Negativity is Like Kudzu!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing! If you don’t know about kudzu, let me introduce you. The plant is also known as Japanese arrowroot and was brought to the mountains of  western North Carolina decades ago in hopes of controlling erosion. Its rapid growth controls erosion very effectively, but it destroys everything in its path in the process. Negativity does the same if allowed to propagate.

Here are a few pictures of the kudzu in my neighborhood:

 

Once it takes root, kudzu is virtually impossible to stop. Stolons (runners) form new plants faster than its seeds. It kills all existing vegetation by blocking light. Covered vegetation and buildings lose their identities and become grotesque caricatures of other-worldly creatures.

Negativity spreads in the same manner. A little seed or runner seems harmless enough at first; but if left unchecked, it will block the light and alter the landscape of my heart.

Both negativity and kudzu require fertile ground to grow; so the next time negativity shows up at your door, remember these images of kudzu and ignore the knock!

Embracing Joy 🦋

Joy has been the subject of God’s lessons all week, so I wasn’t surprised that the service at The River of Life this morning was about just that.

I’ve been reading “Daring Greatly” this week and was taken aback by the notion of foreboding joy being a common shield against vulnerability.

Brene Brown describes her findings in Chapter 4.

“…having spent several years studying what it means to feel joyful, I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel. Why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. This shift from our younger self’s greeting of joy with unalloyed delight happens slowly and outside of our awareness.”

I completely connected to the notion of foreboding joy as she described her own experiences and the experiences of the people she interviewed. When something wonderful happens or all is going very well, I begin to think something bad is getting ready to happen. It’s a ridiculous notion, but I was clearly guilty of putting up the foreboding joy shield to protect myself from vulnerability.

The good news is that hearing her describe her struggles helped me see my struggles in a new light. She goes on to give hope to those of us who are guilty of worrying that the other shoe is about to drop.

“Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward: We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment.”

She goes on to say that our culture assists in the doom and gloom scenarios we rehearse. Awareness is the first step to change, so I was overjoyed this morning as I sat by the river and had a sweet talk with God about my foreboding joy shield.

He has always known about it, and He and I both know it’s forged in fear. We both know that fear doesn’t feed on the vulnerable; it feeds on those who think they need a shield. It was freeing to let the river sweep away my shield this morning as I thanked God for lessons learned.

Brene Brown says, “While I was initially taken aback by the relationship between joy and vulnerability, it now makes perfect sense to me, and I can see why gratitude would be the antidote to foreboding joy.” 

So do I! I plan to practice gratitude and embrace all the joy that comes into my life 🦋

Joy on the River 8-26-18

An Island Sunrise

Topsail Island, North Carolina is famous for its amazing sunrises. There is something majestic about the sun rising over the ocean. Like a pampered queen, she takes her time appearing before her adoring audience. She never wears the same gown twice, so those in attendance are never bored.

I marvel at how anyone cannot be stunned into silence by such a show; but then I remember how much beauty I miss each and every day as I scurry about in a mad dash to get somewhere or do something.  The journey is so much better when I slow down and take in all the wonders in my path.

 

Cloudy Lessons

Clouds have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As a daydreamer, I often look up at the sky and imagine all sorts of creatures and objects forming in them. I especially love to watch sunsets. I’m not sure what images you will see in the view from my little porch, but I’m sure they will not be the same as the ones I see. I love that about clouds, and I love that about people.

We see ourselves and others in various ways depending upon the circumstances in our lives and in theirs. Like clouds, people can be stormy, calm, or playful. Love allows us to see others in all phases of their lives and love them all the more 💜

I see faces, angels, hearts, clouds, eagles, and even a little wolf in the images below. They are all the same view from my porch in the evening, but all are very different. I hope you will take a moment out of your busy day and let clouds carry your imagination away. It really is good for the soul 🦋

Family

Familiarity can breed contempt, but it can also give birth to the level of affection we are created to experience. The difference is whether I let fear or love lead the way. 1 John 4:18 says it best.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (NASB)

Families fall apart when fear forces them to fuse together. They connect beautifully when love allows them to be who they are. God created us to connect, and our hearts cannot survive without those connections. The most valuable thing the homeless have lost is not their addresses; it is their family connections.

The family systems theory concerning differentiation of self makes a great deal of sense, and I believe God is the ultimate example of how it works. He makes it clear that He is the Great I AM. That isn’t as much about being all powerful as it is about being exactly Who He Is. I believe He wants each of us to be the amazing individual He created us to be, so we can  connect and live in community as He desires.

The Bowen Center has this to say about the negative effects of unhealthy interdependence:

“The more intense the interdependence, the less the group’s capacity to adapt to potentially stressful events without a marked escalation of chronic anxiety. Everyone is subject to problems in his work and personal life, but less differentiated people and families are vulnerable to periods of heightened chronic anxiety which contributes to their having a disproportionate share of society’s most serious problems.”

You can read more at https://www.thebowencenter.org/theory/eight-concepts/differentiation-of-self/

Family brings a sense of belonging, and Christ made it very clear that His family is open to all. That doesn’t mean He sanctions abusive behavior. Abuse is the worst form of fusion, and it breaks God’s heart to see His children hurting. Parents and children alike understand the pain of such breaking. Society suffers alongside broken families. God has the power to make us love any way or any one He wants, but He knows better than to force love upon His children.

Family isn’t an easy word to define; but like love, I know it when I feel it. God has helped me see myself as He sees me, and I am so very thankful for a birth family who loves me just as I am. I can’t imagine life with my three sweet sisters and their families, my son and his wife, or my three adorable little grand daughters; but I also thank God for brothers and sisters who are related beautifully by the common thread of love. I am thankful for connections that surround me like a warm, cozy blanket and melt my heart into a sweet, still pool of peace.

Reaching out isn’t easy; it is much simpler to fuse into small groups who share a common love. It is easier still to form groups with a common hatred, and we all know examples of how that destroys families, churches, communities, and countries. It is easiest to simply stay out of sight and not connect at all. That lets you off the hook when it comes to grieving over the loss of a loved one, but it also leaves you with a deep sense of longing that is the worst pain of all.

God loved us enough to send His only Son. I haven’t reached that level of love and doubt I will understand it until I am with Him, but I have learned that God will provide connections that are good for my heart when I relax into faith and trust Him to know what is best for my heart.

Jesus was born into a beautiful family, but I’m sure His earthly family was filled with individuals who were far from perfect. This morning, I was imagining what a large family gathering might look like when He was a young boy. I bet He had a crazy aunt or uncle who made Him smile, and I’m sure there were squabbles and even a feud or two. That didn’t stop Him from loving them, and it doesn’t stop Him from loving us. I also know with all my heart, that He must have looked around when all were gathered in one accord, smiled, and said to Himself, “This reminds me of Home.”

Purity

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (NLT)

When King David prayed this prayer in Psalm 51:10, he was asking God to help him get back on the right path. I love his supplication because it comes from a repentant heart. To me, that is the highest level of purity we humans can achieve. King David was not a perfect or a pure man, but he was a man after God’s own heart who wanted to be near his dear Lord.

Christ was pure in every sense of the word, the ultimate unblemished Lamb suitable for the proper sacrifice to God, the Father. We can stumble along the path Christ lays before us, but we will not achieve true purity until we are with Him in heaven.

Until then, God asks us to have the courage to walk along the path His Son walked. I like to think it is like taking the first step on a snow covered road. I hate to be the first to trod on the purity of that path, but I remember what is underneath the white covering and step out.

Like a beautiful snow covered path, Christ’s sacrifice covers the ugliness of our hearts with a purity only He can achieve. Unlike the snow, Christ’s covering is permanent. He wants us to trust Him and walk bravely in the same places we have always lived but with a light heart knowing our paths are covered with His Holy Spirit’s presence.

There’s nothing more fun that being the first one out on a snowy morning and frolicking with abandon in newly fallen snow. The animals usually beat us to the path, but sometimes, we get to experience the world in the light of the sweet purity of a winter wonderland. If we tune our hearts to God’s sweet presence each morning, we can get an even greater sense of wonder without the cold 🙂

Love

No one can snatch me from God’s hand, but I am free to hop out at any time. He will let me wander for as long as it takes for me to create my own kingdoms, make my own mountains, and plan my own projects. He waits because Love is patient.

God doesn’t close his hand around me because love cannot be forced with a fist. He knows only an open palm works when it comes to love. He is the ultimate example self-differentiation and waits for His children to find their way back to Him. Love requires openness and freedom; otherwise, it will wither and die. God knows that better than anyone, so He never forces or coerces. He refuses to fuse. I must do the same if I am to love Him and others as He desires.

When my kingdoms crash, my mountains topple, and my projects fail, I find comfort in God’s loving hand. He doesn’t gloat or fuss or say, “I told you so. I knew you’d be back!” He simply loves. His love never changes or moves and is best described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” NASB