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I know myself well enough to know — If I don’t have a plan, progress won’t happen.

So — very briefly — here is my plan for preventing “unglued” episodes:

1.  Remember who you are.

Although circumstances, hormones, and other people’s attitudes may try to de-rail me on any given day, there’s no need for me to be ruled by them.  I am a child of God, holy and dearly loved, whom God has set apart for a mighty plan.

2.  Redirect your focus to Jesus.

Even if I have no idea what my next step or my next words should be, God knows.  I can invite a power far beyond my own into the situation.  I don’t have to have all the answer.  I just have to remember — Jesus.

3.  Recognize God’s job isn’t your job.

I’m not responsible for figuring out how to handle difficult situations.  My job is to be obedient to God in the middle of whatever I’m facing.  God’s job is the results.  God honors the heart that honors Him.  Search the scriptures regarding the situation and be willing to do what God says.

4.  Recite thanks and praises to God.

Shift from having an attitude to walking in gratitude.  Shift from looking at what’s wrong to praising God for what is right.

5.  Realize reactions determine reach.

I’ll choose to honor God with my actions and reactions.  I may be alarmed, but I’ll stay resolved.  Others are watching me and my behavior testifies to the kind of relationship I have with Jesus and the effect He has on my heart.  How authentic am I?

(References:  “Unglued,” by Lysa TerKuerst and 2 Chronicles 20:21-30)

Someone has just spoken words that are digging . . . digging . . . digging. . .

They deserve a quick reply!  I really need to defend myself.  In the heat of the moment, I don’t think I can hold back from letting them have it.  But . . . if I say everything I think needs to be said to put them in their place . . . how will I feel after we part company?  Guilt.  Shame.  Embarrassment.  Fear — in seeing them the next time, and wondering what I will say.  I think I need to develop a plan.

Here’s the plan — thanks to Lysa Terkuerst and “Unglued”:

1.  Begin by honoring the one offended.

Now, I know I’m definitely not going to feel like doing this.  Let’s just get that out on the table right now.  How can I honor words which just stabbed my like a knife?  But, I CAN honor her as a person whom God loves.  To honor the offender in this way will say much about my own character in the situation.  I need to continue the conversation by pointing out a good quality I know to be true about the other person.  I may have to think really hard to find one in the heat of the moment, but there will be a good quality to be found.

2.  Keep your response short and full of grace.

“When words are many, sin is not absent,

but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Proverbs 10:19

I don’t need to go on and one to prove my point.  The more I talk, the more defensive I may become.  It will be best to briefly acknowledge the other person’s expressed hurt.  After all, they surely chose their words out of hurt — whether grounded in truth or misunderstanding.  Their hurt is real to them.  After acknowledging their hurt, I can speak very briefly to clarify my intentions — speaking with gentle honesty about the issue.  If an apology on my part is appropriate, it should be extended.  And then, a simple “thank you” for their extension of grace to me.  This need only take a minute or two to express.  Many times, I have gone on and on to defend myself.  Doing so only brings heightened division and deeper defensiveness and anger in both of us.

3.  End by extending compassion.

I will need to recognize that the other person is hurting — maybe for reasons I am unaware and that have nothing to do with the present situation.  So, I need to end the conversation with grace — not being fake, but with kindness.

“Honor them.  Keep it short.  Wrap it with grace.  Extend some kind of compassion.”   (Unglued)

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:1

Choosing my words carefully — keeping my tone of voice and my expression in control — will bring the best outcome.  And being gentle doesn’t mean I am weak!  In fact, it will actually take a lot of strength — found in God and not on my own, to make any of this happen.  And — it’s important to remember:  Usually situations that bring sudden “wrath” are really not huge issues that will be life-shattering in the long run.  So, it’s important to keep the proper perspective.  A month from now, this probably won’t even be an issue — unless, of course, I handle it poorly.

Honor.   Grace.   Compassion.

When conflict arises, there are always two sides.  I’m on one side.  My enemy is on the other.  I’ve always assumed that the one who hurt me in the one on the other side of the conflict.  In Ephesians 6, Paul sees it a different way:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and flood,

but against the rulers, against the authorities,

against the powers of this dark world

and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

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You mean that man I’m facing, who just said some things that dug deep into my soul — he’s not my enemy?  But I feel like striking back and he’s the one who deserves the blow.  Granted — this may all seem true, but if I do strike back with hurtful words — am I a winner.  Will I feel satisfied and will the conflict end with both of us feeling great about the outcome.  No — the real victor will be Satan, because the battle is really Satan vs. human beings.  He’ll be the winner, because in the case of our marriage — he loves any conflict that keeps us at odds and hurting or angry.

So — My first mental readjustment has to be to see every conflict as a battle between the people involved and “Old Slewfoot.”  And I must have the mindset that I will do everything in my power not to let him come out on top.

In Ephesians 6, Paul goes on to lay out the equipment of God’s armor, which is my defense against Satan’s attack.  Coupled with prayer, this is a mighty fortress against his wily schemes.  But Paul doesn’t just end there.  A most applicable verse is yet to come in verse 19:

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth,

words may be given me

so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. .

“Whenever I open my mouth. . .”  Do I pray for God’s words “whenever I open my mouth”?  Am I prepared to speak only those things that represent Christ and His gospel?  This needs to be my intention.  This needs to be a daily prayer.  This needs to be an “on the spot” prayer when conflict arises.  People speak so freely — saying anything that comes to mind.  We waste our words and use them carelessly, not giving thought to how they may be heard by the receiver.  And sometimes — shamefully — we DO know how they will be heard.  Our intent is to break the spirit of the one who has hurt us.  Who wins the battle after the words are spewed out?  Only Satan.  Careless words never heal a relationship or bring satisfaction to the “spewer.”

Father — Help me to always choose my words carefully, especially in the heat of an argument.  May my words always be chosen as a healing agent — words that represent You well and guard the dignity of the hearers.  May my intent always be to honor You and reconcile people — making Satan the only loser in the battle.

Am I a “stuffer who collects retaliation rocks?”

I really thought I could escape this one.  I’ve had to admit to all three of the previous labels.  Please!  Not this one, too!

But — yes . . . I am a “stuffer who collects retaliation rocks.”

I tend to think I know every motive behind what other people say and do.  I think I have a bit of the “gift of discernment.”  But, I may be fooling myself.  I may not be a smart as I think I am.  My husband will say and do things that — in his style of humor — are harmless in his mind.  I tend to take them personally, get defensive, and dwell on the “fact” that he “obviously” doesn’t love me — or he would have said/done that.  I’ll save these little offenses in a little “suitcase” in my mind — save them up until one last comment sends the suitcase lid flying open and everything spills out in one big nasty tirade.  I sarcastically spew out all the negatives of my husband’s personality in quick little bullets that pierce his soul.  They come so fast — he doesn’t know what hit him.  He usually finds something to do outside, or runs an errand in town — just to escape the ammo.

Yes — I’m a stuffer, until the “suitcase” gets so full that the latch gives way and I explode.  And nobody can guess when that might happen.  Not even me!

Well — After this self-examination, I’m ready to get to work.  I can’t be an easy person to live with.  I think it’s time for a makeover . . .

The examination today involved one question.  It didn’t take me long to answer, and answer correctly.

“Are you a “stuffer who builds barriers?”

“Yes – – – This is my most typical way of handling conflict.”

I like peace, not turmoil.  I think a wife/mother does tend to seek peace in her home.  She is responsible to keep the home a “haven of rest.”  At the risk of creating frustration in her own soul, she will choose “flight” and end the conflict by remaining silent.  This may avoid a noisy, arguing environment, but the war in her soul is raging!

Many times, in the midst of an argument, I have come right out and said, “That’s it!  I’m just not talking to you for a while.  I don’t use this as a revenge tactic.  I use it to stop any further hurt from happening.  I use it to give myself a chance to calm down a bit and think things through.  This may be o.k. for the moment, but it usually ends in the conflict never being resolved.  When I begin to talk again, I really don’t feel like opening up the subject again and resuming the conflict, so I “stuff” my feelings and act like everything is “fine,” when everything is NOT “fine” at all.  I can see how this leads me toward bitterness and resentment toward the other person.

I’m sure this is where I’ll have to “camp out” in the future.  Unresolved conflict is not good for relationships and not good for my own soul.

To be continued . . .   (Ha! Even this blog post is “unresolved!”)

Calm, cool, and collected.  That’s my goal every morning when I wake up.  My intentions are good and many days I am able to keep emotions under control.  There have been days, though . . .

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When I was mother to my four young children . . well, I don’t even want to expose myself and reveal some of those days.  God has been good and my children have — for the most part — reached adulthood unscathed by my acts of utter madness during days when everything seemed to “hit the fan.”

Since become an “empty nester,” things have calmed down a bit — or have they?  If you ask my husband, he may disagree.  Now, I don’t go around slamming doors, screaming at the top of my lungs, throwing dishes, and leaving skids marks as I floor the accelerator to leave the “crime scene,” but I definitely have my moments of “exploding and blaming others,” which is the second method of handling stress and conflict.

I am a very schedule oriented person.  Don’t mess with my plans.  Don’t hurry me.  Don’t make me go left when I’ve planned to go right for the last 3 months.  If you do, I’ll make sure you know that you’ve messed with my “holy plan for living,” and you’ll be the one to blame for my irritation and loss of peace.

Ouch!  Examination #2 — and I definitely get an A+.  I suffered from “Explosion and Blaming Syndrome.”  (Or is it more correct to admit that OTHERS suffer from it.)

Ahhhh — well!  God will have me examined and on the road to recovery in no time.  On to Examination #3 . . .

In an effort to take my thoughts captive and put a guard on my lips, I’ve asked God to examine me and “see if there be any wicked way in me.”  Oh, boy!  What am I getting myself into?!  As they say — “No pain?  No gain.”

There are actually four ways to react to stress and conflict in a person’s life.

I may be a(n):   1.  Exploder who shames herself.

2.  Exploder who blames others.

3.  Stuffer who builds barriers.

4.  Stuffer who collects retaliation rocks.

Let’s examine the first one:  The “exploder who shames herself.”

Yes — I can think of an instance last summer when I may have fallen into this category.  My elderly father was being harassed by some “fly-by-night” blacktoppers who were insisting he needed his driveway paved with a new coat of black top.  (Can you hear the irritation in my words already?)  I couldn’t stand the way one of the men was leaning toward my dad — about 16 inches away from his face — and putting the pressure on for a “Yes — and I’ll write the check right now.”  I was afraid my dad would be pushed into a decision before he fully understood the agreement, especially since he had been having some trouble with his hearing.

So — “Little Miss I’ll-Take-Charge” stepped in and rudely told the high pressure blacktopper to back-off and leave my dad alone.  I won’t go into detail, but after a minimal agreement was made between the second black-topper and my dad, they left to get their equipment and black top.  They never returned!  Yep!  I did my job well.  I ran them off!

Later, I sat in my chair thinking — “I bet I was an embarrassment to my dad.  After all, he’s a man with pride.  He is capable of handling his own situations.  Having his daughter step in probably stripped him of his pride.  I should have talked to those men more kindly.  Or better yet — just kept my “mouth” out of it all together.”

It doesn’t happen all that often, but yes — sometimes I can be an “exploder who shames herself.  Now, I want to keep the proper perspective as I examine and identify areas for change.  No shame!  No condemnation!  Just identification for the purpose of seeking change and growth — for my good, the good of others, and the honor of God.

I’ll be back later for further examination . . .

Who Am I?

imagesWHO AM I?  I can answer that question in a number of ways.

I can answer by stating my name.

I can answer by telling what I do for a living.

I can answer by stating my relationship to other people,

such as wife, mother, daughter.

I can answer by explaining the things that give me pleasure,

such as hobbies, clubs, volunteer work.

And — I can answer by telling what I think about myself.  This may not go so well.  “I am selfish.”  “I am short-tempered.”  “I am impatient.”  “I am fat.”  “I am stubborn.”

Labels tend to be unkind and often untrue.  How we label ourselves seems to place us in a box — a box with a lid and padlock.  It’s hard to escape!

But — most of the time we do not judge ourselves correctly.  We aren’t able to judge ourselves objectively and we often don’t see ourselves as God sees us.  We MAY see ourselves according to what we’ve heard others say about us or what we perceive they think about us.  This, too, is often incorrect.

So — who is the only One who knows us well enough to make the most correct judgment?

OUR CREATOR — THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH!

And who also has the power and knowledge to know how to change us into the people He created us to be in the first place?

THE POTTER — WHO FASHIONED ALL PEOPLE ACCORDING TO HIS DIVINE PLAN!

“For we are God’s workmanship,

created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:10

No one’s opinion really matters about me, except God’s opinion.  Not even my opinion matters!  The most beneficial attitude I can have is one of acceptance with an optimism for change.  Every situation that comes my way is a opportunity that God plans to use to chisel away the imperfect in me and replace it with traits that look like Christ.  My job?  To be open and willing to change.  I must work to replace the self-proclaimed labels with the labels that God plans to give to me.  My plan:

          1.  I will identify the labels that are lies, whether self-inflicted or given by

others.  These will be discarded — for good!

         2.  I will own any labels that are true and see them as a call to action —

not a call to beat myself up.

          3.  I will tackle one label at a time, using the momentum from one victory

to fuel me for tackling the next label.

So — WHO AM I?  Only God knows the real answer to that question, and He promised to help me figure out the truth and change my life according to it.  It’s a plan that can’t fail!

Don’t Freak Out!!

Sometimes I feel like pulling my hair out.  On rare occasions, I express this feeling outwardly.  Most of the time, I have a mental fit.  I’m pretty sure it never helps the situation, and since it’s only in my head — I’m the one who suffers.

When you stop to think about it with a little common sense, perspective is the key to every stressful situation.  With the proper perspective, no one need come unglued.  Developing a new and careful response to any situation will only happen as I am able to think true thoughts by renewing my mind according to the wisdom of God.

It is possible to completely change my perspective and how I respond to any situation by renewing my thoughts.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —

his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

I have the choice to accept are reject any thought that enters my mind.  I don’t have to be held hostage by what pops in up there!!  I can capture lies and thoughts fueled by my emotions and allow the power of God’s truths to change them:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension

that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,

and we take captive every thought

to make it obedient to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:5

I can’t control any of the circumstances of my day.  But I CAN control how I will think about them!  If I ruminate and marinate in all the wrongs of the day, that day will have no chance of improving.  If I ask God for a better perspective — to see the good in the day even when I don’t feel it, the day has a much better chance of turning in a better direction.  Just because I may be facing things that are out of my control, I don’t have to ACT out of control.  That will only add to my troubles.

God intends to uses everything for my good, so my perspective should be to look for the good God must be intending to show me.  He’s in control.  Since He loves me and sees every detail of my day, He will handle everything that concerns me and still love me just as much as when the day began.  It’s important for me to remember that I’m playing on God’s team and he’s a winning coach.  As I remain on His side, I can fix my thoughts on what He is telling me to do to win the day’s game.

Yes!!  I feel prepared to keep my “hair” intact!  Father — Bring your truths to my mind whenever the day presents temptations to doubt your presence.  Help me to guard against lies and think only according to your truth.

Blessed be your name during every situation . . .

It’s an old, old story — “The Tortoise and the Hare.”  We read it to our children and think we’ve taught them a lesson.  Is the lesson not for adults, as well?

I can  be a bit of a rabbit at times.  Physically, I’m no speedster — and don’t EVEN ask me to run any races!  But mentally, I’m fast off the mark.  My mind is developing what needs to be said way before I need to say it.  I weigh out my words in an effort to manipulate a conversation and be the wisest one in the room.  Would it not be wiser, however, to think more slowly?  To choose silence for a time to listen?  To contemplate more upon what the other person has shared — not upon how I will respond?  Maybe the tortoise has some wisdom I could acquire. . .

After reading the first chapter in “Unglued” by Lysa Terkuerst, I am ready for progress.  But . . . I must be like the tortoise — slow and steady — understanding that momentary failure in the race does not mean I will lose the race.  I must get back up and enter again . . and again . . and again.

As I observe how I’ve run the race in the past, God is beginning to reveal some things to me.  During times of momentary failure — disagreements in my marriage — I tend to mentally dwell on the episode for too long.  I own every comment said to me as a judgment against my character.  Then, I re-think through the event and wonder what things I could have said to make it go better for me — making my point more clearly so as to be the victor.  I can spend hours — even days — rehashing it all.  It paralyzes me from enjoying any other activities, and our relationship is put “on hold.”  (I’m quite sure my husband is NOT wasting the same amount of time thinking about the same argument.  How do men do it?!)  I become sad, disappointed, fearful, guilty, frustrated, hopeless, and restless.  I just want to figure it all out — NOW — and never let it happen again!  Like Dr. Phil says — “How’s that workin’ for ya?!”  It’s not!!

Then I do what I’m doing now — vowing to figure out how to handle similar situations differently in the future.  Guess what?!  There’s always been the next situation — and I’ve pretty much failed again.  Always trying, but never quite hitting the mark — never reaching the finish line in the race.

This race seems impossible for me!  But maybe I’m looking too far ahead to the finish line and not concentrating on what my next step will be.  And maybe I’m not steadily abiding in Christ to help me take that step.  Yes — it may be hard, but is anything too difficult for the Lord?  Too hard for me to handle alone.  Not too hard for God to handle with me.

One of my first steps is going to be to take account of my emotions.  They were given to me by God — for my good.  No — they must never rule me.  But they are indicators.  They help me enjoy life and people.  They also make we aware of possible danger.  My emotions don’t have to work against me.  They can help me know when it’s time to take a break and turn to God — for discernment, wisdom, strength, and peace.

Right now — I stand at the “Starting Line” of my race.  Slow and steady . . . . God will give me understanding for the next step.

“A man’s steps are directed by the LORD.

How then can anyone understand his own way?”

Proverbs 20:24

“In his heart a man plans his course,

but the LORD determines his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9