Tapping Out-Everyone Needs a Safe Word

Today went from OK to not good at all in a matter of hours.

Before lunchtime I had a confrontation with someone I love, entered a public space (when I thought I had my emotions in check) and couldn’t stop crying, misplaced my debit card, misplaced my driver’s license and lost my mind.

I desperately needed a do-over.

And then I realized that I hadn’t queued up a new post. Which really isn’t that big a deal to anyone but me (in my pride) because this November will make four years I haven’t missed a day.

I know sometimes I run a series of old posts but y’all have just been subjected to that because of Hurricane Dorian. I didn’t want to do it again so soon.

And I don’t like just posting fluff. I want to honor the time you take to read what I send out.

But this time I think I’m tapping out.

All my kids and my husband participated in Tae Kwon Do for years.

I watched a lot of sparring matches, demonstrations, testings and practices. James Michael eventually rose to the rank of Second Degree Black Belt and Dominic was the youngest ever (at eight years old) to test for First Degree Black Belt in their particular school.

There’s a safety protocol for sparring in Tae Kwon Do. Even though no one is supposed to be overly aggressive when sparring, sometimes it gets a little out of hand. So if your opponent crosses the line and is actually hurting you, you tap the mat indicating that they need to stop-RIGHT NOW-before harm is done.

I was oh, so grateful for that safety protocol when trying to keep my seat in the bleachers as my little guys were tossed around. I knew that if someone was really hurting them, they had a way out.

I should have learned it then, but I’m a slow learner.

Everyone needs a safety protocol.

Everyone needs a safe word or a safe space or a safe friend so that when things pile high or heavy or both, they can make it plain that IT HURTS!

I’ve managed to do the necessary today.

And like I’ve said before, the worst day of my life only lasted 24 hours.

Tomorrow is a new day, another sunrise, another chance for things to be a little easier, a little better, a little more bearable.

Thanks for listening.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Worn Out and Weary? Jesus Understands.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.

And He offers a way of escape.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]


29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.


30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus

Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC

The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.

Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.

They wanted lists to maintain.

Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.

More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.

Jesus said, “Enough!”

He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”

The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.

Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.

We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.

Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.

Are you weak and heavy laden?

Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?

Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?

Come.

He’s waiting for you.

QUESTIONS:

  • There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
  • Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
  • Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
  • Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
  • The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?

PRAYER:

Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.

That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.

Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: When My Heart Needs a Reminder

This time last year I was on the front end of a very lonely, very frightening three and a half weeks.

Each morning began with a sixty minute drive in Los Angeles rush hour traffic toward the downtown courthouse. My husband and I parked and then walked through metal detectors and past guards down a long, long hall to the courtroom.

Every day was one more eight hour shift listening to lawyers, witnesses and a judge as the events of several years were laid out first by one side and then the other. Questions aimed to elicit unflattering responses hit my husband hard.

The opposing counsel even printed out a couple of my blog posts trying to frame both my husband and his family as intolerant fundamentalist evangelicals who certainly didn’t understand how things were done in the progressive West.

Our fate was in the hands of total strangers and the whole time I couldn’t utter a single word.

I was not allowed to nod my head, smile or frown or even cry when I watched my husband recount our son’s death and the toll it took on him as he returned to the workplace and tried to do routine tasks while being challenged repeatedly by a surly , vindictive and manipulative employee.

Trust me, no television courtroom drama can prepare a heart for the kind of stress, uncertainty, mental anguish and overwhelming fear that a real encounter with the justice system evokes.

Sitting alone (my husband was sitting with his attorneys) I could only spend time writing out scripture, taking notes and trying to guess how all this was impacting the twelve jurors sitting mere feet away. Only nine were required by California law to agree in order to reach a verdict which just added to the uncertainty.

I felt oh, so weary, scared and forgotten.

One of the scripture passages I wrote over and over was today’s verses.

27 Why, then, do you, Jacob, inheritors of God’s promise,

    you, Israel, chosen of God—

Why do you say, “My troubled path is hidden from the Eternal;

    God has lost all interest in My cause”?

28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,

The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.

    His wisdom is beyond understanding.

29 God strengthens the weary

    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.

30 Young people will get tired;

    strapping young men will stumble and fall.

31 But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.

    They will soar on wings as eagles.

They will run—never winded, never weary.

    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40: 27-31 VOICE

The nation of Israel was feeling lonely and all alone.

Had God forgotten? Had He abandoned them? Didn’t He care they were at their wit’s end and the limit of endurance?

So Jehovah sends Israel an encouraging Word through Isaiah.

He begins with questions: “Why are you questioning Jehovah’s interest in your cause? Do you think after all we’ve been through He’s forgotten you now? Can anything be hidden from His sight?”

As I sat day after day after day, I had to remind my heart that no matter how it FELT, God was very near. We were not abandoned. Whatever went on in that room with no windows was not hidden from our Shepherd King.

The very next set of questions Isaiah poses is one of my all time favorite verses: “Hey Israel! Do you really not know that God is eternal, everlasting, all-knowing and all-powerful? Haven’t you heard He made the earth and everything in it? Do you imagine He ever gets tired, worn out, too stretched to intervene in the affairs of men? “

This trial wasn’t the first time in my life I needed to be reminded that nothing is hidden from the Lord’s sight. It wasn’t the first time I needed reassurance that God is never too tired or too distracted or somehow limited by my understanding of who He is to reach down and give me a boost.

In the five years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I’ve had days, weeks and even months when, in my despair and grief, I forgot the truth.

The whole passage comes to a dramatic conclusion that leaves Israel (and me!) with no room for doubt.

Hey-God breathed into Adam and made a living man from dust. Sure, you may be tired and worn out from circumstances or age, but He can breathe life and vigor back into you too. Young folks seem nearly invincible but even they have limits. You just wait (expectantly, in faith, certain that He will show up and keep His promises) on Him. The kind of energy Jehovah will give you won’t run out. You’ll be like an eagle soaring effortlessly on wind currents higher and higher and higher.”

I’m here to tell you that God keeps His promises. His Word is sure.

I look back on those three weeks and stand amazed that I didn’t fall over from exhaustion and stress about five or six days in because except for surviving my son’s death, it was the hardest thing I ever did.

It was absolutely, positively God’s strength and not my own.

QUESTIONS:

  • I know most of my readers are bereaved parents and probably share my testimony of days, weeks, months of utter exhaustion under the load of grief that child loss dumps on a heart. Can you identify a specific moment when you felt God’s strength poured into your spirit? Can you think of an event, holiday or date you just knew you couldn’t face but somehow managed to survive?
  • How can meditating on these verses help your heart hold onto hope?
  • What new insight does including verses 27-28 to this familiar passage give you?
  • Consider looking these verses up in at least three different translations/paraphrases and compare them. Does that help you understand them better? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Father God, I want to always remember that You are so much more than I can ever imagine or comprehend. Too often I try to circumscribe You by my limited understanding of how you work in the world. But You are too big for any box I try to stuff You into.

When I forget, remind me. When I doubt, strengthen my faith. When I feel alone, make Your Presence undeniably real to me. When I am weary, breathe new life into my spirit.

Thank You for patiently, graciously, mercifully dealing with me. Thank You for your everlasting, faithful love. You are a good, good Father.

Amen

*If you want more details about what happened last year, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/24/heres-the-post-ive-wanted-to-write-but-couldnt/

Throwing In The Towel

I don’t like boxing.  

While there are those who defend the sport as the ultimate test of one man’s strength, fortitude and endurance against another, all I see is a couple of guys beating each other to a pulp.  

But I understand the heart of a fighter.  

I know what it feels like to be down but refuse to stay down.  I’ve lifted myself up and stumbled back into the center of the ring waiting for the next punch to land.

I’ve waved off the good advice of those in my own corner who say, “Take a breather.  Rest a little.  Sit awhile.”

But I’m throwing in the towel.  

Not for good.  

Just for today.  

liberal-blog-down-for-the-count

There’s been so much going on lately that I think I’m finally down for the count.  

I don’t care that summer days mean sunshine until eight.  I don’t care that I haven’t managed to complete half my list.  

I’m going to bed, curling up with a good book and reading until I fall asleep.  

I hope I don’t wake until sunrise.  

sunrise trees

When It’s Hard to Give Yourself Grace

My little congregation is hosting a volunteer team blessing us with a new roof for our leaking sanctuary.

What would have been absolutely impossible if we had to rely totally on our own resources is happening right now!

The week after my daughter’s wedding.

fiona and brandon down the aisle

Which means that I am especially exhausted as well as depleted emotionally, mentally and physically. 

I’m simply unable to participate like I want to and feel I should.

I’ve brought food up to the church each day but I can’t stay to help serve because my family is still doing leftover wedding tasks.  My heart is torn between what I know I have to do and what I would like to do.  And it’s impossible to do both.

It’s so much easier for me to extend grace to others in similar situations.  I am often the first to say, “Don’t worry about it!  We’ve got it covered!”, and mean it.  The last thing I want to do for any struggling heart is add to the burden.

Yet here I am, knowing full well that the smart thing, the right thing and really the only thing I can do is accept the same grace from others I’ve extended in the past and I can’t stand it!

I’m pretty sure it’s pride stopping me from admitting my limitations.  I’m pretty sure it’s selfish ambition that goads me into trying to finagle a way to be in two places at once.  I don’t want to be the one person who didn’t show up all week, meet the volunteers and tell them face-to-face how very much we appreciate them.

How my heart can twist things!

These past six months have been hard ones.  Goodness-the past almost two years have been one crisis after another, more travel away from home than in the decade before, more heart-stopping, mind-blowing moments and challenges than any other season since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

And still I will cling to my pride.

I need to accept the abundant, overwhelming, free-flowing and never-ending grace of Jesus.

I do no one any good by refusing it.

Least of all me. 

god opposes the proud humble hands

 

Sleepless Nights

For the first couple of weeks after Dominic left us, I couldn’t fall asleep.  

It was impossible to close my eyes without a dozen awful scenes flashing behind the lids. 

Silent darkness was not my friend.  

Eventually exhaustion won and I could fall asleep but couldn’t stay asleep.  Two or three hours in and my body had just enough rest to shake slumber and force my heart to face another day (even if the sun wasn’t up yet).

Somewhere around year three I finally settled into a pretty regular pattern of between five and six hours of solid sleep.  

back-to-sleep

But for the past several months I’ve lost the rhythm and am once again struggling.

Lots of changes, lots of stress, lots of physical discomfort and lots of lists floating in my head have landed me back in sleepless territory.

to do list

I wish there was a switch I could flip that made it easy to fall and stay asleep.  I wish there was a way to stop stray thoughts from invading my consciousness and my dreams.  I wish I could have a solid week of solid sleep.

I know it would make everything so much easier to manage.

I’d be calmer, more focused, more energetic and more optimistic.

But it’s a vicious cycle.  

I’m hoping long days of hard work in the summer sun will shift my body back to a better rhythm.  

Maybe. 

Eventually.  

sands of time

 

 

 

Have A Day. It Doesn’t Have to Be a Good One.

I don’t know about you, but I think of every day as a blank canvas and it’s my responsibility to paint something useful or beautiful or helpful on it.

I’m a list maker so each night before I drift off, I usually jot down 3 or 300 things I would like to do the next day.

I get up, get started and then (more often than I’d like to confess!) hit a wall.

hit the wall yoda

Sometimes it’s the wall of circumstance.  Things happen I didn’t expect and suddenly the hours I was going to spend cleaning the garage are spent cleaning a mess.

Sometimes it’s the wall of community. Someone calls.  Or a multitude of someones call. I hate to admit it but I’m really not a fan of the telephone.  Like Alexander Graham Bell, I consider it more of an inconvenience and interruption than a means of delightful connectivity.  Minutes slip by and I can’t recover them.

I love my friends and family. 

But I’d rather chat while we are doing something together in person than over the phone.

Sometimes it’s the wall of pain.  Rheumatoid Arthritis, like all autoimmune diseases, is unpredictable.  Usually I can tell in the early morning hours if my joints are going to cooperate on a given day.  But sometimes they surprise me and I find that all that yard work will have to wait.

Sometimes it’s the wall of grief or sadness or longing or any of a multitude of feelings.  I have gotten pretty skilled at steering clear of grief triggers when I know I have lots of things to do.  I don’t listen to the songs friends post on their timelines or read too many comments on the sites for bereaved parents.  But I can’t anticipate random sights, sounds or memories.  I’ve been working on a room, cleaning drawers, moving stuff tucked in corners and come across a Lego man or a pellet from the air soft guns they weren’t supposed to shoot inside the house (but of course did anyway) when the boys were young.  That does me in and I have to walk away.

Sometimes it’s the wall of “What difference does it make anyway?!!”This one I usually see approaching in the distance when there have been too many days and too little progress.  Or a string of gray, rainy mornings.  Or multiple failed attempts at fixing something.  And then I throw up my hands and decide my paltry attempts at controlling my corner of the world hardly matter, so why keep doing them.

So I give in and let myself just have a day. 

tired cat

It doesn’t have to be a good one or a productive one or even a cheerful one.  The glass can just be a glass.  I don’t have to pretend it’s half-full or declare it half-empty.

half-full

And after a rest I usually remember that what I used to find impossible is now possible;  what used to be hard, is often a little easier.

I am stronger and better able to carry this load.

Sorrow is no longer all I feel nor my son’s absence all I see.

And although THIS day may be lost.  It’s only ONE day.

It’s perfectly OK for me to sit down with a cup of coffee, a book or a movie and let myself off the hook.

The sun will rise tomorrow and I can start over.

I will start over.

have a day