No matter our leadership role, when the stress of it is high, so is the probability for a headache. When my son DJ was 4 years old, he got his first headache. You can see by the photo, he conjured up his own remedy: strap on a tight, tinted pair of goggles. When I asked if it helped, he looked at me with his Cuban sass and said, “My headache’s already gone!” So there you have it. Seriously though, back to our calling as leaders—positionally, it can manifest itself, physically. Fast forwrd to a couple years ago, DJ came home from school complaining of an acute headache. The kind where you need silence, darkness and prayer. This time it wasn’t because of too much candy or rough-housin.’ It was triggered by the calling of his young leadership. Ever since my boys asked God to be their personal Lord and Savior, I have told them they are leaders. Because in God’s economy, wherever we are, whenever we can, we are to lead others to Him. Daily, at school drop-off’s, my parting words to DJ and Andy are: I love you. Be a leader among your peers. Be a servant among your leaders. Back to DJ…during this particular instance, DJ was being pressured by his peers. The positional pressure of what to do and not to do, was manifesting itself physically, as a headache. I’m reminded of David the psalmist, who penned: “But you, O Lord…are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (Psalm 3:3) If headaches are a possible part of leadership, I’m comforted by these God-appointed and God-anointed words. I gave DJ a couple of Advil (not goggles), put him in a dark, quiet room and prayed for him. Today, I still pray for him, and Andy. That as they grow in their roles as leaders (and OUTgrow their need for mom) they know the Lord will ALWAYS hold their heads high, as they hold God high.
In Luke 1:38, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants.” In and of itself, this seems like a typical, biblical response. But when you study its context, you see how profound and unusual Mary’s response is. Mary said this after an angel told her she would become pregnant; and Jesus–God with skin on–would be her son. Mary was a poor, virgin teenager. The odds were stacked against her–she could have replied, “Sorry, I can’t.” See, Mary is an ordinary person like you and me, with extraordinary faith that we could have—if we choose it. Mary’s faith was extraordinary because she believed God’s message, though she could not see God. She accepted the impossible, though it wasn’t sensible. And by that faith, Mary would witness the miracle-birth of her son; and witness the death and resurrection of her Savior. My personal challenge from Mary’s response came in the form of a question: Heather, who are you faithful to? The gifts: your sons, your husband, your life? Or the Giver of your gifts: Jesus Christ. If you were me, how would you answer this? There were 32 years between the miracle of her son’s birth and the brutality of her Savior’s death. Imagine how much her faith was tested when she saw bad things happen to her good (and perfect) Son? But Mary remained resolutely faithful. In life, we all need something to cling to in faith. Proverbially, when life has us in a pit, we need a rope; when life has us over a cliff, we need a strong hand; when life has us in a fierce storm, we need an anchor. If Mary would have held onto her boy, if Mary would have protested his death, if Mary would have paid off the Roman governor, if Mary would have told her Son, “No, you can’t sacrifice your life for the world,” Mary wouldn’t have clung to her faith, but her circumstances. We are blessed to know the whole story of Mary’s faith. It ends VERY well! But her story is our story. I’m Mary—an ordinary person choosing to take daily steps into a deeper dimension of my faith. My circumstances won’t get me to the end of my eternal-triumphant-glorious story (as the bible teaches); my faith that will! And by faith, I pray your story will end that way too. I hope you know Him.
In Romans 8, the bible says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God.” Before meeting my sexy Cuban Raul, I looked at life through the lens of shattered-glass. I saw myself, circumstances, and others through broken prisms. The cup wasn’t half-empty, it was almost gone. The grass wasn’t greener on the other side, it was brown. The bowl wasn’t full of cherries, rather, rotten apples. But when I met Raul, I noticed that he didn’t see through the same lens as I did. Even though we could be looking at the same unfortunate event, he’d see it differently than me. Instead of seeing the world through shattered glass, Raul saw things through stained glass. Stained glass is stunning. If you’ve ever seen historical cathedrals, the stained glass in them will take your breath away. Why does Raul see things through stained glass eyes? Because at the beginning of his faith, he took Romans 8:28, literally! He truly believed (and still believes) that God works all things together for those who love him. Raul has taught me that if God is in it, we can look for the good in it. Not just in some things, but in all things. God is not an exaggerator. He’s not an embellisher. When he said “all things” in Romans 8, He meant it. When we become a Christ-follower, we become a new creature (Ephesians 4:24) and with that, comes a new set of eyes. Raul embraced his new eyes right away! For some like me, it takes more time accept their promising view. I know we all have eyes, but I hope we see through the stained glass of God’s promises. Life looks different, and I’m glad Raul showed me.
I’ve been forthright about my teen/college years in that I was one heck of a rebellious, prodigal daughter. I’m thankful I lived to tell about it. Several years ago, I was hurt by a group of good people. I’m thankful I made it through that as well. What I want to share is what I learned from those: pain and healing are not always on the same schedules. It took eleven years to screw up my teen/college years, but it took two decades to work through the consequences of them. It took a few months for that group of people to hurt me and fracture my marriage, but it took eight years to heal from it. Whether we cause the pain to ourselves or the pain is inflicted by others, days of healing are not always proportionate to the days of pain. Sometimes, the healing can take longer. Sometimes, the healing will be never-ending. My point? Be patient. Don’t trust the clock, trust the Time Keeper. The bible says in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Here, God doesn’t promise a time frame. He promises He’ll work it out for your good. He WILL nurse, tend-to and triage the residual aches, scars, side-effects, fears, hesitations, anger, depression, grief, regret and consequence. We must never think God was absent in the pain–but we must never think He will forget about us in the healing. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He was withe me in my pains of yesterday, and He is with me in the today’s and tomorrow’s of my healing. I can’t control time, but when I trust the One who does, I don’t have to. I hope this encourages someone today. <3
disclaimer: I am not a certified counselor or professional in mental health; just a pastor’s wife living with bipolarity.
One thing I’ve been guilty of doing, tempted TO do and observed others doing is using mental illness as an excuse to hurt others. I don’t like that I have done this. And when I bounced my behavior off God’s word, I don’t think God wants this for me, either. In the bible, Paul wrote, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” (2 Cor. 12:7-8) From this text, I learn that Paul was tormented. Like Paul, some of us are mentally tormented. However, what I glean from the subtext, is that PAUL says HE has a thorn. He owns it. He embraces it. He gives it to God. What Paul does not say is that his “thorn” is mine, your’s or ours. It’s HIS thorn. And as the text continues, God used it to display His grace and power (2 Cor. 12:9). Sometimes, I’ve been tempted to say, “But I can’t help it. It’s just the way my mind works.” But that doesn’t line up with God’s word. The bible says that we take our thoughts captive. That means, my thoughts are not my master if Jesus is my Savior. The bible also says the greatest commandment is to, “love your neighbors and your enemies.” Love does not mean using my “thorn” to hurt others with it. I hope you know my heart: that I know the struggle is real. I live with it every day. But I also hope this raw conviction about it encourages someone.
A couple years ago, I posted this post-it. There have been opportunities and relationships I am responsible for losing because I was stupid. But this #postit was dedicated to the ones I was smart enought to learn from. We have a choice to learn from our losses. Although the loss is part of our past, the lesson can be part of our future. I was thinking about this one stupid thing I did that rendered a big loss many years ago. Can’t go back and undo it, can’t deny it, so I had to accept it. But as a Christian, it didn’t stop there. I got to ask God to forgive me for it. He eradicated the guilt-voice in my head (sidebar: guilt beats up, conviction wakes up). Then I was able to pray, “Lord, what can I learn from this?” In God’s goodness, He led me to bible verses, and others who had done stupid things, to help me develop a rich lesson of learning. Having a spirit of learning from the things you lose can actually give you a win! Bud, choose to ride the wave of God’s grace and learn from your losses. BONUS, you’ll have wisdom to help OTHERS with theirs. Life is about choices. But if one of them is choosing to learn from the things I’ve lost, sign me up. In God’s economy, there will be no losers…only winners.
[Disclaimer: I am not an expert nor a professional. Just a client with a big mouth and Jesus. If you are having thoughts of taking your life or harming yourself, call 911 or Suicide Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255]
Whether we are medically, circumstantially (or sometimes both) battling depression, we are on a battlefield in our minds. These battles can require us to fight dark thoughts—sometimes hourly! I want to share my personal 1-2-3-4 process on what I do when the thoughts start waging war.
Here are 4 things I do:
1. I take my mental-verses with me, in my car, in my purse, everywhere I go, and read or recite them at the inception of bad, dark or negative thoughts. (see my mental-verses, here: http://wondherful.net/ten-verses-for-tough-times/)
2. If my dark thoughts move from occasionally dark to chronically dark, I call my counselor, ASAP. (see http://wondherful.net/not-too-cool-for-counseling/
3. I read books that are uplifting. Three of my fav’s are the Psalms in my Bible; “Battlefield of the Mind” and “Power Thoughts” by Joyce Meyer.
4. I get myself outdoors and my ears tuned to uplifting music. This gets me out of the atmosphere that was allowing my bad thoughts and into God’s great nature. And gets good songs stuck on repeat in my head. If I’m singing, I’m not depressively thinking!
Friend, you might battle depressing thoughts, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose the battle. I hope this encourages someone today.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicks her heels and recites, “there’s no place like home.” For her, home was Kansas, where Dorothy wanted to go back to normalcy, familiarity, comfort-ability. This makes a nice movie. But it wouldn’t make my reality show. Even if I could click my heels, I wouldn’t go back. Where I was, was where I needed to be, but God led me out. He knows best, His route is perfect. In the bible, Paul said, “My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead, I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven.” A few operative phrases are, “forget–behind,” “ahead,” and “run toward.” This is proof for me to not look back and wish I were there. God’s book is my life-book. I draw life from it like I’ve drawn oxygen from oxygen tubes when I’ve had pneumonia. I want to do what HIS book for MY life says. It is infallible, irrefutable, undeniable and unstoppable. If I would go my own way and click my heels to go back, I would MISS the chance to lace up my Addidas and run forward. No offense, Dorothy! Love the movie, but I’ll live like Paul. 🙂