One Word for 2014

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I was just about ready to fall asleep the other night, and as my routine dictates, my eyes briefed over my bible reading I have on my iPhone.

Romans 12:1-3 came on the screen…

 So here is what I want you to do

GOD HELPING YOU

Take your everyday

Ordinary life

Your sleeping, eating, going to work

And walking around life

And place it before God

As an OFFERING….

The word OFFERING jumped out and captured my heart, I could hardly go further. It reverberated over and over in my head as I fell asleep. I had been thinking about what my ONE WORD for 2014 should be and hadn’t had anything resonate just yet. The more I ruminated over it the next few days, the more reluctant I was. I tried to embrace more comfortable words like peace, joy, adventure and more, but “offering” wouldn’t go away.

I took a drastic step. I prayed over it. After about two days, a peace settled over my heart, my fears of what the word COULD mean calmed and I knew that God had chosen this word for me for 2014. My fear was, what if God would ask me something I couldn’t deliver? I know that sounds like lack of faith and trust, but honestly, that is where the trail of my thinking takes me lately on some days.

The interchange of the word offering is sacrifice. I was afraid that God was asking me to sacrifice more than I could give right now. Not in the physical sense, but rather in the emotional sense~because I am feeling weary from the past few years and a bit like the warrior who needs a change of scenery.

I dug out my commentaries (on my desktop-LOGOS) and delved into a study traveling throughout the Old and New Testament grasping what God would have me understand in this little word. What I discovered was nothing short of a miracle in facing my fears. It’s funny how when God whispers something over your heart how the fear can come in and twist what God intends for us to grasp. This was one of those times.

In my initial journey here is what I’ve found. I knew there were several types of offerings in the Old Testament but had no clue that they each had such unique meanings. I never really paid too much attention because we live under the new covenant and we don’t bring these physical offering acts before God as the Old Testament people once did.

I am still unpacking all of this, so bear with me as I think out-loud. I learned that the sin offering is different from the guilt offering. Sin offerings were brought because of sin unintentionally committed but still needed cleansing. Guilt offerings came as a result of individual sins that impacted not only the person but hurting God and others so it required a different process.

Burnt offerings expressed commitment and surrender to God.

Peace offerings implied joyful thanksgiving and symbol of communion with God.

I learned that in bringing the offering brings the blessing and favor of God in our lives.

The miracle happened as my heart opened up to receive ways that my life could be an offering in 2014. Not only what I could bring to God but the expressed communion he desires to have with me alone in the inner sanctuary of my soul.

The word offering can mean both, what I bring to God in my commitment and surrender and the offering that God gives to me in exchange,

A soul at rest,

At peace,

Communion with my God

Renewal

Restoration

Blessing…

Here is how Romans 12:1-3 finishes,

…embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He want from you and quickly respond to it. 

This is my hope and prayer for 2014.

What is your ONE WORD?

 

 

 

 

 

How to Survive ‘Perfect’ at Christmas: Part Four

photoPanicky thoughts and feelings are hovering over me today about finishing up everything for Christmas. It’s what happens to me each time I approach a deadline about anything. And even though I’ve planned well and organized my time, those moments still come. It’s a mystery. I can so easily get caught up in the frenzy and the rush around me.

I am working right now to practice what I’ve been preaching to you about in this series, embracing the gifts of imperfection this Christmas. I’ve had so many ‘aha’ moments surrounding this phrase I’ve learned recently from Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. It has put language to the emotions that swirl madly around  my head and heart. These are the questions I am asking myself as I ponder the why’s and the how’s, I invite you to ask them too….

Can we embrace the fact this Christmas that our lives are messy, our families aren’t perfect, there are problems, money, relationships, jobs? Can we stay out of the pit of denial and just get it, that life is messy?

Can we let go of the need for perfection in giving gifts? What is the perfect gift anyway? Who needs anything? Does it really matter if we unintentionally get the wrong gift for them? If you and I can shop for our loved ones embracing that attitude we can actually enjoy the process.

Can we let go of the need for perfection in our relationships? Can we release the expectation to have that uncle or mom, dad, brother, sister, child to act appropriately so we can all enjoy Christmas? Can we just accept the fact that our family is messy and just not let it rob our joy? Can we give extra grace and let that relative be cranky and set a boundary? I know it’s harder than we can imagine, but if we can embrace the imperfection, we won’t be disappointed as much.

Can we let go of the need for perfection of having the perfect house at Christmas and that it’s not going to even look close to the  commercials we see on television?

Can we embrace the imperfection of what we have to be festive with, our own DIY creativity for our home? AND call it simply beautiful? If we can do that, we will see Christmas through a whole new lens.

Can we let go of the perfection of expecting strangers in our world to act with kindness and joy when we are out and about? Instead, can we embrace the imperfection of our society and seek to offer a smile or a kind word when someone is being crabby because they think we stole their place in line, or picked up the last toy they wanted?

Can we be kind to ourselves and be self-compassionate so we don’t have to like my grandkids (remember the milkshake and the straw?) suck the daylights out of the straw to get what we want? Can we remember that we don’t have to suck it up to feel good about ourselves or guilty because we can’t seem to find the joy and peace we need? If we choose to embrace the imperfections, we will experience the joy, peace and love we strive for during Christmas, even if it isn’t perfect! In fact, right now, let me tell you, it won’t be perfect!!

Jesus mother Mary, had no choice, there was imperfection screaming all around her in every way. Mary was probably only about 14 years old and yet she was a young girl wise beyond her years. Can we follow her example and with humility ask for help when we need it this year? Can we accept what happens even if it isn’t in the plan? Can we keep our hope and believe God for the future no matter now messy our lives are? Can we practice self-compassion? Can we treat ourselves the way we love to treat others?

Lastly, can we receive and accept the Jesus that was born in an imperfect barn and died on a rough imperfect wood hewn cross for us? Can we receive the gift of His love for us this Christmas?

God came near.

That is what Christmas is all about.

He is Immanuel, God with us.

God reaching down into our messy, unruly and broken lives to touch our weary soul with the kiss of His love.

Receiving the gift is so easy. And yet, at times I make it impossible. I should know better, I am supposed to be a mature godly woman and yet I still struggle with independence, pride and a host of other sins that keep me from needing Jesus. It comes down to you and me acknowledging our desire for him, that we are imperfect, that we’ve made mistakes, we’ve failed, we’ve sinned and we just plain are inadequate without him, every waking moment!

At this moment, my heart chooses to slow down and rest. The view from my window speaks of a winter wonderland covered with a blanket of peace. It beckons me to change my attitude and enter into the holy place of Christmas. Jesus. No noise, no shoppers, no presents, no rush. It is a peaceful scene that calls to me to remember that phrase from an old song~”Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” It starts with my heart, inviting God to bring rest to my busyness. It calls me to unwrap the gift of choosing joy and peace in the midst of how hard I try to keep up with expectations for Christmas. Let go, let God and walk into the story of Christmas with my whole heart and receive what God so desperately wants me to understand, the gift of His love for me.

What about you? The invitation is open to walk into Christmas 2013 differently, more intentionally and embracing the gift designed just perfectly for your life, your circumstances and what your heart is longing for.

Jesus, the manger, the gift,

His mercy,

His grace,

His Love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Survive ‘Perfect’ at Christmas: Part One

IMG_1432There are exactly 20 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes and 17 seconds left until Christmas, or as my grandkids would say 21 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 21 sleeps left before Christmas hits your doorstep. 

I asked a room full of women this question over a week ago and this is what they said.

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 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 by shopping, prepping, 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 also 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 end up not 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,13 hours, 52 minutes and 13 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?

Stepping Out into the Unknown, Out of My Comfort Zone

photoWhen you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. Franklin Roosevelt

I was tingling with an adrenaline rush as I sent a text to my youngest son Jason. “I did it Jason.” I simply stated. I had just taken a step to overcome a grand physical feat. Moments before I had just been released out of a secure harness after experiencing what is supposed to be the longest hipline in North America in Rock Ridge Canyon, BC.  I had allowed myself to be strapped into a hefty harness and zipped down hundreds of feet over a lake and tall trees on a steel wire that probably was no more than an inch in diameter. I have to confess I screamed the whole three minutes I was zipping through the sky. I am not sure if I screamed because of sheer terror or the exhilaration of conquering a very great fear of heights.

I can’t tell you what a surreal feeling it is to be standing on a platform hundreds of feet up in the air with a little gate in front of you, knowing that when that gate opens you will have lost total control your feet leaving solid ground. Before I landed I was crying, because I had stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced the thrill of adventure into the unknown.

Being a grown up is leaving our warm comfortable place of familiarity and being willing to venture out into the unknown. Shattering the myth of THIS IS OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE challenges us to think outside the box in where God is leading us on our journey. It’s time to wake up instead of nuzzling deeper into what’s comfortable or what feels good to us.

As I look back over several years of being in ministry, I have been involved in many different of roles as a leader and there have been times I have felt way out of my comfort zone. There is one common thread I can point to. God has most often used what is already in my hand, meaning my life experiences, my gifts and talents. It doesn’t mean however that I am fully confident in accessing those resources, it just means they are resources God has provided for me to equip me for the assignment, it is what is in my hand at the moment. I think of the story of Jael in the book of Judges who single handedly brought down the commander of the enemy army  with a tent peg and a hammer. She used what was in her hands to step out of her comfort zone and fulfill her God-given assignment to help rescue the nation of Israel from their oppressive captors.

One of the most astonishing things I notice in this story is the fact that God used the tools and resources that were available to Jael to carry out His plan. He didn’t ask her to use something that she wasn’t skilled at or completely unfamiliar with. She had most likely used that hammer several times and probably had pounded tent pegs in more times than she could count. She knew how to use them with precision and accuracy. How else could she have been brave enough to do the horrific deed? I bet she hadn’t ever thought that she would wake up that day and take down the commander of the army with her common ordinary tools.

Here is the point. When God nudges us to step out of our comfort zone and do something out of the box, he will most likely use the tools that are already in your hand. It will just be different in the way you have used them before.

My hammer and tent pegs that I have been working with already are my qualifications to do the job He has called me to. That is how I know I can trust Him to step outside the lines of what I think I am most comfortable in doing. I just have to look at what’s in my hand and call on God to empower me to do the rest. I often don’t even know the outcome, or even the final steps before the assignment is over, but God always seems to give me exactly what I need with what he has already provided for me. To be honest, I find it both exhilarating and frightening as I approach a God-sized mission.

Now to be extremely truthful…

Many times it has me panic-stricken and feeling anxious.

I am learning to just do it afraid

And trust God for that first plunge into uncharted territory.

It is kind of like that first step off the platform of the zip line. My stomach bottomed out and my heart was in my throat, but after that it was a thrilling ride that matched no other I had experienced.

I was out of my comfort zone for sure!

How do you respond when God asks you do accomplish something that is uncharacteristic?  I challenge you to be faithful in what matters today and be watching and ready as God may call you to the frontline when you least expect it. Be confident that he has already given you exactly what you need to accomplish the assignment he has destined for you, even if it is out of your comfort zone.

(Adapted and excerpt from Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive, to order or find out more details go to: http://cynthiacavanaugh.com/unlocked-5-myths-holding-your-influence-captive/)

When You Aren’t Sure You Are Enough

Coming home from sunny California to the grey cloudy days we know so well in the Pacific Northwest has stopped me in my tracks. It has sent me into a tail spin of walking around in a daze of just how to jump back into my life. When Summer transitions to Autumn, I’ve noticed each year that I go into a kind of depressive, hard to get motivated moody confusion. I don’t like myself when it happens and I am trying to sort out the pattern. I start obsessively evaluating my life, whether or not I am accomplishing what I believe God is asking of me. Or… whether I am enough, even though I know in my head, that yes, God says I am enough, because He is enough. I make myself crazy overthinking and am trying to learn how to breathe and hand over those confusing emotions.

This is the conclusion I’ve come to in my overthinking today. I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning and organizing in my home the past few months and have stumbled on old journals, pictures, and cards. This has triggered these thoughts and feelings of asking God to help me focus on the most important parts of my life for the days ahead. And so, I found this journal entry (below) and it reminded me of what my life is really about…

Being faithful.

Loving well, my friends, my family and those in my sphere of influence.

Offering a smile often.

Practicing kindness, generosity and compassionate mercy.

These are the things in life that matter compared to my list of “accomplishments.”  Here are the words written in my journal several years ago of another time I was obsessively reflective and the conclusion I came to.

I stood on the cold cement floor barefoot and waved goodbye to my son and my brand- new daughter-in-law as they drove away to start their life together.  It was early dawn and all I could think of is how did this happen so fast? When did my little boy grow up to be a man? Why doesn’t life just stay the same? These questions and others plagued my tired brain. Now don’t get me wrong, I joyously entered into the marriage celebration of our son to his beautiful wife  just a week earlier.  But once again life seemed to be dictating more changes, a windfall of emotions to tramp through and a whole new set of rules to live by as a mother.

Days beforehand, I found myself in a similar mood waking up to the feeling like I was watching my life move too quickly on the big screen. I have been accused at times of being over reflective, well today was one of those days.  I found myself talking to God about all the “stuff” and so called “accomplishments” I had contributed through the years specifically in the roles that I had served as a leader.  In the process of mental sorting, an arrow of pessimism slammed into the core of my soul. Have I managed through all these years of serving God to produce any lasting fruit?  Have I really influenced others and been a catalyst for godly transformation?

As I padded around the house in my morning routine, grabbing a cup of tea and my Bible, I sensed God leading me to encourage my wilting spirits. I walked into my office and went to the bottom shelf of the bookcase and pulled out a decorated photo box full of cards I had saved through the years. I had assured my partners in leadership many times that they would need to keep a box of cards for days like today.

Since I had no pressing appointments, I grabbed my now semi-warm cup of tea, crawled back into my rumpled unmade bed and began to read. Soon I was reaching for something to wipe my tears as my heart began to take in words and scriptures inscribed with ink on the several gracious notes I had received. Some spoke in well-versed sentences of how I had ministered through writing and speaking. Others ministered thoughtful comments expressing gratitude to serve together in leadership.  I found myself being pulled up out of the pit I had fallen into that morning as I lingered over the words of each card and page. God gently moved me in the direction of realizing that “yes” I was bearing fruit for His kingdom but more than that I saw that I had been faithful.  My soul began to soar and dance with anticipation as I recognized the many wonderful opportunities that God had spread out before me. My feelings of inadequacy, feeling overwhelmed and emotional tiredness began to dissipate.

You see I had been doing a lot of reflecting lately and in my own contemplation of closing the chapter of being a hands-on full-time mom, ministry opportunities, it has caused me to do a lot of thinking…and as I was mulling over the words of this verse from John 15:16.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last!

You see, if we believe what God’s Word says, then we are destined to live a life beyond belief.

This verse says it all.

We don’t choose our destiny or God’s favor, our assignments or even deciding whether our accomplishments are worthy.

God does.

It is in our everyday faithfulness to Him and His word that determines whether we bear fruit that will last. Not what we choose, but what he chooses for us as we are obedient and it erases my doubts of whether I think I am enough. Now just to chase those confusing emotions away!

I’ve packaged them up tonight and decided to not pay too much attention to them. It’s been a busy few weeks and too much thinking isn’t good for my soul. Besides, I am a little sleep deprived as well. Here’s to confessing I am enough because God is enough and I just need to rest in God’s extravagant love for me and trust He will lead me as I lean in and listen.

How about you? What do you need to confess in order to believe that you are enough in Christ?

(picture from webpage-http://iheartinspiration.com/quotes/note-to-self-i-am-enough/)

 

 

 

My Character Check: Passing Judgment “F”

IvyIt was a brilliantly sunny Beverly Hills, California day sitting at the famed Ivy Restaurant. I was enjoying a wonderful lunch with my visiting cousins from Russia. Not the ordinary experience for me.

To be clear, first of all I don’t eat lunch in Beverly Hills everyday and second, I was creating a memory with family I had just met and touring all the LA attractions with them. On my top ten, this was definitely a highlight. My California cousin had arranged for us to eat at this beautiful place in hopes that we might catch a celebrity or two. We learned the Ivy is a place for the local celebrities to gather and enjoy elegant food and the ambience of vases full of roses on every table and decor in an elegant vintage flare. Wouldn’t it be a blast if our  guests could catch a glimpse of a celebrity favorite?

It happened. Right next to us. At first, I had a hunch that someone famous was sitting next to us. She was perfectly put together and it made me feel small and insignificant. She was sitting so close to me, I could of touched her. The comparison game started, from her flawless make-up to her well-toned body to her beautiful dress, shoes and bag.  My cousin whispered to me, “That face doesn’t happen without plastic surgery.” I kept catching quick glances; you know the ones where you don’t want someone to know that you are staring at them?  How ridiculous, like I expected to see the tiny scars underneath her hairline? Hello?

I decided to get up and go use the little girls room and freshen up. After all, I was certain I was sitting next to a star. I looked in the mirror and thought, geez, I don’t look so bad today, so I stood up taller and threw my shoulders back and walked back to my table confidently. As we sat and ate we tried to think of where we had seen her.

I couldn’t place her.

Instead I judged her.

Her looks,

Her clothes,

Her shoes,

Her mannerisms as she talked.

And I am not proud to say, it went on and it wasn’t fair because I think she actually was a very lovely person having lunch with her friend. And she was minding her own business. This was not one of my finer character moments.

Why did I do that? Because, I felt insecure in the moment of who I was and what I do and I was not in my familiar territory, which by the way are just excuses for my bad attitude.

I felt insignificant compared to the fact that she was a recognized celebrity and I was not. How very childish and well plain STUPID!

Just as she was leaving a couple came up and asked to take a picture with her and gushed over how she was their favorite and all that. Out of nowhere the paparazzi showed up snapping pics as she got into her car. Now we were VERY curious so we asked our waiter. It turned out that she was Lisa Vanderpump from The Beverly Hills Housewives reality show.  That explained everything, or did it?

When we got back to our hotel we did our homework and read everything we could about her. The more I read, the smaller I felt, but different this time. Small in the way that I was totally ashamed of myself of how quick I jumped to conclusions and stereotyped a person because of my own insecurity.  YUCK…this part of my character I don’t like.

I read an overview of her book Simply Divine: A Guide to Easy, Elegant, and Affordable Entertainment and in the first few pages you get a glimpse of the very ordinary and loving person that she is. And you know what I found? A woman whose heart is committed to loving and serving her family, her friends and her community. A woman who desires to use her success to help others. A woman who says her secret is working hard, taking risks and never giving up. She’s been married to the same man for over 30 years a definite rare find in Hollywood.  I also found a kindred heart in her passion for writing, and I could relate when she talked about loving her family through the art of cooking. Really? And guess what, she freely admits she’s trying to grow older gracefully with no plastic surgery! How is that for the ultimate judgment card? Not a proud moment!

I don’t know if what drives her at her core, but what I do know is what I claim that my faith teaches. God says that I shouldn’t be quick to judge another person. It is wrong, it’s not my place, it is shameful and it only reveals the ugliness in my own heart. Sigh….I thought I was passed it, but guess I have some more work to do!

Time to dig a little deeper and next time be careful with my thoughts and my words of casting a judgment on someone I know nothing about.

Character check~passing judgment I get a definite big fat “F” on that day. But I am glad for the experience, it has made me think and reflect once again and I’m grateful that God ordained that moment for me. Tomorrow is another chance, another opportunity to pass the next test that comes my way. Jesus, help me to catch myself the next time and watch my thoughts as they form a web of words that seek to judge and not give the grace I need. Help me to see others through your eyes and believe the best in people.

 

 

 

 

How to Avoid an Emotional Titanic Disaster in Leadership

It’s that time of year for me again to go in for my yearly physical. I am not very intentional about it, and yet I know it is critical for me to monitor my health on a regular basis. If I want to enjoy life and the beauty of all I hold dear, it’s not an option, I have to just do it!

It’s the same for me in other areas~emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I need a regular check-up. So  let me ask you, how is your health these days? More specifically, how is your emotional health? Let’s start there. Many of us like to ignore this part of ourselves. We’d rather just gloss over and assess our physical and spiritual well-being, that’s easier. It seems like it can be measured quickly with a checklist. But when it comes to our emotional side, we can be sailing away as happy as the Titanic oblivious to the impending danger ahead, and like that fated night, the ship that wasn’t supposed to ever sink, not only sank, but over two-thirds of those onboard lost their lives in the frigid sea. There were miscalculations from the master builders of the ship to the crew and as a result it became one of the largest disasters of that era.

Digging into the emotional side of us can be intimidating and rather frightening. It’s like digging into the back of a deep closet. I have two of those in my house. I’ve only recently had the courage to take everything out that is in front and really clean out the back. I found both treasures and items I had to discard including mystery boxes full of things I didn’t even know I possessed. It was work, it took time, but now I know what’s in the back of my closets. It brings order to that part of my life, and it feels good.

Digging deep emotionally and cleaning out the back of our emotional closets is healthy. I have found it to be tough but it has brought a level of health to my heart as I’ve been willing to look at some hard stuff. If you are like me, I need help to know how to begin to even dismantle this closet in my soul. How do we start?

I have a dog-eared copy of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I have read it so many times I need to get a new copy. I’ve used it to encourage others to start the journey of becoming emotionally healthy because it has been transformative for me.  Peter says, “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.” He lists 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality.

Read them, make a note of which ones trigger some red flags and then do some investigation to start on the journey of your own emotional health AND….

Talk it over with a friend, see a counselor if you have to.

Take the first step of digging deeper.

I promise you it is worth it.

Not easy and gut wrenching.

But worth it in the long run. I believe every leader needs to contemplate the principles Peter has in this book. It opened my own eyes several years ago of just how much this side of my life impacts everything I do, from my personal life to how I lead others. It has shaped and changed me as I’ve allowed God’s spirit to help me get to the back of that deep dark closet.

Here are the Top Ten Symptoms:

1. Using God to run from God

2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear

3. Dying to the wrong things

4. Denying the past’s impact on the present

5. Diving our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments

6. Doing for God instead of being with God.

7. Spiritualizing away conflict

8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure

9. Living without limits

10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey

Hit a nerve? Any of these make you feel uncomfortable? Great! That’s a good sign, you are on the path. Ask God to help you know how to start and just pick one or two. Small consistent steps make for permanent change.

Life piles up, we cycle in and out with our habits and patterns. Eventually, if we don’t take note of what’s going on deep inside, we may hit an emotional disaster like the Titanic and sink. I encourage you to pay attention to your heart, dig deep and do some preventative work as Proverbs 4:23 says, Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.”

(Picture from www.beyondphilosophy.com/blog March 2013)

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero: copyright 2006, Integrity Publishers,Franklin TN, page 24)

New Chapters….Letting Go

Stack-of-binders-150x150I was sitting on the floor in our guest room with a stack of binders. Four to be exact. They were the aftermath of a closet purging of which I emptied 15 binders. Years of teaching, seminars and random musings I’ve collected along the ministry trail. Tackling the first 15 weren’t too hard. The last four I left for another day to come back to because I had to think about it. Actually, to be truthful, I had to let go.

The binders were full of just paper, planning an event that happened almost 10 years ago. Why was I struggling? I came to realize it was more the emotional connection of what was contained in the binders that was difficult to pry my fingers off to put it in the recycle bin.

The binders represented a regional event and conference. It was God-orchestrated in which servant leaders came from all over North America (at their own expense) to engage women to love on their cities and learn how to leverage their influence to make a difference. It was an event to call out women to be world-changers.

I remember receiving calls from other parts of the nation asking how we were we able to get the kind of well-known speakers when our church could only could squeeze in about 700ish pre-firemarshall inspection! What was our secret? My answer was, “I can’t tell you, it is a God-thing.” Really, like God cares about celebrity speakers! It’s our heart and motive, but that’s for another blog post. Geesh!

I don’t have room in this post to tell you the whole history, all I can say it was above and beyond what I could of even imagined as Ephesians 3:20 encourages us, to dream big. I remember a few nights before the conference I was on my face before God. I heard him whisper in my heart to get ready, that he was going to show Himself in a way I hadn’t seen before. I shared with the team, we prepared ourselves and He wasn’t kidding!

The first night, the beginning of summer, the room was hot because the air-conditioner broke moments before the evening started. Nearly 800 glistening women from 147 churches and organizations were squeezed into the room that night hungry for God.

God showed up like He promised.

He revealed himself.

Lives were changed.

My faith increased.

I sat down and wept as I watched God move through the room changing hearts and calling his daughters to rise up! It was a moment I never ever, ever will forget. Of course, I want to save every scrap of planning contained in that binder because it represented more than my heart can convey at this moment. I tear up even now thinking about it!

So the other night as I read through each section,

I thanked God.

I cried.

I praised Him.

And I want to believe there will be other moments like that night.

There has been so much that has happened post-conference years. Some really amazing times and some deeply pain worn paths. To be gut honest, some of the more ugly moments I feel has disqualified me for the future. But then I remember, God defines me not my past. Brokenness is a pre-requisite that gets us ready for the next chapter.

God is doing a work in my heart and as I’ve been on this purging binge throughout my house, I sense He is whispering his wooing words of love to me that there is a change coming. I sense He is saying to lift up my head, pay attention and watch and be ready. Let go, trust Him. A new chapter, a new story and a new beginning that He wants to write on my heart.

It’s funny how God will use something so human, so routine and drudging as purging a closet to speak to my heart. That’s what I love about God, he really, really gets me and He knows how to reach my heart. My job is to listen. I am choosing to listen and not blow this off. I sense it is significant and I need to pay attention. Wait, watch and lean in.

What is God saying to you today? What letting go do you need to do so the new chapter can begin?

 

 

 

5 Ways to Lead from your Legacy

Cuddling new babies, making cookies, meals, cleaning and sharing family birthdays and memories has been the order of the day recently. In the short span of 30 days we’ve added two new family members~sweet baby girls, a book launch~a dream fulfilled, we’ve celebrated a first new home for one of our kids, and had the opportunity to love on, serve and spend a great chunk of time with each other.

It the legacy I choose. Family.

It’s what I value and what is important. Family and relationships.

It’s what I am praying and hoping will be the inheritance my children and grand-children will recognize as a faith builder in their lives.

As a leader I’ve come to realize over the years that at the end of my days the greatest influence I will have is within my own family. It will become my legacy ready or not.  If I forget the gift that I’ve been entrusted to with these precious relationships, will anything else I do really matter?

There was a time as a young Mom that I just wanted to hurry up the years of raising my children.

I wanted to get on with life, with ministry, with having an impact as a leader, and I wanted them to cooperate.

The rewards were more significant as a leader than as a mother back in those days.

Driving the carpool, being the short-order cook, wiping snotty noses and being the homework gestapo didn’t get much applause.

God pretty much had to lovingly smack me on the side of the head and helped me to realize, that my family was my ministry! The life lessons I learned within the four walls of my home were the catalyst for deepening my gifts of ministry. At that season, it was the assignment that was primary, my children. Yes, there was time for ministry, but the greatest growth spurt as a leader were in those routines of being a faithful follower of Jesus and committed Mom. It changed my life and taught me how to be a servant leader by loving on my family and learning to be fully present.

Here are 5 things I learned about Leading from my Legacy and faithfully being committed to my primary calling as a Mom.

1.  BE FLEXIBLE: Things don’t always go as planned ~ Life interruptions happen and we need to be flexible. Our attitude reveals itself when things don’t go the way we hoped they would. A leaders attitude in the midst of a shift reveals our character. Life is unpredictable, have a prepared response and ask yourself what is the worst that can happen if the plan falls apart? Be ready for a Plan B. As a mom, many, many, many, should I say it once more MANY times I had to resort to Plan B! Oh it was frustrating for this Type A, recovering perfectionist, always having to have the perfect plan type of person, but it broke me down to realize LIFE HAPPENS and it doesn’t always turn out the way I hoped.

2. WATCH YOUR MOUTH: People are listening to what you say, how you react, and how you respond. Ask yourself the question, do I react or respond in my leadership? Many times, I blew it as a Mom, I reacted instead of responded. My kids helped me to rethink how to grow up in this area. I learned this when I realized that I became a mirror for how they dealt with circumstances by watching me react or respond. It doesn’t sound so good when a 5 year old is mimicking their Mom’s less than mature reaction.

3. BE QUICK TO BELIEVE THE BEST IN ONE ANOTHER: Preconceived ideas and assumptions can kill a relationship. Ask yourself the question, why would a reasonable person act this way? It’s easy to allow our emotions to catch us and think we know how the other person feels. I learned to ask questions of my children. Using the why, where, how and what questions helped me to believe the best in them and wait for their heart to speak. When we assume the best in people, it breaks down walls and defenses and builds bridges of greater trust.

4. DON’T PUSH TOO HARD: Having a vision is noble. Pushing people beyond their limits for the sake of the cause is unhealthy. Know when to take a break and encourage those you lead to rest and restore emotionally, physically and spiritually. Growing up with the idea that ALL work must be finished before we can rest or play has caused me to drive myself too hard, my family and others. It worked until in my mid 30’s I crashed and suffered a five year depression as a result of not paying attention to a healthy rythym of work and rest. Knowing your limits as a leader and helping those you lead understand this concept will bring a greater sense of well-being and health to your team.

5. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES BOTH SMALL AND BIG: So often we focus on celebrating the bigger accomplishments. People expect them. It’s natural.  But what about celebrating the small steps? Little reminders of progress help to keep going and to reach the finish line. I often wrote notes of encouragement to my family and put them in all sorts of fun places for them to find. Sometimes, it was just going to the store to get a doughnut for a good grade on a spelling test. Everyone needs encouragement. A hand-written note, yes you heard me, not an email but a note that you actually write out can make the world of difference to someone. A phone-call to say “Hey, I was just thinking about you and had a thought for you”…yes, a phone-call not a text, where someone can actually hear your voice. These are small but not insignificant ways we can celebrate others.

What have you learned about leadership from your legacy?

 

Lazy Days of Summer?

SummersunsetThe lazy days of summer phrase doesn’t seem to apply to me this summer. It has been crazy, crazy, busy. I’m not sure I have had a day let alone an hour to actually apply “the lazy days of summer.” It has just happened that way for 2013. Not that I am complaining mind you, it really has been an amazing season with new grand-daughters, the dream of the book, Unlocked being released and all that surrounds new adventures.

Now that we are soon headed into autumn, I am not sure I am ready. What is being ready for the next season look like anyway? How can I be ready for something I don’t even fully know what it will look like? I have plans, because I am a planner, but there are still some fuzzy places. So I go back to my trusted resource, the Bible and I find in Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (NLT) Hmmm…so let me get this straight, I can make plans as best I can, but it is God who will actually determine what the steps to that plan will look like. Listen to this version from the Message Bible, it puts an entirely different twist on this verse in Proverbs. “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” At the end of the day, or season or year, what really matters is living out our days, hours, minutes and seconds because God makes us able to live it!

I don’t know about you, but I just felt the tension leave my tired body! He knows the kind of season I’ve had, it’s been a roller coaster high, but now I have to come down the track off the thrill of the ride and I realize I am tired. A good tired. That’s okay. It’s perfectly alright to be tired before the next season. So how do I gear up for the transition feeling tired? Funny, I was just reminded this past Sunday of Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God.” If you read the chapter in its entirety, there is a lot of chaos going on and this little itty bitty phrase comes at the end of this psalm reminding the reader that all we have to do is be still before God. Do you know what follows that profound phrase at the end of the chapter? “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” I don’t think I ever quite read it like that before. The take away for me is that in the midst of trying to regain my strength, I need to be still and know that He is God but also know that God is with me. More release….sigh…pressure off……….sigh.

I am tired, it’s been busy. Fall is coming, it will be busy, maybe even chaotic. I have lots of plans, but God will determine how I will get there. The key is for me to rest, be still and believe that God knows, He sees and He will carry out His plans in my life as I acknowledge his presence by being still! Doesn’t that take off the pressure? What release of pressure do you need to acknowledge to be ready for the next season?