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House of Hope

Look Her In The Eye

House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

(written for House of Hope - posted on their site 11-16-16)  

Cathy, a cute young woman, walks up the wooden steps onto the spacious front porch of the beautiful old house on Second Avenue. She opens the door and carefully steps over the threshold and finds herself in the front foyer. The warmth of the space calms her and she smiles at staff who happens by, busy with their many tasks. Knowing where she is heading, she quickly moves toward the stairs. The first stairs are easy enough; she has climbed them plenty of times. But there is a turn at the landing where she’ll pivot to the left and continue to the second floor.

 

She feels her heart beating a bit faster. The stairs are steep, yes, but that’s not the only reason. She knows she will have to face what is at the top of the landing.

 

Having forgotten to set her alarm, Cathy had to dress in a hurry that morning to arrive on time for her therapy appointment. Her newly washed jeans felt tight on her hips and her hair was a mess. Just having time for a quick brush of blush, she was less that perfect as she started up those stairs. Tight jeans always made her feel fat, bringing back the comment she overheard when she was young, “She sure is a chubby one!” Chubby: she hated that word. But even more she hated the way she could feel that bit of flesh bulging over the waist of her jeans.

 

She knew she looked awful. She sensed that others thought she was too fat. They secretly shook their heads and wondered how she had let herself go. She couldn’t believe it either. Why couldn’t she get a handle on this eating thing?

 

But first she had to get past what was at the top of the landing.

 

With a deep breath and determination, Cathy stepped on the last step, not looking up for even a second.

 

But someone was coming down the stairs and her presence made Cathy step to the right where she happened to see, out of the corner of her eye what she was hoping to avoid: that fat, ugly, shame filled image…reflected from the mirror in the beautiful wooden frame, at the top of the landing on the wall in the beautiful old house.

 

Cathy quickly looked away, filled with dread at having seen what she feared to be true: she was hideous and should really turn around and head home, safe from such realities.

 

But at the top of the stairs, her therapist called out cheerfully, and she continued up the last flight…no one ever knowing the way she viewed her reflection or why her eyes beheld such a distorted view.

 

What do you see when you view yourself in a mirror. How do you react?

 

At House of Hope, we believe that how we feel about what we look like, tells a lot. We teach extensively about becoming our own ally, our own best friend, the one on our side, the parent we never had. So many times during our Phase One class this fall I repeated, "This is what this class is all about. You are here to learn how to stop accusing yourself. Step to your side, put an arm around your shoulder and say, I love you. It’s OK for you to be you. You’re OK, just the way you are."

 

I tell the ladies in my class to start this positive self-talk by looking in the mirror to practice being a friend.

 

When I see a friend, I look her in the eye and smile.

 

Can we not do that for ourselves? With our new relationship of self-kindness and self-compassion, can we not look ourselves in the eye and smile and be a friend to the only one whose approval makes any difference?

 

Ours.

 

One day Cathy will look forward to seeing herself in that beautiful old mirror. She will look herself in the eye and smile, knowing that there is no one else like her. She was created to be just the way she is: precious and beautiful, treasured by Father God, the one who created her and by the one who lives in her skin, Cathy herself.

 

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.

I Give Words

House of HopeDeane WattersComment

Recently, while celebrating our daughter's birthday, I invited our guests into conversation surrounding her. I said, "Because I love words, I would like each of us to think of a quality we see in Hannah, that we also find in ourselves." Our guests smiled, a little hesitant at first, but soon found a host of common characteristics. This led to a lovely meaningful exchange of thoughts, encouragements and connections to, with and about our birthday girl. Words have a way of connecting us.

During a class at House of Hope, one of the participants happened to have her birthday on class day.

After gifts of brightly decorated cupcakes and juicy red strawberries, I explained, “For birthdays, I give words,” and stood to drop a piece of wood into her hand.

She received the disc eagerly and gently rotated it to view the word written there.

2016-06-20_0001

The word BRAVE glowed from the piece.

As her other hand came up to her chest, she took a minute to respond. With wonder and recognition in her voice she spoke it out,

"Thank you. Thank you. Yes. I am brave."

Words can quickly launch a standard and set an expectation.

Several years ago, after hearing me repeatedly say, "I am not very athletic," my daughter gently cited that this was very untrue and not at all empowering. She suggested that perhaps it would be better if I kept in my mind an alternative, "I am a strong and active woman." This statement was much truer and produced a picture in my mind that helped me feel more positive about myself. I have recently begun to work with a personal trainer. When she observed, during our first work out, that I have great body awareness, I felt encouraged and remembered my personal statement with a smile.

Words can cement feelings. We must pick them carefully.

We also know people who use words in unkind ways. Because of the power of those words they tear down and discourage and sometimes even ruin people's lives, careers or marriages. One well placed word, aimed and spoken, can set someone on a trajectory of a life of pain, confusion and sadness. Sometimes, said in anger, words can sting, slash and burn.

I was called a sweat hog one time when I was in college! Believe me when I say that word has not left me. It was untrue, spoken by someone who I didn't know but it fed the deep insecurity I felt about my physical appearance for years to come.  In contrast to that awful word, one time my brother told me that my writing is a part of my "beauty." How I love to rehearse THAT word as I sit at my computer.

God uses words to communicate with us.

In John 1:14, we are taught: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God loves words too and He knows the power of them, especially the One Word He sent to live with us. He knew this one Word would make God, Himself, known to the world.

This great Word (Jesus) is filled to overflowing with words like grace, peace, do not fear, love, my Father, blessed, light, do not judge, trust, pray, ask, seek, knock, enter, come to me, be healed, follow me... Which are words that inform, bless and identify, connect, set a standard and cement feelings.

What about you? Do you have a word that dwells inside your head? Did anyone speak words that have helped you define yourself? Do you have words like beautiful, strong, capable, kind, intelligent as part of the definition of you? I encourage you to examine your thoughts. Find the words that come to mind as you go through your day. Then determine if those words are empowering or stripping you of your dignity.

Just as "I am a strong and active woman" has led me to feel more positive about my physical abilities, so an empowering truthful phrase or word could turn your thinking toward the way God truly sees you and could open you to agree with Him in powerful ways.

Wouldn't It Be Better to Just Hide?

House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

One afternoon while scrubbing in the bathroom, just doing my routine household duties, an image suddenly popped into my mind. With the image came a memory. The story with this image was familiar because it was told to me years ago while facilitating a class at House of Hope.

2016-04-30_0008The description was short but graphic and horrific. In the years since I heard it, it hasn’t gone away from me. I haven’t forgotten it. Tucked away in my memory, it stayed hidden, until an unguarded, innocent moment.

Another thought followed. Why do I open myself to the pain of others when there is the danger of keeping some of it stashed in the dark corners of my own mind? Wouldn’t it be better to just hide in my own little “safe” life?

This story was not mine. But the described image comes back every now and then. I see the scenario, hear the noises and imagine the pain. I wonder at unthinkable selfishness; the kind that heaps shame on innocent people.

I’ve come to call these flashbacks to a sister’s story - battle wounds. They are the cost of fighting for women’s hearts and souls. Fighting for freedom from shame and worthlessness requires heavy weapons, ones that present the possibility of wounding or scarring. Listening to the stories, Identifying lies, seeking truth, encouraging feelings, digging deeper and asking insightful questions requires insight, wisdom, prayer and diligence…and sometimes tears along with agonizing sadness.

2016-04-30_0007When I help others process what happened to them, I work hard. I seek connections and concentrate on details. I watch body language and pray as I go, desperately asking God to lead and guide me to His truth and wisdom.

But along the way, sometimes, I get hit with something I didn’t see coming; a story leaves an image that stays and once in a while, pops up unexpectedly.

Does that mean the work is too dangerous? Does it suggest that keeping myself safe is more important than getting out there and fighting! Should I have stopped long ago?

My answer is, "No!" I count it a privilege to suffer this flashback in honor of the women I walk with; the ones who bravely sift through the details and feelings of the life they have lived, step by step right through the lies and into the freedom of light and truth. For many, this process is life changing.

Amy Tan writes, “In the telling of stories something happens, your whole perception and memory of things begins to change and you can let go of what you have just told - you give it away.” In letting go, we begin the healing process.

And those of us who carefully and seriously walk along side, sometimes get hit in the process. But I can only count it an honor and remind myself:

  • I can keep an image that pops up in my mind or I can refuse to “savor” it by remembering Paul’s encouragement to think on whatever is true, pure, lovely and excellent. (Philippians 4:8) If it presents itself, I can reject it.
  • I can understand that this kind of work needs to be covered in protective prayer. I am not on my own here. I have powerful resources, God himself, who is with me to fight the battle.
  • God’s Word is here to help me also. It is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and I can use it for this protection. Psalm 5:12 tells me that the LORD surrounds those he loves with his favor, as with a shield. I can visualize this shield of protective love surrounding me as I do battle with evil in the stories I hear. This is not my fight. But it is outright war on horrible memories that seek to ruin people’s lives.
  • I can be self-controlled and alert, knowing that my enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I am called to resist him, standing firm in the faith.
  • I can stand in the Light. In Him, no darkness can remain.

2016-05-09_0001Yes, it would be easier to just hide from all this sister-pain. But I know from which I, myself have been delivered and so I remain firm in my determination to walk in the truth of God’s complete grace-filled love. Often we just need some healing in order to actually be free to experience that beautiful love. So I stand with the sword in my hand and declare: “You are not defined by what happened to you!” Come along and let me tell you some things about our great God’s amazing love and the truth He declares about you.

Through Which Lens?

Faith, House of HopeDeane WattersComment

2016-02-25_0024“Grandma, put your glasses back on!” Our three-year-old grand daughter, Lucy, didn’t like that I took off my glasses when I tried to read from my cell phone. She didn’t know what a strain I felt when looking through them.

What do you see when you look at yourself through the glasses you’re wearing? Is what you see a true picture? Is the strain distorting your view or does it make you tired? Should you clean them up or would a different pair of glasses offer you truer clarity?

Let me explain. I remember the days when I viewed myself through a certain lens. That lens magnified my “negative” traits and produced thoughts of “too fat,” “not very smart”, “insecure,” or “not enough.” Not good-enough plagued me daily. ”Why are you so stupid?” or “This is too much for you,” spewed from my self-talk on a regular basis. Often what I saw or did reinforced my “seeing.” So I believed it.

Do you know people like this? Have you noticed people (maybe you, yourself) seeing themselves through the lens of: “I don’t fit here. I’m not doing enough. I am too much. Nobody wants to get to know me.” With such a wide array of brokenness out there, we could think of many more self talkisms that are hurtful, unkind and very untrue.

What I didn’t know, and maybe you don’t either, is that I can TAKE THOSE GLASSES OFF! I can realize the “sickness” of a lens and go after the truth and put on some different glasses, or take them off completely. How can I know what is true?

  • Pray and go to scripture. What does it say about how God feels toward you? Psalm 5 tells us that God surrounds God seekers with his favor, as with a shield. We have God’s favor! Perhaps we should have our own favor as well.
  • Ask a trusted friend to tell you what they see. Be teachable to listen and adjust your thinking. I am ever indebted to delightful “angels” who were assigned to me to tell me God’s sweet message of accepting love. They listened to my quiet wailing, the birth pangs of a now- free woman: my husband, siblings, mom, our kids and their spouses, Lenchen, and other dear friends, to numerous to name here.
  • Read books about your worth. God has gifted many authors with delicious words that can fill your soul with sweet healing nectar. Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller, The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner and anything written by Ann Voskamp, have all contributed to my understanding of God’s incredible love and plan in making me – just the way I am.

Henri Nouwen writes:

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life

because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us “Beloved.”

Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence. “

From Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

Every day I need to either take off these dirty glasses of mine or clean them up with the glory of God’s grace-filled truth. I am loved and lovable. I am enough because He is enough in me. Who I am is God’s gift to me and to the world around me. I can rest in God’s favor. He is happy with me.

Put your glasses back on, Grandma. They have a new lens!