Sometimes...the Bed Breaks

It was several years ago on a typical hot Cambodian day when the conversation happened. I was helping lead an Awe Star Ministries team of students, and it was "promotion day," which basically meant our team's Country Coordinators (aka commanders-in-chief) were stepping down and select students were being promoted to leadership positions for the day. Jesse, one of our two trusty Country Coordinators, announced the promotions to the team and then told them:

"Today I'm just an ordinary student. Don't treat me like your Country Coordinator! Treat me like a student, talk to me like a student, do everything like I'm a student because today, I am one."

Then our 6 foot plus leader proceeded to climb into the back seat of our van, which was quite a humble move considering the leg space and limited reach of the a/c. My sister, one of the team members that year, ended up sitting beside him. She took into consideration what he'd announced and decided to capitalize on it. She had a confession, and since he was a student that day he couldn't get angry!

 "You wanna know something?" she asked.

"Yeah!" Jesse replied.

"Remember you're a student today..." she reminded him. Then she whispered, "We broke our hotel bed." 

"WHAT?!?" came the incredulous first response before he caught himself, followed by a much softer, "I mean, what??"

My sister proceeded to explain how the bed had broken for no apparent reason. Later, Jesse fixed it, and the problem simply ended up being a dislodged supportive slat under the bed. However, the bed was overall unstable, and any time there was too much weight on it or the weight wasn't distributed evenly, the bed "broke."

Later the same week, we had a team meeting in my sister's room, and she had to tell people one by one as they came in that they couldn't sit on her sleeping space because "Sometimes...the bed breaks." 

We all laughed and said, "Oh, Cambodia..." too many times to count. The whole scenario was ridiculous and hilarious, and it led to a catchphrase my sister and I still use today:

"Sometimes...the bed breaks." 

We use it when situations unexpectedly happen that are out of our control, just like the first time her bed broke. We use it when bad, hard, worst-case or most-awkward-case scenarios occur. 

Sometimes, these things happen. They affect us and those around us. They're out of our control. Often they make a direct and disruptive impact on an unavoidable, everyday part of our lives, like our beds or our families or our hearts.

Sometimes...the bed breaks. 

Today, I find comfort in remembering this, remembering it's a part of life that's uncomfortable, even terrible, but normal. Some days it happens in the mental or emotional realm. Some days our happiness gives way without explanation, letting us crash down into depression or grief. Some days anxiety shows up and we duke it out, and sometimes anxiety wins.

Some days it happens in the spiritual realm. Doubts about our calling, our purpose, or our faith plague us. Spiritually dry seasons come and last much longer than we think we can endure.

Some days it happens in the physical realm. We get sick, we're involved in a vehicle accident, we catch the punishment for someone else's crime, or we're simply physically exhausted. In these times, the flight of stairs we climb every day seems a little bit longer and steeper. The alarm clock seems to ring hours earlier than it used to. We're worn out.

Sometimes it happens in a combination of these realms. Some days, the rack we hang our clothes and hopes and dreams on snaps, and everything ends up soiled on the ground, t-shirts and self esteem included.

True story. Photo taken after clothes were re-washed.

True story. Photo taken after clothes were re-washed.

Yet everyone faces these things, these unexpected, unwelcome events or seasons, the broken hearts or shattered dreams or lost relationships. They're a present albeit unwanted part of life, just like power lines in a picture.

In these seasons, I often forget the days exist when everything seems a little bit brighter. The days colors seem to pop more, when the view we see every day on our way home stops us in our tracks because we notice again how breathtaking it is. The sips of cold water and the company of friends and laughter over lunch fill our hearts up till they're overflowing. 

Some days, the small is enough to make the whole world seem wrong, and some days, the small is enough to make it all seem right. Everything comes in seasons, and perhaps the light from the bright times is meant not only for a single day but to last into the dark times, too.

I love these words by author and blogger Sarita Hartz in a wonderful post about suffering:

I cannot escape the beauty that often comes from suffering, any more than I can escape the laws of physics. But I believe, healthy self care doesn’t mean the avoidance of suffering, it means that we have the reservoir of hope and joy to offer when it’s needed.

Sometimes...the bed breaks.

We can't change it or fix it or go back in time to prevent it. But there are two things we can do. First, on the days the bed is intact, we can rejoice and treasure our happiness and appreciate the beauty in life. We can value the good times and practice gratitude while it comes easily. Second, we can offer our presence to those around us, whether we are in a "broken bed" season or others are or we all are. Something beautiful is created when we sit with others through the storm, even if (maybe especially when!) it's on an old, broken bed in the middle of Cambodia.

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Scarcity and the Spiritual

Scarcity is a topic just making its way into the public conversation arena. It can be summed up as the belief there’s “not enough:" not enough time, not enough happiness to go around for everyone, not enough money, and the list continues. It can manifest as “I am not enough”—not pretty enough, good enough, nice enough, productive enough—a lie I faced head-on after an experience in a Cambodian hospital left me painfully aware of my inadequacies.

The scarcity mindset is rampant and often leaks unnoticed into all realms of our lives, including the spiritual. I’m sure scarcity manifests itself in different ways for different people, but here are three ways I’ve noticed the “not enough” mantra invading my spiritual life.

1) I’m afraid there’s not enough grace and mercy to cover my sins.

As someone who grew up in church, the gravity of sin was hammered into me from a young age. Add perfectionism to church legalism, and it’s easy to understand why it’s such a struggle to believe Jesus’ mercy is enough to cover me every time I sin. Time after time after time, I stumble and fall, and sometimes it just seems plain impossible that Christ has any mercy left. Questions such as “How can God forgive me even though I’ve fallen into this sin so many times?” and “How can God still love me after all I’ve done?” are birthed. Yet the Word clearly says His love endures forever, and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22). Viewing this lie as a scarcity issue has helped me understand where these fear-based doubts come from and freed me to rejoice in the abundance of the Lord’s mercy.

2) I start believing there’s not enough encouragement for all the times I feel down.

Every time I serve overseas, my mom has this wonderful tradition of collecting notes from my friends and family and sending them with me for days when I need a little extra encouragement. It’s a great resource—except for several years I convinced myself the number of moments of discouragement I'd have would exceed the number of notes to read. I stockpiled the letters for times when I “really needed” them. I tried to muscle through the hard days because I was so afraid a harder time would come and no encouragement would be left. At the end of several summer trips, I had a dozen unread notes to read on the plane home. They were still fun to open, but I found I’d robbed myself of the encouragement God had provided for the hard times.

These days I push past my fears and reach out to others when I'm having a rough day, either by sending a text or opening a note (though I try to be careful I’m seeking hope first from the Lord and not from other people’s words). It’s been a source of encouragement and strength, and on days I have no letters and no signal, the Lord continues to provide. The interactions I find most encouraging are, after all, the ones pointing me back to find strength in the Lord Himself.

3) I’m afraid God’s gifts are limited.

Even when I pray, I fall prey to the scarcity mindset. I’m hesitant to ask the Lord for hope, encouragement, or a boost in mood. I act as though there’s a quota for the gifts He gives each of His children, and we must be wise about when and why we ask for them. However, when I look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels, His generosity cannot be measured, and Paul refers to the riches of Christ as unfathomable (Ephesians 3:18). I must ask myself, “Am I robbing myself of asking for and enjoying His gifts because of a scarcity mindset?”

The root of it all, I suppose, is a belief that God is not enough. It’s a lie that creeps into my heart and makes subtle but significant changes in the way I view God and myself. When I start believing God is not enough, I search for “enough” in other places: in myself, in others’ approval, in “success,” or in knowledge. Yet Jesus is enough is a fundamental part of the Gospel. There is no scarcity in His Kingdom. I have to remind myself of this every day. He’s enough to hold my fears, my failures, my future, my down days. He's enough for my scarcity mindset and all it entails!

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Again and Again

I read a friend’s Facebook post today, and it really encouraged me. It was funny and lighthearted and honest and talked about how she was waiting for the future superhero version of herself to arrive. I wish I could share the actual post with you, but when I tried to go back to it I couldn't find it for the life of me!

Anyway, it was encouraging because perfectionism and idealistic expectations have been a long-time struggle for me.

Usually what most discourages me is just how long I’ve been fighting the same battle. I get disappointed when I make progress and then fall back down again. And again. And again. I feel frustrated there’s no formula or shortcut. It’s hard to keep finding grace for myself.

Yet it’s moments like these—a quick look at a friend’s post on Facebook—that remind me I’m not alone and help me get up again. In the middle of a newsfeed of picturesque moments and ads targeting my desire for “better, more, and easier,” I find hidden treasures in people sharing the everyday parts of their lives and their hearts.

Much of life is like this. In person or virtually, we are bombarded by ads and messages reinforcing negative beliefs we have about ourselves and others. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Yet in the midst of it all, we also encounter the honesty of friends, the kindness of strangers, the joy of walking alongside people who are just as messy and messed up as we are—whatever it is we need to give us the courage and strength to rise after a faceplant. We all need this encouragement sometimes. We’re all waiting for the superhero version of ourselves to come—not one of us has found her yet!

When we practice authenticity and let our walls down, we not only experience freedom in our falling and rising, but we also find the strength to get back up. It's found in and fueled by compassion and empathy and community. We all need it. Today, tomorrow, the next day, the one after that and the one after that. We fall down and we get up. Sometimes our getting up is what gives someone else the courage to rise, and sometimes watching someone else get up for the millionth time is what gives us the extra nudge we need to try to stand on our wobbly legs again.

Again, and again, and again, and again.

I’ve written about this theme before, and here I write about it once more—because I needed that extra nudge again today, and maybe you do, too.

Here’s to getting up, to falling, and to getting up again. (And again. And again.)


Are there areas in life in which you feel like you're constantly falling and having to get back up?

What motivates you to get back up when you've fallen?

How can we be more intentional about helping each other back up?

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