Please Accept Me~

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I always wince whenever I reflect on my Jr. High years. I was taller than most of the girls, skinny legs and broad hips while many of my fellow students were short, cute, and probably a size 2 to my size 8! (At least the ones that I was envious of!).

I can easily recall how it felt to wonder where I actually fit in, who would I sit with for lunch, or even more challenging; who would I hang out with during that long “recess” after lunch. I am certain that I compensated by acting confident but inside I was insecure.

I am the middle child of 6 girls in my family so I may have had a bit of “middle child syndrome” but if I ponder those years for too long I can actually feel my body tense up even today! We all want to belong, to matter, to be wanted, and to be valued. This is part of our human nature.

Tonight I gave myself the gift of watching the movie “Wonder”. A story of a boy entering Jr. High for the first time in public school; he has a noticeable facial deformity that makes his experience 100% worse than anything I ever experienced. He endures, matures, and ultimately makes a difference in the school environment but it was a painful reminder of the powerful impact of rejection. Brought me to tears.

Haven’t we all experienced a lack of acceptance one time or another? Haven’t we all felt unsure of where we fit from time to time? Of course we have! Seeing it again tonight reminded me again how important it is for us to be empathetic and mindful when we see someone who is isolated or struggling to fit in; perhaps we can make a real difference in their life!

The holiday season can be especially hard for those who feel disconnected. Perhaps we could all up our game and be watchful and responsive if God taps our shoulder asking us to find a way to be inclusive. We all want to matter.

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Who are ” your people? “~

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Over the weekend I had the privilege to hear a profound speaker while attending Menlo Part Presbyterian church Sunday morning. The topic was about getting “Unstuck” and the theme was about adding the element of accountability/community to our ongoing spiritual health and growth.

How many of us have found ourselves at spiritual or emotional crossroads over the years?  Did you navigate these seasons in isolation or did you have individuals you trusted to help you find healthy and sustainable solutions?

Many people suffer in isolation, whether self – imposed orotherwise, and what we will find~every time~ is that those who live in isolation struggle greatly to have significant mental, spiritual, and emotional health!

Sunday, the Pastor shared a revealing study:

In a government study with rats, back in the 70’s, while in isolation, rats were given the options of water or cocaine from two separate spouts. Day in and day out they became more and more addicted to the cocaine; rarely if ever choosing to drink fresh water!  The finding here was that rats in isolation became addicted to the cocaine to the point of death every single time!

A professor by the name of Bruce Alexander  wanted another filter for this same experiment! He was concerned that the one consistant element in the study is that every rat was kept isolated for any others! The rats were in cages all alone. The rat has nothing to do but take the drugs. In isolation the rats never observed any alternate behaviours around them! What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It it was a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down, alternative activities, and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did!!

Hmmmm….what does that mean for us??

When we place ourselves amongst trusted friends and family, attend a regular small gathering of purpose minded people, check our thinking with those who are wise, and confess our challenges to individuals that have our best outcome in mind~ we will “choose better”!

God fully intended that we would go through the joys and challenges, sadness and loss, celebrations and surprises within “community”; never in isolation!

First Thessalonians 5: 11 says

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Galatians 6:2 says

“Therefore encourage Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Romans 12:10

“Therefore encourage Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.one another and build one another up, jus Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor as you are doing.”

Who are your people? What trusted individuals are in your posse? Where do you go to garner wisdom, balance, and encouragement? Or do you find yourself for the most part, basically alone?

My prayer for you is that if you are in some form of isolation, you will be intentional in the coming year to build a trusted team around your life!  For those with a posse, invite them in regularly so that you can soar above the challenges and temptations that would love to entangle you!  We do better TOGETHER!

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We need one another, we really do!

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  I was reminded again this week, through the sad events in Boston, Massachusetts that we really do need one another.  Out of the rubble of lost lives and limbs arose an army of people connected by sadness and grief going above and beyond to make sure they helped and supported every person they possibly could. Strangers housing disoriented families, men carrying children to safe places, and medical professionals jumping in to help wherever they found a need. In times of crisis we really do need one another.

However, in the regular rhythm of our daily lives we really need others as well. From the website “Live your Life well” I saw that research points to the on-going benefits of good social connection:

1.  Social connection brings increased happiness. When you are offered concrete help, emotional support, fresh perspective, wanted advice, and encouraging validation you will find that your emotions will stay more hope-filled then downcast.

2.  Better health is another benefit from being connected to others.  Loneliness is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and depression.

3.  Connecting regularly with others helps us to remember that life isn’t all about our challenges.  When connected to others we are also able to care for their needs, focus on being supportive, and share in our common challenges.  This can help us to have a balance in our own thinking.

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When thinking about friendships, some people think that in order to be less lonely they must be liked by everyone. That’s just not true!  The person who has 4,000 friends on Facebook is not necessarily “connected in relationship”….especially if the bulk of their free time is spent maintaining their Facebook page!  Two or three amazing , trusted friends/family can be all we need to be known, heard, or validated.

Life is busy.  Perhaps this has been an especially crazy season for you and quality connections with others has been tough to find; yet with a time of reflection you would have to honestly say that you have been experiencing some of the symptoms of a disconnect: discouragement, restlessness, isolation, etc.  Perhaps a few of these steps would be helpful in moving you into a place of connectedness:

1.  Make a list of those you would like to connect with, calendar a bi-weekly/monthly  time with them that allows you to spend some quality time.

2.  When spending time with those you value the most: turn off phones and other distracting devices.  Maximize what little time you have!

3.  Listen really well and repeat back what you have heard to be sure you truly understand what is being shared!

4.  Ask for help.  Even great friends will have trouble reading your mind.

5.  Share your appreciation for those you value; you may be thinking it but bridges are built when your actually share it!

6.  Move out of unhealthy relationships to give yourself fresh emotional and time margins to begin to invite quality connections into your life.  Boundaries are a good thing!

We need one another~In our personal lives as well as in a national crisis!  If you have found yourself isolating I beseech you to reach out and invite people IN again. 🙂

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“It is impossible for us to be all we can be in isolation.”  Paula P. Brownlee