Forgiveness (Part Two)

Forgiveness allows you to no longer be a victim of your past hurts. Willingness to forgive opens you up to the freedom to move on. Forgiveness is healthy: physically, emotionally, spiritually… People who are taught how to forgive become less angry, more hopeful, less depressed and anxious, less stressed and more confident. So how can you move toward forgiveness and overcoming hurt? How do you change your expectations to better accept that there are no guarantees in life and you cannot change the hurts and disappointments from the past?

  1. Acknowledge that you have been hurt… recognize the feeling. Realize that staying upset is because you are having difficulty releasing your expectations and desire to control outcomes. Realize that YOU are the person distressed about the problem… most likely not the person who has hurt you.
  2. Articulate the unmet expectation. Sometimes we don’t even know the expectations exist until they are not met. 
  3. Commit to changing your demands regarding what you cannot control. Change the way you respond to disappointment and hurt by making your expectations more fluid and adaptable.
  4. Take back your power by taking back how you feel: never lose sight of the good things of life. Acknowledge and be thankful for your blessings. Look at the beauty around you. Look at others who have forgiven and who love and how you can do the same.
  5. Be able to describe what happened that was hurtful and how it made you feel. Tell someone who you trust, someone who will be helpful in your process of forgiving. This helps you to let go of the hurt and feel as though you are not alone. It also opens you up for receiving encouragement and accountability to release the hurt and not dwell on your bitterness.
  6. Remember that forgiveness is for YOU and not THEM.

I just heard the song “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North, and it fits well with learning how to release the hurts we cannot control and stop feeling like we are the ones losing…

I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong
Don’t they know it’s wrong
Well maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love or this is hate.
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

Well it’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Cause Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.

This is love or this is hate.
We gotta a choice to make

Oh Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

Why do we think that our hate’s gonna break a hard heart
We’re rippin’ arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
Cause pride wont let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but it’s just to burn them down
We think our pain is own apologies and get them to stop
Well truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Cause freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Your mercy and Your grace, Father, send Your angels down

I choose freedom… and in regard to forgiveness, that means often choosing to do the hard thing… I’ll keep working on it.

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Climate Change

North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA, recently did a series called Climate Change(I listen to podcasts during my drive to and from Nashville throughout the week.) Basically, the point is that “the most critical climate” may not be what you observe outside your window, but the one “created inside a room when you walk into it.” The climate is the condition that prevails in general, or over a long period of time. Every person has a unique “climate” that she/he carries, and that climate can impact… and even predict… relationships. So if someone’s climate is full of bitterness, frustration, pessimism and pride, relationships will probably be rocky. Other people will more than likely be on edge or overwhelmed around those individuals. Others may grow more frustrated themselves and pour on/reinforce negativity, or they may choose to distance themselves from the bitter pessimist altogether because of her/his innate knack for darkening the room. Know anyone like that? Know someone that instantly creates an emotional or even behavioral response within you as soon as they walk through the door… as soon as you hear their voice?

It’s easy to point out the flaws and frustrations in other people. But it’s vital from time to time that we take a moment to look inward. What if I am that person? What if my climate instantly causes other people to withdraw… to be overwhelmed and frustrated… to feel uncomfortable… to close up and not fully share or be themselves… The first sermon of the series challenged people to ask some honest, close friends, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The speaker challenged that if you would be willing to ask the question, be prepared for both positive and negative. If you give others room to offer constructive criticism, you better be open to receiving it. And if the point is to use it as an opportunity to grow and not argue, listen to feedback without defensiveness. I’ll be honest, it was a tough question to ask… it wasn’t necessarily anything that surprised me, but more of confirmed some weaknesses that I was afraid to face. I really only asked Tony, but I hope to ask a few more friends in the coming months (feedback from him was enough to last me a while, haha). So I’ll keep asking… keep working… keep striving to become a person who is seen as safe, loving, accepting, open, generous, hard working, gentle… it will require some pruning (John 15:2), but I believe it will be well worth it as I work toward a climate change of my own.

Why Friends Are Important

Tony and I just got back from spending several days with some of our best friends. Why did we find it so important to drive 6 hours to a small town in Ohio to spend our 4th of July holiday week? It was a…

  1. Time of rest and fun away from home
  2. Time to vent about current concerns and frustrations about life with people who genuinely support us and share honest responses
  3. Time to dream about what might be next (maybe we could one day all live in the same state)
  4. Time to be held accountable to continue pushing on to our potential as a couple, as individuals, as workers, as friends, as followers of Jesus
  5. Time to encourage and be encouraged
  6. Time to look back and see how far we have come… this has been a 20 year friendship, so we have seen and experienced a lot together

Tony got to play golf a few times, I got to get a massage, we ate such great food (both home cooked and from great local restaurants), we went to the pool, we went to a David Grey concert, we learned a new game (that I have yet to master and win)… minus the 100+ degree weather, it was a perfect holiday week with people we love greatly! And the best part is that our annual BFF vacation is only a month away! Counting down to more fun time together…

Obsessions

…ideas or thoughts that continually preoccupy or INTRUDE on a person’s mind… the things I over-think and think about for way too long, way too often…

  • My to-do list – I can often spend more time creating, listing and organizing my tasks than actually accomplishing them…
  • Plans – this sort-of fits within the to-do list category… but includes dates that go on the calendar that I have to fit my to-do’s around…
  • Times I mess up – I can replay embarrassing moments or word-mishaps over and over, wishing I could take things back or have a second chance to stay things stronger, funnier, more graceful, more patiently or simply not at all…

Because these are “intruders” of my thoughts, they are often difficult to ignore. However, with each day I realize more and more how I have to be careful to reign them in. Here’s why:

  1. My to-do list can become an idol directing my life. It causes me to spend time organizing tasks over spending special time in prayer or with people who need quality time. It can consume me with the idea that I can control or fix everything around me… it can cause me to become overwhelmed with duties, expectations and ultimately… “small stuff”. The biggest challenge to this struggle was April 1’s devotion in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. She writes, “You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with me can be uninterrupted. But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world. Accept each day as it comes, and find [Jesus] in the midst of it all… your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with [Jesus]. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with [Jesus], even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.”
  2. I think planning is good… it helps you to set goals and be prepared for what is comingHowever, obsessing about planning limits my spontaneity and ability to “roll with it.” I have also come to realize that it can be overwhelming for other people. Whereas having a plan decreases my anxiety by allowing me to have clear expectations of what will happen, too many questions/details can cause stress in other people. It causes me to be unfairly frustrated with another’s low interest in planning when some instances are actually no big deal. This tension causes me to go against my goal to be approachable, relaxed and fun to be around.
  3. Focusing on my weaknesses, insecurities and mistakes negates the grace that God has lavished upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9). It also allows mindless things to occupy too much space in my mind.

So, I’m learning to let go of control and work on the things that I can change… I’m learning to obsess a little bit less and choose to focus on/discern what are more important things… I’m learning to be more comfortable in the moment and experience the freedom of accepting the things I cannot do anything about.

BFF Trip

I’ve had the same best friends since middle school. I’m realizing more and more how rare of a feat this is… Sure, we’ve had some ups and downs, and some phases of life that caused us to be more distant than others… but we have stuck it through… we’re going on 20 years together! They have been who I have depended on in good times and bad, with no fear of their loyalty or honesty. Good friends are supportive and fun to be around and often times come and go… but best friends are willing to challenge you, spur you on and make sacrifices to show you how much they care. They really are forever, and they are hard to find.

Lots of people have said that three’s a crowd, especially in the girl-world. But somehow we have made it work… it’s been great for us. As we have gotten older, the three of us have had to be intentional about keeping in contact and further building our relationship with one another. One now lives in northern Indiana, the other in Ohio… and me, I’m here in Tennessee. Thankfully, they humor my hours of driving throughout the week with phone calls. When they come to town to visit family, we try to plan at least a lunch or dinner or something. The last visit from both of them meant that I joined a family BBQ with one and a grocery trip with the other. We’ll take what we can get, haha.

When we graduated from high school, we took a senior trip to the beach. In some form, we have tried to take some sort of trip together every year since then. It hasn’t always worked out… they were both married 7 years before me and have children, so some years were hit or miss. And, like I said, some phases were a little more distant than others. But, it’s a tradition that we strive to continue. You see, these two friends also introduced me to Tony. He had joined their small group through church (before they moved to different states) and they had gotten to know one another pretty well. He had built pretty good friendships with their husbands. I didn’t live in the same city at the time, but am so thankful that he spent some time on his own with my friends to fall in love with them (almost as much) as I have. So now… we take yearly trips as couples! We’ve just finalized dates for this year’s trip in August and I can hardly wait! Tony and I also try to go to where they are to visit and spend some time with the kids at least once a year as well. Last trip to Indiana was in the fall… next trip to Ohio is in July! Here’s a pic from one of our past times together – New Years 2011 in Ohio…

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