Tag: perspective

Imagination and Marriage and Closure

I’d like to say briefly, especially to those of you who know us well, that Mike and I are in a good place. This piece has been years in the making and by God’s grace we will celebrate our 13th anniversary in a few months. I have written and shared this piece in hopes that it may encourage others who find themselves in low seasons of marriage. I wrote this with Mike’s input in every draft. Honestly, while I’m a little nauseous over the vulnerability of these words being out in the world, I’m also feeling a sense of closure. It’s not that we’ve made it and it’s all sunshine from here on out, but that was a particularly rough time in our story.  Today I’m especially grateful for our God who reconciles and redeems, who always hopes.

I stood before the rack of cards and let out an irritated sigh. I folded another sparkling heart-smattered card closed after reading its equally garish sentiments. Wiping pink and red glitter from my fingers onto my jeans, I reached for another Valentine’s Day card. With each new expression my heart sunk and my frustration rose. Lies! These cards are full of lies and empty romantic nonsense! I wanted to shout in frustration in the middle of the aisle. Were there really married people out there who felt this way? I couldn’t imagine it to be true.

My husband and I were in the midst of a particularly difficult season in our marriage. The stresses of finances, caring for small children, and my own journey pursuing work outside the home added tension to an already tenuous connection…
You can read the rest here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/april/imagining-better-marriage-actually-improved-mine.html

Giving Up Fear for Lent

You know the kid in the movie My Girl who is allergic to everything? I’ve often thought about how I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of the normal terrible things (death, pain, illness, psychopaths), but also not-so-terrible (disappointment) and even kind of weird things (bedbugs–which I’ve never actually encountered but still).

I’ve managed my fear as best I can. I remind myself that it’s an opportunity to grow in courage. I pray. I wake up my husband in the middle of the night to go check on whatever sound I-think-I-maybe-heard (but maybe I was dreaming) but-still-go-check, please! I figured there was no way of getting over this, just a side-effect of an overactive imagination, but then my friend JoHannah Reardon wrote this book about how she gave up fear one year for Lent. And I thought, “What if…?”

What if I could feel more comfortable and courageous in this place, in my Father’s world? Wouldn’t that be worth a 40-day experiment? At worst, I stay the same. At best… freedom from fear? It seems almost too good to be true, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Want to join me? Lent starts next Wednesday, March 1st. Here’s the Amazon link for the book: No More Fear by JoHannah Reardon. It even has Prime shipping! Let me know if you decide to join me. I’d love to hear about your journey!

If you’re still on the fence, check out this interview with JoHannah I’ve included below. Maybe you’ll hear your own voice in her words. I know I did.

*****

Why did you write this book?

I have battled a lifetime of fear and anxiety that began in childhood. I was afraid of everything and didn’t know how to process that fear. When I became a Christian, I knew the answer was in Christ, but I didn’t know how that translated into my day-to-day living. It wasn’t until I took 40 days to give up fear that I realized the stranglehold it had on me.

What motivated you to take 40 days to give up fear?

I did not attend a church that practiced Lent, but I worked with many people who did. I thought it would be useful to examine any habits that I knew I needed help with. So for a couple of years, I gave up food and media as everyone else I knew did, but one year I decided to pray about what I should give up. I felt as strongly as I’ve ever felt anything that I was to give up fear. That 40-day journey was absolutely life changing and broke a pattern that had dominated my life from as far back as I could remember.

What approach does your book No More Fear take to overcoming fear?

The 40 days of giving up fear taught me that I had a warped view of God. Since that time, I’ve been meditating on who God truly is. Knowing his good and loving character has helped me to trust him with all that happens in my life and world. In the book I also wrestle with what it means that God is a judge, that I should fear him, and that he does get angry. By understanding that I don’t have anything to fear from God has been huge in my journey away from fear and anxiety. So, by closely examining God’s attributes, I found that he was faithful and that giving up fear was simply believing that and trusting him with my life.

Is simply knowing who God is enough to overcome fears?

Good question. Before I started my 40-day journey, I knew God’s attributes intellectually. However, I hadn’t engaged my emotions in relation to his attributes. In the vein of Christianity I grew in, emotions were considered unimportant and even unnecessary. I was taught to put emotions aside and just go with what I knew to be true. So much about this is good and necessary; yet, it caused me to so disconnect with my emotions that I denied them. I decided I wasn’t afraid, even though I was terrified all the time. That’s why taking 40 days to just concentrate on my emotions of fear and anxiety were so important. I had to face those emotions head on by acknowledging them and by realizing God was trustworthy enough to deal with whatever was causing me terror. That experience with God was what caused a breakthrough for me.

Since you gave up fear, have you had any relapses?

I had one relapse when my husband was gone on a trip. I heard some noises in the night and felt the old panic begin to rise. I sat up in bed with all the old fears pouring in on me. But then, I felt angry—angry at Satan for throwing this old pattern of fear at me again. I said aloud, “No, Satan! I am not doing this again.” The fear lifted and I went peacefully back to sleep.

Then, when I released No More Fear, I began to (ironically) fear that I had just found something simple to placate my emotions and that I couldn’t really offer help to anyone. But that week, a couple of men murdered someone in the town next to mine. They fled to my neighborhood and a massive search occurred. As the police examined every shed, camper, and nook or cranny a person could hide, general panic took over those in my town. People called me and told me I could come stay with them until these men were caught. I was elated when I realized I didn’t feel even an iota of fear. I would rather face armed murders than return to the prison of fear I’d been locked in for so long.  

What do you hope a reader will come away with?

For everyone who reads my book, I pray the following: that they will be able to identify their fears and rest them one by one at Jesus’ feet, knowing he will banish them. That their experience with God is so powerful they would rather face the worst life can throw at them than return to a life of fear and trembling. That their relationship with Christ becomes so real and palpable that it will affect every part of their lives and permeate it with inner peace.

JoHannah Reardon was a Christianity Today editor for nine years. In that time she built and managed their Bible study site, ChristianBibleStudies.com. She also served as an editor for Today’s Christian Woman and Gifted For Leadership. She currently serves as the senior editor for The Redbud Post. She is the author of 13 books, including devotionals and fiction. Although she loves her work, her favorite things in life are teasing her husband, annoying her children, and spoiling her grandkids. Find out more about JoHannah and her books at johannahreadon.com.

Weary

Here at the Marsden household we are officially half way through summer. In the past four weeks I have: attended high school and junior high summer camps, gone to the dentist, served jury duty, hosted a junior high BBQ, attended one rehearsal dinner and two weddings (one of which my kids were involved in), gotten my hair done, hosted a BBQ potluck with our neighbors, watched Logan’s first T-Ball game, and babysat my two adorable nieces for four days (read: 6 kids under 7yrs). So, yeah, I’m a bit worn out.

What’s been more difficult than being so exhausted that I fall asleep as I’m falling into bed, is the spiritual weariness that has accompanied the physical. A fellow Redbud, Trillia Newbell, described the soul-deep feeling of utter exhaustion in a recent article for Women of God Magazine as “a season of despondency.” My soul reacted to those words and they’ve been stuck in my head since. “Me too, sister!” cries my overworked heart.

I feel like the oscillating fan in my front room; spinning with all my might but not accomplishing much more than blowing hot air. I catch myself sighing deeply and mentally reverting to my unending struggles with pursuing purpose in the midst of the mundane. The current laundry pile is high as my apathy.

I reached the zenith of my despondency at the opening ceremonies of Logan’s T-Ball league Friday night. I drove up to the baseball field swarming with little sluggers already stressed. I had spent the last half hour trying to find one of Logan’s tennis shoes which had inconveniently vanished, never to be found, so he was wearing his uniform with flip flops. Since he wouldn’t actually be playing I was hoping this would somehow go unnoticed.

My husband, Mike, was working so I had all four kids in a crowded sports complex solo. I lug my giant (but indispensable) double stroller out and load the two littles only to discover two flat tires. I’m then left having to herd my four sweet children like a bunch of freewheeling cats across the parking lot and infield. Then I’m faced with the no less daunting task of finding my son’s team (did I mention all the teams wear the same reversible blue/white uniform shirt and I hadn’t actually been to a practice yet so I had to rely on my five year old’s ability to distinguish his coach out of the sea of faces?). His coach looks at him appraisingly and immediately comments on his lack of appropriate footwear. While wrestling my squirming 17 month old into what must have appeared to be an MMA-style submission hold, I avoid eye contact and mumble a lame excuse promising to have proper shoes for tomorrow’s game.

I got off the field and the despondency crashed down with such force I thought I might be crushed under it. And I DO NOT CRY. My eyes watered and my chest felt tight as I dug through the diaper bag to find the pacifier I was praying to be there. In my frantic near publicly losing my mind moment, just seconds away from giving into the temptation to upend the diaper bag behind the bleachers, I find myself pulling a note card with faded ink out of its recesses.

I memorize a verse a month by writing it down on a note card and keeping it in my car to typically review when I head out to pick up the big kids from school. For such a time as this, this card had fallen out and ended up in my bag. And wouldn’t you just know God chose for me to see at that moment Galatians 6:9:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Talking my experience over with Mike later that night I gained further clarity on my feelings. I am not in a harvesting season. I am in a stand-firm-do-not-give-up season. Which is simultaneously encouraging and a bit depressing, honestly. But, I’m promised a season is coming to reap the benefits of the sometimes wearying, despondency inducing, exhausting work of doing good.

If I do not give up.

As sorely tempted as I am to ride out the rest of the summer hiding under the covers with my Kindle (if only! haha), I’m not going to quit investing the small talents I’m given trusting it’s proving I’m capable of more later. Which is kind of a scary thought if I think about it too much.

The day after the opening night fiasco I left the house early totally prepared with everything we needed: uniform, hat, cleats (never did find that other shoe), water, and sunblock. I was back on my A-game! Until we unloaded from the car and reached the field and I realized I hadn’t even considered that Logan would need his baseball glove and there was no time for me to run home for it.

Well, fine. Even if I have to humble myself in front of the coach again and ask if there is a glove my appropriately clad son could borrow, please? I. Will. Not. Give. Up.

 

 

 

In the Eye of the Beholder

I happened upon this video while trolling through my Twitter feed and, though I almost never click links for advertisements, I found myself intrigued with the premise.  A sketch artist draws a portrait of a woman through her description of herself, then, without seeing the woman, draws another portrait, of the same woman, from the description given by another person’s impressions.  The two portraits came out strikingly different in some cases.  It is a vivid portrayal of how our perception of ourselves does not always match up to others’ perspectives.

I have a big forehead, protruding nose with a bump on it, and a scattering of acne that I had thought I would have outgrown by now.  I bet the sketch guy would have had a field day with that description.  My portrait would probably end up looking very witch-like, which, according to a brutally honest four year old I babysat in eighth grade, might be valid.  Obviously, I totally dismissed her words and didn’t allow them to eternally traumatize me…  Intellectually, I know that those closest to me would (hopefully!) not pick out those features first, but it’s what I emotionally see in the mirror.  Fortunately, the descriptions were just for a head shot because I would have been in that seat all day listing all the “problem areas” for the rest of my body, and that’s after going from a size 16 to a 6 over the last year or so.  Surprise!  I’ve got some image issues I’m working through, friends.  Anyone else with me on this?

Stepping past my body image baggage, an intriguing idea occurred to me.  What if there was a way for a picture to be drawn of how I view my whole self?  A sort of spiritual-ideological snapshot.  What words would I use to describe myself, my relationships with others, ethics, priorities, passions, etc.?  And, if I take this a step farther, how would that image be transformed if the second sketch was from a description given by God, my Creator?

Now I’m confronted with the loaded question, who am I?  On paper, as I somewhat painfully realized filling out an application recently, I’m not that impressive.  No extra letters after my name, no crazy accolades, no valuable connections.  Describing myself is also difficult because I feel convicted to be transparent , but I’m also totally tempted to add a vintage filter to soften reality for a more presentable, Instagram-worthy snapshot.  I don’t think I can justly explain the love, discouragement, joy, chaos, peace, anxiety, and passion I paradoxically experience in varying degrees daily in the many roles I play.  Some days I’m not even sure I could accurately describe my true self that abides somewhere deep inside, concealed between the titles: wife, mom, cook, teacher, counselor, chauffeur, housekeeper, friend…  I feel I need someone to constantly remind me of Aiblileen’s encouraging words in Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”

Fortunately, I find myself overflowing with gratitude for God’s Word; in the midst of my mind’s muddling I know I have somewhere to turn for truth and perspective to pierce the haze.  (I will repeat the message to anyone who will listen: everything we need to know to live purposeful lives marked by love and filled with hope can be found in the Bible.)  So, after producing that dismal and myopic caricature of how I see myself, I’m looking forward to digging in to discover what God has to say.

It turns out He has quite a lot to say on the subject.  Those who believe that Christ has fully ransomed their lives through His death, God calls: His child (Jn 1:12), friend (Jn 15:15), justified and redeemed (Rom 3:24), set free (Rom 8:2), heir (Rom 8:17), saint (1Cor 1:2), temple (1Cor 6:19), new creature (2Cor 5:17), blessed (Eph 1:3), chosen (Eph 1:4), alive (Eph 2:4), citizen of Heaven (Phil 3:20), beloved (Col 3:12), and the list goes on!  He absolutely raves about us without placing any conditions on His love, other than just believing Him (see 1Jn 4:10).

In the very beginning He tells us that we are made in His image (Gen 1:26).  I don’t have nearly enough time, or theological prowess, to go fully into who God tells us He is and how He reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit.  Based on the sum of my research and personal experience though, my heart cries out that the common denominator among His attributes is that He is love.

 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  1 John 4:14-16

Here in a beautiful and mysterious way we are linked in love.  We bear His image and He dwells in us.  We have dignity and value because we belong to Him.  There is no need for me to try to impress Him with my accomplishments.  He loves me right where I’m at.  He died for me not after I had sought His approval, but before, when I was my weakest and most wretchedly sinful.

You might not realize it from my descriptions of myself, but, as well as struggling with an overly low view of myself, in a great dichotomy of the soul I also have issues with pride.  God has gifted me in ways to serve Him that I sometimes attempt to claim as my own merit.  I’ve started to combat this by speaking out loud how I feel about myself.  It helps me to hear just how ridiculous I sound.  After a particularly great night at Bible study, where I’ve been blessed to see the Lord expanding the ministry, I was having a conversation with myself in the car on the drive home.  (I’m not the only one who does that, right?)  I felt myself begin to slip from acceptable pride in working within the Lord’s power to praise over my own ability, so I shouted out, “I’m awesome!”  I laughed at my hypocrisy,  and then in the dark stillness of my quiet, kid-less car I felt Him reply, “YES YOU ARE.”  It took everything in me to choke back the tears and keep driving.

I think I’m weak, He thinks I’m awesome.  I have body image issues, He thinks I’m awesome.  I wear myself out striving for a gold star for the day, He thinks I’m awesome.  I screw up and give in to temptation, he thinks I’m awesome.  I feel overwhelmingly under qualified, HE THINKS I’M AWESOME.  His feelings for me are not based on my feelings for me.  I’m going to work on internalizing that so that my self-described portrait can begin to reflect more of my true self and less of my insecurities.  I want my perception of me to look like His perspective.  And when He describes my portrait, it looks just like Jesus.  Lord, give me eyes to see what you see in me!

 

How do you struggle with perspective on yourself?  What has helped you to gain a more clear picture of your true identity?  

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: