Monthly Archives: February 2018

The Whisper of Shame by Steve Call

One of our core values is to recognize brokenness so it can be made whole. We believe God desires for each one of us to say yes to walking towards wholeness. We believe God cares about our anxiety, our relational baggage, our addictions, our apathy, our relationship with our body, our neighbors and ourselves. We have a growing community of women walking towards healing, as well as a community of counselors who are partnering with us to this end. We hope you not only enjoy hearing a counselor’s voice here, but that you open yourself up to the transformational work God is personally inviting you into so that you can see His healing as a reality in your life…

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:25)

Shame is deceptive. It creeps in uninvited. As I sat in a coffee shop, waiting for an older friend, I felt vulnerable. I had asked him to help me navigate the journey of marriage and parenting. To ask another man for help was not a common experience for me. I was taught to be self-sufficient, to not need help. As I waited, I began to feel anxious…nervous…agitated…distressed…I wanted to hide. I wanted to disappear. This was the third time in a row he did not show. Shame whispered “You are not important. You are forgotten. You are unworthy. You are too needy…You are weak…You do not matter.” What has shame been whispering to you?

For most of us, our shame whisper can become our shame dialogue. It’s the messages we say secretly to ourselves. The silent but loud words we speak to ourselves about our shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies. These words are rooted in feeling unworthy, unlovable, not wanted. Shame tempts us to believe that at our core, we can’t measure up; that we simply aren’t enough.

Brene Brown is one of my heroes. She has done remarkable work on the topic of shame. She defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging… unworthy of connection.” Most of our whispers of shame are kept secret and hidden. Sometimes our secrets become our truth. Shame whispers “do not tell.” Shame whispers “you must hide.”

“They heard the sound of the Lord and they hid.” (Genesis 3:8)

We are not alone in our attempt to hide. Adam and Eve were tempted by their own desire, ate from the forbidden tree, felt shame and attempted to hide. Adam and Eve hid from God because they felt unworthy. In the coffee shop, I wanted to hide so that no one could see my shame. I am terrified of exposing my shame. I am terrified of exposing my shame to God. I am afraid that I am unworthy. I am afraid that He will turn away from me because I don’t matter.  Yet, hiding in my shame gives me the illusion of protection. Hiding is a form of temptation. Perhaps my fears keep me from turning to God when I feel shame. Perhaps your fears keep you from turning to God when you feel shame.

“Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

There is another whisper though. It is the whisper of the Lord asking me “where are you?” His question is not out of judgement, condemnation or with the intent to harm, or hurt me. His whisper of “where are you?” is about a desire to protect me from my shame. His whisper is about a desire to protect you from your shame. Shame’s whisper longs to convince me I am unworthy, unloved and forgotten. His whisper says you are worthy. You are loved. You belong to me. Shame’s desire is to create disconnection. His desire is to create connection.

“He came to his senses… (Luke 15:17)

Shame also disorients us and confuses us. I feel lost when I hear the whisper of shame.  The story of the Prodigal Son is a scandalous story. It is a shocking story. The son takes his inheritance, squanders all his money, and becomes lost in his shame.  Perhaps in hearing the whisper of shame, he also heard the whisper of his Father “Where are you?” Because in the story we read that “He came to his senses.” When I am lost in the whisper of my shame, the truth of the Father’s whisper helps me to “come to my senses.” I am invited to return home. I am reminded of who I am. He longs to wipe away the judgment. He longs to wipe away the fear. He longs to drown out the whisper of shame.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son…” (Luke 15:20).

The father celebrates the return of his son with an embrace, with a celebration. He gifts him with shoes, sandals and a ring. The father welcomed his son home with open arms. He wiped away the whisper of shame.  Perhaps God the Father is asking each of us: “Where are you?” Just as for Adam and Eve, he longs for us to come out of our hiding, fall into his embrace and tune our ears to His whisper of truth instead of the whisper of shame.

One of my favorite pictures is Rembrandt’s portrayal of Return of the Prodigal Son. It hangs in my office. The painting reveals the son kneeling before his father. The focus of the painting is the father’s embrace of his son, reminding us of God’s embrace as we return home. It is an embrace of compassion. It is an embrace of mercy. It is a stunning picture because it reminds me that the father’s love for his son was based on the relationship with his son, not the performance of his son. In the midst of his pain, suffering, agony, and betrayal, the father not only welcomed him home but also embraced his son. Stunning and surprising.

When our family member, friend, co-worker, partner or spouse returns “home” from being lost in shame’s grip, you and I can choose a response similar to the father’s. We are invited to set aside, at least temporarily, the pain, suffering, and heartache and embrace the one who has returned.

Not only do we have a choice to turn away from our shame and return to the other, we have a choice to receive and embrace the one returning from the grip of shame. The father celebrates the return of his son with an embrace. An embrace that reveals tenderness, kindness and compassion. Even a sense of empathy. Shame’s antidote according to Brene Brown is empathy. When we respond to another out of empathy, shame simply loses its grip. When I set aside my own judgement and allow empathy to be offered, shame’s whisper is silenced.

When Sorrow like Sea Billows Roll by Trina Bedlington

The Your Stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

I was more than happy to see the year 2017 come and go.  You see, the end of the year brought with it the hardest thing I have experienced in my lifetime so far: the loss of my father.  My father died unexpectedly over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I have been trying to process the change this brings to me and my family ever since.   

Everyone works through their grief in different ways, but I had no idea that one of my signature traits was going to kick into high gear during this season of pain.  Avoidance. Yes, I have been friends with Avoidance for quite some time now and it is a characteristic of mine that proves itself faithful to me time and time again. There is even an inside joke with my family that when things get a little too emotional or rough, I choose to ride off on my unicorn pretending all is well.  Recently, I have been riding that unicorn on a daily basis. Avoidance has always been a coping mechanism that I have used during the twists and turns of life. But I started to realize that it was time to face this loss and the emotions that come with it, and in doing so, I have found healing through scripture and song.

Music has always played an important part of my life and the words of worship songs have brought comfort to me in times of unrest.  One of my favorites has always been “It Is Well With My Soul,” a song that was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. He had just learned that his wife and four daughters were involved in a collision at sea and all four daughters were killed.  As he was making his way across the sea to join his grieving wife, he wrote the words of this song at the exact location that the ship carrying his beloved daughters went down.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul

To be honest, I have sung this song for several funerals and always felt I knew what these words meant.  I was wrong.  Until I experienced the degree of loss that I did this past November, I truly didn’t grasp what it meant to say from the depths of your soul that all is well. What was it that brought such peace and comfort to Horatio Spafford that allowed him to write these words amidst deep sorrow and pain?  This type of comfort could only be brought about by a relationship deeply rooted in Christ.  This man’s deep love and trust in his Savior, Jesus Christ, carried him through the unspeakable pain that this life brings.  I realized through the words of this song that it was time I reminded myself of who I knew Jesus to be…comforter, friend, father, healer, protector, deliverer, and Savior. I was ready to shove avoidance aside and dig deeper into what Jesus had to say about my grief.

I started reading my journal entries from the past, and scriptures and devotionals started jumping off the pages.  I saw the faithfulness of God and the difficulties He had brought me through in years past.  I saw answered prayers and I read words of comfort from scriptures that He had placed in my view at just the right time. He had proven time and time again that He would be with me through this sorrow and He would never leave my side.

Do not 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 right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

And we know in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

The Lord is near to those who are broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

I am sure that Horatio Spafford, in his own grief, couldn’t even fathom how much comfort “It Is Well With My Soul” would bring to so many who have experienced the worst kinds of suffering.  

What will you do with the pain that you have experienced in this life?  Will you go down the path of avoidance like I began to do, or become bitter and resentful from the sorrows that this life brings? Perhaps you will choose to draw closer to Jesus and establish a relationship with the One that wants to meet you in the midst of your pain.  In my God Calling devotional, I recently read a paragraph that represented to me what Jesus desperately wants from each and every one of us…

I wait with a hungry longing to be called upon.

It means so much to me to be understood and the understanding of me

will bring great joy to you.

Christ promises to stay with you through your pain and will walk through life’s challenges with you.  He died for you and whatever the circumstance, it can be well for you with Christ as your anchor.  He longs to have a relationship with you, so be encouraged today and remember that one day we get to join Him in heaven and be freed from our sin, suffering, pain, and even death. Oh, what a glorious day that will be! 

Loyalty is Hot by Willow Weston

I have been reading Proverbs this last month, one everyday. I love them. If you need something to read right now, I can pretty much guarantee that if you sit underneath one proverb a day and soak in each verse allowing God’s wisdom to infill the places you need it, you will be wiser by the end of the month! As I was reading Proverbs 19, I came across this gem:

Loyalty makes a person attractive. Proverbs 19:22

I’ll tell you what, if you’ve been on some kind of New Year’s resolution diet, if you’ve been feeling like you’re starting to age or you don’t look as good in jeans as you once used to, well here you go… This proverb takes away the need to starve yourself of carbs. Loyalty promises to make you look good no matter what you wear, how old you are, how saggy you feel, or how big your muffin top is.

Isn’t this the truth? As soon as I read this proverb, names and faces came to mind. Some of the most loyal people I know are the most attractive human beings I have ever met. I am attracted to their character, to who they are as a people, and to how they carry out their marriages, friendships and working relationships.

I actually think loyalty is becoming a rare find. I have seen this just in parenting. Kids turn on a dime on their friends. One bad hair day, one mismatched outfit, one too much of being a “goody two shoes” and boom, friendship over. We instill honesty, kindness, and inclusion into our kids, but how often do we parent “loyalty”? How often do we urge our children to be loyal friends, sticking by one another, no matter how cool another is or isn’t. Are we raising children that ditch people at the drop of a hat when they want to move onto something better? If so, I wonder if we have thought through the implications for their future relationships and commitments?

Loyalty’s leading role in marriage has become an extra, barely making an appearance in the plot. As we plan a wedding we get excited about companionship, sex, adventure, and building a “life” together. But how often do you hear someone say “I can’t wait to have someone to be loyal to. I can’t wait to stick by someone when they go through a midlife crisis, become addicted to porn, lose their sexiness, and start telling the same old annoying jokes. That’s going to be awesome.” Most of our reasons for leaving marriage have to do with what we are willing to stay loyal to.

And how about friendship? Friendship break-ups happen all around us the minute there is a misunderstanding, a difference of opinion, conflict, or a mistake made. Friendships dissipate when someone becomes “too much” or when someone is seen as “not enough”. What friendships have you walked away from because they warranted a hard conversation, needed a reach towards understanding, or called for patience to walk alongside someone in a way that would require “too much” energy? It is sad to think that perhaps some of the greatest friendships God planned for our lifetime are cut short by our lack of loyalty.

Loyalty is going extinct so quickly, it warrants a scientific study.

The word ‘loyalty’ in this proverb is the Hebrew word for “mercy.” I love the definition from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible: Mercy is “that quality in God by which He faithfully keeps his promises and maintains His covenant relationship with His chosen people despite their unworthiness and unfaithfulness.”

Loyalty, or mercy if you will, is the characteristic in which you cannot but stay faithful to someone despite their mess ups, bad habits, quirks and struggles. As I think about loyalty I want to share a few things that always accompany it. As you read, may you be challenged as I am, in considering what it looks like to be loyal in all our relationships.

Loyalty goes the long haul. Loyalty is not cut short by disappointment. Loyalty doesn’t give up easily. Loyalty plans to stick around. It’s not looking for the back door, the quick escape, or the way out. Loyalty says “I am in this for the entire trip, no matter how many times we run out of gas, disagree on the playlist, or argue about politics.” Loyalty says “I am with you until we’re gray haired, in diapers, and eating pudding for dinner because we have no teeth.”

Loyalty loves through seasons. Whether we recognize it or not, we go through seasons; periods of time characterized by differing conditions. Seasons can change in relation to age such as the college season, the parenting teens season or the empty nest season. Seasons can be emotional or mental, where we can be depressed, stressed, self-involved or hormonal. There can be seasons of circumstance where we experience years of grief, 6 months of unemployment, or a bout of success. We also experience “spiritual seasons” in our faith. We have seasons where can encounter “dark nights of the soul,” feeling like we couldn’t see God with our eyes wide open even if He was doing jumping jacks right in front of our face. Then in other seasons we sense so clearly God speaking, guiding, and present. One season we can be on top of the world feeling like a million bucks and the next we are being bombarded by family issues, influenza, shingles, a lay off, an aunt dies, and all these things collectively put us over the edge. Some seasons we are just surviving, trying to get through and other seasons we wish we could camp out and make them last forever.

In all seasons of life, we actually change who we bring to the table in relationships. And who we bring to the table this year might not be who we bring to the table next.  All these seasons change how people experience us, and their season changes how we experience them.

That being said, loyalty sees past a season with someone. Loyalty reminds you that though this person might be miserable right now, it is a season. Loyalty has faith that though this person is depressed, God can bring them out and when He does, loyalty will still be walking alongside them. Loyalty remembers that though this person is infatuated with their newborn, and the only thing they talk about is “baby this and baby that”, they will come out of their “everything is about the baby season” and loyalty will be there when they do. Loyalty sees through seasons of life. It doesn’t give up in the midst of one. Loyalty says “I am in this winter, spring, summer or fall… fun, failure, pain or victory.”

Loyalty doesn’t ditch for something better.

I have a friend whose husband left her for someone else. After years of marriage he said he was no longer in love. She’s more like a friend, he said.

She wasn’t enough to stay. She tried to be.

The empty closet, the cold right-side of the bed, the missing seat at the dinner table.

She still wears his last name. She wishes he wanted her to.

Loyalty doesn’t look for something newer, younger, better, or cooler. Loyalty says “you are enough” to everyone it’s in relationship with. Loyalty doesn’t leave because they found someone without baggage. Loyalty doesn’t move on to the next-best thing. Loyalty doesn’t abandon what is hard, for what will be in 10 years. No, loyalty says “Let’s work to make what we have better.”

Loyalty says I choose you. It’s a predetermined decision, loyalty. Loyalty is something you can decide upon. You can look at your person, or your people, and say “I choose you” no matter what happens. No matter what goes down, you are my person, you are my people. When you have already committed to loyalty and something hard comes up, you know you are devoted to the work, the confrontation, the hard talks, the process, and the reconciliation. Loyalty never says “I choose you until…”

Loyalty can’t breathe without grace. People often describe grace as undeserved favor, meaning favor when one does not deserve it. You cannot be loyal without grace. It’s impossible. People will fail us. People will disappoint us. People will screw up. People will be hard to deal with. They will offend, they will get their panties in a wad, they will be way too proud or far too insecure. And if you don’t have grace, you will have very short OR very shallow relationships. Grace is the air necessary for loyalty to live. Grace looks like forgiveness when someone wrongs you. Grace looks like not letting the sun go down on your anger. Grace looks like hanging in there when you don’t understand why someone is doing what they are doing. Grace looks like loving someone when their wounds are wounding your relationship, and a decidedness to walk alongside them toward wholeness. Grace looks like knowing your people will fail you, but choosing to love them beyond those failures.

You know what we want to do when people fail us? We want to run. We want to give up. We want to say “This is too hard. I think I’ll try and find something easier.” Can you imagine if God did that with us? Can you imagine if God said “You barely call me. You hardly make time for me. I don’t understand why you are so self-centered and say you’ll do one thing and then do another. You have bad hair days and halitosis. You are prideful and rarely say ‘sorry.’ You gossip and your heart gives up on people. I’m outta here!” We have a God who chooses us despite our failings, a God who says “I am in this for the long haul and my relationship is not dependent on your season or your screw-ups.” Thank God for His loyalty.

Loyalty costs you. Loyalty isn’t free and it isn’t easy. When something better comes along, loyalty passes. When fun is to be had, but one in grief waits, loyalty chooses. When you could get a newer version, loyalty goes with the ol’ clunker. When hardship threatens, loyalty fights. When a better option on a Friday night comes along, loyalty sticks with its plans.

Loyalty will cost you. Be ready to pay.

I love that we have a God who was willing to be loyal at the greatest expense. He doesn’t ditch out on me when I am hard to deal with. No, He is loyal to the very end. In fact, His loyalty looked like Him choosing to take on my mess, my mistakes, and my wounds so that I might become free. How often are we willing to let other people’s mess, mistakes and wounds be wiped all over us so that they might be set free? It’s a rarity, because we run from mess. We ditch out on mistakes and we break up with wounds. Not loyalty though. Loyalty says “I am in this with you even if I get some of it on me.”

That’s Jesus.

And you know what? Loyalty looks hot on people. Loyalty is sexier than any “get up” you will ever be tempted to trade it in for. The greatest human beings I know, the greatest friends I have, the people who have all my respect, are those that live loyal lives. They are there for a friend when they need advice, when they need a meal, and when they are being those over-analytic, worry-warts that need to over-process something that’s been processed 1,000 times already. They are loyal beside hospital beds and being out of shape,  loyal to say “I choose you” even when something seemingly cooler comes along.

When I think of loyalty, I think of a 12-year-old girl I recently saw choose to miss out on the “group” to show loyalty to the “one” left out. I think of the woman who put her own health at risk to bring her best friend chicken noodle soup when she had the flu. I think of the friends who have rallied around the single mom I know with cancer- bringing her meals, taking care of her kids, paying her bills, taking her to chemo, and holding her hand the entire way. I think of the husband who cared for his wife day in and day out, as tiring as it was, because she had lost all her capacities. That isn’t what he pictured his retirement to look like. He pictured travel and hikes and adventure, and instead he got strokes and diapers and hospital stays. Every day that this man helped his wife to the bathroom, brushed her hair, and learned to cook was a day that he lived like his Loyal Lord Jesus.

Loyalty looks good on you and it looks good on me and loyalty is a choice we can choose to wear everyday.