Wait for Me

Today at school I passed out a pile of math packets to a group of energetic and eager second graders.  I told each of them to put their names on the top and that we would be doing the first two pages together.  No sooner had I sat down at the document camera did a student frantically raise her hand and ask, “do we have to do the back page?!”  I simply replied, “We aren’t there yet. Just follow along with me on the first page.”  “But it says we need calculators,” she said, “We don’t have calculators!”  Again, I replied, “We aren’t there yet. Don’t worry about it.  We will get there when we get there.  Turn back to the first page and follow along.”  

For the next 15 minutes or so as we worked on each problem together, explaining a few methods for adding two large numbers, I would see students raise their hands like popcorn.  Always frantic.  Always concerned.  Never trusting.  “Do we have to do the last page!?  We don’t have calculators!”  Each time I would try to redirect them to where we actually were, reminding them that I would explain when we got there.

Finally, we got to the back page and I read the instructions which included, “Use a calculator…”  I looked at the group of nervous students, “Do you have calculators?”  “No,” they all said with great concern.  I then asked them, “Who do you think has calculators?” They looked around at each other, then looked up at me smiling behind the desk holding a basket of blue calculators, “yooooouuuu,” they all chimed together, relieved and a little bit sheepish. “Why would you think I would give you an assignment and not give you what you need to complete it?  Do you think I would tell you to do something that was impossible?”

As much as I asked this question in earnest, it felt convicting all at the same time.  How often I jump ahead in my own life to circumstances that may or may not even occur and say desperately, “I can’t do it.  I don’t have what I need to do that.”  How often I imagine the worst that is ahead and think, “That is impossible!”  I’ve imagined the extreme possibilities of my disease and have looked at photographs and read articles and have said, “How could I do it?  How could I live like that?”  I’ve looked ahead to the inevitable and have feared doctor visits, first days of school, new jobs, sleepless nights and have said, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.  Am I really going to have to turn to that page??”  Yes.  The answer is, “Yes!” 

And as often as I ask that question, and each and every time I finally find myself turning to the last page of my packet and look up at God and say, “See??  It says I need a calculator!  I don’t have a calculator,” He always replies with, “You don’t.  But I do.”  

Back on August 6th I found out we were expecting our daughter.  I had taken a pregnancy test simply to ease my own mind.  I just wanted to confirm that we were not pregnant so I could go on with my day relaxed.  I expected the pregnancy test to come back negative and to start my cycle that night or the next day and then laugh at myself, “Why did you even worry about that?”  But that’s not what happened.  It didn’t come back negative.  It came back positive. Full. Dark. Instant. ||  Those two pink lines appeared and I began to shake and sweat.  “I’m not reading this right, ”  I thought to myself.  “Serves me right for buying this at the dollar store.  It must have been exposed to extreme temperatures or something.  It must be broken.”  But I knew in my heart that wasn’t true.  I knew in my heart that there was a new life beginning to form inside my body. 

I instantly felt a combination of guilt and fear.  Fear, because we weren’t planning on having another baby.  I was planning to get my tubes tied.  I was planning to go back to work more next year.  We were done with diapers.  Done with nursing.  Done with sleepless nights.  Our house is too small.  Our income is too small.  My faith is too small.  My disease is too big.  My stress is too big.  My boys are too big.  My problems are all too big.  And guilty because of all of my fears and excuses and lack of intense gratitude.  

My fear was all-consuming.  For a week I felt like I was in a daze.  The world seemed foggy, cloudy.  It seemed like I was walking in 4 feet of water and it was rising every moment and I was surely going to drown. I would have a complete meltdown every evening when the bottled up fears of the day would finally overflow.  I would rock back and forth on my bed sobbing saying, “I don’t want this!  I can’t do this!  I’m such a horrible person for even thinking this!”  I was surrounding myself with fear, anxiety, and the problems that were (maybe) going to come in my future.  “I know that in a year from now when I’m holding our baby that I’m going to look back and say that everything is OK, but right now I just can’t imagine that!  What if I can’t handle having this baby!?  I can hardly handle life as it is right now!  Now I’ll have to add an entire additional person to take care of!  How am I going to do it!?  I’m such a horrible mother for even thinking these things…”  I was spiraling out of control, completely and totally drenched in my own unbelief.  I was staring at the last page of my packet focused only on the tools I DID NOT POSSESS to do the task that would be set before me instead of focusing on the ONE who gave this child to me. 

I decided I needed help.  I couldn’t live like that.  I could not live the next 8 months or more in a state of anxiety and depression I couldn’t put my kids through that, my husband through that, or myself through that.  I had a picture of my future self, tightly wound up, a nervous wreck, total basket case, shaking on my bed as I rocked back and forth regularly for the rest of my life. I saw a picture of myself pulling out my own hair, heart pounding, hands shaking, mind racing…for the rest. of. my. life.  And I refused to live like that.  

I started meeting with a psychologist and processed all the things I was thinking and feeling.  I started to identify my fears and problems, and then began to come up with reasonable solutions.  I started to dissect my fears and troubles and separate them into things I could control and things I could not control.  The increase in the already intense amount of housework that we have in our house was something I could not control.  I can, however, control divvying up the chores and teaching my kids to be more responsible and help out so I’m not spread so thin.  My disease and its progression is something I cannot control. But I can control my diet, stress management, and how proactive I am with symptom management.  My disease was something I wouldn’t be able to control with or without a pregnancy.  My small house is something I cannot control.  I can, however, control how much stuff is in my small house and simplify.  I can organize and plan who will sleep where and what we will do with all the toys.  I started to break down my problems and come up with possible answers.

But there was still the very real problem that I had very ardently NOT WANTED another baby.  The guilt associated with this feeling was horrible.  I believe wholeheartedly that the little 4 week old embryo living inside of my body at that moment was a human.  That tiny baby was a life with a soul.  That baby was desired by God and put inside of me with a purpose and a plan, and here I was saying, “I don’t want it.”  I considered the broken heart of God as I looked on a being He loved and created and said, “All of these problems I have are more important than the life you have put inside me.”  No amount of reasoning and problem solving would change the fact that I was DONE with the baby phase. I could not convince myself that this was what I wanted.  I couldn’t talk myself into it because I knew it wasn’t true.

It took probably 10 weeks of prayer, prayer, and more prayer to finally hit the point of being EXCITED to have this baby.  I went through the various stages of grief.  What was I grieving?  The loss of the life I had come to accept and love–and the life I had planned ahead for myself.  The loss of a dream of working as a sub full-time, being able to take flights without a toddler or infant, the ability to soon go to a restaurant without screaming children at my table, meals without constant tears and negotiation…Life was about to get easier in so many ways as all my children were about to be school-aged!  And all of that disappeared. I denied the pregnancy to myself by refusing to think about it.  I didn’t even want to look at pregnant women.  Seeing a pregnant belly would make me feel sick to my stomach.  It would just churn with anxiety.  I was angry that God would change my life so dramatically without talking to me about it first.  I would try to talk God into taking it all from me so I could just go on with my life thinking I’d dodged a bullet (horrible to think…I know.  I don’t even like admitting it to myself).  I would become depressed and cry and want to just lay on the couch all day.  It was difficult to enjoy even the things I loved.  But eventually, I accepted what was happening.

One of the most beautiful things that came through this time of prayer and focus was the realization that God had been working this out in me for a really long time.  Back in March I went to a two hour class about different forms of birth control so that I could sign some papers agreeing to get my tubes tied.  As I signed the paperwork I prayed in my mind, “God, if this is not what you want for me, please close the door in some way.  If this is not what’s best for me and my family, then prevent it.  I want to do the right thing.  I think this is the right thing.  But I could be wrong.  And if I’m wrong, I want you to stop me.  I’m giving you permission to hijack this plan of mine to make sure I’m in line with what you want for me.”  I really didn’t have another baby in mind when I was praying this.  I was thinking a little more selfishly like, “If this surgery would cause major problems to my body, then stop this.”  But six months later when I still hadn’t heard from the doctors to schedule my surgery, and I got those two pink lines on a stick, God was answering that prayer that I had completely forgotten I had prayed.

Now, 18 weeks after finding out about being pregnant, I’m so ridiculously excited about this baby girl we are going to be welcoming into the world.  I am already realizing that God was right all along.  I still don’t have my calculator in hand, but I’m pretty convinced that, when I need it, God is going to hand me one.  I know that God is not going to give me a task without the tools I need to accomplish it.  I know that, while on my own, what lies ahead seems impossible, especially to the outside world, that all things are possible with God.  I still, occasionally, look ahead and think, “What if I need a c-section?  What if she’s born a premie?  What if I don’t recover well?  What if my milk never comes in right?  What if she doesn’t sleep well?  What if she isn’t healthy?  What if…”  And I keep telling myself to stop jumping ahead.  Stop flipping to the last page and expecting to already be equipped with what I need to work through the problems when I don’t yet have those problems to solve.  Quit focusing so much on what lies in the future that I cannot control and start focusing on what I am dealing with today, right now, in this moment.  Remember the times that God has brought me through the “impossible” and trust that He will bring me through the “impossible” if and when it comes.  Pray for peace, joy, love, hope, faith.  Pray for a happy, healthy, good sleeper (amen and amen!) instead of worrying about what it will be like if she isn’t.  Be EXCITED!  Be WILLING!  TRUST.

Will my students probably still ask questions and worry about how they’ll finish their homework in the future?  Probably.  Will they continue to flip to the back of the packet, jump ahead, and then panic when they don’t know what they’re doing?  Yes.  They will.  But maybe, over time, they’ll worry less and less.  Maybe they’ll eventually learn to trust me in the same way I’ve been learning to trust God.

 

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When I Want to Tell the Truth

When I was a kid (probably around 5 years old?) I remember my neighbors were going somewhere to get ice cream. (I always thought it was much cooler like seeing horses…but it was just ice cream…)  I don’t remember most of the evening, but what I remember is that I really wanted to go with them.  They told me I had to ask my parents.  When I did, they said “no.”  I think I remember they had to go somewhere that evening and we had a sitter coming over.  But I really really wanted to go.  So I ran back to my neighbor’s house and said, “They said yes!”  We hopped into the car and all left!

Now, this was before cell phones so it isn’t like my parents could call up and ask Brenda if I was with them.  I imagine they were reeling praying that I was with them and not with some crazy person who somehow nabbed be in the 20 feet between our two homes. When I got home I was in SO MUCH TROUBLE.  I had completely ruined my parents’ plans for the evening and they had been worried sick.  I’m sure I also lost the trust of my neighbors.

Like most children, I had a tendency to lie about stupid stuff.  Never about anything that was really important or consequential, but silly things.  I told all my friends in 3rd grade that I had “Michael Jackson Disease” and that I was really black and related to Michael Jordan. For some reason I always wanted to be black.  That was my way of making it true for myself.  Silly and inconsequential, but a lie nonetheless.

As I got older and had others lie to me about things I realized how much it stinks to be lied to and I felt like I really wanted to be honest with people.  But the pull to lie about silly things was so difficult.  If someone asked me why I didn’t call the night before I’d feel compelled to say, “oh I got really busy and didn’t have a chance,” instead of just being honest and saying, “I was too tired,” or “I completely forgot.”  If I arrived to work a few minutes late it was easier to say, “I hit every red light” than it was to say, “I’m sorry.  I lost track of time.”

But why do we even lie about those things in the first place?  Lying disconnects us from the responsibility of our actions, or so we like to think.  Instead of admitting truth and taking ownership for our thoughts, feelings, actions, and how they impact others, we would rather bend the truth or explain away what we’ve done to make ourselves look better.

At some point I decided that I was tired of being lied to and lied about and if I wanted to be in the right, I needed to not lie to others.  It was so difficult.  So I asked God to do what He had to do to make me not lie.  Let me be caught.  Make me feel convicted to the point of admitting my wrongdoing and rectifying the situation.  I don’t want to lie anymore.

That. Was. Hard.

My junior year in high school I went to hang out with some friends on New Years Eve and got totally trashed.  I was so angry with myself.  I had completely destroyed my witness as a Christian to people I cared deeply about.  I made myself look totally foolish and let my emotions get the best of me.  I had been so saddened by people around me for years who were wasting their lives in a drunken stupor and felt like I had been such a hypocrite.  I felt so convicted that I finally went to my dad and step mom and told them I had something to confess.  I told them what I had done and they forgave me completely.  I wasn’t in trouble.  They knew I had punished myself enough over the situation.  That was just one of several times I had to go to them and confess something I had done.  They almost always knew the truth already and they always forgave me.

Shortly after Josh and I were married we became pregnant with our first child.  It was a whirlwind.  I was still a full-time student, working two jobs, and Josh didn’t have a job.  I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt sick all the time.  I had to go to classes.  I was almost done.  This was my final semester before student teaching.  One day I realized I had forgotten to do an online assignment for a History class.  It was due the day before and I thought I’d go online to see if the discussion was still open so I could post.  It had closed.  For whatever stupid reason I decided to email the professor and tell him that the site had not been working for me and that’s why I didn’t do the assignment.  Guess what.  I got caught.  He had his assistant turn the discussion back on and check my account and lo and behold, it was working just fine.  He called me out on it.  He said he had to come to the conclusion that I “was lying.”  Those words cut me like a knife.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Why had I even said anything in the first place?!  Why didn’t I just leave it alone.  Students forget assignments all the time.  Now my character was tarnished with this professor, whom I actually really liked.  I felt totally and completely convicted…just like I had asked for.

Did you know that going back to a superior and admitting you’ve lied and asking for their forgiveness sucks?  I emailed that professor back and apologized for lying.  I explained that we had been going through so many things and I don’t know why I did it.  I explained that I guess the pressure had just gotten to me.  I told him I was wrong and I felt horrible and asked him to please forgive me.  I never heard back from him.  It was so hard.  And going back into the classroom to see him face to face was even harder.  I never knew whether or not he had forgiven me for what I had done or not…and still don’t. He has probably long since forgotten me, but I haven’t forgotten him.

Over the years I’ve had similar things happen when I have said something ridiculous to get out of responsibility for something and had to call back and apologize.  But the older I get the more sensitive I’ve become to lies.  I find myself being brutally honest with my kids.  When they ask me excitedly, “What would happen if I jumped into the water!?”  I respond, “you would die.”  I don’t say, “you might get hurt,” or “that would make me so sad” because the reality is that they would drown and die if they jumped off the pier into the ocean.  They can’t swim and I’m not so good at it myself.  I find myself sensitive when people lie to my kids about silly things or ask me to do the same.  If I lie or others lie to my children and it seems OK, then why is it NOT OK for them to lie?

This doesn’t mean that I have to speak my mind about everything.  I don’t go out of my way to tell someone what I think just for the sake of being honest.  It isn’t like The Invention of Lying.  Being truthful does not mean you always have to say anything at all.  It’s often OK to say nothing.  In this day and age of Facebook posts and comments, I feel we go out of our way to comment our opinions just for the sake of doing it rather than just scrolling past and ignoring something we don’t want to see.  So there is a balance.

As a parent I’ve prayed over and over and over again that my boys would grow to be men of conviction.  They would know right from wrong and have the urge to act upon it. I have prayed that they would have strong character and values.  I’ve prayed that when they do something wrong, that they would get CAUGHT!  Why?  Because they may tell little, inconsequential white lies today.  But in the future lying may be so second nature that they can’t even discern the truth from the lie anymore.  They may lie so much that they’ve convinced themselves they’re being honest.  I want them to learn to be honest, take responsibility for their actions, and accept the consequences.  I want them to WANT to tell the truth.

The day one of my boys comes to me, admits he did something wrong, and asks for forgiveness will be a proud day for me because I know just how difficult that is.

 

This afternoon I had the joy of hanging out with one of my close friends.  We took our children (4 in all) to a local arboretum and watched on happily as our children soaked in the sunshine, fresh air, and each other.

On the way home we had a great conversation about parenting.  We talked about how we have all had our horrible days when we just hate ourselves because we feel like we totally blew this whole mom thing.  And other days (like today) that went great!  We talked about how we all have different methods of discipline and instruction, but all in all, we have the same goals in mind and a loving heart.  We laughed about how it is so different being a teacher, auntie, or babysitter than it is to actually being the parent!  We talked about how it’s so hard to look into someone else’s situation when we can’t truly understand what they’re going through.

And that thought has stuck with me all afternoon.

As a young adult I imagined myself being an incredible mom.  I would be totally engaged.  I’d be a cool mom. But not too cool. I was going to raise strong, independent, hard working, respectful kids because I watched other peoples’ kids throw temper tantrums in the store, yell at their parents, and cheat on their homework.  That wasn’t going to be my kid. was going to do a better job.

Then I became a mom.  As a mom of one child I had it all together.  My kid was a great sleeper because let him cry it out.  Sleep wouldn’t be an issue if everyone did that.  My kid ate all fresh, homemade pureed food and was going to be a healthy kid.  No sugar until his first birthday.  I wasn’t going to be like the moms who give their kids canned pasta and chocolate milk.  No way.  Not me.

Then I became a mom of two…and suffered with PPD.  My new angel wouldn’t sleep…no matter what I did.  He just cried all the time.  I tried to let him cry but it didn’t work!  What the heck?!  And my totally freshly fed older child now only wanted peanut butter and jelly and pancakes!  All that work wasted!  I felt awful inside and out.  I wanted to scream and cry and lose my temper.  But I didn’t want to ask for help.  could do it.  I didn’t need help.  I suffered.

As a mom of three boys I totally screw up all the time.  I get mad over stupid things.  I feel tired most of the time.  I should probably be playing more and working less.  Maybe I should focus less on getting chores done and let them get a little dirty.  But I know all of these things about myself.  I know that I’m far from perfect…and I think most of us moms are aware of this.

The problem is when we think we have the right to tell someone else all they need to do better. Because we know better…even when we don’t.

Before I had stepped onto the parenting boat I would sit on the shore and watch the ships out on the sea.  I would stare in shock as they tossed and turned in the water…sometimes nearly tipping over.  I would watch in amazement wondering why people didn’t just follow the simple instructions that came with this whole parenting thing.  Just have boundaries.  Just say no.  Just don’t let your toddler rule your life. Just…JustJust…  It seemed so simple.  But it wasn’t until I stepped into my own boat and made my way out to sea that I realized how deep, how murky, and how treacherous the waters really are.  Once you think you’ve dodged one wave, another has come from a completely different direction to threaten the stability of the boat.  Wave after wave until you feel like you’re drowning.  It’s not until you endure the storms, the torrential rains, the massive swells that you realize that only so much of this is in your control and realize you never should have judged those crazy parents…because now you are one. And there are ignorant people out on the tranquil beaches watching as you struggle with condemning faces just like you used to do.

I remember as a little girl reading a story about not judging someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  Somewhere along the way in life we have forgotten this old proverb.  Of course we are all naturally going to make judgements about the rightness or wrongness of a situation: Yes it is wrong to be impolite.  It is wrong to steal.  It is wrong to murder.  It is wrong to lie. It is right to be generous.  It is right to be kind.  It is right to be patient…etc.  But we go a step further and make judgements with comparisons such as, “They are bad parents.”  Or worse yet, “I’m a better parent.”

 

I’ve been a stay at home mom now for 8.5 years.  I have 3 kids. I’ve worked part time for the last year and have gotten a taste for what it feels like to work and parent and it’s hard. I’ve gotten to do the dedicated stay at home mom thing.  It’s hard and I’m no closer to knowing everything than I was 9 years ago!  NOTHING in life (for me) has been harder than being a mom.  I cannot imagine anything being harder except maybe dreaming of being a parent and never having it fulfilled.  Being a parent is a constant test of your character.  Your kids will continuously attempt to push the boundaries.  They will stretch you to your limits and then force you to stretch a little further.  They will bring you joy, laughter, tears, guilt, embarrassment, and a whole heap of judgement.  (but they’re so worth it…)

So, to my friends who are watching from the shore… Please show generosity in your thoughts and actions toward those who are tossing on the choppy seas.  Instead of offering your criticism, offer a hand.  Instead of judgement, show kindness.  Try to be understanding and patient just as you would hope someone would do for you.

And, to my mommy and daddy friends out there.  Keep on keeping on.  The waves will come and go.  You’ll have massive successes and epic failures.  You will recover.  You will not be perfect.  You will show your kids how to be imperfect and how to get back up again.

It’s Really Me

This last week I have been watching as our country continues to implode.  I feel so helpless to do anything about it.  I feel like I’m standing and watching families divide, friends part ways, and people fall into despair.  Where is this coming from?  Why is this happening?

It’s my fault.

It really is.

It would be easier for me to point the finger at someone else and say that it’s their fault.  It would be easier for me to jump on the bandwagon and start saying, “now look what you’ve done!  You’ve made your bed!  Now sleep in it!”  It would be easier to say, “Now you know what it feels like to be ignored!”  It would be easy for me to start name-calling and generalizing all of the people around me because the few are the loudest.

But that’s not Biblical.  That’s not true.  What’s true is that it is my fault and if I refuse to accept responsibility for what is happening in this country then nothing is going to change.

I am a big fan of Psalms and Proverbs.  I’m a big fan of the whole Bible but I’ve been camped out in these areas for the last 6 months or more trying to really drink up all of the wisdom found in these books.  I can’t help but draw connections to what is happening here and now to what was happening in the Psalms.  I want to draw attention specifically to Psalm 25, Psalm 37, 38, 39, and 40.

In Psalm 25 we meet David coming up against another enemy.   On one hand he was a beloved king to Israel, but like all kings he always had someone who did not like him and wanted to see him fail.  In this Psalm he asks for God’s mercy and for God to:

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”

If we know our Bible we remember that David wasn’t perfect.  Some people believe this Psalm was written when David was being tossed out of his own kingdom by his son, Absalom, and Achitophel, his advisor and friend.  Why is this happening?  Absalom went nuts because David had no control over his own household.  (One of his sons, Amnon, raped his half sister, Tamar.  Tamar was Absalom’s sister.  David did very little to punish Amnon for this crime so Absalom let his anger rise and burn until he killed Amnon and then pushed his father out of the kingdom and took over).  Achitophel was the father (or possibly grandfather, depending on who you talk to) of a familiar lady named Bathsheba.  We all remember the story of Bathsheba, right? (David is at home during wartime, where he shouldn’t have been.  He was on his roof and saw a woman bathing on her roof.  She was pretty.  He wanted her.  So he invited her over and seduced her.  She ends up pregnant.  But she’s married to a guy named Uriah who happens to be off in the war where David should have been too.  David calls Uriah home hoping he will sleep with his wife and then he can cover up their affair.  This doesn’t work because Uriah is an honorable man and refuses to experience pleasure while his comrades are in battle.  David, in an act of desperation, sends a note with Uriah to give to the commander to send him to the front lines.  Uriah is, of course, killed at war.  David, for all practical purposes, murdered Uriah).
David screwed up.  A lot.  And now, years later, he is walking out of his kingdom, looking back, recognizing the error of his ways and asking that God would show mercy on him.

Over and over again David brings up his “iniquities” in Psalms 38-40.  In Psalm 38 he gives such an amazing description of his own sin:

“O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
    because of my foolishness

…18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am sorry for my sin.”

I love his words: “my wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness.”  Stinking, festering, infected, neglected wounds.  It seems to imply that God had been warning David with “arrows” to get it together and David just ignored the warnings. Now the damage is so much worse than if David had done what was necessary to clean them out in the first place.  The pain David is experiencing, the stinking, festering wounds, force him to recognize the problem or to choose to hold onto the burden and eventually die.  David comes face to face with his problem and does an amazing thing: He Confesses.

In Psalm 40 David, again, recognizes the heart issue that’s going on in his life.

“6. In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

Sacrifices and offerings were common in David’s day.  These “burnt offerings” and “sin offerings” were made as a way for the people to apologize to God for their sins.  It was a way to restore their relationship with a perfect and holy God.  But David sees past the sacrifices.  It isn’t about the offering.  God wasn’t delighted in an offering that was given without remorse and repentance.  God was delighted in the heart that wanted to do the right thing.  David sees his actions for what they really are: a heart that has rebelled against his Creator.  A God who loves him and desires reconciliation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.”

Like David, I look around and see a world falling apart.  I see violence in the streets, a love of evil, and a complete disregard for what is good and right.  I see a people so focussed on what they want and who is in the way.  I feel like I have enemies all around me.  I never know what I can or can’t say in fear of retaliation.  But the problem is inside of me.  I could blame the Democrats or Republicans or the President or the KKK or the LGBTQ community or the terrorists or the immigrants or wall street or the economy or the schools or my neighbor… but I would just be letting the wounds fester and rot and stink and slowly kill me from the inside.  The problem is me.  What am I going to do about it?  How have I contributed to the problem?  How do I continue to contribute to the problem?

Praise God for His unfailing love and mercy!  Praise God that He delights to reveal His way.  Praise God that he is eager to forgive.  Praise God that He is perfect, and holy, and good even though I, as a human, often fail.  Praise God that, in His kindness and love, He saw it fitting to still die for me even when I was His enemy!  Praise God that He is not like me: unforgiving, fickle, judgmental, arrogant, quick to anger.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Health Fly-Over…One More Lap

It has been a long time since I have given any kind of real public update regarding my health.  I try not to spend a lot of time talking about it, thinking about it, or writing about it because I find that dwelling on my problems is not that helpful for me most of the time.  I know some people find it therapeutic, and sometimes I do too, but I mostly find that it makes me feel worse.  But, I figured I would give a quick flyover of all that’s been going on the last year or so.

Many of you know that I visited Mayo Clinic last year in Rochester, MN.  Mayo Clinic was amazing and they gave me a lot of hope about the possibility that this disease  (Scleroderma/Systemic Sclerosis) could potentially have been a temporary blip on my radar due to other issues.  Since then I have continued to have symptoms such as Raynaud’s Disease (my fingers turn white when they’re cold and go completely numb.  Not just pale, but where my fingers look like they belong to a dead body.  It’s gross), digestive problems, as well as some newer ones such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and migraines.  Thankfully the two rheumatologists I saw out here confirmed to me that a lot of their Scleroderma/Systemic Sclerosis patients suffer from digestive problems because it is a connective tissue disease and can impact any connective tissue in the body.  Yay!  Unfortunately there just is not a whole lot that can be done about it.  They believe that my lack of skin involvement is probably because I’m in an earlier stage of the disease.  Most people are not tested for Scleroderma until they present with skin issues.  But many of the patients suffer from other complaints for years not knowing what is wrong with them.  My chance Scleroderma blood test showed it in my system and now we are (hopefully) keeping it at bay with the standard auto-immune treatments.

Last year in October I had a weekend when I felt so sick to my stomach that I decided to make some dietary changes.  I stopped eating gluten, limited my dairy intake, and then paid attention to what I ate more to figure out different foods that triggered a response from my system.  So far I’ve learned that heavy foods are a big challenge, most processed foods/sugars, ice cream is a food I will probably never eat again, zucchini makes me miserable and so do potatoes.  Caffeine is also not my friend so I limit that as well.

Around New Year’s I was having a lot of problems taking my stomach medication.  It was doing its job too well and I started to go off of the prescription.  I was able to go off of it completely which was a huge turn for me!  This was a pill I had been taking 5 times a day just to function like a normal human being!  I stayed off of it and had minimal symptoms for about 5 months.  I thought that maybe I had made enough changes to my lifestyle that I had everything under control.

In May my symptoms came back with a vengeance.  Whether it was from stress or what, I don’t know, but I knew that this flare up was going to be miserable.  I spent most of my summer trying to function through horrible migraines which are new for me.  I was at a point when I was taking Excedrine Migraine every day for several weeks in a row and it was barely taking the edge off.  It also doesn’t mix well with my stomach medication that I had to start taking again in order to make it through the day.  Most of the time I felt like I was in a fog…a dreamlike state.  I couldn’t think clearly and felt really irritable.  Simple questions and conversations were really challenging.  I felt so completely discouraged.  The best way to explain it would be to say that it’s like being a drunk person who is trying to sound sober.

The whole summer was pretty much like that and now I feel like I am mostly managing my symptoms.  I still feel crappy a lot of the time, but my medication does help to take the edge off, so that’s a good thing.  I often feel lightheaded and dizzy, experience a solid amount of joint pain (but no swelling), abdominal pain, extreme fatigue and headaches.

I am learning that I have limitations to what I can do and that has been really difficult.  The chances of ever having my own classroom seems so far out of my reach at this point.  I don’t know how I would be able to function if I couldn’t lay down at the drop of a hat.  Just last week I was in a classroom and the students left for lunch and I felt like I was going to fall asleep.  It wasn’t just a little tired.  I felt like there were 100 lb weights on my eyes and as if someone had just given me some Vicodin.  My brain was so foggy I felt like I could hardly think.  My words weren’t slurred by I had to work really hard to form sentences.  I told Josh that the aide in the classroom probably thought I was on drugs.  So letting go of the dream of being a full-time teacher is something that I’m working through right now.

I’ve also had to make a lot of either/or decisions and I really don’t like to plan to do anything fun ever.  I have to think of what I am going to do carefully so I don’t run out of energy all in one moment.  I need to know that I have a day of rest coming up and plan my evenings/weekends accordingly to make sure I have time to recover.  I know that sounds really strange, but I feel like it is just easier for me to be at home and to go do something fun if I am feeling up for it at a random time.  I was talking to my mother-in-law about this problem of not ever wanting to do anything but be at home and have close friends over for a relaxing game night or something.  I just don’t want or need any additional excitement in my life and it feels like I must be a really boring person.  She was super encouraging to me and reminded me that Josh is a much more introverted, mellow person who enjoys spending most days at home or doing something relaxing.  He has never been the one with the need to be busy.  She said that, for him, this is probably more his pace than it was when I was trying to plan something all the time.  I hadn’t thought about that and it has helped me to feel a little less guilty about my exhaustion and stress levels.

I have my good days and my bad days.  My good days are probably how a normal person feels when they have eaten something that just didn’t settle well and has a sinus headache on top of it.  I can function and do things that are fun in moderation. I have found that the Spoon Theory is incredibly accurate and do a lot of borrowing.

On my bad days I am a total wreck.  I don’t feel like myself at all.  I feel like the world is crashing in around me and that it’s never going to get better.  I can’t think.  I feel really irritable.  I’m in pain.  Just getting out of bed takes me at least a half hour.  Showering uses up every ounce of energy I have…so I don’t.  I feel confused.  I can’t even remember what it feels like to feel good…to feel normal.  I feel completely hopeless and bury my face in a pillow and cry…super ugly cry.  I think that death would be so much better and all the pills I have laying around are really tempting.  I thank God for the hope He brings and clarity that the Holy Spirit offers in those moments that death is not the answer.  It’s interesting because I know that so many people view suicide as a horribly selfish act and I understand what they are saying.  I really do.  But when you’re on the other side and feeling like you want to die it doesn’t feel that way at all.  It feels like living one more day in this body prison would be impossible and you have to force yourself to believe that this is today…not tomorrow…not 40 years from now.  For me, one of the things I keep in mind is that I don’t want my kids growing up wondering if it was their fault.  I don’t want them to grow up being angry with God because their mom left them.  I’ve also known friends who have attempted suicide and know that it is not the answer.  It doesn’t solve anything.  It just creates more problems.  So I do keep those things in mind.  So please don’t go calling the police, the doctor, or my parents to warn them that I’m suicidal.  This is on my worst days.  I do believe that this emotional response is very much linked to the disease itself.  Depression and anxiety is very common among auto-immune sufferers and this is just one of those symptoms that I have from time to time.  More often than I’d like.

Another question that has come up recently is whether or not auto-immune/chronic illness can really change a person’s personality.  Can it turn an extrovert into an introvert? Can it turn an outdoor lover into a homebody?  Yes and No.  I feel a lot less extroverted these days than I used to feel.  Going places never really bothered me before, but now I feel more anxious when I’m around a group of people I don’t know or when I’m in a place I’ve never been.  I feel trapped.  I need to know where the nearest bathroom is.  Where is the nearest source of water?  Where is the nearest source of food?  How far away from my car will I be?  What if I start to feel really sick?  What if I get too hot or too cold?  I prefer to be near my home.  I want an easy escape plan.  I want a bathroom that is far away from the action so I can go in there and be by myself and get it together.  I want to be able to sit down, close my eyes, and breathe if I need to.  I don’t look sick so I often feel like people won’t understand.  That they will think it’s all in my head.  So am I now an introvert?  I think I’m an extrovert trapped inside a body that hates spontaneity and fun.  How can I tell that I’m not a true introvert?  Because I wish I could go and do all of those things.  It’s not that being around people doesn’t sound fun.  It’s that all of my symptoms get in the way.  How can I carry on a conversation when I feel like I’m going to throw up if I say another word?  How can I talk to someone when I feel like I can’t even think clearly?  How can I go hiking and traveling when I feel like I’m going to faint?  My body jut prevents me from being who I am on the inside.

I admit that I have a lot more thoughts about other people and their health.  For example, my mother-in-law was telling me about an amazing teacher who has this incredible classroom and I said something about how great it would be to get to be in that class someday.  She said that he never takes a day off.  I said, “He must be healthy.  I hate him.”  I don’t really hate him, of course.  I don’t really hate healthy people.  It is just honestly really difficult to watch other people do things that you used to be able to do and can’t do anymore.  That sounds so petty.  I know.  It’s something I’m working on.  Like I’ve even gotten annoyed at television/film characters (even cartoon ones…) because they feel good all the time.  That’s when I’m having a bad day.  The only people I want to see healthy all the time on TV are Jessica Fletcher and Ben Matlock.

So there you have it.  The good, bad, and ugly.  I hold out hope that I will have another great season.  Life will be filled, no doubt, with good months and bad months and I look forward to the good ones again.  I also hope that they’re super awesome around Thanksgiving and Christmas because those are my favorite.  Right now I have been spending time subbing and with my kids and I find that having a schedule and distraction is really helpful.  The more time I spend just dwelling on how awful I feel the worse it is.  It doesn’t mean that my symptoms go away, but having things to do even around the house helps to keep me going.  It’s motivating.  It reminds me of when I was in college and I would run 6 miles around an indoor 1/8 mile track.  That’s a lot of laps.  I would hit a point when I felt like I couldn’t run any further and I would tell myself, “just one more lap.”  I would do this for probably 16 laps.  “Just one more.  Just one more.”  And I always did “just one more” lap.  When I have my kids and work I think, “Just get to lunch.  Just one more diaper.  Just one more hour.”  I find things to do during those times like pick up a book with the kids, work on a coloring project, or some other activity that doesn’t require a lot of physical exertion and we get through.  My days are often filled with “just one more lap” moments and I pray that God gives me the energy to keep running.

The Gray House

I grew up in a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 2-story house.  The siding was gray with a black roof, and black shutters.  It had an interesting exterior in that there were two front doors.  Solicitors always thought that it was a duplex and would start at one front door and then would go on to the next, always surprised to see the same person answer.  The house had no central air conditioning, no dishwasher, no dining room, and no garage.  Our gray house was situated on a large corner lot with a U-shaped gravel driveway that connected our house to both of the streets that intersected in front of it. There were large trees in the yard including a really beautiful lilac bush that my dad had to take down when it got sick.  I remember being so sad on that day.

Each season in that home comes with its own special memories.  I remember hot summers that never seemed to end.  The sounds of cicadas calling out to one another would fill the air.  We would play catch in front of the house, go on bike rides, walk to the Mill Pond to swim, or go out to Jacobson’s farm and fish off the dock.  Our neighborhood was active with lots of kids so sometimes we all got to go to the neighbor’s house to swim.  I remember not making it on time to go to the bathroom in the house when I was probably 4 and, not wanting to miss out on swimming, I went back to the pool and jumped in.  Unfortunately, I didn’t just have to go #1.  The pool had to be cleared out and cleaned out.  We would all run around on the grass in the evening and chase fireflies.  The days seemed long and I remember laying in my bed in my hot, stuffy room, and looking out the window as the sun was just beginning to set

Fall was always a special time of the year because it meant school was starting and my birthday was approaching.  Our house sat conveniently in between 3 bus stops: one block to the east, one block to the west, or one block to the south.  So if we were ever late for the first one, we could always make it to the last one!  Apple Fest would come each fall and we would drive out to Jacobson’s farm and get caramel apples, pick out pumpkins, and walk through the apple orchard.  The streets in our neighborhood would become decorated with red and gold crispy autumn leaves.  We would rake our leaves into giant piles and jump into them for as long as our parents and the neighbors would let us.  After a while they would light the leaves on fire.  The smell of burning leaves in the fall is still a homey and comforting smell.  By the time Halloween rolled around it could either feel like summer or winter.  I recall dressing up and walking around in rain and wind, or in a nice warm afternoon.  Each year was something different.  Our neighborhood was a safe, family neighborhood with lots of little ghosts, kittens, angels, and super heroes running around looking for candy.

Winter has some of my best memories.  It was always cold and snowy so we would dress in our warmest snowsuits, jackets, ski gloves, boots, and hats and go out to brave the freezing temperatures.  Our bus stop would be covered in piles of snow so we would turn them into slides.  Ever child from 5 to 12 hopped on top of the ice and would go zooming down.  It felt like it was 100 feet high as a child.  The sidewalks were slippery and cold.  We would put little Christmas decorations up in the house.  We had little stuffed doorknob holders and a sign that said “Beary Christmas.”  Our ornaments were all kinds of various Keepsakes and filled the tree beautifully.  My dad was always the one to put the lights on the tree because he was the best at it.  I don’t know if he chose or who did, but I remember having blue lights on the tree.   On Christmas morning we would wake up and open gifts around the tree and then head off to grandma and grandpa’s for the rest of the day.  I remember coming home after a long and fulfilling day and looking up at the street light as I watched the snow float down from the sky.  The most magical day of the year would have come to an end and I would wish it would start all over.

In the Spring I remember Easter.  My brother and I enjoyed looking for Easter eggs and our Easter baskets.  We have a video of our hunt one year in the house.  I had found my brother’s green Easter basket and he had found my pink one.  I was pretty small so he showed me how the pink one had grass in it.  I was mesmerized and gladly gave up the green basket even though it too had grass.  We would go out to my grandparents’ farm and hunt for more eggs, eat ham and potatoes, wear ourselves out with our cousins, and come back home.  The days were breezy and cool and I remember driving up to the school yard to try to fly a kite.  I think I spent most of my time playing on the playground and less time with the kite since I didn’t really get to hold it anyway.  Spring also brought in some incredible storms.  There were days when the sky would be as black as night and tornado sirens would go off.  Sometimes it felt like it would rain for days on end and I would sit and stare out our living room window and wonder when summer would come back.

How appropriate that the house is gray.  It has some really beautiful and wonderful memories for me, and some really awful ones too.  I have felt such an attachment to that house and I could not seem to pinpoint why…until today.  This home is the place where everything began, and where everything fell apart.  This is the home of the wonderful memories you’ve already read.  And it is also the home of the separation of my parents.  It is the only home where I have memories, pictures, and videos of them together.  It is the home where my mom and dad worked in tandem and planned to raise my brother and me.  It is the home they selected together when they had a plan.  It is the home where they placed their hard earned money!  Their very first single-family home.  And then, when I was 6, it wasn’t theirs anymore.

My mom got remarried and we had a new family move in with us.  I had two step-brothers and a step-sister with whom I have 8 years worth of memories.  Memories of playing Super Mario Bros. in the living room while listening to Styx and Garth Brooks, playing catch with a football in the front yard, catching toads and getting muddy.  Memories just like the ones above, but more.  More presents, more kids, more winters more summers.  It is the home where I learned to play the French Horn and the flute.  It is the home of a surprise 13th birthday party, sleepovers, and playing in mom’s makeup.  Lots of laughs and probably even more tears.  It is the home where I was first exposed to horror films that destroyed my sleep until I was 25-years old.  It is the home where I lived when I locked myself in my room writing poem after poem when my best friend died.  It’s the home of fights that I won’t even bother detailing and hurts that are not worth speaking of.  It’s the home where I stood in the kitchen with a knife wanting to end everything, but chose to go on anyway.  It holds in it a time filled with anger, depression, and fear.

I remember when I found out that we would no longer be living in that house anymore.  I knew the marriage had to end.  I was not against it ending for so many reasons that I won’t go into.  But I didn’t understand why we didn’t get to keep this house.  This was my mom’s house…my dad’s house…mine and my brother’s house.  And as quickly as we found out is when we left.  Suddenly we were gone and I was never going to go back again.  The only home I had ever remembered had slipped from my fingers as we drove away.

Each year I feel like I go through a new season where God allows an area of injury to surface so I can open it up, clean it out, and begin the process of healing.  Never would I have anticipated that out of all the times I’ve gone through this cycle that I would shed tears over a house.  I remember dating a guy who was adamant that he wanted to buy his parents’ house someday and I could never figure out why.  The house, to me, wasn’t anything special or significant.  But to him it was significant because it had all of his memories.  Now I know that my house represents so much more.  It is the only tie I have to two distinct areas of my life that I will never have again.

Recently Emery asked me about my parents and why I have a step-dad, step-mom, and why my parents aren’t together.  I figured these questions would come someday, but I think I was just hoping that they wouldn’t wonder since it’s the only thing they’ve ever known.  When I tell my kids stories about growing up and playing with my siblings, they will have no clue what I’m talking about because they only know uncle Ryan.  There is a large chunk of my life that will be completely missing from the story.  But those 14 years in that house and 8 years with another family greatly shaped who I am.  And I will never be able to truly share it with them.

So now I begin this healing process.  Over the last few days I’ve imagined myself walking through the house and remembering each window, door, step…even the wicker hamper at the top of the steps.  I have imagined the lighting and the air.  I’ve walked into the kitchen and even grabbed the candy TUMS that were always kept in the cupboard up and to the left of the sink.  I’ve walked through the basement and around the yard and have tried to say “goodbye” to all of the emotions tied to the memories, good and bad, so they become simply memories instead of feelings of sadness and anger.  But a wonderful woman once told me that it’s a long distance from your head to your heart.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  It’s a word tossed around in Christian circles left and right.  We usually speak about forgiveness in terms of our relationship with God.  “Forgive us our trespasses…” “I’m not perfect.  Just forgiven.”  We know that, in a general sense, we all are messed up and need to be forgiven from time to time for things we do that aren’t very nice.

Teaching children about forgiveness can be quite the challenge.  We often don’t model asking for forgiveness very well or offering it when someone apologizes.  I think forgiveness is hard to extend because we have learned to equate it with “it’s OK.” How many times do you hear, “I’m sorry.”  “It’s OK.”?????  But sometimes it’s not OK.  Sometimes the hurt that has been inflicted is so deep and so painful that it is impossible to say, “It’s OK.”  That’s why we’ve tried teaching our kids to say, “I forgive you.”

We are trying to teach our children that forgiveness is not saying that what the person did to you was no big deal.  Instead, it’s saying, “I’m not going to hold this over your head.  I’m not going to drag your name through the mud.  I’m not going to bring it up to you all the time.  I’m releasing you and I’m releasing myself from the grip of the hurt.  There may still be consequences.  There may not be.  But I am choosing to wish the best for you regardless of what you’ve done to me.”

Every single day we have issues in our house with behavior and forgiveness.  The boys get sassy and rude.  They hit, kick, and push.  Someone always ends up in tears.  And it is really frustrating.  Just tonight Middle Man was really sassy when we finished playing a game together as a family.  He wanted to play another but we said it was time to go to bed.  His response was to scream and kick me.  We have been trying hard to teach him for the last four years that kicking and screaming is not the best way to get what you want, but it is a sure way to get yourself in a bit of trouble.  He ended up in his bed in tears.  As I was getting ready for bed I heard him calling my name.  I finally walked back into the bedroom and sat down at his bed and we had a conversation about what happened and I asked him to apologize.  We hugged and kissed, cuddled, and sang a song.  We ended our evening on a happy, loving note.  But it isn’t always that easy.  There are days when I want to ignore his crying for me.  There are days when I want to really drill it in that his behavior isn’t acceptable…that he has pushed the limits for the last time. (he is my sassiest one, after all…).  There are days when I want to slam the door with all the lights off and just walk away.

But then I think about God.  God has never left me to scream and cry on my own when I’m reaping the consequences of my own wrongdoing.  He doesn’t say, “It’s OK.”  He says, “I forgive you.”  If I robbed a bank tomorrow I wouldn’t be let off the hook even if I sincerely apologized.  I’d still end up with jail time.  Negative consequences are always eventually a natural result of negative behavior.  And it’s important to recognize the wrong and change it…just like we ask our kids to.  But it’s just as important to model forgiveness.  I want my kids to know that, no matter what wrong they’ve done, I am still their mother.  I love them unconditionally.  There won’t be a time when I will say, “You’ve worn me out.  I will begin to withhold my love from you from this moment forward because of what you’ve done.”  I want them to know that my arms are always available.  My hugs and kisses are always going to be there for them even when they’re having to deal with the consequences of their behavior.  My love for them will not run out just like God’s love for us has not run out.

Earlier today I was surrounded by ten rowdy two-year olds.  I don’t know if someone was sneaking espresso into their sippy cups, but they were all pretty much bouncing off the walls all morning.  It was a lot of fun to play with them, but as most people can imagine, ten rowdy two-year olds can get out of hand pretty quickly.  Finally it came to a head when one sweet baby came up to me and grabbed my leg as I was trying to help another child with her craft.  This sweet guy was really trying to get my attention and, “Just a second” wasn’t working.  In his excitement he bit my leg really hard.  I mean hard.  Like, broke the skin slightly and left a welt through my jeans hard.  It took a second for me to process what was happening and as I began to feel this horrible stinging sensation I let out a loud, “OWOWOWOWOWOW!”  The room went from being at volume 10 to volume 2.  My eyes began to fill up with water and I looked at the sweet guy who immediately knew what he had done.  I said very calmly trying not to think about how much my leg hurt, “Biting is not OK.  I need you to go sit down over there for a time out.”  His sweet little eyes began to water.  I finished helping the little girl with her project and came back to him, knelt down and asked, “do you know why you’re in a time out?”  He nodded, “because I bited.”  “Yeah.  And biting really really hurts people.  That really hurt me.  Biting is wrong and we are not supposed to do that to our friends, are we?”  He shook his head.  I asked, “What do you think you should say right now?”  He looked at me, eyes filled with little tears, “I’m sorry.”  I looked back at his sweet face, “I forgive you buddy.”  Then we gave a big hug and went on with the rest of our morning as usual.

I could have just ignored the bite and pretended like it didn’t happen, but he would not have learned that there are consequences to that behavior.  I could have said, “it’s OK.  I should have given you my attention immediately when you asked for it because, if I had, you wouldn’t have bitten me.”  Alternately, I could have screamed at him and punished him for the rest of the morning and said, “No. You don’t get to do that because you bit me.”  I could have withheld every good thing from him like snacks and the swings outside.  I could have tattled on him to all the adults and passed the word around that he’s a biter so everyone had better watch out.  I could have withheld my affection from him for the rest of the day…heck, for the rest of our lives.  He hurt me.  But would either of those things have been helpful?

I remember talking to someone about seven years ago who was sharing with me some painful memories of his father from their past.  The son grew up in a home with an alcoholic father.  He was mean and cruel to the children and to his mother.  When the son was in college the father was finally about to lose everything he cared about. This forced him to get his act together.  He went to A.A. and turned his life around.  He helped others in the AA program and became a completely different person.  Loving.  Kind.  But the son struggled with forgiving his father because he had 18 years worth of horrible memories.  He didn’t understand how his mother could stay with him…he didn’t deserve it.  While I couldn’t speak to the pain he felt as the son, I considered the feelings of the father.  He knew he had screwed up and sought reconciliation with all those he had hurt.  You can never take back the words you’ve spoken or the physical pain you’ve caused someone.  But you can ask for forgiveness and change your life.  The knowledge of the hurt you’ve caused toward others can eat you alive.  My response was, “What motivation does someone have to turn his life around if he knows that everyone he loves will push him away?”  The hope of forgiveness can be a strong motivator for those who live with guilt.  Which is all of us at one point or another, right?

This idea of forgiveness has been going around in my brain for the last week or two. I realized that I have held onto things that have deeply hurt me for far too long.  I’ve said I’ve forgiven, but I haven’t really.  How do I know?  Because I will still find words coming out of my mouth that repeat the wrong someone has done to me.  Because I will hear the words come out of my mouth, “Well, just wait until he/she ends up in my shoes…”  Instead of extending my forgiveness in my heart, I will pay lip service.  I want to sound like I’m playing nice and fair, but in reality I hold onto those hurts and I pull them out when it is most convenient for me.  I hold it over the “trespasser’s” head and say, “Well, you did…”  Even if not in those words.  I’ve allowed myself to dwell on and repeat to others constantly the hurt that has weighed me down for so many years.  Sometimes I even think to myself,  “Why am I telling them this????” as the words continue to flow from my mouth.  This is not OK.  This is not forgiveness.  How would I feel if I found out that someone whom I’ve hurt in the past was still telling others about what I did to them?  How would I feel if I knew that others were telling stories about me with the intended purpose of making me look bad and making themselves look good…or like a martyr?

Forgiveness is a lot easier to offer when we realize how much we have been forgiven.  Just this week I had to ask God for forgiveness for my unforgiving spirit.  As I was praying with Josh in the evening I asked God to reveal anything in me that was keeping me from Him and the words just came flowing out of my mouth: Please forgive me for holding onto these hurts…for choosing to have petty arguments and silly fights instead of choosing to be at peace…  Unforgiveness can cause more damage than we could ever imagine.  This is something I’m working on…something I will probably always need to work on.  There may be days when an old hurt will come back in my mind and I will have to dismiss that thought and say, “No.  That’s over.  That was in the past.  I have dealt with and moved on from that hurt.  I have done what I am able, in my power, to do about that.  It is finished.”

Maybe you’re like me.  Maybe you need to spend some time in prayer asking God, “Who do I need to forgive?  Who have I been treating differently because I’ve held onto this hurt?  Who have I hurt?  Who do I need to ask to forgive me?”  Maybe you need to call someone or send an email asking for forgiveness.  Maybe that’s a road you can’t safely walk down so you need to just acknowledge it in your heart between you and God.  What I know is that the moment I realized this sin in my life I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders.  I felt like I could breathe more deeply and rest more soundly. The weight of unforgiveness can make you sick…literally and figuratively.   Today I am thankful for forgiveness.