Blog posts

Is there Me in Team? Coronavirus thoughts.

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I love team sports. I had kids so that I could be a soccer mom. Selfishly I can’t wait to host a carbo load. I love team sports because I believe that they teach kids important life lessons. I would have really benefited from being on a team.

I say that, because by nature, I am not a team player. Because of past trauma, I have a deep felt need for self preservation. My personality also feeds into that tendency. I can get really enamored with my own ideas and I hate to waste time. It is incredibly invigorating for me to come up with a good idea and just run with it.

It has never been more important than now to be a team player. In order to flatten the curve, we need to stay home. If not for us, we do it for the greater good.

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But it’s hard for me to think about the greater good when by 1:00 pm everyday I feel like I’m going to internally combust. I know it seems contrary, considering I have a suppressed immune system, but I’m really struggling to stick to the current shelter-in-place recommendations. I’m also an extrovert and an activator. I feel depression settling in when I’m home for more than 4 hours.

So the question I am asking myself is: How do I survive, or even thrive, in this season with the greater good in mind?

As I ask myself that question, I’m reminded of what it means to be a team player. I’ve heard over and over that there is no “I” or “me” in “team”. I understand what people are trying to say, but I disagree.

I say that because the thing about being on a team is that it is not about you, but at the same time it is all about you.

Let me explain.

Each player on the team has a role. In order to be a valuable player on a team you have to excel in that role. In order to be effective in that role, it is going to take a lot of work on your part. Your team can encourage you and cheer you on, but ultimately it’s up to you to do the work necessary to excel in your role on the team. The team is only as strong as its weakest link.

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So in this season, where we need to be a team more than ever, what do I need to do to excel in my role on this team?

For me….

I need to prioritize exercise. I’ve always valued exercising. But in this season, it is no longer just a priority, it’s a necessity. It stabilizes my mood and emotions. In order to be present and available for my kids I need to be in a good space emotionally. 

-I have to see one person a day that is not my immediate family. I go for daily walks with my neighbors, family and friends. We meet at a park and we walk 6 feet apart from each other. I connect with people this way so I don’t put myself or others in danger, but after I walk I’m able to appreciate my immediate family so much more. I’m just better afterwards. 

-I need to feel productive. I really value being productive, being efficient and adding value to the world. Right now, I can’t do those things in the same way I would like to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do those things at all. I have started asking God to give me names each day of people I should pray for and for people I should reach out to. I’ve also started making lists of things to do. I even put things on there I have to do each day like “brush your teeth”. It is very type A of me, but it also shows me what I have accomplished in a day. Without this I can so easily feel like I have wasted the day away.

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Those are some things I am recognizing that I need to do to add value to the team. Without those things, I am crabby, selfish and depressed – therefore I have nothing to contribute.

What do you need to do to excel in your role on the team?

To many this mindset seems counter intuitive, selfish even. I am not saying that we do what is best for us when it is best for us. That is selfish. No I am saying, with being a team player as the top priority, what do you need to do to excel in your role? What do you need to do to be a valuable player on your team?

You can’t just ask those questions of yourself. A good teammate is always asking his or her teammates how they can help or support them. A good teammate knows that the team is only as strong as its weakest link. A good teammate knows that no matter how hard they train, their efforts will be in vain if they are the only one training.

So take a minute and ask yourself, what do you need to be a valuable member of the team? What you need will not be what I need. After you have a few answers then go to your people, your team, and tell them what you need. Ask if it is something they can encourage and support. Ask for input and adjust as needed. Then ask what they need to succeed in their role. Ask them how you can support and encourage them. Make a game plan and commit to each other as a team.

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We are playing a new game that doesn’t have a playbook. We are learning our roles as we go. We are going to stumble. We are going to step on each other’s toes. But I believe if each day we show up ready to go, prepared to excel – we will win this game.

As a team.

Because there is more,

Lisa

 

What does grief look like? Coronavirus thoughts.

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My hope and prayer is that we can walk through this grief journey together, in real time, so we can come out on the other side – healthy, whole and ready for whatever is next.

Before moving forward I do want to note one thing. I talk about grief as if it is linear, it is not. It is dynamic. You can vacillate between the different phases within minutes, hours, weeks or months. But for the sake of clarity, I communicate it as if it were linear. So if you find yourself going in and out of different phases of grief, there is no need for alarm.

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A lot of people ask me how to know if they are grieving. Let me share about my emotions over the last few weeks. I hope my experiences will shed light into what grief may look like and where you are at in your own grief process.

Like most people, we had felt pretty distant and un-affected by COVID-19. We went to Duluth on vacation and had a nice time. We felt relaxed about the whole thing. Then something shifted in Bryan. He became concerned. He sat me down and told me that we shouldn’t go out anymore; we needed to quarantine ourselves. He told me the Coronavirus was much more serious than we thought. I actually think I laughed at him. Then I just started yelling. When I feel out of control, sometimes I just start yelling. If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I’m an 8. It doesn’t ever work out well when people tell me what to do. I’m also a 110% extrovert and I hate being at home. I thrive when I’m social. So when he told me that we had to stay home, it was like telling me I was going to die (No drama here).

For the next couple days I kept trying to explain to him I absolutely could not stay home and he read the recommendations wrong. There is no way that we, Americans, had to be quarantined – that only happened to other people in other countries. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contrary evidence.

That is what Denial looked like for me.

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For others it looked like people flocking to tourist destinations in New York City on the weekend even though the city is in a state of crisis.

For others it has looked like people going on with their lives like nothing has changed, trying to ignore the reality around them.

Does any of that resonate with you?

I am no longer in denial, I’m angry.

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I am aware that all of the things I feel angry about are very shallow when you look at the big picture. But I believe this minimizing mindset is what keeps people from grieving properly. I am very aware I have a lot to be grateful for. I hold my grief and my gratitude in the same space. But I need to grieve these things, because I lost them. If I don’t grieve these things now, it will come out sideways later.

Keeping that in mind…..

I am so angry this is happening. I was substitute teaching, so I no longer have an income. I’m angry I have to figure out another job.
I am angry that I have to homeschool my children. It is on the bottom of my list of things I ever wanted to do.
I’m angry I can’t go to the gym. Not only is exercising a lifeline for me, it’s a social outlet for me as well.
I’m angry I can’t meet up with my friends. Like I mentioned earlier, I am 110% extroverted, if I am alone for more than 4 hours I get depressed.
I’m angry my daughter can’t properly transition out of 5th grade into middle school.
I’m angry my anxious daughter now has something else to be anxious about.

Do you relate to any of that? How about these?

Are you angry that you still need to go to work, while thousands of other people have the opportunity to work from home?

Are you angry that what seemed liked a secure job two weeks ago is suddenly now up in the air?

I mention denial and anger specifically because my guess is that is where the majority of us have landed so far. I will continue to process through all the steps as we continue on this journey together.

So now what? What do we do with this information? What are some practical steps to keep us moving forward through this process?

First, take a pause and evaluate where you are at. Are you still in denial? Are you still trying to move forward as if nothing has changed? Or are you feeling more quick to react, like your angry reaction is just below the surface? Are you finding yourself angry about little, stupid things?

Name it. Naming something is a huge step towards healing. Knowing what stage in the grief process you are in will greatly accelerate your journey towards healing. Being able to give language to my struggle has always helped me take leaps towards healing.

Claim it. After I got back from getting the kids’ school supplies this week, I started to cry. Bryan came and tried to comfort me. I told him, I’m just really angry all of this is happening and I need to cry for 10 minutes. I cried for about 10 minutes and was able to move on with the day.

Then give it to Jesus. You will hear me say it again and again, grief is beautiful and God created it as a pathway to healing. Ask God to join you in your journey, he will meet you there. As I cried on the floor in the bathroom, I told God how angry I was that this was all happening – but that in the midst of it all I loved him and knew that he would make good out of bad. Then I got up.

Then do it again. As emotions rise up, stop and evaluate where you are at. Then name it, claim it, give it Jesus and repeat. Your emotions will begin to change, they won’t necessarily get easier – just different. That means you are making progress. Rejoice, take a deep breath and then start the process all over again.

We are going to get through this friends. We are going to get through this together, one step at a time. .

Lisa

Let’s grieve together: Coronavirus thoughts.

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As a writer I have been challenged to find my “niche”. People have access to so much information, so many stories, all the advice they ever wanted and every opportunity to be inspired. So I’ve asked myself….

Why do I write? What unique perspective do I have to offer a world who has all the inspiration and information at their fingertips?

Grief. 

Yup, grief.

I have asked God those two questions over and over again looking for a different answer. But each time I’ve asked, in my spirit I have heard him say “Speak to people about grief.”

I’ve always felt like that was such an unusual calling, but the last several days I have wondered if he has given me this passion for such a time as this.

I say that, because we have all lost so much, so fast. We have lost our world that felt safe from super viruses, rations and quarantines. We have lost our sense of normalcy, everything feels unsteady and unknown. We have lost our ability to see the people we love, in fear of making them sick. We have lost the life we had just a few weeks ago.

I have had a lot of opportunities to grieve in my life and I have not done it well. I have paid the price for that and so have the people I love. I want people to learn from my mistakes.

I want people to have a better understanding of what grief looks like in real life. It doesn’t just look like a weeping widow or a desperate mother. If you are looking, you can see in a person’s eyes or hear it in their tone. You can observe it in people’s shoulders or how they hold their gaze. If you are looking, you’ll see it all around you.

Especially right now.

The Coronavirus is still pretty new to us, so we are in the early stages of grief. Most of us are still in shock. My hope is that I can unpack the stages of grief in real time, so that we can avoid the bottled up effects of not grieving properly later.

You see, we need to experience these feelings now or they will come out sideways later.

For now, just take my word for it.

Last week I wrote about the importance of grieving. I’ve written extensively about my story (Transplant) and what grief has looked like in my life (start with Denial). I’m going to take some of those thoughts and reframe them in a way that can hopefully help us make sense of the emotions we are experiencing as a result of the Coronavirus.

But before we dive right in, I want to share a few basic thoughts I have around grief.

It’s beautiful. I love talking about grief. It is universal. Every human experiences it, whether they realize it or not. It’s completely predictable and unpredictable. God created it. He created it as a pathway to healing – a pathway to wholeness. Because God created it, he will meet us there. Grief gives us a glimpse of clarity in the midst of chaos.

You can trust Jesus and still grieve. After my transplant (Transplant) I believed I couldn’t be upset about what happened. I felt like grieving meant I wasn’t grateful. My world was black and white. When I felt sad, I felt like I was betraying God, Cheri (my donor) and her family. I was alive and someone literally had to die so I could live. What did I have to be sad about? I experienced an incredible breakthrough when I realized that I can be sad and grateful at the same time; it does not have to be one or the other.

Someone dying isn’t the only cause of grief. Grief comes after loss. You need to grieve loss. Again, I didn’t give myself permission to grieve early on because I didn’t die. In fact, it was the opposite, I felt I had risen from the dead! But I lost so much that day. I lost my life as I knew it. I lost my health. I lost my innocence. I lost my memories. I lost my body. I lost my world that felt safe and made sense. We also have all experienced a lot of loss in a short amount of time. Like I mentioned earlier, we have lost the world that felt safe from super viruses, rationing and quarantining. We have lost our jobs. We have lost our savings. We have lost our freedom to be out and about. We have lost control. And it is just the beginning.

After encountering loss, you will experience grief whether you realize it or not. That is the reason I want to start the conversation about grief now, so that as much as possible, we can navigate our feelings together in real time. Denial is the first phase of grief. It is our initial reaction to loss. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s also God’s protection. It can cause us to go into shock. It’s the adrenaline that allows us to plan funerals and give inspiring tributes in front of hundreds of people. Like I said, grief is beautiful and I strongly believe God designed denial as a protection. It allows us to get through those first few moments, few days or even months. But the problem is, a lot of people stay there. People may acknowledge their loss, but in their heart they can’t let go. They refuse to redecorate. They will not change routine. In my case, when I entered into denial – I didn’t take care of myself like I should have. I wanted to believe I still had a healthy 18 year old body. I didn’t care that I was more susceptible to skin cancer, I wanted a tan. I didn’t care that I needed more sleep, I didn’t want to miss out. Denial is designed as a defense mechanism, not a way of life. And unfortunately many of us live there, although exhausting, it feels safe. As I have mentioned, the problem with unresolved grief is that it will come out sideways later.

Unresolved grief will quickly surface in the presence of another person’s grief. There is an appropriate sadness that occurs when we hear of another’s loss. Then there is the unresolved grief response. Have you ever heard a story of someone else’s grief and all of a sudden you have been overwhelmed with deep sadness? Have past painful experiences quickly risen to the forefront of your mind as you listen to someone else’s story? It’s happened to me, more than once. The person that is sharing doesn’t even have to have a similar experience that I have had. I have tried to ignore those feelings, push them aside; I’m just being empathetic, right? Nope, these feelings are deeper. They rise up within you from a deep, dark place. Sit there, don’t ignore those feelings. Something doesn’t belong, that past experience hasn’t been processed and put in its proper place. Don’t be surprised that if in this season past pain resurfaces. I don’t know all the psychology behind it, but I do know that grief begets grief.

We are in uncertain times. We don’t have a playbook on how to navigate this. But we have been given a path, a path that brings clarity into the chaos and creates a pathway to healing and it’s called grief. God never promised that our journey would be easy, just that he would be with us on our travels. God created grief and will meet you there. You will see me there too, we are all in this together.

Lisa.

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How do you want to remember this season? Coronavirus thoughts.

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When I was a sophomore in college my boyfriend (not Bryan) broke up with me. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. I was sure that I was going to marry him. I remember sitting in a quiet space in the library (the most private place I could find a phone – cell phones were still pretty new and I didn’t have one) sobbing to my friend over the phone completely unaffected by the people that kept walking by giving me odd looks. For whatever reason this breakup was really hard on me. I felt so out of control, there was nothing I could do or say to change his mind (which I am super grateful for now). No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I needed something else to think about. I needed to refocus my thoughts.

I had probably done it before, but this is the first time I remember distinctly asking myself “What do I want to learn in this season?” “What do I want to accomplish?” What memories do I want to have when I look back at this season of life?” 

I decided I wanted to learn how to play guitar, so I convinced a friend of mine to give me free guitar lessons. I wanted to learn how to go rock climbing, so I decided to work as a Wilderness guide at a summer camp. Although that was a tough season of my life, I have great memories of sitting with my friends playing our guitars. I had a great summer as a Wilderness guide, I learned a ton and made lifelong friends. 

I am now grateful for that season. 

I have been in several seasons since where I’ve needed to ask myself those questions.

I feel like we all are in a similar place today. The Coronavirus has changed all of our lives forever. The Coronavirus is here and while there are ways to adapt, we cannot ignore its impact on the world. I don’t know about you but, if I let it, it can consume my thoughts. I need something else to think about. I need to refocus my thoughts. 

I’ve started to feel panicky the last two days as our new reality is starting to set in. Homeschooling my children is literally a nightmare to me. I’ve had to stop myself from going there and have started asking myself those same questions I did so many years ago “What do I want to learn in this season?” “What do I want to accomplish?” What memories do I want to have when I look back at this season of life?” 

I am still coming up with my answers, but here are a few I have come up with so far. 

• I have always been intrigued by P90X (workout program), but I don’t really like working out at home. Seeing that is my only option, I decided to give P90X a try. You guys- It’s killer!

• I want to learn the joy of taking walks. I generally don’t like taking walks, they feel inefficient. Why walk when you can run? My goal is to take one walk a day with a friend (6 feet apart obviously) and truly take in what’s going on around me. 

• I want to be present. I rarely just do one thing at a time. I want to fully present with my family. I want to listen. I want to say yes to my kids more often than not. I want to put my phone aside.

• I want to re-discover talking on the phone. I hate talking on the phone, but I hate feeling disconnected more. I don’t know that I can do it every day, but I want to call someone just to talk a couple times a week. 

• I want to update and upgrade my blog. I want to write a backlog of blog posts. My goal is to write at least an hour a day. 

This is what I have come up with so far. None of these goals are crazy or unattainable, but they are just enough to give me something else to focus on. I need that. Because I don’t know about you, but the minute I let my thoughts roam, I get very overwhelmed. 

So as we enter the weekend, take some time to ask yourself those questions. When you look back, what do you want to remember about this season? 

You will still grieve. It is still going to be hard. Life will be different. But I don’t know about you, but those are not the things I want to remember. 

I want to remember going on walks with my friends. 

I want to remember pressing into my calling in a deeper way. 

I want to remember investing in my relationships in creative ways. 

I want to remember reconnecting with people near and far.

I want to remember intentional, life giving time with my kids. 

How do you want to remember this season? 

We are in this together!

Lisa

Grief. Coronavirus thoughts.

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Oddly, I feel like I might have a few helpful thoughts as we navigate this new reality. There have been several times in my life where I have felt like the life I knew and loved was quickly taken a way from me. Over the next several weeks, I am going to share few thoughts on loss, anxiety, grief and more in the context of the coronavirus.  I’m not going edit my posts or try to polish them up, I’m just going to share what is on my heart. You will all learn how really horrible I am at spelling and grammar.

I have been consistently surprised over the last several days by people’s reactions towards the Coronavirus. My husband who tends to be relaxed and positive, is really feeling the gravity of the situation. A friend of mine who can make anything into a party is breaking down in tears several times through out the day. I, who struggle with anxiety and health trauma, have not been afraid of the Coronavirus at all. I am much more irritated by not being able to go to the gym and that I can’t hang with my friends. As our new realities set in, these feelings will evolve and change.

You see, we are all grieving.

If you read my blog, you know that I am passionate about grief. I believe that God has created grief as a pathway to healing. Grief is our bodies natural reaction to death and loss.

And in case you didn’t notice – we have experienced a lot of loss in a very short amount of time.

Are you in shock? Do you feel like you are moving through the world with your eyes wide open, taking one step at a time – not really sure what is happening?

Are you denial?  Are you moving forward acting like nothing is changing around you?

Are you angry? Are you finding yourself lashing out to the people around you for no apparent reason?

Do you feel depressed? Are you struggling to find a reason to get out of bed?

Are you bargaining, wondering what we all did wrong? Are you trying to come up with a plan for this to all go away?

Or have you already moved to a place where you have accepted the fact that things will never to be same?

We are grieving.

There is a very good chance that you will experience all these emotions over the next days, weeks and months. You may experience them all within seconds, minutes or hours.

My encouragement to you is that when you find yourself in those places, take a pause. Feel the feelings. Sit in them for a minute. Ask God to join you there, he will meet you. He is committed to your healing and he has created a path for you to do so. It’s called grief.

Friends, life will never be the same. We have lost the world that once knew; the world that felt safe from things like super viruses, quarantines and rationing. We need to grieve that loss. I know that in my life when I have taken the time to grieve, it’s always been worth it. It’s not worth it because it’s easy or even because things are necessarily better on the other side. It’s worth it because after I grieve, I can see the beauty in the ashes. I see light in the darkness.

And not only that, after I grieve, I’m a little bit more ready for whatever comes next on the other side.

I pray that you will all experience a peace that passes all understanding in this uncertain time.

Lisa

I failed less this time…..

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“All day, every day, I have to fight off negative thoughts.” This was one of the most powerful things I didn’t know I needed to hear. It was profound, yet so simple. One of my favorite speakers said this and as she shared I was reminded – she is human. No matter how much I respect her, she is not perfect. In spite of her struggles, God is using her.

I was impacted by it for a couple different reasons. First, I can easily buy into the lie that in order to walk out my calling, I have to have everything figured out.

Second, I don’t like to admit struggle when I’m still in the trenches. We all often wait until we are on the other side of the struggle. Waiting allows us to communicate our struggle in the past tense.

We do that because it’s scary. It is a lot more vulnerable to speak about something you are currently struggling with than something you have reframed, repackaged and have control over. I’m realizing I do this more than I would like to admit.

In order to combat that, and encourage you to do the same, I’m going to tell you about my week.

I have a lot of anxiety around traveling. My trauma taunts me before I leave telling me something terrible is going to happen. And why wouldn’t it? Horrible things have happened several times before. Anxiety stirs up my stomach so much that before I even leave my IBS is in full force (I know TMI). My IBS causes me to feel nauseous, which is an anxiety trigger for me. On top of that I have a daughter who is anxious and doesn’t do great with traveling either. And as much as I attempt a peaceful exterior, she knows. So I have to try hard to not be anxious for her…which causes more anxiety. I get angry that I can’t just be anxious, but that I have to try to control my anxiety for her. Then I just get mad. It’s a vicious cycle.

A week ago I headed out of town on a four day, three night school trip with Piper’s grade. I rode separately, but close behind were 3 buses full of 5th graders. I had never been there. I didn’t trust the kitchen staff to accommodate my dietary needs. I was already behind on sleep. It helped that Bryan was along for the trip, but by my anxiety cycle was already in full force. Piper started the day in good spirits, but I knew all it would take was a sideways glance to push her over the edge.

It was cold. I didn’t get enough sleep. I was pleasantly surprised by the food. I had a lot of fun getting to know the kids. I had to take a lot of deep breaths. My thoughts would start to spin and several times I had to bring myself back to the present, to ground myself to reality. Piper did better than I thought. Overall, it was actually easier than I thought.

We returned home and then, after a 24 hour turn around, Cole and Bryan left for a weekend retreat. I felt really vulnerable when they left. The trip was better than I expected, but I was exhausted.

I also struggle when Bryan leaves town. As with traveling, my trauma taunts me before he leaves. Lies bombard me telling me that something terrible is going to happen to us or to him while he is away. When they left, I felt myself getting anxious and angry. I was angry at Bryan for going to the retreat right after we got back. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I also knew it meant another 2 days for me to struggle to maintain normalcy. I was angry that anger was my reaction.

Piper and I had a great weekend. We rented movies, got special treats and even got pedicures. But I was weary. I prayed all weekend that I wouldn’t be angry at Bryan when he got home. But when Bryan and Cole got home, I failed. I was angry.

I woke up discouraged on Monday. I was angry at myself. I was frustrated with my reaction toward Bryan. I was tired of the cycle I so often find myself in. I wanted to be done with the fight. I felt like a fake. I felt like if people knew my current struggles, any respect I have earned would be wiped away.

But then you know what I did? At that moment, I dropped to my knees and let go. I couldn’t do Monday in my own strength. I forced myself to worship, even though I didn’t feel like it. I read the bible even though I didn’t want to. I poured my heart out to God, all the good and the bad.

And as the day went on, my discouragement began to fade. I was able to acknowledge that in the midst of a week that wasn’t perfect and one full of imperfect reactions – I had some wins to celebrate. The week was a success. It was a success because I was less anxious than last time. I was less angry at Bryan than I was the time before. I had more fun with Piper. And I didn’t let my fear win. It wasn’t easy, but I did it all anyway. And because of that I won.

I share my story with you for a couple of reasons. First, as I mentioned, I felt compelled to share this because I think we need to stop waiting to share our wins until everything is wrapped up in a nice, perfect bow. I think we need to rejoice with people in the afternoon after they struggle to get out of bed in the morning. We need to celebrate when we react differently, even if it’s just one time, than we ever had before. We need to humbly declare when we are doing something hard that currently feels incredibly uncomfortable. We need to invite people into our struggle today, in the midst of it all.

When I have done this, two powerful things happen. One, my vulnerability often draws out vulnerability from others. As I share my current struggles, people almost always respond in kind. Grace abounds and we no longer feel alone in the world. There is nothing more beautiful than being fully known, yet fully loved.

Second, there is something about brokenness and humility that welcomes the Holy Spirit. I can’t totally explain why, but I know that God draws close to the broken hearted. When I am truly honest in my brokenness with another human being, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Honesty and brokenness create space for the Holy Spirit to move in my midst.

So I encourage you to try it. Don’t take my word for it. Make a call. Send a text. Be honest, truly honest. Celebrate your win today, tell someone about it. Be honest with your struggle, today. It will be hard, but do it anyway. See what happens, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

I also share about my week in hopes that it will serve as a graceful reminder. Take a deep breath in the presence of these truths – you do not have to be perfect for God to use you. You just need to be humble and willing. You’re human, not perfect. God’s still at work in you.

Failing forward,

Lisa

Identity crisis

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Last week (Lies) we talked about lies and how the lies we believe about ourselves keep us from seeing ourselves as God does. After you take some time to identify the lies that have kept you from seeing yourself more clearly….

We then need to take a look at where we are finding our identity. 

Before diving in, let’s establish our definition of identity. It’s one of those words that we innately understand, yet struggle to define. According to Merriam Webster, identity is “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” It’s who we are at our core. It’s the place from where we make our decisions. The definition itself does not sound complicated, but most people I know (myself included) do not find their identity to be simple and straightforward. It feels complicated and unsteady. It feels like it’s always evolving and changing. 

It feels that way because we tend to find it in the wrong places. 

We all find our identity in a variety of places. We are defined by who our friends are, how good we are at a sport or our job title. We are defined by the roles we assume and the parts that we play. 

I tend to find my identity in my job.

When I was 13, I felt a strong calling from God into vocational ministry (meaning I get paid to do ministry). No matter how much I give my time and talents to others, if I’m not getting paid for it, I can easily feel insignificant and insecure. It’s like if I’m not getting paid to do ministry, I feel like I’m wasting my life and my calling.

I’m currently in a job transition. Because I don’t want to act out of impulse or desperation, I decided I would substitute teach while I waited for what was next. Every time someone asks me what I do for work, I pause and have to bite my tongue. I want to go into a 20 minute explanation of why I am substitute teaching and make sure they know it is just temporary. But then I take a deep breath and say with as much confidence as I can “I am a substitute teacher.” Period. No explanation. I know there is nothing wrong with being a substitute teacher. I only have to work 2 days a week and I have full control over my schedule. But somewhere down the line I started to believe if I was not getting paid to do ministry, then I didn’t match up. My identity has become rooted in my job status. 

I also find my identity in being a runner. I am proud of my accomplishments as a runner and my identity is deeply tied to my ability to run. When I can’t run, I feel lost. I also tend to link my identity to my parenting. My joy and happiness rises and falls on the accomplishments and behaviors of my children – the good and the bad.

It’s okay for me to enjoy running, to have a passion to serve in ministry or a desire to be a good parent. It becomes a problem when my value as a person rises and falls based on the failures and successes of those things in which I have placed value. When that happens, it is a sign to me that I have replaced my value with what I value.   

Let me give you an example. Say that you have always been the best runner on the team. For whatever reason, you have a rough season. You could react one of two ways. 1. You could feel sad and disappointed, which are natural and acceptable emotions. You feel disappointed about the season, but you don’t feel disappointed in yourself. You value running, but your value isn’t based on you being a runner. 2. You could be devastated and feel like you are a failure. You quit. You feel like if you can’t win, you probably shouldn’t try. That is a sign that you have placed your value on what you value. 

 It’s no wonder our identity feels complicated and unsteady. It feels that way because we have placed our value on things that are uncertain, evolving and ever changing. In doing that we smudge our lenses. We stop seeing ourselves as God does, instead we see ourselves through the lenses of the roles we assume and the parts we play. 

And we will continue to feel that way until our identity is rooted in the one who does not change. This is the one who is certain, consistent and true. 

Jesus. 

So how do we know when we have a misplaced identity? And how do we find our identity in Christ?

First, check your filters. I believe that God has given us two different filters to use as we seek to find the truth:

1. Our emotions. Yes, our emotions. Our anger, our discouragement, and our despair can be our teachers. Let’s use the previous running example. You had a bad season. Do you feel disappointed or sad? Those are appropriate emotions. Do you feel depressed and useless? If so, you have probably set your value on something you value. Our emotional reactions are a direct result of the condition of our heart. Let your reactions and your emotions help guide you. 

2. God’s word. He tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. He has promised us that he has a purpose and a plan for our lives. He has given us the power over fear and he has called us his friend. He says that we are more than conquerors and that in him we are new creations. Those are just a few of the many ways God sees us. So when we feel contrary to God’s truth about ourselves, it’s time to take note. Somewhere along the way we started to internalize a lie or misplacef our value. In turn, our lenses got smudged. When that happens, we no longer can see ourselves like God does. 

After checking your filters, it’s time to get to work.

Romans 12:2 tells us “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Renew is an action word. I think as Christians we often read God’s word and want whatever we read to just happen. But more often than not, we have to put the work in. Renew means to replace something old. It’s super hard work. But in order to see ourselves like God does, we have to replace the lies and values that we have allowed to smudge our lenses and replace them with the truth about who God says we are. To do that, we start by using the filters. Again, ask yourself, what  are your emotions revealing to you about the lies you believe? What are your reactions communicating to you?  How do your feelings about yourself match up with the truth in God’s word? 

Write down what you notice. Make a list. List out all the things that are smudging your view. Then next to them, write the truth.

Example:

Lie: I feel like a failure. Truth: I made a mistake but I am fearfully and wonderfully made

Lie: I am too scared. Truth: I do NOT have to live under the spirit of fear. I am more than a conqueror. 

Carry your list around. Pause through the day and run things through the filters. And then speak truth to those lies. Remind yourself where your value lies. Then do that again – and again – and again until you find that you are no longer looking at yourself with smudged lenses. You will start to see someone who is fearfully and wonderfully made, who does not live under the spirit of fear, who is more than a conqueror, a friend of God, full of purpose – a new creation. 

And when you start to see that person, then you will know that you are starting to see yourself like God does.

Let’s continue to seek 20/20 vision together,

lisa