The rhythms of life that we’ve all grown so accustomed to have found themselves turned upside-down. What does it look like to find a new rhythm? Join me for a quick look at what it means for us, so far as well as what to expect in the near future.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway
The simple fact is this: we’re all a little broken.
It isn’t a pretty truth and certainly not one that most people like to cling to, but it is a fact, none-the-less. We’ve all been hurt by someone as a small child, whether with words or fists. We’ve all seen horrible things happen. We’ve all got some form of addiction – turning even a good thing into The Thing we need in order to numb out from the daily toll of life.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Hurt people hurt people.” We’ve likely even seen this played out in our lives, when someone who’s having a horrible, no good, rotten kind of day turns around and berates us for the smallest thing. They didn’t mean to lash out, but their words hurt all the same.
So what do we do with all that? How do we move forward in life recognizing that sure, maybe we’re not quite as well put together as we’d like to believe and that, yeah, we can even recognize how we’ve hurt people we care about without even meaning to?
It seems to me like we have a couple of different options.
Option 1: Fake It Til You Make It
This is the approach that a whole lot of people take. They white-knuckle their way through life, striving to be disciplined enough, strong enough, smart enough, attractive enough, good enough. These people likely have the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. They’ve probably heard this message and others like it throughout their lives, messages including, men don’t cry.
But…what if…after all the faking it, you still don’t quite make it? What if you strive and strain and reach and just…don’t…get…there…?
Honestly, a lot of people are able to go through life with this approach and even do alright. They work hard, have all the right things, look put together enough on the outside, they even seem happy. And maybe some of them are. But maybe not quite as happy as they know they could be.
Option 2: Deny, Deny, Deny
Listen, I am well gifted in this approach. I have been known to quite literally bury myself in a pile of blankets and hide because the checkbook needed to be balanced and I knew it was going to be a big ugly mess caused by me.
Denial seems like such a simple way to make the problems go away. We like to fool ourselves into believing that if time heals all wounds, then surely it will cure the mess that is my life. But that is a lie and every one of us who has lived on our own and seen the credit card bills come in can attest to that. Denial will get you nowhere but further behind your problem. Whether it’s overdue bills, an eating disorder, an undiagnosed lump on our breast, addiction, anxiety, or a wounded relationship it will not correct itself. Our problems only seem to grow as we try desperately to shove them into the closet.
Option 3: Name Your Monster and Face It
This is probably the least popular approach to dealing with the messier side to life, but it is hands-down, my favorite.
I’m assuming that everyone reading this has probably watched a movie or tv show where there are good guys and bad guys. Let’s, for example, look at Harry Potter. Harry, along with his friends, has faced many monsters in his time at Hogwarts. They’ve dealt with Death Eaters, a three-headed dog, a spider the size of Chicago, Bertie Bot’s Every Flavor Beans…you get the point. They’ve fought some very scary foes.
What did they use to fight these adversaries? Well, it’s easy to say they used magic. True. Most of the time, that’s what they used. But more specifically, they used certain types of magic. In fighting Dementors, they used a Patronus. When Harry needed to do reconnaissance work, he wore a cloak that turned him invisible. To disarm another wizard, the spell, expelliarmus was used. The point is: there were different tools used to fight against different opponents.
The same is true for us as we face the issues that are causing us to live in a cyclical pattern of bad choices. Unless we know what “monster” it is we’re fighting, we don’t know how to fight against it.
I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about alcohol addiction, but if what you’re fighting is grief because your spouse died and you don’t know how to move forward in life without that person, the knowledge you may acquire about addiction isn’t going to do you an ounce of good. It’s important for us to be able to name our monster because then we can be better equipped to overcome it.
This is why recovery matters not just for the “obvious” people – the strung-out junkie or the inebriated raging alcoholic. Recovery is for everyone. Recovery literally means to “return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength” (Oxford Dictionary).
God didn’t create you broken. He made you a masterpiece (Eph. 2:10) and then placed you into a broken world where you experienced hurt and abuse and the ugliness of sin. He wants to return you to the state you belong: whole and complete in Him.
We won’t get there 100% this side of Heaven but we can experience joy more fully, we can find healing and forgiveness for ourselves and others, and we can understand our purpose and the purpose for our pain when we allow God into the broken places of our hearts and begin the transformative work of recovery.
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Christmas may be the hap-happiest time of the year, but it can also be the saddest. Tune in for this brief look at 12 things you can do this holiday season to help you stay grounded, focus on what matters, and enjoy Christmas even in the midst of pain.
On the 1st Day of Christmas – Let Go of Expectations
We all have an idea in our mind about “how” Christmas ought to look. We’ve all seen the magazines and Hallmark movies. We know there ought to be decorations galore, fresh baked cookies piled high, and perfectly wrapped gifts spilling out from under the tree. But the simple truth is, that’s just not realistic. And if that is someone’s reality, they are definitely the exception to the rule.
Most of us just don’t have the time, money, or energy to have that kind of idyllic vision of Christmas, but somehow we still manage to be disappointed when we don’t deliver the kind of holiday glow we envision.
This year, let it go. Especially if you’re in a new season due to the death of a loved one, a recent divorce, a newly empty nest, or any of the other hundred things that might have you feeling anything but merry and bright. It just doesn’t have to look the way you think it “should.” Do what you can – and want – and know that it will be enough.
On the 2nd Day of Christmas – Meditate on Scripture
Read John 1:1-9 and reflect on what it means that Jesus came as a light into this world. What about the world was dark? Why did we need light? What kind of light did He provide? What is the quality of His light? And finally, how does His light influence your grief or pain?
On the 3rd Day of Christmas – Set Boundaries
“No” isn’t a word any of us like to hear, and quite honestly it’s a word most of us have a hard time saying. But it’s time to work out your “no” muscles.
Only you can determine what is actually reasonable for you to do this holiday season. Maybe hosting everyone you’ve ever known feels overwhelming this year. Maybe baking cookies with your favorite 5-year old exhausts you before you even get out the first mixing bowl.
Figure out what will drain and deplete you and then say no to it.
I promise everyone will survive, as much of a shock to the system it may be to hear you say it. Who knows? It might even encourage someone else to step into a role that they’re quite gifted and enthusiastic about. Or not…and that’s okay, too.
On the 4th Day of Christmas – Write Down Your To-Do List
But don’t stop there.
Write down everything you want to accomplish this holiday season. Put up lights, trim the tree, bake all the cookies, make snow angels, feed the homeless, start a diet, wrap the presents…
You know the list. It’s a mile long and just seems to grow.
Once everything is written down, I want you to evaluate it and cross off 3 things.
There. You’re done. You don’t have to do those 3 things. Give yourself permission to let them go. Ask someone else to fill in for you if it’s something that MUST be accomplished, otherwise…your list is now a little bit lighter and Christmas will still be just fine.
On the 5th Day of Christmas – Turn Off Social Media
Pinterest. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. TURN THEM OFF.
For one day this holiday season, just do it. Stop comparing your experience with everyone else. I promise they are also having anxiety, stress, sadness, and feelings of isolation and inadequacy. They might be hiding it behind a filter, but it’s there.
Today, don’t get caught up in the madness. Turn it off and just enjoy where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing without turning it into a social event for the world to see.
Likewise, when you do look at social media this holiday, remember that the people you’re viewing are only giving you what they want you to see. It’s only a piece of the bigger picture.
On the 6th Day of Christmas – Find Ways to Serve Others
One of the best, and quickest, ways to get out of an emotional funk is by serving other people.
It seems counterintuitive, but it’s a fact. When we take our eyes off our own troubles, as real and as big as they may be, and we serve people around us, we recognize that we truly aren’t alone in our suffering. It turns out, everyone has pain. By working to encourage another person, whether it’s through charitable work or by simply opening a door for someone, we see humanity all around us and realize that we’re all in this together.
This won’t solve all your problems. It might not even dull the ache for very long, but it will take you outside of yourself for just a moment and maybe in that moment you’ll see there is room for hope.
On the 7th Day of Christmas – Light A Candle
Find yourself a quiet little corner of the world and light a candle. Then, reflect back on the passage in John 1:1-9. You’ve had a few days now…how have your answers changed? Are you beginning to feel The Light stir inside your heart?
On the 8th Day of Christmas – Allow Yourself to Be and Feel
Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of grief, it seems impossible to let out emotions out. Laughing feels disrespectful to the enormity of our pain and crying feels so useless and unproductive.
But the truth is, God has given us our emotions. They are a good thing. Today, just let yourself feel.
If there’s something that tickles your funny bone, go ahead and laugh! Laughter really is great medicine for the soul. But maybe you just can’t take another Christmas carol and the sight of others with their joy and glee is sapping you of any energy you have left. That’s okay.
Just be there with your emotions. You’re not going to let them control you or take over your life. You’re going to honor them today by feeling them and acknowledging them and letting them co-exist with you.
On the 9th Day of Christmas – Journal Your Gratitude
Even in our darkest days, there are still things to be thankful for. They may be hard to find, but I want you to dig deep and find 3 things you are thankful for. Write them down and write down why you’re thankful.
It seems like it’s good enough to just do this in your head, after all, it’s not like anyone’s going to be checking your work, but you will benefit more by actually taking the time to write them down.
And hey, if you get done with that and want to keep writing whatever is on your heart, go for it!
On the 10th Day of Christmas – Take a Walk in Nature
Now, for you city folk, this might be a bit harder. But…find somewhere you can go today that is as far away from the noise and the hustle and bustle.
Then close your eyes, breathe deeply, and just listen.
What do you hear?
What is God saying to you right now?
Take some time to get quiet and see the trees and birds and leaves. Really look at nature. Examine the details. What do they tell you about God?
On the 11th Day of Christmas – Create a New Tradition
A new season in life often means we’re leaving behind something that we valued and grew accustomed to. Things are different now. But that doesn’t mean they have to be bad.
This year, find something new to incorporate into your celebration. Maybe it’s as simple as driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or maybe it’s serving in a shelter for abused women. You could do something fun and silly like eat only desserts for an entire day or have a crafting day.
Whatever it is, find something that makes you happy and start doing it this year!
On the 12th Day of Christmas – Take A Nap!
Whatever emotional roller coaster you’ve been on the past few days, weeks, months, or years, emotions are exhausting! Even laughter leaves us all tuckered out.
So today, find a cozy corner with your favorite blanket and let your eyes and soul rest.
You’ve done a really big thing: you’ve made it through what’s arguably the hardest holiday season. You’ve faced your emotions and felt them, you’ve worked on managing your expectations, you’ve tuned out toxic (albeit addictive) social media…You’ve done a lot.
You deserve a rest.
May God bless you this holiday. Merry Christmas, friends!
In the wake of my grandma’s recent and sudden passing, I wanted to take some time to talk about grief. It’s one of those experiences that we’re all going to face at some point in our lives, whether it’s due to losing a loved one or losing a pet, a dream or a career. Loss is simply a fact of life and with it comes a process of grief.
In this episode, you’ll learn the 5 stages of grief according to the DSM-5 (the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). More than “stages” these are 5 ways your grief may be experienced. They don’t always follow any kind of order and logic and will often come again even after you’ve moved to general acceptance.
The 5 Stages of Grief:
Denial and Isolation
Listen to discover how each of these stages may present in your own experience, as well as how to help someone else who is going through the grief process.
*Note: We are not medical experts and this is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. If you are experiencing debilitating grief or thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek immediate medical attention.
For the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
A few things to note about grief:
*Grief hits us all differently.
*There is no RIGHT way to grieve.
*Whatever you’re feeling…it’s probably normal.
*Allow yourself (or others) to grieve.
*Grief is a process that takes time. For some of us, that time isn’t very long. For others, it lasts a lifetime.
*You are not weak for grieving.
*You are not weak for seeking help as you grieve.
As well as a discussion on grief, this episode is also a tribute to my grandma, Lila Lee Barr. She died at the age of 92 on November 6, 2019. A lover of words and rhyme, Grandma was an avid writer, even starting up her own newspaper, The Town and Country, in Maupin, Oregon in the late ’60s. She was a prolific poet and I am honored to share a few short pieces that she wrote at the close of today’s show.
(Lila Lee Barr circa 2014)
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So many girls dream of the day they will one day become a mother. They envision their little dolls come to life. Cooing, crying, snuggled in tight. Finally, when the time comes and they’re ready to make this dream into a reality, it doesn’t always end up quite the way they’d planned.
The road to motherhood can be a difficult one at best, riddled with infertility, loss, confusion, isolation, and depression.
This week we present a 2-part conversation with Lisa Page and her own harrowing journey.
Years of miscarriages and stillbirths, hope-filled expectations and shattered dreams, Lisa has felt every high and every low a woman can feel as she longed to finally bring a living baby home from the hospital.
Tune in to hear how God used this suffering to draw Lisa into a deeper, more grace-filled relationship with Him. Hear how she learned to cope with the well-intentioned and often painful words of condolence that she received.
Mostly, find hope as you listen to one woman’s journey as she learned that all the plans we make take a back seat to the sovereignty and goodness of God.
“Even in laughter the heart may be in pain. And the end of joy may be grief.” – Proverbs 14:13
Life is short, isn’t it?
Some days may slog on for eternity, but really, if you look back over your life, it’s gone pretty quickly. I remember when Prince was proclaiming we’re going to party like it’s 1999. And honestly, it just doesn’t seem that long ago.
But the fact is, our time here is brief. Maybe even briefer than we know.
In the past year, I have become acquainted with three separate families who have all had a child who’s been seriously injured in horrendous car accidents. These are good, Christian families with good, Christian kids. They weren’t drinking and driving. They weren’t doing anything “bad.” They were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time and life suddenly and irrevocably changed.
These young, bright, vivacious, healthy and active young people on the cusp of becoming independent have been brought to a place where they are fighting to relearn what they used to take for granted. And their parents are right there beside them, learning just how insignificant their efforts to protect their children have been.
I have watched these stories unfold as moms and dads are sharing the victories and the pain as they watch their children fight to live and then relearn how to walk. I hear their sorrow as they recall the bittersweet memories of their child on the basketball court, running and jumping with elegance and grace.
These are parents that never expected to be sitting up all night in their child’s hospital room, nurses and doctors speaking in hushed voices as the machines that are pumping life into their child hum and whir. They’re parents who, when their baby was taking their first uncertain steps, clinging to the coffee table, were making plans and sharing dreams about what their little lives would hold. They never imagined this is where they’d be 16 years later. Wondering, will my baby even live?
I spent yesterday in town running errands. Sometimes I really appreciate the time to do these simple chores on my own. I turn on a podcast or music, I pray, I people watch. It’s nice to have the time to just think.
But yesterday, my son, Evan wanted to join me. He’s 18, getting ready to venture out into life on his own before long and I was happy to have him by my side yesterday, not because I asked him for help, but because he just wanted to tag along. I figure I might as well take advantage of those moments while I can because they’re coming to an end.
We spent several hours in town, first in a local big-box store then on to get groceries. It truly wasn’t a remarkable trip except for this: the laughter that we shared.
We laughed so hard in Costco, as we sat stuck in an oversized lounge chair, sure that an employee was going to come and tell us to kindly remove ourselves from the store and never come back. We annoyed other customers who also wanted to take a seat in this, the comfiest of chairs, but we simply refused to move. We were having too much fun.
We laughed about everything. We talked about nothing. We shared a moment. That’s all it was.
My to-do list for the week is a mile long and seems to be growing by the hour. There was a part of me yesterday that really wanted to just blast through the errands and then move on to the work that’s piling up on my desk.
But then I remembered these parents whose lives are forever changed because they almost lost their child to a tragic event. And I remembered those parents I know whose children don’t even have the opportunity to relearn what once came so easily because their kids are gone. They don’t get to hear their voice or hug them close ever again.
And I embraced the moment to spend a few hours with this man-child of mine, who’s taller and stronger than me, but whom I will always and forever see as the little toddler just learning how to step out on his own. I cherished our time together to be silly, to laugh hard, to make memories and create inside jokes.
We don’t know what tomorrow or even the rest of today holds. We don’t know when our time is up when God will say, “It’s time to come home,” so we have to make the moments count.
Every chance, every day…. Be present. Say, “I love you.” Hug them hard.
Grief and pain are guaranteed. They may even be just around the corner. So hang on to the present and give thanks to the God who loves us in and through every storm life brings our way.