Red

 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2 (KJV)

I dyed my hair red. I wanted it to be a vibrant auburn. I always thought it would be fun to try out being a redhead. I thought about doing it for years. But long story short I bought some dye at Meijer and just did it.  It wasn’t what I expected and God used the whole episode to teach me something really valuable.

It was early October 2017.

I waited until my 2-year-old was fast asleep and snuck to the bathroom to begin my adventure.  I’ve colored my own hair before, just always some shade of blonde. Wrapped my dye towel around my neck then divided my hair into four sections. I mixed my ingredients, put on my plastic gloves, shook the bottle and started applying the dye.

To my surprise, it looked exactly as if I were squirting tomato ketchup all over my hair. I was amused. It was like a really badly done old horror movie.  I finished applying the dye and waited the prescribed amount of time for the color to “develop”.  When I returned to the mirror the ketchup red had turned a dark burgundy color. It was impressive how my it had changed. I was excited to wash it out and see the new me.

I leaned over the side of the bathtub, my shower head in hand and started rinsing my hair. The instructions said I should rinse until the water ran clear.  Adding water to the now deep burgundy dye on my head produced a dramatic effect. The water in the tub for all the world looked like I had slaughtered a good sized animal. Blood. It looked like blood, and I know what real blood looks like, I cleaned it off of surgical instruments for 15 years.  I had upgraded from my bad good for movie ketchup to what looked like a literal bloodbath.

I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed my hair.  Slowly it started to look like I just had a decent head wound instead of looking like I sacrificed a goat. I kept rinsing. I was annoyed at how long it was taking. The water never did run clear. Eventually, I settled for pink water and I put on the conditioner that came with the dye.

When I began to rinse out the conditioner, to my horror the water was red again. I couldn’t believe it. How was that possible? I dutifully rinsed my hair until the water once again ran pink and then gave up.

I wrapped my hair in a towel and dried it a bit and then turned to check out my new look.

I have been some shade of blonde my entire life. I am almost 40. One time I wore a dark brunette wig in a play, only the stage makeup saved me from looking like death. I thought having red hair would be a fun change. I thought with red hair I would feel exhilarated and bold.

In reality, I felt like a clown. It was SO bright! I felt a strange need to hide and my hair was like a beacon. I swear it radiated its own internal light.  My hair was Bozo the Clown red and glowing like Rudolf’s nose.  I DESPISED it.

I went to bed hating my hair. I vowed that I would shampoo it three times every day until it washed out. I spent an hour looking up tips on how to fade red hair.

The next morning I braided my hair and pinned it up for work. It seemed less awful if there was less of it hanging around my face and shoulders.  To my relief, no one I met that day was cruel enough to laugh in my face. I would forget my hair was different, in my mind’s eye I still thought of myself as a blonde, until I needed to make a trip to the restroom. The bathroom mirror quickly jarred me back to my new life as Bozo.

No photo seemed to fully capture the color I saw in the mirror.  But I knew deep down that red never lasts long, so I decided to rock my new look and enjoy watching it quickly fade.

It didn’t fade as quickly as I expected, but it DID fade.

I was actually starting to really like it. But as it was fading it started to look more and more pink.

I was actually starting to like it. About then someone at my workplace complained that I was breaking the dress code,  the one that requires us to have only naturally occurring hair colors.  Human Resources confirmed that my shade was not within the definition of natural. I felt panicked.

I had to change my hair but I had NO idea how to do it without either damaging my hair or dying it brunette. I knew my hair would only get pinker as it continued to fade.  My mother-in-law’s salon recommended using a medium ash blonde over it to get rid of the red. I was very nervous that my hair would turn orange or green. Back at Meijer I could not find any dye that said it was medium ash blonde.  I did find a product called Color Oops that promised to take the color out without using hydrogen peroxide or bleach.  I bought two boxes and headed home with my fingers crossed.

It took hours.  But it worked.  I returned to work the next morning,  exhausted from lack of sleep but blonde once again.

SO…and here is the important part, I learned something. (Maybe more than one thing. ) The way that I imagine myself and the way others see me is not the same.  In my head at first I was a blonde but the whole world saw me as a redhead.  This can be applied to more instances also, like body image and intelligence.  There is almost always a discrepancy between how we see ourselves in our mind’s eye and how we come across to others and perhaps a discrepancy also between both of those perspectives and the truth.  I can only get that truth of who I am from my Creator.  I  can’t always see that the things He says about who I am are true, or are coming true.  I have to believe that my faith.  BUT I know now that I can change how I imagine myself with a bit of conscious effort.  I can use the scriptures as my mirror and then shift the way I imagine myself to match.  I believe actively pursuing changing or “renewing” my mind in this way helps in my transformation to being who God says I am, who He made me to be.

And because of this revelation, all of the trouble and discomfort and inconvenience of my journey to red and back again were totally worth it.

Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 5 of 5)

Lie Number 5. Last but by no means least. It goes like this: “I can’t keep doing this.” It starts out quietly, whispering, when you’re exhausted, when just thinking about tomorrow is overwhelming. “I can’t keep DOING this”…it gets louder as the daily stress piles on, one task after another, one annoyance after another, one more thing going wrong. “I CAN’T keep doing this…” it insists, as you look at your loved one and watch him or her suffer, still, again, today, tomorrow, the next day and the next, seemingly into oblivion. “I CAN’T. KEEP. DOING. THIS!!!!” On the inside, you are screaming.

THIS. Worrying, stressing, doing all the work, all the caretaking tasks, carrying all the responsibility at home and at work, making sure the bills get paid and we don’t live in squalor, all while watching your loved one suffer…and pain or illness seems worse again today.

Lie number 5 is where you will always end up if you believe the first four lies. Believing Lie number 5 is what makes caregivers stop giving care and just plain give up. Believing Lie number 5 leads even good, loving people cut and run.  Once you believe that you cannot go on, cannot continue taking care of your loved one, cannot live this way for one more day–you are sunk.  Very probably you will cease caring for your loved one. Possibly you could stay but turn to drugs or alcohol to numb your misery. You might wake up, pack your belongs and leave, or even just start driving away and never go back. Or worse.

Lie number 5 is the breaking point. It is believing you are at the end of your rope and that you have nothing left inside you to give.

I strongly recommend that you avoid ever believing Lie number 5. Guard against it. Be wary of the thought, “I can’t keep doing this.”

(Sometimes you just need to put a bucket over your head and sit in a corner.)



Now, before we continue,  there ARE some situations where it is actually true and you absolutely cannot continue as you are.  Sometimes an ill person requires a level of medical care you cannot provide.  Sometimes we have to surrender to admitting our loved ones to skilled nursing facilities, or a mental health institution or hospice for our own physical safety and/or their quality of life.  Even very ill people can sometimes be surprisingly strong and do some major damage. There are situations when really, you MUST not continue as you are.

When you have the thought, “I can’t keep doing this,” and I think every long-term care giver will at some point, you need to pray for wisdom and discretion. It is a good time to seek wise counsel from health care providers, family members, and trusted friends.

What I am cautioning you against is when it only FEELS like you cannot go on. In that case, here are some strategies to resist Lie Number 5:

1. Take a moment to reconsider. Perhaps you don’t actually HAVE to keep doing this the way you are. Have you sought support for yourself? Have you asked for help? If not, now is a good time to humble yourself reach out to any and all available resources.

2. Focus on the truth. When you’re fighting against a lie the best thing you can do is meditate on what is true.  The Bible is a good place to pick up some powerful lie-breaking truths:

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)(World English Bible)

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” (Matthew 19:26)(NIV)

“For am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)(NIV)
3. Take a break. I know, it sounds impossible.  Maybe for you it really is impossible right now–but there are ways of getting a break for many caretakers, especially if you think small. A couple of hours away can probably be arranged pretty easily. If you need a longer break (a few days) there is this thing called respite care. Some rehabilitation/skilled nursing facilities offer this service, and some of these places are NICE.

Whatever kind of break you can manage to get, the real trick here is when you do find yourself with some time away, that you don’t waste that time feeling guilty for being gone and you don’t beat yourself up for needing a break.  Sometimes people need to rest and replenish. Even Jesus took breaks. He also took the occasional nap. Be like Jesus.

4. Get real.  With yourself and with God. When I start to feel like I can’t go on, I can usually realise pretty quickly that it’s not true if I take a moment to be completely honest with myself and offer myself a little grace. Caregiving can be tough, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Don’t judge yourself too harshly for not doing it perfectly. Mistakes get made, accidents happen, and appointments get forgotten. Don’t waste too much energy beating yourself up over these things. If you are setting the bar for yourself at the Perfection Level you are just setting yourself up for failure and frustration. You are human, and you need to extend some grace to yourself. If you perceive your goal as reachable it is much less likely that you will lose hope as you pursue it.

Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 4 of 5)

Ah, Lie number 4. It is a doozy: Things will never get better. This is when you take the idea of “things could always be worse” a step beyond being grateful that they aren’t worse and start actively expecting them to get that way.  This is a poisonous path. It can break your heart.

Life is hard sometimes. When you are watching someone you love slowly or quickly deteriorating, it can be difficult to believe things can get better. When there is an obvious pattern of worsening, when you are tired and your loved one is tired and the pain keeps getting worse and there is nothing you can do….it is tempting to think things are never going to get better. It is almost a relief to let go of your hope. Because…why? It’s so exhausting to keep looking for help/cure/treatments, chronic illness is so relentless in its progress, and it takes so much energy to fight it and seems to do no good. And, after a while, it feels like you’ve tried everything already anyway. Why keep praying when the heavens are always silent? Why pay for another MRI when the last four have shown nothing abnormal?  Perhaps accepting the situation is for the best.

This kind of thinking is what I call the Voice of Job’s wife, or the “curse God and die” mentality. And it does us about as much good as she did for Job in his trials. If you know the story of Job and you live with/care give for someone with a chronic illness you are bound to draw a few parallels between Job’s suffering and your loved one’s.

Good old Job.  He was just going along living a righteous life, abounding in God’s favor and blessings and BOOM out of nowhere he loses everything: His livelihood, his children, his health, his peace of mind. He keeps his wife, but that’s not much of a comfort. He keeps his life, the purpose of which now seems only to suffer. He suffers in every way possible short of death. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, he is destroyed. His “friends” show up to preach to him and spout highfalutin sermons. And, repeatedly, his lovely wife looks at his sorry state encourages him to curse God and die already. It’s bad.

But throughout it all Job never completely  gives up. He acknowledges God’s sovereignty. He boldly questions his situation. He even feels sorry for himself. But he never does curse God. And, honestly, that may not sound like much but I have to give Job some kudos for that. That took some real faith.  It is certainty better than I can say for myself and I haven’t endured near what Job did. There is a reason why people say someone has “the patience of Job”.

Of course, eventually Job’s suffering ended.  His faithfulness pays off. Satan loses the cosmic bet and God even comes down and sets Job’s long-winded friends straight, and Job too while He’s there. Then God blesses Job even more richly than he was blessed before. It’s a happy ending for good old Job.  It’s a happy ending for us, believers, too. But right now we are still in the midst of the story.  We are in the mean time. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…”.  So, in a “pie in the sky by and by” kind of sense, things will get better. Believing that is part of being a Christian.

But what about in a more immediate sense? People get sick. People get sicker. They suffer. They die. Even though we do and say and and believe all the “right” things. Even though we stay faithful sometimes, more often than not, there is no miracle.  The answer to our prayers is, “No.”  How do you nurture hope and expect the best when you are going through the worst?

The short answer is you CHOOSE.  When Job’s wife’s voice starts to ring in your head and the belief that things will never get better beckons, you CHOOSE to believe God instead.  It is tempting to give up. You are tired, you are hurting, you are filled with grief for your loved one and yourself.  Every day, every moment, every breath you are choosing to believe what you see with your eyes or what God has said in His word.

Things may look bad. Really bad. To others you will look like a fool. But your soul will live. Your loved one’s soul will live, even as their body may fail. And things will get better. Your heart will heal and you will feel joy.  As Rich Mullins wrote in his song, “My Deliverer,”  “…I will never doubt His promise, Though I doubt my heart, Though I doubt my eyes.” The promise is real. The promise is eternal.

Here are few promises to hold on to, every one of them is a lie breaker:

  1.  “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD.  They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 God’s Word Translation).
  2. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:25-28 NIV)
  3. “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.” (John 16:33 New Living Translation).
  4. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:17-18 NIV)
  5. “…teaching them [new disciples] to obey everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 ISV)

(The western sky from my kitchen window.)

Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 3 of 5)

“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”(Matthew 7:7)(NIV)

You don’t have to be a caregiver to find yourself believing Lie Number 3, you just have to have limited financial resources and a personal preference not to ask for help.

Lie #3: IF I CAN’T DO IT MYSELF THEN IT WON’T EVER GET DONE

When just getting through everyday life is more than you can handle anything “extra” tends to get pushed to the side until it becomes an emergency.  I’ve wanted to repaint my kitchen for years and I doubt that it will ever become an emergency.  But at least someday, if I find the time, I can do it.  What I am talking about with Lie Number 3 is more like the overhead light in my living room that hangs by wires without a fixture. I can’t put up a fixture over it, I have tried. The wires just aren’t long enough to allow me to do it. It will have to be rewired.  I don’t have the knowledge to do that safely.

Or the items of furniture in my garage, there is a broken treadmill, an old rocker recliner, a few other things.  They need to go to the dump.  I cannot load them into a truck and take them. It is physically impossible for me.  They were put in the garage years ago as a temporary measure because they had to come out of the house and there they sit.

For a year or two, I tried to remind my helpers that all that stuff still needed to be hauled away.  There never seemed to be a convenient time. I finally quit asking and just learned to live with my redneck looking garage.  When the garbage service quit picking up boxes I embraced it.

(This is an actual picture of my garage.)

I can’t fix some things. I often refuse to ask for help. And so I find a way to live with the problem. It is my choice to do so, but in my moments of frustration, I tell myself it will always be this way. Because, after all, IF I CAN’T DO IT MYSELF IT WILL NEVER GET DONE.

So, I stew over the situation, feeling that I mustn’t ask for too much help or ask too often, feeling that I need to store up the good will of my helpers for when I have a real problem that can’t wait, like a broken water heater or a leaking roof.  My heart hardens and my jaw clenches.  About that time Lie 1 and Lie 2 chime in to remind me that I AM ALONE and NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY REALITY.

By that point, I am angry and full of self-pity.  I have marched myself right into a pit. This kind of thinking is a waste of time, it accomplishes nothing in advancing me toward what I need (help), and it makes me feel miserable. I have done this a few times, maybe a few hundred.

I have found a way to save myself from repeating this useless little saga. You don’t have to look around you at all the things that need to be done feeling helpless and hopeless.  IF I CAN’T DO IT MYSELF THEN IT WON’T EVER GET DONE is a lie, and, like most lies, it can feel true. But it is not the truth and you shouldn’t believe it. Here are some ways to break free:

1. Swallow your pride and ask for help.

This may sound easy to some but to me it sounds hard. It means first I have to admit to myself that I need help and then it means exposing that need to others who may or may not respond the way I hope they do. It makes me vulnerable. I have this idea in my head that I have no right to impose my needs on others. I have another idea that the goodwill of the people who do care enough to help me is finite, so if I ask for too much or ask too often they will not be there to help me in a real emergency.

It is important to remember there is a difference between asking for help and demanding/guilt tripping/emotionally blackmailing someone to help you. A straightforward request for help is the best. If the person you ask is unwilling or unable to help you that’s okay.  Just move on to the next one.  Exposing your need to others provides them with an opportunity to minister to you. It provides people with a way to demonstrate their love for you. It provides people with a chance to perform some good works.

Think about someone you care about, what would you be willing to do help them or to make their life easier? Now imagine them feeling the same way about you.  If you don’t ask they may never even realize you need help.

2. Pray for help

This one is a bit easier for me. Asking God for favor with someone who can help me. Asking God to send me the right person to ask at the right time. But trusting that God is working on my behalf to provide for my needs while I wait is still hard.  I am not a good waiter.  (I am also a horrible waitress but that is a story for another time.)

3. Remember God Himself is your true Help

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is among them that uphold my soul.” (Psalm 54:4)(Darby Bible Translation)

All the help that finds its way to you is from the Lord.  He is our helper and our provider. See below:

Jehovah Ezer is one of His names. Helping us is who He IS. He wants us to come to Him for help. We can never ask too often. We can never ask for too much. He will never turn away from our cry.  His resources and His love for us are without limit. And sometimes I need to be reminded of the red-letter section of Matthew below:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts a to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11)(NIV)

Now, we know in life that you don’t necessarily get everything you ask for, find everything you seek, or have every door you knock on opened. But please remember that if you never ask, seek or knock you can never receive, find or walk through the door. The result is better if you ask. And, if it is important to you, don’t stop asking!

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God or respected men. And there was a widow in that town who kept appealing to him, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself,  ‘Even though I do not fear God or respect men, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice. Then she will stop wearing me out with her perpetual requests.’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to the words of the unjust judge. Will not the God bring about justice for his elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he continue to defer their help?” (Luke 18:2-7)(Berean Study Bible)

God will not continue to defer your help forever.  Keep asking and keep expecting your help to come!

Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 2 of 5)

 

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8) (New Living Translation).

 

On to Lie number TWO:

NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY REALITY

This is a hard one; this one is so easy to believe. It is especially easy to believe if you are caring for an adult who is a very private person or a person who desperately doesn’t want to make their friends and family upset or uncomfortable with the full truth. You may not have admitted the true severity of your disabled/ill loved one’s condition to anyone.

That situation can make life harder for you. It makes it harder to explain why you need help, clamps your mouth shut when people ask how your loved one is doing, and can make you feel more isolated and overwhelmed than a caregiver who is able to be freer with the facts.

It may be your choice not to divulge the details of your loved one’s suffering and the distress and work it brings you.  You may even assume that no one wants to listen to such things anyway. But even if you have not made clear the details of what you and your disabled/ill loved one are going through to anyone, believe me, there is someone (or even multiple people) out there that understand exactly what your life is like.

Some of us have it easier than others.  The difficulty of caregiving is relative. I care for my husband, work full-time, run our household, and care for our son. A dear friend of mine works full-time and cares for both of his elderly parents. There are so many ways to be a caregiver. Somewhere another caregiver probably has it worse than you do, possibly even much worse, but that does not discount the difficulties you do have to deal with.  If you know of someone who has a harder row to hoe than you do right now, by all means, pray for them and be grateful to God that you don’t have to walk that road. BUT never think that just because you are not the worst off of all caregivers that you don’t deserve compassion and support.

So here you sit feeling like no one understands what you are going through and how things REALLY are for you.  Maybe someone made an offhanded remark that hit you right in the gut or someone is complaining to you about their healthy, able-bodied spouse and your feel like you would kill to have THAT problem. (For example, this person said to you: “My husband didn’t vacuum the carpets today even though he had the day off from work. He never helps me.”  And inwardly you are thinking, Dear God, if my husband could just walk/talk/bathe himself/not be in constant pain etc. I would be so happy. Why is she complaining?) That is a sad place to be.  It is isolating, lonely and frustrating. Surely no one understands your reality.

It is not true. There ARE other people who understand and God understands exactly what you go through and what it takes to walk your path. Here are a few ways to fight the lie:

1. Find other caregivers:

You are not the only person in a caregiving situation facing these struggles.  If you can find a few of these people in your church (ask your pastor to point you in the right direction), your community (your local hospital(s) may offer support groups), or even online (where you can find great understanding of your pain and struggles without volunteering many specifics). When you find other caregivers, reach out to them. While you are listening to their stories you can watch that lie that no one understands crack and crumble to pieces.

Here are a few online resources to check out:

www.wellspouse.org (If you are caring for your spouse/partner this organization is for you. They have newsletters, forums, support groups, phone support groups, events. And much more. There is a membership fee: $30 per year for full access and $5 per year for digital access. Special considerations may be made for those with a financial hardship and are made for those caring for military spouses.)

www.christiancaregiversupport.com   (Tons of cool resources here, including support blogs–one for caregivers and one for one receiving care.

Caring.com (There is a good variety of online support groups available here, spanning many caregiving situations.)

2. Find a way to tell the truth:

If you are in a situation where being open publicly about the details of your situation is difficult, for instance, you feel you must protect the privacy of your loved one, it is important that you don’t live a secret or a double life.  Feeling like you can’t or shouldn’t speak to anyone about what you are going through adds a huge burden of extra stress to your already draining and stressful situation.  You can develop an unhealthy perspective of your situation or you even can live in a state of partial denial (also unhealthy).  It is not right to carry all that weight alone. 

Perhaps your situation is not secret but sometimes you have thoughts and feelings about what has happened and is happening in your life that you never share. Maybe there are days when you are so frustrated with a physician, a circumstance or even your loved one for which you are caring that you just want to scream, or throw things or even run away. Or maybe you struggle with Depression or Anxiety and you hide it from your disabled/ill loved one so it doesn’t bring them down. Maybe you hide it from everyone. You should not carry that weight alone either.

Finding someone to share the weight isn’t always easy.  For some of us talking to a trusted friend or family member who knows how to listen and be discreet about what you share is enough.  For me seeing a counselor who is bound not to discuss or disclose what I talk about has been a good option.  You could write an anonymous blog or join an online forum with an assumed username that protects your identity. 

You are not necessarily looking for a place to complain about the difficulties of your life, just a safe place to share or a person to witness your struggles and how you truly feel. Not having to edit your thoughts, feelings and the details of your caregiving work as you talk is fantastically freeing, and it can help you think or see your situation from a different perspective. Being completely honest really can help you deal with your situation in a healthier way.

3. Remember that God knows your reality

You are seen. Every single thing you do, He knows it all. He sees you striving to do your best. He sees you fail sometimes. He sees every sacrifice you make. He sees you crying soundlessly in the bathroom so that you don’t bring anyone else down.  He is right there beside you placing each of your tears in His bottle.  When you are at your wit’s end, exhausted, and convinced you are going to lose your mind any second, He is there with you. He is whispering to your spirit that you are not alone. He is pouring out His grace and strength and love and peace over you.

As you complete your caregiving tasks, imagine that as you work your hands and feet are His hands and feet. Then stop and realize that it is true. When we are serving another in love, we are the hands and feet of Christ.  It doesn’t always look pretty to our human eyes but the spiritual scene of caregiving is beautiful and precious in the sight of God.

 

Coming next time, Lie #3: IF I CAN’T DO IT MYSELF THEN IT WON’T EVER GET DONE

Five Lies Caregivers Believe and How to Fight Them (Part 1 of 5)

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” (Genesis 2:8) (NET Bible)

1. I AM ALONE

Ah. Lie number ONE. I like to think of this lie as my imaginary isolation chamber. I have spent a lot of time bound up by this lie. Believing that I am alone has brought me nothing but overwhelm and depressed misery.  God never designed us to go through life alone.  We were created to live in communion with others and with Him.

( One lonely flower…)

This lie is a tricky one because it has a grain of truth to it. When you are taking care of someone (or a group of someones), sometimes you are working so hard trying to accomplish everything that needs to be done every day on your own, it is hard to reach out to others to maintain relationships.  It often feels like you are barely getting by and there is just no time left to connect with others. You most definitely FEEL alone.

For example, when you have no energy to entertain company or to make your home look presentable, is very tempting to never invite people over. With this kind of thinking you really can build yourself a kind of isolation chamber life as you slowly cut yourself off from your friends. Believing you are alone causes you to actively make choices that result in making yourself more isolated. If you don’t break the cycle of this lie you can cut yourself off from your whole social support system, which can be disastrous.

The good news is that you can break free of this lie. Here are a few ways to jerk your brain and heart back to the truth:

1. Reach out

Take a moment to reach out to someone (a friend, a neighbor, a family member, whoever). There are so many easy ways to connect: Send a text, make a phone call, write a quick Facebook message, or take a silly SnapChat and share it etc. Even a superficial interaction can break your illusion of isolation and sometimes a quick message turns into a conversation where you can make a real connection with someone, which is often very helpful.

(If you don’t get an instant response try reaching out someone else. You are not really as alone as you feel.)

2. Change Your Script

Realize that the more you tell yourself that you are alone the more alone you will become.  So choose to start telling yourself something different.

For example, instead of telling yourself that the house is too messy to invite a friend over, tell yourself that a real friend won’t care. Then invite a friend over – even if things are a mess. (Maybe they will pitch in and help you. Most likely they will at least talk to you while you go about what needs to be done, which is also very pleasant.)

3. Seek God’s Presence

Make peace with the fact that there will always be moments when the human presence you crave will be impossible to get. God designed human beings to need each other.  But even when you can’t lean on another human, you’re still not alone.  Here is a helpful exercise:

Speak each of the scriptures below out loud:

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) (New Living Translation)

“…God Himself has said, “I will never, never let go your hand: I will never never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) (Weymouth New Testament)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) (NIV)

Then say them again only this time add, “Thank you, Father/Yeshua/Jesus/Holy Spirit (pick your favorite) that…(insert above scripture)”.  Speaking them out loud is important–not to God, He knows your every thought. Speaking them out loud is important to your brain and your emotions. You need to hear them with your ears. Faith comes by…wait for it…HEARING. By doing this, saying them out loud, you are boosting your faith.

Now that your faith is ramped up, start praising God. You can say things like, “Father I praise You for faithfully keeping all Your promises.” (Or whatever you can think of to praise Him for…running water, your loved ones, your favorite flower. Just pick something.) Alternatively, you can turn on some praise and worship music and sing along, that also works.

After a few minutes of praising God, you will find you are not alone. Jehovah inhabits the praises of His people. When you start praising God, His presence shows up. He is always with you, He is always everywhere…but loneliness calls for presence.

(The same flower, no so alone. Just a small shift in perspective can change everything. )
There are more ways to fight the “I AM ALONE” lie, I am sure. For me, most of my successful outcomes have been variations of the three ways above. Please leave a comment if you have something that has worked well for you when you are fighting feeling isolated, I would love to hear it.
Coming up next in this series:

Lie number two: NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MY REALITY

Forgiving (Part 2)

“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 10:22) (New American Standard 1977)

I told you I’d let you know how I progressed with forgiving the woman who swindled me by advertising herself as a doula, taking my payment and then not attending the birth of my son.

Every time she crossed my mind for a few weeks after my post, I prayed for her. It was awkward. My prayers were short. Then one day I transitioned from asking for God give me His forgiveness for her to praying that HE would forgive her. (Like Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him while he hung on the cross). This was a breakthrough for me. I am confident that the Holy Spirit put the idea into my head.

I found a tremendous relief and freedom when I prayed this way. Somehow when I asked God to forgive her, I felt love for her. My heart softened and changed.  I also received a strong impression in my heart that this woman had gone through something awful at a young age.  I am able to pray for her now without hesitation to be forgiven and healed, redeemed, and restored.

Of course, I would not seek her out for doula care again or recommend her to others. But I do hope she finds healing for her wounds, whatever they are. I like to imagine meeting her in heaven someday and embracing her joyfully. That might sound a little crazy but it is absolutely the truth.

Can you believe it? Such a beautiful change in my heart. What wild, crazy, scandalous love God has filled us with! What amazing things we are empowered to do through Christ! God enables His children to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and hope for the unimaginable.

 

(Tree in a mud puddle–Beauty is everywhere.)