Need Some Hope

Good morning internet world. It is a foggy damp morning here in my neck of the woods. The kids have been dropped off at school and I’ve got a bit of time before we start our homeschooling day. 

This morning I got up early with my alarm clock. I usually grab my phone and scan through my email and Facebook News Feed, just trying to shock my brain awake. Then, once I’m awake, I move on with vitamins and devotions and any last minute get-the-kids-ready-for-school stuff that I have to do before I wake everyone up. 

This morning, I looked at my email, and then hesitantly clicked on my FaceBook. I glanced at it for a second and then just turned it off. I think I have reached my limit for FaceBook and the news.  When you read through the headlines and just laugh, it’s not a good sign. Let’s see, I think yesterday or the day before, I saw a headline informing me that whales might get the coronavirus. And I should definitely be afraid about this. On the same day there was a headline that essentially said, Hey, that thing that we all presumed was true about Coronavirus has actually been proven True!! By Science! 

I know I’m not the only one who has thought this, but it’s worth stating. If we actually had impartial news stations that did not have a political agenda, we would not be in the mess that we are in. The Left News Stations inform me that if the Republicans don’t win the election, they’re going to instigate a Civil War. The Right News Stations inform me that if the Democrats don’t win the election, the Democrats are going to instigate a Civil War. Does anyone else see the News acting as the ultimate bad guy as they rile everyone up and incite unrest? 

In the meantime, the Christian Prophets have been speaking up, and everything that is being forecast is hardship and trials in the near future. 

No wonder I’ve been struggling with Hopelessness. 

I feel like I’m standing here and I’ve got two alternate universes going on. The first universe is the one I currently live in. Life will continue to go on as usual. I will keep on making the normal plans for holidays, plans for the future, no big changes. 

Then there is the alternate universe, the one I am afraid of. The one where people do not accept the election results. The one where chaos and anarchy rule. The one where my life gets flipped upside down by powers outside of my control. 

Where is Hope? 

There is a book title, “How Should We Then Live?” by Francis Shaeffer. I have not read the book. I have every intention of reading the book. I think I’ve had that intention for a couple years now, it will happen, one day! But, the interesting thing is, the title runs through my head a lot. I have that question often, “How Should We Then Live?” I have that question right now.

When you are facing an unknown future and life seems hard and the future seems hopeless, what do you do? 

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating every day. Jesus, you all. We need Jesus. And not in that syrupy, go to the church once a week and put a fish sticker on your car, way. I’m talking about a dependence on him that goes to your deepest level. A recognition that if Jesus wasn’t there with you, you wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. A knowledge that your marriage, your closest relationships, would all splinter and disintegrate if you did not have Jesus giving you the wisdom, patience and love that you need. A security knowing that your safety and provision is certain because Jesus is by your side. And the hope that he holds your future in his hands, and all things will bring glory to him. 

So, my only advice is get into His Word. Turn on the praise music. Cling to God’s promises. 

Romans 8: 38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Depression Anniversary

This morning my Facebook memories popped up and showed me that three years ago, I made my first “public” post about my struggle with depression and our decision to put our children in public school. 

I read through the comments again this morning. (All 78 of them!) And what stood out to me was how much of a need we have for people to honestly share their struggles. Knowing that someone else is struggling makes us feel less isolated, it eases some of our shame. 

Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to give you all a “Depression Update”. 

One of my big disappointments in life is that I haven’t had a full recovery from my depression. While I haven’t been as low as I was three years ago, I still feel like depression is something that I have to actively keep at bay. And when I am not purposeful about taking care of myself, it creeps back in. 

Things I do to keep depression away:

Take a night off. 

Wednesday nights are MY nights. My husband gets home from work and I take off. I very often end up at Panera where it’s ok to sit with your computer or a book for a long period of time. I have a couple different friends who often meet me there for an evening of chatting and encouragement. Sometimes I go walking in the park alone or with friends. Sometimes I just leave the house, go buy myself some supper somewhere and then sneak back into my house in the back door and hide in my bedroom, feet up, reading a good book. 

The whole point though is that I can do whatever I want without feeling any guilt about leaving my husband home alone with the kids. (He gets his own night off.)

Give myself lots of space. 

I do not keep a perfectly clean house. I do not run a tight ship. I do not have a perfect schedule. I do not have a full, busy schedule. I am very purposeful about keeping my daily routine as free from stress as possible. I have found that the only way I can maintain a 24hrs a day, 7 days a week parent-of-many-children lifestyle, is to keep my day as calm as possible. Lots of wiggle room. Maybe it only takes us two hours to get all our homeschooling work done.  I give myself four hours. That way we can take lots of breaks, follow rabbit trails if we want, have time to deal with phone calls that might come in, or a quick chore that has to get done. I do not do well when I have to follow a tight timeline. Occasionally it can’t be avoided. There are doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, school meetings. If I have a day that involves me running full stop all day long, then I make sure that the next day I have nothing extra going on and I move slower. 

Date nights

The other day I told my husband something that I don’t think I had ever put into words before. “You are essential to my happiness.” And it’s true. When Andy walks in the door at night, my shoulders visibly relax. He makes me laugh. He uses his words often to tell me how important I am to him, to tell me how he feels about me. And I am encouraged and I feel loved. We need time together. We need to be able to unplug from parenting for a minute and just be two adults who like spending time together. Now, I know that for parents with young children, getting out on a date can be impossible. We went years not being able to get out. Now, we have teenagers who can babysit and we try to get out once a week for a date. But, sometimes money or schedules keeps us from being able to go out. Then we have bedroom dates. And by that I just mean we get the kids to bed, maybe get a snack, watch a movie together in our room or just sit and talk. The main point though is that we are purposeful about setting aside at least one night a week that is ours. 

Daily Devotions/ Daily exercise

Taking time every day to read the Bible and pray feeds my spiritual self. Taking time every day to get my body moving feeds my physical self. Sometimes I don’t do these things. But, when I do, I feel happier and have more energy. 

Talk to a therapist/friend equivalent

I still have monthly or bimonthly phone visits with my therapist. And I always think, before the call, do I really need this? And then afterwards, I am always glad that I was able to talk to her. It is a great help to have another adult look into your life and help you process challenges and get a perspective that is focused on the good of you and your mental health.

Practice Thankfulness

This one is actually an outpouring of my Christian walk. The Bible tells us repeatedly to give thanks in all things. As God has been teaching this to me over my lifetime, I have not only learned how to lose a bad mood or a bad attitude, but I’ve also learned how to stop and just take pleasure from small things. The way the sun is shining just-so on that tree. The sound of fall leaves crunching under my feet. The smell of woodsmoke. Watching my children practice acts of kindness to each other. Being thankful, noticing the goodness around me, these have gone a long way in helping me to not succumb to depression. 

In the end, all of these things are tools, not cures. I have days when I crawl back into bed in the middle of the day. Or I end up sitting in my chair, doing nothing. But the difference between years ago and now, is that the next day, I can usually get up and keep moving, instead of it dragging on and on and on. 

Maybe I will struggle with depression the rest of my life. But I have hope and peace that God will help me through it, one day at a time, one strategy at a time. 

To Read the News or Not to Read the News

I don’t know about the rest of you, but lately, I’ve been pretty stressed by the state of the world. 

Maybe it’s just me. 

I find myself obsessively scrolling through news sites, scanning headlines. Clicking on the occasional article. Trying to figure out just what on earth is going on. 

And as I’ve done this, my level of stress and fear has risen. Significantly. I find myself restless. I can’t concentrate for very long. I’m struggling with feeling hopeless. I think ahead, start to think through plans for things that we could do in the near future and I stop. Well, maybe we can do that, as long as the country doesn’t self-implode. 

Have you noticed that both sides of the political spectrum have lost all faith that the other side is committed to a safe, fair election? We both think that the other side is going to cheat. And we both think that the other side will not accept losing. We both think that the other side is prepared to fight to have their candidate in place. And the media keeps egging us on. Sowing all kinds of doubts and fears. 

And it occurs to me that my life would be a lot more peaceful if I just avoided the news completely. And it’s tempting. It even sounds spiritual. Think on things that are good. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus. 

But you know, as Christians, we were called to be IN the world, but not OF the world. 

I live here. This is my planet. This is my country, my state, my city. The things that are happening affect my life. It is also a historic time. The decisions and events that are going on are unprecedented. We are watching history unfold before our eyes. I don’t feel like I can simply unplug and ignore everything. 

So then the question becomes, how do you maintain peace in such a time as this? 

I’ve been reading through Revelation the past couple weeks. Reading a chapter and then reading through commentaries to try and get some understanding. And I am reminded of what one of our pastors said about this book: the whole point is that Jesus wins in the end. 

And that is the answer. 

That is how I hold on to peace. 

In the end, all will be made well. Jesus knows what it is going on. He is not surprised. He is not watching the news and scratching his head in bewilderment. Revelation lets us know that there is a plan. None of this is random. We might not understand the timing and all the details, but we do understand that the earth is going to have to go through a time of judgement. And in the end…Jesus wins. 

And when I write that, I feel my shoulders dropping a couple inches. It’s ok. No matter how this life unfolds, the end story for me is eternity with Jesus. And I have his word that in the meantime, before eternity arrives, Jesus has promised to be with me. I am not alone and abandoned. I am walking side by side with my Savior through this craziness. 

And that is peace. 

Happy Birthday America

My relationship and feelings toward the United States of America has always been complicated. I grew up in Haiti among people of many different nationalities and America had the reputation of being the bully of the world. They also had the stereotype of being uncultured, crass, oblivious. As a child, I was not overly impressed with my American citizenship. 

 

Before I was born, my American Father and my British Mother had given birth to my brother in Haiti. The United States, Great Britain, and Haiti all refused to give my brother citizenship because my parents had spent very little time in their home countries. My parents made the decision that the entire family needed to have citizenship from the same country so they moved to the States and began the process of getting citizenship for my brother and my mother. I was born during that time in Kentucky. 

 

I remember as a child, asking my parents why they didn’t go to Great Britain and get everyone citizenship there? That would have been way more cool than being American. I can’t remember their exact answer. I think it had to do with the fact that they were working as missionaries in Haiti and the United States was closer and easier to travel to than Great Britain. I think there were more reasons than that, that’s just the one I remember. Maybe something to do with the fact that an American passport is easier to travel with? 

 

I was living in Haiti when the United States decided to put an embargo on this tiny little island country. I watched as food, fuel and medicine became very difficult to find. And I was ashamed. Ashamed of my citizenship. Angry at the US and the harm it was causing to this tiny country where I lived. That anger lingered a long time. Maybe some of it is still there. 

 

As an adult I think I’ve had a good reality check. I spent some time living in Chile, gave birth to my second child there. Loved Chile, but it wasn’t home. I’ve read articles and followed devastating stories of the lack of medical freedom in other Western countries. I’ve talked with friends from Russia, learned a little bit about growing up in the Soviet Union. Essentially, just learned a little bit more about the world than I knew as a child. 

 

My husband and I are wanderers at heart. It’s hard for us to be settled down in one place. It feels bizarre that we have actually lived in the same city for sixteen years now. It’s a common conversation for us to talk about where we would like to move. Especially when things get crazy here in the U.S. Let’s just leave, my husband says. And I take him seriously. Ok, where should we go? We start listing off countries. And as we say a name, I point out the problems that I am aware of for that country. And by the end of the conversation, we always reach the grim reality that there really isn’t any “better” place that we could go and still be able to raise our large family in the manner that we see fit with the minimum amount of dangers to our children. 

 

And now, I realize that I have a multi-national audience. I will just point out that while our country probably has just as many pitfalls as any other country, we are familiar with these pitfalls, we are citizens here, not foreigners, and we know all the ins and outs that we wouldn’t know in another country. No offense meant towards other countries. 

 

And so, here we are on the 4th of July. Firmly established as American Citizens. Not going anywhere. And it’s my country’s birthday. 

 

I got on Facebook this morning and was bombarded by heavy discussions about mask wearing. Pros, Cons. A lot of strong feelings. Our county’s health department has mandated mask wearing. Our Mayor has spoken out against it. Our Sheriff has spoken out against it. This has caused a very big stir in our county. The division is irritating to me. But, now I will tell you what I like about my country. We have the freedom to speak out and tell the world at large what we think. I think your law is stupid, and I’m not going to follow it. I think your “mandate” is unconstitutional and these are the reasons why…I think all of you all should stop fussing about masks and just wear them! I think we need to fight this! I think everyone should be more worried about this virus! I think the virus is a scam! I think we are all going to end up dying in the hospital if people don’t take action soon! 

 

We have the freedom to voice what we think without fear of retribution. 

 

We have freedom to speak up about anything and everything. Hey! Black Lives Matter! Hey! Blue Lives Matter! Hey! Medical Freedom is important! Hey! I hate that decision that our President made! Hey! I think your State is stupid for opening up their economy in the middle of a pandemic! Hey! I think your state is stupid for shutting everything down and ruining their economy! 

 

Though all of our viewpoints have become very polarized, we still have the freedom to voice them. 

 

I worry about this freedom being taken from us. I can see a political trend where this right is slowly being gutted. I pray that those who want to silence all these voices will not be successful. 

 

From my standpoint,  this is the strength of our country. The freedom to think what we want, hold whatever views we wish, and the freedom to voice those opinions. 

 

I do not hold with the view that the United States is the most amazing country in the world. I don’t hold with the view that Being Christian and Being American are one and the same thing. I do not hold with the myth that America has been a paradise, a bastion of freedom, for all peoples since day one. 

 

I will tell you what I am proud of though. My husband was able to quit his job and start his own business with very little hassle. I can send my children to a free public school, or I can keep them home and homeschool them. I can go to the church of my choice and worship in the way I choose without fear. My city is clean. The trash is picked up weekly. I have reliable clean running water and electricity. My city is full of parks and playgrounds that I can enjoy without charge. I am an hour away from a beautiful National Park that is also clean and well-kept and free of charge. If I have any complaints, I have places where I can seek justice. 

I still have mixed feelings about my birth country. These past months have been a time when minorities have been voicing their reality that this country is not as Free for them as it is for others. Here’s the thing. While our country may not be the Home of the Free…yet…we have the potential. We have the framework to make it happen. We still have the freedom to pursue change and reform.  Our country is not static. All the things we don’t like, we can change. And that is probably about as free as we can get. 

 

Happy Birthday America. 

Facebook Challenge: Who Am I?

 

This morning I started thinking about high school. I’m reading a really good book that is exploring a young woman’s behavior when she was in high school…why she acted that way in the first place, and how those behaviors have shaped her present day adulthood. So, I started thinking about who I was in high school. Thinking especially about my last two years of high school up in Bethel, Alaska. And you know, I really don’t have any regrets about who I was during those years. They were good years. 

 

High school is such a public time in our lives. We go to school every day, we are surrounded by our classmates and teachers. We do extra-curricular activities and we are surrounded by all those people. Who-we-are is a very public thing. We can’t really hide it. 

 

It’s different when you are an adult. Especially when you’re a stay at home mom. I don’t have a large group of people that I see every day. I go to church on Sundays, but there usually isn’t time for a lot of private social interaction. I go to doctors appointments, very sterile, very little personal conversation. I go to the store, say hi to people. Occasionally we might have a playdate where I can visit with another mom for a couple hours, but that doesn’t happen too often. In reality, most of my interactions with other people occur on social media. I get on Facebook every day. I write my blog and share it in the blog world and share it on Facebook. I interact with other people’s posts. I message people. I am very much present online. 

 

So, today, I asked myself the question, Who am I on Facebook? 

 

Am I someone who is representing myself as a child of God? 

Are my words kind? 

Am I respectful? 

Do I care about the downtrodden? 

Have I gotten so caught up with defending one group of people, that I now spend a lot of time vilifying my “enemies”? 

Am I hateful towards groups of people I disagree with? 

(Example:Trump, Obama, Left wing radicals, right wing radicals, people who get abortions, people who fight against abortions, people who are pro-socialism, people who anti-government, people who believe in global warming, people who don’t believe in global warming, people who wear masks in public, people who don’t wear masks in public, people who watch CNN, people who watch FOX NEWS.) 

 

Are the things I’m passionate about actually creating  a stumbling block for someone else? (check out Romans 14: 13-19.)

 

Am I living out Love the way that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13?

 

1 Corinthians 13  (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8b Love never fails. 

 

It’s been good for me to hit pause and do an evaluation…Who am I in public? 

 

I can see some things I need to work on. I can see where I’ve been impatient, I’ve kept records of wrongs, I’ve delighted in evil, haven’t protected. 

 

Hopefully, making myself aware of these things will be enough to help me shift my path a bit. Remind myself of my Core Values. Read my personal mission statement again. So that, years in the future, I can look back and say, You know, I have no regrets of who I was during that time in my life. 

Knoxville Police Department’s answers to my questions…

After my last blog post, I decided it would be good to just reach out to our local police department to get some information. I contacted them on their Facebook page and this is what I wrote:

 

Hi, my name is Esther Heneise. I live in East Knoxville, off of Magnolia. My children attend Sarah Moore Greene, Vine, and Austin East. Right now, as our country is going through the present turmoil over George Floyd’s murder, the attention has turned to the Police Force. I know that you are very busy, but I think it would be very helpful for me and the general public if you put out an official statement describing how our police force trains against excessive use of force, profiling, racism, and exactly what actions are taken if a police officer is caught doing these things. Also, are there any steps that people can take to seek justice if they feel that they have been treated unfairly by a police officer? My daughter wants to be a police officer, but she has not shared this dream at Austin East where she goes to school, because none of her friends would support her. There is definitely a culture at the high school level of police being the enemy. I am curious whether there are any programs in place to try and combat these bad public relations? if you have any time to answer these questions I would appreciate it. I am thankful for all that you do in our city and in my neighborhood. Sincerely, Esther Heneise

This was their response:

Hello Esther. Thank you for reaching out with your concerns.

Knoxville Police Department officers are trained extensively in human relations, cultural diversity, ethics in policing and de-escalation tactics, both during the Recruit Academy and throughout their careers.

 

During the Recruit Academy, trainees receive nearly 60 hours of training devoted exclusively to those topics, but that serves merely as a foundation that officers will continue to build on through their experiences in the field and continued training. That training is provided through daily squad roll call briefings, which can be formally administered through the Field Training Officer Program or initiated by the squad supervisors.  Additionally, all officers are required to complete yearly in-service training to maintain POST certification. 

 

We want to assure you that the Knoxville Police Department has the policies, procedures and training in place to address any issues and ensure that we deliver the best possible service for the community. Both the police department and training academy are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and are continuously evaluated to ensure compliance with industry-tested standards.

 

Per policy, Knoxville Police Department officers are directed to only use the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, and should only use force when no reasonable effective alternative appears to exist. The policy, of course, acknowledges that each encounter is unique and that numerous factors figure into the decision making of the officer in that circumstance. However, the preferred outcome of an encounter with a non-compliant subject is that the presence of an officer or de-escalation techniques are successful in obtaining compliance. 

 

With that, there are safeguards in place to ensure that officers are using force appropriately and treating all citizens with the respect and decency that they deserve from those tasked with protecting and serving the community.

 

Citizen complaints can be submitted either directly to the Internal Affairs Unit or separately to the Police Advisory & Review Committee. In either instance, those complaints are taken seriously, investigations are conducted if proven necessary and officers are held accountable for their actions. 

 

Use of force reports are submitted following all circumstances in which the subject sustains an injury, the subject complains of injury, medical attention is required or requested, or more physical means that result in an impact are utilized. All use of force reports are reviewed by an officer’s immediate supervisors, the District Commander and the Internal Affairs Unit, who conducts any follow-up investigations if it is deemed necessary. 

 

We feel that the evidence suggests that our efforts are working to bring every encounter to the most peaceful conclusion possible. In 2019, despite seeing an increase of 20,000 calls for service, we saw an over 28 percent decrease in use of force reports. 

 

The Department also utilizes its Early Warning System to monitor officers. That system exists to identify officers who generate numerous use of force reports and complaints of misconduct or are the recipient of numerous disciplinary actions. For those identified by the Early Warning System, the KPD evaluates their behavior, addresses it directly, and determines the appropriate action to take, which can include reassignment and termination if that behavior is not corrected. 

 

The Internal Affairs Unit is also responsible for putting together quarterly biased-based policing reports to ensure that no officer in the Department is involved in bias-based profiling and that all officers are acting within policy. If any issues are identified, the Internal Affairs Unit makes recommendations for training directives or policy changes. 

 

All of our efforts and training are based around de-escalation and cultural competency. Those things are intricately interwoven into everything we do, teach and expect of our officers. Though they often enter into tense and unpredictable situations, officers do not want to have to use force to bring an incident under control. We want to understand and connect with every citizen we encounter, and provide the service that the community expects and desires. We strive to treat every individual with the utmost respect, decency and dignity.

END TEXT

I am thankful that they took the time to answer my questions. Thinking ahead, as to how this information might be helpful…Perhaps, having a general education campaign that lets the public know what their rights are as far as their interactions with the police, and also making it very clear, and user friendly, how the general public can file a complaint. Perhaps even having a liaison, or go between, who could help someone file a complaint when they have been the victim of profiling or have been made to feel in danger by the police. Maybe these are things that would help black people in our community feel that they have a voice and a safeguard against wrongful behavior? What do you all think?

 

Woe is Me

A couple days ago I was having a particularly difficult afternoon with a particularly difficult child. In a big fit of frustration, I retreated to my room and collapsed in my chair. I was about to reach for my phone and zone out on FaceBook for a minute, but thought, hmm, I think I would do better to pick up my Bible. I opened the Bible to where I had been reading that morning and I got smacked across the head by these verses:

 

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17: 7-10

 

We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty…I don’t know if any of you can relate, but I was definitely having a Woe Is Me moment. Look at poor Esther. She has to deal with all these problems. Poor, poor me. Does anyone see how self-sacrificing I am being? Look at me! I don’t deserve this kind of treatment! 

 

It kind of reminds me of when my kids pull an attitude.

Me: Please do this chore.

Child: Why should I have to do that chore??

Me: Umm, excuse me, did you get crowned Queen/King when I wasn’t looking? Why shouldn’t you have to do this chore? You live here. You do chores. 

 

While I am all about focusing on how we are children of God, God loves us so much, Jesus has given us worth because he died on the cross for us…we are also God’s servants. We are his creation. He created us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). And Jesus himself called us to be servants (Matthew 20:26). We are in the Kingdom of God, and it’s a kingdom of servants. Jesus being the number one example of servanthood (Phillipians 2:8).

 

Feeling sorry for myself because serving people can sometimes be irritating…this is not an emotion I need to be wallering in. I am just doing my duty. It’s what I’ve been called to do. Serve others. And yes, there is a place for setting boundaries and not being a doormat, but I think I can admit that most of the time that I’m feeling sorry for myself, it’s just because I’m feeling resentful about having to serve. I’d much rather be wearing the crown and be Queen for the day. 

 

There is a song I learned when I was kid, back in the 80’s when Psalty the Singing Psalm Book was a thing. (Look it up if you’ve never heard of him.) The lyrics to the song go like this:

Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord let me lift up, those who are weak, and may the prayer of my heart always be, make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.

So, that is my prayer for today, May I be a servant, content to do my duty. Knowing that when I do, I am simply following the example of Jesus. 

 

Thoughts on the Nature of Comfort

This past week, my almost three year old had to have a minor outpatient surgery. They had to put him to sleep for a short time and I was called back when he was in the recovery room, very slowly waking up from the anesthesia. It was pretty rough. He was moaning and crying and tossing and turning, trying to yank out the I.V., trying to pull off the monitors attached to his body, but all with his eyes closed, obviously not fully aware of what was going on. When I walked in, the nurse was trying to keep him from falling off his bed. I went straight for him and she asked if I wanted to hold him. Yes. Of course! 

 

She helped me get him out of the bed without disturbing the various wires, and I settled in a rocking chair with him. Even though he wasn’t awake, he knew it was me holding him. He immediately tried to snuggle as close to me as possible, still moaning and thrashing around. I held him tight and whispered in his ear, over and over, Mama’s here, it’s ok. Mama’s here. You’re going to be ok. He would settle down for a little bit and then start thrashing around again. And the whole time I was whispering to him, a litany of Presence. I am here. You are not alone. You are safe. Feel me touching you. Feel me holding you. I’ve got you. 

 

As I held him, I thought about comfort. How, in his pain and confusion, he craved physical touch, craved hearing my voice. In essence, what he really needed was to know that he was not alone. 

 

I thought about all the times that I have needed comforting. Even in my forties, I still have an occasional nightmare that jerks me awake panting in sheer terror. In that moment in time, when my heart is racing, and I am still struggling to sort out truth from fiction, all I want is for my husband to hold me. Let me feel your presence, let me know I am not alone. Let me feel protected in your arms. 

 

As a child with his parents or a wife with her husband, physical touch as a form of comfort is acceptable. But, in our less close relationships, we often don’t feel free to touch each other while offering comfort. So, what do we do? 

 

If you think back and remember times that people have comforted you, comfort basically boils down to letting someone know that they are not alone. I am so sorry for the death of your close one. I just want you to know that I’m praying for you. Here’s a token:  a card, or a cake, or a casserole…I just want you to know that someone is thinking about you enough to take time to get you something. You are not alone. 

 

Or perhaps when someone is suffering with cancer, we pull up memories of times that we faced cancer with another loved one. And the whole point of bringing up these other stories is that we want to assure them that they are not alone. Other people have walked this same path and had good outcomes. 

 

All this makes me wonder, is loneliness actually the worst thing that we can face?  When I think about all the times that I have been sad or heartbroken, I can say, yes, it has stemmed from some kind of loneliness. Perhaps missing friends, perhaps fear of losing someone close to me, perhaps being overwhelmed with life and feeling like I have no one to help me. No one who cares.

 

Two days ago I posted a blog about struggling with depression. I posted it on my Facebook and my friends came out in droves to comfort me. We’re here Esther! We love you! How can we help you? Have you tried these solutions? It was comfort. An offering of Presence from over the internet. 

 

Thank you all. 

 

We were made to be in relationship. Not alone. Relationship with God. Relationship with each other. 

 

“It is not good that the man should be alone…” Gen 2:18a

 

Thanks for being my friends and easing that loneliness. 

 

Which Voice Will You Listen To?

The last couple of days I have had some loud voices in my head. The first voice has been systematically pointing out all the ways that I’m failing. It has pointed out the dust and cobwebs that I haven’t gotten around to cleaning. It has pointed a finger at my pantry that needs a serious overhaul. It has reminded me that I have a hole in my dining room floor that needs repairing. It has kept a tally for every time I have lost patience with my children and yelled. It has shone a spotlight on each of my children when they have not obeyed or been sassy. It even brought up some old stuff, like the fact that I didn’t write my (now deceased) grandmother regular letters when I was younger. Every time I have put any food in my mouth it has shouted out how I am a fraud, I claim to be a Christian, but here I am being a glutton and stuffing my face. If I just had enough faith, I would overcome this sin habit. 

 

This voice has been responsible for at least one day where I could barely drag myself out of bed. I would say it has also been responsible for the sharper tone of voice I’ve been using. And it probably plays a big part in why I’ve been losing my temper so quickly. It’s really hard to be nice when you are fighting a feeling of worthlessness. 

 

I said that there were voices, more than one. There has also been another voice. It’s been quieter, but it’s still been there. It’s the voice that quietly says, being a mom is hard, you’re doing a good job. It’s softly said, here, you have some spare time, why don’t you get on your elliptical for a while? It’s calmly reminded me to go and apologize to my little boys for yelling. It’s urged me to pull out my Bible in the mornings, instead of staring at Facebook. It’s whispered, You are Saved by Grace, not by Works. It’s gently suggested I put on some praise music while cleaning to counterbalance how annoyed I always get when cleaning up my kids’ messes. When I have completely given in to fear, it’s firmly told me to recite my creed of faith, ground myself again in truth. 

 

It’s taken me a couple days to realize that there is actually a battle going on in my brain. And I have to make a choice. Which voice am I going to listen to? One is the voice of judgement. The other is the voice of love. 

 

I’m thinking I need some love. 

 

You would think I would recognize immediately that one voice is for me and the other is against and I would just shut down the ugly voice. Life has been a little crazy lately. We’re going through a lot of transition and we have a lot of things in limbo at the moment. And that makes me feel insecure. And feeling insecure makes me lose my vision. And suddenly that loud obnoxious voice kind of sounds like it’s speaking the truth. And the more I listen to that voice, the louder it gets. 

 

Honestly, about the only way I can break free of that voice is to purposefully focus on truth. What does God’s word say? What does God say about me? 

 

As I was writing this, I took a short break and checked my Facebook. My sister-in-law had just posted a song on her page. It was just what I needed to hear. 

 

I hope you have time to click on this link, it’s a song about listening to the voice of love. 

You Say by Lauren Daigle

May you have the grace to listen to the voice of love this week.

 

 

Just a Thought

My eight year old daughter was sitting next to me on the couch today. I noticed that she was wearing an old watch on her arm. It was silver and obviously too big for her. 

 

Me: Where did you get that? 

Nomi: What? 

Me: The watch, where did you get that watch? 

Nomi: (continues to play with a toy, doesn’t look up) Miss Linda.

Me: Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Yeah.

Me: (wracking my mind, trying to place this name…a teacher at school? Someone at church? A neighbor?) Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: Miss Linda! 

Me: Who’s Miss Linda! 

Nomi: IT’S MISS LINDA!!!

 

You would think that at this point in time I would realize that this method of interrogation was not working and I should try a different approach. But, no.

 

Me: WHO’S MISS LINDA?!?!?!?!?!

Nomi: Mom, it’s Miss Linda. 

 

I stared at her in frustration. Then it clicked. My husband had taken two of his little daughters with him when he did a quick Saturday side job to put up a ceiling fan for Miss Linda, a retired woman he has done work for in the past. It was a chance for him to have some daddy-daughter time and a chance for Miss Linda to spoil some little girls. 

 

Ok. Mystery solved. 

 

Then one of my sons walked in the room, spotted the watch with his laser eyes, and quickly went into attack mode..

 

Judah: Where did you get that???

Nomi: Miss Linda.

Judah: Who’s Miss Linda? 

Nomi: It’s Miss Linda! 

 

I inwardly groaned as I knew I was now going to hear this whole conversation again. But as I watched my daughter I noticed a certain spark in her eye, a smug set to her mouth. She was having fun with this. 

 

What is it about kids loving to create conflict? 

 

MOM! SHE TOUCHED ME!

DID NOT!

DID TOO!

DID NOT!

DID TOO!

 

And on and on and on. 

 

I remember being exactly the same. It wasn’t until I was an older teenager that I started realizing that I didn’t have to react every time my brother pushed my buttons. And I didn’t have to push his buttons every time the opportunity presented itself. I presumed that it’s just part of growing up; learning how to live at peace with people, no longer delighting in sparking conflict. 

 

Enter FaceBook Stage Right. 

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting on FaceBook. I love seeing who just got engaged. Adorable baby photos. Who just got a new job. I love reading interesting articles that people post. Beautiful photos of far-off places. FaceBook can be a lot of fun. 

 

Then you have those posts that say, “If you don’t agree with my position, then you are STUPID!” And then someone comments: OH YEAH! WELL, YOU’RE STUPID!

AM NOT!
ARE TOO!
AM NOT!
ARE TOO!

 

Apparently the need to stir up arguments and be difficult Doesn’t go away when you grow up. 

 

I am not saying there isn’t a place for expressing ideas that differ from others. And I think there is definitely a time to say, I disagree with you, and this is why…I guess what always baffles me is why we can’t have differing opinions or even heated discussions without remaining respectful of each other. It is possible to believe strongly in something, have a desire to share that belief with others, and still not be rude or disrespectful to the people who believe differently than you. In fact, if you remain respectful, you will probably have a much better chance at sharing your beliefs with others. 

 

Just a thought.