Thursday, January 30, 2014

When You're Afraid to Feel

There's something wild going on inside of me. I'm feeling things I never let myself feel before (or at least not for very long).

I'm in a therapy season and the other day I was telling my counselor about an emotion I was having and no sooner had it left my lips then I said something negative about myself like, "I know I shouldn't have felt that way."

And she stopped me and asked me, "Why not feel that way?"

She has a way of pausing me. Because I don't really know why it's not okay for me to feel that way.

Don't know why I'm not allowed to have a negative emotion. And when I do, I'm like a locomotive barreling down the track, racing to get through it.

Maybe I'm afraid that people won't like that side of me. Or maybe I won't like myself. That there's something bad about feeling bad. I didn't have "get over it" parents. So maybe it has roots in the people-pleasing and the lack of boundaries. I'm still working all of that out.

My pattern of living has been quickly pushing through awkward, uncomfortable, angry feelings so all can be right in my world again. Escaping feelings of disappointment, feeling excluded, and even grief.

But I'm not doing that anymore. And it's both terrifying and painful, to be honest.

I have been risking rejection this past month with some blog friends — putting ourselves out there in big and small ways.

One of the biggest personal risks I have been taking recently is to not push through my emotions. To sit in this space and feel the yucky feelings I have been trying to avoid my whole life.

I can't take the easy route or the shortcut. I'm just walking straight up the giant mountain.

I am a bit tired and weary.

Some days I just want to jump back on the train.

I hear myself whining, "Am I there yet?" but I know this is refining me and only God knows how long that will take.

Do you push through difficult feelings? How do you take care of yourself in the midst of them?

Linking with: 

Amy Sullivan and her #riskrejection link-up.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Living in the Contradiction of Alone

Four years ago I became a stay-at-home-Mom-with-kids-at-school-all-day. And for the first time since pregnancy I remembered what it was like to be alone.

Once the hustle and bustle of getting kids off to school and through the car pool line was done I breathed in the silence and celebrated the fact that I could now have a complete thought in my head.

It was not easy at first, actually. I struggled those first few weeks (or maybe even months) with this new found aloneness. I was used to having a toddler partner accompany me to errands and to enjoy lunch dates with.

Alone became such a contradiction — something I desired, but despised. And I wondered why I wasn't very good at it?

I have since realized that alone is a comfortable place when one is comfortable with themselves. So the past four years have been a training ground for me to make peace with the silence and relish in the freedom of deciding my own day.

But there is another side to alone. One far more isolating and sinister.

I have been trapped in the snares of alone and the lies it breeds.

Lies that convince you everyone else is having a grand time without you. Deceitful tales that have you thinking you are the only one who has ever struggled, doubted, or been afraid.

In the silence of alone your thoughts take advantage of their audience with you and sweep you away to write stories that lead you to darkness.

You aren't alone. That is the point, after all.

If you have ever been brave enough to share your story you soon see how connected we all are. How easy it is to find an empathetic soul in this world who knows just where you are or where you have been.

I remember a time when I fell for the lie that I was the only one. And Truth slipped into my heart from a pastor's lips reminding me there was One Man who experienced it all. Who knew my pain. Who experienced the array of feelings I had felt.

And comfort rained down on me that day.

Alone doesn't thrive in community. But you must be willing to risk and share the deepest parts of you. Because that is where you will find comfort in being known. That is where you will meet others who understand.

We all live in the contradiction of alone — where there is beauty in the quiet and rest for the weary. Where being alone can be a healthy lesson in being content hanging out with yourself.

But alone can also become an escape, an excuse to live like an island. And without the input of others, the harder it is to discern the lies from the truth.
"Islands are great to visit. But I have found we aren't meant to live apart."  
Christa Wells, "More Than I Am"
It's good to live in the balance knowing that taking time to be alone is a necessary choice sometimes, but the gift of friendship and community are ready and waiting for you when you want it.

So you never have to feel alone.

Linking with:

Holley Gerth (today's Coffee for Your Heart)

Jennifer at:

And Rebekah at:
A Soft Gentle Voice

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Gap In the Fence: Risking Rejection With Boundaries

I have been working on building a sturdy fence for several months now. And it's a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Boundary setting is definitely a process.

You cannot just start randomly weaving posts and rails because you think you need them. They need to line up — which only happens when you understand more about yourself.

I'm working to reinforce my weak and wobbly fence, which helps most of the time. But I will never have a perfect, invincible fence no matter how hard I try.

I have noticed some huge gaps between fence posts — an invitation to walk right in.

No fence. No gate. No boundary.

I think it's because boundary setting is such a risk for me. I potentially have so much to lose. And that scares me.

I know I need a fence so I start building one, but there are people I know too well. Patterns that are familiar. Enabling others to come and go in the name of what I think is empathy. Or maybe it's just guilt.

The all too familiar voice convinces me I'm not allowed to set a boundary there. Or manipulates me into thinking I'm not being loving or kind or compassionate if I build a fence in that spot.

Boundaries take courage and surrender. I cannot fear what someone else's reaction to the boundary will be. Because the boundary isn't about other people, they are about me.

It feels so complicated sometimes.

For me, boundary setting is a big #RiskRejection.

I set some boundaries this week with someone very close to me. And it was so hard. Excruciating actually. And as soon as the words came out of my mouth I started to self-doubt. I felt bad, so I started to question myself. Tried to figure out how I could maybe only build half a fence or maybe the gap there was okay after all.

I have to learn how to sit in this place — where people aren't necessarily going to like my boundaries. Because boundaries change me from people-pleasing yes woman to someone new.

Someone I'm still trying to figure out. Still trying to find.

How do you handle it when someone reacts negatively to a boundary you set?

 Linking with: 
Amy Sullivan and her #riskrejection link-up.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pruning Encourages New Growth (a five minute friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Encouragement

Every year my husband cuts back our roses. They look like stumps when he's done with them. Dead stumps with thorns.

If he didn't prune the roses back they would still grow and bloom in June. But there is something about chopping them back to stumps that actually encourages growth.

It makes me think about people. And suffering. And the harshness of life seasons.

The Gardener could just leave us alone. We could grow all gnarly and tangled. Neglected. And we would probably still produce a bud here and there.

But He cares for the garden. He prunes and yanks out the weeds. He removes the dead wood. And sometimes He cuts us back to the stump.

It may look dim there.

We may wonder why he cut off all of our branches. It took us all spring to grow this tall.

But He is reshaping.

His care encourages — new growth.

So we can produce healthier blooms.

As the Gardner waters and fertilizes the "stump" to nurture and feed the flowers, our words and care, especially amid the trials, nurtures and feeds people.

Our loving truth and encouragement inspires courage and hope (

Without it people do not thrive.

We all need a Gardner to believe in us — to encourage our growth and love us to new life.

Thankful for the encouragers in my life that give me the courage to grow, heal, and blossom.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cautious Woman Learns To Take Risks And Lives To Tell About It

My husband is a risk taker. I blame it on impulsivity and his ADHD. But for a cautious, introvert like me, taking risks is something I have avoided like the plague.

But not anymore.

I could expound on the various reasons why taking risks is a bad idea. Justify them even. Anyone who thinks things through (or over thinks them, like me) can argue against risk.

Add to it an unhealthy dose of insecurity, shame, or esteem issues and there is no way I'm putting myself out there to risk rejection.

But I have learned it's more than just being practical. It's really about fear. And staying buffered by safe people and routines seems so much more appealing, doable.

There was definitely a point in my life where I decided if I wanted something I was not going to allow my fear to keep me from it. Maybe that's why people misunderstand me, think I'm more confident then I am.

Some blog friends of mine have been linking up on Thursdays to share ways they are #RiskingRejection. And at first, I thought I had to think of something epic, something really, really risky so I could participate.

But really, every day I pursue dreams and try something new or say yes to something hard or write vulnerably on my blog I'm risking. They might not always feel significant enough to me, but I know I'm living and participating and putting myself out there and that is personally big!

Sprinkled in with all the "smaller, yet still significant" risks I returned to a theater stage last March, after 20+ years away, as "Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn" in a high school alumni production of The Music Man.

And this past October, I applied for (gasp) and got (double gasp) a job as a Virtual Assistant for a Christian Author whose work and character I highly respect and admire. Pinch me because I cannot believe that I get to be part of her ministry!

This I know, God wants to bless me and give me good things (James 1:17). But if I'm not willing to step out in faith (even if they're calculated risks) then I will miss out.

I don't want to miss out and I don't think you do either.

So whether it seems like a baby step or a giant leap, even cautious women can learn to take risks and live to tell about it.

Join me?

Linking with: 
Amy Sullivan and her #riskrejection link-up.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You're Loved

It happened in the middle of a set of praise songs.

As I sang words about sacrifice and victory and amazing love.

And familiar, frequently sung words suddenly took on new meaning.

I can't really explain it. It was like my head and my heart suddenly converged (for once) and I finally knew. Deep inside of me I knew that He loved me. I believed that He loves me.

I have been open about my trudging and questioning and seeking this past year. And how painful this season has been as I unearth some struggles that were buried deep.

And I knew that when it was time to choose a "one word 365" for 2014 that the Lord had already been prodding me in this area of value and acceptance and love.

So perhaps God has been creaking my heart open like a heavy door to let some Light shine into a place I had cordoned off. An area built on lies I used to define myself.

So I'm singing of how the blood of Jesus saved my life and I experience this warm knowing. And the tears threatened to overtake me.

I've been on a journey to understand what Love is and why it sometimes hurts me. And I have questioned whether pain can exist in love or whether I have just been blind. Relationships that I relied on and put all of myself into became a catalyst to see how unhealthy I've been.

But that morning, out of my mouth come these words and it was like the first time I ever heard them.

There was this verse: O what love/no greater love/Grace, how can it be/That in my sin/yes, even then/He shed His blood for me.

And this one: And wonder how He could love me/a sinner condemned, unclean/how marvelous/how wonderful/and my song shall ever be:/how marvelous/how wonderful/is my Savior's love for me!

I have wondered how He could love me. Doubted it even.

But with Him there are no strings attached. No questionable agenda. No disappointed expectations.

I have tried so hard to be all. Do all. I have suffered under the immense pressure of what I think I'm supposed to do. Who I think I'm supposed to be.

And in this Holy Spirit moment He opens my eyes to believe this truth for the first time. I mean really believe it.

I am loved.

Then this from my Pastor, Tony Taylor: "It's not enough to believe in God. You must believe Him."

I sigh because I just wrote about believing and faith and getting rid of labels. And it's time this overwhelming, hard to believe, grace-filled Truth washes over me.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13

So I sing and I cry and I celebrate that this Amazing Love is mine and yours. And there's no way to lose it or ruin it or earn it.

Only to accept it, appreciate it, and —

believe it.

Linking with:

Holley Gerth (Coffee for Your Heart)

Jennifer at:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

When You Can't See Passed Your Past

We all wear a scarlet letter. But unlike Hester Prynne's, we're the only ones that see it.

A bit fat label that precedes us into a room. That controls what we say and if we say it.

Some days I know I'm wearing it. But other days it sneaks into my thoughts and derails me.

There's no denying what I've done or what's been done to me. And if you can't see passed your past, you will get muddled and stuck there.

Living free requires more than "letter removal." As much as I wish I could scrub brush myself clean, the remembrance of past hurts, shame, and guilt remain.

There is no quick fix. I cannot just decide to love and forgive myself and it magically happens (I know, I've tried).

I'm a practical girl. I know it's a process.

And I know that God is tapping on my heart in this area. I chose Esteem for my one word for the year, after all.

But I'm stubborn. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to believe something different — especially when you carry a laundry list of your issues with you so you can prove how awful you are.

Before you start worrying about my state of mind, I am alright. But I know I'm not the only one carrying a label. I know I'm not the only one who struggles to find the Light in dark places.

There is a difference between believing and knowing. And believing takes faith (Hebrews 11:1).

So whether I see that I'm a gift to this world or not, I can believe it. I might not be able to see His plan, but I trust that He has one and He is working it out in my life.

But I need to have a willing spirit.

Willing to look for the silver lining in the cloud or see the glass as half full. Because there is more than one way to look at your situation. There is more than one way to see yourself.

Some days I cannot see it, no matter how hard I try. But that doesn't mean it isn't there.

Mary DeMuth talks on her Your Life Uncaged website about not being defined by the past: "I am not Mary who suffered (though it is part of my story). I am Mary who has been set free. Untangled. Opened Up. Ready for new things. Anticipatory."

I am free. Each moment a new opportunity to live the life God has for me. But instead I have chosen the cage.

Jesus came to set us free. He came to redefine us — not so we would to live plagued by our failures, scars, or regrets.

I must believe this truth, even though I still carry proof to argue otherwise. If I keep reminding myself who I am and Who's I am then perhaps someday, I will see I am not caged in or burdened by heavy chains. Truth will override the fiction I've been writing.

And I will wear a new label. The one I was meant to wear. The one that I have always worn, but haven't always been able to see.

Treasured. Cherished. Valued. Loved.


Linking with: 

Risking heart exposure with Amy Sullivan and her #riskrejection link-up.

Jennifer at:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fight or Freedom (a five minute friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Fight

I am so stubborn.

I don't like people telling me what to do and I like even less being told what I should do.

It's a fight in me that puts the people pleaser and the rebel in me at odds.

But I've been growing. And noticing.

When I feel the urge to cross my arms and stomp my foot in defiance I pause. Because the fight against closes doors. It keeps me locked in a cage with my own thoughts and my own ideas of how things need to be.

My heart fights against obey.

But there is freedom on the other side — when I oblige, not necessarily because I want to, but because it feels right.

My obedience breaks through my fears and I stop worrying about being right or doing it my way.

If there are two sides to every story why can't I give up my side?

Giving up can be rewarding, too.

Letting go of rebellion and mini-tantrums and stubbornness to allow myself to be open to more.

The more I could never see or experience if I remained closed off in a fighting stance.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Esteem: My One Word for 2014

As 2013 ends and a new year begins I have been pondering a new word for 2014. And if it's anything like last year's, I'll have much to learn about this word and how God wants to use it in my life.

The One Word 365 I have chosen for 2014 is "esteem."

By definition, esteem means to value, treasure, respect, appreciate. But the synonym that really cinched it for me was consider — a word that has recently come up as something I needed to do more of.

If you have been reading my blog in the last few months, I have been writing a lot about worth and how I view myself.

“No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Ephesians 5:29)

Yet, I did not choose self-esteem, which would have made the focus entirely on me. I know that ultimately I wish to esteem God and God alone, lest my esteem result in any kind of idolatry.

Choosing "esteem" to focus on this year is both a positive and a scary proposition. I am open and eager to see what God has in store this year.

Have you chosen a word for 2014? Please share in the comments, if you wish.

Don't quite understand what all this "one word" stuff is? Check out the One Word 365 website for more info.

And I'm linking with Mary DeMuth's #pic4year on her blog. Read more here.
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