How do I judge thee? Let me count the ways. I see wrinkles and some laugh lines. Wait, your style has gone astray. A little chub, a little drab, too many freckles dot your nose. Some grays are showing through that dye job. You are tired and it shows.
You are too busy and too scattered. When is the last time you worked out? Overworked, underappreciated. Oh, I wouldn’t eat that amount. You’re unkempt, trying too hard, maybe today is not your day. I’m sure there was a better outfit choice this morning. Um, you shouldn’t wear stripes that way.
I would have dressed up or dressed down. Painted my cheeks a different pink. I surely would have pulled my hair up. It would look better, don’t you think? Your face is too long, eyes too big and shoulders wide. Hide your ears, quiet your voice, stuff all your fears inside. Wear something different, that look is lame. Same favorite sweater? Lacking grace, what a shame.
Sigh. Maybe I have made myself feel better by criticizing who you are. But, it will be brief and very fleeting as selfish thoughts splinter my heart. It will take a bit of warming, a bit of letting down my guard, before I can look much deeper and see who you really are.
What I have not noticed is that you’re so unique. Creative and amazing, you are truly at your peak. I hadn’t seen it all before. But, by looking a little deeper, I can appreciate you so much more.
Girl, yes you
are too tired. Can I help you out with
that? I understand when days feel short and life’s demands have knocked you
Girl, you are
so busy. I can see you focused in. You’re climbing the ladder of success,
looking for a total win.
Girl, I commend your effort, giving life all you’ve got. You show tenacity and spirit. From you, I could learn a lot.
Girl, you could be more recognized, but it’s not approval that you seek. You’re happy if the kids are fed and you’ve kept up another week.
Girl, I do love that sweater, those boots and that smile. But what I have learned today is worth cannot be measured by a sense of style.
My friend, great job on all you’ve accomplished and for letting your light shine. I hope my passion can mimic yours and someday be just as fine.
Rachel Asks: Have we ever found ourselves on the receiving end of unkind words and criticism? It makes us feel as if life is a performance sport where we are judged constantly based on our ability to perform at someone else’s standard. Conversely, have we found ourselves on the the giving end of such harsh words and thoughts? Where we have deemed someone’s worth based off our personal opinion of them? We can do much better as women! We can do much better as moms, sisters and friends. How can you show love today? How can you reverse this trend?
The God of my rock; in him will Itrust: he is my shield, my salvation, my high tower, my refuge, and my savior…
II Samuel 22:3
It was insufferable, the agony of waking to each new day but feeling no new sense of sunlight, of purpose or relief. The weight of the previous day and the day before that, and the one before that, clung to me like a concrete brick, with the full force settling on my chest and making it difficult to do simple things like breathe. What was the sense in trying today? I had no hope on the horizon, no reason to believe today was going to be any different.
Reminded of my obligations to things like work and bills, I moved through the day with robotic existence. Trying hard not to let myself feel too deeply or get too lost in my own sorrow and self-pity, I filled my days with busy things from sun-up until sun-down. Work was mostly my outlet, my excuse to be too busy to feel. I started a 2nd job to fill in the gaps the first one left behind. I volunteered, I worked, I busied.
I had no idea why my marriage had ground to a screeching halt. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. But I had not realized it was on the brink of utter failure. In fact, I didn’t realize this until I was away one Sunday morning, returned home and found our townhouse cleared out. Not even a note.
I figured out quite quickly that life would require a great deal of commitment to survive. Thankful for friends and family who provided emotional support, who cheered me on and came to my aid, I indeed did survive.
It took me quite a long time to feel alive, however. Being a victim of circumstance was challenging. I felt as if I had lost my husband, my home, my stability, my future, my hopes and all my dreams in just a single day. Now aimless and uncertain of the future, I spent quite a bit of time in prayer. For a while, I felt aimless in that too.
I wanted to know why and how I had failed, he had failed, we had failed in our vows to one another. I could not afford our home on just a single salary and I was forced to move within the matter of a few weeks. I fell to my knees again, “God, why am I going through this? Why is this trial in my life? How can this possibly get better?”
One such prayer session it was as if I heard in my mind the words “Matthew, seven and nine.” Unsure of the verse I opened my bible to search. “Or what man of there is you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” Intrigued, I scanned the previous statements.
Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a snake? If you then, being unholy, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
“God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding.”
It hit me all at once, God was communicating to me that he was, in fact, listening. He heard all of those prayers, saw every tear, understood every moment of confusion. I was asking him for direction and as my father, he was not going to leave me faltering on my own.
Immediately, I clung to this hope. Faith is not intended to be a magic wand and God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding. He saw the brokenness in my spirit and he gave me hope that he would meet me there for the mending.
I now realized that this trial was an opportunity. If I were willing to let him in, God could use it for my good. He could fashion something out of all my failures. I began to change my prayers. “Father, what can I learn in this moment and what are you trying to teach me? Help me to grow! Help me to trust! Help me to move forward and out of this dark place.”
This perspective and application of faith began to change the vision I had for my future. I became forward thinking again, not because I trusted myself, but because I knew the hand of the Father was there to guide me.
I began to channel my energies into productive choices. I returned to college, I looked for ways to serve my community. Instead of just being busy for the sake of filling my time, I was now passionate again about life because hope surrounded the day.
For some people they are able to recover marriages and restore those relationships once again. I am ever so thankful and excited when I see this come together for struggling families. For me, this was not my story. Although something very precious to me had been lost, God was still there in the middle of it all, working on my fragile heart. He taught me how to open my arms wider to those in need and to desire to love each day just a little deeper. He showed me the power of faith and that no matter what circumstance that I was in, that he was still completely faithful, loving and there. He was right there. Just a whisper away.
He taught me that I had not been buried, but rather planted. That I was in a process of growth that he would bring to full bloom at his appointed time. I did not have the power in myself to change the course of events leading up to this time of planting, but I did have the heart to trust God in his timing and in his process.
Rachel Asks: Will you join me on the journey of learning to trust God today? Take a few moments to breathe in and rest for a moment. Close your eyes and allow peace to come to you. Ask for clarity, for direction, for his guidance. He will meet you in this place. Allow him to meet you here.
It came out of nowhere, this rapidly beating heart and sense of anxiety and dread. I begin to scurry about, hurriedly turning things over, flipping things around. It has only been a few seconds, how could I have possibly lost them this fast? I retrace my steps, one time, two times, three…
This isn’t like me at all. Normally organized, meticulous and constantly working through a plan, I do not typically misplace things. I have systems for this, rhythms, rules.
I stop to realize that all my plans account for nothing if I have overwhelmed myself with work and tasks. My memory bank is not keeping up with my pace and now it has lent me to this mistake. I sigh, I turn and then I spy them. The bright orange wrist band peeking out from the corner of a shelf. I walk over and tug gently and out pops my ring of keys from their resting place. I whisper a prayer of relief and thanksgiving, a follow-up to the prayer I prayed while frantically searching. Truly, my heart is grateful.
It’s not that keys cannot be replaced, its the process of having to complete it since they belong to work. We have to replace the locks to the entire building, those above me have to be notified, all others who work in roles under me have to obtain a replacement, the fire department has to be called to replace the one in the lock box…the list goes on and on.
This sense of fear and dread stems from another past failure. Of misplacing something of critical importance at work that ultimately cost me my job. I wasn’t being careless or even non-committed, I had just simply taken my eyes off my responsibility for a moment and a moment is all it takes some times for things to fail. No one was personally affected by my error, but it was of importance to the company and they required me to be responsible. No hard feelings, but walking away from a failure like that leaves one totally susceptible to those fears taking over at the slightest hint of pressure in the future. My greatest personal failure is now my greatest stressor and I have to push that anxiety down over and over again since that time.
Fear has a funny way of taking it’s toll on our mind and body. As WebMD states, fear can cause our body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones like cortisol. This can cause physical reactions such as fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, irritability, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, muscle tension, sweating and more. If experienced long-term, these symptoms can lead to more serious issues like stress on the heart, digestive disorders, suppression of the immune system and premature coronary artery disease.
How can we overcome the effects of fear, especially if we have experienced a traumatic life-event or significant loss? For some the pain from the experience continues long after the event, such as the loss of a loved one or someone who has experienced physical or emotional harm. Time can distance us from the event, but our memory replays like a loop in our minds, our heart feels the weight, our body realizes the effect of the stress.
For some, it is a great idea to seek therapy and speak with a professional. Counselors do much more than just listen, they are an advocate for your cause. They can direct you to the best resources to give you support.
You can also make space in your day and apply yourself to quiet times of meditation, relaxation and prayer. According to WebMD, meditation helps balance the body’s systems. The relaxation response your body receives from mindful meditation helps lower blood pressure, improves heart rate, breathing and brain waves. It can also help increase one’s attention, learning, conscious perception, working memory.
The Bible has over a dozen different verses encouraging meditation and almost ten times that amount which speak about prayer. Psalm, chapter 1 describes a person who walks in good counsel and meditates on the Lord and states that person will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, one that is fruitful and prospers.
Meditation and mindfulness can also be a designated quiet time where you remove yourself from the demands of the day and take time to relax, breathe slowly and let your mind slow down. Even if just for a few moments, you will benefit from a pause in your daily routine. Let’s get practicing!
Rachel Asks: Take 3 minutes and devote yourself to quiet time. Set a timer on your watch or phone. Practice breathing at an even pace, close your eyes and remove distractions. Engage in prayer, if you desire. Ultimately, be calm and allow yourself to relax. Add a minute each time until you reach your desired amount. You can practice this several times per day! Check out the site below for recommendations on apps you can download to assist you in this new process.
Disclaimer: Author and LiveLoveDeep do not endorse any of the resources listed above. They are merely provided for your convenience. Please speak with a licensed and trained healthcare professional and/or counselor for your personal needs.
Let the life sustaining air that he created fill your lungs and give you strength for the next moment.
Sometimes prayer does not feel like enough because there are not words to describe what your heart truly needs. Sometimes worship seems distant, unobtainable, impossible to behold with all life’s circumstances.
And in again.
Until it feels like peace washing over you. Until the spirit runs through your being, filling in the broken, missing, empty spaces longing for wholeness, healing, completion.
I open the fridge to find it just sitting there. Delicately packaged, neatly arranged, ready and prepared for a new day is my husband’s lunch. I sigh, immediately slump my shoulders and feel the weight of defeat. Regrettably thoughts rush through my mind. Why do I even try? What’s the point? I had come home from work the evening before after a long day of stopping at the repair shop for the car, rushing to work because of the delay, leaving late trying to get everything accomplished, stopping at the grocery store to ensure ingredients were on hand for the week, only to arrive home far past dark and 20 minutes before the little one’s bed time.
Husband had prepared dinner for the kids and kept a bowl warm in the oven, a healthy morsel awaiting my arrival after the day. I appreciate him for these things. For the small acts of kindness that fill in the voids that time demands and the day seizes. Left to my own devices I probably would have eaten a handful of peanuts. However, to my delight a warm bowl of rice and seasoned pork sat on hand, the perfect temperature and deliciously prepared. I consumed enough to quiet the sounds of hunger gnarling inside and without taking a seat or pause, began preparing for the next day. Lettuce to peel, radishes to slice, tomatoes to quarter. Meat folded neatly on bread and wrapped just the same. Yogurt and berry cups prepared for the morning. Lunch cases organized and placed on the middle shelf, I felt accomplished and finally went to change for the evening, ready to shake off the days ventures.
Now, here it sits. Not forgetting his own sacrifice of time and love the night before, I had purposefully appreciated it and offered words of gratitude to him. Encountering the forgotten efforts the next day left me feeling a little deflated. The little one and I loaded up in the car and headed for her school drop off. I messaged him about the abandoned meal. He messages back a sad face and intent to get a granola bar from the vending machine to hold him over. Immediately my heart softens and my frustration melts away. It wasn’t purposefully ignored, just simply forgotten. I considered my agenda for the day and realizing I had enough time to help, I made a new plan.
Little one now in class, I head for the store. I carefully examine prepared meals until I find one that appears diet-friendly and that he might enjoy. Veggies, lemonade, yogurt and a fruit bar later, a new meal is ready to go. I stop by the coffee station on my way out and pick him up a medium roast. A gesture of love on what was is usually a busy morning of meetings and hectic schedules for him. I head east and swing past his office. He greets me with a kiss and a heartfelt thank you.
Nothing else really matters than this. This is marriage. The delicate balance of support and concern, of friendship and gratitude, of making life happen together.
I desire love to be the loudest voice in my life. I hope it echoes off the walls of insecurity and finds its way into the smallest crevices of my heart, like a flood searching for a turbulent exit. May it twist and wind, rush and flow, surge and roll until every last susceptible nook and cranny are overflowing with its abundance. May it tear at the roots of frustration and discontent, washing it far away from the new buds of concern and affection. May I always be willing to love first and demand last, to hope with abandon and run fervently towards compassion.
This usually requires a removal of self, the awareness of emotion that is offered for others and not wrapped tightly around the center of my own desires. It is sometimes a daily occurrence, this allowing of the satisfaction of others to satisfy myself. Yet, its the sweetest taste of life I have ever known.
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