Posted: August 22nd, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Sheila Seiler Lagrand wrote the 22nd chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Striptease”.

The setting of Sheila’s chapter is at a blogging retreat and the substance consists of a couple of conversations with her peers. It’s through that lens that she reveals her deep depression and insecurity. Quite a bit of her chapter is the voice of her self-depreciating internal dialogue.

Self-talk is unavoidable, but most of it is automatic. It’s the part of your thought life that you respond to, but don’t give a ton of attention. A lot of times, it’s a repeat of things you’ve been told throughout your life. You have to purposely pick what you say to yourself, otherwise this debilitating negativity seeps out, attacks you, and controls you. Sheila’s internal dialogue sounds like this:

“You think if people knew the real you, they’d be disgusted. Or filled with pity. Or both. You wear that stinking mask all the time. Even yesterday, when you first arrived at this long-awaited retreat, finally, finally gathering with your blog friends in real life -even then, even though they knew you were depressed, your voice was too bright. Your jokes flew too fast. You laughed like a braying mule” (page 148).

Her self-talk is cruel and abusive. How can anyone function under the weight of that negativity?

She revealed a bit of the internal battle to a couple of friends and they offered her tenderness.

“My friend wraps her arms around me, rocking gently. She doesn’t let go. And her rocking, my other friend’s chair-patting and nodding, the listening, the not turning away, they teach me something. …It’s okay to let you see me” (page 150).

Counteracting a friend’s low self-esteem with positive affirmations and tenderness is soothing, but it’s only a bandaid on which the suffering person becomes dependent. For someone looking for acceptance, it’s addicting to get people to give you their time and compassion.

Depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety are debilitating conditions that affect the person’s entire life. The cruelty of these conditions causes the person unnecessary shame and can further alienate them, making them feel as though they are the only ones suffering. Sheila chose to share a peek of herself to her friends and she “nearly collapsed” when they gave her their time.

Negative self-talk is a symptom of a bigger issue (like depression), and it’s a cause of other issues (like anxiety and low self-esteem). It weakens you. Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself and the way you interpret the situations you’re in. People who experience depression often interpret their situations negatively. People who suffer from anxiety and/or low self-esteem may be allowing their thoughts to break them down. The negative conclusions drawn from everyday events are often unrealistic, baseless, and entirely made up.

It’s reasonable to conclude that if negative self-talk consists of made up conclusions that dismantle your self worth, then positive self-talk, even if it, too, is made up, can build up your self worth. If you’re going to make stuff up, then make it work for you, not against you. Challenging your self-talk, as opposed to getting affirmed by others, is what will have a lasting effect on the quality of your life.

Noticing your internal dialogue takes practice. You have to capture it and train it to build you up instead of tear you down. It may feel silly at first, but it’s a powerful tool that can change your life. Positive thinking changes your chemistry. In a Christian’s life, you can use scriptures and Biblical truths to bolster your positive thinking.

Consider this scripture:

“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” -Philippians 4:8 KJV

Be elementary with yourself. When a negative thought attacks you, run it through the scripture:

  1. is it true?
  2. is it honest?
  3. is it just?
  4. is it lovely?
  5. is it of good report?
  6. is there any virtue in it?
  7. is it praise to the Father?

Your answers will either be all “yes” or all “no”. If you are too far removed from the truth of your own value, then ask yourself just one of the questions: Does this thought praise the Father? He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). If you want to know if a thought is from God, ask yourself: Does this thought work for me or against me?

Purposely use every bit of your thinking time to find a way to be thankful and full of praise. It’s an activity that takes conscious effort and you will build strength over time. Notice the way it changes your day. Notice the good that shows up. Wherever you focus your attention, you’ll simultaneously focus your energy. You are not a victim of your thoughts, you’re the author. Use the book that God wrote about His love for you and actively rewrite your internal dialogue.

…if there be any praise, think on these things.

Sheila Langrand

The 23rd chapter of Soul Bare is written by Sarah Markley. She titled it “Without People Like You”. I’ll write my thoughts about that chapter next.

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of old mirrors and new doors

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

The book I’m blogging through, “Soul Bare“, has three sections: Letting Go, Leaning In , and Hope and Healing. This is the last chapter in the first section. It’s written by Kelli Woodford. She titled her chapter “Of Old Mirrors and New Doors”.

You never know what what you’re in for when you start a new chapter of this book. You never know what the writer has gleaned from the pain. It didn’t seem as though Kelli was sharing as much about her pain as she was sharing about a moment, seventeen years later, when God brought the past to the present.

“My heart pounds, an old wound reopening” (page 66).

It’s tempting to compartmentalize sections of our lives as we get through the hard times and heal from the accumulated wounds. People forget about our mistakes, life moves us to different spaces, and sometimes you don’t have to take your reputation, your history, or your mistakes with you. Sometimes you get to let people assume what they want.

I don’t see anything wrong with that. I don’t tell everyone I meet that I had an affair eleven years ago. That would be weird. But, your life is one continuous story. It’s not compartmentalized and one dimensional. It’s full rips and grit. Like a work of art, it makes people feel something. And, because of that, sometimes God wants to show His work to someone who doubts His ability.

Kelli was looking for one part of her story, but God led her to one that had more dust on it. One that had her in pink corduroys and a mountain of pain to climb. From what I gathered as I read, most of the people in her life didn’t know about the girl in pink. Or that she, at 16, faced one of the hardest the lessons of her life.

“Learning that love doesn’t always mean holding on; sometimes, to really love, you have to let go” (page 67).

It’s not uncommon for God to bring up old wounds you thought were healed. It doesn’t mean that you’re going backward. Sometimes it just needs a little salve so you can move forward.

You can find Kelli blogging here. 

Kelli Woodford

Amy Smith wrote the 10th chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter, “Liquid Courage”, next.


the waging and the waiting

Posted: August 7th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Tammy Perlmutter wrote the seventh chapter of “Soul Bare”. It’s called, “The Waging and the Waiting”.

In her chapter, Tammy writes from a perspective that is rarely heard. The dark nights of a foster kid are soaked in tears no one ever sees. No matter how hard people try, you’re always an outsider. No matter how hard you try, your lack of permanency always makes you a risky investment. The risks range from pages in photo albums to imparting wisdom to someone you’ll never see grow up. It makes you feel like you’re not good enough, like something is wrong with you. It’s hard to feel real because, to others, your existence ceases when you move to the next home. Growing up like that can come with some insurmountable tolls from which many don’t recover.

No one, unless they’ve been there, fully understands how important it is to have someone so tuned into you that they can effectively advocate for you. People don’t know what it’s like to be so unknown that you’re almost completely dehumanized. You’re the child raised on what’s left over and every decent thing feels like charity. Tammy wrote about these feelings and the fantasy she had about her mother coming to rescue her.

“In my fantasy, we all got what we wanted. My mom got Elvis and I got her, and we lived happily ever after” (page 52).

Even in her fantasy she resigned her spot in her mother’s heart, but held her own wide open. The heart of a child….

And this is where I cry.

Tammy is brave to share this with us. She’s brave because she knows as well as I do that no one can take that pain away because no one really gets it.

People who grow up like that can rattle off a shopping list of things they’ve survived. I remember noticing this as a kid. I also noticed a vague sense of competition to have the most exhaustive list. “Yup, I’ve been burned with irons, too. Yup, I’ve been molested, too. See this scar? It’s where I was pushed down the stairs. You ever break a guard rail with your head? That was the unexpected bonus that landed me back in foster care.” But, we don’t tell outsiders these things because we can’t stand the look they give us. It’s too much for them.

Tammy’s story is important because, statistically, she should be repeating the cycle of pain with her own family. If pain is an ocean, Tammy’s hair still has the sea in it. But God controls the heat of the sun during the day, and the tide from the moon at night. He’s keeping her balanced and she’s trusting Him with her story.

You can read more from Tammy by clicking here.

Tammy Perlmutter

Linda Basmeson wrote the eighth chapter of “Soul Bare”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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cold, dark ground

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Jennifer J. Camp is another coauthor of Soul Bare. She begins her chapter the same way she titled it, on the “Cold, Dark Ground”. It’s interesting to me that when books and movies portray high school love, it’s usually sweet, wistful, and the kids don’t usually appear to regret their loss of innocence. Authors give fictional children adult maturity and infuse their own nostalgia, for something that most likely never existed, into a story that people much younger than them will take at face value. Jennifer revisits her own loss of innocence, but her story is different.

This chapter made me think of the way sex is presented to our kids. It seems to fall in two camps: this is what happens after you’ve made out a few times, and this will send you to hell if you’re not married. Neither are true.

“I don’t remember any inner struggle about whether or not to go through with this. It seemed inevitable, this choice hardly a choice at all” (page 26).

Jennifer writes about her self-value and perceived potential, and how that played into the way she used what power she had to give herself an edge. She, like most high school age kids, didn’t think she had what it took to be who people expected her to be, so she faked it. She grabbed a role and played it. It continued until she crashed into a brick wall of inevitable consequences.

I love how poignant she writes this:

“The next night, panicked and terrified, I ran down my driveway in my thin blue and gold polyester basketball uniform, still on from a late night game” (page 27).

She was a kid in trouble. She had alienated herself with lies as she sorted out who she was with who she wanted to be. When she got in over her head, she did the only thing she knew that could possibly take her back to the starting line. But there are no do overs, and the walls she scraped to crawl out of her situation are deep inside her.

There are some things that only our Creator can handle, but it takes some form of surrender on our part. Jennifer held the weight of one childhood winter in her heart for way too long. It took two decades, but it was when she chose to be vulnerable and release her secret shame that her ground, her walls, and her heart were redeemed.

You can find Jennifer blogging here. 

Jennifer J. Camp

My own chapter is next. I’ll write about it tomorrow.


baited for redemption

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

I know something good is coming. It’s close enough to start packing up your tent.

You’ve gotten used to the dark. You’ve made friends who don’t want to leave it. You’ve tasted their whiskey, fallen into their debt, and tangled in their web. Wait until they’re asleep, then slip out. God will protect you. He binds and frees. Make a choice for Love because that’s how you’ll be free.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.– 1 John 4:17-18 MSG 

There is no life in your own regret. You can’t fix anything, and making yourself suffer in the scum of existence won’t pay your tab. It’s not about deserving new life. It’s not about avoiding judgement. It’s not even about you.

Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10 ESV

It’s about Jesus.

We’re all on a journey with one destination. Home. You can choose your path, but God directs your steps (Proverbs 16:9). He’s calling you. You can decide how you want to live, buy only God can equip you to live it. You’ve chosen the way of failure, but can’t even do that right. You still care, and that is the only thing keeping you from completely disappearing under the bridge of nothingness.

There is nothing that you’ve done that can’t be undone. It’s all baited for redemption. You can continue to choose left when you know you should choose right, but right will be at every turn. You might feel lost, but He knows exactly where you are. God’s love is relentless and He’s with you every step of the way.

God is with you.