God…but God has a different plan.

God wants to redeem IT. In this life, we may or may not be 100% free from IT, but we can surrender IT and invite God into IT, trusting that He can work all things out for our good (and the good of others) if we let Him (Romans 8:28).

Stay tuned for the next post where we redefine the IT as the Source of all power, unconditional love, and grace.

And YOU are not IT either.

Start talking to yourself

It has recently been confirmed that I am not crazy. Well, at least “not crazy” in the sense that I am not lying in my book when I say over and over and over that “we are not alone and there is always hope.”

This confirmation has come about because I see signs and hear rumblings all around me about how people are struggling with a general sense of unrest, anxiety and irritability. Is it bad to say that I find it a little relieving that I am not the only one struggling?

To put it bluntly: sometimes it’s all too much. The state of the world. The suffering. The diseases. The arguing and fighting among our leaders. The arguing and fighting among our friends and family over our choices. The rise in addiction, depression, suicide and general angst can get to us at a soul-level without us even realizing it moved in and took over our outlook and approach to life.

Recently I have had significant discussions with friends who are feeling overwhelmed with life and its details. The pressure of the details, combined with an overarching sense of unrest in our country and world, lends itself to feelings of being unsettled. Wound up. Exhausted to the core.

This doesn’t mean that there is nothing good to be focused on. Please don’t hear this as a whine. This is where “there is always hope” enters the scene.

While looking into ways to help a friend through some of what I described above, I came across an article that suggested one of the best ideas I have ever heard of to keep our hearts and minds in check—to deflate the balloon of anxiety and frenzy in our head and hearts. It’s “simple, but not easy”, as I have heard it said. See what you think:

“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression (and anxiety) in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self…have you noticed that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”*

Huh?

To unpack that in less poetic language, the author is telling us to stop listening to the lying, degrading, hopeless, faithless, blaming, negative, pathetic, accusing chatter in our own heads and start intentionally speaking words of truth, worship, blessing, grace, love, trust, forgiveness, confidence, gentleness, etc.

The Psalmist, David, does this when he says (to himself): “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? David, put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

He is reminding himself of what he knows to be true, even though he is anxious and depressed. Most of us know the answer to our anxiety. It’s just really hard to get it from our head to our heart or our mind.

The answer is to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves about what we know to be true and keep our focus there.

Replace what we hear with what we say.

Acknowledge to God and to ourselves that we know that His plan is best.

We know He has things under control. We trust that He will redeem our junk if we turn to Him.

We believe that He loves us unconditionally.

We believe He loves those we are worried sick about.

We have faith that He can and will help us if we seek Him.

We receive his gift of grace and are confident in our identity in Him and Him alone.

We accept our circumstances and invite Him to navigate them.

We ask forgiveness for trying to act like we are God.

We repent for putting many other gods before Him in effort to be OK.

We relinquish our trauma and drama into His all-powerful hands.

We surrender whole-heartedly.

And we do this again and again and again until it becomes our default setting. Until the free-floating anxious feelings that once haunted us have fled—been vanquished and evicted from our head where we have allowed them to live rent-free for far too long.

* quote from Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, 20,21. By D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Gray days

Sometimes I get going so fast that I forget that the reason I started writing my blog in the first place was to not only update people on the status of my Leukemia but to help myself “reason things out” on paper. I had an overload of information and some life-altering circumstances going on at the time and was feeling overwhelmed. As I wrote, I could just feel the pressure valve release the tension and fear and confusion. Writing was a tool I used to replace all that junk in my head and heart with clarity and a patient serenity.

I have come to that place again. By the grace of God, it does not involve anything as earth-shattering as Leukemia, but a physical weight from the good and bad of the world and my little “world” has gotten ahold of me. I feel stuck. Tired. Overwhelmed. Aimless. Fearful. Doubting. Distracted. Restless. Anxious. Did I mention tired?

Being a productive person (to a fault), I hate to even admit that at this moment, at 10:45 am on a typical weekday, I am sitting on my couch in my sweats, just staring out my picture window. After a fairly long period of sitting here in a catatonic-like state, I finally remembered that writing—letting my thoughts rapid-fire onto the page through my fingers—has been proven to lighten my load (whether it is real or imaginary).

Why is that exactly?

Good question…more staring out the window and drooling a little…

One reason I think it helps is that it gets me outside of myself and breaks my isolation. I always say that there are dark places in my mind where it’s dangerous to venture alone. I have been venturing there for too long and have gotten myself wound up and spooked at every turn.

When I hash it out with you, I am bringing my imperfections and embarrassing lack of faith, hope and trust out into the open. Only there can it be exposed and lose its power to oppress me.

A couple of weeks ago I was with a group of people who were talking about isolation. At the time, I spoke about it in the past tense—a past-life problem. Today, I realize that maybe God was giving me a gentle nudge to examine my vulnerability level. Just being in the presence of others does not mean that I am being authentic and open with them.

The other reason I think it helps me is that when I share in the messy, before I have myself all “prettied up”, it tends to be a more powerful way to provide comfort and community with other readers who may be in the same boat. It just doesn’t have the same impact when I wait until I have identified 3 simple steps, applied them and come out the other side, healthy and happy.

I did it that way for years. Guess what? No one would have read a word of anything I wrote.

What I have learned through my cancer battle and other life challenges, is that people don’t care that I don’t have it all together yet and they like me better now that the cat’s out of the bag: I am consistently kind of a hot mess. They tend to feel like they are in good company.

So, I have come to realize that sometimes we just have periods of time, in spite of the fact that on the surface things are great, where we feel all the ways I described myself above. Often, during these times, there are fewer stressors than at other times in our lives when we seem to thrive.

Our souls are funny like that.

There’s a lot going on under the surface that gets loosened and uprooted when we least expect or want it to be. It’s important to reflect on this unrest in our spirits. Sometimes there are lessons to be learned or jobs God has for us to do.

But sometimes, we are unsettled for no particular reason and we just need to wait it out for a few days. It’s probably not necessary for one to write a blog about it either, because in a couple of days the gray may lift and this will all sound like a silly rant (which may well describe many of my blogs!).

For now, I will sit and pray and simply ask for God’s help. I’ll ask Him to show me if there is something I need to do or say to ease this heaviness, otherwise, give me the strength to keep walking/getting out of bed and the faith to trust that “this too shall pass.”

Jerk for Jesus, pt. 2 | 10:1 Ratio

Psychologists tell us that for every one negative message we deliver (or receive), there should be 10 positive messages for counterbalance. That goes for teachers, parents, spouses, bosses, etc. That makes us all sound a tad on the emotionally fragile spectrum when you put it that way, but let’s just unpack that truth for a minute. I think we will find it to be pretty accurate.

I mentioned last time I wrote that I was planning to do a whole series on “Jerk for Jesus” (If you missed it, go back and read it now so this will make more sense). I think the fact that I can pull 3 or 4 posts out of that one incident proves the truth above: one negative interaction often outweighs a good amount of positive ones.

Think about some of the ways that truth has rung true in your life. Do you ever latch on to harsh words, a hurtful exchange with a loved one, an act of betrayal from a friend, or a critical review from a boss? Even if it is one tiny blip in an otherwise lovely day or relationship, I too often find myself ruminating on that blip for days or weeks. It can affect my job performance, my self-esteem, my emotional stability, my confidence, and my general outlook on life and relationships.

And yet…And yet….

The fact that I am still thinking about that interaction and writing a blog series on it, highlights another important truth (one that I don’t particularly like): We learn best and grow most from the hard stuff.

If we choose to.

The only reason I started writing is that I got Leukemia. And the only reason I am still writing is that I have a chronic disease of the soul—Common Plagues of the Heart, as I call them—that will provide me good material until I take my last breath.

If we don’t let God redeem the mean, yucky, horrific, stressful, hurtful, painful stuff of life, we are going to be pretty miserable. But God can and will help us use the punch of those experiences to help us grow up and use our life-lessons and perspective to encourage others who are going through the same.

I always say, “we go through what we go through so we can help others get through what we went through”. That’s a catchy paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV) that tells us that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Negative, hard, and hurtful conversations and actions are rampant these days. In that 10-1 ratio, the “1” really packs a powerful punch.

But if we let Him, God can use such situations to remind us that what He thinks of us is the only opinion that ultimately matters (and in case you have been misinformed, He loves you unconditionally), and that He can use situations/words/interactions that someone meant to harm us and turn them into opportunities for growth in us and encouragement to others.

So I say a hearty thank you to “Jerk for Jesus”. I don’t plan to waste this chance to learn a couple of things. More to come. 😘

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