Posted in Contentment, Everyday Life, Faith, Joy, Overwhelmed, Perfection, Purpose, Thankfulness

Imperfect, Lovely You

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Searching for my true identity is where I’ve been. Examining, one by one, all the labels I’ve claimed ownership to over the years. Taking myself back to the basics – to the very core of who I am- of who God created me to be.

In doing so, I’ve come to realize I have purpose, value, and meaning. Despite my many flaws, my endless insecurities, I matter.

Why?  Because I am His.  And because I am His, I am loved.  Not because of what I’ve accomplished, or the successes I may attain next week or a year from now. I am loved simply because I am a child of the one true God.

That truth has changed my reality. I’m learning it’s alright to rest. To sit and enjoy the gifts around me. To be still, knowing it’s not all up to me.

While I’m thankful to be a part of His great plan, I’m relieved to know my assignments aren’t meant to overwhelm, suffocate, or trap me.  They are meant to bring joy, satisfaction, and contentment to my life.  Will they be easy? No. But meaningful?  Yes.

And guess what else I’m learning?  Perfection is not required.

Believe me, I’ve never considered myself perfect, yet I’ve lived as though I should be. Surely you know what I mean … thinking I must have it all together to be a good wife, a good mother, a good anything.  Thinking I should be able to handle every little thing that comes my way (and, if I’m being honest, the big things too), all without falling apart.

Ladies, where do we come up with the notion that being the best wife, mother, volunteer, or whatever, means we must be someone besides ourselves? How sad it is that we’re constantly striving to become someone we’re not rather than embracing and enjoying the someone God created us to be.

When we long for the personalities, talents, and callings we see in others, we exhaust, frustrate, and discredit ourselves.

Friends, we must not forget, I was created to be me, and you were created to be you.

Specific personalities.

Various talents.

Unique strengths.

Personal callings.

All hand-picked and woven together into individual, precious women – you, me, and others who walk this life with us.  All of us loved by our Creator, not because of what we do, but because of who we are.

When we grasp that truth, we are better equipped to pursue life as God intended… as women who desire to please Jesus, make a difference in the lives of those around us, and share with others God’s unconditional love.

Carrying it out in our own distinct, creative way.

Perfect, no. But lovely, yes.

 

Posted in Church, Faith, Overwhelmed

Saying No

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Oftentimes, it’s difficult to utter that tiny little word, “no”.

I ponder this shortly after I’ve agreed to yet another task I should not be tackling. But it’s too late. I’ve committed myself, stretching myself too thin once again. In an effort to please everyone, I end up exhausted, weary, and longing to hide from all who pursue me.

I somehow pull myself together. I trudge forward, determined to finish what I’ve started. When it’s done, I vow to never step into that trap again.

I repeat this cycle until a startling realization hits me: in my quest to please so many, I’ve failed to give my best to anyone. The opportunities I shouldn’t follow consume me, leaving me too tired or busy for those I should be pursuing.

This is no way to live. Yet, this is exactly where so many of us reside, day after day. Coming up for air only to have the weight of our to-do lists push us under once again. Spending a good part of our lives in this place of trying hard to please others, of rarely saying no, of feeling guilty when we do.

But slowly, somewhat reluctantly, I am learning it’s okay to say no – and it’s possible to do so in a truthful, yet kind and loving manner.

The kicker is this … before we can appropriately answer “yes” or “no”, we must have an inkling as to what it is we should be doing.

So how do we distinguish between what God is calling us to do, and those other “good” things pulling for our time and attention?

How do we guard against doing things simply out of habit or obligation rather than the desire God has placed within our hearts?

Although I have yet to figure it all out, nothing has helped me more than time spent with God. Reading his word. Studying it. Meditating upon it. Taking my options to Him in prayer. Listening intently for His response.

After all, it makes sense that our Creator, who expects His goodness to illuminate through us, would certainly direct us to the good He intends us to do.

And therein lies peace.

Rather than focusing on when to say “no”, let’s begin praying for -and searching out- our “yes” opportunities. And as they are revealed, let’s grab hold, moving forward with the peace and joy that comes from knowing we’re doing exactly what we should be doing.

That, my sisters, is freedom.

Posted in Overwhelmed

When Our Hearts Run Dry, 2

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We decide whether or not our hearts run dry. This is the thought I left with you last week.

We talked about warning signs in our lives -flashing red, reminding us we are nearing empty. These indicators typically stand out in how we respond to what is going on around us. Perhaps we are quick to anger, become easily frustrated, or tear up over the tiniest of matters. Any of these responses may be evidence that our hearts desperately need refilling.

Do we ignore the warnings and continue at lightening speed, or do we slow down and receive some pick-me-up along the way?  Do we settle for life as it is, or do we resolve to make it better?

Our decision is crucial. Our choice becomes the game changer.

I believe most of you desire to live as I do, from a place of fullness. But how, sweet friends, do we go about doing so when life is so hectic, demanding, and frenzied?

We become INTENTIONAL ~~

We pause, though the world spinning around us may not.

We pray, asking God to help us find balance and pour His love into our weary hearts. Please, please don’t skip your time with God. He is our ultimate source of fullness.

We pursue “happy getaways”. Yes, happiness is okay (just make sure your “happy” lines up with God’s goodness -that’s a topic for another day).

And just for fun, here are 10 mini-getaway ideas to get you started:

  1. Curl up with your best-loved book.
  2. Participate in a ladies’ bible study (comment below for a list of my favorites).
  3. Share a cup of coffee with a friend or two.
  4. Treat yourself to a new hair style or an outfit that makes you feel pretty.
  5. Enjoy a no-distractions date with your significant other.
  6. Take a nap.
  7. Snuggle with your littles.
  8. Sit, unrushed, with your aging relatives.
  9. Watch your all-time favorite chick-flick.
  10. Take a walk and listen to encouraging music as you do so.

Friends, when done correctly making time for ourselves is not selfish. It is nourishing.  It is you placing the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on others. Not because you consider yourself more important, but because you know you cannot fully care for them unless you are healthy yourself.

In summary, (1) realize you need to be refreshed, (2) know what little things bring you blessing and joy (and honor God as you do them); and (3) determine to incorporate them into the crevices of your everyday life.

As you do so, may you find yourself empty less often, and may you pour kindness, encouragement, and grace into the thirsting hearts of those around you.

Posted in Overwhelmed

When Our Hearts Run Dry

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I carefully approach the aged water well. It stands alone in the midst of overgrown weeds, barely visible to passersby. Yet I am drawn to it.  My curiosity calls to me.  I question when it was last used for its intended purpose.  Is it entirely dry, empty, and worthless? Or is there more here than meets the eye?

I lean over, peering into the darkness. I press a jagged rock tightly into the palm of my right hand. I wonder what lies below, yet the uncertainty of it frightens me. So I hold on to the rock until its impression is fixed into my skin. Finally, sheepishly, I release it. And I wait expectantly, breathlessly.  Until I hear it.  The thud of the rock as it encounters the hardened, bone-dry floor.

And I weep.

I weep, for to me it represents so much more than a dried up well. It reminds me of the many women I’ve met, those precious sisters whose hearts have run dry. Who feel empty and worthless.

Those who feel as if they’ve dished out all the goodness they have to offer, and it’s not enough. They’re scraping the bottom for what is not there because that’s all they know to do. They give and give until there is nothing left. They are that weathered well, standing alone, overcome by the weeds of life. Pressed on every side. Spent. Exhausted. Depleted.

If this is where you are today, my friend, please know you are not alone.  May I say it again? You. Are. Not. Alone.  And you are not destined to remain stuck in your emptiness. Neither am I.

I’ve noticed depletion seems to be commonplace in many of our honest, day to day, jam-packed, wonderfully blessed lives. It is there. It is real. It is relentless. And it makes it tough to flash a genuine smile, speak words of encouragement, or extend grace to others when we’re pulling from a dry well ourselves.

But may I share some encouragement with you? May I show you a parallel between this old, dried up well and our thirsty hearts?

A drought, if ignored, will cause a water well to run dry, but not without first handing out some clear warning signs.  If these signs are noted and dealt with in a timely manner, the well will continue to function as designed.

The same is true of us.

If allowed, life’s circumstances will empty us, rendering us incapable of living fully as God intended.  But if we’re paying attention, we will notice when trouble is brewing. We will recognize when our behavior indicates we are nearing empty. And then, in that moment, we realize the choice becomes ours.

We decide whether or not our hearts run dry.

 

Please join me next week on my blog for Part 2 of When Our Hearts Run Dry, where we’ll discuss some specific strategies for keeping our hearts full. See you then!

 

Posted in Overwhelmed

Re-Thinking Our Juggle

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Friends, are any of you struggling?  Battling with the ever present to do list parked within the walls of your mind?  Determined to at least occasionally look as if you have it all together?

But despite your best efforts, you often come away with feelings of failure in one or more areas of your life.

Perhaps you visualize yourself as a master juggler, tossing balls into the air, a few at a time, until they all move in rhythm.  All is going well.  You are perfectly balanced, never dropping a ball.  Never growing tired. Never questioning your ability to maintain such perfection.

Yet your reality is quite different. 

Keeping those balls hovering mid-air has become a daunting task.  You can no longer sustain this pace.  One ball drops, and then another. And another. Until finally you realize they are all scattered.  Some only slightly out of reach.  Others appearing hopelessly lost.

You are pushed into a state of exhaustion, defeat, and shame.  Deep feelings of inadequacy begin to surface. You realize you are no longer a master of anything.

Oh sisters, can any of you relate?

This has been true of me at differing stages in my life, and I will likely experience it again at some point. Thankfully, I’ve developed a dab of insight through the years. 

I’ve discovered it’s alright to purposely loosen my grip on a few of those balls.  And it’s actually wise for me to use caution before adding another, regardless of how shimmery or glitzy this new ball may seem.

I’ve come to understand that simply because it’s good doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for me. 

I’m learning to seek God more often -and more quickly- as I strive to do what it is He has called me to do, and refrain from doing those tasks He has set aside for others. 

And while I am far from having it all figured out, I’ve found the closer I lean in to Him, the more clearly I recognize which balls are mine to juggle, and which are not.

My prayer for you, sweet friends, is that you will glance intently at what it is that keeps you so busy, so distracted, and so weary. 

Some of these, no doubt, are yours to keep. But could it be you’re also juggling some things that are not yours to juggle?

Perhaps it’s time to rediscover -or discover for the very first time- what God is asking of you. 

Perhaps it’s time to make adjustments.  To release a few of those balls, passing them on to their rightful owners, freeing up your hands a bit.

Perhaps it’s time to add to the mix those things you know you should be doing. Those things which give your life purpose and meaning. Those things which will undoubtedly make a difference in someone else’s life.

Those are the things we should be juggling. Perhaps, sisters, it’s time to re-think our juggle.

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

Living in Denial ~ Part 2

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We find ourselves in denial at various seasons of life. And whether the issue we’re battling is one we’ve brought on ourselves or one in which we had absolutely no control, denial is  common to both.

Broken relationships. Trouble with the law. Abuse. Failing grades. Serious illness. Job loss. Death of a loved one. Financial hardship. Addiction. Rebellion.  And that’s only the top of the pile.

This is what mine currently looks like —

I muster the courage to step onto the scales only after struggling – and losing the battle-  to comfortably fit into my “big” jeans. The scales confirm it.  Denial has not been my friend.

I’ve admitted to others, and even to myself occasionally, that staying on track with this whole exercise, healthy eating kind-of-lifestyle is not working too well for me.

I don’t deny there is a problem. The difficulty for me is owning up to that problem. To admit it is truly mine, and my choices have landed me in this predicament.  To admit those choices are in reality, tiny little denials stacked up, one on top of the other, finally resulting in large, ugly consequences (such as a closet full of clothes that no longer fit).

Small choices such as skipping a workout here or there, eating that small piece of chocolate cake, or drinking that delicious five hundred plus calorie frappe (yes, you read that right; I was shocked too), all the while ignoring the reality that these isolated events may cost me more than I care to believe. 

The hard truth for me is this:  one or two missed workouts will likely lead to several; one small piece of cake often makes me crave more; and those frappes – let’s just say they can be quite addictive for a coffee-loving girl on a hot summer day. 

So for me to know these truths about myself and to disregard them, choosing to indulge anyway, is extremely risky.  Such behavior usually pushes me down a slippery slope straight into the hands of defeat.

When tough issues are swirling around, denial appears to be the simplest way out. But denial is a master of disguise.  It prolongs the battle.  To win this fight, to finish well, to find victory, sooner or later I must consciously commit to stand up against denial.

I must look this bully in the eye and declare, “Enough!”  I must courageously call my issues what they are … deep-rooted struggles needing excavation. I must be willing to hear the truth –  and allow it to soak into my very being.

This is where I begin to win again.

But I’ll need a little help (perhaps a lot of help) along the way. And despite my stubbornness and blindness to the truth at times, I know exactly where to look …

Care to join me, my friend?

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

Living in Denial ~ Part 1

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Somewhere along my journey, I became a little too acquainted with denial.

It began several years ago when financial ruin stood hovering over me like an angry wolf.  I felt paralyzed by fear.  Fear of being unable to pay this or that bill. Fear of losing my home, vehicle, and much of everything else. Fear that losing these things would somehow make me, as a person, less valuable, less loved. This fear gripped me tightly, threatening to strangle the very life from me- life as I knew it anyway.

Some days the best I could do was breathe. And go through the motions. And hope for a miracle.  My current reality in no way resembled the visions I had conjured up in my mind of a beautiful future.  No, this was a hard place. Harder than anything I had ever experienced. And humbling, oh so humbling. Learning to accept help from others. Sometimes needing to ask for help from others.  This is not where I wanted to be. This was not my idea of living.

So how did I respond? 

I unconsciously created a wall of defense around myself. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that wall was called denial, and it was my coping mechanism. I began to deny or ignore everything I considered too difficult to deal with -anything I could not tolerate -anything which led me to anxiety.

At the top of my list was the tall stack of bills accumulating in my mailbox.  I had no means to pay them so I left them stranded in the box, hoping somehow they would not only vanish, but actually fail to exist. Wishful thinking, I know.  But see, that’s what you do in denial.  Intellectually, you know ignoring the bills will not make them go away. Yet emotionally, you live as if you don’t know.  You live as if ignoring your issues will eventually give you the results you want. And if you live in denial too long, you risk making a bigger mess of things. 

That particular season of hardship and denial passed, but I still find myself running back into the arms of denial from time to time.

Lacking courage to face reality.

Refusing to see truth.

Failing to choose honesty before my bump-in-the-road problem grows into a huge-impassable-mountain-of-a-problem.

Going about my daily routine appearing normal to outsiders, knowing all the while a quick peek inside my head would reveal my true state:  curled up in a fetal position, hands over my ears, eyes closed tightly, humming something – anything – to drown out the noise of harsh truth surrounding me.  

And I wonder to myself …  Can anyone else relate?

 

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

When Under-Achieving Happens

 

roadWhen an over-achiever (that would be me) falls prey to a season of under-achieving (that’s where I’ve found myself too often lately), it is very easy to feel like a failure.  A failure in so many areas we work so hard to perfect.

For me that equates to failure as a wife, as a mother, as a homeschool teacher, even as a ministry assistant to my husband, and in so many other ways as well (does diet and exercise ring a bell?).

I’m always second guessing myself over rash decisions I’ve made.  Mentally beating myself up because I forgot to pay the electric bill, or to defrost the chicken needed for dinner, or to wash my husband’s work clothes (and it’s now 7:00 a.m. and the poor guy has no clean pants for work).  Talk about making a girl feel like a lousy wife… ughhhh!

And then there’s that Christmas tree, over a month post-Christmas, still perfectly perched in a corner of my living room, fully decorated, screaming for me to please stop long enough to pack it up and put it away.  Oh the shame!

These things are only the first to enter my thoughts.  I could go on and on about what I should be doing right now, yet I know in my heart I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing at this moment.  I’m taking time out of the busyness around me to write this blog post because it somehow helps me sort through the boggled feelings surfacing in my mind. I pray that maybe, just maybe, it will help you to know you are not alone in your struggles either.

As nice as it is to think about taking a break from my hectic schedule, the reality is I will continue to be busy for a long while.  Yes, as long as I have a family to care for, and a home to keep up, and school to teach, and church to attend, and a blog to write, I will not escape busyness.  But there are some things I can implement to help me through this season of busyness, and to alleviate these feelings of failure and disappointment pointed toward myself.

I must continually remind myself that although I may not be running every single race at full potential, I am not a failure.  I am still moving forward, one tiny step after another.  My progress may be slow. It may seem non-existent at times.  But I am still in the race.  I have not given up.

Friends, if you’re not accomplishing what you know you should; if those important things are not getting done, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Rethink your strategies. Give yourself some much needed grace. And most importantly, pray for strength and wisdom (we’ve talked before about the importance of sitting at the feet of Jesus).

Oh, and it never hurts to throw in a good cup of coffee with a trusted friend.

Smiles and hugs to each of you today.  Never give up!

Posted in Faith, Overwhelmed

Scattered Pieces

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Have you ever found yourself so busy you can’t seem to slow down long enough to get things done?  The important things, that is.  The more urgent matters tend to shove themselves to the top of the list, leaving the more important, meaningful obligations clinging to the bottom, often neglected or ignored all together.

I fear that is where many of us find ourselves today: much too busy.   Running here and there, putting out this fire, stroking another, never really doing anything completely well.  If truth were told, giving one hundred percent of yourself is difficult when you’re scattered about in too many pieces, trying to take care of everything and everybody all at once.

And when you’ve exerted all your energy only to discover a large deficit in the crucial areas of your life, discouragement tends to set in.  When you have given all you can give and it’s not enough, you risk growing tired and burdened, in desperate need of a reprieve.

This is where I found myself this past weekend.  As much as I longed to see my kids play ball on Saturday, I needed more to be home that day.  So I gave myself permission to do just that.  I fought off the guilt-bug that always tries to sting me into submission, and I stayed home all day. And I worked on the essential duties that so badly begged for my attention.

But before I dove into those responsibilities, I made a decision which proved to be the best one of the day … the decision to carve out some time with God.  To ask Him to share some of His great wisdom with me.  To help me gather my thoughts.  To pick up all the scattered pieces and help me make sense of them.  To give me clarity.  Peace.  Confidence. Guidance.  Oh, how I needed these things.  Oh, how I needed Him to meet me there.

And that’s exactly what He did.  He met me in that very spot, sitting alone at my dining room table.  Not only did He show up, but He blessed what little bit of effort I could muster, and He enabled me to accomplish more than I thought possible.

Wow! To think if I had rushed into my day, on my own, as I have done so many times before —  I am quite certain I would have grown frustrated and overwhelmed long before I completed my tasks.  I am so thankful this was not the case.  And I am so thankful that when we make time for Him despite our busy schedules, He is already there waiting for us.

Posted in Overwhelmed

When Overwhelmed is an Understatement

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Have you ever felt so deeply buried beneath everything needing your attention that the word overwhelmed doesn’t even scratch the surface?  That’s where I am lately.  Feeling overwhelmed, overrun, over the edge.

If you were to visit my home today, you may wonder about my housekeeping skills.  The kitchen is in disarray from time well spent between siblings making sugar cookies.  School books and supplies cover the table, along with a few displaced Christmas decorations.

Before the evening ends, the living room will house four or five pairs of abandoned shoes, and the coffee table will be littered with cups left there by a few somebodies who have already turned in for the night.

I cringe at the mountain of laundry lurking in my bedroom. I shake my head at the floors that once again need mopping. I detest the bathrooms that are never as clean as they should be. And the paperwork, that never ending mound of paper which always finds its way onto the countertops. I’m never successful at conquering it all, despite my best efforts.

All this in one quick glance.  And it doesn’t begin to address the purging that needs to happen in the hidden parts of the house.  The closets filled with outdated or ill-fitting clothes. The collectibles that are no longer collected. The bounty of school books demanding to be cleared out and passed on.

When I concentrate on what needs to be done, I grow weary.  I don’t know where to begin, much less how to finish.  A fleeting thought darts through my mind… run away, run far away.  And yet, I stay.  I stay and linger here, in the midst of this messiness, because there is more here than meets the eye.

That flour-covered kitchen indicates that my children enjoy spending time together.  The cluttered table signifies to me that we are making progress academically, even though the excitement of Christmas is hard to tame.  The discarded shoes, piles of laundry, and dirty dishes are evidence of life – the very existence of this precious family God has entrusted to me.  And the need to do away with so much stuff is a stark reminder that God meets our needs and blesses us far more than we deserve.

Shifting my focus off my to-do list and onto my why-I-do-what-I-do list helps me tremendously.  I become less overwhelmed with what must be done, and more overwhelmed with gratitude for the sheer blessing of it all.

Yes, all these duties must be dealt with at some point, and then they’ll need doing over again. But let’s work on our perspective, sisters.  Let’s choose to see the beauty around us rather than settling on those parts that aren’t so beautiful.

So when you come calling, I’ll try not to worry too much over the cleanliness of my house.  And as we sit and chat, I pray you’ll notice the good within the walls of this house, even if the sink is full of dishes, the floors are a tad dirty, and I conveniently forget to give you a tour.