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What Do I Do When the Big One Hits?

My sister and I were waiting in the ferry line with the wind howling and rain pelting my small SUV. We were on our way to Vancouver Island where I was going to be the speaker for a women’s weekend  at Camp Qwanoes.

We both had to go to the bathroom and wanted to wait to see if there would be a break in the storm. The loud speaker kept reminding us of the obvious – extreme winds, the BIG storm that was moving in and the ferry which would be delayed, again and again, and again.

Finally, after we couldn’t stand it any longer we braved getting out of our car in the high winds and blowing rain to go to the ferry terminal to take care of the bare necessities and grab some dinner. Once we’d practically been blown off the asphalt strip weaving in and out of cars we found shelter inviting us into the warmth and bustling terminal with other passengers who had the same thing on their minds as we did, bathrooms and food.

The ‘BIG ONE,’ the storm of the century was supposed to hit the island with predicted 100 mph and we seemed to be heading straight into what they were calling was yet to come, the aftermath of a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean. I had told my husband before I left that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to which he replied, “You have to go, you are the speaker!” Oh right, I forgot. Sigh…I gathered my courage and remembered God was the God of the storm and this was my assignment and headed to the ferry terminal with my sister who was as nervous as I was.

The weekend started and as Friday moved into Saturday morning and the morning moved into the afternoon and the afternoon moved to the evening, we noticed that the weather seemed calm and mild at the camp. Funny, where was the storm?

What was going on?

We soon learned at dinner that something miraculous had happened.

The camp staff had fervently prayed all week that nothing would interrupt the women’s weekend.

They prayed specifically that the ferries would run on Friday and Sunday for the women to arrive and depart.

They pleaded heaven’s doors that the power would stay on and that God would do what He does best breaking down walls and transforming hearts through worship and His word.

They prayed believing that God wanted to do above and beyond what we could even imagine.

And God moved.

He destined that the camp would be the eye of the storm.

We heard reports that the ferries stopped running on Saturday due to the magnitude of the storm. The power was cut-off in the cities around the camp, but the small community where the camp was, the power never even blinked once.

As I listened to a camp staffer, Gretta, relate the miracle, I couldn’t help but have spiritual goosebumps.

God did something significant for all of us on the weekend.

In the sessions we talked about storms in our lives and how they can cripple our influence. We spoke about being misunderstood and harboring unforgiveness and the need to let go and lean in because we don’t always have control when a storm moves in.

God gave us a physical in our face visual reminder that as we surrender to Jesus in obedience there is one place and only one place we can be safe. Jesus, who holds us in the very eye of the storm, He is our shelter.

And when the BIG one hits we are to do just three things.

1. DON’T PANIC – RUN to the shelter which is Jesus – stay close for He is the eye of the storm. Listen to worship and feed on God’s Word. Lean in close and listen for the next steps.

2. DON’T TRY TO FIX IT – TRUST – only God knows the big picture and He always, I mean always has the last word! Stay in the eye of the storm and don’t get distracted by the chaos. Just like the meterologists this past weekend who were dumbfounded that their computers weren’t accurate with this supposed “storm of the century.” God knows. He sees. He knows the outcome. He can do anything!

3. DON’T BE TEMPTED TO GIVE UP – BELIEVE and don’t lose hope. Keep praying. He is our refuge.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord do not abandon those who search for you. Psalm 9:9,10

As my sister and I drove home from the camp to catch the ferry we saw a rainbow like no other. I couldn’t help but thinking how God sheltered us on the weekend and how His promises are faithful and true and that’s the reason I know I can run to Him, trusting and believing that He is in control over even yes, the storms in my own life.

 

 

5 Ways to Kill a Team

Every Tuesday morning I show up at a university campus to teach leadership to international students who mainly come from China and the surrounding region. We have a fascinating time as we merge Eastern thought about leadership with Western ideals.

This semester we are discovering the group dynamics of teams and most of our work is experiential learning in class. My students are hungry to learn how to create effective teams for optimum results and I love watching the interaction. Working as a team with shared ideas is new for some of them. They are used to the idea of autocratic teams instead of teams that are more collaborative.

I’ve noticed one thing that stays the same between our cultures and it is the bottom line. We all want to have an effective successful team to reach common goals. We are learning together some important steps to maximize our effectiveness as teams. And yet, we still fall back on our human nature striving for performance and falling into leading only task driven. And as much as the leadership theories we learn help us, our humanity can get in the way and lead to what I call – The 5 Team Killers.

There are ways we can unintentionally easily kill a team in our efforts to be effective. As a leader, it can become a team blindspot. In my experience with teams I’ve served and lead, this is what I have learned (the hard way) that can cause a team to lose it’s effectiveness.

1. Task First Think Later

As a young leader in my 20’s and 30’s, I thought organizing a team meant putting together a group of people to get the job done.  It was all about TASK! And I was the one as the leader to call the shots.

Partially true?

Maybe.

I had little regard for what others on the team might think about what we were doing TOGETHER.

I soon learned the hard way through some crucial conversations that I wasn’t the only one who had the best ideas on how to get the task done.

In fact, sometimes my ideas weren’t good at all!

Thinking together as a team was a slow learning process for me. As we thought things through together, the team actually improved.

I am not advocating group-think in this instance but rather fostering an open-minded atmosphere where everyone’s thoughts about getting the tasks accomplished lead to the best results.

2. Choose Not to Collaborate

Part of what makes a successful team is leveraging everyone’s strengths on the team. When we choose not to collaborate and don’t make it a priority to understand the strengths of each team member, true collaboration can’t take place. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. No one person has all the skills to lead an effective team and no one person on the team can get the job done well all by themselves.

3. Using People Instead of Relating to People

If you really want to kill a team fast, the best way to kill a team is to not care about your people. People will follow the vision and goals for awhile, but when stress starts to play in, if we as a leader don’t genuinely care for those on our teams, motivation will diminish. We don’t want people to feel they are being used. We want them to not just know we care but that we really care about them beyond what they can do for the team.

4. No parties, No celebrations

Teams need to celebrate successes and especially small goals.

Celebrating as a team creates more motivation to reach the end goal.

We often just celebrate the end with a big splash as we cross the finish line.  I have found that when we celebrate small goals it brings the team together and provides encouragement. Every team will reach an obstacle at some point that can bring discouragement. Celebrating along the way helps to keep everyone moving forward toward the goal.

5. Enforce Accountability

There are many different ideas of how to hold team members to account. I have found that the best way to hold a team accountable is to empower others by working intentionally as a leader to motivate team members.

Lack of motivation can kill accountability.

When a team loses momentum due to lack of motivation, members can slip into the “just doing enough to get by.”

I believe the key to accountability is to keep the team motivated as a whole. When everyone on the team is energized there is less chance of  those on the team falling into the slacker category.

These five team killers aren’t rocket science and yet they bring awareness to highlight what is really important when it comes to functioning as a healthy team.

When my students share how to create a dream team, their passion emerges on how their greatest wish is to help others and leave a lasting imprint in their realm of influence.

As we reflect together in discussion on these and other theories, one common goal surfaces in discussion. We all want to be the very best leader we can be to create a working team that makes a difference!

If everyone is moving forward together then success takes care of itself. Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

 

 

How Cleaning My Oven Took Over My Day

Yesterday my calendar said, “Writing Day.” As I proceeded to get organized to sit down and make my favorite cup of tea, I was woefully distracted as I waited for the water to boil. I stood by my stove and made the mistake of leaning down too closely.

I have a confession, there has been problem in my kitchen. It has been lurking for several years. Nearly seven to be exact and I am now going to make a full confession.

I haven’t cleaned the inside of my oven since we moved into our house.

Please don’t judge me.

I hadn’t thought it looked too dirty until it was sparkly clean and besides I regularly wipe it out if I spill something, at least mostly. Just for the record, my oven is well used and I like to keep a relatively clean kitchen but the oven door is closed 99% of the time right?

Instead of writing (and that is why this blog post is a day later than scheduled) I set the dial to clean the oven. You are probably thinking, if this is a self-cleaning oven why couldn’t you write while it was cleaning?

Sounds logical.

Practical.

Reasonable.

Somehow because I decided to get that oven clean, everything else  screamed for attention and then I made a decision. Monday is going to be a cleaning day so I can feel better about the house when I really sit down to write. Did I tell you that I am a recovering perfectionist? More on that later.

As I was wiping out the charcoal dust after cleaning the oven I noticed some extra stubborn baked on spots that needed a little soft scrub and muscle. I was scrubbing and scrubbing when God gave me a picture of my own heart. There are crevices that are months and probably years old that I have turned on the self-cleaning button thinking that it was fine.

He reminded me that sometimes I have to get a little ‘Holy Spirit Soft Scrub’ and put some muscle into those stubborn spots of bad habits and wrong thinking patterns. I have to linger and scrub, wash out the scum, wipe, scrub and repeat several times until the remnant of my burnt on habits are gone. I have to pray and pray some more. Take captive those thoughts that would stick to the old places already baked on. Have you ever noticed that when you bake how one and then another layer of oozing dessert or a casserole might fall on an already burnt spot making it more difficult to get off?

One of the burnt on baked on places in my heart is falling into negative thinking. It’s easy for me to clean around everything else and wipe right over the crusty habits believing I am okay. I whine. I justify and it doesn’t work, because God cares about my whole heart, not just the places I think are clean.

I realized that the way I think represents a few crusty baked on places in my heart. Life has thrown some curve balls as of late and I can’t fix any of it.

Frustrating!

The negative thoughts pile on one another and it can build and build until it screams for attention. God showed me through a simple once every seven-year chore of cleaning my oven. It may take longer than it took for me to clean it but I am making a choice to stop long enough to pay attention to the crusty places and what needs to be surrendered in my heart.

Here are three simple steps to attack those burnt on places in our hearts.

  1. STOPYes, we might even have to set aside something planned, something good, something needful to take a step back and pay attention.
  2. CONFESSBe honest with yourself AND God. Sometimes I think that we think God doesn’t know about the crusty baked on places in our hearts. HE DOES! And the beautiful piece is that He still loves us. His love isn’t based on how thick or crusty those layers might be.
  3. SCRUBand then scrub some more. Make time to reflect and use the tools God gives us. Scour those places away by renewing our minds with His promises and pray over wrong attitudes and thinking patterns. Get feedback, honest feedback, not from someone who will tell you what your feelings want to hear, but someone who will help hold up the mirror and be brutally candid.

As I was leaning into scrubbing the baked on crusty junk, it was hard. My shoulder hurts today from pressing in. It’s the same way when we work at getting rid of old habits, it can hurt and it might take a while. Lean in and know that God will reward your efforts and your desire to please Him with a pure heart.

After David had sinned and repented, he wrote this, Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (God’s Word Translation). That’s what I am asking God right now. After the scrubbing happens and the crusty places are removed that God would clean me up, create new thoughts and renew in me a faithful spirit. How about you? What crusty baked on places are layering up in your heart?

 

Why Everyone Needs A Tribe

As a writer, I’ve been floundering for a few years. I didn’t know it but I was looking for a tribe.

I was wandering and then realized what I needed…

People who were like-minded and crazy enough to sit down at our computers for long hours writing, in hopes it will influence others.

If I am going to be a serious writer since publishing my first book, I knew I needed a writer tribe. I searched and scoured to find a group that I could identify with. A group whose heart beat the same as mine, crafting words into meaningful sentences, hoping to make a difference. I prayed and waited.

Like clothes in a department store dressing room, I tried a myriad of different tribes to see if they were a good fit.

I tried to force myself with a few and it didn’t work. It was like putting a square peg into a round hole, or squeezing my body into a size that didn’t fit.

They were lovely groups, but weren’t my peeps. I kept looking and asking my writer friends. Mostly, I prayed and asked God to help me find my tribe, one I could feel camaraderie and affinity. I nearly gave up when last year one of my author friends suggested I try her tribe.

I took the plunge and signed up. I even decided to attend the first conference of this newly found tribe and went with no expectations other than just to connect and learn.

I discovered other writers just like me.

Writers confident in our gifts and yet at times insecure.

Broken but not defeated.

Struggling and yet persevering.

Desiring and yet God honoring, Jesus loving writers!

It was like being away from home a long time and finding all the best reasons why you love to come back. It was a belonging moment.

Whatever gift you and I  might have, we need a tribe.

Why? Here are five simple reasons using the word TRIBE of why I believe everyone needs a tribe whether your gift is writing, music, leading, crafting, teaching or?

 TRUST 

We need a group of people that we can trust with our gift and who             experiences it the same way we do. Writers in particular can be quirky because we usually are alone crafting our words, it isn’t a team gift. It is very personal and we need people we can trust along the way.

RESPECT

Everyone needs respect. Having a group of people who share the same gift garners a deeper respect for your own gift and motivates us to be the best we can because it isn’t just about us, there are others who share the same gift. When we neglect or tarnish our gift it impacts others and hurts the tribe.

INSPIRE

Being around other like-minded similar gifted people is incredibly            inspiring. It is motivating and pushes us to work harder and smarter.

BELONG

It’s funny how when you discover your true tribe how at home you will   feel. It becomes a safe place to grow and try out new ideas with people who understand how your gift works.

ENCOURAGE

Everyone needs encouragement to keep going when the going get         tough. Especially when our gifts are first being developed and later when we’ve  experienced both success and failure and still want to give up! We need people to remind us to keep stewarding the gift. It is worth it and it is just that, a gift that has to keep going and growing to make the greatest impact possible.

I am incredibly proud to announce that my new tribe is the Advanced Writers and Speaker Association. They have become my tribe and I feel  the simple trust, respect, inspire, belong and encourage has visited the writers home in my heart. I am learning leaps and rubbing shoulders with these incredible author friends and my hope is that I will rub off on them too! They accept me right where I am at, there is a no compete zone  and man oh man can these women pray!! Like I said, this is home.

Where is your tribe? If you haven’t found yours, keep looking, keep praying, keep waiting. Somewhere out there is a place for you to belong and to grow that brilliant gift God has lavishly entrusted to you.

 

 

 

 

Unleash Your Joy!

Today I have the honor of hosting author Heidi McLaughlin in a guest post. Heidi is a dear friend and has just released her new book Restless For More. 

UNLEASH YOUR JOY!                                 by Heidi McLaughlin

Whenever I meet women vulnerable enough to be honest about their feely sings, all too often I hear this: “Heidi, I just want to feel joy. But I’m so tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and I feel empty. How do I find fulfillment in my life so that I know I am finally enough? I understand. Our souls are restless for that ultimate feeling of joy.

Take Care of Your Heart

One of the first questions I ask is: “How are you taking care of your heart?” Imagine your heart being shaped like a bucket. Your bucket is full when you’re getting enough sleep, eating properly, spending time with God and all your relationships are in order. Conversely our buckets are empty when we feel angry, close to tears, lonely, resentful, mean, anxious and many more depleted emotions.

We desire a full bucket and so we try harder, work longer hours and are on a relentless quest to discover the right formula that will ultimately complete our soul and unleash joy. Sadly though, doing more does not fulfill us more. But Jesus tells us that in Him we can find it.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill an destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

Gratitude Unleashes Joy

2010 was the year of my empty bucket. The desolation of that gnawing emptiness made me lean into God to find an answer for fulfillment and peace. I found the most unusual concept.

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this God’s will for you in Christ Jesus “ (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT).

In spite of the fact that I was weary, sad and frustrated and my circumstances evoked more questions than answers, I chose to obey God and give thanks. I started a Gratitude Journal. Each day as I wrote something I was grateful for, I was reminded of God’s grace, His promises and that He is involved in every detail of my life. Over time thankfulness refilled my bucket, I felt more fulfilled and joy was right on its heels.

I encourage you to take this simple step of starting your own journal and see how it will refill your bucket, find fulfillment and unleash your joy.

About Heidi:

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends.

You can download a FREE accompanying Study Guide when you purchase Heidi’s latest book

RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places.

It can be purchased on her website: www.heartconnection.ca

 

 

 

 

The Second Seed

The last few days, have you noticed the evenings have been cooler? The leaves have been drifting off our trees in the front yard. My flowers are showing signs of the falling of summer stress. The sunflowers have died and all that is left is the seeds.

It is the sign of the end of summer and the beckoning invitation to enter autumn.

My summer has been jam-packed with events, trips, friends and family and has been far from “the lazy days of summer.” It has been a whirlwind of both surprises and even some disappointments, but it’s been a fabulous time. And yet, I would say there is a pivotal space of reflection bringing in some new thoughts with the catalyst for a little bit of change.

Yes, at times I think too much because I am a melancholy. But this summer has helped to clarify stirrings in my heart and here is my summer summary if you will.

I moved into June feeling like my words for the year “Live Bold” wasn’t seeing too much action. I wondered what it might look like for the remainder of the year. What is God asking of me? Something was brewing underneath all that thinking and between what I experienced from trips to relationships, I finally got a glimpse of the bigger picture.

TD Jakes said it best when I heard him at the Global Leadership Summit the beginning of August. He is embarking on numerous projects and Bill Hybels in an interview asked him as a leader if it is wise to spread yourself in so many different directions.

His response intrigued me and caused me to think about my own word for this year, Live Bold.

He talked about how each gift that God entrusts to us is a seed and that within the seed there are other seeds and we need to pay attention to those second seeds. He was referring in particular to the second half of our journey of life.

Many seeds are developed in terms of our gifts and yet there are seeds within the seed that are part of our responsibility to do something.

I started thinking because that is what a melancholy does and came up with these questions to ask myself.

What seeds lie dormant inside the seeds of my gifts that God has entrusted to me?

What do I need to start to water so that seed within the seed will grow?

I started with a list to answer these questions a few weeks back and have been adding to it. I am not sure what those little seeds will look like just now, but I am watching and praying. In the meantime, I am making room for those new seeds to develop by rearranging some of my priorities for this fall.

I can’t help the second seed grow if I don’t make some room for it to flourish. I am setting some boundaries for myself to work at helping these second seeds grow. Instead of rolling from the summer into fall as usual, I believe those stirrings in my heart are to get my attention. It’s easy for me to just step into the familiar and make a plan for a new season.

I think God asks more of us at times.

He wants us to listen in the midst of the familiar because he wants us to grow deeper.

Isaiah 43:19 has long been a favorite,

Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.

I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime, I am watching closely. You might want to give it some thought. Are there seeds within your seeds that need to start to grow this fall?

 

 

 

 

 

The Legacy of a Life Well Lived

My trip to England has come and gone and today I am staving off day four of jet-lag and trying to touch down to reality. I feel as though I have been living in centuries of history the past few weeks and honestly it’s been exhilarating! My friend Debbie and I walked over 65 miles of uneven cobblestone in cities, villages and hamlets hundreds of years old with history carved in every nook and cranny.

I’ve had several people ask me what was the most memorable experience and it is hard to choose. Today I choose just one, soaking up the corridors of Westminster Abbey. It is more than a church, the halls and cloisters chronicle the history of prominent men and women who have marked history either with integrity or with scandal. Monarchs, poets, playwrights, philanthropists, statesmen and more are memorialized lining the marble floors and walls. People such as William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, Handel, Churchill, Chaucer, Dickens, the Bronte Sisters and the like remind us of how even modern society has been influenced by their life work.

Walking through centuries of history and reading sentences and sometimes paragraphs of the epitaphs of these great men and women remind me continually of the legacy we are commissioned to leave on this earth by God. And it is a choice of just what kind of legacy we will choose to leave.

Early this morning those thoughts came to an intersection with history meeting reality. My traveling friend Debbie, sent me a text with news of graduation to heaven of one of my very first pastors and employers in my young adult life, Dr. Tim LaHaye. Many know him as the co-author of the fiction series Left Behind, but I knew him as the pastor of my church and employer when I worked at the LaHaye’s Family Life Organization in the late 1970’s.

Tim LaHaye was an honorable man of unwavering faith and godly character that has marked his legacy. He finished well and I consider him to be one of the pillars in the forming of my initial foundation of faith. His  early writings left an imprint on my young soul. His inspiring Sunday sermons pointed me in the right direction to consider my commitment to Jesus. I wasn’t just impacted from afar but up close.

He had time to say hello and give words of encouragement to young adults like myself at church and the college located on the same campus of which he was founder. Looking back, I thought it was pretty normal and as I got older I realized how rare it really was that as the lead Pastor he took an interest in the young adults that surrounded him at church and the college. Even decades later Kevin and I had the chance to connect and he remembered us and asked with interest about our lives and ministry. He had a true pastor’s heart and no amount of fame tarnished his love for people and for Jesus.

When I reflect on my own choice of leaving a godly legacy, Dr. Tim LaHaye has left the example of footsteps worth following. Why? Because he loved Jesus and served him until the very end not compromising truth or his faith. He may not be memorialized in Westminster Abbey, but his influence will be memorialized in the hearts and lives of the hundreds of thousands his godly legacy has reached.

 

When Toxic Thoughts Take Over

I am not typically your jump out of bed greet the morning with a smile kind of person. I am what you might call a slow wake put my feet on the ground get my tea first or else be cranky individual. I’ve tried all sorts of things to turn into a morning person but my hard wiring is fundamentally not to be fresh in the morning. Having children however forced me to work on being a morning person. I just had to get up earlier than they did in order to be somewhat cognitive and pleasant.

Because I am not a morning person, it is life or death for me to organize my thoughts in the right direction. It sets the tone for the day and my relationships. If I am worried or stressed without surrendering those leftover thoughts from the day before it becomes catastrophic for the remainder of the new day and those I bump into. I can exercise a bit of self-control but I still leak unless I am intentional about dwelling on what is in my brain space.

Lately, I have been working on those leftover toxic thoughts that have unconsciously taken over certain parts of my life. Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of Who Switched Off My Brain says this, Whatever you think about grows. Don’t focus on what you are going through but what you are going to. I’ve been relearning a common truth that if I keep dwelling on toxic thoughts they will grow and then those thoughts grow into habits and habits grow into toxic words and behaviors.

So what do we do when toxic thoughts takeover?

There is a reason that book of Romans says, …but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. In the front end of Romans 12:2 the writer says to not conform to the patterns of this world. In other words, to think like everyone else is thinking, to change the way we think by renewing our thoughts. Renewing has the implication of changing from something from the inside out as John Piper says in his writings on The Renewed Mind and How to Have It.

Resisting those leftover thoughts and then making a conscious out loud decision to do something with those nagging critters is the solution.

Surrender them to Jesus.

Give them up, write them down and tear it up.

Each time they threaten to sneak under the door of your mind, have a plan of what you will do to not chew on those leftover thoughts. Really, leftovers are only good for a little while then you eventually have to throw them out!

If you and I aren’t intentional about this every single day, toxic thoughts can…

BLOCK OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD – the further I move away from surrendering my thoughts to God the farther I stay away from God believing the lie that He can’t or won’t be able to help me.

ROB OUR JOY – the toxicity can block our perspective of seeing even the little things in life that can make us smile.

POISON RELATIONSHIPS – no matter how hard we try and keep it in, that poison from toxic thoughts can leak into small barbs or unkindness to those around us.

KILL PRODUCTIVITY – allowing those toxic thoughts to continue growing eventually blocks our creativity. I know for me, it has paralyzed me from moving forward.

DIMINISHES OUR INFLUENCE – our influence is our greatest asset and when toxic thoughts reign over our life we limit our ability to positively influence others.

CAUSE DESPAIR TO REIGN – continuing to think and obsess over situations that we can’t control or ones that we have a measure of controlling destroys our trust in God. The enemy sneaks in with his secret weapons…disappointment, discouragement and despair to rule over our minds.

All of the above I have experienced when I’ve chewed and chewed on my leftover toxic thoughts. It’s a habit that I want to break and I am praying that God helps me to continue to change from the inside out. I have allowed pain and wounds to paralyze me to the point of developing unhealthy thinking patterns and I am so done! I won’t lie to you, it hasn’t been easy to re-wallpaper my mind with God’s truth. I’ve created some pretty strong ruts in my thinking. But there is too much at stake not just for each of us but for those lives we influence to get stuck in toxicity of the mind.

Will you join me? God so wants us to flourish in every area of our life like a tree growing with bountiful fruit. He wants to embed his truth both in our heart and our minds. Let’s make a strategic plan to make sure we reclaim this ground in our mind for good!

 

 

 

 

When Mother’s Day Hurts

I let go of my expectations of Mother’s Day a long time ago.

That’s not to say I never had any, I did and lots of them. There was a small wrinkle in our life that never seemed to iron itself out. Mother’s Day is always on a Sunday and that is a full-on working day for my husband. When I said I do, I married a man who had committed his life to working on Sundays forever with The Bride of Christ, the church.

He is a pastor and when our children were younger we were involved in a dynamic large church. Bless his heart, he tried really hard to meet my unspoken and of course out-loud expectations, but year after year it just didn’t really work out. One year I remember that he had put our teenage son Jeremy, in charge of finishing up the meal for us after church. It turned out pretty well until we sat around the table and saw that we were missing one of our kids. Kevin had accidentally forgot to bring our middle son home. I thought he was bringing Jordan home that day but apparently we miscommunicated. It happens when you are a two car go-to-church family. It wouldn’t be the last time that one of us thought we had all the kids. I finally decided that it was okay and I knew that I was loved and celebrated other days of the year.

I’ve been reading some really good blogs this past week on this very topic about Mother’s Day and expectations and I’ve come to a conclusion.

Sometimes Mother’s Day doesn’t work out the way it is advertised incessantly in the media of seeing every store lined with flowers, chocolate and the perfect gift to get Mom.

Hallmark kind of commercials and happy faces don’t always materialize on that day.

Sometimes, Mother’s Day just plain hurts.

I have women in my world who wish they could be mothers and aren’t. I have friends who have lost their mothers to heaven too young and others who have watched their Mom wither away in a nursing home helpless to ease those last days. I have friends whose mother’s just don’t get them and they long for approval and acceptance. I know of women who stay home from church on that day because it doesn’t seem to address all women and the vast delicate emotions that can haunt the day.

It hurts. It’s painful. It’s not a picture perfect day.

What do we do then when Mother’s Day hurts? Let’s keep it as upbeat as we can for those who actually enjoy the day and the rest of us can just tough it out for the day. NOT!! When I was younger and not very wise, I had that very opinion, why does it have to be so hard for everyone? After all, good grief, it’s only one day!

The key word in that sentence is “grief.” Mother’s Day can bring grief, incalculable grief for many. Unmet expectations and scratching off scabs that we just try to let go and forget the other 364 days of the year.

The truth is, it can feel absolutely crushing for some and others it brings great joy and elation. What do we do then?

This is a blog and of course it is my opinion, but I think the answer is simply this…

Let’s give room to all women to be who they are on that day.

Let’s each decide how to either celebrate or grieve and give a wide-open space and abundant grace to each other.

Let’s pray for the women in our world who struggle and not add to their pain by placing our own judgments and expectations.

Let’s not add to the message that gets shouted at us by commercialism and try to put all women in that narrow box.

Let it be and let’s choose to celebrate all women as they are and wherever they might find themselves in the present.

To all my sisters who find this day beyond difficult, I pray your heart will be comforted by the great comforter, the Holy Spirit and you would know that,

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

 

 

What’s in a Birthday?

I love gifts.

It’s my love language.

I love to give gifts and relish in taking time to listen carefully to when I hear someone say, “I just love that!”

I tuck it away in my memory or write it down and then look for that special gift to give for the right occasion. And of course, I would be remiss to say that I love receiving gifts too! But it doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive, just something someone has thoughtfully chosen for me.

God has given me a gift.

Life.

Today is my birthday, yahoo!  I consider it an important holiday along with the others we celebrate throughout the year. It’s an important day to recognize because it not only marks my birth but because I realize that with each year that is celebrated it marks a passage of time that has been entrusted to me on this earth.

I would love to say that I have lived each year to the fullest and haven’t wasted even one moment but that would be a total lie. I’ve handled some years with incredible gusto of living and some not so well wallowing in the “what if’s” and melancholy of hurt and sadness. I’m not going to beat myself up too badly about it because at the core of my being my heart has been to live a faithful life and God knows that I really want to try and be as faithful as I can. I fall short often when I lose my focus and take my eyes off the One who has given me this gift. I’m so grateful that He hears and forgives and each day has new mercies.

Funny, my reading for this morning comes from Matthew 25 and the story of the parable of the talents. I realize as I was reading that I’ve been all three people in the story that Jesus talked about. The ones who had invested all they’d been given and then some.  There have been times that I hid what I’ve been given because I was afraid or sad or hurt or wanting approval or all of the above. As the writer of my devotional today said,

“Notice the master’s focus: faithfulness. This parable isn’t instructing believers to increase wealth for the kingdom…rather, it demonstrates the importance of using our time, energy, and resources to bless others. The choice between using what we’ve been given and hoarding it for ourselves indicates how much we truly love our Master.”

As I step into another year of life, I don’t want to hoard this incredible gift of using what God has given me to bless others and to love well. And as I’ve been anticipating this week of my “birth-day,” I’ve come to some reflections and conclusions.

First, I entered this decade years ago with significant struggle and life spiraling out of control. It’s taken me a few years to sift through the struggle with the mighty saving hand of God, good friends, a wise counselor and repairing twisted unhealthy thinking so I can live life as God has destined me to, full and flourishing.

Second, I want to enter these next years living bold and intentionally making wise choices to influence, love well,  and build the legacy God has entrusted to me.

As each day passes, I realize like in the parable Jesus told that what I hold in my hand is what I am responsible for and it is to be with faithfulness as the central focus. So I have made some decisions in the last few weeks. I want to be strong both in my heart, mind and body to live out my days with faithfulness the best that I know how. I’ve made some shifts and maybe I’ll share them in future blog posts but as I celebrate today I want my focus to be faithfulness because that is the measurement of how much I choose to love Jesus  well.

SO….Let the party begin and I am going to eat cake, and lots of it (my sweet sis made the amazing cake in the picture)! I plan on spending time with the people in my world that are my treasure and relish in the many gifts that God has already given me to have as tools to live out being faithful!

Quote taken from: A Jane Austen Devotional compiled and written by Steffany Woolsey. 2012. Thomas Nelson.