Embracing Christmas …when it’s less than perfect

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I am all about traditions, routine, order, and knowing what to expect.  When plans change, it can be very triggering for me. Even something as lovely as a vacation can set me on edge and make me feel vulnerable. As much as I smile and delight in the fun on the outside, on the inside I am fighting anxiety and panic with both fists. It is a weary battle.  

Bring on the holidays, and that is a recipe for pure angst. 

There are:

  • Fewer lights on the tree than the many strands I envisioned.
  • Explosions of emotion and memory from opening the boxes of ornaments.
  • Eleven destroyed ornaments so far from our sweet puppy, Maisy Jane.
  • Professional family photos that haven’t been scheduled.
  • Christmas cards that haven’t been created or ordered.
  • No pictures on Santa’s lap.
  • No long lists of oh so fun to find “hot toys” – instead, “just get me this one big item”.
  • Fewer gifts, which means less hiding, less wrapping, and less opening.
  • Painful aches for those who are absent.
  • Tears for the friend who received the awful diagnosis.
  • Sleepless nights tossing and turning in prayer for the heart of a child.
  • Changes in friendships, relationships, and traditions.  

In all of the dazzling merriment, there are disappointments, frustrations, and unmet expectations. 

How should we respond?

Mary was pregnant and traveling on a donkey with swollen feet and an aching back. She did not have a reservation at the Hilton. There was no guest room available for her.  She was going to give birth in a stable without an epidural. 

But in the smelly, messy, and painful circumstances surrounding Mary, light burst forth as she delivered a Love like no other.  

That same Love exists today in your smelly, messy, painful circumstances.
Do you see Him?  Can you find Him there? 

Just this week, I found Him in a powerful therapy session, a gentle rebuke, and an encouraging lunch.

He is with us always. We are never alone.
Like Mary, we can sit in the mess and hold onto to Jesus. 

Whatever this season brings, take the time to embrace Jesus especially when its messy, disappointing and even confusing. Be still in His presence and embrace His Love.  

Embrace Emmanuel, God with us.  

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23 KJ21

Baby Steps: His light breaks my chains.

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Something really big happened in me during that facedown laid flat prayer time.  He lifted me and He gave me a voice, but He also filled me to the top with courage, boldness and passion.

Something shifted inside of me. 

In my group therapy session, she gave us each a small box, magazines, scissors and glue. Our assignment was to cut out and glue words and images on both the inside and the outside of the box.  

The words and images on the outside of the box displayed what we were comfortable with others knowing about us. The outside of the box represented how others see us and what we are willing to show others. This was mostly public information. 

 Whereas, the inside of the box was private information.  The inside of the box was how you saw yourself and what  you did not want others to see or know about you. The images and words inside of the box made us uncomfortable especially if others knew about them.  

The room filled with the noise of the magazine pages flipping, scissors cutting, and pages ripping while music played softly in the background. 

Words started to pop off of the pages.  Some were just seemingly harmless words but they were very significant to me.  

We took the boxes home to finish them, and I continued to cut and paste away. I found a slightly bigger box to hide my box in, because I didn’t want anyone to see it.  I decided to cover the outer box with words of healing and truth.  These words represented what I truly wanted for myself and this truth covered all of the messiness that was inside.  

 I was afraid to share my box with the group. I shared the outside, but not the inside. I brought the box with me to my individual session and showed my counselor the inside and explained what each side represented. 

Creating this box was so powerful. I continued to bring it to my sessions and it helped me to find words to share how the abuse had affected my body, mind and soul.  

The inside of the box was filled with shameful secrets and it was all so dark and dirty. All of those words and images kept me chained to the darkness. I desperately longed to be free.

The box was open now, and His light was shining into the darkness.

His light broke through the darkness and
he led us out in freedom from death’s dark shadow
and snapped every one of our chains. Psalm 107:14 TPT

This is post #26 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.

Baby Steps: He lifted me.

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It was my hardest counseling session so far because I said the hard stuff. I slowly put words together to describe the darkness. I sat there and trembled like a child in tears and whispered about the awful sights, smells, and sounds.

I felt a sensory overload as all that had been bottled up for years in silence finally made its way out word by awful word. 

It was like taking a box of puzzle pieces, shaking it up and then letting them fly out onto the ground all at once. As I picked up each painful piece, I tried to talk about it. Over time, the pieces started to slowly connect and then the full image of the memory would be there before me and it really hurt.  It made me angry and incredibly sad at the same time.  

I felt so damaged and broken.  

I found it extremely helpful to go to the ladies Bible Study each week. I didn’t say much, but it was comforting to be with others because I was truly hungry for truth and light after swimming so long in lies and darkness. We were working through the study of  Daniel by Beth Moore and each week we watched a video at the end.  In this video, she shared about how “we were holy vessels, but sometimes our holy vessels were used to toast an unholy cause.”  

I was already shaking. I didn’t feel holy, and I certainly didn’t feel like a holy vessel. 

She stared straight at us and had us stand to our feet and repeat after her as she read a Declaration of Holiness over our life. It was incredibly hard for me to stand there and barely move my lips.  

I felt like I was going to explode and I wanted to sink through the floor.  

As soon as she said the last word, I grabbed my books and ran to my car. I collapsed over the steering wheel in tears and all the way home I desperately prayed out loud in the car, “God, help me to believe you. I believe you in my head but please help me to believe you in my heart. I don’t feel it, and I want to believe. Please help me God! Help me to believe. Help my unbelief!” 

This was the first time I recalled speaking the words out loud as I prayed. It reminded me of the father in Mark 9:24 who asked Jesus to heal his son and said, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”

A few days later, I was meeting some women at the church to pray and I just blurted out how hard it was for me to believe I was a holy vessel and that I was really struggling.  

As soon as the words left my mouth, my insides filled with shame.  

Later, we into the sanctuary and laid down flat at the altar to pray for the Beth Moore conference our ladies group planned to attend that weekend.  

About halfway into our prayer time, I sat up and started praying aloud while lifting my head straight up towards the ceiling.  My prayer grew louder and my voice grew stronger and bold.  

My physical posture was lifted to the Most High.  It was incredibly powerful.  

He gave me my voice.  

He lifted me.   

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2 NIV

This is post #25 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.

Baby Steps: He fills me with praise.

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March 18, 2013

My counselor invited me to join a small group of women for eight sessions to work on building shame resiliency in our lives. It was based on the curriculum “Connections” by Brené Brown and her book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t).” 

I was extremely nervous about being in a group of women, but I felt better knowing my counselor was co-facilitating it because I felt safe with her. 

In the first session we talked about shame and had to write our own definition.  I wrote:  Shame is a mental and physical (overbearing almost) sense of worthlessness that covers me from head to toe.  My entire being changes and it is hard to shake it or get over it. Logic doesn’t explain it away.  

Then, we listed three words to describe shame and I wrote: 

Green (Exposed) Turtle (Hidden) Worthless (Helpless)  

Our homework assignment was to draw a picture of shame. I pulled out my colored pencils and drew what shame looked like to me.  

I drew a turtle.  Everything was green and I was hidden beneath that hard exterior shell. 

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Shame affected everything. It held me back and kept me from connecting deeply with others. I constructed walls all around me for protection and I wore masks to hide the truth. I was numb to the pain, but numbing also prevented me from truly feeling much of anything – including joy.  

Shame made me lonely and sad. It made me feel like I was bad and something was wrong with me. I felt worthless and helpless. 

As much as I wanted to break out of that shell and be free, it seemed impossible. 

I made a playlist called Healing Moments, and I started singing along to songs that helped me to believe He could do the impossible. I sang in the shower and on my way to sessions.  I kept adding songs to the playlist I named “Healing Moments.”  The more I sang, the more I believed He would do it.  He would take away my shame and fill me with praise.   

Keep watching! At the right time,
I will deal with those who assaulted you.
I will steady those who are lame and about to fall;
I will gather those who are outcasts and oppressed.
Instead of being filled with shame as they always have been,
I will fill them with praise and make them famous over all the world.             Zephaniah 3:19 VOICE

This is post #24 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.