Avert Your Eyes

MBA

Women are a funny creation, I’d love to have a one on one conversation with the Creator of the World about how women work.  I want to know how much of our way of thinking, behavior, etc is just “how we are wired” and how much is a result of the fall.  How emotional did God really want for us to be?  How complicated were we intended to be?  When woman first bit that piece of fruit, why is it that her mind became a pile of yarn balls all unraveled and going in so many directions at once?  Why did men get the capacity to compartmentalize things and function so differently with thought and deed?  We both ate of the tree of knowledge, yet our brains work so entirely differently.  Why?

It is a mystery.

Interestingly enough, what also happened after woman bit that apple… she saw herself.  She felt shame and guilt.  And, she hid from God.  Until that moment, the Lord had blinders on her eyes.  She saw Him, she saw Adam, she knew her God given task and purpose.  When she bit of the apple, those blinders fell off.   “What if” entered the world.  “What if God didn’t say ….”.  “What if I take a bite…”.  “What if I didn’t hear God correctly…”.

What if.

Throughout the scriptures there are cries out to God to be seen.  See me, search me, do not cast your face from me, see your people, hear your people, help your people…

Eve hid from God.  Eve said… do not see me.  Do not find me.  Do not cast your gaze upon me.  Do not search me.   She didn’t want to be found in her shame and her guilt.

Avert your eyes.

But the Lord looked for them, he sought them out in their shame, held them accountable, and then as He always does… he made a way out.

I’ve known so many women who want to be seen.  They want their spouses to see them, instead of take them for granted.  They want their children to see them,  and consider them worthy of praise.  They want their parent to see them and apologize for past hurts.  They want their boss to see them and recognize their efforts.  They want their church to see them and welcome their gifts.  They want world to see them and say you add value and are worthy to know.

And yet, some of these same women will hide from those who see too much.   When a spouse gets too close, and they feel vulnerable… they push him away.  When the children begin to see through her perfect mom facade, she builds up taller walls and come up with new covers to her sin.  A parent who desires to fix the past will be kept at arms reach because of fear, we do not want to be hurt again.  Women don’t want their bosses to know how much they sacrificed for the job, because they fear it shows weakness vs. strength.  A woman  who wants the church to see her gift but hides the journey to faith that brought her there.  Women who want the world to see them, but only the parts they want to be seen.

Women are complicated creations.  By our design or as a result of our choices, we seem to have the ability to complicate our lives even more than they need to be.  We say we want authenticity in our friendships, but we do not want vulnerability.  We say that we want iron sharpens iron friendships, yet we do not understand that for iron to be strengthened it’s weaknesses must be exposed.  We would rather our friends look up at us as a model of inspiration versus walk with us through our valleys.  We put on a show, get a circle of friends, build relationships… always keeping our arms stretched out so that no one can get too close.

From a distance our cracks and fractures are not as noticeable.  From a distance we can put on a show and no one can see us reading from the cue cards.  From a distance our grand actions are easily seen but our slight of hand goes unnoticed.  From a distance we look holy and righteous, masking our sin and deprivation.  From a distance we appear to have it all together, all of the right answers, the perfect family… no one can see the brokenness behind our closed doors.

Social media has made the perfect playground for superficial relationships, because we can connect with hundreds and thousands of people… posting our perfectly thought out words, edited photographs, and stories spun to make our lives look like a highlight reel of perfection.  When those people began to infiltrate our real lives, and see how we really live… that facade can only last so long.  When they get too close and begin to the see the truth, we cut them out and replace them with someone new.  Cycling our “friends” in and out of our lives to protect the image we have created for ourselves.

We tackle authenticity from a place of mentor to mentee versus a mutual relationship of accountability.  We want others to be authentic with us, so that we can use our gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, et’al to help them.   Yet we dare not expose the thorns in our sides, the planks in our eyes, and our sin to those whom we consider our closest friends.   When they come across them and call our attention to it, we are quick to dismiss it.  Quick to blame, and quick to create distance.  We speak truth in love, but I question how much love is really there.  We speak personal conviction as biblical mandate, standing on a soap box of righteousness that is filled with worms.  We are quick to label others sins and quantify them as more terrible than our own, so that when the time comes we can stop the friendship and feel no remorse.

Righteous indignation is easier than self retrospection.

So, we hide.  We hide from God under the guise that our sin is not as bad as others.  We tell ourselves that God is angrier about greater sins in the world, than this little thing I have done.  We hide from those who love us, because we fear that if they see us for who we really are they will leave… judge… or hold us accountable to change.  We hide from ourselves by focusing so much on how others have wronged or hurt us, that we can put our own sin on the back burner.

We want others to avert their eyes to us, while we look at them under a microscope.

Lord help us to be vulnerable with one another, to walk our roads not alone but in the company of our family of believers, let us not fear accountability, and help us to stop hiding from you.

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When Introverts Grieve

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Introverts already have a hard time dealing socially with other people.  They can find their energy drained by interactions with other people, social situations, etc.  They recharge their batteries by withdrawing to solitude.   It doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like to engage socially with others, or try to avoid it like the plague.  It simply means that when they do socialize, it takes a lot out of them.  Therefore, introverts will not overwhelm their schedules with lots of plans.  They are very choosy about what they say yes to, and how often they say yes.  They are the most forgiving, of your friends, when you have to cancel.  They are very intentional with their time, and recognize that they need time off.

It would surprise many of friends to hear me say that I am an introvert… but it is the truth.  I’m very selective about my friends, cautious with my time, and can enjoy the complete silence of an empty house.  Even though when I AM out, I can talk your ear off and have a great time.

One of the most difficult times for an introvert, in my experiences, is when we are grieving.   Loss is hard on anyone, but for introverts it is also exhausting.  We appreciate your phone calls, messages, emails, cards, etc.  We are thankful for your offers of help and concern for our well being.   In dealing with death, we are already overwhelmed.  We are overwhelmed by our own emotions.  We are trying to navigate conversations with immediate and extended family members, hosting out of town guests, planning funeral or memorial arrangements.  We are making plans, writing obituaries, or having to think about what we will say at the funeral.  It’s a lot to contend with.

Then we are compounded by phone calls from well meaning people WHOM WE LOVE.  Truth is… introverts do not want to talk about what has happened any more than they have to.  We are not ready yet to answer questions or hear the same words over and over again.  It is NOT because we don’t want to talk to you right now.  It is because it is incredibly hard.  We just can’t do it.  Our conversations will be short, we may not have all of the answers to your questions yet, and frankly we may not even be emotionally or mentally ready to do so… and we need you to be okay with that.

So, how do you show an introvert you care?

Please do not just show up at our door, no matter how upset we are.  We need our solitude right now, and depending on who it was that passed away … we may need to cleave to our immediate family.  If we need someone to come and sit with us, trust me… we know we can call you.  We know you will be there. 

Dropping off meals is a sweet gesture, but we may not be up for the visit.  And I know you think you will just drop off and go… but we all know that a visit will happen.  If you feel like helping in this way, send a gift card for a local pizza place (even Little Caesars for $5.55 ready to go pizzas).  It doesn’t have to be an expensive meal.

Phone calls are a personal touch, but personal can be hard right now.  A quick text, a card in the mail, or an email w/o expectation of an immediate response is better.  It gives us time to respond when we are up to it.  Do not think that we see this gesture as cold or unsympathetic…. we appreciate it more than you realize.

Introverts cope differently than you would expect, the time we may need to lean on you may be weeks or months later, after the dust settles.  Be there for us then, pray for us now.

Introverts appreciate practicality and solutions during a time of grieving.  If you work for a hotel and can help us with discounted accommodations for family flying in to town, that is better than flowers or a meal.  With the recent passing of my Father In Law, there was a specific task that needed to be handled & we had no idea how to handle it.  I reached out to a friend and asked her help in the matter.  This to me was a relief that we didn’t have to navigate it alone, and that there was someone level headed doing the thinking for us.  

Finally, I would suggest offering specific help.  I’m just as guilty of saying to someone “Let me know if I can help in anyway”…. because we love that person, we want to help, but we don’t know how.  It’s a genuine offer.   However, having been on the other side of the situation, our brains don’t always know how to answer that question.  So instead of offering a blanket answer, offer what you know you can.   These are merely suggestions, and not applicable to our current situation:

  • Does your mother in law need someone to mow the lawn over the next few weeks?  My husband said he would be happy to come by.
  • Until things get settled, if anything needs fixing around the house, let the church know.  We’ll send our handy man to help you.
  • Since our kids go to school together, once you go back to work, I’m happy to pick your kids up from school until you can figure out a plan.
  • I’m happy to watch the kids when you guys have to make arrangements.  (Or – I’m happy to keep the kids while you are at the memorial/funeral, if that would make it easier for you.)
  • If you ever just don’t want to be alone, call me… I’ll bring the popcorn and the movies.

My husband and I were just talking tonight about this subject, a family friend called today (my Father in Law passed on Monday).  My husband appreciated that our friends have not been ringing our phone off the hook. It gives him time to process, and I knew exactly what he meant.  It also shows just how well people know us, because this is not a post of complaint.  Our friends have been absolutely amazing in giving us space and time as a family.

This post is just to share a little insight into the mind of the introverts in your life, when they are grieving.  KNOW that we love you.  We KNOW that you are thinking about us.  We KNOW that you care, and are willing to help.  Just know that more now than ever, we need that peace that comes from solitude, to re-energize ourselves for the heavy tasks ahead of us in the coming days and weeks.

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 27 – God on My Mind

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Some days are just tough, mentally we are at our max capacity.  Our stress levels are high, our emotions are running wild, and our energy is running empty. 

Then there are the days that are just, busy.  It’s not that you are overwhelmed emotionally or even physically, but it just seems like every second of your day has been claimed by some thing or some one.

On days likes these it can be hard to put in some serious Bible Study, we either don’t have the time or the energy to put the mental energy into study.  Our prayers may be short and sweet lists, or even the sigh we exhale as we say “God help me!” as we drop our sobbing eyes into our hands.

Speaking for myself,  I know that when it comes to spiritual practices …. I have good days & bad.  There are days I can accomplish in depth study, first thing in the morning, that will carry me throughout the day.  I also have days where I am on the go, all day long, and it isn’t until those final moments I am putting my head to the pillow that I can stop and pray.

Over the years, I have learned a few tips to help keep God on my mind throughout the day.  I may not getting in 30 minutes of Bible Study or even 5 minutes of dedicated prayer time. 

  • Play worship music on the radio while in the car picking up the kids, or while bustling around the house cleaning.  Often Christian radio stations will read verses throughout the day, replay Pastor’s sermons, or interview of Bible teachers that are worth listening to as well.  Audiobooks and Podcasts are other great options.
  • Pray as you clean, over what you are cleaning.  Be thankful for indoor plumbing as you clean your toilet.  Pray over your children as you fold their laundry.  Pray for your husband’s safety while working, as you prepare to make that doctor’s appointment for him.  Volunteering at the church?  Pray on your drive for the church, the Pastor, or the ministry you are serving on.  In the Parent Pick Up line at your child’s school, pray for the school.  At the gym?  Pray for your health.  At the grocery, pray for those who are going hungry.  As you pay your mortgage online, give thanks for your home and pray for the homeless. 
  • Pray throughout your day.  Instead of sitting down in the morning going through a lengthy prayer session, instead pray throughout the day as thinks pop into your head.
  • Display scripture on walls of your house, either in picture frames or using wall decals. These can be life verses or family mission verses.  Even if you don’t have time to study your Bible that morning, you can focus your eyes on those as you move about your home.  Then can also be fun verses like the ones I have for certain rooms of the house.  In my kitchen the verse on the wall is Psalm 107:9, and in the bathroom is verse Psalm 24:4.  
  • Now this one may make you giggle a bit, however in our old house … I got really creative.   We placed a white board right across from the toilet in our guest bathroom.  Every week I would write a new piece of scripture.  We kept no magazines or newspapers in there, so the only reading material our guests had was from the Word.  We referred to it as “Coming the Throne” (I am convinced God has a sense of humor).
  • Use uninterrupted times to really speak to God.  I find that I am most vulnerable when I am totally alone, away from the noise of the house.  Some of my greatest conversations with God have taken place in the shower, or by turning off the car radio and just speaking with the Lord. 
  • Bring your Bible or Bible Study with you to waiting rooms at doctor’s offices, or even when you are lunching with a friend – particularly if you are generally a person who arrives early.
  • Turn your lunch dates with friends into something more than gossip sessions, and make that your Bible Study time.

All of that said, I would also suggest doing what you can to reduce some of the hectic activity from your life.  Lysa TerKeurst has a great book “The Best Yes” that really helps you take a hold of your life, so that you can carve out time for God, not be overwhelmed by your schedule, and learn to give your best to the things that are most important.

And finally, should you find yourself in a space where you are struggling emotionally or physically with life… please, PLEASE…. see your doctor.  There are many disorders that steal our minds, energy, drive, and make us feel like we simply CAN’T.  Have your primary care doctor rule out physical ailments, and if you need to see a Christian Counselor who can help with the mental aspects.  There is nothing wrong with seeking help or using medication to get you through, and a good Christian counselor can help you do so while leaning on the truth of God’s love.

On the Subject of Planned Parenthood

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I want to start off  by pointing out that I know a lot about Planned Parenthood.

I know about their questionable history.

I also know of women who benefited greatly from their services.

I know of the broken teens and women who walk in their doors, searching for an answer.

I know of those who stand outside with picket signs, trying to save lives.

I am also a bit of a skeptic.

When the first video on Planned Parenthood came out this past week, addressing the sale of fetal body parts and tissues, I reserved judgement for a bit of time.  I knew what I was seeing, and everything in me was leaning toward the legitimacy of the video.  But, knowing how things have ended up in the past, I was reserved about jumping on the bandwagon.  Propaganda presents itself on every side of every argument.  Perhaps this is just one person, one clinic, that is to blame.  I do not support abortion in any way shape or form, but I have never been quick to publicizing something without being certain of it’s accuracy.

Then Planned Parenthood responded, with their own video.  It was in watching their response, that I begin to find the original videos more credible  As an actress, I was taught a lot of things.  I was taught how speech patterns, volume, and tone can betray you.  As I listened to the woman, I could see she was deflecting attention from what they were being accused of.  She was repeating herself, she was focusing on what someone else was doing to deflect from any accountability to their own actions.

Shortly after, the second video on Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal body parts and tissues was released.  This time it was much clearer, particularly the callousness of the negotiation over the fees.

I watched an interview with the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, and it was a repeat of their first response.  Repeated phrases.  Deflecting blame.

Today, the third video came out. This time it was a lot more detailed on the process.  I’m not sharing the link because, frankly, you just can’t unsee some things.  It won’t be hard to find if you feel inclined to google search for it.

At this point, we as a people of conscious… whether you are pro-life or pro-choice… need to take a stand.

Something is clearly amiss.  Planned Parenthood is not being completely honest or transparent.  Investigation must happen in order for the truth to be revealed.

This is a time we should be united as a people, and question the ethics of the people who claim to help.

PROJECT: I NEED YOUR STORIES

I am working on a very special series for the blog.  But, I need YOUR help.

I am looking for very specific stories, that I can incorporate into the pieces.  I can change names for privacy.  Please use the contact form below to give your name & contact information, as well as a brief synopsis of your story.  I will contact people individually for more specific information about their story based on how it fits into the project.

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Did you have someone in your life that you held in HIGH esteem  (a parent, employer, pastor, friend, sibling, leader, author, etc) …  who ultimately let you down in a most devastating way (adultery, criminal behavior, broken trust, etc) that now makes it hard for you to trust others (now you are a skeptic, broken faith, broken heart, broken trust, etc)Did you heal from this experience, are you still healing, or do you feel you cannot heal from this wrong?

WHAT WAS THE LESSON IN THIS?

MBA

It was an ordinary afternoon, driving my middle child home from school, when I passed a scene on the side of the road.  A pick up truck was backed up to a load of sod spilled across the road.  Based on the position of the sod, you could tell it had slid off when turning the corner.  I saw a man who was easily 15-20 years older than I, sweating and struggling, moving that sod back on the truck.

Normally,  I have my garden gloves in the trunk (I am part of a community garden).  Today, I didn’t.  There also wasn’t a safe place to park, so that I could help him while my child sat in the car.  It was a busy intersection and I didn’t want her out there helping me or doing Lord knows what, while I was distracted.  So, we drove by.

But, I didn’t like it.  It was eating at me, I should help this man.  I don’t know if I could says I was “younger and stronger”, but I was certainly capable.   The further I drove, the more it bothered me.  In my head, the scene played out that someone would see me stopped helping him… and they too would stop and help.  Then in short order, with all the the help, he’d be on his way.  I had this vision of community coming together.

I pulled in to my driveway, ran into the house, grabbed my garden gloves and left my teenager in charge.  I drove back to find the truck gone, and the sod still there in the road.

Huh.

I drove by, found a parking lot to turn around in… and decided to head back home.  In the amount of time it took me to turn around and get back to that spot of the intersection… THREE vehicles stopped to take some of the sod.

It all began making sense.  The sod was dropped, most likely, by a larger truck.  Probably from one of the local sod farms in the area.  It wasn’t worth it the effort for them to load it back up.  The man I saw was just one of many taking advantage of a blessing in the road.  Clearly, not greedy, he took just enough and left the rest for others to glean from.  (It makes me think of the fields in the Bible and how they would leave the remnants for the poor and widowed to glean from ).

But I couldn’t help and wonder… if I wasn’t there to help this man, why did I have such a burning conviction to turn around?

This could have been an exercise in obedience.

But, I think… more than likely, it was a lesson for my children.  One of those moments where they see someone respond to a need.

 

Oh Captain, My Captain. Robin Williams.

This has been a rough evening, for me, upon learning the news of Robin William’s death.  In my youthful desires to be an actress, Robin Williams would hold a very strong position in pushing that dream forward.  He was a performer that I admired.  I thought he was incredibly talented, funny, quick witted.  His range of characters gave me hope that as an actress I didn’t have to be pigeon holed in as a comedic or dramatic performer.  I could be both, equally good … as the role would require me.  I loved how his genuine connection to his characters would come through the screen.  I was envious of the fact that he had little inhibitions, he didn’t care about being embarrassed by making a fool of himself.  I have watched some of his best comedy acts over his life, and I never laughed harder than when Robin Williams was laughing at his own jokes.

In college, one of the first things I was taught was that acting was “the art of lying”.  The idea behind that statement is that a good, a truly GOOD, actor would be able to cause you to suspend your beliefs.  Meaning, you would believe that people singing a song in the middle of a fight it totally normal… that you could be transported to ancient egypt…. or that Peter Pan could really fly.  You would watch the screen and not think of the actor who was playing the role, but truly see the character first. It was true and honest connection, authentic emotions and pure delivery.

Robin Williams was capable of just that.  You would not see Robin Williams on the screen…. you were watching Mork, Jack, Peter, Mrs. Doubtfire.. even Genie.  He, for a brief moment, was that new person.  And you believed it, totally.

Some of the most talented artists have been the most tormented.  We mourn their death because they had an ability to touch us in a different way than even a “good” artist.  These truly gifted people pay a price for all that they give to entertain others.    We can hold these people to high esteem, follow their careers and lives, and still never fully understand the storm that brews inside of them.

Great actors, usually embrace their roles with such heart and vigor because they allow them  to put on a mask.  I know how this feels, to put on that mask & escape into a role.  We can be anyone other than who we were born.  We can escape our unhappy, unfulfilled, damaged lives for a fraction of time.  That character can be anyone and anything, without limitation, that we could never be.  And, we can rest in the safety of knowing when we are done, no matter how hard the role was… we can put that script away, put that character to bed.

Then, there are those who can’t.  The actors that allow themselves to connect with a character to the point that it becomes part of you.  You can’t shake it.  This happened with Heath Ledger, in his role of The Joker in the Batman franchise.   In conversations and interviews, Heath admitted that the role was so disturbing that he had to seek professional counseling over it.  It was on the medications prescribed by his doctor, that Heath would overdose.  Another great talent, lost.

Not that long ago, we lost Phillip Seymour Hoffman to overdose.  Another great talent, lost.  Suffering from a life time of addiction, struggling to be sober.  Overcome and overwhelmed by the expectations put upon him.  He wouldn’t be the only actor to succumb to the pressure and struggle that the truly gifted artists are burdened with.  Leave us too long in our own reality and the world gets to us… deeply.

And now, we mourn the loss of Robin Williams…  and there is shock and sadness.  Heartbroken.  Surprise.   No one knew the man who had the greatest smile, purest laugh and immeasurable talent battled against depression.  Even those who knew his struggle with sobriety, would have been surprised that while he was making us cry with laughter… he was crying himself to sleep.

Despite my greatest desires to one day make it to Hollywood or Broadway, God didn’t take me down that road.  I can’t help but thank God for saving me from myself, from a life that seems like it has everything to offer but leaves the truly greats empty and hollow.   Robin Williams leaves behind a family, who will not be able to understand how it came to this.  He leaves scores of fans and his own peers grieving and wounded.  But, there are also going to be those who get it.   Those greats who have already passed, too soon… too young; and those who are struggling right now in silence, alone.

What does that have to do with you and me?  Everything.    Because we encounter these great actors every day in our lives, on Sunday’s at church and in the grocery store.  The woman who seems to have it all together.  The lady who tells you that everything is “just fine” with a beautiful smile on her face.  The man who says that “recovery is going great”.  The husband and wife putting on a happily ever after display for the kids.  Or, even that person who looks you in the eyes and with out a tell tale sign otherwise says “the test results look good, the doctor is very optimistic”.

Every day we encounter people who are suffering in silence, putting on a good show for the benefit of others, and falling apart when no one is looking.

Some of the greatest actors in the world, have never graced a screen or stepped foot on a stage.  You walk among them, every day.

Pray for them.  Even though you don’t know them by name or what their exact problems are, God does.

Make yourself approachable.  In time, they may start to open up to you.  You can’t force it, but you can be open to it.

And, if the truth is that YOU are the one putting on the act….

You don’t have to play that role anymore.  Be honest with yourself, those who love you, and those who are in a position to help you.  Fight against allowing the despair to push you to a point of no return.

To a family I have never met, I give nothing but my love and prayers.  Robin Williams was and is one of my greatest inspirations, favorite performers to watch and talented beyond measure.  May he rest in peace, and may God be your comforter at this time.