The Process of Forgiveness.

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. Every time I would go to write it, I would stop. It seemed too difficult to tell the story well. To tell the story of forgiveness. I hope I serve the art of forgiving well as I share my heart today.

I believe the process of forgiveness looks different according to each situation. Many times it’s easy. It’s easy to forgive your children for forgetting to clean their room. It’s easy to forgive your spouse when he doesn’t meet an expectation. It’s easy, or it should be easy, to forgive a friend when they disappoint you. Why? Because, we are making allowances for each other’s faults. So, immediate forgiveness makes sense. The process is hardly a process at all.

But deep hurts of betrayal or of life-changing wrong-doing require a process of forgiveness. I don’t know that I truly understood this until last year when my family was forced to walk through it. Even the process of forgiving John Henry’s dad was easier. As crazy as it sounds, that hurt was not a hurt that was meant to deliberately hurt me or him. While it affected us, it wasn’t about us. It was about him. I know this is a hard pill for some to swallow who have experienced their spouse leaving them. But, because of the love I had for both of them and the awareness that it wasn’t about me, walking in forgiveness was an easy process. It didn’t make the hurt any less. I still had to live with the decision. But, it did make releasing any anger and resentment possible and quick. Am I making sense? See the difference? The hurt stayed a while, but the resentment did not.

Last year, I experienced a different kind of hurt. The kind that affects your entire family. The kind where intentions just don’t seem right. The kind where you have no emotional ties to the instigators, so there seems to be no reason to “let them off the hook.” I was hurt. I felt violated, betrayed, angry, resentful. Where was the justice, the fairness, the accountability? Every feeling was necessary for me to feel. The hard part in it all was trying not to lose who I was in it. Trying not to forget who HE was in me. Who HE is in each of us. I wanted to forgive. I would pray and release them, but I would find myself meeting that anger again whenever I allowed my mind to go there. Forgiveness was going to be hard. I was initially hard on myself, because, I felt like I knew better. I knew it was necessary. But, I never understood the process of this kind of hurt until I had to walk through it.

So, I learned that sometimes forgiveness is a journey. But, it has to be an intentional journey. It has to be so intentional that you set out every day with the goal of releasing it. You set your heart on the mission of letting them off the hook. It did not happen with a prayer. It didn’t happen with a single decision. It happened with multiple decisions. It happened with the realization that sometimes forgiveness is a process. It’s a decision you have to make over and over and over. Every single day. Until the hurt is gone.

It’s deliberate. It’s a daily choice. And, it’s a process.

Eventually, I framed my world to release the hurt and forgiveness so many times that it finally happened. I was free. And, so were the ones who hurt me.

Don’t stay in deep-rooted hurt. Don’t accept that your hurt will always be there. Take the journey. Go through the process. Keep making the choice to forgive over and over until that hurt no longer carries any weight.

Besides learning that sometimes forgiveness is a process, I also learned how little other hurts really are. I learned, that at the end of the day, it should be so easy to allow those we love to fail us. To let go of little things like someone not meeting your expectations. It became so easy to always fill in the gap of my expectations and disappointments with love and forgiveness. Everything else became so small. The people in my life became so big….as did my love for them. The decisions we made after our big hurt made our lives richer. Better. Nothing went to waste, and God has used it ALL for our good.

All of it.

If you’re holding onto hurt, choose to go through the process of forgiveness. Allow God to work even that for your good. He loves you, and His ways are so, so good. So worth it. YOU are worth it.

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Reset.

calm

“Remember. You show our children how to respond to stressful and difficult moments by how you respond to those moments.”

This was the reminder Kris gave me over the phone last night. You know, sometimes, when our husbands are right, we kind of want to roll our eyes or maybe throw a pie in their face. I jest a little. But, I couldn’t do either last night. I told him I recognized that my response was not good, and that I had allowed myself to get overwhelmed and would work through my stuff. He told me recognizing I was not in a good place did not make that place right. Again, he was right. So, I had to make myself right. And, I needed to do it right away. Not the next morning when all of the mercies are new. But, I needed to adjust then. In THAT moment.

It’s hard. We can work ourselves up faster than Clark Kent can turn into Super-Man. Then, we implode. Because, negativity is designed to do just that…..implode. We have to stop feeding it and giving energy to it. “When we hang up, reset your emotions, and go make it right,” he told me with the most tender of tones.

I didn’t have to wait for a sunrise to make that moment of spiraling emotions right. I just had to push the reset button. I didn’t feel like doing it, because staying in my overwhelmed emotions seemed easier. They validated me. They allowed me to justify my responses to stress. But, they didn’t produce anything good.

They didn’t model mercy or compassion.

They didn’t model the scripture, “be anxious for nothing…”

They didn’t model how to respond when life gets hard.

They didn’t model light.

They didn’t heal anything or anyone.

We can’t always calm the storm around us, but we can ALWAYS calm the storm WITHIN us.

And, that’s exactly what I did. I spoke to the storm within me, and said, “Peace be still.” I called my children together and asked forgiveness and spoke peace to them. In the very moment of my overwhelmed emotions, I reset and made it right.

You, too, always have the option to reset. No matter how powerful those negative emotions become….the God within you is greater. It is simply choosing to acknowledge who you really are and tapping into the peace that is already within you. Because, you have everything you need already inside of you. Everything.

You lack nothing.

Today, I choose to create my calm. I choose to model it. I choose to be the light in the dark and the calm in the storm. I choose to reset.

What do you choose today?

Be a lamp, a lifeboat, a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like shepherd. – Rumi

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We’re In This Together.

You know how you get into a season of parenting and you just love that season you’re in? I’m in one of those. Parenting is fun and exhausting and heart-wrenching and hilarious. And, so many more things. I love it that I’m in a season where I can have parenting fails, and my children recognize it as a parenting fail….and, they are able to shake it off and laugh about it. Yesterday was one of those days. First, in the check-out line at Ingles I noticed Jett put something in his pocket. He pulled out a lollipop.

Me: “Jett, do you know that’s stealing?”

Jett: “Yes.”

Me: “Do you know what happens when you steal?”

Jett: “You get rich.”

John Henry looks away, because he knows Jett doesn’t need to see him lose it. I try to reconcile the situation, and I still buy the lollipop. You may call buying the lollipop bad parenting, but I call it “It’s Monday, and Mom is tired.” So, whatever. At least, he now knows we PAY for candy. That’s my justification, and I’m sticking to it.

On the way home, I get a phone call from Kris filling me in on Anna and her appointment with the ENT. Anna, who has had chronic sinus infections for the past two years, apparently has her adenoids to blame for it. She also has her enlarged adenoids to blame for her inability to breathe well. I cannot tell you how many times she has told me, “Mom, I can’t get a good breath,” and I have responded, “It’s all in your head.” Swear. I am winning. You can imagine the hay day Anna had on the whole, “I TOLD YOU I COULDN’T BREATHE, MISS IT’S IN MY HEAD!!!!” I said, “At least you’re not allergic to chocolate!” She sort of laughed. Sort of.

Then later, I tell John Henry about some friends of ours who recently lost their dog. He knew this dog and loved this dog and spent time with this dog. I thought I was preparing him before he hears from someone else. Instead, he responds, “Oh my word, Mom. Why did you tell me that? You’re awful! I didn’t want to know this! You are having so many parenting fails today!”

I told John Henry I wasn’t trying to win any parenting awards. He said, “Clearly,” then he laughed.

We finally settled into the evening, and after putting the little bandit to bed, I decided to get him out for a family UTV ride across the farm. It was hard getting Kris on board, because he was all tired and acting like an old man. But, I was all I just wrote a blog post on living an adventure, so get up, people. A sleepy Jett got on the UTV and said, “Just so you know, when I go to bed, I’m tired.”

We made a memory. And, we forgot all about my parenting fails that day and took pictures of the beautiful, dusk sky. We remembered that at the end of the day, we are all in this thing together. Homework, projects, attempted thievery, surgeries, losses, wins, celebrations, disappointments, funny stories, doctor appointments, laundry, and even bad parenting moments. Sometimes, you need to pause them all and just be. Be in the moment. Be in something different than the day to day routine. Change it up. Be spontaneous. Be content.

Just be.

utv

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Living An Adventure.

Jett haybale

Now that the kids are back in school, and I’ve stopped celebrating my freedom, wiped my tears, I’m going to try to get back into the habit of writing everyday. One thing I’ve learned is that the more I write, the more I have to write about. The less I write, the more I stare at my computer and try to remember how in the Sam Hill I did this everyday. When we don’t use our gifts, they lie dormant. No good for anyone. (Thank you, dear friend, Susan Harp.) So, here is my attempt to use it, and hopefully along, the way make you laugh or feel all the feels or be reminded that life is good, and YOU matter.

My kids started a new adventure this year at St. George’s Episcopal School. Anna even started a new adventure taking ballet. Who would’ve thought that my girl who insisted on dressing like she was trying out for the NBA would decide she’s a dancer? Or John Henry would decide one day, “I want to learn the cello.” Then, there is Jett where every day is an adventure. So much to do, to explore, to learn, to grow. Kids just get it. But, sometimes, along the way, we grown-ups don’t get it anymore. We stop imagining ourselves doing something new. We stop imagining the life we really want to live. We stop imagining, we stop being thankful, and we stop living an adventure.

I started reading Mark Batterson’s new book, A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life Into the Adventure of A Lifetime. Batterson writes, “Kids get adventure. Its innate. They live life free of worry, full of faith, and with their eyes peeled for the next big adventure. We should live with holy anticipation of what’s around the corner.” I began thinking about how God wants us to become like little children. When the disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, He called a child to Him and said, “Become like him.” Become like a child. Forgive like a child. Love like a child. Seek adventure like a child!

As I read, I began taking inventory of my own life. I have seasons I stop living an adventure. I honestly think I’ve been in one. It’s not that I haven’t necessarily done adventurous things lately. Doing a helicopter tour in Hawaii this past July was a definite stretch for me in terms of adventure. However, it’s been more of the absence of observing life and being truly thankful for it. I believe our imagination is birthed in our observation of life around us. It’s birthed when we slow down our minds and slow down our motions to breathe in Him. To look intently into Jett’s eyes when he is taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. To notice how his eyes get so animated and to appreciate how passionate he is about his story. It’s birthed in sweet conversations with Anna when she asks questions like, “Tell me more about how we hear the Spirit within us.” It’s birthed in moments like last night when I begin singing a song, and John Henry says, “I can play that on guitar.” So, he does, and we begin singing these words together:

How do I say thank You, Lord
For the way that You love
And the way that You come

For all that You’ve done
All that You’ll do
My hearts pours out
Thank You

You don’t have to come
But You always do
You show up in splendor
And change the whole room

How do I say thank You, Lord
For the life that You gave
The cross that You bore

For the love You poured out
To ransom my soul
My hearts pours out
This thankful song

A life of adventure may not always be climbing Mt. Everest or taking some big risk. A life of adventure may be in having that hard conversation. It may be in noticing God in every moment. It may be a moment where your heart pours out thanksgiving for a life that is just so good, and a God whose goodness never stops pursuing after you. That’s the environment, those are the conditions, where imagination is birthed. And, imagination is what sets our life up for the adventure of a lifetime.

Be aware. Slow down. Notice. And, above all, let thanksgiving be your language. Because, there is no greater adventure than a life filled with gratitude.

 

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We’re A Little Bit Of Everything.

Anna - school

This year, we made the decision to transition our kids to private school. Let me first say, our kids have thrived in public school, and they have been under the instruction of some amazing public school teachers. Our decision to make the change came out of discussions between Kris and I and then with our children. One of the greatest benefits we’ve seen so far (besides only having ONE carpool line a day…..can I hear a shout?) is that all three of our children have opportunities to catch a glimpse of each other throughout the day. Jett will fist bump John Henry every time he sees him. And, we LOVE that. Seriously. Cutest ever.

Having been in a public school environment most of their lives, they are having new experiences they haven’t been exposed to before (and, we LOVE that, too.) Yesterday, Anna gets in the car and first shares that she thinks she might be Pentecostal. But, she doesn’t know for sure…

Anna: “So, today in Bible we checked what denomination we belong to. You know how our church isn’t ‘normal’ and I didn’t know what to check. I remembered hearing Big Mama was Pentecostal a long time ago, so I just checked that.”

John Henry: “We don’t belong to any denomination, Anna. I checked that.”

Anna: “Mom has never told us WHAT we are.”

We actually consider ourselves inter-faith, embracing all denominations. You know….we love grace like the Baptists and missions like the Methodists. Kris prefers the “sprinkling” of the Presbyterians (you will not find him submerged), and now we love the Eucharist like the Episcopalians. The list could go on. Bottom line, we believe every denomination highlights a different and beautiful aspect of the Christian faith. We have never really labeled ourselves, other than “inter-faith” because of this. I’ve sort of taken my dad’s position to always put a comma by your thoughts, because we are forever growing and expanding. We tend to parent our children the same way allowing for freedom of thought and growth. The only thoughts we govern are the ones that surround this scripture:

37Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Love God, love others, and love yourself.

THEN, Anna proceeds to tell us about her communion experience. We have taken communion. I mean, come on. We are no stranger to the sacrament. We eat our styrofoam wafer and drink our white grape juice, so as not to stain the carpets. We’ve even taken communion as a family together at home, drinking wine from the same glass and breaking bread. Apparently, Anna approached the Episcopalian communion the same way.

“I went up and tried to grab the cup from them. They said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, trying to drink the wine.”

“We don’t drink. We dip,” they told me.

“So, with my bread in one hand, I dipped my opposite hand, my FINGER into the wine, and then I LICKED MY FINGER. They looked at me like I was crazy. By the time I got back to my seat I noticed I still had my bread in my hand. So, I ate it.”

Needless to say, yesterday’s carpool pick-up was THE BEST. I laughed, and I laughed. Then, I would think about it again and laugh. This is seriously going to be a fun year.

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Don’t Set People Up To Fail You.

Originally published in The Grip

A while back, our 13 year old, John Henry, got upset with his dad and responded to him poorly. Kris decided to take his phone and keep it until he apologized. While I knew Kris just wanted John Henry to recognize his poor response and how his words hurt, I wasn’t on board with his strategy, and Kris was open to hear my heart on it. At times, Kris and I disagree with how the other is handling a parenting issue, and one of us checks the other. I felt, in this situation, Kris was setting John Henry up to fail.

“He should know to go to his dad and ask for forgiveness and make this right.” Perhaps. But, sometimes, we know to make something right but have a hard time doing it, for whatever the reason may be. Placing expectations on someone to respond in a certain way only sets that person up to fail you. I’ve seen countless relationships that function this way. Especially in marriage. One sets the other up to see if he or she will respond in a certain way, and if that person “fails the test,” anger and resentment abound. “If she doesn’t come to me and apologize.” “If he doesn’t notice what I did and say ‘thank you.’” The list of examples could on and on. Instead of testing someone who doesn’t even know he or she is being tested, go to him or her. Share your heart and what you are needing from that person. Make sure you don’t come in on the offensive with words and phrases like, “you always” or “you never.” Instead, put it back on you. “It makes me feel unappreciated when you do this,” or “I am needing this from you right now.” Pay attention to your sound and tone. Go into the conversation not only ready to share your heart, but prepare yourself to listen to the other person’s heart as well.”

Kris made the decision to go to John Henry and ask him why he responded the way he did. Kris explained how his words hurt him. Both were able to share their heart, and there were no unfair expectations placed on John Henry without him knowing those expectations. Kris was able to coach John Henry in how to respond in situations when he gets angry and upset. It became a coachable moment instead of a set-up and test. See the difference? The same applies in all of our relationships. Don’t set people up to fail you. It’s simply not fair. And, more times than not, that person will, indeed, fail you. You have two options when you are wanting something from another person: 1) Go to them, and share your heart with the tenderest of tones, or 2) Decide it’s something you can let go and manage without. Both options are necessary at different times in our lives. Both options place you in a position where you are choosing the relationship. Both options are redemptive. And, neither is unfair.

Let’s not place expectations on people. And, if we do, and they fail us, let’s choose forgiveness instead of resentment. Let’s play fair, extend mercy, and handle each other with the greatest of care.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Colossians 3:13

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When We Run Into Problems.

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

These verses carried me through the hardest time in my life over 14 years ago. I read this passage again this morning with a different set of eyes. A confident set of eyes. A heart that knows and understands. A life that can testify to it over and over and over again.

Our initial reaction to adversity and problems isn’t, “Well thank you, Jesus. This is going to grow me and strengthen my character.” No. It can be anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and so many other things. Certainly not happiness that we get to endure something hard. It’s not a normal reaction. Hey, you’re normal. So, I am I! However, once we get over the initial shock and awe of it, we get to make a choice how we are going to through the problem. Whether the problem is as large as what I endured 14 years ago when my husband walked out or even if it is as small as a conflict at your work, we get to choose to endure it with a confident hope that He will grow us and work it for our good.

So, what do we do after we get over the initial onset of a problem? I wanted to share some things that I do that may help you, too. First, I vent upward. That means I don’t share my problem with someone who isn’t on the same page of life with me spiritually. Because, that person may feed into my anger or resentment where nothing redemptive comes from it. I vent to someone who has compassion but who also brings light to it. They help me process it from a position of forgiveness and understanding. They remind me to trust Him. The conversation is always redemptive.

I slow down. Haste causes us to react instead of respond. It causes a build up of negative emotions and feelings that are hard to come down from. I slow down my responses, my comments, my time. When we slow down, we are able to think more clearly, take captive our thoughts that are negative more easily, and avoid making the mistake of saying or doing something we might regret.

I pray and meditate. This keeps my heart soft and refocuses my thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Don’t worry about your problem. Don’t dwell on it. Tell God what you need, and THANK Him for everything He has already done. Everything He has already delivered you from and made better for you. Re-center your thoughts on Him and on thankfulness. When you catch yourself dwelling on the problem, replace that thought with all of the good in your life. Everything you have to be thankful for. THEN, peace will flood your life.

Finally, I am open to change. What if I am the one that is the problem? What if God is not just working something for my good, but what if He is changing ME? What if I created the problem myself? Stay open to accept responsibility. Allow people you trust to speak into your life.

All problems are meant for our growth. I learned a long time ago to say, “Nothing goes wrong in my world.” Instead, every situation is an opportunity to grow. To learn. An opportunity to be a better friend. A better mom. A better wife. A better person. Without running into hard situations, it is impossible to become BETTER. So, with that knowledge, we really can rejoice in hard times. Because, we are then presented with an opportunity for our lives to be better. We may not always see the end from the beginning and know the hows and whys, but we can trust in the One who is working all things, ALL, for our good.

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