How to be a Christian without being a doormat

Hi, my name is Lauren and I’m a recovering doormat.

Through my growth in Christ I have come to wonder- Where is the line between service to others and “doormatism?” It is a very grey area to me. We are supposed to serve others with a willing heart but also not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I do something for someone I didn’t want to do and then shame myself for resenting them- “you shouldn’t be annoyed, you’re doing what Christ wants!” But am I really?

This post has been as much as the Holy Spirit revealing to me areas I need to work on as much as it is a blog post on the fruits of the Spirit. How in the world are we to be the hands and feet of Christ without being a doormat-people-pleaser?! On my way to work this came to me as a blog post idea. At first I thought maybe I could identify 3 areas to describe. But the Holy Spirit had more to say. Don’t worry I only made notes at stop lights. Mostly. Please don’t tell my husband.

1. the state of your heart

Wouldn’t it be great if every time we were about to do something we stopped and thought about our motives for doing it?

“The sacrifice of a wicked person is detestable — how much more so when he brings it with ulterior motives!” Proverbs 21:27

When we accept the Holy Spirit, He resides in us. He begins to go to our dark, hidden basement with a flashlight, sorting through the moldy junk we’ve been putting down there and ignoring. He reveals to us at the right time certain things we either need to dust off and bring to life, or just throw away the things taking up too much space.

“Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:10

Even the depths of God. Wow.

Sometimes if I think about it before I say yes to something- whether it’s cookies for the art show or committing to a project- I ask myself: “Can I do this thing without resenting them later for it?” If the answer is “I don’t know.” It’s a no. (If it’s not “shoot yea” it’s a “shoot no.”) This is my way of evaluating my motives. Can I do this thing for THEM because I want to help and be of service? Or am I doing it because I should? Am I ‘shoulding’ all over myself? I do this more times than I’d like to admit.

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” Matthew 25:40

This is a great reminder that when I’m cleaning up the mud off the floor and want to curse the person who left it there (probably was me, let’s be honest). I’m reminded I’m not doing it for me, for us to have a clean house, or for our visitors’ judgments of how well I can keep house. I’m doing it for God. My King wants me to serve others with a willing heart because ultimately I’m serving pieces of Him.

2. personal boundaries

If you have not read the Boundaries books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, I highly recommend them. Everyone could benefit from these life-changers: Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries, Boundaries With Kids, Boundaries With Teens. This is one way being a Christian and a doormat are not the same. We do not have to put up with certain behaviors in the name of God. As the body and temple of Christ we are called to, not only be intolerant of, but to bring light to abuse, mistreatment, and inhumanity. We have an obligation to stand up for and protect ourselves.

I struggle with finding the line sometimes between being a part of a family and codependency. I think it’s possible, according to the right motives, to care for, help, and serve others but to also have boundaries with knowing when it’s gone too far into “saviordome.”

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Matthew 18:1

3. your yes is yes and your no is no.

“But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37 (This was our son’s Bible verse one week- never know where you’re going to get revelation!)

We’ve all done it- or had that friend do it- where we ask something of them. Then we see them grit their teeth and say “suuuuure…” You know good and well that they DON’T want to do it. And every time you ask them for something you never really can trust them to tell you the truth. You would rather hear: “Thank you so much for asking, that means a lot. But right now I’m going to have to pass. I hope you can understand.” That puts a marble in the trust jar. You know their yes is a yes and their no is a no. Saying no does not mean you are being unkind. There’s no need to explain your reason or make excuses. When we don’t speak up or say our truth –it makes us a liar. Truly evaluate your motive (#1) and say your truth. We can’t be perfect. We can’t do everything. But if we prioritize we can be awesome at some things. If we are spread so thin trying to say yes to everything that comes our way we are going to be resentful, joyless, and burned out.

4. others needs are more important than your own consistently over time

Notice I said consistently over time. There will always be those moments when you have to pee but your toddler has to go first. You have a need from your husband but he’s not in the headspace to be there for you in that moment. Those moments I go back to letting it be a way that I can give selflessly without resenting and move on.

But if this is something you’re doing over and over and never choosing to make your own wants and needs voiced- that invites resentment.

Serving the body of Christ includes self service- you are part of the body. You matter. Your health and wellness matters. Many times the Bible says Jesus went away by himself to pray. #introvertgoals

5. pleasing people instead of God

“For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

I don’t know about you but that one hits me hard. This explains why I have allowed the staff I worked with to play dirty music. This is why I’ve laughed off racist jokes to win the approval of those around me. Or why girls think it’s cool to watch porn with their boyfriends. Or why couples move in together before marriage. Or why spouses justify flirting with their coworker. It’s so hard to stand up and create a new path in the wilderness because we all are searching for belonging. It’s not a bad thing to need belonging- it’s innate. Standing alone creates this uneasy, lonely feeling. You might be rejected by everyone in the room and that’s hard. Cry it out if you have too. But then pat yourself on the back because our loving God is smiling and pleased with you. Angels are clapping for you and high-fiving each other at your sacrifice of pleasing God over man.

A few months ago someone said to me: “you’ve taken His Spirit with you wherever you’ve gone.” I’ve had a dark decade of my life. Grosssss. I am so sorry Lord for taking you all those places physically and mentally.

“Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43

6. you can’t fully love others if you don’t know how to love yourself.

“The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:31

This begs the question: how do you love others as yourself if you don’t love yourself?!

First I want to define love. In my humble opinion, it is not a feeling. A feeling is a feeling and those come and go faster than a hot knife in butter. The poets had it all wrong. Love is an action verb. Love does. He GAVE His only son. Love MAKES coffee for your spouse. Love CROSSES the street to help someone else stranded. Love SAYS kind and encouraging words. No one would have any idea you love someone if you don’t SHOW it. How do you show love to yourself? By taking care of your own needs. There’s no need to feel guilty if you need time to yourself to workout, to put makeup on, paint your toenails. Look in the mirror and compliment yourself. You wouldn’t look at your friend and say “oh those thighs are so gross!” (When we speak poorly of the art we are really speaking poorly about the artists’ abilities). Are you speaking to yourself like you would a friend? Whatever it is- acknowledge your need and speak up. This goes back to #3&4 – There is no gold metal for letting everything else get in the way of taking care of yourself. You’re the only one in charge of that. An empty cup can’t pour. Refill your own cup so you can refill others. For those who have accepted Christ- you are a vessel for His Spirit. This is a duty to protect it and treat it well. You are perfectly and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Treat yoself with kindness like the incredible temple you are.

7. purposeful grace instead of resentment

None of us REALY deserve grace. We purposeful or unknowingly hurt others. But they forgive us (hopefully) and we all move on. Sometimes it is “doormatism” to totally forgive a friend or spouse or family member who done did you wrong. But it’s also part of being a Christian. Love covers a multitude of sins. Kindly express how their actions made you feel. Then forgive. At one season of my life I had to look up the definitions of forgiveness, grace, and mercy no less than 20 times. It doesn’t dismiss the person’s actions or require you to forget. Maybe some boundaries need to be placed. But for me, forgiveness means not holding it over their head, not dwelling my thoughts on it. It’s a choice to choose grace over resentment. Jesus asked God on the cross while he was actively dying to forgive those doing this to Him because they don’t understand the impact of what they’re doing. I haven’t been nailed to a cross lately but I can assure you I wouldn’t want to forgive those who were hurting me.

8. assuming good intentions of others

Brené Brown described in one of her amazing books that everyone is doing the best they can with the (emotional) tools they have at the time. That mentality makes me more empathetic. It makes me move towards the person instead of put up a wall. We all need to be loved, especially when we are being ugly. Judgement immediately puts a wall between you and the receiver. Sometimes just reframing the way you think about certain situations can move you from the doormat to the hugger.

9. believe that you too are worthy of service

This is an extension of number 6. We must believe that we all are worthy of being forgiven, being served, being loved in order to give these things to others. If we cannot fully comprehend the love and grace of God that we have received then how do we know to give it to others??

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

10. my identity is in Christ not the doormat

Notice I refer to myself as a recovering doormat- I don’t want to associate with something I don’t want to be. If I constantly identify with it it becomes part of me. (I’m really into semantics y’all). Something I didn’t realize until I was 32 is that everyone has a “God-shaped” hole in their hearts that only He can fill. We all have this longing for something more. More love, more belonging, more joy and good feels. We all try to put things in there to fill it: accolades, selfie likes, medications, alcohol, sex, porn, hoarding, shopping, vanity. None of us are immune. We all want to feel whole. Only Christ can do that for us.

I have been heart broken, on the bathroom floor, repeating Bible verses to myself as I cry. Believing this is easier said than done at times. And then there’s those moments when I don’t let others opinions affect my mood and I call it a win.

“May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

11.victim chair

I went to a retreat recently. While I was there God showed up. I know He tells me things when stuff pops into my head unprovoked, with no linear thought. It’s usually one word or small sentence. He values brevity, hah. As God revealed things to my heart I drew a victims’ chair. It was a throne, beautiful, comfy, and familiar. The crown was labeled “pride.” The umbrella shielding me from the sun light was my pain. The handcuffs keeping me there were labeled “shame” and “fear.”

All that to say that being a victim will always make you a doormat. You’ll always be the intended or unintended receiver of everything negative. You won’t be able to fully give to others without resenting because you’ll always be the victim. I know this because I love sitting in that familiar chair. “Well I wouldn’t have _____ if you wouldn’t have _____…”

So join me in getting out of that familiar and comfy chair and walk over to that person who needs love and love all up on em. Be the person you needed when you were needy. Not because any of us deserve it but because it’s what we are called to do as disciples.

Photo credit: Lauren Garrison Photography

How do you sell God?

At the end of 2016 I was cold calling strangers and meeting them (in dark alleys) at coffee shops. Those who know me even a little bit would be drop their jaw at this maneuver because I hate talking to people I don’t know. It is no secret that I can be socially awkward and standoffish and I hate chit chat. I like to get down to the nitty gritty: tell me your hopes, dreams, failures, brokenness. It also doesn’t help that I suffer from a rare case of RBF (resting brat face), making finding new friends a challenge. But I’m really nice, I swear. I went to school to provide Anesthesia. That’s how much I like talking- I prefer my clients asleep hah! I’m not a total jerk, just an introvert. Socializing, smiling, complimenting, empathizing- those all take energy. Lately I’ve been trying to cultivate more energy through yoga and thyroid booster pills. 🙂Back to my story: I received word of a new pyramid scheme that was a startup in my area. I found out I would be getting in on the ground floor only three spots away from the founder. I was very intrigued because knowing how these things work: you have to start out at the top of the pyramid to really reap some rewards. So I took the financial risk and decided I could get on board with selling (magical) herbal supplements and vitamins. Because what the world needs now is magic, sweet magic. In the months to come I got my packet in the mail and slipped into an organizational coma. I loved keeping track of EVERYTHING, including a scale I came up with to rate where people were at between no-maybe-yes on “drinking my koolaid.” Every day I would check my pyramid. Slowly it started to grow- I got one person to sign up. Yassss! And then more people started appearing under them. Then finally I was one more person away from the first promotion: getting MY products for free. After that happens, my sponsors claimed it was all downhill from there. Now I was excited. I dreamed of having a side hustle that would allow me to one day to quit my job. I imagined having freshly manicured nails, wearing my Lululemon outfit having brunch with the other stay at home yoga moms with perfect lipstick. In the meantime, life (God) was moving things. Sometimes I picture him playing chess where the different parts of my life are the pieces. We found our dream home at the perfect heaven-ordained moment. Five days later I was laid off. A rare thing in healthcare but I worked for a small company and business is business. So I sadly was forced to abandon my new dream since we were on high alert financially until I found a new gig. I might have been able to continue it financially and have made it work but I could never get that last person to sign up. In addition to being introverted, I am also a recovering people pleaser. I say recovering because I don’t want that to be something I identify with any longer. My new mantra is “I act according to my values and integrity.” I care deeply at times what people think of me and my actions and that is not ok with me. It keeps me from being my true self instead of I’m just that “nice, quiet girl.” This is one reason I have historically struggled with sharing my faith with others. I don’t want people to think I’m a freak walking around praising God! (Amen). But somehow I can muster up the (fake) courage to call people I don’t know and try to get them to buy my (magic) pills?! That’s when I realized, holy cow,religion is a pyramid scheme! Think about it, there are so many parallels!

For one, there’s one dude at the top.

That’s how a pyramid is shaped- pointy. Otherwise it would be a plateau. That big honcho is the MAN. He is getting more perks, more praise than anyone below. Everyone is working for him and all their efforts multiply as it goes up the chain. He gets all the glory and fame. Sounds familiar! All those workers below are out (hopefully) giving it their all to recruit more people. More people=more glory. They are all there for HIM, not the other way around.

If you don’t work at it, your side of the pyramid atrophies.

Whether you think of it as a tree or a pyramid, everyone is part of a side to maintain its shape. It gets bigger and bigger as you go further down and people recruit more people. But if you’re a slacker your side doesn’t look as fruitful. It takes everyone doing their part to make it grow.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

There are still those who join but decide it’s too much work.

You get people psyched up and everyone’s losing their minds at the possibility of all those blessings- so they’re all in. And then life happens. They lose their jobs or their marriage falls apart and they decide it’s no longer worth the risk. They (me) go back to what they know, what’s familiar, what’s safe. They bow out, sometimes unnoticed, leaving a gaping hole in your tree, in the pyramid scheme and the body of Christ.

You’re not accepted by your homies.

It’s apparently common knowledge in the multilevel marketing world to get more fruit from people who barely know you compared to those closest to you. Jesus experienced the same thing when he went home to Nazareth. Those he knew growing up didn’t accept his message:

“Then Jesus told them, ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family’.” Mark 6:1-6.

Self help is like finding a new religion. –Amy E. Smith.

Likewise, finding a new religion is like a multilevel marketing (MLM) scheme. You have people who hear your message and are totally stoked (do kids still say that these days) and jump on board full speed. Or you have those that let you doyou but don’t want any part of it. They unfollow your insta, annoyed that it’s all you talk about anymore. They mostly just think you’ve gone cray cray. Meanwhile you’re looking at them thinking, wow you could really use some of my magic! You would love it if you would just give it a try! Come back here and let me love you!”

There are some major fruits to be had.

At my first meeting I went to a lady’s house who was 2nd in line in the company that hadn’t even launched yet. She had mahogany bookshelves, pristine furnishings, lush carpet, and (clearly) a maid. Neither her nor her husband worked- they jumped on the MLM bandwagon with a different product started by the same millionaire who was now starting this new company. They talked about “their first million” and “leaving their careers.” I thought to myself, “I want that- what they have.” Similarly in Christianity, when you tell your “story”- how God has worked in your life- other people want that. Other people want the peace and direction and self control and gratitude and joy that comes with it.

Sometimes it requires cold calls.

That random person at the grocery store, the bus stop, the movie theater. People you don’t even know might be your best recruit. You never know what people are needing until you present it.

The payout (blessing) can be a bit of wait.

Some people see immediate change in their lives when they become a Christian. The blessing just flow. They get a promotion or a clean bill of health, or the guilt just falls off. Others may struggle for years without seeing change. Just be patient and stick with it. You’re only out of the game if you quit.

Help a sister out.

Like in MLM, in Christianity there is strength in numbers. Two are better than one. Ten is stronger than two. Hold “marketing meetings,” encourage each other, take up the slack of the weaker members.

You have to meet them where they are.

If you’re wanting to sell magic pills (God) to people you’re going to have to go out of your way. You meet them on their schedule near their work/home. Just like God meets us where we are. If you’re drunk on your kitchen floor crying out for help. If you’re locked out of your house. If you’ve just lost all your money at the casino. If you’ve just signed divorce papers. If you’re in the bathroom talking yourself into getting the courage to tell your parents about your pregnancy. Wherever you are Jesus will meet you there and show you the way. For me, it was sitting on my bed saying “God if you are there you have to help me or I am going to give up on life.” And He kept saying “leave.” And so I did.

Don’t be pushy.

The best evidence that a product works is how it has changed the lives of those who use it. “Girl your lipstick is always on point.” “Oh it’s this new stuff I found you gotta try it.” But flip it where the lipstick lady shoves it in her friends face and claims it will change her life- that’s not very appealing. Likewise, if we are always shoving Jesus down people’s throats it’s less palatable. But if they see how we have changed as people- the fruits that are budding- they will want some of what we got!

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James‬ ‭4:8‬

What God Says About Me…

I’ve been meaning to post something sooner- I have a lot of posts started but haven’t finished yet. In the mean time we’ve experienced two deaths in our family, traveling, a pipe burst, Christmas and all its glory, etc etc. So I dug into my “archives” from early in my journey with God. I am very grateful for my journaling because I can look back and, not only see how far I’ve come, but also remind myself of things I’ve forgotten.

Sometimes I get hung up in finding material for my blog. I’ll spend two hours writing something and then I’ll say to myself: “This isn’t good enough.” Or “This is too basic and common sense.” But I have to remind myself – if I think I’m a 5 or 6 on the knowledge scale then I get to help the 3’s and 4’s, not the 7’s and 8’s.

Just this morning I heard about a study where people who were trying to change their habits were either instructed to say “I can’t” versus “I don’t.” Those who said “I don’t” were far more successful at avoiding the unwanted behavior than those who said “I can’t” because “I don’t” is associated with their identity. It’s who you are. Such a small change but a good reminder. It’s all semantics. How we talk to ourselves can be life giving or take the wind completely out of our sails. I get it. When someone else your entire life has told you unkind things about yourself- these can be hard to dispel. But you didn’t believe those bad things right away- you were convinced after the repetition. To replace the good with the bad it takes repetition. And you won’t always believe it. But don’t forget WHOSE you are. This is why I personally need to read the Bible every day. (I’ve just started the ‘read the Bible in 365’ plan on the Bible app! You can do it with friends too!) I need the constant reminder to love myself and others, to remind me that I am wanted and loved and pursued. I even saved this picture of Jesus laughing to my phone lock screen. I needed to picture Him as my best friend, not the angry judge above me. I’d imagine him reclined in the chair beside me, so intrigued and intently listening to what I say.

Once in my life I only cared what others thought of me. My favorite adjective was the F bomb. The tighter my clothes the better. The dirtier my jokes the funnier. I thought my only value was in my body and my ability to earn money. Any and all transformation is absolutely God’s doing (for His glory) and I am forever grateful for His guidance and freedom from my shackles.

So without further ado I give you my list of things I felt God saying to me as I first started to read, pray, and study the Bible. This is what the Holy Spirit did inside of me those mornings I couldn’t wait to get up at 4:30am to spend time with Him. I hope it touches your soul.

What God says about me

I love you.

I appreciate you.

I am grateful for you.

You are a rare and beautiful treasure.

I forgive you. Even for the things you’re not sorry for.

I’m proud of you. I’m proud to be your dad.

I smile and laugh and clap with unending joy for you.

I created everything for you and want you to enjoy it. You are why I do everything I do.

I want to spend time with you because you are important to me.

You are worth listening to, worthy of sacrifice, worthy of time and love and attention.

I hold you to a high standard.

You’re free from bondage.

I give you grace, undeserved favor. No matter what you do I will always love you and pursue you.

I’m not going to beat you up for what Jesus already got beat up for.

You have a special calling today.

I believe in you and I’m cheering and clapping and jumping for you.

I believe you will succeed.

I’m not going to give up on you.

I relentlessly pursue you.

I’m not going to give you what you think you deserve.

You are my prized possession.

I am patient with you. I am ready when you are.

I will come to you wherever you are.

I have compassion for you.

I get you. I understand what you’re going through. Don’t give up.

Everything you do- do it for me.

I delight in you.

My power that raises the dead to life is in you.

I give you infinite peace.

I am your greatest comfort and hold you in my hand. Close your eyes and surround yourself with my warm arms of grace.

I have bottled every one of your tears because your pain is important to me.

I’ve put you in my parade of victory and triumph.

I never grow tired or weary- you can depend on me. I will make you strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do not be shy or ashamed- you are free from all guilt and regret.

Trust me. I will always be honest.

I’m renewing your spirit and give you endless hope.

Don’t worry, you won’t be on earth for long before I bring you to my home with me. I’m preparing your castle. You’re going to love it.

Everything awesome is from me, my gift to you.

The old you is gone. I’m proud of the you that you’ve become.

No matter what you’re going through in right here. I’ll never leave you.

I’ve made you brand new. You are my bride. Your dress is sparkling white.

Celebrate your weaknesses for without them I could not work inside you. I need you to need me.

Trials are my way of making you strong. You’re tough and I’m preparing you for something amazing. You’ll see.

Please don’t doubt me- I will give you all the knowledge, wisdom, and things you need. Let me be enough for you.

I will never tempt you- I will show you the way out, just ask.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 25:8

2 Corinthians 2:14

Isaiah 40:28-29

2 Corinthians 3:17

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Isaiah 41:10

2 Cor. 5:17

Isaiah 43:2

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 12:9

James 1:2-4

James 1:5-6

James 1:13

(Photo credit: https://thejesusquestion.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/jesus_laughing21.jpg)

How Shame Keeps Us From Loving

Something happened in the 7th grade that was pivotal in mapping out the rest of my life. I grew up middle class in the nice part of a smallish town in the Midwest. I moved from a private Christian school to public schools in the 4th grade and was lucky to have made a few friends that made the transition easy. Good thing because a few years later I was an UGLY DUCKILING. The end of the ugly duckling story results in a beautiful swan but sometimes that swan still feels like the frizzy-haired, braces wearing, awkward, insecure, acne-faced, unfeminine giant. I would look at the beautiful, outgoing, popular, skinny girls in my class with admiration and envy. Their skin was clear, their teeth were strait, their hair was Disney princess and they all wore Abercrombie. Their picture perfect families would get together on the weekends, the dads playing golf and the girls painting each others toenails like a Ralph Lauren commercial. The handful of them had gone to school together their whole lives. For two years in a row they cheered together on a community squad for the football team of all the popular boys in the school. Some of the girls were in gymnastics, making them highly valued in the cheering community. And then there was me, trying to find where I fit in. I was a smart and my favorite class was band.

At the end of spring semester were cheerleading tryouts. Despite how much I hated the cliché valley girl persona cheerleaders were associated with I was considering it for a few different reasons. For one, my mom was a cheerleader in high school. She was very different from me. She was outgoing and I was painfully shy. She, too, played the saxophone, and to follow further in her footsteps I,too, became a nurse. I was motivated to compete and do more and be better than my mom. I’m sure Freud would have something to say about it. But I also just really wanted to show those snobby brats they weren’t the only awesomesauce in the school. I wanted to prove to them and myself that I could do it.

So I showed up. I went every day to learn the routine and practiced it at home until it was flawless. The final tryout day was Friday. I felt ok about my performance despite my voice being shaky and nervous.

The results were posted on a piece of paper in the window of the front door at the school later that night. I searched desperately for my ID number on that list. I found it. There it was. I made the squad. Take that snobs.

Then reality set in. I was going to be forced to spend 3 days a week and multiple games, pep rallies, and events with these girls I had little in common with. I ended up making friends with two other girls and we became inseparable through high school. To this day I still think it was an important year of growth and putting myself out there. It gave my self confidence stretch marks and gave me the courage to go after bigger things later in my life.

As part of my conservative Midwest upbringing it was expected that we would attend every church service and event offered. Just like any other Sunday evening we went to church, but this particular day I decided to bring my fundraiser for cheerleading in case any of those giving Christian ladies needed any chocolate or Fancy Christmas wrapping paper. I was not a salesperson so my best tactic was a sweet smile and asking if they had a moment to take a look at my pamphlet. Didn’t always work but that was all my shyness could muster. I made the rounds and then approached my Sunday school teacher. This woman bravely took on the task of teaching hormonal and emotional middle school girls why exactly boys and short skirts are not everything in life. I walked up to her and said “Hi Mrs. J would you like to see what I’m selling for my cheerleading squad?” She didn’t smile much and this was not one of those times. She looked at me and replied, “I don’t support cheerleaders.”

I’m sure my body and face coordinated the visible deflation of shame. I don’t recall if I gave her a dirty look before I walked off but I said “ok” and retreated out of the pews. I was so hurt and not emotionally equipped with handling rejection or shame or oppression based on false stereotypes. Am I something bad? Did I spend so much emotional and physical energy to be something Christians shouldn’t be? Is my mom bad? What is so bad about cheering?

I’ll never forget what happened a few minutes later. A woman who overheard the encounter came up to me and told me to forget what my teacher had said. This was odd because they actually were good friends. She smiled and gently said,

We need disciples in every corner of the world.

Wow I went from shamefully wrong to a called disciple!

I’ve thought about that moment a lot. What would happen in this world if we looked at whomever we deemed as not “Godly enough” and just left them alone to stay in our perfect Christian bubbles?

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

So that they may see your good works and give glory to God. Are people won over through oppression and judgement? NO! We are won over through love- good works. Being treated with love, dignity, and respect, especially in the presence of controversial opinions and bias, is what makes undeserving sinners feel worthy. I love Brené Brown’s quote from her book Braving the Wilderness: “It’s hard to hate people from close up; move in.” We are all unworthy of every good thing based on our deeds. But it is not through deeds that we have won the kingdom of God. It was an unmerited gift.

“A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more? ” Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” He told him.” Luke 7:41-43.

Perhaps those who have experienced oppression, or been shamed for their identity are more likely to extend invitations of belonging to others because they know what it feels like to be rejected for being human. Humility is the birthplace of acceptance. Acknowledging that we are all broken, all struggling, that we all have had to overcome something difficult is what binds our humanity. To deny this is to deny true love for one another. Once we can grasp this concept then follows true empathy, compassion , and mercy.

If we do not go into all the world looking for disciples then who will? We sit at home and pray “God send someone to save the people of the world” but we forget it’s up to us.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

Spiral Up

When I was a kid my mom would talk to herself out loud ALL THE TIME. She would literally share her verbal brain while she was doing an activity. It stressed me out to listen to her audible to do list as a kid so I just learned to tune her out.

But in reality we talk to ourselves in our brain all the time. Sometimes it’s just a feeling- that guilt when you’ve said something you shouldn’t have, that anxiety before starting your first day of a new job, that pride after marking a new personal record. But sometimes it’s actually words or a conversation: “What are you doing? You’re a failure. No wonder she doesn’t love you anymore. Look at your thighs, your skin, you’re disgusting. No one is ever going to want to be close to you. They aren’t going to believe you. He’s going to leave you like the rest of them do. No one cares about you. They’re going to find out you’re a fraud. They’re laughing at you and how stupid you are. Here we go again.”

Ouch.

That’s VERBAL ABUSE, my friends.

This inner critic serves a primal purpose- to keep you safe and part of the tribe. But I also think this is Satan’s favorite tactic to stop us from doing God’s will: “Let’s make him strive to be perfect. We know he won’t be since he’s human. Then he will feel like a failure. He will tell himself over and over again that he is a failure, becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Once he believes he is a failure he won’t have the courage or motivation to do God’s will. Works every time.”

When we are triggered to think something may be the case, we look for evidence to support it and go further down the path of self sabotage, reaffirming our perceived worthlessness.

But we don’t have to go there. This voice can ride along, it always will. But it doesn’t get to drive. We have the power to spiral up, too.

You’ve always had the power, my dear You just had to learn it yourself.” – Glenda, Wizard of Oz.

The Bible says to take captive our thoughts and turn them towards him:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

That didn’t say we would have lovely thoughts all the time. It said we have thoughts that need to be captured, caught, arrested, bound, confined. It also didn’t say this is wrong- it’s human.

We need to stop beating ourselves up for being human.

These words are not the typical weapons of the world; they are the sly tools of the devil. BUT! We have been given the power to apprehend and redirect these flaming arrows (Ephesians 6:16).

One day when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed I wrote down everything my inner critic was saying. At first it wasn’t words, just feelings. I dug deep and gave it a voice. Half way through I was in a cry-writing frenzy. All the while realizing that I had a lot going on deep inside. And then my critic, Veronica (because that just sounds like a woman of sass), said “wow you are really messed up. You’re hopeless; look at all this mess!”

Later I went back and reviewed my diatribe to myself. There I sat, tearing up in the living room, reliving the most egregious string of abuse I’d ever seen in one moment. I was horrified that anyone would speak to another human being like that- and those were MY words to myself.

I then decided to go back through, line by line, and take hostage each thought and turn it to God. “You’re lazy and selfish” became “you are practicing self love when you a take rest and speak up when you need something.” “You’ve forgotten everything you learned in school, you’ll always be a dumb failure” became “you always try hard at work to do what’s best.”

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This verse means a lot of different things to me. But in the context of how we talk to ourselves- imagine saying the same things you say to yourself that you’re saying it to Jesus’ face. Would He be hurt by your insults? Would He be offended by your implications that He didn’t make you ‘good enough?’ HE is inside you. He chose you as a vessel of his good and perfect spirit. And here we are tearing it down, one piece at a time. It’s heart breaking. But we get to have do-overs. We get to redirect our thoughts. We get to say “wow that is actually not how I’d like to see myself; instead, I want to see myself as valuable and holy in His eyes.” We get to say “the old me would have believed these lies, but today I’m choosing to count these phrases as irrelevant.” I still have moments where I catch myself in a 5 minute negative spiral. But the graceful part starts where I realize it and choose to spiral upward.

Take inventory of what you’re saying to yourself in the background throughout your day.

Write it down. Take away its power. Bring it to light. Then give yourself a heaping pile of grace and love.

Now, rewrite those phrases through Jesus’ smiling eyes.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21

Extra readings:

Mark 4:22

Ephesians 2:10

Ephesians 4:29

Proverbs 15:4

Proverbs 16:24

1 Samuel 16:7

1 Peter 3:3-4

Mathew 12:36-37

Remember that one time when…

My first post! I hesitated immensely and really thought for a while about what I wanted MY FIRST post to be. It sets the tone. Where do I want to take this? How much sharing about my personal life do I want to divulge? What’s the theme? (Cue eighth grade writing assignment nightmares).

It just so happens that yesterday marks the 3 year anniversary of a decision I took that would change my life forever. No, I didn’t decide to become sober (a very brave thing indeed). But I did choose to embrace the fact that life is short and that I’m the one in control of how it goes (for the most part).

August 12, 2014 was the last day I would be who I “was.”

August 13, 2014 I sped home at 7am after my 24 hour call shift at the hospital. I walked in, looked at everything for about 10 seconds, not knowing where to start or what to do. Then I snapped out of it and quickly starting snatching overnight bags, stuffing them full of essential clothing and toiletries I could quickly get my hands on. In the silence of me standing in my bedroom after zipping my bag I heard the front door unlock as clear and loud as I’ve ever heard it. I sprung to the bedroom patio door and bolted out as fast as I could around to the side gate. It truly was in slow motion, like a bad dream, trying to run through quick sand. I sprinted as fast as I could until I got about 3 houses down-literally running FOR my life. I peered back over my shoulder to see the 6’1″ man standing there in the front yard staring at me in his white t-shirt and work jeans. The rest of this story involves me waiting at flagpole for the police to come (God’s symbol of my freedom). Three hours later the two police cars would drive off, I would hug my neighbor goodbye, my mom, her friend (I had never met before), and myself would drive to my new sanctuary.

THAT was the day I made the very brave decision to leave the abuse, the gaslighting, the threats, the narcissism, the lies, the blaming, the victimization, and the martyring in my marriage.

This blog isn’t JUST going to be about the perils of abuse. But whatever topic presents itself I always want to bring it back around to “The Fruits of the Spirit.” I want to notice the God in my life. Feeling Him move and seeing His plan come into action. I owe all I am today to the one moment, on my bed, feeling absolutely hopeless, pleading: “God save me. If you do exist you HAVE to do something to help me. Because if you can’t then no one can.”

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth —”
Ephesians 5:8-9 HCSB