Posted in Friendship

The Words We Speak

red-telephone-booth

Her words, though seemingly innocent, cut me to the core.  A compliment laced with criticism as the main objective. I chose to respond to the flattery, purposely pushing the criticism out of mind until I could politely excuse myself from the conversation. But its effects lingered.  In my mind. In my heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if her words were intentional, or if she honestly didn’t realize the punch they packed to my sensitive heart.

Oh sweet sisters, why aren’t we more careful with our words?

It’s so easy to find fault in one another, voicing our disapproval in small, subtle ways. We are masters at inflicting one little jab here, another tiny dig there, leaving one another to question … “Am I a bad mother? Was my idea foolish? Should I do more for my children? Less for my husband? Am I wrong for not adding this “important” activity to my already busy schedule?”

And in the aftermath, some precious lady begins the arduous task of separating those hurtful words from what she knows to be true. Working tirelessly to shake off the undeserved guilt. Struggling to find her confidence again despite the uncertainties rising within her.  All because another woman carelessly cast inconsiderate words her way.

I’ve been there. No doubt you have as well.

And even worse, I’ve been guilty of dishing out sharp comments myself at times. I’m guessing you could say the same.

Sadly, we do this without truly considering the impact our words have on one another. In the busyness of our own small space, we forget how much we need one another. We fail to show love. To extend grace. To grant acceptance. To offer an occasional pat on the back.

Dear friends, how I pray we will become more thoughtful with the words we speak to one another. More aware of the message our words convey. Praying for each other more, judging less. Cherishing rather than belittling -despite our many differences.

May it become our mission to affirm our sisters, seeing to it that tenderness and hope tarry in their hearts long after our conversations cease.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Posted in Overwhelmed

When Our Hearts Run Dry, 2

dandelion-closeup

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

old-fence

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 Faith

Acquainted with Chair Guys

walking dog

Although we may not think of them as such, we’re all acquainted with “chair guys”. 

You know, those precious people working behind the scenes.  Preparing meals, cleaning kitchens, running sound systems, sending cards, shopping for fundraisers, or perhaps actually setting up chairs prior to the big event. 

Yes, those who work hard for little or no recognition.  Those are the chair guys.  And without their contributions, the rest of us would not fair near as well. 

So what if you’re the chair guy, but you’re longing for a little spotlight?

What if you’re in the spotlight, but you find yourself -for whatever reason- searching for a chair to hide behind?

And what if you’re the chair guy who has always been a chair guy, who is quite comfortable being a chair guy, yet you feel God calling you – maybe even pushing you a bit – to step out from behind those chairs into the light? 

It’s difficult to step out of our comfortable areas.

Whether we’re most comfortable in the spotlight or behind the scenes doesn’t matter. When God calls us to tread into that unfamiliar place where our confidence and coziness are greatly lacking, He is actually inviting us to walk more closely with Him. To cross into a place which causes us to lean into Him a little more.  A place which challenges us to dig deeper, hold tighter, and linger longer.

Friends, regardless of where we fit into God’s plan, He sees us.  He loves us. We matter to Him.  We have a purpose. Every single one of us has a job to do, and every single job we do is noticed by Him.

The key is tuning in to Him well enough to know where we need to be, when we need to be there.  The beautiful thing is we don’t need all the answers up front.  We simply need to walk with Him one step at a time, even if those steps seem tiny and insignificant.

So whether you’re moving chairs or standing on stage, please realize your heavenly Father is watching closely, listening intently, and smiling oh so happily. Why? Because He sees you, and you’re making a difference.

Posted in Motherhood

Son, You Are Loved

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Dear Son,

Thoughts of you fill my mind tonight.

It’s your first night not living at home.  And although you’ve been away from home many times, you’ve never not lived here, in this house, under this roof, with your dad and me and your siblings.  Yes, tonight is different.

You packed up most of your favorite belongings -and a few necessities- and transported them to a new room, a new place, a new home.  College life has begun.

We helped you settle into your dorm not because you were incapable of doing so yourself, but because we needed to do so.  We needed to be with you, to linger there with you, just a tad longer. Thank you, son, for not being bothered by our presence.  Thank you for allowing us the privilege of being with you as you embark on this fresh, wonderful adventure.

And as you face the challenges that will certainly come, may I remind you of something profoundly important?

Son, you are loved.

We loved you in the months before you were born, even before we first laid eyes upon you.

We loved you through every sickness, every bump & bruise, every skinned knee and busted lip. Through times of correction and discipline. Through every failure and success. Through heartaches and difficulties. Through times of celebration and laughter.

Son, we have loved you through it all.

And that is what we so desperately want you to know. To remember. To never, ever forget.

You are loved.

No matter what your future holds.

You are loved.

Our love for you is not based on your works or successes, although we know you will have many.

It is not dependent on your ability to play ball or to obtain a college degree.

Our love for you is simply based on who you are – You are our son, and that makes you loved.

And as great as our love is for you, there is One whose love for you is even greater.

You know Him.

Son, don’t neglect spending time with Him. Taking your troubles to Him. Thanking Him for your blessings. Knowing you belong to Him.  You are his child, and that truly makes you loved.

 

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 Fear

Brave?

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Brave. That is the word you keep speaking to me, God. Brave.

But I am not brave. No, this girl of yours is far from brave.

I want to be. I try to be.
But fear. Fear always pushes its way into my mind, hoping to shut me down.

God? I hear you whispering to me. Your voice is soft and gentle. It’s as if you’re speaking to a precious child, one whom you love dearly. And for this moment, your full attention is on that one child.  A child who desperately needs approval and affirmation.

Lord, I am that child.

You gently lean in toward me. You pull me close. Your words are spoken kindly and clearly. The warmth of your love encircles me. And in the midst of the moment, you lovingly remind me, “Dear child, courage is not always the absence of fear.”

You intentionally speak those words to me again.  “Brave. Child, you are brave.”

I am brave, God? This girl so unsure of herself? Is she really brave? Is it even possible?

Are you sure, God?

I am familiar with the sayings about courage and fear. That courage is moving forward despite your fears. That being brave doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not afraid.

Yet, I suppose I did not believe they applied to me. I suppose I had forgotten how many times-with God’s help- I did not give up. How many times I pushed my way through fear until it finally loosened its grip on me, refusing to allow it to paralyze me any longer.

Yes, I had forgotten.

I did not believe this thing called bravery could ever be mine.

Yes, God, I see now what the enemy has done. He has been the driving force behind my fear. He has fed me this lie much of my life. Through the words of others. And even worse, through the words I have spoken to myself.

And all this time I believed him.

I accepted this label he fastened to me, and although I’ve succeeded at concealing it at times, I never once realized I had the power to remove it.

I believed fear would always be my companion, my struggle, my label. I believed I would never -could never- be truly acquainted with bravery.

But God.  God is writing me a different story today. He has gone to great lengths to capture my attention. He has spoken His goodness to me -about me- in undeniable ways. He has revealed the enemy’s tactics to me. And in doing so, He has given me a new hope. He has revealed to me a new label.

I must learn to wear only the labels He sets aside for me. I must tear off that old label of fear and replace it with that which declares God’s truth about me …

I am brave.   I am strong.   I am courageous. 

 All because I am His. 

Thank you, God. You are indeed a good, good Father.

 

 

Posted in Faith

Struggling to Trust

old boat

I have no idea what to write today – where to start or what to say.  As I sit here staring at a blank screen, my words abandon me. Silence is all I hear and it is deafening.

In all honesty, I have been a bit withdrawn lately. From my husband. From friends. From God.  And for no obvious reason.  I’m not angry. I’m not hurt or disappointed. I’m not much of anything, except distant.  Hidden away in my thoughts. Stuck in my exhaustion. Lost in my weariness. I am present physically, but distant emotionally.

I dislike encountering myself in this place.  This place which threatens to hold me hostage in my fear and leaves me feeling lonely in the midst of my busyness.  This place where I wrestle with surrender and struggle to trust God fully with the many unknowns looming ahead. This place of overwhelming unrest. I don’t belong in this place, yet I slide into its crevices so easily and comfortably.

Maybe you, too, are familiar with this place.  That in-between point we find ourselves in when we’re aware of what we should be doing, but not yet brave enough to jump in and do it.  Or maybe for you it’s not a matter of bravery, but instead it’s an inability to relinquish control or unwillingness to step into unchartered territory. 

Whatever the case may be, we all end up here – in this same position – at one time or another.  On the brink of change. In the shadow of growth and maturity. So close to stepping into that life we desire … the kind of life which pours out an abundance of meaning and purpose everywhere it goes.  

The choice for this life is ours. It always has been. 

With that in mind, where will I go from here? Will I stay in this place of discontent a while longer, or will I choose to climb out even if it’s only one or two steps at a time?  Will I grab hold of my calling, embracing it through the good and the bad? Will I choose to trust Him regardless of the outcome and in spite of the what-ifs?

This is my greatest desire, yet it is far from easy for me. That’s why I’ve been hiding out as Jonah did in the belly of the fish.  Much like Jonah, my delayed “yes” has landed me in a not so happy place.  And much like Jonah, I will finally accept my assignment (as scary as it may seem) and move forward in obedience… writing one word at a time, one blog at a time, one book at a time. 

As I strive to do so, may God give me the words to speak, courage to be vulnerable, and an audience to hear.  And may He always be honored and glorified through it all.

God bless you all sweet friends, and thank you for embarking on this journey with me!

Posted in Faith

When the Answer is No

 

country church

I have a friend who has been anxiously awaiting news of a decision – someone else’s decision.  One out of her control, yet having the potential to greatly impact her and her family. She waited months for the outcome.  She needed a yes.  She prayed for a yes.  But the answer was no.

Another friend, expecting her first child, prayed fervently for a healthy baby.  But the answer was no.

Other friends have prayed non-stop to conceive a child, or to carry a child full-term without miscarrying.  But the answer was no.

Still other friends have prayed for healing after a cancer diagnosis. Despite aggressive treatments and much prayer, the battle seemed lost.  The answer was no.

Oh, friends, what do we do when the answer is no?  When our hearts ache and our disappointment threatens to smother us?

Do we stomp our feet and throw a fit like an unhappy toddler? Sometimes we sure feel like it.

Do we retreat behind closed doors, refusing to come out, unsure of what to do or say, intent on building a wall between our hurting heart and the rest of the world?

Do we become angry at God and those who represent Him?  Do we question how He could possibly love us yet not give us the “yes” we so desperately desired?

Do we give up? Throw in the towel? Consider ourselves done?

I have probably tried all these solutions at one time or another and not one of them proved to be helpful. None of them healed my broken heart or gave me strength to keep on living.  I piddled with some of them far too long, allowing them to tighten their grip on me, nearly rendering me helpless.

But then I remembered.  God was still there – even when the answer was no.

And He remains there today.

He still cares.

He still loves.

He still desires to bless us.

How do I know this, you ask?  I know this because I know God. He and I have a little history together.  And although I don’t have answers to the many why’s I’ve pondered, I have no doubt He will take all the no’s I’ve experienced and turn them into something good. Something lovely. Something which will someday bring me a blessing.

Why?  Because He is a God who loves us and promises to work all things together for good to those who love Him. And I sure love Him.  I’m praying you do too.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Posted in Everyday Life, Overwhelmed

Living in Denial ~ Part 2

ground view into trees

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?