Spiritual Growth

Burdens are Meant to be Shared

He sat across from me in a leather chair. His legal pad balanced on his crossed knee. As I spoke, he took notes. His pencil making that light scratching noise as it scraped across the page.

I’d never been to a therapist before, but I knew I needed one. So there I sat, running down the list of my thirty some years. My father’s death, my teenage pregnancy, my troubled marriage.

When I finally stopped, Tom lifted his pencil, looked at me and said,

“Wow Ellen, that’s a lot. And it’s a good thing you’re here. You’re at that age when the tools you used to survive your childhood no longer work. Now you have a choice. You can cut off the pain, or you can choose to feel it. But I must warn you, if you cut out the bad, you’ll also cut out the good. You can’t cut at one end without cutting at the other. If you don’t feel the bad, you won’t feel the good either.”

Without taking his eyes off me, he paused and let his words settle in.

Super Gift from HeavenI sat silently for several seconds pondering my decision.

All my life, I’d been in pursuit of joy. I relished the simplest pleasures – My children performing in a school play. Overhearing our young daughter read her little brother a book, using the same inflections as me. Seeing my children curled up on either side of their father, watching TV. The hours of laughter at the dinner table.

And what about all those unexpected moments? The ones that catch you off guard, that years later, still send warmth through you.

A chill came over me at the thought of missing those tender moments.

“Well then,” I responded. “I’ll just have to feel the bad because I want it all.”Kelly, Chris, and Daniel

Now, twenty some years later, I better understand my therapists wisdom. I see how easy it is to build walls around our hearts to shield us from the pain of sometimes our own bad decisions. And how that padding can become a large barrier between us and those we love.

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the purpose of pain. But I know I must feel it. Not just mine but yours as well. I know intrinsically, it’s the narrow path to a rich life. One that’s lived in spite of its circumstances.

So as we begin this holy season, I encourage you to pick up someone else’s burden. Maybe you need to make a donation, or participate in an act of service. Maybe you need to just spend time with a friend. Whatever it is, I challenge you to hold it, and feel it.

Then when you kneel at the manger, share it with Him. He’ll be glad to help you carry it.


I Knew Him Intimately

DSC00985A few weeks ago, I was putting together a photo collage of my granddaughter Juliette to post on facebook for her fourteenth birthday. As this picture popped up on my screen, I was first drawn to Jules’ image. All our grandchildren loved their Papa’s toys, and it was always a treat when he took them for a motorcycle ride. It was a perfect choice to add to my collection.

But for some reason, I became fixated on the image of Tim. I enlarged the picture and slowly absorbed every inch. I noticed how his thumb was resting on the “start” button. How focused he was on what he’s doing, and not on the photo being taken. And doggone it, there had to be one of those blasted cigarettes dangling from his lips.

The picture made me realize how well I knew every inch of that man. The way he pushed his sunglasses on the top of his head. How that vein in the crease of his elbow always protruded. And all those lines on his face – I could map each one. Then I laughed out loud remembering how much I loved the tiny little white hairs that covered his earlobes.Tim Barbados

On and on I went marveling at how intimately I knew Tim. And how there’s not just emotional or sexual intimacy, but physical intimacy as well. And how grateful I am to have experienced all those levels with him.

“You have searched me Lord, and you know me,” the Psalmist says. “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place…”

Oh, how many times have I read that without fully grasping its meaning? How easily I brush aside the reality that God does know how many hairs are on my head. How interesting that an ordinary picture of Tim could provide such a vivid image of how well God knows me.

I will never get over the loss of Tim. And maybe I’m not supposed to. For I believe, God did not create us for temporal relationships, but for ones that never end. And in that eternity, we were to know and be known by all. Including our God.


Messy Love

ChvNc1e56jjiFBwqXb7O52zXmKsXvjGCcwIajjjTkrwFor forty years he pursued me. Starting when I was just barely fifteen. He fell in love after a couple dates. I had my doubts. He didn’t even know me. I feared intimacy. But Tim never gave up.

Now I realize we fought in different ways. But with the same purpose. We fought for the relationship. Together we pushed through the tension. We failed, we succeeded, then we failed some more. But we made it to the finish line.

Every great story has a struggle. A fight to overcome the odds. And the best ones are when small overcomes great. Or weak finds the fight to defeat the strong.

How many times have we watched the timid warrior pick up his sword? We see the tension as he grits his teeth. Our hearts race as he runs into battle. We inch forward to the edge of our seats.

And when he slays the dragon, we can’t help ourselves. We collectively rise to our feet, pump our fists in the air, and cheer.


Because God placed a little bit of eternity in our hearts. And it’s the opposite of the fallen world we live in. This world that longs to be righted. Where the end is already written, but yet to be lived out.

So, what if our biggest enemies aren’t demons and dragons? What if it’s our incessant need to be comfortable? To at all cost, withdraw from the tension. To remove ourselves from the fight. To avoid relationships that can potentially cause us pain.

Comfort is the breeding ground of mediocrity. The place where we give up the fight. Where we settle for less than our fullest potential. Where we never push ourselves to see what comes out.

Brene Brown says, “We want love to be unicorns and rainbows. Then Jesus comes in and dies.”

And God calls it…LOVE.

Messy, painful, overcoming…LOVE.


Please Don’t Measure Me by my Failures

After 2½ years of grieving, I’ve decided to consider dating. But not without a great deal of trepidation. After investing forty years into a relationship, I fully understand the cost. That love is a risk and not all roses and champagne. As much as it satisfies, it can also hurt.

I’d become so comfortable being Tim’s wife. I liked the security and looked forward to settling into our senior years together. We were at peace with each other’s failures, eliminating the need to discuss them. And we deeply relished our successes. His loss wiped out the vision I had for my future. DSC00348

So a large part of me wants to tuck myself in at night and protect my vulnerability. To thwart off any potential rejection before it creeps in. After all, do I even know how to build a relationship from the ground up?

At my age, I’m not sure I can control my emotions. I’m not sure the reasonable side of my mind can lead the feeling side. That I can logically evaluate a persons life experiences and choose wisely. Can I even follow the relationship advice I gave my children?

But somehow, that all feels too judgmental. Because, if I’m going to size up a man based on his failures, then in turn, he’s free to do likewise with me. And at my age, who hasn’t failed? At least in some part of their relationships.

And do I want someone to judge me on the sum of my short comings? Or, am I allowed to show how those experiences molded and shaped me into a better version of myself?

Many people my age are picking up the pieces of broken lives. And like Tim and me, they’re adding them up and applying the necessary grace to move into a very difficult season. But if those around them continue to hold them to the fire of their short comings, what does that tell us about the God who ultimately redeemed us all?

So, I think I’ll not look at a man’s failures, but seek to understand what he has learned about himself. After all, I know exactly what I would do differently with Tim. I know how I hurt him, and I’m committed to not go down that path again.

It takes a lot of grace to go the distance in any relationship. And if God counted the cost up front, would mankind ever have existed? What if it pleases Him when His children remember the grace offered them, by passing it on to others?

For that grace heals those deep wounds. It binds us together at the foot of the cross. And it reminds us, we can never give more than what has already been given.




My Buckets of Regret

It crept up on me, this aging thing. When young, my goal was to get through life with as few regrets as possible. To do my best to not step on any toes. To survive with everyone still liking me.

Now in my late fifties, it’s safe to say, I failed.

My primary stumbling block? Passion. I’ve never been the quiet one in the corner. Nor the one to hold back an opinion. Nope, I’m not the one who waits to speak after everyone has shared their view.

Get me in a group, and my passion rears it’s ugly head. Make me mad, and off it goes. Risk challenging me, and I’ll do my best, but will probably give you a big chunk of my passion. I’m sorry to say, despite my best efforts; I still fight to rein it in.

To make matters worse, I have a good memory. And many nights I lie in bed reliving the streams of thought that should never have left my lips. And as they come back, I see the faces of those privileged enough to receive them. There’s nothing more dreadful than the image of your words bouncing off the face of someone you love.

Unfortunately, my passion not only impacts what I say, but what I do as well. More than once, I’ve unbridled it and indulged in activities that brought shame on me and my family.

Over the years, I fought it off by seeking wisdom. I read a ton of books. I attended bible studies and worship services. I went on the retreats. I even pleaded with God to change me. To make me different. To freaking calm me down. But sadly, He never did.

So now, when I look back, I face buckets of regrets. And like King Solomon, I’m realizing,

“What is twisted cannot be straightened; What is lacking cannot be counted.”

Clearly there is nothing new under the sun. And a quick reading of Ecclesiastes shows I share the same struggle as the saints of old.

So this week, I soothed my regrets by letting David Crowder remind me to lay down my burdens and my shame. For I needed to remember, that earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are
There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can’t cure
Come as you are
Fall in His arms, come as you are
There’s joy for the morning, Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal