Keeping it Real

The B Team

We all know what it means.

You are on the team but you don’t have the same amount of ability or appeal as others, a.k.a. the A Team, hence, you are on the B Team. If you’ve spent any amount of time on a B Team you know it comes with very mixed emotions.  You’re grateful to be a part of something that is good and important to you. You are happy to work hard, in fact most B Team players work harder than anyone; but it can be accompanied by feelings of not being enough or being side stepped and it stings. And you get stung when you’re on the B Team.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to a time in my life when I felt consistently passed over for opportunity, at least it really appeared that way.  Hungry to build an inspiring career, I did what I could to have good experiences with others and tried to create a lasting impression.  You know, stuff our parents told us about when we began working, the stuff we tell our kids to do now. I wanted integrity and I wanted to feel like I was on the A Team. Then, I would be successful.

My season in that place came and went. I never got on the A Team or at least I never felt like I was. Through the years sadness and regret lingered because of it, until I began taking a closer look at something Jesus said.

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It was a story that seemed to be about the B Team. (Click here to read it.)

This is how it went.

There once was a father with two sons.  The younger was arrogant and selfish.  The older was loyal and hard working.  One day the younger son comes to the father and essentially says, I wish you were dead.  Give me my inheritance now so I can live as I please.  This younger son clearly felt staying at home was being forced to play on the B Team and he deserved to be on the A Team. He felt he did not belong where he was. The heart broken father knew his sons heart was hard and there would be no persuading him to stay or to change.  So he gave him the inheritance and let him go.

Not long after, the younger son had squandered all of his money in senseless and numbing ways.  Not only did his economic situation change, the entire regional economy had changed and he began to starve.  He was definitely not on the A Team now.  Worse yet, there were no other A Team players willing to help him out. He was now one of the desperate ones, something he never thought he’d be. He had no choice but to go back home and beg to be one of his fathers servants.

Before he could even reach the house, his father see’s his son returning from a long way off.  The father forgets everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. He runs to embrace him.  He throws the biggest party celebrating the homecoming of his youngest son.

Meanwhile, the older brother gets word about this and he’s ticked off.  He knows his younger brother doesn’t deserve this kind of attention.  He deserves to be forgotten for all time. How could his father celebrate him after all he’s done to them? The older brother is so angry he won’t even cross the threshold of the door where the party was being held.

The father learns his older son has arrived and is saddened that he will not join them. Relationships had been fractured.  He goes out to meet with him, to plead with him.  The older son begins complaining about how he worked for the father for years with great diligence and loyalty and he feels slighted by this extravagant party. He’s done everything he could to please his father and earn his good graces, why had he never been given a party like this?  He didn’t want to be there. He no longer felt he belonged.

His mind must have mingled with thoughts like:

  • Am I not good enough?
  • Do I not do a good job?
  • Does my father not like me?
  • Does my father like my brother better than me?

The older son clearly felt the sting of the B Team.

The story ends this way.  There is no resolve for the older brother.  We do not know if the younger brother remains grateful and faithful.  We only know the father was happy that his younger son was home.

This ending is so normal and painfully real.

Part of being a human is experiencing relational anger, wounds, confusion and envy. We don’t just get happy because our brother isn’t embarrassing the family any more. Our soul holds every bit of hurt, distrust and rage when relationships spiral’s downward.

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And that is normal.

I think Jesus was using a very real world scenario to help us explore an invitation from God.

The father responds to his older son. Words exploding with meaning and significance.  My son you are always with me, everything I have is yours. 

There never was a B Team.

If the older son had wanted a big party, the father would have given it to him.  Every good thing that father had available to him was also accessible to his older son.  But the older son just didn’t know it. He didn’t believe it.

The sins of the younger brother affected the older brother.  The acceptance and reclamation of the younger son by the father, also impacted him. Self-doubt, insecurity, feelings of insignificance, jealousy, anger and loss of compassion had emerged.  When the father wrapped himself around the broken and hungry younger brother, it made the older brother question his own value to his father.  Jealousy rumbled. It made him long for the attention and celebration his younger brother was now receiving.

Tough things that happen in relationships can cause difficulty, chaos and confusion. Patience and a willingness to wait, allow emotions time to settle. Time to become ready for healing, reconciliation or restored relationship. The father pleaded with his older son to become ready. Ready to face his pain and move into freedom. His emotions were raw and unfiltered.  The father welcomed his son’s pain and gave it a soft place to land.

This story paints a beautiful picture of how God understands the emotional, mental, physical and relational twists and turns that happen to us.  He does not disparage either humanity’s grievousness or the pain that comes from being wounded by those we love.  He understands that often times the ways we relate in our circumstances and with one another, we inadvertently lose our self-esteem and sense of worth. He welcomes our brokenness and gently invites our hearts back home. Back to the place where it’s spoken until we believe once again, THERE IS NO B TEAM.

We always belong and have a safe place to wrestle with the difficulties of being human. When we feel we’ve slipped onto the B Team of life God reminds us that you are always with me and everything I have is yours.

This story is about two broken brothers who feel trapped by the B Team, that their worth and happiness are threatened because they don’t believe they belong.  This story is also about a loving father who wants his sons to know they have been on the A Team all along and with him THERE IS NO B TEAM.

 

 

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How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: FOUR

Sometimes life takes our breath away.  Some days we stumble through the fog wondering if we will ever feel happy again. Most all of us experience this in one form or another. But not all of us are honest enough to call it what it is, depression, anxiety, fear…and not all of us are brave enough to share the experience with others so that it might be a comfort and help.

My final guest is both honest and brave.  I’ve known Linda most of my entire life. Among being an extremely talented woman, interior designer, business owner, actress, model, writer, music producer, yoga instructor…the girl isn’t afraid to try anything…she is the most vulnerable and transparent person I’ve ever known. Sharing freely her heart and life experiences with others just to shine a light, bring comfort or give hope to a weary soul.

Today’s final post in this series is a bit heavier than the previous.  But I believe that this topic is real and necessary for us to talk about.  Depression and anxiety affects every single home.  Although it can be very troubling and dark it does not have to be forever.  We can find our way through, but it takes all of us to be willing to discuss it openly, to pursue help, to de-stigmatize it so that we can all find our way through the fog.

Everyone, meet Linda.

It’s Going to Be OK

The hollow, heavy ball of fear landed in the pit of my stomach New Years Day.

Like an intruder.

Uninvited it came.

Stealing any sense of peace or fragment of hope that I was clinging to. I felt its’ constant grip tightening around my mind. My limbs felt as if electrical currents were running through them and caused me to feel uncomfortable even in my own skin. Sleep was elusive and unwelcome- it only meant that I would face more time in hell when I awoke.

My bedroom had become my prison cell, my bed a place of exposure-exacerbating the struggle to escape. My body curled in the protective posture of a child that would not settle, trembling as my mind drifted toward a hopeless place of despair.

Randi, a friend of mine since childhood, called me during one of these endless days of sheer fear and as she talked over the phone in her soothing voice like a mother to her babe. She painted a picture for me in my troubled mind.

Linda, you know when you’re driving in the fog and it’s so dark and thick that you can’t even see an inch in front of you? Then all of the sudden you reach the edge and it suddenly clears. Well , you could be very near that edge.

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It was a simple picture that had a profound impact on me. It was a divinely inspired word in season and ripe with the hope I needed at that very moment.

I didn’t expect it.

I didn’t do anything to make it happen.

It was a gift.

It’s going to be OK. I needed to hear those words repeatedly during this dark bout of anxiety. I would ask those close to me; my husband, my sisters, my family to say those simple words to me because I really didn’t know if I was going to be OK again.
I felt as though I was wearing a mask when I would interact with people. I had the sensation of peering out from my body like a costume.  My inward reality was much like that of a frightened child who was hiding. I was so filled with fear that I couldn’t eat. I lost over 30 pounds which only added to my anxiety. I felt like I was slowly losing my ability to function.

It scared me.

It scared my family.

I was seeing a counselor and she suggested that I go on a low dose of Prozac to help me get my emotional feet under me. She said, Linda, I believe you can get to the other side of this with or without medication, but the longer you stay in this severe state of anxiety, the more of a toll it will take on your self-esteem. I did go on Prozac for six months and it made a big difference with my ability to heal, but the aftermath and damaged self worth took a couple of years to heal.

I pleaded with God to lift the darkness and take away the fear but it was a slow process and it was hard to understand. I needed others to stand in the gap for me during  that time and they did. I clung to words of hope and truth from God’s word that became like doses of spiritual medicine as I would read them over and over.

So much of my fear was about my future. I felt that I would never do the things I loved again. I couldn’t picture how anything was going to be made right. I felt so lost. And I was. But through the help of family, friends, wise counsel, unending prayer, medication and a God who would never fail me – I made it through and became stronger because of it.

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Journal entry
3/5/2001
I think the longer I walk with God, the more questions I have…
I find this comforting. As His mystery and majesty have grown, so have His
trustworthiness and faithfulness in my life. I find His largeness combined with His goodness very settling. My faith has become more childlike in its’ maturity. There are many things I don’t even strive to understand anymore—I know that God is good, and that is enough. His goodness is like an undercurrent that runs beneath the surface of my being–it carries me through troubling times and reminds me that, if I allow it to, it will take me to deeper places of trust and faith.

linda lee puffer
11.21.17

Do you think you could be experiencing depression or anxiety and it’s bigger than you can handle?  The holidays can trigger emotional turmoil. Please, reach out to someone for help. If you don’t know a doctor or counselor, ask a trusted friend or family member to help you find the next step toward healing and help. A courageous person is not someone who feels strong.  It is someone who knows they need help beyond themselves. Blessings to you my friends.

How To Keep Showing Up For Your Life: TWO

I Need Some Whiskey

Do you know people that are just fun to be around?  My first guest author, Justin,  along with his wife, Trisha, are two such people to me. There is never a shortage of words, laughter and hilarious kid stories. What I love about Justin is that he looks at the world wide-eyed with possibility and believes in wonder. Even when life is hard and unkind. His hopeful edge still in tact despite the realities of living.  I found a piece of myself in the story he shares here today and his thoughts make me bend towards hope.  

Justin is a very accomplished and diversely skilled man, as you will soon read.  It’s worth the click to check out his work, all of it, at his website. (Click Here) You’ll learn what he’s done and is doing, find his social media connections and peruse or even purchase his cool artwork there.  I’m excited for you to read Justin’s story.

Everybody, meet Justin Heap.

………………………

“Well hey, after a good long cry…I need some whiskey.” These were the only words I could find. One word shy of a dozen — even the sentence had given up.

Eighteen years before that text message was sent, I was dreaming of new ways to explore spirituality as a diverse community that would embody the hopes of Jesus for the sake of the world. That dream would take many shapes over the passing months and years: from church planting to church grafting to a communal farm to an open air monastery to a fresh expression of local church to a downtown space of cocktails and community —it was as much a journey of conversations as it was of pulling on random threads to see where they lead.

My career path was equally diverse and intense: Studio Photographer and Photoshop Trainer, Freelance Photographer, Lead Designer, Pastor, Global IT Supervisor, Branding & Marketing Consultant, Artist, Creative Director, Experience Director, Freelance Writer. I even had a stint learning from one of the best Tile & Hardwood Flooring Experts in the industry.

Original Art by Justin Heap

About two years ago, sensing I was coming to the end of a creative role overseeing and crafting the weekend experience of a local church in West Michigan, I felt the spark of returning to this dream of cultivating an incredibly beautiful, restorative, mysterious, wonder-filled community.

With my wife’s peace, I resigned from my job at a megachurch to pursue a healthier rhythm of freedom, rest, and a blend of creative and non-traditional pastoral presence within our community. What that would look like was completely up in the air, totally dependent on the wind. It was terrifying.

In fact, the weeks that followed were some of the most challenging as I sought to rebuild a freelance platform after being out of the game for nearly a decade.

It was around that time I met Brooks.

Brooks was a talented designer, successful entrepreneur, and a bi-vocational pastor of a local church; he had done the impossible and married creativity with theology and his community had somehow — miraculously — managed to avoid becoming insular, uniform, and programmatic. I had so many questions.

The more we chatted, the more my dreams grew brighter. That once elusive hope became a thread I could hold. I could feel it: a thin strand of cotton held up to the light. Maybe, just maybe, now was the time. What if I could be a part of something like Brook’s community? Was the world ready for this? Was I?

You can imagine my surprise when I received a message from Brooks asking if I would pray about coming on as a Pastor within their community. Hesitant, but excited, I said I could sit with that for a while. It would mean relocating, re-establishing a bi-vocational cashflow, and more. So, we lived in a season of prayer.

And then, I received another message.

Brooks and his wife were feeling like their season of leading this local church was coming to an end — he invited us to consider stepping into the leadership role and space. You could gather the thread between your fingers it was so present.

I remember taking my wife on a date — sangria would prove important. We talked about everything.

Asked some hard questions. What about housing? What about the kids being away from grandparents? Is this real? What about jumping back into the fishbowl of a local church? How will our schedule change?

 Asked some brutal questions. Why am I wanting to do this? What if we are rejected? Are we even remotely capable? What if this changes everything? Do I honestly have anything of value to share with these people?

 Some time after our date, we invited some of our closest friends and wise voices to reflect truth back to us: tell us what, if anything, we were missing. Was it worth the effort, the risk, the unknown? And, we agreed, it was worth the risk of moving forward.

Meanwhile, their governing board had also been praying — and it was ultimately decided that bringing someone, anyone, in from outside the community would not be the best idea: the church would dissolve.

The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.

I was at once stuck in the shadows. If hope were a thread, then all the cotton in the world had to be missing.

What happened? They literally chose to dissolve instead of hire you, that’s what happened. They would rather not exist.

Like any of us, I sat down to process my feelings via text messages and emojis, “Well hey, after a good long cry…I need some whiskey.”

Brooks was kind. He let me know that he went to bat for me, bragged on me, supported us, that my whole story was meaningful, and “it really was about a season coming to an end” for them.

Ever the optimist, I shuffled to the cabinet — no whiskey. Classic.

It was strange, though, the next morning. Yes, there was a distinct sadness in my chest, waking up to the same reality as the night before —there would be no job. But there was also a lightness in having lived through the process, a freedom that accompanies even the saying yes to risk.

The great theologian, M. Ward, courageously sings, “What do you do with the pieces of a broken heart?” How to move toward wholeness? How to become unstuck?

I went to sleep and woke up asking those same questions many, many days. Eventually, slowly, a peculiar truth emerged: I found that heartbroken is not unlike deconstruction. The whole plan has gone to pieces: but take heart, because now the pieces are yours to examine, explore, and reinvent.

Indeed, God is making all things new, and it is precisely the making we so often try to avoid; yet it is the making, like reinvention, that literally moves us into new places, allows us to see what was previously invisible, and begs us not to give up.

 

www.justinpheap.co

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Potted

I have a plant.

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I do not have a green thumb.

Somehow I’ve managed to keep this plant alive.  Probably because it’s one of those that it’s best not to water. Every once in a blue moon I look at it and remember that I forgot to water it.  It somehow doesn’t mind.  I give it a little water and the plant is no worse for the wear.  It’s a perfect arrangement for me. -Continue Reading

Exhale What You’ve Inhaled

Do you have seasonal allergies?

Then you know what it’s like when flowers bloom, grass grows and tree pollen flies through the air!  You inhale something mysterious and invisible and suddenly you find yourself sneezing, nose oozing and eye’s stinging.

My husband and son have seasonal allergies. Certain seasons are miserable for them.  Other times of the year they aren’t impacted.  Different allergens create different responses when they inhale.

My friend recently told me when her husband was in high school a teacher said something negative that embedded deeply inside him.

He inhaled.

For years he’s been trying diligently to unhinge himself from the affect. Other negative words have come and gone in his life, but for some reason these were ones that created a histamine type reaction in his soul.  -Continue Reading