Behind the Mask

Some people seem to enjoy sharing the smallest details of their lives with anyone and everyone. For instance, you’ve probably been exposed to a person on a cell phone call who seems to believe everyone within shouting distance is dying to hear what he has going on.

Reality is that everyone hides behind a mask to some extent. No person is willing to completely expose his heart, thoughts … or secrets.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping some things private. In many cases, it’s the appropriate, smart, and caring thing to do. There will always be people who can’t be trusted. They’ll take what they learn and use it to their advantage, whether it hurts someone or not. So there are times when discernment is necessary.

But if we tell our friends that our lives are awesome when we actually need a good cry, we’re not only hurting ourselves, we’re hurting our friendships. We’re not giving the people who love us the opportunity to help.

Likewise, if we can be on the lookout and be perceptive enough, we can help others to remove their masks. In order to do that, those who are hiding need to trust us. They need to believe that they won’t be criticized or judged. Remember last week’s blog post on unconditional love? This is one of those opportunities where you’re placed in the position of offering it. I saw several examples of it this week.

We live on the west coast, and this week my daughter and her husband visited from the east coast. It’s usually a whirlwind while they’re here because they want to see as many relatives and friends as possible. One day they met a friend for lunch; later in the day, they met another at a coffee shop. Both friends opened up and relayed painful situations in their lives. Until my daughter sat face-to-face with them, she had no clue what either one was experiencing. It had been easy with the miles between them to keep things hidden.

As they talked, the masks came down, and the truth came out. They knew they could trust her to not judge, but to just love and support them in whatever way she could. If she’d known earlier, she could have been there for them all along, regardless of the physical distance. She loves them and wants only the best for them.

It can be scary to reveal ourselves. It makes us vulnerable.

Pride gets in the way. We want to appear strong and capable—able to handle anything.

But do you realize that if we’re able to take off our masks and reveal our true selves, it gives those around us permission to do the same? Walls begin to come down. It opens the door to reaching out to others, and for others to reach back. “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2 NIV).

One last thing … Wearing that mask can be tiring. It can feel might heavy. Wouldn’t it be a relief to take it off and lay it down?


Unconditional Love

I’ve been thinking about unconditional love. You know … the kind that says I love you regardless of what you say or do. How you look. What you achieve or don’t achieve, or whether you’re good or bad. The kind of love that says I love you no matter what …

Not all, but many parents love their children without conditions. A young woman recently gave birth to a little boy—her first child. Due to complications during the delivery, it appeared the baby would grow up with severe problems. The conditions greatly improved after several days, but even in those first minutes, hours, and days, those parents spoke lovingly of their son. Their love wasn’t based on whether he had potential to ride a bike, play baseball, or even walk. They just plain loved him.

I edited a book for an amazing woman who has always been her daughter’s caretaker. The girl was born with serious medical issues. Yes, the mother initially went through difficult times, but she never stopped loving the child. Now she’s on the other side of dealing with her emotional pain and is offering support and encouragement to other caregivers. She speaks in glowing, loving terms about her little girl.

I’m blessed to receive unconditional love from my spouse and children. And I will never forget a phone conversation I had with my father many years ago. I'd made the difficult, heart wrenching, and unpopular decision to leave my first marriage. Some friends understood and supported me, but others were angry. Christian women don’t leave Christian marriages, especially when the spouse is well-liked.

Some of my own extended family members were very angry. They didn’t understand. But my dad, many states away, told me he did understand. He told me to do what I needed to, and that to remember—no matter what—he loved me. I get teary every time I think about it, even after all the time that has passed. My world was crashing in around me. During that time, I needed unconditional love more than I ever had.

People are hurting. They’re battered and bruised. Maybe they’ve made mistakes. Perhaps they’re in situations due to circumstances beyond their control.

Maybe you’re someone who needs to feel loved just because you're you. Because you exist. Not everyone receives that kind of love as a child. Some lose it along the way. But we all crave it in our deepest heart of hearts.

People may fail us. People are not always able to love in that capacity.

But our heavenly Father has, and always will love us regardless of our brokenness, stupidity, rebellion, selfishness, and meanness. God loves us if we’re overweight, underweight, or have physical imperfections. We don’t have to be perfect. He doesn’t even expect us to be.

We only have to accept his unconditional love. What a gift!


Blog Tour – The Search by Suzanne Woods Fisher

My Review of The Search
Fifteen years ago, during a moment of crisis, Lainey O’Toole made an impulsive decision. Now, in her mid-twenties, and on her way to culinary school, her car breaks down in the same Amish town where that decision was made, forcing her to face her past.

Fifteen-year-old Bess Reihl isn’t thrilled about spending the summer with her grandmother, Bertha, at Rose Hill Farm. The woman is overbearing and intimidating, and expects Bess to work hard on the rose farm. The situation becomes more tolerable as she works next to the handsome hired hand, Billy Lapp, but he has eyes for another girl.

Bess befriends Lainey, who lived next door to Bertha as a child. But Lainey and the grandmother are keeping secrets … and life-changing decisions must be made.

When I first began reading The Search, I found it difficult to get engaged in the story because so many characters were introduced, and each one’s point of view (POV) was given. I didn’t know if I should care more about one over the other.

But once I moved past chapter one, the story drew me in, and I fell in love with the characters. I discovered that Bertha Reihl wasn’t just an overbearing, intimidating woman. She had a heart of gold and wanted only the best for those around her. Bess, although sweet and forgiving, was still very much a teenage girl, struggling with boy issues. Tenderhearted Lainey wanted to do the “right thing,” even when it was difficult. Strong and determined Jonah, Bess’ father, was an example of a gentle and loving man.

The author understands Amish ways, and with skill she shares the life with us. She shows us that the Amish have their “human” moments, but also great faith and kindness. This book piqued my interest in the life, and increased my admiration for those who choose to live it.

Containing twists and turns, The Search is a beautiful story about young love, truth, forgiveness, and facing the past.

The Search is available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

DISCLOSURE: I was graciously provided a copy of The Search by Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice and The Waiting. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is the host of the popular internet radio show Amish Wisdom and lives in California.

Suzanne Woods Fisher's latest installment of the Lancaster County Secrets, The Search, is just out and to celebrate Suzanne is hosting The Search iPad Giveaway!

One Grand Prize winner will receive an iPad Prize Package worth over $500 and includes:

To enter, simply click on the icons below to fill out the entry form/s, then tell 5 or more friends about the contest. Oh, and enter soon! Winner will be announced on February 3rd at Suzanne's Everything is Coming Up Roses Facebook Party. (Did you know The Search takes place on a rose farm?)

Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter

Facebook Party:

Join Suzanne for the Everything is Coming Up Roses Facebook Party on February 3rd! She’ll be announcing the winner of the The Search iPad Giveaway, hosting a book club discussion of The Search, giving away copies of all three books and HEAPS of other readerly prizes! Including roses delivered to your door for three months for you AND a friend! Be sure to join us on Thursday, February 3rd at 5:00 PM PST (6:00 MST, 7:00 CST & 8 EST) at Suzanne’s Author Page.

The Open Door

Have you jumped into the new year with resolutions, goals, and expectations? I no longer make resolutions, but I do have a list of things I want to accomplish, and I do have expectations for the year. I just feel it in my gut. It's going to be a good year!

Moving into the year with expectations involves opening our mind to new opportunities, and also looking for them.

Sometimes we can become so focused on a desire—a dream—that we get tunnel vision. I agree that it’s important to keep focused and disciplined in order to achieve goals, but if we’re on the wrong track as to what we should/could be doing with our lives, we’ll end up beating our head against a wall—and feeling defeated. NOT FUN!

I’ve been there. Running down trails and pursuing things that God didn’t intend for my life. I’ve felt frustrated and worn out from trying to MAKE things happen, but never getting the results I wanted so badly.

God closes doors because he has good reason. You know the saying, “God doesn’t close a door without opening a window.”

When I finally settled in and let God direct, I discovered the path I was supposed to take. (What a difference in what I was doing before!) Multiple doors haven’t swung open all at the same time, causing confusion. They’ve been revealed, and continue to be revealed one at a time. And I’ve need to take the steps necessary to walk through them.

Take a look at the following quote. Read it several times, and let it sink in.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

I love that! How profound! And how true!

Get excited! Believe God is on the move with and for you.

And keep your eyes open!


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