how core beliefs affect your self worth

Friendships have been hard for me in my adult years. I cannot say this started in elementary or junior high because I was always popular with lots of great friends. But as an adult, I have struggled to let people really get close, to see the real me. And I did not really understand why I kept people away.

Well, a few years ago, I learned about core beliefs. If you have never heard of them, core beliefs are assumptions we make about ourselves, others or the world that we mistake for fact. They can be positive or negative. You might have a positive core belief that says “I can do anything I set my mind to”. You may have grown up with supportive, encouraging parents who cheered you on and helped you believe you can do anything you want in life to accomplish your dreams. On the flip side, you may have negative core beliefs such as “I don’t belong” or “the world is a dangerous place”. Maybe you were rejected by a family member at an early age or you experienced abuse or a tragic situation that caused you to be anxious and leery of new situations and people. These beliefs have the power to shape how you interact with others and the world around you as an adult.

A few years ago, I went through some counseling for an issue I wanted help with, and it was during one of those conversations when the counselor asked me what my core beliefs were. I had to think about it for a bit and was finally able to put the pieces together that explained why I had some of the self depreciating thoughts and beliefs I carried for many years.

One of my core beliefs started in my childhood when my parents called me “big boned”. I have believed I am fat since, well, forever. Now to my parents’ defense, I do not know they really intended to say I was fat. But, couple the term “big boned” with a short, very petite older sister whom I always compared myself to, and it was easy to see why I saw myself as fat. I carried that core belief for years. I simply did not understand at an early age that my sister and I have very different body types. I have a very athletic, muscular build, but that does not mean I am fat or ever have been.

Another core belief I clung to that really affected my ability to let women get close to me as an adult was I do not belong, and no one will like me because of my personality. I remember as a child being described repeatedly as having a strong personality. And in my mind, that correlated as a negative trait, to not being liked or belonging. I know I am passionate and can come across strongly; I am transparent and not afraid to speak my mind. But that does not mean I have a personality people will not like. I am also very giving and generous; I love to be social and have fun. I love to serve others. We all have strengths and challenges in our personalities, but those traits do not make any one of us better than the next person. I just wish I had understood this years ago. Oh the things I would go back and tell my younger self if I could!

One of the situations that really shaped this core belief that I do not belong happened when I was a senior in high school. I was in a really bad dating relationship and was often isolated from my friends. It was honestly one of the very hardest years of my life. I went to school on a Monday morning and heard all my friends talking about how much fun they had together at a sleepover Friday night. A sleepover I was not invited to. I still remember the deep, overwhelming pain of rejection, of not being invited. It cut me to my core. For years as an adult, I have had dreams about being left out. These dreams are always with those same friends whom I were my people back in high school. So a few years ago when I went through counseling, I finally understood how all of this fit together.

Fast forward to last year when Travis, Ryan and I moved to Papillion. One of my biggest fears of moving was having to start over with friends. Of course I still have my core group who are my very best friends. I have a handful of women whom I absolutely love and trust, who accept me just as I am. I cherish those women. It took a lot of time to let them see the real me.

Well several months ago I reconnected with three of my childhood friends, and a couple weeks ago, the four of us met for breakfast. One of the women in this group is the one who hosted that sleepover I was not invited to all those years ago (and she was not to blame for me being left out – she simply hosted the sleepover). Sitting there chatting while we ate our breakfast, I opened up about that dreaded memory and how hurt I was all those years ago, how it affected my ability to trust women and allow them to get close to me. And I made sure she knew it was not her fault I was not invited. The beauty in seeing her again after all these years, in her seeking out friendship with me, showing interest in my life, speaking truth into me…it has been so healing.

We talked about core beliefs. We opened up about some of the hurts we experienced in our younger years. We shared our hurts and some of the difficult experiences we went through. Experiences that formed core beliefs in how we see the world and those around us. And we all agreed how healing it was to sit and talk through those memories. To sit with a small group of women who choose each other, who seek friendship and enjoy sharing our lives is a beautiful thing. I really believe the Lord orchestrated our meeting up all these years later. We have only gotten together a couple times, but I am confident our friendships will last for years to come. In this short amount of time we have been meeting, I know my heart has softened. I have experienced an acceptance and feeling of being wanted I did not know my heart needed.

Life is a funny thing. We often believe people see us one way or remember things about us that they do not. Our view of ourselves is usually much worse than what others see. If only we could see ourselves from the view the Lord sees, the beauty others often see as well.

I love Psalm 139 which says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I challenge each of you to take some time to think about your core beliefs, those assumptions you have carried that may not be true at all. It can be a difficult task, but there is so much freedom and peace when you can work through them and see yourself for the beautiful person you are.

hard days

1.28.2022: This is a post I wrote a few months ago. It is real and raw emotion. Interestingly, I do not feel this way anymore. We have new challenges in this season as Ryan fell in his room and broke his leg on Christmas evening. That leads to a whole new list of issues with him not being able to walk, get in and out of the car, and such. Let me just say lifting a 170 pound 18 year old who cannot use crutches is not an easy task. It is a good thing I lift weights! We go back for more X-rays at the end of February. Anyway, perspective is everything, and this is just a season. As my mother in law is known to say – Don’t think about it; just do it!

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I have been thinking a lot lately about Ryan’s decline. He has been fading…becoming more distant, not desiring human interaction, fewer smiles, less play, more sleep. His countenance is fading away, slowing like the setting sun. One minute it is bright and present, and the next it is nearly gone.

I have been having a hard time dealing with it, accepting this new normal. I miss the boy who would go to the garage door and pound on it with his fist and jiggle the door handle because he wants to go on a drive. I miss the boy who used to throw balls for long periods of time and get into things. Now he will spin a toy for a couple time then he is done. His interest in play and interaction is fading. He sleeps more and is perfectly content to sit in one of the bedrooms away from people.

Tonight Travis came home from work, we sat down to eat dinner, and I was very edgy. I was sharp with my words and was not kind to him. I cut him off when he was talking, and I was very irritable. It really came down to me being upset and trying not to cry because I have been struggling with Ryan’s new normal. We talked about it tonight, and he said when I talk about it to others – and he feels like I have been telling people a lot lately about how he is fading – that it really bothers him because he does not want people to feel sorry for us. He does not want people to know the truth of Ryan’s health because people will treat us like we are victims, feel sorry for us, not know what to say and make it awkward. He asked me if I need to see a counselor, and I said I would think about it. I do not think I need a counselor because I am not depressed. This Ryan thing does not dictate my day. It does not make me cry every day. It does not make me want to sink into a deep dark hole and never come out. I know the walls of depression, and how they close in. I know the numbness and overwhelming weight of clinical depression and how hard it is to keep my head above water. And that is not at all what I feel with Ryan.

What I feel is the need to manage my emotions, to talk through this new normal, to express my thoughts and worries because that is how I cope. I am a talker. I need to verbally vomit everything I think. I need to speak life to my thoughts and feelings. That is my way of managing and dealing with whatever I am facing. Travis on the other hand is private. He does not talk. He does not acknowledge his feelings and share with others what is on his heart. He keeps it all to himself, and I usually have to drag it out of him. We could not be more opposite. So tonight the frustration is this….how do we both get our needs met and not offend or irritate the other person? I need to talk, and he wants it kept quiet. Polar opposites. How do we support each other when we want and need different things? He gets frustrated when I talk, and I feel squelched and diminished when I know he wants me to be quiet and not acknowledge and put a voice to everything bubbling to the surface. Yet we have successfully managed our differences through 27 years of marriage thanks to a lot of hard work and communication.

Earlier this evening I was watching a TV show – some home improvement thing where a couple goes in and redesigns and remodels someone’s home. They made a porch swing for the woman and put Isaiah 26:4 on the chair – the male host branded it into the wood. It says: Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. I went on to read the rest of the chapter, and my eye caught verse 3 – one I’ve known for years….you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Through all the changes, all the ups and downs, God is the stable in our lives, He is steadfast and true, He never changes. He can be trusted, He is proven reliable, He will always provide. He will see us through the changes to come when Ryan continues to fade, gets weaker, eventually goes home with Jesus.

Part of me prays God will take Ryan quickly, peacefully and soon. And the other part of me never wants him to leave no matter how hard it gets. Part of me wants to be free from the constant caretaking and responsibility while the other part of me wants to manage his needs and cares every day because I know I am doing good work, taking excellent care of him.

I pray the day never comes when I am not thanking God for Ryan – the good and the bad, the difficulties and the celebrations. There is sorrow but much joy. Ryan is a complete, beautiful gift from God. As I heard Him speak to me so many years ago, he is as I intended him to be. The Lord knew exactly what he was doing giving us Ryan. And that means He will give us the strength to get through whatever lies ahead. What matters most is Ryan is loved. We just adore the little guy.

allergens of the body & mind

I ate an apple and within minutes, my lips swelled and became itchy. A little bit of panic set in as thoughts of the anaphylaxis I saw in my years as an ER nurse came flooding in. I grabbed some Benadryl and gave anxious directions to my husband on calling 911 if specific symptoms arose. Aside from swollen lips and an itchy mouth, things settled down and life went on. Then several months later, the same thing happened after eating peach pie. This past spring, I did allergy testing and discovered I have a host of allergies I was unaware of – molds, grasses, trees, weeds, dogs, cats.

I left the office armed with a load of instructions, education and medications to trial before eventually starting allergy shots. And what I realized over the next couple of days is just how badly I had been feeling for months, really years, without giving proper attention to my health. I became immune to the symptoms my body was throwing at me telling me something was off. I ignored the itchy eyes, runny nose, sore throat, headaches and feelings of stuffiness. I accepted a state of health that could be corrected while convincing myself it would all pass. When in reality, there has been allergy testing, numerous medications, and plenty of options to help me achieve better health.

I remember years ago when I was a young mom with four kids under the age of six. Travis was working full time, and I stayed home with the kids. I had my core group of friends. I started a weekly play date group with other stay at home moms. I drug the kids to church each Tuesday for Bible study. I kept the house clean, managed a schedule, taught the kids manners and kept them accountable for their attitudes and actions. I baked cookies and made homemade meals most nights. But it was not until a warm summer day after a difficult conversation with my neighbor, whose youngest son was friends with my oldest, that I realized what had taken root in my heart. Arrogance had crept in reflecting an ugly and uncomfortable attitude of doing everything right. I had become so judgmental to the differences in how we raised our children, how we went about our daily lives, how our kids behaved. And it affected our relationship which for a long time, I did not realize. My neighbor felt the negativity and judgement I quietly laid upon her. She knew I looked down on her. She felt the harshness in my spirit toward her. The allergen of pride had set in and made a home in my heart.

I had not felt the sting of pride that said I was doing everything right. I had not recognized the judgement I cast on others who did not live their lives to my standard. I had not felt the conviction of a heart undone by selfishness and conceit. I lived my life with infrequent uncomfortableness. Just as I ignored the irritants in my respiratory system until the doctor pointed it out, so many allergens had crept into my heart and mind causing symptoms that should have warned me something was not right.

Attitudes of arrogance, jealousy, pride, disdain, judgement and negativity can so easily creep into our hearts and minds without us realizing it. They become our normal. We accept them, feed them, stroke the ego that develops. Then the day comes when something significant happens – swollen lips, being left out, not making the team, getting a broken heart, needing medical attention, having a difficult conversation with a neighbor – and we suddenly realize the allergen we easily ignored can no longer be shoved to the side and must be dealt with.

An allergen of the body can be easily identified when it attacks for the first time. Hives appear, shortness of breath attacks, lips swell. Yet when an allergen of the mind and heart attacks, it is so easy to simply look the other way. Only later when that allergen has taken root in our attitudes and relationships do we realize the damage done.

I go back to this verse often from Matthew 23 (MSG) that says it so well…..You are like one who will only wipe clean the outside of a cup or bowl, leaving the inside filthy. You are foolish to ignore the greed and self-indulgence that live like germs within you. You are blind to your evil. Shouldn’t the one who cleans the outside also be concerned with cleaning the inside? You need to have more than clean dishes; you need clean hearts!

I love this translation because it provides such a strong picture of how easily those annoying allergens creep in. It is easy to concern ourselves with the outward appearance of our lives, how we look to others, wanting to impress those around us, desires to have it all together. Yet at the same time, we can ignore the inside where those allergens – our thoughts and attitudes – reside that make us ugly.

God is much more concerned with the attitude of our hearts than with the appearance of our daily lives. He cares much more about our willingness to come to Him for help when we have been judgy than if we have it all together at the Tuesday morning mom’s group. Our loving Father desires an attitude of humility more than our desire to impress others with the number of responsibilities we can manage at one time.

In I Samuel 16, the Lord called Samuel to go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse whose son would be the next king. Jesse brings his sons out one by one, and after meeting seven sons, Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons. It is then he meets David and anoints him as king. After meeting the first son who was strong and noble, the Lord says to Samuel in verse 7, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Who would have thought a young shepherd would be Israel’s second king. The Lord looked at David’s heart, not at how many awards were hung on David’s bedroom wall or how many things he was doing “right”.

If you read on in the Bible, you would see David had a heart after God, but he too allowed allergens to set in. While he did a lot of things right, David allowed jealousy and greed to take root in his life. The consequences were devastating, but David’s repentance brought forgiveness. David was not a perfect man by any stretch, yet his journey provides a great example of how God can – and will – restore us when we seek His face. When we are willing to address the allergens and clean the inside, God shows up and brings us back. As the old hymn says…great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning, new mercies I see, all I have needed, Thy hand hath provided, great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. His mercies are new every morning!

What allergens have snuck into your heart? Do you need a reset with your attitude? Let the Lord show you today how you can restore your heart and mind to reflect His gentleness, love and mercy.

Raising Adult Kids

I have four children – three are adults and out of the house – and the youngest is disabled, so he will always live with us. His profound developmental delays keep him from holding a job, going to college or doing anything independently. Sometimes I sit and look back at all the years past; those moments in time when I never thought I would find my way out of a season. I often wonder if I used to spend more time looking ahead instead of living in the moment enjoying each new skill or sign of maturity.

When the kids were little, I was always waiting for them to sleep through the night or be able to feed themselves. Then it was the anticipation of being able to tie their own shoes, take a shower independently, get their own breakfast and ride a bike. And years later it was the waiting to drive independently, working for their own spending money, playing sports, joining school clubs and having sleepovers. So much waiting and dreaming of what was to come as if the next season, the next phase, would be so much better or easier or more enjoyable than the one being experienced. Sometimes the moments of mundane, routine living cause us to overlook the joy in the today as we anxiously wait for the moments of our tomorrows. Yet what we miss in looking ahead is the wonder of each today. We miss the color and beauty and depth of the living occurring right in front of us. Maybe it is society that tells us there is something bigger, better or greater to be had if we can just figure out how to get there, how to hurry life into the next season. What we so easily fail to recognize is that every season, every age, every child brings a unique spice of life and reason to be thankful. Just this past week, we spent five days in the mountains with our kids. The oldest three are on their own with two married, one with a child, and one in the military and home for two weeks. We rented a big, four bedroom house up on a hill at the base of the Rockies overlooking the city. It was a beautiful view with lots of outdoor seating and space to roam and enjoy the surroundings. At one point, as I sat outside on a worn wicker chair, my thoughts went back to those days of littles when I was so busy running, playing, cooking, cleaning, playing referee and driving to all the activities. Oh how life has changed from then to now. I remembered the moments throughout their childhood when I would often think of the days ahead when I would not have to do all this anymore and things would be easier. Yet now that some day is here, and I find myself wishing for more time. I certainly love having adult children, but it is not necessarily what I expected. Maybe I do not know what I expected. It is a lot of listening, trying not to give too much advice, and learning how to be more of a friend than a parent. I have learned my adult kids do not want me to tell them what worked for me when I was their age or how to manage a specific situation. Instead, they want to do the talking and be supported, not preached at. They are navigating their own paths, forming their own beliefs, and creating their own circle of support.

Jim Burns wrote a book called Doing Life With Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out. Let me just say, if you have adult kids, or are about to release them into the world, you need this book. Burns says “Although you and your child are traveling different paths, you’re on a parallel journey of reinventing your relationship. It’s better when you navigate it together, but neither of you have passed this way before, and even if you have made the transition with one child, the next child likely will approach the transition to adulthood differently…..You no doubt will experience bewilderment when your grown kids violate your values or live differently from how they were raised, but your goal must remain the same: to help your children transition to responsible adulthood.” My kids have all verbalized at least one thing they wish we had done differently, but like most parents, we did the best we could. There are many details of our lives we did not share with them – things that definitely shaped our family circumstances and how we parented – but at the end of the day, when I look back at the years gone by, I can confidently say we did our best, we gave it our all, we loved passionately and fully, we handed out apologies when needed and embraced with loving arms. And the result is three beautiful, adult kids who have done well for themselves. Burns also says, “Your attitude, lifestyle, values, faith, and example impact your kids in ways you may never fully know. Author and pastor Chuck Swindoll summarized building legacy so well when he said, ‘Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children’.” What truth that holds because we may never fully see the impact our parenting has on our kids and how they live their lives, raise their kids, treat others, or make decisions. I will say the most important thing we gave our kids was an introduction to their faith. How they choose to live it out is up to them.

Just this past week, one of the kids was telling me details about his life, and I said something that must have sounded like advice or instruction. And in the typical response, he said “mom, you just don’t get it”. And he was right. I do not get his life because I have never experienced the environment or the structure under which he lives and breathes. I kind of laughed and thought of this from Burns’ book: “I’ve learned that in most cases the best policy for parents is to bite their tongues and remain silent. Withholding advice goes against our nature as parents, but unsolicited advice is usually taken as criticism.” Did you hear that friends? Unsolicited advice is usually taken as criticism. Let me tell you from numerous experiences with my own kids – that is so true. They do not want me to tell them how to interact with friends, what to do about their college scheduling problems, how to parent their kids, or how to manage a stressful work environment. They want – and need – to figure it out on their own. But that is so hard to do! I have a lot of words to get out. I have a lot of opinions. I like to say I verbally vomit whatever I am thinking in the moment. So for me to bite my tongue does not come naturally. But it is a skill I am developing and using frequently these days. I want my kids to know I support them no matter what choice they make, whether it is how I would have done it or not. My kids need to know I am here as a safe place to land.

While I sometimes look back with regret for the things I think I should have done differently in the years that have passed, I know in my heart my husband and I did the very best we could under the circumstances in which we lived and breathed. At the time, with the resources and knowledge we had, we did what we thought was right. I do not know of anyone who looks back on days of the past without wishing they could change at least a little. But wishing I had done some things differently does not correlate to me being a bad mom. I know I did alright because I have kids who have grown into responsible, caring, thoughtful adults. And I know I had a part in that.

So as my husband and I are now fully enveloped in the season of grown kids, grand babies, and everything else adulting, I am choosing to be thankful for all the yesterdays. I am choosing to relish the wonderful memories. I am choosing to remember the laughter and fun we had. While I cannot predict or even have a say in how my kids live their adult lives, I will certainly be available to give hugs, listen quietly and provide support. I am thankful I can now be a cheerleader mom instead of having to lead the way and direct the decisions they make. That duty is gone, but I can, and will, be available with the welcome mat out and my mouth tightly shut.

how to lend a hand in difficult times

There are several people I care deeply about who are facing some really difficult times personally or with loved ones right now. It can be really hard to know how to help without feeling like you are getting in the way, bothering the person, or maybe you are simply unaware of what is needed. So what do we often do? Walk away without doing anything at all because that is the easy choice. Oh the guilt comes for a short time with thoughts of “I really should help; I really want to help; I just don’t know what to do”. But let’s be real, sometimes it really is easiest to turn and walk away without doing anything at all. So let’s all do our best to take the high road, step in and turn our desire to help into action.

As a nurse I have spent hours at the bedside holding a hand, listening to fears and worry, wiping tears, and comforting family and friends. It can be uncomfortable, and sometimes – most of the time – it is a blessing to step into the place of allowing someone to be seen and heard. It comes down to one word – acknowledgement. When life gets hard, when difficult decisions must be made, when unexpected diagnoses cross your path, people simply need to be acknowledged. They need to be heard. They need empathy. They need you to just show up.

In my personal life, I have also faced some really hard days. Gosh, haven’t we all! Five years ago, Ryan had to be hospitalized for medication support while in status. His seizures were relentless, and after we had given two large doses of emergency medication in a matter of several hours, we had no choice but to pay a visit to the hospital for a couple days. It was one of the worst hospitalization we have ever experienced thanks to an apathetic nurse and incompetent doctor. Sometime after that stay, I wrote the following tips on how to lend a hand to someone who is trying to manage through a really difficult time.

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People often do not know what to do when someone is hospitalized or going through an especially difficult time. I want to share just a few things to consider when you want to help but are unsure how to do so:

  1. Do not ask “What do you need? Can I do anything to help?” Just do it.  If you ask if a meal would help, I will tell you no.  I do not want to be a burden.  I do not want to feel like a victim or that I cannot handle this on my own.  Because I handle it on my own every day. Put your thoughts into action.  If you feel led to take a meal to someone or drop off a gift card, just do it.  I promise it will be very appreciated.  I had one friend bring two meals over with a very sweet card that essentially said “we are so sorry and are thinking of you”.  Simple and to the point.  Those two meals will be eaten this week as we recover from the stress and fatigue that takes days to get over. Another friend simply said “I am bringing you a meal and can do either Sunday or Monday. Which do you prefer?”  I answered her and did not have to have the ongoing conversation on what she could do to help.  Just today while eating dinner, a third friend stopped over unexpectedly with a big bag of food from Trader Joe’s and a beautiful fall plant.  I cried when I saw her because I was so stressed out and her thoughtfulness meant so much. When trying to maintain one child in the hospital and the rest at home, life is much easier when someone just says what they are doing for you instead asking what you need. And trust me, those gestures are so very appreciated!
  2. Do not get mad or take it personally when I do not respond to you. If you ask me how I am doing and do not hear back, please do not text me again and say “are you there?”  Of course I am here, and I am busy trying to survive through the stress and changes.  I am trying to take care of my child and not think the worst.  I am trying to maintain my composure without falling apart at the seams.  I am dealing with doctors and everyone else who keeps coming in the hospital room. And I still have to stay strong for my other kids.  People who have children (or another loved one) in the hospital may have the time to respond, but usually they do not have the energy.  It is very difficult to say the same thing over and over and over again.  It is exhausting.  And lets face it, family comes first.  I may call you one of my very best friends, but I may not stay in contact with you because it takes all my energy just to keep my siblings and parents in the loop – and they need to know what is going on before anyone else finds out. Just because you do not hear from me does not translate to “I do not care about you”.
  3. Do not tell me about every situation you have had with your grandma, dad, cousin and uncle. If the situation was different, and I was not sitting in the hospital with my child trying to just survive the moment, I would care and be interested.  But right now, in the midst of the acute situation I find myself in, I really do not want to hear about what worked for your relative.  I do not want you to comb through all the choices we have made for our child and dissect what else we can do or the latest and greatest new technique or medicine you found on the web.  Please just listen and be present in my pain and concern for my child.  Please just show support and understand we are doing the very best we know how to do.  We have to make decisions, and we worry all the time that we are making the wrong one.  Hearing about how your uncle saw a doctor in the next state over is not pertinent to what I am facing right now.  I do not intend to sound self absorbed and self centered. And I definitely do not intend to come across as an insensitive friend when you chatter on and on, but honestly, I do not want to hear it right now.  Please just respect the choices we have made for our family.
  4. Know that even when I do not say it, I really care about you. I appreciate the prayers.  I need your support.  Sometimes I feel like a complete burden and worry about what others think.  I am weak and I am imperfect, but I am doing the best I know how to do. Sometimes the emotions and stress are just too much to bear. Your love and support is invaluable.  I am just not always good at verbalizing it.

I hope these tips are received well, and I say them with good intentions. Whether a person or family is facing a difficult time with someone in the hospital or they have lost a dear family member or they are facing the loss of a job or whatever it may be, being present is the most important thing you can do.  Your actions speak volumes.  Your listening ear is appreciated. Your acknowledgement is a precious gift.  It is easy to feel helpless, but when heartache and stress come, love can be expressed in many ways to show support. Again, do not ask. Just act.

finding my ebenezer

On a cold, snowy December day, movers came to load furniture and carefully organized boxes for the drive from Lincoln to Papillion. It was with much thought, analysis and emotion that we made the decision to leave our home of 19 years where we raised our kids. Those four walls witnessed so much love, chaos and laughter throughout the seasons. So many of the memories embedded in my mind and heart were created there. So many unexpected challenges occurred in that house as well. It was difficult to leave the safety and security of a known and worn home. We were blessed with the opportunity to build a house to meet our youngest’s needs – bigger doorways, an open floor plan, and a zero entry walk in shower to fit his shower chair. We placed furniture, organized spices and canned goods, unpacked towels and cleaning supplies, hung clothes, and rearranged decorations.

Before we moved into this house, we lived in an apartment for five months after our house sold in less than 24 hours. During that time of transition, we prayed fervently for our new home to be a place of love and acceptance. For everyone who enters our home to feel the love of Christ. For these walls to be a safe haven where people can be real, feel accepted, and find peace. We gave it to the Lord and said, Your will be done with this home.

But where I found myself, where my thoughts and motives wandered to was a desire for perfection. Within only a couple days, I found myself needing to have everything just so with nothing out of place, everything perfectly matched and decorated. It was a completely unsettling feeling, and my countenance mirrored what my heart felt – stress over the very trivial and minor details that really do not matter. One of the internal battles I faced was over my kitchen table. For many years, we used my parent’s old table which had seen better days. It still had the knife marks from my younger days when I scratched my butter knife into the wood. It was banged up, bruised and glued together. Two years ago after months of searching and saving our money, we bought a new table I had eyed for over a year. This table in my dining room is one I waited so long purchase, and it has meaning to both Travis and me. It is a symbol of sorts – while not a need, it is a cherished blessing. So here I was, getting upset and critical of this table because it does not perfectly match my kitchen counters which are a beautiful mix of greys, creams and browns with specks of black. I wallowed in regret and mentally flogged myself for not picking countertops that would perfectly match my table.

And then I was gently reminded of those specific prayers we prayed for months on end. Where exactly does my table fit into all of that? How does it matter if the stain on my table does not perfectly match the kitchen counters? And why was I the only one seeing the “issue” and experiencing angst over this? Everyone else seemed to think it looks just fine.

Not long after moving in, my kids were here for a visit. I shared my heart with them, and how I was struggling with the desire of the flesh to live in perfection while my heart knew this is a first world problem that does not matter or even hold any weight of truth or relevance to life. And what one of them said to me was so profound – “Kim, this table is your Ebenezer”. I had to agree; this table is now my beloved Ebenezer.

What exactly is an Ebenezer? We have to look back to I Samuel 7 for context. During this time, Israel was attacked by the Philistines, but God gave protection to the Israelites. They won the battle, and Samuel, their leader, placed a stone on the battlefield and said to the people, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us”. The Hebrew word for Ebenezer literally means “stone of help”. Samuel set an Ebenezer on his battlefield – a stone as a physical reminder of God’s protection and help to overcome the fight. It was a constant reminder to all the Israelites of God’s protection and loving kindness over them that day. It was a way for them to pause and thank God for His faithfulness to them.

And so my table has become my Ebenezer. It is my reminder of God’s faithfulness in my life. And when I look at this table now, I see beauty. I see workmanship. I see God’s hand in my life. I see a battle won over the desire for perfection. The tears fall as I thank Him for my perfectly placed table to remind me life does not need to be perfect but should be lived with intention. I love this table, and the beauty it exudes because it is a picture of provision and protection. This “stone” where we gather to eat, to play games to converse and share our hearts is exactly that – a reminder of God’s help for our family. It is an integral piece of those prayers asking God to use our home to help others experience the love of Christ.

What is your ebenezer? What is your stone of help? Where have you seen God’s protection over your life? What challenges, hurts or maybe even selfish ambitions do you need to lay at the feet of Jesus in surrender? Where do you need a reminder of God’s provision and truth in your own life?

I Samuel 7:12 ~ Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us”.

from there to here

This was written a couple months ago but never published….until today.

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We sat on the carpeted stairs leading up to our huge, shared room, talking about our life, our family, our luck. Me with my frizzy, chin length curly hair and braces. My older sister with her lighter, straight shoulder length hair and beautiful smile. I was always jealous of her petite frame and thought I was fat when really, I just had a different build than her. She is built like my mom’s side of the family – shorter, smaller builds. I, on the other, hand inherited my dad’s German build – more muscular, taller, big-boned as I used to say. We still don’t look much like sisters, but I adore my smaller big sister more than words can express. I only wish I could have seen the beauty of our differences instead of spending years in comparison.

So that day on the stairs of our big two story entry way right on the edge of Bellevue’s Fontanelle Forest with it’s huge swaying, protective trees…we sat together talking about life when one of us said, “We are so lucky….we really have the perfect life.” And in my eighth grade brain, a perfect life was a nice, big house in an expensive neighborhood; married parents with a stay at home mom; plenty of money for nice, stylish clothes; and lots of great trips around the country each year. I do not know where the conversation took us or why we went there to begin with, but I vividly remember the peace and contentment and security of truly believing we had the perfect life. Our home was peaceful with little fighting and lots of love to go around. Friends and family entered our home often with lots of yummy food and conversation. We played games, laughed a lot, spent loads of time together as a family of five – my parents and two sisters and me. We even had a teen line which back then was a luxury many of our friends did not have. My parents were very involved in our lives and attended all our activities. We went to church every week and grew up with a strong faith and good morals. My sisters and I were blessed to be protected from abuse and trauma that many have to face in their growing years. I do not know if we even realized how hard life was for so many of our acquaintances. I just knew I had a really good life – that I was blessed with safety, security and comfort.

My struggles began my senior year of high school. Combine a boyfriend I should not have been dating, an eating disorder and major depression, and life got hard really fast. My parents were smart enough to get me the help I needed, and by my sophomore year of college, I was happily attending school and doing well again. My husband and I started dating that year and then my mom got sick and was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That perfect childhood soon felt like nothing but a distant memory as my parents’ marriage fell apart. I became my mom’s guardian when she moved into a nursing home at the young age of 49 while the dreaded MS started to steal her mind. My sisters and I begged for a break from the heartache but that break never came as MS took our mom from us far too early. We all moved through the pain and sorrow of loss and found love and life again in marriage and parenting.

It seemed like no time at all before our fourth child was born which brought a whole new set of problems. Years of fighting for diagnoses, solutions, and calm led us to many new normals as we were challenged with surgeries, therapies, adjustments in medications, altered plans. Raising a special needs child was not on our bucket list of things to accomplish, but it is exactly what God gave us. To say it has been a long and harrowing road would be an understatement, but together we have found a way to press on and overcome each new challenge. We have found joy in the midst of sorrow.

And here we are so many years later — two married children, a new grandson, another son serving in the military, and our sweet youngest slowly declining and losing strength. We have been facing the long goodbye for many years now watching him lose his voice, his ability to eat and drink, his balance and his physical strength as various body functions fail and seizures ravage his brain ensuring every day is a new challenge with his health. Yet as the seasons change with growing children and continued medical challenges, life has slowly stabilized and become almost predictable these past few years. The heartaches have become farther and fewer in between; the financial struggles have dissipated; the worry over lost skills and abilities for our youngest have normalized; the joys of adult children have increased; and the blessings of a loving marriage built on commitment and longsuffering have multiplied.

So here we sit thinking back over the past 26 years of marriage, the past 23 years of parenting, the past 17 years of raising a profoundly disabled child. We feel so very undeserving of all we have been given in the provision of needs met, the blessing of supportive relationships, the seasons of calm and stability. And yet it is so easy to wonder over the next challenge and season of pain. It is as if we believe we are running out of blessings and peace, and a new season of hardship is around the corner. For many years we became accustomed to new trials and challenges expecting them one after the other. And now that life has brought a longer season of relaxation and rest from acute hardships, we find ourselves waiting for the next shoe to drop, for the next huge challenge to hit as if we do not deserve to have a long season of peace and blessings.

This season we find ourselves in is bringing a big change in that after 26 years in Lincoln, we are moving to Papillion. We are heading home to the familiarity of childhood experiences and memories. A brand new home awaits us that has been purposefully planned to meet our youngest’s needs. A new city with much to be rediscovered, a new church, and a new set of friends we have yet to meet are waiting on the horizon.

Yet with the anticipation for all that is to come, there is timid and reserved excitement paired with fear that we do not deserve a new home, new relationships and new experiences. Fear easily abounds and overcomes our mindset and emotions when not kept in check because a lie exists deep down that says we do not deserve blessings and seasons of bounty. A lie that says we were made for hardship and constant battles. But we know it is a lie. We know God promises life and liberty from trials. We know all our blessings and joys come from Him. In John 16:33 He says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We really are not here for comfort and ease of life; those things are not promised. As I like to say, this life is the closest thing to hell a believer will ever experience. As Christians we have eternity to look forward to where sorrow and pain and heartache will have no place.

So at the end of the day, when the quiet comes, when darkness presses in, when things settle in for the night, His promises are still true. While heartache and difficulties are an expected piece of this life, God also has many amazing promises of goodwill and blessing. And the two can co-exist. And we can rest in the midst of happy, stable seasons. And blessings can abound even if life does not turn out as we expect.

Some of my favorite promises are these:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, becasue they trust in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~ Matthew 11:28-29

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. ~ Exodus 14:14

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10

While we may not feel we deserve happiness, blessings and peace, we also know those are gifts from God. We know when more hardships come – because they will come – God will continue to meet our needs as he has done for the past many years. We know we can enjoy a new home. We also know when a new hard hits, God will provide and joy will always find us.

be the encourager

For many years I found myself living in a space of expectation. Yet it was not an expectation of something good. Rather, an expectation of moving from one hardship to another. From one stressful event to another. From tears over one challenging moment to another. As if I did not deserve to be free from difficulties for even a season. And now, I find myself in a space of routine. Where boredom looms, and my mind can easily slip to thoughts of what’s next? How long until another hard hits?

For so long, we lived as if we were constantly walking on hot coals as our youngest struggled with major developmental delays, relentless seizures and intense sensory issues. He would scream for no reason for hours on end. He would slam his head into the wall, the table, the person sitting next to him, requiring him to wear a helmet at all times. He was in and out of the hospital. He spent hours in therapies with numerous trips to a variety of doctors. And there was so much more that would take far too long to explain. All of this trained our minds to live in a state of constant upheaval and stress. There were many other unrelated events that occurred over the years also causing profound stress, adding to an environment of anxious apprehension. The challenges became expected, routine pieces of our days. It is hard to think about the days ahead, wondering what is next. Yet we relish the predictability of his diagnoses even though the challenges can be so very hard.

But don’t we all walk a similar path? Our situations, challenges and daily routines may look different, but we all have a cross to bear in life. We all face fears, stress and unknowns. We all wonder on our tomorrows. We all worry over family, friends, situations. The challenge is to find the beauty of each day and live in a state of thankfulness; to focus on the love that finds us and the blessings that capture us; to mark the beauty in the story that defines us.

So today as I find myself challenging feelings of guilt for not feeling like I have excessive difficulties and stress, I want to put myself into a place of thankfulness. I want to remember the faithfulness of a God who wrote my days. Who always supplies all of my needs. Who shows up every day when my heart doesn’t think I can take another challenge. No matter what we face or how difficult our journey becomes, our Heavenly Father always paves the way and shows up with an outpouring of peace. The One who is always steadfast, reliable, trustworthy and loving is the same God who allows difficulties to find us. He is the same God who is giving us a season of routine, mundane moments. And when the next messy comes, when the next heavy challenge arrives, He will be the same God who walks faithfully beside us.

My challenge is to enjoy the path whether the scenery is lush or barren. To focus on the blessings instead of the hardships. To relish in the provision instead of the unknowns. I am just as thankful for the seasons of difficulties and stress as I am for the seasons of mundane routine.

Every day is a gift. Even in the hard, every day is a gift. As I sit back this week and watch several around me struggle with a new diagnosis, a challenging situation, a season of hospice and impending loss, I recognize the responsibility to extend a word of encouragement, to breathe life into a weary soul, to share the gracious gift of empathy. I think back on the many blessings we received in our hard days. Friends and family who showed up to bless us with encouragement, gifts, food, just being present. May we all use the experiences we collect, whether easy or hard, to show empathy and love for someone else who is struggling on their journey. May we all find the strength and energy to be a supportive, encouraging friend to someone in need.

Romans 12:10-13: Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Isaiah 41:10, 13: So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

change the inside first

He said a cuss word, and I got upset. For whatever reason, I just had to point it out. Let’s face it and be honest. I was being judgmental. I asked why he had to use that word. And then he got upset. Because the night before, I had let out a long string of bad words. I was irritated. I was angry we were not communicating effectively. I was frustrated at the snippy words between us. And he did not point it out to me. But on this night for whatever reason, it hit me. I realized something that seems so very elementary. I cannot change him. I cannot choose his words for him. I cannot be his conscience. But I can change me. I can work on my attitude. I can be more aware of my words. I can make a heart change that will lead to a word change. I am the only me I can create lasting change in. It has to be my idea. It has to be my motivation. It has to be my will and energy that works to make me a better me. No one can do it for me.

You see, for a long time now, I feel like I have slipped. I have let my heart become sort of numb to my faith. I have let my mind move away from sensitivity to Christ-like behaviors. Come on now, we all do this sometimes, right? Really I have allowed my heart to move toward selfishness and hypocritical actions. I say I am a Christian, but I do not spend much time with God. I do not open my Bible and let it speak to me. I do not spend my time in prayer talking to my Savior and Lord. I do not set my mind on things above but instead on earthly things. In fact, Colossians 3 says it quite bluntly – rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. It is right there in God’s letter to me – watch what you say. It goes on to say to clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…put on love. But really, in all honesty, how good am I at that? It is so much easier to grumble, to call someone stupid, to say a cuss word, to be impatient with another, to scream at the driver in front of me because I do not like the way they are driving, or to look the other way when someone has a need I can easily fill. And let’s not forget that big one I mentioned – finding fault in my spouse instead of focusing on my own issues.

After walking away from him with a pretty negative attitude, I googled “difference between a Christian and hypocrite”. And it brought me to Matthew 23 which is often referred to as the Seven Woes. Jesus is telling people not to be like the Pharisees and instructs them to stop being fake, judgmental, hypocritical, and the like. Then I read verses 25 and 26 – you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence….clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean. That really struck me. How often do I worry too much about how I appear to others? I can be so focused on losing weight or getting in shape so I can look good. I think about how it looks if one of us says a bad word or he makes a joke. I worry over appearances and impressions. Yet, I should be more concerned about my heart. I should be focused on the health of my mind and the state of my spiritual self. When the inside is cleaned up and disciplined, the outer shell follows suit. So why do I have it backwards? Why do I spend so much time fussing and messing with the right outfit or obsessing over a bad hair day or saying the right thing to impress people? Is my spiritual wellbeing and attitude not more important? Is God really so concerned over me weighing a certain number or having the perfect outfit or owning the right house? In a week or ten years will those things matter? Boy I hope not. Instead, the words I speak to others, the fact that I am the only Christ some people may ever see and my witness as someone who calls herself a Christian – that is what matters. Those things are what have eternal value. I absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, want to be known as someone who is sensitive to others, compassionate, filled with empathy, helpful, speaks beauty into others’ lives, and is positive and uplifting.

It is time to stop focusing on the things that truly do not matter, that will not come with me when I die. I will not have a backpack full of money or a list of amazing adventures or an award for the best physical appearance when I see Jesus face to face. But I will carry a resume of the choices I made with eternal impacts. I will be accountable for how Christ-like I chose to live and treat others. I will be questioned on how well I put my mind on things above instead of earthly things.

Priorities matter. Words matter. The state of the heart matters. The focus of the mind matters. Let’s spend our time and efforts focusing on the inside and let the rest fall into place. Let’s work to scrub the inside so the outside can follow suit.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

as moments turn into memories

Wet, dewy grass meets us each morning with cheerful, sunny intent as the sun then fades away each evening into the silence met only by the playful sounds of insects and birds singing their way into the darkness of night. And such is the rhythm of summer. One day passes as the next one begins. Life is predictable like that. I linger on thoughts of my tomorrows, knowing some will remain on the worn, known path of predictability. Yet others come with surprising wonder and questions of what, when, why, and how? As moments turn into memories, as days turn into years, I have learned the art of enjoying, really relishing, the beauty and steadfast expectation of routine. Yet with that routine, new adventures and changes shake up my world and generally bring beauty and blessing especially when I choose to focus on all the good.

On a sunny day in March, Nathan Benson and our sweet girl stood before a crowd of loved ones and vowed to spend their lives honoring, loving and committing themselves to each other every single day. What a beautiful sight to see them smiling and gazing into each others’ eyes with big, excited smiles as they spoke their vows. It was a day to cherish. Their transition to married life as new roommates and spouses has been as expected – full of excitement, new adventures, never having to say goodbye, and grown up decisions – and at the same time, learning how to level set expectations and communicate well. Anyone who professes that marriage is easy has not experienced the committed decision it takes to daily die to self and steadfastly work hard to live as a team. What a blessing it is as a parent to witness two young adults loving well and living life together with intention.

In excited anticipation, we now look forward to our oldest’s wedding in late August as he marries Taylor Orton – a beautiful, intelligent, engaging young woman who stole our hearts from the start. Brad and Taylor met at God’s Mountain, a summer camp where they are both in their third year as leaders. As Brad persists through his college years, he has three more semesters to complete, so they will remain in their known, familiar city of St. Joe for a while longer. We are excited to walk this journey with them. God brought a beautiful soul into Brad’s life, and we are certain He will bless their days as He has been faithful to do with Sidney and Nathan.

There is no greater joy than to watch a child fall in love and discover the partner God intended for them from the beginning. I am honored to witness two of my children explore the adventures of marriage. Looking back to Travis’ and my early years, now over twenty five years ago, I smile and remember how very poor we were from a worldly standpoint, but how rich in love we were as we experienced the beauty of marriage and the parallel frustrations of learning how to make decisions together and communicate well. Those early years were both sunshine and fog all rolled up into one amazing package of discovery and growth together. Looking back, I see how intently we both worked to love well all while mastering the art of both asking for and receiving forgiveness. I would not trade those years because they created a foundation that has carried us through some beautiful, enriching, and equally dark moments. Life is full of change that comes as predictably as the steadfast seasons which find us every few months here in the Midwest.

Just last month, Trevor, too, entered a new season. As his college years are upon him after walking the graduation stage, he made the decision to enter the military, more specifically, the Navy. To say we are proud of his decision is an understatement as both Travis and I come from families with strong military service. Because Trevor scored high on the ASVAB (military placement exam), he was presented with a wide range of choices, and ultimately landed on cryptology. Because of the narrow scope of his role and the low number of sailors who do that job, he will not leave for boot camp until December then will start his educational training in January. This last season of having him home under our roof is a cherished yet bittersweet time, knowing his days within arms’ reach are numbered. Yet each of us raising children are on the same path of the ticking clock, some just have more time on their side than others. This journey with our last to leave has been one of simple joy and unwavering pride as he has chosen the unpopular yet respected path of service to our country. We are excited to see where these next couple years take Trevor. If I am confident of only one thing, it is that this young man, the most independent, strong willed of our four, will succeed at whatever he puts his mind to. To say my heart breaks at the thought of him leaving home would be a severe understatement, but the parallel emotions of pride and respect equally lead me to look forward to his future.

As I wrote in my last post nearly ten months ago, Ryan remains the same. The long goodbye continues as slowing speeds, yet the daily joy he brings to our family is a harvest of blessing and gratefulness for each day the Lord allows us to love on him. His sophomore year was relatively uneventful, and for that we are so very thankful. With all the changes within our family this year from the older three, we are glad Ryan’s world remains predictable and routine. He has become the steadfast, unwavering constant in our home. His squeals and cuddles are the expected sweet spot in our days as his seizures continue to fight for attention and time, robbing him of alertness and demanding much needed sleep. How he remains the warrior he has become is unexplainable, but his gentle, kind spirit remains a gift to all who have the privilege of caring for him.

As summer presses on, as the heat waves come and go, as moments turn from active, engaging experiences to treasured memories of days gone by, I would be remiss to forget the faithfulness of God in the past and future events of this year. For our family, 2019 will be remembered as a year of change, a year in which we gain both a son and a daughter, as love grows, and maturity evolves our sweet children into young adults ready to make their mark in the world.

Much love from us to you all –

Kim & Travis