Confessions of a Verbal Processor

PostitnotephotoI am a verbal processor and sometimes that gets me into trouble. I have to speak out loud to work things out. This can be good and bad at the same time. For those who are introverts, reasoning with a verbal processor can be a nightmare. And for people like me, working things out with an internal processor can be a frustration. But since I’ve come to learn that I am only responsible for me, I need to rein in my processing to meet the other person halfway.

My counselor has said to think of it this way, speaking to the other person in post-it-note form. Everything that I need to say in a moment of heated debate I should try to fit it into a post-it-note and then breathe. Do you know how small those notes are? Too small for a verbose wordsmith like myself…sigh…but God has been whispering to me the wisdom of heeding the counsel of James 3 (great chapter, look it up) and learn to use my tongue wisely, even when I am upset!

This has come after months and years of frustration with the internal processors in my life. I am sad to say, that the paragraphs that follow are a story of what happened when I didn’t rein in my tongue and I let loose. This incident happened over several months ago and I talked it out in my journal into a blog post hoping that it would become a spiritual marker of truth and healing for me.

I am just now opening up the vault of “ugly” with you today in hopes that it will be an encouragement.  And that as we journey together in learning to bless with our tongues, we can bring words of healing instead of destruction in the moment.  So here goes….

I was angry,

I was feeling lonely and tired.

I did something that I am not proud of.

I am ashamed.

I am undone.

I am sick to my stomach.

I let words slip out of my mouth that should never cross my tongue in anger.

It was an extreme moment, and in that nano-second I crossed the line and chose to speak words that kill instead of words that could give life. I was horrified and tried to clean up the mess I just made. I tried to take them back. But words can never be taken back. It is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, it’s messy.

I stepped back, took a breath and humbly tried to apologize, admit I was terribly wrong and no matter how justified I felt, I had no excuse. That’s the funny thing about anger, our anger may be justified, but what comes out of our mouth is critical to determining the difference between choosing words of wisdom or foolishness. My pain leaked and out came foolishness. No matter what stirred up my anger I have to take responsibility, it’s called admitting I was wrong even though I was feeling devastated and hurt myself.

It was a wake-up call for me. The words rushed out like a volcano erupting and I realized that deep inside my heart something was terribly wrong. As I reflected later, I realized that I had not been honest with myself and with the other person. After weeks of nursing hurt and pain it spilled out like a toxic poison because I hadn’t dealt with it. I thought I was doing them a favor by holding back and just trying to deal with the hurt myself. You would think after living a half a century I would get it. Being honest with others and myself is always the right choice. Keeping hurts inside and pretending that something is okay when it is not, is a climate for disaster. A small seismic volcano begins to brew until one day, you just blow up and meltdown.

So here is the heart check I am learning of what Proverbs says, An honest answer is like a warm hug. Proverbs 24:26 (Message)

Really?

Being honest is like a warm hug?

I love that. Here’s another nugget of wisdom from the same book, Proverbs 28:1, Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions. Such great truth and I am soaking it all in post 24-hours of my meltdown. This next one I think I will write out on a 3×5 card and post it on my mirror so I can look at it every morning. There is one who speaks rashly, like the thrust of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18. This truth needs no explanation, it is visual.

So what’s the moral? Heart check-three things:

Number one: Don’t let hurts or wounds sit and simmer. Deal with them.

Number Two: Be honest and truthful in love, even if you are afraid to share it with the other person. I am a recovering people-pleaser and I don’t like to make waves. I am afraid of waves, I want others to like me 100% of the time. How vain is that? But that is not possible, it’s not even realistic, because I am a sinner, saved by grace and I fail each and every day.

Number Three: When you are angry, remember we have a choice. Choose words that heal or better yet, walk away, count to 10 until you calm down so your words are laced with love and truth not acrid poison that can damage the relationship.

Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love. Leo Buscaglia

How to Lead with Courage: A Lesson from the Cowardly Lion

A favorite childhood memory is sitting with my sister in our pajamas curled up with our blankets and watching our favorite characters in the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz.

The Cowardly Lion was faced with the greatest challenge of his life in the forest he had lived comfortably for so long. By his own confession he was a great coward and this was his moment to shine. He was asked by his traveling companions, the Tin Man and Scarecrow to risk life and limb to rescue Dorothy and her dog Toto who had been captured by the awful wicked witch of the West. He told them sheepishly with a burst of courage, All right, I’d go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do. His friends replied, What’s that? To which the Lion said, Talk me out of it.

Can you relate? Once you have had a burst of courage to do the impossible, have you asked God or your friends to talk you out of it? When is the proper timing to blast through looking fear in the face as a leader to accomplish what God might be asking? Is it waiting until everything falls into place? Is it shouting from the forest and engaging others to do the job for you? How do we know when and where to move ahead? Are there just some people who are born with guts and determination?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’ You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

I would like to add that you must do the thing that you know you cannot do apart from God’s amazing strength. That is the pre-requisite, to do what you know you can’t possibly do, that my friends is real courage.

The Bible is full of examples of cowardly lions just like you and me who looked fear in the face and acted with God infused courage. I have a feeling if we wait for courage it will never come. But like the Cowardly Lion discovered, he did have courage when he acted on his fear.

I have to admit, I have been the Cowardly Lion too many times to mention.

I’ve prayed for courage.

Instead of gaining courage God says move.

Take a step.

I am with you.

Trust me.

My motto is this, don’t wait for the fear to go away, do it afraid. That is courage in all its glory.

Adapted from an excerpt from my book Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive, New Hope Publishers 2013 

Pulling out Joy in the Drawer

gratitudeHow about a crazy just for fun blog post for the end of this week? I just need to know if anyone else thinks like this, or am I the only one?

Going to my top drawer in my dresser, I have my assortment of undergarments, or can I say panties? Of course, it’s the 21st century! But for those of you young things, we were raised to not speak of such things in public. I can remember my Dad remarking when I was a teenager of how nothing was sacred anymore because of the feminine commercials on TV and the stress of a woman’s cycle. He about threw-up, and left the room every time.

Here’s my dilemma. I have about 5-7 good-looking pair of panties, and if a bus hit me, I would feel okay about wearing. Then I have about 3-4 pairs of scraggly, not fit so well, uncomfortable ones. Of course I reach for the first 5-7 pair and leave the others to languish in the drawer until I am desperate for clean underwear. But when I get really busy and forget to throw the elite pairs in the washer I have to resort to choosing second best. Every time that happens, I hear my mother’s voice in my head, “Clean and neat underwear in case you get in a wreck.” Those weren’t her exact words, but the paraphrase of what I remember. Honestly, how do tapes like that stay in our head? And does it really matter? If I did get in a wreck, will it cause a hospital press conference because I have tattered ill-fitting panties on?

I guess it falls into the category of the saying “putting your best foot forward.” But what if it isn’t possible? That’s the dilemma. Can you hear the transition? For my faithful readers, I think you know me too well I can’t write a whole blog post without some kind of parallel to the crazy!

Here’s the deal, as I was mulling it over I thought to myself, how often do I do this in life, choosing from the elite category of my okay happy emotions to put on my best face when in reality, I’ve run out of clean and happy. What do I do then? Pretend? Yes, sad to say, many times I pretend when everything is not okay inside. This is where it gets sticky for me. I want to be transparent and want to be authentic but I don’t want to be a downer. Can we be real and still be encouraging? I’m just asking.

January, in particular it seems like I am reaching for the drawer and all I have left is second best. I try to garner up the strength and put on my game-face when in reality I am feeling a little tattered and ill fit. Mostly, I think because I am tired in the aftermath of a chaotic few months.

For me that looks like, backing up and withdrawing because I just don’t have it in me to pretend. If I am not making sense, bear with me as I process this out loud with you. Here is what I think I am learning.

The Bible talks about being joyful in the midst of trials, suffering, burn-out etc. (For reference look at James 1:2-12, Psalm 107:22, Psalm 119:43) I don’t think it means pretending and putting on a game face. I think the writers are encouraging us to be mindful that in the process of experiencing life and especially more difficult seasons, we can’t forget about joy and hope. They just don’t come to us in truckloads.

We have to….

Cultivate grateful thoughts

Confess joy

Diligently turn ugly thoughts into positive

Bury ourselves in His promises

Practice contentment.

I think at times I have bought into the myth that if I am doing the right thing in hard times, that joy will automatically come to me. But according to the over 300 verses in the Bible surrounding joy, it seems to me that joy comes as a result of something that I have to practice in both my mind and heart. A big one is just being grateful. It’s funny how gratitude can shift our focus. I can be awakened to joy as I practice daily contentment and gratitude. Robert Louis Stevenson said once, “The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.”

The motto of this blog posting is this, if I go to the drawer of my heart and I am at the end of clean and happy, I can choose joy by practicing gratitude. I don’t have to walk around tattered and empty. When I am empty that attitude of gratitude even in the midst of difficulties can bring joy to others in spite of my own circumstances and I don’t have to feel like I am a downer with others.  Let’s face it, life can be hard, it’s unpredictable and it is disappointing more times than we’d like to admit.  But through the eyes of gratitude, life is wondrous and an amazing gift of joy.

What will you pull out of your drawer today?

P.S. Okay, I know that some of you reading won’t be able to get past the, “Why doesn’t she just get rid of those the few pair of panties that cause her grief.” I promise, I’ll think about it and let you know….

 

(picture from http://www.dailygood.org/story/578/the-neuroscience-of-why-gratitude-makes-us-healthier-ocean-robbins/)

 

 

 

Alone and with No Hope

photoI’ve heard scores of people talk about 2014 with various descriptions. They may choose a one-word, a phrase or a sentence.

Some have deemed the new year as the year of___________, and then they fill in the blank with words like…

Breakthrough

Prayer

Promises

New Beginnings

Adventure

How would you fill in the blank?

I have found that for myself, I usually fill in the blank with great enthusiasm. I start thinking about that blank for the new year in December. I think choosing a one-word for the year instead of New Year’s resolutions is brilliant!  I usually start the first few weeks of the new year energized, ready to close the door on the previous year and turn the page into the new one. I chose my word, OFFERING. I painted a collage in my journal to mark it, I was ready for 2014!

And then it happened,

I got stuck.

Life piled up.

I withdrew. (That’s why no blog post this past week!)

The drudge and routine crept into my thoughts threatening a black cloud of doubt that didn’t even make sense.

One simple day of annoyances turned my attitude from seeking to practice greater gratitude in 2014 to upside down defeating thoughts. Sounds silly doesn’t it? I don’t really have ANYTHING to complain about, AT ALL!  But the annoyances of a water leak under the house, slightly burning my hand with boiling water, and leaving one day without my wallet transferred to a tsunami of defeating thoughts.

Fortunately, I saw the signs and I knew if I didn’t change my perspective fast, my heart could end up feeling alone and with no hope. I defaulted into my melancholy pity party of “my life isn’t what I hoped it could be right now.”  Simple negative thoughts turned into darker thoughts of dwelling on past mistakes, failures and missed opportunities. Pushing my chair away from my computer and the project I was working on, I sat staring at the wall and took a moment and did a self-analysis.

I was overwhelmed.

Tired.

My schedule had been crammed, going non-stop for weeks and had come to an abrupt halt.

God was pushed suddenly out of the picture because my feelings spoke deception and I listened too intently.

I took a deep breath and decided not to listen to my runaway emotions too closely.

I burst out, a loud cry at my desk, tears seeping, asking God to help me get past my stuck feelings. The outburst surprised me. I know myself too well, keeping everything in bottled up not talking to God about it so he could help me change my perspective. At that moment, I knew better not to trust myself but rather to trust God.  I had to choose. I was tired, which led to my black thoughts and feelings. After I got it all out, I sensed God saying, go take a nap. I obeyed. When I woke up, I couldn’t believe how my attitude changed.

Feeling alone and no hope because of runaway thoughts is not a place to pitch a tent and campout. It leads nowhere and can keep you and me from choosing joy and gratitude. It paralyzes and demotivates. I confess, I lost a few days because of it before I got a grip. It is so ridiculous because there is so much real pain and hurt everywhere, I don’t want to stay stuck, I want to make a difference and bring hope to others.

Here is my solution.

Take a step back and breathe!

Ask yourself some obvious questions. Am I tired? Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I sad? Am I _______? Fill in the blank.

And then ask yourself WHY?

The answer to the why usually leads to the clues of why we might just feel a little bit alone and on the road to dismissing hope from our lives.

Alone and with no hope is a bold-faced lie. We are not alone, ever! God promises that He is with us, every second of everyday. Hope is embodied in a person, God himself, Jesus His son and the comforter, our Holy Spirit.

I can prove it! Here it is right in Hebrews, it is so beyond believable, a description of hope using Abraham as an example. I had to give you the whole context. As I read it right now, a rush of hope infuses my soul, because hope is God and hope has the power to wash over my cryptic thoughts and renew them with love and peace.

Remember when God made His promise to Abraham? He had to swear by Himself, there being no one greater: 

“Surely I will bless you and multiply your descendants.” And after Abraham had endured with patience, he obtained the promise he had hoped for. When swearing an oath to confirm what they are saying, humans swear by someone greater than themselves and so bring their arguments to an end.

In the same way, when God wanted to confirm His promise as true and unchangeable, He swore an oath to the heirs of that promise.  So God has given us two unchanging things: His promise and His oath.

These prove that it is impossible for God to lie. As a result, we who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.

That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is (as the high priests did in the days when reconciliation flowed from sacrifices in the temple) Hebrews 6:13-19 (THE VOICE)

Did you catch what the writer says?  We who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us.

Are you coming? Let’s run to God so we can practice and seize that hope!

 

 

 

One Word for 2014

photo

I was just about ready to fall asleep the other night, and as my routine dictates, my eyes briefed over my bible reading I have on my iPhone.

Romans 12:1-3 came on the screen…

 So here is what I want you to do

GOD HELPING YOU

Take your everyday

Ordinary life

Your sleeping, eating, going to work

And walking around life

And place it before God

As an OFFERING….

The word OFFERING jumped out and captured my heart, I could hardly go further. It reverberated over and over in my head as I fell asleep. I had been thinking about what my ONE WORD for 2014 should be and hadn’t had anything resonate just yet. The more I ruminated over it the next few days, the more reluctant I was. I tried to embrace more comfortable words like peace, joy, adventure and more, but “offering” wouldn’t go away.

I took a drastic step. I prayed over it. After about two days, a peace settled over my heart, my fears of what the word COULD mean calmed and I knew that God had chosen this word for me for 2014. My fear was, what if God would ask me something I couldn’t deliver? I know that sounds like lack of faith and trust, but honestly, that is where the trail of my thinking takes me lately on some days.

The interchange of the word offering is sacrifice. I was afraid that God was asking me to sacrifice more than I could give right now. Not in the physical sense, but rather in the emotional sense~because I am feeling weary from the past few years and a bit like the warrior who needs a change of scenery.

I dug out my commentaries (on my desktop-LOGOS) and delved into a study traveling throughout the Old and New Testament grasping what God would have me understand in this little word. What I discovered was nothing short of a miracle in facing my fears. It’s funny how when God whispers something over your heart how the fear can come in and twist what God intends for us to grasp. This was one of those times.

In my initial journey here is what I’ve found. I knew there were several types of offerings in the Old Testament but had no clue that they each had such unique meanings. I never really paid too much attention because we live under the new covenant and we don’t bring these physical offering acts before God as the Old Testament people once did.

I am still unpacking all of this, so bear with me as I think out-loud. I learned that the sin offering is different from the guilt offering. Sin offerings were brought because of sin unintentionally committed but still needed cleansing. Guilt offerings came as a result of individual sins that impacted not only the person but hurting God and others so it required a different process.

Burnt offerings expressed commitment and surrender to God.

Peace offerings implied joyful thanksgiving and symbol of communion with God.

I learned that in bringing the offering brings the blessing and favor of God in our lives.

The miracle happened as my heart opened up to receive ways that my life could be an offering in 2014. Not only what I could bring to God but the expressed communion he desires to have with me alone in the inner sanctuary of my soul.

The word offering can mean both, what I bring to God in my commitment and surrender and the offering that God gives to me in exchange,

A soul at rest,

At peace,

Communion with my God

Renewal

Restoration

Blessing…

Here is how Romans 12:1-3 finishes,

…embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He want from you and quickly respond to it. 

This is my hope and prayer for 2014.

What is your ONE WORD?