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Grace Instead of Gruffness

I am a work in progress.

People often think I’m sweet.

My friend, Barb, knows otherwise.  Well, so does my family, truth be told.  But Barb is the one who likes to say, when my horns come out, “That’s just proof that Jesus ain’t done with you yet.”

So true.

Still, though, as Lysa TerKeurst says in her book, Unglued, the goal should be to seek after imperfect progress rather than perfection, which is unattainable.

This summer has been one of rest…one of reflection.  I have wondered over these last couple of months how I will do when tested.

My first real test came a few days ago when someone responded to a message that I’d accidentally “replied to all.”

She wasn’t aware that I was going to see her message, and let me tell you that she had some very, very unkind things to say about me.

She and I have a history that goes back many years.  Things were said back then, and relationships were broken.  We’ve hardly spoken since.

After I read her message, I sat in shock.

I flashed back to the events that had led to our original break.

I remembered the emotions and the anger that had surrounded me during that time.

It had been a very bad time for me, personally.  I’d recently lost my dad and was dealing with the shock that accompanies losing someone unexpectedly.

I read her message on Facebook several more times.

I considered my options…should I respond and if so, what should I say?

I remembered Lysa’s words of wisdom…gifts from the Lord to my thirsty soul.

I sent this woman a response that did not accuse.  It subtly let her know that I had seen the response she’d crafted, but I didn’t jump in to defend myself.

I told her that I wanted to put everything behind us so we could deal with the big issue that we need to deal with.  This is something that is going to take both of us, in cooperation, to complete.

I also told her that during the intervening years, my heart had softened.

I used to be a person who flew off the handle.  My emotions always run just below the surface.

I still erupt sometimes, but I tend to suppress a lot now, although my face still shows how I feel.

These ten-plus years have changed me, though.  My experiences in life as well as my walk with God have matured me.

It has been the lessons I’ve learned in Unglued that have left their mark and have been the catalyst for the most recent changes in my heart attitude.

She responded to my response (are you keeping up) very quickly and told me that while my heart may have softened, her’s has not, and that she will probably always be bitter.

The anger runs strongly through her veins still.  However, as I read those sad words along with the rest of her message, I almost felt her desperation and longing to believe what I was saying.

I responded one more time, trying to be careful not to fan the flames that are obviously still burning.  But, as Lysa suggests in her book, I laid things out in a very honest way that did not excuse her from the role she had played in the division between us.

I ended my note by asking for her forgiveness.

I haven’t heard back from her.

I don’t know if I will, but in the meantime, I will be praying for her.

This, too, is huge for me.

I don’t know about you, but praying for those who hurt me is pretty low on my to-do list…right below having my toe hairs pulled out one-by-one.

I’m not telling you this story to glorify myself, because I know my heart all too well.

All glory goes to God for His hand that stopped me from writing something like, “You are seriously not over this yet?”

It is my prayer that this woman will draw comfort from the grace I extended.  By not being gruff, I did not give her any fuel for her anger.

I hope that one day she will see that God can heal the heart.  In fact, He’s the only person who can…if she allows Him to.

I heard the song on the radio last night while I was cleaning the kitchen, and I thought of how much we need God in our lives…to help us fight temptation…to get through life’s challenges.

Unglued – A Proper Book Review

So, I’ve mentioned the book, Unglued:  Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, by Lysa TerKeurst, a couple of times over the last few weeks.

I thought it was time for me to properly review it.

I learned of this book when I read a devotional series, authored by Lysa, on my phone.  I knew I had to order the book.

I limited myself to reading only one chapter per day because I wanted to really think about what I’d read.

I underlined more things in this book than I ever have when reading.

I made notes.

I copied quotes and added them to my Goodreads log.  I also shared tidbits on Facebook.

Every.

Single.

Chapter.

Was.

Powerful.

I saw myself on EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE.

Lysa writes in a style that is conversational.

It’s as if you and your BFF are having a chat over coffee (or in my case, Frappuccinos).

There were chapters devoted to what kind of reactor you are when faced with emotional situations…are you a stuffer or an exploder?

There were subcategories.

I like to be organized, so this suited me.

She explained what kind of reactions she has and gave specific examples.

This was, perhaps, one of the best things about the book…how she opened up and gave honest, heartfelt accounts of situations she’d been in and how she had, oftentimes, come unglued herself.

She gave practical steps…steps that even I can follow…on how to handle the raw emotions that we encounter.  I am going to type them up and put them on my bulletin board at school.

I was validated in some of the ways I handle stressful situations and comforted by the fact that I haven’t always messed up.

I think what I appreciated the most about this book was that I didn’t feel alone or less like a Christian because of how I handle myself when I come unglued.

By the time I closed the book, I felt empowered.

Oh yeah.

For an overachiever like me, planning is huge, and feeling empowered makes me more confident to accomplish, to the degree I expect of myself, the tasks I set in front of myself.

I also felt better equipped to understand others…to recognize how they handle themselves in unglued moments.

I am of the firm opinion that I will be a better mother, coworker, and teacher because of the time I spent reading this book.

Teenagers, especially, need help working through their feelings.  They need to be taught that 1)  It’s okay to feel what they feel, and 2) How to handle themselves when such situations occur.

This book was a godsend, let me tell you.

I highly, highly, highly encourage you to get your hands on a copy of this book.

The lessons have the potential to change your life.

It Just So Happened

This morning, my church’s new senior pastor spoke at the campus my family attends (my church has two campuses).

Before he got up to speak, we had our music worship time.

I don’t know how the music is where you attend, but my church’s contemporary worship team ROCKS it!

Christian music is so important to me.

It whispers God’s truths to me.

It soothes my soul when I’m troubled.  The day after Aubie passed away, I heard a song on the radio that brought me to tears but comforted me at the same time.

The upbeat songs allow me to celebrate, exuberantly, God’s blessings and His mercy.

The songs this morning spoke words of affirmation and allowed me to express to the Lord how grateful I am for His most recent work in my life.

As you are aware, if you read my blog regularly, I have been struggling with something that happened the last week of school.

I have struggled with the anger and hurt that completely overwhelmed me.

But God has been so gracious, let me tell you.

Let me pause a moment to briefly tell you what the morning’s sermon was about, and then I will tie everything together.

We were told of Esther, a Jewish woman who became King Xerxes’s queen after he banished Queen Vashti.  He didn’t know Esther was Jewish…only that she was more beautiful than any other woman paraded before him during the selection process.

In the meantime, Haman, an ambitious noble in King Xerxes’s court, had a vendetta against Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who refused to pay homage to Haman.  Haman figured out a way to get the king to send out an edict to have all Jewish people slaughtered.

Mordecai appealed to Esther, asking her to use her position as the queen to ask Xerxes to intervene and save the Jews.  She refused, at first, but later acquiesced.  In the meantime, Haman’s hatred for Mordecai increased, to the point where he planned to have him impaled upon a pole; however, through an uncanny set of circumstances, it was Haman who was impaled on the pole, and Mordecai’s name was heralded throughout the city.

One of my pastor’s themes of his message was that God purposely ordained every circumstance to advance His plans to save His chosen people.

My pastor said that nothing happens by accident but by God’s providence.

How does this relate to me and my recent introspection?

Looking at the timeline of what has happened since the issue at school…

It just so happened that school ended the same week as the “issue,” freeing me of the obligation of facing the people, on a daily basis, who had hurt me.  This gave me much needed distance to process everything.

It just so happened that I worked my tail off and completed my ESOL class in under a week, leaving me free from further obligations so that I could rest.

It just so happened that I discovered a devotion series called Unglued on my phone’s Bible app, and each day’s words ministered to me greatly.

It just so happened that the last devotion mentioned a book titled Unglued:  Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which I ordered the same day and began reading as soon as it arrived in the mail.

It just so happened that I had time each day to read one chapter.  I chose not to read more than that at a time so I could process the wise words, smartly written…seemingly just for me.

It just so happened that chapter by chapter, my eyes were opened to the ways I process raw emotions, and I discovered healthier, scriptural-based ways of handling them.

It just so happened that Chicky and a local girl who will be attending Southeastern on a soccer scholarship (they will be teammates) have become good friends this summer.  She attends our church.  We have gotten to know her parents better as a result.

It just so happened that Chicky’s friend’s parents invited us to their small group, where the studies, seemingly random, have dealt with anger…letting go of the past…healing.

It just so happened that one of this morning’s worship songs talked about trials and praising God through them…

When I consider the things I’ve been through (and I realize they pale in comparison to the trials I’ve witnessed others go through), I am humbled by God’s merciful goodness and His never-ending presence.

I am so thankful for God’s timing…the way He orchestrates each event in my life…the way He uses the bad stuff to make me more like Him.

I’ve turned a couple of corners this summer.  I’m not home yet…I don’t know that I will be home until I enter heaven…but I can say, with genuine joy, that it is well with my soul.

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