when I fear I have lost my flavor

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, you let it in. And you eat the cake. And the leftover spaghetti.

Sometimes, discouragement crawls into your bed and keeps it warm while you drag yourself to make breakfast and get kids to school and return to pull the covers over your head and shut out the world.

Sometimes, it sits beside you on the couch and watches brain-sucking cartoons all day while your toddlers run around in their diapers and cowboy boots and stop stinky and goobery in front of your face to wipe away your tears.

Sometimes, discouragement drives you to work, sits uncomfortably in your chair, stares at a blank screen . . .

When you’ve been sick and it’s gone on for a long time and no one has answers.

When you’ve been fighting battles with your child and every conflict throws failure in your face.

When you’ve worked overtime to finally get ahead and come home to a pile of bills that will set you way back.

When you can’t seem to find where you fit and no one invites and no one asks and no one notices.

When you finally take a deep breath only to discover your addict is at it again.

Discouragement knocks hard, relentless.

Discouragement whispers worthlessness and failure in your ear and tells you you can’t.

Discouragement spins a friend’s success or happy post into a jealousy or regret.

Discouragement suffocates in the darkness with questions and tears.

Discouragement chokes out life-giving words and seasons speech with self.

Discouragement tells me I have lost my flavor and am of no good but to be tossed out and trampled.

Can salt be made salty again?

I wonder . . .

When I fear I have lost my flavor, I disappear.

Disappear like Moses — to be alone with God.

Disappear like Jonah — a long shadow of fear, jealousy, envy or discontent has eclipsed joy.

Disappear like a leper — to heal and seek a doctor for a cure.

* * * * *

Sunshine beckons me. 

I lie on the trampoline in the yard, soaking in afternoon light, sifting through sickness, disappointment, hurt, regret. I hear nothing. No words of comfort.

Somewhere below me, the tide is out.

A breeze passes over sun-warmed sand, mud, shells, carrying the sea to me and I breathe deep . . .

One day I will look back on this season. A season of physical breakdown, a season of letting go of a child, a season of wordlessness, a season of discouragement.

But I am not in the looking back.

* * * * *

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

* * * * *

This morning I remember the thing about discouragement.

How sickness, exhaustion, anger, hurt and loneliness open the door to it.

How it wallows in the past, thrives on lies, heaps on guilt, compares and finds wanting.

How it sucks everything into its mire and drains the world of sunlight and sea-salt air.

How you could drown in it. How you need to be pulled out.

If you are sinking, reach out. If a sinking friend reaches for you, take her hand. Do kindnesses for her. Listen.

And if words are necessary, let them be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

* * * * *

Grace has been shaken over my life.

I am grateful for the one who sits beside me for long hours in a waiting room. For the one who draws me away from my solitude to get some lunch. For the one who shares tears over tea. For the one who brings dinner. For parents who call just to hear my voice. For children who bend down to wrap their arms around me. For a husband who listens in the middle of the night. For a doctor determined to help me get well, starting with removing my gallbladder.

I am grateful for Sarah Young, for Philip Yancey, for Ann VosKamp whose little books have become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, and remind me that a flavorless season is survivable and can become a beautiful and encouraging thing.

I say thanks out loud to God for blessings and ask Him to sift the rocks and dirt from my little bowl of salt.

And then I hear it — the gentle whisper of love I couldn’t hear over the beating on my door.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Are you discouraged? Feel free to comment — anonymously if you wish. And I will pray for you. It will be good to take a little sabbatical from myself.

blessings for the broken, part two

We used to wear our grief. 

Black for a day, a month, a season, a year . . .

To show loss.

To let the world around us know we carried sorrow.

Appearance had meaning.

We treated mourners with respect. Spoke differently around them. Guarded our conversation to avoid heaping sorrow on complete strangers.

I wonder why we stopped. Why long, visible mourning has gone out of fashion. . .

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, Jesus said.

In every version of the Bible, the English word, translated from Greek, is mourn. 

Grief manifested; too deep for concealment. Often . . . to weep audibly.

(Now we cover. Allow ourselves acceptable sorrow, but keep calm and carry on. Mourning is for poets. Wailing is for pagans.)

But Jesus spoke the Beatitudes to people who bore grief visibly. No makeup or drops to hide weary eyes. Faces revealed hearts. Clothes told stories.

I think, even then, mourning had lost something.

Because they used to show real grief over sin by putting on sackcloth and ashes.

In ancient times, recorded in the Old Testament, garments were torn by the grieving. Rough, dark, shapeless clothes replaced them. Ashes on heads. Ashes in which to sit.

Ashes, the remnants of sacrifice. A symbol of sorrow. A sign of humility. Of desperation. Ashes to cleanse. Israel, David, Nineveh . . .

Public displays of repentance had become a show for Pharisees. See how religious I am?

* * * * *

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.” 2 Corinthians 7:10a

God knows when mourning of wrongs is just for show.

Sometimes we know, too. Or sense it.

Because addicts repent a million times. This is the last time. I’ll never do it again. And yet they do . . . and we cannot make them be sorry to the point of change. Preaching at and pleading with cannot induce real repentance.

And we are the same. We who believe we are free from destructive vices.

We repent when we are caught. In gossip. In aggression. In spending money we don’t have.  . . and at once we are consumed with self. With how can I get out of this and still save face. . .

. . . Books of mourning sit beside me on a shelf. Spiral bound pages, words poured out in tears. Sleepless nights, hollow-eyed days. Bitterness and belief intertwined. Pride shredded until I thought I had none left, but I was wrong.

Mourning isn’t pretty. Mourning feels like dying.

* * * * *

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Jesus says.

It seems He is speaking of comforting those who have suffered tragic loss. Of wiping away every tear from our eyes.

Comfort — this one word in English means so many things in Greek. Parakaleō: to call to one’s side, to summon, to console, to admonish, to encourage, to teach. I recognize it from Bible school. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit . . .

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. John 14:16

* * * * *

Mourning and comfort. Both are process. Neither can be rushed. Sowing tears and reaping joy takes time.

Comfort ye my people, God told Isaiah. And it was more than 400 years before the Comforter came . . .

Blessed are those who are broken. Who grieve deeply over their wrongs. Who feel trapped and helpless in their chemically dependent body and throw themselves at the feet of Jesus, begging for healing.

Blessed are those who are broken. Who are exhausted from trying to fix the broken people they love. Who are afraid if they stop, no one will pick up the pieces. Who grieve over the pride that keeps joy hostage.

Blessed because they receive power greater than themselves.

* * * * *

There are hidden places where grief is still worn. 

Where masks of I am fine are set aside, confessions are made, and encouragement is given. Where tears of sorrow flow freely, waiting for the Comforter to wipe them away. Some stay months, others stay years.

We confess aloud that there is a Power greater than ourselves.* 

That God exists,

that I matter to Him, and

that He has the power to help me give up addiction, pride, control . . . whatever has broken me.  * 

* * * * *

A little more about mourning and comfort: Psalm 30, Isaiah 61, Lamentations, Shattered Dreams, A Tale of Three Kings, A Grief Observed

* * * * *

blessings for the broken, part one

I like to be strong.Confident, competent, able.

Helen Reddy in my head since 4th grade. I am Woman . . I am invincible.

I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.

Ask if I need help and I become more determined to do it myself.

I am independent to a fault.

And I will work myself into an ulcer.

* * * * *

The breaking was just as much for me as it was for him.

I see it now. I saw it then.

But my eyes are are slow to turn the image upright. . .

A friend reminded me this week: we say we are concerned about what’s best for THEM, but we’re really concerned about what’s best for ME

Addicts, she means.

Addicts don’t just one day wake up and said, You know what? I’m done with this life. I’m going to be a new person now. And then the pain ends.

But we so hope they will. And we so hope it will.

We pray for them to make right choices. We pray for miraculous healing . . .

Sometimes, it takes years of prayer to finally come to see.

Because truly admitting you need help means you have to be broken.

. . . and broken involves suffering.

* * * * *

It is agonizing to watch self-destruction.

. . .  sometimes we draw hard lines . . . sometimes we tell them to suffer somewhere else . . . sometimes we are ready for them to be broken.

But sometimes, we forgive and cover and scold and give books to read and phone numbers of people to call and lecture and pray and forgive and cry and scream and flail and forgive and weep and beg and block doors and take away car keys  and suspect and make phone calls and plead and make them go to the pastor and make them sign and believe and hope and accidentally discover and confront and forgive and cry and pray and discover again and lash out and yell and beg and pray . . . Love believes. Love hopes. Love endures. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, my life.

Until we are ready to be broken. Broken more.

To throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet and admit we are powerless to control.

Save me from furious rage, from appeasing, from excuse-making, from micro-managing, from holier than thou, from I can do this by myself, from this reflects so poorly on me . . . from fear of suffering.

Until  pride is stripped away and I realize. Until I admit that I am powerless to control . . .

* * * * *

 Blessed are the poor. . .* Jesus said.

Beaten-to-your-knees-by-poverty poor.* Reduced to begging.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the people who feel keenly their inadequacies and their guilt and their failures and their helplessness and their unworthiness and their emptiness—who don’t try to hide these things under a cloak of self-sufficiency, but who are honest about them and grieved and driven to the grace of God,” says another.*

Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.*

Blessed are the broken.

* * * * *

I prefer to forget broken.

But Jesus reminds me.

Broken is how He opened His first sermon. On a mountain, like Moses: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me.* 

I did not bring myself out of Egypt. I did not bring Dave out of Egypt. I am powerless.

Broken is not a once I was. Broken is a place to come back to over and over and remember. Especially for the self-reliant. For the self-sufficient. For me.

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.Revelation 3:17-20

God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. Matthew 5:3

what if we all quit being super woman

Women in War. Supercharger plant workers.
Library of Congress Collection.

Lately, I’ve been working on the uncomfortable habit of being real.

For a significant portion of my life, I’ve been busy. Not just busy, but over-committed, over-the-top, make other people’s contributions to the task look like poo kind of busy.

Being busy kept me distracted. Too much time on my hands gave me time to worry about Dave and his pain, his addiction and then his recovery.

Doing above and beyond rebuilt my self-esteem. Putting my nose to the grindstone earned me some badly needed kudos. I felt destroyed by the hand I’d been dealt in life. Work and volunteerism showed me again that I had value.

A full schedule kept me from being social. I lost the ability to entertain. At one time in my life, I felt like I had control. Over my home, my kids — even at times my husband. As that illusion wore away and was eventually shattered, I withdrew.

I was trying to make it up to the kids. I thought they’d been cheated out of an incredible life when we had to leave camp. Regular life seemed so dull without constant activity. In a quiet moment, they might miss it. And I couldn’t bear that.

And I was working toward a place where my own income would be enough in case Dave didn’t make it.

* * * * *

It’s been nearly two years since I realized I didn’t need to be like that anymore.

I was exhausted. So much so that I didn’t know it. So used to trying to keep up a frenetic pace that I had no idea what real peace looked like. So sure that because I could do something, I should do something.

Two years, but I’m just now beginning to act on it.

* * * * *

I’ve been learning to say no. Even to good things. Learning to not care what people think. Learning not to try and justify. No excuses. Just no.

Because I’ve tried the explaining. And someone always has more kids, more work, more responsibility. If you are a people pleaser or discontent with your life, it’s easy to get roped in.

And that’s the key. I’m less of a pleaser. I’m not as discontent. And though I have a long way to go, I’m on that path. And it looks different and acts different and says things people who are looking to please don’t say.

* * * * *

But I’ve been struggling lately with my inability to multi-task a million mom things. And feeling guilt about ministry and church. And I’d reached that overload point at work, yet again. Because I’m a pleaser.

And then, in lieu of narcotics for the pain in my jaw, the endodontist prescribed a steroid. Just four days of it. To get me through to the root canal.

For four days, I had a tremendous amount of energy and combined with regular pain relievers that finally helped alleviate the pain in my jaw, I felt good. I worked 53 hours in four days, flying to California and driving hours and hours each day through LA traffic without even a moment of panic.

As I was driving across the Southland to the airport to go home, I thought, I wonder if there’s something I can take all the time. 

Performance enhancing drugs for moms.

I know there are. I know plenty of moms who take them. For depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, pain . . .

An extremely (in my eyes) social friend of mine — someone to whom I’m always comparing my feeble hospitality — admitted to me recently that she had to have a glass of wine at certain events to get through the evening. And when she realized it had become a habit and decided to break it, the events suddenly became stressful and she dreaded them.

And I recall a conversation with a friend some years ago in which I confessed to her  my guilt that I didn’t think I could deal with a mutual friend who had made me miserable without going on anti-anxiety drugs. That I didn’t understand how she could be such good friends with her and what was her secret. Well . . . she said.

I’m not saying these things to judge anyone taking medications or who have a glass of wine at a party.

I’m saying them because I had been comparing myself to a false standard. Berating myself needlessly.

* * * * *

It hit me hard on Saturday. When I came home.

All my pleasing doesn’t please. It only makes me miserable.

And if Super Woman on steroids working overtime doesn’t make everyone happy and pleased with my work, I’m not going to feel guilty about what I really have to give anymore.

I wrestled all last weekend with this whole persona I’ve attempted in my own feeble way. Wrestled with my pride. Because I know I can do a lot of things. Just not all of them. I have to choose.

So I’m reclaiming my priorities of wife and mom and I’m choosing to make time for people who are going through hell because of addictions and to write about our experience for their encouragement. And that means means I have to give up a whole lot of other things. Or at least being amazing at them.

The truth is, there’s no reason for this relentless pace.

All of my former excuses — distraction, self-esteem, guilt, pleasing, fear of sudden poverty — just don’t cut it anymore. That’s not who I am now.

* * * * *

It’s a process. And I’ve had a lot of help. A lot of exposure of my flaws. A lot of learning to be okay with who I am, where I am. That I’m not anywhere near a perfect mom. Or wife. Or anything.

And I pretty much don’t care who knows it now.

Because what I’ve discovered, now that I’m not trying so hard to be amazing, is that the people in my life need me to be real more than they need me to be awesome.

And, I need me to be real. 

Being real this week has given me a totally unexpected but long-sought for answer to prayer.

What about you?  We’re not in a competition. There is no real prize.

And please read this article: Moms on Drugs: The Prescription Pill Epidemic

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to have problems. And we need to make it okay for people to ask for help without making them feel like a failure.

Maybe it would be easier all quit being Super Woman at once.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9