Category Archives: Hope

How Did I Let This Happen To Me?- INTIMIDATION! Part 1

It happens to you before you realize it, but the signs are all there: you’re feeling afraid, coerced, demoralized, bullied, held back, demeaned, and limited. You wonder, “How did I let this happen to me?”

I’ll tell you how. Because I’ve been there.

You see, Intimidation usually happens within a supposedly loving or fair or long running relationship. It can happen when you’re dating someone,  with a co-worker or boss, with your sibling or parent, with someone you thought you were friends with. It’s often a precursor to abuse and domination. And when it’s at work in the relationship, all the nice titles that previously defined your relationship don’t mean a hill of beans.

Take a hard look at that troubling situation you’re in. (Healthy relationships can stand to be examined.) You havn’t been able to put your finger on it, maybe, but you know you’re in trouble because of that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You’re just not sure when you started to feel that way.

You see, Intimidation occurs over time and in an under handed way.  So it’s hard to tell when you fell under it. But if you put that thermometer in and take your temp, you’ll be able to see the elevated levels of discouragement, depression, and despair in your life. Those are signs that something dark and nasty is at work there. Intimidation has been eating away at you, like a necrotizing despair.

Someone, somehow, got more than just the upper hand in your interaction with them. They pushed and took control, they smiled with their mouth but there wasn’t warmth in their eyes, you sensed a  power struggle, a battle you couldn’t win– and you gave in.

You thought you just gave them that “win” in that situation, but you really gave them way more than that–because you lost your voice,you lost your confidence,  you lost your peace and your power. You lost your sense of dignity and worth.

And now it’s time to get it all back.

That one decision, right there, is the beginning of health and healing to your soul. That desire to fight for the truth of what you’re facing–not necessarily fight against the person– that right there will start to lead you out onto solid ground.

Because when you can’t fight back, when you don’t want to fight back or equalize your standing and validate your right to be heard– that is a dangerous place. That’s where that bully in your life wants to bring you, to the point of your complete loss of confidence and self respect. That way your bully has an easier time walking all over you.

I’m at a dangerous but liberating point in my life. I’m too old to be ignorant of patterns I’ve seen in people’s lives, my back is too stiff to lie down and let someone walk on me, I’m too angry about all the abuse I’ve seen loved ones endure, and I’m not willing to stay quiet and polite anymore.

I’m going for bold and loud. Loud, as in loud and clear.

So let me make this message clear: I’m speaking out against Intimidation and those who major in it. I’m taking the journey into wholeness, where people walk with self respect and quiet confidence–and they don’t have to apologize for their peace of mind and sense of dignity and worth. If you want to come on this journey with me, sit tight.

And stay tuned for Part 2.

(Watch for our new YouTube Video on Intimidation being released soon!)

More Than Chills and Signs: How To Experience God’s Presence

Here’s the good news for those of you who have gotten frustrated in your walk with God because you don’t feel you are disciplined enough: growing in your faith is not just about discipline.

I’ve spent over 40 years pursuing a relationship with God that certainly involved what some call the main “spiritual disciplines” of prayer, Bible study, accountability and fellowship. There’s no doubt that these are crucial for a healthy walk with the Lord. But as I look back on some key turning points in my spiritual walk, there were definitely times when I was just spiritually needy and emotionally desperate – and I experienced God’s life-changing powerful presence.

More than giving us chills and supernatural signs, God wants to meet our deepest emotional needs in an encounter with Him. While you can’t build your faith on feelings alone, they nonetheless are part of experiencing God’s presence. Emotional hunger and honest expression of your feelings can ignite a wave of spiritual renewal.

Be Hungry For God

Be open to God “showing up” in times when you desperately need Him.

I remember one pivotal moment in my life when this occurred. I was coming home from my junior year of study abroad in Spain. It had been a long year, exciting but also lonely, and I had battled anxiety and anorexia. I was feeling very vulnerable as I sat in the airport in Madrid, hungrily reading a devotional my mother had sent me.

The airport speakers were broadcasting all these songs in Spanish and I was reading my devotional in English when all of a sudden something amazing occurred: just as I was reading the words about how God is like a bridge over troubled waters, the American song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” breaks through the loudspeakers.

I raised my eyes to the speakers, incredulous that God was speaking to me in literally my own language! I heard the message loud and clear that God was saying: “Lauren, I am with you, everywhere, and always.” Tears streamed down, and joy and hope welled up in me. I can remember and actually “feel” that experience, even to this day.

….

(Continue reading this article at Christian Mingle Believe)

Not In Our House: How To Break Generational Patterns

When I got married to my husband of 32 years now, I was a “package deal”:  I brought into our marriage all that I witnessed as a child in my home, and all that I am as an affected, vulnerable human being. But you can’t keep patterns of coping with pain hidden for long. So as I grew not only “in love” with my husband, but “in trust” with him as well, I learned to open up and let him into my past. We prayerfully did this so that the patterns of living and loving we would develop in our future family would be patterns that we deliberately initated, and not dysfunctional generational patterns we fell back into.

Generational patterns of behavior are unknowingly learned – usually in the childhood years – and are unwittingly repeated in our lives as we enter into relationships. The dysfunction gets multiplied and passed on to the next generation, not as a direct curse but more so as a pattern that was instinctively learned and unknowingly repeated. We usually live out in our current family life what was modeled and lived out in our home as a child. But we don’t have to repeat our past. It’s time to walk in freedom and grace.

Doing Life

It’s important to understand that our current patterns of “doing life” are often tied to our knee-jerk reactions from having lived with any unhealthy issues or addictions. We learn coping mechanisms as we grow up, based on our need for surviving painful experiences. So if there was trauma, chaos or crisis in our childhood home, we not only had to deal with these critical issues, but we also inevitably adapted to those problems.

Later, when we enter relationships and get married, while we may no longer have these same stressors, we still have the pattern of coping that we learned as a child. For example, if, as a child, you learned that lying was a way to avoid getting abused, then lying can become your fallback reaction when you now encounter any stressful situation where your sense of safety even remotely feels threatened.

Whether it was alcoholism, abuse, intense health crises or other serious stresses you had to deal with growing up, you nonetheless were a witness of pain, dysfunction and even of despair. You can’t ignore how these experiences affected you as a child. But God doesn’t expect us to deny the reality of our past.

Break Every Chain

In the Bible, we see this played out in Joseph’s life. Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family with brothers who strongly disliked him – and that’s putting it mildly. Joseph had these special dreams, but his brothers had vindictive desires for his destruction. They competed for their father’s affection, and found ways to demean Joseph at every juncture. It doesn’t appear that Joseph’s father did much to stem the tide of their mounting rage and jealousy. In fact, giving Joseph the coat of many colors only made things worse for him.

Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him, but relented and sold him as a slave. From there, he later wound up being imprisoned for years, until a miraculous release occurred. Later, he faced his brothers in an ironic turn of events where he was now a famous leader in the land and they were in severe need during the famine.

But Joseph had a perspective of God’s ultimate victory in his life, and was set free from the generational patterns of competition, strife and abuse that he grew up with. Instead of responding to his brothers with a vindictive spirit of revenge, he chose to speak kindly to them, assuring them that he would use his prominent place of authority to see to it that they and their families were well cared for. Joseph broke the generational pattern of competition and abuse.

(…Continue reading my article at Believe)

Recovering From Rejection After A Big Breakup

Rejection is one of the hardest things to handle and the most insidious in the way it does damage to our self esteem. Things can appear to be going so well in a budding relationship, when all of a sudden you get a text or a phone call saying, “We need to talk.” When the phone call ends and so does the relationship, we can be left broken hearted and questioning our self worth. But it’s really not the Rejection itself that does the damage– it’s often what we believe about ourselves when we’ve been rejected.

Lost And Found

After a painful experience of rejection, we need a time of recuperation. Recuperation isn’t just about recovering from something; it’s also about regaining something. Often when we’ve been rejected, we lose our confidence, and our self esteem plummets.

In order to recuperate when you’ve been rejected, you’ve got to re-interpret that message of rejection and replace it with one that more accurately reflects the work of your ongoing personal growth and your hope of a lasting future relationship.

Here are 4 ways to replace the message of Rejection with the appropriate message of Hope:

(Read the rest of my Article at BELIEVE– “Dating. Marriage. Relationships the Christian Way.”)

BODY ON LOAN

There’s something ironic about a 55 year old woman discovering her body for the first time. And no, this is not a sexual tell all. This is a story about death and life, fat and muscles, despair and hope.

I’ve put my body through a lot over the years: two high risk pregnancies and births, a week in the cardiac unit when I was only 25, the more recent debilitating side effects of Graves Disease and resulting heart complications and weight fluctuations. These have all taken their toll on this body of mine. I know many people have had health challenges far worse than mine. Still, I didn’t do that great of a job taking care of my physical body. I had never realized the cooperative nature, the reciprocal relationship, of me taking care of my body–so that my body could take care of me.

I have seen the human body literally shrivel up and die, before my very eyes. Several years ago, my husband and I were suddenly thrust into full time caretaker roles when his mother suffered a massive stroke and his 93 year old father had just begun to be bed ridden. The next thing I knew, we were dealing with adult diapers, hospice nurses coming into the house, feedings, medicine being dispensed around the clock, and the sense that we were caught up in something we were unprepared for but could not escape. And neither could they.

It was a whirlwind of paperwork, visits, and conversations with nurses as to the speed of their decline, and most of all, a sense of great loss, anxiety, and dread. For some people nearing the end, there are murmured words of affection, and reminiscing together over sweet times and tender memories. But they were not in a state to talk or reminisce, or murmur words of love. We held their veined, translucent hands and talked to them but I don’t know how much they understood. Their bodies deteriorated quickly. Skin became paper thin. Their eyes lost focus. Their decline was not a scene you would want to remember foremost in your mind. But in reality, it was just their physical bodies that spiraled towards death. I knew they were still vibrant people, generous and kind, in their hearts. Just as we knew God was still faithful and kind, even in this very devastating scene. Those truths, my husband and I held onto.

In the midst of this dark scene, I was dealing with some serious health issues myself. Doctors evaluated my racing heart, blood pressure spikes, my nervousness, and tremors. The diagnosis of Graves Disease, an endocrine disorder, had me feeling like I was having a nervous breakdown. In addition, my past experience I had had with Pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of my heart, was re evaluated and we questioned what damage had been done to my heart.

My physical body was in revolt against me. But it was a wakeup call for me. Suddenly I had a desperate will to live and thrive, even as my in-laws were dying in front of me. This juxtaposition of life and death, fighting for it and failing, got to me. I had never thought much of protecting my body. I had never been its advocate, really. As long as it worked fine, as long as it didn’t work against me, I ignored it. I had carelessly accepted how it housed my soul. I didn’t plan or prepare how to help it weather life’s storms. I hadn’t thought of its needs.

Now I realized I had to change that thinking. I was given this wake-up call during the short months my in-laws were finishing their journey on this earth. This, perhaps, was their final wordless gift to me.

This wakeup call culminated in an epiphany, two years after their passing. I looked at my own body in the mirror and realized it was going to take a journey to the end as well. My body would be reaching an expiration date in the years ahead. It would only get older. It would only get weaker. Or so I thought. Until one day last fall when it hit me—did I need to cooperate so passively with the decline of my body?

Did resignation have to lead the way?

So I joined the gym back in September. With my Graves Disease in temporary remission and my blood pressure under control, I had no excuses why I couldn’t at least perk up my old body a little. Give it a tune up, even if I couldn’t give it an overall over haul. But something happened in those early weeks of lifting weights, being on the tread mill, going to exercise classes: I started to admire my body. Or I should say, I started to admire the body God had loaned to me. He made it, after all. He designed it. And the physical body is a beautiful thing.

I decided my body could become fit, more muscular and toned. It wasn’t an egotistical quest. It was more of a release I was giving my body; a permission to show its strength and let me marvel at its capabilities. I had always admired my husband’s muscles, his strong back, his thick powerful legs. It had never occurred to me, before, that I could have these same glorious muscles; to not only work with this body on loan to me, but to actually work it out.

Oh I had done daily walks, and I had, in years past, done some mild exercise from time to time. But never had I pressed my body to its limits. Never had I worked to actually develop muscles. Never had I consistently worked my body out and smiled at the end of an hour and a half, because my body had done so well. Good body, I would silently praise it, after a good hard work out. Good job, I’d affirm it.

My body loves to exercise now; even if I don’t. This body of mine wants to show off muscle and sinew. It begs for a work out now, when 4pm rolls around. And my mind doesn’t mind the routine either. I do a lot of thinking and dreaming on the tread mill. I do a lot of breathing and counting when I’m pumping some iron.

I do a lot of living, at the gym. And it makes up for the scenes of death and dying that I have experienced, and will still experience more of, in the future.

You know that song, Love the One you’re with? I think we should take that advice. And start by loving the body that’s with you for your entire life. Your physical body is not going anywhere until you draw your last breath. It’s your best friend, so to speak. You might want to try being friendlier to your body.

It was strange to receive the cremated remains of both my in laws. They had donated their body to the local teaching hospital so that it might help their research on diseases. That was how my in laws had lived their lives, with other people and their needs on their minds. They were sacrificial and caring, generous and kind. I remember the day the hospital sent first the cremated remains of my mother in law (her body, apparently, didn’t hold as much fascination for them as my father-in-law’s physical body because his, they kept for over a year. He was 95 when he drew his last breath.)

My husband and I opened the cardboard box it had been shipped in and took out the urn. Mo mother in law had loaned her body to science and now her body was returned to us, in ashes that would be returned to the earth. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. It wasn’t such a tragic, scary thought anymore, this cycle of life.

I’m learning to love this body of mine. And I don’t mean that in the sense of needing to accept my weight or physical appearance. Who cares about stretch marks or moles when you’ve got a body to live in and you’re still breathing? When you get a chance to live, right here, right now?

It’s more that I realize this body is just on loan to me. I can pump some iron and make this body stronger, or I can let it go weak and flabby. I can get on a treadmill and feel my heart beat furiously or I can lay in bed for hours and let it get all squishy. It’ll pretty much become whatever I want it to become. And lately, at the age of 55, I’ve decided I want my body to be a fine running machine, like a sleek sports car but without all the pizzazz. I’ll settle for strong bones, beating heart, arm muscles that can lift bags of groceries or support the aging back of my own 90 year old mother. I’m watching her body decline before my eyes. As I do, I’m working out my body more than I ever have before. But not because I’m trying to furiously beat the inevitable physical decline. I know that happens to us all.

I’m just realizing my poor body hasn’t had the challenges its needed. It hasn’t gotten used up enough. It hasn’t been flexed and worked out enough. There’s so much more this body can do. I feel sad for having deprived it of the opportunities to climb, run, lift, stretch, pull, to its maximum capacity. I owe my physical body a profuse apology.

I’ve come to see that this body on loan to me is a gift from God. He said I could do whatever I want with it. But like an ignorant silly child who takes an expensive complicated toy and just bangs it on the floor, I have not understood what this body can do, what it was meant for, what it begs for.

I’ve been a poor host to this body on loan to me. And I’m changing that.

For as long as I can, for as long as it will hold out, this body will get the excitement, physical challenges, exercise and nutrition that it deserves. I’m not only going to take care of it, I’m going to enjoy what it can do.

I’ve got a relationship with my physical body. And its not going to be a love-hate one. I don’t have time for that. And neither do you.

No, this will be a harmonious relationship, that my body and I will have; a relationship of appreciation and respect –and even tenderness. Later when my body has done its work and it is declining its way to the dust of the earth once more, I hope to hear some good news as I approach heaven’s gates.

And the “well done” I want to hear from God won’t just be all about my faith, my words and actions towards others. It’ll also be about the stewardship of this life God gave me, and that includes the body God loaned to me for the time I was on earth. I want to make God proud. And I think of that each time my muscles flex and I lift a weight upward, towards heaven.