5 Thoughts on Forgiveness (Minus Forgetting)

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:

spiralstairs1. 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.

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A tree shed its bark…oddly beautiful.

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.

IrelandnarniadoorForgiveness 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.

 

Hope Speaks: Wendy’s True Beauty

Courage is contagious. That’s all there is to it.

That’s why once monthly, I’ll be featuring those who also fight hard battles, find hope right there in those seemingly impossible places and then take the scary-beautiful, brave step to share their story.

Introducing my next Hope Speaks author, Wendy. We have been friends for years and have shared multitudes of laughs, movies, Swedish Fish, dinners and even double dates with husbands in tow. More importantly, we have grown together, trading stories about life’s triumphs and challenges, while learning that true beauty is on the inside out.

Here is her courageous story.

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Growing up in a house full of chaos and crisis, it was easy to be overlooked and unnoticed. The only way to really receive attention was to be the perfect daughter or total disaster (and that role was already taken). It would have required something deplorable and extreme to be comparable, but that just wasn’t me. So, I put everything I had into being the ideal daughter. To me, this meant being perfect at everything. Above all else, beauty!

My mother encouraged me to get into modeling. I was enrolled in pageants, model searches, etiquette and acting classes. Although I always felt fear of not measuring up, I was determined to put everything I had into being the best. Besides, all of these things gave me extra time with my mom, and I also liked the attention when she bragged about me. At 14 years old, I was told that I might make it farther in modeling if I was 10 pounds lighter. So, this is when the dieting began, and like everything else, I wanted to do it perfectly. I wanted to make everybody proud, and in a family that struggles with being overweight, I loved the idea of standing out. In less than one week, I didn’t just lose 10 pounds; I lost 20. When my father told me that he admired my willpower, it felt like everything I was trying to achieve was working! It was an amazing feeling to, not only, be noticed but to have my father’s admiration, as well. Soon, I started to believe the answer to everything I needed emotionally was tied to being thin. If diet and exercise was something to be admired, then I was only going to focus on being the best and working the hardest.

Wendy002_0027-1I kept modeling and at 17, was signed with a modeling agency in Milan, Italy. I spent about a year working there and in Munich, Germany. Most people think that it’s this glamorous job, where you get all made up, wear designer clothes and walk down a runway, surrounded by people praising you for your beauty. In reality, it’s very lonely. There is constant competition between girls, making it hard to form friendships on anything but a superficial level. You are constantly critiqued and criticized: she’s too short, too tall, her hips are too wide, shoulders too broad, she’s not thin enough. People talk about your appearance in front of you as if you aren’t even there. I might as well have been one of the articles of clothing I was modeling needing alterations, being worn thin, turned inside out, tossed aside and easily replaced.

Before long, the criticism replaced many, if not all, compliments I received. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see were the flaws left behind by those negative remarks. I had no control over my God-given bone structure, but I could control my weight. The more I lost, the more power I felt. No one could take that from me, and if being beautiful meant being thin, well, I could easily achieve that beauty with self-restraint, dedication, and determination. Soon, the starvation and obsessive exercise regiments were having the opposite effect than in the beginning. Instead of having control over at least one thing in my life, it gained control of me. Now, instead of standing out, I lost sight of who I was and who I wanted to be. I Wendy001_0043bbecame tired, withdrawn and afraid of social situations where food would be involved. Everything in my life became overshadowed by my obsession to be thin, especially my friends, family, and faith. I wasn’t passionate about anything else.

I found very few reasons to smile or laugh, but it became easy to fake it, thanks to all the practice smiling for a camera and acting classes I’d attended. I’d closed off the real me and didn’t let anyone penetrate the wall I’d built. Believing being thin (having anorexia) was what made me who I was. I thought it made me stand out, and without it, I’d be completely lost and more invisible than ever before. I couldn’t let anyone get close to me for fear they might try to take this one thing away, and I’d no longer be beautiful. I had come to believe that all my self-worth came from my appearance, and without it I was worthless.

Then, there were hospitalizations, clinics, therapy and support groups. It took strong feelings of hopelessness to realize that God did not want this miserable life for me. It took one glance in the mirror at age 21, looking at my 5’10” and 100 pounds of bones to see that God had a purpose and a plan for my life, and this wasn’t it.

It is amazing that I went through so much and put my body through so much, yet I came out alive and strong! At one point, I suffered organ failure of the heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs. A doctor even told me I would, most likely, never be able to conceive. But I have learned that God has a plan to take the bad in life and turn it into his glory! Today I am blessed with amazing friends, a wonderful church family, a loving and supportive husband, four beautiful 495_50967726224_2604_nchildren, a life full of patience and grace, along with a very important message to share:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

This year on my 35th birthday during a moment of insecurity over aging, I decided to go through some pictures of a much younger me…before I had gray hairs, wrinkles, and became softer around the middle. I thought by looking at those pictures, I’d feel better about being a year older and all the changes that come along. Instead, I focused on how my life is so much fuller and richer now! If I look in the mirror hard enough, I can see growth and wisdom in the gray hairs I find (I still have a lot of hair to turn and lessons to learn). The wrinkles are reminders of laughter from they good times and of tears from the bad, which are necessary, in order to put the good ones in perspective. The softer tummy is proof of how blessed I’ve been with the gifts of love, laughter, innocence and beauty that exist in all my babies!

Some people say that beauty fades, but I think it just transforms into something much bigger, brighter and meaningful. My family is where I find the most beauty! My children don’t need me to be strong enough to lift their weight but instead their spirits. They also don’t need me to be stick-thin. They would much rather feel safe and secure wrapped in soft cuddles. When I look in the mirror, every change I see is a lesson learned, a prayer met, a friendship built, a victory won, a loss that didn’t destroy me but made me so much stronger and more compassionate.

It is my goal this year every time I feel insecure, to remind myself that appearance is just one small quality that defines beauty. When I think about what I want people to see, it is no longer a tall, long-legged, too-thin girl, who finds her value in her face and figure. Instead as I get older, the other more significant qualities — cherished and devoted wife, loving and courageous mother, loyal friend with a contagious laugh, strong spirit, bright smile and big heart — overshadow physical beauty, which has the least value of all!

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Here are some of my favorite verses that encourage me when I need self- assurance:

  • I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”- Psalm 139:14
  • “Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.”-Psalm 119:96
  • “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”-Romans 12:2
  • “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16
  • “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”-1 Peter 3:3-4

*Wendy Korbel’s writing and photos are used with her permission.

Little Bits of Hope: March

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Are you out there, God?

 

“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!).

A Birthday Surprise

I didn't make this graphic and don't know who did. In the words of a friend, "I love/ hate it."
I didn’t make this graphic and don’t know who to attribute it to (the teacher in me would add an apostrophe) ; however, I agree with a friend who said, “I love/ hate it.”

I’m not sure what I had in mind exactly for the future; I guess more time at the same jobs we’ve loved for years. It was out of my hands, though, as much of life is. Next year, my work will look a little different than it does now.

When we make life decisions, we have to live with them, but sometimes it’s even more difficult when life makes a huge turn, having zero to do with our choices. We are left a little lost and bewildered, wondering something along the lines of…

What did I do to deserve this? (And for me…during my birthday week?)

But after the shock lessens, it ends up having more to do with what we actually do with what happens to us. When things are out of our control, it can feel terribly lonely. Fear creeps in, and there are more questions than answers. Hope? Well, it feels impossibly far away. Trusting God has a plan, roller coaster-like as it may be, brings me some peace even when what’s happening makes zero sense. I’m learning when I feel worried and anxious about exactly what next year will look like, I have to say out loud, “Okay, God, I know you got this.” I am not an expert at it, but I’m finding more and more, um, opportunities to practice it. Hearing myself helps me believe it when time stops at the top of the roller coaster. It’s there, when my eyes are closed, and I’m edging closer to the next breath-stealing, hurtling ride into the unknown.

So, at first, this change felt like a deep, dark question, but it has become instead a big, bright possibility. I don’t know how it all will work; I have no idea. But, I realized something else as peace replaced my initial fear. Somewhere deep down, I have longed for time to pursue some other things but expected that would only happen at retirement (in a million years). Don’t get me wrong; I love my job as it is now, but here it is, this surprising gift placed in my open hands.

 

Why the New Blog Name?

This blog began as A Little More Than I Was.  Now it has grown into Hope Walks In, simply because I write about the messy adventures of life and finding hope in the dark spaces (If you haven’t read this month, click here. It’s the same blog with a new name, and this year I’m focusing on Hope and Healing: Little by Little). 

Always, the unknown exists, bringing times of joy, heartbreak and everything in between. Life does that, over and over — laughter and fun, followed by tough stuff that sneaks in when we least expect it. Each time, we can sink as the waves crash down or learn to swim–asking for help and hope along the way.

Hope walks in all types of ways:
a whisper
earth-shaking like booming thunder
a hint of yellow light or red sky
a line in a song or a poem
a stranger’s words
a prayer
a hug from a loved one
a place you’d least expect  (like on the bumper sticker stuck on the car that cut you off)
the stories of others

While hope doesn’t air lift us from our troubles and place us on a lush island, free of sickness, war, poverty and daily challenges, it helps us to believe this uncomfortable-growing-stretching-sometimes-devastating space may not last forever. Maybe we’re not alone. Maybe there’s more to life than what we see at this moment. Maybe there’s something to learn.

Life happens in all its mystery, full of adventure, sadness and beauty. We find we’re a little more bruised up from life’s challenges, yet somehow wiser, stronger and braver than we knew we could be.

When we let go and search, begging, trusting God and even waiting for it to show up, hope walks right in the door.

Where else do you find hope?

 

 

Light Changes Things

Before I’ve pulled back the curtains and opened the blinds each morning, everything inside my house is draped in darkness. As I walk down the hallway, my eyes rest on dog hair under the couch that seems to multiply overnight and what is left to be organized in Room #3 (Extension cords? boxes of photos? diplomas and yearbooks? Room #3 holds all those items without a specific place when we moved. In August).

Deep breath.

No matter who you are, whether you live alone or with other people, it seems all this work still needs to be done…after all this work already finished. But as the sun comes up, I can’t wait to open the blinds, as many as possible, because the light streaming in changes things. Instantly, the way I see it all is different.

mountains

Just as the morning light brightens the room and brings warmth, if I am grateful for where I am and where I used to be, unrealistic expectations or frustration over what was left undone the day or year before lessens. 2014 was a challenging year, and a lot was accomplished. Much of the difficulty came first along with fear and anxiety over what was coming next. Somehow, I settled into the upheaval after kicking and screaming a bit, knowing we were carried in the arms of God. Always. Attitudes changed and before we knew it, the dread of WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN NOW? became an excited and hopeful What now?!

God has us (even when He feels far away) and will point us in the right direction when we stop kicking Him away. Maybe when situations don’t go as we would like, instead of jumping right into the next opportunity, we take some time to look out from where we are, breathe in some fresh air, and let the light tumble in, flooding us with a new perspective.

Was 2014 a growth year for you? Why or why not? If so, how have you changed because of it?

May your 2015 be filled with health, strength and joy through the challenges it brings.

It Pays to Wait

We moved into a small, rental place after selling our house in August and a few issues popped up.

  1. fridge died the first week
  2. a front door hinge broke so the door would not close (after the new, too-large-for-the-space refrigerator was delivered and hauled away minutes later)
  3. branches fell on the house, leaving a hole in the roof (during heavy rain while we were out of town)
  4. electrical sockets stopped working
  5. the hot water heater went out

And so before long, we wondered if our landlord would stop answering our calls.

We had more than the basics, and we no longer had to fit a mortgage or repairs into our budget; that responsibility belonged to someone else, but even then I had a tough time feeling content. “God, I’m just letting you know, I hate this place,” I complained-prayed aloud when impatience stretched over me like an itchy sweater. Downsizing was the right thing for us, but my vision included moving in and having everything put away within the month…with none of these complications, of course.

We just had to wait and trust that our landlord would do what was best (waiting is hard). It took a while to relax into the goodness of that truth, the gift of someone else paying for all of it. Slowly, though, the right-sized fridge was delivered, followed by a hot water heater with all other repairs done in between. And just as slowly, boxes were unpacked and most of our belongings found a place.

Isn’t it the same when we pray, practically telling God how to solve our problem, whatever it may be? We’d rather be doing something instead of waiting around for Him to get to it (even though he’ll take care of it in the way He thinks is best, when it is best). But, I see over and over again, there is learning during the waiting — learning to trust, learning to be okay when everything around us is not. Many times, the outcome is wildly different than we imagined, and sometimes, it is also better.

So, a couple months after moving into our smaller, rental house I realized gratitude and peace settled around me like fragile bubbles blown from across the room…so quietly, I almost missed it. Even with the challenges, I’m really starting to like this place.

 

On Openness and Seeing Jesus

There was once a little chestnut pony named Openness and a tall, dark horse they called horseSeeing Jesus. One hot day, while roosters crowed across the way and a black and white cat chased a dragonfly, a woman led the horse and the pony around sections of the dusty arena. Each section was marked by a scattered pile of colorful fabric scraps and symbolized something important: one for strengths, another for weaknesses and one for opportunities.

As the little pony and the tall horse walked, their behavior seemed to change from one place to another. “Ta-da,” she said, arms stretched out, as they looked on at all that lay there, her mound of strengths: compassion, warmth, ability to listen among others, and it seemed the pony and the horse were in agreement.

But as she led them to the heap of weaknesses, she noticed Seeing Jesus took a longer path, turning in a circle before making his way there. Openness stood still, breathing it all in: lack of time, insecurity and loneliness, to name a few, but Seeing Jesus only gazed past the pile and patiently waited to move onto the next. Rather than focusing on the shortcomings of the one who led her, the tall, dark horse stood, a strong presence.

The woman moved on to the scattered pile of opportunities (she usually called them problems) and again was slowed down as Seeing Jesus took a longer, winding path. Why is she doing this again? she mused, a little annoyed to tell the truth. And it was there, Openness, the little chestnut pony, shifted from patient to uncomfortable, hooves pawing the earth and head bobbing up and down. As Seeing Jesus stood by, Openness opened his mouth and bit the horse, agitated and ready to move. Still, the tall, dark horse was steady, waiting.

After a while, she led the little chestnut pony and the tall, dark horse to the center of the dusty arena in the midst of the colorful fabric piles. There, Openness nudged up against Seeing Jesus. Where there was agitation minutes before, the little pony and the tall dark horse stood side by side.

While the black and white cat lazily rolled in the dirt, and the roosters squawked past the old oak tree, she thought.

Oftentimes, when she felt out of her comfortable place and irritable, she was more than ready to move to the next thing. Staying with it was hard, she felt afraid, and she couldn’t see anything else, but all the while Jesus was right there, steady and waiting.

Where she spent much of her time mulling over her weaknesses, it would do her good to somehow acknowledge them, keep looking forward and maybe even consider them opportunities. It was just fine if she took the longer route, her own path, and reflected along the way. And with that pile of opportunities: the one who yelled at her in line yesterday, the bills, work, misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations of herself (it was a quite a heap), well, she smiled and thought,

Sometimes it seems impossible, but it takes time and openness to see Jesus.

Where Are the Birds?

cottoncloudsWhere are the birds? I wondered as I drove. It was as if they went further south for the winter, except it was almost summer. I couldn’t remember seeing them for a long time. Strange, especially since I looked for them, high above the stretch of interstate I traveled practically everyday.

As I drove, I noticed the trees had grown green and full, almost overnight. When did that happen? The sky was blue, and the clouds were fluffy like expensive cotton balls, flung in all directions.

It seemed the days had been dark and grey for months.

I felt like I’d been in the sticky mud and murky water of a swampland for quite a while, not getting anywhere fast and in fact, lost. I didn’t know which direction to go because there was no arrow pointing the way, only silence although I’d been begging for something more. Asking and praying and wondering and searching, crying and hurting and desperate (and Googling because that’s easy, instant and sometimes helpful).

The birds always seemed to soar through the air with powerful wings, weightless and graceful as they circled the trees and played above the interstate, heavy with cars. As a kid, I had heard about God taking care of all of us, even the tiny sparrows. And if he takes care of them, he cares even more about us and holds us with his great big hands. I guess seeing the birds reminded me of that.

But if God was holding me in the palm of his hand, it sure didn’t feel like it. I felt left and lonely, afraid and anxious. No! What if that’s not enough for me? What if I need more than that? Why are YOU taking so long? I don’t know what else to do. I cried angry tears and felt a little guilty for talking to God like that.

But I also felt a little relieved.

Heard.

Maybe even understood.

And then I saw a single bird swooping around the deep blue sky with cotton ball clouds, and my face felt hot as it hit me. It wasn’t the absence of beauty but the heaviness of life that had been my focus.

The birds hadn’t left; I’d stopped looking. My mind was too full of the what-ifs, whys and hows to even notice what was around me, yet the beautiful scenery had been there all along. Just like God, who holds me in the palm of his hand when I’m angry about being lost in the swampland, waist-deep in the mud, with no arrow pointing the way.

 

Miracle in a Teeny Tiny Package

Here’s a God-turning-bad-into-good story because I think we need some positives these days!

My younger sister was expecting a baby near the end of June. She was in a minor wreck a couple weeks ago, drove away with only damage to her car but felt fine. Thinking she should check in with her OB, she called and let her know what happened. Her OB fussed at her, saying she must go to the emergency room ASAP, and so she went.

Thank God she did because her liver enzymes had been fluctuating at very high then very low levels, and her blood pressure was high. The next afternoon, she was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and then borderline HELLP syndrome, which is scary-dangerous for momma and baby. Late that night, the doctor performed an emergency c-section, and all are doing better than expected.

My three pound niece is spending the first weeks of her life in the NICU, but she is alive and so is her mom. As you can guess, we are thanking Jesus for his protection and for things like fender benders these days.

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