Dispelling the Myth of Perfection at Christmas: Part 2

There are 12 days, 15 hours, 32 minutes and 18 seconds until Christmas arrives.

How are you doing?

Are you giving yourself room to be imperfect?

Are you tuning out some of the bombarding messages that the stores and media are sending to us?

I am more aware of this since I wrote about it and had a twist of events that only helped me to check myself.

I ordered my Christmas cards a few years ago for the first time with a new company. I was early that year and so proud of myself! I was planning to get them out ‘perfectly’ by December 2nd or 3rd.

The little orange package arrived.

I ripped into it like a child opening a long awaited Christmas present.

I couldn’t believe what I found. Perfect strangers on those cards, an adorable family, but not us! It was a mistake.

Sigh…now I wouldn’t get my cards out when I wanted to. It wouldn’t be, are you ready for this?

PERFECT!

That thought actually crossed my mind! It actually made me laugh after I hung up the phone to correct the mistake because I had no choice but to adjust my expectation of getting those cards out. December was starting out imperfect already and I was faced with choosing to embrace it and let it go.

My grandkids have an expectation when I take them out for lunch. They have a favorite restaurant that have a tankful of fish that match those in the movie Finding Nemo and the best chocolate shakes in town.

Each time we go, it’s comical to watch them as they try to get the shake up into the straw and into their mouths. Their little cheeks suck in so hard like the fish they are watching in the tank as they work the straw. The shake is so thick it takes them awhile. Nearly every time I have to tell them to swirl it around, wait a little until it melts and be patient because then the goodness of what’s in the glass will come up eventually. They don’t realize they wouldn’t have to suck it up so hard if they would wait.

Here’s what I think we do around the holidays. We get so overwhelmed by all the jam-packed things that need to happen that we push down all the goodness that is waiting for us in the glass. We keep sucking it up and sucking it up until we make ourselves crazy. We never get the good stuff like joy, peace and love because we are trying so hard to make the perfect holiday. Instead, we should be waiting with anticipation through Advent and embracing the imperfections.

Jesus mother Mary, had no choice but to embrace the imperfections while having the greatest favor ever to be bestowed on a woman. She had to embrace the imperfection of being ridiculed because she was pregnant knowing she was a virgin and not married. In Jewish times, it was cause for her to be taken outside the city and stoned.

She had to embrace the imperfection that she couldn’t even give birth in her home town, in the comfort of her own home, with her mom around or her family. Instead she had to travel miles away and not even know where she was going to lay her newborn son down to sleep for his first night on earth.

She had to embrace the imperfection of giving birth in a smelly dirty barn with strangers all around.

Mary had to embrace the imperfection of knowing she was the mother of the coming Messiah and Savior and not knowing what lie ahead, her future uncertain.

Did she know, her baby boy was to be the savior of the whole world? And one day he would actually be beaten, tortured and then suffer an agonizing death to bridge the gap of sinful man so we could live a meaningful life in freedom and have life eternal? Did she know all of this? Did she try to control the circumstances and make everything perfect? Did she know how hard it would be? I venture not.

She had no control, so she made a choice to embrace the gifts of imperfection so she could experience joy, peace and love that was offered to her in the gift of being Jesus mother.

As we continue to approach these coming days before Christmas, let me ask.

What ‘perfect’ do you need to let go of to receive all the divine goodness that God wants to give to you this season?

Like my Christmas card mistake, where do your expectations need to be adjusted? Can I encourage you to choose joy and gratitude right now this moment and revel in the wonder of anticipating the celebration of Jesus?

It shouldn’t be that hard so why do you and I make it so? Just like those little boys with their chocolate shakes, choose to swirl the goodness around, be patient and wait in anticipation for the joy and peace to come!

Dispelling the Myth of Perfection at Christmas

There are exactly 20 days 13 hours 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas, or as my grandkids would say 20 sleeps left! I don’t know about you but right now as that clock is clicking down it makes me go into a cold sweat and break out in hives.

How about you? Knowing that there are only 20 sleeps left before Christmas hits your doorstep.

Maybe you are feeling a little…

Panic

Anxiety

I want it to be over

I don’t want to think about it

Rush

Relatives

What is it that happens at this time of the year that causes us to freak out and turn into women that we normally don’t seem to be the rest of the year?

I was trying to explain this to my husband and he said,

“I don’t think people struggle with that as much as they used to, I think that it’s just a few people like you.”

Now he wasn’t trying to be mean or heartless, I think it is because most men just don’t get everything that goes into Christmas. Not because they don’t want to, but for them, they pretty much just show up for the holidays like a guest. They might do a few things at our request like help clean, cook, wrap some gifts and wrangle the kids together but most of it seems to fall on us.

My husband has always been a tremendous help and asks frequently what he can do especially when my voice gets higher and stressed!

Here’s a side tip, nothing to do with where I’m headed but it will help make Christmas smoother,  Be sure and give your husband kudos of appreciation when he jumps to your side this Christmas in the prep. I know that sometimes they see us stressed and don’t know how to fix it, and when they jump in be appreciative as much as you can without any cranky remarks. I am preaching to myself right now!

To help Kevin out a bit when we were having this discussion, I nonchalantly pointed this out when we were watching a movie and there were several Christmas commercials.

I said, “Look, look, see it’s all women!”

Most of the commercials were about women getting things ready for Christmas. The houses were perfect, the tree was spectacular, presents were wrapped exquisitely under the tree and everything looked like it was in perfect order.

“There!,” I sighed as I moved my hands up and down towards the big screen to prove my point of helping him understand how we get caught up in the madness of perfection.

Now, before I set some of you on edge or sound like I am stereotyping or men bashing, I know this isn’t true for all men, I do know some men that actually take care of the whole meal for their families, shopping, cooking and everything. I have a friend whose husband wraps ALL their gifts. I know of another guy who actually decorates not only his house but where he works and helps friends do the same. But generally speaking, Christmas does or doesn’t happen mostly because of the women. And then if you are a single parent, that’s a whole other story…everything falls on your shoulders to make Christmas happen!!

No matter how much we try and disconnect and tell ourselves it doesn’t have to be like what we visually see in the stores or on the television, we are thrust with images that portray perfection EVERYWHERE!!! Even the scripting of the commercials reinforces it with, “find the perfect gift” “set the perfect table” and to top it off everyone looks so happy together as relatives arrive and the warm sentiments of the Christmas season. Enjoy Christmas perfectly if you shop our stores and buy our stuff, that’s the underlying message. One of my favorite magazines had on the cover “395 Ways to Dazzle Your Friends and Family.” No wonder we struggle!

You and I both know how hard it is to actually find the perfect gift, keep a perfect house, tree, food and are you ready for this, really PERFECT relatives.

Now you might say,  do we have to talk about this?

Can’t I stay in the cave of denial and just get it over with?

I would say, let’s for once get gut honest and talk about this Christmas chaos and what it does to our psyche. We all to some degree struggle with this in our lives, whether or not we do a lot or a little for Christmas. It stirs up all kinds of emotions for us as women and seems to magnify the reality and heightens our awareness that we don’t have it all together no matter how much the media or retailers try to help us get it all together. AND we have messy families, cranky relatives who show up and that alone can create extra trauma around the season.

We buy into this ‘perfection’ whether consciously or unconsciously. We try so hard only to be utterly disappointed and exhausted at the end of the season eating ourselves into oblivion to cope with the stress that accompanies the holiday season. Then we feel worse because we’ve gained weight and our clothes don’t fit, we make New Year’s resolution we don’t end up keeping and we do the self-talk and the cycle continues. Is anyone out there that can relate? Whether it is a 15 on a scale of 1 to 100 or a 85 because of cranky relatives we all face it at some point.

I am hoping that this Christmas, the anticipation of what is to come that we can embrace something that can’t be bought or given, and that can help ease the stress…..something that can’t be put on a credit/debit card and shopped for. I would like to give you the one gift you can give yourself~the gift of imperfection.  Brene Brown has written a book, The Gifts of Imperfection on this very subject and I have found it liberating and enlightening. She gives these definitions when talking about the need to put on the perfection.

Perfectionism is not the same things as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. 

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.

It seems to be all about having to be perfect because we are worried about what other people are going to think more than striving to do the best. Who will raise their hand with me that we are of so guilty at times?

Here is what became my ‘aha’ moment when I was reading her book. She said that, Perfectionism hampers success, in fact it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis which mean we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.

 WOW! Having the need to be perfect at Christmas or any other time actually hinders my success, my ability to actually enjoy life, and especially to enjoy Christmas. This was huge for me. We all want to experience the love, joy and peace of the Christmas season, so here is what I think the solution is….receiving the gift of imperfection! We will continue on and discover what that looks like over the next few blog posts. So in the meantime, here’s a tip of what I am trying to practice for the next

20 days, 14 hours, 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas~ANTICIPATION.

I am creating a space of anticipation that invites

slowing down,

being still,

enjoying the moments,

being present,

choosing gratitude and

speaking it out loud daily and writing in my journal.

Creating this space looks like intentionally sitting each day in my favorite cozy chair curled up with a cup of tea and the devotional “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp and my Bible. It’s only Day Four and my heart is making space for Advent, the true meaning of waiting to receive the greatest gift, celebrating Jesus. The noise, the fanfare, the chaos subsides within me as I am choosing to submit to a ritual of being still and pondering as Mary might of done when she received her news that she would be the mother of the Son of God. It is causing me to break out in worship.

It doesn’t come easy for me, it has come slowly and it is growing each day. Will you join me on this Advent journey?

 

When You Move from the Wilderness to a Traffic Jam

Yesterday, I was stuck in a nearly 2.5 hour traffic jam on my way home from doing what I love~teaching at the university. I had a few moments of “arrrgh” to “I hate this commute” to a quiet whisper of a reminder that being pinned between hundreds of cars moving like turtles has a purpose.

As I complained and whined to God, I was gently nudged to a memory nearly five years back of wondering when I was ever going to get out of the mess. My days were empty back then and were filled with lots of questions having emerged from a painful wilderness season and hanging on to all the hope I could get.  My life had unravelled and I was on a slow crawl through the desert of healing and restoration. Being confident in God’s call for decades, I found myself straddled between the memory of what once was and the uncertainty of what would be.

Then God showed up with more promises.

He planted one smack on the forehead of my mind.

Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert. Isaiah 43:18,19. 

I focused on the question, Don’t you see it? Honestly I said, No, God, I don’t see it! And yet a hint of anticipation took seed in my heart as I began to choose to trust God as he made a road through my desert.

Now sitting in the traffic jam yesterday, I laughed because here I was life brimming with all the “something brand-new” God has been doing for the past several years. I can hardly keep up to tell you the truth. When God gives a promise he delivers. God has brought me out of the wilderness season to a life so full of purpose that my heart is overwhelmed with worship.

What do you do if you find yourself still waiting in the desert? Here’s our cue from Isaiah.

  1. Forget about the past – This doesn’t mean it won’t creep up and bite you or me, it just means that if God is to move us forward, at some point we have to stop going over old history. Whatever the past is, hurt, loss, or pain, work through it, grieve it, get help, recover and ask God to help restore. He is in the business of renovating our hearts!
  2. Be alert and present – When we dwell on the past and and keep whining we aren’t able to be present in the moment. We can’t see what’s ahead if we are sitting in the desert complaining. Yes, complaining! At some point we have to get up and keep putting one step in front of the other trusting Him to leads us through the wilderness.  When we are present and alert we can anticipate, look up, be ready, and watch for what’s around the corner.
  3. Open our eyesThe promise is, I am about to do something brand new, it’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? If we look up and not down and around our circumstances, we will see what God wants us to see. He will give us glimmers of what’s ahead, but only if we keep our eyes open. Our response is to say, Yes, God yes, I can’t see it all the way, but I trust you to see it. If you can’t see it all the way, believe it!
  4. Stay on the road – If God says he will make a road through the desert he means it. Don’t wander off that road in search of escaping the wilderness on your own. God will provide in the rough place and gives exactly what we need for the journey. Follow His lead and He will bring you through.

In my experience, I have found that rarely does a promise happen in an instant.  God’s economy of time and ours aren’t the same. Sometimes it is weeks, months and even years. And yet I believe God gives us a promise ahead of time to infuse hope in our hearts to keep trusting Him and to wait for Him to act.

So get ready, God is about to do something wildly brand new in your life! It’s my story and I’m sticking to it because God is faithful and He always comes through.

 

 

 

When Your Legacy Lives On

“How can you understand him?”

This is what my friends used to say about my grandfather when I was a teenager. My grandfather, or “Papa,” as we affectionately called him spoke several different languages. He was a self-taught linguist. When he spoke, sometimes he used English, German, and Russian all in the same sentence. This is why my friends often asked me,

“What did he say?”

I was accustomed to it and I really didn’t even notice. I could understand him perfectly when he spoke to me. After all he was my Papa.

My Papa left me more than his secret language only family members at times could understand.

He gave me a legacy. A godly heritage in which I have awfully big shoes to fill with my own grandchildren.

From the time I can remember the name Jesus fell off my Papa’s lips like an old friend he saw everyday. He brought God to life for me.

I saw God as my helper as he told stories of the hardship in communist Russia that his family experienced before they immigrated.  He described with every detail what it looked like escaping soldiers that were chasing him, or waiting in long lines for bread to feed his starving family.

I saw God as provider when I watched Papa pull out of his pockets whatever money he had to share with someone who needed a tangible reminder of God’s provision.

I saw Jesus as a great listener when I heard my Papa pray. He prayed as though Jesus was sitting at the table next to him sharing a cup of coffee and a favorite donut my Papa loved.

I saw God’s heart through my Papa when he played his favorite hymns on his pump organ bellowing out his love for Jesus from his soul.

He introduced Jesus to me as a friend, a companion and a God I could trust with my deepest needs and desires. Papa often told me that the best decision I could make in my life is to follow Jesus.

Today marks my Papa’s birthday and I am remembering his life and legacy as I see his face in my mind. I remember his broken English speaking of the faithfulness of God and encouraging me to do the same. I am certain he is celebrating in heaven telling stories of the goodness of God. I believe he is watching along with my grandmother, as Hebrews 12:1 says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

I know have big shoes to fill. And yet I know by following my grandparents example I will continue the legacy they started. I believe they are cheering me on to run the race to the finish line!

Happy Birthday Papa, I miss you.

When Mother’s Day Is Enough for Everyone

The days leading up to Mother’s Day can be a struggle for many women. Expectations are high largely in part to everything we see in the media and our local shopping malls. It has become one of the most financially successful holidays for businesses.

This year I did a little research wanting to understand the history of Mother’s Day and what I found was fascinating and yet disturbing. Mother’s Day has a darker history then we might realize.

A woman named Anna Jarvis, who had no children of her own was inspired to create Mother’s Day as a celebration to honor her own mom who was a social activist.

Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs before the Civil War to help improve sanitary conditions and infant mortality and when the war started helped with wounded soldiers.

Anna’s intent in creating the holiday was simple, to honor her mother who died in 1905. She intended the day to be an intimate celebration which was officially put on the calendar by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

In the years that followed her intimate holiday turned into a commercial landslide for consumerism which disturbed Anna deeply. She fought most of her life to reverse what it had become and as a result died penniless and in a sanitarium. She loathed what it had turned into.

I have to agree with Anna, although it’s nice to receive flowers, chocolates or a gift, I believe as women we have been set-up.

We are set up to believe what the media and commercial stores want us to think.

That our happiness and value as a woman comes from what we receive on Mother’s Day.

If we don’t receive flowers from our children, a card or a gift we must not be appreciated.

If we don’t have a special gift from our husbands we must not be valuable to the family.

If we can’t celebrate the day living like a queen, there must be something terribly wrong.

Not to mention all the women in our world who aren’t mothers, or have struggles relationally with their mothers, or women who have lost their moms. What do they do with all those messages thrust in their face?

In part, Anna Jarvis was correct. Her desire to celebrate the one person in her life in an intimate way who had been an example of loving others well and giving kindness was crushed by the greed of our culture. She fought her whole life against the rising commercialism of this day.  It has taken over and launched expectations that are nearly impossible to meet and clouded the simple joy of taking a day to appreciate the women in our life who have influenced and nurtured our souls.

I am not allocating to stop giving cards and gifts and making the day special. It is good to honor our mothers. I LOVE PRESENTS AND GIFTS! LOL.

I like Anna, am advocating that we take a step back and readjust our perspective for the day, strip off some of the commercialism and don’t buy into the lies that we hear leading up to this holiday.

For me, I don’t want to put expectations on my family that create the kind of pressure that feels like obligation. I know I have in the past and I am looking at the day with new eyes. I am secure in knowing I am loved by them and that is enough for me.

In recent years, I am coming to grips with the people in my life, they will never be enough for me.

Not ever.

They will disappoint and let me down and I will fail them.

My hope is in the truth of understanding only Jesus can be enough for me. That is worth all the fine gifts I could ever receive. He is the one who dictates my worth and my value. I don’t need the sentiments of cards, jewelry, chocolate, a nice dinner to tell me I am valuable. God says I am enough because He is enough.

Do I like to be remembered? Is it nice to receive a card from the children I birthed? Is it nice to be taken out to a lovely dinner? Of course, three times over! However, it isn’t going to be what I need tomorrow to fill me up to overflowing. God does that first and then the rest is just that, extra blessing, extra joy to make me smile.

To read more about the history:

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140508-mothers-day-nation-gifts-facts-culture-moms/

 

 

Why I Practice Lent

I can remember the first time I decided to practice Lent. I was working at Focus on the Family Canada, and our whole department agreed to participate. I didn’t want to feel left out so I got on the band wagon and we all picked our vice.

I chose CHOCOLATE, and it was the first thing that came to my mind.

I am not sure I understood what I was doing.

It was more of a Let’s all do this together and see if I can stay away from having a piece of chocolate every single day, not to mention chocolate cake, brownies, ice cream and more.

I remember finishing and not feeling any different.

What did I actually accomplish by abstaining?

Nothing.

Why?

Because my heart engaged for the wrong reasons.

It wasn’t about taking something away to embrace a more intimate relationship with Jesus; it was proving I could actually do it!

Now I am sure God didn’t hold it as a sin against me, but I missed the point of the exercise by a long shot. I didn’t become a noticer, an observer or reflective, I was just a on the side participant.

The last several years as I have practiced Lent my heart has grown bigger. This year, in particular, my soul has enlarged more than ever, and I think I finally am beginning to get the point. As I have traveled the past 40 days on the journey crossward of Jesus life, the windows of my soul have opened up. I’ve noticed things I didn’t grasp in the gospels before.

I realize the depth of my own sinfulness.

It isn’t a condemnation realization, it is more of a how much I really need Jesus MORE every moment of my life!

To do otherwise would create a separation from what God desires for my life.

In my pilgrimage, this is what I have discovered…

There is no Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in the book of John.

WHAT? How did I not see that before?

It is nearly embarrassing after loving Jesus for decades and reading the Bible. My daughter-in-love Julie encouraged me when I confessed this to her. She told me we tend to look at the harmony of the four gospels and see them as one instead of individual books. Bless her for trying to make me feel better. I am not sure it worked. Note to self: If I am going to be a Bible teacher and writer, I need to be a better student!

When I scrambled over to read in the book of Mark Jesus prayer to God in the garden, I saw something I hadn’t clued into before. Alicia Britt Chole in her brilliant book 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger a Different Kind of Fast, helped me to see this in a new way.

Jesus asked God three times if there was another way for him to accomplish the mission. I learned it isn’t about being unwilling it is about being obedient. Jesus surrendered his desire to do it another way, and that’s what obedience is. God doesn’t hold it as sin for our unwillingness but whether we will obey or not. GRACE pure grace.

Lastly, as I traveled with Jesus to the cross, I realized how complacent I could be at times and take for granted the sacrifice God made for me. However, this year because I chose to engage, be a noticer, observer, and reflector and this is what happened to me…

I genuinely grieved as Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem knowing what was to come and how people can turn on you at any moment.

I agonized with Jesus in the garden and empathized for what he had to do and how his own friends couldn’t watch and pray with him. Where would I be in the garden? Asleep?

I wept and wrestled with Peter’s denial in the early hours of the morning as he was asked three times did he know Jesus. I cried because I wondered if I would do the same.

So why is this year different for me?

My heart has softened because I see my own terrible brokenness in a new light and the only one that can help me is Jesus. The cross is the pathway to being forgiven, and the resurrection is the power that lives in me because of the cross. This is the promise:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19,20

Ironically, today is Good Friday and my birthday. Somehow the mingling of my birth and the remembering of Jesus sacrifice moves me profoundly. It causes me to be grateful on a whole new level.

And by the way, I gave up chocolate and desserts. But it’s different this time. And I am grateful God is so patient with me after all these years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grieving, Freedom, and Why I Wrote Live Unveiled

I am hands down a melancholy personality.

I vacillate between the Winnie the Pooh characters of Tigger and Eyeore. Sometimes, I even take on the insecurities of happy go lucky Piglet.

Sigh…I’ve been a bit dark on the blog lately due to deadlines, the death of our sweet mother-in-love and prep for speaking events. It’s a season of God ramping me up and taking me seriously on my word for the year DARE.

All I can say is WHOA and try to keep up. It’s been a year so far of leaping by faith from one big jump to the other and been exhilarating. But now I am a little tired, just a smidgen God. Not ungrateful, just trying to keep up. Can I get an amen?

I reminded God today again how much I need him to give me exactly what I need (2 Peter 1:3) to complete the assignments. Today, it meant prepping for speaking this weekend at the NW Ministry Conference, and I am over the top excited about it but with some mixed emotions.

Here’s the reason why, on March 25th, I am launching the revised study Live Unveiled: Freedom to Worship God, Love Others and Tell Your Story. It is a 10-week Bible study based on 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 which talks about reflecting God’s glory and turning to Jesus so our veils are removed, and we can walk in greater freedom. When I wrote this study years ago, it was a reflection of my journey of ripping off masks that were super glued into my soul. Lies and more lies were keeping me from embracing God’s freedom and reflecting His purposes for my life. As I tackled the lies of performance, secrecy, anger, and depression one by one, God met me in the center of my fears. For the most part, I have experienced victory since then, but now and then it creeps back in.

Several months ago I felt a gentle push to revise the study and release it with a new name and a mission to launch the study in a Facebook Group. I want to help remind women how much God desires for us to flourish and how these nasty masks can get in the way.

The response has been overwhelming. I had no idea! That’s what I love about God’s word, it is timeless, and nothing about our struggles change until we submit and do the hard work. As I’ve been getting ready, I’ve sensed a sadness wash over me, a deeper grieving. At first, it surprised me because I am anticipating God to do more profound work in myself as I lead others and we dig into His word, and I am truly excited!

What I have discovered in the past few days is a fresh grieving of how much the enemy wants to keep women and hide their influence of reflecting God’s glory. He wants us to settle in and give up. It makes me spitting mad! In response, I am gearing up and saying out loud every morning Ephesians 6:10-20, putting on my armor for God’s glory so I can reflect him in the way he is calling me to every single day. I long for all women to sense God’s freedom and unfathomable love so they can flourish.

I am inviting you to join me and the other women who have signed up on April 5th, to tackle our masks. Join our Facebook Group, Live Bold~Leave a Legacy and get ready for a time of teaching, sharing and studying the truth and experience the freedom God intends. You can purchase the study either on Amazon or until March 23rd you can receive a 30% discount from Redemption Press  using the code CYNTHIA.

I would love it if you could join us, and remember because we are in a Facebook Group you can post whenever it is convenient for you all week! 

She said, “I will always be with you…”

Today we woke up to a phone call at 5:00 am that our dear sweet mother had graduated to heaven. She is in truth my dear mother-in-law, but I call her my mother-in-love. The label mother-in-law often gets a bad rap. And I have nothing to contribute to that often misunderstood idea. I had a wonderful relationship with my ‘other mother’ and she is leaving a huge hole in my heart. I am happy she is no longer suffering but my heart aches with just how much I will miss her.

The one virtue I will treasure above all else is that she was a woman who left a legacy of love and joy. She loved us in generous ways. She had so much joy in her heart despite weathering  storms that many of us will never have to face. The stark truth is she knew how to turn her tragedy into living a joy filled life punctuated with gratitude. She has been so brave through many years of physical suffering. I take comfort in knowing that she will always be with me and our family cheering us on as the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ in Hebrews 12:1.

Around her 90th birthday she was failing and I wrote this post when we came close to saying goodbye to her six years ago.

I Will Always Be With You….

Do you ever wonder what the statement means

“I will always be with you?”

When someone knows that soon they may be graduating to heaven and they look you in the eye and speak those words? I was hit full force tonight by those very words as I kissed my beloved Mom-in-love goodnight in the hospital. She turned 90 yesterday, and we had planned a big celebration. Her heart and spirit wanted to cooperate but her body would not. Out of her control she had undergone a critical surgery a few days earlier and had to spend her 90th birthday in the hospital.

We collected letters and pictures from family and friends and presented it to her in a scrapbook.

We read aloud our tributes. We told her as she lay frail in that hospital bed what a difference her life has made. We shared memories, our love but most of all we honored the Jesus we have witnessed through her life.

You see she knows that this life is not all there is. She knows that this life is just a dress rehearsal for something greater, something grander, something beyond what we could even imagine.

And so she waits.

She is ready.

But we are not.

We don’t want to let her go because we love her, she has a place in our hearts that can’t be replaced.

So we wait, we hope, we pray she gets better. Instead she whispers to each of us as we left this evening, “Remember, I will always be with you.”

Jesus said a similar statement in Matthew 28:20. Before he left this earth he commissioned his disciples and then told them he would be with them always. Words to empower and words of comfort. I am sure the disciples had mixed emotions as they watched Jesus leave them with those words ringing in their ears,

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I guess when I stop to reflect tonight, my sweet mom-in-love was doing just that. She was reminding us that we will be together for eternity with our Jesus. Her life and love we will carry in our hearts until we see each other once again in the presence of our God. We don’t know when her exact graduation date is, but she clearly wanted us to know that we need to be ready to let her go.

As I left her room tonight a flood of tears overwhelmed me. “I will always be with you” echoed through my heart as I walked out the hospital doors. Thank you Jesus for a godly mother who is looking forward to heaven.

When Doing What You Love Terrifies You

I have blocked off my calendar all day today to do what I love.

Write.

But I have to admit it terrifies me!

I know from the core of my being that I am called to write and yet my mind plays tricks and tells me twisted lies that I can’t do it or it won’t be good enough, who wants to read what I write as the little minions continue their rant.

When it comes time for me to sit down and actually write, a few things sabotage me. I can so easily get distracted! I am like, oh look, a squirrel! And off I go.

Today for instance, it took me two hours to get to my desk.

YES! TWO HOURS!

Not because I wasn’t at home or I have an office somewhere else but rather from the lower level of my house to my upstairs writing space there were a myriad of distractions.

So what did I do? I cleaned, not a bad thing! After all, I don’t want to live in a pigsty.

I finished putting away the last of the Christmas decor. Yes, it all needs to be organized.

I made granola, yes of course because we were out, and I did a load of laundry so my dear husband wouldn’t have to wear his underwear inside out tomorrow.

These are all good things but they are distractions when I need to work on my book. I actually have a deadline, not self-imposed, but a legitimate-I-signed a-contract-with-a-publisher deadline.

Here is the irony. I love to create words on a page to encourage and yes even challenge, yet it is sometimes difficult to posture myself in a space to write. Anyone who believes that it’s easy is grossly mistaken. Most writers I’ve talked to don’t just sit down randomly to create a project that gets put into a book.

It can be agonizing and feels like I am hiking up a mountain in 120-degree weather with a 100 lb. pack on my back. There are moments where the climb is easier but it is still a push to move forward with sweat and yes, even tears!

The exhilarating part of the climb is reaching the top of the summit. When I get there and the project is moving along and then finished, it is like standing on the highest mountain peak looking out at the magnificent panoramic view with gratefulness of being able to climb and reach the top.

It truly is a gift, a miracle each time I hold a finished project in my hand and I thank God for the honor of bestowing the gift even when it’s hard.

Whether you are a writer, speaker, leader, teacher, coach, whatever you’ve been gifted and called to do, if we are honest, living out expressing our gifts can be terrifying.

Here are a few things to encourage you and what I am learning on the mountainous journey.

The gift isn’t about ME.

The gifts I have, and in this case, I am writing about writing.

It isn’t about me! It’s about God. He is the giver of the gifts.

I don’t write to bless me, I write to bless others!

My hope is that in someway the stories and thoughts will transform the reader and move them forward in a way that is life changing. My dream is that it will draw people closer to the heart of Jesus and living lives that are intentional and purposeful. These are the reasons I write.

I don’t have to do it alone.

I can ask for help.

God expects us to walk and live in community. That means we don’t have to do things all by ourselves.

Being a strong independent person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not asking for help. I don’t mean asking that someone actually sit beside me as I write, it means finding a tribe of people who can support, pray and encourage you and I on our path of exercising our gifts.

I have an amazing group of women who do this for me, they pray, give me encouragement and inspire me as I learn from those who are just a bit further down the road than I am. It’s way more fun to have companions on the journey. And when you get to the top, you have people to celebrate with you. That is the best part of all!

Who wants to party all alone?

Remember that God wants us to succeed.

After all He gave us the gift in the first place! You and I are responsible to unwrap the gift, take it out of the box and actually use it!

God didn’t give us gifts for them to sit on a shelf or to hide them in a closet. He gave you and I gifts for a purpose and He is our biggest cheerleader!

It’s a NEW Year with new doors that are waiting for us to walk through with fresh opportunities. Take that gift off the shelf that you have been hiding because maybe like me you’ve been a little afraid to actually start using it.

Let’s stop whining,

put on our packs,

start climbing,

and ASK God to do what He does best, helping us put one foot in front of the other even if we are terrified.

He promises to help us every step of the way as we seek to honor Him with the gifts and the call He has entrusted to us.

Hey, I will see you at the top of the summit to celebrate!

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

 

 

 

Resolutions: When You Blow the First Day of the Year

New Year. New beginnings. New start. New chapter. New Resolutions. This is what the first few days of a new year represents or at least is what we traditionally talk about and think about on the first days of January.

I’ve made some serious strides this past year to move my phone away from arms reach before I go to sleep so that when I wake up in the morning it’s not the first thing I grab to start my day.

It had been ruling my life for too long and I made some intentional choices to make 2016 different. I’ve been doing pretty well and wouldn’t you know it, today the first day of 2017 I failed.

I blew it. I went backwards instead of moving forward.

I couldn’t believe it! I wanted a do-over immediately.

I had left it too close to my bed and I unthinkably made the choice that I didn’t want to. Sigh… it happens.

For several few moments I was berating myself as I talked to God and wondered how I slipped so quickly. I had a flash of genius, and the word GRACE came to mind. I could start again in a moment. Whew! The day could be redeemed, the year can start over. I am grateful.

January often is a chance to reflect and make some changes and many of us chart out goals and resolutions. I’ve preferred for many years now to choose a word rather than make resolutions because as I just demonstrated resolutions don’t seem to work for me.

I don’t know who started the trend but choosing a “one word” has caught on like fire and it has given purpose and direction for those of us who have abandoned the resolution making.

Facebook and Twitter is strewn with others sharing their chosen word for the year and it is inspiring to read. Choosing a one word for me has been about “being” rather than “doing.” When I make resolutions it becomes more about doing than creating a momentum of purpose of who I hope to be. I’ve been a human doing rather than a human being more than I’d like to admit.

My one word has become not just a theme for the year but also a pilgrimage. God has surprised me many times as I’ve watched the word we’ve chosen together come to life and intersect with my journey.

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about my word for 2017 and have had many conversations with God about it not sure I want to pick this particular word. It challenges my comfort zone and scares me at the same time. I’ve made the decision to go with it because it won’t go away and when I pray it pops up over and over.

The word is (drumroll) DARE!

What I discovered as I intentionally dug into the word DARE the definition is: to have adequate or sufficient courage for any purpose; to be bold or venturesome; not be afraid; to venture. (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

When I mined just a bit deeper, The expression to dare in the Scriptures never has the meaning of “to defy” “to challenge” or “to terrify” It is always found as the translation of tolmao “To manifest courage(International Standard Bible Encylcopedia)

My spirit soared as I read these words and I cross-referenced the many places in the bible “dare” is found. I cling to the thought “to manifest courage.”

I can do this.

DARE can be my one word for the year.

I have many new ventures ahead and am not sure all what or how my one word will cross over, but I am trusting that this is the word God has chosen for me for 2017.

I am confident He will help me “manifest courage” for each assignment. I believe God will empower me as he directs my steps. Right now, that means finishing my second book of which the deadline is creeping up and I am having to dare to make schedule changes and saying no more often to hunker down and write.

To not leave my “one word” out there all alone to take on an ambiguous meaning, I like to choose a Bible verse to punctuate my yearly one word. I’ve been studying 2 Timothy and here’s the encouragement that Paul gives to Timothy in the first chapter.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

The Message Bible says it this way,

God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.

That seals it for me. God will help me “manifest courage”

As I dare…

to live intentionally and purposefully.

to grow spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically

to equip and empower others.

to share my faith more in 2017.

to live in humility

to judge less and give more grace

to forgive and be kind and compassionate

to love well

and that I would trust God dare to so much more.

Will you join me and the many others in choosing a word for the year? For inspiration and help you might want to check out oneword365.com It’s a great site to get you going.

I DARE you!!