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Saying “No”

It’s scary when nothing you’re thinking feels congruent.  When you fear the next thing that may escape your mouth and how others may perceive it.  I always feel a need to explain.  To give a heartfelt explanation as to why my answer is simply “no.”  Why is that word so painstakingly difficult for some while for others it seems their personal motto is “no” and it rolls off their lips with absolutely no thought of what comes next?  Why is it that some feel more obligated to explain their inability or lack of desire to meet the expectations of others?  Why is it that some seem to escape the mundane requests of others altogether?  Is it because everyone already knows them as tough enough to say no (and that’s always their final answer)?  Or is it because they are so superior, others wouldn’t dare demand a moment of their time?  One of my weaknesses is easily getting caught in the trap of doing everything but what I want to do or need to do, all out of some deep seated fear that perhaps I am actually obligated in some way to meet the requests of others.  It seems that anytime I say “No,” it is mistaken for “I’m really weak.  Insinuate that I’m a jerk or aloof and I’ll eventually say “Yes.”

Saying no is an incredibly difficult part of church ministry.  But it is an essential element of dealing with people successfully.

There is absolutely no way to move forward in a position of leadership if you’re haunted by the potential guilt of having offended someone by ultimately turning down their ideas or requests.

Sometimes our Christian beliefs get all muddled up and our bad habits become outcomes of misapplied Scripture.

Verses like “Turn the other cheek” and “Forgive 70 X 7” are taken out of context and before we know it our brand of religion forgets the moments where Jesus said “no” to healing and went to the temple to shake things up and drive out the money changers.

What about you?  When is the last time your “no” was met with a clash of the Titans?  Or did you refrain from saying “no” this time just to keep the peace?  Which is better?  Saying “no” and creating an outward battle or “going along to get along” so that you’re left to fight an internal battle that is all yours to win or lose alone?

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3

Winter Blues

For most of the past two months, I haven’t even contemplated writing anything.  I’m not sure why.  It seems that there are multiple factors that play into my inability to express myself.  One may have to do with the fact that I started a new job, at a church.  For some reason, after having had a little bit of a hiatus from “church work” I now feel very uncomfortably exposed again–not able to reconcile with the fact that others may disagree with who I am or how I think, should they come across my blog.  Then I think, “Really, who would care anyway?”  It’s strange how one part of us can really long to be known but the other part of us hides in fear of anyone we “know” truly getting to know US for who we are.  I’ve always felt like I had to act a certain way or say certain things to earn the approval of others, and this has been especially true in church settings.  I always feel this blunted urge to call BS, but I never do.  And who am I to set the record straight anyway?  It seems the majority rules.

So there is that.  And then there’s my generalized depression that is probably a combination of the holidays and overwhelming feelings of expectations unmet, house searching for the older kids (another story within itself), then house renovation, then deciding to let my sitter go who I’ve had for a year at 3 days a week, as well as recounting and rehashing what I markup as multiple personal failures over the last few years and a whole lifetime really.

With depression and failure, there’s always the which comes first, chicken or egg perplexity.  Did I fail because I was depressed or am I depressed because I failed?  Or is my feeling of failure a direct symptom of depression?  I choose to believe it is a little bit of all those things.

The bad thing about not writing when I’m depressed, is that keeping it all inside perpetuates that feeling of overwhelmed hopelessness.

The ridiculous thing about my struggle with underlying feelings of apathy and emotional paralysis is that amongst all of the current “stressors” in my life, there have recently been multiple positives that are true win-win scenarios for me in the long term.  And I’m even more disappointed in myself for not truly being able to “enjoy” the good things that have transpired in the last few months.

And all of this emotional stuff against the backdrop of poor health.  For the past few years, the winter months have brought me these annoying ailments that aren’t really newsworthy, yet just bad enough to serve as a distraction and zap even more energy–hampering my everyday activities.

So……..there, at least I said it.  Doesn’t seem so bad when I write it down.  I’m hoping to post more about some of the “positives” and “negatives” that have been vying for my undivided attention lately.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Anna

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Do you leave behind sunshine or clouds?

Today I had lunch with a friend.  For the purpose of this blog, I’ll refer to her as “Sunshine.”  I’ve known Sunshine for a little over two years and not once can I remember her ever bringing a cloud my way.  Though today for my sake, she shared some of the obstacles that she’s faced in life, her outlook was only positive, not a plastic version of positive, but that of a sincere steady stream of sunshine persistently warming me through the windowpane of what would have otherwise been a dismal day.

For me, it isn’t easy to sit down to lunch with someone one-on-one because in THIS season I’m an over analytical introvert who can’t easily make conversation without acknowledging the clouds, the clouds that seem to shade much of what I do–especially lately, when I’m like one of those people who thinks they’re drowning, flailing my arms, thrashing my legs, only to eventually realize that I’m actually NOT in over my head–I can stand–my feet will touch bottom.  And that’s what Sunshine said or made me realize, in so many words, “Stand up, Anna.  You’re not in too deep.”

I’m fully aware that I’m not Sunshine, not today, and not for a long while have I been.  (That used to be my grandmother’s nick-name for me.)  In fact, more than ever, I feel like one of those fast moving masses of clouds that hides the sun and quickly darkens a room.  As if I’m on the outside looking in, I watch my emotions sweep over a conversation and before I know it clouds take the moment captive and it turns out to be the rainy day that we all dread.

So after lunch, the thought came to me–who am I?  What do I really want to be?  Persistent Sunshine in the life of someone else, or a cloudy mass who darkens the life of others?  And how much control do I have over who I am in a particular season of life?

Clouds are an ever-changing result of their environment at the time.  But Sunshine emanates from a steady source of light.

Perhaps the answer to my question isn’t immediately clear at the surface.

So, I’m taking time to examine my source of light and to uncover what added control I might be able to exert over my environment.  Hopefully my source of light won’t always play the background to the cloudy version of me.

Thanks to all those who are faithfully a bright spot in my day!

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Art

Restless emotions
caught in still pictures
of desire
blending endlessly
with hope for a future
of possibilities
hidden beneath the surface
of everyday life
where we sleep
alone
with our dreams
of waking up
to more than moments
that pass us by.
It’s never certain
how the story ends
but there’s a soul
weaved into the art you create
and I’ll play the part
I’ve believed
would one day be real.
If I open my eyes
and it’s you who holds the moment
in safe restraint
skin tight against
my fear
I’ll take it slow too
so that time
will finally stand still.

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Adoption: The opposite of Truth is a LIE

Lately I’ve been processing Scripture from this perspective:  Assuming the Word of God is Truth, and the Bible is the Word of God–I take a verse from the Bible and re-phrase it to say something totally opposite, so that I can then see the correlating LIE(S).

The reason I’m going to such great lengths to re-read the Truth in comparison to its direct opposite, the LIE is because I want to know how and where to apply the Truth directly so that I can combat the lies I let replay rather frequently in my life.  The longer I hear the lies with no true defense that speaks directly to the LIE(S), the more susceptible I am to living in ambiguity with my ever-so-lovely feelings at the wheel.

You can re-read Scripture by not only changing the verse to say something completely opposite, but by changing your assumed “meaning” of the verse to something completely opposite.  One thing I’ve noticed is that I carry a lot of interpretive baggage along with me.  I have all of these deep seated beliefs about what God thinks of life and sometimes I even have an isolated Scripture to back it up.  But when I read verses in the entirety of their context, well, at least as far as my own brain will reach, it calls my initial understanding of TRUTH into question.  Scary, but normal I suppose.  Because If I’m not mistaken, God does say that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways.  So in my new reading of Scripture, in order to identify the LIE with which I more readily relate, I would re-read that particular verse to say “Our thoughts are higher than God’s thoughts and our ways are higher than God’s ways.”   Well then, there’s the LIE.  Duh. But how often do we live in a way that more accurately depicts a belief that “Surely our way of thinking is higher than God’s?”

If we take it a step further and look at one of my assumed meanings of the true version, “God’s thoughts are higher than mine…His ways are higher than mine,”  another way of saying that might be “God knows best.”  A few contradictions to that particular meaning would be:  “Anna knows best.”  “We know best.”  “Other people know best.”  “God does not know best.”

So in summary, this method allows me to more clearly identify how I’m living my life opposite to the Truth.

What spurred me to write this post is because lately I’ve been noticing A LOT of negative press about adoption.  The reason this negativity jumps out to me in such a startling way is because I’ve adopted and I know firsthand the struggles/negativity that seem to be inherent with doing something that is in line with God’s truth revealed about adoption.  I have two responses when I read the negative press about adoption:

ONE:  I agree.  People should stop adopting.  It isn’t worth it, especially if it doesn’t turn out right.  Why take the risk?  Are you REALLY helping the children?  Why would you put yourself in a situation of trying to be a father or mother to children who may turn against you?
TWO:  The opposite of God’s TRUTH, MUST BE A LIE!!!  As ugly and demented as some of these adoption stories sound…as negative as the details that seem to shroud any goodness at all that comes of adoption, the current focus on the negative aspects of adoption HAS TO BE a tool of Satan himself to dispel what God meant for good.

The negative press about adoption all seems to be given with the noble tone of “Justice for all.”  But to me, it seems more like a ploy to play on our FEARS, so as to push us to collectively ignore the fact that there are STILL many who live day to day with no family that cares, there are numbers upon numbers of children who are completely abandoned with no hope of their biological parent EVER stepping back on the doorstep to claim them as their own.

And now I’ll leave you with the very FIRST verse that led me to begin re-reading Scripture in the first place.  “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  My thought process:  If God has NOT given us the spirit of fear, then my spirit of fear needs to go.

The verse gets even clearer, as we examine our own fears.  If the fear is not of God, then it must be of Satan.  If the fear is of Satan, then it must not be of God.

There you go, BAM.  If your FEARs are keeping you from doing what God says is good, then those FEARs most certainly are not from God.

Adopting is a fearful prospect.  Knowing then, what I know now, if I listen to the “fears” that are perpetrated by the adoption news stories, my own insecurities and Satan’s clever scheme to promote evil in the name of a “better good,”  I would definitely NEVER EVER adopt again.

Do you consider the opposite of Truth to be a lie?  Or are you out there fishing in the middle of nowhere, not sure where truth ends or begins?  How do you go about identifying when your “thinking” veers to the left or the right of God’s Truth?

What “fears” rooted in “lies” paralyze you so that you’re incapable of doing what God commands?