Category Archives: Identity and Value

Treasure

Boy blowing out birthday candlesTreasure

by Lydia Floren

Birthdays were (and still are) a big deal in the Floren home.  When my kids were younger,  I would plan special celebrations for them, and sometimes (ok, more than sometimes) I would go a little over the top.  When each of our sons turned six, we had a treasure hunt.  A dozen or so first graders each made a pirate’s hat, and were given a treasure map and a paper bag.  Then, they hunted all over the yard for clues, filling up their bag with prizes as they went.  Finally, they were led to the back yard, where a big X  marked the spot in the dirt. (Not too original, but effective, especially for a 6 year old.)  It was wonderful to watch them attack that dirt, and then after unearthing their very own treasure box,  to carefully lift it out of the earth.  It was fun to see their eyes light up when they pryed open the lid and discovered the gold coins inside.  (Gold coins filled with chocolate, but hey, they were gold.)

Every person on earth—every soul—is a treasure to God.  We are His beloved, worth sacrificing His son for.  God loves us each with a tenderness, a gentleness, that can take our breath away.  He eagerly attacks the mountain of guilt and shame Satan heaps on us, and replaces these lies with His truth:  we are free from condemnation.  We are whole. We are beloved. And after He gently brushes away the dirt, He delights in showing us—and the world– the bright beauty he has placed within us. The fruitful and fruit-filled life that comes from being loved.

God’s love is life changing. And soul-sustaining.

"You are a Treasure", words over a silver pitcher of flowers

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.

Gently

Gently

by Lydia Floren

I’ve been avoiding God again. Well, to be honest, I’ve mostly been avoiding myself – what I might find when I slow down and get still enough to pay attention. Frankly, I don’t want to see the failure. The raw need. The fear. I skirt the edges of these feelings, afraid that, if I face them head on, I will get lost in depression and discouragement.

So, I stay busy. And keep God at arm’s length. But this is not a good long term plan. God is with me, within me, gently calling my name, ready to hear my concerns. I can’t ignore Him. And I miss Him.

So here I am, in the middle of the night, jolted awake by a bad dream. I reach for His comforting presence, before I remember not to. His kindness is startling. Gently He soothes. Embraces. Lifts away my burdens. Gently, He heals past wounds, still raw, gives insight into my pain, and offers perspective – on present events, and past ones.

Gently, He shares truth where I see lies. Gently, He reminds me that He is 100% good, and that I am 100% safe: nothing and no one can touch my identity, value, belonging and calling.

God meets me where I am. And ever so gently, ever so faithfully, He leads me out of my mess, and back into His joy.

He leads me out of my mess and back into His joy.

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

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

Hanging Out

6:24:16 hanging out

Hanging Out

by Daniel Floren

Dad took me to Chicago for Spring Break. It was an incredible trip full of hilarious improv, great food, and cool culture spots.

One day, I really wanted to go to a particular pizza place and check it out. I took it upon myself to figure out all of the transportation details, feeling quite accomplished as the ’son’ directing/leading ‘dad’. We got to the address, and saw nothing but high rise buildings. It was the Corporate Headquarters for this pizza spot – no where close to the actual restaurant. I was soooo mad. I spent the next hour trying to walk off my frustration. “I totally screwed it up,” I thought to myself.

The next day, after the Shed Aquarium, we had about a 4-5 hour gap with nothing to do. I turned to Dad as we looked out at Lake Michigan, and I asked him with some urgency, “Dad, what do you want to do? I don’t know what comes next, I’m out of plans, I didn’t plan well enough. I’m sorry, but we have some free time. How can we redeem it to make the trip worth the money? What do you want to do?” He looked at me and just kind of half-smiled in amazement, shaking his head. He took a second. “Daniel. This. This is all I want. Just spending time with you.”

In that moment, a number of curious things clicked into place. I looked at Dad’s shirt. It was the TKA Elementary School shirt from when he was my soccer coach. Yesterday he wore my high school football shirt, and the day before that a TCU polo. The point was always to spend time with his son. All of the gifts and adventures of Chicago were just a nice backdrop for hang-out time.

I have always come to God asking, “What do you want to do?” With my life, my marriage, my job, my friends, my day, the groceries, this very second…

Strangely enough, I think the answer has always been, “We’re doing it!” Christ wants to hang out and commune with me and love me! By the very nature of turning to God and asking, “What do you want to do?” we’re there! We are now talking and hanging out! Before I take another step toward anything, I’ve got to first realize that that is the most beautiful thing. We’re just there already. His Grace met us there and his love keeps us there. All of our purposes and plans must be in context of just hanging out with the Lord. Then, without any pressure, we can go grab pizza.

Belonging

belonging-1Belonging

by Lydia Floren

A few years ago–well, maybe more than a few–“Cheers” was a popular TV show, and launched some major acting careers. (Woody Harrelson, Ted Danson, Kirsti Allen). The show revolved around a group of people who became friends by hanging out at a bar together.

The theme song of Cheers goes like this:

“Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name,                                                         And they’re always glad you came;                                                                                                        You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same;                                                You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

Don’t we all want a place where “everybody knows our name, and they’re always glad you came?”  Sure we do. We want to feel welcome, a part of things. We want to have that intimate group that knows and loves us, and is always glad to see us.

A sense of belonging is not just something we want–it’s something we need. God made us relational creatures: we are all hardwired with the drive to belong.

But there are times in life when we don’t feel like we belong. We may have just moved to a new town, and haven’t yet made friends. We may feel a little wobbly in a new job, or are finding our way in a new community. We may be isolated by illness, or language, or culture. We may feel “unsafe” or misunderstood.

But no matter how we feel, we can be certain of this: if God has put us somewhere, that is where we belong. And whatever situation we face, God will provide for all of our needs, including our need to feel a part of things.

Sure, there are times when no human arms welcome us, no voices call out our name in joyful greeting. But God provides in His own unique way. He sends a beautiful sunrise, or a birdsong, a dog’s wagging tail. He refreshes us with a warm breeze, a new insight, a fond memory. He encourages us with a message from an old friend or an invitation from someone new. And most of all, He welcomes us with His tender spirit, constantly calling out our name in love.

Because we know we belong to Him, and belong where He has placed us, we can step into each day confident that our loving Father is with us – within us – providing for our needs before we even ask Him.

And we can be certain that, when it comes time to step into our forever home, the one He is preparing for us right now, a crowd of folks will be waiting for us.

And everyone – everyone – will know our name.

I have called you by name; you are Mine! Isaiah 43:1

Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matt. 6:8

What unique ways has God met your need for belonging?

God’s Gift to the World

4:28:16 God's gift to world

“Oh, she thinks she’s God’s gift to the world.”

Have you ever heard someone say that? Or said it yourself? I know I have. When I have made that snarky comment, I really mean, “She is soooo conceited. She is totally self-focused. She only cares about what matters to her. She never thinks about anyone but herself.”

HMMM. “Self-focused”? “Always thinking about herself”? Sounds a lot like me sometimes, especially when I am having a pity party. (BTW, my pity party may have many invitees, but only one person will show up: me!)

God’s gift to the world.
In my prayers this morning, I learned to see that phrase, “God’s gift to the world,” in a whole different light. I was sharing my discouragement and discontent with God, (OK complaining ☺ He is such a patient listener!) and then I felt Him telling me:

“You are my blessing to the world. To the people you touch, the lives you reach. You alone can touch and reach people in your own unique way.”

Huh.

You know, when you look at it like that, every person is God’s gift to the world. We are each unique creations. No one can love someone else exactly like we can. And no one else will have the encounters we have this day. Because we will never pass this way again.

Each person is unique, and each moment is unique.

Each encounter is an opportunity to love someone in our own unique way.

You, my dear friend, are God’s gift to the world. So today, have a blast blessing those around you in your own unique way!

Enjoy who you are. Love the person in front of you. Live in the abundance of God’s love.

I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Newlyweds

2:11:16 Newlywedsby Lydia Floren

Have you ever spent time around a pair of newlyweds? Over the Christmas break, all we Florens had the privilege of hanging out with the freshly-minted Mr. and Mrs. Andrew and Monique Graaff. Andrew (or Aundrew as we like to call him) and Monique were married December 17, at their home in Johannesburg, South Africa. After spending a week honeymooning in Durban, they buzzed back home for Christmas day, and then, the next day, got on a plane to come visit with us. They had been husband and wife for a total of 8 days!

All the kids were home for the holidays, and, by the time they pulled up to our house, we were in full Floren mode. (I know, this makes some of you cringe.) Movies, football, games, teasing. Intense discussions. Friends stopping by. Lots of laughter. And of course, food – massive amounts of food.

I am sure that Monique was overwhelmed by all of our Floren-ness. Andrew, on the other hand, acted like he never left, at least when he was interacting with us.

But Andrew was definitely different. Settled. Smiling. Tender. Happy. I’ve never seen him so happy!

It was easy to see why. Monique is special. She is gentle and strong, and sensitive and friendly, smart and talented. And she is beautiful (stunning, in fact). But her beauty is so much more than her physical features. Monique is one of those rare individuals who has learned to receive God’s unconditional love, and she shines with that love (as well as the love of her adoring husband☺).

Newlyweds are in their own little world. Not rude, by any means. Just set apart. Andrew and Monique called each other “My Darling.” They exchanged tender glances. Andrew brought Monique coffee in bed. Monique served Andrew lunch. They snuggled and cuddled, and laughed and whispered. And they smiled. A lot.

Sometimes their eyes just followed each other, as they moved around the room.

You know, God’s gaze follows each of us, as we move about our lives. And He looks at us with a tenderness that can take our breath away. He wants us to live in the circle of His arms, knowing we are completely loved and cared for. Completely forgiven. Completely flawless in His eyes. We are delightful. Beautiful. Magnificent.

The more we bask in the love God offers us, the more beautiful we become. We are settled. We smile a lot. We shine, and scatter our joy like rose petals at a wedding, blessing everyone who crosses our path.

Want more?  Read the recent post “Someone”

The Secret of Surrender

10:29:15 Hugh Jackman on stageby Lydia Floren

Let me tell you a little secret about me:  I am a clandestine celebrity watcher.  Yes, I am one of those people who scan the headlines in the grocery checkout lane.  At the hairdresser, I’ll scroll through the latest People magazine.  I might even be known to [gasp] Google a star of my favorite TV show.  I make excuses for this somewhat silly voyeurism:  “I need to be aware of what is going on in Daniel’s world,” I’ll tell myself.  But truthfully, I probably know more about some stuff (the unimportant stuff) in Hollywood, than does my actor son Daniel, who actually lives there!  Besides, my “star watching” started long before Daniel chose his career path and moved to LA.

OK, now that you know my little secret, you shouldn’t be surprised that my favorite part of the Sunday paper is Parade Magazine.  Which gets me to the part that might actually interest you.

Not too long ago Parade featured an interview with actor Hugh Jackman, aka “Wolverine”, of the X-Men.

10:29:15 Jackman

In the article, Jackman unabashedly acknowledged his Christianity, and described how his faith is intertwined with his work.  Here are his words, as quoted in Parade:

“I’m a religious person.  This is going to sound weird to you.  In Chariots of Fire, the runner, Eric Liddell, says, ‘When I run, I feel His pleasure.’  And I feel that pleasure when I act and it’s going well, particularly onstage.  I feel what everyone’s searching for, the feeling that unites us all.  Call it ‘God’.  Before I go onstage every night, I pause and dedicate the performance to God, in the sense of  ‘Allow me to surrender’.  When you allow yourself to surrender to the story, to the character, to the night, to the audience, transcendence happens.  And when that happens, there is nothing like it on the planet.  It’s the moment people experience when they fall in love, which is equally frightening and exciting.  That’s what it feels like.”

I think God wants each of us to experience moments like Liddell’s and Jackman’s.  These moments come when we surrender ourselves to Him.  When we relinquish control and just trust Him, we become a conduit for His Holy Spirit to work through us.

God wants us to “feel His pleasure”, as we do what He made us to do.

When we do, it is as if Jesus murmurs in our ear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master.”

How have you seen God work through you when you surrender?

p.s.  Here’s a link to the Parade article on Hugh Jackman:
http://parade.com/426939/dotsonrader/the-hugh-you-never-knew/

It’s Not Just About You

by Lydia Floren

A while back I wrote a blog It’s not about you or is it?  Before we can turn our attention to loving others, we must first accept who we are, recognize our needs, and choose to allow God to meet our needs.

Two key parts of this process are:

  • Identifying faulty coping mechanisms or ways we have tried to meet these needs in the past.
  • Replacing these coping mechanisms with constructive habits that will make way for God to move in our lives and meet our needs.

Reminder:  We all have needs.

Everyone has a need for food, shelter, but we also have needs that are in some ways deeper, needs for love and affection, a sense of identity and value, and belonging.

Coping mechanisms

And we all have developed habits—or ways of coping—in order to meet those needs. With some of these habits, we rely on ourselves.  With others, we expect other people to meet our needs. Here are a few examples of coping mechanisms:

  • Grabbing what you can when you can:  attention, love, stuff.  Focusing on what you want, and not what god says you need. Calling wants needs.
  • Controlling things around you so that you can be comfortable and secure: our environment, relationships, and living by a rigid structure.
  • Denying that you have needs.
  • Escaping life by immersing yourself in TV, gaming, social media, alcohol or other means of escape.
  • Floating along, refusing to take responsibility for your life, your actions, or–even more telling—your inaction.
  • Expecting others to meet your needs. Relying on other people to make you happy.  Assuming that anyone and everyone else’s job is to make you happy.
  • Assuming that your own happiness, comfort, and success is more important than someone else’s’, or that their happiness is more important than yours.

Replace these coping mechanisms.  Living a life guided by God is living a life increasingly free of the faulty habits we have so carefully cultivated. In Psalm 139 David prays:

Search me Oh 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: 23-24

Here are a few of God’s ways that can replace our coping mechanisms:

  • Giving.  Keep what you will use, and give the rest away.
  • Letting go. Learning to rely on God to meet your needs and not yourself. The secret of being content in every situation, whether you have much or little.
  • Accepting your needs, and the importance that they are met.
  • Facing life, including its hard parts, knowing that you are not alone:  God is with you and within you.
  • Owning your life.  Quit playing the victim and accept responsibility, and that your decisions, as well as your indecisions, have consequences.
  • Releasing expectations. Hope in God, not people.  God is the meeter of your needs, not other people.  Sometimes He uses people, sometimes He doesn’t. But He often meets your needs in ways you don’t expect.
  • Recognizing that you are important, and everyone else is, too.  Life isn’t a competition, it’s a collaboration.

Our needs are 100% met by Christ.  Because of Him, we don’t have to hide, or hang on to anything or any person.

There is enough. There is more than enough. Our cup overflows. 

 And my God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

Once we accept the truth of God’s provision, we can take our eyes off ourselves and give as God would have us give–live as God would have us live.

Share with us: What are you doing to overcome your unhealthy coping mechanisms? How are you making room to let God in?

 

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Related posts: It’s not about you, or is it?, Be Still and Know That I Am God, Living Grace