Monday, March 20, 2017

Laugh on the journey...

Just when you think you have it all together and are feeling confident, something happens to humble you.

This picture was taken five years ago at a wedding rehearsal dinner for one of my family members. I hadn’t been out and dressed up in quite a while. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom of two boys so I rarely put on heels or dressed up. I walked into this event feeling confident and snazzy. I worked the room, talking to people I had never met before and mingling all night. It was a great evening and when we returned to our car, my oldest son looked down at my shoe and said, “Mom, are you saving that dinner roll for later?” That’s right, friends - I had somehow stabbed a thick and yummy dinner roll to my high heel at some point in the evening and went all night long without noticing. I had a flood of emotions and thoughts then as I wondered why no one noticed - or had the heart to tell me!!!! We had quite the laugh in the car that night and I was humbled as I was quickly reminded that nothing and no one is perfect. We can strive for perfection, we can put on smiles and fancy clothes, we can appear to have it all together in our beautiful houses and cars, but perfect does not exist on this earth.
I have learned through many humbling experiences to not take life so seriously. I have tripped at the most inopportune times, I have fallen out of booths because I have misstepped, I have taken out a whole blueberry stand at the grocery store (those are the tiniest pieces of fruit, they  really travel when busted open!), I have lost my bikini bottoms on an inner tube going too fast and trying to look cool (my husband took a picture of me trying to retrieve my bottoms just so I don’t forget that fun moment), I have accidently lit my shoe and my jacket on fire on two different occasions…the list goes on and on. I can now laugh at those silly moments -  but what about the hard moments? The moments I fail as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend; the opportunities I miss to say or do the right thing, the battles I choose to fight that don’t need fighting, the words I can’t take back, the actions that hurt someone I love…

As I get older, I am learning that I need to stop trying so hard to get it all right -  there are days when I just cannot win, no matter how hard I try. Do we crumble in these moments or do we dust ourselves off and keep moving forward? Are we so hard on ourselves about failing and not looking all put together that we can’t allow God’s grace to cover and heal us? God loves us all perfectly and unconditionally; His perfect love is not based on our perfection or performance, yet I find myself not open to receiving God’s love because of guilt and feeling as if I can do nothing right. I have to go back to God’s truths of who He says I am, that He loves me for me, that He created me as a masterpiece, with uniqueness that adds to the body of Christ, with my own talents, clumsiness, humor, and heart for others. When I see how God sees me, I can accept and love myself for who I am.

Every day presents a new opportunity to accept the grace and new mercies of the day. Don’t walk around longing to be someone different or live in such guilt that you stunt your own growth. When you walk in a spirit of humbleness, you can see others around you -  you can see their pain and empathize with them. You can be the encouragement they need because you can imagine how they feel. Being humble makes you relatable. Be open with your experiences so that others see the real you. Some of the deepest, most meaningful conversations I have had with people have been when they see my true self-God keeps our egos under control so that His glory shines, not our own. At the end of my life, I want people to remember how much I laughed, how much I gave of myself to others and how much I was willing to share about my life if it meant saving someone else's. 

What is the legacy you are leaving behind? One that gripes and grumbles at every wrong doing and mistake or one that knows who they are in Christ?

Embrace the silly. Walk on with your dinner roll and your head held high. Invite people in no matter the clutter and mess of your home or in your heart. Be real and open to meaningful conversations that can grow deeper relationships. Walk in a spirit of humbleness so that you can love and encourage others along the way on this journey of life. 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

Love the Message translation as well, “Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God-you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship you in adoration-what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.” Psalm 139:13-15 MSG

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Enjoy the wins in life

When you think back to the victories in your life, what comes to mind? Can you still remember their sweetness? Remember how proud you felt or how others around you treated you in those moments? Remember the feeling of finally learning how to tie your shoes, reading a whole sentence for the first time, riding your bike without training wheels, learning how to drive? All moments that take you to times in your life when you conquered new milestones. 

What about the emotional and spiritual victories? The moments in your life when you had to overcome a broken heart, heal from a loss of someone you love, walk through and move on from a broken relationship, accept a 'new normal' that you didn't sign up for. When we allow God’s healing into these dark places in our lives, we can find and declare victory in Jesus. These mountain top experiences help us get through the valleys and desert times in our lives. These victories can accumulate over time and work as a reminder to you of God's provisions and promises. God doesn't promise we won't ever hurt again or endure a trial, but if we remember our victories instead of only our losses, we will be better equipped for the next situation that arises.

In 2013, my son C was on a little league baseball team called the Hot Rods. He started the season strong, but by the middle had been hit by baseball pitches multiple times. He then became discouraged, asking if he still had to go to practice. C started to feel unworthy as a player, like he wasn't adding anything to his team. In a playoff game against the Emeralds, to further advance either team, the Hot Rods were down by 3 - if they couldn't score in the last inning, they were finished. First batter up, out. C was up second; I couldn't help but pray from right field that he would get a hit, one that would make a difference, one that would raise his confidence level. As I held my breath and watched a few pitches go by, I told myself what a great season he had. One full of learning how to throw and hit a ball for the first time, one full of laughter and teaching him what it meant to support his teammates and cheer on others when they succeed. A season full of not giving up, staying committed to practicing and learning more about baseball. It took a team of coaches, players and his biggest fans (his parents) not getting frustrated, being patient and being driven to succeed. After all, it was about sportsmanship and finding the joy in every aspect of life. 

It felt like slow motion in that moment as I watched the next pitch. It came right down the middle and I heard that wonderful cracking sound as C hit a double!!! He stood there in pure shock until everyone screamed "RUN!" When he got to second base, he did the cutest victory dance, hands in the air and all. Next batter up hit a single, which sent C to third base - if you are thinking we waited for another batter, nope; coach yelled for him to run like the wind home!!! C ran with all his might, adrenaline on full blast, to slide and steal home base. Hot Rods won and advanced to the 2013 playoffs, where they played hard and won the Little League Baseball Championship!!!! 

C didn’t know what it would feel like to win for his team - that they would all shout his name while his Dad paraded him around in the air. All he knew was that he was letting his team down every time the bases were loaded and he froze at the plate in fear. Fear of getting hit, fear that he would strike out and fear of disappointing everyone watching him. At any point in the season, his coach and teammates could've given up on him; we could've too. We could've convinced him that baseball just wasn’t his gift and maybe he would do better in a video game championship (he is truly amazing at video games - his Dad designs games, it’s in his blood). C could’ve given up too – but he remained dedicated and committed to the work, putting forth the effort, hoping that one day it would reap a reward. He practiced, he learned what a strike was and how to shake off being hit by a pitch. He learned to swing and that if you are going to go down, at least go down swinging!!!! He also learned to run. C is not a “high-knees” kind of runner -  he is a “shuffle-your-feet” kind of runner, :”slow and steady wins the race” is more his speed. That day though, when he finally got his hit, that sweet boy RAN. When you finally have purpose, you run with urgency. 

Victories don't come from sitting. Through my own life experiences and the difficult journey’s I have had to walk, I can attest to the fact that my joy gets stolen in times when I fear the unknown or refuse to move forward in healing and restoration. Many of us accept our lives instead of playing a leading role. Don’t just accept failure or loss - attack it, grow from it, better equip yourself for the future. We must put forth effort; we must try; we must keep our eyes focused on our maker. We need to trust every victory, great or small, so we can trust that God is holding us every time a trial comes our way. We must stay focused vertically instead of horizontally, keeping our hearts and minds centered on God instead of a fallen world that will fail us.    

I don’t know where you are at today. Maybe the pain you are experiencing is more than you can bear or you are like me and live in a frequent tug-a-war with what your heart and mind wants/needs. I want to encourage you to look back on some of the victories in your life and see how you and God overcame together. Sometimes we need a good old fashioned little league WIN in our lives. It wouldn’t be an instant cure, but those few moments of unsurpassable joy would leave such an impression that you would certainly find the energy and momentum you need to power through what stands in your way. 

1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Give him your hurts, your struggles and your fears so that you can be an overcomer and declare victory over it all. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why is pain quiet?

I was traveling recently and working on a blog post on the plane. What I absolutely love about writing is that God can change my direction within a day of starting to write. It is never my intention to give you fluff, I pray over the words I write so that they are from God and not from me, just thankful He can use my experiences. I spoke to you last year about a friendship break up and the impact that it had on my life. I haven't seen her in almost six months; she lives in another state and we don't speak. God has done a lot in both of our lives and we are wiser and stronger because of what we have walked through. As much as a part of me misses her, the healthy parts of our friendship, I know we are better apart. I didn't think I'd ever be able to say that. This was a person I spent a majority of time with and couldn't imagine my life without. When you are forced to face something and walk through a hard situation, if you press in and stay close to God, His love can sustain you. 

I wrote about “why is pain quiet” a year ago in my journal. I had just found out that my best friend at the time was moving and cried in my closet when I heard the news. Our families were so intertwined and at the time, I was not open to change in my life, so this hit me hard. God literally woke me up at 2am and told me with passion to get out of bed and write. I have yet to post it as a blog post because the timing hasn’t been right and because it is associated with a lot of emotion; it brings me right back to that moment of my life. It has been a journey since my friend and I stopped speaking; I have learned a lot about myself, have had God tell me hard truths with love and restoration, have realized what I want and need out of current friendships and what healthy boundaries are in my life moving forward. 

While I was out of town on a work trip, my old best friend came back to visit and decided to bring me some of my items she still had. I saw her on my doorbell security camera making a delivery of these items. Considering I hadn’t seen her on my porch in six months, this stopped me in my tracks. Had it been a few months earlier, this would have derailed me, instead it just stopped me for an hour as I processed it. I was thankful for the items returned, but sad that it all ended this way. Sad that so much has happened and passed that we can’t even be cordial to each other or on her part, leave a note with those items. It took months in counseling and working with God to sift through the anger and rejection I experienced from that relationship in my life. As painful as all of it was, I can sit here today and say that I am a changed person. That version of me is gone and a refined, restored, healed person resides today. It was an uphill battle and if I wasn’t careful, I could have gone back to my old ways of thinking; I have learned if you stop for even a minute on the climb, you can slip back into your old ways. 

All of these recent events got me thinking - do you ever notice how quiet painful things are? When we are busy, life is loud, it’s lived, full of schedules and phone calls and always going. When pain comes, it is like someone just pulled the plug on your power supply. When I was little, I would wake up to the sound of the power going out in the middle of the night. Seems weird, right?! How do you hear the power shutting off? If you listen closely enough, you can hear the shut off of everything around you; it is the white noise that fills our lives when everything is in full working order. It becomes truly quiet when you don’t hear the buzzing from the devices and electronics that require power; all the white noise stops and it is finally quiet, the ‘real' quiet, the quiet God is looking for when He says, “Be still and know that I am God” Ps. 46:10. The quiet times we sometimes plan into our schedules are not always quiet enough; it is not until pain comes along that all things truly silence. Painful situations silence everything around you and force you to focus your energy on that specific need or situation. 

I have experienced this type of pain with medical issues, loss, broken relationships, disappointments, rejections, etc. I have witnessed that pain is not too selective -  if it can find a route, it will take it. It is what we do with that pain that is important. In that silence when all the white noise is gone, when it’s just you and your struggle, who or what do you turn to? Most times in our lives, we have to feel the pain in order to walk through it. It doesn’t mean that is our 'go to'; many of us, myself included, avoid feeling it at all costs. We pretend we are fine, that it doesn’t have an effect on us; we self-talk ourselves to death and talk ourselves out of the pain. When we chose to avoid it, we really just suppress it until a later time. God wants us to live healthy, full lives, so at some point, it WILL resurface. It takes God silencing all things around us for us to hear and grow from that situation. Many of us seek answers and justice, in places of feeling wronged or abandoned and not knowing why. I have learned that God doesn’t always answer the whys of life, but He does wrap His arms around us while we cry out and feel it all. He loves and cares about every tear, every groan, every frustration and is the only One who can ease the pain over time. God has never promised to take it all away, but He does promise to walk through it with us, to guide us, to give us enough strength for today. 

There are days when the pain is too great, I feel like I can’t breathe and the thought of taking a step forward in my new situation seems unbearable. I pray to make it through 20 minutes - then 20 minutes become an hour, an hour becomes several, and several hours eventually turn into days. When I turn to God with all of it and realize I no longer have control, He provides. Healing hurts, it is a process and a journey with no end point signaling when it will stop. There is no magic date or light at the end of the tunnel/ That is the thing about pain - it takes any route possible and provides no time frame for how long it will last. However, God promises to hold us through it. I encourage you to feel today - stop suppressing the pain or finding ways to mask it, press into God and allow Him to work and heal your heart. I am thankful that we serve a God who allows unhealthy relationships to come to an end, who shuts doors that we think should stay open, who changes courses for us because He truly knows what is best and sees the greater picture. The pain we are experiencing now can turn into amazing growth and compassion for others as we walk out our journey.  I challenge you to shut off the white noise in your life and see what can be taught and felt in the pain. When you look back on your life, those will be the defining moments, the moments you surpassed it.


Friday, December 2, 2016

The world may say ‘Rejected,' but God says we are His Beloved!


Rejection. Sometimes just reading the word makes me cringe because I can instantly think back to a time in my life when I have been rejected. This blog post was not easy to write; no one really wants to admit to being rejected or abandoned. It has taken four weeks to pray and walk through this with God. I sifted through my past experiences and remembered all the times I felt rejected -  I could still remember the location, the weather, the aftermath and how broken my spirit felt when it happened. I was also able to look back and see all the places God healed, restored and provided new. What does rejection look like in your life? Do you currently have an open wound from rejection - or a scar that remains? 

Whether it has happened with a close friend, a mentor, a sibling, a co-worker, a boss, a church, a spouse, or even one of your own children, rejection can be a painful process. It can leave a stinging wound or a scar that loses sensation as you heal, but can be reopened and triggered emotionally if pressed upon too hard. When I was younger, I had this idea that as I aged, I would deal with rejection less; I somehow thought that rejection was more prevalent in adolescent years when you are forming peer groups. However, some of the most painful rejection I have experienced has happened in my late 20's and 30's. Within the last six years, I have had two significant, painful, hard-to-swallow forms of rejection from people who were close to me and I trusted wholeheartedly. Rejection is downright hard to heal from. It can send you into a mental spiral of what you could’ve said or done differently in a situation. Regardless of it being a broken relationship or being looked over for a job promotion, rejection hurts. Hard to admit that a person you trusted and shared intimate details of your life with no longer wants to be in relationship with you, or that an employer worked you into the ground while promoting everyone around you. If you are not careful and don’t have the right coping mechanisms, you can get tunnel vision and be all-consumed with the brokenness and rejection. 

This year has been a reminder for me that we live in a fallen world, that rejection and pain exist and that God welcomes us every time with open arms and the healing we need to move forward. It brings comfort knowing that Jesus felt the same pain; the same feeling of rejection from people He trusted. Telling myself that He felt it as well, gives me courage as I walk through it. He chose to feel it for me so that He can give me wisdom as we walk this road together. God has taught me that He can fill the void or gaping hole when someone I love walks away, He can wipe the tears when I don't get the job or position I had my heart set on, He holds me up and in His arms when all I can do is put one foot in front of the other from the pain of loss. Knowing God will never leave me or forsake me gets me through the moments of rejection and keeps me right by His side to heal and grow. 

If you are not careful, rejection can sit and eat away at you. You can get caught up in the ‘why' of it all and the ‘how could I have done it all differently’, but this can all consume you. It has the power to take away the goodness in your life. When my character has been attacked, I can either believe what this person has drawn up of me or I can turn to God’s truths about who He says I am. I cannot change someone’s opinion of me or how someone views me; I can try, I can apologize and ask for forgiveness, but that doesn't mean everything will immediately heal and restore. I've seen this firsthand in my life with people I thought would be in my life forever. 

This is why I couldn't be more thankful that we serve a God who is our greatest redeemer. He can take all the rejection, all our lives' greatest disappointments, all our loss and brokenness and make it all new. He is a God of even the smallest details in our lives and wants to heal and restore us. We may think He doesn't have time for us in the big scheme of things, but He does, He is the restorer of life. 

Being in brokenness is exhausting. I have been through a friendship breakup this year, as well as a reopening of a six-year scar to try to restore a relationship with my oldest brother. Both sent me into a mental spiral, both made me examine all the ways I could’ve prevented it, both took my energy and my time and at the end of the day left me with no more answers than what I started with. Through all of it, God gently reminded me Who I belong to. I don’t have to crash back and forth in a sea of doubt and confusion, I have to just come to still waters and allow God to restore me. He wants to be the one to provide for us, to restore us and He wants to refine us in relationship with Him. I have lived long enough to see that there is no wound too deep that God cannot heal, there is no addiction too strong that God can't break and there is no sin too great that God cannot restore. 

Rejection will still knock on my door in different forms, but when I am rejected, God will quickly remind me that I am His Beloved. I am a daughter worthy of His love, I am prized, valued and no matter my wrongs, He accepts me back with open arms. Being rejected can even make you grateful if you allow the proper healing. Rip the bandaid on that wound of rejection and allow God to heal the areas of pain that we sometimes spend more time avoiding than attacking. Trust in a loving Father who wants to heal and restore you in more ways than you can even imagine. 

Psalm 94:14 NIV "For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance."