Following the deep inner voice

You know the one…the one you hear in the stillness. When you turn off the TV or music. When you silence the distractions in your heart and your mind. It is an easy voice to push aside and ignore. It is quiet and sometimes extremely illogical.  It inspires to something

"The Voice" by Shel Silverstein

“The Voice” by Shel Silverstein

greater. Something bigger than myself. An exciting adventure that I can’t predict. But I am often too afraid to follow. Following means leaving my perceived security. My small little kingdom where I feel in control.

This inner voice is given many names. Intuition. Heart. Soul. For me, it is the Holy Spirit. It reveals the truth…and if I’m honest it can be a truth I don’t want to see. It can be a path I don’t want to take or a choice I don’t want to make. I will argue against it and justify another course. A more practical course. One that costs less and seems more secure. At a very deep level I know following the voice is best but it is in direct conflict with my pride and logic. How can I possibly do it?

Some lies of this world slowly contaminate my thoughts. I become less focused on heaven and more focused on myself and what I want. What I think I deserve. I have suffered. I have hoped. I have remained faithful. Where are you God? Why have you not responded the way I wanted you to when I wanted you to? I want to believe you will be faithful to your promises but it’s too hard…I want to be happy…I deserve to be happy…I deserve to be happy now…I don’t want to wait.

I am ashamed at my doubt because He has proven his faithfulness over and over but the deeper I go in faith the more insecure it becomes. I am risking more. How do I continue to trust He knows what I need? My fear of the unknown can shift my focus to the stormy water I am walking on rather than God’s promises. I lose hope. I lose courage because I don’t see a path forward and it feels impossible. It IS impossible……for me.

I close my ears because I don’t want to hear the gentle, deep inner voice. The one speaking love and calling me to true freedom…because it is a freedom that requires sacrifice. A sacrifice I don’t want to make but deep deep in my heart I hear these words:

“Happiness is temporary and insecure…you know that…but the joy you find in me is eternal. You think you know what you want but please believe that I know better. I am writing a story for my glory. I haven’t forgotten you. I created you for a very special purpose but trust me when that purpose and the path forward are hidden from you. When it feels like you are staring at an ocean with an army behind you. I am right here. I love you more than you can comprehend. Follow me.”

I want to follow. I know that it is best for me to follow. But it is hard and I can’t do it alone.

“I know. I’m not asking you to do it alone. I will help you…but you need to choose.”

Deep breath. How can I possibly choose? And the wrestling starts all over again…but somehow I feel closer to a choice. Each time through the cycle the choice is more and more clear. Will I have enough courage to make it?

Blessings,

Lynnea

Boundaries

I have been thinking about this post for a while…not sure how to write it but knowing that itBoundaries is important. I decided to turn it into another book review because this topic will never be covered in a single blog entry…it is difficult to cover in a single book. I first read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in college and have since re-read it. Boundaries define who we are. They allow us to love and serve others in freedom rather than obligation. When you say YES to things…let it be honest and not motivated by guilt. Allow yourself to say NO to things without fear of judgement. This doesn’t happen by accident but through intentional choices and practice.

As I have been navigating through this storm season, establishing authentic boundaries has been a common theme. During the cancer treatment I had to decide what I was able to handle and what I wasn’t. AND THEN…I had to be OK with my decision…even if it was hard for other people to understand and accept. Outside of cancer I had to evaluate what emotions I was responsible for…and what emotions I wasn’t. AND THEN take responsibility or let go depending on what side of the line it fell on. I can only make decisions about things I am in control of but I can’t make decisions for someone else. Recognizing this and applying it has (at times) been hard but absolutely freeing! Encouraging someone is not the same as doing it for them.

The difficult seasons in life have a tendency to aggravate bad boundaries which makes it all the more important to establish healthy ones.

This is the book description from the front flap:

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives:

  • Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances
  • Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions
  • Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.
  • Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator.

Often Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations. When confronted with their lack of boundaries they ask:

  • Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
  • What are legitimate boundaries?
  • What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
  • How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy or money?
  • Aren’t boundaries selfish?
  • Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?

If any of these questions resonated with you I would HIGHLY recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book.

Here are a few good quotes:

“Learn to love in freedom and responsibility not in guilt. Boundaries in no way mean to stop loving. They mean the opposite: You are gaining freedom to love. It is good to sacrifice and deny yourself for the sake of others but you need freedom to make that choice.” page 135

“Problems arise when boundaries of responsibility are confused. We are to love one another, not be one another. I can’t feel your feelings for you. I can’t work through the disappointment that limits bring for you. In short, I can’t grow for you; only you can….You are responsible for yourself. I am responsible for myself.” page 86

“The point is this: we were called into freedom, and this freedom results in gratitude, an overflowing heart, and love for others. To give bountifully has great reward. It is truly more blessed to give than receive. If your giving is not leading to cheer, then you need to examine the Law of Motivation…which says: Freedom first, service second. If you serve to get free of your fear, you are doomed to failure. Let God work on the fears, resolve them, and create some healthy boundaries to guard the freedom you were called to.” page 93

“A boundary is a property line. It defines where you begin and end…You do not exist in a vacuum. You exist in relation to God and others. Your boundaries define you in relation to others.” page 100

Practical suggestions:

  1. Get and read the book. 🙂

To letting your yes be yes and your no be no…and surviving another week.

Lynnea

Find your center

I think one of the hardest things to do in difficult season…or maybe in our busy, noisy, distracted western lives in general…is to find our center. This sounds all Zen but from what I can tell it comes down to a single question. Who are you? Who are you when no one is looking? Who are you when you are free to make choices without external expectations? And are you OK with that person regardless of what other people think? It is easy to get pulled in a million different directions by responsibilities and life and to lose ourselves amidst the chaos. When a crisis hits we then become swept away by a tidal wave of fear or grief and get kicked around by the waves. The wind and waves of life are inevitable and unless we know what our center/anchor is they can move us from where we want to be without us realizing it.

I picture it kind of like a buoy in the ocean. When the wind and the waves come it will be a rough ride for a while but if your anchor stays in tact…you wont shift very far. If the anchor breaks or you never had one to begin with you might wind up in uncharted waters or on the beach. Either place you are no longer where you want to be and ultimately ineffective.

navigation buoy

My center is defined by my faith.

Who am I? Well, I am Lynnea. Nice to meet you. 🙂 I am absolutely known and loved by my God. Even though I’ve done my best in this life, I screw up A LOT and rely completely on God’s grace and forgiveness to bridge the gap from me to Him. I trust that as I wake up everyday He will help me to become the best version of myself but it will be a life long process.

This might sound overly spiritual but by defining myself this way my anchor is stable despite my circumstances. My choices then flow from this anchor point. I am currently attempting to:

  • fight for love and forgiveness/fight against anger and bitterness even when it is difficult…it sometimes seems impossible
  • try to be authentic even when it is scary – example: this blog
  • fight to keep my heart soft and vulnerable even when fear of pain can tell me to keep it safe and tucked away
  • live my life according to the principles outlined in the Bible…even when it doesn’t make sense to people around me.
  • practice thankfulness
  • daily recognize that I will continue to fail miserably in all these things but it does not keep me from continuing to try

I don’t do these things perfectly by any means…and actually I can’t do any of them without God’s grace…but as I fight for them he is faithful to provide the strength and transform my heart. Notice that they are all internal not external activities like: wife, engineer, success, intelligence, etc. They are all good things and am thankful that they add to my life but I don’t find my center in them anymore. (I’ve tried in the past…it doesn’t work) They can easily be stripped away and then I find myself beached.

Also notice that I use the verb fight a few times because life has a way of making these choices difficult. I have to fight against my own selfishness. I have to recognize that even though circumstances can be excruciating…the only control I have is over my own reaction. I can respond from my wounded places or fight to attempt to respond from a life giving place (very very hard – but ultimately worth it). Fight against a culture that will abandon something once it “no longer works for me”…but really believe/hope that God will keep his promise to work all things out for my benefit.

It’s not always easy and requires intentional choices but living in our center is where we are the most FREE.

OK, now how do you find your center. Excellent question. I don’t believe that everyone reading this is Christian so I will try to keep the tips more general.

Practical Tips:

  1. Can you answer the question “Who am I?” If not maybe carve out some quiet space for 15 minutes a day to either write or pray about this. And if your first response is a role you have (wife, engineer, artist) maybe try to dig a bit deeper. What kind of a person do you want to be? What makes you want to be that person?
  2. Take a hard look at your choices and actions. Do they reflect the answer you gave to question 1? Or do they show something different? Sometimes we can mentally define ourselves one way but our choices show our true heart.
  3. If there are behaviors you want to change set your intention. Maybe tell someone. Write it on a piece of paper or put something somewhere to remind you. (Similar to a tip on Practicing Thankfulness)
  4. Go for a walk without head phones/music. It’s springtime and (hopefully) sunny…new life is everywhere. Listen to the birds. Some how walking always helps me to refocus and clear my head.

Happy Wednesday and here’s to surviving another week.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Write it out

I guess before I was a “blogger” I was already a writer…but in journals and much more personal. It was a big step to send some of those thoughts out to the internet for y’all. Journaling is freeing. I don’t have to worry about grammar or whether my thoughts flow and make sense. I am free to just pour my feelings out on the page. I find that the physical act of writing focuses me and helps me to process through emotions. When I am left to just think my brain can run away and wind up in an endless spin cycle. Writing helps my thoughts have a direction.

Here are some of the benefits I have found with journaling…especially during a storm season. 1. I can look back and see how far I have come. How God has answered prayers and how I have been transformed as a person 2. It keeps feelings from being trapped inside 3. I found more acceptance for myself. If I wanted to write about the same feeling 2 days in a row…2 weeks…2 months in a row it didn’t matter. I was free to be honest without judgment. If I wanted to draw pictures…I drew pictures. It was a space to explore myself. I could write to myself…to God…to other people in my life. Sometimes I transferred these thoughts to e-mails most times I didn’t. 4. When I see the words on a page they become more real to me and often I need that. I have written sentences and just sat and started at them waiting for the reality to sink in. One from a year ago:

“I am 31 and I have Breast Cancer”.

I would come back to that over and over until it was no longer shocking…until I was able to accept my new reality.

Starting to journal can be a bit intimidating if you’re not used to it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Let go of the idea of there being a “right” way to journal. You can even start your journal by writing “I’m not really sure how this is going to turn out for me but…” Write questions, write emotions, write hopes/dreams, write prayers. This is for you. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t write everyday or fill volumes and volumes. Use it as a tool to get to know yourself and document your process.
  • Buy a journal you like and are inspired by. I like to collect my thoughts in beautiful books. Some people are content with a plain sketch book or want their journals to be all the same. I select a journal by how I am feeling at the moment I am starting it. This is a photo of my last 3 journals (all of them by Paper Blanks):Photo1(4)The blue one I selected when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer…I wanted something soothing and calming The orange/brown one I selected when I was exploring my desert season The illuminated Gutenberg Bible (Genesis) is the one I am just starting because right now I am holding on to how God has been faithful through the generations.
  • Use a pen you like to write with. I like Gel Rollers. The words just seem to glide from the end. 🙂
  • Find an inspiring location. Maybe it’s a park…maybe it’s a café…maybe it’s in a chair in the sun.

Happy writing.

Lynnea

Free to love

I don’t often listen to “Christian” music…most of the time it comes across as a bit sappy and lacking any emotional reality. But I have a Spotify list that I turn on every once in a while and a song We are Free by Aaron Shust caught my attention (not necessarily in a good way – sorry Aaron):

The chorus is what stands out to me:

We are free to love like our god has loved we are free to give like he gave
We are free from sin we are free to begin to forgive as he forgave.
–> With blue skies and sunshine and soaring chords

I absolutely believe these words are true but, as Christians, are we ready to accept the reality of them? When I hear a song like this it is easy to get swept up in the melody and passively sing along with the lyrics…content to let the words wash over me without taking a moment to step back and evaluate what “loving like he loved”, “giving like he gave” and “forgiving like he forgave” look like in my life.

Today is the beginning of Passover (a Jewish holiday remembering the Hebrew people being freed from slavery and Israel being established as a new nation) and is celebrated with food, family and friends. The (arguably) most famous account of a Passover dinner is “The Last Supper”…the last meal Jesus shared with his intimate friends before he was arrested, humiliated, beaten and crucified…to be resurrected on Easter Sunday. This dinner has been the inspiration for countless works of art and I have found myself reflecting on its significance this year.

OK…here’s a really basic synopsis and paraphrase: There is Jesus, who knows he is about to be cruelly executed and suffer TREMENDOUSLY (physically and emotionally). He sits down to dinner with his closest friends. Friends who have been with him night and day…listened to him…laughed with him…prayed with him…shared life with him…but still Jesus on the crosscan’t really see him for who he is. Judas is at the table and has already made the decision to betray him by turning him over to the authorities and ultimately to his death. He looks at the rest of the disciples and knows that they are also weak and will deny him at this most desperate time. They are arguing about who will be the greatest and Jesus knows that once he is dead they will be terrified and run away to hide. He knows that he will be abandoned and that they will break his heart but he STILL LOVES them. He washes their feet and gives them one last urgent sermon…tells them to love each other as He loved them…to lay their lives down for each other…He is about to leave them but they wont be alone…he is telling them but they can’t hear it…he knows they are blind and can’t fully understand what he is saying but over and over he is talks about how much he loves them…how much God the father loves them and wants them to know Him…to follow the way he lived his life. Jesus looks at them and says “I love you. I want the best for you. I want freedom for you. I want REAL life and joy for you. I want you to know me. I want you to love this world like I love it.”

He knows these are still the same men who will turn their backs on him in a few hours. Betraying him. Abandoning him. Allowing fear and self preservation to consume them. Jesus knew they couldn’t understand what he was saying but he told them anyway because someday they would. He urgently wants them to know how much he absolutely loves them and is proving it by dying in their place.

OK…wow. Loving like Jesus loved is not necessarily a cheerful upbeat song. It is personal and requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice and humility. Loving someone means truly wanting the best for them. And it’s not just loving the people that are easy to love…it means loving the bad people too…the people who have hurt you. People who have wounded you with hard hearts and selfish choices.

  • It can be an injustice in your past
  • Maybe someone used you in a relationship
  • If there is a person whose mere name makes your blood boil
  • Someone at work stabbed you in the back
  • ….the list goes on

God loves them too!! You see the world differently when viewed through the lens of how much you are loved and forgiven. Do you look at this world with compassion and see blind, wounded people just trying to live life and find love and affirmation (probably in the wrong places)? Or do you see their behavior and put them in a box with judgement? Can you see through their choices and have mercy on the hurting heart that made them? Or do you want to stand on righteousness? Please keep in mind I am writing this as much to myself as anyone. And I don’t mean we need to live life without boundaries. Jesus took time to care for himself. Loving someone does not protect them from consequences but allows the truth to be revealed.

But on the cross…as Jesus was dying he said…Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Basically – They are blind.

So yes, we are free to love like he loved, give like he gave, forgive like he forgave…and actually living life that way is the only TRUE freedom…but let’s not pretend it is as easy or happy as our songs may make it seem. Maybe if more Christians truly lived life this way it would be easier to convince people that it is actually “Good News” rather than a list of rules.

Looking forward to Easter,

Lynnea

I will wait

I am often encouraged by music and the latest Mumford and Sons album Babel (released September 2012) came at a perfect time for me. I enjoy this band with their folksy banjo riffs and indie rock vibe. The song I keep coming back to is “I will wait”. They are not a “Christian” band (Honestly, what is that anyway??) but their lyrics are deep, spiritual and often bring tears to my eyes. When I listen to this song I think of redemption and restoration…and it inspires me to wait for Jesus and his timing.

There is a lot I could say (and honestly probably will 🙂 ) but here are some of my favorite lyrics.

Well I came home like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun

I can physically feel these words. You know those days when you are so exhausted it takes all the energy you can manage just to collapse on the couch? I imagine my body feeling like that and my heart/spirit heavy like a rock…barely able to take tiny steps forward…then I imagine using my last bit of strength and collapsing…not onto a couch but into God’s arms. There is strength and protection there. I picture the cares and concerns weighing me down blowing away like dust in the wind…sometimes the “blowing” is more like a sandstorm but eventually the sun comes out and reveals the new life underneath. I love this image.

And I’ll kneel down wait for now
And I’ll kneel down know my ground

I don’t know if you are a “kneeler”. 🙂 I am at times. I find it to be a posture of humility and recognition that everything I have in my life is a gift. It is a peaceful posture. It is vulnerable. You aren’t going to be moving anywhere quickly. Sometimes it hurts a little but somehow praying on my knees helps me to recognize more deeply how desperately I need Jesus. I love the next line about knowing your ground. It is easier to wait when you know what or who you are waiting for. It is also easier when you know what or who holds you up during the process. What is the foundation beneath your knees? What do you rest on while you are waiting? Is it solid? Is it quicksand? Do you know it? My ground was remembering who God is…and becoming more familiar with his works and promises. Knowing my ground. He has been faithful through the generations…He loves me more than I can hope to comprehend…He promises to heal and redeem me. His character is constant and doesn’t change with me or my circumstances. I can kneel and wait on a firm foundation…my rock.

So I’ll be bold as well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh and fix my eyes
A tethered mind free from the lies

When I find myself “waiting” I can be very reactionary. Most of the time I am waiting because I am not able to have something I want. Sometimes I know the timeline…most times I don’t. And when I don’t know the timeline I can grab onto the first thing that may move me closer to what I want. Often that is not the best idea. So using my head AND my heart really resonates with me. When you just react it is mostly emotional. Also, the image of taming and tethering makes me think of a young horse in the process of being broken and trained. It is initially wild and out of control…fighting for its own way against the will of the trainer…slowly, with time and discipline it submits and allows itself to follow commands. It lives a much more peaceful life without the intense struggle. We can be like that horse and fight very hard for our own way. But ultimately we fight against God because we have wrapped ourselves in lies. Lies of entitlement. Lies of idols. Lies of identity. Lies of value. As those lies are broken and we begin to see the truth and fix our eyes on Jesus…our lives will become more peaceful and free…and it also becomes easier (Note I said easIER…not easy 🙂 ) to wait and trust. 

Here is a simplified overview of the story the lyrics tell…it’s basically a Psalm. My spirit is heavy and weak…I fall into your arms and need you to transform my life…I remember your faithfulness and trust you as I wait..I will remember everything I have been forgiven….as I kneel and seek you I will be transformed more and more into your likeness and freed from the lies of this world. My hands will be raised and my spirit will be gold.

Good stuff.

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

Sometimes you just need to…

Cry. Break something. Have a dance party with or without music. Yell at the top of your lungs. Laugh at yourself. Sprint down the block. Do something with complete abandon…regardless of what people think or how silly you feel. Just let your heart move you without judgement. Release. Don’t over think. Get out of your head.Bad day

I had a different post prepared for today in my Storm Survival series but it didn’t feel right. I looked back through the last few weeks and realized that I have written a lot about the disciplines that have helped me through this season. They are still important but sometimes you just need to bloody let loose. Let go of the shoulds. Let go of your ideas of what is appropriate and what isn’t (within reason 🙂 ). Let go of needing to be strong. Let go of holding it together. Do something stupid and silly just because you want to. Yell loud. Laugh hard.

We spend too much time judging and evaluating our feelings…give yourself a moment to release. And then go back to the juggling and holding it together because I recognize that is a reality of life. But allow a small space of absolute freedom even if people think you are crazy.

Practical Tips:

  1. If you don’t have plates you are willing to part with already go to Goodwill, Value Village or another second hand store and buy a few. I imagine you know what to do now. 🙂 Just make sure you smash them in a place that is easy to clean up.
  2. Strap on your running shoes and run start with a little warm up…but then run as fast as you can for as long as you physically can…imagine yourself running away from your troubles. Stop and walk. Feel the blood pumping through your body. Feel your breath slowly returning. Repeat this as many times as you need.
  3. Have a dance party in your house. My go to dance music right now is anything by Mary J Blige…I need some strong lady action with a good beat.
  4. Take a deep breath and just yell. You might feel silly. Do it anyway. If you really can’t bring yourself to yell out loud then yell into a pillow. Just let it come from deep within without limiting it. Yell until you don’t feel like doing it any longer. Maybe yell until you start laughing. It will be good for your soul.

If you have any other suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments section. Til next week. Remember this too shall pass just take it one day at a time.

Blessings,

Lynnea