Focus

It’s Narcissist Friday!

This is a busy time of year. There are so many things calling for our attention and energy. The net result is often a feeling of weakness and incompetence. We lose power and confidence when we are faced with so many competing voices.

When you think of people in crisis or people with PTSD because of crisis, you may think of someone who has trouble focusing. Bouncing from one topic to another in conversation, beginning a new project without finishing the old ones, even jerky motions and general clumsiness—these are signs of an inability to focus. Some simply can’t focus long enough to get anything accomplished.

Narcissistic relationships, with their unpredictable and manipulative natures, cause us to lose focus. Those who work retail this time of year will understand. The boss comes in right before the big shopping day with a list of projects that just have to be done, but cannot be done. Rather than being able to focus on customers and connecting them with their products, you are constantly thinking about the things on the list for which you will be judged. You end up not doing well on anything.

Narcissists provide these continual distractions to throw their victims off, to drain their strength. Clear thinking and self-confidence are the enemies of narcissistic abuse. Instinctively, the narcissist knows he/she must keep throwing you distractions.

So, now you are out of the relationship, but you still find it hard to focus. You can learn again. Just realize that the loss of focus is a normal part of narcissistic relationship. It’s not your fault.

And, please, don’t put yourself down for these effects. You are not stupid, so stop saying that you are. You do not “always” fail, so stop saying that you do. You have been beat up. The pain and infirmity you suffer does not define you. It is the natural result of abuse and, listen, will not last.

No, it is not the “new you.” You are a child of God, unique and valued. You are not the ball in the pinball machine. You have purpose and you have power. You can rebuild your life, with the help of the Lord and your support group.

Finding focus in the midst of distractions can be challenging. Perhaps, even now, the narcissist continues to throw things at you. Give yourself time and grace. Be patient. Find some resources—charts, journals, timers, whatever—to help you get your work done. Listen to those who truly want to help you.

And pray. Whatever you need, ask the Lord who loves you. If you find it hard to stay in relationships, get work done, even sleep at night—pray. Ask for what you need. Then trust that the Lord will restore what “locusts have taken.”

Two New Books!

Believe it or not, I have two new books on Amazon! I find myself to be a better writer than marketer, but I want you to know about these two new books.

The first is a book that has been in the works for a long time. I call it “Practical Grace.” The idea is that such an important topic should be relevant to our daily lives. Not everything in life seems limited to the spiritual realm. We struggle in relationships, with our mortality, with getting through the day. Does grace matter day by day? Yes! God cares about your real-life struggle. His grace is for you.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

The second book is meant to be for those who have understood the message of grace in the past, maybe you took a class or read something about God’s grace, but have found it hard to stay on track. It is so easy to slip back into a performance system. It is also easy to become discouraged. This book will give you five “touchpoints” to which you can return often as you walk your journey through life.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

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God promises Comfort

It’s Monday Grace!

Comfort food, Southern Comfort, Royal Comforter, Comfort Inn, comfort spending

This world offers comfort in many forms, yet never touches the heart. You can spend your money, your time, your health, your life chasing comfort and never find it. In fact, I could make a strong case that the chase after comfort is frantically moving farther away from it all the time.

But you don’t have to strive for comfort. You don’t have to compromise what you believe. You don’t have to seek comfort in sin or indulgence or this world.

Comfort is promised to those who belong to the Lord. It is not accidental that the Spirit of God is called the Comforter. Part of His work in us is to minister God’s comfort to our hearts. By reminding us of the presence and love of God, the Spirit calms our hearts in challenging times. Nor is it a coincidence that the Spirit is “poured out” on the people of God. Like a soothing balm, God provides our comfort.

Sometimes I pray for the love of God to be a “balm” for a hurting person. A balm is usually an ointment that is rubbed into an area of pain. It may stop an itch, warm a muscle, protect and heal a wound, or soften a place of tension. A warm oil on dry skin, a penetrating salve rubbed into tense muscles, a ministering ointment poured on a wound. Comfort for the pain.

May the love of God soften the drive of anger, soothe the tension of anxiety, heal the memory of offense, relieve the pain of broken things, and deaden the itch of desire—in you and in me today!

The love of God has been poured out in our hearts
by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:5

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Health

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Stress causes weakness, infirmity, and disease. Does anyone really doubt that? I have long been convinced that, for many, cancer is the result of distress in relationships and daily living. Not for all, of course, but for too many.

Those who live with narcissists know what I am talking about. Maybe you grew up with one and still have to deal with him/her. Maybe you work with one or more. You find it hard to sleep. You eat too much. You do unhealthy things. And you are stressed.

Narcissists use stress like a carpenter uses a hammer. It is a tool they bring into the relationship to create the person they need their victim to be. Constant change (or no change), criticisms, false hopes, lies, expectations, pressures and more pressures. And did I say lies? Not knowing the truth is stressful by itself. Most narcissists use several of these strategies to bring enough stress into the lives of their victims so they can be manipulated.

Computer people will recognize the TSR (terminate and stay resident) program. The idea was that certain programs would stand ready to be used. That readiness was appreciated because it allowed the computer to move more quickly. Eventually, there were many of these TSR programs, and some of them interfered with each other and used up resources. We learned to look for and disable these programs.

Some have had the unfortunate experience of leaving a car sitting unused for a long period. When you get out to use it, the battery is dead. Why? Often it’s because of some small light or function that has stayed ready all that time. Resources were drained by staying ready.

In times of stress, we learn to stay ready to move or adjust or respond. We can’t relax, at least not completely. A person or a group that brings stress into our lives, especially unpredictable stress, forces us to stay ready. We draw on our resources without replenishing those resources. Patience, rest, nutrition, and other specialized resources are used up by this constant drain.

Narcissists provide stress. They do it on purpose, and they do it by nature. Because they suffer from internal stress, they force their stress on others. To control, they manipulate others by stress.

And listen: stress affects your health. Staying ready to react pulls resources from your soul and body. Worry, fear, anger, jealousy, guilt, shame—these things take from us without giving back. The narcissist knows how to manipulate all of these and many more.

Sadly, it is common for people to come out of a narcissistic relationship with health problems. After the smoke of the narcissistic exit clears, you look around and you don’t feel good. Some of these problems may last a long time. Others might go away when the stress subsides. Do yourself a favor and talk with a doctor about stress-related illnesses. Have your thyroid checked. Take care of yourself.

Some continue to stress after the relationship. There is a strange addiction to a certain level of stress. Guilt, fear, shame, anger—these emotions and others can continue to give you stress and drain your health. Find a way to relax. Give yourself permission to rest. Exercise, read, join a support group, get more sleep. If you can’t do it on your own, ask the doctor for help. Small doses of anti-depressants, sleep-aids, and pain relievers can work wonders. Just don’t do it on your own. Make sure someone knows how much you are taking and when—and has serious interest in getting you off the medications.

The point here is to understand where the health problems have come from and to give yourself permission to do something about them. If the narcissistic relationship is over, or if you have come to the place where you want to live in spite of it, then find the way to health again.

And pray. Ask the Lord for help. Ask the Lord for supportive people. Ask the Lord for wisdom. Then rest in His love.

Two New Books!

Believe it or not, I have two new books on Amazon! I find myself to be a better writer than marketer, but I want you to know about these two new books.

The first is a book that has been in the works for a long time. I call it “Practical Grace.” The idea is that such an important topic should be relevant to our daily lives. Not everything in life seems limited to the spiritual realm. We struggle in relationships, with our mortality, with getting through the day. Does grace matter day by day? Yes! God cares about your real-life struggle. His grace is for you.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

The second book is meant for those who have understood the message of grace in the past, maybe you took a class or read something about God’s grace, but have found it hard to stay on track. It is so easy to slip back into a performance system. It is also easy to become discouraged. This book will give you five “touchpoints” to which you can return often as you walk your journey through life.

Click on the book for the Amazon link

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God Promises His Presence

It’s Monday Grace!

We all know that the first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to try to cover themselves with leaves. They felt exposed and naked before the Lord. But the second thing they did was hide. Their sin was plain to see, for some reason, and they tried to hide from the presence of the Lord.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8

Adam and Eve hid from God because they were ashamed of what they did—and of what had happened to them as a result.

In many churches, the message on Sunday was designed to make listeners feel ashamed. When the preacher focuses on sin and how it damages the lives of those who participate, without reminding people that those who are in Christ are no longer in sin and should no longer be ashamed, he/she does a disservice. Sin no longer defines us. We are righteous in Christ.

When we become ashamed, we want to hide. From others, but also from God. So, the presence of the Lord becomes a negative thing. Think about that. For many people, the presence of the Lord is something to be feared and avoided.

But not for you! For you, in Christ, the presence of the Lord brings confidence and strength. For you, the presence of the Lord brings comfort and peace.

Moses understood. He knew that being apart from the presence of God would be weakness and defeat. So when the Lord spoke to him, Moses replied:

If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.
Exodus 33:15

In other words, “If you don’t go with me, I don’t want to go!” Believers live in the presence of the Lord. We find our strength and our hope in His presence. In His presence is our peace.

So, when Jesus said, “I will be with you always,” it was good news! He has washed away our sin, removed our shame, and promises to be with us always. Our strength, our hope, our goodness, our joy.

May you bask in the presence of the Lord who loves you this week!

*****

Two New Books!

Believe it or not, I have two new books on Amazon! I find myself to be a better writer than marketer, but I want you to know about these two new books.

The first is a book that has been in the works for a long time. I call it “Practical Grace.” The idea is that such an important topic should be relevant to our daily lives. Not everything in life seems limited to the spiritual realm. We struggle in relationships, with our mortality, with getting through the day. Does grace matter day by day? Yes! God cares about your real-life struggle. His grace is for you.

Click on the book to go to the Amazon page

The second book is meant to be for those who have understood the message of grace in the past, maybe you took a class or read something about God’s grace, but have found it hard to stay on track. It is so easy to slip back into a performance system. It is also easy to become discouraged. This book will give you five “touchpoints” to which you can return often as you walk your journey through life.

Click on the book to go to the Amazon page

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Wonder

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I just watched one of those police dramas. A young female officer was supposed to go undercover as a prostitute. They brought in a “real” prostitute to make sure the officer looked right. She said something I found interesting and sad. She told the officer, “Turn the light off in your eyes.”

The light in our eyes allows us to see the beauty and wonder of the world around us. The joy and energy of children, the beauty of creation, the pleasure of human relationships, the wonder of God’s love.

One of the consistent marks of abuse is the lack of wonder. The lights are off in the eyes. Years of discouragement, shame, fear, and anxiety take away the wonder of the world around us. Apathy grows as opportunities decrease. With no way out, the next day will be just as bad as the day before. With no hope of change, there is little joy in noticing the good around you. Who cares about the rainbows and flowers when the soul is crushed by despair and cruelty?

I have seen husbands and wives, kids and parents, who have lost their sense of wonder. Wonder sparks the curiosity and awe in us, but who has time for curiosity when daily survival takes all the focus? I have seen the lightless eyes in retail and government workers. (“The TSA does not have a sense of humor, Ma’am.”) You see it in the homeless, the addicted, and the dying.

My heart pants, my strength fails me; As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.
Psalm 38:10

Narcissistic relationships can rob you of your wonder. Constant criticism and shaming, abusive words, unfulfilled promises, twisting and manipulating. At first, you try to please the narcissist. You might keep trying hard for years. And every time the pain comes, the light goes out a little more. Every failure, every criticism, every disagreement—more is lost.

Now that the narcissist is gone, you try to sort out what is missing. One of the things that you may not even have noticed is that you can’t seem to “stop and smell the roses.” You used to do that—and many other things that allowed you to wonder and enjoy life. But life got complicated, you say. The days became so full of anxiety and work that you no longer even saw the roses.

But the wonder isn’t gone. You just shut it off because it interfered with the struggle. You couldn’t afford the distraction of wonder. Let it be turned on again.

The world is filled with mystery and wonder. There are people to meet who will impress you with their energy, hope, and joy. The creativity of some people is amazing. The little ones can enjoy such simple things, and holding them is one of the greatest blessings of life. There is beauty in the sky and the earth beneath your feet. God’s creativity is marvelous!

You are a wonder. You made it through the pain. You are still surviving and growing in spite of the opposition. Your body, your abilities, your reasoning—are all miracles.

The wonder of life is worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for. Find the way to get the light back into your eyes.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart
Proverbs 15:30

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For, In, Through, and With

It’s Monday Grace!

One of the most amazing things about grace, as I define it, is how personal it is. God connects with me personally. But, more than that, His activity, His love, is at work for, in, through, and with me.

For me: He has already provided for my salvation in the work of Jesus. He has washed away my sins, forgiven me, and prepared a place in eternity for me with Him. The fact that this is personal is found in the call for me to respond in faith. Even though He has done this for me, I still get to choose. That reminds me I am loved.

In me: Any change He wants to see in me, He is already at work accomplishing. The life that flows in me is His life, transforming me to the good He sees in me. His Spirit in me connects me forever to Him. That reminds me that I will never be separated from Him.

Through me: He chooses to touch the lives of others through me. As I submit to Him, He works through me to encourage, protect, and provide for them. I no longer have to worry about results as I trust in His work. That reminds me that I am worthy.

With me: He has made me unique among all His people, with special gifts and perspectives. He associates with me as an individual as He does His work. He is not afraid to allow me to be who I am as I serve Him. He is not interested in making me like everyone else. That reminds me that I am respected as a person.

When I feel alone and unappreciated, I remember that God has chosen to connect Himself with me. To Him, I am worthy, valuable, important. Understanding grace is understanding the relationship He chooses to have with me. While I am humbled in His presence, I am also strengthened by the glory He gives to me.

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Independence

It’s Narcissist Friday!

It’s called the Golden Rule, only it’s not quite what you have heard before. No, this Golden Rule says, “The one with the gold rules.”

It shouldn’t surprise us that narcissists want to control as many assets as possible. They want to control the money, the friendships, the time, the opportunities, and anything else that could encourage or strengthen their victims.

Over the years I have met a few people who have been so abused, so dominated, that they were afraid to try to stand on their own. They seemed to need someone to take care of them. They had gone so long without making decisions that they wanted someone to tell them what to do. There is often a vacant, waiting look in their eyes, much like the good dog waiting for the master’s notice. It’s sad.

Sometimes these people have been trained to do this. They were stripped of their confidence, self-esteem, and enthusiasm and taught to wait patiently until the narcissist decides to notice. Then they were supposed to be joyful that they got anything from their abuser. The narcissist holds the power and provisions. Gifts of attention and kindness are doled out with control and cruelty.

Narcissists and other abusers will allow victims to make decisions and then sabotage those decisions so the victim fails again and again. Either by cruel words and accusations or by condescending help and guidance, the narcissist labels the victim as incompetent. He/she needs the narcissist.

This is one reason victims often feel unable to leave abusive relationships. They have systematically been stripped of their independence, their ability to make decisions and take actions on their own. They have been convinced of their stupidity, their wickedness, and/or their inadequacy.

But when the narcissistic relationship ended, when the spouse found someone else or the parent turned the focus on another or the friend drifted to others, the victim is left standing alone—with little or no ability to handle life independently. And now what?

It is important for us to remember that being independent and being alone are different. No one should be all alone, but all of us should be able to stand independently. If the inability is too much, if you find that you can’t function in daily life, get professional help. Yes, it happens. Yes, it is part of the long term abuse. And, yes, there are things that can help you.

But maybe it is just the normal fear of making decisions and suffering consequences. There is probably someone in your life right now who is a good friend. A good friend will help you make a decision, then let you work it out. A good friend will be with you, but not take over. In fact, a good friend will help a lot less than you think you need. But that’s how he/she will help you learn to stand again.

Look to the Lord. Pray, then do what He leads you to do. Take what you believe is the next right step, no matter how small. You will be surprised at how capable you are when you try again. The lie held you back, took away your independence. Call it a lie and move forward again. You can do it.

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