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Our Family Secret

September 16, 2014

trust God

When we walk through dark or difficult places, there are always lessons to be learned. By the time we get to the other side of a trial, we have keen insights. Occasionally, we’ll be pulling from those insights, asking the question: What would you have done differently if given the chance? Today, we’re looking at how to do deal with your “family secret.” Steve and Amy’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, clinical depression, and suicidal tendencies. She attended an “alternative school” before dropping out and spent many nights and most weekends trying to find pain pills or something else to numb her reality. Life was a struggle for her and many days she felt like it wasn’t worth it. Her constant struggles impacted every aspect of the family. And while their situation may be unique, the challenges and lessons to be learned are not. I asked how they responded to the downward spiral their daughter was caught in. Here are some of the struggles that stood out:

Consumed with fear-

Would she kill herself?

Would she get pregnant?

What did they do wrong?

How could they help her and limit her damage on the rest of the family?

What was going on that they didn’t know?

Why couldn’t they help her?

What were legitimate fears and which one’s were completely irrational? Such questions and a constant barrage of “what if” scenarios plagued them.

Isolation-

They felt like people would judge them and their misguided attempts at help would only produce more pain. And the only real way to keep people from knowing what was going on was to withdraw from real relationships.

Grasping for Control-

When you feel like you’re losing control, your immediate reaction is to grasp for control, over whatever you can. They tried to control her, each other, and every aspect of their lives that would offer some much needed stability.

Failure and Despair-

They struggled with a deep sense of despair and personal failure. How could this not be their fault? They felt extremely helpless and couldn’t find a way out of the tailspin. Their struggles spiraled into every area of their lives.

Divorce Contemplation-

Normally, when one spouse is struggling, the other is able to compensate. But they were both languishing and were taking out their frustration on each other. Every small crack in their marriage was stressed almost to the breaking point.

Looking back, here’s what they say they’d do differently:

Humble themselves and reach out quicker for help-

Their main regret was their isolation from others. Amy said repeatedly, “It would have been worth the risk.” 

 Allow God to truly be Savior, Lord, and Healer-

They needed God’s healing but they were too caught up in their own pain and problem solving efforts to open their hearts to His love.

Simplify their life-

“Between everything going on with our daughter, and our individual jobs and evening activities that kept us apart 3 or 4 nights a week, our lives were on separate tracks and we weren’t deliberate about being a family.”

Release outcomes to God-

Guilt doesn’t change the past and worry doesn’t change the future.

Steve said, “I wish I had learned how to release outcomes after doing all I could do. We needed to trust her to God and remember that ultimately, God was sovereign.”

Go on a marriage retreat when they hit the wall of despair-

“We both expected our marriage to end in divorce and kept sliding further and further in a downward spiral. Neither of us knew how to get out of it yet we didn’t stop life to address it. It’s crazy to say this, but I’m not sure it felt worth it at the time. Fortunately, we pressed through, but we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache by setting everything aside and focusing on healing our marriage.”

The plans of the enemy are not new. Isolation is the ultimate tactic. Just like the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” spoken of in Scripture, we become so much more vulnerable when we are broken off from the herd, so to speak. Reaching out to God and to others is vital during crisis.

Have you been through a similar situation? Have you found healing in your marriage or family? What did you learn? What would do differently?

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Blog, Featured Posts, Healing, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Formation

Help…They’re Stealing My Peace!

July 22, 2014

conflict resolution strategies

“Help, they’re stealing my peace!” How often have we said this? The day starts out right. Coffee by the pool… A little worship music and a reflective read through a morning devotional…

…but then it quickly spirals into what feels like an all-out assault on our peace.

The phone call.
The words with your spouse.
The kids’ third argument of the day.
The inconsiderate tone, again.

Relationships that are already strained can quickly chip away at the peace you’re “supposed to be able to enjoy in your home.”

When Peace Seems Elusive

That’s good news —especially when we are feeling robbed. There is a higher place than the one we are seeing at the moment.

I have found, after overcoming some great hurdles in my own family, that we can run right to Jesus’ teaching when family difficulties and a clear lack of peace arise.

Pray for Those Stealing Your Peace

Don’t go to other people to talk, vent or validate. Go to God. Search His Word. Pray for them. Pray that God helps you see them as He sees them. Ask God to search your heart, flood you with His love, and renew your mind. Ask God for wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. —James 1:5

It’s incredible how often our struggles with people will stop right here. We don’t have to go any further. God softens our heart, changes our perspective, and we’re good.

When that’s not the case and it’s clear that a resolution is needed, it’s time to convene a peace conference.

Convene a Peace Conference

A peace conference is simply going to the person and facing the conflict, in the pursuit of peace.

Despite what people say, time doesn’t heal everything. Time can bury things, but buried things can still yield influence. It’s like a field with buried land mines in it, you just hope you know where not to step. It’s there, it’s damaging, and so we avoid it. It’s much better to clear out the land mines and the only way to really resolve conflict is to face it. Hold a peace conference.

Peace Conference 101

In the pursuit of peace, we need to be willing to take the first step. It’s not about blame. It’s not about our rights or who was at fault. Only the end goal of resolution should be in mind. It’s about sowing peace. If it’s not, go back to step one (prayer).

This is such a big deal to Jesus that in his first teaching he prioritized it over worship.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. — Matthew 5:23-24

“But leave your offering.” I love that! Reconciliation takes priority over worship. Don’t put it off, don’t wait for them to come around, don’t wait until it’s 6 feet under ground, go, do it today.

When you get there, don’t forget to remain vulnerable. It’s so easy for good intentions to turn into a venting session. Certainly, both grace and truth are necessary. If we’re all grace and no truth, it’s not real. If we’re all truth, no grace, it’s really bitter. We need both, together, interlocked at all times.  It’s not instinctive, but when we can have the humility, love, and courage to face the truth, face the person, and possibly hear some painful truth as well, growth is a certain result.

For further reading, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande is a practical and insightful book on how to live in this world and walk in the peace we are intended. Another wonderful book is The Healing Presence by LeAnne Payne. Click on the image below for your opportunity to win your copy.

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Blog, Featured Posts, Healing, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Formation

A Better Way to Ground Your Teen

July 17, 2014

rooted and grounded

In a moment of desperation, have you ever announced to your teenager, “That’s it! You’re grounded for life!” These words are actually a better vision of what we want for our teens than they appear to be at first glance. Teenagers need to be “grounded.” They need deep roots and a strong sense of identity that comes from nurture and structure.

In reality, your teen will become grounded. She will find a place to belong and a community to affirm her identity. Will it be your home? Or will your lose your role to a peer group? The challenge we face as parents is how to ensure that our family remains their home base.

How does this happen? What does this healthy, nurturing soil look like that is conducive to being “grounded?”

Belonging

Your teen is becoming more independent, but still needs to feel like he belongs in your family, that he is an insider —never an outsider.  As he naturally starts to pursue this independence, it can translate into family exclusion. Priorities drag them away from the home…Friends, activities, school and family need to be reversed so they remain in proper order (family, school, friends and activities).  It’s essential to hold a healthy tension here, allowing them to grow in independence while preserving a strong emotional bond.

Affirmation

Celebrate and affirm your child’s uniqueness and gifting. Make sure YOU are his biggest cheerleader, not a critic or judge.

Here’s a helpful image: Let’s say you’re teaching someone to ice skate. You’re in front, but you’re moving backward with an open posture and your eyes are on them. At first you are holding their hands, but you soon let go and give them some space, encourage them to stand up and skate on their own. If they fall, that’s okay! You’re encouraging them and not shaming or berating him. They feel safe with you. Safe enough to continue to improve, until they are finally skating on their own.

It’s like this with your teen. They are learning. You can’t allow your discipline to fracture your relationship or bruise them spiritually. Discipline is discipling, teaching. What I have to constantly tell myself is to be patient with repeated failures! Keep calling them up. Never push them down.

parenting teens

Love

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always believes the best in him.
Pray everyday for him, “Father help me to see my child the way You see him. Help me to bless him and affirm him as the man you are calling forth.”

Stay away from lectures. They can be filled with words that communicate disappointment, anger, and rejection. Instead of lecturing. try active listening, re-do’s and natural, consistent consequences.

As your teen becomes more independent an emotional connection becomes more challenging. Always be willing to be “the pursuer” of the relationship. This provides a clear picture of the way our heavenly Father pursues us.

And above all else —never withhold love. Love is not synonymous with approval. We are called to love unconditionally. Learn to make that clear separation that allows you to love and encourage while still upholding the consequences you have laid out.

A secure, consistent and loving space to fly, and occasionally fail are necessary elements to a well grounded teen.

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Featured Posts, Healing, Marriage, Relationships

Healing Scriptures for Relationships

July 11, 2014

marriage quotes

Sometimes, we just need to get alone and meditate on healing Scriptures and encouraging words.

Anywhere you are during the day can become a type of sanctuary. The Spirit of God is within you, so your SUV, your shower, your walk-in closet, or the laundry room can instantly become a place of worship and meditation. Really, anywhere you are can be a holy sanctuary. All you have to do is recognize that God is with you and take a minute to turn aside to Him.

Below, I’ve compiled some encouraging words and healing Scriptures for marriage and relationships. One of my favorite quotes from Oswald Chambers is, “The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain. This is all God asks us to give our attention to and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.”

Read these healing Scriptures, meditate on them, commit them to memory. Write them out, share them, tweet them.

“The Words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” —John 6:63

Healing Scriptures for Marriage and Relationships

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23

 

 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. —Ephesians 4:31-32

 

 

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. —Colossians 3:12-14

 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. —Ephesians 4:29

 

 

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

healing scriptures

 

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Featured Posts, Spiritual Formation

How to Find the Secret Place of Joy

June 10, 2014

White ear buds

I was out of town last week, headed to an early morning meeting. I pulled off the exit hoping to find a place for a quick breakfast before I arrived.
Panera Bread? Perfect. I know it’s going to be a good day —so I swing in, order a breakfast sandwich and coffee. While I’m waiting I notice the guy down the counter making my sandwich is dancing. He’s not just swaying to the music, this guy is laying down some pretty complicated moves. His feet, hips, his whole body is involved in this dance. His knife is a drum stick and my sandwich is his drum pad. 6:30 in the morning and here’s a young guy, wide awake, dancing hip hop to the sound of Panera’s sleepy elevator soundtrack. Quite an amusing picture.

Then he brought me the sandwich and it made sense —he had little ear buds in. I ask him about it and he says, “Ah, man, I can’t listen to this stuff all day. It’d make me crazy. I gotta listen to my own stuff.”

Reminded me of the saying, “He marches to the beat of a different drummer.” Have you ever said that about someone? Has anyone ever said it about you? The idea being that there’s a normal rhythm or order people tend to follow but somehow one person breaks that norm —they hear what others don’t hear and they move according to what they hear rather than how others move.

Take Five by Dave Brubeck is one of my favorite pieces of music. Take a listen to it below:

What’s unique about Dave’s style is that he experimented with very different time signatures and played in multiple keys simultaneously. As a teenager, he’d ride horses on the large ranch his dad managed and from the saddle he’d listen to the rhythmic clip clap of the horses hooves and try to think of other beats to play against it in his mind. “Now, the horse might be keeping one rhythm for you,” he said, “but you can start another one and then think in another one.”

Dave wasn’t confined to a preset rhythm…You aren’t confined either. You can march to the beat of a different drummer.

This saying is actually from a poem of Thoreau’s, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

I submit to you that the path to joy proceeds along a route far different from the one most traveled, and if you are to ever experience true joy, you must first learn to hear that “other drummer.”

True joy is either always possible or always elusive because it doesn’t depend on your circumstance.

…And Here’s How the Different Drumbeat Enters

You don’t need to escape your present life to experience a completely different reality. It has nothing to do with a particular geography, position, person or specific ratio of pleasure to pain. True joy is not circumstantial…it’s dispositional. It’s a different drumbeat, a life set in rhythm to a different drummer.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:4-7

The apostle Paul here is laying out this radically different route to joy —assuring us that always and anywhere joy is possible.

Why? There is one single reason why you don’t need to exercise complete sovereignty over your life and take on all of the burdens and anxieties: God is near.

It’s really quite amazing. The longer and closer I walk with the Lord, the more I see His hand in creation —and the more I see His hand, the easier it is to trust Him. And there is a really important caveat to make here: Paul is writing to Spirit-filled believers. This only makes sense if God’s Spirit is alive in you. If God’s Spirit is not alive in you, it won’t make sense, and it will never make sense until the Holy Spirit regenerates your life. But when He does, you’ll begin to recognize what I mean by a different drumbeat. You’ll hear differently, you’ll move differently, and you will experience the fulfillment of these promises of joy and peace.

In verse 7, it’s as if Paul finds a secret place, “the peace of God that is beyond understanding.”

It’s beyond understanding when current circumstances don’t look like the perfect ground for joy and peace, but we know differently. We know that if we choose to hear that “other drummer,” though it may be a distant sound at first, the more we lean in to it, the louder it will become —and although outwardly our joy doesn’t seem to make sense, it is coming from another place. You’ve got the earbuds in, and you hear what others don’t hear. You see what they don’t see.

…And Then It Becomes Your Reality

Joy is not circumstantial, it’s not just a passive feeling when the ratio of pleasure to pain is highly in our favor. It’s dispositional.  It’s a different drumbeat, a life set in rhythm to a different drummer.

Choose to hear it.

Our bodies constantly convert food into energy and discard everything else. It’s an automatic process. Our minds should do the same. Every circumstance, every situation is redeemable. We find the good, the pure, the noble, the upright, and we release everything else. The story we tell is always redemptive, it’s always a story of hope. But unlike our bodies, this process of conversion is not automatic in our thoughts, we have to choose it. Like Dave Brubeck said about rhythm, you can set your minds to hear a different beat and then think in it.

This is the process Paul is describing here:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  —Philippians 4:8

I invite you to pick up your ear buds and hear the other drummer today.

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