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Roaring with Sparkles

I’m not a big Katy Perry fan. But her song “Roar” resonates with me a lot. I can relate to certain phrases of it well, and it inspires me to step out of my comfort zone, and keep ‘becoming’.

‘Roaring’ is, after all, a very descriptive expression of stepping into who you are. Join me on an imaginary African safari. For years we have been dreaming about this. We have pored over National Geographics, we have seen every Netflix show related to lions, we have read every travel guide and pinpointed the best part of Africa to see the most lions. We read reviews, and carefully booked a hotel in the middle of the African plains, and simply can’t wait to get in that jeep to see and hear the PRIDE!

The day finally comes, and we step onto that trans-Atlantic flight – knowing we will be up for a day and a half, before arriving, but too excited to sleep!  When we get off the plane, a very rustic van is waiting to take us out of the city, and miles into the savanna, where our hotel is located. It’s quite the bumpy ride, but this is the trip of a lifetime, to experience our favorite wildlife – the royal and majestic lions!

Our hotel does not disappoint – with gorgeous views of the savanna, and iced tea and lemonade available on the scenic observation deck all day, we are ready to relax and do some pre-safari wildlife watching from our deck chairs. After a delicious but pricey dinner, and a beautiful sunset, we go to sleep – exhausted, but nearly at the end of this long wait – because tomorrow! Tomorrow is the day we get to observe in the wild, the amazing animals we have loved and admired since childhood.

We love the majestic way they rule the other animals just by looking their way. We love the beautiful mane that sets off that massive, intimidating head, the swishing tail that seems to bookend its commanding presence, but most of all, we love the ROAR! The roar that says “I am here! I am doing what I was created to do! I am aware of my existence in the big scheme of things, and I will not shrink back from the significant impact I am intended to have on the world around me”.

Safari day starts long before sunrise, with a full breakfast and picking up of packed lunches from the kitchen. Then we pile into the jeep – hats, sunscreen, and cameras at the ready. First we come across some elephants – those incredible creatures that shake the ground with each step they take. Talk about impacting the world? I’d say yes. In a very literal sense. We start snapping pics left and right, and switch to video as they start trumpeting the warning to the herd – strangers approaching!

As we drive on, we see the heads of a few giraffes sticking up out of the brushy tree line in the distance. Their unusual markings reminding us that we are in a place where uniqueness is treasured and differences are celebrated.

The sun is getting hot when we stop for an early lunch near an oasis that appears to be frequented by many types of animals, but they all disappeared as the Jeep came into view. We are enjoying the day exquisitely, yet starting to get a little impatient to see the animal that matters most to us – the one that puts to silence every other animal, as it steps with a mighty roar into it’s God-given role as King of the Jungle.

As we continue on, we see kudu, wildebeest, zebras and warthogs, roaming the plains as if they own them. Amazing and unforgettable, but where are the lions?  Something appears to be off. Our tour guide and driver starts to become concerned as we traverse mile after mile of the grasslands with no sign of jungle royalty.

Just before the turn-around point, when we are losing hope and feeling such disappointment, we catch a glimpse of a furry mane. When we drive towards it, the lion runs behind a rock outcropping. As we get closer, we see a beautiful, large lion hiding behind the rocks, tail between it’s legs, head down, and silent. Our tour guide, who is also a wildlife veterinarian, becomes very concerned, and calls in for back-up to check the health of the grand creature, whose frightened actions are in stark contrast to the proud, courageous creature he was intended to be.

We get the unusual privilege of watching the veterinarians examine the lion, and discover that he has contracted a disease, that causes him to lose the ability to care for himself, leading to malnourishment, and without treatment, his life would be snuffed out by creatures that he ordinarily would have eaten for breakfast.

Sadness floods my heart like a stormy river. The tragedy of these beautiful majestic creatures becoming so weak and lifeless was too much to bear. And the disappointment deep, after so many years of waiting, hoping and planning to see them in all their God-given healthy glory!

As we headed back across the plains to the hotel, we drove past a sharp incline with a rocky outcropping, that overlooked miles and miles of savanna. Suddenly the air around us filled with the loudest, most majestic roar I could have ever imagined! My heart pounding with surprise and hope, I looked up, and there, staring down at us, was a young, magnificent lion, with a great, flowing mane, a taut body, and a long tail swishing in the sunset rays. Healthy. Beautiful. Majestic. Glorious. Loud. Fearlessly proclaiming that he was King of the Jungle!

Wow! When my heart stopped pounding, and the sun had set on that most incredibly royal creature – one  I had dreamed my whole life of seeing – and the tears of happiness had subsided, I couldn’t help but consider the parallels between the two lions. Both were made King of the Jungle. Both were created to roar loudly, to have a large impact on the world around them. One was embracing his being and place in the world, with courage and confidence. Understanding the impact he was intended to have on the world around him. The other had been designed for the exact same purpose, but due to a disease that was overtaking it, was unable to step into his rightful place.

It made me think of us humans. We were all made to roar. Not all of us roar the same way, though. None of my friends would probably say I sound like a lion. But I do have responsibility to find my voice, and keep growing and becoming who God designed me to be. There may be physical representations of what’s on the inside, that become a part of your ‘voice’. And friends, for me it’s  sparkles.  Or ‘sparking joy’. So I am owning that in different ways, and practicing my roar.

What about you? Do you feel confident in your roar? Most of us probably need a little nudge to keep finding and growing into it. But don’t let the ‘disease’ of fear or depression, shame, or criticism keep you from discovering your roar, and growing into the best ‘you’ possible. If you’re struggling to find who that person is, ask someone who loves you to support your journey. Taking time for self-care, mental and spiritual nourishment is an important part of the process. Don’t leave it out. And be authentic. If you’re a bird – ‘tweet’. If you’re a seal – ‘bark’! If you’re a lion – then Roar!  But by all means, find and use the voice God gave you, to enrich your world.

What you Allow will Continue

It follows the simple laws of physics. An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an exterior force. So it is with our lives, our relationships, our expectations…..

I grew up fourth generation in an isolated patriarchal community, and nearly everyone I called a friend until the age of thirty-five was inside those four walls, figuratively speaking. I suspect a fair amount of you may be able to relate. Over the years since leaving that organization, I’ve had a lot of wake-up calls about the behaviors that were considered ‘normal’ in that environment. The cumulative weight of the observations has led me to speak out about things that I would rather pretend weren’t a problem. But if this can help one person break chains, heal  a relationship,  and step into who God intended them to be, then it will be worth it. A few questions to start –

Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around someone you love? Do you feel pressured to do certain things you don’t want to do, for fear of that person’s reaction? Are you afraid to say what you really feel about a sensitive subject matter?

Do you feel pressured to report every conversation you had, or every person you came in contact with that day? Do you feel isolated from friends or family, either through someone discrediting them to you, or outright forbidding you to see them? Have you been asked not to tell anyone about conflicts or troubles in your marriage? Have you been pressured not to seek professional help?

Do you have to prove over and over that your intentions were good, while constantly being treated with suspicion? Does your heart start beating faster in fear, or your face become drawn into a numb expression when a certain person walks into the room?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, let me tell you right now – you are in an abusive relationship. It may be a spouse, or it may be another significant or authority figure in your life. But either way – these are indisputable signs of an abusive relationship. How abusive? You will have to take steps to determine that. But you must take the steps. Abuse is in no way limited to being physically harmed. In most cases of abuse, there are no bruises on the skin, no black eyes, no cuts or broken bones.

But underneath the outer layer, there lies a heart, shattered in so many pieces you have no idea how to put it back together. Scars so thick, they have misshapen your soul, and warped your view of life and humanity. Even given you a false sense of right and wrong, of your obligations, and your value to God and to the rest of the world.

The tragedy is that those who are theoretically in a position to help, in some faith community settings, skew parts of scripture in ways which benefit the image of the given community, while disrespecting  the individual. They create an altar of ultimatum, on which too many people have sacrificed their very souls, under the false premise of doing God’s will. Only to find out in the end that they have made a mockery of that very covenant of marriage.

Children’s minds, hearts, bodies, and souls have been sacrificed on that altar, by god-fearing mother’s, believing they were following God’s will by continuing to co-exist in a house with someone who has turned his heart from the covenant he made with God. Out of that brokenness and self-deceit, a need to control others seems to be the most common driving force to emerge – emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, sexually, or physically – in the name of ‘headship’. Demanding ‘obedience and submission’ – as his actions swing further and further from the Christ-like love that is the caveat for that obedience and submission. That is not a marriage – that is a co-dependent abusive relationship, and staying in it without addressing the issue will not bring the marriage back.

Ladies, wives, mothers – PLEASE be courageous in stepping into your God-given place of responsibility, in standing up against intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and yes, of course, physical and sexual abuse. You have a choice. You have the power to change your situation, and you must step into the role God designed for you. If you don’t know what that is, please reach out now to someone who can point you in the right direction. And you will probably have more honest answers outside the four walls of Christendom. If you are told to be sweeter, more appeasing, or more submissive – do not return to that counsellor.

Pleasing a patriarch or abuser is a losing battle. The demands will become more unreasonable, and you will become less of a person, more of a shell. That is not what God intended you to be. He created  you with a mind, a body, a heart and a soul, to be a unique, thinking individual. You are a complete person in your own right, with your own thoughts, ideas, opinions that God gave you, and the ability to have a direct connection with Him.

If you haven’t believed this before, you may need some direction in how to hear Him, but I promise you – He is perfectly capable, and will come through for you. Listen for His voice – but not to other individuals claiming to be His voice.

If you’re married, and never grew into a whole individual before marriage, or if you are co-dependent on the approval of an authority figure for your own personal peace and direction in life, wake up! You must become uniquely who God created you to be. You must stay on your own path, and seek His face directly. When you do that, He will show up for you, and His direction will save you from a lot of heartache and disaster.

In some cases, redemption may come in the form of a restored relationship, a changed heart, and two people who are able to walk the journey together, in an atmosphere of mutual respect. In some cases the redemption may come in the form of one courageous individual allowing the other to face loss of the relationship in it’s current state. This allows the abuser the opportunity to identify and heal the inner pain that is driving the outer behavior. Both abuser and victim are given the gift of space – to breathe, clarify their understanding, and learn what is and isn’t an acceptable way to treat other humans. In all cases, learning proper boundaries is the only starting point for redemption.

We are all broken, but we all have a choice as to how much more broken we are willing to become at the hands of others. Hurting people hurt people. Healing cannot start until boundaries are set and respected.

Dr. Henry Cloud has some life-changing books on boundaries. Starting with the first one, entitled simply, ‘Boundaries’. http://drcloud.com   Another good resource, http://songsfromthecage.com, is the personal journey of a godly wife and mother, out of the dark valley of abuse, and into the light of God’s love. To read an additional perspective on her story, one that sheds light on the potentially misguided role of the church in these matters, go to http://greghowlett.com, (which is primarily a music website) and look for the ‘Abuse’ section on his blog. Very thought-provoking content.

You also must have support for your personhood. Reach out to a few people of your own choosing that you trust, and allow them to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, as you walk through this valley. We were never meant to face battles alone. Be clear with them that you need their active support, and commit to being honest with them even when it’s hard.

Whatever you do, if you can relate to the above descriptions, put a stake in the ground, and declare today as the turning point in your journey. And keep moving forward. Fear is the greatest weapon in the history of the world. But Jesus overcame that fear on the cross, so you can move forward in faith and courage, keeping your eyes and your heart fixed on the the only One powerful enough to redeem your story and make it beautiful.

Six Unselfish Ways to Love Yourself Right Now

Love yourself.

That phrase tends to bring up mental pictures of choices that may seem fun at the time, but things I would later regret  – maybe indulging in junk food all day long, of overspending on my wardrobe, of wasting a whole day bingeing on a movie series….. Honestly, that picture doesn’t feel like the ‘best me’ that I’ve been working towards becoming.

But over the last year, I’ve been challenging my default assumptions, and ‘love yourself’ has come to the forefront as one that I need to re-define. So I’ve been consciously making choices to love myself, in ways that help me grow into the ‘best me’ vision that I’m working toward.  The first step in a process that enables me to love and serve my people better.

Here are a few of the things I now see as Loving Myself –

1. Drinking water, and lots of it. I can tell you that it makes a difference. Without enough water, the body starts to dehydrate, and joint pain, headaches, fatigue, vision problems, and light-headedness are a few of the common symptoms. My favorite way to keep fresh water close by, is my Life Factory glass bottle. It goes pretty much everywhere with me.

2. Taking a walk – maybe not a formal one. I’ve discovered sneaky ways of getting more steps into my day that don’t require a long time commitment – like parking at the far end of the parking lot when shopping. Not only does it give me a built-in boost of exercise, it reduces the risk of my car getting a parking lot scrape.

3. Eating breakfast. Yes, you were right, Mom. I should have been doing this consistently. I’m not a breakfast food fan, so it’s been easy for me to get the kids off  to school, and get into my day without stopping to get some fuel for my body. Then I crash around noon, and crave salty junk foods about 4:00 p.m. Eating breakfast really does stabilize my blood sugar, and smooth out my day on every level. One of my current favorites is ‘Egg in a nest’ – a nest of shredded carrots and kale, topped with a fresh-from-the-farm egg. That’s some good fuel right there!

4. Staying a little bit hungry. Do you ever notice that when your stomach is too full, there is a nagging discomfort? I discovered an easy fix for that! LOL! I stop eating while I still feel hungry. So worth it.

5. Yoga Class on YouTube – I’ve challenged myself to strengthen my core for 30 days in a row, and I’m starting to enjoy it so much! There’s quite a few free channels to choose from. ‘Caroline Williams Yoga’ is my current favorite.

6. Choosing gratitude. I’ve discovered that this is the best secret to happiness. When I can’t change my circumstances, writing down 3 things – or if I’m really struggling, maybe 30 – and focusing on those things, brings  serenity and joy back into the picture.

And there it is, friends. What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘Love Yourself’? Has your viewpoint changed from one idea to another recently? And what are some ways you’ve found to love yourself, that prepare you to better love your people? I’d love to hear them…..

When Self-care Doesn’t Equal Chocolate

I wish self-care equaled chocolate. That would make it simple. No one would even have to talk about the subject. Unfortunately, it means a lot more than that, and most of it is not simple. It means taking responsibility for my own physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. And that doesn’t always feel very chocolatey.

Sometimes it means saying no when I want to say yes…………. saying yes when I want to say no.

…becoming aware of how foods affect my body, and deciding if thats how I want to feel

…learning boundaries in relationships, and working through problems, not going around them.

… knowing I need an extra dose of Vitamin D in the winter, and figuring out how best to get it.

… putting on my tennis shoes, and going for a walk when I just want to cozy up by the fire.

…researching my personality, and becoming aware of my strengths and weaknesses.

…asking for help to get out of the ditch – literally or figuratively

…surrounding myself with true friends that turn into cheerleaders when I need them

…enforcing open spaces on my calendar, that is always so easy to fill ……and on and on…..

Sometimes self-care does mean bubble baths and chocolate cake. Sometimes it means broccoli and running shoes. Learning what it means for me at any given time, can be a very tricky process. When I have a foggy view of self-care, it’s easy to get caught up in indulgence, or pretend to be a martyr. Neither of those put me on the track to my best self.

I’ve been on a journey of understanding and defining what self-care really means. Becoming grounded in the long-term purpose of self-care. Will you join me? Our friends and family need what we each have to offer. The world needs what we have to offer. And we will only have the capacity to positively impact others if we have learned to truly care for ourselves.

 

 

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