The Emotions of Christmas ~ Part 4

photoAs Christmas is hours away, I am reminded that many people are struggling with keeping their joy. My heart breaks for them and I wish it could be different. In the last few days in my world, I’ve received sad news from friends of loss and grief, plans that went sideways and unexpected turn of events.

Sadness can drape over Christmas like a heavy blanket threatening to suffocate the hope and message of Christmas.

As I listened to a friend today, I heard the deep overwhelming sadness in between tears and sobs of trying to understand a new reality and new normal for her life.

Sadness, our last member from the family of emotions is something we often can’t control and plainly said, it stinks! Or as my boys used to say when they were teenagers..it sucks! Sadness can land on us unexpectedly and submerge our joy. People, events and circumstances can trigger sadness, especially this time of year. Sadness can turn into despair because of very real disappointments and then that can lead to depression.

Some of the reasons people on my FB survey said they were sad around Christmas were because of these reasons…
Not being invited to a holiday event or gathering
Families fighting
Separated from loved ones
Those no longer with us
Tragedies in the world
Traditions no longer celebrated
Not able to give gifts because of lack of resources

Rejection. Deep relational strife. Disappointment. These are the companions of sadness.

Many of what people wrote on my FB wall, made me so sad! Some sent me private messages because they didn’t want to feel judged if they contributed to the survey openly. One single Mom wrote that she was just wishing that she could blink into January and miss Christmas because of all the expectations she couldn’t fulfill for her kids and the expectations of work parties, family and extra gifts she couldn’t afford.

Most of us learn that we can’t control what happens in our life with unmet expectations, grief, sadness or loss. I truly believe that God makes a way for us to not just to get through Christmas but to actually receive the gift of Christmas he wants us to experience

Unspeakable joy,

Supernatural joy that surrounds us with peace and comfort.

Indulge me for just a minute. Can you think of just one thing that gives you joy at Christmas? Maybe this list will help you get started.

Joy is…
Being together with family and friends
Traditions
Lights and Trees
Sharing with those less fortunate
Christmas songs
Candles
Hot Chocolate
Christmas Baking
Hallmark Movies

I am like a little kid when it comes to Christmas lights and these are the warm fuzzy things that we can pull out of our memory banks. The emotions that lie dormant in our sub-conscious come forward and give us those warm fuzzy feelings and can bring forth a sense of joy and happiness. But it is just that, warm feelings, and they are temporary, they don’t last and it isn’t true joy.

Here is the good news I want to remind us (and myself!) as we are just moments from stepping into Christmas. Joy is more than just a feel-good feeling, it is the result of connection and it is with that little baby in the manger that we are celebrating, Jesus Christ. This is the good news that can helps us manage the sadness we might be experiencing.

The angels reminded the shepherds that holy night,                          

Listen! I bring good news, news of great JOY, news that will affect all people everywhere. Luke 2:10

The kind of joy that Luke is talking about is the kind that impacts people not from what we conjure up from our memory bank, but joy as a person, Jesus.

Jesus represents hope, love and joy for yes, even the hard things in life.

For the messiness, hurt and brokenness.

For those facing cancer and sickness.

For unmet expectations, and shattered dreams.

Broken relationships and fighting families this Christmas.

He came to bring that relational connection back to Himself.  To bring the joy that he created us to experience with Him.

God came down humbly and simply to meet us in our sadness, our mess and muck for one reason, He longs to let us know that He loves us. He is over the moon about you and me. He craves relationship with us. His faithfulness beckons us over and over again despite our imperfections and failures. And yet He still pursues you and I for relationship. This is where the manger intersects the cross. Receiving his sacrifice on the cross is where the gift of Christmas begins. And even in the midst of life, the hard and yuck, if we have Jesus we can have joy because He is love. His one true gift has always been love for the redemption of creation.

John 3:16,17, from the Message Bible reminds us of this when it says, This is how much God loved the world; He gave His Son, his one and only Son. And this is why; so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Did you hear that? A whole and lasting life, with Him for all of eternity wiping out the sadness and replacing it with Himself, joy, Jesus, Prince of peace, Immanuel, God with Us.

As you finish your last preparations for Christmas whatever that may look like, if you are fighting off being sad and just trying to get through, remember…

The little baby in the manger is your gift,

your joy,

your hope,

your salvation and most of all He is your creator God who loves you.

Special note: I’ve written a short devotional book on my own journey of depression called Under the Broom Tree. You can download it for free when you subscribe to my blog by signing up at cynthiacavanaugh.com. Even if you don’t want to continue receiving blog posts, you can sign up and then unsubscribe later. I’d love for you to be blessed and encouraged, but most of all know that there is hope in the midst of the darkness. Merry Christmas!

The Emotions of Christmas – Part 3

The xmasclock.com countdown says there is 7 days 14 hours 29 minutes and 47 seconds left before Christmas.

How are you doing? All ready? In a panic?

Let me ask you, do you find yourself as Christmas approaches rolling your eyes, catching random thoughts of cynicism with all the hustle and bustle, and just plain feeling disgusted? I’ve caught myself rolling my eyes a few times, (of course inside my head) when I am out in public. I see the way people behave and the pent up frenzy and it releases that emotion of disgust. Why is that?

Before we answer that, let’s meet Disgust a member of the family of emotions from the film, Inside Out by Disney Pixar, because well reality is that, life gets a little dirty.

What does this little cute green girl and emotion of disgust look like at Christmas? Here’s what the FB survey said….

Christmas…whatever…!!
Why bother, no one says thanks anyway.
I’m just tired of doing it all and having to be Ms. Holly Jolly Christmas.
Why can’t the neighbors put their lights up right?
Who does that anyway?
What’s wrong with people?
Can’t they get it together?
Does all this have to be on one tree?

If we stay frustrated long enough we become cynical…like Mr. Scrooge. I call it the “whatever roll our eyes” attitude. It’s when our anger has turned to frustration and then has captured our joy and locked it up for good and we suffer from the emotion of disgust.

Nothing brings our joy to the surface anymore, not the wide-eyed wonder of little people looking at Christmas lights,

a smile that the bell ringers at the mall beckon to us to remember others,

fresh fallen snow and the dusk of light dancing on it’s surface.

Nothing. Notta…Nothing.

Our hearts become frozen in the slime of disgust.

Disgusted and displaced where we can’t see Christmas in a way that God wants us to experience the good news is not a good place to be. Can you relate? I’ve been at this place too many times! Disgust says there are a lot of gross things out there and can’t see past the yuck of life.

There were a group of people recorded in the gospels that seemed to be always disgusted about something. They were called the Pharisees, the religious rulers of the day. They imposed impossible demands on how to know and understand God, on the Jewish people. They took the law too far and became legalists which they of course were the only perfect ones practicing the law with precision. From the time Jesus stepped on the scene they showed their disgust and sought to discredit who He was and His mission. They projected their rules and rituals on Jesus telling him when he could heal people, what he could say, and shot him down every chance they had. Even one of Jesus early followers said in John 1:45,46 “How can anything good come from a place like Nazareth?”

Many of us have our pristine nativity scenes set up in our homes. There is a few things missing if we wanted to make it truly authentic. We need to add a little manure, some damp smelling hay, a handful of insects and a few unruly animals. Did you find those little disgusting items in the box when you bought your set?

The reality is, that it was probably a pretty disgusting birthing room, and yet Luke 1:16 tells us how the shepherds found the baby, “…they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the feeding trough.” How disgusting is that? I can’t even fathom lying one of my precious newborn sons in a barn in a trough that animals had been eating out of, saliva drooling from their mouths as they chewed their meal. YUCK!! But that is how God delivered His gift to us. He came, simple and serene in the busyness of Bethlehem in the middle of chaos.

Yes, I get disgusted here and there during the season. But I am trying to remember to see through the lens of determined joy and not lose sight of the baby in the manger swaddled away from the manure and smell and mire.

The good news,

Immanuel.

God with us.

When I narrow my focus, the disgust falls off me and I can see that God came in the chaos for all of us and our mucked up manurey lives. My eyes stop rolling, the random thoughts turn to worship and my heart begans to sing. Even in the midst of the chaos I can embrace the greatest ever gift given for me and for you. But I have to tell you, it just doesn’t happen, I have to be intentional, because truth be told, I have a little Pharisee inside of me too and it shows up in disgust.

So the next time I feel disgusted because someone stole my parking place, or beat me to the nearest register, or cut in line, or an adult is acting like a 5 year old in public, I am going to choose joy over rolling my eyes because of what the shepherds did after they visited the baby in the feeding trough.

The shepherd returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorifed God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted. Luke 2:20.

Of course, Mary gets the award for seeing past the disgusting circumstances of delivering Jesus. Luke says that,

Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.

She experienced the disgust of her surroundings and yet chose to see Jesus, the source of her joy.

I want to be like Mary, this world is a mess, and yet in the mess of the stable of our lives, there lies joy, ready for us to pick up and choose to experience.

Next emotion up…sadness

 

 

The Emotions of Christmas ~ Part 2

Ever notice the closer we get to Christmas people get a little grumpier? Everything seems on wind-up frenzy as the day grows nearer. And today as I am writing this post according to our xmasclock.com countdown, there are 14 days, 15 hours, 31 minutes and 22 seconds left until Christmas. YIKES!

I was at one of my favorite stores the other day (Home Goods) and it was absolute mayhem. I could sense that people were trying their hardest to be jolly and have that most wonderful time of the year attitude, but it seemed a little artificial and controlled. The manager kept coming through the line assuring us we would be helped as soon as possible and that she had every register open for customers. I thought to myself, she is very intuitive and realizes a riot might break out soon.

Christmas can bring up even the ugly emotion of spewed anger as we might get tipped over the edge from exhaustion, overcrowded stores, restaurants, unruly relatives, coffee lines, and well just plain too much and too many people and overwhelming tasks. It’s not pretty to talk about it, but it is a reality.

Back to the FB survey from earlier last week. This is what people said about when asked the question, “What makes you mad about Christmas?”

Christmas makes me mad because there is…

too much work
too many people
too expensive
too much travel
too many people I don’t like
too many dishes
too much shopping and not enough money

These were a few of the most common responses.

Have you ever meet some truly angry people around Christmas? I don’t necessarily mean the grumpy ones we might bump into, I mean the really angry ones that seems they are out to rob everyone’s holiday cheer?

If we stay mad then we might move into looking like the character from the Disney Movie Inside Out. Check out the introduction on YouTube to meet Mr. Anger.

Does he make you laugh or bring out a teeny tiny bit of resemblance in your own heart? I’ll be honest, I have felt like my hair was on fire just like in the movie.

These are the things about Christmas according to the survey that can really make our hair on fire…
Kids getting too whiny
Uncle Harry gets drunk
Aunt Hilda gossips
No one says thanks
House gets left a mess
Getting cleaning supplies or a blender as a gift
Having to be a cooking, cleaning
and love-making machine

This emotion can put us over the top to the point of no return without any possibility of recapturing our joy. The anger keeps us padlocked, battened down, dark in the dungeon of our frustrations.

Dr. Caroline Leaf who is a brilliant writer and speaker, says this about our emotions…

Every thought we have has an emotion attached to it. How we react to events and circumstances of life will determine our stress levels, the state of our physical being, how our mind is functioning, how we are coping with life, and how we are expecting to cope with life in the future.

This has been incredibly helpful for me. What I hear her saying is that no matter what, we can control our thoughts and therefore guide our emotions to recapture our joy. Yes, that even means when our tempers flare and anger threatens to set our hair on fire and put us in an over the top stressful state.

Many times I get grumpy around this season and it can move into blow-up anger because of one reason.

I AM OVERTIRED!

And I am trying to do TOO MUCH.

It took me years to figure this out. I’ve come a long way, but when I find myself headed down this path I stop and take a breath and ask myself,

Why am I so angry right now?

Then I try to simplify and reorganize AND pray! Praying first is really the best of the best ideas.

You’ve heard me say that I am a recovering perfectionist and it’s taken me years to get this one thing,

Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect!

I am creative and love to decorate, give meaningful gifts, set a beautiful table and well, you get the picture.

But it has killed me (and my family) at times and any kind of joyous atmosphere in my home just because I was wanting it all to be “just right.”

I learned the hard way and still am working on simplifying so my joy stays intact.

Last year, we had a houseful of people and lots of little people. I had creative grandiose plans and most of them went out the window because there was just too much chaos.

I had bought a glittered initial for each person to put on the table around their napkin for Christmas dinner. Guess what, in all the commotion, I completely forgot! And the best thing about it was I was okay. I didn’t miss it at all because as I looked around the table, my heart was grateful to have all our children and grandchildren together in one place to share the blessings we have. I simplified in the middle of it all and you know what my children said? They felt it was one of the best Christmases we have had as a family.

Christmas can trigger many emotions for us for a number of reasons and if we let it, unchecked anger can be simmering right under the surface. Anger is a God-given emotion and it isn’t wrong, but it’s what we do with our anger that turns it into ugliness and spews over those we love and others we encounter everyday in our world.

In the Christmas story after Jesus is born, the Wise Men came and visited Jesus. But before they did, they had been summoned to King Herod in Jerusalem. He had gotten the news of Jesus birth and was bubbling with anger because he felt his throne was being threatened by this little baby. He pretended to be interested in worshipping Jesus and sent the Wise Men to Bethlehem to find out exactly where he was, “So, that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2:8).

The Wise Men didn’t report back to Herod on their way home and his hair lit on fire with anger to the degree that he gave orders to kill all the baby boys under two years old in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. He tried to destroy Jesus but as the story goes, an angel had warned the young family and they fled to Egypt.

Here is  my own personal solution for keeping my anger in check this time of year and so I don’t deceive my own heart:

  1. Make sure I am spending time each day talking to God and having him sort out my priorities. Don’t cheat my time with God. Keep my heart in the right place.
  2. Take a nap! Get enough sleep and rest, don’t push myself too hard and don’t eat too much sugar. It wreaks mayhem on me and makes me cranky.
  3. Simplify the big plans I have in my head. This year, I have too much on my plate so I am not sending out Christmas cards. Last year I cut back how much baking I was going to do but I sent out Christmas cards.
  4. Participate in doing something in my community for people who might not otherwise have a Christmas.

My anger and yours can be destructive if left simmering too long and can take out our joy, I’ve been so guilty of this one too many times and it makes me sad.  Ephesians 4:26 has been my saving prayer when I feel those emotions of frustration bubble up. And don’t sin by letting anger control you.  This is the caveat for me, remembering I can be angry but stopping it in my thoughts before it controls me and leaks. My joy then can be recaptured!

Stay tuned for next emotion up at Christmas, disgust…

 

 

 

The Emotions of Christmas Part 1

photo“I just wish I could blink into January,” a friend who is a single Mom wrote me a personal FB message because the season was feeling overwhelming and reminding her of everything she could and couldn’t do because of her limited resources.

The most wonderful time of the year can ramp up emotions such as these as we step into the month of December and sigh…

ANOTHER CHRISTMAS.

The days of December can cause us to fall into the vortex of losing our Christmas joy rapidly if we aren’t careful. We know in our heads that this should be a celebration of that tiny precious baby coming humbly to a manger to bring hope, peace and love, and yet somehow Jesus and the joy of the celebration gets lost.

We are by nature emotional human beings, and those emotions are more heightened around Christmas, or so it seems. Which brings me to talking about a recent movie that I saw this past year.

Did you see the movie Disney film, Inside Out? It’s a story of emotional characters taking place inside an 11-year old girl who has to move across the country and all that she experiences. In the story you meet her emotions of fear, anger, sadness, disgust and joy. The story stirred up all kinds of emotions for me and it made me cry, laugh and be sad as I watched.

As we approach December 25th, I’d like to share how each of the emotions that they identified in the movie can impact our feelings about Christmas and how we can recapture the emotion of joy. But first, I want you to know that I did a high-level survey across hundreds of people. Okay, I did a simple FB survey a few weeks back asking women to describe what makes them afraid about Christmas, mad, sad and disgusted.

For starters let’s meet fear from the film, can you relate?

This is what surfaced about being afraid at Christmas from my FB survey…

People won’t like what I made

People won’t like what I give

I’m afraid of not being enough

Not making people happy

Not having enough

Not going to have time to have a break

Do you know that fear creates exhaustation? According to the experts, fear is learned and shaped by our experiences. Fear can then become control. Did you know that controlling people are driven by fear and in order to stay safe they are driven to control because they are afraid of something? They might lose it!!! Ring any bells in the house? ME…GUILTY!

I am a recovering CONTROL-FREAK around Christmas time. Why? Because of many things I just listed. I felt I needed to control Christmas because of how I thought things should look, taste, feel and experience for my family and my friends. And then the fear caused me to really lose my joy and anger would seep in, but we will talk about that later.

As I write this, according to the xmasclock.com Christmas is 19 days, 16 hours, 5 minutes and 55 seconds away. And with that comes the ramping up of these kind of emotions at least from what I have observed for one specific group…women.

Can I get a witness?

The frantic and frenzy,

the pressure,

the anxiety,

the relatives,

the cooking,

baking,

shopping and more.

So between now and Christmas day, I want to talk about these emotions that can creep up and rob our joy. Instead of dreading it and getting emotional hives because of the pace, I am hoping that by the time Christmas Day comes we can experience and recapture the joy that God intends for us to have.

Back to our first emotion, fear. How do we then overcome the fear of not being enough or the people-pleasing trap we can fall into?

We can take our cue from the shepherds receiving the message in Bethlehem the night they were told about Jesus birth.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

God addressed their fear first before He gave them the good news. He told them they didn’t need to be afraid because Jesus had arrived.

He wants to address yours and mine.

We have to acknowledge first that we are afraid.  But we have slow down long enough and name it. Grab a piece of paper right now and write down.

What are you afraid of this December?

Get it out, write it down, tell Jesus, tell a friend, ask for prayer.

Ask God to help. Because if we let the emotion of fear take over than our need to control will take-over like a run-away train and we will be miserable. Take it from me; I’ve done it so many times I’ve made not only myself miserable but my family too!

We can’t miss the second part of the announcement. The angels told them what they could find it they let go of their fear.

The angel also told them where they could find JOY. Because JOY is a person, it’s not just the warm fuzzy feelings we might experience over Christmas.

It was in the good news that Jesus the Savior was born in Bethlehem and they decided to go and see. That is joy.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. Luke 2:15.

The next verse said that they hurried to see Jesus. I want to hurry to see Jesus and not hurry to be in a hurry this Christmas season.

My fear this Christmas is that I won’t have enough time to get everything done that I’d like to get finished. So in order to make sure that doesn’t happen, what I really mean is lose my cookies in the process, I am purposely choosing to simplify a few things this year.

Let’s name our fears together, let them go, and hurry as the shepherds did to spend a few moments to see Jesus and I believe that our joy will be recaptured.

 

Why You Can’t Rush the Healing of a Broken Heart

Today is a quiet day. Everything I had planned on my agenda, God wiped away and left me with a clutter free day. This Monday was supposed to be full with a car oil change, holding my sweet granddaughter and a salon appointment. One by one circumstances changed and the cancellations came in. My heart took notice and as I was sitting, resting and watching the softness in the sky of a cloudy day, God surprised me. I clicked on a link to hear a song, Clean by Natalie Grant. It’s a new song about being made clean by the maker of our heart and soul. I listened to it probably 10 times and let the truth of the lyrics take hold.

I’ve spent the last two weekends sharing with hundreds of women part of my healing journey and restoration the past few years. Those close in my world, know that my marriage was in serious trouble several years ago and I thought we weren’t going to make it. I was broken, shattered and couldn’t see any hope in the storm.

But as I shared with a crowd of women on Saturday,

Hope isn’t just an expectation, it is a person, Jesus.

He is the healer of all things broken, all things shattered when life is messy and it doesn’t make sense.

When the pain breaks you to the point of despair it’s hard to believe in the moment that you will ever be whole again.

That you will ever dream again.

That life will ever smile on you again.

I had many weeks, days and even months feeling like that. But as I chose to ride out the storm in the boat with a heart broken and shattered, Jesus made a way and gave me peace. It was hard, it was complicated, it was messy and sometimes ugly. I struggled with believing, I struggled surrendering my feelings, but out of desperation I obeyed that small still voice that said, “Trust me.” Sometimes I had to do it several times a day, hour by hour and minute by minute.

It’s so ridiculously easy to slap a spiritual bandaid on our pain, trying to move on and pretend everything is okay when inside we are unraveling. We pressure ourselves to put that mask on especially it seems in the church. And to put a Romans 8:28 (All things work together for good…) anecdote on our pain instead of just letting our reality match God’s truth without pretense.

It’s much easier to try and fake it and not deal with crushing realization of a life that isn’t working. Why do we do that as people who confess to love Jesus? Why? Honestly, it can drive me to insanity, and I know I have been a guilty party. It limits how I grieve, how I heal, how I relate, how I process and move through the pain.

I believe you can’t rush the process of healing.

I wanted to.

I wanted badly to move forward.

Others wanted me to, begged me to and I wanted with all my might to wake up and be all better right now, but I wasn’t! God gently reminded me AGAIN, Trust me, trust the process. I still want to, and yet there are remnants and pieces that are healing and I’ve come to terms, that it is okay. I can’t rush the process of what my heart is whispering to me.

This brilliant song by Natalie Grant reminded me today that the beauty of healing comes piece by piece. Not in one beautiful miraculous chunk, although I am sure God is quite capable of doing that. But I think he prefers to do it piece by piece and in His good, loving timing. Why? So I will trust him intimately with new depth in my soul.

I resonate with the line in the song, I am coming alive with joy and destiny, because you are restoring me piece by piece. That is why you can’t rush healing, it isn’t in our control, it comes in pieces. There is a purpose in the pain you and I have experienced and unless I submit to walking through it all the way piece by piece, I will miss the journey. I will miss Jesus making me fully whole and fully alive in Him.

Psalm 84:5 is one of my most treasured verses for the longest time. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!

When I was a kid I loved to jump in rain puddles. That is the point. There are no puddles, no pools without the rain, without the rainy, nasty thunder storm there is no pool of blessing. If you are wrestling today with where you are at and feel like it’s taking so long to get through the storm, remember as Natalie Grant sings in her song that he is restoring you piece by piece because that is God’s way of making us whole because He loves us
completely.

 

Do You Think They Will Notice?

photo 1 photo 2I have a tray that sits on top of my fridge. It’s a favorite of mine to use in the summer on the deck. It’s a stark black and white print. During the off season my husband uses it with a placemat on top when he is alone to eat his dinner and watch the news or sports in front of the TV. He’s converted my favorite tray into a portable TV tray. Remember those? (Only for those of us old enough when they were invented)

The other night when I opened the fridge it slightly fell over the opening of the fridge, so I had to catch it before it hit me squarely in the face.

I noticed some extra decorating on my favorite tray.

DUCT TAPE!!

Which was nicely covered up by the placemat. Did he think I wouldn’t notice? It had obviously been involved in some sort of an accident, although not sure how it happened, so now it was cracked and my sweet man tried to repair it. When I asked him (nicely of course) about it, (at least I tried to ask nicely) he said, “No, he wasn’t trying to keep it from me, but that it just happened” and he fixed it for me. SIGH…..How do you get mad at that answer? He was trying to fix it for me!

I found myself thinking as I removed the placemat how in my own life I try to cover up my brokenness and wounds sometimes.

I consider myself fairly authentic but there are times I want to camouflage with duct tape, hoping no one will notice.

It doesn’t work very well because the fact is, we are all broken.

We have scars, we have wounds, we have trauma, anxiety, hurts and difficult challenges. Such is life. I once heard a song years ago, Life is Hard, but God is Good. Yes, God is always good but the fact remains, life is just plain hard and that’s why we need Him.

This weekend I am heading out to engage with a few hundred women and hopefully bring them a message of hope and remind them that our influence is powerful and strong in Jesus. But I will have to lift off the placemat in places of my life and expose the brokenness and wounds in order to be an effective leader and teacher this weekend.

I am riveting with excitement this morning as I have prepared for weeks and months and believe this is my God assignment. But I have struggled this week in wanting to keep the placemat of my life on that tray and give a little too perfect appearance. I didn’t even notice it creeping in. It was subtle, it was sly, slithering in and around the message God has put on my heart from His Word. It crept in, my anxiety, insecurity and the lie that God can’t use me fully unless I appear to have it all together. No duct tape, just a lovely black and white tray to serve others with.

As I’m typing, I just realized, my favorite tray can’t serve anyone unless it is carried. It doesn’t serve itself.

Thank you Jesus, it is you who carries my imperfect life and offers the heart of your message to serve others.

Where do you need to have God carry you today? I am reminding both of us what the writer in 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 says when he was asking God to take away his weakness,

My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness. So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on. I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

So go ahead! Ask me to remove that placemat on the tray of my life, because I want to bless and serve others today and everyday and I believe you do too!

When the Waiting Room and Faith Collide

A few weeks back I sat in the surgical waiting room at a hospital in San Diego waiting for news about my Dad.

I came prepared to wait.

I had my books and computer, a mini office of sorts.

As hour after hour went by, I watched as people waited, some chatting quietly, others watching mindless shows on the overhead television flatscreen and others staring numbly wondering what the next moments would bring for their loved ones. Then a doctor would come in searching for the family, usher them gently out into the hallway and deliver their news either good or bad. It was sobering to say the least.

We had just recently found out that my Dad had a large cancerous melanoma tumor and the initial report prepared us to expect the worst. So I waited for weeks before the surgery holding my breath and then in the waiting room while my Mom sat by my Dad’s side as they prepped him for surgery.

We were one of the those later in the day who received good news from the surgeon that gave us hope but we still had to wait for the pathology report. I think that wait was more difficult than waiting in the waiting room. Days went by and then on the plane ride home, after I couldn’t stand it any longer, I bought 30 minutes of internet to tap into the outside world.

I received the text. “100% clean, no cancer, no further treatment.”

I cried.

Weeks of holding my breath let loose a dam of pent up emotions.

It wasn’t what we were told by the surgeon at first. We were bracing ourselves for the worst. As I got off the plane and called my husband and my sister and friends telling them the good news, my words came half broken through relief of tears and emotion.

I realize as I write this that not everyone gets this kind of report after waiting and pounding the doors of heaven. My heart grieves with those that get slammed with hard news and it is frightening. As my Dad went into his surgery, he had said earlier that he knew he had lived a good long life and was ready, but he was still scared. Of course, who wouldn’t be! I pleaded with God and begged to have at least five more good years with the first man I have ever loved.

God answered. He always answers, maybe not in the way that we hope for. This time He answered and spared my Dad from further surgery and treatment. Why? I don’t know because life doesn’t always make sense and I don’t have the mind of God. I heard people say after we shared the good news, “God is so faithful and so good to have answered.” But then I think, He doesn’t change, He is always good and always faithful even when the outcome isn’t what we hope for.

One of the sweetest moments came the next day when my Dad shared with me how he had prayed and prayed for strength and courage. He let me know that the morning of the surgery he woke up and felt such an overwhelming presence like God was right next to Him, reassuring him he would be okay. I remember my Dad saying to me timidly, that I might find that weird. I told him, of course not! God can reveal Himself in anyway He chooses to us, even giving us a tangible physical sense of closeness when we are afraid.

My father has a pure faith and I believe that because of his faithfulness that God revealed Himself to him in this way because he truly asked for it with shaking faith, but he asked and made a choice to believe. 2 Samuel 22:26 says, To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless. Not matter the outcome that day, God showed Himself faithful. Either way, no matter the news, my Dad knew that He was not alone.

There are other areas of my life that I pound heaven’s door for, and I am still waiting for a hopeful answer. There are areas of silence and I am still pleading and waiting. That’s hard to grasp when life gets hard. But today, I choose to trust and believe that, The word of the LORD is right and true: he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4.

So I will keep pounding, I will keep asking, I will keep waiting on a God that doesn’t disappoint and who demonstrates Himself to ALWAYS be faithful.

Treasures in the Dirt

photoWARNING!

This is going to be a more frivolous post.

I believe that God even cares about the little things in life. Even silly things like my fav’s.

A few weeks ago I lost one of my best earrings. They were gifted to me by a friend, These earrings are simply designed in a scroll pattern made by Brighton. They were my ‘go to’ on a jean and casual day.

I sighed one morning when I couldn’t find the other one.

I ranted.

I pouted.

I yelled at myself because this is probably at least 3 earrings I have lost this year. And they are all my favorites!

How does this happen? I now have a special section in my organized case of ‘one-of-a-pair.’ I guess I could start a new trend and wear a mismatched set once in a while.

But then the unthinkable happened, while I was digging around in the dirt in my front yard, I spotted something silver, glimmering and shiny. It was the other earring that I had just lost a few weeks ago.

YIPPEE! I have absolutely NO idea how it landed in the dirt by my front walk. It was simply too far from the steps and the driveway. Did it fly out of my ear one day? Who knows! It’s unexplainable.

I did a happy dance with dirt flying from my gardening gloves.

I said thank you loud enough for my neighbor to hear and I didn’t care. I considered it a gift from God, my treasure in the dirt that day.

Is that silly? Wait, let me answer that. I don’t think so.

I’ve been burdened recently with all the chaos in the world and some of my own challenges facing me this week. Digging around in the dirt is cathartic for me, and Monday I decided I needed to get down and dirty. I had just bought some decorative kale to replace my raggy summer petunias.

When my hands are mucked up with the earth and my head is bowing low to the ground planting, weeding and digging, I can hear God whisper sweet words of calm to my heart. Maybe it’s the sense of touching creation and watching with wonder how a seed turns into beauty or finding a bird’s nest intricately constructed in one of my front pots. Never the less, I hear God in my garden.

Isaiah 45:3 reminds me that in all parts of life God will give me hidden treasures as I seek Him. I wasn’t expecting anything that day, but God gave me a little surprise to hold onto in the midst of my chaotic heart and remind me that He’s got this. I needed it desperately and am incredibly grateful that He loves me enough to tangibly show me.

And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. Isaiah 45:3

 

 

Why Squirrels and Discipline Don’t Go Together

I was sitting next to a new acquaintance at a friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner last week. She was engaging me much like I do with other people asking me loads of questions about how I spend my time and my passions. After about 20-30 minutes taking turns, she turned to me and said,

“You sound awfully busy.”

I thought to myself, “I guess I didn’t think of it that way”. When I reviewed my summer months, I concurred to myself, “Yes, I guess I have been, hugely busy, more than I would like”. Which led me to greater reflection (did I tell you I am a true melancholy?) of how I am spending my time.

Looking over my calendar and events of the past few months I saw a big gaping hole of a word that has actually been nagging me for months.

It’s a word I really don’t like, but have to pay attention to.

It’s the word D.I.S.C.I.P.L.I.N.E.

Because I am a big picture person with an infinity of ideas and vision, the discipline of DISCIPLINE can get lost.

This quote I read recently jars me to the reality of discipline, We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment. (Jim Rohn)

If there is one thing that haunts me in getting to the end of my life is the feeling of the pain of regret and disappointment in what I choose day to day. I realize that I am not very good at self-discipline. Looking back this summer over the crowded spaces in my calendar and then looking ahead, I discovered that discipline has to be a part of the picture. The consequence if it isn’t, I will be living in the excruciating pain of regret not just at the end but now.

As I was chatting with God about this and myself, I had to admit that I totally “suck” at discipline. I am good with short bursts and projects that have a beginning and an end, but am terrible at the long term discipline to keep the momentum moving forward of my passions and purpose. I get distracted, derailed and yes, “oops there’s a squirrel” as the saying goes.

What are my squirrels of distraction?

Other people’s vision, so exciting, how can I help?

Melancholy discontent.

Shopping for stuff I really don’t need.

Wasting time on the internet.

Signing up for too many worthy studies.

Taking on good projects.

Need I continue further? Part of discipline is being disciplined enough to recognize I must make careful choices to focus on exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Helping others is important but if I am spending 90% of my time helping others reach their goals and mine are forgotten, then that becomes a distraction.

September is always a good month to evaluate and right now, my calendar is open on my table and I am doing a much needed review and putting those fun-loving squirrels of distraction in their place. Not that I can’t chase one once in awhile, it’s just that right now, my calendar yard is overwhelmed with them.

Discipline is the ability to focus on purpose. To do the routines everyday that move me forward on the plan that God has destined for me. They usually aren’t exciting, they are mundane, but they are important. They are the collection of small exercises of time that are intentional and that lead to finishing goals.

So what’s needed so my life doesn’t get over run with those squirrely squirrels?  As I’ve pondered this, the word WISDOM is quietly whispering to my heart. The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom and so I am plastering this admonishment on my forehead and anyplace I can get away with.

Teach us (me) to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Proverbs 90:12

(Picture from (Alamy)  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/11301638/Millions-of-pounds-of-public-money-to-pay-for-grey-squirrel-cull.html)

Does Leadership Matter?

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I can’t sleep. It’s way past my bedtime. The phrase leadership matters is haunting me and keeping me up tonight. Bill Hybels at the Global Leadership Summit last week said it over and over again, leadership matters, and I can’t get it out of my head. Leadership matters, in our homes, our jobs, our churches and our communities.

It feels very real to me just now because I just got word this evening that a very dear woman I knew in my distant past, from another season, another church, and another place that I was in leadership a long time ago has just graduated to heaven. A mutual friend of hers let me know that she was moments away from her last breath just two days ago. She shared I could text her and send an encouraging note. I responded right away that I would, but then I thought, How lame is that! I haven’t talked to her for a few years, what should I say?

It feels so fake, so insincere to come in at the 11th hour when someone is dying. What do you say to someone who is about to slip from earth to heaven?

But then I remembered how she had reached out to me a few times on social media to encourage me of how I had impacted her life ever so long ago. And yet she wanted to tell me that my leadership mattered. She didn’t care that we hadn’t talked for eons, it didn’t bother her that we weren’t at the same church anymore or even close friends, she just wanted me to know. It was a sheer act of kindness because she had eternity in view. People mattered to her and it was important. So I told her how much it meant to me the times she had reached out even if we weren’t very connected. I tried to muster up some brave encouraging words in her last moments. I didn’t expect a response, but her husband replied and thanked me for taking the time to send her a note. I cried.

That is what is keeping me up tonight because it scares me to think of the times that I have carelessly behaved or threw out words without regard to how they might impact others.

And yet, this sweet soul was in the background watching my life as a leader and was blessed those many years ago.

I didn’t even realize how much my leadership mattered back then. I was green and inexperienced.

There’s one more thing that’s been haunting me, words from Ephesians that I’ve been trying to commit to memory lately, I urge you: Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously extended to you. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love.

These words are words that propel me like my distant friend who has just finished her race to intentionally focus on things in life that truly matter.

To make certain I don’t forget to embed deeper in my soul qualities like humility, gentleness, patience and most of all to love people well.

Because when all is said and done, it really does matter! God says over and over again in His book that it does. I know I don’t get it right all the time, I already messed up today at least three times but it’s the goal I want to keep in front of me, it’s the legacy I choose.

Loving well matters.

Our words matter.

Leadership matters.