5 Thoughts on Forgiveness (Minus Forgetting)

What are you holding onto? You know, that nagging thing you or someone else said or did yesterday, ten years ago or even when you were a kid? You might not wake up thinking about it, but it crosses your mind at least once a week. You spend more time mulling over it than you’d like to admit. Yes, that thing that has its grip on you so tight it hurts all over again when you’ve had a stressful day or are feeling less than stellar.

I grew up thinking forgive required forget and said those difficult, confusing words,

I forgive you,

but soon felt like a failure when I thought about [insert the same old/ new issue here]. And now as an adult, playing certain offenses over in my mind like rewinding scenes in a movie brings back angry, hurt feelings. My body knows this and tells the world I am not fine by sending red, hot splotches up my neck and face. As a little girl, I learned to act as if all was okay, denying my true feelings and stuffing them deep down so no one could see (and I didn’t recognize them). So many years later after getting married, those long gone emotions gushed to the surface and exploded. I had to save my relationship and find a way to heal.

I am far from an expert on this, but I have learned some things after reading book after book. Some books didn’t help, some preached forgetting (and I tossed them as soon as I could), but some made the uncomfortable subject seem do-able.

5 things about forgiveness I wish I knew as a kid:

spiralstairs1. Forgiveness is a process. Saying “I forgive you” aloud (to the person or yourself) is just the beginning. It takes work. Writing it down, telling others about it, even speaking it aloud if you’re the only person around reaffirms your decision to begin the process to forgive.

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A tree shed its bark…oddly beautiful.

2. Forgiveness is a continual peeling of something unnecessary that hold us down. It reminds me of a a snake, shedding its skin or a tree, leaving a peeled off pile of bark on the ground each year. We might have to forgive that same offense again (and another time or 10) when we feel all those old emotions.

3. Forgiveness does not excuse the offense, deny it or even necessarily forget it. Instead it’s freedom for the forgiver from that video stuck on rewind and a heavy load of anger and bitterness.

4. Sometimes forgiveness might involve telling that person who hurt you, but it can come in writing as well. I might be wrong, but I don’t believe it requires reconciliation. Oh, I have struggled with this (I’ll blame the silly forgetting idea). I had to learn boundaries are necessary and healthy.

5. For me, forgiveness requires talking to God and then laying all the mess out on the table. When I choose words I think he likes, I feel like I’m pretending. When I say it like I honestly feel it (Dear God, this sucks and I hate that this is so hard. I’m afraid of how I’ll feel and what this means. I’m not sure I can do it, etc), it’s altogether different. I feel heard, understood and finally out of hiding.

IrelandnarniadoorForgiveness brings peace where there was ongoing turmoil. Rather than constant anger and stress that can bring on health issues and plain, old unhappiness, it opens the door to receive peace and joy. Who wouldn’t want that?

Want to read more about this? Check out Getting Rid of the Gorilla for true stories of people like you and me, who  found freedom by dealing with that thing.

 

(Not) the Time We Saved the Day

file1151340932146After spending hours at the coffee shop that Saturday, we hugged goodbye and went to our separate cars, reluctant to start the next errand on the to-do list. Minutes later, my friend knocked on my window saying her car battery was dead. We each located our jumper cables when one man and then another asked if we needed help. Oh, no, no thanks…we got this, and we started talking through our plan (with nervous laughter). The red cable connects to the red on the battery and black to black; just don’t touch the ends together. We can totally do this.

But when I lifted the hood, we had another problem. Apparently, a short, fat hose was left unattached by a mechanic who “fixed” my car a month ago. Resting on top of my battery, the hose looked as if it was an extra, but of course it wasn’t.

We had parked diagonally from one another, but no matter how I maneuvered my car, the jumper cables would not reach. Seriously wanting to handle this ourselves (what a story to tell our husbands later!), I began to realize we would not be able to get her car started unless we let someone help. We used the tools and the (limited) knowledge we had, but that was not enough. So, minutes later, when a third guy offered to help, we watched as he connected our two sets of jumper cables to make the distance between our vehicles. I stood back watching, grateful for this man who knew it was okay to do this…but I felt disappointed. This was not quite turning out to be the story of the time we saved the day with only one another and some jumper cables. Guy #3 even re-attached the “extra” hose, since unlike me, he knew its purpose and where it was supposed to go. As we thanked him profusely and he walked away, I realized we never even asked his name.

I don’t know about you, but I want to figure things out by myself and be independent. Still over and over, I realize I have to face my limitations, reach out, ask for help and then be humble enough to accept it when it’s offered.

So, I did. I have learned this is the air intake hose, and it’s back where it’s supposed to be (thank you, Guy #3).

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Just For You

photo(3)There’s something about being up before the rest of my world awakes. Birds gather in the trees and flutter this way and that, seeming to chat about where to find the best morning snacks. I leave the warmth of my house with dogs in tow, and the chill of the winter air whips at my face. Still, I am warmed by all I experience around me, the things I’d miss in the busy-ness of the late afternoon. I notice intricate, frosty patterns on my windshield, soon to melt with the rising sun, while the usual roar of the interstate traffic is only a slight hum in the background. My dogs happily lick the moisture off the grass, leaving a winding trail of paw prints behind them. And I breathe in the chilly air, which seems fresh and alive with the newness of the day.

I love the quiet and stillness of the morning. Here, I get away from the weightiness of the day that ended hours before and will soon begin in a frenzy all over again. This is when I relax into the good that surrounds me. In this stillness, my thoughts are uncluttered and my mind moves towards God and his love for his creation.

I heard someone say God knows exactly what speaks to us and hands it to each of us in a way that we can understand. I’d never considered that before, but it makes sense when I think about what I believe about God. We are his works of art. He knows exactly the number of hairs on your head and mine (which is different before and after a shower and hair drying and all of that getting ready, so he’s really something). He is always ready for us to tell him about just everything. He has time for us to pour out our sometimes endless web of worries, fears, hurts and doubts but also listen as we gush about all the good. And he doesn’t just act like he’s listening.

So if it’s true–if he truly knows what gets to us, he speaks to one person through relationships and another through music or art. He speaks to others through written skywords, quotes, verses and a multitude of other ways at just the right time. It’s many of these things for me, but in these early morning moments, I feel his love in the stillness. And when the night breaks into day, and the sunrise is a mixture of purples and pinks mixed with blue, I choose to believe he’s saying to me and to all who marvel at the beauty of nature,

“This is just for you.”

Just For You was first published on Hope Walks In on 2.9.14.

Hope Speaks: Wendy’s True Beauty

Courage is contagious. That’s all there is to it.

That’s why once monthly, I’ll be featuring those who also fight hard battles, find hope right there in those seemingly impossible places and then take the scary-beautiful, brave step to share their story.

Introducing my next Hope Speaks author, Wendy. We have been friends for years and have shared multitudes of laughs, movies, Swedish Fish, dinners and even double dates with husbands in tow. More importantly, we have grown together, trading stories about life’s triumphs and challenges, while learning that true beauty is on the inside out.

Here is her courageous story.

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Growing up in a house full of chaos and crisis, it was easy to be overlooked and unnoticed. The only way to really receive attention was to be the perfect daughter or total disaster (and that role was already taken). It would have required something deplorable and extreme to be comparable, but that just wasn’t me. So, I put everything I had into being the ideal daughter. To me, this meant being perfect at everything. Above all else, beauty!

My mother encouraged me to get into modeling. I was enrolled in pageants, model searches, etiquette and acting classes. Although I always felt fear of not measuring up, I was determined to put everything I had into being the best. Besides, all of these things gave me extra time with my mom, and I also liked the attention when she bragged about me. At 14 years old, I was told that I might make it farther in modeling if I was 10 pounds lighter. So, this is when the dieting began, and like everything else, I wanted to do it perfectly. I wanted to make everybody proud, and in a family that struggles with being overweight, I loved the idea of standing out. In less than one week, I didn’t just lose 10 pounds; I lost 20. When my father told me that he admired my willpower, it felt like everything I was trying to achieve was working! It was an amazing feeling to, not only, be noticed but to have my father’s admiration, as well. Soon, I started to believe the answer to everything I needed emotionally was tied to being thin. If diet and exercise was something to be admired, then I was only going to focus on being the best and working the hardest.

Wendy002_0027-1I kept modeling and at 17, was signed with a modeling agency in Milan, Italy. I spent about a year working there and in Munich, Germany. Most people think that it’s this glamorous job, where you get all made up, wear designer clothes and walk down a runway, surrounded by people praising you for your beauty. In reality, it’s very lonely. There is constant competition between girls, making it hard to form friendships on anything but a superficial level. You are constantly critiqued and criticized: she’s too short, too tall, her hips are too wide, shoulders too broad, she’s not thin enough. People talk about your appearance in front of you as if you aren’t even there. I might as well have been one of the articles of clothing I was modeling needing alterations, being worn thin, turned inside out, tossed aside and easily replaced.

Before long, the criticism replaced many, if not all, compliments I received. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see were the flaws left behind by those negative remarks. I had no control over my God-given bone structure, but I could control my weight. The more I lost, the more power I felt. No one could take that from me, and if being beautiful meant being thin, well, I could easily achieve that beauty with self-restraint, dedication, and determination. Soon, the starvation and obsessive exercise regiments were having the opposite effect than in the beginning. Instead of having control over at least one thing in my life, it gained control of me. Now, instead of standing out, I lost sight of who I was and who I wanted to be. I Wendy001_0043bbecame tired, withdrawn and afraid of social situations where food would be involved. Everything in my life became overshadowed by my obsession to be thin, especially my friends, family, and faith. I wasn’t passionate about anything else.

I found very few reasons to smile or laugh, but it became easy to fake it, thanks to all the practice smiling for a camera and acting classes I’d attended. I’d closed off the real me and didn’t let anyone penetrate the wall I’d built. Believing being thin (having anorexia) was what made me who I was. I thought it made me stand out, and without it, I’d be completely lost and more invisible than ever before. I couldn’t let anyone get close to me for fear they might try to take this one thing away, and I’d no longer be beautiful. I had come to believe that all my self-worth came from my appearance, and without it I was worthless.

Then, there were hospitalizations, clinics, therapy and support groups. It took strong feelings of hopelessness to realize that God did not want this miserable life for me. It took one glance in the mirror at age 21, looking at my 5’10” and 100 pounds of bones to see that God had a purpose and a plan for my life, and this wasn’t it.

It is amazing that I went through so much and put my body through so much, yet I came out alive and strong! At one point, I suffered organ failure of the heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs. A doctor even told me I would, most likely, never be able to conceive. But I have learned that God has a plan to take the bad in life and turn it into his glory! Today I am blessed with amazing friends, a wonderful church family, a loving and supportive husband, four beautiful 495_50967726224_2604_nchildren, a life full of patience and grace, along with a very important message to share:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

This year on my 35th birthday during a moment of insecurity over aging, I decided to go through some pictures of a much younger me…before I had gray hairs, wrinkles, and became softer around the middle. I thought by looking at those pictures, I’d feel better about being a year older and all the changes that come along. Instead, I focused on how my life is so much fuller and richer now! If I look in the mirror hard enough, I can see growth and wisdom in the gray hairs I find (I still have a lot of hair to turn and lessons to learn). The wrinkles are reminders of laughter from they good times and of tears from the bad, which are necessary, in order to put the good ones in perspective. The softer tummy is proof of how blessed I’ve been with the gifts of love, laughter, innocence and beauty that exist in all my babies!

Some people say that beauty fades, but I think it just transforms into something much bigger, brighter and meaningful. My family is where I find the most beauty! My children don’t need me to be strong enough to lift their weight but instead their spirits. They also don’t need me to be stick-thin. They would much rather feel safe and secure wrapped in soft cuddles. When I look in the mirror, every change I see is a lesson learned, a prayer met, a friendship built, a victory won, a loss that didn’t destroy me but made me so much stronger and more compassionate.

It is my goal this year every time I feel insecure, to remind myself that appearance is just one small quality that defines beauty. When I think about what I want people to see, it is no longer a tall, long-legged, too-thin girl, who finds her value in her face and figure. Instead as I get older, the other more significant qualities — cherished and devoted wife, loving and courageous mother, loyal friend with a contagious laugh, strong spirit, bright smile and big heart — overshadow physical beauty, which has the least value of all!

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Here are some of my favorite verses that encourage me when I need self- assurance:

  • I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”- Psalm 139:14
  • “Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.”-Psalm 119:96
  • “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”-Romans 12:2
  • “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:16
  • “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”-1 Peter 3:3-4

*Wendy Korbel’s writing and photos are used with her permission.

The Mailbox, Health and the Revealing Swimsuit Issue

mailboxesOnce a year, I hate Sports Illustrated. To be clear it’s not that I hate it as it is, I only groan when the SI Swimsuit Issue makes an appearance, landing in my mailbox addressed to my husband. Year #1, when I saw it, I rolled my eyes and left it in my car for a month, trying to decide what to do with the thing. Do I burn it, tear into shreds, recycle it, WHAT? I threw it in a filthy dumpster but then after a month, I felt like a child who trashed a failing grade and told Brian (who tried his best to understand…before bursting into laughter).

The following year, I got the mail after a particularly trying week and there it was– gorgeous woman-girl in a barely-there bikini all spread out with pages and pages of more just like her inside. Oh, and glorious day, it was a double issue, but feeling I’d matured a little in this area, I tossed it in my car and only waited a week this time. And then, I actually told my husband the magazine arrived. “Why do they keep sending me this?” he laughed. Oh, and I wondered the same thing (feeling ridiculous, as if I shouldn’t care). Truth was, it was the only decent magazine he could purchase with his leftover airline miles before expiration and most of the issues actually went straight to recycling anyway. Alas, I brought it inside with the other junk mail, leaving it on the counter for Brian. It stayed there all weekend. Then, “I’m throwing all this in the recycling bin,” I said, stealthily directing my eyes at him and wondering if he would object. He didn’t, so there it went. At times, I wondered if he went out to rescue it, but I didn’t act on it, and the recycling materials were carried away into oblivion days later.

Ah, the issues that come with learning to be comfortable in your own skin. Emotional stuff seems to rear its ugly head a little over time until there is no choice but to deal with it. Body issues come up for all kinds of reasons, but I looked at that magazine as something that highlighted what I was not and could never be. I am not 5’11” and 110 pounds. I am not tan with my Scots-Irish, freckly skin. I do not have long, flowing hair. My eyes tend to be squinty when I am the happiest. I am not as confident as those women appear to be, Photoshopped or not. Sexual abuse is part of my story, and I have wrestled with my body image as a result. Growing up, I wanted the acceptance and compliments of others, but at the same time, I did not want that kind of attention from men. I felt sick (and maybe a little jealous?) that women could be so free and confident to show off their body. Then, I felt  nauseated that women knew this magazine was primarily used for men’s viewing pleasure and modeled for it anyway. I mean, where’s their self-respect? Or is that how they respect themselves? I’m not sure that will ever make sense to me.

Here’s the thing. When we have emotional hurts and push them aside over and over, well, they come up again and again in some way until we’ve done something about it. When we reach out, identify what it is and admit it, then we can start facing our fears of the worst and begin seeking help for it. AND as author Cec Murphey says,

“Our mind may be strong, but our body reacts later in response to stress, trauma and negativity.”

So, holding onto emotional hurts can actually wreak havoc on our body. Research actually shows a link between our life experiences and our emotional and physical health. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study in the 1990’s shows a connection to later sickness if certain experiences had been a part of early childhood (abuse, neglect, family dysfunction). And who doesn’t have family dysfunction in some way or another as part of their story? Constant stress raises our cortisol levels and that can create gut issues. Since our gut is the core of our immune system, health problems can arise.

So what can we do? Give to ourselves what we believe has been lost or desired from others all along: mercy, grace, forgiveness, acceptance. If we can’t offer those to ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to? Read on your particular subject, say it out loud, reach out for the help of friends or a counselor. Pray. Know that it’s never as easy as deciding to change. When I sought a counselor for help, she told me something I have used all these years: healing is a slow, long, spiraling process. Sometimes our unhealthy responses spiral back around, seemingly out of the blue, but there has been change there, whether we see it or not.

For example–year #2, I was irritated the Swimsuit Issue addressed to my husband still bothered me, but I had less anxiety over it. And you know what? Brian just told me he even moved the magazine in the recycling bin to mess with me (he’s such a joker), but I didn’t even go back to check.

And THAT was progress.

“Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the room.”  ~Simone Weil

Little Bits of Hope: March

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Are you out there, God?

 

“Yes, Father, I still believe in your goodness, despite what I see with my eyes;

Yes, Father, I still believe you have a plan for my life, despite what I feel in my heart;

Yes, Father, I still believe my best days are ahead of me, despite what my enemies and friends and family and loved ones say to me;

Even if you ask me to live in mystery the rest of my life, I will wake up every day and say yes, Father, I still believe in you (page 154). “

When I was a teenager I went to a Christian camp, where the theme was Where is God When Bad Things Happen? He’s On His Throne. Although, I wanted that to be enough for me, I couldn’t believe it was that easy. And if it was, what did it really mean? To me, it sounded like God was aloof in his safe place, while all of us down here really lived our crazy stories and hurt in unimaginable ways. What kind of God was he anyway? I felt alone.

As an adult, I eventually picked up Second Guessing God: Hanging On When You Can’t See His Plan by Brian Jones. If, like me, you’ve cried and begged, angrily wondering where God is when devastating things continue to happen every second, practically every place in the world, take a look at this relate-able book. His prayer (above) is so honest, choosing to trust when he can’t make sense of all that’s around him; it’s refreshing to to have an example like this, since he leans toward God, when times are mysterious and scary. Written with humor and transparency, Brian is a Jesus follower, who actually admits he does not know all the answers and lays out his struggles with what he sees around him. No worries, I’ll share my copy with you but will expect it back at some point (it’s just that good!).

Hope Speaks: Suzy’s Cancer To Healing Strong Journey

Courage is contagious. That’s all there is to it.

That’s why once monthly, I’ll be featuring those who also fight hard battles, find hope right there in those seemingly impossible places and then take the scary-beautiful, brave step to share their story. Introducing Hope Speaks.

Meet Suzy and her husband, Jeff, two of our greatest friends and biggest supporters for over a decade. Brian and I have shared friendship, countless meals, prayers, a trip to the lake, dog-sitting duties and lots and lots of laughs with these two. When I was so tired of being sick and tired, Suzy invited me over with some friends and talked us through alternative strategies for healing. From then on, I had hope. After all, she healed from cancer by doing eye-opening things at home I’d never even heard of, so I thought If she can heal from something like that, well, I can, too!

Such a beautiful spirit inside and out, loving, encouraging and incredibly brave, Suzy researched and focused to build up her immune system with wildly-different strategies and then shared her story with me when I needed it most. And now, this cancer thriver has founded a non-profit, HealingStrong, to spread the word and connect others to resources and patient to patient support groups: healing from cancer and other degenerative diseases IS possible.

Here is her courageous story.

SUZY’S HEALING STRONG JOURNEYSuzy's Healing Strong Story

My healing strong journey began in 2009 when a diagnosis of cancer stopped me in my tracks.  Heading to surgery for a different health issue, the diagnosis of cancer that same month took me by surprise.  At that time, I trusted my medical care to multiple doctors and subsequently many prescription drugs for various health issues: insomnia, neck tremors, thyroid disease, fibroid tumors, and now this …

To continue reading Suzy’s post written first for HealingStrong click here.

 

I Have a Gut Feeling

I was 35 before learning up to 80% of our immunity is in our gut. So, if something is off in the digestive system, it makes sense that other problems follow.  After years of digestive issues–bloating and gas, especially, I found I had allergies to beef and chicken, as well as dairy. So I spent an entire summer juicing veggies and fruits and gave up meat for over a year. I felt much better for a while, but bloating and gas eventually returned, as well as itching, burning skin rashes that started on one arm or leg and moved weekly (it seemed) to others. I have always loved to eat, but all of this took the joy out of food for me. After being tested, over 32 food sensitivities were found, and each time I was re-tested, I went home and cried, since more and more foods were knocked off my list. I have found, though, once my gut healed, I have been able to eat all of those yummy things again, except gluten, which causes all kinds of problems.
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There are great articles out there about improving gut health (see links below), and I have learned what has helped me in one way or another. Here is some of it:

  • Healing the gut takes time and patience.
  • Rest! Continuous stress steals our health if we don’t take regular times to relax and enjoy life.
  • Be laser-focused and do your best; however, do not expect perfection. Once I read that each time you eat foods you are sensitive to, it’s like opening an old wound (ouch). Even knowing that, I would try a little bit of something on the off-limits list every now and then. Later, I looked  pregnant, had terrible heartburn, my stomach burned with intestinal spasms, and I beat myself up since I knew better. And that cycle did not help one bit.
  • Give yourself grace when (not if) you slip up. It gets old and frustrating, feeling like the only one who cannot eat anything “normal” at wedding receptions, parties, restaurants and celebrations at work.
  • Always take a snack you enjoy–then and afterwards–when you go anywhere. Nuts and Kind Bars (with no more than 5g of sugar) have been lifesavers.
  • Eat less carbs and sugar, which can throw off your gut balance. I was told to only eat 1/3 cup of berries a day while my gut was healing.
  • Eat more veggies–preferable organic and lightly steamed. Juicing helps, too, but more veggies/ less fruit!
  • Add healthy fats to your diet.  Avocado, coconut oil and olive oil are some of my favorites.
  • Drink ginger, chamomile and/ or peppermint tea about 30 minutes after meals to help with digestion and soothe the intestines.
  • Read about raw milk here. It has probiotics and immunoglobulins, which helps build up the immune system. THIS has made such a difference for me, especially since finding I have an immune deficiency.

Want to find out more? Click on these links from some experts:

 Have you had issues with your gut health? Since every body is different, what has worked for you?

We All Are Beautiful

snowglimpseThis is for…

those of us who are learning to be ourselves

those of us who have love to share, but the parent/ spouse/ girlfriend/ boyfriend/ baby won’t come even though we are ready

those of us who are spent from sharing all our love with everyone else and need time to just be

those of us who are dealing with the ongoing stuff of abuse or addictions and want to feel okay

those of us whose past is not something to be proud of

those of us who don’t know what is nextsnowylove

those of us whose mind or body is challenged with brokenness

those of us searching for our place in this world

those of us who want to heal from what’s holding us back

those of us who have a secret (that would change everything) but are terrified to speak it out loud

those of us who work hard and receive no thanks

those of us who don’t work hard enough and need to keep trying

those of us who make mistakes

those of us who are braver than we think

those of us who keep on wading through the hard stuff

those of us who are learning to love every inch of who we are

This is for all of us who are living.

In the chaos of brambles and thorns, we are ever breathing and growing.

This is for all of us, for we are beautiful.

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You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

We All Are Beautiful was first posted by Hope Walks In on 2.14.14.