Identity

Over the last year, I have found myself feeling like I really know who I am. And also whose I am. It is humbling and empowering to know the God of our universe had me in mind, created me on purpose, and has a plan for me.

I have come to a point where I am comfortable and able to kindly say I like this, I don’t like that, I want this, I need this. Instead of reflecting on time spent with friends feeling like I mirrored their sentiments, I am true to my own thoughts, opinions, and feelings.1561896982909_verse_image.jpg

Last October one of my sons tried to take his own life. While my heart broke and the pain I feel over all of it is deep, I have reflected often on the fact that I didn’t feel overwhelmingly distraught or desolate in the scariest moments of the ordeal, or the days that followed.

I did not feel as desperate as I thought I should. I found myself thinking a few times that I should be more distraught, more something. At one point I remember thinking, I should feel like the walls are crashing in on me right now. And then I wondered exactly who says I should feel that way and what good it would do? And then the clear picture of Jesus beside me, surrounding my son, and I was able to be thankful for so many hard things in my life that taught me that Jesus is the rock on which to build my life. Guilt likes to wiggle in and tell me I’m messing up or missing something by not being properly devastated. But the Word tells us that God will give us peace that surpasses understanding. I have dwelt in that peace more in the last 8 months than ever before in my life.

This peace comes as an answer to prayer – but not always my own prayer. Sometimes I don’t have the words to speak. But I have people standing boldly in the gap, praying for my son and for our family. We talk about community in church a lot, and it’s said that life is better together. Those first days, and the following weeks, really showed me how necessary it is to have people who love Jesus loving on our family in hard times.

I also realized that while I believe we were created for community and God didn’t intend for us to do life alone, He also didn’t intend for us to find our identity anywhere other than through Him. I think oftentimes we get the “we should feel/think/say/do” thoughts from finding our identity in our friend group, social media, parents, spouses, kids, work, you name it. Something other than identity in Jesus will leave our footing on shifting sand, “they said I should”, and being blown about with every shift in the wind.

Now for the hardest line to admit aloud – and I think this is hard to admit aloud because I don’t want it to be taken wrong. I don’t want to be judged. Here it goes…

1561897199618_verse_image.jpgWhile my son is absolutely important to me and I know he is a blessing from God Himself, my children don’t define who I am. Jesus does. My son’s choices are his own. I hurt when he hurts, from a place of empathy. I want his anguish to be relieved and I will do absolutely everything in my power to be sure he is getting the help he needs and that we as a family are also getting the help we need.

This isn’t about abandoning someone I love in the midst of their pain, or even boundaries, or rising above energy that doesn’t serve me. This is about wrapping my arms around him, praying for him, seeking the necessary therapy, and resting in the love and peace of Jesus as I do what is wise and necessary for my boy.

I’m doing my part. Not perfectly. Not without a learning curve and mistakes. I’ve had to ask for forgiveness. I’ve had to give forgiveness. And I’ll have to keep learning, every single moment of every day. And I’m going to keep resting in Jesus. It’s not that I’m confident about what the future holds on earth, but I have hope because of Christ, and for that, I am humbled and deeply grateful.

Until next time,

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If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts and need help, please reach out the the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 – they are available 24/7 to help you and have been a help to our family several times.

Content Fatigue and Chronic Illness

I first wrote about content fatigue here. Be sure to catch what I had to say about the over-consumption of media there.

Another area in my life where I got bogged down with content fatigue was in regard to chronic illness. I was trying to read every diet plan, exercise plan, healing plan I could get my hands on. One thing would say “eat this raw” then the next would say to never touch it. One would say cook everything in butter, another would say never butter, always oil.

My heart and mind were being pulled multiple directions as I sought answers and healing for my hurting body. I had to really face that I can only try one plan at a time – and that any plan that will bring healing or lasting pain relief to my body will take time. It won’t happen on the first day, the first week, and maybe not even the first month. So I have to really pick one plan and follow it for at least 90 days if not 180 days. This is hard because I want to fix all of the problems NOW.

I don’t want to be sick anymore. I don’t want to hurt anymore. And the one that jams me up is that, while cellular health is crucial, and I’m starting to wrap my brain around eating and exercising in a way that moves fluids around, toxins out, and oxygen to and from, so that my cells are the healthiest possible – one of my conditions is a malformation of my skull. I don’t think I can eat enough of the right stuff for that to change.

I do think some of my pain is from inflammation. I do believe my asthma can be greatly controlled with diet and exercise. But I don’t think Chiari just goes away because of kale smoothies or triple servings of blueberries.

If you’re facing a chronic illness, and you’ve started researching how to support your body, I think you can relate – a lot of people have answers, and they come with a pretty price tag, and this notion of a quick fix. The content alone can be exhausting, and the conflicting messages make it sound like it’s our fault for being sick.

Don’t let that seep into your heart. If you know you need to do something better, take steps to do so. (This is me all the way.) But blaming yourself won’t make you well. And getting completely overwhelmed in the content you can read/watch/hear about chronic illness can be consuming and depressing.

Take one approach at a time, and give it time. Be aware of detox symptoms, go slow, give your body and cells a chance to adapt. Follow sound medical advice and go to a practitioner you can be honest with, open with, and that you trust. Sometimes you’ll know right away if a way of eating isn’t right for you. I feel terrible on High Fat/Low Carb within the first week. But it takes more than a month to see improvement from some of what works for my body.

Stick with it. Consistency matters. If you are eliminating a problem food, you have to really get it out of your system and leave it out of your system. Not slipping is hard. But don’t let one meal/snack turn into 3 weeks of consuming something that adds to your inflammation and pain.

You can make changes that will make you feel better. I think food plays a tremendous role in health. I think finding an exercise you can tolerate is important too! Stretching, walking, swimming, seated weight lifting, elliptical, dance. Moving your body moves fluids and gasses around so your cells aren’t swimming in toxic soup and they get a replenishment of nutrients. Start with a few minutes if you need to. You aren’t going for a marathon here. Just 3-5 minutes of movement. In a week, add 3 more minutes. You might find in 6-8 weeks that you can tolerate 30 minutes of slow, steady, deliberate movements.

None of this is medical advice – this is just from one chronic illness patient to another.

I think there is a spiritual component to all of this that needs a post of its own, so I’ll work on that in the coming days. I couldn’t face the worst days without the hope of Jesus. Sometimes I’m in so much pain I’d rather die than keep hurting like I do. But spending time in the Word (whether listening via the bible app or reading in my bible) helps me cling to Jesus and remember that this world, and this life, are temporary. He will remove all my pain and wipe my tears.

Until next time,
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Unmet Expectations

A new lesson I’ve been trying to impart to my crew is how unmet expectations, and unreasonably high expectations, can really put a strain on relationships. This is true for any relationship – be it spouses, parent-child, siblings, friends, co-workers. Unmet expectations can place a burden on a relationship that sometimes, the relationship cannot even bear, which in turn, suffocates the relationship altogether.

I’ll give you a recent example from events that actually happened.

“Let’s have tostadas for dinner,” My dear husband said aloud. I immediately assumed that he was volunteering to either make dinner, or at least pitch in to help make dinner. Time ticked by. It became apparent that the words he should have used were, “Will you please make tostadas for dinner?”

I have a couple of choices at this moment. Now mind you, I’m tired by the time we reach the evening. Not to take away from or compete with his tired or anything. But we are both there – pretty well done for the day, with a couple hours until bedtime. And God knows I love this man He gave me, but when he comes home from work, his tired means he is getting down to his underwear and watching TV.

Now, if I ask for help, I can usually get it. But I have that woman/mom thing where I don’t feel like I should have to ask for help. Another post, another day. Or is it? Are these unmet expectations, rising up with a chokehold on our relationship?

Back to the tostadas. I can accept that he wants tostadas for dinner, and I can make them. With a cheerful heart, aware of all I’ve been blessed with, and the very fact that I have a husband to cook dinner for. Or I can throw in the towel, dollop some pb&j on some bread, pass it out to the kids, and cross my arms in silent, rebellious satisfaction. If he isn’t going to help, then he isn’t going to eat what he wants.

Say I go with options #2 – pb&j, and maybe my snarky self brings him one, too. With water, ha! Now, what do we have here?

We have mom frustrated by the expectation that the original question seemed like a team effort dinner but wasn’t, and dad frustrated that he thought he was going to get tostadas, now faced with pb&j. Who is more right to be frustrated by their unmet expectations? Both? One or the other? Neither?

I think it’s neither. I mean, I guess we have the right to live in this cycle. But do we want to? Why would we want to?

So, is it always or only up to me to be the bigger person, make the tostadas, and smile about it? No, I dare say not. And I can’t pick my sleeping husband’s brain about the times he feels that rise of unfairness and fights back by being kind and going the extra mile, mainly because he’s sleeping as I write this. Maybe I should write up a few questions for him to answer so I can have a husband Q&A. Add your questions at the bottom and I’ll try to put him on the spot this weekend.

Back to the tostadas.

I can do this with a good attitude, and sit down to enjoy tostadas with my family (which were delicious, by the way). Or I can have a bad attitude and make the tostadas, or not. I’m still missing out because of my attitude.

Sometimes we don’t see the expectation ahead of us, so much as in the middle of frustration we see, “you didn’t do this like I thought you would/asked you to/needed you to.” We have to train ourselves to stop, identify what we were expecting, and how we can make the best of the situation. I think this is always most effective by inviting Jesus to soften our hearts and teach us in the moment.

Sometimes we are right to speak up and address the issue with the other person. Sometimes we are right to address within ourselves the expectation, how/why it wasn’t met, and move forward. I didn’t go to my husband and complain that he didn’t make tostadas with me. Not every unmet expectation is because the other person did something wrong. Sometimes it’s because we expected something that was never implied or intended. Sometimes it’s because we expected something because of our past, because of something we misunderstood. I can’t even begin to think of all the ways we come up with expectations, but I know what it feels like to feel let down.

We don’t have to wallow in those feelings. Ask Jesus in, identify what to address with the other person, identify what you can correct just by changing your thinking on the matter, and keep moving forward in your relationships.

(Don’t forget to add your questions at the bottom for a fun little hubby Q&A!)

Until next time,

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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,
You see the expectations I’m building in my heart and mind. Help me weed through unnecessary expectations – whether they are too high or too many. Help me to be at peace with the people around me, accepting of who they are, and able to enjoy the relationships I have. Help me to forgive those who have let me down.

Where there have been expectations on me that I have not met, help the other person to be at peace, to forgive me. Mend those relationships as you see fit, Father.

Help me to stay focused on becoming more like Jesus day in and day out.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen