Being My Best Self

One of the phrases I’ve overheard myself saying a lot to myself and friends lately is “there’s not one of us at our best self right now”. What do I mean by that statement you might ask? We’ve all just spent the last 4 months experiencing things that most of us have never experienced before. I’ve never experienced a pandemic with a novel virus in my lifetime. I’ve never had to oversee eLearning of my children while the church office is at my kitchen table. I’ve never had a major surgery and not had any of the standard post op checkups to make sure all is well, and I’ve certainly never witnessed a man being suffocated by another human being on video as he begged for his life. Protests, riots, shootings…the list goes on and on. All of this has given me all the feels and I definitely have the time right now to sit in those feelings and process them. A whole lot of sadness tempered with anxiety. So much pain and suffering on so many levels. My friends have too. Conversations with my friends and my family show me that they too are having similar emotions and have had trials in their households and relationships. That’s when I say, “there isn’t one of us at our best self right now…”

 

So what are we to do in the midst of the times where we are experiencing such pain, sadness, and anxiety, when we are not at our best selves right now?

 

*Try and respond instead of react to everything. This takes intentionality, patience, and time. It’s so easy to blurt out your first thought or emotion or to hit post with your initial comeback, but pause, pray, reflect and decide what kind of a witness you want to show. Others are watching. If your first response is anger, ask yourself, “why am I so angry about this? Let Jesus be our lead on how we are to handle others and ask for the Holy Spirit to give us the right spirit in how we respond to others. The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are great places to get a glimpse of how Jesus responded to others.

 

*Take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and reactions rather than focus on the other person. I say this not to encourage narcissism, but instead to get us to focus on what needs adjusted about ourselves. It’s easy to shift focus on the other person’s weaknesses instead of looking at the issues within ourselves. Start asking WHY? Why does what my spouse has said get me so bent out of shape? Why does that person’s post make me so angry? In the field of mental health where I spent my career, we are taught to ask the question, “What is that really about?” I’ve had to ask these questions on a much more personal level when I’ve been in a personal crisis. Being able to reflect on this question helps me to see if my emotions and thoughts are really in check. Can I consider another view? Can I change my mind about something? Is what I think? Is my mind a reflection of Christ? Or are they old patterns and thoughts I’ve been taught? You can still love your parents, family, and friends and acknowledge that they have taught you something contrary to Christ’s values along the way. These are questions that help me muddle through my own personal chaos and struggles.

 
 

*Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is hard for me to do, but I have to constantly set myself up for success when it comes to self-care. Am I eating things that will help my body heal? Am I getting in my steps for the day? Do I get enough sleep? Do I need to see a professional about anxiety? I know what I’m supposed to do, but doing it is another thing. Have I used my time wisely in this area or as Tony likes to say “let the COVID19 turn into the 19 pound quarantine?” Recently, I’ve been giving myself permission to sit on my back porch and relax while I listen to the birds. This small thing alone has helped me be my better self.

 

*Stay in love with Jesus. Being my best self cannot happen when I’m disconnected from Jesus. It just can’t. My end goal is to be like Him. This encompasses so much for me. I’m a much better version of myself when I love Jesus and let Him shape me into the person He desires me to be. Right now online worship, prayer, study, and meditation are practices I rely on heavily. I pray for God’s wisdom daily and then I try to lean in to it. I ask for courage to act on what God tells me to do. When I say study, I mean specifically the reading of scripture. I see so many Christians only want to read books, but for me, scripture is the goal. With the Holy Spirit as the shaping force, I try and apply what the Creator of the Universe has shown me in the sacred texts. I’ve grown tired of hearing what this radio, TV commentator, or author has to say about what’s going on around me. I can gain real peace when I read scripture and realize that God’s wisdom is the real treasure. When it comes down to it, what God thinks is what I need to focus on. Not an opinionated bully on Facebook. God’s Spirit is also the force that can ensure that I’m not the bully on Facebook. His Spirit can also make sure I’m loving my family well and that I’m having the hard discussions with them during this unprecedented time and that those conversations point them to Him. My life as a clergy spouse allows me the Holy privilege to speak into the personal pain and circumstances of others. Personal pain is at an all-time high right now. Relationships are broken and so many are hurting right now. I want to speak God’s grace and truth. I want to point them to the author and finisher of their faith. I want to model to others the gift of grace in these hard times. Our connection to Jesus is really the only way I see through the messes because striving to be like Him is the only way any of us can truly be our best self.

 

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:1-2 the MSG

 

Love extravagantly,

Rhonda

 

 

 

 


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5 Things To Remember As Your Marriage Collides With the Coronavirus

written by Ted Lowe

Be honest with yourself and me. This is the part of the article you don’t even read. Most of you, like me, skip straight to the parts that have a bold header. So I’ll spare you my unpacking of the tensions that are happening with the collision of marriage and coronavirus. You’re living it. Let’s just jump to the bold stuff, before you have to put a tranquilizer dart in your spouse’s neck for doing that gargantuanly annoying, “thing” again.

1. You can be hard to live with, too

Like you, your spouse is under all sorts of stressors. From working from home to homeschooling to the economy to lack of hand-sanitizer to having to live with you, the struggle is real.

When they mess up, ease up. Don’t care quite so much about the way they deal with the kids, their towels on the floor, their way of managing to slurp through every bite of their cereal. Give them the grace you need now or are going to need soon.

2. You don’t like mean people either

Shaunti Feldhaun—Harvard graduate, social researcher, speaker, and best- selling author—revealed in a massive study that the most important thing in a marriage is kindness.

In her 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we are instructed to say something kind and do something kind for 30 days. Now that you aren’t wasting all your kindness on your co-workers and strangers, give it all to your spouse and expect nothing in return. You know how to be kind, you do it every day. You may be surprised how staggering helpful small doses of kindness can be for your marriage.

3. You’re weird, too

Some couples have a lot of differences. Every couple has some differences.

Some of you are stressed your spouse is not stressed enough about the coronavirus.

Some of you are stressed because your spouse is too stressed.

Some of you hate this time has messed-up your structure.

Others are thrilled daily hygiene is optional.

Don’t roll your eyes at your spouse. Look at their face. It’s harder to be frustrated with your person when you re-see the face you promised to love. They may be a LOT to deal with, but so are you.There’s no better way to draw your spouse to you than accepting them, all of them. They need your acceptance now more than ever.

4. You can be NOT FUN, too

I fully understand the coronavirus is serious. How in the world could we ever forget? The reminders are everywhere. But too much news causes too much stress. Too much stress weakens your immune system.

So, for the sake of doing your part, try to be at least semi-fun. You don’t have to do stand-up, but at least tell a few dad jokes. Lock your spouse out of the house and make her dance to get back in. Walk behind the couch and pretend you are walking down non-existent steps.

And for all that is holy, if your spouse does or says something remotely funny, laugh!

5. You are not GOD either

Instead of trying to convince your spouse to stop being or doing that thing they are doing, or asking them to give you that thing they are withholding, step back, step away, and just pray. When we spend time with Him, we become more like Him. Plus, it takes a whole lot of pressure off our spouse to be God-size. They are having a tough enough time being human-size.

I don’t know how God speaks to you, but ever since this cluster started, I’ve had this song stuck in my head, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” And He does. Period. No matter what. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. He is crazy about you. Don’t forget it. When we don’t forget, the people around us will always benefit.

We can do this married people! I promise. How are you protecting your marriage from the Coronavirus?

 


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Love, Lepers, and Social Distancing

When we change from handshakes and hugs to social distancing, what remains? Read Luke 17:11-19. The Healing of the Ten Lepers in Luke 17 has always been a great text to teach about gratitude. During the Covid19 pandemic I have been reading Scripture with a different lens. There are ten lepers who are a distance from Jesus. Leprosy is a skin disease. In Jesus’ day, lepers were required to practice social distancing from the rest of society. They were not allowed to touch or hug their loved ones. They lost their jobs. They could not go to the market to buy or sell. They were not allowed to walk down the street. They were not even allowed to live in their own homes. They were forced to live in leper colonies outside of the town and they were dependent on other people to provide food, clothes, and medicine. They asked Jesus for mercy. Almost every healing miracle of Jesus includes some kind of touch. Jesus touched the blind man’s eyes and he could see. Jesus touched a leper in Mark 1 and he is healed. A woman touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and she is healed. The healing of the ten lepers did not involve touch. Jesus instructed the ten lepers to show themselves to the priest. One returned to thank Jesus for the healing. When I read this Scripture today, the lepers were quarantined because of their disease. When they speak to Jesus, we find them practicing “social distancing” which was a legal requirement in Jesus day. Jesus’ instructions to go to the priest is missed in the context of our culture. The priest would have declared the lepers clean, and therefore, would be able to “reenter” society. The priest was more than a medical examiner, he was a spiritual guide. After the leper would have been declared “clean” by the priest, the leper’s next step would have been to worship at the Temple. The joy that is experienced by the leper is hard for us to identify with but, we may be able to come close. Many of us continue to shelter at home. Many of us are dependent on others to bring us food and medicine. Many of us are missing the compassionate touch of another human being. Many of us miss being in a physical assembly worship our Lord and savior. When we cry for mercy, Jesus hears us whether we are near or far. We can still praise God from our living rooms. We can still be cleansed of our sins in the kitchen. We can still say our nighttime prayers from our bedrooms. We can still soak in the glory of God’s nature from our porches and balconies. We can still receive God’s spiritual touch when we practice social distancing. We can still be compassionate even if we cannot be by another’s side. When everything is changing, God’s love remains.

Come Holy Spirit, in the absence of physical touch, give us a spiritual touch. May our love fill us and may your mercies be new each morning. Give us compassion for one another. Amen.


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Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before Talking to Your Kids About Racism

Article from Orange Parent Cue

If you’ve been paying attention these last few years, you know this: Racism is real. But when it comes to talking to kids about racism, many parents are uncertain about how to talk about it with their kids. And while we want to address it, we wish we could shelter them from ever witnessing anything so reminiscent of our dark and painful history.
 

But somehow, we know that part of the solution for change starts with us. We also know that as parents, we have an opportunity to make a difference in this world through the incredible influence we have on our kids—who are watching, listening, and taking it all in—regardless of whether we intend for them to or not.

We also want to bring hope and comfort to our kids through our words and actions in troubling times, so as you think about how to talk to your kids about the realities and uncertainties of our world, we encourage you to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. How are YOU processing your feelings?

In order to have honest conversations with our kids, we need to be honest with ourselves. Check your heart and your thoughts. Be sure to take a step back and identify how you might need to change in your prejudices and in your interactions with others. Reflect on what it really means to love those whom God loves, and unrelentingly pursue forgiveness and reconciliation. Your kids will get many of their cues from observing your response. Yes, they’re really watching and listening. Are your reactions and frustrations to what is happening betraying any subtle biases?

  1. Do you celebrate diversity?

Some parents may be tempted to try to teach their kids to be blind to color, to shy away from acknowledging differences or just ignore them altogether. But the truth is that we are all very different in the way God made us—in our skin color, in our genetic makeup, and in our culture. And that’s something to be celebrated, not ignored. Do you model the belief with your words and actions that God made each of us unique and beautiful even in our differences? Do you demonstrate respect and honor towards those you disagree with? How diverse is your circle of friends and the people you associate with? How can you widen that circle for your family?

  1. Are you talking about racism?

Racism is a difficult and sensitive topic, but it does exist, often in the form of subtle comments and prejudice, but sometimes it’s outright hatred and violence. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. So talk about the issues with others outside your circle and with people of different backgrounds. Discover the truth from various outlets and seek to understand other perspectives. When you find the right words that honestly and respectfully express how you think and feel, choose which words you might share with your kids.

Then talk to your kids about prejudice and racism so you can equip them with the values and the words they will need to respect, celebrate, and stand up for those who are being discriminated against.

  1. Are you focused on love?

As parents, our hearts break in the shadow of these tragic events, and our anxiety, anger, and fear unfortunately leak out onto our kids. It’s okay to be honest with your kids, but it’s important to talk to them about how your family can respond to what’s happening in our world in a positive way.

As you navigate these important conversations, focus on what matters most: LOVE. Put love into action, and rest in the hope that is found there. And dole out love in especially large doses on your kids so they feel safe and secure. Hug them tightly and let them know that God is with them and they don’t have to be afraid.

For help with age appropriate conversations addressing recent events, check out this article: How to Talk to Your Kids About Racism: An Age-by-Age Guide

 


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What Remains

written by Pastor Tony Alstott

Everything is changing. Our rhythms of daily life include social distancing.  Our patterns of normal routines have shifted to on-line, drive-through and delivery services.  Our wardrobe includes facial coverings.  Our personal space has expanded to six feet of social distancing.  Our time together has included FaceTime and Zoom.  Everything is changing.  When everything is changing, what remains?

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he addresses the things that will fade away and what remains.  Prophesies will cease.  Tongues will be stilled.  Knowledge will pass away.  These three remain: faith, hope, and love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13.)

When everything is changing, what remains?  We are invited to follow Jesus.  We are called to love God and love people.  We are still comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  We are still holding to God’s promises.  We are still called to make disciples of Jesus to transform the world.  When everything is changing, God’s love is what remains, God’s presence is what remains, God’s promise is what remains, God’s mission is what remains.

Let us work together to accomplish what will last beyond COVID19. 


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How Do We Make It Through When Things Get Tough

by Mike Tiemann

One step at a time
There’s no need to rush
It’s like learning to fly
Or falling in love
It’s gonna happen and it’s
Supposed to happen that we
Find the reasons why

We Take It One Step at a Time

Remember “One Step at a Time” by Jordin Sparks? It was the third single from her debut album, which came out after she won American Idol in 2007. Looking back, it’s a perfect pop song, with a solid message about facing your challenges with determination. And if you ask me, it’s perfect for your quarantine playlist. After all, isn’t that what we’re all doing here in 2020—living one step at a time?

I remember hearing that song on the radio in 2007 . . . which is funny because right around that time, MY world was about to change. I was about to enter the wonderful and (at times) seemingly impossible world of parenthood. My two daughters were born in close succession, in 2008 and 2009.

Parenthood Requires Determination

Those years were definitely a time for determination. Life as we knew it would never be the same. There was the joy and excitement of caring for two brand-new little humans. We cheered them on, through every new milestone and every discovery along the way.

There was also the harsh reality that we no longer had any time or energy left for ourselves. It was a time to celebrate, and also a time to mourn. We look back in wonder: How did we do it? How did we make it through?

The answer, of course, is very simple. We took life one step at a time. We put one foot in front of the other. We did what we had to do for our girls.

I don’t remember much from those years. It’s all kind of a blur. But somehow, we made it through. We found new routines. Before we knew it, we were dropping our girls off at kindergarten—just like everyone had promised we would.

Every Season Has Victories and Challenges

Every season has its victories and its challenges—and life in 2020 is certainly no exception. You probably have plenty of new routines just like we do (none of which were happening in 2019).

Online classes.
Zoom meetings.
Evening family walks.

More than anything, quarantine has taught me just how resilient people can be. When life seems chaotic, we create structure . . . and the very act of creating structure gives us a sense of purpose.

This is what we do in any significant season of life. Think back to your own experience after 9/11, or during the financial crisis of 2008. We all experienced those events differently, but they affected all of us profoundly. We had to celebrate what was unique in those seasons while also taking time to mourn what we had lost.

That’s true for any big events we might experience. Our personal highs and lows will always rise and fall, regardless of the events of the world around us. Our families grow. Our careers change. We lose people we love. We balance our hopes and dreams against fear, disappointment, and pain.

In the end, we look back—much like I look back at our “newborn years” in the late 2000s. Nothing was easy about that time. But now, I see how God helped us grow and change in the process. I can see how He opened doors for the future when we couldn’t see 10 feet ahead. I can see how adversity shaped us, and taught us how to persevere.

The Story We Will Tell About 2020

In the same way, I think we’ll look back on this time in 2020 with mixed emotions. We’ll mourn what we’ve lost: graduations, group activities, the comfort of in-person human connection. And, of course, some have lost so much more.

We’ll remember how overwhelmed we felt when there was no end in sight . . . nothing was certain . . . and we had no idea what the future would hold.

So what did we DO about it? How did we make it through?

How Did We Make it Through?

We took a deep breath.
We put one foot in front of another.
We took life one day at a time.

We learned to appreciate the little things.
We slowed down.
We spent quality time with the people we love.

We leaned into community—even when it was virtual.
We discovered how capable we really were.
We trusted God, because we had to.

We were determined.

We persevered . . . step by step, day by day.

That’s a story I want my girls to be able to tell. And we have a chance to live it right now.

 


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