inspiredness TM

Copyright 2013


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Comfort Zones

by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Where are your comfort zones? Are they centered in Christ? Or do they center around having all the control to yourself? Do they center around fear, worry and unbelief that the Lord won’t pull through for you?

For most of my life…okay, all of my life…I have known nothing more and nothing less than the comfort zones that hold me in a place of worry, fear, mistrust, unbelief, and total self-control and control of others (and my environment).

The fear of failing has always been one of my central comfort zones. What will people think if they see me fail? I will feel utter humiliation, embarrassment, and I know I’ll be a let-down. I won’t try again because I don’t want to fail again; I don’t want to go through the stomach-wrenching emotions again. Even as I write this my heart is racing and my insides feel like they are about to come out! Why would anyone want to stay in a comfort zone when it’s not a comfort?! Because stepping out of those boundaries means you have to do something uncomfortable, something foreign and something scary. Some people thrive on the adrenaline of doing things like this but others, like myself, can only see the failure in it all and that scares me to my bones.

Something that is helping me to reframe my thoughts on fear and failure is a bit I read from a book titled “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before…Stressing Out!” by Lauren E. Miller. Lauren has spoken at my MOPS group a couple times and has such an inspirational story and a strong, healthy presence.

#47 Failure is a perspective

Did you know failure is simply a label you use when you don’t get certain desirable outcomes in life? When something happens in life that you feel is insufficient or falls short of your expectations or assumptions of how it was supposed to be, from your perception, you often label it as failure; this can lead to “less than” feelings about yourself or others.

If you can watch for this in life and choose to observe yourself making these kinds of choices (to label undesirable outcomes as failure), you give yourself the opportunity to reframe into a positive. Whenever you choose to reframe any negative response into a positive, you open yourself up to creative solutions.

Often you say to yourself, “I can’t do that!” This automatic response instantly aligns yourself with your experience of failure. How about saying, “I just don’t know how to do that yet, but I have the confidence in my ability to learn.” Words are powerful to help you link to your God given strengths and abilities to overcome.

Part of moving through those moments in life that you label as “failure” is to practice the prayer of serenity. “God grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to accept the things I can the wisdom to know the difference.” Any time you resist what is before you, you set yourself up for remaining stuck in life. Yes, you will remain in a place of emotional paralysis each time you do accept the things you cannot change…

Know that whatever label you chose to define a situation in life will directly affect the outcome.

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God of Wonders

Here in Colorado it is blazing hot, literally. Mountains, forests, homes are on fire. People are being forced out of their homes, memories are burning. I wake up with the smell of fire in my nose, the kids are coughing in their rooms. The street outside our house has a faint brown haze over it. And to think we aren’t even that close to the fires! What must those people who live at the base of the mountain feel like? Are their lungs burning? Kids ready for summer and running through the sprinklers stop, shade their eyes from the sun and watch as their surroundings are ablaze. It’s a scary time here in Colorado.

Rain drops have fallen only a few times in the last few weeks and most times they have evaporated before hitting the ground. Our grass is crunchy underfoot, dust under the swing set. It’s too hot to go outside, yet at our house it is too hot to stay inside as well. At lunch time it’s on average 90 degrees…inside, and about 100 degrees outside. About 10 years ago I would’ve packed up my things and headed to a cool library, bookshop or the pool at my former health club not returning to my house until after dark. These days, with 4 little kids I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out ways to keep them cool. I’m constantly worrying about whether they’re getting enough water, whether the littlest one is smothering in her bed during her nap. Images flood my head of walking into her room to find that her breath has left her hot little body. I can’t do this to my kids!

We have been spending a lot of time (and a lot of gas money!) in the car trying to stay cool. Driving and sitting, staying cool. We’ve been blessed by wonderful friends inviting us to their cool houses, acquaintances inviting us to their child’s birthday party at the local jumpy castle place. All the while my God-loving husband prays that someone takes mercy on us and invites us over while he is away at work for 48 hours at a time. His prayers are answered and that mom from the jumpy castle place walks up to me, gives me a card with her phone number and address and asks us to come over anytime! Praise God!

After all the driving, the heat, grouchy kids fighting from the minute they wake up I have no energy left in my brain or my body to do much. Yesterday, I resolved to keep all the kids down in our basement and stay home all day, even if it killed me! But something (God) told me to do otherwise and I called the mom from the jumpy castle place. Not wanting to burden her with taking care of my children at her house I packed up as much food as I could find and headed over to her place. She was amused at everything I brought…seems pretty normal to me! Then as I was changing the littlest one’s diaper on the floor of her family room she sat down and told me she had something for me.

A bit confused and taken aback I listened as she explained. She and her husband left the jumpy castle place after her only daughter’s 5th birthday…and they prayed for our family. They prayed that God’s will be done. She then handed me a gift card for $600 to Home Depot…for a swamp cooler! I looked at her, stunned, speechless and began bawling my eyes out! The minute I began to thank her she said, “Please don’t thank me, thank God…this is His will.”

Praise the Lord! He answers prayers according to His will. I have prayed many times for specific things only to be disappointed when my prayers weren’t answered accordingly. Those specific things weren’t in God’s will, however, and sometimes I later have learned why…and other times I am still wondering why. This is just one of many “wake up calls” that I have received from the Lord…He is listening, He does love me, He will take care of me and His will be done!

The mountains above the Colorado Air Force Academy on fire.

And to all those in Colorado Springs and elsewhere I am praying for you.


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Our Exquisite Weaver

Lace

Lace (Photo credit: NoDivision)

A friend of mine was recently in the hospital for about a week and in the midst of her pain (physical and emotional) something spoke to her. This excerpt is from the book Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. Such a beautiful illustration of our exquisite and faithful “Weaver”!

“The city of Brussels is known for its exquisite lace. In the famous lace shops, there are certain rooms devoted to the spinning of the finest and most delicate patterns. These rooms are altogether dark, except for a light from one tiny window that falls directly upon the pattern. Only one spinner sits in the darkened room in the very place where the narrow stream of light falls upon the threads of his weaving. Lace is always more delicately and beautifully woven when the worker himself is in the dark and only his pattern is in the light. As God weaves His pattern into the fabric of our lives, sometimes we sit in a “darkened room.” The darkness seems suffocating. We can’t understand what He’s doing and can’t discover any possible good in the darkness. Yet, if we fix our focus on our faithful Weaver, we will someday know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days of darkness. As I look back over my life, my deepest intimacy with Him has come from the dark times. The lessons He has burned into my heart when the black clouds hovered are the ones that have calmed my anxious heart.”

 


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Still looking

I seem to go through these random “pot holes” in life. One minute the inspiration and energy are flowing and I’m heading down the road on cruise control. Then all of a sudden, I hit a large pot hole and I get stuck. My energy is completely drained, the free-flowing inspiration has come to an abrupt halt and I seem to be spinning my wheels.

I have all these great ideas on how to get back on the road but maybe that’s part of the problem–too many ideas! I find too many things that could potentially help me; I begin making lists and notes, sometimes on paper and often in my already-full brain. The piles start, the projects become numerous and then I find myself back in that damn pot hole!

Maybe it seems obvious to others but I honestly can’t figure out how to stop this vicious cycle.


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Turning fear into faith

I am a type-A, anal control freak…and I’m not afraid to admit it. But what do these attributes of my personality really say about me? I’m just plain afraid! I’m afraid of letting go of any control that I think I have. Afraid that if I do my world will come crashing down. As a believer, though, my confidence should be in the Lord, not myself. Where is my faith in Him? Did I just forget that God–the maker of heaven and earth–is much bigger than I am? Where can I find faith?

There are so many instances in the Bible where God showed the people His glory in the midst of impossible situations. He brought Jesus back from the dead!

A book that I’ve been reading takes a look at the issue of turning fear into faith. The author took the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-32) as an instance when Jesus’ disciples let their faith override their fear. Several lessons can be learned from this story.

  • Obey fully– sometimes we don’t know why we feel God is calling us to do something, especially when it’s something that we might not feel compelled to do. We need to obey Him and trust that He has a plan and that we will be taken care of no matter what.
  • Accept God’s comfort– just because we’re obeying God doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel scarey…going into unknown territory isn’t comfortable for many people. Remember what it feels like to have a parent hug you and comfort you after a nightmare? This is what our Father is doing for us.
  • Keep a childlike faith– how many little kids are completely logical in their everyday thinking? Mine still think the bathtub drain will swallow them up if they get too close! As adults we take logic a step too far when it comes to obeying God…we rationalize why it’s not a good idea, why there’s no way that we can live the way God is asking us to live. God asks us to step out of our comfort zones in seemingly illogical ways but having that childlike faith in Him, that he will take care of us, can help us step out of those zones into the unknown.
  • Listen for God’s invitation– “Stepping out in faith outside God’s will is foolishness” (Savage, 2009). Listen to God, have a conversation with Him and hear His invitation.
  • Get out of the boat– Just as Peter took that first step out of the boat to walk on water toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29) we too need to get out of the proverbial boat and walk toward Jesus trusting that He won’t let us drown.
  • Keep focused on Jesus– When Peter took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink…this can very easily happen to us. Our doubts begin to surface and fear wells up in every crevice of our bodies when our eyes aren’t on our Savior.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. ~Psalm 16:8

  • Grab God’s hand– you may not feel His hand necessarily in the most expected ways…He might be reaching out via other followers or situations. He has amazing ways of sending us encouragement at just the right times.
  • Recognize the value of storms in our lives– It’s not easy for some to reach out in our darkest hours and it’s definitely not easy to recognize that there is value to these times. But these are the times when our faith has the potential to grow exponentially as does our intimacy with the Lord.
  • Respond with worship– Give credit where credit is deserved. Praise Him, thank Him, tell others of His works in you!

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” ~Matthew 14:33

Resource: Savage, Jill. Real Moms…Real Jesus: Meet the Friend Who Understands (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009).


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What was life like before?

Before the babies, the all-night feeding sessions, the dirty diapers. Before the time when taking a shower every 3-4 days was something I only did when I was camping.

What was life like? Sometimes I have a hard time remembering. I didn’t have to pre-plan when I was going to use the bathroom. I didn’t have to feel rushed to make a meal because I just need the whining and screaming to stop! I didn’t have to sneak upstairs to fold the laundry and hope that I could get five minutes of peace and quiet.

And from what I remember I never really had a problem taking care of myself…at least not the previous couple of years before the babies. I remember sleeping in, taking a hot shower just about every day, eating a meal while sitting down at the table, taking quiet walks, feeling the sweat roll down my back while doing Bikram yoga, stretching my body. All this seemed pretty instinctive before the babies. Now that I’m in the thick of raising these little dependent people I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around what I need to do to take care of myself. I’ve tried to make lists of what I thought were the essentials…getting all the beds made, doing 1-2 loads of laundry a day, planning meals at least a week in advance, organizing all the incoming mail/paperwork/clutter into neat little cubbies with color-coordinated labels. When I reread these lists, however, I began to realize that none of these things are essential to taking care of myself! Rocket science, right?

The problem is, I honestly don’t know if I can tell you! At one point I went to a therapist and she actually had to tell me what I needed to do…eat, drink water, sleep, move. You would think this would be pretty instinctual! But now, I see that list and I think, sure of course I need to eat but there has to be more…what am I missing? What is the key ingredient that will all of a sudden make things run smoothly again? Do I really need to pay someone again to tell me what to do? No, I know I can figure this out myself…but how?

I’ve been called an extremist by my husband. I’m all-or-nothing. If I can’t eat well all the time, I won’t eat at all. If I can’t exercise all the time, I won’t exercise at all. If I can’t sleep all the time, I won’t sleep at all. And the list goes on. I get so angry that I can’t do these things 100% perfect, 100% of the time. It seems that I might be “type A,” a perfectionist…doesn’t it? Sometimes that’s funny to joke about, other times I see these tendencies in my 5-year-old and my 3-year-old and it really worries me. I don’t want them to go through life feeling like if they can’t be perfect they aren’t worthy. I don’t want them to give up easily because they can’t do things right the first time. I don’t want them refrain from making goals or starting projects because they aren’t sure they can see them through in their entirety. I don’t want them to sacrifice their health and well-being. But if they see a role model do all these things how will they learn otherwise?


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Nightmares

As a child I can remember a few prominent themes that seemed to pop up in my nightmares. The death of my grandparents, who I would consider to have been my primary caretakers during my childhood. Being stuck in a dark basement (usually my grandparents’) surrounded by closed doors that would sometimes mysteriously open and shut. Being caught in a maze of sorts that at points would lead into the water always leaving me to fear that I would drown. I can almost see each of those nightmares as vividly as I could when I was young. They left me breathless and in tears then.

I’m not really into dream interpretation. I’m sure there is something to be said for the role the subconscious plays.

Was I afraid of not being taken care of? Was I repressing negative emotions? Was I feeling overwhelmed? The answer to all of these could be yes. And I can tell you right now, the answer to all these questions in the present day is a resounding “YES!”

So many parts of me want to rewind my life and have a do-over. I might not be able to change other people but if I could just change my response to them maybe things would have been better then and would be better now.

Would I be a different person today? Does it matter? God didn’t give me the life I wish I would have had. He didn’t make me the person I wish I would have been. And while I might not feel worthy and unconditionally loved in the eyes and hearts of people in my life, I’m beginning to realize that it doesn’t matter because I am worthy and unconditionally loved by my Father.

I am human, though…I struggle with valuing what other people think of me. I still feel extreme amounts of hurt disappointment in myself when I don’t measure up to expectations. Sometimes I let this hurt show but most of the time I shove that hurt into the basement behind a closed door. The only one that can see this hurt at all times is God and He still loves me. Only He has the power to open those doors.

Father, help me to trust that you are taking care of me even when the nightmares say otherwise. Keep working in me, open those doors that need to be opened and shut those that serve no purpose. Give me peace, calm my mind, give me clarity and focus. Let your will be done. Amen.