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." 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hit the delay button

Raise your hand if you are guilty of over scheduling and overcommitting??? I took both of my hands off the keyboard…Guilty!!!

You know who you are...the one who says ‘yes’ to every PTA fundraiser, school volunteering, church event, work project, community outreach/event, family function, etc etc. On top of all that, you strive to be the best wife, all invested craft Mom, best friend, helpful daughter and always there when needed sister. You try to balance all this while trying to stay on or start a diet that proves that you can do it all and still be in cute clothes and your hair done all the time. If all of that isn’t exhausting enough, lets add the people who love to be the fixers of all situations. I am definitely guilty here! I am a fixer and if I don't direct that gift in the right direction and the way God wants me to use it, I'll completely overstep my bounds and take on the whole problem so that it is released from you and all the pressure is on me. Anyone relating yet?
What are we trying to prove? That we have superhero powers? That we can out do one another? That we can seem super human and juggle a millions things at once? We should be careful here, no one can do it all. Things will start to fall, priorities will shift and not always in the right direction. We should be careful that we aren't doing it all for the praise of individuals because even praise can become an addiction.
When I was going through a trial in my life this last August, my counselor taught me a simple, yet beneficial concept. She wanted me to hit a ‘delay button’ in my life when life’s decisions came up, no matter how big or small. She suggested pushing pause on saying ‘yes’ too quickly in most situations. We discussed that when people ask us to do something they may have already asked a few people and we don’t need to be the one to quickly jump in and rescue the situation or problem. When we act too quickly and don’t take the proper time to pray about it, or discuss it with our families, we can lose sight of our priorities. I can personally list a handful of times that I have put someone else’s needs in front of my own or my family’s needs. Reassessing your ‘why’ as you go will help you keep your priorities in alignment. Ask yourself, "Am I saying yes to helping this person because of how many will applaud my efforts or is it because it will bless them or others?"  There are times that I say yes to friends, family or church leaders and midway through the planning, I need to re-assess my intentions so my ego and priorities stay in check. Pushing the delay button in our lives allows our priorities to stay intact and allows self-reflection so that we aren't over-committing. 
There are, of course, parameters on pushing the pause button in our lives. Don't just hit it, walk away and let it be an excuse to not commit to anything; that is a different issue altogether. Pray on it, revisit it, evaluate how it effects your immediate family and then see in a few days, or a few weeks, how saying yes or no will impact your life and those around you. When discussing it with your spouse or family, write out the pros and cons of saying yes or no to a situation. If it is a short-term commitment, can those around you be supportive through it? If it is a decision that impacts the dynamics of your family or involves a relocation, make sure to pause and think about the new reality and how you will all respond to the changes. 
My sweet friend last night asked me, "How do you know when to release the pause button and to start moving forward?" She mentioned that so many of us are told to just pray on it. How long do we do that? I think there is not a set solution on how long it takes to pray through a situation that arises in our lives. Some of us walk through smaller or shorter trials, while others walk through lifelong journeys of illness and brokenness. From my own life experiences, I know it takes time and steps of faith. Sometimes we need to move in different directions, but we are required to move regardless. God doesn't want stagnant believers. Start moving down one path staying attuned to God's voice and you will know when to redirect and take a different route. You will know it when you commit to something you knew was beyond your skill set or you knew you should've said no to. The gut feeling or guilt feeling is accurate, trust it; it's usually trying to tell you that something is wrong, so stop and pray through it. You took one step, now take the next one and pray through whether you keep going in that direction or need to take a few steps back. Be honest with the person you have committed to. Keep communication open so they know that you are having second thoughts as you are going along. There will be times where you will be completely out of your comfort zone, but use those moments as growth opportunities. If you stay in your house, sit and wait for a door knock or a phone call with the answer you are waiting for, chances are, it won't come. You have to move! You have to trust God that in the movement He will provide the clarity you seek. Once out of a situation, you can look back and see how all the puzzles pieces fit together. Whether it's a small puzzle piece of your life or a multi-year journey of one, looking back you can add it to your toolbox and memories of the wins and victories in your life. Those add up over time and give you the confidence and trust you need to walk through tough times. 

If you haven’t heard of it yet, escape room puzzles are super popular right now. It is a location that you go to with a group of friends and you are given a mystery or puzzle to figure out in room(s) under a specific time limit. Solve the puzzle in the right amount of time, you win, if not you lose. My friends and I have yet to finish one- we've come so close though, within two minutes on one of them. We always say afterwards that we now want to go back in and do it all over again, but with the wisdom and knowledge we now have so that we make the right choices in the right order - which would then produce the right outcome. Because knowing what we know, we will get through it faster and more efficiently. This is how life situations and trials can work in our lives. We gain experience, we gain confidence, we gain wisdom so when the next situation arises, we are more aware and know Who to go to first with it all. Pushing the pause button allows you time to think before acting, it keeps healthy boundaries in your life and keeps your priorities where they belong. So the next time you are asked or feel the pressure to do something, fix something or someone, or run an event; push pause, pray and decide what would work best for you and for others. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loss sucks!

Loss sucks. Seriously sucks. Is that a bad word in your house like it is in mine...? Both "loss" and "sucks" are bad words. Currently I am losing a friend to stupid, awful, bad word CANCER (melanoma) and it sucks. I have lost so many friends to CANCER in the last few years it's almost an epidemic in my heart.  I've had friends lose a child, friends lose a parent, friends and students die too young and in the prime of life, beloved aunties and moms and grandmas. Loss is always earlier than we want no matter what.

This time this awful disease is taking my friend Sheri. Sheri has made me laugh until I cry all of my mascara and eyeliner to oblivion. She has listened to me and been there through some hard,scary times. She was my buddy at work that I would email from across the room, and then we would make eye contact and giggle. She was my sushi buddy, my morning coffee walk, my surprise friendship after years of not really liking each other from a far. She was the one that made leaving my old job so hard that I couldn't speak as she walked me out to my car one last time. Tonight she's almost gone from this earth and I'm mad, and sad and racked with guilt that as my new job has taken me on a new journey, it has taken me away from walking closely with her through these last months. I have been looking through our texts from this last year and although we stayed in touch and "I love yous" were shared, I just feel robbed from more time knowing she's still in the fight. Loss sucks. Her kids are robbed, her friends, her family, and this earth. This is heartbreaking.....she's so young, so beautiful, so full of laughter and craziness.....She's a mom, a girlfriend, a friend, a daughter.....she's not much older than me. She's leaving, and my hope is that we will hit every sushi buffet in heaven and laugh together again and it will seem as no time has passed at all.

 Loss was never in God's original plan. That is why it hurts so bad when we lose someone, and why our hearts can't ever fully heal. We are on the other side of heaven. Tears still easily arrive at every mention of my dad, 26 years since I lost him. Every time I have graduated, every time a niece or nephew was born, my wedding, my pregnancies, watching my kids grow up without him.......It hurts like hell. I never have known what it is like to have a Dad as a teenager or adult. I watch my friends with their dads now in this stage of life and it's still as magical and special as I remember it. I watch my husband with my daughter and I am jealous that the person who loved me THAT much is no longer here. LOSS SUCKS. Loss hurts to the depth of our souls.

It hurt God to the depths of His heart to lose us. It hurt Him so much that He sent His only Son to make a way to never have to lose us again. We have a way to be with Him and those we love for eternity. We just have to wait here on earth, and like I said in my last post, waiting is a hard road to travel. We will have no pain and no tears and no loss in heaven. Eternal relationship with God and others. Our loved ones are off the waiting path and on to eternal glory and hanging out with Jesus. Amazing grace. Revelation 21:4  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Lessons from Loss:  Loss brings us closer to Jesus and I have had the amazing and gracious blessing of having a heavenly Father step in during the hardest times of missing my earthly one. Loss brings us closer to others as we cherish and are more appreciative of those who are in our lives. Loss makes us empathetic and compassionate people who really "know" what someone else is going through when they experience loss. Today I was talking to one of my treasured new co-workers who lost her mom not even a year ago and even though our great loss of a parent are 26 years a part, we could share with each other on a different level. I do know the deep pain she is feeling and although grief changes and you do heal partially, you need those people in your life who can really understand. LOSS SUCKS.

I will deeply miss Sheri,and I am praying that I will see her again and that she has the peace of Jesus and He is with her tonight and for eternity...... and until then I will be thankful for the years she touched my life with laughter, and friendship, the way she touched and changed students lives, and our shared love of good food, being silly, Fireball drinks that we invented on the weekends and then shared recipes..... (yep) and crushing on Adam Levine.

Scripture breathes hope and I'm thankful we can trust it fully.

Matthew 5:4  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Isaiah 41:10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 43:2  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Psalm 18:28  “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”
Psalm 46:1-2  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
Psalm 119:50  “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”
Romans 8:18  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
2 Corinthians 7:10  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Psalm 18:2  “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
1 Peter 5:6-7  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Psalm 23:4  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 73:26  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Standing in the gap

Recently, I wrote about our son who has been having trouble adjusting to first grade and the fear that paralyzes him on most days. I would like to share another aspect of his journey with you in hopes that it will encourage someone today.
On most days when we drop A off at school, he is teary-eyed and scared of leaving us. We encourage him the best we know how and send him off with tons of hugs and kisses. One of the days that A was crying after he was already dropped off at school, a sweet family friend saw him from across the playground and was instantly drawn to him. She could clearly see he was distraught and upset. She could’ve just gone about her day, head down after school drop off, staring down at her phone and thinking of her ‘to do’ list; instead, she took the time to walk over to A and comfort him. She decided in that moment, in the middle of all the busyness and chaos of school drop off, to stand and pray over him. She prayed comfort, peace and courage over him so that he would go about his day as the warrior God has created him to be. In that moment, she didn't care that people in a public school setting may have been judging her, all she cared about was the broken heart of one of God’s children. When she texted to tell me this sweet act of kindness, I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes. My heart hurts for my son everyday knowing he is so sad and I can’t instantly fix it all. I spent the day knowing God truly held A close, closer than I ever will be able; I have to trust that God will hold true to His promise to never leave nor forsake him.
Walking this journey with my son has made me reflect on the goodness of God, even in the midst of our trials. He finds us feeling alone and isolated in a crowd of people, He sees us not being able to get out of bed because the darkness feels too great, He mends our broken hearts and spirits and wipes every single tear. All of this has reassured me that God is still working behind the scenes and is carefully piecing together our stories. When the pain is overwhelming and life continues at full speed all around us, God already knows how He will use our stories, our pain and our losses, all for His good and glory.  
He gives us people who are willing to stand in the gap for us. The ones who say they will pray for us and actually do. The ones that call and follow up to see how we are after a bad day. The ones who show up in a bad season to encourage us and tell us we will get through it all. When we surrender to the hard things and the pain of our situations, God gives us freedom, joy and peace through it. I challenge us all to even be grateful for the hard times, as it will force us to seek God more fiercely. 
God doesn't work independently; He works through His people. This is evident in our lives, our experiences and throughout the Bible. He uses His people to preach the good news of Jesus; to show love, hope and compassion to those in need. 

In the book of Ruth, Ruth stands in the gap for the widowed Naomi despite her own pain. I love this story of faithfulness and loyalty. Ruth put her own needs aside and remained with her mother-in-law as she was in her darkest moments of grief. Through the loss of both their husbands and Naomi's sons, they found God’s provision and sufficient grace. They may not have both known it at the time, but God used them in each other's lives to rebuild their futures and heal their hearts. Naomi was ready to give up, she thought her story was finished after the death of her entire family, but God knew differently. He was busy orchestrating a plan and placing them in the right place at the right time for restoration and redemption in their lives. 
I want to encourage you today, friend, that God isn't finished with your story either. Sometimes chapters in our lives get inserted when we least expect it, but let God start to trade in your sorrows and sadness for joy. Let Him use people in your life to love on you and speak wisdom. Let them into your life and let them help you stand up, dust yourself off and allow yourself to get stronger every day from your circumstances. 
Do you have someone standing in the gap with you on this journey of life? Are you doing it now for someone you know or love? Whether we are a complete mess, feeling isolated, alone in a crowd or unable to take the next step, God never leaves or forsakes us. Activate your faith in taking the next step in your journey even though He has not revealed the full picture of your life. My sweet son is stepping out in faith every morning of school and continuing to trust in his God to provide the people and tools he needs to get through. God can help all of us get through minute by minute if that is where we are or provide just enough strength for our day. Wherever you are today, allow people to stand in the gap with you, rip the band aid and allow full healing to begin and trust a provisional God who loves and adores you.  
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”