Monday, March 23, 2020

When You Long To Be Close To God





I have always loved looking up at the blue sky and seeing the scattered clouds dotting the sky on a clear blue day. Looking up has always helped me focus on God, and not on my problems or what is going on down here on the ground.

I have always been especially endeared to when the sun rays come through the clouds and shine down onto the earth. It has made me feel especially close to God - as if He is reaching down to someone here… someone in a hospital, maybe? Someone crying alone in their bathroom? A family who is mourning someone who just passed? Or maybe, someone He is touching with a special seal of approval and protection?  Regardless - I have always loved them.

Recently, I was driving. It was a very grey and cloudy day. One of those days where everything feels a bit damp, and the rain comes and goes in a misty, dreary sort of way.

I looked up. And it occurred to me, that the sky was so cluttered with clouds - that I could not really see the sky at all. I could only see a blanket of grayness up there.

I didn’t like it. 

It felt like those grey clouds dampened my spirt and prevented me from seeing or connecting with God. 

I suddenly connected that grey barrier to all those times when people long to be close to the Lord, and they just don’t feel Him there. They can’t see Him. 

But, just like the sky exists on the other side of those clouds, so God exists on the other side of our emotional barriers - when we can’t feel Him, or see Him.

He is still there.

Barriers come up in life. Often. Our emotions, can even create barriers all themselves. Disguising the fact that God has never moved.

I’m not sure I will ever look at the grey clouds the same again. For they gave me a great analogy. A reminder - to never assume God doesn’t care, isn’t real, or that He’s not right there with me.

They are a new reminder to me, that my Lord and Savior is constant. He is THERE. Even if I can’t see Him.

That alone, gives me such great encouragement and courage. For IF He is THERE, then He is working.  He is loving. And He is listening.

I may see a barrier - but God can always reach right through it.

And for that, I am so thankful.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Learning About Enneagrams




I have been delving into the world of Enneagram types. 

I had been hearing about “Enneagram” and had no idea what it was. Then people started asking me what my number was. So, I finally took the test - without much knowledge of what it was all about. I got my results, proceeded to read about that number, and could relate to much of it.

But then, after I told my family my number,  I was told by my girls, that that was not who I was at all. That I was a different number. And I pushed back HARD on what they told me I was.

So I dug deeper.

And you know what? They ended up being right.
One thing I will say about the Enneagram, is that it makes you face your “junk.” And that’s not easy. But the thing is - even if you’re in denial about who you are? Other people see you that way, anyways. Our own mindset and framework don’t change how others view us.

For me, I was focusing so much on the negatives of my number, that I overlooked all of the really powerful parts of who I was. Parts, that in a healthy way of living, overshadow and outplay the negatives.

And let’s face it - we all have negatives to our numbers, anyways, don’t we? For some of us, we struggle with pride. Others, envy. And others anxiety. It doesn’t mean that THAT struggle is who we are. And that’s exactly what I was pushing back on. I immediately thought that my struggle, was what everyone saw me as. And you know what? It only proved my number in a deeper way!

I’m still learning a lot about the Enneagram. I usually don’t dive this deeply into personality tests - but this one encompasses so much more, and it focuses a lot on “motivation.” 

Identifying your type; your strengths and weaknesses, can really help you trouble-shoot your own trouble spots and weak areas. It can help you set new boundaries for yourself in your weak areas, and actually, feel freer to simply be how God created you. It can also help you as you work with others. To understand them, and have them - better understand you.

I have never encountered a more impactful analysis of our personalities.

If you are now curious, and have not taken the Enneagram test, here are a couple of words of advice.

  1. Take the test. That’ fine. But then QUESTION the test. So many people test wrong. Listen to podcasts, read summaries of the different types, and focus on the core sin and weakness. For that will probably nail you down quicker than anything else. 

2. We don’t ALL relate to everything about every type. Mine said something I was emphatic that I wasn’t. And I learned that that is because I am in a healthy living version of my type. (That’s a good thing!) But, also, that that part I hated IS a part of me - and can become a BIG part if I’m not careful. So knowing that potential exists, is a really powerful thing for me, to help me not get to an unhealthy spot. 

There will be some characteristics of each number, that aren’t you; because we all live with our bents a little bit differently. So know that not every facet of a number, will resonate with you.

3. Do a lot of research over time. I heard someone say that the type you push back against the most in your spirit - is probably the one you are.

4. Let it BETTER you. Don’t just focus on your negatives. But truly let it better you to learn how to handle those things that trigger you in your life. Let it help you implement ways to help keep you in a healthy form of your number, instead of an unhealthy version of it.

Each one of you is so unique and special. Each Enneagram has something amazing and different to bring to the table. 

Whatever number you end up being - embrace your number, Know that every number and every person is uniquely gifted, special, and valuable. 

Live in your strengths. They are a gift.

And, happy learning.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Sibling Relationships




Back when my girls were in junior high/high school - they once told me that they knew a lot of kids who didn’t like or get along with their siblings. 

That made my heart so sad.  

At the time, I thought they were probably overreacting. I was sure that there were more siblings who got along than they thought. But then I started witnessing some things that showed me there indeed can be a “disconnect” sometimes between brothers and sisters.

For example, my youngest had a program in which she had a part. We had two showings that particular day. One in the afternoon, and one in the evening. My plan had been to go and get my oldest out of school as she had expressed  an interest in watching her sister. I had always encouraged my kids to support one another so I wasn’t ever shy about taking them out of class so they could watch each other in plays, programs, award ceremonies, etc. I did this because if they showed an interest and wanted to cheer each other on – I wanted to encourage that! I wanted that support and love to flourish. 

On that day, my daughter did indeed watch her little sister in her program. Then we had to go back for the evening show and my youngest didn’t have her big part – she only participated in the big group as a whole, for the evening showing. Still.. I felt my oldest should watch and support her. 

But she had other ideas. 

She wanted to sit with some friends which was okay with me, as she was getting older and I wanted to affirm that. But that was when things started to change. Most of her friends weren’t staying inside for the performance but were going to “roam.” I didn’t like that… and I didn’t allow my daughter to participate. She was not happy with me, and she felt alone (even though she could have come and sat by me), but I held my ground.

Why?


For one, I didn’t want to encourage my daughter to be what I term a “hoodlum.” It was dark outside, and I hadn’t wanted her roaming about without adult supervision. I didn’t care how old she was, she was still a minor – and there was still plenty of room for danger and disaster.  I also wanted her to invest in what her sister had invested in. That’s what a family does – you stay and you support one another.

I came to this conclusion: I think a lot of kids might not be close, because they are not encouraged or instructed to invest in each other’s interests. Whether it’s basketball games, plays, or award ceremonies doesn’t matter. We should have our children there to support each other, out of pure love and devotion. Love doesn’t always do the “fun” stuff. It does the boring, the hard, and the inconvenient stuff too. 

Life isn’t always about “us.” If we let our children ignore what is going on with someone else in the family, we are only encouraging them to become more “me” centered. They will always seek “what’s in it for me.”  No, they may not be happy about it, but they will learn to put the time in that is needed, to grow bonds with their brothers and sisters. They will know what their interests are, who their friends are, and how they can help them when they need it the most. Sometimes, they may be our biggest tools, in letting us know when something is wrong or out of character with their brother or sister!

I do understand there are times to give kids a break. If my child has been to every single one of their siblings sports games, and they have a friend show up and can hang out for awhile in a safe atmosphere – I’m okay with that. But that is going to be the exception – not the norm.

For me, I felt that encouraging my children to develop a relationship that would be strong and “other centered” was important. Someday, they won’t have me around. The kind of relationship they have with each other, will be something that will truly be an asset in their life, and something that can be a strong foundation against the tides of the world.

I would encourage all parents to nurture sibling relationships between their kids. Make sure they are taking turns in cheering each other on in their interests and endeavors. After all, that’s part of what being a family is all about,  and if you want a close one--- it takes commitment and time.

Even on the part of our kids.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Dear Friend: I See You




I’m writing today, out of the deep love in my heart for you. If only you could see what I see in you! I see so much potential in you. I see the heart that for some reason, you try to keep behind closely-guarded armed-guards.

I see the sensitivity in you.

I see the smart mind that you have.

I see your desire to be loved, accepted, valued, and understood.

I see how you try to shake off the fears you hold inside of you. I know the insecurities you battle wage their ugly head far too often. They hold you down. They hold you back from relationships.

I know you have been hurt. Deeply. You’ve felt rejected. And you probably swore internally never to put yourself in that position again.

But my heart aches for the days in your life that go wasted. The ones that are devoted solely to protecting your environment - to racing against the time of life… that you’ve forgotten the most important part of it. 

People. 

Relationships.

And that you are not the only one who has felt what you’ve felt. Or endured what you’ve endured. 

Other people may just have had different support systems. Or different ways of handling those very things that hold you back.

I love you. I want you to be all that you can be. I want you to see that YOU are your own worst enemy.  The very things you fight against - are the very things you need in your life the most.

They are the very things that will free you.

God.

Community.

Vulnerability.

Service.

I pray you will find the courage that I know lives inside of you. The courage that will help you say, “No more” to your normal vices and “go-to’s.” 

I pray for you so often! I pray that you will see you can have more for your life.

It might seem scary at first. Foreign. It may be very uncomfortable. 

BUT YOU CAN DO IT.

No more hiding. No more pretending. No more lying to yourself.

Seize your life today. Don’t cuddle in the arms of the lying comforts of the shadows anymore.

You ARE loved. You ARE valued. You DO have something amazing to give this world. 

Step out into the open. 

Please.

The world needs you. But it needs you WHOLE.

Fight for yourself today. See yourself as you are. And love yourself enough to get help for those wounds that stay open in your life.

Don’t let anyone say, when all is said and done, “What a waste of a life that could have been so much more.”

Victory is yours - but you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Stop fighting against yourself. 

And start fighting FOR yourself.


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Instead of Dream Bigger, Dream Smaller




We are told to “dream big.” We are indoctrinated through movies, television, and the Internet - that “dreams” are made of leaving that job and traveling, or risking it all for that one venture and business you’ve always wanted to own.

Everyone “wishes” they could just escape and go do what they want to do for awhile.

But I think we’ve got it all wrong. Because love can’t be found in these things. True meaning and value is often right under our very noses.

Sure, we can go OFF and minister to a hurting world. But most of us live with a hurting world right in our backyard. I’m betting you have immigrants in your own city. Homeless in your own town. Sex trafficking in your state. So although it’s not BAD to go and experience the world, doing it at the neglect of where we live everyday? Might bear some deeper thinking.

What about taking that leap of faith and risking everything for your dream? Whether it’s a business, or not - it sounds dreamy. But what about our family? What about the sacrifices they have to make for US to dream selfishly for ourselves?

None of these things is bad. In fact, they are all great. It’s great to see dreams come true. Admirable. Inspirational.

But I think more often than naught, we put our wishes, dreams, and hopes in the wrong thing. We think the “dreamy” things are the things far off or that seem untouchable. 

How many people DREAM of having a family?

A house?

Children?

How many dream of having a job?

These things we wish to escape from? Are the very things others dream of.

The 9 to 5 job isn’t something to dread. It’s something to be proud of. It takes determination, grit, perseverance, and love to support a family, to steadily hold a job.

Being home on the weekend instead of out DOING something, isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s something to cling to.

You see, we look out into that big expanse of a world and we dream for OURSELVES. But at the end of our lives.. is it just ourselves that matter? What if it’s just ourselves and our experiences left at our death beds? No family by our sides. No legacies left. No one that we discipled or impacted in any way, shape, or form. Just experience.

We dream big. And dreaming big sometimes, is good. It’s what motivates us and gives us hope. And sometimes we are MEANT for big. But for most of us, maybe we need to start dreaming smaller. And see that those empty spots in our hearts can be filled with people living underneath our very roof. See that adrenaline can be found in laughter with the little ones in our lives, or experience can be felt in walking through the ups and downs of life with each other.

We are missing it. We are completely missing it. 

Life is not out THERE. Life is right HERE.  Love is right HERE. With those God has placed in our lives. In the cities in which we live. 

We need to reach for it. Feel it. Experience it. And share it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Are We Family, Or Aren't We?




Families. I don’t think there is anything in life, that brings more laughter and joy, or heartache… as families can.

In this age of social media and technology, the closeness or distance of a family, can become so very evident. It can also show someone just how much, or how little, they truly feel cared for.

I know a young girl. She was lamenting to me how out of her vast expanse of cousins on instagram and facebook, how only about 3 of them followed her or interacted with her.

It caused her pain.

She followed them. She tried to interact with them. But was met with silence. Add to this, the fact that she didn’t live near them, but was trying to keep in touch - it hurt her.

She looked at me, and lamented, “Are we family, or aren’t we?”

I wish I could have told her things would change. But I wasn’t sure they would.

And I understood.

I, myself, have been met with silence online. I am friends with almost everyone in my family on the various social media platforms - but on my public writers page? I, too, am often met with silence. No one in my family really likes, interacts, or shares my writing. I can think of maybe 1, who blesses me with their online support.

It does sting a little.

You don’t want to pressure people in your family to understand, or be involved with everything you do. People are different, and everyone needs to be free to choose what they want to be involved with.

I get that.

But how about just a little support from time to time? A little love? A little something that says, “I’m glad you’re a part of me.”

Is that so tough?

We have families. Not just HALF families. Not just one side of the family we live close to, or have more things in common with. We have WHOLE families. Those who live far away, those who believe differently than us, and those we have maybe, had contentious communication with.

But they are our family. God gave them to us. He CHOSE them for us. And unless they are physically or emotionally a threat to us, we should (at the very least) choose to love on them from time to time.

If that means simply following them on social media, then follow. If that means sending a text to them when we haven’t spoken in awhile, send that text. 

We can so often assume that people don’t care if our presence is in their lives. But they most often do. 

And the rejection of family often hurts more than any other type of rejection.

Do what you can to love on those in your family circle. Make an effort to connect from time to time. Ask how they are. Send a gift. Invite them to that small gathering - even if they live far away - just to let them know they are wanted. (They might surprise you and show up!)

And especially, don’t neglect the aging ones in your family. They might not be on Facebook or instagram - but I bet they have a telephone or can get mail. 

You may have a busy life. I know I do. You may not want to hang out all the time. And that’s ok. You don’t have to. But time passes by, and a little effort goes a long way.

Are we family, or aren’t we?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Facing That "Thing"





That thing. That thing you dread doing. It’s that “something” that causes fear to rise up in your heart and throat. You’d rather do almost anything else… except THAT.

Everyone has a “thing.” At least at some point in their life.  What is it for you? Is it confronting someone about something that is hard to talk about? Is it reaching out to someone in your family, who is hard to love – let alone like?

What is it? And why is it that particular thing?

We are stronger than we think. And we limit our capabilities more often….than we think. 

And fear can be so paralyzing.  It can grow so big that it literally rules our lives and minds.

For me, I’ve had to face fears so many, many times. But each time I conquer something that once conquered me? I feel stronger. Freer. My faith grows deeper, knowing that my God held me up through “it.”

And He can do that for you, as well.

For God is so tender. Never laughing at our ridiculous thoughts. No. He just gently prods us along telling us, “You can do this.”

And we can.

Whatever that ‘thing’ is in your life – that thing that terrifies you? Take a baby step towards it. Then take another. 

You may stumble a little, but trust me, it will feel so good to walk that walk. It can be a shaky walk - and facing that “thing,” that “it” - it can hurt. I won’t lie. It may not be fun at all.  

But you will be stronger for it. And you won’t be a captive held hostage by your fear.

God has given you and I all of the tools we need to make it to the other side of our “thing.”  But so often, we ignore the tools, and we just leave them - sitting there, untouched. We allow ourselves to be captivated by hurt, pain, and fear.

Forever.

You can be better. 

You can be stronger. Wiser. 

You can be free.

Face your “thing.” Let God guide you through it. 

Do it for yourself.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

When We’re Afraid to Tell Others’ Someone In Our Life Needs Prayers





Prayers.  We all have things, people, and issues in our lives that need prayers.

But sometimes, we don’t ask for them.

We are afraid. If it’s a spouse, our marriage, a child, a parent, or someone else close to us… we are afraid to ask others’ to pray. Because we don’t want them to think badly of the person we are asking prayers for.

If we hang out as couples, we certainly don’t want their opinion of our spouse to change.

If they are friends, we don’t want them to stop liking our children, or perhaps being conduits for success in our child’s life.

And on and on….

But the thing is - if we ask not, we have not.

God says when 2 or 3 of us are gathered in His name - powerful things can happen! So, I have to believe, that He wants us to bring one another to Him in prayer. And that includes, bringing one another in front of those Godly prayer warriors we trust.

Did you notice the end of the sentence I wrote above? “In front of GODLY prayer warriors WE TRUST.”

Yes, it can be dangerous to bring issues about the life of someone we love, to people who can’t be trusted with sacred information. But if we bring them before those who truly honor our trust? They will be powerful prayer allies for us and for our beloved! And not only that, they will rejoice when prayer is answered - never using “said” information against the individual. Because they know we all have things in our lives that can be used against us. 

And we are all recipients of grace, mercy, and second chances.

If we are afraid for someone.

If we are concerned about the choices being made in someone’s life.

If we need to bring spiritual, emotional, or physical things before the Lord - we need (and should welcome) an army to do it!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to enlist the prayers of those trusted warriors in your life.  

And if you don’t have any? Get yourself some! There are so many Christian groups online geared to encourage and help each other in this walk of life. And if you need to start with people you don’t know - start there. But get help. Get help for those precious people in your life.

We have the chance to be powerful influences in the lives of those we love. I don’t know about you - but I don’t want to realize someday, that I could have made a real impact in someone’s heart through prayer……. And failed to do so.

Love with your whole heart.

Pray with your WHOLE heart.

Get an army of prayer warriors to fight with you and FOR those you love.

And watch God move.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Who Are We Listening To?




Satan whispers in my ear more than I’d care to admit.

He speaks to my heart and soul.. and unfortunately, I listen. I listen, because I’m unaware who the speaker is.

He’s so good at deception. So good at lies. So good at forcing me to jump to conclusions, think people don’t care, or cause me to feel inadequate. 

Really good.

But I’m getting better at knowing where the whispers come from. I’m learning to truly decipher whose voice I’m hearing.

How?

Because I’m reminding myself more and more of my Lord’s character. I’m learning to hold God’s truths against the words I find being stroked into my world.

When you know someone’s heart - you know whether they are the author of things. You KNOW, if they are capable of certain actions and words.  And so, I’m having to truly remind myself to not forget who my God is. To seek Him more and more. To take time in prayer, to LISTEN to HIM, so that I know the sound of HIS voice, when it comes.

The more I do this, (and I do get out of the habit and let distractions pull me away, at times), the more I can recognize an impersonator.

The more I can filter out the lies that a voice is trying to tell me to tell myself and believe about myself.

Cunning. Adept. Deceitful. Disguised.

These are satan’s qualities.

We are so good at thinking that evil is always in the form of ugliness. And sometimes - it is. But more often than naught, satan loves to come disguised as beauty, power, success, and acceptance.  He holds those things over us to either draw us into their seduction, or make us feel like we are unworthy of anything of value, at all.

Don’t fall for it.

Learn God’s voice. Spend time listening to Him and seeking Him, so you know His character. 

So you know Him when He comes to you.

When God comes to convict us, Satan comes to shame.

When God comes to heal, Satan comes to victimize.

When God comes to free, Satan comes to entrap.

Know the difference. Know the sound of the whispers you hear, and refuse them when they don’t belong to the One who loves us more than we can imagine.

For we ARE valuable. We ARE worthy. We ARE wanted. We CAN overcome. We WILL learn. We ARE capable. We CAN grow. We CAN change.

But only with the strength, grace, and mercy of ONE.

Know THAT One. And reject the other.

Monday, September 30, 2019

It's Time to Say "No More"



What do you love the most in this world? Is it your children? Your spouse? Are you surprised at all then… that the enemy has gone after your children and their relationship with you? With God? Is it any surprise that he continually pecks at your marital relationship?

Satan is not talked about enough. He is not a flattering subject. And when we go through difficulties - people don’t like to hear that it’s a spiritual battle, or that satan is attacking them.

No.

It’s much easier to tilt our heads heavenward and go, “Why God?” Or to look outward and blame other people.

But it’s NOT GOD. It’s not always, others.

It’s Satan.

He is evil. Ruthless. Disguised as good. Persistent. Cunning. Heartless.

HE. IS. REAL.

He is out to attack and destroy YOU. 

If he can get you to struggle with your health, your relationships, your faith - he laughs. He delights. And he is fueled to do more.

God wants to give us HOPE and LIFE!  But we so easily fall into the struggles and traps that satan has for us.

It’s easy to fall victim to our own minds. To let fear, anxiety, and depression so overtake our lives that we don’t know how to function as a normal human being.

It’s easy to write off relationships that have become HARD. To cut ourselves off from anyone who might challenge us.

It’s almost energizing to think about unleashing our anger. Rebelling against society. 

Yet, none of those things are of the Lord. None are GOOD.

Satan is out to STEAL (our mind, our heart, our souls), KILL (our relationships, our loves, our dreams) and DESTROY (our jobs, our self-worth, our families, our communities). 

How do you think he’s doing?

We will only gain ground if we decide we’ve had enough. Had enough of the tears, the fears, the anger, the struggle…..

We will only gain ground and start becoming victorious if we call upon the Lord and claim who we are in Him.

We CAN be strong.

We CAN be wise.

We CAN overcome.

It just takes faith. Belief. Trust. Sacrifice of our own will and pride, at times. And it will take obedience. Obedience to the ONE who tried to spare us from it all in the first place.

It’s time to rise up. Claim who you are and who you were meant to be. Say, “No more” to Satan and call him out. Don’t let him hide in the shadows, lurking and toying with your life and mind.

Victory is only gained through the Lord. 

No more compromising. No more excuses. No more hiding (because what good has that really done?) 

Step forward. 

You are already in a battle. So you might as well grab your armor and battle with your head up, instead of down.

I believe it’s time we start gaining some ground in our lives. 

Let’s be fighters, instead of victims.

Enough is enough.

Satan is real, and he’s out to get you, your children, and your love. 

Don’t let him.