It's a word we may use to describe someone… maybe their physical strength… maybe their ability to overcome any obstacle, heartache or challenge in their life… despite any roadblocks they press onward with strength and to others perhaps sheer astonishment not just survive but thrive and overcome.
It was a little after three o'clock in the afternoon, I'd picked my daughter up from school and we were driving to the store to pick up a few essentials we needed… milk, bread and some chocolate syrup… that does count as an essential, right? As I drove along the busy main road passing chain restaurants and big box stores like Sam's I heard a small voice call out from the backseat behind me.
"Daddy always says my hair looks ugly when I don't wear anything in it like a headband." she told me.
My hands gripped the wheel tightly in silent response and almost reflexively I pursed my lips… concentrating on my driving… slowing to a stop at the red light I rolled up the windows to turn on the air and then glanced in the rearview mirror at her sitting in the backseat. Dressed in her white polo shirt and slacks she looked out her window with a troubled expression crossing her little face.
"Did he say 'ugly'?" I asked in a neutral tone… "I mean, specifically 'ugly'?" I added.
The word "UGLY" spun like a loop in my head and I sat in shock by his words to her.
"Yes!" she responded with great force and nodded at me. "He says it's ugly when I don't have anything in it."…. then added "I mean… he doesn't even hardly have hair!" she exclaimed with great observation, throwing her hands up in the air... obviously having noticed the irony of the interaction between her and her father… including the difference in hairs on their heads.
With my back to her I couldn't help but silently affirm how true her point was…
With a deep breath I pressed the gas pedal when the light changed to green. Turning down the volume on the radio slightly I spoke slowly...
"Sweet pea, you are absolutely beautiful. Your hair is beautiful. Your hair is never ugly. Sometimes people use a poor choice of words. I believe this was one of those times. Your hair nor you are ugly. Remember that." I told her.
It was later that evening we went on a walk… to get outside and enjoy the fresh evening air. It had drizzled earlier and the streets were damp from the rain… occasional drops of water escaped the bright green foliage on the trees overhead and touched down on us like happy drops from Heaven as we walked. Children on bikes and scooters played in their driveways nearby as we passed by calling out hello to them. My daughter took long strides and her ponytail bobbed out from her well loved pink baseball cap. In her small hand she held a mini water bottle and as we strode at a quick pace I spoke…
"You know what?" I asked her.
"What?" she answered back.
"You know what I think is really beautiful? I think strength is beautiful. I believe being physically strong, being strong in what you believe in like morals and God... even humbly but fiercely believing in yourself... can all be seen as beautiful. Being beautiful isn't just about your looks or your hair, you know... or what you have on." I told her as our feet hit the pavement in sync with one another.
"Yep!" she agreed with a bob of her honey brown head and I smiled with affection for her.
It's imperative that girls today realize how beautiful being strong is. Beautiful isn't just about a pretty face. We as a society tend to place a woman's worth solely based on her beauty... with diets, shape wear and weight loss pills being promoted to women along with photoshop as does the fashion and model industry... women are often being deemed worthy or beautiful based on their waist width and breast size alone. But we know that does women such a disservice.
From the beginning of time in a little girls life we coo and exclaim how "beautiful" she is... of course she's beautiful... but that's not the entire picture by a long shot.
She's beautiful when it comes to strength... to pumping weights, to running and breaking a sweat… and giving birth. She's beautiful when it comes to speaking up, reaching out and spurring change in the world. She's beautiful when she is strong for those who don't have a voice and say what needs to be said even if it's not popular. She's undeniably beautiful when she is pushing herself to the next goal no matter how seemingly unreachable. She's beautiful when she sings the Lord's praises and speaks to Him in thankful gratitude. She's a pillar of beautiful strength when she tells someone God loves them when they've never been told and that they don't for a minute deserve the abuse they've endured.
A woman of strength holds her own... she is firm when someone attempts to invalidate her experiences. She doesn't accept the refutes regarding what she knows truly happened. She leads others to a place of beauty, of healing, of encouragement and affirmation. She shows strength in leadership and discards doubt when it tries to creep in... she lets go of insecurities and the absurdities in life that crop up... she says "yes" to taking charge and doesn't entertain being called "bossy" for it. She says "yes" to love and no to fear because where one exists the other rarely if ever can.
She is clothed in a vest of goodness and yet strikes with fierce determination in all she does. She may stumble occasionally yet she doesn't wallow in the puddles of life but instead leaps back up and keeps going. She gives hope to those who have been hurt, she shares her story to bridge the gap between herself and a stranger... she knows the importance of not just telling her daughter she's strong but that she's beautifully strong...
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
It's the big day…
You're moving in with your boyfriend.
I was there…
I did that…
and let me tell you... I was so misinformed.
When life became way more unbearable than I could bear…
Living under the same roof with my father (a second time) became increasingly frustrating to put it mildly and becoming pregnant I hightailed it to Colorado to reside with my boyfriend (one day ex-husband). I look back at that time period now and wish I had made much different choices than what I unfortunately did.
One of them would be to have not moved in with him.
One lesson I would share with young women that I've personally learned is that we often erroneously believe that moving in together before marriage doesn't hurt anyone… that it really doesn't matter. I wore an engagement ring on my left hand he had promptly placed there after learning news of my pregnancy… the illusion of wearing an engagement ring makes it almost a "sealed deal"… in your mind you're almost "there"… but in reality not really. That misconception is so far from the truth… you're not married. You're not husband and wife. You're not two who have become one before God.
The truth is…
living together before marriage
is like a flip off to God…
living together tells Him:
Your vows mean nothing.
Your word means nothing.
Your sanctity of marriage means nothing.
It bleeds of flesh and pride…
It says "I know better."
It says "I don't care."
It says "Oh, it will be fine"
It says "I'll do whatever I want."
The thing is… many couples today may erroneously believe they are moving in together out of convenience… namely financial convenience. We may think that living together means pooling our resources and saving for the wedding, for our first home, etc. But instead it actually puts the cart before the horse.
If the couple's intention is to "give things a try" like test driving a new car you're considering purchasing… this path will likely lead to a dead end… and unfortunately your relationship to crash and burn. The first months together in any newly wedded blissful state is typically the most passionate filled time period there is… this is the honeymoon period, after all. But when we dive right into the state of living together we've then taken away that precious time together to bond as husband and wife. As you get to know each other better both in the bedroom and out of it, the monotony of life will soon set in… and this could lead to complacency to set in.
There have been reports that couples who live together
before marriage tend to have higher divorce rates.
Living together before marriage doesn't line up with God's ultimate plan for marriage and in fact detracts from it. Living together puts "Me" and "Flesh" before God and His desires for us. Scripture tells us that we are not to look out for "self' but instead to live selflessly.
1 Corinthians 13
Both Christians and non-Christians have taken the big step of sharing space… sharing a bed and bathroom before the marital vows are exchanged. At often their own detriment it can also mean these couples unwittingly allow their partner to not commit… to instead put off the ultimate commitment of love.
I would advise men and women today that no matter how incredibly excited you are to begin that new chapter… to walk that new journey hand in hand… to just take a pause… slow down and realize… this time in your life is very special… what's the rush? To hurry such a sweet time as the precious months leading up to your "I do's" is not allowing yourselves to savor these wonderful moments.
You get one chance to do it right the first time…
In this modern world God's ways may seem outdated…
but they truly never are…
His word stands the test of time as you want your marriage to.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
some names have been omitted in this post
I sat watching my son's indoor soccer game from the top tier of the bleachers. Seeing that he was being switched with a different player I went back to the flashcards I was studying for one of my final exams. Focusing on the handwritten index cards I then heard a roar of applause and cheers from the crowd of parents surrounding me. In the distance on the opposite side there were groans and angry parents tapping on the glass barrier yelling instructions to their children on the field. Why did parents think that did any good? I thought to myself… if anything it takes away from the coach's instructions and distracts the children trying to play. It's just a game, folks… I thought to myself and tried to refocus on my cards. But glancing up... I saw him.
Strolling along the glass toward my direction already looking at me.
Our eyes met.
I tried to avert my eyes but he (the ex) continued to walk toward me.
Why doesn't he stay away? I thought, irritated. Yet here he predictably comes over to me like a rabid dog that won't go away.
He saunters over…
"Hey…" he says a little too chirpy.
"Hey" I reply neutrally but less than enthused.
My allergies start going crazy for whatever reason and my eyes begin watering. The place stinks of mustiness and sweat. But I take a guess that I'm allergic to him instead.
He looks closely at me "You okay?" he asks.
"Yeah" I tell him, quickly blinking and wishing my eyes would clear and nose would stop like it was about to runaway.
"Really? Are you sure?" he presses and looks closely at me with scrutiny "Because you don't look it."
He adds with a tone flecked with obvious fake concern.
Uh huh… I think to myself... you're just the poster boy of empathy and concern… too bad no one but your mother believes it.
"I'm fine" I tell him, wondering what venom he's come over to spew at me now. Because he wants face to face time he must be low on supply, I surmise… he must need some attention like a withering plant that needs to be watered. He needs to be fed. He must have just been dumped or scorned by someone today.
He begins blathering on about something related to the kids… who knows… it's a circular spiel of sociopathy-something that never makes it to it's final destination… the train never arrives to the station… the point is never made. I glance at my watch not because it's battery works (because those of us with ADHD know time means nothing to us and we don't wear watches to read the time but for jewelry) but to make a point to him that my time is extra valuable when he's infringing on it so get to the point and wrap it up already.
He finally begins summing up whatever it is and gestures to the flashcards.
"So… what are you doing?" He asks with curiosity.
"Studying" I tell him "I have tests to take."
"Ohhh… I just assumed you gave up on that" he replied with a tone of pity.
Irritation rose inside and I wanted to react to him but instead I just shook my head and said cooly "No… no, not at all" I replied… carefully controlling my response as neutral in tone.
He stares at the flashcards in my hands and steps back a step for grand effect and exclaims "Wow… that's great." He says as he crosses his arms, nodding "I had no idea. So you're really doing this…" his face breaks into a smile that is forced and looks painful "That's great! Wow… I have to say… I'm proud of you."
This coming from the man who once said:
"I make your life possible!"
This coming from the man who once said:
"If it wasn't for marrying me you'd have gone from
one bad relationship to another and probably stripped for a living."
This coming from the man who once said:
"You're mine. I own you."
This coming from the man who once said:
"A man is never nice to a woman just to be nice…
it's always because they want something."
You're a liar. I thought, recoiling inside. You wanted me on the street with nothing. You behave like a pitiful excuse for a human being, an empty shell of a person who has zero empathy or endearment towards anyone. A man who feels nothing but emptiness inside and will sadly swing from one relationship to another the rest of his life to fill that empty need that is burning to be squelched within. Who will say he's "in love" with each woman he dates not because he is in love with her but becausehe loves how she makes him feel about himself. She will be his temporary ego enhancer, his fleeting lucky charm, his of-the-moment embellishment of radiance.
I don't need your compliments.
I don't need your affirmations.
I don't need your accolades and praises.
I don't need any of it.
I know I will make it.
Because I have faith.
I have determination.
And because every time I feel like throwing in the towel and quitting
I jump back in the race to press forward…
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
if a sociopath is suddenly nice to you after you've already
been discarded by him/her their about to pull something.
Don't fall for his/her sudden niceness, because it's a facade
The Sociopath has three stages they put their target through.
When the sociopath first meets you the facade he puts on is a pure sham that only benefits him. The idealization stage is the first stage and it's the one where he objectifies you not as a person but as a shiny charm that makes him look good to the outside world. The intense interest he has in you is not deep nor rooted in love but of shallowness and he sees you as disposable. The time a sociopath spends on you in this stage depends on how long he can manipulate you, how long he can use you… it could be two years, it could be five… but many marriages that involve a sociopath are ten plus years. During the initial idealization stage he has charmed his way into your heart and life. He has been sweet talking, listening, doting and caring. He has been your solid rock and your fixer to any problems or woes. He has professed his "undying love" to you and you have zero reason to believe he'd ever leave you.
Slowly over time, unbeknownst to you… he begins the devaluing stage. This is the stage where he begins giving you just enough attention, affirmation, encouragement, etc to keep you hooked like a pill user but eventually you will come to find it's jagged… because it's alternated with bouts of emotional abuse… abuse like put down's and open criticism… checking out other women and saying things like "I can look at the menu, I just can't order off it", telling you that you "look terrible", screaming at you with exasperation and storming off, losing his patience… or maybe he seems on edge or drives passive aggressively to intimidate you behind the wheel… maybe he divides your unity as parents towards the children and doesn't stand beside you on important issues regarding the kids schooling, behavior and moral upbringing… perhaps he's speaking crassly to you and groping you inappropriately… maybe he's suddenly drinking and driving, getting speeding tickets or suddenly gambling, drinking, etc. You stand confused wondering what's going on… but you're so hungry… maybe you begin to feel like a hungry desperate rat… waiting for that blasted tiny crumb… to get it from him already… waiting for that fix…. that tiny morsel of sweet attention… that you hang on and wait anxiously for it to appear again… because you continue to your own detriment to think back on how he was when you initially met and can't for the life of you figure out why oh why isn't he like that still?
He continues dishing out alternative meals of sweetness and toxic poison and you waffle back and forth in confusion… like a squirrel running in circles, you're not able to put your finger on what is going on… this isn't who you picked out… yet you can still see glimpses of the man you first met, dated and married… so you keep doubting yourself… you keep chalking your doubts up to maybe "you're just too sensitive"… or maybe "you really do just need to relax"… as he may keep telling you. Maybe you need to focus more on making him happy… so you now throw yourself into the relationship that is dying like a wounded animal along the side of the highway. You find yourself taking more and more abuse and yet in some way you're desperate… anxiously hoping he's going to change back, that all this will turn around and you may even naively believe you have the ability to magically change it all on your own. I know…. because I was there. I know firsthand that feeling… that "if I just do this"… or "if I can just do that…" but no… it's not gonna happen. This is a sinking ship.
The third and final stage is the discarding stage. By now you are so deep in, you've invested so many years… you've "been through so much" leading up to this point in time you likely just can't imagine throwing in the towel. But now… it's openly bad. It's openly ugly. It's openly a war zone. You can feel the hate toward you coming off him like peeling paint. He reveals his true feelings toward you completely and you frighteningly realize his "love" for you was never ever real. It was a facade of fake and carefully construed emotions to reel you in like a fish and then once he used up all of the goody in you he tossed you aside like nothing. By now you may feel exhausted, spent… you may feel like a hundred years old and not recognize yourself in the mirror any longer. Maybe your health has suffered, you're now living with a chronic condition or you've yo-yo'ed on your weight for years because of all the continual stress and living on eggshells. Maybe you've developed anxiety, ptsd or have panic attacks. Perhaps you feel stupid for falling for his tricks and deceit… maybe you chastise yourself for having self esteem that low… and yet you vaguely remember a girl once upon a time that was vibrant, confident and secure in who she was… not the person you know now… that feels unsure, that questions, that self doubts and is reliant on him.
He blames you for the relationship ending. He takes zero responsibility for what he's done. Maybe he's cheated, maybe he's lied on his taxes, maybe he's a sex offender, maybe he's a gambler, an alcoholic and abusive physically. Maybe he doesn't pay the bills, he doesn't work or maybe he "re-structures" his job so he can take a cut in pay. No matter what he's done… what he's lied about, orchestrated behind your back or done to you and your children… he blames you for it.
If you're able to discard him before he executes his plan to discard you… beware. It will be a triumphant walk away from him yet it comes with a price… as he will be doubly furious he was snookered… of all people by you. And he will begin his vendetta against you for it… using any means he can… typically involving lying about your character to others, spending down your money through court costs or using your children against you in retaliation.
If he discards you… let him.
You've lost nothing.
You can't lose something you never had to begin with.
His love was non-existent.
It was all a lie. He will put the next woman (and the next woman) through the same three stages in his next relationship.
Consider yourself blessed to be away from him.
Consider yourself blessed to have a fresh start.
Consider yourself blessed to be in the next most important stage of your life…
As a little girl my most beloved grade school book was Charlotte's Web. The story was touching as it showed true friendship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig. Charlotte was loyal to Wilbur to the very end and Wilbur never forgot her short presence in his life. It's a classic tale of friendship, yes… but also empathy. Charlotte put herself in Wilbur's position and knew his potential untimely demise at the hands of the farmer could be prevented if she intervened selflessly on his behalf. We know if she was in his place she would hope he'd do the same for her. Which we know by Wilbur's loving character he surely would have.
When it comes to our children I believe any good parent would wish for the gift of empathy for their child. Empathy in children leads to becoming adults who care for others, who can make decisions with careful thought… they are better equipped to decide what is best for themselves but also weigh their choices out of respect toward others feelings… yet in that, to not go the other extreme and become people pleasers. We all want our children to grow up to be strong… to be resilient against bullies, against peer pressure and narcissistic sociopaths. Yet in that we don't want them to become hardened like some people in the world… we want them to have a healthy balance… and realize that although there are a few bad apples out there, for the most part people are good… and it's important to have empathy toward others.
A narcissistic sociopathic parent typically chooses between his children. He may make one the golden child (preferred), one the black sheep (discarded) and any others may fall by the wayside. A sociopathic parent doesn't have empathy… it's like he has a glitch in his system. He is not capable of love and placing himself in someone else's shoes…. to imagine what they must feel when enduring a hurt, offense, loss, etc. Since he's not capable of showing empathy his children suffer as well. This is why it's so essential for the healthy functioning parent to teach empathy as much as possible… in the hopes the sociopath's harmful behaviors can be overridden by the healthy functioning parent.
Here are three tips in helping instill empathy in your child…
1. Read To Your Child:
Think back on the childhood stories you read and I bet you'll see some similar themes in what they taught… empathy. Charlotte's Web, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little House, The Giving Tree are just a few that you can read to your child aloud at bedtime and then discuss. Encourage your child to think about the individual characters and how they likely feel about their experiences… ask them questions to get them thinking: "How do you think Wilbur felt when Charlotte died?" Doing this opens the door for kids to go on to more in depth discussions related to hurts, loss and death.
2. Stop Rewarding:
You may think you read that wrong. You may be thinking… "What? Stop rewarding good behavior?" It's fine to reward a child now and then… but to go and reward a child for helping someone else, for doing something kind, is just plain counterintuitive. It's telling them: "Here's a reward for what you did that should have been from the heart." Rewarding children for doing acts of kindness toward others sets up expectation i.e.; let's make a deal type thinking and "you owe me", versus giving freely as we should do and as God would want.
3. Model Empathy:
Think of ways you can model acts of kindness toward others that involve your children. Maybe it's putting together small bags of goodies for his or her classmates at Christmas or "just because". Maybe it's baking brownies for your mail carrier along with a sweet handwritten note. Perhaps it's washing your elderly neighbors car or planting flowers in the empty pots on their porch. Think of small ways you can add beauty to someone else's day and then involve your child. Afterward talk about how much it made your neighbor smile and how nice it is to help others.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
I see you sitting there worried and I know this journey you are about to embark on likely seems really daunting... I know you are probably feeling pretty scared right now. I also know that it's often the unknown that elicits the most fear in us... wondering how this will all turn out. This is will be a bumpy ride, it will. I can't and won't promise otherwise. There may be days you want to smash the picture of the two of you. There may be days you want to "decorate" your wedding album. There may be days you want to go to the shooting range and get some aggression out. There may be days you just want to drive and think... and doing that requires you using up an entire tank of gas to do just that. There may be days you sob that this was how it all turned out and yet you wonder if doing anything differently would have helped or mattered. There may be days you overeat Ben n Jerry's, donuts, beer and fried chicken and feel like a glutton. There may be days you buy all new sheets and towels and anything else that strikes your fancy just. because. you. can.
There may be days you miss him or who you thought he was or maybe who you wanted him to be and yet there may be days you know it's great he's gone. There may be days you want to spill your guts to your friends and cry... there may be days you want to talk about anything but him. There may be days you are met with kindness and there may be days you are ignored. There may be people who want to know the details so they can let you vent and help any way possible and yet there may be those who listen merely to share it with others and drop you like a hot potato.
There may be days you feel like a failure and there may be days you are reminded of the truth: you. are. not. a. failure. You are a strong person. You may hear people say that those who divorce took the easy way out. Their wrong. That couldn't be any further from the truth. You've been strong a very long time. And going through a divorce means gearing up for battle... it's long, arduous and costly... and it's an emotional roller coaster no one weak gets on. You may be a different person when you come out on the other side. You may be jaded, you may be less trusting, you may find yourself questioning everything and everybody... pray they will be patient with you. Remember this time and how you felt and more than likely you will become even more compassionate toward others. You may find yourself wanting to become isolated. If you find yourself beginning to pull away from friends and not getting out... that's a sign it's time to schedule something social... it's a sign you're struggling and it's okay... your true friends want to be there for you... let them listen and help you.
You may feel judged and whispered about and you may hear "I'll pray for you" and yet never hear from them again... this is a crucial time in your life... you will find out so much. You will learn who your true friends are. You will discover how loyal your bestie is. You will learn how kind your neighbors are. You will see if your attorney is going to weather the storm beside you and fight... you will find out how our court system works and may come to be miserably disappointed in the human race as a whole.
You may have times you simply must talk to someone because you're beyond exasperated and no one is around to listen. You may sob in the shower and regret ever meeting what's-their-face. You may swear off men. You may swear off women. You may swear off marriage. You may swear off love in the romantic sense.
You may have to hear about how your soon-to-be ex has met someone new and they are "so in love" and it sends you into fits of gagging and eye rolling. You may run into your ex-in-laws and wonder why you ever chose that family.
You may be shopping one day and while picking out a package of unblemished strawberries at the market sense someone watching you... looking up you see someone checking you out. You may find yourself smiling back. Or maybe you find yourself thinking "Ew. Get away. So. not. ready."
You may think "This will never end..." but it will. This too shall pass... one day you will look back and realize that yes, it was a long bumpy road but guess what?
You made it.
And not just survived.
But you're stronger.
What you went through has contributed to who you are now.
You're a victor.
You pushed through.
You pressed forward.
Now who are you going to help and cheer on as they go through their own battle?
I get messages often on Facebook from people telling me that just knowing "I'm not alone" means everything. Those three words... so small yet they hold such meaning and power.
Who can you tell today:
"You're not alone"?
Maybe there's someone you know who is silently hurting.
Maybe someone you know feels completely isolated.
Maybe they've started a journey you know nothing of.
Today, I encourage you to post your status on FB to:
"No matter what you're going through... you're not alone."
Someone will see it.
Someone needs it.
And someone will be helped.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary
and burdened, and I will give you rest.
33 “I have told you these things,
so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33