The Answer to All the Questions {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today. . .

you-1170x780

I’ve always been a question asker, a seeker of knowledge. I hunger and thirst for answers, for insight, for understanding. And this question-asking has often served me well, for questions can lead to a greater awareness of God or of His cosmos or of the human creatures He so lovingly tends. Questions can lead to worship and wonder, to praise and appreciation, to connection and intimacy.

My journals are evidence of this incessant question asking; they’re littered with questions. They’re filled with their fair amount of lament too, and plenty of Scriptures-turned-prayer, but always and ever, questions.

You can finish reading here.

Love Interruptus?

by Jonathan

About a month ago I realized something had to change. I was too tied to my phone. Too distracted. Too stressed out. So I put my phone away for three days. Literally, I locked it in a safe, and it was awesome. And then I decided to stop sleeping with it right next to me on the nightstand. I need the alarm, though, so I just put it on the dresser on the other side of the room.

And then I read this:

“In a much-discussed 2014 study, Virginia Tech psychologist Shalini Misra and her team monitored the conversations of 100 couples in a coffee shop and identified ‘the iPhone Effect’: The mere presence of a smartphone, even if not in use — just as an object in the background — degrades private conversations, making partners less willing to disclose deep feelings and less understanding of each other, she and her colleagues reported in Environment and Behavior.”

And this:

“…as relationship researcher John Gottman has documented, the unstructured moments that partners spend in each other’s company, occasionally offering observations that invite conversation or laughter or some other response, hold the most potential for building closeness and a sense of connection. Each of those deceptively minor interludes is an opportunity for couples to replenish a reservoir of positive feelings that dispose them kindly to each other when they hit problems.”

Those “unstructured moments” and “minor interludes” are what smartphones destroy. And that’s really sad, because today’s hurried marriages and friendships could really use those moments and interludes!

I don’t want to be “absent present.” I don’t want to photograph my kid’s childhood instead of really seeing my child. I don’t want to be thinking about how this will look on Instagram when I should be thinking, “I’m so glad I get to be here.” Am I doing this thing with my kid so my Facebook friends can see it?

I want Elizabeth to feel listened to and heard, down in her soul. I want “spending time together” to mean more than “browsing Facebook together.”

What about you? Is your smartphone your first love? Really? Do you need to ban all smartphones from the kitchen/dining room?

I’m afraid too much tech use is like carbon monoxide poisoning: the first symptom is that you stop recognizing symptoms.

Do you need to recognize symptoms? Do you need to try shifting things for a week or two?

Is it possible that you don’t even know what you’re missing?

Try it for a week or two and see what happens. And then FB message me and let me know how it went. : )

all for ONE,
Jonathan T.

photo-1462038468000-f8efca43aaadedit

Both quotes above are from the article, Love Interruptus, which appeared in the August 2016 edition of Psychology Today. It is available online under the title, The New Menage a Trois.

Taking Out the Trash {a toolkit for fighting fear}

Here are some practical ways to fight fear that I’ve never shared publicly before. I talked about them during this year’s Velvet Ashes online retreat and wanted to post them here in the hopes that someone out there might find them helpful in their battle against fear. I’ve reprinted all the quotes and Bible verses for easy reference, or you can simply scroll to the bottom for the video testimony. ~Elizabeth

garbage-can-1111449_960_720a

I used to take my pulse to make sure I was still alive. Because the ability to breathe and move my fingers to my neck weren’t evidence enough of life?? Thankfully by the time I realized why I did that and could verbalize it, I could see the humor in it.

And it was mostly health reasons that made me not want to come to the field in the first place. I’m a recovering hypochondriac [read: I’m still a hypochondriac, but it’s not out of control anymore].

Living here still plays tricks on my mind sometimes, and I have to consciously choose not to follow the rabbit trail my fears are digging. But I’ve got more practice at it now, and someone to keep me accountable (my husband), so it doesn’t take over my daily life the way it used to.

My go-to passage on fighting fear was always Matthew 6:25-34. I even committed it to memory 13 years ago when I was pregnant with my firstborn and finances were uber-tight, and I’ve returned to these words of Jesus again and again throughout the years:

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

But what really helped me several years ago was reading a book designed to help kids with OCD. It’s called What To Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck, and it teaches kids (or in this case, me) to identify “brain junk,” which is basically the thought patterns we have that are false and hurtful and don’t belong in our mind. After we identify the brain junk (the lies, the fears, the negative self-talk), we can throw it away, literally discarding it from our lives.

For me, following the advice in the OCD book has been a working out of the truths of Hebrews 5:14, which says the mature have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil, and Titus 2:11-12, which talks about the grace of God that teaches us to say “no.”

I had to practice distinguishing the good from the evil (or unhelpful) thought patterns. But I recognize that it is the grace of God that helps me to say no to those irrational thought patterns. And it all came about from a children’s book on OCD.

Another thing that helped tremendously was a section in a book that Cindy Morgan wrote, Barefoot on Barbed Wire, which was all about fighting fear. I “randomly” picked it up at the library when I was pregnant with my 3rd child (when the fears were the most out of control they’d ever been).

“Fear can have so many faces. We can never really escape from the things that cause us to be afraid. For everyone we secure ourselves against, there will be another waiting to take its place. The world is not under our control. So it all comes down to learning to trust God.”

Her book and this quote in particular really convicted me that fighting fear wasn’t about addressing my specific fears and trying to talk myself down from them and over-researching on the internet and reminding myself of the science.

No, my fear was actually something broken inside me. It didn’t come from risk factors on the outside. It came from within. The OCD strategies helped enormously in fighting my fear on a practical level, but I also needed this heart-level truth as well.

I talk about these things (and more) in my 10-minute testimony for Commune, Velvet Ashes’ 2016 online retreat, which is re-published here with permission. If you missed the retreat earlier this spring, Velvet Ashes plans to make the entire thing available again sometime in the future. And if you’ve been blessed through the ministry of Velvet Ashes, consider donating to them here