Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Heart is His

The heart condition I mentioned in There is too much to 'splain... took a bit of a turn for the worse in September, and I grappled with coming to terms with the full extent of my diagnosis.  I posted details of that at my new CaringBridge site.

This morning I woke up early and felt drawn to look at my copy of Jesus Calling, and as it often does, today's entry hit me right where I am, especially this portion:
Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, thank Me in all circumstances. Trust Me and don't be fearful; thank Me and rest in My sovereignty.

At the bottom of the entry are three Bible verses, including 1 Peter 5:6-7.  I got out my Bible and a notebook that was handy.

I opened the notebook and found some journal entries and notes from 2011 when I was pregnant with Zachary, and rediscovered a structure for quiet time that had been taught to me by Kenton Beshore, the senior pastor at Mariners Church. 

It uses 3 four-letter acronyms: PERS, SOAP and ACTS.

I am a PERSon... how am I doing?

I answered each of those questions, thinking mainly about yesterday and this morning, and identified that although I had a good day physically, some anxiety, loneliness and self-pity had crept in, as well as disconnection in my relationships.

Then I turned to the cleansing SOAP of God's word:

For the Scripture I wanted to use 1 Peter 5:7, cast all your anxiety on the Lord, but I "accidentally" turned to 1 Peter 1:5-6:
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

For the Observation portion, I just restated the Scripture in my own words, and wrote about how in general it related to the Jesus Calling message to be thankful and trust in all circumstances.

For the Application, I made the observations more personal, reflecting on what I specifically needed to do in light of that...namely, to thank God for my heart condition.

For the Prayer, I chose to follow the ACTS model:

I praised Jesus as Lord of All and the Healer, I confessed my self-absorption and fear.  Then I did the hard, strange part and thanked Him for my cardiomyopathy, for my heart failure, for my difficulty breathing.  What is there to be thankful for about that? 

It makes the truth that God gives me breath and life very real and immediate.  It presses me to trust and depend on Him more than ever.  It limits my ability to do everything I want to do so I need to seek Him more for wisdom and discernment about what He would have me be doing.  Not only do I feel the need of my Savior all the more, but having been forced to slow down because of my condition, I have time and space in my life to respond to his invitations to seek Him. 

After writing out those praises, confessions and thanks, the Supplications I made were quite different than what I would have said had I started my prayer with a request. 

I'm thankful that God woke me up early this morning to spend that time with Him, that He reminded me of PERS, SOAP and ACTS.  I share it because I hope it might be useful for your own quiet times with Father, Son and Spirit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Connection Before Content

I said I'd blog once a week but haven't done it.  A month later, I'm ready to post.  Maybe once per month is more realistic for this time in my life?  I'm in a season of learning, of integrating new skills and information.  The current theme is communication skills and emotional intelligence.

I've always loved to learn and I've always enjoyed sharing the information I learn simply because I'm excited and fascinated by it but also because I want to be helpful.  However, sometimes my enthusiasm for sharing information coupled with my social anxiety and sometimes clumsy communication skills meant that I rubbed some people the wrong way. 

For example, when I was pregnant with my now two year old, I attended Celebrate Recovery.  One evening after the session, a fellow attendee was sharing her upset about a recent diagnosis of mental illness in a grandchild.  I wasn't there for the beginning of the conversation, but had walked up and joined the group part way through.  She said something slightly inaccurate about the diagnosis.  I just happened to have read something related to that recently and oh so helpfully, or so I thought, piped up with my correction.

Much to my surprise, she exploded at me, calling me a know it all who always had to be right.  Then she stormed out.  I quickly fled too and cried most of the way home.  I just wanted to help, why couldn't she see that?  Was I really a "know it all?"  Once my hurt was purged, I quickly realized that I owed this woman an apology, and within a few days had done so.   The apology was accepted.

A few days later, one of our mutual friends who had been there said that maybe it was good that this had happened so that I could get a more accurate picture of how well I read people and how I come across to them.  That gave me something to chew on, but that time I didn't spiral into self-pity.  I just made a note of it: "Communication skills are something I need to work on." 

Since then, God has put plenty of opportunities in my life to learn and practice communication skills!  I began going through the application process to become a La Leche League leader shortly after the above incident, and the portions of the Leader Handbook on communication skills gave me some wonderfully useful stock phrases and approaches to sharing information that I've incorporated in every aspect of my life.  Then just this August I attended a MOPS leadership training conference and the topic was communicating well with moms in times of crisis and conflict.  We watched a video of moms roleplaying various difficult conversations with immediate feedback and tips for improvement from a counselor.  Finally, this past weekend I attended a day-long LLL training focusing on listening well and responding with empathy (and sometimes information) rather than giving advice.  Most of the training was active roleplaying between all the participants.

With all I know now, I can see exactly what went wrong that day after Celebrate Recovery.  First of all, it wasn't my conversation to barge into.  Second of all, I responded with information when all she needed was empathy.  Third and worst of all, I also embarrassed her by contradicting her in front of everyone.  No wonder she lost her temper with me!

"Connection before content" is the way the communication skills trainer put it this weekend.  Or as Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

It's been a journey to incorporate this skill into my interaction with other adults, but I'm starting to feel confident in it.  What has been more challenging has been to consistently apply it in my parenting.  I reap benefits when I do, but it's still so hard and I frequently forget!  This morning I came across this post at Abundant Life Children which has some great tips.

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