Personal

Echoes of the Triune’s Heart

I find that God speaks to me through songs. Here’s a snatch from one of my recent favorites:

If you need something to believe in
If you feel you’ve reached the end of the road
Don’t be afraid, I’ll always guide you home
You should know

I’m never gonna let you down
I’m always gonna build you up
And when you’re feeling lost
I will always find you love
I’m never gonna walk away
I’m always gonna have your back
And if nothing else you can always count on that
When you need me
I promise I will never let you down 1

Here’s bits from two of the songs I was listening to today:

I wanna save you,
I wanna save you from the pain.
I wanna help you,
I wanna help you feel the same again.
I wanna fix you,
I wanna fix your brokeness.
I wanna change it,
I wanna change it for the best.

So, listen to me now.
I’m not gonna stand here, when my friend’s down and out.
I’m not gonna run when, it’s hard to figure it all out.
If there’s anything I’d say,
I will tell you right now:

You’re not alone,
You’re not alone,
You’re not alone.

You’re not alone,
You’re not alone,
You’re not alone. 2

 

Oh no, did I get too close?
Oh, did I almost see what’s really on the inside?
All your insecurities
All the dirty laundry
Never made me blink one time

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

Come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you

Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

So open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart and just let it begin
Open up your heart 3

When I listen to these songs, it feels as if God is singing to me. I hear and feel the heart of the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit. Sometimes…depending on what’s happening in my day…I’ll catch my breath and start to weep. The words are so comforting and speak so much of God’s love for me.

Guess what? I hear these songs on the radio (Sirius XM) but not on the Christian radio stations. They’re playing on the secular channels. Here’s what I think: all people bear the Imago Dei (the image of God). We are all made in His image. And the Triune God (Father, Jesus, and Spirit) are always pursuing people, always speaking to them (if they would open their ears to hear). So am I surprised when secular artists reflect the echoes of the heart of God in their works? No. God is speaking to all people…everywhere. Why wouldn’t He use the radio as one way of speaking to His creation? The question is: are we listening?

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35)

1 Never Gonna Let You Down (by Colbie Caillat)

2 You’re Not Alone (by Marie Miller)

3 Unconditionally (by Katy Perry)

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Reflections of 2015

2015 is over, 2016 has just begun. Christmas celebrations are over and I find myself thinking about this past year. It’s been a good year and it’s been a hard one.

I feel blessed by God and think of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians “…asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” (Eph. 1:17,18 NLT) I grew in the knowledge of God this past year and have more peace and confidence in the hope we have: God’s abundant grace and love for all people.

And though I stumble and can get stressed, “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts…” (1 John 3:20 NIV) I have peace even in the struggle for God is for me, not against me. And I know He walks with me through the pain (I am not alone) and the ultimate goal is healing, restoration, and relationship with Him.

But it’s been a hard year, too. There were a number of people who passed away in our extended family and friends (my mom being one of them). We had to walk through some difficult things in addition to all of the above. Feeling weary and worn out is part of this season. So I continue to learn what it means to rest and trust.

And I am hopeful for the new year. One day at a time. Growing in my knowledge of God and His amazing love and grace. The more I learn to let go and receive His grace (without me doing anything about it), the more peace I experience, even in the midst of the ‘hard stuff’. His grace makes all the difference in the world. And I will not give it up or stop talking about it.

I pray that you will be able to receive God’s abundant grace for you and would know that you are not alone as you enter this new year with it’s blessings and hardships. Grace and peace to you in the name of the Triune God – Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit.

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The end…of NaBloPoMo

Well…I made it to the end of the month. I missed a few days here and there but kept it up for the most part.

Life’s been busy this past month and I didn’t get a chance to write about some of the things I wanted to, but there’s always next month.

I’ll leave you with something I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. I don’t think we, as a society, know very well how to “hold space” for each other. What I mean is that we don’t know how to deal with the darker emotions like regret, sadness, anxiety, anger… From my observation, when these emotions are expressed people tend to be quick to find an encouraging word or divert attention to something else. How well do we actually allow ourselves and each other to “sit” with the emotion for a while? Not to wallow in it but to acknowledge it, name it? Sometimes there isn’t a solution to the problem, sometimes life is hard and that’s just the way that it is.

How do we help each other in the midst of life’s “hardness”? I would suggest that we learn to sit with each other…in the mess…not try to “fix” it. But to sit and be with the person – to say “this sucks” and I’ll be with you in it. You’re not alone.

I know that’s often what I want to hear. That I’m not alone. Even though my circumstances tend to be beyond my control, walking the journey doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming when I know I’m not alone.

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Bittersweet

I spent this evening going through boxes of old photographs, looking for photos of my mom. There were lots of photos of when my two sons were little. It was kind of hard looking at them. They reminded me of who I was back then. I was so young and insecure! I wish I knew what I know now. I wish I was who I am now. I would have done things differently. I would have had more patience, more gentleness, more grace. I couldn’t help feeling regret  – that I could have done so much better by them. I know I was doing the best I could. And yet…and yet…I still feel the pang of regret. (sigh)


My daughter likes cars

Just about every time my daughter & I head out shopping…if there’s a car in the mall, she wants her picture taken with it. She really loves cars.

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Thankful

It’s American Thanksgiving. I couldn’t think of what to write and then I remembered this great little graphic I discovered a few months ago and I thought today would be the perfect day to share it.

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Three generations

I started scanning photos of my mom this evening (I’m making a photobook of her for myself and my family). I found a picture of her in grade 4. Just this past weekend, I happened to dig up a photo of myself from grade 4. It didn’t take much to locate a photo of my daughter from this past October (she happens to be in grade 4 this year). So there you have it – 3 generations all taken during each’s grade 4 year. Crazy, huh?

3 generations-grade 4


Sick

My daughter’s been down with a cold for the past two days (she’s extra sweet and snugly when she’s sick) and our cat is under observation at the vet’s as he doesn’t seem to be doing so well either. I hope everyone can get better soon. As much as I love the extra hugs, it’s hard to see those I care about under the weather.

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Drat!

Drat! I forgot to post yesterday.

Feeling a bit of a brain drain today. It’s been non-stop busy for the last couple of weeks and all I want to do is be a lump on the couch.

That’s the extent of my post for today. Too fried for deep thoughts (or at least the ability to put them into words).

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Winter is here

While having the white stuff around is good (Christmas would feel strange without it), I’d much rather have spring and summer. Here’s a little reminder of what we can look forward to 6 months from now.

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“Glitter” & Spice & Everything Nice

Today is my daughter’s 9th birthday. She brings us such joy! She is our little ray of light (her middle name means that). She’s fun and quirky and has so much love and empathy in her heart.

To celebrate her birthday and my “birthing day”, we both went shopping with her grandma Jan at the Glitter after hours shopping night at Lawson Heights Mall. Grandma bought her some books she’s been wanting and some necklaces.

And I found some fantastic deals – a pair of red boots which I love (an early birthday present from grandma Jan) and two sweaters. Here’s me with my boots and one of my sweaters.

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I don’t go shopping for myself very often and there are many times when I’m trying to find something specific and I can’t find it (which is so frustrating). But the most fun I have is when I’m not looking for anything in particular and then I come across things I like AND they’re on sale. What fun!


Oh, whoops! / Perfectionism, my nemesis

I completely forgot to post yesterday. Whoops!

I spent a portion of today preparing for what I’m going to talk about at church next week. And perfectionism is rearing it’s ugly head. I’ve been agonizing over this for weeks. I want to get it ‘just right’. But I’m getting the impression I need to trust God and be myself. The topic I’m speaking on is shame and grace so it’s not like I haven’t spent some time with the content. And when I get together with a group of people and start talking about this stuff, it flows out of me – unscripted – because I’m passionate about it and have thought about it a lot. That’s what happened this evening over supper with a group of friends and they seemed to be encouraged by it.

So…down with perfectionism! Onward to trust and surrender…

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Photo albums

I spent some time at my dad’s today, pouring over photo albums. I was looking for pictures of my mom because I want to create a photo book of her for my family for Christmas. It brought back a lot of memories, some good, some not so much. But I saw photos of all my children when they were little and that brought a smile to my face.


Lindsey Stirling

I discovered Lindsey Stirling this weekend. She is a violinist, dancer, singer, and composer.  In additon to her original works, she has done arrangements of many popular songs, soundtracks (like The Lord of the Rings), etc. She is amazing. What blew me away was watching her music videos for she dances while she’s playing the violin.

I’ve linked to two of my favorites below. Enjoy!


I must kill the editor

I’m going to be speaking at my church for the Sunday morning sermon two weeks from now. I’ve been working on what I’m going to talk about and it is taking a really long time. The problem (and I didn’t realize this until I was talking about it with my husband) is that I’m trying to write it like a blog post – carefully crafting my words, rewording things, going over it again and again until it is perfect…

This is my modus operandi. I learned this when I was a child – to carefully choose my words and work very hard to ensure I am clearly understood. This, however, is not helpful when composing something to say for half an hour.

There is so much I want to say and I don’t know how to “get it out” and my internal editor is having a field day. I’ve had a sudden revelation.

My internal editor must die!

(if only for a little while)

I must kill the editor and just write. Anne Lamott calls it the “sh*tty first draft”. She also mentions how perfectionism (which I suffer from) keeps you from getting to that first draft.

(sigh)

Okay…I’ve got to get this thing done. I’m going to blurt out my thoughts onto the page – I can clean it up later.

…I feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest…

…maybe a glass of wine will help…

 


Behind it all

I devoted last month to talking about the things I’ve learned about shame and vulnerability and grace. I mentioned the impact of actually experiencing grace and love and belonging but I didn’t go into detail about it. When I wrote about my experience, there was always something in the back of my mind, a fact always present, but I didn’t realize that I hadn’t articulated it. It has had the greatest influence in my experience towards knowing grace and love and belonging.

It’s my husband.

Without him, I wouldn’t know half of what I do about grace, love, acceptance. It has been Leighton’s constant grace for me particularly when I dive into self-berating that helps me believe that it’s okay for me NOT to beat myself up. I am learning to have grace for myself as I experience grace from him. For me, a large part of the “beating myself up” tactic is a learned protective measure – if I blame and beat myself up first (before someone else has a chance to) it won’t be as painful. Which, of course, is not actually true. Damage is done, it’s just at my own hands and not at someone else’s. As I live with Leighton (it’s been over 10 years now) and he doesn’t berate me when I mess up, I’m slowly unlearning this really unhealthy pattern.

While no one’s love is perfect, my husband’s love for me is unconditional. He has always maintained that he loves me and he affirms that particularly when there is tension between us. Leighton understands me and knows I will immediately go to the dark place of self-hatred and believe that he must hate me, too. He makes a point of telling me that isn’t true. In addition, he gives me daily affirmation – telling me that he loves me, that he believes in me, that everything will be okay… I need to hear these things over and over again. It helps override my internal tapes that tell me that I’m not lovable, that I’m a screw-up, that everything is all my fault.

I didn’t experience unconditional love when I was growing up – it felt to me as if there were always strings attached, that I needed to be perfect to be loved. In experiencing unconditional love, I am learning more about what God’s love is really like. He has much grace for us – but I wouldn’t really know that unless I experienced it with other human beings. The reason I know this to be true is that the opposite is true – if we experience the opposite of unconditional love, if we don’t experience acceptance and grace, particularly from the people we are in closest relationships to, we grow up living in a tremendous amount of shame. And when we’re living in shame, we don’t understand grace.

So my husband has been a significant influence behind it all. My journey would look very different without him. We are shaped by the people in our lives and I am a better person for my relationship with Leighton. I have learned so much and am incredibly thankful that I get to experience this life with him.

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Trying out new technology

My husband is an IT person (he has his own IT business). And this means he is constantly researching new technology. He loves technology. I, on the other hand, am typically suspicious of new technology.

“Do I REALLY need this iPod Touch?” “Why do I need a SmartPhone?”

The history of our (IT) relationship has been one of my husband dragging me along towards new technology and innovation. He basically has to buy it for me and once I start using it, I absolutely love it! So I’m not “against” technology – I’m just not going to be the first one to go out and get the newest thing.

My husband has been fairly successful with his approach of putting the technology in my hands and me realizing I love it. Currently, I own a very large smartphone (I call it a Phablet – tablet and phone rolled into one). It’s a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (with a 5.7″ display). My reasoning was that I couldn’t justify owning a tablet and a phone when I would use them for the exact same things (other than making phone calls).

I use my phone for everything. Now that I’m writing so much I thought I’d try blogging from my phone (I have the WordPress blogging app). But typing on a phone keyboard (even a big phone) isn’t very convenient.

So tonight I grabbed my husband’s compact bluetooth keyboard, paired it up with my phone and typed up this post. It works pretty slick!

I do like it when technology enhances my life (which is the case most of the time, I just don’t realize it until I actually try it – which takes some coaxing).

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The temptation to numb

I woke up this morning feeling the weight of the world. Actually it felt like I was drowning in manure. I was feeling very intensely a lot of dark, despairing emotions. And my thoughts jumped right on that bandwagon. I was not in a good place.

There have been a number of things churning up for me in the last while: the passing of my mother, processing memories and emotions from my past, family dynamics, outside circumstances. It makes for a pretty overwhelming mix of emotions at times. I understand this is a process and it’s going to take time. I believe I will be more healed and whole on the other side of this. And…I need to allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, as painful and excruciating as that may be.

And yet…and yet…

When I feel those intense, dark emotions, there is such a temptation to numb. There’s a part of me crying out, “I don’t want to FEEL!!!” I certainly felt that temptation this morning. The temptation to distract myself, to eat or drink something to make me feel better, to mindlessly read Facebook, to not think. I understand why so many people in our society turn to all manner of activities (some more destructive than others) to numb the pain in their lives – TV, video gaming, shopping, eating disorders, addictions. The emotional pain we experience is very real.

How do we learn to sit in our pain? Not to wallow in it, but to acknowledge it’s presence and to not run from it.

Being in community helps. My husband continues to encourage me and speak of hope and truth even when I can’t see it (or feel it). My children offer love and hugs and acceptance. Friends express care and concern…

I had coffee with a friend this evening. Being able to talk with her about my pain and to be able to hear about hers helped. I know I am not alone. We are not in this alone.

We are not in this alone.

When we learn to carry each others’ burdens, to empathize with each other in our struggles – we learn that we are not alone. And it births hope within us. To not despair. To receive love. To experience connection and belonging. It is the beauty of the human experience.

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It’s November!

It’s November 1. This photo sums up my state of being for today.

Momo-snoozing

It was really nice to do next-to-nothing all day.


Seeing and Being Seen

This is my last post for October’s 31 Days Writing Challenge. While I didn’t write every day I was able to get a lot of the thoughts that have been percolating in my brain out onto the page. And I still have more things I’d like to write so I think I’ll continue with November’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). This one is less restrictive in that I can post anything – it doesn’t have to follow a particular topic. So you’ll continue to see more of me.

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On to my post for October 31…

Something was shared with me that beautifully speaks to connection and vulnerability. There is a common greeting among some tribes in South Africa; it would be equivalent to saying “hello” in English. The expression is Sawubona which literally means, “I see you”. A common response to this greeting is Sikhona which means, “I am here”. The order of the exchange is important as according to their tradition, until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if, when you see me, you bring me into existence. It means we do not exist without each other and our existence holds little meaning if we are not seen.

This speaks to connection. We are wired to feel connected to others, to feel that we belong. How many times do we feel “unseen”, that people don’t see who we really are or that we have no voice? I know I’ve felt that lots. It is a horrible feeling and often tied to a sense of shame. Sometimes it wasn’t ‘safe’ to be seen so I learned to hide myself. Unfortunately, for me, it also meant I hid myself from me – I didn’t know who I really was (I’m still growing into that as I learn to take down my vulnerability armour from the past).

If you’re in an environment where the people you long to feel connected to are using their energies to keep their vulnerability armour in place, it means they have limited capacity to actually “see” you and you don’t feel ‘safe’ to be “seen”. So everyone stays walled up within themselves. It can be a vicious cycle.

Yet I believe there is hope for us. If we collectively learn to take down the vulnerability armour and intentionally allow ourselves to be seen and then to intentionally see others, we will significantly increase our sense of connection with each other. And that’s a good thing. It will take vulnerability – showing up and being seen always does. But the connection and empathy and love we will experience is absolutely worth it.

The alternative is disconnection and staying walled up in our fortresses, not letting anyone in and not letting ourselves out. It might promise the illusion of being ‘safe’ but in the long run it crushes our souls.

We need each other. We are shaped by each other. It is in our relationships that we experience love and belonging and connection and empathy. These are the things we need to walk through this world that is marred by struggle and pain. Without them, we are dying inside.

So I want to encourage all of us to intentionally take small steps to “show up and be seen”. To embrace vulnerability, even in small ‘baby-steps’ ways. To risk. And even though we will fall down sometimes, don’t be afraid to get back up again. Find those people who truly care about you, let them carry you through the hard stuff. But don’t shut yourself out from the world. Because we need you and the light that you bring and the Imago Dei that is represented in you. You are beautiful and you are loved and you are “seen”.

Grace and peace to you this day.

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In the vein of “being seen”, I’m curious to “see” you and know who has been following me this month. If you could “like” my Facebook post link or add a comment here in the comments section, I would love that. Thanks!

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Good News?

As an evangelical Christian, I grew up hearing the Gospel and knowing about the Four Spiritual Laws. I knew about “asking Jesus into your heart” to be saved. My perspective and thinking has shifted and I now have some issues with the traditional evangelical approach to preaching the “Good News”.

If we go back to what I was writing about at the beginning of the month, the research on shame shows that everyone experiences shame and that shame drives us to hide. Yet when we tell people about becoming a Christian we focus on how they are sinful (as their identity) and how they’re not good enough.

This is completely counterproductive and here’s why: in telling people they’re not good enough we’re essentially heaping shame on them. And shame drives people to hide. At the same time, we tell people they need to come to God. Why would someone come to God when they’re hiding in shame and have been told that HE doesn’t think they’re good enough? This is certainly not the Good News from my perspective.

Here’s what I believe: people already know they “sin”. People outside the church don’t use the word “sin” but they can certainly attest to hurting each other and themselves, of messing up, of making mistakes. They experience shame and so they know all too well the feeling of “not good enough”. As Christians, we don’t need to remind them of that and reinforce the message of shame (and with that, fear).

Jesus did tell people to repent of their sins and turn to God. He saw how they were lost and broken but He focused on their actions (guilt) and not their identity (shame). He didn’t want them to be afraid and hide. And actually, he said that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17).

Jesus talked about love and said that loving God and loving others were the most important things (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34). He talked about God’s extravagant love for us in parables such as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8). And He said people would know we are followers of God if we love one another (John 13:34-35). This isn’t typically what evangelical Christians focus on when sharing the Gospel.

While I believe that our “sin” (and shame) separates us from each other and God – shame drives disconnection – our sin does NOT diminish our worth in God’s eyes. We are of such value to God that He sent His Son to save us from our sin and shame (“God so loved the world…” John 3:16).

Which brings me back to the “Imago Dei” – the image of God. Why don’t we start here when telling people about God? That they bear the image of God, that they are beautiful and precious to Him. That He loves them so very, very much. He longs to have connection and relationship with them. It’s not about God controlling our lives – He gave us free will. It’s about relationship. He wants to remove the things in our lives that drive disconnection, that come between us and God and between us and each other. This is for our benefit. This is for healing and wholeness. His grace says that “we are enough”, we are accepted; we aren’t condemned. Through God, we have a way out from under our shame. Jesus made a way for us through His death and resurrection to come back to God in relationship. I don’t exactly understand how, but through this Jesus dealt with our separation from God (which included hiding in shame). Our part is simply to accept that this is true, to receive that love, and to be open to a relationship with the One whose image we bear.

This is a much more compelling message in my eyes. Instead of a message which has shame and fear as the foundation, we have a message of love, acceptance, and belonging – those things all people are wired for – those things which are ultimately fulfilled in our relationship with God. A relationship which brings freedom and healing and life. Good things! Good News! That’s what I want to focus on.

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Surrender

I want to talk about surrender. Dictionary.com defines surrender as follows: “to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield; to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.” Surrender involves a tremendous amount of vulnerability. You can’t surrender without becoming vulnerable.

Sometimes we surrender to a process. I remember when I was giving birth to my firstborn. I had never been through childbirth before, I had no idea how long this was going to take, and I was experiencing A LOT of pain. Somehow I knew I needed to yield (surrender) to the process going on in my body; if I fought the pain – trying to stop it – I would end up in more pain (and it would probably take longer) than if I just let things happen.

I believe God asks us to surrender to Him. Because God is love, the surrender is to love. And it is the love of God that heals us and transforms us…if we surrender to it. This comes in the form of little steps of trust, taken over time. We learn that God’s love brings life and wholeness and healing and so we learn to trust and surrender in deeper ways.

When my first husband was dying and the paramedics were trying to resuscitate him, I was desperately begging God to save him, to not let him die. I was so scared. In the midst of my pleading and terror, there came a moment when everything became still inside me – it was as if I was in the eye of the storm. And in that moment, I laid it all down. I said to God, “You are God, and I place EVERYTHING in Your hands.” I surrendered my life, the life of my husband, and the lives of my two sons into God’s hands.

I believe it was God who enabled me to surrender at that moment – I don’t think I could have done it without Him. But I had walked far enough on my journey up to that point that I believed God loved me and that I could trust Him with my life, even though my world was shattering into a million pieces around me. I knew I could cling to God, that He would not abandon me (and that He wasn’t abandoning me in that moment).

And I believe that because I surrendered my life to Him, it opened the door for God to take care of me and my boys in ways that I could never imagine. Through that experience and the journey I have had since then, I have been transformed for the better. I am more healed and whole than I ever thought possible.

I would not wish what I went through with losing my husband on anyone. But I understand now, more than I could understand before, the power in surrender. It’s not about striving or fighting. It’s about yielding and giving up. When we can do that, God is able to work His Life within us.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20,21 [emphasis mine])

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Here’s vulnerability for you

I haven’t been feeling that good emotionally lately – too much emotional processing going on. Somedays I feel okay and other days I feel crappy and so, so tired. Today is one of the crappy days. I was planning to write a post on surrender but I just don’t have the heart or energy to put it together today. So I don’t have anything for you…except my vulnerable, worn out self. Thanks for sticking with me on this journey. See you tomorrow…hopefully.

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‘Healthy’ Vulnerability?

There’s been some pretty emotional stuff happening in my world lately. Lots of processing, lots of thinking about the stories I tell myself. Yesterday, something triggered memories of deep wounds and it left me feeling very, very emotionally ‘raw’. And it got me thinking about what I wrote two days ago about vulnerability (Why Vulnerability?).

I believe there are ‘degrees’ of vulnerability, and while I haven’t figured this all out, I know that it’s not healthy (or ‘safe’) to share all my most intimate details with everyone I meet. In fact, doing this is a shield against vulnerability as I mentioned in my Vulnerability Armour post (see “letting it all hang out”).

Brene Brown uses a beautiful phrase to describe being vulnerable. She says we share with those who can bear the weight of our stories. These are the people we have built connection with, we’ve cultivated these relationships, there is trust and mutual empathy – in other words, these people have earned the right to hear our stories in honesty and vulnerability.

This doesn’t mean we’re not honest in the rest of our world. We should be! But the ‘degree’ to which we are vulnerable will depend on the strength of the relationships we have with the people we are with. The more intimate and ‘raw’ the vulnerability, the smaller the circle of people with which that is shared. I’m going to call this ‘healthy’ vulnerability (I just made it up; it’s not from any research I’ve read).

I’m just starting to figure this out. It wasn’t something I really thought about before because I had so much vulnerability armour up there wasn’t much vulnerability happening. But as I’m slowly learning to take down the armour, I’m thinking about what it actually means to be vulnerable. How much do I share online? How much do I share in my larger church community? How do I learn to be vulnerable in a healthy way with the people closest to me? It’s easy to throw the old vulnerability armour back on when I’m feeling uncomfortable and exposed. How do I not do that and allow myself to be ‘seen’ without being overexposed at the same time? I don’t have the answer for that.

Because of what happened yesterday, I decided not to go to a mini women’s retreat at our church today. I knew I was feeling emotionally tender and ‘raw’. The retreat would mean hanging out with 30 women that I have varying degrees of closeness with – for the day. I was anticipating what would happen – either I’d throw up my vulnerability armour and pretend as if everything was okay or I’d be a weeping mess at the back of the room. Many of those women don’t have the strength of relationship with me to bear the weight of what I was feeling and processing. While this might have been an opportunity for women to surround me and encourage me, the scene could just as easily have backfired with people who don’t know me potentially giving ‘pat’ or inappropriate responses which would have left me feeling worse. So I opted to stay at home.

Considering my degree of emotional tenderness I chose not to be with a larger group of people, although I would have been willing to be with a smaller group that I am closer with (like my church life group), though probably not for the entire day. I’m finding making these decisions involves learning to have healthy boundaries and to understand what we need. Sometimes it’s okay to consider ourselves and our well-being first. Too often I put others and their expectations first to the detriment of myself. I think it serves us well to become more self-aware and to take steps to care for ourselves in the ways we need to when in pain. And this means sometimes saying, “No”, and that’s okay.

So, embrace vulnerability in healthy ways and be true to yourself. They must not be mutually exclusive.

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