Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Truth and Consequences

High school, my sophomore year, I was accepted into Honor's Chorus.
I was over-the-moon!
I never expected to be selected and I. COULD. NOT. WAIT!

There was just one teeny, weensy little problem...

I was also in rifle line {color guard} of the marching band. We had a big competition coming up in Disney World on - you guessed it - the same weekend as Honor's Chorus.

What to do? 
Obviously, I couldn't do both.
Being in Orlando, Florida and NC for Honor's Chorus at the same time was completely impossible.

The story is complicated but here's the short version:
the other girls of the rifle line didn't like me much and were anything BUT kind.  No matter how hard I worked and how much I practiced, I was never good enough - in their eyes, or in reality.  The reality was, I auditioned as a first-timer and did so well I got placed in rifle line rather than flag-line (that was unusual).
In the beginning, I was thrilled with the opportunity of a challenge. 

In most cases, I rise to a challenge quite well.

In this case, after months of verbal and emotional beat-down from my "team-mates," I was just spent.  I didn't want to try anymore because I was convinced no matter what I did, it would never, ever be enough and I was just drained from all my efforts.

So I told the instructor I wasn't going on the band trip.

Ha! He knew just how to take the wind out of my sails! Even though band was an elective for me, he told me that the trip wasn't optional.
That if I didn't go I'd likely fail the class; at best, I'd wind up with a C.

That was academic suicide for me and I just couldn't do it.

I turned down Honor's Chorus, never getting the chance to audition or attend again.

It was a hard lesson to learn but one that we all must.  When you make a commitment to something and/or other people, you can't just bail when the going gets tough.  
No matter how much YOU or sometimes, THEY,  want you to.

As a Mom, I'm hoping some of my own experience can help my pre-teen daughter navigate adolescence.  I've found myself telling her things that I never thought I would.  Things I don't like talking to anyone about.  Things that are embarrassing, hurtful, and disappointing even all these years later.

But things that I think could help her avoid heartache.  
Because isn't that what we all want as Moms? To keep our kids from feeling the hurts we felt?

Sometimes, though, we veer off too far in the opposite direction.  We set limits and rules to try to avoid the temptation of wrong altogether.  We might even distract our kids with activities and extracurriculars that keep them too busy to get into trouble - or so we think.

*Now, I have absolutely no problem with the way my parents raised me; this is not a criticism of them, specifically. *

There were times, though, when I remember just wanting my Mom to talk to me like "I were a real person." As if we were on the same level.  As if she really, truly remembered what it was like to be my age. To want so badly to do something the older girls were doing just because "all the other girls were doing it."  To feel the rejection and judgement that was going to come when I said I wasn't allowed to ___________ {go to the mall and walk around with my friends all Friday night when I was 13; talk on the phone as long as I wanted, to whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted; start dating when I was just 15 even though "the other girls were doing it."} You can fill in the blank with any of those and many other choices.

I'm already having these conversations with Sweetpea and she's only 11.  
I hear her saying, "but why? So-and-so's Mom let's her do it!"
To which I reply, "I'm not so-and-so's Mom!" Sometimes adding the "and if I were, she wouldn't be going either!"
Or, the lovely, "if so-and-so jumped off a bridge because it was 'cool' would you do it too?"

It's both horrifying and humbling to hear my mother's words come out of my mouth!

In my journey to live more authentically, especially these past few years,  I've embraced the hard truth even in parenting.  Not that I think my parent's lied to me - not at all.  What I mean is, some times - MOST times - the hard truth, with all its emotions-  can be it's own powerful lesson.

When my daughter hears my voice, sees my face, senses my fear/disappointment/hurt/embarrassment, I think she feels those consequences too. We're alike in that way.

I'm not foolish enough to think this will keep her from making her share of teenage mistakes, but if I protect her heart from just one hurt, it will be worth it.

The bottom line is CHOICES.  Life is full of them.   We ALL have to make them.
Sometimes the options before us don't SEEM like choices at all.  Neither is appealing or neither is the direction you thought your life would go.  Even as an adult, there will be backlash from others.

There will be criticism - 
"I'm sorry, what? You didn't go because your husband said 'no'? Can't you make your own decisions?"

There will be judgement - 
"Her business wasn't doing very well, so she came up with an excuse to get out and she abandoned her team in the process."

There will be rejection - 
"She didn't say much last time, let's not invite her this time."

If there's one thing I've learned about choices, specifically, mine, there is only ONE whose opinion really counts.
His mercy and His grace cover a multitude of mistakes, and for that I'm very grateful.
But I'd rather seek His will first, before making my choices and spare myself and Him the disappointment.

That's what I'm hoping to accomplish by sharing my ugly truths with my daughter.

We all know mistakes from the past help forge us into the person we become, but who said we had to make them all ourselves to learn from them?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Confidence and Conviction

No one likes conflict, but I wanted to get it over with.
The time had come.  
I'd made my plans, planned carefully, and resolved to do this the right way.

I wrote an appropriate and respectful correspondence and fully anticipated getting a respectful reply.
Except that I didn't.

What I got was someone who, instead of being professional, uttered insults thinly veiled in sugary sweet flattery - the kind you know right away don't contain an ounce of sincerity.

What I got, was someone well versed in twisting words, twisting MY words into complete fallacies.

What I did in response was nothing.

I decided not to argue so I sat there and I took it.  I acknowledged that I heard what she was saying.  I even thanked her for her time and advice (though of course, I hadn't solicited it).

You see, I believe in life, you have to pick your battles.  This wasn't a competition, after all -  not a win/lose situation.  So I thought...until I walked away feeling like a loser. 

A conversation that I walked into with confidence, despite my dread, had just taken a turn for the worse.  I'd let someone else steal that confidence. 
I was doubting my decision.

My resolve to do things the right way - the way I felt convicted to carry them out - had been completely overridden.  This decision that was best for me, my family, and everyone involved had just been stomped all over.

A person who had never taken the time to get to know me, had just conquered my words with hers.  She chose to use flowery words and sort-of-compliments to disguise the message that really intended to demoralize me and any plans I thought I'd made.

In a recent Bible Study, I'd been reading and studying about "The Best Yes; Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands."  The goal being to determine the difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God.  I loved this study for so many reasons! I dog-eared almost every other page as I was reading it...underlined some words in pencil...highlighted others in yellow.  

One section that spoke volumes to me, was this:

*How do I learn not to let the awkward disappointments of others keep me from my Best Yes appointments with God?
     "It's not a matter of gaining more confidence.  It's a matter of being more certain of our convictions.  Confidence is being more certain of our abilities.  Conviction is being more certain of God's instructions.
     I'm not talking about the way we sometimes use the word conviction as a verb - I'm convicted to wear longer shorts or I'm convicted to have more consistent quiet times. The kind of conviction I'm referring to is a noun - a firm, foundational belief."

And shortly after, she references Joshua 1:7-9, NIV
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

You see,  I'd come to that conversation both confident and convicted.  The conviction came first, actually.  A firm, foundational belief that God had intended for me to make this change for myself and my family.  And though I was confident in that conviction and my abilities to convey that conviction, I almost lost them both.

Because I chose not to speak up {in my mind, I asked, what was it going to prove anyway?}, I almost let her words dismantle both my confidence and my conviction in a few short minutes.
Not only that, I heard her speak down to me and say things about me that simply weren't true.  And I almost believed her.

I had to spend some time that afternoon with a dear friend who told me, honestly, what I already knew - that this person was wrong about me and she had no right to say those things to me.
I had to spend some time reminding myself who I was and whose I was.

I reminded myself over and over that I am a child of God.  That I know the truth about myself and my reasons and that her words were not the truth.  I reminded myself of the process I used to arrive at my convictions and then my confidence about my convictions.  

I found these verses helpful and I hope you will too:

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

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 54:17 (NIV) 
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)  
The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

The next time you find yourself feeling like a loser, beat up, or stomped on, remind yourself WHO you are and WHOSE you are.  

HE will strengthen
 you, help you, and uphold you with His righteous hand.  

YOUR heritage is that no weapon formed against you will prevail and that you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
HE, the Lord, a mighty warrior, is with YOU. He takes great delight in YOU and rejoices over YOU with singing!

Let those words sink in, friends! 
HE rejoices over you with singing!

Isn't that an amazing love? 
In Christ, you and I are victors, champions, and raised up despite what anyone else says about us.
Be convicted of that and be confident in it.

{*paraphrased and excerpted from Lysa TerKeurst's "The Best Yes," page 147-148}

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Voice of Truth {and keeping my mouth shut}

I am struggling so much right now with feeling like the biggest fraud that's ever walked the face of the earth.

In this season that I'm in, I am constantly overwhelmed with the need to talk to someone - anyone - who will listen about some upcoming changes that are coming to my life.  By default, these changes will be also be bringing changes to a lot of people in my life.  I think know some of them aren't going to like change very much.

The hardest part of my current journey with God is that I have to keep my mouth shut.
During the summer of hard prayer, He asked me to make a tough decision.
Few times in my life, have I had to make such a decision.  One that it so incredibly hard, so incredibly painful, and so full of letting go of something I just don't want to let go of.
Yet, at the same time, I have a peace about this decision that I've never known before.

He asked me to give up - let go - of something I love.  I am grappling with the disappointment to myself and the disappointment I anticipate from others.

He asked me to trust Him - His timing, His way, that this would work for my good and His glory.

He asked me to be patient.

AND he asked me to keep it to myself for now.  I even thought I had a timeline figured out and He said, "wait a little longer."

Sometimes I wonder if there is anything else He can ask of me, and then I quickly remind myself there certainly is! 

And somewhere within me, there is the ability to carry out His plan for my life and this situation, because I firmly believe He wouldn't ask me if I wasn't able.

I know that I can do it, but some days it just feels impossible.

Especially in light of my quest the past few years to become more transparent, open, and real with the people in my life.  Hiding anything or keeping anything secret just feels like 3 steps backwards.
I know it's necessary, but that doesn't make it easy.

I've been in a rather appropriate bible study this Fall - Lysa Terkeurst's "The Best Yes." It has been really helpful throughout this process and so I keep going back to certain passages and quotes.
If you've never read the book, check it out.  It's an easy read and her writing style makes you want to not put it down until you finish.

As difficult as this time in my life is, it reminds me why I need grace so much and that I should readily give grace to others for the same reasons.  It also helps me remember to give myself grace.

I have to say, I can't see the BIG picture yet.  I do have confidence, however, that what He's going to do in my life is working for my good.  If you've never had the opportunity to experience this journey, I really hope you do.  
I'll warn you that it's hard, but even along the way, I can already see it's worth it. 

Nothing  - no problem, person, or period of struggle  - is bigger than my God.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

{Feel, Felt, Feeling}

In my last post, I talked about feelings and how they can sometimes fail us. While that's true, feelings can also serve lots of purposes and vary from person to person, just as reactions to feelings vary from person to person.

When I was in high school, there was a band {and I guess there still is} called Drivin' n Cryin.'
I couldn't tell you anything they sing and, for those who may like them, please don't be offended - they aren't really the point of this post.

I always wondered about that band name.  I mean, have you ever tried to drive while crying? It's difficult at best and sometimes down right impossible. If you've never done it, trust me, it feels kind of stupid in a scary, I-should-probably-pull-over kind of way.

And you know how some people say they can't walk and chew gum at the same time? If that's hard, then try walking, praying, and crying  - it's the triple threat.  

Ask me how I know.

Life has been feeling pretty heavy for me lately. A lot is going on and going wrong {or at least not going right}, and I know I'm not the only one in my family feeling weighed down.

That walk on Tuesday morning was just supposed to be part of my workout but it became a prayer walk {which is something I've never really done before}.
I had to MAKE myself go on that walk but I'm so glad I did.

I'm not the biggest proponent of exercise.  I know it's good for you and all, but you aren't likely to catch me giving people exercise advice.  You could say to me that you were feeling tired and sluggish and it would not be my first response to say, "are you exercising regularly?" {I might ask about dietary habits and your vitamin D intake, though :-)}

Anyway, the "heavy" had just really piled up on Tuesday morning and I was carrying, not only my own heavy, but the heavy heart of my pre-teen daughter.  There is nothing that will tear up a Mama's heart like seeing her child hurting! The walk and workout was almost a way to just move forward rather than winding up a puddle on the living room floor.  

As I walked, I let a lot of things out and hesitate to think what anyone might have thought if they were watching me.  At some points, I was in the throes of the ugly cry and could hardly breathe and a tenth of a mile later I would think I was all done and good.  Then the process would start over as I continued to pray and listen to worship music.

Several verses of scripture came to mind as I walked and prayed and in one of my prayers, my scripture and my prayer melded together.  What came out was "for our good and your glory."
I don't know if I've heard that before somewhere or not; I don't think so.
It was so relevant to me at that moment that I really feel like God sent it to me for comfort.
It's easy to SAY that we want everything in our lives to ultimately be for the glory of God, but it can be hard to live that during trials.  

I can still remember singing this bible verse as a kid:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (KJV)

I also like to emphasize the word "all;" as in "ALL things work together for good..." One little word can make a big difference!

He didn't tell us that only some things work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose, or that only the GOOD things work together for good. He tells us ALL things work together for our good.


That walk that was supposed to be for exercise and then became the makings of a breakdown, actually WAS a triple threat. Not because it was so hard to do those three things at once {oh it was!}, but because, somehow, I accomplished all three and then some.  I covered more distance in less than my usual time; I felt better when I walked back into my house and for the rest of the day; I poured my heart out to God in prayer and my "feelings" weren't quite so tender by the time I was done.

Tuesday was also the day that I posted an early morning prayer request on Facebook; one that was for me and my daughter. Though our request didn't concern the happenings of Tuesday, those prayers were FELT on Tuesday by both of us.

The girl I picked up from middle school just after 3pm was all smiles and very different from the tearful one I'd dropped off that morning.  She told me more than one good thing that happened at school and then said, "I had a really great day!"

Then I showed her all the people that had prayed for her that day, and I could see how touched she was. I heard a "wow" and I heard her swallow hard before asking, "all those people prayed for me!?"

She and I agreed that the power of prayer is real and we like the way it feels! 




Monday, September 14, 2015

Fear is a feeling...

Fear is a feeling and feelings can fail us. I don't know who said that, but I've always liked it and I need to remind myself of it often.

For instance, I haven't written in this space in a very long time.
Today's post on fear is related, at least in part, to that absence.

I've been rolling around these words - what exactly to say and how to say them - for quite some time.

I've composed this post in my head more times than I can count and then promptly lost it because I didn't actually write any of it.

In fact, I've mentally written countless posts since my last actual post, but many of them went unpublished out of FEAR.

I don't want to be a person who lives in fear, acts out of fear, or is thought of as fearful.  I even fear what other people think of me {see what I did there?!}.

It isn't quite Fall yet, but I have to tell you, I feel YEARS removed from the person that I was just 4 short months ago.  This summer was a doozy for me, let me tell you!

For a long time, I've been struggling with my priorities.  I have grown really tired of feeling like too many balls were in the air and that I was destined to drop them ALL at any moment.
It was really weighing on me that my family seemed to get less than my best, consistently.

Last spring, I was praying and praying hard over a certain issue that I just couldn't shake.  I still can't shake it and it's still of the utmost importance to me, but I won't send much time on it tonight - it will have to be a post for another day.  Basically, it's that I feel God has called me to home school my kids.  My husband adamantly disagrees with me at this point and my kids are still in public school. To this day, I still don't believe that God brought me to this decision only to have it cause a conflict in my marriage. So I wait...

One day when I was really frustrated, I remember telling a friend from church, "please don't tell me to pray about it! I can't pray about it any more than I already do and I can't imagine ever praying more about any subject than I have about this one!"

I should've known when I uttered those words that I would shortly be proven wrong.

Over the summer, my prayer life completely changed.  Part of my prayer about homeschooling was that I was being best wife and mother that I could be. That prayer pulled me into a journey over another area of my life and it all came to a head in the first half of August.

While I can't give specific details about it yet, my decision is a big one. It will affect my family, positively, but it will affect some others as well and, my fear is, they will not view it positively.

It's a funny thing about fear, when you realize you are only doing something {or NOT} strictly out of fear, it tends to rock your world a little.  And in my case, it wasn't just fear that kept me doing this, it was a sense of obligation, responsibility, and in some ways selfishness or pride.  The sad truth is, the biggest losers of all in this equation were my family and I lament that fact that it took me so long to see the answer.

I do have responsibilities in this area of my life and in order to complete them, I have to wait to carry out the changes my decision brings.

The last few months and my prayer journey over the summer taught me so much:

  • God definitely has a sense of humor and He will make you eat your words!
  • It IS possible to do a complete 180 degree turn on something and feel completely at peace with it.
  • Fear is a powerful thing with powerful roots: sometimes PRIDE is the root, sometimes a lack of FAITH or TRUST in God is the root. Sometimes it's just trepidation about the unknown. But the reality for me has been that FEAR of giving up this one part of my life, may have kept me from experiencing His blessings for me and my family.
  • I have never given an issue to God the way I gave this one to Him.  Never brought Him something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY with a pure heart and true desire to do His will.  I thought I had, but until now I have never experienced the peace I felt after fervent and consistent prayers and one very tough final decision. 
  • Grace covers so much.  More and more I realize the need for more grace in our world.

This will all make more sense in the coming months when I can give more details about the changes I'm making and the calls I'm answering, but for now my prayer is this (and I pray it often!):

Lord, give me grace!
Grace to accept who you've made me.
To accept that who you've made me, may not be who I was or who I thought I was supposed to be.
Give me grace to merge those two things into one.
Grace to accept your Divine plan for my life.

Grace to give freely to others even when they don't deserve it.
Remind me that your Grace was so freely given to me in my extreme lack of deserving.

Give me grace to love those who will not understand my recent decisions or will see them as selfish.
I pray that my heart to serve You and your purpose for my life will be seen in my daily living.

I also pray for grace in the midst of daily struggles that I don't feel equipped to handle, Lord. I know you must be planning something awesome because there is no way I can do this on my own!



Saturday, April 4, 2015

{On Resurrection and New Beginnings}

We are all broken.

On our own, not one single one of us is whole. 

But there is one, whose sole purpose was to come and fix us. His sole purpose was OUR souls.
Even when you feel like there's no fixing you...Like you're so broken and cracked you must surely be leaving a trail of tiny you pieces in your wake as you move through life. 

Not even then are you beyond Hope - beyond help. 

I've been there more than once in my life. I've thought to myself, "why on earth (or in Heaven), would He die for me? I'm so undeserving and I keep disappointing Him, over and over!"

But you know what disappoints Him more? 
Our inability to give our lives completely to Him. 
The good, the bad, the big, the small, the tiny mundane things that we aren't even sure are "things." 

ALL of it -He wants it ALL. 
And then He wants us to take back our empty hands and trust Him to handle it. He wants us to know deep in our hearts that He will handle it; that He loves us and only wants the best for us. 
He wants us to never come back to the pile we dumped and try to take those problems back. Because doing that means we didn't trust Him to handle it; that somehow we need to help or that we can do it on our own. 

And we can't do it on our own.

I don't say this as someone who knows these things and lives that way everyday.  I say them as someone broken who knows these things and STILL struggles to live as if I know.

Our Maundy Thursday service at church was wonderful, and I've been thinking about it since then.  It gave me a wonderful new perspective on some things as well as some new things to consider.

Today as you think about the immense sacrifice that Christ made for us on Good Friday, prepare your heart to trust Him with all your "stuff." 
Lay it at the foot of the cross.
Better yet, nail it to the cross and never go back for it.

Remember what He did, why He did it, and for whom He did it.  He did it for you, for me, for ALL of us so that we wouldn't be held responsible for the true cost of sin, which we so rightly deserve.

On Sunday morning as you rejoice and celebrate His resurrection, trust Him with all the stuff you've struggled with.  Leave it with Him, turn away from it and start fresh.  After all, a resurrection is a new beginning and in Him we are all new creations.  
Easter Sunday can be your new beginning, no matter what's in your yesterday, your last week, last year, or last decade.

Begin again with His help and His hope.

Happy Easter!