You Don’t Need a PhD to Get This ….

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I was reminded this weekend that I have a blog — and it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything.  Then, this note popped up on my Facebook review from several years ago …. so, here it is.  It’s good stuff.  Read it, OK?  Everyone struggles with this — even when we don’t realize we’re struggling with it.  It can be subtle or it can be in your face.  It can also be hidden from you but obvious to everyone else! It will give you something to ponder — everyone needs something to ponder, right?

Here goes —  and, I welcome your feedback.  We’ve all got something to learn and we’ve all got something to share!

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(Originally Published on August 7, 2011)

I was listening to an audio of someone teaching about the human brain a couple of weeks ago and the spiritual and emotional truth of what he was saying about the physical just really stuck with me.  I’m not even going to try to quote scientific stuff – you can probably research the hypo-thalamus and limbic system if you want to search it further.  I wouldn’t get the details right.  I’m not a scientist, a doctor, or a psychologist – just a woman who has lived some of this stuff and can attest to the truth of how it works – whether or not I fully understand all the details!

Everything we experience in life has an effect – and it makes a mark.  Life experiences, emotional responses, sometimes even patterns of thinking – all get “burned” into our brains.  They create grooves and patterns – and ruts.  These things accumulate as we go through life; everything we experience takes a journey through the roller coaster of tracks that have been ingrained.  Sometimes that is good – but sometimes it is not.  Traumatic life experiences make the deepest marks.  The good news is that we really can re-train how we respond to these things and those marks can heal.

I was trying to explain this to a teenager last week as we were talking about some things.  I started to use the example of how a CD is burned, but that just didn’t quite fit.  She understood the “burning” part – but I couldn’t take the example any further.  Then, I just happened to look down and notice a big gouge in the wooden table we were sitting at.  The finish was smooth and polished, but every time you would run your finger across it, you would feel every contour of the damage.  If we would have poured water on the table, it would have followed a specific pathway created by the gouge.  We could polish it up and keep it smooth, we could put something over the top of it so we didn’t see it, but it would take some effort and we would need to invest some time if we wanted to repair it so that pathway was no longer there.  I’m not a woodworker, so I don’t know what would be involved, but I suspect it would take some sanding, some filling to rebuild, and some refinishing.  The beauty and usability could be restored, but the fact would remain that the original piece of wood would never be the same – its physical structure had been affected by the gouge.

We are able to “repair” those marks left on our brains.  Some are like light scratches and it doesn’t take too long for them to heal.  But, some are like deep gouges or even splintered wood.  They take longer.  The “how to” isn’t the purpose of this note – I know in my life it takes a lot of honesty with myself, an application of physical, emotional, and spiritual truth, prayer, and submission.  Submission to the process and the pain it can bring during the healing process – and submission to the Sovereignty of God.  I don’t always understand, but I choose to believe that He is constantly working things out on my behalf.

So, having said all that – here is the “light bulb” of truth I want to share.  I want to share it because it is HUGE.  Do you care to take a guess at what the most difficult thing to heal is?  I would assume that you may be thinking of specific traumatic events or abuses – that is where my thoughts went first.  Well, it is unforgiveness.  It is not the event; it is how we choose to hold onto it that is so hard to heal.  I will not argue that there are some horrible things people experience – I am not minimizing that at all.  I don’t know how people even survive some things that happen to them – let alone recover and heal.  My understanding just can’t wrap around that.  It amazes me every time I see the restorative grace of God alive and active in a person’s life – and I am thankful that is available to me too!

Unforgiveness can take three years to heal.  Three years.  I get so frustrated when I feel like I have chosen to forgive someone, I have prayed about it, I have released it – and then I see that person somewhere – and all that old stuff rises up in me again.  What the heck?!  God, I forgave that person – what is going on?  It is not that I haven’t chosen to forgive – it is that the healing of unforgiveness is a process.  (And, the process of extending forgiveness and walking through that healing usually involves working on an area of my life that needs some smoothing out too!)  Every time that rises up again, I have to choose to continue through the process and experience whatever pain is still lingering, lay it down, and keep moving on.  The beauty of the process is that one day I will encounter that person, or think about the situation, and the pain or anger of unforgiveness I feel will be much less – then one day it will be gone.  And, it truly is a miracle when that happens.

So, perhaps you are thinking that you have unforgiveness that has lasted more than three years – so how can three years apply?  I don’t have any trouble believing that.  I carried around some buried unforgiveness for a lot of years.  It still affected every area of my life even though I chose not to acknowledge it.  It did a lot of damage.  It won’t go away by itself – and I don’t think we can make a choice to forgive and then check back in three years and expect it to be gone.  It’s not a magic formula.  It’s a hard process.  It is an active process.

I also carried around what I’ll call “active unforgiveness.”  You know – a grudge.  Justified or not, it is deadly.  It poisons every area of our life – and the lives of those we love.  The damage has been done – we can’t change what happened.  But, we can choose how we are going to let it affect us.  It’s not easy.

Here is a little 3-step process a pastor shared about 15 years ago.  I have applied this consistently to some old wounds – and they have healed.

  1. Forgive the person – just choose to do it whether you feel like it or not.  Be prepared, you probably won’t feel like it.
  2. Release the person – God can’t work in the situation if we are hanging on and staying in the way.  If we have truly been harmed, God will handle the justice – we don’t have to try to do it.  He is more than able, and he knows what needs to be refined in that person’s life.  Forgiveness is about you.
  3. Bless the person – pray for God’s blessing on every area of the person’s life.  Again – whether you feel like it or not.  And you probably won’t feel like it the first 100 times or so!

This isn’t a one-time formula.  It is a process.  It is a prescription for healing that must be applied EVERY single time the unforgiveness rises up.

Important note:  You do NOT need to maintain an active relationship with an abusive person to forgive them.  Sometimes you need to stay away for your safety.

Forgiveness is hard – but it is possible.  And, while you’re at it – don’t forget to apply forgiveness to yourself.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean something was not wrong – it means we have the opportunity to reconcile, change, and move forward in our lives.

Be blessed today!

102# Fatty

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Words … the ones spoken by ourselves and others … and the ones silently spoken to ourselves have much power. The Bible teaches about the power of the tongue .. our words speak life or they speak death.

What in the world does that have to do with the title of this blog post? Well, I’m glad you asked.

I’ve worked hard to lose 50 lbs. At least I thought I was working hard. Looking back over the last 20 months, I think the first 12 months of losing were the easiest. There were some really hard times but the excitement of the changes was pretty motivating.

I find myself in a strange place now …. I’m not where I want to be but I have some hard work to accomplish before I can continue. Some inside work. I could write a book’s worth of blog posts about what I have already learned and the dragons I know I still need to slay, but I digress. Back to the power of words ….

I’ve thought a lot about when my obsession with my weight started. One memory that has been pretty vivid through the years was the day we got weighed for our report cards in the fifth grade. I was 10 years old. Third school in three years. Shy. Lacking confidence in everything but my schoolwork. My biggest fear that day was that I might have a hole in my sock when I took my shoes off to be weighed in the hallway. Whew. No hole. Life was good. I gave no thought to the number my teacher spoke to the person helping her record weight on our cards.

Later that day our class was outside playing softball during PE. I never enjoyed PE or even recess. I’d have been happier to find someplace quiet to read a book. But, I could hit. I was up to bat and I hit the ball into the outfield and started running to first base.

About half way there I heard one of the boys in my class yell, “There goes 102 pound fatty running to first base!” I never made it to the base. I let that comment just knock the steam right of me. I slowed and the ball beat me there. I was so relieved. The last place I wanted to be was on the field in view of everyone. I’m fairly certain I handled that situation by appearing to ignore it and no one knew the pain, embarrassment, and shame I felt for being “fat”.

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I can’t blame it all on that comment, it just happened to be planted in some pretty fertile soil of insecurity.

The natural changes in my body over the next couple years were not welcome at all. The development of a woman’s body felt like betrayal. Curves were fat. Weighing more than 100# was fat. I’m not sure where that came from. Good grief. I was 5’6″ in the 6th grade.
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I struggled all through high school believing I was fat and needed to lose weight. I weighed between 115-120#.
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This crazy mindset robbed me of so much over the last 40 years. That saying, “What you think about, you bring about” is true. I obsessed so much about being fat that I eventually gained that weight I was so worried about! The hurtful words I have spoken to myself over the years are so much worse than that kid’s childish teasing.

Mindset. How does one develop a mindset that harms one’s self? I believe it’s based on words. Yes, the hurtful spoken words of others contribute to it, but the hurtful words we speak to ourselves do the long-term damage.

Working on mindset. That’s one part of this journey I am finding particularly difficult right now. But, conquer it I must! I want permanent change and that involves a healthy mindset. Without it, the other healthy changes I have been working so hard on will slowly deteriorate and I will find myself back where I started … again.

Please be gentle with your words … those you speak and especially that internal dialogue with yourself. They are so very powerful.

And, that kid who yelled out those hurtful words so many years ago … well, even though I still have times when I’d like to punch him …. I choose to forgive instead. I have carried that hurt and anger way too long. It is heavy .. it weighs a lot. That’s part of the healing process …. learning to release and move on.

It All Started With a Cookie

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One definition of spontaneous is unplanned or done on impulse.

Sounds like me – right?

Not so much.

I’m a planner. I’m also a do-er. I’m a list maker and a logical thinker. That doesn’t leave much room for anything spontaneous, although I have been known to write something on my list that I did that wasn’t planned so I could mark it off. Does that count at least a little bit? It is a crazy habit but it helps me look back and see there was a reason I didn’t get everything else done on my perfectly planned out list!

I’m trying to loosen up, to enjoy life more, to not always be driven by the calendar or clock.

It’s hard. People depend on me to meet my responsibilities and I have this thing called perfectionism that I keep plugging away at reforming. I’m not perfect, I know that. But I set ridiculously high standards for myself that I would never put on anyone else … and then I procrastinate … and then I fail. It’s a vicious cycle. Can you relate?

But, really, I am getting better.
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So, a couple weeks ago my cousin posted a photo of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. I commented about wanting one and she told me to pack a bag and get over there.

She and her husband were vacationing in Branson. Thats a 6-hour drive for me. I like to drive but life’s been just a little bit stressful lately and I was concerned I would go and come home exhausted, which would likely just create more stress.

Then the text messages started – one photo after the other – the enclosed porch with comfy chairs (and books!) – the private bedroom and bathroom with Jacuzzi tub – the fireplace – the trees — a complete picture of relaxation was developing.

The next morning I threw some clothes in my suitcase and put it in the car so I’d be prepared … just in case. I still wasn’t completely sure about going. I had a lot of reasons why I should stay home. But the reality was if I stayed home I would be mad at myself for not going and then I wouldn’t get anything productive accomplished anyway!

So, I went. I took a half day vacation from work, put Branson in the Maps app on my phone, got in my car , and hit the road. My hope was to get there before dark.

I love technology … and although GPS has taken me to the wrong place on occasion I still trust it. Of course, it’s a fairly straight-forward route. You either go east and then south or south and then east. I chose the south route to get there. Highway 400 was familiar.

As I neared Parsons I checked my gas gauge. I still had 110 miles before E so I drove on. Pittsburg wasn’t far and I could get fuel there. Well, the GPS took me around Pittsburg on a different road and then my travels got interesting. Narrow 2-lane roads with very little traffic. As the number of estimated miles remaining continued to drop and the distance between farms began to increase, I got a little concerned.

There were lots of hay bales, but this pony doesn’t eat hay … I needed gasoline!
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I began looking for fuel tanks at farms. I saw diesel tanks, but that wouldn’t do. I was about ready to pull over and open up my Yelp app to see if there were any gas stations close by. I had 32 miles left and I had no idea where I was. All of a sudden, like a mirage in the desert, there it was… a gas station. Whew!

Once I arrived at the cabin we enjoyed a delicious steak dinner and conversation that lasted late into the night.

Saturday included a trip to the Branson Landing for a bit of shopping and a lot of people watching and just enjoying what we knew was one of our last warm days of fall. (And ice cream for lunch!)

I got to spend some time at The Plum Bizarre – an awesome bead shop! I left there with fresh inspiration and enough supplies to legitimately write my mileage off as a business expense!

Back at the cabin we spent the rest of our time watching a little TV, talking, laughing, reminiscing, eating, and listening to the acorns randomly pummel the roof of the cabin.

As the weekend wound down we made plans and put a date on the calendar to do it again. It won’t be spontaneous next year but I see an annual tradition developing.

We came to the conclusion that although death is certain, it is often spontaneous – not planned for – so we should not work so hard to plan every detail of our lives. We must make time to be spontaneous. Yeah, that sounds a little ridiculous. It’s more like not planning every hour of your day (or dollar of your budget) so you have room to choose something spontaneous when it hits you!

Will you give it a try? Step out of the expected – act on a whim – go ahead, surprise yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Be Blessed,
Angie

Be Strong and Courageous

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Do you feel like you are carrying the weight of the world? Maybe not the whole world, but your home world, school world, or work world?
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Maybe you are – for today or for a long season.

I know it’s hard. You’re weary and worn down. But I’m fairly certain it won’t last forever. You’re capable and strong and that’s why you’ve been given the weight to carry.

Someone in your world who is lacking hope is watching you today. Watching and learning. Watching and being encouraged. If you can keep on … then maybe they can too…. for another hour, another day, however long it takes.

Be encouraged. You’re doing your best every day and you will see this season through.

Be an encourager. Speak kind words and offer a helping hand to those you see struggling to carry a heavy weight.

You ARE strong and you ARE courageous!

Sometimes You Gotta Get Off the Highway

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We recently made a very quick trip to Oklahoma for a family reunion.  Did I say VERY quick?  We left home at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday and were back home the next day for a 6 p.m. concert.  I’ve always loved road trips.  They get a little tougher on my body as I age, but they sure are a lot easier without kids in tow!

There is no easy way to get to Nowata, OK but it is a nice drive when the weather isn’t disagreeable.  We took the Coffeyville route on the way and enjoyed five hours of great conversation and beautiful scenery.

My great grandparents had 16 children who lived to adulthood. I’m 4th generation and there were some 6th and maybe even 7th generation kids there. We counted right at 120 in attendance. A nice turnout but still a small sampling of the potential if everyone had shown up.

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Six of the sixteen children were in attendance. They may be the only ones remaining from the 2nd generation. My grandmother was one of the older children and has been gone since 1998.

Lunch was potluck and there was much food. Yummy homemade Oklahoma food. Don’t laugh .. there really is a difference – and not just in the food.

Its only a five hour drive but sometimes it feels like I have landed on another planet. The pace is slower. The priorities are different. There is a lot of dropping in on family. I’ve seen relatives migrate from home to home drinking coffee, maybe having breakfast or lunch (or both) and just hanging out – every single day! I don’t know what they find to talk about but they clearly love spending time together. Sometimes I just shake my head in amazement that they can appear to be so busy at nothing all day, but other times I am envious of the bonds they share and the lack of schedules and stress in their lives. I live a different life. Not better or worse, just different.

Although it was never home for me, it felt like I went home. I was so relaxed and just felt joyful for no particular reason. I spent a couple weeks a summer there all through my childhood and teens. I don’t have lots and lots of vivid memories but in the midst of my huge extended family this past weekend … I felt and remembered the love. And, isn’t that the most important thing?

This post has taken a different turn from where I started …. writing does that. If you allow it, the written word will bypass your brain and start communicating what’s in your heart.

Maybe you’ll get the original content on another day. But for today, I encourage you to identify what your busy highway in life is and take a detour. Step aside. Slow down. Let your heart guide you to the simple things that give you joy.

Be blessed,
Angie

Hello world!

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Welcome to Sonflower Hope.

Today is my birthday and what better time to launch my blog? Writing has always been a passion. I am rarely ever without pen and paper – even though I have gotten away from it, it’s still in me waiting … just waiting … waiting for the perfect time.

I have now lived on this earth for 52 years and I can tell you with certainty that the perfect time never comes. So, after all these years of waiting – I’m making my time NOW.

You are likely to find me writing about anything that crosses my mind and gives me pause to stop and think.

Some days you’ll find seriousness, while other days may be full of whimsy or quirky little tidbits. I love to learn and I enjoy sharing the insights I receive, especially as they relate to my faith. If it means something to me, it will probably mean something to someone else.

My journey through this life often feels a bit like a big ball of chaos with its mixture of passions, experiences, perceptions, people, and places. My faith in Christ is what gives me hope and eventually brings clarity and balance to whatever crazy season of life I find myself in. It is my foundation.

I love to encourage others and I have found that sharing the realness of life experiences can touch the heart and bring understanding, relief, acceptance, empowerment ….. and healing.

I hope you will come along on my journey. I’d love to hear from you – please post and share with those you know who may enjoy reading my blog.

Blessings,
Angie

P.S. What have you been putting on hold while you wait for the perfect time?
Why not start today?