Trey and I have an exercise we do a few times a week. It usually happens when he hasn't been following directions, or has been arguing, or his attitude isn't the best.
"Trey," I ask, "Do you know how much more I would love you if you hadn't done that?"
"Um... no more?" He'll answer.
"Because you love me unconditionally!"
It's generally a turn-around in our day or moment, a reminder that as much as we love each other, that the Father loves us even more, with an unconditional love that encompasses grace, mercy and blessing. No matter what we do, or don't do.
It's a crazy concept to wrap our heads around, especially in this 'productivity' era. We christians are put under so much pressure - to share our faith correctly, to reach out into our community and 'make a difference', to make time to read our bibles, to get to church, and bible study, and evening service, and small group, and volunteer opportunities and.... You get my drift. None of those things are BAD things. Our challenge arises when we place more importance in what we can 'do' for God, than in what He does for us, every moment, regardless of what we do.
He loves us. He loves us when we aren't lovable. When faith is distilled down to its most basic, its most important tenant, it is this: God. Loves. You.
As we move through our 28-day Detox of the Mind and Heart, it's important to note that while we can 'do' quite a bit to create a healthy environment for our souls and hearts and minds, in reality, our detox is less about what WE can do for ourselves, and more about what our Father wants to do for us. Friends, when we detox, the result is more room in our souls to absorb and hold onto the Father's love. That's the entire point!
Often, when you do a detox, you experience flu-like symptoms as your body adjusts to the release of toxins and the lack of easy-energy sugar. There is a period of adjustment. And it's usually pretty yucky. So today, let's make sure we talk about THOSE days. I don't want you to be surprised. It's normal. Let it happen. Accept that you have lots of ugly to let go of, and it's going to take time.
We're taking a break from our 'reset' today to talk about what happens when, despite all of your best intentions, powerful prayers, positive thoughts, encouraging memes, and cheerful devotionals - you feel a bone-deep despair that completely encompasses you, and you sit with your tea, read your bible and just... can't.
This is real. It's a thing. And I have the honor of friends who are transparent with me, so I know this is a thing for some of you right now.
As I sat with my tea and my devotional and my bible this morning, this was me. In this middle of a full-blown detox spiritual flu. Having a moment of despair and exhaustion. The bible verse that God gave me:
Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me? HOPE IN GOD - for I shall yet praise Him, my help and my God. (Psalm 42:11 emphasis mine)
really spoke to my heart. I sat, absorbing it, and my ear caught the voice from the old-time-hymns radio station Trey loves. The verse on the radio echoed what was marinating in my mind: "Why are you in despair, O my soul?..."
I've never had that happen before. It was God's voice in stereo. Frankly, I was still trying to wrap my head around the command to praise Him. I didn't really feel like it. What I really felt like was crying. Going back to bed. Eating an entire half gallon of rocky road ice cream.
I went through my morning, sitting in that emotion, recognizing it. Giving it space to breathe, accepting that some days, our souls are just overwhelmed. I wondered what I could possibly share today that would be hopeful. I experienced the reality of impatience, frustration, sadness, fear, doubt - and eventually went back to my bible and kept reading...
God promises to love me all day, and sing His songs into my heart all night... thus my life becomes a prayer... (Psalm 42:8)
I began to see a glimmer of light. So... it's not MY job to find the song of praise? He will sing it over me? He'll give me the words?
A thought began to push to the forefront, a song that I woke up with in my mind this morning...
"...Rise. Breaking the dark, piercing the night - you're made to shine, an army of hope bringing the world a radiant light..."
And then I remembered my sister's secret weapon against discouragement. She keeps a book of every answered prayer. Every blessing. Every God-wink moment. And she rereads it. From there, this truth began to leap out at me from the pages of my journal:
When my soul is in despair, exhausted and overwhelmed, I will review His Goodness to me: His provision, His strength, His power evidenced in my life. I will use those experiences, those memories, as the foundation from which I sing... hope... trust...
Don't be surprised when the 'detox flu' hits. The remedy is simple: Remember.
Remember the Good He has visited upon you. Remember His provision. Remember His faithfulness during dark times. Remember the beauty of sunshine, the scent of flowers, the softness of puppies and the laughter of a child - remember, and rise.
The school bus was packed with kids, and as was typical, the taunting and teasing began as soon as it began to move. I sat looking out the window, pretending I didn't hear their cruel words. Then the topic shifted, and the jeers changed. My head whipped around, "You can tease me all you want, but you'd better leave my sister alone!"
Years later, the situation reversed. My sister took a verbal lashing (undeserved) and stood quietly. "And your sister is just as bad!" Steeling her tone, she replied, "You can call me that all you want, but I'd better never hear you talk about my sister like that again!"
Fierce friendship. Extended for those we love and cherish. Dear friends, I would suggest that it is time to practice such fierce love on ourselves first. In this 28-day Reset for the Mind, we are identifying those unhealthy habits that weigh us down. Negative self-talk is high on the list of destructive habits.
We're going to talk more about negative self-talk this week. For now, I challenge you to begin your week by being aware of what you say to yourself.
"I can't believe I ate that second dish of ice cream, I'm disgusting."
"I completely blew that meeting - my boss must think I'm an idiot."
"Of course you can't wear those jeans, you're FAT!"
"I'm never going to figure this out."
Can you think of any? It's noonish, chances are pretty good we got started on those thoughts first thing this morning. And if you have a habit of saying them out-loud, and you have little ones around, in a little bit you'll find your young ones mimicking the very self-criticism you level against yourself.
Today, try a simple exercise. Pay attention to what you say to yourself. If you wouldn't allow someone to say it to your best friend - be a fierce friend to yourself and rephrase.
"I'm NOT disgusting. Maybe that wasn't a great choice, but I can do it differently next time."
"I could have phrased that better - I'm going to ask my boss for help in how I could have approached that differently."
"These jeans don't fit well right now, but I'm going to work on losing 5 pounds and then they'll be perfect!"
"Wow! This is harder than I thought! I need to break this down to smaller pieces so it's more manageable."
Have a blessed week!
"Rosalyn! Get up! The horse is loose!"
I bolted upright in bed, and squinted at the clock. 6:50 am. On my first sleep-in Saturday in months.
"Are you #@$@ kidding me??!!"
I rushed around throwing on clothes and boots, racing to get the grain bucket, while Tom ran to get the halter and lead rope. I stepped out onto the porch, and the brisk 17 degree air slapped me in face. I let out a piercing whistle one, two, three times, mentally apologizing to my neighbors.
We ran to the car and my husband backed it into the turnaround, and then... Hans, my huge haflinger gelding, came galloping up the driveway (looking gorgeous, I might add), ears pointed forward with an 'Oh boy! Oh boy! GRAIN!!!' expression on his face.
In the minutes that followed, Hans was soon safely back in his pen, and I began my walk around the pasture, looking for the break in the fence. As much as I wanted to stay angry, I began to see the beauty of the sunshine on the snow and ice. I didn't feel quite so cold as I began to move around. I had a moment of deep appreciation for my husband, who was willing to be late for his own plans, to help me. I said a moment of 'thanks' for the obedient horse who came to a whistle, and gave myself a mental pat on the back for taking the time to teach him.
I came back into the house and had a bit of a smile as I reflected at how quickly I went from feeling angry and frustrated to peaceful and grateful.
Sure, I could have chosen to stay angry about my jolt into morning. But all around me was beauty - my breathtakingly beautiful horse, white mane and tail streaming behind him; training techniques validated; my willing, helpful husband; sunshine glistening on the winter landscape; and a hot cup of tea at my kitchen table.
Friends - when we choose, over and over, to move our thoughts from the negative to the positive, our entire lives change. The bible calls it being:
"...transformed by a renewal of your minds...'"(Romans 12:2)
When we choose our thoughts, our lives follow. As we move through our 28-day mind detox, I challenge you to choose to replace your negative thoughts with positive responses, and experience peace.
Any time I do a detox for my body, I have to make a list of the foods that I am consuming that don't offer me any health benefits.
When we are detoxing our minds and hearts, we need to participate in a similar investigation.
Identifying the beliefs, criticisms, and lies that are either 'self-talk', or spoken to us by others, is the first step.
For me, this involved taking an inventory of all the criticisms I have received over my life. For instance, I have been told that I am 'self-centered', when in fact, I am 'other-centered'. Or, I have been told that I am 'too emotional, high strung' when in fact, I am thoughtful, lively, and energetic.
How about this one - I've been told that I am mean, rude, and rebellious, when the truth of who God made me is that I am loving, caring, compassionate, transparent, real, and bold. And how about the self-talk I speak over myself that I am a failure as a wife, an ungrateful daughter and a terrible mother - when in truth, I am a good mother, an attentive wife, and a kind daughter/daughter-in-law.
Do you see how we do this? Try it on your own at first - take a sheet of paper and give yourself 2 columns. Column 1 - What I've Heard, and Column 2 - The Truth of Who I am.
In column 1, write down every negative word or description you've ever heard or spoken about yourself.
Then, in column 2, write down the opposite of that word. Generally, what you'll get is a list of attributes of who the 'Best' of you is.
Does this mean we are perfect, without flaw? No. But if you speak and choose to believe the 'Best' of yourself (that you are 'fearfully and wonderfully made', and if you refuse the 'Worst', over time, the toxicity of people's reactions to you will bother you less, as you begin to realize that they simply either
a. don't understand you, or,
b. react to you from a place of deep inner pain or wounds that have very little to do with you personally.
The main point of this exercise is to build a list of positive attributes about yourself - health food for your heart and mind. Something you can review every day, replacing the toxic words that you, and others, speak over yourself.
Dear friend, God loves you unconditionally. No exceptions. He doesn't love us more one day, and less the next. The God whose power crafted a cosmos is right now in His wisdom, shaping your life.
As we go through this 28-day journey to ridding ourselves of toxic accumulation in our minds and hearts, let's begin with this truth:
God shapes my world. God loves me unconditionally. God is FOR me.
Let that truth begin the work of flushing out lies and negative self-talk as well as negative words that others are speaking over us. Each morning, let this verse be your 'lemon water' to begin your day!