Forgiveness is a Series of Choices

We all have that person in our lives, the one who lies to us or betrays us, leaving us hurt and confused.  Every time you think of that comment they made, replay the scene where they are screaming at you (possibly with obscenities) accusing you of things that are complete fabrication, or the sudden change in temperature between you that remains unexplained, your heart pounds, your face flushes, and you want to curl into a ball in your bed and pull the blankets over your head until next spring.  The pain is real, deep, emotional and physical at the same time.

After the initial shock and pain dulls somewhat, the anger rises up like bile in your throat.  How dare they?  What could you ever have done to deserve that?  You start to think that you could possibly even hate this person who has so wrongly treated you.  The temptation to retaliate is strong then.  The mind races with semi-obsessive thoughts, picking apart every moment of every interaction to find something to throw back at them.  The idea of forgiveness is the furthest one from your mind.  It is definitely not the direction most people would go to first.

I’ve come to believe that the above is a completely natural reaction to being hurt.  As a Christian, I struggle with this reaction as much as anyone else does.  I know what the Scriptures say about forgiveness.  That we are to forgive seventy times seven times, that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, that when we fail to forgive, there is a rift between us and our God.  How do we get to that point from our anxious pain?  It isn’t a smooth road, but here’s the way I generally process it.

1.  Assemble ‘evidence’.  I’m not talking about keeping track of wrongs here.  I’m talking about looking at anything you can find in your correspondence that can give you a better overview of the relationship and recent events.

2.  Take a step back and analyze what you have gathered.  Talk to someone you know you can trust and who can give you an objective opinion.  Remember that they will only be hearing one side of the story, but try your best to give that person the clearest picture you possibly can.  Be prepared for that person to tell you things you might not want to hear, but be open to seeing things from their perspective.

3.  Once you figure out what your responsibility has been in the situation, own it.  Do what you can to make amends. That conversation could go a few different ways.  The other person may get angry, thinking that you’re trying to manipulate them into apologizing.  The other person might laugh or just not care at all.  The best case scenario is if they realize what they have done to hurt you and make their apologies.

4.   Keep in mind, you can’t control that other person’s reactions.  You can’t make them feel or say or do what you want, and things are never going to go as you may expect.  Accept whatever happens, knowing you did what was right.

5.  No matter what the other person’s reaction, once you have done all you could do, you have to let it go of whatever this person has done to offend you.  This does NOT mean that you will forget what happen or automatically go back to the level of trust you had before. This does not mean that the other person ‘gets away with’ whatever they have done.  This simply means that you are not going to hold yourself captive to the obsessive negative thoughts that go with holding a grudge, especially if the other person is unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.

6.  Letting go every day, every moment, learning to focus on the positives will help you move past this hurtful time.  Take what you can learn from it and move forward.  Holding on will keep you stuck and really hurt no one but yourself.  Sometimes this really does mean cutting the other person out of your life if a relationship with them becomes impossibly toxic.

Forgiveness is not an easy process, but to move forward into a healthier way of living.  It teaches us how to be open and honest, not just with others, but with ourselves.

Not Quite Real Yet

For so many years I have dreamed about being a therapist. I’ve felt called, compelled, destined, whatever word you use for it. In May, I finished the first part of the process, graduating Cum Laude with my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  Do you remember when I was counting down to my first day of class?  I could barely contain myself for excitement.   I face a beginning again just around the corner.  On Tuesday, September 9, I will join my 20 other cohort members to begin our journey into marriage and family therapy.  All my books have arrived, I have begun reading. put my class times into the calendar, and have picked up my key to the classroom.  Still, it doesn’t feel real.  I wonder when that moment will hit me.

Have you ever experienced this moment when you are facing your dream coming true?  When did you finally realize it was real?

Spend some time saying “I like you” – Avoiding Emotional Promiscuity Part I

Why is everyone in such a rush these days to express every emotion as it is being felt? Our technologically ‘advanced’ society has instant access to everything. It’s easy to blurt out a bunch of nonsense in an email, text or a Facebook message and hit that Send button without a second thought. But maybe we need to take that second, or third, or even fourth thought.

I’ve spent years trying to teach kids that if they don’t have something nice or encouraging to say, it might be better to keep it to themselves. If it’s not constructive, it’s not worth saying. But what if it’s positive AND destructive? I mean, what’s wrong with telling someone how much you care about them? A lot if it is ill timed, premature, out of place for the setting (you know, wrong place, wrong time…). This is true whether someone is a friend or a person you’re considering dating.

I have a visual for you to illustrate my point. Stop for a moment and gather some materials. Find two pieces of very differently colored construction paper and some glue. The two pieces of paper represent the two people entering a relationship. The glue represents intimacy. When two people are getting to know each other, they stand on their own, and even when they spend time together (put your papers together for a moment without the glue, then separate them) they are able to part one another’s company whole and healthy individuals. However, when we share deep parts of ourselves, we begin to enmesh ourselves in each other’s lives. At this point, take the glue and dab it on one corner of a piece of paper, then press them together. While it is still wet, you can pull them apart and have fairly minor damage, maybe some discoloration and dampness from the glue. The paper is forever changed, but still whole and useful.

Now spread some glue around one paper and press the other to it. Allow it to dry. This represents giving our whole selves to another, in this case emotionally (although this could also represent a physical relationship as well). When dry, pull the papers apart. This will not be easy to do. Do you notice how the paper tears, how some of one paper ends up on the other? The papers have bonded together and permanently left parts of themselves on the other. Repeat this with a completely different color paper. Can you see how this would completely change the composition of the original paper if you continued to do this?

This is exactly what happens when you share yourself with another person. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing in general, but it’s all too common to be too quick to reveal yourself and give your heart away, then when it doesn’t work out, move on to the next person and do it all over again. You leave bits of yourself behind and end up with scars, eventually no longer the whole and healthy person you started out to be. So go slowly, enjoy the moments of getting to know each other, and take your time. This is not a race, and you have your whole life ahead. You’ll have a much more stable and lasting relationship!

“Weekly” Top Ten – How to Make Promises You Can Keep

I have good intentions of keeping up on the blog, of keeping up around the house, or working on other projects. I have a hard time saying ‘No’ to people, and often overbook my calendar. Every time I fail to meet deadlines or let someone down, I pick myself back up and vow to do better. Only to stumble again. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks and have gotten more careful about this. So here is what I have learned about making sure I can keep the promises I make.

1. Put EVERYTHING in the calendar, make everyone else in the family do this, and CHECK IT before making plans. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how many times this has gone awry.

2. Be aware of your physical and emotional limitations. Don’t promise to go next week on a 10 mile, uphill hike when you know you have a hard time today walking a mile on flat sidewalks. If you have a chronic illness like I do, you have only so much energy each day. Don’t punish yourself by pushing so hard it takes two weeks to recover.

3. Don’t make promises in the heat of the moment. Plan ahead before you say anything. Wait. Then look at it again when emotions have died down. This reduces the possibility for making promises out of desperation.

4. Never negotiate with a kid. Don’t use promises as a way to bribe a kid to do something you want. It WILL backfire, especially if you don’t intend to follow through.

5. Practice saying ‘no’ with people you’re not close to and who cannot make you feel guilty. Eventually, you’ll be more comfortable saying it to people you’re close to. It’s uncomfortable and awkward at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.

6. Don’t make excuses as to why you are saying ‘no’. Honestly, most people don’t care, and if they do, they’re looking for a way to get their foot in the door to get you to say ‘yes’. If they do care, they’ll come back after the dust settles and ask.

7. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be able to care for others. Take time each day to recharge, meditate, pray, Bible study, take a long soak in the tub (or a nice warm shower), even 5 minutes to breathe deeply or take a walk around the block. Eat right and get plenty of sleep and fluids.

8. When working on a project, always promise less, deliver more. Promise what you know you can absolutely deliver, and then say “If I have time left, I will work on this further.”

9. It’s perfectly fine to not schedule every single minute of your day. Leave room for spontaneity, for those times when you are truly needed and called to help.

10. If you make a promise, do whatever you can to keep it, even if you made the promise foolishly. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Make yourself known as trustworthy and a person of integrity.

Weekly Top Ten list – Who’s into whom?

Thought I’d start posting some lists of things I have found to be true. I’m hoping to keep to a top ten, but I might end up having more or less than that. This time, I’ll talk about relationships. This is primarily about romantic relationships, most likely in the early phases, but sometimes we fail to see the red flags when they are presenting.

He (or she) may be more into himself (herself) than you if…

1. …he flirts with you a lot but suddenly ends up dating someone else (and you should really watch out if you’re the ‘someone else’, because this is a repeating pattern in most cases).

2. …you keep inviting her to youth group, and she keeps blowing you off to hang out with family (then you find out later she was at the movies with friends…)

3. …he avoids talking about anything serious.

4. …you explain that she has hurt your feelings by something she has said or done, but she doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

5. …the two of you both have experience in a certain activity and he is constantly trying to argue that he knows more about it than you do, and he keeps giving you unsolicited advice.

6. …she treats you differently depending on who you’re with.

7. …he goes out with his guy friends, then tells you how hot he thought the waitress was.

8. …she only talks to you when she’s bored or lonely…you’re her backup.

9. …he puts off introducing you to his friends and family.

10….she brings you all her drama from her other relationships.

Sometimes the pain wins for a while…

….but joy wins out in the end!

The day after my last post, I basically went into hiding.  I was in so much pain, emotionally, that I couldn’t find the energy to post here, or even much on Facebook.  Interacting with anyone beyond my immediate circle of trust was just too much of a struggle.  I concentrated on my school work and just surviving each day.  Seeing a therapist helped, but only in that she helped me to become less overwhelmed and more organized with my thoughts.

The pain came from several directions at once, almost crushing me in their grip, so much so that it was impossible to decide where one ended and one began or if one was causing another.  I wasn’t sleeping much, and was constantly getting sick.  I had just finished what was probably the most stressful semester of my life, including my senior capstone project and a bunch of new costumes for Nutcracker. I figured it was just adrenal fatigue kicking in, but nothing I was doing was helping the way it used to.  Ultimately, my grades began to slip, which was what made me finally reach out for help.

All the financial pressures we have experienced since my husband’s accident were coming to a head.  We honestly didn’t know if we were going to make it until he started teaching.  The instability ate away at me every day and made me anxious, despite my continuing to believe that God would supply the need at just the right moment (He has not disappointed!).  I left a job I loved because of my increasing course load at school, but realized later that I had worked in an extremely unhealthy environment.  I felt used and wrung out.  My PTSD had been full blown for a while, but true to myself, I ignored what I was feeling and concentrated on getting through each day, focused on taking care of others.  I didn’t want to feel the pain I knew was lurking.  Leaving the job was the last straw.  Without something that took up my time in the evenings, I had extra time to think….so dangerous for someone in a full blown PTSD episode.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t concentrate on my homework.

One night, I had a dream, or a vision or whatever it is you want to call it.  I was very clearly told how to resolve the largest of the financial issues and that I needed to get help in sorting out the emotional turmoil.  At that point, I knew I could no longer handle things on my own as I had attempted to for nearly 2.5 years.  Once I started following the directives I was given in my vision, things started to fall in place.

What was once a dark and hopeless place became brighter.  I literally could see more clearly, and there were colors I had forgotten because they had been hidden in the shadows. I began letting go of the anxiety and bitterness, and instead focused on forgiveness.  All of the things that had happened to me, I couldn’t control.  I simply had to understand what I could and accept what I couldn’t.

I still have a way to go.  This part of my journey is not yet complete.  I surrendered to the darkness for a short time.  It makes the colorful light all that more precious.  There are things happening now that are beyond my understanding or imagining.  God’s really showing me His power, love and grace.  I’m still anxious about the unknown, but I know He’s got me always in the palm of His hand.

Rough week

Arthritis is a pain.  Literally.  My joints are seriously disliking the cold.  Not that it’s sub-zero weather here…it’s actually quite mild.  But wet…and windy.  It penetrates right into the bones.  I’m still getting things done.  Nearly finished with an eternity scarf, and tomorrow I’ll finish up my grandmother’s flower garden blocks.  A little at a time, and I’ll get that list finished!

School is going well.  I’m bowling a 120 average, even in pain.  The religion class is interesting, and we even get to watch movies.  Today we watched a 20 minute portion of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”  It’s an intense one, and painful to watch.  I remember seeing it in the theater with my dear friend, Honey, and clinging to each other as we wept.

Guess I’d better get my stuff ready for tomorrow.  I get to have a ME day, which hasn’t happened for….I can’t even remember how long.  

UFOs

Not the scifi type, silly.  The UnFinished Object type that is taking over my house.  So many projects, so little time.  I’ve had to put off a lot of personal projects this year due to work and school, but I’ve made it a goal to take at least some of my time back this year.  There’s no way I can finish all of my UFOs, but I can make a huge dent in the list.  To keep me accountable, I’m going to list them here, and check in weekly with my progress.  Here goes…

Quilts

  • finish quilting and binding Winnie the Pooh quilt for my daughter
  • hand quilt great grandmother’s hexagon quilt
  • complete batik hexagon quilt top
  • hand quilt double nine patch quilt

Knitting/Crochet

  • purple/pink variegated scarf
  • remainder of mesh yarn into ruffle scarves
  • 20 loom knit hats for women’s shelter

Scrapbooking

  • one page per month for each BOM (Book of Me – this means 3 pages a month)
  • make Christmas cards for next year
  • at least 5 other pages/Scrapbook.com challenge swaps

Beading

  • 10 pairs of earrings each month for the Etsy shop
  • Repair red and gold Tink vessel necklace
  • repair acorn cap necklace

Cross stitch

  • finish giraffe cross stitch by November

 

I’m sure I’ll add a couple more things to the list by the end of the month, but that’s what I can think of for right now.

Bowling is fun!

One of my classes this term is PE, more specifically, bowling.  I’ve always loved bowling and was hoping to get this class, because it always fills up quite quickly.  After 2 days of bowling for 2 hours each day, I am SO sore.   But a few days off to do other things, and I’ll be right as rain again for Tuesday.  My goal in the next 4 weeks is to bowl a 200 game, which would be an automatic A for the class.  In any case, a 140 average for a week will do the same.  Either way….I want that A.