Nov 302012
 

The Lord Almighty has sworn,
“Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
and as I have purposed, so it will happen.”
Isaiah 14:24

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Nov 292012
 

We are about to enter a season of purple.

Seriously. It’s not just my opinion! The Church even says so.

The liturgical Christian church uses color to help us think about different rhythms in our life

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with God. Purple is for preparation, and we’re heading there this Sunday for four weeks of purple loveliness 🙂 (See previous post for the significance of purple to me.)

Kids latch onto and love the liturgical colors materials in the atrium (the space where we host a weekly contemplative Bible and prayer experience for kids). They relish the solemn procession when it’s time to change the color of the cloth on the prayer corner table. They sing the colors song at the top of their lungs and ask to do it again and again. And they sit in silence as we unveil one color at a time and introduce them to the great variety of ways we can enjoy God’s presence.

White is for celebration, for the great feasts of Jesus—the feast of the nativity and the feast of the death and resurrection of Jesus. White like light.

Purple is for preparation—the time before the feast when we are getting ready.

Green is for ordinary time, or growing time. The time after the feast. We humans may have a penchant for drama (God too at times?), yet most of the liturgical year is green.

(That slow and steady growth that unfurls in the midst of the ordinary must be worth something.)

And Red is the color of great love—it’s for Pentecost, or the feast of the Holy Spirit. The One who pours the love of God into our hearts.

Even though advent means coming, these 4 ish weeks before Christmas are all about waiting.

My first pregnancy was culminating during advent, and 12 of those days of waiting were after the due date. I so wanted to be vibe-ing deeply on the peaced-out Mary-the-mother-of-Jesus channel. It could have all been so holy and meaningful.

It wasn’t. I was grumpy and resentful and anxious.

Isn’t that how it goes with waiting?

Deeper down feelings show themselves. Our sense of our own power is rattled. Purple is stirred.

Our guts groan.

Can we let it be? Knowing that the space in us and in our lives is womb? That something is growing in there

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room inside is the point?

Or will we rush around with preparations, avoiding feelings, taking control and trying desperately to make it all holy and meaningful?

When I was training to be a catechist (guide) for the Montessori-based kids experience I described above (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), there was an emphasis on the “prepared environment.” Most of the guide’s work is getting the atrium ready so the kids can work independently while the catechist plays butler where needed.

But when I went through the second round of training, my teacher mentioned this idea of catechist as prepared environment. Whatever it is we do to make ready the external surroundings, can the children find a spacious, grounded center inside us?

That’s a question I’m holding this advent. I am hoping I can stand the agitation of my “internal purple” that space and waiting inevitably bring…

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Nov 282012
 

When the economy first dropped in 2008, my life literally changed over night.

We are a single income, self-employed family.  Within 48 hours, I went from not worrying about money at all, to being overly consumed with worry and fears.

Over the course of the next 12 months, we were forced to spend our savings and make some seriously tough choices. It was a scary time.

My earth was shaken. I went through a period of being angry with God. Wondering why He would allow this to happen.

It wasn’t until then that I realized I was under the assumption that since I was a Christian, life would be easy. I was wrong. Life is difficult, whether you are a Christian or not.

During that time I learned what it meant to truly live out my faith.

When life is good and things are going well, it is easy to say that God is good and that you trust Him. My eyes were opened to the reality that I believed IN God, but didn’t believe Him. My worry was a testament to the fact that I didn’t believe that God would provide.

I became aware of how much I valued earthly possessions. Earthly things were providing temporary fulfillment. I was not seeking Christ as my joy.

After living in fear and worry, I decided that something HAD to change. It wasn’t good for me and it was taking a toll on my relationships.

I am grateful the experience is over, but also grateful for what I learned.

How I cultivated a thankful heart:

I looked through Scripture searching for God’s promises.

I prayed even more.

I wrote down my blessings.

I forced myself to shift my mind from earthly concerns to heavenly things. Giving thanks to God for all that I still had.

When my mind would start to cycle through worries I would think about my blessings. A miracle truly does happen! I went from having an anxiously yucky day, to a day filled with peace and joy. And all it took was to think about all that I have.

I memorized Scriptures and recalled them in times of worry and fear. This helped me mentally to shift my focus to God’s promises and away from myself.

I discovered that having a grateful heart was something that I needed to learn. In my humanness, being truly grateful didn’t come naturally. In fact Paul wrote to the Philippians “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” Philippians 4:10 (emphasis added).

I tried to slow down and look around. Taking the time to notice all that was around me helped me to see how much was God providing.

Based on the Scripture Matthew 6:25-34, I started to tell myself each day “Today you are ok. Today the lights are on. Today you have food to eat.” This helped me to not worry about the next day and to focus on the blessings of the present day. Out of this I soon realized that months, even years had gone by and God had fulfilled His promises.

The Scriptures that I held onto during that time and still use often:

Proverbs 3:5-6

2 Timothy 1:7

Philippians 4:6

Matthew 6:25-34

Having a grateful heart is a gift. It may not be easy, especially during difficult circumstances but if you allow God to transform you, you will be amazed by what He can do. 

How have you learned to be content in all circumstances?

 

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Nov 272012
 

Four years ago I thought my life was over.

My husband and I had been married for nine months.  I was finishing my third year in my dietetic program.  And I was pregnant.  The news hit me like a freight train.  I spent the first six months of my pregnancy just trying to accept and make room in my heart for our baby.

I mourned all the newlywed things we wouldn’t get to do: travel, go to concerts, go to restaurants at ten o’ clock at night.  I was also convinced I would lose any resemblance of looking pretty forever.

But here was the major fear that crippled me: I wasn’t actively living out my past eating disorder, but I knew deep inside my mind that I was far from healthy.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:26

I chose to desperately pour out my heart to God.  Telling Him my fears, my anger, my inadequacies, and trusting Him to heal me became my reality.  Part of God’s provision for me during this time was to go back to my therapist during my pregnancy.

Little did I realize the beautiful gift God had in store for me.

“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is.  Blessed are you who run to Him.”  Psalm 34:8

Not only has my little girl brought me so much joy, love, and laughter… God has also brought an immeasurable amount of healing to me because of her life.

It’s an incredible comparison: how we love and view our children is a glimpse of how God loves and views us as His children.

Since my daughter Harper was born, God has brought this comparison to mind daily.  It has challenged me in the way I view myself, the way I speak of myself and the outpouring actions stemming from those beliefs.

On so many occasions, I have looked at myself in the mirror as I get ready, noticing my stretch marks, my circles under my eyes, my less-than-Victoria Secret-like breasts… and then in walks Harper.  Looking up to me.  Emulating my every move and attitude.

And I am caught dead in my tracks.

It is only a matter of time until my daughter will see through this facade.  One day she will see how my glance in the mirror is one full of self-hatred rather than self-acceptance, judgement rather than grace, the world’s standards rather than God’s.

How can I help my daughter see herself the way God sees her, if I can not even see myself through His light?

I’ve cried over this question.  Prayed over it.  Been desperate over it.

God has made me see my need for new eyes.  And He has given me a beautiful new perspective.

  • When I think, speak or act out something about myself that reflects self-judgement, self-hatred or what the world says I should be…  God reminds me of Harper.
  • I ask myself: how would I feel, as her mother, if I heard Harper say this about herself or do this to herself?
  • For example: If I find myself focusing on what I think is an imperfection in myself – something I might close my eyes and shake my head at or think “I don’t like that.  I’m not good enough”…  I then imagine if I observed Harper doing or saying the same thing about something she didn’t like about her body.
  • I’ll tell you the truth: there has never been one time, when picturing Harper treating herself the same way I treat myself, that my heart wasn’t absolutely broken and crushed.

THIS is what God has given me.  A perspective to see how His heart breaks over His daughters rejecting, criticizing and wishing away exactly who He has created them to be.

I invite you to try thinking of your daughter (or another little one) the next time you think, say or do something negatively towards yourself.  Would you act in the same way towards yourself if she were watching or emulating you?  Through this, did you get a glimpse of how God sees you?

Meditate on this verse today:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:13 & 14

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Nov 262012
 

I always wanted a sister.  In fact I came up with a sweet plan to make this dream a reality. 

When my mom was pregnant with my 3rd sibling, I told my younger brother to say that he bet the baby would be a girl.  I then would bet the baby would be a boy.  (My 8 year old self had a full proof plan.  Manipulation of my younger sibling.  Reverse Psychology-Want a girl, then say you want a boy.  Also, cross your fingers every times you say you want a boy.)

Needless to say all my hard work did not pay off.  No sister.  I cried when I found out the news in the hospital.  There went all my dreams of playing tea party, barbies, and dress up.  I would just have to make due with the playmates I was given.

Memories of life with brothers and no sisters:

  • Dressing my brother in a leotard and forcing him to practice ballet with me.
  • Being the “keeper of the peace” between my 2 brothers.  My younger brother was the master of teasing.  My older brother was the master of falling for it.  Everytime.  It took it upon myself to rescue my younger brother from my older brother’s clutches and give my older brother a couple of one two punches for good measure.
  • Playing Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles with my brothers in our “Nintendo Nook” because I didn’t have anything better to do.
  • Having numerous talks with my Jr. High brother that wearing sweat pants to school EVERY DAY was a fashion statement he would regret.
  • Taking turns in our pretend play.  Wedding first, then cowboys and Indians.
  • Forcing my brothers to play MASH.  (For those of you who didn’t have the privilege of playing this, you could see into the future. Where you would live, who you would marry, what car you would drive, and how many kids you would have with just a paper and pencil.)

As you can see, I was deprived of sister fun as a child.  I may have never had a sister, but the blessing/irony is that I now am the mother of 2 little girls.  I am daily surrounded by the laughter/love of 2 sisters, the sharing or lack of sharing of 2 sisters, the frustration/anger of 2 sisters, the mess of 2 sisters, the play of 2 sisters, and the uniqueness of 2 sisters.

The featured picture is of my girls.   I chose this picture because it was one of the few in which they were being loving to each other.  🙂  This picture represents an older sister taking care of a younger sister.   The younger sister looking to and wanting to be like her older sister.

When we belong to the family of believers, we have many sisters in Christ.   We play the role of older sister in some relationships and younger sister in other relationships.  In either role, we are one in the same faith, the same love, the same forgiveness, the same Spirit, the same purpose, and the same hope for the future.

So let’s build some lasting sisterhood memories.  Let’s encourage one another.  Let’s be present.  Let’s be the “keeper of the peace” when there are disagreements/differences.

We are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”  When was the last time you yelled out loud in pure excitement for a sister who received a blessing?  When was the last time you sat with a sister and cried with her in her pain?

A verse to ponder:  Eph 4:2-5 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

How has a sister in Christ been there for you?

Jillian

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Nov 232012
 

As Paul prayed for the Ephesians, this is what I am praying for you today.  “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:14-19

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Nov 232012
 

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” – Viktor E. Frankle, Man’s Search for Meaning

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Nov 222012
 

My recent experiment in reflective listening with my kids was painful!

I’ve always known I’m a tiny bit bossy and controlling, but I cringed to see this impulse seep

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out and take over every time I tried to listen!

I am full of correction and direction for my kids. My backpack is overflowing with hopes and fears about who they

are becoming. Instead of having room to simply take in their current experience (and maybe glimpse their depths beneath it), this urgency to influence keeps spilling out instead.

The way we respond to our kids is a dead give away for how we respond to ourselves. I’m afraid part of what’s loading down that backpack is impatient judgments about who I am and urgent directives about who I think I need to become.

One of my mentors says, “Talk to yourself like you would your dearest friend.”

This means non-judgmental attentiveness to what is. Can I simply hold with tenderness my current feelings, experience, and struggles without rushing to fix or solve?

This means mucking around in my purple–or whoever’s purple I’m listening to—and it’s certainly not all sparkly. But if we are patient it can be a great place to pan for gold.

Besides my on-going attempts at listening in the moment, our family has a bedtime routine that strikes me as a ripe opportunity for listening practice. The examen[1] is a time to get quiet, light a candle if we want, and ask ourselves two questions:

 

When was I happiest today? When was I saddest?

~or~

When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today?

~or~

When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me?

The way boys’ brains are wired means they experience verbal content differently than girls. Boys are more quickly overwhelmed by a torrent of words, and also have a harder time finding their own words for their feelings. With words, the feelings can come up and out instead of staying stuck inside and seeping out as “attitude.”[2]

I recently printed several versions of a “feeling thesaurus,”[3] to use with the examen and

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maybe other times as well. I was surprised by the boys’ eager response—they wanted copies in their room as well as on the pantry. So we’ve started playing around with picking out the feeling words that fit the moment.

If I can suspend my rabid impulses to control and solve and instruct, it seems I have an opportunity to find my way into my kids’ purple—to discover what is going on in their depths and bring acceptance to the places which need it most.

They have a chance to gain some vocabulary and agility as they navigate the world of their emotions. And maybe the model they’re seeing (shoddy though it is!) will eventually help them become more skilled listeners themselves.

I’m still at the beginning of this learning curve, but I think this might grow them more than all my correcting and directing ever could.

 


[1] See Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by Dennis Linn, Sheila Linn, and Matthew Linn

[2] See Hear Our Cry: Boys in Crisis by Paul D. Slocumb

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Nov 212012
 

For some the holidays are a joyous time. Filled with fun, laughter, family and friends.

For others the holidays are filled with stress, anxiety, worry, family tension, financial strain, conflict or loss.

Or maybe a combination of the two.

It may not be a pleasant experience for you to join with your family or friends during the holiday season.

Perhaps the holidays are marked with painful memories.  Possibly the loss of a loved one is what brings pain as you celebrate the holidays.

If any of the above statements ring true, loneliness may be what defines you during this season. With all the hype of the holidays, the commercialism of all of it, the Pottery Barn images of the “perfect” Thanksgiving feast or hearing of others “wonderful” holidays, you may start to feel even more alone.

I want to speak against the lie that you are the only one feeling this way.

The truth is, MANY feel this way.

On more than one occasion I have listened as another has cried and shared about the tension amongst family during this season. One mom I recall shared about her in-laws fighting over where to have Christmas morning. All the mom wanted to do was to have Christmas morning with her kiddos and husband, in her home.

In my own experience, when my siblings and I were first married and just starting families, there was tension as to who was going to spend the money to travel. And then once we all finally arrived, there were times when someone would say the wrong thing, and then someone would get offended and so on….

I do not want to minimize the pain that you may experience during this time of year. But I do believe that there are a few things you can do to help ease the pain.

A few tips to weather this holiday season:

  1.  Establish boundaries: It can be difficult, even as adults, to set boundaries with family and friends. Sometimes our family or friends do not want to honor our boundaries. However, establish them anyway. For example, if you have young children, set the limit: For now we will not be traveling on Christmas Day, however if you would like to see us you are welcome to come here.
  2. Watch your expectations: If you approach the holiday season with fairytale expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Try to have realistic expectations of what your holidays are going to look like.
  3. Count your blessings: It seems to be the “trend” these days to count your blessings, BUT it is a good trend! Focus your mind on what you do have and not on what you don’t. Even if that means facing the difficult things you wish you had. Also, set your mind on things Above, not on Earthly things.
  4. Give gifts/Volunteer: Whether it is a physical gift or gifts of your time, the act of giving and focusing on others shifts our focus from ourselves and is a wonderful blessing to you and to others. Look for a local charity or cause that you believe in and volunteer during the holidays. Just as giving gifts, volunteering to help others helps you even more.
  5. Honor the lost: If you a celebrating the holidays for the first time or the 20th time without a loved one celebrate your loved one by creating a tradition to honor them. Go to their favorite place, eat their favorite food, write them a letter. They will always be a part of you and it is ok to take time to miss them, celebrate them and perhaps this tradition will help you to feel closer to them this year.
  6. Limit spending: Consider giving gifts of time or relational gifts instead of overspending and stressing yourself financially.
  7. Anticipate your loneliness: And plan for it. Reconnect with people with whom you’ve lost touch. Create your own social event and invite people to it. Don’t exclude yourself. Go to things you are invited to.

This can be a wonderful season to anticipate Christ’s birth and to remember all that we are blessed with.

What is one thing you can do, today, to plan for a more peaceful holiday season?

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Nov 202012
 

My mirror was my world.

I used to hate admitting this, but it was true.  Each and every morning, my mirror dictated the pulse of my day.  Amidst my complete self focus, each day was void of joy and contentment.  I noticed every. single. imperfection: I didn’t like my moles, my squinty eyes, or my cellulite and I loathed my veiny legs.  I etched in my mind everything I lacked.  I was too short, had shoulders too wide and I had thumper feet.  I left no room in my heart for thankfulness or room to embrace my Creator’s perspective.

I know we’ve all been there.  We wish we could lose a few pounds, tone up a bit, get rid of those love handles, find that stylish hair cut, erase the dark circles under our eyes and not look so tired.

But how do we change eyes that only see what’s missing, what’s negative (according to the world’s standards)… to eyes that see through His light, through His love?

God has been pouring it into me since the day I chose healing: it’s not about my looks or my status.  It’s not about what my eyes see… but about how my eyes see.  And seeing clearly starts with my heart.

But there are still mornings, as I get myself ready, I just want to give up.  When will this stop being a battle for me?

“A message from the high and towering God, who lives in Eternity, whose name is Holy: “I live in the high and holy places, but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed, And what I do is put new spirit in them, get them up and on their feet again.”  Isaiah 57:15 (The Message)

God has been faithful to me through this struggle.  And He will be faithful to you as well.

God’s healing of our heart and mind has to come through replacing our own beliefs with His truth.  His truth enters our heart through reading His Word.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal”.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

His healing also comes when we pour our hearts out to Him through prayer.  No matter how shattered or complicated they are.  No matter how far our eyes are from His perspective.  When we lay our struggle and our incapability to see differently out there… He is able to begin transforming us.

God, I need to see me through Your eyes today… through Your love.  I feel so broken when it comes to having Your perspective on who you’ve made me to be.  Help me to let go of the exterior me.  Help me to see it’s about my heart.  Would you renew me?  Renew my eyes.  Renew my heart.  My hope in You, Lord.  Amen.

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