Updates from the back of the pen
I met Suzanna Hake at the Hope4Cancer clinic. She was part of a group that became fast friends. Over the last year these amazing people have remained part of my world through prayer and conversation. We have already visited one another and shared the ups and downs of our cancer journey. Part of what I so enjoyed about Suzanna particularly is that she is a fellow Black Sheep Messenger. And it’s an honor to share her story here. Enjoy!
I grew up around the church, and we went ALOT. We went to one of those churches that emphasized duty and obligation. Our family was 100% committed, and I went along because I didn’t know any different. It really wasn’t an option. But it certainly wasn’t meaningful. By the time I hit junior high and high school, I realized there was a pretty big difference between our church experience and what other “normal” families did. Our family environment was based on shame and guilt-induced perfectionism. God forbid we step out-of-line. So, what do kids do when they are raised in such a strict environment? They lie. I lied.
As a result, I felt pretty conflicted. On one hand, I was a pretty good kid, and felt guilty about lying. I hated that. But, soon my thought was, may as well go big or go home. And because I had already messed up in these ways, I figured I had already blown it, so may as well go “all in”. College became my yee-haw time. No one was going to tell me what to do, so I went a bit crazy. Full blown black sheep.
Looking back at my growing up years, my biggest hurdle was that we never talked about the “why” questions. Why were we supposed to be doing these things? It was just rules and responsibility. And, I know this will sound strange, but we never really talked about Jesus either. We talked about God and the Bible but always with a negative spin – lots of hellfire/brimstone. I don’t ever remember thinking about the kindness of God.
Interestingly enough, it was his kindness that drew me back. I saw the kindness of God through Jesus. He met me and my husband as we were dealing with our life-altering illnesses. And a huge part of my healing was moving to a place where I could forgive myself. I always looked at my past and the things I did in such a negative light (and I did make a lot of poor decisions), but part of what drove me to all that stuff – my black sheepness – I now see in a positive light. Obviously, I could have made a lot better decisions, but this drive can also be channeled for good. I am not afraid to buck the system and think outside the box. I have courage to think for myself and not capitulate to whatever everyone else is doing. People regularly comment on it and wish they could be a bit bolder themselves.
So, that is what I’m trying to help people do: to take their rebel spirit and remind them that they can use it for good. It is what makes us strong AND free!
Word of the Week
Noun: freedom from disturbance; tranquility, and inner rest
Looking at the world around us, we all long for it. We pray for it. But we also feel powerless about so much of it. However, we can look for and find it within ourselves. It is an internal sensation where our soul knows, ‘all will be well.’ If that sense prevails, it’s a sign that it’s not based on our external situation. In fact, it can defy our actual physical circumstances. All hell could be breaking out around us, but we are mysteriously at rest. You cannot buy this. You can’t fabricate this. You don’t find it by sticking your head in the sand. It is a gift; a gift from God, and it changes everything. May you find a space the year ahead that nurtures and extends hope and rest for whatever else you might be experiencing right now.
A book I’ve started reading
The Comfort Crisis
Review: Made me look differently at adversity, at challenges, at discomfort. Reading it made me want to be better and a book simply can’t deliver more than that. ~ Tamar Haspel
Every December I start thinking about the goals I have for the year ahead. That process begins with asking the Lord if he has anything specific for me. The premonition that came my way was that the next year would be hard. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. But then I got this book for Christmas. The big idea is that there is value in purposefully introducing hardship into your life by challenging yourself to do things you might normally avoid – particularly in the physical arena. To walk further than you think you can. To run faster and climb higher. The author (Michael Easter) lays out a case for it and its pretty straightforward premise. When you do tough things, you become a tougher person – in all the best ways. By facing some challenge (but not an overwhelming amount) people develop an internal capacity that leaves them more robust and resilient. They are better able to deal with new stresses they may have been unable to face before. In short, he has two rules, (1) Choose to do really hard things. (2) Do not die. Love that, and I think that may be the Lord’s invitation for me in the year ahead. You?
A personal request
Pocket Prayer: We are believing that there is a comfort available in you that the world can not give…
A couple weeks ago, I asked for prayer for my dear friends Chris and Lori Smith. This past week, Chris passed to his eternal home. There are some losses that are harder than others. This is a hard one. Chris leaves his wife and three children behind. They are wonderful people and have been strong and faithful through it all. But they most certainly need our continued prayers in these weeks and months ahead. Thank you for remembering them.
For those who would like attend, a memorial service will be held in Chris’s honor on January 4 at 11am at Shoreline Church.
Pocket Prayers Devotional
The devotionals have finally arrived, and I have sent out about 150 over the last 2 weeks. If you ordered a copy and are enjoying it, would you mind sending a picture of you with your book, and include a short testimonial? We’d love to include it on our Instagram page. Send to Jennifer@20threesix.com and if you still need one for yourself or a friend, you can order a copy HERE. We will ship it out the very next day.