How I am rising above shame (and the winner of Fight Back with Joy)

The past week was full. Full of tears, grief, sorrow, and pain. Full of joy, laughter, hope, and excitement. Full of new people, new friends. Abundant. Overflowing.

At times I was overwhelmed, felt behind, wanted to crawl in a hole to sleep, because it was almost too much for this girl who gets over-stimulated. And in all of the goodness and pain (which are not mutually exclusive) I knew I had forgotten something.

fightbackwithjoyI forgot to announce the winner of Margaret’s book. (see below)

Now, this might be a small thing most people would not realize, but to me, in my desire to do things right, shame creeps in. Failure speaks: “You screwed up. Who do you think you are? How could you forget something like that?

I have a choice: I can either listen to the shame, absorb its message of failure, become paralyzed in guilt, horrified by remorse. OR I can accept my inaction. I can acknowledge that I did not follow through, apologize (I’m sorry, my friends, I am), forgive myself, and work to rebuild my integrity.

As I choose the second path, I also choose to see who I am. In the face of shame which puts me down, I can stand and acknowledge how God has built me up. This work is difficult when I am tempted to see only the negative in me. But God has created me and his works are wonderful. I am “wonderfully complex” (Psalm 139:14 NLT). I am vulnerable. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am loving. I am passionate. I am wise.

With humility I see both of my failures and my gifts. I offer them to God. Use them. May I be a blessing to someone today.

What is shame speaking to you, today? What is the truth about who you are? Hold them both in your hands before God. You are his masterpiece. He has created you to do good. And that work He has began in you? He will complete it. Amen.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT

 


Thank you everyone who shared your stories of grief and joy on my blog two weeks ago. You blessed me with your truth.

The Winner of Fight Back with Joy is Lynnae McCoy. Congratulations, Lynnae!

 

Leah: A Ragamuffin

Day 14 of 31 Days of Connecting

The other night Tim and I watched “Ragamuffin,” a movie about the life of the musician Rich Mullins.

As Tim and I watched Rich meet with Brennan Manning and as Brennan Manning taught Rich about God’s love for the first time I was brought back to my seat in Bethel’s Great Hall as Brennan Manning (I can’t write his name without saying first and last, it’s just impossible!) taught me about God’s love. It was as if I had never been taught the gospel before. In tears I purchased the book, got in line for an autograph, and asked the elderly man for a hug. Surprised, he did.

I went back to my room trying to wrap my head around such words as “grace” and tried to actually accept that it was for me. I tried to grasp “forgiveness” and kept repeating the phrase: “You shouldn’t should on yourself”… just trying to make it stick.

That was 13 years ago.

I still forget. 

I still try to win God’s favor. I still try to be perfect. I still try to live as if I don’t sin, denying the sins I do commit, and harming my ability to connect with others in the process.

Because I believe to be connected with your true self is to understand yourself as a sinner who is saved by the marvelous grace of Jesus.

No more masks. No more facades. But face to face with the harsh truth that but for Christ’s death on the cross, I would be lost.

He didn’t want to lose me.

And because of this grace, I am free to live as I truly am. When I see my sin, I can confess it, find forgiveness, and be equipped to live without it.

This is such a long process. Life-long. Though we can experience great healing and wholeness I don’t believe anyone ever experiences complete holiness in this life – no one except Jesus of course.

And so, we continue to fall back on God’s amazing, extravagant, prodigal, glorious, humbling grace until we see Him face to face.

And then we will truly live.

Please watch this two minute video of a piece of a Brennan Manning sermon. It could change your life.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

I Will Not Tell A Lie

Day 13 of 31 Days of Connecting

31 days big

Today I had a choice:

Be honest. Be truthful. Or hide.

Say what was hurting me. Or put on a mask.

Encourage my kids to speak out. Or tell them to be silent.

Over and over again this past week I have been encouraged by those who have told me I have been brave for speaking the truth about the loss, the pain, the struggle that I have encountered in this life.

And over and over again I have read stories other women have written about their own heartache. About their addictions. Their infidelity. Their loss.

It is their honesty that keeps me going.

When I read my friend’s blog – and her commitment to be authentic for 31 days – that’s when I knew I needed to speak the truth.

We live in a culture that encourages falsehood and masks. From internet trolls who will smash the most vulnerable to photoshop that “corrects” a beautiful body, we are told we are not enough – that the truth isn’t good. And even church culture can tie the mask on tight. We encourage one another to “trust in God” when we don’t even know where He is in our own lives. We smile and say “praise Him” when inside we are weeping.

We encourage one another that we can tell the truth, but inside we’re afraid that if we speak up we will lose… again.

What would it look like if instead of giving a quick platitude we told our crying friends we don’t have the answers either? What would it look like if we just held them instead of trying to make them (or us) feel better? What would it look like if we learned to embrace the discomfort of honest emotion?

I am convinced the loneliness that surrounds us exists because we have not yet discovered the ability to be truthful. And it’s understandable after being rejected. Or rebuked. Or abused.

But we have to keep trying.

We need each other.

We need to be heard.

And we need to hear that others have experienced the same things, too.

day 13Is there someone you have that you can speak the truth to? Who is it? If not… who would you like it to be? Start looking and praying… I didn’t always have that someone either. And until then, be that person for someone else.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. (Ephesians 4:25 The Message)

“Praying Our Goodbyes” – Words of Wisdom from Joyce Rupp

Day 9 of 31 Days of Connecting

Thank you all for your encouraging words concerning my recent posts. It’s healing for me to finally write about it – I’m overjoyed that God is using it to heal you as well. 

When I began to grieve, I realized quickly that I needed help. Because I had shoved some of my feelings down for well over a decade, I didn’t know how to mourn my losses. Writing them down helped – but it only helped me realize that they were there.

How does one begin to sort through the mess of pain and tears that causes your stomach to ache, your chest to heave, your heart to burn? How does one begin to understanding the feelings of shame, abandonment, and helplessness that comes with grief? How does one begin to see why we feelings like these are good, helpful, or even healing?

When I began to grieve, I turned to a book I had on my shelf for a couple of years, but had never opened. It is called Praying Our Goodbyes by Joyce Rupp. Within pages, I found hope and confidence that this journey through the depths of heartache was exactly where I needed to be.

I would like to share some of Rupp’s words of wisdom with you, today. I hope that as many of you are seeking healing in your own seasons of mourning this book could become a resource for you, as it is for me:

One author speaks of an “existential loneliness” that permeates every human spirit, a kind of unnamed pain inside, deep within us, a restlessness, an anxiety, a sense of “all aloneness” that calls out to us. I prefer to name it an “existential ache.” It is a persistent longing in us, and it happens because we are human. It is as strongly present in us as autumn is present in the cycle of the seasons. I believe that this ache is within us because we are composed of both physical and spiritual dimensions. Our body belongs to the earth but our spirit does not. Our final home is not here, although “here” is where we are meant to be transformed by treasuring, reverencing and growing through our human journey. No matter how good the “good earth” is, there is always a part of us that is yearning, longing, quietly crying out for the true homeland where life is no longer difficult or unfair. 

Every once in a while we get in touch with this truth in us. It is not a sadness exactly, not a hurt or a pain as such, but some tremendously deep voice that cries out in bittersweet agony… It is the autumn in all of us, the truth that life can never stay just as it is.

This inner ache is felt especially when we sense the mystery of life or the supreme uniqueness of who we are. It is present when we recognize the fleetingness of all that we know and all that we cling to upon this good earth. We have a strong longing at this moment to hold onto all of it, and we realize the impossibility of doing so. We seldom put words onto this melancholy. We only dimly sense its presence. But it colors our moods and pervades our activities and weaves its way through our unconscious. It is present in our edginess or in blue days that seem to have no cause. It raises its voice in our inability to concentrate or to feel full satisfcation even when everything in our lives is going smoothly. It makes itself felt when, perhaps just for a brief moment, we recognize our mortality and the swiftness with which time passes…

This loneliness, paradoxically, joins us with all others in their aloneness. There is a great strength and comfort in this. It is only when we are willing to meet the absolute truth of that aloneness within us that we are no longer alone… that we are able to break through to a level of consciousness that assures us of the magnificent bonding that we have with other humans and with God. We begin to see the ache as a natural part of our humanity and of our inner journey… We realize that we are not the only ones who are going home, that we are not the only ones who are still unfinished, that we are not the only ones whose lives calls us to many partings before we are one with the eternal hello

If we are attentive to the inner ache, and if we grow in accepting its truthful message, then we will more readily move through our own particular goodbyes. We will be more open to the growth of the human journey.

– Joyce Rupp, Praying Our Goodbyes, (Ave Maria Press, 2009) pp 7-9 (italics and bold are my emphasis)

I will continue sharing my journey, tomorrow.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

For the first time, I acknowledged my loss…

Day 8 of 31 Days of Connecting31 days of connecting

My journey of 31 days is taking a little turn. Over the next days – as many as it takes – I want to share my recent story with you. It started here, yesterday. Please start there. I pray that hearing my story of connecting – of REconnecting – will help you connect with God, others, and yourself.

In January 2013, I felt life was going really well. Ben was one, Jack was four, my depression was under control, I had excitement for Scum of the Earth Church and sensed that God was bringing something new to our community through a movement of prayer and worship.  I had hope of redemption and faith that God brings things around for the better – hope that I had been missing for a few years. At last God had reminded me that He brings joy to life, not just endurance.

So, when we held our first night of prayer and worship at Scum, I was filled with anticipation and expectation of what God would do.

The evening was beautiful as people came and saught the LORD. And God was moving. He was redeeming. He was encouraging. He was speaking. I was honored to be part of it and more confident than ever that this was where I was supposed to be.

Then one of our leaders asked my husband, Tim, and me to pray for his health. I prayed. Tim prayed. When we finished, he turned to Tim and told him how impactful his prayer was. That there was power in his hands.

He said nothing to me.

I felt myself fall to pieces. My confidence vanished. I was hurt that he didn’t recognize God’s work in me – I feared maybe God wasn’t working in me. I battled with my insecurity and shame until I finally told Tim, “I feel useless.”

Tim then wanted to ask that same leader we prayed for to pray for me. I was horrified and scared to discover where these feelings were coming from. Was I under spiritual attack?

But we asked the leader, and he prayed over me. Then he said the thing I least expected. He said that fear is often connected to grief. He told me I need to consider what I’ve lost in my life and how that has affected me and caused me to fear. My fear and insecurity was not an outside attack, but God was healing me by revealing my deep pain.

I was bewildered. I had never considered myself as needing to grieve. However, within 24 hours, I had a list of lost relationships; more than 20 individuals whose relationship with me had been severed in some way. From middle school friends to professional mentors. From relatives to peers. From best friends to boyfriends. Deaths. Illnesses. Moves. I had said goodbye to so many people and I felt the hurt of them all.

For the first time I acknowledged my loss.

And my pain.

I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I fear no one loves me as deeply as I do them. That Tim could not be as crazy about me as I am about him. Or that friends don’t want my friendship. Or even, Lord, that I have to earn your favor… Now, being away from family, having few friends, or even close co-workers, I feel afraid of losing more, being rejected all over again…

I began to grieve.

day 8to be continued…

 

Let Them Tell You (Or Rather, Start Listening)

Every Friday, Kate Motaung and writers across the web join Five Minute Friday for five minutes of writing on the word of her choice. There are no major edits, no second guesses, just five minutes to write. I join to grow as a writer. Here is this week’s Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt: Tell.

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Has anyone ever told you something and it made you uncomfortable? Perhaps they started crying. Or maybe you started crying. The information was so atrocious. So horrible. So… difficult to swallow and you just wanted them to stop. Maybe they saw your discomfort and they did.

Let them tell you.

We have to start telling one another the truth about our lives. It’s when we don’t tell hat the internal destruction begins to occur. When we don’t tell the truth, we strive to cover up ourselves and begin to tell lies. We pretend our home is picture perfect and spend all of our energy striving to make it that way, when in reality we are dying inside from the truth.

I do it, too.

But when we tell the truth, the lie no longer has power over us. When we tell the truth and allow others to tell the ghastly, uncomfortable truth, then hope and healing can begin to take place, whatever that may look like.

Let them tell the truth.

Let them tell you they are depressed.

Let them tell you they feel like a bad mother.

Let them tell you their husband doesn’t love them.

Let them tell you their children have disabilities.

Let them tell you they hate themselves.

Let them tell you they harm themselves.

Let them tell you they or their spouse views porn.

Let them tell you they are ashamed.

Don’t dismiss it. Don’t try to make the bad feelings go away. Let them tell you.

And then tell them the truth.

They are loved.

They are cherished.

They are children of the God Most High.

They can seek healing. Healing is possible with God.

Others will help them.

Addiction does not have to win.

Depression does not have to win.

Hate does not have to win.

Let them tell you.

Note: I love Five Minute Friday, because it gets my writing juices going. But sometimes it is just not enough. I would have said so much more than just these words in Five Minutes. Please engage me!
What do you think? Why is it so hard to let people speak their hurts and struggles? Why do we feel we need to either comfort them with truisms or change the subject or immediately jump to ourselves?