Life Lesson #7: Don’t Quit


Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. — C. S. Lewis

I know so many people who are struggling … people close to my heart and some not so close.  I’ve noticed, from my own experience, that what exacerbates the problem is looking around at others and thinking, “Why me?”

I’m not sure when I adopted the notion that life is supposed to be problem free, but it obviously crept into my psyche somewhere along the line.  Maybe it’s from all of the books I lost myself in when I was growing up, or perhaps it’s the movies I escape into when I want to remove myself from the cold, hard realities of life.  Somehow in the process my mind skipped over the hardships and only remembered the happy endings.

I know what it’s like to feel hopeless, frustrated, all alone.  I know what it’s like to feel that no one cares, that no one understands.  It’s hard to get out of the rut.  It’s hard to think differently when everything you know is screaming, “Failure!”  It’s hard to get past the voices of Doom and Gloom whispering in your ears.  Spending time with Harry Potter or Frodo relieves my momentary fear and paralysis and makes me think that I, too, can overcome my current struggle.

I recently sent the daughter of a dear friend of mine a poem called “Don’t Quit”.  You can find it here.  I decided it might be a good thing to send my own children, who are facing some tough realities of their own (aka how to afford college when they can’t take out student loans without a parent’s cosignature).

Here’s the thing, though… I’ve learned throughout all of this that there is one thing you can bank on.  Satan desires nothing more than to drag us down, to lose our focus, to make us feel intimidated/inferior/not good enough.  Drown his voice out.  He is full of smoke and hot air!

Don’t waste your energy looking at the people around you.  They are not running YOUR race.  YOU are.  They have their own obstacles to overcome.  Focus on your race.  Stay grounded.  Other people don’t matter in the big huge scheme of things.  What matters is you and God … that’s it.  His plans for your life.  The purpose He created you for.

Keep the faith…

Lori Lynn

Father … when life gets just too darn hard to bear, help us to remember that struggle is preparation for something down the road.  It is strengthening us and building our spiritual muscle.  You have a plan for each of us.  We may not see it fully; but if we continue to trust in You, it will eventually become known, sometimes in the most surprising way.  Keep us strong.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Life Lesson #6: When Life Gives You A Do-Over, Take It!


“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”  — Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

“It’s humbling to start fresh. It takes a lot of courage. But it can be reinvigorating. You just have to put your ego on a shelf & tell it to be quiet.”  — Jennifer Ritchie Payette

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” – Joseph Campbell

It has been a year of change.  No doubt about that.  Hopefully, the dust will now start to settle, and life will get a little more even-keeled.  A little over a year ago, my divorce was finalized.  In the divorce decree it was determined that my ex-husband and I would need to sell our home, and I would have to find a new place to live.  It’s interesting how we can become so attached to things … things that, over time, really don’t mean anything.

I was not looking forward to moving.  I liked my house.  I liked my neighborhood.  Mostly, I was not looking forward to going through the mounds of STUFF that my ex-husband and I had accumulated over our almost 22 years of marriage.  The thought of weeding through boxes of paperwork and unforgotten items buried in the corners of the garage exhausted me even before I began the onerous task.

When the offer came on the last day of February from a buyer who was adamant about moving in on April 1, I was not amused.  Whereas I was extremely grateful that we had an offer, I was in the middle of the busiest season of the year.  In addition to working full-time, I am a part-time organist at my church, and we were in the middle of Lent.  Not only did I have quite a few additional church services to play for, but I had also taken over as choir accompanist, since our other organist had been diagnosed with breast cancer a few days before Christmas.  Asking me to move out of a 3,500 square foot home in one month was like asking an accountant to move on April 14.  It was a highly stressful time.  To top it all off, the place I was moving to–a townhome under construction–was not going to be finished for another two months.  I was temporarily displaced and living out of a suitcase with my parents.

Two days after moving into my new townhome, I had to fly out East to attend my son’s high school graduation and move him back home to live with me.  While I was away, my two daughters had to fend for themselves attempting to find things that no one had a clue as to there whereabouts.  It took me weeks after I got back to even find my pots and pans so, needless to say, we ate out a lot.  Definitely not good for an already stretched budget.

We survived and are just now getting more fully settled in.  We’ve made room in the garage for at least one car!

As if that weren’t enough stress on my plate, I decided to apply for a different job … a lateral move within my company … but I thought, “What the heck … new year, new life, new townhome, why not a new job?  I’ll make it a complete do-over!”  So, in a few weeks, I am about to embark on a new adventure with the hope of learning some new skills that will make me more marketable.  I am hoping within the next year to go back to school for my Master’s.  I am hoping to reconnect with my creative and less-stressed self from my pre-marriage days.

God has graced me with a do-over on multiple levels.  I could have chosen to ignore the nudges He gave me.  I could have chosen to accept some and decline others, but some of the circumstances surrounding the changes were too obvious to miss.  My new job, for example … it was as if God was flashing a big neon sign in front of my face with a huge, flashing, boldly outlined arrow pointing, “Go here!”  (Pretty hard to miss nudges like that one.)

For someone who likes all of her ducks in a row before taking on new things, those of you who have read my earlier posts know that if there is one thing that God has taught me over the years, it’s that He won’t show me the next step on my path until I take the one He currently places in front of me.  Therefore, I have no idea where these new changes will take me, but I do know I am on the right path.  Until He shows me the next step, I’m going to enjoy where I am at.  I need not fret.  I need not worry.  I’m where I’m supposed to be at this moment in time, and God knows where the next stop on my journey is going to land me.

Embracing life (at the moment) …

Lori Lynn

Dear LORD … thank You for new beginnings.  Thank You for giving me glimpses into my past and future seeing how You so beautifully weave past experiences and future opportunities together into a seamless masterpiece.  Continue to point out Your plans for my life by presenting me with opportunities too obvious to miss. (Those flashing arrows sure are helpful!)  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.

 

 

 

Life Lesson #5: Communication is Key


“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”  Henry Winkler

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

You know how they say if you assume anything, it makes an “a**” of “u” and “me”.  Well, I can attest to that; and it all could have been avoided …

For the past year or so, I have been trying to reestablish a relationship with a dear friend whom I knew years ago and with whom I had lost contact. Things started out relatively well until I started searching for answers to questions my friend was not willing to answer. Instead of leaving things lie and allowing my friend to talk to me in his own time, I became pushy in my desperation to get answers I thought I needed. In the process, I wound up pushing my friend away, and he accused me of having no respect for other people’s boundaries. My mouth dropped to the floor in righteous indignation.  “What? ME?!? No concept of other people’s boundaries?” What in the world was he talking about. I have a history of letting people walk all over me. I have a history of letting people bleed me dry … people who take and don’t give much in return. I knew I had boundary issues when it came to establishing my own boundaries, but I was taken aback by the accusation that I have no respect for the boundaries of others.

At first, I was furious.  How dare he! How dare he accuse me of being presumptuous, judgmental, and righteous to boot.  Who did he think he was? Did he not realize he was being the very things he accused me of being? To top it all off, he accused me of having a hard time understanding other people and their issues (something I happen to be very good at, which those who know me well will attest to).

It would have been so easy to lash out, but I didn’t. I realized there was some truth in what he said. I hadn’t respected his boundaries in this particular instance. He had given me fair warning but had failed to explain himself in the process (kind of like someone yelling “STOP!” as you’re driving along about to collide with a train bearing down at full speed, but you’re too busy talking to notice). Nonetheless, I knew by his tone and by his choice of words that I had crossed the line. He was hurt and feeling attacked. Defense mechanisms kicked in, shields went up, and arrows began flying.

Instead of shooting arrows back, it was time for me to apologize. As badly as I wanted answers to my questions, it was not worth the price of losing an extremely important relationship with someone I dearly cared about. The apology came easy. I meant it. I was sincere. The agony of wondering if the relationship has been irreparably damaged … not so easy to bear.

Had my friend explained a little bit about all the things going on in his life, I wouldn’t have continued to pester him with questions he simply couldn’t deal with on top of everything else. Although I’m very good at understanding the undercurrents behind people’s behavior, I’m a terrible mind reader; so if you’re unwilling to share anything, I’m afraid I will fail miserably. In this case, I hurt my friend deeply and that, in turn, hurt me.

Communication is so extremely vital. When communication breaks down, I don’t know about you, but I do start to assume. My mind kicks into overdrive, and I begin imagining all sorts of scenarios. Satan has a heyday inside my head … feeding me lies that trigger my insecurity and make me start doubting and worrying and second-guessing. It takes concentrated effort to remind myself that just because someone isn’t willing to communicate with me doesn’t mean they don’t like me; it may just mean they have to process things themselves first or they may just have a lot their plate at the moment.

Take my friend, for example.  Over the past year, he:

  1. sold his house,
  2. moved,
  3. started a new job,
  4. had his company file Chapter 11 bankruptcy,
  5. had been dealing with an ill family member.

As my former brother-in-law told me upon hearing I had lost my first baby in utero, “How can people pray for you if they don’t know what’s going on?” How can people walk alongside you as you struggle through life if they don’t know you are struggling? How can people share in your joy if they don’t know you are rejoicing?

Bottom line: Talk to one another!

In this most recent experience with my friend, yes, I was way out of line. I barreled my way past my friend’s boundaries oblivious to the consequences. My need to know something made me blind to the fact that my friend couldn’t handle my questions right now. When he screamed “STOP”, I finally could see the train in my peripheral vision. Suddenly the answers I thought I so desperately needed aren’t that important. What’s more important is that my friend is hurting, and it all could have been avoided if:

  1. my friend had just conversed with me instead of remaining silent, and
  2. I had not jumped to conclusions and made my own assumptions.

I forgive my friend for lashing out at me (stress makes us do crazy things), and I hope he will forgive me in time. In the meantime, I will pray for him … that his stress level will diminish and that lines of communication will once again open up.

Two-way communication fixes so much.  It alleviates stress, corrects misunderstandings, avoids assumptions (and the consequences that go along with them), and fosters intimacy and warmth. It may not happen immediately, but keep at it. Don’t give up. A good relationship deserves the hard work of pressing through and keeping the lines of communication open.

Talk to me …

Lori Lynn

Father … You bring people into our lives for a reason. When we mess up those relationships, may we do all we can to break through the miscommunication and hurt feelings by talking to each other openly until the issue is resolved. Life is too short to be angry and upset. It ruins our health and causes sleepless nights. Grant us grace to be more loving. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Life Lesson #4: Go With the Pain


Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. –Charles Dickens

Pain is never permanent. –Teresa of Avila

When I was nervously anticipating the birth of my first child a little over 17 years ago, a wonderful woman (Karen) from my church gave me some advice that helped me through each of my deliveries with little to no pain medication.  By the time I gave birth to my third child, the delivery room nurse told my husband, “you would never know she is about to deliver a baby.  She doesn’t look like she’s in labor at all.”  What was the secret?  Go with the pain.

Karen told me when I was in labor to imagine how a turtleneck stretches when we put it on over our head.  She said to think about labor and delivery the same way.  She said, “The pain of childbirth has a purpose, so don’t fight it.  Go with the pain.  By going with the pain, your body is able to do what it needs to do through the birthing process.  Fighting the pain only serves to make us tense which, in turn, makes the pain worse.” So, I went into my first delivery room armed with relaxation music and a bunch of other things I had read about that could help assuage my apprehension, only to toss it all aside as I focused on breathing in on the count of four, breathing out on the count of four, and remembering what Karen said.  I was so focused on the numbers in my head and the visualization of the turtleneck stretching over my head (enabling me to go with the pain instead of fighting it), that labor and delivery was probably the easiest part of having children.  (I find raising them much more difficult!)

I recently mentioned this piece of advice… going with the pain… to a counselor friend of mine, as I was explaining some of the junk I’m working through.  She wisely advised me not to give up… to use that same advice in my life now.  Don’t give up working through the emotions and the pain that surface as introspection, prayer, and discussion bring difficult events to the surface.  Go with the pain, for it has a purpose.  Healing comes on the other side.

Some days are better than others.  For example, I just finished reading a wonderful set of books by Francine Rivers (Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream), which made me sob and weep more often than not.  It brought to the forefront so many emotions… of love lost, relationships gone awry, insecurity, not measuring up, miscommunication, etc.   Her Mother’s Hope reminded me of all of the ambitious dreams I had when I was young and all of the places I was able to travel in Europe.  It took me back to a time of adventure, excitement, and unending promise.  As I continued to read, memories surfaced of intense love and passion… the joy of having met my soul mate, the impact of knowing I had encountered someone who had changed my life forever… the worry associated with raising children and how I don’t want to mess up.   Along with the memories came moments of pain.

My instinct, more often than not, is to run away from the pain… to stop the memories… to wish away what was; but some of those same memories contain immense joy and love, and I want to remember those things more than anything else.  It is in those memories that I realize I am capable of loving.  It is those memories that remind me I was at one time deeply loved by another for simply being me.  I didn’t have to give until there was nothing left in me, nor did I have to pretend to be something I wasn’t; I was loved for the simplicity of being myself.

I’m not sure how life became so complicated as the years have passed, but I do know this: I want to be healed, so I am going to once again go with the pain… this time to birth a new Lori Lynn.  It may be a messy process, but I am hoping the end result will be well worth it.

In the arms of Jehovah-Rapha,

Lori Lynn

Dear Lord… I so often want to fight the pain.  I’m tired of hurting emotionally.  I’m weary of carrying a neverending load of responsibility.  I long for carefree days and joy-filled moments.  When my heart feels heavy, help me to remember that pain has a purpose; and if I go with the pain, it will birth something wonderful in the end.  Amen.

 

Life Lesson #3: Do the Right Thing


The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

–1 Kings 19:11-12

One week ago, God pierced my heart with a gentle command that made me cry out with a loud, “No!”

I realize that sounds like an oxymoron… piercing with a gentle command… but that’s how it was.  God nudged me quietly, but it struck me to the core.  I thought to myself,”If I do what  God is asking me to do, I won’t be able to go to grad school.  I don’t want to give up grad school.  I’ve worked too hard for this!”  So I prayed, “God, if this is something You really want me to do, please don’t let me talk myself out of it, and don’t let others talk me out of it either.”  You see, I’m really good at bouncing things off of other people.  I think I am hoping they will either talk me out of something or tell me what to do.  I never seem to trust my gut instinct; but I’m learning that when I don’t, I wind up making poor choices.

Sure enough, within a few days, I had a number of people tell me not to follow through on what I thought I was supposed to do.  Pretty soon, I had just about talked myself out of it, too.    A few people suggested that perhaps I could partially follow through; but when I contemplated that, God always laid the passage about Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) before me.  It didn’t take me long to know that partially following through wasn’t an option.

In the meantime, God continued to nudge me.  I opened up my Matthew Henry’s Commentary and studied the passage I had been reading when God commanded me the first time.  The more I read, the more He continued to nudge me that what He had originally commanded me to do was still what He wanted me to do.  Yesterday at church, the passage I was struggling with was one of the readings of the day.  I’ve walked with God long enough to know that when Bible passages show up more than once within a short period of time, it is something I am supposed to notice.  So today I followed through.  I know that if I did what God truly was asking me to do, He will bless it in some way.

On one hand, I am happy that I did follow through; because I know I am right with God.  On the other hand, I can’t say it makes my heart more tender towards other people who are involved and who will benefit from what I did.  I didn’t do it for them; I did it because I wanted more than anything to obey God.

Can you relate at all?  Do you have a nagging sensation in your heart that just won’t go away.  Do you “know that you know” that God wants you to do a particular thing, but you keep dragging your feet?  What’s holding you back?  What would it take to step out in faith and do whatever it is God is telling you to do?  Are you like me?  Do you go back and forth wondering if you’re hearing correctly?  Do you bounce it off of so many other people first that you get talked out of following through with whatever it is you’re supposed to do?

If you do, there are a few things that will help you learn to hear God’s voice and pay attention to it:

  • Get alone with God where it is quiet.  You won’t hear him in a room full of noise.
  • Pray–Ask God for guidance.  Be specific.  Say, “God, I believe You are telling me this.  If that’s true, please show me how to follow through on it.”
  • Be patient–God oftentimes won’t show you the whole path up front.  He will light your way one step at a time.  If you want to know the next step, you’ve got to follow through on the step you’re on currently.
  • Pay attention to what your heart or your gut is telling you.  We can’t always rely on our feelings (as they oftentimes lead us astray), but God will speak through His Spirit within us if we just take the time to listen.
God doesn’t want us consulting with a bunch of other people to follow through on what He is saying to us.  He wants us to listen to Him alone.  He wants us to seek Him and question Him about our doubts and fears.  He wants us to spend time in His Word and down on our knees in prayer.  He wants us to get to know Him on a more intimate level.  Other people always have the potential to let us down or lead us astray.  God will do neither.  He loves us, and He wants what is best for us.  The only way we will come to understand what that is is to come to understand Him better.
 
Seeking to know Him more…
 
Lori Lynn
 
Father… teach me how to tune out the distractions and noise of this present world and heed Your gentle whisper.  Help me to trust Your voice more than the voices of other people in my life who have the potential to lead me astray.  Keep me focused on Your Word that I might know You better.  I want to do the right thing.  I want to be right with You.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

Life Lesson #2: Follow Your Heart


Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? — Job 38:36 (NLT)

 

For years, I have wanted to be a writer of children’s books.  When I was in my 20’s, I flew to New York City and interviewed with a major publishing house.  I didn’t get the job.  A few years later, I followed the man of my dreams out to Boston to pursue a job in children’s book publishing.  I had dreams of working at Little Brown or Houghton Mifflin.  I went so far as to call Little Brown and offer to work for free.  The girl I spoke with thought I was a crazy person.  I wasn’t crazy; I just really wanted to learn about publishing.

I wound up working for an accounting firm as a secretary, and then I got fired.  I hated my job.  The day my boss and the human resource person told me I was being let go, I looked across the desk at them and said, “Thank you SO MUCH!”  They glanced at each other with a raised eyebrow.  I had no idea how I was going to pay my rent, or even if I would be able to stay living in Boston, but I did know one thing; I was free.  I had been released from a dungeon of drudgery.

I spent the summer looking for a job and collecting unemployment.  My future husband surprised me by taking me on fun outings to get my mind off being unemployed… hiking in New Hampshire, visits to Martha’s Vineyard, dinner and excursions throughout Boston, etc.  The man of my dreams somehow faded out of the picture.  He basically said, “Tough break.”

I’d like to say I persevered and found a job in publishing, but I didn’t.  I wound up in another dull, lifeless secretarial job.  By this time, I had convinced myself I wasn’t supposed to get into publishing.  Throughout the summer, I had continued to look for jobs in publishing.  I had one wonderful man (a vice president at one of Boston’s major publishing houses who rode the same bus I did, and whom I wound up interviewing with) tell me, “In this business, unless you’ve gone to an Ivy League school or come from money, your chances of breaking in are pretty slim.”  That’s when I sort of wilted and gave up.  Publishing wasn’t God’s plan for me.  He had closed every single door I had tried to go through.  Obviously, I was supposed to be knocking on different doors.

I figured since I wasn’t making it in the career world, perhaps I was meant to be a wife and mother.  I changed my focus.  I got married, gave up grad school, had three children, and completely lost my identity.  (Before you start thinking, “Oh boy, here she goes… on the pity-me bandwagon!”, I want to assure you that’s not where I’m headed.  I HAVE been there, done that, but have decided it’s time to get off and start doing what God intended for me to do in the first place… hang on to Him and persevere.)

Throughout my journey, one thing has remained constant (well, two actually, when you count God being the only One who has continued to love me through it all), and that is my love for publishing and writing.  My writing needs a lot of work; it’s rough and tends to segue off onto multiple tangents at times, but it hopefully touches my readers every now and again in a a profound way.  I’m praying it will smooth out in time.

My point to all of this is… if your heart consistently tells you something, and the message rarely changes, LISTEN.  God designed each of us with a specialty.  We’ve each been given a gift.  Your gift will call to you.  It oftentimes will be something that comes naturally.  It can also, at times, require a great deal of studied focus and attention.  It ALWAYS will be something that touches your heart and spreads a warmth throughout your soul.  It will be something that brings you joy, and usually it will be something that blesses others.  So…

Lesson #2: Follow Your Heart

Don’t allow other people to determine what you should do in life.  Don’t be forced into a career that will make you miserable.  So much of our life is spent working, that we really need to be careful that we don’t get locked into doing something we dislike intensely.  If we’re unhappy when we get up in the morning, and we can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed to go to a job we can’t stand, it doesn’t set a good precedent.  There ARE fantastic jobs out there.  It might be something as simple as taking meals to the elderly people on your block or it might be jet-setting around the world cinching major business deals.  If it makes you happy, it’s the right job for you.  The thing is, no one can tell you what it is except YOU.

If you are a young person reading this and  you don’t know what it is, volunteer your services in a variety of areas.  Talk to your friends and ask them what they like/dislike about their job.  Take some time to reflect on whether you enjoy being around people or being alone, working with things or working with ideas, traveling or staying put, working set day shifts or a flexible variety of shifts, being your own boss or having someone else give you direction.  When you’re in high school and college, take a variety of classes.  Get involved in extracurricular activities.  You don’t always need to know what you want to major in at the start of your college career.  Part of the early college experience is exploring your options (of course, high school is an even better time to do this), but my point is to try out a variety of things to find out what you like and what you don’t.  You aren’t going to be good at everything.  That’s okay.  Focus on what you ARE good at.  The rest will fall into place.

If you aren’t so young anymore, but you realize you’ve spent your entire life doing what makes everyone else happy, and you wake up one day and realize you’ve lost your spark, it’s time to reassess things.  It’s never too late to learn something new.  Take some time to think about what you’d rather be doing.  Find some time to go away where it’s quiet.  Take a pen and some paper (or your iPad!) and write down steps on how to make that happen.  It’s a proven fact that the first step in getting from Point A to Point B is to have a plan, so make some goals and write them down.  Start imagining yourself in your new role.  Our thought life is a huge contributor to where we end up in life.  Make a timeline.  You may need to make a budget.  Post these things where you can see them on a daily (or weekly) basis.  Cut out pictures of where you see yourself or what you see yourself doing.  Visual reminders are HUGE in helping us move out of a rut.  Reward yourself along the way to reaching your goal.  Remember, a journey begins with a single step.  If you don’t take that initial first step, you are never going to get to where you want to go.  Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

Go on now… get going!  I’m rooting for you!

Lori Lynn

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.  –Steve Jobs

 

 

Life Lesson #1 (Updated): Deal with Your Stuff


“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

{I originally wrote this post in January 2012. It has been rewritten a bit, as events in my life have changed, but the life lesson is still the same (and more important than ever for me to share).}

It’s very difficult when writing a blog to know just how much to share with your readers.  As a writer, I want to touch my readers’ hearts.  I want them to read what I write and say, “Oh my gosh.  I know exactly what she’s talking about!”, or “I SO get where she’s coming from.”  At the same time, I don’t want to share so much that it portrays people in my life in a bad light; because there are two sides to every story, and you are really only hearing mine.  Suffice it to say, because of poor choices I have made in the past, my life has not exactly gone the way I had hoped; but I am hopeful that some of my mistakes can be used for good in teaching others not to do what I did.

Lesson #1:  Do NOT marry someone until you have dealt with your “stuff.”

When I married my husband, I knew I did not love him.  I did know he was a good Christian man, and he had a good heart; and I truly believed that God would help me grow to love him in time.  I was 28 years old, desperately wanted to be a wife and mother, and felt the biological clock ticking.  I had just come out of a four-year off-again-on-again relationship with a man whom I loved more than anything but who had no intention of marrying me anytime soon because of family pressure on his side.  It was actually this man who sat in church with me one day, looked out over the congregation, saw my future husband in one of the front rows, pointed and said, “You should go out with that guy.”  My initial reaction was, “Oh my gosh.  No way.  He is SO not my type!”  (Now I realize that many of you highly-intelligent readers will be asking, “Why did you go out with this guy for four years when he is telling you to go out with other people?”)  Can I just say, “It’s what insecure people do.”  It’s also what led me to marry my husband.

Which brings me back to dealing with our stuff…

We can drag an awful lot of baggage, which we aren’t even aware of, into our marriages.  Are you familiar with any of these:

  • Insecurity
  • Low self-esteem/unworthiness
  • Unresolved relationship issues
  • Poverty (lack of money or love)
  • Emotional/physical/verbal abuse
  • Codependency
  • Anger
  • Mental health issues

If you haven’t dealt with them BEFORE you tie the knot, trust me when I say that you WILL deal with them at some point after.  All of the baggage mentioned above comes with a bountiful set of emotions.  Emotions get triggered in our brains from the darnedest things…  a sound, a smell, a touch, a look, a word, etc.  You may think that you can suppress emotions, but they can only be suppressed for so long.  Emotions are alive, so suppressing them is like burying something alive.  They will eventually erupt and find their way out; and when they do, it isn’t pretty!

I was married for almost 22 years.  I can honestly say, it was a struggle from Day 1.  On my wedding night, I was crying because I had a new last name.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I had every intention of changing my name when I got married.  It wasn’t having a new last name that was the problem; it had everything to do with thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can’t go back.  I’ve made a horrible mistake.  This is not what I wanted.”  I don’t come from a belief system that says, “Get married today and divorced tomorrow.”  I had made a covenant before God.  This was serious business.  For what it’s worth, my husband was probably feeling the same way.  All of the sudden he was faced with a hysterical wife who was not at all like the woman he thought he had married.

In retrospect, I think I was more in love with the IDEA of getting married (the ring, the dress, the flowers, walking down the aisle) than I was with the man I had agreed to marry.  Also, in my insecurity, I didn’t believe anyone else would ever ask me to marry him.  My husband did; therefore, I thought I better jump at the opportunity.

I had had similar feelings (that I was making a mistake) the morning of my wedding but had brushed them off as wedding-day jitters.  At that point, I remember thinking, “I can’t back out now.  Everyone has flown out here for the wedding.  My parents have put a lot of expense into this.”

Both of us lamented the fact that we did not have premarital counseling before our wedding day.  We were supposed to have it.  We even went to our first session; unfortunately, right in the middle of it, our pastor got an emergency phone call and had to end the session.  We somehow never rescheduled.  I think the pastor thought, “These are two mature individuals who obviously love each other, both from good Lutheran stock, so they will be fine.”  (Of course, I have no idea what he was actually thinking.  Pre-marriage counseling for us may have just slipped his mind.)  I do think, though, that many of the conflicts we struggled with over the years would have surfaced in those counseling sessions, and we could have been spared quite a bit of the heartache we experienced (or at least been a little bit more prepared for it).

So, how did we stay married so long?  In this Married-Today-Divorced-Tomorrow Age, I’d like to think it was because neither one of us could come to terms with breaking the covenant we made before our God; and we were both too stubborn to give up.  In reality, it isn’t because of anything WE were thinking or doing.  The truth is that God was the third strand in our cord; and whereas our two strands would have broken early on, His continued holding on.  There was a purpose to all we went through.  Just as an ugly jagged-edged rock can be put into a tumbler and bounced all over for days on end and come out a beautiful gem, our marriage tossed us around enough to remove the jagged edges off of us whereby (hopefully) we can take our mistakes and use them to instruct others.  It means that all of the junk our children were forced to wade through was strengthening them and building them up for service to others.  They will have a sense of compassion and empathy from having “been there” that will give them remarkable insight in helping others through the maze.  I have also come to realize that divorce does not separate us from our stuff.  If not dealt with, our stuff follows us into any relationship we enter into.

Maybe you are in a similar place.  Maybe you’re about to get married and you realize you’re not getting married for the right reasons.  Maybe you’re already married, were lucky enough to have been in love when you walked down the aisle, but now find you have drifted apart.  Maybe you’re struggling with a wayward or mentally-ill child, and it is wreaking havoc in your marriage.  (I have a daughter who is ADHD/NLD/and borderline Asperger’s.  Trust me when I say I KNOW the havoc mental health issues inflict on a marriage.)  Maybe you are a single person who feels the only way you can be loved is to sleep with every person who asks you to with the hope that maybe one of them will propose.  Maybe you are the child of an alcoholic who has become a workaholic to compensate for the love you never got, and you’ve reached the point where you realize you’ve accumulated a lot of things but you have no one to pass them on to.

We all have issues.  We all struggle.  But there is hope.  We CAN deal with our stuff before it deals with us.  We CAN break the cycle that we’re in … be it codependency, verbal abuse, anger.  We CAN stop it.  It isn’t easy.  It means making some tough decisions (for me, it meant filing for divorce after 20+ years), but remember that it is for your good and the good of those who come after you (my children have told me filing for divorce was the right thing to do).  Dare to be the difference in your future child (or grandchild’s life).  Dare to be the one who breaks the chain.  And remember… the best thing you can do is to deal with it BEFORE you get married!

Saved by Grace …

Lori Lynn

Dear Lord… Thank you for being the third strand in the frayed and broken cord now binding me and my children.  Without you, we would have been done a long time ago.  Continue to show us in a myriad of ways that You have a purpose in all that we have gone through and give us the strength to continue holding on until beauty shines through.  Give us the courage to change what we know needs to be changed, and help us to grow to be more like You.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Author’s note: Please know that I am in no way advocating divorce. I am not encouraging it, nor am I condoning it; but it happens.

Although I filed for divorce, I still believe it is wrong; and I will be held accountable when I go before my Father in heaven. But I am convinced that God knows my heart, and He knows why I filed. He knows my ultimate goal is to live for His glory and to show others that our sinfulness does not have to keep us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives… oftentimes He uses our mess-ups to connect us to people in ways we never thought possible. We all sin and fall short.  May He grace you today as He has graced me…

Faulty Expectations


“To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”
— Friedrich NietzscheTwilight of the Idols, Or, How to Philosophize With the Hammer

I went to pick up my new eyeglasses today.  After putting the first pair on, I disappointingly said to the salesclerk, “Oh dear… I can’t see distance well at all.  I can see you clearly, and I can read this card pretty well; but the distance is blurry.”  Turns out the pair I had on were my new computer glasses, only designed for seeing well in the mid-range.  She excused herself for a minute and came back with my other new pair of eyeglasses, the regular pair.  When I put those on, I could see quite well in the distance and fairly well close up.

As I drove home, I pondered this experience, thinking to myself, “Isn’t that just like relationships?  We expect someone to be something they aren’t intended to be, and then we get disappointed because they don’t meet our expectations.”

What would happen if we change our faulty thinking?  Just as my perspective regarding my computer glasses changed after the salesclerk brought out my regular pair, and I adapted to how the computer glasses were intended to work, I firmly believe that our relationships with people we are not pleased with could change, too, once we adapt our perspective on how we see them.

When we get to know people for who they are, and for who God intended them to be, we will find that they are quite delightful to know.  We stop expecting them to be something they aren’t.  We stop trying to make them into what we want them to be.  We accept them for who they are.  When we do that, they can function as they were intended to function, and we just might find that we are grateful for what they add to our lives.

Seeing much clearer now …

Lori Lynn

Do You Want To Get Well (John 5:6-7)


When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

In Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, there was a pool called Bethesda. It was here that many disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One man who was there the day Jesus walked by had been an invalid for 38 years.

I can relate to that man. I know what it’s like to be stuck in the same place day after day with no help in sight. I know what it’s like to be there so long that you give up hope of things ever being different.

God laid this portion of Scripture before me numerous times over the past few months. I think He wanted to teach me something. I noticed that the teachers expounding on this passage would say that if the man truly wanted to get well, he would have found a way to get in the pool; but I kept thinking to myself (angrily, I might add), “He COULDN’T. He was paralyzed!!” Then, one day, it dawned on me.

Sometimes, in order to get well, we need to depend on others. We can’t do it alone. We have to reach out to those around us and ask for help. We can’t let pride get in the way. We can’t let our independence get in the way. We must ASK. We must RECEIVE. Only then can we truly get well. Sometimes we need to lean on others for support. Sometimes we need the help of others to get us where we need to be. God created us for relationship… yes, with Him, but also with other people. He even said in Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty sometimes asking for help. I feel like I should be the one doing the helping. I have just as much difficulty sometimes receiving help. I don’t want to be a bother. I don’t want to burden others with my problems. I realize other people have their own issues. They are busy. They have just as much stress as I do. But someone told me once that if we don’t ask for help, how are other people supposed to know just how badly we need it? If we aren’t willing to receive help, we deprive another person of feeling a sense of fulfillment in helping a fellow human in need. We deprive them of the joy of giving.

How about you? Have you been struggling with the same issue for a long time? Do you want to get well?

Lori Lynn

Teach us, LORD, to receive Your love and blessings. Show us how to reach out to others and develop meaningful relationships. Help us help others. Transform us into a people of courage, people of faith, people with a heart overflowing with love… love for ourselves and for others. Above all, transform us into people who when others see us, they will see Your reflection and want to know You better!! Amen.

I Don’t Want Social Media … I Want Friends!


When I was in 6th grade, I suffered a temporary bout of ostracism from every kid in my class with the exception of one girl, who was a bit of an outcast herself. The details of this sordid event escape me. I’m sure I did something to raise someone’s ire or the green horns of jealousy; but whatever the cause, the repercussions have been profound. Decades later, the effects are still felt. Pretty much every experience I encounter gets processed through the lens of rejection.

Although the ostracizing event blew over that summer and I went on to have many friends throughout junior high, high school, and college, I have found, as an adult, that I still frequently feel like an outcast.

I have a significant number of friends on Facebook (not thousands, because I’m very selective about whom I friend), but here’s the thing … I could have hundreds more if not for the cloudy vision of life I see through my cataracts of rejection, which cause the recurring tape in my head to say, “No one likes you, so they won’t want to be your friend.”) I realize this is faulty thinking. The friends I do have would assure me it just isn’t true. Nonetheless, my faulty thinking affects the outcome of my daily living.

Why do I care how many friends I have? If I really think about it, I don’t. I mean, in the big huge scheme of things, what really matters more … that other people like me or that I like myself? I mean, if I have thousands of friends on Facebook (or any other social media platform for that matter) but I don’t like myself, am I really happy?

We live in a technology-driven, ADHD world of nonconnection … plugged in and tuned out. I firmly believe it’s time to unplug and tune in … tune in with some real flesh and blood friends who truly care and are there when we need them.

I don’t want thousands of friends on Facebook. I want real friends … a dozen flesh and blood comrades in arms who will call me up periodically and invite me to do things with them. “Hey, Lori Lynn, Chris Botti is going to be in town. Want to go see him?” “Hey, Lori Lynn, I feel the need to go Christmas shopping in Chicago. Want to go?” “Hey, Lori Lynn, I’m contemplating signing up for a mission trip to India. You game?” To each of these, I would answer a resounding, “YES, definitely!”

I’m tired of being lonely. I’m tired of not having anyone to connect with in the flesh, so here’s what I’m planning to do for starters:

  • Contact a handful of high school friends, whom I haven’t seen in years, and invite them to my home for an evening of fun;
  • Start a weekly Bible study in my home to connect with a number of people I’ve met at various churches in my area;
  • Initiate new friendships by beginning a monthly book club.

I’m not a terribly social person … I tend to be an introvert … but I’m an introvert who needs to know I belong … that I matter to someone. I need to know there is someone out there who understands me or, if they don’t, are honest enough to say, “Ya know, I have no idea what you’re going through right now, but I’m here for you. How can I help?” Unfortunately, I don’t have many of those people in my life at this point; and I think what is so depressing about that is the fact that I was brought up to be that kind of person (which I was until the majority of people I encountered in life were more than happy to receive my help but weren’t able to reciprocate when I was the one needing help). Constantly meeting other people’s needs while your own continue to go unmet leads to burnout rather quickly.

A huge contributing factor to why my marriage ended after 22 years had to do with so much of this. My husband and I never went out with other couples; we rarely went out period. I longed to connect with another human being; my husband was content connecting to a computer or TV screen.

God designed us as relational beings … first and foremost to be in relationship with Him, yes, but also to be in relationship with others. It’s why He gave Eve to Adam. We need one another. We need encouragement when times are tough. We need hugs when we are hurting. We need companionship when we are lonely. A cyber hug just won’t do!

Lori Lynn

___________

Dear LORD … Thank you for loving me and being my friend. I know You are always there for me and listen intently when I talk to You. You know my heart and the loneliness I feel. So today, LORD, I come before You and lay my loneliness at Your feet. I pray that You would send friends into my life … new friends as well as old … friends to laugh with, hands to hold, and arms to embrace me. I pray that they would be a support and encouragement to me, and I pray that I might be the same for them. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.