Sometimes when you’re searching for answers,
you just have to watch and wait.
Other times you have to dive right in,
even if you get dirty in the process.
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
We need each other.
I love how we can be drawn to those who are most unlike us from varying walks of life, job situations and backgrounds. We juggle the joys and weightiness of the day-to-day, while none of us has it altogether (as much as we’d like to). We speak truth to one another, extend grace when we mess up and cheer one another on when jumping or easing into a new adventure.
We fill our too-short time with catching-up stories and laughter but also our failures and worries, fears and struggles when there is too much real life. And just like that, the isolation we somehow settled into dissipates and renewed connections soften our hearts (harder only seconds before). Friendship filled with transparency builds bridges from one soul to the other, doesn’t it? There is just something about the closeness and comfort friends bring to the realities of life.
We need each other.
What are you holding onto? You know, that nagging thing you or someone else said or did yesterday, ten years ago or even when you were a kid? You might not wake up thinking about it, but it crosses your mind at least once a week. You spend more time mulling over it than you’d like to admit. Yes, that thing that has its grip on you so tight it hurts all over again when you’ve had a stressful day or are feeling less than stellar.
I grew up thinking forgive required forget and said those difficult, confusing words,
I forgive you,
but soon felt like a failure when I thought about [insert the same old/ new issue here]. And now as an adult, playing certain offenses over in my mind like rewinding scenes in a movie brings back angry, hurt feelings. My body knows this and tells the world I am not fine by sending red, hot splotches up my neck and face. As a little girl, I learned to act as if all was okay, denying my true feelings and stuffing them deep down so no one could see (and I didn’t recognize them). So many years later after getting married, those long gone emotions gushed to the surface and exploded. I had to save my relationship and find a way to heal.
I am far from an expert on this, but I have learned some things after reading book after book. Some books didn’t help, some preached forgetting (and I tossed them as soon as I could), but some made the uncomfortable subject seem do-able.
5 things about forgiveness I wish I knew as a kid:
1. Forgiveness is a process. Saying “I forgive you” aloud (to the person or yourself) is just the beginning. It takes work. Writing it down, telling others about it, even speaking it aloud if you’re the only person around reaffirms your decision to begin the process to forgive.
2. Forgiveness is a continual peeling of something unnecessary that hold us down. It reminds me of a a snake, shedding its skin or a tree, leaving a peeled off pile of bark on the ground each year. We might have to forgive that same offense again (and another time or 10) when we feel all those old emotions.
3. Forgiveness does not excuse the offense, deny it or even necessarily forget it. Instead it’s freedom for the forgiver from that video stuck on rewind and a heavy load of anger and bitterness.
4. Sometimes forgiveness might involve telling that person who hurt you, but it can come in writing as well. I might be wrong, but I don’t believe it requires reconciliation. Oh, I have struggled with this (I’ll blame the silly forgetting idea). I had to learn boundaries are necessary and healthy.
5. For me, forgiveness requires talking to God and then laying all the mess out on the table. When I choose words I think he likes, I feel like I’m pretending. When I say it like I honestly feel it (Dear God, this sucks and I hate that this is so hard. I’m afraid of how I’ll feel and what this means. I’m not sure I can do it, etc), it’s altogether different. I feel heard, understood and finally out of hiding.
Forgiveness brings peace where there was ongoing turmoil. Rather than constant anger and stress that can bring on health issues and plain, old unhappiness, it opens the door to receive peace and joy. Who wouldn’t want that?
Want to read more about this? Check out Getting Rid of the Gorilla for true stories of people like you and me, who found freedom by dealing with that thing.
After spending hours at the coffee shop that Saturday, we hugged goodbye and went to our separate cars, reluctant to start the next errand on the to-do list. Minutes later, my friend knocked on my window saying her car battery was dead. We each located our jumper cables when one man and then another asked if we needed help. Oh, no, no thanks…we got this, and we started talking through our plan (with nervous laughter). The red cable connects to the red on the battery and black to black; just don’t touch the ends together. We can totally do this.
But when I lifted the hood, we had another problem. Apparently, a short, fat hose was left unattached by a mechanic who “fixed” my car a month ago. Resting on top of my battery, the hose looked as if it was an extra, but of course it wasn’t.
We had parked diagonally from one another, but no matter how I maneuvered my car, the jumper cables would not reach. Seriously wanting to handle this ourselves (what a story to tell our husbands later!), I began to realize we would not be able to get her car started unless we let someone help. We used the tools and the (limited) knowledge we had, but that was not enough. So, minutes later, when a third guy offered to help, we watched as he connected our two sets of jumper cables to make the distance between our vehicles. I stood back watching, grateful for this man who knew it was okay to do this…but I felt disappointed. This was not quite turning out to be the story of the time we saved the day with only one another and some jumper cables. Guy #3 even re-attached the “extra” hose, since unlike me, he knew its purpose and where it was supposed to go. As we thanked him profusely and he walked away, I realized we never even asked his name.
I don’t know about you, but I want to figure things out by myself and be independent. Still over and over, I realize I have to face my limitations, reach out, ask for help and then be humble enough to accept it when it’s offered.
So, I did. I have learned this is the air intake hose, and it’s back where it’s supposed to be (thank you, Guy #3).
There’s something about being up before the rest of my world awakes. Birds gather in the trees and flutter this way and that, seeming to chat about where to find the best morning snacks. I leave the warmth of my house with dogs in tow, and the chill of the winter air whips at my face. Still, I am warmed by all I experience around me, the things I’d miss in the busy-ness of the late afternoon. I notice intricate, frosty patterns on my windshield, soon to melt with the rising sun, while the usual roar of the interstate traffic is only a slight hum in the background. My dogs happily lick the moisture off the grass, leaving a winding trail of paw prints behind them. And I breathe in the chilly air, which seems fresh and alive with the newness of the day.
I love the quiet and stillness of the morning. Here, I get away from the weightiness of the day that ended hours before and will soon begin in a frenzy all over again. This is when I relax into the good that surrounds me. In this stillness, my thoughts are uncluttered and my mind moves towards God and his love for his creation.
I heard someone say God knows exactly what speaks to us and hands it to each of us in a way that we can understand. I’d never considered that before, but it makes sense when I think about what I believe about God. We are his works of art. He knows exactly the number of hairs on your head and mine (which is different before and after a shower and hair drying and all of that getting ready, so he’s really something). He is always ready for us to tell him about just everything. He has time for us to pour out our sometimes endless web of worries, fears, hurts and doubts but also listen as we gush about all the good. And he doesn’t just act like he’s listening.
So if it’s true–if he truly knows what gets to us, he speaks to one person through relationships and another through music or art. He speaks to others through written words, quotes, verses and a multitude of other ways at just the right time. It’s many of these things for me, but in these early morning moments, I feel his love in the stillness. And when the night breaks into day, and the sunrise is a mixture of purples and pinks mixed with blue, I choose to believe he’s saying to me and to all who marvel at the beauty of nature,
“This is just for you.”
Just For You was first published on Hope Walks In on 2.9.14.
Once a year, I hate Sports Illustrated. To be clear it’s not that I hate it as it is, I only groan when the SI Swimsuit Issue makes an appearance, landing in my mailbox addressed to my husband. Year #1, when I saw it, I rolled my eyes and left it in my car for a month, trying to decide what to do with the thing. Do I burn it, tear into shreds, recycle it, WHAT? I threw it in a filthy dumpster but then after a month, I felt like a child who trashed a failing grade and told Brian (who tried his best to understand…before bursting into laughter).
The following year, I got the mail after a particularly trying week and there it was– gorgeous woman-girl in a barely-there bikini all spread out with pages and pages of more just like her inside. Oh, and glorious day, it was a double issue, but feeling I’d matured a little in this area, I tossed it in my car and only waited a week this time. And then, I actually told my husband the magazine arrived. “Why do they keep sending me this?” he laughed. Oh, and I wondered the same thing (feeling ridiculous, as if I shouldn’t care). Truth was, it was the only decent magazine he could purchase with his leftover airline miles before expiration and most of the issues actually went straight to recycling anyway. Alas, I brought it inside with the other junk mail, leaving it on the counter for Brian. It stayed there all weekend. Then, “I’m throwing all this in the recycling bin,” I said, stealthily directing my eyes at him and wondering if he would object. He didn’t, so there it went. At times, I wondered if he went out to rescue it, but I didn’t act on it, and the recycling materials were carried away into oblivion days later.
Ah, the issues that come with learning to be comfortable in your own skin. Emotional stuff seems to rear its ugly head a little over time until there is no choice but to deal with it. Body issues come up for all kinds of reasons, but I looked at that magazine as something that highlighted what I was not and could never be. I am not 5’11” and 110 pounds. I am not tan with my Scots-Irish, freckly skin. I do not have long, flowing hair. My eyes tend to be squinty when I am the happiest. I am not as confident as those women appear to be, Photoshopped or not. Sexual abuse is part of my story, and I have wrestled with my body image as a result. Growing up, I wanted the acceptance and compliments of others, but at the same time, I did not want that kind of attention from men. I felt sick (and maybe a little jealous?) that women could be so free and confident to show off their body. Then, I felt nauseated that women knew this magazine was primarily used for men’s viewing pleasure and modeled for it anyway. I mean, where’s their self-respect? Or is that how they respect themselves? I’m not sure that will ever make sense to me.
Here’s the thing. When we have emotional hurts and push them aside over and over, well, they come up again and again in some way until we’ve done something about it. When we reach out, identify what it is and admit it, then we can start facing our fears of the worst and begin seeking help for it. AND as author Cec Murphey says,
“Our mind may be strong, but our body reacts later in response to stress, trauma and negativity.”
So, holding onto emotional hurts can actually wreak havoc on our body. Research actually shows a link between our life experiences and our emotional and physical health. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study in the 1990’s shows a connection to later sickness if certain experiences had been a part of early childhood (abuse, neglect, family dysfunction). And who doesn’t have family dysfunction in some way or another as part of their story? Constant stress raises our cortisol levels and that can create gut issues. Since our gut is the core of our immune system, health problems can arise.
So what can we do? Give to ourselves what we believe has been lost or desired from others all along: mercy, grace, forgiveness, acceptance. If we can’t offer those to ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to? Read on your particular subject, say it out loud, reach out for the help of friends or a counselor. Pray. Know that it’s never as easy as deciding to change. When I sought a counselor for help, she told me something I have used all these years: healing is a slow, long, spiraling process. Sometimes our unhealthy responses spiral back around, seemingly out of the blue, but there has been change there, whether we see it or not.
For example–year #2, I was irritated the Swimsuit Issue addressed to my husband still bothered me, but I had less anxiety over it. And you know what? Brian just told me he even moved the magazine in the recycling bin to mess with me (he’s such a joker), but I didn’t even go back to check.
And THAT was progress.
“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the room.” ~Simone Weil
“Yes, Father, I still believe in your goodness, despite what I see with my eyes;
Yes, Father, I still believe you have a plan for my life, despite what I feel in my heart;
Yes, Father, I still believe my best days are ahead of me, despite what my enemies and friends and family and loved ones say to me;
Even if you ask me to live in mystery the rest of my life, I will wake up every day and say yes, Father, I still believe in you (page 154). “
When I was a teenager I went to a Christian camp, where the theme was Where is God When Bad Things Happen? He’s On His Throne. Although, I wanted that to be enough for me, I couldn’t believe it was that easy. And if it was, what did it really mean? To me, it sounded like God was aloof in his safe place, while all of us down here really lived our crazy stories and hurt in unimaginable ways. What kind of God was he anyway? I felt alone.
As an adult, I eventually picked up Second Guessing God: Hanging On When You Can’t See His Plan by Brian Jones. If, like me, you’ve cried and begged, angrily wondering where God is when devastating things continue to happen every second, practically every place in the world, take a look at this relate-able book. His prayer (above) is so honest, choosing to trust when he can’t make sense of all that’s around him; it’s refreshing to to have an example like this, since he leans toward God, when times are mysterious and scary. Written with humor and transparency, Brian is a Jesus follower, who actually admits he does not know all the answers and lays out his struggles with what he sees around him. No worries, I’ll share my copy with you but will expect it back at some point (it’s just that good!).
Want to find out more? Click on these links from some experts: