7.25.2017

The simple secret of relationships

Fourth grade was brutal. At least the other-kids-in-class part of it (is there any other?). That year I learned what a horrible person I was (!), how unlikable I was, and how ‘sticks and stones’ weren’t the things that drove painful wounds deep into my heart. I learned how important it was to carefully calculate my words and actions, knowing that no matter what I said, a mean arrow could fly straight back at me from the class bully. She was my discovery that there were people who didn’t play according to the ‘nice’ rules I’d been taught.

In distress and bewilderment, I would pour out my trouble to Mom after school. What do you do when you can’t play the game according to their rules? What had I done to bring her hatred on me?

And Mom would always come back to the same thought in her response. “Honey, we don’t know why she’s acting that way. It might not be because of something you’ve done. Maybe she’s unhappy inside and is taking it out on you. But the most important thing is not what she’s doing to you, but how you act back. Think about it—how would you want to be treated if you were her? Answer that question and you'll know what to do. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’!"

She was, of course, quoting Jesus’ famous words from Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”(NASB)

It didn’t make sense, being nice to someone who was deliberately hateful to me. But Mom wanted me to understand the simple secret of relationships—show love. Act with courtesy, respect, kindness, honor, patience, generosity, forgiveness. All the same things I want and need from people. And God’s promise is that following His example of giving grace and mercy to others when it’s not deserved will bring us great reward (Luke 6:35).

In my stumbling child way, I began to learn how to forbear and act out the Golden Rule. Things improved with my antagonist by the end of the year, and with each little victory, I began to see that God’s way diffused trouble with people in a way nothing else could. It was a process of learning to say no to my selfish need to be right or first, my desire to win or to taste the sweetness of vindication.

Jesus clearly taught us that the Golden Rule is the essence of love--giving, putting the other person first, being willing to give up our 'rights' to ourselves in a situation for the good of someone else. Isn't that how we'd want to be treated? If the tables were turned right now and we were in their place, what would we need? Patience? Understanding? Kindness? To be forgiven?

Our days are filled with choices to love or not. What if it were me who made a mistake in traffic and needed forbearance? What if it were me in the store needing to hurry through the checkout line? What if it were me who received bad news? What if I had a bad night and was struggling to focus at work? What if I was dealing with a terrible heartache and took it out on you? What if I was a child without the benefit of wisdom and experience and I needed the grace given me to try yet again?

It’s so easy to fall into a me-first-my-way attitude with people, but just as I learned in fourth grade, it really doesn’t achieve anything but more hurt and divisiveness. Mom was right (of course!). The secret to living well with others is to think about how I’d want to be treated—and then do it!

4.28.2017

Grace-living


I'm learning in this unusual season of care-giving a life lesson I hope I'll never forget.

As a type-A-box-checker, I love a list, a plan, a logical progression of things. I love to know what's coming, and will come up with a plan for any and everything. (Can anyone relate?)

Problem is, this creates all kinds of personal stress--because as often as not, life doesn't go the way I'd like it to. Then I get frustrated, and might go try plan B, which may or may not work. Then, I might even get sick!  (Stress does that, you know.)

Of course, the Lord has been working with me for a long time about this besetting sin. (Yes, I'd call it a sin because if I'm managing things, guess Who isn't?)  I've learned often in the past—and keep forgetting—the value of "letting go and letting God.”

But this season of my life has required a "letting go" way beyond anything I've ever lived. I've been walking not only on the unfamiliar ground of care-giving, but there are very few days that go according to 'schedule.'

So what I'm learning is this. When I charge into my day with my plan and thought carefully laid out, it may or may not work.  If it doesn't, which is often, things just go south.

BUT...when I begin my day asking the Lord to orchestrate and order every part of it, and then LEAVE IT with Him, guess what?  I have a peaceful day filled with little God-touches that show how happy He is to take care of everything.

It'll be small things. I'm scrambling to find something for dinner and I discover a meal's worth of something in the freezer. I can't see how I can fit X into my schedule today, then it's canceled. Or my to-do list looms huge at the start of the day, but by late afternoon everything somehow got done and I can’t account for it.

A fresh lesson in this letting-go-letting-God happened recently. We were finally able to take a much needed mini-vacation to San Diego, and I had spent three full evenings online (read: waste of time) trying to find the right hotel at the right price in the right location. By late the third evening, not finding what we needed, I was exhausted and fighting a headache. In frustration, I finally prayed, "Lord, I just can’t spend any more time on this. You have the perfect place for us to stay, so I'm turning this whole thing over to You. Please arrange whatever is best."

A short while later, my husband remembered a special deal he’d forgotten about, found it online, and had our reservations done in short order--the straight, simple, perfect answer. Wonderful! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.

So that's what I think daily living by grace is all about. Living in the ability and power of Jesus in every situation, no matter how small. Stopping and committing each need to Him, trusting Him to give the wisdom, provision, direction, whatever, then waiting for Him to take care of it. And thanking Him for yet another evidence of His very personal love and utter faithfulness.

I'm learning. Just think what a life lived every day in this freedom would look like! It’s my new aim.

7.26.2016

Helping someone in grief


I recently went to a community talk on grief in an effort to help my mother-in-law navigate this time of sorrow and depression. She not only lost her beloved husband of 62 years, but also her vitality, sense of purpose, and independence. Add to that some debilitating health issues and you can imagine the grace it takes to daily live in such a place.

We have tried over the past year to encourage, love, and provide for her, but the bottom line is...there's nothing we can do to change her pain. We want to fix it, but she's on her own journey of loss and all we can do is come alongside, pray, help as we’re able, and leave the process to the Lord.

I was helped by the lecture.  It relieved me of the sense of guilt that I haven't done enough, that I've failed her and the Lord in some way. It armed me with some fresh understanding of both what she's going through and how we can better support her.

If you’re grieving a loss, or helping someone else who is, here are a few thoughts from the talk. Maybe they’ll help.

About grief


  • The symptoms and process of grieving can come with all major changes in life.
  • Grief is a massive stressor, both physically and psychologically. Symptoms may include: exhaustion, shock and numbness, decreased immune response, panic attacks, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to function, preoccupation, obsessive thinking, escapism, frustration, hostility, change in sleep patterns, decreased intellectual ability, and social withdrawal; being distracted, depressed, sad, lonely, angry, fearful; avoidance and over-busyness.
  • There’s no way out of grief; one must go through it. It is exhausting, both emotionally and physically. Deep tiredness and inability to function well is typical, requiring every inner resource to move through grieving. It is hard work.
  • Everyone’s journey is different. The process is unique for each one and should not be expected to ‘wind up’ on any timetable (”A year’s gone by, you’re feeling better, right?”—wrong).
  • Grief is isolating, life-changing, and long term. The work of grief is to process through it and learn how to move on with a new life paradigm. It is possible and there’s good on the other side.

How we can help someone in grief


  • Be patient. Be patient. Be patient.
  • Listen to what they’re processing. Listen with heart, listen with patience—they’ll repeat themselves but it's part of the process.
  • Avoid the temptation to speak platitudes and provide ready answers—that’s our way of dealing with the discomfort of being near their grief. Listen.
  • Don’t be afraid to feel the pain with them. This is so uncomfortable for most of us, but is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
  • Recognize that they’re not only facing deep loss but also changes of routine in almost every area of life. They might need help finding a new way to live.
  • Effective grieving should not be done alone. 
  • Recognize that the grief process is one of ups and downs, good days and bad days. But the gift of time lessens the extremes and it will get better.

As Christians, we have the Lord’s comfort and power to get us through these hard times. There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that  promise us His strength, understanding, and hope. If you have lost a loved one who was a believer in Jesus, the Lord tells us that we will see them again and be with them for all eternity (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). Praise God! The separation is only temporary.

5.06.2016

When life gives you lemons...



…you know the rest—make lemonade!

That’s what we’re doing around here right now, making the best of a challenging situation. My husband has been laid low--literally!--the past seven weeks with a back injury. Thankfully, he’s getting better, and we’re appreciating in a whole new way the little privileges of life we tend to take for granted…like sitting, tying your own shoes, going for a walk.

He’s reread a book on the power of praise during this time that has really been a gift to us.  You tend to forget that God wants you to be thankful in everything when you’re drowning in the circumstances and pain of trouble.

It seems a contradiction, but as we’ve talked and worked to implement this, we’ve been newly reminded of the power and benefit of praise and thanksgiving.  We’ve been able to stay in peace and not succumb to the negative.

So I'll share with you some sips of our lemonade!


Giving thanks to the Lord in everything…

…reminds us of the fundamentals:  He made us, He redeemed us at great cost, and He is working out His good master plan for our lives no matter what it looks like.  [Romans 8:28]

…keeps us out of the pit of discouragement and despair. [Psalm 40:1-3]

…cuts off complaining (which God hates).  [Numbers 14:29]

…reaffirms our faith and strengthens it.  [Philemon 6]

…is a powerful weapon against the attacks of the enemy on our minds and hearts.  [Psalm 28:6-7]

…is part of worship.  [Psalm 100]

…is an act of faith, and that's what pleases God.  [Hebrews 11:6]

…declares that we trust His leadership, wisdom, and love--no matter what it looks like or feels like.  [Proverbs 3:5-6]

…keeps us squarely in the Kingdom of light, not darkness.  Darkness is where death-things rule and I want no part of it.  [Colossians 1:12-13]

…gives God the freedom to work His creative wonders out of a difficult situation. That's what He does! That's what He's good at!  [II Chronicles 20:21-22]

…keeps the door open to miracles.  [Luke 17:11-19]

…brings peace to your heart. These things are bigger than we are and we cannot fix them. Casting our care on Him in a spirit of thankfulness and praise releases the problem to Him--right where He wants it to be.  [Philippians 4:6-7]

…declares what I believe He's going to do, and that's how we obtain the promises--believing what is true in the spirit even though we don't see it in the flesh.  [Hebrews 11:1]


So whatever lemons you’ve been dealt today, I offer you this good reminder. It works!


Be thankful in all circumstances, 
for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

4.22.2016

Holding steady

One of the things I'm often challenged in is steadiness.  My mood or frame of mind can be influenced by lack of sleep or physical issues, stress and feeling overwhelmed, situations that feel edgy or out of control.  I want to be like what this blog is titled - still waters!  Unflappable, spiritually-minded, steady.  All the time.

It is clearer than ever to me that the battles of life are won or lost in my mind.  Discouragement with myself or situations can have a completely deflating effect, robbing me of motivation to do the right thing even when I don't feel like it.

While I'm better than I used to be, there's lots of room for improvement. It's one of the great goals of my life (and no doubt God's for me!).

I know that steadiness comes directly from my relationship with the Lord.  He is my source of peace, order, confidence, strength, etc.  And that means this unshakable quality I desire is spiritual in nature, not a product of perfect circumstances. It's ever the battle between the mind of the flesh and the mind of the spirit, isn't it? The apostle Paul said it perfectly:
So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.                Romans 8:6  NLT
There's the secret--letting the Holy Spirit take control. For me, that means really believing that when I ask Him to take care of a situation, He does.  God's grace (His supernatural ability) is specifically given for whatever the need, so if I can stay focused on that provision, instead of my issues, I will stay steady.  Working on that!

How about you?  How do you hold yourself steady in the daily struggles of life?

4.10.2016

"Leave to thy God"

This morning, the wonderful words from one of my most favorite hymns "Be Still, My Soul" came to mind.  During a time of great turmoil in my life, this ministered deeply to my heart, calming and settling me with God's peace.  Read through the lyrics here, and see if it doesn't do the same for you. 

Be Still, My Soul

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul, thy best, thy heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul, the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul, when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
Katharina von Schlegel, 1752; trans. by Jane Borthwick, 1855 (Ps. 46:10)
 

2.17.2016

Re-engaged



I am called to write.

That fact has been both a joy and a torment.  A joy when I could be engaged in learning and growing in the craft, writing and expressing the things that were on my heart.  But a torment when life intruded on my time to write, distracting me from my focus and rendering me unable to work with words.


Such have been the last few years.  I had been steadily writing around the edges of the time given to homemaking and homeschooling, making some progress.  God had given me a big vision for a children's Bible study book, and I'd gotten a good start on it.  But a few years of huge life issues completely sidelined me.  My writing quietly folded itself away.


By last summer, my frustration level was at an all-time high.  I was grieving the loss of this dream and looking to the future in despair that I’d ever be able to really write again.  I told the Lord more than once that He would do me a favor and just Take.It.Away.  I could at least be at peace.


Then last fall, I started feeling some deep stirrings of unexplained hope.  Words began to come to me daily, from many different sources—”renew the vision,” “new beginnings,” “resurrection of dead dreams.”  I know from experience that this kind of thing is no accident.  God was gently stirring the waters and aiming to redirect my negative and non-productive thinking.  Lysa TerKeurst calls these “limiting beliefs,” those things that hinder you from moving into all that God has for you.


I’ve been at this place before—the crisis of faith.  Years ago, my dreams to have a baby went through the fires of testing.  I’d suffered long with a painful physical condition that threatened my ability to conceive, but I also had had a clear promise from the Lord in His Word that I would be the “happy mother of children.”  It was a rocky road though; several surgeries, several miscarriages, the last of which was particularly brutal at half-term.  Brokenhearted and profoundly disappointed, I was so done with the whole thing.  Pregnancy was a mine field and I gave up.


I stayed at that place of deep depression for a year and a half.  But one day in my quiet time with the Lord, I felt He was saying, “We have some unfinished business.” He was right.  Nothing from His side had changed.  I knew I would either have to take hold again by faith, or let it go and know that by so doing, I’d never see my answer.  It was terrifying, considering my history.  But I believe His grace made me able to re-engage once again.  I did, and long story short, our miracle daughter was born “in the fullness of time.”  (All glory to His Name!)


So back to the writing.  I could see that a similar principle was at work here.  If the “gifts and callings of God are without repentance,” (Romans 11:29) meaning He doesn’t take them back, then nothing had changed from His side.  I had to get moving, demonstrate my faith in the face of seeming impossibilities (my frozen writer’s brain, time to write), and change my thinking and words. 


So instead of, “Why start? I’ll never be able to finish,” or “Forget it, it’s not even reasonable to think I could write a book at this season of my life”—I began to state what I was asking and believing God to do.  “I am a prolific writer.  The Holy Spirit is quickening my mind, giving me words.  He is helping me to use my hours wisely.  He is arranging my days so I’ll have slots of time to write.  I am doing the will of God, therefore He will give me good success.”


It’s funny.  When I began to shake off my “limiting beliefs” and start believing that God was giving this dream back, things began to change.  He gave me a whole new, enlarged vision not only for my book but for all of my writing—for His Kingdom work.  He is arranging my daily life so that I have actually have chunks of time to brainstorm and redesign and write.  It’s glorious!  I feel like what Eric Liddel said in Chariots of Fire, “when I run, I feel His pleasure.” When I write, I feel His pleasure.


So I’d like to encourage you today.  If you have a dream that has died, but it just doesn’t let go of you, maybe God wants you to be willing to take hold again. To believe that it’s His joy and delight to fulfill in you all that He made you to be and do.  Don’t stop short!  It might be really hard, that reaching out and taking hold again.  But He will help you, as He has me.  As Christians, we know that in all things we live by faith.  Your faith pleases and honors the Father, and is the means by which you’ll see the “abundantly above and beyond all you can ask or think” come to pass.


Faith…re-engaged!