Deane's Blog

grace

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.

a difficult moment

FamilyDeane Watters6 Comments

2016-05-25_0001Last week I went to camp with our daughter-in-law, Rachel, and their three children. Rachel was teaching at an InterVarsity conference and I came along to keep my sweethearts safe and cared for. The week went really well but I have to tell you about one little incident. Picture this with me: It's a difficult moment. Charles had ridden his big wheels to the playground area and after playing on the slides for a while, Lucy decides she is going to get on that little plastic wonder and ride it back.

She runs up to it and before I can even look up she backs off the road and finds herself pinned underneath, howling like crazy until I get to her and lift it off. She immediately jumps back on and takes ownership for a second time. This, of course, sends Charles into a tizzy, and he raises his voice above Lucy's.

I'm feeling a bit panicky. Oh boy. I had seen Rachel give the kids turns so I tell Lucy that she can ride up to the tall sign and then Charles gets to take over. (What I didn't pay attention to, was the fact that this point was the beginning of a gradual but significant down hill.) When we get to that spot, Lucy reluctantly gets off, but continues her verbal disagreement. Charles climbs on and takes off flying down the hill at what appears to be break-neck speed. I chase after him, yelling, "CHARLES!!" but am totally unable to catch up with the two. year. old. My attention comes back to Lucy and when I look up the hill, I find her on her belly, right in the middle of the street, crying with all she's got.

There I was, also in the middle.

Charles was going to die at the bottom of the hill. And Lucy was going to die at the top of the hill.

And you know what my first thought was?

"I'm so worthless. I'm no good at this. I'm so embarrassed."

Well, right now I'm embarrassed to admit that these were first. I should have been thinking, Oh dear they are both going to die! But instead I turned on myself agreeing that I was incapable of keeping order with two little kids: a three-year-old and a two-year-old, mind you.

Well, you'll be happy to know that neither child died that day. Charles was amazingly agile on his big wheels thingy, totally in control, laughing all the way.  Eventually he stopped without a crash and turned around. Lucy was easily helped to her feet before any cars came by and she calmed down.

But it took me awhile. I brought the kids in to where their mama was waiting for them and I just sat down on the floor, embarrassment trying to bully me. Tired and discouraged, I needed time to collect my thoughts and sort out what happened. Rachel asked if I was OK; I'm not sure what I answered, but her concern warmed my heart.

But here's the truth. I am not worthless. I am good at loving those kids. It's OK to look silly sometimes and to laugh at yourself. And I finally came to that conclusion, along with -  if anyone was watching - I provided a good laugh.

But lies seem to fly above my head, hovering for a weak moment in which to attack. That's when my covering of grace takes over. I stop, put my hand on my heart and remind myself that I am loved, I am capable and it's OK for things to go wrong sometimes. It's OK. I'm OK.

I momentarily forgot. In my panic, instead of resting in God's truth, I fell into an old pattern, one long ago rejected. One day I hope to find my automatic response to be: Test me O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me and I walk continually in your truth. (Psalm 26:2)

And next time Charles wants to take his big wheels to the park, will you remind me that I don't need that kind of excitement in my day? Perhaps I will come up with a different plan.

2016-05-25_0002

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.

my pen reveals

Deane Watters3 Comments

Last night I completed an interesting task. Over the past week, I read through seven spiral notebooks written in from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. I meticulously read or carefully skimmed and took notes from the past 12 months of pages written almost every morning throughout the past year.

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There is nothing grand or amazing about this assignment. It took hours to complete. My eyes got tired and my highlighter ran dry. But I was looking to find as much as I could about this past year. Not content to simply "remember," I wanted to truly find out what was important to me and how I had changed in 2015.

Morning Pages are simply a writer's way of dropping his or her angst on the page first thing every morning. I wrote them to check in, to listen, to invite dialogue, to pray. I simply got up out of bed, shuffled to the coffee pot and then to my "writing studio," opened my current notebook and started writing. My goal was purely to take note of my heart. What was I thinking or feeling each morning, fresh from a night's sleep? What, from the day before, needed to be thought through?  Could God use my pen as his voice to help me? Would I hear it?

As I read through this year's notebooks, I searched for a few specific things.

  • Was I honest with myself? Did I tackle how things really felt, rather than how I thought they should be?
  • Did my word, embrace, change over the year? Why did I choose it?
  • Were there consistent themes of angst?
  • In what ways did I talk to God about my kids using their chosen words?
  • Did I ally myself? Was I a friend; or was I a bully? Was I on my side, or not.
  • Had God spoken to me through this daily practice?
  • Were there changes in me over a year's time?

I will simply say that I have learned much.

Many websites and various ministries offer ways to "evaluate your year" but none better than this. It's like going to the horse's mouth, so to speak. I went straight to the source to hear from my own pen, how my heart was faring on a daily basis. I wanted to know how I  had responded to myself and the concerns that showed themselves on the page. I was digging to see if I lived out what I teach others about the amazing work of Morning Pages.

I came to some conclusions.

  1. I think I will always be tempted in some way toward inadequacy. Recognize my words - tempted toward - not sucked in, not taken over.
  2. I have fussed enough about writing. Get in the chair and WRITE, already!!
  3. I have prayed well for my husband and children.
  4. 2015 was the year I journeyed in prayer. Books read, sermons heard,  prayer meetings attended, and daily personal practice have taught me more than I ever intended to seek out. Prayer seemed to find me.
  5. Desperation leads to magnificent growth.
  6. God speaks when He wants to.
  7. Sometimes "depression" is part of "preparation."
  8. "Dark seasons stop me. They make me small so He can be big."
  9. I am brave and rarely back down from an opportunity to grow or to try.
  10. I am surrounded by God's favor as a shield. He knows me. He delights in me. I can rest in being His beloved. This is big. It changes everything. It stops the lurking question, "Am I lovable?" "Am I enough?" "Is what I do or write or say, significant?" Of course it is. I am held close and safe by the One who knows and loves me. How can I not move freely and confidently within that haven of protection?
  11. My favorite and most powerful ministry, the one I am best equipped for,  is one-on-one across the table with a cup of coffee and a scone in my hand. Some of the most delightful moments in my year were lived out in this way.
  12. Spiritual attacks happen when we risk for God. But when we know how the enemy custom designs his assaults, we can be prepared.
  13. I am a servant here. I am not called to shine or perform. I'm here to serve, to love and to shower grace.
  14. Joy arrives in unexpected packages. Oh yes.
  15. When God gets the first word, we get an earful.

I could go on and on. These pages are FULL of wisdom, questions, fussing, fear, lament, joy, discovery, delight and truth. God has indeed used my pen to reveal himself. Being a good friend to myself, I feel I have listened well. This end of the year review has led me to remember that I am loved, known and protected, even as I walked through some long, hard and desperate days.

This task was well worth my time and a new highlighter. I'm stepping up to another year of Morning Pages.  Are you interested in learning more about them? Let me know in a comment and I'll get back to you!