Saturday, January 28, 2012

Less Stressed Conflict

I would guess, if I were to do a reliable poll that a good portion of the major stressors in our lives have to do with conflicts in relationships. We all have them. Some of them are as simple as the conflict you may have with a insanely frustrating USPS agent over the phone (been there recently) or as difficult as a fight with a long time friend, or a sister.

Conflict is never an easy thing, and is often the source of some serious ongoing stress for many of us.

I realize, that personality has a huge part to do with how we each deal with conflict. As well as how were were raised, both because of example and because of past hurts or things that molded us into dealing with things a certain way.  So, I don't want to overgeneralize about this topic by any means.

But, over the course of especially the last few years, in close relationship with my "less stress" journey I have really worked to develop methods that help me manage this type of stressor in my own life. I have learned a few things, and God is still in the active process of showing me. Even still, I would like to share some of those lessons ...for me, and hopefully for you as well.

As with most major areas of stress, I use my "Stress Strategies" on this one too. 

Remember, first you have to give any and all conflicts to God before even attempting to manage it on your own.

Then, get rid of it.

What about any given conflict can you get rid of?  ..."Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior." Ephesians 4:31

Easier said than done, I know but so often we forget that many conflicts are rooted in things that can only lead to things that create an even greater struggle for our spirit. If your conflict has roots of bitterness, rage, or anger ...get rid of it.  If you find yourself slandering someone due to your conflict with them ..chances are good that will not help, get rid of it.  And of course, if sin itself is the root of your conflict must get rid of it.

Consider your part to get it done.

So often conflicts are fed and continued because the one or both parties simply cannot do what needs doing, be it ask forgiveness or give it. It may be a matter of picking up the phone, approaching them in person or simply taking the first step at resolution ...but, get it done.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."  Colossians 3:13 what needs to be done.

How about, get control of it.

I am sure I dont have to explain this one too thoroughly, you get it. How often are our conflicts worsened or at the very least, not helped by our tongue (or fingers!). 

Our anger, is really to blame. That uncontrolled feeling can easily ignite a world of trouble for us ...James says so: "The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." 3:6

Yeah, I can relate too.

He also gives the solution...get control of it.

"Dear brothers, take note of this, everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires for us."  James 1:19

And, this one is too good not to note:

"Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man (or woman) who lacks self-control" Prov 25:28

The NLT says, "Like a city without walls is a man with no control of his spirit."  

How much less stressful our conflicts would be were to control both our emotions and our tongues? ..a world less stressful!

Then, get over it.

Um, yeah. Another one I probably don't need to explain! :)

Actually, I have learned to use this one A LOT as I have really worked on making my conflicts less stressful. I have NOT mastered it in every situation (I am currently working diligently at letting go of something now, its not easy!) but I have found that 90% of the time a quick determination to let it go, works miracles in the long run.

Often, we may be motivated my remembering that our own offenses have been "gotten over" long before now ..." For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12

Trust me, if you can..let it go. Chances are the stress and resources your conflict saps is not the best use of the resources you have been given. If you are able (and its appropriate) ...get over it, my friend. 

Sometimes, in dealing with with conflict we need to get a new plan.

Do you find that you are often in the middle of conflicts with others? Do you find that much of your stress is linked to one or more conflicts with people at any given time? ..may I suggest, gently that how you handle your conflicts may need another look?

I know its hard to consider such things, especially when you are faced with the hurt that comes with these repeated conflicts ..but I have watched for myself recently, someone who has learned that her past conflict style did not nurture the relationships she so treasured, determining she would change it.

And she changed the course of a heated conflict, just like that.  She changed her plan, and it cut the conflict short.

Like I elluded to before, how we handle our conflicts has so many roots. We can easily, by following our nature find ourselves dealing with things in ways that are not how God would have handle them. We may find ourselves reacting in certain ways, responding in certain communication styles, choosing words (or worse, unhealthy silence) to deal with our conflicts. We often need to examine oru conflict resolution methods by God's rule and see if they measure up.

If they don't, we may need a new plan.

And, one biggie ...we may would benefit from a getting a new perspective.

Oh, how many times I have been angry and come so close to saying or doing things that I am so thankful for now that I didnt follow through with. Often it is because I had no idea at the time what may have been going on with that other person!

In the last few weeks, I have been frustrated and angry with someone ...writing a draft letter to explain my irritation and selfish emotions. By advise of my more leveled-emotion husband I did not send it, and was so thankful when I found out that it would have only added to a world of stress and struggle this person was having at the exact same time I would have sent it.

I am sad to say, I have also not held my tongue and let my emotions run rampant only to learn that instead of being justified in my offense I simply was being selfish and nearsighted by not seeing things from their perspective.

Seeing things from another's perspective can make all the difference in diffusing a conflict. By taking the time to take yourself out of the picture can help you see a world of difference about some things. Be it the cashier at the grocery store, the slow grandma in the fast lane, the husband or that gal at work who seems to hate you, everyone has a story and their perspective may change everything.

And, please don't forget ..."Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" Ephesians 4:32

Finally, and often the only solution for any conflict ...give it to God, again.

Of course, we have all had those times when conflict and its resolution is beyond our control or any effort we may be willing to give to it. We may have been willing to do anything possible to resolve an issue with someone, and find that it is no closer to finding a resolution than when you started.

It is possible that there are conflicted relationships that simply are beyond your influence. Those conflicts can only be let go into the faithful hands of a God who is not hindered by hurt, or paralyzed by past insult.

Never forget, dear sister ..never, never forget to "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalms 55:22


Conflicts are as diverse as the people in our lives - and not every one can be answered with a simple formula or algorithm for fixing it. A good portion of them can at least be lessened in their stressful influence, though when we purpose to handle them in ways that more in line with how God would have us nurture these relationships.

Do you have a conflict that you are currently struggling with? 
..can you relate to any of these thoughts?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reveling in Suffering

The concept of "reveling" lends itself to joyous celebration. Really, that is closer to the actual meaning of the word "revel", but I can't think of a better word that means "just laying back and letting all of everything wash over you, taking it all in and finding joy in all of it."

So, "revel" it is.

Its been easy so far, because the majority of my reveling in 2012 has been the good kind. But I have been long pondering what reveling in suffering looks like.

I am largely inspired, again, by James 1:2 ..."consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking in anything."
I have often heard this verse explained, disclaiming that the writer didn't intend for us to be "giddy" over our trials. That makes sense. Even more so when you consider how much joy you can glean from knowing that you will be a better, strong person when it is all done...even if you arent "excited" to be suffering that the time.

I liken that to "reveling in suffering".

I think of myself, how as a mom I often revel in my children's suffering.

I am not giddy, happy, giggly or thrilled to have them suffer ...but I so appreciate the lessons that I know they will often glean from their "suffering".

Take this summer, for example. My family and I were at a hotel pool - my youngest was barely a year old and he was still new at walking and managing obstacles. I was enjoying watching him crawl into the water, retreat and try it again. I loved watching him choosing when to crawl on hands and knees, when to try standing, and when to do the hands and feet both on the ground.  

A bit away from the pool, but still close to mommy, he started working on a set of about small 2-3 steps. He was crawling up and down them, stumbling pretty frequently. Quite a few times he skinned his knees and fussed. He would always start right back in, never once looking to me for consolation. He mastered those steps pretty quickly, having the best and most effective system of managing them chosen and executed in a matter of minutes.

All the while I was the subject of some serious judgement by two ladies sitting on the opposite side of the pool from us. As I marveled at my brave explorer, I also noted the overt disapproval these gals gave me. They were quite vocal about how that baby would hurt himself and how I needed to get him down from there.  I took a degree of pleasure in watching them in all their judgey-ness since I knew for sure that this was the best for this particular little man.

While I didn't enjoy his suffering, I knew as a mother that it was developing something in him. He was learning with every fall, every struggle, every scraped knee. He was learning when to put his little foot here, and when to replace it with his little hand. He was learning how to avoid those tender little knees and when to use those tougher pads of his feet ...and oh was he proud! So proud.

His suffering accomplished that for him.

If I were to go the way of my own instincts and grab him up as he crawled towards those potentially knee-skinning stairs, he would have missed out on some important lessons (though surely I would have gained some approval from Thelma and Louise).

Having "everything we need" is much about moving through each and every phase of our development ...we must embrace the suffering that will surely come. We must revel in the trials that we know will achieve for us a glory that far outweighs any suffering we can endure in this place!

Having everything we need doesnt mean that we will be free of trouble, that we will have what we need "to avoid suffering" ...but to nurture a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  Nurturing a life such as God deems righteous is one where our perseverance is continuously developed. Where we are building our knowledge and wisdom in God's truths with each stumble and each trial.

James could have said, "revel in your suffering, my brothers, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must complete its work, so that you may be mature and complete having EVERYTHING YOU NEED"


Monday, January 23, 2012

Living In Revelry

So, far I have learned a few things about living in revelry.

I have learned that first, one cannot revel without being aware of their surroundings.

Simple enough, but its so true! I have found that if I am going to revel in my wonderful life I find that I must be intentionally aware of my blessings, whether overt or disguised by struggles. I have to be purposefully paying attention to what is going on if I am going to revel in all of it!

Then, I am also learning that being aware naturally bleeds into a general sense of gratitudeHow could a mommy not be so when she is reveling in the activity of her busy 21-month old? To revel I have to note the blessings of health and happiness, and then I cannot not feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude and thanks. Even in the face of frustrations and struggles, this revelry naturally seeks out reasons to feel thankful.

Something else every party should be, revelry is fun. I find myself smiling A LOT as I revel in my wonderful life.  Just tonight I was spending some time reveling with my toddler in the fun of swinging on a porch swing. His giggles brought goofy smiles to my own face was revelry, pure and simple.

Finally (for now),  this life reveling really does lend itself to a life that is more peaceful.  Somehow, all the other benefits in mind, I find that when one is focused more on the blessings (and struggles) of life there is more room for deep breaths of peace in my spirit.


Revelry is good...

  {completing my digital Project Life for 2011, looking back on my favorite shots of the year, I am reveling in the relationships I have with beautiful sisters tonight
..Meet Lacey, Kayli and Amber ..left to right, minus me ;) }


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Revel in 2012

"Consider it pure joy my brothers" James 1:2

As I say goodbye to 2011, there is a desire to focus more on the "consider it pure joy" portion of this scripture than the following "when you face trials of many kinds" portion of it.  Even though the new year always bring a sense of unspoiled possibilities, of course we know there are trials in the coming months. 

Surely, they will take many different forms and they will change us in ways we do not yet fully comprehend. But, even in the knowing ...I want to count it pure joy even as they are yet to come. 

But not just the trials ..I want to count it all pure joy. I want to look around me and soak in all the good and perfect gifts that are coming "down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17) right now, and in the coming months. 

I figure that if I am going to consider it pure joy when I face trials, that I should start practicing on the things that are easy to consider pure joy first :) 

So, instead of making myself a list of New Year's Resolutions I just have one:  Revel. 

Revel in everything...I want to consider it ALL pure joy.

I want to revel in my blessings.
I want to revel in my children.
I want to revel in my health.
I want to revel in my marriage.
I want to revel in my home.
I want to revel in my friendships.
I want to revel in my family. 

With some practice, I even want to ...

revel in my weaknesses
revel in my struggles
revel in my trials
revel in my lack of wisdom
revel in my inability to see tomorrow

I want to fully embrace everything that I am blessed to be part of indulge in every good and perfect gift that I have been showered with. 

 I have already discovered that to really take hold of this focus ...

I need to take time to revel.
I need to nourish my body.
I need to focus on my children.
I need to take time with my husband.
I need to bless my home. 
I need to nurture my friendships.

Here is me engaging in a little revelry:

Joshua, (21 months old) enjoying a pre-dinner snack (a.k.a., 10 minutes of activity that will let mom get dinner started)  ...

Canon (5 years old), enjoying his brother's Christmas present, his heart's desire "a bat cave."

 Tyler (7 years old) and his daddy playing video games, one of their favorite bonding activities.

Not revelry in the truest sense of the word ..since things were actually quiet for my moment of reveling. But I cant think of any better word for how I want to embrace all of this far so good. 

Goodbye 2011

This past year was a difficult one for me and my family. Not as much as my immediate husband and children, but our immediate other family ...parents, sisters, brothers and very close friends. 

As I look back, December 31st was more a "see ya!" to 2011 than a "yay 2012!"

Twenty-eleven had all the major stressors ...

* Health problems husband's mother suffered a stroke last January, and my 7-year old niece continues to suffer from an autoimmune problem that has at times crippled her.

* Loss ...a close family friend lost their 5-month old baby boy very suddenly. We also remembered the 5th anniversary of my brother's death in Iraq.

* Big life changes baby sister left for college and my parents left to begin their new mission work in Singapore

* Heartache ...our family has seen a divorce, the same as many other families ...but this one is ours. 

* Disappointment ... my best friend and her husband lost their ministry job under very emotionally difficult circumstances that involved people we have loved and respected for many years. Because their loss involved our own church family, the weight has been doubled and has been incredibly difficult.

Yeah, its been a doozy. But, thankful his mercies are new every morning ...and they feel SUPER new every New Years! :)

God is always good. In and out of every situation ...good and "bad".

One blessing of the past few weeks has been our ladies class at church beginning Beth Moore's newest bible study titled, "James: Mercy Triumphs".  I cheated, and started a few weeks early (they didnt officially start until this week)  as I was seriously needing some nourishment ..I am so glad I did!

James' words have been especially poignant these past weeks, as I mentally reflect on the past year ..
"Consider it joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:3
Even more so ...
"Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete ...not lacking in anything." James 1:4

These verses have been reflective for me, as 2011 did indeed bring "trials of many kinds."  But so also the blessings that come with the struggles, and the perseverance that has, as promised begun to develop.

I love how James follows up this encouragement in times of struggles with ..."Don't be deceived my brothers, every good and perfect gift comes from above coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows."  James 1:17

Consider it joy develops perseverance ...every good and perfect gift comes from above.

Could it be that through the Spirit we are able to consider our trials joy ..and that we can see the resulting perseverance as a "good and perfect gift"?

I think so. And what a perfect gift it is.

What other good and perfect gifts can you "consider" coming from the trials of the past year..or ones that have already crept up in this one?
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