What I’m Into {August 2014 Edition}

What I'm Into August

Hard to believe, but 2014 is on the downhill slope. August is ending, which for some of you means cooler weather ahead. Here in Texas, it takes a little longer, so we’re still in full swing with summer. I can’t complain, though. This has been one of our mildest summers in several years, with only a handful of 100 degree days so far!

To keep you informed as to what I’ve been into and up to this month, I’m once again joining the  What I’m Into link-up with Leigh Kramer.

 

Books I Read:

The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc

This is such an important book, and as far as I know, there is nothing else quite like it on the market. The author uses the metaphor of a mosaic throughout the book to emphasize the importance and  purpose of brokenness, and how out of our broken pieces, we can come together with God to make something beautiful. Each chapter is short and provides a reflection exercise linking to a spiritual discipline. I especially appreciated the author’s attention to the chronic grief of parents of the disabled, as it reminded me of the post on grief I wrote last December.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

It’s safe to say that I find Liane Moriarty’s fiction to be of the un-put-downable kind. Always fun and easy to read, I usually finish her novels within a couple of days. This one was no exception. Very entertaining!

Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Creepy and good. Kind of Stephen King-ish–horror with plenty of supernatural thrown in. A bit long, but it definitely held my interest and I finished it quickly.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A very good teenage drama with a definite plot twist ending. I listened to this one on audiobook and I never saw the ending coming.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book about World War II has gotten really good reviews, and I liked it. . . okay. The problem was that it was slow. The writing was well-crafted, and the storyline was interesting, but I knew what was going to happen and still had to drudge slowly through the last several chapters. The best part was early on in the book, when the author sets the scene in Germany with the Hitler youth movement. Quite chilling.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I’ve been on a waiting list for this one at the library, so I was thrilled to get it into my grubby little hands. Loved it, though not as much as Me Before You. Still, I highly recommend reading anything by Jojo Moyes. No surprise, but this one gets my pick as favorite of the month!

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

You just can’t go wrong with Barbara Brown Taylor. She is a master of beautiful, descriptive language, mingled with wonder about God, His creation, and about humanity and our relationship with Him. This book addresses the problem of “full solar theology,” and how unrealistic it  is, since all of us find ourselves plunged into darkness during periods of our life.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

A well-written novel about a difficult period in American history. The suffering the protagonist has to endure as an orphan in the 20s and 30s is almost unimaginable. I enjoyed this book immensely and appreciated how the present and past were linked together. The ending, however, left me unsatisfied.

This is just a sampling! To see all the books I read/listened to this month, you can check out my profile on Goodreads. And please send me a friend request over there. I’d love to see what’s on your bookshelf as well!

What I Watched:

On TV, we were (finally!) able to watch Miranda season 3 on Hulu. If you haven’t seen this British comedy, I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly funny it is. We watched the entire series in just a few nights, and (spoiler alert) it ends with a big cliffhanger!! Aaaargh!

We also rented Jim Gaffigan’s Mr. Universe and I’ve never laughed so hard in my life!

I actually got to go to the theater this month and see three movies! That almost never happens!

First off, we saw Boyhood. This movie is long but it’s true what the ads say — you’ve never seen anything like this.

Boyhood_film

They actually shot this movie over a twelve year period, so you get to see all the actors age and change and evolve on screen. It’s pretty amazing to watch the kids go through their metamorphoses, but I think watching the adult actors (Ethan Hawke and Rosanna Arquette) as they matured impacted me even more. It was so much like real life. . . which is kind of the whole point of the film.

Next I got to see If I Stay with a group of girlfriends. I read the book by Gayle Forman about a year ago, and I thought the movie version was excellent. Takes you through the wringer of emotions, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I loved it, though!

If-I-Stay

Finally, my daughter and I went to see The Giver. She and I have both read the novel series, so we were excited about the film. While there were some differences between the book and the movie, it was done very well and the whole cinematography (not sure if that’s the right word) was amazing, as the picture gradually (or sometimes suddenly) changed from black & white to color. Love, love, love the theme of the book and the movie — there is no joy without pain, there is no love without choice. A must-see!

the-giver

Online Reading:

Landslide by Bree Morel at Failing Joyfully

The Depressed Christian: Why the Dark Night Is No Measure of Your Soul by Megan Tietz

What the Church and Christians Need to Know about Suicide and Mental Health by Ann Voskamp

Kirk Cameron’s Christian Nation Doesn’t Exist by Laura Turner

My Own Most Read Posts:

Jesus Was Disabled, Too

What Do You Say When the World Is Falling Apart?

 

What Made Me Laugh:

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Other stuff I’ve been into and up to:

School started!!! Hooray! I am one happy Momma right about now. I still have a couple of weeks until my teaching schedule resumes, so it’s nice to have some peace and quiet around here during the day so I can get caught up on a few things.

Or read more books.

What about you? What have you been into and up to during the month of August? I’d love to hear about it!

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How to Forgive {Even When’s It’s Next to Impossible}

how to forgive

Ever have a scab that you just couldn’t quit picking?

Yeah, me too.

When I was a kid, I constantly had skinned knees–not so much from falling, but because I was always picking at the scabs and making them worse. It drove my Mom crazy.

I could gladly sit for hours and peel paint off a wall, or bark off a tree.

It’s a little embarassing to admit, but I experience a slight thrill when my daughter gets sunburned, because I know I’ll get to peel off the dead skin. Yes. It’s a sickness. I know.

Right now I’ve got this scab on the back of my head, where my surgery incision is. It’s actually not from the incision itself, which healed quickly and neatly. No, it’s from my incessant scratching of my scalp to the point that I made it bleed. Scars itch like CRAZY when they are healing. So now there’s this little scab and every day I get up and announce boldly to myself, “Today is the day I WILL NOT pick the scab.” I keep thinking if I can just make it one day without picking at it, then it will finally heal already.

Except I keep going back for more.

I am a woman obsessed.

  • I know it will never heal until I leave it alone.
  • I know it won’t heal until I give it a rest.
  • I know it won’t heal unless I’m patient.

But every day I find my fingers migrating to that one little point on my scalp and once they’re there, it’s almost impossible to stop.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets slightly obsessive over things like this!!

Let’s translate the physical into something more spiritual shall we?

I’ve been wounded. All of us have in some way, by somebody, at some time in our lives.

The most recent emotional scars for me are those left by the church. Those wounds were deep, puncture-like wounds, and healing takes time. Maybe a long time.

I keep expecting the hurt to just disappear or vaporize and leave no trace.

And yet there’s still pain. The wound is, much like my scalp, still tender to the touch. Much like my physical body after brain surgery two months ago, my spiritual self isn’t quite 100% just yet.

I think it’s okay to write about the pain. Writing has helped me to process all of it and understand it better.

But there’s this pesky little scab of unforgiveness that I haven’t quite been able to quit picking. 

oh scab

I don’t believe in forgive and forget. I don’t think it’s possible to forget the things others have said or done. Certain experiences get seared into our brains like a cattle brand and become part of our story. So this isn’t about forgetting.

I’ll always have a scar on the back of my head, a visual reminder of the trauma of brain surgery.

But forgiveness, that’s the healing part.  That’s the necessary part.

That’s what my niggling little scab is teaching me.

Unforgiveness is like a scab that we just won’t leave alone.

How to Forgive

But how do you forgive people who don’t even think they did anything wrong? How do you forgive when the mistakes are so blatant and raw and mean? How do you forgive those who are oblivious to the hurt they’ve caused? How do you forgive the unrepentant? How do you forgive a person who rejects your child?

The truth is I don’t know. But I’m pretty certain I can’t do it in my own energy and strength.

Maybe, though, like the scab on my head, the answer is to approach it one day at a time?

Maybe by saying, “Just today, I will let it be. I will let the scab be. I will not let my fingers go there. I will not pick at it, pester it, force it to bleed all over again.”

  • Maybe today I will choose to be grateful in my current situation, rather than rehash old hurts.
  • Maybe just for today I will rejoice in where God is leading me now, rather than revisit the mess He pulled me out of.
  • Maybe just for today, I will rest and not fidget. I will let healing happen rather than prevent it. Maybe just for today.

And maybe today will turn into tomorrow, which will be another today. Day two will be easier. Day three easier still.

The only way to soul restoration is to leave it be, to number the days–to quit picking at it already!–and let the spirit (and the body) do its healing magic.

Forgiveness, then, must become a habit.

Forgiveness has to be a choice. A daily, almost ritualistic commitment to leave the scab of unforgiveness alone so that healing can occur.

What about you? Somebody or something you need to forgive today? I know how hard it is to leave that old wound alone, believe me! But there’s strength in numbers. Want to commit with me, just for today, to use your hands and your mind and your heart for something more productive that reopening old hurts?

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5 Ways to Be a Better Facebook Friend

facebook friend

I’ve traditionally been a glass half empty kind of person. When I get emotional, I tend to imagine the most doom and gloom outcomes.

Then I get on Facebook and read all kinds of status updates and article postings about how the world as we know it is in a state of disrepair and destruction. And I’m not talking about the real tragedies going on around the world.

I’m talking first world problems.

  • How we like to complain that everything is falling apart.
  • How it’s all going to hell in a handbasket, due to the rise of socialism or climate change. Take your pick.
  • Obama or gun control.
  • School lunches or genetically modified soybeans.

It can quickly cause a sensitive-minded person to sink into a state of pity and woe-is-me-ism.

I’m going to have to get off of Facebook and get myself a life. I wrote about this very thing a few weeks ago, and I stand by it. If you’re feeling a little down and out, try getting off Facebook for a while and see if your mood doesn’t improve.

Facebook can be a great tool for staying connected and for promoting positive things. Social media is a necessary part of life if you’re running a business or writing a blog or starting a ministry.

But a lot of what shows up in social media is downright toxic. I see some of the meanest stuff posted by people I really like. People who are nice. People I’ve always admired.

When I see their Facebook posts, I start to wonder.

I start thinking like a 12 year old girl again and I take things personally.

  • I wonder if they are talking about me.
  • I get paranoid.
  • I misinterpret things. And I see everybody else around me doing the same things.

We all know that things come across differently when they are “posted” whether in a text, an email or on Facebook than they do in person. We all will say things in type that we wouldn’t say in person. We all know that things like nuance and tone of voice don’t come across through social media.

Something said tongue in cheek with a chuckle at a dinner party can be interpreted as hateful, venomous vitriol when encountered in print.

And that’s just the thing.

You don’t know who’s reading what you post.

If you’re like me, you have Facebook friends who used to know you, Facebook friends who sorta know you, and Facebook friends who really KNOW you. And you might just be giving the wrong impression to the first two groups. Those “friends” might end up thinking you are a mean and hateful person, even though you and I both know you are the farthest thing from it.

When I first signed up for Facebook in 2008, I learned my lesson the hard way. I actually damaged a friendship through stuff that I posted on Facebook. Thankfully, the friendship was eventually restored, but I learned that what I post and what I say in print makes an impact, and I have since tried to think twice (at least) before posting anything that might be interpreted as mean-spirited or hateful.

This does NOT mean that I never post things that are opinionated.

I am an opinionated woman and I am passionate about many issues, and that means that if I think something needs to be seen or read, I will post it. Many of my own blog posts deal with issues with which other will disagree or might even find offensive.

But my goal and my prayer is always to approach such subjects with respect and diplomacy. I think there is a place for discussion and debate based on knowledge and kindness and the overall theme of “agreeing to disagree.”

If there’s hate language or profanity involved, then in my book it crosses the line.

Just so you don’t think I’m two-faced and preaching a double standard here, please know that while yes, I am politically liberal-leaning, there are many groups and many liberal media outlets from which I will not post or quote. There is a Facebook page that I “liked” a year or so ago called “Christians on the Left.” But I immediately “disliked” the page whenever I saw a post that, for me, crossed the line. I don’t agree with hate-filled language or condescension on either side. Many, many, many of my dearest friends are people who completely disagree with me on political issues.

And that is okay. Somehow, we have managed to remain friends anyway.

What is not okay is meanness.

If you scroll far enough back in my Facebook feed, you may find some mean things posted by me. They weren’t intended that way at the time, but I can see now how they might have been interpreted that way.

Still, I make it my goal, as an ambassador of Christ, now that I’m (a little) more mature, to use my Facebook page as a tool for communication and encouragement.

I’m hoping more people would join me in the endeavor.

5 Ways to Be a Better Facebook Friend

1. Just “Like” it.

If you really agree with a post, yet are concerned that posting it on your page may prove offensive, be misinterpreted, or hurt the cause of Christ (if you are a Christian), consider just “liking” it rather than “sharing” it.For me this includes anything that uses certain profanities. There is a Facebook page called “I F-ing Love Science” and some of the stuff they post I really like. But I won’t repost it simply because of the profanity in the page title.

2. Stop and think.

Think twice before posting/sharing anything. Please. If you have any hesitation whatsoever, then wait. It’s probably not worth it.

3. Limit sarcasm.

Remember that most of the time, sarcasm and satire do not come across the way they are intended in print. If you must post something sarcastic or satirical in nature, at least use emoticons to express your true emotion. That’s what emoticons are for. And also understand that there will be people who won’t get it.

4. Grammar, please!

Please, for the love of God, check your grammar. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of the mean and hateful posts I read are chock full of grammatical errors. Which means that not only do you come across as a mean person, you also come across as a dumb person. Which just reinforces all the sterotypes out there.

5. Extend grace to others.

Be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt as well. Maybe they are trying to be funny, but their posts come across as mean-spirited. You can choose to hide those people from your feed if it bothers you. Just try not to take it personally. Move on.

And there you have it. My top five tips on how to be a little more “glass half full” on your Facebook page. Your friends will thank you!

As always, please feel free to share this post! Let’s spread the love, shall we?

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Why Hide and Seek Isn’t Just a Child’s Game

hide and seek child's game

A vivid imagination can be a blessing or a curse.

Since I was a small child, I’ve lived mostly inside my head. My brain is filled with constant thoughts, sweeping sagas and romantic tales, lines of poetry and colorful pictures so beautiful they might blow you away. And then music — of courseso much music.

This is the life of an introvert. . . at least the way I understand it.

No surprise, then, that at the tender age of six, I was actively fantasizing and romping about inside my own brain with imaginary friends in imaginary gardens, engaged in imaginary conversations.

I was painfully shy.  Although talkative and playful at home, I was mortified by the people out in the world who tried to speak to me.  I preferred to keep to myself and hide behind my mother’s legs or the pages of a book.   Yet,  inside my head there was always a party going on.

My first grade teacher scrawled it in big black letters across my report card: “Daydreams!”

It was so true.  Still is.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting in the first grade classroom at the end of the school day.  We were supposed to have our heads on our desks.  I was wearing a poncho crocheted by my grandmother.  I loved that poncho because it was like wearing a portable tent.  I remember pulling my head inside of it and gazing at my Hollie Hobbie lunchbox, pretending that the patchwork-clad girls painted on its metal side were my friends and that I lived in their make-believe world.  Beneath my poncho I felt safe.  Beneath my poncho I felt hidden. I could play out my daydreams in privacy, away from the scariness of the world outside.

Sara hide and seek

Playing Hide and Seek

I always excelled at hiding.  Through much of my childhood and early adolescence, I chose to remain quiet and as invisible as possible.  The most hidden part of all was my inner life.  I was terrified of the idea that anyone might discover my thoughts, my ideas, my dreams.  Certain that any of the musings within my head would be deemed silly, ridiculous, or just plain dumb, I chose to keep everything inside.  I had an active and elaborate fantasy life, made all the more extensive by the fictional world of books to which I was devoted.

As I grew into adulthood and “broke out of my shell,” I held on tightly to my inner thought life. I became defensive if anyone tried to pry.

A few years ago, I learned about a garment Jewish people sometimes use called a “tallit,” in order to create a sense of personal space during prayer.  The name of the garment comes from the two Hebrew words “tal,” meaning tent, and “ith” meaning little.  It is quite literally, a “little tent” that is to be placed over the head when praying as a means of retreating to a quiet and solitary place with God.

When I first learned of these garments, also referred to as “prayer shawls,” I immediately thought of my childhood poncho.  That poncho was, although unknown to me at the time, a prayer shawl.  It was where I went to hide, to be alone, to be safe, and to be myself.  It would never have occurred to me that it was a holy place.  I was only trying to escape from a world that seemed unsafe and unfriendly to a shy little girl like me.

I was hiding.

I hid because I was shy. I hid because I was afraid. I hid because I was insecure. I felt unloved, unknown, and I desperately hoped never to be called out.

But something sacred was happening in that hiding place.

God didn’t call me out, demanding that I remove the veil and face Him. No, He did quite the opposite.  He came into the tent with me.  He found me there when no one else could.  Beneath the fringe and knitted yarn of my poncho, He saw me.

As surely as Moses felt the Lord’s presence pass over him when he hid his face in the cleft of the rock, I know now that the Lord was with me in that place. Even then, at such a young age, He was making His presence known.

I was not ready to break free from the security of being shy, of hiding. I wasn’t ready to reveal my true self to others. But God saw me and was patient and kind. He joined me there in the secret place.

There is certainly a time to come out of hiding, to walk in faith boldly and to live out in courage what God would have us do.

But there is also a time to enter into the secret place, to withdraw as Jesus did to the mountainside, to bow low beneath the veil and to know that one’s life is “hidden with Christ in God.”

My present day “prayer shawl” is the little nook in my closet where I go to pray and experience God’s presence. It is there in that hiding place where He covers me gently with His hand, renews my faith and gives me strength to walk out into the day.

jeremiah 2913

What about you?

Where is your secret place? The place where you can let down your guard and just be? Do you need to withdraw from the busy-ness and clamor of life for just a while and experience a washing of God’s grace?

May I encourage you today to find a hiding place? And while you are hiding, seek the Father. I promise He will be there with you.

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What Do You Say When the World Is Falling Apart?

world is falling apart photo credit: kendiala via photopin cc

The internet was a loud place last week, a cacophony of rants and outcries and opinions.

From the death of comedian Robin Williams, to the horrific state of the Middle East, to the police killing of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO and the unbelievable events that followed, there was a lot of material for online clamor and debate.

I for one was rendered speechless. Wordless about it all.

I’m not an expert on depression and suicide. Nor do I know enough about events in the Middle East to make educated commentary. I am a middle-aged, middle class, white woman who is outraged by the events in Ferguson, but who also does not know what to say. How can anything I say about any of the aforementioned newsworthy topics be of any value?

Hence my speechlessness.

A storm of emotions and thoughts have raged through this brain of mine, and while I’m huddled here in my comfortable suburban neighborhood, where my children — including my teenager — are free to roam at will without threat or danger, unspeakable things are happening everywhere and I’m at a complete loss for words.

I’m frustrated because my shallowness causes me to lament over the fact that school still hasn’t started yet, and these kids are driving me crazy, and I feel intense guilt that while one mother’s young son is gunned down in his own neighborhood, my spoiled kids are complaining that there’s nothing to eat for breakfast — despite the fact that my pantry is stocked with ten kinds of cereal, and my freezer houses waffles and homemade bran muffins. Not to mention ice cream.

How does a voice like mine–or yours–even matter?

I certainly have my opinions about all the tragic events of last week, even though I sat on my hands and didn’t join the internet rave. I couldn’t join in because I couldn’t even make a coherent sentence out of all the thoughts I was having.

And then I read about Renita Lamkin, the Episcopalian pastor who joined the protest in Ferguson, and was shot by police with rubber bullets as she spoke the name, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”


jesus lady

My thoughts exactly.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Even so Lord Jesus, quickly come.

  • How does one go on living in a world brimming to overflow with tragedy and injustice?
  • How does one raise children in this nasty and hate-filled place?
  • How does one ever remain hopeful, remain grateful, remain joyful – when society seems to be crumbling to bits?

The answer is — and always has been — Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

A dark-skinned, unarmed man of sorrows with His hands outstretched.

A man who has carried the sadness and grief of earth’s generations of souls, a man who dared to speak the phrase, “blessed are those who mourn,” a man who looked upon Jerusalem and wept bitter tears, a man who poured His heart out in prayer and choked on the words, ” I am overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

  • This is a man who understands the intensity and depth of Robin Williams’ depression.
  • This is a man who knows intimately the grief of Williams’ family, and of the whole world as we mourn the loss of a shining creation who made us laugh — oh, how he made us laugh.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

A man who — despite what certain news pundits might have you think — was a dark-skinned, Middle Eastern, desert dweller. One of the poor. One of the working class. A man with calloused hands and dirty feet and no place to lay His head. A man who wandered streets and paths and neighborhoods with a message of good news and hope. A man whom the authorities plotted to murder. A man who was arrested and killed illegally, despite His innocence.

  • This is a man who understands the injustice of the events of Ferguson. A man who knows what it is like to be hated and rejected in His own hometown. A man who knows what it is to be seized, unjustly and without due process, in the prime of His life.
  • This is a man who spoke lovingly to His grieving mother as she gazed upon the near lifeless and unrecognizable body of her beloved Son.
  • This is man who knows and understands the hopelessness and fear in the eyes of the Ferguson community, because He saw it in the eyes of His own oppressed people. And He sees it now.
  • This is a man who was crucified outside the holy city, near the local dump, His body hung in the heat and left there hours after death, a symbol to those who might rise up, as flies buzzed hungrily about. A man who knows the injustice of how Michael Brown’s lifeless body was left to fester on a Missouri street, an attempted warning signal to his community.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

  • A man who knows oppression, knows terror, knows unspeakable violence.
  • A man whose cousin and friend was decapitated on a whim, his head served up to a jealous king on a whim.
  • A man who lived in the very part of the world that is now plagued by atrocious acts of violence toward innocents.
  • A man who saw and experienced firsthand the aggression of a bully empire, who narrowly escaped the coward-ordered infanticide in His birthplace, a man who recognized the injustice and the terrorism and the evil running rampant all around Him.
  • A man who realized that the only way to change the world was to change hearts, one by one by one.
  • A man who embodied love and knew that only love would be able to overcome the sin and corruption that festered on every square inch of the planet He lovingly created.

medium_8210896317 photo credit: FreedomHouse via photopin cc

What do you say when the world is falling apart?

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

These are the only words I can think of. Just the uttering of His name.

There aren’t any easy answers or simple solutions. I can’t offer words of consolation or anger or comfort that haven’t already been issued up in a thousand different ways. My voice is an inaudible whisper in the noisy din that is the internet.

And so I sit here in my circle of comfort, speechless.

Except for the words. . .

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on us all.

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Finding A Safe Place {Why You Might Need to Leave}

safe place

I’ve always been a big chicken.

At the ripe old age of 45, I can honestly say that I’ve never toilet papered a house or shoe polished a car. I was always terrified of getting caught. I’m the kind of person who would never dream of walking out the “in” door at Walmart.

I’ve never willingly broken the rules. Well, other than speeding.

Oh, and that one time in 8th grade when I decided to roam the halls with some popular kids, thinking it would make me cool.

Yeah. It didn’t.

I’m a rule follower.

As such, I’ve never been one to seek out danger. I’m not a risk taker. I like feeling safe.

But all too many times, I’ve sacrificed myself and my better judgment to stay where I wasn’t safe. Usually out of fear of what others — even those who mistreated and, dare I say it, even abused me — might think.

When You’re Unsafe

It’s been said that the body doesn’t lie. These ancient systems within our bones, the fight or flight response, the release of adrenaline and cortisol, the way our brains can instinctively fly into defense mode — these are all part of our intricate design. When the body triggers a response, something is going on. It may be a real or perceived threat, but the body is responding to something.

Nearly four years ago, my body went into overdrive defense mode and — like Balaam’s donkey — sat down in the middle of a dusty road and refused to budge. And I, foolish as Balaam, thought that beating it with a stick was somehow the answer.

How I worked, how I tried, how I prayed. I would force this flesh and bone into submission if necessary, I would.

And yet still, I would command my lungs to breathe and they would respond, “when we’re ready.” Which never seemed to be soon enough.

I was at the mercy of this system of veins and nerves and sinews and cells. They had given me my chance and I had blown all kinds of gaskets and stripped all the gears. My body insisted on going into auto-pilot repair mode.

A friend called it “spiritual life support” and I suppose that’s as perfect a term as any to describe what I went through.

Sometimes we stay in unsafe situations because of what’s expected. Maybe we stay because we want to prove a point, want others to think we’re strong. We want to outlast those who would love to watch us fold. We stay because we’re just that stubborn.

I found myself in an unsafe situation in a workplace many years ago.

That time I did the hard thing when my body started to give me signals, and I left.

But when it happened to me at church I was blindsided.

I didn’t feel safe anymore, but all my upbringing and experience and expectations convinced me that I needed to stay. My desire to do the “Christian” thing, to be good and do God’s will and “turn the other cheek” convinced me to stay.

So I stayed.

Miserable, yes. Afraid, yes. Determined to stick it out to the end, yes. Convinced that I could overcome the insurmountable odds, yes.

I stayed.

  • Even though I began having panic attacks on Saturday nights, I stayed.
  • Even though my heart rate became elevated and my breathing shallow when I drove into the parking lot, I stayed.
  • Even though my vocal cords shut down inside the building walls and refused to sing a note, I stayed.

I stayed until my body couldn’t take any more.

I don’t understand God’s ways. I don’t know why He chooses to move the way He does or when He does. I earnestly wish that He could somehow work His changes and bring about spiritual growth without the pain of pruning and refining and reshaping. But that’s not usually how He does things.

My church experience was painful. It was painful because I loved the church so much. It was a huge part of my life, my family’s life. It was a central part of who we were and I wanted to never leave. I assumed we would be there forever.

But it became an unsafe place for me.

I couldn’t be myself anymore. I couldn’t relax. My little boy couldn’t be himself. I had to be on alert, on guard, always ready for the next big thing. I was terrified of making a mistake. I was even more terrified that my son would make one. It was like waiting for a bomb to drop.

I gave it more effort than I ever should have, but in the end, I couldn’t keep it up.

When my lungs and my voice stopped functioning, I finally had to quit.

  • I didn’t leave because I wanted to.
  • I didn’t leave because I quit trying.
  • I didn’t even leave because I was emotionally upset, although I certainly was.

No. The honest truth is, I left because I couldn’t breathe.

And to stay in a place where you can no longer breathe, well, that’s unsafe.

safe dwelling place

A Safe Place

Now I’m in a place I never thought I’d be. We are in a new church, one with a different denomination and different ways of doing things. I am learning.

But I am also breathing.

It is not a perfect church. There are no perfect churches. The people in it are not perfect. I don’t expect them to be.

But it feels safe. It’s a safe place to be. . . and to be myself.

And for that I am grateful.

What about you? Have you ever had to leave a place or situation because you were unsafe? Or, like me, have you ever stayed longer than you should have? I’d love to hear your stories in the comment section below.

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