11/26/14 Middle of the Night Musing: Truth to Stand On

It’s 1:30 am and I can’t sleep…I keep thinking about my skin color, my experiences, my faith, my family, my successes and my failures. I am heart-broken about the tension (for lack of a better word) between different races. My glass-is-half-full side wants to believe in our justice system…but I know it’s a facade from my own experience with a legal battle where anything but justice was served. I’m thinking about the frustration and fear and crime and I feel overwhelmed. My head knows that God is not overwhelmed, surprised, or un-prepared to handle the mess that we keep making of his beautiful creation. So, to settle my brain, I thought I would go back to what helped me through my spiritual crisis after the poisoning: finding truths to stand on.
1. Our God is Good. Good. Not evil. He created different races, genders, personalities, skill sets, passions, etc. not so that we would be divided…but so that we could wrap our human brains around the many different facets of our Creator. We were not created to be in competition with each other…but to complement each other and reflect a more complete picture of our Good God. It does not mean that everything we do is good…not by a long stretch…but since mankind was created in the image of God (A good God)…maybe we should not assume that anyone else is purely evil (especially if we are making the assumption based on the other person being different from ourselves.)
2. We can trust our Good God. We are only here because he saw fit to create us and breathe life into us. So, whether you are a mother who is concerned about the well-being of your babies, a man who will have to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life, or a young adult who still thinks that you’ve got “control” over your life, God thinks you are valuable and he takes joy in the creation that is you. He is the author of life, he is the giver of every good gift, and he loves you and your loved-ones even more than you do.
3. We live in a fallen world. I’m not saying that to be trite…but this is not the Eden we were intended for. We are going to experience hurts, grief, fear, frustration, and rejection because our world and our souls are broken. That is why our breath catches in our chests and tears spring to our eyes when we hear about tragedies: 9-11, Sandy Hook, Boston marathon, and now the death of Michael Brown and the fallout that has occurred. This is not Eden and we weren’t supposed to experience this. It is not a reflection of our life-giving God and when we learn about it, something in us ruptures…shatters…because we were not supposed to know death…and when we are confronted by it, it leaves a nasty, bitter taste in us…it changes us.
4. Because we are all broken, we are going to hurt each other. We are going to damage others and they are going to damage us. So, we have a choice to make: we can retreat into isolation and lick our wounds while they fester and turn into bone-deep sickness that robs us of life and joy…or we can offer up our hurts to our Jesus as an offering and find light and truth and peace. Make no mistake about it, whether we like it or not, we are either fully pursuing Jesus’ peace or we are pursuing hate by nursing our biases and prejudices (and if we allow that in ourselves, we are making the gospel weak and small…something not worth offering to others.)
5. People are going to respond badly. There are going to be people…”Good Christians” who will spout hatred in the name of God. There are going to be intelligent people who buy whole-heartedly into ignorant ideas. And there are going to be broken people who enjoy bringing misery to others. But none of that changes who Jesus is. His identity is not dependent on the behavior of Christians (Whew! That is good news because if I’m honest, I suck!) There is rest to be had in understanding that God is still God regardless of our circumstances.
6. When we get it right…when we are able to pour out what is being generously and lavishly poured into us…we get a glimpse of Eden…we get a glimpse of what we were designed for…and it brings glory to the one who deserves it.

**I know this one was preachy…but it wasn’t meant for you, it was meant for myself. Re-visiting truth is what brought me out of the pit that I lived in for a long time. It was a despairing, bitter, and painful place that I wouldn’t wish on anyone…so on the off-chance that this could help someone else re-direct their eyes back to Jesus, I’m sharing it with you all.**

My prayer is that we would pursue healing, rest, and peace that God can give us in any circumstances. Much love friends,

Beks

Photo taken from: http://m.inmagine.com/image-is098te1d-Flower-growing-in-desert-landscape.html

11/20/14 Morning Musing: Being a Referee

So, we were at a football game and it was intense: the score was very close (one field-goal kick would win the game for either team) and the entire stadium was buzzing. Lots of mistakes were happening on the field and the players of both teams were clearly shaken. Time was running out and they reset to try to get another play in…a Hail Mary…when one of our players moved and was off-sides! The referee blows a whistle and begins screaming at the offending player about the rules of football and why being off-sides is wrong…about how he has let his entire team down…and the player has no choice but to stand there and listen to the referee’s rant as he watches the time run out and our team’s only chance at redemption is gone.

Ridiculous isn’t it? That’s because the story above never happened…I made it up based on a parenting article I read about 8 years ago. At the time, I had a rambunctious two-year-old who could pick locks and a newborn that I lovingly referred to as the gourmet because he savored his meals…for over an hour…for every feeding…which added up to over 8 solid hours of breast-feeding every day. I was searching online for help. I had become this sleep-deprived, hormonally-imbalanced, not-able-to-see-outside-of-my-current-circumstances-mother-of-two who would lose her cool and yell…and cry…and hide because that was the only way that I could manage 60 seconds of quiet time to myself where nobody would touch me…I just wanted for nobody to touch me! (You can imagine what that did to my sex life at the time. I’ve said it before: Stan is a saint!)

The article changed my life and I have, unfortunately, not been able to re-locate it since then. So, my fictitious story above is meant to throw a life raft, to anyone else that might find themselves overwhelmed right now, like that article did for me. See, in the article, the author stated that “Our role as parents, is to be our children’s referee. When a player gets off-sides, a referee doesn’t get red-faced and yell about how the virtues of the game have been violated. He simply throws the flag and steps off the penalty.” (These may not be the author’s exact words…I’m trying to recall an article from 8 years ago that used a sports analogy…why are they always sports analogies? I digress.)

There are several points to be made here: One idea is that game time is not the time to learn how the game is played…that is done before the player steps onto the field. Game time is when the rules are enforced and a score is earned. Certainly, lessons can be learned during a game by the player but the player isn’t learning from a screaming referee…he learns from experiences he is having as he interacts with his surroundings. Another point that I learned from that article is that expending endless energy about someone else’s behavior is not healthy or balanced…nor is it productive. (Warning: Science Geek-Out Alert!) When we are experiencing fight or flight, (think temper tantrums, anger, crying, fear, insecurity, etc.) we CAN NOT learn new things. (Literally! This has been shown repeatedly in scientific studies.) So, why do we think that raising our voices or physically intimidating others will help them to see our point? It’s irrational! Think about the story at the beginning…if that really happened, it would go viral on the internet in under 24 hours. People would be upset with the referee and demand his job…not to mention how much he would be mocked for being unstable and dumb. The final point is one that the article didn’t make, but I think it is important: It’s not the referee’s job to determine what position the player plays…that is something that the player determines. If the referee took a kicker and made him play the position of a lineman, that isn’t going to work out well for anyone…especially the player who will believe that he is terrible at football because he isn’t playing the role he was designed to play.

So, why am I telling you this and why do I think it could be a life raft? Well, I think that these points apply to many relationships (not just parenting) and the holidays are rapidly approaching. Many of us will spend next week with people who are intimately familiar with our buttons and how to push them (whether that be our children, spouses, parents, siblings, extended family, or anyone else.) I think now (before game time) is the time to get our heads and hearts right so that we don’t morph into the screaming referee. It’s ok to draw healthy boundaries…let’s figure them out before the explosion occurs so that we can be the people who pursue peace by simply throwing the flag and stepping off the penalty…followed by a re-set.

So how are you doing with this? Is there someone in your life that just makes you lose your cool? How can you change things so that you can create some healthy boundaries? What boundaries might you need to draw? Is it possible, that you are the person with whom others need to draw boundaries? How can you allow, or even encourage, that to happen so that relationships can be salvaged? Are you being required to play a role that you aren’t equipped to play? Are you requiring that of someone else? How can this be approached in a gentle and loving way so that everyone has the freedom to be who God designed them to be?

I’m praying for a healthy head-space and heart-space for us all as we navigate important and sometimes difficult relationships over the holidays. I’m praying that God would give us wisdom and grace. And if you are a parent of littles, I’m praying that you would find rest and peace in the middle of the muddle. Much love friends,

Beks

11/19/14 Morning Musing: La la la la la…I Can’t Hear You!

Yesterday, I had the pest control guy over to do a follow-up treatment of the house and garage for bugs. In order to make sure it was as effective as possible, I also treated my car and removed all the floor mats to wash thoroughly, washed all the bedding in the house, and took Shiner and Bock to the groomer for flea dip and then put frontline on them. (Fun side note: I am pretty sure that I scared the crap out of our pest guy. Stan and I have body pillows in our bed and since Team Massey is allergic to dust, I have water-proof covers on all our pillows, mattresses, etc. It is hard to find them for body pillows, so I have our body pillows sealed in giant black trash bags under the soft pillowcases. When I stripped the linens yesterday, I left the trash bag-covered body pillows on the bed and it looked suspiciously like I had done some sort of mob-type killing and forgot to hide the bodies. That poor pest control guy…he probably never knows what to expect at our house!) Wouldn’t you know…I still found a flea this morning on Shiner. It is so frustrating to do everything that you can think of to do and still not see the results that you are looking for.

I know that sometimes, it takes a while to get all of the fleas in all of the their life stages taken care of…it’s a process. (I worked for an amazing vet in Fort Worth for about 10 years so I am familiar with the struggle that occurs with pests.) I guess that is why they are called pests…if it were easy to get rid of them without them returning, they would be called something else…like…money! But I digress.

Why am I talking about fleas, corpses, and frustration? So glad you asked! The corpse part was just for a giggle, but seeing that flea this morning got me thinking about other things that pester me (besides my children.) Things that came to mind were pet sins, busy-ness, and bitterness. These are all areas where I can fall into a trap of trying to handle things in my own strength. I can try to avoid the temptations that violate my soul…I can try to re-arrange my schedule so that I can be more efficient and fit more in…and I can try to push the bitterness down deep inside so that it hopefully gets forgotten and quiet (if that doesn’t work…I can usually quiet it temporarily with a cookie or three.) Occasionally, I even get desperate and try to just blow these situations up by withdrawing completely from all the areas of my life where I feel pestered. The thing is…just like with the fleas, I am trying to use my intellect and my strength to get clean and on track…instead, I think I should be relying on what I know will work: For the fleas, it’s Frontline and time…For the other, it’s the Holy Spirit and time. I know what will work if I am willing to give over control and wait for a bit…trust that it/He will do what I know it/He is wired to do: take something that is unclean and ugly and transform it into something beautiful.

So, what about you? What is pestering you? Is there a sin pattern that you tend to return to without realizing it? Is there something that God is working on in you but you have trouble being patient or your schedule is so busy that you don’t have time to listen to what he has to say? Do you keep giving something over to him just to turn around and find that you have snatched back up? If so, I am in the same boat…and the boat has fleas! What should we do about it? Well, it’s going to sound weird…but I think the first thing we do is nothing. I think we need to schedule a whole lot of “nothing” on our calendars. We need to turn off a lot of the noise that distracts us from hearing the voice of God (which for me, turns into frustration at him for “not talking to me.” How ridiculous am I? I’m simultaneously yelling “Talk to me God!” while I hold my fingers in my ears and sing “La-la-la-la-la-la….I can’t hear you!”) During the scheduled “nothing”…I think we should pray and ask God to point out these areas to us and then (are you ready for this?) we should SHUT UP and listen…for a long time…listen for his voice instead of exercising our own. It’s going to be hard…but all good things usually are, in my experience.

My prayer for us all today is that we would be still and quiet and just listen to our God speak truth, and life, and love into our hearts. I’m praying that we would trust him to do what is right and healthy for us instead of trying to control it all ourselves. I’m praying for stillness and peace in our souls as we are transformed into creatures that repel these bad habits and sin patterns just as my dogs will repel fleas. Much love friends,

Beks

P.S. If you live in the Fort Worth area and need a fantastic veterinarian, you should look into Dr. Randy Jones at Cityview Animal Hospital. He is a wonderful vet and an even greater man. I learned a lot about the character of God by working for him.

11/14/14 Morning Musing: When Strength Must be Silent

I hate it but there is nothing I can do to correct it. If I make sure that everyone involved truly knows my character, then I am making a bigger deal of something than I should and would cause irreparable damage to others. If I let it go, then I have people believing something untrue about me. This is one of those dilemmas that will keep me up at night (and if I’m going to lose sleep, shouldn’t I at least be greeted by a shiny, clean house in the morning?!) But no, I am greeted by a mirror that I look into and think “No…no, that can’t be right.” So I rub my eyes and try again…not any better.

Misconceptions. How do you handle them? The thing about me…the thing I would change if I could…I really do care what other people think…not in a shallow way, but I feel what other people are feeling and truth is really important to me…which in and of itself isn’t a problem, but it leads to the dilemma above. Knowing something is being perceived or interpreted incorrectly is physically painful for me. And letting it go…well…I can only do that if God is helping me because I just…can’t..handle it!

I have an area in my life where I am dealing with this right now….well, two areas…but one is big and has been going on for a long time and the other is smaller and will be temporary…I think. Anyway, the painful conclusion that I have come to is that sometimes, we have to suck it up and be perceived incorrectly and let truth come out gently over time through our actions because our words won’t/can’t be heard right now. This was really bothering me when I woke up this morning. With one of these scenarios, I am the victim (which I hate admitting) but in order to do right by the people who have mistreated me, I have to take the label of the “designated a–hole” and just sit there in it…set up camp in the middle of all of the discomfort…in all of the falseness…rest in the mess…and prepare to stay a while with my mouth firmly closed…and it sucks.

On my own, there is no way that I could do this…but in obedience to God, it’s amazing how it becomes manageable (not easy…hear me on this!) despite it being completely contrary to my wiring. Actually, that is how I know it’s of God…being empowered to do something that I simply can not do if left to my own devices. And that…that right there…that is what encourages me and gets me back where I need to be…it gets me away from the pity party and strengthens me. The knowledge that I am being obedient despite what I want to do…that fills me with satisfaction and contentment that could never be produced even if everything I wanted known was revealed to the entire world.

I know this was a bit vague, but what about you? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever been writhing inside because you have something to say but, for one reason or another, you must be muted? Have you ever taken a personal hit for the “greater good?” Have you ever had to watch something play out in order to not rob others of what God is trying to do in their hearts? I think that in the end, it will unfold beautifully but in the interim, it really does suck.

My prayer today is that we will have the goal in mind…the big picture…as we interact with people. I’m praying that we will be strong enough to make the painful investment that is sometimes required for a bigger payoff later…the investment of having silent strength…subtle strength. I’m praying that as we struggle through all of our dilemmas, that we will huddle up close to our loving God who wants his best for us all and who is the author of all things good. I’m praying that through our sacrifices, more will come to love the God who sustains us. Much love friends.

Beks

11/6/14 Morning Musing: Leaving a Legacy of Beauty

Before the poisoning (and the brain damage) I really had no use for anything that did not serve a function. What I mean by that is that I didn’t really appreciate that beauty and art could be valuable…at least not as valuable as analysis, information, and functionality. If Stan had spent money on flowers for me, I would be frustrated at the thought of what that money could have been spent on instead…certainly something more practical or necessary.

Now, it is interesting to me to see the extreme difference in my view as well as my abilities and skill set. See, when we were poisoned, there were parts of my brain that were damaged permanently and some that were left with a little bit of “wiggle room” for healing. For example, I couldn’t walk through a room without running into a wall or door jamb because my proprioception was severely damaged for a while, but as I detoxed over the next several years, that began to wane. Now, I am about as coordinated as a normal person! (Except for the falling down the stairs thing last month…and constantly running into the coffee table…and the not being able to chew gum and walk at the same time…ok…ok, maybe I won’t ever be quite normal…but I’m much improved…and I hear “normal” is over-rated.)

All that to say, with the brain damage, my brain was forced to change…to adapt…to compensate for the lost abilities. Among those adaptations are an appreciation for beauty and a new-found creativity.

I have not only gained appreciation for beauty in the obvious ways (art, museums, nature, etc) but also in the most bizarre ways too now. For example, have you ever gotten really close to a dog and looked at the details of his/her nose? It is incredible! (There is a little indention down the middle, a pattern that reminds me a bit of the reticulated giraffe pattern, and slits on the side that allow them to move the nose around when they are actively smelling something.) A lot of care was put into designing the dog nose…that makes it so beautiful to me! I love seeing how God paid attention to detail in what he created. (Do me a favor: smell the pads of your dog’s feet! They smell like Tostitos!!! Every single dog! What’s up with that? That is a detail that God included in his design and that attention to detail indicates his investment in his creations.)

I’ve also been developing a creative side to my personality…it was never there before the poisoning. I didn’t think it was important…and then, afterwards…creativity developed where some of my former skills had faded…and in some cases, creativity has helped me to re-gain some of what I have lost. If I want to pay close attention to something someone is saying, I need to busy my hands…so I tend to knit or crochet. (I’ve seen studies where this has been introduced in education environments with wonderful results especially for students with ADHD/ADD like myself.) Through ceramics, I’ve learned about finesse…touch…grey areas…and compromise. I do still love hard lines and rules, but I’m learning that there is so much more to be gleaned from what is in between the extremes…that a formula can not be applied to everything…and that maybe I shouldn’t want it to be because when I can apply a formula to something, I am less likely to think deeply about it. Through writing (that one I NEVER saw coming) I’m learning more about the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudges and how we all contribute to his plans. I have had so much feedback from these musings over the past several months and it is extremely encouraging because it helps me to see the continuation of God’s work in people…a fulfillment of a purpose that I wouldn’t normally get the honor and satisfaction of observing. It is really quite beautiful!

All of this to say, I was so very wrong before…and maybe it was because I didn’t appreciate what I didn’t understand…or maybe I was ego-centric and was only interested in myself…or maybe I was affected by our culture and viewed occupations and skill sets that paid well as the only valuable ones…I don’t know. What I do know is that God is a creator and he is fantastically imaginative…and I think that when we emulate him with passion and skills we received from him, we can offer that up as worship.

I never expected to ever come to a point where I was grateful for what our family endured. Don’t get me wrong. It was hell and I would never want to go through it again, but the cool thing…the part I would never change…is the deeper understanding of God’s character that I am learning on this crazy journey. So, what about you? Are you struggling through something that makes it hard to see God? Have you been through something in your past that damaged you? Have you tried to find purpose in your pain? Have you had to adapt to hard, new realities? It’s so hard to conform to a new thing when you have a white-knuckled grip on the old thing, isn’t it? What changes is God calling you to accept? What bending or stretching is he asking of you? Also, are you passionate about something that doesn’t seem particularly practical? Do you think that your gifts and skills aren’t very useful? I’m willing to bet that you have them because God would have you bless the world through them.

My prayer today is that we would comply with our maker who has the ability to force us to do things but the wisdom to know that change must occur in our hearts or else it will only be behavioral change. I am praying that we would recognize his investment, compassion, and love for us and respond to him in the only appropriate way…to be so thankful for what he has done for us that we can’t help but turn it outward to others. Finally, I am praying that we would have the ability to see the beauty around us and understand the depth of love our creator has for us. Much love friends.

Beks