Death, Divorce, and Heartbreak Part 4: Allow the Space to Become More God-Like

images (8)How to deal with Death, Divorce and Heartbreak

Dealing with suffering is not a new topic.  I’ve read and listened to wonderful books and teachings on dealing with grief, divorcing with integrity, and what to do after a bad break up.  Much of them say the same thing and where brought forth in Part 1 of this blog series:

  • allow the space to grieve
  • see the relief and joy
  • be accepting of what is
  • look for the blessings
  • embrace the excitement of creating a new life
  • learn from the person and experience
  • honor what was
  • believe and hold on for the rejoicing to come

Often when I see the word “God”, I will read it as the word “Love”.  The pain of death, divorce, or heartbreak can increase our spiritual connection with GOD, it can grow our LOVE, if we choose.  This is where FREE WILL, our ability and gift to choose, can be our best friend or our worst enemy.

Love is a choice.  God is a choice.   We can choose Love/God when we are facing painful experiences.

The foundation of a wholehearted life is to choose Love/God in the context of all our experiences—good ones, painful ones, everyday ones.

So how do you choose Love/God in the midst of painful experiences like death, divorce and heartbreak?

Looking at the list above, there are several things on there that seem totally impossible in the initial stages of deep sorrow and heartbreak.    I want to touch on the importance of the first one.


Allow the Space to Grieve

Allowing the space to grieve, to feel the pain of the situation, is so important.  It is not in our nature to turn towards pain. We can engage in many activities physically, emotionally, and mentally to avoid it.  Ultimately, however, any tactic we use to avoid pain will only cause us more pain.   And that pain will disconnect us from others.  It will not allow the love and our true self in God to come through for our self or others.

Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors and researchers, has a cute video that explains the difference between empathy and connection versus sympathy and disconnection (Click here to see video).   When we feel our pain we grow in empathy.  When we can empathize with others, we are connecting with others.    Most people who sympathize, who try to make us see the brighter side of things too soon, are avoiding their own pain and yours thus producing disconnection.   Connection was God’s ultimate goal for us through Jesus death.  We can’t connect if we are avoiding our own painful experiences.

Ultimately, allow yourself to feel your pain so you can empathize with others—so the true you, the love in you, the God part of you can grow, be shared, and connect you with others.  This is a choice to love.  This is a choice for God and to be more God-Like.

Recently I heard someone say that we need to deal with painful things in “skillful” ways–ways that are non-harming to self or others.   What does it look like to allow yourself the space to grieve or feel the pain in “skillful” ways?  Here are only a few (I’d love for you to share more “skillful ways” in the comment section):

  • Cry when you need to. Rage when you need to. Just do it in kind ways—kind to yourself and others.
  • Find a friend who won’t get tired of you talking through the things that bring up the pain. Seek a counselor if you feel you are wearing your friends out.  When my mom passed, I found certain things triggered my grief.  It might have been a significant date, a holiday, finding a note she wrote, or a time I wished I could have called to talk over something with her.   With divorce and heartbreak the same is true.  It will take awhile for all the triggers to come and go.  Dealing with the triggers will help them recede and lessen more quickly and thoroughly.
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings. Grief is often accompanied by anger, guilt, shame, fear, anxieties, and other emotions that effect living fully.   Journaling is a safe way to get those feelings out without them being projected on to others potentially hurting yourself and others. I often see journaling as praying to and talking with God who is big enough and empathetic enough to hear and hold our pain as often as we need to say it.  Write to God every hour if need be.
  • The pain from grief and heartache often bring up big spiritual questions. Find support in your church or community of believers to ask your questions.
  • Read your bible and/or pray. When I have been in times of deep pain and choosing not to turn to other things to deal with it, I found myself restless and unsettled.   The last thing I thought I could do was sit still and read the bible or pray.  However, when I finally choose (and, honestly, made myself) get in a chair to read the bible or pray, it only took that one time to experience its soothing, calming, and healing power.  My chair is the first place I turn to now.

The ultimate goal of dealing with any kind of painful situation is to come out on the other side with more love, more God, more connection, more ability to connect with others.

Recently I read this definition of hope:

Hope is the fruit of a learned capacity to suffer wisely and generously.

“Suffering wisely” is dealing with your pain in loving ways leaving behind any tactics to avoid it.  “Generously” is the ability to empathize with others because you understand and know pain.  By not avoiding it, you become a Godly, loving support and a beacon of hope for others.  In addition, the fruit of hope you gain from suffering wisely makes the other things on that list above possible.

JUST A NOTE:

Many times I’ve heard that if I trusted God more, believed the promises of the bible, or loved God more than anything else that I would not feel pain.  That is a bunch of hooey!   Jesus believed, trusted, loved, and even was God and He felt pain.

John 11: 33 (Voice) says:   When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

A few verses later “…Jesus wept and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus.”

Jesus was grieving, feeling, and empathizing.

Allow yourself space and time to feel your pain.  This will grow you in love and being more of and for God.


cropped-011114_2043_selfcompass1.jpgEncouraging Your Whole Heartedness:

I’d love to hear your heart on this topic or any “skillful” ways you’ve used to deal with pain from death, divorce, and heartache.

Gentleness: A Fruit of a Whole Heart Life

LINKUP-GRAB-BUTTON-2-01Today I’m linking in with BE STILL BE FREE.   I love their weekly podcasts and blog posts.  Wednesdays are their link up day where other bloggers can post a thought, story, or pondering about a specific topic.  Today’s topic is Gentleness. Be sure to click on the BE image to the left  and enjoy their podcasts and wise words.


imagesI truly need a doggie door on my beautiful screened in porch.  My faithful companion, Allie, Border Collie extraordinaire, likes to open the screen door to let herself out to roam.   As smart as she is, I have yet to train her to shut the door.

On more than one occasion, while the door has been open, birds have flown in and become trapped on the porch.

When I find the frightened little souls flying about banging into the screen, their feathered breasts beating fast, and squawking frantically, I start talking to the bird in a sweet, gentle tone. 

“It’s okay.  No need to be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you. The door is right over there. I just want to help you get free.”

I talk quietly and peacefully as I slowly and steadily coax it towards the door.  I am also a bit scared it will fly right at me and get tangled in my hair, or worse case scenario, peck an eye out!  Oh, not to mention that it might relieve itself on me in its fear-filled state!

I think this is a common reaction upon finding helpless beings–a bit nervous with a desire to help.  Deep down in our nature we understand fear and being gentle, soothing beings.  I find this especially true for most of us with animals.

What about with scared and fear-filled human beings?  

What do we usually do when someone starts banging around and squawking?

In relationships, when we have triggered someone’s fears, the behaviors don’t generally send us into gentleness mode.  The frightened partner can become defensive, critical, large, and angry.  Or they may become incredibly quiet, distant, and defiant.  Our tendency is to run the other way physically or emotionally, get our battle gear on and squawk back, or become so overwhelmed we do nothing!

When God or an angel showed up in the bible, they were always reassuring their encountered person with “Do not be afraid.”  No doubt their presence was a bit overwhelming, unusual, and fear producing.

I’m pretty sure they were not squawking or screaming “DO NOT BE AFRAID!!!!!”

I imagine it was in such a compassionate, gentle voice much like how I talk to the frightened birds.

How much different would it be if we remembered gentleness with those who have just been trapped on the screen porch of fear?    Maybe some empathy, some compassion, some gentle reassuring words would help them find the door to freedom.

 

WHO ARE YOU Part 5: A Taste of WHOOP—Whole Heartedly Opening Our Purpose

download (5)The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.  –Carl Jung

 10 “This & That’s” of the HEART of WHO YOU ARE

During one particular season in my life, I took lots of family photos. I was diligent about making scrapbook photo albums for each year.   I created pages and pages about the activities and events in our family’s life.  But inevitably, I would have single, random photos that didn’t go with an event, yet still had something to say.  I couldn’t leave them out, but there was no obvious place to put them.  Finally, I made a page called “This & That” so these precious pictures would have their spot.

This is how I see this final blog on WHO YOU ARE: here are important, precious, random quotes, musings, and thoughts that didn’t make the pages of the previous posts.  May they be a reminder of what was previously said and take you further in discovering your HEART and WHO YOU ARE.


1.  Remember there are two parts to who you are: Human and Spiritual.  Richard Rohr said this in one of his daily devotions.  Something to think about:

Catherine of Siena in her Dialogues pictures the spiritual life as a large tree:

  • The trunk of the tree is love (God).
  • The core of the tree, that middle part that must be alive for the rest of the tree to be alive, is patience.
  • The roots of the tree are self-knowledge.
  • The many branches, reaching out into the air, are discernment.

In other words, says Catherine, love does not happen without patience, self-knowledge, and discernment.  Today we have little encouragement toward honest self-knowledge or training in spiritual discernment from our churches. We prefer the seeming clarity of black-and-white laws. By nature, most of us are not very patient. All of which means love is not going to be very common. We need St. Catherine’s tree again.


2.  Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. –Aristotle

Self Knowledge–understanding who we are, taking a really good look at what we are doing and how we are being–is important.   One of the defining characteristics of being human is our ability to be conscious—to be aware, to be mindful.  Therefore, being conscious of our self is vitally important to become who we truly are.  The most difficult phase of life is not when no one understands you; It is when you don’t understand yourself.   –unknown


3.  Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.  –Howard Thurman

I didn’t get into this too much in the past posts, but another aspect of WHO YOU ARE is what brings you alive.   The things that you love to do.  The things that you get lost in.  The things that make you feel icredibly joy-filled.  The things that stir your heart to action and accomplishment.   These are your passions and determine your PURPOSE.  And they have been given to you for a reason.  Each of us has been given gifts, talents, activities or causes that we have a desire to do. You were made to do those thing and to do those things in a way no one else would.   Here are some ways to figure some of those out:

    • In the 4 part series on Journaling, I gave an exercise that helps you define your passions. Go to the past posts on JOURNALING and do the fill in the blank exercise: When my life is idea I will be or have ______.  The exercise has several steps and they are highlighted in Part 2, 3 and 4 of the journaling posts.
    • Take a spiritual gift assessment test:  Discover Your Spiritual Gifts
    • Journal your answers these questions:
      • What do others compliment you most on?
      • What are your talents?
      • What are you trained in?
      • What experiences have you had in your life that have shaped who you are?
      • What do you love to do that you can’t wait to do?
      • What activity do you love to do that you loose track of time doing?
      • What matters to you?
      • What is worth doing, even if you fail?
      • What were you doing when you had times of great joy, bliss, honest contentment or fulfillment?
      • What things are you really good at?
      • What is the crazy thing you’ve always wanted to do?
      • If you had a whole day to yourself and all your obligations have been taken care of, what would you do?
      • Fill in the blank with as many things as come to mind: Meaningful work to me is __________.

4.  Your TRUE SELF is really spiritual.

When all else fades away in our life—titles, roles, status—what we are left with is our TRUE SPIRIT SELF. From the biblical perspective, here are a few things the bible says about WHO WE ARE:

      • we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:4)
      • we were created in the likeness of God (Gen 1:27; Gen 5:1),
      • God is love and created us out of love (1 John 4:8),
      • He made us for a purpose (Prov 16:4)
      • He can work all things for His good purpose (Rom 8:28)
      • God is perfect (2 Sam 22:31; Rom 12:2) thus is incapable of making mistakes
      • we are living in fallen world due to selfishness/sin (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 5:10) but
      • we can do all things through Christ (Phil 4:13).

Here is what we can conclude about WHO WE ARE spiritually from above:

      • there is no mistakes in how you are made
      • the core of who you are is God-like and capable of perfection (don’t think in worldly ways here)
      • you are deeply loved and capable of this also
      • all the experiences you’ve had and will have in life, God can make for good and for a good purpose
      • you are the perfect person for your purpose and God is making that so
      • you can be all that you were created to be with God’s help

5.  I acknowledge and do not deny that you love me before I existed, and that you love me unspeakably much, as one gone mad over your creature. — Saint Catherine of Siena            

God is crazy-mad in love with us.  Are you crazy in love with God? Are you crazy in love with you?  Are you crazy in love with others?  Do you believe you are capable of this?  If we allow God’s love to reflect through us, we can be crazy lovers…even back to our self which is so vital to being who you truly are.


6.  Love transforms one into what one loves. We looked at this quote in a previous post.  Here is another thought  on this quote:

If we transform into what we love, then who are we becoming?   What do you love?  If it is anything other than God than you probably won’t become WHO YOU ARE as the crazy loving being that God intended you to be. We are meant to love. But very easily, we can end up loving the wrong things.   Idols, for example, are things that can take our love from God.  They come in many forms–money, work, our body, a person, drugs, alcohol, porn, food.  When we use these things to define our identity, for fulfillment, or to meet our need for love, acceptance, significance or belonging, we create an idol.   Our God-given gifts (talents and strengths) and passions (activities you get lost in or make your spirit soar) can also become idols.  Be ever mindful.  As long as what you love is an extension of love and NOT a source for love, then wholeheartedly pursue it.


7.  Now how can those who do not know their own sinfulness recognize and correct it in others? They are neither able nor willing to go against themselves. –St. Catherine  

WRECKED has recently become a popular slang word.  People say, “she wrecked me,” or “that movie wrecked me.”  What they are talking about is the mind blowing, perception changing, overwhelming positive or negative effect that something had over them.  The dictionary definition of the word is to ruin, damage, or destroy.

Be brave and let God’s love WRECK YOU—in both definitions!   Be willing to ‘go against yourself’ and see how you are being due to thoughts and lies you believe about WHO YOU ARE.  Who are you trying to be?  How are you protecting yourself and your image?  What unloving behaviors are you engaging in out of fear?  Recognizing and owning our unloving ways is painful.  But if we allow this self awareness, we can destroy the image that is trying to make us something we are not.   God’s love also can wreck us because it is mind blowing, a perception changer, and can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on us.  I dare say that most of us are still wrestling with (1) how can God love us when we are so unloving and sinful, and (2) trying to grasp God’s love through the story of Jesus and his resurrection.  Both of those have no shortage of mind blowing, life changing power. If we allow ourselves to receive God’s love it will destroy AND repair us.  Dying to self and becoming a new creation happen when we allow God to wreck us.    Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness.  –Immanuel Kant


8.  In Self Love, there is always the danger of self hate. In self hate, there is always the possibility of self love.”  –Tina Ng  

Only in attempting great love for others, God or our self can we see our failings—how unloving we can be.    However, it is in these moments when we have the opportunity to love the most.  How ironic!  Our tendency is to go into denial, justify our behavior, blame others, berate our self, give up, or fall into despair and self pity.  If we can, in those moments, love our selves we honor WHO WE ARE.  Oswald Chamber says when we realize or receive conviction about our unloving ways (or someone else’s), it is God’s call to intercession, never faultfinding.  Intercession has no judgment, ridicule and criticism in it; instead it is characterized by acceptance and compassion.  If you spent as much time loving yourself as you do at running from or hating yourself, who do you think you’d be or become?


9.  Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets boring, so I go back to being me. –Unknown

This makes me chuckle because what is ‘normal’?   We allow many things (family, society, friends, church, etc) to tell us what is normal, and, if we don’t live up to that, we pretend.   We can end up living a false, unauthentic version of WHO WE ARE.   This is hurtful to our self, God, and others!  We are meant to be exactly who and what we are in our glorious, precious, messiness!  Loving your self is JUST BEING YOU! When you get to heaven God will not judge you for not being like your ultimate mentor or spiritual hero, God may judge you for not being YOU! Loving myself is bringing every part of myself out into the light to be seen and accepted…by me! –unknown


10. Lastly, I want to share an inspiring music video to end this blog series! Don’t let other people’s words or your circumstances define who you are.

cropped-011114_2043_selfcompass1.jpgENCOURAGING YOUR WHOLE HEARETEDNESS:

I’d love to hear your heart.  Leave a comment or share a thought on what you’ve discovered about WHO YOU ARE.

WHO ARE YOU Part 4: A Taste of WHOOP—Whole Heartedly Opening Our Purpose

images (10)Love transforms one into what one loves. –Quote from a Facebook post that stuck in my head; author unremembered!


 

 

Last week’s post discussed some of the ways we might behave when we believe two lies:

  • Love Hurts and if God is Love then God Hurts.
  • If God hurts and we are made in His likeness, then we must be hurting and hurtful beings.

The truth of the matter is that God IS love and Love does NOT hurt.  Unloving behaviors hurt.  Who we are in our core is LOVE, and we are beings capable of great love.

Believing that God hurts leads us to believe that we are all hurtful beings, and we then engage in fear-based, self-protective behavior that is rooted in fear.  We begin to avoid the connection, intimacy and love that we’re made for and that we long for.  In order to break this cycle, we need to recognize that feeling unfulfilled is more a reaction of fear (natural instinct and conditioning from past unloving encounters) than a choice to love (our true spiritual essence).

Becoming aware of our false beliefs and acknowledging the behaviors we engage in to protect ourselves isn’t always pleasant.  It takes a great deal of introspection, self-knowledge, willingness, and time.  And let’s not forget COURAGE!  In areas of your life where you feel unrest, anxiety, anger, pain, sadness, or unfulfillment, you are very likely participating in fear instead of love.  To honestly examine your behaviors – to dig into your beliefs and uncover the causes of your actions – takes a great deal of bravery.   So if you are still reading and following these blogs, I want to give you a whole-hearted cheer…a big WHOOP!  You are already being brave, so keep going!

As I promised last week, I want to give you a practical, do-able spiritual practice that will transform you into what you will love.  Here it is: start and practice loving yourself every day at every moment no matter how you are being or what you are doing.  Love yourself and you will transform into something you love! 


images (2)Self-love is a spiritual practice. 

Some of you might be thinking that sounds awfully selfish and self-indulgent.   I used to think so, too.  And this same reaction occurs in my WHOOP groups when I tell them, “for the next 5 weeks you are going to concentrate on YOU and loving yourself!”  We are often taught that loving ourselves is a form of conceit and self-absorption.  We might also think that self-love goes against the selflessness that Jesus teaches by his example.  But I have learned that loving myself is a form of honoring God, and that it also honors others.

Here are some truths I’ve learned about the link between loving myself and loving others:

  • You can’t love others unless you love yourself just as you are at every moment. “Every moment” is the challenging part.  I don’t know of anyone who acts perfectly kind, caring and loving all the time. Least of all me!  But I’ve found that the root of this thinking is within me: the amount I judge and criticize myself is the amount I judge and criticize others.  When I learn to be kinder and gentler with myself—the good and the bad parts—then I can do the same to others.  This is how God loves us—He will never remove His love from us no matter what we think, say, feel, or do.  Check out how many times the word STEADFAST is associated with God’s love; if we are made in the likeness of God, then we are capable of steadfast love for ourselves and others.
  • If you’ve ever flown on a commercial airplane, you’ve heard the oxygen mask instruction, “If you have a small child with you, put your mask on first before helping them.” WHY?  Because if you are struggling to breath, start to panic, or pass out how can you help another.   If you can’t love and take care of you, how are you ever going to love and give care (being selfless) to another!
  • To honor, love and know WHO YOU ARE is how you learn to honor, love, and appreciate who someone else is. The more loving and compassionate you can be toward yourself, the more you can extend love and compassion to others.  When you can forgive yourself for your selfish, controlling or unkind ways, you will be able do to that for others.  That is love!
  • Self-love is believing and practicing the truth about our relationship with God. The extent to which we understand and experience God’s love is the extent to which we can love ourselves and others.   Self love is living out the truth – through our thoughts, deeds, and actions – that there is no separation between us and God. God is in us and we are in God. Therefore, the same kind of love that He gives us, we can give to ourselves and others. We become mirrors—we are to reflect God’s love and we can reflect that love right back to our self and others.
  • Did Jesus show self-love? I would have to say YES! He lived the ultimate Whole Hearted Life.  He totally got God! He knew who he was in and as God. He was conscious of his “being” and “doing”.  He honored what to do for himself to stay true and connected to who he was and his purpose.  He extended love and compassion. He fulfilled his purpose! If he had had one ounce of fear or doubt, I’d hate to think of where we’d be or what we’d be doing.  Have you read the end of Exodus or Leviticus lately?  It will make your head spin with all the proper procedures and sacrifices! I’m so glad Jesus’ new command to us was to love—love your neighbor as you yourself are loved, love God with all your heart, mind and strength, love others as Jesus has loved us.

God’s love and self-love is a sweet dance between us and God.  You can’t seem to have one without the other.
If you love you, you love God.
If you love God, you love you because He is part of WHO YOU ARE.
If you dishonor yourself, you are dishonoring God.
If you dishonor God, you are dishonoring yourself.
If you are not connecting with yourself, then you are not connecting with God.


images (7)Love transforms one into what one loves.

The transforming that occurs is God’s love to us, through us and given back to our self.   (You might need to read that one a few times to let it sink in!) Practice some self love and see what starts to happen in your life.

Practical Tips:

  1. WHAT IS LOVE? WHO IS GOD?  These are big questions.  Anything you can do to study and learn about love and God will be important to understanding how to love yourself.
  • Read the bible. Pick a version that you like!   I like The Voice, The New Living Translation, and The Amplified bible.  There are lots of great study bibles with commentary that explains more of the history and the concepts presented in the bible.
  • Here are a couple books I recommend:
    • Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
    • Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk
    • Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr
  • Here is a starter for you. Read what 1 Corinthian 13:4 says about love, and practice it on yourself this week:
    • Be patient and kind to yourself.
    • Don’t be rude, crude or indecent to yourself…in words or actions!
    • Don’t get upset with yourself or keep a list of all the things wrong you did today.
    • Love anything and everything that you do this week.
    • Trust, hope and endure however you are “being” this week!
    • Don’t dismiss yourself this week and any shape or form.
    • Remind yourself that you are important and needed by God.
  1. Make a list of 100 Ways to love yourself. Every good life coach eventually asks their client do this list.  WHY?   The list sheds light about WHO YOU ARE, what you like and what feeds your soul.  It also becomes a resource of what to do when you feel the need for love. Once you write the list, put it into practice right away and notice what starts to transpire in your life.  Get your list going by asking these questions:
  • What activities do you like to do that make you feel peaceful or more alive?
  • What activities do you do that make you feel better about yourself?
  • What things do you know from deep down in your heart that if you did them, you’d feel more loved by yourself?
  • What things do you wish someone else did for you to show you love?

These can be big and small things. They can cost money or not.   They can be actual activities or a way you want to be.

Examples:
Light candles
Read more fun books
Take a bath
Listen to music and sing
Drink more water
Brush my teeth
Make my bed in the morning
Have fresh flowers in the house
Don’t go to bed mad
Take family vacations every year
Go on lunch date with girlfriend
Cook a new recipe
Schedule Date nights
Tell the truth in love
Go for a walk
Take an art class
Buy new pajamas
Keep my morning time sacred
Breath before responding when feeling angry
Take responsibility for any behavior I did that might have been hurtful and apologize
Remember to take some healthy snacks in the car so I don’t eat something unhealthy

cropped-011114_2043_selfcompass1.jpgEncouraging Your Whole Heartedness:

I’d love to hear your heart.  Leave me a comment or tell me a few ways you plan to love yourself this week.