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House of Hope

What's That Noise?

House of HopeDeane Watters3 Comments
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"Deane, wake up! I think there's a bat in our room!"

Groggy, I open my eyes and, yes indeed, there is an annoying little creature with a wide wingspan flying around and around our bedroom in the middle of the night. The unique clicking noise that accompanies the flapping of his wings brings a dreaded chill to my core as I hurry out of bed and into the closet...

I wonder how many times I have been stirred out of deep slumber because my husband has learned to listen in his sleep.

Sorry, but this is not a blog post about bats (which I could write, if you are interested), instead, it is about our thoughts. In April I led a three week class at House of Hope called, Learning to Listen, and I thought you might like to "think about your thoughts" for a bit with me here. 

When a thought comes flying into our mind, like an un-welcomed and unexpected guest, we can continue to let it fly around in our mind, harassing us as we try to ignore it, or we can sit up and listen, figure out what it's trying to tell us, and then decide what to do with it.

Sit Up And Listen

I have read that we have thousands of thoughts that go through our minds every day. Many of these thoughts go in and out unnoticed but some are glaring and packed with emotion. Which ones are we going to pay attention to?

William Kenower, in Fearless Writing, writes, "Thoughts are so powerful, so magnetic, and so packed with energy and creative potential that it is easy to mistake them for reality rather than simply a possibility."

So when one comes flapping in, looking especially dark and sinister, we should sit up and take notice! That thought can make us feel awful. But really, it is only a mist in our head, so to speak. 

If we add details to a negative thought, it becomes a story. And since it is so much easier to embrace a story, instead of just a thought, we would do best to stop before it becomes a story appearing even more real.

Example: I can notice a thought that tells me I am a worthless writer. I don't like this thought but every writer I've ever known has been tempted with that thought! I can perk up my ears and as the thought comes, and because of a recent writers block or discouragement, I can agree with it. I can believe it to be true so I start adding evidence that it is true, thus making it into a story. Pretty soon I am ready to shut down my blog and be done with it all. (And to be honest, this thought has harassed me more than once!)

But it would be much better to recognize that lie for what it is, pat my heart with kindness, and get ready to reject it.

What's It Trying To Tell Me?

I think these random thoughts remind me that I'm human. Fear can be overwhelming. Bad things do happen to people. I'm afraid I don't measure up. But I don't have to believe them!  I can let them make me more determined to trust God for my future and to remember He is with me. Psalm 5 even says that he surrounds those who seek him with "favor as with a shield." I love that.

 

What Shall I Do With It?

When a bat enters uninvited into our bedroom late at night (while I hide in the closet) Brian (my brave hero) crouches (to avoid the circling bat) to the window, opens it and removes the screen. We quickly leave the room, shutting the door. Eventually most bats will find the open window and fly out into the night to continue their nocturnal wanderings. 

Likewise, could we identify our thoughts that are ugly or scary and choose to "open the window" and let them, or force them to "get out of Dodge?" (That means "get out of town," for those of you who perhaps did not grow up watching Gunsmoke.)

It's not easy. Sometimes we need to look for a distraction or an encouragement that either gets our mind off the thought or gives assurance that indeed the thought was a poof-of-nothing. Philippians 4 tells us that "Whatever is true...think about such things...And the God of peace will be with you." I love this! Peace comes as I am determined to let untruths go and rest in the bigger truth of God's love for me.

This is by no means an exhaustive explanation about thoughts combined with scary experiences we have had with bats. But it is a wake up call to not let ourselves be fooled by a thought that enters and flutters about causing fear or dread. Let's look at it, decide what it is telling us and then give it a shove into the dark so we can get back to our peaceful night of sleep.

And those bats? Well, most of them find the open window. Some are a bit less compliant and stricter means are needed to get them out of our house. Think on that one for awhile.

 

A Little Pointer

House of HopeDeane Watters2 Comments
Copy of blog post-20

Written for House of Hope blog

Picture this. Big girl is in the kitchen. Mom is sitting at the table. Little sister is standing next to big girl.

Big girl goes to the refrigerator and opens the door. As she pulls out the milk, a pint of blueberries falls out onto the floor and breaks open, spreading blueberries all over the floor.

Freeze the action!

What does the big girl say to herself?

What does the mom say to the big girl?

What does the little girl say to the big girl?

If you were that big girl, what words might be coming out of your mouth or thoughts flying into your head?

If you were the mom and your child just spilled all those blueberries, what would you find coming out of your mouth?

Let me venture a guess.

Big girl might say, “I am so stupid!.”

Mom might say, “Ahh! Why didn’t you watch what you were doing? What a mess!”

Little girl says, “You’re always so clumsy. What a loser.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

We have a habit of talking to ourselves in ways that we would never talk to others, unless….those others are our children or ourselves.

How often I have said mean things to myself or heard parents snap at their children: “You are so bad! Quit that right now! Stop being so wild! You’re always so loud. Stop that! How many times do I have to tell you to stop that!!! You are so self centered! Settle down! Don’t make me come back there!!! You are so mean. You are just too much. Why do you ALWAYS spill your milk? Grow up! We don’t throw sand! What’s wrong with you? You know better than that!”

Need I go on?

No. I think we all get the point.

But I believe there is another way to react to the spilling of the blueberries:

Big girl spills the blueberries and says, “Oh no!”

Mom says,” It’s Ok, I’ll help you clean them up.”

Little sister says,” It’s ok to make mistakes. I’ll help you too.”

This second scenario offers a gentler view that does not shame or embarrass and keeps mom and the girl on the same side, allies, not enemies. Mom has her girl’s back. She teaches that if you make a mistake, its OK, but, if possible, you must make it right. You clean it up and you move on. Little sister makes the true statement that its ok to make mistakes; it is not the end of the world. We all make them so lets get busy and clean up. the. darn. blueberries. already!

When I did something wrong my mother used to say, “Just a little pointer. Next time, Dee Dee, be sure to look at what else is around the milk before pulling it out of the fridge so you don’t spill things.” It was so sweet and kind. She did not embarrass or shame me for not being careful. But next time I could do it right or do it better.

How we talk to our children matters. How we talk to ourselves matters. Let’s stop and listen to ourselves and be determined to build bridges rather than walls. Walls require us to build up a protection against rather than trust, a closing off rather than an opening up. And we don’t want mistrust and self protection to keep us from each other. We want to be safe people who will enable our children to learn and to feel safe with us.

Some might be thinking that this is too hard. Your parents talked to you harshly. You talk to yourself that way. And now you find yourself talking to your children in a similar fashion. How can you change this thing that has been in your family for years?”

The short answer is: You can’t.

But Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. We could not save ourselves so Jesus came to rescue us from sin and death. We cannot change ourselves either. So Jesus provided a way. He encouraged his disciples just before he was to be crucified. We can find his words in John 14:

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate

to help you and be with you forever. — the Spirit of truth…

he lives with you and will be in you.”

Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to be with and in us, to be our advocate, our ally, on our side, to be our helper, the one who is with us: he is our treasure. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

So the Holy Spirit in us enables change: Change the way we talk to ourselves and change in the way we talk to our children, so that we can hear how lovingly Jesus speaks (again from John 14):

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,

will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.

I do not give to as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Ahh, such gentle and kind reminders that Jesus has taken care of it all. He’s got our backs. He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He doesn’t have to shame us or tell us how bad we are. Instead he reminds us that He is with us and will help us to do whatever he asks us to do. We can trust him.

And just a little pointer: next time the blueberries hit the kitchen floor, thank Jesus for how gently he has dealt with you and how the Holy Spirit is with you and loves you so much. Then pick them up with a thankful heart and a gentle grace-filled smile.

Let The Hero Go

Faith, Family, House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

(Written for and published on the House of Hope blog.)  

In the photograph, something, a bit dark and faded, holds my attention. Black and white images feel slightly familiar, not quite real. In the middle of the grassy yard, a little boy poses, his toy sword held high, a black cape tied under his chin. Completing his makeshift costume we see the infamous black mask along with a child sized cowboy hat and boots. On this day, the boy is Zorro, the dashing fictional outlaw who defends simple folk against harsh officials and other terrible bad guys. A hero to the common man.

Standing directly behind this young home-made hero, stands a little pony-tailed girl. Holding Zorro’s cape for the picture, she is beaming, honored to be the faithful side-kick to this amazing super hero.

Well, of course Zorro was popular years ago, when I was young. And yes, that little girl was me and Zorro was my brother, 2 ½ years older.

I loved my brother, I still do. But it took me a long time to see that I had put him up on a pedestal, thinking he could do no wrong.

What wasn’t there to admire? My dear brother was the one I came to when I needed anything, He was wise and kind and loved me with such a warm brotherly love. I looked up to him more than anyone else because he was with me.   After he gave me some wise advice about boys one time, I wrote in my little diary, “Christ talks to me through Dale.” I mean, I truly thought Dale was the best. He talked to me about our dad, our family, Jesus and life in general. He truly was my closest confidante.

For many years I kept my hero-brother, high up on a pedestal. He continued to be my champion through out my growing up years and beyond. He never donned a sword or scratched a huge Z whenever he did a good deed, but he did leave a deep impression of care, kindness, leadership and love in this little sister’s heart.

He was my hero. He still is, but now, in a different way.

As I progressed in my healing work, I learned that putting someone on a pedestal is unhealthy. That person can feel pressure to perform, to always be wise and right. The temptation toward pride and control can begin to change or mar the relationship. Needs within the “revered” one can come out in unhealthy ways.

No one should be placed in this position. No one.

So, I said goodbye to that part of our relationship. Only One is perfect and He truly is God. I wanted a healthier more realistic friendship with this dearly loved brother.

We talked and I assured him of my continued deep love and admiration for all he had done for me. But I had to hold out my hand and help him down off that idol stand. No one deserves that place, no matter how much they like being there.

Many years have passed. We are now both in our 60s. We have married children of our own and grandchildren are starting to lighten up our paths. But the love, admiration and kindness remain.

He recently wrote a note that included many deep things, indicating his understanding of me. One part stands out: …”I see you as special among the wounded healers.

I have admired the way you have grabbed healing with powerful determination to have it. I have noted that you have done this with more ferocious and gentle yearning than I have ever been able to muster.”

Please note: I gave up an unhealthy part of the relationship. I didn’t give up the relationship. As I stepped down from hero worship I gave way for a fresh wholesome friendship to develop.

Also note: he never asked to be my hero. He just stepped into his little sister’s need and led even though he was a little boy who was also in need of being led. I love him so much for giving of himself for me and our family.

I guess I tell you this to encourage you to do “whatever it takes” to be healthy. When saying goodbye might hurt, you do it anyway. When the giving up of a bad relationship seems to leave you hopeless, do it anyway. If a sin hangs on and lies to you that you will be better with it, turn around. STOP. Say the goodbye. It will lead to healing and it will make all the difference in your journey.

When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

(Mark 12:29) Listen to God’s Word. See what he says about himself and realize that no one comes even close to being a hero like he does. Only He deserves such admiration and honor.

 That little girl holding the cape of her mighty hero was only doing the best she could with what she knew. But she grew up and did what she could to keep that friendship healthy and growing for many years.

Running Up The Stairs

Family, House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

Written for and posted on the blog at  houseofhopecr.org 1/18/17 blog post-3

 

Over fifty years ago my dad died in a road construction accident. Somehow the pay loader he was driving swerved off the road and into the ditch. As it fell, the bucket swung and he died immediately.

I was 12 years old.

Thinking about him takes me back to one of my first memories. Three years old, I found myself awake in the middle of the night. Not in my own room, I wanted to leave. But after walking around and around the room, searching with my little arms outstretched, the door just couldn’t be found! So I cried out. Immediately the hallway light came on and as I hurried to the top of the stairs, I discovered my dad running up the stairs to rescue me from the darkness.

These many years later I wonder about that story and why it is lodged in my memory, perhaps in a hopeful place.

Listening to the life stories of many women I often find that a profuse number of dads have not understood their role in the lives of their daughters. They don’t know how fragile their little girls are, how much they desire attention and love that can only come from their fathers.  Inside the heart of all little girls is a place where only the love of a dad can settle.  This spot can either be filled with dad love or it can require a life time of trying to fill itself with the kind of love that only dad’s are designed to give. I’ve often said that I think little girls should come with a little tag tied to their big toe that says, “DAD, express your love for this little daughter of yours. What she thinks you think about her will affect her entire life. The kind of love is she needs is given by spending time with her, showing that she is smart, pretty and worthy of love. She needs you to love her mother, to be protective, safe and reliable. I think most of all she needs to know that you know her and you are proud of what you see.  This kind of knowing frees her to love herself. Confidence grows out of such awareness.”

I didn’t know my dad very well. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know much about me, my favorite color, my dreams, fears or my latest crush. My heart was unknown, un-pursued. As a result I think I lost sight of myself in those years.

Of course, as an adult, I can articulate and understand the reasons.

Thankfully I had another Father, God whose eyes never left me, came after me, loved me and healed my heart. He and I have spent a lifetime running up the stairs to find my lost little self and to say, “You’re going to be just fine. I’m here now. Father God and I will always be near. ”

But on a dark evening fifty-two years ago, my dad lost his chance to father well. He missed the opportunity to show me that I was worth rescuing, even if it was only from a darkened room upstairs in a rickety old farmhouse in northwest Iowa. I often wonder if that first memory of mine was real. Or was it only a dream embedded in the heart of a lost little girl who longed for a daddy to love her.