When we choose solitude it is a good thing (Jesus himself chose time for solitude). But sometimes life will give us seasons of UNCHOSEN loneliness. During these, perhaps no one is texting you, “liking” your posts, including you in everything, pouring encouragement into your tank, or all of the above. It’s a big world and you feel like the smallest one in it. Jesus experienced this too. He hung by nails on a cross, separated from the world; and the bible tells us what he did in his final, loneliest moments: he cried to God and he talked to God. If all we depend on is the encouragement of the world–what will we do when the world isn’t there? In my former seasons of unchosen loneliness, I had no access to community. I had to learn to look within (not around) for encouragement. Seeking encouragement from within, I discovered there was a bounty of encouragement there. A “still, small voice” reminding me that I’m God’s royalty! His heir! His favorite Heather Michelle Funk Palacios! My soul whispered to my loneliness that my Master-Artist was still actively showcasing me, His masterpiece, to this world! Maybe others were finished with me, but if HE wasn’t finished with me–I wasn’t finished with me! I learned to encourage myself by His declarations over my life and His promises in His book. Today, if you are “unchosenly lonely,” I hope you seek encouragement from within. They say it’s lonely at the top–your Savior would know from being abandoned atop a cross. So He gets you! And right now, he’s ready to encourage you, from within.
I’ve written posts for people who mentally struggle but I haven’t written much for those who love them. The following are not tips I’ve applied to myself. Rather, tips who people like my parents, Raul and my pastors have applied to me. I hope this encourages someone.
1) Love them doesn’t mean understanding them. Love them, tell them you love them, show them you love them, but don’t feel that love also means “getting it.” Numerous times, Raul has had to literally say, “I don’t understand, but OK.” I respect that so much and I receive that answer because it is the truth.
2) Consider counseling for yourself. There is NO shame in needing someone to talk to who specializes in the field of psychiatry or psychology. Raul has saved himself a ton of guessing by just going to a counselor to educate himself on my brain.
3) Read! There are so many wonderful books out there that explain, in simple English, the condition your loved one has. Raul has read, “Boundaries,” “Bondage Breaker,” “The Power of the Praying Husband,” to name a few. And I always recommend to people in Raul’s shoes, “The Battlefield of the Mind.”
4) This last point is the most precious one to me. My parents and Raul have experienced some pretty crappy stuff with me but they have never given up on me. My mom and dad have never disowned me and Raul has never left me. I don’t deserve the loyalty, and I’ll never be able to repay it. But I would accredit Jesus Christ in my heart and their loyalty in my life as the two biggest reasons why I’ll never give up!
Jealousy isn’t one of those “sexy” sins. I am more likely to go up to someone and confess, “I’ve been impatient with you,” or “I struggle to trust you.” But rare is the day I go up to someone and confess, “I’m jealous of you.” It’s one of those secret-sins that we don’t like to confess and we masquearade in the names of “insecurity” or “poor self image.” But if we call it what it is….it is ugly, a sin and a soul-cancer. We don’t HAVE to be a jealous people – because we are made in the image of a non-jealous God. Guys, we are better than this! Here is a formula I’ve used over the years to help me attack, jealousy, head-on:
1) Show myself the TRUTH about jealousy: Proverbs 27:4, “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” James 4:2, “You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” And 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is not jealous.”
2) Confess my jealousy to God, He died on the cross for this sin and He arose for its victory!
3) The bible says: “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” So commit to asking God daily: “Please help me STOP jealous thoughts before they become full-on feelings!”
4) Intentionally cheer for the one you’re jealous of. It’s hard for jealousy and kindness to coexist in the same heart. Kill it with kindness.
Don’t be jelly, it isn’t sexy! I hope this helps someone today. ❤️
Over the course of my years on this third rock from the sun, I’ve had many chances to quit. And there’s explanations for all of them–for why I didn’t. But there is one reason I hadn’t thought of until tonight: I can’t quit because then someone else could. Yes, my quitting could be contagious. There are those who quit on their marriages, quit on their parenting, quit on their jobs, quit on their mission. And if all of us quit, all at the same time, for all the same justifications–the world would stop running. Let the quitters, quit. But you stay! Stand back up again. Get out of bed. Fight forward. Come back. Someone needs you because someone else quit on them. Be the NON-quitter in someone’s life. Jesus Christ, inside your weary heart, is a Comeback-King. If he didn’t let death quit on him, He’s not gonna let life quit on you. I hope this encourages someone today!
Today it occurred to me that this month marks sixteen years since I was mandatorily locked up in a psych ward for an attempted suicide in a public place. To the majority, this probably doesn’t seem like a typical day to commemorate. But lemme tell ya–it’s a day I’ll never forget! I hope you’ll take a moment to join me in a celebration…1) I give thanks that since July 2000, I haven’t returned to the psych-ward. A 16-year (and-running) answer to prayer! Never stop praying!
2) I give thanks that although I still fight battles in my mind, God never leaves us alone to fight them.
3) I give thanks that Raul Palacios hasn’t been forced to stay with “crazy”–but for sixteen years–has chosen to.
4) I give thanks that God MAKES ALL THINGS NEW. At 26, I was a washed-up, tired, misunderstood, lifeless, locked-up, burned out, unstable, stained, scarred, depressed, anxious Christian. Even though I’m much older, I am still waking up to NEW mental-mercies every morning.
Thanks for letting me commemorate this day. One shout-out to anyone fighting a mental battle today: Stay on the battlefield. God is fighting for you. Don’t give up. You got this. You ARE gonna do great things.
“He forgives all my sins and heals all my distresses.” (Psalm 103:3) We all know money is hard to come by. So one of the greatest feelings in the world is when you owe money, and out of nowhere are told, “Don’t worry about it, it’s been taken care of.” That’s the BEST because when pardon is made for something difficult to attain, it is wonderfully liberating. If my alma mater called to inform me that I didn’t need to pay back my student loans, I would surely accept! Conversely, Raul would freak if I insisted on holding onto the debt and refusing their offer. Friends, since I was born, I’ve been sinning (accumulating debt) and my sin-debt is in the squillions! I could never pay for it, nor pay it back. But the bible says I can let it go because there is no sin I’ve done that my Savior did not pay for. Jesus paid for all my sins on his cross. When He sees me holding onto them, it must truly grieve Him. It’s as if the brutal sacrifice of his life was in vain. As a Christ-follower, if I took the chance to believe that Jesus is my Savior, why can’t I take the chance to receive His forgiveness for my sins? What good does it do to hold onto ANY sin? And what GOOD IT DOES DO to let it go! God inspired the Psalmist to write, “He forgives ALL my sins...” Jesus didn’t die with a disclamier. He didn’t suffer with accrural. He died for all sins for all sinners. And then He rose. If He is in your heart, He has paid for your screw-up’s. Ask for forgiveness. Know you’re forgiven. And let it go.
The nighttime sky can be overwhelmingly dark, but there are still stars that twinkle it with light. It is pitch black in your room at night, but there is still a light from your mobile device. It’s scary for your kids to sleep in their rooms at night, but not if there is a nightlight. Oh what we’ll do to bring light to things. Because until we do, they are dark–and unless we’re sleeping, we prefer light. The same can be said about our lives and what we’ll do to light it. No matter how many “stars” we gather to shine onto our lives (i.e., the “good” things we do), there are still dark spaces between them: our thoughts nobody sees, our words not everyone hears, our actions when no one is looking. As imperfect people these spaces of darkness are inevitable; but as God-followers, we know, unacceptable. What do we do? We need a source of light that is perfect, powerful and endless. We need a never-melting candle. We need a flashlight with invincible batteries. We need something more powerful and more endless than our “dark” could ever be. We need God. The bible says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. “ (I John 1:5) If you have God in your life, though it gets dark around you, God is still shining within you. When you asked Him to move into your life, He moved in with His eternal light. And nobody and nothing can snuff it out. Today, don’t be discouraged by your dark, be encouraged by His light.
One of the best verses in the bible is Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…” Before I met Raul, I saw life through shattered-glass eyes. I saw the world, myself, and others through broken prisms. The cup wasn’t just half-empty it was “almost gone.” The grass wasn’t greener on the other side, it was brown. Life wasn’t a bowl full of cherries, it was a bowl of rotten eggs. But when I met Raul, I noticed that he didn’t see through the same eyes 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 some time to adust to them. I know we all have eyes, but I hope we see through the stained glass of God’s love, and not the shattered glass of our finiteness. Life looks different, I’m glad Raul showed me.