This week, my little girl said some really mean words.
To me, to her brother. Really mean.
Then, my oldest did the same. Just harsh.
The beautiful thing about true love is the way it covers. Today, I can’t even remember what they said, just the way it felt. Hurt my heart. How I give them everything, and they give me these words in return.
But they do it because they know I love them. All the feelings they have, they are safe with me. They can ventilate. I will forgive. I will love, even still.
And I’ve done the same to them, I’m sure. We’ve all done it, said something awful that we kind of meant, but, not really, just because it felt twisted-good for one second to give voice to that thing inside us that would not rest.
And then, you see the other person’s face. And it’s not good anymore.
They need to know that they have that kind of power.
Hurt people hurt people. And so do people who think they are invisible, ignored, weak, victimized, powerless, unheard. They overcompensate with reactionary hugeness because they feel so small.
This is what I tell my kids. “You hurt me. Those words you said, that thing you did. You really hurt me. Like, I need a minute. I might cry. Because I love you so much, but also because you have power. You have the power to hurt me like that, to hurt your brother or your sister with your words. With your choices. You are not powerless. You can’t just say or do anything you want, because you are powerful. What kind of family do you want? You have the power to make this family the kind of family you want. Or to make it the kind of family you don’t. You are not weak just because you are young. You have power.”
You are not powerless.
They look at me. Then they usually tear up a little. Their hearts, convicted and softened. But it’s not a weakening, it’s an awakening. It’s the kind of cry that shows the birth of strength. I ask them if they remember someone hurting them, someone who had the same kind of power. Of course they do. They don’t want to do that to someone else. They just don’t always realize that they can.
I’m convinced that most people have no idea of the pain they cause in relationships. People have their own pain, and they act out of that place without thinking about how it hurts the other person involved. A lot of times, they don’t have all the information. They don’t know why someone did what they did, and their own insecurity leads them to feelings of rejection, which leads to accusation and judgement of the other. And then, they let them have it. What they deserve. Revenge.
It’s a mess, but I believe it’s most often born out of ignorance.
I’m not excusing it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have boundaries or never hold someone accountable. I just think that indulging feelings of weakness or victimhood or self-pity are much more dangerous than we realize.
And when we wield our weapons recklessly because of our own pain? We become emotional terrorists, holding friends and family hostage with our words and our demands and our emotions.
We are powerful.
We have to deal with our junk. We have to deal with our pain.
We have to give up our feeling that we have a right to be offended.
Forgive quickly. Be slow to anger. Love well.
For we are powerful, and we have been entrusted with great things.
Today I’m praying that all of us would be healed of anything that keeps us from knowing our power and wielding it well. For we are warriors, priests, and kings. We must learn the weight and joy of power and true love. We must learn how to wear our crowns. And carry our swords.
As of this writing, I’m happy to announce that all those things are healed now, or at least well on their way to healing. So in that way, I guess the word held true.
Needless to say, I felt a tiny bit confused.
But. It was a long way around on a bumpy road.
This year, I considered not asking for a word. Maybe I just don’t want to know.
I held off for a month.
Lord, have mercy. Keep that word to yourself.
Physical pain and sickness and injury–these things mess with your mind. Pain is a head game. You win if you don’t let it get in your head, if you choose to live every moment like the world isn’t falling apart. It’s a kind of personal terrorism. You can’t give in, or the injury wins.
Maybe the most disappointing thing about hurting my leg in the spring was the way I lost my joy. Fast. And it stayed gone. I could reach and grasp and drag it back, but it was a shallow thing. The tiniest upset caused me to lose it again.
I thought I had more joy. I needed to know this about myself.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
That’s my verse. My life’s motto. How could I let it go so easily through the greatest challenges?
I’ve listened to hours and hours of instruction on healing this year. I’ve talked to my friends and listened to their advice. I’ve had hours of prayer.
The thing that keeps emerging for me is joy.
I heard Bill Johnson share the many ways that healing comes. Of course, it can come through prayer, but he has seen so many people healed. Some have been healed just by walking in the door during worship. Others spontaneously felt heat or tingling. Others were healed sometime during a service but didn’t even know it until later when they realized they were doing an activity that they hadn’t been able to do for years, lifting a box or moving a table.
One story he shared stood out to me as confirmation of joy. A man was given four months to live. His doctor laid down the files and paperwork and said, “Do you want to know what I would do if I were you?”
The man said, “Yes, of course.”
The doctor said, “If I were you, if they told me I had four months to live? I would go home and rent every funny movie I could find. I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.”
So the man did. The next time they tested him, the disease had gone. No evidence of that disease anywhere. He was cured by laughing, cured by joy.
I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.
Sometimes we are so darn serious. It’s such a drag, and there is no breakthrough because our own heaviness holds us down in one tiny spot.
So many things happened this year. And I struggled to hold on to joy.
Every person I talk to starts to laugh as I tell them the crazy things that have happened. Because, for some reason, one terrible thing is not funny. It’s just terrible.
But a whole bunch of terrible things piled up on top of each other? Hilarious.
I think it’s the absurdity of it. Like, that’s not real, right? You have to be joking.
No. I’m not. But maybe life is.
I finally got up the courage to ask for my word for the year.
The Spirit had been holding his breath, waiting for me to ask. Almost even before I finished the prayer I heard my word.
Great. Sigh. I’m not going to ponder on what that means.
You have to be joking.
I keep thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. How the scripture says, “She laughs, without fear of the future.”
I’ve always read that passage a certain way. Like, it’s a defiant laugh. Like, “Haha, Future! You can’t catch me!!!”
But lately, I think she’s actually sincerely laughing. Like she sees things that are funny. She’s cracking up, enjoying life. She is overwhelmed sometimes by all that she manages. That lady is no joke, but her life kind of sounds like one. Every person I know that manages that much stuff feels crazy at times. The ones that don’t quit are the ones who know how to laugh at the craziness. How to take it all in stride. How to make the messes and the unresolved areas and the failures, because she surely had all of that, how to make it all a joke.
I’m praying for more laughter. I’m watching videos and playing more. I already feel better. I’ll get to the future, but right now I’m laughing at the past, this year of “Are you kidding me, Lord?”
I think He is.
Laughter. It’s the word for the year.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Prov 31:25
One naturally devours the other. Self-pity devours power. Power devours self-pity.
And it seems like a daily choice that adds up over time, more than one big ceremonial decision that changes everything all at once.
Some days I feel the power of God on my life, increasing, swelling, calling, inviting. And on those days, it is the obvious choice. On those days, I choose power.
Power devours self-pity.
And it feels big. It usually feels really good for a minute. And then, sometimes, scary. Like a heavy weapon, it would be easy to lay it down.
And some days, I do lay it down. Some days, I choose pitiful.
I don’t mean to do it. I don’t usually even realize I’m doing it.
Well, maybe I realize it a little bit.
Self-pity and power can not coexist.
I remember one day crying in the bathroom in college, undoubtedly over some terrible hardship, aka, some drama that I had singlehandedly created. I was good at that.
I remember watching my mascara run, watercolor black tracks dripping down my cheeks.
It wasn’t until I heard Joyce Meyer talk about doing the same thing many years later that I realized how much self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself. How I wasn’t the only one that took some sick enjoyment from digging eye drops out of my purse and patting my puffy face, gently, with concealer, but in a hurry, like actresses huffing through soap operas, as if I had somewhere I needed to go.
At the time of her story, Joyce’s ministry was just taking off, and she was crying her way through some struggle.
In front of a mirror.
Because, as she says, women (and men) in a certain mood love to watch themselves cry to see just how pitiful they really can be.
Self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself.
Ouch. Déja vu.
And at that moment, she heard in her spirit, “You can’t be pitiful and powerful.”
You have to choose.
I was taken advantage of very young. I was forced to do things that I went along with because the culture seemed to reward it. I was bullied at school, by teachers and students. I grew up in American poverty. I remember running out of food. I remember no heat in the winter. I didn’t have the advantages that many around me had. I was embarrassed a lot. I was ashamed a lot. I felt self-hatred a lot. I was attacked in college, but I would have gladly pretended it didn’t happen. I was so embarrassed by it that I was already dismissing it until I realized my hair was coming out in clumps, and I was bleeding.
And as an adult, I have felt that, many times, as soon as I won one battle, another came in to take its place. My marriage was a disaster until we got it figured out, and about the time we did, I got desperately sick.
One battle after another.
And through it all, my emotions were a pendulum, swinging back and forth. Pitiful. Powerful. Pitiful. Powerful.
You have to choose.
I had days when I felt like fighting.
But for a while, I had more days when I thought about things from the past. Why did they happen the way that they did? What was wrong with me? Why did God bless everyone but me? On and on.
And the more I wallowed, the old pitiful feelings came on stronger and stronger. I didn’t know what deliverance was, but I knew that there were people around me who did life better than I did. I went to them for their thoughts about my situation. I paid for counseling when I didn’t have the money because I didn’t know what else to do. Talking to wise people was my way of not giving up at the time. It was the way that I knew how to fight.
I’m thankful to those who listened for hours, who shared their stories, who encouraged me, and held me accountable.
Fighting for life doesn’t always look like choosing ultimate victory, whatever that is.
Fighting to choose life when you are in a pit is in the little things. Choosing to open your eyes in the morning. Choosing to get out of bed. Choosing to force a smile for your children. Choosing to call someone who can help. That’s what I did.
Press into scripture. Find the scriptures that speak to your worst problem, and write them down. Say them out loud every day, three times a day. Focus on God’s peace, when it comes, when it goes. And then follow that peace wherever it leads.
So, I did it. I read the Bible. I copied scriptures. I read them out loud. It took time, but my life changed.
Fighting to choose life is in the little things.
I still have to choose life daily. It looks different now. It was not easy in the beginning, but it has gotten easier over time.
I don’t cry in the bathroom mirror anymore. I don’t miss it. I’m thankful for the life that God provided for me. I’m thankful that He helped me choose it.
I’m thankful for the people He put around me that challenged me with their beautiful lives. I’m thankful that they invited me to join them.
You never know who is watching you live well. You have the power to help another person choose life for themselves. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.
Keep choosing power.
You are showing others how it is done.
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life. Deut 30:19b
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-15
Your troubles are heavy. You feel burdened and tired of trying.
Father says, “Pray for their troubles.”
So, today I’m praying for your troubles. For any trouble in your life to lift, dissolve, dissipate, fall away, now in the name of Jesus.
Worry, go in the name of Jesus.
Doubt, stress, anxiety, and fear, leave now in the name of Jesus!
Peace come in, peace like a gentle river, flow in and wash these spirits, souls, and bodies with refreshing. Encouragement come in and cast these troubles in a fresh light. No more troubles, now you are trading in troubles for situations where God can work. No more are these things “your troubles” or “problems or issues.” These things are opportunities for God to show off in your life. He says, “Let me carry it.”
Heaviness and oppression, fall away now. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.
There are times when you ask so many questions. You feel plagued by questions. The how, the why, the what to do next. Almost an unstoppable flood of questions, but there are no answers.
These questions are not a mark of responsibility, though they feel like it at times.
I proclaim an end to the plague of pointless questions.
When they start to swirl in your mind, and you become tense, and your heart starts to race, I pray you tell them to STOP in the name of Jesus! And take a deep breath. And see Jesus in front of you, carrying all of it.
I pray for simple strategies from Heaven for you to deal with every little thing. Situations coming into order, God’s perfect order and beauty filling every place in your heart and mind, and tangibly, visibly, in all situations in your life.
And for great, great peace.
Peace that passes understanding as you face whatever the world has thrown at you. Your feet planted on the rock. Your heart in His hands. He is good, all the time, and He has the solutions in safekeeping for the perfect time for His perfect purpose.
I hear Him say, “You have not failed. You are not a failure. Watch me as I take your efforts and multiply them all around you. You don’t see it all now, but one day you will know the fruit of all the seeds you have planted.”
Something bigger than you is happening, and you get to be a part of it. Your troubles are becoming a testimony. One day soon you will testify to God’s goodness in this situation. He will show Himself strong in you as you stand strong in Him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter 5:7
I love American history. I love our flag. The Fourth of July, Mom, and apple pie. Love it all.
On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the weekend with a bike ride from Lexington, Massachusetts, where the first shots of the American Revolutionary war were fired, to Boston, Massachusetts, and then back again to Lexington.
We are rebels.
Appropriate, I think.
When we parked our cars in Lexington, I picked up a few leaflets announcing Patriot’s Day activities. I was thrilled to find that a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride into Lexington would be held in town that very night.
I get more excited about a Paul Revere reenactment than any band live in concert that I can think of.
I am a patriot and a rebel.
And a nerd.
I announced to my family that we would be staying in Lexington after our bike ride until 11:30 pm to witness this exciting event. Much moaning and groaning commenced, but I was not deterred.
“Hush,” I said. “We are staying, Paul Revere is going to be here, and you are going to love it.”
The bike path in Lexington is an award winning Rail- to-Trails path. If you are a biker and ever visit there, it’s a great ride. Only about 12 miles to Boston through beautiful communities.
Along the way, it occurred to me that our return would mirror Paul Revere’s famous ride from Boston to Lexington.
I prayed for our country as I rode. That the original godly plan for our nation would be realized. The Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Justice. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.
It was our first real ride of the year. A high sun and a cool breeze. People everywhere with spring fever smiles, and a city planning to celebrate its patriots.
We rode through Arlington and on to the Charles River across from the Harvard campus in Cambridge. We stopped to rest by the water. Boston was just a few stoplights around the corner.
When we jumped back on our bikes, I started praying again. Angels for our country. Freedom and peace.
My kids swerved left in front of me, and as the last one cleared my view, I saw the cause of their changing course. A man was running toward us with no sign of turning. And I was riding straight for him, a pedestrian game of chicken.
I made a decision in a split second. I pulled my bike on to the pavement from the soft shoulder to avoid hitting the runner. When I did, the front tire caught on the edge and then went full-on serpentine. The path was full of people, and I didn’t want to hit them either. I thought I could brake the bike, and it seemed to be working, so I put my foot down.
Never do that.
When I planted my foot, the bike was going too fast for me to stop. I saw the bike swing forward and then swerve left in front of me–with my right leg still on it. It twisted my whole body forward around my left leg, and I felt more deep pops in my knee than I could count. The bike threw me back, and I landed on my hip and then bounced over onto my shoulder. I was in so much pain, I think I left my body for one flashing second.
If the runner stopped to see if I was ok, it was in that second. As far as I know, he ran on.
But Good Samaritans are alive and well. The runner did not stop, but he was only one who passed me by. So many people took time to help me.
I prayed before I hit the ground that I would not have a serious injury.
But I confess that, as I went down, actually two thoughts went through my mind: One, an arrow prayer, “Oh! God! No injury!” And, two, this gem, “Dangit! I’m not going to get to see Paul Revere!”
A few minutes later, I tried to stand on that knee, and it buckled under me. The ambulance came soon after, and my rescuers lifted me onto the stretcher.
Delirious with pain and adrenaline, “I like your moons,” I said, pointing to the lunar phase tattoos on the arms of the shaved bald beautiful girl that buckled me into the stretcher straps.
“Why would I want to spend the day with Paul Revere when I can spend the day with you guys? First responders, my heroes!” I said to the guy that rode with me as I patted his knee and prayed for his safety. He smiled at me, only slightly patronizing, looking as young as my daughter.
Six hours and nine X-rays later, I left the ER with an extension knee cast and a pair of crutches.
My kids pushed my wheelchair out the front door as my husband pulled the van around to pick me up. All day, I had been watching the clock creep toward evening. Eight o’clock, nine o’clock, now almost ten. I was holding out hope that we would be in Lexington for Paul Revere’s ride and that, since I was injured, my family would do whatever I wanted.
I was not wasting this incident, I can promise you that.
When we got in the van, I said, “I really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh.
I said again, “I just so really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh. Sigh.
I waited a minute.
Then, “Well, so sad. I guess I won’t get to see Paul Revere.”
My husband’s turn to sigh. He said, “I think it’s crazy, but you are the one who got hurt. You can decide if you feel like waiting until ELEVEN THIRTY at night and then driving home.”
I felt like it.
I felt like I had been run over, but I felt good enough to wait for Paul Revere.
We got to Lexington to pick up our cars. My husband stopped by the pharmacy, and I waited and watched the clock. I became aware of fatigue, along with a little nagging sense that this might not be my best idea ever. But I wanted to see Paul Revere. So, so bad.
I wanted to live in a moment of pure passion. To put myself in the place of flawed men of the past and catch the vision they had for our future.
It is worth it to me to stay up late and hobble to a restored historical site. To stand on the same ground where blood was shed for my freedom, for our country’s freedom. To catch a little glimpse of what it really meant and what it really means now to be a Patriot, someone who believes in freedom enough to be willing to die for it.
I wanted to stand there for one moment among the minutemen and peer through the shadows at history. I wanted the strength and the courage and the fierce honor to fly through the air and hit me with the force of centuries.
Paul Revere was also interrupted on his ride to Lexington, a part of his story that we rarely hear. He was captured by the British in between Concord and Lexington, and I’m sure, for a moment, that he wondered if he would be able to complete his mission. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were waiting for information in Lexington so that they could determine their next move.
The British soldiers weren’t sure what to do with Paul Revere. Apparently they decided he was harmless and took him back with them to Lexington. After a short detainment they let him go, presumably with orders to stop being so rebellious.
Unbeknownst to them, they delivered him to his exact destination.
After his release, he rode straight to the Hancock house to warn John and Sam that the British were in town with warrants for their arrests. He helped them escape just a few hours before the troops marched into Lexington and the first shots of the war were fired.
My family thought we could drive in closer to the house, so I would only have to hobble a few feet. But the streets were blocked, and the guardians of the event were not impressed with my injury. We would have to “pahk in the pahking lot” and walk the quarter mile with everyone else.
We tried to access the house from every possible angle. My family looked earnest in their desire to humor me, and also earnestly exhausted. And the more we drove, the more fatigued I felt. My head hurt. My leg hurt.
“Ok,” I said, “You’re right. I know. We tried. We should go home.”
Back to the parking lot we went for our other car and left the city, my husband in his truck and me driving my van like a tin man, stiff legged and far away from the wheel.
As we drove away, I thought I might cry. I had missed my chance. I might not ever come this way on Patriot’s Day again. I had ridden from Boston to Lexington, raising up a prayer of freedom for our country, a prayer of all that was intended for this nation from the beginning. And I wanted to end it with the breathless sight of Paul Revere leaping off of his horse, interrupted but unstoppable.
We pulled to the last stoplight on our way out of town, minutes before the great event. I was fighting back tears, and then, out of nowhere in the dark, there he was.
Striding down the street in his long blue coat and tricorn hat, manly ponytail bouncing and dramatic.
I’m sure he saw me. And I’m pretty sure we nodded to each other, a dignified patriotic salute.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jn15:13