Don’t Rehearse the Pain {Take Heart Recap}

Take hearts

One of my favorite times of day comes when the lights go out and I arrange the pillows, when I finally cease my own striving and lay still enough to feel only the movements of what is to come, this baby I asked for, one I waited for like all my babies. She rolls about, elbows me, presses tiny feet out to say “I am here” even though she’s not fully seen. Continue reading

His Eye Is on the Sparrow: Other Words to Help You Take Heart in the Quest for Wholeness

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

His Eye Is on the Sparrow, by Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel

Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely
And long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is he:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For his eye is on the sparrow,
And I know he watches me.

 

Some links to help you take heart in the quest for wholeness:

As we talk about wholeness in body and spirit, it’s important to have a firm grasp on what we can expect as people of faith living in a broken world. As my pastor mentioned in a sermon last week, even the people who experienced miraculous healings at the hand of Jesus, they themselves eventually experienced death. In this article, Tyanne of Lamp on a Stand shares a “healthy” perspective on the dangers of the health/wealth/prosperity gospel (if it can really be called gospel at all!).

With the recent suicide of country star Mindy McCready, one blogger opens up in remembrance of her own sister who died by choice eight years ago. This piece gives dignity to the ones battling mental illness and gives insight on how to respond to those individuals and their families.

You’ll want to keep your ears open for news about Elizabeth Johnson’s upcoming release of Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Affliction, but for now you can visit her blog to find a wealth of insight on how to take heart in chronic illness, like this: “As lifeblood flowed back into me, and I grew stronger and more aware of things again, I found myself a changed person…. This is your only time on this earth. You only get to live through it once. Don’t live with your eyes shut, always waiting for something big.”

For this part of our series, I started writing a post about suffering from depression when I was on the mission field over a decade ago, but I just couldn’t churn it all out in time. Instead, I leave you with this post about Tsh Oxenreider’s own battle with severe depression when she and her family worked for a not-for-profit overseas. Her vulnerability models courage for those who need to admit their struggle and ask for help, and her therapist’s wisdom on functioning in a less-than-convenient environment is something for the recovering perfectionist to remember: “…he asked me to look at my lifestyle as full of partial solutions.”

 

Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical challenges, illness or emotional struggle. I hope you’ll take time to read the amazing array of posts from our guest writers this month and let us know what resonates with you and your experience.

Enough with “Never Enough” {Take Heart…in the Quest for Wholeness}

enoughwithneverenough

This past week, I sat in the orthodontist’s chair for the last time. The doctor took pliers to the brackets and snapped them off of my teeth one by one.

He had done that to my skepticism, too.

I had come to him a mess after two and a half years in braces at another provider. Teeth that should have curved around instead formed a straight line out across my lip. My bicuspid was so far gone from the arch that its root just about poked through my gums. A periodontist had told me I’d need to try a bone graft and even then may end up having to get it pulled. I’d gone through two unnecessary dental surgeries and rough recoveries with swelling, infection, and dry socket. My mouth was tender and so was my sense of trust.

Then, I kicked myself while I was down. Why did I get the braces at all? My husband had told me he didn’t think I needed them. Why hadn’t I left my bite as it was, dealt with the little bit of crowding and the off-center mid-line, and saved myself all those years of awkward smiles and kisses, saved myself from looking worse than when I started, saved the tooth with the protruding root that would possibly have to be removed?

If there’s one thing the whole fiasco had done, it was to show my perfectionist self the virtue of “good enough.”

My new doctor studied the X-rays and photographs, recorded precise measurements, outlined a plan and handed me tissue after tissue when depression and doubt locked in like the stubborn brackets and wire.

“It’s not going to be perfect…” he told me. I knew there was no way to make my smile completely symmetrical due to the fact that I’m not a teenager anymore, not to mention  the extractions I’d endured before finding my way to his office. He went on, “…but it will be good.”

I’ve long dealt with the “never enough” sickness just like the rest of our culture, so I nodded my head the other day as I came across a quote from Lynne Twist in Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly”:

“We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of….Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack….This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life….”

In my saga, my own “never enough” surfaced in my insistence that I get braces when they weren’t really necessary. I’ve seen the “never enough” of other people come out in other ways. I remember not too long after we’d moved into our home, someone asked my husband and I if we had a dream house in mind. “We love where we are,” my husband said with a puzzled look on his face.

Sure, maybe we’d like a little more land or an extra upstairs bedroom or a garage on the side of the house instead of the front. But to focus on what this house doesn’t have would be to look past the gorgeous craftsmanship, the quality fixtures, the ample square footage and the fact that it sits right in the middle of our dream life…a walkable town with easy access to our son’s school, the library, restaurants, shops and all kinds of seasonal festivals. This is dream house enough for us. It’s not only good enough– it’s more than enough.

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Then there’s the scene of two authors chatting at a party thrown by a billionaire friend. There, Kurt Vonnegut jabbed his friend Joseph Heller and told him that the host of the party “had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.” I’ve never gotten over how Heller responded: “Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

Emotional wholeness eludes until we can say we have enough, we are enough, this is good enough…enough! Ironically, the vulnerability of physical distress or sickness can have a way stripping us down bringing us to that place of enough.

You know what Brené Brown calls the opposite of the “never enough” mentality? She calls it “wholeheartedness.” It has to do with the courage to be imperfect and an openness to life even though it offers no guarantees, like our Take Heart focus these last several weeks, like my orthodontic treatment these last four years.

Right on schedule, visit by visit over the next 18 months, my doctor worked the miracle. He pulled my wayward tooth back into the curve, closed my horrid gap and made my bite line up. My mid-line will always be off and my smile will always sit a bit asymmetrical, but it is good, more than enough.

On de-band day, some brackets held tight, bonded complacent from the four years of drama and trauma. The doctor and my friend, his assistant, rocked them back and forth, chiseled them away, and little by little the chains fell off, braces and perfectionism.

{What experiences have revealed/transformed your own “never enough” attitude?}

 

Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical challenges illness or emotional struggle. Body and spirit together form our complete nature, designed by God. I hope you’ll take time to read the amazing array of posts from our guest writers this month and let us know what resonates with you and your experience.

Reclaiming Your Heart ~ Giveaway {Take Heart…in the Quest for Wholeness}

From the moment I met today’s guest writer, I knew I’d found a kindred. Denise speaks such profound insight in that gentle voice of hers, and when she’s sitting across the table telling you the glories of biscuits with chocolate gravy and all the sweetness of her relationship with the Lord, you can’t help but linger and listen. I’ve got a stack of her novels in my personal library and have even been blessed to get an insider’s peak at some excerpts of her first drafts, a priceless gift for me as I work on honing my own writing craft. I’ve cheered her on as God has allowed her to follow her dreams of writing non-fiction to minister to people with an ear for the Word. She is a dear friend and a beloved sister in Christ. And I even have the privilege of saying I’m related to her (even if distantly!). I know you’ll enjoy today’s story and giveaway from my lovely sister-in-law Sarah’s sister-in-law…author and speaker, Denise Hildreth Jones.

 

denise hildreth jones books

Running beneath a rain of birdseed, my husband opened the passenger door for me to climb inside as we started our life together. I grabbed the hem of my hand crocheted wedding dress that was over twenty years old and nestled myself into the seat. Laughter bounced through the air and love was almost touchable. My new groom climbed in beside me and in a moment a question came from the back seat. I looked back into the faces of five kiddos, who in one moment had all landed me in the new role of bonus-mom.

At the age of forty, having never had children of my own, I’d quickly come to discover that I had just entered a world as breathtaking as trying to drink water from a fire-hydrant.

I quickly delved into my new role of wife and bonus-mom. We didn’t have the kids all the time, so I still had time for ministry and writing responsibilities, but the new schedule of five kids all with activities, couponing (One trip to the grocery store gave me that revelation!), car-pooling and top chef, and it wasn’t long before I was weary. Bone weary.

A few years before I had found myself on the other side of a heartbreaking divorce. My heart was painfully shut down. I had shut down my voice. I had shut down my desires. I had shut down my dreams. I had shut down in fear, in anger, in disappointment, in performance. I had handed my heart over to a lie. And in the process, that beautiful, God-designed heart that had been created inside of me was a shut-down shell of the “abundant life” God had offered.

After that divorce I went on a desperate search for my heart. I reclaimed it in its deepest places. And then came my new family. The stress of navigating five hurting hearts. The new schedule. The old pains being pricked with the new intimacy that marriage inevitably brings. And a year and a half into bonus-momdom I had realized that I was on the verge of shutting down again in weariness if I didn’t grab a hold and do something different.

I was believing the lie of the weary heart that says, “God needs me.” God needs me to car pool these children. God needs me to coupon to save money, because to do anything else would be irresponsible. God needs me…and the list goes on.

And in that lie, I realized I was about to shut down all over again. But I heard God remind me, “Take my yoke upon you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It was His yoke. He didn’t need me. He desired to use me, but He did not need me. And in that revelation I began to let go of a few things in order to give my kids the best of me. Something that might seem selfish actually ended up being selfless.

We can all shut down our hearts. In fact, some of us haven’t seen our real hearts in so long we wouldn’t even know what they looked like. Remember, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” But there is more to that Scripture, “But, I have come that you might have life and have it to the full!”

Friends, take heart. Yours. And do a heart check. Are you living life to the full? Or has living shut your heart down? God doesn’t need you. But oh how He desires to use you…

DENISEbioDenise Hildreth Jones is the author of “Reclaiming Your Heart: A Journey Back, to Laughing, Loving and Living” and its companion novel “Secrets Over Sweet Tea”. She is also the Founder and President of Reclaiming Hearts Ministries, where she writes, speaks and leads Bible studies, retreats and outreach events, all to help people live the abundant life God has for them.

 

 

And now for this week’s giveaway from Denise Hildreth Jones!

Simply comment below for the chance to win your own two book set: “Reclaiming Your Heart: A Journey Back to Laughing, Loving and Living” and “Secrets Over Sweet Tea,” the companion novel. For extra entries (include a separate comment here for each entry): 1. subscribe to Message in a Mason Jar via email or RSS feed, 2. like both Message in a Mason Jar and Denise Hildreth Jones on Facebook, 3. share this post on Twitter, 4. share on Facebook, 5. and/or share on Pinterest. This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Sunday, March 3.

 

Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical challenges illness or emotional struggle. We’d love to hear how God has helped you take heart in in any of these areas. Link up with us at the bottom of Tuesday’s post. The link-up is open through Friday night. And don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win our giveaway from Denise at Reclaiming Hearts Ministries today!

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Comfort Food for the Trampled Soul ~ plus giveaway winner {Take Heart…in the Quest for Wholeness}

comfortfood2

We pull our chopsticks from their wax paper wrappers, snap them apart and graze them against one another, like twigs starting a fire or iron sharpening iron, to smooth out the splinters while our food steams and cooks in the kitchen.

I turn the English and pinying side of the menu over to the real menu, the one my friend reads. I search the code for familiar symbols. She points to the boxes, lines and curves that she’s just spoken softly for our waitress, and teaches me how to recognize the characters. I keep up the work on the chopsticks while I practice my language skills. Curls of wood settle on the worn table. I flip the menu over to my cheat sheet and then back again to study the hanzi.

First, the waitress brings out a plate of snow peas. Then, another of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes. And my friend tells me how her grandparents made this for her in the countryside where she spent her girlhood sick in bed.

I lean closer to hear her faint voice. I focus my eyes on her mouth, reading her lips as she ekes out the words from her trampled soul. She winces always, as if something is coming right for her, and now I’m starting to understand why. Her parents had sent her away, their one child a disappointment on the Darwinian scale, barely surviving, unfit.

I look out the door of the restaurant at the wooden crate, a rickety step upholstered in red carpet. Yarny fibers collapse under the load of automobile crud, spittle and vegetable scraps. I hear her meaning through the language gap. She bends under her own load, wondering if she’s born to be trodden underfoot.

We dig our chopsticks into the comfort food and scrape it into our bowls, onto soft beds of white rice. Her words come out quiet like a prayer filtered into a feathery pillow.

“But when I see the film,” she recalls scenes from the movie based on Luke’s telling of Jesus’ ministry, “how He loves the sick…I am very surprised- very surprised!”

I lay my chopsticks across the rice bowl. I picture my friend laying down on her cot in the countryside, mostly dead like Jairus’ daughter, except my friend didn’t have a daddy calling out to Jesus for her.

But Jesus, He who laid down his own life to raise her up, He found her nonetheless.

Here she is across the table telling me about Him with her round face like the moon reflecting some distant glory. She clasps her hands over her heart. And I have to do the like. I bring my hand first to rest on my chest and then to cover my mouth. I want to say His name out loud in the middle of this place that is scared of Him. If only they knew His meekness, quietness, how He changes the diagnosis with a gentle touch.

“He sees you,” I tell her, “He knows your need.” She  feels this already and opens her eyes, not wincing like before.

We put our smoothed-out chopsticks to work. Ginger and sesame oil trickle from our comfort food, hit the taste buds and slide to the core, nourishing. She is quickened, suddenly feeling her worth under the care of our Great Physician.

Reposted from the archives (with recipe!).

 

Thanks for visiting Message in a Mason Jar where we’re finding the loveliest things in the most ordinary containers. To get posts delivered to your email box or blog reader, enter your email address on the homepage sidebar or enter http://messageinamasonjar.com/feed/ in your reader.

This week in our Take Heart series we’re talking about the quest for wholeness, whether physical or emotional. As my pastor reminded us in church this past Sunday, we are beings made up of body and spirit, which together form our complete nature, designed by God. Randy Alcorn shares the same concept in his book Heaven, explaining that God intended humankind to be both earthly and spiritual. We’d love to hear how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles with sickness, disease, or emotional trauma…anything in your quest for wholeness. Start writing and share your post in our link-up tomorrow. And finally, our winner of last week’s “Nest: A Study in Brokenness” giveaway from Be Small Studios (chosen at random) is commenter #6, Jenna Woestman!