Stuck in the Middle?

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This is my contribution for Five Minute Friday, a weekly linkup of writers who free write for five minutes on an assigned word. Our word for this week: Stuck.

I’ve been reading a lot about the Sandwich Generation lately in an effort to better understand my people…my tribe of fellow gooey “sandwich” centers. (I like to think we are comprised of Nutella, because Nutella is amazing.)

The Sandwich Generation that I find myself in is the generation described as those who are in their 40s/50s and are simultaneously supporting their own children while caring for aging parents. We’re stuck in the middle, so to speak.

Being in this generation is like a wild rollercoaster of responsibility. Lots of ups and downs. Kind of bumpy at times. The views are simultaneously terrifying and utterly amazing. There may be nausea.

And while “stuck” is a word that can be used to describe the Sandwich Generation, I don’t really believe I’m stuck at all.

I think “placed” is a much better word.

I’ve been placed here by God. He knew long before I came along that I would be here in this moment with my family. He knew I’d have an amazing husband and that we’d have teenaged sons and aging parents. He knew that there would be challenges with both and that the weight of responsibilities would, at times, feel enormous.

But He also knew how I’d need Him. He also knew how He’d never leave me. He also knew that in these challenging times, I would look to him like never before.

In Ecclesiastes 3, we read that there’s a time…a season…for everything. How good it is to know that no matter what the season…no matter what the generation…He is there.

Even if we ever feel more “stuck” than “placed.”

God is with us.

 

 

 

The Food Bowl Attack of 2017

The Food Bowl Attack of 2017

Katie is afraid of her food bowl.

That’s just all kinds of not normal.

She hasn’t always been this way, though.  She and her food bowl used to be best buds.

A few months ago, the metal clip on her collar somehow hooked onto the rim of her food bowl, causing it to rise up off the floor as she lifted her head from the bowl.  It was absolutely stuck to her collar and no amount of shaking on her part would set it loose. Panicked, she tried to get away from the bowl only to have it follow her.  Terrifying.

Katie covered a lot of square footage, yelping loudly all the way, bowl bouncing as she ran, before I was able to set her free from her tormentor.

And ever since that day, things have not been the same between Katie and her bowl.  She is showing it zero love, even though it contains one of her favorite things (not her MOST FAVORITE thing…that’s toilet paper.).

She’s super apprehensive, sure that the bowl will jump up at any given moment. (In case you’re curious, we’ve tried LOTS of different bowls…all bowls are currently evil.)

Fool me once, food bowl…shame on you…

These days, Katie slowly approaches her bowl, takes a single kernel of food, and runs away to eat it.  Then she’ll come back, bark at the bowl (a stern I-Have-Not-Forgotten  bark), and try again.

Fool me twice…shame on me…

My dog has trust issues.

I don’t blame her.  Feeling attacked by something you trust is scary.

And even though the Food Bowl Attack of 2017 happened months ago, it feels like yesterday to her.  Fear has a good memory.

So do I.

Sometimes I let the memory of the pain of broken trust or the fear of hurt feelings keep me away from what I really need: people.

I act just like Katie. No, I’m not afraid my dinnerware will attack me, but I do shy away from situations where I might be vulnerable. Given the choice, I’ll pass on pain.

Fool me once, mankind…shame on you…

But, just like Katie can’t completely avoid her food bowl…dog’s gotta eat…I can’t avoid relationships…woman’s gotta love.

See, as one of God’s children, I was created for connection.  My soul shrivels without it.

But the world we live in is messy and complicated and, because of that, relationships get messy and complicated.

Intentions are misunderstood. Motives are questioned. Words are said. Feelings get hurt. Relationships and all that comes with them can be downright scary.  Sometimes we feel attacked when we least expect it and all we want to do is shake free from the relationships and people that caused it.  We start to fear the very thing that keeps us alive…connection.

We risk a lot when we’re vulnerable.  But we also learn more about ourselves and about who our God is when we let people in.  In the process, yes, we might get attacked. Our feelings might get hurt and we might hurt someone we dearly love.

But isn’t it worth the risk?

Don’t we gain so much more than we risk to lose?

And when we give up on being vulnerable, what are we saying about God?  When we wash our hands of even the possibility of getting hurt, who are we believing God is?

Can he not handle it? Will he not help us? Does he not have our best interest in mind when it comes to the people and circumstances he brings into our lives?

I believe he can, he will, and he does.

It is with his help that we are able to navigate our messy and complicated lives. And, y’all, he IS our ever-present help in times of trouble. Scary things happen. Relationships can be hard. But God isn’t going anywhere. He’s with us forever.

Katie is scared of her food bowl, but she eats anyway. She knows she needs to eat. Just like Katie needs her food, we need each other. We keep each other alive…alive to the wonder that is this life with God. We were designed by the God who loves us to love one another.  Our lives are meant to be reflections of his love…reminders of his grace.

Relationships are risky business.

Let’s risk it.

Vul-ner-a-bil-i-ty

Vul-ner-a-bil-i-ty

Folding a fitted sheet. (Help me.)

Drivers who refuse to merge into traffic. (For the love, MOVE THE CAR!)

Not hitting the snooze button. (Just 10 more minutes x 3…possibly 4.)

These are some of the things with which I struggle.

And way up near the top of the list: Vulnerability. Maybe you can relate.

I’ve heard a lot about vulnerability this year. It seems to be the topic everywhere I turn, on TV and in articles and books. I honestly hadn’t thought too much about it until someone told me this year that I wasn’t vulnerable enough. They felt that I was holding back in situations where I could share more of myself…more of my heart.

It was hard to hear. It stung to be criticized, especially in an area that felt so personal.  But the more I thought about it, the more I understood where they were coming from. As I looked back, it was clear that I was being far more of a listener and much less of a sharer. I’ve always been that way. In my critic’s eyes, holding back made me seem distant and uncaring, which is not how I would want to come across.

At the time, I struggled to understand why I was so hesitant to share my heart…my struggles and fears…but now I think I understand more.

Vulnerability requires risk.

I love this definition of vulnerability (Courtesy of Mr. Google.): the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

That helps explain it. I was in a setting where I feared being criticized or attacked.

Even being exposed to the possibility of attack or harm sounds terrifying to me. No, thank you. I would rather fold all of your fitted sheets.

Truth be told, most people don’t line up for the chance to get hurt or attacked, right? BUT, the truth is when we hold back and are not vulnerable, we lose out on way more than just the possibilities of getting hurt.

We lose out on the possibilities of being known.

See, in being vulnerable, we are also exposed to the possibilities of being loved.  We are exposed to the possibilities of experiencing empathy and care.  We are exposed to the possibility of being understood.  Oh, have you ever wished someone understood you? Mercy, I have.

Are we meant to be vulnerable with absolutely everyone?  Are we to flood the world with a boundary-free vulnerability? That’s a “no.”  There are people who, as Brené Brown says, haven’t earned the right to hear our stories.  Some people are simply not safe.

If your life is a healthy one, though, there are probably people with whom you can safely be vulnerable.  Family (not all…you know who I’m talking about), trusted friends, a good counselor…these are good places to start.

But the greatest place to start…Jesus.

Scripture shows him time and time again exposing himself not only to the possibilities of pain and rejection, but also the realities of being known.  As he walked those dusty, hard roads in the Bible, he was SO LOVED.  Yes, he was also hated by some, but because of his vulnerability…because he opened himself up to the risks of pain and joy…he became known as the truth and the life, the One who would bring people back to God.

Jesus displayed incredible vulnerability.  How brave was he?!

If you struggle with vulnerability like I do, remember this: He gets it. Jesus understands not just THE struggle, but YOUR struggle…MY struggle.

No one knows you like he does. With Jesus you are completely safe, completely known, and completely loved.  You can tell him all about it, knowing he not only cares but is ready and willing to make a way for you in the good times and bad. He will take you by the hand and walk with you through all of it.

What a Savior!

Don’t get me wrong…I still think vulnerability is crazy hard. I have a lot to learn. But I’m understanding more now that vulnerability isn’t just about the possibilities of shame and criticism…it’s also about the possibilities of love and belonging.

Those are things that are worth the risk, don’t you think?