There’s a whole lot of noise in the world today. That’s part of the reason I haven’t been writing very much recently. I can’t stand the thought of adding to an already overwhelming amount of information. People can’t digest all that is at their fingertips. It’s too much.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that sometimes a message starts burning within me until I just have to sit down and get it out. When I can’t shake it, I know it’s time to say it. So, here I am, adding to the noise and hoping that it’s worth someone’s precious time. Maybe someone needs to hear it right now!
Purpose is of utmost importance to me. If something doesn’t have a purpose, I have a very difficult time getting on the bandwagon of whatever it may be. You can ask the women’s ministry team I led for several years… I was annoyingly hypervigilant against “fluff,” as I called it. I had to learn to take a chill pill and realize that a little superficial fun never hurt anyone, in fact it can be downright therapeutic.
But for the majority of my life, I want to be found participating in things that matter for years beyond the doing. I am enamored by the idea of changing realities that haven’t even happened yet. I have witnessed how purposeful sacrifices can lead to generational modifications. I am inspired by the revolution that happens when one person takes a stand and says “no more.”
There are a lot of ways in which a person can say “no more.” We are all faced with little choices every day which will lead to one outcome or another. We know this instinctively, we just don’t always take the time to analyze this practice.
Most of us know what we should be doing. An overweight person is typically aware that they should lessen their food intake. The diabetic knows they should probably pass on the chocolate cake. The smoker is aware that each drag of the cigarette is leading to a potential death. The alcoholic doesn’t drink because he thinks it’s a good idea. Deep down they know they should say no. The chronically negative person hates that they cannot find the good in anything and yet feels powerless to change. The parent that resorts to screaming instead of balanced reason with their children doesn’t feel better when they go over the edge.
What are we to do? Here’s a start:
- Decide you are going to make the change.
- Start small.
- Get back up and try again if you fail.
- Keep trying, even when it gets hard.
These are all steps we’ve heard before. Maybe we’ve even tried them before.
I want to talk to those of you who have talked about making better choices and continually find yourself slipping right back into the behavior. I consider myself something of an expert on the subject, because I’ve had the experience of consistently failing at something.
Thankfully, I’ve come to understand that there are lasting ways to make changes in our lives. I know that growth and change are possible. It doesn’t mean perfection is ever reached; I don’t believe that perfection exists...in anyone. Do you hear what I’m saying? If someone tries to sell you some kind of fake perfectionism, run away. More than likely, they aren’t being honest about something in their life.
I do believe with all my heart, however, that real, lasting change is absolutely possible. When I was tempted to quit counseling because it was too expensive or too painful, I didn’t because I was amazed at how much it was contributing to the change I saw in my circumstances. I processed memories and perspectives that needed to be discussed, received tools to help heal my mind, and started using those tools in order to create a new normal.
Once you discover that something needs changed, the only responsible thing to do is to work towards changing it! Now that you know...it’s time to grow. We were designed to learn new things every day. We are stunning creations who have the capacity to reset and form new identities. We don’t have to stay stuck.
If you struggle with a toxic thought life, start today at changing those thought patterns (speaking to the choir on this one… this tendency is huge in my life). You don’t have to believe every negative thought that happens to saunter through your brain. Make it stop. And if you find yourself unable to, get some professional help. Don’t take it. Boss your brain around and tell it what to do. Change the conversation happening in your head.
If you find yourself continually going back to the same type of toxic friendships, make a conscious effort to separate yourself from the negative relationships you have created with them. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s necessary. Sometimes it takes an honest conversation with a friend. Maybe they aren’t so bad that you need to make a separation. But, perhaps you need to discuss some of the negative patterns you know are present in the relationship.
Maybe you know you should discontinue a habit. It’s something that is only mildly destructive now, but you have a sick feeling in your gut that it could be the death of you if it got out of control. Why wait until you have damaged health, a crumbling marriage or a crisis of some kind before you make the change you know is vital right now?
Decide to change.
Get back up and try again if you fail.
Keep trying, even when it gets hard.
I want to challenge you (and myself) to think about the possible ramifications of just one choice. What could change in your family if you stopped toxic thinking? What patterns could you put to an end if you chose to think before you spoke? How might you inspire the generations coming up behind you if you were to put an end to unhealthy habits? What might your decision change for those who are watching?
I get it. It’s not often that we think about our great-grandchildren while we are going through a typical day. But, maybe it’s time to start thinking toward the future. What can we change today that will have a lasting impact on our family tomorrow?
If it feels overwhelming, break it down in bite-sized chunks.
Smoke one less cigarette today. Use one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee instead of two. Take two bites of dessert instead of ten. Replace “I’m so ugly” when you look in the mirror with “I am thankful I have eyes to see,” or with a compliment you know to be true about yourself. Count to ten before you respond to your kids with the typical red faced retort. Ask for help. Breathe. Have grace for yourself. And, start small.
Over time, add more to your small goals. Do more as you can do more. Don’t give up!
The important thing is that we recognize when something is a potential long-term problem and we begin the process of correcting it in our lives.
It’s good for us.
It’s good for those who are watching us.
What is it in your life that you know needs to change?
I’m cheering for you. I know it’s tough to look at those areas we know are holding us back.
But, let me lovingly tell you, now that you know...it’s time to grow.
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash
We had such a wonderful time at the very first "Finding Brave" book signing the other evening!
My friend Debbie was able to capture a few photos for us.
Thank you to everyone who came out to purchase the book and chat for awhile. What a great evening!
I’m somewhat sure I’m doing a few things wrong in my life. That is, wrong according to my own ridiculous expectations of myself.
I don't work for a high-earning company. I haven’t made the New York Times Best Seller’s list. I have dirty dishes on my kitchen counter, currently, as we speak.
I feel like a failure most days as a wife, mom and friend. I don’t call or write my Mom enough, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t sent out a Holiday card in like, five years. Oh, did I mention I’m pretty sure I’m failing as a mom?
Who makes the rules around here? Why do we feel so inadequate in today's culture? Do any of you ever want to go back to churning butter and running through fields of wildflowers with your perfectly content, technology-free children?
Much of my writing is reflective. I’m typically either thinking through a situation, or have recently come through a life lesson. This essay on life is still in process, so forgive the informal tone.
I might possibly be using you as a sounding board.
I guess I’m wondering who decides what constitutes a perfect life? Where do we get this idea that someone else’s version of living--someone’s unique existence is the one we should be copying?
Sure, there will be some overlapping. There will be people whose experiences sound very much the same. There will be statistics and data which explain preferred outcomes and point to choices which brought about that result. I get it that there are certain absolutes. That’s not what I’m thinking about here.
Current status check:
Roof over my head. (check)
Food. Clothes. Education. (check, check, check).
Technically, if those things are a part of mine and my offspring’s experience (and they are), then we have the formula for a pretty fab lifestyle. And yet, I sit here today, reflecting on all the ways I must be messing the whole thing up.
Perhaps it’s due to my fascination with perfectionism. I’m trying to give it up, honestly I am. It just creeps back into my subconscious every once in a while and begs for me to take another look at it’s many charms. If I was perfect then surely the outcomes of my life would be perfect too.
I know what I need. You need it too, if you are wandering around in “What if” land like I have been this week.
Most of the time we just need a reminder about what is truly important. We don't usually need someone telling us what we are doing wrong. Most often we need an affirming voice telling us to keep going in the areas where we are doing our best.
My husband and I had an interesting discussion this week. Every once in awhile we (and by we I mostly mean I) start worrying about whether or not our kids have all the opportunities they should have. Will they grow up in the right way, with the correct influences and will they have all the chances they could have to make it in life? I’m not sure why I’m even worried about it. But, it seems like the thing to do as a “barely millennial.” It feels like I should be very concerned about the way in which my kids are growing up.
I’m all for intentional parenting. All for it.
I’ve read a few parenting books and I think they are fabulous. We have to raise these whipper-snappers into functioning adults. It’s a big job.
But, if you need a reality check like I do, I’m going to share one with you.
It’s going to be okay.
I need to hear it and I’m guessing someone else needs to hear it too.
If you can’t afford the highly competitive, private school with all the opportunities for success, it will be okay.
If you can’t make that awesome vacation work because, well, bills, it will be okay.
If you have to eat rice and beans for the next fourteen days because the transmission went out, it will be okay.
If you can't manage putting all of your kids in extra-curricular activities, it will be okay.
If your kids decided to try out that swear word they overheard and you are still dying from embarrassment, it will be okay. (Life lesson!)
If you are loving each other and making this crazy life work to the best of your ability, it will be okay.
People who came from what seems like the back of the pack have been making it fine for years…
Thomas Edison was told he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
Michael Jordan was once rejected from his high school basketball team.
The founder of Starbucks grew up in a low-income housing complex.
Perhaps you dream of creating the perfect life with as few complexities as possible. But, could it be that the complexities are what help create courage and determination?
I’m making it my goal to do as much as I can, with what I have. And then, I’m going to choose to accept the inevitable.
I don’t want to be lazy. I don’t want to say it’s good enough when it really isn’t.
However, I do want to stop allowing my perception of the perfect life to get in the way of enjoying the beautiful blessings I have right in front of my clueless face.
Today I will choose to give my family an extra dose of loving, even if they scrunch up their face and act like they don't like it.
Today I will choose to have an attitude of gratitude, knowing that I have all I need to make successful children.
Today I will remember that nothing good comes out of comparison. Instead, l will do the best with what I've been given and forget about whether or not the person next to me is doing better or worse than me.
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As many of you know, I have been working on a project near and dear to my heart for the past year. I've written a book and have partnered with WestBow Press to publish it. I'm so excited to report that it's almost finished!
I feel so strongly that this book could help people who were once like me. I've often wondered how differently my story would have played out if I would have had access to a story like mine. If I could have read an honest story and known that I was not alone. If I could have known that healing was possible, even if it didn't look like perfection.
My book will also help those who are supporting people with challenges. I believe it will help them be more empathetic and understanding.
I want to get the word out about this book, but I'm going to need some help to do it!
I'm looking for volunteers to be part of my launch team. We begin right away, so if you think you might be interested, please head on over there.
I can't wait to get started!
I have a junk drawer in my kitchen island. Perhaps you have one that's similar. Honestly, it isn't all junk. There are some pretty important things hiding in there. But, over time I've found an odd assortment of items tend to accumulate in that location. Pens which no longer work, a random key that no one wants to throw away (you know, just in case). A few stray paper clips, a piece that fell off of a piece of furniture, just waiting to be reunited with its larger part.
Every once in awhile, I come to a point of frustration and I know it's time to clean out the drawer. It's too full, too disorganized and littered with things that don't belong. I comb through its contents, checking for things of value, placing items in their rightful place, discarding the pens that no longer contain ink. I typically find things no longer useful to me, so they join the pens' fateful demise.
I've learned that my mind can become a junk drawer all too easily if I'm not continually dealing with the excess negativity. When I let things slide I end up with a thought that turns into a normal reaction, which evolves into a habit. It happens gradually and yet all too quickly.
Just as we should frequently sort out the junk drawer in our home, we must take the time to sort out our thoughts as well. So often there are thought patterns that have no business taking up space. There are beliefs we hold about ourselves and others that are nothing more than blatant lies. They have been allowed to take over.
It's time to root them out.
The rooting out isn't easy, but it's worth it in the end. A mind full of truthful, meaningful thoughts will foster peace and calm. The mind that contains fear, worry, and lies will breed anxiety, discontent and pain.
If you knew it was possible to change, would you want to?
Take a minute and think honestly about that question.
Are you content living in dysfunction, or are you ready for transformation? If you are ready to walk on a new path, read on.
Change requires a choice.
I mean, honestly, when it's time to clean out the junk drawer in my kitchen, it's the last thing I want to be doing. I'd rather sit on the couch and relax than tackle that craziness. It's similar when we go to transform our thought patterns. It might be messy in there, but it's our mess and we are comfortable with it. It may bug us from time to time...like when we open that drawer and rifle through the contents, but we feel like we can deal with it.
We have to make the decision that we won't settle for a kind of dysfunctional comfort zone. If you've felt the pangs of frustration, you know it's not healthy for you to continue in it. So, make the choice to make a change!
Since you aren't able to stop the thoughts from coming into your mind, you have to take the time to tackle them when they arrive.
Say for instance, you find yourself entertaining this idea from time to time: "No one cares about me..."
The next time you hear that thought, write it down. Take a little time and ask yourself where that thought originated from. Is it something you've thought for as long as you can remember? Or, is it a new thought, brought on by a recent experience? Record your observations about your findings.
Next, go to your search bar on your computer and type in the following: "Verses about God's care for me." Click on one of the results. Read the verses. Write down one or two which are particularly meaningful. Keep them close to you, perhaps by your bed, in your car, or taped to your bathroom mirror.
When that thought comes to you again, stop immediately and speak to the thought (in your mind, or out loud...I won't judge).
"I know that there is Someone who cares for me! Isaiah 41:10 says, 'Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.' And furthermore, in Matthew 6 it says that I'm more important to God than the birds of the air, and even they are taken care of!"
Every time that thought comes to steal your joy, replace it with a statement you know to be true. (Even if it doesn't seem true at the time).
You can even think about instances in your life when people cared for you in meaningful ways. Speak about those times and replace that negative thought:
"I know I'm cared for because Carla smiled at me last time she saw me and told me she had been thinking about me this week. And, my neighbor offered to pick up my mail while I was out of town. And I had the nicest conversation with the girl at the checkout stand - she was so friendly!"
The important thing is that you immediately spin that negative thought around to something positive. Do it over and over and over. Every time you entertain a meaningless, negative thought, replace it with a positive affirmation. Before long you will be amazed at how different your thought life is becoming.
If you find yourself continually entertaining thoughts you know to be prideful or impure, stop immediately and confess it to God. There is tremendous power when we agree with Him and admit that it's wrong. Say, "Lord, I know that temptation is trying to get in the way. I want to choose my sinful desires over you in this moment, but I'm choosing You instead." Search for verses about sin and temptation (study the life of David...that's a great place to start). Use those verses in the times of temptation or the moments of failure. Speak life and truth to your mind.
I can't remember where I first heard this statement, but it's a good one: "You have to boss your mind." You have to choose to tell it what to do, or it will tell you what to do.
Just as you order the junk drawer and create calm where chaos once reigned, so you do in your mind. Boss your mind and tell it what it gets to think.
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
Philippians 4:8 NLT
*Do you want a relationship with God but don't know where to start? Send me a message. I'd love to talk to you!
Photo: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Selfishness knocks often-- In marriage, parenting and life in general. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could flip a switch to become the patient version of ourselves we dream about during our fits of frustration? I know I’ve been there before.
Not long ago, my husband and I were discussing potential changes to his schedule. While I wanted to be supportive, I knew that my world would turn upside down just a little. I found myself groaning and complaining to him. “As a mom, I don’t ever get to determine my schedule. My schedule revolves around everyone else. There’s nothing I can do about it. So I guess I might as well get used to it.” I tried to be as sweet as possible, in a slightly passive-aggressive way. Part of what I said was true. Most often, moms face the fact sooner or later that their lives are forever changed when they give birth to humans. We are never the same. We juggle meals, naptime, school schedules, lessons, practices, family dynamics, laundry and cleaning better than the highest paid personal assistant. We are tuned in to the different sounds of a cry, the eye-roll of a teen-ager and the needs of our husbands. It’s not easy, but somebody has to do it!
All joking aside, both moms and dads are asked to give up a lot when they create life and give it space to become something great.
I read a quote recently that brought an abrupt end to my petty complaints in the moment.
C. S Lewis wrote, “The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”
The very things I have often allowed to circumvent my happiness are the things that bring me joy and purpose! What an important wake up call for those of us who gravitate to grumbling when we should be expressing gratitude.
I know we’re human, so we make mistakes--I get it. I refuse to be hard on anyone who is doing their best to live a life of meaning. So many of us are doing what we can with the tools we have at the moment. However, I’d like to propose that perhaps it’s time to step it up in the thankfulness department. I’d like us to consider that putting others above our desires is not a reason to whine, but a chance to thrive. It gives us renewed perspective so that we might see a world beyond the one with us in the center. A world where we “outdo one another in showing honor.” Where we bless those who persecute us and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:10,14,15)
I have a pre-teen, so I have moments in which I think I’m being persecuted. I’m really not, but when the angst of growing pains takes over a peaceful morning, I roll my eyes more than my adolescent does. Then I gently remind myself that I’m the adult here and it’s time to “Mom-up” for the situation and do what I’ve been created to do. Parenting is a great study in humility, because just when you think you are starting to figure out one stage, another one hits you like a force of nature. We pretty much never know what we are doing.
Even in the trenches of teen drama, there is a silver lining. Whatever the stage--In the middle of diapers and doctor visits, car lines and acne treatments, there are blessings to count. Parents, take heart. I know that there are days in which you feel selfish for partaking in self care. Don’t you do it. There are ways to create space for your own needs, without becoming a selfish monster. It’s a delicate balance, but it generally revolves around motive.
I know it’s not our favorite thing to do, but we must surrender our desire to be at the top of the food chain. Sometimes we need a reminder like the one in Philippians 2:3 to shake us out of our predictable behavior: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” I don’t know about you, but I battle a daily desire to be number one. I wish I got it right every single time, but I don’t. I have to repent--confess--ask God to reframe my thinking so it looks more like His. He is the ultimate authority in sacrificial living (and dying).
His purpose was paramount in everything He did. His theology of others first was revealed in His thoughtful service to others.
I’m challenged to continue to surrender my selfishness to the One who can transform my human tendencies into miraculous milestones for His glory. And as I give Him my tendency to take the number one spot, He gives me a heart of gratefulness for the blessings I had all along, but was too self-centered to notice.
PC: Matt Hoffman on Unsplash
I have been experiencing an unusual case of the "I wants" recently. It's most likely due to the promise of Spring peeking right around the corner, that brings with it the desire to renew the old stuff in my life.
I look around my home and see all the projects that would seemingly make my life more meaningful when completed.
I walk into my closet and am faced with the disorganization I have allowed to invade my everyday existence, and find myself scheming how I can acquire the latest and greatest tools to make that space work.
My kitchen suddenly seems outdated and frustrating with it's creamy laminate floors and stock kitchen cabinets. I'm unsettled and ungrateful.
I often feel guilty when those thoughts creep in. After all, I've lived major portions of my life without perfection in home essentials, so why do I care so much?
I suppose there is something to be said for the way I am wired. I am a Creative by nature, so I love the renewing and restoring part of any project. I am inspired by color charts and the way textures can beautifully compliment each other.
There's nothing inherently wrong with finding pleasure in creative endeavors, but there is something off when we strive for perfectionism at every turn.
When our wants become an unending distraction to what our soul needs, we are the losers.
I'm challenged by the idea that our focus should be centered on the important work of renewing our minds. Of allowing the Spirit of God to remake our inner beings. We must cast off the distractions that take away from the ultimate goal of seeing. The goal of seeing our lives through the lens that our Sovereign God desires us to.
We must allow our sight to be restored.
In Mark's Gospel we read a telling of the interaction between Christ and a blind man named Bartimaeus.
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10: 46-52
We have to be willing to throw off the cloak...the things holding us back from our healing. Matthew Henry writes the following, "The gracious call Christ gives us to come to him, encourage our hope, that if we come to him we shall have what we come for. Those who would come to Jesus, must cast away the garment of their own sufficiency, must free themselves from every weight, and the sin that, like long garments, most easily besets them..."
In my life the weight that often besets me aren't the big things. More often it is the little annoyances, frustrations, and feelings of discontent that hold me back. They fill my mental real estate and create a web of clutter that I often allow to mess up my day.
I know the key to real joy. I am aware that to the degree I pursue Christ, I will experience a feeling, or awareness that can't be taken away by simple circumstances.
When I am tempted by feelings of discontent, I have the power within me to focus on all the beautiful ways God shows up in my life.
First, He saved me. For real. I was a mess before He changed my life. Before surrender I lived an existence of striving.
Secondly, He changed me. He made me into a new creation. And He's not done yet! Every day I wake up is a day where God chooses to mold me into the person He thought of when He created me. I only have to keep letting Him have first place in my life.
Lastly, He loved me. Correction. He loves me. If all he did was die for me, it's enough. But, that's not all He's done. He walked before us. He came to earth as a real person with real hurts and human perceptions. And in His walking on this earth, He gave us a road map to a life of joy.
Psalm 16:11 says that "in His presence is fullness of joy." Jesus knew the secret to joy was perfecting His focus on His Father.
Similarly, when we feel our gaze shifting to things that can't bring us lasting fulfillment, all we have to do is spend time with the One who gave us time. Prioritize Him!
In John 15:5, His words give life and hope. "...I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." To have true joy, we must abide (remain fixed in a state) in Him. We don't ever stop abiding. We don't ever stop living in His presence. And when we abide, we will produce much fruit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Those don't come by accident. You don't just sort of acquire those traits. We remain in Him, and He lives through us.
So practically speaking, when I find myself zeroing in on the things I believe to be imperfect in my surroundings, it's time to check my motives. I have to ask myself why I am hyper-focused on it? I need to consider the possibility that I'm looking to perfection in my home, in my life, my family to be the source of my joy.
If i'm obsessing about the state of my surroundings, instead of the state of my soul, then something is off. I'm very aware that the correcting of that skewed thinking can take time and purposeful redirection towards what really matters.
When the lack of perfection in my house and life is stealing my joy, I need to look deeper and make sure I'm not looking to the wrong things for my fulfillment.
I LOVE this passage of wisdom found in II Corinthians 4:16-18.
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
My house, my things, my worldly possessions will decay. Our bodies will decay. And while we don't need to neglect the improvement of those things, the better fixation would be on our inner self. What we think about. What we choose to dwell on in those quiet moments. Who we allow to control our inner dialogue. All of the outward striving to achieve perfection only serves to create a feeling of discontent and emotional instability.
I think we intuitively know that our bodies, our things are decaying. We know that there is more out there, which would explain why we feel like we need to change something again and again. It's why there are trends in the world. It's why there are "hot items," which will be old news before the year is over. We are working to impress people (sometimes ourselves) and all along our Creator is saying, Come to me. I'm literally all you need. He says in Matthew's Gospel,
"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34).
He cares about our needs. He will supply our needs. But, I think He desires to be our greatest "want." He tells us to seek first His Kingdom...His Righteousness.
So the next time I feel that sick feeling of discontent in my gut, I'm going to remember that He invites me to worry less about tomorrow, and more about His plans for my life, and for the lives of those around me. I'm going to continue to enjoy creative projects, and re-do things in my home. I'm going to continue to go work out and eat healthy food. But, I refuse to obsess about things that God clearly tells me to stop obsessing about.
I want. It's how God made me.
I just want to seek and pursue His kingdom and righteousness first...before I seek that perfect wall color.
I am not enough.
Selfishly, I want to be. I don't want to have to bow before Anyone and admit that I can't make it without help. A lump forms in my throat, and tears well in my eyes as I contemplate the fact that my work isn't enough.
I never really understood until recently how much of a perfectionist I am. There is nothing worse in my human estimation than looking back at a situation and realizing that there were a hundred things that could have been done differently.
We all may know intellectually that failure is good, because it helps us grow. But that doesn't help in the moments when we look that failure square in the face and listen to what we think it says about us.
Some of us deal with speaking failure over a scenario before it's even happened. Certain personality types lean towards negative predictions, and I confess that at times I fall into that category. If the plans that were laid out so neatly don't stay that way, then we think we are doomed to fail. This kind of thinking needs to go.
I keep thinking about the people that followed Jesus while He lived out His earthly ministry.
They dealt with weaknesses. (Luke 22) With failure to understand what Jesus was doing. (Mark 9,10) One of them even went so far as to deny that he knew the Christ when it came down to it. (Mark 14) There was bickering and misunderstanding. There were moments when things didn't go as well as that band of believers thought it should. (Mark 4).
It gives me hope, in my weaknesses. Reading their stories, and how they came through it gives me courage to keep going.
Ministry doesn't have to be perfect. It will be messy and unpredictable and wild.
A life of surrender won't be an easy one. There will be confusion and redirection...time after time.
However, through it all, there is one thing that remains...
The Word tells us - “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." II Cor 12:9 ESV
We do our best. We allow God to work through us, no matter how weak we feel. And we rest in His provision of strength. Sometimes we get to see the fruit. And, sometimes we don't. Faithfulness is what matters in each case.
Be encouraged that in the knowledge that the most unqualified and imperfect people have been and will continue to be used in the upside down Kingdom of God.
Father, it's yours. It's all yours. Every talent, every gift, every provision you've supplied to us. We give it back to You, so that glory may be given to You, and You alone. Thank you for allowing your imperfect people to partner with You. To You be the glory, forever.
Our marriage has had quite a few "if's."
Some rather insignificant, and others that take my breath away with the enormity of what could have been.
If I had left after that first horrible fight...
You know the one where we said things no one wants to hear, and we were certain we had married insensitive people.
If I had walked away after that 50th ridiculous argument...
The one where I sat in the car for several maddening minutes trying to figure out an easy way to make divorce a reality.
If I had bought into the lie that perfect marriages exist, and Prince Charming is a real person, I might have picked up and left you, my dear. Because you are real, and normal, and human. And so am I.
And, I have given you plenty of opportunities to give up on me, haven't I?
I wish you couldn't remember the many times I've given you the silent treatment. Probably for some ridiculous reason like we just weren't on the same page, and I wanted to make sure you knew I hadn't flipped over to your page number.
Or the times I looked at you with fiery eyes, and whispered, "Don't you even think about bringing that into this conversation." But then, I broke the rules and brought up the hurtful topic you would rather not discuss.
We should have known that it would be difficult. I mean, we were (are) two completely different people, with decided opinions, and a dose of stubbornness on the side.
Somehow we were operating in the understanding that once my last name matched yours, and our address was the same, that those silly fights would just melt away.
They didn't, did they?
And, then add on the idea that you still wanted to be a Pastor, even though I prayed that God would change His mind and direct you to be a high earning businessman. Why didn't He listen to me?
I'm so glad He didn't.
I have learned so much from this crazy journey of ours.
From the years you stood by your agoraphobic wife while serving as a Youth Pastor at our first church, to the time we packed up our house and two kids and moved to a church for $200 a week. How have we made it through all the difficult changes?
I think it's because after every knock down, drag out fight (and there have been many), we looked at each other and said, " I'm not going anywhere." "I still choose you."
I know Pastors and their wives are never supposed to admit that they have moments when they don't like each other very much.
And Pastor's wives probably aren't supposed to spit out the words "And you call yourself a man of God!!" either.
Through almost fifteen years of practice, we are finally getting the hang of fighting fair. That and we are realizing some things just aren't that big of a deal.
I've learned so much by walking faithfully by your side. I've experienced a whole lot of grace from you and God as we've worked through the tough places.
Thanks for not giving up on me... on us... on marriage.
Thanks for making more than a small effort to repair broken places, and for understanding when that process was messy.
I think of all the "what if's" and a contented smile comes over my face. This journey has been the hardest thing I've ever done, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
If the grass is greener where you water it, then I plan to keep the soil well drenched. I know I won't execute the care of our marriage with perfection, but I want you to know I'm on your side.
After I've gone through all the "if's" in my mind, I'm more confident than ever that with you is exactly where I want to be.
"If you're tired of starting over, stop giving up."
Sometimes it’s hard to get dressed up for motherhood.
I remember the seasons when I awoke each day, took the time to arrange my hair and clothes in a professional manner, and walked out the door prepared to meet whatever life brought. If the day didn’t go well, at least I had accomplished one thing...I was dressed.
Then I had a couple children, then a couple more. Suddenly my propensity towards morning cheerfulness drifted somewhere towards the neighborhood of grouchy and overtired.
It isn’t that I don’t have good intentions. On the contrary, I have good intentions every day. It’s just that sometimes those lofty goals don’t materialize as tangible results. Consider the following scenario.
It’s 7:30 am. You’ve been laying there for a few minutes, willing everyone to give you a few moments of quiet. You know that as soon as you rise from the warm embrace of your covers, that you will be greeted by the cold reality of life itself. The reality that means packing lunches, finding matching socks, and picking the baby out of the crib, only to discover that the diaper has failed yet again, and two loads of laundry have been added to your seemingly insurmountable pile of dirty clothing.
It is now 7:45 am. You have given the baby their bottle, stripped the sheets from their crib, walked them into the laundry room, where you discover you forgot to change the clothes from the washer to the dryer yesterday. So, you restart the load in the washer so your family doesn’t smell like a damp basement, and leave the sheets in a heap on the floor.
Someone is yelling your name because they can’t find the butter that is necessary for toast. So, you come down to save the day, and in the meantime trip over baby’s trash can you forgot to put away after you emptied it this morning.
Suddenly it’s time for face washing, teeth brushing, and hair combing. You supervise as well as possible while the three year old is holding on to your pajama pants, begging you to hold her. Your oldest yells, “The BABY is playing in the toilet again,” just as you finish inspecting the last molar on child number three.
You walk into the other bathroom to discover they have not only messed in the toilet, but have unrolled the entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet, and you have the unmatched privilege of scooping it out. You clean the baby’s hands, and their mouth...just in case. You spray and wipe down the entire toilet, because...well, you might as well. Then, you say, “Where was I?”
Your husband is yelling for a towel, and your toddler is asking for a drink. “Just a minute,” you say...willing yourself to take a breath.
It’s 8:15, and everyone is ready to walk out the door. You give yourself an imaginary pat on the back for a job well done.
If you work part time from home, as I do, you might plop your remaining children in front of some socialist propaganda piece cleverly disguised as a cartoon, and attempt to get a few minutes of work done (I would never [ahem] do that...but it could be done).
The rational person might be asking you, “Why didn’t you just wake up an hour earlier, and prepare everything accordingly so that everything would just flow in perfect harmony?” Oh, but those of us who are comrades in the trench with you, know exactly why you didn’t wake up earlier.
You tried to go to bed at a decent hour, in order to get the recommended hours of sleep, but then you and your husband needed to chat about the budget, and that was impossible to do 3 hours before because the kids needed help with homework, and you were trying to clean up dinner. Oh, and you were afraid it might turn into a disagreement, so you wisely decided to “wait until later.” Well, that later had come, and you were deciding on priorities late into the night (either that, or you might have watched your favorite show to you know...chill).
Then, around 1:00 am the next morning, one of your more worrisome children walks into your room, scares you right out of a sound sleep and swears she heard something creaking outside. You assure her that everything is alright, roll over, shove your husband and ask him to check on the noise. He grunts something unintelligible, and stumbles out of bed. You aren’t sure if he’s awake or sleep walking, but somehow he persuades her that it’s safe to resume her REM cycles, and you both fall back into blissful sleep.
Blissful, that is, until another child is forcing you out of your restorative “eyes-closed activity,” with the news that they have accidentally wet the bed. Upstairs you go, stumbling around in the dark to find a new pair of pajamas, and to figure out a sleeping arrangement for your soaked offspring.
After a night with interruptions like that, you can barely drag yourself out of bed, let alone face a twelve hour day of inquiring minds that operate on a “need right now” basis.
Of course not every morning (or night) transpires like the one described above. However, most mothers and fathers know that their best laid plans require more than careful planning. It is impossible to predict what will hit you in the face as you begin each twenty-four hour time frame, known as a day.
There are days I’m tempted to lose it. Nights that I’m on the verge of surrendering every ounce of sanity I had mustered up from the last catastrophe. And, some of us do lose it… As a member of the “I’ve lost my mind” club, I can tell you that life lived in a facade of perfectionism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I could tell you all the ways you need to organize your schedule so that you don’t have unexpected emergencies like I do. I could reveal a buttoned-up plan of chore charts and activity agendas that would make your head spin. But, sometimes in the space between the list making and the life living, things spin out of control.
Did you sign up for a certain type of life, and find out there is a “no-return” policy? You didn’t ask for the child with the serious bed-wetting problem, the spouse who left you, or the member of your family who has received an unwanted diagnosis that leaves you worn each day. And, yet, here you are… Giving every last drop of effort to make the life you’re living worth getting up for.
I don’t have to tell you that sometimes it’s going to be hard to get up and face the day, but let me tell you any way... There are going to be some hard days! In all our efforts to be the men and women we were created to be, there is a common thread. - It’s called discomfort. Moments of adversity that lead to a level of fatigue we hadn’t thought possible.
Have you ever been speaking to someone about your problems, and in their encouragement to you, they happened to mention that what you are going through is nothing compared to what they are dealing with? Yes, we’ve all been there. And, as we stammer around to come up with a response, all we really want to say is, “You may be more experienced in the art of suffering than I am, but can we focus on my sob story for a minute?”
The truth is, no one has your experiences...your life...your grief. And, yet, on some level we all know the familiar pang of heartbreak. We know the disappointment that even a relatively normal day can bring. And, while we don’t want to focus on the negative parts of our existence, the tendency to live there is strong.
I could tell you to “count it all joy,” and you should. I could tell myself to “get a grip,” and I should.
But, before we give ourselves or others that advice, we would do well to take a deep breath, and make a conscious choice to neglect the sweating of small stuff.
In the off chance you end up doing 10 loads of laundry every day for the rest of your life, and live a majority of the day in sweatpants, know that there’s another woman out there who will cry with you over your cup of tea. Then, after we are done, we’ll get up, throw another load in the washer, read about people starving in Africa, and ponder our privilege. We will resolve to live a purposeful life, and give ourselves a break when our best laid plans unravel before our eyes.
And whatever happens...we’ll for sure stop pretending like we’re perfect.
Because we just aren’t.
And that’s okay.
(p.s. Sweatpants help sometimes)
And we know that for those who love God all things work
together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.