About Me

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I'm a wife, a mom, a singer/songwriter, an author, a public speaker, an abolitionist, an encourager & freedom coach, a seminary student, a worship leader, a lover of life and joy, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Freedom Friday: Face Your Default Setting

It's happened to all of us.

We are walking down the street, out of a class, into the board room, and something happens.

Someone makes a comment that feels like a slight.

We share our excitement with someone, and they minimize.

We open up about a struggle, and it is dismissed.

We are reminded of a shortcoming.

We feel weak. Exposed. Undervalued. Ignored.

We retreat to our default setting.

What is a "default setting"?

A "default setting" is the place you retreat to when triggered. It could be an action (like reaching for pornography) or an emotion (like falling into complacency, depression or suicidality).

A "default setting" could be a ritual, the places you go and the patterns you fall into when self-medicating.

We all have a default setting. You may have one or many. It may change over time, depending on various contributors.

The concept of a "default setting" is something I recently started thinking about while talking to a friend. She has a very clear default setting that she goes to when something triggers her or the outside stressors feel like too much.

My default setting is currently mild depression, lethargy and lack of motivation. I was sent to my default setting on Monday by some challenges that came my way over the weekend. I woke up, feeling down, and spent most of the day, sitting and staring at my computer. At around 4 PM, I finally was able to snap myself out of it long enough to do some stuff around the house.

I'll ask you to think for a minute: what is your default setting?

Sometimes, the pattern of going to our default setting is so ingrained in us that it's like going from 0-60 in a split second. Other times, we can see ourselves slowly descending to that place. Either way, we need an action plan to either usurp the process or pick us up out of it, as is clear from my personal example above.

Here are a few things I thought of.

1. Reach Out.
Create a list of people that you can call when you are headed to or arriving at your default setting. If calling is too hard, email or preferably text, so someone can call you back right away. Have a code word, if asking for help is too hard, that your friends know ahead of time means you're at your default setting.

Speaking with a group of people about this topic recently, many of their default settings involved withdrawal and isolation, as well as acting out in whatever way they typically self-medicate. Russell Willingham says that relational problems require relational solutions. That's why the first step is to reach out and try to connect with someone. It is also an example of practicing James 5:16.

But if you reach out, and are unable to connect...

2. Check HALT.
We talked in a past post about HALT.

Are you:

If so, remedy that.

3. Do something.
This may seem kind of obvious, but remove yourself from the situation. If pornography is your struggle, go to a public place. If you find yourself headed to a location where you usually act out, turn around. If you identify that your emotions are spiraling and descending into despair or self-loathing, do something that makes you happy. Read an encouraging note that you received (I have an encouragement file for just this purpose). Write a list of things ahead of time of "happy activities", like go for a run, read a comic strip, listen to uplifting music, or read today's "Stuff Christians Like" guest post (seriously, you will laugh if you know the song he's talking about, and I love that song, as you know if you read my blog regularly). Do something that takes you out of your situation.

4. Pray and speak truth to yourself.
Ask God for help. "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray." James 5:13a

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. Remind yourself whatever you are facing is not unique. Tell yourself the truth, that God loves you (a million Scriptures, John 3:16 to start with), you are written on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), that His arm is not too short to deliver you, nor does He lack the strength to rescue you (Isaiah 52:2), and He is an ever-present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1). And then pray again.

And if you are still at your default setting....

5. Reach Out Again.
Start with step 1 and do it all again.

It is most helpful to have a plan written out somewhere. You can add things to your own list. The problem with our default setting is usually we go there so quickly, it's hard to be proactive in pulling ourselves out. That's why connecting with someone is the best way to deal with our default setting. That person can speak truth to our situation and pray for us when we are unable to speak truth to and pray for ourselves. And if we are unable to connect, having a plan written up ahead of time gives us some other ideas about how to constructively address our default setting.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Freedom Friday: "I Have No Man": Looking for Help in All the Wrong Places

The Pool by Palma Giovane

Last week, I heard someone quoting John 5 on the radio and it was opened up to me in a whole new way.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"

The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."

The above quote is from the NASB; you can read the whole chapter here.

I've heard this passage discussed quite a bit in recovery circles. In fact, it's the basis of Steve Arterburn's challenging book "Healing is a Choice".

And what has always stuck out to me was the man's response. I always viewed him as sort of making excuses in his reply to Jesus. After all, he didn't answer Jesus as to whether or not he wanted to get well; rather, he pointed out the reasons why he couldn't get well.

But on this occasion, I was most struck by the fact that the help he needed was right in front of his face, but he was unwilling or unable to see and accept it.

Do we sometimes ask the wrong people for help? Are the people who are available to best support us right in front of our faces, and yet we don't reach out?

A few months back, I was feeling a bit lonely and undersupported. I was lamenting this fact to Roy: all my friends are busy, have kids, have jobs, live far away, boo-hoo, no one loves me :( He reminded me of my pregnancy with Bear, that I had a list of women who I emailed on a regular basis with updates. What was stopping me from doing that again?

What was stopping me was that I hadn't thought of it!

I have 3 women I am accountable to, so as Roy suggested, I started emailing them regularly with an update to ask for prayer. Two of them live far, far away (as my 3.5 year-old son would say), and one of them lives about an hour away, so while I don't see them often, I know I have their support in prayer.

One of my default settings is to feel abandoned and rejected. I think that's part of why it's a challenge for me to reach out. But I can't complain about having inadequate support if I never actually asked anyone to support me. So I've also started asking others for support & help, even if they are likely busy and will say no. I can make an active choice not to allow past rejection & abandonment keep me from having deep, connected, supportive relationships.

Maybe the man at the pool had a similar default setting as I do (I'll be talking about "default settings" thoroughly in a future Freedom Friday, but just imagine it's the place and space you find yourself falling back to). It wouldn't be surprising, given that he'd been sick with something for 38 years, and no one was helping him get into the pool (likely the only way he thought he'd ever be healed). There was nothing wrong with his plan (to have someone lift him into the pool), but he was so fixated on that plan that he didn't see the help that was available right in front of him.

Where have you been looking for help? All the right places, or all the wrong places? Have you been so fixated on a particular plan that you are sure would work that you can't see that the help you need is readily available to you?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Freedom Friday: Recap

I'm leaving town for a conference today and needed to focus all my recent energy on my speaking.

But I've written plenty of material in the past Freedom Fridays for you to read and review :)

We just recently wrapped up the "Learning to Walk in Freedom" series. If you click on that link to read the series, make sure you scroll to the very end to start, as the posts are in reverse order.

We have 1 installment of "Keeping It Simple".

We have last week's "Choosing to Trust". That's a good one for Lent :)

And "Make It a Break-out Year". It's not too late!

Hope to see you at the conference, and, if not, next week!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent: Moderation & Consecration

Lent is upon us.

Recently, my kids were quite sick. During that time, I was surprised by an unexpected blessing: I had to slow way down.

When I was sitting with a sick kid or stuck under a sleeping baby, my iPhone options were boring me. Thus, I got back into the habit of actually reading books!

We were also unable to go to church due to lingering illness, so I read Acts 22 (no special reason - I'm reading through Acts and that's the chapter I was on), as well as that day's reading from My Utmost for His Highest. Then we watched a pastor friend's church service over the internet.

As I found a few minutes to pray, I was thinking of the upcoming Lenten season and what, if anything, God would have me do during that time. The line "Make My Life a Prayer To You" came to mind.

So I began to sing through the lyrics:
Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what you want me to,
No empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise
I want to shine the light you gave Through Your Son, you sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair. It comforts me to know you're really there.

Oh, I want to thank you now, for being patient with me
Oh, it's so hard to see when my eyes are on me
I guess I'll have to trust and just believe what you say
Oh, you're coming again, coming to take me away

I want to die, and let you give Your life to me, so I might live,
And share the hope You gave to me - The love that set me free,
I want to tell the world out there You're not some fable or fairy tale
That I made up inside my head: You're God, The Son, You've risen from the dead.

I want my days to be free of rituals and compromise of any sort. I want my entire life, every moment, to be a living sacrifice, wholly devoted to serving Him and others. I know there are areas that I do still falter or willfully disobey. I want to learn to submit them to Him.

This Lent for me will be a time of moderation & consecration, a time where I ask God to cleanse my life of any idolatry (the song "Give Us Clean Hands" also keeps coming to mind), a time to continue on the journey of becoming all God created me to do so that I can do all the things He has called me to do.

And when I falter and I am not able, I will choose to remember that He is able.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Freedom Fridays: Choosing to Trust

Trusting God is a hard thing. Understatement of the year, but this is something that has been really hitting home lately as I ponder the future of my children. Surrendering my children to God's care does not mean things will turn out the way I hope, or even that they will live to reach adulthood. I don't mean to sound so somber. Or maybe it sounds pessimistic or gloomy.

But it's reality. I had a miscarriage. I trusted God with that child. The child died.

I'm not saying God killed my child. Hardly. Miscarriages happen for many reasons. If we get hyper-focused on the "why", we miss the point :)

God LOVES you. Just like you wouldn't wish for bad things to happen to one of your children, neither would the God who does not give us stones when we ask for bread. He has beautiful, awesome, amazing and wonderful things for you and for me. Really. Let that soak in.

The point is that trusting God is a choice.

It's not a choice to trust that things will work out a certain way; it's a choice to trust in His character. It's a choice to believe that He works out all things for the good of those who love Him - and that means trusting that He's not trying to teach you a lesson in a punitive "I'm wagging my finger at you, little girl" way because you need to learn a lesson.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

I want to share an excerpt from an article I wrote:
And most importantly, I wrestled with God. A lot. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do.


There were times when I was so angry and bitter at God because He could have made my life — past and present — easier if He wanted to, but He didn't. He wasn't working according to my timing, and that wasn't easy for me.

I'm reminded of something from John 6. Jesus had just given the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting in God's goodness and overall trustworthiness and taking into account their limited understanding, quite a few of the disciples decided it was too tough a command and stopped following Christ. When Jesus turned to the Twelve to ask if they would leave too, Peter responded, "Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We've already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God."

That's how I feel. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good, and that I had no other choice but to take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8), to take my questions and hurts, rest in the shadow of His wing, and trust that He's always been faithful. And that this time will be no exception.

As I've been contemplating the issue of trust and what it should look like, I can't help but think of the following passage where children interact with Jesus:
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16 (emphasis mine)

I'm sure there are a lot of things we could pull from this as we seek to understand the passage, but I can't help but relate it to the trust of a child.

As most of you know if you've spent 60 seconds reading my blog, I have 2 children :) I never had to teach them to trust me. They trusted me from birth. Of course as imperfect parents, there are things we can do to break that trust, but at least initially, my children inherently trusted me, and thankfully they still do. They run to me (or their father) when they need food, when they have a question (in fact, all day long, I hear, "Excuse me! I'm telling you a question!"), they come to us when they are excited, and we are the first people they run to when they were hurt.

Why don't we do that with God? If we are to come to Him as little children, why don't we trust Him like little children?

Trust is a choice. Again, it's a choice to take God at His word. It's a choice to believe that He is who He says He is even when life would try to convince us otherwise.

I've been actively choosing to trust God for several years now. Almost every time I pray, I end with, "God, I choose to trust You." It's almost another way of saying, "God, if Your will is different than my will & my desires, I will still love & follow You."
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

Believers are God's children. We have been adopted into His family. And when we choose to trust God, it's a picture of how Jesus responded to the little children: He takes us into His arms, places His hands on us and blesses us.

Trust is a choice.

When I think about trust, I can't help but think of the song He's Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves, a song that still brings me to tears almost every time, despite 8+ years of knowing it. I chose the picture for this entry based on the first 2 lines. The lyrics stand for themselves. I'll end this post with them.

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God's hand in mine
Season by season I watch him amazed
In awe of the mystery of his perfect ways

All I have need of his hand will provide
He's always been faithful to me

I can't remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can't remember one single regret
In serving God only and trusting his hand

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I've heard for so long
God has been faithful, he will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end