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.