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.

 

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 fast and intercede 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 thoughts were 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 a 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. 

pss ~ October 2017: this tooth is now encased in a velvet jewel box, kept with all my valuables. I’m sure my children will be thrilled to inherit. 

 

 

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