There have been times in my life that I have had to separate from people in my life. These people were toxic to me for a time, during my healing process. They were family and friends that I loved dearly. These people had learned to expect me to react in a certain way in situations and many times without recognizing it they would wound me deeply with their words and actions. The lesson I chose to take from my upbringing was that I had no worth and value and my opinion or my feelings just didn’t matter. When God began to heal me of the deep wounds I carried in my soul it seemed selfish to set up boundaries with others. During the beginning of my healing process God had to begin to transform my mind and as I continued to allow people to bombard me with their opinions’ of me, it was like ripping the scab off a physical wound. If we keep ripping our wounds open we can develop very strong scar tissue around them and make it nearly impossible to heal.
God has taught me over the years that sometimes we have to separate ourselves from certain people if they refuse to respect our boundaries. We need to be careful that we don’t do this from a place of resentment or judgment, but from a place of love. This can be extremely difficult in the beginning because our wounds are still so fresh, but if we continue to seek God and trust Him to guide us we will find it gets easier over time. There’s a saying that is so true, “hurt people, hurt people “This is something to remember when we are dealing with people who have hurt us. It reminds us to remember not to cast judgment on those who are hurting us, because we don’t have the ability to look at their heart and know what they have been through. We might think we know, but no one every truly can understand how someone will react to any given situation. Some people are abused as children and grow up to be very productive and loving members of society and still others become outcasts and people who live out their lives in anger and resentment. I have truly come to believe that God can use each and every situation for good in our lives should we choose to look at them as He does. God can completely transform our lives and our relationships if we choose to surrender to His will and not fight for our right to exact revenge for ourselves.
I want to offer a word of encouragement to anyone struggling to set healthy boundaries or heal from deep wounds. God will come into your situation and change it if you seek His wisdom and abandon your own “stinkin’ thinkin”, as Joyce Meyer would say. God has redeemed many relationships in my life that I thought were completely without hope. Immerse yourself in His Word and continue to ask for His guidance in handling people that may be especially difficult for you to be around. There are some scriptures that have been useful to me during my times of healing. James 1:2-5 “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 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.” Proverbs 3:5-6 “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Is there someone in your life that you have to separate from for a season? Do you have a favorite verse that comforted you in your time of healing?
This weekend I was given the gift of going back to Pennsylvania to see my aunt, who has been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw her and frankly was thinking it might be very difficult to see someone that I had loved and looked up to in such a weakened state. Imagine my surprise when she gave me that same mischievous smile that has always warmed my heart. She still is cracking jokes and laughing even though she cannot do anything for herself. She was always so independent, and I couldn’t imagine how she would be coping with her condition, but as I watched her this weekend it became clear that it was her strength and stubbornness that was really helping her to cope with this latest turn of events.
My two cousins, her daughters, moved me with their compassion and willingness to care for her and still enjoy who she is. They have faced each obstacle with a creativity and tenacity that I could only dream of having in their circumstances. Thinking about facing a situation like this has always frightened me and I’ve always avoided talking or thinking about it. It reminded me that God can work through each and every circumstance in our lives should we choose to allow it. As I pondered this situation a verse in Isaiah came to mind. Isaiah 61:3 “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” It reminded me that true joy isn’t about life’s circumstances lining up the way we think they should, but about us receiving our joy from our heavenly father so that no matter what is happening around us we can rejoice in Him. This joy is not a pretense, but is about finding the things we can be grateful for no matter what is happening in our lives. Every day is a precious gift no matter what is happening around us. We get to choose how we react to every event in our life. We choose whether to make the best out of every situation or to sit on our “pity pot” and waste precious time until we decide that we are going to enjoy our life and learn each lesson as it comes our way.
So many of us spend too much of our lives living for “someday” without realizing that today is our someday! Our lives will begin to change drastically when we truly have had enough of feeling sorry for ourselves and decide to appreciate each and every moment we are given. This may seem harsh to some, but it is certainly what I needed to shake myself out of years of self-pity and the idea that I was somehow cheated of the good life. I will be forever grateful for those God surrounded me with who refused to allow me to wallow in my self-pity and helped me learn how to walk in gratitude every day!
Life can seem like a kaleidoscope at times. When I was young I could stare into the kaleidoscope for hours, fascinated by the ever changing shapes. No matter how long I turned it the shapes created were unique each time. That’s what life can be like. We have a moment in time that we are comfortable with and everything starts to fall into place, but then some of the pieces start to fall away and our image seems to be destroyed. Many times if we continue to move forward, embracing those changes we see a beautiful, new image appear. Each new season of our life can be like that. We have the appearance that things are falling apart, but they really are just shifting and becoming something new and beautiful again. So many of us fight to maintain the old beautiful picture that we had, and we miss the new and beautiful one coming down the road.
Sometimes we cause ourselves undue heartache and stress by holding onto the old picture, and we miss the opportunity to enjoy the new one that’s forming. Our relationships can be like that; they are constantly changing and sometimes we fight to keep things the way they were and in doing so miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the new and different relationship that is forming. Sometimes that new and different relationship can be deeper and more rewarding than the old if we learn to embrace the changes with excitement rather than dread. We can focus on what is lost and lose sight of what is coming, or we can set our minds to enjoy the new and not miss a minute of the ride. At first glance the new picture might not seem as nice as the previous one, but if we learn that this is not the end of the journey we might discover that a few more pictures down the road may just take our breath away. The Bible tells us in many places to not hold onto the old, but to look forward to the new thing that God is getting ready to do. Just one example is Isaiah 43:18-19 “18 Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. 19 Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert,”
When we view our lives in this way we can truly begin to live fully and enjoy each and every moment, regardless of what is going on around us. When we let go of control and our ideas of what things need to look like we give God free rein to shift the pieces to wherever they need to go. It sometimes looks as though everything is falling apart, when in reality, God is creating a beautiful new masterpiece. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t take time to grieve our losses, but when we stay focused too long on what we’ve lost we may miss opportunities for new things to be created. We can’t truly live until we abandon our thoughts of what we think things should look like and embrace the unknown and be willing to trust that God knows more than we do and He knows how all the pieces should come together. When we surrender we win! We are called to live by faith, not by sight or by what we think we know. When we choose to live this way, we are free!
What are you focused on today? Are you ready for true freedom and abundance in your life?
Helping others is something that we all should do, but it can quickly run amuck if we don’t examine our motives for reaching out to others. For years, I reached out to “help” others as a way of self-medication. At the root of my desire to help was selfishness. I was helping others to make myself feel good about myself. When you help others with anything other than a selfless attitude it can lead to disaster.
Helping those in need can get messy. We have to become vulnerable and sometimes we just might get hurt, but that is what reaching out to others is about. It’s risky business in reality when we step out and give freely of ourselves. We have to be willing to be rejected by those we are reaching out to and learn not to take it personally. If we truly wish to help someone we have to divorce ourselves from deciding what the outcome should be. When we help others with our own agenda in mind we will almost always be disappointed.
In order to learn how to help others, I think, we first need to be on the receiving end of help. I was “helped” by people throughout my life; some people had their own motives and others just helped out of a desire to help with no investment in the outcome. When people helped me with no strings attached it was easier to receive than when someone was helping out of their own agenda. So many people “helped” me with strings attached that after awhile I became angry at people who offered to help me. This anger stemmed from the feeling that once they “helped” me I would forever owe them. This thinking gave me a distorted view of God. It seemed to me that if He was going to help me, than I better walk the straight and narrow or there’d be trouble.
This lie kept me from being able to truly receive God’s love for myself. It took me some time to realize that not everyone who offered to help me wanted something in return. After gaining this knowledge I was in turn able to begin to give freely to others. We must be mindful when helping others of the example we are setting. Sometimes we are the only example of God some people get to see and if we aren’t careful we can plant a seed of distrust in them.
Helping can be a wonderful thing when we let go of our pride and expectations and just give freely from our heart. Something that helps me is remembering that sometimes it’s my job to plant the seed and someone else’s job to water it, and sometimes I don’t get to see the harvest. Slowly, I’m learning to be patient and trust that God knows the people He’s called me to reach out to, far better than I, and He knows exactly what they need at the exact time they need it. Trusting God’s timing is the key to being able to truly help others.
“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond…” ― Jessy and Bryan Matteo This quote reminds me that sometimes planting the seed has a huge impact that we may never get to see, but it still has the same impact whether we see it or not.
People talk a lot about stepping out of their comfort zone, but what does it really mean? Sometimes it means getting up and doing something that makes you afraid, but sometimes it means staying in a marriage or staying in a job when things aren’t going your way simply because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it means balancing your checkbook, organizing the house or doing the mundane everyday things that need to be done so we are prepared to do the bigger things when they come our way. Stepping out of our comfort zone doesn’t have to be something that is what most of us think of as courageous like skydiving or going to some foreign land to “find your purpose”. It can be staying somewhere that is uncomfortable for us, because the truth is that we are only growing when we are uncomfortable.
For example, I like to start new things, but struggle to see them through to the end at times. When you’re starting something new the adrenaline’s pumping, it’s exciting and feels good jumping into the unknown, especially for an adrenaline junkie like me.
This has been my pattern for most of my life; in fact, it is something that I continue to struggle with from time to time. The idea comes and I get very excited and plan out what I’m going to do and I start out strong with determination and then comes the boring detail and the follow up part. Many times if I get off task for even a short period of time it seems impossible to get back into the groove and it’s easy to get distracted by thinking about the next thing I want to do. Here’s where maturity comes in and we have to determine not to be distracted from the task at hand. Maturity is about seeing things through to the end, even when it comes to the boring, not so glamorous parts. Maturity means you keep your commitment to finish what you start even if you think you’ll be moving on to something different when you’re done. Maturity means you finish as strong as you started.
Many people have said that standing up and giving my testimony is being brave, but I look at people that have stuck it out in marriages that seemed hopeless or jobs where they have been mistreated with a gracious attitude as the ones who are brave. Bravery to me is when someone maintains an attitude of gratitude while living in overwhelming circumstances. We need to maintain a balance between stepping out in faith and finishing what we committed ourselves to even when it doesn’t feel good. Staying put and keeping our commitments can be outside our comfort zone more than leaping into the next thing for many of us. There are things that we need to let go of because they are harming us. Sometimes we need to get out of toxic relationships or things that are not serving the purpose we’ve been given; however, if it becomes a pattern in our lives that’s when we need to look more closely at ourselves and our motives. If we spend our lives starting things but never finishing them we won’t be able to have much of an impact on the world around us. There are times when we need to let go of something and then there are times when we have to continue to push ourselves farther than we ever thought we could. The challenge comes in knowing when to press in and when to let go.
I challenge you today to examine yourself and your motives before making a change.
Is there something you need to let go of today or do you need to push through?
Here’s a blog inspired by a dear Christian sister of mine (you know who you are). Love you sister! Hope you enjoy and thank you for the inspiration that you are everyday!
We hear the phrase “They know how to push my buttons” all the time. This phrase gives “they” all the power and leaves us the helpless victim. Many times we dread coming together to fellowship with our families for this very reason. What if we became buttonless? Who would have the power then? I’m not talking about denial here. What this means is that we can learn to focus on ourselves and our own issues rather than arming ourselves for the attack we think is coming. How many arguments could be avoided by simply not preparing ourselves for them?
Before I had started focusing on myself and my issues, I used to rehearse the fights that I just knew would be coming. I made a judgment of what I thought was going to happen and became like a blood hound searching for evidence that I was right. After all, buttons are really pride and pride is sin. It’s so difficult for us to deal with the truth when we try to cover it up and make it sound pretty. Many may think this is setting a healthy boundary or being real, but in reality we are setting ourselves up for failure. Inevitably we will find what we are looking for. If we are looking for a fight, we will almost certainly find one. Sometimes at the beginning of our healing we may have to set up some parameters to help us learn how to cope with conflict in healthy ways, but we don’t need to stay there. We need to be careful that our heart is right and we are not fighting for our rights in a prideful way.
Setting healthy boundaries means we go into these situations without expectations of what we think should happen. We can learn to go into these situations and be in the present moment accepting our loved ones as they are and not with our perception of who they are. We can go in expecting to learn a valuable lesson or realize that the people we love have amazing qualities that we never noticed before. Sometimes we miss the greatest gifts in life because we are so determined to see things through our eyes and prove that we are right. True freedom comes when we lay down our expectations and our pride and allow humility and love to take over.
As we continue to work on ourselves and our issues we can learn to have less and less buttons. We can learn to look forward to meeting with our friends and relatives and not dread these encounters. We can look at these situations as growing practice, rather than something we must endure. Growing can be painful, but the prize at the end makes the pain worthwhile. This is how we can start to make a lasting impression on our loved ones and lead them on the road to their own healing. This is leading by a loving example, like Christ taught us to do.
Last week I had the privilege of taking my daughter to the airport and seeing her off on her next adventure. It was bittersweet, because I knew I would miss her immensely, but at the same time it is exciting to see her live her life based on what God has called her to do. She has been able to do things that I didn’t even dream about doing when I was her age. We all want our children to have a better start in their lives than we had, and it’s such a joy to see it happen.
As I reflect back on the journey we have been on for the last four years, it is incredible that she has grown into the powerful, passionate, on-fire Christian woman that she is today. I am blessed to see that so many of the prayers that I prayed in despair have been answered. Prayers that Asia would be willing to accept change into her life, prayers that she would finally be comfortable in her own skin, prayers that God would reveal His love to her, and so many more. Those prayers were prayed when it seemed ridiculous to hold on to hope. Prayer is so very powerful; it changes things that would appear to be impossible to change. God tells us in His Word to continue to petition Him for our needs, even when they seem impossible to us. We pray and put our trust in God to give us His answers in His timing. The key is to trust Him when we don’t see or understand what He is doing.
It has been such a blessing to see that the generational curses that have plagued our family for many years have been broken. She is now free to live the abundant life that Jesus died to give us all. God was true to His word, as always, and brought us out of our Egypt and restored our lives to more than we could have hoped for. It was a journey that took longer than I expected and was also harder than I thought it was going to be. This is not to say that our life is now perfect, but we are able to be grateful for where we are and celebrate our victories instead of being angry at our circumstances. It is refreshing to be moving in a forward direction even if it seems to be at a slower pace than I would like.
The point is to remember to lay down our plan and the perception of what we think our life should look like. When we let go of our idea about how God can help us we are open to receive God’s Plan and move forward out of our wilderness much more quickly. When we do this, God can begin to develop the dreams and desires that He has place in us. We will be able to walk in true freedom once we surrender ourselves to God’s sovereignty. When we walk in this freedom, it allows us to have a far greater impact on the world around us, rather than the world impacting us. We get to be the thermostat rather than the thermometer.
So today I encourage you to focus on what God is trying to tell you through the circumstances in your life and to trust Him to bring about the changes needed in His timing. In the meantime, hang in there and trust that He has your best interests in mind through any and all the circumstances surrounding you.
Are you willing to do what it takes to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer?