Sorry Richard Marx I am so over you…..

 

When I was younger I had posters all over my walls. I had my Kirk Cameron phase of childhood crushes where I never missed an episode of Growing Pains. I would lie on my bed and plan out our wedding in my head. I was always shorter in my dreams so his height was never an issue. It was a very sweet wedding with lots of pillow kissing. I also went through an embarrassing Richard Marx phase of which we do not speak of anymore.( A mullet does not need to enter the conversation) And then there was a delusional stint of Michael W. Smith. Yes, you read that correctly. I had a crush on a man who was old enough to be my father. I even met him in person one time at a bookstore. There was a lot of thirteen year old blushing going on.  I then went through a phase of Tori Amos, Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, and Alanis Morissette. This is what we called my “angry at the world but at least I knew what good music was” phase. I may have even waited for days on Michigan Avenue to hug Tori Amos. I seriously was obsessed. Anything that she believed in I wanted to believe in. Anything that she liked I willed myself to like it as well. Pasty white girls unite.

Here I am at forty and realize I still have posters on the wall. And if we are honest we all do. We all have people in our lives who have taken the role of idol on our walls. People who we admire can easily become people we want to be. We see someone else trying to lose weight and we think “that is what I need to do”. Not taking into account that you have no desire to lose weight, you just want to be like the other person. You just want to be a part of the “sweaty, drink lots of water crowd”. You hear that someone you admire is taking a vacation later in the summer and you convince your husband to spend money you don’t have just so you can measure up to a person that isn’t asking you to.

I have even been guilty of thinking that I need to be doing foster care again. Yes, I know it is a great thing. However, right now my marriage and the kids in my home need me to pour into them. This is such a critical time in their lives that I need to be present. And yes I wish I could be like a friend I know but God did not call me to follow others. He called me to follow him. And following Him looks like engaging with my teenagers, going out on dates with the hubs, making my home a safe place for others to enter into and trying to balance it all with grace.

I know that I have struggled so many times. In fact I just recently realized that I have tried to live up to someone’s expectations of me just to have them accept me. I have taken on roles that I don’t even enjoy just to have a certain person say I am valuable.

Not too long ago I needed to confess to a friend that I held another friend on such a pedestal that I thought I needed to everything she did to gain her approval. It wasn’t that it was bad things I was doing. They were all good things. But they were good things for her. For her family. Not for mine. My family did not need to look like hers to be enough. We are enough. Enough mess. Enough chaos. Enough spice. Enough loud. Enough brokenness. Enough room. Enough crazy to be enough.

So let’s tell the truth. Let’s look at the posters on our walls and start to take them down. Because sweet one, you are enough. You don’t have to be anyone else. It is exhausting trying to live up to someone you were never called to be. There is room enough for all of us.

Dear parents, stop being your child’s redeemer.

When we were younger we were thrown into the lake and told to paddle. It was more of a “sink or swim” literally type of parenting. With waves hitting us in the face and bathing suits filled with sand this is how we were brought up. Either you learned how to swim or you sat on the beach and made sandcastles with your grandma. Both things were great, but how many times can you trickle sand on top of a pile before you want to eat the sand or take your chances at drowning? My youngest sister was thrown into a pool off the diving board and we watched her struggle to the top. Yes, I understand this is dangerous and not recommended by anyone. But we grew up in West Michigan where not knowing how to swim was as taboo as not having your hunting license. Here we were blonde haired sun kissed kids who knew we had to learn to do things on our own if we didn’t want to be left at shore.

I am not saying that my dad wouldn’t have dove into the water to save us and called in the coast guard in a moment’s notice. I am saying that my parents taught us to swim but they also let us fail.

They did not do our homework. They did not call the coach or teacher when we didn’t make the team. They didn’t call the director or gossip to other mom’s when we didn’t make the play. They didn’t run to the store in the middle of night to get a poster board because we forgot to do our project. They did not bring our work to school if we left it at home. They did not run a taxi service for us and our friends. They lived their lives and we were a part of it. Not all of it.

When my oldest was in elementary school I did her homework. I admit it. I did it all the time. Of course I let her write it, but essentially I redid grade school. (And I don’t want to brag but I totally rocked it the second time around.) This past weekend we were looking at pictures of some of those years. My eldest was pointing out to me how amazing “her” story boards and science displays were. How precise and clean. I was so determined that she would be a good student and admired by her teachers that I “helped” her on more than one occasion. If I am honest I was there was a direct correlation between my pride and others perception of me as a parent than her actual academic achievements. Somehow her succeeding was more important to my ego than letting her swim.

If you look at pictures of my second child’s projects you can see that I had obviously learned my lesson. I had discovered that I didn’t want to be “that mom”. I didn’t want to redo elementary school again. I didn’t have time to make sure things were perfect. I had learned that I needed to teach her how to make decisions and choices and not make them for her. I could not go with her to college and if I did then we had major issues to deal with besides homework.

By the time the fifth child came around we were just lucky to remember to bathe him once a week much less fill out any homework on time. Sorry Michelle Duggar I totally fail at big family parenting 101.

When one of the kids got into a lot of trouble with technology I wanted to fix it. Yes I was angry. I was angry at myself for not catching it earlier. I was angry at the people involved. I was angry at the child for not telling us what was going on. I was embarrassed and ashamed that this was happening under my roof and I didn’t know. I was upset that I had just spent hours at a seminar on parenting and now I was actually going to have to apply it. I was just angry I could not control it. I wanted to save her. And the truth was I was angry that I couldn’t.

I met with a friend later that morning. I cried over coffee and some sweet pastry I shouldn’t have been eating. She reminded me of something I had forgotten.

You are not her Redeemer.

She will never know who her Redeemer is if you keep saving her.

If we keep saving our kids. If we keep doing their homework. If we keep waiting on them hand and foot. If we keeping rescuing them they will never need the Rescuer.

I needed to. I need to let all of my kids fail. I need to let them learn to swim on their own.

This past week I watched her win another track meet. I watched her strong muscular legs strike the pavement and cross the finish line. She did this. On her own. She learned to run on her own. She learned to win on her own. By the scars on her legs and arms she has fallen many times. I didn’t make her stop running or run the race for her. I let her run. I let her fail.

But in the end she will know I am not her redeemer.

There is only ONE who can save her.

 

Yellow Ceiling Spots

There is a yellow spot on my ceiling in my living room. No it’s not from smoking. Although that would be a better story. Have you ever seen the episode of Modern family where Phil finds a yellow burn on the couch on Christmas morning? Netflix it now. He cancels Christmas until someone fesses up to smoking on the couch. He literally drags the tree out the sliding door onto the porch, while the kids cry and try to take responsibility, even though none of them did it. It is hilarious and true. (You don’t need to write me and tell me I shouldn’t be watching Modern Family, I watch it to know we are not alone on the crazy train.)

We all see things and assume the worst. I look up at ceiling from my couch and I assume that the yellow mark on the ceiling means that our ceiling is falling in and that one day I will be crushed by a bathtub from the second floor. I know. It’s morbid and crazy. Or perhaps I watch too much Rehab Addict or Modern Family. Either way I assume things that may or may not be true. Or I avoid what I know is true.

And what I know to be true today is that I suck at forgiving. Maybe there is a better word, but the thesaurus wanted me to say slurp. And forgiving doesn’t slurp anything. I am just not good at it. I am better at forgiving someone that did something to someone else. But when I have to forgive someone that hurt me, it feels insurmountable.  I want to dig my first grade heals in the playground and justify why I don’t need to forgive them. I want to shout it from the mountaintops or at least a very tall building, because who am I kidding I have never been to a mountain top and I am in no shape to climb one. Anyways, I want to shout it from a very high elevation the list of things this person did to me. How I was wounded so deeply by things that were said and the “sorry’s” that never came. I want others to turn their backs on this person and join me by digging their heels in the playground with me.

But this unforgiveness is heavy. Not like the “winter weight” I have put on. But more like the weighted blanket that my littlest girl sleeps under very night. Except this doesn’t calm me down, it tears at my bones and makes the most inner parts of me afraid and alone. It makes me brittle and broken.

I was a chaperone a few summers ago for my eldest high school camp. (I know, could I be any more of a helicopter parent?) (Actually, I had no idea where she was 95% of the time, so I am really good at keeping track of kids) I was there and heard this for the first time. Or maybe just HEARD it for the first time- that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Okay, maybe they didn’t say “die” at church camp but that is what my heart heard.

I want the people that have hurt me deeply to feel the humiliation and weight of what I feel. Of what I wake up every day and carry around. I want my pain to be justified. I want freedom. But if I am honest I want it to come by someone else carrying the shame that I carry every morning when I wake up.

Yet I am learning. Slowly. This isn’t about this person. Or people. It is about me. It is about the sin in my own heart that I can’t let go of. It’s about the years of shame built up in my own lesions that this just reopens like wounds that are still healing.

That is what this is about. It is about taking ownership of your own crap before mulling around in someone else’s. It is about claiming your own baggage at the airport and not trying to make others take their own. They are not ready yet. They are not ready to open up what you are already dealing with. And that it ok. It is ok to begin to heal and to walk away. You don’t. I don’t, need everyone to understand me or like me to be ok. I need to be ok because I know that I am a messy work in progress just trying to figure out my truth.

Bacon Wrapped Jesus.

 

I love bacon. On everything. My love of bacon went to a whole new level when someone introduced me to bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. Take a moment and let that soak in. Yeah, it’s that good. It is like pork candy in my mouth. If I am invited to any invent this summer that is probably what I will bring. So if you don’t like bacon, don’t invite me.  I think anything can taste better wrapped in bacon. Except maybe jelly beans. Those stand by themselves.

So here I am a forty year old woman who loves bacon and may or may not have an issue with jelly beans. But I am realizing my heart has been wrapped in other things lately besides bacon.

I am struggling. Struggling watching my daughter trying to date. The push and the pull of it all. Trying to figure out who she is and how she relates to the world. And how the world treats her back. It has nothing to do with the guy. Any guy.

It has to do with me. And me and her. And how she is a huge part of me. Part of me made her. And so I am half of her.

And that scares me.

Because I am pulled into the belief that because I was the girl that everyone should have stayed away from for years, that she will make the same mistakes I did. I know. I know. She is not me. She needs to write her own story. Blah. Blah. Blah.

But this this the thing. When fear creeps in, it wraps itself around you. Around your mind and images of your past soak into parts of you that haven’t healed yet. The parts of you that are creative and vulnerable and raw.

I am twisted in memories of a past that would like to keep me there. I am overwhelmed with the fear that the life I lived will be repeated by my daughter. That she will be haunted for years about the choices she may or may not make.

And here I was on a Tuesday feeling it all over coffee with one of my best friends. This friend has a way of reaching inside my soul and drawing out whatever I am concealing. Or maybe I don’t hide it well and she just has the courage to ask. She asked how I was doing. How I was really doing. The space in between the person that you want everyone to see and the one that exists so life can function in a normal manner. That space. She asked how that in between was.

She listened.

She let me be understood.

She didn’t interrupt or offer advice.

She didn’t counter the story so she could be heard.

She waited. She listened.

And then, when the tears started to fall, she reached across the table and touched my hand.

The words she spoke next brought such freedom to my heart.

You know she gets the best version of you right?”

“What?”

Sweet girl, she gets the YOU wrapped in Jesus. She gets the best part of you. The YOU that is fully and completely wrapped in Jesus.”

“She gets to be raised by one who has been forgiven and made new”

So many days I forget who I am.

I have no problem remembering who I was.

I look in the mirror and the scars are still there.

I can find things to wrap myself in every day.

Fear. Control. Anxiety. Shame.Pride. Jealousy. Noise. Busyness. Food.

We need people in our lives to remind us what we are called to be wrapped in.

Fully forgiven. Fully made new. Fully at the feet at the one who pours mercy over me.

Fully wrapped in Jesus.

Ring the Cowbell.

When I was younger I played softball. Geared out in the tight spandex and hot pink aluminum bat. I was more concerned with how my hair looked in the god awful hat I had to wear than my ERA. (Don’t be impressed that I know what that stands for, I grew up in a family that lived and breathed baseball. I even wanted to marry Mark Grace, but that is a whole other story). So there I was, an awkward preteen too tall for her spandex and too young for contacts trying to “fit in” with the athletes. Needless to say my athletic career as a softball player did not go far. Yet the memory I carry most vividly from those days on the dusty field are who was in the stands. My grandfather came to every game (that is the memory I want to keep) with his cowbell. Yes a cowbell. He was infamous at the local high school for bringing that same bell to the football games. He would ring it loud so everyone would know whose back he had. I knew without a doubt whether I caught the ball or struck out every time up at ba.t that bell would ring. People would stare in annoyance while others would cheer along with him. Either way I knew I mattered. That I was enough.

These past two years have been gut wrenching in the parenting department. When you find out from school officials that your beautiful girl has been mutilating her thighs under your own roof it opens a door of anguish you never knew you could feel. We later found it was because she was being bullied day in and day out. She didn’t want to bother us with it because we were also dealing with a newfound diagnosis of our youngest daughter. She took it upon herself to “feel” what she needed to feel. Knowing that we her parents were overwhelmed with doctors appointments all over the city and medication that never seemed to work, she in her middle school way thought she was “handling it”. And I as a mother knew in that moment sitting across from the school dean watching her show me my daughters deep wounds I knew that I had failed her. I had not been paying attention and listening to the cues she was giving.

That winter we decided after attempts at counselors who told her this was “normal” that perhaps we would take another angle at this. (Side note, do not EVER tell a grieving parent that their child carving themselves is NORMAL. If I would not have gotten in trouble or perhaps arrested I would have leapt across the therapist’s office and kicked her in the gut. I didn’t. But the mama bear in me wanted to). As parents we decided to call upon “our people”. The women in our lives that have stood in the gap for us on numerous occasions, because we all know it takes a village, and asked them for feedback and how to help her best. One of my very best friends SHOWED UP. She became her mentor. Pouring into her, listening to her, hearing her. She discovered that she had a talent for basketball and encouraged her to try playing. She met her where she was at and opened her eyes to more that was lying within. She took her to basketball games, fed her (cause we all know that is the key to a middle schoolers soul), and showed up. She showed up for her games, her injuries, her life. She showed up.

I think we are all called to be a people who SHOW UP.  To stand at the top of the bleaches and ring that cowbell the loudest. To be that teacher that shows up. To pour into that student that continues to act out. They are acting out because they need someone to show up. To be that student pastor that shows up to kids events. To cheer them on outside of the church walls. To enter into their mess of a life and say “ I am not leaving”. To be the friend that forgives lavishly and pours mercy over others like it’s the only way to live. To be the coach that shows up. To set aside your frustrations and expectations and believe that each child on your team deserves to know they are somebody. To be the parent that shows up when everything in you wants to hide and not listen to another “recorder” concert in your living room. To be the spouse that shows up and says no matter what I believe in “us”.

I think this is what Jesus taught us. To be people who show up. To be the ones who see the mess and still enter in. To know that we will probably get wounded and hurt but in the end it was worth it. It’s worth it knowing that the ones we are cheering for need it more than we need to be comfortable.

Because the world is loud and full of lies. It is full of bullies. Telling us we are not enough. Telling us that we can do things on our own. That we don’t need anyone else. That if we hide and handle it ourselves that somehow that makes us stronger. When in reality we are strongest when we show our mess to those we trust the most.

But you see, this is Jesus. He is a God of second chances. He is a God of hope and healing. He brought others in to our lives, so we could hear the cowbells again.

 

As a mom. As a wife. As a friend. Do not think I take for granted those of you in our lives that have “shown up”. You have shown up for my marriage. For my children. For our faith. And we are so grateful.

Practice…..

There are things that start to happen to you when you are on the other side of healing. And by other side, I mean be brave enough to say you need healing. To acknowledge that you are a broken person who needs to slow down and that you have pieces to put back together. When things are clear in my head and I don’t feel like I need to be in therapy three times a week I find myself being able to complete thoughts and realize where they need to go and where they came from. For example why I repeat patterns when certain times of the year come around or something someone does triggers a reaction that is let’s just say is “not sane healthy “. Well to someone who has lived in trauma for so long I am met face to face with the crap I have kept in there. Like for instance. I can improve on relationships. ( I suck at it) Now before you go all “Pollyanna” on me, realize that I have learned coping strategies through the years and some are not all good. For instance.

You can find the rest of this post at the brilliant Bronwyn Lea’s site….see you over there.

I want to raise a Hosea not a David in this world.

 

I watched you today.

I watched you, with your day off of school, wandering around the house looking for someone to talk to something to do. I watched you walk into the kitchen and start making lunch.

Laying out your bread. Turkey. Cheese. Sorting the pretzels and starting to count them out.

This used to drive me crazy. You with your counting and sorting and neatness. And then I took a breath and realized this was God’s fingerprint on your heart. You need order and crave sameness.

Your mama hears you. I see you.

I watched as you reached to take your plate from above and noticed that your hands held on to two. Two sandwiches laid out before you with equal amounts of cheese, bread, turkey and pretzels.

You showing me what thinking of others looks like. You making lunch for the sister that made you feel less than just hours before. And in your quiet eleven year old way you poured mercy over her.

Setting the two plates on the table to begin to eat waiting for her to join you. Not leaving it on the counter but placed right beside you. Two plates where they should be side by side showing me where grace should be placed.

Next to us. Inviting those to the table to join us who have hurt us. Who have bruised our hearts. Inviting them to the table to hear who they are. Where they are. To forgive and rebuild.

I capture my breath and realize that this moment is to be breathed in. This is a Hosea moment.

Again on the couch. Watching you watch a movie that your younger sister has watched a thousand times. Laying your head on your dads shoulder who is sleeping off a cold caught this weekend. I see you reach for your dads hand and quietly hold on. You think no one is watching so you continue to hold close. I snap a photo knowing that this moment is fleeting and needs to be remembered. This is a Hosea moment.

I was scared when I found that there was a boy in my swelling belly. You coming after two of your sisters, who were just a ball of hormones wrapped in a bow, I had no idea how to handle what you would bring my way. You brought soccer balls and scuffed knees. Frogs in the pockets and angel kissed cheeks. Your torn overalls and dinosaur songs. You brought life that I was missing.

The emotions that you stirred in me all I could do was fall in love. I fell in love with your sun kissed cheeks that carry angel kisses every summer. Eyes with lashes that brush the sky. And a heart that sees deeply what others miss.

I pray to raise you not as a man who gets what he wants. But man who leads with forgiveness. I don’t want you to grow thinking that if you work hard you will get what you deserve. But a man who leads with confidence filtered only through the lens of grace. I want to teach you to show mercy to everyone you meet. And those that you don’t even more. I want to learn to be a servant to your wife, your children your community. And serve them even abundantly when they don’t deserve it. I pray you to stand up for justice in your actions and not your prideful words. I want you to know the face of God because you have served the least of these. And if the least of these happens to be your wife I want you to lavishly pour grace over her like your father has done to me

. I want you to be a Hosea and not a David.

We have enough David’s in this world.

Sweet boy be brave enough to be a Hosea.

Dear Kids, I love you too much….. A Valentines Day repost.

Dear kids,

I love you.

I love you with all my heart. I love to watch you sleep at night. (not like creepy crawl in your window to watch you) but more like I want to count the freckles on your sun kissed face. I love to hear the sound of your voices laughing with each other, whispering secrets while you are supposed to be sleeping. I love to watch you scream with all your might when your brother scores in soccer. I love to curl your hair when you want to be just like mommy. I love to take you out on dates all dressed up and sit across from you and wipe the whip cream off your lip. I love to find notes on my pillow from you. I love to watch you make new friends or even just try. I love to see you help each other up when one of you falls. I love to watch you smelling the neighbor’s flowers after you decided that all of ours needed to be picked. I love writing you notes to find in your lunchbox or on the mirror in the morning. I love to plan the perfect gift for your birthday that only I would know you loved. I love to hear about your day and who made you mad. I love to watch you explain just why being an apple farmer makes sense for your life. I love to listen to you sing 1D in the shower and then pretend that you don’t even like them. I love to watch you doodle while you are supposed to be doing Algebra again. I love to wake to the sound of the cartoons on Saturday morning and footy pj’s on the wood floors. I love to hear your secrets and who you wish you could be. I love to catch you writing songs on the piano when you think you are all alone. I love you this much and even more.
But you see sweet one I am sorry.

I am sorry I have loved you more than your dad. My husband. The one I promised to love forever. The one I made a covenant with. You see, I was reminded recently by ones that are pouring into us that I have really messed up. But you and I know that with messing up always comes second chances. And for me it’s more like a hundred chances. So here I am asking for you to forgive me.

I need to love your dad even more than I love you. I need to love him with all my heart. I need to watch him sleep at night. I need to love the sound of his voice laughing. I need to encourage him from the sidelines every day. All day. I need to go out on dates with your dad every week and remember that we need to work at love. I need to ask for notes from your dad. I need to write them too. I need to thank him for helping our neighbors all the time and not complain that things aren’t done around here. I need to pack his lunch in the morning and make sure he knows that I value him. I need to smile and kiss your dad when he brings me flowers. I need to ignore you when your dad walks in the door because it’s his turn to be heard. I need to respect and support your dad when he goes for another job and not worry about how far away we will be from family. I need to buy him gifts just because it’s not his birthday. I need hold your dads hand when we are together. I need to sleep in more with the door closed on Saturday mornings. I need to listen more talk less. I need to tell him my secrets that I’m afraid to live. I need to lean in and lead with grace. I need to love your dad this much and even more.

So sweet children, know this. I love you. I really do. This may send you all into therapy ( yet we all know you will probably already end up there anyways). I have done you such a disservice. I should have done a better job at being a wife. Because that is the commitment I made. I am the example that you will learn from. And I want nothing more for you than to learn from your dad and I that who we are as a couple is the best gift we can give you.

With love, mom
And if you can’t find me…..I will be kissing your dad.tim

8 things I remembered about my husband- guest post by Kaelyn Benham

 

 

 

kae

 

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to surround ourselves with those who speak truth and share their stories. Kaelyn Benham is joining us again this week to share a part of her redemptive story. I am so honored and blessed to call her friend. She not only lives in freedom but loves in it too. 

 

I have been purging everything lately. EVERY. THING. Donating things, selling things, and handing things down and over to move them from my house. I am doing this in attempt to “ keep the main things the main things.” The process has been time consuming, but part of a larger focus on only the things that matter.

This past weekend the bookshelf was my target. As I pulled books off the shelf that we no longer need to refer to I started noticing things. A note fell out of a book that my husband and I were reading shortly after my first son was born. He had begun traveling and while he was away I would find these notes tucked in all kinds of different places telling me he loved me and that he was thinking of me. Some were silly and some were deeper and more meaningful.

As I sat there with note in hand, I started looking through the books that I was about to get rid of and was flooded with this appreciation for all we had been through together. With the kids, our growth, the travel, our healing, and all kinds of other ways the Lord was reminding me of who my husband was.

8 things I remembered about my husband while cleaning out our bookshelf

  • He takes his responsibilities seriously

He read every one of the books we have on parenting. When he knows that he has something he is responsible for, he does HIS best. He doesn’t go around it he moves and learns his way through it. He steps up to the plate.

  • He knows love is an action

He loves us all with his words of course, but He acts in love by sacrificing time and efforts to make sure we know we are loved. He was the “master-swaddler” and really took all that he had read and put it to action to provide a safe and secure place for our kiddos and me.

  • He makes me a priority

He keeps our marriage sacred by honoring it over all other relationships in the house. We check in with each other and work together so we both have what we need. He recognized in books where it said this was important.

  • He needs to be reminded

Just like he marked these pages as reminders, he needs to be reminded on occasion what is REALLY important. I should not expect that if he heard it 1 time he knows it completely.

  • He knows he can’t do it alone

He often seeks counsel and reads about topics that he is leaning about. These books are just a fraction of “resources” that were engaged when we first started to experience parenting.

  • He is humble and not ashamed to say he doesn’t know

I remember after our second son was born he asked to get the books out again so we could practice and get a refresh on some techniques that really were helpful to us.

  • He is not perfect, but shows up to practice

We would argue some about our different approaches and sometimes it would cause a rift between us for some time, but we would always come back together and “practice” what needed to be worked on TOGETHER.

  • He always wants to learn and grow

This is the CORE of who my husband is. Humble and always knowing there is more to learn.

You can imagine after having this moment with the books, I ran to find him and told him I was thankful for him. Not because he is perfect. Not because our marriage is perfect. But because I remembered the “main thing” and I was focused on that.

To read more about Kaelyn and find out where she will be next you can follow these links.

http://www.kaelynbenham.com/

http://bit.ly/1zE6033

The Circles We Live In

love

We live in circles. Circles of friends. Circles of family. Circles of status.

Circles, whether we believe it or not can control us.

A wise friend pointed out something to me not too long ago. Not so much pointed out to me more like drew it out for me. Because I am a visual learner and I have the attention span of a third grader after recess.

I was telling her that I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed. That my body felt like it was on edge and I found myself so critical of everything.

She quietly drew a circle on the paper in front of me with the words “love and forgiveness” in the middle.

She then explained that when I am in the circle of “love and forgiveness” there I am also with Christ.  There I am in alignment.

So simple. But so profound to me.

Any thought that continued to go into my head I had to run through the filter of “love and forgiveness”.

And that is when I realized I am constantly living in other circles.

The circle of anxiety and fear. This is where I read too many tragic stories or hear the news and it becomes paralyzing in my every thought and action. Where I react to someone out of fear rather than love.

The circle of judgment. This one at times is pretty big. I become very smart about every subject and don’t need to know the whole story because obviously I know the right answer. This is a very pious and forthright circle.

The circle of busyness. Here I have no time for anyone and time for everything. I fill my schedule and find that I am irritable and quick to snap because I haven’t bothered to take care of myself or those that are under my own roof. I find that my house is out of control and the kids soak that in.

The circle of resentment. This one I choose to use when I am feeling less then. I jump into my circle of resentment and carry around the heaviness of expectations that I had for myself that have not yet come to completion.

The circle of safety. When this circle gets too big I panic. I have to keep this circle small. For my own healing. When too many are let in I feel exposed and the safety goes away.

The circle of jealousy. Here I feel small. I feel like who I am will never be enough. Here I feel insecure.

I am sure I will identify many other circles as I learn to use this filter of identifying what I am feeling and why. Of becoming aware more than reactionary.

But I am craving the circle of love and forgiveness. In there I feel freedom. In there I see growth. In there I see acceptance. In there I embrace change. In there I feel like the weight has been lifted. In there I see clear. In there I am open and filled with hope and joy. In there is alignment with Christ.

What circles do you live in?