Is Your Receiver Broken?

I wrote this for my church’s Marriage & Family blog, but thought I’d share it here too. Be encouraged to receive encouragement, autism mamas!

Women can have a hard time receiving compliments. Tell them how gifted they are, and their eyes will dart down, while they deflect the praise. Tell another women how beautiful she looks and she replies that she really needs a haircut right now. And if you compliment the clothes, it’s like a lady is absolutely obligated to tell you that she got them on sale.

Why are our “receivers” so broken?

Could our inner dialogue actually be keeping us from receiving from God too? Think about it. If someone tells you something great about you, and your gut reaction is to say or think, “No I’m not,” perhaps you’re not able to see yourself how God sees you either.

I was talking with my 16-year-old niece recently and realized this generation is not exempt. She is a breathtaking artist, poet and dancer. Her natural giftedness mixed with perseverance to hone her skills could launch her into an amazing destiny. She doesn’t know it. She’s insecure and compares herself to others. She goes into perfection mode and is always trying to prove herself. As I wrapped my arms around her and told her all the good things I saw in her, she said, “Really? But…” The list flowed out of her like liquid about all that she wasn’t.

Does any of that sound familiar to you—mom, wife, daughter, worker? I remembered a little tip I learned back in the days when I used to do drama sketches at church and shared it with my niece: “When someone gives you a compliment, simply say ‘Thank you’—no more, no less. And in your mind say ‘I agree,’ and thank the Lord for growing or encouraging you.”
I continued, “If someone offers you feedback that’s maybe hard to hear, be teachable enough to ask ‘Do I let that go, or is there a nugget of truth I need to take from that?’”

That posture frees something up in you. A couple of years ago, I came to a startling realization that I was in heavy performance and striving mode with God and others. While I worshipping at a church conference, one simple shift broke something inside of me. We sang this really beautiful song to God (I don’t even remember what it was) about how lovely he is, beautiful, worthy, holy—those words passionately rolled off my lips… and then the worship leader said, “Now sing that again, but now imagine God is singing those words to YOU.”

The tears just flowed from my eyes. “Tahni, you are beautiful, worthy, holy, and I love you.”

Whoa, why did I need to hear that so much? Why do you need to hear it so much? I’m learning we have to know what God thinks about us, or we’re toast. False humility has gripped Christians for centuries. The idea that we have to perform, or perfect, or try to impress God into being proud of us is just keeping us down.

Learning to step in to all that God says we already are is where it’s at. When you get a picture of yourself in Christ, those compliments will be received for the encouragement that they are.

“I desire for you to become intimately acquainted with the love of Christ on the deepest possible level, far beyond the reach of a mere academic, intellectual grasp. Within the scope of this equation God finds the ultimate expression of Himself in you (so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God). We celebrate Him who super charges us powerfully from within. Our biggest request or most amazing dream cannot match the extravagant proportion of His thoughts towards us.” Eph. 3:20 (The Mirror Translation)

Merry Christmas?

Let’s talk Christmas. Ugh. I hesitate to write about this because I’m tired of being a downer on my blog. I’m sorry. But, maybe someone else can relate, so here goes.

This Christmas season, my emotions have been living somewhere between *sigh* and *cry* most of the time. Not that most people I see on a regular basis would know that. It’s just this icky heaviness that has nestled in on the top of my heart and in the pit of my stomach. I work at a church, so we are all over Christmas, working really hard to make it a great experience for the thousands attending. Why do I just want to fast forward past it?

Yesterday I went shopping for presents for Josiah. I was at Toys R Us and that “feeling” kicked in. Up and down the aisles I went looking for something that would make him smile. I was saddened that it was the toddler toys that he would like. The ones that light up and spin and make noise, and aren’t very complicated. Seeing all of the toys lined up there, I was confronted again at how far behind he is in his development. And then I saw about three typical little blonde-haired boys throughout the store that were about 4 yrs. old, Josiah’s age–one imaginatively playing with the train set, one talking a million miles an hour to his mom about a Bob the Builder toy he just had to have, and one just basically arguing with his mom that he didn’t want to leave. These are simple scenes that I am so attuned to, but they will likely not even stick in the short-term memories of most of these moms.

I realized that part of this feeling I’m wrestling with has to do with remembering the Christmases of my childhood, and not being able to “recapture” those magical, wide-eyed moments I had as a kid. We used to have about 20 people over for Christmas–grandparents, cousins, friends. It was festive! My dad, who went home to be with Jesus 10 years ago now, loved Christmas in a Chevy Chase sort of way. He decked out the houses with lights, and he’d play Santa for the community kids. He loved flannel shirts, and egg nog and oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Daddy’s gone. Both sets of grandparents are gone. Mom lives 1529 miles west. Brothers live about that far south. I feel like I’m stuck out here on the Island of Misfit Toys. We won’t be making the trek back to see my hubby’s parents together this year because it’s just easier not to with Josiah, at least until spring.

And, Christmas is lived best through the eyes of children. My only child doesn’t know it’s Christmas. Well, if he does, he can’t say. And all those stories about Jesus and Mary and Joseph, and Santa and Rudolph and St. Nick are just lobbed out there into the air in little installments by me, but he can’t respond with eyes all lit up. Asking questions and having to be shooed back to bed on Christmas Eve because he’s trying to stay awake to catch a glimpse of Santa. I want this for my precious little guy (thankful he’s such a happy little dude, though). I want this for us. But Autism just takes off with it like a bandit–robbing, robbing, robbing. Grinch that it is.

I think if more people were just allowed to be honest, Christmas time could be more of an opportunity for encouragement for the downtrodden than a magnified reminder of what’s wrong in their lives. From my vantage point, Christmas feels like this perfect picture for a lot of the families with young kids that I know. When life is good, it’s really GOOD. But what about those that hurting this Christmas? Wouldn’t the message of Christmas be so much more welcomed if we just said, “People, NONE of it really matters as much as the GOD WITH US part.”

To E. whose in her late 20s and lost her dad last summer, after her mom died of cancer just a couple years before–GOD IS WITH US!

To. J. whose husband is serving in Iraq and who just had to increase her autistic daughter’s seizure medication–GOD IS WITH US!

To K. who is struggling financially and can’t afford much for her kids for Christmas–GOD IS WITH US!

To M. who is feeling like giving up because this spiritual and emotional journey is so much effort–GOD IS WITH US!

To A. whose house is close to being foreclosed upon and whose husband’s contracting work has run out–GOD IS WITH US!

To A. who has felt hurt recently by some people who she valued as Christian friends–GOD IS WITH US!

Maybe there are some people we know in our lives that might be having a hard time this Christmas. How about we simply acknowledge that for them? The other day I sent an email to a friend just to say, “I wanted you to know I’m thinking of you. I bet it’s a hard time of year for you because you’re missing your parents.” She replied, “Thank you for knowing that it is hard and reaching out to simply tell me!” Then we don’t leave them without hope.

We can’t forget why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. “For to us a Child is born, TO US a Son is given…His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… His name shall be called Immanuel, GOD WITH US.” Which one of these do you need Him to be for you right now? I’ll take all of the above, thank you. Praise Him for such a Gift.

Truly, Merry Christmas!

…for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] Hebrews. 13:5 b AMP