Being Heard

scenic view of lake and mountains against sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There’s something special about sitting with someone and hearing their story. Whether it’s in a more formal setting like when I volunteer at the Eve Center, or sit across from someone at a coffee shop, or meet with them for spiritual direction, I’m amazed at what an impact simply listening has on the person being listened to. 

I will often start off by asking what brings them here today or how has God moved in your life since we last met or tell me about how you grew up…the list of questions one can ask is endless really. 

Then I sit and listen. I may interject with a question or two or ask something for clarity but mostly I just listen. I cannot tell you how many times at the end of our hour together, she will get up to leave with a bit more pep in her step and declare, I feel so much better! 

And I’ve done nothing but listen, really listen, as they poured out their heart and soul, their concerns, fears, anger, confusion, doubts. It’s truly an honor to sit with someone in their story. 

But I haven’t always been a good listener. 

It’s 2011 when my oldest daughter came home from college and announced that she was either agnostic or atheist, she wasn’t sure which, but she certainly didn’t believe in OUR God. I wish my first reaction was to sit down and talk about it but instead I pulled the line every parent pulls when their kids jump out of the box we’ve put them in…

What are you talking about? You were not raised that way! What’s happened to my sweet girl? 

We continued to discuss (argue). I would push her back in and shove the lid down as she kept turning the crank to be let out of this Jack in the Box scenario. 

There is no space for different opinions in the box. 

There is no room for growth in the box. 

There is no place to have conversation in the box. 

There is no room for grace in the box. 

That’s when I realized something had to change and that something was me. 

The next time she came home, I was determined to ask questions, to try to understand, to make her feel like she was being heard. 

It’s something I’ve been practicing now for ten years. Not just with her but with most everyone I meet. 

What is it I’ve learned over these past ten years? 

People need space to wonder out loud. 

People need a place to feel their feelings without judgement. 

People need to be able to ask hard questions with no easy answers.

People need you to sit in hard places with them. 

People need to know you hear them. 

People need to know they are heard. 

I needed to stop trying to fix everything. 

I needed to learn to sit in the hard places with no easy answer. 

I needed to wonder with them instead of acting like I had all the answers. 

I needed to weep when weeping was what was needed. 

I needed to listen for the purpose of understanding and not to build my own case. 

I needed to learn that…

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. (Rumi)

It’s hard to do in this loud culture we live in today with all manner of opinion and all manner in which to express them but getting quiet so we can hear is sorely needed. 

We’ve gotten so good at talking over each other, haven’t we?

The next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you, looks differently than you, believes differently than you, try getting quiet, try listening so they feel heard. Stop shoving them back in your box, let them out. Try saying, tell me more. 

Let me know how it works out. It worked beautifully for me and not just with my oldest daughter. It’s a skill I’ve come to appreciate through the years as I’ve been blessed to sit with many and hear their stories.

I’ll leave you with this to think about: 

Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable. (David Augsberger)

kw

The Being series:

Being Known

Being Seen

Being Thankful

Being Thankful

Tis the season for being thankful. As I type this my house is full of family, my pantry and refrigerator(s) are full of food and drinks. The cards are shuffled, the game boards are ready and the football schedule is posted. There is so much to be thankful for. And yet…

Our septic system had a crack in it right behind our house just days before company was coming. So instead of getting some of the things done that we wanted to, my man had to fix that. Nothing like being knee deep in poo mud. I AM thankful he knows how to figure things out and we didn’t have to hire someone to do it for us…$$$. I AM thankful that he was actually home and off work so he could fix it. But it still sucked. Can I even say that? Especially during the month of thankfulness. 

I know there are people who can’t afford the extra holiday food. Or enough food for their family at all. Others who hate their family. Some who will have empty chairs around their tables. Others who are having marriage trouble. Some who struggle with depression and anxiety and the holidays only exacerbate it. The list goes on. And yet…

As I scroll through my social media, I see all manner of people participating in things like 30 Days of Being Thankful and proceed to post pictures of their family members, dinner table settings and pets. But on the other side of the screen, looking past the perfectly filtered square that appears on my phone, they are struggling. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. 

Then there are the people who want positive vibes only! No negative thoughts here! Without ever addressing the heart of how hard life is right now. It’s as if they are saying, Don’t ask me about __________. It is what it is and I’m just going to have to deal with it so I may as well think positive. 

But is that helpful? Do people feel the pressure to show well and ignore reality? Could there be a dark side to this whole thankfulness thing? 

I’m really not trying to be a Negative Nancy but I fear Positive Pollyanna has caused some undo stress and strain as she’s taught us to ignore the pain and push down the real feelings that need addressed. 

So, let’s talk about it. 

The Grumblers and Complainers

As the Israelites were wandering in the desert, we see time after time where the Lord provided. They complained to Moses about being thirsty from lack of water, God provided thirst quenching H2O. 

They complained about food, the Lord provided Manna…something that means what is it?, something that no one had seen before, tasted before, experienced before. Food that was simply there for them when they stretched and yawned and walked out of their tents each morning. Provision enough for each day with more on the sixth day so they could rest on the seventh as God commanded. 

Then that wasn’t enough. They tired of manna and wanted meat. God provided once again in the form of quail. 

They had clothes that didn’t wear out. Shoes that didn’t wear thin. Signs of when to move and when to pitch their tents. 

God proved Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides. 

And yet they grumbled and complained. The thrill of what is it? became is this what we’re having again! Quail provided for free gave way to a hankering for something more. 

The riffraff among them had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites wept again and said, “Who will feed us meat? We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now our appetite is gone, there’s nothing to look at but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)

I thought quail was meat? The “free fish” wasn’t really free…not when you are a slave to Pharoah. 

God had some thoughts and feelings when the Israelites started complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. He was ticked off about it and His anger burned, fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. 

Yikes. 

Grumbling and complaining with no recognition of anything good given is a bad habit that needs to be broken. You know those people…the inability to find the nugget of goodness, even when goodness is overflowing. A critical spirit is not a thankful spirit. I never want the Lord, or others, to see me and think ungrateful riffraff.

Let’s keep talking this thing through. 

Jesus Gave Thanks

We see Him give thanks several times in scripture: 

Before feeding the 4000 in Matthew 15:36. Even in the not enough. 

Before feeding the 5000 in John 6:11. Even with what little He had been given to work with. 

Before raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11:41. Even in His grief. 

Before sharing wine at the Passover meal in Luke 22:17-18. Even when the future looked hard. 

Before breaking bread and sharing wine at the Last Supper in Luke 22:19 and Matthew 26:27. Even though He knew He would be betrayed by a friend and beaten unfairly. 

Jesus teaches us to be thankful even when. 

But there is more. 

Jesus Showed Appropriate Emotions

He was angry in the temple. (Matthew 21:12-13) 

He was grieved over the death of His friend Lazarus. (John 11:35) 

He was genuinely saddened when He saw the state of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41-44)

He was sorrowed and deeply troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-39) 

He was true to His emotions. When He was angry, He showed it. When He was grieving, He gave Himself room to experience it. When He was sad, He let Himself feel it. When He was anxious and dreading what was to come, He was honest with how He was feeling. 

He didn’t stuff them down, cover them up or tell Himself He shouldn’t feel what He felt. 

What does this tell us? 

Thankfulness versus Toxic Positivity

Positive thinking is when you try to will good feelings or experiences into existence by focusing exclusively on the outcome you want. While this approach can be helpful when working through paralyzing fear, it can become toxic. If we “positive think” our way through hard things as a means to avoid or deny real feelings or experiences, we run the risk of invalidating the situation. 

You’ve heard it said that we don’t always get to choose how we feel but we do get to choose our response to those feelings. Toxic positivity says you should or shouldn’t feel a certain way so we shove it deep down and tell ourselves to “think positive!” or “I should be thankful.” 

Psychotherapist Jody Kemmerer says, Gratitude actually comes after a process of surrendering to our painful emotions, not after willing in something positive.

The point here is that in order to experience something positive such as gratitude, we must first be real with ourselves about what we are feeling. Whether it be grief, anger, envy, or shame, the only way out is through. 

Therefore, the first step in cultivating a thankfulness is to validate what we are actually feeling—no matter how painful or “wrong” it seems. When we can find the kernel of truth behind what we are feeling, we move toward understanding and acceptance. In order to shift toward gratitude, we must surrender. 

Thankfulness and true feelings are not an either/or but both/and.

Jesus shows us this as He is grieved over the death of His friend Lazarus, yet grateful that His Father heard His prayer. 

There is truth in the fact that there is always something to be thankful for but it doesn’t take away from the fact that standing in poo mud stinks…

Both/and. 

kw

More of the “Being” series:

Being Known: He Calls Me By Name

Being Seen: Truly

Being Seen: Truly

Wild Forget-Me-Nots because you are seen and not forgotten.

We live in a culture that screams loudly look at me! Vying for attention with social media posts: see me with my friends, see what I ate for dinner, see my accomplishments, see me being successful, see me, see me, see me. Please! 

Our houses are bigger and bursting with stuff. Our cars are faster and fancier. Our work weeks are longer. Our kids’ schedules are busier. We elbow our way to the top, push our kids to higher levels so they can “have it better than we did”…for what reason really?  Look at me. Please! 

We are a group of people that loves to be noticed. We are an exhausted people group. 

I’ve been guilty. It makes me wonder why. 

Every heart yearns to be seen. 

What happens when the biggest percentage of our lives is lived unseen? When 99% of every day isn’t what it appears to be on social media. Does any of that matter? Can we rest in the reality of the day to day, doing the things that no one sees, and be satisfied? What happens when we tire of the trying to keep up with the filters, picture perfect shots or being right because of the research you KNOW is true on YOUR side? Voices are hoarse as we out scream, out do, outperform. 

We show people what we want them to see but what does it look like to really be seen?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The Three in One sees each one…

The widow woman as she gives all she has. 

The crippled woman in the back of the room. 

The sacrifice made by the woman with the alabaster jar. 

The quiet faithfulness of Ruth, Rahab, Lois, Eunice and many others found in scripture. 

Beyond the adulteress woman’s sin. 

The woman at the wells future as He talks with her about her past.

Hagar in the wilderness. 

Hannah in her barrenness. 

Mary in her obedience. 

Deborah’s ability to lead. 

Aquila’s gift to teach. 

Each an example of being seen in the ordinariness of their day, their week, their life. Not on social media, not on a stage, not in a parade. But where they were at any given moment. 

He sees you…

You giving it all you have even on the days you have little to nothing to give. You are seen. 

You feeling crippled by life circumstances or the death of a loved one or a divorce or a disease. You are seen. 

You as you sacrifice for your family, taking care of the things no one sees, or seems to notice. Working hard at your job. Holding the hair of your child while they are sick in the middle of the night. Dare I say sharing the last piece of your favorite dessert. You are seen.

Your quiet faithfulness as you trust Him with your family, future, and feelings. Things are hard, yet you pray and trust. Things are beyond your control, yet your head stays bowed, knowing He sees you, hears you, loves you and will answer. You are seen.

You’re more than your mistakes. To be seen, truly seen, is showing up with your whole self, owning your story but not letting your story own you. That takes courage. You are seen. 

Your future is bright despite your past. You look back so can move forward and not make the same mistakes. You are seen.

You when you feel alone in your season of wilderness living. It’s in these places that we find out who we really are, what we really believe. Brene’ Brown says braving the wilderness is a call to courage. You are seen

You when your faith feels fruitless. Does it matter what I do? Does it matter when I pray, read scripture, be still, listen and try my hardest to walk in the ways of Jesus? It does. Even when. Keep showing, being obedient. You are seen.

You and your ability to lead. No, it’s not because there’s no one else available or you’re the last choice. It’s because you are the right person for the position. You are seen. 

You and your talents and gifts. They are called gifts for a reason! Don’t sit them on a shelf in their pretty packaging. Open them like a kid on Christmas morning. Delight in them. Use them and use them well. You are seen. 

You are seen by the One that matters. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When I can rest in the assurance that I am seen by the One who matters, the unseen moments…those that are not shared on social media, filtered to perfection, loud and proud, prodded and applauded…are the moments that I feel most seen. 

My heart that yearns to be seen is full. 

Of joy in the simple things. 

Of gratitude even in the hard things.

Of love for the ordinary things. 

Of deep satisfaction for being seen by an audience of One. 

I am not a foregone conclusion, forgotten, or forsaken. 

I am seen. 

kw

Other posts in this series:

Being Known: He Calls Me By Name

Being Known: He Calls Me By Name

Photo cred goes to Martha Hill

I have a confession to make: the lady behind the deli counter thinks she knows me. Not by being a familiar face that comes every week to buy off the bone ham and honey turkey with a side of Colby cheese but KNOWS me in the sense that we’ve had long meaningful conversations. Let me explain a little further.

The first time she said, Hey! I know you! We had that wonderful conversation at our Christmas party last year. Yeah! I thought I recognized you! And off she went to slice my cheese. We were 10 deep at the deli counter, and I was wearing my mask so a) it’s impossible to see someone’s whole face and b) it makes it hard to hear if I tried to explain that I wasn’t that girl. Besides that, there would have been a mutiny among the meat seekers if I slowed this poor lady down any further than she already moved.  

A couple weeks later, my man is at the deli counter while I shop for the rest of our groceries, and when I walked over next to him, my friend/not friend’s eyes lit up and she talked up a storm. When we walked away, my man made a comment about how her demeanor changed when I walked over there. I explained that a) I was nice to her when other people grumbled out loud about how slow things moved and b) she thinks she knows me. 

Wait, what? She thinks she knows you? 

I think so. 

Then I went to store by myself. I ordered my off the bone ham and honey roasted turkey with a side of Colby cheese. She sliced the turkey, put it on the scale, looks at me and says, do you remember what the number is for Sarah Lee Honey Roasted Turkey? You and Courtney used to help me with the numbers all the time when we worked together. You remember Courtney, right? I think she moved to Texas. Those were such fun days! And off she went to slice my cheese. 

I am so far down this rabbit hole now that I’m not sure how to find my way out of it. I’ll keep smiling (with my eyes because, well, masks) and nodding my head and pray that there is a line, so we don’t have time for chit chat. 

I’ve been mistaken for someone I’m not. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

There is a familiar passage in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd and we are referred to as the sheep. He talks of being the gate for the sheep, the keeper of the sheep, the protector of the sheep even unto His very own death. 

Something that struck me afresh when I read this passage recently was the fact that He calls His own sheep by name. (verse 3) Every one of them? There must be dozens, if not hundreds of sheep that any given shepherd has in his care. And Jesus knows each one and each one has a name? 

We’ve had various flocks of chickens through the years, usually a couple dozen at a time and have never named them one by one. They are simply known as “the girls.” There’s too many to name and besides, each breed looks so much alike that there is no point in giving them individual names…unless, of course there is something that makes one particular one stand out…like Crooked Toe because she got stepped on when she was little, and her feet were all weird. But who wants to be named for the thing that’s wrong with them? Keep reading dear reader.

We take good care of them. Feed them. Water them. Put fencing up to protect them from predators which, quite frankly has not always worked. Check on them daily. But we don’t really know them…their quirks, their personalities (do chickens have personalities?), their interactions with each other. 

But Jesus sees each sheep and knows them. Their habits. Their wanderings. Their individual markings. He knows them and names them. He is the Good Shepherd. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I’ve been known by a lot of names through the years. Some given by others. Some self-proclaimed. Some are beautiful. Some not so much. Some are from different seasons of life. Some have stuck through the years…both good and bad. Some I’m trying to shed. Some I’m trying to heal from. Some I’m trying to accept because I don’t always see myself as others see me. 

That’s the way of it, isn’t it? 

In The Soul of Desire, psychiatrist Curt Thompson suggests that underneath all our longings is the desire to be known. But that often our craving to be known has been marred by trauma and shame. (from the back cover of his book)

I wonder if in our culture to be constant, to be busy, to be the best, to be successful, to be, to be, to be, is our way of making ourselves known? Of making a name for ourselves? Of outrunning names from our past? Of out proving the names if only in our own minds?

Perhaps what we need to do instead is listen for His voice as He calls us each by name because He knows us. Then we can rest in who we are…known and named by our Creator. 

There is a sweet children’s book by Max Lucado called You Are Special and is set in the town of Wemmickville where there lives a Wemmick named Punchinello. Each day the residents award stickers―gold stars for the talented, smart, and attractive Wemmicks, and gray dots for those who make mistakes or are just plain ordinary. Punchinello, covered in gray dots, begins to feel worthless. Then one day he visits Eli the woodcarver, his creator, and he learns that his worth comes from a different source. (taken from the description on the back cover)

I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14) 

Jesus doesn’t mistake me for someone I’m not. 

He doesn’t confuse me with someone else.

He doesn’t name me by a handicap/disease/shortcoming. 

He doesn’t call me by my past mistakes. 

He doesn’t know me as victim or marred or wrong or dumb or not enough. 

No. 

Now this is what the Lord says—the One who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel—Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1) 

Redeemed. 

Called. 

Known.

Named. 

His. 

Rest in that my beloveds and see if those stinking gray dots don’t start to fall off. 

You are known. 

You are named. 

You are. 

Doubts in the Dark of Night

Why is it always at night? The thoughts. The doubts. The meandering mind. The what if’s and might be’s. 

That’s where I found myself recently after a call in the middle of the night from my daughter. The babies were coming seven weeks early. She was in Colorado feeling scared. I was on the last day of vacation in Florida feeling helpless. 

I felt my way out to the couch of the hotel room not wanting to wake anyone else. I couldn’t sleep and needed to pray. And I did…for the babies and the team who would deliver these sweet sugars. For Mackenzie and James. 

Then like the ocean I watched just that morning, the waves of doubt drowned out even a mustard seed of faith. I started asking God questions, expecting answers like he was the dice in a Magic Eight ball…  

What if this thing goes sideways? Surely you won’t let it after all they’ve been through…

Shake. Shake. Shake.

Cannot predict now. 

Are You who You say You are? 

Shake. Shake. Shake.

Most likely. 

Can I trust You? 

Shake. Shake. Shake.

Concentrate and ask again. 

And if not, are you still good? 

Shake. Shake. Shake it harder. 

Reply hazy. Try again. 

As if this is who my Father is…a mean spirited, almighty smiter who takes joy in watching His child struggle in the dark of night, in an unfamiliar place, with apprehension and angst. 

As if He answers our honest questions with vague replies on a tiny dye floating in purple liquid. 

As if.

We got the all-is-well call a couple hours later. The girls were small but doing well. Mackenzie was good. The trauma team was excellent. I was so thankful! As the morning progressed, I felt relief, yes, thankful, yes, but also something I hadn’t felt in quite a while…shame. 

 At my unbelief. At my mistrust. At my faithlessness. 

The thing is, I’m far enough along in my faith to know I can bring anything to God…my doubts and fears, worries and concerns, my weariness and wariness, my anger and fits…all of it. He’s a big God with big shoulders. 

So why the shame? It caught me off-guard. 

God and I are working through that and here’s what He’s showing me. If you’ve ever struggled with doubt or middle of the night brain that doesn’t shut off, I hope it helps you too. 

The Wall. A dark and sacred place that reeks of God. His mercy and goodness, yes. But also, His sovereignty over all things, His thoughts that are not like mine, His actions that are not like mine. His goodness. His trustworthiness. His justice. His love. 

There’s another odor here at the Wall…the stench of my own middle of the night wonderings. My doubts. My faithlessness. My anger. My fear. My sweat from fight or flight angst. 

The Wall is the unmasking of me, my deepest secrets are revealed, fears are brought to the forefront and wounds exposed. I have a choice here at the Wall…burn rubber and get the hell out of there or stay, knowing God is with me in this dark and desolate place. 

My doubts, fears, mistrust, angst, worries, wonderings are all welcome here. Those dark nights of the soul are opportunities for God to show up and show you His scars first-hand. It’s the place where we don’t ride the skirt tails of someone else’s faith. 

It’s a place that I, like Thomas, need to see Jesus, to experience God for myself. It’s a place of deepening faith as Jesus shows me, not only His wounds but my own…those that hold me back from trusting Him completely. 

At the Wall I can ask, are you Who You say You are? I can rest assured when my faith is shaken, He doesn’t answer with a Magic 8 ball response. He invites me to come and see for myself.  He doesn’t play the shame game. He shows so I can tell. 

A faith that has wrestled with wonderings is welcomed at the Wall. A faith that walks with a limp after a night of grappling is greater than pretending that all is picture perfect. I’d rather smell like sweaty surety than fake faithfulness. 

Maybe now is a good time to mention that Christian cliches’ are crap anytime, but especially in the dark of night. 

Let go and let God…says the Pleasantville wife whose life is lived in black and white with no room for the colorful life that wondering brings. 

God never gives you more than you can handle…ummm, what Bible are you reading? I call a big pile of bull-crap on that one. Raise your hand if you’ve been given more than you can handle at one time or another. 

Everything happens for a reason…those words are not helpful to the woman whose doctor said, you have cancer or the parents who are burying their baby, or the man whose wife walked out the door. Maybe there is a bigger picture, a better plan but whatever hard thing you’re going through can suck big time and it’s okay to say that.

And if not, He is still good…don’t we love to take deep spiritual truths, put a pretty filter around them and make them Instagram worthy? Never mind the blood, sweat and tears, poured out, wrestled out and cried out because when the mask is off, it ain’t always pretty. 

At the end of the day, yes, He is still good, but I need space to tangle with this truth. Don’t you? I need a place to say, are You? Are you still good? Show me. Show me Your goodness.

Put your picture-perfect smile and your Tammy Faye eyelashes away and sit with me at the Wall. Don’t hold your nose at the stench of my sweaty arm pits as I decide to stay and fight or flee. Don’t make fun of my limp after a night of wrestling with God. And please, I beg of you, put the clichés away. They are not helpful when the night is dark, my mask removed, and Wall is high. 

Be a safe space for questions without answers or questions with hard answers. And I’ll be one for you too. 

Let’s be like the woman at the well (wall?) who left her water jar and perhaps her shame, ran back to the town and shouted, Come, see a Man who told me everything I ever did! Unmasked, unashamed, sweaty from running (and wrestling?) and excited about God knowing her…the real her. 

Don’t be afraid to doubt, to wonder, to wrestle. He will meet you where you are, as you are and welcome you to come and see for yourself. 

kw 

Consider the Wildflowers

It’s pretty easy these days to let our minds wander with worry, isn’t it? Yet, Jesus tells us not to. I want to share with you four things to think about from my morning prayer and meditation. 

Read Luke 12:22-34 then consider this with me…

The wildflower doesn’t control the field in which it will grow. It could be dropped randomly from a bird. It could be a runner from an already established plant. It can find itself in a grassy meadow, along a roadside, by a fire pit, or mired down in clay. Shoot, it can even be seen popping through a crack in the sidewalk. 

So, too, do I find myself in a field…born into my family, with these parents, in this century, in this year, on this day, married to this man, with these kids and grandkids, in this town, with these neighbors. So, I ask myself, how much of this field was my making and how much was God’s? 

The wildflower doesn’t control what grows around it. It might be in an environment that has to fight for its life through thistles and thorns, crowded out by crabgrass. It can stand tall and glorious or find itself in the shadow of the great and mighty sunflower. 

So, too, do I have little control over what surrounds me or decisions others make. I am surrounded by political unrest, a pandemic in process, disunity, disillusionment, and disdain. I am trying to take care of my family, prepare for retirement, stay healthy and be kind and yet I cannot control the stock market or taxes or businesses shutting down or my 401K tanking or gaining. I cannot control a disease or whether you vax/not vax, mask/not mask. I cannot make hunger disappear or put every pervert behind bars. How much of my life world is my making and how much is God’s?

The wildflower doesn’t control the weather. Rain or drought, sunshine all day or overcast gray, she simply must stand tall in the midst of it all. 

So, too, do I not control the hurricanes life can throw at me nor the times of the driest droughts. Dysfunctional family. Sexual abuse. Loss. The rogue kid. The death of a parent. The diagnosis of another. The questions with no immediate answers or perhaps no answers at all. The floundering faith. The wonderings and wanderings. One poor decision. How much of my life world is my making and how much is God’s? 

The wildflower doesn’t control what type of flower with its color and shape, height and style. Depending on where she grows, she could be left alone to flourish and thrive or trampled down by cattle in the same field.  

I, too, grew up to be a certain type of person, a certain size, shape and color with a particular personality and gifts that are too be opened and used. Much of who I am was influenced by the forces around me as I was growing. Was it a struggle to thrive? Or was I nourished and well fed? How much of my life growth is my making; how much is God’s? 

Did you notice a pattern? There is much that is out of the wildflowers control. And yet, God. 

Easy to preach. Hard to be in the middle of the field wondering if that cow is going to trample you or cover you in manure…either way it’s easy to get caught up in trying to control the cow.  

For all that has shaped or misshapen me, for all that was in my control and out, for all the good and not so good, I am thankful that God takes all of those things and somehow brings them around for my good and His glory. If He is the same yesterday, today and forever then He will continue to do the same because life is still full of doubts and fears and cow poop.

I can rest in the space of no toiling, no trying, no spinning, no straining and simply be what he has called me to be…a wildflower in a field, being me. How much of me is mine; how much can be God’s? 

Would you consider the wildflowers too? 

kw

If you like this post then you might enjoy these as well:

We are Made for More (Part 1 Wildflowers)

Simple Splendor

10 Quick (I Promise!) Things to Do to S-L-O-W Down

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30MSG)

Taking a real rest. 

Unforced rhythms. 

Grace.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ve been on this purpose of slowing down for a handful of years now. It’s where my mantra, Finding Sacred in the Simple, comes from. The world is a noisy place and if we aren’t careful, our souls can become noisy too. So noisy that we can no longer hear what we truly need. 

Here are ten quick things you can do to start practicing the art of slowing down: 

  • Chew you food. Really. Is there anything more frustrating than fixing a nice dinner or being out at your favorite restaurant and “horking” it down? Even the rat in Ratatouille knew to savor the flavor of his food. 
  • Make a complete stop at stop signs. Can you believe I’m asking this of you? 
  • Play a board or card game. Not video games with their high speed but an old-fashioned board game that has pieces and dice and squares with pictures. 
  • Drive the speed limit. Now I’ve crossed the line! But seriously. 
  • Set the table for dinner. Use the plates you got for your wedding, fold the napkins, light the candles, dim the lights, and take in time with your family. 
  • Breathe for a six count in then a six count out four times. You’d be amazed at what just doing that will do for you. 
  • Listen without an opinion. Slow your responsive brain down that feels the need to fix the problem, give your side or be right. Simply listen. 
  • Use fewer words. There are so many words in the world today. We don’t always need to speak. 
  • Shut off the noise. The T.V. The Phone. The news. Social Media. The radio. Sit in silence and notice what you hear…both internally and externally. 
  • Carve out time to do nothing. Doesn’t have to be a lot, especially at first, but try it.

Your soul will thank you. 

kw

PS This list is compilation of what many books on Soul Care say to do but mostly from John Mark Comer and his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry as well as Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johson.  

PSS If you enjoyed this post you may like It’s Simply Tuesday or Under the Poplar Tree

Naming That Emotion

Have you ever found yourself denying what you’re actually feeling? Shoving it down, poo-pooing it, staying busy so you can ignore it? 

That’s where I found myself a few months back when two domestic dogs busted into the chicken coop and killed 18 of the 23 hens we have here on my (very) mini farm.

I was completely confused when awakened out of a dead sleep to the sound of a dog barking in what appeared to be my back yard. I peeked out of my second story bathroom window, didn’t see anything amiss and went back to bed, only to hear the barking again. 

Peeking through the blinds once more, I saw a lot of flapping in the coop as well as two very large animals. I threw on some pants, ran down the stairs and out the garage door, grabbing a metal bat on the way. (In the afterthought, I’m not sure what good a bat would have done, but hey, I was in panic mode!)

It was a massacre. Dead chickens outside the coop. Dead chickens inside the coop. Feathers everywhere. A Great Pyrenees and Black Lab/Rottweiler mix had busted through the fence and was having a hay day “playing” with their prey. 

I banged the metal bat on the clothesline pole and started yelling. Fortunately, that startled them, and they took off in the back field. 

I stood there stunned. And did what every farmher does when her animals have been brutally killed…I cried. 

Carson and I got everything cleaned up, killed the ones that didn’t die but were severely wounded, called the dog warden who sent someone out and talked to the neighbor, then I also talked to the neighbor. (Did I mention my man was out of town? No? Yeah…) 

If you’ve followed me for very long, then you know this isn’t my first rodeo with something killing my chickens. We’ve had racoons, fox and weasels all wreak havoc in the coop. Shoot, I even walked out to a great horned owl with a hen in its claws. 

I am known as the chicken chucker after sharing the story of pushing my wheelbarrow full of dead chickens…curse you weasel!…out to the field behind us, chucking them while berating myself for being so dang out of shape. Come to find out my wheelbarrow had a flat tire. 

So, no. Not my first rodeo over here. 

But never the neighbor’s pet dogs. 

I couldn’t quite get over it. How do I know that? I kept talking about it. And yet, I would tell myself they were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you? I would apologize and tell Todd or Mallory or Mackenzie or Macey or any other person who would listen, that I was so sorry to still be talking about it. It’s okay, they would say. It was traumatic for you.

Traumatic? Nah. They were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you? 

I shoved it down deeper until several days later I spoke the word I had been feeling but wouldn’t allow myself to say because it was too big a word for the circumstance considering…they were just chickens. This has happened before. What is wrong with you? 

Violated. I felt violated. And I fought it. People are abused. Homes are broken into. Innocent children are sold into sex slavery. And I felt…violated?!? They were just chickens, not children. Not women hiding from a sick and twisted abuser. 

It WAS a strong emotion but until I allowed myself to say that that was what I was feeling was I able to deal with it. Psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.” He goes on to say, so what’s the value of getting people to express what they’re actually feeling, rather than keeping things relentlessly light and bland? The answer is that naming our emotions tends to diffuse their charge and lessen the burden they create. 

We cause ourselves more harm than good when we try to keep the feeling at bay by cramming it down, keeping busy, ignoring it or denying it…for whatever reason we tell ourselves…instead of naming the thing. 

Dr. Brene Brown says the first step to moving through emotion is naming it.

I was stuck in they were just chickens, this has happened before, what is wrong with you cycle and would not move forward until I allowed myself to be honest about what I was feeling…big emotion or not. 

So why do we cram it down, swallow it whole, ignore it, deny it? 

We judge ourselves for feeling the feeling. Ummm…reread what I wrote above…yeah…I may have forgotten my own advice this time because feel your feelings has been a mantra of ours for a very long time.

We compare and that’s not fair to anyone including ourselves. Someone else’s circumstance may be worse than yours (like kid’s sold in sex trafficking) but it doesn’t lessen the trauma you’ve been through. Or perhaps the comparison looks more like how you think someone would react or even did react…but they are not you and you are not them. 

We’re embarrassed by what we’re feeling. Recognize that I should or I shouldn’t feel this way is the enemy to healing what actually is. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with clinical depression in high school but went undiagnosed for over a year. Why? Because, in her words at the time, she came from a good family, got good grades, and went to church so what did she have to be depressed about.

We can’t heal what we don’t reveal. Once I had the wherewithal to say, I know this may seem like a big emotion for what happened but I feel violated. Then we could figure out where that was coming from and move through it. 

We want to appear like we’ve got it all together so acknowledging our feelings may feel like a shortcoming, failure or mistake. 

We might think that by expressing an emotion that may be perceived as negative will make us look weak and lacking control. 

You guys, someones pets came into my safe space and killed something that was mine. My man was out of town, and I felt vulnerable and violated. It was a big honest feeling as a result of my little slice of heaven looking like a killing field.  

It’s okay to feel big feelings! Just don’t let yourself get stuck in that quicksand of emotion.

Now more than ever…I’m looking at you worldwide pandemic…we need to be able to express what we’re feeling, have safe places to do so and not be embarrassed. 

Will you be that space with me? 

kw

It’s Simply Tuesday

Tuesday. It’s not Monday. It doesn’t have a camel meme announcing that it’s “Humpday!” It’s not thirsty Thursday. No one is looking to the heavens and shouting, T.G.I.F!

It’s Simply Tuesday. The most ordinary day of the week.

I need that. Maybe you do too? 

The past few months have been wild. I started to make a list of all the major things that have happened. Some beautiful. Some brutal. Some a brew of the two that we’ll call brutiful. 

My middle daughter had twins seven weeks early due to an abrupted placenta. I’ll write more on that later but just know what could have been was brutal, what resulted is beautiful. 

My dear friend lost his best friend of 36 years mid-August. We were at best friend’s funeral and was able to catch up with dear friends’ father who, just yesterday, passed away, less than a month later of best friend’s death. To lose two dearly beloved’s is brutal. To know our hope of heaven is beautiful. 

My sweet friend’s husband was being sentenced for a crime he committed. I sat in the courtroom watching the fate of a man’s life being given. The quiet shaking of her shoulders as the judge read the final outcome. Listening to the wails of his family. Observing the solemn faces of the prosecution. I couldn’t help but think, no one wins here. The support shown to my friend was beautiful. The reality sinking in, brutal. 

My almost 80-year-old Dad had his initial consultation with an oncology ENT just yesterday, where they are 95% sure it’s cancer on the base of his tongue. He is scheduled for a couple more tests. Once those are done it’s seven weeks of radiation and five rounds of chemo. While the treatment will be brutal, his positive outlook is beautiful. 

My prayer life has increased exponentially (which is beautiful because who else can take care of all of this but God?) as I am added to groups to pray for loved ones who are sick and dying or going through some really hard stuff (which is brutal to see happen.) 

And this is just in my tiny section of this great big world. 

The pandemic persists. 

The politics progress.

Social media keeps us in a state of thinking bigger is better, perfection is possible, and YOU are the enemy if you don’t think like me, act like me, look like me. 

Sigh…

So with nothing on my calendar and nowhere to go, I basked in the glory that it’s simply Tuesday today. 

I walked down the stairs and smelled the coffee brewing…telling me my man was in town and had prepared the pot and set the timer the night before. 

I cleaned my bathrooms…something that has been my Tuesday chore for many years but have been off-kilter with all that’s been going on…can you thank God for dirty potties that need cleaning and the time to do it? 

I walked out to the chicken coop and gave the girls some scraps…taking the time to watch them enjoy the fruit that was getting old, filled their water and feed buckets and collected eggs…paying attention to the colors, the smoothness, the warmth.

I walked in my garden, pulled some weeds and gathered the last of the green beans, several cucumbers and lots of tomatoes. I picked zinnias for the table vase and calendula for healing oil and salves. 

I watched a butterfly land on the flowers and a hummingbird get a nice long drink of nectar. I saw fish jumping in the pond and paid attention to the sights and sounds that let you know the end of summer is near. Nature does nurture, doesn’t it?

I came inside, washed the cucumbers, snapped the green beans and put them on for lunch. I determined I do indeed have enough tomatoes to make more juice but not until tomorrow. I hung the calendula to dry and basked in the aroma of all the herbs I have hanging on the ladder in my office.  

It’s Simply Tuesday. 

Sometimes we lose site that the ordinary is the extraordinary. The most scrumptious thing we can do is S-L-O-W down and savor the here and now, this very minute, the thing right in front of us. 

Sometimes it takes a season of hard things to appreciate the soft places that an ordinary day brings. The way it fills you up and satisfies the soul, allowing you to take a deep breath…the one you’ve been holding for far too long.  

Sometimes it’s the smallest things done over the course of time that makes the biggest difference. They’re the ones that change and shape your heart, like water over a stone. Slow. Repetitive. Steady. Deeply transformative over time. (Shaye Elliott) 

While I know I can’t make like an ostrich and stick my head in the sand, because, well, life happens, kids need us, friends struggle, bad news comes, sentences are given, diagnosis are told, I will be beholden to those extraordinary days of ordinary. For those days that I can say…

It’s Simply Tuesday. 

kw

Something to Satisfy Your Carb Craving!

It’s harvest season around here. When something’s ready, it doesn’t matter what’s on your schedule, you take the time (make the time) to put up what you’ve worked so hard to grow. 

While the zucchini plants are looking a little worse for the wear right now, I was able to harvest several over the last few weeks and bake some scrumptious zucchini bread (or bikini bread as my grandson called it) and put them in the freezer for some heavenly goodness this winter. (Bikini’s and bread? Do they even go together?) 

Every year, I get out the recipe box, root around behind the “Bread” tab in search of two recipes. One is from a woman I treated many years ago when I was a radiation therapist. It’s handwritten and stained from so many years of use. I think of her and my co-workers whenever I see the recipe….it makes me smile. 

The other combines a vegetable and chocolate so you can totally gorge yourself because it’s healthy! It’s Bikini Bread after all! 

With all the worlds madness, there is something about the very ordinary task of mixing together a recipe, putting flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl, creaming butter, sugar and eggs…that are fresh from that mornings gathering… in another that calms my soul. Anybody else? 

Baking bread is therapeutic for me. It reminds me of growing up in a kitchen filled with the aroma of goodness. A kitchen that was safe and sure. Those things shape who I am today…like water over a stone…day after day, slow, steady and sure.

What is it about bread that is so comforting? 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

God knew. 

God sent bread down from heaven in the form of manna when his people were in the wilderness. It fully satiated a hungry body.

Jesus looked to the heavens and gave thanks for bread provided by a young boy’s lunch. It multiplied to feed the multitude. 

Jesus called himself the Bread of Life. 

Jesus broke bread with the disciples…this is my body, broken for you. 

I wonder sometimes if it’s bread I’m hungry for when I’m in my own time of wilderness living or is it to feel fully satisfied by Jehovah Jireh…the One who provides. 

I wonder if it’s a reminder in my “never enough” mind to stop and give thanks for the ordinariness of my days. 

I wonder if when I’m craving carbs, seesawing between the cupboard (salty) and the fridge (ice cream), I’m actually craving the Comforter. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Take nothing away from Jesus but these recipes are sure to satisfy a true carb craving but will not get you ready for bikini season! 

Mrs. Libby’s Zucchini Bread

Cream together: 

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup oil

In a separate bowl mix together: 

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons cinnamon

3 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (wash zucchini before grating and cut the ends off but do not peel)

1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans or this can be optional if you don’t like nuts) 

Mix all ingredients together. 

Grease and flour two bread pans or 4 mini loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour (or less). Test doneness with a toothpick or butter knife in the middle.  

Chocolate Bikini Bread 

Mix together in a bowl and set aside: 

2 ½ cups flour

¼ cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tsp salt

Cream together in a large bowl: 

½ cup oil

½ cup butter or margarine softened

1 ¾ cup sugar

Beat in 2 eggs one at a time then

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup buttermilk (can use “sour milk” by putting 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar in a measuring cup then filling to ½ cup measure, let it sit a few minutes) 

Add buttermilk alternately with the dry ingredients to creamed mixture. 

Add 2 cups shredded zucchini and a handful (or 2 or 3) of chocolate chips. (I used a variety here…sometimes a handful of white chocolate chips and regular chocolate chips…experiment! )

Pour into 2 well sprayed loaf pans and bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes. 

Is great straight out of the oven or refrigerated and eaten the following day! 

Then thank the God who Comforts for zucchini and chocolate…always thank him for chocolate! 

Enjoy!!

kw

For a similar read and my families favorite Banana Bread recipe read When Something Rotten Becomes Something Good