The Value of Relationships

Relationships are probably the most important thing in our lives. If you’re a Christian, you would say your relationship with God is first. If you’re not a Christian, you would likely say the people in your life are most important. If you think about it, without relationships life would be pretty boring. We would be walking around aimlessly…doing whatever we wanted in silence…alone… We wouldn’t find connection and wouldn’t know touch. Our purpose wouldn’t make sense?

A life without relationships sounds a bit depressing to me honestly. As hard as they are sometimes, I do want them in my life. I think many would say the same. Majority would say they would choose relationships over and over again rather than to live in complete solitude. Why? Because we were created to be IN community with one another (and ultimately, God). We were purposefully designed to be in healthy relationships (Prov 27:9).

Being an introvert, I LOVE the quiet. In fact, after I put my girls to sleep and if my husband is still at work, I “splurge” by turning the television OFF as I lay on my bed and just give myself moments to rest and think in complete silence. Only the sound of the crickets outside during summertime or the heat cutting-on in the house during winter. No distractions and no conversations. The silence FILLS me and I have found I need it, but to live this way all of the time? Alone? No way. I would certainly become anxious and sad. I NEED to love others and to be loved. I need conversation. I need encouragement and laughter. I need a hugs from my girls and my husband. I need to connect with my girlfriends for coffee and laughter. I need women pouring into me motherly wisdom and I still need advice from my parents. I especially need my Heavenly Father EVERY day…

When it comes to relationships there are some obvious truths I’ve thought about:

  • relationships are fun (and sometimes a bit extroverted-like)
  • relationships take work both ways
  • relationships need boundaries
  • relationships have a purpose
  • relationships are never perfect

I was recently convicted yet again why relationships are so meaningful. A good friend had lost her mother whom she was very close with, unexpectedly and painfully. My heart stopped as she shared her story. I felt so sad for her to lose someone so dear to her and not be able to say goodbye. The only peace she could gather was that her mother was a Christian, so she was confident of her eternal home with Jesus. The tragedy humbled her and she was broken in a way to which she could say aloud that ALL of the things she wanted or complained about or felt lonely for couldn’t compare to the relationship she had with her mother. While she knew God had called her home, she wanted the relationship.

Relationships are incredibly valuable, but sometimes they are difficult or don’t make sense. They can take a lot of work because NO person is perfect. If you think about it, there really isn’t ever a “relationship” problem. It’s an “I” problem. When we don’t agree with someone we can still choose to be kind and respectful or walk away from the conversation. If someone disappoints you or rejects you, it may hurt, but you can still choose to create boundaries and say “no” to the wrongness. Are we affected by other’s cruelty sometimes? Absolutely. But that is not who YOU have to become or be. Sometimes loving that person by walking away is the best thing for both. In addition, recognize we ALL struggle with something called sin, so it’s likely you have caused pain to another….most likely…at some point. Right?

How do you value others? How do you value yourself? Are relationships fun? Tiring? Disappointing? Do you set high expectations? Who do you surround yourself with?

Maybe it would be a good time to evaluate the circle of people in your life. What do you think you need more of? Less of?

Take a few minutes when you’re by yourself and write down the answers to these questions. Do a little investigative work and see what you need more of and/or less of. What do you want to work on personally? It’s always good to PAUSE a bit in think about these things…relationships are hard, but they are so worth the investment!

 

 

Advertisements

No Room to Wonder

A wise mentor used the word “wonder” once in our conversation together concerning relationships. When I think of the word “wonder” I think of two meanings. One, I picture the emoji face whose eyes gaze upwards with annoyance. It’s as if someone is thinking of other possibilities or what could be? Like someone being left to question a situation or feeling like they aren’t receiving the entire truth.

In a positive direction, the word “wonder” could be like someone who is dreaming of a new possibility. Often times in counseling, a therapist may say, “What would that be like?” giving their client a new thought or idea (healthy of course). This helps the mind begin to think of a choice which may have a better outcome or boundary. It’s a way to explore some.

In relationships, we are sometimes left wondering what the other person is thinking or what their intentions may be? Since we are unable to read each other’s minds we can never truly know every thought or action. Only God can do this. It can be frustrating at times, but in a bigger picture it can be very freeing to know we are never REALLY in control…but God is (thankfully).

In a healthy relationship, the wondering is pretty rare usually. We trust the other person and expect good intentions on their part. We can receive their responses and walk away feeling confident and secure. Even if there have been a few small bumps in the road (which is healthy and normal), the many points of consistency in the relationship far outweigh the anxieties of “what if”. Unfortunately sometimes there is a bigger bump in the road and this sets a relationship back a bit…the trust is lost such as in adultery for example. But again, trust CAN be rebuilt with the right steps and support.

In a less secure relationship where there have been multiple hurts such as lying, stealing, addiction, betrayal, abuse, control, and more, it is very difficult to NOT “wonder” what they other person’s intentions really are? Is this the truth? Are they being completely honest? How can I really know? The trust is often non-existent or deceiving.

Or if an individual has experienced trauma or possibly had a difficult childhood and never really made sense of it (processed, grieved, healed, etc) then often times they bring this into a relationship (baggage) and are already in a state of “wondering”. Who is really trustworthy? No one. Not even God.

Bottom line- if you feel like you are often left wondering in relationships, you probably should talk to someone about this like a pastor or counselor. Start small maybe with a close friend?

I really appreciated hearing these words from a wise mentor when she spoke about the people I love most. My inner circle of people are the ones I share the most with and I can trust fully. It’s a very, very small circle, but it’s intimate and special. I never have to “wonder” about them nor do I do anything which would make them wonder about ME.  I don’t have to be perfect and I don’t expect this of them, so when a mistake is made there is forgiveness, understanding and healing. The vulnerability brings us closer together and with each step I can experience God in a new way- His grace, love and mercy. A true glimpse and taste of His character. I can come to Him always. I can simply “be”. Why? Because I never have to wonder with God…

 

 

I Love a Poopy Diaper

My husband and I laugh at the things we become excited about these days when it comes to parenting. Chloe keeps us on our toes and is so fun. We love to tell each other when she finally poops or when she has a good, long 3 hour nap. We love buying a new case of paper towels because we go through them so much cleaning up her messes. We love seeing Chloe jump into the pool finally. It makes us so happy to know she is a water girl. All of the small things truly do add-up when it comes to parenting. It’s the ‘small’, sweet moments of growing alongside her and experiencing life together which brings us to our knees. I think Jesus knew this when He said to let the little children come to Him. He loved caring for them. They are precious in His sight.

My heart aches for those who have not been able to experience parenthood yet. I can’t imagine the feeling of waiting each day for good news or some sort of encouragement a child would be on the way soon. I speak to so many women specifically who LONG for marriage and to be mothers. To do family. The waiting is incredibly HARD for some. The unknown can be emotionally too much. And yet, this good desire never fades…

I thought about writing this blog yesterday because I am three weeks away from my due date and I have a feeling writing will be on the back-burner for a bit until I adjust to being a mom of two. We are expecting our second girl (Peyton Grace) and simply can’t wait to meet her. I am even more excited for Chloe to have a sister. There is something sweet and special about having siblings. I have loved having four wonderful siblings and friends.

So, Chloe just turned two years old and is not quite potty-trained yet…which is fine…but I’m interested to see how we will navigate two children in diapers for a bit! My husband is not a fan of changing diapers (totally normal and don’t blame him)…but can I share a secret? I kind of like -no… LOVE changing diapers! Especially big poopy ones!?!?!?!

I don’t know what it is, but I THINK it may be the idea of knowing my sweet little one(s) is running around or crawling or just sitting in a swing with something gross on their bottom- and I am the ONE who gets to clean them up! Fresh and new. Clean and shiny.

It’s something they can’t clean-up themselves. It’s something they may be a little embarrassed about? It’s something they might just do and then smile at me oblivious to the fact that it has shot up their back and made a huge mess….and I get to fix it for them. I can clean them up, sing them a song or give them special attention for a few minutes, kiss their head and send them on their way….I get to be mom.

I love a good, poopy diaper.

Isn’t this similar to how we are with Jesus? We come to Him with our messes….some we are oblivious to and some we are completely aware of and He just says, “It’s okay”…cleans us up, loves us, and sends us on our way until the next time. No judgement, no holding onto our sin. He wipes us clean.

I know this is probably a stinky analogy, but it really is quite true!

Changing Chloe’s diapers the past two years has softened me and given me SO many moments to love her well, take care of her, be her mommy- and I LOVE IT.

I love a good, poopy diaper 🙂

Finding REST

Lately our home has felt busier than ever because we are moving in a month or so down the road a bit. We are slowly trying to pack-up our things alongside working and coordinating schedules, so that Chloe is being watched and dinner is on the table each night. Somehow we still find time to get some exercise when we can because we both need it mentally (and it’s certainly helpful when NC is warm in February…thank you Jesus),  plan a date night here and there (or at least time to decompress and watch a show together), see family and friends, go to church, serve, and make all the other little errands happen- life is just BUSY! We do love the juggling though. It’s a constant dance together and we feel blessed to have each day. On a sad note, our sweet dog is failing more and more lately. Watching Stitch (or Stitchems as we call him) has actually been harder than I thought. His sweet brown eyes are just in a daze mostly. Today, he ate a crayon? He’s never done something like that before? Sigh. It’s just getting closer to “that time” unfortunately and we dread it. He adds to our plates because he needs a bit more attention and patience…poor buddy.

Last night, I put Chloe down to sleep and Dustin was working on the computer. I had a sudden moment of, “Ooo! I might sneak into bed and read a bit BY MYSELF!” I felt like I was sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar. To have a few moments of stillness to get lost in my “fun” book sounded so nice. Usually I’m in ten different psychology books for counseling. Currently however, I’m in the middle of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, “Uninvited” which my small group is doing together on Friday mornings. It takes me a few minutes to settle-in and hear her heart or try to understand how she has dealt with rejection in her own life. Then, I think about my own life. Where have I been hurt? How did this affect me? I need to assess the damage because it’s there.

I only read a chapter last night, but each portion I read I feel energized by. I take away more than her words on feeling hurt – I take away twenty minutes of REST. Twenty minutes to connect alone with God and breathe-in His love. Twenty minutes to remember who I am in Him despite the rejections and pain I have faced. Lysa uses a good amount of Scripture in her writing which I love because it always turns back to truth. Personally I need to see the application from the Bible and how I can relate it to me…or possibly encourage someone else.

I have to admit I struggle at being consistent in my quiet times with God. Why? I feel SO much better after I do? I feel so much more at peace. I feel grounded and able to take-on whatever is to come. I know spending time with God nourishes the deepest parts of my soul and reconnects my brain to truthful thoughts. I so often find myself going to a negative place in my mind- especially when things are tough. But when I hear from Him, my thoughts and longings move towards a God who captivates me in every way. He reminds me I am:

Loved – more than I can imagine and in every way…

Chosen – before I was born, He knew my name…I am HIS always

Valuable – He sees me, hears me and says I matter…

Accepted – I am a part of His family…I have a place with Him forever, faults and all…

In my weekly routine of being busy, God whispers truths loudly to me. In the hard times and good, I can hold onto His promises and REST in His love. My anxiety lessens and my frustration is calmed because of Him. I can “let go and let God”…

When I remain close to my Heavenly Father – when spend time in His Word- I find REST and I never want to leave that place.

I don’t know where you are in life? Maybe you are dealing with something really big. A loss, rejection, loneliness, confusion or betrayal….maybe you have financial pressure or are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop? Maybe your kids are driving you bananas or you’re angry at your church? It’s possible you are busy like me and don’t notice the need for Jesus every moment until LIFE actually happens? Maybe you don’t know about this whole “Christian” thing and are trying to figure it out? The point is we are ALL dealing with something and each of our stories are important to God whether we are honest about them or not. No life is pain-free.

Whatever the case may be, I hope and pray that you might your REST in His love. I pray you know that You are incredibly LOVED by Jesus. And I pray these words in any and every way bring a calmness to your situation or the situations to come…you can find REST in Him.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.”

-Psalm 4:8

Come to Me…

I feel like I talk about my loved ones often. We were made for relationships and those we call family are even more special. I love how God designed the family-system. It is intentional and purposeful in glorifying God’s love and so many good characteristics about Him- strength, steadfastness, peacefulness, security…family really does matter. My heart aches for children who are living in orphanages or are waiting to be adopted as they go from foster home to foster home. I simply can’t fathom what a child must feel to not have a family. It’s thoughts about this which make me look to Heaven and ask God to remind me that my prayers for these children DO matter…I CAN do something…

Recently, our Chloe bear, or as I have been calling her “stink-a-poo” (I have NO idea where I got that name)…has slowly been entering into the “tantrum stage”. Ugh. Here we go.

I have to say the first time she had a real tantrum it caught  me off guard and I know my face looked like I had seen a ghost. Who was this child? Chloe is SO easy-going and super happy, so it was a shock for me to see her break-down, stomp a foot, say “NO” very loudly, cry, pull something off a store shelf and shake her head like I was the one who did something to offend her….? I was a bit embarrassed if I’m honest!

Fast-forward a few tantrums later…

Chloe had gotten a cold and one night could not sleep. Poor thing would wake-up every two hours crying. Dustin had gotten home at midnight and walked upstairs to witness the emotional break-down she was having. WE. TRIED. EVERYTHING. She would not let us hold her, rock her, she wouldn’t watch a show (which had always worked before), no lollipop, no popsicle, no juice…NOTHING. As I tried to move towards her to comfort her she would get even more mad and stomp her feet. Tears rolled down her face and I could feel myself becoming angry (mainly because I couldn’t figure out how to make things better for her. I felt powerless). I had to counsel myself a bit in this moment lol. Dustin always stays calm. I should probably take notes from watching him.

Something I have practiced in therapy when counseling kids, adolescents, teens and even adults is this truth which I very much believe in:

“Everyone at some point has and/or expresses negative feelings, but that is not who we ARE…0ur identity is far much more valuable and it is be found in God alone.” 

I know Chloe wasn’t trying to be a pain. Her behavior wasn’t great, but that is not who she is. She was upset and was struggling to calm-down. Her emotional side of the brain had taken-over at this point and any bit of logic was gone. Even as an adult I can recall times where I’ve felt this way. I have certainly let my emotions take over- anger on the road, tears because I was feeling overly-sensitive, stubborn because I didn’t get my way so I pout…

I love Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In context we see at the end it says, “…you will find rest for your souls.” 

What a beautiful picture of God’s love. Even when we are upset or angry we can rest our souls…our deepest part in Him. Whether we over-react because we are human or just feel broken, we can come to God and find rest. Why? Because He gets it. He gets it ALL. He is only One who truly understands our EVERY single pain. He walks alongside us when we need Him and holds us when we need to be held. Through it all, He doesn’t judge us or criticize our actions. He simple says something like this: “You are my child, I love you and it’s going to be okay. Just come to Me.”

Chloe bear. She is such a snuggle-bug! So to finish the story…Chloe had this “episode” for about ten minutes and for some reason ran into her room, in the dark and just stood there crying? We didn’t know what she was doing or what we should do at this point and then, I remembered what I talk about so often in counseling and I thought of the Scripture in Matthew.

So I went into her room and sat in the dark, in her rocker close-by. I looked at her with love and compassion and didn’t reach for her or talk to her. I just sat there and let her cry. I wanted her to know that I wasn’t going to abandon her. Even at her “worst” I was there and it was okay that she was upset. I patiently prayed in my head for God to calm her little heart and then I felt a nudge to just say, “shhhh…..shhhh…” over and over, softly and soothingly. I kept looking at her because again I wanted her to know I was there, she mattered, and when we she was ready I would hold her. I will never give up on her.

Within a few minutes she RAN to me and lifted her arms up to be held. I pulled her in close, grabbing “mummy” (her bunny blanket) and rocked her in the dark. Before she almost immediately fell asleep, I said to her while stroking her hair:

“I’m sorry you’re sad and not feeling well. I’m sorry it became too much. I know you don’t like feeling this way and you just want to sleep. Mommy and daddy love you.”

Empathy, empathy, empathy…the best medicine for a hurting, broken heart. No fixing. Just being.

Honestly, I was SO tired that night. But looking back, I know God was teaching me something through my baby girl.

Never will our God leave us and never will He say we are too much. He gets it. We are never alone…

“Come to Me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest…”

Choosing Thankfulness

My husband and I go to a fairly large church…a mega-church as some call them. We’ve been attending together for about six years now and feel such a close connection with the families. We love seeing folks on Sundays and how church feels like home. Some Sundays I don’t want to leave! Recently, I have noticed more and more new attendees (or new to me) and have wanted to get to know them, but it can be so hard to connect with everyone. I think this is why serving at church and/or joining a small group is so important. You really need moments to “connect” and build these friendships with family in Christ.

Since having had our daughter Chloe, who is now 19 months, and knowing we have another baby on the way, we see the value of having these types of people around them also. Children need a “tribe” of folks who love Jesus other than family. A group of people who love them and are REAL. It’s healthy to be a part of a praying community whom encourages each other to look to Jesus.

Recently I talked to a lady at church whom I’ve known a long time and she is just going through a lot to be honest. My heart broke for her as she shared how much she has had to sacrifice (with a heart that wants to of course), so that she could take care of her family. She has support and she loves Jesus, so truthfully, I know she will be okay, but her words and tears made me feel a bit selfish. Her words made me take a step-back.

Do I really CHOOSE thankfulness or do I just take it because it’s how my life is going…if I am honest, MOST of the time? 

I think it’s easy to be thankful- to notice how good God has been and feel at peace. But when I go through trials and even in the good moments, do I really consciously STOP and praise God? I want to. I am aware of my need to be more intentional in speaking thankfulness and showing God through my time and resources…but I know I’m not there yet. It’s easy to buy a gift for another family by taking an angel card off of the Christmas tree- and that’s a really good thing, yes- but do I intentionally catch myself during my busy week, stopping to thank God for who He is and what He has done and continues to do?

I was convicted after speaking to this friend and as I sit in my comfortable office with the heat on, listening to Christmas music and drinking a diet coke…I recognize how blessed I REALLY AM. Do I really understand and will I ever truly comprehend the fact that Jesus was born in a manger for me, that He died for me and has given me eternal life? I don’t think anyone can really fully understand this scarifice. I know I take it for granted.

So today my prayer goes something like this below. I know God isn’t upset with me, but I am truly grateful He is so patient-loving!

“Lord, forgive me for not taking the time to stop and truly thank You. For what you did and what you continue to do in my life and the lives of others…God you are so good. You never fail. Father, I pray I would be more intentional about stopping…to be still and KNOW that you are God. What an indescribable gift and promise. May it spur me on to love others WELL as You do and live my life according to You. I love you, Amen.”

The Dance

Relationships can be hard. Some more than others. With each person we find ourselves moving to a different dance and doing our best to follow the steps, but recognizing we might step on toes or not know the way everytime?  There is grace (hopefully) as we learn and grow together, but sometimes this is not always the case. Sometimes we must leave the dance and realize we gave it our best shot. When we feel hurt too often we choose to end the dance. We can watch the person dance with others from afar or we can cut ties completely. Ending a dance entirely is not a bad thing either. Sometimes “releasing” another individual is the best way to show them we care for them and ourselves.

So how do we handle the more difficult dances? The confusing ones we don’t understand? Often we find these relationships at work or in our extended families…with our neighbors or possibly at our children’s sports team events. These are the relationships we can’t truly avoid and we awkwardly tip toe or stomp around these people each time we see them. We admit we can’t be ourselves around these folks and often times don’t know what to do except hide and grumble or hold our heads up high, pridefully.

In marriage, our dance may be difficult when we go through hard times like when finances are tight. We each try to lead the relationship or control which way to turn. Both partners are left feeling frustrated and stubborn and ultimately hurt that they feel misheard. The dance was so fun at first? What happened?

Difficult dances are not a bad thing. They challenge our character and remind us of our brokenness in this chaotic world. They help us to reflect and take into consideration the things we may need to work on personally. Negative emotions may surface like frustration or anger -which is okay. We are each human. The problem is when we decide to stay in this emotion and give-up. The issue becomes when we never truly reflect on our own self and ask questions like, “Where can I take responsibility in the dance?” or “When did I move and should have waited or not moved at all?” Self-reflection is crucial in relationships and forgiveness should be the goal (and just a reminder, forgiveness does not mean forgetting).

Relationships each move in a different way because we are each different. God made us this way. In Psalm 139:13 it says,

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Every single piece of you and I was made intentionally- with love and ownership. God knew you before you were even concieved because He is your Creator. Your greatest love. He is crazy about you. In this love, He also gave you free will. The ability to make choices and honor Him in those decisions. He helps us along the way if we are vulnerable enough to see our need for Him. He also is patient-loving and waits on our return to Him when we don’t let Him in…this pains His heart. Like a shepherd and his sheep (Jn 10:11). Like a loving Father, He protects.

The world is full of unique individuals of all groups and backgrounds and two things remain the same for us all:

-God is our Creator

-God loves us all

As we enter into our dances with one another, some intimate and some more surface-like, we find ourselves looking to a God who is perfect and who authored THE dance. The original dance with the best leader. The dance that reminds us of our need for Him. The dance which reveals His goodness, hope and heart for His children. It’s fun and inviting, warm and safe.

The more we dance with our Creator, the better we dance with others…and the better we dance with others, the better this world will be. 

“Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.…

-Psalm 149: 2-4