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Category: Comfort & Control

On Being Understood (or not)

On Being Understood (or not)

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This Sunday in church, some friends read Psalm 139 as a meditation to start the service. It was a friendly reminder from the Lord that even when I feel misunderstood and unheard, he knows my thoughts even before I say them out loud.

I struggle with a child-like need to be understood, and nothing derails my day more than the inner turmoil that comes from being unable to explain myself.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be understood — especially by those close to me — but the lie I believe in the midst of it is that I have the power to win people over to my point of view if I could just make them understand.

Sometimes I can’t see that my point of view is wrong. Sometimes I can’t convince a listener that their point of view is wrong. Sometimes I can’t get anyone to listen at all. But I’m learning to say what I feel needs to be said, then release it into God’s hands.

I’m learning that, for me, the hardest part of following Jesus is being content that his unconditional love and intimate knowledge of my inner thought-life is enough.

It’s a painful, heart wrenching lesson, and each time I release the burden I feel like a child who wails in that instant her hand opens up to release the string of a balloon. She panics as it floats away, but then is mesmerized by the way it dances in the wind and floats against the blue sky.

It really is a beautiful thing to let go of a burden, if we can just open our hand and trust the wind.

Hearing Psalm 139 read out loud on Sunday felt like Jesus speaking audibly to me. I know your heart, he said. Let me heal it for you. Trust me that I can comfort you more than you realize.

Here’s an excerpt of the full passage:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord , you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

It Doesn’t Take a Brain Surgeon To Set Me Straight

It Doesn’t Take a Brain Surgeon To Set Me Straight

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I found this post in my drafts folder from last Fall & decided it was ready to post.

The other day I heard a RadioLab podcast about a guy who had brain surgery to relieve him of seizures. A portion his brain was removed that acts like a “lid” on top of the desire center in his brain. This lid helps people filter and control their deep desires and impulses, like a conscience, or impulse control. Without this “lid,” he entertained and acted on every desire that came to him, and he did so with gusto.

As you can imagine, this eventually got him into hot water.

In some ways, I related to the story.

When I’m in a difficult moment, or in a difficult season, I have a hard time seeing my way out of it. I indulge that feeling of despair and just go with it, feeling like things will never change and I will always feel this way. It’s like I don’t have a lid that controls or filters my deepest despair.

And then I talk to a friend.

My friends are one of the many lids that filter my deepest despairing moments and remind me that I’m not alone, and that it won’t always be this way.

For instance, in the tough parenting moments (like now, for instance, when my kid won’t stop singing DO-DO-DO-DO despite my asking him to stop, like, A THOUSAND times) the floodgates of despair open and I lament the day I ever had kids.

Parenting would be easier without the kids, I joke with Bryan. But then I act on those thoughts by getting snippy with them just for walking into the room.

Friends remind me that all kids can be annoying, disobedient, whiners, not just mine, and then they point me to Jesus and tell me their own stories of bad parenting moments.

Through the “lid” of community, I can filter those moments as irritating, but not despairing. They’re normal. But when I’m isolated and avoid community, my own thoughts are the only reality check I have, and they quickly lead me to despair.

red yellow yellow

red yellow yellow

Follow the lighted dots on the floor. Your color code is red yellow yellow—whenever you’re assigned a path to follow, it will be red yellow yellow, three dots side by side—go where those lights indicate. What’s your color code, boys?”

“Red, yellow, yellow.”

“Very good. My name is Dap. I’m your mom for the next few months.”

The boys laughed.

“Laugh all you like, but keep it in mind. If you get lost in the school, which is quite possible, don’t go opening doors. Some of them lead outside.” More laughter. “Instead just tell someone that your mom is Dap, and they’ll call me. Or tell them your color, and they’ll light up a path for you to get home.”

— excerpt from Ender’s Game

I think Jesus could learn a few things from Ender’s battle school.

For one thing, a well-lit path telling me where to go would be nice – preferably one in different colors than everyone else’s path so I could tell which path is mine to follow.

Peace Over Pieces

Peace Over Pieces

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The other day I learned (from Tim Keller!) that the Greek word for anxiety – marimna – means “to be in pieces” or to have a divided mind with too many goals.

One example of its use is in the Mary and Martha story. I always hear this passage preached with the warning to not be too busy to enjoy Jesus. These sermons irritate me because I wonder: Who’s going to do All The Things if everyone’s sitting around appreciating the presence of Jesus?!

People like to focus on Mary and Martha’s behavior, but in the context of “marimna,” Jesus is addressing their hearts. It’s not about all the things Martha is doing; he’s saying she has too many priorities – her heart is divided.

If anxiousness is to have a divided heart and mind, then peace, the opposite of anxiety, is to be single-minded.

But peace doesn’t come merely in choosing one goal to chase over all the others; true peace comes when we are single-minded toward Jesus and let everything else gravitate around him.

According to the passage, Mary is single-minded toward Jesus. This doesn’t mean she neglects all the work – it just means she finds peace in Jesus, not in her to-do list.

Two years ago I wrote about this same thing in a post called, Restful Worship. Here’s an excerpt…

Whatever circumstances I find myself in – whether emotional turmoil, financial hardship, or even just a busy schedule – God will not only sustain me in the midst of it, but he will provide a season of peace.

But it’s not the sort of peace where I catch up on laundry, sleep, and 30Rock episodes, but a peace that’s intended to remind me of who God is and how he sustained me through the day (or week, or month, or however long I’ve been slogging along).

He provides an opportunity for restful worship.

This Fall I was feeling very anxious again and, quite frankly, a little cray-cray. My heart was in pieces, divided. I was worrying about all the circumstances around me, which led me to be controlling and argumentative, then despairing when I couldn’t control or argue my desires into existence.

Thankfully, my heart and mind are at peace again – single-minded toward Jesus.

How do you struggle with marimna? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Day Trip to Mount Rainier

Day Trip to Mount Rainier

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When I was a kid, probably about Ruthie’s age, my parents took me on a road trip from Minneapolis to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. The most vivid memories I have of that trip are 1) seeing the region’s destruction from recent flooding, and 2) my bad attitude.

In fact, I remember hiking up to the view point to Mount Rushmore, looking at the four faces carved into the side of a rocky mountain, and declaring, “We drove all the way here for THIS?”

Yeah, I was a charmer.

So I suppose it was parenting Karma when Ruthie, who was totally fine during the drive up to the Paradise Visitor Center on Mount Rainier last weekend, suddenly “felt sick” as we got ready to hike one of the trails.

I won’t go into all the details of her bad attitude because public shaming is not my goal here, but it was one of those moments where it was challenging for me to stop trying to control everything and just enjoy myself regardless of how other people decided to act.

And even though she didn’t “recover” enough to pose for a family photo, these moments are easier to deal with now that she’s older, because we can just leave her on the park bench “to die” while the rest of us take in the beauty of mountains and meadows.

It was a beautiful drive, a beautiful hike, and except for a brief mental breakdown when my blood sugar dropped and I was convinced Bryan was a bigger douche bag than Heisenberg, it was a glorious day.

Flickr slide show below:

Don’t Say the Dreaded “P” Word!

Don’t Say the Dreaded “P” Word!

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Christians are really big on faith, hope, and joy.

We form these words into felt banners hung from the choir loft and sing choruses with our hands raised…

…but nobody likes to think about patience in affliction.

Ask anyone about patience, and they’ll wave at you frantically and shush you to keep your voice down.

God will hear you, you idiot!

You see, we don’t like to pray for patience, because it opens the door for the testing of our patience. And despite all the suffering and affliction Christ endured to save our sorry asses, we prefer to remain affliction free.

Consequently, we don’t really know what to do with afflicted people.

We want them to have faith! hope! and joy! despite their affliction, but mostly we’d feel more comfortable if they just got over it quickly.

But the reality is, many are afflicted with depression, grief, and physical pain that won’t just go away. And for these, all hope is lost, joy is fleeting, and faith is brittle.

Their affliction is not our burden to bear, but neither is it our place to recoil from their discomfort.

I believe it’s our place to also be patient in their affliction.

This means we sit with them, we listen to them, and we cry with them. And we don’t try to hustle them through a time lapse of their affliction, because then we’d all miss an opportunity to be patient.

Dammit.

See what I mean?

I should’ve kept my voice down.

I Call Bullshit On My Own Temptation Theology

I Call Bullshit On My Own Temptation Theology

Today I learned a deep and profound thing.

It may have changed my life forever.

I hope it’s changed my life forever, because now that I’m fixated on it, I can’t imagine being content in the unknowing of this thing.

In dealing with the temptation to indulge my temper with yelling and shaming, I’ve always tried to will it away. When my kids were little, I would go to bed every night feeling defeated and filled with shame because I broke their little hearts with my anger, and I would wake up every morning feeling hopeful that today would be a new day, that today would be different.

But every day my hopes were dashed as the cycle continued.

I believe that by God’s grace we should cling to Jesus in our temptation, but I always thought the path to grace and to Jesus was for me to turn away from my rage.

That always seems impossible to me, because no matter what I know to be a true Truth, I’m still going to choose the euphoric relief I feel when the pressure valve of my rage is released.

And no matter what I know to be a true Truth, I’m always going to fight back when my little army advances on me with their own hearts of rebellion.

When I meditate on this very difficult thing, this expectation that I turn away from temptation, I always think of Danny Devito’s line in Heist: “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.”

Well… everybody fails at temptation. That’s why they call it temptation.

And then I was shown this true Truth in Hebrews 2:18…

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I don’t have to turn away from anything or will myself to avoid temptation. I can stay right there in the pile I’m standing in and take whatever hurtful thing my daughter says to me, whatever disrespect my son dishes out. And as I absorb it, my ego will bruise, the verbal wound will go deep, and the rejection will be profound.

In that moment, I will suffer.

I might even die a little.

But I will not be alone, because Jesus always suffers with me.

He holds my hair back as I wretch into the toilet.

He cleans my wounds and wraps them in clean bandages.

He cradles me against his chest as I cry the ugly cry and get snot all over his shirt.

And when I’m done suffering the injustice of sassy words or whatever bullshit I take so personally from a half pint, I will walk with a limp or perhaps have a scar. But I will carry this wound as a reminder of that time I loved so deeply that I was willing to suffer, because that’s what Jesus did for me when he died on the cross.

This is the piece I’ve been missing my whole life.

I’ve always believed that I took his suffering for granted and didn’t take my sin seriously, but I couldn’t find my way in to a place of empathy.

I get it now.

And I know I am different.

I’m free to lovingly shepherd my kids’ hearts into repentance and reconciliation because Jesus suffers with me, and I don’t have to fight or turn away any more.

This changes everything.

The Tasmanian Devil Dance

The Tasmanian Devil Dance

Today was not a good morning.

I have a daughter whose knee-jerk response to being inconvenienced is outbursts of anger directed outward. This is unpleasant enough, but since I respond the same way, our morning ended up in a Tasmanian Devil Dance of reacting to each others’ reactions.

What is a Tasmanian Devil Dance, you ask? It looks a little like this…

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It comes on fast, escalates quickly, and gets whipped into a blurred frenzy that combusts into vapors of bitterness.

Ironically, I had just read this after waking up…

We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2, MSG).

I’m such a juvenile when it comes to Ruthie’s outbursts, losing my temper and acting more like the annoyed big sister than a patient grown-up who loves unconditionally.

It’s my longing to love extravagantly, to pursue her with an incredible love, and to embrace her in the midst of her “sin-dead” attitude. But truth be told, today this feels out of reach and unattainable.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is better.

The Amazing Race: Cupcakes or Die Edition

The Amazing Race: Cupcakes or Die Edition

I stayed in bed forever on Friday morning, trying to figure out how I could manage to bring cupcakes to school for Ruthie’s birthday.

Because Ruthie told her teacher I was bringing cupcakes to school for her birthday… and didn’t tell me.

But truth be told, it wouldn’t have mattered if she told me days in advance. I’d still be laying in bed on Friday morning wondering how the cupcakes would arrive at school in time for the party.

I’m terrible at planning things. I wait until the last minute, throw stuff together haphazardly, and hope for the best.

Like today, for instance. I had forty-five minutes to find two and a half dozen cupcakes, but apparently I live in a cupcake blackout zone. Two neighborhood grocery stores didn’t have cupcakes at all, a third had enough bite-sized cupcakes for $50, and the place I called in Belltown was happy to sell me cupcakes for $35 a dozen.

What the WHAT?

Bryan and I finally drove (all the way out!) to Ballard (practically the suburbs!) and bought two and a half dozen cupcakes for $18, drove (all the way!) back to Queen Anne, and made it to the party with five minutes to spare.

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These are the adult beverages we consumed at 2:30 in the afternoon following our harrowing adventure.

Earlier in the day, while still hiding in my blankets and wondering how it was all going to work out, I read this:

Long, long ago [God] decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. (Ephesians 1:3-6 MSG)

What a pleasure he took in planning it!

He wanted to celebrate with lavish gift-giving!

I always end up turning happy occasions into a stressful obstacle course of doom, but God provides a great example of celebration and generosity. This birthday season (March Madness!), I want to take pleasure in planning a lavish gift-giving celebration for my kids!

Daily Dose of Everlasting Love

Daily Dose of Everlasting Love

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Our family theme this year is Love Extravagantly. To keep this topic front of mind all year, I wanted to make something we could use as a simple daily devotional or family dinner conversation prompt.

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Because I’m lazy and busy, I had certain criteria to consider when figuring out what to create. Criteria such as…

  • easy to talk about
  • simple to keep track of
  • not reliant on doing it every day

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So this is what I came up with….

I broke down the Bible section our theme comes from into individual phrases, prettied them up with a little paper, then hung them from string above our fireplace.

Each phrase has a number attached to it (some have two) corresponding to a day of the month, so whatever day it is, that’s the phrase we choose for the day.

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Tomorrow’s phrase is “Love puts up with anything.”

Seriously?!

That sentiment just won’t leave me alone.

Considering our 30 day Advent project lasted six days, I have more hope than expectation, but still… It’s hope.

God’s No Drama Policy

God’s No Drama Policy

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This morning I came across Paul’s No Drama Policy in the Bible. It appears in the middle of a section on marriage, singleness, and sexuality – all situations with a potential for high drama.

I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31 MSG)

Time is of the essence.

Deal sparingly.

Keep it simple.

(No drama.)

I love that Paul acknowledges how the world can thrust drama into my life, but I can also create my own drama in the “ordinary things.”

Clearly I’m not the enforcer of God’s No Drama Policy, but I definitely aspire.

Love Extravagantly

Love Extravagantly

I told Bryan I wanted to pick a theme for our family this year, and that I wanted it to start with me being nicer.

Because normally I’m a lot like Ouiser…

…and that’s just setting a bad example for the kids.

We decided on 1 Corinthians 13 from The Message:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first.”

Love doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.

Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything.

Love trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

Less than 8 hours after making this decision I wanted to punch Paul in the face for writing it.

Who the hell “puts up with anything”?!

I can think of a hundred things I couldn’t put up with today, which I made CRYSTAL CLEAR to everyone under four feet tall within ear shot.

Oh. Right.

Jesus.

Paul ends this passage by saying we have three things to do before we die:

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love.”

Today was a little rough, and I did not love extravagantly. And when I held my crying child who eventually melted into a pile of soft snuggles, I wondered if the day might have gone a little better had I loved more extravagantly.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll get to find out.

The {New} New Year

The {New} New Year

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV).

This is the verse I keep coming back to after a long, emotionally stressful and physically demanding summer.

Over the last few months I learned that adrenaline is effective only as long as I don’t sit down, that the iPad is a less than ideal but functional babysitter, and that emotions are amplified a thousand times when expressed or interpreted under pressure.

I’m so glad it’s over!

The other day I read a post – I wish I could remember where – by a guy who thought of Fall as the real New Year’s Day, the launch of all things new and possible.

I whole heartedly embrace this idea and officially declare a new beginning!

I never again want to experience a season like I did this summer. Not because of the circumstances – because I’m sure those will come up again – but because of how I walked through it. Reflecting back on the summer, I see how my heart was directed toward so many things other than toward the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.

Instead, my heart was directed toward formulating the perfectly worded email, making the budget work despite all our expenses, and relying on my lists and calendar to keep me sane. These things are important for good stewardship, but none of it will bring me peace and rest like a heart directed toward the steadfastness of Christ.

Fall brings back a natural rhythm to our lives and provides an opportunity to reset priorities. I’ve never been more excited to see 6am than I was this week when I sat down in my favorite chair to read my Bible, alone in a quiet apartment, watching the sun rise.

Thank you, Jesus, for new beginnings.

Snow White and Her Wisdom From Above

Snow White and Her Wisdom From Above

We saw Snow White and the Huntsman this weekend. It was beautifully filmed, and the story was engaging even though you know how it all ends. I highly recommend it, and it’s at the cheap theater now.

Stories like these make me sad, though. I want to see myself in characters like Snow White – graceful, kind, wise beyond her years, even after living in a prison tower for ten years.

But most of the time I see myself as the witch – controlling, bitter, vengeful. It’s depressing, really, how wicked my heart is, and how my inner struggle with selfish ambition, as stated below, affects all my closest relationships.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18

Oh the irony for us control freaks who desire to organize the world around our wants and cravings! In the end, our ambitions will only lead to broken relationships and chaos.

I may not be the kind and tender hearted Snow White, but I’m thankful that my wickedness will not be my undoing, thanks to Jesus, who died the ugly death of the witch in my stead.

Jesus Is Bigger Than The Pile I’m Standing In

Jesus Is Bigger Than The Pile I’m Standing In

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Life is good at the ZugHaus. Not rainbows-and-puppies good, but I-have-a-basement-during-a-tornado good. I’m continually encouraged that Jesus trumps All Things Shitty, which leads me to complain less when circumstances are less than desirable.

Our car broke down again, for instance. We were on our way home from the Folk Life Festival – tired, hungry, thirsty, and cranky. We have a knack for breaking down late on Sunday afternoons, by the way.

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Usually I’m a glass-half-empty kinda girl, and I’m also likely to complain that the glass has a piece of food stuck to it or is the wrong color. “Fuck you and your stupid glass metaphor!” is what I often think (and occasionally say out loud).

But I can’t deny the miracle that is happening in my heart. Specifically, the miracle that happened in my heart as we sat on the side of the road while I tried to keep my kids from running onto the highway. As my mind clicked through all the events our car was needed for in the coming week – a school play, hauling video gear to an event, grocery shopping – my heart kept not freaking out.

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The miracle in my heart that week was not that I saw the glass half full for once, but that I found it SO AMAZING THAT I HAVE THIS AWESOME GLASS!

At the time, I didn’t know how the week was going to come together, but as it played out I realized…

  • I got to snuggle on the bus commute home from an event with Bryan
  • We got to ride the bus as a family to a school event, and my kids thought they were on a roller coaster adventure
  • A friend was able to serve and bless our family by replacing the broken hose in our car
  • Grocery shopping became a social event when a friend let me tag along with her to the store

When I’m in my Eeyore mindset I see those things as burdens, not blessings; disruptions, not adventures. But a changed perspective and open heart made a stressful week so much more fun.

I’m curious… How has your perspective toward shitty circumstances been challenged?