Entitlement

I am not going to lie…I more often than not feel like I’m owed. I mean, be honest, don’t you? If you are thinking, “No, I really don’t.” Then riddle me this: Why do you get hurt, angry, stressed, or depressed? Because you think you are entitled to certain outcomes, and when you don’t get those outcomes, all Hell breaks lose. You with me? Personally, this is why I struggle to forgive, to extend grace, and to surrender to God. I feel like He owes me and so do people. How arrogant of me! No wonder there are times in my life when it feels like God is against me…James 4 says He’s opposed to the proud but close to the humble. Yikes.

What about Job?

I was reading in Job yesterday. Here’s a dude that had it all…a big family, a lot of money, a huge tent (equivalent to house…haha…for some reason that cracked me up), and a loaded camel (car – funny to me too…sorry). In Job 1:6-12, God basically challenges Satan to a duel. God is so confident in His faithfulness and sovereignty, that He gives Satan permission to utterly destroy Job’s life. Wait a minute…come again? Yeah, God believes enough in His own goodness that He allows Satan to wreck Job. I am not sure if you are frightened or comforted by that thought. In a strange way, I am frighteningly comforted. God knows He will be enough for Job. Here is the crazy thing…God is also confident that Job will rely on God’s immutable character to define his circumstances and not allow the circumstances to define God’s character. Wow.

In verses 13-19, four servants inform Job, one after the other mind you, that everything he has was just destroyed. Everything. Gone. In a matter of minutes. What Job does next hit me hard yesterday…”He fell to the ground and worshipped.” I just had to stop typing for a second and take a deep breath. He explains, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

What about God?

We have heard that verse a thousand times, haven’t we? But think about what Job is saying here. He realized he is entitled to nothing (he came into the world naked – with nothing – and would leave naked – with nothing), but that God is the Creator of the Universe and entitled to everything…even worship during a disastrous season.

Here’s the crazy thing…Job admits in 2:10 that he and his wife have experienced “evil”, which literally means “disaster”, from God. However, Job questions, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job had a proper view of life because He had a proper view of God. God’s character defined Job’s circumstances. God’s character defined how Job viewed himself. God’s character kept Job alive when death looked more promising.

What about Us?

We live in a broken world. And this brokenness causes the evil. The disaster. I mean, read the verses in Job again…Satan brings up Job to God and says that Job won’t still love God if Satan takes everything away. God allowed the disaster, but He didn’t cause it. Satan did. Jennie Lusko and I talk about this in our Scar Stories Podcast. It’s so important that we realize that God isn’t out to destroy us – Satan is – but God offers us Himself, which is more than enough when we lose everything.

I wonder what circumstance you are walking through today that is tempting you to doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God. You’re questioning His love, grace, and forgiveness. You wonder if He’s there…close. You know what you need to do, but you are more afraid of what everyone else will think and aren’t sure God will be enough. You are allowing your circumstances to define Who God is and control what you will do. But I want to challenge you: the Scriptures say we are NEVER given more than we can handle because we are given God – and He handles everything! What you have to determine is will you surrender your heart to Him and realize you were never entitled to anything but Him. And that, my friend, truly is enough.

Afraid to Change

Afraid to Change

Full disclosure: I wrote this blog sitting in car line (the longest line you will ever sit in – where your soul dies). I came home and read it to my husband, Bryant, and then he read me his message for that week (surprise – he’s a pastor) and gosh were we so in sync. So, after you read this, I’d encourage you to listen to this podcast.

But without further ado, here is my car line blog.

We are afraid of our own brokenness.

Admitting we are broken would be to admit that we have a past that we don’t know what to do with. What do we do about all of those things we regret? All those seasons and situations and circumstances that we wish with all of our might we could go back and change – for ourselves, for our marriages, for our families, for our relationships.

We already know the answer and that’s what scares us to death: We will be able to do absolutely nothing.

We cannot change the past. We can only own the past. And gosh almighty that is so painful. Embracing the fact that there are things we could have done differently and therefore our life wouldn’t look like it does now is nothing short of daunting. This is why we tend to rewrite history. It’s the best form of self-defense. Your brain cannot face the fact that certain relationships, seasons, opportunities are lost or broken because of your choices. Living with that grief is too overwhelming. So we lie to ourselves and others, not out of spite, malice, or ill-will, but out of self-protection. Our pride becomes our saving grace and that leaves no room for God’s grace.

Here’s what I think we all too often forget…

If we don’t deal with our pasts and failures, then we will live enslaved to them. That kind of bondage looks like living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, a lack of empathy, an obsession with control, ignorance, manipulation, rejection, passive aggressiveness, arrogance, and abandonment.

That sounds like an awful way to live.

So you have a choice: You can decide not to deal with your past and remain enslaved to it…or you can go back, with the help of a therapist/counselor, and do the hard work of getting healthy.

Yes, it will be grueling at first. But you will be guided by someone who’s been trained to take you where you need to go and not to leave you there. If you choose not to do this, you will constantly sabotage the relationships that are most important to you…not to mention your own life.

Once you’ve dealt with your past, you may still have some pain, regret, and emotion around certain people, situations and circumstances. But you won’t be controlled by those triggers. You will live free and be able to embrace a healthy future with a healthy you fostering healthy relationships.

So the choice is yours. But so many people’s well-beings depends on your choice.

Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends…YOURSELF.

Jesus wants you to escape from the prison that is your past. He will guide you and He will never leave you. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. You have to do what only you can do and then trust God for what only He can do – and that’s wash grace, forgiveness, and love over your past so you don’t have to live any more of your life behind it’s bars.

So go ahead. Call that friend. Attend that community group. Make that appointment. The future you is begging the current you to take the steps you need to get healthy.

See you on the other side.️

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt.

There is nothing quite like it. Parent Guilt guts you out and weighs you down. It is the absolute worst feeling when you hurt the ones you gave life. Nothing compares to seeing the pain in their eyes and hearing the sadness in their voices. Then fear rushes in claiming the lies that you’ve forever ruined them and your relationship to them. Panic is quick to follow. The deadly cycle picks up speed, expending so much time and energy that you are even more depleted than when you started. And so who do you take it out on? The kids. And here we are: Back where we started with Parent Guilt.

When I’ve spent myself emotionally and then have to deal with needy kids (this is not negative – all kids are needy in the best ways), I lose it. I’ve got nothing left to give and yet here are four littles who need just about everything. The amount of emotion it will take to love them well feels overwhelming. And so I give into the frustration, the anger, and instead of retreating, I go looking for a fight.

When I take a step back and survey the damage, I fall apart. How could I have just treated my babies that way? What is wrong with me? Why am I such a monster?

I’m broken. That’s how. I’m depleted emotionally from distracting myself from my hurt. Nothing will drain you faster than ignoring your pain. Your trauma. The real source of your anxiety and depression. What seems the fastest way to refill is to dump all of the negative out on those closest to me and who will still need me and want me after: My kids.

But this is so counterintuitive. If we are empty, why do we think an emotional dump – will fill us? The dumping will only deplete us more.

Someone explained it this way: If you have a bucket of dirty water, instead of dumping the water out and now having an empty bucket, stick a hose at the bottom of the bucket and flush out the contaminated water with clean, fresh water.

Emptiness is lonely. It’s scary. It’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous. Instead of further emptying yourself only to discover you’ve filled your heart with more contaminated emotions, flush out the negative with the positive.

Here are the ways I go about regaining a healthy equilibrium:

Circle the wagons.

My therapist taught me this. Back in the covered wagon days, when settlers would travel across country, they would circle their wagons around their camp at night for safety. The wagons became a source of security from the outside world. If we are determined to create safe homes, then when we are in the midst of emotional turmoil we should be able to take time to withdraw from the world around us and to retreat to the people who love us the best: Our families.

That may require us to cancel, say no, rearrange, rest, turn off media, sleep, eat better, drink water, exercise, self care. The best thing we can do is to listen to our bodies – they are crying out for us to pay attention, slow down, and circle our wagons. We live in an unsafe world – we have to learn when it’s time to create some additional margin in order to feel secure again.

Communicate.

When I am struggling the most, I let my husband and children know. I get the most honest with Bryant so that he isn’t caught off guard by my reactions and responses. We make a plan as to how we will intentionally circle our wagons. Then I talk to the kids and explain that mommy is struggling and so sorry for her behavior. She is going to really work to make sure she doesn’t treat them badly.

Commit.

I commit to whatever I need to commit to get healthy. I slow down – my anxiety and pain want me to keep moving to stay distracted. I commit to hugging, holding, sitting, listening, being present. When I am present with my kids, I am grounded to the moment. It is such a relief to get my mind off the downward spiral of my anxiety and depression. And their love and attention in return is so healing to my heart. It reminds me I am safe. I am okay. It gives my soul the deep breath it has been searching for.

I do the same with my husband. Sometimes we just need to get dressed up and go out. Sometimes we need a few nights away. Sometimes we just need to sit on the couch and watch Downton Abbey. Whatever it is, we need to be together.

Our families should be a source of safety. Replenishment. Reprieve.

I find my Courage.

Some of our homes aren’t safe because we’ve never been brave enough to break the cycles. Maybe your home wasn’t safe growing up. Maybe you’ve been hurt along the way. Maybe you know something’s wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it.

It takes courage to say, “I’m not okay, but I’m ready to know why!” We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. But with knowledge comes accountability. It’s not enough to discover the problem, we have to do the work of changing. Talk is cheap and repeated apologies without any signs of growth will only drain our families. Our getting healthy proves to our families that they are worth our best selves. 

It takes counseling.

Hurt people hurt people. We know this. So if I am not actively dealing with my hurt, then I am going to hurt my family. 

I have been dealing with low-grade anxiety. It started to come to a head the past few days, and one of the tall-tale signs is I have been incredibly impatient with my kids. I am rushing through my day (so I stay distracted and don’t have to deal with the pain), and running over them emotionally. IT BREAKS MY HEART. So it’s time to reach out to my therapist, communicate, commit, get courageous, and circle those wagons.

What do you need to do TODAY to fight against the parent guilt? I’d love to hear what steps you will take to communicate to yourself that you are safe and to your families that they are special.

Break Free

Break Free

Speaking out about your anxiety, depression, or other mental illness is frightening. It’s humiliating. We don’t want to look weak. Or weird. Or crazy. People will look at us funny. Think we are nuts. Put us in a mental hospital. Think we are broken. But aren’t we? Aren’t we all broken? Isn’t that why Jesus Christ died on the cross – because we are so messed up we don’t even know how messed up we are (Jeremiah 17:9)? Ya’ll – It’s time we got a grip. The very thing that keeps people from accepting Jesus as their Savior is keeping you from getting the healing you desperately need: Pride. Admitting you need help. You don’t have it all together.

And maybe you can readily admit: “I don’t have it all together.” But what about that insecurity that is crippling you? What about that exhaustion that won’t go away no matter how much you sleep? What about that sadness that keeps creeping in for no reason? What about your thoughts that you can’t quiet down? What about the fear that keeps you awake at night? What about the incessant control you demand to have? What about the people you are sucking dry because of your identity issues? What about your need for perfection that is debilitating you? What about it? Why can’t you face it? Why can’t you speak out about it?

We have to fight. Listen to me, I’m pleading with you. This isn’t going away. It’s just not. And it’s going to strain your marriage, damage your kids, mess with your job, and leave you lonely. It will eat you alive. I promise I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. But we can’t keep thinking these things will deal with themselves. That’s what Satan wants you to believe. But you have to realize he is out to destroy you.

When we give in, we give up the abundant life God promises those who trust Him. We can’t keep giving in to our anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. We have to stand up. That’s where true courage lies: With those who say, “Enough! I am going to stop the cycle. I am going to fight for my spouse, my kids, my job, my friends. I am going to fight so I can be a testament to the grace of Jesus. The power of Jesus. If He can heal me, He can heal you.”

I speak openly about my anxiety, depression, and personality disorder because I want people to know that it isn’t an easy fight, but oh so worth it!!! When I was diagnosed with these mental illnesses several years ago, I was so discouraged. But then my counselor helped me to see how strong Jesus’s grace was in me. He had preserved me from some terrible decisions that could have destroyed my life. And while I battled with suicidal thoughts and nearly dissolved my marriage, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness chased me down until I couldn’t fight Him anymore and I finally surrendered. I surrendered to His love: The Love I was so desperate to feel. He met me face down in the dark. Alone. Scared. Hurting. Desperate. And that’s when Grace took over. It was a long road. And sometimes still is. But I wouldn’t trade the healing I’ve received from the hand of God for anything.

Why are you living this way? Why so trapped? Why so scared? Break. Free. Your future isn’t worth your pride. Jesus wants to heal you, but you have to stop fighting Him. So step out in faith. I promise you the freedom you will receive will be worth more than the momentary humiliation you may feel.

Break. Free.

Not Just a Cog

Not Just a Cog

TRIGGER WARNING: She writes about suicide, abuse, and abortion.

I come from a broken & blended family. It started with my mother not feeling loved enough by my biological father. She and my stepfather (Tom) got together in the apartment complex we all lived in and left their first marriages to try and build a better one. My biological dad checked out because it was too painful to stay involved with me once the relationship was over with my mother. Tom & mom married when I was three years old and I got to have part time brothers each summer for a few months. My brothers and I are close in age and I loved their visits. I was an only child without them until my half sisters came along when I was 10 & 12 years old (not exactly the best age for hanging out together).

Fast forward to our teen years when my brothers were allowed to choose to visit or not. Tom was physically, verbally and sexually abusive…they had an out and took it. I was left with the worst of it and it SUPER sucked! We moved many times in my youth. I struggled as the “new girl” trying to make friends after each move. I had no contact with my brothers, and basically just navigated life with ZERO confidence. The sexual abuse became progressively worse during puberty and for several years afterward. I tried to tell a babysitter when I was in eighth grade and she said, “You better think about how your accusations could affect your family. Do you really want to hurt your family like that?” That question has haunted me my entire life.

It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I finally told my younger sisters what happened. Needless to say I was a bit confused about relationships when I started trying to have romantic ones. I ran away with my first boyfriend at 16 years old and left a note telling my mother some of what Tom had been doing to me. I returned 5 days later and stayed  in a “safe house” for a day. THAT was scarier than the uncertainty of what awaited me at home, so back I went! We moved again and with less than 2 years until I was 18, I began devising my escape plan. I fell for a guy, got a job and worked a lot. I spent time anywhere but at home. I was on the verge of escape from my family (they were in a deteriorating state and on the way to another divorce). I planned to follow my boyfriend to college but found myself pregnant at 18! According to people who I thought had my best interests at heart, my only option was a quick abortion to keep me on course. That’s what I did and was on my way to the next chapter. My boyfriend was kicked out of college a year after we got there and I followed him home a semester after that. We were together for several years (and another abortion) then got married when we were 22. One month after that, he was arrested for rape and has been in and out of jail ever since. During the years with him and some years after that, I was suicidal and self medicating with alcohol and other drugs.

Fast forward to Steve. My rebound relationship and husband to this day! We dated 4 years and decided to marry and have children right away. I THOUGHT GOD WOULD NEVER ALLOW IT because I chose to destroy the lives that He had already given me! Another lie heaped on top of a giant pile of them that I was carrying around and BELIEVING! A friend recommended a free group counseling with several other women who had very similar stories as mine. The group was FREE and met at a church (not my thing at the time). It was called Sisters of Rachel (and since has become Surrendering the Secret). It was where I found a love like none I had ever experienced before. After abandonment of one father, neglect & abuse at the hands of another, and a mother who couldn’t protect me, I found a group of unloved, outcast underdogs with whom I could relate, share my story and my pain and anything else I wanted to talk about without judgement. THIS group of women and our amazing leader knew the love of One that I had not yet experienced: JESUS! At 28 years old, I found a love that would help me learn the power of forgiveness, find adoption into a new family, and begin to seek my true identity and BE HEALED! I AM NO LONGER A VICTIM! I have been through various types of counseling (conventional, prayer led, equine assisted, group, individual, EMDR, and more). The beginning of true freedom has been finding out that God created me, Jesus died for me, and the Spirit lives in me. Most days I know my true identity. I am not just a cog in a machine I AM a Child Of God.