It’s messy….but beautiful.

I’ve decided that conflict resolution is a lot like having a baby.

I remember when I went into labor with Gabrielle. She was my first baby, and I had no idea what to expect. Other than being a bit early, it was a “normal” delivery. In the end, my mind was totally blown over the wonder and miracle of life.

Danielle’s delivery was nothing like Gabrielle’s. It was unexpected, unusual and traumatic. This time, the phrase “miracle of life” really had meaning. (I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.) Nothing about it matched my experience with Gabrielle. But still, my mind was blown. Not only by the wonder of life, but also by the goodness of God.

Stefan’s delivery, though early, was “normal” like Gabrielle’s. I remember going to the hospital and getting settled in a room. And as the reality of the next few hours settled on me, I looked at Bill in complete seriousness and said, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. I’ve changed my mind. Is there another way?” I considered the thought of staying pregnant forever.

In shock, Bill responded, “What? It’s too late now. There’s no other choice. You’re having a baby. Today.”

Fear gripped my heart as I remembered the excruciating pain from my previous deliveries. I started to cry as I remembered how relentless the contractions were. The nausea. The inability to get relief. To be comfortable. The extreme exhaustion that followed that caused uncontrollable shaking. I panicked.

I told Bill I wanted the baby. I wanted to hold the baby. I’m ready for the baby. But I don’t want to do delivery. I can’t go through this again.

His gentle words reminded me of what I already knew to be true but could not see in the face of fear: in order to hold the baby I wanted so badly, I would have to go through the process (that word!) of delivery. There was no way around it.

Since I couldn’t figure out an alternate plan, I proceeded with delivery. It was painful. It was messy. Uncomfortable. Exhausting. As Bill held my hand and encouraged, supported and comforted me, I journeyed through the process to birth. In the end, I held my sweet baby boy. And there were no words. Mind blown again.

Relationships. I want this person in my life. I want to journey with them. I want to share experiences with them. I want to love them and be loved by them. But unfortunately, in every relationship journey there is conflict. Regardless of who – parent, sibling, spouse, child, friend, co-worker, neighbor –  it’s nearly impossible to have authentic relationship without an issue of some sort.

And I panic at the idea of conflict. I want the relationship, but I’m terrified of conflict.

To be honest, my first response is to abort. I don’t want the excruciating pain that comes from words that hurt (words of affirmation is my #1 love language). I don’t want the exhaustion of drama as I try to understand what they meant by that look or that comment. I hate the knots in my stomach that come from the tension between us. I don’t know how to get relief or how to be comfortable with them again. I don’t think my heart can bear to go through this another time. So it’s easier to just let that relationship go – to pretend there is no problem as I build a wall between us – instead of going through the process of resolution.

But like Bill, Jesus gently reminds me that in order to have the relationship, I must go through the process of working it out. There is no way around it.

Each set of circumstances will be different, but I know in every instance I’ll have to open up and communicate. I’ll have to be transparent and vulnerable to share what’s in my heart. How I feel. What I perceive. What I need. I’ll have to listen to more than their words, but hear what’s in their heart. To understand their perspective. To see what they need. I’ll have to be ok if we don’t see the situation the same way. I’ll have to know that resolution is not them agreeing with me. It’s not me changing their mind.

It may get messy. It may be painful. It may take time. Forgiveness and understanding will be required. Grace will be needed. But Jesus will faithfully stay by your side to comfort your heart as He helps you navigate through pain. He’ll support and encourage you to maintain connection.

And in the end, it’s worth it because your mind will be blown.  At the wonder of seeing their heart. At the miracle of really knowing them. Of authentic connection. Relationships are a lot of work, but there’s beauty in a relationship that’s weathered a storm. The connection is deeper. The love is greater. The bond is stronger. The journey is sweeter.

I’ve aborted a lot of relationships in my life. I couldn’t endure the pain. I wasn’t willing to be uncomfortable. I was terrified of rejection. Transparency was paralyzing. Authenticity not an option. I didn’t think I could endure the heartache. But I don’t want do that anymore.

Romans 12:9 (NLT) tells us to Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Do all you can to maintain a healthy connection to people. Every person. He tells us this because we need people in our life. Because He works through people in our life. Because we can’t keep discarding people and continue to make a difference for the Kingdom. Because when you are a promoter of peace, you’ll be blessed and identified as His child. Matthew 5:9 (NLT) God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

I regret every aborted relationship. So, as messy as it can be, I want to work through conflict in order to have the beauty of relationship. I want to live in peace with every person in (and outside of) my life so I don’t miss an opportunity to experience an aspect of the journey.

 

Note: I delivered all my babies drug/epidural free. So, don’t panic. And don’t decide not to have children based upon my description. You can always opt for a pain free option. Which is what I was wishing I had done as I delivered Stefan.

Here are all my sweet babies as newborns – Gabrielle, Danielle and Stefan. I can say, the mess has been worth the beauty they bring to my life.

 

Give me bacon….

I recently completed a 30-day cleanse/detox. I’ll have to admit, that was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than hiking up Canyon De Chelly in the dead of summer. Harder than giving natural birth to three children. Without drugs.

I ate things I never dreamed I’d eat. Things I swore I would never eat. Things that smell “bad”. I drank concoctions containing things that tested my gag reflex. And I didn’t eat ice cream the entire time. Not. One. Bite.

And the warm Himalayan cleanse that kicked the whole thing off……well, let’s just say nothing about that. That tale will make your hair stand on end and cause grown men to cry for their mommies.

Needless to say, my taste buds were challenged. I also learned a lot about what the human body needs and what it doesn’t want. I discovered what foods supported which organs and the systems they cleanse. But I think the spiritual lesson was the thing that impacted me the most. I was blindsided by revelation.

It was during the detox that our oldest daughter Gabrielle experienced a medical emergency. Gabrielle was diagnosed with Type1 Diabetes when she was 5 years old and over the past 23 years we’ve had several scary moments with her. We experienced one of those moments when her husband Scott called us at 2am to say she was non-responsive. As Bill and I raced to their home, we prayed. We got there before the ambulance and began to do all we knew to do, as we asked Jesus to help her. The ambulance arrived and it was a very intense 20 or so minutes as paramedics worked with her to regain consciousness. By the time it was over, it was well after 3am and she was headed to the hospital with Scott and we were headed to our house with Josiah.

As we crawled back into bed with Josiah, Bill and I both stared at the ceiling. The adrenaline was flowing. Our hearts were thumping and our minds were racing. Reviewing the scary images of her wide-eyed, blank stare. Replaying the sound of shallow breathing. Repeating the memories of scary times gone-by. Asking the “what-ifs” and then trying not to answer them.

And in the darkness, I whispered to Bill that I wanted to make a fat-boy breakfast. Bacon. French toast. Eggs. Orange Juice. Maybe waffles. It made sense. Everyone was awake. Danielle and Stefan were up. Scott and Gabe would be here shortly. Dylan could come over because Danielle has woken him up too. We could eat together and be thankful all was well. Bond. Recover.

That’s when Bill reminded me we were on the cleanse and in the process of detoxing. Smoothies with interesting ingredients were on the docket for breakfast.

What? Oh, but these are extenuating circumstances, I said. We’re all awake, I said. We’re all hungry, I said. To which he replied that we were going to stay the course. We were too far in to throw it all away.

I asked if he was sure, because I was certain a family breakfast was in order. And it would be just for breakfast. I didn’t want to toss the whole thing out the window.

No. We don’t need a fat-boy breakfast. We need to eat our scheduled detoxing smoothie and stay on track.

Haaa-rumph.

I could feel a yearning for bacon. My taste buds insisting on it. My body demanding high-fat and sugar. My mind assuring me that this is what I needed. It would soothe our jarred souls. It would make it better. It was all I could do not to get up and start cooking something.

And as I laid there in the silent dark, I realized what I probably would have never discovered otherwise. (If we had not started this cleanse/detox, we would have made the biggest fat-boy breakfast ever and never gave it a second thought.) My mind and body was looking to food to comfort me and help me through a stressful situation. There was no denying it.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I was looking to anything other than Jesus for help. Maybe earlier in my journey with Jesus; but not now.  Now, I consciously invite Jesus in the center of everything. Or so I thought.

And to that point, I had done that in this situation. We prayed in the car on the way over. We talked to Jesus as we worked to help her and as the paramedics did their part. We thanked Him on the drive home, telling Him how grateful we were that she was ok and all was well.

But now, lying in bed with jangled nerves, I was looking for something else to help me. To divert my attention. To comfort me. I was physically, yet subconsciously, calling out to bacon.

I was stunned. I laid there dumbfounded as Holy Spirit pulled back another layer of my humanity to reveal a questionable spot in my heart. I have declared that Jesus is the Lover of my soul. I have proclaimed that I don’t need another lover, that I only need Him. I have stated that Jesus is at the center of it all. And now I discovered that maybe bacon was in my heart, jockeying for position as first. And I was cheering it on. Lobbying for its success.

I was so thankful that Bill insisted we remain committed to the cleanse/detox. Otherwise, I may not have discovered this tiny idol hiding in my heart. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with bacon. Or a fat-boy breakfast. The problem was – although subconsciously – I had turned my thoughts away from Jesus before I had completed the process and was looking for the comfort of food. I wanted food for more than just fuel to power my body. And anything that attempts to do the work of Jesus in my life – anything that I look to, to fill the role of Holy Spirit in my life, is indeed an idol.

And I don’t want to have anything in my life that will weasel its way into His position. Nothing that will try to act in His stead. Nothing that will attempt to do what only He can do. 1Corinthians 10:14 (Amp) Therefore, my beloved, run [keep far, far away] from [any sort of] idolatry [and that includes loving anything more than God, or participating in anything that leads to sin and enslaves the soul].

So I ran. I immediately confessed that I wanted to choose food to help me through a stressful time. I repented of allowing food to even be an option in my distress. And I asked Holy Spirit to be all He ever promised, and be my Comforter in that moment.

I’d like to tell you that instantly everything changed. While it did change, it was a battle to remain in bed and let Holy Spirit do His work. I had to choose to turn my eyes on Him and away from the thoughts of the recent events AND the thoughts of crunchy bacon. I had to choose to give and praise Him through the struggle until peace blanketed my soul.

I never did fall back asleep. It was a process of several hours before I was OK with drinking our prescribed smoothie that morning.

So, while I did not enjoy Gabrielle’s diabetic episode, I am thankful for it. [Ephesians 5:20 (NLT) And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.] Because in it, an idol was uncovered and I have an opportunity to make changes that will take me deeper in to Abba’s heart. I was able to see the promise of Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) come to life for me again: You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! I was able to again experience Holy Spirit as a true comforter. John 14:16 (Amp) And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you foreverHis comfort lasted far longer than the endorphins of a binge. And He doesn’t add inches or give heartburn.

The experience was worth it.

And I’m happy to report that Jesus did come to our aid that night. Gabrielle had quite an encounter with Him. Maybe she’ll share her story with us here one day.

I’m also happy to tell you that we completed the cleanse/detox. And it was worth it too. Lots of benefits gained. A few pounds lost. And valuable lessons learned. But I still don’t like broccoli.

My Box

I’ve often heard the phrase “Don’t put God in a box”. And recently I’ve been mulling that idea over and asking questions. Can I really put God in a box? Is that even possible? I understand the intent of the phrase: Don’t limit God. But is it actually possible to limit the limitless God?

As I’ve turned these thoughts over in my mind, I’ve developed a myriad of opinions. (yes, I’m known to have multiple opinions on the same subject) But this is the thought that is most prominent: by trying to put God in a box, I am really putting myself in the box. By trying to limit God, I am only limiting myself.

My attempts to put God in a box are based on my need for comfort, security and stability. In other words – I’m afraid. I fear stepping out into the unknown. I fear rejection. I fear uncertainty. I fear disappointment. I fear failure. I fear lack.

I feel the need to protect myself, so I create a safety zone. I set up boundaries that allow me to operate in what I am comfortable in. And within these boundaries I know how to live comfortably. I know what I am able to do. I know what I am able to handle. I know what works for me. I know what I can be successful in. And those are the things I stick with. I think I’ve made a pretty nice box.

As a result, I try to make God operate within the confines of my safety zone in hopes of staying comfortable. I set limits and declare that I will not go past that point because otherwise I may get uncomfortable. I don’t want to get out of my established boundaries because I may be hurt. Or embarrassed.

And as hard as I’ve tried, I just can’t get God to come into my box. I’ve explained my fears. I’ve conveyed my need for comfort, security and stability. I’ve told Him how I would like to keep everything status quo. But He refuses to climb in with me.

It’s not as though He isn’t listening, doesn’t care or doesn’t understand me. He totally gets me. And I think that’s why He is working to get me out of the box. He refuses to work within my boundaries because He wants to stretch me.

I think He purposely asks me to go places I haven’t been before in order to create dependence upon Him. I think He wants me to do things I have not done before so that I will lean on Him more. I think He leads me to things I am unequipped and untrained for so that I will have to draw totally from Him.

In other words – He’s stretching me in order to increase my capacity. He’s stretching me in order to make more room in my life for Him. When I step out of my box and walk with Him, I experience more of Him. I encounter Him in ways I never would have otherwise. I see aspects of Him that I would have missed had I stayed in the box.

My box limits my experience with God. My box limits my growth. My box limits my supernatural encounters. My box limits me.

I confess, it’s really uncomfortable. As I exit my box, fear is there to remind me of my inadequacies. My insecurities rise to the surface and threaten emotional chaos. But this is when I see Jesus, as He calms my fears and gently reassures me that I can do all things through Him because He is my strength. (Philippians 4:13) As He holds my hand and leads me into the great unknown, He whispers Don’t be afraid, for I AM with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I AM your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

And as I trust in His promises, I experience His peace and I see things happen in and through me that I know could never have come from me.

I’m starting to feel cramped. So as comfy as my box is – I’m climbing out.

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The adventures of #15

I have been horribly sick this week with an abscessed tooth. Fewer things in life are as terrible as a toothache. I endured the labor and delivery of three children with no drugs better than I handled this small, inconspicuous tooth. The pain was relentlessly excruciating. I won’t go into detail – just suffice it to say that I’m glad to be alive. And the pounds I lost were NOT worth it. (that ought to tell you something)

As I writhed in pain, I wanted Bill to lay hands on my tooth and pray the pain away. Moaning in agony, I wanted Bill to rend the heavens. As I lay on the bathroom floor quoting Scriptures like to live is Christ and to die is gain, I wanted Bill to pray for me.

I was too busy hurting to talk to Abba about this tooth. My mind was too focused on the object of my discomfort to think of anything else. My mind was occupied with the never ending nausea and all the stuff that goes with it. I was too busy wondering if this was ever going to end.  And if it did, would I have all my teeth? And what would I look like if teeth were missing? Would Bill be ok with a toothless wife? How many teeth do you actually need to still talk?

And somewhere between the shower and the toilet, I realized something.

My mind was full of everything but the one thing that could help me through this: Truth. The facts of my situation were undeniable – I was in a painful mess. After dentist hours. (doesn’t it always seem to happen that way?) And I chose to look at the facts. I chose to worry about those facts. I chose to speculate on those facts.

Instead, I needed to stop and shift my focus, zooming in on the Truth that Jesus has promised to never leave me (Hebrews 13:5) and is right there with me – even on the bathroom floor. I needed to turn over all my worries to Him because He cares about me (1Peter 5:7). I needed to remember that I can give my problems to Him and He will take care of them (Psalm 55:22) I needed to remember that He goes before me and is following me and even if I go to the grave (hey – I wasn’t so sure) He would be there with me and His strength would support me (Psalm 139:5-10).

Once I straightened out my thinking, things got better. Yes, my tooth still hurt. Yes, I was still nauseous. No, I wasn’t on the bathroom floor anymore because Bill wouldn’t let me lie there any longer. BUT – my perspective changed and I felt hopeful. I was comforted by the thought that Jesus surrounded me and I wasn’t alone in my pain. I was calmed by the Truth that Jesus was with me and helping me in ways Bill never could. I was encouraged because I knew that Abba’s strength was supporting me. When I stopped letting my circumstances consume me and allowed His presence to enfold me, I was at rest.

This painful experience is one more step in the process. Learning to lean on Him for strength and grace. Learning to let Him take care of me. Learning to let Him lead even in toothache. Learning that no experience is wasted.  Learning to trust Him with the outcome. Learning that His timing is not mine (especially in this situation). Learning that He is working everything together for my good.

Did I already know these things? Yes. But I needed to choose to remember and think on these things. And that made all the difference.

And when I do finally die, I am going to leave this tooth to my children because it’s the most expensive thing I own.

ps – a huge thank you to the best dentist in the world, Dr. Scott Ferguson. He came in after hours to help a poor girl out. I also want to thank the wonderful Dr. Steven Fegan, who came in on Superbowl Sunday in a blizzard to save my life. 

I’m throwing in the towel

I always have such high hopes this time of year. Regardless of what kind of year it has been, the next is always full of promise. It’s the fresh start I’ve been looking for. I can re-group, re-focus and start anew. I’m high on anticipation and expectation.

So I start to plan. I make lists of things I want to change in my life. I make lists of what I’d like to see happen in the coming year. I make lists of what I want to see Abba do. And I head off into the New Year with great enthusiasm.

But by February, the high is gone and my enthusiasm has waned. I’m now overwhelmed by disappointment and frustration. The changes I wanted seem impossible (what was I thinking?). The things I’d like to see happen aren’t anywhere in sight (people aren’t cooperating). And what I want to see God do……well, I can’t see anything for the discouragement and exhaustion.

What happened to my year full of promise? And why do I repeat this same scenario year after year only to be disappointed year after year? I usually end up throwing in the towel along with those lists. And try not to indulge in too much self-loathing as I ask myself: “Why can’t I do this? Why is this so hard?

But – one day I’m reading in Galatians and the light bulb comes on. Galatians 5:25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

I think I may have finally discovered my problem. There’s way too much of me involved. I’m being Kim led – not Spirit led. I’m the one calling all the shots; listing the changes I want, what I want to see happen and what I want to see Abba do. It’s my agenda and I’m leading the way. I’m taking charge.

I’m also the one trying to make it all happen. On my time-table of course. Always sooner rather than later.

No wonder I’m frustrated. And exhausted.

Why didn’t I see this before? How many times have I read Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”? How many times have I sung the sweet little Psalty song, “God Has A Plan For My Life” to my kids?

I don’t need to make any lists. I don’t need to set an agenda. I don’t need to make a plan.

All I need to do is let Holy Spirit lead me into Abba’s plan for my life.

So I’m not waiting until February. I’m throwing in the towel now. I quit writing list of what I want to see. Instead of setting my own agenda for change, I’ve decided to ask Holy Spirit to lead me into Abba’s plan for 2015.

And because it’s His plan, I’m not in charge. I don’t have to figure anything out. I don’t have to organize or orchestrate. It’s His responsibility to implement and set the timetable. It’s His responsibility to power, fund and fuel His plan. It’s His responsibility to produce the changes He wants in me.

My part is to follow Holy Spirit, listen closely and then obey. That sounds a lot easier and a lot less stressful.

So this year, I sit down with pen and paper to listen. I will write down only what He whispers into my heart. And that will be my focus for 2015.

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Exchanging Perspectives

It’s 1994 and I’m sitting on the couch in our Nashville apartment stewing. I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m hurt. Someone did something and said something and now I’m wounded. The incident occurred several weeks ago and I’m still upset. I can’t get it off my mind. I can’t let it go. I’m offended. I’m replaying the incident over and over again. I can’t believe they did this. I can’t believe they said this. I can’t believe they did it behind my back. It’s eating me up inside.

And as I sit there, letting waves of hurt wash over me, I hear Holy Spirit gently say: “Will this matter when you get to Heaven?

What?

He repeats: “Will this matter when you get to Heaven?

I pause.

He presses: “In the grand scheme of things – in light of eternity – will this make any difference?”

Gulp. “No Lord, it won’t.”

He continues: “I will not ask you about this when you see Me. But I will ask about your attitude.

That would not be the last time I would hear those gentle words whispered into my heart. He often has to redirect my attention. I can get so caught up in the moment that I fail to realize it’s just that – a temporary, fleeting moment. I can get so tangled up in the here and now that I drag it with me into the future, where it inevitably trips me up. And I can be an expert in making a mountain out of a mole hill. You should see some of my creations.

So, He is patiently teaching me to exchange my worldly perspective for an eternal one. With His tender nudges, He is encouraging me to swap my short-term thinking for the timeless view point. He is inviting me to look at things from His perspective.

By answering the three questions, I begin to see through His perspective.

  • Will this matter when you get to Heaven? Is this even something that I will think about in eternity? Will it be a big deal in Heaven? Will there be talk about this in Heaven?
  • In the grand scheme of things – in light of eternity – will this make any difference? Stepping back to look at the big picture; where does this fit? Does this change my relationship with Jesus? Does this change my eternal destination? Can I take this with me to Heaven? Does it have any impact on Heaven?
  • I will ask about your attitude. What will Jesus say to me about this? What will He say about how I handled the situation? How I treated others? How I represented Him? Will He say “Well done My good an faithful servant?” (Matthew 25:23) Or will this be more wood, hay and straw that I’ve filled my life with? (1Corinthians 3:11-16)

And as I look at my circumstances through the lens of His perspective, I begin to see what really matters.

The things that I have elevated to critical status are now deflated to their rightful position or eliminated altogether. I realize the emotions I’ve been hanging on to are damaging me. I see that my attitudes are hurting others. I see that I have emphasized and valued the wrong things. As I look at everything from His perspective, everything shifts back into its proper place.

I’m in the process of learning how to live out Colossians 3:1-2 ….set your sights on the realities of heaven……Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. I want to think more about Heaven and less about earth with each passing day. I want to exchange my worldly perspective for the eternal. I want the realities of Heaven to shape my thinking so that I can see everything from His perspective. glasses