I have to admit Father's day isn't my favorite holiday and actually I kind of dread it. As I went to make my usual Father's day reservation... pity party table for one... I stopped and "marinated" on an idea that I got from the Limitless study I am doing with my friends from proverbs 31 ministries. (By the way it has been a great study and I totally recommend the book!)
Haven't we all heard someone say, "It takes a real man to be a dad but anyone can be a father?" I used to get so irritated when I would hear someone say that and I wasn't sure why. I would find myself just rolling my eyes and dismissing their comment, "whatever." I am starting to understand why I used to get so irritated at this saying. I guess I never really understood what it was like to have a dad. My parents split before I was 6 years old and I am still a little foggy about what happened before my mother left him. I do remember being terrified of him, cops showing up at our house because of screams from my mother, and I remember beer cans being around the house. So, my earliest memories shaped my view of men in a very negative way. I saw men, all men, as someone who was going to hurt me, get what they wanted from me, leave me, and reject me. I didn't think any man could ever be "good" to a woman and I absolutely didn't think men had feelings like love, compassion, and kindness. For years I was resentful of my father. Why didn't my father take care of me? Why didn't he want me? What is wrong with me? Why is alcohol so much more important than me to my father? If he really loved me he would quit drinking and start playing an active role in my life.
I so badly wanted my father in my life. There were several times I tried to have a relationship with him but the results were always the same. I would end up disappointed, rejected, and hurt. Several years back I was done, tired of trying. Then he got sick. Since he spent so many years drinking his life away, literally, a disease we didn't know he had started to present itself and was made worst by his drinking habits. I tried this relationship thing again and was by his side while he went through detox induced DT's (delirium tremens) in ICU. If you haven't seen someone detox, and I hope you haven't, it is terrible. They kick, hit, spit, see/hear things that aren't there, and say the worst things you could imagine. After the detox passed I sat by his side watching him recover. I cherish this time now and always. I really got to know my father. I watched bull riding with him, saw him interacting so pleasantly with the nurses, listened to him share stories, and got to understand that he was such a great farmer/rancher. He was such a great person under all of the alcohol induced negative behaviors. I never knew him like that before. I was so excited. After several weeks it was time for him to go home. We got him all settled and through the help of my wonderful grandparents my father was able to return to his newly fixed up house. He had several changes waiting for him that would make living at home possible like meals on wheels and new grab bars for standing up. Things seemed to be going so well. Finally! A few weeks after returning home I called to talk to him. I knew as soon as he answered the phone something wasn't right. He was hammered... I don't mean just drunk but crying, screaming belligerently intoxicated. I was devastated..... How could this happen? But God, I prayed for him, he was doing so well. He's surely going to die now.
Sad to say we went through the detox process a few more times and each time I met it with a sense of optimism, this would be the time he would stay sober. Wrong. So terribly wrong. The last time I saw my father he threw me out of his house so he could see some of his friends who are known around town as drug users. Today my father is still sitting in his house, weak, sick, probably drinking and doing who knows what kind of drugs.
For years I was so mad at my father. Why was I the one taking care of him when he never choose to do the same for me? I could have just left him when he needed me but I didn't. What was God thinking? Why did God do this to me? Why would God let him start drinking again? Out of all of the fathers why did I have to get this one? These were all of the questions I would ask myself when I would sit down to my own little pity parties. These are justifiable questions but the answers don't really matter. In the end the author of the book Limitless is right when he says in chapter four "If we wallow in self-pity, we will become more pitiful and limit our lives. If we stay in Jesus and meditate on what He's accomplished on our behalf we magnify His great work, and as we do this, we worship HIm. The result is that daily we are transformed into His image, releasing His limitless life through us."
My father's situation isn't about me. As much as this process has hurt me and impacted me, it isn't about me. It is about God. It is about his plans for me and the greatness I can accomplish, through Jesus, by having experienced this. I don't have to have the perfect Earthly father to have the most amazing heavenly daddy, Abba! I know what it is like to have an Earthly father that leave, hurts, and destroys which has been able to show me how opposite God is. God is nothing like that! He loves, never leaves, and comforts me always. Through Jesus I have been able to forgive my Earthly father and I can say that I love my father despite everything that I've been through with him. Although I don't have a close relationship with him I am now thankful for him and his role in my life. He has helped to make me tough as nails not hardened to the world. I have many of his qualities that make me who I am including a genuine concern for people, ability to talk to anyone about anything, and his eyes. We have beautiful eyes. Also, I am most thankful for my father because he gave me the family I have. I have the best aunts and uncles who have stepped in and stepped up to care for me in place of my father. My uncle demonstrated what a loving husband/father is and when I found that type of man my uncle was there to walk me down the isle. My uncle encourages me, loves me, calls me just to check in, and has treated me just like one of his own children which is a great honor because he has wonderful children. My aunts have done the very same thing! They've treated me with love and kindness that is without limits. I love all of them so dearly and I would never be able to tell you how much I appreciate them. I would never have had them without my father.
So, instead of being resentful I have become thankful and magnified the good in the situation. It hasn't been quick and it hasn't been easy. There are times when I fall back into the pity party mode but being thankful and seeing God's hands in the situation is so much better.
Thank you friends for reading this long post.
Psalm 39.4-6 (NLV)
“O Lord, let me know my end and how many days I have to live. Let me know that I do not have long to stay here. You have made each of my days as long as a hand is wide. My whole life is nothing in Your eyes. Every man at his best is only a breath. Every man walks here and there like a shadow. He makes a noise about nothing. He stores up riches, not knowing who will gather them.
If you have ever spent spring time or summer in Colorado you know it can be a wonderful time of year. It is beautiful when we start to unthaw from the crazy cold winter and the sun starts to finally warm our chilly mornings. As blissful as this may sound this time of year also brings road construction…. Grr!!! This year the season has extended my 40 minute commute by at least 15 minutes. If you know what I am talking about you also know that it seems like those road crews have little worry about our schedules and don’t seem to move near quick enough when we are in a hurry! So, the other day I was going along enjoying one of those blissful mornings I was talking about when I approached the dreadful orange construction signs… slow down, roadwork ahead, reduce speeds, expect delays!! Really?!? You’re kidding right? I’m already running late, I have things to do, I have to get to work, my list of to-do’s is a mile long! I don’t have time for this.
As I sat in traffic I started to think about those signs and that maybe God put those in place for a reason on that very day. Slow down… reduce speeds. I think those signs are more about my current state of mind than the physical location of my car. I started to think about this week and realized that this is how I live most of my life. I am in a constant state of getting things done and I often miss out on the small joys in life because I am worried about the next “assignment.” While Psalms 39 might make some of us more anxious about the need to complete tasks because it talks about how limited our days are it did much the opposite for me. It reminds me that my life is so very short and instead of being so busy I need to stop, press pause. Slow down…
So, if I know that I have a tendency to pack my life full of obligations why is it so hard for me to slow down? Why can’t I just enjoy the scenery? Why is this so hard for me to get? Is anyone else with me on this? I would like to slow down and be ok with delays but before I know it my life is once again back up to speeds only seen in nascar.
I don’t know why I can’t seem to slow my life down. Please help me to stop and enjoy the time you have given me rather than working my life away. You tell me that my life is, at best, only a breath and I do not have long to stay here. Please fill my schedule with what is important, not what "needs" to be done. In Jesus name, amen!
"Slow down. Take a deep breath. What's the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, 'I can't help it. I'm addicted to alien gods. I can't quit.' Just as a thief is chagrined, but only when caught, so the people of Israel are chagrined, Caught along with their kings and princes, their priests and prophets "(Jer. 2:25-26, Message).
All of us have one of those friendships that last a lifetime right or at least all of us would likely want a friendship that will stand the test of time.
One of the first friendships I can remember started in kindergarten. It was one of the first days of school and I was excited to finally start school. I picked out the best outfit I had and made my hair just right! I was the new girl in town and wasn’t able to start school until two months after everyone else. Once I got to the classroom everyone was sitting by their best friends and no one really noticed I was there. They were coloring and giggling. I so badly wanted to join them. Then I met my friend and she told me, “everyone here already has a best friend and they don’t like you. In fact, you don’t have the same toys they do and they think your clothes are ugly. So, you should probably just stick with me anyway.” I guess she was probably right…
Then in junior high school my friend followed me into the uncharted territory of adolescence. Good thing I had my friend with me to help me through. My parents got a divorce during this time and I was pretty down about it. I had to make some serious life adjustments but my friend helped by reminding me that the divorce was probably my fault anyway. “If you would have been better and better behaved they wouldn’t have needed to split up. You could have done more to help them. I knew you would probably make them split up eventually. I am not sure why you’re so surprised.” I guess she was probably right… While things at home were rocky at best school seemed to be a little bit better with the help of my friend. My friend reminded me that I was poor and my clothes were from goodwill so I was never going to be popular, people were not going to like me, and I probably shouldn’t speak up in class because I was just going to sound dumb anyway. I guess she was probably right…
In high school my friend was still by my side and as always she helped me along the way. Despite her prompting to quit I tried out of cheerleader and made junior varsity captain. I was excited until she told me, “junior varsity is for losers! I can’t believe you were actually proud of yourself for a minute. You know if you were really good you would have made varsity. You should quit while you’re ahead because once anyone sees you they’re going to laugh. You’ll never be able to do this.” I guess she was probably right…
Again, in college my friend continued by my side. Good thing because she helped me to remember that I was in wayyyyy over my head and that I would probably fail out. “I can’t believe you actually decided to go to school. What do you really think you’ll be able to get a degree in? Besides your grades in high school were mediocre so chances are you ‘ll be awful in college too.” She also helped me from making friends and joining groups. What a mess I would have made of that. Trying new things was not a good idea because I was going to make a fool out of myself. Boy, did she save me from embarrassment or what!? I guess she was probably right…
Well I’m a grown up now and my friend is still by my side. She is always great at telling about how I could live my life “better.” Without her I wouldn’t know that I am a terrible wife and that my husband will probably lose interest especially if I don’t keep up the house, excel at my job, and stay fit. I also wouldn’t know that my job performance isn’t really that great either. I need to try harder and do better if I expect to get anywhere in life. Oh and my friends don’t really enjoy spending time with me, how could they? I also need to try harder at church and help out more often. I need to spend more time with my bible study and stop getting so distracted. I am also so lucky she tells me that I am not going to fit into this community and that my talents aren’t worth exploring. Well really what talents? Wow… without her I guess I would really be lost. I guess she really is right….
Right???? WRONG!! Gosh the person I described is the worst friend in the world! How could someone be friends with a person who is constantly putting them down? Well, that is exactly what I have done but the problem is my “friend” is always with me. My “friend” is me!! I am the person who has said these things, I am the person who has acted on these beliefs, and I am the one making myself suffer as I flounder to be better and better. Well…. I am breaking up with myself! I am no longer friends with the inner voice I fuel my behaviors with. While I can’t always control having feelings of being unworthy or having doubt I can choose not to subscribe to them. I can recognize them as a just feeling… just because I have a feeling doesn’t mean that it is the truth. I can evaluate the world based on my own ideas about who I want to be and not on the inner voice that keeps beating me down. I am duct taping her mouth and binding her hands because I guess she was never actually right!!
" Do your best to add holy living to your faith. Then add to this a better understanding. As you have a better understanding, be able to say no when you need to. Do not give up. And as you wait and do not give up, live God-like. As you live God-like, be kind to Christian brothers and love them. If you have all these things and keep growing in them, they will keep you from being of no use and from having no fruit when it comes to knowing our Lord Jesus Christ. But if you do not have these things, you are blind and cannot see far. You forget God saved you from your old life of sin" (2 Peter 1:5-9).
I walked through the garage door and crumpled directly onto the nearest piece of furniture. I laid there in silence for a few minutes knowing it was too good to be true. Seconds later I heard the 15 minute warning alarm go off on my phone alerting me of my next meeting. Three more dings sounded as I received text messages followed by another few dings screaming at me to answer my emails. I laid still hoping the world would leave me alone for a few minutes. Then my dog jumped onto my stomach as she demonstrated her excitement to see me and her need to be let outside. Ahh... why don't we have a dog door?! I heard the garage door open signaling my husbands arrival. I pulled myself off of the couch and lifted my heavy feet to walk to the door. I was greeted with a kiss and a "what's for dinner?" "Really.... really!?!" I snapped back, " Well I guess it is whatever you are going to be making. I am not sure where you got the idea that I have to make you dinner. You know that I have a meeting in a few minutes then I'll be up late studying. You know it is midterms this week. I can't believe how selfish you can be. Oh and don't think I'll be cleaning up a mess from dinner either!" Bam.. take that! My husband just looked back at me with a strange look on his face. The release didn't feel good for long... it was followed by extreme guilt. Ah... I can't believe I just did that!
Is this really the wife that I had become? The wife who yells at her husband the minute he walks in the door about something that really wasn't a big deal. He has never told me I had to make him dinner nor has he complained when I didn't. Wow... I really didn't understand what happened because I was never really mad at him for anything. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and the thought of another expectation taking me into a different direction made me crazy. My bulging schedule couldn't handle all of the things I had said yes to. While no I am not very proud of this interaction with my husband I am thankful for it because it pushed me into making some serious changes and setting some much needed boundaries.
Boundaries... what a complex thought! Think of boundaries like the fence in the picture.. it keeps things in and out. Out here in the middle of nowhere we have fence all over. It defines our property line and protects our personal possession. It keeps people off of our property if they aren't supposed to be there. It tells the world "this is mine and you must have permission before you come on our land." Relational/personal boundaries are exactly the same. They tell the world what we are willing to let in (what we put up with) and who we are. Boundaries are necessary for a healthy person to interact with their environment. If we didn't have a fence no one would know where our property starts and ends and people would use our stuff for whatever they wanted.
Similarly, when our personal boundaries are weak we take on more than we should, we tell people whatever we think they want to hear, we let people walk all over us, we lose ourselves in our obligations, and we becomes fearful, stressed out, and on the verge of a meltdown all of the time. I saw this play out in the above situation. I hadn't stood up for myself to anyone and when I finally did it was directed at the wrong person. I let my schedule and other people control my life. I didn't want to say no so instead I said yes to everything I thought would make other people happy.
2 Peter 1:5-9 says, As you get a better understanding you will be able to say no when you need to... you will keep from being of no use and having no fruit when it comes to knowing Lord Jesus Christ. This scripture really spoke to me. I should and have to say no!! Any people pleaser knows that saying no is hard. I feel bad when I say no and it is uncomfortable. Unless I want to live my life ran by those around me I have to say no and mean it! I don't have to explain myself to death about it either. No is an answer that doesn't need to be elaborated. No can be the final word. I don't have to say no and then go into a long drawn out reason why I decided no was the right answer for me. No is no, the end! When I don't practice saying no as the scripture says I will have no fruit when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ. I can go through the motions but since I am performing out of obligation it is disingenuous. I can either do a million things poorly or do a few things really well.
So, I set some boundaries. I said no and pruned my life. It hasn't been easy and gosh it is uncomfortable to say no. For me it has taken a long time and it is still a work in progress. Along the way I've found that when I say yes to the things that I find important I am better at them and I actually enjoy the time I spend on them more! Also, I've began to realize how much control I gave to everyone around me and honestly they weren't being very respectful of my boundaries. However, it isn't the world's job to respect my boundaries if I am not going to enforce them myself. Its no one else's fault but my own. As I am moving through different stages in my life I am trying to keep focus on my boundaries and I am trying to make sure they are properly employed at the needed time. I'm hoping this gets to be second nature at some point! Just like how the fence on everyone's property is different so is everyone's personal boundaries. I can't tell you what boundaries you must set but what I can suggest is for you to do some digging and find out what you really want in your life. What is important to you and what is worth your time? What isn't? Starting there might help make saying no easier for you too.
Our pasts have a way of haunting us don’t they? Especially when we try to hide them because we are ashamed about the person we were and the things we did. Several people in the bible come to mind who had things in their past they could have been ashamed for. Paul tried to destroy the church by killing Christians (Galatians 1:13-17). David committed adultery and tried to cover it up with murder (2 Samuel 11). Also, Peter who was supposed to be a devoted follower denied Jesus three times (Matthew 14:66-72). These are men whose stories made it into the bible and who carried on to be hands and feet for God’s work despite their shortcomings. They made mistakes… they had a past! Ones they probably weren’t very proud of at times. However, instead of falling into depression and shaming themselves endlessly, they rose above it and were used for God’s purposes.
I can completely relate to the stories because I have a past that I am not particularly proud of. Not just because of choices that I have made but circumstances outside of my control. Well, I have found the only thing that hiding from our past provides is oppression. For many years I have been in distress as I try to prove that I am more than my past. I am more than the “poor” kid in school who got the garage sale hand me downs from her classmates, I am more than a child of a disabled mother, and I am more than a child of an alcoholic father. I am more than a teenager who made negative life choices and I was for sure more the place I came from.
The truth is I have nothing to prove and never have. Jesus already knew who I was going to be and the choices I was going to make before I even made the decisions to do them. Just like how he predicted Peter would deny him three times. “Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:38, NIV). Even still, Jesus chose Peter and continued to love him anyway. God put Peter's story in the bible for everyone to read. He didn't want it to be a hidden fact that Peter denied Jesus. Instead, we can use it as an example to learn more about the loving nature and acceptance Jesus provides.
Jesus's acceptance is exactly what I needed to overcome my need to hide my past. Like with Peter, Jesus doesn't want me to hide parts of my story. He wants me to use them to give him the glory. I am who I am today even in all of my brokenness because of the person I was, the lessons I learned, and the choices I made. God has used them and is continuing to use them fulfill his purpose for my life. I truly believe that I am a better person (not by any means am I saying I have it together- I have A LOT of work to go) today for having gone through the things I have rather than if I would have been given the life that I thought I should have had. I am no longer hiding it! I am no longer ashamed and I am no longer worried people will find out “who I really am.”
"Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Peter 2:12, NIV).
I have to say, I am doing pretty good at concurring this statement. You see, I have a wonderfully clean house, car, and I am typically put together with the latest outfit I found on pinterest. I have tons of achievement on my wall including degrees, licensure, and even a certificate for my induction to the honor society. Oh and my marriage, you wouldn't believe how incredibly loving and kind my husband is. We get along so well, we spend time together, and he supports me in everything I do. Goodness... I guess I really do have it all together!
YUCK!!! Have I lost you yet... Just reading the above statements makes me want to vomit and I wrote it! Truly though these are the types of ideas I unintentionally give people all of the time. Instead of being real about my life I try to give this pretentious view of what I think people want to see. I try to display all of the great things in my life (even if they are exaggerated) to blind them from seeing all of the dirty, messy, and imperfect areas I think they would reject.
The scripture from 1 Peter challenges me. It would be easy for me to twist this scripture to support my maladaptive behaviors into being biblical. The key to understanding this verse is to define "good." Good living isn't God living when I am using my standards of good rather than God's. Also, the scripture isn't telling me to show people how good I am but is telling me to show how good God is. To further understand this concept 1 Peter 2:16 states, "Live as free men but do not use your freedom as a cover for evil; live as servants of God." To live in freedom.. wow! I wonder what that would be like. To live in freedom from expectations, people pleasing, and freedom from the bondage of my lies (let's be honest lying is exactly what it is). Instead of using this freedom for evil I am told to use it to serve God and promote him. I have been doing much the opposite. I have been in pursuit of my own evil desires for self seeking rewards. Goodness, I have had it all wrong.
In actuality, yes I do have many blessings in my life but no they are not what I portray them to be. Trying to demonstrate perfectionism comes at a price. All of the "achievement" has produced student loans, stress, and broken relationships. My clean house is a constant battle and I am forever trying to keep messes from happening. My marriage isn't perfect by any means and we fight. We have problems and we don't always enjoy the time we spend together. We get on each others nerves, we say hurtful things, and there is more than one occasion where we have gone to bed terribly angry. As far as those outfits that I have put together.. most are from goodwill.
No, I am not perfect and yes I am going to start trying to live life as though I understand that fact. I am hoping to take these revelations and make them into change agents. Not as a method to become "more perfect' but to become less. To make this applicable in real life I am going to ask for God to show me how he wants the world to see HIM through me. I don't want to promote myself any longer! More of him and less of me!
For Sale: Perfectionistic mess of a woman!
5'0" 120 lbs ish... hazel eyes, brunette (sometimes- actually prematurely going grey), small build. Goes from 0- completely exhausted from trying to please others in just under 10 seconds. Speeds to a worst case scenario at the hint of doubt. Comes fully equip with a large, ever growing list of unmet, however unreasonable, expectations. Will work hard to prove her worth. Slightly used, several dents, many rusted edges! She is sure a wreck but a must see. Please contact.. Won't someone please take her off my hands?
Dear won't someone please take her off my hands,
I happened to run across your ad and noticed your 5' 0" perfectionistic woman and I would be more than happy to take care of her for ya. You see I am in the business of restoration and have been looking for this exact model. Although I love this car already a few dents and rusted spots are no problem for me. I have been searching relentlessly to find this beauty. I am willing to pay the ultimate price.
Recently, my husband and I bought an old farm house and relocated into the desolate country side in hopes to one day secure the dream of having a place where we can raise a family and grow old together. While it did take some convincing on my husbands part to get me to move it has been a great life change. The first few months were rocky at best. I struggled to deal with the "new" house that lacked air conditioning (in the middle of August) and a dish washer but came fully equip with stickers, dirt, sand, and BUGS!! Not to mention the house was in bad shape and needed some serious updating. Just to give you a visual think sponge paint... green sponge paint... purple sponge paint... EVERYWHERE! Now, I know it was popular at one point but this was a little excessive. So anyway, over the last several months we have replaced, repainted, and repaired a majority of the house. This process has taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of when I have a "go get um attitude."
With all of the renovations going on around here I have started to think about the horrible condition of my heart. The heart is where our true self resides, where we keep the people we love, and is where we protect our most intimate thoughts. If you think about it, it is much like our actual homes. So, if my heart was a house in the physical sense I have a feeling it would be pretty run down and maybe even inhabitable. In fact, it might even need to be condemned. One thing is for sure there are some serious walls that need to come down, rebuilding that needs to occur, and some new paint that needs to be applied. I cannot go on living in the same circumstances year after year, relationship after relationship. My paint is chipped, my screws are coming loose, and I am about to cave in from all of the pressure I put myself under. Scripture says, "above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). That is just what I am hoping to do.
So, now is the time! I am getting to work here. I am rolling up my sleeves and putting on some work clothes because I have a feeling this is going to be a messy job. So, here we gooooo....