Words From The Wise, Our Stories

“The purpose of story is to generate a relationship–to promote trust and intimacy, to gain acceptance, and to have an emotionally healing experience. We can argue statistics, we can debate theories, and we can challenge philosophies, but there is something about a person’s raw, honest story that connects with us on a deeper level and get us out of our head into our heart … sharing our stories is really sharing our faith in what God is doing in our lives. Our stories connect with others at the heart level,”
Framing Faith, Matt Knisely, pages 29, 30.

“Our stories connect with others at the heart level,” YES! This has truly been my experience.

When I share about my struggles with comparison, I see the heads of my friends bob up and down. When I share about living with a husband who went through a very dark time of depression, my friends open up to me and want to know more.

As I’ve learned vulnerability — not just transparency, I’ve learned to allow myself to be human. I experience God opening the two-way doors of encouragement. Others breathe more easily and are set free to share their stories, and I am able to receive their love in a newer, deeper, more authentic way. When we share our stories with one another, something special happens — a very special connection.

Recently I’ve heard that when someone is living with deep grief, they need to share their story 200 times. And in the sharing, there is healing. We need each other.

Do you have a friend you feel free to be real with?

 

I’d be honored to listen.

 

 

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

 

 

Words From The Wise, Please or Trust

“There’s an incredible phrase in Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (italics mine) This statement shows us the path we must take. Only by trusting can we truly please God! If our primary motive is pleasing God, we’ll never please Him enough and we’ll never learn trust. Pleasing God is a good desire. It just can’t be our primary motivation or it will imprison our hearts … When our primary motive becomes trusting God, however, we suddenly discover there is nothing in the world that pleases Him more! Until you trust God, nothing you do will please God.” The Cure, Lynch, McNicol, Thrall

The verb form of the noun ‘faith’ is trust.

I bet if you’re a parent or grandparent you’ve experienced this. I know I have. And sometimes I’ve been surprised that my grandchild has trusted me so explicitly.

But I am a child too, a child of God. And I think this pictures what God desires from me, complete trust. A willingness to bring all of me and cast myself into his arms.

What has God asked you to trust him with these days?

The book I quoted above, The Cure, is part of the High Trust Leader course that I’m faculty for. What I love about this course is it helps me practice these principles, not just agree to them. Let me know if you’d like to learn about it. I like to call this course, High Trust Living.

Words From The Wise, Be Still

“Be still and know that I am God …”
Psalm 46:10

“Psalm 46:10 tells us there is a kind of knowing that comes in silence and not in words–but first we must be still. The Hebrew word translated ‘Be still’ literally means ‘Let go of your grip.'” Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Haley Barton.

When I learned this meaning last summer, I expanded it: let go of your grip, keep your hands at your sides, and put duct tape across your your mouth.

“Let the words of my mouth … be acceptable in your sight, O Lord …” Psalm 19:14. This is one of the verses I pray over regularly. As a child I learned, sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you. Hmmm, not so. Words have the power to be misunderstood and very hurtful.  This morning as I sat outside under the beautiful red, gold, and orange canopy of the NC hard woods, I heard the Lord whisper, Sue, you are not the answer to the issues swirling around you. My words may offer love, or my words might hurt.  Like you, my heart is for my words to bring love and hope.

And God whispers, keep that duct tape in place. Be still. Many days it is a re-surrender, a new trust.

Mark Buchanan says it this way, “Most of the things we need in order to be most full alive never come from busyness. They grow out of rest.”

I believe rest and trust are first cousins. More coming on this later.

Words From The Wise & The Winners

Winners: Thank you to so many of you who commented on recent Echoes of Grace posts. You, my friends, are a great encouragement.

Four books are being given to Linda Bonorden, New York; Deb Weaver, Wisconsin; Mary Zehner, Illinois; and April Otero, Florida. May you be blessed as I have been from these reads.

Others who commented are receiving a bookmark with an original poem I penned a few years ago. I hope its message ministers to you as much as it did to me in the writing of it.

(I still need a few of you to send your addresses to me, sue.tell@navigators.org.)

On another note, Bill and I have an unusally full ministry travel schedule between now and Thanksgiving. During this time Echoes of Grace will be encouraging you with excepts from some of the books I’ve recently read. I’m titling this series, Words From The Wise. My prayer is that you be challenged and blessed from these as I have been.

From Whispers of Rest, by Bonnie Gray …

Moving the Water

Carol’s neighbor lives four miles away. One night, he knocked on her door. He said water would be arriving in twenty-four hours to water her land.

He told her he would move the water tonight. It’s an unusual phrase. It turns out that Carol’s neighbor, who lives upstream from her, is the gatekeeper for the reservoir holding all the water that supplies what farmers and ranchers need down-stream. The gatekeeper watches the waters swell and he reads the weather in the clouds.

“Moving the water” meant he would open a series of gates and release the water to run where it was most needed to replenish the land. If the land wasn’t getting enough water he would rearrange the gates to redistribute its flow.

“Changes in your life,” Carol told me, “are how God opens gates in our hearts–to release the things that need to be let go in order to bring new life to areas we can’t see but God sees.”

God changes the direction in our lives, not to harm us but to bring new life.”  (pages 128, 129)

Hmmmm, that was a good reminder for me. What about you?

“For I know the plans I have for you … not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Ignoring the Shame, Experiencing Joy

Important reminders at the bottom.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Because of the joy awaiting him,
he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.
Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:2, NLT (italics mine)

The theme of shame begins in the story of creation. Genesis 2:25 translated in the New Living Translation (NLT), “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” Adam and Eve, totally exposed and naked felt no shame. Before the fall, they were completely at peace with who God created them to be. Living in the joy of their creation together.

But then sin entered the world and shame became a thing. I wrote about this before. And Adam and Eve knew shame, realized their vulnerability and tried to cover it up. With fig leaves … you know the story.

Shame is different from guilt. Guilt is a gift God has given us to make right what we have done wrong. Shame tells me, I am something wrong. It whispers lies to me. In my words, shame told me, I was not good enough. I think Eve started believing the same thing.  For years I believed it and like Eve tried to cover it up. My fig leaves did not work either.

I was not good enough to receive an invitation to the special Girl Scout Camp.
I was not good enough to earn a spot on our high school color guard squad.
I was not good enough to pledge a sorority my freshman year of college.
I was not good enough to be asked to speak at the conference.
And on and on the list goes. My shame deepened in direct relationship to lost opportunities.

Do you see what I was doing? I was basing my good-enough-ness on activities; activities that I believed would communicate to you that I was good enough. And because those activities didn’t materialize, I felt rejected and it reinforced my shame.

 

Jesus also felt the attack of shame. Hebrews 12:2 (above) records that for us. What thoughts do you think the enemy might have been whispering to him as he hung on the cross? Jesus taught about life, and now he was dying.
John 1:4 “In him was life …”
John 6:35 “… I am the bread of life:”
John 17:3 “And this is eternal life … Jesus whom you have sent.”

But Jesus disregarded those shame filled attacks. Other versions translate that word in Hebrews 12:2 as despised the shame, or ignored the shame, or scorned the shame. Jesus did not listen to the shame.

For years I did not know how to ignore the shame that engulfed my life. Until God orchestrated for me to benefit from the wisdom of a Biblical counselor. And maybe for the first time I really heard how much God loved me. Instead of measuring God’s love for me based on activities, I learned that God loved me no matter what! I began to relax into being me.

“God not only loves you very much,
but also has put his hand on you for something special …”
from I Thessalonians 1, The Message

And something else happened — JOY! Like the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, “… I bring you good news of great joy …” Luke 2:10. And as the good news of the gospel permeated me, I too found great joy.

I’m learning the truth of Psalm 16:11, “… in your presence there is fullness of joy;” Quiet time is no longer a task I check off my daily do list. It is enjoying the presence of God.
And
I’m learning new joy in friendships. John understood this, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” II John 1:12. But like in the reality of John’s day, sometimes paper and ink … or a computer in my day … are a good second best.
And
I’m learning new joy in affirming who God created you to be. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works …” Ephesians 2:10 (bolding mine). There is great joy in noticing how God created you and sharing my joy with you.

“For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
Psalm 92:4

  1. When you reply at the bottom of the blog, I respond to your words there too. So do return in a few days to read my response.  I greatly appreciate your comments and questions. Not only do they help me clarify my thoughts, but your words minister to the other readers as well. Many have mentioned this to me.
  2. I promised you a snail mailed gift if you responded to the recent posts. Please send your address to me at sue.tell@navigators.org.

 

 

 

 

Bill’s Depression and Me, part 2

(If you haven’t read part 1, scroll down and read it first.)

The Tipping Point — The Uphill Journey

Bill, one of the Navigator V.P.s, attended a meeting of the National Leadership Team the first day after New Years. That evening he and I went out to dinner with Bill Thrall, a senior consultant and counselor for The Navs. He listened attentively to our story.

Thrall invited us to spend a weekend with he and his wife in Phoenix when Bill felt he was ready to travel. We flew down in February.

What about me?

I was cautiously optimistic. Perhaps we were on the right path. The medications Bill was taking were helping, but we knew that the solution was more than meds and calendar control. God used Bill Thrall’s discernment to take us to the next step.

The Counseling Suggestion

Thrall suggested we attend a counseling intensive. He knew a counselor in Denver who he thought could help us. My Bill was eager for anything that would help, not wanting to live through the dark days of the past months again.

What about me?

I was distracted and scared. I too had issues. Was I going to come into the light and stop trying to protect myself?

Those issues had come to a head two years previous and I was living in a dark place of my own, my spiritual growth stymied. Bill suggested counseling for me back then. NO! Was I that bad off that I needed professional help? My wise husband didn’t bring it up again.

But this suggestion of counseling was different. I was joining my husband and we were going to counseling for his problem — not mine. This gave me the courage to move forward. We were walking together into our future.

The Counseling Intensive

A few weeks later we temporarily moved to Denver not knowing how long we would be there. Milt, our counselor assured us that he would know and we would know when the time was right. And we did. We were there for two weeks.

Milt quickly earned our trust. My counselor defensiveness evaporated. We met with him each morning and then had a bit of homework for the afternoon or evening.

The light was beginning to dawn as our understanding of Bill’s depression was becoming clear.

In addition, I was getting help with my issues and we were getting help with our marriage. A three for one!

What about me?

I was healing too.  I was just as needy as Bill although I manifested it differently.

My appreciation of counselors radically changed. They are a gift to the body. And we had the privilege of benefiting from their contribution.

The Cure

During those two weeks we both caught glimpses of the gospel that had previously eluded us primarily relating to our identities as the beloved children of God. Our significance rests in who we are, not what we do.

Those glimpses caught fire in our hearts as we continued to meditate on the incredible truth of our identities.

What about me?

I discovered God’s love for myself!

I started journaling scriptures that spoke of God’s love for me. My special leather journal became the foundation for my times with God. Reviewing the truth of God’s love was life-changing for me then and continues to be so.

For the next few years I limited my reading to authors who helped me flesh out God’s love. Henri JJ Nouwen and Brennan Manning were two of those.

 

The Continuing Journey

Like anyone who lives with Clinical Depression, Bill still has down days once in a while. Our doctor sometimes needs to adjust his medications. But more than a medical journey, this has been a spiritual journey for us.

What about me?

I am so thankful for our new and deeper understanding of the gospel and God’s love.
I continue to review those truths recorded in my leather journal.
God is using this journey in ways I could have never imagined.
I am so thankful for counselors and our two weeks with Milt.

Some final thoughts

I don’t like it when Bill has another experience of depression. But I recognize the symptoms, I accept this is part of our journey, and I continue to grow in praying for him and loving him well in the midst.

What about me?

When Bill is down, I know I can protect him, but I can’t fix him. I stand at the fringe silently.
There are no silver bullets. Every person’s dark experiences are unique.
My presence is needed, but not my words. Words of admonition or pep talks just reveal I don’t understand.

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!
Just look at it — we’re called children of God!
That’s who we really are.”
I John 3:1, The Message

Reminder: A free gift is coming via snail-mail to all who comment. Perhaps you’d like to share a prayer request; I’d be honored to walk with you. If you’d like to comment privately, sue.tell@navigators.org.

 

Bill’s Depression and Me, part 1

Over the last 17 years, my most FAQ has been, how did Bill’s severe depression affect me?
This week and next I’m sharing my experience as Bill’s wife walking with him.

The Downhill Slide

We were both blind-sided … or perhaps it is more accurate to say, we were unaware of our reality.

It was the summer of 1999 and our Navigator National Staff Conference in Florida just ended. Bill had directed it. He loves the challenge of pulling off big events; he was in his element. And not surprisingly he was (we were) tired, exhausted really.

With the conference in our rear-view mirror, we headed north with our pop-up camper to the Outer Banks of NC for a week on the beach. It was good.

Before we left the camp-ground I remember calling from the pay phone to set up a visit to the U of Tennessee to visit the Navigator ministry. Our son was staff there and we had a few extra days before needing to be back in Colorado.

Something else was beginning. Bill’s sleep was becoming disrupted; in many cases the first symptom of depression.

What about me?

I was going with the flow. I regret that I was not in tune enough with our reality to see the yellow flags. There were many. I wish I had listened to the questions floating through my mind, the first yellow flag. As much as I wanted to visit our son, I remember wondering if that was really a good idea. A week on the beach hadn’t cure our tiredness.

Something is Not Right

The next yellow flag was Bill’s lack of desire for his job.

Soon after returning to Colorado, he left for a staff meeting. He pushed through without considering why he really didn’t want to be there. In the middle of the night he experienced a panic attack, the first. Another yellow flag.

Was he just overly tired? Later in September we were gifted with a week in the Colorado mountains. The Aspens were at their height. Again, it was good … but not the solution to what we were experiencing.

Another meeting called for his participation. I accompanied him. Although he participated in the work portion, He (and I) opted out of all the social pieces; another yellow flag and a classic symptom of depression.

What about me?

Awareness was dawning. This was more than over-tiredness. I was beginning to realize we needed to question our normals. I was sticking close to Bill at his request. My schedule bowed to his.

My new role – Bill’s Advocate

Bill was still keeping his planned fall activities although each trip became a decision. And I started always traveling with him.

One of our favorite trips each year is to the Missions Conference of our home church in Peoria, IL. Not only are we honored to represent that church, but we have many friends from our years there. We went. But something broke, a line was crossed. Bill experienced a major panic attack.

This was the pivot point. We were scared. He called our doctor in Colorado. Concern was high.

What about me?

Ignorant flexibility. I didn’t encourage Bill to participate in the conference or meet our various friends for meals. I went by myself and didn’t try to hide our reality. I needed the support of our friends. My concern for my husband trumped my role as a missionary.

Diagnosis

When we returned from Illinois, Bill was officially diagnosed with Clinical Depression, a genetic disposition that runs in him family. It was deep and dark. He lost all interest in his normal activities: his hobbies, reading, TV, travel, sex. As he says, he couldn’t even read his favorite Louis L’amour cowboy books.

He experienced a reduced appetite. He ignored the phone. If someone came to the door, he hid in our bedroom.

There was anxiety. Some days he felt like he was having a heart attack; other days he was sure he had a brain tumor.

And his refrain became, I can’t. Decisions were beyond him.

Medication was prescribed. It took several months to get the right meds and the right dosages.

He was officially on sick leave from The Navigators.

What about me?

I increasingly became the family decision maker. I asked our sons to not come home for Thanksgiving.
I became Bill’s protector, but not his fixer. I could never understand his reality. I stood on the fringe and prayed and did what he could not do.
I was so very thankful for our friend, Alan Andrews, the US President of The Navigators who called me every day to check on Bill. I needed a trusted confidant.

Then Came December

It was the first Sunday in Advent. We had not been to church in two months. Bill felt ready to return. Me too!

It was a wonderful Sunday — for me. Bill couldn’t wait to leave. Our well-meaning friends so glad to see him back made him feel claustrophobic. He had to get out.

What about me?

This was crushing. For the first time, I was discouraged. When would this end? Was this our new normal?

Come back next week for Our Continuing Saga
as we come to the tipping point.
I’ve titled it, The Up-hill Journey

A Reminder: Everyone who comments will be receiving a gift via snail-mail and be placed in a drawing for one of my favorite books.

 

 

 

 

 

The Everlasting Arms

Thank you Candy for pointing me to this truth in the days after Mom died, underneath everything are God’s everlasting arms holding me tight.

The everlasting arms guided me to three scriptures that became my anchors. Three scriptures I knew well, but became new all over again in the midst of my current reality.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1, NLT

Mom’s maiden name was Fraser. Many ‘Frasers’ are buried in one cemetery in New York. On the main headstone Psalm 46:1 is inscribed. I don’t know the history of why this particular scripture was chosen, but I am experiencing the reality of its truth. On April 4, six months ago, I noted in the margin of my Bible Mom fractured her hip last night. Although that morning I had no idea what the next six months held, God reminded me that He was my refuge; He was my strength; and He would be there for me. Oh how I needed that!

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

While in NJ I often found myself quoting these words of invitation, come to me; take my easy yoke. When life felt stifling, overbearing, and heavy – not easy and light, Jesus’ invitation confronted me with a choice. Will I believe his yoke is easy and his burden is light? Making the decision to trust, I prayed. Father, right now this feels heavy, too heavy for me. Will you take the heavy and leave me with the easy yoke and the light burden you promised. I prayed these words often and experienced the grace of a light burden.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …”
from Psalm 23;1, 4

Recently Mom told me that the 23rd Psalm was her favorite scripture. Like many of you I can quote it from memory. But as I walked through my own valley of the reality of death, David’s words pushed me to a new level of trust.

Verse 1 is the thesis of the Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Or as the NLT says, “… I have all that I need.” When relationships got thorny or when the doctors and nurses couldn’t answer my questions, would I believe I had all I needed?

The month before Mom broke her hip our pastor preached on Psalm 23 preparing me for what was ahead.  He concluded with these thoughts:
When I feel like faking it and wearing a mask, am I really believing that the Lord is my shepherd?
Steward your emotions and tell yourself the truth.
Oh how I needed these words this past month.

In the midst of many emotions, the truths spoken to me in Psalm 46, Matthew 11, and Psalm 23 became my personal everlasting arms.

Olive wood carving, “The Hands of God”

After the Black Forest fire four years ago, my friend Carolyn brought me this piece from Israel. Once again it has special meaning.

“Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10

 

 

 

My Mom

My Mom, Jane Fraser Holmes, Jan 9, 1920 – Sept 16, 2017

This picture was taken at my niece’s wedding 8 years ago. Yes, Mom had aged in the past 8 years, but you still would not have guessed she was 97.

I’ve been in New Jersey with my sisters for over two weeks now. My husband Bill has been here for a week.

Mom was in the hospital when I arrived. She could squeeze my hand and sometimes whisper desires, like she was thirsty. I’m pretty sure she knew I was there. As the days went by, she responded less and less.

Until she fell and broke her hip in early April, Mom still lived in her home of 52 years. She loved her home and several times throughout the late spring and summer voiced her desire to return.

We brought her home September 12th. Hospice was arranged for, the hospital bed set up in her living room, and my three sisters and I were trained on how to care for her. One or more of us stayed by her side 24/7. She was comatose the entire time; each day a bit weaker.

She took her last breath early evening September 16. It was a very peaceful passing. I’m thankful.

Her Memorial Service is Friday. If you like, you can read her obituary here.

These weeks have been hard; and God has been faithful. There is much I want to write about ~ later. For now I covet your prayers for me and my family as we walk through this valley of the reality of death.

A Different Story

Mom, April 2017

I’m in NJ. I so don’t want to say this but the promised posts are on hold for a couple of weeks. God is writing a different story.

And my sisters and I are in the eye of a different storm. We are all here with Mom. Sara lives here; Barbara came from Virginia, Penny from Ohio.
Her hospital bed sits in her living room.  You often can find the 4 of us leaning in close trying to discern what Mom is trying to communicate to us. Right after Labor Day she had a pace maker implanted. It did not go well. Her 97 year old body has said enough.
She wanted so badly to come home. Hospice is one of our anchors right now. Eating and drinking are history, 2 days now but still she breathes.
My husband flew in yesterday. Our kids will come from KS and CA. We’re just waiting.
Actually my post for tomorrow is written … but not part 2 for next week. My energy needs to be in a  different place. Thank you for allowing me this time.
Mt 11:28-30 has been my anchor, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Each day I ask the Lord to take the heavy and leave me with the light I can trust Him with. I’m experiencing His faithfulness.
I would appreciate your prayers. Even easy is hard.

,

“Hope is a person. Hope is Jesus. Hope takes my eyes off what I can see and fixes them on what is ahead. 

  • Hope is sure.
  • Hope is steadfast, like an anchor for our souls.
  • Hope goes before.
  • Hope secures the promise.
  • Hope gives us a purpose.
  • Hope is forever.”

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,”
Hebrews 6:19a