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Timestamp: 2008-10-01 03:33:18 UTC
This post is inspired by Lisa Whittle's book Behind Those Eyes: What's really going on inside the souls of women. I'm reading it as part of an on-line study over at Lelia's. Click the book cover to hop over there and get connected. We are only on chapter 2, so if you want to join the soul searching, hop right in.
Perfect. That is what we always had to be growing up. We had to look like we had it all together even when we were falling apart. At one point my dad had moved out. We actually took phone messages as if he still lived there. No one heard us argue in public. We were definitely expected to behave and excel in school. I got "in trouble" exactly twice in school. I was shy and quiet. Both times the teacher moved me to break up a ring of chatter bugs. I found myself responding when I should have been listening to the teacher. But, I only had to be told once! Neither time was a true reprimand, but I did the "eyes forward, mouth closed" routine the rest of the year.
There was also a sense of competition between me and my twin. I'd get a 94% on a test and she'd get a 98%. She did better at almost everything After 3 years of piano, I gave up because she was farther along in the books than I was. When we took violin, she sat in a higher chair than I did. When the class ranks came out our senior year, she was 9/441 and I was 13/441. Those 5 points made me feel like a failure. For me to remember something like that, means it was pretty significant in my world.
So, going to college and being out on my own, you'd think I'd be able to give up some of that perfect world. Nope. Not at all. The voice in my head is probably louder than my mom's ever was. Like so many adults, I picked up where my parents left off.
But I know I'm not perfect. I just keep up a pretty good facade. I look put together but you haven't seen my house or how much I scurry to try to hide the mail pile and other things that needed to be put away long ago.
Several years ago, I stopped going to church for awhile. Honestly, I was angry at God. If He wasn't going to step in and lend me hand then why should I go? What was the point? My life was on a down hill slide and when I had to choose, I jumped, with Satan cheering, on the red hot one labeled "Express." Whoosh! I chose to slide away from God.
About 9 months later I was a wreck. I called my doctor's office. It happened to be a Christian practice. I asked for church recommendations and said I really needed to talk to someone. They gave me 3 possibilities but only one came with a name. So, that is the one I called.
That is how I ended up at Crosswinds. But even there I kept most people at bay. In my small group I was mute. I high tailed it out as soon as service was over.
Fear ruled my life at that point. Honestly, for 6 months I didn't take communion -- convinced that God would strike with a lightening bolt from heaven if I did. I had confided in one woman there. She patiently sat with me. One day I whispered, "Do you think God will zap me if I take communion."
"No," she said. "Not at all. Will you let me serve it to you?"
I did. I still remember the flood of relief that swept over me. I had gone back to church after 9 months, but I think this prodigal daughter went back to the Father in that moment.
Do I still try to look perfect? Yeah, sometimes. Okay, since this is about getting real -- most times. But I think I am taking more and more risks to let people in and see the real me. I'm finding that I'm relieved to not have to be perfect for them. But I'm even more relieved that I don't have to be perfect for God. That's the whole point of the cross, isn't it? If we were as perfect as we may pretend at times, there would have been no need for Jesus to die for our sins.
I'm so glad I don't have to be perfect. There is hope in knowing that this wayward daughter was embraced the moment she admitted her continued need and slipped back into place at His table.
The contest to win a book -- Just Courage -- ends tomorrow. Click the contest graphic at the top right to read about it and leave a comment and enter! I'll do the random number generator thing and let you know on Wed. Just make sure to check back or that I have some way of contacting you.
A week or so ago I heard a quote on the Christian station here. I caught the meaning but not all of the words. I relayed them to a bloggy friend, Joy. She hunted them down for me. I thought I would share them with you.
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength. -- Corrie ten Boom
A couple of years ago I had a couple of men doing my yard work on a regular basis. Somewhere along the line, they decided not to come anymore. That left me without a lawn mower and no way to get the grass cut. A friend had a friend in the neighborhood and we borrowed his mower and her son, Kolya, cut the grass for me. (My mom's domain was the house. My dad's domain was anything outside and we were never taught to mow.)
That winter I picked up a lawn mower cheap. (Who wants a mower in January in Central Illinois?) That May Mark came over and taught me how to mow.
There is a another single woman to my left and a single mom to my right. My first go around on mowing this year I did all three of our small, postage stamp yards. I don't know if either of them ever knew who had done it.
If you read yesterday's post, you'll recall that I am mechanically challenged. Mark had to come over to help me figure out the problem -- it was on empty! I think Mark said, "Bone dry." It took a little planning for him to come over. It's a very busy time at the church because of moving into the building and finishing up renovations.
In the mean time, some one unexpectedly mowed my lawn. Now, a couple of years ago, no one thought to help me in this way. And I'm not sure which of my neighbors did it, but it was definitely a blessing.
Unexpected kindnesses make the world a more hopeful place. It says "I see you" in a world where many feel invisible. Your assignment today is to do an unexpected kindness for someone. I call these things "Just Because." Here are some ideas:
I am about as mechanically disinclined as they come. Seriously. I know nothing about mechanical stuff, though I can hook a computer up. A couple weeks ago, my lawn mower gave out. I asked Mark if he would take a look at it. He did and left me a message, "You were out of gas and you could use some oil." Sigh. I thought I had topped off the gas, but I guess not.
So, tomorrow I need to catch some time to mow my yard!
Just wanted to remind you that the contest is still going on. Every comment through the last day of September is an entry. I'll select the winner That night and announce it October 1!
For those of you who don't know, the contest is to win a book by Gary Haugen called "Just Courage: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian." It's a life changing little book.
Click the picture to go to the original post!
I've been thinking a lot about friendship the last couple of days. Sometimes I feel like I am still in the first grade with it all. Seriously. I don't know exactly how someone becomes intimate friends. I didn't have another little girl to share all of my secrets with. I never played dress up with anyone or giggled about boys. I didn't pass notes or have a secret handshake. There is no one actively in my life who has known me since I was four.
I suppose I pick four because I know someone who has a couple of good friends that she has known that long. They grew up together.
For me, friendship is doing life together. But then it gets complicated by families and children. The time has to be carved out.
I also know that I have a tendency to gravitate towards children. I can talk easily with them and make them smile. I find it harder with adults. But I am working on it. Sometimes I volunteer to kid sit while a friend finds time with a spouse. I like that, but . . . .
While I do long for that "doing life together" kind of friend, the one who would drop anything at a moments notice, I recognize that I do have the start of some friendships.
Debbie was eight when her family moved here from Argentina. At there house, they speak a mix of Spanish and English. I know just enough Spanish to follow along. God brought to mind today the number of times I have gone over to Debbie's. Raquel and Lucas have tried to pull me into a game or activity. Debbie reminds them, "Ella es mi amiga." (Sorry, I don't know how to do accent marks!)
Ella es mi amiga. She is my friend. She hasn't come to see you but to hang out with me. I love those words, "Ella es mi amiga."
What are some of the best ways you've found for making close friends?
I officially do not know how many books I have going at the moment. I think there is one in every room. My community group (what my church calls small groups) just started reading John Ortberg' The life You've Always Wanted. I've only read the first chapter and need to read the second before Friday.
The first chapter is titled "We Shall Morph Indeed." It's basically about God's transforming power in our lives. Did you get that? It's about God's power -- not my puny attempts. Having just read Lisa Whittle's chapter on authenticity, the two melded in my mind.
Lisa wrote that we want to be fully known but that we put up a charade to hide our true selves. Yes, we are insecure. But God knows us fully. Really. Part way through, Ortberg writes, "The possibility of transformation is the essence of hope." Since I'm all about hope this year, it caught my heart. He outlines different words that are used in scripture in talking about tranformation. There meanings include:
I finally feel like I'm coming into a good patch again in terms of the depression. But I wanted to share with you something I wrote last week. I was really struggling with seeing it as a failure even though a lot of it could be traced to a med change that was financially related. Still, I felt like a failure. I decided to journal one day about why depression is not a failure. I thought I would share it with you.
Depression is a thief. That is the best description of it. It sneaks into a person’s life and it steals energy, enthusiasm, joy, self-confidence . . . . It hampers relationships and can be a hindrance to work. More than anything depression steals hope. It makes me believe that tomorrow is as dark as today and that it will never get better. It taunts me, shouting at times that it will always be like this, I will never get fully better, and because of that I am a failure of great proportions.
Depression is a thief. But it is also a liar. I must choose ways to find ways to shine truth on those lies. I must fine a way to have the courage to believe:
· Depression is an illness. There is a biological component to it.
· Like any illness it needs treatment. No one would tell a heart attack victim not to go to the hospital.
· I am not defined by depression unless I choose to let it define me. But I choose to be defined by hope and love and faith and not depression and desperation.
Dale Carnegie said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.” I am important. I must keep trying. Perhaps something unexpected and wondrous will come from all these years of effort. I choose hope.
I am participating in an online study of Lisa Whittle's book, Behind Those Eyes. I read it earlier in the spring but I am excited to get to study it with a group of ladies online at Lelia's. If you click the book cover, it will take you to Lelia's site. You can see her reflections and links to the other ladies participating. My posts each Tuesday will be about the study. So, here is the first one:
It's been a hard couple of months, really hard. I take medication for depression. Earlier in the summer, I discovered that two of the meds would not be covered as they originally were. Instead of tier 1 they would be tier 3. Short end of a long story: I could no longer afford the medication. But my doctor and I agree that there is a biological basis for my depression and the medication was a need and not a want.
So, the beginning of July we started tapering off the meds to go on something different. Honestly, I think the euphoria I felt from my time at She Speaks carried me through the first couple of weeks. But then I bottomed out in a big way. The funny thing is, not many people would have guessed it.
One of the things that I've learned about mental health professionals is that they often gauge how well you are doing by how well you are functioning. They love the question, "Are you still going to work?"
Hello. It's me, Amy, we're talking about. Yes, I'm going to work. Yes, I'm paying the bills. Yes, I'm doing laundry. Yes, I am functioning. (Though the house is in awful shape. With all the outside functioning, I haven't had much energy to give to that.)
I'm on the upswing of new meds at the moment. But I certainly related to Lisa's chapter, "The Great Charade." I'm so good at it, no one outside hardly guesses the emotional turmoil. In reality, most women are pretty good at this charade of life. The problem is, as Lisa points out, it doesn't meet the longings of our souls.
What is the longing of our soul? Lisa writes:
We want someone to know us from the inside out, warts and all, and not think twice about our many flaws. We want unconditional love. We desire to find purpose. We seek attention, and we crave acceptance.
When I was in the fourth grade, I took Ohio history. At some point, I was sharing with my grandfather about Zane's Trace. Zane's Trace was reportedly the first road through the wilderness. But my grandfather had a surprise for me. Zane's Trace was the country road right out front. He took all of the grandchildren down a mile or two to a marker noting this historic fact. Zane's trace came into being because a few walked or rode a path through the wilderness. Others followed. Now, there is a highway.
We live in a world of tragedy and despair. It's all around us: school shootings, 9/11, the need for "Homeland Security," the economy, the worry about tomorrow. Okay, I worry about tomorrow. There are bills to pay and relationships to try to build and maintain. I even worry about the cats. Both of my cats are healthy and likely to live long lives -- possibly another 12-14 years because they are indoor cats. But still, occasionally, I catch myself with the thought, "What if something happened to one of them." Given their health, it's a worry without need.
Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. In Matthew 6:13 He says "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Sound advice. Take care of today and leave tomorrow for itself.
But this takes discipline and walking out hope. For hope for a brighter tomorrow (heaven and being in the presence of God's glory) is what eventually awaits all who believe.
Hope is like Zane's Trace. Lin Yutang said the following about hope:
"Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence."
It's a small unassuming little book with a big message: Just Courage by Gary Haugen. The subtitle is "God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian."
I'll probably be reflecting on this book for a long time and hope to share some of it over the next couple of weeks. But I don't just want to share it here, I want to give a copy of the book away. To enter, leave a comment below with some aspect of God's concern for the world and maybe how you are responding to that. You see, I need ideas on how God may want me to respond!
About half way through the book is this quote:
We must seek to rescue our neighbors with dedication and urgency with which we would go about trying to rescue our own family or even ourself. In a world of injustice, loving intervention on behalf of the oppressed is simple obedience to Jesus' must fundamental command to love our neighbor.
Today I helped out at our new church building. We were working in the sanctuary. Being extremely unskilled labor, I did things like sweep, scrape putty off the flooring, move wood, pick up nails, and carry about 15 rolls of pulled up carpet to the dumpster.
Then Greg shouted, "I need someone who can drive." Not knowing what I was volunteering for, I said that I could. He had an errand that needed to be run. Three times people had tried to get staples for this do hickey thing that I have no clue what it was. Each time, the staples didn't fit. So, I was armed with the do hickey thing and a few staples and off to Hundman Lumber. Greg said that was the only place he had been able to find them.
The guy who helped me was skeptical that they had them. But I was persistent and followed him into the warehouse to look. Then he even loaded it and shot the staples into the wood. They were exactly what we needed.
But in getting ready for this work this morning, I pulled out several T-shirts. My jobs now don't really allow me to wear them, so they sit in a drawer. One shirt I pulled out was from InterVarsity's School of Leadership Training in 2000. We all got shirts with the motto "No Reserve, No Retreat, No Regrets" emblazoned on the back.
It got me thinking about the way I live my life. Can I say that I hold nothing in reserve? No. I'm cautious with my time, my energy, my money. Even in this church move, have I given my all. No. I've helped with a couple of meals and the moving and today construction type stuff. But I must admit that I've been more concerned about my energy level than the work that needed to be done. I like knowing that there is something held in reserve. But does God want me to live that way?
What about no retreat? No. I am one to retreat. Put me in a conflict situation and I pull back and retreat to the safety of my home or other relationships. I don't give up easily, but I do give up at times in other things as well.
No regrets. No, I have regrets. There are things I wish I had done or said. There are people I wish I had engaged with in a more meaningful way than what I have.
But Jesus could say all yes to all of those things. He held nothing in reserve. He gave his all and all each day he walked on this earth. Even when he wanted to spend time with the disciples and the crowds followed them, he looked at them with compassion and taught them and fed them. When he went to the cross, he held nothing back -- not even his life.
No retreat. Scripture is clear that Jesus knew exactly what was coming. He prayed that the cup be taken from him. He was in such anguish that he sweat great drops of blood. When they came for him he could have called angels to protect him. When he hung on the cross, he could have called angels to free him. But he knew that his retreat would cost him our lives, so he refused retreat at every turn.
No regrets. Honestly, at times when I fail, I wonder if Jesus regrets the price he paid for me. I mess up -- sometimes in big ways. But scripture is also clear, that Jesus looks at me with love and helps me up and says, "Try again."
There is hope in knowing that for Jesus there is no reserve, no retreat, and no regrets. Perhaps that should be my prayer for the next month or two -- that I will throw myself so fully into life and God's work that I shall have no regrets.
Will you join me in this prayer?
Some of you have noted my absence. (Thanks for noticing.) I have not dropped off the edge of the earth even though it may seem like it. A couple things have been going on:
I am not very fashion minded. I tend to dress for comfort and go with what I like. Typically, that is about 4 years behind the rest of the world.
Since today was Friday, it was jean day at work. I wore a short sleeved top and a nice bear of jeans and sandals. Makes perfect sense.
But I froze! Okay, I normally freeze in the office. I like the hot weather. A sweater or jacket is always at hand at work. But today I froze when I went outside on my lunch break to get warm!
I came home and changed before heading out to Barnes and Noble. It's September 5th. September 5th! I resorted to a sweater (a more light weight one, but still of the sweater variety) and a jacket and much warmer shoes before heading back out.
So, I am lodging my official protest of fall. It's too early really!
Anyone know of a job some place where it is warm all year round? I make good friend material and will even do childcare for free on occasion!
I'm blogging today for Compassion International. I've gotten to know Compassion over the last couple of years through sponsoring a couple children. At right is a picture of Kayirangwa. I call her Kay for short.
Kay is a wonder to me. At nine she has lived most of her life in poverty. There are three children in her family and she lives with both her parents. Can you imagine a family of 5 living on about $5 a month?
Compassion minsters to over a million children in the world's poorest countries. The parents want more for their children. Compassion partners with parents and the community to do more for these little ones.
Kay showed me that she knows what the word compassion means. In the letter at right, she thanks me for the birthday money I sent her. In stead of buying something just for herself, she bought a hen for her family so they can have eggs. Compassion is doing what you can for someone else. Kay does that! I am so proud of her. In this, I think she showed Jesus love and compassion.
Have you ever thought of sponsoring a child and thought that it just wasn't for you? What part of it isn't for you? It's a chance to have a relationship with a child in poverty. It's a chance to give a child hope because they know someone cares about them and believes in them. In turn, they give hope to their families and their communities.
Unfortunately, there are more children than sponsors! Will you sponsor one today? For the cost of $32 a month you will know a child is receiving an education, food, and health care. That's just slightly over a dollar a day -- a dollar we might carelessly spend on a candy bar or in the pop machine. Could you drink water or have a candy bar only once a week if it meant a child could buy a hen and her family could have eggs?
Do you have kids? I know some people who have a meal once a week like a meal their child might have. One friend's kids sell rocks for money to support their child. They send pictures they have drawn.
Does a child need you? Yes, but do you need a Compassion child? Yes. If only for the simple fact that your child will be praying for you. Kay writes that she is praying for blessing for me and how surprised she is that like her I eat rice and beans! These kids care about their sponsors and together discover all the ways that we are similar in spite of being in the middle of IL and Kay being in the African country of Rwanda.
You can look at my sidebar to see photos of Compassion kids. But I want to encourage you to click here to be taken to the pictures of kids who have been waiting 6 months or more. Just imagine waiting and waiting for a sponsor and suddenly someone picks you! It might seem a bit like God looked down and smiled. You would probably run home with the news. "I'm sponsored! Someone loves me!"
Won't you be a part?
I love having the link on my sidebar for Compassion children. But I confess, I struggle with not being able to sponsor every one of them myself!
Other links about my involvement with Compassion:
The Search for Ecuador
From America with Love
A Child in Rwanda
Last letter to Delia
When A Child Buys A Hen
My sister and I were about fifteen the summer we drove to a North Carolina beach with my mom, younger sister, aunt, and cousin. We passed the mornings at the beach, returning about 1:00 to the rented condo for lunch, and cycling back to the beach in the late afternoon.
One late afternoon when we returned we found that the tide had come in and filled in a lower almost gully type area. Thinking that it would be shallow, we started to wade through.
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