Category Archives: Encouragement

Distraction Detours

Two directional signs in the woods.by Lydia Floren

We all get distracted from time to time, especially those of us with ADD. Here is an example of what I call a “distraction detour” from my life recently:

I am finishing a task in the kitchen before I head out to run errands, and realize I need something from upstairs, so I run up to get it.  I walk into the spare bedroom, and immediately notice that it is a mess. I pick up a book and put it on its shelf. And then I rearrange the shelf a little. And before I know it I have completely organized the room.

And then I look at the clock.

 Two hours. I’ve been up here two hours. How in the world did I get started on this?  Oh yeah, I came up here looking for something…what exactly was I looking for?

I shrug my shoulders, and hurry back down to the kitchen.  As I enter, my eyes fall on a T.J. Max bag sitting on the counter. Oh yeah, the baby shower gift. That’s why I went upstairs: I needed a gift bag.   I turn around and climb back up the stairs muttering “gift bag, gift bag, gift bag” with every step, so I won’t forget why I came upstairs this time, and end up getting side-tracked all over again.

Sigh. Distractions happen. And occasionally–more for some of us than others– they sidetrack us. An unplanned two hour detour in a busy day, shoots a hole in our careful plans, and keeps us from accomplishing as much as we had hoped.  But we don’t have to let these DD’s ruin our day.   When my day is disrupted by a Distraction Detour, I get frustrated with myself for letting it happen. All too often, I will continue ranting at myself for the rest of the day every time I think about it.

What is wrong with you? Can’t you even go upstairs and find a stupid gift bag in under two hours?  Look at the time! Even if I hurry the rest of the day, I’ll never get everything done now!

Distraction detours impact our plans, but they don’t have to steal our joy.

So what’s a person to do when you recognize you have a DD?  And how do you keep a Detour from turning into a Disaster? Here’s a few things I have learned in my long experience with DD’s:

PUSH THE RESET BUTTON.

As soon as you realize what is happening, stop.  Take a deep breath. Give thanks. As my friend Denise often reminds me, “There is always always always something to be thankful for.”  Next, walk through the rest of the GRACE pneumonic we’ve talked about before (see Living GRACE)—Give thanks, Release, Accept, Continue, Enjoy.

Give thanks. Thank You, God, for my mind, no matter how scattered it gets. For Your love and patience, for the way You made me. Thank You that You multiply my time, and will help me to do what is most important without worrying. And thank you for what I got done these last 2 hours, even if it wasn’t on today’s to do list.

Release. I give all my time to you, and all my plans. I release myself from the expectation of perfection.   Please show me how to give myself grace, and lighten up a little (or a lot). And help me to quit “shoulding on myself.

Accept. Here’s where I am now, Father. It’s __o’clock. I have ___ hrs left in the day.  As I regroup, show me what is most important. Help me to eliminate and concentrate.  

[You might make a short to-do list, 3-5 things, depending on how much time is left.]

Continue.  Start out fresh, right where you are, as if it was the beginning of the day,

Enjoy  the rest of the day, free of worry and minus the self-guilt trip. God understands, and he loves us just like we are. So lighten up.  Laugh a little, and then a lot.

Distraction detours happen to all of us. Don’t let them highjack your joy. Be kind to yourself. Step back, regroup, handle them with GRACE.  Laugh a little (and then a lot) and move on!

Don’t remember the former things; don’t dwell on things past. Isaiah 43:18

Rejoice in the Lord always. Phil 4:4

The S Word

"The S Word" written on a lemon tree.by Lydia Floren

One of our favorite family phrases comes from the movie Aladdin.  The little parrot, Iago, gets all upset and starts venting to his boss, the evil Jafar.  Jafar’s response is simply this: “Paaaaatience, Iago. Paaaatience.”

What gets us so riled up, that we lose our patience with ourselves or others? For me, it is the S word.  No, not the four-letter S word….the six-letter one:  “should.”  When “should” creeps into my thoughts and makes its way into my conversations, patience goes out the window. Joy is replaced by restless discontent.  I start focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right.

“They should be doing this. I should be doing that.”

“They should fill all of these potholes.”  “I should get more respect.” “The computer system should always work perfectly.” “I should be able to manage my time better, or be a better person.”

Should is a toxic word. It poisons our peace and eats away at our patience. Shoulds stress us out and put stress on those around us.

Cure for the S word

The cool thing is, there is a cure for the S word–the “should” infection. It’s the T word: thanksgiving. The practice of giving thanks in all things stamps the shoulds right out of our life. Gratitude banishes discontent, restores our joy, and replenishes our patience.

“Thank you Father, that we have paved streets, and that these potholes will eventually be filled.”  “Thank you that You respect and value me, and are teaching me to respect and value myself.” “Thank you that the computer system works 99% of the time, and there is a great team of people working on keeping it that way.”

It doesn’t come easy.

Replacing the “S” word with the “T” word takes some practice. It doesn’t come easy.  In fact it can feel quite awkward and contrived, especially at first.  But, it is incredibly powerful at restoring our perspective and our joy.

“Thank You that every single one of us is imperfect and in process, and You love us right where we are.” “Thank You that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Thank You that I don’t need to do anything to earn your love, and there is nothing I can do that will change it.” “Thank you that You are always present and at work, and working things to good.”

“Thank you that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”

When we cultivate a grateful heart we quit “shoulding” all over ourselves and those around us. Our words and actions are motivated by love instead of driven by discontent.

How has the “S” word invaded your life?  What happens when you replace it with the “T” word?

"patience" on purple petunias

 

Are You My Answer?

Little bird with caption:  Are You My Answer?

by Lydia Floren

Are You My Mother? is a classic children’s story about a little bird who broke out of his shell and found himself alone in his nest. Somehow, he knew he had a mother and that he needed her, even though she wasn’t there. So, he hopped down from his perch and started looking for her. Each time he spied a potential candidate (animal or object), he would ask, “Are you my mother?”   And each time, he got the same response, “No, I am not your mother.”

The baby bird continued searching until he finally encountered his mom.  Curiously, he didn’t ask her, “Are you my mother?”,  because when he saw her, he immediately recognized her.

“I know who you are,” said the baby bird. 

“You are not a kitten or a hen or a dog. You are not a cow or a Snort”

“You are a bird, and you are my mother!”

We can often wander around in our lives in search of someone or something, to take care of our deepest needs.

We don’t use words, but like that little bird, we do ask the same question over and over again, “Are you my answer?”,  or in other words, “Will you be the person or thing that will fill that big hole in my heart?”

For example, we can do this when we rely on attention or accomplishments to bolster our self-esteem. Or when we focus more on what we can get out of a relationship than what we can give.  “Are you my answer?”, we query. “Will you give me the sense of significance, the feeling of belonging I so crave?”

But no person, or thing, is able to satisfy our deep hunger for unconditional love. Only God-Who-Is-Love can do this.

“Are you my answer?”

When we ask God, His response is always the same:

“Yes, dear Child, I am your answer.  Come. Lay down your burden of shame and self-contempt. Stop trying to fix yourself.  Rest in this truth: you are completely known and fully loved by Me. God. You are so precious to me that I chose to die for you. Nothing you do – past present or future – will ever change my love for you.”

When we truly encounter God’s love, when we allow it to seep into the core of our being, we don’t need to ask. We know. He, the God-Who-Is-Love, is our answer – is The Answer – to our deepest need.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:17-19

Huge tree with tangle of roots and the caption, "Be rooted and grounded in love."

Stepping Back

stepping backStepping Back by Lydia Floren

There always seems to be a lot going on in my life. Yours too, probably. Until recently I was working on a book project (Beloved Adventure), blogging, practicing medicine, helping to lead a small group, and preparing for a major house renovation. But a few months ago, I felt God leading me to put a few of these projects on hold and take some time for deep healing from some things in my past.

This is not on my five-year plan. Anywhere.

Yes, I have a past. We all do. I’ve dealt with it, prayed over it, experienced healing from it.  I really don’t want to go there again. Ever. “Besides,” I grumbled to God, “I’m too old for this.”

But God kept tapping me on my shoulder saying “You need to go here. It is important. It is your next step forward, for growth and healing. There are things that linger there, that  now you have the strength and understanding to deal with.  Things that still affect you, that cause you to be anxious, to over react in certain situations, to distrust. I want to perform a deeper healing, to give you a new perspective, to bless you with increased joy and freedom.”

It took a few such “conversations,”  before I acquiesced.  I reluctantly set aside (for the third time) the kitchen/bathroom project, the work on Beloved Adventure and a few other things.  And I began cautiously following My Loving Father in a different direction.

It takes a lot more courage and energy for me to step back than it does to step forward. It’s scary. There is rejection and hurt and mistakes and regret back there. It is a place I only dare go with my Loving Father at my side. And He has stayed close, protecting, providing, encouraging.  He led me to counselor that I trust, and a couple of friends I can decompress with.  He has given me a husband who understands and friends who are praying.

So far, It’s been messy and revealing. And yes, freeing and healing. But it has not been easy.

We can always know that God’s way will be one of healing and growth, freedom and joy. But what’s hard to grasp is that, on occasion, His way may also take us in an unexpected direction, a retrospective—even painful—one.  But He knows that difficult past experiences can seep through and stain our current perspective, despite many coats of paint-years layered on top. So, there are times God may (and probably will) ask us to dig deep. Unearth unpleasant memories. Allow Him to reprocess them in the light of His love.

Are you willing, no matter what your age or stage in life, for God to lead you to take a step back?  To set aside some projects, so that you have the time and energy to follow Him there? Are you ready to trust Him to create a new frame of reference, one untainted by past hurts? Even if the healing process will be painful at times?

If/when you are, I think you will find that stepping back can be remarkably freeing.  As God heals damaged emotions from the past, He enables us to claim more fully His loving embrace in the present.

You might find, as I have, that sometimes the best way–maybe even the only way—to move forward is by stepping back.

Those who wait for the lord will gain new strength…” Isaiah 40:31

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-34

sometimes stepping back is the best way to move forward.

Shoes At My Door

Shoes At My Door

by Lydia Floren

When we first moved to Wisconsin, I was surprised to find that, when people came to visit, they always left their shoes at my door. I soon learned that Wisconsinites shed their shoes, just like they do their coats, when they enter someone’s home. Children learn to do this almost before they begin to walk. In fact, around here, taking your shoes off when you cross a threshold ranks right up there with the “yes ma’am’s” and “no ma’am’s” of the South: good when you do it, really rude when you don’t.

At first this shoe-at-the-door thing didn’t make much sense. But that was because we moved up here in July. By December, the reason became obvious: snow. Well, not just snow –  the sand and slush and salt and mud that accompany the winter months. Taking shoes off keeps everyone’s houses from being dirtied by the outside mess. This is such an ingrained habit in our Northwoods culture that, even when the weather is nice and the streets are clear, everyone still sheds their footwear when they come inside.

We each have some mud on our lives, especially this time of year.

Extra commitments, financial concerns, worry about family, renewed grief, loneliness. Some of the stuff is obvious while other parts – like the stirrings of old hurts –  stay hidden beneath the surface.

As we step into each other’s lives, wouldn’t it be cool if we would remember to first take off our “muddy shoes”? That might mean setting aside happenings from earlier in the day: a difficult circumstance, or unpleasant encounter, or hurry or stress. Maybe it means withholding judgment, extending grace, forgiving, getting out of our own perspective and choosing to enter theirs.

This holiday season we are going to have many distractions.

And we are going to step into a lot of lives.

May we remember to set aside our stress and tread gently, giving others (and ourselves) extra grace.

BTW, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this “extra grace-giving” became a habit we practiced all year long?

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Love is patient, love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

A Summer’s Rain by Lydia Floren

102816-a-summers-rain

[Note: I wrote this in the summer (obviously). It is the intro to a book I am writing called “Beloved Adventure.”  Hope you like it…]

It is raining outside. I am safe and dry, in our tree-house-like back porch, and it is raining. The water taps against the leaves, gurgles from the downspout.  The moist breeze brushes coolness on my face, and tickles my nose.  It rains, and I remember.

My first panic attack happened the day before I started my residency. I had struggled the first 2 years of med school, wrestling with a massive amount of material, never feeling like I mastered it very well. It finally started to make sense my last two years, and on the eve of beginning my residency, I was ready for a fresh start.  I desperately wanted to make a good impression with my new colleagues.

On that eve before my first day as a “real doctor,” I was alone, sitting on the hand-me-down couch of my new apartment.  It had started to rain, gently at first, and then with massive sheets pounding the pavement. I was fretting. Despite my prayers, my anxious thoughts multiplied. My skin broke out in a cold sweat. My heart raced. The room seemed to close in.  I felt like I was suffocating.

In my panic, I jumped up, threw open the front door, and flung myself out into the storm. And stopped. I just stood there for I don’t know how long, soaked to the skin, water dripping down my face and limbs and puddling in my shoes. At some point I remember raising my hands to the sky and declaring  “God, if You can do this – if You can make rain appear from the sky and water the earth – you can take care of me in this residency.”

As I stood there with my hands raised, God responded. He didn’t speak audibly, unless you count the drumbeat of the rain. Yet, He answered me clearly, as He settled His peace deep into my spirit, and  gently washed my fears away.

Today, many years later, I am safe and dry on my back porch.  And I am enjoying the sights and sounds of a summer shower watering the lush Wisconsin greenery.  At moments like this, when I am quiet enough to notice the rain, I smile to myself.  On that night long ago God met me at my point of need, and He has done so many times since.  Each time I reach out to Him He meets me, and answers by raining His love and mercy down on me.

In Psalm 37:25, David said “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet, I have never seen the Godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.”  NLT

Like David, I’m older now. I have practiced medicine, married, raised a family. I’ve pulled up roots and put down new ones. I have experienced joy and pain – and yes, a few more panic attacks.

God has never left me. He has filled in the cracks of all my imperfections with His unfailing love. And I know from years of experience, that each time I step into His presence, God gently washes my fears away.

Right Now

love God and love others

Right Now

by Lydia Floren

For some time, I have been focusing on learning to receive the love of God. I am convinced that in order to obey what Jesus said was the most important commandment—to love God, and love my neighbor as myself—I must first receive God’s love for me. In fact, I believe it is impossible to obey this command without first being filled up and living as one who is beloved. The question is how. How do I live in the love of God? How do I learn to embrace God’s love for me personally? How do I accept this love every day, and fill up with it? Answers to these questions have been coming to me in pieces rather than all together. Today I have been given another piece:

Have you ever been in a “mood”? A state of mind where nothing is good or right or positive about the world, the people you encounter, God, and especially yourself? I was in such a state this morning, and after lingering there for a while, this thought came to mind:

“I love you right now.”

“Now, God? Now is not a good time to be loving me. I am crabby, having a pity party, mad at the world, frustrated with myself. This is not a good time to be loving me. ”

“Now. Now is the best time to love you.”

He is right, of course, much as I don’t want to acknowledge it. There is no better time for Him to love me and for me to accept His love than right now, because it is as I am. And because now, when I know myself to be a crabby, sorry individual is when I need His love the most. Now is when His love really does the most good, has the most transforming power. But now is also the hardest time to receive His love. I am ugly and I know it. My heart is spewing forth negativity, anger, condemnation, self-righteousness, pride, selfishness, self-loathing.

And yet He calls to me:

“Come on child, climb out of the pit of your pity party—your hopelessness. Receive my transforming love. Let go of your shoulds and oughts for yourself and those around you, and just be loved. I’ve got this. And I’ve got you. You are safe, and you are free. Simply follow me in the next step, and watch me work! “

Now.

I am not hopeless. And I am not helpless. He knows me and loves me just like I am. And He wants me to live in that love.

Now.

I do have a choice. Do I accept His knowing and loving and forgiving? Do I accept His grace? His embrace? When I do, I am letting go of the lie that I can live in joy without Him. Or that I would want to. I choose to believe He is safe. His love is there always, even (and especially) when I am at my worst.

Even now.

He loved me first.

He loves me now.

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NAS)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NAS)

Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8a NAS)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

Waking Up With a Smile

8:4:16 Waking up

by Lydia Floren

“Father in heaven, when the thought of Thee wakes our hearts, let it not awaken like a  frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile.”  –Soren Kierkegaard

Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally. When we turn to God, we always have a warm welcome.  His arms are open wide. We can run into His embrace, and unburden our cares and worries, leaving them at His feet. Once we are settled and at peace, He’ll give us a big hug, tousle our head, and send us on our way with a smile.

Being in God’s presence reassures us that He is with us, and will guide us through whatever difficulty we face.

We can always turn to God with complete trust and confidence.

       When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139:18

8:4:16 When I Awake

8:4:16 Every Smile

Focus

7:30:16 Focusby Lydia Floren

“O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?”

These are the first lines of a great old hymn. Even though Helen Lemmel wrote these questions decades ago, they are relevant today, aren’t they?  Here’s what she says next:

“There’s a light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

We all feel overwhelmed at times. Lemmel simply reminds us, when we get discouraged, to take some time to focus on something—Someone—else.  As we shift our attention to Jesus, our troubles don’t disappear. They just settle into a different perspective.

Turn your eyes away from your troubles, and look at Jesus.

Listen, as He says:

I love you in the mess of your life, and day by day I’m redeeming it and setting it right. It is beautiful now, and it is becoming more beautiful. You don’t have to fix anything. You just have to rest, and follow and let me work.

Live in the present, aware of God’s loving presence. The past is redeemed. The future is secure. The present is really all you have at any given time.

Perfect love drives out fear.”  1 John 4:18